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December 13, 2014

Processing needs time…

Since the bilateral mastectomy, I have been processing life; relationships, health, human behavior, emotions, interpersonal schemas, and much more. I have not been trying to mentally organize rather I have been allowing each theme, event, and emotion to simply present, move through me, and then release; this has been difficult at times and remains a challenge.

The surgery process, what I can recall of it, could be framed two ways, positive and negative. It began on the day prior to surgery while engaging in the hospital intake process. The intake woman misspoke on several occasions as she referred to my procedure as “cosmetic’; I felt compelled to correct her, I was having a bilateral mastectomy due to an aggressive breast cancer, far from a super awesome cosmetic procedure. That was frustrating. The morning of the procedure the IV insertion process was fraught with pain, anxiety, and chaos. After three failed attempts, I stated I wanted my husband to come back with me to offer support and that I was about to have a panic attack - I needed a Xanax. Finally they produced my husband, who had my Xanax, next the staff brought out an ultrasound machine to find a vein – WTF, I know! Two additional pokes later and the IV was finally in. What occurred after the IV was placed, I really do not recall; it seems the staff power loaded me with, let’s leave this behind us, medication at that point.

Well, it was done; I awoke in a hospital room. The breasts were gone and it was time to get this body healing. My dutiful husband was beside me throughout my recovery; I recall he appeared stunned at times. Looking into his eyes I could see his mind as he watched me navigate the pain, frustration with doctors not following through on pain medications as discussed extensively, his deep sense of…I don’t want my wife to die, this has to be the thing that fixes this mess. It was and still remains heart wrenching to look into the eyes of those that love me, especially my husband – I see through the masked feelings, I physically experience the heart break, and I see the concern. I stayed in the hospital one night and that was enough for me. When I arrived to my brother’s house in Texas, where I would be recovering for a couple weeks, I was stunned to see the aftermath of the surgical process. This is where anger seeps in; although I was unaware of the depths of destruction that were really left at that time. One breast was removed by way of a vertical incision while the other was horizontal. It was a mess! I had two drain tubes emerging from each side of my body. The tubes where removed in waves, in the days to follow, and hurt like a bitch when they were removed. Lengthy tubes twirled up inside my body where my breasts once rested– like 15 inches of tubing. One tube remained for quite some time and was removed after returning to Oregon. The recovery was okay – I was left impacted from the anesthesia, from a memory perspective, this I consider a gift from the Devine. Three weeks post-surgery, I was back at school and internship – ready to move forward.

A little over a month post-surgery, I went to have my tumor marker counts tested; completely expecting them to be back within normal range. This was not the case. The tumor makers, which I have tracked going on four years now, were 800% higher than when I was originally diagnosed; my heart sank. My first thought was what the fuck? There clearly has been a mix-up, this is not right. But it was right. Since my diagnosis in 2011, I have chosen not to participate in PET/CT scans, until the lab work indicated a serious issue. The PET/CT appointment was set and two of my dear friends traveled with me, over to the Oregon Coast, to the appointment. My husband was out of the state on business – I told him to go as staying for a test would not change the outcome. The test procedure went well and my two friends and I celebrated the test being over as we channeled a positive outcome over food, beverage, and endless laughter.

My friend Kim gave me this beautiful print;the artist, Kelly Rae Roberts,
signed the print and wrote a touching message on the back. 
As we drove home, the conversation was light and laughter was what was on tap! Then my phone rang, my friend pulled over to the side of the road, it was the oncologist calling with the results. I braced myself. When I heard the doctor’s voice, I knew it was not good news – I could feel his energy. I learned that the cancer had come back and was large and in charge, including deciding to settle into my chest wall. While I am listening, all of a sudden a state trooper comes along side our car, rolls down the window, and asks if everything was okay. My friend explained I was taking a call from my doctor and he drove away. I wanted to scream in response to the officer, no everything is not okay, this fucking cancer has come back again; but I was speechless. Tears where coming down my cheeks. I felt defeated. Broken. Angry. Frustrated. Unsettled. I hung up the phone and told my friends I had to get out of here. I jumped out of the car. Well, I must have been quite a site! It is mist/raining and here I am on the side of the road in high healed black boots, crazy black and white leggings, a bright pink sweater, and on my phone walking around crying! I was talking to my husband. He was out of town and on his way to my brother’s house in Texas for dinner – thankfully. I erupted and told my husband the findings, I was crying uncontrollably and saying, I don’t know what to do! I abruptly hung up noting that I was getting wet from the rain and that we will just keep on roll’n with it. I got back in the car and started to process the latest cancer news. I text my brother to please help my husband, noting, I just received the results.

I wanted to scream…but I could not. I think I hit the interior of my friends car a few times, lots of fuck this fuck that, and my biggest verbal contemptuous expression – for ALL those people that think if you have breast cancer and you remove your breasts that the issue is gone…it is a systemic issue people, it is still here! After processing for about 15 minutes, I sent my husband a text to check on him. He responded by saying that he was coming home in the morning. I called him on the phone and exclaimed, I am fine, you coming home is not going to change anything plus, I have a full case of clients I am seeing tomorrow. You will be coming home to nothing! LOL!!! When I got off the phone, my friends were laughing, about the “you will be coming home to nothing”…perfect timing to add levity. He was able to undo his early trip home and life continued. The next day, I was sitting in session with clients and managed to hold my own pain, fear, and anxiety.

So, here I am today – December 13, 2014. What is next you ask? Well, my options are to continue doing what I am doing – utilizing alternative remedies to bring my body into balance. I have adjusted my regiment to include a host of supportive essential oil supplement from doTerra – a huge thanks to my mom and day for financially supporting two months of the supplements!! Being healthy is an expensive adventure. I went on a three week juicing adventure to cleanse my body and give it a chance to begin to heal. The highlight of my day during this process was when I could eat a hardboiled egg – I don’t even like eggs but I tell you what, they taste fucking fantastic when consuming primarily juiced vegetables. My new bedtime is typically 8:30-9:00pm, my body is tired and needs rest. I am experiencing increased fatigue as the week’s progress, I know this is not a good sign. Nevertheless, I move forward. As I write this, I am wearing the F*ck Cancer t-shirt my friend gave me – pretty much is representing my truth right now. Not going to let this cancer thing get in the way of living; nope, it is just not going to happen.

My two friends Karri and Rachael, during
a counseling training a the Oregon Coast.
Next steps, to continue living. The cancer, has allowed me to see the world through a different lens. It too has softened my heart and crumbled the walls that surrounded me for far too long. I live a bit differently now. I love a lot harder. I have fun more often. I laugh a lot. I don’t take myself so serious. I am still me, it is just that I have polished a few more of those jagged edges. When I consider the biggest changes in my life, it would be actively pursuing friendships. I have allowed my heart to be open to receiving and inviting others in. At times, this vulnerability is difficult and may end painfully, yet I am willing to continue to go there. “My GFU” [George Fox University Graduate School] peeps have been a strong support system and many close life-long friendships have been cultivate. I love this life. I love this season that I am in. I want it to continue. I am so ready to kick cancer’s ass!

