Saturday, October 30, 2010

Healing magic of dogs

I had the opportunity to volunteer yesterday with my therapy dog Ahnung at The Lab, an arts and wellness-based program of St. Paul Public Schools serving youth in special education in grades 7 - 12. We've been volunteering here for quite some time now. It's amazing to witness the healing and the transformation that takes place in the kids as Ahnung walks by ... her presence, her simple presence touches the souls of these kids. It's magical to witness.

I know for me I have personally experienced the magic and the healing of Ahnung's energy and way. We have 3 beautiful rescue dogs whom I love dearly ... but there is something truly special about Ahnung and her way to connect with youth, and in particular youth in special education. We all have a shadow side ... a wounded spirit. There is something about dogs that breaks down the protective layers around our hearts ... maybe it's their unconditional love, their ability to simply be in the present moment, and their ability to see not with their eyes but with their being ... no judgment, no expectations.

Yesterday I was reminded of the wounded spirit deep inside of me .... that shadow side I have tried to keep buried. How do we heal old childhood hurts, old wounds that are so deep with layers and layers of protection ... a wound with scabs so thick? I had the opportunity to volunteer with Ahnung yesterday to bring a smile and healing to youth .... I was then reminded of how much healing she gives to me and how she truly is my north star (her name Ahnung means star in ojibway). I was also reminded of how healing it is for me to volunteer alongside of Ahnung spending time with youth ...

Ahnung is an incredible spirit in the body of a dog ... who does amazing work as a therapy dog volunteering with youth, in hospice and she will also start visiting cancer patients undergoing chemo treatment. She shared more about her volunteer experience yesterday on her blog
There is something magical and healing about dogs. Ahnung shared the following Hafiz poem on one of her blog posts ... this morning I feel moved to share it on mine :)

I am So Glad
~ Hafiz

Start seeing everything as God,
But keep it a secret.
Become like a man who is Awestruck.
And Nourished.
Listening to a Golden Nightingale
Sing in a beautiful foreign language
While God invisibly nests
Upon its tongue.
Who can you tell in this world
That when a dog runs up to you
Wagging its ecstatic tail,
You lean down and whisper in its ear,
I am so glad You are happy to see me.

I am so glad,
So very glad You have come."

Thank you Ahnung for the gift you share with me and others in this world. Thank you for seeing beyond and for helping so many of us reach beyond our protective layers.

With my north star, Ahnung (aka nung-nung)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life flows on within you and without you!

I just got home tonight from a busy week of travel for work .... my colleague and I met in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday evening ... then visited college campuses in St. Louis, MO ... Columbia, MO ... Lawrence, KS ... Manhattan, KS and then finally Lincoln, NE. This morning while waiting to meet with a professor in the basement of the Statistics building at Kansas State University I was perusing their boards ... thrown in the middle of posters promoting Master's programs in Statistics, Mathematics and Operations Management was a poster on faded white paper with black ink, and words that spoke to me ... I thought it was someone's poem ... then as I kept reading I saw at the bottom, "George Harrison, 1967". Ah, a Beatle's song and these must be lyrics of one of his songs ... I search the internet later and learn they are the words to his song "Within You and Without You."

This one line really spoke to me ... Life flows on within you and without you! Wow! How true is that?? I was so moved by the lyrics of George Harrison's song, I simply had to share .... my job takes me to college campuses across the country. I spend a lot of time on the road but there is something energizing about college campuses to me ... there's something energizing about hanging out with students and also professors ... maybe I love universities because I leave there filled with even more questions. And this morning, what a pleasant surprise to stumble across the lyrics of George Harrison's song "Within and Without You" in a place where I would least expect it ....

Within You and Without You
~ George Harrison, 1967

We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late, when they pass away
We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew

Try to realise it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you

We were talking about the love that's gone so cold
And the people who gain the world and lose their soul
They don't know, they can't see, are you one of them?

When you've seen beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we're all one
And life flows on within you and without you

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grizzly the dolphin dog!!

Dogs and dolphins are two of God's amazing creatures who have the ability to touch the deepest part of my soul. So tonight when I stumbled upon the story of Grizzly, the dolphin dog, who recently passed away at the age of 18 ... I had to share it with you.

Grizzly's guardian shared the following and created the video below as a tribute to his beloved Grizzly:

January 31, 2010 — God gave me a companion, a little fluffy loving dog who I named Grizzly. One day Grizzly and I found a little baby Sea Lion sick and near death on the rocks. The local animal rehab place said they could not take her and to let her die ( they called it "mother nature"), so I took the dying Sea Lion home and nursed her back to health. My puppy dog Grizzly lived and loved the Sea Lion.

