Thursday, October 29, 2020

Savoring the moments

 

Trout lilies in N. Georgia
The little things are the ones that count the most after a person has been diagnosed with cancer. Every sunrise, every sunset, and everything in between is precious. 

Time seems to become more valuable and less wasted, or in my case, it has. From the moment I wake until I crawl into bed at night, I'm using every second and thanking God I'm still here to use them. 

One of my favorite places to spend time is in the mountains, particularly the North Georgia mountains. There's something so special about being there. The air is cleaner, the colors more vivid. It's almost as if you're swallowed up by nature and I don't mind it a bit. That's why my husband and I schedule a trip there every year. And, though we usually rent a cabin, we'd love to have a permanent home there when he retires if it weren't so far away from the children. 

On our upcoming trip, we plan to visit several apple orchards. We love seeing the beautiful, fresh fruit and all the products made from them. We'll also make a jaunt to a few local wineries and sample their fare. I love buying from small wineries. 

The weather will be much cooler there over the next few weeks so we'll enjoy our first fire of the season, both inside and outside the cabin. Inside they usually have gas logs, but outside, we'll pile up some seasoned oak and enjoy making s'mores as we star gaze. 

If my foot holds up, we'll do some hiking and visit some nearby waterfalls. Since I injured my ankle a few weeks back, it's been a challenge to walk for long distances, we we'll see how it goes. I still have some time before our trip so I'll do some home remedies and see if that helps. 

Yesterday evening, we got hit by the outskirts or feeder bands of Hurricane Zeta. The winds were about 60 MPH and tree limbs were flying everywhere as they battered our house. The power went out and I had to scramble to get everything from the refrigerator into the deep freezer so we wouldn't lose our groceries. In the last hurricane, our power was out for several days and we lost an entire refrigerator's worth of food. We were so thankful that didn't happen this time and we were also grateful no trees fell this time. During the last hurricane, a couple of our neighbor's trees fell into our yard. They didn't do any damage to our property other than dent up the damp soil with their massive trunks and limbs, so we were blessed. And, our other neighbors were kind enough to cut up and carry away the big Pines. 

The holidays are quickly approaching and I think about how thankful I am to still be alive to celebrate them. One of my dear friends is praying for God to heal him of cancer before November 25th. I have no idea why he's chosen that date, but he has. I'm pulling for him but I don't know if I could be so bold if I had to face cancer again. 

The dictionary defines savor as to delight in or experience with pleasure. If only everyone would take time to savor the moments we're given in each day...

It's too bad I had to go through cancer to understand the concept of savoring moments. I shudder to think of all the minutes, hours, and days I let slip by while only getting through them instead of reveling in them.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Preparing to lose a friend to cancer


This weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time with friends I hadn't seen in almost a year. During that time, cancer invaded their lives. 

It came as a surprise to me when I received the email. It said, "Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, spread to the liver." As soon as I read those words, I cringed. Pancreatic cancer usually takes a person fast. 

Our home church was hosting a women's crafting event. Since many of my old friends there know how much I love crafting, I was invited to participate. Since we'd moved many years ago, the hour and a half trip made attending every service difficult. We missed the fellowship, but tried to stay in touch through phone calls and the internet.

I eagerly accepted the invitation knowing I'd have a chance to see some of my dear friends and in particular, I'd get a chance to visit briefly with Jack, the one with pancreatic cancer. 

The day was lovely. The women and I had a blast making fall decorations and centerpieces. It felt good to be surrounded by friends. They didn't know it, but I hadn't been out of the house much over the past few years.

When our crafting time ended and we'd cleaned up the supplies, our husbands came in to see if they could help. We loaded them down with boxes to take to the cars. 

As Jack reached to take a big box from the preacher's wife, I was surprised. He was so thin. Cancer had taken a toll on his body, leaving his 6 foot frame frail.

Trying to help, I rushed over to my husband and whispered in his ear, "Take that box from Jack! He's too weak to carry it," but my husband shook his head no. I wondered why and was saddened that Jack was struggling under the weight of the box. 

A few minutes later, I understood why my husband refused to take the box. If he'd taken it from Jack, he would have wounded Jack's pride. Though Jack was visibly weak from chemo, he still wanted to be treated normally.

On the way home, I couldn't help but cry. Seeing what cancer had already done to my friend was upsetting. There was nothing I could do about it. 

When Jack had received the bad news, I was his first contact. He knew I'd been through breast cancer and I would be able to answer some of his questions. As we talked on the phone, I listened as he asked about every aspect of the cancer journey. I wondered how much information to share and how much to withhold. I didn't want to discourage him but knew he needed answers. So I decided the best thing I could do was be honest with the questions he asked and not divulge information on anything else. 

