Friday, July 31, 2009

Taking a Break

I'm at a loss for words right now. While I'm not fearful (and I am glad for that) I find it a little hard to be positive and optimistic. This roller coaster ride has had one dip too many, I guess. I cannot think of one single thing to say.

Today, I was dipping in a catchbasin. This place is wild with plants, and I love it. I heard a cheerful voice hailing me from the fence. "Hey, Rusty, how's it going?" I greeted him right back. He marveled over the biodiversity. I said, "I know, isn't it excellent?" He can name plants, and began doing so. I listened. "That's pretty neat that you can do that. I'm ignorant. There's a lot to be said for ignorance though, because every day I'm learning something new and that is exciting." Rusty laughed, but agreed that learning something new every day was exciting stuff, and that he himself made a point of trying to learn something new every day.

As I was out and about collecting sample after sample of mosquito larva (dear heavens, let it stop raining...), I found myself really enjoying the quiet. I did not play the radio. I just drove, and I thought, and I dipped mosquito larva, and filled two solid pages of notebook documenting samples. It felt good to be still.

Today, I ran into a charactor who has imported five Texas Longhorns. He was chock full of stories, and I enjoyed listening to him. I was amazed to hear that number one, long horns grow slowly. I guess that I figured that cattle used to desert conditions, once imported to the lush and rich Pennsylvania hills, would develop just as quickly as any other cattle species. Not so. Also discovered that Texas Longhorns are, in the words of this garrulous charactor, 'dumb bastards'. He was burning brush in the pasture, and to his astonishment, one of them walked right through the fire. Burned itself so badly that it stressed its immune system, ultimately winding up with lysteria, circling in tight left hand circles, until he had to put it down. Listening, I said, "You can't use that meat, right? So you lost the whole cow?" And the farmer nodded his head and said, "Yeah. We even had to be careful not to splatter any of the blood on ourselves." Fascinating stories. It felt good to listen to someone else's stories.

The PET scan is scheduled on August 31st. We're giving the incision from the latest biopsy a chance to heal completely so that the doctors have no doubt about what it is that they are seeing. I think this makes perfect sense. This is an expensive scan, and you might as well make sure that the results are unequivocable, to the best of your ability anyway. I imagine that it will be a long and sobering month.

This is what I think. Sometimes, life just knocks you on your butt, and the shock is so great that it knocks the words clean out of you. I can't imagine that this will be a permanent situation. I'm an excitable ignorant person, learning something new every day. But I do think that it is a time for me to be still, and to listen to the stories of others. Your stories too. And when my own words come back to me, I'll start writing again.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Found 'em.

Cara got her heart broke this summer. "Guys should come with a warning label right on their forheads: 'Don't get serious about this one, he's not a keeper...' " She was crying hard enough as she said it that I didn't want to laugh out loud, but the first thing I thought is "Well, if they did, I would never had married your father, and there would never have been a you..." I can't wait until she's home and I can hug her and treat her to good coffee. (Caffeine freaks are always comforted by good coffee.) Broken hearts are no fun at all.

I found the dog bones. I stuck 'em with the stack of paper plates. Completely logical, perfectly sensible. (I keep telling myself)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Surprise

I finally got around to making the appointment for my surgical follow up. Being that I have crap for brains lately, it was one of those things that I just kept forgetting to do. And then, when I remembered it, I was out in the field somewhere with no cell phone reception. When I had reception, I didn't think about it. By the time I finished with work, the office was closed. (Really. Those people need to hurry up building that artificial brain).

I walked in there knowing what I was going to hear. I mean the lumps were benign. What I did not expect to hear was the doctor saying that there was a mass deep in the muscle, that he could feel it, but it was too deep to remove under a local anaesthetic. He talked about the fact that he was concerned about this, and that it had been on his mind. He talked about what an odd place it was for a lump. It is not in a place where you would expect to see an injury. He just said that he had a feeling that it needed to be followed up on. He read from my PET scan done last October, which described an area of activity in the left axillary area. Right where the lump is. It was felt that it was probably some degeneration of the shoulder, arthritis, but it went on to say that metatastic breast cancer could not be ruled out. Based on that, the surgeon felt that we should get another PET scan done, to compare. 'If the spot is brighter, or larger, this is bad.'

You know, seven months ago, these words would have scared the bejeebers out of me. I guess as you deal with this stuff you just get a little more matter of fact about things. I don't know what I feel, exactly. It's not fear. It's just sort of a stunned amazement that this picture can change so quickly. There's no sense getting upset until we know what it is, but it was the first time that the specter of metatastic breast cancer has been raised.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Losing It

I'm getting a head of that 'sheeps butt' hair that Caroline talked about. It's iron gray. It probably had been that color, but when you dye your hair regularly for, say, ten years (okay, I lied, twenty), you lose track of things like say, what color your hair really is.

I'm losing track of a lot of things lately. I bought some naproxin for the joint aches. I brought the bags home. I set the bottle (still in the box) on the counter. Lord knows where it went after that. I bought my poor dog a bone. A bag of them, actually. I opened the bag. I gave him one of them. I put the rest away. Where? Darned if I could tell you. After several days of hunting in vain for the naproxin, I bought another bottle. I couldn't find that one either. Tim located it. I'd left it in the car. ('Oh, yeah, that's right, I was reading the label...') During that recent trip to Lowes, when I found all the plants on sale? I lost my cart. Confused, I turned this way and that. "Where'd my cart go?" A helpful woman said, "Is that it over there?" It was. In a flash, I realized that I've become one of those 'poor dears', the befuddled elderly people who I used to feel sorry for. Scotty put a link on his website: Scientists are developing an artificial brain. It should be ready to go in ten years. I hope they hurry up, because I'm having grave doubts about how long the one I've got is going to last. I'd lose my butt if it were not attached. The truly amazing thing? I have not lost (nor broken) a pair of reading glasses in some time. Probably because I'm so busy losing everything else (except my butt, as previously mentioned).

