Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Unexpected River

I was sitting with Steve, staring out our living room window a few weeks ago, drinking what we jokingly call our morning "hot brown liquids." Hot and brown describes the range of morning brews, from coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, to coffee substitutes like Dandy Blend. I was staring out our picture window that faces the back of a hedge, and the following sentence popped out of my mouth, "I don't want to spend the rest of my life staring at the back of this damn bush!"  In that moment, I could feel that something unexpected was about to unfold.

Steve was profoundly unhappy in his new mainstream medical job. It just wasn't working out (no one's surprise). It was becoming evident that he was going to leave the job imminently, and we were dumbfounded by our seeming lack of options. I keep in touch with many old friends from all over the northeast, and one day while chatting with one of my oldest Osteopathic friends, he explained that he was doubly in mourning: for the death of our dear 89-year-old teacher Stan Schiowitz, and for the loss of the family physician with whom he shared his office, and that he was just going to wait for the perfect Osteopath to come along. We wondered why he was telling us this now. It just wasn't quite the right time to even consider such a big move. 

This next synchronous detail is one that I couldn't have made up if I tried. I got a random spam email from announcing the availability of a 2BR, 2 bath loft apartment a half-mile from our friend Jonathan's office. The apartment is as big as the house we live in right now (1700 sq ft) and has 12-foot-tall windows that face the cascades, several small waterfalls on the Winooski river.
This is the view of the cascades on the river, outside the apartment building in question (the fisherman is seasonal).

There's a health club in the building, complete with pool and sauna, and a canoe launch right behind the building. We continued to wonder, "why now?" but we were starting to feel the inevitability of the momentum of what was about to unfold.

That night, after Steve returned home from work, we called my friend in Vermont to tell him about the cryptic coincidences. By the end of the conversation, he offered Steve the opportunity to share his office and develop his own private practice. Jonathan deeply appreciates Steve's unique blend of Osteopathy and primary care and offered the possibility of making it a reality.

In the past, we had toyed with the idea of moving to the east coast "someday," but we would never have rationally chosen to do so now. It seems as if we've been called by some  mysterious force and we've surrendered to an attraction that feels involuntary, like magnetism or gravity. In a matter of about 6 days from the time I blurted out that prophetic statement, a perfect storm landed us unexpectedly on the shores of the Winooski River, just 2 miles from downtown Burlington, Vermont. We're moving on September 1st. Here's what it looks like:

This is the Winooski Riverwalk, which begins behind our new apartment and connects the downtown area with miles of hiking trails.

Although "Winooski" sounds Polish, it is not; it means "wild onion" in the Native American Abenaki language. Here's a story about this unique town:

If we were there this weekend, these are some events we'd be checking out:

If we want to see a film, we'll walk down to the local independent theater:

There's even a performing arts center for music, plays, dance, etc:

Vermont is quite politically progressive, including valuing universal health care (to be implemented by 2014 for all 600,000 people in the state) and respect for same-sex marriage. And we'll have Bernie Sanders as our Independent Senator, the first US Senator to openly identify as a "democratic socialist."
Bernie Sanders!
We'll have a fabulous food coop:
And a farmer's market around the corner, in addition to many others within a 10 minute drive. The Burlington Farmer's Market runs year-round! Vermonters are serious about good food:

There's a large population from Viet Nam, Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq in our town and with that comes all sorts of great little restaurants, grocery stores, and some welcome diversity in the otherwise fairly Caucasian culture. We're staying at The Tibet Inn the first night we arrive, owned by a formerly Tibetan family, who call Burlington their "land of the snows," which in Tibetan implies that it is their spiritual and emotional home.

There is a huge movement and meditation community with many options:

The Winooski River feeds into Lake Champlain, the 6th largest lake in the US, with the Adirondacks Mountains of New York (the largest national forest in the US)  towering in the distant view west. Burlington is called "The West Coast of New England." Winooski has been called "Burlington's Brooklyn." It's a lot like Santa Cruz or Woodstock, for those of you who live in one of those place and know what I mean.

If your east coast geography is sketchy and you're shocked to realize that the Canadian border is only 45 minutes away from our new home, and Montreal is 90 miles away,  here's where it is:

View Larger Map

In terms of my health care, I discovered an annual Breast Cancer Conference less than a mile from our new home:  I found a fabulous oncologist, an MD with a PhD in nutrition. Her research has been about the relationship between breast cancer and inflammation, and the effects of exercise on survival in cancer patients - sounds like my kind of gal! My beloved Oncologists at Stanford have set me up with referrals to Dana Farber Cancer Institute (Harvard Medical School's cancer center) if I need a big university-style back-up in Boston, 3 hours away.

Steve and I decided that we want several months to be together and not working now, while I'm healthy and feeling relatively good. Why wait until we're forced to take time off? Life is too short and too precious to wait for what we want to come in some unknown future. No one says with regret on their deathbed that they took too much time off of work! We are going to go on this crazy adventure September 1st and we'll be there for my 55th birthday (9/26) and the fall colors. I desperately miss the seasons - all of them, including winter. My Norwegian friends say, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." I say, "Let's go shopping!"

I've loved living in California, but I've always felt like California is a somewhat like a foreign country where English is conveniently spoken. It has just never felt like home.

I want to go "home," and even though I believe that home is where the heart is, I want to be in the familiarity and sensuality of the seasons, and near the people I have been missing for the 14 years I've been in California.

I am filled with the whole spectrum of emotions; I'm sad about being far from the people and resources I love in California. I'll miss the tall redwoods, the Pacific ocean/Monterey Bay, the amazing food and wackiness of San Francisco, and in the same breath, I'm overjoyed about doing something crazy like moving 3089 miles at this stage in my life to a place that calls to me.

It's not a totally random choice for a new home. I have many friends nearby, some of whom I've known for 35+ years, and a huge support network within a fairly short distance. There are "sub-tribes" of all my communities here: Continuum, Commonweal, Mindfulness, and Osteopathy. Steve and I have visited Vermont many times in the past few years, and I have been going there since I first discovered the town with my dear friend and colleague Hugh, with whom I co-directed the 1993 Cranial Academy Annual Conference on the Burlington lakefront. (There's a picture of a bunch of us there on my facebook page, in the "Great Moments in Osteopathic History" section of my Photos, if you're interested.)

For those of you who want to stay in touch, please keep me in your address book and check out my blog periodically, or just drop me an old-fashioned letter or phone call. My email and cell phone number will stay the same.

I believe it's a sign of my thriving life force that I have this surge of energy to expand and explore. I've been resting for 2 years, and it feels like now is the time to have a great adventure along this unexpected river. 

Happy Anniversary Bone & CT Scans

I have a lot of big news and I'll begin by letting you all know that my recent work-up showed that my tumors continue to shrink and there is no new spread. I'm 1 month short of my 2-year anniversary and I'm obviously, officially, a statistical outlier. There was an 80% chance that I wouldn't make it this far, and now that I have, I'm in uncharted territory.

There are no statistics on women who live 2 years past their diagnosis with the type of cancer I have. At this point, anything could happen. I have had the honor to meet many, who like me, have outlived predictions. I have other Stage IV friends who are up to 25 years post-diagnosis. I know that I could be hit by the "proverbial bus" and die tomorrow, but barring something unforeseen and random, I now join the ranks of those who mystify their doctors.

I am devoted to the exploration of that which guides my self-care and attentiveness to the preciousness of life. . . and in my next entry, coming very soon, you'll hear about my next piece of big news.