You get what you need

“It will be fine,” said my aunt.

“Everything is in Divine Order,” shared my friend, Al (quoting HIS aunt, Gloria).

Thank you for your prayers, positive thoughts and supportive messages.

I drove to Dana Farber this morning in a dark rain, the kind that feels like it will last all day.

The doctor said that the scans showed no new disease but some growth of the current “minimal disease.” My CEA (tumor marker) is at 170. My last CEA was something like 70; normal is 2.5 and below.

Basically, we are watching three tumors. The one between my liver and diaphragm is stable. Yay! The two in my pelvis – one on my right and one on my left – are showing growth.

After discussing several treatment options with respect to our summer vacation plans, we decided to schedule another scan followed by some chemo appointments for August. I could call if I changed my mind and wanted to start chemo right away.

By the time I finished my appointment, the rain stopped completely and the sun started to break through the clouds.

This afternoon, I was lucky enough to go for a row with Lisa. When I arrived at the boathouse, she introduced me to Sara Hall, the author of the book I’ve been reading (Drawn to the Rhythm). Sara started rowing in her 40’s and, in three years, went from novice to World Masters Champion in the women’s single shell. On the dock, I got to watch the women’s quad, who are headed to Henley tomorrow. Both meetings infused me with the sense of endless possibilities, no matter where you begin.

The river carried post-rainstorm detritus and the current was quick. The sun was now shining in all its glory and the surface of the water was calm with very few rowers.

I set off and rowed directly into the next dock. With a little help, I got on the right course and the rest of the row was beautiful and smooth and amazing and soul-filled.

The beginning of summer vacation, with everything truly fine and in Divine Order. Thank you for your prayers, helping to bring all this about. I hope that you can feel the fine Divine Order happening in your life, or at least trust that it is revealing itself.

Love,
Marie

Standing in awe

As you know, I am incredibly grateful for all your prayers, healing thoughts and positive vibrations. I know that I tell you every time that I write, and you should know that I will continue to tell you.

Your prayers and intentions for my healing have an impact that leaves me awed.

My recent mammogram is officially normal. Yes!

In recent weeks, I developed this funky skin tag on my right eyelid. It felt annoying and uncomfortable, not to mention, unattractive, though feeling attractive should be the least of my worries.

A few weeks later, I showed the growth on my eyelid to my husband, an amazing doctor who can offer an ointment, treatment or a diagnosis for just about anything. He simply said, “Yep” in a tone that means, I see it and there really isn’t anything to be done.

So, I shifted to feel grateful for this little blip, tacked my prayers onto your healing prayers and, I kid you not, it was gone by the next morning. Gone.

In other health news, the bleeding returned. Even though I reached some high of gratitude with it in the past, reaching that high all over again looked like another mountain to climb.

In the meantime, I went rowing. The day was sunny and warm but slightly windy and I took out a skinnier boat than usual. After a slow start, I felt like I was doing pretty well and finding my rhythm. Then I began to get a bit full of myself and….I caught a crab.

Catching a crab is when your oar gets stuck in the water. In my case, it was because I feathered (turned) the blade before pulling it out of the water. It was probably also because I was stroking my ego instead of focusing on my stroke.

Rowing on the Charles, June 2013

Looking almost Ivy League!

Just then, the handle of the oar stuck into my abdomen, pulling me backwards in the boat and holding me there, while my other oar flailed uselessly in midair. The boat tipped and I had a long minute of panic before I regained my center and my humility.

Enter Kathy of yinyangmother.com.

Kathy wrote some incredibly nice things about my approach to gratitude. Her writing left me feeling giddy, generally wonderful, and like we should all say nice things about each other on a regular basis.

http://yinyangmother.com/for-the-love-of-gratitude/

Inspired by her post, I revisited the bleeding and again aimed to reach that high point of gratitude. In the midst, I suddenly remembered that all this gratitude started with one small step. In my really rough times, a friend challenged me to be grateful for at least three things when I woke every morning. She encouraged me to say those gratitudes out loud. And later, she challenged me to take five full minutes to list what I am grateful for.

