murphyormel

wacky reflections from a nutcracker wannabe

Tag: cancer

The annual “stirrup and well” visit.

A friend recently asked me if in contemplating the first half of my life, could I name three regrets?  Candidly, it is a tough question, as I don’t think of myself as having regret, just silly choices with misadventure, joy, love, loss and consequence.

But one thing DID come to mind, additional children. Life didn’t work out that way, and I was gifted a fabulous teenager years before but hope for bonus children to love some day still lives in my heart…….however, his question perpetuated my recent thinking to republish an old and important post…..please share the following piece with women friends you know have experienced miscarriage and those who keep private from even you- all need healing.

For me, miscarriage initiated a trajectory of heartbreak far worse than a cancer diagnosis.  (yes, you read that correctly.  Cancer was a blur in comparison to these private and unbearable losses.)

(The following was originally published July 7, 2012)

“Scoot down, scoot down, more, ok almost there…..STOP, now relax those knees” (feels slightly like waiting for the car wash light to flash red so I know I haven’t gone too far)….then small talk, breathe, nervous laugh, more small talk……

Ladies, sound familiar? yep, THE annual “women’s well” visit.

Really needs a different name. Something that combines stirrups with vulnerability and cold all in one pleasant tag line.  I’m going with the annual “stirrup and well” visit.  Think?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, her dad came with me the first time, and lol, there is no way to prepare a man for another man- a qualified physician- evaluating his wife in stirrups, wearing gloves covered in lubricant. Her dad did well, but when the doc, in his thick Hispanic accent referred to my “booobaas” as normal because swollen”, I thought he might pass out.

It isn’t the easiest of visits, is it ladies? We are vulnerable, my fellow marketers haven’t yet discovered that the ceiling would be an ideal medium for advertising…and we are always cold under that thin white paper sheet they call a gown. Where is my long gone beautiful, plush Westin robe to make the “experience” of the “stirrup and well” visit a brand success?

I used to blackberry while naked and gowned to pass time, because as you know, the OB/GYN visit is notoriously behind. (Those having babies don’t wait. I get it.) Just don’t tell the friends on the other end of the email or phone where you are while in conversation or working on the BB.

What isn’t so easy for me today is sitting here in the same room with healthy moms awaiting a healthy birth. We don’t know what others in the room have faced, and now that I have lived the pain and statistics of two miscarriages in such a short time and clearly still struggle, I wonder if perhaps we could have a two-wall waiting area. (I’d pick the four wall padded one and preferably a pink glittery color.)

The very, very young mama yelling at her young kids next to me and very pregnant with another makes me sad. I’m sure it’s a moment of patience and lack of sleep (I’ve been there), but she can’t know how many others in this room want but can’t have what she has been gifted.

In other parts of my life, I would start conversation with the smiling lady with twins who just walked in, or the young new-to-be mama across from me, clearly anxious and rubbing her wonderfully growing tummy.

I feel jealousy and frustration and sadness. That little cry that needs their mama is a fantastic sound. I feel their joy and similarly, feel selfishly sad. I have a thriving, smart, beautiful daughter, but together we both believed there would be a sibling.

So, I sit and wait while the game channel- an OB/GYN favorite- inquires “what an artist uses” on the $25K Pyramid Game Show with Nipsy Russell giving input. Really, is this where I am on a much needed day of vacation from work?

Did you know that 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. And how few women come forward to tell even their families? Why is something so prevalent kept private, and the wound that comes with this loss a secret, as if others before haven’t walked the same path or been allowed to feel loss? It’s not shameful. We don’t choose. And spouses, interaction is critical. We need you to feel with us and be our rock.

And our grandparents’ generation? How in secrecy did they endure the loss (so many losses), with lack of Vicadin to numb, numerous complications and lack of technology to protect their own health? I guess lack of birth control was a big issue……That and no Internet.

Cheers to all mamas that are gifted a child, and cheers to those who are gifted being an auntie, cousin, sister and daughter. We all make a difference in our small way. If anything, at least some help when Nipsy gives the wrong answer on the GYN waiting room tv.

I pray for good health and healthy tests for all of us.  Cheers to the annual “stirrup and well visit”.

Mel

The elusive bell that taunts.

These past five years have been a long, damn (Sorry, Sister) time to hear that sound, applause and tears for strangers – other patients winning their journey with cancer  – when I wanted for myself.  But today it arrived for me.

The elusive and well-respected bell at Siteman Cancer Center announces a patient is clean. It is loud. It is overt. It is a prize.

No longer will I be mistaken for a pharma rep and asked for directions as I head for my own body scan.  No longer will I cry BEFORE the physician walks in to give me the latest results. No longer will my parents have to live with the worry of another phone call saying it remains present.

Nope, from here out, checkups are like an annual well visit of health and gratitude.

My junior mint of cancer is no longer elusive, no longer a tease. Today, the bell was mine.

Thank you to my friends and family for all the love and support along this emotional journey.

Mel

#SitemanCancerCenter #RingtheBell #Standup2Cancer

#SitemanCancerCenter #RingtheBell #Standup2Cancer

Be gentle with yourself.

Invited to join a new friend’s ‘chair yoga’ class at a local cancer treatment center today, I found a new sweetness to a practice I so love. Over 15 elderly cancer patients and survivors enjoyed their weekly one hour of stillness, healing, camaraderie, compassion and strength….from a chair. The practice of meditation (centering), breath-work (pranayam), warm ups (pratapana), asana (postures) and relaxation all remaining true to the core elements of yogic philosophy. There is beauty in knowing the room held a majority of chair users over the age of 80+.

All of whom have or had some form of cancer.

These yogi and yogini practitioners demonstrate that survival indeed prevails. I watched the gentleness with which they watched their own alignment and trusted their own inner yoga teacher. No ego, no judgment, just love and what yoga teaches us as foundation, meaning breath and oneness with self.  Sweetness indeed.

Asked to set an individual intention as traditional yoga teaches, these yogis likely selected very different types of intention than many of us able-bodied…..I often set intention for good health for my family, love partnerships that sustain, or that selfishly, my professional anxieties will dissipate; while today’s chair yoginis may very well cherish patience through chemotherapy, praying a former chair patient and friend stays out of hospice a more few weeks, financial stability allowing for further treatment, and/or best yet, signing the survivor quilt so proudly displayed in the entryway.

The lesson in walking away for me today wasn’t about sequence or structure or even body type, rather it was about introspection of self, fragility of spirit, strength of friendship, appreciation of stillness and knowing that age isn’t a number when we believe in ourselves… and finally, that all of us, regardless of strength, balance or flexibility, benefit from being one with the moment.

be gentle. with yourself. with your body. with your spirit.

Om shanti,

Mel

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 2.40.54 PMp/c: dailydoseofhannah.wordpress.com

A fork. And a road.

There isn’t just one fork. Or even one road.  There are many.  And how do we- ok, me- choose?  The metaphor with which we are most familiar is “a deciding moment in life or history when a major choice of options is required”.  I like it, but why can’t I choose more than one road? Life is indeed beauty full, and I have many selves in me. There are no limits to our adventure or misadventure. We own our own path. We look back, or we move forward. We make the bucket list and truly feel the heartfelt, deep-down, pure joy of these choices as achievement of each is granted.

I am only half way through my spiritual life in this body, and frankly, I find myself needing more roads, and I guess a few more forks about now.

I have the best gift ever given in my daughter; I’ve been gifted love by more than one man; my family is proud of me, regardless of my silliness; I’ve had the world series of roles in my full-time professional marketing life with amazing experience, global travel and friendships; I get to teach college students about a craft I adore; I was privileged to study and practice my way through 100′ of record-breaking Massachusetts snow to get my RYT (registered  yoga teacher) and soon actually teach one of my greatest passions; I’ve zip lined; partied with celebrities; enjoyed my share of girls’ road trips and ridden motorcycles. I’ve hiked fantastic scenery, tubed in pouring down rain (while pulling a tube of adult beverages), and I’ve crossed my fingers (and sometimes eyes) along slippery rain forest ridges in foreign lands.  I’ve stayed in ritzy hotels, foreign castles and down-and-out filthy motels that rocked. I’ve eaten dishes I couldn’t define or pronounce but expensed with the best of my colleagues.  Crab legs in a dive bar and plain old veggies at galas. An Airbus, many a truck stop, deep-sea fishing, and para-sailing in perhaps unsafe conditions.  There have been moments with the law. Moments I reveal with my parents one misadventure a year (reduces the chance of shock). And oh so much fun along the way…..

So what next?

1.  Continued clean eating.  Cheers to the Ayurvedic healing science I am taking one day at a time.  Can’t say I own a neti pot yet, but who knows.

