New Year, New Me!?

Wow! It has been a while. I have been busy with so much. So much. New doctors, new career goals, new energy, new meds, new strength and direction! It has taken a remarkable amount of time( I really had no clue) to feel better, really feel better! I am still dealing with my cancer but I am feeling better all the time. I was in remission for a little while. And wouldn’t you know it, when I really started to feel good my tumor markers started to go up. I don’t know if tumor markers are all they are cracked up to be but the doctors monitored them closely. I am grateful for all that. I found a new facility that offers a more wholistic approach and the doctors there are wonderful. But the best thing is… I only have to go once a month! You wouldn’t believe what a difference that has made for me. I drive 6 hours, all my tests and treatments are done in one place so after a day or two there I drive back home and basically don’t think about cancer, or disease, or doctors, or tests, for another month! It is very liberating! I get to be a normal person for a little while! While I am there I see a nutritionist, a naturopath, a mind body counselor, a chiropractor, as well as my oncologist and, the best part is,  they all work together! And on my behalf! I feel confident in the things they are doing for me so that frees me up to think about other things, most importantly, my life!

That’s me in the black!

I am living my life and following my passions. I was hired to cook and be a chef liaison for four days at New Years, working for a celebrity and all that that entails. I was able to push my fatigue aside and get it done and I had a great time! Thats not to say I wasn’t tired and sore for a few days following. But I was still happy to be able to do it at all! I am learning to trust my body again, its not quiet what it used to be, but its getting there!

I have started my riding school back up and I am teaching children how to ride and take care of horses. I have two new ponies in the barn, thanks to some wonderful friends. The barn work keeps me pretty busy but I love it. I have started riding my mountain bike again, not very far, but still! I am starting to feel like me again! Doing all these things gives me purpose and my confidence is coming back. I may have cancer, but I am not cancer!

Star Seed Salad

I Am a Dreamer

Autumn, this has always been my favorite time of year. I absolutely love it! Last year I kinda missed it, so I am enjoying it even more this year. It is still unreasonably hot and humid here. The horses are already getting their winter coats. The grass is growing much slower, everything seems to be slowing down and getting ready for winter. This time of year there is so much to do, harvest festivals, haunted houses, Oktoberfest, art shows, pumpkin carving foods and drinks! But it is also a time to slow down a little, and get cozy. I hope I can pull out a few sweaters and a warm fuzzy blanket or two this year. I don’t care for super cold but I love a little chill in the air. A lovely cool evening listening to the owls and watching the bats fly overhead. A crisp morning of hiking, drinking hot chocolate and not sweating. Sitting around a fire and telling scary stories! It is all just so enchanting to me, ahh!

Now on to real business! As a reader of my blog you know I had some really bad health issues last year. Actually November is the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. It is something I would love to forget! But I’m not sure that is possible, I have daily reminders (aches and pains) and lots and lots of bills! My health insurance alone costs me a small fortune. This is not good because I am not working right now, yikes! I want to work but some days it is all I can do to take care of all the farm chores. I still don’t have all my strength and stamina back. I have neuropathy in my thigh which prevents me from standing for any length of time, very annoying! I am going to physical therapy 3 times a week. So…I’m trying to figure out what to do. I want to do something meaningful and fulfilling. I want to be creative. I have lots of skills to use and I want to share with other people. You know, be useful in some way!  They say, “Do what you love and the rest will follow.” I have been struggling with this.

Then one day it hit me!!! Something I have always dreamed about was owning a bed and breakfast. I love to cook and bake, I love entertaining, I love sharing my talents with others. But I live in a small house and there was no way for me to do that. There’s hardly enough room for us, let alone any guests, we would be tripping over each other at every turn! I had this idea about ten years ago, it has evolved, but what I want to do is offer camping at my farm! I am so excited! It is going to be great! And I want to invite you to be involved. Details to follow!

What A Year

This has certainly been an interesting year. Some of it is still a blur. I have definitely had some interesting, although not always wanted, adventures. It was right around this time last year that my health was really declining at an alarming rate. I am VERY grateful to still be alive. Every morning I wake up and take a deep breath and offer thanks that I am still here, breathing. Every day is truly a gift! Not that I want to sound morbid or whiney but when you have a scare, like stage 4 breast cancer, it really drives home the fact that you really don’t know how much longer you will be around, not that any of us do. I don’t plan on going anywhere very soon but, I am going to live whatever life I have left!

