Saturday, May 29, 2010

Breathe Life.

I’m weak and tired. I feel like I could lay around all day with the cool weather swarming outside my window. The breeze flows through and I just lay there, taking in the sounds and the smells around me, my dogs sleeping next to me. Its restful here, my body feels wasted, my head heavy. Sometimes I wonder what is left here for me, is this my life now, feeble and fragile, wasting away. I don’t want to become a burden. Exhausting and draining on the ones I love. It has to be my greatest fear. I want to be vital and self-sufficient.

I am not afraid to cross over. I am simply not ready to leave everyone behind yet. I have more living to do, I just have to get my body to agree and come back to me. I know with unwavering certainty that a better life awaits me on the other side of this world and that the fabric between those worlds is becoming shredded and torn. I see the other side clearly sometimes; its magnificence and beauty. It’s very real and inviting. But its there, and I’m here. I’m not ready to take the step yet. And I don’t believe that its time. I’ll know, and I’ll be ready. And those that love me will be ready too. And that hasn’t happened yet. There are so many things left unsaid, tasks yet to be done, experiences that I haven’t created yet. It’s just not time.

On the whole, the symptoms seem to be improving. The shaking isn’t so bad anymore, but the weakness and lack of feeling on my right side is incredibly evident. I am cautious when I walk, my confident stride all but gone. I noticed today some numbness on the left side of my face, which would correspond with the tumor in the back right side of my head. The doctor has indicated that the radiation can cause increased swelling in the brain and perhaps that is what is happening. It makes me wonder sometimes about the cure being as traumatic as the disease. What symptoms are from the cancer, and which are from the cure. Which will leave me permanently damaged, and which will bring me back to life. It’s anybody’s guess right now. I am a very complex science experiment, anxiously awaiting outcome.

It’s the unknown sometimes that gets to me. The not knowing what is going to happen next. The inability to make plans beyond the next few weeks. I have to wait at least a month after radiation to have another brain MRI, so in the meantime, we wait and see. We see if the symptoms continue to subside or if they return or worsen. We have another CT of my chest, pelvis and abdomen in late June to hope that it hasn’t decided to come back anyplace else. We wait and see. We pray. We hope. And in the meantime, I try to live the best life I can under the circumstances. I pray for another day to breathe, another day to share and another day to love.

My birthday is on Sunday, and we are planning a family BBQ. I have ordered all my favorite foods, and will eat at least one bite of each, savoring the flavors, the sounds, the sights, reveling in the love around me. Its bittersweet, my birthday. For in my heart I wonder if it shall be my last. I pray it is not, and that I have many birthdays left inside, but we are not guaranteed anything but the breath we take right now. None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow on this earth. Not me. Not you. There are no guarantees. Regardless of whether or not you have a brain tumor. We cannot gauge which breath will be the last one we will take, which beat in which our heart stops.

So for now we must savor this moment, bite into life with a gusto that comes from contemplation of your own mortality. Take it in. Breathe life. From every fiber of your being, breathe it in.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Sometimes the greatest lesson is the one that comes to you in the middle of the night.

I lay curled under the warm covers, sleep evading me, thinking of this, of where I am, of where I was headed and where the journey has now lead. I feel good, knowing that I have met with the estate planner and that my ducks are collectively in a row. I have effectively mapped out what will happen to me when I am gone, ensured that my family is taken care of to the best of my ability. The disposition of the house is set, the college fund established, debts paid, donations made. My daughter knows which jewelry is her great-grandmothers, which is mine and which is the stuff for goodwill. The art on the walls has been reviewed for value and personal taste, and it doesn’t matter which ones go where, as long as the family pictures stay intact. There is more than a lifetime of junk that needs to be sorted through, but try as we might; I don’t think any of us get that done before our days come to an end. We want to, we intend to, but it is our legacy, to leave boxes and drawers of papers, bills, pictures and mementos to be sorted out by our survivors. And maybe there is some comfort in that. In the process of going through it all, of remembering what was lost. For we are written in those scraps of paper, our faces emblazoned all over in the box of loose pictures. The old note stuck in a book that brings back tears and memories. There is comfort in those items, in holding them in your hands and feeling the life of that who has gone before you. Knowing their hands, their hearts, lay in that very place, in that very space in time, with love and knowledge.

I think of all the things I should sort out for my children, then I wonder, maybe it’s not for me to decide. Maybe they will glean a little more depth of wisdom of who I was by the books I read, the poems I wrote, the letters I scribed, the pictures I saved. Maybe I will leave more than just a legacy that includes financial matrixes and a list of who gets what and when. I will leave them pieces and glimpses into the person I was beyond what they knew, what they saw. Enable them to see into me.

