Friday, December 31, 2010
She, on the other hand, was discovered lying on the sofa whimpering, hot with fever. Why is it that ear infections always happen at the most inopportune times? Fortunately, one phone call later I discovered that the Spanish Fork Clinic was actually open on Christmas Eve. Hooray!!!
Soon we were sitting in the waiting room with a few other folks whose celebrations had also been interrupted by illness. Had we not been seen by the doctor so fast, I imagine that we all could have formed some sort of pathetic fellowship while sitting there. Our flag would have been made out of back issues of People magazine. Hail Brad and Angie!
But as it were, we were on our way out the door before we knew it and almost home when suddenly, out of my rearview mirror something caught my eye. A second glance revealed the smashed remains of my taillight flapping in the breeze. Someone had hit me in the parking lot of the clinic! Despair and frustration raced through my mind as my thoughts immediately took me back six months prior when the same taillight had been smashed out by a hit and run driver in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. I was instantly consumed with the thought of having to spend another couple hundred dollars to get it fixed… again.
I kissed joviality goodbye and headed back to the clinic for clues as to who the perpetrator was. Finding nothing to go on in the parking lot I went inside to ask the receptionist if anyone had reported seeing the accident. Much to my surprise, she produced a slip of paper with the name and number of the man who had slid on some ice and hit the back of my car while trying to park next to me. He was so apologetic and kind when I called and best of all…I didn’t have to pay another repair bill for someone else’s error.
His honesty and integrity has made him a hero to me ever since. Accountability has become an option to most people, and one rarely taken if ever. The real men and women left in our world carry the torch of accountability alone. “ Good men are bound by conscience and liberated by accountability. Dignity is the reward of holding oneself accountable to conscience.” Wes Fessler
I will probably never meet him and I’ve already forgotten his name, but to me he will always be handsome. He will always be strong. He will always be a hero.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
"Endure to the end". Maybe I've just missed it, but in my accounting, there hasn't been a whole lot of time dedicated in preaching those four words even though it seems like they get tagged on to the end of many an admonition from God.
As an example: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20
Countless sermons on hope, love, feasting on the word...not so many on the enduring part.
It's really almost too depressing to write about. The fact that trials can last F O R E V E R, or at least feel that way. That's why we are so fond of Doctrine and Covenants 121:7 "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment..."
Small moment = good. All your waking moments = bad.
I guess we need to reset our clocks to God's time zone, cause we have some serious spiritual jet-lag. I don't know about you, but I get tired of my trials way too soon. I want to put them to bed yesterday.
I think we all see the punch line coming on this one: Always just assume it's going to last forever, right? When it turns out to be brief, we get to be pleasantly surprised. But if it drags on forever ...then no biggie, we were expecting that.
Mental health professionals have already come up with a thought process to help people acclimate to the latter. They call it "the new normal". When, against your dreams, hopes and wishes, your life has been irreversably altered for the worse, there comes a time when you have to stop searching for your old life, or waiting to feel "normal" again. You have to embrace your new normal and move on.
I had to shake my head. Not the "what a pity" kind of shake my head, but the "shocking reality" kind of shake my head. For the first time ever the thought of dying in my sleep didn't sound peaceful or desirable at all. "I want to go peacefully in my sleep". "I just want to go to sleep and never wake up". You've heard people say that, or have even said it yourself. Not me, not anymore.
It just occured to me that going in your sleep means going alone. No holding hands, no goodbyes. Granted, you're not alone for long, but still.
It also means not being present for the big event. Sleeping through your death and waking up in heaven? Sounds boring. You only get to die once, don't you want to know what it's like? It'd be like being put under general anesthesia during childbirth. Kind of a momentous occasion don't you think?
So, there you have it, my final wishes: Wake me up!
Monday, November 15, 2010
I've found myself in overwhelming life situations recently that, although I have no memory of my breakdown that Christmas morning 39 years ago, must have been what it felt like to feel responsible for all those babies. More than once I've felt hopelessly inadequate to minister to all the sisters in our HUGE Relief Society. For whatever reason the Lord prolongs the split of this ward...may His grace temper the resulting side-effects of all the members in it now who find themselves feeling lost in a crowd and neglected by their Relief Society President. I hope they know she's really only two years old and partial to rag dolls.
