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."

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

May your 2012 be filled with peace.

Friday, December 30, 2011

NYC New Center!

Here's a cause for rejoicing: The Kadampa Center in New York City is getting a new home!
Their current location has many limitations, most notably its small size: For years now, people have been packed into their General Program classes, and I'm told they've even had to turn people away.

Check out the photos and description of their new space:
Also note that Chakrasambara Center is now a special center, called a "KMC."

As you can imagine, real estate is very expensive in the city, even during an economic slump.
If you want some good karma, generate your biggest mind of love for all, and then make even a small donation; imagine how many people will benefit.

You can also make donations to our Seattle Kadampa Center or the International Temples Project, which is creating new Temples all over the world, as well as schools (!), hotels, retreat centers, etc.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Protector Day

The 29th of every month we celebrate our Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden, who helps us with our spiritual practice. It's a good day for making prayers.
As Shantideva says in Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, in some of my favorite lines, in a book that has a lot of great lines:
"May I become a protector for the protectorless,
A guide for those who travel on the road,
And, for those who wish to cross the water,
May I become a boat, a ship, or a bridge."

Car Blew a Gasket ...

... but I am happy to report that we (Richard, Dachog and I) did not.

It was a live example of the teaching in How to Solve Your Human Problems about inner and outer problems.:
"Our problems do not exist outside our mind. The real nature of our problems is our unpleasant feelings, which are part of our mind.  When our car, for example, has a problem, we often say, 'I have a problem,' but in reality it is not our problem but the car's problem. ... By differentiating between animate and inanimate problems like this, we can understand that the real nature of our problems is our own feelings, which are part of our mind."

I remember the first time I heard this teaching, at Summer Festival. It was brilliant! So wise!
One Teacher told us it's as if we don't have enough problems of our own - we feel obligated to take on all the problems of the things around us : )
More recently Gen-la Dekyong went on to explain that our problem is our attachment to our car, having a car that runs.

Here's the story, a few days old (as I said yesterday, I'm a bit behind):
Thursday we were driving out to Eastern Washington to spend Xmas with Richard's sister Susie when Richard noticed the car's temp was very high. I am so glad he stopped in Cle Elum to have it checked out. Both the Shell station and the mechanic they referred us to diagnosed a blown head gasket. Neither of them charged us. [You can insert your own car-ma pun here. One of my friends in college wore a pin that said, "My karma ran over my dogma."]
The word "blown" is misleading - it's not like a blown tire, which makes it hard to control the car and can be very dangerous. We didn't notice any particular event, just the temperature indicator, and the car still functions, although it's potentially dangerous.
I remember trying to find the problem - my mind habituated to thinking that a broken-down car was a problem - but mostly I kept thinking, "We're safe; we're safe." We weren't in an accident. No one's injured or sick. We're with each other. We have food. The sun is out. I did have to apply a bit of patience waiting for the towtruck, which took an hour, as we were warned it would.
The Buddhas were looking out for us - we could have been stranded by the side of the road, in a place where there's no cell-phone reception, in the cold and snow ....
Also there were recently a few pieces in the local paper about high towing fees in Seattle. In fact, there's no limit to what they can charge, and stories about $2,000 fees for towing within the city. Our charge came to $300 for 90 miles, and we did not have towing on our insurance or the Gold AAA membership.

Just for fun: This is what Richard posted on Facebook. He rode inside the car with the dog, on top of the towtruck; Dachog and I rode inside the cab of the truck with the driver. Richard said his experience was like being in a sleigh. Then we talked about the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, picturing him in his sleigh, on top of the big bag of all the presents he'd stolen from Whoville.

Rudolph the red-strobed wrecker
Hauled a lot of heavy loads
And if you ever saw him
You would even say he towed.

All of the other tow trucks
Wanted him to come and play
They couldn't see why Rudolph
Had to work for Triple A.

Then one sunny solstice day
Santa called to say
"Rudolph with your big flatbed
Won't you tow away my sled?"

Then all the wreckers loved him
As they shouted with a smile
"Rudolph the red strobed wrecker
You can net three bucks a mile!"

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not an Empty Seat

Sorry ... catching up.
Here's some fodder for rejoicing: KMC Washington had a Xmas Eve service that was completely packed! There was not an open seat in the expanded gompa - we even had to carry up some chairs from downstairs. I heard there were 150 people! Lots of brand-new people; lots of families.
People seem to like the candle-lighting ceremony at the beginning, where everyone gets a small votive to light and place on the shrine table. We also had luminaria outside and beautiful evergreen decorations downstairs.
Gen Khedrub gave a nice teaching about patience and giving, as well as encouragement for a regular meditation practice, even a small one.
There was food afterward, savory and sweet, although I confess I slept through that part. I was planning a short rest, but the next thing I remember was Richard waking me up to go home.

We have a similar event scheduled for New Year's Eve.
May it bring many people to the Temple and may they find real peace.

Nice Photo of Kees

Leanne sent me this nice photo of her brother.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Kees, Suzanne's son, Leanne's brother, passed away yesterday.
Please keep them all in your prayers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Longer-Term Patience

Slowly, slowly, slowly, I am coming to understand patience better.
Next thought: Umm ... you didn't expect to understand patience quickly, did you?

When I used to think of patience, it meant trying not to be annoyed while standing in a checkout line or waiting for a traffic light to change.

But now I'm aware of deeper kinds of patience - for one, during meditation.
My main distraction used to be wondering how much time was left for meditating.
It was like the kids in the back of the car on a road-trip, always asking, "Are we there yet?" Even when you've just pulled out of the driveway. Such an antsy mind.

Enjoy the ride; enjoy the scenery; enjoy your practice. We're taught it can be like going from joy to joy - there's a reason it's called the joyful path. Doing mandala offerings during retreat last week, it felt like a kid building sandcastles on the beach, and it was fun being as absorbed in them as a kid at play.

I'm also learning patience with my practice overall. At US Festival this year, Gen Samtem advised us that we should enjoy practicing where we are. In fact, he noted, it's the only place we can practice. Our problem is that we try to practice where we're not. We make ourselves unhappy by having unrealistic expectations, imagining that everyone else is a better meditator. After hearing this advice, it may seem like commonsense, but I found it such a valuable insight. So true. So helpful.
Gen-la Dekyong added that it's our self-cherishing setting us up for a fall: Our self-cherishing thinks we should only do things we can immediately be good at. It then berates us for our lack of instant success, discourages us from continuing, and tells us to quit.

What strikes me is that this patience has a quality of contentment.
Gen Khedrub is strong on this subject: He talks about simply spending time with your meditation object, letting the minutes go by, peacefully absorbed.

Ultimately I'd love a realization of patience as defined in How to Solve Our Human Problems:
"Patience is a mind, that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much  more than gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means welcoming wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are."

My Xmas Wish List

It may look familiar if you've seen my bucket list ; )

Attain the realizations of:
* 3 Principle Aspects of the Path
* Generation Stage
* Completion Stage

Can you guess my birthday wish list?

