What’s Your Color?

I promised myself I wouldn’t go there this year, yet here I am. I told myself I have to immerse myself in my own battle and not try to fight any others. Yet, here I am. I know I’m too tired to really fight effectively, but I will try. Someone has to.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and tans of the leaves and the gorgeous sunsets, all I see is pink. Bubble gum, Pepto-Bismol pink. The Ultimate Bengal Fan commented the other day that orange and pink should not be worn together, and this is the kid who would wear stripes and plaids.

It seems that cancer has been boiled down to a color. What color is your cancer? Are you pink, blue, teal, yellow, purple, green, white or some combination thereof. Are you saving the ta-tas or some other body part? A fellow teal sister on a Facebook group I’m a part of commented on the tasteless “Go Braless” campaign to promote breast cancer awareness. She thought we should go commando to bring awareness to gynecologic cancers. Actually, guys could join in with this as well. Prostate and testicular cancer are below the belt as well.

I think the people who come up with these “campaigns” mean well, but they don’t think things through. When you’re fighting for your life, you aren’t thinking pink, teal, purple or any other color. You’re trying to figure out when you can take your next anti-nausea pill. You’re trying to decide how you can hide the overwhelming fatigue from your family so they don’t worry. Some days you wonder how you’re going to haul your butt out of bed to go to the bathroom, then you hear some perky AM news host talk about how they’re painting the town pink with bras. Hey, I would gladly go braless, but as a former boss of mine used to say “You’ll take your eye out ” (I’m rather well endowed).

I’m tired of hearing about moms who have breast cancer and take care of their families. Lots of people with cancer go through therapy and take care of their families and never receive one bit of recognition. I certainly don’t blog about my journey for the recognition. Truth is that the vast majority of cancer patients deal with their families and some have to work to keep their insurance or a roof over their head. Those are the real heroes. The ones that go through treatment and keep life going. They should get a gold crown. They deserve the recognition. Not that the mom with breast cancer doesn’t – she does. She’s doing the toughest job imaginable while fighting cancer. She just shouldn’t be singled out when there are so many others who do the exact same thing.

Cancer isn’t a color. It’s a wretched disease that destroys your body, mind and spirit and leaves families shattered. If you’re lucky, like I am, you have an incredible support system that holds you close when you can’t do it on your own. I have a God who is immensely powerful to save and holds me close. I have friends who will gladly stay with my children so I can get my infusions. Yesterday I discovered that I am in need of fluids on the weeks I don’t get chemo. This means a 90 minute infusion of saline, along with some extra steroid and anti-nausea meds. My quick 45 minute trip has turned into a “3 hour tour.” Fortunately, the 3 hours I spend affords me a few days of actually feeling good before I descend back into the depths of feeling lousy.

It just seems wrong to try to limit cancer to a color. It’s as if tying a deadly disease to a color makes it less threatening. How can something pink or blue or yellow take lives every day? I guess it’s like a tiger in the wild. They are majestic to look at, but I certainly don’t want to meet one up close.

Fortunately, we’re about halfway through the “pink month.” Then we can get on with life again. Until then, I will politely decline when asked if I want to give to a another “pink ribbon” charity. I will explain that pink doesn’t represent all women’s cancers. And I will laugh at the lack of color coordination on the part of the NFL. Pink shoes with football uniforms just doesn’t do it for me. And don’t even get me started on how much of what’s raised actually goes to patients. That’s for another rant on another day.

The color of cancer is reflected in the eyes of every patient, male or female. It’s reflected in the color of their skin since cancer is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. Cancer is the plague of the 21st century. The only color I want associated with it is whatever color the cure is. Then, I will proudly wear the color of cancer. The color that caused it’s demise.

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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.

Back Into the Deep

I

Have

Cancer

Again

And

I’m

Mad.

There I said it.  Still a survivor, but no longer in remission.  I am once again a prisoner of Dr. Downer.  My children are once again living in fear of losing their Mom.  My husband is once again playing Dad, Mom and chief cheerleader.  My mom has to go to the places no mom wants to go.  People cry, rail and scream.  Friends who’ve battled the beast deal with survivor guilt.  Yet, life goes on.

