Thursday, December 22, 2022

Merry Christmas to me!


Today was my 6 month check up with the oncologist. I arrived about fifteen minutes early and took a seat in the waiting room. As I sat, waiting to be called back, the room slowly filled up with other patients. 

As I looked around the room, I noticed the various ages. The majority of people were my age or a little older and it made me sad to see so many with cancer. 

I could only see their eyes since everyone was having to wear masks. I looked at one or two people and they turned away. Though I was smiling at them beneath my mask, I wondered if they could tell. Did my eyes twinkle with friendliness? I hoped they did. 

Two elderly ladies sat next to me. When one turned toward me, I said, "Good Morning!" and instantly received a greeting back. Thank goodness there are some friendly people in the world. 

A few minutes later, I was called back. Instead of stopping at the scale first, they took me straight to the lab. I made small talk with the lab tech and watched as she pulled out a butterfly needle for my stick. She remembered I was a "hand only" stick due to the lymphedema in my arms. I was glad I didn't have to go through the whole spiel about why she couldn't use my arms like they usually do for blood draws. 

When she'd taken my blood, the nurse was waiting for me. Now it was time for the yucky part, weigh in. I stepped on the scale hoping I hadn't gained any weight and was pleasantly surprised to find out I'd lost 5 pounds! 

We sauntered down the hallway to the exam room, talking about our Christmas plans. Inside the room, Lolly (yes, that was her real name) took my vital signs. 

Dr. P came in a few minutes later and I couldn't help but smile. He was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. I remarked on it and he said they were having a staff party today and he was hoping to win the contest. 

We chatted a few minutes and I voiced a few concerns as he pulled up my lab results that had already been posted. He said my tumor markers were great, which was a wonderful relief to me! 

When he performed his physical exam, he hovered over the place at my left clavicle. As he moved the tumor around, he said, "I'm almost positive it's a lipoma so don't worry." He reminded me we'd already done an ultrasound on it and and MRI and nothing of concern showed up. He didn't feel we needed to do any more testing and I was glad to hear that. 

I asked when he wanted me to see him again and he smiled a big smile and said, "How about 6 months from now?" I said it sounded good to me. 

As I left his office, I felt like I was walking on cloud 9. I was so elated at the news that my tumor markers were good. Why is it that we always tend to expect the worst? 

So now, I am breathing easier and feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. No one understands what it's like to play the constant "what if" game over and over again in your mind unless you've been through a bout with cancer. It's like being on a never ending roller coaster. Some days are up and some days are down and if you're lucky, you get a nice long stretch of level ground in between there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Conflicted

Tomorrow is the big day. It's my annual visit to the oncologist. I'm struggling with my feelings. While I want to be hopeful and optimistic, I'm feeling fearful and filled with trepidation. 

Piedmont Hospital

Normally, these visits are uneventful. I go to the lab for bloodwork, where they do the typical tumor marker tests, and then I see the doctor. He usually sits and talks with me for about ten or fifteen minutes and then says, "I'll let you know if there's anything concerning on your bloodwork. See you next year!" And that's that. I leave the office and breathe easy for a while until it's time to do it all over again. But this time, I have several things to discuss with him, and since it's about time for me to have another PET scan, I'm expecting him to order one of those. 

And that's why I wonder, when and if, I'll ever be able to put cancer in the rearview. 

Today on Facebook, I got word of another friend whose cancer has returned. It seems every friend I've had, who shared a breast cancer diagnosis and took chemotherapy, has either passed away or had their cancer return. I, on the other hand, am still here. I can't help but wonder why. 

PET scanner

My faith, I'm sure, is the key factor in all of this. Without it, I imagine I'd be gone, too. But I keep telling myself God has a reason for me to still be here. There must be something more I'm supposed to do. 

This is a hard, hard time of year though for so many people. 

I was looking back through my iCloud photos from the past year and realized I've not only lost several friends, but I'd also had many friends who've lost their spouses. My heart grieves for all the losses. Sometimes, life is so hard. 

