When Life Doesn’t Cooperate

The news isn’t good.  My cancer continues to grow (it’s nice to know I can grow something).  I had my CT scan yesterday and got the news from Lovely Liz around 2:20 pm (funny how you remember those things).  Strangely, she was a bit upbeat, like it’s time to get moving now.  We’ve played around long enough.

Now I was sure that my cancer had shrunk.  I would have bet money on it.  I think Pete Rose would have taken that bet.  But life didn’t cooperate.  I don’t feel bad, except for the persistent nausea from the cisplatin.  I’m not even that tired.  It’s strange, but a good strange.  I know God is in control, no matter what comes next.

It’s not that I didn’t cry, I did.  But not because I’m sad, because I’m really not.  Pissed off is more like it.  Pissed that I feel like I’ve wasted 12 weeks of treatment.  Pissed that my kids have to continue to go through this.  Pissed that I’ve got at least 24 more weeks of treatment and that will seriously cut into my planned vacation time.  Pissed that my dad is not personally here to share this experience.  I think my anger is being properly directed rather than being flung at the wall like taking a handful of darts and flinging them, hoping for the best.

Dr. Determined (I like this better than Dr. Downer) immediately went into full fight mode.  Lovely Liz told me he skipped over the next couple of drugs in line.  I imagine these drugs standing in line like tin soldiers waiting for their chance to be called up and Dr. D decides to call in the Navy Seals instead.  And I’ve got to say, I LOVE the name of this new drug.  It makes me smile every time I say it – Topotecan (pronounced toe-poe-tee-can).  Isn’t that just be best name for a killer drug.  Sounds so innocent.

Topotecan is from the Asian Happy Tree and is part of the Hyacinth family.  It has a single minded mission – to destroy the DNA of cancer cells as they replicate.  I imagine the double helix model with its red, blue, yellow and green ends twisting hoping to create more, when this little tiki guy comes in with his mask and rattle (think crazy witch doctor from Scooby-Doo and you’ve got my mental image) untwists the helix and starts pulling the ends of the DNA.  The helix collapses.  The witch doctor does another crazy dance and moves on to the next one.  You can’t help but laugh or smile with this drug.

There are some positives.  While my bone marrow will continue to take a hit and fatigue will be a greater monster, nausea may become a thing of the past.  I am so nauseated today that this sounds like the best trade ever.  It’s also done in 4 week cycles.  I get an infusion every Wednesday for 3 weeks, then I get a week off.  The infusion lasts about 2 hours, so I’ll only be at the hospital for 3 hours or so.  As I’ve asked so many, “What will I do with my Wednesday afternoons?”  Seriously, I’ve always had all day infusions.  This is great! To celebrate, I’m getting a new haircut tomorrow.  Well, actually I’m getting the haircut because my hair has lost its curl and is flat and thin, but it sounds better to say I’m celebrating.

God has promised me healing.  I heard Him say it and He NEVER talks to me audibly so this is a promise I cling to.  My husband and I ask only for shrinking tumors and that they become stable.  We can live with stable.  We can live with smaller.  Maybe this is why I’m just not all that worried.  As I explained to my Ultimate Bengal Fan, Dr. Determined’s job is to find the right drug, mine is to fight and not give up and God’s is to do the rest.  Since God has the biggest job, who am I to stand in His way?

Please don’t feel sorry for us.  We don’t.  Pity doesn’t make anyone feel better.  If anything, we are more determined than ever to fight as a family.  The boys are looking forward to a more nausea free mom and Hubby hopes his cooking days are quickly coming to an end.  I am looking forward to Wednesday afternoons.  And God has all this in His Hands.  Life may not be great, but it’s good.  I feel good.  Other than the nausea, better than I have in weeks.

Bring on the Topotecan and smile.  God has work to do.

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Dealing with the Unexpected

Cancer is all about dealing with the unexpected. Let’s face it. No one expects to get cancer, yet it happens. And if you’re in the wrong end of the line, you’ll deal with it multiple times. I could write volumes on why cancer is an awful Beast that God needs to eradicate with a sweep of His mighty sword, but that’s been done. Sometimes it’s the unexpected that arises during cancer that makes you step back and think about why God is asking me to walk this particular path (and trust me, I ask A LOT). I try not to whine the whole “poor me” scenario since Coach Cathy has a strict limit on the number of pity parties I’m allowed to have, so I try to find those little nuggets of gold among the silt of the river. Sometimes you really have to look. Other times they come right up and smack you along side the head.

