Beyond Life's Challenges

It's time to think, see and live…BEYOND!

When you add a little heat…

…amazing transformations take place.

This certainly happens with glass, as you can see from the pictures of the first firing of my initial projects.

There is another firing yet, where these pieces will be “slumped.”   This is a technique which will shape them over a mold and they will be subjected to the same high temperatures in the kiln. These two flat pieces will be transformed into a small dish.

 

The first firing 060214

 

Personal growth is often like that, as well.   We may feel that our lives are “flat” and have no depth.  Or perhaps, we have endured so many challenges that we feel that we have been left shattered with nothing more than a few shards to proved that we ever existed. Can we take those broken pieces that seemingly have no other use to us and turn them into something functional, or magnificent and beautiful?

We must begin to look beyond our own pain, fear and ego to be able to push past the discomfort. Until we do, we never can see what is truly possible.

Is it time for you to turn up the heat?

 
© Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved, Author Coral Levang
Photo credit: Julie Misterian, co-owner of Misterian Roses

 

 

The coup loses its power with a smile

This morning’s post at the other site where I write, I wrote about a “coup d’état” that was taking over my day, my body, and my week off.  (Click here to read the article.)

As I look at the challenge for the day, it was to try to rid myself of whatever it is that is trying to claim my time this week.  Unfortunately, though I rested and drank plenty of liquids, amped up on vitamin C, and did my best to drink plenty of broth and eat some lean protein and vegetables, things are settling into my chest.

I did make my way reluctantly out the door for a drive into Lakewood, which is about an hour drive one way for me.  I have a friend who administers my Octreotide LAR shot once a month for me, and it was “my time of the month” for that injection.   Even though I felt like garbage, seeing he and his wife and their little boy for a few minutes is always a joy.

So many people, when feeling poorly, act in a way that brings others down.  No matter what we are feeling, it is important to be able to find some joy in life.

Tonight I shared with them some pictures, and a recording from 60 years ago that is very special to me. My friends thought it was a picture of me, but it was actually my mother.  I felt especially close to my Mom tonight, because of it.

And I realized that no matter how poorly we feel, we can bring a smile to others’ faces, and they to ours.

Now, back to resisting this coup…

Goodnight, my friends.

Art projects are my challenge for the day

First Project OrangeTurq Small Bowl Stage 1  053114

 

Challenges come in many forms.  My challenge today came in an art form.

Today’s challenge reached down and grabbed me in a place I have not dealt with   in a very long time. I have never felt comfortable where art projects are concerned.

I went to a glass studio to make my first glass projects.  The owners of the studio are sisters, and have become friends of mine.

I was with two other friends, one of whom has done it before.  The other went for the first time.  The owners of the shop are also friends.

The initial beginner project gives the opportunity to make two small projects that will be each be a “bowl” to use for candles or candies or whatever I choose to do with them.

At first, I was excited about it.  But as I get into doing anything artistic, I find myself shutting down, closing myself off, and not wanting to proceed.   I actually started to feel a lump in my throat and wanted to cry today.

I suppose I should start to write about the reasons why, but I am not quite ready yet to delve into the anxiety that I associate with art of any kind.  I will in due time.

I did finish putting the two projects together, ready to go into the kiln.  I am not yet certain that they will look “good enough” after firing that I will be proud enough to display them.  I also did not like that I was comparing mine to the others my friends were putting together.

So, here are the beginnings of my attempt at glass art.  I will share the next two stages, once I receive the pictures.

I really need to learn not to be so hard on myself where artistic expression is concerned.

First Project BrownBlue Small Bowl 053114 Stage 1

 

From A to Zebra

I tackled a writing project to describe myself using the alphabet as my prompt.  Several of my writer friends suggested it, and I put my own spin on it.

I used the ABC method as a tool to assist my clients in a way to build a list of things to say, when they feel “stuck.”  It is an exercise that is difficult for many of them.

Because I believe that I cannot ask another to do something I will not try myself, it only seemed fair that I take the project on myself.  The twist for me was that I could not use anything to describe myself that I would go down a negative trail.  It made the exercise particularly difficult sometimes, because it is easy for us to think of the things others seem to dislike about us.

We begin to use adjectives that describe behavior as words to describe who we are as  human beings.  We use those words to negate or excuse bad behavior. Or maybe, we do not know how to shed ourselves of those labels others give to us.

