21 Nov 12 Routines

Some routines are just better than others. Some come so naturally, some require constant reminders to self. One of my routines that I really didn’t think of as  a tried and true routine is to come down in the morning, grab coffee, feed the critters, and hop onto the computer.

Our new house is configured so differently than our old one. In our old house, the computer was basically in the family room. Not the best spot, but I was around everyone, and knew all that was going on in the house. Here, it is sequestered to the extra room. Now, this  room gets a lot of use, just not really by me. It is at the far end of the house, and is away from everyone and every thing.

My new laptop, which I bought so that I can be more portable with writing my book, and skype, allows me to have the computer in the kitchen without taking up too much space. It is fast, convenient and I am in the middle of it all. It’s perfect. When I need to use the printer or desk top, I run up to the extra room, but do not have to stay for long.

So, now I can sit, write, have coffee, and greet the ones awaking in the house with a quick hello between key strokes. Good Morning all.

12 Nov 12 Pangs of Survival

 

One of the more difficult things about having cancer is that you meet others with cancer. In and of itself, meeting others with cancer is a godsend, do not get me wrong. What is bad is knowing that not everyone you need will make it. You will meet some who you will lose before your treatments are over. Others you will lose down the road a bit. Some fight cancer like a boxing match, winning round after round of cancer, only to be KO’d in the last inning. Those that linger, never out of treatment, but still fighting the good fight, are so tired. Many times you see them slowly fade and wonder if they passed because of the cancer, or the exhaustion of the constant cancer treatments. Lately, I have had several people I know have cancers either recur, or discover that their cancers have spread. I am tired of hearing about it. As a survivor, I go through the pangs of feeling guilty that I am alright. I also fight the fear that one day it will be me telling my loved ones I have cancer again. I do expect to have to do that. I do expect to live through it, like the proverbial boxing matches. It is still very hard to hear that you might be losing someone. Perhaps it is a dear friend, perhaps a loved one. It’s not easy. Cancer is everywhere. Treatments are brutal, and a cure is still elusive.

As a survivor, I need to go on. In doing so, I try to give hope to those going through cancer that there can be a life afterwards: A new normal, a very different normal, with a new perspective.

06 Nov 12 The Road to Slow

 

Anyone who has had ADD/ADHD knew that our biggest bane was moving slowly. We did everything fast. We ate fast, typed fast, talked fast, worked fast: we did about everything fast. We would even sleep fast if there was such a way to do so. It was not by choice, mind you. It was simply the way we were programmed. We were skilled at multitasking. I could carry on a conversation and type a letter at the same time. I didn’t, only because then I ended up telling the person what I meant to type, and then typing what I meant to tell the other person. I didn’t say I was good at that kind of multitasking, I just said I could do it.

For those of us for whom the world exists in fast forward, what happens when we needed to slow down? I was not talking a stop and smell the roses type of slow down, but times when not slowing down was truly bad for your health.

When I was in High School, I caught the dreaded kissing disease- mononucleosis. I was so sick I missed half my senior year of high school. Part of the reason I was so sick was because I couldn’t slow down enough to actually get well. As soon as I felt a bit better, I would over do, and get worse. Trying to find that stable, elusive, middle ground has been something I have struggled with ever since. Although I was better, my mono was considered chronic. Day to day activities were fine, but if I over do, a simple good night’s sleep does not cut it. When I did too much, and felt overwhelmed, I became tired. Bone tired. Now, I knew of others who just “power through” and I was glad they could. I knew they thought I was a wimp for not being able to do that. What they did not understand was that I used to, with bad consequences.

One time, many years ago, when my kids were little, I pushed. I was still a young mom, and was trying to do everything. Be a mom, a housewife, a volunteer, and do it all. I pushed, and pushed even though my body was telling me it was time to just be.  But of course, as stubborn as I am, I didn’t listen. Instead, I pushed harder.

Finally, my body took charge, and I collapsed. We are talking fell on the floor, couldn’t get up to even crawl into bed collapsed. I was so thankful that when I did I had the phone in my hand, because otherwise I would have scared the kids in my helplessnes, who were in another room watching TV. I had to call someone to just help me into my room. For three days I could hardly turn over. I remember crawling to the bathroom, and it took me five minutes to get there and get myself onto the pot.

