In the Air!

In the Air!
400 feet above the ground in Orlando.

Florida

Florida
Taking my first step towards a new life.

Virginia

Virginia
Spending an afternoon at Marymount during my internship!

My rocks!

My rocks!
Wouldn't be where I am without my parents!

Graduation

Graduation
Walking for my Masters. An interesting book end as this all started when I graduated from undergrad!

Awesome Nurses!

Awesome Nurses!
After my port removal and saying goodbye to my chemo nurses before moving away from Michigan. Wouldn't be doing that without them!

Hair again!

Hair again!
Growing longer each day

Last Chemo

Last Chemo

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Silliness

Silliness
Something to remember and return to. A good day!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Easier Said Then Done

For a year now, my life has been defined by my cancer.  It has been consumed by it in fact.  Now, I am just about at 7 months out of chemo and I think I am finally away from that…mostly.  So now I am trying to figure out how to put it behind me.

How does someone put something like cancer behind them?  Especially when they have a strong reminder every three months through exams and scans and doctor visits to bring back the fear as you wait for test results.  And in my case lets not forget the menopause that rears it's annoying, hot flashing little head more and more now that I am not knocked down by the chemo.  It's like the bad dream that never completely goes away.

The funny thing is, whenever I can put it out of my mind for a few days, something comes up and I find myself talking to someone about it or trying to tell someone how important it is to talk to their doctor about anything different.  It's like I'm not suppose to forget it.  So what do I do with it?

A few months before this all started last year I was freaking out about graduation approaching.  It's kinda scary when you meet a goal and realize your life is no longer about that goal.  A friend of mine told me to get out a piece of paper and write all over it every little thing I have wanted to do or thought about doing.  One of the first things I wrote down was I wanted to be a motivational speaker.  At that time I was the visually impaired girl who wasn't suppose to be able to see, much less live on my own hundreds of miles away from my parents, drive a car or hold down a normal job.  This is what doctors told my parents would never happen.  And I made it happen.  I figured that might be motivational enough to talk about.  Now I wonder if maybe having cancer is another motivational subject.  Lets face it…it's up there with some of the worst things a person can go through.  It messes with your head, emotions, body and entire life!

So how does one go about being a motivational speaker?  And can I even do it?  I have never sat down and completely told my story.  I give high lights of it to people…rush through it and just hit the main points.  But I have never sat down and talked about the whole experience with anyone…much less a room full of people!  I don't know if I can even do that.  But I think I need to do SOMETHING.  Because just forgetting it isn't working.  Any ideas?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

To Peter

Dear Peter,

It's been six years since you died.  Honestly, it doesn't feel that long.  Feels like it just happened.  Like it still isn't real.  I still catch myself thinking I need to call you to talk about something or tell you something that happened.  I don't like driving by Ann Arbor anymore.  Can't stop and have a drink and talk until 2am on the back deck with you.

I've been starting to do that Throw Back Thursday thing on Facebook lately and going through old pictures, I lost count of the number of pictures that had both you and I in them!  Being less then two years younger then you I guess we did kinda do everything together.  I became quite the Tom Boy growing up because of you and the younger boys.  I didn't mind though.  I could keep up with you even if I couldn't see a darn thing!  But don't worry, other's in the family have taken up your favorite description of pointing out my lack of sight!  Birds everywhere still make me think of you because of your total delight in my misdirection that day!

A lot has happened these past six years.  I finally graduated from college.  I managed to get through cancer.  I'm going to Grad school in the fall.  I know you know all this but…I wish I could have looked to where mom and dad were sitting and seen you too when I graduated.  I really wished I could have held on to your hand with everything that happened this past year.  And called you when I was scared to ask questions.  I know you were there through it all.  I know you were beside me.  But sometimes, I wish I could see you.  Hear you tell me to suck it up.  Give you a hug.

To be honest, I'm scared.  I'm scared that my cancer will just keep coming back too.  I wish I could push past it like you did and live and do what I wanted.  I am trying, really.  I wish I could ask you if it was always in the back of your mind like it is in mine.

I know I can't create new memories with you.  But at least I have the memories of 28 years.  Going on vacations, school, climbing trees in the back yard in Flint, working with Star in the back paddocks, having you show up at my door when I was in college grinning like an idiot:).  Power walking with you and the boys from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial!  My short legs had a hard time keeping up with you tall boys but like when we were little, I did it.  Going to the March for Life with you and desperately clinging to the back of your coat so I don't fall down from dizziness as we pushed through the crowds.  Driving to Florida together and exploring Naples.  I just realized, the first time I ever saw the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, I was with you.  Honestly, I hope I never get use to having big, life moments without you there to share them.  If I don't, that means I'll always at least be thinking of you when they happen.  And maybe you will be there next to me still.

So do me a favor, help me reach those life goals I still have to make.  And be there with me.

Love you big brother,
Cathy






Thursday, May 8, 2014

One Woman's Reaction to the Video of the Woman Having an Abortion.

There has been a video going around the internet lately of a young women who filmed her abortion.  If that isn't disturbing enough, something she said at the end of the film completely shocked me.  She said "I can make a baby" and said it as if she were in awe of this…yet she documented destroying a baby!  This makes no sense to me.  If she is in so much awe that her body can do what it was meant to do…how can she be so wrapped up in promoting ending lives of babies through abortion?

