Saturday, March 30, 2013

Waiting with Mary

There is a statue of Maria Magdalena carved from wood by the Italian artist, Donatello, that haunts me. I saw it in October of 2001 in Florence in the Duomo museum. This is no idealized image of her. She doesn't look anything like Botticelli's Venus. This Mary is sinewy and hard, eyes set back under a shadowy brow. Her eyes look mournfully at something or someone beyond the viewer. I wonder if the gaze Donatello captured in that remarkable piece is of the moment when Mary watched the stone being rolled into the mouth of the tomb where her dearly beloved friend, Jesus, was laid to rest.

Following the crucifixion and burial of her friend and healer that Friday, Mary Magdalene spent what I imagine was an agonizing 48 hours waiting to anoint his body with burial spices so that he could rest in peace. She must have spent most of that time pondering the times they had spent together, the meals, the miracles, the travels, the travails. She must have wondered what she would do now that the one she loved most of all was gone.

The Bible says that Jesus cast seven demons out of her, and after that life-saving miracle, she followed him. She became one of Jesus' disciples, contributed her own money for his care, and was one of the few who didn't abandon Christ when he was arrested and later crucified. The eleven men who followed Christ most closely dispersed when he was taken prisoner. Only one of them bothered to show up at the crucifixion, those cowards.

But Mary was no coward. She knew how much Christ had done for her. Nothing could keep her away from the one who healed her and then welcomed her into his band of followers. In a time and place where women were treated as property and cast aside at the whim of angry or vindictive men, Mary had found a place of welcome, refuge and safety with Christ.

So even on the darkest, saddest, emptiest day of her life, Mary stayed close by, near the tomb, not even hoping for a miracle. After all, she was waiting to anoint a cadaver, not welcome a triumphant and resurrected man back to life.

In her book, Just a Sister Away, Renita Weems speculates about her seven demons this way, "Indeed the 'demons' that claimed Mary are the same demons that prey on many of us: depression, fear, low self-esteem, doubts, procrastination, bitterness, and self-pity." I would add: loneliness, rejection, joblessness, infertility, kanswer, hopelessness, divorce, diabetes, addiction, disappointment, broken promises, abandonment, misunderstanding, poverty, miscarriages, infidelity - the list of demons that plague us as women, as people, is long.

So is every dark night of waiting, praying,
hoping for a reprieve,
for a miraculous healing,
for a desperately needed job offer,
for a wandering child to come home,
for the courage to initiate a difficult conversation,
for each of life's impossibly heavy stones to be rolled away.

I too am waiting, praying, and hoping
for a miracle,
for hope and a future,
for promises to be kept,
for help to arrive,
for the courage to speak truth,
and for a few heavy stones to be rolled away
on this Saturday night in early spring.

I am here - waiting with Mary.
This could be a very long night.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday

These weeks are flying by. Thursday seems to get here quicker and quicker every week. The good news is that there is always so much to be thankful for.

Today I'm thankful for -

* the energetic and encouraging men and women who work at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews

* the two women who did my post-chemo echocardiogram this morning were funny, inquisitive about homeschooling, encouraging about my kanswer journey

* their good news - my heart looks strong even after chemo

* the fact that they broke ranks and gave me the good news on the spot and didn't make me wait to hear from the doctor

* the woman who did my paper work this morning is herself a recent breast kanswer survivor. She was high-spirited and caring. As she walked me to the echo area, she said, "I was meant to have you this morning." I appreciated her warm hug more than she will ever know.

* Gibbs!!! My closest, most faithful friend through this kanswer process. She left her house before 7 this morning to meet me for the echo. And then she treated me to breakfast. Where do such amazing people come from???

* my husband of 21+ years who celebrated his 48th birthday this week

* being able to surprise him with a night away from home at a local hotel

* the look on his face when I told him we weren't going home that night

* safe travel back and forth from all the places we go every day and every week

* the fact that my mother was not injured in the car accident she was involved in this morning

* the four "good samaritans" who got out of their cars to check on her after she was rear-ended

* quickly blanched broccoli and tri-color peppers sauteed with sea salt and freshly ground pepper

* time spent every day sitting on my yoga block, cross legged, eyes closed, mind quiet, steeped in peace

* the undeniable layer of peach fuzz on my head (and also on other body parts...)

* wandering through the Nordstrom shoe section with my daughter
 I am not a fan of high heeled shoes...
 especially after seeing this price tag!
 Flats are much more my style...
until I saw this price tag.

