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."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Not for the Fainthearted

If you want to know what end-stage cancer is like for a particular person, there's a very brave woman with ovarian cancer who has a candid blog that includes photos.
It can make your death awareness very specific and help you value your precious human life.
"As for this journey of mine, they (social workers, nurses, doctors, health care workers) have all told me since I started my hospice care that I would start to notice my body shutting down. The last couple of days we have seen some really rapid changes in me from my weight to much extra skin and no muscle tone?  Where did all my muscles go?   I am starting to look like this skeleton with skin on it?  I used to be so muscular, strong, and so very athletic; now I can't really lift much and have officially hit the double digits as far as my weight is concerned (98lbs).   I was thinking that I might survive into next year but now it's seeming like Christmas might just be a  real miracle for me. ... "

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poof! Cancer's Gone!

I was reflecting on the post an info/support ovarian-cancer website I read where a young German woman was told she had very advanced ovarian cancer, there there was nothing the doctors could do . . . and they determined the post was a prank!
Of course, my first thought was, "Who would do that? Why?"
But my next thought was that the cancer vanished! I had this sense of it just disappearing into emptiness.

We hear of spontaneous remissions. Years ago my mother was headed to surgery for a tumor in her lung, and it simply disappeared, never to come back.
We hope for cures to arrive, not without reason.
A good friend had a father with end-stage cancer; he met a doctor with an experimental treatment; and now, decades later, he's expected to die of something else.

I'm not planning my life around that scenario, but I pray for it, and it could happen - for all of us!
When you add in the power of prayer, who knows what could happen?

I am keeping this in mind this week during my Vajrasattva Retreat. If I could purify all my negative karma, the cancer would disappear. Of course, I'm not expecting that to happen in one week of retreat : )

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chemo Schedule

My first chemo treatment, of Cisplatin and Taxol, will be next Wed at the hospital. It's nice that my insurance is willing to pay for an overnight stay. Assuming all goes smoothly, the rest of the treatments will be at my oncologist's office 
I'm on retreat this week, through the end of Saturday - it's a good way to prepare. 
Obviously I'm online, and available via phone, in between sessions and work at the Temple if you can catch me. More later. 
Here's my treatment calendar online: 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Michael's Procedure is Tomorrow

Michael M is scheduled to have his promising but risky procedure tomorrow (Monday).
Please keep your prayers coming that everything will go for the best, for his sake and his family's.

Prayers for Jennifer's Baby-to-Come

Please pray for Jennifer in Florida, who's expecting to give birth in July but needs your prayers for the baby to survive.

Starting Chemo Mid-Dec

Just got off the phone with my Medical Oncologist, Kaplan, with the results of yesterday's CT scan.
The scan still showed a few small masses in my abdomen, which we already knew about. One had gotten a bit smaller, one a bit bigger - by a millimeter or 2.
We talked again about chemo, and I decided to start this month, rather than waiting until Jan.

Kaplan's approach is a bit more aggressive than my Gynecological Oncologist, Drescher. Don't take that as a knock on Drescher - I think he's an excellent doctor, with a deep understanding of ovarian cancer, and treating it with chemo. They're two different people - of course, they don't agree exactly on the timing of chemo.
Because I have a few small tumors in my abdomen that are visible on a CT scan, Kaplan is recommending starting chemo a bit sooner - although he said I could wait until after the Holidays if I wanted. I'm learning that it's one thing if your CA-125 tumor-marker blood test starts rising but they can't see anything on a scan (in which case they follow you closely), and being able to see some cancer through imaging. (We're still waiting on the results of my latest CA-125 .)

Kaplan is going to a big cancer meeting next week, so he recommended starting the following week. He said to pick a day for treatments but recommended again Fridays, because Christmas and New Year's are Saturdays. I'm guessing he was suggesting it would be harder to get hold of a doctor then if I needed one.

I'll have Cisplatin every 3 weeks and Taxol every week. His office will schedule those appointments for me.
The initial Cisplatin treatment will be given in the hospital - I'll stay overnight so that they can fill me up with fluids and monitor me. If I sail through that, the subsequent treatments will be outpatient. I don't mind going to the hospital and appreciate I don't have to fight with insurance to get that extra level of monitoring.

P.S. I got the CT scan on a Saturday, not because it was urgent, but because the office wanted the weekend business. For me, it was better to do it on the weekend than have to miss a retreat session this week. Likewise, Kaplan called me today because he's on call and wanted to get some work done before he has to leave for his conference.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Prayers for Michael

Michael M is in the hospital - for 2-3 weeks.
His mind is peaceful. He's preparing for a procedure which could be risky. It may be tomorrow or Monday.
Please keep making prayers for him and his family: Eve, Lily, Polly and Nate.

Report from the "Tumor Spa"

Had my one radiation treatment today at a place many people compare to a spa. It was very relaxing.
Treatment room - nice, huh? (Radiation machine is out of the photo, at right.)
After the 2 Radiation Techs got me comfortably on the table, with my custom mask to keep my head in position and a nice warm blanket, they turned on Medicine Buddha so that I could listen to the prayers during treatment.
My Neurosurgeon checked the radiation plan again with my Radiation Doctor. 
The robot arm swung around my head in various positions, getting at the tumor site from different angles and distances - that part surprised me - I thought it would all be the same, but actually it varied from about 1-2' from my head. There was a quiet noise while the GammaKnife was running. Fifty minutes later I was done.

Their whole office is nicely decorated, which isn't the main thing, but it is something. The waiting room and the exam rooms are tastefully done - no sterile white here anywhere. There are even some Japanese accents. You can get a small sense of that from the photo above.
They also have an excellent selection of magazines in the waiting room. The staff is very competent and friendly. The nurses are excellent. Most of all ...
My radiation doctor is the best. I got to see her after the treatment, to talk about follow-up. I also asked her a few questions about chemo and genetic testing. At the end she gave me a hug. She could teach other docs on bedside manner. Even her "chairside manner" is very warm and positive. 
She welcomes questions and answers them clearly - I, who have many questions, really appreciate that in a doctor. In fact, I'd go to someone else if I wasn't happy with that - a luxury we have in Seattle because there are so many good doctors to choose from.

Normally they want to see you in a month, but she said if I'm doing well, a call is fine.
They'll track me every couple of months with brain MRIs (the noisy test).

The white machine at right is the the robotic GammaKnife that delivers radiation from all different angles.
Tomorrow afternoon I see my oncologist to talk about chemo. ...