Monday, December 27, 2010

darkness and light

"Once in Royal David's City, Stood a lowly cattle shed…."

I shared in my Centering Prayer group last night that I felt I'd "failed" Advent. I had begun it with earnest intention to go inwardly in preparation for the celebration of the coming of Christ. In the shorter days I began to allow a more interior beingness take place. I had even booked a 2-day Silent Advent Retreat at the nearby Bishop's Ranch outside of Healdsburg.

By the time our little Chancel Choir was dress rehearsing for the Really BIG Christmas Eve service, I had allowed myself to fall headlong into the seasonal frenzy. I could feel it the weeks before Christmas. I couldn't seem to insulate my spirit from the incessant DO DO DO! GO GO GO! Buy this, plan that, make SURE of THIS! I was full-tilt ADD, knee-trigger WHAT'S NEXT? girl. It's not surprising that my blood counts were slightly worse for the wear this month, after I had crowed about their Meaningful Increase just weeks prior. Platelets: MOVE IT!

By the Christmas Eve caroling and 11 pm Eucharist service I felt like a wobbly cardboard cutout. Where was my experience of magical wonder and spiritual emergence? "I know I'm pushing it," I told myself. "I know this isn't really the best for my health on any counts." And while I continued to praise my disciplined Advent chocolate avoidance (now enthusiastically relinquished) plus read Morning and Evening Prayer most days from this wondrous publication called Magnificat, I found myself tango'ing with the old dynamic that I thought I'd dropped…. playing a Red Shoes kind of drama with "never enough."

It's Monday, December 27th. There's a lovely pale fog in my Novato front yard. My work with the markets, which consists primarily of trying to make sense of the diabolically senseless, may be easier this week. The BIG CRASH!! I've been poised for since this past SUMMER! remains a distant rumor yet continued possibility. I'm locked in a very stressful battle with Alta Bates Summit Hospital, who are justifying charging me over a thousand dollars in co-pays just to walk through their doors twice to have seen my oncologist Dr. Krijanovsky. He's been paid! The labs have been paid! The hospital wants more blood. Guess who's taking them to the local media and possibly an attorney? Sigh. Breathe. Pray! Can I fight the good fight without getting my knickers in a knot? Just when I tell myself that I'll have a quiet day, along comes some avoidance or outrage and like the quintessential Pavlovian, I'm off to the races, drooling.

I am still a work in progress.

Above is a photo of our choir. Even though my choir director chewed me out for asking someone to take photos (dude! I had asked him not to use the flash! Don't yell at ME!)…. even though I was bleary-eyed dreading singing the really way too hard Poulenc without another six months of rehearsal….even though I thought, "Lord, I love you… but it's awful late to be in Church….), I was present and GRATEFUL. Two years ago I spent Christmas in a leukemia ward. (Alta Bates has already extracted their pounds of flesh for THAT). I didn't cry, although I almost did during a few rehearsals. I am less triggered and more grateful, less terrified and more soberly aware.

Still. It's not easy to know that death could come knocking when I have not invited it. I have no cheese and crackers for you; go away! I thought I'd be saving these musings for 30 years hence. I am shifting from really quite afraid to slightly more accepting. And in fact, in very rare moments, I feel an eagerness to leap into the Lord's arms… and see again those I love who have already left this planet. I guess when I'm tired I think more about death.

I'll get more CBC's this week as I feel guided. The requisition form is ready to download and print out. I have to watch my blood counts even though I am not my lab values.

It's a little later. The fog is beginning to clear here in Novato.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

take two, they're small....

Behind every capsule I take is a fairly significant body of research, either my own or that of my healing team. In the past nearly two years since I stepped away from my last hospitalized chemo treatments, I have melded

and shaped this list from "anything I could get my hands on that might help me not have leukemia come back!" to supplementation that is more intelligently pointed towards rebuilding the me that was vulnerable to come down with this thing in the first place.

In lieu of spending the next two hours assiduously adding hyperlinks, I'll let any curious minds use Google to further their own investigation. You are also welcome to email me - I am happy to share my experience.

The ever-present caveat applies: There are no guarantees - except, for me, in God's love in His Son Christ Jesus. I have nothing to prove here. Each day is a gift! I have wanted to share in the spirit of "this is what I'm doing" rather than considering that I could offer advice - save for prayer! - to anyone else.

So! I pray and worship; I work; I exercise; I cherish my friendships; I nourish myself; and I take this stuff!

On an empty stomach 2x/day: Marrow Plus (Ji Xue Teng) by Health Concerns (2 tablets each time), then separated by about 20 minutes, Wobenzym-N by Garden of Life (2-3 each time). Earlier this year (April-Sept.) I took Vitalzym instead of Wobenzym.