2.  I will keep chasing what feels right and follow my own heart.  It may not be the PhD, but if it makes me sing with happiness, I keep going. This is where needing more forks comes in…..writing, paying for college with a FT marketing gig, teaching college, teaching yoga, consulting, selling, speaking, volunteering……I need more hands. more time. more forks.

3.  I will ensure that not one day goes by that I miss a moment of being the best mama I can be.  Even when she does think me odd or tell me “you are turning into your mom”…defined in the 14-year-old girl handbook as “when I Breathe. Talk. Sing. Walk.”

4.  I will grow my bucket list and follow my own bliss.  It’s stunning to think back to what I wanted for myself in my 20s….and how much I’ve made happen in these short 20 years.  No one else.  Me.  And that feels damn good!  It’s time to pull out the list and add on.

5.  I will not wait for life to happen. I will be in my own skin every difficult, vulnerable, fatigue-filled, scary, wonderful, loving, and dark day.

6. I will continue to trust my gut, even when what I hear hurts.

7. I will laugh a lot more. Always asking for the big bear hug that makes me spontaneously giggle out loud.

8. I will no longer allow anyone to reduce or take away my achievements, memories or joy.

9. I will pay it forward, accept that naps don’t mean I am wasting time, and keep promises.

10. And most importantly, I will work harder to love myself just as I am today.  I too am Beauty Full.

In a recent Instagram post, I quoted an artist to title a photo of my beautiful daughter that fits tonight:

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it is who is going to stop me?”

White lights,

Mel

you are only as interesting as your shoes

a friend recently shared a concept re. what we have in our shoe closets saying something about our personality…..is he correct?  Think about your own collection.

  • My favorite bright red or pink and assorted collection of Mary Jane’s say signature Mel and slightly quirky (perfect with tights and a skirt).
  • Knee high suede black boots with a smart heel (or any hot boot with a heel – the click is critical, ladies) make me feel confident and completely in control at the head of the executive table or leading a crowded speaking engagement.
  • My comfy Danskos say long day ahead, she must be in healthcare, and please don’t wear me with a suit
  • Barefoot says the mat is a callin’
  • Both the hot Harley boots and pink cowboy boots say sass and perhaps a little too much shopping at Chuck’s House of Boots.
  • Conservative Sperry’s that say she surely can’t be the senior professional who has multiple tattoos  (yep, my personal paradox)
  • Pointe shoes equal my love for the ballet
  • Cute navy heels show a little ‘toe cleavage’ – (I don’t know what they say other than I know the word “toe cleavage”)

Regardless, what does your shoe collection say about you?  Fashion forward, comfort, sass, sexy, confidence, professional, relaxed, or just plain too worn out to care?  Since my favorite and quirky Mary Jane’s are my favorite, it feels fitting to bring you up to speed on some recent ‘Murphy or Mel’ moments that are only mine:

  • Upon returning from a long trip recently and still dazed and confused about being back in my routine, I opened the door to the car, sat down, and closed the door…only to realize it wasn’t my car, nor was it anywhere near the same color.  Black is not the new white.
  • I created a hashtag for my daughter and friends after some silly photos, only to have the darn iPhone auto spell-check change #goforitgirl to #go forfeit.  Not exactly the encouraging empowerment I envisioned.
  • Purchased a darling new dance shirt for my daughter after a recent competition.  It spelled “dancer” in bold silver glitter across her back, starting and ending shoulder to shoulder.  Unfortunately, this ridiculously expensive shirt didn’t get her compliments, it came with questions about why she was wearing the word “cancer” in glitter across her back.
  • While in Massachusetts for a yoga workshop, I awoke to the very clear sound of a Midwest tornado alarm.  Knowing the drill, I grabbed my pillow and shoes and started calling for my roommate to do the same.  She sat up and with this priceless look said, Melissa, you are in New England.  (Apparently the same tone in MA is a call for volunteer fire fighters.)
  • Recently visiting a local store that sells natural oils, incense, silver jewelry and meditation resources, I walked out very happy with my purchases but with a distinct smell of sage on me.  A sage that well, had its own distinct smell. And of course, this aroma was not going away but exacerbated by my small car with windows closed as I went to pick up my 8th grader.  (Parent moment: Do I tell her that I smell like hashish, or do I let it go and hope it isn’t as noticeable as I’m trying to convince myself?)  Yeah, right – the minute she entered the car, she looked at me with wide eyes as if to say, what the heck is that smell on you?  So, as I have always done, I gave her truth. It just is. We both smelled like weed.

While not a shopper, I do love a great pair of shoes, and the stories that pave the way.  It doesn’t really matter what shoes I’m wearing, my life as a living caricature, and the stories that accompany are just part of the Murphy or Mel charm. Cheers.

Om Shanti,

Mel

I thank you for loving me.

I am privileged to have had many, many wonderful people love me in this life.  Each of those who do today, or have loved me in the past, have been a teacher and gift-giver.  Through tears. Through laughter. Through joy and drama and dress up and sweat.  Through dares of silliness and darkness of hurt. Through meditation and prayer.  So many of you.  I thank you for loving me.

You have sent me silly notes, beautiful flowers, read to me, told me ghost stories and held my hand.  You have dropped off gluten-free goodies at my door or sent inspirational quotes or murphy moments of your own to make me laugh.  You have started dance floors, walked through snow, run through mud, been tattooed, ordered silly drinks, taught me to ride a bike, walked along city streets, traveled all over the globe, skipped along side me, suffered in silence on long drives, or sung loudly to songs only I would like.  You’ve been caught underage with me.  You skipped school with me.  You drove me to the hospital when the diagnosis came and came again….and still again. So many of you. I thank you for loving me.

I am blessed for what each of you have gifted me in growth.  It hasn’t always been easy, and more than a few times, loss has hurt like hell, but I’m stronger and with age, listening closely to each grand lesson.

This sudden strike of hurt parallels the likes of a hurricane.  You know it is coming, and yet, while preparing and seeking cover, the blow is still internally painful and alters the landscape while we ride the wave.  It is just that, interpersonal suffering. But it is only a wave. That blow ends.  And something new gently unfolds.

This is the gift.  The path of our truth and personal landscape comes from each of these wonderful souls along the wave – sometimes blowing in like the strong gusts of wind in a storm.  We ride the wave as the feeling isn’t forever.  It comes and goes.  It ebbs and flows.  It balances us and sometimes tosses us high in the air for that deep-down giggle or sharply drops us as we feel the sting of reality. A reality that forever changes the person we were the day just prior.

Sometimes the strangest and most profound friendships come into our lives when we least expect- for reasons unknown to us.  In fact, we may not even like or remember you at first.  Some friendships dissipate, but they always leave a mark.  These souls may encourage us to want more, to ask for the order, to start or finish something, to begin again, to find our truth, to follow our heart, to change, to let go, to leave when it is right, to help us find courage or beauty we can’t see inside ourselves, to live authentically, to truly know love, to love again, to say thank you, to forgive, to get help, to be a better person or parent or friend.  Perspective from outside of our own head is healthy and a gift, when thoughtfully presented with loving-kindness.

“As I look back on my own yesterdays”, I am honored by the immense amount of love given to me freely and without expectation.  I didn’t always appreciate nor have I always reciprocated that unconditional love in an overt way, but I am indeed grateful for the souls that have and continue to cross my path.

The holes of heartache; however, are never holes for long.  There will be new characters in the plot.  New friends and loves that enrich our experience in this universe and teach us self-awareness as we ride our wave.

Cheers to a new surf board and the ebbs and flows of what is a certain wave called this wonderful life.  I thank you for loving me*.

Mel

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMG8EVEwdA8 (You Tube, Tenors, “I thank you”)

too tired for ballet this week.

I haven’t had much time to write with getting my head around all I missed at work while off with nuisance cancer treatment #2, but I do appreciate all the sweet inquiries.  As I sleep at home a third day in a row while Siteman reviews new labs to investigate why I’m again sleeping the 15-18 hours a day WITH Rx in my system, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts.

When our body isn’t what we want, we get down on ourselves. And as high-achievers, it feel immensely powerful to our self-esteem.  Much like an individual struggling with an eating disorder or depression, we feel unlike the self we remember or envision ourselves to be.  It feels like failure. And while I know logically, I lack patience, and this Rx adjustment is part of the process for this “junior mint of cancers”, I feel my body and self-betrayal and haunted feelings of failure arise from within.  It brings back ugliness from past ick in my life, and makes my already too busy mind race with why and what and when did this all begin.

But really, does it matter?  No.

And yes, I know that too.

