Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Stevie, my dear, if you wander about with these two, your brain will turn to mush. You need neither Dr. West tender ministerings nor Lavinia's madcap chaos, which will result in even more stress. My suggestion to you is to watch 'Shall We Dance' whilst drinking a good wine. Doodle cute little pictures of Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. When the movie is over, you should be staggering just a little. Go to bed, and sleep soundly. Wake up tomorrow morning, and call in sick at work. Go back to bed, sleep as long as you like. Take a long bubble bath, while listening to your favorite music. Make dinner arrangements, meeting with as many friends as you can gather. to regale each other with ridiculous stories. Laugh until you cry, doodling your friends' charicatures for them on napkins. Go home only when you can laugh no more, when your urge to draw has been completely satisfied, when you have received a hug from all involved, and when (and only when) your wonderful joie de vivre has returned to you.
I will check in tomorrow.
As I knead the dough, I think about it. I wonder how many times I have made these. If you were to ask the kids, they would answer "Not enough." I have made them all through their childhoods. Pepperoni rolls were rewards for good report cards, and pepperoni rolls were birthday fare. Pepperoni rolls provided comfort during hard times. They made tears stop. Later, a batch of them sent along where ever my children were headed provided a bit of home, a reminder that their mother loves them, a bit of familiarity amidst the unfamiliar.
I knead the dough as I gaze out the window, thinking. I have no children at home now, but I've been making a lot of pepperoni rolls lately, for the children who do not live here. It makes me feel better. I'm providing a bit of home. I am reminding myself that my children love me. It is a bit of familiarity in the midst of this new, unfamiliar way of life.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I have removed the mustard stain from your Clarion hoodie.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
This morning, when we woke up, it was gray and rainy. Yesterday, we did six hours of home insulation work at one of the houses. That, added to the restless night made us both lazy and not inclined to get up. This morning, we did something that we have never done before. Both of us simply 'skipped' church. We slept in, we had a leisurely breakfast in bed, we talked for a couple hours. When we finally did get up, I was in the mood to cook. I made a pot of seafood gumbo. Tim's never had it before. He looked at the okra doubtfully. "I don't know if I like seafood gumbo," he said. I'd heard this before. When we met, he'd never had cottage cheese with peaches in it before. He poked at it doubtfully, but after trying it, he liked it very much. He claims that he'd never eaten zucchini and he didn't think that he would like that, either, but I stuffed one, and he was hooked. Zucchini is one of his favorite vegetables, next to asparagus, which he was pretty sure he didn't like either, but changed his mind when I made it for Easter once. The list goes on and on. So I made the gumbo anyway.
It was a quiet day. It seemed short, because we had gotten up so late. It was just Tim and I, talking, watching the birds outside, the squirrels. We moved leisurely and companionably through our day. Good smells wafted through the house from my little kitchen. Today was just for us. I reveled in the comfort of marriage and good food and good conversation.
Oh, and it turns out that Tim likes seafood gumbo after all.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Anyways, your odds of winning are pretty good at this point. Go people! Go now!
I thought about things as my heels clicked across the parking lot, my long red wool coat turned up around my neck against the cold. I looked at the stars as Tim walked beside me. I really wonder how I will look back on this time. Years from now, I wonder what I will say when people talk about cancer. Viewed from the future, looking back, it takes on a hopeful perspective.
By that time, other people started coming in. I talked to T-----, a woman that went to school with Tim. She is younger than he is, but shockingly, looks 10 years older. She is a quiet woman too. She sits and shivers with her mom. Our church provided her with a prayer shawl to wrap herself in during treatments. She had seen mine, and loved it so. Another woman came in and I complimented her on her regrown hair. She never wore a wig. I tell her that I thought she was the bravest of us all, to face the world with her bald head, and not mind in the least. She said that she did mind, but couldn't wear her wig, that it irritated her tender scalp something awful. She had no choice.