Can you imagine...how are we going to handle feeling all of God's love when we are finally in His presence? I think of the people in the scriptures that fall down as if they were dead. That are "exceedingly astonished" when they feel His love. I'm convinced that we have only sampled His love for us in minute, managable proportions. Someday it's going to go right through us down to the marrow of our bones and change every ounce of every cell in our body. It will be glorious and we will never be the same. Will our old selves even be recognizable? Questions.
Friday, November 5, 2010
So naturally, when I later heard someone on the radio claim that anyone, ANYONE, could be totally debt free in 15 years, I was interested. Not interested enough to buy their product or their program, but interested enough to delve into the world of finance deep enought to figure out how to do it myself. We had three children at the time, three years old and younger, and only one car. I knew that car number two (and hence even MORE debt) was imminent. But I still full heartedly believed that anyone, ANYONE, could be totally debt free in 15 years. Once I was pretty sure I had figured out how to do it, because I'm me, I had to have a catchy slogan to go with it. "Debt Free in 20 -one -zero" didn't do anything for me, but "Debt Free in 20 -one - three" rhymed and kind of got me excited. (It also gave me an additional three year cushion, which sounded less strident to less-strident little me.)
Since then, my husband has been laid-off three times, we've moved clear across the country and back, bought and sold three houses, all of my kids have needed braces and I've had cancer. More than once that slogan, although never forgotten, was given the ol' que sara sara. Nice idea...but not gonna happen. So I thought...
Much to my surprise, even through all of those major detours, the debt free dream is not lost. We now find ourselves in the position to actually fulfill that goal and be totally and completely debt free in 20-1-3. No doubt, it is going to make for a tight three years, but do-able ones nonetheless.
Interestingly, I still remember where I was when I heard that radio broadcast. I was driving southbound on I-15, I had just passed through Bluffdale and was about to crest the point of the mountain. I find it fitting that I was going up hill, especially now as I recognize that not only has it been an uphill battle at times, but that these last three years will be the uphill-iest.
I'm not sure anything worthwhile is easy. The short quote says: "If you avoid difficult things, great things will avoid you." The long quote says: "Truth and untruth travel together, side by side. Light and darkness both offer themselves to the seeker after truth, one to bless, the other to destroy mankind. Whenever a man sets out to seek truth, he will for a time be overtaken by evil. No seeker after truth is, therefore, ever free from temptation, from evil power. This is an eternal law."
Believe me, ever since I became aware of how close we were to reaching our goal, my shopping lust, I mean list, has sky rocketed! I have the galloping green gimmies like no body's business! If only I were as allergic to debt now as I was then. Unfortunately, I have developed quite a tolerance. That mean old devil. He sure knows how to rope (or flaxen cord) us in. But I'm so close to the crest of that hill, I have to, ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO make it over...if for anything else than to prove to myself that I'm not a complete nincompoop.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
In the meantime, you better start thinking up ways to spin this to the kids...cause it ain't pretty.
Plan A: Label it gourmet and insinuate it's a Guy Fieri creation. Who could pass up Guy Fieri fare? He's fat AND cool, way more so than the Kool-Aid man. They're not even in the same league...real and pretend status aside.
Plan B: Start doing that funny bit by comedien Don Friesen about the poor kids in China. Sharpen up your Chinese accent so that they laugh so hard they cry. The tears will naturally blur their vision just long enough to get the cheese and lettuce to cover the....um...filling.
Plan C: You do pray at dinnertime right?
Much to my surprise, with no tricks employed whatsoever, everyone just sat down and ate it with no questions asked. UNHEARD of in my family. No whining at all? Is this what they've wanted all along??? Really??? Baffled...yes. Monumentally baffled. But in the end, just counting my blessings. One more family dinner down...17,000 more to go.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Two days ago marked a year since my last chemo treatment. Hence, I have been growing my hair back now, for 367 days. That is, theoretically I have been growing my hair back for 367 days. T h e o r e t i c a l l y. Realistically...it hasn't been going so well.
