Thursday, October 30, 2014

to still trust life, and a red sunset

 First of all: thanks for all your wishes, and for thinking of me. It helps, and gives energy. I am glad I started to write about it the diagnosis, the knot in my breast, and shared it, and didn’t let it silence me and turn it into a “dark” secret.

Things I learned in the last days: we all have cancer cells in our bodies, only that normally our bodies are able to take care of them. Research is still try to figure out what makes the difference, why in most cases our own “bodyguard” is able to identify and deal with cancerous cells, and why sometimes it isn’t. That’s probably the way cancer treatment will take in the future: support our own immune system, and develop treatments that follow their route.

But so far, the cure is: cut and radiate and medicate. Which also developed a long way from the treatment methods that were used years ago, when the whole breast was removed, just to make sure. Now they try to remove just a small part: the direct environment of the knot, and the related lymph node. In my case, they needed one cut for both. The first thing I did when waking up after the operation was to touch my left breast, to check if it is still there. It is. Altogether, I still feels like myself. I have no memory of the operation room, not even of the narcosis.

It’s strange how the main event of the week for me happened without me. “Somehow I wished I had gotten a peek,” I said. “Honey, not really,” the wake-up nurse told me. The times I remember, though: 10a.m. in the narcosis room, and at 12 back in my own room. Around 4pm, my doc came to visit with good news: the operation went well, and the knot is mostly pre-cancerous cells. Just the centre part of it is cancer. So, things look good from that angle.

Since then, I am basically recovering from the operation and the medication, and life turned to the basics: sleeping, drinking, eating, sleeping – and reading. I’m glad I brought some good books for the time here.

 And a lovely detail of this room: the first time I visited the hospital, I saw a gingko tree, with yellow leafs. And looking out now, and looking to the right, I saw a tree with the same yellow – and realized: that’s it. The gingko. Tree of life. Also, there’s a whole sky show every day: blue hills in the distance in late-october-mist. The sun breaking through the haze. Birds in flight. And at the early end of the day: a red sunset.

 Yesterday a psychologist visited, to check how I am, and to let me know she is there if I need someone to talk to, now or later. We talked about the illness, how it’s hard to grasp, coming seemingly out of nowhere. How it can take the trust in life, the balance of things. How the way through it is to still trust life. Like on a journey, I thought.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

the day before, "Serious was last week", and a quiet obstacle

 So I am in the hospital now. The operation is tomorrow, and today is for preparation. And for me, for reflection. The really nice thing is: I have a room with a view. Right outside is a field with apple trees and with 4 horses. The horizon is a long scenic line. It could almost be like a room in a countryside hotel. Apart from the room itself, and the reason I am here.

Yesterday was filled with organizing and preparing my time away, workwise. With all the positive sides of working freelance for individual projects, that’s one of the moments that makes you wish that your job could easily be done by someone else. Then the packing, for a place and time and mood that I can only guess and roughly anticipate. What to wear? Which books to take? I brought some “old friends”: Hermann Hesse, “Kleine Freuden” (“Small Pleasures”). Pema Chodron, “The Wisdom of no Escape”. And some new ones, in digital form, one of it from the Booker Prize shortlist: Karen Joy Fowler’s “We are all Completely Beside Ourselves”. It starts with an introduction that ends with these words: “Skip the beginning. Start in the middle…”

 Which might also be the direction of those blog posts. Not to go through the happenings chronologically, but pick the ones that stood out. Like that moment in the Nuklear medicine unit. I was there again today, they created a marker for the operation tomorrow. “Jetzt wird es ernst,” I said when meeting the doc, a German saying that translates to: “Now for the part that gets serious.” He smiled at me and said: “Ernst war es letzte Woche” – “Serious it was last week.” (and nice how German translates to Yoda speak literally, in this case.)

What he meant was: the examination last week was about the more difficult results. No one had said that directly, but from logic, I guessed that, too: If you have a cancerous knot in the breast and the lymph nodes connected to it are not cancerous, then this is a rather good sign that nothing has spread (as the lymph nodes would catch the cells first..). Yet, that domino logic only works when the knot is the initial cancer point… not if there are other spots in the body already. So that’s what they actually checked for last week. Now, one more night, then the operation. It’s roughly scheduled for 10am, but that might change depending on incoming emergencies.


