The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Mahatma Gandhi ”

Gandhi

I have been working on a children's book called The Secret Adventures of Scruffy MacMufiin and a CD called Dog Vacation for the past year. Both projects are about the senior shelter dogs and cats that my husband and I have adopted or fostered over the past decade. What a fun and surprisingly arduous project! Big, BigThanks to Tim Ouimette and Jon Cobert who co produced the CD and Kathleen Kent for giving me suggestions and courage to write the book!
Dog is Love           Senior shelter pets Rule!

Diagnosis Cancer in the time of Covid 19

One Year Cancer Free Today! 

"You're cancer free, Kathi" my surgeon said. I was waking up from surgery, groggy but aware of the recent assault on my body, as if from a distance. Gotta admit, the pain stepped in front of the awesome news that I was cancer free because of the surgery.

I learned about being totally helpless those four days at NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center. Being a private person, it was overwhelming at times. But, the care I received was excellent. I am grateful to the nurses who were so kind and attentive. I highly recommend NYU to anyone on the journey of healing cancer.

 One year later, today, I am still cancer free! 

The power of that statement lands deeply in me every day.

I still have one more immune therapy treatment in June.

There's life before cancer and there's life after cancer.

I planned my trip to the Rockies, the 5 National Parks of Utah and The Grand Canyon for August.

I'm buying the air tickets today.

Thank you Dr. Pavlick, Dr. Friedman, Dr. Gold, Dr. Sheth, the pathologist at MSK and Putnam Hospital, Dr. Marc Demers, Dr.Paul Finger. All the nurses, all my family and friends. And most of all, my husband Tim.

 

Cancer: My Greatest Teacher 

A year ago, right about now, I stood up and felt a pain at the top of my left leg. I felt two lumps. My heart sank. I knew something wasn't right.

And so it began, my journey down Cancer Road.It has been quite a trip. I didn't want to take it. I'm still on it. I still have have three more months of treatment.

But in retrospect, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

The surgery and the Immuno-therapy are working. My scans came back cancer free last week.I am on a plant based diet, juice everyday and take supplements like D3, B12, Beta Glucan Morenga, etc

But its the inner work that has turned me into a very happy person, despite all the noise and discord surrounding all of us.I am grateful for the illness and all the people who helped me and are still helping me, not only to survive but to thrive.

 

Apology to My body 

KM 

I hated you 

You were never enough 

Not tall enough 

Not pretty enough 

Not thin enough 

Ever 

I abused you 

with cigarettes, 

 drugs, 

alcohol 

food 

and stress! 

OMG Stress! 

Toxic people, places and things, 

Giving them power to hurt you. 

Unkind people, places, and things 

Whose mean spirited behavior had nothing to do with 

your worth and value. 

You took it all until you couldn’t take it anymore. 

Until you collapsed under the weight, allowing cancer to grow. 

It took my journey down Cancer Road to make me wake up. 

To make me realize 

Just how magnificent you are. 

How perfect you are as you are. 

To make me grateful for you and all the wonderful adventures we have experienced. 

Grateful for the ALL the experiences yet to come. 

My amazing vehicle of 37.2 trillion cells. 

My Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Ferrari, Aston Martin 

Taking me wherever I want to go all these years. 

I promise to cherish and care for you all the days we have left 

on this miraculous planet. 

We are getting through this. 

We are cancer free. 

Now and forever. 

Thank You. 

Rocky Mountains here we come.

All Clear 

My third set of scans came back Cancer free! Whew! 
The stress of having regular scans to check for any new recurrence has demanded I develop a mental agility and inner strength to navigate myself through it.  
They are easily blown away like an umbrella in a hurricane. 
I feel so much compassion for everyone recovering from Cancer. 
Hypno-therapy and chanting are the tools I use to steady myself. 

www..sgi.com

Cancer Road: Our Broken Health Care System 

Our Broken Health Care System

I get a denial letter every time my Dr. asks for any treatment needed for Cancer.

I have learned to not react to these letters. My doctors office has to submit these requests several times before they are approved. That includes the surgery I had last spring. I recently had to spend hours fighting a reversal of approval for a part of the surgery which involved moving a muscle to cover exposed blood vessels. The insurance company didn't think it was necessary. My surgeon did but the insurance company did not.

