Thursday, January 16, 2014

So Brave

Cycle 13, Day 2 - For reasons unknown to me, as I sat down to journal today, it became important to document the cycle and day of my chemo treatment. The month is also officially half-way over. The year began with much trepidation and after days like Tuesday, it's no wonder.

As I was driving home from shopping this evening, I was giving much thought about the future and plans and I realized that I really have no choice, but to live by God's words to live from day to day and not worry about the future. There are moments when the future scares me more than anyone can know. Can I walk this path? Can I deal with what possibly is ahead? And then I do the only thing I can do, let it go, because I don't know what's ahead and I just pray that God would take me as I sleep. But not today and not tomorrow. Not this year.

I've been struggling a lot the last week. Though I smile and pretend that everything is okay, I grow weary of this "new" normal. I hate every step I take, my head perpetually pointed downward, unable to look anyone in the eyes from a standing position, shuffling my hunched body in such a way that people look pitifully at me or pitifully away. I long…hurt…wish…pray…for the days when walking from my car to the office, or wherever my destination, was done without a thought.

I've been asking God to help me find that place of thankfulness where my mind is in sync with the outward show that I display to convince my co-workers, family and strangers that I'm okay. I'm such a faker. Today's devotional verse helped a lot.

"Do not be discouraged, for the Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

I thought of these words as I began my hated walk from the car to the lab this morning, silently cursing the nitwits who thought it was a good idea to put as much distance between the two by needlessly separating them with empty space and not one, but two water fountains.

These thoughts do me no good, but the truth is, they are there. But today as I finally arrived at the entrance to the medical office, I realized I had made the walk in less pain than previous weeks and I had not needed to stop to catch my breath. Never mind, that I must have looked a like a horrible sight because a lovely couple stopped to ask me if I needed them to get me a wheelchair. I smiled and thanked them for the kind offer. I am always thankful for the kindness of strangers. I am learning that there are many, many kind strangers in this world still.

At the Lab, the blood draw was incredibly painless. I didn't feel the needle slip into my vein at all. I complimented the technician, thanking her for being so good at her job. She simply responded, "You are so brave". I am? Her response made me want to cry. No, not really. Not this past week. I've been an insolent baby. Not as I sat in the lab chair, where I look away each time my blood is about to be drawn, refusing to look at the needle poking into my skin because if I look, I might have to run away. I was not brave on Tuesday, as I drove home, fear taunting me the whole ride home.

No I am not brave, I'm just doing what I need to do to survive, but it was sweet of her for telling me that I am anyway.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When a Plan Works Out

"If you don't come into the office, I'm going to come to your house", my former boss jokingly (I think) told me yesterday as he stopped by my office to make sure we were still on for our meeting for Wednesday. "I'm planning to be here", I assured him, trying to quiet that little voice inside my head that was saying something else. 

The whole day, I felt uncomfortable. My leg was still hurting, every chair I sat in pressed hard against my back and every step I took felt torturous. I couldn't concentrate, my thoughts muddled as I counted the minutes before I could leave. When the moment finally came that I could be set free, I left my laptop at my office in quiet defiance to that warning voice inside my head.

My plan on the way home..stop for a mocha at Ink & Bean, but my neck had other ideas. On the drive home, it began to stiffen like it was developing a bad case of rigor mortis. I continued on my path to Ink & Bean in quiet defiance to the pain that was growing by the moment. 

I can't deny there was relief mixed with disappointment when all the parking spots on the street where Ink & Bean is located were taken. Yes, there was a parking garage nearby, but there was no way I could put my body through the extra walk. Lack of front row parking was the sign I needed to say I tried and keep on driving home. 

By the time I arrived at the house, the pain was so great, I couldn't move my head without hiding my distress. Tired of going from 60 (30 really) to zero in less than minute, my tear flowed. If it weren't for the loving, kindness of my mom and Brie, I would have fallen into a mass of wallowing self-pity. 

