Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Music is In You

"After running all my life, one foot in front of the other -- mechanical, rhythmic, i stop. I've ben responding to a conductor, frantically orchestrating Beethoven's symphony where crescendo bars lead to more crescendo bars. The black notes that fill the music sheets are like tasks in my life. Hitting all the notes at one time, creating a dissonant chord. The conductor turns the page.

Ahh ... the second movement. Adagio. But first a pause. In that moment, I stand amidst old majestic trees. The redwood forest. It's dawn. I am at the center. Around me are paths? Which path do I take? Where will it lead me? What if I take the wrong path? Will it lead me back to this moment? I hear a voice "you can never have this moment again." You have strings of moments. Moments are like individual notes in a chord, like one string on a guitar or a cello, connected to other moments but unique on its own. Together music is created. But that chord, that music is unique to the creator of the chord, and to everyone who hears it. Vibrations of the sound, reflect and deflect with your vibrations, your energy. You absorb what you are ready to absorb. The rest you deflect into the universe. It is always out there, in a different form, and comes back you, in a new moment. Each path before you, are pebbles of moments. Each pebble, each twig is a message.

Listen with your heart. See with your heart. Life's journey is not about that leads you from point A to point B. Life is not a straight path. Our journey are concentric circles. We repeat the outer rings as often as we need to, until we experience it with seeing, with knowing, with being. Each of these paths before you connect with each other. They extend outward and come together in concentric circles, like a labyrinth.

The beauty of the forest isn't out there. The beauty of the forest is within you.
The conductor isn't out there. The conductor is within you.
The music isn't out there. The music is in you.

Each moment is music. You are the creator, and you are the listener

- Marilou Chanrasmi (Journal Entry, 1/17/2006)

Four years later as I reflect back on my journal entry from 2006, I would add:

Listen with your heart. See with your heart.
Listen with your body. Be with your body.
Listen with your spirit. Soar with your spirit.

The music truly is inside each and every one of us.

[Photo image from Flickr]

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Are you listening?

I was going through old journals this morning, trying to make sense of a recurring dream ... in the process, I stumbled across something I wrote in March, 2006. With my last entry being on "Listen to the Whispers", I thought I would share what I wrote.

Are you Listening?

When the voice of God whispers to you,
are you listening?
Or are you waiting for Moses to lead you across the Red Sea?

God whispers to you, every day.
In the kind stranger who gives up his seat,
in the sore throat that whispers "slow down",
in Douja, the abandoned pitbull tied to a tree in St. Paul, left to freeze.

The question, dear friend, is ... are you listening?
Or is the music from your ipod blaring so loud
and your cell phone ringing to fill the quiet spaces
that God's whispers are drowned out --
background noise.
Noise to filter out. To keep at a safe distance.

What happens if you listen?

The whispers will call out to your from everywhere.
They will lift your spirits,
but they can also pierce your soul.
Whispers ignored will turn to cries,
and cries to pleas of desperation.

"Stop the bleeding!"

Fill your heart with the whispers
and help stop the bleeding;
help stop our oceans from turning crimson red.

There is no need to wait.
We are all Moses.
The gift of miracles is within us all. We can all part the Red Sea.
God is in us.

Hear the cries of the innocent.
And let the fire that burns inside of you ...
... be the voice of the whispers.

- Marilou Chanrasmi (3/27/2006)

I had a dream about God last night. This dream spans across years (and is the reason I found myself reading through old journals this morning). In my dream I was aching for God to appear in my dreams again. And a woman says to me, "He is always in your heart. He is always with you."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Listen to the Whispers

This morning I stumbled upon a blog that led me to a campaign that the Ovarian Cancer Canada started, "Listen to the Whispers." A reminder to me to continue listening to my body. I don't how many stories I hear of people who have just not "felt right" and doctors either misdiagnose or don't act quickly enough. Cancer can have very vague symptoms ... many often dismissed by individuals themselves or healthcare practitioners.

I believe the Listen to the Whispers can apply to so many aspects of our lives. All around us, and within us, there are whispers.

