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For the foreseeable future, I am done with tamoxifen! Yay! Starting tomorrow, I will not be taking it. Yay!

This marks the end of my planned breast cancer treatment, which began in May of 2012. I say “planned” because as you know, plans can change based on new information. Based on today’s information, I am done!

It’s not that tamoxifen was so bad but I did take it for 5 1/2 years and although I had few observable side effects, one wonders about what goes unobserved. Bigger than that, though, is the fact that now I am only being treated for one disease, SCAD, and not two. That seems significant. In a few months, if all continues to go well, I will be able to discontinue the beta blocker I take for my heart. It contributes to fatigue. I will be happy to be finished with it and just continue taking baby aspirin for the rest of my life.

I don’t know if any of you readers out there are new breast cancer patients but if you are, do know that milestones can be achieved. We don’t know the future but the possibilities are varied and some are sweet indeed.

Peace friends,

Elizabeth

When John and I were still dating, we took a trip together from Seattle to Roseburg, Oregon for his grandmother’s 80th birthday. It’s a pretty long drive. I took a look at the bald tires on John’s car and wondered aloud whether it would be a good idea to get some new tires before the trip.  He pooh-pooh’d me, “What do you mean? These tires are great! I’ve had them forever and they’d never gone flat.”

What transpired was my logical argument that tires wear out. They do not get better from experience. However, I was also a college student short on funds and I didn’t even own a car. So we set out for his grandmother’s in John’s Ford LTD II. I don’t know how many hours it was, but it was enough that we had passed all cities of any size, when we had the first flat tire. John put on a spare. I don’t remember quite how long the spare lasted but I do remember that we weren’t even near a dinky town. We had to hitch hike from a very nice woman who took us to the nearest town where John purchased a new tire. It must not have been too far because I remember walking back to the car along the side of the highway, while John initially rolled the tire beside him. Then he had an impulsive thought, one suited to his age (22) and ADHD. John decided to try to BOUNCE the tire. Fortunately, it DID NOT ROLL INTO THE HIGHWAY into traveling vehicles! By the time we got to his grandmother’s party, my adrenaline was low enough to have fun and be pleasant. Phew!

John says now that he did not really believe that his tires had gotten better with age. He just didn’t have money for tires. He was sure adamant at the time.

As you may know, my dad has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, which was long suspected. I talked to Mom and Dad today. The physical therapist has been working on the stairs to the house with my dad. Dad made it down the stairs again today. In more exciting news, he was able to walk (with his walker) down the driveway of the house toward the street. (It is a 500-foot-long driveway. He did not walk the whole way.)

Knowing that my dad’s home-based services will stop being covered by Medicare sometime soon, I have started talking to my mom about their paying privately so that he can continue to get support. My mom thinks this is a good idea. Today, I brought it up with my dad. “I don’t need it. I’ve been walking my whole life. I could have made it all of the way down the driveway today. I could have done this the whole time I’ve been back home. I know how to go down stairs. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

My dad is making the same argument about his body as John made about those tires. I married my father. They are a couple of highly lovable hard heads.

I would get really frustrated but I’ve learned something during my dad’s hospitalization, stay at rehab, and during his transition back to home. He says a lot of things, especially at first. Dad initially said that he did not need a fancy walker. He changed his mind, I ordered it, and now he loves it. Dad initially said that he did not need a remote control lifting recliner. He changed his mind. I ordered one. Now he loves it. What he does is another thing altogether. He has worked hard on his therapy. He is making noticeable improvements.

I have been worried for quite awhile about how my parents would deal with the challenges of aging. They have actually adapted to the changes pretty well.

Phew!

 

 

I grew up in a family of eight, my mom, my dad, my five brothers, and me. When I was about 10 years-old, my dad, a sheet metal worker and as I mentioned previously, father of six, decided that he wanted to have a hobby. He’d quit duck hunting. Our impressively pedigreed German shorthaired pointer, Britt, had turned out to be rather limited in her pointing and retrieving skills. Well, actually, her problem was that she was not very specific. Instead of pointing a pheasant, she pointed at bees and slugs. Instead of retrieving ducks, she retrieved the neighbors’ (yes, plural) live chickens. Did I also mention that she didn’t follow commands very well? She quickly became our family pet and wonderful dog who lived until she was 15.

After some study, Dad decided that he wanted learn how to take and to develop photos. Given that he did not like black-and-white movies, it was not surprising when he announced that he would do color photography.