Not one of my finer moments. Not one of my healthiest either. I made it through cancer without a recurrence of the effects of the mono, but I was not oblivious to the fact that it was still there. I tick off the number of things I had going, and how wonderfully busy I was with so many wonderful, exciting things happening, I realized I was exhausted. I needed a time out. I knew I would be hitting my breaking point if I did not.

The question of the day was what to give up? I could not give up driving the boys where they needed to go. Not at this stage of things as they were learning to drive. I could not  give up cooking and housekeeping. No one else would make sure it all got done. I hated to take a break from my volunteer job since that was what kept me going, and kept me energized.

It was time to find a way to stop and smell the roses again. I needed to employ my remedy of going to bed for about three days and immerse myself in a few good books.

Maybe I should immerse myself into writing a new one. That might keep me busy for a day or two.

03 Nov 12 Next

 

Well, I survived another October, gritting my teeth about the constant reminder of having had cancer. I love that we are working hard for a cure. I am just at that stage. It will pass. It is wonderful to have life, real life, new normal life, picking up speed. If I was a first time driver, I would be worried about handling it all at such a high speed! Then, I remind myself that I am in control, I have the power to choose what I need/want to do, and (sometimes) when. I have had some awesome opportunities in working with the cat shelter, including being allowed to attend a national conference in Las Vegas. That was amazing!

Wrestling season has started for my son, so my days will get a bit longer for me to do my own thing. Now instead of picking him up at 1440, I will have until about 1600, I think. But, then we are also locked into the area due to practices and meets. It’s a tradeoff.

There are consequences for every choice. Not every choice is right or wrong. Sometimes you just have to weigh the possibilities to decide on the preferred outcome. So, I will get to spend more time and the shelter, but less time visiting family for now. Seeing as how some family is visiting me, it’s working out in the end.

21 October 12 Vegas, Baby!

 

What an interesting time of choices and consequences of choices. The next two weeks will be very interesting, indeed. My son, C, turns 17 soon. He, like my husband, doesn’t think birthdays are a big deal (not even the presents). Something I just do not understand as I love birthdays (even if I forget everyone’s unless they are standing in from of me).

Soon hubby will be deploying again, and there will be lonely nights, even with a full (of cats) bed.

My wonderful friends at the FieldHaven Feline Rescue have asked me to go with them to a conference in Vegas.

Here is the rub….they are all coinciding. The conference will be over C’s birthday, so by going, I miss it. Hubby will be prepping to go right soon after I get back. I’ve never been to something like this. I don’t feel that I can pass it up. C has already encouraged me to go, as well as hubby.

Yet I still feel guilty. I suppose I really shouldn’t as we have celebrated so many special days, not ON the special day. This would be nothing new. It is just new that the postponement is due to me.

Really, there are no bad consequences to going, just results of the choices I make. I think sometimes we lose sight of that. No matter what I choose, the world will not fall apart. It will continue to wobble on its axis. The possible result that carries the most weight is to go to the conference and learn.

 

 

02 October 2012 Would You Like To Round Up?

 

Well, it’s October again, where I got to be constantly reminded that I had breast cancer.

One of the stages we went through in recovery (a very normal, and real stage), is that we got sick and tired of the constant reminders. Those who coined the term “Pink Washing” to describe their discontent of all the pink in October were probably in this stage. You see, we went through a lot in our cancers. We had surgeries, treatments, medicines that sometimes made you feel worse than the disease. After wards, we had to reinvent ourselves from the inside out. We were not the ones we used to be.

As we began to find our new normals, and start to feel good about ourselves and our road again, suddenly good ole October rolls around, and everywhere we looked, we were reminded.

This year, I was at that stage. I actually got ticked off at the cashier when he asked me if I wanted to round up to donate to breast cancer research. Here is the kicker: We knew it is for a good cause. We ARE the good cause. But after awhile we got tired of being reminded of that.

We were living our new normal. We didn’t want our new normals to have anything to do with cancer. We just needed to breathe for awhile without having the disease constantly rammed down our throats. We’ve been there, done that, and really don’t want to go there again.

So, this October, I get to be the one who is sick of “Pink Washing”. Leave me out of it this year, please. I just want a chance to do the impossible: to forget.

