Copperwoman's Story • March 2005
If you are arriving at this page for the first time, and want to read the story from the beginning, click here to go to July's page.
March 8, 2005 • Going to the Tanning Salon
So, you may be wondering what happened to me...No entries at all for February. Just recouperation time. The week following surgery, just after I got the good news, I joined my community in sharing the flu virus. That really kept me down, and I couldn't help but take it easy. I felt really low energy and was missing home in Garberville and getting anxious to get there. After getting over the flu, however, I saw that my feelings were so connected to being sick and I regained my attitude of patience with this process. Not only that, but I decided that while I am still here my best medicine is to sing and dance, work and play as much as possible.
I am dancing regularly at Debbie Nargi-Brown's Thursday night African dance class as well as Dance Church on Sunday mornings. Sometimes singing with Kate Munger and the Threshold choir and Debbie's monthly Womansong. In addition, I have begun to do a drop-in CircleSong on Wednesday nites and some daytimes. As you might guess, I am filled with energy.
Couple weekends ago, I spent time in SF with Nia dancers. Nia is a great form of movement created by Debbie Rosas and Carolos Rosas. They just completed a book about their 20 years of Nia and visited San Francisco on their book tour. I photographed their book signing on Friday, and two master dance classes that they led on Friday night and Saturday morning.
I was asked to present a slide show at an event co-produced by Nia, Goddess House Productions, Anon Salon and One taste on Saturday night. It was amazing how they transformed a warehouse building in SF into a multimedia, multi-dimensional kaleidoscope stage for the talents and imaginations of anyone who wished to participate. My slide show was made up of some of my nature photos, Nia dance classes, the events in the city that weekend, and the photography of Meridian (the artist who's photos hung on the wall that evening.) My slide show ran throughout the night behind the stage. It was a great success and enjoyed by many. Meanwhile, I set up my tripod and took more photos as the evening progressed. Click here to see a gallery of those photos. Jody joined me that night in the city and took some of the photos. We had a blast together sharing a room and the full experience.
So, why did I call this entry, "going to the tanning salon?" Well, because tomorrow I start radiation. I will be going in Monday through Friday for six and one half weeks.
March 22, 2005 • Way Behind
Amazing how the time goes by and how many other things there have been to do that have taken priority over my weblog. So dropping the last entry rather abruptly, I now take it up again. I did start radiation on March 9th. Before the first "real" treatment, I had to do a few preparation visits.
On the Friday before my trip to the city for the Nia gig, I had to go in for a simulation--at which time they took the liberty of drawing all over my chest with purple felt pen. X's here and there--and 2 tiny tattoo dots to be used later to line me up on the table to be sure the radiation would focus on my breast and miss my vital organs. After they had fun drawing on me, they taped over the markings since they had to stay on my skin until the CT scan which wasn't scheduled until the following Tuesday.
I mentioned that they might let the next woman know that she would be a "marked woman" just in case she would care about the markings showing around the edges of her slinky top that she was about to wear for a party the next day. Luckily the culture I was stepping into for the weekend might only see such markings as a fashion statement--well at least the Saturday night party crowd. As I mentioned above I had a great time over the weekend with my debut as a professional photographer, documenting the NIA master classes and presenting my slide show.
On the following Tuesday, I went in for the CT scan, and I was lucky as the purple felt pen markings made it through the four required days and they were able to line me up and register me and my organs for positioning on the radiation table. A week later on Tuesday, I went in for one final X-ray to make sure everything was in line. Then, on Wednesday, March 8th I began the six and one half week experience with the "tanning salon." (AKA radiation) I kept checking my calendar and setting my goal to be home by Beltaine. Looked good--as long as nothing came up to extend it--too much.
However, much to my surprise and disappointment, I discovered a lump in my left breast close to the surgery incision. I showed Dr. Kim, the radiation oncologist and we both agreed that we needed to check it out to be sure it was ok. The receptionist scheduled me for an ultrasound for the following Thursday, March 17. I felt pretty certain that it was just scar tissue or something connected with the January surgery so I didn't put a lot of energy into worry--however, it did get to me.
The thought of the six weeks growing into some unknown length of time really started to upset me. By Sunday morning at Dance Church I was really feeling it--missing Garberville, missing those friends who had become so close, missing my life as I knew it there. I started to cry and at first went outside by myself. When I came back in I just danced and cried quietly near the back door. Soon, a friend was dancing to me and holding the energy and asked if she could witness me or would I prefer her to go away. I welcomed her witnessing and asked her to stay.
It felt good to just feel those other feelings--the ones I purposely haven't let dominate me during my healing process--but the ones that need their voice too. Eventually I moved out into the room and connected with another friend. Some other energy took over. We began to growl, howl and vocalize and I am not sure what else. Next thing I remember is that I was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room holding hands with 4 or 5 other people. We made sounds, loud sounds--in fact I heard later that some people thought it was too much and left.
What I did see when I opened my eyes were circles surrounding the circle we were in-- people joining our ritual of emotion. I am sure it was extreme, but it had a life of its own and obviously there was a lot that needed to come out. It was a huge release, and I am grateful for the support and the experience and the emptiness I felt as a result. The emptiness left by the release of the anger and frustration of having to deal with "one more thing."
Monday morning I called the ultrasound people and explained my situation which I knew the receptionist at the Dr.s office hadn't done. When they heard that I would have to do 4 more days of radiation before finding out what was going on, they told me to come in that day. The Dr. who did the ultrasound said that nothing looked metastatic and that it was probably a result of surgery--agreeing with our theory. But to be sure, they scheduled me for a core needle biopsy the next day.
When it was time to call the Dr. in to do the biopsy I told the technician that I had to get home by noon to do CircleSong so when the doc came in we talked about the Dylan concert she went to the night before. The biopsy turned out to be easy. I didn't feel the "numbing needle" going in, nor did I feel it when she took the samples. She went in about 6 times to get 4 good bits of tissue and the instrument had a spring action click to it to help it penetrate the lump. I jumped the first couple of times but not after that. After she was done she spent some time looking at the magic wand and I told her its story. Made it home in time to sing, but I was a bit dazed from the experience.
Thursday I returned to the Ultrasound office for the results. Loula, the Dr. was as excited to give me the charm she brought for my magic wand as she was to tell me that the lab results showed all of the tissue to be benign, just leftover surgery dead tissue as we had guessed. The charm she brought me was a green guitar pick, for St. Patricks day. Through the hole in it she had twisted a wire so it was ready to be added to the magic wand. I immediately unwrapped the wand and fastened the charm. It was a good day with a big sigh of relief. And because of my proactiveness, I was ending that whole biopsy process on the day I was set to begin. Celebration!
I won't go into detail about the Spring Equinox gathering that followed on the weekend. I just have to say that we did some good singing and that three little songs came out of the weekend. One of which follows: They're gonna radiate me, they're gonna radiate me, I'm radiant, I'm radiant....So that is what I have decided is going to be my mantra in this next phase of healing. I am RADIANT!
That's the news for now. So long....sooner for the next entry
I send my love and greetings to all of you my friends.
PS If you're in Santa Cruz and want to drop in to sing on some Wednesday evening check out the CircleSong page.