Drafting and Drifting..

Monday, April 27, 2009

I started this article sometime after the election; so where have I been all those months? Drafting articles, going to doctors, and hearing news about my status as a Survivor of Cancer. Well, since December, 2008 I have heard that I have cancer in my lungs, in my mouth and now in my kidneys. From each of these bangs...I went further into myself and you know what I found- a very small, lonely child. And now the article is edited and here it is, a few months late...what is late anyway? I hope you enjoy my thoughts and can feel my spirit!

The election is over! I am so thrilled that our President-Elect is Barack Obama. If this happiness and joy were the medicines that could cure, then I would be cancer free. Maybe if I start to accept that everything that feels good emotionally will help me to feel good physically, magic will happen. Wow, what a clear way to figure things out. Nothing complicated. If it doesn't feel good: it will add to the confusion of the cells in my body...so walk away.

So...why don't I walk away? I always have a good reason and it never is really my own reason. It is what I was taught and what I have come to expect from others. It is all the little things I decide or believe I should do to make someone happy or make the world a better place to live in. No, seriously, I donated more money to Obama's campaign than six of my friends did. And I have less money. So why add more pressure to my life? Why, did I do that? I donated money because that is what a good citizen does.

It was only when Obama's commercials and political ads came on the Internet; when I saw and heard him speak, debate or just be interviewed, I just couldn't help myself...no I didn't want to stop believing that something good, something great could happen in my lifetime and I could be a part of it. This was a period of time that hard issues were happening in my life medically and emotionally, and I was hardly rocked . I could utilize my many moments of happiness and joy about a man I did not know but trusted a great deal I was so happy and excited about President -elect Obama... that I felt so healthy and so hopeful that my body was calling out "Healing Words". I felt that the joy I felt had a healing effect.

As I spent time involved in the election and in the results, I realized that I had not thought about having Cancer once. Occupying myself with things that are life enhancing, actually gives me a lift. I am trying to accept that I was put on this earth for a reason and the reason is to be joyful and happy. I have gathered a few new people around me who support this way of thinking and I can tell you that it is easier when you know you are not alone.

I have two doctors who support the medical practices of both the East and the West. And since this has always been part of my belief system I have gained a great deal of knowledge about myself. I found out in one session that I have learned to function at a high level of stress all the time...so I never really feel stressed, even when I am. When I finally feel the stress I am really in a desperate emotional state. Imagine what this, year after year, has done to my spirits, emotions and body. So I am learning ways to reduce my stress before I am over-stressed which could impact my immune system, which could...., which could.... Got to go! god bless you all. Me

I found myself crying and the words, "Raining Tears" came into my mind. I am sure that they are probably words from a song or poem...but right now they are mine to use.


Raining Tears as I search to find my way, confused and confounded,
Through the pathways I must wander.
I try to make sense of this journey I am on
As I use life's lessons which I know will heal my soul.
And then I see the yellow daffodils that I planted.

Thank You Daily Star

Friday, April 24, 2009

A couple weeks ago I was walking out of work with a colleague.
"You know," the person said, "If someone in our newsroom got sick, nobody would help out, nobody would visit that person. It's not like the police or firemen who take care of their own. It's just not like that here."
Right now the daily newspaper industry is going through seismic changes. Storied newspapers that have served communities for decades, sometimes more than a century, have gone under. The reasons why are complicated and I don't want to write a treatise on the demise of daily newspapers. Save it for the media fellows in institutions and universities across the country.
We had another round of layoffs this week. The fourth, maybe fifth, round since I arrived.
It's been hard on everyone. Unified is not a word I would use to describe my newsroom.
Nearly two years ago I discovered the tumor in my testicle. Before we could conclusively say I had cancer, I had to go into the hospital to remove my testicle and wait for the results of the biopsy. The surgery had me laid out for two weeks.
At the time I had barely reached my eligibility for health care at the Arizona Daily Star. After all, I had been there about nine months. I didn't have much time accrued for sick days off.
So my colleagues -- reporters, editors, staff and even the publisher -- pooled their resources together and helped me out. People donated their sick days. The human resources staff tweaked my paperwork to make sure everything was covered by health care. People called. People wrote. People visited me. Gifts were sent.
Everyone helped me. There's a lot of people I still need to thank in person. There are people to which I will forever be grateful. Words will never be enough.
With all the changes in this industry and all the desperation at the Daily News, I started thinking about my friends at the Daily Star.
Thank you. Sincerely.
Thanks for helping me. And thank you, years later, for being an example of a newsroom that helps its own.