In my first tries, those were a long five minutes. But I stuck with it.

Over time and without my realizing it, being grateful throughout the day became as automatic as breathing and came from the same depths of my soul as love. Like love, though, it isn’t always easy to maintain, but small steps can still move us.

Because I once reached an amazing space of gratitude, I believe that it is indeed possible to experience that. Because the growth on my eyelid went away, I believe it is indeed possible that the growths in my body can go away as well (and they may have already left). And because I do sometimes have a rowing stroke that feels amazing, I believe it is possible to have a few of those in a row.

Thank you for believing in all this with me. Your prayers and the energy of your belief in these possibilities help to make them all a reality, and I stand in awe.

Much love,
Marie

Sun is shinin’ in the sky

As a birthday gift, my friend took me rowing on the Charles River.

With Lisa at CBC before rowing on May 27, 2013

That’s my friend on the left, emanating light.
I am on the right in the bright green jacket.

The previous days had been cold and rainy as though spring would never come. But then this morning, the warm sun was shining in a beautiful, clear blue sky.

Feeling incredibly happy about the new number on my body’s odometer, I rowed toward the city. The song Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra played over and over in my mind.

The bouncy tune and upbeat lyrics vibrated through my cells, especially the words at the beginning and, to a lesser extent, in the chorus.

I hope you are seeing blue skies today and if not, please remember them and know that they will return.

Love and light,
Marie

Click on this to watch a youtube video version of ELO singing Mr. Blue Sky and dig on the cool hair.

Lyrics to Mr. Blue Sky by ELO

(Morning, today’s forecast calls for blue skies)
Sun is shinin’ in the sky
There ain’t a cloud in sight, it’s stopped rainin’
Everybody’s in their play and don’t you know
It’s a beautiful new day, hey hey hey

Runnin’ down the avenue (pant, pant, pant)
See how the sun shines brightly in the city
On the streets where once was pity
Mr. Blue Sky is living here today, hey, hey, hey

CHORUS

Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why
You had to hide away
For so long (so long) where did we go wrong?

[Repeat]

Hey, you with the pretty face
Welcome to the human race, a celebration
Mr. Blue Sky’s up there waitin’, and today
Is the day we’ve waited for, oh, oh, oh

CHORUS

Hey, there Mr. Blue
We’re so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you

[Repeat]

Mr. Blue Sky,
Blue Sky, Blue Sky
Mr. Blue Sky

Mr. Blue, you did it right
But soon comes Mr. Night, creepin’ over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind, I’ll remember you this…
I’ll remember you this way

CHORUS

Hey there, Mr. Blue (sky)
We’re so pleased to be with you (sky)
Look around see what you do (blue)
Everybody smiles at you

Living on a prayer

These days, I am living on a prayer. More accurately, living on YOUR prayers. Thank you. This is way more fun than living on chemo. I am incredibly aware of each lovely chemo-free day and insanely grateful for the prayers, positive thoughts, presence and other gifts of your heart that enable me to have this life.

These provide an uplifting strength, enabling me to attend the boys’ May Day celebration at school, participate in my yoga class, attend a reunion, meet a friend for coffee, and throw (and enjoy) an early birthday party for one of the boys and his friends.  I even got to go rowing – woo hoo! – and rowed further than I ever have. (For those of you who are familiar, I rowed from the Cambridge Boat Club to the basin.)

I also decided that I had enough strength as well as enough distance from medical appointments to stomach a mammogram. In the face of actual cancer treatments, my regular mammograms fell out of the picture. Lately, I’ve had this panicky feeling that I need one, but every day this week, postponed making the call.

Finally, on Friday, after dropping the boys at school, I looked at the phone and thought, I’ll call in a bit. Just then, the phone rang and it was….The American Cancer Society. Seriously? Okay, message received and mammogram quickly scheduled.

On Saturday morning, I started bleeding and feeling ill, sending me into a bit of a tailspin.  To reign in my anxiety, I attempted to reframe the situation.

I tried telling myself that it wasn’t really happening. I tried telling myself that it would stop. I tried telling myself that it wasn’t a big deal.  I tried telling myself that it doesn’t mean anything.

