Family Therapist

When it came time to go see the family therapist I selected, I expected resistance.  For me, a sign of how serious my kids take this, was their docile compliance.  I’ve been analyzing my own ego for almost my entire life — and I’ve been working with a great therapist for over a year.  So the session we had with the therapist seemed slow and shallow to me.

I was certain that when we left the session they family would complain.

They LOVED her!  They loved hearing everyones’ answers.  They felt heard.

It made me realize that even though I think I have a special talent for connecting with some core emotions people are exuding — I don’t know how they are thinking about what they are feeling.  And, really, I don’t know what they are feeling, then.

I need to ask more questions and listen more carefully.

But today, I am grateful for a good therapist and a willing family.



Old News – New Post

There’s a gap in my story — it starts right after the shock and anger of  The Swedes Would Be Ashamed Post.    I’ve never really explained to you all how I moved forward emotionally from there.

Friends are SO IMPORTANT.  In my friends’ responses to my Facebook posts and in the cards of support that came to my house, I could see a reflection of the intensity of my emotion.  I could see the anger.

Andrea Ball sent this wonderful card from Tinker Bell, along with a bobble head Tinker Bell, stating she’d poke people in the eye if they made me angry.    Ramona Brandes sent numerous gift cards to my favorite resteraunt for the days that felt overwhelming.  People shared their painful healthcare stories.  They ranted with me about the need for this and that and that and this in our healthcare system.

The anger reflected back at me stopped me cold.

There was an older woman, a colon cancer survivor, who, in response to my own rant,  went on and on and on and on about how horrible her doctor was once because of this and that and that and this.

Her daughter-in-law, a breast cancer survivor just coming out of treatment, apologized to me for her mother-in-law’s behavior.  

I was annoyed by that older woman.   I was annoyed at myself.

And there were Paula Sebastian’s Facebook posts — about the two inner wolves and the choices we have about who we want to be.  She’s walking this walk and could offer the advice I needed.

Anger is useful.   But what triggers anger is always more complex that what we first acknowledge.    I needed some distance in order to really dive into what was behind this anger.   Which parts are mine to own as a survivor?  As a human?   Fear, vulnerability, powerlessness…  Only by understanding those things I bring will I be able to really explain to anyone how systems could change to better support me and others who walk similar paths.

And in this exploration, I need to acknowledge the role I play in creating very similar systems that work in very similar ways against our most vulnerable students at the college.

And that takes some courage and some time and some reflection.  And some friends to push you back onto the right path.    I’ll post the insights I’ve come to later, another day.

Today I just say thank you to my friends.

Thank you!


New to my blog? Start here.

I have been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  It’s everywhere.  in my lungs, bones,  and liver.    So I pretty much know how my life ends.  But I have always been one of those readers who can’t resist reading the ending of a good book.    I’ve never found that to lessen the enjoyment of the story.  
The good news is that like all of you, I have no idea what happens in my plot line between now and that end.  And this chapter is really really good.   I look great.  I feel great.  I would even say better than ever, in many ways.  (To be honest, though, I can’t remember what 20 looked or felt like.  LOL.)   If treatment options work well, I could live very well for years.  And my cancer is well researched — there could be some really good plot twists in my future.  
A good story is all about the characters.  Rich, complex, multidimensional, dynamic characters create compelling stories.    You create my hero’s journey.  You engage, confront, teach, reflect, share, learn, process, and transform.   My life is the best book I’ve ever read — and I thank you all for that.
There are all kinds of very important rules at work about who can ask what about whose health.  So I am hereby giving everyone permission to ask me anything he or she wishes!   I think I’m probably pretty far ahead of you on this particular sad road.   And those of you who have been on this road yourself before already know the road is what it is.     I’ve explored a lot of emotional landscape — so your feelings and emotions will most likely not trigger something new in me.   They will only honor me.    
This blog is a place where I reflect.  It’s a place of introspection — and sometimes catharsis.  It feels somber and slow,  heavy, when I compare it to my life as I live it.   So you may also want to track me on Facebook.  But the interesting thing is that I’m not posting to Facebook as often recently.  Facebook feels too light.  There is a heaviness to my happiness now that I find centering and fulfilling.  It settles me, contents me, in real life.

FLIP TURNS for the entire mile of front crawl! STRONGER THAN EVER!

My weight is back to within the normal BMI range.  I look and feel great.  Strong.  My energy is higher than it has been in months, at least.  Maybe years?


Light as hope.

Light as health.

Light as love.

And with this healthy physical strength, comes another surprise strength of Stage IV.  The lightness of freedom.

I am free from feeling I alone need to solve the problems I see.  I am free of the guilt when I can’t.  I am free of the desire to overfunction for approval.   And this gives me a new freedom, a new space, for action.

The lightness of this freedom allows me to move mountains.  Or at least help trigger the team who can do so, together.

I can’t imagine being my sister.  It used to weigh me down to try.  She’s a single mom with her own mobility and pain limitations.  She is nursing her best friend and caretaker (mom) while mothering two challenging (but adorable) boys.  And now it looks like she may be the last one standing.  There will be nobody left to take care of her.   She has been elected the new matriarch.

