It Takes an Island

Part of this letter was originally published on  September 19th, 2013
in the Inquieror & Mirror Newspaper on Nantucket

Fight Back with Love

 

For six months now, we have collectively fought my cancer with the support of the entire island, several fundraising events, home delivered good meals, childcare assistance and a whole lot of love.

Like a child who wakes on Christmas morning to a sea of sparkling wrapping paper, and the magic impression of Santa’s recent visit, I’ve had to pinch myself many times over the past 6 months to make sure I’m not dreaming. From the moment I was diagnosed with cancer on March 15th, to this very day, and I’m sure into the months to come, I have felt blanketed in Nantucket’s support. Despite the challenges my family and I have faced this year, my partner and I agree that we are two of the luckiest people in the world, cancer and all, for surely the love we have received has far outweighed the suffering we have endured.

During the first 3 months of my chemotherapy this spring my body crashed hard. Fatigued and in pain, I was often too exhausted to cook for my family. A meal train for us  was set up online, and within a few days it was full. 2-3 nights a week from March through May members of this incredible community took care of us. Friends, coworkers, yoga students and people we didn’t even know put together thoughtful, often beautifully arranged, healthy meals that made us feel nurtured and supported.

 To all of you, our deepest gratitude.

As my treatment journey continued and my health became more fragile, it was clear I would not be able to work. I closed my massage therapy practice for the time being and worried about loosing my teaching place at The Yoga Room. Much to my relief my employer and friend, Shannah Green, reassured me that she would keep my name on the schedule no matter what. My co-workers: Paul Bruno, Clay Twombly, Susan Browne, Bettina Broer and Patricia Dolloff, all took turns covering my regularly scheduled classes. They never questioned me if I said I was up to the challenge of teaching and were always there for me, even at the last minute, if I was too sick to show up.

When it was time for my double mastectomy in July, I was forced to rest for 6 weeks. During this time ever one of the teachers who taught my classes asked to put their earnings on my paycheck. Shannah began teaching a weekly seva class, gifting all of the proceeds directly to my family and I.

To Shannah and my co-workers at The Yoga Room, my deepest, deepest thanks. 

It goes without saying that the foundation of my support at the darkest of times has come from my immediate family and my closest friends, but I would like to publicly acknowledge the bravery of my parents, Joanne and Steve Marcoux, the strength and compassion of my partner, Burr Tupper, and the pinch-hitting help of my ex-husband, Paul Budzynski. Without their support, I would have been lost at sea. Instead I been buoyed up by their love and confident that my little boy has been getting all that he needs to thrive when I am absent.

To my little boy, who perhaps will one day read this, thank you. Thank you for understanding about Mommy’s booboos, shaved head, low energy and “broken boobies” (though I’m still dying to figure out where you came up with or heard that one!). Thank you for offering to “buzz your hair” to show your solidarity. I’m sorI’m I’ve too too attached to your golden locks to let you do it. Thank you for keeping your sense of humor on the days we’ve had to wear face masks, and for making silly games out of the millions of times we had to wash our hands.

And thank you for all the hundreds if not thousands of warm little boy hugs your been giving me your whole life, but especially this year. Some times I feel it’s been a diet of your love alone that has pushed me through to the end of my hardest days.

 

Caitlin Marcoux, Cancer Survivor, Breast Cancer Ninja, The Cancer Diaries

Griffin and I “playing” with our masks when my wbc counts are low

It has taken many anchors to keep my ship grounded these past six months, and most recently a few strong captains to take the helm. On Sunday, September 15th, a team of incredible women including Shannah Green, Julie Hilberg-Hunt, Megan Soverino, Vanessa Raab Moore and Patti Cattafe put together a stunning silent auction event at the Cisco Brewery. Spearheaded by my dearest of friends, Elisa Allen, these ladies created the most beautiful and touching event I have ever been at the center of. Together they collected auction items from some of the most talented artists, skilled artisans and tradespeople, hardworking merchants, industry folk, restauranteurs and craftspeople on Nantucket. I cannot say how deeply touched I am by their efforts.

Fight Back with Love organizers Megan, Shannah and Julie (Elisa not pictured)

Fight Back with Love organizers Megan, Shannah and Julie (Elisa not pictured)

Thank you to the following people who donated their time and skills, contributed their wares or helped in any way to make this weekends fundraiser such a success:

