In spring of 1998, Carol was diagnosed with leukemia.
By 2010, after managing her dis-ease for over 12 years, she arrived at an impasse. The leukemia had mutated, transforming into an aggressively growing, chemotherapy-resistant disease, leaving her with only one alternative: a bone marrow transplant.
Over a year after the transplant passed without significant improvement, and Carol and her family faced the potential possibility of hospice care as the next step in her health journey.
Remarkably, today, she is medication-free, cancer-free, and savoring fully the joys of life without a "Health Imbalance, Leukemia Diagnosis Adventure," a term she references in her book as an elephant named Hilda.
Carol's healing adventure is an empowering story of transformation, courage, and learning. Discover how Carol embraces her health challenge as the impetus to begin a life-changing spiritual journey; how she creates HILDA , an unusual relationship to her experience; how she and her support team navigate the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental nuances of living with complications; and how her adventure ultimately leads her to an integration of body, mind, and spirit, uncovering balanced health and the joy filled blessing of a "beginning again" attitude.
True healing can manifest in many different ways. A truth common to all of us, accordingly to Carol's experience, is that when we choose to live in alignment with Spirit's guidance, miracles happen. When we live the questions of "What can I learn? How can I love? and What is for the highest good?" anything is possible, and everything always gets better.
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Health Imbalance Leukemia Diagnosis Adventure
By Carol M. H. Roth
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Carol M. H. Roth
All rights reserved.
My First Adventure with Hilda
(a.k.a., Meeting Hilda for the Very First Time, "Daze" I'll Never Forget)
It was a beautiful morning in May when Hilda made her official entrance into our lives. Maggie and I were driving to my Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. tennis lesson and singing sassy songs at our loudest register when my cell phone rudely interrupted our favorite rendition of our current favorite song. My doctor was the caller, and she asked me to pull my car over to the side of the road. As I did so, my heart pounded as if it could expand enough to burst through the confines of my already constricted body. My clammy hands fused with the phone as I paused to park the car and expel the breath I'd been holding to keep from shaking. That's when she told me that Hilda was with me. We had run test upon test because nothing seemed to add up in any understandable, logical, or statistically accurate manner. She reiterated that these characteristics were typical of Hilda and her eccentrically individual style. She referred me to a specialist who knew everything about elephants and set up a time for me to meet with him the next day.
I politely thanked her for the news and then shared that time prompted me to end our call so I would not be late for my tennis lesson.
At this point she exclaimed, "No way can you play tennis. You're too anemic." At that point, Maggie patted my back comfortingly, and I started (sort of) to get the reality of Hilda.
Numbly and with a ghostlike demeanor, I drove Maggie and myself to the tennis club to cancel my lesson. Maggie gently stroked my arm and continued to pat my back the entire ride. From the rearview mirrors, Hilda perched on my car's trunk, waving her wrinkly trunk. She made her first indentation in the body of my car, and I knew it wouldn't be the last. I did not want to deal with her, so I decided to ignore my mirrors and keep my focus on driving forward. Maybe, just maybe, she'd fall off like a bad dream. I was going to keep on keeping on, forward movement, eyes on the road.
Hilda was not a young elephant. She was rather advanced in age, size, and attitude when she moved in with me. The elephant specialist to whom my doctor referred me told me that Hilda and I had the potential to coexist for a very long time with proper treatment, and because I was younger than most of her owners, I could expect new advances in elephant care in my lifetime. There was also the possibility of a transplant down the road, a fun activity where a family member or a stranger who wanted to be family would bring an elephant truck to give me a lift that would empower the elephant to mobilize and disappear.
So many ideas, choices, and questions. At this point, I didn't fully embrace the elephant as Hilda. Initially, I felt totally over, under, and beyond whelmed. Maggie reminded me to slow down enough to breathe, listen, feel, and pray.
You know, this Hilda character, what I imagined in my tongue-in-cheek/foot-in-mouth experience as an elephant, really emanated from a health imbalance well before any cancer diagnosis. Diagnosing an imbalance as dis-ease (a state of being not in-ease) made me think I had done something wrong to have manifested this state of not right. Specifically, when I received a diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, I couldn't accept or believe that I would take on the exact elephant my maternal grandfather's death certificate listed as cause of death. I assumed my elephant was a huge mistake, a misdiagnosis, a fallacious labeling. I was not an old man or a farmer like my grandfather, and this particular elephant wasn't overly evidenced to run in families. The Western medicine textbooks didn't consider me a likely or attractive candidate for Hilda.
