Thursday, January 23, 2014

See Glass Looking Glass

I haven't been here for a while. Forgive me.
As always life has been hectic. Kids, home, the arm.... It's a constant carousel.
I say carousel because even though they might be a little scary at first- they get fun once you get spinning and used to it.
The last time I was here I ranted and spit about drugs, pain, the after effects of something so life changing- I was not patient. But how can you be patient when every single day is a new challenge or a new wrench?
How?
I'm not even going to bother trying to figure it out anymore.

I just have to be.
No sense in being patient when the NOW is what matters.
The now started happening when I decided to take it upon myself to walk 2 miles a day along the beach. I said I would do it for YEARS, but now that I played beer pong with Death, I'm really doing it now. I started in the fall, after the tourists leave- and I would do my little walk- and then come home. I started running a little bit, until it started to hurt my knee real bad. Thankfully it's just bone degeneration (Thankfully. Everything is welcome when it's not the C word coming back) - so I went back to walking...
Then I wanted to go on the beach and walk on the jetty. Then I started taking pictures. ( I love the boats going in an out of the inlet)....
Then it just evolved into not just a 45 minute 2 mile walk. It started to turn into conscious meditation.
Something kept drawing me to walk along the beach...
It was right after my 1 year checkup (I was cleared and officially 1 year cancer free!)... Since I refused the Tamoxifen- they now watch me every 3 months to test me.
I have to go back next month- but it's a little less nerve wracking than waiting 6 months. This neurotic girl will take it! Thank you. Anyway- back to the walking---- My brother had come down from NYC for thanksgiving, and it was right after a spectacular storm. He was staying over and him and I and my daughter went on the beach for a walk.
We found all sorts of crazy stuff- still detritus from Hurricane Sandy- kicked up by the tempest. Dolls, shoes, remote controls, keys, pieces of houses..... crazy.
Among the garbage, was the sea glass. Sea glass everywhere. As we walked along the shoreline, which was a mile back to where the car was parked,  it just appeared. We all wound up getting these amazing pieces of sea glass in all colors. The next day, we did the same thing. More glass. We filled our pockets....

Well you can't take the beach out of the beach people. Once you get beachcombing , you're hooked. I've been picking up shells since I could walk. I could tell you the difference between a lady slipper and a cowrie shell, a scotch bonnet from a Queen's helmet. I LOVE seashells.
The weird thing is that living here I never did it on my own shores in NJ. I always waited to go to NC, where the shells were exotic, and you could pull in a haul among sparkly tidepools every day.
No sea glass in NC. Shark's teeth, but no sea glass. I never really noticed it in NJ at all, just a few clam shells and cigarette butts.
Then I recalled a recurrent dreams I have had since I was a child where I am always walking along the beach in all sorts of conditions, weather, and times of the day.... and the tidepools are always sparkling and full of tiny treasures like little toys, crazy shells, gold dust and...sea glass.

I was literally living my dream, as I started to hit the beach every day. I would walk a mile along the boardwalk, and when I got to the end- I would walk back along the shore.
Every day brought more and more glass (Being the incurable lifelong beachcomber I am- I have to pick up every piece...especially the blues). And there were tidepools!
I finally found peace once I got to the ocean. It was like the ocean spoke to me, and she surely does have a different voice every day. Some days she is angry, some days she is calm. She always sends a salutation though. It's my second hug of the day.
But the peace was awesome. Is awesome....I was finding glass, shells, all sorts of stuff. Then I started creating things in my head, asking the ocean for help and inspiration to design something fabulous. I was needing a fresh start since the clothing and art are nice, but I wanted to make more. And paint more.
Pretty soon I was hauling bags of glass home every morning where I would wake up and do my best to get out to the sunrise. Early bird gets the loot, right?
The ideas were flowing....
And being such a beach lover, like my dad, I used the time to talk to him. My dad woke up to see the sunrise on the beach with his coffee any morning he could. I asked him for any help or guidance...ask my great grandmothers, anyone watching over me to help direct me to some place where I wasn't freaking out over the finances. or the state of my house (which needs serious repair work all over and just yikes....) . or the future. I realized I was scared of too many things. I kept hearing that it would be ok.... it would be ok. I trusted the ocean's voice and started to go more with the flow of it all. I even was visited twice by a snowy owl just sitting there on the beach on my walk back. TWICE I saw her!