Today, I am hopeful~

September 17, 2014

Let’s do this…

Anxiety is high as I head to Texas for surgery - double mastectomy, Friday morning at 7:00am Texas time, I will be in surgery for approximately seven hours – please keep my family in your thoughts. I remain hopeful. My husband reminded me of all the wonderful things I have accomplished during this lifetime – this is the legacy I always hoped to leave behind. Knowing that I have lived a fulfilled life, is freeing. It has been filled with triumphs and pitfalls yet here I stand – a fulfilled individual. Thank you to everyone that has touched my life. I am fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful friends and family that understand and love me just as I am; the jagged and polished parts. Please send peaceful healing thoughts and prayers to my family and myself. I am hopeful this radical surgery will give me chance to continue living a quality life during this lifetime and making a difference.

Please spread the word that my family is raising money to pay for treatment and travel costs. Many thanks in advance for your generosity and for supporting my health and healing; every dollar counts! 
                                        Click Here --------------> Dismiss Defeat Fundraiser

This is my little doggie Junior that is incredibly therapeutic. Love my little guy~ he makes me smile!

Today, I am hopeful.

September 7, 2014

Not everything will be bigger in Texas...

Things are quickly moving, reminds me of July 2011; unfortunately this cancer “thing” is gaining momentum. This year began with finding a new breast mass in January, removal in March, new breast masses discovered in August, removal in August, and finally learning the tumor removal was not successful according to pathology. It is a bunch of doom and gloom type of findings; not obtaining clear margins and cells indicative of further spreading of cancer to parts unknown.

I want to quickly spotlight a local Corvallis reconstructive breast surgeon that refused me surgical services because “he read your blog”. Yes, I did in fact write about Dr. Kevin Day and the consultation I had with him in a previous blog posting, however, I did not “name” him – perhaps he was deeply impacted that his name was not attached. The posting, if I do say so myself, was quite brilliant! So, here is a shout-out to you, Doctor Kevin Day – I hope you enjoy my blog. Please know that your bitchassness has not been lost on me or others. (spotlight turned off).

I returned from a trip to Houston to consult with my team of doctors; it was a fantastic visit. I have decided to move forward with surgical intervention and have both breasts removed (bilateral mastectomy). This was not too difficult of a choice, although not the preferred one. To me, this is not much different from when my hair fell out following chemotherapy. It did not bother me that much, I actually fancied myself bald – I mean, I looked really good!  For me it is not about losing my breasts, it is about the surgery interrupting my life. I have been processing, reframing, and rearranging my priorities. My health will come first, even though. I did not attempt to schedule my surgery around school or internship – I simply scheduled the first available appointment time. I trust everything else will fall into place; it may look a bit different than I envision, and this is okay.

I will return to Texas for surgery, stay in the hospital for a couple days, and will remain in Texas for about 2-weeks until I am able to travel back to Oregon to complete my recovery. It is a big surgery. There is risk to do the surgery. There is risk in not doing the surgery. My hope is that if the vulnerable breast tissue is removed, then my body will be successful in systemically balancing itself and I can declare – DIS-EASE FREE BODY!

I have many fantastical stories from my visit – I may share later when I have more energy. Let me give a little teaser- While visiting Dr. P, the reconstructive surgeon I explained that I did not mind if my breasts were reduced down to little tiny A cups (with implants filling the pocket where breast tissue once sat). He expressed “well, I want to make sure you get dates” encouraging me he could use expanders and make my breasts larger than an A cup. I laughed and replied, “I am married, and what is really important is that I have a vagina- and I am good in that department!”

I have a short time to make arrangements for my upcoming surgery followed by several recovery weeks. The love and support that blankets my family is beautiful, thank you. If you are able to financially contribute to travel and treatment expenses, please click on the link below or via mail:

Click to support: 


Mailing Address:
Christina Garrett
PO Box 192 
Philomath, Oregon 97370

Thank you for believing in me and supporting my health and healing efforts.

Today, I am hopeful~

August 9, 2014

Clinging to hope...

I met my new oncologist after my favorite oncologist Dr. Kenyon retired. This meeting happened to occur on Dr. G’s first day at his new practice and I was his first patient. I overheard the nurse inform Dr. G that I do not wear examination gowns, “she said she just brings them out”. Dr. G introduced himself – I let him know that I was Dr. Kenyon’s favorite patient – he nervously laughed. As he listened to my heart with his stethoscope, I noticed his hands were shaking; I had not even revealed my breasts yet! He let me know that he perhaps consumed too much coffee and it was his first day. I really liked this doctor – he was a “regular” person, helpful, compassionate, and respectful. The office gal Suzy – is a dream too! She was able to coordinate the diagnostic bi-lateral breast ultrasound with a radiologist I saw earlier this year. After leaving Dr. G’s Newport office, I traveled up the coast to Lincoln City where the radiologist happened to be for the day.

I was looking forward to planting my feet in the sand, getting grounded, and finding some peace. As I drove up the coast, between Newport and Lincoln City, I pulled over to the side of the road where I could gain beach access. Awe…it was divine! The beach always reminds me of my Grandpa LeGall; I replayed memorable moments, as though I were watching a movie. I can hear my grandpas voice “you have such an eagle eye!” my face lights with great joy. I look at footprints in the sand and am reminded of the many prints left of mine in comparison to his great strides. I say this often, nevertheless, I will say it again…I love the Oregon Coast!

Arriving in Lincoln City for the ultrasound appointment, I felt peaceful, grounded, and ready to hear the news. I checked in and took a seat. Understand, I wanted to be wrong. I wanted this mass I felt to be scar tissue or something else, just not a new cancer tumor. Unfortunately, I was not. The radiologist confirmed that what I was feeling was a cancerous mass – in fact, it has a little buddy floating around with it. The larger mass measures slightly greater than the one removed in March 2014; the little buddy is a slight little thing. Exhale. Breathe in. Exhale. Yep, it is kind of like that. What are my thoughts? During the ultrasound, I watched the screen, it was undeniable when the cancer tumor emerged; this is a vision concreted into the memory forever. When I saw it literally emerge from the light grey colored cloud, I thought shit, this is not good. I then thought I really need to get this implant out; the breast tissue is clearly rejecting its invasion. Next, I thought about recovery time and school. Then the biggy came – the dark thought of the day, has this cancer spread – I mean can it be stopped or is this how it is going to be? I am not shocked nor am I surprised. I am frustrated. As of this moment, 4:37pm on Monday, I have yet to shed a tear. There is anxiety and “something” going on, I am unable to put words to it at this moment. It makes sense to me – this is all that matters.

I went from learning the cancer had returned, to shifting gears and attending class tonight. When I arrived at school, my classmate Vicki, greeted me with a hug – tears welled for a moment. I felt as though she could sense my utter disappointment and the wind being knocked out of me. What followed was a “cancer story” from another individual that joined the conversation. As Vicki and I walked away, I told her “I don’t know if I can take another fucking story like that anymore!” Real Talk: there really are some things that may be better left unsaid to those going through a serious illness. I have held my tongue for three years – until now. I will first say that I understand often individuals offer statements and sayings they find comfort in hearing. These range from the following:
1. Everything happens for a reason
2. God never gives us more than we can handle
3. Everything will be okay
4. You have this beat
…these are some of the sayings often offered. Admittedly, I am rebuffed by no less than two says listed above however; I understand that these offerings quell anxiety and bring comfort to the one delivering the message. I accept all these graciously. Then there are those delivering “cancer stories” that typically have a great suffering or death ending. These are not helpful. Actually, I find most unsolicited cancer stories to be rather dismissive and insensitive as they rarely meet my needs or address my expressed emotions. My husband and I were discussing how often individuals offer these delightful “cancer stories” and he made a good point. He mentioned you know, when we talk about our son Carlos being in the Army, we don’t hear “oh my gosh, um yes, my uncle was in the military and he was horribly injured and then he ended up dying.” Yet when it comes to cancer – so many want to offer “cancer stories”. Therapeutically, I can see their goal is to somehow connect, yet it is missing the mark completely.