I am trying to really notice and appreciate everything I have, friends, love, laughter. Lots of things have changed. Things that used to seem so important to me are not quite as meaningful as they once were. I had given most of my life to horses, something that I will never regret, I lived and breathed horses as far back as I can remember, but right now they are just my companions. No more rigorous training and wishful ambitions of fame and fortune. I have spent decades in the saddle and I cherish every moment. The sounds and smells at the barn are intoxicating and fill me with joy. Horses softly nickering or munching on hay. The sound of hoofbeats and snorting. The sweet smell of fresh feed, new shavings, and leather. The barn has always been a place where I find solace, my happy place. Riding, training, the discipline and physical labor involved in horsemanship is a form of meditation. I have spent many years in my boots and breeches. It is something I will never leave but it is different now.

Art. I am an artist. Everything I do is with an artists touch. I can’t help it, it is who I am. I have struggled for many years trying to make a living as an artist. It is not for the faint of heart! I love creating art, however I do not enjoy trying to market and sell my art. I have been wildly successful at times and I have failed miserably at other times. There is never any steadiness to it. You often end up feeling like a ship tossed about on the sea! “Oh we absolutely love your art, but no we don’t want to actually pay you for it!” UGH! Or “We would love to have you pay us to hang it in our shop.” REALLY? Part of creating art is wanting to share it with others, but at what cost? It is not fulfilling to me to create art and store it in my closet. I enjoy the creative process but I would still like to share it with others and have people care or appreciate what I do enough that I could make a living doing it, but alas this alludes me! Art is sometimes like speaking without words. It can also be like working without pay.

So, after a year of pain and struggling with my health I have no desire, at this time, to continue to struggle with these things, or much else for that matter. I just want to enjoy them. However the bills keep coming and I am not making any money right now. So, whats a girl to do?

Just a little update

Yesterday I had to go to get my blood work done and have my port flushed. It is always a yucky reminder of my illness, this cancer thing hanging over my head, ugh! I really try to focus on the positive and how lucky I am. My blood work looked great! Gets better every time I have it checked. But every month there is a little apprehension leading up to my appointment. I am feeling better but, I hope everything is ok, I hope the tumor markers are staying low, etc. I think this will all get easier as time goes by. Everything was good yesterday!

I am feeling stronger all the time, mentally as well as physically. Sometimes I am amazed at how far I have come and other times I am disappointed that I am not 100% yet. I know these things take time. Cancer is rough. Chemotherapy is tough. It is all very hard on your body. I am having trouble with entire body aches and pains in my muscles and bones. And the hot flashes and night sweats SUCK, especially in this heat of Florida that I live in. These are side effects from the medication I have to take. I could go on and on about how all this sucks. I could sit back and whine and complain all the time. I could accept this as my new normal. I could get on disability. NOPE!!! Not me! I will never give in. I think you create your own reality and I am not going down without a fight!

Somedays its hard to get out of bed, but I find that I get better with movement. As always I am taking it upon myself to make the best of my situation. So I am trying to exercise every day. I am back to my mile long walks with the dogs, yay! And on days I don’t get to do that, I am practicing Tai Chi. I can go a little further all the time! Soon I think I will be adding some weight lifting back in to regain some muscle that I have lost. And I am hoping that by the fall, when it cools down a little outside,  to get back in the saddle again. So I know I am getting better. I am trying to support my body in any way that I can to help with my healing process. First and foremost I try to have a good positive attitude. Somedays this is easier said than done! Second I try to eat healthy nutritious food. Don’t get me wrong I indulge sometimes, thats just part of enjoying life, which is very important! I do take supplements.  A good whole food multivitamin, just because. Iron to help support my blood, I still can’t believe how anemic I was. Vitamin K

to help support calcium absorption. Calcium to counteract the Xgeeva injections. Vitamin E to help with this painful burning neuropathy in my thigh. I am also taking Turkey Tail mushroom, there are lots of studies being done on this right now for fighting cancer. And I just found out about Lions Mane mushroom for nerve pain, I just ordered some! I will let you know how it works out.

