Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Is it me - or are these weeks flying past with increasing speed?

What am I grateful for this week?

* that the surgery is finally behind me

* that healing is happening

* for Trader Joe's crunchy curls made from lentils and potatoes (find them in the snack aisle!)

* for the pain-relief provided by Advil (during the day), hydrocodone (at bedtime), and morphine (when I was in the hospital)

* for the blessed gift of deep sleep

* the gentle comfort of a warm shower

* the guttural giggles of a six-month old beautiful baby boy

* the generosity and laughter of his even more beautiful mother

* the appearance of a hummingbird at the door during their visit yesterday - even though I don't have a hummingbird feeder, that beautiful creature hovered near the glass door in our family room long enough for both Heather and me to see it.

* when taking a risk, keeping copious notes, and hours of hard work writing and rewriting
turn into a new book (I knew you could do it, Launa - and I knew you would!)

* how much my friends, seen and unseen, have sustained and strengthened me on this kanswer journey

* for how often my dear friends keep telling me to rest, to stay in bed, to take naps -
and all I want to do is get up and do stuff

* for the two friends who circled around in my neighborhood for an hour, lost, hoping to come visit me. I am grateful for their determination to find me - even though they had the wrong phone number and couldn't reach me to ask for directions

* for the attentive, tender, loving, and compassionate care my husband and chidren have given me since November 6 (diagnosis day) but especially in this post-surgical week

* for the ways in which we still find reasons to laugh

* for the blessing of my husband's employment which comes with medical insurance. Chemotherapy alone would have cost us more than $120,000. I know we've paid far more than that in medical plan deductions over the past 25 years, but we couldn't have laid out that much in the past five months!

* for the advent of spring weather

* hair, short, stubbly hair!

Monday, April 22, 2013

On the other side...

I woke up on Friday morning with the 3:30 alarm. I had to be at the hospital at 5 am, so I got up early to journal, to pray, to do final chores around the house.

Steve, Karen, and I left the house at 4:30 am. (Karen flew down from Connecticut to be with me over the weekend - even though NO ONE on the planet dislikes flying more than she does. She is the best nurse, friend, and companion anyone could hope for, especially at a time like this!!! I miss you already, Karen.)

We arrived at the hospital and were greeted by cheery, funny, efficient, caring, and tender staff members, volunteers, and nurses. In the pre-surgery waiting area, two nurses took my vitals, started my IV, and before they walked away, one of them asked if anyone had prayed with me before I got in there. I assured them that I had indeed been prayed over.

The surgeries went well. Both surgeons said blood loss was minimal.
They both expected that I would be heading home on Saturday.

I woke up in a large, clean, well-appointed hospital room. The nurses were gracious and gentle. Their southern accents and euphemisms made us all laugh. I've lived here for more than ten years, and I still get a good chuckle out of a heavy southern accent.

A few hours later, one of the nurses asked me what my pain level was on a scale from 1 - 10.
I told her the truth: I was experiencing no pain.
She said, "You must have a lot of people praying for you."
She had no idea how right she was.

The pain has been minimal from the very beginning.
Truly miraculously minimal pain - some achiness in my armpits,
but absolutely no pain as a result of the hysterectomy.
I haven't taken any pain meds so far today - it is nearly 2 pm as I write this.

What I thought would be the most traumatic moment turned out to be without trauma or drama whatsoever. When the nurses removed the bandages from my chest, I took a few deep breaths and looked at my newly transformed upper body. Fortunately, I had done a fair amount of research on bilateral mastectomies without reconstruction.

If you are interested in seeing images of women who have made the decision to not undergo breast reconstruction, check out: Go to the photographs tab and be as amazed as I was. I can assure you; the images are beautiful, tender, and not at all upsetting. After all, we are all beautiful women, with or without breasts.

I was released from the hospital at 5 pm on Saturday. It felt great to get back home, climb the stairs to my bedroom, and recover in my own bed, surrounded by my own things and my loved ones.

I am ridiculously, enormously, profoundly grateful for my recovery,
for my lack of pain, my ability to eat and sleep comfortably,
for the love, the notes, the flowers, the calls, the texts,
the messages, the meals, and the genuine concern
that continue to arrive daily.

