Tag Archive | Vaginal Radiation (Brachytherapy)

But what happens on February 3rd?

A screengrab of a video by the tourism website of the state of Pennsylvania shows the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil being watched for signs of his shadow.

NPR reports on Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring.

What’s my favorite holiday? After Thanksgiving, it’s . . . Groundhog Day. And if, like me, you’re a fan of redemption movies—and of Bill Murray—then today you watched Groundhog Day . . . again . . . and again. . . . 


It's always February 2nd - ThisIsAuthentic.com

Click to relive Bill Murray’s day . . . over . . . and over . . . and over. . . .

My favorite part of this perennial movie is near the end, when Phil—Connors, that is—finally gets it. He starts living—and giving—in the ever-present moment. He hasn’t yet escaped the never-explained time warp he has somehow found himself in; but in time (whatever that means), he accepts his fate and eventually lives a perfect day that only close to infinite re-dos could have made possible as he learns life’s most important lesson. And yet . . .

What is a “perfect” day? The message of the film is that this Scrooge-like guy learns about becoming his best self through genuine interest in and compassion for others—all with a comic and romantic twist (not unlike Bill’s other redemption movie, Scrooged).* His reward for a lesson well learned and a life well lived on February 2nd?

February 3rd.

But on the other side of the screen, we don’t get infinite re-dos. We ordinary mortals need to learn as we go through linear time, not when we’re stuck in an endless loop of it. So how do we learn to live a “perfect” day on February 3rd after learning the lessons of our own February 2nd? 

My personal February 2nd, so to speak, was actually on Valentine’s Day 2014. I underwent my last vaginal radiation treatment (brachytherapy) that day following a total hysterectomy for uterine cancer on December 13, 2013. And I was still in the “glow” of having survived a brush with mortality and having learned my lesson that all moments of life are precious and, in their own way, eternal. Or are they? This is a topic for another day, but perhaps all moments of time exist somewhere, in some treasure vault that we can revisit . . . and revisit . . . and revisit—if we learn the combination or find the key. So if the cosmos is filled with all the energy that has ever existed, why not make our contribution positive?

But what if we become disillusioned because we can’t unlock all the secrets of the universe? Such reflections brought me to the realization that, at least in human terms, the most important secret of life is the one Phil learns in the movie. And this thought took me back to the lyrics of the 1967 song by the Youngbloods, Get Together,” which may hold the deepest human secret:

You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

In an awesome and happy coincidence, when I wrote an earlier version of this post last year, a quick search for those lyrics took me to the February 3, 2015 page on the Huffington Post blog, “The Third Metric,” where that very song happened to be featured that day: Daily Meditation: Get Together.” Such coincidences seem to point to a cosmic connection, one that I don’t pretend to understand. Yet these occurrences whisper to me that perhaps we do hold a key that unlocks the secrets to at least our private universe.

In the afterglow of that “Whew! Narrow escape!” feeling post-op and post-radiation, I am still figuring out how to incorporate the lessons of my own February 2nd into my February 3rd. Learning how to do this will require me to be awake, aware, and appreciative during all the coming days until I run out of them. And it’s extremely hard.

Maybe tomorrow, on February 3rd, it will be enough for me to realize that aftermaths and interims are just as important as great events. Or maybe they are the great events. Life is still happening in an amazing way, even when we can’t quite feel the miracle of it after an emergency or a major event has melted into the rest of our experience.

Life transitions often feel shallow, muddy, confusing, unfocused, unimportant. But without the respite from urgency that we experience during exciting or traumatic times, we wouldn’t have the chance to dive deeper into our own being. These times spent in semi-mist may actually be mystical. Change is creative. So transition isn’t really a dark place to be feared or avoided, but a space offering a chance to learn and become your own next great thing. As earth transits around the sun, transition is how we experience time . . . and all the times of our lives.

Alone in my personal space, I will celebrate February 3rd, knowing that the ice crystals on the trees will become leaf buds . . . in time. I hope you will never be stuck on February 2nd and will have quietly wonderful February 3rds to look forward to for many years to come.


*And speaking of redemption stories . . .