The very word "abortion" means to stop or end…and quickly.  There is no "making" involved in that process.  It makes one wonder if she thinks she can make and un make anything she wants.  If she is so in awe of being able to create life, why on earth is she promoting ending it?

Her reason for having an abortion was she wasn't "ready for kids".  Lets set aside the fact that having sex is probably not a good idea then since it is, from a purely biological level, how humans are made in the first place.  Lets look at the unbelievable amount of selfishness there is throughout this video and in this thought process.  Perhaps she wasn't ready to be a mother.  I don't know.  What I do know, from personal experience, is that there are at least tens of thousands of women who are unable to have children.  They are unable to "make a baby" and this crushes their heart!  Their body can't do what it is suppose to do naturally.  But there are women out there, like this young women, who can have children.  And yet they don't see the gift that children are.  To the point that in order to make a point about their life choices, they make a video documenting aborting a baby that another woman would give her last breath to have!

This video is far from empowering to women.  It is so incredibly hurtful to women, especially those who can't have children.

All my life, no matter where I went in it, I always had one consistent desire that never, ever changed.  I wanted to have children.  I wanted to feel them grow inside of me.  I wanted to hold them in my arms the moment they were born.  I wanted watch them every day grow into an individual who was unique!  I wanted to hold their hands and help them take their first steps.  Watch them grow into a unique blend of me and their father!  I wanted to take them to school and watch their school plays, recitals and sporting events.  I wanted to show them the places I went growing up.  Camping in Montana, paddling canoes around the lake, hiking the mountains of Virginia.  I wanted to watch my sons and daughters become young men and women.  I wanted to see them graduate from college, start a career, fall in love, get married and start their own families.  I wanted to teach them about God and faith.  Give them all the tools they would need to build good, strong lives and deal with the hardships life can sometimes bring.  I wanted to hold my grandchildren in my arms and see my blue eyes looking back up at me from their sweet faces.  I wanted so much to be a mother!!  And now, I'll never be able to have a baby.

My cancer took away my ability to have children.  I'll never see my eyes in my child or grandchild.  I'll never see that face that blends me and their father.  That pain is something I can't even begin to describe,  But what I can do someday, God willing, is adopt a baby that some other women isn't ready to raise.  I can give that baby so much love and give them a chance to be the person God made them to be!

Watching that video of that young woman's abortion all I could think of was…"NO!  Stop!  Give me the baby!  I'll raise them!  You don't have to!  Please don't do this!"  And then to hear her say "I can make a baby" at the end.  After taking the life of her baby that she made just because she wasn't ready to be a mother and wanted to prove a point!  Did it ever cross her mind of the countless women this video would hurt?  Of the women who would have jumped in and done anything to raise that child?  Of the women who's hearts are aching for children?  Maybe that is a video that needs to be made.  Women who can't have children standing together to say "Please don't abort!  Give us a chance to be a mother."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Remembering at Anniversaries

Most of the time, the word Anniversary evokes happy thoughts and memories of weddings, birthdays and other happy events.  For me, right now, the word "anniversary" is evoking fear, sadness and sometimes total terror!  A year ago today I was checked into Bronson Hospital, with three units of blood already transfused and two more to come.  I had no idea what was wrong with me and terror was all I could feel…when I was coherent enough to feel it.

This month has been a rough one and I can't imagine May will be much better.  Diagnosed with cancer in April, surgery in May and then there is the anniversary of my brother Peter's death from cancer in May.  To put it lightly, I was a complete and total basket case a year ago.  While it is not as bad this year, just remembering it puts me in a cold sweat sometimes.  Or makes the tears come before I even know it.  I would love not to think about it and sometimes I can manage that.  But then out of the blue it all comes rushing back!

I am grateful that a year later I have had two clear checkups and I am grateful that slowly but surely I am getting back to my old level of energy and stamina.  But that fear…I wonder if it will ever go away.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Some Do's and Don'ts Around Cancer Patients

I have seen several blogs written about what people going through cancer are really going through and also what their family and friends can do to help and things that don't help.  So I thought I would put my own two cents in and maybe it will help someone else.

1.  When a person first finds out they have cancer, the entire world just disappears.  In that moment all you feel is shock, fear and like you are standing in the middle of an empty football field.  You kinda hear voices but they are far away.  I remember I had to ask the doctor to repeat what he had told me at least three times…I might have even asked more.  At that moment, the best thing you can do for that person is hold them.  Don't tell them they can cry (trust me, that IS coming).  Don't say anything at first because chances are, they won't hear you.  Just be there.  The physical contact is what they need at that moment.

2.  Let them be scared!  It's pretty terrifying!  Wether the diagnosis comes with a surgery or not, they realize that life as they know it is going to be completely different.  Again, just be there for them.

3.  Every chemo is different and every reaction is different.  Just because they may not throw up all the time doesn't mean that they are having an easier time of it!  I never threw up…but that wasn't because I didn't want to!  That was A LOT of anti nausea meds and sheer force of will!  There would be days (not hours, days) where all I did was lay in bed and lay perfectly still because if I moved at all, I would have to make it to the bathroom before the very little amount of liquid in my stomach came back up.  I say liquid because eventually, any solid food for a week after chemo was taboo!  Just check on them and for heavens sake, don't ask them if they need anything!!  They can't think of anything but not getting sick.  Make them drink water every half hour and if you can handle the flavor, a protein mix in water will help a great deal!

