Monday, January 30, 2017

"All the Pretty Things,"






Ever since the package with the book arrived in the mail, I've yearned to lose myself in the writing.  Coming from my friend, Linda, I simply knew I'd love the book.

So with an ache in my back, and my bed calling me early one evening a couple weeks ago,  I found myself immersed in reading from the first sentence.  I read late into the night, not wanting to read too much, yet doggedly turning page after page, longing to know the whole story all at once. 

But that ache in my back?  Somehow turned into a searing, teeth-clenching, pain.  It gripped the muscles in my lower back, with spasms of mind-numbing sensations.  

After attempts with Advil, and Tylenol, the heating pad, and then ice, plus massage from Superman failed to assuage the assault on my back I finally turned to Oxy.  With my mind numbed, my speech slow and plodding, and the pain masked by it all- days turned into nights then faded back to days- and I was lost in the haze of it all.  The book sat, beckoning me to shake my head free from the fog.  But every time I came up for air, I was mired down again with spasms rippling through my back.

I knew I would see Dr. Panwalkar soon, I just needed to get by a few more days.  Rick tried to get me to go to the ER, but I stubbornly clung to the idea I'd persevere.  My scans were clear, in my back area.  This was not cancer.

It was my week free from chemo.  It was sunny outside, and the temps rose into the 30's, making it warm for January in Minnesota.  How could I not get better?  

Somehow, I cobbled together a way of managing.  I sometimes could string together hours at a time, in which I functioned at near normal levels.  I'd dive back into the book, madly in search of the pen to highlight the phrases and paragraphs that resonated so deeply with me.  How could she know my pain?  How could she breathe such life into the brokenness I endured?  Edie's story is not mine, and yet her ability to make me feel as though I had walked in her very shoes, and her in mine, was uncanny.  

I look down at my hands, grasping the pen I used to highlight, wondering away.



At the same time, I've been knocked down, Nolan is struck down with illness too.  He fought basic cold symptoms all one week.  We use our Thieves and Lemon oils which keep him going, and some Emergen- C each day.  But its a Thursday night after hockey practice when he comes into my room,  feverish and chilled at the same time, with a bad headache.  Rick drops everything to take him into the doctorr.  Nolan's lymph nodes are swollen all around his neck, and they need to rule out Mono, and then they swab for Influenza and take blood work.  He arrives home with a positive test for Influenza and a box of Tamiflu.  He sleeps long hours, his body going from fever, back to aches and pains, then chilled and congested and miserable again.  

  

While I'm quarantined away from him, battling my own pain,  I finish Edie's book.  As I get up to put the book away, the pink pen flies out of the pages into my lap,  as my heart warms with the love that surrounds it.  

I'll never forget his sheepish smile, and the playful way his eyes beamed, even though he looked away as he handed me this pen, just days ago...

"Mom..."  Nolan says, his cheeks curl into dimples and the smile originates from somewhere deep within him.  "This was supposed to be for you at Christmas.  I made it in wood shop.  We learned how to use the lathe, but I kept getting the bottom piece too thin and it broke on me.  I had to get a new one and start over with the teacher's help." 

  I'm melting on the spot as I feel the weight of it in my hands.  It's then that it I turn it over and see the pink breast cancer ribbon.  It seals it.   It really was for me.  





I reach up to give him a hug and whisper an "I love you, " to him.  He hugs me back, all the way around, and whispers to me, I love you too, Mom."  









Days later I see Dr. Panwalkar.  We talk about the pain in my back and he examines me.  He thinks for a long time, and then says I should try a muscle relaxer for awhile.  He warns me it'll make me sleepy and more foggy in the head perhaps, but should help release those muscle spasms.  He also says he wants to see me again in a few weeks, and we'll also talk about scans soon.  The last little tidbit is that while my blood work shows low counts- he is still going ahead with treatment- because the good news is, my tumor markers have dropped down to just above normal.  

