Saturday, July 24, 2010

Honoring wild, free dolphins ...

Later this morning we leave for our trip to Bimini, Bahamas to join a group through Wild Quest and an opportunity to swim with wild, free dolphins. It has been a dream of mine to swim with the dolphins. I've been on volunteer Earthwatch expeditions working side by side with marine biologists to study and capture data on the dolphins of Sarasota, Florida ... then a few years later the dolphins of Spain. Something about being in the presence of these beautiful creatures lifted my heart, spirit and soul. Then when I would see these dolphins in aquariums, zoos or amusement parks I remember how it would break my heart. I remember sitting outside the tank of a dolphin at the Minnesota zoo shortly after I had moved here and watching this dolphin swim around and around in circles. I looked into the dolphins eyes and I felt like my heart was being ripped into pieces. Humans have exploited the use of dolphins in amusement parks. For those have not seen the movie The Cove ... it's difficult to watch but is an incredible documentary of the slaughter of dolphins that has been happening annually in a remote cove in Japan ... the result of demand for dolphins to be used in amusement parks around the world.

Almost a decade ago I stayed at a Hilton Waikaloa resort on the Big Island in Hawaii where one of the resort activities was the Dolphin Quest. The resort was gorgeous and I loved it but what I remember was walking around the resort every morning, passing these dolphins, and feeling this intensely deep sadness and heaviness in my heart. Maybe it's because I have followed and been around wild free dolphins on my Earthwatch expeditions; maybe it's because I have spent time with marine biologists and have learned to respect and honor the wild nature of these beings; or maybe, just maybe, there is no reason other than they touch my soul in a way I simply can't put words to.

So on this trip that my partner and I are getting ready to embark on this week we will have the opportunity to be in the presence of wild, free dolphins IF, and only IF they choose to be in our presence. The beauty of this experience is that the dolphins are in charge. We are told not to touch them. If they choose to touch us it is up to them. Dolphins are very tactile with each other and their 'touch field' includes their sonar. I will feel blessed if they simply choose to be in my presence.

I close with a poem by Carol Ann Duffy ... for an analysis and more on this poem visit this site. I ask you to please consider not visiting or supporting amusement parks with dolphin shows. There was a time when I enjoyed dolphin shows ... then something happened to completely alter my perspective.

The Dolphins
by Carol Ann Duffy

World is what you swim in, or dance, it is simple.
We are in our element but we are not free.
Outside this world you cannot breathe for long.
The other has my shape.  The other's movement
forms my thoughts.  And also mine.  There is a man
and there are hoops.  There is a constant flowing guilt.

We have found no truth in these waters,
no explanations tremble on our flesh.
We were blessed and now we are not blessed.
After travelling such space for days we began
to translate.  It was the same space.  It is
the same space always and above it is the man.

And now we are no longer blessed, for the world
will not deepen to dream in.  The other knows
and out of love reflects me for myself.
We see our silver skin flash by like memory
of somewhere else.  There is a coloured ball
we have to balance till the man has disappeared.

The moon has disappeared.  We circle well-worn grooves
of water on a single note.  Music of loss forever
from the other's heart which turns my own to stone.
There is a plastic toy.  There is no hope.  We sink
to the limits of this pool until the whistle blows.
There is a man and our mind knows we will die here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The dolphins call

Yesterday I spent the day meeting with doctors ... my surgeon and then driving down to Mayo Clinic to meet with Dr. Ghosh of the Breast Center. I was so grateful to have my partner with me for the entire day and to be by my side as we met with my doctors. I brought with me a CD containing all the actual images from previous MRIs, mammograms and ultrasounds. In addition I had copies of the pathology reports from my two surgical biopsies. The latest report showing that I was now borderline DCIS.

My first visit was with my surgeon. I just love and trust. She has always been thorough and taken whatever time is needed to answer questions I have .... for what was supposed to be a quick 6 month re-check she spent 45 minutes with us. In the end she felt like it was reasonable to follow the recommendation of the doctors who read my MRI and following ultrasound: to do a 6 month MRI follow-up. I shared with her a new lump I was feeling again in my left breast but wasn't sure anymore if it was a new lump or just scar tissue from my previous surgeries. She felt like it was more scar tissue. I was relieved.

