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.  


  1. I read..and read...and tears came. because this is NOT easy at all! and when I finished reading...the very first thought that came to mind... was very true and real! That thought was,
    I Love you Vicky Westra!

    I love you for your honesty, your gentle heart, your vulnerability, I love you for your Grace, your fear, your want for everything, and your trust and looking for all the beauty in the little things. I love you for sharing those parts that are so human, so real! But most of all, I LOVE WHO YOU ARE....THE SOUL YOU ARE. The one that amazes me every single Day! And even tho I know, Our heavenly father loves us all! I cant help but think he has a extra sprinkle for you proud he is off you, how he beams at all the goodness and love that makes you, you!
    Many prayers always....and so much love! (he see's your longing and heart...he truly see's it...he see's...more then you know :)

    1. You're so sweet, Peggy- I could say so much of this about YOU. I think you're right- the "more than we know" part has me shaking my head in agreement. All my love to you!

  2. i love this quote and the many hues of those gorgeous flowers you captured--magic!

    i wish it wasn't this hard. you are walking it out the only way through. i am glad you feel safe to admit that it's hard to be experiencing all the side effects that skew the way you see yourself. i can only imagine how i'd cope.

    i see you, friend, and what i see is beautiful. and i agree with Peggy Sue. He does see all of everything that's inbetween these lines and unsaid. nothing is hidden from Him. i am thankful for the truth of Psalm 40:5: many, O Lord my God, many are the great works You have done, and Your thoughts toward us. No one can compare with You! If I were to speak and tell of them, there would be too many to number.

    HOW MANY His thoughts are toward you!

    Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, said this about God: As you focus your thoughts on Me, be aware that I am fully attentive to you. I see you with a steady eye because My attention span is infinite.

    1. I love how you followed up Peggy's idea about Him seeing more than we can know... thankful for the bible verses as always- and I have had my nose buried in my Jesus Calling too- and this is so relevant- thankful for your perspective as always.

  3. Vicky, I wish it was not this way, and my heart is full of tenderness towards you and your suffering. You have my absolute respect and my prayers.

    Once again I am so thankful for your wonderful doctor.

    Thanks for being real with us.

    Love and prayers, Susan

    1. Thankful to always, faithfully, have you stop in, Susan, and leave such encouragement. Love to you~

  4. We all love Dr. P, as you affectionately call him, and I know you put on a pretty front, and a brave one. But I do marvel that he doesn't realize how rough the going is with this and that cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. are things that GO in the face of pain, nausea, weakness, and that the energy left goes toward being there for yourself and those you love. I think if you haven't walked through cancer or another serious illness maybe you just CAN'T know.

    And YOU, dear Vicky, keep giving him and all of us the gift of humor, of depth, of encouragement because cancer can NEVER take away who you ARE - and you are all these things and so much more. I bet he lights up when he sees your name on his schedule knowing he will be better for having been with you.

    Thank you for telling it like it is and helping people understand that even though the countenance may be lovely and the attitude as good as can be, there are things that cannot be disguised, like energy and ability, and that sometimes merely crossing the finish line of BEING at the end of the day is a race run well. I haven't walked this path but I have walked some incredibly hairy ones. I won't say I know just how you feel. I DON'T. But I know what it is to wonder if you can survive when only your family truly knows how life is for you and I am cheering you from the stands. Screw shopping. Getting through this round of chemo? Olympic gold right there.

    One of your biggest fans,

    Love You.

    1. Robynn, you have such a keen sense for all of this, and yes, your paths are different, but you do know what hard and heavy feel like. You are very astute in your observations and they ring true. I know if I spoke candidly with Dr. P specifically about all of these things, he would offer to change treatment if I wanted him to. He would always honor my requests. But I know, for now, I truly need to do this, as long as I can. At some point, I know he will adjust the dosage, or stop it altogether, or we'll try something else. As hard as it is, for now, until I know how its working, I have to muster through. It perhaps goes without saying, it could be worse, and only God knows how we'll get through if and when that time presents itself.

      Thanks for cheering me on- its exactly what I need right now- and I feel your love and strength so much. Grateful~ so very grateful for you!

  5. You continue to amaze me with your brave face, in spite of everything that's going on. Thoughts and prayers, woman, as always.

    1. I think I am just trying to talk myself into staying the course- not feeling brave at all- but you're kind to think so :) Thankful to have you with me and I pray you are doing well!

