“Untamed”

Throughout this whole blogging experience, the majority of my posts have focused on my own personal experiences.

Lately, I kept seeing the book “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle pop up on the Best Seller’s List, and see friends post about it on social media. Now, I’m a sucker for True Crime novels and really didn’t think “Untamed” would be my cup of tea. So, I didn’t look into it until last night.

In the last year or so I’ve been buying audiobooks. Despite my love of holding an actual book in my hand, I cannot focus on those like I can an audiobook. Whatever damage my brain suffered over these last six years, I just cannot read a physical book anymore. It almost pains me, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. So I now have quite the collection of audiobooks. And yes, I have an Audible subscription.

More to the point, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and bought the “Untamed” audiobook. Admittedly, I have not even finished it yet. However, I’m going to buy the physical book because I want to underline, highlight and make SO many notes in the margins!

As I listen to the audiobook, I want to constantly scream out, “Yes!” I purposely began listening to it on my iPad with phone in-hand, so that I could utilize the microphone and repeat quotes into my “Notes” App. Of course, I have to rewind the audiobook multiple times to get the full quote. Hence, it completely disrupts the flow of the book.

Even if I never finish the book, which just simply will not happen, Glennon Doyle has already taught me so much.

I hesitate to use the word “lessons” because I feel it implies that Doyle is preaching to her readers, which I don’t believe she is at all. Blame my catholic school upbringing, I suppose! Nevertheless, the stories and “lessons” about pain have provided me with a whole new outlook.

No spoilers here, I hope.

One thing Doyle emphasizes is to, “Feel it all.” In other words, it’s OK to feel all the “stuff you are feeling”. As she herself comes to realize, “feelings are for feeling-even the hard ones”. As humans, we are supposed to feel everything! Pain is included in that.

Despite the endless pharmaceutical ads that try to convince us otherwise, sometimes we’re meant to feel sad, depressed, overwhelmed, etc. Now, let me be clear-clinical depression and/or a mental health disorder is not what I’m talking about here. With that being said, sometimes we have really sh@tty days or weeks, maybe even months. Although they’re obviously not enjoyable, those days, weeks, and/or months are simply part of the human experience.

Once we realize this, and don’t just turn to a pill or booze (or whatever harmful means people find) to numb the pain, we can fully live. Again, as Doyle states, “Feel it all!” Further, she emphasizes that we need pain “to become”. Now, this may sound totally ambiguous and vague. Maybe even a little hippy-dippy. Yet, she uses two fantastic examples to clarify her point.

One image of the Buddha

Doyle briefly discusses the Buddha. He was actually born a prince. He literally lived like royalty – a very, very comfortable life. However, when he was 29 years old he snuck out of his palace only to find poverty, sickness and death. He had been shielded from this his entire life. So he chose to leave his life of riches to seek enlightenment. After a long search, he went into a deep meditation and found that enlightenment. Thus, he realized that his “conditioned experiences” could not provide lasting happiness or protection from suffering. He had to experience all emotions to find true joy. He even had to experience pain.

Another strong example Doyle points to is Jesus. Regardless of your faith, Jesus is historically believed to have been indeed a real man. Whether your faith teaches you he was our Lord and Savior is 100% yours to feel and believe. I frankly believe that all religions have their validity, unless a religion teaches harm to others. Fundamentalists are present in every religion.

Depictions of Jesus

Back to the point, in discussing pain Doyle states that Jesus walked straight to his crucifixion. He was not afraid of pain, as it is part of our life on Earth.

In utilizing these two examples, her concept that “pain is magic” becomes more clear and understandable.

The concept that truly struck me, given all I’ve been through these last 6 years, is:

“I can feel everything and survive”

She comes to the realization that she can “survive again and again”. After that momentous realization, she naturally became less fearful. Phew! If that’s not an epiphany I don’t know what is!

Now, I’ve read multiple Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Gabby Bernstein, Mitch Albom, and other widely respected authors who write about the human condition and our life’s purpose. I listen to guided meditations. I’ve been to wellness events and retreats. Yet, something about how Doyle discusses the purpose of pain (something I’m constantly focused on) just resonated so clearly.