Anyways, I wandered off and forgot the point of this post. I was talking about hair. It's getting curly. It looks okay, I guess, and I'm darn glad to have it, but you know, the other night I dreamt that I had long hair. I dreamt about the normal things of my life, about working, and cleaning house, and visiting people, but I kept shaking this glorious head of hair. I woke up at some point, and laid there half asleep, smiling a little at the dream, wondering how long it would take until that dream was reality.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Past It.

I'm not sure what has happened. I couldn't tell you for sure. I was surprised that after cancer treatment was done, I did not feel like cancer was done. It was a changing of gears, I guess, moving from the actual fight to the quiet watchfulness that comes afterwards. I'm taking the tamoxifen, and will for five years. This is supposed to reduce the chance of recurrence. I'm having a time with the joint aches, and in the morning, I hobble around like an old lady (no smart cracks please!) until I get everything loosened up. Finding another lump was a shocker, and the biopsy was a sickening deja vu, although the results were completely different. But now, a week later, what I am discovering is that I feel like 'I had cancer'. Like I'm past it.

I cannot tell you what has triggered this, but I am glad for it.

Right now, I'm so busy. Company coming. Going to a retreat with Mary. Going to a concert with my husband this weekend. I found out today that I will not be losing my job, after all. (*Chagrined smile* I have applications out on other jobs...) Pondering a big project. Working in my garden. Cara's coming home, and then heading back to school in a week. So much going on. NONE of it involves cancer.

This is what I know for sure. For the time being, anyway, I am done with cancer. I've rejoined the real world, changed, wiser (I think so, but I suppose it depends on who you're asking...), joyous deep inside myself, a joy that has nothing to do with my circumstances. It's a remarkable feeling, and I cannot stop marveling at this. For the first time, I realize that I'm again looking forward, and there are no niggling worries about what lies down the road.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reasonable

We went to the local Lowe's store today. Tim has no one to blame but himself for what happened next. Tim sent me out to the garden center to check and see if mulch was on sale yet. It wasn't. But they had gallon containers of salvia and bee balm and loads of other potted plants on sale. A buck apiece. $1.37 for the huge pots of heather. I even found boxwood shrubs on sale for the unbelievable price of $3.50, marked down from nearly thirty. I tried to be good. Really, I did. Tim kept saying reasonable things like, "We don't have room for this in the car," and "We could come back tomorrow..." I kept saying reasonable things like, "Tim look at these prices. They won't BE here tomorrow," and "Tim, these are all perennials. You plant them once." Reasonable won. I got about $150 worth of perennials for $18.52, and the Intrigue looked like a greenhouse on wheels.

Our first stop was one of the houses downtown where I had dug out an entire truckload of hostas last month. It was so hugely overgrown that you couldn't even see the nice little evergreen hedge. Once I got the hostas dug out, the little evergreen hedge looked quite charming, set off like it was by the vast and empty expanse of dirt in front. Even though we had worked all day on an apartment, I reasonably explained to Tim that since it was going to rain (again! heavens, will it ever stop?), now was the perfect time to get the new plants in the ground. Being reasonable like he is, he flopped down on the porch to watch. I happily went to work with the spade.

When I was done, it looked very nice, if I do say so myself. Even Tim had to agree. That made me feel a lot less guilty about the plants left over. (I misjudged, okay?!!!) The ones that I had no choice but to bring on home. After all, it was the only reasonable thing to do.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Speaking on Cancer

I have an acquaintance who is slated to give a speech on Monday night, about cancer. I'm so proud of her. As a breast cancer survivor, she's qualified to give the talk. However, instead of the made-for-television-docudrama type speech, she's been collecting positive thoughts on cancer. She contacted me by e-mail for permission to use some of my thoughts. 'Sure', I said.

And so Susan's talk will be about cancer, and learning to face one day at a time, not to look too far down the road, about the fact that cancer is life changing, life transforming even. We become wiser. We love better, we prioritize better, we live more consciously. It is faith-growing. It is a building block to a whole new life. Make no mistake about it, cancer is tough stuff, but the blessings are there, and they are abundant.

I'm so proud of Susan to use this opportunity so wisely. It's a terrifying thing to hear the initial cancer diagnosis. All the bad things come to mind immediately. The most comforting words anyone can hear are these: "You've got cancer. It is going to be hard, but you're going to learn some of the most amazing lessons of your life. Buckle yourself in, the ride is about to begin."

TGIF

It is Friday. This week has been hectic and rainy. There's work, and then I've got company coming at some point, so have been cleaning like a crazy woman. Looking for a new job. Waiting for biopsy results. Even two hours at the court house to give my testimony in a case where I was rear ended two years ago. Physically, I'm dragging, mentally, I'm spent.

TGIF.

TGIF!!!!!!!!!

*hobbles off to make coffee*

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Revenge of the Bullies

Yesterday, I told you about Earl. Bush Babe said, "bet the bullies all gave you some space after that!" Nope, actually not. The bullies got their revenge. They convinced Earl that I was in love with him and too shy to talk to him. Earl began to talk to me, and I talked back to him because I felt sorry for him. But he began to follow me everywhere to talk, and finally he got down on one knee in front of my locker and asked me to marry him and gave me a plastic ring from a gumball machine. The halls were packed and everyone was laughing, the bullies the loudest of all. I cried again. From embarrassment that time (and it shames me how embarrassed I was), and because I felt so bad to tell Earl no, and hurt his feelings.