Our tree
Not only that, at Christmas, families are supposed to be together but so many are broken. And while I wish I could say mine hasn't suffered that fate; it has. Oh, if only things could be the way they're supposed to be, but all we can do is keep on praying and keep on believing that one day, wounds will be healed, and fences mended. 

Gosh. I didn't mean for this to be such a depressing post! I'm sorry! Don't get the wrong idea - I do have hope. 

Christmas is one of my most favorite times of the year. I love decorating! I love buying gifts and wrapping them. I love having some of my children and grandchildren here for the holidays. Sure, I'd love to have them all here with me, but they have families of their own and I have to be understanding. 

My advent wreath
I remember the days when my children were small. I had to split the Christmas holidays between visiting my parents and my in laws. By the time the day was done, everyone was worn out. One year, we decided to stay home and enjoy Christmas at our house. You'd think we committed a mortal sin by the way the parents and in laws acted, but I didn't care. I wanted my children to enjoy a very special time in their own home. We invited people to join us at our house and eventually, they came around, but I never heard the end of it. Sometimes you have to fight for your rights, even if it makes others a little miffed. 

Over the past few days, I've taken a step back from all of the hullabaloo associated with Christmas prep. I've asked God to shift my focus. Thankfully, since Hanukkah overlaps Christmas this year, I've been able to celebrate that along with Advent. Both of those have helped me think more about God and His wonderful love for us.

My menorah & nativity
No matter what news I receive from this oncology visit, I'm going to look forward to celebrating the new year by taking one day at a time. 

The Bible says none of us are promised tomorrow. Since I was diagnosed with cancer, God's given me the gift of being able to see that in a very real way. 

I'm so thankful He's seen fit to let me continue to live a little longer. I sure hope I don't any of the blessings He's given me for granted. 

Please offer up a prayer for me tomorrow and thank you in advance.

Many blessings, 

Bonnie

Monday, December 19, 2022

Breast Cancer Camaraderie is Real

The breast cancer community is made up of men and women who understand the importance of camaraderie. By showing each other love and support, no one ever feels alone. 

One of my friends went in for a diagnostic mammogram today. She’d opted to keep her breasts after her diagnosis with cancer, while I did not. That means she'll continue to have routine mammograms periodically for the rest of her life. And while I can't judge her for her decision, I wish she didn't have to go through the trauma of constant testing.

Having your breasts removed doesn't guarantee you'll never have breast cancer again. It just means if it ever returns, no matter where it decides to show up, it'll still be considered breast cancer — metastatic breast cancer.
It's a bum rap if you ask me. It seems that if you lop off your breasts, your chances of a recurrence should be nil, but that's not the case. And that makes me nervous.
When my friend told me about her mammogram, I immediately put it on my phone calendar adding an alert one day in advance, so I’d be reminded to pray for her. I’d also put in an alert for the same day as the test. I wanted to shoot her a text message letting her know she was on my heart.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but her scheduled test affected me negatively. It felt like I was right there with her. I could almost see myself moving forward with the mammography machine in front of me. I could almost hear the technician telling me to hold still as she lowered the cold plate down onto my breast. I imagined feeling the pain of the plates squeezing my breast as the tech went through the imagine process and could feel myself exhale as the plates lifted and I was allowed to step away.

I was thankful I wasn’t there with my friend, but it sure felt like I had been.

Camaraderie in the cancer community is real. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the breast cancer Facebook groups. Whenever someone posts about an upcoming test or facing a fearful situation, her sisters will rally offering words of hope and encouragement.
We need each other.

That’s one of the most powerful things I realized as I was going through my diagnosis and treatment. I never felt alone, even when I was alone, because there were always others with me in spirit. We may have lived hundreds of miles apart, but I knew I could count on someone to be available whenever I needed them. They were only a few keystrokes away.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the possibility of recurrence. I try not to dwell on it, but if I'm honest, I must admit the thought crosses my mind at least once, if not more, times a day.

I keep wondering how long it will take to forget about cancer. It's been eight years since I was diagnosed. You'd think that would be more than enough time to forget about it, but I haven’t been able to just yet.

