Gold Threads of Faith – 14

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June 4, 2016

It seems that some days are uneventful, but I know that no day given to you as a gift from your Creator is meant to be uneventful. Within the twenty-four hours, things happen–sometimes more noticeable than others.  Perhaps that’s the essence. The plan is working perfectly. In the Midwest we used to say, “the skids are greased.”  Mother used to say, “smooth as silk.” There are so many expressions that portray those good days, those times when “you don’t have anything to write home about.”

But I submit that those days are more about a lack of gratitude, a lack of appreciation for what you are not seeing, feeling, or experiencing.

yes, IT IS ONE OF THOSE DAYS, SO I’M GOING FOR A WALK….

The California sun is warm this morning; if the weather reports are correct, it is supposed to be a hot one. The sky is blue; not a hint of a cloud. It was pretty quiet when I was taking  my walk, I guess the birds had already done most of their harmonizing earlier in the morning. A few darted across the sky; perhaps they know more about the weather than we do. The palm fronds are barely moving at the upper levels. They are waiting for the breezes that always come a little later. What a day.

I realized that the difficulty I’ve been having writing about Living With Cancer is because I have lived for so long without writing about it. I wrote about it. I seldom thought about it; there was nothing to think about. It did not bother me. I was busy living my life with it, not consumed by it. What you think, you become, is the axiom. I spend my time thinking about what I wanted, not what I didn’t want. I was consumed by the incredible things around me. The beauty of life, the joy of family and friends, and the amazing tapestry we can weave with the gold threads of faith.

So you’ll have to excuse me for not trying to report to you each day or week, or whatever, about my cancer. I will try for the sake of science, medicine, and faith to report things that add relevance to my uninvited guest in my body. I will seek the boundaries of my faith to help anyone who cares to understand the actions of the Great Physician.

Which Way Today, Lord? – 15

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Sunday July 24, 2016

If cancer thrives on stress, my cancer has had lots of company lately. Somehow, the breast cancer appears to be diminishing. I stopped the XGeva shots a couple of months ago to get some dental work done. It is possible, apparently, that any major dental work could be a problem in the jaw bone area. My doctors have never seen this condition in the jaw bone area, but know that it exists. It’s difficult to get real information. Apparently any deep work might have difficulty healing. Still trying to get my teeth cleaned and get back to the shots to protect, or help protect, my bones from the potential leeching from another drug.

My experience rings so true; if you take one drug, there is generally a companion to counteract it. In this case, the hormone blocker stops the estrogen from feeding the cancer, but has the potential of weakening the bones. Hence, the XGeva.

My energy is low; that is annoying to me. My life has been one of high expectations implemented with high energy and opportunities. My faith keeps my prayers pretty simple. Which way today, Lord? I am amazed at what I can still do. Everything gets a little harder or I find new ways to accomplish things. Writing is getting more difficult; the macular degeneration is progressing. I can magnify things, but the magnification helps only to some extent. The difficulty lies in not seeing every letter of a word, missing the tail on the “h,” having some spots of obscurity, etc. I continue to try to do the things that keep my mind busy. Writing and reading are mainstays; what to write continues to be easy.

Editing is the most difficult part; I hate mistakes. Cancer is not the only challenge. Life goes on whether or not cancer is living with you. I am so fortunate to have the gift of each day. I think of the last time that I saw my primary physician a year and a half ago; he wanted to put me in hospice and told me my time was short and very painful. As I told him then and I need to tell him now, the Great Physician sees it differently. I can’t know what tomorrow will bring.

I have many of the arthritic discomforts that I have had for years, I am more fatigued, my organs are functioning extremely well for being in use for 95 years, I can still care for my physical needs, and I am trying to live as independently as possible. I will admit when I am chopping onions or washing the dishes, I wish I could just sit down and have someone bring me my food and clean up the dishes. I wish I could have someone by my side to edit my writing, and being able to get in my car and do what I need to do would be wonderful.

But if I dwell on those things, I would be sitting in the corner feeling sorry for myself. Sounds like a recipe for depression and despair. It is not the cancer that is restricting me; it is the macular degeneration that has caused more challenges; thanks to the Blind Center, there too, I have learned to keep the joy of engagement in my life. I am thankful that my life has forced me to be a problem solver. Life now, as always, is a series of problem solving activities.

I Wish You Enough – Universal Balances – 16

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December 17, 2016

Yesterday was such an incredible day. I felt physically, mentally, and spiritually so well.  My body was so free of aches or pain with only a little stiffness here and there. And, of course, parts that have been working steadily 24/7 for over 95 years have a right to complain a little. My energy level was high; because that has been typical for most of my life, it really felt wonderful. I was able to blog, to write my cancer diary, and do some special reading about the Journey of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.

I just kept smiling at the great gift of such a special day. Every day is a gift in my book, but the day was so full and a reminder of what a grateful attitude, faith, and my Creator can do to make a difference. You know I talk often about the rainbows on my ceiling. There were none today because we had another special gift of rain. It was a gray day outside in color, but bright day with the blessing of the rain. The storm brought its heavy showers and considerable wind that kept the palms straining to keep up with the strength of the wind. But they always do and I know tomorrow they will be tall and erect as if the sun had been shining on them all day

You may be wondering what all this weather stuff and wellness has to do with the topic of the writing.

To me, it has everything to do with it. I get up every morning and have a choice about how I deal with whatever the day brings. I can be grateful  that I had sun yesterday and rain today, or I can complain about both. I can be thankful and grateful that I feel so  great, or I can be wondering when the pain and aches will start. I can be thankful and grateful  for the gift of the day  or fret about the fact that I can’t return the gift for something else.

“I wish you enough” is an expression that my granddaughter and I often exchange. It represents our prayers, hopes and dreams for each other. We hope that each of us will  have enough joy in our lives to understand the sorrow, enough happiness to pass through the darkness of grief, and an understanding of the balance of day and night, light and dark. We wish for each other enough rain to appreciate the sun.

It is in essence a wish that each of us has enough of each of the many universal balances in our life to appreciate both sides. We can just look around. God provided us night and day and sun and rain. We even have been provided seasons in our year; with each comes the blessings of the next.