4.  The question "How are you feeling" is going to be answered the same way…crappy.  So don't ask.  After a while they will just answer "fine" to stop the sympathetic looks come over your face.  It isn't that we don't appreciate the concern but the healthy person looks so upset that you find yourself comforting them!

5.  BE SILLY!!  For goodness sakes, tell jokes, try to make them laugh!  Depending on how they are feeling, a small smile could be the equivalent of you rolling on the floor laughing, they just can't get the energy to do more than smile.  That smile is what makes them think "Ok, I can keep going."

6.  Stay in contact.  I highly discourage calling a person during chemo.  The hardest thing in the world for me was talking on the phone.  A one minute conversation was like winning an olympic medal for me!  But thanks to modern things like texting and social media there are so many ways you can stay in touch!!  I had one friend who would text me every day.  All day.  I couldn't always respond but his texts of his day and what was going on with him were quite literally a life line for me!  Text them, email them, Facebook them and don't expect a response.  No response doesn't mean they aren't getting the messages.  Chances are they are reading them over and over again and will respond when they can!  And lets not forget that old fashioned thing called the Post Office.  Letters, little packages, notes…these are things that quite literally can make the difference between bursting into tears and wanting to give up and feeling like you can keep going on.  I remember I got a box from a friend of a friend and in it were hand made hats, nail polish, mints and other fun little things. I got that box shortly after chemo and on a day that I would normally have only been out of bed for five minute stretches here and there…I was standing up going through the box and trying on the hats for over a half an hour!!!  I was so excited and touched that when my body started to shake (my signal that I better lay down fast or I was going to fall down) I couldn't believe I had been standing up so long!
I think I can understand why some people fall out of contact when someone they know gets cancer.  It is pretty frightening and most people don't know what to do.  Even family members sometimes.  Just, fight against that feeling if you can and keep that person in your life!

7.  Come to visit but make sure the person is able to visit and don't come sick!  Although, the occasional surprise visit can be helpful too!  My brother-in-law and two nieces came for an afternoon about five days after chemo.  Again, normally I time I was still spending more in bed than out.  I found myself walking around outside and talking.  Only laid down once while they were here!  Just having family come visit gives you a burst of adrenaline that gets your endorphins going!
Normally when you visit, expect to be sitting next to the person as they lay in bed or on the couch.  Don't ever ask should I go or do you want to sleep.  They will tell you if they need to rest.

8.  Remember that once chemo is over, they aren't automatically better.  It takes months, some longer than others, to regain their strength and energy.  And that is a very slow process.  I thought my nurses were giving me a worse case scenario when they said to look for improvements month to month and at first, they won't be very big.  They weren't!  You don't "bounce" back from chemo.  Depending on the drugs used and your body's reaction to them…you find yourself crawling back from chemo.  I was told the chemicals they put in me would take 6 months to flush out of my system.  For 6 months after chemo, you are still being poisoned…just not as intensely.  Recovery is a process and they still need you during that process.  Maybe, in a way, more than during chemo.  Because now they aren't being systematically smacked down.  They ARE getting better.  But they still can't do so much of what they use to.  However, they aren't drugged up anymore.  Having people around them to talk to or do little projects with as they get stronger is very important.  But again, don't act sympathetic or empathetic.  Just be their friend.

9.  Take their words for what they mean.  There are no hidden meanings and at this point, they are going to be totally honest with you.  Don't argue with them.  If they say they need to lay down, don't disappear.  Give them ten minutes to relax then come back in and continue the visit.  If they say their hair growing back in is ugly, don't tell them they are silly and they look great.  Maybe the short "buzzed" look does look good on them but if they don't like it, then they don't like it!  I know, personally, my hair growing back in can't grow fast enough!  I HATE the way it looks growing in!  Every time I look in the mirror with my hair this short it makes me think of when it was falling out and then being bald.  Those thoughts twist my stomach because they lead to remembering the chemo in great detail!  Let them say they hate their hair and move on!  They need to be cathartic now and then about their feelings without someone telling them they are wrong!

10.  Educate yourself.  I thought everyone in the world was educated at least a little about cancer in general.  But I have run into friends who have never been touched by cancer and really know nothing about it or chemo.  I couldn't understand why one friend could say the most insensitive and thoughtless things sometimes!!  He finally admitted he didn't know anything about cancer or chemo.   Do your friend going through that a HUGE favor and educate yourself.  You can read up on it or you can simply ask!  For some people it is hard to talk about their cancer and for others, it relieves them that their family and friends want to know what is going on.  They have no problem talking about it.  They sometimes WANT to talk about it.  If you aren't sure, ask your friend if they are comfortable explaining what is going on with them.  They will be honest if they want to talk about it or not.

11.  I think most people are gentle with hugs during treatment but be a little careful after treatment too!  Most people have ports in their chests for years after chemo.  A shoulder pressed into your port is rather painful and will result in a quick reaction of pushing away and sometimes a little yelp of pain!  Don't stop hugging, just be aware of where the port is and where your shoulder or head is!

