Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grounding myself ...

Hidden Falls, St. Paul, MN
This next week is going to be a crazy week for me. It begins today with all day meetings ... i'm on the board of directors of an animal welfare coalition (Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare) and of Pet Haven Inc of Minnesota. I am participating in a 4 hour strategic planning session for a coalition and a board meeting for Pet Haven. And before my first meeting I plan to get a 6 - 7 mile run in along the river. I'm waiting for the sun to rise and for it to be light which should be at around 7 am.

This coming week is a busy work week with travel Monday through Saturday. Tomorrow morning I leave on a business trip ... first to Champaign, Illinois then to Chicago then I come home for one night, to turn around the next day and head to Las Vegas. I'll be teaching workshops and giving presentations and universities in Illinois and Las Vegas. This past week has been a busy week preparing for this upcoming week. I finally come home Saturday night from Vegas and have one full day to rest and recover and prepare for my surgery on Monday, 10/4. In some ways, I'm glad I have a busy week ahead of me. It will help keep my mind off of the worry of the growing lump in my breast ... and all the crazy scenarios that can be played in one's mind. On the other hand, I know the importance of staying grounded ... in mind and body.

I love trees ... especially trees with massive roots. Oftentimes the roots are below the surface ... yesterday while on a walk in my neighborhood along the Mississippi River I was able to take a bunch of photos and the photo above of this tree was one of many I took ... at the edge of the river was this old tree with roots so massive it screamed groundedness to me -- solid, sturdy, steadfast. What a beautiful contrast to then watching the flowing river. As I stood by the edge of the river I watched a young man prepare for his long journey in his canoe. He had 3 friends come to send him off ... we asked where he was going "I'm going to New Orleans!" he said with a smile on his face as he paddled away. We asked, "How long will it take you?" .... "I'll get there in January," and off he went ....

There's something about trees that remind me to stay rooted in the earth, in my body, and in the present moment. The more rooted I am and the more grounded I can be in the moment and allowing the roots to be nourished by the earth ... the more I will be able to grow and to reach upward and outward towards the skies and light. If I don't ground myself, I will just float away and disappear. Sometimes it's necessary to just escape, to disappear ... but it's important to always come back, to our body, to our center, to our roots ... to earth.

This young man embarked on a long journey yesterday afternoon. I admire the young man. What courage ... grounded, yet free.

Yesterday, while running on my treadmill at home I was listening to an archive of Krista Tippet's NPR show "Being" ... where she was interviewing Joanna Macy. On that show Joanna read the most beautiful poem, Let this Darkness be a Bell Tower, by Rilke.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

I need to ground myself in the silent earth so that I can allow my spirit to flow freely like the river.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Many doors to our soul

Wilderness Resort, Nisswa, MN
September, 2010. Photo by Mary Tinucci
Last night my partner and I went to the Billy McClaughlin concert. The first time I heard this incredible guitarist was when he opened for a Keri Noble concert many years ago. My partner Mary introduced me to Keri Noble a local Minnesotan singer/songwriter whose music comes straight from the depths of her soul and like an arrow reaches deep into your soul with her raw lyrics and often haunting melodies ...  and Bill McClaughlin, an acoustic guitarist does the same and has also overcome a debilitating neurological disease, focal dystonia, that put an end to his virtuoso guitar career about a decade ago. Last night was his first solo performance after learning to play with his left hand ... he has an incredible way of playing the guitar, his signature style .... like Keri Noble, he opens a door to your soul with not only his music, but also his passionate, fiery spirit, unwilling to give in to physical limitations and a debilitating neurological disease. And then we were introduced last night to a Texan acoustic guitarist who was inspired by Billy McClaughlin whom he saw perform in college ... this guitarist Rhett Butler ... all I can say is WOW!!! Rhett has been inspired by his brother who had been battling cancer for 28 years and passed away this past May. As I listened to him play ... at one point he was playing two guitars and the melody and the music that filled the auditorium was soul-piercing. It was as if I could feel him connecting with his brother and I could feel his brother in the auditorium with us, smiling ... as his spirit and soul continue to live on ...