Christmas always brings unexpected blessings. This year, we were all nearly asleep around 10:15 when our doorbell rang. Hubby went to the door and found a large gift bag with a huge jar in it. The jar was a Christmas Jar and filled with money. Coins and paper up to the top. We were floored. An anonymous note accompanied the jar along with the book Christmas Jars. I’ve started the book and cried through the first 4 chapters. I also find myself crying at the thought of so many people wanting to bless my family this season. I can’t imagine who pulled this together and why everyone who donated felt led to give to us. I wonder if Mary felt a bit like this that first Christmas. Imagine all these strangers coming up to a cave bringing gifts for your baby. You know who your baby is, but still, he is a baby. I’m not sure she looked as serene as the nativity scenes and paintings make her out to be. After all, she had just given birth! She and Joseph had to be blown away by the sheer volume of blessings their baby boy was receiving.

We went to church Christmas Eve. I decided to go, despite feeling nauseated. I love the candlelight service and singing “Silent Night”. While that was moving enough, I was blown away by the sheer number of people who approached me and asked how I was and that they were praying for me. Some I know, most I didn’t. By the time I got to Pastor Brian, I was crying. As I hugged him, I was trying desperately not to use the shoulder of his shirt as a tissue. I didn’t want him to make a bad impression on those who only come to church on Christmas. When another person brought a plate of cookies just for my sons because she thought I wouldn’t feel up to making cookies for them, that was my breaking point. I cried through the whole service. It’s probably a good thing Momma Renie and Papa Dan weren’t there. I would have found Dan and cried like a baby since he reminds me of my own dad. Since he’s the head usher, that would have made collecting the offering a bit interesting with him walking down an aisle and me clinging to him like some sort of weird snake.

On Christmas, I opened my gifts from Sista Sue. She gave me an Angel of Hope. I think this is for both of us. She is reminding me to always have hope, while she remains hopeful that this cancer will be eradicated from my body. The Dammit Doll is much more practical. When you get mad or stressed, you’re supposed to slam it against the wall saying, “Dammit, Dammit, Dammit.” It’s going to chemo with me. I can’t think of any place more appropriate. I may even share it with a couple of the other regulars I know. Chemo patients are a strange lot, but we always stick together.

Last night, I reflected on my blessings. Yes, I have an incredible family, an amazing posse and friends who support all of us. But it’s more than that. I think God brought these particular blessings to me at this particular time to show me that while chemo sucks, it can be conquered. I have a choice to make this week, continue with my present course of treatment for one more cycle or switch to a new drug. Hubby and I believe that doing one more cycle of this cocktail will finally show significant results. My body is slow to respond to most drugs and the trauma of the DVT’s and liver biopsy, along with stress, make it more difficult. We’ve prayed about it and God hasn’t said not to, so we feel we should give these meds one more shot. A CT is tentatively scheduled for the end of January.

These are never easy decisions. My platelets and hemoglobin are at an all time low meaning I’m tired and cold all the time. El Nino is giving us a very mild winter, but, unlike our neighbors, we use heat because I’m always cold. My kids run around in shorts and T-shirts and I’m wrapped up in fleece blankets. But platelets can be transfused and eventually, I do get warm. Staying the course is the mantra of the day and I try to stick with it.

Embrace the unexpected and celebrate your blessings. Life has no guarantees, that’s why today is called the present. May 2016 bring you health, happiness, peace and a cure for cancer.

Great Expectations

I had thought about writing some profound Christmas blog, but I’m not feeling profound.  I’m feeling nauseated.  Nausea and deep thought don’t play well together.  It’s a lot like a couple of two year olds in a sand box.  Everything’s good until someone throws sand, then watch out.

I had a good day today.  I watched the B-Man play basketball (and his team won), then went to breakfast to celebrate the Ultimate Bengal Fan’s Forever Family Day.  Then I was able to head out with the Best Husband Ever to do some Christmas shopping.  I was out for over 6 hours and I don’t need a nap.  Tums, yes, but not a nap.

