Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween and Vertebroplasty




Just a quick update before I dash off, yet again.


Mom was fortunate enough yesterday to see Dr. Teigen at Sanford.  One glance at her new MRI and we all clearly see where the fracture is in her spine- T7 is indeed compressed and causing her back to bow out in a pronounced curve.  No wonder she is in such pain.


Mom will be having another vertebroplasty today, to add cement to her T7 and form a cast of sorts around that fragile area.  We will be at the day surgery unit all day and hope she can go back to the facility sometime tonight. 

The blessings continue to flow amongst the hard places- scattered here and there.  A sweet card with a generous gift from an anonymous person.  A Halloween gift of pure generosity and a big heart.  

And a mug I use almost daily now, for coffee!  Cathy- you are awesome! 

Thank you everyone for thinking of us and for all the continued prayers!

Mom and I appreciate all the good thoughts, well wishes and prayers that keep us going.  

Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Winner and a hand full of grace.


“But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” 
― Anne LamottHelp Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers





The winner of my 25 dollar Barnes & Noble gift card, is number 15 on the list of comments, 

Mountianchione! 

Please email me at vwestra14@gmail.com with your mailing address and I will get it off to you in the mail!



Thanks to everyone for participating.  

******************************************

I go back in my mind wondering where this "next chapter," began, with my mom?  As the doctors have tried to piece together my Mom's medical history, to try to figure out ways in which to help her, I've sat,  soaking in so much.  

The pain seems excruciating in her back.  I've had cancer in my spine, and I know the agony of bone pain.  To think she is 79 years old and going through this, is too hard to fully grasp.  She fully expresses her pain is a "10," and this is the first time, ever, I've heard her say this. 

Her doctors all agree she is in a critical condition with her liver disease, renal failure and yet another, compression fracture. 

But we've had some grace-filled moments along the way.  Anne Lamott, has said one of her 3 essential prayers  is "help."

And I've uttered a lot of "help," prayers lately.  

We've had some long days and nights together, just mom and I.  

Like last Wednesday, in the ER, when my mom was in need of a hospital room, along with 9 others.  We waited hours, while we heard about the waiting room overfilled with people seeking medical help, too.

Then suddenly- later in the night, they had a room - 741.  

The 7th floor, is the Oncology floor.  I have been there several times.  I knew what a blessing this was for my mom, because of the kind of care she would receive.

And she did.  

Compassion, warmth, understanding and lots of TLC.  Its one of the first times my mom was not begging to be let out of the hospital.  So often, she didn't even need her call light, because someone was always poking their head in the door just to see if mom needed anything. 

So who would be one of the first friendly faces I would encounter?  

Dr. Shelby Terstreip.  While she is not my oncologist, she has asked me to be involved in many ways, with the Embrace Survivor program for a long time now.  She is behind the stories I have done, the talk at the Health Retreat, and so many other things.  

She is the one, who kindly, and graciously, mentioned she could act as a consultant to my mom, as she was the on-call oncologist and would be around all weekend. 

Speaking of an embraceable moment- that one fell right into my lap.

Mom had so many wonderful nurses and nurses aids.  But it was mom's nurse, Megan who recognized my embrace bracelet from the retreat.   Breast cancer has also touched her family, and we found an instant bond in that moment as our eyes locked over the bracelet.  Megan sought out answers for me.  She went the extra step, every time we needed something.  And she laughed, wholeheartedly at my mother's silly jokes.  

More grace.

Slowly mom improved.  Shelby ordered an iron infusion, and mom perked up so much after that.  Her blood work results continued to rise back into the normal range.

Sunday, mom was set to be discharged.  We just needed the doctors to come and sign the orders.  

But… the hospital had all kinds of emergency admissions again.  And the same doctors were being dispatched all over the floors- never quite getting back to mom.

So she stayed the night one more time.

And now I see why.

We could have been mad, or frustrated, or anxious about her extra night's stay.

But… 

Monday I arrived, to a confused and exhausted mother.  She could barely move, hardly talk, was hardly there.  The woman who had been walking the halls, and gabbing on the phone, had disappeared within herself. Watching her riddled with pain and exhaustion, I was hit with such sadness, I could only sit and surrender how inept I felt. 