The remainder I take with meals 1-2x/day:

Pine Street Clinic AML customized Chinese Herbal Formula*– 1-2 caps - and that IS

Ba Ji Tian

Bai He

Bai Hua She She Cao

Ban Zhi Lian

Chen Pi

Dang Shen

Dong Chong Xia Cao

Du Zhong

Gou Qi Zi

Hai Zao

Huang Qi

Tien Men Dong

Yi Yi Ren

MULTI: I vary them, zeroing in on whole food types. For example, Raw One for Women by Vitamin Code OR 2/2x daily Nutri-Essentials Plus by North Shore Nutriceuticals (developed by integrative oncologist Dr. Keith Block).

Super Omega-3 EPA/DHA by Life Extension, 2/day OR Parent Essential Oil- 2 caps / 2 times daily (has Evening Primrose Oil in it).

ImmPower by American Biosciences - 2-5x/week

Mega Green Tea Extract (98% polyphenols) by LifeExtension

Resveratrol (various brands) alternated and combined with Grape Seed Extract

Methylselenocysteine 200 mcg. - 1-5x/week

Vitamin C - 1000 mg. with bioflavonoids

Curcumin (various brands)

Digestive enzymes with meals: Betaine HCL 648 mg. and/or Maxi-Zyme Caps by Country Life.

Probiotics, e.g. Udo's Choice Super 8 Hi-Potency or Ultimate Flora Advanced Immunity.

Calcium - 3A Calcium Formula – 3 caps daily.

Vitamin D3-5 by Bio-Tech (5000 I.U.) - upping my dose to 2-3x/day for the winter.

Beta-Carotene (25,000 i.u.)

Hepatrophin PMG (liver pills!) by Standard Process, 1-2x/day

"Recovery" and "Bone-Stem" Aura Therapy Patches (Bio-Magnetic Systems Ltd.). Don't laugh; that and the liver pills saw the most improvement in my stable but very low blood counts for the 1st time in 18 months.

Several times a week I make a Green Smoothie (e.g. organic greens with fresh/frozen fruit, Tbsp. maple syrup and water) OR a custom "Power Drink" with Emergen-C, 1 T. Emerald Energy Defense green powder , Trace Mineral Drops (by Liqui-Mins), fruit juice, 2 oz. aloe vera juice, 1T. maca, soaked chia seed "gel," a few pieces of soft fruit. Also fresh carrot-beet-apple-ginger juice 2-4x/week.

Pure water! I have an AquaSpace Aquarius Triple Plus with AQUATOMIC® : AQ-435F/AT (AQ-435F/AT) (recommended by Jon Barron). Before that I got reverse osmosis refills from Whole Foods. For a year I've used a RainShow'r filter (with fresh filters, of course). I drink 5-8 glasses of pure water a day between meals.

Quite a list, eh? I try not to make idols of what I'm doing, simply to have a grateful discipline in it all. In everything I give thanks to God (1 Thessalonians 5:18), blessing my food, my water, my handfuls of herbs… breathing in deeply the gift of each new day.

May this be a blessed Advent for everyone reading this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Food glorious food

Oh what a week! Who amongst you looks forward to a gathering of loving family ties, a table laden with otherworldly delights, a day (or two!) off from work, the pleasures of creating culinary genius in your kitchens? Right. Same here. I'm jagged midway between my hourly conviction to welcome such goodness along with my DNA hounding me otherwise, from memories of rabid dysfunction to outright paranoia about what I will and will not be tempted to throw down my gullet. Peace and joy are not too far away, however!

May I pause right now and wish you reading this a truly blessed occasion of giving THANKS to God as you understand God. Gratitude IS big medicine!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22. (NIV)

I was shown that Old Testament line over a year ago in the home of the people whose healthfully laden table you see in my photo. Yes, I regularly boast about Kevin and Jennifer Van Kirk at Hallelujah Acres in prosaic Golden, Missouri, about 45 minutes from Branson.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22.

I suspect that every blog of a fighting cancer warrior includes their path of food and nutrition. How 21st Century hospitals can put multimillion-dollar equipment in their wards, require the most stringent training of all nurses and doctors and yet pile the cafeteria plates with such wretchedness is beyond me! I complained in BOTH of my hospitalizations! My friends brought me organic meals from Whole Foods when they visited! So this post is about Food, Glorious Food - giving thanks to God for God's bounty and sharing a smidgeon of my own "experience, strength and hope" as I continue to rebuild all of me as wisely as I know.

If you have any form of cancer - and I avoid generic references to it as each one is VERY different! - and are searching the Web for wisdom, I pray that the core of your search involves a Divine Source of guidance that informs all of your actions as well as building a team of people you can trust to the depths of your being. I'm not doing this on my own, believe me.

Awright awright - so what do I eat?

