Target practice

January 9th, 2014 § 52 comments

No matter where you are

There is always beauty in the delicate unfurling of the morning as

It and its inhabitants come to life for the day.

A chair scrapes on the floor upstairs,

An electric bed adjusts,

An IV pump sounds,

A shade gets lifted to see the twinkling city.

A soft voice enters the room,

Two pills in a plastic cup down the hatch without disturbing a keystroke.

Vital signs are taken, the velcro cuff rips.

Vials of blood from my port,

The soft tapping of the tubes as the tech manipulates them deftly in one hand to keep refilling constant.

An IV pole whines like a morning toddler standing in her crib, anxious for first attention of the day.

Toilets flush,

Breakfast orders placed.

Young doctors starts to trickle in to find out how each patient’s night went.

 

And then some of the real business of the day starts.

Decisions made each day about life and death.

Who has surgery today,

Or a chemo change,

A transplant,

Biopsy.

Some will go home, some will not be ready.

News will be given.

Each person has a life unfolding here today. But remember it is a life.

Not a diagnosis, not a body part.

 

But just as the tide goes in and out,

Gives and takes,

So does metastatic breast cancer.

It progresses, taking more,

You hopefully have an arrows left in the quiver to try.

You tame it back and do the dance again. And again.

Leapfrog through treatments trying to stay one step ahead.

There is always adjustment.

It is a shifting target. You’d best be on your toes.

I am at the beginning of what treatments are available for me.

Don’t you count me out yet. Far from it.

Just because this disease can’t be cured doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of life left in me; there is still so much for me to do.

I am living with cancer.

 

I want to count the days until I can be home and me again. But we do not know exactly how many are left. Getting closer I hope.

When I get back home it will be a different me, but that is not the point.

This is part of metastatic breast cancer and now I’ve had my first introduction.

It’s been 15 months since I received my diagnosis.

This is the first time I’m needing any type of radiation.

I will have to pull out some more aggressive weapons in chemotherapy options.

 

IMG_8097But as I’ve done each time, my oncologist and I will research and discuss.

She and I took this photo last night in my room as we talked about what the treatment plan will be for this week to get me out of the hospital. Once we have a short term plan then we will know what the next few months will look like. There is defiance in setting out on a new path.

The first step should be a confident one, not a toe dip into the shallow end.

For now the hospital is where I need to be as we finish evaluating exactly where the cancer is how to best target it. Additionally, we are still are fine-tuning  pain control via the pump. It is a process to convert from using IV pain medication (rapid and adjustable help) to oral ones. The excruciating pain that comes from the tumors in my hips and spine demands serious pain management until we can allow time for the effects of radiation and  chemo to settle in. That’s been a main focus. The pain will get worse before it gets better in those spots it seems. Radiation pain will precede improvement in many cases like mine.

The discovery in the past two weeks of more metastases was a curveball. But it’s standard practice for metastatic  breast cancer. Totally typical.

I have quickly come to care for the people who work on the floor. There is so much care and assistance and tenderness every day. I look forward to sharing some of those stories in the weeks and months ahead. I could not be more grateful for the daily affection mixed in seamlessly with medical care.

Each room has a story.

My room has smiles and laughs and love. It has tears and anger and bewilderment. It has every part of life.

As I attack the cancer cells in my body I must always search for ways to bridge to the outside world. My family and friends have made that easy. They are my heart and soul. The supporters I have online help so much too. Your words of compassion and care keep me going and remind me why what I’m doing is so important. Using the time I have now while I am able to be functional is precisely the point… continue to give those too weak or unable to share the true experience of daily life with this disease a voice. To teach, to enlighten, to share, to support, to fundraise for research…  and to always honor those who have died.

As always I could not do any of this without my oncologist Dr. Chau Dang. I love this photo we took last night in my room.

There’s always so much more to say. But I’ve got some time to do that.

So for now, my dad is here for a visit and I’m going to go have a cup of coffee with him… thanks again for the support I receive from so many of you. You know how much I treasure it: it’s my beauty.

Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.

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§ 52 Responses to Target practice"

  • Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing like you do. I have so many other words I want to say but they are lost as I am sitting here sipping my coffee completely moved and speechless.
    Please feel my warmth and love coming your way.
    You have inspired me this morning.
    Thank you.
    xo Amy

  • Yolanda Davidson says:

    You have time, Lisa. You can write a book. And it would be a book that we would all love to read.