It's been months now since I've started to worry. My chemo buddies all have short, but rather full heads of hair already. I have short, rather thin and transparent hair on my head. I have long since done the dreaded google search that went something like "hair always grow back after chemo" to find out that about 2% of women will not get their hair back. I'm holding on to the hope that since it took me a while as a baby to grow hair, that it will just take me a while as an adult to do the same. See:
this is how much hair I had when I was born
this is how much gas I had when I was born (isn't mom pretty?)
this is me 5 months later (isn't grandma pretty?)
this is me a year after I was born bald
I stuff this down every morning and quickly groom so as to move my mind on to something else as swiftly as possible. Layers and layers of this angst had built up enough that I knew it was getting pretty close to the surface and that eventually I would snap, slump into a corner of my bedroom in a pile of tears, and refuse to come out ever again.
I was partially right. One day I did snap. But I was in the shower, and I had just reached up to wash my hair when the thought of "what's it matter" and the thought of getting out of the shower to see me in the mirror again both collided. Let's just say...it's not the first time I've sobbed in the shower.
So there you have it. This is not a pity party for me. This blog has never been about that. This is for all the times I've dropped in on someone else's cancer blog and felt not so alone when I was done there. Maybe there's someone else out there that's 40 and looks like 80 and now we're soul sisters.
The Lord is reportedly counting the hairs on our heads. I am counting the days since chemo. I've never really liked math.. but this has got to be the worst story problem ever.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
When he gets home, 65% of the time he has freelance illustrations waiting for him. Which means he spends about two more hours at work in his basement. If that isn't enough, we have a rental property, which makes the occasional demand on his time as well.
So...when he comes downstairs to our "den", where I am trying to blog or read or whatever, and turns on Spyro Gyra so loud that I can't hear myself think........ that's ok. That's really ok. What did Julie Beck say last conference? Something like "the Lord needs women to be women, not babies". Yeah...something like that. So, I'll just turn off my computer, give him a kiss on the forehead, and go find something I can do for him...like iron his shirts or wash his car.
(but really...Spyro Gyra????)
Sunday, July 18, 2010
So, with both feet eager and ready, I jumped neck deep back into life as rapidly as possible. But something wasn't right. As time went on, and emotional struggles multiplied, I realized it was going to take something more than both feet to get my life back. But I didn't know what.
I pushed onward, only to find it more and more difficult to cope with the simplest things. After a while I noticed that everytime I learned of the loss of a friend or even a stranger, to cancer, things became progressively worse. I got to the point that I would become angry if I went to my survivor support group and found out that someone's remission had ended and they were back in the fight. It felt like for every person that lost their life, I had to be even more perfect, more effective and more capable to earn my right as survivor. It was in this state of white-knuckling survival mode, that a vacation we had planned and cancelled and planned and cancelled again, actually not only survived the planning stage, but magically came to fruition.
Our vacation was set way back in the mountains, just north of Sundance. BYU runs a family camp called Aspen Grove that we've gone to before and that I've always loved, but I never knew it would save my life. But after only two days, I felt the old me finally returning. I used to look at pictures of me before cancer, and wonder: "who's that? she looks so familiar". But now, even though I definitely don't look like the girl in the pictures, I can claim that girl as myself.
Ever try that mental exercise where you imagine yourself in a beautiful, peaceful setting, like a beach? I did that a lot when treatments got hard, and the place I imagined was always Aspen Grove. Maybe that has something to do with why being there had such an instant, palpable impact on my well-being. Or maybe humans have a reset button, like a lot of electronic devices. If that's the case, I know where mine is...ten miles up Provo Canyon.
Friday, June 18, 2010
I had a blood test called a D-dimer. It was to check for a blood clot in my lungs, that could possibly explain my coughing. The D-dimer tested positive, which meant I had to go directly to the hospital and have a CT Scan. I'm not afraid of tests like that anymore, but I totally hated the feeling of driving to the hospital at that moment instead of driving to my house to make dinner for my kids. I was supposed to turn right at the intersection, not left. Didn't the D-dimer know I already had plans for the evening?
