Saturday, May 29, 2010

The best medicine of all ...

I've had so much going on lately that I've managed not to think about my own health issues till just a couple days ago. Then yesterday my partner reminded me it was time for me to call my surgeon and schedule my breast MRI. I had two lumpectomies in 2009 ... the first revealed one site of atypical ductal hyperplasia (pre-cancer cells) and the second surgery in December 2009 revealed two sites and a pathology report indicating I was now borderline DCIS. I've also been losing weight again, but am guessing it's due to the stress of caring for my mom who has recently been diagnosed with alzheimer's. Since taking pancreatic enzymes my weight loss has come to a standstill, until just recently.

I guess there is a part of me that is worried, as much as I try not to ... I've known for a year now that there are cells in my body that have started going awry. I have chosen the path of close surveillance for now and have been working with natural, holistic healers (in conjunction with my western doctors). I watch my diet closely and have been eating foods that I have been told fight cancer ... lots of berries -- strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. I also have a good reason to eat dark chocolate (and love it!). In my mind, I have been telling myself that I will starve any cancer cells trying to multiply in my body .... i limit intake of sugar as I understand cancer cells love sugar. In the back of my mind I hear the voice of my GI doctor as he responds to my question of, "Why did my pancreas shut down and stop producing lipase (enzymes that digest fat)? Is it something I should be concerned about, or now that the enzymes appear to be working, not worry about it?" His response, "it's good the enzymes are working, however, we need to closely monitor you since we don't know or understand what has caused your pancreatic insufficiency."

I have continued to watch my diet, ensuring that what I put in my body will prevent cancer cells from growing. Interestingly, I stumbled upon a TED video this morning by William Li, the founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation ... his talk "Can we eat to starve cancer?". A wonderful and informative video .. also very affirming to learn that what i've been doing is probably the best preventative medicine. So ... I will continue doing what I am doing, and as I schedule my MRI I will also pray that the results will come back showing no cancer. And I also pray that whatever is going on in my pancreas can be reversed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Letting Go

I just returned yesterday from helping care for my mother. Her memory is failing. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. As we sat in the neurologist's office I realized I am losing my mother. She was asked, "what is today?" ... she looked at me, as she always does ... "sorry, Ma, I can't help you with this test." By the time she answers the first few questions she has the wrong day, can't say what the date is, thinks we are in California (we were in Florida), thinks it's 1980. She still reads well though and can spell the word "World" backwards without a problem. When asked to write a sentence ... "what sentence should I write?" The doctor: "any sentence." She writes "I am sorry I am losing my memory." She smiles as she hands me the paper. Outside in the waiting area she shares stories with me about my Papa who died in 1968 when I was 4. I have always felt like I lost my mother the first time after my father died. Now I'm losing her again, but on a different level. She shares with me "Your Papa asked me to promise that I would never marry again and that I would take care of his 3 kids. All he could think about were his kids. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to leave us. I was so angry with him, with God, for taking him away." She goes on, "I kept my promise. But now I am alone ... where are we? I've never been here before. Are we in America? I want to go back to Manila ...", and slips off into conversations that take a million turns -- some make sense, some don't. I am learning to simply join her on her ride and the journey of her hijacked mind.

At times she's a harsh woman throwing out insults and filled with paranoia. At other times, she's loving, kind and giving. At times, it's like she's a little girl -- lost, confused, scared. When I am with her she's mostly calm. When I leave and I talk to her on the phone there is desperation ... words coming out of her mouth at first pierced my heart.  Behind the screen of desperation is complete and utter fear. I am learning the importance of really tuning in to my own feelings, my own limitations, and of letting go ...

This has been a hard road ... I am grateful for the support of so many. I am grateful for my brother's family in Florida who cared for my mom for over a month. She is now in St. Louis (where she once lived for over 25 years) with her long-time friends who love her. My hope is that as she is surrounded by all of her friends and the positive memories she had that it will spark loving, calm and peaceful thoughts for her. I return next Tuesday to St. Louis. I am fortunate my work takes me to St. Louis and while I am there I will also work to find her a safe place to live ... my vacation days have been consumed with traveling to see my mom, phone calls and a heaviness in my heart where I continue to work to let go ...

