"Where there is love, there is life."
Mahatma Gandhi

 
Never have I found that quote to be more true. I know reality says I have been plopped in the middle of what could very well be the most horrific, scary time of my life, and yet I feel like I am in the middle of a uniquely beautiful experience.These last 4 weeks I can honestly say, have been some of, if not thee most, magical weeks of my entire life. And why? I think Gandhi has it right..."Where there is love, there is life." I find myself immersed in love, in every way possible. I continue to be astonished with how many of you are reaching out, through cards in the mail, notes on Facebook, texts, phone calls, financial donations, food donations, fundraisers, and more. I have done much work in learning how to receive, and I am in the place now to allow the abundance to flow in, around and through me. I finally understand the idea that if I am not able to receive graciously, then I end up short-circuiting your ability to give and help. If we are to walk this journey together, then we must truly be equals in it (but don't worry, I'll still be the one to handle the physical "uncomfortableness" of what is being asked!) Not only do I feel blessed beyond measure, but I too am practicing my beliefs in circulation and giving back without fear. We are all coming from love, showing up as love, and giving back as love. I feel so many of us walking side-by-side now that I believe it is not only affecting each of us, but is also rippling out to shift and change the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I celebrate each and every one of you. And if I have not yet been in some contact with you directly, please know that in my heart I am appreciating and thanking you daily.

Because there is so much love flowing, I continue to hold this phrase in mind, "Everything is always working out for me." And you know what, it is!  My treatments are going so well, and if we ever hit a bump, it is quickly and smoothly dealt with by my team of various incredibile doctors and nurses. The doctors continue to be amazed at how well I am doing. My radiation doctor said last week, "Aside from my 20 year old jocks who come in and seem to be phased by nothing, you are really tough!" Well, thank you Doc. I'm not sure tough is quite accurate though. I am soft, and getting softer by the day. I read something yesterday that said our freedom comes from not fearing anything. Amen. I have moved into that place. I do not fear death. I do not fear life. I do not fear pain. I do not fear joy. And more than anything, I no longer fear the mystery of life. I have opened to all of it, understanding that it is all just experience and I'm the one who gets to define it based on how I choose to think about it. I choose to believe I am in the middle of a magical experience, and so I find it to be.

And today my radiation doc and his intern were telling me a Finnish term they've adopted from one of their patients. It can only be translated loosely in the English language, but the word is Sisu. It means not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. I think I've found a new favorite word!

Many of you have been asking for actual treatment details so let me fill you in. We're on the other side of halfway, which as I mentioned above, means I only have 2 more chemo and 12 radiation sessions left. My body has been handling everything remarkably well. Any nausea is under control so I haven't even needed to carry a barf bag with me. That's a blessing all it's own. The course of 14-day anticoagulant shots to take care of the blood clot that developed in my left leg from chemo has completed. Besides the bruising battleground left on my belly, it appears to have done what it was intended to do!

I got a picc line put in last week (picture included in case you've never seen one.) They cleaned it well and changed the bandage so this is the first time I've really seen it too. There is massive bruising, and it looks like a tube is growing right out of my arm. Fascinating!  The minor inconvenience is having to keep it dry for the next few weeks, but it is a blessing to not have the nurses searching around for veins that are no longer easy to find or use. This way they just take blood and hook me up to the IVs with absolute ease. Ahhh! I'm loving that experience!

Every week they take blood to monitor my levels, and up until now everything has looked great. It appears a few of my numbers have dropped and I lost 6 pounds this week. Apparently those things combined gets me a "bonus" visit from the nutritionist! The radiation sores the doctors had expected me to get weeks ago, finally decided to make an appearance. I woke up one morning and my mouth said, (well there were some strong expletives in there so I'll paraphrase)... "What happened overnight???" I guess the radiation effects accumulated and finally caught up with me....that's what happened! I was going to share a picture of that, but decided that may likely take some of you over the edge! Basically it feels like the back of my throat, side of tongue, inside cheek, and roof of my mouth have been torched with a flame gun and are now all open sores. I'll be real honest here...it is excruciating! The last thing I want to do is eat (or drink), and I see now why they talked of the possible need for a feeding tube. It will take a determined effort on my part to keep making the choice to eat and drink in order to keep my levels and weight at a place that will help me stay as healthy as possible while the treatments continue to do their thing. I remind myself that I am not afraid of the pain, that in fact it is just another kind of sensation that I CAN handle. Good news is all taste has not turned metallic as they had predicted. Some tastes have shifted, but are still there. My nose too is developing sores and tenderness because of the radiation to my sinus.

