Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Over at Stuart's blog, he ponders whether there is actually a point to New Year's Eve celebrations. I think that there is. This has been a struggling kind of year for me, personally. Difficulties on the job led me to doubt myself, and my place there, a real point of grief because I loved my job. After reporting to a grueling and stressful third shift job for years because it was financing college educations for my children, simply enjoying my job was a luxury. I discovered I had cancer. Tim's company went belly-up, leaving us without insurance. We have always been careful with money, but now 'being careful with money' is an understatement.
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Yet we will still be celebrating the New Year tonight. We will not be in Times Square with Dylan and Cara but we will be at home, quietly counting down the final moments to 2008. The year has been a milestone, in many ways. We've grown. We've found out who our friends are. (Heartbreakingly, we've also found out who are not.) We've been blessed in these dark times, and we are grateful for those blessings.
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All over the world, people will be bringing in the new year. Some people will be looking back at 2008 and toasting the successes of the year that was. Other people will be looking ahead to 2009 and saying, 'This year will surely be better'. You have your good years, you have your bad years. You put all of those years together and you have your life. Today is the day that we have arbitrarily decided ends one year and begins another. It is a time to take stock. It is a time to look forward. It is a chance to look at your life, and resolve to make changes. It is a new beginning. It is an end. It is a day of note.
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As for me and my house, we will celebrate it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Warning.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Conversation

So the kids and Tim and I were sitting around the table reminiscing. Dylan was marveling over what a good boy he had been. just the best kid ever. I reminded him of the time that I saw a Camaro tearing out of the country club (where he worked) to do a donut down the road in a deserted grocery store parking lot.
Having failed to notice his mother two cars back.
Dylan grinned a little, and tells me, 'if you knew half the stuff I did in that car...' I stared right back, and said, 'Stop talking, son. I remember the time I went with you to help you find the Employment Center in Jamestown. You were in there for quite a while, so I cleaned out that car. I found handfuls of change on the floor of the back seat, so I went to put them in your change holder, and found a box of condoms.'
Dylan: 'You should have been proud of my responsibility...'
even as Cara made gagging sounds.
'In this family,' she proclaimed, 'none of us have had sex.
Even Mom and Tim.'

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Road to Hell is Paved with Velveeta

Okay. I cooked the remainder of the Christmas ham off the bone by simmering it in a crock pot over night. Then I chopped that meat fine and added about 5 lbs of chopped potatoes, a stick of butter and simmered everything together until the potatoes were done. For good measure, I added a quart of half and half. The only seasoning I use is black pepper and a little dill weed. The real sinning begins with the final step, though. I added 1 lb of Velveeta cheese. Lest you chide me, the recipe actually calls for the entire 2 lb box. I, my friends, have self control.
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This cholestrol laden soup is probably a heart attack in a bowl.
*sigh*
Do you have a recipe that makes you feel guilty?
I still have a pound of Velveeta cheese to get rid of.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

This Christmas was different than most. Because I am sick, I had to choose my activities. I simply couldn't do them all. I had to choose what was important. I had to prioritize carefully.
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Because money was tight, we had to be careful about shopping, choosing the gifts that we thought would inspire the most delight.
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The meal was simple and easy, but included everyone's favorites.
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Despite all my worrying about Christmas cookies, between my own baking, and the cookies that Mary and my sister dropped off, I ended up with so many cookies that I bagged about half of them and put them in the freezer the day after Christmas.
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Christmas Eve I had chemo. A preschool group had made gift bags for everyone. Hand lotion, lip balm, candy, even four new little ornaments for our tree. All my Christmas ornaments have a memory. I couldn't bring myself to put those little ornaments on my tree this year, but when I pack my ornaments away this year, you can bet that I will carefully pack these new ones in with the old.
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This year, Christmas was different, and I did a lot of fretting about it. Next year, however, this Christmas will be a memory. It will be remembered as the year that we all drew close, the year that the only thing that mattered were the important things...God, love, giving, friends, and family. Next year, I will hang those little ornaments, and I will smile, remembering the Christmas of 2008. I will smile because it was perfect.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

