True Confessions of a Terrible Blogger

20150613_112004_resizedI’m a terrible blogger.

Long gone are the days when I would write a daily post, and then go around checking on all my blog “friends”, commenting here and there and interacting along the way.

When I first started blogging back in 2004 or so, it was a whole ‘nuther world.  Blogging itself was a relatively new phenom.  This was in the days before “Smart Phones” and tablets, social media and “monetizing”.

Before the “Like” button.

Sure, the platforms themselves were pretty rustic compared to all the bells and whistles available today.  We had a small handful of options for templates and such.  Corporate websites weren’t yet using a blog as a generic marketing tool.  “Click bait” would’ve been mistaken for some sort of fishing apparatus. But oh, those were great blog times.  I sometimes miss them in the middle of the night.

These days, I “think” about writing here far more often than I actually do.  One reason (the main reason) is, I’ve lost the plot. I don’t know what my motivation is….the whole “WHY” of it.

I’m not an “expert” on anything.  I haven’t any earth shattering wisdom to impart, a book to promote,  or a service or product to sell.

I have no interest in trying to be “someone”, or garner an adoring crowd (well, actually, that part sounds pretty good.  haha!)

So why write here?  What is it that keeps me coming back (albeit sporadically), year after year, even after weeks and months of being MIA?

It’s simple, really. I long to connect.  To reach out and touch someone and maybe, if I’m lucky, have them touch back.  To write something and have someone say, “Hey, me, too!” or “I totally get you!”

Being “get” cannot be rated highly enough.

One of the most unexpected developments of having been diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2 years ago was how it would impact my relationships.  I’ve written reams about it in my journal, and mentioned it briefly here (I think….)  And I suppose much of the changes stem from how the news – and the treatment journey itself – impacted me.

Unless you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of someone who’s been told they have the Big C, it’s hard to understand, even if you are close to someone who has or is going through it.  See, you can’t be in their head.  You aren’t there in those dark, solitary, sleepless hours in the middle of the night with your thoughts running amuck.  Hell, even my own family doesn’t know some of the stuff I had to deal with – emotionally and physically – because I didn’t want to burden them any more than they already had to deal with.  I still don’t.

Long story short, and not surprisingly, I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago.  For example, I’ve essentially ditched the New Thought/New Age/Alternative spirituality stuff I had been practicing for a decade or so.  I found that 97% of it was pretty useless when it came to dealing with the diagnosis.  My beliefs were tried by fire.  I am, most assuredly, a Jesus person again.  NOT a fundamentalist.  You can’t “unknow” or “unexperience” certain things.  I love and support my gay friends and the LGBT community at large.  I still swear up a storm and I don’t go to church (although, if I could find one where I “fit in”, I would go in a heartbeat).  I still believe in the Feminine Face of God, and the Mystery of the spiritual realm.

Physically, I’ve changed, too.  I don’t have long dyed hair and acrylic nails any more.  My face is different….a little more battle-scarred and war-weary.  And my wardrobe.  Ugh!  After being away from the corporate environ for this long, and after going from 2 incomes to 1, well, the word “limited” comes to mind.

Hell, some days I don’t even put makeup on except maybe my eyebrows.  They are a MUST HAVE, if I want to avoid looking rather alien.  I didn’t have much before and, after chemo, things didn’t improve.  At least I got my lashes back.  Mostly.

Another big change is how I spend my days.  I am, by and large, living the life of a retiree – even with my part-time bookkeeping job (which, as it turns out, is VERY part-time).  My days are spent doing mundane “housewife” things like cooking and laundry and cleaning.  I actually don’t mind that, interestingly enough.  And I have plenty of time (if not money) to do the crafts and classes that I enjoy.

I never did relate to the “cancer survivor” meme, even though – technically – I am one.  Never joined a support group and don’t have a single piece of pink-ribboned paraphernalia.  Going through breast cancer was more like going through an ugly divorce or a death or some other trauma. I am doing what I can to put “that phase” of my life in the past as much as possible considering it was – well – cancer.

