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Final Post


February 17, 2015// When i started this blog I needed desperately to gather my thoughts, to sort though all that had happened to me, and to learn to accept this new version of my life. In the beginning I needed the companionship of other cancer survivors, to try to validate all I was feeling. I needed to get the thoughts that continued to roll around in my head under control.

Mission accomplished. January 28, 2015 marked four years cancer free. Perhaps the most notable change is that many, many days go by at a time that the word ‘cancer’ does not enter my conversation – or even my mind. Several months ago a message was put on my heart, and it changed everything for me.

The cancer, the changes to my life, everything I have lost, was not a punishment. It was a gift. I worked hard, sacrificed much to support and raise my children as a single parent when my marriage went bad when I was only 23. My children are now grown, but debt remains. At 43, I was looking at at least twenty to thirty more years of work. Retirement would have likely never been an option for me. Instead, I am now about to turn 48, been retired (on disability) for the last five years, and am free to enjoy my days as I please. Who knew cancer could be a blessing?

I was stage IV. It was bad. It could still come back at any time, that will be my reality for the rest of my life. But I’m still here, and will be for a long time to come. But this blog will not. It’s time to wrap it up, to clear it out and use the space to move forward.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, who shared their experiences and well wishes. My thoughts and prayers will remain with those of you who are still fighting, I will always hold a tender thought for the few who did not win the battle.

Hugs,

Lorraine

Cancer Made My Dreams Come True


First posted December 2013…..

I woke up a couple mornings ago, hours before sunrise. In past years I loved to wake early to enjoy the quite peace of the house before the kids and dogs and TVs came to life for the day. I do it now out of necessity. A recent fight with cancer has left me with chronic pain, becoming stiff and sore if I remain in one position very long. It now takes time and patience to get moving after sleep. While I go through the physical paces of the morning, getting arms and legs and body to all move in the same direction without too much ache, my mind goes through its daily process – thinking of new topics to write about.

Early morning routine complete, I stopped to enjoy a cup of coffee before launching into whatever I had been writing that day. Sitting there, it occurred to me I was happy. This was an unfamiliar feeling for me. I am truly grateful for simply being alive, but admit to frequent sadness over all I have lost. My career was everything to me. Not just means to support my family, but my success or failure at work was directly linked to my self-worth. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sad and empty since cancer brought my career to an end.

So I was really surprised to feel happy. Taking a minute to examine the change, memory flew back several years to a job interview I once had. This was a final interview with senior management, already being approved by the hiring manager and staff. The interviewer only had one question, “If you woke up tomorrow and a magic genie could grant you one wish – if he could remove all obstacles, guarantee money and success, what would be your dream job?” Without hesitation I responded, “To write. If I had time and money and no responsibility, I would love to spend my time writing.”

I thought about this for a minute. Lasting damage from cancer and treatment has rendered me unable to work. I have downsized my life and outside responsibilities to allow me to have a quiet but sufficient existence on disability pay. Thankfully my mind is still intact (as it’s ever been), so I fill my empty days doing the thing I’ve always loved best, writing. What an unexpected turn of events, cancer made my dream come true.

That Last Day


I have thought about that day a lot lately. I don’t remember much. I got up, went to work at a job I loved, in a new city I had worked long and hard to get to. Did my work, drove home. I probably had dinner and went to sleep. I wish I could remember more about it, but I don’t think there is much more to know.

The memorable thing happened the next day. The morning I woke up doubled over in pain, could not stand up straight, hemorrhaging, was diagnosed with cancer. There are details of that day I cannot stomach to recall. And many of the days to follow were worse. I am still standing four years later, but my body, and life, has been irreparably damaged. I will never return to that, or any job. I had to leave the city I loved so much, with its warm climate and white beaches. I will forever more have to search for a new, altered, sense of normal.

But I do not want to think about that day. I want to think about the day before. I the last day I had…. the last day I had. I want to think about the drive into work that morning. Was the sun rising over the cityscape as it often did? Were there dolphins in the bay? What did I have for lunch? Who did I chat with? Did I make any significant decisions on the job that day? Was there traffic on the way home? Did I leave my coffee cup on my desk? Did I rinse it? What did I have for dinner? Watch on TV? Read?