That’s when it comes to me. The lesson. I’ve set it all up, I’ve eased my mind over what happens when I’m gone, when I realize that the greatest gift of all is that I’m still here, laying under the covers, curled up across the hallway from my daughter, across town from my son. I’m still here. That is the greatest gift I can give. It’s me. It’s living long enough to watch the college fund dwindle down to nothing. It’s wearing the jewelry that my grandmother left me, its sharing froot loops on a Thursday night in front of the TV. It’s me. That’s the gift. The real one. It’s the life we give, the life we lead. Sure, it’s important to leave something behind. We all want to leave a legacy. But nothing beats today. Nothing beats another day together, another day shared with the ones we love. So that’s the gift I’m taking with me. I’m taking another day. And I’m going to love every moment of it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The man was lurking in the darkness. He wore a fedora and a dark suit and was after me. His intent was to take my breath away.

In the dream I’m in a city. Its nighttime and I’m wandering lost, circling through alleys and narrow streets. I’m alone. I don’t know where I am going, or where I have been. I am just aimless in my direction, no destination in mind. It’s a waterfront city, like San Francisco, and I’m near the water. I can smell the sea air; feel the oily slick grime beneath my feet. It’s quiet, but there are cars in the distance and voices carrying on the breeze. I know the man is looking for me, and I know exactly what he wants. I am less frightened than resigned to the fact that he will catch me and I will not be able to get away. I don’t want him to catch me, I want to be able to keep breathing, but I know it’s only a matter of time and that he is out there, he will get me.

I turn into a wide alley, there is no urgency to my actions. I am calm, resgined and totally aware. There are warehouses on both sides with cars parked down the center. Dark cars. Empty. I notice there is no trash beneath my feet, and no discernable sounds around me. I can hear waves lapping on the other sides of the buildings, but they are not close enough to tickle my ears. The man is behind and above me. Walking on the top of the cars with a stealthy silence that is unsettling. I know he is coming, like a cat on padded soft feet that don’t make a sound. But I can feel him. His presence is everywhere, his energy overwhelms me and without a sound he steps down from the top of the SUV, like a giant bird he floats down in front of me.

His skin his dark, like a middle eastern and his eyes burn like coal. He says nothing, yet I know what he is going to do. He places his hands firmly but gently on my biceps and squeezes with the slightest bit of pressure. Not enough to hurt me, only enough to know that he is there. And then it happens; my breath is gone. It is pulled from me without a moments pause. And I stand there, staring into his eyes, unbelieving, unwavering, yet without surprise. He has done it; he has taken my breath away. I can only take short gasps. I plead to him with my eyes, with my mind. Please, don’t do this to me, let me breathe. I need to breathe. I want to keep breathing as long as I can. I don’t want to live my life in short gasps, I want to drink it in fully and completely. I stare into his eyes, beseeching and imploring, give me my breath back. Please.

And so his eyes soften. And he relaxes his grip. And the oxygen pours back into me. I suck in all the air that is around me in huge gulps. Tears form in the corners of my eyes and spill down my cheeks. I can breathe again. My breath is not gone; he has relinquished me from certain horror, from a slow and painful death. Without a word or a sound, he releases me, slowly turns and walks away, fading into the darkness, into the distance, without even thought of a backward glance. And I know he has given me this grace, this second chance to live.

My eyes fly open, and I take in my surroundings. The soft glow waxing around the curtains, the deep sigh of my dog next to me. I know I am home, I am back.

The reaper has not taken me this time. I have been saved. It was only a dream, after all. Right?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Slight Improvement

Today, for the first day, I saw an improvement. The tremble is not gone, and my fingers still don’t have the dexterity they used to, but the shaking is subsiding slightly. I do not have to give my right side my full attention to do a simple task. I have to pay attention, but the concentration required is less. That is a huge relief and I feel better knowing that there is an improvement, no matter how small.

The headaches continue and are the worst a few hours after my radiation treatment. I find that if I just take a few pain pills and lay still for a couple of hours they will lessen and then again in the morning when I wake, I take my meds and lay for an hour or so and let the healing wash over me. I have been up for a few hours now and my head has a dull ache, but nothing that can’t be dealt with, nothing like it was last night, or may be tonight after today’s treatment.