I received several messages today asking, “What is next” or “what are you going to do” and various other combinations. I want to acknowledge the few that offered comforting words without a bunch of questions. Imagine you just learned that cancer has returned a third time; a matter of months following tumor removal along with knowing the cancer had metastasized? What would you do? How would a decision be made? Would you be armed with all the information to make an informed decision? As you can fathom, there are many questions, not complete information, and a need for time to process. Due to the aggressive nature of this cancer, time is of the essence. I made an appointment with a local surgeon; I have an appointment next week. There are many things to consider.

Despite all the various thoughts twirling in my head, there are bright spots. The first being that I found the mass. There would have not been an “annual” breast screening if I had not found the mass; I would have most likely lost my life before I made it to March 2015. I now have a chance to intervene and perhaps change the course. The second is I have a new team of local doctors that present as supportive, respectful, and compassionate.

For now, I am gathering information, processing, and planning; it is the darker side of this thing called cancer. I am feeling a bit defeated, as though this lifetime is slipping away. It is a strange and humbling feeling that weighs heavy on my heart.

Today, I am hopeful~

July 29, 2014

Growth, Suffering, Death, Loss, Pain, and Peace

Graduated school summer session 1ended with a triumphant finale; summer session 2 enters with gusto! Graduate school is littered with growth opportunities and increased self-awareness. Internship launched me into the “I am a therapist” mode. I am honored to join clients in their journey of healing; I am amazed each day by the vast expression of resiliency that the human spirit embodies. The layers of trauma, suffering, and what I refer to as the inevitable “spin cycle” of life, that weighs heavily on some of the most vulnerable populations, is extraordinary. The desire to improve balance, connection, and adaptive responses is awe-inspiring.

Recently I lost two important individuals in my life, both within days of each other. The first was my beautiful grandmother, Dorothy LeGall. My childhood home was nestled behind the home of my Grandma and Grandpa LeGall; this provided opportunities for daily contact, interaction, and connection. My grandma and I were incredibly close; she always seemed to know the right things to say and expressed loving me, just as I am – no matter what. The day prior to her passing, I spent several hours with her. I cried, laughed, reminisced, expressed my love, and gently whispered to her, it is time to go be with Grandpa. I was touched to learn that my grandma’s gold wedding ring, she faithfully wore, was being passed onto me. My wedding ring now sits atop her modest gold ring – I sense that she is with me. On the day of my grandma’s passing, I learned a beloved uncle – Jim Hampton, on my husband’s side of the family, was in the intensive care unit in a coma. I was with him as he took his last breathe. What an honor is was, to be in the presence of a dear loved one, as he transitioned from this lifetime. I witnessed the end of his suffering; I know he now rests in the gentle grip of peace, compassion, and endless joy. He was a man of great faith with a servant’s heart; he too was filled with happiness, was a fabulous desert chef, and personified patience. I will miss my uncle and my beautiful grandma.

In the midst of these events, I was processing the idea of my own mortality. I was watching and listening closely to the reactions, thoughts, pain, and words of the many friends and family that surrounded my grandma and uncle. It was beyond surreal for me; often I took on the role of the casual observer as I walked among the sorrow. I asked myself, is this what my passing will look like on the face of my friends and family. It was tough. I know for certain that I do not want to suffer nor do I want my loved ones to feel the pain of witnessing me suffer. I understand that hospice is a beautiful and angelic organization however, when it is clear that I am dying, I do not want to linger or be made comfortable, – I want to pass with my dignity in tact absent suffering.

I enjoy observing human behavior, reactions, responses, and expression of feelings; I find it quite fascinating. The commonality found within each, is the longing for acceptance and a feeling of connectedness with others. The expression of connection and acceptance is sought in adaptive and maladaptive ways. Lately, I have by awe struck by maladaptive expressions; these rest heavy on my heart. The two that come to mind are the “step on someone’s neck” to falsely build confidence and connection. The second is “joining forces against another”; this is where negativity is a driving force with a twist of passive aggressiveness toward another. There was a time when being on the receiving end of these types of behavior would evoke an equally maladaptive response and leave me feeling worthless, uncertain, and lonely. That time has long since passed. To those of you that this is resonating with - it may be worth considering, stopping and holding the eye roll, the snarky comment, and verbal assault. When these feelings arise, ask yourself – why am I responding so harshly, defensively, emotionally, or negatively to this individual. The interpersonal conflict is exposed by the interactions with others yet the answer will be found within you. It is unnecessary to hurt, mock, or condemn others. This is not to say that I am without flaw - I too have moments when I falter and fall into these maladaptive response and reactions – my aim is to quickly repair and offer an extension of compassion.

What I like about myself is that I am perfectly imperfect; I am not trying to be the perfect mom, wife, daughter, auntie, sister, friend, therapist, student, or citizen rather in each moment, I strive to do well. I love that I embrace the fantastic pieces of me and equally embrace the rough jagged edges of me. I see my strengths and I see my areas that are in progress – both are beautiful parts of me. I like to play a game whereby, without thinking, “say the first 3 words that describe me”. The three words, at this moment that describe me (according to me): compassionate, laughter-filled, and determined.  

It is my determination, laughter, and compassion that will in part, allow me to sustain peace. In the late evening hours of July 27, 2014, I felt another mass in my breast – the breast that cancer has been removed from two times previous. I was devastated. I sobbed as my body folded under the weight of my emotional pain. I struggled to catch my breath, to find center, and feel peace. I retreated outside, to be alone and sit with my pain. I sobbed. I am an ugly crier – I cannot talk when crying and I quickly look a hot mess…and that is okay. I gazed into the darkened starlit sky. This was painful. It gets more painful each time cancer decides to show-up. At times, I was experiencing the beginning stages of a panic attack, teeth chattering, breathing out of rhythm, and heart racing. Then it stopped. I started processing where this pain was coming from – I knew it was deeper than the cancer. Always go deeper. I want a break; to be cut some slack this is unjust in many ways. The core of who I am is to stand beside those considered “the underdog” the recipients of unjust circumstances or situations. It is not about fairness – it is about justice. What does this all mean – oh hell, I am not completely sure! I have a working theory; it is unjust that my adopted son be left without his mother. It is unjust that all my children that have passed through my house and left an impression on my heart, be left without there “white mama” as my Texas boys would say. It is unjust that my husband searched for 35+ years to find his life-long companion and that he be left without his wife. It is unjust that my friends, family, and clients be left with a hole in their hearts. It is unjust that my journey during this lifetime may end before I have had the opportunity to fully experience personal growth, aspirations, grow old with my husband, and support others toward healing.

Then there is another way of looking at my journey. It is because of my journey that I am able to fulfill a majority of my heart desires. I want to live. I do not want this life to end so soon. I believe in miracles – I am open to receiving my healing miracle. Healing ones physical or emotional brokenness is not predicated upon “being more faithful” or believing “deeper” in a higher power. To believe this, is to believe that your higher power is punishing. God, the Devine, and the Universe – these entities offer grace, love, and light.

Today, I am hopeful~

June 7, 2014

These are exciting times...