So I didn’t come out of that phase with a tribe of “sisters”, even though I was told I would.  In fact, some friends have drifted off into the sunset.  Why?  I dunno…Changing interests or lifestyles, maybe?  Some of that is to be expected, I suppose.  In July 2015, when my BFF broke up with me  after my 2nd round of chemo (and right after I shaved my head), I had a big wake up call.  Another one, I should say.  It was the understanding that some people can’t handle the tough times…the really tough times.  Times involving a drastic change in availability, or appearance or energy.

Times of facing one’s own mortality.

My friendships have undergone a serious pruning.  In spite of that, the relationships I have with myself, the God of my understanding, my husband and my children are all stronger than ever.  I’ve made a few new acquaintances and friends along the way, although no one (yet) to fill those BFF shoes. But I appreciate these women when we spend time together.  We laugh and have fun as we get to know each other better.

But in my heart I believe there is one special woman out there.  One who is also looking for me, wanting the same sort of “sisterfriend” relationship I want.  Someone like-minded and enjoys the same things.  A woman who  makes the best of things and lives life  – every day – to the fullest.  She’ll be down to earth with a good head on her shoulders and a smartass remark on her lips. And we’ll laugh our asses off, A LOT, even when we’re crying.  It’s just a matter of time before we are connected.

CONNECTED.

Connection.  That feeling you get when you know someone is there for you, and you for them, during good times or bad, happy times or sad.  When the people involved experience the strength and comfort that comes from doing life together vs. going it alone.

I want more of that in my life. In real-time.  Because as wonderful as online friendships are, they aren’t the same as those where you actually DO stuff together, physically, in the same space.  Words written on a page (or in a text) are not the same as those spoken face to face, eye to eye.

Maybe even heart to heart, when someone needs a hug……

CONNECTION.

I may be a terrible blogger, but I give great hugs.

It’s just a matter of time.

Journaling – A Journey With Soul

Last week I was asked to write a guest post on journal writing by a wonderful woman who is an internationally known author, singer, and creative mentor who uses and teaches journal writing as a healing modality.  My post will be published on December 13th, but because it will be under my real name – and I write Anonymously here – I won’t be linking up.  However,  I can publish it here and now.  Because it had to be 600 words or less, I edited quite a bit out.  Maybe in the future I’ll expand on my own journal practice in future posts.

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20161129_054136_resizedIn 1969, for my 12th birthday, I received my first “Diary”.  A hard-bound book covered in daisies, it contained pages of blank lined paper and,  most importantly, a lock and tiny key.

Diaries! That place where your secrets were kept, secrets needing to be protected from the watchful eyes of parents and snoopy little brothers.  I can still see myself laying on the bed, my bedroom door closed, filling pages with big loopy lettering made in No. 2 pencil. I wrote about other girls, first periods and first bras.  I poured out my heart when I wasn’t invited to a party.  I chronicled my parents fights, and that night I accidentally discovered them naked in the pool.

I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

There was something exciting about each new diary started.  They whispered of POSSIBILITIES. NEW BEGINNINGS.  FRESH STARTS.

I’m not sure when diaries became ‘journals’.  Little hard-bound books were eventually replaced by steno pads and spiral notebooks.  It didn’t matter what they were called, though.   That FRESH START feeling didn’t change.

In the 70’s, I wrote out all the angst and longing of a teenager that didn’t feel like she fit in and so desperately wanted to.  In the 80’s, my journal absorbed the crazy-hot desire of a single 20something trying to make her way in the world, where I often waxed poetic.  Words poured out of me, filling empty hours and a deep-rooted need for self-expression.  I wrote about other girls, who was dating who and the heartbreak of not being invited to a party.  I chronicled the liberation of not living under my parents’ roof.

And I wrote about boys.  A LOT!

It was after my first child was born in 1986 that my “Morning Time” was also born.  Working full-time, I found it easier to stay awake after his 5 am feeding than to go back to bed for an hour.  It didn’t take long before I discovered the treasures to be found in the quiet solitude of Predawn.  I would sit at the dining table with my coffee and journal, gazing out the window while body and mind awoke.  I watched the changing seasons of my life reflected in the big Maple tree in our backyard, and I wrote and prayed.  Intentions were set for the new day, my head and my heart purged, and blessings counted.  During the brief periods when I didn’t practice it, I felt the difference – and not in a good way.