Next stop Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. I was so impressed by my experience at Mayo. It was my first trip there. I met with Dr. Ghosh. As she walked into the room she looked directly into my eyes and extending her hand to introduce herself. I could feel warmth and compassion radiate from her. She spent a over an hour and a half with us! It was obvious she had reviewed the written reports and then she asked me to share my story and what has happened thus far ... she listened attentively, taking notes. A team of specialists was reviewing my MRI, mammogram and ultrasound. She also wanted the slides from my previous surgeries so that the Mayo pathologists could review them. I never imagined they could do that. She shared how critical it was for them to be able to take a look at them ... all the while never disregarding any of my current doctors and health care providers. She called and put a rush for my slides to be delivered from Fairview Ridges to Mayo Clinic. Her pathologists will either confirm my previous diagnoses of atypia/borderline DCIS or they will indicate DCIS. She went over all the various options for "screening" and "risk reduction"if it remained atypia (which she said I am doing all the right things!). She said close surveillance was a very reasonable choice with atypia. If however the pathologists come back and say it is DCIS/early stage cancer then she said she would not be comfortable with surveillance and that we need to be more proactive ... she went into what some of that might entail of which meeting with a team at Mayo that includes a surgeon and oncologist would be a first step. Dr. Ghosh did notice the "lump" I had been feeling and said that it was of some concern to her. But she's got a plan for that too!!

I asked her if I continue close surveillance is breast cancer slow growing. She said it depends on the type of breast cancer. I guess I wanted to know if I could jump from atypia to invasive cancer and skip DCIS. I guess the answer is yes although most go through DCIS. She stressed the importance of the Mayo pathologists re-reading my slides.

So for right now we wait for her to call. She assured us it wouldn't be long and she would call me immediately. Of course, we told her we are leaving on Saturday morning for the Bahamas and won't be reachable for 8 days!! My partner and I are heading to Bimini, Bahamas to go swim with the dolphins .... wild, free dolphins!! We are going through WildQuest. It's been my dream to swim with dolphins ... and with all my health issues this past year with my breast and my pancreas I decided it was time to PLAY!! So on Saturday we leave St. Paul and along with leaving St. Paul I will leave all connection to electronic devices and the internet .... when I think about this trip and I think about being in the ocean with the dolphins and spending time with Mary ... it's like I was given the biggest dose of some magical medicine! I probably won't know get the call from Dr. Ghosh before I leave, at least regarding the re-reading of my slides and what the Mayo pathologists say ... she told me she will call immediately but to go enjoy my time in the Bahamas with the dolphins.

The dolphins are calling us and we are going!! Bimini here we come!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

10 year death anniversary of my first dog, Splat ...

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of when I lost my very first dog, a black cocker spaniel named Splat!! I got her when she was six weeks old - the runt of the litter, in September of 1988. It's because of this tiny little helpless creature who came into my life, that she was the push I needed to stop drinking, and the reason I am now sober and where I am ... October 1, 1988 is the day I made a commitment to Splat and to myself that I would get sober and turn my life around.

Interestingly, Splat (whom I named after a racquetball shot as I playing a lot of racquetball at the time) appeared in my dreams a couple summers ago .. in fact, it was a nightmare, but it was her way to tell me I was getting ready to begin a journey of some major healing ... and she was right. For a writing class i'm taking at The Loft I chose to write about the healing and transformation I have gone through in dealing with past sexual abuse. My piece opens with the dream I had where Splat appears in July, 2008. The piece ends with a dream I recently had (July, 2010) where my dog Ahnung appears and she takes my flying!! It was my dog Splat, who's been dead for 10 years, who opened up a door I've sealed shut for decades - the secret of abuse - and it's now my dog Ahnung who is helping me move through it .... I think God knows that the angels I need come in the form of furry four-legged beings :)

Losing Splat so suddenly on July 20, 2000 (only months after I had just moved to Minnesota) was a huge shock and loss, and one I wasn't prepared for ... I wrote and I wrote and I cried to move through the grief. A few weeks after she had died I wrote the following .... I still think of you sweet princess and I still miss you.

In memory of Splat, my little princess
July 31, 1988 - July 20, 2000

It seems like yesterday when you found your way into my lap,
the runt of a litter, 6 weeks and less than a pound,
I knew right then you were my angel.

You were there, everyday, with me through happy moments,
and my darkest moments.
You lifted me up with your gentle presence,
as you gently licked my tears away.