Once the Sea Lion got well we released her again into the wild, Grizzly thought for sure that HE must be a sea lion also. He lived his entire life loving Dolphins, Sea Lions, Whales and loving me.

This video is a tribute to the friend that God gave to me. Grizzly the dolphin dog. He loved dolphins and dolphins loved him. It is hard to explain. Science will explain away love. Love is never in the ingredient. They say we came from Apes and that the world is just a big accident. 

But Love is in Gods ingredient. Grizzly recently passed away at the age of 18, he swam with dolphins on his last day. I wait for that day when Grizzly will once again jump into my arms. I wait for that day when we will all be in the presence of a Loving God.

Rest in peace Grizzly. There is truly something magical about dolphins, just as there is something magical about dogs, and about you .... you blessed the world with you presence and your soul was without a doubt connected with the wild creatures of the ocean ....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Celebrating two years of knowing my north star, Ahnung

Ahnung lounging on the back
patio -- her favorite spot!
October, 2010 is a special month for us as I celebrate two years from when I first met my precious girl Ahnung up at Red Lake reservation shortly after she was rescued by Karen Good of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue .... her name was 'Mama' at that time as she had been abandoned with a litter of 8 puppies and left to fend for herself and her puppies in the bitter winter of northern Minnesota. She has no front teeth ... her teeth ground down to her gums in an effort to scrounge and find food in the dirt and rocks and earth. We later learn she also has heartworm and a pellet in one of her nipples from a gunshot.

I had not planned on adopting this sweet girl. In fact, with two big dogs in a city home in St. Paul the last thing my partner and I needed was a third big dog. But often the best things in life are the unplanned and the unexpected .... Ahnung (which means 'star' in ojibway) came into my life for a reason as we have helped each other both heal.

Ahnung when I first met her
October, 2008
In November, 2008 I return to Red Lake to bring Ahnung home to the cities and into Pet Haven's foster program. Our bond continues to grow and I realize that there is a spiritual connection so deep I simply cannot ignore it. Ahnung takes her first city outing in November, 2008 and on that outing I take her to the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis where I spend a fair amount of time taking classes and writing ... I share more about that excursion on a blog post. 

Since then she has been my angel ... we officially adopted her on January 3, 2009 and became a registered therapy dog through Delta Society in December, 2009. We volunteer now as a team working with at-risk youth, in hospice and will begin visiting cancer patients shortly. Ahnung maintains her own blog :) and has a facebook fan page ....

We received a beautiful gift and email yesterday when Ahnung received an email from one of her facebook fans. With permission, I am sharing with you a portion of the email:

Hello Ahnung –

I want to thank you for so many things.  I have been following you and your mother on Facebook for some time now and reading your blogs too.  You both bring so much joy into my life.  I am a pastor serving a Lutheran church in Minnesota and so often you bring me to the sacred and holiness of life.  This is a sweet thing because in the midst of my calling to bring those very things to those I share life with, I’m not always filled with them myself.  So, you guys are kinda my pastors. 
Ahnung - registered Delta Society
therapy dog!

What brought me to the point of writing today was your mother’s post on the Hunter’s Moon.  Her last paragraph is one of the most moving things I’ve ever read.  I like the poetry of Mary Oliver very much (and am heading to Barnes & Noble later today to pick up a newish book of hers) and it reminds me of her writing.  I’m also drawn to the mystical presence of the saints – a great cloud of witnesses – upon another shore and in a greater light – who have gone before us and I so often think of them in the night sky.  And I consider it my calling to find the holy, the sacred, the gift and the grace here on earth – in those we share life with.  Your Mom said this, sang this, so well.  Please thank her for me.

I came to you through a good, good friend of mine who went through the MSW program through St. Thomas and met you and heard you speak.  It may have been last fall.  She knew I would like you, so she took one of your business cards for me (which is proudly displayed on my bulletin board) and told me about your blog and Facebook page.  Since then, I’ve been a follower.

So again, Nung Nung, thanks to you and to your mother for making my day today.  And for doing the same so many other times.  While I’ve not yet told you until now (beyond some “likes” to your Facebook postings), you both are a gift and blessing to me.

Peace, my Friends.


Ahnung has been a true gift to me .... I hope in some small way I have been able to give back to her even just a a little. We are grateful that our writing and our blogging continues to touch the lives of others. Thank you "C" for taking the time to write to my sweet girl Ahnung and for letting her know that she is a gift and a blessing. Thank you also for your kind words to me. It means a lot to both of us to know that we are helping others in their respective journeys as we walk through our own journey of life ....