I wish you enough…….

Refusing to Let Cancer be the Answer – 17

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January 22, 2017

Life goes on. I have had a couple of school board meetings, a few more appointments, church services, and a lot of weather. As the world knows, California has had a lot of rain, and of course, a lot of snow on the higher elevations. Amazingly, the reservoirs that were dangerously empty are now resplendent with the shine of the surface at the top.

I miss the rainbows on my ceilings when the sun doesn’t shine, but the rain is such a gift. I know I will have large smiles when I open my water bills. I talk and write much about the rainbows being a measure of God’s promise of newness and faith. But the rain is equally promising. It is such a bilateral promise; one is just the other side of its mate. I wish you enough.

Some of the rainy days can be very contemplative. They can also be barometers of how my joints feel. There is something about the barometric pressure that causes my joints to be very painful at times. If I’m not careful, I can attribute those aches and pains to my life with cancer. I know metastatic breast cancer affects the bones. And I can’t tell you for sure that they’re not. The bones have definitely been affected by it–so the tests say. I suppose the fact that my breast is not the only area where cancer lives with me. This may have had something to do with my decision about radiation.

Why would I want to add treatment that would make my life less pleasant and cause me perhaps to be unable to do some things, like doing this journal and my blogs. It’s all a part of why I chose not to have breast surgery so many years ago. I know that with the help of my Great Physician, I continue to get up each day with enough of what I need to live the day with gratitude for all I can do.

Filling the Spiritual Tank: An Important Ordinary Day – 18

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Sunday May 3, 2015

For so many years Sunday has been spent in much the same manner. From the time I was a child, Sunday was reserved as a day spent with your Lord. It usually embraced Sunday school and church and youth group in the evening. For the last thirty plus years I have been a member of the Fallbrook United Methodist Church and Sundays have been reserved for church and family activities.  For some time I have risen early enough to watch Dr. David Jeremiah on television. For the Sundays I was unable to attend my church, I was blessed to listen to Dr. Jeremiah.

Now it is off to my church. It’s different now because I can no longer sing in the choir or do some of the other activities which I did for so many years. But it is always great to see my friends and to be with my church family.  This is a community of people who come together to worship and to be renewed spiritually.  It has been a big part of my health to have this spiritual renewal.  It has been a big part of my health to express my gratefulness to my Creator for the many gifts I have had and will continue to experience. Sunday is a process of feeding the soul and filling the spiritual tank in readiness for the week coming. Sunday has been and is a time when the interactions with those present, the music that touches you deeply and the messages which often seem to be meant just for you. That is the nature of the Bible and its messengers. They often seem to be meant just for you.

It would be a special day in another way. My grandson, Colin, called and said he would be able to come from Palm Desert to spend the day with me. He said he would be able to get here in time for church. This would be very special because it is the church where he began his journey of faith.  After church Colin, Lynn, and I went to a local gathering place, a place with good food and a place where you always have to wait to be seated. It is the Z Cafe in Bonsall. While we were eating breakfast, the man who was the pastor that day came into the cafe. Colin and his former pastor had a good conversation.

Then it is on to another activity that Colin and I have done together since he came back to California after graduating from college to pursue a golf career.

I have orange trees in my backyard that are a joy to me all year. Colin picks enough oranges to make fresh orange juice. It is a ritual that we have carried on for several years and it is an activity that we enjoy doing together.  When the bottles are filled with delicious juice we toast each other.  The juice is as fresh as any juice can get. It’s more wonderful and delicious then anyone expects. Anyone who tastes juice this fresh is spoiled forever.  You cannot order juice in a restaurant or buy juice in the store anymore. The entire kitchen is a wash in the fragrance that emanates from the activity.

Then it is on to another special family activity.  We have been invited to my son’s home, who lives next door, for dinner.  We are treated to a wonderful dinner of barbequed salmon and the trimmings.  The family conversation is always interesting, and the presence of Colin always adds to the mix. Next week, Hailey will be finished with her first year at the University of Southern California. She will be with us for our family dinners and always adds to the family conversations.

These seemingly ordinary activities of my family have been going on for many years. They have been the same and have produced the same kinds of interactions, whether or not I have had cancer. We are trying to keep them the same now that family knows I am living with cancer. I think everybody is doing a good job. No cancer talk.

 

The Great Physician is at Work – 24

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February 27, 2017

The days are flying by. It is difficult to get all the things done that I am accustomed to doing in a day. Everything takes so long, particularly the reading and writing; these I have been used to doing easily and quickly. This is due to the macular degeneration going on in my eyes. The only involvement the cancer might have in these processes would be less energy. My life has been one of early rising, shower, eat, and go to work with very little time consumed. Not the case now. Of course, all the equipment that I am using, my body, may be less efficient than earlier in my life. Nothing that I know about can be used for 95 years and function with the same efficacy the whole time.

I really wanted to write yesterday, but somehow the day slipped away. I felt so much like my younger years, it was like I had just taken a ride back into younger days. I woke up only once in the night, and slept soundly until 5:30 a.m. My body and mind felt rested, as they have for so many years. It was early, but I had no desire to go back to sleep. I did not have aching joints; they all moved freely and easily when I got out of bed. My walking felt straight and normal. The energy was abundant. It was Sunday and I had an opportunity to get to church. Why would I think about the cancer when everything feels so normal? It was not only a gift of the day, but it was like waking up on Christmas morning as a child. Wow! It truly was amazing.

Showering was easier; dressing was easier; breakfast was easier, and walking felt so much easier that I wanted to try without my walker, but I didn’t. I did not want my new found energy and enthusiasm to get me to do something foolish.

It was great to have people ask me how I was. Usually that question with my church family is answered with positive words, but yesterday the response carried the weight of all of the fruit of the Spirit. It truly was “the day of the Lord,” and I could rejoice and be glad in it.

Today is another beautiful day. No, the California sun is not shining. It is raining and the gray sky is a welcome sight. It is a beautiful, soft rain that will nourish the earth rather than run off to the ocean. I feel for those in Northern California who are getting too much of the liquid sunshine; for us in the South, it is a distinct and welcome blessing.

