Time for Plan B

Yesterday I went to get my second infusion of my new cocktail (shaken, not stirred). Labs were good, premeds good and Gemzar (the first part of my cocktail) good. Then came the fun, I started on my desensitizing doses of carboplatin. Carboplatin, while extremely toxic to ovarian cancer, is also toxic to the body. So they give it to you in small, incremental doses to avoid an allergic reaction. For some people this works, but for others not so much.

Unfortunately, I ended up in the “not so much” group yesterday. Despite all the precautions, I ended up with a severe allergic reaction yesterday. Now, I’ve had allergies my whole life, with asthma to boot if I get around too much mold, so an allergic reaction for me isn’t a huge deal. But when I start with an asthma attack, intense itching and a body that suddenly is the shade of a just picked vine ripened roma tomato, there’s a problem Houston. Fortunately, my Angel in Blue was right there and started pumping me full of Benadryl, Prednasolone and a whole host of other drugs to offset the reaction. The Lovely Liz even had to call Dr. Downer in surgery to be sure they’d thought of everything. In the end, I was finally able to go home. Exhausted from the Benadryl and Atarax, but racing from all the steroids. Life can be grand at times.

Just a side note, if you get too much Benadryl, your legs will twitch – BAD. It lasts about two hours and it’s not fun – at least for you. My hubby and the nurses enjoyed the show.

So today I’m in flux. It’s a bad place to be. The Lovely Liz called to check on me this morning and assured me that she will be working with Dr. Downer to get a Plan B in place. She’s hoping to be able to call my Angel in Blue next week to give her the plan so she can review it with me. I tend to take things better from my Angel than anyone else. Maybe because I trust her more than anyone else. She NEVER lets me down even when down is the only place I have to go.

I’m worried about the next drug. What will it do to me? Truth be told, I think I can handle anything except losing my hair. How vain is that? I like the way my hair looks now. I don’t like the way I look bald. One of the drugs on the agenda is called Doxil. While I would get to keep my hair, I would get other lovely side effects like mouth sores (we’re talking liquid diet here), rashes and peeling skin. Sounds lovely, huh. Wondering if this is a valid trade for killing ovarian cancer, my life for the cancer’s.

I’ve come to realize that cancer doesn’t kill people. It’s the chemo, or rather it’s side effects. Nerves are damaged, kidneys fail, hearts become less effective, asthma gets worse, blood becomes anemic. It sucks! While I really want to believe that the chemo will put this cancer back into remission and I will be happy dancing with NED again. However, what’s the collateral damage to my body and my family? I dream of watching my boys grow into strong young men and become parents themselves. I want to walk with my husband well into our 80’s. I used to take that for granted. Now I can’t.

So while I wait for Dr. Downer to create his new cocktail (again, shaken not stirred), I will spend time with my family. I will play with my kids as much as my body will allow (Gemzar makes you very tired), I will date my hubby, I will enjoy co-op, I will visit with friends, I will be creative, and I will try to find something that I find hilarious every single day. Mostly, I will do my very best to trust that God has me tight in His hands. Early today, I posted on Facebook that I felt like I was dangling from His fingertips, just barely able to hold on. I will trust that He has all ready put the Plan B in front of Dr. Downer. I will trust that what little Gemzar I’ve had is killing cancer cells, even if it’s just a few of them.

Plan B wasn’t on my radar. Now I have to rearrange my life to accommodate something I don’t know yet. Until then I will do what I have to do; put one foot in front of the other and just go with the flow. And while I’m at it, I’ll make the most of the moments. And maybe just start that book.

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Limbo Land

Life has been a mix of whirlwind and waiting these last few weeks.  It’s been a whirlwind in that it was only a month ago when the blood clots in my legs began to endanger my life.  It was those same clots, however, that triggered the alarm that the Beast had returned.  Since my last post, I have undergone a liver biopsy (not the worst thing, but definitely not for the faint of heart) and an MRI of my brain (which showed nothing).  Both were more of a CYA thing for Dr. Downer, but definitely raised my stress level beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life to date.

The liver biopsy was to confirm that the cancer was, in fact, ovarian cancer.  I couldn’t imagine God allowing me to go through another type of cancer, but hey, it’s the oncologist’s party not mine.  The recovery took longer than the actual procedure (20 minutes versus 4 hours in recovery then two days of being a couch potato diva).  The pathologist said the biopsy was a perfect match to my previous one taken at my hysterectomy.  I’m always glad to oblige a doctor.  Makes both our lives easier. So once we had that, Dr. Downer confirmed his treatment plan with one caveat.  Get an MRI of my brain on the very, very, VERY low risk outside chance the cancer went too far north.

