Celebrating a tree called “HOPE”…

We are home now after nine wonderful days in Mexico – celebrating Christmas and spending quality time with my family. It was great to get away from the holiday madness and re-center.  It’s amazing how much peace is found in sunshine, waves and sand!  I had plenty of time for my family and quiet walks on the beach alone for reflection and prayer.  What a beautiful escape and respite between surgery and the next step in treatment, radiation.  It was hard to leave and get back to reality!

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” ~e.e. cummings

One of the highlights of the trip for all of us was ziplining over the rainforest canopy.   It was terrifying climbing the first set of stairs up the side of a tree but before I had time to think about it our guide smiled and gave me a push, “Bye, bye, Señora!” and I was screaming over the jungle!  Altogether there were 12 ziplines, all connected.  We arrived at the end of each, breathless and grinning, climbed another tree platform and took off again.  It was such a metaphor of life – the climb can be terrifying and challenging, but the ride is unexpectedly exhilarating and the view is unbelievable if you take time to stop being afraid and notice.

               “When your vision fills up with the greatness of God,  you become fearless.” – Kevin Miller

The happy bonus at the end of the day was the opportunity to plant a palm tree seed.  I love the idea of leaving a place better than we found it and planting a tree in the rainforest after an amazing day was so fulfilling.  Not only that, we each got to name the future tree we planted – I named mine HOPE.

I sent a note to the owners and managers of the zipline company (Selvatica Adventure Kingdom) to compliment the staff, thank them for a wonderful day and explain why planting a seed was meaningful to me.  They replied, in part, “That’s awesome!!!  You are in our thoughts and our prayers and we are sending you all the positive energy the jungle can muster.  PS – Hope is alive and growing by the second!”

Radiation starts next week.  January 4th I go for a practice run and start treatments on the 5th.  I’ll go five days a week for four weeks.  The next step is genetic testing and counseling – I’m taking it one day at a time and crossing each bridge as I get to it!

“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”- Hafiz of Persia

Someone at work asked me (somewhat warily, I might add), “Why are you always so happy?”  I’m fairly certain he has no idea what’s been going on in my life (I genuinely think he’s puzzled and trying to figure out if I have a personality disorder or just heavily medicated) and I can’t even tell you how I responded but it got me thinking.  If nothing else, the past few months have been a time of reflection and self-analysis.  A diagnosis of breast cancer  has forced me to evaluate everything in my life including my relationships, actions, perspective, vanity, faith, happiness, future… everything!  (By the way, I’ve read that DCIS isn’t even cancer which makes me wonder why the heck I’m spending so much time with a team of oncologists but that’s a discussion for another time.)  But the question of happiness has been food for thought.  I could have told him that happiness is a choice – I think it is.  Or that I’ve observed people who are happy seem to be equally full of hope and gratitude.  But how to express happiness daily…?

Do you remember the tv show Candid Camera?  I love those prank shows – they set up an absurd situation, hide a camera and then sit back and watch how people react.  Most people respond with irritation, frustration, anger and even outrage until they finally reveal, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” and THEN everyone smiles and laughs.  But there’s almost always one person who looks baffled but amused and laughs while it’s happening and I always hope that’s how I would react.  If I’m caught on tape, THAT’S the person I want to be!  Bizarre and strange situations happen every day and I often ask myself, “Am I being ‘Punked?’  Is there a hidden camera around here?”

Isn’t that deep?  The answer to finding happiness is being baffled and amused.  Now you’ll ALL be looking at me warily, “Doesn’t she seem happy?  Actually, she’s delusional – she thinks she’s on a prank show right now.”  Nevermind – refer to the first paragraph when I wrote that happiness is a choice and there’s a direct correlation between gratitude, hope and happiness.  Even when it’s not, life is funny – I have to laugh!   God must have an awesome sense of humor.  If we are made in His image, there must be a reason that laughter makes us feel so good.

“All life … is energy.  You are responsible for the energy you create for yourself.  You are responsible for the energy you bring to others.”          – Dr. Jill Taylor

I met with my radiation oncologist on Thursday and he was great – he actually spent time getting to know me, asking questions about my family, friends, support system, etc.  I will go in for a “practice run” January 4th and will begin radiation treatments the 5th.  I’ll go five days a week, for four weeks.  Good times.

I am grateful to have so much support from my amazing friends, family and even strangers.  Your kind words, texts, emails, gifts and prayers give me strength, make me laugh (and cry!) and keep me going – thank you.

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”
Proverbs 16:20

“The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.” -Timothy Mouse

Suffice it to say, patience is not a virtue I possess!  Most of you know that I walk, talk, eat and even fall asleep FAST and if there are questions that need answers I want them now!  Waiting for pathology results and re-scheduling appointments was making me crazy but I realized yesterday that every negative, angry, desperate thought I allow is like a weed that chokes out the growth of trust, peace and healing. Waiting for pathology results required continuous “weeding” this past week! The pathology was available yesterday, just hours before my meeting with the oncologist and the results are very hopeful. In a nutshell, cancer was successfully removed and surgical margins are clear. Chemotherapy will not be necessary, although I will have radiation for several weeks. I meet with the radiation oncologist December 15 and will have more answers at that time.

I included this quote as a comment previously, but I think it’s worth sharing again. “Now I understand that to be truly alive is to expand and embrace the broader range of human experience: bittersweet sadness, righteous anger, even deep and honest despair. I surrender the illusion that this is my show. I allow my heart to break open. It is through the cracks that God enters and stirs my heart and soul to their fullest expression. This is the true fulfillment of one’s human potential, and it comes only when you are willing to let your own self-reliant spirit be broken.” Carol Matzkin Orsborn

Just days after I posed the question concerning cancer labels my sister-in-law gave me a book, “Speak the Language of Healing: Living with Breast Cancer without Going to War.”  It has helped me to understand that many people face disease with a need to “fight” and some research reveals that a fighting spirit can be instrumental in healing.  I don’t have any judgement for those who face illness with that spirit – it just doesn’t work for me.  I can’t bring myself to wage war on my body, acknowledge that cancer is an adversary worth fighting or accept that this is a battle that cancer will win and I will lose or vice-versa.  Nor do I want this experience to define me.  Since my diagnosis, I pray daily for healing but I pray for healing of every aspect of my life and I trust that I will be healed regardless of the outcome of this disease and my life will be richer for the experience.

“Healing is not the same as curing.  Healing does not take us back to what was before, rather, healing brings us closer to our true self.”

-Author Unknown-