Tag Archives: gynecologic cancer blog

Wrestling a 24-pound Turkey

“Ask and it will be given to you…”

Matthew 7:7, Christian Bible

I have come to believe when we put forth effort in certain directions (though not always), and ask for assistance, the Divine tends to step in and support us. It’s sort of a “God (sometimes) helps those who help themselves” perception.

I’m in my mid-50s and had never, before this year, cooked a whole turkey on my own. Recently my friend Cynthia Wells sold me her freezer so I knew I would have space this Thanksgiving to store leftovers.

I drove to Red Sun Farm in Loveland, Ohio. There, I could see white heirloom turkeys roaming a field of sunshine, and I signed up for a whole gobbler.

Shortly after making my deposit, I got a postcard from La-Z-Boy offering me a free carving set because I had purchased a replacement chair from them. I wasn’t expecting much, but my beautiful new large knife and fork have ceramic handles. I was all set to slice meat with my new poker and sabre.

Or so I thought.

Right before Thanksgiving I drove to the farm to pick up my poultry.
Kind of.
The bird weighed more than 24 pounds. 
Mind you, I had two broken fingers from falling off a galloping horse a few weeks earlier. (With two fingers taped together, I am in training to “Live long and prosper.”) And I’m also not supposed to carry heavy loads because of all my abdominal surgeries, including for uterine sarcoma.

I barely managed to pick up the box anyway and lug it to my Prius trunk.

Thanksgiving morning, I got out the roasting bag and read that it was only for meat up to 24 pounds. My turkey was bigger than that. Still, I managed to clean up and wrestle that weighty gobbler into its bag. And close the tie.

Once in the bag, I had a new problem. My pan was not big enough for a 24+-pound fowl. What to do?

I asked in prayer: Any ideas? You got me this far, please keep it coming.

Ten minutes later the answer popped into my brain. Use aluminum foil to form a basin.

I made the foil fowl bowl and managed to plop my big-bird-in-a-bag onto it. Into the oven it went. Whew.

After it finished baking, my son and I agreed it was too heavy to pull out, so we cut open the bag and left it in the oven. My nice new carving set made slicing so easy.

I felt so supported making this turkey. My freezer now contains bags of organic, free-range meat and multiple jars of deeply nourishing turkey bone broth.

The broth is perfect for making my hearty “thriver soup” with local organic Napa cabbage and onions from Earth-shares CSA in Loveland, fresh local potatoes from Harvest Market in Milford, and Shiloh Farms organic lentils I am sprouting (available through Jungle Jim’s in Eastgate), all in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

It would have been easy for me to assume the idea to put the turkey in an aluminum foil bowl was my idea. I think, however, because so many details had lined up before this request, I was being supported by an idea from the Divine. I gave thanks.

If you ask for information, pay attention to your thoughts. An idea might suddenly arise. It probably will be easy to miss, or dismiss, but if you are paying attention, you might recognize it as a gift and give thanks.

Psychosocial Support in Cancer Care

Psychosocial support in cancer care was addressed briefly Oct. 8 at the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation patient symposium in St. Louis, Mo.  This was one of several cancer treatment topics that I have been reporting about.

Dr. Yasmin Asvat, clinical psychologist at the Siteman Cancer Center, said, “What is a healthy emotional response to a diagnosis? All emotional responses are valid and appropriate. They’re human responses.”

Initial emotions can include sadness, anger, shock, disbelief, denial, and for a few, acceptance.

“Our bodies are looking for balance to be restored,” she said. “If we are not getting to adjustment and acceptance, how can we live well through this journey?”

Thirty percent of patients experience chronic distress after a diagnosis. “To what degree is the distress interfering with the ability to cope effectively?”

Normal feelings like sadness, fear, and vulnerability can become disabling feelings like depression and anxiety.

“Distress can be experienced throughout the cancer care trajectory,” she said.

Dr. Asvat sees her role as partner in balancing patients’ goals with fears. She tries to provide physical interventions and strategies for fatigue, pain, insomnia, and developing a healthy lifestyle.

Surgical Management of Uterine Smooth-muscle Tumors

Surgical management of uterine smooth-muscle tumors was addressed briefly Oct. 8 at the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation patient symposium in St. Louis, Mo.  This was one of several cancer treatment topics that I am reporting about during the coming weeks.

Matthew Anderson, associate professor and director of research (gynecology) at Baylor University, said “Uterine leiomyosarcoma is a unique disease.” As many as 80 percent of women are impacted by a uterine smooth muscle tumor. About 200,000 hysterectomies are performed every year, which costs $3 to $5 billion.

“The only way to know if it’s malignant is to surgically remove it,” he said, because there are no diagnostic markers and no blood tests that can be used to determine malignancy.

