I'd been thinking about it for months. Maybe even a year. Then the day came and went, and I didn't even acknowledge it, at least not the way I should have. I told a handful of people, "My old grey horse, Reggie, turns 30 today."
Reggie is my grand old lesson pony, left in the fabulous care of a dear friend in Colorado when I moved to Califonia in 2008. It broke my heart to have to leave him, but it would have been selfish to uproot him and haul him halfway across the country at his age.
I'd intended to write something sigificant, something memorable, something that would adequately capture the essence of the little grey horse that could. But every time I sat down to tackle the task I realized just how much there was - just how big this little grey horse really is.
So many stories, so little internet!
Nearly eleven years ago, I had just arrived in Colorado and was in desperate need of a good "baby beginner" lesson mount for my newly established Premier Riding School. A friend of a friend of a friend told me about this 19 year-old grey Arabian gelding, registered with the Purebred Arabian Horse Association as High Regard. He was described as having "a lot of use left in him" and the owner was looking to give him to a good home so that he "didn't go to waste". I'd like to say I rescued him from a nearly abandoned barn, regretfully leaving his stablemate behind, but I realize now that he saved me. Because he quickly established himself as the safest, most trustworthy, most well-trained lesson horse I've ever had the privilege to call my own. He became the anchor of my riding lesson program.
Reggie was the horse that endured bouncing, pulling and mixed signals as students learned the basics of horsemanship and balance. Not that he was a dead-head or without flaws, but I quickly learned not to judge this rough, fleabitten, arthritic, old gelding by his cover. He was smart. Too smart, sometimes. He was sensitive and opinionated (ask my vet!). And he was funny. As in, he laughed at his own jokes. This little grey horse was unmatched in the humor department, and he reminded me to lighten up when I needed it. So, I laughed with him.
He understood his job, and took it very seriously. He didn't just carry people around - he safely instilled confidence in the most timid of riders, but knew when a student had turned a corner and was ready to take it to the next level. He taught me how to teach people to ride. Over the years I watched him humble countless riding students when they needed it, including advanced show riders and adults. Just try getting on him with any inkling in your mind that you know more than he does. Sometimes an advanced adult rider wouldn't be able to get him to trot. At all. He was his own version of, "So you think you can ride?"
But he was so much more than just any lesson horse. I spent at least an hour a day with Reggie, usually six days a week, for seven years. He was my business partner and my friend. He taught my students every bit of horsemanship, from the ground up. I used to tell people, "he teaches the lessons, not me!" He didn't just teach students to ride, but to listen, as well. Myself included.
But wait, there's so much more: Reggie has touched the lives of so many, please complete his story, from your perspective, in the comments below. Whether it's a whole story, or just a quick sentence, Reg and I want to hear from you! Spread the word...there's a PRIZE involved - ten notecards with Reggie's face on them to my favorite comment before August 15, 2010!
I've been trying to write this post for over three weeks now, but it's the post that never ends (Yes, it goes on and on, my friend...). Edit after edit, the message had become infinitely convoluted, and I'd become increasingly frustrated. So I scrapped the whole thing and started over.
I'll get straight to the point, because the message is very simple: Thank you, everybody, for an amazing visit back home. I had so much fun! I love you and miss you very much. I am overwhelmed by your love and support, as always, and I can't wait to see you again. When the weather's warmer.
And if pictures are worth a thousand words, well, then my work is done, because here's the link to the photo gallery. Enjoy! I know I did...
Here I am! Not writing has been killing me, with so little space in my head for remembering!
Boyfriend had sailing work in Southern California and Mexico for most of February. My oncologist almost fell out of his chair laughing when I asked. "Mexico? That would be a NO." I sort of need a babysitter, so we decided I would go stay with friends and family while he was working.
So off the midwest I went. My first stop was St. Louis, to visit my friend Kari.
Kari is one of my oldest horse friends. And I'm not talking about her age, because we're only a year apart. But I've known Kari since the fourth grade, that would be twenty-four years, which is a long time in horse years. We took lessons at the same riding stable in North Aurora, Illinois. We grew up riding and showing Saddlebred horses together in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. She came to my graduation from William Woods University in Fulton, MO. We were in each other's weddings.
Then I was out of touch. Recently, her old horse Bubba passed away and we got back in touch. When Kari suggested that I make St. Louis the first leg of my three-week tour, I jumped at the chance. I had yet to meet her daughter, Ella (she's six already!), and her new horses, Rooty and Thumper.
Kari and I didn't miss a beat, riding horses, talking horses, breathing horses. (Thanks for putting up with us, Dave!) The only thing that has changed is the addition of the fascinating, profound combination of Kari and Dave that is their daughter, Ella. Nice to meet you, young lady.