You gave me twelve short, precious years.
You taught me to live, to love, to forgive and to see beauty again.
Every day I had you, sweet princess,
I thanked God for YOU.

I would do anything in the world,
to hold you in my arms again,
to feel your soft fur and to hear that high pitched bark,
to hear the scurrying of your paws to get to that first carrot,
to watch that little stub of a tail wag so hard when I came home,
to watch you sleep on the passenger's seat when we ran errands,
or keep me company on our many trips from Kalamazoo to St. Louis,
to catch you on top of grandma's dining room table with your nose in her mocha cake,
to watch you run and explore icy Lake Michigan,
and to watch you swim towards me in the Gulf of Mexico,
and see the thrill on your face as you stick you head in sand.
To see you sleep so soundly on your LL Bean bed,
and to curl up next to you and wake you gently,
or to watch you lay like a "frog dog"
or to lay on your back sprawled and so free.

If only I had known you'd be taken so suddenly from me,
but sweet princess, at least I know in my heart
that every day you were with me I showered you with all my love
and never went a day without telling you were my little princess.

Now, all I have of you are the sweetest memories of the years we shared.
Every night I carry your picture to bed with me and "tuck you" in bed
with the shirt I wore the painful night of July 20, 2000
when we came home to find your lifeless body under the tree in our backyard.
I don't know what happened that night - 
sometimes I want to know, sometimes I don't.
All I know is that I pray that God and St. Francis sent their little angels down from heaven,
and that you saw bright colors and bowls of cappuccino chocolate chunk ice cream,
waiting for you at the gates of heaven.

Some day, sweet princess, we will meet again ...
and when it's my time to cross the bridge I'll be waiting for you
to lead me to all the beauty and happiness
(and the best bowl of cappuccino chocolate chunk ice cream!)
that we can share ... and spend eternity together.

Thank you for all you have taught me
and continue to teach me.
Thank you for loving me so unconditionally,
for your constant companionship and gentleness,
for your reminders to see beauty around me,
and for showing me that happiness comes not in what you have,
but in what you give those in need, and in loving and forgiving,
and being compassionate towards all living beings.

I miss you sweet princess...
my heart still aches for you.
Until I find more strength,
continue to stay by my side,
and help me pick up the fragments of my broken heart.

You will be in my heart and soul, forever.

I love you sweet princess.

Your "mom" on earth ...

August 6, 2000

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Cancer touches the lives of millions of people every year. It touched my life again in these past couple days as our family here in the States got word that my uncle passed away in the Philippines. By the time his cancer was discovered it had spread throughout his body.

On September 14, 2006 I heard the words come out of my vet's mouth as he palpated my dog Shen's abdomen area, "You need to take her to the Univ of Minnesota right away for an ultrasound. I think she may have cancer." Hours later, we got confirmation that Shen had tumors in her spleen - cancer. The next day I opted for surgery, only to find out after two blood tranfusions, that her cancer had spread throughout her body. She was dying and there was nothing I could do for her but to hold her in my arms and to let her go.

And nine months later, Shen's beloved brother Shadow, who was devastated after his sister died, also got cancer - intestinal cancer. They told us at the U that anything we did for Shadow would be palliative. I opted to enjoy the remaining weeks I had with him as best I could. And so we did. We had two beautiful weeks as I did everything I could to keep him comfortable. We slept huddled together on the couch downstairs as I whispered to him each night "I love you Shadow boy ... please just let me know when it's time to let you go." We had good days and not so good days. On good days he was out swimming in the lakes. On the not so good days I held him and covered him with all my love as he heaved and his body gradually started to shut down. Till early one morning on July 2, 2007 he burrowed himself in a hole he dug by a stone where the ashes of Shen had been sprinkled ... he looked at me and I knew it was time. I thanked him for the gift he gave to me of being able to say goodbye and the gift of creating precious memories I will also hold in my heart. Later that morning sweet Shadow joined Shen.

Then in April, 2009 my dear friend Elaine died from breast cancer 17 months after her initial diagnosis. I met Elaine in a writing class in the summer of 2006.  A beautiful woman, inside and out. She was an artist and a poet and a woman whose love, radiance and energy was contagious. It's rare to meet a person who lives and breathes love, pure love. Elaine was, and is, love. I was away on a business trip in San Diego the morning she passed away ... my heart still aches to this day that I wasn't able to say goodbye to her. She must know my heart aches because she has blessed me with the gift of visiting me in my dreams 3 times and letting me know she is okay, that we're okay, and that she knows I love her.

