Marifran Korb

Author Archive

My Relationship With Cancer, Part 11

by on Aug.29, 2012, under Random Writings on Relationship

Today I had CT scans with and without contrast. Met with Dr. B who had good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the tumor grew.
The good news is that it was a normal growth for two years since the last CT kidney scan. Dr. B now says it is expected to grow 2 to 3 mm a year. The details of the exact difference in size were not in yet from the radiologist report. It will be coming soon.

Dr. B is still not recommending surgery because the tumor is considered small. It has a 1% chance of spreading. Due to the location of the tumor, surgery would mean loss of kidney, not partial loss. If I lose a kidney, my heart has 50% chance of being deleteriously affected.

The result was disappointing. It indicates that all that I am doing is not working as well as I had hoped. Back to the reinventing a new plan of action. First, I am going to do something fun.

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My Relationship with Cancer, Part 10

by on Jul.20, 2012, under Life is a celebration., Overcoming Cancer

After two years of living with cancer, and overcoming the physical challenge of losing weight and the emotional challenge of overcoming fears, I set a destination celebration that would test me to the core. What I chose was akin to aiming for the distant stars.

With my daughter Ilona, I planned an 18-day independent trip to Italy’s hill towns. For a long time I have wanted to go, and I figured I wasn’t getting any younger. It was a test of strength to stand up to the cancer and to defy life-long lung damage.

From a trip to Italy seven years ago, I knew what I was in for. Among a few Italian cities we visited, the so-called “hill” town of Siena was one. More accurately, it was a mountain town.

You may wonder: Why walk when you can drive? The only cars and motor cycles allowed are ones belonging to the towns folk. And yes, the police know immediately if you are a local or not. They will find you and ticket you, even if you are from a different country. As a non-local, you can drive to the town. Then, you have to park at the foot of the hill and walk up, and up, and up. In Siena it felt like my lungs would explode, even while I was moving at a sloth’s pace.

Knowing what I was up against, I trained on a treadmill from January to May 2012. No stranger to the treadmill, I’ve been walking on it for years at the lowest level. Due to the pre-condition of serious COPD, that is all I thought I could, or should, do.

Twenty years ago, I told my pulmonary nurse that I planned to expand my lungs through vigorous walking and exercising. Kindly and gently, she told me that my lungs “do not do the whole alphabet.” “Your lungs,” she told me, “only go from A to B. You cannot expand your lungs.”

In spite of the advice, I continued to climb steps, walk fast and lift weights. Regularly, I go to a gym. So when I knew I was facing and embracing almost vertical hills, I set goals to see if I could go beyond my most recent best efforts. Each day I pushed myself for a few minutes more on the next highest level on the treadmill. By the time the month of May came, I had moved as far as the treadmill goes. Besides walking a few minutes a day at level ten, I did not go lower than level eight. It was very strenuous for me. Still, I was not sure it was enough.

Level ten on the treadmill was nothing compared to the hills I climbed. They were equally as vertical as Siena. Fortunately, Cordova, Orvieto, and Perugia have escalators to get into the towns. Once inside, only your legs will get you up the steep streets within the town.

As a result of my work, I made it up ALL the slopes in the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria. It was slow and steady. Usually, Ilona insisted on going slow with her mother, the turtle. Once, I sent her ahead so she would possibly see the Rocca Maggiore Castle before it closed. It was situated at the highest hilltop in the precipitous town of Assisi. Eventually, I got there, though it was already closed for both of us.

Assisi has buses. Yet, those buses only go so far. There still remain at least half the hilly streets where buses do not go.

Ilona and I walked up the arduous streets and alleys of Volterra, San Gimignano, Cortona, Orvieto, Perugia, Spello, Spoleto and Assisi. And, we spent a day in each of two easier walking cities of Milan and Bologna. When we enjoyed two days near Rome, one at Hadrian’s Villa and another at Villa D’Este, both had innumerable steps. Yet these two days seemed less strenuous compared to the hill towns.

Travel is invigorating. We experienced sights we cannot see anywhere else, foods we cannot eat anywhere else, and met people we cannot meet at home.