Here I sit on the other side of the big day.
As expected, as hoped, as ceaselessly prayed for,
all is well, my friends.
All is indeed well.
Thank you for everything.
Thanks be to God.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday

What I'm thankful for today...

The empty pages of a travel journal

Three chairs and an umbrella awaiting our arrival

 Three friends at the beach

Watching three friends head to the water, surfboards in hand
The guy with the red board walked with a noticeable limp,
one leg was shorter than the other
But that didn't matter once they were all in the water
They all paddled and surfed with courage and grace
I'm sure there's a blog post in there somewhere... 

I do love the beach.
The only place I am happier is in Spain...

Chocolate peanut butter, carrot, and salted caramel mini cupcakes 

A leisurely stroll in Wilmington, NC 

I love a good elephant statue

 The placard beneath the statue - isn't just about everything a question of balance?

 Like the little girl in this image,
I feel held, lifted above, smiled at, and loved
(Thank you all for your notes, messages, texts, calls...
I feel enormously, deeply, profoundly, thoroughly loved these days.)

Loved this sign! "Hey, hey - we're the Monkees!"

Yes, God, please take care of yourself. 
(And please take care of me too... especially tomorrow!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

From glory to glory...

Back in 1986, I was introduced to a Bible verse by a dear friend from Portugal. He said this was one of his favorite verses - and soon thereafter, it became one of my favorites as well. It is 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The New International Version of the Bible says this: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.

The King James Version uses the term "from glory to glory."
I like that phrase - from glory to glory.

Earlier today, my dear friend, Lisa, asked me what time my "transformation" was on Friday.
I love, love, love that word much more than "surgery," Lisa - transformation.

I am being transformed from glory to glory.

It is horrible, outrageous, and unfathomable (another word given to me by Lisa) to think that part of my spiritual transformation into the image of the Lord I love and the woman I am meant to be involves such a radical physical transformation.

This is sooooooooo not the story line I had laid out before me.
This is not the plot twist I would have thrown in if I were writing the script of my life.
This is not a punishment that I would mete out to the worst of my enemies -
not that I have any enemies.

But this is my story. This is the story of my life.
This is my journey, my camino, my way.
I move into it with reverence, with tears, with sadness, with sorrow,
but also with hope, with expectation, with anticipation,
and with peace that truly surpasses all my understanding.
I am moving forward in healing. Moving forward in life.

I spent a lot of time over the past few days asking if this cup could pass from me.
Pleading with God to wake me up from this nightmare.
Recognizing that, indeed, this is my story.
Grateful that this too shall pass.
These tears won't flow always.
I have a hope. I have a future. I have a destiny that is yet awaiting me.

The next phase in this journey of transformation will begin at 7 am on Friday morning.
From glory to glory...

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Day Late, but No Gratitude Short

I was too busy yesterday

* sitting in on a meeting of parents of high school juniors at a local high school with a friend
(no, I'm not the mother of a junior, but I will be next year. no, my son doesn't attend that school, but my friend thought I'd learn something. I learned a lot.)

* meeting a friend for coffee, a bagel, and tear-filled conversation.
Life is hard, folks. But it is much more bearable when we bear one another's burdens.

* meeting another friend for lunch, laughter-filled conversation and advice on how to recover from breast kanswer and a hysterectomy.
Kanswer is hard too, but sometimes you just have to laugh right in the face of this stupid disease.

* being turned away from a massage because I needed a permission slip from my oncologist, getting said permission slip faxed to the massage place, then being rescheduled with "one of our best therapists. Wow, I think this will be a very good fit." I look forward to my massage this afternoon. I pray the therapist and I will be a good fit.

* responding to emails from two wise and kind older women at a senior living facility where I have taught Bible studies in the past. They heard that I have kanswer and wanted me to know that they are thinking about me and praying for me. And one of them invited me to join them for lunch.

* eating dinner out with a couple whose company we thoroughly enjoy.

* and then snuggling with my hubby last night to post my gratitude list yesterday.

I hope you will forgive the lateness of this post.


Even before yesterday, there were many other causes for gratitude...