Mom tended to my needs, getting me my pain meds (which by the way did NOTHING to relieve the pain), water, a blanket, the heating pad and serving me dinner, as I took refuge on my recliner, trying my best not to move my head.

Brie took off where mom left off, getting me Ginger Ale for my nausea and my things from upstairs since I determined that it would be best for my neck to sleep on my recliner and telling me to text her if I needed anything as she went up to bed. As I slowly put my pajamas on, I tried not to think about what would happen if I didn't feel any better in the morning. 

While the pain meds didn't do anything for the pain, they did make me drowsy enough to sleep most of the night. I woke up a few times. Once to take more pain meds, once to the feeling that an earthquake had just passed (it had, a 4.4 centered in Fontana, at around 1:30pm) and a few times to check the clock so I could count how many hours I had left to sleep. 

I awoke to the alarm at 6:00am, slowly moving my head, first to the left and then to the right. While I didn't have a lot of flexibility, I wasn't gasping in pain either. I got up from my recliner, still no gasping, my hope began to grow. By 7:05am, I was in my car, pulling out of the driveway, my confidence growing that I would make it in time for my 9:00am meeting. 

I had planned to head home after 11am when the meeting had ended, but there was no burning need. It was 1pm before I realized that I wasn't feeling any of the discomfort I had felt the day before. My mind was in the game so I worked through lunch with the thought that perhaps I could get out of the office at 3pm and stop at Ink & Bean.

I love it when a plan works out. I love it too, that healing came so quickly. I praise God for the day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Day After, The Day After Christmas

On the Friday after Christmas, we gathered at my dad's to celebrate Christmas with him. We don't do this every year, mostly years that Vic and/or Eliz are in town.

Before we went to dad's, I took any takers to Dripp since it's only ten minutes from his house.

I tried the Turkish Latte…blech! It was the most horrible coffee drink EVER!

It was the first time I ever sat upstairs. Up to this time, I had never even ventured into that section.

It allowed me the opportunity to get a few shots with a different point of view.

We had a fun time at dad's. It was odd having a gaggle of little ones again.

Max was exceptionally cute. He found a little flower that he went around giving and then taking back from all grownups. First he gave it to Aunt Sharonda, then asked for it back so he could give it to his mom. At least he was polite about it, telling Aunt Sharonda, "I'm sorry". He even gave it to Uncle Greg.

After a delicious Italian meal, some time just hanging around together, there were a number of scrumptious desserts to enjoy.

Then we got down to business exchanging presents. Aurora was given the first gift to open and Max excitedly asked if there was a "big" present for him.

Somehow he lucked out and Great Grandpa pulled out a large wrapped box with Max's name on it. Max was beside himself with joy and even more so after he opened it up to find a set of five jumbo action heroes in there.

Nothing sweeter at Christmas time than the pure joy of a child.

Monday, January 6, 2014


I decided to pick a word for 2014…my one little word, which will require a lot from me. One that I pray I will live, breathe and act upon throughout the year. Serve.

I didn't debate a lot over the weekend as to whether to select a word or which of the three words I would select. It was decided the moment our interim pastor began to share his message on Sunday. It should have been my word last year. Instead I wasted a whole year.

Not to be dramatic, I don't even know how much time I have this year. But I want to try. I have to try.

The definition of serve is "to be a servant" or "to be of use". For me it means putting others first. It means doing the work of God. Not because I'm God, but because we're called to be his hands and feet, to act on his behalf.

Other than that I don't know what that means, what will be asked or required of me. It'll be interesting to find out.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jan 5 - Five Years Ago

On this day in the year 2009, my life changed forever. A routine doctor's appointment that began with a mammogram ended with a visit to the radiology department where a ultrasound was performed after which I drove home with a fear unlike any I had ever had before. Thus began my journey of living with cancer.