* I'm soooooooo grateful that I'm not "a shoe person."

* Recently I remembered an earlier post in which I declared that, in the face of kanswer and all its attendant treatments, I was not afraid. I had some time alone in my car today and used some of that time to take the pulse of my soul, my mind, my spirit in light of the fact that the first three days of next week will include meeting with my oncologist, my ob-gyn, and my surgeon in order to make final plans and decisions about surgery. I found that fear is still not a factor for me these days. I am not looking forward to the surgery that is soon to be scheduled. Nor am I looking forward to radiation treatments. However, I look forward to all of these treatments being behind me. But I am not afraid.

* Propped up in my bed on a sunny, cool Thursday evening in March, I am grateful to be alive, to be married, to have two children I adore, to have a kanswer support team that checks in with me regularly, and above all, I am grateful to be loved.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week

I've often wondered why this week is called "holy" in the church. For me, the days between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday are the darkest in the story of our faith. These were the days when Jesus was betrayed, denied, arrested, murdered, and buried. It has never felt like a holy time to me. But that's what this week is called - Holy.

Ann Weems wrote a few lines that are resounding in my head on this Holy Monday night. These lines come from a poem she called "Holy Week," from a book she called Kneeling in Jerusalem.

Holy is the week...
Holy, consecrated, belonging to God...
We move from hosannas to horror
with the preditable ease
of those who know not what they do.
Our hosannas sung,
our palms waved,
let us go with passion into this week.
It is time to curse fig trees that do not yield fruit.
It is time to cleanse our temples of any blasphemy.
It is time to greet Jesus as the Lord's Anointed One,
to lavishly break our alabaster
and pour perfume out for him
without counting the cost.
It is time for preparation...
The time to give thanks and break bread is upon us.
The time to give thanks and drink of the cup is imminent.
Eat, drink, remember:
On this night of nights, each one must ask,
as we dip our bread in the wine,
"Is it I?"
And on that darkest of days, each of us must stand
beneath the tree
and watch the dying
if we are to be there
when the stone is rolled away.

The only road to Easter morning
is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday.
Only then will the alleluias be sung;
only then will the dancing begin.

I do remember why this is called holy.
It's because after the betrayal, denial, the suffering and the dying,
there will be an empty tomb on Sunday morning.
Because that is when he rose again.
That is when light overcame darkness.
That is when life overcame death.

Holy Lord!
Holy Light!
Holy Redeemer!
Holy Resurrection!

I don't know about you, but I am ready for new life.
I am ready for giving thanks and shouting alleluia.
I am ready for eating, drinking and merry dancing.
I am ready to celebrate the craziest story of love, of life,
of resurrection and redemption ever told.

May this week be holy.
May every day be holy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

If only more introductions were this honest...

A few weeks ago, my home phone rang.
I picked it up, looked at the caller ID screen, and saw this.

I didn't answer.

If poorly manufactured products came with a similar label,
we probably wouldn't buy them.

If seedy, greedy potential partners flashed this message across their foreheads,
we probably wouldn't date them.

If preachers and teachers who preached and taught only about the wrath of God,
never touching on the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of God,
had these words emblazoned on the big screens overhead,
we wouldn't attend their churches anymore.

Unfortunately, we don't always get such a clear message.
We've gotta keep our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds wide open,
first listening to what others do and say
and then noticing how their words and actions affect our hearts and minds.

I need to listen first and then notice how those things affect my heart and my mind.
I need to make this all more personal.

I have purchased cheap appliances, shoes, writing utensils, clothing, and more -
and had to discard them far sooner than anticipated.
I have been discarded by seedy, greedy partners.
And don't get me started on the wounds I have suffered as a result of the words and actions of past pastors. Don't even get me started!

Even though the "fraudulent call" sign doesn't appear in my life very often,
the warning light in my heart does.
In my mind and my spirit as well.

Saying things like -
"Don't believe a word of this."
"Don't try to fix this. It's not your problem to solve."
"Don't answer that email."
"That's it. I'm done. It's time to go."
"Just say no. 'No' is a complete sentence."
"You said what you needed to say. Now leave it alone."

