A Matter of Choice

A few weeks ago I received a notice for Jury Duty in the mail. For some reason jury duty strikes panic and fear into just about everyone. I saw the mailer and was thinking, “Oh no! I have so much to do! Now I have to stop what I’m doing and go to this?! How can I get out of it??? I mentioned it to a few people and everyone was like, “Oh that sucks! Sorry about your luck.” I’m pretty sure they were just thankful that it wasn’t them. So, my mind started racing, what to do?

I have been to jury duty before about six years ago, it wasn’t actually that bad. Believe it or not I kind of enjoyed it. It was very interesting to see how our justice system works. Luckily it was all done in one day, jury selection, trial, deliberation, and results. Would I get that lucky again? As I settled into the thought of having to go again, I realized it is more about attitude. Jury Duty is usually not fun or very exciting but it is our civil duty, and it is not that awful! I just decided to be positive and go with an opened and curious mind, just a change of pace from my every day routine. A small inconvenience for this wonderful country that we live in.

I must say I am a little apprehensive because of my health issues. Not that they are bad… but if I get sequestered for days, yikes! So I get some paper work together about my health and head off to the court house early Monday morning. As I am driving there I am kind of feeling good, something new and different to learn about. It was easy getting in, no lines or waiting. Walked right in and sat down. A nice little lady came in and talked with us about what to expect, luckily there where only two short trials scheduled for today. This nice little lady also said that if there is any reason that we might have any problems about serving talk to the judge. So I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do? I felt kind of ashamed about trying to get out of my civic duty. And actually I didn’t really want to, but I was just worried about anything happening to make the trial last for days. So as the line of people trying to get out of duty got shorter I stood up and brought my paperwork confirming my stage 4 cancer and talked to the judge. I told her I wasn’t trying to get out of Jury Duty, I was just concerned about the length of the trial. She said I was excused (cancer card finally came in handy! Lol) but she assured me the two trials coming up today would be short and I could stay if I wanted.

So here I am…I could stay or I could go. What should I do? I already decided I would stay, but now I have been granted the ability to leave. There are so many other things I could be doing today. But I am already here. So far the process has been smooth and easy. Ok… I’ve decided… I think? I’m staying! Looking forward to whats ahead, I hope it’s interesting, I hope I get picked. About 15 minutes go by and the nice little lady comes back in. She says, ” Don’t you just love it when things come together?” Then she told us we were all dismissed! Crazy how some things work out. So I served my duty and got home to enjoy the day by 10 am. So it certainly wasn’t that bad at all, crazy!

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?

Irma, you b*#ch!

Well we made it. All our hard work paid off. We were pretty prepared. Scott and I worked for days getting everything put away or tied down, we got groceries and feed. We were as prepared as we could be. Jerry actually made it home from Alabama Friday night. It was unnerving and kinda scary. Our power went off at around 10:30pm. The hurricane came through at around 2 am. All you could do was listen and wait, and wait, and wait! It seems like the wind and rain went on forever! I was afraid to think about what I might wake up to, who could sleep? Maybe I should say, I wondered what I would see when daylight broke? Fortunately, although our property was a mess with limbs and branches everywhere, we had no major damage. It looked bad but all the animals were ok not even a scratch!

The first day seemed like a fog, shell shocked, wandering around on no sleep and so many frazzled nerves. But we are here and we are ok. Start up the generators, one for water and one for the house. Ah, the lovely sound and smell of generators first thing in the morning! Next to check our road. We live on a dirt road a little off the beaten path. We had big old oaks go down on the road. We had to cut our way out. So sad, we love our trees. But all the neighbors checked in and everyone seemed ok. We are a hardened group of tough guys back here in the woods! Get out the chainsaws and the tractors and maybe a beer!

As you could probably tell, I have a love/hate relationship with the generators. They make life livable in Florida with no power. We ran the fridge, the tv, and a small window unit ac off of one. And twice a day we would crank up the other one for water, drinking, flushing, and showers. But…THEY ARE SO LOUD!!! My head was pounding from the low pressure and the noise and even though the ac is running, its hard to sleep with the constant racket. Not to mention, they stink! And I can’t start them, so if it happens to run out of fuel, you have the momentary relief of silence, but then 10 minutes later the heat starts creeping back in! Now normally I can deal with some heat. I have lived in Florida for a long time. But now I have to take medication which makes it almost impossible to deal with the heat!

