Living has a Deadline

I took this photo exactly three years ago.  My husband brushing my hair.

Living has a Deadline

He was brushing my hair because I couldn’t brush my own hair. I couldn’t even get out of bed by myself.  But I think there was so much beauty in that moment because it was one of the first times that I was willing to admit I was weak.  And that was me at my best, at that moment, because the mornings were the worst, so as the day went along and I was able to slowly get out of bed, walk around the yard a little, maybe take a shower, I was ready to go to bed again and start the process over again. And at my best I still was unable to complete a simple task like brushing my own hair. But my husband brushing my hair was so raw and tender and loving and I couldn’t find an ounce of fear in myself at that moment.  We were both just fully there, grateful.

Anne Lamott says that “the search for meaning will fill you with a sense of meaning.”

I searched high and low, and I found meaning everywhere.

I still do.

And sometimes the meaning is probably all in my own head but does it really matter? Recently when I was in that car wreck, I told a woman how I’d seen feathers flying around in slow motion as the car spun around. Her response was: you didn’t see feathers. And I was like: yes I did. And she snapped back: no you didn’t. I can assure you that you did not see feathers. And for a short moment I thought to myself maybe she’s right, maybe I didn’t really see feathers. Maybe I’m delusional? Maybe I hit a chicken?  But then as they were towing the car away there were no feathers to be found. But I saw the freaking feathers people. A burst of feathers, at the moment the car was hit. And they were suspended in the air, frozen in a millisecond of time, catching my attention from the horror of what was happening. And I was able to find some meaning in that.

“When you learn that your life is threatened, you can turn toward this knowledge or away from it. I turned toward it. It was not a choice but an automatic shifting of gears, a tacit agreement between my body and my brain. I though that time had tapped me on the shoulder, that I had been given a real deadline at last. It wasn’t that I believed the cancer was going to kill me […] No. What struck me was the startled awareness that one day something, whatever it might be, was going to interrupt my leisurely progress. It sounds trite, yet I can only say that I realized for the first time that I don’t have forever.” -Anatole Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness

I think this post will end the series I labeled The Cancer Chronicles three years ago.  I don’t really want to write about cancer anymore.  There’s probably some meaning in that too.

The Ghost of Cancer Past

People try to make me a fixed star, but I am a wandering planet.
-from the movie Luther

 

Hearing that Jennifer Arnold has a rare cancer brings back all kinds of emotions. I too had that rare cancer.  I was stage 3 Choriocarcinoma.  When people ask what type of cancer I had and I tell them I usually get a blank stare.  They’ve never heard of it.  It’s scary having something no one has heard of.  I remember thinking: why can’t I just have a normal cancer? As if cancer were normal.  This is why I’m glad no one can read my mind. I’m praying for Jennifer and her family.  Praying for her healing.  (read her story here)

 

Going through old photos recently has been like looking at someone else’s life.  Except it’s mine.  I have no other story except this one. I am not the same person I was before.  A pastor at my church has asked me to give a testimony on Christmas Eve and I’ve accepted…

[insert heart palpitations and nausea here]

Part of me wants to say no.  I go back and forth about it every day.  I’m scared to do it.  I keep thinking of nightmare scenarios…like what if I say the word douche accidentally? Or what if I do my really ugly cry and can’t stop?  I cried through a meeting the other day at church!  Who does that!?

In thinking about what my testimony should be I’ve been thinking about what’s changed in me.  I mean there’s the obvious….I went from girly to boy-ly.  The rest….well, I’m struggling with how to put it into words.

Hearing that Jennifer Arnold has a rare cancer brings back all kinds of emotions. I too had that rare cancer.  I was stage 3 Choriocarcinoma..... via lilblueboo.com #cancer #choriocarcinoma

It’s hard to pinpoint what changed and when.  It’s like staging when I step back and look at it all:

“B.C.” Before Cancer: I was a happy person before cancer.  I was motivated and hard working.  If I work hard enough, everything will be perfect…one day.

Surgery Trauma: Suddenly I was thrown into the world of cancer. I thought I was pregnant. I don’t think cancer should result from the thought of pregnancy.  It’s like taking the hope of the world and then turning it into doomsday.  They were just going to go in with a camera and look around. I went under anesthesia and I woke up in ICU, looking all ragged and with someone else’s blood. Kind of like Frankenstein. The whole idea of “looking around” was all false advertising.

Chemotherapy: I started chemotherapy before I’d even had a chance to comprehend what had happened. And for the first time, I found that I had physical limits. I was forced to stop. I was reduced to accepting help. Pride goeth after a fall sometimes.

