Artistic License

note – update added June 4, 2015 – see #4.

I always liked art in school. Something about creating things, art – always made me happy. In high school my art teachers spoke of the “Artistic License” that everyone in class is given to make art for themselves – whatever it may be.

As I sit here, feeling somewhat philosophical, I am reading into this further.  Artistic License isn’t just about the license I have to free myself and follow my whims with color and brush strokes on a canvas in order to see what develops, what is born out of my play, but in fact, Artistic License could and likely should, apply much more broadly to my entire life. My life is what I make out of it, every day. The choices I make when I get up. The lists that I create to organized and bucket-ize my life into what becomes mini tasks just to be checked off.

One thing that has become blaringly obvious during this whole Life Detour, is that life isn’t about succeeding and checking off the lists, it’s about having conversations with friends and family along the way. It’s about living in the moment not from moment to moment. It’s about opening my eyes to see the pure beauty and happiness in front of me and letting myself take the time to see it and feel it, and thus, slow time down while I take a mental image and file it away. It’s precious. It goes too quickly.

My next birthday is come up rather quickly, and besides New Year’s Eve, this time is now making me think more about the things that I want to do in my life. What makes me happy? What activities do I miss from my childhood that simply vanished with age and maturity (for no good reason)? What new interests have I discovered but never pursued as much as I have wanted to? What things are on my list? What could I do now? Today? to work towards something that would leave something more permanent on this earth than I am?

1. PHOTOGRAPHY. I had a passing interest on weekend last year to enter a photography contest at a local arts and crafts type of store. For some reason I was drawn to the contest – they needed entries and for some reason, I thought I could win. I went home and look for artsy photography photos I had taken where I felt I really captured an emotion, where the light was just great or the content just inviting. I identified something around 10 or more photos. Being digital I was going to need to print them out at a local store then pick them up and take them back to the craft store to actually submit. Sad thing is, with all of my excitement – getting the digital photos made became too much effort and all was lost.

Now, I dream of making my own photography book. One amazing photo per page where ideal, other pages where photos are collaged together according to my own whims and Artistic License. Can programs like Shutterfly help me do this? To create my own book, in my own style? I fear not but even if I could make a single copy of my favorite photographs then I’d have something to hold onto, to pass on, to share.

2. PAINTING. I miss it. I painted in middle school, in high school. Then college came followed by graduate school and being a post doc and going all scientific and PhD minded. Then I selected the world of biotechnology to embrace and grow. Companies, publically traded companies, are all about the mighty dollar. How much it makes. What the ROI (return on investment) is. How fast are we growing versus the market? Versus competition? Good enough soon enough. Do more with less. It’s not about Artistic License and following your whims and fancy. It’s about line of sight to the next dollar, the next big product, the next big win and designing your strategy is to get there. It’s 180 degrees from Artistic License. Like ying and yang in my life. I miss painting. I miss just making something “because” and being free to make what I want for the pure pleasure of making it – not for any money, just for the pleasure of looking at it more later.

3. TRAVEL. I’m not a huge traveler but there are a few things I’d like to see before I kick off. 1) Southern Cross in the sky over the southern hemisphere – Australia? New Zealand?, 2) Northern lights in Alaska on a cold winter’s night. 3) kayaking at Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico ( – Tour #3) 4) Visit Petra (  4) take vacations that include rides on amazing trains around the world, 5) go back to New Orleans and wander through the artsy stores in the key districts for hours on end – looking at everything. Buying arty things for days and days. Eating amazing food and just letting it all go to relax, and be free.  I’ll think of more but for now, this is what is on the travel list. *late addition: 5) See more waterfalls. Need more waterfalls in my life. Used to go see more of them but not in a long, long time.

and more ideas to come here, too….takes a while to come up with things that are really of interest. Visiting Crater Lake was on my list as well – and that one I did complete! Also, I have ridden on the Yukon Pass Rail Road and it was amazing!  We’ve stayed on the coast by Sunset Bay and I never get tired of that view.  Much to think about. Much still to enjoy.

update June 4, 2015:

4. “I LOVE YOU WALL” IN MY HAPPY ROOM. In my house I have what I call the “happy room”.  When my husband moved all of his computer stuff out of our 3rd bedroom, I gained a room. I took the time to repaint it some great colors. I went to IKEA to get some beautiful shelving and I filled it with things that make me happy. It was going to be my place to go but it quickly became a place for both me and my daughter to go and hangout and do crafts together (even better!!).  Lately this room has fallen to becoming the “shove it quickly in this extra room” dump spot. I need to reclaim it. I need my Happy Room to be a welcoming, happy place that it once was.