It's so difficult to know how to help a friend with cancer. Every case is different. But when a friend reaches out, it's our responsibility to be there for them, in any way possible. And that's what I've tried to do for Jack. 

My heart breaks knowing treatment is only going to make him weaker. I want to wrap my arms around him and give him a heads up but won't. I also want to reach out to his wife and let her know I understand how she feels. I know her fear, but I am trying to just be the listening ear. I want her to share her feelings when and if she wants to, I don't want to pry. 

The reality is that I'll lose a friend very soon to cancer. And while I don't want to believe it, I see it, right in front of my eyes. 

I hate cancer so much. I don't understand how one person can do so well and another have a totally different outcome. 

I honestly believe chemotherapy does a person more harm than good in fight cancer. That's one reason I refused it when I was diagnosed. I'd done my research and I'd listened carefully as the oncologist explained what may or may not happen. 

But each person has to chose for themselves. We do whatever it takes to stay alive and sometimes, that means taking the risk of suffering more bodily damage to do so. 

Please pray for Jack in the days ahead. Maybe, just maybe, the chemo will give him a few more months of life. And if not, pray that God takes him home quickly so he won't have to endure more pain. 

Life is so short. We can never take a day for granted. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cancer is so hard

 Last night, I got a text from a friend of mine who's going through chemo. He's having a really hard time and has been struggling through treatment but was more concerned about how his wife was faring than how he was doing. As I read his message, I could "hear" his worry and fear. 

At his request, I called his wife. She had no idea he'd asked me for this favor. 

As we talked, I let her lead the conversation. I knew, from past experience, she needed a friend and needed to be heard. 

I listened as she poured out her heart. Without coming right out and saying it, she was afraid of what would happen in the near future. She was terrified of being alone. And I couldn't blame her. Her husband's prognosis is grim. 

My heart broke as I listened. She tried to hide her tears but I could hear them. Mingled with my own, we cried together. 

I tried to reassure her none of us are promised tomorrow and that we can only focus on today. I reminded her of Scripture that says we're not to worry about tomorrow. 

She told me she'd been having a very bad day. She'd been faced with spiritual and emotional attack. I explained the feelings she was having were normal and it was okay to feel them but to remember God had promised never to leave or forsake her. 

We talked for a long time. By the end of the conversation, I could tell she was doing better. It's cathartic to pour out feelings sometimes, I said, and offered to be available whenever she needed to talk.

I'm so thankful she trusted me enough to share her deepest fears and concerns but I'm so very sad for my friends. I've been on both sides of cancer and neither of them are easy. 

If there was a way I could take the pain away, I would in a heartbeat but all I can do right now is be available. I promised her I'd give a listening ear whenever she needed it and I meant it. 

If you can, please say a prayer for these two dear friends. I won't share their names to protect their privacy but God knows who they are. 

I hate cancer so much. I wish we could find a way to cure it. Maybe one of these days scientists will figure it out. Until then, we just have to muddle through.



Monday, October 12, 2020

Glitter, glitter everywhere!

 


A few weeks ago, I had the wild idea to start a dress up box for my young granddaughter, Heather. I'd remembered how much her mother, my daughter, Laura, had loved dressing up when she was about the same age. 

As I began my selections for the dress up box, I remembered most little girls I knew loved shiny things so I searched for those specific items. 

On a trip to our local Goodwill, I found a beautiful blue gown with a white net overlay. The white netting sparkled with silver glitter and reminded me of a fairy princess so I bought it. I also found a pair of silver shoes and a beautiful pink tutu. 

Thinking those would be good first additions to Heather's dress up box, I brought them home and did what I always do whenever I make a purchase from Goodwill - I immediately wash the item. 

Dropping the princess dress and the tutu in with my regular load of laundry, I couldn't wait for them to come out so I could pop them in the dryer and then into her box. 

I went about my other chores for the day as the clothes were washing. 

About thirty minutes later, the chime on my washer indicated the load was done so I went to transfer the clothes into the dryer. 

When I opened the lid to the washer, I was surprised to see sparkly silver glitter on all of our clothing. "Oh well, I thought. It will come off in the dryer." 

Gathering the wet clothes, I chucked them into the dryer and turned it on heading back into the kitchen to unload the dishwasher. 

When the signal alerted me to the fact that the clothes were done drying, I went to take them out. 

After withdrawing a couple of items from the dryer, I found the glitter had not come off. All of the clothes were still covered in silver sparkles. This was not what I'd expected! 

I took all the clothes and put them back into the wash and set it to wash on a longer cycle and added an extra rinse cycle, too. 

Once again, about thirty minutes later, the washer signaled the cycle was complete. This time, when I transferred the clothes to the dryer, they looked okay.  

When they were dry, I took the large load of clothes to my bed and folded them. As I began to put them away, I was thankful I'd found some cute things for the dress up box. 

