Moving On

As we do most Sundays, we attended worship at Cornerstone Church.  Today was “step up” Sunday for the boys.  Braeden moved up to 2nd grade, his first year in elementary Sunday School without Kyle.  Kyle moved to our tween class, Club 56.  They have their own room and are situated away from both the lower elementary and the youth.  It was a big adjustment for both of them.  John and I are loving worship with our new pastor, Pastor Brian.  He reminds me of my youth pastor.  His sermons are relevant and entertaining, not an easy combination for pastors to master.

Tomorrow we begin our 6th year at KTA (Kitchen Table Academy), the affectionate name for our homeschool.  Since our learning occurs at the kitchen table, it’s given rise to the name.  I really should come up with something that will look better across the top of a diploma, but I haven’t stumbled on one yet.  I still have a couple of years.  I mean, can you seriously see UC accepting a transcript from Kitchen Table Academy?  I cannot believe Kyle is starting 5th grade.  With the exception of some stumbling over double and triple digit multiplication, my son is a practically a middle schooler.  Next year, he will be considered one at Learning Tree, our homeschool co-op.  What happened to that little bundle I brought home from Russia?  I finally understand the old saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

We are moving on this year in many ways.  We are starting new grades.  Mom is hoping to pick up more freelance work.  Both boys are playing sports again – Braeden’s soccer team won their first game yesterday and Kyle starts flag football practice Tuesday night.  John continues to hone his project management skills at Children’s.  We are beginning to move on.  Yet, I still get stuck.  In a few weeks, I have my CA125 drawn to track my tumor marker, have my 6 month CT scan and undergo yet another exam.  Yes, it’s preventative and given the results of my last CA125, I really don’t expect anything to show up.  Of course, I never expected to have cancer either.

Pastor Brian spoke about the bad times in life.  You know those times when life just knocks you for a loop and you can’t get back on your feet?  I’ve always known that when faced with struggles, I have two choices.  I can whine, moan and complain or I can face it head on.  Cancer makes you do a bit of both.  You have to face it head on.  It’s now your reality.  But I really don’t see how you can manage to make it through without whining, even if it’s just a little bit.  I chose to cling to God’s promise that even in my darkest hour, he wouldn’t leave me or forsake me.  He would lead me to those still waters and restore my soul.  Yes, I did have those times when I yelled at God, quite a few in fact.  My mentor, Pastor Linda Troy, once told me that God doesn’t care how much we yell at him.  It means we still believe in Him.

When I got the definitive diagnosis, I prayed like I’d never prayed for myself before.  I begged and pleaded with God to heal my body.  I visualized His healing hands.  I did it all right, but I still had a massive tumor on my ovary.  Funny thing is, if I had been healed of just my tumor I still would have had the nasty blood clot in my right leg.  It still would have probably broken off and, had I been anywhere but post-op, I probably would have died.  Hmmm.  Once I had the benefit of a couple of months of hindsight, I saw that.

That still leads me to why I had cancer.  Why couldn’t I have just had a massive benign tumor?  My oncologist told me that we will probably never know what triggered the cells to turn cancerous.  Even if we did know, it wouldn’t change anything.  I’d still would have had cancer.  Okay.  Here’s where choices really kick in.  Do you chose to wallow or do you choose to move on?  My friend Cathy told me I had to move on.  No choices.  I have 2 young sons and a husband.  While they were good reasons to move on, the only reason you can move on is because you feel like you have to.  God wants me to move on.  Granted, He let me have pity parties.  He gave me two wonderful friends who let me rant, rave and cry about how lousy I felt.  I will never, ever be able to repay Cathy or Lisa for listening to me when they had their own lives to live, but they both took the time to let me do what I needed to do.  Then I was able to move on.

Moving on means you accept you are not the same person you used to be.  Unfortunately, I will always have the “C” word in my background.   I feel a strong pull to work with ovarian cancer patients.  I’ve always been interested in healthcare and often write on healthcare topics.  Would I have found my niche without having ovarian cancer?  Maybe.  Did it affect me?  Definitely.  The person who entered Good Sam Hospital on October 17, 2012 is not the same one who left October 25, 2012.  Nor I am the same person who completed chemotherapy on March 15, 2013.  If we are open to things, God will continue to use our best and worst experiences to shape us.

So I need to be moving on now.  Life is about being an active participant, getting in and getting involved.  While cancer will always be a part of who I was, it doesn’t have to be a part of who I become.  And if it comes back. well, we’ll just move on with life and kick it back to where it belongs, in the past.  So we can get on with the future.  Moving on!

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The Aftermath

By this time, I really thought I’d feel great.  Well, maybe not great, but at least better.  I’d be walking regularly, keeping the house clean, doing play dates, working 15-20 hours per week consistently and volunteering.  In other words, I’d be doing what I did before October 17, 2012.  Apparently, while the mind is more than willing, the body refuses to cooperate.

