Saturday, November 30, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Thirty

I've been eating with great abandon, lust and enormous pleasure. After all, the chemo is gone from my system so there is no unpleasant metallic or otherwise abnormal aftertaste tainting my enjoyment of eating or drinking. It made for an extra-special Thanksgiving where I enjoyed every bite of food without apology, easily eating three times my caloric allotment for the day.

I've had to slow down since then as it's important I don't gain extra weight as carrying unnecessary poundage is not something my frail bones need right now. That didn't stop me from taking Eliz, Christie, Sierra and Denise to The Pie Hole in LA even though we had one and a half pumpkin pies, a quarter of an apple pie and two slices of pecan pie (all homemade) on our counter top.

It's not just the pie, but the whole experience of the arts district that makes it special. As I told my Aunt Sally, it's my mission in life to take all that I love to the Pie Hole. Just call me the Pie Piper!

I am thankful for my appetite; that food tastes delicious and yummy again as does coffee and water. I am thankful for pie. Lots and lots of pie.

Friday, November 29, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Nine

Last Thanksgiving, I admit, I joined the millions of crazies who were conned into leaving the warmth of their house, ending the feelings of gratitude that were snug in our hearts and hitting the sales. There was just one store I was interested in and it's because there was a host of things on sale that I wanted to buy for others.

It ended a very good day on a bad note. I was hurting terribly. The store was much more crowded than I expected. The aisles were crammed, the lines were long, and let's face it, anyone out and about on such a mission may not be in their right mind.

This year, I decided to opt out of the experience, not just on Thursday evening, but Black Friday too. It is quite possible that I may not start my Christmas shopping until next weekend and forgo the whole shopping experience this whole weekend.

What I am planning to do is get out my little artificial Christmas Tree and put it up in the family warm where the warm glow of lights will bring the spirit of Christmas to my heart every time my eyes catch hold of the golden sparkle.

I'm also planning to pull out the Christmas mugs which is another favorite sign of mine that we've reach the Christmas Season. I love starting off my morning coffee in a red, gold, silver or blue Christmas mug that brings a Christmas Carol or some other Christmas memory to mind.

Now even though I'm forgoing the madness of Black Friday and all that comes with, I'm not forgoing the Christmas season. I'm an unabashed lover of this holiday and no one cursing commercialism or other aspects of the Christmas will bring it down for me.

Because to me it's about a Savior who was born in Bethlehem, swaddled in clothing who is came to save the world.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Eight

Woke up this morning before the sun rose at my brother and sister-in-law's lovely house. Normally, I would have tried to sleep another hour or so, but I was looking forward to some quiet still of the morning before the craziness of Thanksgiving kicked in.

My handy-dandy weather app let me know that the sun would rise at 6:41 so I waited until right before 6am to start the coffee and then headed for the porch to take in the morning show. Since earlier in the week, there were threats of rain for Thursday, I wasn't sure if there would be clear skies or cloud cover.  Turns out clear skies were the winner.

With both a warm blanket and cup of steaming, hot coffee, the next twenty minutes were spent in quiet appreciation of the beauty that God created so many years ago and continues to give to us on a daily basis. It set the perfect tone for the rest of the day…until tonight when I got my grouchy on during the drive home.

Still it was a wonderful day, surrounded by family, phone calls from those who couldn't be with us, delicious food from breakfast to our Thanksgiving feast to our pie bar. So many, many blessings for which to be thankful. Where to begin, where to end? I am so thankful for another Thanksgiving to celebrate with my loved ones.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Seven

We say it all the time, "I can't believe how time has flown", but fly it did. It seems like just yesterday when I posted my first day of gratitude for the month, unsure of where the month would take me. At the time, this I was sure of, I didn't want the month to pass without intention as I waited for Thanksgiving. I knew that by finding things to be thankful for, that my days regardless of how I felt could be filled with great joy.

Also, there are some very special birthday's in November and I was praying that I would feel well enough to enjoy them, I mean really enjoy them, not just pretending to go through the motion, all the while praying that I can just get through them.

