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Archive for May, 2008

Looking back, I can say with a high degree of certainty that this list was instrumental in keeping me alive long enough to “fight” the cancer or “harmonize” my body (depending on your perception of the proverbial volume of the cup.) It is not a bucket list if thats what you’re thinking.

Before my rediagnoses, my labored breathing was one of the first signs that something was very wrong, along with pain throughout my body that mounted exponentially with each passing month. In fact, I was in so much pain that I was eating up Advil Liqui-Gels several times a day, sometimes as many as 4 at a time, out of a giant bulk-sized bottle as if they were life-sustaining vitamins. Lung irritation caused an almost constant dry cough. Extreme irritability and fatigue set in. Also, I sensed and dreaded the irritability of those around me forced to suffer through the annoying disruption of my constant coughing. Basic tasks most take for granted, like talking and breathing, were becoming increasingly difficult. It had been about 9 months since I had been able to take a really deep breath.

Denial warped my interpretation of these signs. Arthritis. Asthma. Bronchitis. My doctor at the time concurred, riding on the same tsunami wave of denial. The crazy fact is, I was practically bedridden with pain. I spent entire weekends in bed. It hurt to change position. I was rapidly losing body mass and muscle. I often required help getting in and out of bed. Several lymph nodes on the left side of my neck were swollen to the size of marbles. Alarmingly, the right half of my chin had become completely numb.

So this is a list I made just after my rediagnosis, just after being released from the hospital. I knew I would need to have a strong desire to live if I was going to “make it.” I didn’t want my last breath to be a shallow and labored. Pain tainted my perception to the point where I was unable to experience pleasure or appreciate the simple things that had once brought me joy and satisfaction. I longed desperately to remember what joy and satisfaction felt like. I knew life was worth living but I was having a hard time remembering why. So I made a list. I focused all of my energy on the list and my health. I decided not to give in to the guilt and fear that had already consumed a hearty chunk of my life and threatened my extinction.

Some of the things on my corny little list are:

Sunshine, laughter, trees, mysteries, soft sheets, old houses, thunderstorms, stained glass, porches, fireplaces, string lights, Halloween, art, music, books, movies

Of course, the first things on my list were not things at all but people. Nathan, my mom, my friends, my family, everyone I loved and everyone who loved me back. Fortunately, these people still resonated with me, they still sparked a tiny little ember of joy through all that pain. Without their love, my burning desire to live and my passion for life would not have reignited.

I can now take a deep satisfying breath and breathe in all the joy and awesomeness around me. Just as I no longer require any medication to ease my pain, I no longer need a list to remember what I love about living. And I am truly grateful for this.

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whats my excuse? well, other than the cancer that is riddling my body?

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I guess its time to post but, damn, I do not have much to report. Life has been decidedly uninteresting. I am in a sort of purgatory here. Of course most of my time is spent taking care of my health. My Gerson duties take up a pretty significant chunk of my day. Beyond that I do not have much leftover energy.

It’s kind of torturous because now that I’ve peered into the eyes of death there is so much I want to do with my life. Travel is big, but of course, currently impossible. Oh, and then there is the little issue of my life’s purpose. I will get better. I know this in my heart of hearts. And then what? I think it may be near-impossible to go back into the world of graphic design unless I choose to freelance. I read recently that something like 45% of the pollution we encounter during the course of the day is in the hour that we spend in our cars commuting, even if you put your system on recycled air. Every morning crossing the Howard Franklin Bridge on my way into Tampa I would see the dingy brown stain that blurred up the skyline and I would think “How awful, I am contributing to this.” It comes as no surprise to me that both diagnoses were following jobs that required a longer commute.

Even if I did find an ad agency within close proximity to my home (not likely) there would be the little issue of explaining the gap in my resume. I would have to lie and I usually chicken out and tell the truth. But the truth would not serve me. I had a pretty hard time concealing my past breast cancer. I made a point not to bring it up when I met new people. It’s in my past I would tell myself. I tried so hard to resist becoming a breast cancer mascot. I did not want my story to define me. So I hid it. As much as I tried to trivialize what had happened, it was a big deal. Concealing it ultimately made me feel alienated from others. As much as I tried to run from it, it found me.

And then there is the issue of juicing. Could you imagine one of your coworkers excusing themselves once an hour to make juice on a 70lb juicer with a hydraulic press? Can you imagine the company refrigerator overflowing with organic produce? Unless I get a job at a health food store, this is just not an option.