I am knee deep in summer session one, a condensed 8-weeks of course work! Between summer session one and two, I will be sporting 16 credit hours along with dedicating 2.5 days weekly, as a counselor, at my internship site. This is an exciting time right now! What an honor it is to be invited into the lives of individuals, walking alongside them through their journey of healing. What a gift.

There is much I could share, that has occurred over the past many weeks. Spending quality time with friends, sharing, laughing, ingesting tasty food and beverage, solving problems, and laughing more. Academically, I am reading, researching, writing, learning, and piecing projects together. Emotionally, I have been thrown a few curve balls but have recovered nicely. While there is a great deal of uncertainty that sits in front of me, I am filled with peace and immense joy.

I receive many questions regarding what is now known as “my health status”

Q: Have you started chemotherapy?
A: Been there done that and the oncologist does not recommend treatment, it will not extend my survival rate.

Q: How are you doing?
A: I am doing great, most of the time – I have my moments of sadness but for the most part, I am determined to live while I am alive.

Q: What about radiation?
A: Hell to the no!

Q: How is your family holding-up?
A: We are realistically optimistic and doing the best we can, given the circumstances, in each moment.

Q: So, what happens next?
A: I keep moving forward!

Q: Are you going to die?
A: Yes, I will die, we all will.

Q: Are you in remission now?
A: There is no remission to this diagnosis.

Q: What are you going to do?
A: LIVE while I am alive.

I hope that I covered the most common line of questioning. At this moment, I am choosing to not undergo any scans nor am I choosing to monitor my tumor makers. Prior to undergoing any type of testing, I ask myself, what will I do with the information – what is the purpose. Where I sit today, I am doing all that I can to move beyond this cancer diagnosis – I have already pulled out the big guns, from a treatment perspective. If I were to learn things were going south – I sense it would break my spirit. It is not denial, I know the odds are against me and living beyond the end of the year, will be beating the odds. Although I do suspect that I will choose to have my tumor makers checked in the coming weeks.  

Recently I came home and encountered a visibly frustrated and emotional husband. He began to share his frustration with individuals around us; the apparent lack of understanding and support of our situation. As I listened, he expressed that if I was doing chemo and “looked sick” there would be a completely different response from people. I said yes, this is truth. Let us be honest, when an individual looks ill or as though they have a struggle, there is an added extension of support and kindness. When an individual “looks good”, the perception is that, there is no problem. Curtis asked me if this response frustrated or pissed me off – my response was, not really. Look, it is what it is. As human beings, we are very much conditioned to be visual – if we cannot see it, it is not there. Awe, there is one exception, ones higher power. I find this quite fascinating.

My take-away from living this experience and seeing how it affects those around me is this; my families experience mirrors society’s typical response to mental illness. If you cannot see it, there is no reality to it – except when there is a reference to ones higher power, which is not seen. Why is this? Could it be there is a lapse in humanity? Is it an inability to believe there is something dark that is present – not fully explainable or understood? What I am trying to convey is simple – just because you cannot see “it” does not mean there is an absence of trials, struggles, barriers, or challenges. I do look healthy – I am feeling healthy right now, this is a good thing. Reality – statistically, my life upon this earth is short. This is heavy and humbling. My message to all that read these words: Challenge yourselves, know that many have trials that may not be visible, yet they are present and perhaps serious.

Where am I at right now? Oh gosh, I have to say that I am feeling on top of the world! I am thrilled to be growing and developing personally and professionally. I am fortunate that loving, fun, and authentic individuals increasingly surround me. What a gift it is that I am the recipient of encouragement, support, love, and positive energy. I have a supportive and loving family and friends. I am doing what I love to do professionally. I feel whole, fulfilled, and complete. I am at peace.

 Today I am hopeful~

April 20, 2014

Weighing heavy on my mind

An attempted Emotional Hijacking, this best describes a recent interaction. It is part and parcel with the "always, never-ever" crew. It is when I find myself most fragile and vulnerable, that I am met with these forceful, condemning, and all or nothing words. 

You always do this...
You never-ever do that...
We have never...
You have never...
You always say...

I become the steam that screeches from the pressure-cooker. I then catch my breath, reminding myself that no one has the power to make me feel an emotion; this is my choice. With confident opposition, I launch my verbal defense, in a barking fashion. I choose how to respond, it has nothing to do with you; right now, I am choosing to be pissed off but really I am hurt. 

Words are a powerful weapon and are equally a safe haven. We must not become complacent, thoughtless, self-indulgent, or reckless with our words. Whomever coined the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me", they were sorely misguided. Words do hurt; they have the power to break, cut, and stifle.

Restless and unable to sleep, the time reads 2:02 am. I am exhausted- emotionally and physically. I want to sleep, yet I am recounting the venom escaping the lips of the always never-ever crew. I consider the attempted emotional hijacking as I retreat into thought. Was this a not so clever way to jockey for unmet wants? Perhaps this behavior is a deep-seated pattern. Was this an attempt to apply guilt? Is it more comfortable to be angry then to express fear and uncertainty?  I believe in large part it is the later- with a twist of the others. I suppose, in the moment, it may appear easier to be angry with someone who is leaving you. If you are resting in the emotion of anger, it is tough to expose the fear, disappointment, and hurt. Eventually though, the anger will cease to serve you and the hidden emotions will rise. 

Words hurt. I am fragile. I am vulnerable. And now, I am wounded by words. 

This lifetime moves quickly, and for some, the end time grows near. Live each moment as though it were your last. Extend forgiveness freely. Look beyond your discomfort to embrace the good that surrounds you. Do not take yourself too serious. Love big. 

How does one recover and heal from wounds such as these? Through the love, gentleness, and compassion of others. I experienced this today as laughter was shared between my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, and I. There were several one-on-one side conversations that evoked tear filled eyes, loving embraces, and encouragement. This brings peace and comfort during uncertain times. 

Today, I am hopeful~ 

April 5, 2014

Pathology results are humbling

On Monday of this week, my husband and I traveled to Newport to meet with my oncologist, my “real” oncologist. The oncologist will be retiring late June, so I am currently in the market for a compassionate, respectful, and cooperative oncologist. As my husband drove over the mountain, I was feverishly reviewing the recent surgical pathology report. Although the surgeon provided verbal information regarding pathology, reading it, in its totality, was humbling. I methodically compared the current pathology to past pathology; searching for something, I am not sure what. I felt my heart racing as it slowly sank into my stomach. It is not good news, not at all.

Curtis and I anxiously sat in the exam room waiting for the oncologist. When the oncologist entered the room, he walked toward me with extended hands. I knew what he was doing, but I quickly handed him my pathology report. He quietly turned, placing the papers on the counter, turned back toward me, and extended his arms and open hands toward me. I reached up placing my hands in his gentle warm hands. He tenderly squeezed my hands and looked into my eyes. His presence embodies what is needed to be an impacting therapist. My heart wanted to melt. I could have been an emotional mess several times during the visit, but I resisted. What purpose would it serve to “lose it”? I asked many questions – I like to ask questions. I even asked what type of treatment (western) he would recommend. His answer – he does not recommend chemotherapy. He went on to say that, chemotherapy would only provide a 5% chance of extending my survival rate (which would months, at best) – it was not worth it. I laughed and said, “Well good – I was not thinking about undergoing chemotherapy, been there – tried that – it is not for me”. At the end of the appointment, he embraced me and said that he admired what I am doing.

On the drive home, I felt at peace – despite the answers to my questions.