We even took a road trip (sans the 80s music - damn broken iPod!) to Farmington, MO to see another couple of dear friends - Andy Amsden and my old horse, Amy. She looks fabulous and happy, and clearly remembered me. I can still see her expression as she touched my arm gently with her nose (Mom!... touch...You're... touch...here!... touch....), just like she always did. I love you, too, girlie. Thank you, Andy, for taking such great care of my girl!
We finished up our five days of good 'ol equine-saturated bliss with a drive up north into Illinois, meeting my parents halfway. We had lunch, tearful goodbyes, then my parents took me the rest of the way to their house in Aurora, IL. On Kari's birthday, no less. Thanks for sharing your day with me, Kari. Thanks for everything.
I received this fantastic email from a friend, then passed it on to a handful of friends, one of whom posted it on her blog. Huh. There's a novel idea. Well, YAHOOIE for that, because I get to put some new content on my site without having to write much. Which is good because I'm on my monthly dose of chemo this week, and the writing's just not flowing...
They call this chemo-brain. It's like the process I have to go through to convice myself that taking a nap is better that just being a grouchy blob on the couch just to be upright for a few hours a day.
Anyway, this is a great story. Enjoy!
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all..
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
...that I don't bitch and moan on this website. It's not that I'm trying to hide anything, it's just that I fully believe that there is an up-side to everything. For every bad, there is a good. Even if the good is not visible on a given day, it's just ahead, I just have to be patient, or learn the lesson. Never mind that it's generally far more healing for me to write about the positive than to dwell on negative.
But I've been really crabby and ungrateful - last week was a hell of a week in terms of medication and side effect adjustments. As in goodbye steroid-induced manic superwoman, hello and welcome back, Keppra-induced brain fog, headaches and fatigue.
So I was preparing a terrible, long-winded post about breaking my rule, insert bitching and moaning here, a little "poor me" on top, and just before hitting publish...
The mail arrived. With a package from someone I've never met in person, but who has become a good friend via email, Facebook and blogging since my diagnosis. Laurel Hermanson sent me a copy of her novel, Soft Landing, and a gift card to Trader Joe's. Wrapped in Girlbert-green paper, tied up in a shiny, brown bow. Oh, and a lovely card with a very touching sentiment. It made me laugh. It produced a smile from a face puffy and tear-streaked after days of hysterical unreasonableness (poor Boyfriend!) I wanted to run right up to Portland and hug her.
Someone I've never met. Wait - there are so many of you whom I've never met. And you send your positivity and love and well wishes and kind, generous gifts. And suddenly I remembered all the people and things I have to be grateful for.
Yesterday was my last day of radiation treatment! And what a day it was. Just pure joy, thankfulness, another undescribable, words-just-can't-touch-it-kind-of-day. But of course, I will haplessly attempt it...
I picked up celebratory cupcakes at Crushcakes Cupcakery (they were fabulously accomodating, again!) for all of my my now dear friends at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County Clinic and Pharmacy, and other doctors. As I went to my final treatment, last day appointments and picked up my new assortment of medicine for the steroid taper-down (WOO HOO!) that will occur over the next month, I found myself sad to say goodbye, but hoping the next time I see them is at the grocery store, in a restaurant, or the theatre. Where I will run up and give them hugs, and they'll wonder who is this girl, all healthy, and with hair?
So what's next for Girlbert? Well, there's certainly no going back to normal, since there never really was a normal to begin with.
But I tried as best I could to allow myself to do as much of NOTHING as I could muster today. Boyfriend, too. But with all the activity, the schedule of having to be SOMEWHERE, six days a week, often changing multiple times a day, with a moment's notice, there's certainly a lot of catching up to be done. Medi-Cal denial still waiting in the wings. Social Security paperwork and requirements to tidy up. Charity applications to fill out. And the regular stuff of figuring out how to cook, clean, and work to pay rent and bills.
My next MRI and doctor follow-up appointments aren't for over a month - after the holidays. My doctors tell me that although the chemo and radiation have stopped, changes will continue to occur over the next month, and so a picture and any discussion aren't necessary until then. So more wait and see. But time to rest and enjoy the holidays, which is a tremendous blessing!
And finally, some more attention for my horse. I might even read a book or a magazine. Or take a picture of a bird. Let the real healing begin.
I need new words. If I could ask just ONE MORE THING of the Universe, it would be for new and improved words that could come just even close to the MAGNITUDE of what happened on Saturday. I've made up words before - INCREDITUDE, for instance, but we already used that one. In fact it became the name of the party - my fabulous friend and brilliant hostess Jill Freeland's idea.
But to make up a word, or even multiple words for how I felt on Saturday - JUST NOT POSSIBLE.
