Making friends with less than

Lately I have been taking grim trips down memory lane. You know the kind, the ones where you revisit old events with chagrin and, dare I say it, embarrassment. I’m not really prone to embarrassment and if I step away from whatever “stuff” seems to be sucking at me I see most of it isn’t really that bad, yet still I’m vexed about it. And so it goes when you wear ‘less than’ tinted glasses.

Ah, less than, you know the feeling. Ruin that ridiculously draconian diet with ice cream? Then might as well have two bowls, heck, the whole carton! Slip up on your effort to curb any number of seemingly inadequate behaviors? Then you might as well let today be your last hurrah (again) and enjoy the heck out of it before tomorrow comes and you lay a blanket of misery and self-loathing over yourself for comfort. Looking back, and around me, I am wondering if these reactions are a way of trying to wrestle back control where control has failed. Think about it, if we can’t control the outcome we want, then why not embrace the outcome we have been given? Why not just be, content and happy, if just for a moment.

Maybe that’s the core issue, the feeling that we cannot just be ourselves. There always seems to be some part of ourselves that needs to change to attain perfection, reach Nirvana, to be lovable and be loved, when in reality, all that feeling less than is the only thing we need to change.

Even as I type this, I can feel it looking over my shoulder, it’s warm breath on my neck, a snicker on its thin lips. Less than never feels threatened, it only becomes mildly amused. It is unstoppable. It is a part of me (of you, of all of us) as much as my confident side, sad side, happy side, passionate side, angry side, gentle side …, which means it is really up to me to develop a better relationship with less than, just as I have with my other feelings and emotions.

Here is the thing, though. Less than has really lousy interpersonal skills. It is supposed to be a motivator, yet somewhere along the line the blueprints for that neuro-pathway went awry and instead of a nice bridge, like the kind you find on a country lane, it is more of a rickety rope bridge. Integrated correctly, less than should be the one that motivates me when the encouragement of a reward fails, urging the other parts of me to want to explore the world when I’d rather stay snuggled under the covers, or to write about it instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.

Less than is a part of me, a member of my family of emotions and feelings and skills, and as such it is present in every choice I make and everything I do. It is up to me how I treat this esteemed member of my family, with shame and disdain, or like a quirky aunt. Personally, I like quirky aunts, and so I have high hopes for my new venture into friendship with the less than voice of my psyche.

In reality, no one can make me feel less than, only me. The feelings that well up to encourage me to be more, do more, I am free to process any way I want and it is I who have chosen to turn myself into a knot over a simple suggestion of change, new activity or differing physical attribute. I spent a good deal of my life trying to be perfect, yet here I am, no breasts, five pounds heavier and happier and more well balanced than I have ever been. In reality, the only unhealthy thing about me was obsessing so much about meaningless things.

Today, I don’t worry about myself physically except to be healthy and happy and I certainly don’t worry about what size bra I need. The universe has a sense of humor and I have embraced the joke. This one time, less than gave a hint and I realized it wasn’t to chase rabbits down stale rabbit holes, it was to possibly learn the only lesson that ever mattered. I am me and always will be. The rest is just a suggestion.

Life on the path less taken

What life path did you choose? Mine, it is the path less taken, the harder trek through overgrown trails splattered with copious amounts of extra muck. The one that friends and family warned me about, scolded me about and shook their heads about when I chose it anyway. It is the one that has alternately been watered with tears to a soggy mess and baked with joy to a delightful glow. Sound familiar, maybe like your path? I think, looking back, these so-called “paths less taken” are everyone’s paths, just most of us didn’t step onto them voluntarily.

In the trek through my formidable years, I experienced being painfully shy then workably social, finally settling comfortably into just being me. I have (strong) opinions and try to keep the more contentious ones to myself, sharing them only when asked or venting to an inner circle of immediate family and close friends. More so, I prefer to just smile at the antics of life and hope that there is some bigger meaning and/or life lesson that will come from it all. Ergo, the need for yoga and meditation.

Meditation helps me make sense of things, helps me stop asking questions without listening for answers. Think about it, all the questions you have, that you ask, that you wrestle around in your brain and then toss into the wind, how much time do you invest in listening for an answer? Whatever your religious or spiritual persuasion, the asking is one thing, but the time spent in silent contemplation just listening for an answer, that is is the good stuff! 