With recent health challenges I have learned be even more grateful for each day .... this morning I woke up feeling great!! A good night's sleep, no pain, my persistent cough subsiding and feeling energetic .... there are days when my body really struggles as I can feel and sense changes happening in my body at a cellular level. 

Every day is a gift to me now. The truth is, we don't know what tomorrow will bring, and that's okay. We have today. We have the moment ... and for me, my sweet nung-nung is a constant reminder to me to live in the present moment. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hunter's Moon ...

I took this photo of the moon yesterday around 6:45 pm. Tonight is the night of the full Hunter's Moon. From the Earth Sky blog:

"For the world’s northern hemisphere, tonight is the night of the Full Hunter’s Moon. Watch it rise in the east tonight as the sun goes down. Like any full moon, the Hunter’s Moon will shine all night long. It’ll soar highest in the sky around midnight tonight and will set in the west tomorrow around sunrise.

The bright “star” near the moon tonight is really a planet, Jupiter.

Officially, the Hunter’s Moon is the full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox."

For some reason I am drawn to the moon. Every night when I let the dogs out in the backyard before heading upstairs for bed I always look up into the night skies. On clear nights like last night with a full moon I can feel the energy and light reflecting off of the moon enter my body. And for several nights now it's been a joy to see such a bright star (which is Jupiter) close to the moon ... I always imagine the stars in the skies as spirits of loved ones who have passed on .... there is something magical, mysterious, mystical, miraculous and magnificent about the night skies for me. And when I am blessed to be out in the middle of nowhere and away from city lights, it's even more magical .... a symbolic reminder to me that even in pure darkness there is light and there is beauty .... our sun is what enables us to see our moon and the stars .... the stars in our galaxy ... it's hard for me to even grasp the miracle of a star. And so I ground myself and turn to my dog Ahnung, whose name means star in ojibway, and I remind myself that stars aren't just up in the skies, they are right here with us, on earth, in the present moment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Shadow as a youngster.
I don't why ... but this morning I found myself thinking of Shadow, and I simply couldn't get him out of my mind. Not long ago, he appeared in my dream .... and in my dream, he had his paws crossed just like he does in the photo on the left. I remember the day I rescued him ... it was a hot summer day in Tulsa, Oklahoma after a hill workout on "killer hill" ... on our way back home my ex and I saw this skinny, scrawny black dog with ribs protruding cross the country road in front of us. We pulled over and coerced him to get in the car with us. He was scared and I held him as we huddled scrunched in the back of my ex's hatchback. He was in bad shape. We later learn he has been shot ... shattered lead from a bullet still remaining in his skull with the top of part of his ear taken off but had healed (how amazing our bodies are!) ... for the first few years he was with us he had horrible seizures that often hit around the full moon. I remember the first time I witnessed him have a seizure. I felt helpless and scared as I held him. When we moved to Minnesota his seizures subsided ... must be he wanted to get the heck out of Oklahoma!!

Shadow was my houdini dog ... he could escape from places and wiggle his way out of tight crevices. He was without a doubt a street smart dog. After his sister Shen died on 9/15/2006 to spleen cancer it seemed like a part of him died too. Then on July 2, 2007 we lost Shadow to intestinal cancer. I found the following emails as I was going through my old emails remembering Shadow this morning:


June 19, 2007 3:55:53 AM CDT

Shadow in June, 2007 ... a week before
we had to say goodbye.
I sent the email below to fellow volunteers at Pet Haven.  Many of you are aware that it was 9 months ago when we lost our sweet Shen to spleen cancer.  We are now faced with the impending loss of our boy Shadow.  Tonight has been a rough night.  He has woken me up twice tonight.  This last time he was vomiting.  He has had good days sprinkled with not so good moments.  The vet warned us that he may decline rapidly.  Moments like now make me realize our days are numbered.  His sister Missy knows. As I lay curled up with Shadow on the floor on their large LL Bean dog bed, Missy joins us and presses her body against his, and licks my face.  Two dogs and half a human body scrunched up on a dog bed.  Moments like these are what I will cherish.  

As Shadow approaches Rainbow Bridge, please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  May we have many more days under the sun with him,  and may we have many more days blessed with his presence, and may our hearts know when it is time to let him go.  