* fresh-squeezed orange juice
* the fact that my taste buds are back in full service
* the instant gratification of using a vacuum cleaner

The wonder of grass along the sidewalk

The many phases and the persistence of dandelions 

 Do I really use dandelion greens in my morning juice sometimes?
Yup - and I love it.

* my husband and daughter's hard work at establishing a fruit and vegetable garden on our back deck: parsley, basil, mint, tomatoes, strawberries, kale, and other goodies
* running into a friend at Home Depot's garden center when I went to get more organic dirt for Steve and Kristiana's master garden
* not having to get any dirt under my fingernails in the endeavor
* the prospect of spending four days on the beach with two of my dearest friends. I'll be away from tomorrow afternoon until Wednesday afternoon. Let the glorious getaway begin!

The beautiful view from my lunch table the other day 

 Another view from the same table - I enjoy exploring in my hometown

Chihuly's glass works make me smile

* all the stories of healing and recovery I am receiving from so many people these days
* no more of those awkward moments after someone tells the gruesome story of a friend who died tragically and painfully of the same kind of kanswer I have
* confirmation of my hopes and dreams from people who don't even know what I've been hoping and dreaming, but their words and their encouragement affirm and confirm what I've been wishing for
* sunshine this morning after last night's torrential rain washed away the layer of pollen that had coated everything here in Charlotte

I am tremendously, profoundly, supremely grateful
for the light at the top of the staircase I'm on.
It may be a steep climb.
It will be a steep climb.
But the end is in sight.
The end is clearly in sight.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's time to get naked...

Driving along in my car today listening to music, a song came on my ipod that I hadn't heard in years. Another gem by India Arie. Perfectly timed.

"Private Party"

I'm having a private party
Ain't no body here but me, my angels, and my guitar 
singin' baby look how far we've come here
I'm havin' a private party
Learning how to love me
Celebrating the woman I've become, yeah

I tried to call my mother, but
She didn't get where I was going
I called my boyfriend and he said
Call me back a little later baby
I hung up the phone, I felt so alone
Started to feel a little pity
That's when I realized that I
Gotta find the joy inside of me

I'm gonna take off all my clothes
Look at myself in the mirror
We're gonna have a conversation
We're gonna heal the disconnection
I don't remember when it started
But this is where it's gonna end
My body is beautiful and sacred
And I'm gonna celebrate it

All my life I've been looking for
Somebody else to make me whole
But I had to learn the hard way 
True love began with me
This is not ego or vanity
I'm just celebrating me

Sometimes I'm alone but never lonely
That's what I've come to realize
I've learned to love the quiet moments
The Sunday mornings of life
Where I can reach deep down inside
Or out into the universe
I can laugh until I cry
Or I can cry away the hurt

For me, it's not me, my angels, and my guitar. 

For me, it's me, my angels, and my pens, my journal, and my camera.

It's me, my angels, a solo lunch, and a two hour jaunt through a museum I love.

It's me, my angels, and a few quiet moments outside in the sun.

Celebrating life, art, spring, food, water bottles, and baldness. 

As difficult as it may be, we all need to strip ourselves bare, get naked, literally and figuratively, stare at ourselves in the mirror and bring an end to the disconnection, the dislike, and the disdain. 

The body you have, this body I have - it's the only one we are ever gonna have on this journey. 
Learn to love it. I beg you - love that body. Every inch of it. Every pound of it.
You will not have it in its current form ever again. 

Who was it that wrote that someday you will look at the photos of your 20, 30, 40 year old body and wish you could have it back? You will wish for that skin, that backside, those breasts, and those hands. You will wish for that hair, those legs, those shoulders, and that stomach. 

Go ahead. I dare you - fall in love with the skin you're in. 
Love the body that transports your magnificent soul. 
Celebrate the woman, the man, the person you've become and
the one you are becoming. 

Don't wait; start the party tonight when you get ready for bed.
Get naked and dance in front of your mirror. 
Laugh at the silliness and the beauty of it,
the bouncing and the rolling.
Marvel at how spectacular your body is,
at how spectacular you are. 
You are a wonder, a gift, a miracle.
Every inch of you. Every pound of you. 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Mark your calender, dear reader

Two weeks from today, Friday, April 19th, I will undergo surgery.
Two surgeries - double mastectomy and hysterectomy.
Big changes for this big girl.