This is our Christmas tree. I tried to take pictures of most of the ornaments, but couldn't, which disproves Bush Babe recent post on photography. But anyways, I've got handmade ornaments from my godparents, given to me when I was a teenager. Beaded ornaments that my grandmother made, and so people who are no longer with us are remembered as we decorate our tree. There are ornaments that the kids made in school. This is Dylan's baby shoe. There are two more baby shoes in my tree. Children long grown are remembered as I decorate my tree. Ornaments I received while I was in the service, people who have faded into memories. Ornaments from friends that I can call in a minute to say I love them. The kids are Irish, so there are Celtic ornaments.
Dixie sent me an ornament from the 'White House' collection every year when she worked in Washington DC. I also have a nice collection of bird ornaments from Tim. He knows that I love birds, and he loves me. There are also ornaments for Tim from me. Hearts. Baby's first Christmas ornaments. Ornaments that we bought for the kids each year, and hung on the tree. Some day, when they are ready to put up their own trees, these ornaments will be taken from our collection, and passed to them. Thus, their trees will be decorated with memories from the very first year. This ornament is older than I am. It is from my parents' first Christmas as a married couple, back in 1956, and it has hung on every tree that I can remember.
When Tim and I first married, he only had a very tiny tree. He didn't like the fuss and work of a big tree. This is our 12th Christmas. He's gotten so fond of big trees that he now rejects trees because they are too small.

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'Family' is not just a group of people. We are our shared memories. Every year, when we put up the tree, those memories are taken out and enjoyed.
I love Christmas.
I love my family.
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Merry Christmas, everyone. Make a memory!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Anticipation

Christmas is different when the kids are grown up. Not worse. Just different. Mostly what is missing is the anticipation. Little kids get excited about Christmas. By Christmas eve, they are about delirious with the excitement. Big kids...well...they don't get delirious about much, unless they've been drinking, and we don't encourage that here. Anyhow, I miss the anticipation. I used to do my share to ratchet that excitement level up a bit. I had my own memories of four children lumped together in one bed whispering excitedly in the dark hours of Christmas morning. We had to worry about waking my father, so we were especially quiet, but the anticipation was a big part of Christmas for me, and I wanted to my kids to have those same sorts of memories, so rule one of Christmas morning at our house was that the kids could not go downstairs until they heard the clock 'bong' six. So one of them (usually Brianna) would wake up and creep from room to room waking the others. They'd then all congregate in one bedroom and whisper until it was almost six. Then they'd slip down the hall past our bedroom and sit at the top of the stairs waiting for the keywound clock to wheeze as it did before it began to chime. And for this time, I'd lay in bed and smile to myself, thinking about my own Christmases past, thinking about Christmases yet-to-come when my own children would be laying in bed in the wee hours of Christmas remembering their own Christmases past.
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Yes. I was kind of a fanatic about Christmas excitement. Such a fanatic that if, by chance, the kids were not up by 5:30, I'd slip out of my own bed, and reach behind my door for the wrapping paper tube that I always left there. I'd crack my bedroom door, and the tube would slip through, and I'd bellow "HO HO HO!" By the time I got my own door shut, and sneaked back to my bed, the youngest kids were gasping 'Santa!' and scampering down the hall.
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This year, we will have 4 out of 5 home. Early Christmas morning, I can guarantee you that I'll be laying wide awake smiling in the dark. And for a fact, there will be a wrapping paper tube behind my bedroom door. I can also guarantee that I won't be yelling 'HO HO HO' through it. Grown-up kids grumble and swear when they hear Santa in the hall at 5:30 AM.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Every Child

