Six degrees of separation. Or fewer.

Thank you for your prayers for my CT scan last Thursday. All went smoothly, and I get the results on Tuesday.

Rather than feeling anxious, I’m so excited about Tuesday. Yes, I get the scan results AND it is chemo day, but that is overshadowed by the richness of relationship promising to infuse that day.

Jodi is driving me to my appointment and staying with me – always wonderful to spend time with her. And then…Tom and Linnea will drop by.

I met Tom via my blog, back when he was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. I met Linnea via her blog. Linnea is living with lung cancer, thanks to a drug that Tom helped discover. Isn’t that just so cool? I absolutely love that we are all connected. Both of them inspire me and enrich my life, and it thrills me to learn that they are connected to each other, too.

None of us have met in person. But on Tuesday, Tom will be at Dana Farber for a meeting (with my doctor!), Linnea is able to stop by, and I have an appointment there. So we will all get to meet together at the same time, live and in person, the old-fashioned way. I’m kind of giddy.

I am often conscious that my life is different because of my diagnosis. But then I consider events like this, where I might never have experienced these kinds of connections, and I feel so blessed.

Love,
Marie

P.S. I also feel good that, out of all the doctors in the country, Tom selected my oncologist to get a second opinion. Tom is really smart and on top of all this, and I kind of bumble through it, so it is like finding out I am holding a golden nugget.

The power of belief. And heart.

Seven years ago, our older son was four years old and almost two months into his new “big” school. This school holds an annual country fair – a big, fun, Fall fundraising event. That year, we attended his school fair for the first time.

At that time, I had been diagnosed with a cancerous polyp but not yet had the surgery that would show that the cancer had spread.

About four years and countless surgeries later, I attended that same school fair. Standing at the hot dog station, trying to talk my son out of getting yet another hot dog, the woman manning the grill turned around, putting me face-to-face with my amazing surgeon. Her presence also implied that she was a fellow parent at the school! (I was so stunned that, when my son took that moment to ask again for another hot dog, I could only nod yes.)

Today, my younger son and I attended that same school fair. I was thrilled to run into my surgeon again and joyfully hugged her because I AM STILL HERE. Of the myriad doctors I have seen, she is not only technically gifted but also the most optimistic and encouraging by far. Her goal, she once said, was to continue to see me, healthy, at the fair for at least 20 years to come. I needed to hear that from a medical professional, to know that someone on my medical team was on my side to live a long time and be able to do fun things.

I am here because of the power of that kind of belief. I lived my whole life convinced that my mind and thoughts were the most powerful tools in my life. I am only beginning to see the power of the heart and the power of belief itself. You helped to open my eyes and my heart simply by doing that yourself and sharing it with me. You built on the power of the words of my surgeon, and you keep that belief, and me, going.

Thank you for sharing your heart and your positive thoughts and beliefs. It lifts me emotionally and I know it has a physical impact. I am always grateful to you and to God that I am still here. Seven years later. Wow.

Much love,
Marie

Forgiveness

Thank you for all your good feelings and good wishes last week. It helped so much. By Monday afternoon, I was on my way to feeling much better.

I was also on my way to see John of God, who was scheduled to be at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. I recovered enough to drive there and, honestly, I believe I was carried there safely by spiritual entities. I am so grateful that I made it, especially because I knew that was where I needed to be at that time.

In the past, each time I saw John of God in Brazil, I experienced lots of fun coincidences. More than that, I walked away changed to my core and receiving at least one big message. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Omega.

The fun coincidences showed up. For example, my friend Kate told me to look for her friend Gillian. In a sea of 1600 people, all of whom were wearing white and doing introspective soul work, what are the odds? But the next day, standing in line, I turned to the woman behind me and said, “You wouldn’t happen to be Kate’s friend, Gillian?” Bingo!

Happily, I can say that I do feel changed as a result of this experience. In fact, I feel wonderful in so many ways. The simplest way to describe it is to say that I feel great peace and health.

Finally, I received a message this time as well: Forgiveness. This word came from many directions and in many forms. The topic came up in random conversations with strangers. People would spontaneously begin discussing ho`oponopono (a Hawaiian forgiveness prayer) with me. I heard that voice in my head that told me that now is time for forgiveness. When we said the Lord’s Prayer, the words “as we forgive those who trespass against us” sounded louder than the rest.