As each approach failed, I kept thinking of that Bible verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” So I gave thanks for the good-feeling stuff in my life. Still didn’t help. Then I gave thanks for this. At first, that was a stretch, but I surprisingly did get there. Talk about practicing gratitude.

I could give thanks and be grateful but still wasn’t entirely thrilled about the bleeding. On Sunday, while listening to the song, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, I studied the logo on my iPhone, trying to figure out which face was which Beatle. Awhile later, while speaking with a friend, I noticed that same logo on his t-shirt, along with the words Let It Be.

I LOVE serendipities. They feel like personal messages from my guardian angels. I could sink into the Beatles. I could trust Mother Mary. And I could just let it be.

I hope you are finding lovely serendipities in your life. I know there are lots of us who need help and support in so many ways. Thank you for your continued prayers and your help in my life. Know that it makes a tangible, positive difference.

I thank God always for you.

Ephesians 1:15-19

Love and prayers,
Marie

Joyful Surprises

Our six-year-old son, dressed and ready for the day, grabbed my hand with his cute little one, dragged me out of bed and rapidly pulled me downstairs.

“I have something to show you, Mama,” he said with excitement.

My barely-awake self followed along, primarily because I felt like that is what a good mom should do, and I do try to live up to some random set of imagined standards. Also, he has more upper body strength than I do.

I loved but didn’t share his enthusiasm. I could not imagine anything that would make me happier right now than a steaming shower and my usual morning routine.

The semblance of order in my morning routine helps me to feel like the events of the rest of the day can be within my control. I held tightly to my little illusion, pushing down unsettled feelings of impending chaos as we progressed toward the kitchen, where, without a word, he led me to this:

Sculler by J-man

That is me in a scull! Or at least, a clay model of me in a scull. Apparently, he got up early and made a sculler out of clay and two toothpicks, especially for me. He even crafted it on newspaper rather than directly on the kitchen table. Love that boy.

This was way better than a steaming shower, or anything else I could envision for my day.

Over the past few years, I’ve done alot of praying and one of my most frequent prayers goes something like this: Dear God, Things are a mess. I give up. I’m going to let You be in control from now on. Just lead me and I will follow.

Then God generously cleans up whatever mess I was in, and I basically say, “Thanks, I’m good. I can take it from here.”

Apparently I can’t. I need reminders that it is okay to sometimes have less control. I may even need reminders that my way is not always the only way. Clearly, and thankfully, God and the amazing human beings around me can bring me to wonderful places I could never imagine on my own. Even in my very own scull.

I hope that any disruptions to your plan and any surprises end up bringing deep joy to your soul and your life.

Lots of love,
Marie

Chemo tomorrow…after a pause today

Chemo tomorrow. Thank you for your positive thoughts and prayers. Last time around really went as well as chemo has ever gone for me. Not only did I not vomit, I didn’t even feel like vomiting. SO amazing. And I am so grateful.

This past weekend was incredible in so many ways. I was graced with a visit from a friend, whom I met in Brazil but I feel like I’ve known forever, and the effects of our wonderful time together are still settling into my being.

While she was visiting, we went to the Head of the Charles (a race of rowing boats on the Charles River, competitive even to enter). My kids assumed that I was rowing in it. I simultaneously thought it was hilarious and loved that they had no doubt that I could compete.

I also love that Tiron thinks of me as a serious rower. Recently, he advised against my rowing at all, worried that some scary thing inside me would rip open. Obviously, he thinks that I row like an Olympian, where I might break a rib or something else. He should come and watch my languid style.

Still, I take his words to heart, so I canceled my next lesson. However, not only did that make me sad, like cancer was taking away something I loved, but it felt as though I was making decisions from a base of fear rather than joy, love, excitement, knowing what is right for me. When I rescheduled my rowing lesson, I immediately felt better.

The day of that lesson was gorgeous – cool air with warm sun, clear skies, and a calm river. I biked to the boathouse (even learning how to fill the bike tires with air – don’t laugh – I get intimidated by these things and was so proud of myself!) and I got to meet someone I have admired for over 20 years: The Native American* man who runs along the Charles River!