If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know those tubes aren’t huge.  Having a plate over your face and not being able to see out can be distressing.  Fortunately, the tech put a washcloth over my eyes so when I opened them (despite my hubby’s urging not to) I couldn’t see how I was crammed into the tube like a sardine.  Thirty minutes later, including the contrast IV, I was done and happily returning to my regularly scheduled programming.  A few hours later, the Lovely Liz called to tell me I had nothing but a brain in my head.  Good to know the brain is there.  Now I’ve been given the green light.  Let the poisoning commence!

I will say that I’m completely tapped out.  Coach Cathy and I were talking yesterday and I told her I was way overdue for the massive breakdown cry that should have come by now.  I have shed tears, but mostly because I feel like a lousy Mom because my kids are having to face the fear of losing Mom for a second time in three years.  I feel like an awful wife since Hubby has to deal with the worse and sickness part of our wedding vows rather than the better and health.  I feel like a moocher friend since I am always asking people to take the kids, go with me to appointments, pray for me and my family, and all the other stuff that goes along with being a cancer patient.  But right now I’m so tired I can’t even sleep.  I can’t focus.  My tank just ran completely out.  The last fumes are gone.

Yet tomorrow I will walk into Good Samaritan Hospital yet again.  I will go to the 4th floor to the Cancer Institute and begin bonding with my Angel in Blue again.  We will go through the labs, the premeds, then begin the hours long infusion process.  At least I know what to bring this time.  My laptop (for Netflix and Hulu), my grown up coloring books and nice pencils (no kid stuff for me) and some cross stitch.  Also my Lovenox injection, some Tylenol and the blanket my wonderful Mother-in-Law sewed up for me.  The look is casual.  PJ pants and a T-shirt with funky socks.  No make-up, but I generally do my hair (hey, when you haven’t had it, you tend to want to take care of it).  Oh and let’s not forget the wonderful lunch fresh from the hospital cafeteria.  Tomorrow is 1 of 12 infusions.  After I complete the first six, I have a scan to ensure the poison is doing more than killing off white blood cells and platelets.  If the scan looks good, then we go for 6 more infusions.  I’ll end in mid-March – again.  Actually, it will be very close to the end of my first chemo which was March 15, 2013.

I’m ready to say goodbye to Limbo Land and move on with life.  Today, though, is for hanging with my boys and having fun. It’s probably the last time I may actually feel good (relatively speaking since I’ve been so hyped up and overstressed the last few weeks) in quite a while so I need to enjoy it.  It’s about living in this moment and not the moments to come.  It’s about loving and living and embracing all that’s good in life.  Because even when it’s bad, there’s always something good in life.  Limbo land makes you appreciate that.  It makes you realize it’s the journey, not the destination.  It’s time to move on.

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.

The Land of Discontentment

I have been feeling very discontented. It took me a while to latch onto the right word, but discontented sums it up nicely. After sitting on pins and needles for 2 months because of a unexpected rise in my tumor marker, I have been given a thumbs up by my oncology team. I’m back on quarterly testing for the foreseeable future. Thankful, yes but certainly not content with status quo. After over a year in the 7 range, I’m in the 10’s now. Well below the threshold of 35, but not where I was. I’m certainly not content with that.

I’m convinced that stepping on a scale is the fastest way to the land of discontentment. It’s the bullet train of emotion. If it drops, you go to the land of euphoria. If it remains that the station, it’s either a relief or a puzzler. If you gain, you zip straight into discontentment. I gained 4 pounds. I’m not surprised considering the vast amounts of junk food I’ve consumed the last 10 days. I bought into the lie that I could walk the dog 4 days a week and eat whatever I wanted. I walked from the land of healthy into the land of discontentment. I’m not happy, but it’s not unexpected either.

I talked to my devoted husband last night about this nebulous, discontented feeling I have. He was puzzled since he has left the land of discontentment and is on the island of contentment. Seems we’re never in the same place at the same time any longer. Could be that was one of the stops I missed on the train.

When I’m bothered by something, it never comes up and slaps me along side the head. It’s always this cloudy, endless black hole in the back of my mind. It takes a while for the black hole to collapse so I can put words to the visual. My visual today was a huge mass of wires with me tangled in their web. My land of discontentment is covered in computer cables, e-mails and the hundreds of other electronic gizmos that clamor for my attention every day.