I am still recovering from my breast surgery and wanting to get my energy back, it is a slow climb. Patience is required – this does not come naturally. In the upcoming weeks, I will undergo a PET scan to see if the cancer has metastasized in other places within my body. If it has, things will most likely move quickly. I too am processing the magnitude of my diagnosis. I then went into research mode. I located a research study: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Clinical Features and Patterns of Recurrence. The highlights or perhaps lowlights include the following:
·      Local (most was distant first) reoccurrence was 13%. 
·      Reoccurrence (local/distant) occurred, on average, 2.6 years post diagnosis.
·      70% of deaths occurred within the first 5 years.
·      25% of women with TNBC experienced local reoccurrence prior to distant. 
·      57 of 61 women died 9 months following the reoccurrence.

Here is my positive take-away: Statistically, I continue to be in the minority (TNBC) of the minority (BRCA negative) of the minority (13% local reoccurrence). Following this trend, I most certainly will move beyond this diagnosis, with a healthy mind, body, and spirit, in this lifetime. 

Curtis and I are approaching this remarkably well! It is what it is. I am doing what I can do to conquer this beast by balancing my body. The PET scan results will really ferret out if there is anything else going on. I do not anticipate a distance reoccurrence and I want the PET scan results to reflect this. Curtis and I have talked about what I would do if the results swung the other direction - do not want to put too much energy into that scenario. 

My post-operative blood work shows that tumor markers appear to be trending downward; most significantly the CA125 (ovarian marker) that was (51) prior to surgery registered at (18) post-surgery. Ironically, one breast tumor marker, 15-3 registered (1) point higher post-surgery, this is most likely due to inflammation another was slightly lower. My iron is at the highest level it has been in over 6 months and my vitamin D continues to steadily go up; it is in the mid 50's - need to get it up into the 80+ zone.

I continue to have a positive outlook and am not becoming paralyzed by this diagnosis.

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Today, I am hopeful.

March 28, 2014

The last straw~

Why does this keep happening? This question weighs heavy on my mind and most likely, not for the reasons you may be thinking! July 2011, I learned of my aggressive breast cancer diagnosis; it has been nearly three years post diagnosis. The looming question, leaving me in a quandary; why do individuals – who know me fairly well, continue to ask questions about western “treatment recommendations” after I experienced a little health bump in the road, well a big health bump? I am not
alone in this quandary; my husband too is continually bombarded with questions. Admittedly, he gets the brunt of the questions; making it worse is the barrage of unsolicited “Has your wife tried such and such?” We are left wondering, what the hell is going on here!?!? Are we failing to thoroughly and clearly convey the direction of my treatment choices? Is it that individuals are hearing but not listening to what we are saying? Could it be that individuals around us are so unhinged by my treatment choices, when they see an opening for western medicine or a new snappy alternative treatment to be tried, they bring it up? Perhaps it has nothing to do with him or I; it is their fears that are emerging? We wonder if individuals believe they are being helpful or informative?

You know that old saying the straw that broke the camel’s back …it is like that. I am typically gracious when the topic of cancer treatments arise; I am able to shift a conversation quite easily or use my natural fallback, avoidance. My husband, he diplomatically powers through these irritating and emotion provoking encounters with others. Here is some real talk – It is too much, please stop. It is not helpful. In many situations, it is disrespectful. My husband and I are left feeling unsupported. More than anything, it is reminiscent of living in the shadows – not being seen, not having a voice. Stepping outside of my emotional mind and into my logical mind, there is an understanding that individuals are trying to connect, be helpful, and “fix” the unfixable. The other side is that the continued chemotherapy and radiation treatment questions along with unsolicited alternative treatment suggestions – are simply not wanted. There, I said it. That felt good.

The Straw, well that arrived today. The cancer surgeon called with the results from the tumor mass and lymph node pathology tonight, finally. The mass in my breast was deemed an invasive ductal carcinoma. The lymph node contained cancer cells. Then I learned that the surgeon took it upon himself and removed two additional lymph nodes that were “attached” to the affected lymph node. The removal of two additional lymph nodes, I did not authorize or consent too. I clearly outlined, in writing, the cancer surgeon was to only remove the enlarged lymph node that was viewed on ultrasound, the day prior to surgery. If I did not respect and trust this cancer surgeon, as I do, I would most likely be pursuing a formal complaint, at the very least. On a positive note, the additional two nodes he removed were “clear”. This does give me some sense of solace that the cancer did not take up residency in neighboring lymph nodes. Still reeling from the news that the surgeon removed two additional lymph nodes, without permission, I contacted a few friends to let them know I received my pathology results. What followed were several questions about what the doctor’s treatment recommendations were and/or the meaning of the pathology results. It was too much and it really hurt me – regardless of pathology, I am not following recommendations of western practitioners – in large part. My treatment is centered on the natural practices of Ayurveda – the ancient medical system of India.

Knowing those around me are concerned about my health and want the best for me, is deeply meaningful and touching. I know that all y’all love me – I can feel it! While I was in Texas, I met with my Ayurvedic Practitioner and have adjusted my treatment. The daily regiment I follow takes dedication, consistency, planning, and time; it is extensive. I have been back in Oregon for six days now, and have been adhering to my regiment (as available). I am recovering from surgery and getting stronger each day. The additional items needed to fully implement my adjusted treatment, have arrived – so here I go! I have another week to recover before I launch back into my graduate studies, completing the semester strong.

The highlight of my day was a visit from my mom. She brought the boys dinner along with some delicious goodies. We chatted for a few hours and covered a great deal of topics. It is beautiful that my mom is incredibly supportive of my treatment choices and decisions. She has never questioned why I am or am not engaging in any particular treatment. It feels good. 

I am grateful for all the support and love that surrounds me – even when I get frustrated or hurt by too many questions. I know I am loved by friends and family.

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Today, I am hopeful~ 

March 25, 2014

Frustration; the patient’s story

First, the surgical center incident:
Arriving at the surgical center, I make my way to the intake department to complete pre-surgery paperwork. The instructions are to sign your name and/or initials to concrete your agreement with each accompanying statement, on the lines an intake worker, at the medical facility, has graciously highlighted. As a southern woman would say – Now isn’t that sweet. Let it be known, I read each word appearing on every page. I cross out verbiage I am not in agreement with, clarifying statements to the pre-written verbiage, and typically leave several items absent my signature or initial; what resides in the cleverly highlighted space is a diagonal line, or what I refer to as the – Nope not this girl! 

After returning the completed paperwork, there begins to be a flurry of activity behind the intake counter – from nurses to supervisors. Occasionally there is a break in the conversation as confused and flustered individuals pass interesting glances and stares my direction. Often I will not prolong their agony – I will approach the counter and make an inquiry. This is how it went during a recent visit:

Me: I there something, I can help you with? *I brace myself for the response.
Intake: Um, ma’am, I noticed you did not sign this, pointing to one of the highlighted lines. The doctor ordered these labs, so you have to get them done.  
Me: The lab work was completed in Oregon and the results were forward to my Texas practitioner therefore I will not be taking part in another blood draw.
Intake: Ma’am, that doesn’t matter, it says here that you have to do it again.
Me: *no words, simply pregnant pause.
Intake: You know, I will ask my supervisor what to do.
Me: Sounds good.
Intake: umm, ma’am, you didn’t sign here where it says that you will get a chest x-ray or any additional labs, as the doctor feels necessary.
Me: That is correct. A chest x-ray was not discussed between the surgeon and me.
Intake: And the additional labs…
Me: Correct, I do not authorize additional labs without my written consent.
Intake: Well, let me get a nurse. When they explain why these things are needed you will understand better and sign the paperwork.
It continues to go on like this through the remainder of the paperwork.

