Monday, December 28, 2009

make a joyful noise unto the Lord every day

... and oh was it a succulent pleasure on Christmas Eve when I was gifted to sing again with my choir from St. Paul's. Many of you know that exactly a year ago I watched the same service via Skype in my hospital room, putting sticky tape over my Macbook Pro built-in camera so that no one could see the tears streaming down my face. As it was, I was choking back the tears during many rehearsals. During the service, I sang and thanked God.

I began this blog 14 months ago with another name after I was slam-dunked with the AML diagnosis; it was the only way I knew to keep up with friends in many places while I was overwhelmed with the tsunami of this hideous health crisis. I am noticing that I write less frequently in here now, as the emergency aspects have blessedly evolved into positive lifestyle changes and daily grace. This is my Where's Waldo? space online for photo gallery links and updates. When hospitalized a year ago (a year ago!), I felt that I had a frail hand arising from a voracious ocean and many times you would grasp it when I couldn't even tell God was. (If you're a copy editor, forgive me for that last sentence). Today I am creating a renewed and joyous life based on God's Gracious Love, a still-strong remission, focused holistic health practices, community, work and play. Until it is time to cross over, and I have no idea when that will be, I will cherish every moment and all of God's Gifts as I am able. Clearly I'm still around for "some reason." Today I step into that with joy, curiosity and a listening ear.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

This photo is from the pasture gate at Fisherman's Bothies where I spent a slow and healing time from April to mid-July of this year. Tony sent it to me as a Christmas greeting. This is a female pheasant next to a Rowan Tree, a Celtic symbol of considerable mystical attributes from the visionary to the psychic realms. I love it because it brings forth in me the quiet and peace I especially desire right now.

I am grateful to have the energy to create a renewed life here in Northern California. 'Tis the season, and much time is expended not only in my own slowly revived business but in welcoming Christmas and the joys of a new home. Right now a robin is in the cotoneaster tree outside my 2nd floor living room window, looking at me curiously. (At least I think s/he is looking at me. Looks can be deceiving). The other day a flurry of birds were stuffing their liddul faces with the red berries covering the branches. Soon I hope to find a small round corner dining table that could double as a desk perch with a heavenly view. Finding the right furnishings at the right prices takes time!

I have more of it today - the gift of time and presence - than was suggested a year ago, when I was in the leukemia lockup ward at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. As we approach the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at my Church, I stumble into tears when I recall that I was not able to sing with my choir a year ago.... and that my Church "beamed in" the service via Skype to my hospital room. I am reminded of the enormous gratitude that today I am NOT in a hospital, praying for my white blood counts to revive while getting nightly Neupogen shots to artificially coax them on.

This week I see two physicians at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin. Last week I met with their founder and director, Dr. Haas, who I had been seeing for health building prior to the rude interruption of leukemia. He's a fantastic healing practitioner and has referred me on to those who would help me zero in on the underlying issues of this bone marrow disorder. They are not "cancer doctors." As far as my awareness can say, if you're not an AMA Board Certified oncologist and you call yourself a "cancer doctor," bad things happen. These are my own observations after the considerable studies I've embarked on in the realms of alternative healing with cancer. Hang out a sign with the c-word in it, and wowie - suddenly you can only work in Mexico or another country. I will not quote books or websites here. So in addition to my own designed program of live foods, God's Grace and a growing array of nutriceuticals, I am giving myself the gift of others' wisdom. (Cue laugh track). I know where the chemo lives. I've had enough, today, thank you very much.

And my journey continues.

May this day bring you the magic, the grace, the spiritual enlivenment and the joy you desire at this most sacred time of year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

come on in from the cold!

I have created a new Mobile Me Gallery - which you can CLICK on HERE! - with some higher res photos of my new digs than were earlier offered via my iPhone's camera. Slo-tech with my Mifi device means that I can take this uploading opportunity to.....

.......................just .......
....................................a bit
................................................with breath.

I'm tango'ing with a conundrum. Just one for now. It's been aeons since I had the energy and life force to dash about. My aliveness is delicious and is not the trapped behind leukemia ward bars of a year ago. A year ago. So I have this blessed energy which I would dare say is not manic but - but! Dare I push it and my little hardworkin' neutrophils (who I thank regularly for being SUCH troopers) will curl up in a corner and scowl. I neither need nor desire to be ill, from a common cold to swine flu.

I get to pray for balance.

And it's ADVENT! and I have this glorious new HOME! and it's all so much FUN! and I can breathe and be reminded that the blessed Saint Julian of Norwich would say, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Thank you, Susie of Rivendell, for reminding me of that.

There is plenty to be fussed about, trust me. "Just for today" I'm choosing grace and praying for the release from those gripping, icy corners of my psyche that have had big ole hangin' tendencies in the past to chew me to the bone. And since my healing is daily and on all levels, including down to my bones, I shall choose God's Grace today.

So whassup with this glorious remission, speaking of bones?

Today I feel extremely well and grateful on a mostly organic, plant-based diet, supplemented with a gaggle of supplements (nutriceuticals) chosen mostly by myself to both nuke the cancer cells AND to strengthen my immune system so that this thing doesn't come back in spades and try to eat me alive again. I exercise every day that I am able, either brisk walking or jogging while eyeing a local gym AND the purchase of a Rebounder. I pray. I meditate. I have a spiritual community that feeds my soul, from my Church to my 12-Step groups. I'm beginning to work again, shifting the emphasis from living on savings to generating some gains. Next week I meet with a holistic physician so that I am not alone in this path. Did I say juicing? Did I mention the Blessed Sacrament and singing in my Church choir?

Yes. Yes!

At my Hallelujah Acres cleanse in Branson, we began our mornings with Bible Study. Me, an Episcopalian, getting to know the Bible! (This is an insider joke). And we found this passage in Proverbs 17:22: "A happy heart is a healing medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones."

Why did I get leukemia over a year ago? I don't know. However I believe that a significant contributor to my immune system malfunctions involves my heart, my emotions and my spirit. "...but a broken spirit dries up the bones." This is serious stuff. Yes, there were surely environmental toxins et al, but the life within needs my loving embrace. Not a dutiful pat, not a sideways glance, but deep care. If I truly believe that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me, in this earthly shell now invigorated, I cannot be cavalier.

Today I get to show up for this life while I wait for Mo or Izzy to snuggle up in their owl box just outside my living room window. It's cold and sunny today. It is a good day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Strollin' on through my new 'hood...

... and getting to know some of my neighbors :-)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Completing the circle

Hatch Road seems like such a funny name. I so resonate with words and meanings.... a friend has moved to Joy Road! From the Mains of Sluie (how.... earthy) to Ponderosa Road, imagination flirts. And then I thought, well.... Hatch Road. What's that about?

At first there's the obvious imagery of birth - little chicks hatching. (As well as ducks, snakes, penguins or even a platypus). I see also the taking in, as in the quip, "Down the hatch!" It's also an opening... oftentimes narrow.... leading elsewhere. I love to play with words and their meanings.