The Rose & Crown

Sally Bates Electric

Joann Burnham & The Nantucket Yoga Festival

The Yoga Room

Paul Bruno & Roaming Dog Yoga

Bettina Broer & Yoga with a View

Jessica Jenkins & Downtown Yoga

Patricia Dolloff Yoga

Megan DuBois Yoga

Burton Balkind & KindFlow Productions

Cate Raphael

Clay Twombly & Cambia Means Change

Susan Fitzpatrick

Susan Warner

Katie Ashley Compassionate Cuisine Coaching

Theater Workshop of Nantucket

Sally Charpie

Petticoat Row Bakery

Organic Nail Salon

Cara DeHeart & Seaweaver

Charlotte Hess

The Bean

Arbonne Products

Nantucket Seafoods

East Coast Seafood

Force Five

Atlantic Landscaping

The Water Closet

The Tile Room

East End Gallery

Robert Sturman

Laurie Richards

Ron Lynch

Kit Noble

Cary Hazelgrove

Beauty By the Sea

Lynn Tucker Beauty Products & Services

Santjes Ooman Massage

Ugne & Brandon Jellison and Authentic Body Therapy

Casey Boukus

Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

Pauli & Uribe Architects

Mindy Levin & Nantucket Family Chiropractic

Gary Konher & Nantucket Surf School

Christine Lee Pilates

Amber Hinds& Au Coeur  Design

Emily Brooke Rubin Jewelry Design

Claudia Buttler & Ambrosia Chocolate & Spices

Susan Lister Lock Jewellery

Nell Van Vorst

Christine Sanford

Patina

Hepburn

Zero Main

R.J. Miller’s & Ann Fitzgerald

Sarah Hutton Jewlery

Darya’s Salon

Toscana Corporation

Florabundant

Amy Pallenberg Garden & Design

Nantucket Holistic Health

Sheri Perelman

Tracy Cullinane Personal Training

The Westmoor Club

Nantucket Cycling & Fitness 

Nantucket Health Club

Anita Bierings

Michael Rich

Robert McKee

Jessica Sosebee Gallery

Audrey Sterk Design

The Lovely

Elise Gura & Space

Nantucket Beach Chair Company

Pollacks

Sam Parsons

The Lion’s Paw

Peter England

Annye Camara & Annye’s Whole Foods

Best of the Beach

Megan Anderson

Bruce Bartlett

David Berry & The Nantucket Honeybee Co.

Bodega

Dr. Buck Weaver

Bookworks

Nantucket Looms

Indian Summer

The Haul Over

Cru

Company of the Cauldron

Straight Wharf Restaurant 

George Riehof

The UPS Store

Stephen Swift

Neil Brosnan

Kitty Kania

Denna Charnes

Caitlin Jelleme

Rachel Dowling

Louise Turner

Thank you to the following people who helped before, during and after the event: Sky Wallace, Victoria Paige Ewing, Bettina Broer, Paul Bruno, Cate Raphael, Brad Nolen, Antitank Stefanski, Burton Balkind, Mike Allen, Erin Elizabeth, Heather Williams and Dina Warren. 

Additionally, thank you to The Cisco Brewery, Jenny Bence of The Green and DJ Pete Ahern for making the day come together with spectacular style and tying it all together with the healing energy of phenomenal food, drink and great music.

To everyone who attended “Fight Back with Love” and to everyone who bid on the silent auction items, my most heartfelt thanks.

Fight Back with Love

Incredible but true, the list goes on.

I’d like to thank Steve Tornovish of Krav Maga Nantucket for holding a special Women’s Self Defense class in my honor this summer, and to all the attendees for their generous donations – I bow to you. My deepest thanks.

To Ieva Aldins, of Dharma Yoga Nanatucket who taught one of her monthly Seva (charity) yoga classes for us this summer, thank you. And to the following yoga sisters and brothers who held donation yoga classes across the country in my honor throughout the last 6 months: Amber Cook at Moksha Yoga in Chicago,  Larisa Foreman, Kate Greer and Nocile Burille at Krama Yoga in Cambridge, Alex Jarobe and Rachel Ann Gasner of the Yoga Pod, in Bolder, co. and my whole family or yoga teachers and fellow 500-YTT candidates at the Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, NC. And to Jennifer Hrabota-Lesser for her Bujangasana t-shirt campaign, which also raised money for our charitable fund – thank you.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. 

To talented, local photographer Laurie Richards and former Nantucket resident and brilliant artist Hannah Stone, both of whom auctioned off portraits in my honor earlier this spring, thank you.

To Clay Twombly who made for me the most beautiful mala, thank you.

To my friends in Chicago, for dedicating this year’ Annual Shawn Koch Memorial Poker Run to my fight, thank you.

I’d also like to thank the following businesses for supporting my family and I directly: Dharma Yoga Nantucket for allowing me to take free yoga classes during my treatment, Pi Pizza, Susan McGinnis and The Center Street Bistro for feeding us on more than one occasion, Darya Afshari for cutting my hair and eventually shaving it off, Monika Rudnicka for giving me the most amazing facials throughout my chemotherapy, Sheri Perelman for Reiki, Casey Boukus for massage therapy and Jenny Bence for treating me to acupuncture with Tammy Belanger this spring.

Looking back a little, I’d like to Thank you to everyone who came out to Cisco on July 23rd for our Boob Voyage Party. Organizing that event gave me something to focus on other that my approaching surgery. Burr and Griffin and I will be moving out of our Heller’s Way home this spring, and I cant think of a better way we could have celebrated our time there. Funny how it took having cancer for us to finally throw a proper house party. Thanks to Doug Cote and Floyd Kellogg for our semi-pravate Lance Mountain Dance Party, what a blast.

I would also like to thank local pilot Chris McLaughlin and Patient Airlift Services for all there assistance getting me back and forth from Nantucket to Boston, whenever they could make it possible.