I had high hopes for myself when I ended chemo. I wanted to be a different person. I wanted to be the fun mom, the sexy wife, the fabulous friend, the great housekeeper and organizer extraordinaire (quit laughing Mom). None of it happened. I’m still just a Mom, an overweight wife, a so-so friend and my house looks like I have a perpetual windstorm blowing through it. I didn’t change, at least in the ways I hoped I would.

I find that I now have little tolerance for people who whine about the piddly things in life. Who cares if you can’t find a place to park close to the door? Wal-Mart’s out of your favorite cookies? Deal with it. Dropped your dinner all over the bottom of the oven? It happens (and I do get upset about it because tuna casserole is a pain to clean up), but it’s just one meal and that’s why God created cereal (I know my DH, I need to take my own advice). Life is a series of choices. Mull over the big ones, give a second thought to the average ones, and let the little ones fall where they may. I’ve learned not to stress over the B-man’s dislike of generic Cheerios. In the grand scheme of things, it’s piddly.

Chemo made me more distractible. My concentration a lot of days is in the negative zone. Half the time I can’t remember diddly and the other half I can’t figure out why I’d want to. My boys accept the fact that Mom has chemo fog. They even say it when I’m standing in the middle of a room, trying to look like I know what I want, when, in fact, I haven’t got a clue. That makes me sad. Should my kids have to understand what chemo fog is at 11 and 8. I know it’s a joke to them, but to me it’s taken a huge part of who I was. I could juggle lists and appointments with the best of them. Now, the idea of juggling anything other than clean socks is scary and I’m not very good at that either. This is discontentment at its finest.

This morning I realized I needed to find a way to clear my head and get out of the Land of Discontentment. I deal with too much noise. Remember the static noise on TV when the channel was out? For those of you old enough to remember life before cable and satellite this shouldn’t be a stretch, unless you’ve had chemo. Then Google it. It’ll come back, I promise. That’s what I hear in my head; all day, every day. I’ve discovered that’s the National Anthem in the Land of Discontentment.

I made a huge decision. I’m unplugging. My Kindle has been turned off. I’m on a Facebook fast. I’m only tutoring 2 days per week. I’m checking e-mail twice per day. I still text, but have decided the phone is a good way to communicate (remember actually calling someone?). I continue to freelance, but will print off my research and work on it in the dining room where I can actually see out the window. I want to write creatively and cross stitch and play games with my kids. I want to move my body as I actually do something in my house. I’m hoping to lasso the source of the windstorm and try to slow them down.

Life is tough, especially in the Land of Discontentment. Cancer is tough, even after you dance with NED (No Evidence of Disease). You spend a lot of time on the Island of What-If, which is across the Channel of Dread from the Land of Discontentment. It’s like have Charon take you across the River Styx. You don’t want to be on that boat, but you can’t see a way off. Cancer taught me that my life isn’t under my control. I like to think it is, but it’s not.

What I can control is how I look at life and what I do with what I’ve got. Yes, I’m in remission from ovarian cancer. Okay, so I eat healthy (well, I start to eat healthy AGAIN) and exercise. I try to tame the chaos in the house. Uncluttering the physical goes a long way to uncluttering the mind and soul. God won’t talk above the static, but He does talk. He needs me to get rid of the static to hear Him.

When I can finally find the mute button, He tells me to just look around and get off at the next train station. There’s always a train headed back to Contentment. You’ve just got to know when to change trains.

The Flip Side of 50

Yesterday I turned 50.  I’ve got to say it’s an ugly number – a very ugly number.  Who wants to tell the world they’re a half century old?  I had trouble telling the world I was 30.  Imagine how I choke on 50.

Yesterday, I had a good day. The boys behaved – mostly.  My B-man youngest did his normal stubborn routine with math and didn’t like my choice for dinner (Max & Erma’s).  We had sundaes at Culver’s.  There’s nothing like thick and gooey hot fudge over smooth vanilla custard with a sprinkling of Andes mints on top (grasshopper anyone?).  I got lots of birthday wishes on Facebook and wrapped up planning my elementary World History class.  My oldest gave me the best birthday present ever!  He gave me a hug and told me he loved me.  Sweet words to this momma’s ears coming from her mostly stoic 11 year old (stoic only when there’s no sporting event involved).