I didn’t choose this darn illness, nor do I control the Rx adjustment, alternative solutions or long-term prognosis.  What is clear is that I must do a better job of making positive and healthy choices to eat better and stay present, so the mind-racing, self-doubt, questioning, negative self talk and “shoulding” on myself will stop.

I’ve never quit.  Not after the motorcycle fall, not after he told me he was done, not after the first ER visit.  Instead, I did learn to crochet (to be fair, I haven’t mastered the turn), and I started ballet in my 40s.  But damn,  I’m too tired this week to do either.

I am too busy for this silliness to take away precious days with my family, friends and daughter, not to mention a great professional home.  I’m simply too Type A to be down, out and alone so much!  Sickness just gets in my way.

My best friend encourages more time on the mat and meditation to find peace, but without the darn organ that normalizes metabolism, even a good dose of my yogi self and a little ballet wipes me out.

So, back to the title question, why do we allow feelings of failure and negative self-talk when we didn’t originally choose the nuisance in the first place?

Om shanti,

M

“the only corner of the world you can change is your own.”

The only corner of the world you can change is your own“, my yoga teacher, Sarah, said these words to me- and bizarrely, I dated the quote 3/13.  Oddly, that date hasn’t arrived yet, and I held on to it when I can’t explain why today.  Regardless, she has been my healer for over 10 years- not knowing her wise words would do the trick and/or how often I call up words she said to me years ago during a Sunday morning practice.

Even if I haven’t had the energy to be back in her studio in some time, I go back to the mat in my living room even just to sit, when my body can’t do more than simple asanas and sometimes just breathe, because even that is some form of healing and brings calm in a most needed moment.

I am one week from returning to work and strangely my anxiety is incredibly high.  I am terribly bored at home and sleep nearly 18 of 24 hours on a good day, so you’d think returning would be ideal.  I really enjoy what I do, so that isn’t the issue either- in fact, I’ve missed some great successes with a talented team.  Seems like I should be thrilled to return, and yet, I’m wondering if the reality of returning to an every day cycle of life without the mess of my life swirling so close to me and “out there” is what has me anxious today.  Is it that folks will expect normalcy when I don’t know what normal is anymore?  Is it that I have to face the next phase head on with a more positive lingering of sickness?

Sure, I will do this silly junior mint cancer thing again in a year, but my intuition says I will get the A and finally a negative read and thankfully, the nightmare of this mess will be over.  Is it that a wonderful man from my past wants a real relationship, and I’m terrified of letting anyone down or being hurt myself ?  That jealousy takes over, and I can’t find a way to manage this hurt that he didn’t create.

And my sweet girl….I’m humiliated at what I have put her through in the last few years.  Am I teaching her anything with these sweet mistakes – meaning, vulnerability, humility, giving of my heart and believing in people, or am I hurting her when I can’t get it right and so many others do?  (ok, that alone is its own blog post with a divorce rate so high and more people concerned about my junior mint experience than the loss of a marriage)

I have been reading this great book, “A Wild New World” by Martha Beck. She talks about being a wayfinder, a healer.  What she doesn’t say is in direct correlation with my wise yogi teacher and wayfinder, Sarah, “the only corner of the world you can change is your own”.  She speaks of feeling from within, going into wordlessness and using the power of energy to feed and feel others interconnectedness, others “oneness” (ironically, a previous blog post- are we all interconnected after all?).  Folks who are highly creative, emotional and often gregarious on the outside but have a deep need for quiet on the inside are often part of this “Team” as she refers to this membership of sorts.  What I love is where it takes me- somewhere outside of my own life, somewhere possible to make change.

So Sarah through me to Ms. Beck herself are now interconnected, as “the only corner of the world we can change is our own.”  We simply each find our own way to change our corner.  I, however, am still searching.

Cheers to deep breathing, closing our eyes and feeling our insides sing and love that exists, even when we don’t feel so lovable.

I am blessed.  Just have trouble seeing it sometimes.  I suspect I am not alone.

Mel

The Junior Mint of Cancer.

Somehow, this feels weirdly connected to those appendectomy -shaped cookies my daughter and I made as a care package for my brother years ago.  She was roughly three or four, and I failed to look up the shape of the appendix prior to the promise.  She liked the pink icing.  I was mortified of my ridiculous shaping of the cookie cutter.

Thyroid Cancer is indeed the Junior Mint of cancers, but a year ago, all I could hear was that awful word.  It’s scary and unknown.  It’s new and I’m too young and busy.  I was newly alone, frightened and unsure of the next pop in the nose coming my way.  But, it’s a year later, and my lens on life is incredibly different.

So this is a Mel or Murphy way to share my news.

(and yes, the appendix is quite phallic shaped, but I had already made the “let’s make pink cookies with mama” promise to my small girl.  At least my brother must have had a good laugh over my good intention yet incredibly inappropriate family gesture.  Personally, I was horrified and didn’t realize the sex ed lesson I was giving early.  Wait, that makes me progressive.  Now, I just tell her It’s ok to kick him in the walnuts.  (OMG, another cookie reference.)

No worries, as my FB posts state, I did not hit the mark yesterday after-all, and another full dose treatment was issued yesterday afternoon.  Like prostate or optical, thyroid is treated with radio iodine, and therefore is a lot less chaotic and messy than other cancer treatments.  There is no 30+ week radiation, instead, it’s a lead filled canister with cold, aluminum tasting water and let’s just say it- RADIATION- which you drink with a straw THEY hold for you and folks wait outside a locked door.  The Geiger Counter is real, and folks DO back away when you exit the room.

It’s the junior mint of cancers.  But, illness just like a broken arm or heart, must be addressed. We must ‘refute, respond or fix’ (ok, yes, the legal side just came out too- this is what isolation does!)

I really had prayed for the D, meaning the 60-70% of people who do not need the repeat dose, but the damn high achiever in me couldn’t help herself and had to work the curve, so, off to lunch, a glass of wine to calm my already high-strung nerves and more waiting while the Hazmat lady and the expensive and yes, radioactive material, is brought into Siteman Cancer Center.  (Still floors me that you sign advance paperwork that says, “yes, I will be back to drink radiation.”) But of course, we agree eagerly and look for the nearest sandwich place to pass time.  Let’s face it, it is being held at an offsite facility, because it is too dangerous to keep near people!  But for you, Melissa, we would like to offer a pink straw and a dental coverup”.  The price is just right.

– I am ok, though isolation is incredibly boring, and I miss my daughter desperately.  We were allowed an air hug on Tuesday . Today, I must take two showers a day, flush the toilet twice each time, drink juice and more juice, enjoy a swollen jaw line and wonder if nausea will hit.  On the upside, no makeup, and I haven’t blown my hair dry in days.  Small pleasures.

– The only pain I have endured is that of the laxative they made me take Wednesday night in prep for the abdominal scan to ensure there was no spread, even microscopic.  There was not.  Whew!  But damn, the Dulcolax is like trying to pass a colonoscopy by a unknowing participant.

– I learned how to play, “Words with Friends” on my Nook last night.  I was terrible but learned “Zeus” is not a word and “Pee” is.  (Sorry, my MU Journalism peers, I too couldn’t believe I received points and even today have trouble admit accepting those points.  It won’t happen again.)

– I was driving over to the center yesterday at 6:30am, and saw our new outdoor board blank.  We are so close.  It’s ok there is no hazard pay after our drive-by of the prospective board choice caught us in the middle of what must have been “just after gunfire” . My friend, Jim said,  “those four dudes are eating gravel.”  I say, let’s sign a contract!  Prospective board location was validated that day.  Traffic, construction, gunplay…people will slow to see our signage and not forget the beauty of the blue heart and “Off the Chart” art.

– I was driving home at 3:30pm yesterday and saw the new board up.  Faaantafabulous!  It was beautiful and made me cry.  ok, that and the lack of both the organ and thyroid hormone after two weeks are a sentimental combo.  Timing however, couldn’t have been more perfect.

– Prince Harry and that brunette are having a baby, and that pisses me off. (still have anger issues over the miscarriages)

– I can eat whatever is left in the fridge, as I can’t be around anyone for three days, so today, I had cream cheese for breakfast. Tomorrow, it may be candy corn.  I really should have planned ahead.

– There were folks in that waiting room far more ill than me, and for my Junior Mint of cancer, I am grateful it is me, not a child or my own sweet tween.  I have my hair, fine shoes, still not wearing blue velour and a pea coat that makes you think sales rep not patient.  I’m down with that look far more.

– Thank you to so many of you who have texted, called, emailed and loved on me to get me through a blurrish, hellish year.  Much I can’t recall, as I started on this sick couch a year ago not sure how the wind would blow, much less a direction.  I could hear you, I simply couldn’t listen.  It has been a perfect storm of pain.