I was reminded last night of how music touches my soul .... and then last night, as we walked out into the parking lot we were welcomed by an almost full moon that was glowing brightly, and off to the right was a bright star ... that bright star was Jupiter. And the night skies were filled with stars ... another door to our soul.

And this morning, I opened up to today's daily reading of Rilke, to the following poem:

My Own Deep Soul

You, my own deep soul,
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing.

What mystery breaks over me now?
In its shadow I come into life.
For the first time I am alone with you --

you, my power to feel.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ticking time bomb on a roller coaster

How do I describe the past year and half of health issues ... my partner and I just came back from meeting with my surgeon to discuss the growing lump in my breast. She used the words "ticking time bomb!" There's no question, she said, that cells in my breast have started going awry (the technical term "atypical hyperplasia"). We got lucky in finding them in two previous surgeries. There's probably more in my breast, she says. My head is spinning as she goes over so much information and my heart is about ready to explode ... something in my gut is telling me that something is going on in my body at a cellular level. She checks the growing lump in my breast and is thinking that the growth and swelling is a result of the hematoma from my recent MRI guided biopsy. She initially was recommending that we just continue to monitor it and that I could come back in 2-3 months and she could check the lump again, then another MRI in 5 months as Mayo recommended.

My heart stops. Can I go through another 2-3 months when something in my gut is telling me to remove this growing lump in my breast? Am I overreacting? Is it just the swelling from the hematoma? Or are they the atypical cells from 2009 that have now progressed to cancer? My head is saying, I need to trust my doctor, she has never led me astray. She's never made a mistake before, and I tell her that. But what if this one time when we choose not to remove a palpable mass that it turns out to be the one time that I should've listened to my gut and had it removed? Most of the time atypical cells progress to non-invasive cancer before they progress to invasive cancer ... but as my doctor at Mayo told me, that's not always the case. I fell into the less than 1% of patients that have hematoma complications during MRI-guided biopsies. What if I'm in the minority again ...

My partner Mary can see I am on the verge of tears as I fight desperately to hold it together. She puts her hand on my back and I just break down. For the first time I understand the utter fear that women carry when they are told they are at high risk of getting cancer and the choice they make of a double mastectomy. I am at extremely high risk (actually, I'm already borderline cancer) of getting cancer because my cells have already started acting the way cancer cells do .. there just isn't "sufficient quantity" yet from my 12/09 pathology report. I don't want to be another cancer statistic. My mother told me that my Papa said to her on his death bed, "I don't want to die. I don't want to leave you and the kids." I will accept death when it is my time to go, but right now, I feel like my body is giving me sign and signals with these lumps and I can't disregard them. And to be honest, there's so much more I want to do and experience in this earthly existence.

I have never cried in a doctor's office. I have always been able to "hold it together." I have known my surgeon for almost 10 years. She has performed 3 surgeries on me ... once to remove half my thyroid in 2001 and in 2009 for my two lumpectomies. This is the first time she has seen me "break down." I guess it's okay to show that human side. She too is high-risk for breast cancer and shares her story. She spends an hour and a half with us and reassures me that whatever decision I make is okay. If removing the lump and having it biopsied is what I need to do to give me some peace then that's what I need to do. She tells me to think about what feels right for me. Mary and I go out to lunch and talk about it some more. My gut keeps telling me that this growth that has doubled in size needs to come out. And if it ends up being benign, then great ... if it ends up showing atypia/pre-cancer cells, or even cancer cells, then at least I will know what I am dealing with and can make decisions. Over lunch we decide that I need to have the lump removed.

I love my surgeon and I trust her wholeheartedly. As she left the room, she asked if she could give me a hug. In the 10 years I have known her that's the first time I have ever hugged my doctor. I could feel like she really understood my fear ... and when she asked if I felt like a ticking time bomb, I nodded. She probably feels the same way. And often I feel like a ticking time bomb riding on a roller coaster.