Our high school was very small, but very mean. And you know what, folks...high schools are still pretty mean.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Earl

Today, I saw a retarded man pulling along one of those wire wheeled carts that you use to tote your groceries home. He clutched a huge umbrella in his hand, and was casting long looks at the ominous looking sky. I went to school with Earl, a long time ago. He was picked on terribly by a group of boys back in those days, and once I happened upon the scene in the middle of one of those torments. A group of boys pushed him back and forth between them, mocking his stutters and calling him names. Earl was crying. Even then, I couldn't bear to watch stuff like that, and I broke into the circle, slapping every face I could reach, screaming my head off. The only reason that I got away with it, I think, is because in those days, boys didn't hit girls. Alerted by the screaming, a teacher came flying around the edge of the lockers. I was mad, and I was crying, and I was screaming epithets. The teacher did not quite know what to do with the situation, since I was one of the quiet nerds, not the kind that gets sent to the principal's office. He simply sent us all to class.

Today, all these years later, I looked at Earl and remembered that day. He grinned cheerfully, although I'm sure he had no idea who I was. "I'm not getting rained on!" he said, waving his umbrella. "Well, Earl, I think that you're the wise one today. It looks like it's going to rain any minute." Happy to be called by name, he chattered on and shopped with me, muttering again and again, "I'm the wise one today, alright." It made me grin, big.

Driving home I wondered about those boys. The ring leader is still an idiot all these years later. I know that one died, a long while back, in a car crash. I wonder about the rest of them, where they are, what kind of people they turned out to be. I wonder if any of them think about that day, and I hope that Earl doesn't.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer?!!!!!

It rained a lot today. I actually got soaked to the skin. I was freezing, and it was miserable. I'm having a pretty hard time with the tamoxifen. My joints ache a lot. I really try to 'suck it up' as the saying goes, but I discovered today that when you are soaked and freezing, the aches are way, way worse. I felt like I was a hundred years old by the time this day ended, hobbling to my traps in the rain. I actually ached so badly I was nauseous. For the first time, I really found myself worrying about how I am going to deal with this stuff in the winter.

It rained so hard at times that I was nervous about driving. Naturally, my traps were set at the most far flung points of the county. Flash flood alerts were coming regularly over the radio. Rushing water had carved deep ditches along the side of some roads. I picked up my last trap and headed back to the office, heater on high, teeth chattering. I had a choice between the low road (shorter, but remote, along side the river) or the high road (longer, but more houses and black top road). I decided to take Super Tramp's advice. I took the long way home. After stopping by the office to check e-mails and to pick up supplies, I came home and ditched the wet clothes immediately, climbed into a steamy hot shower. I thought that I would never feel warm again. I counted bugs in my pajamas, with a hot cup of tea. I feel much better. I love my job. Usually. Today was a rare exception.

If I want to count blessings today, I'd have to be most grateful for a sister who doesn't mind me stopping by her place to bellow in the door "HEY! Can I use your bathroom?" She's not only hospitable about the bathroom part, she had a hot cuppa waiting for me before I left. Nothing like a hot drink to warm your insides on a miserable day. Is summer ever going to get here?

And BB, believe me, my dear, if there was a way to send this weather to you, I'd do it in a minute. The skies are getting dark again, and the thunder is a-rumbling. Looks like we're due some more rain.

*shivers, and hobbles back out to the kitchen to heat another cup of water*

Perfect

Last night, I lay in bed just about to doze off. The rain had stopped and there were crickets. I was not 'hot flashing'. It was not yet morning. I was not staggering around exhausted, trying to make my achey joints move. I was relaxed, my bones melting comfortably into the mattress. Tim breathed deeply and evenly beside me. And in the middle of my half awareness, I realized what it was. It was perfection. It was mine, all mine. It wouldn't last, but for that moment, everything was perfect. And I fell asleep.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Glimpse

Today while I was out and about, I saw an old man picking wildflowers at the side of the road. That just tickled me for some reason, made me glad. I wondered what the rest of his story was. Was there a little old woman waiting at home? Would he swing jauntily into his house with poetry and wild flowers? Would she squeal with delight and call him 'dearest'? I had a nice afternoon imagining a story to go with that little glimpse.

The pathology report is in. There were two tumors, both benign.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stories

Been a strange weekend. My shoulder feels some better, but it was pretty painful for awhile. Even with my high threshold of pain, I ended up taking a pain killer. The effects were nearly immediate. I got sick, and I remembered that is what I felt like right after chemo. I guess you don't forget.

When I wrote my blog post 'Thanks', it was meant to be a testimony, and a praise for the blessings of the week. Those blessings make me conscious that God is at work. Knowing that God is at work in my life made it a lot easier to face the biopsy and the potential loss of my job due to budget cuts. In the words of my friend, Karen, 'After all of this, I don't imagine He's going to drop you on your head now.' I was really at peace with things. I wrote that blog post, and I was happy, really happy, in a quiet place in my soul. I was really pleased to hear that others found it an encouragement as well.

Unfortunately, it lit a fire under my family. "I can only see the bad, not the good."

I received an e-mail about 'my dirty windows':

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean", she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this." The husband said, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows." And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look.

I guess that I am to realize that my window is not 'pure'.

I felt bad about all the uproar, because really, my intention was simply to share encouragement. Out of all of that, the one thing that the angry people saw is the part about not fitting in with my family. Of course, this brought an immediate outcry. After all, the not fitting in part is my fault, not theirs, and by God, they will make sure that I understand this.