More often, though, I hear positive messages like this -
"She is safe and trustworthy."
"He is a true friend."
"Listen closely. Then decide."
"Take a chance. Say yes."
"Go ahead, Gail. Do it. Enjoy yourself."
"I am not alone. I am being held and loved."
"Something healing this way comes." (This one is from Jen Lemen.)
"All is well, Gail. All is well. All manner of things shall be well."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Speaking of neuropathy

One of the many side effects of one of the drugs used in healing therapy for kanswer is neuropathy.
Tingling and that "pins and needles" feeling come first.
My fingers no longer sense the keyboard, so I type the same letters over and over.
It feels like there's a thick pad between my feet and the floor.
A thick pad of nothingness.
Then numbness strikes.
There is no feeling at all.

Last week, my oncologist explained to me that different doctors handle the neuropathy problem in different ways. The deeper the infiltration of the drugs in the body's systems, the more acute the numbness - and the less likely it is that feeling will return. Ever. However, the deeper the infiltration, some doctors think, the greater the effect of the medication on the kanswer. Some doctors say elimination of kanswer is more important than anything else. They say that numbness is better than pain, better than kanswer. Many of their patients, myself included, disagree.

From another perspective, when also considering surgery, radiation, tamoxiphen, and other treatments that are often administered, there are doctors who argue that permanent loss of feeling in the hands and feet is a high price to pay for one small part of the overall healing protocol. My doctor falls into this latter group - and I'm grateful he does.

Speaking of neuropathy naturally got me to thinking about feeling - or the lack thereof - in other areas of my life.

Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of a conversation and find myself listening to someone telling me stories of discoveries and disappointments, their breakthroughs and insights - and I realize that I simply don't care. I don't want to hear another story about another great website or book. I don't want more advice on how to deal with kanswer or marriage or disappointment or parenting teenagers or saving for retirement or a possible war in Iran or homeschooling or environmental awareness or whether or not I still drink coffee with sugar.

I'm numb. I'm deaf. I'm blind. And I can't taste anything at all. I'm overwhelmed. I'm underwhelmed. I'm exhausted. I'm living through the biggest battle of my life. I'm numb, folks. The pins and needles feeling is long gone. There's a big fat pad of nothingness between me and you, between my soul and yours. Neuropathy has set in, big time.

Worst of all, there are many moments when I wake up in the middle of a meal or at the end of a meal, after a workout, after a shower, after a marathon session of staring at a blank page in my journal and playing with the pen in my hand - and I realize that I'm feeling a certain numbness with regard to my own life. I know I'm supposed to be paying close attention, but I'm not. I'm supposed to be gaining deep insight about the things of faith, life, hope, health, balance, and grace, but I'm not. I'm supposed to be coming up with new and innovative ways to homeschool and parent, to be a wife and daughter, to live out my big dreams and impact others in my life and sphere of influence - but I'm not. I find myself slouching and shuffling through too many days not writing, not reading, not reaching out to my friends, and not taking phone calls. I'm numb. There's a big fat pad of nothingness between me and my own mind, my own body, and my own soul.

What I'm discovering these days is that many of the truths about chemo-related neuropathy apply to the numbness I so often feel in my mind and soul as well.

The longer the numbness lasts, the less likely it seems that the feeling will come back. Ever.
The less likely I am to do make the decision to stop the numbing treatments.
The less likely I am to want to feel again.
Because it's kind of nice to not feel pain or loneliness or fear or inadequacy.
It's nice to not be plagued with questions and doubts.
It's nice to have a big fat pad of nothingness between myself and life's greatest challenges.
Numbness has its benefits.

Not so much!
Besides I don't want to have a nice life.
I want a passionate life, a committed life,
a life of connection and love,
intimacy and relationship.
Numbness sucks.

Numbness allows people to step on nails or splinters, not notice, develop an infection - and die.
Numbness allows people to handle hot pots and pans and not feel the pain - but their flesh is still destroyed.
Numbness allows parents to watch idly while their children grow up and move away without ever enjoying deep and meaningful connections with them.
Numbness allows people to spend money mindlessly or save money joylessly and never understand either.
Numbness allows marriages to disintegrate because neither partner is willing to be vulnerable enough to express true needs, feelings, desires, or fears with the other. We shut down. We close ourselves off.
Numbness allows us deny our strength, our courage, our determination because we stop believing we are worthy of honor and praise for just how hard we work to stay alive and stay involved in our lives.
Numbness allows us to get to the place where we can't even put words to our desires and passions and longings because we don't allow ourselves to feel anything good.
Numbness allows us to say that nothing is wrong because nothing really is wrong. Nothing much is happening at all.
Numbness allows us to get to the place where we can't even remember what life used to feel like.
Numbness is not good.
Numbness sucks.