I take them all in and celebrate what my dear friend Tony calls completing the circle. He wrote, "Welcome to your new home. May it be a place of healing and happiness. It's been a long journey of trust and sometimes very scary. Your new little home looks lovely."

My heart swells with this benediction from such a beloved friend.

The bustle of moving a bare minimum albeit several carloads of essentials into my new abode leaves me knackered today. I've been pushing my own envelope just enough to know that it's time to take a wee breather. I can look just outside my living room window to a home for owls.... a white-faced barn owl named Mo and a screech owl named Izzy, I am told, have been the part-time residents there (separately, mind you). If you click on the photo, it will enlarge and you may be able to spot the owl box. Rather than set out poison for the rodents you will find in a rural environment, my landlords built this lovely owl box... so that they may eat without taking a poisoned critter back to the nest and killing them all. I'm waiting for twilight to see.....

I'm not racing around like a total madwoman to settle in. I am still overloaded with long delayed business admin. I'm creating a new home I pray to be in for a very long time. And it's Advent..... a time of sacred reflection in anticipation of the birth of Christ. And yes, the secular shrieks of buy-buy-buy!, do-do-DO! assault my psyche along with the tinny carols playing in the stores. One day at a time I get to show up for choices, for peace and for the thrill of an abode I love rather than simply endured such as the shack in Berkeley.

When I crossed the border on November 12th, California re-greeted me over and over. Tears sprung in my eyes as I felt without apology, "I am from here and I BELONG here!" That is one of my core issues - belonging... fitting in... being welcomed. And traveling across this beautiful country yet again, I was welcomed and cared for in most instances, by those seen and Unseen... and by the One known when I say "Yes.....!" first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Monday, November 23, 2009

There's no place like home!

.... and after a life tendency to be a moving target and with the wild ride of this past year in particular as a backdrop, I'm happy to say I have found a place to land in California.... up in "unincorporated Marin County" with a street address of Novato but nestled against the hills adjoining Indian Valley.

Just in time for the holidays! (For those who aren't sure, I'm being tongue-in-cheek about my impeccable timing).

I have many nuances and stories to share since arriving back in California on November 12th. I won't do that here since I'm graced to have been dancing the dance between rewelcoming the choice aspects of my former life, house-hunting from San Rafael to Bodega Bay to Inverness (yes, there's an Inverness, CA) and now.... moving in! I have few belongings now and that's okay. When I left in April, I left. I gave away most. So now I will move with open heart and hands... and welcome this new space to call my own for healing, for life, and (when I have enough chairs and plates), for the welcoming of beloved friends.

Here are a few photos I "borrowed" from the ad (click HERE) as well as some of my own. You can make the photos larger by moving the circle in the bottom right-hand corner of the web page. The resolution on the first couple of shots doesn't enlarge well, but the rest are good.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24th, 2 days before Thanksgiving) I sign the papers and give a Cashiers Check to the property owners. Nanette and Bill are dear hearts, earthy, kindly. They made tea for us when I came by yesterday with more paperwork on my behalf. My choir director and his family live close by, a possibility morsel with which I attempted to torture him after Church yesterday. The old house is surrounded by an acre of exquisite landscaping and gardening; there are pomegranates right next to me, egging me on to be picked (yes, in November - it's California). Tony in Scotland taught me how to plant potatoes in containers. The lessons continue! As my friend Nickie in Sedona wrote, this ".... looks like the perfect place to do some serious inner work, writing, juicing and healing!"

And I say AMEN!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I have landed in California

This is very short as I drove in on a brisk Sierra Nevada breeze into Thursday night choir practice and have been bustling ever since. I cannot readily write in here now as my hotshot Verizon Mifi device (a portable "hotspot") is, for all of its supposed glamor, in a dead spot where I am staying for the time being. Remember dial-up? This is WORSE. Until I arrange for faster broadband, just know I'm here and safe and in fact happy to be here.

This photo is from a non-water landing on the beach in Barra, Scotland sometime around 1995.....

No links today since they take forever in my broadband hell! I'll let y'all Google whatever isn't clear. Amazing world we live in, doncha think?

Monday, November 9, 2009

dripping in God's mercy and generosity

It's been a wee while since I've written. Between the long journey from Branson, Missouri to Sedona, Arizona and what being here has encompassed, quietness has trumped waving my arms and squawking, "Watch me!" (Remember being three or four and begging your parents to watch you DO something?). Sometimes my writing in here has that old memory and desire. Now that I think of it, I wonder how much of it motivates me? And if so, may I just let that be?

This is a good time to be here in northern Arizona. My dear friends N&D are off in the Pacific Northwest in their RV, visiting family and soon returning. Their generosity and trust in welcoming me into their home in their absence fills my heart with smiles. I hope that they can feel my thank you's when they return home later this week.

After gaining permission from the new friends I've made while on my cross-country adventure, here are two photo galleries!

The Rivendell Community in Dunnegan, MO

Hallelujah Acres Lifestyle Center in Golden, MO

(Yes, please click on the links).

With less surprise than I might otherwise have anticipated, I am continuing to enjoy a mostly raw vegan diet. I am more surprised to be making up some of the recipes for myself than feeling drawn to a nice ole hunk o' fish or chicken! Will I do this forever or perfectly? As we say in 12-Step land while reading How It Works, "we think not." (Note: Sobriety and recovery are intended to be, one day at a time, a complete commitment with no wiggle room. Half measures availed us nothing. My nutritional healing adventures however I continue to explore and tweak). I am however committed to pursuing addressing the underlying toxicities that surely led to my outbreak of AML over a year ago. While a number of the herbs I am taking and as well the unfathomable Grace of God see me today in grateful remission, I need to go deeper and see what done broke and how I might fix it. I've begun reading The China Study. I remain an online three-quarters time, unpaid (as yet, haha) cancer researcher. Yesterday I swooned with a lymphatic drainage massage followed by a mildly odd yet seriously sweaty oxygen sauna. Get thee clean! My dear friend Pushpa initiated this bout of clear-out with one of her gifted Reflexology sessions the evening before. This morning I'm eager for another jog amidst the red rocks and high altitude (over 4000' MSL) air.

I had a blood draw (CBCs) when I first arrived. There's an online company where one can have a valid medical requisition without making a several hundred dollar doctor's appointment. Getting a blood draw still brings up tremendous fear, through which I pray and breathe. And the results? BETTER! My weakest lab results of the past several months was just before I left Roswell, GA - clearly the living situation stresses, both addressed and buried, were having a palpable effect on me. This past week's showed UPWARD movement in the difficult-to-address white blood counts and almost low-normal red counts! Platelets are 90! (Hey. Ninety is good for me, in fact it's GREAT and will get better!). For you record-keepers, my WBC is 1.7 and my ANC doubled to .6! Yep, I'm shooting for a thousand and up now... and not just to get out of the hospital. Thanks be to God!

