Friday, December 17, 2010

How 'Bout Those Mets?!

"How 'bout those Mets" is what you might say in New York when you're looking to make small talk with a baseball fan, but here in my life it's what I say to every doctor I see. Every one of them has a different opinion about the 2 mysterious findings in the CT scan of my pelvis. Whether or not the fracture and the lytic lesion (which looks like a marble-sized hole with a crust around it) in my pelvis are old or new, benign or metastatic, my treatment remains the same. Since none of these findings pose an emergency we will just use the scans that we have as a baseline and move forward. There's no reason to do a biopsy. "Let go of trying to understand what happened in the past and get on with living," is what more than one doctor has advised. Being a doctor doesn't make it any easier, in fact, I think it makes it more challenging to not get caught up in the rat's nest of thinking about the unknown.

I don't have any symptoms or pain in my pelvis, in fact most of my pain is not where I have bone mets, it's in my joints (almost all of them) and has nothing (directly) to do with cancer.  Joint and muscle pain are the main side effects of my treatment. So, after one year of toughing it out on Arimidex (anastrozole) I have switched to Aromasin (exemestane). This estrogen blocking drug should be equal in anticancer action, and will hopefully have fewer side effects.  It should take about six weeks to know how well it's working.

I was looking for some words of wisdom about living with the unknown and unknowable and I flipped to P.145 of my book,

"The nature of time and “reality” is unknowable, but it is helpful to question the conclusions we have drawn about how we perceive and respond to how we think things are. Suspending a definitive opinion about the way you think things are might give access to a different possible outcome.
When a physician examines a patient with the intent to make a diagnosis, he or she might conclude that something happened in the past that altered the physical properties or functioning of the body. When any of us examine our own lives with the intent to analyze, understand, or have insight about a problem, we might draw the same type of conclusions about the influence of the past. When this type of judgment is made, it tends to get named, labeled, and interpreted. At worst, generalized conclusions are drawn based on it. Diagnoses get dragged around and applied to the present and the future. Identifying with your problem, with something that happened to you, with your diagnosis or pain and using it as the reference point keeps you bound to it—thus keeping the residue of the past in your view of the present and future.
The mechanics of the past may be interesting and useful in order to understand what happened, but we don’t need a map to get back to the territory of the past. We’ve already been there. We want to enter the new territory of the future. Holding on to the residue of the past and projecting it into the future does not leave space for the full expression of the potential held in the future. We can become misinformed and misled about the prognosis for the future by the remnants of the past. Health and the therapeutic process can only be expressed fully if the path to the future is held clear and open for what has yet to happen, to unfold and reveal itself. Health transcends time; potential is always accessible. 
The map of the past is not the territory of the present. The actuality of the future cannot exist until it emerges, and once it does so, it is not in the future anymore. It is an event that has already occurred. Once the action that was dictated into the present from the unfolding future produces a result, the effects of the process exist as an event already in the past. In this view it becomes clear how healing—as a creative act of the organism creating its future—can only happen to its fullest extent and potential if we hold the space for it to emerge and not clutter the field with attempts to fix and resolve the past. The philosophical view of life unfolding in this manner can be seen as more fully expressing itself if the future moves into the present, rather than attempting to fix or resolve the past and move it toward the future." 
I know this last paragraph is somewhat wordy, but read it slowly, one line at a time, and try to feel what happens in your body when you take a breath and allow yourself to experience the present as the space between your past and future without any judgments or preconceived expectations. Instead of plowing ahead into the future, allow yourself to sit in the stillness, and let the events of time unfold, as if the future is approaching to meet you where you are.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finally, You Can Subscribe To My Blog

I finally got someone to help me activate the "Subscription Feature" on my blog. You can automatically receive an email each time I post an entry, if you don't want to have to check it periodically. Just enter your email in the box to the right.

I have an update brewing, as I sort through all my test results of the past week. Stay tuned this weekend. . .

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Join Me In Being Alive & Breathing Together Right Now

I have good news and some not too bad news. The bad news is that I do have a spot of metastasis in my pelvis (in my "sit bone," to be exact). The good news is that there is a possibility that it's not really new. It's most likely been there a while and just wasn't discovered earlier. My first CAT scan last year didn't extend far down enough to show it. At the time they were more interested in looking for cancer inside my pelvic cavity, than outside in the bones around the edges. So when the scan stopped an inch short of my sit bone, no one seemed to think it mattered. This means I have no way to know how long it's been there, and even though I can't feel it, I have a feeling it's been there a while.

This information doesn't really change anything, except my mood. It doesn't change my treatment. It doesn't change my prognosis. A few more specks in the bone don't mean much in the big picture. Regardless of what I think or feel about how long I've had this, my life in this moment is exactly the same.

My challenge in all of this is to remember I'm the same person I was before the CAT scan. This result doesn't change my actual life; it just changes what I think about my life. I had an old Indian teacher who used to say, "Your mind is a bad neighborhood. Don't go there. You'll get mugged."

This is the reality of this disease. It is chronic. It will most likely come, and hopefully go, for the rest of my life, regardless of how long that ends up being. I can't help but want to be special, be a miracle, be an overachiever, be an outlier, and I don't want to feel like a failure or that I am to blame if things don't go as I prefer.

This is as close as I get to positive thinking. I acknowledge my desire to live a long life and to have a chance to re-invent my life if I ever go back to doing something other than caring for myself full-time. I want to have more adventures. I want to be with my loved ones and be a part of their lives unfolding. I want to be of service to people again someday. The intensity of these desires and my longing for life feels like my life force expressing itself. How do I maintain this passion for life and yet let go of what I can't control?

I don't believe in positive thinking because I don't believe that thinking is the way to guide our lives. Positive or negative thinking is still thinking, and thinking is not the most powerful force in us. The harm that's done is obvious when people get caught in repetitive negative thinking, but positive thinking can also make a person blind to that which they really need to be responding. There's a fine line between positive thinking and denial. And regardless of what we think, our unconscious still exerts more influence than our conscious thoughts. I believe that people who say one thing and unconsciously harbor the opposite are ultimately at much more risk of serious consequences, because they are in internal conflict and discord and not in touch with the necessity of the moment.

So I let myself feel the disappointment, the sadness, the grief, but I don't dwell on it. It's like bad weather; it will pass. I try not to let fearful scenarios take up space in my thinking because they are clearly only one possible future. I also try not to dwell on my desire to have my life be mended, because my desires are not reliable either. If I get too attached it makes it harder to cope with not getting what I want when that eventually happens. Inhale. . . exhale. . . It's good to be alive and breathing as I sit here typing on this Saturday morning knowing that you all will be reading this and joining me in being alive together right now.