Saturday, December 31, 2011

My one little word... 2012

How do you follow up your 2011 word when you chose "alive," and then were challenged with all kinds of ways to be alive?  The truth is, I could have chosen any other word, like joy, or hope, or praise, and I would still have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  All of those words were a part of my life, even though they weren't my chosen word- they just helped create that sense of what I was looking for- feeling how alive I am.  So picking one word, just helps us focus our attention.  Its like picking up a lens that helps us sharpen the image, and capture a snapshot of life through the filter of our word.  Then watch as your word shows up in your life, draws you in, chases you down, and opens you up and leaves you changed.

To read more about the idea of picking one little word for a year, read here at Ali Edwards.

My word this year, practically hit me over the head.  It was a rather "dark" day of brooding and reflecting and wanting to climb out of it.  But how?  With so many unknowns suddenly swirling about, and no known answers, how does your heart settle?  How do you anchor yourself in the midst of turbulence?  On that day my daily devotion gave me a seed of an idea.

"God gives us his light in an instant, allowing us to know all that we need to know.  No more is given to us than is necessary in his plan to lead us to perfection."  Saint Catherine of Genoa

She goes on to say: When we're lost or confused, we want to know now- right now- how to find our way toward understanding.  No one likes that feeling of helpless floundering about, especially in dark places!

God freely gives us the understanding we crave... but with just enough light to take the next step.  Just enough light...

Later that same day, I was reading Anne Lamott's book "Bird by Bird," when the same message was driven home in another way.  In her chapter on short assignments she provides these thoughts from E. L. Doctorow who once said "writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."  Ann goes on to say..."you don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination, or everything you will pass along the way.  You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.  This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard."

I hear the message again.... just enough light to see a few feet ahead.

I go to look up the definition of the word light and see 15 different ways in which the word can be used-

a- something that makes vision possible
b- a source of light, i.e. a candle
c-spiritual illumination, i.e. inner light or enlightenment
d- a medium (such as a window) through which light is admitted... etc.  The list goes on...

 My word found me.

This is where I want my lens to be... simply so that when I walk through the valley of darkness, my eyes are trained to see and feel and experience all things "light."  

Happy New Year! 

Have you chosen a word for 2012?  Will you share with in the comments what it is?  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Huskies For a Cure

A few months back, we were standing in Barnes and Noble, Rick and I. I can lose myself in a heady rush of freshly printed pages and coffee smells as soon as I cross the threshold of the door. So I know I wandered a bit on my own. But then I looked up and saw Rick talking with someone.

I think it was preordained. We didn't just accidentally meet. Rick was talking with Dave and Lisa Christian. I've briefly talked with them before, but they are better acquainted with Rick.

As I approached them, Lisa turned to me and reintroduced herself. We chatted causally for a minute. It was Rick who sought my eye and quietly told me in a hushed voice, that Lisa had just been diagnosed with hormone negative breast cancer.

I had heard just the week prior that someone from our "hockey" community had been diagnosed and it would become public knowledge soon. My mind had reeled with the possibilities, and yet as prepared as you are to find out who it is, when you put a name and face with it, it cuts just as deep.

Tears sprang to my eyes, and we gushed, her and I. Lumpectomy? Mastectomy? Treatment? Sanford? Mayo? The kids? The vulnerability? The fear? Fresh tears silently creep for the answer to each question.

How do I offer her grace?



As I search for words, its then I notice where we are all standing.

Can you guess?


Within arms reach is the christian literature book section and front and center is One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. I grab it and put it into her hands. "This is how I do it... this is how to do it." She reaches for that and as she hugs it to her she asks "what else?" I reach again for Francis Chan, "Crazy Love." We peruse more titles till her arms fill and I know she is fortified with the best.

She'll learn the language of cancer soon enough.  It isn't what she needs from me.  Faith and hope in a steady supply is what she will need.

