Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rx - Mental Health Day for everyone

First - thanks to all of you for your thoughts, recommendations and comments about Ereaders.  I think I'm sold.  Like many of you said, nothing will ever replace the joy of opening and reading a real book, smelling the pages, browsing the library and bookstores.  But the idea of having tons of books in that compact lightweight form is very enticing.  Also, I just saw that our local library system now has some feature where you can download books onto an Ipad or Ereader for free.  Yikes - I hate to see yet another paper convention of our lives, like letter writing, newspapers and magazines, become an endangered species, but at least less trees will be felled in the interest of providing us with more "stuff".

My mental health day yesterday was GLORIOUS! Just what I needed after a day at work on Tuesday where I felt beaten up, chewed up and spit out. My peace of mind was restored in a short 24 hour period. And now it's Friday eve, so hopefully my renewed state can hold out until 2:30 tomorrow.

The morning started with me walking 2.5 miles to my 7 a.m. aa meeting, then taking a different route to walk home that turned out to be 3.1 miles, for a grand total of 5.6 miles by 9 'o'clock, all the while listening to awesome music on the Ipod. (I drove the path in the car to know exactly how a total nerd.) How righteous that felt, and how sweaty was I when I got home. The heat and humidity have returned to my little neck of the woods for a few days, but getting the exercise early helped a lot.  It would have been much hotter and muggier in the afternoon.

After the exercise, I took a long luxurious shower, cleaned up up the kitchen, then met my close friend and aa sponsor, Lisa, for lunch. Lisa is my friend who has terminal lung cancer, but since her last radiation treatments in August to nuke some metastatic disease at the base of her spine, is feeling pretty good and looking great. She's over 2 years since being diagnosed at stage 3B (inoperable, and this gal never smoked one puff) and has fared much better than was originally expected. Last November, she developed mets. in her hip, spine and brain which we all feared signalled her rapid demise, but so far she has responded well to available treatments and is not going down without a fight.  She leads a very clean, sugar-free life with many great health maintenance practices in place (since long before her cancer), including daily yoga, meditation, very clean eating of organic foods (when she can eat these days), frequent acupuncture (she and her husband are acupuncturists, so she has a free practitioner living under the same roof!), and lots of walks when she can with her advancing disease process.

Lisa has been remarkable and inspiring in how she has moved through this cancer. She hates it, is tired of it, often so sick and in pain that she can do very little of her usual busy life that includes 2 kids, ages 7 and 12. She knows she will not recover and at times is appropriately despairing. But her attitude is as positive and gratitude filled as possible given the circumstances. She refuses to stop doing the things she's always done to be as healthy and strong as possible except when treatments for new metastatic disease or severe side effects from the treatments lay her low. By some miracle, she's feeling good for now, and has been taken off her main cancer drug, Tarceva, for now (a daily pill) because it has ravaged her GI tract. They take her off for a week at a time every month or so when her acid reflux and chronic diarrhea become so severe that she needs IV fluids to stay hydrated.  Once off the drug, her system almost immediately settles down and she can gain a bit of strength and weight to bouy her for going back on the drug that is literally keeping her alive.

She actually had the very small brain metastasis Gamma knifed last December, and so far has had no further recurrence in the brain.  She had 20 radiation treatments this past August when her low back began hurting and scans revealed that the cancer there had begun to intensify.  It was an awful month for her to have to get treatment everyday while in pain, and with the awful side effects of the radiation and the Tarceva.  This gal has BEEN THROUGH IT.  But almost a month after all that, the pain in her spine is GONE (though the cancer is still there), and with the current week off of the medication, she's feeling pretty good.  And to look at her, you'd never know her situation is so dire.  Her eyes are bright, hair intact, she dresses nicely and puts on make up.  Her big strategy, she says, is an aa golden nugget, "Act as if..."  In this case, she's acting as if she is fine, and for this time right now, she is.  Really puts 24 hour, one day at a time living in full perspective, doesn't it?  As she says, "right here, right now, in this moment I am here, and okay."  I need to remember that when I'm whining about a bad day at work.

I had no intention of talking about my dear friend so much, but I guess I needed to because yesterday was such a pleasure to sit outside with her and talk our heads off and see her able to eat and enjoy food.  What a blessing and an inspiration she has been to me for almost 20 years - a wonderful aa sponsor who has taught me so much about the aa program, and now a dear close friend with whom I can talk about anything.  Thanks for letting me talk about her here for so long.  It's Lisa herself who imparted to me the wisdom of staying in the present moment, so when I start feel sad at the thought of losing her someday, I just rewind and realize that today she is here, and doing well.  Beyond that is uncertain.  But uncertainty is with all of us everyday...we just don't have occasion to think about it much.

After the lunch with Lisa, I went to Walmart to spend a $25 gift certificate someone had given me.  Generally I don't shop there, being a Target junkie, but free money is free money!  After that - on to grocery shop and then sat at Starbucks for 2 hours with another aa friend.  It was such a restful, refreshing and renewing day - one I needed more than I knew.  And now I sit at work, needing to pour meds and go medicate the masses again. 

I started out this post intending to post my Hot 100 goals for Steve's challenge, but reminiscing about the mental health day took more time and words and paragraphs(!) than I expected.  Later today I will get my Hot 100 post done - but for now, I better go do what they pay me to do.  This will be my first ever 2 post day, but I want to get my goals up on schedule!


  1. Good for you on all the walking! Sounds like just a lovely day. Good friends make all the difference in my life. Especially those that are as inspiring as your freind Lisa. I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but you are very blessed to have lots of dear friends!

    Have a great day!

  2. Oh your poor friend:( Sometimes the best things to write about are those on you mind in the moment.

  3. I was thinking how sad but then I thought it is so nice you and your friend can get together and talk about things. I have lost many persons- my husband of 26 years, my youngest brother when he was 19, and both my parents- and all died suddenly. Your friend sounds so genuine and inspiring and I bet you help her too. Good for your walking- it's still hot here but no excuses- we do have huge air conditioned stores and malls!

  4. Hi Mom,

    Try to track routes! I was obsessed with this website when I was running a bunch.

    Give Lisa a hug for me! I think about her often!


  5. Thanks for sharing about your friend. I'm glad she has you for a friend. Oh, and it's nerdy to measure your running route in the car???? Uh oh, and here I thought I was just being responsible and not over (or under) estimating my distance . . . . :-)

  6. Dude. You made me cry.

    As you were talking about how much your friendship does for you, I was just trying to imagine how very much it must do for her. You're an amazing person Leslie...I'm glad you have Lisa, but I'm even more glad that Lisa, especially in her situation, has such an incredible friend like you. I bet you buoy her spirit everytime you guys get together. Love you girl. :)

  7. Came over from Hot 100. Interestingly I took a mental health day earlier this week, too, after a touch of a meltdown on my blog. All it takes is a little perspective to make life sunny again, I think. Looking forward to reading about your success!

    Polar's Mom

  8. Lisa is an amazing woman... I was so touched by her story. Especially this: "right here, right now, in this moment I am here, and okay."

    Stopped me in my tracks, and reminded me to put my current stressers in perspective. What a courageous lady! Thank you so much for sharing her with us.

  9. Thanks for this post-it was touching, and it sure puts things in perspective to hear about your friend's ordeal.

  10. Thanks for sharing about your friend. It is a good reminder to all of us to be positive and live everyday to its fullest.

    Mental health day sounds like just what thr doctor ordered-good for you!