Friday, January 27, 2012

Think in Higher Level Terms

Sometimes I find the most profound thoughts and information applicable to surviving cancer or thriving in spite of it in the most interesting places.

Today, I was reading an article in The Smithsonian Magazine on Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer of "Dr. Livingston, I presume?" fame.  I enjoy the Smithsonian magazine and my mom gets it for me for Christmas every year.  The article is called "Breaker of Rocks" and is by Roy F. Baumeister and John Teirney
(Smithsonian, December 2011, vol 42, no. 6, pps. 78 - 86).

The article was talking about Stanley's perseverance in spite of poor conditions, failing health and starvation.  He was able to survive because he focused on greater his case, he quoted a line of Tennyson's poetry...and urged his men to keep that in mind.  Here's what the article said:

"...his approach embodied an acknowledged principle of self-control:  Focus on lofty thoughts.
      "This strategy was tested at New York University by researchers including Kentaro Fujita and Yaacov Trope.  They found that self-control improved among people who were encouraged to think in high-level terms (Why do you maintina good health?), and got worse among those who thought in lower-level terms (How do you maintain good health?)" (page 86).

In other words, if we focus not on "I need to lose weight and I'll do this by not eating that chocolate truffle," to "I want to be the healthiest I can be, I have a great deal to accomplish in life.  I WANT to be healthy.  I will eat healthily" then you have a fighting chance at actually succeeding. they said it better than I did in the article but I didn't want to quote a passage any longer than I did...

But hey...focus on "I will be healthy." What can it hurt?

For more information on the Smithsonian Magazine, check out

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things People Say.....

I've talked before about the odd things people say and do when they discover you have breast cancer....but sometimes it DOES produce some funny moments.

Take, for instance, something which happened to me in December.  My daughter needed some new bras and she had coupons (gotta love coupons) to Victoria's Secret.  Although it makes me grump as I think they are over priced, and I myself wear the 24  in a package for $15 white cotton underwear which could be alternatively used as sails in a pinch on a sailboat (ok...I'm exaggerating on all accounts, especially when I discovered my husband's cotton t-shirts (Hanes) had risen to $15 for a three pack and I HAVE lost weight), I acknowledge that 1. she is young.  2. they do fit her rather than guessing at what size she wears and my daughter, while slim, is very curvaceous. So, I, the  cash cow, goes into the shop where I DON'T shop...and stand politely waiting outside the dressing rooms with pocket book in hand.

Now, if you haven't figured it out by now, one of my favorite colors is red orange.  And I love Red orange (or red) Fedoras.  Since my hair is still very short, but now beginning to look like someone who chooses to wear it that way....I wear a hat wherever I go.

So...while I was waiting....the cute young thing who is staffing the dressing rooms looks at me and softly says..."Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? I don't want to offend you....."  Now, me, having been bald for a year plus thinks she's going to ask if I was a cancer patient....especially since I was standing beneath a sign for breast cancer something or another (don't all stores have their prerequisite PINK section???).  I said yes, it was probably what she was thinking....She said "WOW!  You don't look old enough!"   To have cancer? I asked..."I first got it when I was 34."  "NO!" says she, "to be a member of the Red Had Society.  You have Cancer?" I assumed wrong.  And I didn't FEEL old enough to be able to join the Red Hat Society.....although after looking it up today, I discovered that you have to be over 50....which I now am...hunh, who'da thought?

Then I was emailed this video today I had to share it...there's some pretty amusing things here, and despite the title, no profanity...the person who sent it also said that someone should develop a similar video for dumb stuff people say to people who have metatastic cancer...and said that "Well, you could be hit by a bus" should be at the top...I don't necessarily agree with that as I DO think that "Well you could be hit by a bus" is a good way of looking at it....meaning, we won't necessarily die of cancer, but we WILL die some day...and it could just as easily be a bus!  And yah...there are some real benefits to being long as its not in winter. ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I'm feeling very blue...and upset...and scared.  All of these emotions are a bit unusual for me as, if you haven't figured out already, I'm a very optimistic person.  My optimism, however, has been shaken.