Sent: Monday, June 18, 2007 9:50 PM

We had our surgical consult for Shadow at the U today, and a couple more tests.  We are awaiting the final report by the pathologists on the biopsy of the mass in his intestine, but preliminary results confirm he has a very aggressive cancer. Surgery carries too much risk for a dog his age (11 and a half years), and after much thought and reflection, we have decided to not put him through major surgery.  We will continue to work with our regular vet and try to make his last weeks (and hopefully months) as comfortable as possible through diet and alternative treatments.  For now, he still has a spring in his step and if it weren't for his occasional vomiting and losing weight, you would never know he is walking the final road of his incredible life's journey.  He continues to patrol our backyard, fixating on squirrels in our neighbor's yards.  Our four-legged friends are simply amazing -- their stoic nature hides symptoms of cancer till it is too late.  In some ways, I wish he would've complained sooner.  Other times, I am reminded of how much humans can learn from our four-legged friends.

We are grateful for the time he has given.  We are grateful for the opportunity he is giving to us to say goodbye -- nine months ago cancer took Shen so quickly that we did not have time for a proper  
goodbye.  Now we have a chance to savor the gift of his presence.    

We will fill our hearts with Shadow moments, which will become our precious memories.

I created the following video shortly after Shadow died ... my tribute to this furry angel who touched my heart, my life and my soul ... I still miss you little boy:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A knowing

I am learning to really, truly trust my gut and my instincts .... yesterday I saw my energy healer whom I absolutely love and who has been a life saver for me as I have walked my journey of health challenges this past year. I talked to my doctor at Mayo on Friday. The pathologists reviewed the slides from my last surgery. At this point, the pathologists at Mayo are saying that the cell changes do not officially meet all the criteria for what would be officially cancer ... then came the 'however' .... there is extensive abnormality in my cells and because there is no correlate (a lump or tumor or anything that can be detected with current scans and tests) they are very concerned. My case is also unusual. The pathologists at Mayo are only willing to say that in the slides they have seen from what is really random samples of breast tissue (since my surgeon didn't believe there was a lump to remove) is not officially cancer, but there is concern of cancer in the surrounding tissue. My doctor also started to ask me about my pancreas and I told her that my GI doctor here in the cities is pretty much saying the same thing .... he can't figure out what has caused my pancreas to stop producing lipase and he suspects there are changes going on at a cellular level in my pancreas but there is no way to confirm that except through a biopsy which is way too risky. My doctor recommends I see a pancreas specialist at Mayo. So I have 3 appointments scheduled at Mayo for December 2 to meet with my primary doctor at Mayo, the surgeon (who specializes in early detection of breast cancer) and the head of the pancreas division.

Options that have been thrown out to me are tamoxifen and a double mastectomy. My gut right now does not feel that either are right for me because I sense something going on at a cellular level in my body. I knew there was something going on in my left breast before the doctors confirmed it through surgery and pathology reports. I knew it was my pancreas (with the help of my father appearing in my dream and letting me know it was pancreas) before my GI doctor could narrow it down to my pancreas and through enzymes have finally stopped the weight loss and fatigue.

So what do I do with this "knowing"? It's been so weird to feel both so alive and energetic while at the same time feel like my body is getting weaker ..... like cells are wreaking havoc inside of me ... like there's some kind of a battle going on inside of me. I have noticed the little things in how my body acts and responds that have indicated to me that my body is much slower to heal physical wounds and also that it's been fighting some kind of an infection. Yesterday was a rough day for me physically ... as much as I wanted to go out for a run as it was a gorgeous day here in Minnesota, I decided to listen to my body and just rest.

My dog Ahnung must've known I wasn't feeling well yesterday. She wouldn't leave my side which is unusual for her as she has an independent nature about her. Over lunch today we (Ahnung and I) are interviewing and going through an orientation at Regions Hospital so that we can start volunteering at the Riverside Cancer Clinic and hanging out with cancer patients as they are going through chemo. I am blessed to have my own personal therapy dog and furry angel by my side. I am blessed to have a wonderful support network of friends and family.

I reminded myself last night as I was struggling with pain and fatigue that the sun will rise again ... the fog will lift and the magnificent sun will emerge over the horizon ... and it did! I don't know where my journey is going to take me. I have good days and not so good days, and I am learning to embrace both.

"When your love reaches the core,
earth-heavals and bright irruptions spew in the air.

The universe becomes one spiritual thing, that simple,
love mixing with spirit."


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Edge

I don't know how many times in the past couple years have I felt like I have come to the edge of a cliff ... when I felt like I had reached the end of my rope, and in many cases where I have felt like I was at a complete loss as to what to do ...

Yet time and time again ... I have come to believe that there is truth in this beautiful quote by an unknown author:

"When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe in one of two things:
there will be earth upon which to stand, or you will be given wings."

