Tuesday, May 31, 2011

...carrying their names into the wind...

My college friend, Lisa, on your far right, sent me this fb message last week:

"From left to right we are, Char Merritt (Cancer didn't survive her 10 years ago - she refuses to be called a "survivor"), Tina Gardner, Deb Rasmussen (my bosses wife who has been through chemo three times for breast cancer), Kelly Phillips, and me. I am praying for you daily, Vicky, and now all of us are! Hang in there and fight like a girl!"

Thanks Lisa! With that "tour de force" of women who have stood up to cancer and won repeatedly, on my side, their invincibility gives me strength and courage!

Elizabeth sent me this photo yesterday all the way from LONDON!  Wow, my bracelets are well traveled!  I love the Tower Bridge and it was just 22 years ago May that I took much the same picture of that bridge myself.  

These are two more of Elizabeth's friends, her friend Buffy and her mom Claire.   Thank you friends for honoring my fight with your bracelets and strength!


I awoke this morning with a steady drip of blood coming from my nose.  Tack it onto an increasing list of side effects from the chemo.  Our excursion to the Cities this weekend cost me, (although I wouldn't have done it any differently)  I have a new burning sensation in my sternum and feel a new achiness in general.  The pain goes as high as an 8 on the scale of 1-10 of pain management.  But it only last seconds and releases.  It just returns sometimes as quickly as it goes.  I've tried eating, and not, Ranitidine and Tums, standing and sitting.  The only real relief was in moving forward with my day yesterday.  I managed to pack 6 laundry baskets of clothes, shoes, blankets, purses, hats, etc, for Dakota Boys Ranch. I'm in a mood to sort, clean, organize and throw, both in my surroundings and internally as the metaphor seems to apply to my life in general.  

Plus, I can't stop thinking about my Dad.  My mom told me two things yesterday, 1) that one of her sisters put flowers on his grave and so 2) she didn't feel the need to go visit Dad's grave with us.  Sigh.  Its classic for my mom and I marvel at how her emotion doesn't seem to kick in so that she WANTS to go.  

But I am my father's daughter.  Despite the ache of missing him of wanting to be close to him and talk to him.  Knowing, 6 feet under was as close as I would get, I wanted to go to him.  I've been drying flowers for almost a year.  They were wild flowers growing on my Dad's childhood farm and we picked them last summer.  Colton and I crushed them in a bag and sprinkled them all over the grave and trampled them into the dirt.  I like the idea of bringing a piece of his home, home to him, even though I know he isn't really there.  

There were no other flowers on the grave as mom had said.  A small flag flew by his grave, in the whirling winds on the forefront of what would become a night of severe thunderstorms.  We would spend part of the night hunkered down in the basement, no electricity, just the crack of lightning as the thunder boomed and the howl of the straight line winds blowing the patio furniture across the deck. 

But first we tended the grave sites.  First my Dad's, and then my nephew Hunter's .  Colton painstakingly untangled Hunter's windchimes, and replaced the fallen pinwheel.  Then he rested the stuffed bear in a nook of the marker, taking great care to see that it was comfortable in its new home.  His tender and gentle demeanor were a pull on my heart.  This boy is so loving.   

We took one last walk around the cemetery.  It was the unadorned graves we stopped at and read their names and said a quick prayer for them.  They were WWII and WWI vets.   We honored them by carrying their names into the wind, acknowledging their sacrifices for their country, for us.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Spontaneously,we rode along with Rick to Minneapolis Friday night. We had no big plans, and a limited amount of time. We were picking up yearbooks for delivery Saturday night. The forecast called for rain on top of more rain, so hitting the road sounded like the best plan.

I've admired the landscape in winter, but I come to life when I see the lush greens of the spring. Everywhere I looked I saw, rolling hills shrouded in greens, with a contrast of black dirt for the newly tilled fields waiting for planting, and red barns sitting alongside a white farm house. Classic Americana. I breathed the fresh air deeply.

We awoke the next morning starving for breakfast.  I love google.  Google told us to go to Hell's Kitchen for one of the top breakfast places of downtown Minneapolis.  It was so close we could walk.  Nolan wasn't so sure when he passed under this to go down the stairs inside the restaurant.

Obviously its an establishment for Adults and kids alike.  The smurfs were playing on the tv on the bar.  The kids were entranced.  "Hey mom, those are the "really old" toys you have."  Thanks kids, I never would have predicted that smurfs would one day date me as "ancient." 

This little one wasn't feeling his best and had a gunky nose.  He hasn't missed a day of school for illness this year, and this is hopefully just a case of allergies.