Oddly, I get a lot of answers, and insights, when I listen. I find the insights to be more valuable than the answers, mostly because an answer puts one question to bed, whereas an insight opens up a world of possibilities. One of my better insights – don’t ask questions I already know the answer to. For instance, “why me.” The answer is and always will be, “why not me.” If I dig a little deeper, life is never about why something does or does not happen to you, or for you, it is always about what you do with exactly what you have. We all are exactly where we are supposed to be in our respective lives. Where we tend to go awry is not appreciating what we have going for us and celebrating it with giddy abandon.

When I lived in Connecticut, I lived in the most amazing little house overlooking a river. From the day I moved in, I knew I wouldn’t be there forever, so I enjoyed the heck out of that house each and every day. From the deer that crossed the yard to drink from the river to the hawks and foxes that watched me on my daily walk, it was magical, like living in a fairy tale. And on a timer. Eventually, time was up and I moved to Florida.

I don’t regret leaving my woodland oasis. It was time to head for Florida, where I was destined to meet my husband. Sure, I could have stayed there, perched on the edge of heaven, forever, I suppose, but I didn’t. I listened. If you think about it, really think about it, you hear it too, that insistent something encouraging you along. It can feel like anything really, a tug at the gut, a whisper tangled in the breeze, intuition, your conscience, (sorry, no voices), these are guides showing us the way, and it is up to us to pay heed, or not.

So what happens if we miss the signs, ignore our instincts, write off our gut feelings to hunger pangs or indigestion? Then we follow a different path, one of many paths, but it will still get us where we need to go. In the end, all the paths are the same. The experiences are different, sometimes harder, sometimes easier, but our paths all go one way, from birth to death. In the end, it will always be what we do with the path we are on that makes for one heck of a ride.

Inspiration for a mirthful new year

There are a bunch of reasons I haven’t written about my recent vacation cruise. For starters, I’m not a travel blogger. Second, I don’t travel for pleasure that often and when I do, I revel in the experience more than I concern myself with the details of the sights, so it wouldn’t really read like a travel blog. I prefer to soak up the feelings about a place more than ooh and aaah over the visuals. Still, it’s nagging at me. Those five days have something they want to say, thoughts they want to share, lessons they want to pass on. So, since today is January 1, the birthday of resolutions and a time to turn over new leaves, and since I want put the stop the nagging, here are some highlights from my recent cruise replete with inspirations for a mirthful year.

1. Virgin Mango Daiquiris – I don’t drink alcohol, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a tropical frozen drink. When in the Caribbean, go mango! Sweet, frozen goodness that slides over the tongue like a river of heaven. Add the ocean breeze in your hair and the lap of the waves on the hull and it’s better than a day at a spa. Sometimes relaxing is as simple as a change of pace for your senses.

2. Steel bands on the pier – Music always sounds better when my body gets involved. Hands in the air, a swivel of the hips and a back-beat in my step brings the first impression of any island home. It’s hard not to smile, or join in, when there is so much fun to be had. Heck, even the band cracked a grin in Haiti. Listen to music with your ears, but feel it with your feet.

3. Laughter – Nothing feels quite so good as real laughter, the kind that erupts without warning and insists on running its course unfettered. My best friend, Heather, she knows how to laugh, and when I’m with her, the laughter flows like champagne on New Year’s Eve. The entire trip was seasoned with laughter to a mirthful perfection that would put a pair of rose-colored glasses to shame. Laughter is tonic for the soul.

So you are likely wondering about that last statement. Laughter, for me, makes everything better, makes everything okay. I laughed my way through chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation treatment so I know what I’m talking about – attitude is everything in life. Laugh, often and genuinely. Laugh until your belly hurts, laugh until you cry, and then look at the world with fresh eyes. That rosy glow is laughter at work.

4. Please and thank you – some of my best vacation experiences were the gratitude from crew members when they were addressed with “please” and appreciated with “thank you.” They are small things, but orders become requests when wrapped in politeness. Please don’t leave your manners at home when you travel. Thank you.

5. Say good morning, afternoon or evening to everyone you pass in the halls and smiles will ensue. It’s a small thing, but the walls we put up tumble down under the power of an enthusiastic greeting. I found when I reached out, most people responded regardless of their age, nationality or sex. Being noticed is a universal feel-good.

6. Smile, smile, smile – frowning is hard work. It takes more muscular effort to wrinkle up your forehead, drag down the corners of your mouth and purse your lips than to let it all fly free in a smile. Plus we all look better with a smile. A relaxed countenance is more inviting than a frown. Yet even I find my brows crunched together at times, telling me it’s time to fly my smile flag. Your face is your calling card, so choose wisely what you wish to wear on it.