I am finally escorted to the pre-operative bay where I am instructed to disrobe, keeping my panties on if so desired (I desired!), and to next put on the super awesome surgical frock. Side Bar: Can’t these facilities come-up with a, let’s say, more stylish print design for the frocks? I mean really, once you put on the plain frock, you instantly feel and look like a sick person. Then to add insult to injury, they bust out these horrific grey non-slip socks and instruct you to put those on too! I was like, What The What – Seriously?!?!

I am now resting nicely upon the gurney, dressed in my sickly attire – except for my cute panties, which no one else could appreciate, as I speak with the nurses, anesthesiology team, and surgeons; surgeons marking where they will cut and the others, discussing the procedures I will be undergoing. At one point, I noted that I am always given Promethazine for nausea, administered during surgery, and this is the only anti-nausea I wanted to receive. Several minutes later, a member of the anesthesiology team returns to inject some medication into my IV. I look at her and notice that she has a vile of Zofran readied to inject into my IV. I interrupted her and said, “Is that Zofran? It sure looks as though I am reading the word Zofran on the vile.” The woman went into this speech about Zofran, her colleague joined. I restated that the only anti-nausea medication I was authorizing was Promethazine – most certainly not Zofran. 

It was incredible that this team of individuals were prepared and willing to disregard, completely, what I had authorized them to put into my body. Talk about taking privilege with my body – who do they think they are?  

Then, there is the PET scan incident:
I was scheduled to undergo a PET scan this week. As I was reading over the information and process, I realized that my appointment was not for a PET scan but rather an Integrated PET-CT scan – NOT what I had agreed to. When contacting the oncology receptionist, she provided inaccurate information regarding what a PET-CT was – finally she offered to have a nurse contact me. When speaking with the nurse, I relayed that I did not agree to a PET-CT but rather a PET scan only. When asked why I did not want the PET-CT, I simply responded, it was a personal preference. Her response was something like, so you do not want to tell me your reason for not wanting the PET-CT? These folks could use training in basic empathy and/or reflective listening – I am offering to provide this service FREE of charge! So now, I wait to see IF the oncology group will refer me to get only a PET scan as originally requested. In truth, I really do not care, as I did not want to undergo the scan in the first place, additionally, it’s more money out of my family’s pockets!

To follow is a note to those within the oncology profession. 

Dear Oncology Medical Profession-

As a patient, I acknowledge your western medical training and your delightful ability to recite the standard of care for specific cancer diagnoses. Be mindful, this is my body, my choice –many within the oncology profession; seem to have forgotten this basic adult human right and freedom. Each treatment choice and decision is not being made lightly, but rather with the weighing of risk vs. harm, the pros and con’s based on independent research from many sources – including the information you provide. This is my life. I choose to make my own informed decisions, not because you told me too, but rather because I chose too. Western practitioners do not have all the answers – you are not a god. Each patient’s body is unique and different. Many patients will look to you for guidance and direction – many are scared, unable to make choices, trust your guidance, or do not know what else to do. Then there are patients like me – ready to research, willing to make difficult decisions, not detoured by the bullying, shaming, the threatened withholding of treatments, and fear mongering spewed by the oncology profession. Despite all the pushback from the oncology profession, I will continue to make the treatment choices that are right for me – my body, my choice.

I have supported many friends through their treatment choices that are much different from mine. I have watched several suffer greatly and lose their lives. I too have seen several continue living, despite emerging post-treatment illnesses and struggles that continue to cause suffering to one degree or another. As patients, we choose what is going to work best for us and what brings us peace – there is no right or wrong. It just is.

To clear-up any confusion regarding indulging in western medical treatments or lack thereof, trust and believe that I am not turning away from treatment – it is your western medical interventions that I do not seek, as my mainstay. I AM in treatment! I am not experimenting with any particular “cancer cure” of the moment. What I am doing is working to bring my body back into balance, on a cellular level. This approach is holistic, following the practices of Ayurveda – which has been around a heck of a lot longer than western medicine. While western medicine has a great deal to offer, it equally lacks. My daily routine, to remain healthy, takes dedication and is not a quick fix. When I hear individuals within your profession making comments such as – “you must be crazy to choose alternative treatments!” I respond by saying, “Natural treatments vs. toxic poising – that’s an easy choice for me.”

Repeatedly, I have created the space for those within your profession to cite standard of care along with recommendations; most usually, there too is an injection of judgment that jettisons in as well. Some days I sit and listen more patiently then others. Let me share what is missing – those within the oncology profession rarely create a space for the patient to cite thoughts, fears, and outline treatment choices that are met with a respectful and compassionate ear. When you become the patient, then you can decide how you will manage and treat your condition. Until that time comes, which I hope you will never have to experience, – you do not get to decide for me. This is my life. This is my body. Show respect.

Today, I am hopeful


Seeking Balance 


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March 22, 2014

Travels to Texas - It is always an adventure

What an interesting trip to Texas this has been. I speak often about going with the flow – just keep on moving; this theme reigns supreme, yet again. Let us begin with the delightful overnight flight. Curtis, Leslie, and I arrive at the airport and successfully navigated through security without a hitch; this is not always the case for me as I am an “opt-out” meaning I do not go through the body scanner machine. Rather I am the recipient of an up close and personal hands-on pat and slide security screen. “I am going to run my hand along your inner thigh until met with resistance,” states the airport security officer. That one always makes me laugh. As we look for our gate, we decide to grab a beverage and some chips and salsa. – The airport chips were double, perhaps triple flash fried and dripping with oil; we still ate them. Leslie and I dashed across the way to purchase a beverage and snack for the plane ride. In desperate need of some nasal spray, Leslie purchased a bottle of the coveted spray only to discover it cost over $10…she was none too pleased. We landed in Houston around 6:00am - the plane ride was uncomfortable, stuffy, and a dreaded overnight flight …no fun at all.

The first appointment of the day was with my cancer surgeon; it went as expected; he is very respectful, kind, and compassionate. I asked that the doctor take a second look at my swollen lymph node so that we could discuss the findings. I subsequently made the decision to have the lymph node removed in addition to the mass contained within my breast. Curtis, Leslie, and I next traveled to see my reconstructive surgeon. This appointment did not go as expected. Prior to traveling to Texas, I had several communications with the office of Dr. S to discuss the procedures he would be preforming; my interpretation was that everything was set and ready to go. Shortly after entering the exam room – it was clear this was not the case. Dr. S was refusing to perform any type of reconstructive surgery on the right breast and was only agreeable to preforming a minor augmentation to the left breast. When further inquiry was made into his gross deviation from the original plan, the doctor became defensive and threatened to not perform the surgery at all. Awe, this was a familiar spot…yet again, I was being required to create a space for an arrogant medical provider to feel validated appreciated, and as though they are the expert. I have to say it was quite nauseating at times. What made this visit amusing, in part, was the doctor’s attraction, complimentary comments, and divine infatuation with my left breast! He noted how the supple curvature was preferred. He encouraged me to enlarge the right breast (containing cancer) rather than reduce the left breast – “let’s just go bigger”, he said with a twinkle in his eye. When discussing symmetry, he noted how beautifully symmetric my breasts already were (more than most) and in a challenging tone, looked at Leslie and said, “Christina’s breasts are most likely more symmetric than yours – just look and see.” I was mildly disappointed Leslie did not take the doctor up on his challenge, producing her breasts! That would have been fantastically hilarious.

