Category Archives: Self-care

Cancer Prevention

Often, cancer is a crap shoot. It will be a while before medical science can always predict who will get cancer and who won’t. My cancer, plasma cell leukemia, is rare, and not much is understood about it. (Yes, I’m in complete remission, but this was my diagnosis not very long ago.) 

But it’s silly to increase your risk for cancer. Here are some habits to think about. Taking small steps can add up to great results.

Photo Credit: DES Daughter Flickr via Compfight cc

The New Normal

Be the Match workshop for transplant recipients and families

When I agreed to a stem cell transplant, I only knew that it was my best chance for a cure. I’m in complete remission. The transplant did save and extend my life. I can think and write and meditate. I can get myself here and there. I’m able to appreciate and enjoy this beautiful life.

It’s probably good that I’m only now fully hearing from others what my body has been trying to tell me: that these ups and downs might not be temporary, but rather my new normal.

Working it

Sleep has been elusive lately. From one night to the next, the Ambien might work, or not; the melatonin might work, or not. One night I took a Benadryl for my allergies AND an Ambien for sleep, and that worked too well…

I’m on a steady dose of Prednisone again (thus the insomnia), because my liver enzymes are elevated and it’s unclear why. My transplant doctor suspects I might be dealing with graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in the liver. I see a GVHD specialist next week.

For now, sleep, or the lack thereof, rules my life. If I have a particularly bad night, I might lie in till noon, and I hate not having a morning. When every day is different, I can’t get into a regular ritual and routine. My husband gets home around 6:00 pm, we enjoy dinner and watch something together, and then it’s time to turn in. I do what I can to relax, rest, hope to sleep, and look forward to a better day.

Last night the melatonin worked, and I got up around 9:00 this morning. Time for both breakfast and lunch!

The first hour or so after getting up usually sucks. My heart races when I just walk from room to room. It’s disappointing when I can sit up in bed in the morning feeling alert, and then feel exhausted by the time I’ve walked from the bathroom to the kitchen. But it’s undeniable, this fatigue. I just have to pay attention and work with it. When I don’t push myself, I usually feel better after I’ve been up an hour or two.

Working with it continues to take new forms. When I’m tired I sit down for just a few minutes and get up again. When I have the energy, there’s laundry to do, and always some tidying up. Some days I follow whims, like the day I made granola from scratch (wonderful), and yesterday, when I made yogurt. (I’ll do better next time.) 

What I want is a reasonably regular schedule for two activities: formal meditation practice, and writing.

After forgetting an appointment last week, I ordered a planner. For the first time in a long time, I have a fresh, new, spiral-bound landing pad to capture my intentions and goals, and schedule (and re-schedule) my time accordingly. I’ll use this simple tool to revisit my priorities–and plan my shifting available time–with fresh eyes.

Two Steps Forward… 

Sometimes I forget about my recovery. That might sound like a good thing. People might assume that I usually worry over my health, and that forgetting would mean “enjoying life.” But I don’t mean that at all. I’m not much of a worrier, and I strive to appreciate my life every day, just as it is. 

What I mean by forgetting is that I’m still in the old mental habit of assuming gradual improvement: If I do some exercise today I’ll be able to do the same or more tomorrow, or soon. If I feel good today,  I will feel the same or better tomorrow. 

Self-care in my situation requires remembering. It’s a daily effort of balancing activity and stillness. I may want to wash, dry, and put away two baskets of laundry, but my body will tell me when I need to take breaks, and when I’ve done enough for one day. 

It’s frustrating when I’ve had to re-wash a load of laundry because I ran out of energy after starting the wash cycle. After two days sitting wet, I’d wash it again! 

I should make plans tentatively, not assuming anything. But it’s so easy to get ahead of myself. I’ve told all my Facebook friends that I’ll be walking in the Houston Women’s March this Saturday. The march is at 11:00 a.m., the rally downtown in front of City Hall is at noon. 

I have a self-diagnosed sinus infection. I’m waiting to hear back from my Stem Cell Transplant team (my one-stop medical shop) on whether they’ll call in a prescription. I’m going to see them tomorrow anyway, so they will be waiting to see me in person. 

The blood tests I take tomorrow will tell me how anemic I am and how my kidneys are doing, among other things. There’s always a chance that my hemoglobin level has dropped again. In that case I’ll need another transfusion, which means I’ll be at Anderson all day. 

The Bardo of Waiting

I wrote an email to a friend this morning:

I am getting familiar with that in-between, waiting, confused, gap experience. I’m waiting on biopsy results myself–results are due Tuesday. My health over the last year has been one thing after another, since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a year ago.

There’s a word for this waiting place from Tibetan Buddhism–bardo. A bardo is a state where we’re leaving something familiar, and the next stage hasn’t fully revealed itself. It’s the most uncomfortable, potentially terrifying place to be. It requires the utmost kindness, gentleness, a light touch of awareness, and an approach of grounding, one-step-at-a-time, and appreciation for the present moment. Continue reading

My wish for you

You have strengths you don’t know you have. You can be kind to yourself, and on that basis you can be kind to others. Know that the worries you carry can be set down.

My wish for you is that you be free from suffering, anxiety, fear, sickness, emotional upheaval, discord, and financial obstacles.  Continue reading

Need a retreat?

Boy, I do. I don’t just need to get away—I need a meditation program that challenges me. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to participate in a lot of retreats over the years.

Reconnecting on retreat provides experiences that affect your “mindstream” in a special way. When you’re away from the everyday, you’re able to focus on the big-picture aspects of life in a way you just can’t otherwise. You’re able to settle into a different way of being that is present, relaxed, and genuine. I can’t recommend it enough.

I just need to take my own advice.

Start fresh

I started the morning early. I sat my butt on my meditation cushion for a few minutes, connecting with being before being seduced into the multitude of activities of my day. Then I was inspired to take a fresh sheet of paper – blank drawing paper – and a box of Crayons. I haven’t done that in a loooong time. In various colors, I wrote a couple of words and drew a couple of images that represent my view of what I would like this day to be.

Do you have any rituals for starting the day – greeting the world, connecting with being before doing?

Episode 2 – Meditation

Meditation Instruction
The Windhorse Podcast – episode 2

Hi, friends. Meditation is a very simple and brief introduction to meditation practice. More to come in future episodes.

I’m committed to keeping these recordings brief, so you can take a break from your daily activity and just listen. So, it isn’t recommended for listening to while you’re driving, or doing anything else, really. Can you give yourself 10 minutes?

Practice these instructions, post your questions  by commenting below, and keep an eye out for the next installment.



The Windhorse Podcast, episode 1: Pausing

The Windhorse Podcast – episode 1

Here’s my broadcast on Pausing.

I added an intro to the recording, hopefully to communicate a more welcoming attitude! I learned a lot about podcast software. This first recording starts out sounding a bit stiff; the technology is still a little distracting for me. But I think it may be helpful to folks. Please post your comments and questions here.