The Final Shark Hunt Begins!

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The final shark hunt begins!  Beginning next Friday and continuing every 3 weeks or so for 18-24 weeks, I will spend the day with the nice folks at the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute while they fill my body up with shark-killer chemicals!  It may seem a little bit wacky to be excited to begin chemotherapy, but after all the post-surgery drama and difficulty, I am really eager to begin this last leg of the journey.  Because it IS the last.  In 18-24 weeks, I can start looking at all of this in the rearview mirror, and that sounds very good to me.  Herman has been swimming in circles around me for far too long!

Some interesting things I have observed:

  • There continue to be door prizes – tote bags, pillows, stacks of pamphlets and information, samples of special shampoo, lotion…
  • If you make a joke about your condition or treatment, the nursing staff tends to look at you kind of funny and go look up the number for the staff psychologist.
  • Valet parking is the greatest public service. If you have ever tried to make an appointment on time at St. Luke’s on the Plaza, you know what I mean.
  • It is possible, if absolutely necessary, to drive from 135th and Roe to St. Luke’s Medical Plaza, hand your keys to the valet and get upstairs for an appointment in less than 25 minutes. I think a bumper sticker that says “God is my copilot and the Holy Spirit is my radar detector” might be appropriate.  Or maybe not.
  • Wigs are not the hair helmets I expected them to be.
  • I have the best, most generous, kind, and supportive friends and family in the world. There are no better people.  I’ve got them all.  If you are nice, I might share them with you.
  • Preparing for a wedding is a great distraction.  Even better than reruns of Downton Abbey!

So, this is what I’ll be doing for the next few months.  I may be kind of tired, and not terribly social as I will have to be very careful about germs and crowds and things.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love hearing from you, or that I don’t need and treasure your prayers.  If you want to read about THAT, check out Resurrection’s Prayer Blog this week:  prayer.blogs.cor.org.

So, off we go, spear gun in hand, ready to eliminate Herman for once and for all.  I am SO ready!  I’ll let you know over the weekend how I did with my first session.  I plan on channeling granddaughter Anna…”I’m very brave….I’m very brave….I’m very brave…I get a popsicle…..I’m very brave….”

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Friend Making Monday/Tuesday

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I need to get with the blogging.  To tell the truth, I’m bored and frustrated with  the Herman recovery and just sort of crawled in my hole.  But, there’s a great big world out there that has nothing to do with cancer, recovery, or any of that, and I think the healthiest thing I could do would be spend some time thinking about it, writing about it, and enjoying life!

So, my friend Amanda posts these things called Friend Making Mondays on her blog:

http://completelyrandomsally.wordpress.com

Now, I realize it is actually Tuesday, but I didn’t see this until late last night, and thought I would chime in anyway, and invite any and all who read this to join in, too.  Here’s how it works:  please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments sectionhere so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links as well so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for the topic!

What is your favorite meal to prepare at home?  I would say soup, all kinds of homemade soup.  I love it because you can just clean out the fridge and the pantry and come up with something yummy and comforting.  I have one of my favorite add-as-you-go soup recipes on the Favorite Recipes page here.

Do you like to experiment in the kitchen, or do you prefer to stick to the basics?  I love to experiment, which is why I hate to bake – too exact!  When I get a new recipe, I try to make it exactly the way it’s written ONCE, and then start messing with it.

Do you have any tricks to share that help you reach your fruits and veggies goal for the day?  I like to sneak them into things – like the soup, but also into things like meat loaf or casseroles.  Since I try to eat low carb, I substitute cauliflower and zucchini and green beans for a lot of rice and pasta, which helps.

What’s the most interesting thing you made last week? Well, I confess I haven’t been cooking as much as usual, but we tried making low carb cream cheese pancakes last weekend, and they were pretty good!

How often do you watch cooking shows on TV  All the time.  I love them, and do pick up good ideas or tricks.

When you’re hungry, where are you most likely to look first? The refrigerator, or the pantry?  Probably the fridge for cheese, or sugar-free jello, or a bite of leftovers.

List a few healthy staples that can always be found in your kitchen.  Frozen chicken, usually some deli chicken, too.  Canned tuna and salmon. Bag salad. Eggs.  Protein shakes.

Are you motivated to cook at home even when you’re eating alone?  Sometimes.  Sometimes I do weird makeovers with the leftovers when I’m home alone – add new ingredients or mix stuff together.

How often do you try new recipes?  At least once or twice a month during normal times, a little bit less right now.

Well, that was fun.  Add your comments!

Working from Home and Other Adventures

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Quick update on the Herman Situation.  I had a bilateral mastectomy on March 15.  I planned on 1 week recovery.  My body (and everyone else) planned on at least 2 weeks.  My body (and everyone else) won.  I have been recuperating at home.  The pathology reports were good. The surgeon sounds pretty confident that he did a good job of removing all traces of Herman.  I have a little more post-surgery healing to do, and then I’ll do some follow up chemotherapy beginning in about 4 weeks and continuing for about 6-8 months.  Meanwhile, I’ve been back to work a little bit and the rest of the time have been working from home.