We talked about that too. An elderly woman had come in as we were talking and was listening with great interest but saying nothing. Our nurse friend is having chemo and daily radiation simultaneously. We all mulled that over. I said that I was not sure that I could have handled both at the same time. Even as I said it, I knew that was wrong. I spoke again, and the elderly woman chimed in...we spoke almost in unison. "No. That is not right. You just deal with it because you don't have a choice."
One nurse. A mother and her daughter. A woman with newly grown hair. An elderly woman. Me. We sat there in the quiet of the morning waiting room, united by our experiences, recognizing the truth of the situation. What can't be changed must be endured.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Something you do that is unusual or unique.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
This meant everything looked nice as long as you didn't go poking around in drawers or closets.
Also I don't think that Uncle Fester shaved his legs.
I've been praying for hair. I got it. On my legs.
I'm actually a little surprised at how soul satisfying it is to be chucking stuff and cleaning. Tim even has supper waiting on the table when he gets home from work. In 11 years of marriage, that has seldom happened with both of us working.
Maybe I'd have made a good '50s housewife after all.June Cleaver and Lucy never had to worry about Wally, the Beav, and Little Ricky coming home with tattoos. Oh. And June and Lucy had hair. Not being ungrateful, Lord. Just saying.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I cannot get over how much stronger and better I feel each and every day. I don't think that I fully grasped the term 'chemo brain' until now. I find myself looking back at this winter and realizing that it really passed me by in a fog of exhaustion and emotions, drugs, pushing myself, trying to cope. Each day, my thought processes clear a bit more, and, physically, I can push a little farther than I did before. I realized yesterday that I was trotting across the parking lot to the Cancer Center. Without realizing it, my body has begun to fall back into its old rhythms and habits. I've always walked at a fast clip, a 'farmer's walk' as it is phrased here.
Yesterday, while I lay on the table and a big machine whirled and buzzed above me, the piped-in 'oldies station' played 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' and, suddenly, I was someone else, younger, long hair flying, sure of everything, too young, too busy to be thinking of cancer.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I've been thinking about it a lot. Life is beginning to go back to normal. Tim is working again. I will be returning to work soon. Cancer treatment has gone from a long drawn out thing with plenty of side effects to a short procedure that seems to have (knock wood) no side effects at all. I suppose that it is too early to say that I've beat it. I imagine that there will be tests to verify that the cancer is gone, that it hasn't spread, etc. In my mind, though, I feel like the battle has turned in my favor.
I plan to be part of our Relay for Life. I also think of my friends Mary (Mary, the childhood friend and Mary, the new friend who's also dealing with breast cancer), and know that the most important thing that I can do is to be a Mary to someone else who is starting down the same scary path. I've met people, though, who have taken on the identity of 'cancer survivor'. That is what they are. If you asked them to describe themselves, it would be the first thing that they say about themselves. It is a banner of triumph that they wrap themselves in, and well they should; cancer is not the easiest walk in the world. I just don't ever see it becoming the most important chapter of my life. I can't imagine that it will ever be 'the' defining thing about me. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a sister. I am a friend. I believe in God. I am a hard worker. I am funny. I am responsible. Oh, and yes, I had cancer.
I suppose that the daily dose of tamoxifen will remind me that I had cancer. While the scars have faded remarkably, my mishapen breast will remind me of this time as well. My life will return to normal, but the new 'normal' will include reminders of this time. It is an important chapter of my life, and I firmly believe that it was a chapter that I was meant to learn from. I'm also meant to use this chapter to reach out to others. Life is about balance, though. In a few months, when you ask me about myself, I will again list the things about myself: "Well, I'm a mom, and I'm a wife. I am a good friend. I believe in God. I am a hard worker. I love to laugh, and I am responsible." As I tick off a description of myself, I may get to the part about cancer. Maybe I won't. Cancer will never become my identity. It will merely be a chapter in my life.
Unless (God forbid) it comes back.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
All six boarded the train where the three Yankees sat down,but the three Cajuns crammed into a restroom together and closed the door.Shortly after the train departed, the conductor came around to collect tickets. He knocked on the restroom door and said, "Ticket, please."The door opened just a crack and a single arm emerged with a ticket in hand. The conductor took it and moved on.