My cancer was found because I developed blood clots in my legs.  Apparently, some cancer survivors manifest a recurrence with blood clots if they have a history of them.  Being the over the top achiever that I am, I developed several clots which caused both legs to swell.  One swelled to the point of being non weight bearing and resembling a hoof more than a foot.  Every blood test pointed to everything being normal, except the clots were there.  When I went for a CT scan, I knew the cancer was back.  Don’t know how, I just knew.  Getting the news was a bit anti-climatic except that I was unable to get out of bed to take my walk (I was on bed rest).  There are several tiny (we’re talking millimeter) spots in the abdomen, lungs and liver.  Everybody wants to come to the party.

Before I go further, I know you all feel bad, but please understand I have more clarity at this moment than I’ve had for a long time.  Perhaps I’ve known that a recurrence was on the horizon on some level and now that it’s here I’m ready.  The kids are scared, but will be alright.  I’m alright.  Heck, no taxol this time.  I will have hair during chemo and we all know it’s all about the hair. In fact, I’m having teal streaks put in on Tuesday.

What it is about is living life and doing what God has planned for me.  This journey will be chronicled, just like the last one.  It WILL become a book.  In fact, I plan to look into starting to put it together soon and work on it while I’m getting chemo (chemo is BORING).  My beloved laptop will be my best friend as I once again enjoy the poisoning that only cancer can provide.

Okay, I have to say this.  Why is it called a chemo cocktail?  When i think of cocktails, I think of James Bond and having a good time, maybe a party.  Well, you do experience chemo with about 20 other people (not a bad size party) and it does come with a hangover, but that’s pushing it.  It’s certainly not a good time.  And while cocktails are expensive, chemo takes it to the extreme.

Ovarian cancer chemo incorporates platinum.  Does my cancer really need bling?  I know I have good taste, but does my cancer need to have such good taste too?  If I had bad taste, would it prefer lead?

So, here we go folks.  Everyone back into the pool.  I hope you’ll at least dip your toes in and read my musings.  I promise to keep the wit sharp, the story honest and give you a mix of laughter and tears.  I’m not going anywhere.  I have a lot of work to do.  I can still see myself on a stage making women laugh about the joys of bladder leakage, chemo fog and hot flashes.  I want to see cancer cured in my lifetime, so I’m sure I need to be here for at least 30 more years.  We all know how quickly the government works.  Better make that 50 more years.

Life’s a journey – enjoy the trip!

Land of Confusion

I feel like I live in a perpetual state of confusion. I’m not sure when it started, but I know it was sometime in late 2012. Like my friend Aunty Acid here, I feel like I don’t always have time to duck before it all hits the fan.

I feel like my life goes from worrying to living to being on a perpetual hold. I worry before my labs which, if you’re wondering – and I know you are – were fine last month. Just a bit higher than March, but still normal. And yes, I realize that “Normal is just a setting on the dryer,” (thank you Erma Bombeck), but it’s still nice to be considered normal for something. So after labs, I slowly reemerge to enjoy life again, only to fall into a perpetual holding pattern when something pops the bubble wrap I’ve put around myself.

Food is “popping my bubbles” lately. I’m trying a diet that “confuses” my body. Let me say this about ovarian cancer (I can’t speak for the others – thank goodness). It is NOT conducive to dieting. First you get to eat whatever you want during chemo. You might think this is great and it is, provided you aren’t so stinking nauseated that even the imagined smell of food won’t send you running for your Zofran, or in my case Ativan, hoping that it will tamp down the ickiness. Once you feel like eating, hopefully you won’t have mouth sores or suffer from metal mouth. Metal mouth is what I call the metallic taste things tend to get when you undergo chemo. I had a mild case, but I’ve heard of women who have to eat off of plastic silverware since regular flatware just adds to the metallic taste. Basically I had about 3 days during every 21 day cycle when I ate whatever I wanted. The rest of the time I lived on 7-Up, saltines, instant mashed potatoes and plain pasta with butter (carbo loading in the truest sense of the word).

