Harmonious Participation

I follow several brain tumor blogs and personally know a few people who are either themselves or have a loved one living with a brain tumor and what is apparent is that my case is unusual and I’m damn lucky! After two years of focusing inward, processing my anger, my fear, my self-pity, and finding my faith, gratitude, and courage, I find myself poised to look outward. I have often heard that “gratitude is an action” and that “faith without works is dead.” It is time for me to put my faith and gratitude into action in the larger community of those living with, dying from, and researching for cures of brain tumors.

That has been my intention for a couple of months, but as with most action, the question has been how to take the first meaningful step. Fortunately, a fundraiser for the American Brain Tumor Association popped up on my FaceBook news feed, giving me a simple and practical first step (literally…), right in my own back yard. The following is their mission statement, taken from their website, http://www.abta.org

The mission of the American Brain Tumor Association is to advance the understanding and treatment of brain tumors with the goals of improving, extending and, ultimately, saving the lives of those impacted by a brain tumor diagnosis.

We do this through interactions and engagements with brain tumor patients and their families, collaborations with allied groups and organizations, and the funding of brain tumor research.

Founded in 1973, the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) was the first and is the only national advocacy organization committed to funding brain tumor research and providing information and education on all tumor types and all age groups. For over 40 years, the ABTA has been providing comprehensive resources that support the complex needs of brain tumor patients and caregivers, as well as the critical funding of research in the pursuit of breakthroughs in brain tumor diagnosis, treatment and care.

The Breakthrough for Brain Tumors 5K is put on by the ABTA in 9 cities in the U.S. to raise funds to research for cures of 120 types (!!) of brain tumors. I am joining the walk (there’s also a run for those WAY more fit than I) in Denver on May 6th as a small part of a large community of those affected by brain tumors. In addition to the obvious goal of raising funds, I look forward to connecting with a local community of people who have their own Bob stories; as well as finding other ways to participate in the community.

This is the part where I unabashedly ask for your money!  Please participate in helping all of us who rely on further research for effective treatments for brain tumors. You can join my team, BT Warriors, even as a “virtual walker” or donate (tax deductible, yay!) by clicking on this link:

http://hope.abta.org/site/TR/BT5K/BT5K-2015?team_id=37438&pg=team&fr_id=3531#.WPP1-dIrLIU

Thank you thank you thank you…. You’re friggin’ awesome!

Dawn (& my beloved Bob)

Creating Something New

starting something new post

As it turns out, life does not stop when one is diagnosed with a brain tumor (or any other illness/injury for that matter). Utility bills, car payments, rent or mortgage, medical expenses, these all continue needing to be paid.  Groceries, prescriptions, and gas for the car all still need to be bought. There is no “free ride” as they say. Even if you qualify for Medicaid, food assistance, and/or disability, I dare anyone out there to survive, let alone thrive, on that alone. I have tried, and it is a pitiful existence full of anxiety, struggle, and low self-esteem. It was certainly better than nothing, but surviving is NOT thriving.

The world is full of advice such as “Live each day to the fullest” and “Do what makes you happiest” without any real means of achieving those ideals aside from being independently wealthy or “visualizing/manifesting”, um, back to reality please.  I assume that those who say money can’t buy happiness have enough money to pay their bills and eat well. While I agree that happiness can’t be bought, it sure does alleviate the stress and anxiety of just trying to get by.

So, while I did quit my job and move to Florida to be with my family as a matter of changing my priorities (as well as a matter of getting away from freezing temperatures!), and I am so fortunate to have my mom and step-dad to live with, alleviating much of my financial burden, there leaves getting a JOB and earning an income.

As many times as I have moved, I still forget how stressful it is to find a job when I get where it is that I’m going. I don’t know about you, but the job searching, resume updating, cover letter writing, and job interviewing kinda sucks.  I’ve mostly applied for part time retail/customer service positions, just to earn enough while I am completing an online program in Medical Coding/Billing. Perhaps when my resume is reviewed, the impression is that I am over-qualified? It’s not like there’s a spot to write in, “No, no, I really do want to stand at the register and ring people out for just above minimum wage despite my qualifications to do so much more. You see, I’m still recovering from the shock and anxiety of having a brain tumor, plus I’m taking online classes, and I don’t want a high-pressure full-time office job right now.” Basically, I’m not what they are looking for.

A rather important side note is that stress has been proven to encourage cancer cell growth, something I am REALLY trying to avoid!