Surgery was a breeze and according to my support team – the doctors nearly fist bumped each other when recounting how well the surgery went. Let’s now discuss the dark-side of the surgery. The lymph node that was removed did contain cancer cells, the extent of which will not be known until early next week when pathology comes back. The surgeon expressed to my husband that there would need to be some tough decisions made, noting radiation is off the table because the cancer has moved beyond its origination site, meaning it has metastasized. My first thought was good; this is one less non-treatment treatment I would have to hear about from western doctors! It will be interesting to see what I am working with when pathology returns. My hope is that the cancer nugget in my breast was removed with clear margins and that the lymph node was simply inflamed.

Had a visit from a couple of my Texas kiddos. Carlos drove down from Austin for the day - it was great to see him. 

I am healing well, and ready to head home – Sunday morning to be exact. There is much more to tell, but will come at later time. 

                                                          Today, I am hopeful~

Please consider donating money to support travel expenses, surgical procedures, and medical expenses: Capture Courage Fundraiser

March 19, 2014

Surgery Update

Christina, Curtis and I (Leslie) arrived in Texas early Tuesday morning and settled in with our hosts, Christina's brother Sam, his wife Brandi and their four kids. They have been very hospitable and the conversations have been lively.

After a nap (to recover a bit of lost sleep from the red-eye flight) we went with Christina on Tuesday afternoon to meet with her general surgeon and the reconstructive surgeon for the standard pre-op consultations and to finalize details of the surgeries. She is an excellent self-advocate and consistently and calmly maintains a positive rapport with the medical professionals.

On Wednesday morning we headed over to the Houston Yoga Ayurvedic Wellness Center where she met with Sharon for Ayurvedic massage (I cannot remember, nor can I accurately spell the treatment, so I will leave that clarification to Christina later!). Sharon is a very wise, calm, knowledgeable and loving individual and Ayurvedic practitioner. Curtis, Christina and I had such interesting conversation and a time of relaxation and tea with her.

We then went over to the hospital and Christina was taken back for surgery (I will let her disclose the specifics of the surgeries later, if she wishes to do so). We got to see her just before surgery where Christina declared the grey skid-proof hospital socks despicably unattractive (any of you that know Christina can imagine the scene and conversation over that!). We waited during the surgery which went smoothly with both surgeons feeling positive about the procedures. It sounds like recovery will be smooth and less painful than initially anticipated.

I feel privileged to be here with Christina and Curtis and I'm consistently blown away by Christina during this entire journey through cancer. I admire her steadfastness and courage in facing the numerous obstacles and challenges in carefully choosing her own unique path toward overcoming this disease. 

Thanks to all of you for your peaceful, healing, accepting, loving and compassionate prayers and thoughtsWe will update again soon.

Today, I am hopeful ~

March 17, 2014

George Fox University Support System

           *I am filled with gratitude*


Pictured in this photo are several of my George Fox University Graduate School of Counseling classmates. Many classmates showed their support by wearing pink in some form of fashion. I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by individuals who love me and believe I will find balance and overcome this disease!

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                                                                                                           Today, I am hopeful.

March 16, 2014

Tribute Tattoo & Updates

My husband surprised me last week with this amazing tribute tattoo; he placed it on his chest over his heart. (Curtis'first tattoo) The symbol represents running and the positive impact it has had in his life. The words, are the same that adorn the Christina's Real Talk t-shirts - my son Cole and I created the saying in 2011.

All updates regarding my surgery and post-surgery events will be posted on my blog by Curtis, Leslie (a friend), or myself - when possible. 

I invite everyone to call upon their higher-power, the divine, to send peaceful, healing, accepting, loving, and compassionate prayers and thoughts to my family, friends, cancer & reconstructive surgeons, and to myself. 

May the miracle of healing touch body

Please consider donating money to support travel expenses, surgical procedures, and medical expenses: Capture Courage Fundraiser

Today, I am hopeful~

March 15, 2014

A day in the life of…

Tuesday embodied numerous emotions, experiences, and reflections, leading to clarity that revealed itself with profound clearness. The day flowed with tears, laughter, friendship, forgiveness, cleansing tears, self-compassion, a punch to the face, pounding blows, awareness, trust, connection, and ended with peace.

How freeing it is, to speak my truth without reservation, to choose to be vulnerable. I sit upon my sofa. I hear the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, the vibrations calming my soul. The sun shines bright in the cool fresh air. The breeze dances through my hair; I breathe in the fresh spring air – awe, I am grounded, connected, at peace. I gaze into the empathic eyes of my attuned friend Mollie. I laugh. I cry. I do so without hesitation – it is safe, absent of judgment. The timing is perfection – I learned my tumor marker numbers have increased over the past six weeks, one nearly doubling. I am not surprised…yet I am. It is unsettling to see tumor marker numbers rise. I allow my emotions to come forward, move through me, and to share these once tightly held thoughts and emotions. I process my choices, landing on – Am I going to trust that I will intuitively make the right decision for myself.

As I drive, I am meditating as I listen to healing sounds. The word forgiveness gently enters my thoughts. Traditionally I am quite rebuffed by the word “forgiveness” as my experience reveals it is an over and miss used word. Yet in this moment, I embrace the word… Forgiveness – I have an awareness; the way one finds healing is through forgiveness. Over the next hour, I am taken to a still place of peace as I offer forgiveness to individuals whose words or actions have wounded, hurt, cheated, or silenced me. I first speak forgiveness; I then release them from my judgment and expectation as I accept and love them as they are. I speak forgiveness to myself – for falling short; I then release myself from judgment and expectation. I accept myself, as I am, perfectly imperfect. I am lead to speak my desires into the universe, to the divine, to my higher power. I ask that I find healing, from all disease within my body, now, in this lifetime. Asking to continue my current journey of understanding, compassion, acceptance, as I allow my light to shine bright – bringing connection and hope to all I encounter. I speak, if there is another way to learn this lesson, I am open and willing. At the conclusion, I am peaceful.

The sun shines brightly on this spring day as I walk along the riverfront with a client; I am initially met with cooperation then a physical expression of inner emotions. I felt a closed fist make contact with my face, the blow is striking and unexpected. I am stunned. I immediately assume the protective blocking position, and experience multiple blows to my forearm and legs. I am aware that time seems to slow – yet I too am struck by response to the attack. I did not instinctively fight back, something I often wondered about. Rather, I assumed the blocking position. As each blow made contact with my forearm, my self-talk was saying – see you knew what to do and instinctively acted – trust yourself, you know what to do. Following the events, I walked back to my car – my head was throbbing. I was not sure what I was going to see when I looked in the mirror. Amazingly, the physical pain did not match my appearance; aloud I remarked, “Well isn’t that interesting!” I smiled. I called my husband to let him know what happened and he offered to come pick me up. I gently reminded him that I had school and needed to get going. I hear him nervously laugh followed by “after all that you are going to go to school?” My response was, of course I am going to school. He then said, “Okay babe. Enjoy your class. Love you!” Off to class I drove.