Friends frequently ask me how I feel about "all of this."
I wonder which "this" they are referring to.
The horrors of chemo past or the prospect of surgery future?
The removal of body parts or the hope of being another step closer to being kanswer free?

Every day since the one when the doctor told me that they had found kanswer in my breast and lymph nodes I have asked myself some version of that question:

how do I feel about all of this?
where is my heart? how is my heart?
how is my faith? do I still have faith? in what or whom?
how is it possible that my faith still feels so strong?
am I afraid? what do I have to fear? is it okay for me to not be afraid?
what am I supposed to learn from all of this? am I learning the lessons I'm meant to learn?
is it okay for me to feel good, great even? is it okay for me to be happy even now?
does feeling good, not being afraid, and not worrying about surgery or its aftermath
mean I am living in denial? is it possible to have come this far and still be in denial?
how do I really, really, really feel?

Sometimes I feel thousands of things and sometimes I feel nothing at all.
Sometimes I feel like all of this is happening to someone else, like an "out of body experience,"
but I'm making the decisions.
Sometimes I feel like this is a ridiculously long and vivid nightmare,
and I am convinced that the alarm is going to sound at any moment now
and I will awaken back into my real life.

Most of the time, however, I am enormously grateful to be alive, amazed that I am so unabashedly loved, and excited to be stepping fully into the process that will rid this body of mine of this unwelcome intruder.

I never thought I'd ever, ever, ever quote Taylor Swift, but here goes -
Me speaking to Kanswer, with one hand on my hip and the pointer finger on my other hand wagging accusingly in kanswer's direction: "I knew you were trouble when you walked in."
Now get the hell out of me, kanswer. GET OUT!!!
Thanks for the lessons, but it's time for you to move on.
I've got places to go, people to love, and a long life yet to live.


The Thich Nhat Hanh calender on the wall above my desk says this for the month of April -
"Peace can only exist in the present moment. 
If you truly want to be at peace, 
you must be at peace right now."

Right now, I am at peace.
Right now, I breathe.
Right now, all is well.
All I have is right now.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I'm grateful for the friend who brought us vegetable soup and rice yesterday. Gracias, Patricia.

I'm grateful for the huge piece of salmon my mother bought for us that I was able to cook yesterday.

I'm grateful for the abundance of delicious and healthy food that we are enjoying at the moment.

I'm grateful for the friend who came over to talk at 11 this morning and stayed until after 3:30 this afternoon.

I'm grateful for the rain. The earth is dry and thirsty.

I'm grateful for the strength to bounce on my rebounder, lift weights, and stretch when I'm done.

I'm grateful for the patience to listen to the dental hygienist brag about her vegetable garden,
the ability to laugh at the parenting stories the sonogram techician told me at the ob-gyn's office,
and the perverse joy of sharing lubricant jokes with my breast kanswer navigator.
If I've got to attend all these appointments, I may as well make the most of them, right?

I'm grateful that, even though the surgeons are having a hard time coordinating their schedules for my surgeries, soon this next step of my healing journey will be behind me. (I am planning to have a double mastectomy and a total hysterectomy done the same day. Two operations, one recovery. Apparently, finding an operating room and staffing it with these two surgeons and their two posses is not easy. Please pray that they can work it out soon, very soon.)

I'm grateful for my daughter's college friend who gifted us with a dozen of those fancy cupcakes topped with chocolate or caramel or lime slices or a miniature oreo cookies depending on the flavor. I ate half of a chocolate cupcake and dipped my finger in the frosting of three or four others. Yummy!
I'm grateful for the wonderful time we had at a baseball game last night. Two local high schools played, and we knew one player on each team. It was the first time in a long time that we attended a sporting event as an entire family.

I'm grateful for the time I spent with my son today, discussing topic sentences, food vocabulary in Spanish, and his upcoming trip to Florida with a friend.

I'm grateful for the gift certificate for a massage that an extremely generous friend recently gave me.
I'm even more grateful for the friend herself.

