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Mindful : December 2018
can help us to be present and awake for. Mindfulness helps us to face what we would rather not: learning from the unwanted, perhaps even being enriched by it. Serious illness often marks both body and mind. I used to have a pretty good body; now I look like Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. While I love what the plastic surgeon did for my cleavage (post- mastectomy and recon- struction), the new belly button is right of center. I continue to mourn the old one. Perhaps, though, it’s time to let go of the outie that is now an innie, bor- dered by a circular scar. We wear our history on our skin. On the upside, recon- struction meant I got free liposuction. So many things have a silver lining, if you can just take notice. Mindfulness helps us to hone this ability, granting us more options than we had without it. For example, I still deal with the adverse effects of medications that prevent the cancer’s return. A significant one—also a very common one—is difficulty with sexual function. This can happen for a multitude of reasons, physical or psy- chological, but sex post-can- cer isn’t often discussed. I wonder how many sexless couples there are living in the aftermath of cancer? I went for a follow-up assessment at the cancer clinic. The nurse asked about nausea, vomiting, bowels, pain, and appe- tite...none of which tend to be a problem if you’re not getting chemo. I asked her, “How come you don’t ask about sex? Who cares, at this point, about the rest of these issues?” She didn’t really have an answer, but the next time I saw her she had started researching it. Meanwhile, I discovered the estrogen ring. If you’re taking drugs that inhibit estrogen, sex is going to be difficult. The ring isn’t recommended for people who have had estrogen receptor-positive tumors, but we lack evidence that it’s actually harmful—and I wasn’t ready to let that part of my life go. So after much trial and error, a lot of preparation, lubrica- tion, dilators, and the ring, sex became possible and pleasurable. Sometimes, in order to be in the present, you stop worrying about the future. Nothing is as it seems. I can pass as my old self while clothed, but I am not that self. Because every- thing is always changing, so are we—and it can help to remember that as we move along the conveyor belt of life. If we can bring a mind of experimentation and resilience, and a focus on the journey rather than the destination, our three score and ten will be nothing less than an adventure. NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS. I CAN PASS AS MY OLD SELF WHILE CLOTHED, BUT I AM NOT THAT SELF. 24 mindful December 2018