Monday, May 10, 2010


A couple of days ago, I received an email from a self-help cancer site. It was well-written, well-intended, but it seemed to be missing something. The article was about restoring joy which often in this post-cancer state can be very challenging.

It suggested that one concentrate and focus on those many positive items we all have in our lives - home, family, friends, the beauty of Nature, music, etc. - and thus, be filled with feelings of joy. At least for me, the joy I feel thinking those thoughts doesn't stick with me for long.

Luckily, I have been bitten with an infectious Indian laughter bug. Being infected with the rare organism, madanus katariasis, results in what is known as the "Hohohaha Syndrome" which can literally move you from motion to emotion. What does this mean in less scientific terms? Hmmmmmm, let me see, how can I explain?

There are many beautiful candles in my home - not only are they fragrant, but several are also embedded with a variety of gorgeous flowers. I can look at them, appreciate them, but only when I light them, do I receive the FULL benefit of their candle beings.

All of my life, I have been surrounded not only with beauty, but also with wonderful friends and family who have added so much to my life; however, my "fire" needed to be lit before my true brilliance and joy could be realized. For me, being infected with the "laughter bug" accomplished that.

It forced me to tell my body to laugh (the motion) which eventually, over a protracted period of time, fired up my inner candle, thus releasing my joy (the emotion). The strange thing about this syndrome is that it infects in a powerful, insidious way. I must tell you, during the entire incubation period, my personal life was a huge mess - there was very little to laugh about, let alone feel happy about; however, as the "bug" kept biting me, I laughed....and laughed....and laughed. The more I laughed, the better I felt and the better I felt, the more I laughed! What a vicious cycle!

The syndrome often leaves me feeling light-hearted, as well as occasionally a bit light-headed. I sleep deeper, have a much more laid-back attitude about life in general, often have an inexplicable desire to laugh out loud for absolutely NO reason and often do so while driving. I feel upbeat most of the time and rarely succumb to severe bouts of depression as was the case prior to contracting this dis-ease.

Now that my inner candle is burning brightly, it allows me to see vividly the beauty all around me. Some days I feel I would like to wrap my arms around the entire world and give it a good squeeze! Amazing what an infection such as this can do to a mind and body.

Got joy? It's never too late to become infected!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A year later.....

and what a year it has been!

My daughter, Sara, set this blog up for me when I first left for California and treatment in September 2008, because she thought it would be therapeutic for me to more or less journal my thoughts, feelings, activities. It was good, but back then, often I was too tired to say much - I was in such a mental fog at the time.

This past weekend she was with me again here in Michigan. As we were talking and I was saying I really had no clear idea of what I should do next with my life, she pushed away from the table and with a little smirk on her face, she looked up at me with those incredibly gorgeous eyes of hers and quietly said, "Mama, I think you need to blog...and somehow, it will come to you." I started to make excuses, but I knew she was right. I need to start somewhere, why not here?

It's been a pretty wild ride since last I wrote. The best laid plans...I was not warned of cardiac issues after chemo and radiation. Well, yes, it was mentioned, but I was told not to worry - it would be at least 10 years before any problems might arise, wrong!

Many weeks during the summer my crazily beating heart exhausted me completely. I dragged myself to my business and then tried to keep myself awake driving home - it was not good. These days my heart has calmed down considerably...or maybe I am just getting used to it.

Then for no good reason, starting mid-December, everything began falling apart. Once again, I lost my old home which I was renovating for a cancer retreat, my old business, then my own personal home, as well as my health insurance all within a three-month period (memo to self, never again try to work with your ex!). Truly, I thought the world was coming to an end. Cardiac irregularities were replaced with panic attacks and sleepless nights - it was a massive dose of "not good".

Beside myself, wondering how I would recover massive amounts of money poured into my old house and business, staring at an $80,000 medical bill, as well as wondering how I could possibly manage financing a new home, did not make the new year look very promising.

One sleepless night, stretching my arms and eyes heavenward, I said aloud, "I have no idea what to do. Please show me the way." And that is when everything began to change. Two days later I walked into this gorgeous home.....and today I am happily settled here. "Not my will, but Yours...."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Here's to Laughter Yoga!

And now two months have passed since I last wrote. I can't say that I am really back into the swing of things, but at last, I have started. Today I conducted my first laughter yoga class in nearly a year (how does time pass so quickly?). I was contacted while I was in California by a man wanting to know if I would possibly be interested in having a laughter yoga class at an AIDS retreat in May. At the time, I wasn't sure what my condition might be, but I agreed.....and also filled him in on my situation.

Am I ever glad I agreed to do this! Yesterday I drove over to the other side of the state, was rather surprised when I met the group last evening to find I would be the only female in their midst. I greeted them and then ran off to the shores of Lake Michigan to see a breath-taking sunset. The cottage where I was staying was tucked into a lush woods - a little scary at first, but I left a light on and fell asleep immediately. During the night, there was a crack-banging thunder storm, but the rain lulled me back to sleep and I awoke after a peaceful 8 hours....something that never happens at home. Old-fashioned oats, raisins, and bananas for breakfast and the guys were chomping at the bit for laughter yoga.