Oh yes, the cancer. I’m not certain what is happening in the breast lesion area. It acts pretty much like any other part of the body that forms a scab and bleeds if the scab is removed. Usually it just stays there; The area did bleed once last week. When the cancer was at its height, the area was surrounded with the angry, red cancerous skin. The last couple of weeks it seems to change color. Perhaps it is my eyes, but I don’t think so. I think it is sometimes cancer red and sometimes less so—more of a peachy color that looks like it is striving to reach the normal skin color.

The rest of life goes on. Hailey is adjusting to her semester in New Zealand; Cassidy is finished with basketball and starting lacrosse; Bob and Kim are busy and Kim just had a birthday. Britt is tired of the rain, snow, sleet, ice, and mixtures of the above in Portland; Diane is busy at work and with her father; Colin and Molly are desert rats, and I haven’t heard from them in some time; Kera loves Boulder, Colorado and calls to fill me in periodically. Another school board meeting this week and one next should be interesting since we have some “stuff” going on. My church and church family are great.

How normal can this get. I ask you, “Would it be any different if I didn’t have cancer?”

 

I Don’t Spell Cancer with a Big “C” – 25

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March 29, 2017

It has been a while, again, since I have updated “My Life With Cancer.” It seems that it is so normal at times that the day slips by and I don’t think about it. Sometimes I think about writing, but it seems that other activities take over. I believe that is why I have been able to live with the intruder. I have not occupied most of my neurons thinking about the negative things that could happen. I know what they are; I am reminded of them by my doctors and encouraged to take some kinds of treatments by my family. It would be the same with my friends if they knew.

What we think, we become. Is that a truism with metastatic breast cancer? I don’t know, but I do know enough about learning and the brain that neurons (as far as I know) are not multiple use little items. But they don’t need to be because we have so many. I do believe that when one is occupied with negative thoughts of cancer, it cannot be occupied with healing thoughts.

The rainbows dance on my living room ceiling and I smile. I watch them shift as the sun shifts in the sky; they stay awhile and move to help others retain their hope and promise in their lives. I hope they have a crystal in their east window to catch the rays and reflect the promise in their presence.

Being so very grateful for what I can do makes it easier to document what is going on in my “life.”

Yes, there is ongoing treatment. I have been on a new drug to inhibit the production of estrogen in my body; the oncologist believes that estrogen is the food that metastatic breast cancer needs. I don’t know yet whether the Exemestane is working better than the former medicine, Letrazole, or not. The new nodules that the oncologist is worried about have increased in size over the last month. But I believe they are static at this point.

The doctor takes measurement of the nodules, but I must admit I believe they are less than scientifically accurate. The very nature of the growth prohibits that accuracy. But he believes that I should do radiation therapy pronto. My son accompanies me during the general conversation about my status. He is not privy to the conversation during the examination. He, of course, agrees with the doctor that I should start the treatment. My sons know me well enough that they don’t pester me about the treatment. They speak their piece and occasionally remind me that the daily trips for radiation can be worked out. I’m not so sure that the daily trip for radiation for two or three weeks would be so welcome.

I also worry that the increased dosage to reduce the time involved in the radiation could be a problem. It kills cells; more concentrated doses would surely kill more cells. Fatigue is one of the outcomes of radiation. The quality of life for me is a large, large, factor. The medicines I currently take already play into a fatigue factor. There are days when it is difficult to go to the computer and write.

Of course, the macular degeneration progression probably has more causation to the fatigue than the cancer, but either could become my culprit if I allowed it to be so.

I want to share my story of cancer. It is important to tell you how much I value, more each day, an attitude of gratitude. To be grateful allows movement forward. It allows the promises of the rainbows to bring a smile; it causes me to remember what my Creator gave me and continues to give me what I need. To “Accentuate the Positive” is a tune that can play in my head all day long.  I can walk to the end of my driveway and see the beauty, hear the sounds, and feel my good fortune to be able to walk, see even if not clearly, hear, and thank the Lord for all that I have.

Cancer, The Great Physician, My Doctor and Me – 22

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October 17, 2016

Today I had my monthly appointment with my oncologist. Each month I get blood work done at the Lab Corp office in Fallbrook a few days before my appointment with the oncologist. The blood work is done to make certain that the various components of my blood remain in normal ranges while I am taking the XGeva shot which happens during the monthly appointment. The blood work also has a tumor marker component to the analysis and it keeps tabs on kidney function.

The lesion on my breast had changed a little bit  and for months, the dark, angry, red color had become lighter and could best be described as a coral color; the angry, dark, wine color was gone. Also, the weeping stopped as the color had subsided. Everything was working as desired.

But now there is a nodule that has resumed the dark, angry, red color, and the lesion has been weeping for a couple of weeks.

It is not sore nor painful. There are a few little spots that are sensitive to touch, but I certainly cannot say that it is painful. It continues to get smaller all the time. The lesion is one of bumps and valleys. The oncologist keeps measurements on the lesion and surrounding area each time I see him.

Today he spent some time talking about alternatives to the Letrazole–two additional drugs that interfere with the growth of cancer cells. We also talked about radiating the spot on the old lesion that appeared to be active–the small nodule that had returned to its angry color. He also said that radiation would smooth out the hills and valleys of the affected area. We had an amazing discussion of alternatives and every suggestion was introduced with, “If you would consider…” We are a team taking a look at concerns, alternatives, and potential treatment.

I really have been getting along well. Today he, too, said that I was doing amazingly well. We talked again about the parry my GP, my Lord, the Great Physician plays every day in my health and well-being. He agreed that he was an instrument to do what he could in the process. I know that my faith and trust in my Creator is the one who gives me the gift of life each day.

It is amazing that I can get up two or three times during the night–sometimes to go to the bathroom and others to walk a bit to ease cramps–and get up in the morning feeling refreshed. I am given the energy to walk the path set before me. There are lessons of faith that I learn each day.

