gaia community shutting down

To live is to change, to acquire words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.
~ Barbara Kingsolver

Well, here I am again! Time to change things around again. This afternoon I was stunned to learn that my beloved social network, Gaia Community, will be forced shut down at the end of this month, because of the economy. When breaking the news our director, Siona, aptly quoted Dr. Seuss:

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

But the tears came anyway. For a year and a half since I found this wonderful “place,” full of amazing like-minded friends, I’ve never felt happier spiritually, and never more connected.

But all is not lost! As the afternoon turned into evening and I chatted with one of the first of my friends found on Gaia, we began to comprehend that Siona had found another place for us all, Ning, and she set up a Gaia network for us there. It won’t be the same, but at least we will still have a place for group discussions and a place to stay linked to one another. For those of us who like to blog she suggested WordPress. So this is where my blogging will land after all!

I will be adding my old blog posts from Gaia to WordPress over the next couple of weeks. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is where I can keep my quote collection. Oh, and how to add pictures to this blog. But surely I will figure something out sooner or later. For now I must turn in for the night…

false alarms

The following thoughts about mammograms are completely subjective, as I try to process my third false alarm from one of these images. If this keeps happening it will be ever more tempting to abandon the practice of getting one every year. Yes, mammograms are supposed to be responsible for saving countless lives, but I cannot help wondering how many other lives have been repeatedly thrown into a tailspin by one false alarm after another.

My mother’s breast cancer was found “early” on a mammogram in the autumn of 1987 and was thought to have been caught in time so that a lumpectomy would be all that was needed. Three and a half years later, after the lumpectomy, and then a mastectomy, and many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she died in the spring of 1991, age 59. It was awful for all of us, including her elderly parents. This family history seems to make my doctors hyper-vigilant about any possible little thing seen on my mammograms.

In the autumn of 1995 I had my first suspicious mammogram at the age of 38. I froze with fear until an ultrasound was done and it was determined that it was “just a cyst.” I was told that I have fibrocystic breast disease. After doing some research and seeing a naturopath, I began taking evening primrose oil for help with the cysts and it seemed to work for a several years. Eventually I tapered off from taking it… and then… in the spring of 2008… another suspicious mammogram. But this time there was a cluster of calcifications that called for closer inspection with a stereotactic biopsy – outpatient surgery. This time the wait for test results was longer, and the surgeon left a little piece of titanium in my breast for future reference, to show where the tissue had been removed, just in case. We rearranged vacation plans and sat on pins and needles until the negative results came back, four days later. Phew!

Well, now less than two years later still another suspicious mammogram to panic over. This time I was told there was something there about 2 cm in diameter and I was scheduled for an ultrasound and then a surgical consult. This sounded pretty ominous and so our lives have been unsettled and on hold again.

Monday I went in for the ultrasound and a very kind technician pulled up my digital mammogram on the computer monitor to see what it was she would be examining. I could see the little speck of titanium and I asked her to point out to me the new trouble spot. She pointed to an oval-shaped object and as I focused on it I noticed there were two other ovals nearby in the image. So, I asked her what about that particular oval was a cause for concern. Something about a defined edge, but the other two ovals seemed to have edges that looked just as defined to my untrained eyes.

Well, it turned out to be “just a cyst, and not even a solid one.” That’s it??? All these rattled nerves and a week of sleepless nights for a benign cyst??? My reaction has been a dazed combination of relief and exasperation. There’s got to be a better way. On the way home I asked Tim to stop at a store where I picked up some more evening primrose oil. Maybe it will work again. Tim made all the phone calls to the kids and my sister so they could stop worrying and I took a long nap. Tuesday I started to get, not surprisingly, a post-stress migraine, so I took a Zomig and slept most of the day. Today the wind is howling and the rain is coming down heavy – perfect weather for another nap. Maybe it will take a week of afternoon naps to recover from a week of sleepless nights, but eventually I’ve got to get myself together again and carry on and somehow be willing to submit to still another mammogram next year… Just in case…

another start

With recent health concern a source of distraction I am trying to find a focus, and will try to jump into writing and see where it leads me. I have two blogs now, at WordPress and Gaia Community, and for the time being I’m going to cross-post, until I figure out what I’m doing.

I had to laugh when I read my horoscope this morning, something I rarely do:

You have a lot of fresh thoughts and, fortunately, many of them could make good sense. But your mind is running so fast now that you are on to the next inspiration before you’ve done anything about the previous one. Unfortunately, an important innovation might be forever lost if you don’t take the time to write it down as it’s unfolding. You cannot rely on your memory; carry around a notebook today and jot down your ideas when they happen.