I spent many hours with my dad as he built his darkroom. I have vivid memories of helping by scraping the excess glue from the Formica counter tops that he placed over the cabinets that he built himself.

Film photography is developed in near dark. A dim “safe light” is used during film and photo development. For color photography, the safe light is particularly dim. After awhile, our eyes would adjust to the darkness and we could see enough to do the tasks at hand. Too much light and the photos would be lost, forever, in the case of developing the actual film. Too little light and we would have risked accidentally touching the film with our fingers or pouring chemicals all over the counter. Having just the right amount of light was critical.

My dad switched to digital photography many years ago. Digital photography is so easy when it comes to transferring the image to photographic paper or more frequently, to a computer screen. My dad’s illness has caused me to reflect on my childhood and the times I spent in the darkroom under the safe light.

An important aspect of keeping balance and peace is knowing how much light to put on different aspects of my experience. I don’t want to live a life of denial but I also don’t want to live under the harsh glare of international, national, and personal realities. And some light looks backward to the past, which cannot be changed or to the future, which has not yet been experienced.

A main message of mindfulness is to focus on the present. However, this is not an absolute. There is a degree to which reflection is helpful as is planning ahead. Light must be shined in those directions, as well. The suffering occurs when we get stuck or when we believe that the past absolutely defines the present or that the future can be absolutely predicted.

Light goes many directions. It is also important to consider how much we reveal to others about ourselves. Over the holidays, I have been gathering information about my dad’s health as well as my own. I have also provided some information to my 19 year-old daughter about the possible impact of my health problems on our financial future. (To make a long story short. She was home from college, acted like our money grows on trees, and she needed a dose of reality.)

I recently had some genetic testing done. I am still trying to comb through the results, but the testing uncovered some genetic markers for heart disease. I also had some fancy blood work done as well as health and fitness testing. I have a more nuanced view of my health. This has helped me refine my efforts to focus on what I can change to reduce my risk of a recurrence of heart attack. The recommendation to lose weight, that was a no-brainer. But I got estimates of my specific metabolic rate as well as how my body metabolizes fat and carbohydrates during exercise. I also learned that although my cardiovascular health is strong along a number of indices, when I get close to my maximum effort, I do not use as much oxygen as other women of my age. Actually, at that point, I am slightly better than the average 70-80 year-old. This is consistent with the difficulties I’ve had at high altitude over the last few years as well as the asthma I’ve long suspected that I have. It is high time to get that checked out. I have dramatically changed my diet and made slight revisions to my exercise plan.

The testing was expensive. My insurance ended up not covering the most expensive part of the assessment. The rest of it I knew up front that it would not be covered. I do feel like I have a better grasp on my potential reality. I don’t know how this picture is going to turn out but I think I got the light level just right.

 

When Zoey was younger, I used to take her on trips, just the two of us. When she was 10 years old, we bundled up for a February trip to Washington, DC and New York City to see the sights and to visit with my dear friend, Cheryl, who lives in DC., and acts as an unofficial godparent to Zoey. Cheryl is a psychologist for the National Institutes of Health and she had just gotten a new job within NIH. This was a cause for celebration.

As you may know, I love good food. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to watch chefs cook. I love to read about fine cooking. New York City is the home of Eric Ripert’s La Bernadin, which is considered the best seafood restaurant in the U.S. Anthony Bourdain even wrote a chapter in one of his books about the man who butchers the fish there! I had made reservations for Cheryl, Zoey, and I to go out there. It was a celebration for Cheryl so the meal was on me.

La Bernadin has a prixe fixe (fixed price) menu. At the time, I think it was $99 a person, $99 for each person of any age. Zoey was and still is, an extremely picky eater. $99 is a lot to spend on any meal, especially one that doesn’t get eaten and is complained about. I was worried that I wasn’t going to get what I paid for and further, her behavior might be embarrassing. The day of our reservation, I casually offered, “Hey Zoey, the food at this restaurant is pretty fancy. If you’d rather, I can take you to McDonald’s beforehand and you can have dinner there.” She declined my invitation.

La Bernadin is a beautiful restaurant. For extra credit, the staff did not give me the evil eye for bringing a child there. We looked at the menu. There were options for each course. I saw that there was an entree option for some kind of simple pasta without meat. Yay! Something for Zoey! I pointed it out to her. “No Mom, I am getting the lobster.” When the waitperson arrived for drink orders, Zoey politely asked, “I have a question. What types of tea do you have?” The waitperson brought out a beautiful box filled with a grand assortment of teas. Zoey asked about the flavors of a number of them and made her decision. Every course of dinner was delicious. Zoey ate everything and did so, with appreciation. The lobster was her favorite. Cheryl, Zoey, and I had a lovely evening. I got more than my money’s worth.

