Posts Tagged ‘daughters’

I can’t count the number of times that people told me, “You look radiant,” during that autumn of radiation. Each time, the spokesperson would glow with genuine enthusiasm, or surprise that I looked so healthy while undergoing so much, and, although physically I did look and feel exceptionally well, I tended to think that their choice of words was part of a cosmic joke. Goddess knows that I was not a happy camper and, in fact, struggled with depression in the months following chemo as I shared in Post Chemo Stress Disorder. My daughter was pre-teen and rebelling at every turn which was healthy individuating for her and unbearable for me. Plus I was grieving for all the parts of me (beliefs, attitudes, cells) that had died during the previous cancer treatments.

I wrote in my journal in September 2009:

Grief and disgruntlement continue. More and more grief over the changes and maturity occurring in my daughter who is fighting with me at every turn. I find myself braced for contention from the moment she opens her eyes in the AM, and my heart feels so heavy from the fight. Sometimes, I’m tempted to pull the “cancer card.” I want to say, “hey, you can’t separate from me yet, I’m not strong enough to fight.” But, the truth is that separation just plain hurts. Her process and my pain have nothing to do with cancer. Maybe? Or maybe her subconscious fear of losing me makes her need to individuate more imperative. I don’t know. I do know that I am physically strong enough to take the heat from a t’ween, and I’d feel downright lowdown and ornery if I tried to heap on the guilt to prevent her from growing up.

The other part of grief for me is that aspects of my identity are gone and I’m not sure who I am or what’s next for me. My hair is a 1/10th of an inch long and speckled – primarily light – which maybe my born blond now slightly peppered, or it maybe silver. Yikes! Silver hair is way too much change for me in one year.

So, despite being grateful for being alive and in relatively good health, I was an emotional wreck. Thus, when people exclaimed, “you look radiant,” I questioned their veracity while, at the same time, I hoped their message was verifying that my radiation support practices were working.

I had three health-boosting practices that made radiation therapy worry-free for me.

1.) Power Meditation. Power meaning quick, as in a power nap.  It took longer to change out of my street clothes and into a coral-colored robe than it took for me to get my breast zapped each day. Ten minutes, tops, and most of those minutes were devoted to matching up the guide rays with the tiny black-dots that they had tattooed on my sides and back as markers. The radiation blasts themselves were done in seconds. And, while those ten minutes strapped to Dr. Frankenstein’s table did not permit  transcendentally deep meditation; I did tend to zip in and out of quick visions and most of the visions involved lions. In particular there was a full-maned male that acted as my Radiation Power Totem. This glorious king would take me on his back across sun-baked savannas, or to the tops of plateaus to survey the plains. In each of these journeys, the sun was featured as a sun god – enormous, all powerful, omnipresent – and we were golden, the lion and I, golden and eternally sun-glazed, as we were meant to be. It seemed we were meant to live in the love and warmth of the sun, rather than to shield from the UV rays with SPF 50. At least, that’s how I felt in these visions – fearless. Radiation would only help me.

And there were also a few instant visions in which, as the tech flicked the switch, I saw my entire being and body radiating white light which translated to me as a great prognosis. Once, I flashed on a fearful image of a radiant light body with one charred breast; but, I quickly replaced that idea with a whole light body radiating perfect health which is why the compliment, “you look radiant” tickled me.

2.) Miso soup. I learned that iodine rich seaweed was great for cleansing the body of toxic radiation and that Miso has several protective ingredients. So, after each treatment, I high-tailed on over to a nearby Asian restaurant for a pint of Miso soup. Ordinarily, I’m not fond of marine plants floating in salty broth, but my belief in this magic potion was so strong that the first spoonful of soup each day made my taste buds sing. And, after 25 radiation blasts plus 5 boosters, in conjunction with 30 plus a few extra pints of Miso for good measure, I had none of the fatigue associated with radiation treatments.

3.) Aloe. Dr. Torrey warned during my first consultation that radiation can burn skin. I went out that very day, a couple weeks before the first blast, and purchased 99% Aloe – Lily of the Desert from the health food store and  gelled up my boobies. I gelled up the girls (not wanting to play favoritism) every day leading up to the first treatment, and immediately following each blast, (No lotions or gels allowed during) and I stayed gooey every moment that I could. My breasts were like little flubbers for the better part of that autumn, and wow did that pay off – I was barely tinted in the end. My right breast was a light pink as if I had attempted to go topless on my first day at the beach but covered up as soon as my nipples got hot. Dr. Torrey was amazed by my perpetually fair skin as the weeks progressed, and I sang praises for the aloe plant. Although, I also believe that my ardent belief in the plant’s protective powers enhanced its effectiveness. While I slathered on the succulent goo, I envisioned health or chanted health and consciously held the belief that the skin of my zapped breast would remain lily white while any remaining cancer cells were blasted away for good.

In the end, I had a happy radiation story just like my friend that learned to meditate while undergoing treatments for prostate cancer. What’s more, my rebel t’ween sweetened up by the last blast too. In gratitude for their kindness and expertise, my beautiful daughter baked a batch of her special chocolate chunk cookies for me to take to the hospital for my radiation team. And, with that leg of the journey behind me, my lump lessons were almost done.

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Acadia & Grace in front of a yurt

My daughter Acadia was told that I’d have the 2nd infusion and, thus, lose my hair while she was away at Frost Valley Farm Camp, but she forgot. She was a 12 year old kid going off to her beloved Summer camp and had swimming, canoeing, goats, chickens, & friends on her mind. She didn’t clock the forewarning, or maybe she entered into a healthy denial in order to enjoy her s’mores at the campfire which was okay – it was my hope that she’d be in her moment and frolic about the farm without worry. However, the only fear she had expressed since my cancer diagnosis was that a bald head would make me look sick, and, therefore, her memory lapse made pick-up day traumatic.

As we drove along the dirt drive to the camp, I donned my favorite red baseball cap and readied myself to embrace my girl. Acadia saw our car approaching and ran out with her friend Grace to greet us, but when we turned into the parking lot, she stopped short. Her jaw dropped. The color drained from her face, and she turned on her heel and ran back to her yurt. I leapt out of the car, signaled to my husband to stay and raced past her abandoned friend with a quick, “Hey, Grace,” and as I ran I prayed. I didn’t know what I was going to say, and in the flurry, I only managed a quick “Help Me” prayer before I was inside the yurt looking at my daughter’s back while she cried and wouldn’t face me.

I looked around to get the lay of the land and was relieved to discover that there were no other campers, none of Acadia’s peers were in the space, which somehow gave me permission to focus on me, mine, and this situation. Her two counselors were there sitting on a bunk and looking at us wide-eyed, but they seemed like buffers rather than censors. So, by way of explaining to the older teen-aged girls, I tried to let my daughter know that it’s okay to have hard feelings.

I told the counselors, “I’m on chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer. When Acadia left home for camp two weeks ago, I still had all my hair.”

The counselors shook their heads rapidly. Acadia’s shoulders jumped as she sniffed a few times. The air in the yurt felt thick with swirling thunderheads.

I continued, “So, this is the first time she’s seeing me bald and, naturally, she’s shocked. But,” I whipped off my baseball cap, “just touch it, Acadia. My head’s fuzzy like a tennis ball.”

And, just like Olympia Dukakis breaking the tension for the grieving Sally Field in Steel Magnolias by suggesting that she take a whack at Ouiser, the surprise element worked. Acadia sniffed and then she giggled.

“Go on, give my Buddha head a rub. It’s good luck.”

My daughter turned around, faced me, and smiled.

In awe of the power of prayer and mirth,


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