Monday, May 30, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I'd been giving the concept of mindfulness a lot of thought during my recent course of radiation, and decided to challenge myself. Given that I found that daily practice pretty loathsome, I decided to see if I could ritualize the 40-minute daily treatment process by being present and mindful through a mantra of sorts. The theory is that if I can be mindful when I most want to escape reality, in a challenge that I find physical and emotionally painful, I can apply the concept to other parts of my day and experience more easily. And that by ritualizing the experience, it provided some context and inner strength to stay physically still for so long and transcend the pain accompanied with doing so.
The mantra began to take shape about a week before I began radiation. Three friends and I went to hear the Wailin' Jennys perform live at a local venue in Virginia. My friend Emily, social media maven that she is, had been tweeting back-and-forth with their account on Twitter since we'd purchased the tickets months ago, and had requested a song. She'd also tagged the band, as well as all of us attending the show, on Facebook the day of the concert. They tweeted at her at some point that same day to let her know that because one of group members was a bit hoarse, the group wouldn't be able to sing this particularly high-note inclusive, specially requested tune. So we were quite surprised when, a couple songs into the second set of the night, the group dedicated a different song to us. Group member Ruth Moody explained that she had written the song in the hopes of being more mindful and worrying less, and they began to sing a song called You Are Here off their new album. A truly beautiful tune that stuck in my head, the chorus is:
Then I got to thinking about a couple of months ago when my friend Amy, a yoga instructor, taught me a Kundalini Yoga chant that aims to even breathing, decrease stress and help clear negative energy. She taught be to breathe in - Sa Ta and breathe out - Na Ma, and explained that translated from Sanskrit, the chant, satanama, means, "I am here."
These two concepts aligned well in my quest for a mindfulness mantra, but a piece was missing. There were three parts to radiation: three separate fields being irradiated. The third part came to me immediately.
In Hebrew, there's more than one than on way to say "here I am" or "here you are," but there are very select, special times in the Hebrew Bible when a term is used to define presence of a human being in their interfacing with God. So Hineini: Here I am, became the third phrase to focus upon during my attempt at a mantra.
By the final days of radiation, the mantra began as I lay down automatically, and in the days since then, I have continued to use each individual part, and the collective together, as I strive for mindfulness even in the hospital where it's easier to settle for the convenience of shutting down, and detaching from your awareness of yourself as institutional practices inevitably diminish your sense of individuality and self.
So I'm trying each day to remind myself: you are here, I am here, here I am. And I'm getting through it, slowly and one day at a time.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Food on a tray, that sterile latex smell, two white boards & six trash cans in a 200 square foot space: I'm back on the transplant floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
I checked in today to begin pre-transplant chemotherapy tomorrow, and prepare for the transplant on Wednesday. Everything is going smoothly thus far, and I have some updates and additional information that I wanted to provide so that I can stay in touch with you all over the next few weeks.
I am currently located at:
Prentice Women's Hospital
250 E. Superior
Chicago, Illinois 60611
15th floor - room 1596
Room phone (312) 472-1596
As I previously posted, I would love to have you come visit while I am in the hospital. Please feel free to call the room or my cell phone to check that there aren't any last-minute shenanigans going on. When you come, you'll need to wash your hands before entering the floor and sanitize your hands again outside of my door. And, if you have a cold, infection, even a sniffle, it's best to hold-off on the visit until my immune system is better.
Many of you have asked about the best address at which to direct mail. The hospital's mail system proved a bit problematic the last time around, so it's best to send items to my parent's home:
3112 Temple Lane (yes, I grew up on a street called Temple Lane)
Wilmette, IL 60091
It's strange to be back on this floor where I have not been for two and a half years. Many of the same doctors, nurses and staff are here, the room itself, though not the exact same as the last one, is quite similar. It's a bit surreal, a bit sad, a bit comfortably familiar and relieving after this marathon of preparation, all at once. So far, the biggest difference between the last extended stay and this one, is the technology that I have access to. I have a much newer and quicker computer, complete with a camera and the ability to Skype and video chat with friends and family (I'm ElissaFroman on Skype, by the by). I have access to a better wireless network here at NMH. And, thanks to an office building raffle and a lucky coin-toss, I have an Ipad upon which I can watch movies and TV, download books, and do just about anything else. I have lots of new ways to connect and communicate, and for that I am deeply grateful.
And thank you for all of your recent emails, cards, calls, texts, tweets, wall posts - your good wishes and prayers really mean more than I can say.