Suddenly, here we are at the eve of Thanksgiving and thankfulness overwhelms my heart. I am filled with confident hope. Confident hope that I will continue to grow stronger and get better. Confident hope that God is answering prayers, not just about my health, but the health of so many others that I know.

I am filled with gratitude over the confident hope that we can have in such a loving and caring God.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Six

Our life are full of plans. Meals. Social Activities. Chores. Shopping. Wardrobe. Yet, God makes it clear that we don't have control over our lives the way that we think we do and plans are often interrupted. Illness. Weather. Flakiness of others. Accidents. Dreaded death.

This week, I confess, I had and still have plans. It scared me to have such expectations, especially since the beginning of the month, I honestly thought my days of mobility were never going to be the same. As radiation progressed and I began to feel better, my plans grew bolder.

Today, I had planned to perhaps make my way to the beach, but when she asked me to if I wanted to go to breakfast and then go with her for the second part of her tattoo, I didn't hesitate. Plans can sometimes change and sometimes last minute plans are the best ones.

After all, spending time with loved ones is so much better than any other plan I can think of.

I'm thankful for last minute changes in life and the ability to just go with the flow.

Monday, November 25, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Five

I took this week off. I've been dreaming of not just a week off, but two weeks off for such a long time. Some at work might think, "you haven't been in the office for over a month and you need to take a week off?!?"

Yes, why, yes I do. Non-stop medical visits for almost a month gets wearing. I've wanted time to just decompress, write and enjoy the time feeling better. I want to make the most of the time without overextending myself so I made a list of things I want to do during this week off. 

If the week continues as it did today, I'll be very happy. It felt good to feel good and go out without worrying about whether I should or shouldn't. It felt good to walk around the backyard, not once, but twice. It felt good to write.

No matter what happens tomorrow, I'm thankful for time off work and thankful that I felt good enough to enjoy it today.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Four

For the past four weeks, I've not gotten much than five hours of sleep. It's not a case of insomnia because I am sleeping, but I'm not sleeping deep and even though I'm often going to bed after midnight, I've been waking at 4:30am and getting up shortly after 5am.

I have no doubt that it's the dexamethasone that's affecting my sleep pattern. Even with little sleep, I haven't felt tired or dragging so I haven't really been worried about the lack of hours. I've felt good and that's all that really matters.

Still in the back of my head, I've been wondering when this would catch up to me. It's part of the reason, I've been trying to cut the dexamethasone out of my daily regiment. Last night, I found myself dozing off before 10am. I was exhausted, climbed into bed before midnight and didn't get out of bed before the sun made its appearance.

I'm filled with gratitude for a goodnight's rest and for the peace that God brings with it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Three

One of my biggest sorrows over the need the protect my skeletal structure is my inability to swoop up my little grandbabies at whim. While thankfully, it doesn't stop me from loving on them, it prevents me from scooping them up and cradling them in my arms whenever they or I feel like it. Knowing the sweet feeling of your arms folding protectively around their little soft bodies, I miss it. I have to make do with them climbing on my lap, but it's not the same.

So when Matt asked if I could watch the children for, oh, three hours, for a moment, I gave pause. I would be alone as Brie wasn't able to make the trip with me to the desert this time. Would I need to pick anyone up? If so, I wouldn't be able to do it. As I thought about what watching them would entail, the more I became convinced I could do it.

Both are walking. Neither are in a crib. One can go to the bathroom all by himself. The other can climb on the couch if I need to change her. Both are well behaved. I could ask them to do or not to do something and they would listen. After some further discussion, Matt and Ashley were out the door to enjoy a grown up movie together.

It was so much fun to spend time with my grandchildren all by myself. The last time I did that there was only one and he was barely one. Now he is three. He had had a birthday party earlier in the day, so one by one we cracked open the packaging and carefully examined the contents. Later as he lay on the sofa, he asked me to bring all his new toys to his side which I willingly obliged. It was such a sweet time.

