Archive | June, 2011

My Other Life . . .

29 Jun

A while back  Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer  suggested that those of us blogging about our cancer experiences should write about our “other life”. The idea was that we are much more than our cancer diagnosis and that perhaps it would be good if we wrote about that a bit. Accidental Amazon wrote about her “other life”. (Others have since shared their non-cancer stories – see Nancy’s Point for her “My Other Life” post).

I thought it was a great idea as I would love to learn more about the women behind the blogs I am reading. That was almost a month ago. I thought surely by now I would have written “My Other Life” post. But, I haven’t known where to start. I keep getting stuck on how cancer seems to have put the brakes on so much of my other life. Even though there is a lot more to my life than what I have been through during the past couple of years, it is difficult for me to write on this topic. I have finally figured out why. It is because cancer has put this indelible mark on everything. Even as a return to so many things that I used to do before cancer, but, had to stop because of either treatment or simply the fatigue that I now face post treatment, I experience these things differently now. That is the stamp of cancer.

A couple of weekends ago I rode a bike 13 miles at a pretty decent pace, half of that ride was against the wind. It was a real struggle, but, I did it and it felt good. Prior to the bike ride, I walked a brisk two miles. So 15 miles combined. It felt good to walk and to ride. But, it was tough and exhausting. I was quite spent at the end of it. Still, very glad I was able to do it.

Finishing up a gig at the Orange County Fair in 2009. My band mates shaved their heads and we all played bald.

I have always been a glass if half full kind of person. But, cancer sometimes makes that difficult. Still, there are two ways I could look at that difficult bike ride. I could be upset that it was so hard for me, angry that my lymphedema prone arm made it pretty challenging, a bit depressed to discover that things that were once simple are still pretty difficult. Or, I could look at it the way I do (most of the time, anyway) and that is that I am lucky that I can get on a bike, lucky that I am breathing and able to make yet another grab to reclaim yet another piece of my life as it was before. Still, it is just not the same and that is sometimes hard.

But, I am returning to my other life as best I can. I am definitely a different version of my former self. A lot of things have changed. But, I am accepting that, if ever so gradually. On a side note, there has been some blogging on the topic of “new normal” . . . a term I can not stand. I first heard the “new normal” term in a support group. I wanted to scream. The idea that I had to accept or find my “new normal” in the wake of cancer to me was simply adding insult to injury. It was too much. I still refuse to embrace that term. I refuse to give into the idea of a new normal  – which to me simply means that I don’t get my other life back . . . not completely anyway. I realize I probably won’t get back to what I felt like before. But, I refuse to give up on the idea of returning to my old life, at least not yet.

So . . . you already know something about me – in my other life – and that is that I am stubborn. Very stubborn. I would like to think that this stubbornness has helped me in my cancer ordeal.

Hmm . . . I have not made much progress on the intended topic for this blog post 🙂

Okay, here goes . . .

In my other life I am a teacher and a writer, I am a little bit of an activist of sorts and a little bit of a musician. I love music. I play stand up bass, a little piano and I sing. My singing voice changed post cancer (I think it might be from the radiation, not sure). I love to cook, I love movies, I love the outdoors, I love the ocean. (I recently relocated to be near the beach, it was a good move).

Here is my singing voice before radiation (this is not typical of what I sing . . . I recorded these two songs for my Mom a few years back at her request. She no longer cares for “Danny Boy”, I understand why):

Danny Boy

Amazing Grace

I have written in the past about the hijacking effect of cancer. It becomes an identity, cancer does. Which, I suppose, is the whole point of writing about “my other life” . . . to do something other than write about cancer and all that it can visit upon a person. During treatment, having a gig with my band meant so much to me. I had to sit out of a lot of playing opportunities due to treatment and fatigue. Now I am working on getting back into music again.

After music, the outdoors, the ocean, traveling (did I mention that I LOVE to travel?) I am also very passionate about food. I was a vegetarian for years . . . ironically enough, for health reasons. My Aunt Ann died of breast cancer in 1994. I had already become a vegetarian earlier that year because I thought it might reduce my risk of getting breast cancer. I know now that I may not have done myself any favors since back then there were not many organic options for vegetables and fruits . . . so I may have simply increased my intake of pesticides (which are now known to contribute to cancer). Who knows.

Since breast cancer, my other life, has included a lot of new recipes. I have always loved to cook. But, since cancer I have focused on creating new recipes to include specific foods. For example, I try to eat wild, organic, blueberries on a daily basis. I also try to eat five different colors of vegetables and fruits each day . . . not always an easy feat. It is something I came up with a little while back. The attempt to include five colors each day has caused me to create a number of new recipes. Diet has become a significant part of how I cope with having had cancer. It is one of the few things that I can control. I eat organic fruits and vegetables and try not to eat processed foods. Who knows, I might have a cook book in me . . . or at least a few worthy recipes to share.

So that is a little bit about me, my other life . . . the life I am trying to pick back up 🙂

A girl’s best friend . . .

27 Jun

Today is a sad day. I took my sweet Molly dog to the vet for the very last time. I knew this day was coming for a while now. But, that knowledge did not make today any easier. It was good that I had time to think about it, how to do things (whether I would be in the room with her or not to see her go, would she be cremated – these are all decisions you are asked to make when you euthanize your pet). Mostly, I am grateful that I had this past weekend to say goodbye to her.