My title's reference to dripping was from the Holy Eucharist service on Sunday at St. Andrew's here in Sedona. After partaking of the Blessed Sacrament, we were invited to come up to the altar rail again for healing prayers. No brainer for me. A small number of us gathered and kneeled. When the priest came to anoint my forehead with oil, it literally dripped down onto my nose. I giggled. She almost did, as well. I loved it. I had asked for continued remission and in fact for a total healing, and was then dripping in God's mercy and love.

For this I give exultant thanks.

Wednesday morning I leave here for the 2-day drive to the North Bay. I ask your prayers for safe travels and a graceful arrival.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

fog lifts slowly

This is an early morning view from the rural home of the kind Van Kirk family offering a Hallelujah Acres lifestyle kick-in-the-pants. My five days there surprised and mostly delighted me. The one glitch was a glowering "religious" bully (not any of the hosts) who pushed my boundary buttons for negative stereotypes and my own thinly veiled judgments. I was able to depart with my truth quietly communicated to those who mattered (my hosts) and with no broken bones on any account. Anger management and emotional recovery really do work. I'm human - not a doormat.

My "cleanse" was more than that: It also shook up my consciousness around how I nourish myself and live my life in general. I began juicing and eating healthfully at fifteen - but lo, the egregiously toxic sidetracks I've stumbled upon and justified over the years! And while some of the expressions of the Christian walk as exemplified by my hosts don't match mine, I took to heart those things which I would prayerfully emulate - like really trusting God.

Really. Trusting. God.

...and continuing to breathe and not beat myself up when my solar plexus tightens as I uncover that.

Food-wise, I'd always thought that vegans and especially raw foodies were whacko extremists albeit exceedingly well-intentioned. "I need my organic animal protein!" (Yeah, but a heaping plateful of high-fat cheese and refined flour crackers as a hunger-easing substitute for a colossal salad with nuts & seeds on top?). I wouldn't buy a non-organic apple from the 7-11 because of the pesticide residue, but step aside while I lunged for the chocolate chip cookies at Church coffee hour! Ok, so I'm not consistent: I'll join the human race. Sigh. Move on!

When I was hospitalized, a few squeaks slithered through about alternative healing modalities. I was eyeballs deep in a 5-alarm fire and had NO interest. Don't tell me about a liver flush when I'm hooked up and trapped in the leukemia ward! These doctors were going to heal me! And you know, the chemo worked; the blasts went away. So did my hair and my skin tone and some organ function.

Chemo doesn't heal and is a dreadful fix in the short term.

So what heals besides God? What authentic tools of self-healing may I embrace?

That's the path I'm on - to search that out, discover it, integrate it into my life. And if I feel called to join the whacko ranks, bellying up to the salad bar while I give thanks, I will do this. My dearest and most blessed friends aren't fighting over themselves to call me "normal" anyways. The "fix" of a 5-day cleanse turned into a wake-up call. Will I evangelize? No. Will I celebrate its joyous efficacy if in fact that is my gift? You betcha! (Why can't I write that without thinking of Sarah Palin?).

From a cookie-cutter hotel in Wichita, Kansas, I travel westward to Sedona and then, after a week, onward to San Rafael, California.

Got carrot juice?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a sense of home

I am enjoying moving through a few handfuls of never say never's while on a 5-day Hallelujah Acres raw vegan and juicing cleanse/detox astride Table Lake near (but not in) Branson, Missouri. In my commitment to resurrect wholeness in my entire being, this is a crucial part of my cobweb- (and cancer-) clearing mission. Five days. You'll have roaring caffeine withdrawal headaches. Just deal with it.

I didn't expect to feel this good!

The photo is from the Rivendell Motherhouse, originally Amish built, where I savored a richly restful and joyous five days not on a vegan eating plan.... but oh how my heart sang!

As I continue on my Westward Ho! journey in places with richness commingled with poor wifi reception, I will remain few of words for now. Suffice it to say I am here in this southwest corner of the Show-Me State and will resume my road rumbles this Friday (Oct. 30th) afternoon. After three days and 1,300 miles, I'm then hoping for a week in Sedona, Arizona, where I once lived long ago. Briefly. And then....

Advent is approaching. Nerves rustle. I left, not knowing, and now I'm returning, hoping and wondering.

This morning I breathe and drink my tea.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Psalm 95:1-7

Come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the caverns of the earth,
and the heights of the hills are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

oh come let us sing unto the Lord

God was showing off this morning in a richly expansive, post-meteor shower arising... early morning in middle Missouri, my first on the land and not merely amidst the hotel bustle of one night in St. Louis. Raucous pinks, swooning yellows and spitfire reds grew brighter and then faded. We met for Morning Prayer in the Rivendell Community House Chapel at 7:15 am. Last night we tucked away the evening with Compline at 9 pm. I am grateful to spend several days with these kind people who welcome visitors as one would welcome Christ.

Venite means come. God beckons. Sometimes God struts, like the falcon we saw at the St. David's Women's Retreat in Sewanee, Tennessee, full-breasted and proud. Now in rural Missouri, I can feel God's presence here in the earth, knowing that generations of Amish prayers infuse the land with their rich devotion. I felt its holiness beneath my feet as I walked off the 5-hour drive here from St. Louis. This is not concrete and car horns, city bustle wrangling my fritter mind and making confetti of it. The wifi connection is slow. I am slow. I let the slowness have a right to be.

The photograph is from the entryway at Bethany Spring, where I spent a blessed several days in its own quiet holiness. Its "abbess" Tracy greeted and held us, fed us, laughed with us. It was a home into which I was truly welcomed. I didn't tiptoe, not even in the Abbey worshipping and chanting amongst the Gethsemani monks. I sank into bolts of recovery, eating heartily of Tracy's delicious evening meals, pulling two 10-hour nights of soul exhausted collapse. Twice I jogged through rural landscape, past unremarkable expanse and rusty water towers.

I was welcomed and loved. I left blessing those new beloveds.

I pause between missing, being and anticipating. They coalesce when I breathe. Fritter brain notices another present moment.

The intermittent wind is bold and unapologetic.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Psalm 125 and a synopsis to date

Psalm 125

A song of ascents.
1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.

3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.

4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.

5 But those who turn to crooked ways
the LORD will banish with the evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel.

Blessings and love from a holy space near to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky! I travel westward as a little pilgrim, listening as best I can to the Lord's urgings and nudgings in my life. Sometimes His Grace exceeds my fondest hopes; at other times, I step forward in faith. Did you hear me grumbling that the way wasn't clear? Yes, you did. And onward I walk as best as I can.

For my new friends, here is a synopsis. For my older friends, it's a refresher.

In October of 2008, after a month of fatigue and bizarre symptoms, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The year prior I had been given a somewhat hazy diagnosis of myelodysplasia (MDS), after several years of GP's noting my below-normal white blood counts. I was shocked and not at all pleased (quelle surprise). Hey! No fair! I ate healthy foods, took vitamins and herbs, worked hard as a self-employed investor, jogged, prayed, meditated! I worked the Steps and worshipped the Lord! Where's my medal?

Life on planet Earth is not always what one expects.