On Friday, I began to feel strange and unwelcome feeling in my feet. Pins and needles. Ouch. Walking was painful. I changed my socks. I changed my slippers. Nothing seemed to help. Ouch.

My fingers throbbed, especially my fingertips. And typing on my Blackberry caused me to wince. Ouch.

Crap! Here we go - more side effects.
Wait, Gail - this is what you wanted.

Feeling is returning. It doesn't feel great yet. It doesn't feel like it used to feel before all this happened. But at least I feel something.

Same thing with my heart.
I'm waking up again.
Listening to others more intentionally.
Listening to myself, my body, and my soul most of all.

Letting the tears flow.
Kanswer is lonely. Kanswer is scary. Healing is hard.
Nothing will ever be the same as it used to be. Nothing. Ever.
I'm trying hard to believe and accept that that is a good thing.

Letting the laughter come as well.
I have very funny friends. I have enormously generous friends.
My children's friends are pretty awesome too.
There is some funny stuff on Youtube.

There is beauty all around me and also within me.
Paint, crayons, markers, pencils, scissors, glue tape, paper clips, and needles and thread have been flying around here this week. It's fun being creative.
The sun is shining. Birds are landing on our deck.
Ants are making thousands of small red hills in our neighborhood.
Kristiana said it looks like my hair might be starting to grow back.
(We are boundless optimists, my daughter and I!)

I am accepting compliments from those around me.
For someone who just finished six rounds of chemotherapy, I do look pretty good.
It is pretty great that I can cook, clean, do laundry, walk the dog, go to the supermarket and take care of my children even during these long weeks of treatment.
I wish I didn't have to do all of this at this time
(I wish someone could make me numb to how hard that truth is...)
but I am doing it - and I'm doing it pretty doggone well.

Numbness has its uses. Numbness has its place.
But I'm tired of talking about neuropathy.
I'm ready for full sensation again.
I'm ready to touch and be touched,
to listen and be listened to,
to see and be seen,
and I am ready to taste and be tasted.

For the first time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday

The week of my healing treatments is hard. Very hard. Following the Monday morning infusion, I spend the rest of the week exhausted, achy, slightly queasy, and pissed off that I have kanswer. I get really angry about the kanswer thing. But this week is different - because it is my last one!!! Thanks be to God!

The treatment I underwent this past Monday varied from the previous five rounds in one crucially important aspect: I did not receive the drug that causes the numbness in my hands and feet. The oncologist informed me that the worse the numbness gets, the less likely it is that it will ever go away. So when he offered me the option to forego that dastardly drug on this last round, what do you think I said??? I still feel pretty crappy today, as I always do on the Thursday of treatment week, but there is more hope in today's crappiness!

That last sentence may be the oddest one I have ever written... but it is true: in spite of today's crappiness, I feel a deep sense of hope and also of gratitude.

Today, I am grateful for:

* the sunshine that is brightening my bedroom as I write this

* the ease of borrowing books and movies from the library

* laughter

* the pale green quilt thrown casually over my ice cold, slightly numb feet

* how easy it is to spend hours watching Iron Chef America and Man vs. Food

* the freedom and space that result from decluttering

* the ways in which so many dreams are coming true - books published (go Glennon!), exhibitions put up in galleries (go Pamela!), and even an appearance on Oprah (go Brene!)

* the ability to watch them bring their dreams to life without any nagging sense of jealousy or envy (most of the time!)

* the peace the comes from knowing that this is my story - right here, right now - and consciously making the choice to live out this story as it is being written for me and through me, one day, one breath, one moment at a time

* the fact that I am able to take all this time and space to rest and recover from chemo. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to work full-time outside of the home and also be able to take gentle and tender care of oneself during treatment for this or any dis-ease.

