My daughters, my friends

I had lunch today with a very good friend. She told me about her morning and the things she’s looking forward to. How much she’s longing for summer and about which of her friends she’ll miss in the fall.

My lunch date was D1. My beautiful teenager.

Her class was doing community service this morning which involved weed pulling and some other work at a local park. She has a severe grass pollen allergy so we arranged to have her volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House instead. She already volunteers there so it was simply a matter of arranging a weekday where she could do a special project or two.

That meant I got to pick her up during the lunch hour and take her for a bite before returning her to her afternoon classes. She was so eager to tell me what she’d done and about the tiny tiny baby that came in to RMH this morning. Then as we ate and chatted, she just kept talking. I loved it. There were no sisters to interrupt and I wouldn’t have stopped her for the world.

I watch in amazement at this gorgeous girl we brought into this world. I love who she is becoming. Not just because she is mine. I appreciate and love the person she is and I sometimes feel like I’m getting to know a whole new person. So different from the tiny girl she once was. I enjoy spending time with her!

I am so proud of her kind heart and compassion! Sure she taunts her sisters and gives me the occasional teenage attitude but honestly, that’s her job at this stage of life. She strong willed and competitive and fiesty and has the amazing ability to find humor in everything.

She is old enough that she is so separate from me, with much of her day that I don’t experience. Just sitting with her and talking, I truly felt like I was having lunch with a friend today, not just my daughter.

In a related note, it’s odd but I haven’t been as overwhelmed by little milestones as I thought I would be the last 5 years. I expected to meet each band concert, start of school etc with emotion and gratefulness that I’m here to witness each one.

Sure I was appreciative but it didn’t feel like more than what I would have felt ordinarily.

Until recently. Again it’s all D1’s fault.

She has her 8th grade “promotion” in June and was helping a friend with some planning details. She came to me the other day and said “Mom, will you help us find a good promotion song?”

Of course I said sure and we started looking over songs. As we poured over YouTube and the abundance of growing up, new stage kind of songs it hit me.

My baby is going to high school and I’m here to see it!

I was diagnosed when she was in 3rd grade. I had no idea then if I’d even be here to see her enter middle school.

But you know what? I. AM. HERE.

That should have been the name of my part 2 I AM post. That is where my life is. Not in that exhausted, depressing, wrist-slasher of a post I wrote on Wednesday!

In the shadow of that post, I felt like I wanted to also bring you along for the moments of pure joy and appreciation.

Today was one of them.

I am – part deux

Someone, I’m not sure who (because I am too lazy to look) commented that I should do a 2nd I am post after my first but I haven’t had anything more to add – until now. You might have noticed I haven’t said much of anything lately. Here’s why:

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…..I AM – the bitchy cancer patient edition

I am tired. I am worn out. I am needing to type.

I am surrounded by people who love me but I am alone in my battle. In my darkest hours, I am alone. I am stuck in the quiet and afraid to admit how much I wish I could stop taking this drug for fear of jinxing myself and causing it to stop working.

I am afraid it will keep working.

I am always nauseous and my muscles are gone. I am afraid to leave the house for fear of not being near a bathroom.

I am sad.

I used to be proud of my long hair. Now, I am embarrassed to show the short curls. To let the thin spots show. I am not happy that this is how I look now. I am the mad photo deleter. I am a fan of digital cameras.

I am ashamed for not being grateful for my life every single day. For feeling sorry for myself and for whining. I am reminded how this could end when someone on the support group site dies. I do not want that.

I am not doing as well as I’d like you to think.

I am worried the people I love will find this blog and feel betrayed by my lie of omission. I am aware that  if they do, I will never write with this level of honesty again.

If you have, I am sorry. Sorry for not having the strength to tell you my thoughts to your face. I am hoping never to hurt you with my words.

But for now you haven’t and I am grateful.

And I am so so very tired. Of it all.

I am wishing I’d appreciated the healthy days. I am wishing I could be the energetic, patient parent my children deserve. I  am wishing to feel good again.

I am sore and crampy and weak. I am not fond of the mirror because I can see I am aging quickly. This is not who I wanted to be.

I am wondering why the muscle loss caused my thighs to migrate down around my knees. I am avoiding shorts.

I am frustrated with myself for my moods. I am not as thankful for this treatment as I should be.  I am a lover of hot baths and long hot showers but now they hurt my hands and feet so I have to avoid them.

I am pissed.

I am tired and I am pissed. Those are 2 things I know.

I am pissed. Pissed I am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

I am aware of SG listening to me type and know he is wondering what I am telling you. I am sorry for what I am doing to his life. I am so glad to have found him but so guilty for turning his life upside down with my cancer.

I am sad that I am again writing about a cancer funk.

I am sorry.

Lucky to call her my friend

It’s friday again and like last week, my thoughts are with a friend.

