Monday, May 25, 2015

What Now?

"The name "daylily" is accurate; each blossom survives only one day, opening in the morning and by the end of the day its life is over. The flowering stalk, however, continues producing new flowers for up to three weeks. Because each plant has many flowering stalks, the plant may continue to flower for several weeks or months."

I've had a bit of a struggle, wondering how to live now that I've finished my chemo treatments. Finishing chemo is a good thing. I was so thrilled yesterday to be able to ring the bell to let the world know I am "on my way to being well." I had to read this sign out loud and I cried. I toughed it out and made it through this stage of the journey. It was a relief to be done. Yeah, I'm on my way to being well...

But the problem is, I don't really know that. Not yet. I will go back on July 5th for a cat scan and will hear the results from the doctor on July 6th. So I've had to decide how I am going to live with the uncertainty.

It's not like I was ever guaranteed a certain number of days in my life. None of us are. So I haven't really lost anything. I've just been forced to come face to face with the prospect of my own mortality.

And in the interim, I will have to learn to live with the uncertainty, which really is nothing new. It's always been that way.

The daylily blooms one day and its life is over. It doesn't fret over the fact that it only has one day to live (I know, I know--if a daylily had a brain, it might fret, bear with me here!).

My point is that I am going to jump back into life and enjoy the fact that I am alive. I can only live in the present. I will deal with whatever might be hanging over my head when I know what is hanging over my head. In other words, I will work hard on not imagining the worst (nor the best) of what might come in 6 weeks. I'll have to get really good at this because I will be going for checkups every three months for three years, and then every 6 months for two years. I can't be wasting my present (now) time fretting over what may or may not happen.

I'm going with the daylily. I'm going to seize whatever days I have coming to me and I'm going to live mindfully in the present.

I'm not yet done with my growing, peeps.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Looking Down

All last week I seemed to be constantly looking down and finding interesting things. Of course I took a few photos of the things I saw...
We had a crawfish boil with some of the family over the weekend. I was walking over to take pictures of the crawfish and noticed this one had escaped. He didn't get far. Someone picked him up and put him back in the water. I don't eat much crawfish. We boiled shrimp for people like me. It was all good and was a celebration of sorts of my upcoming last chemo treatment and the 40th wedding anniversary for my husband and me. It was a good day.

I saw this moth Friday night when we arrived in the country. It was too dark to take his/her picture when I first saw him/her but I got out early Saturday morning (around 10 a.m.!)  and took his/her picture.

I noticed this little setup when I was running errands on campus. I added the quote and did it all on my phone. Once again, the screen is small and I have trouble gauging how large I want the text to be. I am slowly learning that it can be smaller than I think it needs to be when looking at it on my phone.

Maybe sometimes it's not so bad to look down and notice the small things.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Methods of Escape, and Distractions

"Escape is not a dirty word.  
Nobody can face what's happening head-on all the time.  
It's all right to pretend sometimes.
The only danger lies in pretending that you're not pretending."
--Sheldon Kopp
I have a friend who often reminds me of this quote. 
Odd as it sounds, I had an opportunity for escape today as we waited
to get my blood work done, my port accessed,
and finally, almost two hours late,
started my chemo.
It's been harder the last couple of times
and I've been dreading this weekend.
Plus, we got caught in traffic last night 
and what should have been a two and a half hour drive
turned into nearly took nearly five and a half hours,
taking out about an hour to stop
for dinner and a potty break.
Anyway, during the in-between times,
I took a few pictures and thought about escape and distractions.
How useful they can be.
Just remember what it is you are doing
and don't forget to come back and face reality! 
Puzzle pieces at MD Anderson. 
There are always several in progress in all the waiting areas.
One of many methods of providing distraction.

Some seem to find distraction in weaving a noose. 
Or is it a rudimentary crown for some battle weary warrior?
A woman came and plopped down in the chair.
I wondered if she noticed the noose/crown.

Others find distraction in taking pictures of death and decay.

But also there are living flowers, and that always feels hopeful to me.

The fish distracted me on the morning 
I waited for my first surgery in late October, 
and again as I waited for my surgery to install my port. 

And the sundial area, on the floor below the gazebo area.
I took this one from the floor above. 
My husband suggested going upstairs when I complained
that I couldn't get a good shot
while standing beside it. Don't know why I didn't think of that myself!

The barrier wall to keep one from falling over the edge was glass.
I had to lean over a bit and hold my phone camera out over the open area.
I felt a little nervous and unbalanced,
as though I were walking on an edge
and about to fall off. 
I'm not gonna lie to you:
it is a feeling with which I am intimately familiar.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Planting Hope

We spent the weekend at our place in the country, our healing place. My parents came up because my mother wanted to work in our front flower bed, to plant some things to grow in celebration of my completing chemo and being able to "get on with the rest of my life." This bed has been totally unruly and a bit of a thorn in our flesh. There is a stump and some large roots in the middle of the bed. We tried to make it into a flower bed so hubby wouldn't keep running over the roots and bending his lawn mower blades. They pulled weeds from the roots and conditioned the soil and planted these plants.