Here’s to a healing journey! Listen to your body, support it and help it heal!

Underground to Outerspace

This morning I wake up pretty sore and achey but after yesterdays adventures I am feeling confident. Yesterday was quiet a challenge! Today we are headed for more. Our first stop is the Camuy Caves. A huge limestone cave system carved out by the Rio Camuy, the worlds third largest subterranean river. As we head through the park gates a few people give us some flyers for a couple of nearby restaurants, interesting but effective marketing! Since I’m sure we will be hungry when we are finished exploring these caves.

Thankfully, a tram takes us down to the opening of the cave. It’s huge! Again we are walking on a very slippery damp cement path. There are some rails which you really don’t want to touch because they have guano (bat poo) on them. Just as our guide says, “Be very careful, the path can be slippery.” Jerry goes down, oh no! He was my support, the person I grab onto if I feel unsteady! Apparently the sneakers he wore do not like the cave floor at all, he is slipping and sliding everywhere! My boots seem to be ok. When it gets steep I grab Scott for a little support. We navigate pretty well. Although Jerry is slipping, he doesn’t go down again. The caves are beautiful. Large stalactites (hang down from the ceiling) and stalagmites (grow up from the floor) they are everywhere. There is a gigantic stalagmite 17 feet tall and 27 feet in diameter. Strange shapes and shadows are around every corner, an indian, a witch. Looking ahead out of one of the cave openings I see what looks like gold shimmering or maybe fireflies floating to the ground. It is beautiful, mesmerizing. Our guide says it is leaves falling from the top of a sinkhole and the sunlight is catching them just right. It is amazing. I wonder what life for the Taino Indians, the first Puerto Rican inhabitants, must have been like? We see bats, there are thirteen species of bats in this cave. They are much larger than our Florida bats, about a 12″ wingspan. They are sleeping now. I can’t imagine what this place looks like when they are all flying out for the evening!

We finish our tour and I am feeling strong. I had no problems with the slippery, treacherous walk. As I anticipated, we are hungry. I grab the restaurant flyers and we start driving. We pass on the first one and pull into the next, El Taino Restaurante. A handsome white haired gentleman greets us at the door. “Hello, welcome!” he warmly shakes our hands. He introduces himself as Juan B. Santiago. He shows us his biceps and we realize he is in very good shape for a 77 year old man. He tells us he goes to the gym everyday and he only eats when he is hungry. He reminds me of Jack La Lane. He owns the restaurant, his family works there. He is quiet a character, he seats us and sits down with us. He tells us all about his life and shows us pictures of him at all different ages, that are hung around the restaurant. We order our food. I have a seafood salad with fried plantains, Jerry had a crusted grouper, and Scott had a shrimp stew or something. It was all delicious but the entertainment was better! Mr. Santiago was a pleasure. He sang us old american classics from the 1950’s. He was very well spoken and said he loved words. We enjoyed talking with him very much. As we were about to leave he gave us a warm embrace and a lovely napkin holder portraying a scene from Old Puerto Rico. It was pouring down rain outside, he grabbed an umbrella and walked Scott to the car so he could drive around and pick Jerry and I up from the door. What a lovely gentleman! To be continued…

Just Wandering

Today Scott and I are on our own, Jerry has to work. We have no car so we wander around checking things out withinin walking distance. We are looking for a nearby beach. We find a beautiful little marina, we find a little park. Remember I still have a lot of weakness in my legs so we can’t walk too far. The sky is looking ominous. We better head back, never find the beach.

