Ultra Sounds Mondays, May 7, 2012

Welcome back after a quiet week.

Over the last few months I have had the pleasure of getting to “know” the wonderful Viola Moriarty online. I am delighted, thus, today to present some of her work for today’s submission. This will be our first mixed-media submission and is part of Viola’s “Barbie gets cancer” series. You will never look at Barbie the same way again. Click   to read more about this series. Click to visit Viola’s website.

Sam

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Here’s what Viola has to say about herself:

I  painted my first painting almost 10 years ago, and knew as I felt brush and paint on canvas that I would change everything to paint.  And I did. 

 In 2007 I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, had partial mastectomy and 18 lymph nodes removed, targeted radiation and 6 rounds of kick ass chemo, followed by tamoxifen.

Last August I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer with metastesis around all my organs, the CNS, and many large and small brain tumors.  Had full brain radiation for three weeks followed by a lot of vomiting (lost 50 pounds in two months–good thing I had the extra to lose!), then femara and now fasolodex shots.  The treatments have been working and right now I’m doing great.  
 
My greatest love—even more than painting–is my family.  I have two amazing daughters:  Anna Moriarty Lev () and Phoebe Moriarty Lev ().  And I’m married to their father and the love of my life, Jon Lev.  Henry and Dulcinea are our two cats.  We live in Vermont, though I am from Denver, Colorado
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And here is what Viola had to say about the “Barbie” series:
The barbies  are from the Barbie Gets Cancer section of the ExVoto Suscepto Exhibit which traveled to several venues in 2009, including a presentation at Stowe Weekend of Hope in Vermont, Southern Vermont College, and the Southwestern Vermont Cancer Center.  They were part of my response to my first diagnosis in 2007.  I’m now working on Full Brain radiation Barbie, Fasolodex Barbie, Brain Met Barbie ….along with a series of paintings called “live your life, my onclogist says”.  

 
No matter what I envisioned when I played with those dolls (just as I’m sure Ruth Handler had no idea about her future when she invented them) I never once saw myself as growing up to get cancer.  
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Tamoxifen Barbie, 2008:
Radiation Barbie, mixed media on board, 2008:
Dexamethasone Barbie, mixed media, 2008:

A new treasure

 

Have a look at the website of poet . His poetry about his experience with lymphoma resonates for me and is worth checking out. He has an upcoming book being published called  and you can read excerpts on his site.

 

Also, I’ve stumbled across a new cancer art show in Oklahoma that is accepting registration until June 1.

Here is the link:  

 

May you have a poetic day.

 

Sam

Tuesdays from the chemo unit, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There’s a reason I didn’t post yesterday from the chemo unit. After my article last week I decided to try an experiment. I decided that I would try to do nothing while I waited. Or, rather, I decided I would try to actively wait instead of just filling time until my appointment. It was a double trial because I had a clinic appointment before my chemo.

So I bet you are all wondering how I did. I bet you’re wondering if I could last without reading, writing or playing computer scrabble. Well, to you naysayers, I tell you that the first appointment went just fine. I started off by sitting and watching the world go by. I used the time to do some planning in my head for my writing. Planning is my default state when I’m not occupied elsewhere. After a bit, however, I tried to let even that go.

After about 15 minutes, I started to drift and then fell asleep. Sleeping was an excellent way to make the time pass quickly, but it felt like cheat. Besides, it’s not comfortable to sleep in the waiting room chairs. After my sleep I began to get antsy and was tempted to just quickly check my email or check the weather. But I resisted and actually found that I became quite relaxed. So relaxed that when my blood pressure was taken in my appointment, it was nice and low.

Hmmm. So by not doing anything or by actively deciding to make waiting my occupation, I became more relaxed.

I did give in when I went up to the chemo waiting room. “I’m sure I’ve got important emails to answer!” I thought to myself. “I’ll just check them and then begin my “wait” again. This time, however, I was taken in so quickly that there was no time. Next week I shall set myself the challenge to make it through the entire visit without a distraction. How long can you wait?

Cheers until next time.

Sam

Ultra Sounds Monday, April 23, 2012

I hope you are having a wonderful Monday.

Today I present you with our first ever painting here on Ultra Sounds.  I am so pleased that it comes from Cid Palacio, the founder of ART for Cancer Foundation in Toronto. Cid was the one to invite me to the art workshop where I created my oeuvre (or is that hors d’oeuvre).

I find this painting extraordinary and haunting. It resonates with me both as the daughter of a cancer patient and as a patient myself. I will let Cid describe it to you in her own words.

Sam

 

 

I created this piece around my experience as a caregiver to my parents and their cancer journey.

