Breathe In – Breathe Out, Or Something Like That

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I am reading Eat Pray Love. I just finished the part where the author, Liz spent four months “eating her way” through Italy. To be honest, I wasn’t too interested in that section but now she is in India, living in an ashram. I am fascinated by that idea. I’ve only read a few pages of this section, but so far she spends a good deal of time writing about her struggles with meditating, a subject I am all too familiar with.  She wants to train her “monkey mind.” I wrote about attempting to control my mind in an earlier post. I came across a quote in Liz’s book that I will paraphrase. “Our emotions are slaves to our thoughts and we are slaves to our emotions.”

I figured this quote would be good to contemplate when I meditated this morning. This is how my inner dialogue went:

Me:  Emotions are a result of thoughts. That makes so much sense! But I already knew that. I know I create my own reality by the thoughts I choose to think.

Mind: You can’t run anymore. You can’t even walk fast, even with that dumb walker of yours.

Me: I am grateful to have that walker. It helps me get around outdoors.

Mind: You look goofy when you walk without the walker, like when you are in a store.

Me: Breathe in. Breathe out. I want to stay on topic. My thoughts create my emotions. Think good thoughts. I am grateful for this beautiful day.

Mind: If a tiger were chasing you, your new name would be “lunch.”

Me: There are no tigers running loose in Anaheim. Breathe in. Breathe out. I know, I’ll try chanting Om Na Ma Shiva. I release all thoughts about anything I don’t want to think.

Mind: Actually being eaten by a tiger isn’t a bad thing. It’s the cycle of life. I read that in one of my Buddhist books. Not being eaten by a tiger though. It was about a cloud being in a scoop of ice cream, or something like that.

Me: This is ridiculous. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Mind: Everything is interconnected. Tigers. You. Clouds. Ice cream. It’s like this. You are eaten by a tiger. The tiger poops you out. The poop fertilizes the earth. Flowers or grass or maybe a tree grows in that same spot. Maybe a cow comes along and eats the grass, which, if the tiger pooped in that grass would contained your dna. The farmer milks the cow whose milk is then sold to Sprouts grocery store, where a customer buys it. Your dna, no matter how minute, becomes part of the person who drinks the milk, and so on and so on. The cycle of life.

That’s how today’s morning meditation went. I can’t wait for tonight’s!

Satnam,

Inge

I Found Some Old Posts I Wrote When I First Got Cancer

One of the first things I suggest to patients I visit is to write in a journal. I think writing is therapeutic and a good way to keep track of one’s progress, difficulties; a place to vent, explore feelings and other things. A friend bought me a journal when I got sick so I wrote down all kinds of stuff from affirmations to recipes. I also wrote in my online blog. Back then I had a different blog called “Junkstylediva.” I started it years before I got sick and I wrote about vintage collectibles and flea market finds.

I decided to start another blog (this one) because it better reflected my new life. I still enjoy snooping through thrift stores and flea markets for treasures, I just don’t write about it. I was looking at that blog the other day and came across many posts I forgot I even wrote. I want to share them with you. They are posts about milestones from my journey to wellness. I hope sharing my posts will inspire others to do the same, so if there are times they feel frustrated, they can see how far they have come from the first time they were diagnosed.

Jan 1, 2011

My oncology doc just stopped by. Great news! He is confident I will make a full recovery  🙂   I knew it in my heart but it is great to hear it from the medical team. A few days ago they had long faces when they talked to me but now all smiles!

Jan 6, 2011

I’m back home…got here last night. 10% of my liver was lopped off Monday afternoon but it feels like I got kicked in the stomach by a horse.  Tuesday I was able to wobble my head around and sit up for a minute… my morphine pump was my new best friend. I never had morphine before and let me tell you it works! I was able to control the dose… sort of…every 10 minutes it was ready to disperse a dose when I pushed the button… if I pushed it any earlier it beeped but it was a fake dose. Either way it worked. Wednesday I did some walking and my doc felt it was ok to go home. I would have like to stay one more day but I have to admit it felt good to sleep in my bed. I still have my drain in and will go back next week to take it out. I am so grateful to David Imagawa M.D. for literally saving my life.

Jan 23, 2011

I am on day 4 of chemo and my body is handling it well… a little nausea that we nip in the bud… chemo has come a long way baby! I had 2 radiation treatments and back on Monday.  I hope to go home on Monday… I finally pooped 2 nights ago… anyone who has waited over a week knows how great that is! down size is my bowels have a mind of their own… I sleep wih a diaper… my new normal but it is temporary. I am alive and eating again. I lost 15 lbs since Dec 26th but today I was weighed and I gained back 3 lbs. My family brings me Jamba juice daily with a protein shot… that helped on the days I did not want solid food.  My days are mostly good, but I need those pain meds. I find myself hallucinating though…having conversations with people who are not there…there is no way I could safely drive…thank God James will drive me to all my appointments.