 What is also good: to have a room that is quiet. On the other end of the floor, there’s a patient who is slightly disoriented, and who cries for help and for attention every couple of minutes. Just being around there makes you nervous. I don’t know how the doctors and all the nurses do it, dealing with all kind of dramas each day, and still being friendly and helpful and warm-hearted. It is humbling.

 And as if to enhance the quiet, the day came with a nice twist of technical obstacles. They have combined TV/telephone/radio sets here, all you need to activate them is buy a media card. So I did, but it turned out, the card doesn’t work. Or rather: the whole set doesn’t work. So I take that as a wink of the quiet.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

this translucent state of fear and hope, or: getting used to the c-word

Where to start?
Maybe with this tale. I thought of it a couple of times in the last days:

"Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, "May I have permission to go into battle with you?" Fear said, "Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission." Then the young warrior said, "How can I defeat you?" Fear replied, "My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power." In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear."
— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

So, yes: fear.
The photo above, it is from last week. From the day before I went to the clinic for some examinations to find out more about the nature of the knot in my breast. Back then, the take after the ultrasound and x-ray was: it seems to be on the good side of things. Can be operated without a hospital stay. Not something you wish for, but no need to get deeply afraid.

It was a sunny day, and I went for a walk through the town, and also visited a small exhbition in the town hall. That's where I saw the image above: a 2-layer photo that combines inner and outer image. And by taking its picture, it turned into 4 layers, with the room and with me reflected in it, too. (the woman in the dress - who looks a bit like a personification of Fate now, is the original photo, i'm the shadow reflection)

That was last week. 4 days later, the results of the biopsy arrived. And things turned upside down: unfortunately, the knot is on the other side of good. It's cancerous. And they need to do more checks. To see. To prepare for the operation.


This image is from the day of examinations that followed then. It's from a place I havn't been to before: the "Nuklearmedizin." There, I received an injection, which makes it possible to do a full body-scan. It also makes you a tiny bit radioactive for a day.

It's fascinating, all the things medicine is able to do. I could watch my heart beating. And saw my own skeleton. The good news was: there were no irritations to be seen on the scan. No other spots. So things are still looking kind of bright, relatively speaking.

They also were able to shift the operation day. Which means, I will go to hospital on Tuesday already, with the operation scheduled for Wednesday.

It's a strange time of both getting used to the facts, learning more about cancer, preparing for the time away, telling family and friends, and trying to find my way through those days. And having the one and other conversation with hope and with fear.

Here's another photo of that sunny town walk:

The closed door beyond the shadow and ligth, it felt like a symbol for the situation: not knowing the answers yet. And wondering if I would want to know the future. This dream of mankind, to have a crystal ball, to be able to look into the days to come - situations like this make you wonder if that really would be such a good idea.

Now, for a bakery walk. And hopefully, for a sunny sunday.

Wish me luck.

PS: not sure when I can update the blog. the plan right now is to not have too much of a plan, and take the days one by one. on the other hand, writing about it is a way to reflect and process the situation. also, i don't want to let this turn me silent. and i am grateful for all the others who blogged during their time of going through cancer. it helps to read their notes and blogs, and get an idea of the things and especially the emotions that pop up, and how others learned to deal with them

..and now i found the right hashtag on twitter: #cancer leads to all kind of horoscopes, which sound weird in this situation: "Cancer likes to really get to know you, by for example, staying up all night talking."
  #cancerblog is where the real links are. still feels strange and ureal to type.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

sky directions, smallstones, zen-sational

It was summer again, for 2 days the last weekend: golden October. Simply amazing. I sat outside on the terrace, and it felt like August. Looking up, there was only blue sky. Then a field of rippled clouds passed through, and with it, 5 birds, flying in formation. Probably migrating. A bit later, I looked up again, and there was: a huge flock, definitely on migration course. Such an energy, in just some fleeting moments. I made a quick note to remember, and it turned into a smallstone:

Out of the blue: a field of rippled clouds,
& a huge flock of birds, southbound.
This vibe of sky directions.

Which made me remember January, this month of daily small stones and awareness of small moments. It’s a good reminder to look more for the richness of the days, especially with the shadow that currently lingers, and with the days that are now growing darker and shorter.