* the ways in which my my eyes, my mind, and my heart are being opened to the suffering and needs of others because of my current situation

* the fact that my husband and children don't care about any kanswer-fighting diet - they know and still love "the old me" and they keep bringing me candy and cookies because that's the stuff that used to make me so happy

* the simple, complex, miraculous, life-altering, and profound gift of being seen, heard, and loved just as I am

* how frequently my most challenging moments occur at exactly the same time that someone is moved to write to me, call me, or check in here at the blog  - and then they reach out and tell me about the synchronicity of the need and the prayer, the pain and the remembrance, the loneliness and the loving thought

* the knowledge that three weeks from now, I won't be recovering from another round of healing therapy

* my wonderful chiropractor who has supported me with supplements, information, and encouragement since the day of my diagnosis, and also with palpable excitement about what I will be able to do to reduce the chances of kanswer's recurrence and live a healthier life once all of this is behind me

* the undeniable buds of hope and joy that are pushing up through the winter-burned soil of my soul

 Kanswer sucks. So do so many things that all of us are dealing with. I've heard from many of you - financial challenges, recovery from surgery, broken relationships, children in distress, addiction, fear, loneliness - we all are dealing with something. I can't promise that things will get better. No one can. I can't promise that the job will come through before the next mortgage payment is due or that he will make the right choice or that the diagnosis will be in your favor.

 One thing I know for sure is this - hope and joy are always possible. We can cling to faith. We can cling to each other. We can cling to God. I don't know about you, but I refuse to give up hope. I refuse to give up on the future. I refuse because I have the rest of my life to live. I have two teenagers yet to push out of the nest. I have a husband who has never given up on me. So how can I give up on him or them or myself? What else have we got, folks? What else have we got?

* One last thing - I am grateful to be alive.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Done, done, done!

Healing therapy is now behind me. Six sessions - check!

I spent most of the weekend preparing for today's final session and also celebrating the fact that today would be my final healing therapy session.

I went to three supermarkets for to meet our sundry dietary needs.
* fruits and vegetables for soup-making, fresh juices and smoothies
* dog food
* chocolate almond milk for my growing boy
* bouillon cubes for the aforementioned soup
* limes and lemons to squeeze into my filtered water
* whole grain bread
* sushi
* kombucha tea
* raw and sprouted almonds and roasted, salted cashews
* am I the only one who absolutely LOVES going to the supermarket?
* we are enormously blessed to have the tremendous variety of foods available to us
* I am profoundly grateful.

My daughter and I hit the mall for some retail therapy.
* I came away with an ankle length blue and white striped skirt which I wore to healing therapy today and received a few compliments on it. As I've said before, I may have kanswer, but I don't have to look raggedy.
* I found a Jones New York wrap dress on sale.
* But the find of the day was a red Eileen Fisher dress, originally priced at  $198. It rang up at $19.99. And then the cashier added a 20% discount coupon to the entire bill. So that $198 dress ended up costing $15.

I fell in love with an absolutely beautiful little boy in the movie, Just Like the Son.
* He is a gem. The story is gentle, sweet, sad, painful, frightening, and worth every moment I spent watching it.
* I'm planning to watch it again sometime this week.

I spent time praying, journaling, painting, preparing three new journals to play in, and sitting outside on the deck with no hat on, getting vitamin D the old-fashioned way.

I cried a lot this weekend too. Because kanswer sucks.
Chemotherapy sucks. Surgery is gonna suck. This whole process SUCKS!!!
Even though I know it is meant to heal me, it breaks my body down. All the way down.
Surgery is gonna be painful and is going to usher me into a new relationship with my body.
A body without breasts. A body with new scars.
A body that offers daily reminders of this traumatic journey I am now on.
Radiation will follow surgery.
And five years of hormone therapy after that.
I plan to ask if those final two steps can be skipped, but today my oncologist told me that he wouldn't recommend that.

I've been told that I've been brave throughout this process.
Courageous. Strong. Energetic. A role model of some kind.
I haven't felt courageous or strong or like an example of anything.
I've felt flattened most of the time. Incredulous. Bewildered. Exhausted. Angry.
I've pleaded with God for a break. For a few minutes of not having kanswer.

I recently thought back to those final moments of delivering my children.
Those moments of entering transition when I was convinced that I simply could not go on.
I remember being late in labor with Kristiana and asking the doctor if I could go home for an hour or two to rest and then return to the hospital to finish giving birth. She did not grant me permission to do that.

That's how I've felt during this healing therapy process. Like I needed a few days of not having to deal with kanswer, a quick regrowth of my dreadlocs, the ability to do a 60 minute workout, and the strength to go out to dinner with friends. Then I could get back to the work of fighting kanswer with renewed joy and strength. I have not been granted a reprieve this time either. Not yet anyway.

Who doesn't love polka dotted wrapping paper?