Ghost of Christmas Past

Ghost of Christmas Present

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

A Christmas Carol_1843_30%

My Friend’s Story – Leukemia: Update on Her Family

Sandee & Mitch

SANDEE & MITCH KLINE

Last evening, as I was writing a fictional story based on my childhood, I received a long-distance telephone call from my real childhood friend’s daughter in Israel. She has kept in touch with me over the past five years since her mother, whom I had known since we were seven years old, died of leukemia in the fall of 2010. Each December 6, Sandee’s birthday, I post a remembrance of her, as I did again this year. Not that I need reminding . . . I don’t feel that Sandee ever left. She may be somewhere where we can’t hear her stories or her laughter, or benefit from her compassionate listening or offers of comfort; but I believe that everyone who was close to her can still feel her in their heart and soul. I can. And occasionally she even visits me in a dream. The only thing I don’t like about this is that I have to say goodbye again, and her presence in my slumbering brain reminds me that I could do nothing—absolutely nothing—to help her when she was so sick. That’s something I can’t forgive life for—not letting me do somethingF

After a minute or so of catch-up conversation on the phone last evening with Sandee’s daughter, I happened to ask about one of her brothers, who also had moved to Israel. After a silent pause, I heard the ominous words that the family had undergone yet another major shift: her brother had moved back home to Philadelphia to become the primary caregiver for their father. Mitch, who remained a warrior against leukemia and lymphoma—blood cancers that stole his wife, mother, and mother-in-law from him and from the people in their lives—is now fighting on his own behalf against stage 4 brain cancer. He is recovering from surgery, chemo, and radiation at home, cared for by his son and other close family members and friends.

This morning, I awoke to that heavy-hearted, semi-shocked feeling that stuns you back to the reality that an act of God or nature has just torn another hole through your world. I don’t have many details about Mitch at this point, but I am following updates on Facebook and remain in touch with several members of his and Sandee’s family. People local to the Philadelphia area may be interested in the “Lotsa Helping Hands” site—Pitch in for Mitch—which provides updates and information on how to give support (signup is required; mine is pending at this writing).

Links to leukemia and lymphoma sites are at the end of this post. In addition, people local to the area may be interested in the Philly-based Mark Roy Crespy Chapter of the City of Hope, organized by members of Sandee’s family in memory of her brother, who died at about age 11 from bone cancer.

In two days, on December 13, I will celebrate my second anniversary of being successfully treated for uterine cancer. On that day, Friday the 13th, 2013, I underwent a da Vinci robotic total hysterectomy, followed by vaginal radiation (brachytherapy). My recent checkup showed no evidence of recurrence, and I also just had a mammogram that was clear. (See complete information in Uterine Cancer: My Story & More.) I say this in humility and gratitude, even as I feel the pain of loss suffered by the family of my oldest and dearest friend (she still is).

Much progress has been made in treating cancer. But as my friend’s story shows, it is still leaving broken bodies, minds, and hearts in its wake. At the first sign that anything is wrong with your own or with a loved one’s health, please consult a medical practitioner. Early detection of this insidious disease may save your or your loved one’s life.


The following story was originally posted on December 6, 2013.

 SANDRA CRESPY KLINE

Sandee

 12-6-52 — 9-27-10

I met Sandee Crespy when we were both seven years old. We were in the same second-grade class at Ziegler Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia. Although we had almost distinctly opposite personalities and, on the surface, not much in common, we nevertheless went through four schools together—after Ziegler it was Fels Junior High, Lincoln High, and La Salle College (now University), all in Philly. Our early careers also took roughly parallel paths—she was a legal secretary, I was a medical secretary. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding when she married her high school sweetheart, Mitch Kline, and she was the matron of honor at my wedding when I married my second husband, Farok Contractor, on December 7, 2003. After we graduated college—it took her 18 years of night school, me 11—she went on to become a CPA, and I became an editor-writer. Eighteen years may seem like a long time to go to college, but she and Mitch had three amazing children (Alyssa [Malka], Evan, and Jeffrey) while she also pursued her career and studied—and, of course, socialized with her many friends. (My son, Matt, was born about a year after I finally graduated while working full-time, so I had it a bit easier.)

This synopsis tells you very little about how and why we managed to retain a friendship over 50 years. To give you some idea of that relationship, you can read a brief remembrance I wrote about us in 2012 as an exercise for my writing group: An American Friendship—Associated Memory. In that mini-memoir, you’ll see that I mentioned my recently found sister, Vicki Sue, who was reunited with her maternal family 50 years after we were separated (read her story here). However, the connection is very important because just about a year after we found Vicki Sue, we lost Sandee to her deadly battle with leukemia. But not before the two of them had the chance to meet the previous October. Although Sandee had two lovely sisters, Ronnie and Jackie, you might have thought she’d found another one of her own. (She also had two brothers—Scott, who is doing well, and Mark, who died very young of bone cancer.) Of everyone I knew, she was the most thrilled that Vicki Sue had re-entered our lives—particularly because Vicki had been raised Jewish!

