Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Dietitian's Cancer Story Newsletter: Winter 2005

Slowly, slowly, slowly, inch by inch, I am reviewing content on my long-standing website, deciding what to keep as I move components over to my www.CancerRD.com blog, what to tweak, and what give the old heave-ho. I have had such pleasure re-reading my past Email newsletters and cannot imagine giving them the toss. I have reprinted the introduction to the Winter 2005 Newsletter in this post, but the entire newsletter can be viewed here.
A Dietitian's Cancer Story Newsletter: Winter 2005

Greetings from Diana Dyer, MS, RD, author of A Dietitian's Cancer Story.

As winter starts to give way to spring, I had the pleasure of visiting the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the largest temporary indoor butterfly exhibit in the US will open on March 1st. Because I was fortunate to be there early (before the throngs of happy school children, teachers, and families will fill the pathways throughout the exhibit), I was able to focus on more details of the plantings in the conservatory.
I was admiring a large stand of bamboo when I noticed a small plaque with this saying: 
 "It is quite possible to live without meat 
but not without bamboo" 
~~ 11th century Chinese poet Su Shih 
Yes, it is possible to live without meat. In fact the translation for tofu is "meat without bones", and parts of the bamboo plant are used in multiple aspects of Chinese life.

Of special interest to me however is bamboo being considered the Chinese symbol of spiritual fortitude, compromise, and survival as it gracefully bends without breaking. In addition, even more meaningful to me is the beautiful image the bamboo plant conveys for cancer survivors, with our spirits bending but not breaking as we seek and find our individual path on this journey of cancer survivorship to emerge with newly found spiritual fortitude and wisdom.

March 2005 will be the 10-year anniversary of surviving my second breast cancer. As I wait for spring to finally arrive here in the snowy Midwest, I am going to celebrate by growing a bamboo plant indoors, an ever-green symbol of my survival, but even more importantly, my spiritual growth, fortitude, and wisdom.

My hope is that you will also gracefully bend without breaking during the stormy times of your cancer survivorship journey to emerge renewed with life,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD
As I read this old newsletter introduction and approach March of 2012, I realize I am creeping up on the 17th anniversary of my second breast cancer. It has not been 17 years without additional medical problems (some of them have been and continue to be serious), but it is an anniversary without a recurrence of that advanced and aggressive tumor. 
Only yesterday I told a writer who is preparing an upcoming article to be published in USA Today that my oncologist finally told me in 2000, when I reached the 5-year mark past my diagnosis, that he had not expected me to be cancer-free at 2 years after my diagnosis based on various characteristics of my tumors. (Oh wow, blink, blink, swallow hard, deep breath, repeat........that instant is burned into my memory.)
While my oncologist's statement came out of my mouth rather easily during the interview yesterday evening, and I am deeply honored by the fact that he wrote the foreword to my book and now refers ALL of his breast cancer patients to a Registered Dietitian, I realized somewhat later during last night after the interview that I felt quite rattled by that memory. 
Why would that be? I am not fully sure, but I think it may be as simple or complex as knowing how deeply fortunate I have been to still be alive, how fragile life is, how unfair life can be, how hard I have worked (without a break) to recover and live as well as possible after cancer, how many friends, relatives, and millions of other people have died from cancer since my diagnosis in 1995, how grateful I am to have had affordable access to the best medical care available right in my own town, a supportive family, friends, and employer, all of whom loved me and helped get me through that mind-numbing and terrifying time (just for starters).  Sigh........blink, blink.......
I remember looking for a bamboo plant to buy when I wrote that newsletter in 2005. I cannot remember the reason(s) why I got side-tracked and did not get one. So this time, seven years later, I feel I need to re-focus and buy myself a bamboo plant, a physical reminder of all that has happened to me, the bending but not breaking, the compromises, plus the fortitude I have developed and the wisdom I have sought (for myself and others) just since 1995. 
To celebrate both the Chinese New Year (the year of the Water Dragon) and my good fortune to be entering into Year 17 without a local recurrence or metastasis from my second breast cancer or even another new primary cancer, I'm heading to the florist tomorrow to bring a bamboo plant home to our farm to enjoy, honor, and nurture daily. :-)
Again, I hope wherever you are on your cancer survivorship journey, you will join me in celebrating your own 'bending but not breaking' during your challenges. I am celebrating for you, too!
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD


susan said...

thank you Diana.
i also like the idea of the flexibility w/ strength in bamboo.
esp w/ so much appropriate concern for bones and age and the arimedex i take which estrogen depleting aspect helps to diminish bone. i don't think enough attention, and i have read some that do note the aspect of flexibility of the bone.., has been given to that whole picture. that aspect of strength in bone.
but i digress, cuz mostly i wanted to just say thank you Diana, for sharing your light and being who you are.

Diana Dyer said...

Thank you Susan for your thoughtful comments. :-)

'Flexibility with strength' - I like that, I like that a lot. Susun Weed does talk about the importance of bone flexibility. I pay attention to what she says..........(If you don't know of her, just do a search........and jump in with anything she has written that first grabs you.)