Another reason that I cried this past weekend was this: you, my friends, my family, poured love over me and into me last week and this weekend. You have sent cards, letters, three care packages, emails, texts, phone calls, gift cards, flowers, candy, desserts, pens, journals, post cards, stickers - the list is too long. You know who you are. You know how you opened your generous hands and hearts and poured yourselves all over me. Truly I wept. I had to stop reading things, stop going through boxes, and let the tears of joy and gratitude flow freely. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have decided to grant myself a six week break before surgery.
The oncologist said I don't have to wait that long.
He said I will probably be strong enough for surgery in four weeks.
I said: Thanks but no thanks, Doc. I'm giving myself the extra two weeks.
This is my chance to give myself a break from this fierce battle.
I'm going to the beach with a friend in April for a few days to recover.
I'm going to go out to lunch and dinner with family, with friends, and all by myself.
I'm going to work on filling the journals I'm making.
And I am going to celebrate, give thanks, honor my body for carrying me through this phase of the journey, and do my best to prepare it for all that is yet to come.

For tonight, however, I am focused on the fact that I am done, done, done!!!
Glory be to God on high!
And to all of you, to all of us, may there be peace, rest, recovery, hope joy, and lots of dancing.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Time flies whether or not you are having fun!

Back on November 14, 2012, the first time I went to my oncologist's office, one of the oncology nurses, Morgan, explained the chemotherapy protocol I was about to undergo.

1. Take two steroid tablets in the morning and two more in the evening of the day before, the day of and the day after chemo.

2. There were two prescriptions written in case of nausea. Take the first one. If it doesn't work, take the second one.

3. On the day after chemo, come in for an injection to help you rebuild your white blood cells.

4. Potential side effects: nausea, metallic taste in my mouth, achiness, darkening of finger and toenails, numbness, hair loss, heart problems, chemo brain, heartburn, leukemia (yes, folks, kanswer is a potential side effect of chemo!) - you name it, chemotherapy can bring it on. As if kanswer itself isn't enough of a problem.

5. Blah, blah, blah, call us. Blah, blah, blah, go to the emergency room.

All the while, my tears were flowing, and in my heart, I was asking God, "Why is this happening to me?" When I could pull myself together enough to speak, I said to the wonderful young nurse, "I feel like this is a death sentence and this is never going to end."

She said, "No, Gail, this is not a death sentence. It's going to go by much quicker than you think. You are going to be fine. You are going to get through this. We are going to get through this together."

I left that appointment scared, discouraged, and convinced that chemotherapy would be the end of my life as I knew it.

I saw Morgan this past Monday and she asked how many rounds I had remaining. I said, "ONE!!!" And I threw my arms overhead and did a little dance right there in the treatment room. Other patients and their companions laughed at me, but I didn't care one bit. She reminded me of her prediction: "See, Gail? I told you you'd get through it." She was right.

Fifteen weeks after Morgan's truth-telling - I am less than one week from MY LAST ROUND OF CHEMO!!! Yes, friends, family members, and loved ones of all stripes, my sixth and final round of healing therapy is this coming Monday, March 11th at 10:45 am. Glory be!!!!!!!

************* Imagine me doing a combination of a chicken dance,
                           the electric slide, and Beyonce's Single Ladies dance right now!!! ***************

Here are ten ways that I know I am approaching the light at the end of the healing therapy - chemo - journey.

1. I'm already thinking about how great it will be to have hair again. Hair keeps your head warm. Who knew?

2. I'm making plans for all the food I'm going to eat again once my taste buds regain their functionality.

3. I woke up in the middle of the night last night - not to pee, not to worry, but because I was imagining how great it will be to land in Madrid again and lay eyes on my dearly beloved friends in Spain.

4. I'm already choosing the clothing I will take with me on the aforementioned trip to my favorite place in the world.

Watching church on television...  
not as a bedside Baptist, but a prostrate Presbyterian.
(Do you think I have enough books and papers on my bed?)

5. I am looking forward to going back to church on a Sunday morning. The last time I was there on a Sunday was Thanksgiving weekend. The next time will be Easter Sunday morning. (There's a blog post in there somewhere.)

6. I am anticipating trips to Target, the supermarket, the mall, movie theaters, and other public places without wondering who has what dreadful strain of the flu, trying not to focus on when was the last time the carts were wiped down, and without having to wear gloves.

