BFF · breast cancer · cancer · Michele · reading · Shel · tears · writing

A Howling

I’m writing this post on an airplane to Grand Junction, where tomorrow we’re having a memorial service for Michele. Whenever mother called to tell me of the service, and ask if I would like to say something, there was never any doubt in my mind. Yes.
That was just over a week ago, and I am still unsure what I’ll be saying tomorrow.

Since Michele died in April, there has been a gaping hole in my life. A small tear that opened when she first told me she was sick, and grew larger with each progression of theater, until that day when she was gone. Leaving this rent in the fabric of my world. Our world, for there are many of us grieving her.
I’ve tried to read books by others who have lost loved ones, but never repast the first few chapters. Then I either begin crying so hard I can no longer see the page, or I become annoyed at the self-righteous tone taken by some, and my anger overflows. Either way , I end up crying.
While reading ‘Wild’  by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about a woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail after her mother dies of cancer, I stumbled on a passage that summed up exactly how I have felt in the last year.
“I almost howled in agony. I almost choked to death on what I knew…. I was going to live the rest of my life without my mother.”
Strayed says she felt this way from the moment her mother received her diagnosis; her cancer was so advanced there was no hope. Yet for me, these words say exactly how I have felt since I received that phone call, saying Shel was gone.
Inside my mind, my soul, there is a constant howling, a never ending scream of pain and sadness, loss and grief. The person I loved most in the world is gone, and I am alone. For the rest of my life.
We will never race wheelchairs through the rest home, and annoy the nurses. We’ll never make it to see Barry Manilow sing in Vegas, or do our Copa dance wearing the feathered hats we made. I’ll have to sit through the next class reunion alone. And without her, I have nobody to call and tell my life to.
Every day I miss her. That will never end. I believe the noise of grief inside me will quiet down; I’m hoping tomorrow’s memorial will help with that.
Until we are together again, I will grieve. I miss you, Michele.

breast cancer · change · finances · home · Jolene · kitty · Michele · moving · Portland · transition

I’m BAA-ACK!

I know, you missed me. Now you can rejoice, because I won’t go away again–I promise! Lots has changed since I last posted, including location, obviously.

The last few months have been a time of many changes in my life, and the changes just keep on coming. (I feel like a David Bowie song…) A psychologist I spoke  with ( I’m seeing a psychologist. Big surprise there.) said that I’m in a “time of transition.”

Transition. Oh, yeah. BIG TIME.

In March, about two weeks before my 44th birthday, I left the relationship I’d been in since 2009, and moved from Vancouver back to Portland. It was a very difficult thing to do, but one that had been a long time coming. Making that decision set me free, in many ways; don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t being help prisoner or anything, but emotionally, I felt trapped. And financially, there was no way out. So I’m back in my parents house, where my money is mine, and I have my freedom while I’m waiting for my disability appeal hearing. That part of my life is up in the air: I don’t know how long it’ll be until the hearing, or what they’ll decide. So my life is definitely in transition.

The largest change was also the worst, and has knocked me off my feet, broken my heart. On April 12, my best friend, Michele Miller Mahmood, died. The breast cancer she’d been fighting took her, and the world lost one of the best people ever created.  I’ll write more about this later, because Shel deserves an entire post, and entire blog, all her own.

I’m struggling to find my way in this new world, to transition into a life where I am on my own. I’ve always treasured my family, but suddenly, they seem so much more precious. My sister, Jolene, is going through her own transitions, yet has given her time to help me when ever I need her. She’s wonderful, and I am so thankful for her.

People keep asking what I’m going to do now. That’s the million dollar question, folks! Let’s figure it out together, shall we?

BFF · Brampton · breast cancer · Canada · cancer · hope · meditation · Michele · Wellspring