Christmas is tough when you have cancer, especially when it’s a recurrence.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make it awesome for the boys without going overboard.  It’s a balancing act and I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at it.  I want to get them everything, take them everywhere and watch every Christmas special.  I’ve bought more Christmas movies this year than any previous year (stupid Netflix), just so we can spend time together.  I want to keep them home from basketball and youth group so I can be with them.  I’m gone four days out of the first seven of each chemo infusion so I feel like I’m always gone.  When I am home, I feel like I live on the couch, napping.

The worst part of it is that I feel guilty.  Mom guilt is the worst.  I should do more and be more.  But I can’t, because the stupid chemo has to be extra toxic to kill the stupid cancer.  And at this point, the stupid chemo isn’t doing a very good job of killing the stupid cancer.  I guess the chemo is too stupid to know which cells to kill.  Perhaps I should draw it a picture or let it use the GPS on my phone.  Maybe it needs its very own “tour guide” to show it the way.  As I said, it’s stupid.  And despite its being stupid, I still feel guilty.

People ask me what I want for Christmas.  My first response is “A cure for cancer,” as if anyone could actually give me that.  I feel a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story.  Remember the scene when his mom asks him what he wants for Christmas and he tells her he wants to Red Rider BB gun with real carbine action and a compass in the stock and she tells him he’ll shoot his eye out?  Then Ralphie says he was kidding and would be happy with some Tinker Toys.  I’m Ralphie.  I really want a cure for cancer, but I’d be happy with some new stainless steel cookware or a gift card to Kohl’s.

What I realize is that I need to let go of my expectations.  If I’m going to trust God on this journey, then I need to TRUST Him.  That means that my expectations probably aren’t the same as God’s plan.  It means letting go of what’s happened before, accepting what’s happening and knowing that God knows what will happen and has it under control.

If I let go, my expectations won’t disappoint me.  That’s not to say there won’t be some disappointments along this road.  There will.  Even when I finally reach remission (because failure is not an option here people), there will still be disappointments.  Life is full of them.  The trick is to not let the disappointments become the focal point of your life.  They’re just part of the ups and downs.

So while I’d really like a cure for cancer, which would just exceed my expectations on so many levels, I’d also like a digital camera, some snowmen to add to my collection, a Life is Good shirt and some jewelry to give me some bling.  Any of those would make me happy and actually exceed my expectations (because that means that my family actually listened to me when I told them what I wanted).

While my life is not where I expected, it’s not disappointing.  I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful sons and am still blessed to have my mom.  I am surrounded by an incredible network of friends to are willing to step up and help out.  Combine that with the gift of Christ in the manger and I am bound to have the best Christmas ever.

May you find love, peace, health and happiness in the miracle of Christmas.

 

 

Climbing out of the Pit

Hitting bottom is not fun. It hurts – badly. I don’t recommend body slamming unless you have the body of a superhero. When you hit bottom, you generally don’t flutter down softly like a feather, you hit it full force and there’s nothing to break the fall. If you’re like me, you land face down and get a mouthful of mud on top of the indignity of laying spread eagle at the bottom of a huge hole. It’s the end of a long line of bad things.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get out of the pit. The ground is spongy and you can get a decent jump to catapult yourself to a limb or other hold to pull yourself you. Or, if you’re like me, you just lie there. After all, there’s no place left to go. You’re all ready as low as you can go. Why tempt fate? Better to wallow in the pit with the worms and slime then to run the risk of sliding back despite your best attempts not to. And why not stay in the pit. Blood clots, liver biopsies, brain MRI’s, failed chemotherapy, all pushed me down further and further into a dark place that I felt like no one could reach. Not my children, my mom, my husband or even God. NO ONE. And I preferred it that way. At least, I wasn’t going to have any more issues.

I will admit, wallowing in the pit, while it can be strangely comforting, isn’t a good place to stay. Well, unless you like worms, slime and other creepy crawlies. Personally, I find them a bit, well, creepy. And while mud is supposed to be good for the complexion, I’ve never read any studies on the dental benefits of mud. So what’s a girl who’s been through the wringer to do?

Well, this girl didn’t do anything – at least at first. I stayed in that pit. It was safe, relatively speaking. Yes, it was slimy, and dank and definitely gloomy. But I knew I wasn’t going anywhere else. I was at rock bottom. Rock bottom isn’t a bad place to be. Hard, yes, but not necessarily bad.