The treatment is uneventful. It is so hard to believe that just a mere 10 seconds on each side of my head could do so much damage, or so much cure, depending on the perspective. Those little beams are hopefully destroying the tumors and keeping any further tumors from developing. Between that and the methotrexate last week, I am praying there is some serious healing going on in my brain and in no time at all I’ll be back up and around, back to my life, back to those I love so much.

In the meantime, I rest, I think, I pray and I do all I can to keep a smile. I try to enjoy the sunshine when it beams down on me, or recline into the sounds of the rain outside my window. I am walking everyday and Mike has been so patient to lessen his gait to my slow shuffle that allows me to enjoy the sights and sounds along the river. I hold his arm and drag my feet along like a little old lady; a small glimpse into what I hope is a very distant future that I long to live to see.

One day, one moment. That is what I have, that is what I live for, that is the fabric of my life. This is my battle to be won, and win it I will. I do not understand the wisdom of allowing my life to be filed with this peril, but am confident that there is a plan behind it all, no matter how obtuse or obscure. God has a plan. I just can’t see it now, and I may never be able to see it. I just have to trust that it is there. And trust I do. With all my heart, with all that I am. I trust in God to get me through to the next step, wherever that step may take me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Headaches and Stuff.

The headaches get pretty bad at times. Last night I took some pain pills and laid on the couch as still as possible trying not to move my head. Eventually the pain subsided and I was able to sit up for a bit.

I have spent my weekend watching the symptoms on my right side worsen, finally stabilize and maybe improve slightly. I have cried and bargained with God, I have resigned myself to His will. I have pondered about my mortality, and prayed for more time. I have searched my soul for strength that I don’t know if I have and have reached into the depths of my spirit for the will to live. I opened my eyes this morning and I saw hope, I saw light. I see my time left on earth stretching before me, and I know it will be worthwhile, regardless of the number of days.

The good news is that the preliminary results indicate that there is no cancer in my spinal fluid. They are sending the slides up to Spokane to get a closer look to ensure no cancer, but today, its looking good. I had my second radiation treatment yesterday, 13 more to go. We did discuss what we would do if the symptoms worsen instead of improve and Dr. Geiver indicated that rather than do more radiation in Seattle, we would call our local friendly neurosurgeon and ask him to drill in to release the pressure. It is probably the swelling, not the tumor that is causing the problems on the right side, so hopefully the swelling will subside and the use of my right side will return.

For right now, I wait, I pray, I hope. I take each day, each moment as it comes, dealing with the symptoms the best I can and doing all that I can to keep the hope alive. The support I am receiving warms my heart and leaves me humbled and I pray that someday I can return the favor and be the one who provides support, rather than the recipient. Life is a circle, what we give, we receive, what we sow we reap.

So now, for today, I just pray for one more day, and another one after that, and more time. Time to give back all that I have received.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My prayer.

I don’t want to die. That’s the first and the last, the beginning and the end of all my thoughts, please God, don’t let me die yet. I am not done. I have so much more to do, so much more to see, experiences I have yet to live. I’m too young to die. I haven’t gotten to grow old yet. I’m not even 47. My daughter is barely 18 and hasn’t even finished growing up yet. My son has so much more growing up to do. They need me. My grandson is not even 3. Please God. Don’t let me die. My parents are still alive; they should not have to bury their daughter. Mike should not have to spend his days taking care of me as I fade away. Please God, I’m worth saving. Please God, don’t let me die yet.

As these tumors take over my brain so rapidly I want to believe nothing but positive thoughts, nothing but “third times a charm”, but as I watched my arm shake and the tremble worsening each morning all I can think is that this aggressive cockroach cancer is taking over my frontal lobe, taking away my ability to use my right side. Typing this is an incredible challenge. My fingers no longer fly over the keyboard. Each stroke must be concentrated and deliberate, and even then, they are often wrong and must be corrected. My ability to communicate is being challenged, my ability to work taken away. Simple tasks such as brushing my teeth or getting dressed are a test of will. If I think really hard I can keep the shaking to a slight tremor, but underneath it, I can still feel it, betraying me. My balance seems to be better sometimes, but my leg is weak and buckles under me without any warning. I must walk carefully and deliberately so as not to stumble and fall. It has been barely a week since the first symptom, and the change is dramatic. I pray that the radiation will work. I pray that the methotrexate they injected into my spinal column yesterday gets up into my brain and decimates the tumors. I pray there is no cancer in my spinal fluid. I pray I get better. Please God, I don’t want to get worse. I don’t want to have my brain taken away, control of my body removed. I don’t want to become an invalid. Please God. Save me.

