My Old Self

(The following was originally posted on my Carepages blog for family and friends during my treatment.)

clutch necklaceBack in February, I took off my twelve rings and earrings for my two surgeries. After, I couldn't get them back on. (Water retention) But more than that, they felt too heavy on my hands. My old self decorated her outfits like a Christmas tree, always wearing multiple bracelets, necklaces, maybe a pin or two. And of course, the rings and earrings which I never took off. I explained to Tim, even carrying my purse feels like a chore. I don't want anything heavy on. Heavy being a subjective term.

I did continue to wear my "crutch" necklace. What’s a crutch necklace? Back last summer when I had a lot of issues with anxiety (which seems to have become some 80-90% better post-BC) I read that sufferers often need a crutch. It might be a person or a thing. "As long as I have or am with _____ I'll be fine."

My crutch started out as my stainless essential oil diffuser necklace along with a sterling mermaid Tim bought me in Amsterdam. After Christmas, I added an "I Am Groot" medallion (from Mark, saluting our favorite saying from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy). Later I asked him to make me a second one “Jedi” (Star Wars being core to Matthew and the whole family). Along the way, I've added a few other trinkets (a crystal, a dragon charm, and a breast cancer tiny charm sphere from Tim's mom). So as I trek off for bloodwork or chemo or any of my other adventures, my family goes with me in spirit. It may be a crutch, but it’s also a piece of my heart.

But I started missing my wedding ring. I put it and my anniversary band back on this week along with its opposing mate on my other hand. It feels good having them back on and I may put my earrings back in as well. I'm not ready for all twelve, but a sign that a little bit of my old self is under there someplace is a good thing, I think.
I've gone through a lot of shifts these past few weeks. I’ve shaken off a lot of dust. I feel like the universe is saying it's okay to integrate and knit the old and the new me back together.

PS: I want to add that I am grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for standing with me and for your encouraging messages (both on and offline). Also for those of you who have also taken my messages to heart and tried new things, I congratulate you for being brave with me. We got this. “We are Groot.” Which for those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of like saying we are an eclectic team who stands together through thick and thin.

PSS: I have now had chemo #4 - the supposed halfway mark. I see the oncologist on May 1st.

Cupcakes

(The following was originally posted on my Carepages blog for family and friends during my treatment.)

Last night I ate a Hostess cupcake. You know, the devil’s food chocolate ones with the delightful cream inside. I hadn’t had one in maybe 15 years. Maybe longer.

It’s just one of a list of things that I had stopped allowing myself and am now letting myself have an indulgence here and there. I actually had to decide between a Ding Dong and a cupcake. I may go back for the Ding Dongs when the cupcakes are gone.

Early on, I thought I didn’t have a bucket list. I’m not one of those people who have longed forever to go to France (been there), Hawaii (ditto), or Timbuktu (no need). I don’t plan to leap out of a plane or zip line in Costa Rica. I do want to eat an English muffin with grass fed butter dripping off. I want to taste the butter, not just remember what a delicious English muffin tastes like. I want to eat food that doesn’t remind me of cardboard and wonder why I am eating it. I’m tired of eating food that’s “supposed to be good for you.” And I don’t mean fresh fruit and vegetables. I mean all this fake-food crap.

It’s not just about food, though. It’s about countless other little things that I denied myself because, maybe someone else needed it, or maybe I didn’t really think I deserved it. This may surprise some of you because I’ve been privy to having a lot of nice things. They just weren’t always things I would have chosen for myself. Perhaps the one place this isn’t true is with computers. Long ago I learned the value of getting what I wanted, maxing it out, and getting the best I could afford. So computer, yeah, I’m good there.

There’s another place this comes into play. I had five thank you cards that came from my now-angel friend, Thelma. I kept them safe in my drawer because the image on them had been painted by her. There they sat in the drawer, day after day, year after year. Safe. Safe from what? Seeing the light of day. I found them the other day and sent one out. Here’s a concept. I have five, why not frame one if I want to keep it, and let the others fly free so others can enjoy the wonderful flowers Thelma painted. What am I keeping them for? I can’t eat them, spend them, wear them. How many other things do I have like that?

I thought I had taken it to heart when client/friend Mark Hyde had written about his cologne that he didn’t want to save it for a special day, he wanted every day to be special, so he wore it every day. I’d apparently forgotten that rule.
What are you keeping safe? What are you denying yourself? You don’t have to eat a whole box of cupcakes, just have one.

Slow Weeks

(The following was originally posted on my Carepages blog for family and friends during my treatment.)

I’ve come to call the week of chemo “slow week.” During slow week I learn a lot about accepting what can and what cannot be.

Some things are not going to get done. There is just no energy for them. It might be as simple as writing a thank you note, or as complex as vacuuming. It’s not always the act itself that is prevented, but the many small steps it takes to carry out that act. Stairs stop me from doing a lot of things. I can do the flight once, then sit down. Ask me to do them twice, I may need a nap.

But it’s not just laborious tasks. I can design a beautiful book cover, execute edits in a client’s book, but ask me to balance the checkbook, it took me three days. Anything that requires cognitive, left-brain thinking is harder than the more artistic, right-brain function.

During slow week, I accept what I can do and what I can’t. I try not to worry about what doesn’t get done. Tim picks up what loose ends he can. I watch, feeling helpless. (At times, I can’t even open a Gatorade.)