This has been a different Christmas season. For one, I usually take off a whole week from work. I didn’t this year. I was concerned about money. As many of you know, being ill is costly. My heart issues have not been as costly as my cancer treatment was but I still lost a significant amount of work time. As a self-employed person, I don’t make money if I don’t work. My dad went to the hospital and to rehab. He has only been home for a week and is adjusting, with ups and downs, to being a physically disabled person. I have been going to all of his doctor’s appointments that I can, in addition to my own.

Putting up a Christmas tree seemed like too much this year. John’s mom was supposed to visit but that fell through. Zoey’s home from college but she really doesn’t notice stuff like Christmas trees. So I didn’t put one up. I’m cooking a simple but nice dinner tonight and tomorrow, we’ll have soup that I made yesterday. We’re going over to my parents’ house later in the day for a dessert potluck and gift exchange. I am not eating added sugar right now, due to my cardiologist’s recommendation of an anti-inflammatory diet, so I am bringing fruit and whatever is leftover from a Costco apple pie that I am serving tonight. (There should be plenty. Those things are enormous.)

I was feeling down a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, I was feeling ripped off. I love entertaining. I love my job. I find myself cutting back on these passions, in order to take care of myself. I think I do a pretty damned good job taking care of myself. And still, I get sick. And other people get sick, too! And I don’t get to have a Christmas tree! No fair!  After a day or two of letting myself have those thoughts and feelings, I felt better.

It is Christmas Eve. I am looking at the Christmas presents stacked in the corner of the living room. I see the Christmas stockings (all hand-made by me, by the way) and the nativity set. My shopping is done. I don’t have the rush and stress of holiday entertainment. I am just sitting and writing in the quiet of my home.

Merry Christmas, friends!

I couldn’t find a photo from the trip to NYC, but here is a photo of Zoey, Cheryl, John, and me from 2013, when Cheryl visited Seattle.

I have the best job. This morning, I was sitting across from a 6-year-old for 1 1/2 hours. I was doing some testing of his learning. He was adorable and the information I am gathering will be very helpful in keeping him happy and adorable. Right in the middle of testing, my landlord knocked on my office door. I didn’t answer it because the kid was RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of doing a timed test. Rob came in, anyway, and apologized. He let me know that there was water in the lobby and that he was taking care of it. I masked my annoyance and he left. I continued with testing.

I knew about the water. I had seen it when I entered the building on the ground floor. There were also fire trucks in front of the building. I saw fire fighters talking to a contractor in the lobby. I gathered that the contractor, who is doing renovations on one of the condos in the building. had messed something up that needed fixing by the fire department. I asked one of the officers if it was okay to enter the building and he said it was so I tromped up a flight of stairs to the office. My landlord, Rob, came by shortly after I arrived and told me that the contractor had accidentally put a hole in the sprinkler pipe. Rob looked around our suite of offices and everything looked fine.

After testing was finished, I walked out into my waiting room. The large throw rug was gone as was one of the couches. There was an industrial grade humidifier running along with a bunch of fans. One of the ceiling tiles was wet and bulging. “Ah, I guess when Rob told me that there was water in the lobby, he meant the lobby of our suite,” I realized. Reid, the contractor, came in shortly after that, introduced himself, and let me know that he was responsible for the damage, including, buying a new couch if the one we had could not be dried out. The couch and area rug had been moved into a vacant office suite to be dried out.

Imagine that? There was a flood around the corner and people were taking care of it while I was able to complete my work for the morning. Then I just worked while the fans and humidifier were on. I got so much done that I’ll be able to take half of tomorrow off. I know that there will likely be things I have to do to resolve this issue. I have to say, though, that it is so nice to have this problem, if only just for today, taken care of. I don’t have to solve every problem. What a concept!

My landlord, Rob, came back to my office after I was done testing. He apologized again for interrupting my session. I said, “Well, now I know why you had to do it! I thought you were talking about the downstairs lobby.” He and I have a nice working relationship. Rob was so relieved that I was not furious about the damage. He noted, “You’re always so happy.” (I’m not, obviously, but I got his point.) “Rob, thank you for helping with this. The contractor looks like he is taking care of things. This is just inconvenience and my suffering about it doesn’t help anything and would just make people feel bad.”