She was asleep for most of the time, but when she awoke, she wasn't upset that mommy and daddy weren't home and quickly got to playing with the new toys, letting grandma help her when she needed help. She let me prepare her food and would come and show me the toys she was playing with, her bright, beautiful smile never leaving her face.

The best part of it all, was I was able to handle it. I wasn't counting the seconds for Matt and Ashley to come home. I enjoyed it all, well, except for the part where the little guy wasn't feeling too well, but even that was something I could manage. I drove home from the desert with the biggest smile on my face and content with a sense of accomplishment.

It was such a feeling of gratitude to spend quality alone time with my grandchildren.

Friday, November 22, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-Two

November is usually a beautiful month in Southern California, especially the early days of the month. It can be counted on to have clear, blue skies, crisp, cool, but not cold mornings, giving way to warm temperatures without overheating the soul.

Yesterday, the blue skies took a break and gave way to grey, stormy clouds accompanied by rain. Weather can effect the psyche. Sunny skies lift the heart, dark grey ones, can fill cracks and crevices with despair.

Thankfully, just a day or two of dark skies can come as a blessing, an opportunity to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and a good book with no guilt. I'm not naive enough to believe I would be able to endure countless days of gloomy weather without it taking me to dark places. Last year, I was at that place. It's not a good or fun place to be. It can be difficult to pull oneself out of the miry pit.

This year, there is light in my life. It lifts my spirits and keeps me filled with hope. There are times when I long for the full effect of the seasons, something we just don't get in Southern California, but I'm thankful that the sun is never gone for long.

I'm filled with gratitude that I live in this Golden State. And for occasionally cloudy, grey-blue skies.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty-One

The plan was this. My last day of radiation was yesterday and today I would start back on my chemo regime. It also meant that I would have chemo the day before Thanksgiving. I was trying hard not to think about it because I wasn't looking forward to it all.

Resigned, I arrived a bit early to my last radiation appointment yesterday so I could take care of the obligatory blood test that ideally I have to have the day before chemo. Sometimes, I get lazy and just arrive an extra hour before chemo, but since I was going to be at the medical center anyway, getting it done the day before was no biggie.

My lab work is always marked as STAT which means, I'm told to jump to the front of the line and walk straight into the lab. Last time I did this, it took less than two minutes before the technician was tying the tourniquet around my arm. This time, she was putting vials of blood into a container and another technician was assisting another patient. I was asked to sit in a lab chair and they would get right to me.

As I sat there, my phone rang. I debated with myself as to whether to answer the phone. After all, at any moment, the technician would likely come and start the process. I decided to answer. It was the oncology department telling me that due to my radiation schedule, they were canceling chemo for the next two weeks and I would begin again, in December. What?? What?? What??

I was so happy, it was a dream come true. I quickly explained to the caller that I was just about to get a blood test so did this mean I didn't need to get one after all. I hated to even ask because what if the answer was "yes". The answer was "no". Saved in the nick of time! I almost did a happy dance out of there.

After a month in which every weekday has been a visit of some sort for treatment or follow up, I am given a three week reprieve. No chemo the day before Thanksgiving. No chemo today. No medical center visit today. Tomorrow, I have to go get my port cleaned out, but that's a walk in the park compared to a full on infusion.

I am filled with gratitude for the break in the routine.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twenty

Yesterday, I met with the Interventional Radiologist. Now there is a speciality you don't hear about every day. Thanks to the internet, I was able to learn that it's a medical sub-speciality of radiology which utilizes minimally-invasive image guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases in nearly every organ of the body. Minimally-invasive were two very key, non-threatening words.

The surgeon was young. He reminded me a lot of my first orthopedic oncologist. Very patient, very kind, very ernest and positive. He spent over an hour with me, going over my MRI results, talking about bone cement, options I have, along with the risks. Pointing out thoracic bones, while words I never heard of and couldn't remember two seconds later into the conservation were rolling off his tongue without a stutter.

He applied pressure down my spine, surprised by the lack of pain in response. He gave me strength tests, surprised by the strength I had. I took great pleasure at his perplexity about the lack of pain that I displayed and by the force by which I was able to command as he pressed down on my extremities.

