Sunday, October 26, 2014


On Friday night I went to my niece's soccer game - she plays for the University of Utah. The game was the culmination of the U's Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

If you wore pink, you got in free - they handed out pink megaphones, and during half-time the announcer made this announcement -

"It is important that all women receive mammograms and do monthly self-breast examinations. Thank you all for your participation during this week's Breast Cancer Awareness Week. It is important that we all do what we can to get rid of this awful disease."

OUCH!!! Ladies and Gentlemen - I have an announcement for you -


I yelled, this out, ending with a Dammit (which my son didn't appreciate, in front of the grandchildren). However, I think restrained - I should have used a louder voice and a much harsher word of emphasis. 

Now others may disagree, but to me the definition of a disease is something someone catches due to an autoimmune disorder, a weakness in health, an infection, a virus. Cancer may (and I use this term very lightly) be genetically "caught," cancer cells are abnormal cells, and I could "catch" cancer if I maybe smoked 4 packs a day, etc. 

But I did nothing wrong - I did not, do not, have a disease. I had cells that freaked out, morphed into abnormal cells, and these cells were cancerous (in my humble opinion). 

So no - I'm not contagious; I'm not a carrier; you can hug me; you can even touch my bodily fluids and still not "catch" cancer from me. 

Damn it - 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Travelled -

Scott and I went to Billings, MT this past week. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Scott served a 2 year LDS Mission in the Western United States Mission, headquartered in Billings. We were able to spend 2 short days with my sister and her husband and family in Billings.

However - the drive that took us to and from Billings was almost as awesome as the time we spent with Vicki and family.

Oh my goodness - there is beauty all around - and I feel so blessed to have 2 eyes to see the beauty, a car that can make the drive comfortable, and the means to take our time seeing the areas.

We drove from Orem to Ashton, ID,staying at The Jolley Camper (owned by friends, and I would highly recommend). The next morning we drove to West Yellowstone (what a ghost town this time of the year), through Yellowstone Park, coming out at the North end in Gardiner, MT, staying at Yellowstone Gateway Inn (another high 5 recommendation).

We left Gardiner, drove to Livingston, MT, then west to Bozeman, and because we were way ahead of schedule, we drove to Three Forks, MT, and took a quick picture of the 104 year old Sacajawea Hotel (We stayed there many moons ago when Tyler was sick with strep throat; there was no room at the inn, so we spent the night in a lovely employee's boarding room). And then with more time to roam, we wandered through Bozeman, then headed east, looking for some romantic local lodging - which we did not find, and because of that we ended up spending the night in a highly over-priced Howard Johnson room in Billings.

Two days in Billings was not enough time to see Billings or Vicki and family. But - it was enough time to show us their world, and for me particularly, to spend some time with Vicki - all to myself.

Then on to Jackson, WY Sunday - driving through Red Lodge, MT (Scott spent 3 months there on his mission), next to Cody, WY and the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum, next through Yellowstone Park, out to Jackson, spending the night there (inexpensive, warm, quiet, good bed).

Monday we woke refreshed, and drove home through Idaho Falls - seeing freshly harvested fields reminded me how much I love being an Idaho girl.

And home - jiggity jig. Fast, furious, and absolutely delightful. Sunday's drive will be on my top 5 scenic drives - I am incredibly blessed to live in this part of the country - and blessed to love seeing nature at its finest - from fresh cut hay, to freshly harvested potato fields, to golden yellow leaves lingering on willows, to the dark red branches of river willows and the deep greens of the pines. Sunlight filtering through the trees, shading from mountains and cliffs, bright direct sun in the plains. And to top this all off - the most spectacular sight ever - an owl came swooping through the woods near Jackson Lake, flying low and directly toward the car. I saw its eyes - a fat body, broad wings, and a round face - gray, white, brown, probably a Great Gray Owl - what an image, what a beauty.

So it's Wednesday morning, caught up on e-mails, ready to get back to writing, ready to prepare for cold weather. And my words of summary are this - warmth is everywhere, beauty is everywhere, and the west is my home -

Friday, October 17, 2014

Travel -

While I was dealing with cancer healing, Scott and I decided as soon as I was healthy we would travel. And we have - not necessarily far away and exotic places, but hey - any travel is better than no travel! 

We've been to Northern California, Southern Oregon, Southeastern Idaho, Southern Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Hawaii . . . 

This week we've been road-tripping from our place through Ashton, ID, through Yellowstone Park, up to Gardiner, MT, to Bozeman, Three Forks, and over to Billings, MT, to visit my sister, Vicki, and her family. Scott served his LDS Mission here 46 years ago, and has not been back in this area. 

It's a beautiful part of the world. In fact, wherever we've been, we've found beauty. We don't travel freeways, we don't dine at chains, we don't sleep in big box motels. We love small towns, local people, getting lost and getting found. 

My sister, Vicki, she rocks. She's a nurse, and she's the nursing director over women's and children's services at St. Vincent Healthcare here in Billings. She and her husband, Scott, have 1 son, 3 daughters, and they are just the most loving, energetic, gentle people. 

So I love my sister; I haven't seen her in 18 months, and this is going to be a beautiful few days to spend with them all. 

I saw this sign in West Yellowstone. I love the idea, the concept; wondering how I can incorporate this into my tiny piece of woods: 

To Our Place
In the Woods
Take Nothing
But Pictures
Leave Nothing
But Footprints
Kill Nothing
But Time

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Finding a New Normal -

I am so here right now - and I don't know what to do.
And. I'm. So. Tired. Of. This. Place. And. These. Concerns.