I endured two 25-day hospitalizations (called "Induction" and "Consolidation") with chemotherapy and antibiotics out the wazoo. I felt like I'd been battered by a tsunami wave, unable to sense which way was up, down or sideways. My oncology team was readying me for a 2nd Consolidation (a 3rd round of chemo) when I thought, "Wait a minute. I've been out of the hospital over a month, my hair is growing back, I'm feeling better.... and you want me back IN?" My inner guidance resounded with "No!" Beloved friends in Scotland said, "Come. Be with us, no matter what happens." I gave away most of my belongings, said goodbye to my Church and Choir, and went. I didn't know if I would live or die. "You realize you're risking a relapse?" intoned one oncologist, a bone marrow transplant specialist. "I do," I said.

I'd had enough. And so I left.

And I grew stronger very slowly while living with beloved friends in the Highlands, taking walks, worshipping, and beginning my research of alternative healing modalities. I checked in with the local medical folk, since that was a sign of sanity on my part (thunderous applause). After 3-1/2 months, it became clear that the continued availability of conventional medical care would be found Stateside rather than under the National Health Services (NHS) in Great Britain. Continuing to pursue that manner of care overseas would have bankrupted me. With a sigh I returned.

I was invited by people in north Georgia who also said, "We shall support you no matter what." With a battered heavy heart, it became clear that it was not a functional reality. The GIFTS, however, came in coming to St. David's Episcopal Church in Roswell, Georgia - and falling in love with them on my first Sunday there back in July. I joined the choir and sang to God. I found 12-Step meetings. I bought a car. With the supposed welcome extending out to a year, I worked daily as a "three-quarter time, unpaid cancer researcher" and lived simply on savings. I jogged again and joined a local gym! I even began to look at lower priced homes for sale. "I'm in the South!" I thought. And my immune system suffered silently with the growing stress of living where it became painfully clear I was in the way.

You've heard of speed dating? I was eyeballs deep in "speed discernment," praying and pondering whether to find another place to stay in The South or head back to the land of long-term friendships, support and the worship community of St. Paul's in San Rafael. Well, if God can show me how to stay alive and grow in resplendent health, He can show me how to be financially abundant enough to live in peace in expensive California!

And so I'm driving across country yet again, staying in sacred places, attuning as best I can. I'm allowing myself to take several weeks to arrive (no one is offering me serious money to arrive by a certain date). This morning I'm at a white-painted old desk here at Bethany Spring, a retreat house of the Merton Institute. There is stillness. There is quiet joy. The Gethsemani monks and the Daily Offices are a mile up the road. After Compline we're sprinkled with Holy Water.

As a child I was showered with ".....come here, I love you!" followed by SMACK! Extricating myself with God's help from the pain of that vibrational abuse is taking time. I grew up walking on eggshells. Like the story of the frog in a pan of water on the stovetop, I discovered yet again that if the heat is turned up slowly enough, I risk being boiled to death. You know the tale - put a frog in a pan of boiling water, and the frog jumps out! (Duh 101). Put a frog in a pan of cold water and slowly turn up the heat, and the frog will boil to death. I don't know if this is an urban legend or truth. I know that once I am granted awakening and ask God for help, I am charged with making the most intelligent and guided choice I can. I pray to be shown how to forgive from the heart and not just in my head.

I was held by angels in my last week in North Georgia. They know who they are!

I am held by angels today. California, here I come......

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thomas Merton's Prayer

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude" © Abbey of Gethsemani

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Still transitioning; always praying

I wanted to check in and say that I was still very much alive and in the midst of so much that blogging more than this ain't happenin' right now.

Your prayers for my Godly listening will be received with happy gratitude.

This weekend I will be on a St. David's Women's Retreat in Sewanee, TN. If I'm really "good" I'll be offline and fully present for those moments.

And then, my friends..... and then.....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the fog is clearing

This shot is from the northern California coastline near Trinidad, up in the redwoods.

Significant changes are in the process of unfolding. This affects my well-being yet it is NOT a posting about my health, per se. I ask your prayers that I hearken to wisdom in next steps and God's peace as I discern them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

trusting and learning

When I focus on the One in Whom my fears ebb away and vanish, I have peace. Five breaths later may find again my hamster cage brain in fritter-dom, but when I remember Jesus, the edginess melts.

Been seein' a lot o' docs the past two weeks, from the Roswell area boop machine folks to the North Carolina Clinic to my Atlanta oncologist yesterday. Last time I saw Dr. H., nerves were frayed and tummy butterflies were scrambling into overdrive. Yesterday I met with him for a frankly obligatory check-up and check-in, with a bottom line assurance that All Is Well (as well as can be, considering). It's a consciousness lesson after all amongst other things. One of them is called, "How can I think of leukemia and not slither into a pit of fear?"

I'm learning step by step.

When I'm at Church, I'm God's Kid. When I'm singing in the choir, I'm Choir Girl - et cetera. I'm not Choir Girl with leukemia.... I'm singing and learning and wishing I could sight sing better and on and on. But when I'm sitting in a conventional doctor's office, the AML seems to swell and begin making Halloween noises. Booooo. Booooo! And I say The Jesus Prayer, fumble with my iPhone gizmos and breathe. Boooooooo.

My blood counts resembled last week's and are improved over what Dr. H's office drew 5 weeks ago. "You look good!" exuded Dr. H, who looked tired. "When shall I see you again?" I asked. "Six weeks is fine. If you get the flu and a high temperature, though, call me. I'll want to monitor you to make sure it doesn't turn into something worse." With a weak smile and a slight solar plexus thud, I said okee-dokes and skediddled out of there.

I still get triggered in a hospital setting. I came back to the house, had a bite, then went out and spent a half hour at the gym. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me and my endorphins which I wish I had more of not to mention some neutrophils....... please.

The awareness of "no guarantees" continues. There's a young lad named Jaymun who's not doing so well. If you'd say a prayer for him and his family, I would say Thank you for that. For my friend Steve also.....!

I focus on the One Guarantee I believe in.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Hildegard von Bingen: "Even in a world that's being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

birds sing to grumpy girl

I chose an out of the way midway point for my journey back to the northern Atlanta suburban sprawl.... tiny Cashiers, NC. A long ways from pokey Wilkesboro.... 182 miles in fact, the last dozen or so on twisty turny mountain roads reminding me in waves of California Highway 1, parts of rural Scotland and then again some of the Pacific Northwest. I arrived tired and grumpy and slept a long while.... awakening less to my mental grindings than delight at hearing the birds serenade me.

I'm not so sure that "the jury is out" for me in the experience of IV nutrition than that they've cast their votes and are headed out in search of a real mug of strong coffee. Today I'm not sure that the IV portion of our show will continue as part of my rebuilding plans. I don't like pain or needles; I'm traumatized by needles and I've been told by more than one hospital nurse that my veins are growing scarred. The first attempt doesn't always get it and I cry. So... I can pop vitamins down my throat with the best of 'em. Since this is my only resistance, I won't judge myself too harshly. But I did it, by gum..... I lived through two IV experiences, the heavy metals test AND a plastic bag full of good things for me (Vitamin C, minerals, you know - Good Things).