Dad kept asking the doctor why it was that I didn't have the pain the doctor would have expected. He couldn't explain it. In the end, the surgeon recommended that based on my pain level (virtually none) and my strength, that we hold off doing anything. The risks, he felt, would be greater than the rewards. I agreed.

It wasn't until later when we were on the freeway that I shared with Dad why I was stronger and in less pain than expected. It's God. He is healing my body. He is at work. There are miracles happening. In my weakness, He has become strong. My only regret? That I didn't share this in front of the surgeon. I should have given God the glory at that point in time. I won't make that mistake again.

I am filled with gratitude for God's strength and healing powers.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Nineteen

I took care getting dressed this morning. I had an appointment with the Interventional Radiologist and I wanted to be sure that he saw me as a vital, productive person. Someone worth saving. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would he just humor me? Tell me my skeletal structure was too far gone and there wasn't really anything he could do? Or would he see me as an exciting challenge?

With every doctor I've met, I tell them the same thing. I have a lot to live for. I'm willing to do what it takes to prolong my life. In other words, don't give up on me. Which is why I dress up for my doctor visits as much as possible, regardless of the way I feel. I may not be the person I was before, but I'm still worth the effort. It's important that the doctors and caregivers see that.

This morning as I read James 1:18, I was reminded, "He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession." I looked up the word "Prized" in Webster's and it says "something exceptionally desirable".

Believe me, I don't feel exceptionally desirable. Those days are long gone. My face is fat from the steroids. My torso is squished from the compression of my spine. I walk hunched over. Still it was wonderful to leave for my appointment knowing that to God, I'm still a prized possession. I don't even have to try. God sees me for who and what I am and he loves me anyway.

My heart is filled with gratitude.

Monday, November 18, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Eighteen

I suppose you could say that on the weekends, I typically don't sleep in. I'm usually up by seven or eight am. But on the weekdays, I would get up precisely at the time I needed to get up in order to be at work on-time. In other words, I'm not one of those super woman who manage to cram in a load of wash or any other chore before I head out the door. If I needed 45 minutes to shower, dress and have breakfast before I started to work then I would get up 45 minutes early. On days that I worked from home, I would seriously get up 10 to 15 minutes before I had to go online.

For the last month, that has changed. I find myself up and at 'em at least an hour or more before I need to get online. It's become my quiet time. My quiet time used to be simply this, enough time to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal all the while no one better look or talk to me. Now my quiet time is reading my devotional, doing a little bible study and then some writing. I relish every minute, every second of this time. And, yes, my cup of coffee plays a very important role in all of this, too.

The whole routine has helped me prepare for the day and get into the right mental state. I go to bed excited about starting the morning.

I'm filled with gratitude for my quiet time each morning.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Seventeen

A very good friend of my sister-in-law is fighting for her life. Diagnosed in March with cancer, she was given six-months to live. She is a kind, caring, Godly woman. This week she invited all who are following her story to join her reading the book of James.

It was the book of James that changed my life so many years ago. Going through a struggle in my life, I opened my bible to James where I read that I needed to consider it joy that trouble had come my way for my endurance had a chance to grow. For the first time, instead of fighting it, I did what the bible told me and gave thanks. The struggle, while it was still there, lost its hold over me. God was in control. Not me, not my problem, but God. And just as importantly, God knew I was ready to grow.

What is endurance? It's the ability to withstand adversity and hardship.

Life is, at times, wonderful, but it's also fraught with pain, sorrow, hardship, disappointment, so much, too much disappointment. We can make good choices and things still go wrong. It's not for the fainthearted. If we don't have endurance, we won't find great joy. We will be overwhelmed, beat, overcome. We will give up. But with endurance, we press forward, strong in faith, believing, knowing that we will become stronger, fuller, more mature and good comes from that.

I am thankful for all the opportunity God has given me to grow.

