Sunday, December 3, 2017



     DAWN. IT'S UNDER RATED!

I like getting up before sunrise when the earth is still and quiet.  Sometimes in the warmer months, I sit on our porch and listen to a nearby rooster crowing.  It's loud call beacons a new day.  This morning there is a light frost on the ground and rooftops.  Fog  hangs low in the valley.  It's quiet softness completes the moment.   I like all the white.  It makes our world seem clean and pure.  But that, my friend, is an illusion.

The scene is never the same; the color of the sky constantly changes from pink to purple as the sun makes its way upward.  Each moment is different than the one before so it's important not to blink.  It's my favorite time of the day.  Perhaps,  because it seems to belong to me.  That, in itself, is enough to make anyone feel special.  

It's early December.  Another year has come and gone.  It seems to have flown by.  When I look back on this past year, I realize that so very much has changed.  Time has a way of getting away.  It has a way of going nowhere and everywhere at the same time.   Time cannot be changed, nor halted.  It is misleading.   We think we always have more time..... more time for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.   As each new day dawns,  minutes and hours unfold.  It brings with it  new opportunities to make memories.   A new day to live with zest,  to love and laugh.  But, ah, there is complacency.  Sweet, sweet complacency.   

One of my favorite quotes by Gilda Radner says it all.  “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity.” 

"Taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next"  That's what life is.  Taking whatever we are dealing with and making the very best of it is an art!  It is easy to savor the moment when we are on a spectacular vacation or in the arms of a treasured soul.   Its a whole different story when we find ourselves thrown into a dark valley of pain and suffering.  Making every moment count is one sure way of getting one up of Father Time.  It takes practice.  It takes time....precious time. 

I have a memory of a different place and time.  A time when it seemed as if the clock itself had been completely rearranged.   There was no tic or toc.  It was  2010 and I was living in the shadows of breast cancer.  With each toxic chemo treatment,   time slowed to an agonizing crawl.  A minute was an hour. A day was a week.  A week seemed to be a month....and so on.  It was absolutely the weirdest, most bizarre thing ever!  This would slowly change as my cells replenished and I emerged from the "nadir" cycle.   I never understood why this happened but I have some theories.  At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter.  For me, it was the Summer that time stood still.  

The sun is high in the sky now casting shadows on the porch outside my window.  I step outside and hear a  distant rooster crow.  Fresh Autumn air fills my lungs.  I watch as birds search for their morning meal.  It's quiet and peaceful.  Just the way I like it.   A new day has dawned.   For this moment in time, all is well with my soul.    

 We replaced the batteries in the clock on the wall yesterday.   As my dear beloved dad would say, it's "not keeping good time".  I suspect it has become tired and worn.  It's had its day and  time.  Soon, there will be a new clock on the wall.  A new object to cast our eyes upon as each day wanes before us.    However,  in the end, there will always be  24 hours and 1440 minutes in each day.  All to start over in the morning because dawn is definitely underrated.! 











Saturday, October 8, 2016

Finding HOPE

It was just an ordinary day in my ordinary life.  I will always remember sitting in that small waiting room thumbing through a magazine.  I found myself reading an article about six ladies who had gone through breast cancer.  They all shared how their experience had made them stronger.  They appreciated life more and began to make a difference in their own unique way. They started their own businesses, wrote a book, and created handmade turbans for chemo patients.   I remember thinking how weird it was that such an awful experience could  help someone to "find" themselves and their purpose in life.  "That's all very nice",  I remember saying to myself, "but that's something I will never have to deal with."

They were calling my name.  I laid the magazine on the table and went into the exam room. It was time for that infamous February mammogram.  What I did not know or understand  was that the next few minutes would change me and my life forever.

Weeks later, I found myself returning to that small waiting room.  I was searching for the magazine that I had so leisurely thumbed through. I was searching for HOPE.  HOPE that my life still had meaning, that I would be "okay" as I journeyed through unknown territory.  The magazine was nowhere to be found.  I would have to find my HOPE somewhere else,  somewhere deep inside, somewhere I had never been before.

It's been six years now.  In some ways, it almost seems as if it were a dream.  Or perhaps, it happened to someone else.  In a sense, it did happen to someone else.  There has never been a single incident in my life that so drastically changed me.    It was a nightmare of making decisions and undergoing treatments.  It was a defining time when I realized who my family and friends were.  I was surprised, hurt, and shocked by people who had been a part of my life for a long time.  Many of them had no idea what to say or what to do.....so they did nothing.

I tried to be strong.  I only cried a few times because I was afraid it would make me weak.  I didn't want to worry the people closest to me so I kept my innermost fears and pain inside.   Some nights I would wake up shaken with fear and fright.  I learned to talk myself through the anxiety and I learned to make peace with death.   I learned to understand that people could hold my hand, but at the end of the day, this was a journey that I had to walk alone.