I’d like to say I had an epiphany that got me moving out of the pit, but that would be a lie. It was more like my vivid imagination working overtime. I could see myself in the pit with these creatures dancing around the top of it. Think the Habersham Brothers from Horton Hears a Who. They were the evil monkeys who were going to roast Horton is Beezelnut oil (which I’m sure is loaded with trans fats). They reminded me of evil minions out to do Satan’s bidding. Unfortunately, I just can’t imagine Kevin, Stuart or Dave (the minions from Despicable Me being that evil, despite being actual minions.

So as the Habersham Brothers are doing their dance around the pit, who should appear but the Archangel Michael in all his glory. I will vouch for the fact that he is glorious. I can’t begin to imagine what the glory around the throne of the Almighty must be like. When Michael comes with this blazing sword and his angel army, you don’t lie in the pit and tell him you’re too tired, scared, or overwhelmed to move, you move. And if you don’t, he moves you. I was swept up on the wings of angels to the edge of the pit, with the Habersham Brothers standing their with their mouths open catching the flies coming up from the pit. Michael made it abundantly clear that I was now “off limits as a child of the Most High.” Suddenly, everyone was gone and I was alone, standing in the grass, and at peace.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know that God has to hit me with a 2×4 to get my attention. An archangel with blazing swords qualifies. However, I never felt chastised by God for not being strong enough, or brave enough or faithful enough. Jesus sympathized with my plight. He reminded me that he was alone in the Garden, sweating blood, praying that he could avoid death. Then he was beaten, scorned and forced to carry his cross, only to be nailed to it as a common criminal. He was alone. Yes, his mom was there as was John, the beloved. They were there, but were unable to hold his hand or offer any comfort. In his last hours, even God left. My savior was ALONE, tired, scared and dying. He was separated from the Father, whom he’d been with forever. I cannot begin to fathom the depth of Jesus’ pit. I can’t even imagine being that alone.
Talk about dark, scary places.

This is why I am out of my pit. Not because Michael flew in and saved me, although I am eternally grateful to God’s angel army. No, it’s because Christ said, “I know what it’s like to be alone; to be scared and not know what’s going to happen next. I know the worst. It’s being separated from God. I promise you will never be separated. I know it feels like it, but you won’t. I am always here, even when you don’t think I am. I’m ALWAYS here.”

This doesn’t make facing cancer a walk in the park or have me thinking that life is all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. It isn’t. It’s full of nausea, fatigue and too many trips to the Cancer Institute to count. It’s still looking at my kids and hoping I’ll see them graduate. It’s still striving to be the best wife, mom and daughter I can be despite feeling like crap. It’s deciding to have a positive attitude even when you feel like crap. I’m still convinced it’s for times like these that Ativan was invented. It gets rid of the nausea and if you don’t fall asleep, you don’t care. I think God’s okay with that for brief periods.

I am better able to focus on what’s important for today. Actually, I live my life in two week increments, starting on Wednesday. I get chemo on Wednesday, take a bunch of steroids and nausea meds on Thursday, go for fluids on Friday (and more meds for nausea) to get through the weekend of spending time with my family and attending worship, go to co-op on Monday and then get more fluids and nausea meds, rest of Tuesday (and attempt to catch up on school since I’ve been at the hospital), then get labs and MORE fluids and meds on Wednesday. Then I spend the next 7 glorious days at home, trying to drink enough fluid and having fun with my kids. I let the little things slide. They just don’t bug me. They aren’t important. On Wednesday it starts all over again. Life is slowly getting a rhythm. Not the one we want, but it’s still a rhythm.

It’s good to be alive, cancer or no cancer. I’d take life without cancer, but that’s in the cards right now. What is in the cards? A life that’s speaks to others. May my life speak as a blessing.

Note: I tolerated the new chemotherapy well. Cisplatin works best with Gemzar as was considered the gold standard for treatment 5 years ago and still is, but has horrible side effects. I would appreciate prayers that I don’t react to the cisplatin. I have high hopes of remission with this cocktail – shaken not stirred of course.

