Monday, November 11, 2013

Wake Up Grateful!

Last week I had the unique honor of being present at a private event for the Navy Seals Foundation with special guest speaker Jessica Buchanan, the American Aid kidnapped by Somali Pirates and rescued by a unit of Team Six. Her story was compelling and we all held our breath as she shared every detail. So many thoughts and things to share about that evening. For now, these two. First, THANK YOU! Thank you to all who serve and put their lives on the line for us as American citizens and risk their own because they believe in what we stand for as a country. Thank you to all of you who serve in the armed forces. It is EVERY day that we are grateful, not just today. Second, remember that YOU MATTER! There was a moment when Jessica Buchanan really thought that no one was coming, that she was insignificant in the broad scope of all else that was happening in the world and the US. But Jessica DID matter and Team Six DID show up and now she has a beautiful son and shares her story all over. And her story touched me and has made me think, and appreciate, and have hope and be so so grateful to be an American Citizen....especially an American Woman. If nothing else, know that you matter. If what you do affects just one person in a positive way, the ripple affect can be enormous. And the truth is, enormous or small, you may never even know. Surely Jessica Buchanan is not reading this blog but her courage to speak and tell her story reached me and this entry is reaching you and that might inspire something else. You get the picture. While the Navy Seals may not be coming to your rescue, YOU can come to your own rescue. Wake up grateful. Grateful for something. Grateful for anything. Gratitude multiplies the blessings in our life. Well actually, the blessings are all there, gratitude opens the door to see them all. So, Thank You on this Veterans Day to all who serve. We are so blessed.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Jist Of The Last Year And A Half

Today is February 16th 2012. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the death of my dear Goosey. The only good thing at that moment I could see was that I might get more than 3 hours of sleep a night now that his illness was over. And, that was the only good thing. Over a span of 7 months I lost my 2 best friends and ended my engagement to another amazing friend. It was so much loss and change. I was exhausted and broken hearted and ready for a break. It could only get better from here, right? I truly could not have imagined what was lurking ahead.

Shortly following Goose’s passing I began to have breathing trouble. It was very painful to breath and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I was diagnosed with pleurisy, which really made me laugh as of course I would have something as dramatic as pleurisy and worse, I did not have the proper wardrobe for a 17th century disease. We all had a good laugh at this diagnosis and I took some anti-inflammatory meds and chalked it up to another colorful swatch in the fabric of my life. Only it wasn’t pleurisy. Around April, I had begun to have some significant pain in my left arm and thought it must be this cyst I have on my shoulder since the EKG had shown my heart was fine a month earlier. I’ve had it for years and my dermatologist had assured me years ago it was nothing and to not remove it as it would just grow back and also leave a scar. SCAR?!!! Well, I wasn’t about to do anything that might damage my impending shoulder modeling career so I let it be. Back to my GP I went and he told me the same thing, it was nothing. The pain was a real drag and I was just tired ALL THE TIME! Was I depressed? What the hell was wrong with me? Ok Jo, join a workout group. Get moving. Raise your endorphins. SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!!

So, in July I joined a GREAT group called Lunch Crunch Workout with Open Sky Fitness. I was the oldest among a bunch of young hot bodied actors (mostly) but it was walking distance and the group was great. We did a lot of strength training and drills but when it came to the short distance run I was just lame. I could not keep up. I could not keep my breath going and I was not getting better at running, I was getting worse. Is this just that I am getting old? No way. It can’t be old age! The shoulder/arm pain was just awful. So off I went to an orthopedic guy. He assured me it was not orthopedic at all and perhaps chiropractic. So I went to a chiropractor. On August 19th I noticed a lump on the left side of my neck. Hmnnn…. I pointed it out to a friend at my church and she said I should have it looked at. On August 29th I noticed that I could no longer see my collar bone. On Sept 1st I pointed it out to my chiropractor who took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and told me to leave his office and go to my doctor immediately. So I did. On Sept 2nd I went to see Dr. Horowitz who looked at my neck and said “Let me make a call.” A few hours later I was having an ultrasound at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The technician looked at me and said “You must be someone important to have us fit you in today.” I smiled and thought no, I must be really sick. When he brought the radiologist in I knew it wasn’t good. He described that they were seeing a significantly large mass, and I looked at him and said ‘It’s Lymphoma isn’t it?” He said he believed it was. They both were very serious but I managed to make a million jokes about it and pulled off being my charming self. I got in the elevator and just lost it. Seriously? I mean really? Really? Is this a joke? I called my sister the second I got out of the parking lot. Oddly enough this news was coming on Bill’s birthday, my sister’s husband who had passed away 6y yrs ago that month from Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Dr. Horowitz set me up with an amazing head and neck surgeon, Dr. Carlton Lee. On Sept. 9th I met him and we did a needle biopsy. On Sept 12th he called to inform me it was malignant. I returned on Sept 13th with my dear amazing friend Karen Smith to talk about what was next. Karen was the note taker and I was the listener. I asked Dr. Lee to not candy coat anything and that I could handle it. So here it was. The tumor was matted around my laryngeal nerve, my carotid artery and my jugular vein. OF COURSE it is! It couldn’t be something simple. After all, this is ME we are dealing with. Epic is always the proportion of my adventures. He informed me that removing the tumor would most likely result in paralysis of my left arm and the loss of my singing voice as I know it. Is that all? At least I am right handed! We scheduled a cat scan for the next day and surgery on Sept 15th, 2 days later, to get a better biopsy. It was full steam ahead and it was clear to me that there was no playing around. Breathing was a real challenge and it was beginning to hurt to swallow. This sucker was growing and fast.

