Saturday, April 30, 2011


Through my volunteer work with Pet Haven I've been blessed to meet so many wonderful people. One of them is a very talented artist Cindy whom I have commissioned to create personalized leash holders for my pups. Shortly after I moved into my new home and as I worked to create a space and a feeling of me, I found myself wanting to fill my home with art and photography .... the word 'Namaste' has meant so much to me for quite some time. Yoga Journal does a beautiful job describing the meaning of Namaste:

"The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."

To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. Although in the West the word "Namaste" is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture, in India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.

We bring the hands together at the heart chakra to increase the flow of Divine love. Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind surrender to the Divine in the heart. One can do Namaste to oneself as a meditation technique to go deeper inside the heart chakra; when done with someone else, it is also a beautiful, albeit quick, meditation."

So I asked Cindy if she could create a mosaic for me with the word 'Namaste.' I wanted it to hang above a doorway that is located in the middle of the main floor of my house. It is also the doorway that leads downstairs to my den and to the master bedroom. It is the doorway that connects all spaces in my home and for me also connects me to spirits in physical and non-physical form. It is a word that reminds me of the sacredness of life and our connectedness. It is a word that reminds me to come from a space of love, understanding and compassion. It is a word that reminds me of the Divine, present in each and every one of us.

And in my downstairs bathroom I asked Cindy if she could create a mosaic with the word 'Breathe'. My bathroom is blue and I have filled the space with dolphin energy. Dolphins have played a very significant and healing role in my life's journey. Karyn Kedar in her book 'Dance of the Dolphins' does a beautiful job articulating what I feel in my heart about these precious creatures ... "the dance of the dolphin, as it gracefully navigates water and air, tells me to find balance because life is a mystery of contradictions, worlds I know and those I don't, realities I can see and those I can only sense. We live with paradox and ambiguity. We live in our minds and in our souls. We live in our own world and in the world of all. And all the while we dance, sometimes with grace, and sometimes not...."

And when I was blessed last July to swim and be touched by wild dolphins in Bimini, Bahamas I watched them swim and breathe with such grace. It was mesmerizing. Often, I forget to take deep breaths ... to breathe from my belly. Breath is the source of life.

Thank you Cindy for creating these very personal art pieces for me .... If you'd like to check out a few other pieces of work that Cindy has created check out her blog. You can also reach her at

Here are photos of the personalized dog leash holders she created for my "kids" .... 

Friday, April 29, 2011

To know, or not to know ... that is the question

On Wednesday I got a call from my doctor (the electrophysiologist). He wanted to give me the results of my latest heart test (echocardiogram). He also consulted with his colleagues to review my cardiac MRI and to confirm if they really believed I had 'left ventricular non compaction' (LVNC), a rare heart disease that apparently is found in only .1% of the population. The diagnosis of LVNC was confirmed. The echo revealed that my heart is functioning normally ... that's the great news! He indicated that structurally there is thickening of my heart muscle in the left tip of my left ventricle. That's the not so good news as it means there is some damage to my heart. At some time, it will begin to impact the functioning of my heart. The goal is to slow the damaging of my heart. For now, he wants me to begin aspirin therapy (once i get clearance from my hematologist that I don't have any bleeding disorders) and he says they will need to monitor me closely seeing me every 3 - 6 months and running tests to check the functioning of my heart and the progression of structural damage. He reminds me that exercise is good, but no competitive sports or races. The PVCs (preventricular contractions)/extra heart beats which have caused my sleep problems will be addressed at the end of May when I go in for an ablation. The beta blockers i'm taking have been helping for which I am extremely grateful. My doctor does not thinking that the PVCs which appear to be coming from my right ventricle have anything to do with the LVNC in my left ventricle. If they discover during the ablation, however, that there are PVCs coming from my left ventricle that could possibly indicate further deterioration of my heart and increased risk.

So how is all of this affecting me? I'm often asked that, and I often ponder that myself. Surprisingly, I am actually okay with it. This rare LVNC disease is something I have probably had all my life. Somehow, it's 'manifesting' now .... so now I simply know and am aware of this disease. I am also aware that this is a disease where there is so much the medical community doesn't know, and from what they do know, it's a disease with poor prognosis. The reality though is that it doesn't change anything because all I have is today ... all any of us have, is today and this moment. I have a choice on how I choose to accept this latest news. I am also very much alive today and in this moment. I feel very alive and nobody can tell me anything that will change how I feel on the inside. It doesn't mean i'm not cognizant that my heart, structurally, is weakening. But functionally, it's strong and I can keep doing things that will continue to strengthen my heart and my soul.

