Tuesday, June 19, 2018

No Tears Left To Cry

Hello Darlings...

well after the cluster that was round 1 of chemo I am happy to say that Round 2 went a lot better...and round 3 even better (I got the pharmacologist to reduce the devil drug Decadron i.e. the "everclear" in the "trash can punch") and other than a little tiredness (and just one day of feeling like I had the flu) and a bit of nausea (but not getting sick) I did great....

I hope that first time was just a hiccup and that I had picked up a bug and this is not how chemo will go because I don't really like the idea of ending up in the hospital again.

I have better things to do with my weekend.

Things like:
watching Pioneer Woman and Trisha's Southern Cooking
petting cats
folding laundry
cooking and making bone broth
sitting in my easy chair
sorting mail
spin class
rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher
unloading the dishwasher
staring into my refrigerator
taking showers
doing costume research
playing on social media
being a human cat bed
floating in my aunt's pool
watching Netflix

you get the picture...I lead a terribly boring life...spin class, floating in my aunt's pool and the occasional pedicure are a high point but all of it is better than being in the hospital.

So thankfully I got a boring weeks at home of flipping channels and cooking and was not flipping channels from a hospital bed.

So today I want to blog about starting over again...

because that is what I am having to do with my exercise...

I have had a frustrating 9 months.

Starting in October when my blood got all funky and they got worried I might fall over and hit my little head I had to pull back on the yoga and frankly struggled to get through spin class.

It's a little hard to get your heart rate up and pumping if you have no hemoglobin and are struggling to breathe.

So I got thrown in the hospital and got to feel like a character in the movie "Twilight" as I was given bags of blood to help me get stronger.

Then I had the hernia surgery so no bike or mat for 7 weeks.

Then I got back to it and hit it with a vengeance...

I got in my 60 classes in 60 days and hit my 600th ride and 200th yoga.

I felt like a damn rockstar.

or at least not like a 53 year old cancer patient...

no, I'm gonna stand by the rockstar comment...or badass...you chose...

I felt amazing and I was riding that bike like a boss and flowing like a goddess.

I hadn't felt that good in 3 years...

not kidding....

and then all hell broke loose with my spine...

and I went from a little back pain...to struggling to walk long distances....to struggling to walk at all and not being able to sit in a chair....to pain like I have never had and it was unrelenting and constant.

So then spinal fusion surgery...

and then back to chemo...

So I finally got back on a bike May 24th...my 4 year anniversary of riding at Revolution Studio and I can tell you it has been 4 years of challenging joy. 4 years where I have loved each ride. 4 years of finding a sanctuary for my soul. 4 years of a tribe of people who I consider family.

But having been off the bike since March 7th took a toll on my body, muscles, fitness, strength, and overall ability to fully participate in class.

My heart rate---once so trained that it would jump up into my "zone" and stay there through class struggled to get up to my training zone because I can't pedal as hard or stand up.

My stamina---improving so much during January and February was nill...I just prayed to sit in the saddle and pedal and not give up before class ended. I've been talking to Jesus a lot...a whole lot...

My muscles---firming up and strong enough for heavier weights and looking good in my heels I was loving to wear once again became mush. My calves are the texture of my Tempurpedic mattress and I won't even discuss my thighs and glutes.

My core---so strong thanks to all the yoga and spin became a shadow of itself. Where I could once balance and hold myself up so well on the bike I can now only come up for about 10 seconds before needing to retreat back to the saddle (and lest you worry that I should not be doing this I have my surgeon's and oncologists' blessing).

My legs---once able to pedal fast to the beat and push hard tension on a climb are now just barely able to pedal for the whole 45 minutes at the bare minimum tension for each turn the instructor requests. And what little speed I was able to do it with is GONE...

My arms----once able to do 3 lb weights for the arm section (it's harder than it sounds) and finally able to stabilize myself as I did many many chaturangas in yoga can barely hold up 2 lb weights during arms on the bike. They are just flabby chicken wings that jiggle with every movement.

It's all so depressing....and I'm not gonna lie I cried after that first class back because I was so upset with what my body had turned in to.

I've fought so hard to go from looking like the female equivalent of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man (or the Michelin Man) to someone who can once again wear heels and a cute dress and feel good about herself in it.