I'll return to the Clinic in a few weeks for an in-person consultation and another delicious massage with healer man Dennis. Were I true road warrior (and boy, it's times like this I miss flying!), I could wrangle the 12-13 hours of highway driving and my 3-hour appt. at the Clinic. I'm not. I'll stay overnight and possibly treat myself to another mountain exploration. I can do this. I can do this and thank GOD for this. After two 25-day stints in a leukemia ward, oh yes I can do this.

In the meantime, I'll wander through little Cashiers, listen to the birds call out to me, and grab a strong cuppa joe for the four hours back to citified land. And there's choir practice tonight. My holy carrot and one of my deeper joys.

I wanna mountain cabin!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

a maze becomes a labyrinth

I have some marvelous photos from last Sunday in Church, taken from the choir loft. Unfortunately they have little to do with my stay here in Wilkesboro NC while I allow the holistic clinicians to have their way with me! You'd think I'd have an easier time finding my one thematic photo for each post....

My overall sense today is that I feel I'm working with good people. Not just nice, but capable, conscious, caring.... and professional. Come to think of it, many of those I encountered in conventional oncology land were of a similar ilk, with the teensy tiny exception that I grew to encounter a shuddering resistance to their methods of dealing with cancer.

I am moving away from the fearsome enormity of conceptualizing the leukemia as central to my life (or death) to looking at how I may live, period. How all of me may live.... not just this ragged and sometimes melodramatic issue. As the pastor of my Church and I agreed in a short one-on-one visit, I don't want to be known as leukemia girl. And I'm not, dammit - the thing's in remission today, thanks be to God!

Today was Day 2 at the Clinic. I won't unpack every nuance, but it anchored in more of my sense that I'm working with a good crew. First order of the day was to live through having an IV drip of DMPS (with a glycine shooter preceding it), its purpose being heavy metal chelation - e.g. loosening up to ultimately get rid of. The next bit was the most heavenly - a long, dreamy hour-plus of a lymph drainage massage. Oh bliss. And the massage therapist was a lovely, God-emanating being..... wow. Normally I eschew massages as an expensive quick fix leaving me mostly spacey and covered with lotions, but today's was a treat. Afterwards was a detoxification procedure that involved coffee. Honey, that's all I'll say for that one for now! It had been perhaps 20 years since I done did one o' those.....

I then met with both docs sequentially and reviewed the lab results from yesterday's oww-oww blood draw. With the first we discussed hormonal levels and how they might affect immune system compromise. With the 2nd, I was in tears of gratitude at some of the numbers, which ROCKED! My WBC is 1.5, up from last month's 1.2; reds maintaining their low but near-normal numbers, and my platelets.... 97. Almost 100. I can't remember the last time. One month ago they were 58 or so.

Interestingly, he went through all of the other bits, which showed remarkably resilient strength for someone having been battered with chemo. I was swooning with gratitude as he pointed out the list of Good Things, from glucose to uric acid to protein levels (busting the mold that every cancer patient must be on a pure vegetarian diet) to liver and kidney strength! My cholesterol rocks ("You can tell you're a runner," he said). The weak spots, from calcium to B12 to iron levels, we'll attend to with quality supplements. And the coming few weeks will return test results for heavy metal toxicity. Even my cortisol levels are strong! That's a stress hormone, and its strength is indicative that I'm not withering under the strain of "doing battle." Which is of course a powerful part of my stepping into healing.

Tomorrow I'll sit through a 3+ hour IV nutrition blast. This will be the 1st time that I've been next to an IV pole holding something utterly good for me. I'm still needle- and pain-phobic, but the sitting room is social and educational. I will come with snacks and maybe even a latté to see if I piss anyone off. I mean, someone's got to keep the Purity Police on their toes......

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pondering, praying and getting poked

I'm struggling to share some morsels about my first day here meeting the folks at the Clinic and getting quite a thorough series of tests.... while the metro Atlanta area is being deluged with horrific floods!

I hope this passes through as quickly as possible.... for those losing power and even some of their homes.

Ironically or not, my 300+ mile drive to the north was pretty uneventful. It was pouring buckets as I left and yet I found myself entering low cloud and mist rather than more torrents.

I'm a bit space-brained from travel and the bustling newness of engaging with this multidisciplinary group of healing folk. While the other clinic used only 'the boop machine' as a diagnostic tool, we've got a more fleshed out gamut here - blood, urine, vital signs, a long talk with the head guy, Dr. Cohn, and something rather intriguing called Live Cell Analysis. Perhaps I can more readily validate watching my blood cells bump-and-grind from a finger prick droplet under a microscope and projected onto a computer screen..... than hearing funny synth sounds from the other method. Of course cells gone awry are my deal - faltering bone marrow spluttering out crippled cells and platelets. I'm still pondering this one, and a first blaze through an online search shows at least as many sites proclaiming this hokum as singing its praises.

Something went horribly wrong at sometime for my marrow to stop functioning properly and develop into AML.... with its still-around precursor MDS. Conventional medicine has told me that they don't know WHY I developed leukemia. They also told me that my best chance of survival consists of a bone marrow transplant (45% to the 5-year mark not addressing quality of life). The CAM and alt folk require just as much discernment on my part, however I'm getting more answers and possibilities from them. And let's face it - since I've added quite an arsenal of herbs since returning Stateside in mid-July, I AM feeling noticeably better.

I'm still discerning. Tomorrow I'll spend 5-6 hours at the Clinic; Wednesday another three. I'll share more as I am able.

Friday, September 18, 2009

a little road trip coming up

Sunday after Church I scoot onto the highway and make my way 300 miles to the north - to stay at a nearby mid-range hotel and meet with the folks at the Holistic Medical Clinic of the Carolinas in Wilkesboro NC. I must be getting better! I'm twitching with a happy smirk to be going on a little road trip for a few days!

The field of sunflowers is from a really goofy roadside not-quite-attraction called Uncle Shuck's Corn Maze, about 40 minutes north of Roswell. I think being aged 2-5 was a prerequisite for getting the most out of it. I passed on paying $9.00 to walk through the maze and made my way back to the land of all that is here for me, which considering What Happened nearly a year ago, is growing considerably! And so I pray that these discerning steps for a healing team aren't a maze of confusion.

I have met with the first group, Covenant Health Clinic right here in this town. I didn't have the most gracious attitude coming into it since attempting to liaise constructively with the support staff found me growing grouchier by the day. The short answer is that my bullshit meter was triggered to not a small extent by my 1st hour there with two technicians running this machine that was purported to measure my life force energies along acupuncture meridians. Attempts to have it described left me probably failing at graciousness and instead crumbling into a palpably challenged belief system. With NO flyers in the front office's rack nor any information on their website, I was finally able to learn that this thing is called Bioenergetic Testing, created by a German fellow named Reinhold Voll in the 1940's. Hooked up to a laptop and making full-on 1960's piss poor synth sounds as the metal probe kept applying pressure to my middle finger (go figure!), I thought the thoughts of she who has swallowed more snake oil potions than any semi-sane human has a right to have done.

