Friday, August 28, 2015

fleeting normal...

It's already been over a week since I saw Dr. Panwalkar, and I'm just starting to get out of bed a little more.  So I am stepping back into that day, to catch up on everything.


He strides into the room, his presence commanding, his demeanor pleasant and professional.  The questions start volleying between us instantly.  Him, doctor, me, patient.   It's this dance that we do, peeling back the layers of, "really, how are you doing?"

"I'm okay, good, (shoulder shrug,) okay."

But as he rattles off the side effects I may be experiencing, it seems my response is yes, more than no.  

"9 days,"  I tell him.  "9 days down."  

"In bed?"  he asks, incredulously.

"Well I get up every day, hoping, I can stay up.  But it's usually a matter of hours, before I'm quietly retreating back to my room.  So yes, mostly in bed."

He quietly nods, with concern cornering his eyes.

But, I've grown better at disguising the misery.  Despite the weight I keep gaining, swelling my abdomen, my arms, my face.  Despite the pale tinge to my skin, the sunken eyes, the sores covering my tongue.  The rash now creeping up the back of my head.

The fatigue. Oh my...  The fatigue.

But on this day, I've taken special care.  My wig is straight, my make up is on, and I'm fully dressed.  At a glance, I look perfectly fine.  

So I surprise him, when I say, "the weight gain is really uncomfortable, and I have little to wear, because I don't like to shop anymore."  

He literally takes a step back from examining me.  He is always impeccably dressed.  Business shirt, tie, dress pants, dress shoes.  Long white coat.  

"You don't shop anymore?  Why not?  How long has this been happening?  

I stumble, trying to ascertain just how long its been.  Months.  

I'm just too tired.  And the stores overwhelm me.  And this is me, just being real.

My professional side that I present to him, doesn't match the "mess," I truly am.

What would he say if he knew, I rarely have energy to clean, either? And cooking went out the door a long time ago.  

But my doctor,  gets to see me at my best.  The very hour before I lay open my chest, to the needle that will pour the cancer eaters,  into my veins.  

So I'm unprepared once again, for his final comments.  "You seem to be tolerating the treatment well!  We will go ahead with treatment 3, and then we'll scan the first week in September and go from there."

It's then that a phone begins to "bing," and I cast my glance towards Rick, but he shakes his head no, it's not his.

It's Dr. Panwalkar who says, "It's me, I don't use my pager anymore, Sanford pages me now, through my phone."

But he doesn't check it.  It merely continues to rapidly fire off notifications, as Dr. P wraps up his notes about our visit.  I marvel at how he musters staying present and focused on me.

He finishes, and turns towards the door, apologizing as his phone continues to sing its song of tortured urgency.  

I give him my best cheesy line... 

"Well, I think that is what you get if you are an On-call-ogist." 

His hearty laugh bursts out, as he shakes his head, and ushers me out the door, and down the hall.

I turn to say goodbye, and he smiles as he rubs my back a couple of times before he jaunts off.  


And so many people have asked, how can I help you?  And I'm humbled, and stymied at the same time.  If we come up with a specific need, we'll ask, I promise, thank you for offering.

In the meantime, the simplest things have meant so much.  I have some long days resting in bed, and its so easy to feel disconnected.  So when the beautiful flowers, from my friend, (photo above) Brenda, show up?  They truly brighten my day.  Or when Heidi, my aunt Carol, or Dawn, bakes and drops off bread or treats for our kids? Their eyes light up, and we quickly devour it- which brings me joy. 

When my bestie shows up, and spends a whole afternoon with me?  My spirits soar. 

Or the texts, and emails?  So encouraging.

I'm still filling my gratitude journal, counting my gifts, truly sifting through the grit, to fully see the glory.

Even though, the world shrinks some days, the light still finds it way through.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


" 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 Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The last week has been filled with both those moments of the hard and the gritty that take you to your knees, and yet, those moments of good have pulled me up again, with enough grace to keep me surviving- and to keep me thriving.  But let me explain...