Once you’re done with chemo, you get to deal with what I like to call “Chemo body.” Aside from the run of the mill issues, like profuse hair loss, you have the chubby steroid face to contend with. Yes, chemo is full of steroids so you don’t react violently to the poison. Unfortunately, your face isn’t the only thing that gets chubby. While some people lose weight, most gain weight during chemo (another LOVELY side effect of ovarian cancer). I gained a good 25 pounds on my already overweight frame. Unfortunately, for me anyway, it loves me and refused to leave (oh to be so loved)! Dr. Downer (my beloved oncologist) told me not to worry and give myself some time for my body to readjust. Okay doc, it’s been almost 27 months; isn’t time for it to readjust?

I’ve done Weight Watchers, Spark People, low fat, low carb, exercise, PT, fasting, eat only when you’re hungry, shakes, and just about anything else you can think of that doesn’t involve standing on my head or getting stuck with needles (yes, I’m now needle phobic, but that’s for another blog). So, of course, when second mom Kelley suggested the Fast Metabolism Diet, I just jumped right on that bandwagon. I hadn’t tried it so of course it will work.

The basic premise is that if you confuse your metabolism that your thyroid will fire and burn fat. The science behind it is solid. Unfortunately so is my fat. The author, a registered nutritionist, states that people can expect to lose between a half and full pound each day totally a max of 20 pounds in 28 days. In the two weeks I’ve been on the diet, I’ve gained a half pound. I think I need to talk to my thyroid and fat.

While emotionally I’m ready to chuck it for a Culver’s concrete mixer (or even a piece of cheese since there’s no dairy on this diet), mentally I realize that my body was under siege and has been through a lot over the last 2 and a half years. Actually, it was messed up before hand so it’s been longer. Logically, I realize that I can’t undo that in 2 weeks, despite my desire for it to happen. I’ve even gotten myself down to a quarter of the amount of coffee I used to drink and am learning to drink it black (I REALLY miss cream. You have NO IDEA how much I miss cream). I drink voluminous amounts of water (the B-man recently said it was my “blankie” since I take it everywhere with me), which means I am on a first name basis with the Tidy Bowl Man and am ready to buy stock in Quilted Northern. All of this to calm my adrenals, build muscle and burn fat. I can hear Jim Morrison singing “Light My Fire,” but there’s no sign of a match anywhere.

So I’m confused. Well, right now I’m hungry. There are three phases each week and I’m on phase 2. This is the dreaded “all protein and green vegetables phase” that lasts for two days (Wednesday and Thursday). I HATE this phase. If negative emotion burned calories, I’d be on the fast track to losing 10 pounds this week. By tomorrow I’ll be saying “If I see one more piece of lettuce, I’ll scream.” Actually, I screamed this morning. Not out loud, lest I wake the Ultimate Bengal Fan, but definitely in the dark corners of my mind. My mouth waters just thinking about the bowl of oatmeal I’ll have for breakfast tomorrow with almond milk and fresh blueberries and a side of baby carrots (you need eat your veggies).

Unfortunately, my body isn’t at all confused about what’s going on especially the fat. It’s hanging on for dear life. Actually, I think it’s Gorilla Glued itself to my skin and muscle and it’s not going anywhere. My dear doctor explained that sometimes our bodies don’t want to give up fat since it’s saving up for the next trauma. Seriously, I’ve had enough trauma to last a lifetime. And losing 20 or 30 pounds will still leave enough of the squishy white, well actually yellow, stuff to handle whatever gets thrown at me.

As luck would have it, I just broke my toe – literally. As I tried to help my Bengal Fan with the ice maker, a roll of sausage fell and dropped on my toes (how appropriate). So now I have to try to contend with the necessary exercise while hobbling around on my foot. I’m sure this will confuse my body to the point that it will cling onto my stores for dear life, lest I not be able to get to the kitchen for my regularly scheduled feeding (trust me, this is never an issue).

Ovarian cancer, thank you for bringing me to the land of confusion. Now if you would be so kind as to let me call AAA. I think I need an alternate route.

Not Really Me

Last night, my Ultimate Bengal Fan introduced me to a great move; 1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story. Based on a true story, Cory is known as Mr. 1000 since he scored 1000 points in his high school basketball career, then received a scholarship to Gettysburg College. While prepping for his freshman season, he suffered a massive stroke that nearly killed him. It took him 2+ years of rehab to be able to suit up for a game. In the final game of his senior year, he scored a single point. His team was up by 20+ points with less than a minute to play. His coach allowed him onto the court (he was still suffering seizures so this was a liability for the school). The other team fouled him, so he could make 2 foul shots. He made the last one. It was a great story about determination, heart and the desire to live life. The Bengal Fan even said the liked it better than most sports movies because it didn’t have a miraculous comeback. It just showed him becoming “normal” again.

