Carry It With Me


Yesterday, I had another 6-month check-up appointment with my oncologist.  Everything is still looking good!  No signs of anything amiss; no concerns; no reason to even have scans any more.  This is very good news!  Happy day!

Here in Kalamazoo, we have a local cancer center for all cancer patients (adults, that is; the kids have their own space somewhere else) and their doctors.  It's a one-stop-shopping kind of place: oncology offices, chemo infusions, radiation, lab work, support groups and classes, fitness center -- all in once place.  "They" (the folks who initially envisioned this space -- and the folks who run it now) have carefully crafted a patient-centered place where there really is a welcoming and hopeful atmosphere.  I mean, cancer is creepy.  Everything about it is just awful.  But the cancer center here in Kalamazoo tries to create an environment of comfort and support.  The décor is homey and comfortable -- yesterday there was a fire roaring in the fireplace of the main waiting room, a volunteer was playing lovely Christmas music on a grand piano, and patients were gathered around a couple of tables working on jigsaw puzzles.  Not your typical medical waiting room, certainly!  All of the staff (from reception and scheduling to lab techs to the nurses and doctors) are friendly and upbeat.  They really do make an effort to bring comfort and a little "normality" to an uncertain and overwhelming situation.

The waiting patients have a different attitude than you find at most medical offices, too.  There is a lot of direct eye contact, smiles, offers to give up a chair or help with a coat.  Strangers - sharing that unwelcome bond of cancer - offer advice and encouragement and hope.  And all of this in the context of waiting . . . and waiting. . . and waiting. . . sometimes for hours.  No one ever seems short of patience or demanding.  I think we're all hyper-aware that important work is going on in that place -- and that we can't expect to stay on schedule.  We're all in the same boat, actually.  Cancer upended our plans anyway. . . so, what's a few hours in a waiting room with others similarly upended?

So why am I going on about this?  Well.  Let's just say it was probably the best way to start off the holiday season for me.  Surrounded by hope and patience and grace.  I want to carry the feeling I got in the waiting room of the cancer center yesterday. . . with me all season long!



This Sunday (October 2) is LIVESTRONG Day -- a day of "global, collective action in the fight against cancer."  (It's also Lance Armstrong's diagnosis anniversary date.)

The theme this year:  Wear Yellow.


I encourage you to visit the LIVESTRONG Day website.  Make a pledge to Wear Yellow on Sunday.  Share your story.  "Go Yellow" -- and create your own LIVESTRONG Day avatar!


And. . . if you know anyone with cancer . . . or struggling with issues of Survivorship. . . encourage them to visit the LIVESTRONG website.  They'll find people who understand, helpful resources, lots of support, and tools to fight!

Wear Yellow.


One Little Word

"Whatever you want to do, do it now.  There are only so many tomorrows."  -- Michael Landon


When I first finished up my chemo treatments and was tagged with the "remission" label, I was in a very fragile place:  I was at The Edge.  A lot relieved.  A little scared.  Suddenly. . . the colors were brighter.  The sky was bigger.  Things just tasted better.  Change had come.  I was learning to live with the uncomfortable certainty that . . . life really IS limited.  So make it count!  I threw open my arms.  I embraced the world around me.  I lived like time was precious.  I stepped away from The Edge.  But I was still close enough . . . to think about it all the time.

In that first year after chemo, I reached out to people and activities and dreams in a way I never had before.  I tended to say . . . "Why not?". . . "Let's do it!". . . "I want to". . . "YES!"  I didn't stop to overanalyze; I opened myself to possibilities; I didn't get bogged down with things.  I was really clear about what was important and what I wanted to do and who I wanted to do it with.  And that felt really good!

And now?   (Nearly) three years since?

Well.  Even though, from time to time,  I get close to The Edge again, for the most part, I'm finding my angle of repose -- that point where I've settled in to what's comfortable; to what seems "normal;" to-almost-but-not-quite where I was before I had cancer.

And, you know. . . this bothers me a little.

As I slide into a new angle of repose, I can feel myself losing that openness.  I'm starting to feel frozen by "oughts" and "shoulds"; I'm starting to say "yes" to things that aren't really important to me; I'm starting to feel like there is plenty of time.

I've learned that being a little close to The Edge. . . isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I mean, if your angle of repose lets you believe that there are plenty of tomorrows ahead of you. . . you may miss opportunities to seize today.  (And I actually like reaching out for those opportunities!)


