But I Feel Fine!

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Except for the hole in the back of my knee and a leaky incision where my lymph node was extracted, I wouldn’t think anything was wrong with me. I feel great! How can I be sick? How can I have Cancer? How can it be stage 3a?

I went back to see my surgeon on Tuesday and as she was checking and redressing my melanoma golf-ball sized scoop, I asked if there were any results from the surgery a week before.

“We have a lot to talk about,” she said.

My heart sank. I kept my composure as she finished wrapping my leg. She left the room and I had a moment to look in the mirror and tell myself to keep it together. She returned with the paperwork.

She said it was very surprising that there was no melanoma in the surrounding skin behind my knee. I’m pleased about that, but man, that site is fugly! It hasn’t healed yet so we are waiting even longer to proceed with the skin graft.

Then she said that melanoma was present in the sentinel lymph node removed from my thigh, putting me from stage 1 to stage 3a just like that. Huh? Is this really happening to me? I feel fine!

She told me what was to happen next: PET, CT and MRI scans. These will determine if there is more cancer in my body and where. We will also take out more lymph nodes in another surgery that will require a hospital stay. That surgery puts me at risk of lymphedema.

I asked her: “Is this when people cry?”

She told me that there have been great strides made in melanoma research in the past five years, more than in the prior 50 years combined. She said: “THERE’S HOPE!”

I shall cling tenaciously. I have raced in three 70.3 Ironman events on Hawaii Island that were hotter than hell. I have swum in three Waikiki Roughwater Swims and walked back to the start to drive home. I have had my tendon burst and three miscarriages. I think I have the tenacity to get through this, too.

I will face many decisions to proceed or not. Through tearful discussions with my husband, we’ve pretty much determined that each decision will be toward prolonging my life.

I wasn’t expecting that at 56 I’d be having these conversations, and then breaking down at the prospect of not seeing my girls grow up. I don’t know if I’ll be able to observe them from a parallel universe or from a cloud in the sky, but I do know that right here would be best.

I always thought that as a life-long athlete who swam, went on hikes, surfed, rode a bike and managed a half-assed run, that I’ve been adding years to my life bank. I expected to be a Blue Zone girl, who in her 80s-90s could paddle a surfboard and pedal a bike, and maybe achieve some new PRs. Don’t I have another 40 years to be a feisty fun force?

Since melanoma is a sneaky bastard, my medical team is moving things along as quickly as we can. I’m getting the PET tomorrow, the CT on Tuesday.

About two years ago, when my unemployment ran out, no one would hire me, and I had to do cart rodeo at the local big box as a short-term hire (read: piece of meat), my sadness was so deep that I sometimes had wished I were dead. It wasn’t just those things, it was so much more. I’m a sensitive person, I take too much too personally and it isn’t a good way to be. I sought counseling. When I met my therapist, she said that I looked like someone who was beaten down, enveloped in my own sad cloud world. None of these feelings were because of my family. No matter how bad it got for me outside our door, they never let me down. I even felt guilty about how hard they had to work to pull me out of my personal pit. Antidepressants don’t make you glassy eyed and oblivious. They keep you on an even keel. You can still be hurt, you can get irritated at other drivers, you still worry about your bills, and you think people are stupid when they talk loudly or smoke. Antidepressants do not put wings on your back and make your heart unbreakable.

So I want to erase all those times when I wished I were dead. I’ve told the universe that I really didn’t mean it. Imagine if such thoughts were to come true for all of us? What a mess this world would be.

So many of you have reached out in love and offered me your time, your thoughts, your prayers and companionship. Thank you for being such a fine safety net. My husband and my girls will need that, too. They are so very strong for me, but I worry.

My new challenge. Am I pedaling fast enough? Am I pushing a hard enough gear? Triathlon training makes you dig deep and fortifies you to stick to it through the finish line. Maybe this is the race I’ve been training for all this time?

My Third Metric: Writing for You and Me.


Yesterday the automatic payment to renew my WordPress website was charged to my credit card. Lavagal.net is a blog that has yet to make any money. It wasn’t really designed to make any money, but I figured that it would generate the feel-good currency of followers, hits, comments and pitches. I believe this blog has value. The value increases every time I draw in a reader who finishes an entry to the end, gives my words some thought and takes a step toward being healthy, making something delicious to eat, or thinks about getting married.

As a free-lance writer, it’s important that my words provide a return on investment. So I hope my blog also will lead to writing assignments. My experience as a former newspaper reporter, business writer, and corporate writer helps, too. I am grateful.

As a free-lance writer, my income is sparse and scattered. I’ve learned to live with less. I am married so I do have a safety net.