12.  Meld your worlds.  I had a unique situation with my treatment.  Most of my family and friends live out of state.  In fact, other than my parents, the only people who visited me on a chemo day were my oldest brother and sister-in-law.  They came to sit with me during my last chemo.  Which, btw, meant everything to me!!  Those two were with me from literally day one!  If you can't visit your family member or friend during chemo, understand something.  That cancer center where they get treatment has become a huge part of their lives and will always be a huge part of it.  The nurses and doctors and staff have become family.  They are the ones who give you your chemo, hold the trash can under your mouth, lay cool, wet clothes on your forehead, snuggle you under heated blankets or just hold your hand when you feel miserable.  They go out of your way to get you any food that actually sounds good!  They rejoice with every small improvement and sympathize with every difficulty.  Let them bring you into that world…even if it is after your treatments are done.  I got a chance the other day to introduce a close friend to some of my nurses when we brought cupcakes to the cancer center.  It felt good to be able to show someone I was close with the place and people that have been a part of my life through all of this.  People I couldn't do without.  Lately, I have found myself a part of two worlds.  I am still a part of the cancer world…I always will be.  And I am trying to rejoin the world of my family, friends and jobs!  They are so different!  I think it makes it easier if you can introduce the two worlds to each other.  Maybe it will help the fusion of the two easier.


Ok, so this whole thing turned out longer then I had anticipated.  And chances are there are things I have forgotten.  But, maybe it can somehow help someone:)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I Think I'm Getting There!

As I write this I am randomly knocking on my desk in hopes of not jinxing anything!  I am actually starting to feel a little like my old self again!!!  I don't know if it just from time or the ballistic doses of Vitamin D I have been taking but I am able to walk more and work out at the gym almost consistently!  Granted, the workouts are short and my walks are up and down my road (and not all the way up and down it yet) but I actually feel like I can o this now!

The fear of completely wiping myself out and ending up in bed sick again is still there but it is slowly receding:)  One thing I have learned from this treatment and recovery is you can't live up to other people's expectations but you have to set reasonable expectations yourself.  I have also learned when people tell me "you're fine" they aren't dismissing everything you have gone through (which is what it really feels like BTW) but rather reassuring themselves.

My expectations, until recently, were always simply too high for me!  I came out of this chemo slower then expected but I am coming out of it.  I just had to realize the speed I was recovering at and work with it instead of working against it and getting frustrated.  But I think I am getting into a good groove here and hopefully it will be a faster recovery from here on out!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Evening Gown In The Infusion Room!


One of the many things I love about the nurses and people at the Cancer Center is their ability to make you laugh and not take life so seriously all the time!  One of those moments was today!  I also discovered that when you say you are going to do something…they hold you to it!  Such as wearing a new dress into the Infusion Room to show the Infusion nurses…even when that dress is an evening gown!

Today I had to go get my monthly port flush and actually was running late.  I had told myself that I could get a pass for not wearing the dress (again) because of the 8 inches of snow we got yesterday. Last minute though I changed my mind and as my car was warming up I threw on the dress, shoes and did my make-up:)  I found myself laughing almost the entire time I was in the building!  And the dress was a big hit!

I love that the girls remind me to just laugh and be silly.  I forget pretty easily!

Lots of love to everyone in the Cancer Center and special love and hugs to my Infusion Nurses!!


Port Flush Time…Ports Are…Something.

Once a month (or so) I head into the cancer center to get my port flushed.  Pretty much they inject stuff into the port to clean it.  The term Port Flush always makes me think of car issues!  Engine Flush, transmit ion flush…port flush somehow sound alike it should fit in!

I don't mind port flushes.  Just one poke into the port…and I have my topical numbing juice over the port right now doing it's thing.  Yet I am still terrified of needles!  I can hold it in better but that doesn't mean it is anywhere close to gone.  One would think with all the needles I have had to deal with I would not even think about it.  That logic never made sense to me.  If you have an irrational fear (which is what a phobia is) just because you are facing that irrational fear a lot more doesn't make it lessen.  You get better at accepting that there isn't much you can do about it but you don't loose the fear.

I remember last year I was trying to find ways to not have the port put in because all I could focus on was the fact that I would have to have another surgery…and this time I would be awake!  They call it a procedure but if they have to cut you open, put something in and then sew you back up…I call that surgery!  I was so focused about that process I wasn't thinking of what it would be like if I hadn't gotten the port.  I shudder to think the number of times veins would have to be dug for…a task that would get harder as chemo proceeded.  In hind sight, I am glad I was guided back around to the port.

I won't say I am use to having the port in me but I have come to accept it.  With the accept ion of CT scans…it is handy to have around for doctor visits…especially when they want my blood…which has decreased in number but still come!  It still bugs me when I lay on it in a certain way.  Or when I am in a lower cut shirt around people I don't know that well.  At that point I am VERY aware that my really pale skin makes my scar and the port stand out quite a bit.  I have developed a twisted sense of humor in situations like that sometimes.  I'll explain what the gray bump is and then point out how you can feel the catheter near where it goes into the vein.  It's so weird that I feel like one of the ways I deal with is addressing the thing that some people either keep looking at or avoid looking at.  I could just wear higher cut shirts…and sometimes I do…but they make my skin itch over the port.  So I have to make a choice sometimes.  Physical comfort or emotional comfort.  My own personal, constant reminder of everything thats happened and still happening.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Starting To Look Back

A year ago right now, cancer was the last thing on my mind.  But looking back, the symptoms were there.  Around this time I was getting back from Spring Break and getting ready for graduation.  I was looking forward to a Celtic Women concert at Miller Auditorium.  It was such a wonderful show too!!!  I had tickets to see Wicked (FINALLY!!) for me and my friends Jennifer the night before graduation.