Doyle elaborates on this further, stating that:

“You can survive pain, and feel it all, and still survive…What I thought would kill me didn’t…I was wrong”

In her personal journey, Doyle finds that:

“Pain is the fuel of revolution!”

She further explains that if you know the pain is present, you also know “the rising” will come and welcome you. I understand that to essentially mean:

Always remember the pain will eventually end. You will get through it and in fact, be a stronger, better person for having gone through it.

People constantly ask how I’ve gone through all that I have and continued to remain so positive. I think Glennon Doyle has summed it up pretty darn well in “Untamed”.

Now I’ve got to go and finish the rest of her book.

Today, I was told to “DIE!”

Today was Mother’s Day in the States. Obviously, with a pandemic in full blast people celebrated a bit differently. Some families are together, so maybe mom got breakfast in bed or a nice lunch set out for her. Many families are separated though, so they turned to Skype, Zoom or an old-fashioned phone call.

Presents or flowers were likely shipped. Perhaps some gifts, like mine for my mother, dwell “in the cloud” of the “due to the coronavirus your item may be shipped at a later date than normal and we will continue to keep you updated” category. Maybe others were home-made, well because we’re all home!

I am not a mother, and an only child. All my family besides my parents is back in Ireland, so no aunts or cousins around. Beyond my amazing friends, the only other woman directly in my day-to-day life is my mom.

My mother is incredible and literally the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and she’s 70+. We did the old school conversation over the phone today. It was hard not seeing her, but it doesn’t bother either of us much. I’d say though she’s a bit high-strung, (sorry, Mom) we’re quite alike. Neither of us become pit-bull, Fighting Irishwomen until you /the situation offends us or our ideals. Otherwise, we’re both intelligent, rational people. I think so anyway.

I won’t get into much detail, but I don’t have a fantastic relationship with my in-laws. We’re all opinionated, stubborn, pit-bulls. Don’t get us angry. It’s ugly. You’d think being so similar we’d get along. Nah. No. Nope. As the line in the movie My Cousin Vinny goes, we don’t “blend”.

Not having a child is an underlying issue. By not giving my husband and their family a child, I’m really of no worth. “Being a mother” is the only thing they do. As a couple with no children then, my husband and I naturally matter less to his family. The fruitless, barren ones! His entire immediate family also all live within 5/10 minutes from each other. We live a nice 40 minutes away. Thank god! Nevertheless, they’ll constantly be together and my husband never gets a call to come by.

The reason, in my opinion is simple: ME. I’ve achieved in blackballing my poor husband from his family because his sisters switch-hit on who hates me that particular day. First, they don’t want to be around the “sick person” or “expose” their children to a sickie like me. Add on the fact I don’t have a child, and it’s safe to say it’s been less than an ideal situation.

Well today, on Mother’s Day (and the irony does not escape me) after a huge argument amongst my husband and his family, I was screamed at by an insane SIL to, “DIE!” Yes, I was told to leave my husband, leave their family alone and “DIE!” I wasn’t even involved in the argument! Yet, who does the blame fall on? ME. The fruitless, barren one worth less than, hmmmm, dirt.

It’s hard. No, it takes every single bone in my body not to stoop to that level and just go after her and all his family, who would want nothing more than to see us apart. As an aside I joke, although I’m not really joking, that they’ve probably got a line of women ready for him hoping I do in fact die. Every surgery I go in for, they’ve likely got the rosary beads out, because after all they’re such devout Catholics, praying this time I finally go.

So, so true

My husband is so much more important than their evil, petty attempts to drive us away from each other. However, if I was in fact to succumb to this horrid disease one day, there would definitely be an all-out, no holds barred extravaganza!

So, here’s to all us fruitless barren women out there! Let us enjoy sleeping in, doing what we want when we want, vacations when we choose, oh and quiet! Lots and lots of quiet. And to any single women reading this: Find a man with ONLY brothers!

You just can’t make this ish up…

It’s okay to be married and NOT have kids

Another Surgery Down! Now, Recovering In So Many Ways (Post Surgery No.6)

Since my diagnosis in 2014, I’ve had some type of brain surgery…every… single… year with the exception of 2018. So, in 2019 just to make up for it, I guess, I had to get 2 “surgery notches” under my belt!