Butterfly of Hope

Yep, I’m back in the chilly Pacific Northwest, where the temperatures and the accents are more familiar to me. My visit to Canada was cut short, but thankfully, BFF is doing much better! While the doctors attribute this to the  chemo, I believe it was due to the powers of  ME!
Truthfully, friendship, laughter, entertainment & some relief of tension, all of which I was there to provide, due have a positive effect on everyone, sick or healthy. Never have I been so glad to be able to make someone smile as I was this last month. Sitting in the Oncology Clinic with BFF as she received blood transfusions & chemo, and saying something that made her grin or giggle was simply fabulous.
While visiting BFF, I was blessed to accompany her to Wellspring Cancer Support Center for relaxation and visualization classes. In these sessions, led by an amazing woman named Rachel, we practiced guided meditation, then had a time of discussion, sometimes about a reading Rachel presented, others about something brought up during the meditation or things going on with members of the group. The members of the group, all cancer patients and caregivers, are a mixed bunch– men & women at all stages of treatment, from the recently diagnosed to those going through second or third diagnoses. They’ve learned to support themselves and each other, and I was amazed at both their vulnerability and their strength. There was hope, fear and beauty in that room, and I am proud to have been there.
Each day I continue to pray for BFF, and all the others struck by cancer. Truly, this is the sharpest weapon in Satan’s armory. Pray with me, would you?
Bollywood · Brampton · breast cancer · Canada · children · hot · Michele · Music · stress · Summer · Toronto

The Frozen North?

I thought Canada was supposed to be cold. That’s why I packed more cardigans than t-shirts for my visit to Toronto.  I’ve been here a week, and the temperature has been in the high 70’s or 80’s every day! Jeez Louise, I felt like I was on the bayou one day, it was so muggy & hot. I kept listening for a jazz band to start playing, or frogs to croak; instead, I heard Indian & Scottish accents, Bollywood music, and saw seagulls overhead.
I’m here in Brampton, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, for the summer, staying with my BFF Michele and her family. As my readers know, Michele is going through chemo for breast cancer. I’m came up to help her out, give my support, and entertain her if at all possible. She and her husband have three boys, ages 14, 4 & 2, so I’m trying to help with them, as well.
This is not an easy time for any of us. Stress levels are high, and there have been moments in the last week when I wanted to scream. I know I cried at least once, but I did it alone, in my room. Since they were tears of frustration & exhaustion, they were especially annoying to me.
There have been many tears here this week, as often happens in a house with little kids. These children  cry and scream a lot more than usual, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the tension of their parents, or their father’s parenting style.
I never understand parents who holler at their little kids “Stop crying!” as if that will work. Especially when the child has had a tantrum, and is at that point where they cannot physically make themself stop; what they need is to be held, and soothed. Shouting never works. I find myself very frustrated here, because I want so much to help, and yet I can’t really interfere. I have been given the go-ahead on some things, but not others. Some of teacher skills are being used, others, ignored or contradicted. 
I have to remind myself “they aren’t your kids, not really your problem, nobody really asked for your advice,” and keep my mouth shut. If I can do that, and keep the eye-rolling to a minimum, all will be well.
I may need to send home for more warm weather clothes, though. It’s hot here in the frozen North!
anti-depressant · Anyone? · breast cancer · Bubble Meds · Bubble Wrap · cancer · exercise · Fun · Major Depression · medication · Michele · money · Oprah · Scientology · stress · Tom Cruise

I’m Not Tom Cruise. I’m Taller.


A few days ago in a post titled ‘Bubble Meds, Anyone?,‘ I stated that I detest anti-depressant medications. I got several rather obnoxious comments about this (which I have been deleted, because I don’t want hate here), all telling me how evil and stupid I am to not recognize the wonders that are done by these medications. One commenter even compared me to Tom Cruise ranting on Oprah!

Let me say right now that the only similarities between Tom Cruise & I are height. And a sofa.
Anti-depressants, and medications as a whole, are a good thing. I know lots of folks whose lives are vastly improved by their blend of prescription drugs. Heck, if it weren’t for the varied anti-seizure meds I’ve been on since I was 16, I’d not be able to function. It’s quite possible that without those medications I’d be dead now. These medications save lives. I know that.
My issue with anti-depressants in the past has been simply that I’ve not yet found one that works for me. And of course, I want the quick fix. I’m not a patient person when it comes to medications–I want my pain-killers & cough syrups to work NOW!!! When the happy pills didn’t make me happy as soon as I swallowed, well, I gave up. I was young, I had time to wait for the bad feelings to go away. It wasn’t a matter of strength, so much as patience & time.
I’m not that young anymore. Many, many things have changed since the last time I had an episode of major depression. Back then I was living with my parents, I had no one depending on me for anything, my health was much better, and my stress level was lower. Now I’m living with my fiance and we are trying to start a business, my health is not good (although my seizures are controlled!), I’m in charge of a household. (Yes, I am!)
Stress, well, stress is high. My best friend, Michele, who just came through breast cancer with a smile on her face has been sick for the last few months. Two weeks ago they found Stage Four cancer in her bone marrow, the bones on her back, and a spot on her lungs. She began chemo last week. I want to be there holding her hand right now, but don’t have the money for my passport, much less a plane ticket to Toronto, where she lives. (Her mom is there, so she has help.) But can you understand why my stress level just flew up?
Anyway. My point is that I do not have anything against these medications or the people who take them. I’m not looking for a quick fix this time; I’m willing to be patient.
But if Tom Cruise shows up, telling me all I need are vitamins & exercise to fix my depression, there’s gonna be one less Scientologist in the world.
breast cancer · Colorado · exercise · goals · lemons · lessons · Michele · New Year · pain · realizations · Sarah Palin · Shel · Steven · yoga