I admit that I have a new perspective on life ... I am putting everything 'in order' (it's something I should've already one!) ... I met with my estate planning attorney and before I have my heart procedure at the end of May everything will be in order. What an interesting exercise to actively plan for my death and to really think through what is important to me and the legacy I want to leave behind. I know it will give me comfort to know that I have all my matters in order. I also know that every morning when I wake up I am truly grateful .... and I thank God for another day. Today, I am even more grateful because  it is an absolutely beautiful spring-like day here in Minnesota and I have the day off from work to simply enjoy this gorgeous weather ...

"Go within yourself and probe the depths from which your life springs .... " ~ Rilke

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Never Give Up!

Taken after completing the San Francisco Half Marathon
thanks to my friend Michele for taking the photo :)
With all the curve balls that life has thrown at me over the past couple of years I find myself this morning slowing down to pause and reflect. The latest diagnosis of a serious heart condition (left ventricular non-compaction) was one, I must confess, that took me by complete surprise! Because of this heart condition I am being told I can no longer participate in competitive sports, and that signing up for races (marathons, half marathons, even shorter races) is something I need to give up. Competitive sports has been a part of my life, especially when I was younger and growing up. I grew up in Thailand and at the age of 6 I remember winning my first gold medal in swimming. At the age of 9 I began representing Thailand in international swim meets. I was known as the 'water baby' .... 50 meter and 100 meter breaststroke were my events and I held the Thai national records for those events. Swimming and competitive sports had become a part of life, a part of my being. My mom would take us (me and my siblings) for swimming training before school, then right after school we would head back for more swimming training. I remember eating my breakfast in the car ride from swimming training to school ... i remember hard boiled eggs, although i'm sure we probably had more than just hard boiled eggs!! :) For a while I trained under an Australian coach. I remember the intensity of that training ... how during the interval training I felt like my lungs were going to burst and how I wanted to just quit. My coach pushed me, and pushed me, and pushed me .... I learned how to use my mind to push my body beyond what it thought it was capable of, and when I could not take it any more and I had reached my limit I remember wanting to break down, cry and just give up. I remember my coach looking me straight in the eyes and saying to me at these times, and at times when I didn't win the gold, "a winner is someone who gets back up; a winner is someone who doesn't quit." Yes, I won many gold medals in my competitive swimming days, but I have to say my biggest learnings where when I didn't win the gold medals, it's when I ended up with a silver, or a bronze medal or even nothing .. and I learned that I have to get back up and keep trying.

Competitive sports taught me discipline and it taught me to never give up. In many ways, I think it taught me that I am capable of so much more than I think I'm capable of. These past couple years with all the various health challenges, I find myself thinking of the Energizer bunny, and I smile as I imagine myself being knocked down over and over again .... and somehow, some way, something inside of me keeps telling me, to get back up and try again.

Even though I can no longer compete in sports or sign up for races, I have taken with me the most valuable learnings from these experiences and they are a part of who I am and the way I view life and all that gets tossed my way ... last November I completed the San Francisco Half Marathon which was a huge accomplishment for me on so many levels (physically, emotionally and spiritually) with all of my health challenges. And that morning in San Francisco the weather took a turn and I found myself having to face running 13.1 miles in pouring rain, with some incredibly hard downfalls ... up until then I imagined running in beautiful sunny weather. Early that morning I had to shift my thinking to welcome the rain and downpour ... it then became a spiritual cleansing experience for me and as I ran across the Golden Gate bridge, not once but twice, and my body drenched ... I looked up into the heavens and smiled as I could feel the raindrops on my face. I remember just feeling so grateful for life. So today, I am challenged to approach running from a new perspective ... one of moderation. I am also going to incorporate more play into my life .... my pup Mister is a constant reminder to me of living in the moment ... after all, this moment is truly all we have ... the moments string together, and it's up to us how we choose to handle all that life tosses our way. I don't know what's in store for me health wise; I don't know what my EP (electrophysiologist) is going to tell me next week after he reviews the results of the echocardiogram and consults with his colleagues about my heart condition ... what I do know, is that on many levels, it doesn't matter because I am alive today, and no matter what he tells me I really only have THIS moment ... and if it's meant to be, then I will have many more of these moments, and if not, then I will make the most of what I have.