Monday, December 12, 2011

If Rats Can Do It ...

I don't usually post news articles in this blog, but a few days ago there was an article that describes how a free rat will try to release a captive one, and it was such a powerful image for me. If rats can generate empathy, certainly I can develop compassion and bodhichitta.

As it says in another article about the same research, "In repeated tests, rats freed another trapped rat in their cage, even when yummy chocolate served as a tempting distraction. ... The rats could have gobbled the chocolate before freeing their partners, but often didn't, choosing to help and share the goodies."

From the neurobiologist who conducted the research: "I would suggest that helping is what we are biologically programmed to do. You have to suppress that biological tendency to not help. If we owned up to our biological inheritance a little bit more than we do, we would be better off."

In addition, when I meditate on Equanimity, the being I most often use for aversion is rats. (I didn't even want to see the animated movie Ratatouille.) So knowing that they have good qualities is helpful for that too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Be Tired

Here's a subject I know something about ...
One of the qualities of Kadampa Buddhism, as anyone who's been to a General Program class knows, is that it's very practical. It's designed to be used in our life, no matter what's going on. For example, when I'm fatigued from chemo, I can still practice. When I'm fatigued, I notice my mind is much more vulnerable to negativity, so it helps to have a repertoire of easy, positive activities. Here are a few things I do, starting with the less obvious.

* Stare at the line drawings in Geshe-la's books - I learned about this very recently. Gen Khedrub told our class that he'd made himself a booklet of photocopies of all the drawings. CarolF, who's a longtime practitioner, also recommended this to me: She said there's something about the simplicity of black and white that works well when you're tired.

* Roll mantras for filling statues - it's a virtuous, low-impact activity. My mother-in-law, the nun Dachog, is in charge of statue filling at our Center, so that connection may have been what pulled me in. You can roll them to fill your own statues or give them to your Center if it fills statues.
I realize this wouldn't be a good activity if your hands were in pain from arthritis, say.
If you're not familiar with the process, Tharpa has a booklet that explains everything; the accompanying CD has all the mantras that you can print from your computer. I recommend a good papercutter; we use this one.
Tips: Remember to recite the special mantra when you've finished a roll, and don't forget the Correcting Mistakes mantra for the lotus.
I also do this when visiting family (Richard's family, that is - I wouldn't do this at my Dad's because it would seem strange). We like to sit around with each, but not always doing something together like playing a game or doing a puzzle. Sometimes it's nice to be in each other's company without feeling compelled to talk.

* Pujas - I'm greedy for blessings, but sometimes the only way I can make it is to lie down in the back. (I confirmed with my Teacher this was OK.) At our Center I'll put out 2 zabutons (the big cushions) and lie down  parallel to the shrine; I do try to sit up for the special parts, like tsog offering, mandala offering, tea offering and the long-life prayers.
Note: When Gen-la Dekyong was the RT in Seattle, she told us it was inauspicious to lean on the walls of the gompa.

Yoga of Napping - Sometimes it's wiser to give in to the need to rest, rather than fight it. Thankfully we have this Highest Yoga Tantra practice (if you've received Vajrayogini and Heruka empowerments).

Taking meditation - this is one of my favorites, so I'm able to do it when I'm tired. Pick your own favorite.

* Reciting mantras is also a favorite. There's even something comforting about just holding my mala.

* Rejoicing is easy and virtuous. Teachers explaining this practice often mention that you can do it lying down. It's as simply as being happy at anyone's good qualities or virtuous activities.

* Reading Dharma of course. When you're tired, it works better to just read a paragraph or even a sentence, over and over.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Definition of "Friend"

I think of a friend as someone who brings out the best in me.
It used to be a select (small) group, but since I've started learning Lamrim, I am trying to have more equanimity and make it encompass more and more beings. For one thing, I'm trying to feel friendly toward more and more people, which used to be really hard for me, because I was scared of them and of what they'd think of me.

Now that I am trying to be a friend of the world, I can still use that definition: I can learn something from every being I meet, see, or think about. We learn that we achieve liberation and enlightenment in dependence on 2 groups of beings: Buddhas, of course, but we also ordinary beings, who help us practice compassion, patience, etc.
My Guru is my supreme spiritual friend.
You are my friend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prayers for Sue

While you are praying, please dedicate for Sue Hulley of Saraha Center in San Francisco. Many of you know her because she has taken care of us as a gompa steward at Summer Festival. She is now on hospice but has a peaceful mind, as you might expect from her.
I am so sad at this news.
Good thing I'm on renunciation today. Not that I needed more "ammunition" - we've all got to get out of here.

Channeling the Guru

While I was trying to meditate on emptiness this morning, after absorbing my Guru and mixing my mind with his, I pretended I actually had his mind. It was helpful - another angle on emptiness - and fun. What would it be like?

Update on Hazel

Speaking of inspiring practitioners ...
Despite her poor health, Hazel is planning to do her first Vajrayogini counting retreat! She says that the most comfortable position is on her meditation cushion.
May her body cooperate so that she can become very close to the Venerable Lady and enjoy a blissful retreat.
For her treatment, she is relying on Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (that's us); please keep sending your prayers to her.

Update on Kees

Please keep those prayers coming for Suzanne's son. He's a little bit better, though still in ICU. His situation is so complicated. Suzanne is very happy with his team of doctors at the UW Medical Center, but they still have trouble figuring out what's going on. Because he's paralyzed, his body will be in pain - it will react seizures or a fever, for example - but he can't identify where the pain is. Can you imagine? The docs mostly rely on tests, but sometimes they can't do imaging or other tests if they can't get his body into the position needed.
Today he's scheduled to get  "trach" (tracheotomy tube) put in his throat, so that they can remove the airtube in his mouth, which Suzanne said will be good. I say "scheduled," because his situation changes so fast. It's a dramatic teaching in impermanence.

Suzanne is such an amazing practitioner. I am so inspired by her. She's keeping a peaceful mind and taking care of herself. She's even doing her Kadampa art projects on her laptop in Kees's room!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lesser-Known Sources of Protein

This is simply an article about my diet, which I hope might be useful to some of you, but there's no Dharma in it, except in the sense of taking care of your body - the vehicle that can bring so much benefit to others - like an ambulance team takes care of an ambulance.

Because I am not eating beans (green, pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo), based on a food-sensitivity test my naturopath gave me, and trying not to eat too much soy, and I don't generally eat meat ... what do I do for protein?
I'll confess I've been eating wild Alaska salmon 1x/week at the suggestion of my naturopath, because it's considered anti-cancer. I have very mixed feelings about this. Every time, I thank the fish for giving up its body for me and generate bodhichitta, promising myself to use my body in the service of others.

* Chia seeds -
My naturopath just told me about these; he learned about them from a patient. They're associated with barefoot runners in Northern Mexico who are famed for their ability to run long distances.

