Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

There may be fleeting moments when I don't think about it, but my cancer is a constant presence in my mind and in my body. I think about it in everything that I do --- not in the sense that it controls everything I do, but in the sense that I think of how everything that I do will affect the cancer. Maybe others going through this can remove themselves from it, but my mind has always been a little overactive. Like a complicated orchestral score I have several tracts running at once, always one step ahead of the next. Now one of those tracts is a steady beat of cancer, cancer, cancer. 

More than ever in my life I view my body as a temple: I want the good things in and the bad things out --- now. I'm trying so hard to do all the right things for my body, but I worry that enough will never be enough or that what I'm doing is not the right thing. I want to beat this so badly that the ache for health actually hurts. The yearning to live a life even better, stronger, more aware than I had before cancer is ever-present within me, a constant echo in my head. I've always loved life and my presence in it, and I think that's what makes this that much harder. I wasn't looking for a way out. I wasn't looking for a change. I was perfectly happy and felt so lucky every day. Now every day I worry that it's all going to be taken away, like the beautiful life I had was so beautiful that it wasn't meant to last. 

Like the end credits of a movie, there is a continuous scroll of things I must do to beat this: eat, breathe deeply, exercise, stretch, meditate, love, live, learn, educate, listen, let out your emotions, control your emotions, disinfect, drink water, push yourself, don't be too hard on  yourself, don't ask why, find out why, remember to breathe ... over and over it echoes. 

When I shop for food I refuse to put anything in the cart that has an ingredient that I can't pronounce. All of the fat-free peanut "spread" or butter substitutes that I used to eat sicken me now when I read all the chemicals listed in the ingredients. Give me raw, real vitamins and sustenance. My diet has become like a second job. I snack throughout the day on raw peanut butter, steamed kale, raw almonds, Greek yogurt, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, soy milk, crisp bread, lots of cereal and granola, whole grain anything, spoonfuls of flax seed. I've started cooking more meals. For me, a kitchen illiterate, this is a big deal. Recipes from Real Simple magazine are my new favorite experiments. I've taught myself how to grill salmon (big Omega-3 booster), craft many salad varieties and work fresh veggies and herbs into most of our meals.

I've become probably over-paranoid about contracting some kind of germ. More than the fear of the lymphoma spreading is the fear of contracting something that my body cannot fight as my white blood cells are few and far between and the ones there are occupied with the cancer battle. Craig is building me a fantastic walk-in closet as a birthday present. Last night he was sanding down the joint compound on the sheet rock without a mask on and when I walked into the room the air was filled with white dust. I freaked and pulled off all the sheets and covers to throw them in the wash and completely lost my cool yelling that I can't be inhaling these chemical toxins and that I'm fighting so hard to beat this and something stupid like this could kill me --- or worse, get him sick. Afterward I felt awful. This morning he wore a mask and I slept downstairs. I was never a germaphobe. I was a firm believer in the "five-second rule" and I confess that a quick sweep under running water was enough to wash my hands, soap was a bonus when I had time. Now, I sing the entire tune of "Happy Birthday" in my head to know that I've scrubbed and lathered enough every time I wash my hands ... which is hundreds of times a day. 

Yoga class has become a sanctuary. It has done wonders for my strength and flexibility. After each chemo treatment my muscles knot like nothing I've ever felt and the achyness doesn't subside until a few days before the next treatment. Yoga has taught me how to breathe so that my body is filled with the oxygen that it needs to push out the toxins it is holding onto. It has allowed me to elongate my sore body and become conscious of my tender and my stronger areas. The meditation and relaxation aspect had also been extremely beneficial. Every time I'm getting closer to clearing my mind, pushing out that cancer, cancer, cancer drum beat. It'll take much more practice but I truly believe in the link of mind and body in overcoming this. I like that in class I don't have to talk anyone but you can feel everyone's positive energy and peaceful auras. The silence of only the gentle music and common breaths feels unworldly. I can go at my own pace and I never feel judged if I have to revert to extended child pose or don't have the perfect posture. However, I've found that my balance and core strength has remained and I've been proud of the poses I can master. 

My walking/jogging/hobbling continues. I try to get out every day. This weekend I want to try breaking out the bike and see how that goes when I hit the trail. When I feel my blood pumping I try to imagine it pumping out the cancer cells. The more oxygen I get in there the freer it flows. Every day in the shower I scrub with a detox mineral scrub to give those bad toxins a better chance of escaping. I then slough with a natural bristle body brush removing dead skin cells that might block the way for what I imagine is the constant escape of badness for my epidermis. 

Today I go check in with Dr. Dailey and I have a slew of questions for him and hope to come back with some new plans of attack ... and maybe an appointment for a port insertion ... as my phlebitis is flaring up again. Looking forward to my mid-way PET Scan where I hope to see some assurance that all of this effort and writhing chemo side effects are worth ever bit of the pain and more. 


  1. Karen,

    You're so amazing. Reading your thoughts tonight, I literally feel the physical tug on my heart. You're attitude is insipirational and your courage is unbelievable. I cant wait until you beat this, compile your blogs into a book, ans retire on the millions you make from it! Positive thoughts and prayers everyday, kel

  2. I have been keeping up with all of your posts and often have conversations with you in my head while I read your words. There have been so many things I wanted to say to you but was afraid to intrude or hurt. As I read about your journey tonight, I just wanted to say this to you breathe don't forget to laugh and you stretch and find peace in yoga remember to dance and rejoice. You are sucha blessing to your husband, family and friends.

    Anton and I are praying for you everyday and sending all things positive to you.

  3. Karin, this obviously is the biggest thing in your life right now and that can't be any other way at the moment, lousy as that is. But when you are 90 and telling the great stories of your life over and over again to anyone who will listen (maybe some young yoga mentee), I'm willing to bet that this won't make your top 10 list. You'll have so many other amazing stories to tell about the wonderful things you've accomplished. What you're doing now is building up outrageous mental, physical and emotional strength to power through whatever the hell you want. Cuz if you can do this -- and you absolutely can -- you can do anything. When your hair grows back, girl, you're going to be Sampson, with no Delilah in sight. Rie