After spending a weekend pondering these things, and really feeling very badly, I went to church this morning to hear a sermon based on 2 Corinthians 4: 1-10. Share our stories, use them to encourage others. I walked out of church thoughtfully. The Bible is a collection of stories of God at work. He is still at work. It is a big connected circle, and my stories join with other peoples' stories of His goodness to us. Our stories become part of the eternal narrative of the world. It is up to each one of us to tell our stories with integrity. With joy. In the end, our stories will be judged by God.

Mom. I am sorry that you are upset. Go back and re-read that post. There's plenty of encouraging stuff there. It brought me peace. It brought peace to others. I hope it encourages you, but Mom, if it does not, you need to find the stories that do encourage you. Go in peace.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can't Sleep




Well I hit the rowdy road and many kinds I met there
Many stories told me on the way to get there
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out

- Cat Stevens

A friend sent me an e-mail that began with this lyric from Cat Stevens. It discussed the importance of collecting the stories of others, that in listening to their stories, this is how we come to know them, this is how we come to love them.

I was so intrigued by the little e-mail that I looked up the video. I've been thinking of my own life on 'the rowdy road'. I learned lessons there, I met fascinating people there. Say what you will about me, but I am a person who listens to the stories of others. I have been blessed by them. I am a person with stories of her own. I am fortunate enough to hear that others feel blessed by them. I can't think of anything more satisfying than that.

I have marched to my own truths, and to my own conscience. I am not perfect, but I am good. I have picked my own path and found my own way. I am content in my life, content with my dreams.

Ultimately, is this not what we raise our children to do? To think and set their own courses? And maybe, if they speak about God working in their lives, about the peace that this has brought them to face difficult times, perhaps it should be enough simply to rejoice.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Future

I am not sure what is up with blogger today, but it won't let me rearrange pictures. So we'll start with this one: Another robin's nest on our back porch. I'm so glad about that. I missed the first flight of the last batch because I was sick. I get a second chance though, and that makes me really, really happy. I almost cried when I saw the new nest and I had to go get the camera to take a picture.


Now on to an altogether different topic:


I've got plans to travel, when things settle down. I plan to go out west and see Susan, and Mikey. Mikey's mom too. They've been great allies during this whole cancer thing. One thing that Mikey sent me that I view each and every day (it is on my door). "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." It's my motto. She sent me a book about wisdom, and about trusting yourself, and God. It was a dandy. There were other things. Her mother sent me a luxurious bath set, and you know, I saved it. All through the winter, I saved it, and occasionally, I'd uncap one of the bottles and breathe deep, but I wanted to save it, for when I had hair, for when I was on the other side of all of this, for a special treat to celebrate. And so I did, and the leisurely soak was gooooood. Susan sent a box too. I keep two things from that box on my bedside table. One is a Mr. Bean Pez Dispenser, which never fails to make me grin. The other thing is a wood carved bird. I saved the stones that she sent with the stones that I've collected, and all of these things just make me sure that, one day, I'm going to end up in Arizona to meet my friends in person. (Note to all of 'em: I don't want to play with rattlesnakes.)

Another bunch that I'm going to meet is the crew from Granite Glen. Bush Babe and her sister Jeanie have been on my blog roll for a long time, and it has been great fun following their journeys through their blog. Amazingly, one of the first e-mails I got when I was diagnosed with cancer was from their lovely mother who had her own bout with breast cancer. Furthermore, being a pharmacist, Barb was a wealth of information to me. I told them quite early on that someday, after this was all done, I planned raise a glass with the women of Granite Glen. I've already got the glasses. Here's the picture that I promised, ages and ages ago.
Aren't they exquisite? They are handblown glass. I've had them since the end of chemo. I saw them when I went to visit Dylan in Allentown. Being practical, I talked myself out of them. Cara had a fit when she heard, and the following weekend, when she went to visit her brother for spring break, she picked them up for me. I am glad for my impulsive daughter.

The best thing that you can do for yourself when you are in the middle of some damn thing like cancer is to begin to plan for your future. All winter, I looked at that bathset, and I planned for the future. All spring, I looked at those wine glasses, and I planned for the future. Now it's summer, and I'm planning to watch the robins. (This time I'll get pictures, BB.) Big plans, small plans, it doesn't matter. I have a future, and I've got plans.

Thanks

When you take everything in this life that I ever grieve about, it comes down to these:

I grieve about Brianna, and I grieve that I missed it.

I grieve about my family. I am not a part of it. They will tell you it is my fault. The fact is my mother's old. The fact is I don't know what my future holds. The fact is that when you have to fight that hard to fit in, well, you don't fit in. Accept it, move on. I have, but I never said that it did not bother me. Still. I will, as the saying goes, 'I will fight no more forever.'

Sometimes I also wonder about my life. Did I help where I could? Have I made a difference? What will God say when he meets me face to face? Have I lead a Godly life? I think the mark of that would be what I have done for His people, and really, I worry about that. I am self conscious, and sometimes that self-consciousness paralyzes me. I fear hearing 'Just who does she think she is...'

I spend long solitary days on my job thinking about these things, and praying about them.

It will sound like fiction but it is not, and I have the people in my life to prove it. These stories all take place within the time frame of when I first noticed the new lump to the weekend prior to my appointment with the surgeon, July 3rd to July 11th. A woman and I began talking through the internet. In the weeks that we have talked, our lives became more and more clear to each other, and there were a lot of 'hey, me too' moments (at least for me). In a stunning, stunning turn of events, we both learned that our daughters had been sexually abused by their fathers. We both sat at our computers crying. We had never met another mother before. And the words that came were healing, and strengthening and full of Godly wisdom. When someone else's most private pain is your own, you cannot help but be comforted when you try to comfort them. And when I went to bed that night, I do have to say that my prayers were praises for putting this person in my life. What a blessing!