I don’t feel like I harbor any grudges or walk around bearing ill will. I assumed this meant day-to-day forgiveness, like toward people who are inadvertently rude to me or annoying. I got excited – I was up for that! I could be a light of forgiveness, with bad things just bouncing off and away. This would be awesome!

Then I randomly met Donna at lunch. We soon discovered that we not only had mutual interests but a mutual friend. Later, I ran into her again, and she made a comment that went straight to my core and illuminated grudges that I harbor that are so old and so much a part of me that I don’t even realize I am carrying them. These are the kind of grudges that drive my daily behavior, that define who I am. Dropping these grudges would be like cutting out a part of me.

Forgiveness suddenly did not feel so easy or fun.

I know that when I get these messages, I need to listen and act. Not knowing where to start, I began with trust. I asked for help and promised to do the work that is in front of me, even if only one step at a time. Here goes.

With love, gratitude, and, hopefully, the beginning of humble forgiveness,
Marie

 

Sometimes, I just can’t make lemonade

I had chemo on Tuesday and, as usual, started vomiting even before the show got started. As usual, they administered IV anti-nausea drugs and knocked me out. Typically, once I get home, I continue to feel crappy until Thursday, when my chemo pump is done and I return to Dana Farber to have it disconnected. Then I return home, shower and rest and recuperate.

However, this week, once home on Tuesday, I couldn’t stop vomiting. I couldn’t take a sip of water without it coming back up. I couldn’t take any meds by mouth (because the water triggered vomiting). There is one pill that I could put under my tongue, but simply looking at it made me vomit. I could barely (and only sometimes) hold down small amounts of ice chips.

This continued throughout Wednesday, day and night. My skin smelled like chemo and, no matter how much I brushed, my teeth felt gross. I needed a change of scenery so, on Thursday morning went downstairs, only to get sick again in the closest bathroom. Unfortunately, that bathroom is used by the boys and their friends. Being on that bathroom floor was enough to trigger more vomiting, so I headed back upstairs.

I figured that I would feel better once I got disconnected from chemo later that day, but no. I vomited at Dana Farber before the disconnect as well as after, then continued after I arrived home. I showered, changed the sheets and aired out the bedroom. I tried moving around. Nothing made a difference.

I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with all this suffering. I didn’t understand the reason or the purpose. I considered stopping chemo for good, but I also know that I will just be in a different kind of pain if I do that. No road ahead looked good. I prayed for someone to come and shoot me dead.

On Friday, the vomit-fest continued. I couldn’t get through my shower without getting sick and then spent most of the day in bed. I was so tired of living in my bedroom.

By now, vomiting was all I could think about. It felt like I was drowning in thoughts of what triggered it, trying to avoid it happening, and having it actually happen. These thoughts consumed every minute. I tried to be grateful that I was able to do chemo at all. I tried to be grateful that I was at home and not in the hospital. I tried to think of something other than chemo and sickness, but this now appeared to be my entire reality.

One of my coping mechanisms is to focus on the present, so late on Friday night, I practiced that. I wanted to focus on something outside of myself, outside of my room. I could hear, through my open window, the crickets chirping and, beyond that, the cars on the busy road near our house. I focused on those cars – were they a continuous stream? Were there breaks in between? Did I hear any trucks?

Suddenly I was about 8 years old, spending the night at my grandparents’ home. I slept in the front bedroom facing the busy street on which they lived. When I woke in the middle of the night, I loved seeing the glow of the streetlights and hearing the pattern of cars as they drove by. Sometimes, I would scramble to the foot of the bed and look out the window, watching the cars as they passed. At that time of night, there were only one, two, or maybe three cars at the same time, and I got to witness it.

This memory brought back all the wonderful feelings I had about staying with my grandparents and made me feel better. Throughout the night, each time I got nauseous, I would focus on the moment, listen to the cars and before long, find myself back at my grandparents’ home. Did it work every time? No. But it worked enough so that I could find some moments of peace.

Eventually, I felt well enough to page through Facebook. Friends of mine posted that they were in Gethsemane, and they both posted this photo:

In the Garden of Gethsemane

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” and “…My Father, I do not understand You, but I trust You.”

