The Marvels of Acupuncture?

Before Dr. G. commences each weekly acupuncture treatment, she feels my pulse in both wrists. She merely nods her head after feeling my pulse and moves on to swabbing down with alcohol the spots she intends to stick with tiny needles.  She generally sticks  several spots around my lower calves, abdomen, right ear and a single spot on the top of my head, after which she turns off the fluorescent light overhead and leaves me to nap for 30 minutes, needles and all.  Then, those needles are removed, I turn over on my side, she sticks me with many more needles in my mid and lower back and then I take another 30-minute nap.  Dr. G. moves very quickly, efficiently and confidently, which to me is evidence of her nearly 40 years doing this and the fact that she does indeed know all the hundreds of mysterious pressure points that hold the keys to unblocking  the human body’s qi or energy; it’s said that such blockages are the source of all ailments. More

The Holidays

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.  This hasn’t happened in a while.  When I was first diagnosed and starting treatment in mid-summer, I would lay awake at night wondering about my own future and how much time I had left, recording in my head all the things I wanted to write about in this blog for my girls before it was too late.  It’s months later now, past the halfway point between Thanksgiving and Christmas, right in the throes of the holiday season, and I’m lying awake at night worrying about me some but also at this point worrying about the futures of the many new friends I’ve made who also are battling this disease.  Most of them have been at it a lot longer than I and, quite bluntly, many of them have more advanced cancer or have been ravaged by their wars to a degree I’ve yet to experience.  They hail from all over this country – Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Montana, Colorado, California, Washington.  Some of them I’ve met in person through my myriad of activities with the colorectal cancer community in the last few months – additional details about those activities will be forthcoming in a future post – but many of them I’ve only come to know through their postings and pictures on Facebook and messages to me through this blog.  I know nothing about them really – not where they went to college or how many siblings they have, what they do for a living or any of those other facts that are typical indicia of budding friendships – and yet I know personal details about their medical condition (like whether they froze their eggs or sperm before treatment started and whether they poop into bags because their colons were removed).  Most importantly of all, I understand in a way that no one outside this community can their heartbreaking sorrows, their hesitant hopes and their joys that are forever changed by this disease, and they understand mine.  I’ve never known friendships like these, born not of a common alma mater or job or hometown (i.e., being at the same place at the same time), but of a common fear of the same life-threatening disease and all that comes with living with that disease.  And so, I lay awake at night wondering in this season that’s supposed to be about brilliant light in the midst of wintry darkness and the miracle of Jesus’s birth and the childlike magic of Santa Claus, whether I and others of my new friends will be the beneficiaries of light and miracles and magic.  I know they wonder as I do.

The holidays, these days and weeks filled with music, food, parties, movies, vibrant colors, family, friends, love and the wonderful optimism that comes with a new year – seemingly nearly everything that is good that makes life worth living – are hard for those of us confronting death (although admittedly some of us are much closer than others).  Some of my new friends are rejoicing at the news of continued remission, but it seems to me more are dealing with hospitalizations for cancer-related complications, increased CEA numbers, recurrences in the liver and lungs, new spots on PET scans and MRIs and chemo for life.  I find myself lying awake, wanting to write something for my new friends now and in posts to come, something honest and inspiring, something that will hopefully make them (and me) feel better in this and other difficult times.   More

Parenting with Cancer, Another Battle

Cancer is an insidious enemy.  It can lurk in the body, undetectable by scans and the human eye.  It wages its vicious attacks not just in the battlefield of the physical body, but also in the more subtle psychological realm, assaulting the mind, spirit and soul.  It’s the psychological warfare that is the toughest for me, especially when the attacks affect my abilities and perceptions of myself as a parent.  Of all the things I am – wife, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend – my role as a mother is what defines me the most these days and demands the most of me.  Cancer often times makes me feel like a terrible mother (and I don’t think I was some superstar mother before I had cancer), seeking to destroy my sense of self and achievement in this regard.  More