And when I come to the edge now, as I have just recently ... I simply stand, and I pray the earth below my feet will keep me grounded and afloat. And then ... when I am ready, I believe the wings will come and when they do it is truly a glorious feeling. But to feel the glory and the joy I know I must be willing to embrace the pain. Both are a part of being alive.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Multiple Truths

Yesterday I spoke to my surgeon and got the results of the pathology report from my surgery on Monday. It took longer for me to get the results this go around than in 12/09 ... I come to learn from my surgeon it's because 5 pathologists reviewed by slides and there wasn't complete agreement. My surgeon tells me that 4 pathologists say that it is borderline DCIS/atypical ductal hyperplasia and one says it's definitely DCIS. Every slide she said showed abnormal cells and that I have every form/type of atypia with the exception of lobular. We discussed the report in-depth and also what the options were as far as next steps. Her opinion and also the opinion of the pathologists was that it's no longer okay to simply go with close surveillance.... so for me, as I reflect on what my options are and what western medicine tells me are my options, I realize my gut doesn't feel right about any of them, at least not at this moment. There is no doubt I have the best western medicine team of doctors and support ... I also have the best support from an alternative healing perspective, and believe there is even more I have not considered or explored ... I am also learning that I know my body and to trust my gut. A month ago, when my doctor was telling me I could wait a few months on this growing lump I felt in my breast and that it didn't feel concerning, I knew there was something going in my body and it needed to removed. I chose to listen to my gut and for that I am grateful.

My surgeon tells me that the atypical cells and cancer cells aren't forming lumps. They are spread throughout my breasts. My gut tells me there's something happening at a cellular level in my body ... some changes and transformation ... not just in my breast and in my pancreas but throughout my body. I don't know what it is and it's not good or bad ... I can just 'feel' something. For now, I know that I am not ready to make any major decisions and I need to sit with all of this and allow time and space for the wisdom of my body and my spirit to guide me.

There is this great story (and there are many versions out there) ... the following is the Jainism version of the story "Elephant and the Blind Men" ... a beautiful reminder to me that there are many Truths. I need to open my mind and my heart to the many possibilities and paths that are before me.


Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today."

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.

"Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.

"Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said."

"Oh!" everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Looking Beyond: Dreams and Spiritual Guides

My surgery yesterday went smoothly ... the staff at Fairview Ridges were awesome, as usual. Since this is my third time (in the past year and a half) for the same surgery to remove a lump in my left breast even the nurses remembered me and I got such a warm welcome! And I just love and trust my surgeon whom I have known for almost 10 years now ... the first time was back in 2001 when she took out half my thyroid. I struggled a little more with pain this go around (post surgery) than the previous 2 surgeries in 2009 and gave myself permission to take some pain medication. I remember being wheeled into surgery as the nurse whispered to me that I would start feeling a little groggy soon ... and within seconds I could feel myself slipping into another state. The last I remember was being in the surgery room and being asked if I could move to the bed next to me. I said yes. Then I remember someone saying something and I felt a mask go over my mouth and nose. I slipped off into another state at that point and when I woke up I was still in the operating room and I saw my surgeon and asked her "are you going to start soon?" She smiled and said, "we're all done!"

Prior to going into surgery my doctor met with my partner and I to discuss the plan and what the next steps would be. I am so fortunate to have such a skilled, knowledgeable and extremely compassionate surgeon ... and one, who on a personal level, is in a similar situation as I am with being high risk for breast cancer. She understands the stress of "waiting" and taking the route of close surveillance. She understands what it feels like to be a ticking time bomb. And she said she doesn't even have atypical ductal hyperplasia/borderline DCIS ... just the other high risk factors of genetics. I have been taking the close surveillance route for a year and a half now. Two previous lumpectomies have revealed at a microscopic level that I have pre-cancer cells and the last surgery on 12/09 reveal they are now borderline cancer. So what will this surgery reveal? My doctor tells me that the pathology report could very well come back benign and that, to be honest, could be the hardest result because it puts me back with "what do I do now?" She says it's very likely that my breast have a lot of pre-cancer cells (atypical hyperplasia) ... the doctor in Mayo concurred. The past year and a half have been rough waters ... and has felt like water thrashing against rocks like this photo I took of the Minnehaha falls close to our home.