It started with the grocery fairy making its way to our front door once again, well over a week ago.  It was my father-in-law, Jim, at home with Colton, who answered the door and then called me, while I was out of town with Nolan and Rick.  "The delivery person says he has 30 bags of groceries... hehe.  Is that possible they're all meant for you?"  I assure him they could be.  He goes on to say there is roast beef, and hamburgers, plus snacks, and drinks, and everything in between. With our fridge in the garage having stopped working, we just have the one.  So Jim graciously makes space in his freezer, and fridge for the extras.  The abundance is staggering and our blessings go through the roof. Groceries line our counters, the cupboards, and our stomachs!  Thank you to the grocery god for his provision.  We have no clear idea who it could be?  We're just so thankful and have enjoyed "breaking bread" with others.

Last Tuesday night, I had the honor of having my name nominated to be used on a jersey for an Embrace Breast Cancer awareness event at the Redhawks game.  You can see the players in the bright pink, in front of the stands.  We were fortunate that although it was a hot day, a light breeze provided some relief as did the shade over our seats.  With Rick booked solid with photo shoots, both day and night now, it was Jim, Colton and I who attended the game.

You can see my name, surrounded by other breast cancer "survivors," on the back of the jersey.  They were auctioned off, some during the game, and others afterwards in a live auction.  As much as I would have liked to have one,  it was ok to just see them in person and feel so honored to be a part of it.  Thank you Sanford and the Embrace program for the honor to be included!

But my week was only warming up, with one more big event on the horizon.

“Family was even a bigger word than I imagined, wide and without limitations, if you allowed it, defying easy definition. You had family that was supposed to be family and wasn't, family that wasn't family but was, halves becoming whole, wholes splitting into two; it was possible to lack whole, honest love and connection from family in lead roles, yet to be filled to abundance by the unexpected supporting players.” 

― Deb CalettiThe Secret Life of Prince Charming

Last summer was the 10th and "the last," Cully's Kids big event weekend.  But the one sentiment everyone clung too, was how much they would miss all the people who poured forth so much time and energy helping, creating, organizing, volunteering... it was a community of people who all had the same mission in mind- to make the event as successful as possible.  A community that had grown close over the past 10 years, into more...  like an extended family.

This summer,  the card arrived... a "thank you," note, with an invitation to gather, once again.

The day of the event did not disappoint.  The photos speak for themselves.

We've kept in contact all summer, but this was finally the first time I got to see my sweet friend, Bridget, all summer.

So many of our friends attended the fun night.  I put my camera down for awhile, just to talk, and take it all in.

More of our hockey moms getting to spend an evening together.

Nikki, Melissa, and Heather- who all have sons the same age as Nolan.

It was lush and green, with sunlight streaming everywhere.

I finally picked up my camera towards the end of the night for a few more photos.  My sweet friend, Julie, who still has her pink and black Team Vicky bracelet on... her unwavering support another touchstone for me.  

This friend, Matt, who just lights you up, because he and his wife, Bridget, have a way of making it be all about you when you are with them.  

I was whipped by the end of the night.  But the beautiful setting, the tasty and delicious food, and all the time spent surrounded by friends- sharing from their hearts- does it not clearly register on my face how I feel?  These are the moments, made with these people, that I cling to, in my will to not just survive, but thrive.

For now I'll pause here, even though there is more.  

But I'm preparing for my 3 chemo cocktail tomorrow, and a visit with Dr. Panwalkar in which we will discuss, where I go from here...  

I may be down and out for a week or so... but I'll be 'round soon.  

Love to you all~ 

Monday, August 10, 2015


It's already been a full week, since Nolan left.

I try to think back to when the dream began?  Was he 3, 5 or 6 maybe?  He loved the NHL hockey player, Sidney Crosby.  He read about Crosby's hockey history, and wrote reports about him for school.  We turned his entire bedroom into a "Penguins," theme with grey walls, black bedding and decals everywhere.  

He named our dog, "Crosby," for Pete's sake.  Could we be any more obsessed?  

Imagine his sheer delight, to discover, "Sid the kid," had gone to school in Minnesota.  Sidney had attended school, and played hockey at Shattuck- St. Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota.  

Nolan just longed to visit the campus.

Flash forward all these years, and the list of NHL players that Nolan admires has grown more diverse.  So many qualities, in so many of them, to look up to.  But his admiration for Sid, has never waned.