  • Pam Bosch says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I found my way to your blog a while ago a few years ago maybe when my best friend’s breast cancer metastasized. It was through your beautiful and eloquent writing that I understood even more about what Allie was going through. Allie was someone who turned inward with her diagnosis and she chose not to share even with those closest to her. She did ask me to write online for her so her friends and family would be updated and I always wanted to understand as much as I could about metastatic breast cancer and you were a great help to me during that time. I’m a writer too so I just became entranced with your words — The writer in me recognizes the writer in you. The mother in me recognizes motherhood I have a 13-year-old and a four-year-old. I too have an online community… Having gone through infertility with my daughter and the people I’ve met here are deep close friends. That’s the power of words. I don’t mean to hijack your comment section here I just wanted you to know how deep your presence is here. It’s beautiful. And this piece? This piece flows and roars with the kind of momentum of a writer hitting her stride. I cried when I got the part about honoring. You absolutely honor her spirit. I really can’t say enough about that because she didn’t know how to talk about it when it was happening. And as a result so many people didn’t know what to say, what to do, they didn’t know what was happening –and she also was greatly overwhelmed navigating the health care system. I have to believe that your writing and sharing your experience is helping so many people.

    Xo

    Pam

  • Risa says:

    Your posts remind me every breath is precious and every day with family is a gift. Keep posting, what you say and share is so important to so many people.

  • Kirsty Aversa says:

    I found my bit of beauty this morning when I sat here at my computer, coffee in hand, reading your very eloquent words about this beast! The beast that you continue to keep at bay. I send love and best wishes your way, continually hoping that each new day brings you one step closer to getting home to your family. I am most positive that you and your team will find the best protocol that works for you and you will have pain relief and lots of TIME!!! My wish for you is for heaps of time!

  • Rock on with your bad self, Lisa. I’m looking forward to having you home.

  • Merva says:

    Strength, wisdom and courage: you are the epitome of all three. I wish you the time for you to be with your family and friends. Every moment and day that you share with us is invaluable. MIL GRACIAS from the south of Peru.

  • […] post Target practice appeared first on Lisa Bonchek […]

  • Tom says:

    I know you’ve been hurt by the article someone wrote about you. The best response to the article I read was posted by a “ms marmite.” I’m pasting it here because it is a perectly expressed example of the invaluable contribution you are making to countless people’s lives.

    “I had never heard of this woman until I read this article, and as my mum has just been diagnosed with lung cancer, I am kind of taking an interest in all things cancer atm, and went over to her twitter and her blog. I’ve read reams of stuff on the internet about this dreadful illness, and I can honestly say that the stuff she has put on her blog about coping, what to say, what not to say, musings on life and death, and her overwhelming thoughtfulness in every piece of her writing, has been the most eye-opening and useful resource I’ve come across. And a big help to me, and I’m sure many others. It’s about as far from attention seeking and ghoulish as you could get.”

  • Leslie says:

    Beautiful!

  • Jacquie put it beautifully above: “Rock on with your bad self, Lisa.” Lots of love, support, and gratitude for your unflinching honesty.

  • Maida says:

    You, my dear, are a very talented and gifted writer! My prayer for you is pain relief & stabilization of your mets. You have so much more to share & I can’t wait to read it! A virtual hug to you!

  • Dawn says:

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your journey. And that article made me sad for the author. Not for you but for her. Because you see more beauty in the world and are so much more uplifting.

  • There’s the spirit!!! I love this post, love your attitude in the face of what I’m sure have been a terrifying few weeks, love that you still have so many options for treatment. I hope you feel all the strength of so many of us being sent your way. Use it to shore you up. Never give up hope. XO

  • Tammy Riise says:

    I follow your posts on Facebook and pray for you and your family everyday. Your last quote is so what I needed to hear today. Thank you so much for the encouragement you give everyone to keep fighting no matter what obsticles life throws in your path.

    Keep fighting

  • Cindy brown says:

    Your life is so precious and I treasure eachoment you are with us. Bless you and your family.

  • Beth Smith says:

    Beautifully written, beautiful picture!

  • Rebecca says:

    Enjoy that visit with dad. Thank you for taking time to write and share with us. I hope the kids are holding up okay too.

  • Ellen says:

    I find beauty and inspiration in your words. Thank you so much. I have struggled with lupus for many years but I am LIVING with it, emphasis on living. Much love to you always.
    Ellen

  • Lisa says:

    As always…moved by your spirit….moved by your words~

  • Ann Gregory says:

    Lisa,
    You are one of the most beautiful parts of my life. I cherish our friendship and want you to know that you and your words are precious to so many.

  • Feeling so lucky to have found you. You are a gift to us all. Persevere, Lisa.

  • Diane D'Angelo says:

    Lisa, We’ve never met, but I’ve been following your blog for quite some time. I feel so much love for you this morning reading this. I’m grateful for you and grateful for your posts. These lines: “Each person has a life unfolding here today. But remember it is a life.
    Not a diagnosis, not a body part.” Yes, yes, yes.

    And yes to perseverance. Carry on!

  • Holloway McCandless says:

    This photo of you and Dr. Dang made me so happy: two strong, smart, and beautiful women on the same team. Plus scarves. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Sharon says:

    Eloquent, honest, brave and beautiful! I love the picture too!

