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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reporting In

 A cancer diagnosis sometimes speeds up this process. :)

I dodged the bullet on the MRI, for now. I do have fatty liver disease, and they will check me again in six months. There is also the possibility that they will want to take my gall bladder out too, after the chemo. It's never really given me any trouble but they say it is stiff and there are worries about that. There is no medicine for the fatty liver disease, other than to eat healthier and get regular exercise. I can do that. I'm already working on healthier eating and when the weather warms up, I plan on starting up with my walking regime again.

I took the photo above with my phone this weekend. We spent the weekend in the country, after a three week absence. It was an altogether relaxing experience. I meant to bring my big camera and forgot.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Loose Heads and Rocks

This is what I started with, a photo of two heads and two rocks in a pottery bowl:

This is where I ended up:

My nephew sent me a text with this quote in it on the morning I was waiting to have my port put in.

It was a reminder to me, that I was still alive, in spite of the battle I was entering. And it continues to remind me that I am still alive. I have, at times, taken that fact for granted, and have not appreciated the life I have.

It's a strange thing, though--let the life you take for granted be threatened and see how quickly your whole attitude toward your life can change.

Suddenly, I see love in my life. I see people who care and offer their own particular brand of support and encouragement. I always knew it was there, but now there is a new appreciation for the connections and the feeling of being somehow held up by the love and kindness of others.

And from somewhere, there comes a new motivation to live better and healthier, and to take care of things in my life that have been too long neglected.

I'm writing this post now on my laptop while sitting up in my bed and looking out on a bedroom that is closer to being a sanctuary than it has been in years. A shelf in the closet has been fixed and clothes that were once stacked all around the room are now hanging in the closet. Clutter is gone, bags of clothing that was too large have been brought to the goodwill store, furniture has been dusted, there is a new coverlet on the bed, and there is a new to me love seat on the side wall that is ready for sitting. 

This was one of the things I wanted to do in the new year. There is still work to be done, but there has been a lot of progress made, and for that, I am grateful.

In writing that about there still being work to be done, I recognize a habit that needs to be broken. I have a strong tendency to look at what all I have not done, or how what I have done is not perfect (and in this case, not exactly pristine designer home quality improvement) and to bemoan that "failure," while forgetting all about appreciating (and celebrating) the progress I have made.

(Note to self: Notice and appreciate your progress first, then decide what else you want to do, or decide you have done all you really wanted to do. Stop making the undone things in your life out to be failures.)

It's weird. I'm in the middle of a major storm in my life and yet I feel more alive than I have felt in a very long time.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fear Less

So, my youngest daughter gave me this "fearless" bracelet with a very nice note about how well I was doing at being fearless, and how my attitude and demeanor in dealing with my struggles has also helped her with her own anxieties.

I love the bracelet and have worn it constantly since she gave it to me (even though, on first sight, I thought to myself "This child likes the bling bling way more than I do!"). Fearless. It is a very nice affirmation.

But lately, I've moved from the affirmation to the admonishment: Fear less.

Last weekend, they couldn't do chemo because my platelets were too low. We made the best of it and left Houston to head to our quiet place in the country.

This weekend, I returned and they were able to do the chemo, with a couple of adjustments in the regime. But I am low on iron and need to take iron tablets (or eat spinach, or do both). I found this out when I went for a checkup with my primary care doc, so I was not surprised at this news. But when they started the chemo, the nurse said I was low on magnesium and he had a call in to my oncologist to see if he wanted me to have some added to my chemo treatment. The oncologist said he'd call a prescription in for me.

And then, most troubling of all, I had to see the liver specialist about the possibility of fatty liver disease. He says my liver function is fine, and my enzymes are fine, but there is this one little test they do that measures the amount of scar tissue and that stupid little test says my liver is scarred, which could mean I have cirrhosis of the liver. So he recommended an MRI. An MRI is one of the few things I really hoped I would not have to endure on this journey. So I whined about it to him and he said we could do an ultrasound that would give some indication of how "stiff" the liver might be. If it isn't stiff, I assume I wouldn't need to do the MRI. But if I need to do it, I have two options (options always make me feel better)--I can go somewhere else and have an open air MRI or I can have it done there in the traditional machine and be sedated. Neither option really appeals to me. So I'd appreciate all the prayers and kind thoughts I can get for my liver not to be stiff, for that stupid little test to be WRONG.

They did genetic testing because they thought I might have genes that just made me make tumors. I did not have those genes. They thought I had hepatitis C and now they say it was a "false positive." I guess they have to check everything out, and I guess I appreciate that, but at this point, it feels like a mixed blessing! I think he will have the ultrasound scheduled for the next time I go in for chemo, which will be weekend after next.

At one point, he asked if I was stressed because I was talking faster and faster, and he sometimes did that when he was stressed and I said "Yes, I'm stressed!" He then told me he was not thinking I had cirrhosis or liver cancer and keeping it to himself to come in and bombard me with the news at a later date. I told him I was not worried about that, I was worried about the machines! All he could tell me was don't worry about the machines. But I've got news for him. We fear what we fear, and our fear is not always logical!

In the end, I will do what I need to do, one way or the other. But in the meantime, I am just trying not to fret too much over the possibilities.

So yeah, right now, I can't quite manage the fearless part, the best I can manage is to fear less.