There are delicious moments going on all the time. Sometimes it takes a cruise to remind us, to press the reset button and get us out of our rut. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and reach inside for the smell of sea air, mountain air, whatever air takes you to your happy place. Let the memory jump start your smile, then open your eyes to all the wonders around you, today, tomorrow and every day of the year.

There is more to your feet than you could ever imagine

Consider your feet. Most of us don’t give them a second thought except when they hurt or don’t fit into that perfectly adorable shoe that you can never find in your size. We paint our toes to make them look prettier and are never quite satisfied with the smoothness of our heels, although we never quite consider how they got that way. Yes, our feet. Priceless, irreplaceable, under appreciated, this is about your feet, because there is more to your feet than you could ever imagine.

I practice yoga so I am all about my feet. They are the foundation of my ability to stand upright, making thousands of tiny adjustments every minute to ensure I stay that way. I don’t notice it, I am so used to them doing their job I just let them be so they can get on with it. I do appreciate them immensely, though. They keep me from toppling over. If you are someone who texts, talks or surfs while you walk, you should appreciate your feet even more. They are flying blind while you are engrossed in your device, keeping you out of danger as best they can until you check in again.

If you want to feel how much work your feet do, try standing on one foot. First take off your shoes and socks. Your feet work better when they are not boxed in. Stand up straight, the crown of your head reaching tall to the sky, eyes fixed on a point in the distance, and fix one foot firmly to the floor. Feel the floor under your heel and the ball of your foot. Feel your foot expand against the floor and each toe stretch out to help you balance. I love that feeling. It’s as if my foot is saying, “I’m ready when you are.” Your foot feels solid, strong, ready to go to work, right? Now turn the other foot slightly out, bend your knee and rest the sole of your foot against your calf. If you are brave, bend your knee more and press the sole of your foot against your inner thigh. (Never against the inside of your knee, always go higher or go lower.) Bend your elbows and press your hands together in front of your chest. You are officially in Tree Pose.

Can you feel it? Without the help of its mate, your standing foot has more work to do. Let it do its thing. Let it adjust and shift, moving to keep you upright. Have you ever watched someone balance something on their nose or forehead? How they shift around to keep it balanced there? That is sort of what your foot is doing, making thousands of tiny adjustments to keep you balanced.

If you have trouble balancing on your own, stand next to a wall and use your hand for balance. As you get used to it, practice taking your hand off the wall.

Most of us rely on our shoes to do what our feet were born to do. I go barefoot a lot. I love the feeling of my feet on the ground. It’s like I have another sense that tells me what is going on below me while my head tells me what is going on up high. If you have ever walked on a beach you know what I am talking about. The hot, dry sand gives way to the firm, wet sand. The cool (or warm) salty ocean licks at your toes, leaving a whipped cream froth behind. It’s a sensory treat for the feet!

This barely scratches the surface of all that goes on with those little noticed darlings that cart us around all day. Our feet are miraculous. Next time you have yours out, sans socks and shoes, give them a little stretch. Point your toe, flex it toward you, roll your ankle, just move them around and revel in them. Love them; they are yours and yours alone.

Wrestling the sunny with the sad

I apologize for what turned into a longer-than-expected hiatus from blogging. I had really just intended to take a week or two off, to find a new direction of sorts. Now here I am, three months later, still wrestling the sunny with the sad, and feeling no farther along than when I started.

I had started this blog to share my cancer journey with friends and family, which turned into the added bonus of being a cathartic adventure of the soul. I found it much easier to explore each stop on my treatment journey in writing, and in the process maybe helping someone else as they went through their own journey, be it cancer or anything else. I find humor when I write, or rather, humor finds me. There is a delightfulness about my fingers; they cannot write about darkness without reveling in the glory of the silvery lining accompanying it. It is quite possibly a failing of mine, but I think Darwin would approve.

So here I am, three months later, still bouncing around trying to navigate post-cancer life. The reality is, people are generally kinder when frailty enters the picture. It is likely because they see themselves, a sort of ghost-of-Christmas-future moment, and so they become the person they would want someone to be for them. You get cancer and everyone around you unpacks their caring and concern and gets in line to offer their top shelf emotional modality. And then it ends. Either you end, which is not ideal, or your treatment ends, you get an “all clear” stamp of approval, and are sent back to your life to carry on, and so does everyone else.