Today is Easter Sunday ... a day for Christians to celebrate the rising from the dead of Jesus. No matter what you believe ... I think we all have the ability to rise again; to have new beginnings; and for us to have new hope.

A good friend of mine shared the following video on her facebook page this morning ... how appropriate as I was reflecting on 'never giving up' ... it's a very moving and inspiring video.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My weary heart ... not just emotionally but physically

Photo from Flickr
So I meet with my EP (electrophysiologist) at Abbott Northwestern Hospital early this morning. Good news and not so good news. The good news is that the PVCs are coming from one area in my right ventricle. They are very frequent but my doctor says are most likely benign. The treatment plan: start on beta blockers and get scheduled for PVC ablation where he will go in to my heart and identify and isolate the exact location of where the PVCs are originating and ablate (or burn) that site. Because of bleeding complications i've had in the past and concern of my doctor of a potential bleeding disorder I have an appointment to see a hematologist tomorrow. My EP would like to know more about what the hematologist thinks and if I do have a bleeding disorder as that will change how the ablation is done. So for now, my ablation is scheduled for 5/31.

And the not so good news. The cardiac MRI done on Monday morning came back showing abnormality in my left ventricle. My EP does not think it's related to the PVCs in my right ventricle. In the medical world, it's considered an 'incidental finding.' I look at him and say, I guess you could say it was a blessing .. kind of like how my heart  PVCs were discovered as I was getting prepped for my MRI guided breast biopsy, and now how this abnormality in my left ventricle has been discovered because of my PVCs. He smiles ... "I guess that's one way to look at it -- a positive way." Then he goes on to tell me more about this 'abnormality' ... my report reads "Abnormal cardiac MRI: prominent trabeculation is seen in the apical third of the L ventricle, meeting criteria for noncompaction of the left ventricle." He goes on to tell me that this is a rare heart disorder, and affects only 1% of the population. He tells me though that he wants to consult with a few more of his colleagues to confirm the LVNC (left ventricle non-compaction) diagnosis and also wants me to have another test (an echocardiogram). Either way my LVNC diagnosis will be confirmed or I will be borderline and will need to be monitored closely. It's a serious disorder and prognosis is often fatal (severe heart failure, systemic embolism, arrhythmia or sudden death). They believe it's a genetic disorder. There's no specific therapy for LVNC but one that seems to help is aspirin therapy as those with LVNC are at greater risk of developing blood clots due to blood being retained in the heart. Interestingly, it appears that i've had problems with my blood clotting after past MRI guided biopsies.

So I sit here at home and the reality of all my EP has said is starting to sink in ... I am at risk of sudden cardiac failure. I guess, if i'm going to have to go at least it will be quick. I'm going back to the hospital for an echocardiogram on Friday. My EP wants another view of the abnormal area in my left ventricle. He also wants to see if and how much of my heart muscle has been damaged or weakened.

My EP was absolutely wonderful, thorough, compassionate and spent over an hour with me explaining everything to me and listening to me. He did his best to not scare me with the LVNC diagnosis but he also needed me to know the seriousness of this disorder. I wanted to ask him, "so how much time do I have?" But I decided not to, because the truth, none of us really know how much time we have left on this beautiful planet. Maybe it's a blessing that i've been made aware of how short and precious life is, and that my weary heart could go out on me any time now and I need to live life as fully as possible.

With this being such a rare disorder there unfortunately isn't a specific therapy .. there are drug therapies (beta blockers) and aspirin therapy ... the drug therapy is an attempt to strengthen and regenerate the heart muscle; the aspirin therapy to prevent risk of blood clotting. In the end, if the heart muscles are severely weakened then a transplant is an option. So on Friday i'll take a test to see just how damaged my heart muscles are ... for now my EP says no competitive sports, no marathons or even half-marathons. Yes, I can exercise but need to do so in moderation.

Today ... I am working from home and spending time with my precious Ahnung, Missy and Mister. My heart is weary ... emotionally and physically. But I am grateful for all that I have in my life ... for my friends, family, community ... and for knowing that each day I live my life with purpose and meaning.

