Sunday, April 17, 2011

heart melting

Forgive me again, dear friends, for disappearing for more than a few days. Seems that my lot in life at the moment is to test drive all of the new viruses and bacteria on the market (I assure you that I didn't apply for this job...). Been flirting with a mysterious fever and fatigue for more than a week now, two rounds of antibiotics down and we're certain it's a virus. So...there's that.  Whaddyagonnado.

What I really want to write about in this post is something called 'melting your heart' or 'heart melting'. Most of us have used or heart the saying 'that melted my heart' in reference to something really sweet, or genuine, kind, beautiful, touching, moving....the list goes on and on. There is also a physical manifestation of this idea in Anusara Yoga, which is a very heart-oriented practice (in more ways than the physical). In a nutshell, this means to, first Open to Grace (say YES to the inside and the outside, be accepting and open to the divine) both soften and engage (always engage!) the muscles between the shoulder blades on the upper back, drawing arm bones back and shoulder blades onto the back body (representative of those that came before),  or as we say 'behind the heart'.  This motion is nearly always employed in back bending and inversions (Opening to Grace is the first step to EVERYTHING- there's something to chew on, eh? I've been gnawing on that one for years) and allows the body and mind to correctly align for the pose. Though important for the correct alignment of the body, this idea is also important for the alignment of the self with the divine- right from the heart and radically accepting of all.  Your heart is literally melting out of your body into the universe.  Essentially, to me at least, the idea of having my heart melted means that I am feeling such strong gratitude and love (because really, the two are firmly connected) that my heart is flowing out of my body and into the universe.  That I am firmly engaged, no aligned with, the gratitude and love I am, or intend to be, sending into the world and finding in the divine.

This week particularly has been a physical and spiritual lesson in melting my heart. First, and mostly because it's a short explanation of a long journey, the physical heart melting:

This motion has, by far, been the most difficult for me to bring back into my practice with serious intention (not just jamming my boobs toward the floor and squashing my shoulders up). The reason? Melting the heart is exceptionally painful, and nearly physically impossible, with a port in your chest. With a port in, your motion is restricted across the muscles of the chest (the damn thing felt like it was either going to pop out or rip my flesh). Not having done this for nearly five months, coupled with the drastic muscle loss I experienced, has made this one of my greatest projects in the rebuilding of my practice. Of course, there is more to yoga than the physical, no? A touch more on that later.

Secondly, and by no means is this actually second in importance (in fact, it's certainly first), the spiritual heart melting:

This past Tuesday, the incomparable faculty, staff, students, parents, community members of the district I work in, and grew up a student in, put on an amazing, generous, MIND BLOWING benefit concert in my honor and for the Life Organ Donor Association. Though I was not able to attend ('member that fever? no bueno around the little ones...or anyone for that matter), my friends in the music department filled me in on their plans in the months leading up to the event and then I waited with bated breath for P to come home that night and tell me all about it. All he could say was it was "A-MAZ-ING". Then the audio clips came...then the pictures...then the video which aired on the local access channel this weekend. OH. MY. GOD. There are no words. The only ones that I can come up with are love and gratitude(for this community and faculty,and especially students) and of course, humility. That this community came together for the assistance of P and I and our families and for the Life Organ Donor Association is AMAZING. In every sense of that word. I cried while listening to the audio of the kids, some of my students (current and past) lent their voices, all of the elementary school music faculty lent their teaching talents (and my god are they talented), the ensembles- jazz, strings and wind and their directors (again, incredible talent and generosity).  Listening to the stunning performances and knowing how much hard work went into teaching and learning those pieces, organizing the rehearsals, running rehearsals, coordinating transportation, setting up, not to mention the hard work on the part of the students, I was so filled with....I don't know what...the intense warm and fuzzies might start to explain it. Seeing their concentration and joy, hearing the comments by my colleagues and member of the administration, especially by one faculty member who donated his kidney to his sister...well, to say that I feel blessed would be a grande understatement. And oh, the tears when I spotted my kiddos, great job guys, I can't wait to singing with you in just a few short months. I miss you so, so much.

SO, I say thank you

Thank you to those who attended and donated, you have helped us ENORMOUSLY.

Thank you to those who planned and arranged and rehearsed and lent their efforts in so many ways to this event. Your selflessness and dedication is awe-inspiring. 