What I Learned from Cancer

I know, it’s been a while. And dear reader, I know you’ve been longing for my nuggets of wisdom (or lack thereof). It’s not for lack of trying. It’s just that sometimes life gets in the way of my best intentions. I have been getting ready for school (both here at home and for Learning Tree (#best homeschool co-op EVER), vacationing with one of my dearest friends, and trying to generate some income writing.

However, with a new school year comes looking forward to learning new things. The Ultimate Bengal Fan is doing an in-depth study of American History and I love hearing what he’s learned. B-man is telling me all about Ohio History. All this learning at the homestead has me thinking about what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn on this journey called life.

A couple of days ago my Facebook account showed me my memories from past years. My post on August 23, 2012 went something like, “Visit to the GYN ended with finding out I have a cyst on my left ovary. Ultrasound next week. Nothing like 5 years of fertility drugs to give you side effects.” My post was my usual “Who me, worry?” I remember that day like it was yesterday. I sobbed for hours on end. I KNEW I had ovarian cancer. Don’t know how, but I did. My entry into the world of cancer was swift and painful. I’m still looking for a way out that doesn’t involve ceasing to be an active participant in this world.

I do realize, however, that cancer is a great teacher. Yes, that is a positive and seeing as there are so few, it does bear mentioning. I have learned a great many things; some about myself and some about others. All of them have shaped how I look at the world.

1. Cancer is a jealous lover. Remember the movie Fatal Attraction? Glenn Close played a creepy jilted lover. Cancer is a lot like that. It does not go way quietly. Trust me, there’s nothing quiet about chemo. From the beeping of the IV’s to the quiet moans of pain to railing at God and the universe, there’s no peace. And just when you think you’ve got a chance at staying in remission, it rears it’s ugly head like Jack Nicholson in The Shining and says, “I’m back!” No, mine’s not back, but I hold no illusions that I’ll be able to avoid this intruder for the rest of my life. When cancer wants to return, it will. And if it doesn’t, hooray for Dr. Downer.

2. Family is a relative term. Family is more than who you’re related too. My family of origin is relatively small. When I was diagnosed, my mom and cousin Ginny were really the only two people I spoke with. My husband’s immediate family is a bit larger. My mother-in-law made the 3-1/2 hour drive several times to help me after a chemo treatment and took me for fluids. However, there were other people who surrounded me and became as important as those who society would call my “family.” Momma Renie took me to an ultrasound, stayed with me when I got fluids and loved on my kids (and Mr. Dan helped out too), as well as dried a lot of tears. Sister Sue was there as was my niece Sarah to help out with transportation and child care, loving me as only a sister can. Second mom Kelley stepped up and loved on my children as only a mom can while I was at chemo. Coach Cathy quickly became my trusted confidant when I just couldn’t take one more infusion. While my BFF Denise only visited once, she made it count. She came a few weeks before Christmas and helped me bake cookies and put up the tree when she should have been doing that for her own family. My sister in teal, Lisa, whom I’ve never met except on Facebook, called several times with orders “Do NOT quit!” You don’t say no to Lisa. These people surrounded me and my family and loved us in a way that I still find incredible. God puts who we need in our life and they aren’t always a relative.

3. Laughter really is the best medicine. I love good humor (and the ice cream’s not bad either). In my opinion, my dad had the greatest sense of humor. Even now, I’ll say something and my DH says, “That’s a Budism.” There were a lot of days when I’d think of something my dad would day and would laugh (imagine a 6 year old singing “Walking in My Winter Underwear” to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and you’ll get the idea). My B-man is a natural comedian and it was healing to my soul. I learned that when life is crappy, find humor. Life probably won’t be any less crappy, but if you can make fun of it, it’s easier to get through.

4. You are always stronger than you think. I can’t tell you how many people tell me that I showed amazing courage during my illness. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me not to be any other way. I had two young sons who needed a mom and a husband who, despite being an incredibly gifted engineer, has a tough time keeping things rolling at home. They needed me. So I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you find a rhythm even if it’s just walking from the bed to the couch, while stopping to get a cup of coffee. It’s like Nike Just Do It! I think God will let me know when it’s time to stop. Until then, you fight like hell.