This is the "anniversary-time" of the awful, dark days of my initial cancer diagnosis and the beginning of my treatment.  (Three years, now!)  It's become a time of reflection and remembering.  This year, I'm haunted by this new angle of repose; this feeling frozen; that, perhaps, I've actually stepped TOO far from The Edge.

And then, a week or so ago, I read one of Mary's posts. . . about the One Little Word project she was doing for 2011.  When I read her post, I was struck!  Like, in the words of Tom in Four Weddings and a Funeral. . . "lightning bolt city!"  Something about what she wrote resonated with me, and really got me thinking.

One little word (an actual word, not the project) has  been surfacing in my mind for a few weeks; a little voice that keeps getting louder.  I didn't realize there was actually a "program" designed to help you listen to that word -- but, WOW, was that an interesting concept!

After a quick pow-wow with Mary, I decided to join the One Little Word program myself.  Yeah, I'm quite late to the party.  Which is fine.  What it means is that I'll have to move through the one-month exercises at my own pace.  And I'm okay with that.  I'm ready!  I need this.

One Little Word. . . has been there for awhile.

One Little Word. . . is getting louder.

One Little Word. .  .is needing to be explored.

One Little Word. . .


Saying Something

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day.

LIVESTRONG (really, the ultimate organization showing the world how to LIVE with, through, and after cancer) is celebrating today by asking people to "donate" their Facebook status to National Cancer Survivors Day.  LIVESTRONG and Stand Up To Cancer are giving us all a chance to stand up and speak out . . . to vent your frustration. . . to support your friends. . . to honor someone you've lost . . . to express your anger. . . or to celebrate your survivorship.

So.  What would you say?

I am a Survivor.   Cancer, you are a really scary monster with three heads and vile, dripping teeth and sharp eyes.  But you can't catch me!


I am a Survivor.  Cancer, you can't define me; you can't limit me; you can't set up boundaries for me.  I'm LIVING!


I am a Survivor.  Cancer, you have taught me to dance on The Edge.  And I'm better for that.


I am a Survivor.  Cancer, you're going down.


And that's saying something!


A Big Day and Lots of Cool Stuff

Last week, I celebrated my birthday.


When I was a kid, I loved having my birthday.  As an adult, though, I just kind of let my birthday slide into the background of life.  I wasn't all that excited about getting older, and I was never all that comfortable being in the birthday limelight.

Not anymore, though.

The whole cancer thing has changed my way of thinking.  Now. . . I embrace my birthday!  I want more birthdays.  Because that means I'm still around to celebrate!  And there can never - ever - be . . . too many candles!

This year's celebration lasted several days.  Lunches out with friends, dinner out with Tom, a family party yesterday (we missed you, Erin!), and it's about to last several more -- my sister arrives later this week!  I've had a great time.  And you know what else is fun about birthdays?  Cool Stuff!  Like. . .

Plants . . . from my sister


and my pal, Sandie.


A great bag (made of woven, dyed grass made by Baskets of Cambodia) from my Mom and Dad.


This bag is so cool!  The details are perfect


right down to the inside!


And Tom got me a rain barrel!


(This is not my actual rain barrel; this is the photo from the Gardener's Supply Catalog, where he ordered mine.)

It's good to have birthdays.  Bring 'em on!



Two Years


Back in the fall of 2008, when my world was caving in, and I was first hearing the word “cancer” as applied to me. . . I remember hearing another phrase that stuck with me.

“Two years.”

My Mayo Clinic oncologist told us that if my chemo treatment was effective (and he predicted that it would be), after two years, he would consider me “cured.”

“Two years.”

Well, the treatment was effective.  In fact, after three treatments, I had a scan and there was no sign of cancer in my body.  And after three more treatments, another, and still no sign.   And today?  Still good.

“Two years."

My Mayo doctor never specified when the “two years” would be marked.  Did he mean. . . two years from the beginning of treatment?  Two years from my first clear scan?  Two years from the end of treatment?  I don’t really know.

“Two years.”

But what I do know. . . is that today is the two year anniversary of the day I walked out of the Cancer Center following my final chemo treatment.

“Two years.”  Today.


One of my favorite Glee episodes last season was about . . . hair:


Not surprising that I liked this episode.  I've been a bit, ummmm, fixated on my own hair for a couple of years ago.  Losing it.  Growing it back.  Dealing with new curls.  Embracing the grey.  Figuring out what to do with it.

Yeah.  About that one.  Figuring out what to do with it.  So far, I've just been letting it grow.  Getting it styled and cut periodically, to keep it in some semblance of a "hairdo" . . . but mostly, just letting it grow until I figure out what I want to do with it.

