Monday, April 12, 2010

Cardio week, St. Teresa, and life is good

I decided that sending an update before chemo, rather than afterwards, is more uplifting. Chemo is tomorrow, so here I am tonight.

Last time around (2 years ago), I was able to view chemo as an adventure. This time, it feels like old news, been there, done that, etc. As funny as chemo can be, it is way more fun to focus on other stuff.

However, hospital stuff seems to make up a portion of my life. Even on a non-chemo week, I was at the hospital on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If I didn't spend so much time at the hospital, I might actually be able to exercise and be healthier.

I'll back up a bit. On my chemo day, my oncologist normally asks how I did with the last treatment so that she can adjust the prescription for that day. I ran through my side effects, all were as expected, and then excitedly told her: My chest pains totally disappeared after I started drinking Chinese tea.

As often as we've talked about my chest pains in the past, it never went beyond, "uh huh" until today. She stopped and said something like, "Let's skip the chemo pump this week. Sometimes that can cause a heart issue. I'll make an appointment with a cardiologist."

I was OVERJOYED to skip the pump, and amused that Western medicine will not be outdone by Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Still, nothing is free. And I feel a little like the hungry caterpillar in Eric Carle's children's book:
On Monday, I saw the breast cancer doctor (I'm almost five years out of that one -- keeping my fingers crossed!).
On Wednesday, I saw the cardiologist. Great guy. From Nashville (gotta love that) and supported the Chinese teas.
On Friday, I had an echo stress test on a bike (no IV needed. whew). The techs kept making me laugh, which really does lower your heart rate. I thought that was just one of those nice things people tell you to cheer you up. Meanwhile, the bike pedaling automatically gets harder and harder, trying to raise your heart rate to its max. It was an interesting competition, and I passed with flying colors. Yay! Love good news.

It truly felt like cardio week last week, though, as three other friends saw their cardiologist as well, all for different reasons. Thankfully, we are all up and walking around. That counts for alot.

The other "medical" event this week was wig shopping. I get varying answers from the docs on whether I will need this, but my hair is definitely thinning. Thankfully, I had alot to start with! Though it is easier to shop for wigs when you have hair rather than afterwards, I kept putting it off. A friend took the reins, researched my options for places, made the appointment, went with me, and made it all no big deal. THAT was cool, watching her take on a dragon in my life and extinguishing its fire.

Back to chemo day: It was time to add another chemo drug to the mix. I got to choose. One has "no noticeable side effects," whatever that means. The other causes "often disfiguring skin rashes." Hmmm. Which would you choose?

The other theme this week (besides cardio) was St. Teresa. St. Theresa of the Little Flower is a constant prayer for me lately; the writings of St. Teresa of Avila were a surprise focus of the Kripalu workshop I attended this weekend; our friend, Teresa, brought a chicken pot pie (okay, she isn't a saint but we felt pretty blessed by that) and another Teresa I've never even met gave me a beautiful prayer shawl. At this point, I feel like I have to add Aunt Theresa, who showed me that, no matter what the circumstances, you should always look and act your best self, and then maybe even have a little party!

Despite all the medical appointments, after the effects of chemo wore off, I was able to feel good and be active. The week was filled with wonderful moments, big and small. It's nice not to think about cancer all the time. I often think of Kris Carr (actress who lives with stage 4 cancer) who appeared on Oprah. When Oprah asked, "Do you spend every moment thinking about dying?" Kris responded with something like, "Heck no. Right now, I'm thinking, I AM ON OPRAH!!!"

Overall life is good. On top of that, I feel like people are opening their lives and their selves to me in a different way than before, so I am trying to pass that along and do that with others I meet. On my end, it feels like you are creating a state of grace that makes miracles possible. Thank you for being so generous of spirit. Not only does this have a huge impact on me and my family, I feel like this must be shifting and impacting our world in a positive way. If a butterfly flapping its wings can create weather patterns on the other side of the world, just imagine what all our bigger acts of kindness are doing!

If you are so inclined, do continue to send prayers that the chemo is killing those cancer cells, and that I find any other avenue I need to heal this.

Much love,

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