Metastatic Cancer.

Crunchy on the outside; chewey on the inside

image credit: Good Search

Before getting into the post—what’s worse, a camel biting your head off, or your sister laughing at your plight? This picture reminds me that fretting about cancer is rather silly. I mean, now I’m lookin’ over my shoulder for camels in the office on Wednesdays! Heads up!

The appointment after I received the negative biopsy results, I got the bone density scan and blood test results. The bone density scan came back showing lower levels of bone density—and the blood test came back showing elevated calcium levels. Those are two contradicting results, and neither is a result you want to hear.

Those opposing results led my oncologist to order a bone scan, which showed a dark mass at my sacrum. To be sure it wasn’t a hairline fracture, I had some x-rays. Good news, no hairline fracture. My bones are in great shape. So, the next step was a bone biopsy.

The following week, it was a matter of listening the “It’s cancer” all over again. The options, the statistics—the whirling noise in my head, searching for answers, and a way out of this situation.

My doctor hoped I was a candidate for two trial studies. I wasn’t accepted. The first one would require chemo right off the bat. Patients who’d had prior chemo, and experienced neuropathy, weren’t eligible to participate in this study. That was me. The second study didn’t accept me because they were looking for patients who’d been on a medication that hadn’t worked. (We soon learned “a” meant “one” medication. I’d been on two that hadn’t worked.)

There is a third study I did qualify to participate in. I’ve declined to take part. For me, the side effects, the odds, and the requirements of participants weren’t a trial, but a sentence. (Can you tell I was called for jury duty recently?)


If the shoe fits (autobiography in five short chapters)

walk image credit: Good Search

I love this poem. Whatever your current situation, this may fit. Maybe you’re upset over something, maybe you’re just ready to approach life from a new angle. (How about a TRY angle?)

If you’ve been re-diagnosed, and are in the sad, angry, or why-me stage, this could relate to cancer. It’s not making those emotions wrong, it’s giving you the opportunity to choose empowerment. And it’s okay if you don’t choose that right away. Emotions must be payed attention to, or they will move from whisper to scream, and that will affect your health even more.

If you’re a caregiver, the poem could be for how you play your role. Cancer is a heavy load to walk with someone. Note the word with. You alone, cannot carry this load. Share it. Ask for help. Give yourself “me” time. Lighten up. Love yourself.

Put on your walking shoes…

Autobiography in five short chapters

by Portia Nelson


CH 1

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in. I am lost…I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to get out.


CH 2

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


CH 3

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.


CH 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


CH 5

I walk down another street.






 image credit: Google


Cancer. Anger. Anxiety. Depression.


This is a re-post:

Ask your medical team if the cancer treatment you receive can trigger emotional change. Some medications have side effects of possible depression, anger or anxiety. It’s much easier to deal with these new emotions when you know where it’s coming from. In addition to medication, anger can arise from the process of menopause. You’re not crazy. You’re not a horrible person. Your body is used to a certain amount of estrogen and progesterone, and now that’s gone. It’s a triple-quadruple whammy: Chemo, surgeries, medication, menopause. (It’s enough to make you scream, isn’t it?)


Some say anger helps them through cancer. I’ve met some very angry people. Their anger may help them, but that doesn’t mean I need to be their target or audience for inappropriate dealings of their anger. I’m all for tying to understand frustration, and supporting others when we can. This coin has two sides: People encouraging each other. People practicing the life they want.


Having said this, when someone’s depressed, they cannot just turn on the switch to joy. It takes time and effort on everyone’s part. When I was diagnosed with cancer, in fact—with every change and every surgery (6) I found myself at the bottom of the emotional ladder. (Even if it was a new level, I’d be at the lowest rung of that level.) I’ve been a New Thought minister and know the ropes around positive thinking. But, some days I had to allow others to lift me, knowing I was being dark and miserable—and knowing at some level, someday I’d return to “me.” My mantra was often, “Trust. Float.” (We don’t float in water by fighting it. We float by relaxing into it.)


As I often point out, this isn’t about stuffing or internalizing emotions. If you’re angry, go ahead—swear at cancer, punch a pillow, cry, shake your fist at God. Do what feels good. Then, move out of anger. It will not serve you to stay there. But, if you’re angry, fearful or sad and you ignore it, you’re asking for trouble. Be present. Know how you feel. Only then can you make a shift to a better feeling. Even just by saying, “I want to feel better.” It’s like an alert to your body that you’re ready to shift gears. After making that announcement, you can continue with a list of (start with five) things for which you’re grateful. I covered my walls with shelf paper and used felt tips pens for my “Wall of Gratitude.” I knew I wouldn’t seek out a journal to read or write when I felt awful. This way it was in my constant view, and I’d get lost in it, reading and thinking, Yes! I really am grateful for that!


