In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Protector Day

I'm going to celebrate by attending part of Kangso this evening (I don't yet have the stamina for the full puja).
From (
"If we rely sincerely upon Dorje Shugden, he will arrange the conditions that are most conducive for our Dharma practice but these will not necessarily be the ones that we ourself would have chosen! Dorje Shugden will bless our minds to help us transform difficult situations into the spiritual path, and he will open the wisdom eyes of his faithful followers, enabling them always to make the right decisions."
What could be better than that?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Feeling Good

Chemo went really well yesterday, and I'm feeling good today.
I believe all your prayers are clearing away obstacles. For example, with the Taxol there was a chance of a severe allergic reaction, which would have been apparent within 5-10 minutes. My Bodhisattva nurse administered it in small doses to begin with and kept a close eye on me, and there were no problems at all.
Days 3-6 are when I'll feel the worst of the side effects, most likely fatigue, leg pain and loss of appetite. I'm scheduled to lose my hair around May 15th, so I'll be shopping for headgear in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Medicine Nectar

This afternoon I get my first IV infusion of medicine nectar, which has the conventional appearance of chemo. May it remove any lingering microscopic cancer so that I can have more time to purify my negativity, make more spiritual progress and be of more benefit to others.
I'm getting this IV treatment in my oncologist's office, sitting in a chair with a few other patients in a long room with a view of downtown.
Today I'll also get a more detailed schedule of treatments.

Side Effects
There are all kinds of possible side effects but the most likely are hair loss, nausea and fatigue.

The Nitty Gritty
If you're interested basic info about chemo, see What Is Chemo at
The 2 chemo drugs I'm getting today are Taxol, which is "made from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxus)" and Carboplatin. In subsequent treatments I'll also get Cisplatin, which is a cousin of "Carbo"; both are classified as metal salt alkylating agents.

Will try to write more later, but right now I've got to get ready ...

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Power of Friends

In yesterday's New York Times there was an article titled, "What Are Friends For? A Longer Life," about scientific studies showing the healing power of friendship - and that's just for ordinary friends. Imagine what the results would be if they studied Sangha friends. I encourage you to do your own study : )
Here are a couple excerpts:
Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.
The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
In 2006, a study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

CaringBridge Blog

Margaret recommended a website called CaringBridge that makes it easy for those who are seriously ill to create a blog like this one. I created a blog there for my family - it's basically a subset of the content here, without so much Buddhism.
It has a few additional features my family likes, including an option to send each new post as an email.
Creating a blog on CaringBridge is very easy: You simply pick a user name and password, then choose a template, which creates all the art and navigation automatically. If you can compose an email, you can create entries. I'd recommend it to others.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Port Installed

Yesterday I had a "port-a-cath" ("port-a-catheter") installed in my upper chest, in an outpatient procedure, under local anesthesia.
The NCI description is pithy: It's "an implanted device through which blood may be withdrawn and drugs may be infused without repeated needle sticks." My Mom had one when she was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, and she found it helpful. The phlebotomists will doubtless appreciate it, too, because I'm one of those people who has small veins that aren't easy to find, and they'll be drawing blood every couple of weeks, before each chemo session. Some of my chemo drugs will be given via that port; others will be given through a port in my abdomen that hasn't been installed yet.
The port reminds me of the Multi-Pur water filters we have in the Temple kitchen and gompa sink in Seattle, except that the line is much thinner and goes into my vein - the size of the head is about the same. Here's a photo, courtesy of

Is the port part of my body? What is my body now? Hmmm ...
I'd be confused if I didn't know that my body is only a concept, a label, an imputation. If only I had a direct realization of its emptiness.

U.S. Festival

Many of you know that I had plans for the "tri-fecta"(tri-festa?) this year: I wanted to go to the U.S. Festival at our National Temple in New York and to UK Spring and Summer Festivals to see Geshe-la teach for the last time. (Strictly speaking, a tri-fecta means "selecting the first three finishers of a race in the correct order," but according to Webster's it can also mean a triple - for example, a "show-business trifecta : a platinum record, hit TV series, and an Oscar." The word reminds me of New Jersey, where I grew up.)
Even after surgery, I was considering going to US Fest and then visiting my family - my Dad and his wife, Marilyn; my brother, sister-in-law and 2 nephews; and possibly even my sister, who I was hoping would fly up from Florida.
Richard was concerned and insisted he accompany me if I still planned to go. But then my Dad called to pass along warnings he'd gotten from friends about the danger of traveling so soon after surgery, and my family in Seattle took a vote: We did a show of "hands" and the total was 6 against, 0 for, with 2 undecided. Sara the Dog ("SaraD") cast 4 votes, Richard 2. As much as I wanted to go, I feel content about having to stay at home - blessings strike again.
I rejoice at the good fortune of everyone who gets to attend. Enjoy being at the Temple, visiting with Sangha friends old & new, and listening to the teachings - by Gen-la Khyenrab, Gen-la Dekyong, Gen Samten, AND Kadam Morten.
Cecilia, please take good notes!
If you have any chance to go to a Kadampa Festival this year, even if it's only for a few days of Summer Festival, please go.

Grateful for Your Prayers

Starting to catch up on things I've been thinking about but haven't had a chance to enter here ...