But already, I was constantly tired.  I would get home from class and the library and would just collapse in my chair.  Making dinner was becoming a chore and I had to be completely out of food to force me to go to the store for groceries.  I figured I was just getting worn out from the stress of finishing school (it did take 15 years!) and job hunting.

Here is what is funny between now and this time last year.  This year is kinda mirroring last year.  I am job hunting once more for teaching positions and the funny thing is, the two schools I was applying at are both hiring again this year!  They both have my resume and we will see what happens.  It is a little strange.  And a little scary!  Everything seems to be repeating itself with these two job possibilities!  And I'm ok with that.  They were both great opportunities and possibilities last year.  I just want to make it through June.  June is my next exam and CT Scan and once I get a clean bill of health then…I'll stop feeling like I am just repeating last year.  I really don't want to repeat last year.

Better By Inches…But Getting Better

So after two up and down but ultimately wonderful weeks in Virginia I came home fully expecting to be in bed for days recovering.  The day I got home my mom showed me an add in the local paper about an Expo where I could sell the crafts I make two weeks from then.  I decided to go for it and purchased a space…then went into sewing overdrive!

The next two weeks were spent making aprons, tote bags and getting ready for the expo day.  I was out of bed much more than I was in it and able to just keep going!  I really surprised myself!  I did manage to knock myself out the weekend of the expo but it was a good weekend!  I spent the day of the expo on three hours of very bad sleep (because the insomnia pops up it's ugly head now and then still!) but still made a few small sails and then kicked back and napped all the way home!  I honestly expected to wake up the next morning so tired I would be sick.  That is the normal response I have when I over do it as much as I did.  Surprisingly though…I woke up still very tired but…NOT SICK!  I spent a couple days resting and went back to sewing today:)  Working on a blanket for my sister-in-law.

I discovered that having close goals helps me keep going.  If I have things to do to work towards a goal then it makes my energy bounce just a little higher:)  So I am focussing on sewing as much as I can:)  Also looking forward to a possible craft fair in April as well as a Relay for Life event I'm invited to at WMU in Kalamazoo.  ANd I am really looking forward to the snow melting and staying away!  We had a day in the 40's and it was so nice to just go outside and walk up and down the road to the property line and back:)  I REALLY need to get more exorcise in but the weather has not been cooperating!  My goal…if the weather gets better…to be able to walk down to Garrison road and back by the end of March / beginning of April.  That is just over a half mile walk.  For someone who spent the majority of the past year in bed…thats a pretty good goal to reach:)

Little by little, inch by inch, I am getting better.  I am still in utter amazement in how long it takes!  I know everyone is different but it would be nice to know that there are other people who have this constant feeling of tired for so long.  I am hoping the ballistic daily doses of Vitamin D and B my doctor has me on will help boost my energy in another month or so.  Yes, I am still looking at life month to month.  When I start trying to look for quicker improvement I generally end up disappointed!  But I will get there.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Is Familiar Is Calming

This week I am back in Front Royal and made a big decision.  My original trip was going to be three weeks long but I was finding myself steadily getting more and more tired even while resting.  I called the airline and changed my flight back to Michigan to the 23rd rather than the 2nd.  Immediately I felt a total sense of calm and relaxation.  So I knew this was the right decision.  I am going to really miss that extra week with friends but at the same time, I can see now that three weeks was a bit long for me just now:)

So here I am in Front Royal around the places and people I have known longest and I was happy to see that here at least, while there has been change, there isn't that sense of being left behind.  Granted, time hasn't stood still here either but I think I had a deeper connection to this place that even though I've been gone a long time, I'm still a part of it.  

A friend of mine who runs a film company I use to work for summed it up for me.  Since I last saw them, they have grown into a new suite of offices and the business has really taken off with lots of new faces.  Last time I stopped by their office the other day, my friend gave me a really big hug and told me that I had been grandfathered into this new family!  I had to get out of there pretty quick because that one statement was going to bring on the water works for me!  It meant more to me then maybe he knew.  While life has moved on with them, they weren't leaving me behind no matter how long I was away.  That was just the way it was, like it was a forgone conclusion:)

I'm not in any way saying that other friends don't say the same thing and mean it whole heartedly, but there is a difference.  One I can't quite put my finger on.  I think the difference is because this place and these people have known me longest.  I went through a lot of growing up here and most of these people saw that or were a part of it.  

I joke with friends a lot about Front Royal but the truth is, this town and these people played a big role in my life.  They give me inspiration, encouragement and reminders...all things we need as life moves on.

Last night I had dinner with my oldest friends in town, Heidi, Mike and Cameron.  I met this family within a few months of coming to Front Royal when I was 18 and first starting Christendom.   They are the friends that no matter how much time goes by, it's like it has just been a day or so since you last saw each other.  Heidi is like a sister to me, someone I can confide things to that I wouldn't think of saying to anyone else.  