– It isn’t over, and I have much work ahead, but the gym and bike call me from afar, and my energy WILL return.

– Thank you to the nice lady in the HazMat suit who let me take these photos.  She remembered me from last year, or that’s what they say to all the sophomores of the Junior Mint Society.

– I received more presents last year.  Hey, what’s up?

– My Charter on Demand bill is going to be higher than several dinners out, and I’ve watched all there is on Hulu.  I find Teen Mom quite engaging.  (God, I need out of here!)  btw- Magic Mike is magic.

– Man, I really wish I had a Junior Mint.  Love that cool, wintry taste.

– My twitter feed is full of fun material, but my followers have barely grown.  Apparently, my quirky Murphy self isn’t up to the Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Swift “tape your boobs to their dress”, persona.  Probably should    rename MurphyorMel.  That must be the issue.

– I had my condo cleaned by a professional a day before I went into isolation. ($75 so I could sleep through clean. But no, still no guilt.)

– My therapist encouraged me to buy a rocking chair to soothe myself this year, and here it sits….holding buckets of goodwill clothes.  ok, had it been a Mizzou style chair and actually fit anyone’s decor, rather than the enemy U of I (my dad’s alma mater and laughing his ass off right now), I might use it.  (But I can’t rid myself of it either.  It cost nearly three times the cleaning of the entire condo.)

– Thank you to you for reading about my silliness.  It will not stop.

– Thank you to Temperpedic.

– Thank you to Siteman Cancer Center

– Thank you to my sweet girl.

– Thank you to the makers of Junior Mints and Radio Iodine (and more importantly the delivery person for radio iodine).  A sentence likely never crafted together, and somehow, appropriate today.

I am still not a shrinking violet (which is turns out has very strong roots), but next year, I will come back and finally get the negative result I need.

There is no understanding of how/why this cancer starts, but it is one of the fastest growing and folks don’t typically know until it presents in a large way.  If you or someone you love experiences thyroid issues, please, please, please ask.  I only knew my own fate because of a strange bird with a twisted sense of humor, Crazy Aunt Delilah.

Cheers,

Mel

IMG_1178 IMG_1176 IMG_1175 IMG_1172

Perspective shines on me. And the countdown to glow starts….

Perspective.  Our lives take on varying degrees at different times.  Tonight, as hundreds of mourners stood together in silence, powerful fear and tremendous sadness, the stunning reality of a life taken so young, we each personally awake to what we do have.

Each other.  Today.  The Present.

For me, this silly cancer could go on for two years, six+ years, who knows, but I will work in between, love my daughter, get my life back on track, fall in love again, and pray the end comes at some point.

It will likely not take me from my family except for the annual bear-cave routine, and if it did, I would know life sent me magical moments and gifts beyond anything a blog could express.  I am blessed with beautiful souls who have stood by my side, the courage to wake up and reevaluate an authentic me, unconditional love and friendship when I wasn’t so lovable, what makes me tick on the inside not just the “on”side, what toxic means, and what real perspective is…..

Today, the second parent my age in six months will say goodbye to a child, and there is nothing anyone can say that helps – except to cry with them and let them know we are here – nor can we ever truly know that heartache unless it is us.

Pain is like that.  It can’t be compared.  It shouldn’t be.  

My speed bumps of a silly marriage and divorce, miscarriages that surprised then passed, and now a few trips over the river and through the woods for next week’s again “she’s not a pharma rep but  a patient” radio iodine treatment, seem like nothing when perspective takes a greater meaning like my friend’s family endures today.

God has gifted me a loving, clever, smart, charming, type A, sometimes smarty-pants (as she should be at this age), beautiful, amazing daughter, and for that I am grateful for recognizing what I have.

That it takes loss, meditation, prayer and silence to remind us is the sad part.

Cheers to a beautiful angel who teaches me a lesson I needed desperately to hear when anyone and everyone has said the same thing for the last 12 months, and I couldn’t hear those closest to me.  Or I chose not to listen, because I wasn’t ready.

Sometimes, lessons come from where and when we least expect.

The countdown to the now annual “glow” begins.  A week from today, I will be given the “dose”, measured with the Geiger counter, body scanned again and given instruction on the next steps toward healing, but you know, it will be a-ok regardless of what they find, as the mack truck in me will shine again.

Now, that is perspective I didn’t own until this week.

White lights,

Mel

Bright Red Mary Janes.

Ever really think about the depth of some of the movies we enjoy?  In the Wizard of Oz, for example, clicking a pair of bedazzled mary jane shoes can take Dorothy home.  But along her path and before she goes safely home, she endures fear, the unknown of the next curve, darkness, laughter, a lovable puppy, tears, a new friend who needs courage and a new friend who seeks love.  She isn’t even aware that the shoes she is already wearing can take her home.  Click three times, Dorothy, Click three times!

The last few days have been hard.  Heck, the last two years have been awful.  I’m tired, terrified of what watching all this madness will do to my sweet daughter long-term, and my concentration isn’t always 100%.  Thankfully, I have a career I love, a daughter who continues to thrive amidst the ‘red mary jane/Seussville swirl’ and a family that loves me.

Siteman Cancer Center is moving up my second go round of radio iodine to early January. I wasn’t as scared the first time.  Something about everything else I had just endured and then cancer on top of all that pain seemed like just another nasty entity to cross off my list and move on.

Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t work that way. There is no fairy godmother or good witch to shake out the bad.  And just because I don’t have time for it, doesn’t mean it goes away.

But like Dorothy, I have met new friends on the path, enjoyed laughter, endured my share of tears and darkness, loved a new little puppy, and kept hoping that around every curve, I would and will find peace.

Just like Dorothy, I own bright red Mary Jane’s.  Perhaps the script had it wrong, and the writer intended “kick” not “click” three times.

I pray for peace, acceptance and strength.   I ask the same from you.

Mel

Tiny Delights.

In an earlier post, I used the phrase, “Grief is not a straight line”.  Well, after a fabulous gala fundraiser event for the hospital where I was lucky enough to have my dad as my date, and we had a ball together, I felt the approach of ‘the backwards slide’.  Now, while the old Mel would have made “the backwards slide” some type of dance, I instead felt myself feeling the old sadness and realization of being alone after seeing so many happy married couples.

I have felt the backslide of Seussville indeed.  We don’t plan the old feelings to pop up. Feeling unlovable or knowing I am “sick” simply catches me off guard. I suspect I’m not alone. And for all of us, these feelings come in different ways and at different times.

In three months, I will head to Siteman for treatment number two, and while I am again confident inside and out THIS will be the end of the treatments, fear is still real, and my body is still not 100%.  (Even when I reread the sentence, I can’t believe it is me about whom I write.)

Regardless, I found this tiny piece of peace as I changed purses today. I choose to believe, I saved all these years to bring back in a new medium without knowing where and when it might need me to reread.  I delivered the following words probably 10+ years ago in a holiday card to friends.  It speaks to me again today.  I hope the same for you.

Most of us miss out on life’s big prizes.

The Pulitzer. The Nobel.

Oscars, Tonys, Emmys.

But we’re all eligible for life’s small pleasures.

A pat on the back.

A kiss behind the ear.

A four pound bass.

A full moon.

An empty parking space.

A crackling fire.

A great meal.

A glorious sunset.

Hot Soup. Cold beer.

Don’t fret about copping life’s grand awards.

Enjoy it’s tiny delights.

There are plenty for all of us.*

Today, I made a nice meal for my sweet girl and took a nice Sunday nap.

Small pleasures.  Tiny Delights.  And seeing these small pleasures take me forward once again.

 

What Tiny Delight did you enjoy today?

namaste’,

Mel

* – corporate ad (United Technologies)

Back to Seussville I go.

As I prepared my thoughts today for a Toastmaster Club speech this week, I can’t help but look at all of the amazing, ridiculous, loving, silly, proud, bold, ‘look back and laugh’ moments I have been gifted.  Makes me wonder if we all tried this blogging thing, would we have the same list of silliness, or does God simply want me to fully enjoy my experiences and see what I have, rather than what I don’t?

I have been gifted experiences most folks won’t ever see for themselves (yes, many ups and many downs, sideways, backwards and forwards, as a Dr. Seuss character would naturally embrace), so perhaps, getting to tell my stories is a way for others to hear all of us have a combination of ridiculousness and awesomeness to share with the next generation  For example, jumping in Carlyle Lake at 19 degrees on New Years Day to take home a Polar Bear Plunge title; dating a wild, white-collar-by-day corporate boy but title-carrying national rodeo star by weekend who took me snowmobiling on a lake no less; hearing my toddler yell “mama has a tattoo” in a public pool; living with cancer but being mistaken for a pharma rep while in for testing; not thinking and publicly pawing Kevin Costner in his restaurant during my first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally; knowing a bath house in Tokyo is really just a spa where they let you eat loads of sushi and wear a kick arse Kimono, and learning to drive a motorcycle solo just because I could (really, how hot would I be on a hot pink Harley?  ok, yes, parked and not moving), etc.

