“Procedure” on Friday morning

Not to fill your inboxes this week, but here I am again.

This time, I’m here to ask for prayers and positive thoughts for my “procedure” on Friday morning.

I’m set for a 6:00 a.m. arrive, 7:30 procedure time, to have stents placed in both ureters. I will be under general anesthesia, which alone makes me nervous. The tumors around the site give all of us (including the surgeon) pause, but I’m hopeful that they can work between those. I have to actively keep my thoughts on the positive. Luckily, I’ve had lots of practice with this. And a good medical team on board.

Thank you for any good wishes and visualizations and spiritual support that you can send my way. I appreciate your being there with me.

Love and blessings,
Marie

 

Making connections

I met Kathy when I was about 20 years old. I always liked her, and we traveled in the same circles, but we never socialized one-on-one.

Time passed and I grew distant from the friends who connected Kathy and me, so I didn’t see her or hear about her life.

A couple years ago, maybe one or two, we reconnected. Though I don’t remember exactly how, I suspect that Facebook was involved. And I don’t remember how or why I told her my story, but she started to pray for me. And then, she had her prayer group praying for me.

You know how I am about prayer and its power. I was incredibly touched (and still am), and felt so much closer to her, even more than 30 years ago.

Recently she told me that she would be coming to Needham, a town relatively close to where I live. We made loose plans to get together.

Then life intervened and my schedule got crazy. I only had a sliver of time, so I suggested that I meet her at the airport for a quick hug and hello. She said no. She already arranged transportation and wouldn’t give me her airline or flight number, but I did know her arrival time.

No problem – I used to travel frequently and I can figure this out! I did have a bit of uncertainty – I wasn’t even sure that she would be flying in from Pittsburgh. But I kept picturing how fun it would be to see her and decided I would take the chance.

After driving to the airport (and figuring out parking – the lot was full!) I headed inside to wait. I brought a book to pass the time but I realized that I was too excited to read. Plus, I had to watch two escalators to make sure that I didn’t miss her, though I shouldn’t have worried. You couldn’t miss the influx of Pittsburgh Steelers apparel. (In case you aren’t familiar, Pittsburghers love our Steelers clothing, and one can purchase, and wear, a Pittsburgh Steelers outfit for every occasion.)

Pretty soon, there she was! We immediately recognized each other and then talked for so long that the limo driver called her cell phone to track her down. It was such a high to see her again, and I’m just sorry that we didn’t get a picture together!

This feeling is so fabulous that I want everyone to feel it! I hope you get a chance to connect with someone, whether you just met them, see them all the time, or haven’t seen them in 25 years. And thank you, always, for being connected with me. It makes this path immensely more positive to travel.

Love,
Marie

 

One day, one moment, one prayer at a time

Your attitude, positive thoughts and prayers impact my life in a huge way, as I was reminded this past weekend.

Last week’s chemo went as chemo goes, bringing many of the usual side effects and a few bonus surprises. Luckily, by Saturday, I was on the upswing so my husband and I took the kids to find a Christmas tree.

As we walked among the trees, I was suddenly transported back in time. Six years ago, right before Christmas, I was diagnosed with cancer, healing from surgery (and sepsis) and about to start chemotherapy for the first time. Not only did the diagnosis unsettle everything I thought to be true in my life (i.e., that I could take good health for granted and actually make plans for the future), the treatment schedule upended our personal plans to spend the holidays with my family in Pittsburgh. In addition, I had already shipped all the gifts “from Santa” to Pittsburgh, and I was too overwhelmed to shop again for our one- and four-year-old boys, both of whom still enthusiastically believed in Santa Claus. I feared that would be my last Christmas with them, and it looked like it might be a disappointment all around.

But on this day, in 2013, wandering among the trees in the city lot, listening to my boys yell happily to each other and watching my husband measure various balsams and firs, I felt immensely grateful to be living and making preparations to celebrate another Christmas together.

After driving our tree home, I needed a rest so we draped ourselves over the sofa and watched Frosty the Snowman. Years ago, my psyche was filled with the words “…and we’ll have some fun now before I melt away.” (You can read about that here.)

This time, despite being tired, a different set of Frosty’s words slid happily into my heart:

“I’m all livin’! I AM alive! What a neat thing to happen to a nice guy like me!”

I was feeling lighter and coming out from under the chemo cloud.