One Year Later...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It is 11:55 pm, April 15, 2009. It is the tail-end of the one-year anniversary of my double mastectomy. I didn't even realize it was the one-year anniversary until I was at my therapist's today, and she asked me how long it had been since the mastectomy. Then it dawned on me and I said, "Exactly one year ago today." People celebrate all sorts of anniversaries, but this particular anniversary is extra-special.

Okay, give me a moment. One year? Has it really been one year already? I vaguely remember the terror that I had on the eve of April 14, 2008-April 15, 2008. I didn't sleep a wink and took my last bath at 3:30 am. I watched the sun come up as I walked with DH and my parents to the hospital (we live practically across the street from it). We crossed Fraser, passed through Robson Park, waited for the pedestrian-controlled light to turn green, crossed Kingsway, passed the Thankga Buddha store, and walked down into the outdoor parking lot of the hospital. I held DH's hand as we waited for the doors to the surgical daycare unit to open at 6:30 am. And if you want to hear the rest of the story, you can go back one year on this blog.

And that's what I've been doing tonight. I've been going back through my blog. I laugh in some parts, I shudder at others, and I almost cry and can't finish reading some entries. It's just a little something that I started writing for my friends and family when I was diagnosed in July 2007, but it became something bigger. I still get media requests for interviews about my blog, that has somehow touched other cancer patients, survivors, and those who love them. I found some purpose in what I had been going through, and one of those things was to educate the audience about what it can be like to go through cancer treatment at a young age, to be a mother to two young children, a wife to a successful man, and a professional woman getting another graduate degree--to be a cancer patient during a time when your life is just starting to make sense and come together. And then, you're not so sure about any of that anymore because now, you could die a lot sooner than you ever thought you would. The thought that I struggled with on a daily basis: I finally have all this--and now, NOW?, I have to leave it all?

A year later, I'm still struggling with that question.

Let's get this straight: as honest as I am in this blog, I frankly don't report EVERYTHING. I mean, who would? There's lot of stuff that we go through every day that is just too lame or annoying or tiresome to tell anybody. Plus, I respect the privacy of my loved ones who might not exactly enjoy being showcased here. But I know some of you might have heard that DH and I have been going through an extremely rough patch in our marriage. And you could be asking yourself, What's this have to do with your cancer? Well, if it had nothing to do with cancer, I certainly wouldn't be talking about it. And if I even thought that it had nothing to do with cancer, then I'd say I was in complete denial.

The truth is, cancer took a toll on us. It's funny--I hear so many "success" stories--those that involve The Journey and The Reawakening or The Enlightenment. And I'm not saying that I haven't had those kinds of moments in my own journey during this past year and a half. But if you're looking for a certain kind of success story where everyone lives happier than ever post-cancer, this isn't it.

It's the one-year anniversary of the cancer being gone, and I'm celebrating it alone. In a way, that's fitting. Cancer is a really existential experience. You go inwards to places that you never even thought of, so far in you almost disappear. It really is one of those things that unless you've gone through it, you have no idea what I'm talking about. And that kind of experience is really difficult on the caregiver. Here is this person that you're trying to help and take care of, but they are so sick--so dying--that you can't reach them, that nothing you do will save them from that end. Truth is, we all come to an end. But to witness it day after day after week after month, for a whole year--that's another kind of torture and existential experience that is not understandable to someone who has not gone through that either.

