Free Falling – Day 3

Most of the wonderful people I connect with during the Author Blog Challenge are really dedicated and professional about their writing. They take classes, attend workshops, and participate in all kinds of things to hone their skills and improve their writing.

Then, there are those of us who just write because we have something rattling around in our heads. Kind of like a cleanse day when you are on a diet. You think, therefore you write. It is totally random, undirected and generally a little messy. (I suspect the others who do this, like me, also have cars that aren’t exactly operating room tidy…)

I did try taking a writing workshop once. It didn’t really work out for me. It was deliberately unstructured, and I ended up fighting all the demons in the back of my mind that wanted to come out. If you are Edgar Allen Poe, that kind of thing is kitschy. If you are just an average woman, it is another word that rhymes with kitschy, as well as boring. I learned that whatever you want to write is okay, which is good. But I wasn’t happy with the results, or myself, depending on how you look at it.

One of the great things about this challenge is getting prompts. Having prompts is very helpful, especially for those of us who have untrained mind muscles. Without them, we are left to our own devices to figure out what we want to say each day. That could be dangerous!

For example, today I am really annoyed with my doctor. If I didn’t have some focus, I would probably be writing about how irritating, enervating and downright stupid the process of being sick has become. I have rants in my head that would light the keyboard on fire. So I am grateful for the focus our blog mistress is providing.

Anyway, when I think about how I write, compared with most of the other writers who participate in these wonderful challenges, I inevitably think of “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty. The words to the song describe how I feel when I write. It works for me.

Please support another Author Blog Challenge participant by checking out  Blair Schweiger’s blog at:

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Beginnings – Day 2

Beginnings are not always accurate predictors of what’s to come. I started writing little stories when I was around 5 years old. Reading and writing were very important skills to my parents, so they made sure that I learned to read at a very early age. Spelling was also a hot button for my father, and he would give me daily tasks of reading a page in the dictionary, picking one word and memorizing the spelling and meaning of the word. He would check on my progress when he came home at night.

Unfortunately for my teachers, attractive handwriting was not as important to my folks. I remember having to practice my letters over and over again. Especially Cursive. I loved the look of Cursive writing, but doing it perfectly eluded me for a long time. Maybe part of that was because my idea of perfect was not the same as my teachers. I remember one year, probably around 5th grade, there was a girl named Karen in my class. She was left handed, and I thought the way she wrote was so much more beautiful than the way I had to write. She added swirls and circles rather than dots for her “I’s”. I figured out how to write in a backhanded fashion, and practiced endlessly. Far more diligently than I ever worked on my own handwriting, which turned out to be unfortunate. I don’t know if the teacher gave Karen a good grade, but by the time she had finished marking me off for backhanded slant, swirls, curls and little circles, my grade showed me that there was a time and place for creativity, and it wasn’t in her class!

Once I had mastered the mechanics of writing letters, I found that I really loved writing down things that I saw and felt. I had journals and diaries, like most adolescent girls. I always did well in English classes when it came to writing. (Unfortunately, grammar was another story.) My love of writing stayed with me and supported me throughout my entire high school journey, despite the usual distractions and problems all kids that age face.

It has been many years since I was that young or that trusting. My ability to write has helped me in all the jobs I have had. I can write about other people’s experiences easily but somewhere along the way I found I had walled up my ability to write about things in my heart. I spent years supporting myself by writing in a corporate environment. Sadly, writing became a tool, not a treat. The magic was gone.

Thankfully, no matter how old you get, some things just can’t be denied forever. The growth of the Internet has given me the ability to open up again and write about things that I care about. It has proven to be such a boon, in my opinion, for so many of us that were stuck on the inside looking out. But like any muscle, it needs to be exercised regularly. Write every day – even if it’s only a paragraph or two. So many of my friends kept telling me to do this, and I didn’t listen. I’m blessed that every day is another chance at changing the rest of your life. That means I can start over, start writing, and grow!

Please support another Author Blog Challenge participant by checking out  Blair Schweiger’s blog at:



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Why I Need to Embrace this Challenge – Day 1

TUTTLES-8923SQUARECROPWEBI was so excited when I saw the notice on Facebook that the Author Blog Challenge was starting again! The last time I participated, it opened an entire new world for me. I met amazing people who have stayed in my life to this day. I started to find my voice and open the locked rooms in my mind and heart. I discovered so much help and support in this group that my life changed forever.

But then, life happened. Stuff got in the way. Lots and lots of stuff. I know, everybody has stuff. Some of us can’t stick to the path, while others are able to overcome, adapt and improvise. I guess I wasn’t Author Army Ranger material back in the day, or maybe I hadn’t yet faced my own “Heartbreak Ridge“.

This new ABC offers me a chance to unlock my voice again. I want to be able to share what I have learned in the past year as a way to help other people avoid what I’ve had to go through. If I can’t do that, I would like to be able to show them how I kicked cancer’s ass with the help of family, friends, faith and a lot of positive energy. (Plus some really fun visualization.)

There are so many words simmering inside me, it almost feels like I have to find a way to let them out safely or I will end up like that guy in “Aliens” – only mine is more like the one in “Spaceballs“. Anyway, I think you get the picture.