Though difficult, I did finally finish with this project.  I  went back to read all of the series  and am mostly satisfied with the words I chose to describe myself and for the reasons why.

What 26 words would you have used?  Are any of them the same as those I chose to describe me?

Even if you are not a blogger, this exercise is one from which we all can benefit.

The ABCs of Me…

Have a great weekend!

 

(To read the first of the series click here.   The others are listed in the first of the series.)

 

00 a zebraPhoto credit:  MorgueFile

 

 

 

Where there was hope…

Two years ago today, a friend of mine from the Navy and I reconciled our friendship after 15 years of estrangement.  Unfortunately, last July she ended it again.  But I am so blessed having had one year again with her.  Sue came back into my life at a moment I needed it most and helped life teach me so many lessons I had yet to learn, and to reconcile some of what I had yet to understand.

Two years ago today, I walked into the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle, Washington a frightened, uncertain and sad woman. Two weeks earlier, I was told I would not likely be alive today.

Two years ago today, I left SCCA that afternoon still afraid and uncertain, but I was not nearly so sad.  My head was still spinning, but in a different direction with new knowledge. I had been challenged to think much differently.

Two years ago today, that appointment saved my life, and I stopped giving my shit away and started living, no matter what the ultimate outcome.

Two years later, I want to thank Dr. David Byrd at SCCA for seeing me at last minute, giving me new information, helping me to challenge my thoughts and information that I had given by another doctor.  I thank him for giving me hope, and introducing me to Dr. James Park at UWMC.

Two years later, I also want to thank Dr. Susan Franklin for allowing me a year of a renewed friendship to reconnect and realize what it means to love another person even when it’s just for a reason.

Two years ago today, I began to hope.  Two years ago, I began to LIVE.

Zebra Stripes, The New Pink

This post is about those of us who are called ZEBRAS, those of us having been diagnosed with Carcinoid Cancer/Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs).

One young woman, Lindsey Miller, whom I followed in her blog, “i am a liver” (http://iamaliver.wordpress.com), passed away on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014.  She called herself a “liver” and has been living with neuroendocrine cancer after diagnosis 3 1/2 years ago.  I ask you to please read her blog, and leave a message of love and support to her family and friends.

And then, I am asking you to do something else.

Something powerful.  Something important.

We need to get the word out about this carcinoid cancer/neuroendocrine cancer. I ask you to please learn more about it, tell others about it. I do not think it is as rare as some say, but rather RARELY diagnosed, because many medical professionals will not delve far enough into the symptoms, just as happened to me for years, until two years ago when I was diagnosed with stage IV carcinoid/NETs.

PLEASE folks, start spreading the word. Go to the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation (CCF) website (http://carcinoid.org)  and Carcinoid Awareness.org  (http://carcinoidawareness.org) and learn more.

Start also wearing a zebra ribbon, zebra wrist bands, etc., along with your pink ribbons or any other color ribbons you are wearing.

I’m not asking anyone to make breast cancer or any other cause take a back seat.

I am simply asking you, my friends and  family, and those who follow me and stumbled upon me, to build awareness for the Lindseys and the rest of us who are the zebras … fighting something that so many in our medical system do not choose to acknowledge until it’s in stage IV level.

We zebras are fighting something that others tell us, because we don’t often look sick, isn’t as “real.”   Yet, when I tell or others like me tell our friends and family what we go through nearly daily, many do not want to hear, because it’s not cute, or fuzzy, or even appropriate in polite conversation.

We cannot talk about or show the scars, as those who have finally been accepted for no longer having breasts or nipples, or having only one, as I do.  (Yes, I have also been through a mastectomy.)  We zebras do have our scars, though.  And we have symptoms of that go with this disease that we live with for years, sometimes with no relief.  But  you can find those out for yourself if you visit the carcinoid websites.

Remember, that before Susan Komen passed away, most wouldn’t even talk about breasts and breast cancer, before her sister Nancy Brinker made it happen. Look at how far we have come. Look at the recognition.  I’m proud of being part of the breast cancer cause and helping to raise awareness and money. We can now talk about it, breasts and all.

But now, I am asking YOU to do something else.  Do this one for me, and others like me.  The Zebras.

PLEASE ALSO TELL THE ZEBRA RIBBON STORIES, just as you do the pink ribbon stories.