Long (painful) story short, CT Scan was clean. No clot. Still coughing? Yes, but I guess I have to live with that. When it gets really bad, I go online and diagnose myself. Doctors must hate the internet for that reason. All these little know-it-alls sitting in their waiting rooms, writing their own obituaries. At any rate, last week I decided it was Radiation Pneumonitis. This week I'm pretty sure it's Pulmonary Fibrosis.
J.P. signing out.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
It was then that I became aware of a new law myself, the law of "if you think someone else is lame, watch out...your own lameness is just around the corner". This law or lesson or whatever you call it, has become far too familiar to me over the years. Best I can figure is, you're rubber, I'm glue...what I say bounces off you and sticks to me.
Interesting confession, you say. But wait, it gets better. The reason I tell you this is because I've lived most of my adult life without the ability to understand people who run to the doctor for every little hiccough. Who belch and say "oh no... I must have the stomache flu". My motto has always pretty much been; "I don't wanna be sick, therefore, I'm not." Don't scoff. It's worked. I've been sick (aside from tumor related illness) twice in the past seven years. The rest of my family, twice every year.
So what happens when you walk around with disdain for the non-believers? You got it! That old rubber-glue law kicks into action and the next thing you know, you're recovering from cancer and turning into a hypochondriac all at the same time. I've been trying to ignore little discomforts and quirky body irritations now for at least six months and it finally got to me last week. I broke down. I made at least 10 calls to my doctors and four appointments. It's like I couldn't get enough. I'm going to be picked over with a fine-toothed comb this week and they won't find anything wrong with me. I better find out what hyperchondriacs do after that. Hopefully it involves going for D A Y S if not weeks without thinking about my stinkin' health and my poor picked-on body!
They have events like bowling or swimming throughout the year in cities near you, with the big two day Olympics on the last Friday and Saturday of May every year at BYU.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Sometimes when we go, we are assigned to act sort of like officials. We make sure they bowl when it's their turn, or stay inside the boundaries of the bicycle course, etc. always cheering them on along the way. But sometimes, cheering is the only thing we are assigned to do. This year the committee coined the phrase "Fans in the Stands" to describe volunteers assigned to cheering. Maybe some volunteers don't come back because they don't feel needed when they are placed as a cheerleader or a fan in the stand. But this year, the reality of just how much these athletes respond to the encouragement of cheering, became evident to me.
Three of us were sitting by the shot-put event cheering on the contenders when a large group of teenagers came to cheer as well. With their added volume and enthusiasm, you would think you were at an NBA game that was in overtime. The athletes perked up instantly. The shot was put significantly further than ever before. They smiled each time they heard their names being called from the crowd.
It was exciting.
As the event went on and the different divisions came to compete, the teenagers became distracted once in a while and would entirely miss a competitor here or there for no appearant reason other than a text message or an important conversation about something that happened the night before. Innocent and expected from a group in that demographic, but oh how my heart ached for those that didn't hear a crowd cheering for them.
I haven't stopped thinking about how significant it is to be encouraged, even cheered on. So simple, yet so significant. But we live in a world that is severely deficient in applause and approval. Unless of course, you're heads above the rest; bigger, sexier, richer, if you have -er at the end of any of your attributes, you know what it feels like to be cheered and appreciated. You also know what if feels like once the cheering fades. But what about those of us who are merely capable of only doing our best, like the Special Olympians, like the majority of the human population? Doing your best has become so under-appreciated that many people have lost the motivation to do even that.
But where does the fault lie? In the ravers or in the cravers? I believe it's the latter. If we focus on the perfect gifts that God has given us, that dwell inside of us, that bless those around us when we freely share them for the sake of beauty and not the sake of praise, we have serenity and a sense of fulfillment. We can see our perfect place in the universe and in the lives of those around us while being imperfect. We can hear God cheering, we can see five loaves and two fishes go a long way.
Three days ago I was assigned to cheer someone on. It was my job. But in reality, their willingness to take what God had given them and do their best was probably the most cheer-worthy thing I had seen all week, assignment or not.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Dilemma as it stands: I just realized I have a crazy bad habit. The first three times I "practiced" this habit, I was completely oblivious that there was any kind of trend to it. But fortunately, I'm only somewhat thick, and I realized yesterday, that I have a problem.