30 years later, I can still be found in the wee hours with my journal and coffee although, thanks to menopause, it’s more like 3 a.m.  (I wrote through THAT, too!).   While the hour and view has changed, my journaling journey hasn’t.  It’s still the best friend ready to listen without judgment, the husband who never zones out, the psychiatrist who doesn’t requirement payment or an appointment. And perhaps, most profoundly, it’s the Ear of God that’s always Present.

After nearly 50 years, I’ve journaled my way through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and more sorrows and joys than I can count. Most recently I wrote my way through a breast cancer diagnosis and 18 months of treatment.  Frankly, I don’t know how I would’ve survived without it.  Writing is healing.  It’s cathartic.  It’s revelatory.  It’s doesn’t care if I’m happy or scared, strong or weak, or blonde, bald or gray (smiling).

A journal is unconditional in its acceptance of all the Flawesomeness of my life.  All I have to do is show up – authentically and faithfully – to reap it’s magic:

The Alchemy of my Soul.

Oooh, Child

It’s a cool drizzly morning here in So Cal.

Everyone is off to work and school.  There’s chicken in the oven for later, smelling up the house with yumminess, and all is quiet except for the sound of the sprinklers outside my window.  For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I have the day at home all to myself.  Even with all the chores I have to do, it is a much-needed oasis of solitude.

It’s been months since I’ve blogged.  Thank you to those that reached out to see how I was doing.  Up until, literally, the last couple of days – it’s been kinda crazy.  Over the Summer, while my girl still had her own apartment, I was taking care of my grandson one week a month, and some weekends in-between.  She got a great new job with the school district back in June, but it came at a price – specifically, a significant pay cut.  But she has a firm and reliable career path now, awesome benefits, and all kinds of perks that working for the district includes.  So for me to babysit one week a month to help keep financial life and limbs afloat (hers and ours) was a no-brainer.

School had just gotten back into session when, over the Labor Day weekend, we moved them in here with us.  Moves are hard and tiresome.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every room – every drawer, closet and corner – was thoroughly gone through and reorganized to make space.  However exhausting, the timing was Divinely Perfect as it coincided with the end of her lease and the end of my Unemployment Benefits.  Days before the move, I had another biopsy in my left breast after my first post-treatment 3D Mammogram showed “something” that needed to be looked at.  Jesus, I was scared…but I held on to the promises that I got way back when this all started – that the Lord had cured the incurable, and that I was healed.  I broke down and sobbed, falling to my knees, when I got the results. God showed up in a seriously miraculous way (maybe I’ll write about that another time), and the results of the biopsy were negative.

God be praised, Who is rich in mercy, strength and healing grace!

No sooner was that crossed off The List, my husband had a surgery he had been putting off for far too long because of all my shit.  The surgery was successful, but I was elbows deep in urinals and bed trays for a week while he recovered, sleeping on the couch for a couple weeks so as not to jostle him.  Eventually he was back to work and  I was just exhaling,  thankful that September was almost over when – just like clockwork – the third “THING” popped up.

A week ago this past Monday, my girl called me from the emergency room in serious distress and ended up staying in the hospital for the next 5 days.  It was awful, as they did test after test and couldn’t uncover the source of her pain.  I put in 12 hour days, getting my grandson ready and to school, driving the 40 minutes to drop him off, making my way to the hospital, then staying there with my baby until school was out.  Another trip to pick up our guy, back to the hospital to spend dinner time with Mommy, then home between 8 and 9 p.m. In between was a lifetime of prayer, staying all Mama Bear on the doctors and nurses trying to get her relief and some answers, and trying present calm and control for our little guy. While a firm diagnosis still hasn’t been made, the pain specialist is treating it as a nerve issue…a Myalgia of sorts.  It might even be a couple of things. But after a week of nerve specific medications, she is back to work just this morning, and I am so thankful.

Wow, I feel exhausted again just writing all of that. (Smile) Yet, here I am this morning, my heart full of gladness and a deep sense of God’s presence.  Things have been hard – in more ways than just physical – but here we all are, together.  The crises have passed.  The weather is cooler, the chicken smells delicious, the house is decorated so cute for Halloween and life is taking on more “normal” proportions as of 30 minutes ago.

