Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Blog Post

It has been a while but I wanted to share that I'm honored to be the guest blogger today on The Fat Cyclist's Blog

 The Fat Cyclist asked for readers to submit essays about "Your Proudest Moment on the Bike." The blogger, "The FatCyclist", lost his first wife to breast cancer a few years ago and he blogs about biking and fighting cancer.  And he actually knows Lance Armstrong...which I can only dream about.  Ken and I  often laugh at loud at Fatty's humor.

My entry was selected.  Here is the link to my blog entry for Fatty, "My First Century", about my breast cancer journey, the road to recovery and my biking.  Looking forward...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rainy Night in Chicago.

Night is falling.  Black rain clouds are close outside my windows.  The thunderstorms and lightning are dancing along the lake.   This morning was beautiful as we rode our bikes.  I have worked up from riding my bike 40 miles the first two weeks I was back on the bike to between 80-90 miles each of the last two weeks.  This morning we rode up the Chicago lakefront north almost 20 miles and then back.  Just about three hours with pit stops.  I am tired and my legs are sore (in a good way). 

I still have local pain and discomfort from my chest surgeries.  And doctors visits every few weeks or month but it is manageable.  The nerve damage may last up to two years.  I have decided there is no sense dwelling on it.

C, a survivor friend, summed up better than I could my current thoughts about my cancer, "I may get cancer again.  I can't help that.  But I'll know that I did everything I could to prevent it."  That is my current strategy.

I have been reading a book she suggested, a book called AntiCancer, A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Scheiber.  It talks about how we should live and eat.  I almost wrote, "with cancer" but it really talks about how we should live and eat all the time.  More variety of fruits and vegetables (organic if possible).  Organic dairy.  Little meat.  Wild Fish.  Green tea.  Pomegranate juice.  Oh and for good stuff, dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa.  Little or no white sugar.  No hydrogenated oils.  Little white flour.  If you are interested I'd say read the book.  It is a great read.

I have been adapting my diet to incorporate these healthy and cancer fighting foods and eliminate the things that don't have a positive impact.  For those who know me, they know I usually eat pretty well.  I have watched my diet for 4 or 5 years.  But this has required extra concentration and effort for me.  I haven't had coffee since last Wednesday. 

I'm eating right.  Exercising.  I am adding my yoga back this week.  And keeping cancer at bay.  

Thank you for sharing my cancer journey.  I'm signing off this blog for now.  I will be preparing for the Apple Cider Century, a 100 mile bike ride the end of September.   I will be working on other writing projects and I am back to work full time.  I appreciate all of the prayers, support, suggestions and cheering throughout the last 8 months.  It was an enormous comfort to me as I wrote that I knew you were all there waiting, listening and caring.   I wouldn't have made it so easily without you.

I am looking forward...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recovery .. different measures

Recovery:  I'm sure it's different for women, men and different people of different ages.

I know what it means to me:

Yesterday I put on perfume.
Today I put on lipstick and wore a pair of strappy sandals to work.
This morning, I danced in the bathroom while my favorite song was playing.

So, I am recovering.  Looking forward to a bike ride this weekend.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writing and Yoga- a new project

Today is a day of new beginnings for me.  I have a doctor's release to start exercising today.  The limitations are I can exercise but I can't lift anything and can't put any pressure on my chest.  Piece of cake! So I will be at a biking class this afternoon, spinning my legs in little circles on a stationary bike in the dark while the music is playing.  I will be sweating happily.  I ate way too much delicious food at a business meeting yesterday (those brownies perched on the table just in front of me were unbelievable, I couldn't resist) so I will be happy to be able to burn some extra calories.

I have also started a new project today.  21-800-5.  A confluence of readings and events over the past few days got me thinking and stewing.  I'll take you through my thought journey.  One, Yogic Muse, a yoga writer I read blogged about this project. It is a community project for 21 days to write 800 words each day and do yoga 5 times a week. 

Two, I read an entry I read this entry yesterday from the Daily OM called Translating our Feelings.
It talks about how when we approach new things we might think we are scared about something but really it is excitement we feel.  Hmmm.