Prior to that day, I had not been to the doctor for over ten years. I had not had a cold, a flu or any other malady necessitating a trip to the doctor's. Then in late October, early November, back pain began to plagued me. At first I thought it was due to the VW bug I bought in September. A two-door car, low to the ground was causing me to twist and turn in ways I didn't need to with my RAV-4, I reasoned. It made sense, at first, to me and my family.

But then even walking became hard, my right leg dragging in a way it never had before. Still, I kept waiting for the morning that I would wake up and pop out of bed like normal. As Christmas approached, Brie began to tell me that I needed to see a doctor. After spending Christmas day at my brother's in which getting up from the couch was hard to do, I finally agreed and scheduled my appointment. I agreed to get the mammogram first since I had not had one…ever. My appointment day was set for 3:30pm, Monday, January 5, 2009.

As the hour that I would need to leave work for my appointment approached, calls and emails came in waves and I gave serious thought about rescheduling the appointment. Knowing me, however, I felt it was now or never so I drove to the medical center at my prescribed time and as I turned into the parking lot, I took one more call from a co-worker.  We discussed an issue that seemed important at the time for a few minutes. Finally I had to apologize, telling him I had to go because I had a doctor's appointment. My stomach was knotting up for some reason and I just wanted to get inside and get the appointment over with so I could get on with my life.

The mammogram started off routinely. I was sent to a little waiting room, given a gown to change into, and a hospital bag in which to put the clothes I was instructed to take off. One woman sat in the waiting room ahead of me, her name called shortly after I sat down and a short time later, she returned, looking no worse for wear. A few minutes later, it was my name was called.

I stood in front of the machine, following the technician's instructions as she adjusted the machine. She would then go to another room take the pictures, come back and do the same thing, but other breast. After which, I was told I could leave. I think I made it back to the little waiting room when the technician came back telling me that they wanted to take a few more pictures.

This time the machine was merciless, pressing hard against my breast until I thought they would surely pop like a balloon. Another technician appeared and through the glass window, I could see the two of them talking, then one would come out, make an adjustment and go back for another picture, each adjustment grew more excruciating and by the time they were finished, I was unable to hold back my tears. The technician was kind, talking to me in a gentle, soothing voice, apologizing each time for the pain she knew she was about to inflict.

As I walked back to the waiting room for a second time, I was told to change back to my clothes, but to wait for final instructions. I gingerly put my bra and top on, my wounded body already aching. I was shivering with fear as I obediently sat on a chair, waiting for the unknown. The technician came out and kindly, but in a no-nonsense voice, told me that there was concern and I needed to go to another facility for an ultra-sound…now.

I walked numbly to my car and drove to the other facility, on top of my fear, I was hungry, having worked through lunch. Less than an hour after leaving one medical center, I was at another, waiting to check into the radiology department. This waiting room was filled with patients. Time crawled. Fear and hunger alternately took turns taunting me. My cellphone would ring in steady intervals, my dear sister calling to find out how my doctor appointment went. I didn't answer for fear of crying. I didn't  know what to tell her. This would likely turn out to be nothing and I didn't want her to worry needlessly.

Finally, my name was called. I was given another gown, again with instructions to take off all my clothes waist up. This time, I went into a little dark room where I was to lay in a narrow hospital like bed. Like the mammogram technician, the ultrasound technician was kind and gentle, but my body, having already been assaulted, didn't want to take much more. As she gently pushed and prodded my breast with her little hand-held device, I flinched and stiffened throughout the process.

Finally, after I thought I could take no more, it was over. Thoughts scrambled throughout my head. I was told that I should get a call within a week with the results. I resolved that I would say nothing to my family until then. There wasn't anything anyone could do anyway. As I made my way back to the parking structure, my phone rang again. It was Eliz, again. I paused for a moment as I debated whether to take the call. My finger decided for me, pressing the answer button.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Remembering Christmas

This has to be one of my most favorite Christmas's in recent memory. There was the magic of children's laughter in the air, I awoke on Christmas morning with both my children in the house and the number of loved ones surrounding us grew until the house was bursting at the seams.