7. I've made firm plans to go to the beach for four days with one of my soul sisters in the middle of April - post-chemo and pre-surgery - and I've already made the journal I'm going to take with me.

8. Yesterday I made a date to get my teeth cleaned. One thing you may or may not know about me is that I am obsessed with dental care. I have weak teeth - I cracked one while eating a Lara bar back in August. I cracked another one while flossing - yes, you read that right. I flossed off the edge of a tooth at the end of November. So I brush and floss obsessively to keep cavities and other dental issues at bay. Because of chemo, I haven't been able to get my teeth cleaned - apparently, bacteria and germs abound during dental cleanings. Who knew? Well, now I have an appointment set in April.

9. Everyone around me keeps asking me to do things - like take trips with them or have them come visit me or artist dates or dinners out or parties. And I keep having to pull out my calender and remind myself that there is life to be lived after March 11th. Until I began to flip my calender past March, I think I truly had internalized the notion that there was nothing beyond that date, that perhaps I wouldn't survive beyond that day. It looks like I just might make it.

See that dark half-moon at the bottom of my thumb nail?

10. To quote a dear sister and friend, "in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, all is well."
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I am going to survive chemo.
In spite of the fact that I have experienced many of the side effects of chemo,
there is finally an end in sight.
There is healing in sight. There is restoration in sight.
There is great cause to celebrate - and soon.
There is peace. There is hope. There is a future.


It's amazing how one song can mean so many different things at different times.
Back in 2008, this song was my daughter's theme song.
She and I sang it and danced to it when she was in the hospital.

Now in 2013, it is my song. She and I will sing and dance to it again.
Before, during, and after my own hospitalization.

I have a hope. I have a future.
I have a destiny that is yet awaiting me.
My life's not over; a new beginning's just begun.
I have a hope. I have this hope.

God has a plan, it’s not to harm me
But it’s to prosper me and to hear me when I call.
He intercedes for me, working all things for my good
Though trials may come I have this hope.

I will yet praise Him, my great Redeemer
I will yet stand up and give Him glory with my life
He takes my darkness and He turns it into light
I will yet praise Him, my Lord my God.

My God is for me, He’s not against me
So tell me whom then, tell me whom then shall I fear?
He has prepared for me great works He’ll help me to complete
I have a hope, I have this hope

Goodness and mercy, they’re gonna follow me
And I’ll forever dwell in the house of my great King
No eye has ever seen all He’s preparing there for me
Though trials may come, I have this hope.

by Tommy Walker

Saturday, March 02, 2013

You tell me...

Three weeks ago, we dropped our dog off at the dogsitter's house so we could attend my son's tennis tournament out of town. I hadn't seen her in a few months, so when she saw me, she said, "Your hair looks different. Did you cut your hair?" I thought that was an interesting observation being that I was wearing a hat at the time and there is no hair underneath my hat. I hope and pray that her observation skills in dog sitting are more acute than in hairdo assessment.

I said, "Kanswer cut my hair."
Awkward silence.
Then she said, "I'm sooooooo sorry. I can't believe I was so insensitive. Oh, man. I feel so stupid."
I said, "You have no reason to apologize. There's no way you could have known. Don't worry about it."
Then she said, "I know a woman who had breast kanswer. Then it came back in her ovaries. And now it's in her bones. It's really bad. I feel so sorry for her."
Awkward silence.
I wanted to ask, "Is there a happy ending to this story?"
I really wanted to ask, "Are you f*cking kidding me? Is that the best response you could come up with?"


A couple of days ago, I was wandering through Trader Joe's and ran into an acquaintance I hadn't seen in more than a year. Hugs. Smiles. Great to see you...

She asked, "Did you cut your hair?"
I gave my now-standard answer: "Kanswer cut my hair."
Awkward silence.
Then more hugs. Tears welled up in her eyes. "I'm so sorry I asked about your hair like that. I do like your hat. (Her teenage daughter nodded in agreement and said, "Very chic.") Don't worry, Gail, you're gonna be just fine. God will get you through this. It is well."
She said she had a new phone and had lost my number, so I took her new number and sent her a text so she would have mine.
More hugs. More tears. Tender good-byes.
A minute later, I got a text from her that said, "Got it. Will be in touch soon. It is WELL."


You tell me - which of those responses is more uplifting to someone who is in the midst of a battle with kanswer?

Also - why do people feel guilty for asking about my lack of hair?
I wonder if it feels kinda like asking, "Are you pregnant?"