Tim and I count down the weeks segregating them into portions, Week 1 chemo, week after Week 1 chemo, etc. (We are into “after Week 3 chemo now.”) I find the slowness or lethargy is a little more each time. Week 4, which is slated for April 18, should be the last of the hard-hitting treatments, or so they say.

Jamie GreenHatIronically, lethargy doesn’t necessarily equate to more sleep. I find I sleep far less, lay awake at night far more. I make up for it with cat naps during the day. Last night, now through slow week 3, I actually slept through until 5 a.m. I can’t tell you how sweet that kind of sleep really is. And while I do some of my best thinking at 3 a.m. these days, not everything that comes out of the night is profound. Sometimes it’s just lying there counting the minutes.

I’ve been fortunate, though, that the side-effects, to date, have remained minimal. I did end up on some antibiotic last week after a potential sinus infection. Thankfully, that didn’t last long. The headache was debilitating, and I wasn’t much fun to be around. But it cleared out fast once the drugs were administrated. I was very thankful for that.

I did manage to eek out a little fun along the way this week. I bought a couple of funny hats, one with long red yarn hair, and another, yet to come, with green leaves they refer to as a mermaid hat. I figure I might as well have fun with it as my hair isn’t coming back until this is over.

Making the Shift

(The following was originally posted on my Carepages blog for family and friends during my treatment.)

According to the book I wrote (now almost twelve years ago) illness, pain, and injury have three underlying life purposes. Most often, they redirect our path and help us clear away life clutter or shift in ways we had previously put off. (Usually, we have known for some time that we were supposed to make this shift, but either because we didn't know how, thought it would be too complicated, or just plain put it off, we didn't. The other two include being part of a life path, such as being born disabled or being led to meet someone who could become important in our life's purpose. As friend Doc Nell loves to say, "Sometimes we need to go and read our own book." (Yep) And I am. I'm working the revision of Transformational Healing and hope to have the newly revised Deluxe edition available with it's companion e-book by summer.

In the early days of my diagnosis, I began to make new life decisions based on what mattered most to me. When considered from the standpoint of life and death (for example, if I only had six months to live), it gets real easy to make decisions about what's important. But surprisingly, after pondering if I should "retire" from all my client work, websites, online life, I realized how much I valued certain parts of all that. I began to see more clearly what could stay and what had to go. I also started working from a more intuitive based motivation rather than a logical one. Some amazing things began to shift.

When I allow myself to work based on what I'm being called to do, a book I had put off resizing for a year, was done in less than 24 hours. (The Wisdom of Emotional Healing is now going to be a smaller size.) I had considered pulling the plug on Bookectomy, my writer's educational website. Why bother with that when I am in "this" condition. But I kept feeling drawn to it, played with it, added to it. Loved it. It's blossoming into something I enjoy. Its offshoots include a Facebook group where I am playing, teaching, having fun about all things books. It's my playground. I even did live video in there the other day, something I had put off for over a year. You'd think this now-no-haired girl would have been shy to go live. . . (didn't phase me a bit.) I formatted a book while on chemo - easiest book I ever put together. Why? I worked when I intuitively felt led to work and rested when I felt led to rest.

Perhaps a more important shift has been in the gift I gave myself. That gift was time. For years I had wanted to create a digital book of family photos I could pass down to the family. I have started working on that. It will take time, something I didn't make time for before. But it will be of lasting value when done. Generations that come after me will have a photographic history of their ancestry, at least to a minor extent. I also gave myself a Netflix subscription and granted myself time to watch things. I watch. I laugh. I crochet. I think this is called relaxing. . . something new to me.

I have also been shifting my mindset. Quimby (see the Wisdom book above) stated that if we just got rid of all our opinions or beliefs, we would be wiser, happier, healthier. In learning about Access Bars (Dain Heer) I learned about IPOV ("I have an interesting point of view about that). Whether about how someone dresses in Walmart or regarding cancer, I seem to have a point of view about everything. Slide those points of view out of the way, and miracles begin to happen.

In the beginning, I worried what chemo would be like. IPOV. You know, they show it in all the movies, and it's terrible. But for me, and it is different for everyone, it hasn't been horrible. Compassionate nurses come in and access my port. They plug in little IV bags of this and that, each designed to help me through the "Red Devil" they will also IV in. The process is actually very relaxing and calm. I have a large recliner to sit in. Access to tv, snacks, soft music. I go home, eat, rest. It really isn't at all like my IPOV imagined.Jamie BrownHat

Gradually, step by step, my healing is taking place. Not just on a physical level, where just yesterday an ugly piece of that dying tumor fell off, but on a much deeper level where I am making room for a much more balanced life where I am doing things I enjoy, things that bring joy to others, and more peace for me.

The one thing I hope you can glean from this is that we all can benefit from operating from intuition, letting go of opinions, and doing more things that matter and bring us joy. Don't wait for illness to come in forcing the shift. Start doing it now.

Later today I will do chemo number 3. It's like climbing a mountain. Three is mid-way up, but I see the peak. Two weeks from now for number four, I'll view the landscape from the top. Then I will do four treatments with a different set of drugs. It's all a process. "What could be better than this?" (Another Access Bars statement.)

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