On Sunday morning, due a confluence of circumstances, I went to church without the boys, and to a Mass at a church that I didn’t plan to attend. The priest began his homily talking about his seven-year-old niece and her dying father. Not an easy topic for me, but I hung in there while he made his way to his point. After that, he began to tell a story about a “dying stage 3 colon cancer patient.”

Those words put all my cells on high alert. As a stage 4 colorectal cancer patient, I don’t think of stage 3 as dying. In fact, I know both stage 3 AND stage 4 patients who are now cancer-free, so I don’t really think of either as dying. I thanked God that my kids weren’t there to hear this.

As the priest continued speaking, I went into fight or flight.

Because I was at that Mass and that church on a fluke, and because I strongly believe in the power of coincidence, I considered staying. Maybe God had a message for me if I waited.

The instant that thought occurred to me, it felt wrong. I didn’t need to stay and absorb another negative assumption that this man had to share. I needed to leave, and leave right then. Every fiber in my body said that was the right thing to do.

Mulling over this experience afterwards, I realized that I am both accustomed to people being supportive and focusing on what is possible, and that I rely on it. I can’t even let other viewpoints into my energy field.

Hearing those words and tone from this priest reminded me that there are still people who equate cancer with death, and I am lucky they aren’t in my circle. It reminded me that I am most fortunate to know that, not only can someone live with cancer, one can actually gain a different lease on life as well as get rid of cancer altogether. It reminded me that I am infinitely fortunate to know people who share that experience and / or perspective.

Maybe I didn’t need to hear whatever point the priest was trying to make. Maybe I was simply meant to gain a new appreciation for what is already in my life.

I thank you deeply for always infusing me with positive thoughts, energy, and prayers through your presence, emails, actions, notes and countless other connections. What we say and do can move each other in one direction or another. I feel like I am here six years later by moving one day at a time, one moment at a time, one prayer at a time. I could not do it without you and all the positive power you share. I am living. I AM alive. Thank you.

Love and blessings and all that is good,
Marie

The Power of Prayer

Thank you for your prayers and good wishes. They make a world of difference. I will give you three examples from the past seven days.

#1
Years ago, when I initially (thought I) finished chemotherapy, I had a ring made in commemoration. Heavy and beautiful, it was meant to remind me not only how heavy the process was, but also how beautiful life became.

Over a year ago, we were going on vacation so I hid it somewhere in the house, then  promptly forgot where I put it. Since that time, I searched the everywhere. I would wake in the middle of the night with new ideas. But never found it.

As you may suspect, I pray to God and a myriad of saints. Among them is St. Anthony, to whom I pray for my healing and the healing of my friends (providing a long list of names and specific healings for each).

Last Friday morning, I suddenly remembered that somewhere I heard that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items. So, I threw in an extra prayer to help find the ring.

Less than 30 minutes later, I heard my husband call out, “Look what I found!”

#2
On Thursday, I had a CT scan and I appreciate your prayers for good results. The following Tuesday, I met with my doctor to get the results. These meetings make me feel like Alice in Wonderland: I walk into the office feeling my normal size, information is shared, and I leave the office feeling larger or smaller.I suspect that is why they take your weight before you see the doctor.

The good news is that, in spite of skipping two of my last three chemo treatments, I learned on Tuesday that all tumors are smaller. Woo hoo!!! Thank you for your prayers to this end!

#3
When I returned to Dana Farber today to get my pump disconnected (I’m connected to chemo from Tuesday – Thursday), everyone was very nice. I even saw my friend Chuck, which usually makes me happy. But I had just spent three days vomiting and was on the verge of more. So instead of talking with Chuck, I found a seat away from everyone and collapsed into silent tears.

“God, I just need to know that you are here.”

I felt a hand on my leg and looked up. I feared that it was Larry, a well-meaning man who visits each person in the waiting room asking if they need anything. I don’t mind him but didn’t want to see him right now.

Instead, I saw a young woman with dark skin and a kind face. I saw a tear falling from one of her large, beautiful eyes. She said that she could feel me in her heart, and she asked if she could pray for me.

She placed her hand on my leg for a long time and prayed outloud, certain of my healing, peace, grace and all good things through God. I felt calmer, more relaxed, and less like I was going to lose my insides.

At the end, I thanked her and she asked if she could hug me. I warned her that I had not bathed for three days but she laughed and said, “You are filled with the scent of God, more beautiful than the most beautiful flowers. Honestly, that is what I smell.”