I've lost 70 lbs

I spent the better part of last year in tents and tennis shoes.

And a few weeks ago when something didn't fit right I had to have a little chat with myself...

and I realized that I have had more done to me in the last 6 months (medically) than some people have in a lifetime: blood transfusions, hernia, spinal fusion surgery, chemotherapy...and add that to the radiation and chemo I had leading up to it...IT'S A LOT Y'ALL....

And when I looked in the mirror and wanted to cry because everything had gone SOFT I realized that even warriors are not perfect all the time.

Warriors have to train to be ready to fight...

you don't just go from "woman" to "Wonder Woman" without some effort...

and right now I am back to square one...


and I miss yoga so much I can barely stand to look at the yoga room...

one instructor invited me to come in and just sit and soak it in and oh I was tempted to but whereas I can modify myself on the bike, when it comes to yoga if I saw the flow start I would just have to get up and dance on my mat...I would not be able to resist doing a prayer twist (completely forbidden) and I would have to half moon for sure...


so the other day before I climbed onto a bike in Marvelous Mel's class I had a chat with myself as I drove to Revolution.

And it went something like this:

Hey Anice!
Wake up you nimnull...
you have been through a lot in the last 6 months!
so what if you can't keep up in position 3...so what if you can't do a left lead while standing (you have never been able to do left lead easily)...so what if you have to sit through 90% of class...
it's ok...
you are there...
you are in the room...
and as Marevelous Mel says "it's not about perfection" (yes baby girl I LISTEN to you)
it's about being present

And so when I climbed on the bike I had a new attitude about it and class went by so fast..and of course when she played "I'm Alive" by Sia I couldn't help but cry and was so grateful that I am alive and I needed to quit worrying about my weight and my mushy muscles and all the other nebulous things that really didn't matter.

Throughout this journey with cancer I have had to learn so many things about myself and have had to change my attitude about so many things.

And it's all part of it.

And the big thing I have learned is that I am not just facing death.

I'm facing CHANGE

and nothing is as I expected it to be.

And cancer or not, it rarely is.

We are all thrown curveballs in life:

loss of job
change in income
loss of home

so my cancer isn't the only change in life I have dealt with...but it has been not only the most life-changing---it's also been the most life-affirming and perception altering event in my world.

I've lost my parents and grandparents

I got married

I had kids

I got divorced

I moved houses

and I got sick.

All "normal" things...things many of us go through...

I knew all my life I would get married and have kids and probably live in a house or two.

I knew at some point I would lose my parents.

And a few years into my marriage I was pretty sure I would get divorced.

But getting sick is NOT something anyone plans on or expects to deal with in your life.

You don't just go into this world waiting for the day when you are told you have an illness.

(And when you do you go into shock...and you hit your knees and you seek God real fast).

So the shock and reality of my illness was just that---shock.

Life is a road and we hit speed bumps.

And sadly my speed bump is the size of Everest.

And right now I feel like I am climbing Everest...each day moving closer to the summit (when I am well...when I am NED...when the disease is gone) and base camp is so far below I can't see it anymore.

People who climb Everest are brave...strong....strong willed...gutsy...and just a wee bit crazy.

I have a lock on the crazy...the other part I have had to gain...

more strength....

more bravery...

more guts...

So now starting over on my fitness feels like trekking back to a lower part on the mountain.

But that's ok...

sometimes you have to climb down to climb up.

And I am learning that a step backwards is not always just going backwards...sometimes you have to step back to move forward...

like backing up to catch a fly ball...

or backing up to take a running start...

So maybe all this "backing up" with my fitness is not just a move backwards but rather a way for me to move forward...

and I am inching forward and not launching myself forward like I did in January when I started over after the hernia surgery.

I kind of feel like I am playing the game of Monopoly and I kept getting sent back to the start corner...or playing "Sorry" and someone has made my token go back to start.

But the good news is I am not "in jail" or in a timeout I'm just at the beginning again.

And soon my core will gain strength, and my heart rate will return to a trained state, and my muscles will be less mushy and more firm and the weight will continue to come off and once my spine is good and healed I can wear my high heels again.

It will take time.

And I am blessed to have time.