There is a silver lining here, I promise. It’s the season of Christmas, and Hanukkah, and Tiny Tim and Red Rider Bee-bee guns, when we greet strangers with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” and wish them well for no reason other than you are both traveling on intersecting paths and what the heck, it’s the holidays! Then it ends. (Noticing a theme here?) And we wonder why that feeling can’t last all year round, the glow of warm wishes and cheery thoughts. And so I wonder too, why the care and concern we express for one another when a crisis rears it’s gnarly head doesn’t last, why we don’t reach out more often, stay in touch, be better friends, siblings, parents and children, all the time.

I am as guilty as the next guy (or gal), and have an unattractive history of shirking family time in lieu of meaningless adventures that seemed irresistible at the time. Cancer was my wake-up call, my priceless lesson, my gem.

Life is now. Be present, feel it, love every moment of it, the happy and the sad, with gusto.

So I’m on a cruise with my best friend

So I’m on a cruise with my best friend. I’ve known Heather since junior year of high school. Forty-one fabulous years. How can it all be fabulous? Because we are still friends, best friends. Every step of those forty-one years, the ups, the downs, even the gaps, have moved us along in our life journeys, and now here we are, on a cruise together.

It is day two. We boarded yesterday with the bleak rain of an aberrant summer squall seeming to chase us from the shore. It was glorious! The rain washed decks glistened in the timid sunshine as we left the shoreline behind us and forged ahead towards the Caribbean. Destination – Haiti and Jamaica, but that is tomorrow. Today is sunshine, a balmy breeze, laughter and the splash of the pool.

There is nothing quite like yoga in the open air at sunrise. The aft (rear) section of the boat shimmies like a hula girl under bare feet, so I went to the front (fore for you nautical types). I found a nice niche on the 12th floor next to the jogging track. Yoga, and meditation, in peace and quiet is for sissies. Centering happens under the watchful eye of distractions. Centering happens when the irritations of the world are folded in to become the natural rhythm of life, the back beat to which you can dance and revel.

With that in mind, I inhaled to the thunder of sneakers on the jogging track, exhaled under the curious gaze of passing fellow passengers. It was amazing! My practice has changed over the years. I no longer treat yoga as an athletic feat, I use my practice to nurture my physical, emotional and mental well being. I’m addicted to the smile that warms my lips as I move through the poses. I find it liberating to turn myself over to the part of me that knows what poses I need that day. The mind is a taskmaster; the soul is gentle, loving. It knows and it nurtures.

It is fun to tackle tree pose (imagine standing like a flamingo) with the rumble of the boat seeping up through your toes, hands pressed together in prayer as the sun slides up over the bow of the boat to kiss your face good morning. Precious moments, ones that smooth away the worry lines of work, family and life. Precious moments that a camera can never capture, that are held in the heart to carry me through the day.

Yes, that is what life is all about, precious moments. So here I am, on a cruise with my best friend, missing my husband, but loving him intensely for giving me this priceless opportunity for some girl time with my bestie.

I see you

I wave at people when I drive by. It doesn’t matter where I am, in or out of my neighborhood, but if our eyes meet, I wave. Mostly they wave back, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they look at me with a puzzled look, as if because we don’t know one another we shouldn’t be acknowledging each other. That’s what a wave is, though, it says, “I see you,” and the wave back says, “I see you, too.”

It’s a funny thing, being seen. I spent most of my childhood not wanting to be seen. If I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, I would have lived in it. I preferred to slip in and out of class under the radar, uncalled on and unacknowledged. Don’t get me wrong, I was a good student, I just wasn’t a very public student. I preferred to get my A’s quietly and sneak on with my life as though I were never there. That changed as I got older, grew up, hopefully got a little wiser. You can’t really go through life not being seen. Someone always sees you, even if it is only your fish (dog, cat, bird, fill in the blank with your pet of choice).

When I got my first apartment, I got goldfish. They were low maintenance pets for a gal on the go. They were fancy bubble-eyed goldfish, the kind with bugged out Marty Feldman eyes. One was gold with white trim on her tail and fins and the other was black. They knew I was there, that I shared some indefinable space with them. Sure, I fed them, but they watched me even when I wasn’t feeding them. They were in a 10-gallon tank, so they had lots of room to roam and certainly plenty of better places to spend their time than studying me through the glass, yet they did. They would hang there in the water and watch me move about, comparing notes on the daily activities of the being that brought them food. I had a connection with those fish; they were great listeners. Then the black one got sick and the gold one stayed  by his side until he died (the dreaded ich, which is apparently a goldfish disease). The gold one died about two weeks later, I am convinced of a broken heart. Her companion was gone and she was alone. There was no one to see her anymore. I saw her, but I’m not a fish. She needed something more. She needed someone to really see her, she needed the one who mattered to see her.