~all shall be well~



Thank you to all who have reached out to me!  It humbles me so to know you come in search of me when I'm quiet for too long.  Your prayers, cards, emails and texts, do much to lift my spirits.  So grateful! Love to you all~ 
















Friday, January 13, 2017

When love arrives...

The thank you notes clutter my desk, my table, they're abundant everywhere.  My gratitude runs deep while my ability to convey it is slow.  I am deeply behind in writing my thank you notes.    Luckily, I have infusion, to at least give thanks in some permanent and meaningful way. 

Each week at infusion, I sit and number all of my gifts in a gratitude journal.  I'm literally tied down  by a needle in my chest with tubes running up to the big iv pole and pump. I'm not going anywhere!  But I find I pay little attention to time, I'm so absorbed in the writing of the journal.  

Plus I'm blessed with a visit from Sandy, the volunteer.  She is a beautiful soul, that always remembers to come and find me right where I am.  We talk about scripture, and daily devotions, and books, and everything.  Then she grabs my hands and fervently prays.  I often feel like its her, and so many of you, with me- all circling around and letting grace flow.  I receive so much more than "drugs" at infusion.  

Plus then it follows me home.  The beautiful handmade card below, with equally as beautiful words written inside.  I'm slow to say my thank- you's these days, but I pray you all know how these are the very things that get me through.  



I feel the most longing to letting Melody know how much this card touched me.  Her words were so heartfelt and she is so generous and giving, and I am speechless and filled with gratitude that these gifts that come my way.  Thank you, Melody!


And the bracelet?  I completely forgot that I had ordered it, weeks ago.  I madly opened the Alex and Ani box, and love walked in.  The gift of love... that I had ordered BEFORE I had chosen my word.  


I also feel love, when words come together that describe your feelings, but you just didn't think to align them in this way- it feels like someone knows my heart.  


Then having just read those words, you walk outside into the midst of snow swirling about you, and the sun shining through as though the air is magically glistening, and sparkling- and you feel where "calm meets chaos... and madness swirls... and love passes by."  


Then the finale arrives when the sundogs radiate their rainbow colors around the sun, and all is right with the world.



And Crosby never leaves my side, unless he is going to sneak off to find the Santa teddy bear he longs to wrap his arms around.  Love personified.  



So this is me, trying.  Because, in between all of these fleeting moments I cherish?  Are the hard and messy ones, coming at me faster than I can deal with some days. So I'm trying to align the words, and cling to the moments of grace and love, no matter how fleeting they feel sometimes.  

Ann Voskamp always aligns those words just right... 

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.” 




Sunday, January 1, 2017

One little word... 2017

It probably started with the coffee stain.  It repeatedly caught my eye as I trudged up and down the arena steps.  Somehow a sticky dark substance had spilled, and run and trickled into a little pool, in the exact shape of a heart.  I pondered if it was picture worthy?  But I simply smiled and huffed my way past each time, the image seared in my mind.  It's funny how these little tiny things, can somehow have such a big impact, if you let them.  But let me back up a couple of weeks,  and explain a bit more...


I heard someone say the word normal can only be found as a setting on your washing machine.  Touche.  Yet I was determined this Christmas to come as close to "normal" for our family as I could. But the abundance of blessings we felt from friends and family, was beyond the confines of that simple word.  I'm not even sure when it began? Just one thing- which led to another thing...


For the longest time, the surprise arrival of this tree ornament was a mystery to us.  But the delight of someone making a family heirloom piece we can put on our tree each year, is treasured by me.  It made perfect sense when our friend Ria mentioned it to me- she is after all the vision behind the photos that continue to make my heart soar.  Thank you, Ria.


And when the hockey loving sons, receive cool hats and t-shirts from Teags & Ry, how can we not feel special?  Their product line continues to expand in such fun and unique ways!  You'll have to just click the link to see for yourself.  Thanks Alyse and Jayme!  




With boxes and cards arriving continuously,  the magic of the season grew daily.  I treasure this handmade clock from my sweet friend Peggy in Missouri.  A vintage card carefully decoupaged on this wooden piece with my favorite shade of blue in the background.  It's sitting next to my computer desk so I can see it daily.  We loved the goodies you sent us- so thankful Peggy!



