Counting days

Eighteen days ago, at age 42 and 7 days, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and survived the first surgery of my life.

Fifty-seven days ago, I received the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Two days ago, I cried for the first time about the loss of my breasts, remembering how they felt–soft and smooth and sensitive.

Last night, I cried for the first time about the loss of the use of my arms, as I used to know it. The fascia from my pectoral muscle was removed, rendering the muscle hard, stiff, spastic, and painful. My arms that used to easily move and stretch in all directions, do yoga, and even do a cartwheel now struggles to reach to the kitchen cupboard to get a coffee mug.

I cried for the long scar across my chest and the bits of blood still attached to my skin. I cried when the fallen off Steri-strip revealed that my breasts really are gone.

On the positive, my body is healing relatively quickly and well. I’ve had more energy and less pain each day. The pain that does persist, however, is debilitating, if for only moments at a time. It wakes me and interrupts my sleep and is untouchable with pain meds.

I am ok with not having breasts. If I can’t have my own breasts, I don’t really want any at all. I feel love for my chest and compassion for what my body has been through and feel no desire to present my body in any way other than what it is.

I look and feel much thinner now and I can fit into smaller clothes on top. I fit into a size small winter coat now.

Trying to find new ways to wear my old clothes has been kind of a fun challenge. Scarves over my old t-shirts work well. I don’t feel like I have to hide my chest, but not bringing attention to it is something I find myself doing. I even found a swimsuit that works for my new body and plan to wear it on our cabin vacation next month.

I’ve been posting updates on Facebook instead of here. Not sure why, but maybe because that’s where my connections are, mostly. It’s been so nice to have the love and support of so many during one of the most difficult journeys of my life so far.

Challenges come and go, and hopefully one day I’ll look back and remember this time and be in a better place. Each day that I am healthy and alive is a gift, now more than ever.

Peace, finally.

The waters have settled and there is peace in my heart. There was a long period of darkness and intense suffering at times, but it’s passed now. Feeling the feelings and then letting them go was the only thing to do, and it seemed to finally allow the release to happen. Today was the first day that Mercury went direct again, after 3 weeks of it being retrograde.

Anna has been singing in the choir at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church. She loves it. I am starting to love it, too. I’ve attended services there on Sunday mornings when she has choir practice. It feels safe and good to freely engage in religion again, at a place that feels healthy and good.

Love to all of you.

xo

100% full

Almost 11 years after starting this blog, 100% of the free space for photos has been filled.

To add more space requires $48 per year. That seems like a pretty big commitment if it were to continue forever. So, it seems we’re at a crossroad, WordPress and me.

I’d like to leave this blog in cyberspace for my kids to read someday if that’s what they want to do. There is a record here of their lives over the last decade, in some shape or form. Well, maybe more specifically, there is a record in pieces of my experience as their mom.

Today I wanted to post some photos of Mia and Anna from this week, pictures that spark joy and love and gratitude. But alas, there is no room for that now!

Until I figure out what to do next, I’ll probably keep on writing here without photos. Writing here leaves me feeling lighter and better. After the last post about how awful I felt, I felt better almost right away. That’s the power of writing.

This blog has been my free therapy and I am grateful for it. It’s been someone or something to listen and hold the space for my big feelings.

Thank you to those of you who have read and let me share with you. Bless your hearts. Truly. Thank you.

Chaos and turbulence and unconditional love

Writing here has felt self-indulgent lately. It’s not necessarily helpful to others for me to write about pain here, but rather, it burdens them. I don’t want to bring down the few precious people who read this blog. My words, however insignificant, are putting something, en energy, out into the world. So I’ve been thinking: what is the point of writing here? It is self-serving and indulgent? What if I could just let it all go?

Certainly I’ve been to that place before and stopped writing here. Right now it serves as a safe place to process and be heard. A safe place to put the chaos and turbulence I’ve been feeling for a while, and I hope to send out a more positive and affirming vibe again when it comes back to me.

That brings me to where I’m trying to go: to a place of unconditional love. That’s where I really want to be. A place where I forgive everyone and myself; a place where I love everyone and myself–no matter what. No matter what.

For a long time, I’ve worked on healing my heart, forgiving, and loving people and things as they are. Forgiving is easier than forgetting. What is most difficult is to forget.

Learning who I am and who I am on this earth to be–that has apparently been my lifelong assignment. Whether I really know who I am or why I am here yet, even after 41 years, I am not sure. I do believe that everything I’ve experienced is for a reason and it’s a part of my soul’s purpose here. The challenge has been great; too great, at times. It’s been, at times, overwhelming to the point where I’ve wanted to let go of this life. My life, I feel, has been heavy, painful, sorrowful. That’s not to say it has not had great joy, too, because it has. There has been great joy, too. The joy is what keeps me going. It provides just enough juice to get through the next hurdle.