16 Sept 2012 Acut-…Clari-….Simple Thinking.

 

Loss of mental acuity can be rather frustrating, and quite disturbing. One day you are spouting off the properties of chemical compounds (if that’s your thing), and the next day it feels like you can’t remember what H2O is, or it’s uses. Alzheimers is just one of the reasons for loss of mental thoughts, er… processes….er…acuity. Cancer’s notorious chemo brain is another, and, as I recently found out, so is hypothyroidism. Interesting.

I have noticed that my brain function is definitely not what it used to be. It’s embarrassing, frankly. Being well spoken and well written has always been very important to me. The fact that I can do neither well these days is disconcerting.

Humph…..

I have always had a love affair of sorts with words. I love to learn new words. I love using long words that confound those around me, and send them to the dictionary app on their phones to devise the meaning of what I just said and decide if it was a compliment or an insult.  I can’t do that right now. I have trouble remembering simple things that I should remember. Things like names, places, instructions, and I can’t remember the breeds of cats anymore. What a travesty!

Coming to grips with these realities, and hoping they are temporary, has been quite a road to be on. Knowing that in social situations, those who do not know me night think I am, well, in need of a bit of extra supervision. The thoughts in my head do not match those coming out of my mouth, and suddenly realizing I am quite lost in a neighborhood I knew well can be unsettling to say the least.

I have decided that this is another one of those times to just breathe, relax, and remember that this is out of my control. I always have been a bit “off”, and those who know me can see the change. They are supportive, and help me laugh it off. That’s really all that can be done.

Now what was I talking about just now?

13 Sept 2012 So Tired

Well, that explains a lot…. It is easy to explain every malady away on a side effect of cancer, or the meds we are put on. It is an easy connection. However, it is not always right. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism yesterday. It is a hormonal imbalance, as if I needed more of that on top of my instant menopause…

I knew you could be tired and gain weight with this, but that was about all I knew. I had been tested several times, always negative until this last one. I was probably “subclinical”. That means I had it, but the tests gave a false negative. Remember, medicine is not a perfect science!

I was having other issues that I was also attributing to the cancer. My hair changed texture. It went from beautifully soft to feeling as if I had it bleached. My finger nails which used to be so strong break very easily, and are very brittle. The brain fog? It very well might be the hypothyroidism. That would actually be nice because I was really worried about the fact that I was still dealing with it so badly 2 years after my mastectomies, and I didn’t even have the chemo or radiation.

Be aware of your body. There are other things besides cancer we might get to deal with. Mention everything unusual to your Dr. This particular problem seems to be manageable with a single pill. Provided I can tolerate this medication, we will be good.

Since my mom had thyroid cancer, I will be tested for that as well. Now, most of the time, you get HYPERthyroidism with thyroid cancer, so I am not expecting there to be an issue, but I would rather be safe. I get an ultrasound next week. Interesting. I have never had an ultrasound of my neck before.

I am still being tested for the wonderful headaches which have been going on for 4 weeks now, as well as the feet issue (which might be cause by the hormone issue!). It will be interesting to see how things go once the medications are in place, and doing their job of properly regulating my system. I presume this will be an interesting road, and will not be in place over night.

Until then, I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief at having some answers.

11Aug 12 Thrown Out

 

You would think that by now this was old hat. Ideally, it was. I have moved a total of twenty-one times in my life.  Yet this recent move has been the most difficult one for me yet. I was not sure why this move was any harder. It was not nearly as complicated as the moves to and from Korea. I’ve moved closer to my family for the first time ever. The weather here is milder. We have everything we need.

So why was this so tough? What was it that was making this move seem so stressful? I have been here for two months, and I felt like I should have had my feet on the ground, and be off and running. I cannot seem to get the house organized to a functional level, thus my brain was not organized to a functional level either. I was feeling over whelmed by the amount of things that I needed to do, and the amount of things available to do; not necessarily all bad, I know.

So this begs that question of how was all of this related to my cancer? I suppose on some level I felt like I was helpless to keep anything from falling apart in my hands, just as I felt so helpless and out of control of my life during the cancer treatment/recovery process.

It took me longer now to settle in and feel “safe”. In the grand scheme of things, it has not been long at all since I have dealt with my cancer, and there are long term ramifications to this process. They do not go away over night. This was normal.