With the two surgeries in 2009 both my surgeon and my doctor at Mayo say I was "lucky" that they took out sites that revealed these pre-cancer cells. If the report comes back benign she said it's very possible they didn't get the site that has pre-cancer cells. Then again, in my mind, it's possible that these abnormal, pre-cancer cells have started healing ... My doctor understands that a benign pathology report may actually be the hardest result to have ... and she is right. The limbo, uncertainty, waiting and wondering state has been hard on me this past year and a half. If it comes back with what i've had in 2009 showing atypical ductal hyperplasia and borderline DCIS that may be enough for me to consider a double mastectomy ... then again, can I calm my mind down and wait 6 months to see what happens? If it comes back with contained cancer, the decision is much easier for me -- a lumpectomy and radiation, or a double mastectomy. If it's invasive cancer ... well, that's a bridge i'll cross if I have to when I find out!

So this morning I journaled about the possible outcomes and the possible options ... I had a great conversation with Mary over breakfast and shared with her all that was in my heart. My surgeon said to call her office Wednesday afternoon and she will try to track down the pathology report. Worst case, I figure i'll know the results by Thursday. While journaling this morning I wrote down that I have 3 options: a) close surveillance, b) tamoxifen (a drug I would need to take for 5 years but has some serious side effects but could reverse atypia), c) double mastectomy.

As I journaled more I realized ... No, I don't just have 3 options. I need to not focus on the thrashing water, but the beautiful flower that's right in front of me! Part of what has been hard has been feeling like so much is out of my control .. close surveillance alone feels like I'm waiting for the cancer bomb to explode and there's nothing I can do. There are are many things I can do, and to be honest, I have been doing yet why is it that I have felt like the only viable options are what western medicine tells me. I have been seeing the most incredible healer, a cranial sacral therapist, and she has been extremely helpful and healing for me on so many levels. I have met with a holistic doctor (also an M.D) and naturopath and have worked with my acupuncturist. I have also changed my diet in a effort to starve any potential cancer cells in my body. I have a lot of other healing tools at my disposal ... writing, meditation, visualization, prayer, and opening up my heart ... and my dreams have been such a blessing and guide for me over the years. I was going through my blog which has been a wonderful way for me to document my journey ... In my January 9, 2010 post I blog about the signs I have been receiving both in my dream state and my conscious state. In January I was still losing weight, feeling fatigued and unable to digest fats ... my GI doctor couldn't figure out what was causing my symptoms. On 1/3/10 I had a dream where my father appears in it (and this is the first time he has ever appeared in my dream) and I write about it in my 1/9 blog post. Essentially, he tells me it's my pancreas ... and in February after a multitude of tests and procedures, my GI doctor officially diagnoses me with pancreatic insufficiency. Somehow, my pancreas stopped functioning normally and has lost its ability to produce the enzyme lipase necessary to digest fats ... hence the symptoms and massive weight loss (35 pounds in one year).

In February, 2010 my work takes me to Bloomington, Indiana where my mom and dad met while they were graduate students at Indiana University. It's my first time to Bloomington, IN. I spend just 24 hours there (and one night).

In my February 3, 2010 post I write about how I am welcomed into Bloomington, Indiana by a red-tail hawk.

On February 15, 2010 I blog about how my 24 hour stay and how in a 24 hour period 3 red-tail hawks appear to me ... and how the number '613' shows up in my waking state ... being the room I am in and also the license plate on my rental car. I research the symbolic meaning of 613 and learn some very interesting things and its symbolic meaning from a spiritual perspective. Shortly after returning home I had a dream about a white hawk that appears with this elder that has been appearing in my dreams ...  From my February 18, 2010 blog post:

"The other night I had a dream where the man with white hair appeared again. This time as an American Indian elder wearing a gold buckskin fringe coat. In my dream was the woman who has previously appeared in my dream saying, "God is always with you. He is always in your heart." And in this dream, she summons the elder and she hands him a white hawk. The elder is summoned to set the hawk free. He sets the hawk free and the hawk soars into the skies with wings spread wide open ... a magnificent sight ... the hawk circles back and lands on a table near the woman and the elder. The hawk appears injured. The hawk takes a deep breath and with one last sigh, surrenders and dies peacefully."

And interestingly, as I go through my journals I find a poem I wrote on June 13, 2006 about dreams:

"Dreams sprinkle dust of past, present, and future -
in the mixing
sometimes bridges form
sometimes tunnels form
sometimes galaxies form,
but you can't see it from where you stand
it just looks like a cloud of dust
but from a heavenly distance,
you notice, it's the Milky Galaxy."