There is about half of the bed left to be done. Everyone tuckered out before we finished. I did help, a little, with constant admonitions not to over-do it.

In the background of this photo, near the Hurricane gate that opens to nowhere, really, is another large problem area with a dying stump and roots. We will eventually get around to working that bed too. 

I saw this quote on Facebook and liked it. I'm not sure which photo with the quote I like best. I did these on my phone and it is sometimes hard to gauge how large the text needs to be. I think the text could have been a bit smaller on the one below with the tree. 

The tree, by the way, is the one we planted on the first year anniversary of my son's death. It has finally gotten tall enough to where I can stand under it. I was taking pictures and not paying any attention when I walked under it and felt the limbs graze the top of my head. My son sometimes fiddled with my hair as a way of greeting or saying bye and the limb grazing my head made me think of him, and miss him.

I was worried about the tree over this past winter. It was just a stick coming up out of the ground with no leaves on it. But when it decided to "green out" it went all out and I am happy we did not lose the tree. We do need to get some sort of support to straighten it out a bit, it leans too much.

"the planting of the bulbs is the work of hope"
--May Sarton

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ring Those Bells


In the late 80s, possibly early 90s, my husband ran in the Houston Marathon. We were living in Houston at the time, but I was not at the finish line waiting for my husband as he crossed. I was home with our two (at the time, one more would come later) children. I did not realize then how supportive it might have felt to my husband for me to be there waiting for him as he crossed the finish line.

He called after the run (probably from his car phone) to tell me about it, and to my surprise, he was crying. He's always been more emotionally demonstrative than I am, but still, tears were not what I was expecting. I did not understand.

This memory came to me on Friday as we were driving in for my chemo treatment (#10 of 12!). I was thinking about the last time and how it would feel. There is a bell that patients ring on their last treatment. Tears started to well up in my eyes as I imagined myself ringing that bell (don't worry, I squelched them quickly!). In my imagination, at first, I thought I'd ring that bell umpteen times and make such a clatter with it that everyone could hear. And then I remembered how quiet I am and how I don't like attention, and I realized I'd be uncomfortable ringing the bell, period. But, in my imagination, I have already settled that I will ring the bell, and I will be thinking of all the people who have been beside me in this journey, and I will imagine that all of those friends and loved ones can hear the bell (and, dang it all, tears will probably be shed!).

And here's the thing--now I know why the tears threatened to spill. This has been a physically taxing journey, just like my husband's marathon. And I will have done all those things, fought the good fight, ran the race, stood in the arena, and whatever other metaphoric description you can name. I owned this journey (most of the time!) and "bless Pat," (an expression from my family, or somewhere, I have no idea who Pat is!), it will be a time of celebration and tears. I know that.

But I also know that after that bell has been rung, I have to return in six weeks to have a cat scan done to see if I am clear of the cancer cells. My mother says I will be, and I will be able to carry on with the rest of my life. About the same time she was saying "Until," (getting ready to refer to my six month check ups that will be required for five years) I said, "I can carry on with my life in six month increments!"

And so I end up where I started, with restrictions imposed upon me. I will not be considered a survivor until I have made it to five years cancer free. In some ways, that is annoying and occasionally, worrisome, but none of us every really knows how long we have on this earth. Many of us never really have to come face to face with that fact, and we rock blissfully along thinking we have all the time we will ever want or need.

I'm okay with my restrictions. Others have far worse restrictions. I will ring that bell and hope for the best.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


My professor friend Denise was the first one to introduce me to the concept of flow, as written about by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the book titled “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  Here is a link to an explanation of what he is talking about when he talks about flow,

My blogging friend Beth posted a video of herself playing piano. As I watching the video, I realized her piano music sounded the way I feel when I am working in Photoshop or out taking pictures with my camera, or gluing pictures and words into my journal to make a collage. Time stops, and there is peace.

It’s a good feeling, particularly when I have serious things on my mind, like dealing with cancer. I’m wondering if any of you experience flow, and how or what it is you do that brings you to that state.

And thank you, Denise and Beth! 

I'm looking forward to more flow opportunities once I'm done with my chemo treatments. When I get disconnected tomorrow, I will have three more treatments left.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Just Like That...

She picked up her camera and went out on a wet (and cool) and dreary Easter morn to take photos of the brightest thing she could find, her bloomin' wet azalea bush.

She's not totally sure she's back, but it made her happy to get behind the lens again.