Lean into friends, family, neighbors, support groups, medical team, and counselors. Notice the support around you. I received incredible support from grocery store cashiers, and the general public. Not long after completing chemo, I was at Costco one night in December, buying one box of smoked salmon. That’s it. Nothing else. A woman in the line next to me pointed at me, and loud enough to cross the checkout lanes said, “YOU ROCK!” At first I smiled, “Thank you.” She said it again with emphasis. I teared up. She understood the absurdity. Costco. Night shopping. Christmas time. One item.


Cancer is often accompanied with feelings of isolation and loneliness, intensifying with anger. You may storm in and out anger during the few years of cancer treatment. It may continue after treatment is over. Many patients focus on getting back to “the way it was before.” It may happen, and if not, maybe the change in the long run will be spectacular. As you get fresh air, good sleep, exercise, and healthy food, you’re raising the bar for the new norm. If you need to, get angry. But direct it appropriately, and move on.


Related Resources:



1-800-227-2345 English, Spanish, Asian and Pacific Languages. They also have a chat line.



1-800-4-cancer 1-800-422-6237  English, Spanish. They also have a chat line.


Who Did You Help Today?

Helpful happy

Image credit: Good Search

Every once in a while, a complete stranger, who doesn’t know your situation, will touch your heart. I was recently on an airplane for a two and a half hour flight. I got the short straw, and had a middle seat on a full plane. The three of us women shared pleasantries with each other, then went  back into our personal space.

I had some of my lymph nodes removed during a cancer surgery. Because of that, I wear a compression sleeve as a precaution against lymphedema, which can come when the lymph system is blocked. The compression sleeve compresses/constrains my arm, and helps the lymphatic system work more easily when my arm is being stressed (flying, repetitive motions, lifting weights.)

Just before landing, one of the women pointed to my compression sleeve and asked, “Is that for edema?” I said, “It’s to prevent lymphedema. I had lymph nodes removed, and I wear it when I fly or work out so the lymphatic system doesn’t get stressed—so my arm doesn’t swell.”

The plane landed in Phoenix, and the three of us women wished each other well before we went our separate ways, each catching a connecting flight. On the way to my gate, I stopped to put my book and sweater into my carry-on, and in the process, my sweater fell. The woman who sat next to me and had asked about my sleeve saw what looked like an ordeal, and came over. Without the tone of pity, but genuine care, she asked, “Do you need any help?” I laughed and said, “It looks like it, but really, I’m okay. Thanks.” I got everything in its proper place, and we walked off in the same direction, together before parting ways.

This scenario touched me. A stranger in the same kind of hurry as I, took the time to offer help. The offer wasn’t out of pity, or out of her being nosy. I think this brief interaction empowered both of us. Once in a while, the kind act of someone can make such a difference, and yet be brief, effortless, free for them to do.

As I settled into my seat on the next flight, I thought back to the airport scene—then my mind jumped to a month earlier. I was at the Portland airport and a man looked confused as he read the monitor showing departures. I asked if he needed help. In very broken English, this French man explained on the way to the USA, he ended up in Portland, Maine. (He was expecting to land in Portland, Oregon.) Now, the day of departure, he couldn’t find his flight number on the monitor. I asked to see his ticket. I noticed a small, faint “p”—not “p.m.”, but “p.”

He was at the airport twelve hours before his flight was scheduled to depart. This is when using the 24 hour clock, common in Europe, hospitals and the military, is  wonderful! By using the 24 hour clock, and motions with my watch and finger rotating around the dial,  I was able to explain to him when his flight would leave—some thirteen hours later. I still needed to get through security for my flight, and he had no idea what to do, or how to say it. I pointed out the desk location for him, and in charades, motioned him to hand his ticket to the employee, and point to the “p.” I said, “I’m sorry” and reached out to pat his arm. He said, “Merci. Go! Flight!”

What goes around, comes around. How has a stranger helped you, doing something brief, effortless and free? How have you helped a stranger with just a few moments, without hassle, or spending a dime?


What’s your cancer song?

still standing Image credit: Good Search

You know how it goes. You hear a song on the radio, and it’s not a love song, or break-up song, but a cancer song. The words fit your situation perfectly, or communicates what you need to hear to boost you up. When I was first diagnosed, I played and re-played Mario Lanza’s “When You Walk Through a Storm.” The song gave me strength, reminding me I was not on the path alone.

Then, my roots deepened with a gospel song from The Glide Ensemble Love to Give CD. “God Will Take Care of You.” I’d play the second one all the way to the cancer clinic—over and over, and over. “Don’t you worry so much about the path you chose. . .”

Word got out I was groovin’ to gospel. I was gifted the WOW Gospel 2008 CD. I’d have my morning pep session, listening to a song on the CD sung by Myron Butler and Levi. “Stronger” starts off with a guy saying, “Ugh, I wasn’t really expecting this.” It makes me laugh. What a perfect cancer lament! Then the song goes into, “You thought the test was gonna take you out, but now you’re stronger than before.”

Toward the end of chemo, my song became Elton John’s “Still Standing.” “Did you think this fool could ever win, well look at me, I’m comin’ back again. . .”