As I deal with my own health issues and the words of "you have breast cancer" looming over my own head ... I remember Elaine and how she walked her journey, with courage, grace, acceptance and a will to keep living and loving no matter what. On Wednesday I see my surgeon to review the results of the latest MRI scan showing a new growth. I am also driving down to the Mayo Clinic to meet with a doctor at the breast research center to get a second opinion.

And then on Saturday, my partner and I head off to the Bahamas to swim with wild, free dolphins!! A dream come true. Whatever I am told on Wednesday will come with me to the Bahamas and I will look to the dolphins to guide me ....

A Lesson
~ by Judy Roehm

[From the book The Cancer Poetry Project. Judy was inspired to write about her long time partner Becky after she addressed an American Cancer Society rally in Lansing, MI in May, 1993. Becky had been diagnosed with cancer the year before at the age of 40. She died in 1995. "Seeing how the experience of facing death transformed her, how she lived every day of her life, taught me a lot about courage", Roehm says. Two years later she lost her brother to pancreatic cancer and in 1998 she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer].

At a breast cancer rally she rises
above sixteen positive lymph nodes
to tell the world that cancer is a wakeup call
that resonates to the cell level.
It is a lesson taught to trembling hands
that squeeze from today a second cup of coffee
on a sunny deck with someone you love.
It is a slap that sends you flying from Michigan
to Cozumel because cancer teaches that snorkeling
coral reefs pays greater dividends than a savings account
and mowing summer grass can be postponed
for bike rides past wild flowers and country streams,
and vacuuming the carpet and washing the windows
are low priority items when a friend drops by to visit.
Cancer is not a gift but a lesson
full of seeing now and loving presently.

Cancer touches so many of our lives and in the process transforms us and those around us. I pray for the same courage, strength and grace that my dear friend Elaine had ... and for wise way that my beloved animals Shen and Shadow approached the end of their journey ... I love how animals don't fear death. They live in the present and they live every moment.

Namaste Elaine.
Namaste Shen.
Namaste Shadow.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Live Life ... Love Life ...

I am reminded daily of the fragile line we cross at the end of our life when we transform into a new level of existence. Yesterday my dog Ahnung and I went to visit our new patient/friend in hospice. She had taken a turn for the worse. She was in a deep sleep when we were there so we just hung out at her bedside and kept her company. Yesterday my mom's younger brother, Uncle Rey, also passed away from cancer.

Death is much harder for those who are left behind. I have learned that over my life time as I have struggled to come to terms with the death of my Papa when I was four, and the huge crater it left in my heart and in our family. I have experienced a lot of loss ... death of family members, relatives and in the past ten years the loss of three of my beloved dogs. Along with loss at an early age, came fear of abandonment and fear that it was not safe to love because I would only get hurt, again.

Yes, life ... living and dying ... is a double-edged sword. We don't know when it will be our time to cross the line ... what we do know is that we will. So this morning, I share with you a Hafiz poem that reminds me of the importance of loving.

With that Moon Language
~ Hafiz

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud; otherwise
someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us
to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon
in each eye that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Remembering Uncle Rey ...

Just hours ago word traveled to the United States ... my Uncle Rey had passed away in the middle of the night. My Uncle Rey is the younger brother of my mother. He is the reason we traveled half way across the world from Bangkok, Thailand to St. Louis, Missouri in 1968 when my Papa was dying ... he told my mom that if anyone could save my Papa from dying it would be the doctors at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.