They've positively identified the remains of the child found in Florida as the missing Caylee. She had been missing since June. The mother did not report the disappearance for five weeks. The skeletal remains give are no clues as to how she died. Her mother remains in prison, charged with murder. Things like this bother me. A lot.
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Thursday night, Tim and I went Christmas shopping. There was a little girl, maybe 4 years old, in the Sears store, dressed in her Cinderella gown, with golden slippers. I commented to the father as I passed, "I don't think they sell glass slippers here..." and the father looked up from where he was kneeling next to his little girl. He said, "She's already noticed that. This is a major fixation. She wants to wear her Halloween costume 24-7, and those gold slippers belong to her cousin and are about 3 sizes too big." I stopped with my bags and said, "Enjoy these days, because they go by more quickly then you can believe. Teenage fixations can be a pain in the butt." He laughed, we exchanged Merry Christmases, and I went. Not before pointing out to the little girl "OOOOOOoooh. These shoes sparkle...." and left the two of them to their important choice, two heads together. I saw them again later, in the center of the mall, the man walking hunched over as they earnestly talked.
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Because I am an emotional sap, I teared up. Every kid deserves that, don't you think?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good News

Do you want to hear something that makes me glad (and ashamed...)? We've been trying to sort out this insurance thing for so long. Turns out that, yes, an insurance company can tell you that you're covered for a month, but your insurance can be canceled retroactively, and with no warning at all. What we discovered is that since we live in Pennsylvania, Univera will not even offer an insurance plan for us, being a New York State insurance company. We were shocked and disappointed, but Cara, being Cara, called Adagio. I had their number and was waiting to see what our insurance company was going to do before calling. Cara couldn't wait. I signed the paperwork yesterday. I'm covered. This is an organization that I know nothing about, but any woman with a cancer diagnosis who has no insurance can be picked up by Adagio. It is 100% coverage for chemo, radiation, prescriptions, any doctor visits. Even dental and vision. There is no co-pay. It is free. I left their offices feeling like a ton had been lifted from my shoulders.
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Since we need to provide them with written proof that our insurance has been canceled, Tim called the secretary at his old job. She's working with Doug to close up shop for good. We had been assured by the company that we could buy insurance through Univera, and that employees would be offered COBRA. It was a big shock to us to find out that this was not true. The thing that makes me glad, but shouldn't, is that the owner and his top engineer, the ones that drove the company into the ground while assuring everyone that things would be fine, had planned on simply buying COBRA coverage until they retired in a few months. They both freaked out to discover that they can't. Apparently they did not know that when the fecal material hits the rotary oscillator, everyone gets splattered.
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This cancer thing has put a damper on the holiday. I'm so exhausted that I cannot find any joy in the normal holiday preparations. I'm glad the kids will be here. I'm glad the tree is up. Most of the presents bought, most of them wrapped. Simple dinner planned. I can just focus on baking a batch of cookies each day until the big day. Everything has become such a monumental effort that I've really begun to struggle. Yesterday, at the cancer center, I met with one of the hospice folks. I'm trying very hard to endure all of this with some amount of grace, but really, I have to say, I never expected it that it would take everything that I've got to do so.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Side Effects