That is my prayer. I am working hard to stay positive, but it is challenging when the symptoms of the disease are so prevalent; staring at me every moment of every day. A constant reminder of the battles that have been waged; and a continual cue of the war that is still to be won. And win it I must. There is just too much of life that I want to live. I see the faces of my friends and my family walk before my eyes and I want to live to keep seeing them. I want to hear their stories and watch their lives unfold with mine. Share in their triumphs, weep with their sorrow. I want to give and take of their love and their time and energy. I have so much love to share with everyone. Please God, let me live to share that love, that smile, those tears, the joy and the sorrow. I want it all, every piece, the good and the bad. Don’t take me away yet, my time simply cannot be done. My heart is filled to overflowing and I want to let it spill all around me, filling the world with sunshine. Let me live to let it flow.

And God, if the answer is no. Then let it be so. Since it is Your will, not mine, that will be done on this earth. I know there is a better place beyond here, a place with You. And its not that I don’t want to be with You, its just I’m not ready to leave the ones I love behind. But if that is my destiny, Your plan for my life, let my days be filled with love and friendship. Let the remainder of my journey be an inspiration and an encouragement to all those around me. Help me to have the courage and the strength to fight the good fight, to always have a smile and a kind word for those who come in contact with me. Help me to do and say all the things that need to be done and said. Help me to guide my children to where they need to be, help me to be a light in this sometimes dark world. Allow me to leave an indelible mark on the lives around me, not to be just a smudge in their busy and full days. Allow me to make a difference. For if I can, than all this will be for the better of those who knew me, and this battle will be worthwhile. I don’t want this to all be for naught, I want it to mean something.

Please God let me live. But most of all, above all, let me be a light.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Its back.

Well, the worse has happened and the cancer has returned. I thought that maybe these lesions had been there all along but we missed them because we didn’t do an MRI, but I talked with my oncologist last night and he believes they are probably just a few weeks old.

I noticed some weakness and a slight tremor in my right hand on Sunday. By Monday it had gotten worse and included some weakness in my right leg also. So I called my doctor and tried not to be a total hypochondriac (hence the previous blog) but she agreed with my history it would be prudent to go ahead with a brain scan. By Tuesday, the tremor had gotten worse and the weakness had increased. By Wednesday when we did the MRI I was fairly certain that there was something wrong, I just didn’t know what it was and was praying it wasn’t a return of the cancer, but I knew the odds were good that the lesions had hit my brain.

I met with the radiologist in the afternoon and he confirmed that I had two tumors in my brain, one in my left frontal lobe which is affecting my motor skills on my right side and one in my right occipital lobe which is affecting my vision and may have caused me to have a small seizure last week. The cancer cells from the tumor in my frontal lobe have broken free and are “floating” around my brain and could easily go into my spinal fluid. So tomorrow I am having a lumbar puncture to look for cancer cells in my spinal fluid and inject chemotherapy to begin to fight them in case they are there. Additionally, there are various other spots on my brain that are potential tumors in the event they are not taken care of soon.

I met with the radiation oncologist this morning and was fitted for my radiation mask to start my full brain radiation treatment tomorrow. They will do 15 rounds of radiation on my entire brain to try to kill everything. At the end of 15 rounds we will see how the tumors are doing and if they need additional radiation I will go to Seattle for gamma knife or cyber knife, which is pinpoint radiation to blow apart the tumors. Dr. Rado is also looking at a medication which I may take after the radiation that crosses the blood brain barrier to prevent future tumors.

This is not the news I wanted to hear and has certainly put a monkey wrench in my current life plans. But, all I can do is keep my attitude positive and believe that third time is a charm, I beat it twice before and I’ll beat it again.

I will keep you posted on my treatment. I start the radiation tomorrow and will know the results of the spinal puncture next week. My girlfriends are planning a girl’s night at my house on Saturday night starting about 6pm. So if you want to stop by, please feel free. It is bring your own whatever, and I’ll be the diva sitting on the couch being waited on hand and foot. There has to be some advantage to having brain tumors.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Learning to Move Foward

One of the biggest challenges of recovering from cancer is figuring out how to move forward without continually looking back. I try hard to keep my eyes focused on the all the successes, the good, the incredible things I have overcome, but no matter how magnificent the colors on the horizon, I find my eyes glancing back and becoming transfixed on the darkness swirling in the light that is fading behind me. It’s hard to believe that every physical malady is not a return to the darkness. I don’t want to be a hypochondriac, a former cancer patient that goes running to their oncologist every time they get a little sniffle, but it is almost impossible to believe that the cancer is not going to attack again. It is a sneaky and devious disease, it can strike anywhere at anytime. In order to survive, one must be diligent in the way they live their lives, the way they monitor their health. That is what is so difficult about moving forward, the past continues to mar the views of the present.

