Saturday, October 26, 2013

So What is Sex Like After Cancer?

Yes, that's the big question. After the chemo and after the surgery and after--or without--the reconstruction. Below is the link to a terrific piece in the New York Times this week that sheds light of what to say and the laughter that follows. Yes--this article by Joyce Wadler applies to sex after 50 with or without cancer so be sure to share this with all of your friends.

"My Body Changed. So Did Intimacy." by Joyce Wadler:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If Your Life Will End Tonight

In my class  last night at St. Bernard’s the professor told us a story about Saint Ignatius of Loyola and how he truly embodied the Jesuit concept of “Seeing God in all things.” She said,

Ignatius was playing cards with his fellows one evening and someone asked him, “What would you do if you knew your life would end tonight?” and Ignatius said, “I would finish this card game.”

He knew that God was truly in all things—even the pleasure of playing cards with friends. He was at peace in his life.

On hearing that my first thought was, “So, what would I do if I knew my life would end tonight?” And I thought, “I would make love to John.”

Making love is the most fun, creative, sensual and spiritual thing that I do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why We Make bad Decisions for Our Medical Care

In those days and weeks when we are taking in new and possibly frightening  information about our health we may not be aware of how our personal decision making process operates. We listen to our doctor and then to the doctors that follow; we hear tests results interpreted and we talk to friends and then we Google. But most of the time we are not fully aware of our own process.

We just don't know what we are contributing to the medical decision process. And that self-awareness can contribute valuable information--and make a very big difference --in our decision and its outcome.

Here is an opinion piece from today's New York Times by Noreena Hertz, an economics professor at University College London about how we make medical decisions. Take a look at the link below:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Breast Cancer Outcomes Depend on What World You Live In

Yes, It's October and we are being "pinked" to death with breast cancer awareness. As flip as that sounds it's crucial to acknowledge that our U.S. first world view of breast cancer and it's prevention and screening is in fact a kind of luxury problem compared to the rest of the world--especially for women in third world communities like African nations.

The link below is to a sad and powerful story from yesterday's New York Times that shows us that our breast cancer--even when it's bad--is so much better than in other parts of the world. This article also helps us to understand why reported cancer rates vary when comparing first and third world countries. This heartbreaking sentence got my attention:

Cancer has long been neglected in developing countries, overshadowed by the struggle against more acute threats like malaria and AIDS. But as nations across the continent have made remarkable progress against infectious diseases.... more people are living long enough to develop cancer.

Here is the full article and stories of women with breast cancer. Please share this with women you know. There must be ways we can extend breast cancer awareness beyond our pink ribbons and breast-self-exams.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sister Mother Husband Dog--by Delia Ephron

Do you love the movie, “Sleepless in Seattle”? Do you always stop to watch part of “You’ve Got Mail” when you are flipping through the channels late at night? Have you laughed out loud when reading, “How to Eat Like a Child”? And have you insisted that your friends see the play, “Love, Loss and What I Wore”? If you said yes to any of the above, you are a Delia Ephron fan.

Yes, Delia is sister to Nora Ephron, with whom she co-wrote lots more movies and plays including “When Harry Met Sally”—Yes, that’s the one with the great line by Rob Reiner’s mother in the deli, who says, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

So funny, so clever, so making-life-light-hearted. Except that Delia’s life is not all fun and clever and lighthearted. It was --and is--like ours—funny at times and tragic at times and often funny when it’s most painfully tragic.

Her new book, “Sister Mother Husband Dog” is a series of essays about loss. About loss and cancer. About loss and cancer and career. About loss and cancer and career and alcoholism. About loss and cancer and career and alcoholism --and family. Hence it is a highly recommended book for readers in Cancer Land—we know and also want to laugh at loss and cancer and career and yes family. Yes, addiction too.

The opening essay, “Losing Nora” is very much about cancer and about the death of Delia’s famous sister Nora Ephron. It is also about a powerful, quirky, loving sometimes strained relationship with a sister who chose not to tell anyone (except a  few) that she was dying of cancer—and Delia takes apart the relationship, the love, the competition and the losses (many) in that sisterhood.