It is an interesting notion that who sees us is as important as being seen, that those who are close to us carry more weight than those who hover around the fringes of our lives. Praise from a parent, significant other or supervisor carries more weight than that of a stranger or co-worker. Sure, there are some social consequences as to whose opinion we pay attention to, but in the end, there is only person’s opinion that should really matter, and that’s  your own. I wish I could take credit for coming up with that, but that one belongs to Dr. Wayne Dyer. I saw him speak several times, each time coming away with a life-changing epiphany. One I have never forgotten is his talk about “the good opinion of other people.” You can ask 100 people what they think about something and you will get 100 answers. The only opinion that matters, though, is your own. Only you have to like the way you look, the way you think, what you eat, what you do. Everything else is just “the good opinion of other people.”

Over time, I have stopped trying to mold myself to seek the approval of other people. Instead, I have chosen to revel in what is uniquely me. It was hard at first, trying to find myself under the layers upon layers of adaptation to the whims of the world, but I was under there, and trust me, so are you. Glorious, unique you is waiting to be seen. And the world is waiting to see you, and wave.

Coddling myself like a wounded bird

It has been a while. Sorry about that. I had to take a step back, do some thinking, set some priorities. What I determined during my hiatus is that enough is enough. I am over a year out from any kind of treatment (I’m not counting anti-hormone therapy, as that will go on for some time) and I am still limping along, coddling myself like a wounded bird. Funny thing happens when you do that, you become the wounded bird! So, enough is enough.

It started when I went to see a potential new primary care physician. My prior doctor and I weren’t quite seeing eye-to-eye anymore. I don’t like  doctors that encourage me to do things that I don’t see the point in, especially when they have not done a good job of convincing me otherwise. I am not the sort that follows the herd. I need facts, data, a reasonable explanation that doing something will indeed have a benefit, not just that they hawk supplements in their office and here’s the latest one, so take it. So, I found myself someone new. She is very knowledgeable, very thorough, and she listens. In my mind, that’s a medical trifecta. Plus she is a woman, so she can relate.  A trifecta+. In the course of our conversation (yes, we actually had a conversation!), she mentioned that she likes to read self-help books and the book she is reading now talks about people who are task-oriented having trouble letting go and having fun, which can be tiring. She didn’t say me, per se, but since I had mentioned to her that my energy level isn’t back to what it used to be, and since I recently worked three weekends in a row (both Saturday and Sunday), I’m pretty sure it was aimed at me.

I won’t admit to having  trouble having fun, but I will readily admit to being overly responsible and putting responsibilities (real or imagined) before having fun. It doesn’t help being married to an overly responsible husband and having an overly responsible best friend. Who is there to drag me off task? Now I have that responsibility on top of everything else!

I could give dozens of excuses as to why I do it, put responsibilities before play, but in the end they are just excuses. In the end, I’m an adult and I can do whatever the heck I want (within reason). Granted, too much play has its repercussions too, but I think I could achieve a healthier balance, if I were to be honest, which I am trying to be. Plus, my doctor wants me to, and she gave a pretty sound medical argument as to why I should goof off, I mean play, more.

Okay, I’m off topic. Enough is enough, though, no more babying myself. A year out of treatment and I am still wafting through a 30-minute Beginner 2 yoga class (Down Dog yoga app – awesome!), because I don’t want to overdo it. Screw that! In the spirit of “enough is enough,” I dialed it up to a 45-minute Intermediate 1 class and it felt great! I did the same the next day, and the next, and guess what, I’m still standing. The world didn’t stop. I may have sweat a little, but nothing to get excited about. In the end, what probably made me feel more lackluster than anything else was those darn beginner yoga classes!

I love yoga. It is freedom, poetry for the body, a dance of the spirit. Bridling that expression, forcing it into a box that was too small for it, well, maybe that wasn’t the smartest. Lesson learned.

Are you happy?

Are you happy?

It is a tough question, isn’t it? It sounds like it should be simple, like a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ should roll off the tongue with barely any thought, but doesn’t. We end up paused in what amounts to useless thought, goaded by impromptu panic at the thought that we have paused to think about a question that should require no thought.

