cherry oncology blossoms + 2 new cancer memoirs (free kindle reads)

cherry_blossoms

Today is the day after chemo #10. The oncology centre comes with a lovely sight these days: the cherry trees in front of it are in bloom, that’s where the photo above is from.

I slept okay this night, woke up once and read a bit, then fell asleep again. This morning, I browsed kindle books, and came across 2 new cancer memoirs that are up there for free right now, thought i share the links. I read the prologue of the first book already, while sitting in front of the terrace door, and it sounds interesting, written from the perspective of a trauma psychologist:

  • “Life Unexpected: A Trauma Psychologist Journeys Through Breast Cancer” by Naomi L. Baum, Kindle Edition
  • And the other book is: “Hope Is a Good Breakfast: and other humble thoughts on my cancer journey” by Tara Shuman: Kindle Edition

The book by the trauma psychologist, I am especially interested in it as the oncology centre has started to offer art therapy sessions this month. I went to 2 of them, and was surprised by the way they worked, and how they help. I started to put a blog post together about them, hope to finish it tomorrow and put it online then.

All the best to all fellow bloggers who are on this journey through cancerland and chemo right now~

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Blogging & Links:
Here is a longer blog post on how things are currently, the post also leads back to the start of my diagnosis: “Intense, or: anger, hope, spring & the larger picture”

Things that helped during chemotherapy: walking

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The things that so far helped me during chemotherapy… mostly weren’t things. Some were recommended, some are things I did before, like yoga. I started chemotherapy in December, and am now in cycle #8, with more to come. So I thought, I put some of the things that helped so far together in blog posts, and also look for articles and links, both for myself, and for others who are going through chemotherapy.

One of the things that helped me most – that’s at least my guess – is staying active, and go out of the house every day for a walk, even on the low days. Here’s a note from my diary:

“Yesterday was still low. In the morning, I felt like having a hangover of the deep-level kind, but luckily still without headache. At noon I thought: I could try to go for a short walk. I tried that, and the sun came out for a bit, and through the walking, my energies started to return. It made me think of that Latin proverb: “Solvitur Ambulando” – “It’s solved by walking”.

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One of the memories of the very first day of chemo is the walk I took with my sister, who visited me on that day to be there. It was winter, just some days before Christmas. Back then, I wondered how long I would be able to go for walks. When I told a friend about it, she mentioned an article on how activity is good for cancer patients.

Now I did a google search, here are some links with more details:

CNN Health: “Cancer? More exercise, not less, may be best”
“In the past, doctors often told cancer patients to take it easy during treatment… In fact, new guidelines on cancer and exercise from the American College of Sports Medicine urge cancer patients to be as physically active as possible both during and after their treatment. .. It boosts energy, helps stave off the weight gain often associated with treatment, and provides a psychological pick-me-up at a time when a person’s morale is likely to be battered.”

American Cancer Society: Ways regular exercise may help you during cancer treatment
“Newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function physically and your quality of life. … Regular moderate exercise has been found to have health benefits for the person with cancer.”

This article also inlcudes an interesting note on fatigue: “Most people with cancer notice that they have a lot less energy. During chemotherapy and radiation, most patients have fatigue. Fatigue is when your body and brain feel tired. This tiredness does not get better with rest. For many, fatigue is severe and limits their activity. But inactivity leads to muscle wasting and loss of function. An aerobic training program can help break this cycle. In research studies, regular exercise has been linked to reduced fatigue. It’s also linked to being able to do normal daily activities without major problems.”

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The Other “Things”, Blogging & Links:
I will continue this series with the other “things” that help me get through chemotherapy step by step, and look for articles and links, too. One thing that helped to get through the cycles of chemotherapy definitely is: blogging. Here is a longer blog post on how things are currently, the post also leads back to the start of my diagnosis: “Intense, or: anger, hope, spring & the larger picture”

Blur, or: Leading to

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Leading to

A destination. A turn.
The everlasting question: how far is it still?

My expectations. The road.
The signs that count down the miles, wherever you are.

Another photo of the horizon.
The fact that we are always t(here).

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in response to the current photo theme “Blur”.
Here’s the stream of “blur” photos + the call: photo challenge “Blur”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/blur/

intense, or: anger, hope, spring & the larger picture

“Intense” is the theme of the new photo challenge. It also is the tune of the recents days, which brought a time of anger and frustration, but also days of light and surprises. The photo above – it could be a far-away place, but it is the botanical garden near here. Walking into it felt like stepping into another world. And so good, to finally be able to go out into the world a bit more again.

Some thoughts and reflections, and: anger 

From treatment, I am now in the second phase of chemo, with medication that is easier on the immune system, but has other potential side effects which add up during the cycle (for example: dryness of skin, numbness of feet, arthritis-like symptoms…).

It’s also a time of stronger emotions, reaching from negative to positive. My horoscope summed it up pretty well at some point: “Obstacles: This may be a somewhat difficult time, full of frustration and irritating occurrences. Your energies do not have the necessary vigor or power. You feel angry, but this influence does not often give you the opportunity to express your anger.” 

