Angel appearance

Quick health update: All appointments went well! Thank you so much for your prayers, positive thoughts, and everything else. I swear that you can move matter, and I really appreciate your efforts on my behalf. Thank you.

I have three stories to share, so I will do them in three separate posts. The first one is from Friday night, after a long three days of medical appointments.

Suddenly craving pad Thai, I googled to find the best places near me. (Does one capitalize Google as a verb?) The top recommended spot wasn’t exactly “near” me but the drive was tolerable.

If you have spent time with me in person, you may have noticed that I rarely carry a purse or wallet, and even more rarely carry cash. I usually carry my phone, whose case holds exactly two credit cards.

Back to pad Thai. I called, placed my order, grabbed my phone (with its two credit cards) and made my way to the restaurant. Once inside, I noticed an ATM machine. That usually means the establishment is Cash Only. Sure enough, when my eyes scanned the counter, I saw the large sign: CASH ONLY.

No-name ATM machines (with their additional withdrawal charges) annoy me, but it was more annoying to drive back home to get cash that I wasn’t even sure I could find. So, I tried my Visa card in the ATM. Didn’t work. I tried my American Express. Also didn’t work.

I called American Express and while I got excellent service from a real live person, I couldn’t get cash. I hadn’t set up the process in advance and it takes 21 days. Too long to wait for pad Thai.

I called Visa. Because it was issued by the same bank where we have our checking account, I thought I would have some luck with them. But despite giving them every bit of identifying information, they couldn’t share my password or help me get cash.

Unsure what else I could do before I left, I decided to try the card one more time and guess one more password.

While I was doing this, someone hugged me.

Lisa!

She and her husband had appeared suddenly, out of nowhere! It was so fun to see them there. And then, on top of that, they had CASH. Not a lot, they said, but they were willing to share what they had.

In my usual greedy way, I ordered way too much food. I was willing to accept some cash, but I didn’t want to take all their cash. But guess what! Whoever took my order over the phone thought I said that I would call back to confirm the order.

That meant that they hadn’t even cooked or assembled my little piggy order! I could order from scratch! Pad Thai was less than $10, and it was all I really wanted anyway. So I ordered pad Thai as Lisa and her husband handed $10 to me and went on their way.

Wow. Gratitude and awe. Angels all around. I hope you can see yours, or that your invisible ones are giving you the support you need.

Blessings.
Marie

Angels in our lives

Last week was my first time on a new chemo drug. Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts on my behalf! I’m grateful that it went smoothly, and we just have to iron out some kinks. For example, I normally get IV Ativan, which knocks me out. This time, they added the max dose of Benadryl to the mix (in case of an allergic reaction to the new drug). Wow. For two days afterward, I felt drugged and had a horrible headache. As I said, we have kinks to work out.

As expected, the rash has appeared on my face. I am supposed to stay out of the sun. I endure these New England winters so that I can enjoy a sunny, hot summer. I will now be spending much of it in A/C. Sigh.

The rash itself resembles acne more than a rash. I have stopped counting the white pussy things at 30, and I forgot how much pressure they put on your skin. Plus the ones that are just red are itchy, and my scalp is itchy as well. All of this is annoying but bearable, and I try not to look in the mirror too often.

The chemo drug itself leaves me feeling differently than the prior drugs – a little out of sync with the world around me. I suppose that will be my new normal and I will get used to it.

On the good news front: My energy level seems to be better. For example, on the prior chemo regimen, on Thursday nights, I was always asleep and mildly nauseous. This week, though, on Thursday night, I washed my car (with help from one of our sons). That never would have happened on my previous chemotherapy. Lemonade! And I have one more week before I head back.

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My husband has known Harriet since they attended kindergarten together, though they didn’t stay in constant contact. Many years later, at their 25th high school reunion, I met Harriet and was instantly drawn to the angel inside her. I followed her around like a puppy dog – I loved being around her and breathing the same air.

We started off doing fun things together, like visiting with her family in Memphis and cheering her on as she ran a half-marathon in Nashville.

Then suddenly (looking back), my life took this weird medical turn. She came to Boston and sat with me during fertility treatments, and was there for me as we mourned a late miscarriage.

When our older son was born, she dropped everything and traveled to Indiana to take care of all of us – letting us know what baby things we would need, doing our laundry, getting food for us, watching the baby so we could sleep, filling us with confidence that we might just be able to do this parenting thing.

