Head Games

*Language Warning*

So tonight a woman in a breast cancer facebook group I belong to asked about blurry eyes on a certain medication…well who knew it would lead to this latest #CancerEpiphany

I started wearing contacts about six years ago. I loved finally being free of the glasses that had shadowed my face since I was ten years old. It was a new life!

Near the end of chemo, I found my contacts to be more and more bothersome. It got to the point where I could not even keep them in for more than a couple hours. I asked my eye doctor about it and he explained that dry eyes are common after chemo and that although not reversible, there are medications that can help.

My last eye exam was August 2015.

After hearing what that doctor said, I never bothered even going for a check up. Why? To get put on yet another medication? To be told that cancer has taken a toll on a completely unrelated organ? To find out I have irreversible damage because I fought like hell to save my life?

The only thing is; I never realized I felt that way until tonight when I was discussing this side effect with my online friend.

…I haven’t gone to the eye doctor since the summer I had radiation (2015). After chemo I had a hell of a time wearing contacts and talked to an eye doctor who is a parent of one of the kids I used to coach and he said dry eye is common after chemo and meds can sometimes help, but it’s not reversible.
I just realized (while writing this response) that I feel betrayed by my eyes…my body…this is all such a mindfuck and I’m tired of it.

Once again my body has proven just how fickle it can be. How did this even happen? Where did the message get messed up? At what point were my cells smacked out of line? Why wasn’t my immune system strong enough to fight it off? Why did it grow so big? Why did I do such aggressive treatment if it was going to leave me so broken in other ways?

I know, I know…it’s not that bad.

I beat cancer. I kicked the hell out of stage III breast cancer. I OWNED IT.

So why does it still own me?

Why was I so angry yesterday because the local Junior A hockey team was having a Cancer Awareness night? Here’s the conversation I had with my friend:

Me: I’m just fucking mad tonight…that hasn’t happened in a long time when I think about cancer…tonight I hate everything it took from me.

Her: There’s a lot it took from you, so if you need to be mad about it, be mad.

M: Oh trust me, I’m mad

Her: I believe you.
Anything specific trigger that or is it just where you are tonight?

M: I think just so much hockey…and how much hockey was involved in my fight and how much cancer is the focus of hockey tonight.
Hockey was my safe place.
I’m praying to make this about hockey support and not cancer.

And then my baby boy saved the day…he scored his first goal of the season last night. His team won their game 15-4. He started the season as a defenseman and has recently been moved to wing. Yesterday, he played wing, defense, and then (for the final period) in net. What a talented little man he is. Now if only I can get him to open hockey so he can pick up some speed…LOL

So that’s my #LifeAfterCancer story for tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll call and make an appointment with my eye doctor…I promise.

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Dangerous Whispers

I’ve been pretty transparent about my financial situation and all that entails. I’ve shared our struggles, our triumphs, our goals, and our dreams. As I work on getting on track with our new budget, the enemy continues to whisper how terrible I am as a Christian, a woman, a child, a sibling, and a mother.

It’s that last one that it takes less than a whisper to take me out at the knees and I’d like to share how that manifests in my world right now.

I’ve been working super hard at balancing our budget and building our baby emergency fund of $500. I’m on track to have that complete ahead of schedule. We have scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and prayed.

Then the blower motor on my vehicle decides to finally quit. It’s been thinking about quitting for over a year…and I’ve been hoping it would last just long enough to get through the winter. Not having heat or a defrost function in northern Minnesota through the winter when you are carting your children everywhere is just not an option.

My vehicle has over 235,000 miles on it. My brain tells me that putting a $70 blower motor into a vehicle that may not last another six months is throwing good money after bad. My brain tells me I need to be saving for our next vehicle, not kicking a dead horse.

  • What kind of mother drives her kids around with the only heat in a vehicle being from whatever air is moved by driving.
  • What kind of person can’t afford $70 but can afford to have her kids in hockey and bowling and archery?
  • What kind of mom would miss her son’s first away tournament because she doesn’t have a reliable vehicle or the funds to make the trip?
  • If I wouldn’t have taken the trip to Minneapolis for Christmas, this wouldn’t be happening right now…I didn’t deserve that trip.

Those are the whispers surrounding JUST the $70 blower motor. Satan is an evil dangerous son of a bitch. He will take the smallest amount of normal mom-guilt and exploit it beyond all reason.

Sunday night was a difficult night in our home. One of the boys did something I probably did a thousand times as a kid; he ate some leftovers that I had plans for.