Every morning I open my eyes in anticipation of seeing clearly out my right eye. So far it seems nothing has changed yet, but that means it also hasn't gotten worse. I take that as a very good sign that radiation burn hasn't done further damage to the nerves. I know sometimes I've received comments when you happen to catch me without the patch. Wearing the patch gets really old for me because I feel like it blocks half the world. I'm tired of not being able to see clearly, and sometimes just removing the patch for awhile helps me feel free to take in everything without a block. Plus I have many beams of radiation going into the front of my face and around my eye so that skin is getting ever more tender. Putting on (and especially taking off) the patch can be painful. Yes, I know there is always the black pirate patch option, but having a tight string wrapped around my head is not comfortable with my nerve pain either.

The pains in my head have shifted from being more periodically sharp and intense to being more of a gradual pain throughout my head most of the time, sort of like a migraine that won't go away. I will take that too! Those other pains, which the intern and I nicknamed "The Melonballers", felt as if someone was scooping my brains out with a very clumsy device. So yeah, general all-over head pain...definitely a step in the right direction!

My energy level is maintaining pretty well, given what I was told to expect. Wednesdays, the 2nd day after chemo, are probably the hardest for me as I feel really tired and just an overall sense of not feeling well. I seem to have developed what they lovingly call "chemo brain". Basically I just have a really hard time holding details in my mind, and processing them once they get there. I'm famous now for having to have my kids repeat everything so I can finally get it, and I spend much time walking into a room and then trying to remember why. This is very frustrating as I've always had a sharp mind.

Now for the big question I'm starting to be asked a lot: when will we know if it's working? I honestly do not even think about that. I have immersed myself in the process....What do I need to do today? What can I do today to thrive in this life right where I am? These are the questions I focus on. The other day I realized something was different and I tried to pinpoint what it was. I finally got it.... I was in no hurry. I was right where I was: in a car, with the windows rolled down, driving through the country, enjoying the view. After giving many Sunday talks of living in the moment, I feel like I am now actually living there most of the time. Richard Rohr calls it the Sacrament of the Present Moment and speaks of it in this way::
......But once you deal with concrete reality—with yourself, with someone you love, with actual moments—you find that reality is always a mixture of good and bad, dark and light, life and death. Reality requires more a both/and approach than either/or differentiation. The nondual mind is open to everything. It is capable of listening to the other, to the body, to the heart, to all the senses. It begins with a radical yes to each moment.
 
So I'm mostly in the moment, continuing to utter a radical YES, and understanding that it's all I truly have. It's all any of us really have. I had a kind nurse recently who wanted to talk about the fact that my chart lists me as "terminal". How was I doing with that, etc. I'm ok. And let's be honest. We are all terminal. None of us are going to get out of this experience alive. We just seem to forget that sometimes, settle into a life of routine and nonchalance, and live the illusion that we have all the time in the world. Well, we are all terminal. I may have a direct note written on my "chart" right now, but in some way we all do. So I ask you, are you living a life you want to be living?. Do you enjoy your moments? These are the questions I ask myself now. I suddenly have no more time for bullshit. Life is precious. Life is short. And life is spectacular when we embrace it. I think this quote by Mark Nepo says it well, "The key to knowing joy is being easily pleased."

And because I am still very much human, the other morning I was making a piece of toast for my youngest daughter, when it hit me: I like to make her toast (and as the tears started to fall) ...I wondered how many times I would have the privilege of making her toast (to eat in my bed!)  In that moment I did remember that there will come a time (about a month after treatment stops) where I will have another round of MRIs and the doctors will sit with me and share the results of how well the treatments worked, and the prognosis for the next step of my future as they see it. And even so, I have no control over that part of it now. I can only control how I navigate and thrive in this day, and so that's where I will focus my attention and energy.

Lao Tzu reminds us, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." And so we shall walk that one step on this glorious day.

Love and hugs to you all,
Lorena 

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