For us, our experiences didn't match up. You might think that from the way I describe these experiences, that they share similarities, and in recognizing that, the two parties could help one another through the suffering. I can only speak from my experience obviously, but that was not the case for us. What happened? It's not that neither of us didn't care about the other's suffering. I feel that it was just the enormous sense of helplessness, from all around, that did us in. And during the months after the surgery, we tried very hard to rebuild our lives, but that pain and suffering ran so deep in each of us, that it was too late for damage-control.

It's a bitch--facing death at the age of 31. You look at your husband of three years, your children who are 3 and 4 years old. And you're just stunned, breathless. How? Why? Two simple questions that take the wind right out of you. And you see it in his eyes, in your husband's eyes--that mixture of courage and fear. He has to be strong for you, but truthfully, he's scared shitless. What do you do with that?

I can't tell you the story from that moment to this one. It's too painful for me to try to piece together the remnants that I still carry. DH and I have faced moments like the one now, here, in the present, way too many times--much more than a couple of our age ever should have to. And it's that tightness in the chest, the way you look through your tears into the light bulb on the ceiling, and you know that if you survive this moment, you can survive anything. And you will.

Back...sort of

My hands are filthy. They look old...dry, worn, cracked, old. Im tired. I'm having some strawberry thingy at a starsmucks. My bike broke down and im waiting for a ride. Ive put this off for awhile now...i figured this time is as good as any. My hands hurts though. More and more i see my hands taking shape of the grips off my bike...curled, doted with spots of dryed on grease and dead bugs. My hands are really filthy. Back in mid November, my Grandfather died. It was called complications of cancer. I dont know what that means. The night he died, his potassium dropped and he crashed. I knew right away cause i heard the phone ring...followed by screams and tears.

I dont talk about it much. I dont know why. I figured, thats the way he would have wanted it. Don't worry about...would something he'd say. I try not to. Following David's death, I spoke at this funeral. I didnt hold back...I said God Damn in church. Thats how david was...God Damn this and God damn that. Made me smile when i told a story how he used that little phrase for just about everything. Thats who he was. As happy as i was to see my grandpa pass on...let me back up a bit and clarify. When he went into the hospital, I sort of knew he wasnt coming back home. And he didint. He spent the last few weeks of his life in a hospital and a convalescent home. He kept asking when am i coming home. I knew, well, i figured, he just wanted to come home and die. I was happy because he didnt have to deal with all the god damn things anymore. He was at peace...

I wish i can say all is well. But with a death of a family figure head often leads to the down fall of ones family. Mine is no different. Slowly it seems, the fam has said f it all. And im in a agreement. Death often brings out the worse in folks, allowing them to say and do things that they normally wouldnt fathom. I stopped paying attention. Since my grandfather's death, ive done whatever normal person does...dives into work. Since November ive been working none stop. Ive volunteered for every project that has come up...sending me to the more seedier sides of LA County, Las Vegas, the IE, and i think SF...soon. Working damn near 12 plus hours a day...with zero end in stop. Life has been one thing after another...Since ive started writing this, (see first sentence), worked till 9 or so, grew more grey hair, sat in a at least 15 meetings, nodded off a few times, and asked some guy if he was a federalie...He have me an odd look.

In the end of it all...ive seem to have found Lety. My friend Josh Levy said, "you look happy." Brook and Omar say, I glow. I do. She makes me happy...and ive fallen in love. I dont want to sound like...all buttercups and hearts and shit. I'll end this here...

More to come...


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Healing and Cancer Foundation equips people affected by cancer with an integrated and powerful approach to the cancer journey, helping them to heal at the level of body, mind and spirit.

Our integrated approach arose out of the ten-year collaboration an oncologist / Associate Professor of Medicine with a psychotherapist / spiritual teacher. We promote integrative oncology which means combining scientifically-based conventional medicine and health habits with wisdom-based healing practices and techniques. To facilitate recovery and reclaiming of wellness, we teach people to empower their bodies, settle their minds and nurture their spiritual lives. Ultimately, our work is about transformation and healing, and leading a life filled with love and purpose.