My big furry baby

My shelter dog is getting older. She turned 9 this summer and has slowed down considerably. She still falls asleep with her ball in her mouth and wants to play 24/7 but between throws she takes breaks.

She finds the cool shade under the maple tree and watches for her squirrel friend to shake its tail and chatter at her. When it does, the ball is forgotten. Sometimes for hours.

They’ve been friends for years, she and her squirrel. Either it’s the same one or generations of them are teaching their young about the friend at the house on the end of the block. The big red furry friend who will watch and play and chase but never harm.

She’s a gentle soul, my sweet girl. She knew I had cancer before I did. She’d stretch out next to me and gently place her head on my stomach or side for months before the pain began. It was constant enough that I begin to notice the pattern that hadn’t existed before. Her eyes looking up at me as if to say “can’t you see what I’m trying to tell you?”

When I came home from the hospital, she was still there beside me but on the floor by the couch with her head on the cushion. She was extra gentle with me because she knew that I’d finally listened to her but still wasn’t well. She knew that now I needed comfort instead of warnings. She didn’t jump on me when I came home but instead, pressed gently against my leg as if to say welcome home.

We were friends from the second I saw her at the shelter. From the moment she stood up by the fence and placed her paw on my arm and her head in my hands. Her eyes asked me to come in and play, then asked to go home.

Though she loves the rest of the family, she’s mine. SG calls her a “momma’s baby” and it’s true.

When the toaster cord falls after I unplug it and it scares her, she runs to me for reassurance.

When SG gets up in the morning, she takes his place next to me. Curled up against me for warmth and comfort. And memory foam. She’s fooling no one, memory foam may be the one thing she loves more than she loves me.

On the mornings after she’s played too hard, SG will lift her in next to me because that’s where she belongs.

I look in those big beautiful brown eyes and I wonder how much time we have left together. When a fatty cyst developed on her side last fall, I put my hand over it and cried because I didn’t yet know what it was. I still watch it for growth and will make sure she’s ok because that’s what she did for me.

She’s picked up a few bad puppy habits the last year like poking me in the leg with her nose when she wants something. She doesn’t quite know how strong she is. I’ve felt bad for her when she see the little one on our laps and wants to be a lap dog too. She and I don’t quite fit in the recliner the way her tiny sister and I do but she’s tried. And I let her.

No matter how cute the little one is, and how much I love her, it’s my big girl that’s somehow connected even stronger to me.

As I type, her big soft head is on my leg and I pray that we both stick around for a very long time.

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26.2

Have i told you about the time I was going to walk a marathon as a way to tell cancer to fuck off but then it told me to fuck off instead? And then I had surgery 2 months before marathon day so I did a 10k instead?

I think I did.

Did I also tell you I looked like hell warmed over and when a friend saw my commemorative 10k photo he said, “I love races where they hand out meth at the checkpoints”?

I may have.

Did I tell you I registered for another one this year? That I have to walk 26.2 miles in October? Because I don’t run. I never have. My boobs are too big and I don’t like it. So I walk.

Well I did.

And I’m nervous.

The first time I signed up, there were several of us doing it so it felt like a group event. I was excited and scared and happy all at once. I was going to get to spend the weekend with dear old friends AND prove myself and the world that I was healthy enough to doing something of that magnitude.

And then I had a CT and found out that my drug failed me and that I wouldn’t be proving anything to anybody.

It was a lot harder than I let anyone know. One of my friends was just getting her life coach business going so she arranged weekly group phone calls to track our progress and give each other encouragement. Except I wasn’t walking. I’d had close to a dozen tumors removed as well as a hysterectomy. All I could do was listen and try not to cry so that my friends wouldn’t know that I hated those calls.

I hated the reminder that I was so much less than. Less than I was when they knew me so well. Less than I’d hoped I could be.

These were people I loved, whom I’d known way before I was his wife or their mom. I didn’t want them to suspect that each time I looked at my watch and knew it was time for the call, I’d get sick to my stomach.

But I think they did. They kept telling me I was doing my own kind of marathon with the surgery and drug change but it wasn’t the same.

Three years later I’ve registered again, to much less fanfare.

But to me it’s still huge. And daunting.

My life saver and the highlight of the event is that D1 is going to walk it with me. It’s not something I’d have imagined her doing but in addition to the draw of Voodoo Donuts, I think she wants to see that other side of me. She says I always seem like I have so much fun there and I do. It dawned on me as she said that, that perhaps she hasn’t often seen the relaxed side of me. She sees the uptight exhausted mom. This time we’re working on borderline healthy mom.

We will get to be in a crowd of thousands who don’t know, or care, that I have cancer. We will be doing something only healthy people do. I will be one of those presumed healthy people and it feels damn good!!

This weekend we did our 15 mile training walk. Next week will be 17. We’re tired and starting to question how long 26.2 actually is and it feels unreachable but I think we’ll be ok.

For D1 it will be the draw of chocolate milk at the finish line, the Voodoo donuts and the chance to just get away from school and volleyball and marching band practice. A weekend she really needs to relax!

For me it’s a 2nd chance to prove I’m strong enough. My next scan will be 3 weeks before the marathon and no matter what it shows, I’m going! I will prove that this isn’t too much for me. I will deal with the rest, if there is anything, when we get back.