- Marilou Chanrasmi (6/13/06)

I learn of the association of the number '613' with the fruit pomegranate and how pomegranate symbolizes unity or nourishment of the soul. The next morning (while I'm in Bloomington) for breakfast the only green tea available for me is green tea with pomegranate. I never even knew such a tea existed. That one night while I was in Bloomington, Indiana I also had a dream that, to be honest, I was afraid to share or write about ... in that dream, I died. Someone (some male presence or energy) had injected me with some liquid or fluid in my right ankle and I felt it spreading throughout my body. In my 1/3/2010 dream where my father appeared to me he told me 3 things: the first I am unable to remember, the second thing he told me was that I had pancreatic cancer ... that I had a very small tumor but it was an aggressive cancer, and the third thing he told me was that I had bacteria and virus spreading through my body. Was the "fluid" the bacteria/virus? At first I was overcome with fear ... fear of dying. Then in my final moments, an acceptance came over me and I felt this calm, light and peace fill my body. In my dream I died and it was one of the most beautiful, peaceful experiences I had ever had.

There's no doubt my father is trying to communicate with  me. My GI doctor believes that even though my father was officially diagnosed with cirrhosis in 1968 when he died, that since he did not drink that it was most likely some form of liver cancer ... he said there's so much more they know now than they did back in 1968. My GI doctor is happy that the pancreatic enzymes I am taking are working (as am I!) but tells me that pancreatic insufficiency could be a very early sign of cancer so to please be very aware of symptoms and to pay close attention to my body (which I think I do).

So ... now as I wait for the pathology report to come in from this most recent round of surgery I am looking beyond and reaching back to dreams and spiritual guides ... I am being asked to pay attention and to listen, truly listen to my body and to my spirit. God has sent me angels as well ... in animals (dogs and dolphins!) and in people ... I have the love and support of my partner Mary and have the most incredible, loving friends in my life for which I am grateful beyond words. I don't just have the 3 options of close surveillance, tamoxifen and a double mastectomy. I have a lot more options and there is so much more I can do to complement close surveillance if the report comes back benign or atypical ductal hyperplasia/borderline cancer.

The hawk appeared to be 3 times in Bloomington, Indiana for a reason. And to dream about a hawk, along with this elder, who has appeared in my dream several times ... is another sign to me to pay attention to the hawk.

The following I found off of the following site ... and really resonates/speaks to me:

"The Hawk represents a messenger in the Native American culture. It often shows up in our life when we need to pay attention to the subtle messages found around us, and from those we come into contact with. As with all messages received, it is important to recognise the messages underlying truth. We will be taught to be observant and also pay attention to what we may overlook....

A Red tailed Hawk is special. It will ALWAYS be with you, for life. It has direct ties to the Kundalini, the seat of primal life force. It is linked to the base chakra. If you have this power animal, you need to be aware of and work toward fulfilling your soul's destiny. It reflects far greater intensity of energy within your life: physically, emotionally and mentally. Spiritual forces will be felt strong within you.

One trait all hawks share, is the ability to move between the seen and unseen realms gracefully, joining both worlds together. Their acute vision attributes this ability, their discriminating nature keeps them out of dangers path. Hawks have a broad vision, allowing them to see what the future holds. In man this is a symbol of prophetic insight. If this gift is underdeveloped, it is common for people with this power animal to have a tendency of over analysing everything. When this is so, clear vision is lost. You must learn to keep your analytical mind under control, not allowing it to run wild.

The destiny of man is to awaken from their spiritual amnesia and to realign with the original intention of their soul. When the hawk gets a hold of us in his powerful talons, we will be asked to evaluate who we have become and to shatter our self created illusions. This will help our inner truth to come out into the open and for it to shine.

Hawk denotes union with All That Is. The hawk is a bird of the heavens, arranging the changes necessary to prompt our spiritual growth. Having this power animal can be bitter sweet. When accepting its presence in your life, you will be asked to surrender/give up anything that doesn't honour the integrity of all life. Whether its an idea, feeling or action. Although hard work is involved, the rewards to be reaped are great, far outweighing this."

I am on some kind of a journey ... that much I know. I have a choice on how I want to walk this journey. .... who do I walk with? what do I carry and keep with me? what do I let go of? what path do I take? And like the hawk that can move between the unseen and the seen realms .. between dream and conscious states of being ... can I have the fluidity, faith, and trust and wisdom to know when it's time to hold on and when it's time to let go?

For now, I am grateful for my blessings and for the gift of life and energy that fills my heart and soul. I am grateful because I feel so loved ... and in the end, really truly ... the best medicine is LOVE!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Autumn: Season of Transition

This morning I am preparing for surgery. Yesterday my partner and I had a chance to stop along the Mississippi River to take some photos of the incredible fall colors. Taking photos and being out in nature is one of the most meditative, spiritual experiences for me ... a chance to soak in the crisp fall air and the beauty of the vibrant colors.