Lemons and Lessons

I have to say, I’m not sorry 2010 is over. In many ways, that year sucked, big time.
I spent most of the year in pain with migraines, and various other things. As well, money was nearly non-existent, after Steven was injured at work, and then lost his job. By the end of the year, we had to move from our two-bedroom apartment into a much smaller one-bedroom, along with all our stuff, and the three animals. Instead of saving us money, we ended up owing our landlord for fees.
It seemed as if every time I turned around, 2010 was bitch-slapping me with another bit of bad news. I dreaded turning on the news, for fear I’d hear of another oil spill, hurricane or tornado, or god-forbid, a massive lay-off somewhere! Everyone I know has struggled through, either battling health issues, financial problems, or both. An optimists nightmare. I’m a glass half-full girl, but it was difficult to keep the glass from shattering during 2010.
But. (Yes, there is always a “but”)
Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
Which means that in even though many things were awful, there were also many learning moments. I’ve learned that even when I have pain, I don’t have to be one. (I can thank Sarah Palin & Kate Gosselin for that lesson, in part. Never thought I’d be thanking them for anything!)
I’ve learned that if you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. For me, that means if I want to accomplish anything, I have to get dressed, not spend the day in my pajamas, and actually leave the apartment. They say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we do it daily. My sister’s advice about building a habit in fourteen days was one of the best things I learned all year! (Thanks, Jolene!)
There were also many good moments in 2010, and I would be wrong if I neglected to mention them. After almost a decade apart, my best friend, Michele and I were finally in the same place at the same time, and our visit was AWESOME! She’s been battling breast cancer up there in the frozen north, and I’ve been missing her down here, so just being together in our home town, with her entire family, her wonderful kids & husband, was the highlight of my year. For a while I was able to forget everything else and just be happy. We talked, laughed, ate, shopped, cried, ate, laughed, giggled, and sang old Barry Manilow songs. We even stood in front of the mirror & did each other’s hair, just like the old days! Sharing the beauty of western Colorado with Steven was fabulous, too!
My nephew Max started first grade, was in three plays this year, and as far as he’s concerned, he was the star of each! Max and Steven have become good friends, and every time I hear Maxie call out “Uncle Steven!” in that joyous voice, my heart lifts!
Max’s big sister, Hattie Jo, turned 17 this year, and is amazing! Hattie is the girl I’d want if I had a daughter–she’s smart, funny, polite, and talented, beautiful. She’s a lot like me. Hattie has been my friend since she was born, and I love watching her grow into such an incredible woman.
Anyway. I’m rambling. This rough year has helped me to see how important my loved ones are. Memories and moments. Lessons and…something else that starts with an “s”…lemons?
Sure. Lessons and lemons. Because when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And add some vodka. Then you have a party!!
I don’t make resolutions anymore– I learned a long time ago that I break those quicker than I break eggs for breakfast. I do set goals, and I’d like to share a few of them with you.
In 2011:
Re-read one favorite book a month, and write about it.
Make a scrapbook for my nephew Max.
Write a blog post twice a week.
Practice yoga daily.
Learn Vancouver’s bus system.
Volunteer.
Read more; watch television less.
Exercise more.
Express my gratitude daily.
So there you have it. My goals for 2011. I’m hoping this bright, shiny new year will be a better one for all of us, with little fear of shattering glass, or throwing those lemons at anybody’s head! Happy New Year, everyone!