When I showed up for my Opdivo infusion in January, I was turned away because the insurance company didn't approve it. My doctor's office blamed the insurance company. The insurance company blamed the doctors office. I was left angry and frustrated. Exactly what I don't want as a person trying to heal from Cancer. Later that afternoon, I was called and it was approved. After I was made physically and mentally distraught. My husband had to miss work to take me to get the infusion.

The unprofessional behavior and poor communication in the scheduling of scans and treatments is shocking. My experience and observation is that there are so many sick people, the doctors are overwhelmed. Like the medical corporations they work for don't hire enough doctors or staff to properly handle the work load. It's nuts. It is deeply upsetting. My innocence and naivety about what it is is to be a sick person in the US has been shattered.

The constant struggle with the insurance companies is ridiculously time consuming. I don't feel cared for. The insurance company won't let me see my original oncologist anymore because she moved to a different hospital and because I don't live in an area that includes that new hospital. Certain cancer hospitals, like Memorial Sloan Kettering, only take corporate group insurance so, someone like myself with an individual policy can not get treatment there. It's all about the money they can bring in. Not the person with cancer trying to get help.

 My new oncologist hadn't bothered to say hello or check in on me since October, though I asked her to, through her staff many times, and she was often mere feet away while I was getting treatment. Talk about feeling like a number and not a person. I finally had to complain. Now I will be seen every month by my new oncologist. But, why should it have to come to that? If we had a health care system that worked, the doctor would set a course and it would be followed. I would hope there would be quality care that involved knowing the patient at least a little. The patient load is way beyond what anyone could handle in a way that makes someone with cancer feel like they matter, like they are being truly cared for.

The health insurance industry makes billions of dollars every year. This is why we don't have health care for all. ANY politician who says we can't afford it is full of sh-- and most likely beholden to the financial contributions made to their campaign. I know people in Canada and England and their health care is fine. I don't believe or buy in to the people who say public health care is not good. If America is the greatest country in the world, well then, we can make sure our public health care is great.

There is one reason for all of this:

GREED.

The well being of people is not the bottom line. Money is.

I pay taxes and have done so for a long time.

I want health care, education, social security and other basic things, like roads etc. And yes, programs for the indigent.

My wanting these things in exchange for my tax money does not mean I am a socialist. It means I'm practical.

And while Empire Blue Cross Blue shield might not consider my monthly Opdivo treatment as "medically necessary", the oncologists I've spoken to say without it I would most likely be dead in three years.

 

 

A Hard Days Night 

It's magical when you fall so in love that it directs the course of your life.

The Beatles.

I first heard The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show. My sister somehow got my mother's permission to wake me up and let me watch it with she and my brother.

When I first saw "A Hard Days Night", I was already obsessed with The Beatles music. I knew I was a singer.

The madcap, ultra cool vibe of the movie THRILLED me! It's still one of my go to, make me feel better, movies.

I am watching it this morning, Still in LOVE with The Beatles, preparing to get immunotherapy today.

I get very anxious on treatment day.

I am lucky. The drug Opdivo i get once a month has minor side effects. Nothing I can't handle.

But, I still get anxious, hoping I'm not one of the people who it starts to mess up their organs.

ie make me diabetic for the rest of my life.

You know, the fast side effect disclaimers on all the pharma commercials.

Watching any drug commercial, Tim and I would say to each other, Why would anyone risk all that?

I know why now.

I do have a weird reaction when getting it, so it requires mild sedation. I worry about that before I go.

Also, the reality of going to the infusion suite, seeing the other patients, some very sick, is hard not to take in.

What am I doing here? There must be a mistake.

It makes me want to run out the door.

I still consider myself VERY LUCKY.

Through all this, I can still sing.

BUT, every step of the way has been a FIGHT with my insurance company. They deny every treatment, every scan, every test before they say yes.

I've learned to not read their first letters because I would spend my days very pissed off and upset if I did.

The people controlling a patient's medical needs is the insurance company, not the doctor. My doctor, her staff,  usually has to spend time fighting for me. Ridiculous!

This month my insurance company, Fidellis "Care", is telling me I can't see my oncologist anymore because when she switched jobs, she left their network.