And I realized this is what I was supposed to do- I was supposed to go right to the source. Not stand on a manmade boardwalk admiring from afar- I was to go to the sea and be part of it.
Be part of the sand, the stray black cats, all the wonderful sparkly beach treasures lying in the tide pools for me every day, the ocean calm or raging.... a craft store at my feet. A snowy owl. TWICE! It was all magical. Snowy owls by folklore of all cultures are feared and are messengers of death, but it does not have to be a death of a person. ... it could be the death of old thinking, or habits. Looking into the eyes of a snowy owl - it means that you have the uncanny ability to see what other's can't.. past illusions, past bullshit. Cancer kinda already gave me that power, but I'm happier with the owl's gift.

I'm creating all sorts of things now, handpainted seashells I make into dishes and decorate with the sea glass, sea glass windchimes and candle holders, sea glass buttons for my purses.... I love drilling it. It hurts my arm if I do it too long, but I love it. I think someone was telling me just to take a break from the norm. To get off that boardwalk and onto the EARTH.

Ocean's divination.

The new moon on Jan 1st was a Universe explosion that is setting the stage for some much new art, and best of all a better healing inside that I was searching for....and finally found.
My favorite is when it's super cold and nobody else is out there. Just me (and the occasional owl) ... Since my surgery the cold really doesn't bother me so much- so I just layer up and get out there. I hauled my ass to go through chemo for 5 months, I am HAPPY to hit the beach every day.
Going at sunrise is magical.
The days are getting longer, and so is the list of art.

When I was stuck working for my former boss amidst a chemical shitstorm that stole my soul for 5 years, I said I would give my right arm to go back to staying home with my children, and making art full-time again. I was just scared to leave. I was scared to lose the things the normal world says you HAVE to slave for.  Well. I gave my right arm, I lost it all and I am not regretting it at all. I was born again.
I LOVE being home, despite being financially in dire straits for the time being (this won't last long), I am the happiest and most fulfilled and most calm I have ever been. And no person will ever take that away from me again with their fake sympathies and waving paltry paychecks in my face. Nice matters more, and nice is where I'm going to stay.
This is where I am supposed to be right now.

So I hope to blog more since the art and sea glass bucket seems to be my thing right now, and I love to post beach photos and my sea glass hauls every day.
stay tuned. <3

-b




~and Rest in Peace~ one my dearest inspirations in my life, my friend Michelle Edwards. She was the first person who I ever met that took art as seriously as I did. It was past drawing cute things, it was passion. And if I had never met her, I would not be the art junkie I am today. She taught me how to draw better. She taught me lettering. She taught me that art wasn't a hobby. Michelle and I were diagnosed with cancer within a year of each other- and she fought till the end - Michelle passed away January 9th, 2014. I will miss her dearly. And she LOVED the beach. We worked together at the beach in NC.... she just loved being there. She had a great blog here.... ... Miss you Shelly... xo
You walk every day with me in my heart <3

Saturday, November 9, 2013

365 days later... happy birthday!

::theme song::

