e/motion & peace

motion_peace

long week, filled with counterparting emotions: worries and joy, upset about little things, a moment of ephiphany, summer sun in April, chemo on Friday, rain on Saturday… in between all, the wish to be more at peace, especially in this year.

“I am at peace”, I wrote on a piece of paper (and nice twist: peace/piece, this piece of peace), even though I wasn’t sure how to get there.

Then Saturday, and a quote popped up in the Mindful Blog, as if in answer:

“How to be at peace now?
By making peace with the present moment. The present moment is the field on which the game of life happens. It cannot happen anywhere else. Once you have made peace with the present moment, see what happens, what you can do or choose to do, or rather what life does through you. There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance.”
– Eckhart Tolle, A new Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose

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

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

Things that helped during chemotherapy: art therapy

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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 or walking.

What really is good: at the oncology centre, they now offer art therapy sessions for chemo patients. It’s each week, and it is so interesting and vivid.

We were 3 for the start: me, a fellow patient, and Carmen, the art therapist. It was luxury really, to have this small class for start, in a personal atmosphere. “Art therapy, it’s not about creating beautiful paintings”, Carmen explained, “but about expressing the emotions you are feeling in images, and work with them.”

So we started – the first image for me was a way to arrive at the page, and get a first feel for the colors.

From process, we painted individually, and then talked with Carmen about the image, and what it reflects, and getting some guidance / suggestion for possible next steps, or for the situation and its interpretation. The painting, it is both an expression, and a meta-level of the now.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the session, but right at that first day already, I became more aware of the images/thoughts/worries I have in mind. For example, we talked about cancer, and I described it as ghost-illness: you can’t see it, it is there, it is dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt until a later stage. Or maybe it even isn’t there anymore after the operation at all. You can track tumors, but there is no way to track single cancer cells… so you do this therapy, based on numbers: 50% chance that it will return without treatment. But also: 50% chance that it wouldn’t, that I am healthy, that the therapy is just pain without reason. Only you don’t know.)

“Maybe I should try to paint that ghostlyness in the next session”, I wondered. To which Carmen suggested: “Or you could shift the focus: Paint your healthy cells. Think of the energy they have, the energy you have”. That line, it somehow moved onto a deeper level, like a gong: my healthy cells. The healthy me.

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This theme of focus and health continued in the second session. Carmen started with a “dream-journey”, inviting us to close our eyes, and imagine a piece of earth that we then can turn into our garden. And then walk through it, and fill the garden to our delight and needs: with flowers, with a water source, with a place to sit, with animals… “you can pick all you want, and it will be there. and if you realize that you picked something that doesn’t fit, you can recycle it, then it turns to earth again”.

It was such a good symbolism, which translated into a larger view for me: “You can create your own garden. You can create your days, the place you live, your life. It’s up to you. Imagine.“

Then we turned to painting – with open door, the spring breeze moving in. this feeling of openness. I tried acryl colors, and first did two smaller paintings to get into painting, to connect with the brush and the paper and the colors, and get into the images. The first turned out in dark colors. Then I tried a light one, an imagine of the dream-garden. “I think you need larger papers”, Carmen noticed. And gave me a large sheet. First I didn’t know where to start, then I started with a tree. Then the sky, then the ground. Then what? I wondered. I thought of the dream garden, and from there, the painting developed its own energy and direction.

the-garden-of-life

I tried a rose bush that didn’t turn out, then I realized it actually might be my body – the rose structures made me think of blood lines. Which lead to: me. I tried to paint me in the garden, connected to it, to the life energy of spring that is now coming from the ground and from the sky. I tried a photo, it’s attached.

When I felt it was complete, Carmen asked me about the elements, inviting me to “speak” for them. “What does the color yellow say?”
It was suprising, I immediately knew the answer: the light at the horizon, the happiness in the air.
“And the 2 squares on the right?” – “that’s .. a city?” and then I realized: “it might be the hospital here actually”.

Revisiting it later, I understood those 2 diffuse areas that I painted,, and that made me first feel: “oh no, I messed up the painting…” – but looking at them now, they are essential parts and symbols: they are the  turbulences of the illness. The left one is the operation wound that is healing, and the right one is the turbulence of the chemo-therapy, brought to my body from outside, from the technical side of the world – but that’s also an area that is opening, and reaching out.

It was so touching to learn about me through this image, and I am still moved by it. Carmen invited me to spend time with the painting, maybe even write a story, let the elements in it talk: the tree, the birds in the sky, the lines of color. I brought the painting home and kept it around the office, and it accompanied me through the week. So good.

And another element that touched me: you hear the dialogue of the fellow patients, too, so that adds different experiences and views. Plus, there is the feeling of time and space for emotions and feelings and reflections.

Today is the next art class, and I look forward to it, and also am curious for the themes it will bring to the surface.

Art Therapy Links
In addition to this personal note, some link on art therapy:

  • Top 50 Art Therapy Blogs: “Art therapy uses art to heal people of all ages, and can improve the emotional, mental, and physical health. If you want to know more about how art therapy can help you, read the free blogs listed below.”
  • Art Therapy Helps Breast Cancer Patients: “A recent report reveals that women with breast cancer receiving radiation treatment experienced improved mental health, physical health, and an overall higher quality of life after 5 sessions of art therapy.”
  • And a blog of an art therapist, with a podcast and a bloglist in the sidebar: Art Therapy Spot

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The Other “Things”, Blogging & Links:
This is the second “things that helped” post, the first is: Things that helped during chemotherapy: Walking. 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”

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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b5fb8-intense2

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