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Posts Tagged ‘Teenage Girls’

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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As happenstance would have it, my daughter was off to sleep-away camp for two weeks during my second round of chemo. We had made arrangements for camp well in advance of learning that I’d devote the Summer of ’09 to chemotherapy, so it seemed that a divine hand placed her session between infusions in a way that allowed me to do the drop-off and pick-up. I wanted to be the one to makeup my little girl’s bunk bed and organize her living space. I needed to feel confident that she was well equipped for her adventures in independence. Plus, I was concerned that separation might be difficult for her this time given my compromised health and the pending loss of my hair even though each time I searched her for hidden worries, Acadia assured me that she was glad to go to sleep away camp. Still, I was anxious for her to know that her mother was well and able to care for her and so I fussed with her sleeping bag and fluffed her pillow and rearranged her toiletries until she ordered me to “Go now, Mom.”

Pow!

Nine years earlier, Acadia had delivered the same punch to my gut. It was her first day of nursery school. I was convinced that my 3 year old would need a gentle separation process, so I held my daughter’s hand and guided her into the room to show her the dress-up clothes, the pint-sized kitchen, and other assorted toys. But, before I even had a chance to point out the grocery cart filled with life-like plastic food, she shook off my grip, looked up, and said, “You can go now, Mom.”

I did go. I went directly to the room assigned to parents with separation issues and sobbed for an hour by myself. And I would’ve sobbed for the two hour trip home from that camp in the Catskills too had I not received the gift of an insight before my daughter had delivered the blow.

As I mentioned a post or two ago, I did not journal much during chemotherapy; however, I did jot that insight down:

July 27, 2009

I noticed something about my 12 year old girl yesterday when we were settling her into her yurt. She became another person entirely when the 13 year old named Grace entered the room. Grace was skinny and pretty and 13 which made her “popular” or maybe “superior” in my daughter’s eyes. I don’t know exactly what Acadia was thinking or feeling, but whatever it was required her to become instantly allergic to her parents. “Go now, Mom,” she huffed under her breath, and then she clucked her tongue and rolled her eyes when I brought out my camera to snap some parting shots.

The rejection was down right rude and would’ve hurt had it not dawned on me that my daughter was overwhelmed by an excruciating self-consciousness that could only be biological – hormonal – and that she and all other pubescent girls can not help themselves – they’re possessed. From the moment those animal instincts to reproduce kick in, they start measuring themselves against each other in a survival-of-the-fittest sort of way. The prettiest girl or the hippest or the smartest (whatever the personal value) will attract and snare the choice mate, and, so, as long as their bodies are ovulating, there’s a tension, a subconscious competition, that takes place.

I believe I received this insight because, in contrast, I don’t feel the same competitive tension. At first, I attributed this to improved self esteem; but it occurs to me that my egg making has been slowed down for a while now and with this next round of chemo, it will cease. So, either the cancer experience has put things in perspective or the hormonal shift has, but other women are not measurements of my self worth anymore.

Phew…

As I reflect on this insight today, I realize that I’m enjoying a second childhood since “the works” shut down a couple of years ago. Besides having better emotional balance without the monthly mood swings, I’m more playful, less goal oriented, like I was when I was a kid. I’m less concerned with what people think of me, so I swim at pool parties with total disregard for my hairdo; I dance despite my lack of innate rhythm. Like a child, I just want to have fun.

Maybe the release from the obligation to perpetuate the species is why women over 50 seem more self possessed and better able to enjoy themselves and each other. And I’m guessing that the second childhood is that much happier for all the lessons learned during the procreative angst.

In Awe of it All,

L.

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The weekend before my lymph node dissection, I took my daughter on a women’s spiritual retreat. We had been to this PA getaway place before, so, although the theme and tone for the gathering of women changes each year, we essentially knew what to expect, and, this year, I had plans. There’s a spiritual aphorism or joke that goes: If you want to hear God(dess) laugh, make plans. Well, the Most High was chuckling at me from behind the clouds all weekend.

My intention was to be attentive to my daughter. I feared that I had been self consumed for the past five months with all the medical and healing stuff, and so I was going to devote the time before my surgery to her. I intended to go to whatever workshops piqued her interest, or not, since she doesn’t really like workshops, I do; and, because swimming is her idea of bliss, I was prepared to spend long hours at the lake even though I loath being cold & wet. Whatever, I was committed and really looking forward to paying attention to my girl as I find her immensely interesting and thoroughly enjoyable and, besides, I had an agenda. I hoped that she’d open up to me.