So I try to treat each unknown, uncharted symptom with clear and objective eyes, assessing the possible causes and potential outcomes, calling the physician only if I cannot reconcile all the symptoms in my head and in my heart; using prudence before crying out in alarm. But it is difficult to be objective when it is my very life and continued survival that I am assessing. What if I’m wrong? What if it was like the shortness of breath that I ignored in the beginning thinking it was allergies or the sore posterior ribs that the doctors attributed to broken bones? What if I ignore something that is critical or if I let the pendulum swing the other way and become the child that cries wolf too much?

So I do the best I can to find balance. I strive to treat each day with as much optimism and impartiality as I can wrench from my soul. Attempting to look at the world not through rose colored glasses, but through a clear and magnified lens that will enable me to stay free from this terrible darkness and keep me moving towards the light, towards tomorrow, towards a brilliant horizon, rich with all abundant color life has to offer. That is all I can do, it is the only thing that will allow me to keep my sanity, to keep my hope alive. For without hope, I would truly fall into bottomless pit of despair, never to return, and this life is too good to miss by spending all my time looking over my shoulder. There are so many outstanding things to see; right here in front of me.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Back on the Patio

I’m back on the patio again. It’s hard to believe that the entire fall and winter has gone by and finally I am able to sit here on the back porch enjoying the crisp morning air. It’s going to be hot today, I can feel it, but for now, it’s the perfect spring morning. Birds are chirping, the sounds of the neighborhood fill my ears. I love my yard, my house, but right now at this moment in my life it is all overwhelming. I am feeling better, that is for sure, but there is so much to take care of. I look at the yard and think of all the things that need to be done and I wonder how I’m ever going to do them all. The house, my dream house, needs TCL that I am unable to provide right now. I barely have the energy to work and cook dinner, how will I ever keep up on everything else? I remember when I bought this house and a friend at work said “that’s a lot of house for a single woman.” I thought to myself…no it’s not…I can handle it. And I have for all these years, but my life has changed. I don’t have the stamina I had before. I used to be able to work in the yard from sunrise to sunset, and then go inside and do housework. Now I barely have the energy to weed the flowerbeds. And even if I do find the energy, there is the lymphedema which continues to plague me. Sometimes I want to take a devil may care attitude and just do whatever I want and damn the consequences, but I know that the consequences are severe. If I do too much I will pay the price in pain and swelling. Then there is the cost of the things I want to do, my disability is way behind, I’m not working full time yet, graduation is coming up, the medical bills are mounting, basically, finances stink.

I apologize if I’m being a whiner. There is so much good in my life, so many things to be thankful for, and those are the things that I need to focus on. I look around and the trees are green and bursting with life. My flowers are blooming and what grass the dogs haven’t destroyed is green. Sure, the patio needs to be stripped and restrained, but I can still sit and enjoy being on it. My house needs to be painted, but it is still my dream house. This will have to be a summer of rebuilding my health and the chores will just have to wait. My patio won’t fall apart if the stain doesn’t happen this year, and the neighbors probably wonder when their hillbilly neighbor is going to mow the lawn and paint the house, but for now…I am alive and that needs to be enough. I am able to take the air into my lungs and breathe, I am able to feel the warm sunshine on my face, I am able to enjoy the laughter of my grandson and those things are enough for now. They are enough to sustain me. Everything will just have to wait.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Power of the Sea

I have enjoyed watching the ocean waves breach the shoreline. As the tide goes out, I imagine it taking away the sorrow and the pain of the last year. The waves drown out the sounds of mourning for the days that have been lost and the seagulls screech their regret. I watch and wait, for I know that the tide will come in and bring with it my new life, my future, my hope for tomorrow. The sea soothes my soul and allows me space to breathe, to remember, to imagine a better place than I have today. I can dream at the beach. I can let go of the memories that haunt me and replace them with all the possibilities that life has to offer. I look at the ocean and see an endless palate of water, its surface void of any content, but underneath it is teaming with life and expectations. Not unlike my future. It is a blank slate, just waiting to be filled with the brilliant colors of friendship, family, smiles, laughter; the radiant colors of life. I just have to find the courage to step in, letting the water take away all the pain of yesterday, and allow myself to be filled with the prospect of beautiful tomorrows.

