Saturday, January 31, 2009

10 Breast Cancer Survival Tips

Right now I have upper body awareness thanks to a group of breast cancer survivors. (This is my way of saying, "Ouch!") I spent the morning on Estero Bay paddling—aggressively paddling—a canoe.


A sister breast cancer survivor hooked me on this weekly Saturday morning event, with other breast cancer survivors. See


This is the first time since my cancer adventure began in 2004 that I have participated in a collective breast cancer survivor activity. The painful truth is that I could not emotionally deal with it. This summer I will round the corner to my 5th survival-year. I pray I'll be released from my daily drug dosages and experience how life feels without chemical side-effects.


At night, when sleep escapes me, I recall what I did to make it through the day I found the lump, the day the biopsy was performed and the subsequent call that began, "Charmaine, I'm so sorry, but…," the day I marched into the hospital for surgery, the day I celebrated in the halls of the Santa Fe Cancer Center after completing six weeks of radiation, and finally the night I broke down into inconsolable sobs with pillow bashing and bad words.


But like my survivor sisters in that canoe this morning, I'm okay. Maybe changed, but okay, nonetheless. So here are my Top 10 Breast Cancer Survivor Tips

  1. Faith and hope. Prayer/meditation in any form is good.
  2. Dignity. I dressed up and wore make-up for my daily treatments.
  3. Knowledge. I read and researched.
  4. Trust. I acknowledged that my medical team knew more than I ever could.
  5. Willfulness. No excuses. Just keep moving toward the goal of health.
  6. Acceptance. Any woman of any kind or type can get breast cancer. It wasn't my fault.
  7. Rest. I spent at least six-months sleeping.
  8. Avoidance. Avoiding negative people, places and moods.
  9. Walking. Not power walks, but admiring the countryside, the passing pooches, and the sky.
  10. Humor. So maybe some of the ensuing breast jokes got bad, but it relieved my anxiety when I could laugh, even at myself.

There is one other element that I didn't realize until the night I bashed pillows. The support of family and friends was the secret ingredient to my recovery. Those people in my life remain golden forever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presient Obama's Day Empties Tissue Boxes

Yesterday, Martin Luther King's birthday, I was on elephant seal docent duty. Three pups were born, and I named them, Martin, Luther & King. Previous blogs on have noted my affection for the late hero of the civil rights movement.

Today, I'm a freaking basket case watching President Barack Obama's inauguration. Well, I'm not out of my mind, but I can't seem to shut off the internal spigots.The new president and his first lady just left their armored vehicle and walked the parade route. That was it. The spigots turned on again.

It's overly emotional and silly on my part. Not really. Several email and phone call exchanges have each noted, "I'm half-way through a box of tissues!"

When now President Obama gave his first fully exposed public speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, I flashed on him being Abraham Lincoln's reincarnation. Well, that's a tad hippy-dippy, and I kept it to myself.

After Obama announced his candidacy, I was at a lunch were many politically thoughtful people stood, and was asked my opinion. After stammering, I said, well, I like Obama, but I can't imagine him actually becoming president. I went on to explain that it wasn't because HE was black, but because I did not have the faith in our current culture that America's voters would hear him beyond his African-American heritage. It was the voter I doubted.

Looking back, the darkness of the time--yes, I mean the days when light was sucked from our souls by the foul presidency of George W. Bush and that nightmare, Dick Cheney, I succumbed to the rhetoric of hate and separation. (See my earlier blogs.)

Now I'm watching a dark skinned man and woman, holding hands, walking among cheering crowds along Pennsyvania Avenue and re-infuse light back to our nation and souls.

Get me some more tissues.

I can only image the late Rev. King doing the happy dance up in heaven.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Travel Writers, Fein and Ross, Show Hope is More than a Campaign Word

My first thought at year's end is to reflect. But the year ended and other people's reflections came through my email that I could not top. One came from writers Judith Fein and Paul Ross.

Maybe hope is more than a campaign word. Here's some of what Judie and Paul wrote:

The year 2008 is hobbling to the finish line. It's been a tough twelve months for many people--personally, economically, professionally, emotionally. Everywhere, holiday banners and songs proclaim "joy to the world" and a "season of joy." But how can one find joy at this time?  As always, we look to our travels for lessons…In Damascus, Syria, a successful and well-known restaurant owner confessed that his satisfaction does not come from renown or money. He derives joy from helping orphans and refugees…In Israel, a rabbi derives joy by combining  Kaballah and Chinese medicine to help people heal….In Turkey, the Mevlevi order of Sufi dervishes twirl ecstatically to get closer to the Divine and shed their attachments to the material things of the world. One of them explained to us that everything in nature rotates--from atoms to planets-- and the dervishes turn too…All of these people undoubtedly experienced difficulties in their lives, but they also displayed a deep capacity for happiness.  We have no control over what life slings in our direction. But even when our hearts are heavy and we are weighed down with worries; even when we are crying and feel hopeless, we can always find a glimmer of light in the darkness by choosing to do whatever brings us deep joy."

So, that is exactly what I plan to do--bring deep joy daily into my life. The recipe includes savoring my family, blending my time between longtime and new friends, learning more about the world around me and sharing what I learn through words and action.

When I'm not trying the twirling dervish move, I have on the front burner a new blog: In the oven is a book writing project, there's a stew of paddling a dragon boat with other women cancer survivors, weekly hikes, tennis, and docent work.

Sixohdear remains alive and well. I'm grateful for my readers and wish all a brightly colored year.