When I feel like I am working on a team to solve a problem, it is so much easier for me. It’s so much better than going it alone or worse, getting stuck solving the problems that other people could solve themselves.

I spent yesterday finding a wheelchair for my dad. It was Saturday and the only medical supply place that was open is located about a 30 minute drive north of where I live. The owner asked my husband and I what width we wanted. I asked, “What are the pros and cons of each width?” She basically said that the wider one would allow him to set things next to him on the seat. He is traveling with a bit of medical equipment these days so I thought a wider seat might be better.  We drove back home. John needed to be dropped off to get some errands done. Then I drove the 30 minutes south to my parents house.

The wheelchair was slightly too wide to fit through the doorway from the kitchen to the rest of the house. It was 2:30 pm. The medical supply place closed at 4pm. I could get there in time if the traffic gods were with me. I loaded up the car and arrived at the store an hour later. The owner already had the smaller chair ready, because I had called her before I left. We made the exchange. Before I left the store, I called my husband to ask for his help. I knew that my dad would need help getting out of his lounge chair to sit in the wheelchair. Due to my SCAD induced heart attacks, I am not supposed to do heavy lifting. John agreed to come with me to help. So I drove home and picked him up. Then he drove us the rest of the way to Mom and Dad’s.

Dad was thrilled with the new wheelchair. One, he can now move himself around the house. Independence! He proclaimed it to be “the perfect wheelchair”. Although tired of driving, I was so happy to have made a meaningful positive change in his life just by driving around all day and getting stuff.

Right before Thanksgiving, Dad experienced an acute urological issue that landed him in the hospital. He was quickly stabilized but Physical Therapy services was concerned about his balance and general difficulties with mobility. Short-term rehab services were recommended and Dad finished a three-week-long stay last Thursday.

3-4 years ago, my dad was still camping and hiking with my mom. They are both nature lovers and active people. The first thing we noticed was that he started stooping over to walk. Then we noticed the shuffling. Over the years, he got weaker and weaker. His balance got terrible. Afraid that he had Parkinson’s Disease, he refused to follow-up on his primary care physician’s referral to a neurologist. We all talked to him. He refused. What started out as fear turned into habitual avoidance. Once he was admitted to the hospital, he became a very cooperative patient. For one, by stabilizing the acute issue, he was freed from excruciating pain. After that, what’s not to like about healthcare professionals? It didn’t hurt that they were very kind both at the hospital and at the rehab facility. The M.D. at the rehab facility diagnosed him with Parkinson’s Disease and put him on medication. He is showing slight but noticeable improvement on it. The diagnosis was really something the family has had to make big adjustments to because we knew something has been very wrong and we are happy for him to have treatment.

My parents are doing an amazing job adjusting to accepting help and relying more on other people. They are open to finding the right balance between independence and support. I am relieved. I was afraid that my dad was going to fall down the stairs before he got medical attention and that further, he would have been placed in assisted living, away from my mom, his beloved wife of 63 years. They are getting home-based services and my brothers and I have worked to make the main floor of the house accessible.

We are also trying to get our daughter into a smaller wheelchair or perhaps take up crutches. We are trying to help her be more independent, little by little, as she works her way from her teens to her 20’s. She just started living away at college. We are paying for nearly all of her expenses. She told me recently that she wanted to get a job. I told her that was fine but that also meant that this would mean a decrease in her financial support from us because it would mean that she is getting more independent. Let’s just say that’s not the way she sees it. There’s a big life lesson occurring. She is not suffering in silence. I am persona non grata. I may stay that way until the holiday break is over and she returns to Bellingham. Or perhaps not. In the meantime, she has been staying with friends. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t hurt. It is difficult to work so hard on parenting and so often find myself wondering if I am going to be the next subject of a tell-all “my mother was the worst” autobiography. I also know that this is part of growing up, which has not been an easy process for my daughter.

As for me, I am also looking for the perfect wheelchair. It is the structure that allows me mobility and strength to fit through the outlines of my responsibilities. None of us are in this life alone, ever. We give and receive through our human connection.

My great-grandfathers on my mom’s side both immigrated from northern Italy to Washington state around the turn of the 20th century. Like many immigrants before and after them, they worked dirty, dangerous, and low-paying jobs. In their cases, they worked in coal mines in Renton and Black Diamond. Although they may have had dreams of riches and the easy life before they immigrated, they soon toiled as an investment for the future of their families.

I was reminded of my Italian ancestors while having a lovely weekend away with my husband. John had arranged for this as a birthday present to me. We stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s condo near Rosalyn, WA, in the Central Cascades. Rosalyn was a coal-mining town back when my great-grandparents were mining.