The sun is shining today. It sparkles and glimmers off the water, dancing and shimmering like gemstones under a spotlight. It allows me to see what is out there, illuminating my thoughts and enlightening my dreams. I can wish again. My hopes and desires can come alive. For I know in my heart and my soul that tomorrow is real and I am going to be here to enjoy it. The cancer is gone, washed away in the waves of the sea, and the tide has brought with it the health of a new beginning. I can start all over again; I have been given a new lease on life, with a new perspective. My dreams can be made real; my future can be all that I want it to be. Whatever is meant to be, then it’s up to me to make it so. I am my own reality.

It has been a perfect week. Tina and I have enjoyed each others company, celebrated our friendship and our love for life. We understand each other and respect our individual opinions and points of view. Tina encourages me to try harder, believe in the unconquerable, consider all the possibilities and have faith in myself. She pushes me to think outside of my little box, and washes away any doubts I might have for expectations of my future. She has walked through this disease with me twice, both times with her unflappable attitude of what will be will be, this is happening for a reason, what can I learn from this challenge. For if I have learned, if I have grown, if I have changed for the better, this has not all been in vain, this time was not foolishly spent or wasted days, they were days of testing my courage, of trying my strength, and I achieved greatness in my life when I walked successfully to the other side.

So I will begin again. I have my memories, I have my future, but most importantly, I have today. And today is full of possibilities, it can be any day that I want it to be. Like the endless sea, my life is complete with the prospect of so many todays, each one ready to be filled with all the colors of my soul.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Enjoying the Beach

What a perfect day. I love being alive.

My best friend, Tina, brought me to the beach to celebrate my survival. We enjoyed a scenic drive down through the Columbia gorge which is bursting with spring greenery, made it through Portland with minimal traffic interruption and then through the beautiful coastal mountains and a torrential rainstorm. Suddenly the sun burst through the clouds and we entered into blue sky. Just a short trip to Seaside, surf, sand and sunshine.

Our hotel is right on the beach and we enjoyed a martini on the balcony, sharing conversation that comes only from years of friendship. I can’t imagine being anywhere else with anyone else. We have known each other for so long, been through so much together, and to toast and rejoice in our lives, and all we have overcome, together and apart.

We plan on spending the week down here, shopping, resting, reading, drinking, laughing, sharing and celebrating life.

Its great to be alive.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mothers Day! What a wonderful day to celebrate! I am so thrilled that I survived to spend another mother’s day with my children and especially with the greatest of all mothers, my mom. She is an incredible example of a mother and of a courageous and strong woman. I am so proud to be her daughter. She has been a wonderful example to me my entire life. I have to say I have definitely fallen short in a lot of things in my life, but she has always been there to pick me back up and set me on the right direction again. There are a lot of things I wish I could go back and change, especially in my parenting, but my mom has always been there encouraging me, wanting the best for me and my kids, even when I was too stubborn to listen or too in denial to see the mistakes I was making. Mom and grandma and great grandma, she is an inspiration. We love her more than words can say.

Mothering is a tough job. I remember having my children and I don’t think at the time I had any idea the journey that these little human beings would take me on. I know some people have kids and are overwhelmed by the breadth of the responsibility, but not me, I was clueless. I held my first born son in my arms and just felt the joy of being a mom. I wasn’t worried about tomorrow, I was just happy. I should have been more scared, more worried, for mothering is a job that comes without instructions or guidelines. All one can do is try the best they can, and many times, that isn’t even good enough. We are such flawed humans that we try, we fail, we stumble, we fall, and then do what we can to make it all up to the ones we love. My kids both grown, I look back now and there are countless things that I wish I could go back and redo. Fights I wish I never had, and some I wish I did. Lines that were drawn in the sand that were washed away, and some that should have been drawn in concrete. But at the time I did the best I could with what I had within me and around me. I think we want to be perfect parents. We see other parents and wonder, why can’t I be like them? But we are who we are. God gave us the children we have and He has a plan for us and for them, and the plan was drawn before we were ever born. I was meant to be Houston and Peyton’s mom, for better or for worse. Regardless of my actions, or inactions, I loved them the best I could and have endeavored to set them in the right direction. The rest is up to them. I will be here as long as God’s grace allows to help them where I can, to guide, to counsel, and always, to love. Unconditionally. No matter what they do. That is the greatest beauty of motherhood. The love. It goes so deep in your heart that the end can never be found, it is an endless and enduring love. Praise God for a mother’s love.