Three, I had a conversation with some friends about the trauma of the last six months.  Cancer is a tough road.  I've written about the testing, diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy and some of the millions of doctor's appointments (ok, so it seems like millions).  Cancer is tough not only for the physical hardships but for the mental ones as well.  There are so many life-altering conditions.  One of the comments from one of the doctors in the last few weeks was very specific, "don't make any major decisions in your life right now."   That in itself set me to thinking.  I think people act erratically as they sit in this tailspin of cancer.  I know in the last few weeks I have thought that chucking everything and living on a beach or on a mountain with just my family would be the right choice.  Of course that money thing always gets in the way!  I have chalked that up to just needing a vacation.  I have sat here and tried to imagine what other people do as they recover from cancer.  Quit their jobs? Move?  Change their friends?  I can't think of them, just a lack of imagination this morning.  But I have felt more and different kinds of stress in the last few months than I have ever felt before. 

So I joined this writing-yoga project in time to start today. New Project I decided to join so I can explore my writing a bit more deliberately.  Writing takes me to a wonderful place.  It calms my mind and heart.  For me, every time, starting to write is scary.  As I walk toward my desk, I feel my heart pounding in my ears and my skin gets hot.  I am not sure why.  Once I get there I am engaged.  It is about capturing the essence of truth as I see it at that particular moment.

Am I scared because I am putting myself out there for so many people to see?   Is it because it isn't safe?  I'm not sure why.  Is it because we are scared to be successful?  If I, or anyone who takes risks, is scared of how it will change their current life?  Or am I scared at all and is it like the writer wrote about in the Daily OM, is it really excitement I feel?  I think true fulfillment in life comes in identifying what you want and then figuring out a way to get those things in your life.  I have done it, in my work and in my life but each time requires diligent effort and thought.  Each time, I have had to make a deliberate decision, make a goal and then work hard to meet that goal.  It doesn't come easily to me.  I know some people that it comes easily to and I am just a little bit jealous of them.  I also know people who have not been willing to take any risks at all and have lived a sheltered life.   Of all them, I know many happy people but is there a difference between happiness and fulfillment?  I want to explore all these thoughts in my writing. 

The yoga is a bonus.  I went to a great meditation class with a Buddhist monk sponsored by a local hospital that I have been meaning to tell you about for the last few weeks so I hope to weave his story into a blog entry or two.  

I started my first novel when I was 12.  I remember sitting on the basement stairs in our house in suburban Chicago.  The typewriter was perched in front of me precariously.  I typed two pages.  I remember coming up and proclaiming prophetically to my mother, "I don't know enough to write yet."  I want to see if I know enough now.   I will stretch and write both personally and fictionally over the next 21 days.  I won't make you suffer through all of it.  But if I think it might be interesting, I'll post some of it here on my blog.  I'm looking forward...

By the way this is my first day and my first 917 words...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer Rain

It seems more like spring than June.  All weekend in Chicago bursts of rain have come and then just as quickly gone.  Yesterday I sat on our balcony most of the day and I marveled at how lush and green the trees are in Lincoln Park.  I drank coffee and watched the soccer and baseball games off in the distance.  I am resting.    Well resting for me.  Today I cleaned my home office and filed stuff that has been piling up for a couple of years.  I also laid out the plans for how to train for the Apple Cider century bike ride that I want to do in the fall.  I am not allowed to exercise yet.  No yoga.  No biking.  No lifting anything over 10 lbs. 

I am amazed at how tired I am.  Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.  Two surgeries and twelve weeks of chemo since December 14th.  I used to get up in the middle of the night and read, or write but now I never get up.  I wouldn't say I sleep but I don't get out of bed.  I am struggling with working all day.  Yet I am not in my "chair" anymore.  You know, there was a big, black leather recliner I lived in post surgery and during chemo.  I haven't sat in it in a month.  Not even after surgery 12 days ago.   Weekend afternoons I lie on the couch and watch cycling races on television and nap.   Cycling races are very long so I usually don't miss much.

I am worried that the tiredness is menopause.   I am on Tamoxifen for the next five years to prevent a recurrence and it guarantees menopause.    But I think that mostly it has caused hot flashes.  I don't have terrible hot flashes, just 20 or so a day.   I only wear short sleeves shirts and layer everything.  At night, I crawl into bed cold, cover up with a sheet, blanket and comforter.  And every half hour or so I wake, adding or subtracting layers.  Usually I wake, flipping the covers off, then wake every 15 minutes adding a layer back on. 