The session was, as they told me to say, fabulous! One guy was totally out of control, rolling with laughter on the floor....major belly laughs for everyone. For me, the best Sunday I have had in a very long time, bless you, Madan!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Best is Yet to Be.......

Yes, it has again been a long time since last I wrote. Both of my brothers visited for a period of about 5 weeks, in fact for the first 4 weeks of radiation, my younger brother, Kevin, drove me each morning to Stanford which was really wonderful. He had driven out from North Carolina to work in the cottage at my cousin's where I have been living these past 6 months. As it turned out, instead of being without a bathroom for 2 weeks, we were without one for 4. I learned very quickly how to become a "pioneer" woman! The "new" cottage is really beautiful and will be a lovely little home for my cousin's mother-in-law once I leave....

Which will be in exactly 10 days! Having my brother here and all the activity going on in the cottage really helped me sail through radiation. I still have 6 treatments next week and then I will be finished. My daughter is flying in from NYC March 25 in order to drive back with me....we will be leaving bright and early the following morning. My bags are packed and I'm ready to go!

For years I have had Browning's poem hanging on my wall, "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be - the last of life for which the first was made." After my divorce, I couldn't look at those words for a very long time, but eventually I hung it back on my wall and felt that perhaps someone would come along who might grow old with me, but that hasn't happened. Many years were spent being seriously depressed about that....and then cancer came to call.

How is it possible that something so devastating could turn a life around? Had I stayed alone in my home in Michigan, I am not sure that would have happened, but surrounded with happy, caring people in this lovely environment, my mind has had the chance to wrap itself around the entire situation and I find I am happier and more at peace than I can ever remember being.

I love my elderly business in Michigan and will continue to consult with them, but I am ready to pass the leadership on to someone younger. My heart is in holistic healing, a path I have been on for the past 7 years since the divorce and one I hope to expand on in the near future.

"The last of life for which the first was made"....this is where I am, standing ready to embrace each moment fully. Ready to share and grow old with others whose lives I hope I can in some way positively influence through the healing power of touch, laughter, and nutrition. Who would have ever thought....the best is yet to be!

Monday, February 16, 2009

At Last!

Has it really been two and a half months since I last wrote? Early December I rented a car and headed north to one of my favorite spots on earth, Mendocino. The drive there winds through vineyards, redwood forests, ending at last with the rugged California coast.....breath-taking!

Making my way alone, in the midst of chemo, was something I felt I needed to do. The trip was in no means simply for pleasure, I sat through two days of lectures on the science of raw food which I immensely enjoyed. It was so good to get my brain moving and it also got me back on a healthier food path. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish the class because my first Taxol treatment was due that week.

Am I ever glad I had that little breather before Taxol hit! I sailed through Adriamycin and Cytoxan, but Taxol? OMG! That drug wiped me out for the entire month of December. From menstrual-type cramps to eye pain to bone pain to incontinence to tachycardia - definitely the worst month of my life, so bad in fact, after consulting with my oncologist, I called it off.

After extensive research on the drug, I found that Taxol is most effective in treating metastatic disease, something I do NOT have. I decided to ask my oncologist if the PET scan could be repeated and she agreed that was a good idea. A few months earlier there was much controversy about several "worrisome" hot spots and what do you know, the second scan showed everything to be completely clear.

With my daughter by my side, I told the oncologist my decision to stop any further chemo and to proceed directly to radiation. I expected her to try to convince me otherwise, but instead she upheld my decision, gave me a big hug, told me to push forward and never look back.

I have been doing just that - ten of 33 radiation treatments are now complete. I should be back home in Michigan no later than the first of April....yippee!!

Everyday I feel better. The bouts of tachycardia lasted many weeks, as did the weakness, but now I am pretty much back to my normal self. And my hair has finally decided to begin growing! However, the color is darker than I ever remember it and my eyebrows are looking a bit bushy. Will I still be curly??

Sleep remains a major problem which is why I am writing tonight.....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Half-Way Mark!

Today was the mid-point for my chemo regime - fortunately, no major sickness yet.....nor will there be since, I have affirmed there will not be. The only thing that plagues me is my homesickness and I suppose I must start thinking more positively about that as well. Who in their right mind would trade Redwood City weather in February for Birmingham, Michigan? Yeah, I gotta re-think this state of mind!

I am enjoying a most lovely time having my two daughters from NYC with me these past few days - one leaves Friday afternoon, the other early Saturday morning, so not much longer. After they leave, I will tell you about the best birthday celebration I can remember this past Saturday, but right now I am unable to sleep because of the chemo and can think of nothing else quiet to do in this little cottage which will not disturb at this time of the morning, except typing in the dark.

Tomorrow we are supposed to walk with my fitness group for 3 miles at 7AM, if I get to sleep before then. The girls are making Thanksgiving dinner - Mama has been delegated the kale salad only which is just fine with me. I taught them well (along with a little help from Cordon Bleu Paris) and lots of major parties over the years at home, all prepared by me with their help. Thanksgiving has always been our favorite holiday and this year we are altogether and have so much more to be thankful for.

My best holiday wishes to all of you!