.... A year.
A whole year has gone by since that big day. The day where my life changed forever, my body as well and a very long path of healing that is still continuing today. The day my cancer was removed.  This blog originally started out for art- then evolved into what happens after cancer. And the scarcity of the posts, despite my slow crawl back into creating- is evidence of how much work it is.
I didn't blog as much as I should have because it was a constant journey- none that left me with the extra time to write it down as I should have.
Life lesson? Write it all down.
If you can- I have had a bad right arm too so that's another excuse.
But oh boy- what a trip.
I didn't really make any art while I was sick. I started a few drawings, but all I had was poison running through my veins 24-7. I was working full time.... and I had JUST cleaned out the spare bedroom in the house and converted it into my art room- my room with a door that I could go and create in. I finished the room and got it in gorgeous condition - organized all my supplies- and got ready to work for sewing and dyeing. I banged out a few great pieces... Then the diagnosis. I left that room  untouched and intact for the next 18 months. It was a month between discovery of the giant lump in my armpit one morning and the phone call from the doctor. I found the lump on April 9, and was diagnosed on May 9, 2012. I never really examined the pathology report until recently- but the cells that they pulled out of the tumors in my armpit and breast were chock full of the nasty aggressive cells that had told the guy reading the report that they were already on their way attacking regions past my lymph nodes. That would have meant stage IV breast cancer. A cancer which very very few  survive since it already metastasized past the breast. They never told me that at diagnosis. They were just all very concerned. Once it hits your lymph nodes - you become part of the special club where the lump removal is not an option in traditional medicine. Total I had 4 tumors, 3 in my breast and 1 very large mass in my armpit...and to bomb my entire body of any seed of stage IV cancer starting- they sent me on a 6 month regimen of the heaviest chemo they give a breast cancer patient. Chemo so toxic I can never ever have it again because any more would permanently damage my heart. Enough steroids to sizzle a skeleton according to my doctor.... I started chemo on May 22, 2012 and ended October 9th, 2012. (There's a cute number 9 pattern showing here).
The whole time I was so consumed with just making it day to day that I never realized how dire the situation was....until I read the pathology report again and googled a few words. Holy shit am I lucky.
I had a month off between chemo and my double mastectomy. November 9th 2012. The last day I had my own body as a whole piece. I remember waking up that morning in such a daze. I wasn't allowed to eat anything. I just wanted to velcro my children and husband to me as much as possible until surgery at 6am. I was to get all my breast tissue removed, along with the entire contents of my armpit ( 9 lymph nodes total) on the cancer side, and remove the good breast as well as a few lymph nodes on that side. To make new breasts, they cut a 5 inch  football shaped section out of my stomach (replacing my bellybutton in the process! eek!) and pretty much made a skin bra out of the gut fat like Silence of the Lambs as performed by Dr. Patel. I wouldn't say my body was perfect- but it wasn't bad- now it's just a pretty looking surgical warzone with a great tummy tuck... It was a very long recovery- one of which I still very much feel the after effects of. Radiation, probably the worst of all the treatments came next from Dec 2012- Feb 2013. I was burned and the scar tissue resulting adhered to the chest wall and caused all sorts of problems that still need more surgery to correct. I am a work in progress. My goal is to have every scar covered with a tattoo as soon as possible, with no visible evidence or trace left.
Breast cancer never ever ever ever ends. Ever. It lives in every single day- every thought of every ache or pain or the fear of being at the brink again is scary. My body is forever different. Never again will I ever have full range or strength in my right arm. Reaching for cups in a cabinet is torture. I cannot have blood drawn easily anymore since chemo collapsed my veins. I am 37 with a skeleton of a 60 year old woman. ...phantom pains....the stress of making it through a bad day with a smile.... There is so much shit baggage - but even greater is the gift of every minute being alive- and even more greater is the support and love from an immense amount of family and friends and good souls..... I cannot thank the universe enough for THEM. And it never really hit me full force as it did today. On the one year anniversary of being CANCER FREE. Now I have yet to get my scans done for the 1 year mark, so I don't know if I am 100% clear- but I have faith. I feel like it's my birthday, but not really. It was such an important day in my head - and now that it's here- it's just emotion. Quiet emotion.
