Monday, January 25, 2010


Ali and Thomas came to visit. It was a lot of fun. We spent the time at Sharons place. We found ourselves one night at a small concert of a band playing swingish type music complete with accordion and trombone and an older man who was teaching us how to swing. Also found ourselves at a qi gong workshop. Went for a hike, played clean canteen hockey on a frozen pond....its a great way to shine up your clean canteen, did some hands on healing stuff using a soy sauce dish from a sushi set, and hung out with Sharons friends Gabe and Al (Al who was in Bears visitor group and spent much of his visit making a compost pile). Since childhood I have wanted my sister and I to be able to hang out with the same people and enjoy it. Mostly I was too young and annoying and Sharon wanted nothing to do with my friends who she says she was scared of. I really enjoyed mixing friends. I felt super homesick when Ali and Thomas left.

Now Nathan is here. It has been wonderful to have him here. At first my parents felt a lot of trepidation at the idea of having a guest in the house for a long time (Nathan offered to come live with me for a while) and held to only being okay with him being here for two weeks at the maximum. Pretty quickly they had a change of heart and now he is going to be spending the whole month with me. For most of the weekends which are now starting on Thursday afternoon and going until Monday afternoon, we are going to the Lee house. It has been super nice to get away from Milford and be a bit closer to nature. We have been skiing both on the lake and on groomed trails with my Uncle John who came brought us out for an afternoon of skiing. This weekend Sharon came and we had the most spectacular skiing conditions on the lake...warm enough that Nathan was down to a t-shirt, sunny with super blue sky, and snowcover just thick enough to make skiing feel effortless.
Nathan has been an incredible emotional and physical support for me. He came to Monicas with me and learned some tuina tips and has been working on me. We got to sit in her sauna after the tuina session which was really refreshing.... it gets up to 165 degrees which I thought was crazy and that I would never last for a minute in there but it is some special kind of infrared thing and feels super nice.
Nathan and I played in the snow yesterday and succeeded in doing something I never thought we could share (because I am too particular). We made a snow sculpture together. We made art together.....crazy. I was hoping that the sculpture would be there to greet my dad when he arrived at the house (we have been switching off time at the house which is what makes it so my parents are okay with a house guest) but the rain ovenight reminded me of impermanence....sadly I didn't even have my camera to take a picture. The great thing is that I actually want to take pictures now. For most of the last 5 months I have not felt inspired to take photos of anything so I am super excited that I have the desire again. It was really scary when I felt my creativity was gone.
Another big change is that I have found meditation again. Yippee. Nathan and I have been doing it twice a day. It is so helpful to have Nathan here to encourage and join me in such things.
With Sharons steady influence I continue to dabble in Qi Gong too. Yoga however seems to have gone out the window.... I think I am ready to reincorporate it.

And there are still lots and lots of times when I feel in despair about my life or how to maneuver through the next months..... and the scan, oh the scan..... what to do?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are you my teacher (written on the 15th posted ont he 25th)

I feel like the Ugly Duckling... not because I think I am ugly, although my body has changed and I am having some trouble getting used to it, but rather because I am walking around asking two questions.... one of them is “Are you my teacher.” Before I got sick I was talking with Nathan in the garden and out of nowhere I said, “I think I am ready for a teacher.” I think I shocked us both as I have generally avoided having "teachers" because of my experiences in public schools. I imagine that what I am supposed to learn is that the teacher is inside of me but for now I want a real teacher who doesn't live inside of me; an elder. I want it to be someone who can sense things that I cannot yet sense, someone who has experienced life and can help me not have to reinvent the wheel, someone who feels drawn to me in some way, someone who I feel drawn to for no clear reason but just because I do. I am guessing that my teacher might need to be a man since I generally raise my hackles at men who I perceive to be in a position of power, and sometimes miss out on good things because of it. I wonder if Tom Tam is my teacher. He certainly speaks cryptically to me like I imagine my teacher to do. It drives me crazy...its probably the point. Maybe its Eleanor or Monica...Maybe everyone is my teacher.