I was teary-eyed with exhaustion and worry.  "Help, God, help."  

I paced.  My husband came often, sitting with me, bringing me food, offering his help in whatever ways he could.

The nurses checked everything.  Her heart was strong, her labs were good, no fever, clear lungs, check, check, check.  Underneath, whatever was going on, mom was good. 

So I paced some more. And mom slept, all day.  I've never seen her do anything like that before. 


And then at some point "SHE" walks in the door of my mother's room.

"She," was the social worker.  

And she was smiling so big.


The social worker has been in constant contact with Bethany Towers, mom's assisted care facility.   They have concerns over whether my mom was physically ready to come back and manage on her own.


So the social worker had been working on a place for mom.  She had heard there was no space available at a Transitional Care Unit, which would have been a great in between place for my mom.  But then they called her back and suddenly, In the blink of an eye, they had a space for my mom, for Tuesday.  She couldn't explain how that had happened, just when it was exactly what we needed. 

Mom was going to be going to a brand new care facility for rehab, Bethany on 42nd, until she got her strength back, and it would all be covered by Medicare. 

The social worker hugged me, as the tears welled up in my eyes, yet again.  Grace- raining down.

She even arranged transportation for us, knowing I had infusion yesterday.

I hustled through infusion and raced up to mom's room.

Mom was sitting up, dressed, ready to go.  

We spent the afternoon, acclimating mom to her new place.  She has a beautiful room with a big window, and a big attached bathroom, all to herself.  Its twice the size of her other room and her eyes lit up when she saw the lift recliner sitting by the bed.

There are only 13 residents, and she gets one to one help with everything for up to 20 days.  

I came home last night, after a long week of hard, hard stuff, crawled in bed, and collapsed.

But my prayer had changed.

Anne's other essential prayer, formed on my lips, as I drifted off to sleep.

Thanks, God, thanks.  


“But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” 
― Anne LamottHelp Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers




































Monday, October 27, 2014

soon




I haven't forgotten to pick a winner for the Barnes and Noble gift card giveaway!  

I'll be back soon… with the name of the winner and more… so much more.

My sweet mom went by ambulance to the hospital last Wednesday and was found to be in renal failure as well as having another compression fracture in her spine.

She is still in the hospital!  

Soon we expect her to go home.

After spending another long day with her yesterday, I came home last night to find these on our doorstep.  The popcorn is covered in pink just like the strawberries!  

My whole family was so excited to receive a treat and it was a welcome reprieve from our week.  Thank you to our anonymous friends who so graciously thought of us!! 

Infusion tomorrow… more soon… 

All shall be well~













Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Giveaway!

When Rick moved his office into the basement of our house, it caused a lot of upheaval.  We're bursting at the seams.  Not only is the basement filled, but so is our small garage.  And when our employees show up to work?  Parking can be a nightmare.  So with the help of a friend who does concrete for a living, and some of his crew, Rick readied the ground next to our garage last week. 

The pumper truck was supposed to come at 11 Saturday morning.  But a little before 9 the sound of a large truck underneath our bedroom window woke us up.  We scrambled out of bed and jumped into work.  But just a few hours of work, with several sets of hands, and we had it looking good. 

Speaking of hands, when we moved back to Moorhead we made a set of handprints in concrete we poured at our first home, circa 2003.  So it seemed appropriate to mark the passage of 11 years in just this way.  Wow- where has 11 years gone?  






The rest of my week has been filled with such sadness.  My heart is heavy with sorrow.  Not one, but two precious cancer fighters, have been told they will be going to their eternal homes- soon.

Much too soon.  

There have been many tears shed.  And lots of talk about how do you do this?  How do you stop… treatment, and doctors visits, and infusion appointments?  And then what?  What do you do?   The vulnerability, of no treatment, no protection- well I just can't wrap my brain around it.

Because you think- just one more drug.  Can't there be just one more chemo?  One more treatment?  One more anything? 

When we speak of wanting "awareness" of breast cancer and all the funds raised by "Pinktober" to shift to research and funds going to find a cure- this is why!  

Because at the center of my awareness- is too many friends, taken by their stage 4 metastatic disease, way too soon.  

Can we focus on making this stop please?

Find a cure. For all cancers.

Amen.





