Sunday, March 30, 2014

Place of Solace

While Scott and I were in Hawaii we talked about the places, hard core dirt on the ground, places where we find solace, solitude, respite. We love to travel; an adventure is always fun, always rewarding, and honestly, usually exhausting. Although Oahu and Kauai were spectacular, we came home tired. There was so much to see, so much to do, and we tried to get as much into our days as possible. Hence the tiredness that comes and then we need a vacation from our vacation. 

I'm a firm believer in traveling to places we enjoy (unlike places we went once and will never go again) at least twice. Once to get our bearings and the second time to relax and enjoy.

But, back to respite. Zion - yep, Zion, Springdale, Utah is that place for us. When we think of getting away from it all, taking a break, we are fortunate to have only 4 hours separating us from our home away from home. We have our our room away from home, we're familiar with the lay of the land, and we love the people; we don't have to be anyone besides Scott and Ronda. No matter how many times we have visited, we hate to leave for home, and we leave with rides to go on, hikes to take, places to explore, and rests to have for the next time. We leave already planning what we'll do upon returning.

Scott and I will most likely never leave Utah County. I'm coming to grips with this sad dose of reality. We will probably never have a second home in Jonesborough, Tennessee, although we'll continue to travel to the East. But we do have a place that is convenient, hospitable, and speaks our language just a few miles down the road.

So when we came home from Hawaii, we looked at each other and said, "Only 6 more weeks until Zion. We can make it until then."

Where do you go for respite, to have your cup filled?

I just finished a lovely book, The Orchardist, that Jenna suggested I read. I recommend it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wouldn't It Be Nice -

Scott and I have spent the last 10 days in Hawaii celebrating our 10 year anniversary. We had a wonderful time, and I won't bore ya'll with travel data and pictures, but I will say it was hard to come home to cold, windy, brown Utah.

But one thing I've been thinking about these past few days is this - you know how people say, "Party's over, back to the real world," or, "Time to go back to reality"? Well, what if vacation time is reality? What if that day to day life is only an "image" of the realness of vacation? (Think Plato's Chairness here.) What if daily life is an image of reality, but only an image, and when we're on vacation, that's when reality/truth is apparent?

I mean, think about it - on vacations we get to be our best selves, do what we love, spend time with whom we love, eat, sleep, drink our loves. And we capture the images of this and bring it 'back' as a reminder of the 'real.'

I'm hanging on to that - my daily life is amazing - I do what I love, with those I love, on a daily basis, so coming back/to was not that hard. However - the memories I bring home of that perfection, will linger, and I will continue to search for more opportunities to have that real time, as often as I can.

Dedicated to niece Kelley Marsden, who lives this so very well -

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Helpline -

I have been a volunteer for the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Helpline for about 6 months. I usually serve on Mondays from 11am-3pm.

Interestingly, yesterday I had 4 calls from women who have Triple Negative Breast Cancer, and yesterday was TNBC Awareness Day.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer can seem like a life-sentence to many women. The triple negative means our cancer is not responsive to "typical"  breast cancer treatments, although, really, what is typical - all women should have individualized treatment plans. The biggest, most generic difference is that most breast cancers are hormone and protein positive, so often chemo isn't needed, rather surgery, radiation, and sometimes an oral chemo pill which is usually taken daily for 5-10 years. TNBC is not hormone or protein responsive, so we usually have chemo, regardless of the size of our tumor, and that is it - we have one chance at killing our aggressive cancer rather than a prolonged chance. Typically if TNBC doesn't not reoccur in 2-5 years, we're considered NED (no evidence of disease), but those first 5 years are filled with careful monitoring/screening and fear.

What this means is that women with TNBC usually do not have to worry about prolonged treatment, they do have to undergo chemo, of which I've loudly whined about for 18 months! TNBC women must be closely monitored - seeing their oncologists every 3 months, with mammograms every 6 months. Careful monitoring includes things such as blood tests for white and red blood cell counts, feeling for lumps, and changes in energy level, unusual pain, respiratory and heart troubles, bone density loss, etc. Genetic testing is usually advised, and if the TNBC carrier is found BRCA+, there's a likelihood the woman could pass the cancer on genetically, which I've also discussed.

There still isn't a lot known about why a woman would have one type of breast cancer cell and not another, and why a woman can carry both + and - cells at the same time. But suffice it to say, TNBC is still considered the "black sheep" when it comes to understanding cancer cells, and hence, the worry many women have.

Consider this - my friend has larger tumors, perhaps more than one, although they haven't spread, and they are E+R+HER+. Her doctors suggest surgery, which she has, then 33 radiation treatments, and then oral chemo for 5-10 years. Or me - 1 small tumor, surgery, chemo, radiation, then walking on thin ice for 2-5 years. Hmmmm - pick your poison!

In the meantime - and this is what I counseled the women I speak with - live life to the max. DO NOT let your cancer control or define you. You may not be able to control your cancer, but you can control how you deal with it and at what level you entertain it. At times my cancer has played a premier role in my life, yet these days it's an annoying cousin, a part of me that I acknowledge and then hurriedly pass by. I know, and am reminded daily (such as today when I receive a note in the mail saying it's time for another mammogram), it will be a part of my life for quite some time. And yet - another mammogram or another doctor's appointment are the ways I time my NED - 18 months to go toward that 5 year goal!

Happy moving past TNBC Day and on toward NED Day!