So the other day I put on a dress that I had purchased but the first time I tried it on it almost ended up in the Goodwill pile. But I hung it back in the closet and said "soon"...

So I put it on the other day and although I didn't look "perfect" in it I looked damn good.

Heavenly Heather and I now refer to it as "The Dress" because when I wore it the other day I had a lot of very sweet people tell me I looked great (including Dr. Angel---and this time when he told me I looked amazing he did not follow it with a "but your cancer..." so yay for compliments without being told bad news!). I wore it last night to Aunt Jane's birthday dinner and felt good in it.

Every girl needs a "The Dress" in her closet that she can go to when she wants to feel good.

(Mine happens to be from kiragrace.com and it's called the "Goddess Corset Yoga Dress". It's made of the same fabric that they make their yoga clothes out of so its a bit compressive and smooths out the bad bits. And because it is athletic fabric it is moisture wicking and keeps me cool and dry on those days when it is hotter than the surface of the sun outside.  Athleta also makes some similar dresses...)

You will see me in it a lot this summer...

Pretend I didn't just wear it yesterday, mmk?

Because all it takes for me to decide to live in something is to have a handsome man tell me I look pretty in something (even if it is my sweet doctor...he's still a handsome man!)

See how helpful I am? You can all go shopping now...

And I am going to get dressed and go spin...because these mushy muscles need to pedal and I need to set my soul right and now that I have found forgiveness for my steps backward.

My cancer journey is a learning journey.

I'm learning each day more about myself...growing in ways I never thought was possible.

Finding forgiveness for my imperfections and stumbles and steps backward has been a challenge but I now know that my life is not on a straight forward trajectory.

My life is a series of stops and starts and and not a smooth path but rather one of hills and valleys.

And I am not alone in having a life that does that...most of us do.

Sometimes we get sent back to the start and we begin again...sometimes we have to stop in the middle and reset...sometimes we have to run backward to keep going forward.

I'm running backward right now but it's only so I can have more room to launch myself forward...

Look out...I'm gonna keep going...

Because I won't stop until I reach the top...the summit is ahead and I will reach it...

Inspiration Song: "No Tears Left to Cry"---because I am obsessed with it...and because I'm not gonna cry about it any more...I'm lovin, I'm livin, and pickin it up...

Right now, I'm in a state of mind
I wanna be in, like, all the time
Ain't got no tears left to cry
So I'm pickin' it up, pickin' it up (oh yeah)
I'm lovin', I'm livin', I'm pickin' it up

Bye darlings...I'm learning that life is a series of forward and backwards moves...maybe I should have learned to play chess...in any case I'll keep starting over as long as I am given the chance to....

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dance with my Father

I'm gonna take a quick break from all the sturm und drang that is my cancer blogging and talk today about my Daddy.  It's Father's Day and it's been rough on me for the last 24 years that he has been gone. Today I am feeling all the feels and so I just want to let it out for a bit...back to cancer soon...maybe even later this week if I finish my "I started this 3 weeks ago" blog...

Hello Darlings and Happy Father's Day!

I'm sending love and best wishes to all the dads out there.

I lost my Daddy in 1994.

I miss him every single day.


I woke up this morning and so wished I could call him or better yet be with him at his house so I could get up and treat him to breakfast.

I found a photo of him and me when I was a baby and posted it on social media and then the tears started.

Going through these last few years has been rough not having him around.

I miss his wisdom and I miss his humor.

I think he would love having an adult relationship with my kids and I think he would be very proud of how I handled my divorce and building a life alone and most especially how I have handled my cancer.

Many of you who read this blog knew my dad.

Bobby was a man of great charm.

To know him was to love him.

He wasn't always easy to deal with (ask Super Sharon his former assistant) but most of the time he was someone you just wanted to be around.

I think he could charm a snake just with his grin...

My dad told great stories.

I think it is where I get my love of being a storyteller comes from.

I only wish I had made him write some of them down.

And oh how he loved horses and cars.

He was never happier than when he was in the saddle or driving.

When he had his heart attack and the docs told him he might not be able to ride or drive he said "well then let me die..."

He never sat pretty in the saddle.

Far from it.

