I have a lot to say this week and not so many photos. I hope each of you will find something that speaks to you in this entry.
Our California family trip was wonderful, but I returned home with a miserable cold & infection. While the trip was worth it to see my grandson, for 3 weeks I was sicker than with either chemo or radiation. I feared I was not strong enough to recover. This weekend I am much better. It was only 3 weeks. So much for useless worrying!
I had been too sick to do much at all at home. Thank you Karen & Lindsay for the delicious soups. It was a treat and such a help. We all know someone who is ill or struggling from time to time. Many of you asked what you could do to help more times than once. I'm not good at saying please bring over some vegetarian soup or a treat (like Morano gelato - thanks Gloria:)) or can you pick up some fresh cut up fruit for me from the grocery store. What was touching and helpful were the times when friends just called and said" I made soup today and I'm dropping off a quart." Or I have something to bring by, I won’t come in - just drop it off. Thanks Judy & Grace for the gorgeous orchids you brought this week!
To those of you with friends undergoing treatment similar to mine, I can tell you that any vegetarian soup (like Karen's protein packed lentil or Lindsay's butternut squash with apple and ginger) will be appreciated and eaten. If you are ambitious you can make a lot and freeze it in quart or pint containers. When we are too tired to cook and need to eat, these jewels can easily be thawed and warmed on the stove. If you have an idea, for your friend, just do it. The greater gift is knowing that we are being thought of.
I have to include a plug for the new ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care Center on the Miracle Mile in Lebanon NH. When I got a fever and my cheekbones throbbed I knew I needed to be seen and treated. I called GIM at DHMC & left a message that I was a cancer patient & that I needed to be seen. I was told a nurse would call me back. By 4:30 P M, I'd heard nothing so I headed over to the newly opened first in the Upper Valley urgent care center. I saw a very calm and kind experienced doctor, was diagnosed, and I left with an antibiotic in my hand all within an hour. It was a pleasant and reassuring experience. A week later, I returned, saw the same physician and had an on site chest x ray to rule out pneumonia. Again efficient, competent and very reassuring care.
GIM at DHMC operates like a "fortress." When I could not get anyone helpful, I used MyDH online to leave a message for my PCP/internist to call me. The person that called me back was downright unhelpful. She told me that my doctor would not want to see me until I finished my antibiotics. She said if I went to another facility that I could not come there because I couldn't play one against the other. I finally spoke with my doctor but only after I had another doctor friend of his call him personally. Something's definitely wrong at the big house. They need reminding that their raison d'être is to show care as they provide care. I certainly did not need that extra stress.
The happy ending is that ClearChoiceMD open 7 days a week from 8:00AM to 8:00PM is a great option. Don't hesitate to use them. http://ccmdcenters.com/
I'm relieved to be feeling better. But my mood had definitely hit a funk. I was tired of the many months of being "sick". I wasn't sleeping well because of the respiratory symptoms. The lack of exercise and yoga did not help. We all need effective strategies to break a low mood less it persist and worsen.
I set an intention to recover. There has been a lot of research about the effects of a positive attitude and the mind-body connection on prognoses in cancer patients (and other illnesses too; e.g., autoimmune illnesses). A low mood, and an attitude distrustful of a good prognosis can lad to worsening illness. I share what’s working for me.
I forced myself to walk each day. A few minutes out and a few minutes back. And then a little farther. Deep breaths and one step at a time. By Monday, I met a friend & walked an hour at the indoor rink. Thanks Joyce. I had to rest afterwards but I slept better that night and felt stronger afterwards!
In California I had met "Ashley" while waiting in a line. My headscarf, hat, & sparse hair declares my status as a cancer patient. Ashley asked me about it. And then she was insistent that I need to visualize myself healthy. I said, "that's hard when I look in the mirror. For many months I've seen a bald head and sallow skin and dark circles around my eyes.” And Ashley replied, "then you need to post photos of yourself healthy on your mirrors and look at them many times a day and visualize yourself as you were in those photos." Sometimes "healers" just appear in your life. The photos are up and it's really helping. Share this tip with your friends. I think it's great.