I wondered, Why God? In my search for answers, the questions became learning experiences, creating adventures I could never have imagined before the gift of CLL/Hilda, and the amazing times we shared before I sent her away, like Mary Poppins on her umbrella in the wind. Like Mary Poppins, Hilda transformed my life through grace, gratitude, love, miracles, and an infinite number of "spoonfuls of sugar."
Reflections on First Daze with Hilda
There are all different kinds of animals/imbalances/dis-eases that may move in with us in the course of our lifetimes. How we treat them and ourselves when they're with us determines whether our times together are blessings or burdens, painful or joyful, healing or toxic. The more we learn about our pets/monsters/visitors, the more we get to know ourselves, our courage, our strengths, and our possibilities.
Hilda was my CLL adventure. Woodpeckers may bring with them symptoms suggestive of chronic migraines, or a possum may represent temporary paralysis. These "animals" may come to visit or take residence temporarily or for a very long while. Some of these animals manifest physically like Hilda, and others are invisible to the world, sometimes even to ourselves; revealing who they are and where they're hiding only when we're ready to fully see them. Only when we persist in uncovering what veils our eyes are we able to accept everything ... no matter what. First things first. We get to see to believe so that we learn to lean into embracing possibility (believing without first needing to see).
How I choose to treat myself and the animals I'm aware of are the discovery adventures. How I respond to the introduction of an elephant or a smelly camel, and how I then adjust to coexistence with my animals, determine my reality and the possibility I can create what serves, loves, and glorifies the highest good for all creation.
I am empowered to witness, accept, and adjust to all animals in my life — if I so choose. None of them are bad, wrong, or to be feared unless I imagine them that way. All experience can be neutral, a gift, and another opportunity to blow apart boxes and labels and make miracles of every kind.
All the animals I've ever lived with have just wanted to be accepted — kind of like people do. I want to accept myself and have others accept me, too. Even more than that, I'd love to love unconditionally and experience that same love from others. The first step in that ardent aspiration is to learn about love. That's where the animals bring me the greatest ability to grow and learn. Love is ever present and all pervading. Every single thing I experience helps me learn more about that love I yearn for so intensely.
Many of the animals in my life depart as soon as I become aware of them and acknowledge their presence. I thank them and ask them to leave, or I may persuade them to stay. Some leave before my request, and others hover in the shadows before they slink away.
Some refuse to listen to me. Other animals come in and out of my life as the unfolding of my living plays in and out. Some I welcome as old friends because I've learned from experience how to treat them. Some depart permanently; some leave and return arbitrarily, intermittently paying me a surprise visit. While some of these animals are always discreetly with me, I'm learning how to love them as the gifts they are through an intentioned way of being that supports what I choose to be and to learn because it seems to me that every animal brings another lesson for my highest good.
My higher self (Maggie) leads me to love whenever I allow her guidance. Whenever I choose to love any animal with which I struggle, I am graced by the awareness that I am part of a whole kingdom of living beings that transcends my perception of what
I experience, an awesome oneness that envelops all that is real and true. When I live there, no matter what, I'm in heaven, no matter what lives with me.
So I choose to love, to see good, and to smile when I can. And when I can't, I allow my perception of my experience (separate, angry, pain-filled, ignorant, judgmental, comparing, interpreting, assuming, bored). I persist in my attempts to detach from my experience until I become successful at witnessing with neutrality my "less than" encounter/tantrum/conversation/rage. I reassure myself (Maggie consoles Carol) that it always gets better and that this moment won't make it into the next one. When the not enough/less than energy passes (and it always does), I forgive myself, pick myself up, and choose to love, to see good, and to smile once again. I stay present in the new moment of now. I let go of self-flagellation for my assumed and negative perception of whatever has passed. I embrace what is before me with the absolute love I am.