Why didn’t I pay attention to any of these things?

What would I have done differently if I had known what was coming the next day? Stayed an hour later at work? Called in sick and sat in my house memorizing everything as it was? Spent the evening sitting on the beach, watch the sun set one last time? What would I have done to soak up that last second of regular out of my life? Could I have appreciated the minutes ticking by?

If you knew this was the last day of your life as you know it, that everything in your world would change tomorrow, how would you spend today?

Healing Power of Meditation


 

Visual Aid for Meditation

The Healing Power of Meditation With Visualization

 

This picture jumped off the page and spoke to me as I was scanning through a page of ‘inspirational pictures’ (thanks Pinterest!) The first things I noticed, or felt, as I looked at this picture was the calm and peace of the natural setting. As that feeling settled in, a sense of awe began to grow at the ability of nature to create such a beautiful place. As I continued to look at this picture, I began to feel the power behind it. The raw force simmering just under the surface, just beyond reach.

All of these thoughts and feelings rolled through me quickly, all within seconds of seeing the photo for the first time. I immediately knew this would be the visual aid I would use for healing meditation, until the next inspiring picture took its place.

How To Use A Visual Aid in Meditation for Healing

As with all forms of meditation, remove your shoes. Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes, preferably something loose, non-binding. Lie down on the bed or floor, or sit in a comfortable but secure chair. Your goal is to be comfortable, to sit or lay straight and tall, allowing you to gently expand your core (trunk, torso, chest and abdomen, whatever you want to call that part of your body.)

Place the photo on a table, tray, stack of books, whatever is needed to bring it into your field of vision when resting comfortably in your normal meditation posture. If you lay down to meditate, you may consider having the picture blown up and taping it to the ceiling so you can easily view it while lying on your back.

Begin your breathing exercise. Once in a gentle, regulated rhythm, shift your focus to the photo. Allow the feelings the picture first evoked to begin to wash over you. Feel the calm. Feel the strength and power. If stray thoughts begin to creep into your mind, close your eyes for a moment and concentrate on your breathing again. Once your mind is again still and quiet, open your eyes and allow yourself to feel the emotion of the photo. Allow the feeling to wash over you. Imagine it as a tingling warm sensation, glowing gently in your center. Envision it slowly growing, spreading to your arms and legs, rolling gently until it reaches your finger tips and toes.

Next, focus on the area of your body in need of healing. Someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis might envision the warmth entering the effected joints, imagine the power of it healing the joint, reducing the swelling, restoring range of motion, straightening the bones. If you are seeking relief from depression you might visualize the energy rising to your head, gently rolling around in your brain like a thick fog then slowly turning to a white vapor, then disappearing all together – taking the feelings of depression with it. When I do this exercise, I imagine the energy attacking cancerous tumors. I picture it working like a laser, blasting each bad cell. I can almost feel the pop and sizzle as each diseased cell is destroyed.

Focus the energy on whatever needs healing. Don’t think about it too much, don’t pre-plan the scenario. Just let it play out once the process has begun.

You will know when the session is over. Slowly pull yourself back to the present. Gently stretch each limb and take your time rising from your meditation position. Last thing you want to do is rise too quickly and take a tumble.

Healing meditation should not take the place of your normal meditation routine, nor should it replace any medical treatment from your doctor. This should be added to enhance the wellness practices you already have in place.

As with all meditation, the goal is to reach a state of relaxation to allow a significant mind/body connection. There is no absolute right or wrong way to do any of this, so feel free to adapt the process to whatever best meets your needs.

Happy meditating!

Is Your Computer Hurting Your Health?


Neck and back pain is on the rise as portable computers are becoming more popular than the standard desktop variety. In the excitement to buy our first personal computer and set up a home office, most of us were conscious of proper ergonomics – an appropriate chair set at the correct height, the monitor set up on phone books or actual monitor stand to raise it to accurate eye level, a keyboard and mouse that fit the natural curve of our hands, and whatever else was advertised as necessary.

Unfortunately, the convenience and portability of the laptop, notebook, netbook, and now tablet has pushed the thought of ergonomics far from our minds. And we are paying for it with pain.