I lost my shit.

He stopped me, mid rant, and with tears streaming down his face said, “Mom, I want you to calm down. Remember when we were in the cities and you said that you hate to be upset because you look weak? Look at me, I’m upset and I’m showing it and I’m not weak.”

My son is no longer a child.

Everything he has been through, everything he knows about his Mama…he’s become a young man.

I told him I feel like a horrible mom when I can’t provide them everything I feel like they deserve. That I hate everything they have endured (divorce, cancer, poverty) and it kills me that they have to live in this cycle of poverty when they deserve everything in God’s Kingdom for how amazing and faithful they have been through it all.

~~~~

All those dangerous whispers from the enemy in my head…yet I can still know that all of this has got us to the point where my son gets it. My kid understands emotions and negotiation and love.

My kids get it…not in spite of where we are…they understand life BECAUSE of where we are. How can I even hate where we are when I see how it has manifested in the emotional growth and maturity of my boys?

I have one who sees through hurt, another who challenges every perceived fact.

These struggles are in my brain…and I need to drown out those whispers.

The type of mom who does those things whispers above…is a mom who is trying. Over and over again. A mom who never gives up, even for one minute. A mom who has been through more in six years than some moms go through in their children’s entire youth.

That mom shows a resiliency and faith that is rarely seen publicly in today’s society. She shows a transparency that brings people around her to hold her up when she’s taken out at the knees.

She shows a strength that moms who’ve never struggled are in awe over. Her drive are what draws people to God. Her faithful trust in the Lord are beyond understanding and inspiring to those with struggles they feel are insurmountable.

~~~

I need to remember that mom, that woman…IS ME. I’m the resilient one, the faithful one, the leader, the driven.

I have been given these blessings to raise men. Every struggle has been a blessing.

Lord,

These late night silent times when I can’t sleep are a welcome challenge. Being able to see both sides of the coin is a gift more priceless than imaginable.
These challenges laid in front of me, I bring to You. I come to You as I want my children to come to me. If I, as a broken human in a sinful world, wish for my children to come to my embrace; how much more do You long for me to find comfort in Your arms…that’s where You blow my mind every day Father.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these boys through this adversity with a faith not commonly seen publicly in today’s world.
Give me rest and give me strength to continue to be raw and real to bring Your light into my home, my work place, my social circle, my everyday life.
Continue to grant me these silent nights to hear Your love over the whispers of the enemy that drown out my daylight hours.

Amen

Looking Back, Leaning Forward

As I think back over the last 365 days, I am astounded by all we have come through. Not even just the last year, the last seven years have been so challenging. Three times I seriously wanted to give up. Not once did that thought win. I knew that God was using me, my situation, my children, and our life to build our testimonies and our characters.

2018 brought me not only freedom from cancer, it brought me freedom of fear of cancer. You’d think fighting for my life would have already taken care of that fear…you’d be wrong.

The final release of the fear and dread that had been following me meant I could finally move beyond cancer. I can move through budget planning, career planning, family planning, and spiritual growth.

WORK

I am so excited to start January by giving notice at the job where I am so miserably miserable. I have made connections with staff and students at the elementary school as I had wanted to. I have prayed for my coworkers daily.

I cannot continue to work in a place where my integrity is put into question. Being forced to break rules has been so very difficult. I have brought the issues to light with my boss and it is all I can do. I can only continue to pray vigilance on their part to make the necessary changes to how things work (or don’t work) in that kitchen.

I am looking forward to being a substitute paraprofessional within the school system. I did it at the high school while I was still doing chemo and loved it. Now that I know the kids at all three schools and the staff knows me at all three buildings so my potential is much greater than it was two years ago. Even then I was working (at just the high school) at least 2 days per week; often more.

Working 2.5 days as a para-sub nets me the same as I am making now working 5 days a week in the kitchen. I am confident that I am following God on this one; just as I did when I listened and switched jobs to go to the elementary school.

Finances

Even with the trip the boys and I just took to Minneapolis for three days, I’m still able to pay my rent on the first of the month. The substitute work as a cleaner has definitely helped to get us back on our feet. I will be able to continue doing this after leaving my kitchen job.

January starts a new year, a new budget. Recently I have been using more of a pray and hold on type of accounting. Not a true accountability of the money as it comes in and out. Only that I know I have enough to pay the rent on the first and to make the required payments as the month continues.