So… this will be alright. Kinda like camping. Camping is fun! Well maybe not in 100 degree weather, but I can deal. Jerry has to go back to Alabama and Scott has to go to work. I am here alone. So I set out with the best intentions. The dogs seem to think it is great fun with so much new stuff to explore! I am trying to clean up after the storm, put things back and trying to feel as normal as possible. I have to take frequent breaks but I am staying in good spirits. Lots of people have it a lot worse, I am still grateful. Trying to find fuel to keep my life line(generator)going is tough. There is none to be found and if you do find some, the lines are horrendous! We have plenty of food, no emergencies, just taking my time, slow and steady. Five days without power, my patience is running thin.

As I am puttering around the yard trying to put my life back together. The dogs, who apparently think hurricane clean up is fun, come barreling into me from behind and knock me down! I didn’t even see it coming! So here I am…sitting in the yard, dogs licking my face, wondering if I broke my leg? Wondering how I am going to get back to the house? I just lost it! I started crying, I was hysterical! No one could even hear me scream over the damn generator! I let out a weeks worth, or maybe more, of frustration, tension, and fear! Then I realized I had not broken my ankle, just a sprain. I got myself up, brushed myself off, hobbled back to the house, found an ice pack and laid on my bed in the noisy ac. I’m just not sure how much more of this I can take. I am tired and hot, and now my ankle hurts! Power came back on! Life is good

 

Enough

Do we ever have enough? Enough information, enough money, enough stuff. It seems to me that we are ambushed with too much information, at least I know I am. Everybody has an opinion. On my journey towards healing I am overwhelmed with all the different and opposing information. I think I am ready to take on some challenges but its hard to know which way to go. So I guess I have to follow my intuition and do what feels right to me.

First of all I am a strong believer in good nutrition. It is the basis for all health. I am a cook. I eat whole, real, not processed food and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I buy organic and local whenever I can.  I try to not eat too much sugar, that is my weakness, some say sugar feeds cancer, my oncologist says no. I almost never eat fast food. I don’t drink sodas. I try to drink plenty of filtered water. I have done lots of research on nutrition. I have been on every diet under the sun. I was even a vegetarian for awhile. And until I got my cancer diagnosis I was healthy and fit despite being overweight. I easily did 10,000 steps a day and was always active. Low blood pressure and no signs of diabetes or anything like that. I have some friends that are very strict with their diets and they seem to be sickly. Their skin doesn’t look good and they seem frail. They are always having stomach and digestive issues. They just don’t seem happy.

One of my friends told me the other day they are not going to eat out anymore because it causes them too much digestive trouble. What a shame, you can make good choices at restaurants and it is part of going out and socializing, part of the human experience. If your body is kicking back clear broth maybe you need to do something different. I have another friend who was a little crazy about what she ate, all organic, glass bottled water, no meat, etc.etc. until I found her wolfing down a hamburger one day. And another that did the whole gluten free thing for a year. She described it as the worst year of her life. Too much stress! I think we have put so much stress and emotional guilt around eating that it is almost impossible to relax, eat,  and enjoy a good meal. I don’t think it’s worth it. The information changes all the time. I think we all start out with good intentions but I think you can take anything too far. Too much of a good thing. An example is some people that do animal rescue, a wonderful thing, until they get too many and become animal hoarders that can’t possibly take care of all they have taken on.

I am a foodie and food and eating and entertaining is such a huge part of our life. I want to enjoy my life. I want to experience delicious food. I want to embrace health. I just can’t imagine restricting myself to the point of misery. So I am going to eat real food, in small amounts and move around more. For now, that’s all I can do. It will have to be enough.

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!

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.

Worry

It is impossible not to worry when you have cancer. I don’t care what you say. Everyday you just have to hope and pray that it doesn’t come back or get worse. You worry about all the side effects of the treatments and if/when they are going to go away. I’m pretty sure there will never be a day that I won’t think about having cancer. It doesn’t help that when I look in the mirror I still look sick because my head still has fuzzy white chemo hair, my eyebrows are all but gone, and now I see that I have about two eyelashes left on my lower eyelids! I don’t think I am being vain, but I feel better, so I want to look better too!