The gift of meeting Hilda was learning to look at life in a new way, knowing that together we would create a uniquely new adventure unlike any I'd ever imagined or dreamed. No true idea of how it could unfold and an abundance of choices in response loomed before us. In the time I lived with this particular animal, I can almost certify that I experimented with as many reactions, responses, and "how-to-dos" as I recognized. Ultimately, our safari together yielded life-transforming blessings of grace and love. And honestly, on reflection, we really did have fun along the way.CHAPTER 2
Doctoring Daze: Learning about Hilda, and Hilda Moves In
So after my initial daze cleared into something I could elevate enough to view as topography, we were introduced and became acquainted with the elephant specialist. Actually, he was simply a certain kind of animal trainer, not officially certified as an elephant expert. He used drugs, chemicals, and medicines to control the animals accompanying the patients he doctored. He was about my age when I first met him. He assured me that we would grow old together.
When I was first referred to my trainer/oncologist, I didn't know what I didn't know and even less than that about Hilda/elephants/ CLL/"my type" of cancer. I surmise that most trainers are more comfortable and secure when they are the in-charge authorities. My trainer was kind and reassuring and carried with him an excellent reputation and documents, diplomas, and certificates on his office walls acclaiming and attesting to that evidence of achievement. In his expert opinion, he told me that we should do chemotherapy regularly to train Hilda, keep her under control, and keep me from succumbing to "elephantitis" (a.k.a., too much elephant). He performed tests and procedures to gauge how much Hilda's presence would impact my physical person. He was absolutely assuring and affirmed his accuracy in everything he told me, and I was naive enough to embrace and absorb every molecule he muttered as gospel. My response was, "Yes sir. Thank you. I will. Amen."
Our trainer employed a wonderful staff of nurses, friendly, helpful, and caring. His office contained an area that I came to call "the chemo corral," where patients and their animals would sit in recliners in stall-like areas and receive drugs to tame the threatening nature of each patient's animal or animals (some brought more than one, but to my eyes, no animal was as big as Hilda). Patients and their animals were infused and injected with needles, tubing, liquids, pills, shots — all given in various inspired ways — through arms, ports, catheters, legs, bellies, pic lines. All modes of delivery were geared to subdue the animals, poison them into submission, send them running away, or dissolve them into the fairytale animals their higher selves aspired to be, an ethereal reality interesting to suppose in my daydreams.
It was kind of voyeuristic to patient and animal watch from my chosen vantage point in the chemo corral. The chemo corral had a shortage of space. There was always a wait, and oftentimes, those patients and their animals were herded to their spots, remaining there for a very long time. Some were quicker movers than others, but there was always a wait — for space, for drugs, for tests, for results, for everything. Maggie suggested we practice patience and paying attention, so I thought I'd give it a try. It made for marvelous entertainment when I was awake enough to notice how we were all part of the same program. Different animals, different patients, different stories, but we all shared this place, this day, these people who treated us, and our individual stalls in the collective chemo corral.
There was a unique assortment of patients and animals, and I searched to no avail for a twin to Hilda. Alas, the other elephants in the corral bore no resemblance to her. I didn't know whether to be proud, humbled, or irritated — how could I figure her out and confine her if there were none like her in the barn?
When we weren't getting treated in the corral, visiting doctors' offices, or playing "ignore Hilda" games (i.e., pretending there's no elephant in the room), I researched everything I could find about Hilda, and the nature of her beast. One weird and absolute rule I established for myself from the get go: no way would I ever purchase elephant books/books about cancer or CLL. That rule meant that I got to hang out in bookstores, at libraries, and on my computer, exploring and learning everything I could about Hilda. My intention was to empower myself enough to take her to task, release her into the wild, and to let go of any ownership or companionship of a permanent nature. (She wasn't family.) I read to learn and then put all the books, the rules, the lessons back on the shelves because we didn't "have" Hilda; nor did she "have" us. She was she, and I was I. We were just together for this day at least, and I would take this step by step, one day at a time.
