"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Friday, May 29, 2015


Today I am grateful for life. My own life and the wide variety of life surrounding me-human and other. I am also grateful for time with our grandson Leo.

There may come a year when I don't feel the urge and motivation to write about the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. This isn't that year. Some use the term "cancerversary."  Some choose to celebrate it. Others choose to try to put it behind them. There is no right or wrong way. There is only each individual's own way.

I choose to write about it because cancer has left an indelible mark on my life in many ways. Since this marks the 7th anniversary of "D-Day," here are seven ways cancer is a permanent part of who I am:

1. The obvious: two mastectomy scars on the flat terrain of my chest.
2. The less obvious: the four smaller scars below the mastectomy scars, from the drain tubes that helped me recover and heal after surgery.
**But I have to tell you that even though I see my scars each day, they don't glare at me. They just are.
3. Cancer became a catalyst for the writer within. Long a poet, I am now a blogger and columnist writing essays with plenty to say, from the heart. The heart that lies beneath those mastectomy scars.
4. There is a fear that lurks in the back of my mind, moving to the front from time to time. Fear of recurrence or the scarier metastasis. But I face fear with faith and I try to do what I can each day to make healthy choices. (I mess up plenty, but I think my healthy choice column is ahead of my unhealthy choice column.)
5. That same mind is able to give a deeper and wider focus to prioroities and to gratitude for the gift of each day.
6. My soul is more in tune with my body, mind, and heart because of the experience we all went on together with scans, waiting, biopsies, waiting, surgeries, waiting, chemotherapy, waiting, healing. In losing body parts, I gained soul parts.
7. Indelible memories remain. From hearing the words "you have cancer" to the sharp pain of having those drain tubes removed; to the love, support, and prayers I received and continue to receive from others.

And a link to my post from two years ago today here. The poet has not left. She lives on. Just like I do, ever grateful for the opportunity to do both-live on and write on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Carcinoma of Another Kind

Today I am grateful for my hearing and my other senses that allow me to interact and communicate with others and the world around me. I am also grateful I made it to the dermatologist recently.

As I reflect on where I was at seven years ago today-awaiting the results of my breast biopsy-I am thinking about a carcinoma of a different kind. My breast biopsy showed that I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). A recent biopsy of an area on my right shoulder showed that I have basal cell carcinoma.

It was probably a couple years ago when this area first appeared, looking like a small patch of dry skin. As it underwent some changes, I had my doctor take a look. She wasn't overly concerned, but suggested I go to the dermatologist. I put it off for a while because I was waiting for our flex dollars for health care to kick back in after using up what we had the previous year. But I knew I wanted it looked at. I wanted the reassurance. Either it's nothing or it's something that needs to be addressed.

Basal cell carcinoma is common and usually quite treatable. It rarely spreads. I appreciated that the dermatologist, whom I had just met, was reassuring to me as well. He could see my history of previous cancer and tried to put me at ease that this was not concerning, that it could be easily removed and taken care of.

So this carcinoma of another kind hasn't thrown me for a loop like the IDC and DCIS did. But I am still grateful I got in to have it checked and I am grateful it will soon be removed. It reminds me to pay attention to this early vehicle I reside in. To take good care of it. It's the only one I get.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

H.O.W. to Make a Difference

Today I am grateful for rest and comfortable places to get it. I am also grateful for good books and magazines to read.

There are days and dates you don't forget. Seven years ago today I had an MR-guided biopsy of my right breast. The biopsy would determine a diagnosis of breast cancer. I am here today, doing well and living life fully. Tens of thousands have died of breast and other cancers in these last seven years.

There are many ways we can help move science closer to unlocking cancer's many mysteries and finding a cure. I am proud to be part of Dr. Susan Love's Army of Women and also the newer Health of Women Study. The former helps researchers fill studies with subjects much faster and keep the pace of research moving more quickly. More quickly to useful information.

The latter, found at this link- https://www.healthofwomenstudy.org -is a database of women worldwide who complete health questionnaires to help researchers look for connections and clues that may also lead to answers and insights about the complexities of cancer. Both are open to all women, whether or not they have had breast cancer.

I also blogged about these back in October of 2012 and 2013 here.

Earlier this week, I did the most recent survey for the Health of Women Study. It is the 6th I have done since joining the study over 2 years ago, and it was about bacteria and the breast. It took only about 20 minutes for me to complete. It is easy to register and you decide when you take a survey. You can even start one, save it, and finish it later.

I see that the total number of women in the study is now over 52,000. Are you one of them? If not, consider joining and adding your effort and information to the growing database that may one day help unlock the mysteries of breast cancer.

Like practicing gratitude requires action, so does helping a good cause. Today I will try to do my part.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Out of Sorts

Today I am grateful for health insurance, antibiotics, safe travels, and a quiet house.