The Yankees saw this happen and agreed it was quite a clever idea. Indeed, it was so clever that they decided to do the same thing on the return trip and save some money.That afternoon when they got back to the station, they bought a single ticket for the return trip and watched while, to their astonishment, the three Cajuns didn't buy even one ticket."How are you going to travel without a ticket?" asked one of the perplexed Yankees."Watch and learn," answered the three Cajun boys in unison. When they boarded the train, the three Northerners crammed themselves into one restroom and the three Cajuns crammed into another one just down the way. Shortly after the train began to move, one of the Cajuns left their restroom and walked over to the one in which the Yankees were hiding. The Cajun knocked on the door and said, "Ticket, please."
There's just no way on God's green earth to explain how the Yankees won that war.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tim had his work physical. It was a two hour drive so I went with him. The appointment was long too. We allowed ourselves extra time because of the heavy rains (flooding in some areas), and were shocked to discover that the 4:45 appointment time given to us by the company was wrong. His appointment was actually at 5:30. The appointment itself took an hour and a half. There was a lot of reading time there. Unfortunately, I had not brought a book. I flipped through some old magazines while I waited.
After the physical was done, we stopped for a bite to eat, and headed the two hours back home. It was pouring and dark and New York State's roads were rife with potholes, a sign of our poor economy. It used to be just the opposite: you could tell when you hit the New York State line even without the sign, because Pennsylvania's roads were bad, theirs well maintained. So we bumped and rattled along, the rain and the fog making it very hard to see what was ahead of us. The radio faded in and out but just as we entered the Seneca Nation, an oldies station came through clearly. We listened to Harry Chapin sing 'Taxi'. I sang along ('another man might have been angry, another man might have been hurt. Another man never would have let her go. I stuffed the bill in my shirt....' ) It had been years since I heard that song, and it brought back memories. The Doobie Brothers came on to sing 'Black Water', and I sang along with that, as well. That song was popular when I was 16. When I was 16, my father had seen the light and herded us all off to be baptized and confirmed. I took the confirmation classes, but I did not believe. I tried to, because I worried about being struck by lightning when I stood before the church and lied about what I believed. I had to acknowledge the irony. If lightning struck me dead, at least in the one moment of clarity, I could be sure of His existance. The Doobie Brothers assured me that 'old black water keeps on moving,' It had been a comforting thing to think that even when lightning struck me dead at the front of the Episcopal Church, the Mississippi river would continue to run, as it always had. I saw the Doobie Brothers in Erie, with Heart and Rush. Then Cheap Trick sang 'I want you to want me...' and I remembered being stationed in San Antonio and going to see the Texas Jam Fest. I saw Cheap Trick sing that song live. VanHalen came on and I remembered meeting my ex-husband's family for the first time as he graduated from Rutgers. His grandmother, in her 70s had sung 'Jump' as we waited to be served at a crowded restaurant. It was hilarious. Then Aerosmith was singing 'Dream On', and I was remembering what it was like to be 18 and realizing that 'dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come trruuuuuuuueee,' was a load of horse pucky. It might happen if you're Steven Tyler, but it wasn't going to work like that for a skinny shy girl from podunk Pennsylvania.
Life has its highlights and its big moments, and they are grand, although few and far between for most of us. But the small moments also make up a life, and I realized that I had a ton of those to think on. For awhile, in a dark car, I listened to old music and I sifted through those glittery small moments, reliving little pieces of my life.
Deep in the Seneca Nation, we lost that station. It began to fade, and the static started. Tim hit the seek button, and Beyonce was singing about single ladies. The spell was broken. We continued driving on, in heavy rain, fog so thick that you couldn't see what was ahead. We hit some bone jarring potholes. Our two hour drive home took closer to three, but in the end, we made it home safely.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
By my calculations, I should be finished with radiation by April 22nd.