So all I can do is thank you all. For being there. For your energy. For your kindness. For your love. And the gifts...
Unbelievable. And so helpful. I'm still at a complete loss as to how to express the overwhelming love that I feel for you all.
Want to help with the party? Anything to assist Jill and Dirk in putting together this amazing effort would be so appreciated! If you have time to help set up, or connections in any of the following areas, please contact Jill directly.
We don't have a monetary goal in mind, for several reasons: We have plenty of ideas for ways people can help us if they simply have time or used items to donate. We also want some amount of what people would like to contribute be in the form of credit at groceries, markets, and complementary health care centers that we frequent to assist me in complementing the Tuber Removal Program. View the full wish list and party details here.
A lot has happened! And I intended to write everday, but I've been allowing Boyfriend to step in with major updates, because we're on the low-stress-for-Girlbert-program. And I've been trying to be a good girl, despite some peaking (drug-induced) creative and physical energy.
So this is long-winded, but hopefully broken down into enough chunks that you can all manage, whether you choose to skim it over or swallow it whole. I did attempt to put in some kind of order of importance...
Medi-Cal Continues To Give Me Seizures Boyfriend touched on this in his birthday post from yesterday, but after 7 months of hoops with Medi-Cal, I have been informed of denial due to a technicality. My case has been closed, and I will have to appeal the denial, as well as REAPPLY and start the process over to get the ball rolling back in my court again. 7 months, people. And this is after my Ninja Neurologist got me on the fast-track to approval with a letter stating that I may not be alive in a year without treatment. Unbelievable, but as always, we'll deal. We're putting our heads down with some social workers and lawyer friends, and we'll get it turned around. The squeaky wheel plan continues.
Treatment Is Going Well I am really happy to report that two weeks into chemo and radiation, I've had no debilitating side effects. All the medication I'm on has side effects, don't get me wrong, but I'm managing very well with rest, good food, a regular schedule, and loads and loads of meditation to keep my mind in order. My docs warned me that the irritation of radiation would cause some more swelling and sure enough, my seizures have increased a bit - I have one or two mild, conscious episodes a day, but only one like the episode Boyfriend wrote about on Friday, and nothing like that since. I took my activity level down a notch (steroids make me feel like Superwoman!) after Friday, and my Ninja Neurologist tweaked my seizure meds and added a sedative/anti-seizure drug for me to take at night to sleep.
My docs have all warned me that the further I get into radiation, the more side effects I may experience, as the tuber dies off (ba-bye little tuber!), and my brain may become more irritated throughout. But we're all prepared to deal - I'll get to take more naps, maybe!
The oral chemo is going really smoothly. The anti-nasuea drug seems to be doing the trick, not to mention I take my one, oral dose right before bed on an empty stomach. My only complaint is that one of the major side effects is, of course, CONSTIPATION. So despite the fact we're still pretty high raw, juicing like fiends, and I'm downing water like it's going out of style, hello hemmoroids! Good times, but not that I don't have the experience to handle it. So back to Alice I'll go, as necessary. I'll need a good cleanse when this is all over, anyway.
So just how is Au-Naturale-Girlbert and her complementary treatment plan really feel about all the drugs and western medicine? That it's the right thing for my body, right now. I'm grateful for it, and know this is the route I need to take to heal my body, and ELIMINATE THE TUBER. But I'm asking LOTS of questions. Every side effect, every medication and dosage change. And my doctors have thoroughly explained to me the necessity and purpose of each drug so that I understand the benefits for any detriments. My comfort level with all of it is quite high. My only concern is that my mind stay sharp and functional, and hasn't seemed to be an issue with all the increased spiritual practice. My mind is as clear and grounded as it's ever been, despite all the drugs. I couldn't feel more blessed.
About My Weight Many of you have asked if I'm eating. Yeah, I'm skinny. Too skinny. Skinnier than I've ever been, but I'm ravenous! But I agree that checking in at 5'8" and under 120 pounds is a bit disconcerting (haven't weighed anywhere near that since MIDDLE school!), so I asked Uber-Oncologist Dr. G, about it before I even began treatment. "I have one more question." At 6pm, the tail-end of our squeezed-in appointment to get some questions answered before I begain treatment the following week. "Sure - what's that?" He turned toward me, from the computer monitor full of my scans and charts. "I've lost a lot of weight - more than 15 pounds in a couple of months - is that the steroid making my metabolism go wild or something? I though steoids were supposed to make me gain wight. My energy has been really high, and I know they have that effect, too." "How's your appetite?" "I've been ravenous." "Have you been thirsty? Having to urinate a lot?" "Really thirsty and I have to pee all the time." "Hmm. Your blood sugar was pretty high in the hospital," he referred to his computer screen for reference, "126. Steroids can cause diabetes." The tears came instantly. "That's in my family history," I whimpered. The D-word. After watching many family members struggle with diabetes, my ultimate health goal had been to keep myself from ever having to hear a doctor tell me I had the D-word. Cancer schmancer. Dr. G shook his head reassuringly. "Dont worry - medically-induced diabetes is totally reversible. But we'll check your blood sugar in your blood tests anyway to make sure." My blood test the next day showed my blood sugar back to normal. Whew.