Hello. My name is Rosemary and I am a quitter. Can't there be another word for it? I hate "quitter", it sounds so lame and even despicable to some degree. But what else do you call someone who gets a job in the winter, loves it, but then wants to quit the moment signs of summertime start to appear? My last three jobs have all ended exactly that way.
I have wonderful reasons, other than summer, when I quit. Once I quit due to nepotism, an other time it was sexual harassment, and then there was "religious reasons". See...they're good reasons, aren't they?
The answer is yes, those are good reasons, but...I've run out of 'em. I have no reason to quit this year, hence my moment of self-discovery: I just wanna play all summer! Thanks to the public school system, that was firmly engrained into my psyche for twelve of my most impressionable years. Work all winter, play all summer. How can I not want to quit?! (Thank you...I feel your sympathy and compassion already)
Dad, if you're reading this, relax...I'm not going to quit. First of all, this was the hardest job ever to get, the economy IS a little scary to say the least. Second, I don't think I could go to another job interview and keep a straight face knowing what I know about myself now. I'd be laughing through every question. Potential Boss: "Why should we hire you?" Me: "Replacing me is half the fun?"
So now I've just limited my readership by about eight people. Eight people at my place of employment that can never EVER read this blog. (Shhhhhhh.....be very, very, quiet.)
But if they did read this...hmmmmmm...I wouldn't have to quit.....
Ok...I'm so kidding. C'mon...I just said this job was hard to get. And I do currently have Friday's off. So really...this is the best job ever. Right?! No quitting. And no getting fired on purpose. (Thank you...I am a good girl, aren't I?)
(But just for the record, that moving my desk downstairs...from a private office to a S H A R E D office??? That was lame people...so lame.)
Saturday, February 6, 2010
A few weeks ago I found myself driving to the mall very late at night, to pick up my son and his friends who had all just gotten out of the late show. I had been going, going, going all day and had long since run out of stamina. I was so completely wiped out that by the time I was backing out of the driveway for this last errand...even my van felt tired.
Usually I take to I-15 at a nice 7-10 miles over the speed limit and I'm usually in good company, but that night 60 was all I could muster. I was officially out of the race. Car after car passed by, leaving me in the dust. As I plodded along in the slow lane I began to realize that I had left the world I was used to living in and had entered a whole new existence. I was driving at the speed of contemplation. I waxed philosophical, like some sort of guru with a key fob. Everything became a metaphor as my inner beatnik emerged.
Driving slow started to mean that where I had been was OK and that I didn't have to run away from the past. It started to mean that where I was going was my decision, but how I got there was largely up to forces beyond my control, a.k.a."Life is what happens while you're making other plans". Sixty miles an hour meant no competition, no vying for preeminence. No enemies. My new compliance with the law squelched my old fear of it. And for once in my life, I wasn't secretly employing every bad driving practice that my husband openly loathed, while wondering how I'd explain myself if I were to get caught. (is there an emoticon for "sheepish confession"?)
Later I realized that if I wanted to maintain this slow-driver status/state of mind, I would finally have to own up to the fact that sometimes I'm a little overbooked and a lot of late...which is something I hate. I hate late. Speeding is my form of denial, a desperate attempt to escape from consequences and frankly, buy more time. For me, speeding was like buying on credit. Trying to get somewhere on something that I just didn't have, all for the sake of appearances. In the future, driving slow would take more than just being tired, it would take planning, downsizing my schedule a bit, self discipline and most gruelling of all...self-honesty. Basically, all the things that any decent key-fobbed guru would need.
So the question is...can I do it? I'm not sure, but I do know this: If you ever have more miles to go than money for therapy, don't underestimate the power of a good slow-down. And my guess is...slow-downs work in kitchens, bedrooms and backyards as well. No steering wheel needed.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Some people ask me if I am in remission and, what the heck…I say yes. My doctors haven’t exactly used those words. But that is mainly because it has sort of fallen out of fashion to say the word remission in the world of oncology. It’s too gloomy. It suggests an eventual return, does it not? So you might hear the acronym NED instead, which means No Evidence of Disease. You say tomato; I say… as long as I don’t have to have chemo, I’m happy!
