Done Dating: Part 2

My first Done Dating post was the announcement. This one is more of an explanation of how I got there and why I can be confident in my decision.

My friend Katie and I have only known each other for a little over a year. We met after the hard chemo was finished and I was healing from radiation and the after effects of chemo.

In normal circumstances, Katie and I never would have met. Her husband is a pastor of a church I had never stepped foot in and had never even been curious about stepping inside. Not that I questioned their church, I was just happy with the church I was regularly attending and very heavily involved with volunteering.

She started a MOPS group at her church and I was invited by a friend from Epiphany Station. I explained I have no preschoolers left and so a MOPS group was not really my thing. I was assured they were also a MomsNext group for mom’s with older children and I agreed to give it a try.

I was through what we thought was the difficult part of cancer, life was moving forward, and I was interested in social activities that were not overly time consuming. I enjoy group social activities that are regularly scheduled; especially if they include food and a craft!

Katie was very pregnant and we did not socialize much. We were familiar with each other but I would not have called us friends.

Then it happened.

I went to Rochester for my reconstruction in March 2016. I flew down on with Angel Flight Central and was scheduled to fly back with them as well.

I was released to fly home on Good Friday. With my appointment time and the volunteer pilot’s schedule, flying home Friday was not an option. Then the weather was bad for small aircraft travel and my weekend flight was canceled. I was heartbroken.

When I knew I would be going home before Easter I had visions of surprising my boys at church Sunday morning. With no available flight, my plan was crushed. I posted my heartbreak on Facebook and was flooded with messages of sympathy.

Then Katie said she would come and get me…she would drive to Rochester (384 miles) to pick me up and bring me home so I could surprise my boys and be home for Easter. This plan was coming together on Good Friday.

The caretakers of Nazarene Well House (where I had spent my post operative time) knew what was happening and they offered to meet up with Katie so that was it…they drove North and she drove South the day before Easter and got me home in time to surprise my boys at church Easter Sunday.

Our friendship has grown from there and she has become a best friend. She babysits our cats when we are out of town, I babysit her animals when they are gone. I can walk into her home as they start a meal and sit down at the table as if I was invited.

A few weeks ago when tragedy struck and four people died, she comforted me, she engaged me, she got me through. When I did not know how exactly chicken eggs were fertilized (she has chickens, I was curious) she taught me. (Note to self: Don’t ask if you really don’t want to know…I didn’t really want to know). When she needed help taking straw off her septic field, she put me to work. When my heart is rattled and confused and breaking and filling all at the same time, she grounds my feet.

This woman, a mere stranger just 15 months ago who let me carry her water and nothing else when we stopped for coffee on our way home from my surgery. The woman who understands my humor, who gets me, who loves to see me growing closer to Jesus and helps me through the tough spots.

This woman is why I know I no longer need to be on dating websites where men with questionable motives lurk. She is the reason I do not need to be searching for my life partner.

If God can bring together Katie and I, He certainly can bring together the man I will spend the rest of my life with. He certainly can make things happen without my assistance.

I thanked Katie for this the other day; telling her that our friendship gave me the understanding that I did not have to be out there looking for ‘The Right One’ when God already knows where to find me.

Lord,

Thank you for everything You have provided through Katie and her family. They are truly my family here with so many others.
I am so thankful that You have opened my eyes through her about the ways You work and that she has been able to show me just how much You can do.
For my future husband, I pray he also has a friend or group of friends who teach him lessons he doesn’t even know he wants to learn. (save him from the chicken stuff though if he doesn’t already know)
For all of my friends whom are now family; the thanks goes to You. I am eternally grateful.

Amen

Beyond Done

I am fuming today. I know I have said it before and I will say it again; I thought after treatment and surgery I would be finished with breast cancer and nobody thought to tell me any different.

The previous estrogen modulator I was on caused such sever joint and muscle pain it nearly crippled me. Add to that ovarian suppression and I was in a chemically induced menopause that my body decided to mutiny against.

I have been on a medication vacation since January. The pain has decreased significantly but is still prevalent.