I want zebra stripes to be the new pink.

We, too, need the awareness. We, too, need the support. We, too, need a cure.

Cancer really sucks. All of it. :-(

How I Want for You to Remember Me

Earlier this morning, I wrote “How I Want to Be Remembered” on my other blog/journal site.  I  do not usually share the same things at each site, but some are important enough to do so, I think.

Firstly, I want to let you know that I have no plans whatsoever of dying any time soon.  Having gotten past the craziness of what others say that scares the hell out of us is definitely a victory in and of itself.  My goal is to get to 70 or beyond.  There are many of us with diagnoses and ailments who do.

But I do think that we must all, no matter who we are, start thinking about what mark we want to leave on this world when it is our turn to leave our earthly form.  I wish that I would have been encouraged as a youngster to approach life in that way.  My life might have been very different than today, though I am glad that it is what it is now in spite of the disappointments.

Perhaps these words that I wrote a few hours ago will spark a thought that others may have never begun to consider.

And please tell me…what do you want the world to remember about you?

Peace, joy and laughter,

Coral

080413 Star Quality

* * * * * * * *

I say this often: “We are all in the same war….the war is LIFE. The battles we fight are just different.”

We do not always come out the victor in the battles. Where we find victory is in the war.

We are born to die. That is inevitable, so it is what we claim in life that we leave as our legacy by which to be remembered. That’s it. The stories people will tell about us when we are gone.

I want them to have good stories about me. Stories that will make them laugh. Ones that will say, “If she could go through that with a smile on her face and laughing as she got up after being knocked down, then I certainly can do it too.”

I want others to have stories that remind them that I cared about them. Stories that showed that I cared about others enough not to let them wallow in the miseries of life, but call them to look beyond the challenges they face. Stories where they can find something positive–the best in any and every situation, no matter how hard it seems.

These are the things for which I want to be remembered, whether it may be tomorrow or 20 years from tomorrow when this life ends for me. I want to be remembered for making people smile and laugh when they thought there was no more laughter.

© Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved. CoralLevang
Photo credit: Family photo from August 2013

Two years after diagnosis

Two years ago this afternoon, I heard words that changed my life and the lives of many around me. Disbelief, fear, anger, grief and so many other emotions accompanied it.

The words sounded something like this:

DIAGNOSIS: “Stage IV Carcinoid Cancer with Carcinoid Syndrome; primary tumor in the mesentery, with mets to the liver.”
PRESCRIPTION: “Surgery to remove the mesenteric tumor and the right lobe of liver. If I see anything else in there, I will just close you up rather than do the surgery, because there will be nothing I can do.”
PROGNOSIS: “Six months to a year if you do this surgery; two, if you are lucky.”

Many know that I chose to go elsewhere, and of the fiasco/nightmare that followed where one particular doctor was concerned, but I am so grateful for the new team at UWMC. My primary tumor was not as the Madigan doctor described.

I did have a new surgical team and they removed about two feet of my small intestine, the mesenteric tumor (a metastases), and a few small tumors removed from my left lobe of a very fatty liver. Had the right lobe been removed, as the original surgeon was going to do, my “mortality would have been at issue.”

Am I lucky? I choose not to think of life as lucky or unlucky.

I am grateful.

–Grateful that through all the emotion I had the wherewithal to keep questioning, challenging, and choosing what I thought best for me rather than one doctor’s view of the situation.
–Grateful for the team of all the people involved, as the chain-of-events helped me to accept myself, in all my pain-in-the-ass-direct-approach-to-life personality type.
–Grateful for all the support I have received from all in my life for however long or whenever it was given.
–Especially grateful for all who have stuck around and not ignored me and my situation or who have not walked away, as there have been many who have, dealing with their own issues and emotions surrounding this. I get it.

So perhaps I really am lucky. Lucky to have found many who have remained my friends through it all, loved me in spite of myself, and encouraged me along the way. Lucky to have made friends who have done so regardless of this cancer. And for you I am truly grateful. You have taught me about love, life, peace and understanding.

So, TWO YEARS!

Aren’t you glad that I’m a pain-in-the-ass and aren’t ready to go yet? There is still time for us all to enjoy one another. No more wasted time, okay?

Take life by storm, folks. It’s the only way to do it.

Oh, yeah….