So I am going to have the lump removed on Monday, 10/4. I decide to listen to my gut. I am grateful to have my partner Mary and all my wonderful friends walk with me on this scary journey. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gateway into the mystery

Minnehaha Falls, Minnesota (Sept, 2010)
I find myself always asking questions ... trying to make sense of my life, my purpose, the meaning of life, our universe, our relationship with God, the Divine, the Beloved, Buddha ... trying to make sense of what we call life and then coming to face a universal fear of death, the unknown ... yet, I am intrigued, almost consumed, by my desire to find a way to be at peace with the unknown and with the mystery and magnificence of this universe.

I have been reading poetry by a lot of the mystic poets. I found the following on the internet and loved how they explain the message of the mystic poets:

"It has been said, to pursue a purely intellectual understanding of God is like trying to see with your ears. That which is without color or form, unlimited and unfathomable, beyond imagination, without beginning or end, is impossible to conceive with the mind. When it comes to knowing God, the mind is blind and will always be. But there is a way to intuit with the inner self and recognize with the heart. This is the message of the mystic poets, who see the relationship between a seeker and God as the same as between a lover and their Beloved. They emphasize the importance of consistent remembrance, treating all with respect, and a simple faith. Their love of God awakens in the heart a yearning to rise up and touch the ocean of Oneness, to be consumed in the transcendental fire, to die in Love and be reborn anew."

I know who you are, I know who I am
I know the truth and the meaning of love.
God is singing within your heart
breathing inside your breath
more close than a hand within a glove
or a thought within the head.
If you listen, my friend, with an open heart
you will know this declaration's true 
the Truth?  You forgot some time ago
the surprise - the revelation's you
you wrote this poem
yes, you
back then
when your heart was filled with ecstasy
blind drunk on the clear wine of love.

Minnehaha Falls (September, 2010)
Tomorrow morning is my long awaited appointment with my surgeon. I have fortunately been able to find some calm and peace these past couple days with regards to this growing lump in my breast. Tomorrow my partner Mary and I will meet with my surgeon and we will discuss what our options are. 

Tonight as I go to sleep I once again will place my trust in God, the Beloved, the Divine. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. Then again, we all don't know what tomorrow brings. All we truly have is today, this moment. And all I want is to be able to love, to feel love and live each moment as if it is my last.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Embodying God ... embracing the dark ..

Full moon at Wilderness Resort, 2010.
I am getting ready to turn in for the night. Today was a much better day than yesterday. Yes, I was busy today but I also worked hard to embody God and the Divine in my being today. I also had a great 8 mile run today and am grateful my body is feeling strong and I am able to exercise and run again.

There have been times in my life when night times and the dark scared me. Not too long ago, my nights were filled with nightmares, flashbacks ... I am now working to create a new story of the night. Last night I went with a good friend of mine to Baylor Park to star gaze ... unfortunately there were too many clouds in the skies to see the stars, the planets, the distant galaxies. Yet to be under the night skies felt peaceful. To be out in the country away from all the city lights somehow made me feel closer to God, to the Divine.

As I get ready to go to bed I will embody God and I will embrace the dark. I will embody God and I will feel the Divine's presence in every cell of my body ... even the growing lump in my breast.

This morning I shared a Rilke poem that touched my soul.
Tonight, I close with another Rilke poem as I step into the night and embrace the beauty of the dark.

You, darkness, of whom I am born –

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the darkness embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations–just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Where is God?

Sunset in Marco Island, 2008.
This morning I woke up to an email from a friend I met from a recent trip to Bimini where I had the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins. It was a trip that touched the deepest part of my soul and I share more on a previous blog posting. My friend is a pastor in New England and I found myself sharing with him my worries and my fears regarding this growing lump in my breast and asking for his prayers. This morning he posed some questions for me to consider, "Where is God in all you are going through? Spiritually, what does your spirit desire from God's spirit? What I hear is that you desire the peace and joy of Bimini. What is blocking that peace and joy? What would it take for you to trust God?"

So this morning I journaled about it. I pondered his questions. And yes, I do desire the peace and joy that I felt when I was in Bimini this past July as I swam in the open waters with wild, free dolphins and I was surrounded by loving people and a very supportive community. I was able to let go of my fear and of my worries. Joy, bliss, playfulness are words that come to mind when I return to the moments of swimming with the wild dolphins. This morning, the word God and the Divine also come to me. I felt God's presence and spirit in me through the spirits of the dolphins. When the dolphins touched me I felt them take all worry and fear away from me. I felt an acceptance for whatever was meant to be and I was okay with it. Even death didn't scare me.