This morning, as I was preparing for my shower, I gathered my clothing and took it into the bathroom. After placing the clothes on the counter, I turned on the shower and stepped in. 

When my shower was complete and I was toweled off, I reached for my clothing to get dressed. As I grabbed my underwear, I noticed they were covered in silvery sparkles! "For heaven's sake!" I thought and then shook my head. I was just going to wear the sparkly drawers anyway. 

As I pulled the panties up, I was reminded of a funny story a friend had told me years ago. She'd had her elderly mother move in with her when the Mom's health was failing. She wanted to give her the very best care she could and that means she'd oversee all of her health needs. She'd scheduled an appointment for her mother to have a pap smear, even though the mother protested at the need for the test. 

On the day of the test, the daughter encouraged her Mom to take a shower beforehand. 

Finally, it was time for the duo to head out for the doctor's office. 

When the Mom's name was called for the appointment, the daughter decided to give her Mom privacy and not accompany her into the exam room. 

On the exam table, as the woman prepared for the pap smear by spreading her legs apart, the doctor exclaimed, "My, Mrs. Weaver, don't you look fancy today." 

The test was performed and when Mrs. Weaver went back out to the waiting room to meet up with her daughter, she said, "I don't know what is wrong with that doctor. He kept on telling me I sure did look fancy today and I have no idea why. I look like I do every other day." 

Walking to the car, the daughter tried to get to the bottom of the incident. She asked her Mom if she'd done anything special to prepare for the exam. Mrs. Weaver said, "I just took a shower and used that body wash you have in my shower and then I used some of that hairspray you have underneath the counter." 

Thinking for a moment, the daughter said to her mother, "Mom, I don't use hairspray." The Mom said, "Well, there was some under there and I thought I might better use some." 

When they got home, the daughter went into the bathroom and opened the cabinet. Underneath the counter was a can of sparkly glitter hairspray her teenage daughter had used the year before for a party on Halloween. All of a sudden it clicked! The doctor had said Mrs. Weaver sure looked fancy because Mrs. Weaver had sprayed the glittery spray in her nether regions! 

All of a sudden, she burst out laughing as she thought about the doctor getting a bird's eye view of her mother's hooha covered in silvery glitter. 

I never thought the glitter from the princess dress would stick so well to my undies, but it sure did. I don't think I'll be buying any more glittery things for the dress up box any time soon and I hope my husband doesn't notice the sparkles on my undies as I undress tonight. If he does, I think I'll have some (in the voice of Ricky Ricardo) 'splaining to do. 



Friday, October 2, 2020

Flatties unite


 Find your tribe they said. Okay. So where do I find a tribe of flat chested women? And where do I find ones who had no say in the matter? Facebook! Yeah. That's where. 

So I started looking for my tribe and found a group called Flatties. Cute. And appropriate. These would be my people. 

I submitted a request to join and answered the questions. Apparently, I passed the test. They let me in. Now I have a group of women who understand what it's like to go through life without breasts - thanks cancer. 

Of course, the choice wasn't only up to cancer. Yes, it was the cause behind the choice but the choice not to reconstruct was ours. We had that power. We were smart. We had considered all options. We chose freedom from more surgeries and the possibility of more infections and more pain. 

So what if our chests are scarred? At least we're still here. We are alive and we are strong. 

We wouldn't be human if we didn't have our moments of weakness, though. We'd be liars to admit we don't wish things had been different. Sure, we mourn our loss at times. And yes, we cry. A lot. Who wouldn't? 

Becoming breastless is tragic. The emotional, physical, and spiritual pain behind it is unexplainable but those who've experienced it understand. Yes, I need a tribe. 

In the group, I find women who are unashamed of posting photos. Their bare chested shots don't shock me. In fact, I find them quite brave. At least they're willing to take a risk - to prove cancer couldn't take all of them. I'm proud to call them friends, albeit virtual. 

There are days I don't like myself much. When I look in the mirror, I see ugliness, disfigurement, flatness. But, then I remember. The choice to be flat was mine. I could have chosen the route of breast reconstruction. I could have allowed the doctor to slice chunks of fat off my body and sew them in place upon my chest forming mounds of fake breast tissue that may or may not have survived. Tissue that doesn't survive is called necrotic. And when it dies, it has to be removed immediately. 

Reconstruction is a long, drawn out process and one I didn't care to participate in. Yes, I could have been a medical fake, a fraud, the great pretender...but I chose not to do so. I chose to let others see what breast cancer took from me. It took parts of my body but did not take the whole. I am still here. I am alive and I am proud of that.

Every Day Should Be a Day of Thanksgiving

This morning, I woke up at 5:55 a.m. It's getting to be a thing. For the past several months, God shakes me awake at precisely 5:55 a.m....