The other question I am asking is “what do you think chi is and how do you feel it.” All this talk of chi. I am starting to buy the idea that it exists but I want to feel it. I saw Tom play with some Tai Chi students. The game appeared to be about the students trying to push Tom and get him to move. Each student ended up pushing with all of their might, breath increasing, sweat dripping down their flushed faces while Tom stood there holding them back with one hand, sometimes seemingly freezing them in place, one foot in front of the other, eyes fixed on their bellies never breaking a sweat or increasing his respiration. Sometimes the student would go flying backwards with the slightest nudge from Toms hands. Is that Chi and if it is can he focus it on my tumors and make them go away... it seems like pretty powerful stuff.... maybe he is doing that when he taps the doll before my acupuncture sessions...or when he focuses on my belly and holds his hands around the invisible orb in front of his belly. Or when he seemingly throws the needles like little darts into my back (it rarely hurts I just always imagine that he is standing far away and throwing the needles at me because his techniques feels so different than the other three acupuncturists I have been to).

There was a secret (not so secret now) part of me that imagined that I could play the push game with Tom and get him to move. This thought seems kind of bold to me when people who have studied Tai Chi for years couldn't do it and I have not even been able to meditate still. I really wanted to try but felt too shy. Eleanor told me that there is some etiquette to the game and I felt worried about offending people with my naivety. I don't know why I am worried about offending people now. Maybe it was better left in my imagination anyway..... but what does it feel like to be frozen by someones chi? Or to fly from the power of someone elses' chi? Maybe ti is like those movies that Ted and Sara like to watch that I of course cant remember the names of.

Bravery (written on the 15th posted on the 25th)

The net CT scan is scheduled for February 1st. I don't know if I want to do it. Okay that might not be totally true. I think I do know. I think that I want to not do the scan because I think that I do not want to do any more chemo. If I do the scan and it shows that the tumors are smaller or the same then great, I have a clear path that feels good... no chemo no scans for a long while at least. If I do the scan and the tumors are bigger then I have to make the decision, knowing that things are growing and so are likely cause a lot of pain again (and likely death at some point), whether I want to do more chemo..... but really I know I don't want to do more chemo. So if I choose not to do more chemo I am then living with the very real fear that the alternative treatments are not working and I loose the power of my mind. If I choose not to do the scan and not to do more chemo than I get to live with hope and trust that things are okay. Not that I wouldn't and don't have fear but the fear that I have without knowing the results of a scan is easier to work through I think. So do I loose the opportunity to have a real boost to my trust in the alternative therapies that I am doing in order to avoid a potentially really hard situation.

I think that I am understanding the word bravery in a way that I have never understood before. Making the choice to trust, to go forward into the unknown when I could peek inside my body to get some answers. Knowing that I do not want to do more chemo therapy and basically saying that even if it was the chemo therapy that made me be able to remember what it is like to feel good, to remember that I do in fact like being alive, that I am not willing to avenge my body like that any more. Basically saying yes, there is a not small chance that I might die this year when maybe I could have prolonged my life.

Following my heart has usually come easy to me. Following my heart has always felt like like the easy way out. It never felt like I needed to be brave to follow my heart. Now I think I need to muster some courage and become brave.

Update (written on the 15th but only posted today the 25th)

Physically I have been feeling quite well. In general any ailments that I have do not seem to be related to cancer but rather they might be related to weight gain. I cant be sure but when I lost a lot of weight I noticed that all of my joints, particularly my lower back, felt great. Not soreness like I tend to experience. I also noticed that my skin became really clear. I couldn't fully appreciate these things though because I felt so horrible in other ways. Now I am almost at my normal weight and my lower back and hips have been quite sore and my skin is not so clear. It makes me think I should just stop eating most foods. Its nice that I feel well enough that the ailments are just my normal things. I suppose that I should be happy to just be alive but now that I have experienced the ease of movement and no joint and lower back stuff I realize that those aches do not need to be there, and I could feel even better.

Emotionally I think the depression has lifted. I am now joyfully feeling sadness, anger, confusion, loss, fear, and frustration as my body begins to integrate all that has happened over the last four months. I have never felt so much joy in feeling these emotions. I like it so much better than the numb space that I was in for the last couple of months.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Now this is more like I imagined

This weekend I attended a 2 hour chi gong workshop with Sharon and Ali. Afterwards someone came up to me and said he had something to offer.

He told me about a healer in Bennington. It happens to be the same healer that Sharon read a book about and who was originally recommended to me by someone who I was about to work with with Alyssa and Sara before I left (they are still working with her). When I met her there was an odd sequence of events that made me take note....

I always imagined that a healer for me would be someone who was not a native english speaker, who I couldn't make direct contact with, and who would come to me in a series of strongly energetic coincidences, in which the circumstance seemed mysterious and takes some amount of blind trust.... I am super excited to go see this person....

This is the email I got in response to my acceptance of the offer from the man in the chi gong workshop....