In the afternoon I "followed" the birds, and drove to the Alb plateau, and the road led through falling and dancing colored leaves. Such a feast of colors and season, with each moment highlighted by the sun. On the way, I stopped at the small “Buddha park”. Here’s a photo:

Actually, the place belongs to a landscape gardener, they leave it open on weekends for visitors to enjoy and visit. They have several statues there, and the most fancy trees. Walking along the paths feels like the place rather belongs to temple grounds, with its serene touch.

For the visit, I took a book along, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Ruben. I read it last year, and now picked it up again - it feels like the right time to revisit. The book offers practical reflections on happiness and habits, on things and moments, on what makes a day, and the different options we have to deal with things and situations.

It's also focusing on all those habits and situations that are part of busy modern life in a consumer world, where it is easy to lose focus. Here’s a quote from it, from the first chapter (here's more):
“I wasn't depressed and I wasn't having a midlife crisis, but I was suffering from midlife malaise. I had everything I could possibly want – yet I was failing to appreciate it. Bogged down in petty complaints and passing crises, weary of struggling with my own nature, I too often failed to comprehend the splendour of what I had.I didn't want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe, and think, 'How happy I used to be then, if only I'd realised it.' In that moment I decided to dedicate a year to trying to be happier.Other people's radical happiness projects, such as Henry David Thoreau's move to Walden Pond or Elizabeth Gilbert's move to Italy, India and Indonesia, exhilarated me. But my project wasn't like that. I was an unadventurous soul, and I didn't want to undertake that kind of extraordinary change. More important, I didn't want to reject my life. I wanted to change my life without changing my life, by finding more happiness in my own kitchen.”
I really liked that last line: to change without change.

Ruben also tries to figure out how happy moments can be enhanced, and comes up with this advice: "I realized that happiness has four stages. To eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must first anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory. Any single happy experience can may be amplified or minimized, depending on how much attention you give it."

Which leads back to the idea of smallstones or photos: to be more aware of the little moments, to enjoy them, and to note them down - which means: to experience them more fully, find the right words / the right angle, turn them into a memory. And to revisit them.

Seen like that, both smallstones and photos are ways to capture the moments, and to share and revisit them.

And the colors of autumn: I came across this note in one of the photo friday blogs (here):

Autumn is a time of exuberant energy –
It’s quite zensational, in fact

Such a lovely, reflective wordplay.

Now, to revisit some of my own smallstones in this blog, and to take the time to notice new ones.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, or: Dark Horizon

If things had happened as planned, I would be at the Comic Fair right now. Or rather: I would have been at the Comic Fair for the last 2 days, and now would take the train back home, sitting in the reserved seat that come with a 1st class upgrade for just 5 Euro more. It would have been my first 1st class seat since ages. That is, if the train had been going at all, as the railroad engineer's are starting their labour strike again, Which isn't the point of this post, but which connects to the general theme of these days, and to all those who have plans and tickets and an idea of how their week would shape out. And then watch it all turn to question marks.

It was this time last week that the question mark for me popped up: i was trying to figure out some problem, scratching my skin unconsciously, and while doing so, discovered a knot in my left breast. Since then, the focus of everything pretty much shifted to this knot of cells. And to statistics and examinations and learning about all those things you don't really want to learn about.

The odd things was that just a day before that, I had been at Frankfurt Book Fair, and was excited to see the poetry booth in the Finnland hall. They did "brain poetry", with one of those headsets that catches the magnetic vibes and the rhythm of the  brain waves. I tried it. In German. This is the poem I received, the rhythm of my brain on that day that was unshadowed yet:

Dream long time
Petal, the red 
Ground cherry, the 
Often scattered 
Prayer of the poet
Dark Horizon.

Yes. Dark Horizon. Out of the blue. Like it happened in real, one day later. In cherry-size. Followed by a prayer. By me, the poet/writer/blogger who was lost for words in the following days.

Still not sure how to write about this topic. The short version of this week boils down to: it looks not too bad in ultrasound and in x-ray. Meaning, the chances are rather on the benign side: 80:20 is the ratio that defines the time to come right now. A biopsy is on the way. It will tell more, but then again, all this is a reminder that you never really know. That the ratio of our life is an equation with many unknown factors.