Fortunately, a dear friend of mine has hired me for two days a week to complete a short term bookkeeping project for her business. That got me to thinking… with my 15 or so years of small-business bookkeeping experience, coupled with online account access, I could do remote bookkeeping for clients anywhere.  After further research, I found that there is a growing profession of people called Daily Money Managers, who, at the least pay bills and balance checkbooks for their clients, which can also be done remotely.

Instead of drafting cover letters and updating my resume for advertised job openings, I am drafting engagement letters and updating my services and fees for potential new clients. Without needing to commute to a job (currently living 20-30 min from anywhere), buy clothes for interviews or workplace, and possibly working longer hours for less pay, I have the potential to work fewer hours with no commute and much less stress, allowing more time to study, to spend with family and friends, and to write.

my view for blog
view from my outdoor office

A friend recently asked if I have a passion for bookkeeping as I usually end up working in that field. I would have previously said no.  I mean really, bookkeeping?! Does that SOUND like something to pursue with a passion?  The fact is, I am good at it, it comes naturally to me, and I find a great deal of satisfaction in balancing all the accounts.  It’s also a great service to others who have either no interest in or actually despise keeping up with their business or personal bookkeeping. So while I may not describe it as my passion, I certainly enjoy the heck out of it.

Sometimes, it really helps to look at something from a different perspective for inspiration! I am creating a career for myself that I can do from home or take with me anywhere. I was trying to figure out how to earn some income writing, but the truth is that I enjoy writing when I feel inspired and not pressured to do so, and that would change if I felt that I needed to earn income by it.

Are you looking for fresh inspiration? Are you pursuing an alternative income-earning solution? Let me know in your comments, we can always use more inspiration from one another!

Thank you for reading my story. More will be revealed…

Dawn

Recovering from life (a pre-Bob post)

sunset for blog

That Tuesday morning, around 10 years ago, I convinced the staff psychiatrist of something that I was not so sure was true: that I was not going to harm myself. I just wanted to go home to my condo, my bed, and my dog who I had called my ex-boyfriend to take care of, in a desperate attempt to win his sympathy, plus my dog liked him and would be happy with him should they end up keeping me for a while. Most of all, I wanted to sleep. I couldn’t sleep there, because I was afraid of the woman who I shared a bedroom with. The first night, I woke to her standing over my bed mumbling something. I didn’t close my eyes again around her for the next three days.

Going to the emergency room on the previous Friday night was not in my plans and now I wasn’t quite sure I belonged in that house. In the light of day I seemed pretty damn well adjusted in comparison to my new temporary house-mates. This will seem insensitive, but I thought, “These people really ARE crazy, I’m just depressed.” They had all been sleeping when I was admitted (with the exception of my mumbling-to-someone-no-one-else-could-see roommate), and Saturday morning, several of the residents asked if I was a new staff member.

My depression had returned with a force months earlier, but I thought I could overcome it on my own and not go back on medication. The usual symptoms snuck up on me and gradually became worse: the feeling of being totally disconnected from everyone around me, crawling out of bed as though it were a pit of quicksand, not bothering to eat or shower regularly. Checking my mail and answering my phone became almost impossible feats. Somehow, I was still able to fake it enough to get through a day’s work and to talk to my family on the phone while not letting on about my depression, but my will to make the effort began to dwindle. The hopeless thoughts were gaining on me and beginning to convince me that I would never feel well, let alone happy, again. My brain was telling me that I shouldn’t even bother trying anymore, that my depression is a vicious cycle that will never go away, that I will never feel good enough, and that it would be much easier to just be dead. The depression convinced me so completely that those were facts that I found myself looking under my sink cabinets for something fatal to ingest.

Until then, I had only fleetingly and vaguely considered suicide, so the fact that I felt like someone else actually inhibited my body and was looking under my sink for poison, scared me into calling a friend. When she answered, I could only sob, and in less than ten minutes, she was pounding on my front door. I told her that I didn’t trust myself to be alone and that I needed help. She drove me directly to the ER, where again I could only cry as they asked me a series of stupid questions. Next thing you know, I was walking across the street with a social worker to check in to a lock-down house that I guess was for mentally unstable folks. I never got around to asking.

It was actually quite a nice cozy little house, if you overlooked the locked doors and 24 hour supervision, plus we had our own cook who came in three times a day to prepare family style meals. If you ever have a mental health meltdown, I highly recommend doing so in Boulder, CO.

The staff psychiatrists were only there Mondays through Fridays, so I didn’t even talk to a doctor until after the weekend. On Saturday morning, I thought to myself, “Well Dawn, this is a great little break from life, a chance to let down your walls, get professional help, and really dig in to getting better.” After talking with a staff counselor and psychiatrist on Monday, it seemed that their agenda was to stabilize me so that they could release me, no time for digging in. After all, I was there as a guest of the state as I had no health insurance and barely any income. My goal then changed to getting out, going home, and finding a psychiatrist who actually wanted to help.