Usually I get up to rainbows on my ceiling as the sun comes through my east windows. This morning it was thinking about raining, and the ceiling was gray. But I know the promise in all those rainbows that I see on the sunny days is still there. The gift of the day is wrapped in the promise of rain for the thirsty plants. The gift of the day lies in the learning available to me as I open my heart to God’s plan for this day.

 

The Saga of Life Begins and Ends with My Creator: Making Cancer Run a Marathon – 23

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October 6, 2016

The rainbows on my ceiling are the reflections from the crystal cross sitting in my east window. Each rainbow is an excellent reminder of the promises kept yesterday, the promise for today and the immense potential in the promises of tomorrow if I but have the faith to seize them.

I have struggled with the issue of going back to my general practitioner. I think I will make an appointment to see him in the next month or so. I have such split thoughts about the man who told me my life would be very short and very painful about two years ago. In my heart, I know that I must go back and discuss again who is in charge of my life. We have discussed before the Great Physician’s role in my life and his. He is a Christian and understands my words. He is also a physician and the medical model for many physicians does not include a role for our Creator as the Great Physician.

The tests, X-rays, MRI’s, bone scans, CT scans, consults, and the screens that illuminated all the stuff told them the dire story. What they forgot was that they could not write the ending of the saga living with the longstanding metastatic breast cancer. That lies in one place and one place only–with my Lord. Yes, I am taking medicine, but started that just lately.

I just hope that my prayers and faith can match the promise of the rainbows on my ceilings. This morning there was one reflected right above where I am typing this message. It is not always there, but the colors were clear and pure this morning.

It is amazing how well I feel so often. At 95 I am not free of aches and pains. But they are so minimal until some of my joints act as a weather vane, that it’s incredible. When the barometric pressure changes rapidly, I feel it, But I’ll bet many of you do, too.

I haven’t taken my grateful walk yet today, but sometimes the promise in the rainbows reaches my starting gates first. But I will take a walk to the end of my driveway a little later. I need to sit a spell and admire the incredible beauty, fragrance, and uniqueness of all the plumeria that line the last third.

I have work to do on a program for my church circle this month, a school board meeting next week, and I want to do a blog about what issues face our first-time voters this election.  I have a granddaughter who has reached the privileged age to vote. What’s out there for her?

Everything I do now, particularly, reading and writing, takes longer with the macular degeneration issue. I was grateful at 60 when I could do so many things. Why would I stop now?

May my faith this day match the promise of my Creator, my GP, my Great Physician. That is my prayer this day and every day.

So it is also for my life with cancer. I have had some nausea this morning, but I am not willing to blame it on the metastatic breast cancer. If I felt that everything that isn’t positive in my life were due to cancer living with me, cancer would win in a short race. I’m going to at least make it run a marathon that I will win as I follow as best that I can, the path my very own yellow brick road constructed by my Creator.

The Lack of Thinking About Cancer Keeps It in the Dark – 21

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September 26, 2016

My grateful walk to the end of the driveway this morning, 11 a.m., was cut short. I walked out the front door and realized that it was hot. I knew it was supposed to be very warm today, but thought I would try it any way. It wasn’t too bad when I was walking along my house, but then I turned the corner and the burning air from the desert hit me. The end of the driveway no longer was a destination. The retreat to the inside of my house was quick. I took a quick look at the thermometer and it read 98 degrees. And it will climb further before the afternoon.

Life goes on when cancer lives with you in a much more normal way than most imagine. It depends so much on your thinking process. If you live your life thinking about your life rather than the cancer, the cancer has to struggle to control neurons that it needs to send messages to your immune system to let it grow. If I live with faith in my personal physician, the Great Physician, I think about the power of a healing touch, a night of rest, the taste and joy of dinner with my family, a Sunday filled with conversations with my church family, and waking up in the morning to the gift of another day.

Cancer cannot take the joy out of your life unless it consumes your life. I believe the “Secret” is keeping it in the dark places it occupies, not talking about it and giving it control. Yes, I see the lesion on my breast every time I take my shower or change my clothes. But I see it diminishing in size; I see it stop oozing; I know that is when the Great Physician has touched me. My regular doctor gave up two years ago when he saw the bone scans and the other tests. I remember his suggestion that I enter hospice; the time would be short and very painful. He wanted to be able to pull the plug rather than having my sons in the position of having to pull the plug.

I do not know how many times I have to tell him the Great Physician is in charge of that activity. Living with cancer is not an isolated activity at 95. Imagine the wear and tear on all the parts of my body, mind, and soul. Every day is a miraculous gift; a gift that can only be opened by me.

Life is a Journey with Speed Bumps, Detours and Gifts – 20

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September 24, 2016

The carpet has finally been installed; it is so great not to be looking at bare cement, and have some semblance of order in my house again. Everything from the affected area was stored in other rooms in my house. It’s pretty much back to normal. The whole mess was appropriately named my “floor nightmare.”

I guess I write about the above because of the great frustration I felt and endured for weeks on end. But I don’t think the frustration was greater or the problems more difficult because cancer is living with me. That’s the point. Things happen every day in our lives. Our journey is just that–a journey whether we have cancer or not. We travel on our life’s freeways and speed along. We occasionally look at the map and try to plan pieces of our journey. We hit the speed bumps and have to get new shock absorbers. And then there are the detours. Some lead us to beautiful places of joy; others take us to rough and sometimes even rocky terrain.

Once a month I visit my oncologist. Sometimes I have to pass through the large room where all the folks are getting their chemotherapy. I dislike that room immensely. I try to tell myself that they have chosen that route as a way to beat cancer. But it is such a depressing place for me as I walk through; my heart is heavy. They all look sad and distressed. Most have someone with them. I try not to look, but even peripheral vision isn’t blocked out. It is strong chemicals being infused into their body. The system will react.

I tell the nurse practitioner that I am back on XGeva which is the drug that’s supposed to help protect the bones against the Letrozole that might have an effect on the bones. That’s the way of most drugs. They have an effect that requires another drug to counteract the first one.

And so it goes. I’m going to go out and take a grateful walk to the end of my driveway. I’m going to open my gate today and continue down my driveway to visit the incredibly beautiful plumeria I have right outside of my gate. I don’t have just a few; I have many that are in full bloom now. Their fragrance is enticing and oh so pleasant. Want to think that you are in Hawaii? Come to my house and enjoy the amazing, lush plumeria.