Apr 19, 2011

It’s 8:20 pm and I am sitting on my butt for the 1st time while I type this! Oh, I’m also watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

Apr 26, 2011

PET-CT scan results are in…everything looks good! What the Dr. looks for are parts of my body that “lights up”…meaning that is the area that could have a c-word…the brighter the light the more likely. They measure on a scale from 0-40. A small part of my rectum came up 4…meaning it could be a false positive…a faint glow…nothing in my lymphnodes,which was their main concern. Next I get a biopsy…if anything is there, then surgery to remove it. I would have liked a 0 result but I will be happy! I knew I would be ok and was not nervous about the results until we got to the waiting room…then my tears started coming. Its hard to keep a brave face all the time. I am grateful for the good news

May 4, 2011

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I’m with James at Target. I never rode one of these scooters…beats walking for now…my butt is still tender but getting better everyday 🙂

May 17, 2011

I drove my car today on a real road not just in my condo property! John was driving us home from the store and I asked him to pull over so I could drive the rest ofn the way home. It was uncomfortable for my butt. but I can drive myself short distances. Freedom!

Aug 1, 2011

My wheelchair arrived today! Freedom and Independence!… Now I can go on family outings longer than an hour. I can walk until I get tired…then hubby can push me. I’m a lucky girl! and VERY Blessed!

Aug 6, 2011

I crapped my pants in the middle of Trader Joes this afternoon, right by the freezer section. So what did I do? I finished my shopping of course! Then I went to the bathroom, cleaned myself up and drove myself home. Luckily there were lots of babies there so I could easily blame one of them for any unpleasant odors. Thank God for pull-up panties!

I found this picture of me. I think it was taken in July of 2011. I know it was when I finally started to feel like myself, no drugs, no pain, just feeling good! My hair started to look better too. I didn’t lose my hair from chemo but since I never experienced cancer and chemo treatments I thought everyone lost their hair (they do in the movies) but my particular cancer cocktail did not cause hair to fall out. Me being the control freak that I am, I had a friend cut my hair short so when it fell out, it wouldn’t be a shock. Good thing I didn’t go ahead and shave it like I originally planned.

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Most of my memory of the days in 2011 are foggy. I was on three types of pain killers and I slept a lot. Keeping a journal helped me remember what happened.

Be Well!

Inge

My Lesson About Attachment

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I recently read an essay in, “The Best Buddhist Writing 2007,” by Michael S. Krasner, M.D.. He is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and is trained in Zen and Mindfulness-Stress Based Reduction (MSBR).

He uses his training to access the needs of his patients by staying present without judgment, meaning he takes the time to not only listen to his patients, he also observes them. That’s an extraordinary thing for a doctor to do, since they typically see fifty patients a day. He wrote how he reminds his medical students how easy it is to “miss the forest for the trees” when diagnosing a patient’s illness.

He went on to write about how many times there is an attachment for a certain outcome when it comes to end-of-life-care. He gained this insight from observing the reactions of  patients’ families. Many of us expect our loved ones (and ourselves) to experience a “good death” and sometimes that is not what happens. The example he gave was a family who knew their loved one was dying but wanted any issues resulting from his declining health to be addressed, in other words, they wanted his problems to be “fixed.” They focused on the patient’s weight loss, lack of energy, no motivation to exercise and blood sugar levels. “It seemed it would be acceptable for him to die only if the problems were successfully addressed.”  The family reacted as though the patient was failing them. They didn’t see the bigger picture of the dying process, which included the patient’s physical and psychological state. The patient’s symptoms were normal for his state of health. When the family understood this they were able to shift their focus and care for their loved one with a fuller presence.

This got me to thinking back about the patient I was frustrated with last week. I wanted him to eat a snack because he was dropping so much weight. He refused to even drink an Ensure and I believed he was just acting stubborn (for whatever reason) — but what if I was wrong?  Maybe he knows he is dying. I do think we all have that little voice inside of us that let’s us know when our body is ready to go. Maybe his refusing to eat is part of his end-of-life process. I am willing to bet his doctor knows what’s happening, even if his loved ones and myself doesn’t want him to give up.

I tend to get attached to patients and I know that is not good for me. I know there is a percentage of patients who do not get well. I am attached to the outcome and Buddhism teaches us to not get attached (to anything) it leads to suffering and it all boils down to Impermanence. Nothing, absolutely nothing lasts forever (except maybe that box of Twinkies). And who wants to live forever anyway? Did you ever watch the movie “Death Becomes Her?” It’s about two women who want to live forever and all the challenges that come with it.

Our limited time on this planet is a reminder to do stuff now. Don’t wait because we might not be around to enjoy the experience.

I plan to go back to the infusion center tomorrow with “fresh eyes.” I won’t push anyone anymore to do what I think is right for them. What was right for me might not work for someone else. I will let go of attachment and just be with that person in the present moment because that’s all we really have anyway. It’s all about living in the “now.”

Satnam,

Inge