Today I started on a new estrogen modulator, Tamoxifen. although tests show me to be a low – to Intermediate metabolizer of the drug, my doctors have decided it is better than taking nothing.

I asked for specific studies and the numbers may not sound big…but 13% is 13%. It reduces my risk of recurrence by 13%. My sons are nine and 12, my daughter 22. Thirteen percent is a pretty big deal.

Unfortunately, the risks are a crap shoot. On one hand, the medically induced menopause can lead to the same joint and muscle pain I was experiencing before. On the other hand many women experience an unparalleled moodiness from the drug. Yay

One friend of mine (also a breast cancer survivor) posted on my Facebook #HideAllTheKnives. That sounds encouraging. She stopped taking the drug because of the side effects. Sounds like ongoing compliance is hard to come by for any of these drugs.

Today I took my first dose. Because I am a low metabolizer, it is a lower than normal dose. We will reevaluate in 2 – 3 months. While I am trying my best to have a positive attitude the numbers and real life stories just don’t support it.

My ten year survival still sucks (less than 50%); as of now, nothing changes that. My five year disease-free time is the number these drugs seem to make the biggest difference on. I am working on wrapping my head around the disease free time in regards to the survival time.

Disease free time does not mean much if it is spend in agony. Survival time takes a crap if  it is spent undergoing treatment.

And that is where I am. My mother told me to listen to Mayo and do my homework; they saved my life once, they might know what they are doing still this time.

I just thought I would be done. Nobody warns you that you are forever a cancer patient, forever a cancer hypochondriac. Nobody warns you that the assistance stops when your hair grows back.

Nothing in this life has ever come easy…I guess I shouldn’t have even pretended it might.

UGH

Survivor Guilt

Today a family near me lost their young son to brain cancer. He was diagnosed in 2015. March 8m 2017 his family was told he had just 4 – 6 months to live.

On May 31 it will be the one year anniversary of the death of a friend who had cancer.

This weekend while cleaning the house, I found a pipe cleaner that reminded me of a man I met in Rochester while we were both undergoing radiation treatment during the summer of 2015…he’s been gone almost a year now.

And here I am…I am still here.

I was talking to the window of my friend…

I just spent 5 minutes writing that sentence…I first wrote the wife of my friend…then realized she is his widow…but in my brain she is still his wife; yet she is also a widow. He has been gone for nearly a year and I am just now thinking about this.

So I was talking to my friend the other day who lost her husband a year ago and the anniversary is approaching and she is keeping herself busy. Their daughter is moving far away soon and she is worried. Although they always knew this day would come, she had prepared for this eventuality with her husband by her side.

Her husband, my friend, beat cancer. The after effects killed him. I told her that I am now dealing with the same thing. After cancer is much more difficult than chemo. People do not understand that though. They see me working, living life, growing hair and think life is great again.

Except it is not. It is full of a pain that is constant and here I am trying to have a normal life. People do not want to hear that I am in pain. I think they just do not know what to do or how to help.

I am still only able to work part time and even that is so difficult. This means money is an ongoing issue. I am trying to work, I am trying to live, I am trying to move forward, to move on, to get beyond cancer. Being reminded every pay day that I can only work part time and I may never again be able to support my children off of social assistance, is terrifying.

But I am alive…and many are not. So I feel terrible complaining. I feel so blessed to have come so far. So I say nothing except to very few people; usually the ones who I spend enough time with that I cannot hide it from them.

When I spoke in a small group last week about wanting to take another job next year because the boys will be attending school in the town where I work, so I am logistically able to work more hours.

“YA, RIGHT!” Came from a across the room from a great friend…and I wanted to cry…she is right. There is no way I can physically work more hours than I already do.

I want to provide my boys with a few comforts that most people see as every day items. I want to buy them new shoes without having to argue with their father about who can afford it (he makes $45k/year, I make $13k). I want to go out to eat when I just cannot muster the energy to cook.