I guess the question is ... are we going to listen?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Remembering Elaine

In April, 2009 we lost our dear friend Elaine to breast cancer. Elaine was one of the most gentle, loving, forgiving spirits I have ever known. She was also a very gifted artist and writer. Yesterday her partner posted on facebook one of Elaine's paintings along with one her writings. I have been feeling Elaine's presence more lately. We often hear people talk about losing the battle to cancer. I think of Elaine and I never think of her considering cancer the enemy or even a battle. She continued to embrace life and love life to the very end with absolutely no bitterness or anger towards a disease that took over her body. While at church a couple weeks ago I felt Elaine's presence so strongly. Last night she appeared in my dream again. She was wearing a beautiful white dress and had her radiating, glowing smile. Thank you Elaine for visiting me again in my dreams.

She blessed and touched all who were lucky enough to know her. We may not have her physical presence with us anymore, but I believe with all my heart that she is an angel hovering over us and around us and continuing to radiate love. You are loved and missed by so many and you will always remain a part of my heart. As I struggle with my own health issues right now, what comforts me is knowing that you are here with me, gently reminding me that in the end, no matter what happens, it will all be okay. I love you Elaine. Thank you for blessing me with the gift of your friendship. And thank you Susan for sharing this with us. You too are in my heart.

"I have this day to live and move and feel my being immersed
in love. We each have only this day and can bring our awareness to the love
that is visible in the smallest things, to the quiet presence that is
benevolently holding me and you."

-- Elaine Marie Johnson, 3/16/2009

We lost Elaine on Friday, April 17th, 2009.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

If our bodies could talk ...

There was a time when I never got sick ... never even got a cold. Then in the fall of 2005 I got hit with a horrible cold - one that knocked me out for a while. I continued to keep "running on the treadmill". I continued to keep trying to do so much. Meanwhile, my body has been trying to talk to me. It's hard to slow down. I know that. In the end though, I know that if we don't listen to our bodies, our bodies will slow us down ... whether we want to or not. I wrote the following in my journal back in November of 2005.

If our bodies could talk, they would say...

I will let you run me down
I will let you ignore me, for some time
I will let you suffocate me, clog me, even try to kill me off
all the while, i will compensate for your choices
i will counter your actions
working inside of you to find balance
to protect you
to build your strength
i will let you skate on the ice surface
for as long as i can
shielding you from the damage you inflict on me
hour after hour, day after day
i will send you warnings.

But you don’t listen
you insist on following a path you have set
you insist on ignoring the warnings along the way
you fixate on tasks, on “to dos”
i am sorry dear friend
if you keep going on and on,
faster and faster on this track
ignoring signs
if i don’t stop you
you will crash
and the kindest warning i know to give you
that will slow you down, is a cold.

Please listen, maybe next time, i won’t be able to be so kind.

Marilou Chanrasmi - November 8, 2005

Dear body, I am sorry for not slowing down sooner and for not listening sooner. I thank you for all you have done and for blessing me and taking care of me for all these years.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Health update ....

Today was quite the health day ... for me and for my sweet girl Ahnung. Ahnung had her biopsy done to remove a couple of the lumps on her ear. She did awesome and the staff of course just fell in love with her :) The waiting begins for the pathology report. They promised to call me as soon as it comes in ... i pray it's not cancer. If it's an autoimmune disease, i'm hopeful that we can at least deal with that .... either way, I will be right by her side no matter what!