F*CK YOU, CANCER!!!

(and the horse you rode in on!)

Two Years Later, the ER and a Blur

As I recount what happened two years ago, you can read the first two parts of this story either here in this blog or at my other: “Two Years: It Was a Friday, Part 1″  and “Two Years: The Following Two Days, Part 2″ .  This submission is part 3 of the next few days, April 16th, 2012 and and beyond, which I have first posted at this link: Two Years: A Trip to the ER, The Next Few Days a Blur, Part 3

I thank you for indulging me some of the retelling, for those who have walked this path with me.  I have filled in the blanks for some.  I have forgotten the details of others, now after two years.

And so, I continue…

I woke up Monday morning still feeling like garbage. I was in contact with my boss that day, to make sure that everything I needed to get to my replacement workshop trainer. One of the last things I heard back from my supervisor was “Take care of yourself and get some rest.” I told her that I was going to drink more 7-Up.

I knew that even though I wanted to take my friend out for his birthday and end of tax season celebration, it was not going to happen that day. I did not know what was wrong, but I felt pretty much like garbage. I called him to let him know I was not going to be able to do so, and exchanged a bit of email with another friend.

I could not handle things any longer. I drove myself the 12 miles to the Army Medical Center Hospital and checked myself in to the emergency room. It was about 2:00 p.m. It seemed that it took forever to be seen. I cannot remember how many times I told different medical professionals from doctors to nurses to technicians and whomever else came in to ask me my situation. I know that, at one point, I somewhat snapped at somebody and asked them if they had read my chart, because my story had not changed.

Trying to recall everything that happened two years ago tonight seems difficult, at best. I don’t even want to look up the last two years’ accounts of the story from my perspective then.

However, by 10 p.m. or so, I had drunk the concoction they had prepared for me so that I could have a CT scan. My friend was there with me and we talked about everything things could be. Neither of us were very good at the waiting. We were both scared.

After the CT scan, the waiting was the hardest. Every time someone popped his or her head in the room to check on me, I felt as if there was something someone was not telling me. Perhaps it was just my fear.

I think it was after midnight when someone finally came in to share the results of the CT scan. All I remember was hearing words that kept me nearly suspended in time:

“…mesenteric tumor and tumors on your liver…” followed by “Any questions?”

I think I remember looking at her in disbelief before uttering the words, “What the fuck?” All sensibility and lady-like behavior flew right out the door at that moment. I went immediately into “numb” mode.

I stared at my friend, repeating the words that the doctor had spoken to me, followed by “You have got to be fucking kidding me.” I seem to remember him just looking at me in such a pitiful way. He may have said, “I’m sorry.” I really don’t remember much after that. The next couple of hours are barely memorable now.

I do remember looking up to the heavens and calling out to my friend, Kim, who had passed away two years earlier, “I think I win now!” We used to tease one another about being in competition of who had the worst/best cancer. She had trumped my early stage breast cancer from a few years earlier when she went through her ordeal before she lost her battle.

I also remember looking at my friend and starting to cry. At that moment, I wanted to be able to call my mother. She had passed away ten months before. I felt such grief at that very moment. I simply wanted her to wrap her arms around me and tell me that it would be okay.

My friend, though as supportive as any of us can be at that moment when we are all in complete shock, did not even hug me. He, too, sat in total disbelief, unable to say or do anything.

I felt as alone as I have ever felt and I drove myself home about 2:00 in the morning. I had no idea exactly how my life would change over the next few weeks.

I wanted to get some sleep and then wake up from this cruel nightmare.

The next day, I started making some phone calls to some of my friends and family to let them know what was going on that I did not know what it was called. That was the hardest part for me…the waiting for the upcoming tests, the biopsy, the wanting to believe nothing was wrong but knowing that everything was wrong.

It is the day I started to look at life (and death) much differently, and on April 17th, 2012, I wrote “How to Get Rid of Weeds” on my blog, which I adapted several months ago here on Bubblews as “The Weeds of Life.” (www.bubblews.com/news/2094484-the-weeds-of-life)

A few days later, I wrote “Finding the Beauty” (corallevang.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/finding-the-beauty/) when I began to look at things much differently. I started to see things with different eyes.

My subsequent blog posts, which were a bit infrequent, started to examine the meaning of everything, and did not disclose too much right off the bat. But those blog entries you can find should you be so inclined by visiting my old blog entries on your own.

