Sunday, December 24, 2006

these days, who has time to self-actualize?

jaci and i attended an all-day reiki workshop last week. reiki is a japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. it is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. we learned how to perform reiki on ourselves and others and had the really cool experience of having four other participants (eight hands!) moving over us during group practice. i've seen that sort of thing advertised in thailand, but this wasn't that kind of thing. we both have a healthy skepticism about some of the funkier complementary therapies, but can't deny the strange calm and pleasure one gets from reiki. i'd recommend it- and better yet, next time I see you, if you remind me, I'd love to do a session on you.

One of the things the instructor mentioned briefly was maslow's hierarchy of needs. it struck me that, in this period of trial and healing, each phase just seems more intense, like hiking up the contrast and brightness when doctoring a photograph. what i mean when you consider the broader pieces of the triangle in terms of cancer are pretty obvious, but the pinnacle, "self-actualization" and "transcendence", is something I think I've only begun to explore now, this crazy year. And, i wonder if it's even possible for most of us to dabble in this realm while juggling all of our other needs and responsibilities. i haven't had time (or, made time) to paint a picture, sew a dress, knit a scarf, redecorate for the hell of it, have a baking day, arrange flowers or write stories since I was a little girl. not to mention the time to ponder life and love, family and friendship, from the vantage point of almost losing the first one, ending a passionate but volatile engagement, and standing in awe at the generosity of body and spirit of the latters. or read books about different faiths, theology, philosophy, poetry. and you know what? it's SO worth it. NOT that cancer is worth it, but it is worth it to work towards higher echelons of being; it's worth it to appreciate beauty and to take time to let your creativity flow. would my questioning and cynical soul have taken the time to become more spiritual at some point? would an 80-yr-old me look back and be able to count so many people so dear? would creative outlets have found their way into my life anyway? who knows. but I'm super glad they did.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

century club

oh baby! i would like to enthusiastically report that asparaginase is the devil and now that i no longer take said drug, i feel better than i've felt in months. i have gained 15 lbs, i can walk/cook/shop/drive, and the fog of confusion/depression/pain has gone from 1970s-L.A.-smog to (what I imagine) the air in the rocky mtns to feel like. i am so happy.

so, i have moved from "intensification" to "maintenance", which is another year and a half of chemo, but if i continue to feel as good as i have the past few weeks, i hope to be a lot more active in the next 15 months. for starters, i'm headed to mexico. anyone want to come? truly, a troop of us are going to cancun in mid-january to relax and flee from the cold. flights are dirt cheap-- less than if you have been considering flying out to visit Boston...

i feel guilty going to mexico. like it is super extravagant and i should still be in bed recovering. but then i think, f--- that. i'm really not me if i'm not traveling and exploring. i haven't been me for a year now and i'm ready to start doing some adventuring! yipee!

the other crazy change in me is in future outlook. in that, i have one. not to sound over dramatic, but it has been hard to even consider what i would do post-cancer. cognitively, i could sort-of accept that i wouldn't always feel so weak and crappy, but maybe i didn't really believe it. thinking about the future was somehow depressing, but lately, my perspective has shifted. now it seems like there is no shortage of good options. i'm trying to decide whether or not to take a course or two at Fletcher, whether to move back to the Bay Area, or perhaps whether to travel to China, buy all the cute clothes I can find, and open a boutique somewhere I'd love to live like San Diego or New Mexico! and this is all just thinking about "short-run" plans.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Friends, food, fillies, and a flute


"This has been the best visit with Erica I have had in the past year. The
change in her medication along with the finishing of one of her chemo
injections has added more sparkle to the already glowing Erica we all know
and love. Erica, Jaci, Jamie and I paled around the city enjoying some of
the most fabulous meals I have ever had...check out Dulce Vida?? in the
little Italy section of Boston for the best Italian food ever. There was
plenty of down time just relaxing at Erica and Jaci's apartment just truly
spending wonderful time together. The weather overall was excellent and
between Jaci's flute playing, Erica's comments on her neighbors, Jamie's
juggling three cell phones maintaining her busy work life in LA from Erica's
couch and my getting lost everday driving in Boston, the best part was..."