In the meantime, I shared this story with my brother, who shares my ultimate health goal of avoiding the D-diagnosis. Perhaps channelling our Grandma T's (sometimes inappropriate) sense of humor, he exclaimed, "Oh my - 118 pounds? Brain cancer is like the best weight loss program ever!"
And we laughed, because we're Tomlins.
About That Trip Up North... Boyfriend already touched on this in his earlier post, and I've been meaning to, oh, but for the time of really doing the words justice!
Here's the bomb: Following my treatment at the end of November, we'll be moving up to Marin County, CA - the lovely town of Fairfax, to be precise.
So you remember that trip, over a month ago, now? I experienced a profound shift while visiting our dear friends in Fairfax, and sensed an overwhelming connection to the place as a healing center. A mecca, even. Upon driving into town the first time, we came upon healing center after local market, after meditation retreat center after organic restaurant after holistic health care office, and my only thought was that this was the place for me. Seem abrupt? All I can say is that it immediately resonated with me at such a high level, it couldn't be ignored, and the 7 days we spent there only confirmed what I knew in that initial moment. Boyfriend and I both experienced a huge shift in our relationship during our stay, and we're not attributing that to any accident. We also deepened our relationship with the dear friends who put us up for the week, and can hardly wait to live in their community. Not to mention a much better proximity to a major University Hospital, more dear friends, and the Neuro-Accupuncturist I will continue to see throughout my healing journey. The utmost importance has been placed on my health, increased autonomy, adjacency to nature, proximity and access to like-minded, spirit-driven people, continued healing, and happiness.
Friends and Family Visiting I've just wrapped up well-timed visits from friends and family this week. A great girlfriend from Wisconsin was here over the weekend with her little boy, and such a treat to spend time with them - it'd been over a year since I'd seen her last. The magic of spending time with children - very healing. Then my baby cousin (okay, so she's 24!), whom I haven't seen for over 12 years, and her boyfriend stayed with us Wednesday night, and I couldn't be more thrilled to see her and connect with out-of-touch family at this time in my life. The universe continues to astound...
Relief Is On The Way In the form of more family coming in to help out, as Boyfriend and I continue to manage schedules, work, and appointments. We couldn't be more thrilled that my mom will be here next Tuesday for eight days to help out with driving, erranding, cooking and whatever. Not too mention lots of hugs and love. Just the relief of not having to drive me to treatment everyday will free up Boyfriend's schedule immensely to get some much needed work done, which will help our financial situation tremendously. Then Boyfriend's parents will be coming on November 4th for about two weeks, and we're are thrilled for the company and help. They have lots of friends in CA, too, to they're looking at it as a double treat. Can't wait to see you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
That about wraps it up! Please keep in mind that I share my journey on this blog because I believe it is a powerful tool to help me heal. Your traffic, your comments, your positive energy - I FEEL all of it, and be assured that what you put out into the universe in a loving way will come back to you in amazing and profound ways. So leave your love here, and you'll heal yourself...
Whether you want to be like your parents or not, you always have much more in common with them than you think. Their characters become part of your character. Where do you think your quirks come from? Some of your best qualities as well as what you'd might consider flaws? Our parents are our greatest teachers because they're our mirrors. Next time you're complaining about something that your parents do that drives you up a wall, think about whether that is something that you'd like to change about yourself. Because you can't change them, but you can change yourself.
My parents, Boyfriend and I were having dinner last night, and as I went to cut my corn off the cob, my mother asked me, "Where and why did you learn to do that?" Everyone else was picking up their corn cobs and just eating the corn directly.
"Oh, I do that because I don't like the corn in my teeth. I saw someone do it at a dinner party somewhere, and thought it was a good idea."
Mom declared, "I always wondered about that, because you didn't get it from us."
Dad concluded, "So you just pick up random idiosyncrasies from people?"
Not sure that cutting my corn off the cob suffices as a random idiosyncrasy, but whatever. "If they seem like a good idea. But I carry a paper towel in my hand everywhere I go - because you do."
My dad smiled at himself and chuckled. "Well, I got that from your grandmother, she always had to have a tissue in her sleeve."
What are your parentally-acquired idiosyncrasies..uh, I mean, character traits?