I have three words for you... lemon, ricotta, pancakes!  Wow, I didn't even need butter or syrup.  They were dense, but light.  Flavorful, but not too rich.  I ate the whole plate and crashed and burned on my vegan diet.  I'd stray again for those!

Because the Twins were playing that night, Nolan wanted to go to the souvenir shop and bring his birthday money.  

We had seen a couple of kids leave with newly autographed balls and the hunt was on for where the players were at. 

I still marvel at the architecture of Target Field even though I've been there once before.  The pro shop is below through the glass windows.

The boys heard they should bring something to have autographed and quickly bought baseballs and got in line. Autographs ended at 12:30, and it was 12:25.  I had a proud momma moment when the security officer told the boys the line ended with Nolan. But Nolan spoke up for his brother and said he was coming too and could he please be where the line ended?  How could they refuse?

And this is what they were standing in line for.  Brian Duensing on the right and Matt Capps of the Twins.

Along with Michael Cuddyer,

 Drew Butera,

Matt Capps again, 

And finally a rookie, Rene Rivera.

Another case of Nolan's luck coming through for us.  He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.  He had begged me for hours to take him while Rick drove to get the books.  But Colton not feeling well, made us stay put till Rick got back and could give us a ride.  The timing was perfect.

We did the annual golden glove photo.

And wistfully said goodbye to Target Field.  The game was at 6 and we needed to leave and deliver our load of yearbooks instead.  Even Nolan is going old school sporting an old Santana jersey that is missing a button.  But he didn't care.  We practically had to pry his fingers off the gate to get him to go.  

We left with the promise of a return trip to see a game sometime this summer.  Nolan offered to buy tickets for us... buddy, you got an awful lot of lawns to mow if that is the case! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

"...blooming recklessly..."

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Did you know May is Pampered Chef's Help Whip Cancer month?  So my wonderful neighbor, who is a Pampered Chef consultant, had an open house with a portion of the proceeds going to me!  Would you just look at the amazing spread of food she had!  Everything had a pink theme and was so tasty and delicious.  We had a fun gathering of gals.  I felt rotten on Wednesday for most of the day and was curious about whether or not I could attend.  But there I was, from chemo to a party in just 48 hours... I continue to feel so blessed.  And while I was enjoying myself at the party, another hot and delicious meal had been delivered to our door for the boys to eat. Thank you to the Spaeth family! 

Brenda, with her oldest son Luke.  Thanks Brenda for the fun-filled night!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chemo round 3 in the books...

Chemo round 3 is officially in the books and I feel okay. The fatigue still nags me, but I made up for it by sleeping a lot yesterday. Well as much sleep as you can get when you get company like this at the hospital.

Nolan was reluctant, but I assured him he wouldn't see any blood or needles. He was fine as soon as he saw the remote controls for my recliner, then all was good in his world. The boys sat with me for a bit and we chatted as I tried to keep my heavy eyelids from permanently closing on them.

But soon the nurse came back and had work to do in hanging the next bag of drugs, so the boys got to go to the cafeteria with Dad for some lunch. They brought me a salad for lunch that Colton had made for me. Spinach, lettuce, dried cranberries, carrots and black olips (olives) with a tiny bit of dressing. That boy pays attention and gets it just right. The rest of the afternoon my friend Missy came to visit and the time flew by. I came home and slept hard till dinnertime and woke to a tasty rigatoni made by the Franklin family.

My appetite is good, my tolerance for a variety of food is good, I sleep well, I have little to no pain anymore, and my hair is staying put.  Yes, I have some fatigue and get a little more worn out a little quicker than normal.  I can take that.  I certainly see why there is a lot of  "buzz" on this new "super"-herceptin I have been lucky enough to get.  Herceptin = Hope for so many of us Her2 +++ breast cancer patients. My nurse told me there is even a movie that has been made about the guy who discovered herceptin, just over 10 years ago.  I am excited to research it and will share what I discover.

This is one of those photos I knew I had overlooked and was so relieved when Suzanne sent me a note reminding me of it.  Thank you Blazer family!  Love the photo!

And not only did our Gitzen Girl, Sara, send me a photo of her bracelet, the top blog dog is giving me his best "fight like a girl look" in the background.  Thanks girlie.

I dozed off last night to the sight of this... sigh... its sunset season and I am savoring each one.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 Fargo Marathon

"Letting go of our grip on predictable results and trusting God with our heart offering is one of the most challenging choices we make."  Carol Kent

I stand in the shower trying to wash all the fatigue down the drain. I stand and stand, hoping. As if the water has some kind of energizing ability that enables me to recover some stamina, some strength. But I've hit a wall of sorts this week, and the fatigue has settled deep into my bones. I only half-jokingly asked Rick to carry me to bed the other night. This is supposed to be my "best" week, the week before treatment. But maybe I am just overdoing it. Feeling my aliveness just a bit too much. I don't fault myself for the urgency in which I want to do every. single. thing.