During one point in the movie, Cory is speaking with a psychotherapist. He breaks down screaming that he just wants his life back. The one before the stroke. That one scene continues to resonate with me today and I think it will for the days and weeks to come. I completely understand what Cory’s saying. I understand that primal need to get back what you had before.

People who have faced or continue to face a life threatening or chronic disease know that there’s two phases to your life; the one before the disease and the one after. Try as you might, even with medical advances and technologies, your life is never the same. You can do all the same things, be with the same people and wear the same clothes, but you’re never, EVER the same.

My sons continually point out to me that I’ve changed since cancer, but I’m never sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. As I’ve said before, they love to mess with my ever present chemo brain. They also talk about my penguin strut, although with PT that’s pretty much gone unless my feet are really numb. The gray hair jokes are starting to lose their appeal and I’m pretty sure the B-man is getting tired of telling the kids on the street, “No that’s NOT my grandma! My mom just looks old because she had cancer. Duh!” He then proceeds to explain that when you lose your hair to chemo, it comes back soft and gray. Nothing like a trash talking 9 year old explaining the pros and cons of chemo hair. I believe I can count these conversations as a health credit for homeschooling purposes.

I talk with my husband about this quite a bit. I miss what we had before cancer. Not that our life was one of romance and roses. It wasn’t. It was an average life, doing average things. But sometimes I can’t manage average.

We love to go to Home Depot. It’s a date for us. We walk around the store and talk about all the things we’d love to do in the house. I look at countertops and cabinets. He looks at Pergo and light fixtures and we dream about what our house could look like if we’d just win that $5,000 gift card for filling out the survey (somebody has to win, right?). We even have a list of future projects.

Then I’ll look at the budget. Now I did this before cancer, but not quite as closely. BC (Before Cancer), I just checked to be sure the money was there. In my PC (Post Cancer) life, I not only check to be sure the money is there, but I’m also checking the reserves in case we spend the money and the Beast decides to roar back into our lives. While I hate my carpet, I hate cancer more. We spend a lot of time wishing rather than doing, and that makes me sad.

Our financial advisor recommended that I get more life insurance. While cancer patients have a tough time getting insured, ovarian cancer patients just can’t get insured. My AAA membership allows me to apply for insurance “that approves nearly everyone.” Guess who didn’t get approved? I actually called the number on the letter that said I was declined. They politely said, “We don’t insure people who’ve had ovarian cancer.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you run a greater risk of dying.”

“Doesn’t everyone run a risk of dying?”

“Not like you.”

“Do you know something I don’t?”

“I’m sure you’re familiar with the survival rates. They just aren’t very good.”

“Yet here I am. How about a letter from my oncologist?”

“No. You’re not worth the risk.” OUCH! Now that’s customer service!

What I really wanted to say is “Let’s face it, life is fatal,” but that fact was lost on the Customer Service Representative I spoke with.

Fortunately, John’s employer offers spousal life insurance. Unfortunately, I could only get a fraction of what I need on a guaranteed issue basis. I was finally able to get Critical Illness Coverage as well. It will cover our deductible if and when the Beast returns. I hate feeling that I’m a drain on our financial future. We have to look at everything in the context of “what if.” We never did that BC. Being PC stinks.

There are parts of me that continually seek out my old life, while some parts embrace the new. Writing has become important to me once again and my faith is stronger than it’s ever been. I just hate not being able to do what I did before. I recently tried to do a 2 mile walk. After a mile I was about ready to fall over. I did finish it, but it was a sloppy finish. It’s a lot like how I clean my house. I start off strong, but in the end I just end up with a neater mess than I started with.

Coming to terms with myself PC is not easy. While I laugh at my PC quirks on the outside, there is a piece of the old me railing on the inside. That “new normal” everyone talks about stinks. But it beats the alternative.

Normally, I think being PC is overrated, but it has it’s benefits.

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.

Metamorphosis?