I have a few small issues that still need to get 100% cleared by some scans in the next few weeks- but aside from that- it's the full on realization that I AM ALIVE and HERE. In June I took myself off all pharmaceuticals and the comfort food "they" told me it was ok to eat all the time (when it's not really a good thing for anyone to eat a diet like I was all the time). I was a vegetarian, but heavy with dairy. I loved my cheese. and COFFEE. Oh god ask anyone- me giving up coffee was never ever an option. But I did it. I detoxed my body of all the treatments, chemo, painful thoughts, chemicals, caffeine, bad food, radiation the best I could with a new diet of all raw vegetables and nuts and fruits. Totally vegan. I saw the movie Forks Over Knives and that was it for me. I dropped 30 pounds in a month and I have been feeling amazing in my head.  Physically is another story- but good in my head is a great place to be right now. I make sure I walk 2 miles along the beach every day when I can- and there it starts my day (I replaced coffee with a glass of water with fresh lemon juice). Chia seeds are my new energy source. I breathe in the ocean and get that good salt air in my lungs. I let my day manifest there - I meditate on laundry and art and dishes and food I will make. It's a calming ritual that really has organized so many thoughts that had been scattered in my head- thank the flying spaghetti monster. When the diet and ocean walking started to kick in, so did the art. Big time.
My past year I have spent doing my best to rehabilitate a very nerve damaged arm slowly into feeling comfortable sewing and painting again. Pushing myself out of comfort zones, and that dreaded "I can't do that" zone as well. But I did it. As well as a slow crawl out of a mental hole of sadness and terror, I came out.... Slowly. I dyed a few pieces, drew some pictures, painted some things, made a couple of silly switchplates, sewed up some clothing....slowly walked back into the pool. My things end up on Etsy and if I can pay my grocery bill, we all win. I'm still getting back there, but the constant stream of paint, thread, ink, paper...... it's constant. and always there and that is just the best. At any point in the day, I can stop what I am doing and just create. I make my own time. And that's what counts, whether it exists in a 24 hour day or even 3 hours a week. Just DO IT. Please.
A lot of ability is gone- but the purity of thought and inspiration is so much more valuable. I set my art aside for the last 5 years I had a full time job- I worked 8-10 hours a day making sterile and vanilla things for other people, while my head and lungs were being saturated with unventilated solvent fumes and benzene poisons. It takes a toll on your mind working in that sort of environment. I look back on pieces of art I was doing then and they don't look right now. I wasn't happy there- but I did what I had to do for my family. I am in a much better place, with lessons learned and even though the financial stability has gone poof with the steady paycheck- I am in a MUCH BETTER place. I am home with my youngest, I make art and I do what I need to for the ones I love. No longer do I comply with toxic environments and being scared to ask for ventilation or safer conditions. I make my own now.
I traded stability for chaos and I couldn't be happier.
While my body is falling apart and the uncertainty of those 1 year scans lie on the horizon, I'm getting more to finding that melody of my own of life. Of living the way I need to, on my terms.
The post above is a song that fits the tone perfect. Whoever wrote that song crawled into my head and wrote my 1 year cancer free theme song as fitting as me wearing my pre-teens socks.
Today, I woke up with that thought of "ITS FINALLY A YEAR" since that day. That day. That day....... and then every moment from then on from changing a diaper, to washing my hands, to walking the boardwalk became a prayer of gratitude. "You are here" is what i kept hearing. I felt lighter, without so many worries as I had gone to bed the night before with.
Of course I am here, but days need to be written down a little bit more I think. Either in photographs, drawings, or journals, or on a keyboard...
I engaged myself in every single moment I could today. I saw a brilliant sky and flocks of thousands of seagulls along the Atlantic Ocean. I walked past the current Guinness Worlds Record holder for the world's tallest sandcastle. Every step both elated and painful was full of just enjoying the moments. The boards under my feet, the family I have at home. The beauty of being alive and cancer free. It was all there. And it filled me up so much I was brought to tears in the middle of the boardwalk. Good thing for my giant dark Jackie Onassis sunglasses.
If I seem like a mushy basketcase, then so be it. I'm psyched for a change that's good for once. Despite allllll the crap I feel in my bones. It's a long hard road from a toxic waste dump.
That stuff is no joke.
Better to step away from garbage than towards it.......