They have dinner plans with friends and have to rush off. The "sisterhood" has widened by one more. We've gone from acquaintances to cancer sistas in moments.

Thank goodness I know her family and how they will love her through it. And the hockey community will rise up and embrace her as well. But everything she needs filled her arms and then some on that day.


So last week Rick showed up with this for me.  Jordy Christian, nephew of Dave and Lisa from above, donated a generous gift of money to breast cancer research in my name.  Jordy plays Division I hockey for St. Cloud State University and we've been lucky enough to watch him all through his high school playing days right up to now.  I had instant tears for the way his own family has now been touched by breast cancer and how his thoughtful gesture touched me.  I apparently haven't eaten enough cookies for it to fit me, so I've attached it to my purse and carry it with me.

Almost every year when he comes home for Christmas, Jordy invites our boys to come and play some hockey with him.  This year the weather made for a perfect outdoor hockey outing.

I could see the excitement in the eyes of my boys as they got their gear ready that morning.  They were going to play hockey on the frozen pond on the golf course behind Jordy's house.  And with the bright blue sky and the sun streaming down, the conditions were perfect for Rick to take photos.  

Colton put on his goalie gear and here he is taking on Jordy's brother Bryant.  Bryant is a Moorhead Spud hockey player and plays for our high school team which is currently undefeated.  Both Nolan and Colton have dreams of playing for the Spuds one day.

Nolan was in heaven just being able to skate outside in temperatures that were mild and warm.  And taking on both a Division I hockey player and a Moorhead Spud at the same time put a little jump in his step.

They even had a rookie skating with them (in white) the entry level for hockey players in our youth program.  

I asked Nolan if he fell since he wasn't wearing any pads... he said a quick no, and then smiled and said once, sort of.  Hmmm, Jordy claims he had NOTHING to do with it... but his stick placed in the blade of Nolan's skate begs to differ... ha ha.  

In photo after photo, all you could see were beaming faces.  Its a rare treat on many levels to play outside in mild temps in December in Minnesota.  Its an even rarer treat to play with a Husky and a Spud both with the name Christian.  

Our younger boys look up to and want to be just like the big guys.  They see all the talent, the skill, the speed they have.  They're starting to understand the hard work it takes, and how you have to increase your understanding of the game all the time.  But what they don't know, is that it takes a big heart to be an exceptional player and a role model.  It takes a mother's eyes to see the bigness of Jordy's and Bryant's hearts- and trust me, they're big, really, really big.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

The Christmas of 2011 will not soon be forgotten, because of the things it both was and wasn't. And by wasn't, well it wasn't white. And I am perfectly fine with that. Because as our pictures over the next couple of days will show, we've been outside enjoying the temperate weather. Its been sunny, warm in the 40's and completely enjoyable.  Its a gift all on its own.

I have to admit by the time Christmas Eve came around I was exhausted. Just plain worn out.  So I put the camera down and soaked it all in. Saturday afternoon brought the most awesome surprise. Dinner! Cooked by three friends the night before- either for freezing or for eating. And so we ate! It was so tasty and delicious, it got our night started off right! Thank you Angie, Jen and Julie!

Colton, was beaming after opening his gifts.  His little list had the most inexpensive small items you could ask for.  It was a pleasure buying him Pokemon cards, Lego sets, and Beyblades. But we snuck one surprise in, Rick found a Pokemon DS game and Colton screamed with joy when he saw it.  "Dad, I didn't ask for this but I always wanted it!!"  He was so easy to please and you could see his heart expanding with joy.  It was pretty contagious.

And Nolan was a blur of activity all night.  His list looked nothing like Colton's except it was short.  It was a bit more "Caviar wishes and Champagne dreams..." And well, he'll have to keep dreaming!  We did buy him an NHL hockey game he had asked for.  And he was still happy with the remaining gifts, although they weren't close to what he thought he wanted. 