She’s cornered herself financially in Mom’s house.   Escaping from the full-time care mom is starting to need seems to keep adding up to homelessness for my sister and her family.  Finding a job and a place to live without mom feels impossible while mom needs so much care.    In the meantime, the lines between adequate support, encouragement for independence and gradually growing neglect blur for both of us.  They blur for all of us.

I think, for me, part of that blurring was caused by how overwhelming the situation has felt and how powerless I have felt and yet how responsible.  It has blurred for mom because of her desire to support her daughter and be strong and leave us with a good memory of her and her death.  It has blurred for Kaylea because she is under the overwhelming weight of it all, escaping here and there with marvelous family outings with her boys and gramma — the coast, Wildlife safari, festivals, parks…  She is creating memories.  But the house and gramma’s needs weigh heavier and heavier.

Until it’s just all too heavy.  And it’s no longer OK.  And we are not alright.  None of us are.

And my Stage IV freedom lets me declare that without shame, or fear, or a misplaced sense of responsibility.

When the hospital suggests a residential rehabilitation program for mom, I jump at it.  When they state the team working with mom will call a family meeting, I’m elated.  There might be home visits?  YES!  We need these lines drawn for us.  We all need the clarity.

More than a guide.  This team will teach us, but also set the boundaries for us — expectations of what the house needs, what mom needs, what Kaylea needs.

It all really feels like what I need.


Here is what a team feels like.  The doctor remember my mother and my sister from the last visit to the ER.  He even knows I’m the sister from Seattle, even though he’s never met me before.   Dr. Kahn is Mom’s doctor on the oncology/palliative care floor, where she gets kindness and freedom.  He starts by lightening the treatments rather than working to *do* something to fix something.  There’s a physical therapist, an occupational therapist.  The Dr. is the first to diagnose it, but he asks me a question that allows me to state it rather than throwing is at me —  We are here because we are overwhelmed at home.  The physical therapist is the one who finds the solution — rehabilitation, training for mom to get her walking, dressing herself, bathing — And time for Kaylea to figure out her next steps.   The occupational therapist shows us how simply we can start supporting mom’s independence — but how time consuming it will be.

Clearly everyone is on the same page here — and they are all working towards the goal moving mom to a place where she can actually get better for awhile.   And with this team, whole family approach, I am hopeful that we will all be moving to a place where we can get better for awhile.

Papa? He asks through tears. If we all have to die, why do we even live? What’s the point? Why don’t we just all die now?

This is a story that makes me happy and will make you cry.  Many of you, at least.
This week I have been down in Eugene, spending time with my mom, giving my sister and her boys a well-earned break.  It’s provided the first space where Francois, Delphine and Paul are together without me.
Paul hasn’t been sleeping well lately.  He claims all sorts of different ailments — too hot, bad dreams, headache.  
But the first night I was away, he came down to Papa’s room in tears and said he was afraid “Maman is going to die” and afraid that he would grow up and get cancer.
Francois was so sweet and good with him.  Honest, but hopeful.   There are some great medicines now for cancer and we are very hopeful these will work with Maman’s cancer.  And when you grow up, there will be even better drugs.  Hugs.  Stories.
The next night, Paul came down in tears again.  This time with a profound question.  Why do we have to die?  Why do we live?  If we all have to die, why don’t we just all die right now?  What’s the point?
And Francois is such a good parent.    He is awed by the question.  He shares his wonder at the question with Paul.  They talk about the many different people who have struggled to answer that question.  And they sleep cradled with love and home.
I am so happy Paul is sharing with his Papa.  And I am so happy he has this Papa.  And when I hear these stories, I am content.  I am satisfied and supported.
These are stories of what endures.  


I am having a hard time even remembering what it was like to be in that pain of a few weeks ago — when I would use the power doors of the side doors on the minivan and load groceries in the chairs rather than open the back hatch and be forced to pull that dang door back down to close it again.

When I would ask the kids to pick up something I dropped on the floor.  When I was breathless with gratitude that Francois was arranging the sheets on my side of the bed each night.

When I would finally push through and haul my butt into the driver’s seat of the car, but then drive with my body all crooked because it hurt too much to straighten it out.

I am pain free!   Swimming a 1 and 1/2 miles feels too easy.  I *want* to jump and run (but I don’t — I’ll wait for the scans and the clear-to-go from my doctor).   I can cough without dread and sneezing — well sneezing will still cause me to stand still and utter a OOOooh LA afterwards.

There a places in my body now that are stronger, and less painful than before treatment started.  This definitely feels like healing.

And I saw my oncologist.    She’s amazing.  And now I’ve done the research and followed the doubts and know that my deeply reflective, researched answer is that I want to be with this Dr. through this journey.  That feels strong and right.  (Still am not running back to surgery outpatient in Issaquah, though…  Not yet.)

It’s been a few weeks of marvelous insights and revelations.  I feel huge growth spurts growing out of this.  So much to process — and too many happy experiences taking up my time to sit and write about it all.

Much love,