  • Kate says:

    Beautiful smiles in that photo!! Thanks for update on you and the reminder — your poetic description of waking up reminds me to find beauty where I am.

  • Meg says:

    Lisa, Your words are so beautiful. As a retired nurse, i want to comment on how important your words are to those who help, doctors, nurses, techs, etc. You honor them and also teach about life, the person, not the diagnosis. Hope your pain re edes so you can go home!
    Megg

  • Jill K. (@jillosopher on Twitter) says:

    I have to delurk. For years I’ve kept you on a private Twitter list and yesterday, I outright followed you and today feel the need to add my voice of support. MBC issues, from medical treatment to how people with MBC are treated are very important to me, for reasons I won’t mention to protect the privacy of another, but I’ve been reading your blog since I discovered it in 2010.

    Sending you loving support, and wishes for pain relief and reduction of metastases.

  • denise says:

    My life is different because of your place in it. Different. Better. More enlightened. Brighter. I love you.

  • Denise says:

    I stumbled upon your blog today. I love your honesty and your beautiful spirit. My father was exposed to agent orange and suffered from many related cancers for 18 years. My mother passed away from multiple myeloma. I have friends going through diagnoses now. I have derived so much comfort, knowledge, and strength from reading blogs just like this over the years. Your blog is a gift that you are giving and please know that your willingness to share so openly is doing great things- prompting someone to get screened, easing the fears of family members, validating the emotions of another patient, educating etc. It’s a wonderful thing.

    I will keep you in my prayers. I hope that you find relief quickly from the treatment plan.

  • Jody Schoger says:

    More love to you. I hope your countdown towards home grows shorter by the moment.
    - jms

  • Janice says:

    Eight years dancing with metastatic disease. Found out yesterday that the chemo being used to shrink liver tumors has stopped working. It’s decision time again, but I won’t be counted out.

    My plan for today is exactly as you stated, to find some beauty in the world, and to treasure connections with those I love. To persevere while I gather my strength for the treatments ahead. I walk beside you.

  • Thinking of you and as my reader fills up with unread blog posts I am always glad to see and read one from you.

    I will set aside my anger at this disease and what it is doing to you and your life and through the grey overcast skies, will look for beauty instead. Thank you for giving me that.

  • Michael Rusk (@DeciduousTree) says:

    Thank you so much for sharing with the world. Love, Michael

  • Ash Wolf says:

    Lisa, I, too, read the article that was so mean-spirited, yesterday, and although I had never read your blog, was compelled to join the fray in the comments section, because I, too, blog about living with a chronic illness. Many people were flummoxed by why anyone would want to share such a journey publicly, and I offered some speculations on the reasons, based on my own experience, making it clear I did not know you.

    I was shocked and surprised to find my comment is now their “Pick,” whatever that really means, and I just wanted to let you know it was never my intention to put words in your mouth. You have a number of friends coming to your defense now, though, and I see I wasn’t far off the mark. We both know you are helping so many people by sharing your journey, and I hope you won’t let this one event get you down.

    You & I share a great appreciation for Beauty as a way to get through the everyday struggle of living in pain. My fellow patients and I call our illness “the living death,” and many are housebound, as am I, but I always go on our porch for a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. Here’s something I shared with my fellow patients (now most excellent friends) last week when going through a rough patch, and my mom asked me how I did it – kept going:

    The upturned horns of the newborn crescent Moon, shines down on the snowy ground as the sun sets, and will soon follow….
    A glorious red & pink fire backlights the distant mountain range, across the broad Shenandoah Valley, north to south, as far as my eyes can see…
    The trees are black silhouettes against a crystal clear and yet rainbow hued sky, that shades from deep blue to lavendar to those glorious firey shades of orange, pink, and scarlet…
    I watch as the sky grows darker, rocking on the porch, savoring even the crispness of the 14 degree air as it passes through my nose…
    It is so still, so quiet, after the raging winds of the night and earlier in the day, even the dogs are quiet…
    Savoring every single moment, every single shade of color in the sky, every single time I see the baby crescent Moon, every sensation, even the cold air…
    THAT is how I do it.
    How do you?
    <3

    May you have many arrows in your quiver, and relief from the pain. Peace & healing thoughts.

