I turned 60 in September, which is pretty amazing considering my medical journey. It started when my husband and I were diagnosed with HIV in 1987. At that time it was a death sentence, with only one med available which made us both sick and anemic. I was told I probably had only 2 years to live, maybe 6 if I was lucky. I latched on to that 6 year idea and hoped if I hung on by my fingernails, research would come up with new treatments. It took 8 years for that to happen, and in that time I lost my husband.
Here I am all these years later, 32 plus to be precise! After battling 2 bouts of lymphoma and one bout of gnarly heart disease (I had a quadruple bypass Jan 4th) , plus many many treatments and meds, the gains outweigh the losses and I feel better than ever!
A year and a half ago I flipped my life on it’s head to get to a healthier lifestyle. I did this not knowing I had a ticking time bomb in my chest, which is probably good or I would never have done it! I moved to the most precious little town, close to mountains and nature and rivers and lakes, which soothe my soul and give me lots of opportunities to hike and swim and play. This change could not have come at a better time! I am beyond happy here in my new community, which turned up to support me after my surgery. I feel incredibly lucky!!
A year ago I was training for a yoga retreat and suddenly started to feel exhausted with small exertion. I had to cancel the trip at the last minute after a wonky EKG turned up some serious issues. Cut to a year later, and I am training again for that same retreat I missed last year. I can’t wait to do feats of strength with the yoga community I left behind when I moved! YAY!
Sun is out, so I am heading for another short hike
I love my life! I am working on a gratitude list of 60 things which have made me fulfilled this year. I hope you enjoy every moment of every day…regardless of your own struggles.
I have 3 friends who are going through health battles at the moment. All are suffering ,which is very hard to witness from afar. If I were there I would know what to do to help, as I have been through the wringer myself a few too many times to count.
One thing I know, when you are in it yourself it’s pretty hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like it will never end, and it’s easy to feel hopelessness and despair.There is nothing like intense emotional or physical pain to get you right into the present moment, which usually is good. In this case it’s not so good. You feel like you are the only person in the world this is happening to, even though your friends and family feel it intensely. Many people who have not experienced this type of trauma feel helpless, run away, or rely on platitudes because they have no idea what to say or do.
If you are a caregiver, bless your sweet soul. I had a few people run away in horror when I was going through my battles, but most ran towards me. That in itself can be overwhelming to someone who is very sick, but I will say the cards, flowers, small gifts , prayers, love and support was much appreciated. Not at the time of crisis because I was so out of it,but after the worst was over I felt so loved. The very best gift of all is someone who can listen deeply without comparing their own experience, or telling me everything would be fine (really, how could they know that? as it turned out it was, but it could have gone either way).
For now, I am sending out cards of support , including them in my meditations and prayers, and dedicating this post to these 3 special people.
Love to you all
I attended a wonderful memorial service this weekend for my cousin Fritz. The measure of a person is how you live your life, how you treat people, and how you love. If there were ever an example of this, his brother,his wife, my mother (like a sister to him), his many friends, and especially his family including kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, all loved him dearly because he treated each and every one of us like we were special to him. There was no fakery in this, he truly did love everybody. Right up until his last breath he was loving his family and helping prepare them for his death.
The gathering afterwards felt like a big family reunion, which I know he would have adored. It’s not often I get to see all these treasured cousins gathered in one place! I came away feeling affirmed rather than sad. He lived a great life!
As I continue to recover from my own (latest) near death experience, I realize I never feel so alive as when I don’t wake up dead. I am trying to hang on to that tender and vulnerable space I was in the weeks after my quadruple bypass, because it truly has made me more sensitive and emotional than every before . I am taking Fritzies example to heart and treasuring my friends more, but also letting some go that I have found aren’t as supportive or understanding, or are just plain unhealthy for me to be around. This is very freeing!
While I don’t recommend a near death experience to get there, it does have it’s silver linings.
Love your people, but start with yourself.It will spill over to everyone around you,and if it doesn’t , let them go!
As I await my parents arrival for mother’s day weekend,I’m reflecting on all that has happened in my life since last mother’s day!
