Friday, January 27, 2012


Contribution.   This is my word/goal/resolution for 2012.

I know,  it's kind of late to be posting resolutions.   I had started writing this much earlier but hadn't solidified where I was going with it so it languished in a 'later' folder.   This week has been a week of grieving for our family, which has me again thinking about what I want my life to mean.   I still don't know how I will accomplish the goal, but thought I'd better at least set my intentions before the whole year gets away from me.

For the past two years I have spent a lot of time looking inward.   A lot of time trying to heal trauma.   A lot of time healing myself.   But I did not do this alone.   I have been blessed with an incredible partner, great employer and many patient, supportive friends who have stuck with me through this journey.  And now that I have myself together (sort of) it is time to think about giving back and making a contribution -

To my Profession
I have been blessed to work in a profession I love, one that feels more like play than work.   Not only has it given me financial security but also has allowed me to learn from some pretty awesome people along the way.  Last year I helped teach a graduate course at the local university.   I discovered that I didn't like lecturing in a classroom.   But I loved being out in the field with eager students tackling real life situations.   This year I hope to find creative ways to share my love of integrating the natural environment in all development with folks just starting out in the profession.

To Martha
In many ways our relationship is on auto pilot.  Without much thought we kiss each other good morning, go through our individual days, at some point share the good and the bad of it, and then kiss each other good night.   We are that old comfortable pair of slippers you read about.   For the past two years Martha has given me a lot of leeway to do the therapy work I needed to do.   Now I want to find ways to give back to her and to crank our relationship up a notch. 

To my Community
I grew up in a culture of volunteerism.  But what I hope to accomplish in this new year goes beyond simply volunteering my time, driving people places when they need go,  helping the elderly grocery shop or serving on boards.   I am looking to drill down deeper and find ways to make more meaningful, personal contributions to the people and place I call home.

To survivors
Many years ago I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer at a rape crisis center.  After all, I thought I understood the crisis and could help other women through the life altering changes.   I attended the first training session, lasted about 15 minutes and left, a sputtering ball of fear and anxiety.   I think I am ready to try again.  Through this blog I have "met" fellow survivors and have learned how important it is to share our stories and support each other.    Having finally staggered through all that muck and miraculously reached the other side,   I would like to be a resource to other women just starting to take those steps.

So that's my goal for 2012.   To make a meaningful contribution in different areas of my life.  Obviously I haven't come up with all the ideas yet on how to achieve this goal.  But at least I know what my target is.   


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  Getting back (slowly) to the gym.

2. Being able to exercise with no bounce.

3. No sweaty, clingy sports bra to wrestle out of.

4. Finally being able to shave my armpits. Sort of. My right side is still numb and a little swollen. But I did manage a fairly good hack job.

5. Being able to sauna. (Yay!!! Fireworks !!! Happy dances !!!)    I do love a sauna.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  The weather outside is finally frightful.  Not that I like single digit temperatures, but I do like the snow.

2.  A sweater that generously arrived from the pack mule of the universe, one of the few things my super sensitive torso skin can tolerate.

3.  Finally being able to sleep on my side. 

4.  People who bring me food - turkey, apple pie, ice cream sundaes, pizza, wings, Peppermint Patties, M & M cookies, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, hot chocolate, cheesecake, Hershey kisses, pasta with vodka sauce, and on and on and on.   

5.  This picture which is an accurate description of me this week.

Friday, January 13, 2012


A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. -  Lewis Smedes

I have been firming up my goals and intentions for the coming year. But first a look back at 2011 which was a monumental year for me.

2011. A year of healing.

It was actually over two years ago when I went to my friend and therapist, knowing I was not well and that I needed help. For years she had been nudging me to do some serious work for my PTSD.  And for years I had been resisting it.  After all, I could function reasonably well. But it was a huge effort to get through every day. I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy avoiding triggers, needing uber control to navigate through my life and, even then, unknown weirdness continued to blind side me.

My therapist always referred to my issues as a cancer. Something that was eating at me from the inside out and, if not treated, would eventually over take me.  Finally I reached a breaking point and I made a commitment to do whatever it took to rid myself of this blackness that was always lurking.

The first year we spent a lot of time nibbling around the edges. Deconstructing things slowly, speaking for the first time ever about that day, talking about Daphne, even saying the word rape out loud, they were all gut wrenching for me.  But for each step I took, I gained confidence in myself and trust in the process.

2011 was a year of the big hurdles. My therapist compared this to a chemo regiment that would totally break me before being able to rebuild my mental health.   I had to feel all those things I literally thought would kill me to feel. And my therapist pulled every trick out of the book to force me (kicking and screaming all the way) to finally look all that fear in the face.

In June I stopped the therapy. Not because I thought I was cured, but because I was tired and need time to attend to other parts of my life. Those first 6 months were the most soul crushing, nerve wracking, anxiety ridden, unbearably vulnerable time I can ever recall. And to top it off I had Daphne’s mother playing games with me, a person I thought was a friend pulling my chain, and my relationship with Martha was seriously testing its breaking point. I really needed a chance to rest, catch up to myself and process all that had happened and all I had learned.