Thank you to the Administration for being so supportive of a program that is capable of such great things.

Thank you to the students (though I hope none of you are reading this blog...). You used your music, for many of you, your own hearts, to help another. I hope that you all have long, fulfilling and music-filled careers and happy, healthy lives. 

My heart truly melted this week. During my (admittedly limited- yoga can get swirly with a fever) practice this week, I struggled still with melting my heart. Then I thought about Tuesday night and it was like the thing just dripped out of me. Perfect? Nope. Dunno if it ever will be. BUT it was an honest and intention-filled motion and THAT felt like I was really connected. Sending out my gooey, warm love to every soul there that night. While practicing harmonium, which is an instrument that is exceptionally easy to get swept up in, I thought of them, humbled myself and melted. 

I am blessed to know and be part of a community in the district and public that has such a generous and loving spirit, both in my hometown and in my kula. Thank you.

So much love. So much. 

P.S. Today would have been Olivia's 13th birthday (I posted about her a little while ago).   You've been on my mind and heart today, as has your family. Bet you're enjoying the best red velvet cake ever right now:) Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

oops! dissapeared under my covers, sorry 'bout that

Wow, has it really been two week since I last wrote? Yikes, sorry y'all:(

I wish that I could say that my absence was entirely because I was off living life like a normal person (ya know, without a mask...or track marks from draws and infusions) but that would be a big fat lie.

The last two week have been filled with deep lows and soaring highs. I'll give a brief blow-by-blow and then elaborate in my next post.

So, yeah, had a bad reaction to IVIG (yuck) and then promptly came down with my very own cold, baby's first cold, no? Turns out that when you have a very weak immune system, the common cold sucks extra hard. BUT! My inner hippy read somewhere that if I cut out refined sugars and caffeine, that my body could heal a little faster (**note: I am not a medical professional, please don't listen to anything I suggest, I'm just a little nuts**). Damned if that didn't work! (oh, and the sleeping for 18 hours a day probably helped me along too, who has the luxury of time to be able to do that? Yeah, NO ONE).

Anyway, it seems that I willed myself well in time for my very first harmonium lesson with my friend and teacher Justicia and the astonishingly talented Victoria Ladd (more on THAT new endeavor in another post). It was glorious. Road that good energy to dinner for my dearest Maggie for her birthday. A good time was had by all until the dinner came back to haunt me for the next 24 hours. Seems that sensitivity to germs extends to food as well...hard lesson learned. YUCK. The good thing about food poisoning though, is that it generally passes rather quickly, which this did. So, Maggie and I went on a 6 mile hike on Sunday. I wasn't kidding when I said highs and lows, eh?

What did I learn from this? Well, I learned that I need to find my balance. It is not hastening my healing by going from extreme to extreme. Yes, working out is good, but is most beneficial when the body is well, not healing from a traumatic illness the day before. Then more strain is put on the body and you're bound for disaster. A stubborn nature has benefited my in the past, but now is not the time. This body needs to be coddled, something I still have not gotten the hang of. I felt the acute effects of that drastic swing in yoga on Tuesday (yes, was still smarting in my hips on Tuesday) and spent a good amount of class meditating on how it isn't respectful of me to treat this body, that has carried me through so much, in such a way. The name of the game is listening intently to myself and my signals and giving permission to rest. This body is truly a blessed vehicle, that has received the ultimate gift, I must treat it with respect and tune in more carefully. Matter over mind, sometimes is correct.

So, rest I did. That is until, and no, seriously, I swear to you this happened, I began throwing up everything I put in my body. BODY SAYS NO! Yeah, awesome, right? Thursday morning I gave myself my weekly neupogen shot, just to keep my numbers stable, and within three hours I was violently ill. And I type the work violently in the most firm way. I haven't been ill like that since chemo. That sobbing kind of ill that just simple scares and exhausts you. This continued all day Thursday, no meds,  no water, no gatorade, no crackers, NOTHING would stay in my tummy. I was severely dehydrated and terrified. After emptying myself (sorry, trying not to be so gross) for the sixth time, I paged my doctor, who assured my that it was not the neupogen (thank god, NOT something I wish to look forward to every week) but rather a virus, which basically scared the fucking bananas out of me. She said if I became ill one more time, I needed to be in the ER as soon as possible. Righto.  If not in the ER tonight than certainly in infusion the next day for fluids and anti-emetics.

