Friday, May 26, 2017

...become a lake

“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only things you can do is to enlarge your sense of things.... Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

-from an aging Hindu master taken from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

As I look at this pic of me, and I sit trying to cobble together some words, I think, how the heck was this just merely a week ago?  I was all scrub-faced, cleansed, and ready to go into surgery.  They'd be coming for the "walk" soon.  You don't often see people walking to the OR by themselves.  But as long as you can move under your own power, why not?  So not only do you walk into the OR on your own, but you also place yourself on the table.  I had to keep scootching myself down the table to get in just the right spot.  Then they grabbed the line accessing my port and gave me a little "Mai Tai party concoction" to put me in twilight land... except my tolerance has grown... so we chatted a bit more before I clunked out.  

Waking up is always a sketchy experience to me.  I feel like I've gone somewhere, and I'm trying to "come back" but where the heck am I again?  I just feel shooting pain, and my words will only come out, one at a time.  So I say "Pain, pain, pain... there... as I poke the right side of my stomach."  They ask what it is on the pain scale and I say, 9? 9? 9?  My thoughts perseverate... until suddenly I start to relax into my recliner, and I calmly say, "8,"  just once, and slowly smile.  

I hear someone say, "thank goodness, she got a lot of fentanyl, and should be good for quite awhile."

I smile again and shake my head up and down, "7," I say and smile.  

But just as suddenly my stomach churns and my eyes grow big as I say,

"Vomit....ohhhh vomit, quick."

My nurse, thankfully is more than quick!  She grabs the plastic green bag, and just as quickly cracks open a vial of peppermint oil with jojoba.  She runs it past my nose a couple of times, and then lays in on my chest, so that I continue to breathe it in.  And it works!!  Slowly my stomach calms and as I feel like I'm drifting off to sleep, they say. "So are you ready for toast?  If you can eat, you'll be able to go home soon!"  

But the thought of the nausea has stayed with me, and an emphatic "no," comes out.  Yet barely a few minutes pass, and she mentions toast with jelly, or peanut butter, or honey... and she has me at honey.

Best toast I've tasted in awhile.  

Not long after that, I'm off to the restroom with help from my nurse.  I'm definitely sore.  And the color is tinged with blood, but I otherwise feel ok.  Sleepy, and ready for a nap, but doing ok.

I sit again, and my blood pressure reading sets the monitor off.  Its low, very low.  I'll be sitting awhile longer and getting some fluids in.

But its really just a few hours and suddenly I'm given the ok to go home! 

Is it a little sad to say, going to DQ after surgery has become a tradition?  Hehe.  Well, then so be it.  I just wanted a vanilla malt.  I could hardly keep my eyes open, but I could drink, and the sweet and sticky ice cream put me right in touch with joy again.  The blue sky, with the sunshine peeking through the clouds didn't hurt either.  I think of the quote- and the sky has me visualizing waves of a lake. 

I arrived home around dinner time and my friend Sue brings dinner all ready to eat.  Thank you, Sue! The boys ate, and I crashed.  I slept deep.  I slept long.  I shut out the world, despite the dings from my phone.  Everyone offered to silence my phone.  But those dings?  Are music to my ears.  Each one a prayer, a hopeful message, love coming through, so many words, from so many people, and it makes me feel less broken somehow.  Its like dipping my toes into the cool water of the lake.

Later that night, my friend Anne brings these beautiful pink flowers to set on my chair on my front porch.  I do it every year, and when it sat empty for awhile, she thought of the nicest thing to brighten my day.  She stays a good hour or so, and I am still pain free and doing pretty well.

A few days after that, these arrived! Another planter, perfect for my deck in the back.  Thank you to the Cheney family!  And yes... I found the...

Inchworm!  Isn't he cute- so fun to turn the pot around and suddenly see these two big eyes on an inch worm staring up at you!

We're simply blessed, and abundance pours through our door.  When your church friends, make a hot dish and bake brownies and just bring it humbly to your door- I can't say thank you enough.  Its comfort food, that nourishes our bellies and again, glues a few more bits of those broken places together.  Its also expanding the lake.  Thank you to the Narum family- you blessed us more than I can possibly say.

My thinking starts to change, I notice.  Because I'm human, and I wonder how much more I can do sometimes?  I'm hunched over, gripping my sides as I try to walk before I run out of breath.  I have just  little tufts of hair sticking up everywhere- more white than golden brown.  Oh how I've aged.  I feel it everywhere in my body- I'm uncomfortable at times, and pain-filled at others.  

But He calls me to do, and go through, and then He shows up- in the food, and the gifts, and the people who call or leave messages, or give our son a ride.  How can I NOT do this?  

And this last card, was just the word I needed to grip.  Plus the scripture inside?

Luke 1:37

For with God nothing shall be impossible.


Thank you to the Weiss family who brought the most soft hat to wear from an Etsy site called Hoodawear.  Hooda is soft, cute, and so comfortable to wear.  

I haven't gotten photos of everything.  My auntie made food that reminded me so much of my Grandma- as much as I miss my mom, Marny and Carol, my mom's sisters have both come for an afternoon of visits.  The facial expressions, the mannerisms, the words, the laughs- it brings my mother to me and I feel so comforted by just that.

So I'm going to a graduation party or two tonight.  I'm going to try to get out a bit, and enjoy seeing friends, and having some yummy food.  Then we'll be gone for a few days- while Grandpa comes to stay with Crosby we hope.  

In another week I'll see Dr. Panwalkar and we'll see how I am doing.  I had no symptoms before I had surgery, and I don't have any now.  I have no way to gauge how I am doing?  So I'll just go along with good.  I'm good, and that's all that really matters.  My "sense of things" sure has grown, and I am trying to be the best lake I can be.  