Rowing was fab, of course. We worked on several things, one of which was taking a pause between strokes, in order to set up for the next stroke.

Here is how I typically row:
When the oars are in the water, I pull them through the resistance of the water as hard and fast as I can. When I lift them from the water into the air to push them back and set up for the next stroke, there is less resistance, so they move quickly and I don’t see why I should slow them down. As a result, I am always moving quickly through each stroke, though I don’t really travel that quickly across the water.

My instructor suggested that, instead, I take a pause between strokes. Specifically, he suggested that I take the oars out of the water, let the boat glide begin (quarter slide for you rowers) and then pause to take a moment to gather myself for the next stroke.

The first few times, my pause was exaggerated to the point of feeling like I was literally stopping between strokes. But soon, the pause flowed into the rhythm of the movements.

In this pause, time expanded. I could now feel the way the boat slides underneath me and the relative position of my oars. It let me check in with my center of gravity as well as notice what was going on around me.  I even had time to gather myself and set up for the next stroke.

Then I noticed that, by taking this small moment of time and focusing during it, I was moving more efficiently through the water than I was when I powered through. Rowing became more fun, and I could enjoy more fun moments.

In your reading of this and my other notes, you help me to take that pause to gather myself and get centered as my days move from regular life to chemo and back to regular life again. And you help me to notice the fun moments every day. Thank you.

Love and blessings,

Marie

*So many of you recognized this man from my description, which was really exciting. I learned from you that he is not Native American but is Cambodian and the founder of the Elephant Walk!

The kindness of strangers

So here I sit at Dana Farber, waiting for another CT scan. In general, I should get one every other month, to measure progress, and I am not due for another until next month. But because I decided to go back on chemo, the doctor wants a “baseline” CT scan, so here I sit again. Not loving the radiation but alternately choosing to bless it or ignore it.

I set a goal to arrive to this appointment on time. When I drive someplace, I often set a specific target time, such as, “I will pull into a parking space at 12:45.” And then I see if I can make that.

On track and almost there, I got into the right lane to make my turn. There was already a taxicab stopped at the red light, and I pulled up behind him, waiting.

After a few moments, the light turned green and the cab driver GOT OUT OF THE CAR. He then walked to the trunk and opened it. The trunk was empty, so I assumed that meant he was waiting for a passenger and not moving anytime soon. Apparently, I now needed to go around him and get in the left lane to make my right turn (a common move in Boston driving).

I looked over my left shoulder; traffic was heavy and thick. I would be going nowhere anytime soon, and I realized that I would miss my target arrival time. I looked again at the cab driver in front of me. He was tall, with broad shoulders, strong muscles, short hair and dark skin. He moved gracefully, and his facial expression looked apologetic. I felt my heart actually open to him, and wanted to say it was okay. I couldn’t find it in myself to be angry or annoyed. He seemed like a kind man just doing his job and trying not to be in the way on a busy street, and really, this was just a minor inconvenience for me and one that I could manage.

And then….he stepped away from our cars and into the oncoming traffic, stopping it. Through my open window, he told me that it was clear to go. I wanted to stop and marvel, even fawn over him, but he waved me on again, so I just said thank you and drove off.

I wished that I could do more, somehow show my thanks in a bigger way. But I have no idea how to do that, especially now. I really appreciate his kindness, and want to pass it on.

But did I do that? No. Once at Dana Farber, the IV nurse kept calling me “Mary.” So I got snippy with her, when really, there was no need to do that.

Welcome to humanity. I’m aiming to do better. My friend, Alyson, told me that, in rowing, each stroke is a new stroke. I think that is my current mantra. Each chance is a new chance, and I am so grateful to even HAVE another chance to do better.

In the meantime, I send my gratitude out to that amazingly generous man who saw a problem, not even his problem, but a problem, and stepped in to fix it. And I send my gratitude to each of you, as you take time out of your day and, through your heart and your prayers, clear a path for all my twists and turns. Thank you.