I learned more about breast cancer than I ever thought I would know.  I learned about my body and my limitations.  I tested myself more than I should have just because I had to prove to myself that I was stronger than I ever dreamed possible.   I learned that as long as we have HOPE, then we never really lose.  I learned to always believe in myself and that its really alright to cry.   I learned that all those "bad things" don't just happen to other people and there are no absolutes in life.  And, through it all, I learned  I was blessed beyond measure.

Most importantly, I learned about the power of prayer.  I learned  I never walk alone...and that will never change.  I learned that life will always bring trials and tribulations but I must walk in FAITH and not by sight.   So, in the end, I suppose as bad as it was, breast cancer did bless me.   I found my HOPE, my FAITH, and my PEACE.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Rainbows Need Rain

Nature's storms bring some of the most beautiful sights!  We all know how awesome it is to see a rainbow.  It's magical.  And the flower's.  Oh, My.  I'm always amazed how something so lovely can come from such a tiny seed.  One that is dropped in the dark earth, watered from the sky, and warmed by the sun.  In a few weeks a lovely creation is born.

I spotted this beautiful double rainbow in the valley behind our house.  My soul sings every time I see this array of colors in the sky.  There is just something about them that fills my heart with HOPE, that reminds me that no matter what we are going through, there are always blessings to be had.  Period.

Life can be just plain difficult at times.  There is no denying that.  I believe that when we accept this fact, when we understand that there will be good times as well as bad, then we have a greater peace.  We understand that all things pass.  When we are enjoying the good times....then enjoy them!  Because they won't last forever.   When we are in the valley, just keep on walking.  You will find your way to that mountaintop someday.  As my momma would have said, "mark my words".....Life constantly changes.   We constantly change.  Life's events, our trials and tribulations change us daily.
We learn.  We grow.  We gain insight and wisdom.  We become better individuals because of our challenges.

Breast cancer changed me more than any other life event I have experienced.  And I have had several that absolutely shook my world and broke my heart.    I have had great losses of family, tragedies that I have never fully accepted or understood.    But when I went on that dark journey of breast cancer, it changed me from the inside out.  Oh, it didn't happen overnight.  It took months and years after completing treatment to make sense of my emotions,  to finally grasp what had taken place in my body both physically and emotionally.

I believe I am a much better person, a stronger person who needs less and loves more.    I no longer keep people in my circle because that's where they've always been.   I'm willing to let go....even if it hurts.  I accept my mortality....whether it breast cancer or another unknown.  We're not meant to be here forever and I'm at peace with that.   I accept myself in all my faults, my short comings, and mistakes.  No one is perfect.  I have a right to JOY and everything good that life has to offer.  I respect myself and expect others to do the same.  I understand that my journey is mine alone and others may not "get" where I am.  I'm okay with that.  I am more grateful and I'm more comfortable in my own skin than I've ever been.   I find joy and peace every single day....no matter what I am worried about or dealing with.  I know that life is short and we don't get a second chance.  At least, not here on earth.   And I'm okay with that too.  In fact,  I'm okay with just about everything.  It's called PEACE.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

SPRINGING FORWARD

One week till Spring. Not that anyone is counting! I truly believe, without a doubt, that this has been the longest Winter ever!  Although, here in Southern Kentucky has been nothing compared to the blizzards and cold temperatures endured up North.  

Spring is my favorite season. Its a time of new life. New beginnings. An awakening of Mother Earth. It is a time to watch in wonder as the trees again come to life. Birds sing loudly searching for a mate. Frogs in the nearby pond croak reminding me that Winter is almost behind us once again.  Its a time of renewal.  Its a time of Hope, of Faith.

Just a few days ago I made a big decision, one of Faith and Hope.  I call those decisions Executive Decisions!  I decided once and for all to go off anti-estrogen medication.  I started with arimidex in the Fall of 2010;  a few months later, we switched to tamoxifen.  The months dragged by.  Plagued by ongoing hot flashes and chronic fatigue my life was no longer my own. There were many more side effects but these were constant.  

A few months ago I began having more troubling symptoms....headaches, dizziness, disorientation. Of course, I feared the worse.  My oncologist asked if I thought it was the tamoxifen. No. I really didn't. I had been on this particular medication for three years.  Why now? Whatever it was, I felt like it was literally sucking the life right out of my body!  Then I went off the tamoxifen.....just to see. Within three days most of the symptoms were gone.  It was the tamoxifen. 

Six weeks later I go back to my oncologist.  She had ordered an MRI of the brain.  No, I didn't have it done.  By the time it was actually scheduled, my symptoms had dissipated.  I don't want to do this anymore.  I tell her that I feel I've never gotten my life back since dealing with breast cancer.  You can have it back in five years she said. Lets try this other medication.  Aromasin.  She orders the prescription.  I let her. I'm still not sure what I want to do.  Should I try this new medication? Try to make it another year and half.....or say enough already.  Step out in Faith.  Listen to my spirit. Listen to my body.