xo
b
better art is to be on its way.....

last night's recently finished piece
Bloodwork
11 x 14 inches
acrylic on canvas

Monday, September 2, 2013

posting realization....

3 days post surgery- I am recovering a lot rougher than I had imagined---- I am a Virgo which means we don't rest. We don't ask for help. We don't think anyone can do anything to help us, but us.
And we get frustrated with others around us who just don't understand. It seems everyone can relax but the Virgo.
That's me.
And since cancer entered my world, relaxing has visited more often- but it is still few and far between. And if I continue this way- I'm going to wind up killing myself with stress.
It's not any way to live- but it's all I know, pretty much. I constantly worry about my kids, my health, my house and life.
I don't worry ALL the time- but lately- it's been a lot more than usual.
Obviously, it's from the past year. The big C. I kicked its ass, but who knows if it's lurking around the corner or I killed it forever. Noone knows.
You go through treatments, and surgery- and find your kindred breast cancer sisters- you speak and comiserate about drains and hair loss and silly absent boobs. You hug and cry and know in the end- someone understands.

Lately it's been the surgery that seemed to turn the world upside down again like cancer did- a stupid simple surgery.
A day before the surgery, one of my breast cancer sisters passed away. Lisa Gerber, married, age 39 with 2 boys. We were pregnant with our oldests at the same time and talked about names and labor and stuff at my husband's shows. She lived close by- but one of those folks you only see at shows here and there. I lost contact with her for years until i got diagnosed when a friend reintroduced us. I didn't know she had had breast cancer once before, but she was on her 2nd go with it, and it had started to head to her brain.
We emailed a lot back and forth and shared insomnia woes. She asked me around the holidays if I knew a family affected by Hurricane Sandy who could use some kindess of a Christmas dinner and toys for the kids. I knew a very deserving family- and I met her Christmas Eve to watch her gift all this stuff by way of an anonymous donor. It was my first time seeing her since she got sick, and she was now frail, but holy moly- her spirit was fighting and SO STRONG. We had the same short haircut and when I expressed a little self conciousness about it- she looked at me with a wink and said "we're women- we're stronger than our hair".....It was always a constant reassurance from her when I was down or scared. She helped me a lot.
We kept in touch and then I didn't hear from her the whole month of  August. I learned on facebook that Lisa passed away August 28, 2013.
Another punch in the gut from someone who was just where I am now....

From Lisa- March 19- Got some crazy news today. Not great I'm afraid. There is anew tumor on adrenal Gand that is not responding to anything. Starting 10th treatment Tuesday . Doc says may not work. Have to weigh odds. Sometimes side effects are worse than treatment. You know. He said no deco ions need to be made today. There is no shame in taking a break. I have been fighting hard for almost 6 years. Want the quality with my boys. The quantity doesn't mean much. Don't wanna be sick mommy. I just wanted to keep you in the loop. I feel like we were meant to meet and be an inspiration to each other. Thank you for your shoulder and ear. Means more then you will ever know. Lisa....

I take that message into my heart every day.

In my sadness and anger at cancer for taking yet another friend, my anger that more surgery keeps me down, and this whole bullshit cancer show = I just couldn't take it anymore.
Art died at my hands and I hate that.
I'm admitting it here because I feel like I allowed my emotions to get the best of me, and I have to show that side too. Yep- I have a really ugly side that comes out and she isn't a nice lady. Stemming from the utmost anger and frustration at the Universe,  I picked up 2 original watercolors (including the latest poster) and the only ink drawing I had worked on during my chemo treatments and ripped them up. Into tiny little pieces.
Now I can make more. It's not a problem....but something inside, both chemical and emotional caused me to pick up 3 pieces of some really nice art and destroy it. I just picked it up- and it was like jumping off a cliff. It almost felt good to do that because it was me saying "I am bigger than this"...
It was cleansing too. I have long learned attachments are just attachments. Things are just things, more art can always get made- but I hated that I did that.
It stewed inside me but I see now that i was a pressure cooker.
I try to keep it calm and mellow and show the world I am "calm and carrying on"- but it is the biggest bullshit ever. I'm not like that nor will I ever be.News flash.
I can be mellow, but there is always a fire in my heart for something or another.
I'm passionate, I'm enthusiastic, I'm fiery, and I'm and Italian from NJ with Irish too. I'm an artist.
I'm going through a deep chasm inside and out- and my art is reflecting the path right now.
Coming to grips with real death, real life and holy shit HOW SHORT ALL OF THIS TIME IS.
Lisa knew. She just smiled through it so much and I wish I could be that way. I just feel so much resistance, and I can only draw and paint so fast or with some physical ability.
It's like the art wants to come pouring out into this new reality, but I have so much time and energy to do so. The art is the healer though- so it must be let in as much as possible.
Now the painkillers step in- the gracious takers of pain at first- then they transform for the next two days as the only form of relief when you feel knives stabbing up into to your armpits and your hips being sliced up and your chest being punched. I hate them. I take them as little as I can- but they make me into a person I don't like. They also calm down the fire, but starts a new one.