Some things I’ve discovered about working at home:

  • The wardrobe is quiet comfortable, but you have to be careful that a well meaning friend, neighbor or co-worker doesn’t drop by and discover you in your pajamas at 3 pm, or answering emails while wearing old beat-up sweat pants and a t-shirt with the hem out.
  • The lunch selections are better, especially if you have been the recipient of amazing gifts of leftover producing meals from some really great cooks.  Boy, can my friends and neighbors cook.
  • The cat does not make a very good co-worker.  He drinks out of my water glass, knocks papers off my “desk,” and likes to sit on the computer keyboard.  He also refuses to answer the phone and he picks fights with the other coworkers (the dogs).  However, he’s cute and fluffy and soothing when he purrs.
  • The dogs act as Office Security.  No one will bother me with those two furry doorkeepers barking and growling.  They are hilarious.
  • It is not a bad thing to have nap space.  Offices everywhere should have nap space.
  • Daytime television is no substitute for my smart, funny, and engaged coworkers.  Not even the cute kittens on animal planet.

Hopefully, I will be back on a more regular work schedule very soon.  Home is nice, but I miss everyone at Resurrection and need to quit watching the Cute Kittens and HGTV and put on my Big Girl clothes!

 

 

Getting ready….

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So, the Big Day is almost here.  M-Day?  Whatever. Details:  I check in at St. Luke’s on the Plaza at 10:30 Thursday morning. Surgery (double mastectomy and insertion of the port for the chemo) at 12:30.  Should take 3-4 hours.  A night or two in the hospital then home for about 10 days.

I sort of feel like I’m preparing for an expedition on the Amazon, or maybe a climb up Everest.  I’ve been spending hours at work trying to write down everything I do in a day, and how to do it, and where to find things, and clean out my messy drawers, and my messy desk, and my messy bookcases, so the temp doesn’t have to live in chaos. I keep making lists of things I might need (most of which, I don’t), might want (new underwear for the hospital, my mother would like that) and things like movies I’ve been wanting to watch, music that makes me happy, books to read, etc.  I keep going through my clothes trying to figure out what I’m going to wear during the healing period and not look too weird.

Of course, I have my brackets filled out for March Madness.

Even with my brackets completed, and new underwear, and music loaded, I don’t feel very ready.  Can you really get ready for something like this?  Maybe, but I don’t think the answer is in the packing, or the bracketing, or the music uploads. Mostly, these things are just ways to try and not think about it. I am anxious, even afraid sometimes.

Annie Lamott says that if you make friends with fear, it can’t rule you.  I don’t know how friendly I am feeling toward my fear, or toward Herman, but she also said that “courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  That, I can do.  I can also remember this:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
And the waves shall not overcome you.
Do not fear because I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name and you are mine.
Isaiah 43

I am blessed to be known and loved by the God who created me and knows all about what is going on inside, who has called me by name and claimed me,  and listens to my prayers so that I can find that courage.  I am surrounded by loving family and friends who are praying for me, and good doctors and nurses who are going to take care of me.  Herman, having none of these things, is in serious trouble and will be belly up soon enough.

Well @#$%^&!

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I hope I didn’t offend anyone with the cartoon-caption swearing. It is, however, quite descriptive of how I feel at the moment, and I thought that was better than typing it in English, French, or Yiddish.

The short story is, the third surgery was not successful. Herman is a stubborn, stubborn fellow. It will take a mastectomy and some chemotherapy to completely send him on his way. So, we are heading down a little bit longer road (or swim?) than we originally hoped for, but now that I’ve had a few days to process this information, I realize the journey is not the point. The point is, we live in amazing time that makes this journey even possible, and there is plenty of hope and healing at the end.

There are a few doctor’s appointments to be done, and some big decisions to be made, but those will happen pretty fast now, I think. I’ll keep everyone posted as best I can. Meanwhile, your prayers are appreciated more than you can know. If there is an up side to this yucky situation, it is confirming what I already knew – I am overly blessed with wonderful family, amazing friends, the best job ever working with the best people ever, and God’s constant presence and grace in my life.

And, for those of you who are up for some breast cancer humor, I saw a t-shirt yesterday that will definitely be added to my wardrobe some time in the near future. It said, “Of course they are fake…the real ones tried to kill me.” Laugh, c’mon, it’s funny! (Apologies to my sons, who are probably cringing at this moment.) 🙂

Goin’ Another Round with Herman

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Tomorrow (Wednesday the 15th) morning I will head to St. Luke’s South for one more try at getting a “clean margin” around the non-invasive cancer cells. Please pray with me that the third time will be the charmed one, and the pathology report shows all to be clear this time.