A year ago I was living in my brothers rv he parked for me at camp Sherman, while I madly painted and prepped my “apartment” at the back of the town house i had just closed on.many of you know my house came with the former owner.i haven’t talked much about the stress of the next two months,but it got pretty crazy.She had severe dementia, so i ended up alternating between being her accidental caregiver and advocate,to warring with her family who were in complete denial.When she finally moved out July 22nd I was a bit of a wreck!
Then in 10 days (thank goodness for help!) I had an estate sale (they left all her furniture behind in lieu of repairs),painted the rest of the house, stripped all the carpet out of the rooms to prep for new flooring. We made some other changes like adding a French door in my bedroom,built a new wall/window, and added a mini deck.
To say I was exhausted is an understatement! What I didn’t know at the time was my ticker was going wonky.After lots of company and small hikes, then a trip to Arizona, I needed a big rest.But nope! I started training for a yoga retreat and then I was really wiped!! I started listening to my body then ,and just in time! By December I was having tests,and January 4th I had a quadruple bypass aka cabbage. Whew!
Since then it’s been rehab and lots of walking and yoga. I’m happy to report i feel better every day,and I’m enjoying my new open heart to the max!
Bring it on,that’s my new motto!
There are many paths to a broken heart. Mine was a physical thing caused by many years of HIV meds, not emotional heartbreak. That said, since my cabbage surgery January 4th (coronary artery bypass graft), my heart is different. I am more emotional, more vulnerable, more accepting and giving of love. I get overwhelmed easily in a crowded room or restaurant, especially after seeing people who didn’t know why I dropped off the face of the earth for the past 2 months. I am filled with gratitude for all the love and support I have received, but that too has been overwhelming. Some of this can be attributed to a thing called ‘pump brain’ , a temporary condition that can last 6 months, due to being on a heart lung machine for 7 plus hours during the surgery. Some of it from coming as close to death as I have ever been.
I have a dear friend who experienced some of these same things with a near death experience, and did a talk about it . It was filmed and posted on utube .entitled “Joshua Berger:plazm magazine ..doing better: how I broke my brain and changed my mind”. He has changed his habits and lifestyle to support his recovery,and I am on the same path.
We went together to a lecture by Ravi Ravindra last week, and the topic was the yoga of death. This sounds like a grim topic, but it was very inspiring to me. He talked about the randomness of life and death, but living with purpose. I have taken this to my open heart and asked what I can do to live with purpose. My first thought is to continue to share my story in hopes it may inspire or encourage others. My other goal is to do what makes me happy first, and to not bleed myself dry trying to make others happy, as I have in the past. We all have enough conditions to make ourselves happy , it’s a choice!
I still marvel at the timing of my move to this sweet community. Everything unfolded in just the right way, so when crisis hit, I was in my newly fixed up and moved into house, and have had a wonderful neighborhood to do my daily rehab walks., and great neighbors to help shovel snow etc. I will try to trust the unfolding more in my daily life from now on.
Be well, and do what makes you happy today.Take in the good!
My latest health challenge has been a doozy! I had open heart surgery 4 days ago. It started in October with shortness of breath I blamed on altitude,and “heartburn”,which turned out to be angina. I didn’t figure that out till just before i was preparing to go on a yoga retreat. The lightbulb went off when I realized it mostly happened when I was hiking up a hill or in yoga class. So I got an EKG and chest x ray to start the ball rolling.it was abnormal,so next I had a stress test which revealed much more.i made the earliest appointment with a new cardiologist and got on a waitlist for any cancellation.
I went to see family for Christmas with my friend driving as I was alresdy too weak and dizzy.We came home a day early which probabky saved my life! The next morning the call came to get to Dr that afternoon.Whew!
He scheduled a coronary angiogram a week later,and I expected a stent or more .So I packed an overnight bag and spent night at my cousin’s house near the hospital.i haven’t left the hospital since because during the angiogram he discovered too much damage and scheduled a bypass instead.The cardiothorasic surgeon is a calm young woman who did am amazing job.Quadruple bypass in addition to patiently cleaning out scar tissue inside my heart! And I lived to tell the tale.yay me!
The first day in icu was dicey as they couldn’t wake me up to remove the breathing tube snorkel thing. Thanks to the amazing night nurses who held my hand and talked to me constantly untill I was ready to get that thing pulled.Yikes!