While I ingested lots of pasta, gelato, and wine, I did not gain a pound. All that walking and climbing paid off. Yes, I went off my sugar free diet for cancer, but it was only 18 days.

Besides the ancient towns, the medieval buildings, the art museums, and the sensational scenery, we loved the people we met in Italy. On every trip, we meet people from all over the world. With our limited knowledge of Italian words, we connected briefly with some who speak no English. The language of love really is universal.

Some memories include Ilona and I surviving a level 6 earthquake and two aftershocks that happened at 4 AM on May 20. We were in a modern hotel that withstood the quake. Most homes and hotels evacuated people immediately. some people died. Two weeks later on May 29, a second earthquake occurred in that same area. At the time, we were safely in Assisi, about 120 miles away. Sadly, the epicenter was turned to rubble. Thousand year-old homes, museums, and churches were destroyed entirely.

Other memories include facing the fact that we did not like the hotel in Assisi as much as we expected. So we arranged to go back to Orvieto, where we were the happiest. It was there that we excitedly and cheerfully talked politics with like-minded couples from four different states all at once.

We enjoyed the many kindnesses of B&B owner in Orvieto. On returning, we were treated like royalty. When we left, the owner and his staff lined up to hug us and wish us farewell.

Another experience was staying up to wee hours drinking wine and limoncello with an English speaking couple from Belgium. For several nights, we had animated discussions on their culture and ours. Now we have a standing invitation to visit them. They are invited to visit us. Meanwhile, we stay in touch by email. Cheers to them, and to all the delightful people we met.

It required patience and perseverance to prepare mentally and physically for that journey. It was a personal triumph for me to overcome every challenge and to scale those hilly mountains.

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My Relationship With Popcorn

by on Jun.14, 2012, under Random Writings on Relationship

Since I couldn’t break my popcorn eating habit, I decided it was time to break myself of my microwave popcorn habit. I prepared by getting my popcorn directions from my friend, Dan Erdman. Not only a musician, Dan is a master at making popcorn to perfection. Not one kernel is ever burnt. His is the best popcorn I’ve ever eaten. Given that I’ve ingested a whole lot of it in my long lifetime, I consider myself an expert on tasting popcorn.

All the ingredients were assembled. Along with the three test kernels and the oil, I put the lid on the pan. Pop, pop, pop. The three kernels were perfect. Ah, all is well. I must be good at this, I concluded. Then all was ready for the rest of kernels. I closed the lid. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, I was listening intently for a break in the popping, so I would know it was done.

Uh oh! Smoke poured out and I smelled the pot burning. I knew what to do. Instinctively, I moved it to another burner, turned off the heat and opened the lid.

That last instinct wasn’t so good. The popcorn leaped all over my old-fashioned stove. Popcorn slid under the iron grill and multiplied out to all four burners.

Instinct came in again as I grabbed a potholder and moved the pan to the table. Not a good idea. The popcorn kept popping over the pan and onto the floor. Before I knew it, I had stepped on wayward popcorn. As I placed a hot pad under the pan and onto the table, popcorn spread all over the table, bouncing as it went. Burning oil laden kernels even jumped to my arms and hands. Rubbing my skin, I had no time to deal with my injury.

A major mess, I shook my head as I reassessed the damage. My skin was on fire and the pot was burnt. The kitchen looked like a disaster zone with oil and popcorn on the stove, the floor and the table. There was not the slightest payoff. The popcorn was ruined.

What went wrong? At first, I didn’t want to know. I was sure I had followed the directions.

Of course you, dear reader, know by now where I went astray. Finally, I figured it out. I did not turn off the heat after the 3 kernels popped. A rude lesson. Still, after scrubbing the pot for two days and cleaning up the stove, floor and table, I promised myself I’d make my next batch correctly on the stove and not go back to microwave.

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Celebration: My Relationship with Life

by on Mar.24, 2012, under Random Writings on Relationship

Basically, my philosophy is that life is a celebration. That’s why in 1993, I started my business “Rising To The Occasion” and became a Celebrations Consultant.

