Going back on chemo

Thank you for your support and your messages, your concern and your positivity. Thank you for riding the waves with me. Though my CT scan seemed to show some growth, one doctor later said that the tumors looked stable, and I was feeling pretty great and just SO happy to not be doing chemo. I could continue rowing, get the kids settled in school, and start teaching CCD (which I volunteered to do until they found someone else, but then fell in love with the kids so I committed to teach for the year, along with some generous substitute teachers). I could visit with friends, both in person and on Facebook. Make our own meals. In short, basically, live a normal life (for me).

And then, I returned to Dana Farber for a blood test last week. It showed that my tumor marker rose yet again, so I decided to go back on chemotherapy. It just felt like the right thing to do.

When I returned from Brazil, I knew that, no matter what was going on with my body, I got exactly what I needed. Whatever changes happened because of that trip were amazing and life-changing in more ways than I can describe.

Of course, I prayerfully hoped that there would no longer be any sign of tumors. But, for whatever reason, they appear to be there, kind of like some mechanical malfunction that is still being fixed.

My body isn’t alone in this. When I returned home from the two weeks away, my car battery was dead. This is typical – because I rarely drive my car, my battery dies so often that we have a battery charger specifically for this purpose. However, this time, we recharged the battery several times and it wouldn’t hold a charge.

Normally, I am impatient to get the car going again. I usually discover that it won’t start when I am already five minutes late for wherever I am supposed to be. This time, though, that dead battery didn’t bother me. In fact, taking the car to the shop felt like more of a hassle than biking everywhere or borrowing the “nanny-van.” The car remained in our garage for another week or two. I didn’t even miss it.

During this time, I ran into my friend, Shira, who compared the breakdown of my vehicle to the changes in my body, saying something like, “Like the battery in your car, the battery in your body, the thing that got you going before you left for Brazil, is no longer working for you, and you don’t miss it. You have other ways of getting around now.” So true!

Eventually, I transferred the car to the shop, and the mechanics took over a week to find the problem and fix it. I really didn’t mind the delay, and figured it would return in its own right time.

Within 24 hours of its return, the “low tire pressure” indicator light flashed on the dashboard. That light is pretty reliable – every time it flashed in the past, I had a nail or something in my tire that would soon lead to a flat. This time, though, I felt like it was an error and I drove with that indicator flashing for more than a week until the babysitter decided to take it into the shop for me.

And – it was a false indicator! Nothing wrong with the tire. So I am hoping this is an analogy for my current CEA – that the CEA is just an indicator and not actually reflective of some other thing going on.

In the meantime, I am walking this path the best way I know how, and trying to take one day at a time. For the first time, I do feel in my soul that I am healing, and that chemotherapy is part of that healing process. I will start on October 9.

You are part of the healing process as well. We each have a role in everything we touch, and your touch in my life feels like grace. Thank you.


Saying YES to God

I have changed so much in the past five years. The person of that time would barely recognize the person I have become.

Physically, my weight and height are the same. But my formerly wavy hair and flat abs have given way to a short boyish cut and a roadmap of scars on my abdomen. I used to wear clothes that clung to my body and showed my naturally thin shape. I now wear clothes designed to accommodate my breast prosthesis and my colostomy bag.

Internally, I have changed even more. I am more conscious of my breathing and infinitely grateful for each breath. My patience feels longer and I feel more accepting of others.

The biggest public change is that I am more conscious of my relationship to God. I try to be guided by Him. I now work to be open to His guidance, and to do His will as it is put in front of me, each moment. I’m not perfect at it, but there have been times recently that, when I do as He asks, a wellspring of Grace seems to flow forth.

It isn’t always easy. Sometimes, I feel like He asks me to do things that I imagine to be difficult, and I need to ask for His help to even attempt to do them. Sometimes, I decide not to do them at all.

But sometimes I do step into the place where I am guided, to do the thing that I am told to do, in full faith and confidence that He is there with me. In these times, afterwards, I am so filled with a deep joy that I only want more, more, more. I don’t know how to get it. I’m only happy that it exists, and hope that it comes my way again.

I struggled to describe this, and then I got a note from my friend, Shira, and she put it so well:

Somehow, blessedly, I have landed in a sweet spot. It has to do with realizing my choice, and that choosing to say yes to life, again and again and in all of its flow and movement is my deepest calling and lesson. So I keep saying, “Okay God, take me.” And I don’t mean to the eternal but rather to a merging that allows me also to experience the divine in our embodied existence…I can feel…, or rather hear, my deepest self saying “yes to life,” again and again.

Yes. That is it. Saying yes to life, and yes to God, connected through us, through each and every one of us, through our individual lives.