5. Life is full of choices, not all of which you can control. We all make choices every day. What to wear. What to eat for dinner. What time to go to bed. Those are easy. The hard ones aren’t as easy. The toughest choice I had to make was when Dr. Downer told me that he recommended two additional chemo treatments beyond the 6 initially prescribed. My DH and Mom were supportive, but Coach Cathy cried with me. I was all ready so beaten down. I chose to do number 7, but drew the line at number 8 when my body was so broken that another treatment would have landed me in the hospital. Dr. Downer ultimately decided number 8 was not an option given my body’s physical state, but I’m not sure what my decision would have been if it had been presented to me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make that choice, but lots of other teal sisters do every day. The choice of living while being poisoned or dying from the Beast doesn’t really seem like much of a choice.

6. God is always in the storm. I never felt closer to God than when I was battling cancer. Being in the pit, you decide to shun God and “punish” Him or hang on for dear life. There’s a song I love which goes something like this “Sometimes He calms the storm with the words ‘Peace, Be Still.’ He can, but it doesn’t mean He will. Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild. Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child.” He calmed this child in ways I never thought possible. Yes I was nervous, but never afraid. God had this and I was just along for the ride. I vividly remember placing everything in His hands and walking away before my surgery. Unfortunately a few weeks after chemo ended, I snatched it all back. I need to remember that control is an illusion. How I chose to respond is what matters. That applies to everything, not just the Beast.

So I have, like my quote, begun to grasp that the unexpected happens. Courage, grace and humor go a long way to making life more tolerable. Those same attributes will help me as I continue on this journey and as I move onto my next. I am meeting with a dietician this week to get a definite weight loss plan in place. The weight has got to go. I got rid of cancer so now it’s time to get rid of the flab (vacation pictures can make you realize what you really look like). The Beast wants me to keep the fat. You know I hate listening to the Beast so the flab has got to go.

Here’s to lessons learned. May we never stop learning.

Life Happens

It’s been a while since I posted, I know.  Life has this way of intruding on my plans.  Who knew that my mom would break a vertebrae and the B-man would need another scope.  So I’ve been doing the sandwich thing of caring for my momma and taking care of my bambinos, who constantly remind me they aren’t babies any longer.

As I’ve said, life is a journey and that journey is not a straight shot from point A to point B.  There are detours, dead ends, short cuts and rest stops along the way.  Sometimes we sail.  Others we fly.  Then there are the times we sit in traffic, stuck for hours because someone was texting and driving and thought they could avoid an accident, but didn’t.  Some are good, some are awful, but all are educational IF (and I know it’s a BIG if) you take the time to experience them.

Losing my dad was a huge detour; more like a derailment. My hubby and I always say 2006 had the potential to be the worst year ever.  We lost my dad, we bought a house right before the housing bubble burst (and it’s still under water), his dad became ill, we discovered the joys of an anxious child and our downward financial spiral took hold.  Now, we could have wallowed in the pit, but there was one light that outshone the darkness of it all.  In September, 2006 after all the awfulness of that year, our beloved B-Man joined our family.  Family additions are always joyous, but his was especially sweet after all the bitterness we’d experienced.  At that time, I felt so overwhelmed by the enormity of my life.  But I hung in there.  I learned that I’m a heck of a lot stronger than I thought.  I learned that God gave me a husband who is EXACTLY who I need based on my weaknesses and my strengths.  I learned that God is good and so much bigger than the box I’d put Him in.  I also learned that God does, indeed, have a sense of humor.  If you’ve met the B-man you know that’s true.

So if losing your dad is a derailment, having cancer like being on the Titanic.  You know you’re going down, and there may or may not be a life boat for you.  If you do make it to the life boat, your life is never the same.  People tell me they don’t know how I kept my sense of humor in tact during cancer.  Truth is, I didn’t.  There were many days I called Coach Cathy in tears saying I was ready to quit.  I wanted no part of the chemo and was done.  She reminded me that I had two boys and a husband who loved me, needed me and depended on me.  I didn’t care.  I was so miserable I wanted to die.  Yes, I truly would have embraced death.  Then, I pulled myself up out of the pit and decided that if I could just make it for the next hour or until my husband came home, or until my next Ativan, I would be fine.  And I was.  So I drew on my eyebrows, straightened my scarf and made another chicken casserole (we lived on those when I was in chemo.  Do you know how many chicken casseroles are on All Recipes? Tons!)