Mark was on a business trip and I decided to give myself an early birthday gift. I turn 62 this week. Last year 60 was the new 40. This year I've felt it was more like 75. A serious pick me up was needed. Thursday, I spent the day at the Woodstock (Vermont) Inn Spa. I booked only the day before as the weather assured a cold but bright sunny day. I had never been there. Pardon the review this is a travel blog after all.:)
The spa is lovely. It was built about 5 years ago and the architects did an amazing job with the site and light and sun. The spacious locker room was spotless. Breathing the camphor in the women's wet steam room helped clear my chest. The coed lounge was comfy and sunny with snacks & teas and a room service menu to order lunch if desired. The staff was there when needed but not omnipresent. I didn’t try the hot tub on the full sun outdoor patio or dry sauna just beside it as I’d done the steam and I didn’t want to get dehydrated. But if you go, do bring a swimsuit.
I turned off my cell phone and swore off the computer for the entire day. I should do that more often. I brought a book I've been wanting to read. I had the "Signature Service" to rehydrate my post treatment - winter heat stressed skin and to relax some very tight irradiated muscles. Carlene was great. Massage plays an important role in my physical and mental health. But I rarely go the "top notch" route. This day turned out to be just what I needed. I can highly recommend the Woodstock Inn Spa. http://www.woodstockinn.com/spa
Tip for locals: Sign up for their emails to see the Wednesday specials. Each week a different treatment is offered at a discount. They've got me.:)
On Saturday, I went to "Yoga for a Cause."
I was pleased at what I was able to do and I felt great afterwards! Carole Petrillo offered this special class to benefit Vital Communities of the Upper Valley. Vital Communities is a White River Junction, Vermont based regional nonprofit that works to engage citizens, organizations, and communities in creating solutions to challenges in the Upper Valley.
Our class which filled the studio to the brim, included wonderful partner work fitting of the community theme. I’m enjoying the thoughtful handout Carole prepared for the class. I share this poem from it.
“After a While” author unknown:
After a while you learn
The subtle difference
Between holding a hand
And chaining a soul.
And you learn
That love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn
That kisses aren’t compromises
And presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman or man
Not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your loads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in midflight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you ask too much.
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to buy you flowers.
And you learn
That you can really endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth.
And you learn.
For me, the healing power of yoga is magic. It’s not just my conviction. The word is out. Kevin Pearce, the Upper Valley snowboard athlete had a snowboard accident that almost killed him. He has struggled to recover from a severe brain injury. In a split second, at 24 years old, he went from an athlete performing at the world-class level to re-learning how to talk, stand, and walk. Kevin now counts his yoga as an integral part of his healing process. “It’s been huge for me,” he says speaking about the importance of slowing down and staying present. The healing potential of yoga is physical, not just spiritual or emotional. In a recent LuluLemon blog, Kevin says: “I’ve worn glasses the last four-and-a-half years and have been doing eye therapies and had surgeries. I drove 45 minutes to a yoga class the other day—it was hands down the most amazing class I’ve ever taken—and I walked out of the studio and drove home without glasses on.” He was surprised by the dramatic improvement in his vision and apparently, from more recent news reports, it has continued. http://blog.lululemon.com/kevin-pearce- love-your-brain/ Kevin and his family started the Love Your Brain Foundation. http://www.loveyourbrain.org/ The first Love Your Brain Friendly Yoga Classes started at the RVC in Lebanon, NH in October (while I was practicing and getting treatment in Boston.) The classes continue and the program is now rolling out to other locations.
My regular yoga practice and the yoga wisdom (philosophy) it brings has healed me in the past. It steels me through times of stress, and enables me to find inner strength and wisdom when difficult decisions present. Because of yoga, I was physically strong when cancer struck. It has kept my body (relatively) strong throughout the treatment. My practice makes me resilient. It helps me access the inner strength needed to face life challenges. My yoga community provides healing, caring thoughts and brings happiness. This week, it has helped again to lift my dreary mood.
If we think that we can make plans and life will follow obediently, we will surely be disappointed. Living a full life means we each will ultimately be called upon to find strength we didn't know we had. I am strong and I am grateful. I intend to remain so.
Thank you all for your healing thoughts!