Autumn is a season of transition ... it marks the end of the summer and the beginning of winter.

I found this beautiful, reflective piece of writing on a spiritual website on the internet:

"Autumn is a season of transition, reminding us that our lives are constantly in flux. Of course change is always with us, but autumn brings us to a deeper awareness that we live in a continual cycle of dying and rising. In the Benedictine tradition, one of the commitments is to conversion. Essentially it means being open to the surprise of God throughout your life and therefore open to change. It means believing that God is far bigger than anything you can ever imagine, and so there will always be more dimensions of the sacred to discover.

The autumn leaves changing colors are actually reverting to their original hue as chlorophyll is gradually blocked. As the trees begin to pull energy inward for the coming hibernation of winter, the chlorophyll in the leaves decreases and the vibrant shades we witness are the tree's true color. As autumn begins, we are called to reflect where we are being invited to surrender our masks and become more truly who we already are. With fall's energy of release, we are asked to consider the things, habits, beliefs, and attitudes that we are being called to let go of in the coming days."

How timely that I am going in today for my surgery. I have carried a lot of fear around my health issues and most recently this growing lump in my breast. As I head into surgery this afternoon I will surrender fear and I will place my trust in God.

And I found this Rilke poem on Autumn that speaks to me this morning ...

"Leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as if, far off in the heavens, gardens were wilting.
And as they fall, their gestures say "it's over."

In the night the heavy Earth is falling
from out of all the stars into loneliness.

We all are falling. This hand here is falling.
Just look: it is in all of us.

Yet there is one who holds this falling
with infinite tenderness in her hands."

I am grateful to be in a peaceful place this morning with minimal anxiety, if any, regarding my surgery. And much to my surprise I find that I am also not worrying about what is to come ... it will probably be a few days before the results of the pathology report come in and that's okay. I have no control over what is to be ... all I know is that I feel great today .. physically, emotionally and spiritually. I feel blessed to have so many people around me who love me and support me. I feel blessed that Mary will be taking me to the hospital this afternoon and being right by my side until I am wheeled into the operating room. I feel blessed that she will be there shortly after I wake up. I feel blessed for all my wonderful friends (and you know who you are!!) .... and for the wild dolphins who touched my soul while in Bimini this past July ... I feel your energy with me. And I feel blessed that upon my return home later this evening that I will have Ahnung, Missy, Mister and Henry ready to give me lots of love!!

I know I will not be alone in the operating room today. I know I will have the presence of God, my Papa, and the loving spirit and energy of so many who love me. And for that I am beyond grateful.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Surgery tomorrow!

So tomorrow I head back to Fairview Ridges for surgery to remove the growing lump in my left breast. I'm relieved to be having it removed .... the surgery itself isn't causing me any anxiety -- maybe because this is the third lumpectomy i've had in a year and a half. I trust my surgeon and have the utmost confidence in her. What will probably be more nerve wracking will be the waiting of the results of the pathology report ... but that too should hopefully arrive before the end of the week.

Today, I had the greatest day. I went for a 9 mile run this morning along the Mississippi River ... and it was a gorgeous morning for a run with the vibrant fall colors. The Twin Cities marathon was also this morning and it was fun to run alongside of them for a few miles as people cheered them on (I just imagined they were cheering me on too!!) ... then my partner Mary and I were able to get out and take some photos of the fall leaves. Minnesota gets cold in the winter months but I love the changing seasons. I love fall and I love watching the leaves transform right before my very eyes! It's a wonderful reminder to me that nothing ever remains the same ... everything is always in a constant state of change. As I prepare for surgery tomorrow I remind myself that I am always in a state of change. As much as i'd like to think that some things are permanent, they aren't. The Buddhist are absolutely right when they say that nothing is permanent. That's not bad though ... it means to simply focus on living in the present moment, not the future and not the past.

Who knows what this next round of pathology reports will say about this growing lump in my breast. I am grateful that I feel great today .... physically, emotionally and spiritually. And I am grateful that I'm actually not worried about it .... truth is, I know that I will be okay no matter what and that I will be able to handle whatever comes my way ... i've made it this far, so no stopping me now!! :)

And when I get out of surgery tomorrow I'm sure Mary will have some scrumptuous dessert waiting for me!! :) And the "kids" (Ahnung, Missy, Mister and Henry) will be ready to snuggle up with me on the couch. Maybe they'll be nice and let me have a tiny corner of the couch. All I know is that I get to take a short nap tomorrow afternoon, and when I wake up it will be over!!