Still, are you happy? Better yet, what makes you happy? Food, sex, a glass of wine … Or do they just numb the pain of a hard day?

We wrestle with these questions, or we stop asking them. One or the other, take your pick. I have bouts of backsliding, to asking old questions I know the answers to. Am I happy? Some days yes, some days no. That’s life, for now. What makes me happy? That’s an easy one. Nothing can “make” me happy, I am either happy or I am not. It’s at my discretion, my whim. Sometimes it’s chemical, eating food I’d rather not confess to here. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so that’s not it, and the only  drugs I take are prescribed to bind with hormones, so they can hardly be considered recreational. If I know why I am not feeling like I can conquer the world and I know how I might have gotten that way, I guess that doesn’t make me completely happy. It’s a trade off, a moment of bliss on the tongue for a food hangover tomorrow. Seems like an obvious choice, doesn’t it, when I put it like that.

Other days are just one of those days. Maybe it’s the arthritis in my right knee that as of late wants to be remembered, or the aching in my fingers and toes each morning that turns my get-up-and-go into more like walking the plank. Still, I am alive. Very much so, in fact, with no signs of ceasing such state any time soon. And that, my friends, makes me happy. The rest is just fluff and circumstance.

Nope, no typo there, it is the fluff we concern ourselves with that clouds our judgment about what really matters, the everyday circumstances that we blow out of proportion and let take over our lives. So what, I say! You are alive! Revel in it, thrill at it, enjoy it. And for God’s sake, be happy. There is only one you and only you get to experience your singularly exceptional life, so make it your own. Do it your way, on your terms. Live bold and beautifully, or as quiet as a mouse. Take on the world, or leave it to others. Bask in your glory, celebrate your greatness, admiral your own destiny.

No matter what the aches and pains, heartache or heartbreak, create your own happiness, be your own happiness, and you will find that happiness will follow you like a kite, ever more.

 

 

image credit – no rules, no limitations, no boundaries it’s like an art. © All Rights Reserved by ajpscs

The sensational sensation of touch

Nothing makes you appreciate something like the potential to lose it. Take the sensation of touch, for instance. The second chemo drug I was given – Taxol – has the potential effect of causing neuropathy, or nerve damage, in the hands and feet. I remember the night before my first Taxol treatment, I lay in bed and stroked my cat with my fingertips, trying to embed the sensation in my brain so I could recreate it should things go south with my fingers. I spent a lot of time dismantling the components of the sensation, I even compared what it felt like to stroke her with my palm, my fingers, even my wrist. It works, but it isn’t the same. There is some kind of divine hotline that runs from the fingertips to the  brain; one, I would hazard a guess, we take for granted and don’t really give a second thought to, until faced with the possibility of having to live without it.

I remember wondering how odd it would be to not be able to pick up a dime, then wondering at the amazing mind – fingertip dexterity at play so that I can pick up a dime. Or hold a pencil, or tie a shoe (for those who still have tie shoes).  I also remember looking at my red swollen fingertips the day after my first treatment, thinking it was probably a bad idea to insist on doing the dishes the previous night, before I knew that hot water was my new Achilles heel. Or maybe it was the best thing I could have done, because I took it pretty darn seriously after that, protecting my two precious hands and each of my ten precious fingers as fiercely as a mamma bear does her cubs.

And so it was of no surprise yesterday, as I gazed at the cloud-strewn sky, that I saw a bevy of bears. A large white bear floated by on her back, her head turned toward me, left paw raised in a nonchalant wave. To the west, one cub cavorted with all four paws in the air, his hind legs kicked toward the heavens in glee. His brother sailed in from the west in super hero fashion, paws stretched out in front of him like Superman, both under the protective eye of their mother.

And so here I sit, sixteen months later, remembering. So far so good, I do not have signs of neuropathy. Whatever symptoms I did have during treatment have faded away. I credit a dedicated oncologist (Dr. Regan Rostorfer), lots of frozen peas to keep my hands and feet cold during treatment (less blood flow to the hands and feet equals less Taxol in the extremities) and lots of fish oil post-treatment so my nerves and brain can repair themselves. Also, and this is an important one, I never, never, never put my hands in hot water, even now. Heat still feels exponentially hotter to me and my hands react as though it is as hot as they think it feels. Eh, so what. It is a small price to pay to be alive, and to be able to feel the world beneath my fingertips.