After 4-1/2 months as a "high-raw" vegan, two of my now-four holistic healing practitioners made some noises about including meat in my diet. I was appalled. The great and not-so-great thing about running with the raw vegan crowd is that they err on the side of "our way or the highway." Do I think it's a worthy way of nourishing oneself? Absolutely, if you're of a physical and even psychological constitution to benefit from it. I have doubts as to its efficacy as a long-term path. There are raw vegans out there who write books, give lectures and look FANTASTIC. Lord, bless them! And if anyone is on anything that resembles the Standard American Diet (aka the SAD), after some detoxing symptoms, they are going to feel GREAT going raw and vegan. For awhile at least! For myself, having been raised on animal protein from the local Jewish butcher shop, I responded positively to slowly adding it back in.

Being a high raw vegan did not help my blood counts. As it's my bone marrow I'm on a path of healing, that is pretty darn important.

Meaty Caveat: I will not touch feed lot meats of any kind nor fish that is taken from oceans or lakes in a non-sustainable manner. Please see the movie End of the Line regarding the latter comment, and do any amount of online research on "organic meat" to show you how poisonous is eating the flesh of any poor animal tortured in a feed lot environment. It's bad juju and it's bad for the human body, period. I gratefully enjoy organic ONLY red meat and poultry and thank them for helping me to grow in health.

ORGANIC is my rallying cry and commitment to health. Rarely do I touch anything grown commercially with pesticides. I admit that it's in my better interest to eat a non-organic apple (well washed!) than a wholesome organic brownie, even though a part of me will probably always try and steer me towards the latter. Sigh! Fruits and veggies - yeah! - both raw and cooked. The salad bar at Whole Foods and I are very good friends.

NO SUGAR, period. Yes to moderate use of honey, occasionally to agave (current controversies aside), never to Stevia 'cause I don't like the taste.

Almost NO dairy. I simply can't justify it, and as well being a Church singer, I don't want to clog my pipes. Do I yearn for rich creams and cheeses? Duh! I believe that I can get my healthier proteins and fats elsewhere. If it's refined, I look the other way. I lean into wholegrain or sprouted bread and grains, although I endeavor not to overdo.

Plenty of pure filtered water and herbal teas! Hydrate hydrate HYDRATE but not during meal times as it dilutes healthy digestion. I admit to a current run on aged pu-erh teas, which while caffeinated seem to have some health benefits. I haven't had a regular coffee or espresso in over a year, although I do treat myself to Swiss Water Process decaf.

Will I sample yummy naughties on Thanksgiving or other celebratory occasions? Yes.

The most important thing I can say about food is giving thanks. Blessing one's food, every morsel, transports their molecules and healing properties to a goodness I call God's Grace. I try to listen to the unction of the Holy Spirit in how I nourish myself. What good is fanaticism or glowering rigidity? Likewise I pray for Godly discipline, since inside of me is a little cookie monster who will justify and gussy up any chance for a treat. The checkout line at Whole Foods is a particular weak spot for me, with their overpriced organic chocolates whispering, "I'm so small… you've worked so hard for me today!" Nearly 24 years of continuous sobriety ain't got nuthin' on my recovering sugar jones!

If you have any form of cancer, it is crucial how you nourish yourself. Find spiritual and nutritional wisdom that resonates with you. And use common sense. I do not believe that diet alone can cure this monster, however Twinkies and Big Macs are not the way to restore a broken body.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine…" Proverbs 17:22a.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

silk flowers for four

"What do you call the place in the wall where one's ashes lay?" I asked. "At a cemetery, it's a grave. What is this?"

"Well," said the nice woman in the second instance of a tone of voice I can only describe as intended delicacy. I'd phoned earlier to ask if certain bits would be there on the grounds. The folks didn't come across as false, but I'm aware that they probably feel they HAVE to be this gentle.

Death. Grief. Loss.

Be nice.

"Well, the wall is called a mausoleum," she said. "If the burial site is large, it's called a crypt. If it's small, it's called a niche." She pronounced it "nitch" and not "neesh."

"Really," I said. "A niche?" My mistrustful issues still churning, I later Googled it. I'd never heard of that before.

{Just now - I am so ADD! - I found a website describing 'solutions for cremation'. Suddenly I'm planning my funeral. Hello! Back to the present moment!}

This is about my mother. And this is about me as well.

My Dad and my brother are buried at Mt. Olive Memorial Park in a gawshawful part of L.A. that used to be near what once may have been called the City of Commerce. I chose that place for my father's burial because he and my mother chose it for little David's funeral. Yes, I've thought of having them moved elsewhere, but that's really taking control issues out into way way left field. After my mother died in August of 1997, three days before Princess Diana, I asked if she could be buried there. "No."

It's a Jewish Mortuary. She's not Jewish.

My half-sister and I found Pacific Crest Memorial Park for our mother Helen. It's in North Redondo Beach. I don't remember why we decided upon it. But I have visited it over the years, mostly perfunctorily. On this most recent trip to L.A., I almost admitted to myself that in my mere 48 hours there, I'd not be visiting my Dad and brothers' sites. I knew however that I needed to visit where mom's ashes lay.