I am trying so hard to move forward with every day God gives me. I should be thankful, I should be joy filled, I should be praising God for every minute of every day that I am on this earth.

Today though, I am telling you, this sucks.

Lord,
I don’t know Your plan for me regarding this and I’m not asking to know it. I just need you to know that I don’t understand it and I am sorry that I cannot always find the joy in each day. You know I try.
Help me get through each day with light. Help me see the light, help me be the light to others because I know I cannot see or be the light without You. You are light.
My eyes are open for you, to you.
Amen

 

 

 

Fear and My Legacy

Yesterday while talking with my pastor, he asked what my greatest fear at the moment was. I honestly shared with him that my biggest fear is that if my cancer ever comes back that my boys not be able to deal with it on their own terms.

A recurrence for me would mean stage IV which is terminal. This would absolutely devastate my ex-husband. He has so many regrets and emotionally issues surrounding our marriage and subsequent divorce that a terminal diagnosis would send him into emotional turmoil. My worry would be that the boys have to deal with my cancer on his terms.

I would also worry that a recurrence would take my ex-husband away from the church. Last Easter he began regularly attending the church that the boys and I have been attending for over three years now. He has even started volunteering and making connections within the church. I fear that if I ever have cancer again and he sees the church rally around me as they did last time; he would feel slighted…or something like that. Not that he would not want the people I know and love to support me, I think it just brings out a lot of his inner guilt and demons. If he pulls away from the church, my boys would lose out on the support that they would need more than ever.

My final, and most intense fear is that the boys do not see God’s grace and mercy at work through everything we have been through. I wish I had recorded what I told Matty, it was something to the effect of when I go out, I want their faith to be headed off a ramp…towards God. I saw his eyes widen…like he knew I totally got it.

The more thought I put in to it as my day went on today, I want their faith to be growing and taking a run off a ramp…not diving off a cliff.

I am not waiting until I have a terminal diagnosis to lead my children towards God. If that diagnosis ever comes, it will be God we turn to out of history and habit. When God is their go-to out of habit for things good and bad, I have done all I can.

For my entire life, that is my job. To lead them to Christ. To fill them with Christ. To model Christ.

Dear Lord,

As we go through the motions of everyday life, help me to guide these children to You. Show me how to point to You in every situation we face.

Help me to help them find you on their own. Help me to guide them in their own individual languages of love.

Help me to continue to meet their earthly needs and teach them the dangers of pride and shame and anger. Continue to give us opportunities to be the answer to prayers for others so we can recognize those same answers when they are our prayers.

Thank you so much for making me their Mom…for being everything they need and most of what they want (I am a mom after all…I can’t be their friend all the time).

Continue to surround me with people who know I am stressed and take the best care of me by sending creepy memes to my phone and Facebook. The Army you have surrounded me with is AWESOME! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

Amen

 

It Never Stops Hurting

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I returned from a ten day vacation in Canada. We visited my family in Thompson, Manitoba which is north of the 55th parallel (the USA/Canada border is the 49th).

Today…I am crashing. A terrible, agonizing, emotional crash. It happens every time I return to the USA and likely because for many years our trips were so few and far between. I have been so blessed to have been able to make so many more regular trips in the last years.

It helps that my trips are always subsidized (my parents almost always pay for my gas there and back). While I am home, I have very few expenses so the trips are nearly free from any costs.

While I was sick, my trips consisted mostly of laying on the couch and watching the world spin around me. Those were some of the most healing days.

The previous trip was very quick, one day of driving there, two days of being at home and one day of driving back. It is just over 600 miles one way so a full day of driving. The boys are AWESOME travelers and used to the trip so I rarely hear, “Are we there yet?” This last trip they rotated places every 150 miles (the back seat is prime real estate when on a long trip).

The difference with this last trip was that we were there for eight full days (plus two days of driving). My dad took us all snowmobiling…something I have not done in probably six or seven years (at least). It was recreation mixed with science, geography, geology, history, community service, and love.