Today I also saw my gastroenterologist. I'm super grateful my partner came with me as she asked a lot of questions. Due to my most recent symptom of itchy skin (aka pruitus) my doctor seemed concern and all of a sudden a bunch of lab tests were being ordered. With my father dying from liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver, even though he never drank) he mentioned the possibility of primary biliary cirrohisis, which is an autoimmune disorder where the bile ducts in one's liver are eventually destroyed leading to cirrhosis of the liver. Apparently I have a lot of the symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) - fatigue, weight loss, steatorrhea (inability to digest fat), and now itchy skin. There apparently is no cure for PBC and it apparently leads to cirrhosis of the liver and end stage liver failure, however, liver transplants have been known to be successful which is a hopeful thing. My partner has already told me that if she is a match she will give me a part of her liver. So today I gave 5 vials of blood for a bunch of lab tests to check for PBC as well as my liver functioning. He also believes there's something going on with my pancreas as my body is not producing the necessary digestive enzymes to digest fats. I've started on pancreatic enzymes and he has also put an order in for me to have an endoscopic ultrasound where they will be able to take a close look at my pancreas, gall bladder, liver and ducts. With this procedure he said they will be able to see if there are any small tumors (i guess to rule out cancer, hopefully!) or any problems with my ducts. He said it won't answer the question of my pancreas not producing sufficient enzymes, however, if my symptoms subside with the enzymes I am now taking then it will indicate that there is obviously a problem with my pancreas! For the endoscopic ultrasound he said I will have conscious sedation and an anesthesiologist will be present ... he said it will be more involved than the endoscopy i've had before and it will take longer as they will be going much deeper. What I want to know is if i'll get another pair of those cute Bear Paws socks like I did during my last lumpectomy!

I continue to feel Papa's presence with me. I especially felt it today when the words "primary biliary cirrhosis" came out of my doctor's mouth. I certainly appear to have many of the symptoms. Who knows if that's what i have ... the itchy skin in conjunction with my other symptoms is concern that bile salts are in my blood stream. Yes ... my body is trying to tell me something. Yes ... Ahnung's body is trying to tell us something. And YES, I believe Papa is trying to communicate with me.

For now .... I will try to remain present and to not worry, about my own health or about Ahnung's. I am doing everything I possibly can ... that's all I can do. The rest ... and the journey I need to take ... I believe isn't up to me. Faith. I trust the journey ahead is the journey I am meant to be on, whatever that may be.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ahnung - my north star

There's a heaviness in my heart ... hard as I try to not worry about my sweet girl Ahnung, I find myself filled with worry. The other day I took her to a specialist to check on the bumps on her ears. It seems like we have both been stumping our doctors with our health issues. I've been hearing the word "cancer" a lot more recently in dealing with my own issues. As I stood at the specialist's office my eyes glazed over, and I think I disappeared, as I heard the words "cancer" again.... "we need to biopsy her lumps so we can get a definitive diagnosis. It could be an auto-immune disorder or cancer." She continued to explain a lot more, but to be honest, all I could see was Ahnung, and my heart just filled with pain and a heaviness. I flashed back to the moment I was told Shen had spleen cancer, then 9 months later, when I was told Shadow had intestinal cancer. In one day Shen was taken from us. In a couple weeks Shadow was taken from us. All I could think was "Please, please don't take Ahnung from me. Not now. I need her. The kids at The Lab need her."

Ahnung means "star" in ojibway. I named her Ahnung so she would always carry with her, with pride, her roots. Maybe because I will always carry with me my roots of being Thai ... the first part of my last name "Chan" meaning "moon" in Thai. My entire last name meaning moon rays. At times of darkness, I imagine myself as the moon and Ahnung, my north star, lighting up the skies and wrapping me in her light until the sun rises again.

Tomorrow I take her in for her biopsy. It will be 7 - 10 days before I will know what is going on with her. Tomorrow I also have my appointment with my gastroenterologist to discuss next steps with my own health issues. Ahnung and I are walking parallel paths. We are connected. I know that. I feel that. I feel my Papa alongside of us. I must trust that the journey we are on is the journey we are meant to be on ... whatever that may be.

Our loved ones -those still with us and those who have left us - those two-legged and four-legged - are always with us ... all the time.

All the Time
by William Stafford

Evenings, after others go inside,
my glance quietly ascends through leaves,
through branches. The night wind sighs once
and bends over. Far beyond my glimpse of sky
those friends now gone begin their chorus.

There's a reason for whatever comes,
their song says. Released into light one star
appears, another, and those patterns affirm
where they have been waiting dissolved in blue
but holding their place inside of time.

