Archive for the ‘health’ Category

I guess everyone knew it was going to be harder for me when Zoe went to sleep-away summer camp for two weeks than it was going to be for her. Not that Zoe isn’t adorably attached to me, we are still as we have ever been, the closest companions. But going away on an exciting adventure is fun and diverting in a way that being left behind usually isn’t. Except it was.

The initial five days were easy. Brian and I had our first alone-for-longer-than-a-weekend vacation  in years and years. We slept in every morning. We spent some part of each day outside, hiking up to waterfalls, riding zip lines, or ski-dooing around the lake. Every evening we ate and drank at a fine French restaurant. It was decadent.

And the next week, all alone during the day, my time was my own. I could go when and where I wanted, eat where and when I wanted, watch British movies on Netflix, read, write, and nap. And that felt even more decadent!

I was totally prepared to miss Zoe fiercely and painfully. Her summer camp doesn’t allow cellphones or email. I thought I might only hear from her two or three times and, in between, I would be worried and wondering if she was happy and safe. But her camp has this cool system where I can send her an email and they print it out and give it to her and she hand writes me a letter and they fax it to me. My dear girl sent me nine letters in two weeks. They were short but long enough to let me know she was happy and having loads of fun. So there was nothing to worry about.

So, this little experiment of mine, has been a success, at least on my side, and by all accounts, for Zoe as well. I decided to celebrate this last afternoon of my vacation with a slice of cake. I’m not celebrating Zoe’s absence or her return, but the not small triumph of things turning out better than you thought they would.

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Celebrate good times

I like to celebrate. I celebrate birthdays, holy days, TGIF, quitting time, the start of basketball season, accomplishing a hard won goal, the release of the next great book (or movie) in a beloved series, graduations, milestones, transitions, the longest day of the year, the longest night, and the days when the day and night are the same length. 😉

I like excuses to eat special food, decorate the house, maybe even buy some special gifts to commemorate the event. Celebrations don’t really stress me out. Maybe because I usually keep it low-key. But, sometimes, I really don’t. *cough*Halloween*cough* I guess I like to make life more magical. I’m kind of still a kid in that way (and in many other ways too :P)

Today is another big milestone for me. Today is my one year anniversary of being cancer free. Last year, at this time, I was being taken into surgery to have a bilateral mastectomy. They found 2 tumors, one was stage 2 and one was more like stage 0. After my surgery, I was, for all intents and purposes, cancer free.

I was SO scared in the couple weeks leading up to the surgery. Not about the cutting or the loss or the pain. Nope. I was scared of going under anesthesia. I really hated the idea that I could be put to sleep and never wake up again. I knew it was extremely unlikely, but still, the idea haunted me.

I had, just recently, bought remastered versions of every Beatles’ album on CD. And I decided that, if I did die, I wanted to leave something to my friends. So I wrote the names of my friends on slips of paper and put one in each CD. Then I told Brian “If I don’t wake up make sure my friends get these.”

I pulled out some special books from my library to give to other friends. I wrote Zoe a letter. I told Brian my final wishes, etc.

But then, a couple days before the surgery, I let the fear go. Or maybe it let go of me. I realized that if I did die, well I wouldn’t even know. And that there would be nothing for me to be sad about. I knew my family was strong and that they would be okay without me. And my friends, well hopefully whenever they heard certain Beatles’ songs they would think of me and be happy they knew me.

This morning, when I woke up, I lay in bed and tried to remember the series of events leading up to my surgery last year. I remembered the brown coat I wore to the hospital. I remembered the velcro things they wrapped around my legs to keep me from getting blood clots, I remembered the dark warm room where they drew x’s and lines on my breasts. I remember trying to keep things light, for Zoe’s sake and holding Brian’s hand.

There are parts I can’t remember, because the anesthesia has a amnesic effect. But I do remember struggling to wake up in the recovery room. And I remember part of my drug addled brain being super-freaking-fantasically-happy to have woken up.

Then I found out that the surgery went really well. I got to go home the next day. And, over the next few weeks, I healed quickly and without complications.

I had to do chemo, just in case there were any stray cancer cells still in my body. But there was no reason to think there were. My margins were really good and so was my surgeon. So, as far as we know, December 10th 2010 I had no cancer in my body. And, as far as we know now, I still don’t. :)IMO, that is definitely worth celebrating.

I suppose if my friends lived nearby I might have them over tonight for a happy little party. Hmmm, that would be cool. Maybe for my 5 year anniversary. 🙂 Maybe then I’ll take those slips of paper out of my Beatles’ CDs too.

My plans for today are to go to the mall, by myself, and buy a fancy dress to wear to Brian’s company Christmas party. I am looking forward to it because I don’t really get a lot of time to myself. I might treat myself to a holiday latte and maybe some cute new shoes too. Tonight I will do something with B and Z. Brian is downstairs concocting a family game for us all to play together. I might request some serious snuggling time as well.