When I last visited in June, it was during an absolute whirlwind L.A. la-la whoosh. For 9 days I dashed from one thing to the next. On that day I was on the phone in the car and while walking over to her corner. That's not on. This time, I very much wanted to be present. I wanted to leave silk flowers for her. There are funky little plastic urn-vases they sometimes have hanging around and other times do not (hence my phone call of the day before). Yes, they would make sure a supply of the little vases were out nearby. Yes, they would make sure the pole was there too, since I can't reach the vase holder.

I went to Michael's Arts and Crafts - you know, the chain that's everywhere - and found some fall offerings on sale for 80% off. I took at least 15 minutes trying to find the perfect combination. I was drawn to their attractiveness rather than the allure of scoring a deal. They had to feel right and look right. Four little bunches for the four of us. I paid $1.71 for them. A dollar seventy-one. They felt as though they were worth much much more.

I don't recall if I always cry when I go there, but I did this time. It was very important to me to have those silk flowers firmly anchored into that nondescript vase. "Stay," I breathed. "Stay. Let others see that someone cares for this woman who lived and died, whose own mother came to this country as an immigrant." I imagined her saying, "I really like these, Danni. Thank you for bringing them for me." Danni was my nickname. My brother David couldn't pronounce "Dianie" when he was very little.

"I'm sorry we had such a hard time," I said.

"Yes, I know," I imagined her saying back.

It was a gentle visit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

far away places

I don't believe I will ever visit L.A. and be solely in the present moment, bug-eyed as a young alien stumbling anew onto a fresh planet. Zenlike presentmindedness eludes me. As long as I am alive I will go and I will remember. My heart will breathe in and out its episodic heaviness.

Tuesday morning I jogged in the sands in Redondo Beach. Back in the days I lived there I didn't jog.; I pumped iron and pranced aerobics at the gym while chasing skinniness. My 40-minute beach run framed itself into the ahhh yes of the pungent ocean air and the pounding waves [a bit rambunctious that morning they were]. I left my shoes and socks on a ledge and jogged barefoot. I played tag with the waves. I let my feet get wet.

I love the ocean. Growing up in Venice I will never forget falling asleep listening to the sounds of the waves, their distant rhythms soothing while family life crackled. Years later the boardwalk got dirtier and I longed for escape, especially after my father died. But as a child I listened to the waves breaking.

I jogged and breathed deeply. I thought of my life then in my early twenties. Why didn't I move back to the Westside to live closer to my beloved father? I kicked myself inwardly as I ran on the sand. What was I DOING here? Why in the hell wasn't I living in Venice?

I'm not sure what I was doing living in Redondo. I was beginning a long slide downhill and didn't know it. I went from being raised mostly in Venice Beach to a mid-teens parental split casualty with me 'n not-quite-together mom winding up in Palos Verdes. This was not a good move. Neither of us fit in. After two miserable high school years I went screaming out of the house as soon as I was of legal age and moved into in an 8x10' basement room of an elderly English couple in exchange for thrice weekly housework. I earned a pittance as a part-time Church secretary. A few years later I had my own apartment on the Esplanade, had said goodbye to Jesus and the Church, and thought that Top 40 bar bands were an exciting "calling" after my originals band disintegrated. I worked restaurants, offices and those L.A. bar bands. My father always filled in the blanks financially so I never starved - except of course in another delusional left turn.

I lived in Redondo until I didn't. And on this trip, for the first time since the early 1980's, I drove north along the beach roads to Venice in my rented Chrysler convertible with the top down. The last time I drove that route I was going to see my dad. It was and is embedded in my beingness. I drove and held my breath. He wouldn't be there this time. He died in 1988.

I found a parking spot on Pacific Avenue and walked the back streets to 28th and Speedway, the alley behind Ocean Front Walk. I looked at the hyper-priced cement monstrosities that were put up in place of the apartment building my father built in 1950. I walked past them slowly. "I used to live here," I thought-said to them, "and so did others… my mother, my father, my brother David… we all lived here and others did also. You don't know that. The old building is gone." Who knows what was there long before my father bought two oceanfront lots for $5,000 in what was known as a poor beach town?

I strolled northward along the boardwalk to the vendors and then walked "home." I don't know how to walk along there without feeling that I'd soon see Dad. He'd be there. He was my anchor. I loved him and never told him until after his stroke.

He died too young, before I could ask him enough questions, before I could listen more to his Brooklyn-tinged Yiddish accent, before I could let him load another bagful of groceries for me to take away. He was 73; I was 32. He is in my heart and prayers every day but I long to hug him and hear his voice once again.

Seems as if where I've lived isn't as important as what and who continue to live inside of me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I'll be in soCal soon - this coming Monday through Wednesday. A very short visit. I pray that it all unfolds according to God's Will. I don't have to keep reminding God that I'm His; however I notice I need to remind myself.