I don’t want to walk this path. Not at all. But I suppose this is the path in front of me. I don’t have to be happy about it, but I do need to follow it.

I hope that, if you are mired in something that you cannot see or feel your way out of, that you can find an island of peace in your heart, and that a message comes to you from somewhere, somehow, to provide support and a little opening for the light to get in.

Love,
Marie

 

I don’t always get what I ask for, or even what I think I need

Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts. In countless ways, they make my life better. I truly feel so fortunate every single day to wake up and get out of bed, and I know that your actions and energies are the driving force.

That is not to say life is without challenges. For example, every month, I order colostomy supplies. The system I use comes in two parts: the pouch (in boxes of 10) and the wafer (in boxes of 5). The pouch attaches to the wafer so, ideally, I need the same number of pouches and wafers.

In the past couple of months, some glitch in the ordering process ships 10 pouches and 20 wafers to me. To fix this, I need to call customer service, and every month, our conversations start something like this:

Me: Can you check my order? What should I be getting?

Customer Service Rep: You are getting 10 pouches and 20 wafers.

Me: Can I get 20 pouches and 20 wafers?

CSR: Probably not.

At this point, my frustration level jumps, and if I go with it, the conversation gets more confrontational and less productive. And the following month, I again get 10 pouches and 20 wafers.

On this particular day, a friend posted this clip from The Ellen Show:

http://www.ellentv.com/videos/0-any43oh1/

It gave me a good laugh, AND I particularly admired how the customers went fully with the flow of the craziness in the transaction. I know that I would have been frustrated working with someone like that and truly annoyed at not being able to get my order.

They gave their donut order and, short of jumping the counter and getting the donuts themselves, they really had no control over what they actually got. Just like I cannot fulfill the order for my colostomy supplies: I have to rely on the person helping me to give me what I ask for. Being frustrated and annoyed with them only hurts me.

I tried to remember that, like the clerk at the counter, we all have voices in our head, telling us what to say and even making up stories about the other person. Often, the voice appears to be nonsensical to others. So when I contacted the customer service rep this month, I tried to keep that in mind. (Well, mostly, I assumed that she had the nonsensical voice and I was to go with the flow. I still assumed my voice was right.)

We’ll see next month if it really impacted my order, and either way, I’ll try to keep a sense of humor about whatever I get. After all, much of my life is what I ordered, and much is most certainly not.

Still, I hope you get the wonderful things you want in your life, or something even better!

Love,
Marie

Moments

Thank you for the prayers and positive thoughts – they really help to get me through chemo and then rebound into life again. Thank you for the difference you make in my life.

My life lately consists of driving the kids here and there, driving to the grocery store, and driving to the occasional outing. It can feel routine.

But then, there are moments. Like:

  • Walking down the street on a beautiful summer evening, suddenly realizing that I can hear our neighbor (an acclaimed classical pianist) playing piano through her open window.
  • Noticing the unexpected. For example: I sent Anne a thank you note on this stationery:

Thank you card beach stationery And she sent it back to me.

At first I was simply puzzled and amused that she would do that. Then I saw that she included a photo of her own, along with the note: “This photo is of my favorite place on earth!”

Beach "favorite place on earth"

(The original was more in focus, but notice the beach umbrellas and the blue and white striped chairs.)

  • Driving home from church with my mom and talking about Jill’s surprise birthday party at the Red Sox game (which occurred well over a year ago) when I hear a honk from the car behind me. I look, and someone is waving – it is Jill. She even got out of the car at the next traffic light to say hello!

These are fabulous in the moment, but then…each time I replay them in my heart, I can get the same joy, wonder, laughter and amazement.

Thank you for creating so many of these moments, for me and for others. I hope you are feeling the ones in your life that make you laugh out loud, smile inside, love bigger and pause in wonder.

Love,
Marie

 

 

Guest blog post!

Pamela Post-Ferrante generously invited me to be a guest blogger on her site. Pamela is the author of the beautiful book Writing & Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors.

I wrote about connections, with many of you in my heart, though it started with one close group. Here is the link to the post:

http://www.writingandhealing.com/the-connections-that-carry-us/

Enjoy.

With love,
Marie