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

Today is the first day of Lent. In the days leading up to today, the Ultimate Bengal Fan and the B-Man have been trying to figure out what they wanted to give up for Lent. The Bengal Fan ultimately chose chocolate, which is tough for my chocoholic son, while my youngest one had yet to settle on something. It’s run the gamut from refraining from throwing soccer balls at his brother, to broccoli (which he doesn’t eat anyway) to changing his underwear daily (I really do NOT want to know). He eventually decided on Lego.com. This is HUGE! I am really proud of him. He spends his entire computer time on Lego.com. I chose a different route this year.

The choice came upon me slowly. I have known for nearly two years that something needs to change in my life, but it’s a nebulous idea. There’s nothing solid to grab onto. Yet, I know God is nudging me. I took a huge step when I signed up for a Women’s study at church called “The Life Ready Woman.” The title intrigued me. Seriously, how much more ready for life can you be than to face ovarian cancer head on while homeschooling two young kids, make it to remission and carry on? Apparently not as ready as I’d like to believe.

In the interim, I’ve let myself go. My weight has ballooned to an all time high (and as open as I am with my readers, I’m NOT sharing that number) and I move less than I did before cancer. Now I could play the cancer card and say, “Well, I have neuropathy and my joints hurt, blah, blah, blah.” And it would be true. However, I’ve lost my love for most things. Oh sure, I love my boys beyond measure, I love my husband more than ever, and I’m surrounded by an incredibly supportive group of family and friends. But why do I feel so empty?

I know why. I’ve allowed myself to fall into a sort of complacency about things in my life. After all, I’m in remission from one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Woo Hoo! I have the right to kick back and rest on my laurels. Well, the world would say that, but I think God is calling me to so much more. And as I’ve said before, He generally needs to use a 2×4 or other heavy object to get my attention. This time, however, it was my feet and a scale.

I had lost some weight this summer and I did it mostly by exercise, which was painful. As summer turned to fall, my back and feet would hurt as soon as I got up the street to the corner. Walking wasn’t fun. Nothing was fun. I shut down and opened the bag of M&M’s. Fall turned to winter and I closed in on myself. It was just me and my coffee and chocolate. The treats I had right before a chemo treatment – because in a cruel twist of fate, chocolate gave me heartburn during chemo – were my secret allies. They made me feel good, or at least I thought they did.

Earlier this month, I made the decision to finally find out why my back and feet hurt. I found a great PT office that looks at the whole body, not just what hurts. Not only do my feet hurt less, but my back feels better. I still have an incredibly long way to go, but at least I can go up and down the steps the right way (alternating feet) and not like a two year old. It’s the little things. Walking “funny” because of neuropathy screws up your entire lower body mechanics. I’m working on muscle memory to get a new normal (there’s that phrase again!). My goal – the 5K OCAGC walk in September without pain.

So for Lent, rather than giving up something, I’ve decided to DO something. I am spending less time ruminating on the aftermath of cancer and more time on what the next chapter holds. It’s too easy to focus on where I’ve been. It was hell, plain and simple and I know that the Beast can come knocking at any time. I already hear its footsteps since I have my 3-month check-up and labs early next month. I’m not a betting person, so I try to ignore the odds, even if they are in my favor for the time being. Learning from the past is one thing, dwelling in it is another.

So with the courage I have been given, my Lenten journey is to begin a transformation; a metamorphosis of sorts. My goal is to muster up my courage daily and dive into this new life God is calling me to. Like a tadpole or caterpillar, it takes time. It won’t happen overnight. My goal for each day is to just find a way to not fold in on myself, but to do something that takes courage. For me, eating less takes courage, since food is my comfort. Cleaning my house takes courage (my beloved calls me a pack rat and he’s right). Writing takes courage. Spending time with God and listening takes an incredible amount of courage. Think about it – you ask God what He wants you to do and when He answers you should do it. I think I’m guilty of asking, but not really wanting to know what He thinks. It’s like if I ask, I’m good. So not only will I ask, but I will seek to act after the 2×4 smacks me in the head. I’m hoping after this period of reflection is over, that I may find myself being changed into a woman that God is proud to call daughter.

While cancer may have caused me to take the “road less traveled,” I need to let it make a difference. I’m getting ready for the next adventure. Who’s with me?