* Lupin seeds
The NY Times had a recent article
"Lupin seeds have been used as a high-protein food for over 3,000 years around the Mediterranean, and as for as long as 6,000 years in the Andean highlands of Latin America. ...
Lupin seed is also nutritionally superior to soy in several respects, according to some researchers. A comparative study of lupin seeds and soybeans published by the F.A.O. in 2003 found that lupin seeds had a higher protein content, at 35 percent to 40 percent, against soybeans’ 24 percent to 32 percent. ...."
They sell it at a place called the Vegetarian Butcher in the Netherlands, among other places.
I haven't tried them yet - just thought this was interesting.

* Quorn - mycoprotein (fungi family, which includes mushrooms and truffles) - comes as burgers, roasts and nuggets. It's what we had for Thanksgiving. Good in stir fry and many other dishes. I like the taste and the "mouth feel." Some people say it bothers their stomach.

* Field Roast - a grain meat that comes as deli meat, sausages, and loaves
Made in Seattle : )

* Quinoa - I have a favorite recipe that has mandarin oranges, raisins, oil, nuts, scallions; it's good on fresh spinach.

* Almond "yogurt" (for smoothies) and almond milk (for cereal). Today I'm going to try almond-based cheese, Swiss style, on the vegetarian reuben sandwiches R makes at the Temple - they are so good.

* Coconut milk in black tea

* Rice protein powder - I've also heard there's pea protein powder, which would have less sugar. That's what I'm buying next. Add to smoothies.

* Goat's milk cheese, if you're craving cheese - my naturopath said it's the best animal variety, and my husband found some support for that when he did Internet research (I don't like the texture - or the idea - of soy cheese). Will eat the almond cheese instead if it's any good.
There was a large variety of cheeses made from goat's milk available at my co-op - not just the kind of French cheese I used to think of as goat.

Not So Obscure Sources of Protein I'm Eating
* Nuts of course, including the 1 Brazil nut a day for selenium I mentioned in another post.

* Free-range organic eggs from the co-op

Gen-la Public Talk Thurs Jan 12

In Vancouver, 5 mins from Tilopa Centre at
Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver    

Tickets $12 in advance, $15 at the door.  For tickets and more info, see

I plan to attend.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bound for Enlightenment

Have you noticed how much the gompa at Majurshri Centre is like an airplane?

* We have the pilot (Geshe-la) in the front, along with his co-pilot (Gen-la Dekyong, or whoever else is teaching). They are flying us to enlightenment on what I like to think of as NKT Airlines.

* VIP section in the front, where the seats are wider and more comfortable than in coach.

* 2 main aisles with seating on either side, with windows at the edges.

* This is the real give-away: We have people called "stewards" (remember when flight attendants were called "stewardesses"?; some of you are probably too young), who are responsible for our safety and comfort. They check our (boarding) passes on entering and make sure our bags are not too big to carry on. They also serve water if you need it.

* Safety instructions over the audio system: "...go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha" and the directions on bodhichitta, which requires getting yourself to enlightenment first because it's the only way we can really be of benefit, which my Teacher likes to compare with putting on our own oxygen mask before helping those around us.

* Security checks for bags.

P.S. EllenM adds: We get views of blue skies behind the clouds of our delusions.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Relying on Sangha

We had a day course on Refuge Sat with Gen Khedrub, where we learned about how to rely on the 3 Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Of the 3, relying on Sangha can be the hardest to understand. It makes sense to rely on enlightened beings and what they teach, but how can you rely on ordinary people, who can be unreliable? We're all deluded after all.

One traditional analogy for the 3 Jewels is that they are like the doctor, the medicine, and the nurses. I don't know where I'd be without my nurses. Like ordinary nurses, they can offer practical tips about what the doctor has prescribed ("mix the L-gluatamine with apricot nectar or tomato juice"), to make it possible to actually do it.

One of the ways we go for refuge to Sangha is for encouragement. For example, I was inspired by Carol and Ken in our local Sangha, who are doing their Preliminary Guides, and have even finished a couple! Now I, too, am keeping track of my daily prostrations and water offerings, and have a sheet for tallying my mandala offerings as well. I'm in no rush. Drop by drop, we fill the bucket.
I'm also encouraged by my discussion partners in class who know their outlines and who can summarize what we're studying. I don't want to disappoint them when it's my turn.

We're taught that our Resident Teacher is Sangha too; for example, I consult with him about what retreat I'm thinking about doing.
I can't imagine where I'd be without Sangha - probably in a ditch by the side of the road (as my Mom used to say), in the spiritual sense.
Maybe it even helps that they're deluded - they know what it's like, on a chilly December morning, to prefer a warm bed to a hard cushion. (I've learned to call on Vajrapani then.)
They can make prayers for us, and they pray with us.
They keep us company on the path.

In the end, who knows who they really are? Before I went to my first Festival, someone recommended borrowing a video of Geshe-la teaching to get used to his accent. He gave the teaching that we could be the last ordinary being in the world - that everyone around us is an emanation of a Buddha. I've always found that quite plausible.

My Sangha have instructions to lock me in the gompa if I ever talk about following the samsaric path ; )

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Bucket List

My list of things I want to do before I die - it's quite short.
Less scary than sky-diving. More meaningful than visiting all 50 states.

Attain the realizations of:
3 Principle Aspects of the Path
Generation Stage
Completion Stage

Send tips!

In the cancer movie 50/50, a black comedy, the hero has a big emotional flare-up the night before his surgery. Among his regrets are that he's never even been to Canada - which is unintentionally funny because, although set in Seattle, the movie was actually filmed in Vancouver. Dude, you're IN Canada!
Am I recommending the movie? The main character's pretty appealing, but it's very much a Hollywood treatment of the disease: Somewhat shallow and not quite real. It might a good introduction for people who are scared of cancer - or even people with cancer - because they don't know what it's like.

P.S. Yesterday someone at the my Center made the connection for me between "bucket list"' and "kicking the bucket."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Prayers for Hazel

Please make strong prayers for my good friend Hazel, who is the Admin in Tucson. Her body has advanced cancer, and it is advancing. May it beat a hasty retreat and dissolve into emptiness. Peace to her, her husband, daughters, and parents.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gen-la Deyong / Medicine Buddha in Vancouver Jan 13-15


I just heard about this:

Maybe it's a good thing that I'm not doing a counting retreat this year. I've pretty much given up trying to judge what's "good."

Hope to see you there,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prayers for Kees

Please send strong prayers for Kees, Suzanne Downs' son who is very sick. Many of you are connected to Suzanne through her Kadampa art: She has done portraits of Geshe-la and images of Dorje Shugden, the Vajrayogini body mandala and other holy beings. Kees is a quadriplegic who was going to have surgery on his leg December 8th, but his health has taken a bad turn.
May Kees and his family have peaceful minds, and may our Guru always keep them in his loving care.

One Reason I Like My Naturopath

He "prescribes" volunteer work! He actually writes it down on the letter-size prescription, in addition to the supplements, types of exercise, books and other suggestions he makes. What he told me yesterday when I met with him is that it helps prevent patients  from becoming too focused on themselves, which as we know is one of the main causes of our misery.