While I am leaving Virginia early, that choice has enabled me to do more here in Front Royal and reconnect with a place and with people who have seen me change in many ways over the years.  This last change, they know maybe better then I do that I've got this covered.  That this change is just another step through life.  That is a soothing feeling to me.  While I know I don't have to pretend to always be feeling great around any of my friends anywhere, there is a safe feeling about being in this particular place and around these particular people.  More of a home feeling.  

I'm happy to know that no matter how much life might change, where I might go and change myself, I can always come back here and know, even if all my friends have moved away, this place will always be a home to me.  Walking down Main Street, driving up Skyline, or just sitting in the park listening to the ever changing sounds of children backed by the never changing sight of mountains, this is home.  I know when I'm completely better I want to come back here even just for a few days to get lost on the trails that crawl over mountains and valleys.  A total sense of peace and happiness!  And I AM going to get there!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why DId This Pop Up Here!?

Being back in Virginia has been pretty great, but it is also making me face different things that I have just put off dealing with.  They aren't bad things really, but they aren't easy either.  It has been an interesting time of a mix of laughing, smiling, thinking and yes, even a little crying.  I think crying is just going to happen for a while.  I do feel better after letting myself cry though.

I find myself so incredibly happy to be back with my friends and even meeting new people:)  It feels so very good to laugh over jokes, silly things or even nothing at all!  Although i am also learning that, as a friend pointed out, I have been alone way too long!  It comes out in how I deal with being around people, especially larger groups of people.  I don't do very well.  I've had to have things a certain way for so long now that it is hard to break out of some of those habits.  It is also hard to admit that some of those habits I can't break out of just yet.  The pickyness of the food, the need to eat small meals throughout the day.  Not being able to be around large groups of friends for very long at all.  Still need to keep track of the water I drink to make sure I get enough.  And the resting.  Ah yes, the resting is still very important!

I suppose some of the harder parts is realizing that life really did stand still for me...but it didn't stand still for anyone else.  It's hard to wonder if that distance can ever really be closed again.  I know life will move on for me as my energy comes back (and it WILL come back!) but I am seeing it isn't the life I had tucked away in my mind.  A life that just picked up where I had left off.  That's a little scary actually.  Well, ok, it's a lot scary!  How do you deal with that?  Life moving on without you?  Where do you go when that happens?

Being around people again like this has also made me see a lot of insecurities I never knew I had.  I have only been surrounded with kindness and love and support while I have been here...but I still feel like I'm on one side of a line and everyone else is on the other side, watching me.  I see wonderfully confident women who look beautiful and full of life.  I see handsome men, strong and kind and good.  And I'm almost sometimes afraid to try to step over that line back to their side.  I never know when something is going to hit me in such a way to make the tears just come gushing out no matter how I try to stop them!  I want to be around them, talking and laughing but also am hesitant in a way I don't understand.

I was really surprised at how I reacted to returning to the young adult group I use to be a part of.  So many faces I didn't know but all these people and more had been praying for me for so long!  I wanted to thank them from the bottom of my heart...to somehow convey to them just how much their prayers held me up and the numerous little miracles that were the result of all their prayers!  I was barely able to get my name out and a short "thank you" before this feeling of fear almost over whelmed me!  I tried so hard to focus on the talk my friend was giving that night but phrases and words just brought on a wave of things I have tried hard not to think about too much and just overwhelmed me!

They were studying the book of Tobit and a mention of Tobit getting married and having children nearly threw me into tears.  I started looking around and saw all these beautiful women who could have kids and the men around them who probably wanted that!  It just brought it crashing down on me that I can't have kids!  One sentence!  It brought on a whole slew of insecurities about myself around other people!  It was ridiculous!  I'm pretty sure every person there would tell me they were unfounded...yet there they were!  Rather big and ugly too!

So while this trip is the much needed break from Michigan and everything that has happened there, I think it is also going to be a time for me to maybe start trying to deal with these things that have been hitting me at the oddest times!  I would much rather just hold on to my friends, laugh, talk and yes, rest!  So yes, this trip is turning out to be a mix of easy and difficult.  But I suppose that is life...or at least my life:)  I wonder if anyone else has had these problems with insecurities, fears, and inability to control the tears.  Ok, the tears are just a part of menopause but the rest...really?

I suppose I am asking for more prayers then:)  I have to deal with all of this eventually.  Perhaps a safe place to start is surrounded by friends:)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Home Again With Friends

Last Friday morning I landed in DC at Regan and took a deep breath as I walked outside.  I was HOME!!  True, it is just a visit...but a visit that I have been holding on to since last spring.  For months I was thinking of that moment.  Dark nights, dreary days, tired days, sunny days...scared, strong, weak...through it all I kept on thinking that at the end I will be able to go home to Virginia for a visit with the friends I have missed for so long!

I did push a little too much over the weekend but my adrenaline was pumping and nothing was  going to slow me down.  Finally, Sunday I was at a brunch that friends gathered at and realized...I had hit a wall.  So curled up on my friends bed in her room, friends came in one at a time to just sit and visit, talk, laugh, hug and just spend some time together.  I realized as ridiculous as I felt laying on that bed, I had some pretty amazing friends who were pulling for me and just as happy to see me as I was to see them!!  I am beyond blessed to have them in my life!