There was a quote being passed around on facebook yesterday ... i posted it on my wall as it resonated with me on a deep level ... I need to remind myself again today, of this beautiful quote:

"Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."
Victor Frankl, Auschwitz Survivor"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weary heart

I just got home from the hospital and am taking the day off from work. I went in early this morning for my cardiac MRI. I slept last night but it was not a restful sleep. I've been taking 50 mg of Benadryl early enough in the day as I've learned that my body reacts within the first 3 - 4 hours of taking the benadryl (rapid heart beat, feeling a little faint and like i'm having an out of body/floating type sensation), but since i've been able to sleep through the night I figured it must be helping. I took the 50  mg around 4 pm yesterday as I had plans to go to bed early in anticipation of waking up early for my cardiac MRI. My heart started fluttering and racing. I've learned to just situate myself comfortably on the couch in the den and just lay there for a few hours with the pups till the crazy symptoms dissipate. A friend calls to check on me last night. She happens to be in the medical field and when i mention, in passing, my symptoms from the benadryl she immediately tells me that I have to stop taking benadryl. My heart is obviously having some kind of a reaction to it and i need to call my cardiologist and let her know what my symptoms are and if it's okay to keep taking the benadryl. So i have a call into my doctor right now. I don't know what's worse ... being sleep deprived I find myself feeling desperate ... desperate for rest and sleep, almost at any cost.

This morning as they got me ready for the cardiac MRI they did the usual insert a needle in my vein to get an IV started ... it's to push contrast in my body half way through the procedure. They also attach an EKG to my chest. The nurse tells me i'm having a lot of PVC (preventricular contractions). They continue to monitor my heart for a little bit. I go in and out of PVCs with some major clusters of PVCs. The nurse asks if I can feel the PVCs? I tell her I can now. A few weeks ago I couldn't but I notice them throughout the day now and at night when i'm unable to sleep. Because i'm having so many PVCs they administer a drug to override the PVCs for the MRI. I lay face up and they put headphones on me and they ask if i'm ready ... "you'll be more comfortable if you close your eyes" the nurse says to me as I start sliding into the tube. I close my eyes and as I move further into the tube I can feel the air tighten around me. I take a deep breath to calm myself and to call the dolphins into my heart and my head. For 40 minutes I am in the tube, laying completely still and following instructions of when to breathe and when to hold my breath. And when the contrast is inserted into my veins I feel a cold fluid rush through my body and in minutes my body starts to shiver. I tell myself 'one last round of images Marilou and you'll be done ... think dolphins, think warm water in the Bahamas.'

My cardiologist has pushed for the MRI to be done more than a month in advance and for me to meet with an electrophysiologist on Wednesday because I have become very symptomatic. I feel the irregular heart beats, pretty much all day. I've been unable to sleep at night until just a few days ago when I started taking benadryl (but now am not sure if I can continue to take benadryl). The PVCs are uncomfortable but they're tolerable in my waking hours. Part of me wonders if it's just in my head and i'm just noticing it more .... this morning confirmed for me it's not in my head. I'm having frequent and significant clusters of PVCs.

I'm glad I have the day off from work today ... my heart feels tired today, emotionally and physically. My body feels tired.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Accepting all gifts as if it were one I had chosen ...

Photo from Flickr.
Last night I finally got a decent night's sleep ... I only woke up once (at 4 am) and fell right back to sleep. It's been 30 days since I've slept soundly through the night. For the past month i've only been able to imagine (yes, even fantasize) what it would feel like once again to lay my head down on my pillow, and fall right to sleep like I used to, have sweet dreams (or lucid, meaningful dreams) and to wake up feeling rested. I don't feel completely rested as I know it will take time for my body to catch up, but I am grateful and relieved for the gift of a decent night's sleep. Maybe it was the 50 mg of benadryl I took early last night in combination with my body reaching its limit and saying to my heart .... "you can palpitate and you can thump and you can scream, but tonight I am going to ignore you and I am going to sleep right through the irregular pounding thumps!" Or maybe my heart, simply conceded  ... regardless, it doesn't matter how or why I was finally able to sleep through the night. I am simply grateful.