In the midst of getting her master’s degree, she helped to me heal after cancer surgeries, and held my hand during chemo sessions. She supported me without pity while I cried. When I craved a particular pair of leg warmers (with a complicated cable stitch), she knitted them, even though she had long ago put away her knitting needles and her fingers didn’t work as smoothly as they once did.

Of course, she’s woven fun into our visits, including the time she taught my kids to say, “Thank you for my lovely dinner. May I please be excused?” We still love that!

But last week – wow. I don’t know how to even BE with this, much less say it, but here goes. Harriet flew to Boston to be with her wonderful mother and sister as her mother passed away.

During the days that followed, when I should have been there for my friend, she appeared at Dana Farber to sit with me during blood draws, doctor visits, and chemotherapy.

It still brings tears to my eyes. Harriet is an angel on earth. She does God’s work as she lives and breathes.

I know that Harriet is unique. I also know that this is a big world. So I hope you can recognize the Harriet in your life. As much I appreciate her, it can never be enough.

Love and blessings,
Marie

Icon with myrrh streaming

Myrrh-streaming icon

Myrrh-streaming icon

A friend told me about an icon with myrrh streaming* to be shared at a local Greek Orthodox church at 8 a.m on Saturday. She explained that they first have a religious service, then share the oil.

I didn’t hesitate to put it in my calendar.

Never having been to a Greek Orthodox service, or even heard of “myrrh-streaming,” I did not know what to expect, how to act or dress or anything. But I walked through the door and the kind demeanor of the nice young man selling candles in the entry hall immediately made me comfortable.

I entered the church and took stock. Most people were standing. The pews were arranged two deep around the perimeter of the room. Each one accommodated 5-6 adults and there were maybe 20 of them in total. Not a lot of seating so I’d better grab one now. I sat at the end of a pew in the back nearest the door.

The main sound was the harmony of three men beautifully singing praises. I tried to lose myself in their music, but I felt restless inside and couldn’t seem to ground myself. So I decided to look around and learn.

Compared to the churches and synagogues I am used to, this church was small. It had a high ceiling with wooden beams, icons on the wall and on stands, and tall narrow windows, feeling a bit like a modern European church. In the front of the room stood an ornate wall with a door in the center, through which priests would periodically walk. When I caught a peek through it, I could see movement and action behind the wall as if they were performing the religious rituals of the service, but I guess it wasn’t meant for the congregation to overtly witness.

Down the center of the room formed a line of people, delineated on either side with red velvet ropes. In front of the line was an icon on a stand, though I didn’t know if it was “the” icon that we had come to see. When people reached the front of the line, they would bow (some would kneel or throw themselves on the floor), and then, after a moment or two, stand close to the icon and appear to kiss it. (I later learned they generally were not kissing the icon but smelling the scent of the oil.)

I noticed that whenever the name of Jesus or the Holy Spirit was mentioned, everyone made the Sign of the Cross, and that it was “backwards” from the way I was taught. Also, when they did it, they held their fingers in a particular pointed way. To be respectful, I tried to imitate their form and practice, though I didn’t keep up with all the crossing.

Over time, the room slowly filled, and about 45 minutes after I arrived, a grandmother (age 82), her daughter (around my age) and her teenage granddaughter caught my eye. It looked like the daughter was searching for a seat for her mother. I motioned to the daughter that they could sit with me, and they did.

After awhile I started talking with daughter, who asked me lots of questions like, “What is the line for?” and “Do you know what is going on here?” I learned that they were Catholic, her mother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer, and they drove for two hours to come here. I learned that they were Italian and her mother is from Italy, not far from where my mother is from.

I shared that I also was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and because I was having a really great-feeling day and I had lots of energy, she looked shocked. (That is always gratifying, that I can still pull off looking normal!) We talked about Dana Farber and treatments and faith.

“My mother’s faith is rock solid.” We looked over at her mother, deep in prayer. She poked at her mom.

“Don’t bother her!” I said.

“She prays all the time. If I want to talk with her, I have to interrupt her.”

We laughed and she continued to talk to me.

“Since she was diagnosed, I have to say that I grew away from my faith,” she said. “It just doesn’t feel like there is anything for me there.”

I can relate to that. I’ve been in that place. I knew that she would find her own way out, and we talked a little about it. My position (which I shared with her) is that it doesn’t matter if you can feel it – God and all kinds of spirit beings are around you and ready to support you the moment you ask for it.

“I know they are there, even if you aren’t feeling it,” I told her. “Whatever you do is okay.”

She stopped and looked at me. “I think that you are why I was meant to come here.”