He had a way of riding that we called "the funky chicken" because his arms would flap about.

He was put on a saddle as soon as he could sit up and he developed more horse sense than any man I ever knew.  And he wasn't too bad with the cattle either...

He won a World Cutting Championship (in the most ugly way possible) and was once featured riding hard on the cover of Fortune magazine.

He would come home from working cattle and would pretty much be a filthy dirty mess...but he loved every minute of it and I'm pretty sure his soul roams the Laureles division of the King Ranch looking after the cattle and the turkeys and deer.

Daddy loved to hunt but was always respectful of the animals he killed. We ate them or he gave the meat to friends. Hunting was sport but he also treated it as part of the circle of life.

He once killed an elephant (the elephant was old and sick and he was asked to put it down because he was a crack shot). He said it was the hardest kill of his life. He didn't speak much of it but he was gifted with the tusk (this was in the 60's) and some of the hide. He had boots made from the hide and he loved them so much we buried him in those boots.

He loved to hunt so much that he turned a car into a hunting vehicle.

He took a Tornado and had the roof and doors removed and had the King Ranch Saddle Shop make him rifle scabbards to go on the sides.

He would fly that thing (yes it had wheels but he made it FLY) around the King Ranch and once took his good friend Captain Pete Conrad for a ride in it. Pete was an astronaut. 2nd moonshot. Walked on the moon. He took my dad to a lift off for one of the Apollo missions and when my dad felt the rumbling of the Saturn rocket he asked Pete:

"how the hell did you handle all that rumbling and roughness?"

Pete answered: "because I drove across the King Ranch with you in your hunting car---it was great training!"

Yeah, to ride with Daddy was always an adventure.

When my stepmother gifted him with a Porsche one Christmas he couldn't wait to drive.

He made up an excuse to drive into Ingram and I was the unlucky and unwilling passenger.

We made it to Ingram in 8 minutes.

It usually took 10...

not kidding...

I came back from that little trip white as a ghost and as mad at him as the time he made me ride "Space Mountain" at Disney World.

No wonder Pete thought riding a Saturn rocket was a breeze compared to my dad driving a car with no door and roof across the south Texas landscape.

Speaking of that car---once he turned it into the Bat Mobile.

He came to pick me and Noel up from high school dressed as Batman (with my step mother dressed as Batgirl) in the "Batmobile".

Noel hid...

I ran to the car and my friends wanted a ride.

Only my dad could drive across town dressed as a comic book character and not be embarrassed.

I think it made the small town paper...and some of my friends probably still remember it.

As for the Batman costume it was a gift for his 40th birthday and my cousin Tio had a Robin costume to go along with it. I have photos...they are great...

My dad was an enigma of sorts---he was such a rough and tumble cowboy who rode horses and shot guns but he's also the man who chose my prom dress and cried so much when he saw me at Neimans in my wedding gown that I had to go and fetch him from the adjoining salon.

He collected western art yet loved Lalique crystal.

He loved scotch and red wine and good cold Mexican beer.

He loved a very rare steak and always had his beloved chilipetins on the table to go with it.

He loved to sing but usually only in Spanish (El Rey was a favorite)

He loved cars so much he once owned and ran a car dealership

He collected guns, cars, western art and children---there were 9 of us!

I had a complicated relationship with him.

When he said one thing I often had to prove him wrong

Like my wedding day when he said "are you sure" my answer was to grab my gown and his arm and said "the trumpet is playing let's go" even though he was right and I should have run out the church doors.

A particular conversation changed what I studied in college...

If truth be told I really just wanted to study to be a teacher.

I love teaching and I love kids.

If I had my way I would have been an art/art history teacher.

But a conversation we had when I was 13 changed that course for me.

After my father married my stepmother my mom would not allow us to travel to Houston every other weekend for visitation so my father leased some ranch property near Kingsville. We stayed in the guest house because the main house on the ranch was under dispute from the heirs to the property. They were fighting about it so they leased the property to my dad until things could be settled.

The ranch itself was in a bit of a mess and my dad was helping them by culling wildlife and grazing cattle there.

He took me out for a drive and we discussed why the ranch had not been properly managed which led us to a discussion of what would happen if he had a ranch of his own (we did have property in Montana) and he died.