I’m now one week out from my 6th brain surgery. It was something termed a “Burrhole Craniotomy”. In real-people speak, I basically had a GPS-guided needle inserted into my skull to drain fluid from a lesion/cyst that sat in my brain for years caused by the insane amount of radiation I received between 2014 (initial diagnosis) and 2015 (recurrence). When I met with my neurosurgeon’s N.P. before he came in to discuss our options, I basically ticked-off every box for issues related to fluid in my brain. Yes, including being “ticked off” at everyone and everything. Yet, she asked politely, “Are you feeling more irritable?”. My husband had a good laugh at that one. We both answered with an emphatic “YES!”

Prior to the surgery, I became extremely angry and depressed. I never really had those feelings for such an extensive period without them being caused by some horrid med… ahem, Keppra, Dexamethasone. Nope. This time it was all me. Facing a 6th brain surgery, admittedly, gives me some leeway to feel so utterly miserable. I am only human after all.

I know full-well going to that “dark place” isn’t just damaging to my mental health, it makes me physically weak. I need to go into surgery healthy in all aspects-physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Yet, I couldn’t pull myself out of the darkness.

The one thing I was 100% confident in was my neurosurgeon. If I ever turn this into a book, I will absolutely name him. However, for now we will remain anonymous. I know for sure he truly lives and breathes by the Hippocratic Oath, most especially

  • the duty to “do the least harm”; and,
  • “there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

Fortunately, I’ve made wonderful connections within the brain cancer community since my diagnosis. I have no doubt some of those connections are why I’m still here. They’ve led me into the exam rooms of some of the most impressive physicians in this country. My neurosurgeon is one of those people.

So, despite all my neurological issues, including losing total use of my left hand, falling on the daily, constantly losing my memory or at least feeling such brain fog I literally forgot the year, I knew my doc would get me through this. And he did.

Without getting into too much detail, I had consulted with another surgeon first. Wait, I actually wrote a whole post about that experience. Oh well… “blame brain cancer brain”Totally off topic – Can we stop saying, “oops! Must be Mommy brain!”? No, like I’m literally missing a part of my brain that was infected with cancer – twice. Then, it got lots and lots of radiation beamed into it. We just forget shit! Mommies, don’t hate me, please.)

So, that other surgeon had proposed a much more invasive surgery. I was incredibly uncomfortable with his plan. I was very open that I was going for another consult at another hospital. The hospitals in NYC seem to compete with one another like spoiled school girls. I’m not too too concerned with that B.S. I’m trusting my brain with whoever is going to stick by that whole “least harm” idea.

My surgeon utilized the least invasive means possible, I only spent one night in the hospital. My left hand is working again. I’m walking better. The brain fog is still around, but I’ve been on Percocet the last few days. I’m not quite so “irritable “. My husband is very happy about that! I’ve got another surgery notch under my belt. Thankfully, I’m finding myself again too.

What’s a “Bur Hole” Anyway? (Surgery No. 6)

There are a ridiculous amount of medical terms you learn as a cancer patient.

There are about 130 different types of brain tumors alone. Never mind having to learn about the areas of the brain the tumor may affect, then what part of the body that area of the brain it controls, and on and on. I practically feel like we, as cancer patients, should be awarded medical degrees!

As an attorney, so much of my job involved research. Since my diagnosis nearly 6 years ago now, I raise issues with my doctors to the reply of, “Oh, that’s a very good point.” I’ve sent my doctors articles about new research, trials and information they admittedly were not aware of prior to me bringing it to their attention.

Yet, after receiving my discharge papers following my sixth surgery, I learned a whole new phrase, “bur hole craniotomy”!

Obviously, prior to the procedure I knew what I was going in for – a needle was going to be inserted into my brain to drain the lesion/cyst in my head that’s constantly filling with fluid, causing swelling and pressure to build up in my brain. That pressure then causes me to lose my balance and fall, causes unbearable fatigue, increases my seizures and makes me a prisoner because I cannot leave my home safely.