Whatever our motivation differences, I’m glad we’ll be doing it together.

And G, if you’re reading this, how about coming just to hang out? We’ll share our chocolate milk!

Hey Mikey, I like them!

School started today for my youngest two. It’s freshman only today at the high school so D1, who is a sophomore this year, is still home one more day but she’s asleep and it feels like it’s just me and the dogs.

Usually I put the girls on the bus, pour myself some coffee, put my feet up and rejoice but today I’m not there.  It turns out I didn’t want them to go. Weird right? I completely baffled.

Somewhere along the way this summer we went from “OMG, when are you going back to school?” (on around day 4) to “Wow, you guys kind of rock!”

They’ve gone from little girls I take care of to young ladies, if you’ll forgive the term from the 1800’s, who are great company. On days like this I am so thankful to have gotten to be here to see it.

Sure there were times they were arguing, as sisters do, and I wanted to send them to Grandma’s for a month or two but the days I wanted to keep them seemed to outnumber the others by far.

We’ve raised some pretty awesome people!!

I’m not saying I’ve never liked or enjoyed time with my children, you all know they’re my life, but I am saying our relationship had evolved. I’m no longer just that caregiver who gets tired. We look out for each other. Maybe it’s always been that way but something is different.

I realize I’m making little sense. Like I said, I’m baffled. Thank you for humoring me.

I don’t know how long this will last. I’m sure I’ll get used to the quiet soon and be back to enjoying my time alone but for now I’m tempted to go wake D1 and make her talk to me.

I’m sure that’ll go over well.

 

 

 

Jenny

The other day I posted a quick note about the loss of a friend and I didn’t do her justice – I probably still won’t be able to.

At the time I was in the middle of a million different kid things but I didn’t want Jenny to go unmentioned. She’d been commenting here for quite some time and I didn’t know how many of you (if any of you are still here) knew her.

I think I first met Jenny when I commented on her post on Mothers with Cancer. You know how it goes, I left a comment, she came over here and left a comment and our friendship was born. Although if I remember correctly, she said something about feeling like we’d be great “fiends”. It carried over onto Facebook where we finally got to put faces to names, share pictures of family and play a million Words With Friends games.

She had Inflammatory Breast Cancer which has only a 50% survival rate at 5 years. Jenny fought the good fight but a few weeks before she passed away, she made the decision to stop treatment. In the end she chose quality of life over quantity and I admired her courage more than I can describe. She died sooner than she’d expected but she did it on HER terms with her family surrounding her and sending on her way with love and their blessings.

Her oldest daughter has done a spectacular job with a couple of last posts. Things that Jenny wanted to share with her readers but simply ran out of time to write. She also posted about Jenny’s last days. It is heart wrenching but stunningly beautiful. A tribute to her grace and strength!

I’ll let you go over there and read about her – in her words and her daughter’s.

She was more than another blogger, she was a dear friend and support system for so many others across the world. She was in New Zealand but she made everyone feel like she was someone you met with regularly for coffee.

I’ll miss our chats but will always carry her with me – her example won’t be forgotten. When I’m facing what she did, I’ll look to her for the courage to go on my terms while giving nothing less than my all to the people I’ll leave behind.

Good-bye my friend – you did it well!

Baby steps

In the war against cancer there are baby steps – small victories that make you say DAMN RIGHT! I had one of those moments on Saturday.

As you know, because I’ve bitched about it at length, I lost most of my hair when I started Nexavar. Before that, the Sutent turned any new growth almost white.

All my life I’ve had a ridiculous amount of long red hair and then suddenly I didn’t and I realized how much I identified myself by that one attribute.

Honestly, I’ve been more self conscious than I think I’ve ever been. It hit a low point when D2’s band director asked me where she got her red hair. All I wanted to say was “she got it from me you blind asshole”, but I didn’t. Because I’m a good girl.

Then last spring I was sitting with SG outside his office and a couple we’ve known for years, but haven’t seen for almost 2, walked by and didn’t recognize me when I spoke. I told SG that and he said “no, of course they recognized you, they’ve known you 20 years”.

But moments later they came back and looked again and said “Oh my gosh, we didn’t recognize you! You changed your hair!” You think??

They laughed and said they were going to call SG and ask who the woman was with the short blond curls. Really? Short blond curls? Yeah, I don’t know anybody like that.

So now the good news. It’s slowly been getting a little darker. Yes, most mornings I look like Gene Wilder but there may be hope.

Anyway, Saturday we had a garage sale to fundraise for D1’s band trip to Chicago and late in the day D’s 2 & 3 came running in to tell me the “great news”. They know me well. It turns out there was a woman outside talking to my mom and the girls and when I came in the house, she said to D2, “Was that your mom? You’re so lucky to have gotten her beautiful red hair”.

RED HAIR!!

And she was talking about me!!

Baby steps.

Goodbye

RIP Jenny ~ I’m so thankful to have been able to call you my friend.

Thank you for being one of my first Twitter followers and for all the comments and support on so many posts here. Thank you for the many many Words with Friends games on FB.

I love you and will miss you more than I can say.