Who would run the ranch?

And he informed me he planned to groom my brother to be his successor.


My brother?

I looked at him and said "why not me?"

and I knew the answer....

because I was a girl.

And I was supposed to grow up, get married, have babies, cook perfect meals and serve cocktails and be a lady...

So I went to Texas A&M and studied Agriculture and confounded all my professors and showed up to Animal Science class dressed in a mini skirt and heels...and once rearranged a set of steers all while wearing stilletos and tight jeans and a typical 80's top with my hair in a perfect version of big 80's hair.

A few of my classmates called me "Hurricane Anice".

I'll take it....

My dad never expected me to run his ranch but he was beyond proud the day I got my degree and despite his University of Texas loving soul he resigned himself to the fact that I was an Aggie and loved it.

And I still ended up getting married and having babies and cooking perfect meals and serving cocktails and I'm a lady...and I never ran the ranch...

My dad loved women.

He really really loved women.

And when he saw a beautiful woman he would say "now that's a chickipoo" (he called beautiful women "chickipoo")

Last night I went to go see "Book Club" with Twirler Girl.

We loved it (very cute movie if you are a woman over a certain age).

Candace Bergen is in it.

My father took my sisters and me to Paris (see my blog "La Femme Parallel" for those adventures) and we were lucky enough to get to fly on the Concorde.

The Concorde had a private lounge and we were waiting to board our flight while relaxing in the lounge.

In walked the most glamorous woman I have or will ever see.

She was a statuesque blonde wearing a full length mink coat and heels and sunglasses and she was on the arm of an older gentleman.  Back in that day you could go to the gate or the lounge even if you weren't flying on the flight. The man was clearly going on the flight but she was just there to see him off. She had eyes only for him.

My dad took one look at her and said "Now THAT is a chickipoo" and I could only stare.

I said "she looks like a movie star" and Daddy said "she is....She is Candace Bergen".

I had no clue who she was but I knew she was beautiful...

My poor stepmother was 5 months pregnant and had swollen ankles and watched my dad's eyes pop out of his head looking at the movie star.

But Daddy being Daddy he walked over to her...kissed her and told her SHE was the most beautiful woman in the room.

That was Daddy...

An appreciator of beautiful women but he knew how to take care of the women he loved.

I don't have any personal items belonging to him.

My stepmother never let me have anything but I have memories that no one can take from me.

And this is my fondest one...

it was the night before he died.

My daughter was 2 months old

Daddy was in the hospital and had had an angiogram and was scheduled for bypass surgery the next day (the surgery he would ultimately die from).

Daddy was so excited to have a granddaughter and he bought my daughter several over-the-top baby gowns and dresses that basically made her look like a giant meringue confection.

I dressed her up in one of the confection dresses and took her up to see him.

He opened his arms to receive her and held her for the hour or so we were there.

He was the happiest I had ever seen him and he was delighted to be holding and kissing his grandchild.

When it was time to go and I was taking him from his arms he said:

"She's the best thing you have ever done"

and at that moment any and all disappointment I had ever had from him vanished.

Because I truly succeeded in his eyes by producing this beautiful perfect child.

I kissed him and we told each other we loved each other.

The next day he had surgery and never woke up.

My last memories of him are of him in a coma but I truly prefer to remember that moment he handed her over to me.

I did something perfectly in his eyes.

I had strived all my life to do it.

And I finally did.

My dad was complicated, charming, funny, difficult, imperfect and easy to love.

And he will always be the first man I ever loved and even though we had a complicated relationship I feel blessed to be his daughter.

I have more tales to tell but there is a steak on my counter that needs cooking in his honor and some red wine I need to pour.

So to all who knew and loved my Daddy I hope you had a little remembrance of him as you read this...

and now I will go make a rare steak and think of him...

Happy Father's Day Daddy....I love you...

Inspiration Song: "Dance with my Father" by Luther Vandross. Because I wish I could dance with my father once again:

If I could steal one final glance
One final step
One final dance with him
I'd play a song that would never ever end
Cause I'd love love love to
Dance with my father again

Bye Darlings....back to cancer blogging next time but for now I just wanted to give you all a glimpse of the wonderful man I called my Daddy...