God bless that amazing woman. God bless all of you. I am constantly in awe of the power of prayer, and thankful that you include me in yours. May your life be blessed, always.

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

Shifting my focus

Week one passed so quickly.

During the prayer service this morning, a woman brought her guitar upfront to play and sing. None of us was familiar with the songs so we couldn’t sing along.

Last year, I LOVED the prayer service and was uplifted by the chance to belt out fun songs in a big group with guitar music. It bothered me that I couldn’t sing along. Her “performance” was cutting into my joyful song.

Throughout this trip, I have been trying not to compare it to my trip last year. I was thoughtful about making sure that I connected with others on this trip and that I participated in everything. I thought I had it covered.

But I suddenly realized that, because I was here before, I now had EXPECTATIONS and I wanted them to be met. Last year, I threw myself into each day and in fact, into each event. But now I had an idea of how things “should” be, and I liked them that way. I liked doing my own joyful singing during the prayer service last year. I wasn’t ready for someone else to take the stage and share her joyful singing.

As I considered this, I also noticed that I was spending time looking forward to events, which was fun but distracting me from fully immersing myself in the event happening right now. For example, when the prayer service was not making me happy, my mind wandered to think about our upcoming trip to the waterfall, which I loved last year and looked forward to again. Further, because I wasn’t really experiencing the present moment, the time was passing without my noticing. Hence, the quickly passing week.

So, I shifted my attention to be more present. This service didn’t have as much singing, but it was still lovely. And when another woman rose to sing, I decided to try and pay attention and not escape into some fun fantasy.

She launched into Ave Maria and I felt transported by her beautiful voice. I looked at her standing in the front of the room. She appeared to be very plain and almost timid so the voice was a surprise. As I continued to look at her, I saw a white shadow around her head.

I blinked to refocus my eyes, and it slowly formed again. It was close around her head but not symmetrical. As she sang and I watched, the white shadow pulsed and grew around her head and expanded to include her right shoulder. Soon, a small rainbow of colors appeared close to her head, but the white was still the largest and had the strongest pulsating life.

If I had escaped into my little fantasyland, I would have completely missed that.

I hope you are fully enjoying whatever moment you are in, and then as it passes, fully enjoying the next one.

Love and light,
Marie

On the road again…

Woo hoo – I am headed to see John of God in Abidiania, Goias, Brazil!

Thank you for all your prayers and positive vibes that got me to this point. And for all the logistical help as well!

Yesterday, my parents arrived to help my husband with the boys, and we went to Mass this morning. Not that those are related….

The Gospel reading was about how to pray, the one where the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, and where Jesus teaches the Our Father and speaks of “ask and you shall receive.”

After that came the homily. The priest forgot to turn on his mike so we had to strain to hear. However, it was a good homily and worth the effort to listen.

Once we returned home, I finished packing and headed to the airport.

Last summer, when I went to Brazil, I set off unsure of what to expect. At that time, I cleared customs in Brasilia then met the cab driver, who showed me where to sit and wait for the other passengers. Soon, Shelby appeared next to me, this gorgeous, tall blonde woman in just the right clothes who had seen John of God before. Between my inexperience and my uncoordinated travel outfit, I felt like a glaring newbie.

However, Shelby’s heart was so generous and open that she seemed to be surrounded by a golden light and I couldn’t help but be drawn to her.

Two weeks later, I returned home feeling like a completely new person, with treasured friends who I feel like I’ve known forever.

Last time was so incredibly special, so unique for me, that I almost don’t want to go again. When I think about it, I worry that this new experience will trample on that first one, or that I will try to protect that original experience and, as a result, won’t be as open to this new one.

But like my first trip to Brazil, I felt called to go on this one. Even pushed.

So, I am putting one foot in front of the other and am on my way. Despite my dog, who practically begged me not to go. Despite the broken check-in kiosks at the airport, the interminably long security line, and a packed airplane to Atlanta where my seat was broken. I kept moving forward, past each obstacle.

This time, although I do know the ropes, I realized that I am still a newbie in that don’t know what this experience will bring.

But I’m asking my questions, and I’m listening closely.

My own little prayer study and results

To clarify – I am not currently doing chemo. I am on a chemo holiday and would like to remain on a chemo holiday. To that end, the tumors need to shrink or stay stable.

So – the prayers I am regularly requesting from you are for the tumors to shrink or stay stable. Although I do a lot with my lifestyle to stay healthy, your prayers truly are my very best medicine right now.