It is certainly a truth in my journey I cannot see the plumeria as clearly as I once could. I can’t run to meet them as I once could.  I cannot propagate or take care of them as I once could. But just imagine. I can see them and still enjoy the delicacy of the blossom against the majestic, large leaves. I can enjoy their perfume.

I still have the power to be grateful for what I have and what I can do. I don’t have to walk in my own shadows and curse the lack of sunshine. Being grateful is just opening your mind and heart to the next gifts coming your way from the One who knows your journey. Like perhaps having a tomorrow.

Problems on the Tapestry of Life – 19

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July 10, 2016

Unbelievable. I don’t know how long it has been since I have added to this journal. It has been a time when most every day would have added much of interest to the story. Several events have been all consuming. Others actually have to do with the cancer journey. I suppose they all are a part of the journey; it just seems they are peripheral and difficult.

I guess, in one sense, it is amazing that my mind, body, and soul can survive such large waves of difficulty. This past week has been a good example. I became very ill on the fourth of July. I ached and hurt all over my body; I felt intense nausea; general malaise would be a gross understatement. I was sick, sick, sick. The following morning I got up for a little while and crawled right back into bed. I don’t remember a time when I did that. I was exhausted, couldn’t eat, and just wanted to sleep, which was not that easy because of the aches and pains. Every joint and muscle wanted to refuse to function. I gathered myself together as best I could, ate a few blueberries, a little toast, drank some tea, and dragged myself into the shower hoping the water would wash some of the “awfulness” away.

Each day was a little better than the one before; today, Sunday, I feel pretty normal. I did not  see a doctor, nor did I have any medication but chicken soup. I did, however, have an attending physician, the one who is with me always, the Great Physician. I would guess that the flu or whatever I had, was not a small thing for a body “filled with cancer” to combat. Faith is the strongest medicine. I always ask the Lord what I am to learn from these very interesting challenges on my Journey. There is purpose–that I know. It certainly is not to make me feel miserable.

What makes it all more amazing, I am dealing with some other issues that pull heavily on my anchor of hope. A little over a year ago I had a beautiful new wood floor installed in my living and dining room after a broken pipe flooded the area. I include this story as a part of my journey, because life goes on. Can you imagine what this experience was like for a 95-year-old?

The Pacific Ocean Doesn’t Know I Have Cancer – 13

Monday May 4, 2015

Monday was a day consumed with a promise my niece Lynn (she lived with me for a few months during this time) and I had made to ourselves that we would get to the beach. Each day has been filled with so many activities and so many things to do that the beach always ended up on the bottom of the list.  As we looked at the weather in the morning, it appeared that it might be a very windy and possibly a gloomy day at the beach.

But Monday was a day we had saved and we decided to go no matter how high the waves were or even in the absence of a sunny day. It was the day that even the cruise liners could not dock in some ports on the California Coast and were rooted to San Diego. It was sunny when we left our home just 12 miles from the Oceanside beaches. We were pleased when we got there that the sun was shining. It is just as interesting at the beach when the ocean is angry and so it was on Monday. The waves were very high and the white water was extensive, but the day was beautiful.

The ocean was terribly interesting and it remained windy, but tolerable.

We took the time for Lynn to stick her foot into the ocean and continued to mosey along the beach to enjoy. The dipping of the seagulls and the sounds of the crashing waves against the rocks and sand were musical. There were no brave surfers in this surf. It was apparently just too dangerous. But the Pacific Ocean remains interesting no matter what the weather.  It has its own life and you miss the greatness of it if you expect it to conform to your schedule of viewing.  The Pacific Ocean doesn’t know or care whether or not I have cancer. It has remained the mammoth that it is whether I am viewing it on the shore or at it in a ship or from an airplane from above. It is an amazing creation always full of wonder and always full of the unknowns.

As I watched the seagulls swoop along the beach I wondered whether there was a Jonathan Livingston Seagull among them. I suppose not because Jonathan would have been out way beyond the beach exploring the horizon. Jonathon Livingston Seagull is a story about a special seagull who was always looking for new horizons rather than picking up scraps behind the ships as the other seagulls did. But that is another thing to ponder.  Like Jonathon Livingston Seagull, I have never been happy accepting the scraps on the beach. I have always looked and will continue to look beyond the horizon for more exciting and new adventures.

It was a day to savor for both of us; the fact we took time to go to the beach was important. It forced us to look again at the reason for writing what we are trying to accomplish with this writing.  Once a medical diagnosis is made, the mind and consequently the attitudes and behaviors change. So much thought is given to the diagnosis, the medical advice, the appointments and the prescriptions, etc.  We can be free of all of this because we can choose to take the time to be free. Cancer or no cancer we learned again that the great things in our lives and the universe of the Creator would not be different because of the cancer or any treatment that might ensue. Only my life would be different in so many ways because of a positive or negative attitude I might have chosen.

Otherwise, cancer consumes you and governs your life.

 

I Am Just One Statistic, But I Am One – 12

It has been several years since I had to go to emergency for treatment of something else; the doctors never could determine what the cause for my illness was. It was not the cancer. But it was during that examination that the doctor noticed the lesion. “What is that?” he asked as he looked at the purple lesion on my left breast. He was not happy when I told him it was a lump. I’m certain that he thought I was a pretty dumb old lady.

Medicine looks at cancer in only one way–treat with surgery, chemo, and radiation. Laurie’s pleas have caused me to have new motivation to tell my story as one of those stats with metastatic breast cancer. I know that I am more fortunate than most because mine did not go to all four internal organs, but most certainly it is in my bones. I am so grateful to my Lord for protecting the other organs. I believe as the breast cancer subsided, that it is very possible that the bone cancer has done so, too. But I have not had a bone scan to determine that. It doesn’t really matter; I will continue to send all the powers of my body and mind to deal with it.

I am an important statistic; I am only one, but I am one who has chosen a different route from the beginning. Once the discovery of the cancer was known by many people, including doctors, I have had some radiation and hormone treatment.