I truly am feeling better but I worry, just a little, about every ache and pain that comes along. That is the problem when you can’t see whats going on inside you! No, I am not obsessed and it is not something that I think about constantly but, it is something that was not invited and has come to change my life, wether I want it to or not! I guess its up to me how I let it change me. I am not one to let it beat me down and make me pitiful and weak, yes I do have my moments!  I have always tried to make the best of what I have, I’m not gonna stop now! I have to look on the bright side, I will look fear and darkness right in the eye and I will not let it run my life! In some ways I feel empowered, I am getting stronger every day! I fought cancer, I’m not afraid of you!

Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening it just stops you from enjoying the good. One way that this experience has changed me is, I realize much more clearly now that I don’t want to sweat the small stuff anymore. I want to enjoy life more, laugh more, love more. Sure life is not always perfect, there are always going to be ups and downs. But you have choices, you get to choose how you react to these things good and bad.

Well…part 13

IMG_1864Sorry your boobs tried to kill you.

I have always tried to be grateful for the people and things I have in my life. I have had tragedies in my life, as has just about everyone. Life is about ups and downs. I try to stay positive, maybe I’m just stubborn. This whole cancer thing has brought a heightened sense of appreciation and awareness to me. When you are not up to doing anything, everything seems wonderful! You can’t believe how much I have enjoyed having company and visiting with people, and the laughter, what a pleasure! Sometimes you have to laugh so you don’t cry! You would not believe how much joy I am getting from being able to do silly little things like cleaning my house or watering the plants! I am so happy to be able to do the laundry and put it away!

Part of my getting back in shape routine is grooming my horses every day. Now if you’re not a horse person this time of year they are shedding their winter coats, yes even in Florida, which requires quiet a bit of elbow grease! I couldn’t have done this a few weeks ago. I am so happy to be able to go for short walks, everything is blooming and the weather is wonderful. Just being able to do more than one thing before having to sit down and rest is fantastical! Is that a word? I can’t wait every evening to tell the guys, I did this, this, and this before I had to sit down! The list is getting longer every day. It truly is the little things!

I am feeling much stronger everyday. I have the energy to be silly again! I was thinking about getting tattoos under my boobs that says, Good Girl under one and Bad Girl under the other! What do ya think? LOL. I am practicing my cello again and starting back to lessons, poor Jim(my teacher) I don’t know how he puts up with that awful squaling!? I am painting again. Life does go on!

Well…part 12

Today is the day. I sit in the doctors office waiting to hear my Pet Scan results. I haven’t been here in two weeks, not much has changed, same people, same place. I feel different, as I walk past the people in the waiting room. I feel like…been here, done that! I don’t have to get chemo today! I won’t have to sit here half the day in a cold room, hooked up to an IV. I don’t have to anticipate what this weeks side effects will be like. They do take my vitals and check my blood.

My doctor comes in. She looks at my results. She says that my blood work looks good, almost normal. She goes over the Pet Scan results with me and she is pleased with the results. She said my cancer responded very well to the chemotherapy. I have no cancer left in my breast, no more pot holes in my bones, there is some minimal cancer left in my bones, but she feels like the hormone therapy should take care of that. She discusses treatment plans with me. I will have to take an estrogen blocking pill (anastozole) once a day for the next 5-10 years. If the side effects bother me too much there are others we can try. Pet scan every three months and this Xgeeva shot once a month to strengthen my bones. All in all, even though I was hoping for the words cancer free, it is very good news.

It is so weird that as happy as I want to be there is still, well, this nagging fear. Why is my spleen still enlarged? Went from 14cm to 13cm. Why isn’t ALL the cancer gone after all that I have gone through? What crazy side effects will I have to deal with from the hormone pills for the next five to ten years? Why are my bones still fragile? which makes the doctor advise me against jumping back in the saddle just yet. Why am I so impatient? Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely pleased with the results. I just want to be back to “normal” I want to go about my daily routine and life just like I always have. I don’t really want to think about being careful or cautious, or worried about breaking a bone, or forgetting my pill, or the cancer coming back.

“Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.” Rumi

I quickly realize this is ridiculous! I have to look forward and not back. Getting a cancer diagnosis is not the end of the world. Maybe it is a wake up call to really fully live your life. I have come across many people that have come out of this better and stronger than before. I am still recovering from my treatment and every day I am feeling stronger and more alive! I am feeling like I am almost ready for my next adventure!