I wish my mind were quiet. I am feeling out of sorts, and so is my mind. Darcy has been sicker than I have ever seen him in the years we have been together. A virus that then led to some sort of infection is the likely culprit. We have had a very busy and draining last few weeks, so his defenses were probably down.

It leaves me feeling out of sorts because it is not the usual routine. Plans had to be adjusted and actions needed to be taken. We missed time with my family and our niece's graduation party. I would like to think I adjust to change and unmanageables better than I used to, but it's still an adjustment.

I am trying to keep it all in perspective. Darcy is feeling better and this appears to be running its course. Some others deal with chronic and terminal health issues. It makes me appreciate health and each day we get. I don't want to take either for granted. It makes me appreciate my husband and the love I have for him. I don't want to take either of those for granted.

I am out of sorts also because I am feeling a little crummy myself and I am taking a sick day from work. I have many sick days built up and I certainly don't abuse them. But part of my overactive, not quiet mind right now has to do with work and what I could/should be doing. Put it away Lisa. It's just a job. A little self-care can go a long way.

One thing I am not feeling out of sorts about is that I am happy to wish my "baby" brother Lee a Happy 45th Birthday!  I remember when they brought Lee home from the hospital on a rainy May day all those years ago.  Enjoy your day Lee! More birthdays please! For Lee and for each of us.

Just for today I will live the life I have. Out of sorts or not.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Always a Good Reminder

Today I am grateful for my job and the variety of people I come into contact with there. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy and the love we share.

One of the daily meditation books I have is titled Keep It Simple.  I don't even always read each day's reading. Some days just seeing that title is all I need. It is always a good reminder to me. Keep it simple Lisa.

I am an intense and driven individual in many ways. Thank God I am not driven to drink anymore. But I can still go down unhealthy roads with my expectations of myself and others. I can push myself too much and forget to practice what I preach about pausing, taking time to relax, resting, being grateful.

It has been a full week, a full month. Darcy is still sick with a nasty virus and that has made our week a different one. I have had to take care of things that he sometimes does, and also take care of him in ways too.  I am grateful for the love I have for him, and the sympathy I have for him because he feels really crummy. I am glad to do things like run to the store or bring him a glass of water.

It's been an off week in ways, but Darcy being sick has also helped me keep it simple. There's only so much time in a day, and my priorities become more clear when I have to consider what other people need from me.  Some of my plans and expectations need to be put aside.

And that is what keeping it simple is all about.

I will be taking a blog break until early next week. Thank you to all the service men and women who have served our country throughout our history. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Enroute from a Funeral

Today I am grateful for my cell phone and the convenience it provides. I am also grateful for the slower-paced morning I am allowing myself.

Yesterday I was reflecting on driving TO my aunt's funeral. Today, I am considering the different feel the reflecting had on the way home FROM that funeral.

I was tired driving home, and ready to be back with my own family in my own home. I am grateful for both-family and home. My own and extended.

I was thinking about loss and grief and how everyone experiences it differently. I was thinking especially of my mom and my surviving aunt, Marie's two sisters. There had been a 4th sister, she would have been the oldest. She died at age 15 from complications stemming from rheumatic fever. My mom was 6 years old and remembers the day her sister died. Her name was Frances. I had asked Mom questions about Frances before, but I don't think I had ever asked what my mom remembered about her death. I appreciated the opportunity to talk to Mom about it on Tuesday. I appreciated what Mom remembered and shared.

Seventy-eight years later, Mom and her remaining siblings said goodbye to Marie, as they have also said goodbye to two brothers over the years. I couldn't help but think about my own seven sisters and five brothers and what our futures may hold. Just for today, I will remember them each in my thoughts and prayers.

Each day has opportunities for hellos and goodbyes. Most are not of the permament sense that comes with a funeral.

Today I will try to make the most of my opportunities for hellos and goodbyes as I move through my day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Enroute to a Funeral

Today I am grateful for safe travels to and from my Aunt Marie's funeral and for the time I got to spend with my large extended family.

As I drove to Marie's funeral yesterday morning, I was in a reflective frame of mind. A funeral, 150 miles, and time to myself all make me pause and ponder a few things.

Some of the things that flitted through my active mind and 
various sensory inputs included:

*The various shades of springtime greens on the hillsides.
*The sun and clouds playing together, or so it seemed.
*Appreciating the time to myself and my music, my way.
*Fears and worries hanging out for a time, then being pushed out
by some faith and let go of with some prayer.
*The fact that 32 years ago yesterday, May 19, 1983, I graduated from high school.
Here's a shout out to the other members of the SW Class of '83!
*Wondering what my mom, my Aunt Helen, and their 3 brothers were thinking
and feeling as they prepared to say goodbye to their eldest sibling.
*Considering what it might feel like to be one of Marie's nine children, who now are
without either parent.
*Appreciating that Marie lived over 92 years and was still living in her own home
and driving less than a year ago.
*Following some school buses and recalling my own days on buses as a student,
player, coach, teacher, counselor.

I arrived at my destination physically, but also emotionally.