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.


Mia’s recording session

Mia has been working on recording an album of original songs for the last year. We couldn’t afford any more sessions, but thanks to my parents’ generosity, she’ll continue to record until she has a complete album.

Stephen Helvig is Mia’s production engineer. He is amazing. Not only does he have great technical skills and a great ear, but he can really connect with Mia and they work so well together.

Here are some photos from today’s session with Helvig Productions.

An abundance of good things

Looking through some photos on my computer at 12:40 on this early Saturday morning, I realize how many incredible gifts are present in every aspect of my life. Why I choose to complain, only heaven knows. Here are some of the photos. Also, for some stupid reason, I started opening a Facebook account tonight. It’s under review at the moment, so it’s not active quite yet. I don’t really want it. And at the same time, a part of me longs for it out of loneliness and feeling left out and wanting to be in the same game as Alan (he joined this summer for the first time). I guess I am taking on the challenge once again, even if only temporarily.

Homeschool is back in session

Mia is now in 10th grade and Anna in 5th grade. Both of our sweet girls want to homeschool again this year, and we are happy to make that happen. Last year was the best year we’ve had in a long time, and I’m hopeful this year will be great, too. After trial and error in trying different methods and curricula, we’ve found our own groove and found what works for us. My heart is full and deeply grateful.

Today, I work for a few hours and homeschool with the girls for a few hours. I’m listening to this today and am glad for the reminder that attachment is the most important aspect of parenting. Even as our children grow, our attachment bond with our children is the most important aspect of their growth. I’m sure that we can maintain attachment with our children if they are in school, too, although homeschooling the girls right now feels so in line with maintaining healthy attachment.

“Relationship matters not only because it makes children easy to work with, but also because it is the context in which maturation is to happen.” Dr. Gordon Neufeld


I had a bad dream last night.  It was about something that’s been nagging at me lately–something I think I’ve tried to stuff away but is now rearing it’s head and won’t stop until I deal with it.

I really don’t like dealing with this topic.  It hurts to feel it.  But, maybe it’s time for me to feel it fully and then let it go, so here goes.

As long as I can remember, I have felt unliked and unlikeable.

Now, I don’t want to place blame on anyone or anything for this belief.  I’ve created the belief and hung onto it for almost 40 years.  The experiences I’ve had have served a karmic purpose. I must, however, acknowledge that in my family of origin, I didn’t feel liked, and often times, I did not feel loved.  I was criticized a great deal.  I was shamed and yelled at. When I expressed myself–my beliefs, feelings, style, likes and dislikes–I was rejected and shamed.

For as long as I can remember, I have believed that something was wrong with me and that I was essentially flawed and unacceptable.  Not just to my parents, but to the world.  If my parents didn’t like me, then how could anyone else? (I am pretty sure they like me now, for the most part.)

This is the painful belief I have to process now, just in time for my 40th birthday.

We survived.

I have been thinking about time and how things happen that change us.  We can never go back and be who we were before.  Change is painful and humbling.  It is beautiful, too.  Change can wake us and open us–as long as we roll with it and not resist.

About five years ago, the universe pushed me in a drastic new direction. After being committed to homeschooling and full-time mothering for a long time, I suddenly knew that Mia needed to start school, that Anna would start preschool, and I would start grad school.  The decision was made overnight, and we just did it.

Hard times came along with that change.  It was tight and stressful during those years.  There was grief. There was focus. Alan and I got hit with pneumonia. We sold our house and moved.  We lost three beloved pets.  We lost great-grandma.  I left the church. Our marriage was challenged like never before.

Work, internship and classes consumed my life for a while. I struggled to maintain the relationship with my children that I’d had before the change. I intensely processed my childhood and the repressed parts of me that had to be faced.

Tremendous storms passed through with crises in my family of origin and with my best friend.

My dad got cancer.

My ideals were shattered, and one by one, I learned to let a lot of them go. I learned to ask for help and accept it more graciously. I learned to forgive and embrace imperfection. I gained weight. My health suffered a bit. I broke.

And, I kept moving–we kept moving.