Leaving now for chemo.

Happy Protector Day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


As I've mentioned before, I feel protected by my faith. It is true refuge.

Saturday we had an emptiness retreat in Seattle taught by Gen Khedrub, who said we tend to go for refuge to samsaric distractions and busyness. So true. That's one reason it's helpful to have something like cancer to remind you of what's important.

Here's something to contemplate: Gen Khedrub also said your mind won't tolerate the ramifications of emptiness if you're very attached to worldly pleasures.

He also quoted another Teacher as saying meditating on emptiness is like getting a suntan - you can't do it all at once : ) I like that.

This one-day retreat had a wide range of practitioners. For people who'd been meditating for a while, Gen Khedrub advised learning how to remain with what we already know. It's true that we find new ideas exciting, and can get bored with what we think we already know. The way he was describing our impatience rang true to me: Why can't I remain with my insights on emptiness? Why does my mind prefer to go off and organizing something instead? How can I allow more time to go by, keeping my mind on emptiness?

Sometimes I like to think of my meditation sessions as like airplane flights, logging the miles. We're taught that realizations come drop by drop; one day we'll find that our bucket is full ... like frequent-flier miles, that at some point are redeemable for a special trip. (With Gold status, you reach liberation; Platium for enlightenment?) And your baggage is taken care of ... because you don't have any anymore ; )
You can also see that you can acrue miles much faster if you stick with one airline.

When I was emerging from the first meditation, I got this image that I was surrounded by bulletproof glass - it wasn't that the bullets were missing me, it was that they couldn't hit me. I was safe inside.

I was talking with Jeff R about my experience, and he said it was like that scene at the end of the Matrix where Neo puts up his hand and all the bullets stop, as though they've hit a clear wall they can't penetrate. He even picks out one of the bullets with curiosity, and then the wall of bullets drops.

Jeff says he thinks of his body as like a candy wrapper. It's a much nicer image than the idea of a meat jacket, but I still like how graphic the meat is. By the way, Longku says he got that image from Rob L.

All right, I need to get a move on. I'm inclined to say I need to get OFF my butt, but actually I need to get ON my butt, on my meditation cushion.
Then later to the gym!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chemo Went Well

Just to let you know my first chemo went smoothly today.
I brought my small Medicine Buddha statue with me. He was looking over me, from the side table attached to my Lazy-Z-Girl chair - even when I feel asleep. I was asleep for hours - the Benedryl that helps prevent reactions to the chemo drug puts me out.
I'd packed sadhanas, my laptop, and Meaningful to Behold - along with good intentions - but mostly I slept.
Later the Dex may keep me up.
Thank you for your prayers - they really work.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Results Are in

There's nothing in my brain but a few cancerous "nodules" in my abdomen. My trusted oncologist recommended I get chemo again, so Tuesday morning I am going to get the same regimen I did before: 3 weeks on, 1 week off, for probably 4 months. The first week is the double whammy, where I'll get 2 chemo drugs and spend the whole day in the clinic (the one drug can be hard on your kidneys, so they like to spend much of the day giving fluids via IV). The other 2 chemo weeks will be just the Taxol chemo, and the infusion will go much faster.
I thought my doc might go for different chemo drugs, but his reasoning was that they worked before, and I tolerate them pretty well. He's optimistic it will put me in remission again. I'm optimistic too, especially when I consider the other factors (prayers, purification, diet, etc.)

Today my Lamrim meditation was on Exchanging Self with Other, and I kept it in mind most of the day. It really does protect me: When I'm thinking about others, I'm not pitying myself, worrying about myself, and so I'm not suffering. Some time I'll have to write more about how cherishing others helped cure me of my social anxiety.
The last couple of weeks I've been contemplating what Longku calls his "meat jacket." No, it's not the Lady Gaga outfit - it's your body. It reminds me that my body is not me. It is outside - outside my mind. I find that very comforting.
It's been a long day (waited more than an hour for my doctor; just got home from my exam). Ta-ta for now.
Thank you always for your support.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Creeping Upward

My CA-125 tumor marker has been inching upward the past few months. It's still  quite low (36) but now out of the normal range. When I was initially diagnosed, it was almost 1,000, and I've heard of numbers in the thousands. This blood test can be notoriously inaccurate for many people - which is why it isn't used for diagnosis - but for me it works well as a flag to follow up with better tests.

As my oncologist recommended, I'm having the usual scans: a brain MRI and a CT of my torso. Unless the cancer's gone to my toenails, it should show up in these pictures. Dr K considers those much more reliable tests. I'll meet with him next Thursday to go over the results.

I considered titling this post "my number's up," but that has another connotation, and in that sense my number is far from up. Most likely if something shows up on a scan, my oncologist will recommend chemo if it's in my torso and radiation if it's in my brain. There are lots of different chemo drugs that could be effective.

Because it's been a while since I posted here, here's a quick summary of what I've been up to.
I've been enjoying my holiday from chemo and investigating different approaches to try to keep the cancer at bay. For example, at the suggestion of my naturopath and acupuncturist, I started Qigong classes; I appreciate that they have a beginner series because it feels a bit foreign to me, even though the idea of techniques to move energy through subtle channels of the body is very appealing.

My naturopath had me get a blood test that identifies food sensitivities, based on the idea that if you're ingesting food that's harder for your body to manage, the body responds with inflammation, which often leads to chronic conditions and diseases like cancer. The test said I'm sensitive to beans! Green beans, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, and others like them - but not to lima beans, fava beans, lentils, peas, or soy. Any one have a favorite lima bean recipe? Is there such a thing? Results also came back positive for tuna, which I never eat. I'm somewhat sensitive to dairy, and Holder (my naturopath) recommended avoiding it because it's been linked to hormone-sensitive cancers.
As most health conscious people are aware, it's better not to eat refined sugar (alternatives like Agave are fine). When you start reading labels, you see sugar everywhere.
That one's a lot easier for me than dairy, though: I've switched to almond milk for my cereal but still have some whole milk in my tea or coffee.
For iodine he recommended a pinch of wakame seaweed straight from the bag; for selenium 1 Brazil nut a day. I'm amused by those recommendations, which doesn't mean I ignore them.
In general, the idea is to eat a rainbow of foods.
More importantly I take Turkey Tail mushrooms in pill form; a lot of alternative practitioners have research showing their effectiveness against cancer; Maitake mushrooms also.
Dr. Holder gave me a recipe for an herbal tea I can make myself from the raw herbs that combines astragalus, licorice, geranium maculatum and a local plant called "cleavers."
The dog helps me with my exercise routine with her enthusiasm for walking around the neighborhood. R & I just recently started going to the gym, which for me is partly to take advantage of their sauna, alternating it with a cold shower - brrr! It's supposed to be good for your immune system, but I'll admit I don't put my whole body under the cold water yet.