We tried to surprise mom by showing up at her church, ( my childhood church) and attend service with her.  But she had the same idea and had already called us from OUR church earlier in the afternoon, wondering where in the heck we were?  She managed to make it back over to her church to sit with us in time for the service.  

The solo for the night was Breath of Heaven, which is one of the songs my friend Gitz recorded when she could still sing.  I was filled with remembering her and my Dad and so many others who have gone before us. 

I awoke early to try out my new waffle maker.  Colton and Rick had gone shopping for some "family" presents.  Do you know what they decided?  They would look for "memory making gifts," so we all could make some memories together.  So I got a waffle maker, and an ice cream maker so we can start some memory making traditions together.  Love that kid and his dad.  

We then jumped in the car and headed to Rick's mom and dad's lake by Park Rapids.  It was warm, the roads were clear and the sky was bright blue.  As we drove I plugged some earbuds into my cellphone and looked to see what music I had to play.  Only 5 songs were downloaded, but I smiled for joy when I realized Sara's rendition of "Breath of Heaven," was one of the 5!  So I put it on and listened to her pure and beautiful voice sing.  

In my head I wondered what her first Christmas in Heaven must be like and if she could feel me as much as I feel her sometimes.  I felt a smidge silly "talking" to someone like this.   Suddenly, I swear, at almost the same time I was thinking this, a huge flock of birds flew up out of the trees creating a huge commotion.  We all startled and went "what was that?" But I laughed thinking it would be just like Sara to answer me back, grabbing my attention with those birds.  

Christmas Day was filled with so many of our favorite things.  Family, good food, lots of activity for the kids, and amazing weather.  

Aunt Missy and Colton putting his Hotwheels track together. He was entertained all afternoon. 

Even Crosby enjoyed the wide open spaces of the lake country.  He ran and played and non stop all afternoon.  I was so psyched to accidentally get an "action"shot on my little camera.  

The ice was thick and took Rick a long time to hand-auger a hole through the ice so they could fish.  

I had already gone for a long walk and so I zoomed in with my camera from the top of the hill- therefore the photos are not sharp, but it was good enough for me.

And Nolan?  Was in hockey, ice- heaven.  Just a boy and his dog, with an entire lake at their disposal, enjoying mother nature at her finest.  The moments don't get any better than this.

Sara was kind enough to "share" her music with us and allows the download of it so I am therefore able to share with all of you.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

holding on... choosing Him

" is hard, unfair, painful. But life is also guaranteed- to offer unexpected and sudden moments of beauty, joy, love, acceptance, euphoria. It is our ability to recognize and then hold on to the moments of good stuff that allows us to survive, even thrive. And when we can share the beauty, hope is restored." 

Muriel Barberry, The Elegance of the Hedgehog 

I've kept this on my computer stand because it's beautiful, it came as a surprise gift from a beautiful soul, and I've needed the reminder in big doses.  Thank you Mary.  In fact, just look at all the things that landed at my feet while I was on the hunt for joy.

Snow!  Its warm outside and it isn't guaranteed to stay.  I'll take it!  Its as close to a white Christmas as we'll get. Yep, I snoozed through the weather last night and it came as a complete surprise.  Last year at this time we already had two feet of it!  We're setting records of another kind and spirits around here reflect the warmth and reprieve from a harsh winter thus far.  

My clever and creative and funny and beautiful friend Amy made these- out of hockey socks!  They're felt on the inside for warmth, in our school colors, and they have a skate lace for decoration!  What hockey-loving person wouldn't adore these?  She is selling them for $20 and you should email me for details if you'd like to know about getting some for yourself! 

These are from my other beautiful, clever, crafty, and all things love-filled friend, Robin.  Sigh... I adore her and she knows how to bring comfort and warmth like no other.  

So you all came out in droves of support ... literally.  Goodies came to my door, my email is bursting at the seams, and the cards and letters have stuffed our mailbox.  Plus, some very, very, extremely generous people have stepped up to ensure our Christmas is Merry.  We're honored and humbled.  