This isn't to say that what they were doing was remotely invalid or unhelpful. I'm stumbling around in here while 'fessing up that in the past 30 years, I have been to authentic healers as well as have fallen prey to the most gussied up 'new age bullshit' on the planet, often priced in the thousands of dollars. I have embarked on today's path of holism with prayer and deliberation. I endeavor to be a wise discerner. "Easily triggered" however is also a part of my arsenal of goods....

It's no surprise to have been told that I was extremely weak in my liver, kidneys and lymph systems. They also try and ferret out emotional traumas, with the CSA device acting as a sort of electronic kinesiology meter. "What happened in 1980?" I was asked. Hell, I hadn't even gotten sober then. I looked calmly at the gent and responded, "I don't remember. Probably blocking it." I have also paid substantial sums of dosh to uncover the traumas of my life. Therapy? Hah! Child's play! We're talking.... well, I've been there and done that, often repeatedly. What works for me TODAY is my Christian path and my 12-Step programs..... breathing in and breathing out.

Granted, asking me this when I was hooked up to a 3-pump IV would've generated another response. Today the scars remain on my arms from both PICC lines. Today I feel guided to seek a manner of healing that addresses all of me without pouring poison into my veins.

Mary Travers - Rest in Peace, my songbird unmet friend. Her bone marrow transplant gave her I believe 2-3 years before the side effects finally overran her life force.

Later meeting the head of Covenant, Dr. Rhett Bergeron, was a delight. As guarded as I was with the booping machine techs, I warmed to Dr. B's easy manner. He understood that I would meet with the North Carolina folks this week, and the half page of products recommended to me could wait. I felt he was a balanced combination of kind, professional, humorous, and far-sighted. "Call us when you get back!" he said with no edge. He too reiterated that their protocol attempts to address their understanding of the cause of disease rather than treating symptoms. There was no blood draw that day. Their focus is on "How did this come about in your life? And then.... how can we help you be restored to a whole state where the cancer CANNOT live?"

I spent 2+ hours with three different people there and paid $481.00. They don't bill insurance. They're considered out of network providers, if that. The healing I seek isn't on the radar of most insurance policies. And as of January 1st, the one I've had for several years evaporates. The short teaser is that my Blue Shield of California policy went from $356/month to $733/month (post-leukemia). You'd think I'd get some pat on the head to just transfer to another "Blues" provider here in Georgia?

Try $1,400/month, which I cannot and will not pay.

But back to life..... I have one today. I have a damn GOOD one today! Even when I'm a brat and eat too much sugar, or my friend the brain spins around and wreaks havoc yet again with my peace of mind and heart... I have a life and I pray to the God of my understanding that it may be luscious as long as it may be.

How 'bout an amen to that? I thought so!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

smirking away the crows

I tried to Google a story on Patrick Swayze a week or so ago. What was up with this man so valiantly fighting pancreatic cancer? If you're reading this you probably know that he has died. May he rest in peace. And may my furrowed brow think less such thoughts as "Am I next?" than "My faith is in the One Who holds me through life and death."

Never lose hope, regardless. I remain baffled that in 2009, fiery spirits succumb to various cancers after taking the best that conventional medicine has to offer. The rare survivors, many following alternative protocols, seem absent from the media. I scrounge for their stories and I pray for courage no matter what.

This week I'll visit with two clinics, one a day's road trip away to Wilkesboro, North Carolina. I go in and out of anonymizing those with whom I interact, but I was touched by what their lead physician wrote to me.... perhaps made more poignant by my sadness after Swayze's death following his 2-year battle with pancreatic cancer:

"As I explained - we never make decisions on care until we have seen the patient, reviewed the entire file and see if the doctor/patient match is good for both. We cannot help everyone but we try to come up with solutions - even if it means seeing someone else who can benefit our patient better. Doctors are teachers - not healers - so the goal must be to help you learn what is available and then you must choose."

This is a voice of wisdom that I pray is also connected to protocols of health-building and hope. Not one of the oncologists exhorting me to get a bone marrow transplant ever spoke to me in gracious tones such as this! Again, I have not ruled it out. I'm simply not led to such a gruesome procedure today.

I tend to become more introverted and frightened in the lead up to any medical procedure. It's easier to have balanced days when I am simply doing so, breathing so, living them. Ah but when the lens zooms in, I creak and hold my breath. I don't know what I'll discover over this coming week and more. I pray I encounter it fully held by the Lord's Grace.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

attuning in real time takes time

Having a few control issues remaining in my life, I prefer my confusion of the roadside attraction variety as opposed to that which carries the threat of, "OH NOOOOOO! What if I MESS UP!?" This photo is from a 2005 road trip I took through Northern California, not aware at the time that one of my later-found high school buddies was living not far from my motoring explorations.

Who needs a sore butt as an excuse to stop at a place like this?

I'm not sure I can extricate an analogy out of this without more organic coffee this morning, but my visual is based on my next steps in healing which involve others: Over the coming 2 weeks, I will meet with and be tested at two holistic medical clinics. One is here in Roswell, GA: Covenant Health Clinic, run by a well-recommended Dr. Rhett Bergeron. The other involves a road trip, something that when healthy never fails to stir up little bubbles of excitement in me: The Holistic Medical Clinic of the Carolinas, a leisurely 6-7 hour drive to Wilkesboro, NC - including a 3-day stay in the local area. I will spend several hours at Covenant this coming Thursday the 17th. I leave this Sunday the 20th after Church for my drive to the north.

Emails and phone calls needed to be followed up with in-person visits. There is only so much I can validate at arm's length. Both seem like excellent teams of healers. And while I have written in here that I am feeling better than I have in a very long time (save for this week's unfortunate pulled rib ligament or muscle which has put a real crimp in my exercise and life force levels), I don't need to brag about my mental health to declare that my healing path is not to exist in a vacuum consisting only of what I think are great ideas.

When I made the first appointment, I felt not relief but worry. I then realized that, for the most part, I don't trust physicians. I have pendulum swung over the years from Fix Me, Only You Have My Answers! to "stand back and let me think about this.... for a very long time." It was in listening to my inner wisdom that I began my more intuitive healing journey in February of this year.... when I first said, "Wait wait - no!" to a proposed 3rd hospitalized round of chemotherapy. It was only then that I began to read up on alternative protocols.... which I continue to do as well as act upon. And I desire to do this with the help of folks much wiser and more experienced than me.

Especially the One Who heals me and holds me most of all.

Will I attune to one, both or neither? We'll see.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

One potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, four

This is my friend Tony Brown from Scotland, peering forth from a potful of potatoes that he showed me how to plant back in April (or was it May?). Potatoes grow upside down! You put a few little tatties into a pot and cover them with soil. Voila! Green shoots spring up. Cover 'em with more dirt. Watch like a hawk and keep watered. Repeat. And then..... and then.... and then.... you can harvest them.

Just below is the midway point in potted tattie land. I grew up in Venice Beach, California and learned nothing about gardening. What grew locally were succulents, daisies, a few others whose names I don't recall. Sand and salt spray were not conducive to the kind of lush gardens and gardeners you'll find abounding in Great Britain. So Tony teaching me how to plant tatties was a treat.