And, in case you were wondering, I plan on joining K's request to read James together. I invite you to do so, too.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Sixteen

Today was like a fresh of breath air, in so many different ways. I woke up early, spent the morning reading, drinking coffee, just the way a Saturday should be sent. After a shower, I headed up to my room and cleaned it up a bit. It felt so good just to move around without any thought.

The plan was to go to Brie's football game. It would be a test. It would be a test that I would pass. We arrived around the start of the second quarter. True to normal football time, that quarter took double the time it read on the clock. I began to get nervous. 

Even though the Jaramillo's told me that they would take me home any time, I didn't want to have to leave early. The wind began to blow and the temperature dropped slightly. Not horribly cold, but just enough to put a slight chill in the air. Before the second half ended, I wasn't sure if I could make it. But then shortly after half time, the sun broke out and revitalized me. I was able to hold on.

The smile on her face during the game made it all worth it. I love the weather in SoCal in November. As we walked from the field to the car, I was giving thanks. I still felt strong. I thank God for normal days.

Friday, November 15, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Fifteen

Every day for over the past month, I perform little litmus tests. Can I brush my teeth without holding on to the sink? Can I dry my hair with my head upside down? Can I bend down and pick up something I dropped on the floor? Can I straighten my bangs or take on/off my shirt standing up straight?

On good days, yes. On bad days, not so much. For many days, not at all. 

Things are changing. I'm getting stronger. I'm starting to believe it's not temporary. I am filled with hope for my future.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Fourteen

Until they came along, I had no idea what I was missing. To be a grandmother is a gift like no other. So much so that the moment I found out he was going to be a brother, I felt a thousand times blessed. I sang songs of thanksgiving to God, feeling much like Mary, Elizabeth and so many woman of the bible who in their appreciate would sing their praises to the Lord.

Today was a special day. A birthday celebration of our little guy which called for a trip to Disneyland. Since spending the day at the park was too much for me, we started the day at one of the restaurants that featured Disney characters who roamed the restaurant sparking smiles on the faces of most of the children with hardy imaginations. Our little guy was enthralled.

The meal was delicious, but there was nothing better than the smiles on the birthday boy's face. Even though I didn't get a good shot to save my life, it doesn't matter. I don't need a picture to treasure this memory.

I am filled with gratitude for the blessings that God has poured into my life.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Thirteen

Today was supposed to be a celebration of sorts…my last day of radiation. As the technician lowered the radiation bed and pulled my feet from the blocks, she said something about the target spot being smaller tomorrow. Tomorrow? I thought today was my last day, I exclaimed. Oh, no, she said, you have five more days.

She probably thought I was upset, but I wasn't. This meant there would be no chemo tomorrow, no need to head upstairs for the blood test after the radiation as I had planned. The only question was, should I still go to Dripp as planned for a celebratory latte and pastry?

I was feeling so good, I decided to continue with my plan to play a little hooky and treat myself to such decadence. Even though I forgot to order a "vanilla" latte and ordered just a regular latte so the first drink was a bit of a shock and I got a call from my boss before my latte was halfway finished, it was all good. 

I managed to go to my appointment by myself. The trip to Dripp wasn't a drudgery or painful. I had the strength and energy I needed for both without taxing myself. It felt so good. I drove home with the biggest smile on my face. 

I am getting my independence back. And for that I am filled with much gratitude.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Twelve

I had not one, but two medical appointments today. First I met with my oncologist to go over what's been happening and what the plan is next. Later in the day was my radiation treatment. Tomorrow is my last radiation appointment.

I was hoping for a few weeks of reprieve before I head back into chemotherapy, but that's not to be. Thursday, my chemo appointment will stand. We agreed that we'll up the Aredia to every two months instead of every three months which will hopefully help build my bones back up and the doctor will also put in another referral for the neurosurgeon to see if there is anything they can do to help with the bone compression which is likely the cause of the stress fractures. He talked about the possibility of putting balloons to help relieve the pressure. I'm not really sure what to expect, but I decided I would rather see the neurosurgeon sooner rather than ater.