It was only by God’s grace and having walked through a dark valley before that I was able to keep my sanity and my sense of humor.  I realized that chemo was a detour, albeit a long one, on my journey.  Chances were good that I wouldn’t be hanging out there forever and that, while life would be different, it would still be my life.  God knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand alone, that I would need a posse to keep me in check.  Coach Cathy, Second Mom Kelley, Momma Renie, Sista Sue and my Angel in Blue were standing in the gap propping me up as the hands and feet of God when I couldn’t do it alone.  Everybody needs a posse.  They help keep the bad guys in life in check. Thank your posse today.

Life (and that other thing) happens.  It happens whether you want it to or not.  How you handle what happens is what’s important.  As for me, I’m taking the next road God put on my GPS (I finally have a smart phone so I’m embracing the tech).  I’m ready to ride.

Dual Reality

For those of you who have been patiently waiting, the news is in. I have officially passed the 2 year mark in remission. This is HUGE when you’re a survivor. It means I only have to put my feet in the stirrups once every 6 months, instead of once every 3 (I apologize to my male readers for the mental image). I will still get my tumor marker drawn every 3 months since I have to get my port flushed anyway, but it’s still another step in the right direction. The next milestone is at 5 years, so I’ve got a while for that one.

Now, you’d think I’d focus on just carrying on with life and I am. Came home from the doctor, ate some lunch, did some schoolwork with the boys, thawed out some meat, did the laundry, etc. Just another day in the life of a homeschooling mom who freelances from home. Yet my brain is somewhere else. It’s focused on how to maintain what I have in spite of what may be.

So as I’m getting dressed this morning, I realized I had mixed emotions about being a 2 year survivor. If you’d asked me 2 years ago, how I’d feel today, I’d of said, “Ecstatic! Overjoyed! Relieved! Amazing!” And I do feel all those things, but with a twinge of sadness. Please understand that I am so very thankful that God has blessed me with healing to this point. I am able to do most of the things I love. But I grieve so much as well. Two years later and my neuropathy continues to be a royal pain (pun intended). I finally gave in last month and started PT so I could get my hips and back into some type of alignment so I could walk again (talk about pain!). When your gait is a cross between a penguin and a duck, you need some work. Despite the progress I’ve made, I wonder if I’ll EVER be able to walk without pain. I forget things I shouldn’t forget – like my sons’ names.

You’d think a mom could remember her kids names. A couple of weeks ago, I called the Ultimate Bengal Fan “Sierra.” Sierra is our 14-year old cranky, snow white cat who is part Angora with the hair that goes with it. He looked at me and said, “Seriously Mom, do I look like the cat to you?” “No, but you do need a haircut,” was my reply. Still couldn’t remember the kid’s name. I remember it now, but I could tell that through the joke there was pain. “My mom can’t remember my name.” Chemo fog, you’re one cruel master.

On the good days, I barely notice the neuropathy and chemo fog barely raises a blip on my radar. I go through life doing what I do. On the bad days, I need an iPhone so Suri can remind me of all those things that I would otherwise forget. With my luck, I’d probably forget where I put the phone.

I realize that I live two different lives on many days. There’s the one I show the world and there’s the one I live. The one I show the world is the one who is a doting wife and mom, writes articles, schools her kids, attempts to clean the house, and loves to cook. The life I really live is one that wonders who will do this if I’m not here. The life I really live is the one that has the Beast lurking in the shadows. While the Beast is safely off my property for the time being, I know he’s an opportunist and if I give an inch, he’ll take more than a mile. Meanwhile, he’s got his friends Chemo Fog and Neuropathy to remind me that he’s only a cell mutation away.

It’s tough to live in two places at once, but I’m too scared to go all in where I should be and too smart to go all in where I shouldn’t. So I stay where I’m at, trying to balance in both worlds while keeping more of myself in the present and less in the “but what happens if…” place. Actually, I like where I’m at. It keeps me from getting complacent without being a hypochondriac. Maybe a little “what if” every now and then is okay.

As always, God’s got this. And let’s face it, we all have a dual reality where God’s concerned from time to time. There are times when we’re in sync with Him and times we’re not. That’s okay too. The disciples weren’t always in sync with Jesus, but He loved them anyway. I know God loves me just the way I am – a foot in two realities. And I’m okay with both of them.