New Chemotherapy: The first line of chemotherapy was unsuccessful.   So a second line started. I think that’s about the time I just stopped caring what they did to me. It seemed much easier to just surrender.  I just found myself praying: Dear God, just don’t make it too painful. [Read more…]

If Lump Equals Turtle

Mr. LBB: Are your boobs getting bigger?
Me: Just one.

Today I was convinced that I had breast cancer and face cancer.  Dr. Y said I definitely don’t have face cancer….I just need to moisturize a little more.  She said I probably don’t have breast cancer but just because of my history we should make sure.  She did a breast exam and when she found the lump her eyes went wide…..so basically her face said “BREAST CANCER” and her mouth said “oh it’s probably just tissue”….and then she drew a big TUMOR LOOKING THING on the order form:

 

 

But looking closer at it I realized it was just a turtle.

 

Turtles are harmless. Unless they are snapping turtles….or worse: alligator snapping turtles:

But according to wikipedia no human deaths have been linked to an alligator snapping turtle.

So next week I get to go for my first mammogram and my gazillionth ultrasound!

And by my mathematical deduction:

If lump = turtle, and alligator snapping turtle = no human deaths, then I’ll be fine.

 

Logical to me.

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In the Moment

He’s leaving for 2 days and he has to leave notes so I’ll remember things. Only Smokey (the fish) is at any real risk of not being fed….he’s not very vocal. The trash definitely wouldn’t be taken out without a note…but hopefully I remember what day of the week it is!

As long as I have a pen and paper I think I’ll be okay.  I’m great in the moment. I’m teaching VBS all week up at our church and Boo is having a blast.

Me: What’s been your favorite part of VBS?
Boo: You Mommy.

Who would have thought she’d be so excited to have me around?!  I thought for sure she’d be embarrassed of me!

 

 

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The Show

Friday I had a three month check up at my oncologist to go over some scans. All looks good….and so does this gown right?!

Stuck on level 65 of Candy Crush. Losing. Mind.

 

Friday night Mr. LBB and I went out with some friends to see Jewel at The Show (Agua Caliente):

 

It was my friend Jackie’s birthday and her hubby set it up as a surprise. She was surprised!

Jewel:

After the concert, we found the 80’s All Starz in the casino lounge….

…..and we danced until way past our bedtime!  Oh and it was Mr. LBB’s birthday this weekend too. Thanks to whoever left these $$ glasses in the casino lounge:

Oh and coming tomorrow are some organization posts….because that’s what I worked on this weekend: organizing my organization.  Talk to you soon! [Read more…]

At the Present

Where am I?

The past few months I’ve been having more and more cognitive issues. It’s from the chemo. Cisplatin. I feel like I’m in a fog more often than not.  I can’t keep organized….I can’t remember how old I am…..I can’t tell you what I did 5 minutes ago. Oh and my hearing. You might need to speak up a little.

And so I just stay in the present…..a little slower than normal…..but I’m still here.

The past few days I’ve just been watching this little gal swim with my mother….

 

 

….and getting back on track with some writing projects.   The fun part is I’ve been rereading stuff I wrote a few months ago and wondering: what crazy person wrote this?

 

Me: Cognitive issues include social awkwardness and inappropriate behavior. Is that me?

Mr. LBB: No more now than you were before.

Me: Oh…ok….phew.

 

(I think he’s just being nice.)

 

 

thomas merton quote (The Cancer Chronicles) via lilblueboo.com

 

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Unremarkable

I picked up the results of my scans today…..unremarkable…..which is awesome.  No changes to remark upon.

EXCEPT the report said there were postsurgical changes from a partial pneumonectomy.  I looked it up:  lung removal

What the….how did I lose a lung during a CT scan?!

I called and let them know that I proofread the report for them…..so they could make the report final-final…instead of just final. Pneumonectomy was changed to hysterectomy.

Oh and my right ovary is asymmetrically bulky.  That sounds awful.  Can they see that on airport x-ray scans? If so, I’m going to be really self conscious.

I hope that will be my LAST CT scan for a long time.  I’ve got important stuff to do….

…..like memorizing the first 30 decimal places of pi with Boo. We sing the song. She’s determined to go on…..I gave up after 30.

Then I spent 3 hours on the phone trying to figure out insurance claims today too.  It’s never ending.  I’ve got some advice for anyone going through chemotherapy and other ongoing complicated treatments: keep a spreadsheet with your bills and note EVERY single appointment, bill, charge etc and match it to your explanation of benefits.  If you can’t do it yourself….find someone to help you.  I’ve caught so many errors and billing issues I’ve lost count. (I zeroed out my spreadsheet and put in some fake examples. I uploaded it here if you want it…..just add rows where it says to add rows and you won’t mess up any formulas. It’s formatted to print too. Good night and good luck!)