All however, have been damn fun, laughable and worth taking on great adventure and things that feel scary. Life is short, and we have so many choices!!!  Why do we wish away time?  Who picked the five day work/ two day vacation concept- why not the reverse? There is so much to experience and enjoy.  Dr. Seuss would pick fun- “Oh the places you go”.  

Do you have a “bucket list”?  And if so, how much is complete, and when will you start?  My bucket list last year included a zip line and a flash mob.  This year, I did both. So now the bucket list deserves more items and that translates to more fun and more stories.  What will I add that both scares and challenges?  Only the future of my ever-changing Seussville journey knows.

Will I get myself into trouble?  Probably.  Will it be worth the chance and story for my daughter to hear (much, much later)?  Abso-freaken-lutely!

Life really is cyclical.

I walked away from this blog a month of so ago, and an old friend specifically said, “If your blog helps YOU…then don’t let idle chatter stop you.”  Dana’s words stuck.  And ironically, this is a woman I didn’t know very well years ago, but since the diagnosis, has privately cheered me along without knowing the strength she carries today and likely gives to others with these same cheering comments.  I know her inner strength more today than years ago.  Who would have guessed?  This is the power of blogging and reaching out when we are touched by words.  Thank you, old friend.

As I prepared my speech today, I realize; 1.  I believed I could, so I did, 2. I have a lot of stories for someone at this age.  (Did my grandparents really have this much silliness (or were they simply private and embarrassed of that which I see a scream and would share with you), or did they give me courage to accept, ask for the order, and just go for it, so that my own silliness, bold change, and trying new things isn’t scary and instead just part of who I am?  I suspect both sides of my German and Irish/Italian Catholic grandparents are watching me in a loud theatre somewhere upstairs with popcorn, Irish beer, those old fancy smokes with the long filters that made the women look alluring and sexy,  while all are belly-laughing, cheering and loving me to the next journey).  I learned from family that “owning your own path” and “doing the thing you think you cannot do”* means taking chances- regardless of outcome.  We can’t regret, we simply learn as we go, and with much hope, forgive in time.  And finally, I realize: 3. I am who I am and will not stand still, regardless of the mix of friends and family that accompany on my journey.

Back to Seussville I go….I’ve missed you.

Mel

“Oh, the places you’ll go”- Dr. Seuss

*  Eleanor Roosevelt, ” You must do the thing you think you cannot do”.

Living two lives. Thank heavens it is a Monday.

So, I’m just home after an 11+ hour day on a Monday.  My sweet daughter is working on homework.  I am however entering the second part of my double life.  The part where reality hits a home-run.

In front of a group of physicians, colleagues, city officials, students, large clubs, toastmasters, BOD involvement, the c-suite, etc., I am “on”.  I was raised to be “on”.  What I wasn’t cleared for was the slap of pain that is called my second life.  It happens on weekends, evenings without my  daughter, any time frankly, when fear and a hit or reminder of what loneliness means to my new path, strikes.

A loneliness I hadn’t seen in many moons.

I’ve said to several people lately, I live two lives, but few- very few!- see both.  One life is polished, confident, capable, knows how to market just about anything and meet/greets like she is running for office.  The other finds safety in her bedroom cave, can sleep away full days without leaving or eating, enjoys a teary eyed afternoon for release, and keeps trying like hell to accept this new phase of life.  Partially, I’m just exhausted because raising a 6th grader, living with a cancer that won’t leave my body, and working long hours is just plain tiring (to be fair, I thrive on the craziness and stir), but tonight, when I should be able to just enjoy a little reading or a no brainer TV show, I am again engulfed by the reality of not accepting a divorce that is inevitable, nor something I chose, wonderful friendships I have damaged along this windy road, family I barely see because I am humiliated about what has happened, and a daughter who rightly so, is mad at the world because of what has happened in our lives in two years.  (She is also a new teenager, and with that, comes new pangs that even a healthy mama with a brain that works 100% can’t navigate. :))

The reality is I live two lives.  Monday-Friday, 6am-6pm is life one.  And when my sweet girl is with me, I go into “on” mode, but otherwise, the second life path is a struggle and few know my boundaries, expectations for myself, perspective on what is important today, my new questions and fears of commitment, what fierce loyalty means to someone ill, questioning if a porch swing partner can maintain a promise, questioning faith, the messiness of changing my last name and identity for marriage in the year 2012, and the biggest of all – questioning my own choice for a lifetime commitment of unconditional love and friendship.

Thank heavens today is a Monday.  The second life is dark until week end.

I may be the only person who genuinely celebrates the work week, because it is safer on my heart.  (And ironically, I am in charge of crisis communications in an industry that is fourth most dangerous for work place violence (just next to liquor stores and taxi cabs).  Sounds fitting for a Mel-like story,  right?)

Cheers to a productive and happy Tuesday.

Om Shanti, Mel

Simply put, I am too busy for cancer.

Really, it’s true.  My professional life demands a strong, healthy, 150% on the go, Mel.  And when I’m on, I am on.   Thankfully, I’ve learned to put aside this darn ailment and move forward when my work world or daughter needs me.  Today, in fact, I was asked for directions while visiting Siteman Cancer Center for my six month check up.  Dressed up in a suit and heels, I appeared more a pharmaceutical rep than a girl with cancer.  I teared up to myself after having to admit I too was there as a patient.

Age, sweats, a doo rag to cover lost hair or a suit and pearls, cancer most certainly does not discriminate.

My daughter asked me this week what I wanted for my birthday.  I said a new body. She offered a Barbie.  At 41, I accept.  It has a new body, comes with a thong, has larger breasts and lipstick that never fades. How can I lose?  And have you ever seen that bumper sticker that the cool biker chics wear that says, “I wanna be like Barbie, that “bit_h” has everything.”  Again, I point out, how can I lose?

All those years of being a serious cyclist, yogi and a regular workout girl are on hold, but darn it, they will be back.  Law of attraction, my friends!  Law of attraction. It just has taken longer than expected. And damn, I’m ready.  I feel guilty for sleeping so much and have to stay home more than my friends and family would prefer.  But it is what it is.  I go 150 mph all week and have to crash sometime.

Today however, that was validated.  It wasn’t an ideal visit, as it turns out I am not as far along on the path as hoped at six months and some meds will require adjustment with repeat radio-iodine treatments in Feb (and sadly, no bell), meaning, yes, I get to glow again and go through the treatment a repeat time with a smaller dose and another body scan.  BUT it could be worse -much worse -and for that I am grateful, so no worries, I will chin up, see myself fixed in time, take my AARP-sized pill-box of meds and be back to a new me at some time in the future.  For now, I choose moment to moment and a new promise of hope.

My sweet girl told me another great story this week.  She asked my mom what her friends talk about, and mom’s reply to my 6th grader was “we talk about the boyfriends we don’t have, flowers and surgery.”  lol!  Perhaps for my birthday this week, someone should purchase a gardening handbook.  A Barbie and some flowers seems appropriate in light of the silliness I enjoy each day.  🙂

On the upside, I couldn’t do a week such as this without a Murphy moment.  In addition to today’s madness, I have scheduled some additional radiology tests for tomorrow morning not realizing the time needed to take each, and yes, just before a good size Toastmaster’s meeting I organized at work.  Nothing like some intense GI work prior to public speaking to make a girl’s day, think?

Simply put, I am too busy for cancer.

Thank you for believing in me, and knowing I will kick cancer’s arse!   I will because of your love and support.

Namaste,

Mel

Don’t watch the movie “Ray” just before Lasik surgery.

No worries, I was just fine years ago and still enjoy 20/20 vision today.  But a good friend and I laughed about my terrible movie choices, as I shared my choice for “A little bit of heaven” Friday night just before this week’s upcoming colonoscopy.  A woman dies of colon cancer.  Really, Melissa?  Read the back before paying, would ya? It’s like Murphy’s law really does follow me around.

I’ve elected to call Tuesday morning’s test, the “Scope and Discover” test.

Being Celiac means having the “scope and discover” test every three years for life, but I’ve postponed for obvious reasons as noted in previous blogs (seriously, how much can one person handle?), and now that postponement may mean something serious.  Really not sure the nurse practitioner should have said “what other kinds of cancer runs in your family?”.  That, coupled, with “rush” …….yeah, not exactly what I needed to hear.