That's a whole lot of things going on. A few weeks ago, I felt overwhelmed, but today I'm ready to fight. My Aunt drove me to radiation today and was asking about my insurance. Since this has begun, I must say that I have been blessed to have an excellent insurance program. There has been no financial strain. Things move quickly with my care. They have not given up on me. 

I don't know that it will always be this way, but for now, my medical care gives me peace of mind. With everything going on, I am filled with gratitude that I don't have to worry about the cost, about my care, about fighting bureaucracy. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Eleven

Sometimes the silver linings are hard to find. Today is one of those days. I tried to make do without the steroid. By lunch time there was no denying it was a big big big mistake. I haven't quite recovered from it. I was tense through radiation. I felt all the progress I made last week took a downward turn.

As we drove back home, hot tears bubbled up. The last thing I needed was a pity part. I took deep breaths, meditating on the devotional I read earlier in the morning, the more challenging the day, the more Power, God puts at my disposal. Closing my eyes, I imagined with every breath, I was drawing in the Holy Spirit and with every exhale, ridding myself of the garbage, the cancer, the discontent, the anger.

A stop at Baskin Robbins helped too. As did a Skype message from a co-worker when I logged back into work.

Thankful for a God who in my weakness become stronger, for a God that I can rely on, for a God that can do immeasurably more than I can imagine.

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Ten

Modern medicine is truly a miracle. Just two weeks ago, I could barely walk through the pain I was feeling. Armed with a steroid and some stiff pain meds, I was able to manage. For the last few days, I've been able to completely forego the pain meds and drop down the dosage of the steroid.

The radiation seems to be working. For how long? I'm not sure, but that's not for me to worry about. I can only be thankful for the day. Today, I can say, the pain was more than tolerable, even almost negligible and that's enough for me. That I feel so much better so quickly is just amazing to me. I'm trying to balance not to overtax myself with making myself move so I can continue to grow stronger.

I'm thankful for medical advancements and the relief it gives and I am filled with gratitude that I'm not as dependent on the medication as I was earlier in the week.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Nine

I was looking forward to today. Friday I felt as strong as I had in a long time so it gave me great hope that my plans to get together with Barbara would go smoothly. Underneath it all, there was uncertainty; after all I had grand hopes several weeks ago that were severely dashed.

Yesterday, I managed to do without pain medication. It was a victory. Today, I was hoping to do without the steroids, but that wasn't to be. For a while I had to fight the blues. A solo trip to Target was a little harder than I thought it would be. It made me apprehensive about my plans with Barbara.

Turns out I didn't need to worry. We had a delicious lunch at The Olive Pit, a Mediterranean restaurant.  Every bite of the meal was a delicacy to my taste buds. The conversation was therapeutic. After which we headed to Dripp to top the evening off with coffee. It was just what I needed.

As we walked from the parking lot to the coffee shop, my gait was slow, but more importantly, without the nagging pain that has haunted me for the last month. It felt wonderful.

Wonderful to be out, wonderful to enjoy the company of a good friend, wonderful to share thoughts, our hopes an dreams. I am grateful for friends who bless my life and enrich it with their goodness.

Friday, November 8, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Eight

Upon my diagnosis of cancer, there wasn't much time to think. Things moved surprisingly fast. Kaiser was amazingly proficient at moving me from one step to the next. Within two weeks of the initial ultra-sound, I found myself in the presence of the surgeon who would ultimately perform my mastectomy. His job on that day January day was to deliver the official news, breast cancer.

By his side were two woman, a Physician's Assistance and a Nurse Practitioner, San Luu. After discussing surgery options, pros/cons with the surgeon, San Luu whisked me away and spent a better part of an hour educating me as much as possible as what to expect next. Even in my shock, it was an hour that has paid in dividends. Without that hour, I don't know that I would be here in the same position I am now. 

One of the things we discussed were the odds of survival. As she shared with me a story of a woman who was diagnosed with Stage I cancer who died within the first several years, I was astounded. As though she read my mind, she answered quickly as to why this woman failed to survive her odds. She tried to go it alone. A strong support system is instrumental in survival. 