So today I am able to reflect more on this past month, on what my heart has been doing and the new twists and turns in my health journey. I am grateful to my cardiologist who pushed to get my appointments moved up ... early Monday morning I go in for a cardiac MRI and early Wednesday morning I meet with one of the few electrophysiologists in the state of Minnesota. My cardiologist called him up directly to discuss my case and he agreed to meet with me on a non-clinic day. I had to reschedule my appointment with the hematologist for next Thursday. Finding relief and figuring out what is going on with my heart and why the electrical patterns and rhythms in my heart have gone awry has taken priority.

This morning I came across a beautiful poem by Jane Hirschfield, "Each moment a white bull steps shining in the world." It reminds me of how important it is for me to welcome and accept all gifts that come into my life ... even the frightening ones ... and to embrace them and accept them as if I had chosen the gift myself. I don't know why I've been having so many health challenges over the past couple years. What I do know is that it has made me a better, stronger person. And what I do know is that in the end, no matter what, I will be okay.

So I felt compelled to share with you Jane Hirschfield's poem ... inevitably we will encounter something, someone, an experience, an event that will scare us and make us want to run the other way or put our defenses up. Today ... my gut reminds me that behind anything that scares or frightens us, there is peace, love, light and joy. Today, I remind myself to be rooted and grounded.

Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World
~ Jane Hirschfield

If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.

Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.

Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.

Treat it as if you yourself
would be treated, brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.

And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant - 
stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling, dewlaps
you'd come to believe were yours,
and plunge in the knife.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling,
that you came to love it, that was the gift.

Let the envious gods take back what they can.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reaching deep into my roots ...

It's been a while since I blogged ... i am fortunate to have friends and even kind strangers from across the globe follow my blog, so I decided I needed to post an update even though I am tired and my mind and brain feel like they are barely functioning. I am always appreciative of the kinds words, thoughts and prayers and deep down believe that we are all connected, somehow, some way ...

First the good news! The two lesions in my breast were biopsied (or at least samples of the lesions) and were BENIGN!! There were early signs of cell proliferation but not enough for my surgeon and doctor to recommend a surgical biopsy so for now I get a 6 month reprieve till I have to return for a follow-up MRI. If the lesions are still there they will need to be removed. The bleeding issue that resulted after the MRI guided biopsy is of concern to my primary doctor so I have an appointment scheduled with a hematologist for next week.

My biggest issue right now continues to be my heart and not being able to sleep at night. It's now 29 days since I first had sleep problems. I've gone back in my journals and health diary. It was the Monday after I returned from a weekend workshop in Virginia (3/14) and 4 days before the first attempt to do the MRI guided biopsy. I wasn't even aware at that time that I had heart problems. I just remember waking up every hour or hour and a half. I brushed it off to 'worry' or anxiety or who knows what. But it persisted every night, and has persisted every night since then. Some nights i'm fortunate and only wake up about 4 times and am able to fall back to sleep fairly quickly. A month ago I would say I was minimally symptomatic; even two weeks ago, it wasn't bad. I noticed the palpitations but they weren't bad and I could live with them. Mid May for the cardiac MRI and appointment with the electrophysiologist seemed a way off but based on my symptoms I was okay with it. This past week or so the symptoms have gotten worse - not only do I feel these strong heart palpitations at night (which often wake me up) but I feel them during the day. My strategy of cat naps during the day no longer are working and as the days and weeks string together where I am unable to sleep without interruption I feel my body weakening. Desperate for sleep this past Saturday I broke down and took some OTC Nyquil cold medicine. My body does not do well with drugs and although I got some sleep I woke up many, many times and in the end did not feel rested as I slipped into what felt like an out of body experience, and the irregular and increasingly strong heart palpitations would jolt me awake.

I asked my cardiologist to reconsider the heart meds. Sleep deprivation is making me feel desperate ... desperate for sleep; desperate to try anything to get rest. My cardiologist tells me I'm not a candidate for the heart medication as my resting heart rate and my blood pressure are already too low and the meds will lower them even more. I don't care, I say. I know i'm not thinking clearly. I need to get in to see the electrophysiologist sooner. She is working to get me in to see him next week. My cardiac MRI has been re-scheduled for early Monday morning. How long can I go on without sleep, without uninterrupted sleep?