On Monday, I got up to be surprised to find my husband in the kitchen....He had gone to work, only to be called into an office and to be told that he was no longer employed.

So now, here I am....a stage IV cancer fighter struggling with trying to figure out how COBRA works for a company which self-insures.  Praying that my husband, who is now 52, can find a new job and quickly and that the new job will insure me.  Knowing that fighting it is silly as nothing can be proven.  Knowing that money is what makes the world go around and anyone who thinks any differently, or thinks that there isn't a problem with health insurance/health care in the US, is really sticking their heads in the sand.

Short of that? I'll try to find a job....which is problematic since I can't walk well anymore nor can I be on my feet for any length of time because of the issues with my pelvis....and in this economy, finding a job for someone who was once a museum curator and has these's going to be a struggle...providing I can even do it.

So yah, like this quilt, I have the blues and the greys....The little quilt is an optical illusion quilt in a pattern called "tumbling blocks" or "baby's blocks."  It was made by an Amish woman in the 1980s.  I recently sold it on eBay.  I'm guessing I'll be doing a whole lot more of that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Plateaus aren't for the Faint of Heart


I got a call a week ago from my oncologist who was practically bubbling over...."How was your Christmas?" Fine...."GREAT! Well....this is the first opportunity I've had to call in between patients and you were the first one on my list that I wanted to reach....Your tumor markers were 214 in December and Tuesday (Jan. 3) they were 237! The tamoxifen seems to be working and you've hit a plateau."

I told him that I would have rathered it be much less....and that I was sort of flipping out about the whole thing...and that I was sorry that I wasn't satisfied.

You see, I'm kind of prejudiced against Tamoxifen....and I'm not liking the whole concept of waiting. It is much easier to be a warrior wielding a sword than standing at the front of a battle line waiting for the command to "charge."

I was on Tamoxifen years ago...and it didn't work for me. Current information indicates that sometimes those who are on aromatase inhibitors (such as Armidex and Aromasin, both of which I was on) and have failed, sometimes the cancer is tricked into taking the Tamoxifen after switching off the A.I.s However, the die is cast and I've painted Tamoxifen as a "wimpy drug."

I'm experiencing discomfort in my spine, my shoulder and my sternum, all locations of metastesis. My knee hurts as does my ankle from time to time....and my hip can be the source of a great deal of pain....but that's the area of most active issue and the location of a cancer caused break in the acetabulum (the cup part where the head of the femur fits into the socket).  The knee and the ankle is more probably caused by the 1/2 difference in the leg length because of the break and my listing gait it causes.

So...the plan is to wait....a P.E.T. scan now wouldn't probably accurately show what's happening as it is expected you have a tumor flare for the first couple of months that you're on Tamoxifen (I started on my 21st anniversary on Oct. 13). I will have my markers checked again on Feb. 2, and if there is improvement in the markers (i.e. they drop) then I will continue with Tamoxifen as long as it continues to work. If they rise, then I'll have a P.E.T. scan.

I'd really rather bring in the heavy infantry and blast this damned disease out of my system. However, sometimes the battles are won by being patient.

I am coming to terms with this....I find it interesting that I often don't think of having cancer even now...I am upset by the lack of stamina that I have.  My neighbors came over and helped paint my master bedroom (a project which has been in the making since I purchased the paint...and the 2005).  I moved furniture.  I'm still dragging because I got so tired....and I'm still a little sore from using muscles that I haven't used in the last year.

However, telling any warrior that they have to be patient is easier said than done.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In the midst of decay, Life.

I love old barns...and I hate to see them fall or be torn down.  I do enjoy photographing them and am often taken by the contrast between decay and growing things....

I admit, I've been really thrown for a loop in the last couple of weeks....something that cancer survivors (especially metavivors) do often.  Today, Robert Gunn published the following in his newsletter for artists, and I think it is worthwhile to focus on.

"During the past year, Canada's Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton, died of cancer at the age of 61. In his final message Jack said, 'My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.'"

So, allow yourself fearful days, but focus on the hopeful.  It may be difficult, but your life, in the end, will be much more pleasurable...continue the fight...and enjoy the respites.