I just erased a paragraph of ranting about western medicine. I’d love to bitch about it but I think I’ll just let my story stand as an example of the miraculous healing powers of natural medicine instead.

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I am tickled pink at how many people read my blog, and for all the random acts of kindness that have been gracefully bestowed upon me. There are many days when I feel just fine and on those days I feel so unworthy of such generosity. I hope that I can “pay it forward” as Oprah would say. Some gestures deserve public acknowledgment:

Brian thank you so much for the beautiful brand new monitor! I will pay you back with a nice logo for Brina (I’m workin’ on it…)

Britt Lady, you rock. I hope you got my thank you email but that doesn’t do justice to your awesomeness. I am truly humbled.

Julie We are now huge David Sedaris fans. I laughed so hard carrot juice came out my nose! Thank you so much.

Aunt Kim & Uncle Donny Your cards brighten my day so much. Each one pours out as much love as confetti!

Penny Animal Kingdom was awesome. It was a much needed break for both of us. Thanks so much!

Natalie and Richard Your help has been tremendous. I don’t know how I will ever thank you guys.

Mom Jesus, where do I even begin?

These are just the ones off the top of my head, there are so so SO many more. I hope someday soon I can accept my perfect health like an Oscar and have a 10 hour long acceptance speech filled with a million thank yous. But that would only be the tip of my gratitude iceburg. Seriously, every day my faith in humanity has miraculously deepened.

Ok, while I’m in a shouting-out mood:

Welcome Quynn Crosby!

Congratulations Jessie and Travis!

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My new addiction is Galaga. For those of you unfamiliar with this 80s arcade game, it goes something like this- The game takes place in space. The aim of the game is to shoot down alien bees, butterflies and apes as you dodge their bullets from your spaceship. Galaga, along with Ms Pac-man and a couple of other more obscure retro arcade games, come packaged with a plug-and-play joystick that you can get at most discount departments stores for about $20

Ok, now how could someone in my very serious situation justify such a frivolous pastime? Easy, I use it cathartically. Much research has been done on the effectiveness of visualization as a means to reduce cancer cells in the body. The spaceship is white, like a white blood cell. From my white blood cell spaceship, I shoot down those pesky cancerous insects and apes with the kind of gusto probably only found in people fighting for their life. Not only does this serve as a potent metaphor for cancer-killing, I also believe killing the little suckers triggers an endorphin rush or release of interleukins. Which in turn brings up an internal conflict- I vacillate between a sort of Buddhist longing to have peace and harmony in my body and the other side of the coin, wanting to “kill” my cancer, to “kick its ass” to “win the WAR against cancer.”

I am reminded of the fictional Japanese doctor in Tom Robin’s “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas” who cures cancer patients by administering an herbal tincture via enema. Imagine my surprise as I lay on the floor of my bathroom reading this book while having my own “upside-down coffee.” I had no idea that cancer would afflict one of the main characters halfway through the book and, even stranger, that enemas would play a part in his convalescence as well. In this book, much unlike reality, the doctor is given a lot of attention by the American media. In a TV interview the wise doctor states (to paraphrase) “You westerners make cancer your enemy. My advice- Make friend with cancer! Teach friend manners. Put friend on diet.”

Of course I’d much rather “love” my body into health. Although my actions follow this philosophy (“put friend on diet”) it is much harder to visualize loving cancer to death. As this dilemma remains unresolved, I carry on with my visualization exercises, half the time befriending the cancer, trying to get its energy to “spin” in harmony with healthy cells so that they may be transformed. The rest of the time I am zapping the shit out of it, shooting it down in a violent (and effective) Galaga-esque attack. Either way I’m getting healthier, right? Why waste my thoughts on something as trivial as philosophy when I am in the midst of “the fight of my life?” Mainly because I believe that my cancer may (in part) be a result of fear, hatred and anger stored in my body. If there is any truth in this belief, two wrongs don’t make a right. Taking blame for the cancer is empowering in a way. It stands to reason that if I caused it I can also cure myself of it. And I believe that there is more power in love and kindness than in hate and violence. I will continue to enjoy Galaga, it’s too damn fun to give up. Also, I’m sorry but any roaches in my house must be put to death, I’m just not transcendent enough to live with them. But I will try my best to kill my cancer with kindness.

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