This time, a life long friend. One I feel like I’ve known since the day I was born when actually I think it was 9th grade. Or was it 8th? Maybe 7th?

Over the many years, there were times we got busy and didn’t keep in touch as well but I’ve always known she was there. That the world is a better place because she is in it.

She’s someone I aspire to be. Her honesty and compassion and genuine goodness inspire me to try to be more. In every way, just more. Her strength in the face of difficult times is nothing sort of amazing.

Today marks a huge loss for her. A life changing heartbreaking loss that will never make sense.

It is not my story to tell so I won’t but I still want to let her know that she and her family are on my mind today. That I haven’t forgotten.

When I was first diagnosed, I emailed her and shared the news. I think it was a couple of days before I heard back and when I did, she called. She said it was news she had to first absorb and that it was too big to reply via email. At least I think that’s how it went in my drug addled haze. It might have been the next day or 10 minutes later and she may have emailed to tell me she’d call. Like I said, drug addled haze.

Anyway, there was something about the way she handled it that sticks with me. Something about her strength when I was struggling that made a difference. I remember her voice being strong and concerned but I didn’t feel like I had reassure her or make her feel better about my diagnosis like I did so many others.

Maybe she remembers it differently or will tell me I have all the details wrong but the feeling of being grateful for her friendship remains. In any version of events, that part doesn’t change.

Then she sent a real life snail mail card. In the years since, she’s sent cards since just to tell me she’s thinking about me or to wish me luck with surgery. Every time I see her handwriting and return address in among the bills and junk mail, I smile. I’ve kept them all.

Each year when we’ve gone to Portland, the highlight of my trip has been the time I spend with her hanging out over a glass of wine and talking. When she came to visit last summer, SG took the girls and sort of disappeared because he knew the value of uninterrupted time with her.

I told you all that about me, in a post about her, because I want you to know her. To know the kind of person she is and how she responds to the struggles of others. How easy she makes it seem to be there in the way you need her to be. How effortless she makes it look.

She’s a friend who goes above and beyond for the people she cares about. When she asks you how you are, you get the sense that she actually wants to hear the answer. How impressive is that?

In the last year, in the face of her sadness, I’ve wished I knew how to help. How to make it easier for her as she has for me. Her loss is so much greater than what I’ve faced and I’ve wished that I could give her the support and comfort she needs. But in the end, I don’t quite know how to be the person she is.

As I write this the tears come easier than the words. I wish that I could be more eloquent. That I could better convey how lucky I am to call her my friend and how much my heart breaks for her.

Today, maybe all I can do is give her is this space – dedicated to her and her family and her beautiful baby girl.

I love you G!

Words in the wind

Saturday as I sat on the banks of the river and watched my two youngest fish with my dad, a million posts ran through my head. I remembered the days on the same banks with my dad and grandfather and I was overwhelmed at the site of them following in my footsteps.

As I fished with my grandfather’s pole – the one left to me when he died – I knew there were four generations on the river instead of three. He was somewhere with us in spirit. Dad and I both knew it.

He was there as I gazed into the small waves flowing over the rocks and as my girls filled their pockets with pretty river rocks and marveled at the trees fallen and stripped of their bark by beavers. 

He was in the sounds of the hawk and the rippling currents. Everywhere I looked he was there.

As I watched the osprey circle the river in search of the same fish which were eluding us, I created more posts about the beauty around me. Then the wind came and distracted me and the words faded as quickly as they came.

The posts spilled out of my mind and floated away in the spring run off. Disappearing downstream with the melting snow instead of onto my laptop for you to read. So today I have nothing left for you.

For me, I have the message that I need to take more time like Saturday. That I need to appreciate this gorgeous place where I grew up and where we chose to raise our children. I need to give them more days fishing and hiking among wildflowers.

I need to give them the memories so that when they’re on the river they will know that if I’m not standing next to them, I am still there. 

I will be the circling osprey and the wind in the cottonwood trees. That tiny piece of petrified wood on the edge of the water that right now seems like such a treasure. The elusive frog that refuses to be caught.

I will speak to them through babbling brooks and gusts of wind.

I will be the voice in the back of their minds saying, “this is good, this is what gives me strength to face the rest”.

Waiting for a heart

Sometimes we meet people who are just too kind for words. Someone who touches your life and when you think back, you can’t remember them ever being crabby or mean or petty. People whose hearts are so big that they wear them out too soon.

That’s what happened to my friend K. He and I met while both going to a small college too many years ago to count. I switched to a larger school in my home town and coincidentally, he made the same move. For him though, it was a move to a much larger town where I was the only person he knew.

My family kind of adopted him. We were always just friends. We never dated but he used to send me flowers on Valentine’s day anyway. When there was a tragic double shooting down the hall in his dorm, he stayed with us. For days he slept on the couch in the comfort and security of our home. It became his second home for quite awhile.

Then I graduated, got married and moved 2000 miles away. He graduated and moved the other direction. You know how it goes.

