Thursday, January 24, 2013


A friend of mine, Steph, who also blogs posted a question - "What's your reason to be brave?".  I thought about that and posted this comment:
Bravery – we are born with a natural instinct to survive. Fight or flight.
My own body’s poor physical behaviour constantly tests that instinct.
There have been many times when I wanted to choose flight.
Like wanting to jump off of that litter as it makes the turn into the brightly lit, frigid, sterile surgery room. Masked and gowned people busy preparing for your event. Or making the long walk down the hall to the infusion room. Where I know they will be pumping chemicals into my heart, that can as easily take my life, as well as save it.
Seriously….. What makes me buck up and be brave, is that same instinct we are born with. Survival. One life. Fight.
The friends and family I surround myself with are there every step I take. Whether they are close enough to hug, or a thousand miles away. Some I’ve never met face to face. All, without knowing it, feed my bravery. They all feed my instinct to survive. That’s how I stay brave.
Stay strong 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The beat goes on.....

This Friday is a big day for me.

Back in 2007-08, I was trying to get back to a 'normal' quality of life after successfully completing Breast Cancer chemo & rads.  I started to experience extreme shortness of breath.  Climbing a few stairs, walking up a slight incline, carrying slightly heavy objects, etc., caused me to stop to catch my breath.  Lying down was impossible at bed time.  Constant cough and rattly breathing.

I was sent to the hospital for an echo cardiogram.  The Technician kept asking me if I was having any chest pains.  I said "no".  She said, "don't you have any pain right now?".  Again I said "no", but a bit apprehensively.  I asked why.  She didn't directly answer me, instead she excused herself to get the hospital Cardiologist to come in.  He looked at the echo screen.  Then asked me about being in pain, and am I short of breath.  I say, "no pain, not feeling short of breath lying here right now, but in general that's why I'm here... why??".  He said I have Cardiomyopathy and my mitral valve is not closing, causing a backwash effect.  Poor heart function.  He added I need to find a Cardiologist very soon.  If I have any pain, or feel in distress in the meantime, to call 911.  He added that based on my medical history, this type of heart disease is caused by a combination of radiation and chemo treatments.

So, I found a cardiologist.  Learned I was in congestive heart failure.  Got started on meds to control my heart rate and blood pressure.

Over these past few years, my heart got better.  At initial diagnosis, my ejection fraction was just under 30%.  It then gained efficiency and last year's ejection fraction was 40%.  [heart ejection fraction is the measurement of how well the heart is pumping]  Cleveland Clinic explains it quite well

This past December, my ejection fraction was again down to 30%.  Additionally, my heart has been beating irregularly and fast (> 110) at rest.  A bad combination which landed me in the hospital with congestive heart failure.

During that stay it was decided by my cardiologists and myself to have a pacemaker defibrillator installed.  This particular unit is called a BiV-Fibrillator.  There will be 3 leads placed on my heart to control the irregular beating and help improve my ejection fraction.  It will also jolt my heart, if needed, as a defibrillator, should my heart suddenly stop beating.  The Dr told me it will feel like being kicked in the chest by a very large horse.  Well then.... let's all drink to that never happening!

Since my Breast Cancer did not leave much meat on these bones, she will be placing the unit - about the size of a small hockey puck - under my left pectoral muscle.  She added that I won't be able to lift more than 3-5 lbs or reach above my shoulder on the left for the next few weeks.  Great..... it's the only hand/arm that works!  And you know when the Dr tells you its going to hurt.... its really going to f'n hurt.  :(

My Dr added that she expects I will feel a difference within 90 days.... Possibly be back to 40% ejection fraction.  :)  I'll take it!

So.... there you have it - more cancer treatment collateral damage.... another scar to add to my collection of many.  Another of countless reasons to insist our medical care givers gain the knowledge needed to understand the cancer survivor's challenges.  A life saved through such harsh treatments, should be able to live that life with quality, not fear.

Stay strong,


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I'd like to explain something about myself that few may already know.  I am a humanist. 

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment, aspiring to the greater good of humanity.  I have human morals.... Do unto others what you would want done to yourself.  That is a humanist quality.  How f'n hard is that to understand?   Do not kill, harm, hurt.  

As a humanist, I lead a life without deity, without supernatural beliefs.  I live my life with respect for our earth, and all living creatures.  Science, our universe and evidence of an ever changing living evolution, rock my world.  It is our human values that give us rights, responsibilities, and dignity.  People create their own meaning and purpose in life. The value and significance of my life comes from how I live life, not from some supposed deity or magic or because some promise of an afterlife is dangled above my head like a piece of chocolate.  

Additionally, I love my country.  I would and will fight for our freedoms.  I hold the utmost respect and admiration for our military, and law enforcement.   I am extremely patriotic and honor the USA.  No one ever needs to question that. I will fight for separation of church and state, as did our forefathers.  

Medical science is what has saved my life more than once.  It is those people with that level of knowledge and skill who did so.  No magic.  No Abracadabra.  They obtained that knowledge and skill on their own....  

I realize that individuals alone cannot solve all our problems, but instead of turning to the supernatural, I believe that problems are solved by people working together, relying on understanding, bonding, and creativity. That is why humanists are committed to promoting human values, human understanding, and human development. Humanists also emphasize the importance of self-determination - the right of individuals to control their own lives, so long as they do not harm others. 

Helping others by actual support of their needs at time of crisis or weakness from illness or personal strife is what a humanist does.  Actions.  No empty promises. 

There is no "leader" that I follow.  I follow my own beliefs of right and wrong.  My own morals are obtained by a human intelligence I was born with. As we all are.   

To me, the meaning of life is to live a life of meaning, this life, the one life I have.