My friend messaged me in the early afternoon on the day of her test. She’d thought she’d have the results the same day, but that wasn’t the case. I texted right back and told her I was praying for good results and told her not to worry. She said she’d let me know as soon as the results came in.

That night, I found myself thinking about her a lot. I wondered how she would react if the test revealed a recurrence of cancer. I imagined it would be devastating for her, but I also knew how strong she was. No matter what happened, good or bad, I felt in my heart she’d be OK.

Later the following day, she called and gave me the good news: no cancer recurrence! I was overjoyed for her and cried tears of happiness with her. It felt good to finally let out a sigh of relief. She expressed gratitude for my prayers, and I reminded her we both had much for which to be thankful.

Now she goes through another period of waiting. She’ll have a whole year to forget about cancer until time for her next mammogram and then, the process will start all over again.

In the meantime, I’m hoping she’ll take advantage of doing things she enjoys without feeling overshadowed by all the what ifs cancer brings. I’m going to do my best to be there for her celebrating the mundane. 

We don’t always have to focus on the big things. We can celebrate the small things, too. Those day-to-day occurrences we often overlook are just as important as the huge milestones. Taking a breath can be just as significant as letting one go.

Remember those high school days when you’d attend a pep rally before a football game? The cheerleaders would lead students in a string of rousing cheers that would get them “all fired up?” Well, the breast cancer community is like that. Camaraderie can help foster perseverance, strength, and hope. It’s a powerful force to love others and show them support.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to be on someone’s support team. It will not only bless them, it will also bless you.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Making Memories

Yesterday, my granddaughter, Heather, came over to bake cookies with me. For the past several years, I've had the honor of baking with her while her Mommy finishes up some last-minute Christmas shopping. It's a win win for all of us. I get to spend precious one on one time with Heather and Laura gets to have some much-needed Mommy time. 

This year was a little different. Heather's gotten older and is able to do a lot more than she'd been able to do in years past. Since she could read well and follow instructions, I decided to let her do as much as she could. 

We started out by pulling out ingredients. As I'd call out what we needed, she'd run to the pantry and look for the items. When she couldn't find something, I'd give her clues to help her located each one. After they were all assembled on the kitchen island, I pulled out a new Christmas apron I'd bought for each of us, and we put them on. The bright red aprons would protect our clothing from flour and other ingredients if we decided to get a little messy. 

Playing Jenga

Pulling out a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon, I gave Heather the recipe and we walked through it step by step. As she read down the instructions, we talked about what we'd use to carry out each task. I told her we'd need measuring spoons, measuring cups, a rolling pin, and cookie cutters to start with and then later on, we'd need decorating bags and various tips as well as royal icing. 

She was so excited as we began. Carefully, I helped her measure each ingredient and place it into the bowl. She was so tickled to use a little baking set Laura had purchased for her. There were multicolored measuring spoons, a tiny scraper, a little whisk, and a miniature rolling pin. 

When we had all the ingredients in the bowl, I pulled out the electric mixer and turned it on. I let her hold it with me for a few minutes so she could get used to how it felt and then, I let her hold it on her own. You should have seen her eyes get huge as the mixer wobbled in the bowl and she tried to control it! Thankfully, she was brave enough to hold on tight. 

We got the dough all mixed up and popped it in the fridge to chill. As it was chilling, we played a couple of games of Jenga, listened to some Christmas music, and she rewatched a quick children's video, Noel, the Happy Christmas Ornament. 


About an hour later, we pulled the dough out of the fridge and got busy rolling out the dough. Heather tried her best with that little rolling pin, but soon realized it wasn't doing the job well enough. She found my large, marble rolling pin to be much more efficient. 

We had such fun cutting out cat, dog, snowflake, gingerbread men and women, and other cute critters. 

I manned the oven putting cookies in and taking them out as they were ready while Heather worked on cutting more cookies. We made a great team and before we knew it, the time had flown! 