So grateful you all have become my tribe- and help me warrior on- in more ways than you could possibly know!  


  1. I am so very grateful to have come to know you through this blog, through your words, Vicky Westra - You are *Light*. Enjoy the weekend!

  2. Welcome back from the twilight sleep and wherever it is you go when you're there. Grateful for a good outcome and that you had pain management and loving kindness for care. Cannot even fathom how you can drag yourself up to go to graduation parties tonight but I DO know you function on faith, willpower, and love alone so, knowing how loved you are, I know you're fueled up.

    Thank you, Vicky, for keeping on keeping on and not giving up. Thank you for still being here, writing, encouraging, sharing, taking us on your journey with you. Thank you for being brave for everyone and for being willing to battle on and become a "lake". Pain is such a lonely journey because no one can share it with you except from their own experience. And many, thank God, will never know the outer boundaries of SEVERE pain which is almost an out of body experience but not enough of one to let you escape it. I walked through that for about three years, as you know, and my heart aches for you when I ponder and pray for what you endure. Everything afterwards becomes measured against THAT pain, or disease, and if it isn't THAT pain, just regular pain, you move on and through and you become practically Buddhist in your ability to transcend merely regular challenges. And you have more than pain; you have cancer staring you in the face as a conjoined twin to the suffering. I feel like I should insert some cheery word here about your strength (which is not being strong and well but persevering in spite of being weak and seriously ill), but I'd rather just sit with you in this space and acknowledge the depth of it, and bear witness. And to say how very, very sorry I am that you walk this dry and rock strewn road, often with bleeding bare feet. But I see you. Others see you. And God Himself not only sees you but walks every step with you, though we who watch cannot fathom why this exists at all. I suppose that is the crux of faith - it intersects with sometimes unbearable suffering and we lean into what we don't know believing He does.

    Go have happy moments tonight. Accept all offers of love and help and generosity from those who are loving you so well. And I pray for continued hope and healing and breakthroughs and imaginings of the new and better treatments. I love you.

    1. Oh Robynn...I am hardy able to breathe as I take in your words..."I'd rather just sit with you in this space and acknowledge the depth of it, and bear witness." Yes, yes, yes.
      That's exactly how I feel too.

  3. thankful for this update. i wear my hockey laces bracelet daily in order to carry you with me throughout each day. i'm glad you're being strengthened by the support.

  4. one day at a time, my friend. one day at a time. Hugs.

  5. Oh my dear, sweet friend,
    I feel so honored that you took us on the journey of your surgery and post-surgery and shared your precious heart. You have been through so, so much and no wonder you feel like you have aged. Yet with that aging, as hard as it is, comes so much wisdom, honey, so much authenticity, so much reminder that God is there, in the midst of the hard and very hard.

    When I shared about you and your journey in my speech at the Spring Communication Conference, so many young people asked, "How does she do it, your soul sister, Vicky?" I almost whispered my response, "She chooses LOVE. She chooses HOPE. She cherishes each day and doesn't dismiss the learnings from the pain. She lets in how much we all love her, how much God loves her. No matter what, she is NOT alone. We are her prayer warriors and she holds a place in our deepest heart-of-hearts."
    And you do, my precious soul sis. You choose love and remind all of us to choose love too.

    I am so grateful for you, dear Vicky, and I love you to the moon and back again!
    Sending you loves and hugs and prayers!

    1. PS I am so honored to be part of your "tribe" and one of your prayer warriors!!!
      Remember that old truck you wrote about long ago, headed to the water and veers off?
      I am on there with you, dear heart, always and forever...

  6. It's good to read of all the love. I'm glad you are feeling better. Isn't the aroma therapy for nausea a nice addition to traditional medicine?

  7. Thank you for the update Vicky ~ looking forward to a good report back on how the stent is working for you. Praying praying and praying some more !

  8. Can I just say that you are my darling, darling girl, and I ask God to bless you. Have a fun little vacation with your boys!

  9. Vicky, Thank you so much for opening a place for me to be in your tribe, opening for me a big place in my heart to hold prayers and always keeping you, your family and healthcare providers in the Light. Your life, your faith, the love blanket of your tribe that wraps you and holds you through this journey give me more hope and sure faith in the strength of the deep love of a community of faith.

  10. Sending prayers, Vicky. You are a warrior and a huge inspiration to so many! have a beautiful weekend.

  11. ....and we are here paddling for you, dear lake. Sending many prayers, and loving thoughts, for all you continue to be. The flowers and gifts are just so inspiring and colorful. Sunshine and peace ......

  12. I'm always, always moved by what you write and think and feel. And I'm always drawn closer to Our Father through your words. Always.

    Thank you.

    You have the gift of Gratitude. ������

  13. Praying every day....❤️❤️❤️

  14. Sending prayers your way! So happy to hear you have so many to help and cook and bake for you -- wish I lived closer! Take care and enjoy your days away!

  15. Thinking of you all and praying!

  16. Dearest Vicky,
    God continues to lay you on my heart. Your journey has taught me so much about reliance on a loving God.
    Thank you for the many ways you have honored Him.
    Blessings and shalom, dear one,

  17. Dearest Vicky-
    You have been on my mind and heart all weekend. Sending you hugs and loves and prayers from Spokane. Also, our family, who usually isn't into hockey, has been watching Matt Cullen and the Penguins in the Stanley Cup. I can't help but think that you and the boys may be watching it too. I remember how Matt brought the trophy home and you drank from it. :)

    Love you to the moon and back, sweet soul sis!


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