The top photo just arrived in my email box. I love it. I'm sad I left before I could taste them. They wish I was there to taste them, also!

When I arrived in Scotland in early April, I had hoped for six months and frankly more. I didn't know if I would live or die, to be brutally honest. I was fairly weak, with no stamina to speak of. My treasured 2-hour walks with Ruthie would find me in bed for the same amount of time the next day. And if you've followed my path in these blogs, you'll know that it became time for me to return here to the States. I had 3-1/2 healing months with my precious friends over There.

I began like the early pots and am feeling more like the top photo, save for Tony peering through the lush growth. I am stronger and healthier than I have been in well over a year. Not yet here in north Georgia two months, I am allowing a life to come into me and through me.... noticing I am loathe to splutter forth A List of all that I'm doing since that was one of the character defects that surely didn't help my poor immune system get into the mess it got into - the gogoGO and dodoDO revving that ran me into the ground. (I am not saying that I 'gave myself leukemia'; I am acknowledging that stress can cause all manner of unwellness).

Today I am experiencing the riches of having a life. I'm even tempting my old modus operandi of too much.... remembering to breathe slowly and STOP. Whoa, girl, what's this frenzy? Stop. Breathe. Look at the riches you have!

The potatoes grew and were harvested. They had a beginning, a middle and an end. I too will have the same. One of my aha's today is that an end which threatened to be very close at hand doesn't feel quite so lurking.


Prayer? Herbs? Scooting right up to this "I am the end of your life!" bugaboo called Death and saying, "Okay. So you're close. Hi." The sheer unadulterated Grace of God?


It ain't dumb luck. I don't believe in that. I also don't have all the answers, or believe that life is black-and-white. "If I'm Good, I'll live, and if I'm bad, then it's curtains." For some reason, I am not only still alive but more vibrant than I have been at least since this nasty thing called AML came a-knockin' (me over) just about a year ago. It was last October. And what a ride it has been....

I prefer the one I'm having now. There are no medical guarantees to be had, not with this thing that I have. But my Assurance doesn't reside there.

In the meantime, I'm doing well. Very well.

The tatties grew. They were savored oven baked with butter. I hope to plant some more next summer in my friends' garden at Fisherman's Bothies.

Until then.... I will do my best to embrace each day as God's Gift to me, that I may share more with others as well!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

a blessed day

Simple. Soft. Phoning friends while driving around and exploring neighborhoods while running errands... Jogging in the local park at 5:30 pm in the muggy air.... raiding the local mega-sized Harry's Market (really a Whole Foods) for nourishing food... ironing clothes.... thinking of Church tomorrow... praying for two good friends who married today in South Carolina... wistful for my dear friends in Scotland whom I miss.... grateful to be alive, happy and well


a tip for those sharing comments

I've realized that when I wish to mess around with the Comments section on another's or even my OWN blog, I have to hit the Post Comment circular thingy twice after I've written what I want.

If I'm in another's blog, it'll then prompt me to put a bunch of scrambled letters into another box, which seems to be a spam prevention maneuver. If I'm in my own, I just have to hit it twice.

So if you want to share and this has stopped you in the past, you don't have to let it anymore! Again, if you do so as Anonymous, please sign your first name at the end.

Being stubborn has its own rewards sometimes...

I've had an oft-challenging week and will write more when I can weave some wisdom into the whinging......

My thanks to my dear and missed friend Eva H., whose photographic eye is responsible for the visual in this post. Bless you my friend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

moving through the dark places

The Atlanta oncologist I met the day before yesterday is a nice man. Exhale. He is not the expert in MDS-AML I really need in that corner of the ring, if I dare tempt the fates with such an analogy, but he is a more than adequate 'place holder'. He gave me names of specialists who do bone marrow transplants, and described the atmosphere in the three local hospitals where those are performed. Considering that I would not have that done today even if you put a gun to my head, I now find it interesting that I keep that card in a back pocket. (It's a clichés-R-us day). I can see him once a month for blood draws and I now have someone to phone if I'm feeling poorly. Ahhhhh!

Aside from the build-up of my anxiety which slithered in weed-like between prayers and breaths, my WBC and neutrophils could be heartier. Ok, so they suck; I'm trying to be nice to what few I have. I did squeeze a good 24-hours of distress out of those numbers: 1.2 WBC and .3 ANC. (If you're a doctor and you're reading this, no, you may not phone me, thank you very much!). The reds are rockin', however - near normal RBC and platelets at 83!

I am praying for and researching a holy healing for my underlying MDS (myelodysplasia). That's the one where my counts stay low and sometimes whisper out to the naughty tendency to turn into active leukemia. When I told Dr. H. that my last bone marrow biopsy in late April showed 6% or less of blasts, he smiled widely; "That's good!" By the time my friend Susan & I left, we were both spent. I didn't even ask to stop at a Starbucks for a decaf vanilla latté as I'd threatened.

On to Church and my worship of the Risen Lord, my Friend throughout all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

holy distractions and sacred present-mindedness

"It's the wrong trousers, Gromit, and they've gone wrong!" - Wallace & Gromit.

The photo of luscious blood sugar annihilators is from some bikkie shop in Scotland. I was en route to the Isle of Iona in 2006, where I thought I'd find Christological paradise and instead roiled in disillusionment and depression.

I could have left. I'd committed to 10 weeks slavery, I mean service as a volunteer. "But I keep my agreements...." I whined in neo-martyrdom as the first days showed me that I'd been sorely mistaken. It was nothing I had hoped and been led to believe it was, this place. Surly the problem was ME and that if I just kept on keeping on and praying even more, everything would be alright!

I had a choice. I abdicated that and suffered.

Today I meet with a potentially new oncologist. I am sure deep down to my quirky bones that he is indeed a very very nice man. He came recommended as someone with a caring demeanor. However my standards have changed markedly from a terrified woman shuffling through the gaping doors of hospital prison to one who is prayerfully making her own choices as best she can. I am not looking for a physician as my only recourse to show me how to make it through the MDS-AML gauntlet alive and - let's go for broke here - well. I want an ally in the holy work of healing where "no guarantees" is an undercurrent. When I bring up the concepts of alternative and holistic, will he lean forward with curious eyes or will I get that bubba stare that barely veils smug? If we even get PAST that part of the meet-and-greet game, how will he respond when I ask him how many people has he treated with my particular collection of bits.... and what happened? Who lived and who died? AML out of MDS is another ball game to de novo AML. That one's bad enough.

My problem with seeing conventional physicians is that I am terrified. I know that Christ is King. I know that if I breathe in and breathe out, I'll feel better, even though I'd rather raid the nearest bikkie shop and put full face into the trough of sugary brain escapes. I know that YOU are praying for me! I am hearing one of the Chancel Choir anthems..... "This is the day which the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it, be glad in it."