I've steeped in your words of faith, hope, healing and love.  

They were a balm to my battered mind and spirit.  

My daily devotional today had this message: He could have roared on top of a mountain, but he whispered in the voice of a baby.  He could have ordered our obedience; instead he calls for our hearts.  Choose Him.  - Sheila Walsh

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A mixed bag...

Do not be afraid of tomorrow; for God is already there. ~Author Unknown

Dr. Panwalkar walked into the exam room yesterday and exclaimed... "Vicky, you're famous!"  It seems that everyone at Sanford and Roger Maris reads the newspaper.  

He brought up the scans on the computer and started showing me the "slices" or "frames" that the scans take.  He pointed out the anatomy as we went, orienting me to the view.  I flashback to my anatomy /physiology class in grad school.  Our professor had decided that in order for us to really learn the brain, we needed a med school book.  I needed a dictionary and interpreter most of the way through the book. It all comes rushing back to me as I stare at the image of my very own brain.  Each part flashes in my mind as I blink, cerebellum, blink, cerebrum, blink, brain stem, blink.

Honestly, despite all of the long names of the anatomy, it looks like shadows in varying shades of smoky grey, with white splotches appearing every now and again.  Frame after frame everything appears normal.

Until he slowed and suddenly in the brain, there appeared the same white blob.  Blink.  He said, "its unchanged.  It didn't grow.  Its still lighting up which it normally doesn't do."  Perplexed I said, "but not cancer?"  "no, he said, we DO think its cancer.  Blink, blink.  In three weeks time, it went from being not a cancer, to probably a cancer.  "We just don't know what it is. Since it hasn't changed, we don't do anything for now."  

I am immediately trying to disseminate all that this means.  I realize the variables are confounding.  It won't go away on its own.  But it could just lie there for a long time.  Or it could grow, fast or slow, or maybe in ways that are hard to decipher.  Will I come off the study and go through a wash out of my current chemo to start a new one?  Will we try to radiate it?  Will I have brain surgery?  These are all possibilities and I know, he can't predict any more than I can at this point.  Questioning him won't give me the results I desire. Gulp.

As I am pondering this chess like move my cancer has made, I am completely caught off guard as Dr. Panwalkar proceeds to my CT scan.  While the lymph node tumors remain stable, as does the spot in my spine, something new has cropped up. Blink. Blink again.

This time we look at my lungs.  Again, frame after frame passes by, until suddenly a tiny white wisp of appears on one single frame.  It disappears on the next frame.  Its the tiniest blip.  He confirms its tiny, 3mm... which is too small for a PET scan to accurately reflect if it is cancer.  Its also too small to biopsy.  In fact, it could be a small infection that I have that will resolve on its own. 

Again, we will watch and wait.  Lung surgery?  Radiation?  New chemo?  How many drugs does it take to fend off possible brain and lung mets?  Deep breath.

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.  ~Leo Buscaglia

He examines me.  I'm remarkably fine.  I'm the healthiest looking "sick" person you've ever seen.  I will continue on with the study drug and have scans in a couple of months.

He walks me back to the infusion center where I am instantly grabbed by one of the nurses and given a huge hug.  I usually fly under the radar at chemo.  Dr. Panwalkar slips away as I am escorted off to my room amidst lots of smiles and compliments on the newspaper article.  The good natured spirits of the chemo nurses buoy me and I am swept away in a tidal wave of positive energy.  They flow in and out of my room, each one bringing me a smile, a hug, an encouragement- an acknowledgement.  

I am still hopeful.  I am still counting gratitude.  But I am human, and everything is tinged with a tiny sadness.  So I am sitting with the sad today, and blinking in the sunlight trying to force its way through the clouds.   I know I will resurrect the joy.  The giddy and the merry are there in the messy, I just need to dig a little to find them again.  Sigh...  