If no one reads my blog, that’s okay. Writing doesn’t have to be about the next best seller, or the next world changing idea. It doesn’t have to be a way to purge your pain, or settle old scores. It can be it’s own reward. Writing because it feels so damn good to be writing, to be open and safe. If I can help other people during this stage of my journey, I consider it the fudge sauce and whipped cream on the hot brownie: Awesome, but not necessary for me to eat the brownie!

So let us all take this opportunity to get to know each other, support each other, and add to each others lives for the next few weeks. Like the Republica song, “Baby I’m Ready to Go“!

Please support another Author Blog Challenge participant by checking out  Blair Schweiger’s blog at:

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The Day I Lost My Mojo

It will probably seem stupid that I am posting about the middle of my cancer journey, rather than starting from the beginning. I have honestly been so consumed with the journey itself that writing about it almost seemed like overkill. Now that I can see the finish line, I find that specific moments come back to me to remind me of the life lessons they represent.

I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for the medical profession while going through treatment. Surgeons, lab techs, nurses, radiologists, oncologists, their staff members, even the pre-admissions nurse at the hospital, all have treated me with amazing kindness, understanding and courtesy. It makes you think about how much of the painful side of human life they see every day, and how they manage to keep their balance and humor, in the face of so much tragedy and trauma.

One person in particular came to mind today. I don’t even know his last name, although I do remember it begins with a “C”. I think of him as Dr. Michael. (I should mention that the 10 days I was in the hospital for my surgery, I honestly never remembered a single last name – but I can see their kind faces and mostly remember their first names!)

Dr. Michael is a resident, and we met as I was going through pre-surgical prep. One of the people who come and talk to you, and explain what is going to happen. A nice young man, reserved and proper, with his clipboard and white coat. I was, typically, cracking jokes and laser focused on the whole positive energy thing. It had been working for me so far, and I wasn’t about to fall down on the job at the critical moment. I think he walked in as I was explaining to one of the nurses that I had them paint my nails in what I was calling “Cadaver Grey” in case the worst happened, because I always like to match. (I am not above using sick humor when necessary.)

I caught him hiding a smile, and I was determined to make him crack. He kept his professional attitude, but unbent enough to join in, just a bit. I think he was humoring me. Fine by me. I like being humored, especially by intelligent young people.

Dr. Michael was in the operating room and checked on me every day I was in the hospital. He was a welcome presence during the first days I was in the ICU. I had never had major surgery, and I admit I found the whole thing scary. It is both humbling and frightening when, after running your own life for 60 years, you find yourself unable to function without the kindness and assistance of other people. I don’t know how other people react, but I kept looking inside for my balance, my mojo. I knew it was there, even if the light was dim.

However, on the 4th day in the ICU, I had some problems and they had to put me on IV feeding. Having tubes stuck into your nose and down your throat really sucks. The tape they put on my nose felt like some honking great beak, and when I spoke, I sounded like some nasal old hag with a Queens accent. I was tired; I was allergic to the pain medication, which meant that every time I gave myself a jolt, I was looking around for the nurse with a shot of Benadryl so I didn’t itch on top of everything else. In other words, I was a hot mess.

Late in the day, Dr. Michael came in to check on me. As usual, he asked me “How are you feeling?” Instead of my usual reply, I said “I’m afraid I’ve lost my mojo”. He looked at me with the greatest kindness and said in a very firm voice, “No, you haven’t. You will get it back.” He sounded so sure, so confident in me and my ability to rise back up and fly, that I felt my heart lift in hope.

I looked at him then, as if I was the youngster and he the wise elder, and said “Are you sure?” He smiled and nodded at me, and replied “Yes. I’m sure. Nothing could keep you down for long. You will get it back. Don’t worry.”

Words can’t really describe how empowered I felt at that moment. Even as he maintained his professional demeanor, he allowed himself to offer me the reassurance and connection I so desperately needed. His respect and confidence in me reminded me that I had the power all along. Just like Dorothy had the power to go home by clicking her heels together, I could bring my mojo back once I believed in myself.

This small exchange was just one of many moments in my journey, and yet so full of revelation. I hope I never forget how I felt, and I hope Dr. Michael goes on to be a wonderful healer, using that instinct for empathy as skillfully as he uses his medical training. The human touch makes all the difference.

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The Tenacious Leaf

cancer1I was diagnosed with Cancer at the beginning of December. I thought I just had an “old lady” problem with peeing when I laughed. Instead, I found myself facing a fight with a very aggressive tumor.

As I stared out my back door, wondering what was going to happen, I noticed one small leaf on my burning bush. This particular bush was here before we bought the house, and every year it just gets bigger and fuller. Birds love to nest in this bush. Cardinals share space with robins. Blue Jays shake their tail feathers at mocking birds. The dogs all love to lie under this bush. Come summer, they take turns relaxing in the shade and guarding their yard.

In early December, all the leaves had fallen from this bush except for one lone survivor. One small, tenacious leaf still clung to its branch. The branch was low enough that we thought one of the dogs would knock it off. But it stayed on the bush.