I can only try to carry on with grace as much as Lisa did in her memory- a person with so much fight and at the same time, hope. I'll do my best to keep kicking its ass every day, even more now....Rest in Peace Lisa.....
(I realized after I had finished this post that Lisa was on my shoulder as I typed..... bringing me to the realization of everything that had happened up until I started writing- that you can still kick ass with grace, btw.... ) Make the fire COUNT.
xo

Saturday, August 31, 2013

the pain killers

This pencil was one of many that my dad brought home from work when I was a kid. My original pencil...getting scarily close to the words with every sharpen. I use this pencil when I do math, geometry, or other nerdy stuff my dad did too.

Today is Saturday, which means it was yesterday that I had surgery.
Since chemo, recalling current dates, times, is sometimes difficult. I also lose trains of thought really easily so if you know me, I am a space cadet because of drugs. Drugs are bad.
But they help when they can, sometimes causing harm in the process.
Since surgery let me go (outpatient- 2 hours- THANK GOODNESS)- I've been on a steady stream of painkillers since, well... I'm in pain. It was the next round of reconstruction since the bi-lateral mastectomy- as well as post-radiation. Radiation did a number on me- it solidifies tissue and makes the skin hard. Dr. Patel also took the fat from my sides (muffin top!!) via liposuction and filled in the scars and dents a mastectomy leaves behind. They don't "chop them off" - they do it very artfully and leaving the original structure so to say- they just filled it in with recycled stomach stuff. It's brilliant engineering, and my parts are organic and all my own. It'll always be a fascinating strangeness that I wear my stomach on my chest. It works though- so I'm not complaining.
I feel like I've been punched in the chest (which is weird since I have no feeling there anymore) and stabbed in the sides. And it burns. Why people would do this elective is beyond me. I chose to reconstruct them, others do not- so this is what comes with my choice.
Honestly- despite the scars, I do not mind the free lifts and tucks.
Anyway- I'm on heavy opiate dosage for the next day - but eating the greens and salads... I do not like pills at all- but I'm dealing with them- they initially made me really agitated, and jumpy... So I just did my best to channel it into some art that was easily portable and able to be done in bed.
Pen and pad---- I had just finished 2 gifts right before surgery - (which I can't post because - duh- it's a present....)- I was on a real streak for the squiggle wiggle pen meditation... The nervous energy channeled beautifully like a gentle stream onto paper.... each line being almost like a small prayer of good intent that twists to disappear into the air. the universe....
It flowed so well I sat for hours and drew and got it all out. I've been loving the pen and ink and watercolor pencils lately.... It's the easiest thing for my arm to do, and it's been good therapy in the process.
When I get a bit better, I'm going to do a few editions of hand colored prints maybe....
who knows what they will evolve into. At this point in my life, they are coming out of my fingers in droves...probably because I didn't create much of anything while cancer was living inside me. These new pieces are their own birds, I am finding out though.... Answers to prayers in a way....
a show poster, a pair of clogs, a tabletop, a tattoo? It always takes on it's own life, I just humbly reply with drawing it... meditating with each line.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