Laurie Becklund’s account of her final days would be printed again and again until changes are made in how we look at breast cancer. What she had to say is monumental. My experiences today follow the same potential pattern for women with breast cancer as she experienced. My doctors and my family are quite upset when I don’t follow that medical path of treatment. I am doing some of it now; I don’t know the outcome. I do know that it causes me to think more about my cancer than I ever did before. I fear that may interfere with the faith path I pursued for so long. I pray that I can successfully put the two together and add to the knowledge of this intruder in our lives.

Following these general entries about cancer, thinking, treatment, research, etc. I want to share some blogs about how normal my life continued to be despite the unwanted traveler on my journey. These are anecdotal records from an unpublished book, If You Knew I Had Cancer, written over the past several years about my journey of faith. They cover a wide variety of topics about life as “normal.” You’ll see several styles of writing, depending on the subject and my ability to express my journey of faith. The next one starts with the Pacific Ocean Doesn’t Know I Have Cancer.

Faith is a Great Medicine, Too – 11

I do not think that I would be alive if I had trusted a doctor with the first lump I found. Instead I trusted the Great Physician. I realize fully that it will sound nutty, naive, crazy, and even uninformed to some. But I truly believe that faith is a great medicine, perhaps the most effective one we have if we know how to access it and are willing to use it.

Laurie passed away February 8th; I don’t know what year. Laurie, what you wrote popped up in my life when I needed it. I am trying to chronicle what it is like to have cancer living with me. I probably am chronicling what it will be like to die with it, but I know for certain that I am not in charge of that. I intend to keep counting on my faith to sustain me and my Creator to help me drink more deeply from the fountain of faith. I learn more and more each day that faith is not a thing. Some days I know it’s a river that I can stick a finger or toe in to test the water or I can jump in and experience the strength it gives with its never ending flow.

No one knew I had breast cancer for a very long time, decades. I have never had a mammogram; the one time I tried, the response from the technician was so strange that I have to consider it a message from my God. Sometimes I don’t hear them; sometimes they are clear, concise, and other times it seems the Lord had to hand me a puzzler to catch my attention.

I stopped having pelvic and breast exams so no doctor would see the dark spot on my breast and later the lesion. I told no one, not even my family or my best friends. I didn’t do it out of fear of the cancer; I did it because I did not want the megaphone of thought in the universe proclaiming my cancer. I, alone would determine with my God what thinking would affect my cancer. I never knew how strong my faith was in my body that had been given to me by my Creator, but I knew that I had been given what I needed, and that I needed to continue to learn from the one who had the blueprints, the design.

 

 

 

New Data Needed – 10

Laurie’s research and search for knowledge teaches us that the 40,000 women who die annually can’t wait for FDA approval of trials, etc., nor can the estimated quarter-million Americans waiting in the wings. Apparently we really don’t know because none is required to report a metastatic diagnosis. Even the death certificates normally state other symptoms such as respiratory failure, anomia, cardiac difficulties, etc. That means the metastatic breast cancer is not counted as the cause. Uncounted entities usually don’t get much attention. So it is with metastatic breast cancer, I fear.

“We know now that breast cancer is not one disease. What works for one person might not for another. There is no one “cure.” We are, each in effect, one person clinical trials. Yet the knowledge generated from these trials will die with us because there is no comprehensive database of metastatic breast cancer patients, their characteristics and what treatments did or didn’t help them,” said Laurie. “In the Big-Data era, this void is criminal.”

Laurie felt that in the era that data abounds everywhere, the personal histories of individual treatments that helped or did not help, would be extremely helpful to women who were trying to make decisions about their cancer treatment.

I believe that we are all individual; I believe our Creator gave us all that we need to live our lives in an optimum way. Each one of us must find where our help lies.

The Susan G. Komen organization is the most powerful one in the breast cancer funding. It has raised millions and millions of dollars. Very little, Laurie stated, goes to research. Almost all of it goes to “awareness and early detection.” As stated earlier, all those who die and suffer each year with metastatic breast cancer are uncounted statistics who know otherwise. Virtually all were detected early and received early treatments. Laurie felt that the awareness campaigns are painfully out-of-date.

“We need people–patients, doctors, scientists, politicians, investors, families–to make a fresh start. we must create a new system of data collection and an open, online broad-range data base about patient histories that will provide information valuable to those who’ve been given a death sentence. Patients as well as doctors must contribute,”
said Laurie.

These were important words, Laurie. I wish I could have known you. We would have started that data bank. I hope with your words and this writing, something will emerge. I know my situation is unique. But I believe each one is.

Laurie’s Hope for the Future: Research Needed – 9

Several years later while cleaning out “stuff” from cupboards and drawers, I found a newspaper clipping I had saved. It was from the Los Angeles Times, written by Laurie Becklund, and titled, “Living, and Dying, with Breast Cancer.” I had forgotten about it and had tucked it away some time ago. I do not know for sure when it was written, but it struck so many chords for me. She so aptly described so much of what I feel and have witnessed about our cultural and personal views about cancer.

Laurie starts with, “I am dying, literally at my home in Hollywood, of metastatic breast cancer, the only kind of breast cancer that kills. I’ve known all along that I was going to die, I just didn’t know when.” Laurie was told a couple of weeks before Christmas, the doctors would not promise that she would make it into 2015.

Laurie made her friends promise never to say she died “after fighting a courageous battle with breast cancer.” Or ever wear a pink ribbon in her name, or ever drop a dollar into a can for cancer “awareness for early detection for a cure.” Laurie expressed my sentiments. The millions raised for early detection, like the Susan B. Komen cancer drive money, are not the answer to a cure. It says the message that early detection is the way, the truth and the light.

Laurie stated that she is living proof that early detection does not cure cancer. She had more than 20 mammograms; and none of them caught Laurie’s disease. Laurie believes “that they may result in misdiagnoses, unnecessary treatment, and radiation overexposure.” I agree with her.

In 1996, Laurie found a peanut-sized lump in one breast; she had a lumpectomy and a short dose of radiation. Five years later, she was told there was little chance of recurrence of the cancer and was told to “have a good life.” Yet 13 years after the original diagnosis, she was diagnosed with stage four cancer in the bones, lungs, liver and brain. This was a death sentence, “with a life expectation of three years.”