When Papa died he and his wife, my auntie Lita, were there for my mom; they were there for our family. And when we migrated to the States from Thailand in the early 1980s we chose St. Louis, Missouri so that we could be close to our Uncle Rey, auntie Lita and our cousins Phillip and Philbert. They took us in and we became a family. I remember Sundays at Six Flags amusement park ... we even bought season passes so we could go all the time. We attended the outdoor concerts (Beach Boys, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, ....) and on the weekends we'd go water skiing in the Mississippi River. As my cousin Phillip was teaching me to ski one afternoon I remember struggling with the skis, attempting really hard to listen to his instructions, then losing focus as I saw a dead fish floating next to me ... I motioned "Go!" with my arms. I was ready before I was really ready, and I swallowed LOTS of dirty Mississippi River water to prove it! :)

Auntie Lita was like a second mom to me. She loved the rebellious out-of-control teenager who would run away to her place and seek refuge. I'd hang out with auntie Lita as she planted tulips - her favorite. We lost auntie Lita on April 5, 1983 in a car accident. She was waiting to pull out onto the River Road in Alton, Illinois as she was going to work early one morning when a drunk driver crashed into her stationary vehicle. She died instantly. Our entire family flew home to the Philippines for her funeral. In May, 1985 I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. My mom, sister and brother were there, of course, but so was Uncle Rey and my cousins Phillip and Philbert.

I will always remember the kind-hearted, generous nature and spirit of Uncle Rey. He always made me laugh. And he always laughed. I saw him last November I went back to the Philippines. He was telling me how he got bitten by a rat and ended up having to go to the doctor to get rabies shots ... all the while he is telling me he's smiling and his arms extended exuberantly, and somewhat flailing, as he tells his story and making sure I know which points need extra emphasis! He loves to tell stories.

My cousin Phillip was able to make it back to the Phillipines to see his dad. Within 24 hours of his arrival to the Philippines, Uncle Rey passed. My niece believes he was waiting for his kids. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer not long ago -- the cancer had spread throughout his body. I believe he knew his oldest son had arrived and it was okay to let go.

We will miss you Uncle Rey ... thank you for being a second dad to us when we first came to the States. Thank you for loving and giving so much of yourself to others ... and thank you for your stories, and for opening up your heart and your home to our family; and thank you for loving my mom and taking care of her after Papa died and even recently in the Philippines.

I just spoke to my mom ..... she misses you, Uncle Rey, and she said to me "He was the one that was always there for me.  My heart hurts so much." I told her, "Uncle Rey is now with Papa, and he is now with auntie Lita." She said ... "oh yes, he's now with your Papa."

Rest in peace Uncle Rey. You will remain in our hearts.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What is a voice?

Last night I finished a book by Anne Lamott, "Rosie." On one of my business trips to Missouri I heard her being interviewed on NPR as she was traveling the country to promote her latest book "Imperfect Birds."  Something about her resonated with me. I had never read any of her novels and decided to start with Rosie. What a great book! In many ways I relate to the character of Rosie ... she lost her father at the age of four, was sexually molested at the age of 9 and had a mother who was an alcoholic ... granted for me, I became the alcoholic. Since my father died I think i'm been trying to find my voice ... my place. As a kid I looked outside to try to find comfort. Comfort never came. So I escaped into my own little world. I continue to search for my voice -- the voice of the 4 year old; the voice of the child molested and asked to keep a secret; the voice of a teenager crying desperately for help; the voice of a young woman scared, all alone, wanting to end it all; the voice of a woman who eventually found strands of strength and courage in meditation, spirituality, writing, animals ... today, I continue to find my voice and to make meaning of my life and the world around me.

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." ~ Anne Lamott, from Traveling Mercies.

"When we find our voice, and when we hone in and when we sing it, it puts us in touch with our human spirit in a way that almost nothing else can." ~ Anne Lamott.

and as I find my voice, I find that I want my voice to stand for something and to make a difference, in my life and in the life of other beings ...

what is a voice
if it does not
raise against injustice?

what is a voice
if it does not
sing for change?

what is a voice
if it does not
speak for those who cannot?

what is a voice
if it refrains from
forming the hearts vision?

what is a voice
if it merely
mimic the machination of culture?

a stilled voice is a
dried reed,
lost toy,
torn page ...
a broken feather
floating down an
emptied canyon.

what is a voice
if it remains silent
against leagues of tyranny?

~ Mary Ann Radmacher

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I came home yesterday after spending the week in Pennsylvania teaching workshops at a private Catholic university. My work entails travel .... for the past 9 years I have traveled. For the past year it's been about 2-3 times a month. As much as I love my job, being on the road does take its toll on me, physically and emotionally. There have been days when I wake up in hotel rooms not knowing what state I'm in; there have been trips where I have gone outside to the parking lot not remembering the rental car I have and resorting to the panic button to find my way to my car. With all my travel, I try to ground myself in whatever way possible: I park in the same garage at the airport - Red, Level 6; I stay at Hilton brand hotels as much as possible; I keep my routine on the road as much as possible -- journaling, meditating and working out in the hotel fitness gyms. I am blessed with some perks of being a frequent traveler ... the chance to hang out in the airline lounge and frequent upgrades to first class and the chance to board the plane first before the mad rush comes through.