This Summer I was fortunate enough to go to the 2nd week of Festival in England, then to Wales to wander around the land of some of R's ancestors (or "Aunt-Sisters" as one of his nephews pronounced it, when asked in school about his family - he was thinking of his mom's sister, who's an aunt to him : ).
In October we were able to attend Fall Festival in NY to learn more and practice purification. Who knows where my tumor marker would be without it. I'll write more about that another time.

Take care,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Re-Mission Accomplished

Last night my oncologist called me at home to give me my results:
My PET/CT scan showed nothing suspicious and my CA-125 is now 11.8 (where anything under 35 is normal). Hooray!
A few weeks ago I had a brain MRI, which was clear.
I'm now officially N.E.D. (no evidence of disease).
I was so happy I had trouble sleeping.

My doc had talked several times about giving me 2 other tests, but now thinks they're unnecessary.

This first (and let's hope only) recurrence has been a journey - from brain surgery last Oct and then targeted brain radiation; to a month of whole-brain radiation along with chemo (3 weeks on, 1 off); to 3 more months of "just" chemo.

My energy  even seems to be coming back faster than I thought it would, and I am feeling more like myself since I've been off chemo.

Thank you all for your support - it makes such a difference.
Thank you to Medicine Buddha and all his emanations. I am so grateful.

I want to tell you that there are easier ways to purify negative karma than cancer; personally, I like the practice of taking. I know a lot of practitioners are drawn to Vajrasattva. I am planning to attend Fall Festival to get a boost for that practice. I hope you can make it.

To celebrate my remission, I'm going to pass along one of my favorite jokes. You may or may not find it funny - it's from the quirky comedian Steven Wright.
"I plan to live forever . . . so far, so good."

Now to grow some hair ...


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Refresh: What is a PET/CT scan?

I've written about various PETs and CTs before - and added my scan images -  at:

Here's a bit more good info:
See also the link at the bottom of that page:

PET Prep

Tuesday I'm having a routine PET/CT scan of my abdomen.

Here's what I was given as preparation instructions:

48 hours prior to PET/CT scan
• No strenuous exercise (aerobic, weight-lifting, treadmill, etc.).

24 hours prior to PET/CT scan
No sugar/low starch; avoid the following items:
• Bread, pastry, cereal and pasta
• Fruits (no tomatoes)
• Desserts, muffins, crackers, candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream, yogurt, jams, jellies and honey
• Soft drinks, milk, soy milk, tonic water, juices, beer and other alcoholic beverages
• Starchy vegetables (rice, potatoes, corn, lima beans, soy beans, parsnips and peas)
• DO NOT take common cold medications.

24 hours prior to your arrival
• If you take medicine containing nicotine, please let us know immediately.
You may eat:
• Meats (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, fish) and tofu; do not use sweet sauces and do not bread the meat
• Eggs prepared without milk
• Cheese, butter, mayonnaise and unsweetened peanut butter
• Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, spinach, green beans and cauliflower)
• Nuts, excluding honey roasted

12 hours prior to PET/CT scan
• DO NOT eat anything 12 hours prior to the PET/CT scan.
• Drinking water before the exam is encouraged — but WATER only. Anything other than water can adversely affect the exam quality.
• All necessary medications may be taken with water (if you are diabetic please check with our PET/CT coordinator before taking diabetes medication).
• DO NOT chew gum or breath mints.
• No smoking or use of tobacco or nicotine products preferably for 12 hours or at least four hours prior to your arrival.

Got all that?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Brian MRI Is Normal

Yesterday I had a routine brain MRI, then saw my Radiation Oncologist. She repeated a few times how it all looks "perfect." Hooray! The radiation worked.
There were a few small spots they were watching - which they can't watch anymore because they've disappeared. (Or a Buddhist might say, "dissolved back into emptiness.")
I'll continue to have routine brain MRIs every 2-3 months for about a year, so don't be alarmed when I say I have another one scheduled.

As some of you know, I got to attend US Festival, with featured Medicine Buddha Empowerment this year. I really felt his healing blessings and am grateful for another chance to reconnect with him.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Phantom Hair

Spring Is Hair ... or so I might think, with so many things growing, and even blooming - not that I want my head to burst into bloom - but I wouldn't mind small signs of hair growing on my head. All I have is the very shortest of stubble, which I've kept throughout my treatments.
It will take months for it to grow in, but will have to start sometime. C'mon, give me a sign!

On the other hand, you could say it's been a very irregular Spring here in Seattle, weather-wise. Some days have been sunny and warmish; others - like yesterday - have felt more like November.

I'll admit there are some advantages to my micro-short hair: As you can easily guess, taking a shower takes no time at all. When I packed for my recent trip East, I got to leave behind a brush, comb, shampoo and conditioner (I simply use a liquid soap on my head). Must save money too.

And yet, in the back of my mind, I still have hair - "phantom hair" I call it, thinking it's similar to a "phantom limb" (even though there's no physical arm or limb, there are still sensations there). If you're familiar with the teachings about the emptiness of the body, I find this phenomenon worth contemplating.

There's a story about a nun in our tradition who did a lot of hiking before she ordained and cut her long hair to nun-length. One time, after she had been a nun for many years, she went for a walk with her teacher. When they stopped for a break, she took off her hat and shook her head back and forth. He wondered what she was doing. Shaking out her long hair, of course!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Story from Hospice

From one of the women on the Ovarian Cancer discussion/support group I read, who's now on hospice, and is very happy with it:
"... beware of the nausea patch that goes behind your ear! It makes your mouth so dry....that you can spit straw. If that isn't a good enough description, mom says that it feels like the whole Russian army marched through her mouth! I guess the most important thing that she wanted me to tell you is that she is not in much pain. And what a comfort to be in your own home, in your own bed, surrounded by your family.....oh, and puppies. ..."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Buddha's Enlightenment Day!

If you'd like to learn more, see

I prostrate to everyone who's doing the practice of Drop of Essential Nectar or Offering to the Spiritual Guide.

Planning My Comeback

Wed is my last chemo, and I am looking forward to having a bit more of a life soon. Even though I know, from experience, that it's going to be a year or so before I get most of my energy back, I'm already anticipating more of my normal activities in the coming months ...
At the very least, I plan to spend more time on my feet, outside, and less time on my back, on the couch.
I'm looking forward to puttering in the yard ... even doing a bit of weeding.
I love the idea of going for longer walks, maybe even a bit of jogging, and then of getting to the gym.
After that, I'm going to ...
run a marathon, then a triathlon, climb Everest, and win 5 Tours de France, sail around the world in a small rowboat ... 
Let's see, what else am I forgetting? ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


More good news: Blood-tumor marker "CA-125" dropped again, from 18 to 15.2 - and that was before the double-whammy last week, and the Taxol this week and next.