Monday was a day spent resting...for which my body was profoundly grateful!!  I have discovered that while I am getting my energy back slowly each month...I am really not use to being around more than a few people at a time!  Talk about sensory overload!  But as difficult as it is...it makes me happy at the same time!  I might be overloaded and get tired faster....but at least I have those people around me again that makes me tired!  It is a pretty good trade off!

Each evening friends have come by with dinners and their wonderful company!!!  Sitting and talking or watching a movie makes my life feel as normal as it is going to get for now:)  A taste of what it will be in hopefully a few more months...just without out the laying down:)

Last night I was introduced to an Appletini!  So VERY good!  Girls down at the hotel bar laughing, having a drink and just having a good time!!!  Again, life as I remember it!!!

Tonight I get the chance to thank a lot of people I don't know for their unending prayers and support through this whole thing.  I am excited, nervous and scared all at once!  Trying to fight the urge of just hiding once I get there!  But I want to meet these people and thank them...then sit back and watch as much of a friend's talk on the book of Tobit as I can.  Praying God gives me a little extra energy to last a little longer tonight with so many people around me!

Can't stop smiling...and hope that continues!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Pictures Help



I put this video on Facebook recently…but I made it a month ago.  Actually, I was finishing it up as the year went from 2013 to 2014.  A new year, one without surgeries and chemo.  This year is going to bring it's own challenges for sure…but it felt good to leave last year behind…as much as I can.

This past year, I have been writing to deal with everything but I have also been taking pictures.  Not that I need reminders that it happened, but I did need reminders that it happened and I could still find reasons to smile.  Also, I took pictures because it seemed so surreal.  It was happening to me and through the whole thing, I couldn't believe it.  Also, the pictures showed the good people in my life.  Not all of them, but some of them.  The pictures remind me that even when things seems the worst, you can always find a reason to smile…even if you smile through tears.

I have had a few close friends watch this video while I debated about posting it.  Each said they couldn't believe I smiled through the whole thing.  I think part of the reason I did this was to remind me that it wasn't all tears, fear and completely loosing it.  Because I did cry, a lot.  I begged my mom to make it stop more times than I can count!  I asked her over and over if it was going to ever end!  It doesn't matter how old you get.  When you are this miserable, all you want are your parents and all you want them to do is make it go away.  And I spent a lot of nights just crying all night.  And there were so many days and nights where all I could do was lay in bed…laying very still so I wouldn't get sick…and just feel this miserable.  I couldn't think about anything.  All I could do was lay there feeling so tired opening my eyes was a chore sometimes and feeling this horrible sickness all through me.

These pictures in this video, and so many others I didn't use, helped me remember that after each chemo…no matter how long it took…I was going to start to feel better.  I was going to be able to get out of bed and move around a little.  I was going to be able to stand outside and take a deep breath of air.  So every time I could take a picture I made sure I was smiling.  I was smiling because in that moment…I was beating this horrible thing.  Or I was outside…not in bed.  Or because I was able to do something for someone else and not dwell so much on myself.

I had a friend who would text me every day.  More often then not I would wake up and there would be a text there already saying good morning and asking how I was doing.  Then throughout the day they would send me texts just telling me about their day.  Every day stuff.  Often, I would be smiling in the picture because I had just gotten a text from them talking about work or their dog or just random things.  Being pulled out of myself made me smile!

These pictures help because they remind me of that.  Even now, months later, I'm still not anywhere near where I want to be.  But I keep looking at these pictures and know that just like chemo, this too will pass.  Yes, it goes inch my inch but in time, I'll be looking back at pictures of this time and remembering the things that made me smile in those pictures.  And maybe that will help me keep future problems in life in perspective.

That is why pictures help.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fighting Frustration

I never thought of myself as a constantly moving person.  I always saw myself as someone who took life easy…until I had to take life easy for months and months and months!  Nope, I am a "lets get moving" person!

It's really hard not to complain right now but it is frustrating.  I want to get out there and get life moving again!  And I can to a certain extent.  Just not anywhere near what I use to yet.  I went back to the gym over a week ago.  I did three workouts in one week and yes, pushed myself some.  Then I also spent afternoons running errands and going places.  As a result, I spent three strait days in bed so tired I felt sick.  Then the rest of this week mostly resting in bed.  I'm still not back up to where I was before I went to the gym but am getting back there.  I also realize…it hasn't even been the same amount of time I've been through chemo.  I have heard that at the VERY LEAST you are going to be knocked down after chemo as long as you were in chemo.  I was in chemo for 3 and a half months.  That isn't counting the month after my last chemo that was spent almost completely in bed! And it has only been just over three months since my last chemo.   I know stepping back and looking at it…I am actually doing pretty good…even though I am still highly limited as to what energy I have and stamina.

That being said…if my hair were actually long enough to grab in my hands…I would be pulling on it in frustration!  I have never been someone who has sat around waiting for something to happen.  I have always been the type to go out and do my best to make something happen.  And now, I am stuck in the post chemo waiting room!  You think waiting for your doctor is long!!!  No comparison!