Now – what better way to reclaim my room but then to improve upon it? My daughter gives me notes weekly that say “I love you, Mom”.  I have so many that I realized I need to start collecting all of these beautiful things. She’ll only be 5 once and they are too precious. So, I started putting them on the side of the refrigerator – well that is already filled up and overflowing. I need more space, to expand – a WALL! So what better way then to use a wall in the Happy Room and create an “I Love You” wall from my daughter to me and my husband?  Love the idea. Might just take off my birthday to work on this….since it is just around the corner….




Got myself a small, viral cold from my family at the tail end of Memorial Day weekend. Only good thing I did manage to do yesterday (Tuesday after Memorial Day) when I stayed home from work to rest and sleep (in the hopes that the cold would just pass by me and not do anything else to me) – is that I finally made my decision on my surgery. Yippee I guess? I wrote out all of the reasons in my journal. Read through them. Yup. Decision is made. The surgery is going to be extensive but it’ll give me the best of a few things that a lumpectomy wouldn’t give me.

Going to work today but in all honesty all I want to do is stay home and hide under the covers like I did yesterday. In between all of the sleeping and resting I did get through about half of the current book I’m reading.  Just want to hide. Tomorrow is #4 – and cold or not, I think I’ll still get it. Will know more tomorrow.

I’m certain that depression is a normal part of this whole process. I was doing really well avoiding it and fighting the good fight but a few things seem to have brought it on. 1) Now that the decision is made I have a tendency to wake up in the mornings thinking about the decision and what it means. 2) I tend to think about that decision not just as physically what will be changing but more about…in so many weeks I’m cutting things off. Rather rough to digest. 3) hormones. They are not normal right now. The doc had said that the treatments would likely push my body into menopause and I think that is where it is right now. 4) it’s a long marathon of a battle and looking in the mirror every day at my peach fuzz head is getting tiring. I look at my husband’s bald head and he has a nice line of hair that is healthy a few days after he’s shaved it. Mine – nadda. Some day my hair will come back, just not today. 4) sunscreen. I don’t want to have to keep putting it on all of the time. Keep getting it into my eyes somehow and it ends up stinging for hours. So, I opt to stay inside where the sun isn’t or also praise the fantastic cloudy weather we’ve been having. Seems easier. Had a great time the past Sunday and Monday hanging out with my daughter just doing inside activities together. Wish I could just stay home and hide. Problem is – things at rest tend to stay at rest and I know that it is NOT good for me to stay at rest.

My new mantra: Lots of good sleep. Drink lots of water. Get some exercise (lacking on this one right now).


Ouch! Another Side Effect Rears It’s Head

After my chemo began, my doctor mentioned neuropathy – and asked if I had been noticing anything. I always said no. For some reason, I equated numbness and tingling – similar to carpal tunnel syndrome with what neuropathy was. That was incorrect. Over the last weekend I thought I’d stubbed one of my toes – which is why it was sore. Then by Monday, I realized ALL of my toes felt sore – as if they were recovering from being stepped on, as were ALL of my finger tips.

I Google neuropathy –

From Wikipedia:  Those with diseases or dysfunctions of their nerves may present with problems in any of the normal nerve functions. In terms of sensory function, there commonly are loss of function (negative) symptoms, which include numbness, tremor, gait abnormality. Gain of function (positive) symptoms include tingling, PAIN, itching, crawling, and pins-and-needles.  Pain may become intense enough to require use of opioid (narcotic) drugs (i.e., morphine, oxycodone).

Great. The pain part has now officially sunken in. More fun with the side effects of chemo. It’s right up there with the burnt tongue, blood in the tissue, nausea, diarrhea and hair loss.

If I look at my hands, specifically my nails – I can see the insult that the chemo has left on my body (thanks carboplatin). Like my hair, my nails show the signs. I have strange discolorations in the “new” nails that are growing out. It’ll be nice to be beyond this all some day.