I don't know why there is a human nature to want to go things alone. The night I knew something was horribly wrong, I sat alone at the lab waiting for an ultrasound. My sister kept calling. I ignored her calls, not knowing what to say. At that time, I didn't tell anyone. If I didn't tell anyone then maybe it wouldn't be real. My resolve didn't last long. As I walked back from the lab to my car, I slowly dialed the phone and shared my fears. 

Since that time, I have been blessed by so much support. Prayers, outpouring of love, offers of assistance. Until recently, I've wanted to go to my appointments on my own. Not because I don't want the support, but because I want my independence. With the recent setback, I've had to let that go. But it hasn't been as bad as I was afraid it would be. Perhaps one day, I'll get it back, but for now I'm okay. 

The support means more than anything else. It has been my lifesaver and for that I am forever gratitude. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Seven

At the beginning of the year my focus was on my 365 photo a day project. It began with much promise especially since I was coming off of a setback. The fact that the first week of the year it felt so good to have my camera in my hand was an unexpected gift.

As the year progressed, it was hard to maintain the inspiration. Sometimes I took a shot just to take a shot. Even so I knew it would be unrealistic to expect to get a satisfying shot every day. When the day came that I decided to purposefully let the 365 day go, it came with more relief than I would have imagined.

It's a decision I still have not regretted to this day for several reasons. The more I tried to hold on to it, the more I felt I was making it my idol. For that reason alone, I needed to give it up. What I'm not prepared to do is give it up completely. In my pain, it's hard to care about taking photos. The desire for creativity does not dissipate, but the ability and drive does. Just the act of picking up my camera often hurts more than I would care to admit. Added to that is the inability to care enough to "see" through my lens. It's a hard place to be and when I'm there I worry that the drought may never end.

Last Sunday, I felt a sprinkling of hope again. I was wandering in the backyard purposefully looking for a shot. I managed to get down low to the ground for a different perspective. It felt so good to do more than just snap a shot for the sake of taking a picture. While the results over the last week haven't been what I've hoped, it feels good to go through the motion, as though I'm catching up with an old friend.

Yesterday, as I drank my coffee, I combed through my 365 project, reflecting on my pictures and words. I was grateful for the time I had dedicated to the project. It brought many memories, some forgotten, some still fresh as the moment they were created. It made me even happier that there seems to be an awakening in me again photographically. It is my desire to find a way to still grow in this craft. If I do, it has to be in the glory of God. It will not become my idol, but it will be my response to him and the goodness he brings to my life.

Today I am filled with gratitude for the beauty that photography has brought to my life.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Six

Last night I went to bed a little after midnight. I should have been celebrating, it was Brie's 19th birthday. As I walked down the hall, Brie's door was still open, though her light was off. She was waiting for me to come say good night and, more importantly, wish her a happy birthday. Heaviness suddenly tugged at my heart.

This morning as I roused from my sleep, I was reminded of a November morning exactly 19 years ago. Back then I had gone to bed in such anticipation, much like the feeling on Christmas Eve, knowing that when I would awake, something magical was going to happen. Every November 5th I go back to that night and the events of the next day when Brie was born and I'm transported back to those wonderful memories. Today was no different.

It helped that Brie was in a most excellent mood. I was able to make us pancakes. We even managed to head to the park for some photographs. The weather was picture perfect, just like the day that she was born which I remind her of, each and every year. The best part of it was spending time together, laughing, loving enjoy the moment. All day long, her smile was bright. It made my heart light again.

I don't know what next year will bring. None of us does. Last night I went to bed afraid of what may be coming. Today, it didn't matter. All that mattered was that I am here in the now, in the moment.

I am filled with gratitude that I could celebrate her life.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Five

For too many years, I lived in discontent, longing for a life that wasn't mine, convinced that if I just had this or that I would be fulfilled. The problem was, I really didn't know how to get there. I wanted things handed to me, to wake up one morning next to some magic beanstalk that would save the day.

