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 🙂

10 Responses to “My Other Life . . .”

  1. Editor June 29, 2011 at 1:01 AM #

    I so enjoyed reading this post and thank you for taking part in this exercise which I set my readers of sharing a little bit of how they are so much more than their cancer. I think the picture of you at the Orange County Fair is definitely..the best “in-treatment” picture I have ever seen!! Yours in health and wellness, Marie, Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  2. cancerfree2b June 29, 2011 at 6:10 AM #

    Dear Marie,

    Thank you so much for your comment. It is funny, I really never liked that Orange County Fair photo. Not because I was bald (I hated wearing a wig, did it for teaching my classes, but, otherwise, never wore it). But, I think I didn’t like that photo because I know from my expression that I was concerned about passing out that day 🙂 It was very hot that day. We were under a cover and a friend had positioned a pretty heavy duty fan on me during our performance (which, by the way, turned into a bit of a Marilyn Monroeish situation – sans the sexy Marilyn part – oops). I also had not contemplated that there would be local newspapers present . . . oops.

    When that photo was taken, I had not yet revealed my cancer diagnosis in my professional, teaching life. I had performed a few gigs without hair, but, this was the first time that it could have gotten out on a larger scale and I was a bit upset about what the implications would be for me professionally. Chemobabe has recently posed the question about a cancer stigma. Until seeing this picture again, I had forgotten that I did feel a stigma . . . in certain settings at least . . . because of how my having an illness might affect my opportunities. I did lose some opportunities (something I might write about at some point).

    I like the photo now simply because it makes me feel strong. It reminds me that I am most definitely more than the cancer, that it does not have to define me. It reminds me of how hard I fought to not simply lay in bed every day (not that I didn’t have those days, but, you know what I mean . . . I am sure that you do).

    Thank you or the assignment! 🙂 I really enjoy your blog, have for some time now. I so appreciate your comment, thank you.

    Yours in health and wellness too!


  3. Philippa (Feisty Blue Gecko) June 29, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

    I really enjoyed reading about your other life, and particularly identify with the difficulty you had in knowing how to approach Marie’s task! I too struggled with it. We have a lot in common – the travelling, music, fresh food, music…. not forgetting music!

    Phiippa 🙂 x

    • cancerfree2b June 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM #

      Dear Philippa,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It was a hard task, but, I am so glad that Marie assigned it as it has been a great experience to read about everyone. Yes, we do have a few things in common, that is nice 🙂 It is great that we are all sharing about our lives . . . beyond breast cancer.

      I really enjoy following your blog, you have a very interesting life I think 🙂

      Musically yours,


  4. nancyspoint June 30, 2011 at 6:07 AM #

    I enjoyed reading about your other life. Like you said, we do share some interests don’t we?

    I totally agree with you about the cancer hijacking thing. That’s exactly what cancer does, it hijacks your life. And the new normal concept really bugs me too.

    Your voice is incredible. I loved hearing you sing ‘Danny Boy’ although I certainly understand why it’s no longer a favorite of your mom’s. I have always thought that song to be so hauntingly beautiful.

    I’m happy you are living by the ocean and enjoying that. I am a bit envious!

    Thanks for writing and sharing. You get an A+ on the assignment from me!!

    • cancerfree2b June 30, 2011 at 10:34 AM #

      Dear Nancy,

      Thank you so much for your kind words . . . and an A+ . . . thank you!

      Yes we definitely share some common interests. It is so much fun to learn more about you and all the other amazing women whose blogs I have been reading.

      As for the beach place, you should come visit some time . . . seriously. I have an extra room downstairs with a private entrance, small bath and shower and a little mini kitchenette of sorts. I haven’t quite set it up yet but, am working on getting it into shape to double as a guest room and office . . . free wireless! You could blog to your heart’s content and visit the beach 🙂

      After reading about the beach time that Chemobabe and her family had, I have been thinking about donating my place for a week to the organization that puts that on. I will look into it. I am not sure if they do it out here on the West Coast or not. Plus, I am not ready to move out for a week yet. But, maybe in a few months when I am feeling better. It is funny, well, okay, not really that funny, but . . . I woke up this am in a lot of pain again. Bummer. I have so enjoyed the past 6 weeks or so that have been relatively pain free. Aaargh. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better start to the day. Not that I am giving up on today yet 🙂

      Thank you again for your feedback. I always appreciate it. And I always enjoy reading your blog!

      All the best,


  5. Stacey June 30, 2011 at 11:30 AM #

    Lisa, amazing. Thanks for the photo, the songs… This really is an awesome assignment. There’s so much more to all of us than stupid cancer, but that’s how we’re connected. I’m thankful to have met so many interesting, intelligent women through this. That’s the irony, I guess.

    I’m fascinated by diet these days, also. It does seem like the only thing we can control. Maybe you can post some of your recipes sometime. I’m always looking for nutritious ones. I’m not very good at coming up with my own. I tend to make the same things over and over.

    Thanks, Lisa!

    • cancerfree2b July 8, 2011 at 2:55 PM #

      Dear Stacey,

      Thank you for your comment. I will definitely post some recipes. I do the same thing though – I find things I like and keep making those same things over and over again. I am grateful for seasonal foods that show up and force me to at least change out some ingredients. I will definitely post some recipes!

      It is the positive side of this cancer garbage – meeting wonderful, intelligent women.

      I just heard from a fellow cancer patient who was going through chemo when I was. She was diagnosed with Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer and not given a lot of hope. But, I am so happy to learn that she is stable right now and doing pretty well.

      Well, I will get on those recipes! Thank you for your kind words!

      All the best in health,


  6. AnnaCCChronicles June 30, 2011 at 1:25 PM #

    Loved the peek into your “other life”. I think you and the Accidental Amazon should team up with your musical talents. Thanks for sharing!

    • cancerfree2b July 8, 2011 at 2:56 PM #

      Dear Anna,

      Thank you for your comment. Maybe I Accident Amazon and I will get together someday . . . or collaborate somehow online musically 🙂 That would be fun!

      All the best in health,

      P.S. I love your blog!

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