It's a funny thing about getting Cancer, I have attached to my oncologist like my life depends on it. Like she is my special ops rescuer and I don't want to leave her side, even though I'm doing great. It is not rational. I know there are other great oncologists, but I trust my doctor and I don't want to leave her in mid treatment.

So, I will go through the hassle of trying to find coverage that her new hospital accepts and that I can afford next week. And the hassle of trying to get another oncologist to order my scans etc for the remaining 6 weeks of my health insurance coverage for 2020.

Every month is a struggle to get what I am told I need to fight this cancer.

IT SUCKS.

That we don't have universal, 'single payer" health care in the US is infuriating.

That anyone who is sick has to go through this emotional nightmare is disgusting.

If other countries can figure it out, so can we. Any offer of doing a combo health plan is just letting these companies

keep their big foot in the door. It's pure greed on the part of the insurance companies, big pharma and the

politicians. ALL OF THEM. If you don't think so, WAKE UP.

Your health is NOT the priority. Their profit is.

This doesn't make me a socialist. I would like my taxes to go to providing quality health care for All US citizens.  Not just people who can afford a large monthly insurance bill.

I despair over the fact that we, American Citizens, actually disagree over this.

Warning, don't get sick in the U.S.

Back to 'A Hard Days Night".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWbiVqlSMgc

 

Firsts 

First Scans  All clear! No Cancer! Whew Hoo!

I did the scans on Monday and got the results on Thursday.

Talk about Thy will be done.

I applied for the WTC 911 victim fund for people who lived in the area and got cancer.

I joined Gilda's club.

I can't believe I did all these things. I can't believe I had to do them.

I would hear about these things for people with Cancer and think how heavy.

I never dreamed it would ever apply to me.

I am grateful for all these things.

I am grateful to my Doctors : Dr. Anna Pavlick and Dr. Erica Friedman.

Eva Cassidy 

I had heard her sing before and knew she was good. This past weekend my brother in law Jerry played me a few of her songs and I was really blown away. I heard she died young. 

I had treatment today. An infusion of Opdivo, an immunotherapy wonder drug. I am lucky. I've been told had I been diagnosed with Melanoma as little as ten years ago, it would have been a death sentence. Honestly, shocking to think if I didn't step in front of this with medical help and lifestyle changes, this would be the beginning of the end of my life. I don't feel old or remotely ready. The infusion only lasts 30 minutes. Last time, I had a reaction so I was scared. A new hospital, too. They are starting to lightly sedate me with liquid Benadryl. I sleep and get the infusion. I know it is so much easier than chemo. I won't loose my hair or look like death warmed over. But it is still scary because of the possible side effects. It's stressful.

I bravely say I'm gonna fly through this like some people do. I'm not gonna have any of those symptoms or reactions.But I had a few things happen after surgery that make me realize It could happen to me. I'm not really in control here. What if I do get the negative side effects? says the quiet voice in my head.

SO I chant, and eat a vegan diet, exercise and use step three, "Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him"

But it was a stressful day and I can't sleep. So I looked up Eva Cassidy. I listened to her beautiful recordings and was so moved by her voice and inspired by her performances.

Then I looked up about her life and death. She was diagnosed with melanoma in 1993. She had surgery but unfortunately, the cancer came back and killed her in November of 1996. She was 33.

 It stopped me in my tracks. I had melanoma. That is what I am fighting now, in case there are microscopic cells lurking somewhere. I really felt for her. She loved to sing and write, just like me. She was active in music in the 80's and 90's just like me. I can't imagine missing out on all those years of life and making music. Very, very sad.

Truly the worlds loss, too. She was an amazing talent.

Thy will not mine be done. But, God I hope all this works and extends my time here on earth.

Eva Cassidy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGnfqRR509M

My Post Op Journey Hello Sit Ups  

I started doing them again. First time since surgery in May.

Fantastic! I've never appreciated or enjoyed them this much!

https://www.wikihow.com/Do-Sit-Ups   (lol)

Rebounder  mini trampoline

So good for your lymph system and so much fun!

https://www.hsn.com/products/urban-rebounder-trampoline-wresistance-kit-and-5-workou/9537436?sz=3&sf=HF0185&ac=&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=shopping%20engine&utm_term=&utm_campaign=Bshopping%7CM%7CGeneric%7CHealth%20%26%20Fitness&utm_content=1309518491685021_pla-4585444528344672_9537436

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Rebounder&docid=608046641892101179&mid=6F5B15C635FFEBA9B4476F5B15C635FFEBA9B447&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

Yoga

As I begin to workout again after surgery one of the best things I have done is join Namastream.com

https://app.namastream.com

Bike Riding

Get those legs going. Focus.