And, maybe this is just what life is: a mix of everything. The goal is to embrace that.

Peace Prayer

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

About this prayer, copied and pasted from Wikipedia:

The anonymous text that is usually called the Prayer of Saint Francis (or Peace Prayer, or Simple Prayer for Peace, or Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace) is a widely known Christian prayer for peace. Often associated with the Italian Saint Francis of Assisi (c. 1182 – 1226), but entirely absent from his writings, the prayer in its present form has not been traced back further than 1912.[1] Its first known occurrence was in French, in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell), published by a Catholic Church organization in Paris named La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The League of the Holy Mass). The author’s name was not given, although it may have been the founder of La Ligue, Father Esther Bouquerel. The prayer was heavily publicized during both World War I and World War II.[2] It has been frequently set to music by notable songwriters and quoted by prominent leaders, and its broadly inclusive language has found appeal with diverse faiths encouraging service to others.[1][3][4]

  1. ^ Manning, Kathleen (2017). “What do we know about St. Francis, America’s most popular saint?”U.S. Catholic. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  2. ^ Renoux 2001, pp. 21, 27–28.
  3. Jump up to: a b c d e f Piccuci, Egidio (19–20 January 2009). “Le origini del testo attribuito a san Francesco d’Assisi: L’Osservatore Romano e la vera storia della Preghiera semplice”. L’Osservatore Romano (in Italian). p. 6.
  4.  Piccuci, Egidio (19–20 January 2009). “Le origini del testo attribuito a san Francesco d’Assisi: L’Osservatore Romano e la vera storia della Preghiera semplice”. L’Osservatore Romano (in Italian). p. 6.

Breakthrough

Along with the other resolutions posted the other day, some other ones have crept in. These are letting go and surrendering to life, and ultimately, surrendering to God.

This means letting go of my need to control everything, and the belief that I even can control everything. Because, I can’t. I control nothing.

Surrender. Letting go.

As a result of this intention, I woke up Saturday morning and asked Alan to go with me on an overnight trip to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where we met and lived as newlyweds. A getaway for just the two of us, for just the second time in our life as parents. He said “yes”, so we dropped everything and left. Mia, Anna, and Penny were in the loving care of Alan’s parents.

We didn’t take many pictures, but here is one from the beginning of our adventure. The joy on our faces is real. The trip was absolutely rejuvenating.

The above photo is taken from the inside of Acoustic Cafe in downtown Eau Claire. The white building kitty corner across the street was the building we lived in when we were first married. We had the three top windows on the right on the front side of the building.

Drinking coffee inside the cafe, I sort of went into a trance and back in time to when we lived in that little apartment across the street and who I was back then.

Twenty-two years old, newly married, working as a nursing assistant at a nursing home down the street. Young, naive. Also good at heart, well-intentioned, doing my best, responsible, hard-working, loving, sensitive, kindhearted.

Looking out that window, my heart overflowed with compassion for my former self, the self that lived in that little apartment and did the best with what she had.

I cried.

I am still that person, still of the same essence. I was never good enough for myself. Not then, not afterward. In that moment, I realized that maybe I’ve been good enough all along. Good enough for me, good enough for Alan, good enough for my parents, good enough for everyone, good enough for God.

Can I have that compassion for my present self? Can I let go of those judgments against myself and let myself be good enough?

I can.

Happy New Year!

Things are so much better in my world since the new year arrived, probably thanks to a few little changes. Here are my resolutions for this year:

Exercise every day

Start each day with a grateful heart, a positive attitude, and loving intentions

Don’t eat sugar

Have more fun

It took one day to feel the effects of practicing these intentions. Eliminating sugar has an almost immediate impact on my mental health. Each day will start with some kind of devotion or meditation–whatever is important to me at the time. Today it was: “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And really feeling the gratitude along with it. Each day in this life is a gift, and to not appreciate it is so unfortunate (and I’ve been doing that lately).

That, along with the love and support from the lovely people in my life, have made things turn around.

Yesterday was a wonderful day and I had FUN! I drove to my hometown by myself, which is about an hour from where I live now. After driving around the town and shopping at the old Wal-Mart, I met up with my friend, Michelle, with whom I went to school since we were kids. We didn’t hang out when we were in school, but always knew each other and were in the same classes many times. We reconnected over Facebook a while back when we realized we had a lot in common. Now she is a cherished friend. After that, I visited my parents at their house and we had coffee and talked for hours. It was a restorative and special day. My heart is still warm and full from that day.

As far as the exercise routine goes, I started an exercise program online today. After 12 minutes of it, my body told me to stop. So, here’s to starting small and not giving up. Each day it will get better and easier. The body is really, really out of shape.

Feeling good, feeling motivated for a new beginning.

Peace and blessings to everyone. xo

A new year (almost)

Anna came down with a very sore throat and fever today, so my guess is we’ll lay pretty low for New Year’s Eve.