Fresh thoughts have popped into consciousness all last night and this morning, mixed up with all the feelings of apprehension about tomorrow’s ultrasound. Fortunately I have scribbled down these stray thoughts on a pad of sticky notes that I had already thought to start carrying around with me. Not sure if there is an important innovation captured there…

Yesterday when I was showering and having a little trouble keeping the water temperature adjusted, I started remembering when I was quite little and desperately wanted to stop taking what I considered to be childish baths and learn how to take a shower like all the mature and sophisticated people in my little world. For whatever reason my father was assigned to the thankless task of dealing with my chronic dissatisfaction over the circumstances of my life. One part of the shower lesson was how to adjust the temperature and what to do if it got too hot. Jump out of the shower – one did not need to stand there trying to keep adjusting it if the water was too hot to stand! “What should you do if it gets too hot?” The question was repeated often to make sure I had the point down. It was very important to him that I remembered this. I’ve never forgotten…

Dot connecting… The tragic story of my aunt, Olga, my dad’s older sister who met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, probably shortly before my dad was born and when she was about two years old. My aunt Lil was about seven years old then, and we have her heartbreaking account of the terrible event. In an instant everything changes. Something tells me now that the story of Olga was in the back of Dad’s mind when he was teaching his own little squirt about very hot water.

Never made the connection before yesterday. The thing I like the most about genealogy and family history is discovering why my ancestors behaved the way they did and what motivated their choices. There are a few more notes on my little pad, but this seems long enough for now.

never a dull moment

Late afternoon yesterday my son, the one recently diagnosed with diabetes, was hospitalized with chest pains. The doctors have ordered a stress test for today. Scary stuff. He’s “only” 34. Practicing my deep breathing…

A few years ago his wife was in the same cardiac care unit with a mysterious heart problem that turned out to be Lyme carditis. She had no symptoms of Lyme disease until it attacked her heart. She’s all right now, but as a result of the experience they did abandon their “healthy” hobby of Letterboxing in the woods. It didn’t turn out to be so healthy for her!

I hope this blog doesn’t evolve into and endless saga of illness stories!

changing

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

~ Stevie Nicks
♫ (Landslide) ♫

I have put on thirty pounds since my husband survived a major heart attack and triple by-pass surgery two and a half years ago. A symptom… of what? Stress? Middle-age? Less than a month after the heart attack, my already frail and declining father fell and broke his pelvis, femur and a few ribs. He has since been confined to a wheelchair. Neither one of them wants to exercise… We won’t even go into the healthy eating question… A couple of weeks after that my son was hospitalized with an antibiotic-resistant infection, and in the course of treating that it was discovered that he has diabetes. No family history of diabetes. And eight months after the heart attack I had a highly suspicious (false positive) mammogram followed by the ordeal of a stereotactic biopsy and waiting days for the, in the end, negative result…

Last summer we went to a big family reunion at Shenandoah National Park where I made friends with my “stepsisters-in-law” as we spent four days hiking in the woods together. It felt so good to be active and immersed in the natural world! It began to dawn on me just how sedentary my life had become, the exact opposite of the changes in lifestyle I had started hoping for after the cardiac wake-up call.

spring 2009 ~ Shenandoah National Park, Virginia ~ bear we met while hiking

Last week I was food shopping and a special interest magazine on heart-healthy living caught my eye. Thinking it might have some helpful recipes I bought it, but inside also found an article on strength building exercises. As I read the instructions and studied the pictures I thought to myself that the exercises were too simple and easy to offer any challenge and have any benefit. Well…

This morning: “Stand with feet just wider than shoulders, toes turned out slightly. Slowly bend torso to the right, bringing right arm toward ground and left arm toward sky. Hold for 1 count and return to start. Do the given reps (5-10), then switch sides.” As I lifted my left arm toward the sky for the first rep it ached, oh so miserably, from that simple stretch! (I shoveled snow yesterday and it didn’t bother my arms – hmm…) I stopped at 5 reps and switched sides, right arm ached, too, but not quite as much. There were six more exercises and they stretched all kinds of long neglected muscles. Some of the exercises call for weights, too. Looks like I now have myself a workout to add to my walks!

I love to walk, especially in the woods. My friend Kathy, whose blog inspired me to begin this blog, wrote a lovely blog post, Why I won’t (usually) go cross-country skiing with you, which touches beautifully on the subject of meandering mystical nature walks vs. cross-country skiing (or for me, brisk hikes) in the woods. (I’d love to try snowshoeing one day.) I think both are needed for body-mind health.