We lost touch over the years but reconnected about a year & a half ago on Facebook. It was just before my last surgery in the city he moved to after college. We met for coffee before my surgical consult and he told me he’d been having heart problems again.

He had multiple heart surgeries as a child and was told he would probably be ok for 30 or 40 years. He was turning 40 the next month and the issues had begun right on schedule.

That day over coffee he told me that the next option, if the defibrillator failed, would be a transplant. That seemed so huge and far away. Too extreme when he still had an option or two left.

 He was in and out of hospital early on but seemed to be doing much better. The last few months things had gotten back on track. Work was going well, he’d had no real medical issues and about 3 weeks ago he told me that he and his wife are expecting a baby.

Then 2 or 3 days after he told me about the baby, I got another email. All it said was, “back in the cardiac ICU”. His heart had started to weaken and he had a considerable amount of fluid in his lungs. Still, he was hoping to get it resolved quickly and get home to his family.

He’s still there and said he probably will be for quite some time. I got annoyed being in the hospital for 10 days. I don’t know how he does it!

Today is his 41st birthday and he spent it meeting with the transplant team. His gift this year is word that he’s strong enough for a mechanical heart while he waits for a donor heart. It’s the news he was hoping and praying to hear.

So now he and the people who love him wait. The difficult part is that his life depends on another person’s death. Like so many other people waiting for organs, it comes at a price.

I can’t pretend to know how it feels to be on either end of a donation so I won’t even try. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who know it too well.

I’ve always checked that little organ donor box on my driver’s license but now they wouldn’t want any of my contaminated parts so I suppose all I can do now is ask other people to check the box.

Have you?

K – my thoughts are with you as you wait. I only wonder if any heart could be as big and overflowing as your original.

Creepy but cool

Has it been long enough since I’ve done a cancer related post that I can cross over to the morbid side again?

If you were around in January, you might remember when I told you about D2’s friend losing her mom in a car accident. Well yesterday she came home and told me about a new necklace this little girl got over spring break. She said it’s a really pretty glass with colored designs, and oh yeah, it has her mom’s ashes in it. Her little brother got a chili pepper shaped one.

I wasn’t quite sure what to say other than, Wow.

I later asked D1 what her thoughts were on the pendant and she said, “I think it’s cool but also a little creepy”.

My thoughts exactly.

I asked her if she’d ever want one. After some thought she admitted she might and apparently she’d like it in the shape of a music note. I’ll have to remember that.

I can’t seem to stop thinking about it today so I googled it and found this website for cremation jewelry.  I had no idea that sort of thing existed.

Of course, with that dark cancer cloud hanging over me some days, I’m fascinated by it too and even scanned the catalog. I scanned a couple of other sites and saw everything from pendants, bracelets and charms to worry stones and key chains.

Apparently there’s a whole market out there that makes it possible for you to wear your loved ones. Or “keep them close to you” for the non-creepy description.

One company combines the ashes into the glass. Another says their jewelry comes complete with instructions and a funnel. Hopefully you won’t use the kitchen funnel by mistake. That would give new meaning to  “mom’s special recipe”!

Ideally, I’ll live to be 100. But if I don’t, if I go while my girls are still relatively young, do I spend some time with them picking out something like this for them?

Is that beyond creepy? Or is it kind of cool?

Thoughts?

911 on speed dial

I don’t want to alarm you or worry you unnecessarily but I feel like with as much as I’ve shared in the past, you deserve to know about my current health crisis.

I have a cold.

I’m sorry I had to just blurt it out like that but I’m not sure how it’ll turn out. It might be fatal. Or not. 

The thing is, I haven’t had one in years and am a bit unfamiliar with how they go. Beyond the examples set for me by my husband and children, of course.

I don’t think it’s anything quite as serious as a man cold and I don’t feel the need to wipe my nose on everything like the kids do, so it still could turn out ok.

I do, however, have a scratchy throat, headache, earache and I’ve lost my voice. Oh and I’ve sneezed a few times. Is this the beginning of the end?

That’s pretty much how it started with SG during his last cold but there may also have been moaning and some bizarre uncontrolled shivering.

I also seem to remember some sort of strange honking/coughing/gagging noise going on but so far I’ve managed to avoid that. Honestly, I don’t know how the hell he made that noise and am pretty sure I couldn’t repeat it if I tried.

I suspect he had some sort of inner demon that was magically exorcised when he sneezed so hard he flung himself across the room.

Luckily, we were blessed with a miracle and he made a full recovery.

But can we really expect another miracle of that caliber in the same household? Is it too much to ask?

Again, I don’t know how this is going to turn out but from what I’ve witnessed with other people and their colds, it’s going to be much worse than any of the “cut me in half and dig around for a few hours” type surgeries I’ve had.

Wish me luck!

If I start to go downhill, I’ll post my will tomorrow. Let me know if I have anything you want.