I was sprung that Tuesday, after spending just 3 short days and 4 long nights. I celebrated my freedom by walking across the street for a cup of strong, delicious coffee, then getting my dog back and going home.

Shortly after that, I was introduced to a wonderful woman who was also in recovery from life, who convinced me through sharing her own experience, as well as flat out telling me so, that I didn’t only feel hopeless, but that I actually was hopeless. That really pissed me off. I wanted her to tell me to have hope and that everything will get better.

Instead, she told me that of myself I am hopeless, and that being hopeless is the only place to start to begin to heal. In my hopelessness, I could finally surrender. By accepting my hopelessness, I could ask for and accept help, and I could ask for grace. I’ve received a lot of both.

 

PS – I also did find that psychiatrist, the one who wanted to help me, who prescribed me the correct medication that my brain needed, steered me back to counseling, and to whom I am eternally grateful!

Happy New Year… every day!

Raise your hand if you are looking forward to 2016 being better than 2015. You know my hand’s raised way up high, and I can guess that many of yours are as well. 2015 seemed to be a year of spiritual growth opportunities, getting WAY out of my comfort zone, and learning to have the humility to ask for help. Thank you, 2015, and kiss my ass. Here’s to surviving it and moving forward!

New Year’s Eve is generally a time of reflection of the past year, as well as making resolutions for the coming year. January 1st is a symbolic fresh start. It is a moment in time to hit the reset button. People collectively resolve to eat healthier, eat less, work out more, be better parents/children/friends, give up booze/sex/smoking/anger, be less selfish, be more selfish, etc., etc. By January 15th, the resolutions have faded from consciousness and we settle back into our old, comfortable routines and habits. Ah, but there is always next year, another fresh start.

Why do we limit ourselves to one day a year to set intentions and reflect on where we are on our life’s journey? I used to actively and consciously reflect three times a year: New Year’s Eve, my birthday, and the date that I got sober from a terrible addiction. I also performed intermittent “spot-checks.”

Well, I heard something today that altered my thinking about this: we can choose to celebrate a New Year every day.  Not the whole stay up til midnight and set off fireworks celebration, hell I can’t even stay up that late on the actual New Year’s Eve. What I can do, should I choose to make time for it, is reflect on my day every night before I go to sleep, and set intentions and goals for the day every morning. In fact, that is exactly what I’ve been mentored to do as part of maintaining my life of sobriety, but I have frankly become lazy about it. Perhaps seeing this as the opportunity to celebrate life as opposed to another chore to tag on to the beginning and end of my day, will energize me anew.

I have celebrated life a little each and every day since being diagnosed with Bob, and why not? That is his gift to me. Bob has taught me that very day is a gift, if I choose to see it that way, even the really sucky ones. Each day will string together into perhaps another year. Working on small goals every day and reviewing every evening as opposed to making big resolutions one day of the year will surely be more attainable and enjoyable.

Happy New Year, my friends, today and every day!

More will be revealed…

Dawn

Mary Oliver quote

Nine lives & second chances

When I recount stories of the many adventures and misadventures throughout my life, I feel as though I have lived several lives in this one lifetime. No one life could possibly hold so many twists and turns, experiences, and transformations. Yet here I am, getting another second chance at life.

Seven months ago, I thought my life was over, or would at least change drastically for the worse. It has changed, not for the worse, not for the better, just different. I feel like I’ve been having a very slow-motion close-call. My life didn’t flash before my eyes as it did when I was hit by a car on my motorcycle, it’s more of a slow-parade of memories and feelings passing through my brain.

I have been slowly emerging from a cocoon of shock. I currently struggle with bouts of survivor guilt, having read so many personal accounts of others with much more aggressive, destructive, and often times fatal brain tumors. I somehow lucked out as far as brain tumors go, as Bob is just chilling up there not growing or causing a ruckus. For an uninvited guest, he is very well behaved.  Maybe just a wake up call after all.

The question begs, what do I do with this precious second chance?

I’m not exactly sure, and if I was sure, I’m sure I’d change my mind!  For now though, I am re-evaluating what matters to me and rearranging how I live to come into alignment with that.

Step one is to return to South Florida to spend time reconnecting with my family. Besides, what better time than winter to go from Colorado to South Florida?

Step two doesn’t matter yet, I’m not there.  A personal dream is evolving as I am letting go of the fear I’ve always had of not succeeding, not achieving, of never being or having “enough.” I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know it is fabulous, and I will embrace every ounce of joy and love that comes my way!