Back in the beginning of this latest chapter, it amused me to no end that everytime I turned around, I had someone wanting to write me a prescription for Ativan. Here's the deal. I don't take a lot of medication. I'm not sure why, but I end up with side effects. For instance, one of the times I turned down Ativan, I did say that what I needed was something to help me sleep sometimes, that my mind seemed to slip into gear the minute I layed me down to sleep. I would get up in the morning exhausted and half sick. Everything seems much worse when you are tired, every ache, every pain. Molehills become mountains. So I asked for, and got, Ambien. And lo: it was good. For about two weeks. Then the stuff built up in my system. I got up one night, walked to the bathroom. I was not feeling well, but suddenly, at the stop of the stairwell, I got this overwhelming feeling that I was being sucked down the stairwell. I did a little shriek, hugged the wall, felt stupid, but by the morning, could not move my eyeballs, or turn my head without being so dizzy I nearly threw up. And I stayed on the ground floor far away from stairs. Back into the doctor, who gave me something for vertigo, and back home. Within 24 hours, I was markedly better, 36 hours back to normal. I made up my mind then that I should simply avoid whatever medication I could avoid, keep my system as 'pure' as possible, despite chemo, despite the pre-chemo cocktails to make sure that I don't throw up, despite the post-chemo drugs to make sure I don't throw up. It works pretty well. Although I am nauseous a lot, I don't throw up. I consider this bonus. One of the anti-emetics is Ativan, an anti-anxiety medicine. I'm supposed to take it every 8 hours. I simply don't. I'm not anxious, and the Emend and the compazine have taken care of the post chemo problems.
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The first six weeks went okay. This past week, I've discovered that I'm a bitch. Really awful. Everything annoys me. Noise. Christmas planning. (Bob B: Take note! This is not my normal nature.) I was sharpish with my family. I was weepy to the nth degree. Instead of looking at people in my church and thinking 'they don't know what to say' when they said unhelpful comments, it irritated me, although I managed to bite back the harsh words. I was perfectly awful, and could barely stand myself. I just felt jangly, for lack of a better word. Yesterday was the worst. Tim and I argued about the Christmas tree. I was being unreasonable. I knew it. I was trying to make myself stop, and couldn't. So I did the only reasonable thing. I fell all completely to pieces apologizing for myself. I also blew the dust off the Ativan bottle, and I began taking it every 8 hours just like the bottle said.
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I'm better today. I can already feel the difference. I've apologized to everyone. If any of my posts seemed out of charactor and extraordinarily 'whinging', I apologize to you as well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saying it Out Loud

I was talking to my friend Mary yesterday. As always, she asked me how I was doing. Everyone asks me that question. Usually, I respond with "Pretty good." If its a close friend, I might say "I'm tired a lot." But yesterday, my friend asked me how I was doing. I took a deep breath and I told her. "I'm so exhausted, I can hardly stand it. I haven't got any thing finished for Christmas, and I'm trying not to be stressed about that, but I am. I love Christmas. I love the preparations. This year, I can't get excited about them at all. I'm also tired of trying to figure out what to say to well meaning people who say things like 'you need to make sure that you're learning what God wants to teach you' (my immediate response, always choked back before the words are said: 'Why? If I don't, is God going to give me cancer again?) or the people who want to know why I haven't called.
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I told her that I was angry and impatient. Frustrated at Tim's job loss, and the shoddy treatment at the hands of his boss. Disappointed that things are, financially, so tight right at Christmas. Afraid to think about insurance. As far as we know, we still have it. Can an insurance company go back and cancel you retroactively? We don't know. COBRA is not offered when a company goes out of business. We did not have a clue about that.
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While I was baring my soul, I said, "I'm sick, Mary. I'm sick all the time, and really, I didn't expect that one, because I'm NEVER sick. I'm lonely because hardly anyone calls. I feel like a poor wife to my husband, a poor excuse for a mother, like everything is about me, and my routine, and my shots, and my appointments, etc." Finally, I stop talking, ashamed, and grab for a Kleenex.
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Mary quietly begins talking. She tells me that I need to be selfish. She reminds me that Tim's job loss does add stress to the situation. She comments that I need to stop saying "I'm fine" because she's known right along that I'm lying to her. And when she's done talking, I do feel better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry Christmas

funny pictures
more animals
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cat
more animals
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funny pictures
more animals
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funny pictures
more animals
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funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals
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funny pictures
more animals
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cat
more animals
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Well, I'm getting ready for Christmas, but am not there yet. Since we use a live tree that has not been cut yet, we are not yet ready for the Christmas blog tour. We're getting to it, we're getting to it! I will post pictures then.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Energized