real new dawn



Jersey Strong.
We saw it all over our state first when a local workout place created it as their logo. People who loved going to the gym and wanted the guy driving behind them to know it had that sticker.
Fast forward to Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall here on my beloved beach, and our rebuilding adopted "Jersey Strong" as a mantra. Now everyone who lives here has one. Nothing will break us down.
It was inspiring. People helping people for the 5 days where we had no commuication besides facebook. We were low on gas, no power or heat, some of us homeless and we all pulled together to share with each other. And those close by reached out. It was beautiful. And inspiring. When the power finally came back on, we were hit with TV images of our shore on fire, houses tossed like toys, and destruction everywhere. We will never go back to the old Jersey Shore, but we're different now ... and stronger. Jersey Strong. It's what you have to be or you let this storm bust you. Ain't gonna happen. Southern states have dealt with hurricanes. Not us. We did it on our own, no thanks to FEMA or the gubmint.
This storm hit us 11 days before I was to undergo a double mastectomy. Something that causes destruction everywhere. The cancer was the brewing, the collection of tumors and chemical poison medications they gave me to kill it.... it all culminated to that surgery. All those freaky storm systems formed that hurricane, just like how cancer forms and it's ultimatum- the double mastectomy.
My cancer surgeon Dr. Miller, who is the best of the best told me there was a small chance of nerve damage and permanent disability from the surgery. The cancer had spread to a very large section of lymph nodes in my armpit, and along with my breasts- those lymph nodes and everything in my right arm  from the elbow up got removed with them.
Recovering from surgery, I was told NOT to lift my arms up for 2 weeks. I raised my arm just a little and it felt like spaghetti snapping inside my arm. It was real weird. It healed oddly.
My right arm.... my tool for making my art and writing and everything dominant in motor skills- my right arm was forever changed.
As soon as I could, I started in on physical therapy. I had developed bad "cording", where the tendons affected by surgery that run all the way to the fingertips to my armpit are twisted and tight down my arm, limiting my mobility, movement, and it is painful. I did all my exercises, therapies, everything. Nothing was helping it. I was scheduled for the last run of treatments from December to February, receiving a high dose of radiation to the affected side just to "get it all". Burning the whole cancer forest to the ground that had been living in my body. Silly me I agreed to all of this because I was terrified.
Radiation was so strong is wound up scarring my "breast" and surrounding area to where it caused the tightest scar tissue I have ever felt. It hurts. And it made the cording and inside scarring pain worse.
Precautions from mastectomy surgery are strict. From now on, having no lymph nodes in your arm means you cannot cut yourself (risk of bad infection). No lymph system makes for stagnant lymph and that's bad news bears. You cannot lift anything over 5 lbs. You cannot push, pull, lift, or do repetitive motions. Embroidery is out of the question. Woodworking is out of the question. Lifting anything heavy is out of the question. Using a hammer, sandpaper, scrubbing the tub, cutting vegetables, ---anything sucks. And as much as I try and stretch and work it out, it is just always there. And it hurts. I am not a fan of someone telling me I cannot do things. I no longer have the labor intensive with paycheck job I used to, and none in the future.
Sometimes I'll be really stupid and assume I can lift the trash bag out of the garbage can, or groceries out of the car and I'll mess my arm up just lifting something. It swells and gets real painful and I had to rest it. I can't do laundry or dishes then- oh the horror.
I have a compression sleeve that I wear for when it feels like crap, which helps- but it's annoying too.


This to an artist feels like death at first. It was a serious blow realizing that I cannot do something. Look back in this blog and see how ADD I was in my thinking and creating. No more.
It's a real new dawn. I MUST rest now. and it's sooo difficult!
I am trying slowly to get back into it...but it is slow, and a painful process both mentally and physically---but I can do it.
I do have a new lease on life where I'm done with bullshit and I don't wait to do, or say anything I feel anymore.
It's a personal power because considering everything I have been through in the last 3 years, I am strong. I keep it close.
So much like the land around here, still very much rebuilding--- we have to give off that image that we are ok...but we secretly hurt inside for what we have lost that was so dear to us. I see the wrecked houses to this day and I know how this place feels. My arm was wrecked by hurricane cancer. I know how this place feels.

Things take me double the time, but the act of "getting back into it" has been interesting.
I cannot do anymore t-shirt quilts, I have found. I did 1 for a friend and it was hell. I love you, Erich but wow man- my arm would slap my face if it could. Not a fun craft. The heaviness and strain it puts lifting a 25 lb. quilt onto a sewing machine and making sure it stays there is an adventure.

Painting is also hella difficult. I put it out on the line not having live painted in 3 years- I hauled out paints and a canvas to a show in Asbury Park one Sunday and it was fun, but work. I tried it again outside and it just hurt to keep it up. With people watching you, you have to finish that painting at the end. I don't think I am ready for that kind of pressure right now. The results suck when that happens.

I also sewed for a little bit and made some of my old seminole patchwork diamonds, and ink drawing is a bit easier if I give myself enough rests.
The art flows a lot better through these mediums now... which is good. I do miss painting- but this can also happen with the ink drawings in a smaller scale which seems to be easier on the old arm.

I don't want to complain, but more explain what exactly breast cancer can do to someone long term. Once treatment is over, does not mean the effects are over. I have to watch this arm for the rest of my life..... which I hope is very very long.
There aren't many resources for young artists who have gone through breast cancer- maybe this will be one of the few. And maybe it will shed a light on what it's like to be this way. What living through a real life hurricane, both proverbial and literal, really means.