Finding the Way Back to Normal After Breast Cancer: A Lesson in Invisible Fences by Carol Bysiek


For cancer survivors, finding the new normal is often job number one following a successful treatment. I know firsthand how hard it can be to reassemble the pieces following a long and exhausting treatment. While the good news for many is survival, there are often new concerns and challenges. And just as unique as is each survivor, so too will be the way in which (and depth to which) cancer touched their life. But one thing is for sure, it touched something, and getting back to normal takes time, patience, effort, and probably a good bit of help.
When I was looking for a way to explain how I felt following treatment -- the disorienting feeling, the sudden unfamiliarity of so many things in my life -- I used the analogy of an invisible fence. It really helped me and others to better understand and frame what going on. Simply put, I felt (I could only imagine) like a dog whose trusty, familiar invisible fence had suddenly been moved. The new boundaries were startling, jarring, even shocking. Much like for Fido, one cannot see an invisible fence, one has to live it, experience it, bump into it a few (or a bunch) of times. It used to end over there, but now I can't get past here. It used to have one shape, now it has another. I used to do, think, feel one way, and now those things either don't work or no longer feel right. But the new perimeters do not reveal themselves like a runway in the dark, all lit up, and they can't be found with the ease of a Google search. No, the process of recovery, and rediscovery, is one of patience, honest assessment, acceptance and a lot of self-care (and self-love).
We all have invisible fences surrounding us, even if we don't know it. Many of them since before you were born. These fences, for better or for worse, are the perimeters that surround our lives, make things familiar, predictable, and within our control. They all shape our sense of what is right, familiar, "normal," and expected. They make up the what should be. They needn't fence us in, so to speak, but at any given moment, they define our perimeters and what makes up our world.
At the highest level, our fences are shaped and put in place by when, where and to whom we are born -- by our generation, our religion, and our ethnic background, as well as by societal expectations, family, friends and community.
On a more personal level, we all have physical, mental and emotional fences, perimeters that we have learned to live by and these are the ones I want to focus on.
Physical perimeters: We know our limits, what we are capable of, what we can or cannot do well.
Emotional perimeters: We know how we feel, how we react to different triggers or familiar situations. We know our likes, our dislikes, preferences, motivations, dreams, goals, and desires. We know ourselves... or at least we think we do.

Mental perimeters: We are trained from childhood in school to think, and to reason. We know if we excel at math, language, science, business or philosophy. We know how our minds work on a daily basis. We take for granted the countless things our brain does without our conscious involvement -- the thousands of learned responses that are stored, and fired off when predictable patterns are detected, from making a pot of coffee half asleep to handling stressful situations.
All of these things come together to shape how we live, what we believe to be true, what we expect, what we know we are capable of and what we think life should be. They provide a sense of safety and security, and allow us to trust that tomorrow will follow today and everything in our lives will be in the same place when we wake up.
If you are lucky, you are the engineer of your fence. You expand it or contract it as things change, slowly. Learn something new? It expands in one direction. Get an injury, and your abilities contract in another direction. The result is a new shape. If this happens at a slow enough pace, it is not overly stressful. You take it in one move at a time.
But what happens in a major life trauma such as the loss of a job, the end of a marriage, a serious illness, a disability, or the loss of a loved one is a massive shifting of the fence. The changes are so big and/or come so fast such that all that was familiar and safe and predictable, the foundation that all else was built upon, is shaken, or perhaps even broken.
In my wellness practice (see more at, I have spoken with many survivors of breast cancer. A theme that is consistent no matter what stage or course of treatment they had (and one that needs more attention and resources than it currently receives) is the post-treatment phase of recovery, or "finding the new normal." There is good reason this phrase is repeated so often by this group, and frankly by anyone who has endured a trauma or loss. While our loved ones might want to see us recover and resume our lives as close to how they were before as possible (for good and loving reasons), the truth may be that parts of us will simply never be the same. The perimeters have moved. Finding the fence through a process of trial and error (nice way of saying bumping into it and messing up, a lot) and establishing new perimeters of body, mind and spirit, is where the survivor must begin the journey back to feeling whole, vibrant and ready to thrive again.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Take a Deep Breath -

Two years ago this week (10/11/12) I began chemotherapy. In many ways it seems like just yesterday - and in many ways it was in a past life. And since I'm a believer in reincarnation - even in my short 55 years I've lived many lives, I'm going with these two trajectories - because I have certainly evolved from two years ago, and I am not the same person I was yesterday.

So here's the deal - if I believe in reincarnation, then I must believe in time-travel. And here's what I want to do - I want to take the me of today back in time to visit the me of two years ago. This is what I am going to say to her:

Cancer. Shit. Damn. Sunny beaches. I am so sorry you have this diagnosis - so very, very sorry. Life will not be easy, in fact, life as you have known it will no longer exist, ever, ever again. I'm afraid you're pretty unprepared for this journey, but I don't know how you could be prepared. Kind of like being pregnant for the first time and giving birth, although you probably know many more people who have given birth than who have had cancer. So - go with the bliss you do understand - puking, bald, susceptible to all types of germs, achey body. But let me tell you - cancer and its treatment is horrible. I've been honest this entire blog, and I won't stop now. There is so much more to cancer than just losing your hair. So honey, hold onto yourself, and hang on tight to anyone, because this ride is not going to be pretty. Be awake and aware, live in the moment. Be afraid, but don't give up hope. Your support system is amazing, and you are more than blessed to be surrounded by people who love you. This journey is for them as well - cancer is not just for the person burdened with it, the ripple effects are broad-reaching.

Go forward with Grace and Peace my friend, peace.

PS - you are rockin' that pink hair! And look at you takin' and postin' a selfie! You are doing good things, being brave, stepping out, and that hair - something you would have never even entertained two years ago. Way to reach out!