Even in difficult times, there is something to celebrate. If that seems foreign, then you can develop the frame of mind that creates that attitude.

Often people ask me how do I celebrate. That question comes from thinking that celebration is all rah-rah. Sometimes, celebration is simply honoring something by giving thanks quietly within.

Celebration can take almost as many forms as the occasions to celebrate. Most of the time, we don’t acknowledge what there is to celebrate. Presently, I am connected to Your Hidden Advantage, a company that serves busy people. My consulting service is part of Family Advantage: Celebrations. http://www.yourhiddenadvantage.com/family-advantage/celebrations-modules

More on this later.

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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH AUTUMN

by on Oct.18, 2011, under Random Writings on Relationship

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT AUTUMN IS …
… the kaleidoscope of trees dressed in gorgeous shades of orange, yellow, and red. Evergreens give just enough green to accent the deciduous tree colors this time of year.

Change surrounds me and affects all my senses. I love the varied shaped leaves and how they fall. Some flip over and tumble-spin in a circular, somersault fashion and some plummet straight down in Olympic diver fashion. Some leaves swing and sway in a zigzag pattern, and some dive gently with no particular pattern. Each has its own dance of descent. It’s amusing, especially when many different leaves fall in various ways all at the same time.

The freshness of the air rejuvenates my sense of smell after the sultry summer. The shapes and colors of the pumpkins, the gourds and the corn appeal to my visual sense. Their textures stimulate my tactile sense. The strong, tangy smell of apples waft around me.

As in any relationship there are changes, and those can cause some slightly mixed feelings. Changes occur in the sunlight coming into the house at different angles and the earlier evenings. I feel some loss of direct light and warmth. When I come to terms with less light and earlier evenings, I find ways I can enjoy it. For one, there is more snuggle time.

When trees are bare, I enjoy seeing the trunk and branch structure. Each tree has its unique look. And when trees are leaf-free, I can see the sunrises and sunsets that are hidden by the leaves during the warm seasons. Every season has something to look forward to.

Taste buds change from light meals to heavier fare. Squash comes into my recipes, along with chili on the chilly nights. Hardy thick stew replaces thin soup.

Sounds change. Leaf blowers swap out lawn mowers. Crickets are quiet. Flies no longer buzz. The crackling of dry leaves under my feet tingle my senses. I’m ready to make a pile of leaves and jump in the center. Now who will join me?

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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH CANCER – Part 9

by on Aug.31, 2011, under Random Writings on Relationship

Since the last ultrasound, I have been enjoying life to the hilt. In April, Ed and I moved to a great home with trees and flowers all around us. A family of deer frolic through our woods. Never far away, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks visit our patio often, even when we are relaxing by the fountain in the fish pond.

Last week I had an ultrasound on my kidneys. The bad news is that it is not smaller. The good news is that it is no bigger than it was. Today I went to see urologist Dr. B, my second opinion doctor. Now he is telling me that surgery could be in the future for me sometime.

The reason? My parents were long-lived and it’s possible I could live to be 90. While happily that is a number of decades from now, there are no statistics on the number of years a kidney tumor can be safely watched. According to Dr. B, it has not happened before.

In the past, doctors took out any kidney that had a tumor. Now they try to take only the tumor and leave much of the kidney. There’s no statistics or research information on what will happen over the years for someone who is expected to live as long as I am. In my situation, there are not a lot of people that have been watched over a long time. So I suggested that I would be the first. That’s a valuable contribution. Right?

“Your possible years left are a whole career for a doctor. Some young doctor will be following you and have to pass you off to yet another doctor. And no doctor wants to do that.” Dr. B conjectured this as if that was a bad thing. It is not for me.

Dr. B said I should think about surgery in a few years. I reminded him of his assertion a year ago that I could live with the tumor. He answered that he is giving me the other side of it now. Hmm.

Reminding him that a year ago he claimed that patients with kidney surgery can die a decade earlier than the national statistics, Dr. B responded that it is true when one whole kidney is extracted. Given that he thinks he can take out my tumor despite it’s delicate position near the blood supply, he downplayed the danger. We did not get into the problem of my lungs. I’m still thinking about this turn of attitude. For now, we agreed things will stay the same.