Cara has whizzed in from school, and from finals. I am exhausted, but I don't want to miss a visit with her, so we bake spice cookies today. She tells me about her adventures. Her classes, and her teachers. The girls in her dorm...'L' who is so comfortable with herself that she mooned the RA in the lobby. The girl who goes to bed at 8. Allie, the friend who saran wrapped her door, meaning that Cara woke up and opened her door and found herself trapped inside her room by a duct taped clear wall of saran wrap. About tight-wad girl who always 'forgets' money, although her parents deposit money in an account for her every month. The girl then waits to see who will volunteer to buy her meal or her drink or whatever. We laugh and we bake, and I listen.
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Cara has plans for her month off. She's going to Michigan to see her grandfather. She's back here for Christmas, and then she's hopping a college-sponsored bus to New York City with friends, to do New Year's Eve in Times Square. She'll bunk in with her brother, and he'll go into town with her and her friends. She is determined that I should be able to see them all on television. Then she's back here for a while, and then back to college, where she's hopping another bus to go to Washington, DC for Barack Obama's inauguration.
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Geoff is having some problems with her independence. She has explained to him that she's young, and she wants to see these things. She's explained that they are dating, but that she doesn't want it to be anything more than that, not right now, that she wants to live, and to experience, to savor the college years. Geoff is not happy. Cara says, matter of factly, 'It won't work. He's a nice person, but I'm not going to be happy if I just stay home and date Geoff. He's not going to be happy unless I do. I'm going to break it off now.'
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I look at this girl, and I think that I was never so independent as she is. She is a breath of fresh air, strong, beautiful, sure in her own spirit, ready for whatever adventure awaits. I feel my own exhaustion slipping away a bit, as I drink in the energy of my youngest daughter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seeing

Everytime that you go to the Cancer Center for treatment, you get a medical bracelet. Every time that they do a treatment, they check that bracelet, and ask you to verify your information. It is how they make sure, 100% that there are no errors in medication. I watched an elderly woman throw a fit about her bracelet. Refused it. They finally brought it out to her in the waiting room and told her that she had to carry it, at least. It's interesting, the little slices of life that you see played out in the waiting room there. I watched this woman, angry and uncooperative, and I thought, in the great scheme of things, what a stupid thing to make an issue of. I think we need to pick our battles carefully. I'm fighting cancer.
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It amazes me to see the number of people that come into the Cancer Center reeking of cigarettes. I used to smoke. Seeing my dad die of cancer was a powerful motivation to quit. I did. I can't understand how people can get a diagnosis of cancer and not lose the desire to smoke. How can people love themselves so little that they cannot fight to win back their health?
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It's a real mixed bag of people in the Cancer Center. You see very sick people with a genuine joy about them. You see people seething with rage. You see people sitting docile. You see people that do not love themselves. You see people still dealing with the shock of the diagnosis. You see people who have walked this path several times already. You see people who have realized the importance of love, and living in the minute.
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I wonder what they see when they look at me.

Christmas Tour.

Muse Swings, Stevie Wren, and Lavinia have put their larcenous heads together yet again. You will not understand this comment unless you've been on one of their 'tours' before. It's a chance to view Christmas celebrations in your blog friends' homes. I will not have my tree up, probably. We do that much closer to Christmas as we use a live one, but I will participate. See you then.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Laughs

My doctor is wonderful. Once, when I couldn't afford an operation, he touched up the x-rays.
Joey Bishop
*****
Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
Ronald Reagan
*****
I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
*****
If you look like your passport photo, you're too ill to travel.
Will Kommen
*****
Insanity doesn't run in my family. It gallops.
Cary Grant
*****
Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work.
Robert Orben
*****
Misers aren't fun to live with, but they make wonderful ancestors.
David Brenner
*****
My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I've finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
Dave Barry
*****
I'm not going to vacuum ‘til Sears makes one you can ride on.
Roseanne Barr
*****
To attract men, I wear a perfume called New Car Interior.
Rita Rudner
*****
If you love something, set it free. Unless it's chocolate.
Never release chocolate.
Renee Duvall
*****
The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
Calvin Trillin
*****
I haven't spoken to my wife in years. I didn't want to interrupt her.
Rodney Dangerfield
*****
My grandmother was a very tough woman. She buried three husbands and two of them were just napping.
Rita Rudner
*****
My husband wanted one of those big-screen TV's for his birthday. So I just moved his chair closer to the one we have already.
Wendy Liebman
*****
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams
*****
I have an aunt who married so late in life that Medicare picked up 80 percent of the honeymoon.
Don Reber
*****
I hate housework - you make the beds, you do the dishes - and six months later you have to start all over again.
Joan Rivers
*****
My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle. Henny Youngman
*****
Inside me there's a thin person struggling to get out, but I can usually sedate him with four or five cupcakes.
Bob Thaves
*****