Christmas Eve, as usual, starts with a few family members gathered around at my grandmother's gravesite to catch up on our lives and reflect on how God is working in them. It's one of my most favorite traditions. I was happy to see my cousins there. They had lost their father exactly a year ago so they arrived early to spend some time at his gravesite with their mom before meeting us at grandma's.

Greg and his family stopped by on Christmas Eve for a few hours so we were able to spend some time with them before the festivities ratcheted up. My nephews have such personality and character. I enjoy being with them immensely.

JJ surprised me with a giant print of his gorgeous photo "Two Trees". I cried because of the reason he told me he was giving it to me and I asked him to write about the photo on the back of the frame and to sign the print.

He is so sweet and I am so blessed.

I somehow managed to bake a batch of Matthew's favorite cookies…Mexican Teacakes…as he has asked for them for several years now. He rewarded with me with that special smile he has when he's especially happy and by popping several in his mouth within moments upon his arrival. No matter his age, he still has his mommy's heart.

Matt and Ash arrived in plenty of time before the 11pm Candlelight service, my other most favorite tradition. Mom graciously offered to watch the little ones so I could attend the service with everyone.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without singing Silent Night in a darkened church with the glow of candlelight warming the room as the clock strikes midnight. I could give up the tree, the lights, the decorations, the presents, but I couldn't give up the candlelight service.

Shortly after 6am on Christmas morning, I awoke to the calls of Max and Rori from the bedroom across mine. I jumped hobbled excitedly out of bed and got them from their room. The house was still quiet and dark. Too little to know it was Christmas morning, they climbed down the stairs like any other morning in which they have spent the night, but upon seeing the lights on the tree and around the fireplace, Max suddenly understood.

First he wanted to wake Aunt "Bee". We walked back up the stairs to her room and he went up to her bed and said in his sweet little three-year old voice, "Merry Christmas Aunt Bee". There was no movement, no response, nothing. He walked back towards the door where Rori and I were standing, threw his hands up in the air and said "Maybe I say Merry Christmas louder".

"Yes," I responded, laughing inside, "say it louder".

He walked back to her bed and said in a louder voice, "Merry Christmas Aunt Bee". We waited for a moment and the she silently turned over, her back towards little Max. "Say it louder", I told Max. So he did and this time, she sat up, a smile of love and excitement on her face as she opened her arms for a hug from the little guy she loves so much.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hello 2014

It's been chaotic the last ten days. Not every second of the day, but for parts of each day, as we've been surrounded by family since Christmas Eve.

December always seems to slip between my fingers. This December was no different. I start off with good intentions. I want to have the house decorated with something new I create, make everything comfy, cozy and pretty. This year I felt lucky to have lights on the tree and the stockings hung on the fireplace. I was able to find contentment in what I was able to do.

I had hoped to blog on the last day of December and, again, on the first day of the New Year, but instead I was out enjoying life which is a better thing to do. On New Year's Eve, I took my brother and sister-in-law to the Pie Hole, continuing my quest to take everyone I love there.

Then, on New Year's day, we found ourselves at Laguna Beach, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. I was smart enough to swallow my pride and take my walker which allowed me to walk along side of them without too much discomfort.

Although 2014 holds much uncertainty, I must say, the first three days have been keepers in my book. Then, again, anytime I wake up in a warm bed in a house full of love I should be filled with thanks.

I've been wrestling with 2014 resolutions and whether or not to select a one word. I had decided this last week to forgo the latter. After all, I didn't do a good job living by the one I selected last year. How could I? I don't even remember what it was. How pathetic is that? It made me think that I didn't want to be a bandwagoner and select one just because others are doing it. But then I read a few blogs that made me feel inspired to rethink my position and a few words began to take root in my heart. I'm giving myself until the weekend to decide what I want to do.