Meanwhile, I will continue to live fully. Enjoying every minute, I am not slowing down.

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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH CANCER – Part 8

by on Mar.05, 2011, under Random Writings on Relationship

What a week! On Monday February 28, I went to my pulmonologist who told me good news about a mysterious spot on my lungs. I’ve been seeing her, and getting pulmonary CT scans every four months. Since there are many reasons the spot could be nothing, I never worried.

The newest scan showed the spot looking less like a tumor and more like a cyst. It Is about 5 or 6 mm (half inch). So, I don’t have to get another chest CT for a year. That means I don’t have to see the pulmonologist for a year. Yea.

At the urologist-oncologist on Friday, March 4, Dr. B. reiterated my risks of having surgery:
1) The tumor is too near the blood supply, so there would be little chance to save any part of my kidney.
2) Losing a kidney can shorten my life by ten years due to stress on my heart.
3) Due to my compromised lungs, I might not survive the three- hour operation.

Inquiring specifically about the risk of not taking out the kidney, I asked Dr. B.: “What is the percentage of people with a small kidney tumor that experience cancer spreading outside the kidney compared to those whose cancer does not spread?” Dr. B replied that only 1 to 2% experience the cancer spreading and 98 -99% do not experience any spreading. He reminded me that it would be natural for the tumor to grow by 1 or 2 mm a year without the growth being a problem.

While I was at the office, Dr. B could not tell if there’s a size difference from 5 months ago when comparing the CT scan and the ultrasound. The radiologist report wasn’t in yet, though the pictures from the ultrasound were.

At 8 AM this morning, Dr. B. called me to say that the tumor appears to have gotten somewhat smaller. So, though it is still there for now, it is shrinking.

In six months, I will get another ultrasound and see Dr. B. Good news! Everyday, I imagine that tumor disappearing to nothing.

Thank you all for your good thoughts for me.

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MY RELATIONSHIP TO CANCER – Part 7

by on Feb.19, 2011, under Random Writings on Relationship

The healthiest response to life is joy. ~Deepak Chopra♥

My friendships strengthen me all the time. Friends have contributed greatly to me, especially during the early part of this health crisis. There have been so many mental, emotional, physical and spiritual gifts, I hope I am not forgetting any.

Right after I told the first few people, dear friends gave me a variety of fresh, healthful spices, quinoa, and garlic from Findlay Market. Another friend gave me wheat grass supplements, while another gave me mullein root.

Many friends gave me useful books, workbooks, tapes, CDs and DVDs on a variety of alternative healing arts. All made a difference, and many I use regularly and share with others.

One friend gave me a three months supply of Pro-Pax vitamins that energized me. Other friends did healing energy work for me.

My Qigong friend and teacher called often directing me to the work of William Bengston. Right away, I began doing an exercise from the articles and excerpts from Bengston’s book. Another friend directed me to Chunyi Lin’s books and CDs on Spring Forest Qigong. Many others sent me web information.

Some friends gave me comfort gifts, such as frequent phone calls, greeting cards, e-mails, e-cards, and other fun things such as a figurine Healing Angel.

Many people put me their group Prayer List. It is such a privilege to be on anyone’s Prayer List, and it is even more amazing to be prayed for by whole groups of healers, church members, and others whom I have never met. While not surprised, I am humbled by the overwhelming generosity that has flowed from so many.

Whether openly expressed or not, the outpouring of love is the wind at my back. No matter what I have had to face, I felt the fear and moved forward with joy knowing I have so many loving people around me here, across the country and on other continents. I am grateful to every one of you.

On my kitchen table, I put a small Mylar balloon with the word “Party.” It makes me happy to see it. When I conducted Blog Radio interviews, I moved the balloon to my office just to remind myself to keep the interview light.

In September I chose to get another CT Scan, so I went to new urologist. Knowing it would also be a second opinion, I thought for sure Dr. B., the head of UC’s Urology Department, would tell me the same thing that Dr. K. told me, in a word “surgery.”

Seeing my previous CT Scans and reports, Dr. B said that what he could see did not look like a tumor. He was not sure what it was.