Things are definitely looking brighter.

Sew Smart

IMG_2737Ever since a girlfriend and I had weekly “Project Runway Date Nights”  years ago, I have been hooked on the show.  It was such a fun time!  We would take turns “hosting” our dates, and always served up a little nosh and a few glasses of something yummy to enjoy during the show.  We loved to critique the critiques, judge the judges, and root for our favorite designers all season long.

This was the year before The Year I Started to Sew, and  – really – Project Runway was my inspiration.  Whether it was watching the designers create that inspired me, or the thought of handling all kinds of FABRIC (I have an addiction),  the result was an inexpensive Brother’s sewing machine purchased a whim (The “Project Runway” model, of course), and the launching of a whole new way to express myself.

mondo
Mondo Guerra. Photo Credit: Unknown

Project Runway has all the makings of great reality television.  There’s the exciting competition for the Holy Grail of becoming the next “It Girl” of the fashion industry ($100K cash ain’t too shabby, either ).  There’s beautiful fashion, awesome guest judges and shade galore (No “T”, No Shade, Gurl!”).  And one of my favorite parts: the heart warming “overcoming the odds” stories that never fail to bring a tear to the eye and inspiration to the heart. Stories like Mondo, who – after 10 years of silence – came out on

Ashley Nell Tipton. Photo credit: Unknown
Ashley Nell Tipton. Photo credit: Unknown

the runway as being HIV positive.  (He won Season 8, and is huge in the industry now.) Or Ashley, the uber curvy retro girl with the purple hair who began sewing as a way to self-medicate from a lifetime of bullying.  She ended up taking the whole shebang in Season 14,and now has a line of Plus Size clothing in JC Penneys.

Sew awesome!

Every show has an element of surprise thrown in, too.  Maybe 2 designers will be eliminated instead of 1, or Tim Gunn gets so mad, he drops the F bomb!  (For some reason, that was HUGE!)   Whatever makes up the Magic, it works and they have millions of fans out there to prove it.

I know some folks consider Project Runway beneath them.  And that’s ok because I love me a little mindless entertainment at times.  (I’m also a big “Drag Race” and “Chopped” fan). What may come as surprise to the PR Nay Sayers is that there is wisdom to be gathered from the show…little “keepin’ it real” tips I use in everyday life, like

MAKE IT WORK

Ok, even people who’ve never watched the show are familiar with this iconic encouragement by the great Tim Gunn.   As mentor to the young designers, it’s Tim’s job to help them figure out how to take hideous mistakes, unconventional materials and their own emotional meltdowns, and turn them into a Top Look within the allotted time.  (And there’s never enough time.)

“Make It Work” moments usually show up when a designer hits a brick wall.  Maybe they didn’t buy enough of the right fabric, or Heidi surprised them with the dreaded Black Bag “gotcha” of a Team Challenge (ooooh, they hate that one!)  Often times, Make It Work moments hit when a contestant is feeling overwhelmed.  From all accounts, it’s a very stressful competition – and that’s just dealing with all the bitchiness.  It’s not uncommon for a normally “together” designer to start falling apart at the seams under the pressure.   They want to give up, or run away in tears.

That’s when Tim, like everyone’s favorite Uncle, comes to the rescue!

Tim Gunn – Photo Credit: Unknown

Well groomed with exemplary taste and manners, Tim dishes out just the right amount of Tough Love and encouragement with equal panache.  He reminds us that many times, when we are feeling stuck, our best way forward is to simply accept what is, and then just get busy.  We might need to reevaluate our plan….think outside the lines…..pull the “issue” apart and start over.  Whatever it takes, we don’t give up.

Make It Work Moments can be some of our best, most enlightening experiences.  They are our chance to turn a train wreck into treasure.  I’m in the middle of a Make It Work moment myself, in fact.  After being surprised with an Unconventional Challenge I never saw coming last year, with all the drama, tears and stress that’s gone with it,  I’m doing a Life Redo. I’m editing.  I’m tearing things apart and reconstructing them.  I’m dreaming of the Big Win (in my case, staying cancer free and enjoying my life), and daily seeking new inspiration to keep moving forward.