Happiness is….

Waking up and realizing that it is FRIDAY!

Getting a good night’s rest.

Getting on the treadmill and feel damn good about what you accomplished on your “run”.

Having the support of friends and family.

Not feeling bloated.

Did I mention that it was Friday?! 🙂

Happy Friday to all…



I’m afraid that I’ll make the “wrong” decision.

I’m afraid that there isn’t any “right” decision.

I’m afraid that I’ll have another battle with cancer and next time it won’t be an “annoyance” it’ll be a talk about life and death.

I’m afraid that I won’t be around to see my daughter grow up, get married, have kids.

I’m afraid that if I go for a double mastectomy and reconstruction that I’m going to hate how I will feel physically during all of the recovery and surgery and NOT be able to get myself back on the bandwagon of exercise and staying fit.

I’m afraid if I go for a lumpectomy and that next time will be right around the corner.

I’m afraid that even if I go lumpectomy because I don’t want to lose my breasts that my sex life will never be the same again.

I’m afraid that I’ll never feel strong, physically again, and I won’t have the strength or willpower to take care of myself the way I now need to.

I’m afraid that I’ll never have long hair again – like I had before.

I’m afraid that I’m the only one that can make this decision for me.

I’m afraid that I’ve lost my sense of optimism and cheery outlook.


So tonight I decided, after attending my second ever cancer support group, that I’d sit down and write out (again, in a new journal) all the pros and cons and questions and thoughts and different ways to look at my situation in the hopes that this would lead me to some realization. Putting things on paper usually helps me clear the air and I realize things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Not so much this time.

I decided I’d go on line and look for more info that I hadn’t looked into before. So I did, I went to the discussion boards and you know what? I must be a freakin’ idiot. Their discussion boards make no sense to me. Some posts are ancient. Some are not. Some which are more recent use abbreviations and I have NO F’ing clue what they are talking about! How is this possibly helping me understand anything? You know what it is doing? It is upsetting me more to try to look for help and come up not only with nothing but with info that could be helpful if I could actually decipher the magic code these women are speaking in. It’s only breast cancer – where is the cheat sheet to tell you what the F everything they are talking about means??!  They have abbreviations such as PS, BS, BMX, RADS….I couldn’t handle it. Sent me over the edge. Wanted to throw my computer across the room. Not helping.

I haven’t even had the guts to Google things like “masectomy images” or “bad lumpectomy” images because frankly, I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I even asked the plastic surgeon I spoke to this week for examples and he told me I could go on his website or use Google. I don’t want to find horror images but it seems that’s my next task to try to settle this mess and make some semblance of a decision on my upcoming surgery.

Side note – as I had my fit I was saved by my husband who is all knowing and helped me decipher the insane abbreviations. Now when I read they make a bit more sense but I still am NOT a fan of the discussion boards. I like people better.

It’s late. I’m going to bed. Nothing is sorted. I think, after straightening the heck out of the house, I might try my new app for Her2 cancer patients. Has a relaxation/meditation thingy to listen to. Who knows? It might actually work to calm me down. Or not. Ha. Time will tell.



None of the Above

They suck. They all suck. I have to make a decision – lumpectomy or double mastectomy and reconstruction and the more information I get, the more doctors I talk to the more F’d up it all is. Seriously. None of the above.

Unfortunately, life isn’t like that. A decision is necessary. I’m wondering if there are ways to bend the rules, find a loop hole to wiggle through to somehow make it all easier and so far, no secret has been revealed. This sucks. Going to talk to more women who have been through it. I’ve spoken to my share of doctors and gotten their opinions but one thing in this awful place that is certain is that this decision solely lies with me. My decision. My ownership. My responsibility.

I need a hot chocolate and a pastry. Screw work. This is too much.