It was foggy for most of the weekend, creating an other-worldly black-and-white environment. Fog can be foreboding. I found myself, instead, to be nestled in obscurity. The world can be far too bright and more subtle beauty can be missed. John and I took a walk down an old mining road, now used as a hiking trail. It was breath-taking and my photo only hints at this.

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This patch of serenity in 2017 is also the site of the worst coalmine disaster in Washington state history. It was 1892 and an explosion and fire killed 45 men. Can you imagine what that was like for a turn-of-the century mining town in rural Washington with a population of just over 1000 people? Devastating.

I think of my ancestors, like these men and their families, who were primarily new immigrants from European countries, who the hardships of the immigrant life, the Great Depression, and two world wars.

In the years of my mindfulness practice, I have gained a perspective of deepened connection between humanity. There is a thread that runs through us across distance and time.  I have been struggling with discouragement in the past few weeks. Some of it, I suspect is anniversary grief from the last presidential election compounded by the new assault of scary news each day. I am also adjusting to finishing my cardiac rehab, which was a wonderful structure of support both physical and emotional. Then there is getting to a new normal with my dad’s health and support needs.

This is not working the mines or dealing with wars or the Great Depression. But it does feel that we are adjusting to some kind of New World. And for many in our country and world, it really is working the mines, living through the Depression, and experiencing war, all at once.

My ancestors were strong, resilient people on both sides of my family. (Perhaps, one day, I will tell my father’s story.) Today, I draw on their strength and I see light.

 

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Two years ago today, I visited Joshua Tree National Park in California, for the very first time. On that day, I took the photo, which is now the banner photo for this blog. Growth comes from the dry dessert. A portion of the San Andreas Fault runs along the border like a scar and a warning of ominous future possibilities. Joshua Tree is life in stark relief.  Joshua Tree shows that although the life cycle endures, individual lives  end. This is both reassuring and unsettling.

I was born 52 years-ago. I can’t imagine any human birth being undramatic, but mine was dramatic in the will-she-or-won’t-she-live kind of way. I don’t know how close to not making it that I actually was. I was premature and had a respiratory immaturity that was not treatable at that time because the cause was not understood. A few decades later, medical science would progress to the point, where the condition was treatable and not such a big deal.

Perhaps, in part, due to this, I have been more in tune with the beautiful strength and fragility of life as well as how the changes in scientific knowledge change our understanding and influence over the natural world. Life, what an experience! What a marvel to behold!

I greeted today with a care conference at a short-term rehabilitative center for my 85 year-old dad. People on Dad’s side of the family, especially the men, don’t tend to be long-lived. Dad never expected to reach 85.

For the past 3-4 years, he’s struggled with health problems that have impacted his mobility and much more recently, his ability to care for himself completely on his own. To make a long story short, a hospital visit last week to stabilize an emergent problem, turned into a recommendation for rehabilitative treatment, focused on physical therapy and occupational therapy. I have been worried about my dad’s safety at home, especially using the stairs. So although I appreciate all of the changes that my parents are going through, living apart, accepting help from family, and facing uncertainty, I am relieved that my dad is getting long needed support and that my mom is getting some outside help with his care.

I think that my mom feels slightly bad that I started my birthday with a meeting at a rehab facility. Really, there was no place I would have rather have been on my 52nd birthday, which incidentally, the day before my parents’ 63rd wedding anniversary.

We are helping my dad in the last part of his life. How long that part is, we don’t know. Yes, it is sad to face the prospect of losing loved ones, but in the stark relief of my families’ life there is great beauty. There  is the beauty of my brothers, our spouses, friends, and my mom pulling together as a team. There is the beauty of the love of my parents for each other, as well as for their children.

My parents legacy of love, hard work, and compassion will live on past their days, just as my own legacy will.

Each day is a gift to be accepted and to be shared.

 

 

 

Scorchy was her pen name. I was one of the many that knew her real name, which I will not share here because I don’t know why she adopted a pen name in the first place. What I do know is that Scorchy was brilliant. Scorchy had a HEART OF GOLD. Scorchy was hilarious. Scorchy was well-connected. Scorchy knew important peeps. She helped those prominent folks when they decided to donate to Columbia University’s library system, whesend re she formerly worked, under a different name, as an archivist. Scorchy not only had the wit to compare an MRI machine assessment as being whisked inside of a whirring, buzzing toilet paper tube, but Scorchy actually helped archive the work of the inventor of the MRI machine.