While afraid to be elated, I still hoped it was not a tumor. Sending me for a 3 Dimensional CT Scan, Dr. B. personally called me later in the week to say that it was indeed a tumor.

Back in his office, he said that there was a 25% chance that the tumor was benign. He suggested that I could have a biopsy to determine whether it is benign or malignant. While still pondering this shocking piece of news about the possibility that the tumor could be benign, Dr. B. mentioned that the results of a biopsy are not always accurate. It’s then that I told him I am sure I want no part of any biopsy.

What followed, I had to ask him twice if I heard correctly. Dr. B. informed me that I could live with the tumor, even if it is malignant. It will likely grow a millimeter a year. He felt sure that I had the tumor for a very long time. Dr. B suggested I come back in a few months and get an ultrasound. My appointment is March 4.

Realizing that the tumor could grow faster than Dr. B thinks and it could move to other organs, I knew that whatever door I choose the lion could devour me. It could go badly if I waited and it could go badly if had a nephrectomy, or even a biopsy. Whatever I choose is a risk.

Since Dr. B was not suggesting surgery or not pushing the biopsy button, I chose for now to continue eating healthfully, taking supplements, practicing spirituality, feeling peaceful, and celebrating friends.

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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH CANCER – Part 6

by on Jan.13, 2011, under Random Writings on Relationship

Many layers of emotions were happening at the same time. Some things were getting very serious – grocery shopping, preparing food, cooking food, cleaning up. They were never fun for me in the past. Now on a limited diet, my eating choices looked bleak. I didn’t like the taste of the things I could eat and I did miss the things I could not eat.

To make things worse, I had agreed to blood tests to determine food allergies. As it turns out, I am allergic to thirty healthful foods that I like. So at that point, I was deep into deprivation.

Dr. P’s philosophy was that any allergy indicates inflammation. If my body is fighting inflammation, it is not able to fight cancer. So I gave them up, along with all dairy, all grains (bread, pasta, rice, crackers), and all sugar with only a little fruit allowed under certain conditions.

At first, I did not look forward to meals. My only snacks were vegetables, or a few almonds. Many times a day I had to monitor myself to avoid getting cranky.

Ilona began visiting more often, coming to my rescue. With her support of me and her love of cooking, I realized that I could do this. Without Ilona I think I might have starved to death, or wanted to. Forever I am grateful to her. Ilona bought new recipe books, and obtained healthful recipes on http:www.epicurious.com Grocery shopping and cooking together, we had fun searching for the best selections of organic foods. Both of us ate new, wholesome foods and tried innovative, interesting recipes. It was no longer just my diet. Ilona began eating the same way. Mostly Ed ate it too, though we left off the spices in his meals since he likes plain food.

Added to my food choices are dozens of delicious healthy foods that I did not appreciate before. For that I am grateful. The scale kept going down and weight was sliding off me.

Also, I use many substitutions. Instead of noodles, I use either spaghetti squash or shaved zucchini. Instead of potato chips, I make kale chips. Instead of cows’ milk, I use unsweetend almond milk.

One downside was that the range, the oven, and the floor would need cleaning when Ilona and I would get done. All that extra preparation and clean up consumes a great deal of time. It reminded me why I had cut corners on cooking. After all, I am an entrepreneur preparing and delivering my relationship coaching business. I didn’t have time for all this.

It would make sense for me to slow down. Yet, with this background of uncertainty about my health, with the ambiguity about different doctors’ perspectives, and with upsets around loss of free time, all this sent me into overdrive. I took on even more. This wasn’t the first time this pattern occurred.

Before the cancer diagnosis, my plan was to launch my second book Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents. So in the summer of transforming my food choices, I increased my workload by creating and marketing a Blog Talk Radio Program called The Spiritual Journey of Mental Illness. That required finding, enrolling, scheduling, researching, reminding, interviewing, and completing with experts. For each program, I educated myself on the particular topic within the mental illness field that each expert wanted to discuss. That was not all I needed to learn. I taught myself how to interview people, and how to use the technology.