We chatted off and on during the service (which was over three hours long!). We learned that the line was to see and touch “the” icon, so we eventually joined the line. She shared that she had high anxiety about what to do when she got to the icon (not unusual), so I told her to follow me and just do what I do. (I’ve been in enough of these situations, and have been observing behaviors in this room for almost three hours, so I felt comfortable.) Once I reached the icon, I found myself praying for her mother and had to remind myself to pray for me too! I did get to see and smell the oil.

At the end of the service, we joined the line for the final blessing from the priest. As we waited for our turn, the grandmother said to her daughter, “Go light a candle for me.”

“I don’t know how to do that!” her daughter shot back. “Why don’t you do it?”

“I’m busy,” said the grandmother.

I had to laugh out loud. At 4’10” and just under 70 pounds, she was still a force.

We finally reached the head of the line, where the priest rubbed the oil on our forehead and palms. Blessed, we parted ways.

May your day be filled with blessings and love, and a lingering, beautiful scent,
Marie

*For a description of myrrh streaming, you can check out this article. The icon we visited was the one from St. George’s in Tyler, PA – if you want, just skim down to the point in the article to learn more about it. They describe the service as 40 minutes – I don’t know why ours was so long.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thom-nickels/st-tikhon-monastery_b_4112040.html

Windows of Opportunity

About two years ago, at Shira’s suggestion, I worked with Dale Swan. Her fabulous work with Tibetan bowls physically changed my energetic vibration in a positive way.

Shortly after we started working together, she was diagnosed with a cancer recurrence. This time around, the diagnosis shook her at her core, and she stopped work to focus on healing.

We connected very occasionally, and each time, I witnessed her struggling more and more. I heard it in our brief phone conversations, could feel it in her emails messages and once, when I ran into her, I saw that she did not have the strength of life force and the confidence that one has when you are feeling well and grounded. To me, she felt smaller and scared, and it scared me.

After that, she sent an email to me saying that writing would help her, but she was unable to get any words out. Could I work with her on that? For a million reasons, I never did get back to her, and we didn’t communicate again.

In recent months, I have been thinking of her and feeling her presence in the way that I feel when people have died. I was afraid to check and kept pushing the feelings away. But recently, I woke in the middle of the night, again with her presence so strong around me. I couldn’t get back to sleep until I googled her name.

And yes, she had died.

I read her obituary. I checked out her website, and I re-read our old email correspondence.

I got to learn all these other dimensions of Dale, like her work with the Indigenous Grandmothers and as an ordained minister, and I was sorry that I didn’t get to explore those with her when she was alive. I was sad that I didn’t step into the opportunity to help her write again.

She did indeed drop into an abyss, but as I read more, I learned that she rose out of it to write again. A few months after she wrote to me, she had a breakthrough and her writing started to flow. She got to record her story for her children and her grandchildren in a way that was powerful for her and, I hope, for them.

I read as her voice grew stronger and she regained her grounding. Learning this made me feel a little less guilty about not stepping up.

Bigger than that, though, I paused in wonder at how, if we are supposed to be doing something, God will somehow provide that window and the support. We may need to be patient, but the opening will appear and we can choose what to do.

For whatever it is that would help you to grow into who you would like to be, I pray that the right openings present themselves and that you are able to see them and step into them. And I am grateful for the openings that I have been given, and for my strength in stepping into the ones that I have. It always changes my life.

Love,
Marie

Different ways to be with pain and potential final moments

Among the many recent articles on the earthquake in Nepal, this quote in the Washington Post by a climber (Steve Watkins, age 38) stuck with me:

He ran to his tent, convinced he was in his final moments, muttering what he feared were his final thoughts to any higher power that was with him high on the mountain. “So it ends now. Thank you for my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a wonderful life, but thank you. Thank you, thank you.”

While I think of myself as a pretty grateful person, when I am in pain so bad that I just want to die, I don’t typically think “thank you.” I mostly think “This is SO NOT FUN.”

I have been saying that more and more frequently on this chemo break. I’ve had pain that, during the day. makes it hard for me to stand for very long and, at night, leaves me unable to sleep. The pain pops up on multiple spots of my body and it is sort of like managing toddlers: You get one spot calm and happy then another needs attention, making it impossible to concentrate on anything else.

I so appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts for my health and well-being, as I have needed them these past weeks.

On the plus side, I appreciate that I can think more clearly, that I can often eat (and food tastes good!) and that I am more available for the kids. I was grateful to sob my way through a Mother’s Day event at my son’s school and celebrate his First Communion (with A LOT of help from my parents and sister –they throw a good party!).

Speaking of my son – he has switched from gymnastics to baseball, and I appreciate being able to watch his games.