I took these photos in Marco Island last winter ... a gorgeous sunset ... I have to remind myself to trust. Just as I know that when the sun sets and disappears over the horizon, that the sun will rise again.

I found this poem on the internet .... I continue to pray for patience, and for the wisdom to listen deeply for the spirit of truth and love that is present in each and every one of us ..


To let go doesn't mean to stop caring;
It means I can't do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off....
It's the realization that I can't control another.....

To let go is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try and change or blame another,
I can only change myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.

To let go is not to be protective,
It is to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and cherish the moment.

To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Aging - walking a new terrain

The past month has been a journey for our family. My brother returned to the Philippines in early April to bring our mother back to the States. I am truly grateful for all he has done for her. It has been a hard road and one that has been filled with more emotions than I even know how to put into words.

My brother and his amazing family have stepped up and done so much. It has been a challenge for the family ... my brother, his family, my sister, myself ... and of course those close to us. I am learning that I am not alone. So many others have gone through the process of caring for elderly parents ... and when dementia/alzheimer is in the picture ... (my mom is definitely showing signs of them, although she has not been officially diagnosed by a neurologist yet) ... it adds an entirely new level of complexity and challenges.

As I walk this new terrain, I find myself having to retreat inwards, searching for that part of me that is calm, compassionate, patient, and centered. As I repeat my answers for the 100th time, I remind myself to take deep breaths ... she doesn't remember. As I witness desperation and hear hurtful words come out, I remind myself, it's not really my mother. My phone rings over and over and over again each day ... desperate phone messages. I used to cringe when my phone would ring. I would try reasoning with her ... to no avail.

Then the other night, I think my Papa must've infused me with his spirit and compassion for her ... I think he opened my heart and eyes up to see the world through her eyes. Now all i see is a frightened, frail woman. She's scared to death. She's desperate to feel loved. She's a prisoner of a mind/memory that is failing her and creating a new reality for her, often filled with paranoia ... yet it is her reality.

Today, I pray for the courage and strength to walk with my mom in her reality; to walk with love, patience and understanding. I also pray for the strength to accept what my limitations are, and to care and nurture myself, so that I can continue to be there for my mother.

I found the following poem on the internet... may it serve to remind me of my mom's reality, and what is now my reality, and the reality of our family.

Do not ask me to remember. 

Don't try to make me understand. 

Let me rest and know you're with me. 

Kiss my cheek and hold my hand. 

I'm confused beyond your concept. 

I am sad and sick and lost. 

All I know is that I need you 

To be with me at all cost. 

Do not lose your patience with me. 

Do not scold or curse or cry. 

I can't help the way I'm acting, 

Can't be different 'though I try. 

Just remember that I need you, 

That the best of me is gone. 

Please don't fail to stand beside me, 

Love me 'til my life is done. 

- Author Unknown 

Saturday, May 15, 2010


In the quiet of the morning, I felt this surge inside of me, then as quickly as it rushed through by body, it was gone - disassociation.

As a child, when things got to be too much, when I didn't no how to handle the pain and anguish of life, when there was no where to turn ... I disappeared. Like the kids in the C.S. Lewis novel, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" I walked into a closet and I disappeared. I created my own world. An escape. A place where there was calm, kindness, love, peace ... everything a little girl wanted.

How often do we go through life not even noticing the surges in our body? Our miraculous body is the most powerful surge protector, absorbing stresses in our life and working hard to bring us back to balance. But we push our bodies ... we keep on pushing. And yet nature and all of its inherent wisdom screams at us that there is a natural rhythm in life.

I view winter as time of rest; a time of reflection; of truly turning inward.

Spring is about trying new things, exploring new ways and taking risks.

Summer is stepping back a little and starting to slow down just a little. It's about play.

And Fall is about shedding layers, parts of ourselves, ways of thinking that have not served us well in the past year.

I'm feeling a little out of whack. It's spring. But my body is screaming "Fall".

Time to shed.
Time to let go.
Time to return to balance. 

I have so much to be grateful for ... I know that. But when life throws curveballs, it's sometimes hard to remember the good. Some times I need to make myself slow down enough to remember, and to notice.

"How do we embrace the present moment without being overwhelmed by them or defined by them?"

"Happiness is in the present moment."