We head back to the Metro and play some penny slots at the casino. I was playing with a $10 voucher the hotel gave me. At one point I was up $16! Then I quickly lost it all. I don’t think I’m cut out for gambling! It’s lunch time now so we head back to the Metro. We found our friend Linda there. She talks us into trying the croquetas, delicious little ham filled pastries(not really a pastry) more of a doughy fried treat. I have mofongo de pollo with mushroom sauce, it is like mashed plantains and cassava stuffed with chicken, very good indeed. Scott had the can can pork, this is a huge pork chop, the fat is left on and cooked to a crispy deliciousness! This food is very good but I am surprised that with all the abundant vegetation here, the cuisine is not bursting full of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. Linda orders spaghetti, what!? Why would you order spaghetti in Puerto Rico? Interestingly enough Linda travels quite a bit and explains how she likes to order spaghetti in different places because you can get it just about anywhere and it always has a local twist and flavor to it. Turns out she was right, her spaghetti came with a light brown sauce and it had potatoes in it. More like a stew on pasta than the traditional Spaghetti and meatballs I grew up with. In the future I might have to try this. As for now I enjoy finding Puerto Rican foods that I am unfamiliar with.

We are still pretty tired so we spend the rest of the day hanging out by the pool, swimming and relaxing. The next few days are jam packed with adventure. So we better rest up!

Make It Good

What a difference a day makes. So funny how good news can cheer you up. There is waaay too much gripeing, complaining and negativity out there. We do it to ourselves. We are force fed it by the media. Our closest friends and relatives can push it on us. We must not give in! Our time on this earth is limited and precious and we need to start living and loving more. Sure bad stuff happens and we will certainly have bad days but it just seems that negativity and drama are so rampant in our society right now. I have decided to avoid the news for awhile. I want to focus on me and what makes me happy. That may sound selfish but I am not buying into all of this craziness. I have enough trouble just taking care of me right now!

It has taken a while, much longer than I thought, to get back to feeling like myself again. I have started painting again and walking more. I just ordered some Tai Chi DVD’s and I am trying to eat clean. I am going to start taking a supplement called Turkey Tail Mushrooms, it is supposed to help boost your immunity. A very trusted and knowledgable friend told me about this. I did some research and my doctor said it was okay, so I ordered some last night. I like taking care of myself, it is something I have always tried to do. Until this cancer thing tried to take me down, which makes you feel helpless and out of control. I am taking my control back! It is empowering to feel like you are helping, supporting your body to heal itself. It is amazing the abuse our bodies can take and if only given a chance they work so hard to repair the damage. I had a wonderful visit with my doctor yesterday. My PET Scan results were great! REMISSION! I do feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I was a little anxious leading up to the test results, everything seemed to be hurting a little more and I felt a bit more tired. I think it is a mental thing, you start worrying and your mind takes over and fills in the blanks!

My doctors visit yesterday proved what I really already knew, I am so much better. My tumor markers have gone from 145 at the beginning of my treatment to 30, which my doctor says is normal. My blood work looks great and I am getting stronger. I could focus on the negative. I am still not allowed to ride, bummer! I am getting Xgeeva shots because my bones are still fragile. I will never be considered cancer free. I still have lots of aches and pains. I have this annoying neuropathy in my thighs. Night sweats and hot flashes. But I don’t want to live like that! So I will put my attention into what is good and makes me happy. I am still here. I have so much more living to do. I am thankful everyday. I have an awesome husband and great friends. I have a wonderful place to live with amazing animals. I feel so lucky, life is what you make of it…make it good!

You Are Here

You are here. Here I am. Some days I am still puzzled, how did I get here? Where am I headed? How did this happen? Still learning to take things day by day. I know, I know you’re thinking, just get over it and move on already! Believe me I am trying! I always seem to get ahead of myself. So I make all these plans and appointments and then I wonder why? What were you thinking? Oh thats right, you think you can do everything. Think again! Ha! I have been crazy busy the last few weeks. Just this week alone I drove to Georgia to pick up my new pup, which is upending the whole routine around here! I did the Mothers day things for friends and family, took the puppy to the vets, my own doctors appointment for blood work and XGeeva shot, had my cello lesson, took my big dog to the vets for some minor surgery, and had a root canal! I honestly hope the root canal was the last horrible thing that I have to put my body and mind through for awhile. Enough is enough! It actually wasn’t that bad and I am happy to get it over with. This tooth has been bothering me for awhile. When I was getting my chemo treatments and my platelets were so low my oncologist said a dentist wouldn’t touch me. So I guess, in some weird way, I am happy to be able to get it taken care of. In fact this little old tooth could have been making me feel not so super good.