And sure enough, there’s a voice is in my head.  One I’ve listened to and admired for years.  It’s saying to me:

Don’t lose yourself in the challenge!

Stay true to who you are! 

MAKE IT WORK!

Thanks, Uncle Tim… I’m going for it!

(This is the first installment in a series I’m writing called, “That’s Sew Smart or “Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Project Runway.”)

Losing Control

hangmanI noticed several things immediately yesterday, on my First Day On The Job:

One – The Old Woman was compelled  to tell me all about of her accomplishments, all about of her credentials, right out of the box. (and they were impressive!)

I wondered if she forgot the only reason I spoke of my accomplishments and credentials when last we met was because I was on a “job interview.”

It seemed that she was telling me all this stuff about her wonderfulness because she wanted to raise my opinion of her.  She needed to tell me that she was Somebody.  She had Import.  She was Special.   This was all tied into how important the job was to her – to keep her active and “with it”.

At this point, I literally told her:  “I didn’t come here to take your job.”

Two, The Old Woman also went out of her way to emphasize various reasons as to why I wouldn’t like the job.  “It won’t be exciting enough for you.” “There’s nothing creative about this job.” “I told The Boss (her son) that you would be bored here.” (That one was said multiple times.)

*ahem*  OK.  Thanks for that.

And Three, as she was showing me the ropes, it was obvious that she is a Control Freak.  A nice one, to be sure, but a CF just the same.  I lost count of how many times she said, “I do it this way…..” – even down to how to separate the pages of triplicate style form:  “The Whites HERE, the Pinks HERE, and the Yellows THERE.”

Are you fucking KIDDING ME right now?

After a while, I just stopped doing things the way that I would naturally, and followed her instruction EXACTLY.  NOT because I thought it was the best way….but because I was so tired of hearing about HER way.

Maybe she realized what she was saying because a number of times, she back pedalled: “But when you do this, you can do it your way.”  Really?  You’re giving me permission to separate a form “MY” way?

Wow.  Thanks for that.

I also  noticed the office spaces – and there are a bunch of them – need to be cleaned up…organized…updated.  The Old Woman has been using the same plastic baggy to hold stamps in for 15 years.  It’s torn and old.  The desk drawers are full of crap. There are funky Christmas decorations lined against the wall among some other unidentifiable paraphernalia, and it looks like someone dropped them “temporarily” only to have them stay there for years.  Decades old papers and catalogs sit on the shelves, and so much wasted space! All of this spoke to me of something hugely important:

CHANGE doesn’t happen here.

It wasn’t a horrible day.  5 hours went relatively quickly even though – by and large – it wasn’t very productive.  The Old Woman moves and speaks slowly, and goes off on little tangents.  Me?  I am a DOER, and like to GSD (get shit done).

So why would I go back after all of that?

This the question I ask myself this morning…..

Should I just do it for a few weeks for the extra cash?  It was an easy $150, that’s for sure.

Do I want to stay for the practice of getting back into the working world?

Do I stay long enough for my hair to grow back a bit more, so I feel more “Presentation Worthy” in this world where employers will make up their mind about you in the first 30 seconds of a job interview?

Do I stick around to “See What Happens?”  I know that The Boss needs me, and I can already tell he would like me to do things The Old Woman and The Collage Girl (his daughter) either cannot or will not do.  I could really assist him.

And I would love (as in L-O-V-E) to get in there and organize things.  Disorder and junk make me uptight.  I am a  Put Things Right kinda girl.  An “everything in it’s place” sister. I mean, how about we recycle the big old copy machine that doesn’t work and is being used as a table for potted plants?

No question, I could give the whole office space the total Feng Shui-ing it desperately needs.

But would The Old Woman “allow” it?

Would The Boss override her objections so that I could?

…….

I’m going in for another 5 hours today.  It will give me a better sense of What’s What.  This is definitely a case of Progressive Revelation, on all counts. The True for me today is, I have the time to be there right now. I am making some money. And there’s really nothing else I really need to do today, no other job offers coming through (yet), and I am kind curious because I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences.

Who knows? Maybe….just maybe…..

I Am The Change they’ve been needing to see in their world….