I wish I could go away for a few days.  It's not possible right now.  But tonight I felt like we were on vacation.  We walked to a neighborhood place, a romantic dinner at a little French bistro and I sat with the open windows at my back while it rained.  I could hear the car tires hissing through the water on the street and people racing, squealing through the showers.  I sat and enjoyed the soft music and the gentle conversations of the room. 

Dinner was delicious, fresh summer fish.  I'm not sure when that happened but things taste normal again.  I snacked on a couple of ginger snaps yesterday and I thought while I was eating them, "now why did I live on these for a month?"  I celebrated that things taste normal again tonight and had my favorite Profiteroles, which are little puff pastry shells stuffed with ice cream and covered in hot fudge. 

I'm looking forward ....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bike The Drive

Bike the Drive happens every Memorial Day weekend in Chicago.  The city closes down the entire length of Lake Shore Drive.... roughly 20+ miles along the lake... and turns it over to cyclists from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and it is a riot.  There are kids with parents, tandems, reclining bikes and people who have their bikes decorated. 

As I sat and watched it from my window in our apartment I thought what a difference a year makes.  Last year, we biked 10 miles with our son and some friends of his and then hosted a breakfast open house for 25.  It was a great way to spend the day.   I love cooking for company.

I wish I was riding today as it is a beautiful day; sunny with no clouds in the sky and the park is filled with green tree tops.  The water looks like there are diamonds shimmering on the surface.   The temperature is in the 70's.  I do not have a doctors OK yet after my surgery to get back on the bike (not that I am well enough anyway, I have been up on and off since 3 a.m. in pain and feel like I will not be better for another couple weeks )  Ken ran out for a quick ride up north to Hollywood and back and our friends Ruth and Jonathon have gone south downtown on Bike the Drive to the museum campus.  The four of us will be here for breakfast, which I am cooking.    

It has been a hectic week, Monday evening while I was just home recovering from surgery,  Ken got ill from a kidney stone and Jonathon took him to the Emergency Room while I sat home and waited.  He finally returned at 4 a.m., on painkillers with lots of interesting stories about cops in the ER, and motorcycle accidents. 

I am surprised by how much pain I have been in.  I thought this surgery would be simple and that recovery would be easy.  I have some nerve damage on one side and am having lots of pain.  I started to have allergic reactions to the pain killers again so I wobble between pain or pain killers combined with Benadryl which puts me straight to sleep.   Then yesterday I got a cold.  Today Ken woke up with one.   Talk about too much drama.

So we are having a quiet holiday weekend, hopefully one with lots of rest and without any trips to the hospital.  I did run out to the store for a roast.  Even though it is warm, a good pot roast with potatoes and onions will make the apartment smell good and will provide comfort food as we look forward to feeling better. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back under the Knife

Today, I underwent surgery to work on reconstruction of my breasts.  Here is the latest on my construction project! 

At the initial massive excavation on December 14th , they inserted some place holders that expanded to make room for my new TA TAs.   Now that I am expanded and healthier, they have to swap those expanders out for the real silicone TA TAs.  Thank goodness as the equipment felt like two hockey pucks (sorry had to throw a little Blackhawks humor in--at least they didn't knock my teeth out!). 

Surgery happened this morning at 7:30 a.m. (see they even have construction hours).  And while they were in there they fixed a dog leg (I swear that is what they call it).  Moved one Ta Ta up a floor (the ground was soft, it had slipped down).  And then they took some dirt (ok, fat from my tummy) and used it to fill in the landscape where there were some holes where they had scraped down to the bone.  The procedure was successful, they say.  Who can tell with the swelling and bandages!  

I was home by early afternoon.  In a lot of pain so we upped the dosage of pain killers a bit and now I feel good.  The doctor said no biking for a week but I think he was kidding.  No lifting and no jogging for 60 days.  The jogging he does not have to worry about! 

A week sounds a little aggressive, even for me.  So I will take it day by day and start with gently yoga stretches in a week.  That worked well last time.  This is perhaps the last procedure I need so I am excited and looking forward.