But nothing beats coming home. As I pulled up to the house and carried my bags up the steps I was greeted by an ecstatic partner and three happy dogs. Mister, of course, was exuberantly trying to knock me down in his excitement; Missy was running circles around me saying "pet me, pet me"; and Ahnung (aka nung-nung) ... well, my sweet girl who often never even moves from her perch at the top of the patio steps came trotting down with her tail wagging and waiting patiently behind Mister and Missy for them to clear the path. And my partner, who was on a phone call, had the biggest smile on her face. She bought a new bike while I was out of town. I went for a quick 25 minute run with Mister (to wear him out a little -- he was a perfect boy running by my side and not once did he attempt to trip me!) then when we got back, my partner and I went out for a bike ride to Minnehaha Park where we were able to grab some lunch.

For most of my adult life I've struggled with the feeling of "where is home" ... is it Thailand? the Philippines? Missouri (where I lived for almost 2 decades)? Minnesota? I had a wonderful day yesterday .... I was grateful that my energy level was up and I was able to run and bike. I realize this morning .... I don't have to wonder anymore about where is home ... I am home. I have a family ... my partner Mary, nung-nung, Missy, Mister and Henry. For now we live in St. Paul ... but if we ever decided to move ... my home is wherever my family is.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dance: Fighting cancer and touching eternity

I watch a lot of Ted videos as I find them both educational and inspiring. This morning I stumbled across a video on the renowned classical Indian dancer Ananda Shankar Jyant. On the home page of her website she says,

"Dance to me has always been the manifest expression of the unmanifest impression. Yes, dance is not some rerefied, exotic activity, far removed from the perceivable. It is that act, consciously performed, which is a manifestation of the inner self endeavoring to shatter through screens of 'illusion' to touch 'reality' ... dance has been, a reason to be; a reason to touch eternity... my language called dance, thus paints before you a canvas of life and beyond ... of our fallible self groping in the dark for that light ... for eternity ... "

On July 1, 2008 she was told she had breast cancer. She shares in this short video her personal story of how she faced this fearful diagnosis and how she dances through it. She says in her video:

"I have tuned out of cancer and tuned into my dance -
my story is the power of thought;
the power of choice;
of focus;
something like cancer becomes insignificant."

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Today ...  for whatever reason I feel compelled to honor our kitty, Henry. I write a lot about our dogs ... yes, one could say I tend to be more of a dog person, and that yes, my partner is more of a cat person. Truth is though that I really do love our cat :) ....   We have a very special cat in our home ... his name is Henry. We adopted him through Pet Haven as a kitten and he has grown into quite a handsome boy with a loud, loud scream!! When it's time to eat he makes sure that we know it's time to eat! A few years ago, we brought Mister (who was then a 4 month old springer/lab mix puppy with a bundle of energy) into our home. Henry was not a happy camper and hissed at Mister. We thought, "oh no, maybe this isn't going to work." But it didn't take long for Mister to learn to back off (it comes in handy that Henry has his claws!) ... it also didn't take long for Mister and Henry to become best friends. They snuggle up together and play hard ... today, after coming home from the Pet Haven dog adoption event I found Henry sprawled on the LL Bean dog bed ... he has decided it is his bed, or at least, he'll be sharing it with his canine siblings ... over the holiday weekend though, it's his bed and he doesn't care what Ahnung, Missy or Mister have to say about it!!

and here's one of Henry and Mister from a couple years ago ... don't worry, Henry has lost some weight since then, much to his dismay!! :)

and here's Henry with his canine siblings!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bridge of Life

I decided to re-post a blog entry I wrote last July 2, 2009 ... today is Shadow's 3 year anniversary. I still miss you sweet boy ... interestingly, as I re-read my blog post from a year ago I realized that I am returning to Fairview Southdale hospital ... this time for additional tests (an ultrasound and possibly biopsy) as last Friday I went through a breast MRI and unfortunately a tumor was found in the same area of my breast where two lumps have been removed in the past year .... the word cancer has resurfaced as I walk this path ... for today, though, I remember and honor our sweet boy Shadow .... we still miss you and hold you in our hearts.