I'm grateful for all your prayers, which I see manifesting as my doctors, nurses and nursing assistants, as hospitals and treatment facilities and as medicines. I believe in prayers because my mind feels much happier than it would normally be under these circumstances. Usually I have a low tolerance for pain, but I've had very little pain, and the doctors all seem surprised at how little pain medication I've needed (they insisted I would want some stronger, narcotic painkillers at home, but I have had no need to fill the prescription).
I "blame" all this on you : )
I can feel your prayers holding me up and giving me strength. This probably sounds dumb, but lately your prayers feel like a comfy armchair that I can sink into - your prayers cushion and support me, like a hug.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coming Attractions

I'm feeling good, in mind and body, but need a lot of rest.
When I have the energy, I'm going to write about:
* Missing pieces, the jar of marbles and contemplations on the body
* The flavor blue
* Your flower offerings
* The meaning of the mountains

And if you're really good, I'll tell you about pillow splints : )

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Naturopath

I have an appointment next week with Mark Gignac (pronounced jean-ee-ack), N.D., M.S.A, FABNO at Seatttle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, which recently moved to Renton ("Renton Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center" doesn't have quite the same cachet).
Here's more info about him:
I chose him because I wanted someone my surgeon/oncologist knew and trusted. I was also impressed that he is "among less than two dozen naturopaths nationwide – and the only ones in the state of Washington – to take and pass exams for board certification in naturopathic oncology," according to their website.

My Treatment Calendar

I'm going to be on a pretty complicated chemo regimen, so in case you'd like to see what's happening when, I created an online Google calendar for all my appointments:

Procrastinate Later - Practice Now

Hee hee.
Why are you goofing off reading this blog when you could be doing something worthwhile? : )

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Buddha's Enlightenment Day!

As always, the Kadampa website has a beautiful description of this important holiday:
Buddha’s Enlightenment Day
For everyone who took Mahayana Precepts and is engaging in the traditional Fasting and Purification Retreat, I rejoice.

Home again!

Even though I had a huge, sunny private room with a view [photos to come] and had a wonderful nursing staff who took very good care of me, I'm very happy to be back home with Richard and Sara the dog.
From where I sit on the living room couch, I can see Richard with his laptop sending out email to family about my return, Sara curled up in a ball on the rug, and a robin on the peak of the garage, with pink puffs of cherry blossoms in the background.
Sara and I walked to the corner and back this morning. I couldn't have done that with a less disciplined dog because my latest orders are not to lift, push, or pull more than 10 pounds, which means I can't afford to be pulled down the street by my dog either. Our previous dog, Utah, who was part husky - part sled dog - never reached Sara's level of restraint and could never have "pulled off" such a trick - he was always straining at the leash.

I am deeply grateful for all your love and support and am looking forward to seeing you very soon. But first a nap ...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mimi, exNPO

I've graduated from "nothing by mouth" (Nil Per Os) to the clear liquid diet, and selected the vegetable broth and ginger ale over the gummi bears, fruit punch gatorade, and popsicles in assorted flavors (red or blue!)

I should have a new estimated time of discharge after the doctors visit me tomorrow morning.

Thanks for all the prayers, calls, visits and flowers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dharma Cures

This is what I most want you to know: Dharma cures.
Many of you have heard me say that my recent experience being diagnosed with cancer - just last Friday! - proves to me again that Dharma works. I don't have time now to list all the ways it has "come in handy" - meaning it has been more precious than I can describe - but here's just one little example: I'm lying on the table getting my ultrasound, watching while the tech scan various areas and not really knowing what to make of the pictures on the monitor. After a while I ask her what she's seeing. She indicates an area and says, "This isn't supposed to be here." I think "karma" and instantly feel better. [If I have time in the coming days, I'll try to describe a bit more about that.]
I go for refuge inside, to my heart, where my Guru is and feel comforted - like it's raining outside, but inside I am warm and dry, and I know everything is going to be all right.

Dharma comforts, Dharma heals, Dharma protects ... Dharma cures.
It alone has the power to permanently and forever cure us of everything that ails us.

Pain? Nope.

Some of you might be surprised to know that I'm in no real pain. That's one of the deceptive things about cancer, at least in my experience: There's no pain, so it's hard to recognize and diagnose, which allows it to grow and cause trouble.
At the moment, I do have a headache, which I attribute to not having eaten since breakfast yesterday (doctor's orders). Those of you who have taken Mahayana Precepts may recognize this headache.
Speaking of which, I'm sorry that I'm going to miss the Nynyne Fasting and Purification Retreat next Tuesday and Wednesday, which begins with Precepts each day. I hope if you have the chance, you'll get to do part of the retreat. It's about purification through compassion, and we make many physical - and of course mental - prostrations to 1,000 Armed Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion. Avalokiteshvara was the first Buddha I really connected to, and is still one of my favorites ... along with Je Tsongkhapa, Dorje Shugden, Vajrayogini, Medicine Buddha, and ... well all of them : )

NEWS: Surgery today

My surgery is scheduled for today at 1 pm at Swedish Hospital on Broadway.

FYI - Here's a map, directions and parking info:

"Just My Imagination"

Yesterday riding in the car back from the doctor's office, we were listening to a music mix that included "Just My Imagination" by the Rolling Stones. Richard said that he wanted to rewrite a few of the lyrics - he explained it's a song about Vajrayogini: "... to be a girl like her / would be a dream come true ..."
For those of you who are newer to Tantra, it's all about faith and imagination.
I hope Richard's not reading this, or if he is that he's not too embarrassed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Surgeon's Appointment This Morning

I'm very fortunate that I got an appointment with this highly recommended gynecological surgeon so quickly - I believe prayers made that happen. The surgeon's name is Charles Drescher.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Our Story So Far ..

In which our Heroine, Mimi, learns that she has ovarian cancer. Good thing she has refuge.