I already had an appointment at the clinic. (Everything is both fast forward and wait-state). That's where the "Sigk" photo is from, not from the clinic itself, but from the school next to it. The photo below is from the clinic hall, they have several large paintings in the entry area. This is one of them.

Next week I will know a bit more. Like I wrote, I don't yet know how to write about this. But then, it would feel weird not to write about it. What else would there really be to write about? Heck, I couldn't even really write about the books I am reading right now. Or the links I follow.

Plus, in the last days, I read articles and blogs from others who have been in the same place. It helps. It gives an idea. It is also scary to read how many have to deal with it: every 10th woman.

Here are some links:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Frankfurt International Bookfair: Printed, Digital, We are Here - Snaphots & Links

Book Fair 2014 "We are Here"

This week, I visited the Frankfurt International Bookfair.
The slogan of the fair in 2014 is "Wir sind hier" - "We are here"

This is Frankfurt city centre and the fair area, seen from the Autobahn. 

And this right inside the fair, the first hall i visited, with a focus on Comics

Suprise: one of the largest booths in the hall belonged to Samsung. They were official partner of the book fair.

From Comics to the North: The guest of honor this year was Finland, and in the midst of all the buzz, they managed to create this special hall of space and calm, and of words spoken in Finnish – there was an author interview on, and just listening to the tune of Finnish was fascinating. It’s not an roman-based language, like most european languages, but runs on a different concept.

From the North, I moved to ... the digital future. The Fair had a special hot spot for digital themes and trends: Forum Zukunft. It was a bit hidden, though.... and turned out to be on the analog side of things. Well. This is "Forum Future" (no kidding.):

And next to the future, a panel for self-publishers. Which is a new thing for the fair:

The star of the day wasn't a book, or an established or upcoming author, but “Cro” – a german rap musician who is panda-masked, and who now wrote a book and gave a miniconcert on the open stage in the middle of the bookfair plaza. Spot the panda in the middle of the scene? That's him. 

Of course, there was much more - German books, international books, authors, interviews, and all the sights of walking through a place where so many different readers and books and authors meet. 

Here's a snapshot with a double-meaning quote I liked: "Die Welt gehört denen, die auch im Netz gegen den Strom schwimmen" - "The world belongs to those who swim against the tide in the net, too." 

And a different kind of collage: the things I picked up along the way:

Some Links to Articles: 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

a marathon called October

(reblogged from October 2013: now it is a different year, yet the same season. today to come: Frankfurt Book Fair. after working into the night yesterday to make time for the fair, for all the words waiting there. the things we do for books and all they represent :)


upcoming.. a marathon called October 
time. i wished i had a room full of it, for October. after the summer time, it seems all and everything is happening now at once. there's Frankfurt book fair upcoming, and the big Comic Action fair. and parallel to it, there are some major project milestones waiting with my freelance web projects.

so summed up, it will be a marathon of October. an exciting one, but also an intense and complex one. i took some time this week to sketch a time-map for October with the main dates and steps. a kind of roadmap, to not get lost.

October blogging & here and now
as it looks, i won't have much time for blogging and browsing and mailing. but i will blog from the bookfair in Frankfurt. and i think of turning more towards mobile blogging, to catch the mood of single moments, and to post directly from another place, to avoid to end up with a huge backlog of photos taken and things to blog about...

...and to be more in the now.
...especially while this now is a marathon.

and as signposts for the marathon time, some quotes and notes that i came across in the last weeks:

Say yes.  
Say no.

Always make things. Chew through your mistakes. Grind your skills. We're all in the same boat here. Good luck and get to work.

Be you.

The word for this season: "Lebensfreude"

And what if we already had all it takes for a beautiful life?

Let go of it.

Don't let the urgent keep postponing the important


On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you?

Step by step.



here's to roads and moments ~

Sunday, October 5, 2014

half moon sunset

The first week of October. Wind from the East, and the roses blooming anew again in the garden, ignoring the season. Today was supposed a rainy sunday, but it seems the skies enjoy contrasting the forecast once more - it is a sunny day.

For photo friday, a sunset moment of this week. the curved half moon in the sky, and below, the clouds changing colors, turning from pastel to grey, and then suddenly one cloud lighting up in pink. it's just about 15 minutes between the 2 photos:


More skies from everywhere: skywatch friday
More curved moments from everywhere at photo friday

Have a beautiful sky week ~