  6. Courage doesn't always roar.
    Sometimes courage is the quiet
    voice at the end of the day saying...
    "I will try again tomorrow."

    Oh my sweet friend. I so wish I could fly to Moorehead right this very minute, quietly knock on your door and ask Rick where the cleaning supplies are so I could take that load off your mind and heart. I so wish I could be there and make my "famous" chicken and artichoke dish
    and serve it to Colton with sparking cider, to help put a smile on his face. I so wish I could take those side effects away so you would rest and revitalize and have that
    "normal" day you wrote about at the start of this post. I so wish I could give Dr. P a hug and thank him for being there for you and for the small rub on your back that says he knows how hard this is, this battle you fight with such courage.

    While I can't be in Moorhead this morning...what I CAN do is to tell you in no uncertain terms that I LOVE YOU, dear heart. I can tell you that you have a legion of prayer warriors praying , non-stop, 24/7. I can tell you that when you share your life so authentically you help me to appreciate each "normal day" even more. To not take the days I have been given for granted.
    I CAN tell you that God is using you in powerful ways as you hold His hand... as you face these
    hard, hard side effects. I can tell you that you are my dear "soul sis" no matter what. Always.
    I am on that old truck with you through each winding turn.

    Your quiet courage, dear Vicky, helps me be more courageous each day.

    I love you to the moon and back, soul-sis!

    1. Your words always leave me weepy, with gratitude and a mixture of everything right from the heart. So grateful for you and your gift with words and how you use them for me! Love you, Linda- more than words :)

  7. Norman IS fleeting, but then so is extraordinary, which YOU ARE!
    Love and hugs through these tough times.

    1. You are TOO kind, Kass- but love having you see me through. Each time my own phone buzzes and I see the smiling face appear with the comment, I swear my heart soars :) Love to you~

  8. I am in awe of your courage and continually keep you in my prayers, dear Vicky.

    1. Katie- I am so grateful for those prayers, I believe they are what see me through all of this!

  9. Hey Miss Vicky, We should get some elastic waist or no waist pants for you...You won't be a size bigger than normal forever...???? Let me know. Off to Alex to watch your little guy, (that has grown into a tall guy) play like a champ again.....If they win today, they go to Chicago....Amazing!!!! Love you to the moon and back....PS....You DO look fabulous, i said that to Russ and he said, "But she always does"! He doesn't talk a lot but when he does, it is truth. xoxoxoxooxoxooxox

    1. Yes, would love your help in finding elastic waist anything, or no waist- either would work to get me by. So glad you, and coach Russ :) have been able to be with our Colton. I pray they continue their streak and win big today! Wouldn't Chicago be a blast? Thankful for all you do for us! xoxo

  10. I am in the room with you--Actually,it's as if I'm in your pocket, right next to your heart as I read your soul-words.

    You write with Guts and Grace and Strength and Courage and Honesty.

    Thank you for trusting us with your heart. What a gift....

    All my love,

  11. You have such gifts. Plural. So many wonderful gifts, my friend.
    Your words.
    They lift me up...and hold me close to the One who created us....Who sustains us....and Who will always be with us and take care of us. You share His love through your words of living through your fight with Cancer. You pray for others. You take precious time from your day to stop by my blog and leave precious comments. You leave a trail of wonderful glitter wherever you go. You do. You are precious to me.
    I wish I could do more to help you....but I do want you to know that you, my friend, are and always will be on my prayer list. I covet your prayers as well. It's what we do for each other ....and to Glorify our Lord. Through it all. Through it all......
    Love you much,

  12. You are amazing, as always. I would say that I don't know how you do it, but I do. You do the best you can, one day at a time. I've done it, and there are times in our lives, when nothing else will do. Sending you hugs dear Vicky. And a ton of love.

  13. I came back to read this again, and a bonus is to read the words of love and support from your beautiful friends.

    I imagine you're feeling weary from all the bravery that is required, daily - remember, underneath are the everlasting arms.

  14. you are such a gift Vicky!!
    love and prayers!

  15. Oh, I HATE when the oncologist or nurse seems to brush aside side effects as if they're nothing. It seems out of character for Dr. P. You can know that we're all praying for you and pulling for you, and it certainly seems as if you have a lovely, supportive community who sees you and recognizes the different ways they can be a blessing to your family.

  16. Sunday, September 6
    I came back to let you know that I prayed for you today....and that I am thinking of you.
    Love you, my friend.

  17. Been praying for you and hoping you are feeling better.


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