 

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I Caught You a Delicious Bass

My last two collections were hard…..harder than I ever let on…..because it’s not easy to work when you don’t feel well…..let alone feel inspired.  I remember last spring being in a fabric warehouse, unable to make it up a flight of stairs…..my legs buckling…..I had to sit down right where I was.  I was frustrated that my body was failing me. I was embarrassed that I had to ask people for help. I wondered if the chemo drugs were killing off my creativity right along with everything else.

Today I spent all day in L.A.  I walked up that same stairwell….in that same warehouse.   I visited my favorite peeps to see what new things they had.  I crawled on concrete floors to find the best stuff.  I fought over prices.  I ate my favorite vegetable chow mein at Paul’s Kitchen.  I carried around my little inspiration book full of things I love and wandered for hours:

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I Like The Hair You Added

I went in for a CT scan today.  Nothing really interesting about that.  I didn’t wait around to talk to the radiologist. No news is good news, right?

As I sat there drinking my huge cups of “contrast” before going in, the door swung open, and an elderly man walked out with the nurse.  He looked so tired and frail and I thought for sure someone would have accompanied him. He made it over a few seats over from me….and sat there for a while. He tried to make a phone call with a Jitterbug-looking phone….you’ve seen the commercials.  He slumped down for a bit to rest and then he got up…..and slowly walked over to the receptionist desk to ask if there was a phone he could use and they pointed him around the corner. About 10 minutes later, it was my turn to go back for my scan. And I couldn’t go…..I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to go and check on that old man.

Leaving the waiting area, I went down the hall, following where I’d last seen him, and as I turned the corner….there he was……struggling with the phone on the wall:

Excuse me….sir? Have you….made your phone call yet?

It took him a bit to turn around….so I moved around so he could see me and repeated my question. He held out the handset and said:

I can’t……seem to make……a phone call.

I told him that my phone wasn’t working either and it was probably the fact that we were in the basement. I asked if he was waiting for a ride home and he said yes but he needed to call someone to pick him up.  I helped him to the elevator and explained that he would need to go to the first floor to get cell reception. He smiled, said thank you, and stepped into the elevator.

I went back to my chair and couldn’t hold back tears. I know the people sitting there thought I was upset about being there…..but seeing that old man struggle so much just to cross the long waiting room….and all he wanted to do was make a simple phone call…..and so many people just watching but no one really paying attention…..it was too much for me.

****

When the scan was over….the nurse was taking out my IV and the technician came out of the adjacent room: Ashley….I have to ask…..is this your artwork?

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Have the Day You Have

Early yesterday morning Boo brought me a vase with a dead leaf in it….stating that she was keeping it alive…..so that it would grow into a tree. I told her it wouldn’t work. She insisted it would….until I explained that it didn’t have roots…..not to mention it was already dried out.  I’m not sure what set her off but she got so upset over the dead leaf that I promised her that this weekend I’d show her how to make terrarium. She never forgets a thing….because it was the first thing she mentioned this morning.

We went to Lowe’s early this evening and picked out the perfect little succulents. While we were there one of the employees asked if we like owls….we said yes…..and he told us to go to aisle 5.  There in the rafters was the most beautiful owl…..it looked at us for a while…..and we looked back for another while.  Boo “hoo’d” a few times and after a staring contest it took off……with a huge 6 foot wingspan.  But it didn’t go far…..it flew up to the outside wall of the garden center where its mate was sitting.

Boo: You know….Daddy and I were here this morning at Lowe’s.
Me: What?!
Boo: While you were still sleeping…..

I didn’t think I’d make it out today…..I had such a horrible migraine last night and this morning.  I think I used my brain too much yesterday.  And then my pelvis was hurting….I have a CT scan next week.  I woke up and the house was eerily quiet…..Boo had left me a little pillow that had our photo on it and a flashcard that read “Jesus” on my nightstand. It made me laugh. Mr. LBB and Boo had let me sleep in and I felt like I was missing out on the day. I had already had to cancel breakfast with my friend Shari. And then……those owls….ever feel like there are just little gifts waiting for you? And I’m always looking around and taking in where I am…..but I don’t think I would have ever looked up into the rafters.  Those owls can be quiet and mysterious you know.

Anyway, Boo got to make her terrarium…plus one….and filled them with succulents. You know what I love about succulents? They are so cute and plump. I just have this uncontrollable urge to squeeze them…..but Boo cried over an already dead leaf….so could you imagine?

 

“About my leaves, I gave them all away, because that’s what you do with gifts.”

-Timothy Green

 


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