So where is God when I wake up at 3 am in the morning filled with worry and fear? Where is God when my mind races around in circles imagining all the possibilities of what feels like a raging, angry lump in my breast? Where is God when Chris died on Friday from breast cancer ... a woman whose blog I have followed and whose writing and positive approach to living in the moment has inspired me?

I became aware of the beautiful words of Rilke this morning through the Krista Tippet show, Being. As I read this poem, I started to cry. The answer to my friend's question about, 'Where is God?', came to me. God is with me. God is always with me. He is with me and around me and comes to me in the spirits of beings whom He knows can touch my soul ... in wild dolphins, dogs, my partner, friends ... and even this growing lump in my breast. I simply need to give Him my hand ... I need to embody God.

Connecting with a wild dolphin in Bimini, Bahamas (July, 2010).
Photo by Atmo of WildQuest.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

—Rilke’s Book of Hours, I, 59

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pray Health

Every night before I fall asleep I check the lump(s) in my breast. Maybe, just maybe, they have miraculously gone away like the mysterious lumps that appeared on Ahnung's ears earlier this year that there was no explanation for ... but every night now instead of it disappearing they seem to be screaming louder to me. They are getting larger and they feel like they are spreading. Or is it just my imagination, my fear? My appointment with my surgeon is on Wednesday morning. Seems like a long time away.

I am doing my best not to succumb to fear and to terror? I've had unexplainable growths/nodules in my body, like a huge nodule in one of thyroid lobes. Over ten years ago my surgeon removed a massive nodule that was causing my body to feel like it was in constant panic mode, with a resting heart rate that was so high I was put on heart medication to slow it down. They weren't able to perform a needle biopsy on my thyroid in fear that I would go into cardiac arrest so instead I went through surgery to have the entire growth removed. The pathology report came back "benign" but again, there was no explanation for what caused the growth. Today I am fortunate that the other half of my thyroid has kicked in to carry the load of my now missing left thyroid lobe ...

So is this growth in my breast the same thing? I woke up at 3 this morning and had trouble falling back to sleep. Something about these lumps feel different than the two lumps I had removed in 2009. And being analytical in nature, and learning from my previous jobs that "the past is predictive of the future" I find myself thinking ... the first lump removed had 1 site of atypical (pre-cancer) sells; the second lump removed had 2 sites of atypia and was now borderline cancer. And here I am less than a year later with another lump and this one feels like it has doubled in size over the past month and feels like it is spreading with what feels like a secondary growth shooting off the first area. So I worry. And my head spins around and around and around at 3 am in the morning.

I am working to return to some level of calm and peace. In the book "Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer" by Gregg Braden he shares the story of how there was an extreme drought in the high deserts of New Mexico and how his friend invited him to an ancient stone circle to "pray rain." He talks about the difference between praying for rain and praying rain. "He began by describing how the elders of his village had shared the secrets of prayer with him when he was a young boy. The key, he said, is that when we ask for something to happen, we give power to what we do not have. Prayers for healing empower the sickness. Prayers for rain empower the drought. Continuing to ask for these things only gives more power to the things that we would like to change.

So instead of praying for rain, in the case of the story Gregg shares ... his native friend says, "... I begin to have the feeling of what rain feels like. I felt the feeling of rain on my body, and what it feels like to stand with my naked feet in the mud of our village plaza because there has so much rain. I smelled the smells of rain on the earthen walls in our village, and felt what it feels like to walk through fields of corn chest high because there has been so much rain."