As a free-lance writer, there is no choice. I’m forced to adjust my economic sails to embrace this thing called the Third Metric, where people are encouraged to put personal preservation above material goods, money and power. The Third Metric is a big deal on the Huffington Post website, but I find it ironic that people with money and power are telling the rest of us that focusing on money and power will destroy us, or something like that. Well, I’ll take money to pay for Kid1&2’s college bills in a few years, to complete some projects around the house and to take a trip once a year. Please don’t tell me I should embrace life with less money when money pours into your accounts at rates beyond my comprehension. Don’t.

So that’s why I’m a lonely voice in the Aloha State who thinks hitching my blog to HuffPostHawaii for no return on investment is a no-win situation. Obviously, I didn’t make the list for the big party the other night, and I had to get off social media so I wouldn’t have to see all my friends’ updates and Instagrams about the emperor’s new clothes.

This blog is awesome. When the HuffPostHawaii idea was first floated, I got in touch with the editor and she liked lavagal.net. But I’m not a college student, a beginner 20- or 30-something in communications, or a full-time public relations executive who can write her little blog on the side for free.

I have to respect my skill, my words, my work. I cannot give them away for free.

I understand that not all bloggers are journalists, traditionally. Not all bloggers went to journalism school like I did. Some bloggers stick to their interests such as anime, recipes, fashion, music and sports. Blogging is a way to journal about what’s going on. It may or not get hits.

But for me, blogging and writing professionally go hand-in-hand. I cannot help but reflect on current events, such as the time there was a shooting near Kalani High School on Kalanianaole Highway a few years ago.

I know that my blog entries connect with plenty of people in and out of Hawaii. This is real life. The flow of lavagal is decidedly different from the silly scratch-the-surface stuff you might find about Hawaii on some other big, shiny and pretty website. I hope you’ll agree.

Mahalo for reading.

Love, Me.

Gold or Porcelain?


Thank goodness for my husband John because he has talked me off the ledge quite a bit these last few months. I have had my share of private dispair, and I hope that an uptick will soon occur for me. Fortunately, John will push me out the door to ride my bike, go for a pathetic run, or get back into the swim, either solo or with my TryFitness sisters, when all other aspects of life are fraught with landmines.

It makes a huge difference in life when people believe in you, and if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be writing this. Oh, and my writing! It is good. I know this because people tell me they like the way I write all the time. But you cannot put a round peg into a square hole and be happy. Sometimes I feel like comic sans in a Times New Roman world.

On Tuesday, February 12, I jumped on the Catholic-Give-Something-Up-For-Lent bandwagon (it’s a backslidin’ Catholic girl’s right) and gave up white flour. What happens when you give up white flour? You give up much more: No white flour snacks and desserts, no hamburger rolls, no side of mac salad, no katsu, etc. There is a lot you can eat though: rice, rice noodles, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, and whole-wheat products. I started making my own home-made, whole-wheat pasta and pizza crusts. I’ve been drinking a lot more water, and fresh fruit and vegetables. So a month later I’m down seven pounds. Not much, but, pretty good for me.

What has helped is the Honu Half-Ironman fitness regimen with my TryFitness sisters. We rest on Mondays, we work out together on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays; and we work out independently the other days. I’m doing nearly all of the independent workouts. I really don’t mind that I’m the slowest and quite possibly the oldest woman in the group, because I’m in it to make me better, and to be part of a bigger movement, the one where about 15 of us get together to bond and support each other.

This morning John and I went to the dentist and I had to have a molar prepped for a crown. Half my face was numbed and it was a very crappy 45 minutes with Steve Martin in my face. JOKE, of course. I’ll go back for a fitting in a few weeks and for my new crown in May. I’ve decided to go with gold because you won’t see it anyway, and they last longest.

I was very sad after that appointment. We were driving to my next appointment to have lab work done, and John said to me that this was all a part of getting old. I’m a little bit pissed about this. I’m not really ready to be a little old lady. There’s too much to do. The best is yet to come. Crooked smiles and all.

 

Try Fitness Winter Cycling

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OK. Moment of truth last night while I was sitting at my laptop. I reached back and something went pop in my tummy. Weird sensation. Small. I ignored it. Went to shower and saw this black and blue mark. I … Continue reading

Personal Doldrums

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There are a few things going on. Or maybe there are few things going on. Last night, as I assessed once again that I’d have to clean up the kitchen to cook dinner and then clean it up again, I … Continue reading

Get in the Pool

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#postaday (well, sorta). When I get home from work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I immediately put on my swim suit, tell my girls to fend for themselves for dinner, and take a nap. Then I go to The Oahu Club … Continue reading

Finisher’s T-shirt

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#postaday Today I’m wearing this awesome T-shirt because I joined nearly 2,000 women last weekend to do the 35th annual Hawaii Pacific Health Women’s 10k. Did I mention what an awesome T-shirt I got? It’s a finisher’s shirt. Get it: … Continue reading