The next day was absolutely brutal and painful.I thought I might die! Then they moved me to a private room upstairs with a gorgeous view. It hurt so bad I laid in the bed panting and meditated while nurses swirled around me. The next am was much better and I was able to eat breakfast and walk the halls.bekieve it or not they had me walking the halls the day after surgery! It takes work to get better,and the pt here is a great motivator, as are all the nurses and doctors.it takes a special person to enter the medical field.i feel so supported and safe in their capable hands.
I’ve heard a few code blue alerts and one from the neonatal ward,which got some nurses crying and me as well. I know I’m here for a reason and it’s to show how you can survive these huge medical challenges.I’ve had the support of the chaplains, my meditation practice,my many wonderful friends and especially my family. Mom has been the queen communicator keeping them informed of my progress.hopefully I’ll be home in 2 more days if all keeps going well.First I need to get the fluid out of my lungs with breathing exercises and walking, then the chest drain tubes can come out.
I’ll have an amazing friend stay I g with me for awhile till I can get in and out of bed by myself etc.i feel so blessed and grateful at this moment.thankyou for your prayers and well wishes
I love you all
I hit a deer yesterday.He came out of nowhere galloping across the highway.i had seconds to react before he was in front of my car, and then a big smack on the left bumper before he jumped the guardrail. He was a gorgeous, magnificent buck.I could not stop thinking about him last night, and thanking him for not crashing through my windshield or causing me to wreck. I kept seeing his face and sending him healing energy and love.
It also got me thinking of all the blessings and luck I have had since my big move to central Oregon.
Im thankful for my beautiful home, my sweet new friends,my darling small town I’m thankful my family is all healthy and wise .That is wealth enough! I’m thankful my nieces and nephews are thriving,both great and small.Love rules their worlds,as it should be!
Im most thankful to myself for persevering in this year of transition, and coming to a healthier emvironment.I can feel the changes in my body and soul. Thich nhat Hahn talks about creating a breathing room somewhere in your home. I feel like this whole town is my breathing room!
Happy thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.Remember to love yourself the most!
This is my year of “new” to me.New town,new house,new friends,new climate! There is a learning curve to it all.I’m trying not to freak out about every new thing,reminding myself change is good and necessary for growth. I’m definitely not stuck in a rut here!
I’m battening down the hatches as best I can,using ingenuity (Just made a ramshackle cold frame out of cinder blocks, wood pallets,rebar and plastic sheeting..most of it found free!),and reminding myself I can ask for help at any time. People are so friendly in this sweet little town,I don’t need to be shy about that.
Im also facing more fears.driving in snow and ice scares me,and the only way to conquer that fear is to practice and be prepared.I just had my mechanic show me everything and give me a pep talk. Whew!
Today is t-shirt weather,so I’m also pai nting exterior doors etc.The nights are getting very cold,so I know the windows will soon be firmly shut,and I’ll be living indoors (except snowshoeing, which I’m super excited about).Tomorrow I’m taking advantage of this glorious weather and going on a hike with a friend to see the amazing foliage at clear lake.yay! Bring it on,after this year of change I will really feel like a local!
Cheers to fall and whatever winter brings..hopefully lots of snowflakes (yes,I am a snowflake! Lol) to cleanse this crazy world clean
I’ve been in transition for a full year ! It started with a long slow torturefest trying to sell my house in Portland. After many months I was finally out! Then the hunt in central Oregon began.i didn’t end up where I thought I would,and I have to say that turned out for the best! I found a cute little place in Sisters,and have been happily renovating it bit by bit.In the midst of that,I had a few big challenges with the situation only I would have agreed to (The lady I bought it from stayed 2 more months,with me living in the back bedroom with 3 cats).i learned a lot about myself and also about dealing with an 80 year old with dementia. I learned I am not a saint,and struggled to be patient and kind when I realized she had little support. At the end,I did the best I could and we ended on good terms.
Right now I am taking a break from painting to unpack my life.This includes tossing things I don’t want to carry into my next life ,like things I don’t love, relationships that no longer serve me ,and making new healthy connections. In this sweet small town that has been fairly easy! I found a new yoga community ( in addition to my Portland yogis I will always adore) ,a fabulous chiropractor who is truly a healer , and fun events and lakes to float in with new and old friends.The climate is much healthier for my body and mind,which was a big incentive to move.
For all the drama and hard goodbyes this has been the best decision for my health I have ever made! All’s well that ends well!