My life experience convinces me of this. This week alone, within a 24-hour period, I got a message from

  • Tom sharing that his CEA (tumor marker) remains normal – woo hoo!
  • Deb rejoicing in her four- and possibly eight-week chemo holiday (I’m gunning for even more for her) AND
  • M amazed that her surgery AND recovery went better than the last time due to positive thoughts sent by friends. (I sent prayers along with positive thoughts – hope that was okay, my dear friend.)

All things for which we have specifically been praying. I LOVE it!

I will add one more to this list, although it requires sharing something that feels a bit personal. I have water from Lourdes and a few people suggested that I put it on the tumor sites and pray to Mary.

So, every morning, I do exactly that. Except, I only did that with one tumor site, the one that is between my liver and diaphragm.

During one of those prayers, I said something like, “I totally believe that you can take care of this, but it would be great to have a sign.”

At my last doctor appointment, he reviewed the CT scan with me and reported that two of the measurable tumors grew slightly. The other tumors they see but are too small to measure grew a bit as well. But the tumor between my liver and diaphragm, the one I have been praying over, was stable.

Yes, ONLY the tumor that I have been praying over is stable.

And yes, I then changed my approach to pray over ALL the tumors.

Like the prayers for Tom and Deb and M and me, I know that this works for you. Pray. Or send out positive thoughts regarding your life. Or tell me what you want me to pray for on your behalf, and I will do that.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued prayers for my healing. I know they make a difference. My family and I are deeply grateful, as your prayers enable the life we have together.

Love and blessings,
Marie

P.S. You may be thinking, if everything has grown a little, why didn’t I jump back on chemo.

If you have been following this story for awhile, you know that one full year, and then another, revolved around chemo and surgery and other treatments. At some point, I switched it around. Chemo and treatments became part of my life, but, where I could help it, my life didn’t revolve around them, making all of us much happier.

It is summer and we have vacation plans and life needs to be lived. My doctor and I discussed several options, and we came to this conclusion together. I get tested again August and we will have another discussion then. So please keep on praying for tumor shrinkage or sending positive vibes if that is more your thing and giving thanks for the wonder that is life!

Pain in the neck

I truly appreciate your continued prayers on my behalf, and I wanted to share with you my experience of the power of prayer in case it is helpful for you, too. Know that your prayers are just as if not more impactful!

Last week, I had intense pain in my right shoulder and neck. Last September, I injured that shoulder while carrying a large boat, and the pain periodically returns.

This time, I used all my pain management techniques. I tried to go to sleep at 9:30 p.m. to escape, hoping that the pain would just be gone when I woke, but I couldn’t sleep.

I tried focusing on the space between the bouts of pain, those moments where there was no pain at all. Often this follows the theory of “What you pay attention to will grow” and those spaces between the pain get larger and larger and the pain itself smaller and smaller. Didn’t work this time.

I tried breathing into the painful areas and observing them: What do they look like? What color are they? Spiky? Smooth? I got lots of information. I also continued to get lots of pain.

I tried tong ren (beating on an acupuncture doll with a metal hammer). That brought temporary relief but eventually the pain came roaring back.

I noticed that my shoulder felt better when I was sitting or standing. Bummer, because by now, it was 2:30 a.m. and all I wanted to do was sleep. And I prefer to do that lying down.

With all of my mental activity, my husband couldn’t sleep. He knows my aversion to drugs but suggested that I try an Aleve. I was so desperate that I agreed.

Over an hour later, the pain was even more intense, so I went downstairs to avoid bothering anyone. I sat on the sofa in the dark house and closed my eyes. Without thinking about it, I started to pray. Of course, always my last resort.

“Dear God and all the entities, I would really love to get some sleep right now. Could you just remove this pain? If I am supposed to have it for some reason, I’ll happily take it back in the morning. That would be awesome. Thank you.”

And then I sat. Only a few moments later, with my eyes still closed, I saw a bright light on my right side. And then, twinges in my shoulder and neck. With each twinge, the pain went away. They followed each other in rapid-fire, one after another, until all but one spot of pain was gone.

I added, half-joking, “I hate to be greedy, but can you get this one last spot?”

And the last spot of pain disappeared. I sat for another minute or so, briefly thinking, did that really happen? I need to figure out how to do that for the tumors.

Then I walked to bed, exhausted, and fell right to sleep.

At 8 a.m. I woke up with raging pain in my neck and shoulder and had to laugh with gratitude.