So when fate and opportunity knocked on our door?  How could we not help achieve a childhood dream for our son?

Earlier this spring, Nolan was accepted into a hockey camp at Shattuck, for two weeks.  Last Sunday, the long awaited day arrived.  Rick would drive Nolan the 5 hours to his hockey camp. 

Tears streamed all morning for me.  Nolan has never left before.  Never been gone for longer than a sleepover, somewhere close by.  He tried to reassure me.  "Mom, it will go quick and I'll be back before you know it."  

But I finally put into words, what wasn't readily apparent.

"Nolan, these are happy tears, I promise.  I will miss you, so very much.  But I am so happy you get to go!"  

Plus, the pile of wood had showed up, just when I needed it most.

I've felt so vulnerable lately.  Depleted in energy.  Inability to see very far down the road.  There have been some long, quiet, and lonely days, open for much reflection.

Have we been doing the right things?  Have we been good stewards of our gifts?  Do we bless others as we have been blessed?  

As I've wrestled with these very big things, a pile of wood with a number on it, landed in our front yard.

And the number?  Is my mother's old house address.

My mom. 

With a message, coming through, loud and clear.

The address of her old house, that we just sold, in trying to settle her estate and pay off her debt, with a tiny bit left when its all done.  My mother's estate, that is seeing us through some of the big changes we face.  (The 1703 is most likely a job number, but the irony of the meaning for us is no coincidence.) 

It feels like a wink from her, from Him, saying, "it's okay."  

 So I assure Nolan,  I hope he feels, Grandma, and all of us, are happy he gets to go to camp.   

That day he left, I threw on a hat and threw my arms around him, holding on tight as long as I could.  What I love about this kid?  He held me, just as hard, just as long, his strength and maturity climbing to new levels, as we parted ways.

Hours later, I receive this photo, via text from Rick.  This is the main entrance to the campus at Shattuck-St. Mary's.  It's simply breathtaking.

Gradually, each day, I've felt a little better.  I've been able to be on my feet for increasing amounts of time.  Some color has come back to my face, and my breathing and heart rate are not so laborious again.

So on Friday, Rick made a small bed for me in the back of the truck.  We had yearbooks to pick up, just an hour away from Faribault, and Nolan.

Friday at dinnertime, we arrived at Shattuck to see Nolan.

Here is the entrance to Whipple Dormitory, where Nolan is staying.

The fascinating details lurking behind every turn.

I'm breathing so hard, and I couldn't care less.  I'm pushing through, camera in hand, trying to take it all in.

A long walk across campus to the ice arena to pick up hockey gear.

Loved this philosophical statement on the side of the building.  Its the heart of what the hockey development camp is all about.

The ice arena is filled with memorabilia from former students and players.  Sidney Crosby to the left, Zach Parise above, as Nolan walks on ahead through the doors.  

Then back we go, through the old buildings on our way to the car.

But I skipped forward,  just a bit, as the church beckoned me up ahead.

First, this prayer circle off to the side.  The peace welling within was unmistakable.

Nolan had called one night during his free time and said "Mom, I just feel so much peace."  Amen.  

And then this...  

So aptly named, Chapel of the Good Sheperd.  Its an Episcopalian Church, and I longed to see inside, but we were in a hurry to gather Nolan, and his friend, and leave for a day.

The next day?  We arrived in Brainerd, for a hockey tryout for Nolan.  

But in between the try-out sessions?  We knew just where to go... Zorbaz on Gull Lake.

The boys quickly paired off for some beach volleyball, while the adults settled under a shady tree, listening to the live music.  

Boats cruised in and out of the dock area, as the perfect day rendered us quiet, and happy to just be there enjoying it.

Nolan and his hockey friends had a great time, taking it easy for a bit, before they headed back to their final session.  (Here I am eating my words.  I took the picture saying I wouldn't post it and merely texted it,  but then it surfaced on Instagram-hehe)

Later that night, Nolan and his friend Ben headed back to Shattuck, to finish their last week of hockey camp.

Rick and I headed back to Moorhead.  

I am happy, exhausted in some ways, and revived in many others.

I have a full week ahead, and so much more to share.  

~all shall be well~

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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