Then my therapist suddenly died.   For quite a while I felt suspended in time and reality. But then I slowly realized that I was still okay. In fact, I was more than okay. I felt mentally healthier than I had in years. All those strategies to deal with anxiety, all those lessons about distinguishing between past and present, all those reliving memories which once caused so much pain -  everything seemed to be falling into the places they belonged.  I was feeling healthy and strong for the first time in a very long time. 
 And so I ended 2011 feeling healed.   Very sore, but healed.
- I faced all my most painful memories and came through to the other side.
- I found the strength to end an unhealthy relationship - something I have never had to before in my life.
- I spent the 25th anniversary of my assault with Daphne's mother, a person I thought I would never forgive.  But have.
- I went under anesthesia and relived the trauma all again, but it didn't linger.  When it was over, it was over.  Something that in the past would have put me in bed, trembling for days.
-  Then the breast cancer diagnosis.    It was not a surprise to me.  I had been dealing with pre-cancerous proteins for years.  I knew it was coming.  I knew how to deal with it.   
Am I now cured?   I don't think so.  Just like I may have to continue some kind of cancer treatment, and will always have to be tested to determine whether any cancer has returned, I will always have to work on managing the PTSD.  
After the surgery, I had one really bad emotional day.   I came out of the shower and looked at the amount of bruising and scarring on my body and started to cry.  When Martha asked me what was going on I responded "look what they did to me."  And Martha asked "they?"   It was then I realized I that the past will always blend with my present.   I will always have the scars. 
But I'm okay with that.  I have come a long, long way in the past two years.  I am proud of the work I've done and hope that it is a reflection of the faith and confidence Lauren had in my ability to find the answers I needed to heal.     I am looking forward to a much healthier, cancer free 2012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Full of Grace

1. Back to work. I love my co-workers, they are family to me. It’s like coming home.

2. Being able to button my pants. Barely. But still technically buttoned. Diet started yesterday. Today. Definitely today.

3. The steri-strips are finally all off the incisions. I am thanking the gods because they were some itchy little buggers.

4. Managed to pay two spring semester college tuition bills. I don’t know how. It always feels like the loaves and fishes Bible story to me when we make it.

5. Long cozy naps.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Contemplating my Navel

I have been home for 2 1/2 weeks since surgery.  I would like to say that I have accomplished much in that time, but the reality is, I haven't.   I read one book.  One.   I have not even finished writing thank you cards.  I have not had the stamina to exercise except for a daily walk around the block with the dog.  And then I need a nap.  But I have had a lot of time to think about my new body and my life -

- Without breasts I can easily contemplate my navel, which is kind of funny.  I have also noticed that when laying down, my left rib cage is significantly higher than my right.   And when standing, it is now obvious that my gut sticks out further than it should.    Too much chocolate, not enough exercise.  That needs to change.
- I have been humbled by the amount of cards and flowers and food I have received during my recuperation.    Not very humbly, I have been very happy that my daughters have been home to see it.  They seem genuinely surprised that I have a life outside of being their mom, and that, I think, is a good thing.

- I have received a ridiculous amount of "get well" chocolate.   My entire dining room table was filled with chocolate.  (I apparently have a reputation)   And then a huge box arrived from Hershey with cases (yes, cases!) of Peppermint Patties, Hershey bars, Reese's peanut butter cups and a 10 pound tin of assorted kisses.    Not to mention that almost everyone who brought a dinner, also brought some kind of chocolate for dessert.   Not that I am not grateful  (I am immensely grateful)  but I think tomorrow I will call our food bank and see if they want some.   I assume they like to stock healthy food, but everyone deserves some chocolate, right?

- I got a get well card from Daphne's mother.  I never told her about the cancer or the surgery.  It is freaking me out, like she is secretly keeping tabs on me.  But I don't know how.  Or why.   Or why she wants me to know she knows.  I am spending entirely too much time thinking about this.

- I am going to return to work tomorrow - part time.  I can walk there and when I get tired, I'll come home.   Nice to have such flexibility.

- I knew from the beginning that I would not do reconstruction surgery.  A good friend of mine said she just wears a bra and stuffs it with socks, and that was my plan.  But my torso is still way too bruised to even think about fastening a bra around it so I am going to work totally flat.   I think I will be okay with that.

- Flat chested.  Einstein hair.  No makeup.   Should be interesting.

- My two cancer sites have been sent to some testing lab where they will rank the cancer in terms of aggressiveness and response to chemo.  I am trying to prepare myself for whatever comes next.

- I am emotionally adjusting to my new "look" .  I am okay with the flat chest, not so much with the gut, the bruising and the scars.  But what I notice most when I look in the mirror is how much my face has aged this past year.   2011 was a tough year for me and it shows.  Seriously shows.   I have walked through a lot of fire and crawled through a lot of glass to get to a place of healing.    I am hoping for a more peaceful year.

- And I have been thinking about my new year's resolutions/goals/target.  But that will be the subject of another post . . .

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Full of Grace

1.  New Year's Eve kisses

2.  Kaleidoscopes

3.  Flannel sheets

4.  Finally being able to reach the microwave. 

5.  Albert Einstein hair - I can point a hairdryer at my hair but still can't get my arms high enough to style it.   The new look is keeping me humble.