On December 5th, I underwent the procedure. Immediately after, I felt great. I regained use of my left hand. I walked around without my wretched cane. However, I experienced and am still battling intense migraines. The recovery was short-lived because the fluid has returned.

Living Through A Pandemic, But There’s Enough Talk About That… But I Kinda Gotta Talk About It

I’ll admit, despite being a highly educated person, I had never even heard the word “pandemic” prior to a few months ago. Since none of us can remember what day and/or date it is at this point, I can’t even pinpoint when I first heard it.

Living right outside of Manhattan and with all of my doctors in NYC, these last few months have been indescribable. I run the gamut of emotions on the daily. One minute I’m angry at everything. The next, I’m weeping seeing photos of my doctors on the “frontline” because, Yes, it is a war zone here. If you are one of those, “This is all a hoax” or “We have the right to allow ourselves to die” types, stop reading now. I’m not sorry for refusing to tolerate ignorance. Hearing that kind of talk then brings me back to my manic anger.

I feel frustrated and helpless that I cannot do a thing to change the state of affairs here, when hospital staff have to risk their lives and/or the lives of their families working in hospitals literally full of virus patients. I cannot handle the sight of tents set up in Central Park and other areas in the City, filled with patients because the hospitals are too overcrowded by this pandemic. I cannot handle knowing the millions upon millions of dollars that stream into the hospitals in which I treat. Yet, healthcare workers have to find their own PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to keep themselves safe. We are applauding the fact that only a few hundred are dying these days, down from 700/800 people per day… per day! Yet, we don’t even know the actual numbers because, well, I’ll keep the politics to myself.

So, as of today, there’s been over 75,000 deaths in the U.S. and over 20,000 in New York alone. Well, that we know of at least. The 9/11 attacks killed 2,753 people at the site of the World Trade Center. Those who have been taken by this virus are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, etc. They include nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff. Morgues and funeral homes are filled to capacity. So, refrigerated tractor trailers sit outside of the hospitals to load in the bodies. One Brooklyn funeral home was even recently found to be simply keeping bodies on ice in rented trucks due to overcapacity. The owner was quoted, “I ran out of space. Bodies are coming out of our ears.” These patients died an isolated, what’s been described as an extremely painful, horrific death. Then they’re just loaded into trucks, their family and friends unable to honor them with a proper funeral/burial.

One Jewish woman in an Assisted Care Facility, also in Brooklyn, was even buried in a Catholic cemetery despite already having a paid family plot in obviously a Jewish cemetery. Oh, and her estate was charged nearly $15,000 for her “Catholic funeral” that never even took place!

I truly feel like I’m living through the worst Sci-Fi horror movie, ever. As a cancer patient, I’m accustomed to “quarantine life”. However, the few times I’ve actually left my apartment, the sight of (mostly) everyone in masks, wearing surgical latex gloves, avoiding getting too close to strangers on the sidewalk, literally empty Manhattan streets… It really feels like the apocalypse has come and it’s not ending any time soon.

While I was in acute, in-patient rehab at NYU Langone’s Rusk Institute, there were rumblings of the virus spreading. There were very varied opinions at that time in early February. Some nurses and staff were extremely concerned, while others believed like so many of us it would just be like a bad flu. When I was released in mid-February, feeling so strong and energized, ready to get back to my outpatient PT & OT routine, no one advised me to be safe, wear a mask, limit my contact with others. That’s not the fault of the hospital staff. In my humble opinion, they were being kept in the dark, again like so many of us.

Once I was finally released, I had now undergone my 7th brain surgery and had a shunt placed into my brain that drained fluid into my intestinal area. I had spent a full week in ICU plus 2.5 weeks at Rusk. I was obviously immune-compromised, yet I went around NYC to all my follow-ups and to all the appointments I had missed while hospitalized. I didn’t wear a mask. I didn’t practice social-distancing, which is another new term I’ve learned. In fact, I rode an elevator with music-industry legend, Clive Davis, and his entourage. I was continuously told, the virus would not be as bad as some were saying. So, I didn’t worry. I mean, in less than six years I have REALLY been through some ish! How could this be any worse? Oh how wrong I was – how deeply deeply wrong I was. (Cont. on Page 2)