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.

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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.

Take that, Herman!

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Good news on the Herman front, at least I think so. The original surgeon and the surgeon I went to for a second opinion agree that it is worth one more try at the less drastic approach to getting those evasive clear margins – another lumpectomy. I could dazzle you right now with my mastery of breast-cancer related acronyms and technical terms, but they are pretty annoying and confusing even to me, so I think I’ll keep it to myself.

The bottom line is, please pray for a successful surgery on February 15 and lovely clear margins so that I can quit being a frequent flyer in the outpatient surgery recovery room at St. Luke’s South and get on to the last part of Herman’s elimination, which will be six weeks of radiation followed by some medication for a few years. Which really doesn’t sound bad at all.

Thank you for your prayers. Before the weekend is over I am going to write about something more interesting on this blog. You can only take shark-watching too far. Bless you all, my friends! You certainly bless me.

Bad Shark!

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Well, Herman is being difficult. I had my second lumpectomy surgery last Wednesday, but the margins still weren’t clear. That means that there are still some cancer cells in there somewhere. The next steps aren’t completely clear yet, but it is quite possible that we’ve reached the end of the minimally invasive road, and it may take a mastectomy to send Herman packing.

I’m not thrilled about this, and I’m a little bit more scared, well, let’s say respectful of Herman and his destructive potential. I’m frustrated because I thought I knew the plan, and now there are a pile of decisions that must be made and I don’t even understand most of them yet.

Some things haven’t changed, though. I am still blessed by wonderful family and friends who pray for me, give me hugs when I need it, and let me have meltdowns in their offices (you know who you are), or on their shoulders. Wonderful people who make bad jokes (only the women, though – I’ve discovered that men are generally afraid to make breast cancer jokes. This is probably just as well.) God still makes his presence known every day in dozens of ways, and I am never alone.

So, on to the next round of Herman fighting, armed as I have been with love and prayers, humor and hugs, and the power of learning to be still and let God work. Thank you all. We’ll keep shooting at Herman until he gives up and swims away!

Happy New Year.

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Happy New Year everyone!  It’s New Year’s Day, and I do NOT have a pot of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove.  For some of you, that may not seem like a big deal, but the black-eyed peas on New’s Year’s Day is one of those things that comes down to you through generations of family and community culture, and I feel like quite a rebel to not be force-feeding those little legumes to my friends and family.  But, fact is, nobody really wants to eat them, and  so a few years ago we abandoned this little piece of Southern culture.

I feel pretty lucky, anyway.  Sure, the end of 2011 included something anyone would consider to be bad luck.  Finding out I have breast cancer was quite a shock, and I would be a lot happier if it had not happened, but I’m not sure I could be any luckier.  We found it early. It had not spread to my lymph nodes.  It is not a kind of cancer that requires chemotherapy to kill.  After my second surgery on January 11, the surgeon says we can be pretty sure it is gone. Six weeks or so of radiation and some medication for several years will help make sure it stays gone.

Even more than lucky, I am blessed.  My family and friends have been wonderful.  I’ve been surrounded and supported on a wave of prayer.  I’ve been the happy recipient of hugs,  food, flowers, notes, and funny cartoons.  The doctors, nurses, and staff at St. Luke’s and the Goppert Breast Center are amazing, kind, and communicative.  Dr. Clark, my primary care doc and his staff have been caring and supportive.

And, above all God has been good.  I am blessed with healing, but even more, I am learning the blessing of being still.  In one of my earlier postings, I mentioned one of the Scriptures I am relying on is Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”  I am not very good at being still.  I’m a fixer.  I want an action plan, and I generally would prefer to be in charge of it.  Suddenly I am faced with something I absolutely can’t fix and I have only limited input into the action plan.  The only part of this I am really in charge of is what is going on in my head and my heart.  And though I am far from perfect at it, I have been learning to be still and listen to God’s comforting promises, recognize God’s presence in the good and the bad, and see God’s love and care for me in the love and care I receive from others.  The stillness is a blessing in itself.

This is not some “happy talk” statement.  I am not happy to have cancer.  I don’t enjoy fear, or pain, or being on the receiving end of extensive medical care (or the bills that come with it).  I don’t believe God put me in this position so I would learn to be still, find inner peace and become some glowing example of growth through suffering.  But I do know that God has walked with me, sat by me on sleepless nights, comforted me with his Word and with the prayers and words of others. I know that I have been blessed and continue to be.

So, I am beginning 2012 with no black-eyed peas but with plenty of blessing and that’s all the luck I need.

And, a bit of fun – Sara sent me this, my new favorite cartoon!

I think I might try this!