Eileen, in California, sends us this beloved vintage hockey calendar each year.  It's so authentic, it makes you want to walk right into the picture and lace up your skates.  So touched Eileen- thank you!


The hockey stick and mask ornament have been on our tree for many years- but the surprise of the orange spud ornament was just perfect.  Thank you, Heidi!  The boys love it! 


Linda's box arrived with this sleigh wrapped in plastic, and a bottle of sparkling cider that happens to be Colton's favorite.  I tucked the sleigh under the tree to open for Christmas.  It was filled with goodies and fun things.  I miss my mom and the way she would make Christmas so special for us- and Linda helps me feel like my mom is right there with us after all.  To the moon and back, Linda.


From the 10 dozen cookies we received from a cookie exchange- so yummy and fun to eat- to the gift cards for our kids- beyond touched by everyone's thoughtfulness- we truly had a meaningful and memorable Christmas.  






Nolan's been living in a story that I could write about for days.   But he is 16, and placing his trust and confidence in his mom.  So when the young man of few words says he "feels like he needs to go to church- to feel better?"  Its all the gift I really need from him.  He raises his candle high and I hear his voice ring out... and I just think, "Let it shine, Nolan.  Always remember to seek the glow of the light when you feel alone in the dark." 


Even Santa celebrated the birth of baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.  Oh my heart.


The tree and I seem to have shrunk over the years, as the "3" boys continue to grow.  But those smiles simply say, we had a joyful Christmas with so many friends and family with us in spirit and some in person, as well.



With a couple of days to recover... we were soon off on a trip. 


It wouldn't be Christmas if it weren't for a hockey holiday tournament in St. Louis Park.  I was thrilled with feeling well enough to travel with Rick for 3 days, to watch Nolan play.


Thankfully, my hidden secret was this espresso coffee machine in the hotel.  It was truly like a coffee house version of a cuppa joe and gave me the added boost of energy to engage each day.




I relished the sun and warmth not so typical for late December in Minnesota.


Despite using a handicapped sticker for parking, I was struggling for air by the time I walked inside the arena on some days.  Standing at the boards to watch leaves me with cramps in my toes and legs later in the evening, so I climb the stairs to sit.  Slowing if I need to, but always pushing through.  Just keep going, I tell myself.  Nolan and I share this feeling of straddling the line between two worlds, wondering where we fit?  Is he Junior Varsity?  Is he Varsity?  All he can do is keep showing up, just like me.  



On our last day, Nolan texts me that he'll play Varsity his last day, due to an injury by one of his teammates.  Its always bittersweet.  

 I pull my suitcase out to the car, and can't seem to breathe deeply for a long time afterwards.  So I sit on the nearest bench in the rink, conceding, I need just a little help.  And our hockey community rises up to offer water, and to walk with me when I'm ready.  

I climb the stairs, and as I stop to gather my last bit of resolve- there it is again.  The coffee stain shaped like a heart, sitting by the very step I've stopped to rest.  I've been drawn to it yet again.  So onward I go.

And somehow Nolan is feeling it too.  He skates fast, and gets knocked down along the board drawing a checking from behind penalty for the other team.  But he bounces right up.  Onward he goes too, strong and determined.

Then this...  the next move he goes backhand and sinks the puck into the net!  


His teammates celebrate with him, as my heart soars.  We go on to win the game. 




It's sealed when he comes out of the locker room with the hard hat on.  The goalie, his friend Lance, awarded it to him.  It's a tiny moment, with a big impact that's helped propel us forward yet again.





We're home again, about to begin "chemo nesting."  I'll have labs drawn early Tuesday morning, and a visit with a nurse practitioner, then infusion on Tuesday.  


But I linger here, in my new quiet computer space.  What should my new word be?   What has been made abundantly clear to me,  at the "heart" of everything, just like that coffee stain... is one thing.  So why not just lead with my heart?




As we head off into the new year of 2017, my one little word is love.  







When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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