Last night I just wanted to cry. I was so tired. I tried to take a nap in the late afternoon. I normally don't sleep with my pups ... I broke down and let my dog Missy on the bed with me thinking it may help me fall asleep. The only one who fell asleep was Missy (and Mister too!) ... nonetheless, it was nice to snuggle up with Missy who thinks she's a person as she loves to lay her head on a pillow.

I am grateful for the incredible friends I have and all the support I continue to get from such a loving community. And today, I am especially grateful for a new love in my life ... a message early this morning on my cell phone "hi sweetie, just wanting to see how your night was" ... and the daily calls (actually several check-in calls a day) to see how i'm doing and if i need anything, and then an hour ago he stops by on his way back to work to drop off some hot food and OTC meds that the cardiologist recommends to help me sleep ... a hug, a kiss an embrace. I tell him that the best medicine for me right now and what is helping me through all of this are the unconditional love of my dogs, his love and support and the love and support of so many of my friends and family.

I have reached deep into my core and done so much work and healing emotionally ... it's ironic that as I have opened up my heart to love and to allow myself to be loved, I am now here having to deal with heart issues. I wrote a letter to my heart the other morning while i journaled asking her what she needs from me ... "dear Heart: I hear your cries. I hear you. I feel you. I notice you. No longer will I push you away or build walls around you. Please tell me what you need or want from me....." I have spent decades trying to keep my heart safe. Now, even with these heart issues, I know that I have never felt so alive ... so full of life, so full of love.

I reach deep into my roots for strength, for courage, for hope. And I reach outward to accept the help, love, support and encouragement of so many who bless me with their presence in my life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hope .. Strength ... Courage

Photo from Flickr
For several weeks now I've had interrupted sleep. It began a week before the first attempt of the MRI guided breast biopsy that was cancelled because they discovered I had a heart problem. I couldn't figure out why I kept waking up in the middle of the night. For a while it was every hour or hour and a half. Now it's often midnight, 3 and 5. Tonight i woke up again at midnight. This time I couldn't go back to sleep and decided to get up and write. At least now I know that waking up is because of my heart problem ... ventricular bigeminy is the fancy word. I'm scheduled for a cardiac MRI and to meet with an electrophysiologist but not till mid-May. I met with a cardiologist last week and at least got clearance to move forward with the MRI guided breast biopsy ... so yesterday I was back at the hospital. The last time I had an MRI guided breast biopsy was August 2010 down at Mayo. I fell in the less than 1% that had complications and a hematoma and they had trouble stopping the bleeding. In August 2010 I only had one site that had to be biopsied and it was small 4mm site. Yesterday two new lesions have appeared since my MRI 6 months ago. Both are in my left breast and both are around 1.5 cm. I told the doctor I hope that this go around I wouldn't get a hematoma.

I have learned to calm myself down in the MRI tube. As I was moved in and out of the tube I kept telling myself to just breathe. As contrast rushed through my veins and my body shook from the vibrations I took my mind to the ocean, to the dolphins, to moments of joy and peace. They locate the two lesions and tell me that they are going to clean the area, numb the area ... the doctor asks 'do you feel something sharp?' I know two large needles are going to be inserted into the outer side of my left breast. Unfortunately i say 'yes it feels sharp'. She adds more solution to numb me a little more. She says 'you'll feel a little pressure.' I actually feel more than just pressure but tell myself I can just breathe through it. As the needle goes deeper inside of me I feel it making stops .. each stop stings and I take a deep breath. I have to lay extremely still for the entire time. After putting me back in the tube and running more images they confirm the needles are in the right place and they are now going to remove tissue from the two sites. "You'll feel more pressure and hear some loud noises" the doctor tells me as the needles pierce their way through my tissues and my cells. I hear this drilling sound and I say to myself 'Marilou ... it's okay' and I return to the ocean and I return to that place in my mind that carry moments of joy. I feel a hand on my arm .. the nurse is stroking my forearm 'are you okay?' I let out a muffled yes. The pain was greater this time than last August. Maybe because it was two sites. Regardless, I was relieved when it was finally told it was over.