So in the meantime, I'm soaking up all my moments, with urgency and energy to match.  My sister-in-law, Missy got this early Christmas present for me.  Its a positivity jar.  Each day you grab a quote out of the bag and put it on top of the jar.  Each one has caused me to pause, to reflect, and helped to shape my intention for how I will live each day.



Every time I go to this fundraising website, Vicky fighting breast cancer, I leave in tears.  A ten dollar donation allows you to be entered into a drawing for  "thank you gifts," a few of which are shown below.

I cry just as easily for the 10 dollar amounts, as I do for the other generous amounts given.  What I know, is that each one costs, each of you- no matter the amount,  and we're so humbled by it all.  We have just a few weeks left of the fundraiser!  







While out on a hunt for a Birthday gift for my mom who just turned 79, I  came across this little gem at Barnes and Noble.  "Life is a Verb."  How would you spend your time if you only had 37 more days to live?  




So often, you all do so much for me.  Sometimes, when I am spent, weary with sorrow, and completely worn out- the only way through- is by focusing on something or someone else.


Why not do a giveaway?  Do you like to read?  Is there a book on your list you have wanted to get for the longest time?

Maybe today is your day?

I purchased a 25 dollar gift card from Barnes and Noble and will give it away to one lucky reader! 



For one entry into the contest, please leave me an answer to this question in the comments below on my blog:

What is at the top of your "must read" book list?  

For a second entry, either sign up to follow and leave a second comment, or tell me you already are a follower in a second comment on my blog. 

That's it!  


I will use a random number generator to pick a winner.

You have until 6 pm Friday night to enter.


I will post the winner shortly thereafter, so you can email me your mailing address! 

Good luck to everyone! 

















Friday, October 17, 2014

believe

Day two...

Mass at the Carmelite Monastery starts at 7 am, so we set our alarms for a few minutes after 6.  Its dark outside as we find our way across the path over to the chapel.  As comfortable as I feel inside, I also feel reverence and sacredness throughout the Mass.  The sisters sit behind a screened wall.  We can hear them sing, pray and read, so beautifully, but not see them in any way.

An hour later we scurry out the door, and notice the sun is just coming up over the horizon.  We hurry inside to get some breakfast started, and as the coffee percolates, I slip outdoors as the sun makes its presence known.

To my delight, not only is the horse nearby, in the pasture behind the guest house, but for the first time ever, I see a farm cat sitting pristinely nearby. 











I turn for one last shot, and see the horse, standing, motionless.  We stand in the presence of one another, not uttering a word, or a sound, yet keenly aware of each other.  Somehow, he exudes a quiet and yet sturdy energy and I soak in it, as the sun begins to set his chest ablaze.  I am mesmerized. 


I retrace my steps and look back towards the chapel. I notice the moon still in the sky, while the sun begins to cast a glow on the chapel.  I'm taking all of this in and feeling, peace, and awe all at once.


And then my stomach growls, as the chill takes over, and I rejoin Roxane in the warm kitchen for some breakfast.  Soon we will be heading back to a tiny vestibule in the monastery, where Mother Joseph will meet with us.


In the meanwhile, I'm sitting quietly in my room, and reach for a book to read for a bit.  Its my copy of Love Does, by Bob Goff, and I find I can always read for a short bit and fill with something he says, no matter how short the time.  

As I go to lift the book from the dresser, something falls and clunks on the floor.  I jump as the noise catches me off guard in such a serene setting.  I pick it up, and have to chuckle.  Its my book mark- the new one, that says "believe."  I have to say I feel this word, suddenly, in a whole new way.  


Its not long and Roxane and I are headed over to see Mother Joseph.  We ring the bell as instructed, on the outside of the door, and then enter.  We aren't immediately certain, which room she will appear in, so we stand in the entryway and wait.

I notice a door begin to open, and suddenly Mother Joseph appears, welcoming us to sit.  She sits behind a desk with iron bars that open so we can talk.  

Oh where do I begin to describe to you all that is Mother Joseph?  There is such a quiet assurance in her voice.  While she is dressed, head to toe, in her habit, her face radiates such warmth and light, I hardly notice what she wears.  She has a vibrancy to her that is palpable.  