So this morning, instead of praying for health, I pray Health. I envision my body and all the miraculous cells in my body being vibrant, healthy and alive.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beyond Seeing

A unique plant that caught my
attention .. then as I got
closer, something else got
my attention!
Early this morning I had my 6 month follow-up with my GI doctor to discuss my pancreas! What a lovely topic for a Wednesday morning!! I knew going in that I only had good news to share with him:

- I was no longer losing weight
- I was no longer fatigued
- My body was now able to digest fats
- and I was no longer having abdominal pain

The pancreatic enzymes that I've been on for 6 months now have done wonders for me. Almost feels like there's some magic potion in these 4 capsules I have to take with every meal. Sometimes I play around with the dosage (and I admitted that to my doctor), only to learn that I really do need the enzymes!

So I asked him this morning again, "why would my pancreas all of a sudden stop producing the essential enzyme lipase (which is responsible for digesting fat)? And will I have to take these enzymes for the rest of my life?" He tells me that often when they are unable to figure out what the cause is, "idiopathic", he tells me ... which means arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause ... that when it's idiopathic that doctors tend to say that a virus is what caused it. He goes on to tell me that there have been cases of extremely healthy young individuals who develop serious diseases and doctors aren't able to figure it out. I love how my doctor is willing to admit that some times we just don't know ... yes, the mystery. He goes on to tell me that the endoscopic ultrasound I had done earlier this year indicated that there was no major damage to my pancreas or any visible tumors, which is a good thing. He went on to say that he suspects that if a biopsy was done of my pancreas that something would show up, but the risks associated with a biopsy of the pancreas are too high. He suspects there are changes happening at a microscopic level and aren't being detected by tests currently available .... hmmm, sounds very much like these lumps that keep growing in my left breast.
Noticing the spider as I got closer.

A palpable mass in my left breast has grown substantially from 6 weeks ago. It almost feels like it has a life of its own. The previous two lumps that were removed surgically in 2009 didn't show up on any ultrasounds or mammograms. Yet, when removed and biopsied they reveal that my cells are starting to go awry .... atypical hyperplasia/borderline DCIS. The same is true with this last mass ... this mass also isn't showing up on an MRI. I meet with my surgeon next Wednesday. Will I have to remove this mass and have it biopsied?

I return to the dream I had when my father appeared to me on January 3, 2010 ... he said to me that there's a virus (or bacteria ... I can't remember exactly) that's spreading throughout your body. He also said I had pancreatic cancer. This dream happened before I even suspected it was my pancreas and before my GI doctor figured out it was my pancreas. So why would my dad appear to me in a dream and tell me these things? And then there was this dream about having cancer in my left breast in the summer of 2008 that led me to notice a lump in my breast. So do I disregard these dreams? Do I brush them off to some crazy dream? Or do I just tuck them in the back of my mind and simply use them as guides and reminders to simply pay attention to the subtle changes in my body. My symptoms are an enigma to doctors. I guess i'm not a textbook case.

So at a cellular level, my body is going through some changes. It's a little scary at times. I have asked myself over and over again, what's so scary about all of this? I don't know if I have one answer to that ... I have many, of which one of them is that it's scary to know there are changes going on in my body and to not be able to see them, and for doctors to not be able to 'see' them with their tests and procedures. The unknown is also scary. Yet, deep down I know there's a reason for why all of this happening and I have to learn to trust, to pray, and to be okay with whatever path my life is meant to take.

I can't see God. Yet I feel God in my heart and I believe with all my heart He is with me.
I can't see Papa. Yet I feel him holding me, carrying me, protecting me.
I can't see air. Yet I know there is oxygen all around me because I can breathe.

I don't need to see to believe. That's Faith.
And when I get scared, I have to remember to ground myself and be in the moment. That's Being.

Faith = it stretches my soul and spirit up to the heavens.
Being = it grounds me and makes me stand firm in the roots of the earth.

Heaven and Earth ... may I feel both and may I simply trust and let go of all that keeps me from being my true self and what God has planned for me.


"Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we would like to dream about. The off-center, in between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught, and in which we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.

The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving. Usually, when we reach our limit, we feel exactly like Rinpoche's attendants and freeze in terror. Our bodies freeze and so do our minds. Rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we're feeling pierce us to the heart. This is a noble way to live. It’s the path of compassion - the path of cultivating human bravery and kindheartedness."