Actually sitting down and beginning a cash accounting system with a balanced budget and a name for each and every dollar that comes in will be so freeing. I know some people struggle with a budget being restrictive. What they truly don’t understand is that having a balanced budget actually leads to a freedom like none other.

With a budget, I know already exactly how much I have available for A, B, or C. I actually am able to do much more with what little we have; knowing it is all taken care of each month.

(I may or may not have just spent a great deal of time figuring out my budget with an irregular income). 

Having to set my priorities when your budget cuts it so close every month is difficult, especially when you can’t start the month with the amount you need for each category and instead have to wait for this paycheck or that child support payment to make the payments.

I am confident though that within a few months I will have a baby emergency fund in place and be well on my way to building a future for myself and my boys.

I am SO PUMPED to be on our way!

I told the boys that we would take a trip in April to celebrate two years being cancer free. We definitely are going to take at least one trip a year from now on. This trip come in under budget at just over $700. That included gas, food, hotel, and all attractions. I thought that to be an awesome price for a four day – three night vacation.

Although a vacation fund does not yet get a line in our budget, any $1.00 or $5.00 that are left over from our money in the gas, personal, and utilities budgets will go into that fund. Instead of adjusting the budget, I know I’m giving us a little wiggle room. I’m doing that as I’d rather be long than short and try to figure it out.

I’m going back to more budgeting…

Both boys are still awake…and trying to stay up until midnight. With only an hour left I might even make it!

Happy New Year Everybody!!

Thankful Thursday

While my boys go round and round about who gets in the shower first, I thought it would be a great time to just be thankful.

We drove down to Minneapolis yesterday and checked into our hotel which is directly across the street from the Mall of America. Immediately, the youngest was undressed and ready to go to the pool. The older one was busy setting up the xbox I had allowed them to bring.

So I go to supervise the little one and the older one (with strict orders that the xbox was brought for a specific purpose) decided to hang out in the room and read for a little while in peace.

While at poolside, I ordered pizza for supper and relaxed.

It wasn’t long after, Katie showed up at our room. Her and I were off to US Bank Stadium to go inline skating around the main concourse.

OMG

SO MUCH FUN

I skated for about 2 hours straight and her for three full hours. I knew going in that I couldn’t do the full time; and I didn’t care…the experience and the time with Katie was so worth it!

Of course we wore our “Cancer can Kiss My Skates” shirts and stopped at Target to buy pants because I couldn’t find mine when I left home.

Well, God was smiling on us OBVIOUSLY because we walked in and saw these pants that not only compliment our shirts nicely, they also have POCKETS for our cell phones!! SO COOL!

During the time we were skating, the boys had instructions to NOT kill each other, and no fighting over the xbox. I knew they could easily keep busy with games and movies for the couple hours I was gone…that was the ONLY reason I allowed them to bring it with us.

I DID NOT bring them on this vacation to sit in front of the xbox for three days…that’s for sure!

Today we are going to experience a virtual reality arcade, an indoor go kart track, and an hour of laser tag. Tomorrow is the Science Museum.

Father,

When I think of how full my heart is for my children, I cannot fathom how much greater Your love for us is. This is all I have to compare it to though…and it’s an amazing love. As I watch them be filled with peace and love and gratitude, it fills my heart.

It brings me such joy to give them gifts of time and memories. How much more joy must You have at each answered prayer?

It’s times like this that I am reminded to ask the Big Ask prayers. To ask for the earthly impossible…because everything is possible through You.

This trip is a reminder of that…without prayer, and without complete faith in You, we could not have made this trip.

I thank You over and over again for growing my faith over the last six years. I kept telling people it was worth it…every time they questioned how I could stay so positive, I only replied that I can enjoy the journey or be miserable…but I still had to go on the trip.

Lord, continue to rain your love onto us as we enjoy our time together. We have all worked very hard to get her and are so very thankful for every minute of this adventure!

Amen

Kissing Skates

I’ve had the idea for t-shirts for some time. We all know this. Katie and I had one each made for us for our marathon in Duluth but no other shirts.

Today I actually took a step towards doing something about getting it done as a fundraiser. I contacted a local clothing store than offers custom printing and apparel with no set up fees and no minimums!

I explained my story and that I am looking at fundraising for next summer’s inline marathon season.

They asked if they could get back to me after the holidays with some ideas and I said definitely as there are still 193 days until the first marathon (not that I’m counting).