Just to be clear, I do not believe God gives anyone cancer in order for them to learn something, or become a better person, or something ridiculous like that. I think God cries each time one of his children gets sick, because that was not his original plan. But I DO think I’ve learned a lot about God and the peace and comfort God has for us when things go wrong in our lives. I am so blessed with friends and family who love and pray for me. I work with the most caring people you could ever meet (yes, pun intended). So many of these people have been the face, hands, voice, and spirit of God for me through this weird journey with Herman, and through all of my life.

So, thank you for praying for me and for Herman’s exit from my body and my life. I’ll post when we get a report back. It has been wisely suggested that I avoid social media until the pain pills wear off. And, I apologize in advance and ask for understanding if I pin anything weird in pinterest :-). You never know….

Parenthood

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Oh my goodness.  The bestseller lists seem to be full of child-rearing books again.  This is cyclical. Every few years the bookstore shelves seem to fill with books designed to:

a)      Make all parents feel inadequate, dull, and generally unfit for child rearing, and

b)      Offer scary, misinformed, inflexible, and counter-intuitive lists of strategies that all seem to begin with viewing your child as the enemy of civilization as we know it

It’s interesting to me that the current blast of parenting “wisdom” seems to all be inspired by the parenting techniques from other countries and cultures.  First there was the “tiger-mom” book promoting the raising of children in the most extreme style of Asian, or at least Chinese culture. A new one just came out touting the wonders of the French style of child rearing, which promises, among other things, that your baby will sleep through the night at 2 months, have perfect manners, and learn to eat properly.  Uh-huh.

Since some of my very favorite people have now embarked on the adventure of raising their own little humans, and I have somehow lived long enough to be entitled to grandmotherly pontification, I thought I would throw my all-American advice into the mix.

  • First piece of advice:  take all advice, including mine, with a very large grain of salt.  This goes along well with my best advice of all, which is:
  • Trust your own intuition, gut, leading of the Holy Spirit, whatever you want to call it.  This is YOUR child, and YOUR family and that is not exactly like any other child and family on the planet. Your instincts are better than you think they are. Learn to trust them.
  • Next, which goes along with trusting your own leading where your child is concerned is:  Get to know your child as a person.  Even little babies.  They have things they like. They have things they dislike. They have things that comfort them and things that frighten them.  They respond well to some settings and atmospheres and negatively to others.  Every bit of time you spend really getting to know this fabulous and fascinating person God has put in your care is time well spent. My very wise husband always tells young parents that their babies and toddlers are teaching them right now how to deal with them when they are 13 or 14, and he’s right.
  • Respect your child as a person, an individual soul, and a child of God.  Children are not, no matter what some foreign (or domestic) child-rearing philosopher wants to tell you, just balls of moldable clay ready to be pounded into the proper form.  God is the only potter in our lives, and he will use good parents as the potter’s hands sometimes.  But God will never, ever try to mold one of his children into anything but an individual with his or her own gifts and graces. Respect means not forcing your will on them, and guiding them as you would like to be guided.
  • Have fun.  Laugh.  Have parties for no reason, or for reasons of your own.  Do not consider a day wasted because you didn’t get all the dishes washed or laundry done, if you spent it looking for caterpillars with your toddler, or reading books, or going to the park because the sun is shining and you all need some fresh air.
  • Take some time for yourself, and some time as a couple.  Find a babysitter you trust. Trade date nights with friends if you need to trim the budget.  Time for yourself is important.  Do not think of nap time as the only time you have to fold the laundry. Think of it as the only time you have to refresh, whether that means getting a shower, reading a book, praying, working out or napping yourself.  When our kids were little, a friend said to me once, “If I were a babysitter, I wouldn’t leave my kids with me.  I am sleep deprived, grouchy, dull, and I haven’t had a shower in two days.”  Don’t let that be you. Take care of yourselves.
  • Pray for your children.  Don’t pray your will for them, pray God’s will for them. This is hard, but God knows it and will help you. Pray for the spouses they will have one day. Prayer puts a sweet, strong spot at the center of their lives and yours. You can stand on it and figure the rest out.
  • Last, even though the blogosphere has recently been full of young mothers complaining about us old ladies who say it, treasure every minute of this.  Don’t pretend you enjoy every minute, but do be aware that these days will go by faster than you think they will. If you are not enjoying it more than you are miserable, you are not a bad person or a bad parent, but you might want to talk to someone about why, just so there will be more joy in your life and in your children’s lives.  Sometimes you just need to vent! I can remember being convinced that the days of Cheerios stuck in weird places and graham crackers in the bottom of my purse would never end, but they did.  I put in plenty of time threatening to join a convent, or going for a drive to no place in particular just to get out of the house.  There’s nothing wrong with that, or with sometimes longing for a day without dealing with bodily fluids and contrary attitudes. But do be aware of what a short, sweet gift this time is.

As I’m sure Sara, John, and Sam would be happy to tell you, I was not and am not a perfect mother. But, the bodies and souls God gave Monty and I to love and cherish and raise up turned out pretty darned well, and I think it is at least in part due to the fact that we got to know them, respected them, prayed for them and didn’t take anything too seriously.