And remember Mr. M? In an astounding twist, his wife is related to me, distantly. Her great grandma is my great grandma's sister. The property that my parents built their house on was originally Aunt 'Lizy's homestead. She sold it to my dad, so this woman had 'growing up' memories of the same place I did. She was also putting together a geneology, and brought out a huge fat looseleaf folder of pictures and newspaper stuff. It is a truly strange thing to see your family photos in someone else's family album. I was able to identify some people that she couldn't. I was able to fill in some blanks. Not a lot. I don't really know much about my family. Turns out she was her own misfit. She looked at me, and she said words to this effect: "Great-great Grandma R (who died in 1957, the year I was born at 100 years old) was sold into marriage at 14 by her father. The husband was 3 times her age and mean, mean, MEAN. At 14, she had no choice but to endure it, and she did. But for 7 years, she stashed away secret money, and when she was 21, in a breathtaking gesture, she marched herself to town and got herself a divorce. Paid for it in cash. The ex-husband dropped over dead two months later. She was really unhappy about that. I looked at the face of the woman before me, and she said, "Great Great Grandma taught her children to fear God, to be strong and to be mean, but she was never able to teach them how to love, and all these generations later, you still see the marks of this. As she told the stories of this person and that, people that I have only the vaguest recollection of, I can see that she is right. For the first time, the burden's of my family troubles are lifted from my shoulders. For the first time, I see this anger and fighting as something that began long before I darkened their world. I was really, really blessed in the meeting of this woman. God was at work that day too.

I was getting my hair cut for my nephew's wedding, so I did not look all tufty. After a bunch of misunderstandings and a very long wait, I was ready to leave without my haircut. But a beautician walked in and I was her first haircut of the day. We talked about cancer, and she talked about her ex-boyfriend, the stress of cancer, etc. She mentioned that she was taking a drug which was prescribed for stress, and that she was beginning to have some strange symptoms from it. I knew. I knew right away. I lifted my head and said, 'Are you taking --------?' She stared and said yes. People, she was taking the same medicine that made me so violently ill after I stopped taking it. The exact same dosage. I was taking it for hot flashes, she for depression. She said, "I don't know how to explain the situation, but it's like, well," and her hands began to move about her head, her fingers opening and closing. "Those are what others are referring to as 'brain zaps'. They are very common." We talked a long time. Tim said, "Well, you know why you had to wait for your haircut, don't you?" Yes. I do. God was at work.

Finally, I met a woman, a stranger to me. She was quite emotional about meeting me. Turns out her husband has bought a book for me.They had just received it in the mail the previous day, and were wondering the best way to approach me. It was in God's hands. He stuck us in the same place at the same time. It was such a hectic time. I had found the lump, and there were all these swirling question marks in my mind, but again, I was reminded that God was at work.

I am about to lose my job due to budget cuts. I was dealing with the uncertainty of another lump. I might have been a little worried, but these 'coincidences' allowed me to go into the uncertainties of this week with a calmness. I knew that where ever God was at work, I need not trouble my head. And so I took a deep breath and stepped out in faith. Thanks, God, for granting that peace.

The Rest of the Story

So, Cara was driving down the highway when her car began to shake violently. She was decelerating, when suddenly, she saw something shoot off her left side. It registered, with a scream, that it was her left front tire and it was headed in the opposite direction that she was. She immediately steered the car off the road. Her friend, Tommy, had just had brake failure, and someone explained, after the fact, that he should have 'geared down' to stop the car. Cara began to drop the car into low gear, and brake. She stopped the car. The police came, and they called the tow truck. She said, "The man was huge, and old, and long haired, no teeth. He scared me to death. And the police said, 'Okay, you just go with him.' Mom, I was so scared. I got in the truck and I thought, 'This is how I'm going to die.'" But the man not only took her to a gas station, he gave her a break on the charges. He was really very nice. Cara was waiting for her brother to get off work and come for her, when another man walked up, a trucker. Cara said, "Oh, mom, this guy was as scary looking as the first." He said, "So your wheel came clean off?" Cara: "Yep." Long story short. The guy was waiting for his next haul, which was late. He had three hours to kill. He and Cara went back, scoured the brush along the road and found Cara's tire. They also found a cell phone, power still on, two missed calls. They left it at the service station where her car was, to be picked up by the owners. But I digress. This man fixed her car. He was afraid that the rim might be bent, so he took the tire off the back, and put it on the front, and put the wheel that had taken a vacation on the back. He examined her brakes, and drove the car. Had her drive the car. Looked it over good, tightened the lugs nuts on all the wheels yet again. His fee? "I'm thirsty. You can buy me a Pepsi." He explained it to Cara like this: "The people that I haul for are Christians, and they are always doing nice things for people. I think I was supposed to meet you today. That's why my load is late."

Cara says, "I will never, ever judge a book by its cover again.

Mom bows her head and says, "Dear God, thank you for men who drive trucks."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FYI, Cara

Darling Cara.

How I do love you. Just a note though. Never leave a message on a parent's answering machine that says, in a high pitched voice, "Help, help, help, oh my God, please call me back, call me back." And if you do leave a message like that on a parent's answering machine, NEVER leave a second one. By the time your half awake mother manages to find the phone, her heart might have stopped. Glad you're okay, and tell your brother thanks.

Love,

Mom

For every parent out there who has nearly had their hearts stop simply reading this, by the time I located the phone and called her back, it was all under control. "Hey, Mom, how are you feeling? Are you in pain? Oh. My wheel fell off while I was driving down the highway. Dylan's on his way, right now. I'm okay. I had to fork out for a tow truck. Are you taking it easy and following the doctor's instructions?"

The babbling sounds heard next were mine.

So Far So Good.

The surgeon says, at first glance, what it appears is that this 'lump' is some sort of necrosis, probably from the radiation. We'll know for sure when the pathology is done, but it looks as if we are probably not dealing with cancer at this point.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quiet Place

Nothing to say, really. I'm just on the edge of a great truth. I sit here, quietly waiting, and I am peaceful about it. Surgery is tomorrow, at 7:15 AM.

Be back when I can.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Wedding

A small country chapel housed the most beautiful wedding ceremony I have seen for a while. My nephew Tommy vowed to walk beside his wife and hold her hand. He also vowed that when times were hard, when things got rough, that he would hold on to her with both hands. Made me cry.

This cat led the couple safely through the bubbles. Don't know whose cat he was, but he seemed to know what he was doing, alright. It's hard not to follow a cat when he carries himself with such authority. Aren't they purty? And happy? And...oh. Crap. Let me get some tissues.
I tried to tell them how glad I was for them and...well...I cried. Carrie said, "Oh, don't...we both made it through without crying..."

The weather got horrible. By the time that we got to the reception, the skies were black, the lights were flickering, and the staff was posted at all the windows looking for funnel clouds.
Our very best wishes, Tommy and Carrie. Obligatory photo of darling flower girl (my greatniece). I can't help myself. It's what I do. I got to hold my other niece, little Abby Joy. Her parents and grandparents were out on the floor shaking their booty. Abby Joy and I boogied on the sideline. Sorry, I did not get a picture of her. It was pretty dark, and our camera does not do dark. Well. Probably it does, but I suck at pictures. Sorry about your luck, because I am telling you people, it was beautiful.

Deja Vu

The surgeon was surprised at the size of the lump. He said it multiple times, as he prodded and came at it from different angles. He did not do a core needle biopsy because he feels that it would be irresponsible to leave a lump of that size in a person with my history. I am scheduled for surgery on Thursday. He says that he 'is concerned'.

Huh. Deja vu all over again.

God.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

High Wire Act

This is a strange time. The biopsy weighs on my mind. At the same time, there is a disbelief about the whole thing. Surely this cannot be cancer. Surely. But this internal dialogue always ends with this one thing. It happened to Mary. Three months after finishing radiation, she had cancer again. It can happen. Will it happen to me? Surely not. Surely. But it could. But it probably isn't. So I walk this fine line of faith, much like a circus performer, my arms outstretched, wobbling a bit, but (so far at least) I have not fallen.

I'm glad for that.

Yesterday though, I realized (again) that even if I do fall, I have a wonderful safety net to catch me. I received a hand stamped card, a work of art really, a whimsical picture of two mice frolicking beneath a downspout of pouring water. "Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain". Yes. I am reminded again that some of the biggest blessings of my life have come during this very difficult winter. "A friend loveth at all times" was the proverb inside. I don't know what happens next, but I have many friends. If I lose my balance, there will always be someone to catch me, and help me stand back up. No matter what, I know that I am blessed by my friends who loveth at all times.

It is another weekend of celebration at our house. My nephew's wedding is today. Dylan is home from Fleetwood for the festivities. Family picnic tomorrow. Dylan went out to inspect my pond with a flashlight last night...and Bawly and Ghostly came to the surface. My $14.00 worth of fish live still. My cute little frog is still there. Three chance meetings left me gasping in shock this week, but incredibly, incredibly grateful. I will tell you about them another time, but I have to tell you, in addition to my friends, I am blessed by a God who loveth at all times as well.

How do people endure hard times without faith, without friends?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rattlesnake

I am a bit phobic about snakes. Slightly. Yesterday, when I was scampering down a rocky bank, snakes went flying in all directions. Ew. I stopped dead, took a deep breath and waited on them to get out of my way. I then continued on with what I was doing. I'm actually pretty impressed to learn just how much I can control my 'fear'. I do have to tell you though, one day, I was wearing 'crocs'. I thought that they would be a good thing. My feet are invariably wet, and crocs seemed like an answer to that. Seemed like it. I discovered that crocs are slippery when wet, and furthermore, when I meet a large snake, I much, MUCH prefer to be wearing my workboots which come up over my ankles. Anyhoo, like I said, I've gotten pretty sensible about snakes.

Well, for the first time, I was reaching into the brush and I heard a raspy, buzzy sort of sound. I froze. We do have rattlesnakes here. I tend to avoid places where they might be. At home, we have copperheads from time to time, but I've never seen a rattlesnake. Very cautiously, I pulled my hands back and waited. The noise continued. I realized that the gusty wind bringing in (more) rain was blowing large thorny branches against the side of a tree, making that strange scrapey sound. I have never had that happen before. I am proud to say that even though I was startled, and jumped just a little, I did not wet myself, not even a little. Fear can be controlled, and that is a good thing to know.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tough Stuff

I heard the strangest story. A family is dealing with a very tragic situation. The parents have made the decision to cover the situation up, to lie to their children. The children are not even children, per se. They are young adults. My take is that, number one, this is a small community, and nothing, NOOOOOOOTHING is a secret for long. I want my children to be able to rely on what I tell them. Number two, if my kids have to deal with tough stuff, I want to be the one helping them deal with it.

I don't think that it is sensible to try to protect your child from all the bad things in the world. I mean, no matter how good you are at that, there will come a time when those kids are dealing with crap. It's part of living. Life is a pain sometimes, but our children take their cues from us. They learn to cope by watching us cope. Am I perfect? No. Shoot, no. But I am sensible, and life might knock me on my behind for a period of time, but I'd like to think that I always get back up and continue on. I'd like to believe that when my kids deal with the tough stuff, they will follow the example of their mother.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hopefully.

Well, I've got a biopsy Monday at one. While the oncologist does not think that it's anything serious, he doesn't know what it is. It's far enough away from any incisions that I'm doubtful about scar tissue. It's tender, and I can feel it when I move my arm, which makes me think that it wasn't always there, or I'd have noticed it before. He says it doesn't feel like a lymph node. "I hate to sound dramatic, but I'd like a biopsy," I said, and he was okay with that. I walked out of there not feeling stupid. That's always a bonus, for me.

Cara said, "Are you worried?" I said, "Ya know, I've been thinking. Whenever I worry about something, it almost always turns out to be nothing. The stuff that really turns my life upside down are the things that I don't worry about, the things that I never even saw coming."

Fully expect that the comical Dr. K will be right. It won't be anything serious. I hope.

Still Procrastinating.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Yeah.
Okay.
Still procrastinating.

I'm shocked (SHOCKED!)

Well, that darn Bush Babe has done it. She posted a story about one of their cattle, a Hereford. Here's a Hereford. My grandpa always kept a handful of Herefords, so I have a special fondness for them. They bring back memories. This is a Hereford.
I was surprised to see that people in Oz call white faced cattle 'bawly'. I wondered why. I mean Herefords bawl alot, but really, I wasn't aware that they 'bawled' any more than any other breed of cattle. I began to wonder. Are Brangus cattle stoic, the 'Clint Eastwood' of cattle? Are Herefords the emotionally overwrought of the cattle kingdom? I asked. Bush Babe, in betwixt her cattle midwifery and visits from emotionally overwrought sisters with child, Great Dane puppies and two children of her own, did not answer my question. I understand that. She had her hands full.

I bought two fish for my ornamental pond. One was white. One was orange with a white face. See picture of Hereford (above). I named the white one 'Ghostly' right off, but staring at the white faced one, I decided to call him 'Bawly'. I dumped them both in the pond and have not seen fin nor scale of them since. (I have also not seen them floating at the top of the water...surely that is a good sign?)

Come to find out, BB's lovely mother, Anonymous, explained it to me. In Oz, white faced cattle are referred to as 'Bawldy', not 'Bawly'. Well, dammit. I have already christened this fish 'Bawly'. Changing the name now will only confuse him. Bawly he will remain, despite the fact that I haven't heard any sobbing from the pond. (although that would be some assurance that I still have something living out there....)

I will post pictures, Kelly. When I finish the waterfall. When I get the rest of the plants planted. Really I will. As for the fish posing? Yeah. I spent $14. on two fish that I've not seen since. 'Bawly' realizing that he is misnamed refuses to show his face. Just see what you've done, BB!

I have a doctor's appointment at 11. I am procrastinating. Why in the world, after dealing with breast cancer, am I still worried about looking stupid and overanxious? Any prudent person would have the lump checked out. I don't 'get' me sometimes. Maybe I should name myself 'Bawly'.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cara has always hated her middle name. It is Violet. She was named after her Great Grandma Vi. No one else that she knew had such an old fashioned name, and 'The Incredibles' could have made her feel a lot better, but unfortunately that movie came along just a wee bit too late for that. Cara was already grown and resigned to her fate as an unfortunately named woman.

Grandma Violet died last month, a woman in her late 90s. I am a short person, but Grandma Violet stood a full head shorter than me. She was a person of immense energy, a worker, a farm woman. She was pleased with me from the very beginning of my relationship with her grandson, and she never missed an opportunity to praise. She was pleased with my garden. She loved that I canned. She loved that I could cook up a storm, and she loved that I took such good care of her grandson and of her great grandchildren. The things that she loved best about me were, ironically, the very things that my husband hated about me the most. The other corporate wives were not like me at all. Those differences made him ashamed to take me to corporate functions. For her part, Grandma never stopped writing me, even after the marriage fell apart, but by the time that her grandson remarried, her memory was getting shakey. She had the unfortunate tendency to call his new wife 'Debby', and this upset the new wife something awful. Grandma could not help it, and I began to feel as if my letters to her were complicating matters. She got rheumatoid arthritis and could no longer write. Finally our contact just sort of dwindled off. The only news I received about her was through the kids.

I heard that she had passed about a week after she was gone. Cara told me. "It's hard to believe that Grandma Violet is gone," she remarked. "Well, it happens to all of us." Cara said, "Somehow, she had lived so long that you just got the idea that maybe she might have been forgotten. Like maybe she would live forever." I laughed. "No," I said. "It does not matter how good you are, nobody on this earth will live forever.

I walked down to my woods last month and dug up some violets, some purple ones and some yellow ones. It is my intention to ask Mr. M if I can dig a clump of his white violets to add to the planter. The violets always remind me of Grandma. When Cara was last home, she saw them and said, "I'd like to have a planter like that." I thought that she was missing her greatgrandma, and I thought of a bowl that I have that would be perfect for a planter. I said nothing, so as to surprise her later. As we were scouring the second hand stores, she mentioned that she would like a ceramic teapot, one with violets on it. She also mentioned that she thought that it would be cool, what with her name and all.

I couldn't help but stare. I guess that some names have to be 'grown into'.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pure Pleasure

At church today, our newest parents brought in their new born twins. Born two months premature, they are still tiny. And when they went up for communion, the father handed Molly to the young man in front of me. "Me, me, me, me!" I said, and the mother handed me Emily. Even though I have held my new nephew Brady, and my new grand niece Abby Joy, neither of them were as wee as baby Emily. I marveled at her exquisite tiny-ness, and her perfect fingers, and her perfect little mouth. And when we stood to sing the closing hymn, it must have pleased her, because she smiled, the otherworldly smile of a sound asleep baby. And my heart was lost to the pleasure of that small moment.

Wouldn't you know? Jen and Steve wanted her back...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thinking

It just strikes me as odd that reading those old e-mails a couple nights ago, it just felt for the first time as if I had come through something big and life changing, but it also felt a bit as if I'd won, as if I'd accomplished something. Those months passed in a fog. I went back, after reading them, and re-read the blog. I am glad that Mikey nagged me into blogging. I'm glad that those days are there for me to see before my eyes. It was a life in transformation, a faith in blossom, a family drawing close. You all were along for the ride, and you did a good job of encouraging. As I read it seemed that really, for the first time, cancer was part of my past. I haven't ever really felt as if I'd finished with it. Finding the lump in my armpit (actually it is below my armpit, as far back from the breast as you can get, on the inside edge of my shoulder blade) was a bit ironic. Is it cancer? I don't know, and I'm not jumping to any conclusions. I'm pretty sensible that way. I did however want to hear the words "This? Oh, this isn't anything..." but of course it was the Thursday before the long holiday weekend, and there is not a doctor to be found. Not in the office anyway. *sigh* Tell you though, if I see mine biking by in his little racing suit, I'm chasing him down and having him 'feel that, right there' right in the middle of the road.

Yesterday, I dug hostas in the rain. One of the houses downtown is overgrown with them. I had a truckload of five gallon hostas. Seriously. A truck load. Unable to let a plant go to waste, I brought them home, and planted them along the northside of the house, around the ornamental pond. Yes, Doris, one day I will show you a picture, and tell you how I did it, but now it is not 'ready'. I planted cattails in it, and it has a lily pad, and it has a water hyancinth. It also has two fish, 'Ghost' and 'Bawly' (it has a white face, like a Hereford, and in Oz, they call white faced cows 'bawly', though I've yet to figure why, but it did make a nice name) While I don't see Ghost and Bawly regularly, I do have the cutest little frog that hopped over and decided to stay, and I see him every single day. Anyways, so I planted these huge hostas, again, in the rain. (will it ever stop?)

I took a shower, and then Tim and I went downtown to get some pictures. I found some garden finials, about 3 feet tall, marked down from $40 to $10. I bought two. I also bought the makings for a huge fruit salad. This is the day of the reunion, when Tim's family gathers at the brick oven once again to bake all manner of bread, and in happy carbed out bliss, we will sit and socialize. Probably in the rain.

Tonight, I am making the ultimate sacrifice. I am going to the races with my husband. I hate the races. We're going to Erie to see the big races, and although I've never been, I don't expect that they will excite me any more than the races I've been to already. However, Tim really loves the races, and there will be a huge fireworks display. Tonight will be his night. I will sit at my husband's side, and I will watch the races. Probably in the rain.

So, no. I'm not sitting around obsessing. The lump is a disconcerting discovery, and I am acutely aware of it. It immediately crossed my mind 'I cannot do this again' followed by the immediate knowledge that I could, which was followed by the instantaneous internal snarl of 'Okay, I can, but I do not want to. Not at all. Not even a little'. I'd rather eat pickled pigs feet than do that again. I'd rather pick up a snake than do that again. I'd rather go to the flipping car races every blessed Saturday night than to 'do' cancer again.

But. In the end, it is what it is. It either is, or it isn't, and there's not much I can do to influence the outcome. So this weekend, I'm celebrating. Happy Fourth of July, America!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Unbelievable

My shoulder has been a problem since radiation. It just aches. In the last week, I've begun having problems moving it. Last night, massaging it, I discovered a large lump in my armpit. "Tim," I said cautiously, "is this my imagination?" His hands moved around in the dark and stopped. "No," he replied, and he flipped the reading lamp on at the head of the bed. "Gees," he said, "You can see it."

I'm trying to think of a word big enough for my shock. Unaccountably, I come up with 'gobsmacked'.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Good Times.

I had a short day at work today. I collected samples and did a couple treatments. I went back to the office. I have 'comp time' to burn, so I took the afternoon off. I went to comfort a friend, a librarian. Librarians are a fun crowd to hang out with, turns out. I took in a pizza. We all sat around in the staff room, swapping stories and laughing like crazy, and no one was shushed. Leaving the staff break room, I noticed that the "Book Cellar" was open. The book seller was a genial soul and I walked out of there with a pile of library books offered up for sale. I came home to my empty house and curled up on the sofa with my books as it rained without ceasing outside.

Days like this are good for the soul.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old E-Mails

I have a bad habit. I just tend to let my e-mails build up. I have a couple hundred e-mails, and my responses to them from this past winter. I was in the process of deleting them when I realized that actually, they were kind of interesting. So much of this winter passed in a drugged fog. I forgot things. I forgot how kind people were. I forgot how chemo knocked me on my butt. At one point, when the drugs were making me woozy, I was trying to be brave, but commented to a friend, "This is not much different than being on a tilt-a-whirl. I am sick and want off the ride, but the tattooed operator is smoking a cigarette and talking to a peroxided blonde in tight jeans. He's not paying attention at all, and the ride just goes on and on and on. All I can do is hold on..." I was kind of impressed with that, although I did not remember saying it. I got kind of interested in reading those snippets of raw emotion from that time. Chemo was really hard. I got through it. For the first time, reading those old e-mails, I felt a sense of accomplishment.