Sweet Molly

I had Molly for 15 years, rescued her from animal control when she was about two years old. She had only a few hours to live then. I took her home and never looked back. She was an amazing dog. I know people say that about their dogs, but, my Molly truly was an amazing dog. Everyone loved her.

Years ago I broke my ankle (running, in of all things, the Race for the Cure – by the way, am I supposed to use a trademark when I write that? I hate what SGK has become. I digress). When I ended up laid up from the broken ankle, Molly would not leave my side. She was always at my feet.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Molly had already been a senior dog for some time. She never left my side. She was such a sweet  and loving dog. Back then I really wondered if I would be around long enough to care for Molly, to see her through. I am glad I was able to be here for her.

So many people helped care for Molly (my friend’s kids came to my house daily to walk Molly when I was too sick to do it myself and my parents took Molly in when I was unable to take care of her myself). She was loved by many and brought joy to many. My family will miss her. I miss her so much.

Here are a few more pictures of Molly:

Molly really was a super dog

A Pink Haiku . . .

17 Jun

Fifty-nine dollars for a dollar, fifty-one? Do you really think we are that dumb?

Gayle Sulik, author of “Pink Ribbon Blues” has started a poetry jam. She is hosting a poetry contest on her blog. I for one am going to participate. And, since I am feeling particularly snarky today, here are my first two poems. I can only enter one submission, so I am going to come up with a few more and then maybe y’all can help me select the one I should submit.

Oh and just so you have the proper context, in case you haven’t already heard about Komen’s latest pink merchandising – their “Promise Me” perfume – you can read more about it here: Uneasy Pink and here:  Chemobabe and here: “The Scent of Exploitation”:

A Snarky Limerick

There once was a disease that killed many
But, then big pink cured it with money
Oh, wait that’s not true,
It still kills me and you
Does big pink think me a big dummy?

Haiku Ode to Komen’s New Perfume
Pink, pink everywhere
Stink of pink now in the air
Pinkified to death

When does it ever stop?

15 Jun

Another blogger is facing metastatic breast cancer: Ann is the author of “But Doctor, I Hate Pink“. She provides a very witty, articulate and personal perspective on breast cancer.

She was diagnosed in August of 2009, stage II, like me, HER2+ like me, very similar diagnosis. I am so sad for her and so angry. It is the kind of thing that sends you into a tail spin. Please pray for Ann. This is so unfair and so very, very sad. I don’t even know what to say. I am so sad.

Back to blogging . . .

15 Jun

One year ago after a trip to the ER. I had to believe then that better days were ahead. I am so glad it came true.

I have taken an unintended break from blogging. It started with simply being overwhelmed with health issues (the work up over scans and results – all of which, I am very grateful to say, came back good). Also, the passing of Sara, The Carcinista, has made it difficult for me to write here. There is a lot going on in the cancer blogosphere right now – I personally think it may have started, or perhaps gained some momentum, from the recent losses. And, sadly, the losses keep coming: Laura Ziskin

It is hard on many levels. I want to know about it, I want to be involved and at the same time I want to put my head in the sand and pretend that it isn’t happening, that it can’t happen to me, that it can’t happen to my friends. It has been a time of some turmoil, soul searching and decision making. I am worn out, happy, tired, grateful, angry, sad, grieving, recovering, improving and getting more and more of my life back. It is a mixed bag. But, on the whole, it is a good one.

I have also just been too tired to write. I moved to a new place recently. The move was pretty consuming. But, it turned out to be very good physical therapy. I had to pack – which was really difficult for me to do. It was extremely frustrating to try to pack up everything and be in so much pain. It was a really slow process. But, as I said, it was excellent physical therapy. My arms are so much better now. At first, I would pack for part of a day and then the next day I would be so wiped out by it that I would be in bed. Then after a few weeks of that routine, I started to really improve.

It took me about 6 weeks to pack up and get moved . . . pretty slow, pretty frustrating. The old Lisa could have done it in a weekend, if she had to. But, that was before three surgeries, months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and a year of Herceptin infusions. I am slow, or at least slower. But, like I said the move really did me some good. And, the new place is great. I had help too, I didn’t do it all by myself. But, I was determined to do as much as I could. I am so glad for the experience. I don’t think that I would be nearly as far along physically if it were not for packing up boxes and lifting boxes. So now that I am getting settled into my new place, I hope to get back to writing here.

I feel like I have four or five blog posts I want to write all at once. Maybe it is simply because I have not written in a while. For tonight, I am going to have to settle for this one blog post – my mini update: Lisa received good scan results, Lisa moved, Lisa is getting back to more and more of her pre-cancer life. The latter brings me to one of the topics that I want to write about: “My Other Life”.

Recently, it was suggested by a fellow blogger out in the cancer blogosphere ( that it might be interesting to blog about our lives outside of cancer. I thought this was a great idea. I have yet to write my “My Other LIfe” post yet, however. But, I have given it some thought and hope to get to it within the next few days.

There are a few other topics that I am chomping at the bit to write about: Susan G. Komen (and the movement that is currently gaining momentum to hold Komen accountable for their “race for the cure”, where the money they raise really goes, etc.), breast cancer prevention (there is so much coming out about diet to prevent breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence) and mammograms (I recently saw my primary care physician and he told me that he has patients who he can not convince to get mammograms. Good grief)!  I hope to make some headway in the next week or so.

Oh, how could I forget?!! I recently was able to lie on my stomach – pretty comfortably – for the first time in almost two years. It is a glorious feeling.

Hooray! 🙂

Love and peace,