I was a good girl. (Carol Margaret was raised that way.) Good girls listened to the doctors (and their mothers), put on happy faces, and poured themselves into serving others with graceful self-deprecation in a keeping busy lifestyle with no elephant. Hilda may have moved in, but she didn't define who I was, and I would not allow her to crimp, cramp, or crush my style. I continued with my volunteer activities, organizing my family's activities, tennis, entertaining, and pretending I was superwoman. No ability to fly (darn it!), but if I'd had wings, I'd have been tempted to fly away — except good girls didn't behave with such irresponsibility and abandon. Always I confronted exceptions, and too many competing intentions fostered headaches and heartaches. Why had this complication cluttered and contaminated everything?
Literally and figuratively, the initial doctoring daze led to tremendous gratitude for the power of my imagination. Good ol' Maggie reminded me that imagination can be a great source for spiritual guidance, comfort, and coping. She suggested we pretend that everything was well, that all was perfect, and we were blessed. We started imagining those ideas, and like magic, everything changed into blessing and possibility ... except, when it didn't.
One time when this miraculous process didn't work was after a week of chemotherapy. Hilda and I both felt druggy, puffy, bloated, full of steroids and our chemical cocktails, metal mouth, nausea, and all sorts of unsavory sensations. We didn't enjoy eating, we couldn't sleep, and we both felt like climbing the wall in the grossness of being emotionally, physically, and mentally strung out on a precarious limb of yuckiness. I crawled into bed for the weekend after each week's chemo treatment and left Hilda to her own devices until Monday morning and the back to work, back to school, "be happy" mode of operating. We felt so grateful when several weeks later, just before our next week of chemo, we started to feel better. We began to embrace the concept that "it always gets better" with new appreciation.
I pretended the "be happy" part on purpose because, as Maggie said, my most important choice was my attitude. Perhaps I was self-deluded, but I liked to think my family and friends benefitted from my refusal to allow Hilda to conduct or orchestrate my life's music. My ability to be happy and loving was mine. Hilda couldn't steal my choice to be whatever I chose to be. Maggie reminded me that although my chosen behavior was a bit Pollyanna-like, it was a question of what worked at the time, with doctors, friends, family, and ultimately me. The more I tried on an amazing attitude, the less oppressive Hilda seemed, and the closer I grew in my self-acceptance of each living situation I experienced. And eventually, nothing was pretended. I really believed myself, and my survival practices allowed me to thrive — when they worked.
Yet eventually I received the repercussions of my choice when I observed myself drowning in apologies and overly responsible conversations with family, friends, and even Hilda. At least I hope I said "I love you" more than "I'm sorry." It was a close competition for the most-often-repeated phrase. In my ramblings, Hilda compromised my selfhood. I was no longer the captain of the ship, author of the book, keeper of the family ... I felt that Hilda was my fault and that because she was with us, I had let down all my relationships. My pleaser nerd took front and center. I felt that if I could make everybody happy, I could be forgiven for having seduced this elephant into hanging out with us. I grew to realize that this attitude was not a happy, efficient, or realistic mode of operating. My smile hid the sadness, disappointment, and horror I felt in my bringing this animal into our home and our family. Not only did I mess up by inviting this elephant into my life, I couldn't seem to get rid of her fast enough. So ... I just accelerated the pace, reiterated the apologies and the "I love yous," and did my best to carry on. Maggie gave me a wink and suggested I channel Scarlet O'Hara. "Think about it tomorrow ..." And so I did.
Excerpted from Hilda by Carol M. H. Roth. Copyright © 2016 Carol M. H. Roth. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Daze,
Chapter 1: My First Adventure with Hilda, 1,
Chapter 2: Doctoring Daze: Learning about Hilda, and Hilda Moves In, 7,
Chapter 3: Damage Control with Hilda Daze, 16,
Chapter 4: A Post-Daze Look at a Pre-Hilda Daze Haze, 21,
Part II: The Downs,
Chapter 5: Getting Down to Get Down, 29,
Chapter 6: Settling Down, 33,
Chapter 7: Down And Out, 37,
Chapter 8: Down and Up, 44,
Chapter 9: Giving Up to Get Down:, 51,
Chapter 10: Falling Down to Get Up, 56,
Chapter 11: Going Down to Be, Do, Have It All, 66,
Part III: The Goods,
Chapter 12: Oh Good! She's Gone!, 93,
Chapter 13: Good Girl, 99,
Chapter 14: Good Gifts, 106,
Chapter 15: Good-Bye, 132,
About the Author, 141,