Getting Heavy

Things are getting a bit heavy. I have to determine what I’m going to do for my surgery which will be 1 month or so after my last chemo (scheduled for Thursday, July 9th). I met with my new surgeon on Friday (I liked him) and on Tuesday I’ll meet with a plastic surgeon. Decisions, decisions. It weighs heavily on me but I’ve got my pros and cons list going and as I talk to more people (doctors, surgeons, fellow breast cancer survivors) my decision has been swinging one way then the next. I think I am actually starting to settle down toward a decision but until I speak to the plastic surgeon and get a second opinion from another doctor out of state, it’s hard to be 100% sure just yet.  What I can say is the following: I now have about 3-4 good reasons for choosing one option over the other, and I may have identified my deal-breaker, that makes the decision and all of the discussions about percentage of reoccurrence possibility all seem to melt away.  If that does continue to stick with me, then I think I’m about 80% of the way to my decision. It’s a big, heavy decision. It’s going to take some settling into.

On another “heavy” note I still seem to be slowly putting on a pound or so a week. Nearly had a fit at the surgeon’s office when it rang me in at 146! No, I weigh 142 and as of last fall when I was healthy I ran a standard 140, and at the start of this whole cancer mess I was running 138. Yes, the surgeon’s scale must have been off a bit! Either way, I don’t really like it. I’ve worked too hard going to the gym and now I can just see the numbers slowly creeping up. I was informed that on average, most women put on 10 lbs during chemo – news to me. I would like to hold under 145, closer to 142 if possible. It’s a psychological thing for me. Thing is, with all of the drugs in my system my hormones and body is more than a little out of whack and there isn’t too much I can do. I’m working to eat healthier (the chip-o-holic hasn’t been around since I kicked her out). No matter what happens I’m staying on hydrated and active!! This is only temporary.

Discipline – Confessions of A Chip-a-holic

I haven’t talked to many folks who’ve been diagnosed with cancer and discussed weight change during chemotherapy. The one friend I did talk to let me know that she lost a whopping 20 lbs and that outright scared me – she didn’t have 20 extra pounds to lose!!  Hearing this, and hearing the doctors tell me (when I asked what I should eat) to just eat what I could since it’d likely be hard to focus on eating the perfect diet since the chemo would make it all exceedingly challenging hasn’t helped things much.

My diet was pretty good coming into this whole mess. I was eating low carbs, high protein and trying to get more fruits and veggies onto my plate. Enter chemotherapy and wham, carbs came back with a vengeance since they help settle my stomach. Now I feel like the odd man out – the cancer patient that’s actually putting on weight and for me, who’s been at my current weight for what’s gotta be close to 10 years, this is not a cool thing. All of that work at the gym, all of those hours of running, lifting weights, burpees and wall balls, they all have given me the body I have and I love the way it feels!!! and now I’ve been trashing it these last few weeks – indulging in my ever favorite gluten-free tortilla chips. On the couch. At night. Right before I go to bed. The absolute WORST time to stuff myself (or anyone) full of big old empty carb calories. And what do I have to show for it – my happy little ring of softness growing around my midsection which totally sucks.  I KNOW better than this. I AM better than this. I just have to fine that new line between needing a little hit of some carbs to keep me settled and eating the ENTIRE packet of Ritz crackers (at work) or half the bag of tortilla chips. Seriously. This is uncool.

Last night I hit the grocery story and I’m happy to report that the beautiful red, yellow and orange peppers were on sale, 5 for $5 – cheaper than the plain old green ones – so I bought a bunch.  The big peppers have been my go-to, gotta have a veggie on my plate but I’m too lazy to cook any veggie. I simply cut them up, remove the seeds and eat as is. Simple as that. If I’m going to eat those carbs and going to need to for the slight nausea then I have got to get back to my rule of having to have some veggie/fruit to balance it. One cannot go into my mouth without the other. No can do. Not any more.

Today the battle will begin again. One meal at a time. One snack at a time. One simple decision at a time I will get it back.

A New Discovery

When your life changes so dramatically you realize that there will be some new discoveries along the way. For me it was yesterday, as I stood in a changing room at the local REI. I found this beautiful wine-red short-sleeved shirt that I had to try on – so I did! And wouldn’t you know it, I found out that bald women CANNOT wear beautiful wine-colored red shirts. You know why? Because it makes them (or at least me!) look like a monk. Yup. A monk. I did a double and then a triple take at myself in the mirror and broke out in hysterical laughter. Then, I reached over and grabbed my adorable flipside cap and put it on. Perfect! I was back to me again. Then I took it off and a monk was staring back at me from the mirror. Strange how some things work out.  I passed on the shirt.