Swimming

Great workout without the stress on your back or knees.

It feels great to move and reclaim my body.

I let stress take me off the path of healthy diet and exercise about 20 years ago.

Diet and physical activity are listed as the number two possible contributors to cancer.

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes.html

Good news:

This is all stuff I can control.

My life is my responsibility.

(Don't get me started on toxic relationships.The main one being with myself.)

I read this often:

"Just one week after he graduated from Yale Law School, while he was training for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Seun Adebiyi was diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia. This forced him to put his Olympic dreams on the back burner as he rethought his life plans. 

Adebiyi knows all about mental toughness and resilience. After experiencing firsthand the difficulty of finding stem cell donors (the odds of finding a genetically compatible donor is less than 17 percent for those of African descent, compared to 70 percent for Caucasians), Seun took it upon himself to found Nigeria's first national bone marrow registry--the second ever in Africa. 

And Adebiyi did eventually participate in the Olympics, carrying the torch for Nigeria in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Today, Adebiyi is cancer-free, and he made the decision to become an entrepreneur. He's currently a self-employed, freelance attorney with InCloudCounsel, a legal technology company that automates and enhances high-volume legal processes. 

Here, according to Seun Adebiyi, are five ways to develop unbeatable mental toughness. 

1. Never confuse who you are with what you do. 

The most common mistake people make is to confuse their self-worth with their accomplishments. Says Adebiyi, "I remember when I first missed the Olympics--fracturing my spine from overtraining just months before the 2000 Games. It was my first major setback as an athlete, and I completely crumbled mentally--all because I had made the mistake of tying my self-worth to my sense of accomplishment." In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. 

2. Master your inner dialogue. 

What you say to yourself matters more than what the entire world together says about you. When he was fighting leukemia with intensive chemo and full body radiation, Adebiyi refused to wear a hospital gown. Instead, he wore workout sweats and did walking lunges up and down the linoleum hospital floors, pushing his surgically attached IV pole next to him. Says Adebiyi, "Doctors and nurses looked at me like I was crazy, but I never accepted their perspective that I was a 'cancer patient.' In my mind, I was an Olympic hopeful who just happened to be overcoming cancer." 

3. Learn to live in the moment. 

Let's face it--sometimes life just kicks you in the teeth. Trying to avoid suffering is like trying to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat without getting wet. When the storms of life start tossing you around like a toy, you need an anchor--something you can cling to when all seems hopeless. According to Adebiyi, "That anchor was my breath. I just focused on surviving from breath to breath, and repeated the following words over and over like a mantra: 'This too shall pass.'"  

4. Fortify your village, then build a moat. 

In many African countries, there's a popular saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." This is true in life as well. Learn to pick your associates carefully. Find those handful of people who will support you no matter what, invest your time and energy in strengthening those relationships. As Adebiyi explains, you may also need to distance yourself from the toxic people in your life who tear down your self-confidence. "This might involve some painful conversations, spending less time on social media, and ending a few relationships," says Adebiyi. "But trust me, it's virtually impossible to master your inner dialogue and develop inner resilience with someone whispering doubts in your ear." 

5. Be prepared, be prepared, be prepared. 

As someone once said, never let a good crisis go to waste. Often, the biggest opportunities for personal and professional growth are found in times of upheaval and uncertainty. The time to "hurricane-proof" your life isn't when the shingles start to fly off the roof, but when the sky is still blue and sunny. Suggests Adebiyi, "Work on your self-image, inner dialogue, present moment awareness, and key relationships now. It doesn't take much: You can practice visualization/meditation every day, affirm your key relationships, and minimize negative influences with just a few minutes each day." 

And when life comes knocking, you'll be ready to rock". 

New song:

https://soundcloud.com/soundqs/best-day-ever-final-mix

The Serenity Prayer 

God grant me the Serenity to

Accept the things I cannot change.

The Courage to change the things I can.

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

 

The Serenity prayer is one of the most important tools I've ever learned. It is a north star during troubling times.