Who else would I send the following gifts: 1) a French butter crock that I’d made to add to her pottery collection and 2) a cover for her cell phone with a line drawing of a cat, flipping her off. Only Scorchy could combine a sometimes shocking irreverence with that HEART OF GOLD.

She was a one and only. Scorchy’s feminist writings can be found in FEMINIST HANDBOOKS!

Scorchy had not one but two brilliant blogs. In addition to the Sarcastic Boob, she had earlier gained feminist fame in her critique of John Gray’s pop “psychology” book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Visit the blog here. Laugh aloud at the brilliant title and equally brilliant feminist commentary.

Scorchy, I loved you and I’ll keep on loving your smart ass, people lovin’ spirit that will live forever.  How will we detect all of the bullshit without you, friend?

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. I don’t think I’ve blogged about it in years. I typically try, unsuccessfully, to ignore it. The superficiality of some of the campaigns bothers me. But if I am honest, I also don’t share the intensity of the anger some people still feel about it. This is my 6th October since my breast cancer diagnosis in 2012. There has been a dramatic decrease in pink ribbons and associated nonsense since that time. There have been high profile works of film, journalism, and even coverage on late night comedy shows that have revealed the money farm that developed to exploit and sexual breast cancer for profit. Yes, it is still a problem but progress is progress. Progress is to be celebrated. So I celebrate the pink reduction.

Between the “think positive” crowd to the “everything about cancer sucks” crowd, I feel increasingly on my own. Although I tend to have more in common with the “everything about cancer sucks” crowd, I do worry about my not-very-tightly-held secret. I’m going out on a limb here and admitting what my blogging buddies know already: Not EVERYTHING about having breast cancer sucked. There were aspects of my experience that exposed me to what is best about humanity. I was lucky enough to be very well cared for by my healthcare team, by my family, and by my friends. I learned some things about myself in the process of illness that have become what I hope to be, lifelong lessons and happier ways of being.

I was at cardiac rehab yesterday and one of the exercise physiologists commented, “You have such a positive attitude. Have you always been this way or is this new?” I told her that I was lucky in that I am a naturally upbeat and resilient person but also that I have done much to nurture these qualities since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. I also recently read my cardiologist report from the Mayo Clinic. In it, I am described as “a very pleasant psychologist.”

I don’t have to have a positive attitude and I don’t have to be “very pleasant”. But these qualities are helpful to me as I live my life, day by day. They also help me face some hard possibilities, most notably, the fact that I may not live as long as I thought I would. I had breast cancer at 46 and two heart attacks at age 51. I had few or no risk factors for either condition. Breast cancer can recur and I’m really not sure what the risk of recurrence or of developing metastatic cancer is. (I know there is the 20-30% estimate but I find no description of how it was arrived at in the original source materials, which concerns me.) There is a chance that I will have another SCAD event, too. However, there’s very little research on SCAD-related heart attacks, which makes it hard to know. The best estimate at this point is 20% recurrence over 10 years, but that is on a sample of only about 150 women. Further, since the cause/s of SCAD are not understood, there are no markers that can be measured to estimate my risk.

However, unlike breast cancer, stress is modifiable risk factor for cardiac diseases, including SCAD. Consequently, I continue to work on that through meditation, exercise, and through working a reduced work load. Cardiac rehab is going well. I just did my 60 day review. I am stronger and reassured that I am pushing my progress at the right rate. I have also made friends and being cared for by a group of excellent nurses and exercise physiologist. Even if these actions don’t extend my life, they make my day to day life much more peaceful, joyful, and balanced.

Awareness is synonymous with mindfulness. It is the state of being aware of reality, as it is. The use of the term “awareness” for October is ironic in the context of breast cancer because it is used for some dishonest purposes. Not every thing about my breast cancer is bad. Not every thing about my heart disease is bad. They are parts of my life, which include joy, pain, peace, anxiety, and all of the other experiences and feelings of my reality.

Here is a phrase I learned from Sharda Rogell, my dharma teacher at Spirit Rock Retreat Center. It is a phrase about equanimity:

“May my heart be big enough to hold the joys and sorrows without being overwhelmed.”

I’m out on a limb. I think in this moment, it will hold me.

Peace, friends.

 

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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Run to the Bear!

The Sarcastic Boob

Determined to Manage Breast Cancer with the Same Level of Sarcasm with which I Manage Everything Else

FEC-THis

Life after a tango with death & its best friend cancer