Oh, What A Tangle

Spider WebWhile out for a walk yesterday, I spotted this spider web from across the street strung and had to go check it out.   Strung up over a neighbor’s unused back gate, it was HUGE – 2 feet tall at its widest point – and, from the looks of it, it’s been there awhile.  While I shudder to think about how BIG the spider might be that made this, it would totally make a great prop for a haunted house.

Nature is already decorating for Halloween and I’m digging it!

The web holds a certain beauty for me.  A certain fascination.  There’s the obvious hole where, perhaps, a bird flew through it or a rock was thrown.  There are the thin sections tightly strung and precisely uniform, and then there are others that look like Mama decided to get busy after a few dirty martinis with the girls.

Something to remember: Friends Don’t Let Friends Spin Drunk.

Friends…. a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.     This breast cancer journey I’m on A couple of love bombshas taught me SO much about friendships.  I’m a Facebooker, and it’s been miraculous and astounding how my friends – some who I’ve never met in person, and others that I haven’t seen in years – have circled around me with support, encouragement and love.  I am still, 9 months after my diagnosis, periodically receiving cards and gifts in the mail – the latest one just a few days ago.  I like to call them Love Bombs and they always show up right when I need a boost.  Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am if it weren’t for these people.  They hold space for me like I’ve never experienced, and I don’t know how I can ever repay them – except to be strong. battle on and help as many others as I can along the way.

But it’s not all been Love and Light.   I now have an Ex “Bestie”.  Yeah, that happened a month ago.  But it wasn’t a complete surprise.  I’ve known something was afoot for months …since April, in fact.  It began after it turned out HomeGirl wasn’t going to be there for my first surgery due to vacation plans with her kids.  The same thing happened for my second surgery a month later.  And even though I told her I understood,  she swore she would “be there for me 24/7” when I started the hardest part of a hard journey, the chemotherapy.  She wasn’t.   So, I made other arrangements.

Anyway, back in April I felt her pulling away from me. We never did talk on the phone much  (something I particularly dislike about the Texting age), and so when her texts started to come less frequently, and her interactions on my Facebook page all but vanished, and our visits grew farther apart, I just “knew”. A huge Red Flag went off inside of me when she was 30 minutes late for a lunch date – something that never happened before in all the years I’ve known her.  It wasn’t a matter of a busy schedule – it was her day off and she was at home.  It’s just that she just didn’t leave her house in time to be on time, and THAT spoke volumes!

HomeGirl stopped sharing important moments in her life in that “you’re the first to know!!” way we once had, and what texts I did get were shorter and shorter.  The last one – in response to my lengthy apology for having to cancel our visit for the next day because I was feeling too sick from Round 3 – was all of two words long.  Two.  “OK, thanks!”

And I haven’t heard from her since.

My daughter and husband have borne witness to my tears and my confusion over the last several months as I tried to deal with her “withholding”.  I remember early on thinking, “She’s going to find some “issue” to get pissed about so that she can feel justified in ending our friendship.”  And sure enough, that is exactly what happened.  Maybe I didn’t make my journey enough about her.

Guilt does funny things to a person.  So does jealously, insecurity and resentment.  She broke up with me once before, as some who are long time readers here might remember.  It was about 6 years ago.  But unlike last time (which was also without warning), this time I won’t go after her.  Last time, I would periodically email her to see if I could find out what had happened so we could work things out.  This went on for 3 years.  Not once did she tell me why she ended things.  When we did finally reunite about 2 years ago, she said – both of us with tears in our eyes – that she couldn’t remember, and swore we would NEVER break up again.

Today, after being the victim of her Scorpion sting for a second time, I’m calling BULL SHIT.  What kind of person ends a sister-like friendship, pushing away all attempts at reconciliation, over something so unimportant they can’t remember it? For THREE years?

Sheesh!  I’m laughing at myself here. Wake up, Grace! Why I didn’t see this before, I’m not sure.  I do know that – in the past – I’ve tried for too long, giving up too much, to make certain relationships work.  I don’t hold grudges, and I am a huge believer in Second Chances.  But not today.  Not any more.

I am changed in ways I am only now seeing.  Why would I WANT someone like this as a friend?  Why would I go after someone who intentionally tries to hurt me with the things she says, as seen in some recent Instagram posts (thank the Social Media Gods for the “UNFOLLOW” button!)