Even better news: Today I had my penultimate Taxol chemo; next Wed is my last chemo ... hopefullly for a very long time, such as forever : )

On the other hand, I do have a bad ear infection that 3 docs are attributing to my month of radiation treatments. I did get the ear drained and am now taking antibiotic ear drops. Richard and I will see the "E,N&T" (Ear/Nose/Throat) doc again on Fri. He'll have the results of the ear culture then and will adjust the antibiotic if needed.
By the way, usually I pay $5 or $10 for drugs; the eardrops were $128!

Dex - just can't stay away!
The eardrops are called "CiproDex," which is ciprofloxacin and my old friend the steroid dexamesone, aka Dex. But I'm so fatigued, I can't say I notice the steoroid's effect yet.

The day after my last chemo (next week!), I'm very much looking to flying Newark with a friend, attending US Festival and getting Medcine Buddha teachings, then seeing Dad & Marilyn in Ramsy, and brother Andrew, sister-in-law Anne & the boys at the shore. Let's hope my ears are up for the trip!

What's new with you? I want to hear!
What are your Summer plans?


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fatigue ...

it's literally a drag.
I've never been tired like this when I'm not on chemo.
To clarify: There are different ways to be tired. Usually we mean lack of sleep. But this fatigue kind of tired doesn't go away with shut-eye.
This fatigue gets worse the longer you're on chemo.
(The fatigue does feel familiar from other times I've had chemo, but it's a bit worse this time since they threw in the radiation, which is also fatiguing.)

For example, now I have to lie down after walking the dog around the block because I feel wiped out. Lately, I even feel exhausted from getting dressed, just putting my arms into the sleeves of my shirt.

Here's a more technical explanation:
It's a chemo day, and my oncologist's nurse calls my name in the waiting room.
As we're walking back to his office, she asks how I'm doing.
I say, "Pretty good, but fatigued."
She says, "Of course you're fatigued! We've been knocking the stuffing out of you! [with the chemo]"

Who knew we had "stuffing"! (I've never studied anatomy.) Apparently it's part of what helps give us energy! If anyone has extra stuffing, please send it my way. Ha ha. Dumb, I know. That's the way it goes these days.
Can I blame the chemo for my bad sense of humor??

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Very Good News: I'm Normal!

... that is my CA-125 tumor-marker is!
Normal range for this lab is under 34, and my score last week was 18.
My onocologist wants me to keep up this chemo regimen for March and April, then do scans (to see if there are any visible masses) and another CA125. Dr K says that a CA-125 under 10 makes for the longest remission.

This means the chemo is working against my cancer.
Not every chemo drug works for every patient, so they try a different drug. Sometimes that doesn't work either, and sometimes a patient finds that none of the chemos work for them. Can you imagine how discouraging that must be? You'd still have a lot of side effects.

Another reason to keep on this path is that we have to wait for another month to get an accurate scan.

I believe if my CA-125 is low and my scans are clear at the end of April / early May, I will be done with chemo, at least for a while.

You may recall that when I was first diagnosed, in 4/2009, my CA-125 was almost 1,000; this January, the previous time it was measured, it was 76.
I was very - happily - suprised that it had dropped that far in 2 months.

Again, I have to thank you for all your prayers and support. You can clearly tell that they help.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dharma on the Couch or in Bed

One of the great things about Buddhist practice, is that you can do it anywhere, under any circumstances.
Here are a few initial thoughts about what I do when my mental and physical energy is so low I can only lie in bed, or with a bit more energy, rest on the couch.
I'd love to hear any suggestions you have.

* Carol F told me she sometimes looks at the line drawings in the books, because their simplicity is easier to take in - even easier than color prints. I'd love to hear more tips like this, because it never occurred to me.
* Rejoicing - we're taught this practice, which overcomes our jealousy, can even be done lying in bed.
* I used be be able to read a few pages of Dharma text, and often take notes; there days sometimes I can only read 1 paragraph at a time. When I close the book, I just repeat that 1 paragraph to myself for as long as I can. It may be a better way to study that my usual approach!
* Mantras - I love these "portable prayers" that we can say anywhere. I say a lot of mantras.
* Favorite practices - one of my go-to practices is Taking; I must have some kind of affinity with it. It comes easily to me, and I love the practice. I do it at home but also at the various medical facilities I find myself in - where there seems to be a lot of fear and pain, without refuge.

I can list more some other time, but those are some of the main ones now.

Jayne "ShoppingKharma" Armstrong Passed Away

I wrote about Jayne in a blog post titled "Not for the Fainthearted" back in Dec, because I was so impressed by her bravery, honesty and love in facing end-stage cancer. I learned a lot from her.
If you want to make your death awareness stronger, I'd recommend reading parts of her blog and imaging yourself in her position.
In words and photos, she showed the stages her body went through, as she lost weight but gained implanted medical devices.
She described her love for her husband, who gave her reason to try to stick around.
She talked frankly about her pain medicine - including medical marijuana, even naming the particular strains that really helped.
Jayne didn't shrink from detailing the difficulties of cancer - of her ovarian cancer - but also found joy wherever she could; here's one example:

"...well we've been getting the most amazing rain storm and the temperature has been very cold; perfect I would say if only I had the strength and meat on my bones to sustain me enough to go snowboarding;  OMG! would that be so freaking awesome!  so yes all this beautiful wonderful rain has been killing me; I've been dreaming of snowboarding quite a bit of course. I hope all the people out there are having a blast!" [but she has to get her pain-pump refilled, and her body probably isn't up for 'boarding].

On March 7th, her husband wrote on her blog that she had died. I cried to hear it.
Medical experts weren't expecting her to make it to the New Year, but she just kept going. Even though the last time I'd read her blog, several days ago, she was down to 78 pounds, I didn't really expect her to die yet.

Here's a photo of her in better days; her blog has lots of graphic photos of her in worse days.

I will request our Buddhist Center in Seattle makes prayers for her when we do our "powa" this month.
Please dedicate for her.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Photos from Florida

Last week R & I were in St. Pete, on the Gulf side of Florida, visiting his brother, sister-in-law, and niece ... as well as checking on the Orioles, who are in Spring Training in Sarasota (I always hesitate before saying or writing that city, because what always comes first is "Saratoga," where my Grandfather lived).
Even though FL was sunny and warm, I'd rather live in Seattle, believe it or not.
Scene from J&V's dock 

Bird of Paradise in J&V's driveway

R. at Madeira Beach

Pelicans are common in FL. Now I notice all the birds in Seattle, including one of my favorites, the great blue heron, which I just saw at Green Lake while walking the dog.

More photos at

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Off to Tamara's Going-Away Party ...

then going away ourselves (taking the red-eye to Florida)!

West Seattle: Walking Along Lincoln Park

viewing the Olympic Mts and Puget Sound,
with my sister-in-law Vicki

Thursday, February 17, 2011

1 Doc + 2 Scans = 0 Radiation

Good news! I saw my main Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Vermulen, to talk about targeted radiation to a few small spots (tumors) in my brain that showed up on the Jan scan.
Before making the plan, she sent me for an MRI and a CT scan of my brain.
I was very surprised that the spots had disappeared! My whole-brain radiation was done last Wed, which was targeting my "brain snow," but I thought I'd still have a session or 2 of "CyberKnife" radiation, high-tech, "cutting edge" treatment to the spots.
I'll just have follow-up. Next scan in 2 months.