I’m really trying, my friends.  Today, I actually brushed my teeth, showered, grocery shopped and purchased a hot new suit for work, but the reality is I know something isn’t right, and I’m scared.

The difference this go round- unlike the last 18 months of the storm- is that I am more scared for my family, daughter and friends than me.  They carry so much worry for me, and it’s not easy to watch and know I am the burden.  Of course they would disagree because they love me, but the reality is that no one chooses this much chaos, and yet life continues to hand it over.  And without the spouse to whom I am still married interested in my well being or his bonus daughter’s feelings, it is like another sucker punch in the stomach.

I pretend a lot.  I turn my “on” switch to green, and I can be present with the experience of what surrounds me, but I also know a lot about hibernating these days.  A size 6 on the outside, I instead feel like a thick, chunky walking inner tube of “boggy” pain around my middle every day and all the time. I wear the pearls and a suit, but you wouldn’t know what’s really happening inside my heart and body.  How many others out there do the same as me?

Before they diagnosed me Celiac, I blamed the pain on my ridiculous dating tales (of which, I could entertain you for 1000 blog posts) and stress from all the travel and being away from my sweet girl.  Turns out it was likely the beer and wheat products I ate to get over the silly boys that was actually part of the cause.  This time, I assumed the pain was anxiety and well, my perfect storm, of which many of you have lived with me.

Turns out I may have instead earned myself an ulcer or the unthinkable….

On the upside, Kate Hudson is colorful and darling in the movie I should never have rented, but she finds real love in the end.  Yeah, a weird and absolutely poor choice for the weekend prior to my “scope and discover” test but a necessary distraction nonetheless.

This time, Murphy plays a trick on me.  And for goodness sakes, I paid for the rental AND turned in late.

Mel

The smack down of STL humidity is a lot like life. It just happens.

….and we embrace, endure, unleash our creative spirit, and take the journey back to ourselves.

I tend to run at 100mph most of the time.  It’s perhaps an escape mechanism, long legs and heels, or perhaps it’s just type A madness from which I cannot escape.  But regardless, I too must crash from time to time to refresh, renew spirit and ask for spiritual alignment.

My supervisor teases me that as an extrovert, I am in my element when “on”, and as such, the energy pushes me through even the toughest of anxious situations.  But these moments do test my ability to be “on” in the same way I have always known, when my personal life “storm” isn’t as obvious publicly.  So, sometimes the crash is even harder on my spirit.

Frankly, at work, with my sweet girl or with a close friend or family, I can either escape totally from the “storm” or be candid about the real me.  And here too, I get that same release in some strange way.  But when the escape moment is over, there is not a metaphor more suitable than like walking outside into the STL humidity that smacks you in the face to bring you back to the reality of our lives.  The wall of heat that hits you hard as you walk out of a cool, safe place.

We all carry “stuff” with us on our journey.  Just this week, I learned of a peer who has been facing an emotional wound he keeps close to the vest.  And while his family enjoyed incredibly loving and optimistic news to remedy this wound just this week, it reminded me again of how we break a leg and stay home but an emotional wound hits, and we still get up, drink coffee, make the bell for the early morning meeting and go home to that reality.  It’s all around us, and yet we don’t know who embraces what and what path they take to heal themselves.

It affirms I am where I am meant to be, meaning the people who cross my path at a given moment and reach out to ask if I am ok even when they don’t know the big picture.  I am incredibly honored by the folks that read this blog and tell me when I had no idea it reached as many, and in as many ways as it has.  My original intention was a cathartic way to reach anyone when I was overwhelmed by my own loneliness, and instead, I learned so many of us face these same anxieties, fears, loss on a day by day, and sometimes moment to moment basis.  You are not alone, my friend.

Yesterday was a vulnerable day.  Last weekend was full, lovely and healing.  Folks see me and forget I have cancer, OR know the other losses, and assume the cancer is gone because the early treatments are done.  And yet, I can’t forget either.  They are my personal humidity smack down, and no one can live in my shoes but me.  The road ahead is long and windy…..and frankly, still pretty damn scary.

But my daughter and I are just two entities in God’s plan.  And we are still keeping it together- day in and day out.  My daughter is my role model for resilience and acceptance.  And she doesn’t even know the strength and love she gives me each and every day to get through this madness and mess.

I remember the first time I could see myself in the mirror after Lasic surgery years ago and thinking “where did those wrinkles come from- they weren’t there before”….lol.  I guess life is a lot like that.  We take off the glasses and reality presents itself in full view.

And then we move forward with vulnerability in some moments, with grace in others.

Om Shanti,

Mel

The Sacred Lotus rises towards the light.

Sometimes called the Sacred Lotus, this flower often symbolizes beauty, perfection, purity and grace.  The lotus flower grows in muddy water, yet the dirt and mud fall off its leaves and petals, keeping it clean and pure. A lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises from water to stand above it unsoiled, raised in the world but having overcome the world, or living unsoiled by the world. In turn, the lotus is often viewed as a symbol of aspirations to rise towards the light. *

51,183 participants walked yesterday for the 14th Annual Susan Komen Walk for the Cure.  700+ teams of survivor family and friends and an epic energy for one cancer filled downtown STL.  A veteran motorcyclist was individually saluting each survivor as she passed.

As we passed him, I wondered how many other folks like myself are facing some type of treatment for their own internal pain and offering daily prayer for good health and energy along with these 3000+ breast cancer survivors.  I noticed parents, sisters, brothers, grandkids, spouses and those on the brink of being married, celebrate their loved one in pink clearly at their side through the fight and continued success.  The morning hit me in a way I didn’t expect- 1.  we all need a survivor team of dedicated love and support, and 2. cancer has a ripple effect.

Just as the melancholy began once again to set in, I looked to my right and saw I wasn’t alone.  And I was ok.

In the evening, I was lucky enough to visit the profound and peaceful Chinese Lantern Festival.  “Elaborate outdoor sets crafted of silk and steel celebrate Chinese culture through bold color, dazzling light and striking design.”**

The Lotus Flower exhibition felt timely after the morning of both powerful group energy and a silent internal reality.  But once again, I wasn’t alone.

The Confucian scholar, Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) wrote: “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”

Cheers to the pink that surrounds us all!  The ‘Warriors in Pink’ of Ford say, “Courage has many faces.  And every one is beautiful.”.

So too are you.

Om Shanti,

Mel

* http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/things-to-do/events/special-exhibitions/lantern-festival/chinese-lantern-fun-facts.aspx ** http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/325267/105/14th-annual-Race-for-the-Cure-raises-more-than-24-million-

“The well lived life of a beautiful young man.”

Privileged to work for the kind, loving colleagues, I do, I was again reminded today what is important in our lives.  Priority.  Love.  Family.  Faith.

As I embraced both heartache and celebration of a true hero’s life today -a near 16-year-old boy who has endured, battled, embraced, taught and loved through 8+ years of Leukemia, I was reminded that while my own challenges through mud continue, others too have their own muddy mountains that slip and slide.  We also have hands that reach for us in the dark, heal our heart over time and with amazing courage, love us through darkness and light.

We were not surprised that this young man indeed “practiced what he preached” as his dad shared that M’s words to his middle school graduates just a year ago included the following:….(messages from which we all should live and take on our individual journeys…)

1.  “Help others with disabilities.”  They are not defined by the disability.

2.  “Contribute to your community.” M was always in the corner of the disadvantaged.

3. “Always be kind to one another”.  Kindness matters.

We were graciously offered that M. knew “the power of his purpose was to inspire others to do good”.  And how can you not want that when seeing those bright eyes and big grin flash a spirit so real, piercing and full of faith and adventure, even through fatigue, challenge, change and the unknown?

Cancer is a curse and a blessing, and this young, amazing and ingenious man knew and lived this through his Faith and sharing that which he felt with others.  “It is a curse because of the suffering. It is a blessing because of what flourishes from its presence.”

And finally, what struck me most personally, was a line that flashed on a beautifully prepared memorial video on M.’s life. “Family means never being left behind or forgotten.”  

My friends, love those in your life today.  Ensure they understand you will not leave them alone when frightened and unsure of the journey ahead.  Pray. Hope. Believe. Love. And fierce, fierce loyalty always, as this brave family has done for their sweet M.

We are honored to have known you, M, or know those who love you.  We are stronger for the gifts you have given and the messaged coins you have showered upon our hearts.  We are gifted your presence and belief in a higher power that “asked” you to suffer for a reason I believe you know today in a more peaceful setting.