Yesterday was prom. We had a rocky start to our day. Peyton’s makeup didn’t go exactly as she had wanted, and her hair didn’t turn out the way she had envisioned, then me, not being a seamstress, didn’t sew the hooks on her dress right, which resulted in a huge meltdown… Behind the tears was the frustration of every female diva who wanted everything perfect coupled with the knowledge that her boyfriend, Mason, was not the one taking her to prom and that he would be leaving in just a few short days to go back to Canada for the summer. I probably didn’t say the right things, but I tried the best I could. Grandma came to the rescue and fixed the dress (we should have given it to her to begin with) and by the time picture hour was upon us, she was dressed and looking like the absolutely beautiful young woman that she has grown up to be. The hockey widows went with their high school dates to the prom and then went to see their hockey boyfriends after the dance was all over. It’s a tough time for the girls; the young men they have spent all their spare time with are leaving. But for Peyton, she will be going to Canada for a few weeks this summer and then the Mason will be back in August. They endured the separation last summer, I am sure they will survive another one to come. But behind it all, was the perfect young lady, in the perfect dress. The most beautiful girl I have ever seen.

Well I’m off to enjoy my day. To all you moms out there, enjoy yours, you have earned it! For those of you who are not mom’s; celebrate the mom’s in your life. They are truly to be treasured.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Questions. And more Questions.

How do you let go of a dream?

We have all had to do it, let go of a dream. Let go of something that we have hoped for and dreamed of for years. Suddenly reality becomes evident and the dream is yanked out from under you, unable to be regained. Your life is changed forever when you realize that someone you love is not who you thought, the illusion you have created is shattered into a million tiny pieces that can never be put back together again. The sorrow overwhelms you.

Cancer recovery is a time when you have exceptional clarity of vision. I am looking at my life through a different lens, the rose-colored glasses thrown aside, the realities magnified. It is a time of reevaluation because I am acutely aware that this is the only life, the only future I am going to get, so I’d better make it all I can. I look around me and wonder where I fit in. My life has changed. In the last 10 months my focus has been solely on survival, there was no future, my long term goals weren’t discussed, I worked only to make it to my short term goals, surviving to see my daughter’s 18th birthday and graduation. I have made it. I have survived the onslaught of this horrible disease and I will watch my daughter walk in her cap and gown and receive her diploma. Now what? Where do I go from here?

It’s easy to fall into a depression when cancer treatment is over. You are no longer in the fight, your body is weary and beaten down, and each step towards your future is taken with some trepidation. Is today the day it comes back? Tomorrow? If I make long term commitments will I be able to fulfill them? When will I feel good again? When will the weariness go away, when does the fear abate? When do I get to walk with strength and confidence again, firmly ensconced in my survival. How do I retrofit my current life to fit my new one? Where IS my new life, what does it include? Who do I surround myself with? How do I rebuild? The questions fire at you like from a machine gun, coming faster and faster until you can no longer even make out the words anymore, you just know that they keep coming. Question after question after question about the future. How can anyone ever answer them all? The pressure is overwhelming and weariness overcomes you, and you fight to stay upright, fight to not slide back into the darkness of depression. The covers pulled over your head tightly against the realities of the world.

I have spent my time with my head under the covers. Wondering where I go from here, how do I put my life together again. Where do I fit in? Where do I want my focus? Who do I want to be surrounded by in this life? I am determined to not let it overwhelm me. I am facing so many obstacles, countless decisions. There are scores of unknowns that must be clarified, and dreams that must be given up or readjusted. This is my one and only life, I need to make it all I can. So I will continue to put one foot in front of the other, praying for healing and health. Making each decision based on the hope for a long and fulfilling future.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Peyton's Birthday

What a perfect day it was yesterday! The wind came with an incredible force and blew in my daughters 18th birthday. We celebrated it with style. After she got her license back we went to lunch and then off to get her first tattoo. I wish I could have joined her and got myself another tattoo, but I am supposed to wait a year after my chemo to get tattoos. That stinks, but whatdaya do? So I joined her instead and she had the Chinese symbols for Peace, Love and Happiness put on the back of her neck. They look really cool and she was very brave. This is the child who is terrified of needles and she sat and received it like a real trooper. Her first ink! Cool. She went to hang out with Mason for awhile and was carded when she bought her first lottery ticket where she won $5! So if she quits now, she will always be profitable on her gambling. The family all went to dinner at Outback and then back to my house for cake from Desserts by Kelley. After everyone left, it was just the two of us and we got to spend time talking and waiting for the magic time of 10:19pm; the time when she was born. I tell her the story of that day. The 4am contractions that sent me to the hospital, the hours of labor, then the terror when she went into fetal distress followed by an emergency c-section where they told me she was a healthy baby girl. I was tired from the long day and the surgery so they laid her on my chest and we both slept and I got to experienced one of the most perfect moments in my life. I wasn’t sure I would make it to this day, so to have the honor of being with her, seeing her reach this milestone. What an incredible gift.