 ~Pema Chodron

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crescent Moon and Venus

Last night the celestial skies provided a treat ... shortly after the sun set on the western horizon, I went outside to our backyard in St. Paul, Minnesota. A good friend of mine sent me a text from New York, "Look at the crescent moon!!!" I was immersed in watching the US Open on TV and was nudged to take time to go outside. There's something amazing about knowing that I can be looking at the exact same moon from here in St. Paul as a friend in New York or California, or from Bimini, Bahamas or even my mother who is in the Philippines. I've always had a fascination with the moon. Maybe because my last name means moon rays in Thai, my birth country and where I lived the first 16 years of my life. So I went outside as the sun was setting and not only did I witness the most magnificent crescent moon but off to the right I noticed a bright star. It was so bright I knew it had to be a planet, but which planet? I came inside for a moment and went to the Earth Sky astronomy website where I learned that it was Venus. I rushed back outside with my camera to capture the moment. Despite the city lights I was grateful to be able to witness the pairing of the crescent moon and Venus as it rotated around planet earth ... it still amazes me to think of how planets orbits the sun, how moons orbit planets and that our sun is a star born from clouds and dust scattered throughout our universe. Life on earth exists because there is a perfect mixture of elements in our atmosphere and because of our sun. When I look up into the night skies all I can think of is "there has got to be a God!"

When I look up in the night skies and into our universe every structure, every sense of logic and reasoning is shattered for me. We live our life based on time. We wake up at a certain time each day, we have meetings scheduled throughout the day, we plan for vacations and business trips ... everything is time-based. Last night was a clear night and even in the city the night sky was filled with stars. As I'm mesmerized by these stars I realize, it's possible that a star I am looking at could no longer exist. When I look into the skies I am actually looking into the past .... in the heavens any sense of past, present, future is set aside.

From The Little India site:

When we look at the sun, in fact we are seeing the sun as it existed 8 minutes ago - the time light takes (at a speed of 186,000 miles per second) to travel the 93 million miles between sun and earth. Even if the sun disappears in a cosmic event, we will continue to see the non-existing sun for 8 minutes! We perceive the past of the sun as our present sun....

So how far can we see? The puzzling answer is around 13 billion light years. Our best telescopes can see a few million years after the origin of the universe. But we cannot see anything before the point when light emerged out of the baby universe. Asking the question "how far can we see" is actually the same as inquiring, "how far back in time can we see?" The expanding universe imposes a limit on our view and so we will not see anything beyond 13 billion years ago. And when we see it, unfortunately it will not be there any more! In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, "All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?"

Looking up into the heavens reminds me of how all I have is the present moment. There is no past, there is no future. It is helping me to not worry about the lump that is growing in my breast. 

If you missed the crescent moon and Venus last night, you have another opportunity tonight ... and tonight there's an added bonus of catching the double star Zubenelgenubi. Check out the Earth Sky site for more info. 

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.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Rebirth

Today I found myself taking a drive to Minnehaha Falls which is about 10 minutes from our house. I can't say that it was where I had initially planned on going ... but something led me there, to the waterfalls, to the sound of raging water ... and the eventual calm as the water flowed downstream. Today I wanted to take photos - i wanted to get out and be in nature, to capture images and to feed my soul. There's something happening inside of me that I can't explain. There's a rumbling in my soul.

It seems like my life has begun a major transformation since I went on the wild dolphin trip to Bimini in July. The astrologer I saw earlier this year told me I had death cards showing up in my chart this year .... she told me I needed to learn to play to save my life, that the cards can't tell the difference between a physical death or a metaphorical death. Since Bimini ... since being touched by wild dolphins ... I feel like a part of me has died; i feel like i'm just getting to know myself. Is it possible to be terrified and courageous at the same time? To be filled with love and joy and also hurt and pain? To be grounded and centered yet feel like my feet aren't touching the ground? Is it possible to crave, ache and long for deep, authentic connections yet feel the urge to run as fast as possible when love arrives at your doorstep?