Hi Tamar,

Quang will see you on Friday 1/22 @ 9:00 am. He'll expect me to facilitate your orientation to his healing practice. We can go over the necessary hardware for cooking and the general diet things. It sounds worse than it really is but the more detail you can absorb the better and quicker things will work for you.

1)- how to get there:

The best way is for me to bring you the first time. I'll give you my contact info below. We can meet in North Adams/Williamstown area or up in Bennington, whatever is easiest for you. You can follow me out to his house. It may be a bit tricky finding it but it's pretty easy going home. There's a lot of short cuts to avoid downtown but that's for another time.

He lives on Harrington Rd in North Bennington, VT. You can Google Earth it for a general idea.

If you are comfortable, it helps for me to act as interpreter. He still has a strong accent and you need to be sure that you fully understand him. Don't hesitate to ask questions and be sure you're on the same page. We crack up sometimes from the miscommunication that we struggle thru. He's a really humble man and he wants you to feel comfortable asking questions.

2)- the cooking:

The usual process (he may throw you a curve or two) is to take 1 pkg of tea and add 4.5 cups of water to it. You boil it down to 1 cup. Anytime you forget and boil it to less than a cup you have to throw it away. the acceptable range is 1/2 to 1 1/4 cup. It is really hard to boil it down to less than 1/2 a cup but you'll think you're doing it every time for a while. ;-)

You then split the batch in two. Say you did a perfect 1 cup you would put 1/2 cup into a mug and put it aside for the next night (room temp). The other half is for you to enjoy (cringe!) that night.

Each day you'll have a powder tea to take. This one is easy and tastes like a gritty tea (not bad). You simply take 1 teaspoon with 1/2 to 1 cup of boiling water. Take tea every day after 1 pm and before 5 pm (closer to 1 the better). Don't eat for 1/2 hour before and after. Exercise (light walk) right after to pump the medicine thru your body.

Normally you'll take three batches over six days then have a two powder day (yea!) for the seventh. You'll then cook the next three before another two powder day. That covers the two weeks.

3)- the diet:

NO HERBAL TEA!!! Drink ginger tea while on Quangs meds. No eggplant. No caffeine. Less sugar. Less dairy. No green peppers but any other color OK.

Eat big during the day plus you can snack. Eat small for dinner. Only warm foods after 3 pm. You need to finish eating by 6 pm. Drink the tea before bed (after 9:00). The best results are to take the tea (a little lemon water chaser, shhh don't tell Quang) and then go right to bed. He wants you to use an extra blanket to get really warm, even to the point of a sweat beginning. This helps pump the medicine thru the body. As soon as you get that hot feeling you can take off the extra blanket and sleep like normal.

4)- exercise:

Walk in the morning to help pump the last of the meds. Walk again after taking the powder for the same reason

5)- the hardware:

this may be the hardest part. Finding the best cookware can be tricky. I actually have a set to lend you if you have any trouble finding stuff. I'll send you a link w/ pics if I can find them easy.

The first thing is the cooker. Glass only. NO METAL anything. Use wood utensils. Plastic strainers. The best cooker is the replacement pots for coffee makers. You need one with a large top w/ a plastic flip top. Anything too narrow makes getting the tea out really hard. Wal-mart/Target may have them. They always change over time so by the time I break something the styles have changed.

A heat diffuser. This is for the stove top to boil the tea. The glass ware can't go directly on the stove but the diffuser allows you to use it. These can be really hard to find but Amazon will be a good source.

I think that's it, Tamar. This took me years to fully understand his approach so don't think you have to be too rigid in following these directions. Most of what you will do is to enhance the effectiveness of the teas. The less you do to help the longer the tea will take to work.

And finally, on a personal note. I didn't go to this work shop for my own benefit. I knew I was there for a different reason but I didn't know why. In fact, I gave up my morning session w/ my laoshi (teacher) which I found a little strange to do as I value every moment I have w/ him. There's no doubt in my mind that this is why I was there. You and your sister are very special people. My third eye doesn't lie. Having the wisdom to go to Quang gives me confidence that you are on the right path. He is not a magician and I certainly can't guarantee that he'll be able to help. But if he tells you that he CAN help, and you follow his instructions, he WILL help.

I wish you all the luck in your pursuit of good health. It's funny how perspective changes, isn't it? I listen to people complain sometimes and I just look at them and think 'just give me your healthy body and I'll take it from there'. There are few problems in life that have any significance if you don't have your health. The process you are going thru will make you a better person though I'm sure you wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Call or write anytime if you want to talk more,