She is off to school today and I didn’t get to give her a ride! Back on her own again, she left early to get a good parking space. She is now authorized to sign herself in and out of school and excuse her own absences. In another month, she is free of the public school system, successfully completing her 12 year sentence, while I pray that she is prepared for the world that awaits her. I think we try the best we can to get them ready, but how can you ever be ready to enter this world and face all the complications and challenges it holds? I am in my late 40’s and a lot of days I wonder if I’m ready for this world! But I will take every step I can with her, supporting her along the way, doing the best to catch her when she stumbles and be there to pick her up when she falls. We are mother-daughter, but we are also best friends, always there for each other no matter what. We have been through so much, and succeeded, together, hand in hand.

I plan to work a half day every day again this week. Even yesterday I worked half day, I started at 6am and was gone by 10am. Today I have physical therapy on my arm and I hope to be able to get the swelling down and the lymphedema under control. I see that as one of the potential barriers to a successful return to my work and my life. There is so much I cannot do when my arm is swollen and hurting, so it is imperative that I get this under control, and soon. I trust my therapist Sara to guide me through this part of the journey, her expertise of lymphedema invaluable. I continue to hold on to the hope that once the toxins get out of my system, the swelling will subside once and for all!

I have to get ready for work, thanks for continuing to support me as I return to my life. Your good energy and prayers every present on my journey, urging me on. I couldn’t do it without you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I love lazy mornings. When the sun rises outside my window, but there is no place I have to rush to get to, no pressing tasks to perform. I can just lie there in bed and listen to the world waking up around me, watching the shadows dance upon the wall and enjoying the warm presence of my animals around me. That’s how I enjoyed my first hour of my day today, Kyra on one side, her head on my shoulder, Sophie on the other with her head on my stomach and Betsy curled at my neck, purring her satisfaction at the arrangement. Each one taking their turn at having their ears scratched, their bellies rubbed, their names cooed with love and affection. The soft glow of light floods the room and I take the time to reflect upon my week, my place in this life, my hope for tomorrow. My daughter, asleep across the hall, on the precipice of adulthood, her 18th birthday only two days away, her graduation in barely a month. I made it to this day, and the gratitude of that accomplishment fills me with hope for many more tomorrows filled with countless more triumphs.

I worked every day this week, and the realization of that achievement makes me believe that I will make it back to my life and I will find a “new normal” to place my feet upon. I don’t think I can ever return to my old life; for those days are gone in a blur of yesterdays and my future is a culmination of the lessons and challenges of those days. In my future I have the prospect of finding a new way to live my life that is laced with the trappings of great struggles and strife, but firmly built upon faith and hope that is born only from surviving the insurmountable.

I am not alone on an island with my survival. For each and every one of us will face obstacles in our life that appear to be impossible to overcome. Whether it be illness, loss of a loved one, financial challenges, wayward children, shattered dreams or a myriad of other hurdles, we all must find a way to persevere to the other side. Sure, it takes strength we didn’t know we had and faith that we couldn’t see within us, but when we gradually start making it and see the light is shining on the other side; we find that we can create a new life from the ashes of the old. Normal is gone, never to be found again, however we can find a new normal for our lives that is just as fulfilling, may even more, than the life we had before. Our innocence gone, knowing that our lives can be forever changed in an instant, and with that knowledge comes grace. For I know that the challenges in my life are not over, there will be countless more that I will face, as will you. That is what makes us human. Those experiences, those complications, make us realize the fragile richness of our lives, make us appreciate the sunrise a little more, make us more tolerant, more understanding, more forgiving, more full of grace for the foibles of those around us.

I am slowing building my life again. One day at a time. Striving to incorporate the pain, the sorrow and the joy of the last 10 months into a better future. Hoping to bring it all together to make me a better partner, mom, daughter, sister, employee and friend. Facing each day with optimism and bravery and challenging myself to open my heart to the great possibilities of my future.