My trip was planned with an intention that may not take place. I'm still showing up. Southern California is where I'm from. I'll be in a little B&B cottage a block from the sands in Redondo Beach, where I lived from 1974-84. I am always revived being close to the ocean. I am always revived by surrendered closeness to God.

So here I am, posing in mid-jump on my Urban Rebounder. Daily I give my lymphatic drainage and goofball ka-boing quotient an 8- to- 22-minute bounce on this mini-trampoline. It's part of my wellness protocol along with many other things I'm entering into a willingness to be more open about.

Today I'll just write about exercise, leaving other entries for healthy nutrition, customized herbal supplementation and my Christian path. If I say nothing else, it is to proclaim that my Risen Lord Christ IS the core of my aliveness today. This doesn't mean I won't die someday, even of AML. I loathe writing that but I need to be real here. I consider my life and well-being as absolute gifts of God, as well resulting from the "things I do." If someone Googles "MDS," "AML" or "leukemia" and finds my blog, may there be morsels that are edifying! May the clearest be that my life is in God's Hands. May they also be firmly convinced that this is my path and that my purpose is simply to share my experience (& strength & hope!). Have your own wellness team, whether conventional or holistic! I suppose even an atheist can "beat cancer" but I'm not here to be the queen of diversity. This is my blog and my path - and for that I give thanks to the LORD God.

With that said - here's me on the Rebounder! I learned about this a year ago when I stayed at Hallelujah Acres in Branson, Missouri. Further studies on how Rebounding was fabulous for lymphatic drainage put me on the trail to buy my own. It's a brilliant at-home break as well as discipline since I work at home. That does get claustrophobic after awhile, so…. out I've been on the jogging trails over the years! My best in the past two years (post-hospitalization) has been 30-minute runs. I then bought a bicycle, the first I owned in aeons. I wanted both local eco alternative transport plus that wind in my face fun that only comes with bicycling, although if anyone hopes to catch a glimpse of me pedalling up Mt. Tam, think again. I'm a beach girl and flat works for me.

I joined a wonderful health club in mid-September, the Marin Osher Jewish Community Center (JCC). I'd been a guest several years ago so it was always on my radar. I found myself sharing with a dear friend that I was trying to max out what I thought would be "the wisest" way of getting my exercise. I think myself into corners like this on a regular basis, sometimes with good results and other times just painting myself into corners. "It's Spring and Summer; you SHOULD be out jogging and hiking! Look at all of this gorgeous northern California weather! Mush, l'il doggie, mush!" Boy, where did I learn to be such a pendantic glum-o-mat? Well, mush I did…. out in the local neighborhood and even driving to more adventurous jogging trails such as on the local Mt. Burdell.

One of my issues is, I don't really like jogging. Oh, I did it! {Effusive pat on head}. It was hard. Ka thump ka THUMP I went 2-4 times a week, listening to my goonball collection of 1970's and '80's dance music. Yes, I downloaded and work out to the likes of Play That Funky Music, White Boy! I filled in the remaining blanks with Rebounding and an occasional vigorous (sic) hike, which is not always fun by oneself.

It was time to find a gym I liked and this one rocks. It's clean. They don't blast offensive pop music over the speakers. It's not a pickup joint. It's family-oriented. And I felt it was - and it is! - I place I would GO to. I'm even working with a marvelous personal trainer named Robert Werner. Muscles are being shaped. Endurance is slowly increasing. A few more names around the club are remembered. And my half-Jewish heritage is always triggered when I go there. There is a primal part of me that will never forget that, I feel it in my bones and in my blood… those parts of me being held and healed on a daily basis.

Yes, I look in the mirror and am sometimes aghast I don't see the 30-year-old I remember. After 6+ weeks of fairly consistant work, I think my triceps and glutes should at least be a little bit tighter! But I feel it. Hey, I work at a desk… I stare at a computer and try to make sense of market mayhem. To get off my butt and move it is a gift.

One of my newer practitioners tries to caution me not to overextend myself. I'm finding my own push point without turning it into unhealthy exhaustion. I'm not an effusive fan of pain or even discomfort, so honestly I'm not that worried even if he is. It took me being a prayer rebel to step away from conventional oncology in February 2009. I wish to be completely obedient only to God. With humans I'll wrestle a bit.

I'll write future posts about how I'm living. A huge part of this is shifting my focus OUT of the paradigm of "trying to beat cancer" and more fully into the affirmation of a Spirit-filled life. I don't wish to be in denial here; I'm in remission with a serious-ass blood cancer from which I pray for a complete healing. However if I stare at it long enough, fear will swallow me whole. It's not much better if I put my hands on my ears and holler, "La la la LA LA, I can't HEAR you!" My love of the Lord is not as the big daddy in the sky who does my bidding verbatim.

Wretched things happen.

So does Grace.

Today I'm being given an opportunity to LIVE, to give Him praise and to say a few words about it. Do not look to me; look to the Giver of Life. And while I'm still here, I'll let you know what's helping me. It starts with putting God first.