Some days I just feel overwhelmed and worn out. But when I think back to what I have been through I am so excited at all I am able to do now. So I just have to slow down a little and let my body catch up to my mind. I know I am not as physically fit as I once was. It is coming back slowly but I find if I push myself too much I am not a happy camper! I was thinking about a personal trainer to whip my butt into shape? Hmm, no way! I’m not ready yet. Right now this new puppy is wearing my a** out! So I will just have to take it slow. Slower than I want? Yes. But as long as I’m moving forward I can’t complain. So I guess I will just have to make the best of my situation. You know, bloom where you’re planted! Maybe I will write more.

 

Balance

I wonder why balance is so hard to find? I am guessing its because just when you think you’ve found your balance and everything is moving along just swell, life comes along and decides to change everything up.  I am beginning to think life has a strange/dark sense of humor! I feel like we are jugglers just trying to keep everything going and life strolls in and gives you a good push, BOOM, you fall on your ass again! All you can do is pick up the pieces and try again. Sometimes we just start over where we left off and other times we start anew, a fresh start, a new beginning. I hope I can move forward with a new awareness.

Now that I am feeling a bit better I have soo many things I want to do! Can’t quiet get the hang of not over doing it. Feel like I am a caged animal and someone forgot to shut the gate! This week I have been cleaning and organizing closets and cabinets. I know, your thinking, ” Doesn’t she have something better to do? Of course! But I think this is kind of a spiritual thing, clearing the clutter, so I can move forward. And believe it or not I am actually enjoying it. I am finding things I no longer need or want and I am finding things I love and had forgotten.

When you have been laid up for awhile, everything seems wonderful. Just walking to the barn in the morning to feed the horses is a pleasure, I love to hear the contented sounds of them munching on their hay. The smell of just cut grass. Listening to the birds, watching the dogs rolling in the field. Eating raspberries right off the bush. Shopping for and preparing a wonderful meal, enjoying the people I am around. These things are seemingly insignificant little things, some people may even think bothersome chores, until there is a period of time that you can’t do them, and you realize how precious they are. So right now I am doing some spring cleaning and organizing. Trying to stay mindful, taking the time to enjoy what I am doing. Yes, some days I over do it and end up back on the couch but I think that is happening less and less! I can’t wait to get back to painting and creating, I have some really cool projects coming up. I am also gearing up for some more work/travel, next month we may be spending some time in Puerto Rico. I am looking forward to living my life to the fullest and enjoying every moment. Just trying to remember to not rush through life, to slow down and enjoy the journey. And maybe, just maybe, give Life a little chuckle now and then.

It’s Here!

IMG_1981The Amalie package arrived! I am so excited! I will start applying it tonight. Don’t be scared, creepy eye picture, but as I told you I will keep a picture journal of how it’s working. Almost no eyebrows or eyelashes, day one. I can’t believe how quickly it came. The mail these days is amazing. I actually love getting things in the mail. The anticipation of waiting for a package feels like Christmas did when I was a kid. I never pay for faster shipping and it almost always arrives sooner than I expect. Its almost fun guessing how long a parcel is going to take to arrive. I certainly was not expecting my Amalie package to arrive so quickly, this company is amazing!

As much as I did not sign up for this whole cancer thing, I am impressed by the kindness I am finding in people. From the thoughtful gestures of strangers to the friend I have in India that texted me through some of the scariest times in the beginning of my illness with his wise and witty humor, maybe I just needed a good ol jostling! Friends that have come back into my life that I had lost touch with to the new friends I am meeting. Offers of generosity and kindness. Getting cards of encouragement and little tokens and prayers. You don’t know how much this helped and encouraged me, thank you all. People that are genuinely interested in how I am doing, WOW I am touched.

Kindness really does matter. When you are kind and thoughtful to someone it makes them feel good and they want to be kind and helpful to someone else. I think it brings out the best in people, also it feels good to do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. I believe we need more of this in the world today, seems people can be so quick to jump on the negativity train. Don’t do it! I don’t think being kind is being wimpy or a pushover in fact I think that being kind and thoughtful in the face of fear and adversity is very powerful. Those little acts of kindness do make a difference.