I don’t think you have to do all that much to celebrate. It is more of a mindset. You just decide the day, the hour, the moment is special and make it so. But, I definitely and legitimately have something to celebrate today. 🙂


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Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

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I am not sure if I will continue to mark the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis after this year. But it is what I feel like doing this year, so I am going to honor that.

I thought it might be interesting to remember the highs and lows of the last 12 months. For sure #1 on on the lowest of the lows was the day I answered the phone and my surgeon’s nurse told me that my report came back positive for cancer.

That next week, when I didn’t know what stage cancer I had, I have to put on the Low List and the High List. Low because it was beyond scary. But High because I came to some kind of peace with the inevitability of death.

Other Lows (Let’s have fun remembering them together! :P)

  • Fear of my surgery. I had a irrational worry I was going to die on the operating table.
  • The tubes in my chest after the surgery, they weren’t so bad for me but they freaked Zoe out. Now she has a fear of Clowns, Spiders, Wolves, and Tubes.
  • Getting shingles on New Years Eve – Worst.pain.ever. As painful as giving birth but for THREE weeks. Do you remember the fun of not being able to wear clothes and having to huddle inside a make-shift hut, so that nothing could touch me?? Good times…
  • The Doxorubicin chemo, a.k.a The Red Devil or Red Death. That stuff was a nightmare. I was walking around like a zombie. I feared it was killing who I was and all that would be left was a Heather body, without the Heather inside.
  • Having a neutropenic reaction to the chemo (very very low white blood cell count. I think I had like half of a white blood cell left.) and ending up in the hospital for days. It was scary. I couldn’t sleep because I was the only one advocating for myself. Then I was quarantined from Brian and Zoe because we were all sick.

Sooooo, we are not even up to February yet… but the Lows List doesn’t go on and on so thickly the whole year. Trust me. In fact, after I got off the Red Devil, I mostly complained about not getting to eat sushi.

  • But then, the Sunday before Father’s Day, Brian’s Dad passed away, in his sleep and unexpectedly. That was a huge blow to our whole family. Especially because my mother-in-law, Anne, had lost her battle with brain cancer just one year prior. Losing both of Brian’s parent, and so young, really sucks and continues to suck. And I still can’t be eloquent about it.

I guess I should get on to the Highlights of the past year. There were some really wonderful moments, and thankfully, they out number the bad ones. (in no particular order)

  • Our car exploding (because our insurance covered it. Yay!)
  • Shaving my head (Thanks Zak!)
  • Zoe’s birthday presents (Thinking of you Amy)
  • The presents (from all my amazing friends, your support got me through those dark times. You restored my faith in the goodness of people. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.)
  • The quilt (I will treasure it always)
  • Jeanette (my most thoughtful and nicest friend)
  • Ohio (SO many GOOD times!)
  • Another cross country drive with my family and listening to my 92 track Beatles playlist.
  • Jumping off a cliff into the Mediterranean
  • That whole cruise (seeing The Parthenon, The Sistine Chapel, Olympia, The Coliseum, etc) with my sister-in-law.
  • Seeing PAUL MCCARTNEY in concert. ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod
  • Brian getting a very good job offer in an interesting city.
  • Moving to Philly.

Coincidentally, I have more than twice as many bullet point on my Highs List than my Low list. And I am sure I am forgetting some important Highs that should be on the list.

So, my first year retrospective… we experienced some huge tragedies. Death sucks. Cancer sucks. Fear and pain can back the fuck off for awhile. I don’t even want to tie it all up in a pretty bow about survival and strength, because that is not honest. The truth is that life is suffering and it never stops, until it does. But… (dang, I guess I can’t help but try to accentuate the positive, that is kind of my thing) life is also everything that is beautiful and miraculous. And that is the kind of year I had, a sucky, fearful, painful, sad, strong, positive, beautiful and miraculous year.



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Whew! Crazy busy!

Oh my gosh! It has been a week since I last posted. That’s not good!

Of course I have an excellent excuse. In the last week I have written about fifteen thousand words on my NaNo novel. I also walked for four hours, drove Zoe, and sometimes her friends, to her piano lesson, her chamber trio audition, writing class, Hebrew school, rocket science class, homeschool playground, and Sunday School. I taught, or “facilitated” math, science, history, and homework in French, linguistics, piano and literature. I finished listening to Frankenstein. I had a meeting with my health coach, an appointment with my oncologist, and my mindfulness class. We took the train to Temple University to see Cirque du Soliel. I had dinner with some friends. And I saw three open houses.

It has been all good though! I LOVED Cirque du Soliel, Quidam. It was SO magical. I was so inspired to follow my bliss (writing) and also to get into good enough shape that I can take circus arts class myself.

I am really enjoying Philadelphia in November. The last week could hardly be more beautiful. The trees are gorgeous reds, yellows, and oranges. The temperature is cool but not too cold. The seasons are changing. I love this time of transformation. There is just something in the air that speaks to me.

I went on two hikes in the woods this week. Here are some pictures from that, and other things that kept me busy:

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