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Wild excursion

I didn't forget! I just haven't stopped running since we returned.  Rick and I left last Wednesday morning for our two day excursion... to St. Paul. On the surface this may not seem like a big deal, but the excitement factor for me in particular was huge. I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I've never.... been to a Wild game. I have been to the Xcel Energy Center more times than I can count, but I've never actually seen a real NHL game!

At the beginning of every NHL season, Rick contacts the media person for The Wild and asks if he can come photograph some of their games. Its well known, that Matt Cullen, #7 for The Wild, is a Moorhead native. The Wild randomly select a few of the dates Rick requests and let him come shoot at those games.  Rick tries to shoot photos of Matt for his to use for posters for Matt and Bridget's Cully's Kid's Foundation. 

And this time? Thanks to Matt and his wife Bridget, I got to come too.  We found a discounted hotel room nearby and were able to walk to the Excel Energy Center.  The Wild were playing the Chicago Blackhawks and we were in for a thrilling game!

We arrived really early so Rick could get set up.

The arena was packed- with over 19,000 in attendance.  

We've watched Jonathan Toews, #19,  play in college at UND many times, but haven't seen him play for the Blackhawks.  

The night before the Chicago game, the Wild had been in Winnipeg to play the Jets.  Matt was visibly absent from the line-up.  We wondered if we'd even get to see him play.  But then we saw him.

Admittedly the first period was rather flat and the crowd was fairly quiet... but then...

A fight broke out.  And as most fights do, it served the purpose of getting the teams all revved up, and the crowd along with the teams.  

And then, look who was in the perfect position to knock one in?  #7! 

Way to go Matt- love those victory shots after the goal! 

All of our kids try to flex their sticks, but they can't quite do it like the pros can- look at his stick! 

Bridget arrived right after the game got under way.  She is directly to the right of me in the photo below. I am so intently focused on the game, and trying to listen to her at the same time.  And do you know what she is telling me?  The reason Matt missed the Winnipeg game is because he caught the flu- from either Bridget or one of this three boys.  So Tuesday night he got two bags of fluids in an iv, and Wednesday morning he got two more!  He was skating on a bit of pasta in his stomach and some gatorade after nonstop stomach flu ran through his entire family, including himself. And he not only poured his heart and soul into the game- he scored!  

The game ended in a 3-3 tie.  After a scoreless OT period, the game went to a shootout!  I was getting the full meal deal!  And Matt was picked to shoot first.  Bridget said I had to hold her hand while she closed her eyes.  We were both so wound up with emotion.  If we could have willed the puck in on our own, it so would have gone.  Except, it didn't.  And neither did the next Wild shooter.  But the Blackhawks managed to find the back of the net, and the Wild lost in a shootout.  

I had a hard time feeling too bad.  It was such a great game to watch.

I splurged that night.  I bought myself a Christmas present.  I bought my own Wild jersey.  And after seeing the way Matt played?  I was seriously teary eyed knowing how weak and tired he must have felt.  But he gutted it out.  He could have taken the night off, but he didn't.  I was only semi-shy in waiting downstairs for the team to come out of the locker room.  I simply told him I knew, for other reasons, what its like to gut it out sometimes.  He totally inspired me and I was grateful to get the chance to say so.  

After the game, Rick and I walked over to the St. Paul hotel for a late night appetizer.  St. Paul was lit up and festive and downtown was lively with people coming and going.

The next day I spent at the Mall of America doing some Christmas shopping while Rick drove to the plant to pick up some game programs.  I looked, and I looked, and looked some more.  But I was so filled from the day before, I felt like I needed nothing.  Maybe that is the best Christmas present of all.  

I feel like a broken record- but I simply can't say it enough.  Thank you.  For showing up, and reaching out, and reading and honoring me in all the ways you do.  

Wound clinic tomorrow, and Dr. Panwalkar on Tuesday for results of my tests, and chemo.  

Think this would make proper chemo attire?  I just might...

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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