It was just not fun. When we have cancer the world as we perceive it, and interact with it, changes completely. You started over. You found another way, you did things differently. You did not just step out of your comfort zone. Cancer threw you out.

So you found a new comfort zone. In my case, I had not quite found my new zone, and then I moved. So again, I was starting over. I was being too hard on myself, expecting too much so soon. I guess I was still learning to relax, and just let things happen.

Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

12 July 12 Field Haven

Sometimes when you find something new, it feels as if you have rediscovered yourself. I had that experience yesterday. Field Haven rescue is a wonderful and unconventional shelter for cats here north of me by about half an hour. The drive out to the shelter is scenic, with rolling hills and oak trees overhanging the road like giant hands reaching out to catch you speeding down the curvy two-lane road. You pass beautiful picturesque ranches with three rail white fences that are five feet high for horses. Many of the homes have weeping willow trees crying into small ponds beside them. They are so beautiful, I wonder if any of them were used in movie sets.

I arrive outside an electric metal gate that allows me access. It opens to horse corrals, the smell of hay, dust, and peace. Park where you want. The choice spots are under the big oak in the middle of the drive, or at least under its shade. You proceed to the building that looks half home, half barn. You see enclosed patios on the side of the building, and hear a chorus of welcoming mews from the first cage. They are happy you are here. You walk into the front door, and you have the office to your right, and cages with glass to you on your left.

“Welcome!” They greet you. I had been up there a few times, but I cannot get over how much I love how they have designed the facility. Instead of the typical metal cages of three feet by three feet with bars in the front, they have something totally different. Now, in the front room, the “Adoption room”, the one with the glass sides that face the entry, has cages similar, although not metal. There are two cats housed in there to give them special highlight for adoption to the prospective adopters.

Walking down the hall, it feels almost more like a hotel than a shelter. There is a row of doors down the hall with glass on the top. Upon peering in, there is often a happy cat greeting you, and asking for pats. What you are looking into is an actual room, one similar to the size of a generous broom closet. There are food dishes, liter pans, toys, beds, shelves for climbing, scratching posts, murals on the walls reminiscent of a child’s bedroom rather than a room for a cat and a door on the opposite side of the room with a kitty door in the bottom.

If you go through that second door, you have entered the outdoor enclosures, adorned with similar cat approves items. You see them stretched out worshipping the sun, warming themselves on the cement floor of the enclosure, or merely curled up in a kitty bed. There are one to two cats to a room depending on the room. The only thing missing for them is a person to love them.

The cats are so different than the cats you see other shelters. There are no desperate cries of fear coming from anywhere. The cats are relaxed, calm, and relatively at ease. Some cats are more timid than others, but that is why one of the jobs available to volunteers at the shelter is to be a “cat socializer”. Yes, that is what you think: pet the cats. Some are cuddlier than others, but that is typical cat fashion, not a sign of severe stress that so often is seen at other shelters.

There is an adjacent barn where feral and semi-feral cats are housed. The outdoor enclosure is bigger for the feral cat’s desire for outdoor accommodations. Cat socializers go out there as well. The point here is that these cats would make good barn cats. Some are tolerant of human presence, others hide.

The other big difference I see in this shelter as opposed to so many others is that they are not sick. I have been to shelters where every cat is ill. When adopted, they become ill almost immediately upon coming home. Here, they are happy, healthy, and ready to start their new lives.

The shelter has a set up that opposite the cat rooms is an area worthy of a veterinarian’s office, complete with isolation room, exam room, and a place to clean the bowls, beds, towels, and to generally care for the cats. Something that deserves mentioning about the state of health of the cats is this: Cats can get sick on stress alone. They have various auto immune illnesses that stay latent until put in situations of severe stress. This is another accolade for the shelter’s low stress environment. If the shelter wasn’t so low stress for the cats, there would be little way to keep them healthy. The design was courtesy of the University of California at Davis Shelter Management program. I would say they are on to something.

As I cuddle with my own cats at home, I think about the cats at the shelter. My heart does not break for the condition they are in as it does at other shelters. Here, I can see they are not only well cared for, but happier than any other shelter I have ever been to. I cannot wait to go back.