Several years later, I was re-diagnosed, a second time. Working out at the gym, Pat Benatar came belting over the radio: “Hit me with your best shot! . . . You don’t fight fair – that’s okay, see if I care. . . I’ll get right back on my feet again.” The song gave me some “umph” to put into my workout, as I sang this song along in my mind to cancer.

What song brings you through though or scary times of the cancer journey?


The Importance of Encouraging Words

be positive Image Credit: Good Search

When you were diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, what was your reaction? Did you let your shock, anger, fear just come out in the office? Or did it hit you later? And, when it did hit, what was it like? Some people sit and cry. Some have a surge of fear or anger well up. Others turn analytical, turning their focus within.

Did you ever express your emotions as a knee jerk reaction in the exam room, only to be told by someone on the medical team, “Be positive.” That’s great advice, but I also think it depends when and where that advice is given. If you’re in the exam room and have just been diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, I think, “Be positive” is a cop-out for staff. They deal with the words all day, everyday—for cancer in someone else’s body. Even if it’s a re-diagnosis, it’s new information to you. If you’re the one who found the bump on your body, there’s still that phase where you don’t know if it’s cancer or not. There’s that waiting period. Blood test, biopsy, and maybe a scan or two.  I know it’s a matter of semantics, but hearing, “I’m sorry. Stay focused on the good” or “I know this is hard. Keep positive” has a better ring to it than, “Be  positive.”As if being positive will magically change the bump from malignant to benign over night.

For me, the doctor’s office is the place where I vent. I expect that to be the safe place for my complaints about side effects, and the place for me to ask tons of questions that have popped up since my last visit, or while hearing a new diagnosis. Being told to, “Be positive” at this point doesn’t help me. When I’m at home, I listen to hypnotherapy, beautiful music, and comedy. I walk the beach, or read New Thought books. I meditate. I pray. I surround myself with like-minded people, who will affirm good. I’ve just begun to travel again. I’m working a bit, too. My book is with an editor now. Being told, “Be positive” from a nurse as she hands me the doctor’s urgent orders for four tests, allows me to witness someone who’s uncomfortable with the moment. Ha! That makes two of us. . .

Like most people, I claim to be a positive person. For over thirty years, I’ve been steeped in New Thought (positive, practical spirituality). When I go dark, it feels very foreign to me. Even in really tough times, I can bring myself back to the Light, to break up the downward pull. Sometimes it means I come back to the Light 100 times a day. Like the Chinese proverb: Fall down seven times. Get up eight. It’s not about denying the dark side. It’s about denying the dark side, power.

It’s okay to be present with the diagnosis given you—but then you must decide how you walk this path. There will be moments you trip and fall. Your thoughts may go dark, you may hurt physically and emotionally. Tend to your wounds—then get up. Find the good in the situation. Find the good in life; in humanity.

If you hear, “Be positive” it’s because people want you to experience happiness. Cancer cannot take that away. (Well, okay, it can—but that’s because we drift off with it, giving cancer and it’s side effects the power to claim our life while we are still living.)

If laugher is medicine, what’s your dose?

What do you do for a good laugh?

I was needing to yuck-it-up.

Usually, I can reframe from sad to happy easily if I need to. Or, if I just need to shift my point of view, or mood, I’ll grab a book of one of my bookshelves, and turn my attitude to gratitude. Recently, I was feeling low, and none of my positive mindset, spiritual, or how-to books were holding my interest. Walking the beach wasn’t the fix, either. I asked myself, “When’s the last time I had a good, long laugh?” It had been too long.

I searched You Tube the words “funny” and “laughter”. I watched lots of videos, turning most of them off within thirty seconds. “Stupid” or “foul” is how I’d categorize them. Lots of animal videos. My analytical and protective mind took over, not allowing anything to be funny. Is a cat falling off the counter again and again, funny? Did the cat get up there by itself? 

Then I looked up “Laughter Yoga”. I’m familiar with it, but the videos were educational, and like all the books on my shelves, they weren’t what I needed.

I needed to laugh.

The next day, I went to my local record store – a hole in the wall that sells oldies, and lots of hipster paraphernalia. My intention was to trade-in a pile of my CDs for a comedy CD. The store wasn’t taking any trades at this time because they had so many CDs in stock. I bought a well-known Bill Cosby routine. But it wasn’t the laugh I was looking for.

I went to the library to pick-up comedy CDs. Did you know “Comedy” is found under “Non-Fiction”? Now that’s funny! The library near my apartment is super small, and I was re-directed to the larger library across town. I put it on my “to-do” list. That evening, I gave You Tube another try. This time, I used the words “Comedy” and “Clean Stand up”. B-I-N-G-O! I laughed my head off for one hour. I got up to get tissue for my happy tears flowing down my face. I knew my neighbors could hear me laughing hysterically, which made me laugh harder at one point.

This one hour stand-up routine of Ellen DeGeneres is what the doctor ordered. It’s clean. It’s something we can relate to. It has nothing to do with cancer. Enjoy!

 Please share what makes you laugh.