Stopping for a quick bite of lunch, we laughed over the mess we'd made in the kitchen. Sprinkles of flour were on the floor and the counters were covered in bits of cookie dough. Heather was worried about it and I told her we'd clean it up later. "It's all part of the fun," I told her. 

When the cookies had cooled, I pulled out the royal icing I'd prepared the night before. I'd made a bag with Christmas colors - red, green, and white. I affixed various tips on the bags and showed Heather how to hold and use them. Then, the real fun began. 

Intently, she worked to decorate each cookie. I loved watching her facial expressions as she worked and captured her with my cell phone camera. 

Laura joined in the fun and decorated a cookie of her own then showed Heather how to bite the head off!


I love making special memories with the grandchildren. I hope they'll think back on those special times as they grow older and remember the love that accompanied each moment we shared together. 

For me, being a grandparent means being able to share in a child's learning and growing process. We miss so much of the day to day growing up years, so when we have a chance to capture just a few of the minutes, it's a very special gift. 
 

Friday, December 9, 2022

Feeling Nostalgic

This is the time of year that I begin to really miss my childhood and it seems the older I get, the more I long for those simpler times. 

Today, I was remembering helping my mom set up the tree in our living room. We had an artificial tree, nothing fancy. It probably cost about $20 or $30 back then, if that and we probably got it at Kmart. My memory isn't as keen as it used to be, but there are many things I still remember so bear with me. 

After unboxing the tree and getting it into the stand, Mama would pull out the decorations. We'd always put the lights on the tree first. Usually, we had colored lights because Mama thought they were pretty. Some years later, we'd change to white lights, but during my childhood, we had the bright colors. 


When the lights were on, she'd pull out a package of tinsel. I always loved seeing that package of tinsel because inside the plastic wrapped box was a world of fun. Those shiny, silver strands of tinsel were the best! After she slit the box open, she'd let my brother, sister, and I begin to drape them onto the tree limbs. We did our best to be dainty about it, but every once in a while, when she wasn't looking, we'd throw the tinsel high into the air and watch if fall randomly on the tree. Before we knew it, that dull, dark green tree was covered in shimmery tinsel. To me, it didn't need anything else. I thought it was beautiful just like that, but Mama loved the decorations, so we always put them on next. 


The first decorations I remember were Shiny Brite ornaments. They came in a box and were very fragile, blown glass ornaments. Over the years, those ornaments eventually got broken. I hate it because now those things are collectable, and I'd give anything to have some of them. But anyway, I digress.

Among those beautiful glass ornaments were specialty ornaments. I don't know when she started doing it, but at some point, in our childhood, Mama began buying one special ornament a piece for my brother, sister, and I. She'd choose a unique ornament that represented some accomplishment in our lives or something that catered to a special hobby or event we'd participated in. Some years we'd get to help choose the ornament and other times; she'd choose it for us. It became an annual tradition and Mama said, "When you grow up, you can take your ornament collection with you to start your own Christmas tree." And that's exactly what we did. 

As each of us married, we gathered our box of ornaments and took it with us, leaving Mama and Daddy's tree practically empty. But it wasn't long before Mama was choosing new ornaments to don the tree. She especially loved the unique Hallmark ornaments. They were costly, but she didn't mind. We'd always marvel at the cute ornaments she chose. Each one marking something special in one of our lives. 

When the grandkids came along, she'd buy ornaments for them, too. There was never a shortage of Christmas ornaments in the house! 

That tradition of buying an annual Christmas ornament continues through our family to this day. 

It's always fun to look back at our collections and remember what the ornament represented but more than that, remembering the joy something so simple brought to Mama. 

My box of special ornaments has disappeared. I've looked high and low for it and can't find it. All I can think is during our last move, those ornaments were either left in the attic or got lost on the moving truck. They've just vanished, and it makes me sick. I've thought about trying to replace many of them, but I can't even remember all the ones I had back then. 

Now I make my own ornaments and make ornaments for others, too. I try to do a special handcrafted one each year. To me, it's a way of using my talents to bless others, but I still miss my childhood ones. Nothing can ever replace those. 