  • Susan Zager says:

    Thank you for sharing all of this with us. Sending tons of love and support and hoping there is a plan that will get you home with pain managed. I love the photo of you and your oncologist Dr. Chau Dang. You continue to inspire and remind us to find beauty in this world even when surrounded by so many obstacles. Hugs and xoxo – Susan

  • Leah Wise says:

    Oncological, surgical, and hospice nurses are some of the world’s most special people. Can’t say it enough. I think of you every day, Lisa. (((((HUG)))) You inspire me to keep fighting. Leah

  • Jan Hasak says:

    This is so beautifully expressed. I also was diagnosed stage IV 15 months ago. Your writing reminds me of all the hospital doings as I waited to get my pain meds under control so I could leave and start treatment.
    What a beautiful photo of both of you! Absolutely precious and an image to treasure all your days.
    Rest up and heal. XOX

  • Joan says:

    Lisa, I came across your blog last month, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and spending hours and hours reading as much as I could. My first surgery is next week and though I have been through a great many blogs these past weeks, yours is by far the most amazing. I will never meet you but I will think of you every day. Your words are not only an education, they are spellbinding. You have an insight the likes of which I have never come across. I have many family members and friends who have experienced this disease, some have survived and some have not, but I never really understood what they had gone through. Thank you for giving me that understanding. Your strength and vision are helping me through this difficult time. You are helping so many others through the many ups and downs you are experiencing. I am sending you big hugs, and lots of love. Bless you dear Lisa.

  • Amanda says:

    I just stumbled on your site through Twitter, and I wanted to say that this is a beautiful post. It’s something I’m going to save for those days when the Lupus is being ornery and I’m feeling bad. I hope and pray that you can go home with your pain managed soon so you can be with those you love.

  • joannefirth says:

    Thank you for this today. May this day bring you that much closer to relief and comfort. I love you. xo

  • Sharon Martinelli says:

    The poem is beautiful and captures the essense of the place and the inhabitatants. This cancer is a nasty business but I hear that you are up to the battle and out to keep winning day by day. Lisa, you inspire me in every single post. You educate me. I share your posts with other cancer people and with some special physicians and periodically on FB. It was lovely to see you with your doctor – that is a relationship that must be a treasured one. And, you look beautiful as always.
    With much affection,
    Sharon

  • Laila says:

    Dear Lisa,
    When one publicizes their journey there will be critics, admirers and those who don’t understand. That is just the way it is. But it appears the “admirers” out way the critics and for that you deserve a round of applause. You have touched me with your quote “Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this many be hard to do. Persevere.” simply powerful words. I get you! Thank you! You are helping so many people in so many ways and hurting no one. Praying for your healing- and back home with your family.

    “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

    ― Aristotle

  • mary says:

    Brilliant! Lisa, you are beautiful.

  • gesine bullock-prado says:

    I say it every day, if not out loud then to myself, “Lisa is wonderful.”

  • Jen says:

    I’m happy that you feel well enough to have coffee with your dad and hope you get to be in the comfort of your own home soon.

  • Kris says:

    Sending love and warmth your way. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • sarah says:

    Sloan Kettering is an amazing, brilliant, impressive place. I wish I had never been touched by cancer yet at the same time feel so proud and strangely lucky to have MSKCC be a part of my world. I hate to think of you there right now but am so relieved that THAT IS where you are and happy that you are being taken care of and love your doctor so much. I wish for pain relief and a short stay for you my dear online friend.

  • Diane Turner says:

    Your words find their way into my belly, where they take up residence. My good friend Linda fought a courageous battle and asked me to tell her story. I’ve been struggling with that story for over two years now, struggling because I am afraid I cannot tell it adequately. I have put your brave, eloquent posts in a folder to draw on as I write the manuscript and attempt to put the strength you possess into my lady to honor Linda and her wishes. Bless you and your family as you overcome pain and find the best treatment. Your insightful, honest posts have changed lives, including mine. Sending you hugs and healing.

  • Denise Simard says:

    I’m so angry about this and mostly I want to say that you and your family deserve better. So much better.

    My mother died in 1993 at age 45 from metastatic breast cancer. Reading your work has made me able to see what she was going through; she tried her damnedest to be strong for my sister and me (we were 20 and 22) and from reading you I’ve gained some insight into her journey.

    So thank you. And keep on.

  • Susan Keegan says:

    Take heart that I would not have found your incredibly compelling blog with the NYT opinion piece. You go, Girl! God bless you and your family, especially your children. You were dealt a cruel card by fate. I hope your contribution to research saves other lives. I’d give you a big hug if you were here.

    From a non-metastatic cancer survivor (and a research subject).

  • Maria says:

    I love the closing sentence of your piece. Yes, it is essential to find the beautiful in the every day – because sometimes, the every day, the mundane, the toing and froing are all, or most, of what we have. For some while now, I have been trying to make the small things big. I spent so long waiting for the ‘big’ things, the things I thought would make me happy – a husband, children, family holidays – and I now feel the waste of those times. My partner died aged only 41 and I have been alone since. It hasn’t been easy to see the beauty of life but now that I have cancer, I am trying. Planting bulbs, looking at a plum sky at night, collecting my cousin’s children from school. Precious gifts. I hope you find relief from the pain. I hope also that you can rest.

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