I love watching Little League games. I love having a reason to spend that much time outside. I love watching the kids when they play and when they are bored. I love meeting up with the other parents and chatting. I love that the slow pace of the game sets a slow tone for the spectators. I love being forced to sit and simply be present.

During the first three days, we had one hour of tryouts, two hours of practice, a two-hour scrimmage, and, finally, his first game.

At this time, it was late April and the spring weather had not yet arrived. I wrapped myself in a sweater and jacket. In my arms, I juggled sweatshirts and jackets for my kids, blankets for me to sit upon, sandwiches in case anyone was hungry, and a bottle of water for me. Under all this, I had the dog on a leash around my wrist.

I set up shop by the third base line and settled in. Normally – or maybe I should say, formerly – at these kinds of events, I would wander around to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. But I didn’t have that kind of energy, so I sat, happy when people came to me. And when I was alone, I got a chance to observe.

I also got time to feel my aches and pains, which range from hovering in the background to all-consuming. I sat in my own shell and missed the person I want to be at these games.

A man’s cheering voice snapped me out of my interior world.

“You got this, Henry!”

Deep and low but not too low, with an encouraging tone, it was pleasant to listen to. The voice easily carried across the field as he continued to cheer on the pitcher and fielders.

“Good catch!”

“Throw to first!”

I couldn’t make out who it was, but his voice conveyed pure joy, his love of the game and of the boys playing it.

Eventually, our team got three outs and the boys changed sides. The batters ran into the field and the fielders ran toward their dugout. At the same time, the coaches moved their positions on the field and a young man who looked to be in his late 20’s rode across the field in a wheelchair. He would occasionally pop up on two wheels or stop for a moment to chat briefly with someone. He eventually positioned himself just past third base, right in front of me, so I realized that he was the third base coach for the other team.

When he started to cheer on the batters, I recognized his voice.

“You’re a hitter!” he would yell with a joyful grin. “Just wait for the right pitch!”

As he cheered for his players, he restlessly rolled his wheelchair around, back and forth. From time to time, he would lift the front wheels into the air, and then spin the wheelchair a bit to one side and then the other.

I assume that he did not feel 100% like himself. And, I wondered, how does he manage to exude such joy?

As I sat there with my insides pulling and tugging and not feeling 100% myself, I was lifted by some of this man’s wonderful energy. I was definitely inspired by his way of living, and I think of that now when I am with my kids and feeling crappy: How can I instead live the moment with joy, despite how I feel? I feel so grateful that he crossed my path.

In the meantime, I’m moving up my CT scan. I was supposed to get scanned at the end of the month, but I want to find out what is going on in there. So my appointment is now on Tuesday, May 12 at 11:30 and I meet with the doctor later that day to discuss the results. Prayers and positive thoughts welcome!

Thank you so very much. I hope that, whatever you are dealing with, the joy shines through. Or maybe the gratitude. Or if your preferred approach is “WTF?”, then good for you for being present and dealing with it in your own authentic way!

With love and blessings,
Marie

Keeping the magic alive

Our family just returned from a fabulous trip to Costa Rica, so the next few posts will be about our experiences there. We visited three areas: Manuel Antonio, the Osa Peninsula, and the Arenal Volcano. The first and especially the last are quite touristy; the Osa Peninsula is more remote.

Though I was worried that the Osa Peninsula would be too remote for my tastes, I quickly fell under its magical spell. To get to the intimate Aguila de Osa Inn, we boarded a small boat to travel down a river, through a mangrove swamp and into the Pacific Ocean. I’ve never arrived at a lodging via boat before!

On our way to Osa, through the mangrove swamp

Riding through the mangrove swamp

The manager greeted us on arrival.

Arriving at Aguila de Osa

After a brief orientation to the inn, Dixon the chef spoke with me to understand my diet and to tell me about his meal plans for me. I was stunned by the wall of fresh, organic produce in the kitchen.

Produce in the kitchen

For every meal, every single day, he thoroughly accommodated my vegan-no-sugar-no-acid diet by creating beautiful and delicious entrees. He even suggested a fancy cocktail made without alcohol or sugar, and made sure that the happy hour appetizers worked for me.

Happy hour

The visually peaceful surroundings include beautiful wood structures nestled in the rainforest, and it is all open-air.

The open air dining room and common space at Aquila de Osa

The open air dining room and common space at Aquila de Osa

You can barely see the structures from the water and even when you are on the property, you can only see small portions from any vantage point.