As I drove, I was recounting the events of the day. I kept thinking that surely there would be a point at which I would breakdown crying…you know, lose it! After all, I discovered my tumor markers were elevated, had an emotional conversation about the cancer returning and the decisions needing attention, the cathartic forgiveness exercise, and the physical attack. I was not breaking down. I felt as though my equilibrium was off a bit – which makes sense considering my “bell was just rang!” I was not angry. I was not tearful. I was simply roll’n with it. I laughed, recounted how my positive self-talk was occurring as blows were being delivered. After all, it was “just another day in the life of …me”

In class, the lecture was about spirituality. As the end of class approached, the professor concluded his lecture – the PowerPoint slide, noting the next talking point, appeared on the screen: FORGIVENESS. I smiled – of course; the word forgiveness appears on the screen. As I drove home, I continued to reflect on the events that occurred. As I let out an extended exhale, I exclaimed out-loud, “oh my gosh, that’s it! Earlier in the day, I was struggling to trust myself to make treatment choices. This was followed by yet another situation, that I had questioned for years – if I were to be attacked by a client, would I instinctively fight back or would I respond with what I know and was trained to do…block the blows. Trust. It was about trusting myself. When faced with a situation, in which a decision must be made, trust that I will respond accordingly. “The Attack”, was symbolic – with a literal smack upside the head – Yes, Christina, trust yourself. You know exactly what to do! Awe…yes, I do know what to do.

Tuesday was a powerful and impacting day; it was actually quite amazing! I am embracing each experience with open arms and a positive outlook.

Today, I am hopeful.

Please consider donating money to support travel expenses, surgical procedures, and medical expenses: Capture Courage Fundraiser

March 2, 2014

Flexibility Required

I am at a bit of a loss of where to begin – the past 30 days have been an interesting mix of shifting emotions along with interesting, enjoyable, and unbelievable experiences that bring me to today, March 2, 2014.

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February is forever a favorite month; I celebrate my birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day. Image my surprise when I was brought back to reality when Curtis announced I would be turning 43, not 33! For some reason I had it in my mind I was fix’n to be 33 … the idea of being in my 40s evoked a crinkled nose followed by a gasp. Mother Nature provided a beautiful blanket of deep white snow to the Willamette Valley, something that does not happen often; we were literally snowed in for several days. The next February event was Valentine’s Day and my 10-year anniversary – both occurring on February 14. My birthday/anniversary gift was my first tattoo. Never fancied myself a tattoo kind of gal … I have to say, I love the tattoo! Many have asked what the meaning of the tattoo is – let me share.

The Om symbol: This represents the all-encompassing cosmic vibration of the universe. Om is at the beginning and ending of many sacred texts. Om represents the states of consciousness and connects us to the divine.

The Elephant/Ganesha: Signifies wisdom, patience, is the remover of obstacles, discernment, loyalty, strength, and intelligence.

There seems to be a theme that continues to occur with repetition as of late; just when I think I have a concrete plan together, a barrier presents causing me to quickly shift. Being mindful that there clearly is a lesson to be learned that I must be overlooking, I REALLY want to grasp this lesson! A couple examples of this are to follow.

Meeting with Oregon reconstruction surgeon – the appointment started-off fairly normal and then slid sideways! In the exam room was a female intern, the surgeon, and me. As the surgeon conducted the breast exam, in a rather aggressive manner, he began challenging my treatment choices. He went as far as stating that I was providing myself diminished healthcare interventions. I responded by saying something like, that is interesting, I have never had a physician provide feedback of that nature before. The surgeon was shocked and responded “really?” My response – “I don’t think most would be that brazen!” I could feel my anxiety well up within my body, I took a deep breath, as I reminded him of his position on my team was that of a reconstructive surgeon – not a secondary oncologist. Later in the appointment, I exclaimed, in a “jokester” way, that I needed to ask some basic questions – such as how long have you been preforming reconstructive breast surgeries. He outlined his qualifications in the most complex and medically academic manner. I indulged him, although I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. When he finished, I leaned forward and lowered my voice as I asked if the undertaking of the second fellowship he had outlined, was a “suggestion from his professor”; in intern exhaled with laughter! The doctor went on to explain further that is truly was HIS desire to participate in a second fellowship. You really had to be there to capture the levity of it all. Despite his narcissistic nature, I went ahead and scheduled to have him be my reconstructive surgeon – there are only two in Corvallis. For the next 5-7 days, my breasts felt like they had been through a meat grinder! Yes, even my “good one”. Thinking it may be warranted to send him bill for damaging the merchandise.

In the days following the aggressive manhandling of my breasts, I noticed that there was swelling occurring in the armpit where there is a lymph node suspected of being infiltrated with cancer cells. The swelling concerned me. I was already grappling with the decision to remove the lymph node or to keep it. I scheduled an appointment to see my nurse practitioner oncologist; she was able to palpate the swollen node. During the appointment she let me know that I would have to establish with a new oncologist because my beloved Dr. Kenyon had really retired and my “treatment plan had changed” due to the re-occurrence of cancer. My response, “that is fucking annoying, I have never had a treatment plan, I am doing my own thing!” She advised me that my case will be discussed at the Tumor Board and they will create a recommended treatment plan for me …I rolled my eyes “you know that time would be better spent discussing a case that was actually going to use your western jazz.” My nurse practitioner is kind, listens, and shoots it strait in a respectful manner; this is why I like her. After leaving her office, I started to process the medical events and the response I was getting from the western medical community in regards to my treatment choices. I needed to change the way I was presenting my choices – it was different now because the cancer was back and this was making the doctors very nervous. My responses were raising red flags in their western medicine brains and thus creating barriers in accessing the interventions I desired. I was able to ground myself and refocus my responses – they do not have to agree with what I am doing. What needs to happen is for me to allow the doctors the space to deliver their informed consent and fulfill their verbal medical oath duties.

It was my understanding that I would not have to meet with the new MD until after surgery – I was wrong. The next morning, I received a voice message requesting I come in to meet the MD oncologist on that day at 1:00. My first thought … nope, I am so not doing that right now. Aware of my avoidant attachment style, I made a different choice. I contacted my friend to ask if she could go with me to the appointment, she agreed. Good thing I had grounded myself and prepared emotionally and psychologically; this woman, Vicki Lee, is a piece of work! Some of her delightful gems included:

We all can agree that you made the wrong decision in 2011 because the cancer has returned; she stated this no less than 4 times throughout the visit. You are too overwhelmed and emotional; you need your family to make the right treatment decision for you this time. We may not even do surgery if you do not let us remove the mass and the lymph node – it is all cancer, we need to take out all the cancer that we can see, otherwise there is no point.

Yep, it really happened! My friend remained silent during the visit and let me handle this Gem called Dr. Vicki Lee. This woman did not listen. She attempted to miss quote me in her notes. Awe, at one point she stated that she had a question for me – what followed was a harsh judgment. I interrupted her, “what I just heard was a judgment; you said that you had a question for me…what is the question?” She never did ask a question. I said very little during the appointment; remember I had already prepared myself otherwise I might have gone ham on the doctor. Conversely, my friend, well – she was fit to be tied!!! Clearly it was time to reassess my treatment team. 

I have decided to cancel the surgical procedures in Oregon and head back to my trusted doctors in Texas. My surgery is scheduled to take place this month. My husband and medically savvy friend Leslie will travel to Texas with me for my surgeries. I am finally at peace with my procedures and choices.

Please consider donating money to support travel expenses, surgical procedures, and medical expenses: Capture Courage Fundraiser

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