During the next 3 months, through surgeries and chemo, I sat in my comfy chair and looked out at the bush. No matter what the winter weather brought our way, this one leaf still clung to the branch, determined to hang on.

It is now almost March, and I have finished my chemotherapy. I am waiting to hear if the tumor is gone, and what, if any, surgery will follow. I have been surrounded by the love and support of family and friends. I am still here, still standing, still going strong.

I am that leaf.

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The Cancer Half Time Slump

TUTTLES-8923SQUARECROPWEBI am halfway through my chemotherapy treatments, and I am discovering what I call the Half Time Slump.

The first week, I was nervous and apprehensive. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard a lot of horror stories, and worked hard to put them out of my mind. I spent a lot of time in meditation and visualization, focusing on positive energy and a positive outlook. The first session was actually somewhat anticlimactic. The nurse was explaining the different meds to me, and the possible side effects. She meant well, but the best thing I did was tell her I would rather not read about them. I’m glad I did. Instead of being afraid, I just accepted the treatment and let it do its job.

The 2 weeks before treatment #2 became a learning curve. I found out how to adjust to any problems I had, and by the second week, I felt really good. I was pumped up, still excited to get down to business and beat this thing. I had the whole “Joan of Arc” thing going on.

That adrenaline rush stayed with me through my second infusion. I had no nausea. I never experienced any side effects from the Neulasta shots. I didn’t even feel slightly queasy until 5 days after the infusion. The seasick feeling came and went for 2 days and then it was gone.

Now, I am getting ready for my next infusion in a few days. And the thrill of battle has worn off. I no longer feel like Joan of Arc. I just feel like my new ‘normal’. Except that my mind is racing at warp speed while my body has speed limits. This creates a sensation of “What’s next” that I find both frustrating and a little scary.

I am not sure what will happen after the chemo. Everything is on hold until we see how successful we are at destroying the tumor. I may need surgery. I may not. I haven’t asked my surgeon because I don’t want to have anything to fret about. I know that I will find out when it is time to take the next step. But right now, I am in a semi-void, and it can be its own black hole!

I have a lot of mental energy, but limited physical energy. I have to be careful not to go out in crowds a lot because my immune system isn’t 100%. It is miserable and cold outside, so I am pretty much just hanging out. I could dust the furniture, but I just don’t want to. Besides, I did it 2 days ago. I’ve done all the laundry. I have shirts I could iron, but for some reason, the prospect doesn’t excite me. It’s that feeling like being all dressed up and nowhere to go.

I’m not complaining. I am glad that I feel like I could wrestle a tiger. Of course, it would have to be a small tiger, and there would have to be a three minute time limit, or it would eat me. I am glad I am able to eat regular food and not regret it. I am a lucky duck and I am grateful for all my blessings. But I kind of wish that Katy Perry would show up at my house and sing a few numbers to make the half time pass with a little excitement!

Given all my available options, I think I will go and grab my Swiffer and tackle the never ending piles of dog hair in the family room. It may not be a noble enterprise, but once I’m done I can feel like I won another battle for the day!


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Christmas Trees, Bright Lights and New Beginnings

My Christmas tree is still shining in my living room. This is a first for me. I was always one of those people who put it up Thanksgiving weekend and took it down the weekend after New Year’s Day. The tradition was ingrained, like never wearing white shoes before Memorial Day. However, there is a method to my madness.

Shortly before Christmas, I found out I have cancer. Kind of like: What did YOU get for Christmas, Sandi? Oh, I got cancer and a really cool pair of sneakers. How about you? This year, our children all got together to make this a wonderful day for us. They brought food. I didn’t get up at 4 AM and put the turkey in the oven. We all sat around the tree, opened presents and spent a couple of hours just enjoying each other and the spirit of the day. It was one of the most beautiful Christmas Days I have ever had.

As the New Year came, I looked at my tree and decided that I didn’t want to take it down. Not just yet. I loved seeing the twinkling lights. I loved looking at the different ornaments and remembering who gave them to me and when. I loved bathing in the glow before sunrise, thinking about my granddaughter’s first Christmas and how she smiled and charmed us all. Why should I put these feelings in a box in the attic?

Overriding tradition was not easy. But I considered what Christmas really means to me. Not just presents, but the promise of rebirth that I was taught as a child. The magic of shared happiness and a time when we all put aside any sad feelings to join in the spirit of love and giving is a powerful vision. I figured that the best gift I could give myself was to keep this as a reminder of my own rebirth, as the chemotherapy destroys the cancer in my body. The promise of a fresh new start on an already full life and a reason to have a positive thoughts every morning was irresistible.

Now, as I wake before dawn, my first steps take me to the tree, and I switch on the lights. I allow myself to take in the twinkle and glow. I remind myself that new beginnings are always possible, and magic is real and working in the world around me. I renew my faith and my pledge to believe and stay touched by the positive glow of my Christmas lights, as I go for every treatment.

My tree will continue to shine its light on me until the day I hear the word “Cured”. I can’t promise I will put it away even then. Keeping magic alive seems like a really good way to live!


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