Even when placed on a desk, the distance between a laptop monitor and keyboard is not sufficient for proper physical alignment. This is causing us to hold our heads at awkward angles, hunch forward at the shoulder, and leave our elbows floating in the air unsupported. But how many of us place our laptops in front of us on a desk or table? Be honest, we can usually be seen balancing the computer on our knees as we contort over it. And if you wear glasses, specifically with bifocal lenses, some of the positions needed to utilize the ultra-convenient laptop can rival those seen in Cirque du Soleil.

This can be completely comfortable and have no lasting damage – if done in small doses. However, according to an article published by UNC School of Medicine, repeated and prolonged use can lead to debilitating physical problems ranging from sore muscles to repetitive stress injuries.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons agrees, and gives the following suggestions to set up a proper computer workstation to include a standard desktop pc:

Chair: Position so that your knees, hips, and thighs are horizontal with feet rested flat on floor or footrest; seat should be padded and an inch or more wider than your hips, tapering down so that it does not touch the back of knees.

Desktop: Height should be level with elbows when seated, legs should fit comfortably underneath; keyboard should be one to two inches above thighs.

Monitor: Placement may vary slightly for each individual, but goal is to prevent eye, neck, and shoulder fatigue and strain. An arms length, anywhere from 20 to 26 inches away from face when seated; and raised or lowered so that the top of the viewing area is at eye level when looking straight ahead is usually most comfortable. Height and distance should be adjusted as needed based on individual’s vision.

Laptops, notebooks, and other portable personal computers are wonderfully convenient for checking emails, viewing funny cat videos, and doing a little shopping but are not a replacement for a solid, well-planned workstation complete with ergonomically situated desktop pc.

Your body with thank you.

Meditation for Beginners: In 7 Easy Steps


Meditation is a term that is often misunderstood. Meditation is simply the act of purposely relaxing your body and mind to release stress to achieve a desired outcome, usually clear thinking, calm demeanor, and better health. Sound good?

Styles of Meditation – There are as many types or styles of meditation as there are people it seems, and just as many reasons to do it – purposeful imagery to draw positive energy to a specific outcome, opening the mind for particular insight or resolution, healing of a specific condition, and so on. We are not going to go that deep, rather simply learn to accomplish the basics. Once you become comfortable with this process you may want to research a bit on your own and try some of the styles and techniques that are popular these days. Our only goal in this process is to achieve focused relaxation, so feel free to accommodate any of these steps to your personal needs.

How to Meditate

1. Sit or lie on your back in a comfortable, secure spot. The floor is best, but an armchair will do as long as it is sturdy, comfortable, and you fit in it well – no chance of toppling out of it if you reach a completely Zen state.
2. Regardless of position, your goal is to expand your middle section, either sitting tall and straight or laying flat with your arms and legs gently extended.
3. Once comfortably seated (we will use ‘seated’ for the sake of this article) with your middle section gently expanded, quiet your mind. No heroic efforts needed here, it is difficult to do at first but try it. Pay attention to your breathing.
4. Place one hand gently on your stomach, the other lightly on your chest. Notice them going up and down with each breath you take. Just concentrate on feeling them, up and down, up and down.
5. Next, try to feel the air coming in and out of you. For the moment you can breathe through your nose or your mouth, which ever feels most natural for you. Once you feel a steady rhythm to your breathing, try to breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Do this several times until it feels very comfortable, natural, and relaxed.
6. The next step is called belly breathing. Try to fill your belly with air as you breathe in, concentrate on your stomach rising on inhale, falling as you exhale. Do this for several minutes, until you are able to push every stray though from your mind and are concentrating fully on the breath entering and exiting your body. Feel your entire body relax. You may feel as if you are sinking into the chair or floor; or you may feel light, as if gravity has left you.
7. Continue to breath. Your breathing may slow and become deeper. Your heart rate will slow, and stress will simply melt away.

This is meditation in its simplest form. Try to do this for 15 – 20 minutes daily, each day for a week. You should notice a decrease in any feelings of depression, a significant improvement in stress level, and a general feeling of well being. It’s worth the effort.

The information above is gathered from Project-Meditation.org,StopandBreathe.com, and my personal experience. I began meditating a few years ago in an attempt to lessen negative side effects of cancer treatment. It has since become a part of my daily routine, can’t imagine starting a day without it.