The rustic environment + the time without tv or cellphones or internet + the spiritual timbre + the feminine immersion = intimacy. Intimacy: in to me see.

And, I so wanted to know what was going on inside of her, plus I felt spiritually fortified enough to hold the space for whatever fear, anger, grief she needed to release.  What I was not prepared for, however, was that she would only want to be with her friends.

As I write this now, I slap myself up side the head (gently). What was I thinking? Acadia was 11 and 11/12ths, it was weeks before her 12th birthday, and, like most tweens – she was/is all about her friends all the time. (See below. Notice the matching bows. I rest my case. ps: my girl is holding the Aeropostale bag.)So, why would this weekend be any different? As soon as we arrived at the camp site, Acadia ran off to punch the tether ball and romp in the meadow and swim in the lake with her buddies, and, lo and behold, I got to play with my friends too.

Wow, was that ever healing.

On the morning of the first day, I played at a workshop on Flower Essences given by the amazing Rachel Ginter from the Garden of One. The Garden of One is an organic farm/retreat center where Rachel offers “tools to transform” and creates magical elixirs infused with the energetic essences of flowers or herbs or plants or crystals or sunlight or moonlight or dragonflies or whatever essence calls. As she explained, essences are different than essential oils in that oils are the physical essence of a plant and effect the physical; essences are energetic and work on unconscious mental or emotional patterns. My experience was quite conscious though. One little spritz of Rachel’s All Clear myst made me feel instantly lighter and fresher, as if I’d emptied all the pockets in my aura. The energetic shifts were so palpable that my friend, Dalia, and I went directly to Rachel’s booth in the market place and bought each other best seller assortments of mysts as our birthday presents for each other. Neither of us were born in June, but we wanted to celebrate. Dalia was finishing grad school, about to deliver her thesis, and head back to her home in Egypt to teach. I was about to have surgery and… those mysts would prove to be essential for the way ahead.

After checking in with my daughter at lunch, a bunch of friends urged me to go with them to a Sound Yourself into Being workshop offered by the one and only Mosa. I was reluctant to go. I knew it was a popular workshop so it would probably be crowded and I’d probably have to sing and stretch outside my comfort zone and, besides, I thought, my daughter might need me. Acadia said, “Go, go,” and friends said, “Come, come,” and everyone was so insistent that I went with the flow.

The room was crowded with upwards of fifty women seated in a circle and at the center was an enchanting woman presiding over an astounding collection of instruments. Mosa had an elfin appearance with her slight body, silver pixie, and ethereal blue eyes, yet, unlike an elf, she seemed grounded in a sage wisdom that had her feet planted and her being was calm and relaxed. To begin, she instructed us to select from the treasure pile of bells, rattles, tuning forks, chimes, harps, drums and more, and to play that instrument all about the room to cleanse the space. Then, we did fun exercises like singing our signature with the vowel sounds of our names and listening to the songs in nature and then each of us singing a nature song to create a symphony of flowers, leaves, and ferns; and, throughout, Mosa imparted fascinating information with supporting tales. She taught about Kay Gardner’s pioneering work with sound healing and the correlation between vowel sounds and our chakras, she talked about cymatics and scientific findings, and explained the four principles of her work, Sounding Yourself into Being:

  1. Everything is vibration.
  2. Everything effects everything.
  3. Sound creates form.
  4. Frequency + Intention = Transformation.

And, she told the extraordinary story of Amrita Cottrell. Amrita used sound to cure her own breast cancer. My breath grew shallow and my heart quickened as Mosa told the story of Amrita and friend singing discordant notes each day for a length of time until they disintegrated the tumor in her breast. Then she demonstrated how to do this by having one woman hold a note while she sang a disagreeing note to make a harsh or dissonant sound, and had us break up into groups to give it a try. A couple of my dear friends, Gina and Lula, rushed over and offered to practice on me. I held a note and my friends sang long, strong, harsh, unharmonic notes and leaned toward me. The entire room of fifty plus women sang their disagreeing notes and the dissonance swelled through the room. Gina and Lula reloaded and sang louder and stronger and the monstrous sound from all grew and grew and grew, and my flood gates burst. Tears spilled from my eyes in a hot confluence of emotions: I cried with frustration for not having the same strength of conviction that my path was to heal through sound like Amrita, and I cried with overwhelm for having friends willing to sing love at me with such ferocity, and I cried in surrender to a divine plan that so clearly placed me in that room to hear that story and to learn how well I am loved. As loud as the music was in that moment, I could hear the cosmic giggle and so I began to take notice of the Power greater than myself that was orchestrating everything including this weekend retreat.

(to be cont.)

L.

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