The anger, for me it came up in a mix of frustration and powerlessness: why do I have to go through this? Why does chemo have to be so painful and full of side-effects – can’t someone have developed another treatment by now for God’s sake? And why am I there, in this situation at all?

I know it’s irrational, and it helped to go for a long walk with my partner and talk about these feelings. He has irrational feelings, too, feeling guilty for feeling good and healthy, and for being helpless. “But you are there for me,” I said. We also talked about life and growing older. How this illness brings the realization closer a of how vulnerable we are, that we can make plans, but that life is finite, and that the older you get, the more likely getting ill is.

Plus, going through chemotherapy brings ongoing encounters with other patients. I guess I never before met that many people on a regular basis who are ill. Including some who know that there won’t really be a cure for them, who are in a more complicated stage of cancer with tumors that have spread, who would happily exchange their diagnosis with mine. Luck, it turns into something rather relative.


World moments

In contrast to the difficult emotions, there is this string of lighter days and hours, even some art moments. Now that the tough first phase of chemo is complete, and my immune system is not that low and vulnerable any more, I can go to public places again. Plus spring is there, bringing some sunny and warm days every week so far.

It is such a special joy, to be able to go to places again. I started carefully, with a smaller museum during the week. On another day, I bought new flowers for the garden. And again on another day, I went to the botanical garden for an hour.

The key to these new phase of chemo for me so far is: finding a new balance of getting rest, figuring out when I feel better during the week, and then try to go with the flow. Right now, I try to include one “highlight” to each week. And catch some of the sun when it is there.


The larger picture

So seen a bit from distance, going through chemotherapy currently comes with two directions: it limits the things I can do, the way I can plan. But it also brings a new angle to things, and lets me see things in a different way. Appreciate the good days. Be more aware of the number of people who have to deal with difficult of chronic illnesses.

Another thing that has changed: there have been some touching conversations, with people I hadn’t known that well, but also with friends. Knowing that I am dealing with those difficult themes seems to make it easier for others to address difficult things they are dealing themselves with, of have gone through.

Even going through the musuem to visit an art exhibition, or going to the botanical garden and see all those different shapes of nature reflects the larger reality of life: that all this is part of life. Hope, growth, illness, joy, pain, acceptance, anger, beauty, faith, frustration. The ups and downs. The happy and sad times. It all is connected.


Blogging
These days also brought the thought that I want to somehow have a blog that is more about the chemo time – that impulse comes from the wordpress-cancer-tag, which makes it possible in an easy way to find blogs of others who are going through cancer treatments, and of science articles (and unfortunately, some “wonder drugs” too), but it’s a good way of connecting: https://wordpress.com/tag/cancer/ 

So the thought came up to start a new blog here, in addition to the photo blog – or rather, shift the photo blog to a more open format. So I tried a different template and am now blogging here in a different way.

Will see how this shapes out. Maybe the other blog, life as a journey, will turn more into a blog of revisiting journeys and stories.

Hairs and Moments

And there is hairy news: my hair is starting to grow again. Slowly, and just some first hairs, not the full scope. But it is sweet to see that the hair still knows how to do it. And my eyebrows and eyelashes are still there, too (well, they thinned, but maybe half of them have survived. So now I hope the remaining hair stays and keeps growing, and isn’t affected by the next chemo sessions (you never know. That is one main clue to the whole treatment. Every body reacts differently. So it is more about: enjoy the upside moments. Don’t worry too much. When you have a good day, be happy about that. Which, in the sum of it, might be a teaching for the life after the illness, too. To not take that much for granted. To appreciate the small moments more.

The final photo for this post.. is from the first museum visit, in February.

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The shadow/light journey:
Here’s an overview of previous posts I wrote, starting at the beginning with the diagnosis:

Diagnosis & Operation
17. October: life is what happens to you while… 
26. October: this translucent state of fear and hope…
28. October: the day before, “Serious was last week”..
02. November: november roses & not knowing..
17. November: hope + fear

Chemotherapy
23. November: “we’re sorry, it’s chemotherapy”
13. December: getting to know the Emperor of Maledies
20. December: from last island day to first chemo day
11. January: second round of chemo & my hair, falling
02. February: paradise, counting my blood cells & …
22. February: chemo milestone & healing and reading
14. March: first short trip, me with a wig, and a friday scare

Afloat, or: taking the boat

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“To cross into Cambodia, you take the boat,” the man in the Sawadee guesthouse says to me. “There is no bus?” I ask. He shakes his head, realizing that I still haven’t got the point. “There is no street,” he explains. I don’t believe it. “How do people get from town to town then,” I object. “They take the boat,” he says, bringing us right back to the starting point of the conversation…

the photo is from Thailand, the story is from: The Buddha, the Dharma & the Sangha – A Travel Story From Cambodia

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In response to the current photo theme “Afloat”.
Here’s the stream of “Afloat” photos + the call: photo challenge “Afloat”

ephemeral II, or: storm

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today: storm
today: the next blood check
today: laughter and tears
today: browsing other “ephemeral” moments
today: 2 days to next chemo (usually it would be on Friday, but as it’s the Easter weekend, dates have moved, and chemo will happen in two shifts.)

and a storm quote:

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore