Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chipmunk Cheeks

Life is moving forward at an alarming rate. Things haven’t quite yet returned to “normal” and I’m not sure they ever really will, but life goes on. Yesterday, I had an appointment with the oral surgeon. I had two teeth that needed to be extracted. I wasn’t looking forward to it by any means. Dentists, of all kinds, scare the Bejeezus out of me! 

My dental fear began in my childhood. When I was young, we didn’t have a lot of money for unnecessary things. Often times, even necessary things had to fall by the wayside because there just wasn’t enough extra income to take care of those things. One of the things that got pushed to the back was routine dental visits. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t want to give us the best care we could get, it was just simply that we couldn’t afford it.

We did get yearly checkups. My mother made sure of that. She knew it was important for teeth to be taken care of, but when you have 3 little mouths to see about, even those annual visits could add up rather quickly.

We lived in a small, rural town filled with kindhearted people. Neighbors knew each other well. Children respected their elders. Any parent on our street had the right to correct or discipline any child at any time whether they were related by blood or not. That’s the way it was back then and we were okay with it.

In our little city, Mama knew just about everyone. The local grocers were dear friends and so were many of the other businessmen and women. Often, when our family didn’t have money to pay for a service, Mama could sign a ticket promising to settle up later or she could work it out in trade. She’d often barter her sewing skills to provide for something her children needed. She was very resourceful.
There was one local business person I wish Mama had never befriended, and that was the local dentist, Dr. West. He was nice enough, but for some reason, he didn’t believe children felt pain. Whenever I went to his office to have work done, he’d smile and say, “This will only take a minute.” As he’d rev up his drill and lower it into my mouth, I had no idea what to expect. It didn’t take long for me to discover there was a vast difference between his minute and mine. To this day, I am still traumatized by being drilled on without anesthesia or even the smallest amount of Novocaine. Dr. West didn’t use it on me. Now I don’t know if he didn’t use it because it cost more money and Mama told him to forego it, or if he was genuinely a sadist. Whatever the case, after that first visit and that first dose of extreme pain, I decided I did not like going to the dentist and never, ever would.

Since Dr. West was the only dentist in our little town, I had to see him many times throughout my childhood. I know I must have left some of my fingernails embedded in his dental chair because I gripped the armrest so tightly during my procedures. I remember crying and pleading with him to stop as he would be drilling, but he never did. He’d just smile and keep on going.

Those childhood memories have haunted me for ages! Now flash forward to yesterday…it’s pretty sad, but I can truthfully say that even after 50 years I’m still scared to death of the dentist. Just hearing a drill causes me to turn pale as a ghost and have heart palpitations. I told this new doctor, my oral surgeon, about all my childhood trauma. He listened and assured me I wouldn’t experience anything like that with him. I wanted so desperately to believe him. I crossed my fingers and prayed he was telling the truth.

The nurse came out from the back office and walked with me to the surgical suite. She asked me to lie down on the gurney and told me to relax. She could see the fear and trepidation on my face, so she patted my arm gently and said, “It’s going to be okay, I promise.” Another promise…I hoped she was telling the truth, too.

She placed a small cuplike thing over my nose and told me to breathe normally. I lay there a while just listening to the music coming through the speakers. The nurse was above my head doing something I couldn’t see. I could hear metal clinking against metal so I assumed she was laying out instruments for the doctor. In a few minutes, the doctor stepped in and asked me to open my mouth. I obeyed and wished I hadn’t. He took a long syringe and injected 3 very painful shots of Novocaine on each side of my back molars. He did the right side first and then the left. I thought I was going to jump off the table when the first shot went deep into my gum line but I dug my fingernails deeply into the arm of the gurney just as I’d done during my childhood days.

I continued to lie on the gurney and the nurse occasionally talked to me. She assured me the doctor would be back soon and we’d get started. While I lay there, my lips began to get numb and feel very swollen. It felt funny to have fat lips and a cup over my nose. I told the nurse I had fat lips and she laughed. I guess she had been adjusting the amount of Nitrous Oxide all along and I just didn’t realize it.

It seemed like hours of waiting on the table for the doctor to return, but I’m sure it was just minutes. I could see small vapor trails out of the corner of my eye as they drifted up from the nose piece. I assumed that was from the “laughing gas” although I didn’t find it very funny. I did enjoy the music the doctor had chosen to pump into the surgical suite speakers. Eric Clapton was playing “Tears in Heaven” and that’s the last song I remember although many played during my surgery.

The doctor came in and told me to open my mouth again. He said all I should feel this time was pressure. It seemed like he was done in just a few minutes and he was telling me I did great. Large wads of cotton gauze were packed into place. I continued to lie on the gurney breathing pure oxygen now and gathering my wits about me. As I left the office, my husband escorted me to the car. I told him everything that happened and explained how grateful I was to have been sedated.

Today has been a rough day. The sedation has completely dissipated and the jaw pain has been pretty severe. I am unable to eat anything for a week or so but I’ve got some nutritional supplements I can drink and they will get me through that period. I still don’t like going to the dentist very much but having this procedure done just proves my life is still moving forward. I’m not stuck in the cancer rut any longer.

It’s nice to look at my calendar and see it’s not filled with appointments related to cancer every other day. Last year, I was going to a specialist almost every three weeks. Now, although I still have to go, the visits are stretching out further and further. My next appointment for anything related to cancer is at the end of March. I would smile about it, because it makes me so very happy not to have those frequent visits, but my cheeks are so swollen and it hurts to smile. I’d never have thought having “chipmunk cheeks” would make me happy, but it does. Being able to focus on something other than breast cancer feels great, and even through the pain, I can be thankful to be alive. Life continues to move forward and I’m so glad it does.


© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Moving Forward


Hiking. It’s one of my favorite loves of all time. Being out in the wilderness is so refreshing. I love walking under the huge trees and feeling the fresh air surround me. When I’m in the woods, all of my troubles disappear. It’s the best feeling in the world.

I think I was born to be in the outdoors! My love of nature began as a small child, thanks to my mother. She loved the outdoors, too, and made sure I learned to respect all of the woodland creatures. She would take me by the hand and show me various animals and tell me about their habitats.

When I was growing up, it wasn’t strange to walk into the kitchen and see Mama feeding an orphaned squirrel from a teeny, tiny bottle. Mama loved to bring the outdoors in and never balked when she’d find rocks or feathers or other mementos of nature in our pockets while doing laundry. Rocks and dirt were part of my childhood and I’m so thankful they were. But back to hiking…

My love of hiking began when I was in the Girl Scouts. My mother was my troop leader and we had a blast being outdoors together. There were day hikes, overnight hikes, campfires and s’mores. It was a wonderful time of adventure. I have some great memories of those trips to the mountains together, but my Mom was not a long distance hiker. She was a novice. I was determined to hike more than she did. I wanted to know more, see more, and do more.

Georgia has so many wonderful hiking trails running through it. One of the most popular and most well traveled is the Appalachian Trail. The trail head begins at Springer Mountain in Fannin County, Georgia. It’s a beautiful, well marked trail that leads all the way to Maine and ends at Mt. Katahdin. Over 2100 miles of trail extend through 14 states. The trails wind through some of the most scenic areas the Southeastern United States. It’s hard not to fall in love with the A.T. The first time I was on it, I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I felt right at home, but I’ve never hiked the entire A.T. One of my life goals is to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail but I doubt if it will ever happen. The trail is so long and it requires so much preparation to do a thru hike. For those who are unable to complete a thru hike, from Georgia to Maine, there are ways to hike the trail in segments. I have done many segment hikes and have had the opportunity to hike in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Following those beautiful, white blazes along the trail you can jump on or off the trail in many places. The trail has so much to offer for both beginners and experienced hikers and sometimes, taking a blue blazed trail is okay, too. (Blue blazes are sometimes easier, more scenic than the white blazed trails they parallel.)

One of the things that intrigues me most about being on the trail is wondering where the path will lead. Often times, I’ll begin a trail and have no idea where it’s taking me. I don’t like to read maps, so I don’t try to look ahead and see where I’m going. That’s not always a good thing, but I like surprises! Once my husband and I were on the trail and I felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I got the eeriest feeling. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were in the presence of a bear. I never did see him but I sure felt him. Sometimes it’s good not to see what lies ahead on the trail!

It doesn’t take much to hike. All you need is a good, sturdy pair of shoes and the “want to.” If you can walk, you can hike. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Well…that’s not always true. It’s much easier to stand firmly in one place than to put forth the effort to start walking, especially when you have no idea where the path goes. Sometimes it’s scary not knowing what lies ahead. I can attest to that…I’ve been there, many times.

I’m a creature of habit. I don’t like change. I like things to stay the same. I feel secure when I know what’s coming next, but I think that’s exactly why God wants me to move forward right now. For the past 19 months, I’ve been on this wild and crazy journey with breast cancer and now things have finally slowed down. Its taken me down into valleys of despair and through devastating twists and turns. Most of the time, I had no idea where I was going but I knew I had to pick one foot up and then the other. I had to keep moving because the alternative was just giving up and giving in and I wasn’t about to do that. And now…I don’t know what’s next. I have absolutely no idea what path I’m on or where I’m headed. But even though I have no clue what’s around the bend, God does.

For the past few days, God has been using one verse of Scripture to speak to my heart. I’ve come across it as I’ve read devotionals, as I’ve read my Bible, and on the internet. It’s funny how God keeps putting it in front of my face. It’s found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 43 and here’s what it says:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.

When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Those verses are powerful and they tell me that God doesn’t want me to stand still. He wants me to move ahead. He doesn’t want me to stay comfortable where I am. He has something bigger in store. There was another verse of Scripture He gave me when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer – “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10. So with those two sets of verses in mind, I think I’m headed on a new path that God has planned specifically for me.

It’s exciting to know things are about to change and even though I can’t see the next step on my journey, I can trust God because I know He has His very best in store for me. I know He’s already gone before me and prepared the way. I know He’ll be with me and won’t ever leave me alone.

I don’t know what the days hold, but I know I can’t just stand still with my feet firmly planted in place. I have to move and just like when I’m hiking, I have to trust the signs along the way to guide me to my new destination.

It’s Winter here in Georgia. It’s cold and everything is barren. The trees have lost their leaves, animals are hibernating, and it seems things are just frozen in time. But Spring is just around the corner and that’s a time filled with the hope of new life and great expectations. Maybe this is a time of preparation right before my new path is revealed. I’m anticipating new and exciting things in the days ahead and I’ve got my hiking boots already pulled out and ready.

There’s a yearning in my spirit for change and new growth, much like a seedling about to sprout. I can’t help but wonder what’s next. Sometimes I think God likes to keep me guessing just to prove He’s still in control! I’m sure a new plan will unfold soon and as soon as I know what it is, I’ll share it with you. Until then, happy trails to you! Keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t be afraid to move forward. It’s going to be a great adventure…I just know it!

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Learning to leave pink behind

It’s been 19 months since I first heard the words, “You have cancer,” but it seems a life time ago. So much has changed since that fateful day in June 2014. Today I’ve decided it’s time to say goodbye to breast cancer. It’s time to put it behind me and move forward. I know…you’d think I’d have already done this by now, wouldn’t you? But it’s not as easy as you think. For the past 19 months, cancer has pretty much dominated my life. I never intended it to be that way. Cancer just kind of came into my life and took over…an unwanted interloper, but now I’m kicking cancer to the curb. It’s time to only see pink in the dust as I move forward from survivor into thriver.

I’ve chronicled my entire breast cancer journey since the day I was diagnosed. I wanted to make sure my family and friends would have an accurate record of every step I took. I wanted them to see and feel and understand how cancer decimates, demeans, and destroys. I also wanted them to know how a woman of faith responded to such an evil foe. If you’d like to read my breast cancer blog and see how it all began, visit my original blog at http://journeyintopink.blogspot.com There you’ll find almost 2 years of valuable information. As you read, you’ll find out a lot about me. You’ll know, by my post, whether I was having a good day or a bad day. You’ll find some days filled with sadness and others filled with joy. Throughout every post, hopefully, you’ll hear my heart and understand my faith. You’ll definitely understand that cancer is never easy.

Today, as I begin my new blog, I’m hoping to be able to make a huge shift from living smack dab in the middle of cancer, to waving goodbye and only seeing it behind me. That’s why I named this blog “Pink in my rear view.” My desire, in writing this blog, is to continue on from where cancer left off. Looking back will keep me tied to the past and I don’t want to do that…I want to move forward. I do think it’s important to remember our past, but we can’t get stuck there and I don’t think God wants us to do that either.

So this is the first day of my journey forward. I won’t say I have cancer any more…instead, I’ll say I had cancer. There’s a great amount of power in the words we speak over ourselves and I choose to speak life from this day forward.

Thank you for taking time to stop by and visit. I hope you’ll be back again and often! I’m excited to begin this new chapter of my life and I can’t wait to share it with you.

© bonnie annis all rights reserved

Stop Talking!

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