The truth is, I don’t.  Someone like that doesn’t belong in my circle.  We obviously don’t Vibe in the same frequency any more.  After looking a little deeper at “us”, I realize we don’t really share much in common any more, and it’s possible that much of what was holding our friendship together was “What Was”, not “What Is”.

Come to find out, after doing a little Googling around, that there are other women out there who have lost a Bestie while fighting breast cancer.  Who knew?  One would think that at a time like this, relationships would grow closer…that these BFFs would step up like never before.  But sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t…and they bail. Who knows why this happens. Maybe the Bestie is scared or can’t cope, or feels left behind in the whirlwind of surgery, treatment and doctors appointments.   Whatever the reason, it happens and it can be devastating.  The cancer patient feels abandoned in their time of greatest need.  Betrayed and let down.

Most of all, they feel unloved.

Thankfully, I know – and can feel – the great circle of love around me.  I’ve never gone without support and concern.  Turns out there is always someone waiting in the wings to help me.  These people are in my life at this time because they are the Right Ones for Right Now, and I am so grateful for their presence.

Another lesson learned: What is REAL will last and everyone who is meant to be in my life is still here, with more friends added all the time.

Chemo Hacks – My Top 7 Helps For Managing Side Effects

GoddessHeartThe need to undergo chemotherapy is a harsh reality for many breast cancer patients, and every woman’s chemo “cocktail” will vary depending on what she’s been diagnosed with.  My doctor prescribed TCH – Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. (Herceptin is not a chemo drug itself, but a targeted therapy that produces antibodies for those who are HER2+).  Each of these medications comes with their own list of potential side effects – some of which a doctor will prescribe medication to help combat.

When you think of what is being put into the body with chemotherapy, it’s no surprise that  it basically becomes a toxic waste site.  I am doing my best to eliminate those toxins as quickly as possible to try to maintain some semblance of “health” during and after my treatment plan.  While I’ve avoided any vomiting, there are other side effects I experience with every cycle – typically starting on Day 3 (of a 21 day cycle) after a round and continuing through the first 10-14  days.

I’ve come up this Chemo Hack List of the Top 7 things I’m doing to help eliminate or minimize these uncomfortable side effects. Since I still have 2 rounds to go at the time of this posting, I’ll update this as I find more things that are helpful and well as address whether or not I escaped the more common long-term effects (like neuropathy, etc.) all together with some of the things that I’m doing.

HACK #1 – DRINK WATER: It is recommended that we drink at least 3 quarts of water a day, every day.  That is a chemo hack waterLOT of water but it is vital to help flush the toxins and medication through our systems.  When you’re not feeling great, or when water tastes like metal, it can be hard to remember to drink as much as we need to.  To help with that, I use this 4 cup measuring cup and three stretchy hair bands.  Each band represents a quart, and how many times that cup needs to be filled in order for me to have my daily requirement (4 Cups = 1 quart).  Every time I fill it, I remove one of the bands.  This way I always know how much more I have yet to drink that day.  That being said, on those days when I just can’t force down enough water without gagging, I also include other fluids I drink – hot tea, etc.

HACK #2 – TURKEY BASTER BIDET:  I know, it sure ain’t Thanksgiving! But the body chemo hack turkey basterhas to eliminate all that water and more.  What isn’t spoken much about in the way of side effects is that what comes out can burn!  So I keep a turkey baster next to the toilet in the bathroom (which, fortunately, sits right next to the sink).  Every time I eliminate, I gave myself a little Turkey Baster Bidet to rinse myself.  This helps tremendously, and I never skip this step after experiencing a very uncomfortable raw episode after my first round (which I treated with Desitin).  After each rinse and a dry, I apply Vaseline around the  general area so as to protect the sensitive skin.  With everything else going on, having burning Girly Bits isn’t going to help.  Lube and rinse.  That’s all I’m saying.  (This typically isn’t needed after Day 10-14)