On Sept 21st I met my Oncologist, Dr. Fred Rosenfelt, at Tower Oncology which is part of Cedars. (can I just say that every step of this journey for me was very clearly Divinely Guided and I was never so sure about how to proceed and that I was in incredible hands…I am grateful to now know what this feels like so I have a standard for the rest of my life!) He believed I was between stage 2 and 3 for lymphoma. Sept 22nd was my Pet/CT scan and by Monday, Sept 26th, 2011 I was sitting in a chair being injected with chemo for stage 2 non-hodgkins lymphoma.

My last chemo was on January 6th 2012. I am now cancer free.

This is just the jist of things. The chemo journey was filled with humor, sadness, loss but mostly LOVE! The plan is to break it all down and write about it. I just could not do it while I was going through it. I was tired, sick, still working 7 days a week and just could not focus.

So stay tuned if it interests you. It’s been a rich time with a lot of lessons and a lot of love and I am ready to start processing it. Hope you are along for the ride. I promise to do my best to live up to my ‘Epicness.’

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blessings from Biz, Gifts from Goose.

"Even after all this time, The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe Me."

Look what happens with a love like that,

It lights the Whole Sky." ~ Hafiz

It is 6 weeks since Goose said goodbye and 7 months since Biz did. So much has changed. So much loss, so much loneliness and so much to reflect upon as I am still in the cyclone of shift. The cyclone does not look like this from the outside. It is an internal storm of clashing thoughts and fragments of identity that can’t seem to settle down or coexist in some kind of harmony. The only way to align any of it is to write. Writing seems to help it all make sense least to me it does. And that’s what matters, right?

I look at photos of my boys and think to myself ‘What are the gifts I get to take with me on the next leg of this journey and what are the blessings?’

The thing about Bizmarck that stood out was how grounded he was. Bizmarck was the centered one of the three of us. He owned his space and had very clear boundaries. If someone were to get too familiar with petting him or had an energy of treating him like a cat and not a Cat, he would let them know in no uncertain terms. It didn’t mean he didn’t care for you; he just didn’t care for being spoken down to or thought of as cute. His self-esteem was grand and his intellect was high. He was direct in his approach for asking for things and frankly, it is what always got him his way. His requests had an unwavering expectancy that accompanied them. He was a true demonstration of ‘Ask and It Is Given.’ Bizmarck and I were partners in crime. While he depended on me for food, litter and shelter, I depended on him for consistency and groundedness…. all else was an equal playing field. The trade was fair and the dance harmonious.

Goose was a different boy all together. I was Goose’s mom without a doubt. He always asked permission and I always granted it. He looked to me for support, for safety and for security and I looked to him for actually the same things. We mirrored each other in countless ways. Goose was always the comedy cat in my eyes. He was funny, charming, witty and had a ton of issues…what comedian doesn’t? From early on Goose was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Later added were kidney stones and in his last years he had chronic irritable bowel, thyroid problems, possible lymphoma and what my vet inevitably thought was an auto-immune disorder that was untreatable. Good God! I am exhausted just to list it all, imagine what it was like to live it. Searching for the solutions for Goose’s issues was a full time job. The paycheck was a remedy and I wish I could say they were plentiful. Just about every new project we took on put us in a deficit. We’d seem to make progress and things just didn’t seem to pay off. The thing about this guy though was that amidst it all, he stayed in a really sweet and kind mood. Goose had every reason to be ‘pissy’ and he just wasn’t. He was truly grateful. Gratitude was his mode of operation. Goose was really eccentric too. He was a total fidget and could only be held near a door jam so that he could hold on to it from over my shoulder to feel stable. It was hilarious to witness. He was desperate for love and desperate for independence. A true Gemini he was…just like his mom. The thing about all of his ‘stuff’ was that I loved him no matter what. None of his issues made me like him or accept him less and none of my frustrations with his illnesses made him turn his back on me. We had it figured out and allowed for each other’s stuff’ to have equal space. When Bizmarck died, I looked at Goose and said “Holy Crap! The grounded one is gone and what are we two lunatics to do now?” But we figured it out and made a good final go of it.