Laurie was too scared and too private, she said, to tell anyone. I think her fears about her professional life were well founded and I believe exist, at least psychologically if not legally, today. Who would want to hire, promote, give writing contracts to, or otherwise invest in such a “short-term person.”

Her daughter, her husband, and three friends were the only people who knew. Who, she asked, would remember her as Laurie, the valedictorian, Pulitzer Prize winner, the brilliant writer of award pieces, and all the other successes that had built her career. Who would ever look at her the same again?

I think she was so correct. They would see Laurie who had terminal cancer. A “terminal cancer” label is much like the scarlet letter, emblazoned on your forehead, it seems, with an accompanying attitude of pity and sorrow for the death sentence. I realize that prayer and thought can be positive, but I believe with cancer that prayers and thoughts can be surrounded with negativity and fear; that environment cannot help. Culture produces this attitude of negativity. So many negative thoughts in the universal energy supply can only produce a negative effect.

Laurie said it took her more than two years to connect with others like her at the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network Conference. Laurie relates her experiences; most had not metastasized to all four places breast cancer invades. Laurie did what so many do to try to explain this crazy disease. She read everything that she could; she went to conferences; she studied the science that was available; she looked at every side of the cancer that she could. She signed on to all the many places she searched as “So I Won’t Die of Ignorance.”

Laurie’s main message is powerful.

What Changes When People Learn You Have Cancer? – 8

I have lived without cancer and I have lived decades with cancer. Once I knew there was a possibility of cancer I chose not to tell anyone. That may seem to be a strange choice but my professional training, my understanding of thought, my knowledge of perception and long study of behaviors gave me reason to believe that perception of “who I was” would change if they knew that cancer were present in my life.  Not only would people see me differently they would treat me differently.

This is also a journey of faith that people might have difficulty understanding. I believed and still believe that I was given by my Creator incredible gifts of body, soul and mind.  I believe that among those gifts is the ability of the body to heal itself and the mind to play a positive role in living to be well. The fact that cancer might be present in my body did not mean I was sick. It meant even deeper faith in what I had been given to stay well and why would I concentrate on some little undiagnosed intruder that was causing me absolutely no trouble? I preferred to spend my time thinking about how well I was. Those thoughts were not only more productive, but allowed me to live with the energy and passion for life that I have had for these many years.

If at any stage of my life with cancer I had made known to others that cancer was a problem in my life it most assuredly would have become one. Not only would I be focusing thought on the intruder, but the many who knew of its presence would be focusing thought on its presence in my body.

There would have been a very large tower transmitting messages about the cancer inside Sy Tucker’s body. I believe the universe is so constructed that the same messages given from many locations find each other and become a very strong, single broadcast. Positive find positive and negative find negative. If you want to change the message you have to change the station, you have to change the transmission, you have to tune out the negative messages.

Had all of those around me plus those many I met along my journey known I had cancer for many decades they would have, I am certain, hammered me with questions, shown concern for my dilemma in many overt ways, and generally spent much of our time together worrying about the status of my health. An example of this is my niece who called me right after arriving home from one appointment to tell me she had been thinking about how differently my family would have treated me if they had known I had cancer.

I fully realize that the path I chose may seem peculiar and may even seem selfish. How could I keep such an “important” issue from those who cared for me? I was not trying to keep people out of my life. I was rather living my life to include them in the fullness of my life.

This choice I made was a very conscious choice based on how I wanted to live my life. I had markers along the way that helped me make this decision, but from an early age I have understood that faith is not a garment you put on and take off at your convenience.  This choice was made with faith.

It is evident to me that I believe my life would have been different had I announced the presence of an intruder in my being was most certainly confirmed. I am certain that my professional life would have been quite different, I am certain that many of the wonderful opportunities that I have had in my professional and personal life might not have occurred if I had made a different choice. I am certain that my resume would look quite different at 98.

 

 

Beyond the Medical Paradigm – 7

As I stated previously in entry six, I in no way belittle the choices others have made or are making. My choice was mine; it was a choice made between me and my Great Physician.

The following episode when I was 93 was extremely revealing and I think not unusual behavior for any medical persons I might have seen on that day. It confirmed and was positive proof that my personal belief that I would be viewed differently if or when people were aware of the “Big C”.

“Do you know the seriousness of this situation?” This was the greeting from my general practitioner of many, many years at my appointment (he has material and test results that show metastatic breast cancer that he is seeing for the first time). But in my heart I felt the real message to me was “Don’t you know you are dying?” I told him I was aware of the seriousness of my situation; normally the greeting would be a positive greeting with a query of how I was feeling and how great I was doing, whether I needed to do a physical or whatever. This greeting surprised me since it was primarily a statement followed by others that were ominous statements about death. That the situation would get nasty very fast, and it would become very painful.

I told him I felt good, and was so pleased that I was doing as well since I had been so sick just three weeks prior, spending one week in the hospital and two weeks in skilled nursing and rehab (I did not go for the cancer and we never did know why I was so sick). I reported to the doctor that my nausea was gone and my appetite was back, I was not losing weight.  I had energy and actually felt much the way I did a few months prior.  The conversation always returned to the seriousness of the cancer and that his purpose was to keep me comfortable and to support whatever my decisions were. He talked of hospice and the services available through that organization.  He then talked about what my wishes were relative to resuscitation, full code, none resuscitation. etc. He just wanted to carry out my wishes. The conversation centered on what I would want done at the end. He also made clear that he was trying to take the burden of such an action (pulling the plug) from my family and would take that responsibility himself.

Remember, this has been my general practitioner for many years. This is a doctor that for decades has been very active in helping me maintain what he perceived and what I chose as practices for good health. As I became older there has been much conversation about how healthy I have been and how amazing the maintenance, the energy, and productiveness have been.

In other words, in his mind I have been able to maintain my activities at home, my commitment to church and community, my professional life, and in general a normally full lifestyle. During the years of our medical interactions, the doctor has been complimentary and amazed about the level of my health. At 90, he saw me more as a 70-year-old relative to what most people could do and be at that age.