A guide to help me know where I am and what I can do to get to where I want to be.

I cannot change that I developed cancer.

I can change how I eat, how I live, how I think, what and who I allow in my life.

My body is amazing! It heals it self. But it also needs a little help sometimes and that's where western medicine comes in.

I start Immunotherapy today. One half hour, once a month, for a year.

It is supposed to be GREAT! A real game changer for people with Melanoma.

There are possible side effects but many people don't experience them.

I am gonna be one of those people.

I'm scared but am trying to change my thoughts about it and welcome this as the necessary help I need to kill any remaining cancer cells.

We all know how the story ends but if I can get a few more chapters, I'll be grateful.

Here we go.

One Day at Time.

This is a song on my WOW, I wish I Wrote That, list!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-Lkry-SF01&hsimp=yhs-SF01&hspart=Lkry&p=I+hope+you+dance+youtube#id=0&vid=53ae4ba7a678a6198256280cc2d7175f&action=click

"Knock Knock." "Whose there?" "Mortality." 

"What the. ...?" Eyes wide. Jaw dropping.

"Sorry but, You have the wrong person." I say sternly.

"Are you Kathi McGunnigle?" it asks, glancing at a tattered scroll.

"Yes." I respond hesitantly.

"You're on the list." It says, kindly, looking me in the eyes.

"Listen, you are really early. I wasn't expecting you for 20 or 30 years.

I think there's been a mistake. I'm too young and I feel really healthy."

Looking down at the list, looking back up at me, it shrugs it's shoulders.

There is an awkward pause.

"NO, I AM NOT GOING WITH YOU! I HAVE WAY TOO MUCH TO DO.

I still have songs to write and sing!

I have a young dog to raise!

My husband and I haven't been to Greece or the Rockies yet!

I want to meet Paul McCartney!"

There is another awkward pause.

"Ok." it says. I'll swing back around later."

Here's where I run to an Oncologist.( NYU Dr. Anna Pavlick https://nyulangone.org/doctors/1255332839/anna-c-pavlick)

Here's where I change everything.

Now after surgery,(thank you Dr. Erica B Friedman) I start Immunotherapy.

No chemo. No radiation. (Yay)

My part.

I am committing to a raw diet for the next 90 days, at least.

I've been told developing cancer isn't my fault BUT I think you are what you eat.

I want my body to be inhospitable to cancer so I will flood it with cancer fighting veggies

https://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/

and step up my spiritual practice of SGI Buddhism. www.sgi.org.

Maybe it's me just wanting a little control.

I have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

This is my blog about my experience with Metastatic Melanoma.

It is meant to help others and myself go through this journey together.

The support and kindness of everyone has meant EVERYTHING to me.

So strange to be going through this deeply personal health crisis while Covid 19 exploded and the tragedy of

George Floyd's senseless murder and subsequent uprising. I wish I could go to the protests. I am there in spirit.

https://youtu.be/oy6m22zYki8

 

 

Be an advocate for World Peace. Donate to www.seedsofpeace.org Download my song World Peace For Christmas as my thank you!

NY Musicians For Peace

I got so sick of all the recent tragedies of racism and violence, sick of feeling powerless, sick of standing in my living room yelling at the tv, that I asked some of my friends to raise their voices with me for brotherhood and peace. We share this powerful message with you, written by John Lennon, in the hopes that you will raise your voice with us and share it with everyone who wants a world that is color blind and nonviolent.
Thank you:

 Tim Ouimette, Gary Schreiner, Jon Cobert, Sammy Merendino, Alex Alexander, Will Lee, Ira Siegel, Leon Pendarvis, Lisa Ratner, Ed Xiques, Rick Kriska, Ken Jioffre, Loiuse Baranger, Art Triggs, JC Santalis, Keith Anthony Fluitt, Darryl Tookes, Holly McCracken, Ada Dyer, Sandy Farina, Eugene Ruffolo, Russ Velasquez, Sheryl Marshall, Emily Bindiger, Janie Barnett, Cindy Thrall, Erik Boyd and all the rest who were there in spirit. I am honored and moved by your talent and heart. 

Thank you for singing out with me.                                               Nam Myho Renge Kyo
                        "You May Say I'm A Dreamer. But, I'm Not The Only One." John Lennon