Leiomyomas can arise in unusual locations. If they are morcellated, they can create other problems down the road. These myomas tend to respond to hormonal therapy.

They generally don’t tend to respond to chemotherapy or radiation.

About 70 percent of uterine LMS are discovered as isolated uterine masses. Recurrence rates are 40 to 70 percent.

With surgical debulking, doctors can increase progression-free survival from 6.8 months to 14.2 months.

Resection of pulmonary metastases can improve disease-free survival by as long as 24 months. This can include extensive resections while preserving good functional lung status.

Surgery by itself is not the answer. Unseen cells can come back. Ultimately patients have to rely on chemotherapy.

On April 17, 2014, the US FDA issued a safety communication regarding the use of power morcellation for performing hysterectomies or myomectomies. This led manufacturers to withdraw the devices and hospitals generally are not using this method.

Impact: 99 percent of the time, the uterine tumor is not cancer. Yet demand from patients for minimally invasive hysterectomies continues.

There is one case of ULMS in every 1,960 cases.

Short-term, the risk of ULMS should be discussed thoroughly with each patient.

The long-term goal is to develop a diagnostic test that can be used to determine malignancy.

Sometimes We Need to Sweat the Small Stuff

I am responsible for his death. I never paid any attention to Black Gold’s lameness; he always black-gold-copyseemed to work out of it.

H. Webb, trainer, in the fiction book Black Gold

 

A hairline crack developed in the hoof wall of the Thoroughbred Black Gold as he raced through the spring of his three-year-old season. Despite the soreness this created, he won the 1924 Kentucky Derby. His trainer kept pushing the stallion anyway, and the jockey, Jaydee Mooney, stopped riding the lame horse in protest. The injury was left untreated and worsened. Eventually the brave racehorse broke that limb during a race, finishing on three legs. The beloved racehorse was put down.

I read his story, by Marguerite Henry, when I was in grade school. While very sad, I loved the tale. This year I found the same hardback book for $1 and brought it home to reread.

The parallels with my life were too obvious. I didn’t give much heed to the “benign” fibroid in my gut that grew unreasonably large. Two good friends found it frightening and urged me to get to a doctor as soon as possible.

By this time I was out of town. Through a long process, I finally decided to go to the emergency room. A small problem, like Black Gold’s hoof crack, left unattended, became deadly–a stage 4 uterine sarcoma.

It’s easy in our culture, with our “grin-and-bear-it,” “no pain, no gain” athletic mentality, to ignore our bodies’ warning signs. Yet our bodies give these signals because something is out of balance and needs our attention. Small problems, if attended to quickly, can stay small and be fixed, or at least controlled. Left on their own, they can become insurmountable issues.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

One fallout from a cancer diagnosis is that every headache, skin bump, or new pain brings up anxiety around the idea that it could be cancerous. If the symptom persists, it might be a good idea to get it checked by a doctor.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hof9.gif

Marguerite Henry, (Author), Wesley Dennis (Illustrator), Black Gold (Rand McNally, 1975)

Getting Hit Below the Belt

 beltWe cannot change anything unless we accept it.

C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

 

We cannot change something if we are not aware that something is amiss. Awareness of our bodies is critical—especially when it comes to cancer. Awareness of, and then acceptance of anything amiss can be life-saving. The earlier a dis-ease is caught, the more easily it is healed.

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, created to help everyone become more aware of women’s cancers below the belt.

Symptoms can include unusual periods, bleeding after menopause, pelvic pain or pressure, a rapidly growing uterine fibroid; even back pain or bloating. Here is a chart outlining the symptoms for these various cancers: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic/basic_info/symptoms.htm . Learn the symptoms and watch for them. If they crop up, please go see a gynecologist.

During 2001 I had a dream in which I was warned I could get punched in the gut. Eight years later I had stage 4 uterine sarcoma. This year about 59,000 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer, and one in six will pass from it.

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer, affecting about 21,000 new patients. And about two-thirds will pass from the disease because it’s usually caught when already spreading.

Cervical cancer comes in as the third most common, with 12,000 new cases identified. About 4,000 will lose their lives to it.

Vulvar cancer will be diagnosed in about 5,000 women, and about 1,000 will succumb; and 4,070 will be diagnosed with vaginal cancer, which will claim about 1,000 lives.

Watch for symptoms. Be aware. If you notice something, accept that it is there. Get it checked. It could save your life.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Knowledge is power—patient power, says Annie Achee, president of the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation. If you hear a woman talking about symptoms of gynecologic cancer, please suggest getting them checked by a physician.

Sources:

http://www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/about-gynecologic-cancers/

American Cancer Society, Inc.

Thriver Soup Thursday–She’s not The Statue of Liberty

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), in his essay, “What is Enlightenment?”

statue crown webThe philosopher Immanuel Kant gave this answer to the question “What is Enlightenment?” in an essay published during 1784, nearly 100 years before the Statue of Liberty was built.