Sandee’s Jewish background was one of the things that had attracted me about her the most when we were young. She came from a big family—Ashkenazy on her mother’s side, Sephardic on her father’s. This mix of Russian and Spanish ancestry may be one of the primary reasons a bone-marrow donor could not be found to save Sandee’s life, despite her myriad of relatives on both sides. But my larger point is that I used to love going to Sandee’s house when we were kids because of all the people—all the life and love—I found there. My family is small and had an unhappier history, so I often took refuge in hers.

In October 2009, my family had its first reunion gathering to honor our finding Vicki Sue. This has evolved into an annual Oktoberfest celebration. But on this first occasion, Sandee joined us—you can see the joy on her face, drinking her last cup of tea in my home:

Sandee Holding Her Cup_October 2009

Sandee and I did share one final cup of tea—at her home in January 2010. She had recently returned from a trip to Israel, where she and Mitch had been visiting their daughter and her family, and thought she’d contracted some sort of bug. Each afternoon she developed a high fever and became very sleepy, so much so that she had to stop working. One snowy January afternoon, I went to see her and took with me a collection of unusual chocolate teas that someone had given me as a gift that I’d never opened. We cracked open the little canisters that day and enjoyed a cup of chocolate tea together. Although she didn’t drink out of “her” cup, which is at my house, looking at that cup brings back these powerful memories of those two last cups of tea we shared:

Sandee's Cup

I didn’t see Sandee again until August 15, 2010, just weeks before she passed. It wasn’t that I didn’t try—I emailed and called her family repeatedly trying to set up a time to visit. But she became sicker and weaker over the ensuing months and was in and out of hospitals, including Johns Hopkins—where our friend Sue and I went for our last girl-thing that August day. The three of us used to get together for our annual fall combined birthday dinner (my day is September 24, Sue’s is November 24, and Sandee’s, of course, was December 6). The last time I spoke with Sandee on the phone it was just a couple of days before my birthday, but she was too ill and too weak to realize it. On September 27, 2010, we got the word from her family that she’d passed away at the local hospital, which was her choice. She was surrounded by her loving family.

Her daughter, Malka, called me and asked me to be one of the pallbearers at her mother’s funeral. I’ve never before or since carried a burden that was so light in my hands and so heavy on my heart.

Click the heart image to read about its significance.

Sandee's Heart

Rest peacefully and as joyfully as you lived, my friend.

See more in Sandee’s memory here.

* * *

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What happens on February 3rd?

It's always February 2nd - ThisIsAuthentic.com

If, like me, you are a fan of redemption movies—and of Bill Murray—then yesterday you tuned into AMC and watched Groundhog Day . . . again . . . and again . . . and again.


My favorite part of the movie is near the end, when Phil (also the groundhog’s name) Connors finally gets it and starts living—and giving—in the ever-present moment. He hasn’t yet escaped the time warp he’s found himself in; but he has accepted his fate and lives a perfect day that only infinite re-dos and learning the ultimate lesson could make possible. And yet . . .

What is a “perfect” day? The message of the film is that this Scrooge-like guy learns about becoming his best self through genuine interest in and compassion for others—all with a comic and romantic twist (not unlike Bill’s other redemption movie, Scrooged). His reward for a lesson well learned on February 2nd? February 3rd.

But on the other side of the screen, we don’t get infinite re-dos. We need to learn as we go through time, not when we’re stuck in an endless loop. So how do we learn to live a “perfect” day on February 3rd after learning the lessons of our own February 2nd?

My personal February 2nd, so to speak, was in 2014. At this time last year, I was in the middle of my vaginal radiation treatments (brachytherapy) following a total hysterectomy for uterine cancer on December 13, 2013. And I was still in the “glow” of having survived a brush with fatality and having learned my lesson that all moments of life—even my life, which I have not always valued—are precious, if not eternal.

Or are they? This is a topic for another day, but perhaps all moments of time exist somewhere, in some treasure vault that we can revisit . . . and revisit . . . and revisit—if we learn the combination or find the key. George's Secret Key

But what if we can’t unlock all of the secrets of the universe? (Who knows—maybe it’s only one secret.) These thoughts took me back to part of the lyrics of the 1967 song by the Youngbloods, “Get Together,” which I always thought held the deepest human secret:

You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at you command

20150203_103012 (2)In an awesome and happy coincidence, a quick search for the lyrics took me to the February 3, 2015, post on the Huffington Post blog, “The Third Metric,” where the song is featured today: “Daily Meditation: Get Together.” Such coincidences seem to point to a cosmic connection, one that I don’t understand. Yet these occurrences whisper to me that perhaps we do hold a key that unlocks the secrets to at least our private universe.