Unfortunately, like last August, they had trouble getting the bleeding to stop. As a result I ended up not have the post MRI mammogram done (which is done to confirm the location of clips inserted at the lesion sites). I was told to come back in a week and a half for the 'gentle' mammogram. I was happy to be out of there even though I was feeling extremely sore and a little light headed. I stopped at Lunds to get an ice pack. As I was leaving Lund's I got a phone call from a new friend who was checking on me because she new I was going in for the MRI biopsy (a veterinarian whom I met for the first time over the weekend as we came together in a collaborative animal rescue effort to help a very battered and beaten dog). As I'm talking to her I suddenly feel what feels like blood on my belly. "ummm, Vicki .. I just came from the hospital and I think I have a problem. I think i'm bleeding." I could feel blood rushing down my stomach and my chest feeling drenched. "I'm going to pull over." "Yes, pull over right now. I pull into a parking lot and open up my black jacket. My pink Life is Good long-sleeve shirt is drenched in blood, the inner lining of my coat is covered with blood and I feel blood dripping down and the top of my jeans are getting soaked in blood. "Vicki, i'm going to have to call you back." I smell the blood and I momentarily panic. Okay, do I turn around and drive myself back to the hospital emergency room? No, I can't. I have to go let the dogs out ... they've been on their own for 5 hours. I'm almost home. I'll go home, let them out and put pressure and stop the bleeding and assess what I need to do then. So I quickly drive home -- fortunately i'm only 5 minutes away. I feel the blood dripping down my stomach. I rush into the house and let the dogs out then quickly run to the bathroom to grab some towels. Blood is dripping on my kitchen floor. I take my coat and shirt off and immediately apply pressure. The towel gets drenched with blood. I call my friend Laura up. I'm not sure what to do. I'm worried about the dogs. What if I can't get the bleeding to stop? Why is my blood having trouble clotting? It seems like over the past year I bruise easily and my wounds don't heal easily. Breathe Marilou Breathe ... i keep saying to myself over and over. I call my friend Vicki back who happens to work at the vet clinic around the corner from my house. She's a saint and comes over and helps me assess the situation, ensure the bleeding has stopped, puts new bandage on and helps take care of my dogs (not to mention a bunch of other stuff she did to care for me). She's insistent that I rest and that if I start to bleed again that I need to get myself to an emergency room (and no I can't drive myself! .. it's like she can read my mind!) and if I need to I should call 911. I am beyond grateful. It's hard for me to ask for help. I admit it was a welcome relief when I saw her car pull up into my driveway. I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life ... friends who would come over and help me in a heart beat if i would simply ask or let them.

Today (Tuesday) I am going to be on edge waiting for my phone to ring in hopes that the pathology report will come in. Yes, i'm worried about the results of the pathology report. Will these lesions be benign? more of the atypical ductal hyperplasia? or is it cancer? I am tired, both emotionally and physically. The heart palpitations I have are causing me to not get restful sleep and lack of sleep is taking its toll on me. Yet at the same there's a part of me that feels so alive and so grateful for my life today. I have met a very special person in my life. He makes me feel so alive and so loved. I hadn't planned on falling in love. Truth is though ... I have fallen in love with my life which of course includes my beloved 3 furkids (and especially the animal rescue work I do) .. i have fallen in love with the connections and closeness I have with so many precious, loving friends (both new and old)... and now I am falling in love with a man who has touched my soul and is helping me heal some of my deepest, oldest wounds.

And so ... in the middle of the night and as so much goes through my heart I am hopeful that my health diagnosis, whatever it may be, will be something very treatable and manageable ... i pray also for strength and courage to continue to live my life with passion, purpose and love ... lots of unconditional love.

Friday, April 1, 2011

TV debut for my therapy dog Ahnung!

Many of you know how blessed I feel to have Ahnung in my life .. my beautiful dog who is now a therapy dog and came to me via Karen Good of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue ... her story is shared on Ahnung's first blog posting.

Ahnung (pronounced ah-NUNG and means 'star' in ojibway) is truly a gift to me. She came with a multiplicity of diseases and injuries ... like so many other dogs rescued from abusive situations she demonstrated just how resilient animals are, and how loving they are despite all they have been through.

We were honored to be asked by Karen Good (who is one of the Eleven Who Care volunteer winners here in Minneapolis) to join her at the Kare11 station and for Ahnung to be an ambassador for the Red Lake rez dogs. What an honor.

Karen continues to be such a huge inspiration to me for her tireless efforts, her unconditional love and compassion, and her devotion to these battered innocent creatures up at the reservation.