There will be t-shirts, hoodies, maybe even sweatpants. A portion of each sale will go towards which ever cancer charity we choose. Currently we are considering several charities and looking forward to narrowing it down to one or two. If we do two, it’s most likely we will include a local charity that gives a yearly cash grant to all local cancer patients.

So, in my head it is a “Cancer can kiss my skates” with either inline skates or ice skates for a graphic. Down the leg of my pants (either sweats or race pants) it can just say KISS MY SKATES.

I’ve already had one woman tell me to hit her up when we start our fundraising next year and she will gladly sponsor our shenanigans. I’m pretty sure I know of at least one other business that will be interested in furthering our fundraising efforts.

It is time…my frustrations and anger at cancer are real and I’m taking my life back.

Five days a week I am on the ice for an hour skating laps, doing power turn drills, squats between the blue lines, hard charging the corners, skating on one foot between the blue lines, deep cross-overs all the way around the rink…all in an effort to increase my balance, my core strength, my cardiovascular health, and my speed.

I’m taking my life back, one push at a time. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I Don’t Wanna

I don’t wanna write today that Beth Caldwell passed away last night. I don’t want to write that her husband held her as she died. I don’t want to write that her children were with her as she took her last breath.

But it happened and my heart sank.

I had a feeling yesterday was going to be the day. I even stopped at Katie’s and said I wanted to find out from her…she has been following Beth’s story as well. Really though, I didn’t want to hear it from anybody. I didn’t want to face it.

I think back to something I wrote on my CaringBridge while I was sick…it was about my own mortality. I was writing about the dreams I have for my kids and all I wish for them to know, and be, and accomplish. I wrote that for them to be the people they are meant to be may actually mean I have to not be here and how hard of a reality that was.

That is Beth’s family’s reality. That her death is a part of God’s plan for who her children become. Will they also be advocates for the unheard and unseen? Will they champion her cause…their cause.

As I fell asleep last night, I prayed for The Hubs, The Boy, and The Girl; the nicknames she used on her blog for her family. I prayed for their peace; for God’s grace and mercy to cover them.

And then I cried; for me.

Today, my heart hurts; and I’m just going to let it. I’m going to let it be hurt and heal…it seems to know the routine. Today I am also going to just be held…by God.

This weekend it’s just me and the little one home. Big Brother is going deer hunting with Dad and won’t be home until Sunday evening. I have a feeling it will be a lot of open hockey and chilling. His birthday is in a few weeks and we have to make a plan for that. My “non-viable pregnancy” (when I first got pregnant), my “Inevitable abortion” (at 12 weeks 2 days gestation with I had a partial abruption with ruptured membranes), my preemie…he’s gonna be ten this year.

Lord,

I am so grateful that my baby’s story is a yearly reminder that You perform miracles all around us and people love to hear his story. We love to share it. I am so thankful for all you have provided.
As I get through today and the weekend with Beth’s family on my heart, I ask for comfort for them. I ask that you give them the space, time, and opportunity to feel Your love.
And God, thank you for holding my close and keeping me secure.

Amen

Can You Just Not…

I found out this morning that a person I know is back at Mayo for a work up…might be a recurrence of he brain cancer he had like 10 years ago (maybe not that many but enough to get passed the ‘all clear’ date that some cancers actually get).

I have the absolute heaviness over my entire body. Not just an aching heart; my body feels overwhelmingly heavy…like a weighted blanket, over my entire being. A fist around my heart, holding it hostage…or securely; I can’t tell. I know when I was sick and one of my hockey families gifted me with a weighted blanket, it was the most amazing gift EVER!

Maybe this is just God covering me…protecting me…forcing me to slow down, to not panic. All I know is that I hate cancer…and I am angry that his cancer might be back. I am angry and sad and frustrated.

The reality of ‘after cancer’ is that every diagnosis I hear about, every recurrence for a friend of acquaintance is devastating, numbing, and oh so hard.

God,

I know You work everything for your good for those who believe, but what about those who don’t? How are they supposed to see your good works when a man of God has a recurrence of cancer that for all intents and purposes he had already beat once?
How do I explain not being afraid of cancer anymore because the damage in my life has already been done so anything after this is chicken feed?

I know I’m not strong enough to deal with all these emotions, and am so thankful for Your grace. Guide me through this period of waiting for news from the man I know and from Beth’s family. (Beth’s husband posted on October 31 that it is only a matter of days for her).

Lord, this disease has so many faces and so many outcomes. I ask for every person hearing those words for the first time not turn away from You; that they come to find strength and peace in You.

Amen