In the afterglow of that “Whew! Narrow escape” feeling post-op and post-radiation last year, I am still figuring out how to incorporate the lessons of my February 2nd into February 3rd—my reward for having survived. Learning how to do this will require me to be awake, aware, and appreciative in all the days that follow until I run out of them.

On this February 3rd, as I see welcome sunlight turning ice into crystals on the bare limbs outside my window, I guess it is enough for me to realize that aftermaths and interims are just as important as great events. Or maybe they are the great events. Life is still happening in an amazing way even when we can’t quite feel the miracle of it after the emergency or major event has melted into the rest of our experience.

Life transitions often feel shallow, muddy, confusing, unfocused, unimportant. But without the respite from urgency that we experience during exciting or traumatic times, we wouldn’t have the chance to dive deeper into our own being. These times spent in semi-mist may actually be mystical. Change is creative. So transition isn’t really a dark place to be feared or avoided, but a space offering a chance to learn and become your own next great thing. As earth transits around the sun, transition is how we experience time . . . and all the times of our lives.

Alone in my personal space, I will celebrate February 3rd, knowing that the ice crystals will become leaf buds . . . in time. I hope you will have a quietly wonderful February 3rd, too.

20150203_112402 

Update: You Can't Unbreak Glass…but the Fragments Can Be Contained

Final lessons from a pretty, but fragile, aqua bulb lamp.

Aqua Bulb Lamp_Desk 1 #3

   The Patient Path . . .

Aqua Bulb Lamp_Desk 2 #2

       Yields Illumination

Last weekend, I got the call from Pier 1 that my “new new” lamp was finally in. I had broken the “old new” lamp 10 days before while making the purchase and had felt so bad about it I had to do something with the experience. That something was the March 6, 2014 post. I had waited patiently for the new lamp so I could properly illuminate my office with this second lamp on my second desk.

I went to pick up the lamp and was helped by a different store clerk than the one who’d helped me previously. Thankfully, this lamp, unlike the other one, was in a box and not just bubble-wrapped. Then I looked at the top of the box, which, strangely, was printed with a different model name on it. The clerk called the manager over, a different one and not the one who had helped me during the initial purchase. The manager offered to unpack the lamp so I could make sure it was the correct one. On second glance, the correct model name was printed on the sides of the box. Odd. We opened it, and “my” lamp was inside despite the identity confusion on the outside. I quietly took my new lamp home, eager to set it up on my second desk.

While putting it together, I saw that the threaded top where the finial is screwed on to secure the lamp shade had been soldered on crooked, which meant the lampshade pitched forward. Hmmm.

Bent Lamp Harp_30%

So, I called the 800 customer service number, and the representative said I could swap out the lamp for a new one. I couldn’t bear to do this again, and she offered to call the Flemington store on my behalf to see what they could do. She did, and the store had another lamp in stock (in case I should need it?). I called the store and spoke with the manager, who had already dealt with me once that day, but she was agreeable and she said I could swap out either the harp or the entire lamp. I took the bent harp and went back to the store.

While the manager was unpacking the stock lamp, the first young woman who had sold me the one I’d broken 10 days before appeared. She didn’t recognize me, but I “confessed,” and the manager said with mock anger, “Oh, she‘s the one.” They were good natured, but I was uncomfortable and wanted to turn the experience around. So I thanked them for being so nice about the situation and told them about the story on the blog. The young woman looked it up on her smart phone and seemed eager to read it, especially after I said I’d complimented her and the store for their handling of my bungling. I swapped out the harps and left the store, feeling that all had ended well.

When I got home, I finished setting up the second lamp and stood back to admire how softly pretty and glowing my office looked. Then I took the box to the garage and thought about the two different model names on it, unsure of how such a thing could happen. But I decided to take it as a final message about the entire lamp experience. Whereas the first lesson was about the paradox between sturdiness and fragility, and then how vulnerability can become strength once again in the human heart, this lesson seemed to be about patience. But more than that.

This final lesson was also about identity. Just as sturdiness can mask vulnerability, external labels can create confusion about what’s inside. In this case, the true thing–my lamp–was inside a box with two names. Currently, I am working on a story about identity for my writing group, so the occurrence of labeling ambiguity has symbolic meaning that I will be exploring more deeply as I continue to write.

In the meantime, though, I am thankful that the “wrong” name was on the top of the box. Because that name was Sophia–Greek for “wisdom.”

________________

MARCH 6, 2014 POST

Aqua Glass Desk Lamp - 2_50%

Lessons from a pretty, but fragile, aqua bulb lamp.

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