It ends with that, as well... without end, Amen.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

and a blueberry milkshake

I spent the day with an old flame.

Fourteen years since we'd last met, 18 years since our romance. I was nervous, excited, anticipatory. As I prayed I thought, "Lord, when I have I been this eager to see You? To fellowship with You? Does my heart skip an extra beat or do I trod into an Office, a prayer, a sitting…. like brushing my teeth? Would I buy You soft chocolate chip cookies to go with the real caffeinated coffee I myself would not drink? Would I tidy the home of my inner reaches or simply sigh, "I'm so glad You forgive and accept me." Am I taking You for granted again, Lord?

In the flesh another layer is peeled. This layer says, "You are a failure in relationship. You never married. You are cracked, broken, and now in mid-life, not the hottest chick on the block." I brush that aside while I yeah-but my way through my admittedly full days and evenings. Yeah BUT!

I didn't leave this man eighteen years ago; he left me. I spent the better part of a day with a man with whom I once fantasized marriage. We were companionable. No lunging, mind you. We're older and well-behaved. I spent the day with an old flame and felt the quiet pleasure of being with someone with whom I get along well.

I didn't feel so broken after all. We had a lovely day. We shared stories. Hugs. Laughter, oh yes, laughter.

He lives far far away. I spent the day with an old flame while an old frame crumbled away.

God can do that.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Now priority

This impassioned leader in the "Jesus Movement" from the 70's died way, way too young in a plane crash. Is this where "trust God but tie up your camel" comes in? I don't understand the tragic nature of his early death, but oh did he make big waves for God while he was here. Keith Green: October 21, 1953 – July 28, 1982.

I goof off in Facebook more than post in here - linking juicy articles, leaving one-liners, smirking at friends. In front of my big, fat 27" new iMac screen, I can let my prayers to be God's able steward dribble aside while I furrow my brow and try to make SENSE of it all. Zoom! go my adrenals. WHEEE! goes my self-will, aided and abetted by another mug of delicious pu-erh tea. I take cuts from work by sneaking onto Facebook... and find THIS.... a YouTube video of a recording so old it's audio only. And inside of me I felt, "I need to post this to my blog - not to Facebook. HERE."

I have such a rich life! Yes, many of my counts still suck while others are just the yippiest, but as I've said, I'm more than my lab values. I'm more than a remission roadshow. I'm graced by the Lord God to have another day to be fruitful, focused, praising His Name and.... happy.

I say thanks a lot more than I used to.

I still have fears and I round 'em off at the pass with prayer more than I used to.

This song of Keith Green's caught me in a mid-day brow furrow. Oh yes. I remember now, Lord.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

a delicious ordinariness

Only once in the past whatever amount of time has anyone said to me, "You haven't written in your blog lately!" What my friends do say is, "How are you?" Occasionally they'll add, although less and less so, "... um, I haven't looked at your blog lately, but... how are you?" I connect in real time now. Email? Hardly.... I virtually can never keep up with those. Calls. Yes. Within 48 hours a phone call IS returned. And in person... at Church... in life. "How are you?" Real life in real time.

"I'm doing really, really well," I say. It's true!

Blog-land began for me when the overwhelm of October 2008's AML tsunami rendered me speechless and unable to give one-on-one accounts. Perhaps I'm still looking for an ordinary mojo reporting tactic because for the most part, I feel marvelous and give praise to the Lord every single day. Is this a cure? I am praying myself into that paradigm shift! What a BLESSING that the gauntlet is such a memory.

Health quip: The MDS remains. I want it gone. And my blood counts and I are entering a new dialogue, with my Centering Prayer/meditation practice now including the visualization of their hearty NORMAL numbers. Like a fair weather bud, I've occasionally cast a pointed glance in the direction of my marrow, urging it to recharge and revive. While I attend to my health with intention and even the odd blast of discipline, it's less so under the umbrella of fear and more in a positive focus. Do I wig sometimes? Sure. So much less so than a year ago, even 6 months ago, praise be to GOD.

I continue to work with a strong healing team while investigating new opportunities, from hyperbaric oxygen therapy to a delightful energy session with Master Ron Lew down in San Jose. I've just joined a health club, the Marin Jewish Community Center - a treat I'd eyed for myself since returning to California late last year. My neighborhood jogging and home Rebounding needed a boost. I needed a boost. The pull of my heritage from my father's side is palpable in that environment.

I'm framing my life and story less in light of health or illness and more simply... as I am. If someone close to me was coughing their guts out, yeah, I'd move away and quickly. But it's more about how I want to let God reshape me... that IS my focus.

I am working again, catching up on 18 months of health crisis layoff and finding my place again learning about money, investments and markets. Daily I ask the Lord to show me how to be a "good steward of the talents." It's a mad and crooked arena, with smoke and mirrors the operating protocol. I'm trying to be disciplined and shrewd without losing my focus on what is REALLY important to me - my life here and now, blessed by God!