I remember sitting on the sofa late in the evenings as a child. I'd sit there and just stare at the Christmas tree. The twinkling-colored lights looked so pretty and the way they lit up the tinsel next to them was magic. 

When I was much, much younger, we used to have an aluminum Christmas tree with a multi-colored wheel that sat underneath it. As the wheel slowly turned, it would emit a color onto the tree - Red, Yellow, Green, or Blue. I loved watching the color change and would find myself hypnotized by the constancy of it. 

Oh, those days seem so far away but how fresh they are in my memory. If I could travel back in time, I'd find myself once again in our little living room laughing with my siblings, tossing tinsel in the air, and waiting for the big day to arrive. 


Thursday, December 8, 2022

The annual 100 book challenge


I'm coming down the home stretch of my self imposed annual 100 book challenge. For the past several years, I've been able to complete reading 100 books and it's been so fun! I love reading and find there are so many new and different books I haven't read in my lifetime. I especially enjoy reading true life stories. 

My most recent book, High Achiever, by Tiffany Jenkins, was about a recovering drug addict. It was a quick read, and I found the author's writing style to be open and honest. As I read about her life, I could not only sympathize with Tiffany, I could also picture myself in her place. It would have been so easy to fall into the world of addiction, especially when facing challenging life events. 

As I dug into the story, I was able to understand a little more about the "why" behind Tiffany's choices. Doing my best not to judge her, I could only think there but for the grace of God go I. 

I was a teen in the early 70s. Back then, drugs were plentiful and readily available. The first drug I was exposed to was marijuana. In the high school bathroom, a friend asked if I wanted a hit off of her joint. At that particular time, I was very naive and repulsed so I said no, but later on, when the opportunity was presented again, I said yes. That rash decision led to an introduction to many other illegal substances. I won't go into more detail other than to say, I can definitely understand a small portion of Tiffany's life due to firsthand experience. 

Now, many states have legalized marijuana, and many doctors are finding the use of CBD beneficial for helping those with cancer or other illnesses. 

At the cancer treatment center, I was given instructions to use CBD for pain management. Though marijuana isn't legal in Georgia, it was easy to find stores that sold hemp products or CBD products without THC. (THC is the part of cannabis that gives the "high.") Truth be told, the CBD is beneficial, not only for pain, but also for anxiety. 

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on that tangent!

I have two more books to read before the end of the year. I'm reading Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and Guests on Earth. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is a funny book about life in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia. The author writes similarly to Fannie Flagg. I enjoy this type of book when I need something lighthearted, and I was thankful a cousin sent it to me for my recent birthday. 

The other book I'm reading is Guests on Earth. It's a more serious book about a young girl's time in a mental institution. 

They're very different books and yes, I'm reading them simultaneously! I've only got 23 days until the end of the year. 


I've already started thinking about next year's challenge and I'm looking for book suggestions if you'd like to leave a comment. Also, I'm thinking about resolutions for the New Year. One of which will be to try and blog more often. I've been so busy this year it seems time has flown by, and I haven't accomplished all the things I had planned. I guess that's just life though, right? We make plans and have good intentions and then life gets in the way. 

I did pull down my wall calendar and look over places and events for 2022. I use my calendar as a sort of visual journal. By jotting down important trips and events, it helps me compile information for my annual Christmas newsletter. I usually send those out to a select few family and close friends who've expressed an interest in keeping up with my shenanigans. It's always fun to do but I've learned, unless I keep good notes, I'll forget what I did and when. 

My brain has definitely aged. I can remember things from the past clearly but couldn't tell you what I had for lunch yesterday! 

Anyway, I thank you for taking time to read my blog and I promise, I'll write more often next year. I won't promise to make daily posts, but I'll try my best. 

If you've never tried to read 100 books in a year, do it! And if you need some suggestions, visit the website: Goodreads | Meet your next favorite book

Happy reading! See ya next time! 

Another Month is Almost Over

I was looking at the calendar today and realized we're halfway through the year already. Where has the time gone? It seems I blinked and...