I am aware that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) has been found in some cancer survivors. That probably explains why I struggle with guilt when I hear about other people who have actually lost their life to the disease. But fortunately, that’s the extent of the emotional side effects that I have been left to deal with.
Looking back on my initial diagnosis and the hours that followed, I’m struck by how certain I was that I was going to die, how desperately I did not want to leave my children, and how overwhelmed I was at the thought of someone having to sort through that pile of papers on my desk that never seemed to go away, after I died. The first two thoughts demanded every tear my tear ducts could produce, the last one…well that was just weird, but so very very me.
Now I find myself consumed in a crossword or sudoku puzzle every chance I get in a desperate attempt to eradicate “chemo brain” or what some call the “chemo fog”. I actually drove my car to the Safety/IM station for an inspection not too long ago, just to realize as I pulled into the bay that the car that needed the service was still in my garage at home and that I had driven the wrong car down. But my favorite story comes from a young musician/chemo patient in New York who got a flat tire late one very, very cold winter’s night. He got out of the car and managed to jack up his car and put the spare tire on without freezing his fingers off or getting mugged, just to realize as he was one foot back into the vehicle that he had changed a perfectly good tire and the flat one was still sitting on the wheel!
So, everything is going to be all right. I won’t blame myself for the tumor, but I will eat less sugar and more vegetables. I’ll take a hundred bad hair days over a “no-hair” day, any day and I will find a six-letter word for "laugh" before the night is through. My blog will go on...but have very little to do with cancer, if anything at all. Cheers.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Let’s all be mature, shall we? Well, that’s easier said than done for me. I am 40 years old yet I still crack up like a fifth grader when I hear the word “fart”. Just typing it made me laugh. So perhaps that explains why I’ve found it difficult to have breast cancer. I feel awkward talking about breasts, especially my own.
So imagine, immature little me having to delve head first into the world of plastic surgery. Imagine me at my first appointment with my plastic surgeon as he explained the reconstruction process. I felt like I was investigating some sort of cult, incredulous to learn what they were putting in the punch that everyone was drinking.
No way was I going to write about this in my blog. Too weird and way too personal. But then I kept seeing this beautiful young girl in my head, sitting at her computer, contemplating cosmetic surgery. Could anyone out there be more starved for the truth than today’s youth? Could anyone be more vulnerable to our cult of beauty?
So it is with “her” in mind that I swallow my pride and put my giggles away. For you, my little sister, I share my honest thoughts: Yes, your dress may fit a little better, but just as the novelty of buying that dress wore off, so will the novelty of your new profile in it. You’ll be just as happy or miserable as you were as an A cup now that you’re a D. I once lived in a Parade of Homes home, now I live in a duplex. My surroundings have changed, but in the morning, I still wake up with the same me that I used to put to bed at night in my old mansion. Happiness and success comes from the soul, not the shrink-wrap.
As fabulous a job as plastic surgeons have done over the years to improve their ability to mimic nature, there’s still no fooling anyone. Not anyone. Fake is fake. If you can live with it, fine. Many do. I do. But if you had a choice, would you rip the trees out of your yard and replace them with silk ones from the super mart? Silk plants are great. I love ‘em. But silk plants don’t give me oxygen. They don’t grow. They don’t need me.
They don’t interact with their environment, overcome adversity, follow the sun, or do anything dynamic and memorable like real foliage does. Fake is fake.
Finally, let me just say…it hurts. It really, really hurts. Each of us gets to choose every day how much suffering we will introduce to the world. The less suffering we inflict upon each other, the better. The less suffering we inflict upon ourselves, the best.
So little sister, this is my opinion. Not my judgment. I condemn no one for choices that come from a heart that has never beat in my chest. To the rest of my readers, I hope I didn’t offend anyone and I hope you never let “body embarrassment” stop you from doing the right thing, from having a colonoscopy to saying excuse me. (pardon me while I giggle)