Today, life returned to normal.  B-man and I fought and I’m faced with sending him to school (I threatened, so I’ve at least got to attempt to follow through).  The boys broke a CFL.  B-man hated dinner and refused to eat and the Ultimate Bengals Fan is tired (he’s always tired) and is whining because his lamp doesn’t have a light bulb (the aforementioned CFL bulb).  I hear the shower and I’m waiting for something to go wrong.  We’re due.  Everything else has gone wrong.  I can hear the gnomes rustling in the landscaping, chomping at the bit to wreak havoc.

Despite the bad day, I really know what’s causing my bummer mood.  I had my labs drawn at the cancer institute today.  Despite having a “clean” CT scan last week, I still feel like crap.  While I’m waiting to get weighed (no stress there, right?), the alarm goes off indicating there’s “an event” with a patient.  Event is such a euphemism.  Event can mean anything from throwing up to full cardiac arrest.  I had a couple of “events” while in chemo.  Mine involved sweating profusely, itching and being lightheaded.  Never needed the rapid response team, but I did get to meet several of the other nurses at the Center.  They’re all very nice.  I discovered it’s a great way to get individualize attention from your nurse.  But I wouldn’t recommend it.  They like it so much better when you fly under the radar.

Right now I’m waiting for that dreaded number – the CA125.  I can’t decide which is worse.  Weighing yourself after strictly following Weight Watchers and exercising your butt off only to find out that your body had the audacity to gain weight or having your CA125 bump up from 6.7 to 8.3.  Keep in mind that anything below 34 is a normal CA125 reading and it fluctuates depending on stress, inflammation, the wind direction and a whole host of other factors.  “It’s a tool.”  “It’s a measure.”  “It’s a guide.”  Take your pick.  I’ve heard them all from my oncologist (aka Dr. Downer) and his staff.  Here’s what it is – it’s a number.  And as I’ve said before, it’s the only thing I can use to track my disease unless it’s active.  Oh wait, they use the CA125 to track it when it’s active too.

I am in full throttle, pissed off mode right now (excuse my language).  Anyone who’s had cancer can relate.  It’s one of those days when you want to hurl obscenities at the universe for the crappy hand you’ve been dealt.  And it’s not just the cancer hand we’re talking about.  It’s the infertility, the obesity, the debt, the male mind, menopause, your own deranged mind, the government and anyone or anything else you can remotely tie to your insanity.  No one gets it.  Your kids think you have morphed into the most psychotic and meanest mom on Earth (I have proudly worn the mantle of Meanest Mom for years.  Just means I love them enough to make their lives miserable).  They gladly go to bed on time, even early,  to escape your insanity.  Your husband will wash dishes, anything  to avoid dealing with the deranged woman who told her child he could play with  his buddies until dark despite not having had dinner then proceeded to feed him the free chocolate chip cookies she got for her birthday dessert for dinner (true story.  I just did that), so she doesn’t binge on them the night before weigh in (how do those stupid cookies even know my name?).

So now it’s quiet.  Everyone has gone to bed to escape the maniac at the keyboard.  I have prayed quite a bit today.  I think God likes it when I wallow in my insanity.  It makes me appreciate the normal life He’s given me. Tomorrow I will  get up, weigh myself, drink my coffee while doing my devotions, then read the paper.  The boys will get up, school will start and I will once again explain to the Ultimate Bengals Fan why good grammar is so important and why Mr. B must work on finishing 2nd grade math now that he’s in 3rd grade.  Laundry will be washed, bathrooms will be cleaned, floors will be mopped and meals will be planned.   Life will follow its predictable pattern. All will be right with the world even if the number goes up.

That’s the flip side of 50.

 

Standing Strong

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I love this picture.  It’s my favorite one from my vacation.  Usually my favorite pictures are those of my kids or me and the hubby.  But I LOVE this picture.  It was taken on a very windy day atop the Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan.  The tree in the picture is a poplar tree.  It is at least 70 feet tall and has roots that stretch out beneath the dunes in search of nourishment.  It gets beaten by winds and sand and yet is full and green and provides the only shade available for miles (I know, I stood there when I was hot one day). 

I’ve been thinking about this tree, so much so that I’ve decided to frame a print of this picture and hang it above my desk.  I’ve decided that in life you are either the tree or the sand.  You make the choice. 

One thing I love about the dunes is that they are never the same.  They change day to day, hour to hour and sometimes even minute to minute depending on the wind and other factors.  Every time someone places a footprint on the dunes, they change.  What I did notice is that from just about anywhere I walked, I could find my tree.