We were on a little boat in the ocean, heading in a general direction but not always knowing where we were or if we would make it.  Sometimes, we had to hang on to that boat for dear life, waiting for the storms to pass.

We’ve now reached the shore.  We’re a bit weathered and rough, but have stepped out of the boat and are resting on dry, soft land.  It is lovely.  It is sun and warmth and fresh air and a sky full of stars.

I think I can safely say this now: we survived.

As a family, we might be more in love with each other and more grateful than we were before.  We’re back together again, grounded and committed in a new way. We have been washed clean with a good, heavy rain.

My children remember the hard times, and sometimes I feel badly about that.  “You were so crabby when you were working full-time,” they remind me.  “We used to read books every night.”

Most of the time, though, I’m glad they remember.  Yes, I was crabby. I still am, although less so.  We read books again, or at least we read more consistently. My children saw me at my worst, and so did I.  And at the same time, they saw me at my best.

And my husband? He just loves me. He loves us. He has weathered the storms with grace and loyalty. I think I’ve seen him at his best, but not yet at his worst. I don’t think he has a “worst.” He has been kind, accepting, and encouraging through it all.

We’ve been roughed up a bit, but just enough–without damaging the softness inside.  That softness inside has only grown. Both the roughness and the softness will carry us through the storms that lie ahead.

And there will always be storms.



Anna, enjoying one of the many snowstorms this year brought us.







I’m happy.

I feel like I have to hold my breath to make this feeling last.  I am happy.

I guess it’s more than a feeling.  It’s a state of being that I don’t usually have.  There is contentment and gratitude and faith that things are the way they are supposed to be.

Last week I had a health scare that shook me up quite a bit and left me thinking about my own mortality.  I thought about how my family might go on without me someday and what it would be like to leave them behind.  After some tests, I learned that I do not have any fatal diseases and that I am okay for now.  It was a relief, and it was also a blessing to have gone through that.

I have fibrocystic breasts, which have become increasingly painful.  Because I am a holistically minded person, I am not settled on the “take some Tylenol” recommendation of my MD.  I am working with my wonderful holistic doctor to heal my breast tissue along with the rest of my body.  Inflammation in one area of the body means inflammation in other areas, and the solution involves a new diet, better stress management, and better self care.  Chronic inflammation leads to a host of disease, including cancer.

Whether I can get my body to a better place or not, today I feel peace and contentment that this is the experience I am here to have.  If I get breast cancer (which is what I sense that my condition could lead to), then I’ll get that.  If I die young, then so be it.  I’ll do my best to be well and accept whatever comes.

Anna is home with me today.  I spent the day cleaning the house.  I hugged Anna for a long time and felt her beautiful energy, like rays of sunshine permeating every cell of my being.  In that moment, I felt that everything I needed is right here, right now.  Like Eckhart Tolle says, “Be here now.”  Today, I am here.

Life is a rollercoaster

Extreme ups and downs can exist simultaneously. This is something I haven’t realized until recently.

I feel both love and joy when I think of my dad, and also grief and sadness. It’s such a complicated mixture of feelings. It takes a lot of energy to experience this and I am starting to wonder how it will affect me in the long term.  My dad is doing well at this time, and my goal is to focus on that as much as I can.

I am reminiscing a great deal and thinking of wonderful things about my dad.  I want to compile a little book for him that contains some of my memories.  If enough time and ambition arises, I’ll include some sketches or photos, too.

Our little family had a lovely Easter weekend with baskets and colored eggs and yummy food and karaoke. And, we started something new: telling jokes along with karaoke. It is so much fun. Laughter and singing are maybe the best medicine for the soul.






A part of my soul that was lost years ago has been returned.

Today while I was napping, Alan went out and bought a record player and some used records to add to a little collection we started recently.

He showed off the new purchase by playing Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.”

It transported me into another dimension. Time stopped. My skin tingled. I almost cried.

Music from a record is a physical music. It is felt not only by the ears and heart but by the body, too.

Sitting on the sofa with my soft, purring kitty in lap while listening to records might be my new favorite way to spend a Friday night.