Again- I refuse to let it define me, as much as it was the reason for rebirth.
I refuse to sit back and cry that I can't do something, when I just adapt. Or make something else.
I refuse to let this bastard shit disease take anything else away from me.
Everything has changed, even my imagery.
I hope this blog can serve as an introduction to the real new dawn that's happening.....
Everything is different.
When shit befalls us, it's up to us to stand before it and either let it take us down in all its shitty glory, or we can spray paint it with glitter and make a wreath with it and sell it on Etsy- then take that money and drop it in a slot machine.
There are people much worse off than I, than all of us, no matter what we are going through that seems to be the worst- someone has it worse.
I hope this can serve as a tiny path of healing for someone, just 1 person, if anything.

Jersey Strong.... it's what we are, what we do and how we do it.
Nothing more, nothing less.

I stopped this blog at diagnosis, and blogged my whole journey up until this past May - I feel like I have to bring it all back here again because this is my home. This is my life, my art is now my true destiny. Art is part of normal life again and I want to make sure these days are as normal as this new life can be. I went vegan, and raw. If I go out, I go out and make it count and do normal things like drink wine and oh god- the occasional cigarette. I even eat chips that are fried. Holy crap. Arrest me. I do pay for it the next day, but I refuse to let this stupid disease or anyone tell me what to do, tell me what is right- I am going to do it. Plain and simple. During the week I am an organic green juicing machine and avocado junkie. I feel like the raw foods diet I eat really has cleared out a some mental gunk the experience of cancer grants upon you, not to mention the poisons and Tamoxifen induced weight gain.. It is healing me better than any drug ever could. Art and raw foods. They really go well together.
As scared as I primally am of having to go through this again, I need to let go of that fear and just love life the best way I know how. I cannot let the fear take me anymore.
I am taking the best care of myself I ever have though. Just allow me my liberties.
It's funny when you emerge back after cancer and people stare at you drinking wine or dancing as if you are now made of china and amazingly doing normal things- and ask "is that ok?". I just beat cancer- I didn't lose my internal organs, or my brain.... and I'm not dumb.

I have surgery #2 coming up next week at this time, 2 hours and a week down.... I wonder if the arm will be affected any more now that they are going back into that scar tissue and gunky armpit graveyard.
I'm on a most excellent art kick- Right now I am doing something special for a wedding of 2 cool people coming up, and I'm staring at the blank acoustic Fender sitting in my craft room waiting for a psychedelic paint job.....
It'll take a while, but at least I'm enjoying the ride.
...
till next post~
happy to be back <3



Saturday, September 22, 2012

...where i left off....

my art of the day endeavor found itself at a crossroads.

May 9th- it was apparent that my incessant fatigue was most likely a result of the Stage 3 breast cancer I was diagnosed with.

Where this blog leaves off, my new blog takes over:
http://mandalalight.blogspot.com/




When I get better, my art will resume and be bigger than ever- and I thank you for sticking with me.

until then, we forge ahead for being cancer free.

xo

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

art of the day * may 8 2012

Yay! After many many hours- it's done. I love this art for it's ease in easily editable variables. Sometimes art just up and bites you in the butt when you least expect it.

love&light

b


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

art of the day * may 2 2012

a poster in progress~ Gov't Mule & Moe at the Pony....

here's a li'l peek at the waves. cause the show's is by the ocean. so clever.
:)
initial pencil sketches gettin' ready for the digital flavor.


....
love&light
b

Monday, April 16, 2012

art of the day : apr 16 2012

more ink added. android cool vintage photo setting.cell phone capture.



(I'll get one of these cell phones someday)

and y'all say a prayer to St Anthony that I find my pens and paper. they disappeared! Standbys were used in this production.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

art of the day * april 11

Been taking it easy lately.... One of those moments in life where you keep getting thrown curve balls for an inning or two- Just taking them as they come~

self perscribed art therapy- it makes me forget about everything sometimes blissfully. and i love that.

<3 And I found these cute little Acrylic paper pads for a buck at Jo-Ann! It's the little things....

Love & light~*
-b