"...arriving into Boston on Thursday morning, greeted by amazing weather AND by a surprisingly strong and energetic Erica. After I arrived, I was informed that I had a surprise awaiting me on Saturday morning. Erica, Jaci, and Jon then spent the next two days trying their hardest not to spoil the surprise . . . and they almost made it. Literally, no more than five minutes before we were to walk out the door, Jaci (the queen of secret keeping, no joke) spilled the beans . . . we were going horseback riding!

Erica, being the amazing friend that she is, remembered that I had never been horseback riding and signed us all up for a trail ride. An hour’s drive out to a tiny little town called Agawam, and we were ready to saddle up. Erica, Jaci, Jon, and myself, mounted White Stallion, Gramps, L-7, and Gilligan and took off. We spent the next hour riding through a beautiful forest, singing songs, and laughing our heads off. Jaci lead the way (well actually the crazy trail guide led the way) but she was always right behind him looking very natural and stoic on her horse. I followed close behind feeling very comfortable and excited about my new experience. Erica and Jon brought up the rear, all the while marveling at the amazing scenery (Erica), and holding on for dear life (Jon). Just kidding Pup!

Riding through the forest with three of the most amazing friends a girl could ever have, I realized how lucky we all are to have each other, and the reason we do, is Erica. I have always said that Erica has the most amazing ability to bring people together, and more important, keep them together. Her charm, sense of humor, wit, intelligence, and selflessness are ever present and no amount of chemo can strip her of that. Her ability to see the beauty in everyone and everything during such trying times is just one more reason why I am so proud to call her my friend.

After we said our goodbyes to our new found filly friends, we headed back to Boston and, on our way, discovered Jaci’s hidden talent . . ."

"...yes yes, it is true: i am like the Pied Piper of Boston with the recorder.

All that Jonathan said of Erica's newfound energy, outlook, and personality
is TRUE!! She has been a whole new person--well actually, more like a whole
OLD person, the same spirited chic we all know. We are pretty sure that it
is attributed to a change in her medication. For all intents and purposes,
she has begun her final phase of treatment: maintainance. This means that
for the next 15 months (calculated so that she is treated for two full years
since the date of remission) she will no longer be receiving one particular
chemotherapy that is TOUGH (to put it kindly) called Asparaginase. So we're
told that this drug is highly effective and crucial to her treatment, but
from the patient's perspective, this is one drug that continuously knocks
her down. It is given once a week for 30 weeks (yea: 30 WEEKS!!) in a phase
called "Intensification". (I'll let you figure that one out.) So now that
she is out of these 30 weeks, it was like a switch was turned off and the
fog has lifted... It's funny that as we drive around Boston to places she's
been to many times, she is now for the first time SEEING it. She notices
scenary, buildings, directions... just that we are simply leaving the house
regularly is amazing.

Another change from the Intensification phase to the Maintainance phase is
the lowering of her steroids which we're told will have a huge impact on
her. As she came off 5 days of high-dose steroids every three weeks, it
caused her muscles to ache, back to hurt, and as you can imagine, mood
alterations. Although we have a few more weeks left of the high-dose
steroids, it is literally a JOY to see how well Erica is adapting back to a
daily routine. It only makes me more excited for the change in steroids as
I imagine she will keep improving!

She told me the other day how much better she feels by simply that she walks
into the kitchen when she's hungry and fixes a meal. Now, this may not seem
like much to you, but for the last 10 months, she was unable to do this
simple task. Standing for such a long period of time was impossible because
the muscles in her legs wouldn't allow her. This only frustrated her more
to know that she couldn't do it and she would try to force herself to do
these things, building the disappointment if she failed.... Now, she can. I
don't think I can express how happy the little things can make me. :)"