They climbed a steep mountain and in my mother’s case a series of steep mountains.

While they were climbing, they did not always see the summit, but knew they had to keep on climbing and have hope and faith that reaching the summit would free them from pain.

While they were climbing, they knew that they were not alone, there were many others on that same journey, and yet they also knew that this was a journey where each step only they could take, as their loved ones and friends supported them from the side lines.

Cid Palacio

Founder of the 

…where Heart connects with Art for Creativity and Hope

 

Tuesdays from the chemo unit, April 17, 2012

Today is my long day at the chemo unit. Once a month I get an iron infusion which takes a few hours (watch out Popeye). Because I know it is my LONG day, my girl scout personality kicks in. I come prepared. As I walked over here, I did an inventory of everything I brought with me:

To do:

- my computer – with three running projects

- my book

- my iphone with email, scrabble, audiobooks and music

- my journal (but forgot the pen, dang)

 

 

To eat:

- some leftover pizza from last night

- a sandwich

- some leftover salad

- carrot sticks

- berries

- a pear

- some cookies

- some toasted almonds

- water and tea

(my appointment is at 9:30. At about 9:35 I’m wondering how soon I can break out the food)

 

Additional sundries:

- band aids

- hand cream

- lip balm

- spare bobby pins

- just about anything you might need (except a pen)

 

As I pop another almond in my mouth, I reflect on the other people in the unit.  Many of them walk in with nothing more than a wallet.  I’m in awe. Maybe it’s a zen kind of thing to be able to travel light, have few needs, and be able to sit for four hours with nothing to do. Maybe these folks are meditating. Maybe I am addicted to stimulation. Or maybe they just didn’t follow the motto “be prepared”.

 

Sam

 

Ultra Sounds Monday, April 16, 2012

Today I bring you another submission from my son Zev (age 12). This metaphor came to him and he had to get it down right away. He also wanted me to tell you all that he has pet rats which is why he used mice rather than rats as his metaphor.

 

The Mouse of Sickness

by Zev Shoag

 

 

Sickness is like a mouse

it can fit through the smallest spaces

infest you when you least expect it.

Even if you can’t see it

it is there.

Cancer and the art of storytelling

It seems to me that we are always reinventing ourselves through the process of storytelling. This process is even more heightened when dealing with crises like critical illness. Once we are past the state of shock, we assume an “attitude” about our illness whether we know it or not.

My husband met a woman the other day who has terminal cancer. Apparently when my husband expressed some sympathy, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Hey, I don’t have to worry about retirement savings. I’ve been travelling like crazy and having a good time”. She had decided that her story was not that of a victim, but of one who was going to enjoy every damn minute.

Some of the therapeutic writing programs for cancer patients use storytelling techniques. Storytelling gives people a chance to express how they feel and to choose how they tell their story. By choosing, they get to be an active agent in how others see them and how they see themselves.

I stumbled upon this video which includes interviews several young cancer survivors. They are on a sailing excursion run by a couple who specialize in a kind of storytelling therapy.

I believe the formal term for this kind of storytelling is Narrative Therapy. There is a whole body of study on this subject which looks in-depth and interesting.

The exciting part of this process for me is the power to choose the story – we don’t have to let it choose us. I believe that the therapeutic aspect of storytelling is the realization of the level of control we have over how we see and present our lives. There is no getting away from real pain, suffering and fear. And I don’t judge anyone’s “choices” – we all do the best we can.  But perhaps by writing our own stories, we don’t have to be passive victims. For me, I can decide to choose hope over despair; Humour over bitterness. I can choose to still “get down” like Viola Moriarty was portrayed in her daughter Anna’s cartoon a couple of weeks ago. It is a liberating feeling.

So here’s my storytelling story. Now I have not told this to very many people (so SHHHH).  Shortly after my diagnosis I was scheduled to have a stem cell transplant, a fairly serious procedure. My lovely in-laws had provided me with a stack of good books to take with me into the hospital and they included the first two Harry Potter books (this was 12 years ago). As I read about the boy wizard I decided that I could look at myself as if I was Harry Potter. I was targeted for some quest, by evil lord Amyloidosis. While the quest challenged me, I could be brave like Harry.

When I saw my illness in the light of a quest, somehow it made things easier.  There were moments where I felt like ripping out my IV and throwing on my superhero cape – at least until the nausea set in.  I actually tried to write a children’s story about a lazy pig who was called to a quest (he didn’t ask for the quest, the quest asked for him -ooooooo, deep). So there you have my deep dark secret that I only had told two people about.

Now it’s your turn. C’mon, pony up. What’s your story?

Sam