Every evening this happens, an arch and promise
renewed. Nobody has to notice: a breath
crosses the lawn, or outside the window
a spirit roams, as mysterious as any wanderer
ever was. And it is only the night wind

Photo of night sky borrowed from Flickr.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I've been reflecting on signs and messages that are appearing to me. The practical/logical side of me wants to dismiss them. The intuitive side of me says "LISTEN". A little over a year ago, out of the blue when my health was at its prime (or so I thought), I had a dream that I had cancer in my left breast. It was a clear, vivid and very real dream. Bizarre, i thought. "Why am i dreaming about having cancer in my left breast?" Yet it was so real I mentioned it to my partner while she was making breakfast the next morning. It prompted me to then do a self-exam (which I admit, am horrible about doing!) where I was discovered a lump. Turns out it was a fatty lump which led to the discovery of another area that was of concern to my doctor ... despite being told by my doctor to come back in 6 weeks if the 'area of concern' grew or changed, I let my crazy schedule and the practical side brush off signs being given to me. Unfortunately it was six months later when my dear friend Elaine died from breast cancer that that was my wake up call. Last year I had two lumpectomies to remove lumps in my left breast. The first pathology report indicates one site of atypical ductal hyperplasia. The second pathology report after the removal of the second lump indicates two sites of atypical ductal hyperplasia and borderline DCIS. I'm blessed to have remove these atypical cells at an early stage and before they have crossed over the scary line to cancer... at least as far as breast cancer is concerned. Was my dream of having cancer a premonition ... a sign to me to pay attention, to tell me what could be if I don't listen to my body?

And now I struggle with gastrointestinal problems. Weight loss for about a year. Again, i've been brushing it off as stress. "It's nothing to worry about" i tell myself. Interestingly, the night of what would've been my father's 80th birthday, 9/14/2009, while on a business trip in New York, my body developed a symptom I could simply not ignore. My body clearly was not digesting fat anymore. It continued for weeks but I kept saying "I must've eaten something that doesn't sit right with me." Symptoms continued with relief maybe for one week out of the month. And in that week I would say "I must be okay" only to discover the symptoms return, and often with a vengeance. I'm now going on 4 months of my body not digesting fats. I continue to lose weight, gradual as it may be. I now have stomach pain 3-4 times a week instead of once a week. I now experience nausea and in the past couple weeks a new symptom has cropped up, feeling itchy throughout my body. I learned yesterday when visiting a naturopath that itchyness can be a sign that bile salts are in my bloodstream ... something is going on with my gall bladder or pancreas.

Another interesting "coincidence" occurred in the early morning of Ahnung's birthday (1/3/10). I consider January 3rd her birthday as I officially adopted her on 1/3/2009. Ahnung is a bridge to my father. On her birthday I had a dream that was so real, and in that dream, a voice was telling me I had pancreatic cancer. There were 3 areas of concern. I don't remember the first point made but the second area there was a small tumor but it was an aggressive form of cancer. The third area had something to do with the spread of cancer to other areas. And in my dream I could feel (not see) the presence of my father. I have never dreamnt about my father/Papa [I share more about Papa in a previous blog - I lost him to liver disease when I was 4; his symptoms being the symptoms I am having now]. I have thought about him a lot in my waking state and I have missed him and always feel him in my heart. Yet in my 45 years I have never had a dream about him until 1/3/2010 where his presence came along with the voice that said "you have pancreatic cancer." Then 2 days later while I was sitting in a training class in North Carolina for work, another message from Papa comes. About seven years ago my mom gave me the necklace she was wearing: a gold necklace with a diamond heart. "Your Papa gave that to me when we were dating" she tells me. I wear that necklace every day without fail. While sitting in an auditorium in NC something tells me to look down. I look down on my lap and the heart is laying upside down on my left thigh. I panic, did the chain break? How did it get lose? I feel around my neck for the chain as it's resting comfortably on my neck. Nothing is broken. The heart could not come lose without pressure being applied to the hook on my chain. How did the heart come lose? And how did the heart just happen to land on my lap? I immediately flash back to words my mom has shared with me over and over about that Friday afternoon, 12/20/1968, when my Papa died: "your Papa was holding a rosary in his left hand. The cross fell to the floor. I knew that God was taking your Papa. The chain of life had been broken." My heart races as I see the heart on my lap and I immediately clasp it in my hands. "Papa, what are you trying to tell me? Is it about me? Is it about Mama?"