I highly recommend this book—to laugh out loud, to cry for two sisters, and to feel less alone in Cancer Land where, as we know, there are just no right choices.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wisdom on Having Trust

“When you are in doubt, be still and wait. When doubt no
 longer exists for you, then go forward with courage. So long as
 mists envelope you, be still; be still until the sunlight pours through and
 dispels the mists—as it surely will.  Then act with courage.”

“Everything happens at the right moment, the acceptable time of the universe. You on earth do not always know what that time is, but if you will follow the guidance of the Spirit, waiting patiently for a clear indication for action then you will be guided aright."

               The Quiet Mind, White Eagle

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Grandmother's Cross--Just in Case

Looking for a necklace today I found, in the bottom of my jewelry box, an old cross that had belonged to my grandmother. Thin, worn, maybe two kinds of gold with a dark intricate Jesus on the cross. It’s a crucifix.

For years this cross was in a small old-fashioned change purse that my mother had saved from her mother's things. I was told as a kid that this small change purse with its cross, old coins, a broken trunk from a china elephant and other small trinkets were what my grandmother Josephine took with her to poker games.

What I realized today when I lifted her necklace from the jewelry box was that it really didn’t make any sense for my grandmother to have a crucifix. She was German, and she was from a Jewish family that at some point began to hide their Jewishness. But even after arriving in America Josephine was part of a Protestant Church—The Evangelical United Brethren. So why a crucifix?

But I knew why--because she was a gambler.  Josephine was a skilled and successful poker player. She bet the odds, took chances, risked it all, dared and she often won the pot. Josephine provided for my mother’s family through the Great Depression when her husband was out of work  by playing cards every night in smoky halls surrounded by rough men.

I never met Josephine. She died when my mother was 19 years old. But a psychic once told me that Josephine was my guardian that she was always near me.  I want that to be true now. I still need Josephine’s energy and her spirit and most of all her survival skills. A German Jew playing poker, rolling cigars, bringing home money to her family and holding tight to a small satin coin bag with a crucifix --just in case. That’s heroism and I need that grandmother now in my life--just in case.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Being Married Matters --and What if You're Not?

In Monday's New York Times Wellness section, the health writer, Tara Parker-Pope wrote about cancer survival and the recent research that shows that married people have greater longevity than people without partners who are dealing with cancer.

Yes, as you might guess, it's related to both caregiving and encouragement but also to compliance with medical appointments. People with partners keep up with their medical care, and people with a partner also better maintain a tough chemo and radiation schedule and they are more likely to take medications as prescribed.

Could it be as simple as someone bringing your pills and a glass of water and saying, "Time for your pill, honey?" It might be.

The other interesting showing from this research is that men with cancer show a greater benefit from marriage than did women. Parker-Pope reports that, "This does not mean that husbands are not supportive of wives, but may instead indicate that single women are better at seeking support than single men."

Here's the link to the whole article:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God's Will and the Wisdom of Cancer

It’s a question you might hear in Cancer Land. It might be sobbed or yelled or most often whispered.

Is a cancer diagnosis God’s will? How do we know what’s God’s will is?

Part of the wisdom in Alcoholics Anonymous says that, “God’s will is what is.” That cryptic comment is often expanded by this injunction to see God’s will: “Leave your house in the morning and start walking, when you hit a wall turn left. Keep going and when you hit a wall, turn left.”

Another way of discerning God’s will that I like and that I try to remember is this: “Get up each day and leave your house. When you come to a door that opens easily go through it and when you come to a door that doesn’t open or that you might shove or lean your shoulder against, don’t go through that one.”

I like that last description because I have shoved my way through so many doors (relationships, jobs, hairstyles) that I regretted later, when the saner, healthier (God’s will) (relationship, job, hairstyle) was just over there.

But cancer is hard to discern this way. It’s a very hard door. Does shoving against cancer mean fighting it like mad with every surgery, treatment and chemical? Or are the traditional protocols the “easy” and acceptable way? Is it harder to say no to chemo or surgery or opinions?

Can cancer be a curative as well as cured? Can it be a door to go through of itself? Marion Woodman in her cancer journal, “Bone” shows how cancer became her therapist and a healer of other injuries in her life. Is that doing it the hard way as well? Or is that secondary healing and secondary gain some of God’s will too?