"Happiness is an inside job."
 (Petrea King, Founder of Quest for Life Foundation).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Where's mine??

I recently learned of a talented, artistic Pet Haven volunteer/dog foster who was making these really cool mosaic dog leash hooks! Of course, I had to place an order for our 3 dogs!!! I even got to tell her what colors I wanted for the dogs ....

We decided on two hooks for each dog ... one for their leash and one for their collar/harness.

I set the leash hooks out on our dining room table so I could take a picture and Henry our cat immediately jumps on the table as if to say ..... "Now wait a minute!! I don't see a hook with MY name on it!" I tried to explain to him that he doesn't go out for walks so he doesn't have a need for a collar or a leash. Well, he doesn't care. He wants a hook with his name on it so I may have to place another order for the sweet cat!! :)

So, not only are these the coolest leash hooks, but Cindy, the artist/volunteer is going to donate 20% to Pet Haven (to help homeless dogs and cats!) when you place an order .... just be sure to mention 'Pet Haven' when you place your order.

You can check out Cindy's blog or send her an email at

I met her the other weekend at a Pet Haven dog adoption event and Ahnung came with me because Cindy's daughter has some presents for Ahnung (it was a really cute drawing she had made for Ahnung!) ... Ahnung also wanted to check out her own personal mosaic leash hook and in the photo below you can tell she's in awe because her jaw just dropped!!

Thanks Cindy for these cool leash hooks and for helping fundraise for Pet Haven by donating a portion of the proceeds! I'll be contacting you soon to order one for Henry the cat .... he's right, he deserves his own personalize hook too!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jane Goodall ... A Reason for Hope

Shortly after I came to the United States (when I was 16) I remember picking up a book by Jane Goodall. I was enthralled by her story, her passion, her commitment and her journey. I bought every book she had. My favorite is her book "Reason for Hope: A spiritual journey." Science has always fascinated me. Along with that has been my personal journey and struggle with spirituality versus religion, and the endless questions that have plagued my mind and heart. Jane Goodall, through her kind, wise, gentle approach taught me through her words that science and spirituality can coexist. In fact, for her they thrive. She convinces us to open ourselves up to the saints within us.

The Boston Globe has said "Being with Jane Goodall is like a walk with Gandhi." Not long ago I learned Jane Goodall was coming to Minnesota. For as long as I can remember, it's been a dream of mine to meet Jane Goodall -- i've considered flying to other parts of the world to meet her, to simply be in her presence. I purchased tickets which included a private reception with her. Yes, the Boston Globe is right ... being with Jane Goodall is like a walk with Gandhi, or at least what I imagine would be a walk with Gandhi.

Jane Goodall's work revolves around mobilizing action on behalf of chimpanzees, who are endangered, and all wildlife species. Her holistic, compassionate approach is what has stood out for me as I've read her books. Yes, she is a voice for the chimpanzees, but she is also a strong voice for humans and for our environment/nature ... all the while respecting diversity, cultures, beliefs. She ignites the flame within us ... a constant, steady, flame with bursts of passion.

Her greatest reason for hope is the spirit and determination of young people. Her Reasons for Hope can be found on her website: the human brain, the indominatable human spirit, the resilience of nature, the determination of young people.

We are all connected. My heart breaks when I listen to news on NPR on the recent BP oil spill ... the devastation, for all of us. How do you hold onto hope with such massive devastation? "If we are without hope we fall into apathy. Without hope nothing will change. That is why we feel it is so desperately important to share our own, irrepressible hope for the animals and their world." - Jane Goodall (from her book: Hope for Animals and Their World). In Jane's last book she talks about "evidence mounting of a sixth extinction - this time caused by human actions ... it is inevitable that more and more species will need a helping hand if they are to continue to share the planet with us." 

Today is Mother's Day. Yes, I honor and wish all mothers a beautiful day .... mothers of humans, mothers of dogs/cats and other companion animals ... and most importantly Mother Earth, and all living beings with whom we share this beautiful world.

When Jane was introduced prior to her lecture here in Minnesota, the local anchor mentioned how she had been interviewed 4-5 years ago and he asked her "if chimps could talk what would they say to us? ..and she paused, reached out her hand to him and said "Can we be a part of your world?"