Today touched me, and I am thankful from a place that even I don’t understand.

“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” – Albus Dumbledore.

Om shanti, my young man.  Some day we will meet, and you will tell me how and why the mountains make us whole again.

Melissa

Humility at 30K’ feet.

I’m just one tiny being in this amazing entity. We all are, right?

Think about the next time you are on a plane, and as your altitude ascends, look down- your city, your neighborhood, your house, your friends, your fish….they all become something very tiny, then a flash, then just clouds…..

Is there a lesson in humility – meaning we are just a tiny piece of the bigger picture and our every day chaos is small when viewed from 30K’ feet?  Should we ask ourselves “what will this mean to me next year”?  What will this mean to my neighbor or the next generation?

Think of all we miss in terms of this moment to “just be” when ordering the cocktail, ignoring the flight attendant with the mask (I can, I know it by heart), calming the kids with whatever gooey candy is at the bottom of the bag, or starting the head bob sleeping motion because the plane’s white noise offers a peaceful moment where no one needs you. (I fully admit this traveler’s flaw.)

Instead, next time.  Look down and recognize your place.  Tiny, but with amazing capability.

Kindness matters.  Pay it forward when you get off that plane.  Pull down someone else’s luggage.  Let the rushed passenger before you go ahead of your seat.  Smile at the lady who instantly pulls out her cell phone when landing (and probably fits what would be a Seinfeld “loud talker”), but just be in that moment with those folks, and embrace your place in this big world and the problems, fears, joys and movement the people around you are also facing on their own personal life journey.

Many folks believe all things happen for a reason.  I am one of those people, but I respect that not all do.  For me, music, language and symbols appear, and these elements have always been something I can see and place together.  Do I always listen?  No.  Definitely not as I should.  Sometimes my ego gets the best of me.  But, I’ve noticed  since my recent “perfect storm”, the same word has been coming at me for several weeks – and through different teachers, music, books, church, even a movie…..  The word is “rebirth”- an awakening of some sort.  I don’t completely understand it yet, but I do think the diagnosis and the recent loss are connected.  And perhaps a tie to the Lenten season is timely.

Someone once told me that life is like a tapestry.  We don’t always understand why things happen as they do until we look back at the design  The story will then make sense.  (I’m not really seeing the story yet, and I soooo want to pull that orange thread, but I’ll let you know )

Humility takes all of this greatness, love, forgiveness, authenticity and raw “heart” and weaves together that tapestry (story).  And isn’t that what the greatest storytellers do anyway?  Teach.

BUT, we must be open to listen and not just hear. Me included. And in the last x many months at least, I haven’t listened as my own storm was brewing.  Only through quiet time for me, do I feel that gratefulness and now, humility.  These last few weeks have given me that opportunity.  Who in their right mind would say a cancer diagnosis was a gift?

Me. 

– I have been gifted knowing how many people love me- people I took for granted and/or didn’t tell directly what they mean to my life.  A network so much larger than just email or professional connections of LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook- real people with real lives and real stories that make us all human.

– I have been gifted the ability to ask for help and take action to work on being stronger, both emotionally and spiritually.  “….finding my spiritual alignment…” as one colleague suggested might be necessary.

– While I no longer have the house I sold just a few months ago, I am grateful for my “intimate” condo that provides shelter for my sweet girl and me (without the yard work and ’21 tree threat’ of falling on my house again).

– I am grateful for a professional world that took care of me in my darkest hour  – a hospital that saw a scared patient and took me under their wing of care – and even today, wants only strength and a healthy me prior to my return.

– I am humbled by the beautiful blue skies and warm winds that four weeks ago seemed impossible with snow on the ground.

– I am humbled for the health insurance I do have after seeing the medical care in both Chile and Brazilian acute care and long-term care facilities.

– I am humbled for that which I can feed my family, and the culture I can share with my daughter after traveling to areas of the world without such gifts.

– I am humbled that I have been saving for college for 10+ years, and while it likely still won’t be enough, I have the choice on how to save our funds.  (course, she might be paying for my long-term care at some point.  Cycle of life, right? 🙂

– I am humbled that my daughter continues to thrive amidst the waves of change of which she had no control.  And intuitively just knows all will be well.  (now, if getting the dog out without her rolling her eyes  were only that easy).

I am grateful for my healing.  I am humbled by my blessings.

“Humility like the darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.”- Henry David Thoreau

Namaste’,

Melissa

Never will I be a shrinking violet. Results..the day after the scan.

‘She believed. She could. So, she did.’ – unknown (but purchased at Hallmark 🙂

I had a dream last night. In it, I am walking alone though a set of unknown streets that don’t exactly feel safe, but I don’t see anything that is wrong either. I am alone and don’t feel directly afraid of any one thing in a way that makes me want to run, just a quicker walk to where I need to be. I keep moving, and as I get close to a door, a few people I call my “outsiders” in this dream walk me through to a safe auditorium. I don’t know them, but they feel familiar and most of all, safe.

I woke up.

Now, with a mom who is a psychotherapist and asks me if I’m stressed when I answer the phone with “hello”, I tend to overanalyze, and as such, it made me wonder. Who were these “Outsiders” in this dream, and why was I instantly safe in their company when alone I wasn’t so confident? I didn’t even need my dream book.

They are you. All of you.

See, the dream came last night just after I learned the best news I could possibly hear in this cancer nightmare…I learned my thyroid cancer is contained to the thyroid region only. It had not spread anywhere else in the body. I sobbed – as did my girlfriends who held my hands next to me- both before and after.

Do I get to ring the bell that says cancer-free yet? No, I have blood tests and more blood tests, another body scan and perhaps more treatment, but for today, I am contained and the radioactive iodine will work on the “bad” cells for months. (no worries, I will no longer be a threat to glow when sitting next to you 🙂 But that bell will ring, my friends. And I will eSend each of you a violet on that day and hand them out to the room of staff and friends and family as a thanks for your love, grace, prayers and peace. In fact, you are all invited to the event.

There has been so much said to me in the last few weeks, I can’t even begin to share the amazing sentiments and stories presented my way. We all have “stuff”. We just do. Some ask for help and are rewarded, others suffer privately and work from within. That’s ok. But don’t hide or cocoon for too long.

Even my Bath and Body Works “stress free” body wash says, “Breathe deeply for best results.” That is yoga in a nutshell. No wonder I crave the mat. And that packaging designer likely didn’t know the translation would end up here. What’s great is that my favorite packaging designer, Jodi (who works for a food company that freaks out over a picture of pork chops), said “I have every confidence you will bitch-slap this.”. Love that too! Both are real and raw and say something that kicks us into reality. Life just happens, and we sit in a corner, or we “Fight on” like my friend, Dan said. Or Laurie from SEB who quoted Oprah for me, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you really want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

A lovely old friend from grade school reminded me “we are girl scouts and the one thing we learned is how to survive. Never forget to stay fierce” That rocks, Ms. Leigh Ann Broyles-Roberts.

That’s what my “Outsiders” did. 100’s of you. My circle of loving friends who are always there for me, and in this instance yesterday, Lisa Lindley Durzo, Teresa Helms Ellison, Kim Kastel Hackney and Kirsten Waal Newquist, Michelle Foley (via phone, text, and FB ‘on the spot’ addict). They loved me and held me up in what- thus far- has been my darkest hour. They will stand at my side in one year when we ring the bell together with my daughter and family next to me. They got up at 6am and drove my arse over to STL not knowing what would happen, or what we might face- but the “girl power” as Lisa says would get us all through. And she was right on.

Was this a nightmare or a gift? Is cancer a wakeup call to make change? Was it meant to show me that “outsiders” are not out side at all? Certainly, I am facing some additional challenges separate from this health issue, but I will not shrink in that area either. I will move forward regardless of what happens outside of my hoola hoop. Never have I nor will I be a shrinking violet.

A new and wonderfully loving nurse friend, Sue Beeler, shared an original comment that should be a prayer in its own right (and I will find a way to market its use in some way at HSHS), but her words inspire, “Think from a place of peace, act from intention, do with grace, and you will be ok no matter the situation.” (copyright, Beeler, 2012.)

As with any scary health illness, cancer is a personal story -so personal and experiential, a person is never again the same…..And I suspect for anyone who crosses its path as friend, partner or family.

At least for me, the gift of the outsiders- YOU- have changed my path forever. 🙂

Namaste’ (the divine in me blesses the divine in you.)

Mel

P.s. Matt Damon, Emelio Estevez, Scott Baio, Patrick Swaze, Tom Cruise…they have nothing on any of you. The swirl of a gift that came with the friends at my side so I would not be alone, prayers, love, wishes, notes, incredible shares, electronic posts, emails, cards, flowers, gifts (yeah, folks give gifts when you get cancer….I had no idea. Next time, I will hint sooner for a car.) Love to you all.