Last night I had a total melt down. Their absence is one I face head on in one moment and then do a two-step around so I can just make it through the day. There’s no judging it. It just is and I take it one day at a time. Last night’s melt down was a sign to get back to the paper and pen and reassess.

So here I am. Forging ahead wearing new armor adorned with the blessings of boundaries, self-esteem, the courage to ask and boldness to expect, along with the gifts of gratitude, endurance, acceptance and laughter. These and so much more are the contributions my boys have made in my life. Biz asked for what he wanted and the sky did not fall down because he did. Goose had a million issues and not once was he ever abandoned or looked down upon. In a nutshell today: Just Ask and Just Be, Love will take care of the rest.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Goose's Wisdom Weighs In

The morning of Goose’s last day he threw up for the last time. Goose had almost 3 yrs of constantly throwing up. It was so much on his little system.It was the last earthly wisdom Goose bestowed upon me. He chose my scale as if to tell me that it just doesn’t matter. I looked at the scale and the barf and heard him telling me,

“How much you weigh today does not matter. Being perfect doesn’t matter. A number on a scale doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is my last day with you. What matters is that you lie here with me so we can help each other through this. What matters is the honoring of the life we have shared together as we have known it until now. When someone loves you like I do, the earthly things don’t matter. What matters is that you honor me by giving me your time, your energy, your love and your support. What if you didn’t know that this was our last day and spent all day doing things that don’t matter? So what matters to you mom? What matters? Do that first. Do that continuously. Love me like you do every day but today …today…nothing else matters. See, we are lucky because we know that today is the day. We know what matters and what doesn’t. I barfed on your scale in case you were going to forget. :-) As sick as I am and as crappy as I feel, I still have a sense of humor. After today our lives will never be the same as we have known them. And I am just as scared as you mom. Yes I am. So when you wake up tomorrow, start to examine what matters now. You are on your own. What is it that matters now? Ok…I can hear Bizmarck calling me. Don’t forget. If it matters to you mom, that is all that is important. And btw Mom, thanks for making me the most important thing in your life. It mattered. Now it’s your turn.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Goose.

24 hours ago I was at the vet with my best friend Goose. We were saying goodbye to each other.
It was tied with the only other hardest thing I have ever done. That was saying goodbye to his brother barely 7 months ago. Goose and Bizmarck were the loves of my life. Both left 3 months shy of their 16th birthdays. We had an extraordinary life together. This I will write about later. I am truly broken hearted. The emptiness and quiet is deep and cavernous and lonely and yet allows for the knowing of something new that is launched by the gifts of the past 16 yrs.
Today I woke up for the first time in 25 yrs to having no kitty energy in my home. I have my coffee and wonder who I am now. Where do I start, how do I feel and what is happening? And this is what showed up.


The inevitable.

The finality.

The hollowness.

The quiet.

The space.

The re-ordering of things… priorities.

The finding value in just being me and not someone’s mom, caretaker, aid, friend, companion.

The new identity.

The heart break.

The fear of today.

The being not doing.

The disbelief.

The wonder.

The questioning.

The aloneness.

The understanding.

The shift from despair to sadness to laughter to detachment to practicality to intellectualizing to breaking open in less than a minute….over and over again.

The rain.

The honoring.

The gratitude.

The immense gratitude.

The energy. The shift. The re-alignment. The re-direction.

The puttering.

The creativity.

The noticing.

The compassion.

The nothing.

The something.

The mattering of things.

The love.

The comfort.

The grief.

The examining.

The gratitude.

The love. The immense Love. The intense love.

The surrender.

The weariness.

The exhaustion.

The sitting.

The standing.

The pacing.

The support.

The friendships.

The shock.

The vulnerability.

The solitude.

The gifts.

The distraction.

The letting go.

The holding on.

The humbling.

The anxiety.

The panic.

The calm.

The reviewing.

The praying.

The allowing.

The settling in. The settling down.

The realizing.

The joy.

The laughter.

The memories.

All of it matters.

All of it matters.