Each small structure has two to three rooms. The rooms have no closed windows, only screens, so you remain connected with nature even when you are inside. I felt the breeze on my skin at night, fell asleep to the sound of the ocean, listened to the rainfall in the middle of the night, and woke to the sounds of the birds.

Screens, no glass!

Screens, no glass!

Early every morning, one of my sons and I sat together on the deck to listen and watch the variety of birds as they woke; to catch the loud, deep call of the howler monkeys; and to see the colors of the sky at sunrise.

This place has a soul.

When the manager encouraged us to come to happy hour followed by a communal dinner, I cringed. I don’t like forced mingling. However, once we arrived, I got caught up in the positive vibration, as this unbelievable energy ran through the structures, the staff and the guests. It was like a thread connecting the best in us all.

I was thrilled to meet a fabulous and friendly guest who is a Hippocrates Health coach – the place where I got the diet that I follow! I wanted to attach myself to her.

Her husband radiated love and laughter. I felt calmer and more grounded just being near him, and I wanted to soak that all in. I later learned that he is a shaman, and he and his wife lead trips to Peru – something I have been thinking about doing for years. I could not believe I was getting to spend time with them!

As we shared stories about our travels through Costa Rica, I learned that they hadn’t planned to be at this inn, but suddenly felt that they needed to travel there for some unknown reason. They stayed for only two nights, and we got to snorkel together and have a picnic on a nearby island. It was like they dropped from the sky into my life, giving me some infusion of something intangible, something I could feel but didn’t even know I needed.

We met another family with kids around the same age as ours. My husband and I really liked the parents – we value the same things and live a similar lifestyle – so everyone played happily together.

Just when I thought that I had met more cool people than I could expect to meet in one place, another group joined us. Stephanie and her two male friends were smart and funny and easy to be with – my favorite kind of people! They got along with the kids and with us, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

The air was so fresh that I could take breaths clearer and deeper than I thought possible. I effortlessly climbed the hills and had more energy than I have in years. Our son did not need his inhaler. This was truly a healing, sacred place. When the chef came up with a fancy drink for me that had no alcohol or sugar, I felt like it couldn’t get better than this.

Though I was in my own version of paradise, my husband was miserable in the humidity. We had one more destination on our journey, so after three days, we left Aquila de Osa. From there, we moved to a hotel where two busloads of people arrived at the same time we did and the service was impersonal. It did make our family happy to have air conditioning, a fast internet connection, multiple swimming pools and a spa.

The culture shock made me feel amazed and in awe to have experienced the magic at all, and reminded me that it is up to me to keep that magic alive.

Thank you for being here with me. In gratitude, I send you bits of magic and hope it helps to keep alive the particular magic alive in your life. It is way more fun to keep the magic alive for each other.

Love,
Marie

Unforeseen Jewels

Once a year, I see my dermatologist for a checkup. I’ve been seeing him for possibly 7-10 years. Early on, I learned that he loved being married and spending time with his many children. He even considered the middle-of-the-night wake-ups to be special father-child bonding time. A genuinely nice guy with a good attitude, and an overall great family man.

Then one year, when I saw him at my annual appointment, he looked absolutely awful. So I asked what was going on. And he told me. His wife left him. He was trying to figure out his living situation and feared he would have no time or relationship with his kids. On top of it all, he was diagnosed with MS.

My heart broke for him. Everything in his life was falling apart, and neither of us knew how it would come together again.

Fast forward to today, only a couple years later. He has remarried and is happier than I have ever seen him. He is leaving this medical practice for another one that offers more flexibility in his schedule. Because it is closer to home, he can be present for special events with his children. The whole family recently returned from a family trip to a third world country. And physically, he looks amazing. He is fit, has a bounce in his step, and emanates joy.

We talked about that time, not so long ago, when everything felt horrible, and how difficult it was, at that time, to see the jewels that life would hold for him.

I’m going to miss having him as my doctor, but am so very happy that he is moving in a positive direction.

As for me, these past few weeks have been really, really difficult in so many ways, including physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. However, the light started creeping in, and I am slowly seeing my way out of my hole. Today’s doctor visit was a good reminder to keep going, one step at a time.

Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts for last week. The chemo days went better than usual, and I was actually able to get out of bed early Friday morning and drive myself to my son’s school play (which was adorable). You make a huge difference in my life and in the life of my family.

This coming Friday morning, I have a CT scan and appreciate any good prayers and energy to that end. (I will get the results in about 2 weeks.)

Thank you for being there. I hope you know there are jewels in your future, whether or not you can see them today.

Love,
Marie