The first day I stood outside the cancer center, I simply did not want to go in. I lay in bed the night before my first chemo and dreaded that. I did not want to see that morning come. I guess that I've gotten more matter of fact about the situation, because radiation has simply become what stands between me and the end of treatment.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Georges Nagelmackers (now, does that not sound like a name that Musey would invent for one of her tangents? But it's not. It's the poor man's real name. I imagine that Mrs. Nagelmackers must have loved him a great deal to marry into a name like that) invites guest to a railway trip of 2000 kilometres on his 'Train Eclair de luxe' (lightning luxury train). The train leaves Paris (Gare de Strasbourg) on Tuesday, October 10, 1882, just after 18:30 and arrives in Vienna the next day at 23:20. The return trip leaves Vienna on Friday, October 13, 1882, at 16:40 and as planned enters Paris (Gare de Strasbourg) at 20:00 on Saturday October 14, 1882.
The train is composed: 1. Baggage car, 2. Sleeping coach with 16 beds (with bogies) (bogies?!!!! sounds like one of Muse's adventures, alright. Bogie men under the bed. I'll just sit up tonight), 3. Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axes), 4. Restaurant coach (nr. 107), 5. Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axes), 6. Sleeping coach with 14 beds (3 axes) (all those axes...for pete's sake, no wonder there was murder on the Orient Express), 7. Baggage car (complete 101 ton) (primarily filled with Lavinia's stuff. That woman is not known to travel light. Moreover she tends to accumulate an enormous amount of stuff along the way, bless her larcenous heart). The first menu on board (October 10, 1882): oysters, soup with Italian pasta, turbot with green sauce, chicken ‘à la chasseur’, fillet of beef with 'château' potatoes, 'chaud-froid' of Game animals, lettuce, chocolate pudding, buffet of desserts. (This time around, don't forget that I brought molasses cookies.)
Historic routes of Orient Express
On June 5, 1883 the first 'Express d'Orient' left Paris for Vienna. Vienna remained the terminus until October 4, 1883. The train was officially renamed Orient Express in 1891.
The original route, which first ran on October 4, 1883, was from Paris, Gare de l'Est, to Giurgiu in Romania via Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, passengers were ferried across the Danube to Rousse in Bulgaria to pick up another train to Varna, from where they completed their journey to Istanbul by ferry. In 1885, another route began operations, this time reaching Istanbul via rail from Vienna to Belgrade and Niš, carriage to Plovdiv and rail again to Istanbul.
If any of you out there have never played along on one of Musey's adventures, go, go now. It's great entertainment with a loveable cast of charactors.
"Oh look! A bottle tree!"
Or "Look at the red dirt on the windshield!
That reminds me of BB's Prado!"
Tim just rolls his eyes. He thinks it's funny that I talk so familiarly about the Granite Glen sisters and their mother as if they live right next door.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I've been receiving updates all week long from both Dylan and Cara. It's been fun to follow the progress, even from the other side of the state. It is not only a house being transformed. I think Dylan is, as well. The last time he was home, one of the girls he graduated with took him out shopping for clothes. For the first time, he returned home with shirts that required ironing. Khaki pants. Shoes that were not sneakers. When I went to his house, he was ironing clothes and wearing dress shirts. Now he lives in a decorated house. I think Dylan may have grown up. Completely.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The fact is though, cancer has had a profound effect on my marriage. Tim and I have always been good in bed. Sorry for being graphic, but it is a fact. The surgery that changed my shape also changed how I viewed myself, and I began to struggle. By the time that my hair fell out, I was struggling a lot. By the time that I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes, I was pretty much unable to look at myself without cringing a little. By that time, Tim was dealing with his unemployed status. Withdrawn to begin with, he withdrew even more.