I explained to the boys how Grandpa showed his love by getting the snowmobiles up and running for them and taking us out for two rides. That he serves people in the community by helping make sure the trails are safe and that the ice is thick enough for the groomer to cross. Just because Grandpa does not go to church, does not mean he does not love the people around him, and there are many ways to show that love.

My Mom’s love is easier for them to see, she is on the city council, she has a great pride in her community and home. She is always helping somebody somehow. My Dad just does more behind the scenes work. Both, great examples of service and love.

~~

Today, I am missing them. I want my mommy and daddy.

I could not help but wonder for a short time about what if that was my last trip up there. Thankfully, I enjoy living in the moment so very rarely is an opportunity missed. So difficult though to wonder if I would never be back there.

Definitely my happy place.

I refused to tell my parents of the depth of my pain although they both knew I was on constant pain relievers and they could see my agony even though I tried to suck it up. I developed another pain, this time it is in my elbow. It even hurts to lift a simple cup of coffee…that can’t be a good thing for many reasons.

So tomorrow, I need to go see my doctor…or at least call for an appointment because today I was crippled with fear and did absolutely nothing. When I asked Mayo Clinic what they suggested the local practitioner investigate, they recommend a overview of my symptoms and a complete physical exam with blood work.

I know it is a side effect of my estrogen modulator…I just hate that it is getting so much worse so fast. It is crippling me just when I should be getting back into real life and activity.

I wonder what God has in store for this leg of the journey; and I am thankful He chose me…that does not mean I am not sad that my previous physical body is forever gone. I worked so hard to keep up during my illness.

I coached hockey through chemo, I walked five miles a day throughout radiation treatments and was back on the ice in the fall after surgery and five weeks of surgery. I went back to work as soon as physically possible.

I am finished chemo and I am crippled up, I have peripheral edema, I feel like I am 80 years old. I beat cancer…and now it is beating me back.

~~

So, the pain and the sadness…not a great combination for any situation. I am surrounded by an army of friends who would do anything to take this hurt away. They would do anything to ease my heartache.

Tonight I am overwhelmed to the point of having a headache (I never get headaches). I do not know where to start and only want to stop…so tonight, I am stopping. I expect nothing of myself. I will be kind to myself. I will take care of my body and my heart and my soul.

Tomorrow will start and we with it, another day to fulfill the purpose God has for my life.

Dear Lord,

Grant me peace, grant me relief from pain. Fill me with the knowledge that you are always here, and with my family and friends. Fill them with the knowledge that You got this.

Give my boys the strength to continue to have their needs met.

Give my daughter the tools to be the best mother and girlfriend, and sister that she can be.

Give me strength to be vulnerable Lord…to let the hurt, hurt.

Amen

 

I Ran

I went to the walk in clinic yesterday to have my mass checked out and am so thankful to report that it is merely a ventral hernia. Apparently they are common after any type of abdominal surgery, even though it is not near my surgical site.

Somebody asked me last night about details and I said I had no idea. For once, I just could not get out of there fast enough. The doctor was great. She could see that I was obviously a mess and reassured me and even put her hand on my shoulder and comforted me.

I was numb.

I had spent all weekend convincing everybody, including myself that it was only a hernia while sure it was a liver metastasis. I was certain death was knocking on my door…and it had a key.

I guess that is the truth…even though death may come knocking again; essentially, it has its’ own key and can waltz right on in at anytime. With cancer though, chances are that I get to at least look it in the eye and fight it off for another day.

On Facebook I posted, “Who knew a hernia would be such good news?” On a chemo support page I belong to (we all have breast cancer and went through chemo in winter 2014) the relief was palpable. One lady commented that she almost had a heart attack for me.

Today, it is sinking in that everything is relative. Four years ago, a hernia could have been devastating news to me. Today, it is a gift, today those are the best words I could ever imagine.

Two friends actually acknowledged that yesterday that it sucks that a hernia is considered good news.

Ya, it really does.

God and I had a few (ok, more than a few) conversations over the weekend. Mostly me begging for it to not be cancer metastasis, a little bit of thanks for getting me this far, and believing that whatever it was, that His timing was perfect.

