Sitting with the darkness

Last year, my friend Katy introduced my heart to the importance of bearing witness. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep and started to worry about life, it helped to feel my immense gratitude for your bearing witness.

Knowing that you bear witness to my life astounds me, as I have a hard enough time bearing witness to my own trials and tribulations. My specialty is to find the sliver of light, not to sit with the darkness.

My last chemo session was full of darkness so I wasn’t excited about going into my chemo session for this past week.

Typically, my appointments at Dana Farber start with a blood draw and getting ready for the infusion, followed by a meeting with my oncologist. My oncologist has a nurse (or nurse practitioner, or someone with some medical title) named Mike who can also handle these appointments, and this past week, I met with Mike for the first time.

Mike was nice though I was skeptical about the value of his role. It is an appointment I need to have on my way to get chemo, so I go. When he asked about my most recent chemo experience, I shared my litany of complaints, not looking for a solution, only so that he would have them for the record.

Then, I started to cry. This is unlike me. In the past, I have held it together to the point of vomiting. But, there I was, full of tears. And I was not happy about it.

“Getting people to cry is my specialty,” he said with sincere warmth and a hint of humor in his tone. He simply sat with me for moment before continuing. “In my experience, patients who sit with the darkness truly discover how strong they can be.”

I hate sitting with darkness and I don’t really want to discover how strong I can be. But then, I’m dealing with many things that I don’t really want, so I might as well add that to the list.  And maybe there is some sliver of light to having to sit with all that darkness. Mike shifted my perspective ever so slightly, and the view was better.

This chemo session went much better, too. I got to meet Debbie in person – someone I met via my blog who not only lives in the area but happens to see the same oncologist AND have some of the same friends!

As for the treatment itself, I accidentally skipped taking the steroids, which makes me much easier to be around. Nausea much better. No back spasms. Best of all, I still feel somewhat like myself. Big yay!

My energy is starting to climb again and I am looking forward to a good week ahead as we get back into the school routine for the boys.

I send much love and gratitude your way. Thank you for being there, for sitting with me in the darkness, and for bearing witness all along the way.

Blessings to you always,
Marie

Rolling forward

Thank you. Thank you for your patience and your support and your prayers. Chemo week is fast approaching, so I welcome your prayers especially on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday!

In the meantime, I feel SO much better than I did during my last chemo week. Physically and emotionally, that was a difficult week. Every spot that had a tumor screamed in pain. My back spasmed intensely from the neulasta shot. I felt gross and off-center from the chemo, and I was exhausted. The icing on the cake: I felt indescribably sad.

If anti-depressants can lift you from a poor mental and emotional state and put you in a better place, chemo took me from a better place and put me in a poor mental and emotional state. I couldn’t snap out of it, use logic, or any of my usual tools. I was stuck simply experiencing it. It wasn’t fun or cheery or light or soul-filled. I literally just wanted to die.

Compared to my post-chemo week, I thought that the chemo session itself went well. I recalled watching a movie and staying awake during the entire infusion.

But then Valerie called me three times this past week to check in. I adore Valerie but we rarely talk on the phone and typically don’t “check in.”

When I eventually returned her call, I learned that she had called me during Tuesday’s chemo session, and while I was getting the infusion, I fully unloaded my soul to her. I shared my worries. I cried. I talked about my dark vision of my future and my concerns for my family. The nurse even joined our conversation at one point. We talked for a full hour.

I remember none of this. None. Not even when she recounted it.

I’m glad that she repeatedly called to check on me. Yes, it was good to talk with her (especially since clearly, I didn’t remember our prior conversation). But also, our follow-up call helped me to appreciate that (long) moment of conversation during chemo, and she reminded me of some insights we shared at that time. All good things.

I also bring this up because if I forget a conversation, neglect to respond to an email, or otherwise drop the ball, please please know that it isn’t intentional. Obviously, I am blanking out on large parts of my life, even parts I value. Be annoyed, but do feel free to remind me, even repeatedly, of anything that needs a reminder.

Thankfully, I moved out of last week’s deep, dark post-chemo place. The bike arrived, and life started to turn around. I truly believe that God was working through whomever delivered that bike. Their grace kicked off a theme that continued for over 24 hours. Get this:

Sunday night: The bike arrived. Happy happy joy joy.

Monday morning: The sitter took my older son biking (not on the new bike – that was mine to ride first!) During the ride, she lost the key to my bike lock, setting off a string of drama about that lock which consumed all of us, all day. Small problem, I know, but chalk it up to post-chemo mood swings. And note: Bike theme.

Monday night: I posted a thank you on my blog to my generous anonymous friends. My friend, Tom, was watching Dora the Explorer and, after reading that post, he looked back at the show. At that moment, Dora was receiving a yellow tandem bike to help her solve her quest. No kidding. Love that. And love that he shared that. I decided that my yellow tandem bike was helping me solve my quest.

But wait, there is MORE on the bike theme! My friend, Ig, reminded me of one of my favorite StoryPeople quotes:

Life Cycle

This is a special bike that’s not very good at listening to excuses, so it takes you exactly where you really want to go & if you kick & scream it makes you pedal harder & go up steeper hills until you’re too out of breath to complain & after awhile, if you’re lucky, you start to see that it doesn’t really matter if you laugh or cry, because it just wants to ride like the wind.

I had been kicking and screaming and pedaling as hard as I could, going up steeper and steeper hills until I was finally too out of breath and out of strength to complain. I literally plopped myself in the backyard and just looked at the sky. Exhausted, I could now only go along for the ride. Then I began to feel the wind in my very short purple hair and smiled.

