On 01.02.02, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Too late for surgery, I had chemotherapy, which failed. In May the chemotherapy was changed and I was soon in remission which was celebrated and welcome and lasted nine years - until October 2011. There was progression in 2011 so more treatment was indicated and I am now back in partial remission. But I'm not only a cancer patient - I also enjoy my family, walk my dogs and am learning to draw and paint. Life is good!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing myself well

My friend Norma, also in chemotherapy, went on a retreat a couple weeks back.  I could certainly understand the impetus - cancer makes you think about things - but even a mostly silent retreat sounded like too much sociability for my increasingly hermetic side.

Instead, I started reading a book on journaling as a spiritual practice, and have four green Celtic journals to get started in.  I chose the Celtic imagery because so much of my own spirituality tends toward that direction - love of the natural world, equality of the sexes and an openness to the spirits among us.  I have been an avid journaler for most of my adult life.  It was frustrating in high school when my days were too routine to think of anything to write, but I eventually sorted that out and the books stacked up.  When Julia Cameron wrote about "morning pages" in The Artist's Way, I literally wrote my way through over 100 of those speckled black and white composition books.  I ended up in graduate school where I thrived as I never had before.

So journaling is not new for me.  To some extent I even regarded it as a spiritual practice, an alternative form of prayer, but in easier days I was more focused on all I had to get done.  These days journaling is more about hoping to survive, it can't get more elemental than that.

I'm at loose ends.  I have spent so many months on the sofa that my life has become quite limited.  All summer will be about regaining strength, adopting healthier habits and charting a new course for this next trek.  Ten years ago, after I was fully recovered from chemotherapy and not dying as rapidly as I expected, I started raising puppies for Canine Companions for Independence.  I also enrolled in art and Spanish classes - the dogs went too as part of their socialization and training - and with my new career life seemed quite full.  I didn't wonder about what I could or should be doing, I was fully immersed.  Those years of remission were mostly full of joy - and surprise that I was still alive, in spite of everything.

The last day of this chemotherapy cycle is May 10th.  On May 11th we're flying to Honolulu to attend our son's graduation from the University of Hawaii School of Law.  I need to email my oncologist to thank him for keeping me alive long enough to witness that.  But May 11th is also the first day of the rest of my life ..... and so is today.  I need to write that down.


  1. You seem to be worry I g that you aren't responding as you did with your last bout. As you've said before, you are older this time around. Geez, I have nothing seriously wrong with me and I can't seem to do what I did 10 years ago!
    I'll bet part of yourfeeling a bit at odds is due to that you WERE so happy to just be alive last time where this time the thought must cross your mind that it came back. That is hard to handle and scary. But you've been doing well so far with your treatment and now you are almost done. What are you going to do now with the rest of your life? Well, maybe you won't start all the new things this time. Are you happy with what you've been doing? If so, there's no reason to stop doing them. I bet once you feel stronger again you'll start on your walks again and that will boost your spirits and help give you direction.

  2. I hang on your every word. Your spirit is so bright, Barbara. I continue to send your strength through prayer and envisioning your perfect outcome. Lisa


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