While I do keep up with the kitchen and bathrooms, I continue to have dust bunnies and piles of junk.  John and I walk when I’m up to it and I try to keep up with my videos, but neuropathy in my feet and calves often cause me to lay my best intentions aside.  Play dates, while more frequent, aren’t as often as the boys would like, mostly because I’m tired and just don’t feel like driving.  I try to work to help out with the bills, but chemo fog often makes writing difficult.  Volunteering, one of my favorite things in the world, is just hard when your body doesn’t cooperate.  I headed up a station at Cornerstone’s VBS a couple of weeks ago.  I had a blast, but my body rebelled for the next 6 days.

Neuropathy is probably my biggest enemy.  For those unfamiliar with this delightful condition, neuropathy is a constant numbness and tingling that is a side effect of Taxol (a strong chemotherapy drug).  Diabetics are also affected by this condition.  It generally attacks the feet and hands (my sweet sister in teal Lisa, has it up her entire leg).  Mine affects the toes of my right foot and my entire left foot all the time.  On bad days, my calves are affected and the outer sides of my knees.  Really bad days include delightful “electric shocks” that cause my feet to jerk.  John just loves those.  They tend to occur at night when I’m trying to get to sleep.  Despite my best attempts, the jerking keeps him awake.

My hands are also affected.  A surgery years ago, damaged the sensory nerve to one of the fingers in my right hand.  Now the fingertips of both hands are numb.  The joints in my hands always ache.  This is not good when you write for a living.  Nor is it helpful when you like to cook and relax by doing cross stitch (and you are desperately trying to finish a baby sampler for your great nephew before he turns 21.  He’s 7 weeks old now, but you get the idea). 

While these are annoying, the clincher is neuropathy of the large intestine.  Yep, your intestines can be affected by neuropathy.  Who knew (well, Lisa did. She’s my guru)?  Apparently, the nerves that tell your large intestine to move things along “go numb” like when you have a limb that “falls asleep.”  Nothing moves and you feel bloated, crampy and eventually get hit with nausea.  It’s delightful as a diet.

Now, you would think that my beloved oncologist would have warned me about this (and he truly is beloved in my eyes), but NO!  It’s a rare side effect and he’d hoped that I would avoid this particular one.  So much for hope, at least in this case.  So now, I have to tweak my diet yet again and deal with a delightful “cleanse” to get things moving.  I won’t bore you with the latter.  Let’s just say, I’m glad I have a large master bath that allows me to get comfy.

My diet, which I changed drastically to begin with, is now chocked with a minimum of 72 ounces of fluid (32 of which must be water at a minimum) daily.  I am still banning hormones, GMO, artificial sweeteners and soy, but now have to add more fiber in the form of vegetables and whole grains.  I was all ready doing this, but I have to bump it up even more. This is his PC way of saying, “Cut the junk food crap from your diet.”  If only chocolate was a high fiber food.  I all ready make my own breads, cook from scratch every night and have pretty much given up going out to eat because it’s a pain to find something I can eat.  I guess I’ll be going out for coffee, hold the desert.

I tend to forget that I had all of my abdominal muscles cut, all three layers, when I had my hysterectomy.  It will be 10 months on my hubby’s birthday next week.  However, those muscles take a LONG time to heal.  I insist on picking up heavy items, then pay for it later.  I only insist on it because I don’t hurt at the time.  Since I really need to lose weight, it’s probably worse.  My doctor has told me that if I don’t get some weight off that I’m a “hernia waiting to happen.”  Lovely.  Actually I have lost a couple of pounds with the neuropathy. 

My friend Cathy reminds me all the time that our bodies do not heal on our schedule.  She warned me in the spring that I would probably not feel good on a regular basis until the end of 2013.  While I was skeptical, I shouldn’t have been.  She’s been there.  She hit the proverbial nail straight on the head.  I should know better.

The aftermath is what it is.  Today I don’t feel so great.  I know I need to gear up to clean out.  I need to take care of myself.  I remember my dad saying the same things.  Do what you can when you feel great.  Rest when you don’t.  I’ve always been a slow study.

Everyone’s aftermath is different.  I am learning that there were things I used to do that are harder.  But a lot of things are easier.  I am more specific when I talk to God.  I am much more likely to say yes to playing games with the boys.  I spend more time journaling, even when my hands hurt, since it helps organize the chaos of my chemo brain.  I value spending time with my mom more than ever, particularly since she gave up so much to stay with me in the hospital and during my recovery.  Walks with John are sacred time.  I love visiting my mother-in-law.  She bent over backwards to take care of us long distance.  I don’t take anything for granted.  Nothing is guaranteed.  If that’s what I take away from the aftermath, then I think I’ve learned my lesson.