The crux of the conversation proved to me what I believed the perception of people would be once they were aware that I had cancer. Within the past few weeks the perception of my doctor of many years has changed from seeing Sy Tucker as a healthy, active, energetic, unusual 93-year-old lady to a 93-year-old lady who has lived a very full life and needs to face the seriousness of the situation.

I reminded him that I felt as well this day as I did a few months ago. The only difference is that now he knows I have cancer. And he treated me not as a well person but as a very sick person. The purpose of the appointment had nothing to do with how well I felt but everything to do with the disastrous things that were going to happen to me in the next short period of time.

 

 

A View of the Medical Paradigm: A Different Choice – 6

I believe that once a person is told his or her diagnosis is cancer, the routes of the minds automatically operate in line with cultural beliefs and attitudes.  How do we get rid of it? How do we treat it? How do we knock it out? How do we deal with this terrific tragedy in our lives? I believe that cultural attitudes, general knowledge then offer people no choice. They become a victim of cancer. The questions above persists and treatment options are offered and begin.

I chose a different direction.  The choice was not one of neglect or fear. It has rather been a journey of faith. Most don’t believe the incredible gifts of body, mind, and soul given to them by their Creator can handle or cope with such an enormous enemy and intruder. When the intensity of their thinking about life and mental energy is not focused on wellness, it is energy spent in the opposite direction. I have chosen to live, to work, to love, to worship, to serve in accordance with that faith as if there were no cancer. Doing things positively with joy and love produces far more results than living with fear and negativity.

I was certainly mindful of the surgeries, the treatments, the terrible pain and consequences of treatment that so many people around me experienced in their effort to deal with cancer. I have been aware throughout the decades of the vast amount of time and energy spent in these efforts. My choice was mine. I in no way belittle the choice others made or are making. And so the Story of my Journey with Cancer Begins as a personal secret between me and my God; we were on the journey of faith. No one else knew the choices made and the road travelled.

At various times on this journey after I learned of the presence of cancer, I have chosen not to have treatment or even consider it.  I did not allow the cancer to interfere with and control my life. It was not even present in my thoughts.  It didn’t affect anything I was doing. I proceeded to live with the same energy, verve, passion and commitment as if it weren’t there. My thoughts were focused on what I was doing, what I was learning, how I could take advantage of the opportunities around me to serve. After the very early encounter with what many would have called a brush with potential cancer, I never thought about it.

The Path of Faith: A Choice – 5

As I sit here in the beautiful sunshine with the breezes gently blowing on the palms, and the warm California air bathing my mind, body and soul. I am so grateful for the 98 years that I have been given to enjoy and participate in the energy of the universe, to serve, to learn, and to teach.

My house sits at the top of a hill: the view manifests the beauty in every direction.  I have had such an amazing, truly awesome life. The opportunities seem more than anyone deserves. The lessons are always beyond belief.  The opportunities to be, to do, and see never cease (and I say, to see) even though my eye sight is getting weaker, so much of the seeing has not to do with physical, but what lies in my heart and soul.

My walk with my Creator is hard for me to fathom; therefore, it is difficult to put to paper to explain to someone else the nature of my journey. It is particularly difficult to explain cancer’s journey with me. So many of the choices and episodes that I made are contrary to cultural attitude, cultural expectations, and what may be perceived as normal.  I have chosen to not let cancer dominate my life and not allow the “Big C” to frighten me or to control my choices.  I had cysts removed from my ovaries and suspicious tissue removed from my left breast when my children were small. My doctor told me in a matter of fact way and did not make a big deal of the findings. I don’t remember whether I was frightened.  As a very busy young mother, teacher, wife, and community member, somehow I lived with little thought about any cancer issues. I had my yearly pelvic exam, I had my yearly conversation with the doctor and went on with my life.

 

Thinking and Believing: The Choices We Make – 4

Quantum physics has given us information about consciousness, energy, thought, and other universal laws of nature that govern all of our lives, yet many view the information with skepticism. Many prefer to think that their lives are governed by circumstances, by some predetermined destiny over which they have little or no control.  Physicists have known for some time that what we once thought was solid matter is actually vibrating energy, a universe of unlimited potential.  This is a source that has no bounds and is always available to fill our orders. But it cannot fill what is not ordered, nor can it deliver properly when the address is not correct or the order is not specific.

The energy source never ceases. We can harness it for our personal and professional use. We accept the wonders of science that affect us; we understand the liberating influence much of science has had on our lives. Technology, travel, health, energy, space or any of the many discoveries decade by decade, year by year, moment by moment engage our fancy.

We accept most of the advances and learn to live with them, appreciate, and come to think of them as a normal part of our existence.

That is, until we enter the realm of the mind, the domain of thought, the energy of consciousness that we cannot see. These are the areas that should concern us the most.  As persons we need to understand the advances made in understanding consciousness, energy, thought, learning, the brain, knowing and being. We have grown up with a psychological paradigm that is difficult to change. That paradigm essentially teaches us that we must see something to believe it. We have generally been taught that “Seeing is believing,”  “Show me and I’ll believe it” or “I’m from Missouri, the show-me state.”  Unfortunately, we have the universe in reverse. The Biology of Belief and the studies done by Dr. Bruce Lipton and others inform us that what we believe we will see.

Our thoughts, our mind’s energy, are precious. They directly exercise control of the physical brain and, therefore, our behavior.  We must learn to monitor our thoughts because we get and we become what we think about.

Remember, we get what we ask for whether or not we want it.  Whatever you are thinking about, you are attracting to you. We are the thinker of our thoughts.  We can be the changer of our thoughts.

Generally speaking our culture is based on this premise to change to a paradigm of “believing is seeing” is very difficult.  That is why it is so difficult when negative thoughts about a person are presumably based on what scientists would call facts; learning to change that thinking to positive energy in the universe is nigh impossible, but absolutely necessary.

The succeeding entries (journals, diary, anecdotal accounts), starting several years ago, are a part of a book that documents the journey of faith and with cancer as the unwanted traveler on my journey.