So, I curled up on the couch (it's close to our bathroom with no risk of taking (another) tumble down the steps from our bedroom) and prayed to all things holy that I wouldn't toss my cookies again. Thanks all things holy, I didn't. P drove me up to PENN first thing in the morning, me looking like quite a sight in my darn PJs and rumpled frizz stuffed into a cat hair covered bandanna, and got my bag o'fluids and bag o'zofran all the while blissfully snoozing in their OH SO COMFORTABLE infusion beds. While I can't say that I felt like a million bucks after that, I did not feel like I was going to vomit up my ribcage any longer. I was so dehydrated that the nurse had significant trouble finding a vein and I ended up all bruised. Also, I was given strict orders NOT to eat ANYTHING other than crackers and drink nothing but slightly watered down Gatorade and flat soda. NO WATER until at least Saturday. BTW, did you know that when you have a stomach bug, water is the worst thing you can drink- it's so thin that you are sure to yack it up, making you more dehydrated. Fun fact. Wish I never needed to know that. The eight pound (not kidding) weight loss scared me. My muscles hurt from the electrolyte imbalance. This was just all sorts of bad.

The other thing is, and I sort of mentioned this, 'organic' nausea and vomiting (like your run-of-the-mill stomach virus feels very different from the 'chemical' nausea and vomiting, like chemo. With chemo and medication induced nausea and vomiting, you can kind of power through. You know what its from, it has a very distinct reactionary feeling and maybe just one dose of an enti-emetic will do the trick. When the nausea is organic, from a bug, it's wily. Anti-emetics may or may not help, it;s constant with out any way to predict vomiting. My doctor said that to try to get me through this, I need zofran and ativan (whoo-hoooo sleepy Laura time) on a very strict schedule. If you miss that window, you're gonna yam. And yam I did. It's so gross, I know, I'm sorry, but after a weird 3 am spell early this morning, I feel ehhhhhh fine. Still can't eat much, but I can hold down my pills and a liquid and some ::ahem:: cookies. When I had chemo nausea, I could eat as long as the anti-emetics were working, and they pumped those into me constantly to try to keep me from getting ill. I rainbow yawned anyway (which was like having toxic waste come out of my body, so weird) but nothing like a virus. I"ll be honst and say I've not had a stomach virus since I was a child so I have no memory, really, of what these things are like without that nasty compromised immune system. Sooooooo, there's my paragraph on vomit.

While it really sucks to have spent the bulk of the last two weeks really sick, at least I know that my body is able to heal me. That I was not hospitalized, that my white cells are a'workin'. The hubs? Totally traumatized for life after the cats also started puking ON the toilet. Monkey see, monkey do? They've been standing guard with me in the restroom when I get ill, guess it happened enough they gave it a go themselves. Not the example I would like to set for those little nuts. My dear, sweet P, such a good sport about the cat puke cleanup just so I could go in and puke too. That's love kids.

To those that have sent e-mails or phone calls or texts that I may not have responded to, I am profoundly sorry. Please know that I was not ignoring you, I just couldn't lift my head but to puke:(
Anyway, I have some amazing news to share, which I suppose I may as well share here than wait for another post (plus, don't you just hate that?):

Wanna know what??

I got a preliminary acceptance this week to go with to Colorado at the end of this May to learn how to rock climb on a damn mountain with a group of other patients and survivors! How cool is that?! This application has been hanging in the balance for...uh....a long time (I was still in TX when I started it) and I NEVER expected to be accepted, but I'll be damned if they didn't accept me! My final go-ahead will come just before I leave to be positive that I will be safe. My medical team has already given me the go-ahead, I just havfta stay fit and healthy for the next 8 weeks and I'm off! This program is amazing and I am so honored to be part of it:) I encourage you to check out their website and blog to learn a little more about what they do and who they are. They are inspirational.

Much love to my friends here and those reading. It's amazing to see how many of you come from the far reaches of the world to check in. Much love to all of you, always gratitude to you for sharing in this gruesome journey with me and many prayers to any who are fighting their own fight.

Much Much LOVE.