This nice doctor isn't even going to DO anything to me today - no bone marrow biopsy lurks. I will get a blood draw, which I haven't had in a rather naughty two months. I feel SO GOOD. Will the counts reflect that or no? What is scarier, facing my deer in the headlights subpersonality in the presence of Da Man, or the caterwauling between my ears whenever I get a CBC print out? It is INARGUABLE that I feel better than I have in 18-24 months. I have two gyms to try out this week! Ah.... but The Numbers.

It's an edgy day for me. It's been an edgy weekend.

I was traumatized by my two hospital stays. Unlike prosaic and holy Iona - it really is a sacred isle, please visit it as a pilgrimage if you can - I could not leave. I could not rip out the IV and say, "Alright already, the food here sucks, you've been very nice but I really must be going." I could not leave and live. After the chemo, I had no white blood cells and neutrophils worth mentioning. If I'd left, if I'd said, "Enough!," my insurance company would've dropped me like a very hot potato and my immune system would've been good for maybe a few hours at best.

I had to stay. I did. I'm alive today, thanks to God, your prayers and admittedly good medical care.

But I couldn't leave. Today I can. And there are some fairly neurotic corners of my psyche that need reminding of that.... that I can breathe, that I have choice, that Jesus and the presence of your prayers as well as my friend Susan will be with me.... and that it's Another Lesson time today.

Stay tuned. It's cool enough for a nice jog, wouldn't you know?

"Don't worry, Gromit - everything's under control!"

Friday, August 21, 2009


I can't I can't......

I wanna I wanna!

This is no bull. (Arrrrrrgh!).

My dear friends Ruth and Davy live out in the country near Rafford near Forres in Morayshire, Scotland. When you're that rural, mailing addresses include terms like "near." Honest.

Now 99.8% of the time, the local herd of cows adorn Ruthie's views from her home office. Prosaic! Godly! Wondrous!

This recent day before supper, however, things had changed. The bull and his harem managed to unhinge the gate and take a rare wander into their private and formerly manicured home haven. As I cannot recreate this scene as well as my friend Ruth, I'll quote her here, adding the question, "When was the last time you looked out of your living room window and saw......?"

And now Ruthie's version:

"All of a sudden I heard a shriek - "Holy shit, holy shit!

I ran through to the living room to find a surreal sight. Our garden was filled with a herd of cows, all disoriented and mooing for help.

"Oh my God what's happened?", I asked in vain.

There they were tramping over every square foot of the garden, no plant, shrub or bush was safe. Reminiscent of Usain Bolt, we suddenly caught sight of Robin the Farmer sprint down the path and in a flash, the mob turned around and headed for a more suitable pasture.

It transpires that the bull (yep him again) was rubbing himself against the gate in the far field, when all of a sudden it clicked open and he decided to lead his merry band to freedom.

Luckily they headed west towards the farmhouse where Bob the dog was keeping guard. "This aint right," he thought and started to howl which alerted their 7-year-old grandson Murray who was playing in the garden. "Grandad come quick!" And Grandad ran for all he was worth.

Davy in the meantime had ventured into the garden and fancying himself as a bit of a cow whisperer, thought the best course of action was to sway towards the gate shouting, "C'mon li'll doggies" several times until they realised "This guys no right, we're not doggies, let's get outta here."

Ah, the joys of living in the country! The garden's a bit worse for wear and there are a few cow pats on the grass, but these two city kids laughed all night."

I miss my friends in Scotland.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

They said "Get a life" and she did

I'd like to announce a Naming Contest for my latest set of wheels here in the USA: A 2006 Honda Accord SE, 4-door, automatic (thank God, my Bay Area 5-speed got old fast), clean as a whistle, 18K miles for $16,850. Of course it was close to twenty grand when all was said and done. My little red Hyundai in Scotland was ultimately named Highland Red by Susan here in Georgia. I'm leaning towards the liturgical and medieval saintly without being too sacrilegious. Anyway, the prize is a drive to the local restaurant of your choice when you come and visit me! Ok, perhaps we'll head to the ocean.....

Klaus is Susan's husband and accompanied me to CarMax the 1st Day there, a brilliant shopping companion for such a borderline overwhelm. I frankly think it makes him even more manly that he gave me permission to post this photo of him in his/their/our driveway just in his socks! "They match the car, Klaus, you're cool," I reassured him. CarMax is a dealer that has NO haggling. Could I have saved, oh, two grand buying private party? Of course. And spent x-amount of time careening all around the Greater Metro Atlanta area plus arranging to schlepp each possibility to a mechanic..... No, they're the best choice for me and did a superb job (thanks, Denese and Chris!) for finding this pearly white gem.

When I first arrived in Scotland back in April which seems like only yesterday or last week, I was down to my last two months of Day-Timers. I've used these analog calendars for 18 years. I love them. They're a healing, grounding antidote for all the hours I spend in front of a screen, digitizing my life on so many levels. I write in pencil and use erasers when I change my mind. You couldn't give me a PDA - I'm wired enough. And when I went to order another set of 12 for the coming year, I paused.

I couldn't do it for weeks. I was slam-dunk arrested by having lived with the never far away awareness that I didn't know how much time I had. I know, it might seem silly for you reading this. Hello? Just order it and put the rest in God's Hands! But you see, I'd never stared at death's possibility quite like that before. A year's worth of Day-Timers? WHY?

I ordered them, finally.

When I left the Bay Area, I donated my 2003 Honda Civic LX to some Franciscan brothers with whom I'd grown in friendship. I gave away 80% of my belongings. I packed the remainder into my 5X10 storage unit. "Either I start anew from scratch or my Executors get to rummage through this lot..." I created a Living Trust, agonizing over whom to appoint to DO things after I died and in fact right before. Oh I hated that!

I did it though.

So buying a car careens into my heart on multiple levels, from acknowledging a continuing life to hearty self-worth to almost apologetic gratitude. Coming up with nearly $20,000 was really hard. I'm fifty-three. "This amount once bought a house! And why isn't it buying a Mercedes?" Live long and mourn inflation. But I knew what I wanted: A comfortable, clean, Consumer Reports-lovin', fuel-efficient car. The only thing it's missing is satellite radio and YOU in it for a drive!

Today I amble over to the Georgia DMV (Dept. of Driver Services) to surrender (the rats) my California Driver's License and get one for this State. I both adore and cringe at the photo on my California license, which is from 2003 and, well, let's just say a lot has happened in the past six years. Ahem. "Wow, you look HOT!" many say when they see it. "Yes, shut up while you're ahead, please," I think. Life on life's terms including photographic proof.

A car. How damn middle class, how bourgeois, how ordinary,

How miraculous. I'm still alive and well enough to think in terms of going places. I'm well enough to cop a resentment at another government agency telling me what I have to do and when. I'm well enough to think of this Saturday's Lookout Mountain Sacred Harp Convention near Collinsville, Alabama, two hours and one time zone to the west.

If this wasn't a part of the country more conservative than California, I might even consider a Bobble Head Jesus doll for my car! I love the Lord and also have a left-leaning sense of humor.

Hondas last a long time. Everyone knows that. I have yet another friend rootin' for the longer-haul while I praise God for TODAY.