Meditation

Please allow me to share a current meditation with you.

In quiet moments, I sit relaxed listening to the fireplace: the sizzle of the wood and the clicking of the cast iron as it expands with the rising temperature, the energy coaxing a well timed 1:4 beat in the background for my chant. Sometimes I may whisper the words to myself and other times spoken only to myself in my mind.

Sometimes I’m still or others I rock or sway gently side to side or front to back. All the while it’s important to push my thoughts out from my mind – I use an imaginary hand to shoo them away like flies on a picnic blanket. No violence, just a helpful movement of the pests so concentration on the words of the meditation can rise like the sun enlightening my mind…

All things in time, all for the reasons on which my life tumbles and turns to the songs of the spheres. Remind me as I am a human being, the universe tells me when I need to know: all is well. All is well.

Ascites: I am a cancer blister

Ascites fluid

Four liters of ascites removed from my abdomen – ascites fluid builds up in my peritoneal cavity 2-4 times a year

Stanford Cancer Center

Setting up for the periocentesis: some local anesthetic, an incision in my lower right abdomen after the ultrasound.

Periocentesis

Getting the tube placed for maximum drainage it’s inserted in the safest place to avoid punctuation of my intestines.

Periocentesis

Getting the first draw for the lab, then gravity does the work into what looks like little beer kegs.

I first experienced ascites when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, de novo because of dense breasts.

It’s been:
3 years
7 months
22 days
5 hours
55 minutes
32 seconds
to be precise since first having 7.5 liters of ascites removed and the reason I showed up at the hospital about 15 pounds heavier than my usual weight, barely able to breathe, unable to hold down any food and scared as hell.

Prior to that first visit I’d been delivered to the hospital once, when I was born. Quite a different story 49 years later. Since the first periocentesis to remove the cancerous fluid, I’ve blown up like an oompah loompah seven additional times, including this last time illustrated by my clandestine photography here.

This is what metastatic breast cancer looks like. Not on the days when I am trying to make everyone believe I’m okay. It’s not that I mind looking like I don’t have cancer for the most part. But I don’t put my makeup on every day to prove a thing to anyone but myself. I push too hard most days. Never will I learn to take it easy.

Sleep is for the dead. It’s 5 am. I’m still awake.

NEADed and Blessed

I am NEAD.
Yesterday after visiting with my oncologist at Stanford in San Jose and a week of repressed scanziety – I had a PET CT Scan last Wednesday and let’s just say my perky miss Cancer self was a little crabbed than usual. Dr. B entered the new room in the new facility where I receive the bulk of my oncology services, palliative care, infusions, and psychosocial assistance. He and my other physician enter through sliding doors behind the patient visitor rooms from a bustling scene of nurses, nurse practitioners, technicians, and I imagine a scene from the 1984 movie, Brazil by Terry Gilliam, of which film writer and critic Pauline Kael wrote:

It’s like…a nightmare comedy in which the comedy is just an aspect of the nightmarishness.

An apropos description of waiting to see the progress of stage four cancer, I might add. This time, though, good news. Nothing new, nothing grew and no evidence of active disease, or NEAD. I haven’t heard those words with respect to myself in the three years since my diagnosis. Others have reported NEAD to me on their progress. I put on my happy supportive persona that I drop like an unwanted boxed pre printed drug store Halloween costume, the kind my mother would buy for me when I was seven or eight years old. The kind that left me in tears desperately wanting to make my own instead.

Admittedly jealousy and self pity aren’t unusual emotions to go away from those communications with, at least for me. And I feel selfish for those emotionally shallow responses, which I keep private and away from judgement. If the best we #lifers can get is NED, no evidence of disease, I’m just one letter away at least for today. I am blessed to have access to world class care and the love of professionals, my few friends and the small yet effective support structure I’ve built around me as I might a scaffolding around my fickle health that shifts back and forth between hating my body and giving up to short reprieves to allow me a chance to feel free of the shackles of disease for just a while.

I am certainly blessed.

An Apache Blessing
May the sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.

Liesl a sister writer and reader of this blog, shared these inspirationally soothing words and hoped they would help me and others navigating cancer. In this world it’s important to remember some of the dearest gifts bear no financial cost; the dollar value does not equate to the intrinsic value. Regardless of the devastating financial costs of cancer, equally as high are the devastatingly effective cost of truly feeling alive. Words of inspiration alleviate some painfully high costs, such as disappearing friendships or my ability to travel outside of the country on a whim. Although now these seem so massively cheap and unimportant.

Thank you Liesl for sharing this blessing, although you did not ask for any credit for doing so. I still want to thank you for reminding me of why I keep writing: relatable experiences lift the eyes of others facing or looking back on major shifts to our lives, not only Cancer.