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers. As you can see, they make a difference.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Photos from Walk at Golden Gardens on a Sunny Day

Carol and I took SaraDog to Shilshole, at the far western edge of Ballard, where there's a marina and a park on Puget Sound. As you can see, on a clear day there are views of the Olympic Mountains, including the big peak, Mt. Olympus.

We were happier than the photo suggests; I wore sunscreen and covered up from the sun - not the cold.

Sara was really fascinated by a low-flying kite.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Excess Death

from Dr. Pullen
"Excess death or excess mortality is defined as by the Free Medical Dictionary is 'a premature death, or one that occurs before the average life expectancy for a person of a particular demographic category.'  Smoking is one of the major causes of excess death.  There is lots of debate about smokers rights, government intrusion into private lives, and reduction of government spending these days.  Here are some thoughts on government backed efforts to encourage and help citizens quit smoking.  This is on my mind today because  my [Dr. Pullen's] Mom died this week of a smoking related illness, throat cancer, and I was looking for any good news about smoking cessation programs or population based success stories. 

"If the entire US replicated this program, and had smoking cessation rates that match those in MI then by extrapolation we could add about 122 million years to the lives of Americans over a 10 year period if 6% less Americans smoked after the program.
When I think if the dollars spent to add a year of life by many medical interventions, this type of program seems like it would be a bargain. ..."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Changes I'm Making to Diet etc. [long]

This could seem mundane unless you're motivated by being healthy so that you can benefit others. Over the years I've made gradual changes to my diet, exercise routine, and other things. I hope that this info is of some help to you, in encouraging you take care of the "ambulance" (body) that is your vehicle for helping others.

Now that I have cancer again, I'm continuing to read lots of books and websites and to talk to various healers and friends who know a lot about nutrition. 
I still have a very complicated schedule of supplements and activities [remind me to write a post about those "logic puzzles], so I have been easing into these changes slowly, and making note of the ones I want to add later.
If you've read Anti-Cancer - or other books about cancer and diet - you can learn how changing your eating habits can keep your immune system and your whole body stronger, which means that cancer cells can be destroyed early, before they have a chance to gather together as a tumor, much less go on a "road trip" to a distant organ, where the treatments get tougher and the odds get longer.
On the other hand, I have a genetic mutation that gives me a much higher lifetime risk of getting cancer; my health history bears that out - that is, my DNA - really a form of karma [a blog entry I've been drafting in my head for a few years now]. 
When people get cancer, they ask, "Why? Why me." I'm odd, so I think "Why not me?" I know it's my karma ripening.
Most people looking for an ordinary explanation tend to look for 1 single cause, but I tend to think a cluster of ordinary things created the secondary conditions that allowed my karma to ripen at that time, in that particular way.

I read Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a thick but very readable history of the treatment of cancer from ancient times to the present. Mostly it tells about doctors attempts to carve out cancer surgically, then they tried dosing it with nasty chemo drugs, which sometimes killed the patients. Then Mukherjee talks about some of the promising new targeted or genetic or "personalized" treatments that use tumor assays and the like. 
Toward the end of the book, however, he also mentions environmental links, such as between asbestos exposure to workers and their rates of lung cancer. 
More than 10 years ago, I read a very interesting book called Living Downstream: An Ecologist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, by Sandra Steingraber. I gave away my copy, and the book went out of print, but will be back next month; I plan to re-read it.
Some day more effort will be focused on preventing cancer in the first place; right now, there are more incentives for companies and researchers to work on drugs that fight the cancer once it's already arisen. (And actually it's so expensive for the drug companies that the US government is stepping in to help.)

I've been vegetarian for several years. Richard grows a lot of our produce in the back yard. We try out a lot of different non-meat meats. 
If I could I'd be vegan because I really admire their compassion for animals, but I'm not ready yet.

Here are some of the things I've changed in the past several months:

* Dairy - Almond milk instead of Cow Milk mostly. (Rice milk is kinda thin and I don't think it has as much protein.)
Organic dairy, including butter (which I'm still very fond of) and yogurt (which hasn't appealed since I started chemo).

* Eggs - Organic, free-range eggs.

* Organic everything as much as possible, not just produce but also bulk foods, snacks, teas, etc.; if you have to discriminate, see the most and least important foods to buy organic at

* Sweeteners - I've rarely added sugar to things. Occasionally when I'm traveling and feel I really need caffeine, and there's coffee, which turns out to be quite foul, I'll add sugar. If they have some kind of organic or raw or sugar, I'll use that.
Now that my tastebuds are off because of the chemo, I'm learning Rebecca Katz's "FASS" method for how to adjust the flavor of foods so that I'm more likely to eat them. One of the Ss is "Sweet," and I do find a natural sweetener makes drinks like tea taste better.
Katz wrote 2 excellent cookbooks, Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery and One Bite at a Time, Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends. Even if you don't have cancer, I highly recommend them as excellent cookbooks: visually appealing, well-designed, with helpful notes in sidebars of recipes,  great reference material in the book, and a friendly, encouraging tone.  If you like, I can email you an excerpt. She has the best cooking lesson for how to adjust the flavor of foods. If I had kids, I'd teach them with it; if I was learning to cook, I'd keep re-reading it.

I tried Agave Nectar at a local teahouse and found it made non-caffeinated rooibos chai with almond milk taste even better. I hear Stevia's good too; also maple syrup - Rebecca Katz recommends Grade B syrup for better flavor; this is also what locals said when I lived in Vermont.
For more info, see PCC's Guide to Natural Sweeteners

* Protein - when you're on chemo, you need extra protein to help repair tissues that are harmed; when you're a vegetarian on chemo, you need even more. Here are some newer ways I've added more protein to my diet.

  • "Scotch" and Hard-Boiled Eggs - Richard makes a bunch of hard-boiled eggs, which I like a lot; even when you're in a hurry, you can grab a couple; I love them with salt and a bit of pepper. Thankfully, my blood-pressure and cholesterol are low. For extra protein, R will make "Scotch Eggs" by cooking (vegetarian) sausage and wrapping it around the hard-boiled eggs.
  • Rice Protein Powder - add to oatmeal, applesauce, smoothies and other drinks with "body."
  • Apple with Almond Butter or Peanut Butter - fresh ground from only the nuts - at the coop ("PCC"); I absorbed this from the residents at the Olympia Dharma house, especially Jamie; it's one thing to read about, but even better to see a friend actually doing it, regularly. Also works on banana. Right now we have a box of Washington Fuji apples R's sister Susie got right from the farm (she even paid in a donation box); hence the apple as the delivery vehicle for the protein.
  • Mexican - add Soyrizo, beans, organic cheese to Huevos Rancheros, burritos, etc.
  • Vegetarian Reuben sandwiches! Got the idea from Grand Central Bakery & Cafe, but they use a slab of tofu. Richard makes it by grilling the rye bread with butter, melting Swiss cheese, adding sauerkraut and fake "ham" or other choice of vegetarian meat, and topping with homemade Russian dressing. Serve with a simple soup.
  • "Meat" - Field Roast, grain-based protein which is local to Seatte; Quorn, which some people have trouble digesting but the rest of us find very versatile for adapting chicken recipes, etc.; Yves and other brands for sandwich meats. When combined with other ingredients or condiments, the fake meat basically provides "mouth feel" (texture). For more info, see Savory Meat Alternatives from the PCC
  • Salmon - Wild Alaskan; I haven't eaten fish in a long time but sense I could really use that form of protein; I always thank the fish for giving up its life for me and wish it an auspicious rebirth. Expensive. For more info, see PCC's Seafood Choices for Healthier Oceans.