Normally around this time of year, I feel pretty excited about the prospect of a new year, a fresh start, and making new year’s resolutions. Although I rarely keep my resolutions, that hasn’t stopped me from making them. This year, I’m not feeling it. Maybe that’ll change tomorrow. The feelings of discouragement and perhaps of depression are a barrier at the moment. But, who knows? Maybe this will be the year that I actually do lose 20 lbs. and start exercising.

Facebook, as expected, has been difficult for me. At first, it was a rush to be back in touch with so many people I care about and catch up with them. I get to be a part of the group that Alan enjoys communicating with on Facebook and I get to make sure he doesn’t flirt with anybody on there (yes, I am that jealous). Now that rush is gone, and I’m left with this annoying feeling like I have to check it multiple times per day. I am thinking a lot about my friend, Allison, who is really good at managing screen time. I think she checks Facebook once per week. That would be good for me and perhaps this could be my New Year’s resolution. Interestingly, research shows that the more a person uses social media, the less happy a person is and the less satisfying real-life relationships one has. I can see that in my own life. There’s a feeling of being left out without Facebook and not knowing anything, but maybe this ignorance is bliss. Being with Facebook brings far more complicated problems to conquer, such as risk of infidelity, competing with real-life relationship quality, comparing one’s life to others’ lives, information overload, anxiety, and getting triggered by upsetting posts.

My self-esteem has been at rock-bottom for quite some time now. I’m not completely sure what is going on. I think I’m suffering from legitimate mental illness right now, even though I don’t really buy into mental diagnoses completely. I know, ironic. With a few exceptions, usually mental illness is a matter of a spiritual crisis combined with poor life choices and is usually correctable without medication or even therapy. I do think there is a hormonal/chemical imbalance thing going on with me, possibly related to diet and exercise, intestinal flora, negative beliefs, aging, and stress. There is a spiritual crisis of sorts that is going on, and this can’t be fixed from the outside. I have to go through it from within. What is my purpose here? Am I even worthy? Am I lovable? Is God punishing me? Sounds stupid, I know. I think everyone is worthy, lovable, and I don’t believe God punishes anybody…except for me. Why is that? The part of me that thinks I’m not good enough has been around as long as I can remember. Can I maybe let this go in the new year? If I let it go, I can hardly imagine what could be possible. Everything in my life would be better if I could let it go.

Here are some photos we had taken at JC Penney this year. We weren’t able to get them done in time to send out Christmas cards this year, but had them taken, anyway. Honestly, that’s ok. I really dislike myself in the family photo and prefer not sending it out. I love Alan and the girls, though.

I ordered a copy of the Lamsa Bible, which according to David Hawkins is the Bible most close to the original Aramaic text of Jesus. I see online that there is controversy over this, so it’ll be interesting to learn more about that. Bible passages have been comforting to me lately. Here is one I like today, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 in the King James Bible. It fills my heart.

1And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the [a]earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Inner work

As a part of the ongoing inner work and also re-joining Facebook, I’ve realized more fully that there are a lot of addictive tendencies I experience from day to day. My endless struggle seems to be maintaining focus and staying on the straight and narrow path. To me, this path is taking care of my health, my family, and doing the spiritual work. I get sucked into negative thinking, paranoid thoughts, eating impulsively, not exercising, and checking my phone endlessly. I feel frustrated with myself. I feel like I have ADHD. The underlying cause of the addictions seem to be a sense of entitlement that I’m not letting go of. There is a desire to escape discomfort. And, there is the general feeling of emotional and physical fatigue that has been around for a while.

While the inner turmoil has been somewhat better recently, I continue to experience this sense of feeling lost and directionless. The visual metaphor I have in my mind is that I’m walking at night through a small town on cobblestone streets. The town is asleep, with only street lights turned on. I’m cold and it’s raining ice cold rain, and I’m covering up with a rain coat. I just keep walking and walking but don’t know where I’m headed. Despite this, there is still a sense of safety and security and that there are people in the houses that I can turn to if I need them. My astrology predictions say I’ll feel this way until 2021, so I’d better get comfortable with this.

What I’m very drawn to right now are spirituality and especially Christianity. Maybe because of Christmas, maybe because it’s just my path right now. I have been listening to Christian music and watching Jesus videos. And, I’ve enjoyed it a great deal and feel that it nourishes my soul. Over Christmas we went to a traditional church service at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church and I enjoyed it greatly. We also went to Alan’s church on Christmas day, which was not enjoyable in the religious sense but it was enjoyable because we saw many special people I haven’t seen in a while. I think that since leaving Alan’s church, I’ve been uncertain of where I stand and what I need in terms of religion and spirituality. Maybe I’m in a place now where it feels safe to explore and find my own meaning in these things.