HACK #3 – BAKING SODA:  It’s not just the Down Low that gets a toxic washing.  Our Rob's Red Mill Baking Sodamouths are equally as sensitive and a prime area for chemo effects because the cells there produce rapidity (the type of cells the chemo is targeting).  I haven’t gotten mouth sores, but I do have to deal with this weird all over burning sensation, a tongue that feels like I downed a scorching cup of coffee in one gulp, and burning, chapped lips.  The ACS recommends avoiding certain foods to help combat this….foods which, ironically, are the only ones I really feel like eating because I can actually taste them.  (I definitely pay for this later.)  This includes acidic, salty and spicy foods.  If you can avoid those, more power to you – you’ll be ahead of the game!  And there are prescription medications to help with sores if you get them (The OTC mouthwash Biotene is also helpful).  My chemo hack for this is to rinse my mouth several times a day with baking soda and water.  I use about 1/2 teaspoon to a cup water.  The baking soda helps alkalize the mouth and brings some fast, albeit temporary relief.  I like to use an organic  aluminum free product like Bob’s Red Mill.

HACK #4 – FRANKINCENSE:  I am a big believer in the healing qualities of good, therapeutic chemo hack frankincensegrade Essential Oils. While it was my personal choice not to ingest any EOs during treatment, you can bet I will be during the “Reconstruction” phase when I am done.  I do, however, use EO topically for different things.  One thing I do is apply Frankincense to the soles of my feet and my ankles starting on the day before a round.  I then apply it the morning of treatment, and then every day for a week following.  I’ll apply it once in the morning and once later in the day, and then wear socks.  If you decide to do this, make sure to get a good therapeutic grade oil.  I started with Young Living (being as I’m a YL distributor myself), however, theirs is VERY expensive and a bottle only lasts about 1.5 – 2 treatment cycles.  My Go-To place now is Eden’s Garden for quality, price, and speed of shipping.  I purchased it here.

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HACK #5 – CHEMO FASTING:  The history and health benefits of fasting is long and impressive.  When I heard that some people were implementing fasting around their treatments, I was immediately interested because I know that with less food in the system, everything will pass through much quicker.  It is a personal preference for how long to fast, but based on what I’ve read, I decided to fast the day of my treatment, plus or minus.  I have my rounds on Fridays, so starting that week, I try to keep from eating a lot of food that takes longer to digest, like red meat.  On Thursday, I like to go meatless all together.  On treatment day, I stick to water only, and then go back to regular eating on Saturday.  Another thing I do is take a stool softener with each round as the steroids I am required to take on Thursday and Saturday cause major constipation.  So I start taking them on Wednesday, then daily through the following Sunday or Monday.  This has proven an effective way to keep everything moving through my body as quickly as possible, with no long term back up.

HACK #6 – GINGER ALE AND PRETZELS:  A classic “Old Wives” remedy for nausea related Ginger Ale Chemo Hackto pregnancy, ginger ale works well for chemo related nausea, too, I have found.  Trying to minimize the number of drugs I’m putting into my body, I haven’t wanted to use either of the two prescription medications given to me by my oncologist.  By drinking ginger ale and eating pretzels, I have managed to move past any nausea I experience on-and-off during the week after my treatment (typically starting Day 3).  The fizzy, gingery, salty combination is a classic hack used among a lot of breast cancer patients, and one that I am happy to add to this list because it really worked for me.

HACK #7 – Chemotherapy Meditation CD I wish I had known about this CD before I started chemo, because I would have started using it right away.  The whole freak out factor I dealt with going into this thing was off the Chemo Meditation Hackcharts.  It was actually the thought of undergoing chemo – more than the cancer itself – that scared me the most.  Be that as it may, I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and did what I had to do.  But THIS is making things notably different, I can tell you for a fact, since I have the “Before” and “After” to compare.  Spoken in a very soothing voice by Belleruth Naparstek, “A Meditation To Help You With Chemotherapy” is an amazing resource to help put chemo in a positive light, reduce adverse side effects, help the body’s immune system, and encourage hope, safety and calm.  There is 20 minutes of a guided meditation and another 20 minutes of affirmations.  I use this primarily at night before I go to bed, and it helps me sleep.  (Fortunately, because it works on the subconscious level, one does not have to be awake to reap the benefits.  Win/Win!!)  I highly recommend this hack for anyone who holds a lot of stress around the subject of getting chemotherapy.  I hope it brings you as much peace as it has me.

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