July 2, 2009 Blog repost:

Today is the two year anniversary of when we lost our beloved Shadow to intestinal cancer. I share a video i created shortly after he died, celebrating his life, through Ahnung's blog. He was first diagnosed with intestinal cancer on June 18, 2007. We were told it was an aggressive cancer ... our decision was to make his last weeks as comfortable as possible. After two weeks of sleeping with him downstairs on the couch as his body fought desperately to ward off cancer cells that had ravaged his body.... I realize now, his fight to hang on a little longer was for my partner and myself; he was giving us time to accept that it would soon be time; he was giving me the time I so desperately needed because of how quickly Shen was taken from us just eight months prior, also to cancer. Early July 2, 2007 he made it clear to me by digging a hole in a bush in our backyard by the memorial stone that read "if tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, i'd walk right up to heaven and bring you home again." It was a stone I bought shortly after the passing of my first dog. Yesterday morning at 6:40 am, I pulled into the parking lot across from Fairview Southdale hospital for a 7 am appt for a breast MRI. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I became aware of how a five letter word "cancer" has moved to the forefront of my consciousness. I found myself thinking of Shadow, his upcoming 2 year anniversary -- how we lost him to intestinal cancer; how we lost Shen to spleen cancer; and how just last week I learned of a close family friend and my childhood bestfriend's younger sister dying from cancer; I also remembered my dear friend Elaine whom we lost to breast cancer on April 17th. Here I was in the waiting room, getting ready to take a test -- one of many more to come -- to see if any of the abnormal cells in my body had turned to cancer. A kind, gentle nurse came to get me from the waiting room. She explained every step of the procedure, from putting an IV in my vein so that they could push "contrast" into my body that would highlight abnormal cells in the images ... to the amount of time I would be spending in the "tube", the noise, the importance of laying still, the emergency button I could press if I couldn't stand it anymore and had to get out ... and all the while how she would be communicating with me the entire time. I am laying face down with ear plugs to drown out the loud noises The nurse Linda asks "are you ready?" as she gently touches my left arm ... connection and reassurance from that simple touch. I say "yes". She lets me know she's leaving the room. A minute later I feel myself shifting ... I can't see anything but all of a sudden feel the air tighten around me. I know I must be in the tube. There's less air around me and for a couple minutes I feel my heart rate rising and panic sets in, "I can't do this for 30-45 minutes! I have to get out!" At that moment, I realize I have a choice and I start talking to myself, "Breathe. Imagine yourself scuba diving in the open water with dolphins and turtles. Breathe." I reach out to my father and ask him to stay with me through this. He does. And in less than 5 minutes I have crossed a bridge where I have left panic and entered a state of calm ... and in the ensuing 40 minutes i experience all of the following: loud noise that sounds like gun shots and clicks, my body vibrating from the machine, waves piercing through my body, moments of eerie silence, and a cold sensation radiating through my veins as the "contrast" is pushed into my body through the IV in my left arm. Yet through it all, I am calm, and I am grateful for the calm. There are many bridges we will encounter through our life. Yesterday morning, I had a chance to cross the bridge of facing fear and panic and reaching deep within myself to find a place of peace. We are capable of so much more than we often think we are ... our minds are extremely powerful. We have the ability to create and build whatever web of life we want .... and some day, we will all cross the final bridge as Shadow did two years ago today, and Elaine did a little over two months ago. My wish, is that when that day comes for me, whenever that is, that I will cross the final bridge with the same level of grace, peace and acceptance. It may be the "final" bridge in a world we live in now ... deep down, though, I believe it is the bridge of eternity. Today I leave for the Philippines to pick my mom up and bring her back to the States. Soon I will be reconnecting with relatives back home and building a new bridge with my mom.

My wish for today:

May we embrace life and consider every "challenge" as an opportunity to build or cross a bridge. May we nurture our roots and plant seeds so that the web of our lives are far-reaching with tentacles touching the hearts and souls of all beings ... in all planes of existence. And may we bend, flex and embrace all that life offers us as we leap forward to reach beyond our comfort zones.