Thank you, yellow tandem bike givers, for getting this all rolling. Thank you, everyone who was part of all the unfolding (even the sitter who lost the key to the lock – I’m sure there is some cosmically-connected message in there somewhere!). Thank YOU, most of all, for reading and bearing witness to all this. I send you much love.

Marie

Bright spots and a little color

Last week’s chemo wasn’t my best ever (more on that in another post) so on that Saturday, I decided to get my hair cut and colored.

A friend recommended a salon in Central Square near MIT. I parked in a metered space close enough to the entrance and, as I was putting quarters in the meter, another car made a U-turn to grab the space behind me. I peered into that car – the driver was in his late 20’s and the passenger was a woman who appeared to be my age.

Our meters were connected and I had just finished sliding a stack of quarters into mine when I saw them quickly drop change in their meter and study the numbers. I was still in my heavy mood, but it is ingrained in me to help.

“Do you need more quarters?” I asked them.

“No, thank you,” the woman said cheerfully. “We have three hours on our meter.”

Obviously, they weren’t from around here. These meters offered two hours max, and besides, putting in three hours worth of quarters would take more time than they had spent outside their car.

I glanced at their meter. “That says 30 minutes,” I said as I slid my extra quarters into their meter. “I have a few extra.”

“Thank you!”

“No problem.”

I wanted to find out who they were, where they were from and why they were here. A piece of me felt like maybe I was a bit too desperate for human connection and that it could easily freak out these nice people if I acted like their new best friend. So I refrained from saying more and we all went on our way.

A few minutes later, we met up again at the hair salon. Laughing about following me, they waved some coupons and asked if Bed, Bath and Beyond was my next stop. The son, a handsome 29-year-old recently out of the military, paced around the waiting area like a restless tiger. He had just arrived in Boston that morning, straight from his vacation in Turkey and ready to start school. His mother flew from California to help him get settled.

After he followed his stylist to another room, his mother proudly told me in a stage whisper, “He is going to Harvard!” Emphasis on “Harvard.”

Her pride moved me to tears; my heart expanded for their joy. I could envision my father-in-law smiling – he always loved the energy of new Harvard students.

As I got my own hair done, I sat next to this young man and could hear both his excitement and his nervousness: Was he going to be too much older than the other students? Was his non-traditional background strong enough to prepare him? I saw a young man full of potential, as well as full of the insecurities that many of us carry. I was in awe that he could articulate them so clearly.

As for me, I came to  realize that, after a crappy week, it felt good to have human connection and to feel strong positive emotions. That mother-son team were such a bright spot moving through.

Then I got my hair cut short and colored purple.

Purple hairHere is to many bright spots and a little color in your day, with others and within.

Love,
Marie

I’m half crazy all for the love of you

Slogging through a rough week, this cheerful bicycle appeared on my doorstep last night:

Bicycle buit for two

I read the note and immediately broke down in tears. That’s a good thing overall – I have come to believe that tears can indicate the presence of God.

The most lovely, happy, heartfelt ANONYMOUS note was attached to it, and the givers went to great lengths to make sure they weren’t seen in the process. So I can’t thank them personally.

But they did indicate that they read my blog. So I hope they see this here.

Thank you. Right now, I don’t know what else to say. You have my gratitude and my heart. My admiration for pulling this off. And my marvel at the two seats on this sweet ride, reminding me that I do not have to go it alone.

Know that you are the presence of God in my life. And the enabler of some good cheer that keeps on rolling!

Love,
Marie

Back in the saddle again

Thank you for your support, prayers and cheers along the way!

On Sunday, I returned home from Brazil.

On Monday, I had a CT scan.

While I would LOVE to report that the scan showed no tumors and only stitches from spiritual surgeries in Brazil, that was not the case.

It looks like everything grew. I’m not surprised, because I have some discomfort in spots on my abdomen and pelvis. My CEA is the highest it has been, and I am bloated.

I’m not excited about starting chemo again. In fact, I kept my doctor talking for over an hour, pathetically and desperately postponing the start of my infusion.

But that appointment ended and now I sit in the infusion waiting room. I am so grateful to have had the four months off, and now am very grateful for any prayers and positive energy that you can send my way for a smooth healing treatment.

Lots of love,
Marie

Returning the way I started, with some changes

I love it when the universe works in sync.

Two weeks ago, when I boarded the overnight flight to Brazil, my footrest wouldn’t retract fully. A minor complaint in the scheme of things, for sure, but I noticed it. The mechanics were not able to fix it and my choice was to either delay the flight for the repair or take the seat as is. You know me: I took the seat as is.

Last night, when I boarded the overnight flight returning from Brazil, I was assigned a different seat number and….my footrest wouldn’t retract fully. I looked around at the nearby seats and all those were fine, so I laughed out loud. What are the odds? Something bigger was going on, even if it was subtle.

Again the mechanics weren’t able to fix it, but this time, the flight attendants offered me another seat, which I took. My new seat was next to another woman returning from her trip to Abadiania (with a different guide), and we had a fun chat about spirituality and portals before we fell asleep.

I feel like I returned the same way that I came, with the same things that don’t work, EXCEPT that on my return, I was given special physical gifts in the form of a new seat and fun seat mate.

This also helped me to trust that I was also given special spiritual gifts that have yet to be revealed.

So psyched!

Love and blessings,
Marie

Last night in Brazil

After a pretty lazy morning, I did 4.5 hours of current this afternoon. Once “released,” we took lots of photos of each other, but I don’t feel like I can post them. Instead, I will post the view of tonight’s sunset from my little balcony.

Sunset #1Sunset #2

Some orbs showed up.

Sunset with orbsOrbs at night

We had our last group dinner followed by a little outing to Frutti’s. Tomorrow, we say goodbye in waves as we each leave at different times. It’s been an amazing trip.

Thanks for being here.

Love,
Marie