But “Statue of Liberty” isn’t the true name of the giant green goddess-like figure overlooking New York City’s harbor area. She was officially named the statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World.” I realized during a recent trip that to call her simply “the Statue of Liberty” is to miss the point of her name. The liberty she represents has a defined purpose—to bring enlightenment the world.

The copper colossus, designed by French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, was intended as a 100-year birthday present from the French to the people of the United States. Construction of the statue and the pedestal was completed in 1886.

Originally the statue stood for shared political freedom between the United States and France. Poet Emma Lazarus expanded this view to include hope against external sources of tyranny:

… Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. … “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Yet “liberty” and “enlightenment” mean so much more.

Kant had put the word enlightenment into a personal context a century earlier. “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.” Kant’s motto of enlightenment was “Sapere aude” – Dare to be wise.

As humans take more responsibility for their personal lives, they find more freedom within themselves to act from a place of authenticity. This brings more awareness into their lives, which in turn spreads more light to others. When enough people experience this internal freedom, then perhaps humanity will reach a critical mass in consciousness and the whole world will experience more freedom, maturity, and wisdom.

It must start with each of us as individuals. Do I dare to develop the courage to emerge from my self-incurred, self-limiting immaturity? Do I dare to be wise?

I wasn’t ready to tap into my deeper levels of courage until my cancer journey forced me to dare to emerge from my self-incurred immaturity. Right after the sarcoma diagnosis in 2009, when I was in New York City, I apparently was ill-prepared for the privilege of visiting Liberty Enlightening the World. Unbeknownst to me, I first needed to grow up and heal my life. I missed the last ferry to the island that year, and put a visit to the green queen on my bucket list.

When I visited her this summer, five years into Radical Remission, I was ready to receive the full impact of her message of internal liberty and the resulting enlightenment that can be shared with the world.

I even ascended the double-helix passage up to the crown for an in-spirational view from on high.

And so I share Liberty Enlightening the World’s message: Dare to break out of self-incurred immaturity. Dare to be wise. Dare to lift your torch beside your own golden door and open it to share your brilliant light with the world.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

If you want to climb to the crown of the statue, purchase your tickets several months in advance. Only 500 people among the thousands who mill around the pedestal are allowed up into the crown each day.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answering_the_Question:_What_is_Enlightenment%3F

http://fiveminutehistory.com/liberty-enlightening-the-world/

Thriver Soup Thursday: Go Ahead–Walk on Water

So Peter went down from the boat and walked on the water, to come to Jesus.
Matthew 14:29, Christian Bible

peter jesus walking water copyOne night Jesus strides on the surface of a lake toward the boat containing his disciples. One of the passengers, Peter, also wants to walk on the water. For a short time Peter has the faith to move across the choppy surface. He steps completely outside his comfort zone, completely outside his way of perceiving the world, and does something extraordinary. He is truly alive for that brief moment.
I want to fully live my life, which is a longing that springs from years of deadly uterine cancer treatments and threats of hospice. This attitude has helped me face down many things I previously had feared, and to try new experiences my former self would have done anything to avoid.
Prior to 2009, I would never have considered driving in downtown Manhattan, New York. Especially during rush hour.
Well, in June I chose to drive through Manhattan to get to Long Island. After getting lost and rerouted, guess what time I pulled onto the Big Apple? 4 p.m. Just in time for rushing waves of traffic.
Ahead of me there was not a single accident on my route to the Queens–Midtown Tunnel. There were two.
My sister suggested I take a Zen approach and simply allow. So I did, settling into the fact it could take hours to traverse a handful of city blocks. Yet I also decided I was going to be something new, something different, something I had never tried before. I chose to be a bad-as_ behind the wheel.
My brother-in-law had demonstrated how to drive in Manhattan when he helped me get around for my visit to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center during 2009. Be pushy. Honk plenty. Don’t give any room. So I picked up his procedures.
I’d already blared my horn for several minutes to get my sister’s attention so she could find me sitting in a traffic lane. I didn’t budge out of anyone’s line of driving until she was safely buckled in next to me.
At one intersection I crossed only partway and sat in a traffic lane, blocking the perpendicular flow. A man in a big black SUV in an oncoming turning lane honked at me, trying to inch his way in front of my little gold Prius. I crept forward. He yelled at me through his open window and tried again to edge me out. As I was able, I moved forward a little more. This scene continued for several heated minutes.
Finally he gave up. He called me an as_-hole (worse than bad-as_), pulled back and passed behind me. “Oh, Ohio! No wonder!”
I chuckled. I had been enough of a bad-as_ to rouse swearing in another driver. I had stood up to a big bad truck with a driver who might well have rammed my little car. I had played with a Big Apple Boy and hadn’t let him cow me.
Like Peter, I followed someone’s example of living life more fully, and moved completely out of my comfort zone. I faced my fear. And I didn’t sink.
Buoyed by my little personal triumph, I trickled my car forward, eventually got through the tunnel, and made my way to our accommodations.
I had lived fully in those moments. I have no desire to repeat them, yet I have added fresh, new experiences to this adventure called life.
Thriver Soup Ingredient:
Is there something you’re afraid of trying, yet know you would be glad you did? Don’t focus on the fear. Focus on the end result—the feeling of satisfaction of having faced the fear and triumphed. I see this as a way of walking on water ourselves.
Sources:
Lamsa, George M. Holy Bible: From the Ancient Eastern Text: George M. Lamsa’s Translation From the Aramaic of the Peshitta. Harper & Row, May 8, 1985.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMielno_witraz_Piotr_chodzi_po_jeziorze.JPG