Appendicitis or Ectopic Pregnancy?


My appendix began rupturing in the middle of the night when I was 20 years old. I woke around 2 a.m. with sweat rolling off me. It was an unseasonably warm night in early September, so I did not think much of it. I stumbled to the window to turn on the air conditioner unit, grabbed a towel to mop the sweat from my face as I moved back to the bed. Jump forward to 7 a.m. I woke with a start. Before I opened my eyes, I realized I was in pain. Not normal ‘I have a headache’ or ‘must have pulled a muscle’ pain – this was something more intense than I’d ever felt in my young life. Panic tried to take over, but I knew I had to figure out what was happening. I tried to take inventory, make a mental list of what I was feeling to hopefully reconcile the symptoms with a cause. No luck. All I knew was that I had an intense burning pain in my stomach/abdomen area. And again with the sweating. I finally realized I was sweating from fever, not the unseasonably warm temperatures. It didn’t take long to figure I needed to go to the doctor.

Trying to get dressed, I realized I would not be able to drive. It was a weekday morning, so I jumped on the telephone trying to reach any of my friends who may have not already left for work. No luck, but did finally reach a good friend who was running late for a class – and managed to talk her into skipping class to take me to the doctor.

I couldn’t bear to put jeans on; the pain around my middle was too intense. I think I ended up in a pair of over-sized sweatpants and t-shirt. I guess I’d scared my friend on the phone. She was there to pick me up in minutes flat. Not sure where to go, we ended up at the neighborhood urgent care center.

I guess I looked pretty bad because they took me right back, immediately taking blood samples. Within minutes a doctor came in holding a clipboard of papers and asked if I was aware I was pregnant? Now the interesting thing here is that I had been sure I was pregnant, about four months along at that point, but all pregnancy tests I’d taken showed negative. I’d scheduled a doctor’s appointment for later that week to investigate. But here I was, in the urgent care, doubled over in pain so strong it really hurt to even breathe. I told the doctor I had thought I might be. He shook his head and said that it was not good news; he believed I had an ectopic pregnancy and that it was rupturing. I really had no idea what this meant; I just needed someone to make the pain stop. The doctor asked if I wanted to go to the hospital by car – or if I wanted him to call an ambulance. This was my first clue how serious this really was.

A painfully slow 10 minute car ride later, I was at the hospital, being examined by what felt like every doctor in the building. Plus a few extras they called in just for me. Apparently a rupturing ectopic pregnancy and appendicitis have similar symptoms. And they were having trouble deciding which was happening to me. I like to think the doctors finally listened to my request but am sure it was the only medical option they had at the time, but when I finally very loudly requested they just cut me open and take a look – well, they did.

Because I was pregnant and there was a chance it may still be a viable pregnancy, they did not put me under general anesthesia. So a few short hours after waking in excruciating pain, I found myself in the operating room, head propped on a pillow, arms tied over my head, and a curtain hung across my chest to block my view as they cut into my stomach – while I was wide-awake. Pretty cool from what I remember. I could feel everything they were doing, but without the pain (thanks to a local anesthetic.) I actually carried on a conversation with the surgeon. He was irritated with me at one point because I kept begging the nurse to move the curtain and let me look. How often do you get the chance to look inside your own body?? Of course they said no.

When I woke that morning I had no idea I was in such serious condition. If it had taken minutes longer to get into surgery and the rupture had been complete, massive amounts of infection would have been sent coursing though my body. That can be fatal. Luckily, mine did not have the opportunity to reach completion and a simple oral antibiotic for several days after surgery was all that was necessary to clear infection.

I was left with two souvenirs of that day, just in case I ever forget the details. One is a six-inch long, one-inch wide scar across my lower right abdomen. I was never shy about showing my scar by wearing a bikini to the beach. If anyone had the curiosity to comment on it, I’ve had a great story to tell. The second souvenir is my son, who turned 26 earlier this year. Thankfully it was my appendix that was rupturing; my pregnancy was safe and sound in my uterus as it should have been. As the incision healed and turned to a scar, my belly was growing with the baby inside. This caused the scar to stretch as it healed; now looking quite as bad as the story sounds. I don’t mind at all.