I read Forward Day by Day before bed each night. Here is an opening from last month: Psalm 81. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." Have you every watched a nest of baby birds, where their insistently open mouths seem far more huge than their tiny, weak bodies? Something about this passage rivets me. Old sensations of feeling forever unworthy are falling away morsel by morsel while I learn to show up and say, "God, I know you want to love and bless me. I receive You now!"

Monday, August 30, 2010

Never ever give up

Thanks to Fr. Thomas Brindley and his inspirations in "Upward Call" for leading me to this video which brought me to tears.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

pallin' around in the North

Yep. It's been an all-time record of not a peep in here, well over a month. I'm writing from a simple and quiet B&B in Ballard, close to my former neighborhood in Seattle. This was to be my stealth visit. I'm watching myself un-stealth myself as my fingers tap.

I have seen beloveds on this trip. Brandon here in this photo took the bus out from Astoria, OR to meet me in Portland for lunch as I drove northbound on I-5 from Keizer/Salem having spent time with other dear friends. (Am I blessed or what?) I had to use a psychic can opener to pry me away from All I Have To Do! in the Bay Area, which provokes an ironic smirk considering my former propensity for having a wander. I gotta work! I gotta do THIS! I gotta....! Well that's a change, wouldn't you say? So I continued praying and planning and here I am. I won't have phoned everyone. We'll see if they forgive me.

I'm not entirely certain of my dynamics in not writing in here for a bit o' time. At least a half-dozen events warranted my stirred intentionality. I'd take notes! And then... I would not. Am I looking for more accolades? (That's hard to admit). Am I becoming more interior? The answer is that I am not sure. Maybe "hope renewing" needs a new focus? The AKK!! AKK!! of "paradigm gauntlet" was readily released for the gentler vibration of this blog space. And now as I weave in more beyond the fears of "the thing that's out to get me ain't done so yet," I'm incubating what that might be. I get a bit quiet when I do that.

So I'm on the road and back home on the 24th. My counts and energy levels are holding. My hair is shorter. I've eaten chocolate on the road and LOVED it. And my Risen Lord has gifted me with the love of friends and the beauty of His Earth, from a 30-year reunion with Cathy from high school to saying Evening Prayer in my former Cathedral parish here in town.

Somewhere there's a leisurely tale from my exceedingly strict high raw vegan period to being handed the sacramental morsel of a homemade chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven from Kevin, Cathy's husband. The voice that says, "I can't do THIS! I'm on an anti-cancer diet!" made room for, "This was offered to me in love." It didn't hurt that it tasted spectacular. Would I make my own batch of cookies? Nawww. That's pushing it. But I'm bending some rules on this journey and showing up to savor them.

It's a blessed gift to cherish ones friends. You whom I've seen on this journey, I cherish you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

This time will be different, I know it will, I know....

I'm tiptoeing.... chuckling with naughty scheming and hoping that if I don't spell out the dynamic from which I've brazenly stolen copyrighted artwork (taking 5 minutes just to get the spelling right on that one), I won't get my butt kicked. Well, they can wag a finger and I'll change the image. I'm using it for now.

Awhile back I wrote about how pleased I was to have reconnected with my oncologist, feeling confident in being, as best as I could, a walking miracle. Look, dude! Now nearly 18 months without conventional cancer treatment, and by the Grace of the Living God, I am pretty darn well!

I believe I am a person to him. I'm also a set of lab values. He's a scientist, not Mother Theresa, even though he's quite nice. So when I get bent out of shape with my numbers, I pray. I do a few things differently with all parts of me. I pray some more. When Dr. K catches sight of a worrisome lab value, what do you think the man wants to do? I was Charlie Brown all over again. This time it'll be different. He'll pat my hand and say, "Well done, keep doing what you're doing!"

He's a conventional oncologist. And they always seem to need to DO something.

So I'm revisiting a year ago February, when my inner guidance was whispering, "Take a break from all this; enough already."

Basically, the past three lab reports (April, June, July) have been pretty decent for me. A mild dip in platelets and neutrophils in June egged me on (ar-ar-ar) to realizing that when I'm a 100% pure vegan, as perky as I feel, my counts seem to dip. Fine! I'll eat shoe leather if I feel it'll help me! So back comes a few servings of grass-fed or otherwise organic, sustainably-raised (or caught) animal protein. Oh. Neutrophils dipped back down to point-four have they? Make some changes.... and voila! Praise God! Last labs showed point-seven!

With prayer and heartfelt healthful shifts, I notice that the lab values improve.

What does a conventional oncologist want to do? Cheer me on? No. Of course not. Dr. K brought up the June numbers and said, "I want to see you again in a month and talk about treating your myelodysplasia with Vidaza." Why do I stop breathing when the conversation shifts like this, all the while smiling and making believe everything's okay? I paused. "I have done some research on that," I quipped lamely, "and I wasn't impressed with the effect it had on longevity."