Friends keep suggesting things to do and I try to do some of them.  The crazy thing is that it comes down to stamina…energy…and my lack of both!  And concentration!  I know I have come a long way from being in chemo with my concentration.  Use to be a two minute conversation on the phone knocked me out!  I can have normal conversations again…mostly.  Although, talking too long does still wear me out.  It all comes down to focus.  It is crazy how much focusing can make you tired!  I'm trying to start a new FB page posting articles I find and people write for me on the Faith.  The problem with finding links for articles means I have to read them!  This is odd…I can read a fantasy genre book on my tablet with no problems…I can read for an hour or two at a time and I'm ok!  I try to focus on an article online and my brain goes sideways and it is a total fight to get it to read the words and take them in!  I usually find myself skimming and hoping I get the gist of the article.  The longer the article…the harder this is.

I can hear everyone saying to me that I have been through a lot.  And I'm not arguing that…I was there!  But that doesn't mean that the frustration of being so limited goes away with those words or those thoughts.  It's there every day…fighting me!

I was told many times by my nurses to look for changes from month to month…and they won't be big ones for a while.  I'm going to try something.  I am going to give myself a month to look forward to and until that month I'm not going to try to compare the differences each month brings.  I am looking at the end of April…the time this all started for me last year and six months from my last chemo…and see where I am there.  In the mean time…I am hoping not to go nuts with all the resting I still have to do.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Out And About!

Today I finally got out of the house!  I hitched a ride with my folks as they ran errands and it felt good to be away from the house!  The snow has been ridiculous!  While it stopped snowing a couple days ago, the drifting has kept the roads almost impassible!  I walked through waste high walls of snow to the car!

I will say this though.  As freezing cold as the weather has been…and sub zero is just beyond cold…the blue sky and sunshine yesterday and today made the snow look really pretty!!  It may be cold…hard to drive through and everywhere…but it can still look nice:)

Looking forward to being able to get my own car out.  Once it will actually start again, I have to clear out the drift from behind it.  Hopefully both things happen before Monday since that is my first meeting with my trainer at the gym!  I know it is only January but I am already asking the question…is winter almost over?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Year!

Ok, this blog about a new year being here is about a week late…which is about right on time for me!  Yes, a new year is here and I am determined it will be full of only good things!  Positive thinking is important I have learned.  You decide something is going to happen and it will!  I was determined I was going to have an ER free chemo and it happened.  I was determined to not have to go beyond 6 chemos and I didn't.  I was determined to have enough strength for a birthday party and I did…mostly :)

Lets look back at 2013 for a little.  It was a mixed year.  It started off pretty great!  I started my last semester in college for my undergrad degree!  I  had an amazing weekend in DC with friends in January!  I also learned that there is nothing in the world that will ever convince me that riding a bus from MI to VA and back again is anything close to a good idea!  Yes, I will finally admit that I am too old for things like that!

My semester went pretty smoothly actually!  I  spent most of my time going to class and doing homework and studying but that was what I was there for!  As the weather warmed up a little I started taking long walks and enjoyed them greatly!

Then came April.  It started off good!  I finally got to see Celtic Women in concert!  That is a pretty amazing performance!!!  Then came all the ER visits, surgeries and chemo.

But between all of that there came a pretty great day…GRADUATION DAY!!!  It took 15 years but I made it!  Even in the midst of the madness I made it to that day!  And somehow I made it with high honors too!  I think that surprised me more than anything!  Lol!

Yes, the next 6 months were full surgeries and chemo…and I don't want to dwell on that for now.  Maybe another post I will write on that as a whole but not right now.

Suffice to say, the end of 2013 ended pretty great!  I was given tickets and a meet and greet pass to see Jim Brickman in concert!!!!!  And yes, a chance to meet him!!!!!   There is no better way to end the year then to actually check off a bucket list item!  And it was the first one I was able to check off!  Lol!

So looking at 2014, it is already starting off pretty good!  This month I was able to get back to sewing like normal!!  No sewing my fingers and only making a few stupid mistakes that are fixed easily enough with a seam ripper!  And more to look forward to next month with a two week visit to my friends in Virginia!

So yes, this new year is going to be better than last year!

Joined a Gym

Well, after I went to pick up a friends almost two year old and could barely get his little feet to lift off the ground, I was thoroughly convinced that my muscle tone is practically non existent!  So. to help that, I joined a gym…just before a blizzard!  That wasn't planned, I assure you!

I have never been an overly strong person but I have always been able to hold my own with lifting and carrying kids, walking long distances and shoveling.  Well, I can't pick up a kid…I can't walk that far without getting really tired…and my attempt at shoveling was sad to say the least!  I am hoping, starting out slowly, to get my strength back!  After the minimal shoveling I did today though, I am pretty sure my first few weeks of workouts will be lucky to last 5 minutes!  Maybe be up to a ten minute workout by the end of the month!  I have to admit, this is a new thing for me.  My average workout use to be 45 to 60 minutes.

It doesn't matter how often I tell myself that the recovery will take longer than the chemo did…I somehow always mange to surprise myself at just how little I can still do!  I try to focus so hard on what  I CAN do again that I forget that there is still quite a bit I can't do still.  Yes, I can drive again…but driving too long wipes me out.  I can walk longer…but walking too long wipes me out.  I can talk on the phone and concentrate better…but talking too long and concentrating that much believe it or not makes me tired still!!

I am hoping going to the gym (when the roads are passably and we can get out of the driveway) will help change this.  Maybe even a little faster?  Chances are it won't make it change faster but I am sure it will help:).  Maybe be back up to a normal workout for me by summer time.  You never know, it could happen!