I've moved through so many "stages" of chemo hair re-growth.  Starting with the Mother Theresa look.

Images Last Day of Chemo Feb 4 2009 016

Moving on the Jamie Lee Curtis look.

Jamie lee Kind of Blue Fini 015

Through those awkward "where's the beef" months.

Whereb Kodachrome finis 012

And the getting-longer "Mozart hair" phase.

Mozart Hanging on the telephone 005

I finally settled in for a long time with the Paula Deen look.  But just to let my hair grow some.

Pauladeen01 IMG_1216

Now, though, I think my hair has grown long enough to do what I WANT to do with it.  To go for a style of my own choosing!  After two years, I'm finally ready to walk into my hair salon and say, "I want THIS hair cut."

Yep.  This time, I'm going for Helen Mirren!


On purpose!



Ticket to Ride


This week, it's time for a little . . . vacation dreaming!  Hit it, boys. . .

I like to travel.  I really like to travel.  I've been fortunate to have taken some pretty fabulous and dreamy vacations over the years.  I've been to Maui and Belize; London and Napa Valley; Vancouver and Manzanillo; Sanibel Island and Calgary; San Diego and Boston. 

London trip 005

But I'm always thinking of where I might want to go next.

And I'm much more inclined to . . . just GO . . . now that I've stepped away from the edge.

London calling 004

My advice:  if you're dreaming of a vacation . . . make it happen!

London trip 007

Here's my current list of Ten Dream Vacations.

  1. New Zealand
  2. Italy
  3. France
  4. Amsterdam
  5. Scandinavia
  6. Nova Scotia
  7. Scotland
  8. Ireland
  9. Prague
  10. Montreal

Now.  Go get that ticket to ride!


Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.  ~Lin Yutang


This week: Ten Ways to Simplify Life

  1. Pack lightly
  2. Clear surfaces
  3. Be intentional
  4. Minimize your footprint
  5. Use what you have
  6. Practice balance
  7. Listen carefully
  8. Set priorities
  9. Forgive
  10. Celebrate the moment


Friday Round Up: Catch-as-Catch-Can Edition

Well.  It's been a busy week.  Time for a Friday Round Up. . . catch-as-catch can!


My garden is winding down for the season.  I think it's lovely at this time of year -- although quite hit-and-miss.  My roses are blooming their little hearts out right now.  I think they know it's their last blast!


We may even get a frost this weekend.  Kind of early. . . but, then, the weather has been a bit crazy all season!


I really love the structure . . .


of a garden winding down . . .


for the season!


I haven't done a "purchase of the week" post in a long time.  But, clearly, I've been busy "purchasing."  I got this in the mail this week. . .


Oh, brother!  I've got "gold member status" at Eddie Bauer.  What does that mean, exactly?  Well.  It means I've spent way too much time and money shopping there.  (It's not a credit card; just a frequent buyer card.)  This makes me feel a little silly, actually.  And sort of . . . creeped out. . . by the fact that they track my shopping.  (I'm not naive . . . I just would prefer to live in the illusion that my life is my own!)


I know that patterned rubber boots are popular these days . . . but I had No Idea what an absolute RAGE they are on the college fashion scene until last weekend at The Pull.  There were so many (so VERY many) girls running around in boots . . .


that even Tom (who is, trust me, typically blind to fashion!) noticed!  They were EVERYwhere!


And speaking of fashion . . . how about that Mondo?


Way to work a color combo . . . not to mention stepping away from your own edge!



Tomorrow - October 2 - is Livestrong Day.


Check the Livestrong website for information, resources, and support.  If you - or someone you know - is dealing with cancer, be sure to check out the Livestrong Guidebook.  You can order this great tool for FREE.  The guidebook (two volumes) provides solid, pertinent information designed to help cancer patients and their families navigate the health care system and understand what's going on at every phase of the journey -- from diagnosis to survivorship.  Also included -- organizational tools and journaling guides.  Live. Strong.


In knitting news. . . well, there really isn't any.  I've been knitting on a secret project -- a Christmas gift for someone who reads this blog regularly, so. . . Do Not Open 'til Christmas. . . totally applies!

But. . . you might be interested in learning that . . . Twist Collective patterns are NOT test knit . . . and tend to be fraught with errata.  Hmmmmmm.  I'm feeling a rant coming on.  But not today.  Because . . .

it's the weekend!  Have a good one!