If I did not believe that with my whole heart, then I would be so lost.

I emailed my pastor this morning and said that while I am not ready to die, I also am aware that I have no say in the matter of timing. I told him that I believe that although this scare caused a few days of worry and strife, I would have come to the conclusion eventually that God’s timing is perfect every time.

I am not sure if every scare will be this way or if a metastasis is just going to show up one day and smack me in the head. Either way…it is what it is and I am thankful I am not the one who knows how this all plays out.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your love and mercy and grace continue to overwhelm me at every turn. Thank you for knowing all the details in advance and for giving me the tools and the army to get over each perceived hurdle.

Comfort my family and friends who may not know how to express their anxiety or worry with this entire process. It is becoming more clear to me that it really is going to be a life long process and we all need You to get us through it in one semi-sane piece.

The peace I find in your all-knowing love comforts me.

I am so blessed to know You as I do.

Keep watch over those who are suffering this holiday season and those who are just hearing their diagnosis for the first time. Bring them your comfort and peace, show them your love. May they see the blessings in this battle…

Amen

Being Selfish

Thursday morning started just as every morning does…rolling over a hundred times thinking about just how many more minutes I can put off getting out of bed without being late for work. The boys are not home this week and I am no longer babysitting in the mornings so sleeping in is my new hobby.

When I finally stretched and ran my hands down my torso before admitting to myself that the coffee was not going t make itself I realized two very important things:

  1. I need to start setting the timer on the coffee pot when the boys aren’t home.
  2. Denial can truly convince you that what you see and feel is not there.

Just under my ribcage, midline, I felt a mass.

As I am palpating this mass I am convinced it is not even there. Honestly. My fingers were looking for defined edges as my brain was shouting, “IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD!” then, “STOP TOUCHING IT AND IT WILL NOT BE THERE!”

Like a two year old with a booger, I examined it from every possible angle, felt it with my fingers, tried to squish it, rolled it around a bit. I am certain that if eating it would have made it not be there anymore, I would have.

Ya, it’s there. It is about the size of an egg. It is not painful. It is not reducible. It scares me.

I called my mom on Friday and told her about it. I am going to have it checked Monday morning, it was too late on Friday by the time I convinced myself that there was something there to check out and my local doctor would not think I was just being a cancer-hypocondriac. As I am yelling in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, “It’s not a tumor!”

I agreed with my mom that unless and until a doctor tells me otherwise, I was considering it a hernia for the weekend…and off to hockey practice I went.

Saturday was a little tougher to convince myself so I shared it with others…telling them that until a doctor looks at it, in my mind it is a hernia.

In my heart of hearts, I am so afraid. I am just over two years from diagnosis. I am two weeks shy of being eight months cancer free.

I am not ready to fight this fight again. I just am not. Not that it means anything for me to not be ready…I just wanted to make that clear.

I wrote this morning on my contact card in church:

…HOLY SHIT, what if not being able to coach Mites this year was God’s way of showing me that he’ll be okay with me watching from the bench. That he’ll do okay with me watching from heaven? CAN I WATCH FROM HEAVEN…do I even get to see???…

Ya, I said HOLY SHIT…it was warranted this time.

Yes, I realize that I am ten steps ahead of myself right now. If you had knocked on death’s door before you might also find yourself looking through the peephole every time the doorbell rings as well.

Tomorrow I am going to the doctor at 0800h. I will get an exam and an ultrasound.

I will let you know.

Lord,

I feel so selfish and wrong for begging for this to be something benign. If it is something that will be used to glorify your name, I would not deny you even if I could.

Today I will work on finding peace with the process. Staying grounded in the here and now. Not trying to figure out what goes on from here on out. We are not guaranteed another minute, ever so we should just be thankful for each breath we take.

I am scared to fight this again and feeling this makes it seem more of a real possibility after spending months convincing myself I am going to be the case than remains cancer free forever.

Help me remain calm, be with my family and friends as they face this fear with me. I trust You.

Amen