To get to the dunes you have to climb and incredibly steep hill.  It’s nearly straight up.  My hubby and sons scampered up the hill while I hauled my body up using ropes that protected a portion of the dunes (I wasn’t the only one.  Lots of people did this).  I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath.  I found myself more than once thinking, “This is nuts!  I will NEVER make it up this hill.”  And yet, I put one hand over the other and hauled myself up that dune.  The view from the top is spectacular.  You can see all of Silver Lake.  When you walk to the other side, you get a panoramic view of Lake Michigan.  Two beautiful views separated by one square mile of sand, populated with dune wood (it’s like drift wood, only a LOT sharper from the constant bombardment of the sand).  It’s surreal, alien and beautiful all at the same time.

Cancer is a lot like the dunes. One side is the life you had before cancer – I call this Silver Lake.  It’s peaceful and relatively calm.  You are in your own little lake and can quietly live your life protected from the majority of the storms.

Then cancer hits.  Suddenly you are faced with the steepest climb of your life.  Surgery, debulking, and chemotherapy leave you reeling.  You keep climbing in hopes of reaching the top, but when you do you can’t get solid footing.  Just when you think you’ve found someplace solid to walk, the sand dissipates beneath your feet and you sink down, stumble and, perhaps, fall down.  Unfortunately, no one is going to rescue you so you have to get back up and keep walking. 

Off in the distance you hear the ORVs (Off Road Vehicles) racing the dunes.  I can’t decide if the sound is annoying or down right obnoxious (guess it depends on your mood).  We did two tours of the dunes, one in a large group and the other in a Jeep tour.  Both were fun and I can certainly see the attraction of not having a speed limit while driving on huge mountains of sand, but the ORV area reminded me of the people who buzz by you when you have cancer.  They are on the edges, but refuse to actually engage with you.

While you might think Lake Michigan is remission, I tend to disagree.  Lake Michigan is beautiful when it’s calm.  When it storms it’s not much different than the ocean and many ships have been lost.  At it’s deepest point, it’s over 900 feet deep.  So while it looks calm and the sounds of the waves lapping can lull you to sleep, don’t be fooled. 

Nope, I’m still on the dunes trying to navigate my way.  My feet keep sliding because of the neuropathy.  I’m slowly developing lymphedema in my legs from the lack of lymph nodes in my groin so my feet get fat and walking doesn’t help.  Osteopenia and bone pain throw me for a loop.  Sometimes I’m on top of a large dune looking down.  At other times, I find myself in the valley between the dunes trying to figure out how to climb the next one. 

Finding your path on the dunes is really tough.  First you have to decide if you’re going barefoot or wearing shoes.  I found going barefoot to be a bit easier, mostly because I could feel where my feet were when I was barefoot (I lose the ability to find my feet when I walk a lot due to the neuropathy).  Trust me, you have to know where your feet are at all times and knowing they are at the end of your shins isn’t enough.

Once you have the whole footwear issue (or lack thereof) decided, you just start walking.  Some are easy to climb.  I liken these to weekly labs during chemo.  They aren’t hard, but necessary.  Some are more difficult and are like those semi-annual CT scans.  You have to do them and waiting for the results is tough, but in the end you come out on top.  Then there are the monsters.  They’re steep no matter how you try to approach them.  That’s chemo and life after chemo.

Let’s call a spade a spade and say “Chemo sucks,” because it does.  But life after cancer isn’t exactly a walk on the beach.  You have to keep climbing all these small and medium size dunes, then suddenly a big dune is right in front of you.  You can’t really walk around it and, depending where you are or where you want to go, going back isn’t an option.  So you start to plan a route and start walking.  The sand shifts, the wind blows, your feet sink and you wonder if you chose the right path.  You might even have to change course a couple of times.  Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t. 

The path you chose is probably not the path your companion chooses, no matter how close you are.  You see, we all walk our own path.  While others may walk on our path for a while, only you walk your path for the entire journey. 

Wherever I walked, I always looked for my tree. It was my focal point.  If I could find that tree, I could get out.  Jesus is the tree and I am the sand.  I blow helter skelter while He stands strong.  If I find the tree, I find life.

Walking on the dunes is a challenge, just like walking through life.  We all have our own challenges.  The walk isn’t easy and some will quit.  Others will walk in circles.  The idea is to stand strong like the tree so you can make your way through the shifting sand.  Remember it’s how you walk your journey, not how quickly you reach your destination that’s important.