I'm grateful for the essential oils I received in the mail yesterday, some of which are already doing their magic in the room sprays and disinfectant sprays I've created. Sweet orange, eucalyptus, clove bud, and lavender oils are among my new toys.

I'm grateful for the simple purity of coconut oil and how soothing it feels on my skin.

I'm grateful for the recipes that combine baking soda, vinegar, Dr. Bronner's castile soap, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, and water into household cleaning products that don't make me reach for a gas mask every time I use them.

I'm grateful for the earth-loving, people-honoring soul-sisters who have taught me new ways to love the earth, honor the people who live here, and create space for my soul to grow.

I'm grateful for when exposure to someone or something new awakens a long-buried bud of curiosity.

I'm grateful for stories of baby birds hatching, books released, courses completed, haikus composed, wisdom shared, love stories basked in, and other tales of the miraculous.

I'm grateful that sometimes self-pity is replaced with joy.

I'm grateful that sometimes resentment is overcome by forgiveness.

I'm grateful that sometimes my husband and the two teenagers we are raising all leave the house at the same time and I am blessed with a few blissful moments of blessed silence and solitude.

I'm grateful for every hug, every kind word, every smile, and every expression of caring that is expressed or shared in my vicinity - whether they are directed at me or not. Gentleness, kindness, love, and grace are contagious.

I'm grateful to you - whoever you are, wherever you are - for coming to this blog of mine, reading my ramblings, encouraging me to keep writing, and also sharing the good word with others.

I'm grateful that faith continues to be at the center of what keeps me upright, strong, and moving forward. And when I have fallen and I can't get up, faith is what gives me the hope to lift my heavy head and ask for assistance in getting back up.

I'm grateful for the way in which Glennon worded a truth that I have believed and lived by for most of my life: Despite all the evidence to the contrary, all is well.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

"It's all in me..."

That's the second line of a song that I know only two lines of.
The first two lines are: "I'm every woman... It's all in me."

I think we spend a lot of our time wallowing in self-pity.
I know that I do - especially during these past four months.
"No one knows the trouble I've seen.
Nobody has any idea what my life is like,
all that I must endure, all that I suffer,
my aches and pains.
Nobody has ever had a husband/children/parents/boss/siblings
kanswer diagnosis/bald head/numbness/tiredness quite like mine.
Nobody. Ever. Never has, never will.
Woe is me. Waaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!"
(I'm sure you get the picture.)

Yesterday as my husband and I sat waiting to see the surgeon, we started talking about husbands and how difficult they can be. (Yes, Steve was agreeing with me.)
He said, "I'm sure you wives sit around talking about us a lot, saying things like,
'My husband is an ass.'  'That's true, but my ass is bigger than your ass.'
I added, "Does my ass look big in his pants?'"
We both cracked up... laughing way too loudly for a surgeon's waiting room.
I'm glad we haven't lost our sense of humor.

Back to my self-pity party: I am right. You are right.
No one knows the specific troubles I've seen
or the ones you've seen.
We each face our own unique set of trials, tribulations, difficulties, and challenges.
We all cry ourselves to sleep on occasion.
Each of us. All of us.
For some of us, that is a daily, a nightly experience.

If you are going through the valley of shadows and I'm going through it too, then today's theme song fits, doesn't it?

"I'm every woman. It's all in me."

fear and courage
doubt and faith
hope and hopelessness
gratitude and discontentment
strength and quivering knees
laughter and mourning
openness and secrecy
positive attitude and bitchiness
stillness and restlessness
patience and quick irritability
curiosity and disinterest
loyalty and infidelity
joy and bone-weary sorrow.

I am the mother and the childless one.
wife and single woman
sister and only child
daughter and orphan
friend and loner
writer and silent one
teacher and student
geek and drop out
dancer and wallflower
kanswer patient and woman in perfect health
frustrated wife and blissful newlywed
adoring mother and he exhausted Mom who wants to push them out of the nest
follower of Christ and follower of my own doggone self.

Every emotion. Every longing.
Every dream. Every nightmare.
Every disappointment. Every celebration.
Every woman. Every man. Every child.
It's all in me.
It's all in you.