In closing I’d like to thank every person who sent me a card, or mailed me a care package, left a note on my back door, a four leaf clovers or hand knitted socks in my mailbox, a CD in my car, flowers in my living room, taught a class in my honor, said a prayer for me, gave me a hug, picked my son up for a playdate, gave me a hug, was brave enough to ask me how I was, gave me a reassuring pat on the back and told me with certainty that I could win.

Today I can say that I am winning, and I’m winning because of you. This enchanted island truly is home to the kindest most compassionate people in the world. And while it may not seem lucky to have cancer, I consider myself so lucky to have had cancer here.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(photo: Robert Krivicich}

(photo: Robert Krivicich}

Humbly Yours,

~Caitlin Marcoux

when fight and flight turn out the light

3:00am April 11th, 2013
Nantucket, MA.
Breast Cancer Day 26
 

Taxol/Herceptin

Like I said in my last post, there are good days and bad days. This is just as true in regular life as it is in life with cancer.

So I knew it wouldn’t be long before the adrenalin my body’s been using to fight and fly it’s way through the first couple of cancer weeks would eventually wear off. Adrenaline is an amazing chemical that helps us deal with difficult things, prepares us for battle, gets us juiced up to win the big race. It gives us a powerful boost of fast acting energy, enables us to run like the wind, and in my case, got me from exam table to operating table, bone scan to CT, biopsy to chemotherapy. I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself, I was too busy getting organized to save my life.

Over the last few weeks I’ve felt galvanized to attack my responsibilities with gusto. I’ve read the research, the this is your life with cancer books, created treatment plans and schedules, mapped out my calendar for the next 15 months, organized childcare and playdates, re-structured the medicine cabinet, organized the refrigerator, corresponded with countless friends, and plowed forward with work to the very best of my ability. I’m not bragging… I’m preparing you for the crash.

 office work in the MGH halls{Me: organizing my thoughts while awaiting a lymph needle biopsy}

Too much of a good thing is usually bad

Once you’ve won your race, passed the big interview, or absorbed the news without fainting, and bathed in your pool of epinephrin and nor-epinephrin, it’s time to get out. It’s not a good thing for anyone, to stay in a state of sympathetic nervous system overdrive. Too much cortisol; another neurotransmitter which is designed to act in harmony with adrenaline and perpetuate your state of fight or flight, will eventually cause damage to other parts of the body: things like

  • Exhaustion
  • Physical pain
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Anger
  • Sleep problems
  • Aggression

Really? On top of having invasive ductal breast cancer, I was going to take on that list? No thanks…

So as it came a little closer to the time of my actual treatment I did my best to prepare myself to actually feel things, not sprint past them: fear, anger, resentment, shame, guilt, helplessness, and vulnerability, I let it all well up and come flooding out. I made  a pact with myself that I would allow myself to experience these things as they came up, sit with them, and then do my best to move through them.

So this is where the yoga, meditation, gratitude lists, thank-you notes and writing come in. I have absolutely no interest in becoming bosom buddies with cortisol, or any other part of chronic stress, or the PTSD they say many cancer patients cope with for the rest of their lives.

Have you ever been to a chemo session? The video below is of me, obviously before the recent haircut, getting my first infusion of Taxol and Herceptin (the two chemo drugs I’ll be taking until June 12th). It’s just raw footage, nothing very interesting… but if you’re curios, go ahead and watch. I won’t be offended if you don’t; it’s long.

 

Have a sense of humor.

It’s so true, having a sense of humor will take you far: way farther in fact than adrenalin, and without any side-effect.  Laugh at yourself wearing a stupid mask. Strike a gorilla yoga poses out in front of the hospital. Make a positive SPLASH in the murky, dreary often depressing world of deathcare, I mean healthcare.

Humor is merely tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn.  ~Irvin S. Cobb

my second chemo treatment{April 6th, 2013. Me: getting ready for infusion number 2}

Humor prevents one from becoming a tragic figure even though he/she is involved in tragic events.  ~E.T. “Cy” Eberhart

The truth is, I am very willing to be here and that makes it easier. I’m willing to sing out loud, probably off-key and to laugh at myself in spite of my fears. I’m willing to learn the most that I can from this crazy teacher named Cancer.

But just in case you thought I was playing this all too cool for school, I’, going to share one last (short I promise) video with you here. Maybe I’m the crazy one for sharing, but if my students are out there reading this, especially my Strong Girls, I want them to see that you can be fierce, loving and vulnerable all at the same time; that you can smile on the beach in the sunlight one day, and ball your eyes out the next – It’s all part of this amazing privilege we to enjoy as humans.

Don’t worry though – I’m laughing today 😉

Last thought for today..When life gives you lemons, make lemon aid! I hope anyone who has been affected by cancer will join me at the Yoga Room on Mondays, where I will be leading a FREE Yoga Therapy for Cancer Care class from 11-11:45am. You do not need to register, just drop in – just check the class schedule here, to make sure I’m not traveling for treatment that week.

Yoga Therapy for Cancer Care

Until next time, stay receptive.
Love,
C
 
 
turning tragedy up side down.