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Disappoint

There is an elderly lady I know who has been very sick for a very long time, and she has been close to death several times, but always lives to see another day. She never hesitates to give God the glory on Sundays. She's actually quite a marvel, I suppose. Today, when I walked into the Cancer Center, she was there, and she asked me how the chemo was going. I said, "Pretty well, actually." And she fixed me with a look, and she said, "I don't believe you."
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I did not know how to respond to this. Mostly, I think I am doing pretty well with chemo. I mean, I will never consider this a highlight of my life, but I think that I am confronting the challenges well, learning the lessons, seeing the blessings. There are the bad days, but no sense in dwelling on them. I do not want to talk about feeling like crap. I do not want to talk about exhaustion, and blood levels, and shots every day. I know that I look haggard. She stares intently at me, waiting. I fidget a little, and I repeat, "No really, I'm doing good, I think." Disappointed, she turns to another elderly lady, who regales her with the story of her latest hospitalization.

Courage

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/06/AR2008120602289_4.html?wpisrc=newsletter

This is courage.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Energy, or Lack Thereof

It's been a long weekend. I dealt with low blood counts before, just a little, but this time my white blood count dropped very low. I'm exhausted. For the first time, putting together a post seems like way too much effort. Yesterday, I took both a morning and an afternoon nap.
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Life swirls on around me. Brianna got a job. Tim got a deer. Mike came up and went hunting and got both a nice buck and a nice doe. The Christmas season goes on without me. My world has narrowed to this: sleeping, slogging down for a daily neupogen shot, pushing myself to get through the day. I am trying to be graceful about it. I'm reading a great book, 'The People of the Whale', by Linda Hogan. I'm trying to be as productive as I can be while accepting these new limits on my own energy. I'm trying to use this time for praying.
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It just feels as if my life has become very self centered.
It makes me ashamed.
I keep reminding myself that it is temporary.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What a Wonderful World.



I can do a very nice shadow bunny.

*sigh*

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Poker


I'm almost completely bald now, wearing my wig. It's a bit lighter than I'm used to. I'm making my peace with it. It is what it is. That's all.
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Cancer is a strange reality. Bush Babe wrote a very nice post on courage yesterday. She included me. It actually surprised me. It's not that I don't realize that I possess courage. I do. I know that thing about myself. But cancer is a little different. I woke up one morning and began my day like any other day. Before the end of the day, I'd found a large lump and things haven't been the same since. I believe that I've simply been playing the hand that I've been dealt the very best way that I know how.
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This is not to say that I've dealt with it perfectly.
Cripes.
I have cried a great deal in the last couple months. But also, I have laughed a great deal. I've been afraid in the dark, and I've gloried in the day. I've found myself more patient, but on the same token, I've been able to separate the wheat from the chaff in a way that's never happened before. I've taken a look at troublesome relationships, and decided that I really can't deal with these things now, and told the people so. Distancing myself from drama is probably one of the greatest gifts I've done for myself. Tim and I have drawn closer. The kids have rallied beautifully. This is a hard time, but truly, I have never been more blessed.
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Is this courage? I still cannot say that I see it that way. Everywhere, all over this world, people get up in the morning and resolutely play the hand that life has dealt them. I'm no different. This time around, I got dealt some pretty sucky cards, but I'm still in the game.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jobless in the USA

The owner of Tim's company called Monday morning to tell the guys not to come in. He rents shop space, and has not paid the rent. The landlord padlocked the shop up over the weekend.
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Tim's outraged about a lot of things. Ranking high on that list is the fact that he's got a couple thousand dollars worth of machinist tools in a 'roll-around' that are now locked up where he can't get to them. Machinist provide many of their own tools, and they take years to amass their collections. Some of his tools are handmade, things that he invented as he problem solved jobs that he has done. These tools are his livelihood. Each machinist at this shop is in the same situation.
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Tim came in early from hunting to drop off his resume at another company. If he gets this job, he won't be able to start until he can retrieve those tools. The rich men will argue, and like as not, the legal system will grind along at a snail's pace. The company president had promised to call everyone by 5 today, to let them know what is going on. He hasn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Encouraging