One thing I know for sure is that Papa is trying to tell me something. Part of me wants to ignore all these symptoms: losing weight, fatigue, nausea, itchy skin, abdominal pain, inability to digest fat ... most of the symptoms/pain is tolerable. I hear Papa in me when I say "I feel fine." I hear Mama telling me, "don't make the same mistake I did with your Papa. I should've made him go to the doctor sooner. I shouldn't have waited till he turned yellow." And i hear the gut-wrenching pain and regret in her voice as shivering words come out of her mouth, "if I had made him go to the doctor sooner maybe he would still be here."

I need to remember to trust my gut and to listen to messages and signs. I believe Papa is always with me. Right now though I think he is sending me stronger signals ... maybe because I vacillate between accepting and resisting the many signs? I believe he's giving me a chance to catch what's going on in my pancreas early.

Thank you Papa for visiting me in my dreams and for sending me signs. I pray that you will continue to visit me and guide me. Truth is, I will always be your "baby" and your little girl, and I will always need you. I love you Papa.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Instructional Poem: How to Pray

I have been praying a lot lately. These past few days I have struggled more with abdominal pain and even nausea. My therapist said to me that my pancreas is like a flickering light. I have days where I am symptomless, then I go weeks where the symptoms are there. These past 4 days the light has been flickering more ... on a couple days I feel like the light even went out as I prayed, hunched over, in the early mornings with pain. After my partner and I left church yesterday morning and had a discussion on religion and faith and God and being or not being Catholic ... she reminded me of the most beautiful poem she wrote a couple years ago .... I feel moved to share her poem with you this morning:

Instructional Poem:
How to Pray

Ask yourself if you believe, in fact,
that some benevolent force exists in this universe.

If so, you are best to give it a name,
Howard, Energy, Dog, or even


Believe it is ok to show up before this energy,
this God you have turned away from in anger or shame,
for so long.

Accept your renewed request for comfort, connection
even though it somehow feels wrong to ask now, mostly because of a desperate longing and Cancer.

Accept that you are deserving of this relationship anyway,
and have been all along.

Howard is smiling.
Dog is wagging its tail and
God has been holding the door open for you since before you were born.

Call out, even in a whisper, to this God in moments of worry at 3 a.m. He’s awake too. Tell the story of your day, your longing, your worries about next year, and work and cancer and friendships and failure. He’s heard it all and it won’t be too much or ridiculous or too often, or too anything, really.

Trust that you can have a relationship with this God, without chasing, without shame, without apology.

Say hello at Noon when you notice the prayer stone on your desk, a reminder that now is a good time for gratitude and lunch and prayers of thanks for comfort and sustenance, to

your God.

- Mary T (2008)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Remember to Listen

As the New Year begins, I ask myself to set, and renew, my intentions for this beautiful life I have been blessed with. I ask myself to remember to listen to my gut and to follow my heart. I ask myself to be okay with stepping "into the emptiness of question and answer and question." I have previously posted this Rumi poem, but on the first day of 2010 I am moved to share it again. I don't know if it will speak to you ... if not, that's okay. If it does, my wish for you is that you whatever journey you embark on, that you feel your spirit soaring .... in 2010 my wish for all of us, is that we are able to slow down enough to listen, to truly listen to the Voice that is always speaking to us.

A Voice Through the Door
by Rumi

Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of

water hear the waves, or a hunting
falcon hears the drum's come back.

This turning toward what you deeply
love saves you. Children fill their

shirts with rocks and carry them
around. We're not children anymore.

Read the book of your life which has
been given you. A voice comes to

your soul saying, Lift your foot;
cross over; move into the emptiness

of question and answer and question.

Door image borrowed from Flickr.