Through the grace of God, I finally came to accept the life I had. Once I did that I was determined to embrace it, take responsibility for owning it and do what I could to change the things I could change for the better. I had read that writing goals down on paper has a powerful impact so I took to doing that. I carried around a little notebook, writing pipe dreams down some with more hope than others.

One of those dreams was "work from home".

One of those little notebooks ended up deep in the glove compartment of my car, long forgotten until one day I was looking for something and out popped that little notebook with my list of dreams. The irony of it all was the dream of working from home was finally a reality. Through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events, I was a full-fledge member of the working from home force. What I've learned is that once the door opens, it's easy to keep it propped for future opportunities.

For many years, working from home allowed me the luxury of being more engaged in Brie's school experience. I only wished I had the same pleasure when Matt was younger too, but at least during that time the office from which I worked was closer than my corporate office now.

At this time, however, working from home has allowed me to continue to work as I convalesce. I have been so blessed by an employer who has supported and stood by me even when I'm unable to come in to do my job. With modern tools, I'm able to do that job just as easily 35 miles away.

Today, I am filled with gratitude for my job and the ability to work from home.

Monday, November 4, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Four

One of the questions I'm often asked is about my appetite. From my nurses, doctor, family and friends, everyone wants to make sure that I'm eating okay. Thankfully, I am. Eating has never been my problem. Healthy eating has been.

My day of eating starts early. I need my breakfast and I need to break it as fast as I can. I eat before I shower, before I get dressed. The moment my feet hit the floor, I'm thinking about what I'm going to eat. Used to be donuts or a pastry of some sort, but now it's usually a bowl of cereal that promises some modicum of grains and fiber.

Because I eat breakfast early, it often means I'm ready for a snack before 10am and lunch at 11am if at all possible. Sometimes it's hard for me to wait even that long. Today was one of those days. I blamed it on the time change, but it seemed that it took forever before it enough time had passed for me to start foraging the kitchen for a snack. I was grateful that mom had gone shopping the day before so there was fresh fruit and leftover banana bread to fill my plate.

Healthy, good food filled me with immense gratitude.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Three

Fresh baked banana bread made by a friend of Brie's. She and another one of their friends brought it over knowing my daughter wasn't home. The fact that she cared enough to do so and to stay a while while I enjoyed the homemade treat was enough to make me feel so loved and special. The day was filled with little reminders I am not alone.

I wished I taken a picture of the girls, but that would have felt too weird. Instead, we sat around the table, talking about college, accounting and economy class and discussing plans for Brie's birthday.

So thankful for the love and support I receive on a daily basis.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day Two

The simple of act of enjoying the ordinary beauty that surrounds us. So many things we pass by each day without a second glance. I am as guilty of this as the next person. Often times when faced with adversity and struggle, it's even harder to appreciate the things that are right in front of us.

This morning, I took in the quiet of the hour, savoring the fact that time today was my friend. I had no place to go, no commitments, my task was just to allow my body to heal. For the first time in a while, I could take out my camera and look around with fresh eyes. There on the ground lay the forgotten petals of a once lovely rose. Amongst the dust of the ground, the peek of color a stark vibrant reminder of life.

I was able to sit on the ground to snap the picture, something I couldn't do just a day or two ago. Just to bend down low was a moment of triumph. To enjoy everyday beauty without having to go more than my backyard. I am filled with gratitude.

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude - Day One

Hello November. At this point, I have no idea what to expect, but I pray that whatever comes, I can embrace each and every day, finding gratitude throughout the way. Each day this month I will try to capture the essence of the things for which I can give thanksgiving. It makes me look forward to tomorrow.

Today, I give thanks that despite the obstacles I know I am facing, I am not overwhelmed. I have much hope. Yesterday as I lay on the radiation bed as still as possible, the whirling sound of the machine above me, I imagined God knitting my bones again for me, his hands working hard making my body even stronger than before. In that sterile, cold room at that moment, it was just me and God and I knew without a doubt that he was at work deep inside the marrow of my body.

Today, I give thanks for my life. This imperfect, ordinary, average life. For it is filled with love and promise. I am filled with gratitude.