  • Hummus - we've been eating it often for a few years; Richard and Dachog both make it from scratch, although sometimes we get it from a tsog puja or buy a flavored version if we don't have time to cook the garbazo beans.
  • Beans - Richard often cooks other beans from scratch, and we keep them in the fridge for burritos and sometimes other dishes. Very cheap!
  • Breakfast Sausage - add as a side when you're having eggs or toast. The Morningstar Farms brand of links or patties tastes fine to me. None of the fake meats is very cheap, but that's not an issue for me right now.

Next steps:
* Keep working to add more dark, leafy greens.
I really like the Emerald City salad from the deli case at the PCC coop.

* Eat more beets. They're supposed to be particularly good for my constitution, according to my acupuncturist, other nutrition experts I know, and Paul Pitchford's excellent - but very big - book Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Great book for anyone interested in changing their diet.
Dachog made us pickled beets and hard-boiled eggs, which are some of my favorites and keep for a long time in the fridge. I also like the beet salad from the salad bar at Ballard Market.

* Make more smoothies and juices. I've been getting up at 4am, and haven't wanted to use the Vitamix, the juicer or the blender out of concern it would wake up Richard; later in the day, it hasn't been occurring to me ... yet. Add protein powder.

* Pull out and use crock pot again. Our good friends Marie and Tom use theirs all the time and think it's great.

* Sprout more mung beans at home - with just a 16oz glass jar, a canning rim, and cheesecloth.

What cosmetics, you ask? (I hardly wear any!) Well, it turns out that manicures, hair products and other beauty supplies often contain a lot of dubious chemicals. Lots of products are sold as "natural," but if you really want to know, you need to do a bit of checking elsewhere, not just reading the label.
For more info, see:
Skin Deep - a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products the Environmental Working Group

* Deodorant - I just changed to Crystal, a non-Paraben, non-scented deodorant from PCC coop; this is the info from Skin Deep about Crystal.

Cleaners - for around house

For more info, see:
Alternative Cleaners and Recipes - using cheap, common ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap
Washington Toxics Coalition - pesticides too; see info about kids safety and health too.

Celebrated Last Radiation Today!

Today was my last whole-brain treatment (#20 of 20)!
Hooray! I'm done ... with the bread of my sandwich.
Yesterday was my "penultimate" treatment - I like the sound of it - it means "next-to-last," which makes today's the "ultimate" and final treatment.

Those radiations were easy and quick, but ran every Monday - Friday; now I'll have more time without those appointments and the small travel time they each involved.
I asked Richard if he'd bake something delicious and somewhat nutritious that I could share with all the friendly, helpful people at Swedish, so he made oatmeal cookies, with some Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I also had a few last night and today at chemo. They definitely have the power of Yum, as cookbook author Rebecca Katz would say.
Believe it or not, I'm "sunburned in Seattle." When I get a chance, I'll add a photo. The burn is from the radiation. Even Dr. Mate volunteered that he didn't know why only your forehead and the corners of your eyes get sunburned, when they were radiating the whole top of my skull. It will go away by itself in about a week.
I've been very religious about using the Calendula Cream or the pure Aloe Vera they recommend to help prevent skin reactions. You just can't use any moisturizer 3 hours before treatment or it will make the sunburn worse. The burn itches a bit, for which they recommend a dab of hydrocortisone, but mostly I just ignore the itching.

I also need to wear sunscreen, and when we're in Florida Dr. Kaplan strongly recommended wearing a hat too. For the 2 Orioles Spring Training baseball games we're going to, he said I should wear a Yankee's cap (his team, which would provoke many Orioles fans, including the one who might otherwise sit next to me); I suggested maybe a Tampa Bay Rays hat;  Dr K suggested a baseball hat from neutral team like the Mariner's. 
I also mentioned that I had a good hat with a wide brim, which even protected me from the intense sun in Brazil. It packs well, is lightweight, and doesn't fly off in a breeze (important especially when you're on a boat, as I learned from Richard's Dad). Hat's good for hiking too. 

I'm looking forward to being in a place where you need a sun hat! Seattle was very sunny today, and is forecast to be sunny tomorrow too. We don't get many days like this in the winter, and it makes us really appreciate them. 
Do you know the movie L.A. Story with Steve Martin? He plays a TV weatherman who's bored because the weather in L.A. is always sunny! In Seattle, weather forecasters are never bored. We often say, "If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes." It often does change that fast. On Tuesday it was sunny when I went in for my radiation treatment; when I got out 20 minutes later it was pouring; on the ride home it started hailing!

I'm tapering off the "D" - just 1x/day now - but judging by the time now, it's still affecting my inner clock. Time to go to bed.
Wishing all a good night and a good sleep.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Pod of Refuge

Some of you who haven't seen me in person may be skeptical that I'm doing so well.
I say, "it's true!" And all because of my refuge in Buddhism, which means I seek help from Buddha; Buddha's teachings, Dharma; and my Buddhist community, Sangha.

Any adversity is a good chance to really test out the teachings, and for me everything I've learned is true. They work. Every different method I've learned protects me from suffering. For example, when you have a bit of suffering, you think about others and how many are much worse off than you are, especially when they have no faith in any spiritual path - Christian, Muslim, Hindu or whatever it is - and that gives me protection, because it evokes compassion. In Buddhism, focusing too much on yourself and too little on others is what causes our suffering in the first place.

So I feel safe deep inside. This is the part where it gets more impressionistic or poetic or something ...
Lately I feel like I can go into my heart, and my refuge feels like a like a mini white egg-shaped pod. I think I'm picturing something like that futurist individual transport from the old Woody Allen movie Sleeper, where he's in a one-person car that doesn't touch the ground. I could be mis-remembering it and mixing it with something from one of the Star Wars movies, where they're riding those ATV-like machines through the woods that don't touch the ground. Or maybe I'm combining with the white, egg-shaped Orgasmatron from Sleeper. (Think bliss!)

Actually, the top half of my pod is white and the bottom half is red : ) (We're studying Mahamudra Tantra in class now, which describes the indestructible drop at your heart this way.)

Richard pointed out that my pod would have headlights of 5 colors : )