Watching for family patterns

hildegard von bingen
Hildegard of Bingen

Rivers of living water are to be poured out over the whole world, to ensure that people, like fishes caught in a net, can be restored to wholeness.
Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen, German Benedictine abbess and founder of scientific natural history in Germany, believed that the Divine pours out living water upon the earth to bring healing to all. She believed people can be restored to wholeness.

It has happened for me. This year I celebrate that I have lived longer than my mother lived.

This is significant in my eyes, because she passed from breast cancer. I, also, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I now have flowed past her last birthday and have outlived her. I have exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

I’m not the only one snared by the family cancer net. My mother was diagnosed when I was a tween. One of my sons was the same age when I was diagnosed with a sarcoma. It definitely appeared to be a pattern. A pattern that needed to be eliminated.

The first step, of course, was being aware of this pattern. On its own, this acknowledgement reduces its strength. It frees us up somewhat from carrying out the repetition compulsion. Now at least part of the burden has been lifted from his shoulders. Of course, this brings me even more relief.

And a restoration of some wholeness.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Sometimes families have patterns of illness or of passing. Being aware of the patterns is the first step in healing them.

Source:

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/865103, possibly from Hildegard of Bingen, “Book of Divine Works”, Part III, Vision 3

Image is in the public domain.

Community Press shares Thriver Soup’s message of hope and healing

“There were times when Heidi Bright prepared to die after being diagnosed with a terminal cancer in July 2009.

“Today Bright delivers a message of hope and healing through her book ‘Thriver Soup’ and speaking to groups. This is the third traditionally published book by the Milford author.”

Please read more at

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/milford/2016/05/17/milford-womans-book-shares-tips-surviving-cancer/84500320/

Dancing with Daffodils: Rebirth on Two Levels

daffodil in tris garden webAnd then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

From “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

 

What do daffodils represent to you?

Dancing daffodils herald spring, arriving during the month of the spring equinox, Lent, and sometimes Easter. These bright yellow flowers are called Lent Lilies in England and Easter Bells, or Oesterglocken, in Germany. They are an obvious symbol for rebirth and new beginnings.

The symbolism relates to resurrection on two levels for me.

First, the American Cancer Society views the daffodil as a symbol of hope for a cancer cure. How fitting, when I just received a clear x-ray 4.5 years out from treatment.

Second, the daffodil is sometimes called the Narcissus. Narcissus is rooted in the Greek word narke, which means numbness or torpor, because the bulbs contain a paralyzing and toxic alkaloid. The bulbs were allegedly carried by Roman soldiers so if they became mortally wounded, they could eat the bulbs to ease the pain as they perished.

Narke also is the foundation for the word “narcotic.” My son passed from a narcotic overdose.

Because of these associations, my friend Karen wanted me to have daffodils in Tristan’s memorial garden. This week they danced into bloom, their sunny dispositions cheering up the yard and filling my heart with pleasure.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

Here is a little ritual you can do with a daffodil to assist with healing from grief (modified from the book The Magic of Flowers by Tess Whitehurst). On a sunny day, fill a pretty glass with fresh water and carry it to a Narcissus. Hold the container while sitting with the flower, gazing into its golden depths. Take some slow, deep breaths. Imagine light from the sun filling the water with healing energy. Then drink a little of the water to absorb the energy of the sun. Pour the rest of the water around the base of the flower. As you offer life-giving moisture to the daffodil, ask the blossom to share its gift of presence with you by strengthening your ability to be more fully present during each day, letting go of some of your grief.

Sources:

http://www.baldhiker.com/2013/04/08/dazzling-daffodils-the-herald-of-spring/

http://www.teleflora.com/meaning-of-flowers/daffodil

http://www.oocities.org/thedaffodilgarden/lore.htm

Tess Whitehurst, The Magic of Flowers Llewellyn Publications, 2013, p. 259.