And her witty remarks and comments begin immediately, reminding me, of how entirely human she is. We segue from one topic to the next with ease.  I find myself telling her, I am here to see if God has anything to tell me, or show me, as I sit in this period of waiting.

And Mother Joseph says, "Vicky, the sister's and I pray for you often, (she mentions a homily they've just read- then says)  I think what I feel He would want you to do in this time of waiting, is to REST.  Much like Mary held baby Jesus in her arms, on her chest- rest.  Feel all that love and comfort, from that place of rest."  

I've said this before.  My words escape me, when I am at Carmel.  My minds slows, and I don't think long and hard about much of anything.  I tend to just "be."  

And from what Mother Joseph has just shared with me, I sink further into letting go.

The hour we have with her, quickly passes.  Mother Joseph has imparted such soothing words for hard times.  As we stand to leave, she accepts a hug from each of us.  Its an embrace that reached all the way around and I leave feeling refreshed.

I'll be leaving in a few hours myself.  With the sky so blue, and the light still pouring in, I go off back behind the guest house.







Then I circle around the front by the pond again. I'm always amazed at how I see it with new eyes no matter how many times I walk through the grounds.  












All too soon, Rick arrives to pick me up.  I grab my bags, and stuff my two words inside, "rest," and "believe," and we drive off into the future of all our tomorrows. 


Monday, October 13, 2014

be still

 It seems as soon as I step into Roxane's van, the chaos, the mess, the darkness, begins to fade into the dust being kicked up by the van and left in a cloudy trail behind us.  We talk the miles into oblivion until suddenly, I gasp, oh its the turn, already!  And an hour has evaporated.



We're here.  At the invitation of Mother Joseph, we're here at Carmel of Mary, a Carmelite Monastery, for a "retreat."  It's my third time here.



The light begins to shine as we turn to enter the lane that will take us to the Monastery.  Its a gorgeous fall day.






We drive past the chapel and work our way back to the guest house.  

We are greeted by these, poking through the rails, straining to face the sunshine.  Its a welcome greeting, Roxane and I both stop to capture in pictures.


We put away our things, but every window beckons with a filmy, gauzy, white in which the sun streams through.  I can hardly wait.


The "blue" bedroom is the one I always choose.  But I barely lay my bags down and reach for my camera.  I can't sit inside for long.  While Roxane, a writer and journalist, works, I head out.   My thoughts still, as my eyes open to the light streaming everywhere.





I walk outside and as my feet hit the earthy grass, I see a Guinea feather, left behind by one of the hens that inhabits the grounds.  I see them, far off in the distance.  Its the only sighting of them I have the entire time I'm there.


I walk past the gated areas, where the sisters live.  With 7 hours of their day centered around praying, I am quiet with my steps, not wanting to disturb the solitude around me.  


The gate, to their backyard, with the word "cloister," on top.  The word according to Merriam Webster means : a place where monks or nuns live : a monastery or convent
: a covered path or hall with arches that is on the side of a building (such as a monastery or church) and that has one open side usually facing a courtyard


The silence is both staggering and serene.



Its a long walk, yet, just like our ride, I shoot photo after photo, stepping carefully through the grounds.  There is something so sacred about being here.  I go to sit in front of Mary, and at long last my overflowing heart is unburdened.  



While the leaves are turning autumnal colors, and falling steadily from the trees, bursts of color stand out everywhere my eyes gaze.  Like at the feet of Mary, the bright red flowers, just beginning to wither, yet steadfastly facing into the light.



I soon get up to walk down and around the rest of the property.  The light dazzles everywhere and I am shedding my sweater, for short sleeves, just like my soul is shedding its burdens, layer by layer.


I walk.  I breathe.  My mind ever still.  About the only word that truly escapes my lips, is thank you, God, thank you.



While there are points of reflection in so many places, like the bench below, I simply wander forward.  My Fitbit steadily counting all my steps.


Step, after step, of gorgeous grounds, and nature in all its glory.  How can one not feel God?  I do not have any urgency to find Him, He is everywhere.  I just breathe deep.













I'm outdoors, walking the grounds for nearly two hours.  Its nearing dinner time and Roxane and I will be heading into town to eat our first meal on our own.  

But as if my first day, wasn't spectacular in every way, the next day doesn't disappoint in all of my new discoveries.  More coming… 






When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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