The Blog Talk Radio Program was an effort to get a more compassionate understanding about mental illness out to the world before publishing my upcoming book. While the first interview went quite well, my friend Sheila told me that I didn’t even mention my book. We laughed together. It was fine. My book was not the main message I wanted people to get.

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A New Christmas and a HAPPY NEW YEAR

by on Dec.31, 2010, under Random Writings on Relationship

This experiment tried by my family worked so well, we plan on doing it next year. It could work for New Year’s, too.

It is my hope that you had a wondrous holiday with whatever you had been celebrating. This year my husband Ed and daughter Ilona made a pact that we would not exchange gifts. Ilona has been advocating for this for at least five years. I had been the holdout. Each year I said: “You don’t have to give me anything. I just want to express myself with a few gifts.”

The truth is, I wasn’t sure what else would work for Christmas Day. So we would exchange gifts. The way we did it would take up several hours. We’d have a big breakfast when Ilona came over. Then we’d take turns giving one gift at a time between sips of coffee or cocoa.

Our tradition was that we’d acknowledge the receiver for some wonderful quality we saw in them, whether or not that happy characteristic had anything to do with the gift itself. Often there was a story connected to the gift. None of the gifts have been expensive. We treasured the time it took to unwrap and acknowledge. It went on usually beyond lunch.

Often our time together was interrupted by calls from out-of-town friends and family. There was barely enough time to get ready to visit relatives in the mid-afternoon.

This year was different. I realized that I get gifts all year from Ed and Ilona, especially this year when I heard Ed’s desperation at the thought of fighting traffic, finding parking, and elbowing crowds. No matter what I said, he felt obligated to get me something if I was getting gifts.

IIlona had been saying for years that she had enough things and did not want more in her home. So, Ed, Ilona and I made a pact that we would not exchange gifts this year. It seemed revolutionary or anti-Christmas, may anti-Christian. Radical, at any rate.

Our choice was not to say humbug to the holiday. To be fair, we did give to some charities. And we did buy gifts for a family in need. In addition, Ed bought a computer housing and fixed up a used computer for that family. We bought a printer/copier/fax to work with the computer he fixed up.

Secretly, I had worried that my plans for the bulk of the day would fall flat. I never know for sure what will fly with my family, so as a backup I got the movie: A Christmas Miracle by Truman Capote from the library. It felt like I was cheating on the sacredness of the day. Happily I can say we never had time for any movie. Still, we have not seen it.

After Ilona and I made dinner together, marinated chicken and baked sugarless cheesecake to bring to Christmas dinner, Ilona suggested we make a list of the gifts we had received and we share that since we did not have physical gifts. Instantly I gave up my plans. What a great idea she had.

When Ilona went home and we all made our lists. Unsure I could remember it all, I wondered if Ed and Ilona had as much to acknowledge as I did.

On Christmas Day, Ilona came over for a big scrambled eggs and ham breakfast. Then for three hours, we took turns sharing the items on our lists. What fun it was to share what we had received and to hear what we had given. The year stood twinkling in bright lights before us as we re-lived good times and re-experienced generous spirits of others and ourselves.

Most often we forgot what we had given through the year. Each of us was astonished at how much we had had given and how much appreciation the receiver had. Originally it took three typewritten pages for me. By the time we were finished, we each had enough to type up another page or two.

After a late lunch, Ed played guitar and we sang together. The whole days experience was so fulfilling that I know we will keep this practice for other Christmases, whether we ever exchange gifts or not. None of us missed gifts. I though I would. Instead, I felt all sparkling inside.

The evening was capped off by being with Ed’s parents and siblings and their families. While there were 23 of us, there was enough delicious food to feed several armies. Since the food I brought was for my restricted diet, naturally not too many people wanted it. Some people tasted my organic Moroccan chicken and liked it. Some ate the sugarless cheesecake, too. Others took some home, presumably to eat. J

Tonight, New Year’s Eve is calling to me to see other aspects of 2010 such as the accomplishments celebrated, challenges overcome, relationships deepened, and possibilities looming.
HAPPY NEW YEAR to you!
Champagne and confetti,
Marifran

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