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Yesterday, a reader called me. She just finished chemo, started her radiation. She wanted to be an encourager. WAS SHE EVER!!!! After comparing chemotherapies, she gave me very encouraging words. For instance, I've been hopeful that my hair would begin growing back by my 52nd birthday in May. Mary told me that hers began to come back after she finished the first half of chemo. It appears that the second round of chemo does not affect your hair so badly. I was glad to hear that, and did the mental calculations...I will be finished with my first half of chemo at the end of this month. It was a bit of a jolt to realize that.
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She also told me that the second half of chemo was a piece of cake compared to the first half. That was darned encouraging. She says she remembers saying at the half way point, "You know, I just don't want to do this again," and then the therapies changed, and suddenly, everything was bearable again. I personally think that I've been doing okay with the chemo. I feel like crap for the first 12 hours, and then I start getting better. I haven't had a recurrence of the horrible headache, and am optimistic. Hearing that this is as bad as it's likely going to get is happy news.
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She told me that, in her experience, she found this to be 100% true: she had been warned how exhausting radiation therapy was, how it just sapped your strength. She was dreading her daily radiation. She realized that every single person that told her that had had radiation only. People who had had both chemo and radiation therapy invariably told her that radiation was a breeze compared to chemo.
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We both shared stories about how wonderful people have been. We laughed about eyebrows and eyelashes, scars, and the surprise of dealing with such a thing at our ages (she's 6 years younger than I am). We talked for a long time, and I have to tell you when I hung up that phone, my outlook had become much, much brighter, even though I didn't consider myself especially disheartened before I picked it up. I carefully wrote down her number from the caller ID, and I put in the rolodex. It's very reassuring to have that kind of positive energy waiting to be tapped into if you need it.

Kids

Dylan's headed back to Allentown, and Cara's headed back to Clarion. It was a nice time having everyone at home. Thanksgiving night we sat up until after 1 AM reminiscing. I discovered that ignorance really is bliss. Turns out that Dylan and Cara were a lot more 'mischievious' in school than I ever heard about. It was a funny sort of bad though, and they all made me laugh. I really do have the funniest kids ever.
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They were still laughing at the rememberings after I went upstairs to bed. It just felt so normal to hear them going on, and I enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of their muffled laughter.
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The next morning, they all slept in late. I set the livingroom back to rights. I was a little taken aback to see a box of tissues from the bathroom sitting on the coffee table. I put them back. When my kids got up, I asked no questions. I'm glad that they have each other.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dumbstruck

Someone told my daughter 'If your mother's faith is as strong as she thinks it is, she'll survive her cancer.' I was dumbstruck by this. 'If your mother's faith is as strong as she thinks it is...' The beginning of that sentence implies that
a) the person is not as convinced of my faith as I am,
b) that my children should not take much comfort in the fact that I'm trying to be upbeat and faithfilled during this time, and
c) that our God is a score-keeping God.
My faith is NOT perfect, and you have never heard me claim otherwise. My faith is this tattered, battered thing that I keep running up the flagpole anyways. That faith is always growing, but believe me, I'm not 'there' yet. I am acutely aware of this.
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I think of all the people I know who did not survive cancer. Positive attitude can go a long way. In the end, however, there are people of enormous faith who die of cancer. Moreover, they die with their faith intact.
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I think of all the people who don't believe in God. Hearing these sorts of words from 'Godly people' is not an encouragement, and feeds into the stereotype of the 'judgemental Christian' that so turns them off.
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I think of the dark times when I struggle. God and I do argue.
We get over it.
I thought so anyways.
Unless He's measuring my faith, found it lacking, and has already consigned me to the 'will not survive cancer' column.
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I think about Jars of Clay, and their song 'Good Monsters'.
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Mostly, I think that some people should just shut up.