Because I have a new reminder. A new unexpected symptom. The unpredictable creeps back in.  I can't look down anymore when I am getting dressed. Because when I do, I see it now, the cancerous tumor reaching through my skin, ugly, brown, a blight against the whiteness and purity of my otherwise normal skin. I dress with eyes closed, crossing fingers I don't bump it and tear the thinly crusted top that instantly starts to ooze a sticky substance. Its gross. But I have to face it daily.

"Ask Dr. Panwalker about surgery," moves to the top of my list for Monday's appointment. Plus a host of other questions involving blood counts and treatment plans have arisen in the three weeks since I've seen him. He is so good about answering each and every question I have, without making me feel awkward or clumsy in my lack of knowing at times.

Yet, despite how tired I am, I feel satisfied somehow. I have missed very little. I am walking a couple of miles almost daily. I am charting a course for a summer trip we plan to take. I see my toes in the white beach sand and the water of the ocean swirling around my ankles. I can almost taste the fresh seafood I know I will indulge myself. Life continues to be good.

We went to the Fargo Marathon on Saturday in the hopes of catching a glimpse of friends, running with MY name on their backs. What, who me? Not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR friends, running with my name on their backs. I am so deeply humbled they would think of me and carry the idea of me on their backs.

I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse of them running. Rick brought his camera and we stood for hours watching and waiting.  We arrived early at the mile 6 marker at the beautiful campus of Concordia College.  The first runners come in shortly after we arrive.  They are graceful and run with a gentle ease. Yet they are determined; their movement solid, and purposeful.

A pace group arrives shortly.  A 3 hour 10 minute race time is phenomenal.  How many of them will keep pace?  

And then somewhere between the 3:40 and 3:50 pace group, my sweet friend Anne shows up.  She is all decked out in pink and black, strong and sure in her stride.  She lights up when she sees us and blows me a kiss while high fiving the boys along side me.  She is a rockstar in my book.  This is her SEVENTH Fargo marathon.  She has run in it since the first year of the marathon, seven years ago.  She is running this year, in memory of her mom who passed away earlier this spring, and in honor of me.  

As vibrant as Anne looked, the man on the left wearing #115, was looking more tired, a pained expression on his face.  His pace had been faster as he had arrived about the time of the 3:10 group, but the pace and its toll showed in his face.  Ironically, I will see him later again, unbeknownst to me at this time.

Heather in pink is our secretary at the boys' school.  She ran a leg of the marathon relay and was finishing as we left.  She looked like she could have easily done another leg!  Way to go Heather! 

We wait awhile longer, but I have no idea the pace with which the rest of the women are running.  We decide to try our luck in seeing them at the finish line.  The finish line is inside the Fargo Dome and is quite a spectacle to take in.  The vibe and energy surrounding the runners is supercharged.  

They come in under the big sign lit up with spotlights.  An announcer reads their names as their chip records their name and finish time.

The Marathon has over 23,000 participants this year.  

A few minutes taking it all in, and we decide to head back outside to be closer to the runners.  Our friend Ben happens to pass by us on his way to the finish line inside.  He doesn't even notice us, he is focused on the finish.  But my eyes quickly settle on his wrist, the one adorning my bracelet... thanks Ben- congrats on your race! 

And then we see her.  Its Anne again!!  But clearly, she is tired.  Weary.  Her steps measured, barely swinging one leg in front of the other.  I will find out later two toes had turned purple with their circulation being cut off.  She has run in pain for the last 4 miles.  But she has run.  My heart swells with pride.  She has done her momma proud, I just know it.  She is courage and strength personified.  She renews my hope, renews my fight as I watch her conquer the beast of a race!  

Anne hobbles over to my house the next day.  Tired, and sore.  But radiant.  

And on her left, ironically is the guy from above, #115, (I have other photos which show his number clearly) who had been a full 35 minutes ahead of Anne at some point, now side by side with her. He is barely walking, a now continuous tortured look on his face.  Yet, he too I notice,  is crossing the finish line.   

Predictable results?  No, not really for most of us, as much as we crave and rely on it.  But the results can be equally good when we let go. 

I regretfully did not see the rest of the women honoring me.  But my love and admiration for each of them is immense.  Vanessa, Missy, Shelly and Anne, you are amazing women of strength and I am so deeply honored to be friends with you and recipients of your compassionate hearts. 

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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