Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stand Up 2 Cancer

I was traveling this week for work. I spent the week in Los Angeles. On Thursday a request came to my inbox for pet partner teams to visit the Riverside Clinic Cancer Center here in Minneapolis and spend time with cancer patients undergoing chemo treatment. I've been wanting for my dog Ahnung (a therapy dog) and I to do just that! If you set the intention out there it's amazing what happens. My dog and I were "called" to volunteer in hospice. Now something has been "calling" me to volunteer with cancer patients.

Then on my last night in Los Angeles as I kept hearing about the Stand Up 2 Cancer campaign I was gently nudged to check on the lump in my left breast. It's been a little over 3 weeks now since my MRI guided biopsy where I developed a hematoma that prevented the surgeon at Mayo to check on the lump in my breast. I was told it will be about 3 weeks for the swelling to go down after which I need to check on the lump and see if it has changed or grown. Thursday night I checked -- the swelling from the blood clot had gone done but much to my dismay the lump has grown. It almost feels like it's starting to have a life of it's own. I know I need to call my surgeon up and to let her know. I know that this probably means another surgery. I know this means more waiting. I had two surgeries in 2009 to remove two lumps. So called "blessings",  or as my doctors have said, I am lucky that lumps have formed around these atypical cells. I believe it's God telling me, "Pay Attention" ... "Notice" ... "Listen."

How do I practice staying in the moment when my mind wants to shoot forward, to race again and play out all the various scenarios? How do I find peace in the midst of the unknown? How do I not let fear consume me?

This coming Wednesday I also meet with my GI doctor. It's my 6 month follow-up to check on the status of my pancreas. The good thing is that i've been feeling great physically. The enzymes I've been taking have done wonders. No more weight loss, no more fatigue. Heck, I'm training for a half marathon! Will the comprehensive blood panel that he will request come back showing that everything is good? Two things my doctor has mentioned and why he wants to monitor me closely: diabetes and pancreatic cancer. He seems more concerned of the possibility of it leading to diabetes but did share with me that a possible cause, albeit less common cause, of pancreatic insufficiency is pancreatic cancer.

Next week ... actually 9/14 it will be exactly one year since my body started screaming loudly to me that there was a problem. I had just arrived in New York City for work and checked into my hotel. That evening I discovered my body no longer knew how to digest fats. It was the beginning of symptoms I could no longer ignore or disregard. Interestingly, 9/14 is also my father's birthday. My GI doctor struggled to find the cause of my symptoms. I had lost 35 pounds in a year and was experience debilitating fatigue. He called me an enigma ... then on January 3, 2010 my father appeared in my dream for the first time ever. In that dream he told me 3 things of which I only remember two of them: 1) that there was some bacteria that was growing and spreading through my body, and 2) that I had pancreatic cancer. I wasn't afraid in my dream. I remember feeling joy because my father had come to visit me. In late February, after a bunch more tests and procedures, my doctor finally diagnosed me with pancreatic insufficiency with unknown etiology. A portion of my pancreas had shut down and stopped producing the essential enzyme, lipase, which digests fats. It was worrisome and puzzling to him that they couldn't figure out why. He prescribed a pancreatic enzyme and it wasn't long before the fatigue started to lift, the weight loss stopped and my body could once again digest fats. From my perspective, I was simply grateful. I continue to be grateful that I no longer have debilitating fatigue. I am grateful that I am feeling healthy.

Cancer continues to afflict so many of us and so many of our loved ones. I am grateful for the Stand Up 2 Cancer campaign to create awareness and to generate funding for collaborative cancer research.

Today I dedicate my prayers to everyone who has been touched by cancer, which is probably all of us. May we find peace, strength and courage in whatever path our life's journey takes us.

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