It didn't matter to me that it was drizzling this afternoon as I stood by the waterfalls watching the water fall 53 feet. I actually welcomed the raindrops. The sound of water falling was soothing to me. Waterfalls are symbolic of rebirths, of a cleansing. To take the plunge, to trust that after the raging waters and the fall that there will be calm ... for me, that's what I needed to see today. So God led me to the waterfalls today so I could witness the beauty of the waterfall and to be reminded of the many different stages and transformations we go through in life.

I walked down the steps to the bottom of the waterfall and focused on this one rock ... centered, stable, grounded ... earlier on I viewed the water at the top of the waterfall as angry and full of rage. As I came to the bottom of the fall and looked up, I noticed my perspective had changed ... what was once angry and rageful was now vibrant, passionate and full of life! Perspective ... what a difference it can make!

I'm on a new path in my journey and there's a part of me that is scared to death. There's also a part of me that has had a glimpse of what heaven and pure joy can feel like ... it began the moment I was touched by a wild dolphin. And the dolphins continue to touch me with their magical energy ---what a gift they gave to me!  And with their magic they have given me the strength and confidence to keeping moving through the fear that once held me back.

I believe I've been given a new lease on life ... but like a caterpillar once held safe in its protective cocoon I must go through some challenging moments as I push through the cocoon to emerge a butterfly.

What is this 
precious love
and laughter

budding in
our hearts?

It is the
glorious sound

of a soul
waking up!

~ Hafiz

I would add to Hafiz' poem that the tears and the deep sadness I also feel in my heart ... that too, is the glorious sound of a soul waking up.

To embrace all emotions

 ... to enter into the "dark night of the soul"with conscious intention and love
  ... to strip my heart of its protective layers and risk loving and losing it all
    .... is an awakening of something much larger than myself.

What is it? Is it soul? Is it spirit? Is it God?

Time to awaken ...
   time to risk ..
     time to let go of all that has held my spirit hostage.

There's a heart beat I feel. Strange that it doesn't feel like my heart anymore. Yet the pulse and the vibrations are getting stronger.

So whose heart is it?
God? The Divine? The Beloved?

As Hafiz says, "it's a soul awakening!"

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trusting in the path

On so many levels this past week has been extremely difficult and painful. For someone who has successfully learned to bottle up my emotions and not let a tear fall ... I have had more tears fall in the past few days. I know change and transformation can be difficult and painful. I also know first hand at such a deep level what it is to lose someone you love ... it's amazing how the loss of my father at 4 has left me with so much scar tissue around my heart. And then sexual abuse at the age of 9 by a trusted family friend and Catholic deacon added to that pain and eventual hardening of my heart to protect the little girl.

Then Bimini happened in July and I was touched by the wild dolphins and the little girl emerged and she has brought me back to the depths of my earliest hurts of life. It's as if the dolphins touched my heart and said it's time to set that little girl free, and in doing so I feel like I no longer have the scar tissue around my heart that once protected me. Raw, exposed, vulnerable ... that's how I feel. Yet I know it is an essential step in my healing process. As I sit here now I am scared to death as I fear the loss of two significant people in my life, for entirely different reasons ... the tears keep falling. A friend tells me "tears are good and cleansing. See them as a beautiful river." And another friend shared with me yesterday a quote from Pema Chodron, "Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know." I know this pain I am going through is part of my healing journey. Quite frankly, it sucks and in my darkest moments I find myself turning to God, to the Divine, to the Beloved and I am reading this beautiful quote by Hafiz over and over ...

"I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the Astonishing Light of your own Being"

In my darkest moments, I turn to God and I trust that He is carrying me and holding me till I can walk on my own again.

Skinning Your Knees on God
~ Hafiz

Little by litte,
You will turn into stars.

Even then, my dear,
You will only be
A crawling infant,
Still skinning your knees on God.

Little by little,
You will turn into
The whole sweet, amorous Universe
In heat
On a wild spring night,

And become so free
In a wonderful, secret
And pure Love
That flows
From a conscious,
Infinite need for Light.

Even then, my dear,
The Beloved will have fulfilled
Just a fraction,
Just a fraction! 
Of a promise
He wrote upon your heart.

When your soul begins
To Ever bloom and laugh
And spin in Eternal Ecstasy --

O little by little,
You will turn into God.