This life will not be wasted nor regretted! Bring it ON.

Remember, more will be revealed…

Dawn

Spare the platitudes

What do you say when you just don’t know what to say? I’ve probably heard it all by now:

Everything happens for a reason.
Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
There’s an important lesson in this.
You’ll be a better person for it.
This couldn’t have happened to a stronger person.
You’re on this path for a reason.

These may be well-meaning phrases, coming from well-meaning people, but they feel empty, trite, and dismissive to hear when you are still reeling from a traumatic or tragic event.

I am no longer reeling, by the way. I’ve moved through shock, anger, fear, grief, self-pity, depression, more anger, into acceptance and even gratitude that it’s not the worst kind of brain tumor to have after all.

However, when I was in shock, anger, grief, fear, and depression, I wanted to punch anyone who, well-meaning or not, said any of the above. Instead, I would take a deep breath and realize that they probably just didn’t know what to say. Those words are meant to be comforting. Unfortunately, they are dismissive of genuine feelings that result from traumatic or tragic events. They infringe on the space and permission to feel the deeper emotions of grief and prod you to skip right on over to acceptance, jamming those other icky feelings back down into your guts.

So, why do we (I’ve done it too) feel the need to say something that is ultimately dismissive of a person’s emotions when we learn that they are faced with a terrible situation? I don’t think it’s really meant to comfort the person we are speaking to, but to comfort ourselves. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be going through the same experience, so instead of feeling uncomfortable with our own fears, we simply say, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake,” problem solved.

Even if you believe that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake, that doesn’t give you permission to white-wash another person’s emotional experience. Let the person you are trying to help come to their own conclusion about any reasons, purposes, lessons, or lack thereof in their situation.

I’m here with you.
I can’t imagine what you are feeling.
Is there anything I can do for you?
Would you like to talk about it?
I love you.
*hugs*

Those are all comforting, so spare the platitudes when shitty things happen and hug it out like you mean it! Unless the person doesn’t like to be touched… then no hugs for you. Me, hug away my friends, hug away!

Thank you for reading, more will be revealed…

Dawn

We are all terminal

Bob has been on my mind more recently.  Ok, ok, I know, he’s kinda always ON my mind…

I made my next follow-up MRI appointment and follow up with the neurosurgeon for the end of this month.  Somehow, just making those calls is enough to spark fear and uncertainty back up to the surface.  Most likely, the report will be the same as the 3 month follow up, no growth.  The two most common types of brain stem tumors in adults are a Grade 1 (very slow growing, as close to benign as you could hope for) Polycytic Astrocytoma; or the extremely aggressive Glioblastoma.  Since it showed no growth in 3 months, that pretty much rules out the Glioblastoma.   And yet… having been told that brain-stem tumors are never considered “benign” and eventually will grow, I’m kinda nervous.

I heard a cool story this morning from a friend which brought me a lot of peace.  My friend worked with a man who was always cheerful, smiling, and making people feel good wherever he went.  My friend found out this man had terminal cancer and was undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments.  My friend asked him how he managed to be so happy and spread so much joy under those circumstances. The man quoted Romans 12:2 from the bible, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  I forget the rest of the story, actually, but that was enough for me.

We are all terminal.  My official diagnosis does not state that I have a terminal illness, and I’m sure many of you have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  But as we live, we are all terminal.  We may not know when or by what means we will die, but we most certainly will die.  A few months ago, a dear friend asked me what I want my legacy to be. How would I want to be remembered after I die. The story I heard this morning reminded me of that conversation, and of my answer.  I want to be someone who delivers a message of hope and joy under all of life’s circumstances.  I would like to share my experience, strength, and hope with others and be a light of love and joy.  I have not been making that conscious choice on a daily basis lately.  Instead I have been conforming to the pattern of this world.  I have been conjuring up anxiety about my future and focusing on what I perceive as missing from my life.

Some Christian friends have told me that they find comfort in knowing that after death, they will be in the kingdom of heaven for eternity.  It’s not death that I fear or struggle with, it is the living day to day that I struggle with, that I am anxious of.  It is in living day to day that I worry about paying the bills, eating enough and the right kind of food, performing well at work, and wondering if I will ever find lasting love. Then sprinkle some brain tumor on top.  It’s like Miracle-Gro for anxiety.

So, yeah, sign me up for some of that transformation by the renewing of my mind, please.  My attitude and outlook need some refreshing and uplifting; only then can I hope to be refreshing and uplifting to others as I so desire.

Thank you for reading… more will be revealed.

Dawn