The next several weeks held some of the beautiful and free, as well as the most mind-numbing and fearful days of my life. but all have been part of my journey.

And in the weeks ahead, I will share more of what happened, and disclose even more than I did when I first shared my story, including the letter I sent out to my friends and family two days after I met with the doctor once the battery of tests and procedures were assessed and I received my diagnosis and prognosis.

***TO BE CONTINUED***

***To gain other perspectives about the journey and how it affects one’s thoughts at different stages, please check out more from this author***
“How Long to Live? One Year, Two If You Are Lucky” www.bubblews.com/news/2711570-how-long-to-live-one-year-two-if-you-are-lucky
“Suicide: The Night I Took My Life…” www.bubblews.com/news/575917-suicide-the-night-i-took-my-life

Revisiting the Following Two Days Two Years Later

As I recount this story from two years ago, I do so without going back to reread what I felt two years ago.  I think it is important for me to reflect on  where I was from my perspective of today.

Anyone who is interested in going back two years ago into this blog is certainly welcome to do so.  I’m sure that I will go back to see the difference in me from year to year.

Do I tell the story the same way?  Are the details the same?  Or do we forget some things as we continue to live beyond them?  I can only tell you this…

I am grateful to still be here to share it with you. 

I know that being so open with some people is not always comfortable.  But I share my story in the spirit of humanness that we so often forget we need to be.

We are all in this war together, Folks.  That war is…

LIFE.

 

(Original post on 4/13/2014 as Two Years: The Following Two Days, Part 2)

It was Saturday April 14th, 2012. When I woke up the following morning, I did not feel much better. I felt as if Friday, the 13th had taken its toll on me. It was is I had lived through the worst part of a bad nightmare, but that the nightmare was not yet over.

I stayed in bed most of Saturday just to see if I could kick this feeling. I was able to keep some water and chicken broth down. The pain in the left side of my gut was still bothering me, though not quite as bad.

I still did not go to the emergency room, convinced that whatever it was would pass as it had done a couple of times before. And based on the violent, projectile vomiting the day before I was even more certain that I had experienced food poisoning.

I slept fitfully on Saturday, going back and forth to the bathroom, not sure what end was up.

On Sunday, I struggled with whether or not to call my boss and give up the workshop. I tried to rest, thinking I would try to make the trip to Wichita on Tuesday morning.

I do not like to miss work. Not only is that the work ethic that is important to me, I am also a consultant for these workshops. I do not have sick days or vacation. The bottom line: If I do not work, I do not get paid. I work part-time so all my hours are vital to my livelihood.

Later that evening, I drove to my local Walgreens to pick up some more 7-Up to settle my stomach and get sugar in my system. I had not felt so weak in a long time. I also picked up some Pepto-Bismal to try to reduce the nausea and control the other symptoms that presented themselves with all my intestinal issues.

It was about 7 p.m. and when I came out of the store to my car, I felt the wave come over me again, and the little bit of water and 7-Up I had drunk that day, I had no control over. I threw up in the parking lot in front of others.

I was was mortified. To be human and have been so ill in public was most embarrassing. No one even asked if I was alright or if they could assist. I am not convinced I would have accepted any help from a Good Samaritan.

What I was feeling about people’s thoughts of me quickly left me. I knew that I was not going to make the Wichita trip. I called my boss. I left a message on her voice mail, frantic for her to phone me back.

I also called my friend who was worried about me. He is an accountant and the following day was tax day, as well as his birthday. I told him I was backing out of the business trip and the next day, would not be able to take him to dinner to celebrate his birthday or the end of tax season.

My manager called me back rather quickly and was quite sympathetic. I was still sitting in my car in the parking lot when she called. I felt nearly unable to move, fearing that I would become ill again. I apologized over-and-over again for putting her in a situation where she had to find someone at the last minute to cover for me. But as bad as i felt, I knew I had made the right decision. I told her that I would touch base with her the next day, so that we figure out how to transfer the plane and hotel reservations over to whomever she was able to find.

I drove home the few miles to my apartment and crawled into bed. If I did not feel better the next day, I would drive myself to the Army Hospital and go to the emergency room.

I never dreamed what the next 36 hours would hold in store…

***To be continued***

 

© Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved  CoralLevang

 

 

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