What has suffered here is our sex life. Something that should have comforted us both has been lost. When my husband comforts me by awkwardly saying, 'Don't worry. Your hair will grow back. You'll be pretty again,' or something like that, it made me even more self conscious. His focus on the houses and getting the apartments going meant that he was working hard, driven by his own demons. Obsessed, he can talk about nothing else. Nothing else. He has even at times, lashed out in frustration that I have ceased to pull my own weight. I've always been a worker myself, and this makes me even more ashamed. Even though he understood, intellectually, that chemo leaves a person dragged out and exhausted, he began to get frustrated at working alone. Communication has slowly begun to shut down. It is frightening to me. (I don't know if he has noticed.) I've tried to explain, but he sees himself as doing what needs to be done to insure the survival of our family. I'm kind of focused on doing what needs to be done to insure the survival of me, and the survival of us.
I've been struggling with these things, and I've been feeling pretty guilty and very ashamed. I try to be upbeat and positive. We've discussed the situation, but really, it is what it is. This is just a difficult time, and all marriages have them. I take marriage very seriously, and am in this for the long haul. So is Tim. This is also not something that you can sit down and discuss with your friends. I don't want anyone to think badly of Tim and his remote nature. I would never want to shame him. Like I've said before, he is a really good person. I've been kind of on my own on this one, trying hard to convince myself that 'this too will pass,' and that Tim and I will be right again, but I've been discouraged. Our marriage is not as comfortable as it used to be.
Wandering around blogland today, I found a website. I didn't know such websites existed. It not an easy topic to discuss, but the fact that people do is a real blessing. My self consciousness may be a little extreme, but every woman that has walked this path seems to have dealt with this issue to some degree. One link led to another, and to another, and soon I was reading stories about other marriages that had foundered, but regained their footing and moved forward. Predictably, I was so relieved that I cried.
End result? I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I could not keep my eyes open. Yeah. I am, physically, a very strong person. I never realized this about myself. Also, though, I've got to acknowledge that, physically, this body has taken quite a beating, and I need to ease back into my life. Anxious as I am for things to 'get back to normal', it's not going to happen overnight.
I've been thinking about it this morning. I've been really blessed by the fact that when this all hit, I was a healthy person. (I still make the joke: 'Really, I'm a very healthy person, except for the whole cancer thing.') I did a load of walking in my job. I had noticed last summer that I was exhausted a lot, and stumbled a lot. I used to get pretty impatient with myself. ("Pick up your feet, for gosh sakes.") It never dawned on me that I was exhausted for a reason. I'm used to just pushing on through. So I'm made of pretty sturdy stuff. Physically, I was up to the challenge.
The mental challenges were another thing altogether. My brain reeled, initially, at the amount of information I was processing in an awfully short period of time. I was making decisions that I never dreamed I'd be making. Staring at my own mortality was surreal. Mentally, I really stumbled. I think that my blog posts from this time sort of reflect that. It was easy to get bogged down, discouraged, frightened. That's the challenge that I could have never faced on my own. I prayed a lot. I turned to friends, both friends that I see regularly, and friends I've never met. I was encouraged. New friends, old friends, friends all over the place. That's where I found the courage to laugh, and to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. There were an awful lot of blessings during this time.
So, in an astonishing turnaround from last fall, right now, physically, I am struggling. Mentally, though, I've been getting quite a 'work out' since September. Mentally, I am up to almost any challenge. Even getting my poor body back into some semblance of 'physically fit'.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I've been thinking a lot. I have no pictures of myself from this time. I'm a very self conscious person, and being bald, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, hasn't diminished that at all. However, there is something to be said for having something to commemorate this time, something to confirm these days. The picture would not be attractive, but it would be the truth. The battle is not over yet, but there are small victories to be celebrated. I've confronted a lot of fears, and won. I imagine that I can also confront this one, and beat it too. So, Bush Babe, I'll post a picture.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
On February 26th, on the way to the cancer center, I saw my first robin of the year. (For those who live in other parts of the world, the robin flies south for the winter, and returns in the spring.) The robin was at the peak of a house, feathers fluffed, looking quite grumpy as he pondered February.
I was actually shocked to see him. I have lived a winter focused on cancer treatment and learning the lessons of that time. For the first time in my life, I had forgotten to even look for spring. It has been a long winter here, and the promise of a new season actually brought tears to my eyes.