"There are new studies," said he, "where significant amounts of time have been added to the lives of those with this disease." I breathed less. "I'll look into it some more," I said woodenly. Up until that time, it was a pleasant visit where we traded compliments and a few stories while he looked down my throat and poked at my belly a bit.

My anger doesn't always surface immediately. I still whistle in the dark. I felt no visceral fear walking through the Cancer Center in Berkeley as I had back in late April. But one word - Vidaza (Google it if you choose) - set me off.

That's what they do. They "treat."

This isn't my "treat." I thought Lucy would hold the football and I'd kick it and we'd be able to play. The good doctor, and bless him for it, is looking for something to do. And I am not going to do it.

For the bean counters (if there are any), for the past three labs my WBC has been 1.5, 1.4 and 1.57; my platelets have been 110, 101 and 110; my ANC (neutrophils) have been .6, .4 ("critical") and .7. I am praying them higher, first and foremost. And I'm doin' all that other healthy stuff I burble on about regularly.

I have today. And this Monday is my Birthday! I'm still here, I still love The Lord, and the gift of today reminds me that on or off this planet, God loves me, too.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

birth and death and remembrance

A year ago I posted about my brother David's birthday from Tony & Ali's rural working retreat in the Scottish Highlands. Has it been a year since I was with them? Has it been 43 years since my little brother David was buried on what would have been his 9th birthday? Some well-meaning people have quipped about the number 9 representing "completion." Regardless, I spent my childhood wrapped up in my own confused miseries and never got to know this little guy who I miss so very much today. Here are some photos from then: Click HERE (same link).

I have this sense that we'd be buddies now in middle age. Modern medicine may have chortled at his congenital heart defect, with 21st Century wizardry able to give him the physical hardiness he never had as a child. Was it only 50 years ago that things seemed so draconian? Falling off of a grownup's bike and hitting his head wasn't okay in 1967. I'm heartsick he died.

So where was I those nearly nine years of his life? I turned eleven a month after his death. I have many blank spots where memories of my childhood should live. I remember being unable to be close to him.... did my not-quite-together mother fear her toddler daughter would hurt this fragile newborn? I can't ask her that now. There is a vague memory of a twisted push-pull where I could neither get close to him nor have the forced distance acknowledged as something not of my own making. These were not healthy times.

For the most part we grew up in a split-level apartment. Little David and I shared a bedroom. I can't recall a single conversation. But I have a "feeling tone" memory of him in the same room, and if I made up a story about it, this feeling recalls my brother as an ally. Perhaps that finds me musing that we would be buddies today. Friends.

He is my friend in spirit. I pray for him, my Dad and my mother every day. Sometimes I imagine him grinning at me.

Well, brother David - I'm still kicking around. Let's see what God and I can do with that one. You keep dancing with Him on the Other Side. I miss you and I love you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

you know, traveling is fun

I am visiting with friends here at the Marin Headlands, a glorious spot on the other side of some rocky crags from the Golden Gate Bridge. My friends from Hallelujah Acres in Branson (Missouri) and I did a whirlwind day trip sampling posh raw cuisine and catching up with one another, frequently while making a fairly significant carbon footprint indentation driving all over the local area. What a day! I'd returned from soCal only 36 hours earlier.

It was the beach again, with salty air breezes fluffing our psyches. And yet it didn't have the same ahhhhh as my few times breathing in the southern California ocean air. What is this visceral pull of memories and history?

Whatever it is, it's strong. When I lived in L.A. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Now I cruise through town on a visit, seeing beloveds, smelling the salt air only briefly and I'm singing like a lark. Go figure!

The trip was a joy, an utter joy. One of my DEAREST friends flew down from SEATTLE! and we went to a taping of the Craig Ferguson show in Hollywood. I adore that mad Scot and we both had a ball. I reunited with other friends whom I had not seen in 25 years. I met up with the parents of a high school chum - and had not seen them in over 30 years. The life-and-death wake-up call with my entire being, not just my bone marrow and cancer and all that terrifying stuff but ALL of me.... well, I guess it lets me reach out more and be a bit more engaging. Do ya think? I think.

I visited the graves of my little brother David Jeremiah, who died in 1967, and my father David, who died in 1988. I brought sunflowers since they seem to reach to the sky. I paced, I cried, I talked to them and they seemed to talk back to me. It's my imagination and I'm thankful for it as I am thankful for them.

I'm back in northern Marin County, working at home, looking out my window to Mt. Burdell, watching the birds storm any of my three feeders. Glowering at the squirrels. Egging myself on to jog or Rebound since, I am loathe to admit, I can be a bit lazy. This trip was an absolute gift from God. I pray that as the giddy bubbles calm to whatever resembles normalcy, I continue to thank my Lord.