Fierce Loyalty. It is our choice to give.

When I started this blog, my goal was fun and upbeat, but this past weekend of seclusion, due to the now complete radioiodine treatment, forced me to think more pensively.  This is life and what makes us real. I’m done hiding behind a pretend “everything is fine”. Sometimes, things just hurt.  And well, these last few months have indeed hurt.  A lot.

On my FB and Twitter pages last week, I wrote “Fierce loyalty is a rare, rare gift.” Several people “liked” but one friend privately disagreed.  He said no, fierce loyalty is simply, “Faith”.  He may be right, Faith is likely one of the fiercest of loyalties, but not everyone experiences in such a deep, thoughtful way, nor do they look at a higher power from his perspective.

When my former mother-in-law passed away after 25+ years living with Multiple Sclerosis, I felt something-perhaps Faith- sitting in Blessed Sacrament’s beautiful chapel. I was sitting alone and just felt something.  In retrospect, it was likely “faith” or some awareness, yet unknown to me of fierce loyalty.  Mollyanna’s grandma had been in nursing home for 10+ years, never known her granddaughter except with a teardrop or eye movement -but not in the sense to hold her or cuddle as a grandma should. But the loyalty wasn’t about her, it was about family.  Molly’s great grandma, Nell, her  grandpa Jim, her uncle ,Tim and her dad were at a Lebanon nursing home 25 minutes from their home EVERY day for those 10+ years so she would NEVER eat a lunch or dinner alone.  And she couldn’t speak back, likely didn’t have much in the way of cable and never shared a meal.  That’s real love, that’s fierce loyalty.

Loving your child with your whole heart and knowing that you would do anything in the world to protect them.  That’s love, that’s fierce loyalty. I would give my life for my girl, never move away from her for a job, and I would work any job possible to keep her healthy and thriving. I am the parent and will do what I think is best.  Will she likely need a psychotherapist some day to work through all this madness I have swirled about us? Yes, but you know what, I will pay for that too- as it was me – not her- that caused the swirl.  She is the best gift I was ever given, and I tell her every day.

I firmly believe if my Grandma Sterling had passed before my grandfather, he wouldn’t have lived for very long without her.  He couldn’t tell you what he had for breakfast, but he could tell you about the one room school-house where they met.  That’s real love, that’s fierce loyalty.

A friend and minister recently shared some private stories about experiences that happened while in seminary that made her question God and why difficult things happen to us when we ask only for love and try our darndest to do our best for a higher power.  After much discernment, she stayed true to the ministry and is today one of my favorite ministers of all I’ve seen preach.  That’s real love, that’s fierce loyalty.

My best girlfriend from the second grade will take me tomorrow to hear the results on the total body scan knowing full well it may be wonderful or devastating.  She is a single, professional mama working two jobs and going to school and still put me ahead of everything because she knew I needed her.  That’s real love, that’s fierce loyalty.

We all make our own beds in the morning (or not), and we all wake having the day to make our own.  What we do with it is ours.

Loyalty is our choice to give…or not.

I am not in a good place right now.  I am sad and very, very scared. And I fully admit to needing help.  But I continue to breathe, pray, love my little girl and wish for fierce loyalty from the people who cross our paths.

Namaste’

The only time being called a large Mack truck is a compliment…

In the last few days, I have been reminded of who I am to the outside.  That in itself is an immense gift.  Being called a “Warrior” and “Mack truck” are my personal favorites.  No other time except when facing cancer is being called a large Mack truck appropriate.  Never.  But today, I know my friend sees me as tenacious, driven, strong and capable of moving anything that gets in my way.  He is right.

ok, so I actually haven’t kicked thyroid cancer’s ass yet, but I will.  Just around the corner. Doc assures me that “if you are going to have cancer, this is the best kind to have.”  LOL!  Those are words I never expected to hear, much less typing them in a blog I didn’t plan to write until 20 minutes ago.  I also must acknowledge that once I kick this, cancer can always come back.  No worries. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and always land on my feet.

Know that song by Blue October, “Jump Rope”?  If not, get it.

That being said, if you read, “Get a goiter, grow a goiter”- this would be part 2.  You see, that goiter that Ms. Crazy Aunt Delilah designed for the work costume contest and actually became one two years ago, was checked and found benign.  But over time and with repeated ultrasounds that never showed cancer, it was time for surgery to remove.  Mostly it was cosmetic and sometimes I would feel pressure on my vocal cord (perhaps a gift to my friends, as I do possess the gift to gab).  Me?  I was just happy to get rid of that word in my vocabulary. Seriously, who named that thing a Goiter anyway…… “gooooooiter”?  It just says, “make fun of me”.  (And Seinfeld did nothing to help those of us with the curse of the “goooooiter”.)

Regardless, I conceded and took on the surgery when it fit my schedule.  When the doc came back in after discharge to tell me they found malignancies, even he didn’t expect to give me this news.  It wasn’t seen on the previous ultrasounds, and no one seems to know for how long I had been growing the cells. Again, no worries, I get some radioiodine and a total body scan and soon enough I’m back to being a bad ass marketing professional.

But here’s what I’ve learned along this ridiculously insane journey:

– Many folks have thyroid issues, but unless they “get the goiter”, they may not be aware of the cancerous cells.  Ask your doc how you can be sure you are safe.

– Laughter heals.  So too does investing in a good therapist.

–  My 11-year-old  daughter has a capacity for amazing resilience and understanding.  We haven’t yet used the “c” word (not that word, you goof), but I am transparent about needing much rest and meds that will make me radioactive and need to keep me alone for a few days while she stays with her dad.

– “Ask for the order”.  Social networking has a completely new meaning for me this week- beyond a buttload of professional experience.  (oh dear, I may have to rate this blog differently).  An insane amount of emails, notes, personal stories, public thoughts, encouragement and kindness continue to come my way from people I haven’t seen in years.  And it took me weeks to admit to folks even outside my closest six girlfriends what was happening in my life.  Suddenly, I am flooded with white lights, love and healing from around the globe.  Just with a touch of a button and a polite request to have my back.

– Never allow anyone-  a sibling, parent, spouse (!!!!), friend, family member, colleague to hear the diagnosis alone.  Partially, b/c they are likely loopy on  Vicadin or Morphine, as I was and only heard one word, and partially b/c we need to be holding a hand or taking notes or something….and for me, I was still in the hospital gown, arse hanging out, connected to tubes and hair looking rocking hot.  I was in shock and there was no one to hold my hand.

– Some folks you think will come to your side will not. And that is ok.  Not everyone is comfortable and knows what and how to be there for you.  Accept that this is not easy for anyone and move forward with folks who will not pull from the positive energies you need in reserve.

– Toxic people are bad news. Move on.

– I have always been good with “asking for the order”. (Daughter of a psychotherapist and attorney.)  But, I’m not great at asking for help.  Too damn type A and like to believe I can do it all.  This time, I couldn’t. And you know what, asking wasn’t hard and the return has been the best investment of all time. 🙂

– Next time you enter a hospital, consider that every patient – you, your friend, your parent, etc…this is their story.  It is not just a visit from you.  It has a beginning – when they first call the doctor knowing something is “amiss”- to the end diagnosis or worse.  Everything else in between is the plot.  You are part of that plot and can make it even the smallest bit easier- even offering an ice chip or calling the nurse or a trip to the bathroom with someone other than a stranger means something.  Be there and be present. And know it’s their story, not yours.  Even if dinner needs to be made, or the kids have homework, or the laundry isn’t done.  They are scared and need you to be with them.

–  Touch.  People need human contact.  We need to be loved.  Ask to hold a hand or give a hug, or frankly, just let me cry without solving my problems or telling the story of iodine radiation that your uncle bob had.  I am not Bob.

–  I don’t need you to tell me you are sorry.  Of course you are, you are my friend.  Instead, just be there and remind me of all the things you know me to be.  Because in that vulnerable moment, I don’t recall who I was before the diagnosis.

–  Nurses run a hospital.  I can be the lead for the marketing department, but I am nothing but support to the men/women who have  (as my smart, loving, nurse based CEO says) “the privilege to touch the patient”.  She is right.  It is a privilege, and nurses deserve incredible respect.

And finally, Crazy Aunt Delilah may not have been just karma, she may have just saved my life.

Just imagine this next Halloween when she reappears with a new look, a fancy scarf to cover what appears a neckline intruder incident and a rockin’ story about being a cancer survivor.  Probably wearing the survivor card on a tiara……(note to self).

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