I have forgotten what it feels like to have a body full of energy, full of adventure.  I have forgotten how my life was before this nightmare began.  There is a small voice inside me saying...."I'm still here".  Don't forget.  There is Hope.  Have Faith.  Lets start over!  And so I will.

I am listening to my body. I am listening and making Executive Decisions!   I am listening the way I did when I made decisions regarding my surgery and treatment.   I weighed my options and outcomes and made my OWN decisions based on my body and what I felt was right for me.  It hasn't been easy.  I again weighed the consequences.  I realized that if I ever have to deal with breast cancer again, I might blame myself.  Knowing there is always that possibility and also knowing the medication decreased that risk, I will step out in Faith.  I know my body and it has had enough.    Every fiber of my being screams for relief.   


I have made my decision and I am at PEACE with it.  I will not look back. I will not have regrets. No matter the outcome, I am doing what I need to do today.  There are no absolutes. No guarantees. Life is ambiguous.  I accept responsibility for my decisions, for my life.  I am Springing forward.  Just like Mother Earth, I am longing for new life....new hope and a new beginning.

 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rainy Days

I have found literally every excuse in the book to keep me from writing the past several months.  I sat here now not really wanting to write but needing to in the worst possible way.  Writing has always been my therapy. For most of my adult life, I have realized this.  It has helped me in times of loss, health crisis, relationship issues and so much more.  Most everything that life has thrown my way, I have used writing as a coping tool.  It works pretty well for me.

I can hear the thunder rumbling outside; the sky is cloudy and it seems that still another storm is on the horizon. It has been the rainiest summer ever.  Sometimes it has rained for a week or so.  Not your average summer as we usually know it. 

So, here I am talking about the weather when what I really want to write about is that one of my best friends is dying of cancer.  Perhaps if I could just write and put my emotions out there, it will help me. It will help me deal with the surreal nature of this entire process.

The year started off bad for her when she had to put her beloved Buttons to sleep. Buttons had belonged to her sister that passed away several years ago.  She said it was almost like losing her sister all over again.  She was wondering how she was going to make it without her sweet companion. That was in January or early February. 

Then out of the blue her sister died suddenly.  It was her one and only sibling that she had left.  She was also her best friend. They called each other every single morning and night to chat and check in on each other.  It was sudden and unexpected.  Apparently during this time, she was having some pain herself that she had checked out as soon as possible.

  About two weeks later, she was dealing with a terminal diagnosis herself.  I have thought about how all this has come about.  She has often said that losing "June" first was meant to be. June would have worried herself sick about the diagnosis and treatment.  The oncologist told her it was a very aggressive cancer and without treatment she might only live a few weeks. She chose treatment.  This would buy her some time.....time to settle her sisters estate and dispose of her ashes.

Now I guess the time that was bought for her has been spent.  She finished her first two treatment cycles and a CT scan showed the cancer responded well to the chemo.  Most all her tumors had decreased dramatically in size.  So she finished her 4 remaining treatment.  Altogether she had 6 treatment cycles. She tolerated it much better than I anticipated.  Of course, she lost her hair but overall, she remained fairly healthy.

Now the cancer is back and day by day is stealing her very life. She is getting weaker by the hour.  Last night she was admitted as a Hosparus patient.  I am hoping we can keep her comfortable and at home until the very end.  I will go tomorrow to stay with her. I'm not sure how long but if she wants me to, I will stay till the very end.

Today she told me that for over a week now, there has been a woman in bed with her.  She gets up trying not to disturb her and goes to sleep on the sofa.  Its not anyone that looks familiar but just a woman asleep in her bed.  I told her it is her angel.  Perhaps it really is.  I believe in angels. I believe we are never alone. I believe that God sends us just who we need to help us through the darkest of times.

I've always thought our friendship a little strange. She is 20 years older than me and we never had a lot in common.  But we stayed in touch, spending time together combing through thrift stores and having an occasional lunch date.  Now, perhaps I understand why.  I feel God is using me to be there for her.  I just know this is something I am suppose to do and so I will. 
I shall hold her hand and cry; we will pray and talk about what is happening to her.  I will spoil her in whatever way I can. I will let her know she is not alone and she is loved.

As I prepare to travel to share in this journey, I am reminded of just how fragile that life really is. I am reminded that NO we really don't have forever. We have the here and now. That's all. That is all we ever get.  I am reminded not to worry about things that don't really matter.  I am reminded that money and material possessions don't really matter. It is Faith, Family, Love, Hope, Friends, Laughter, Peace, Joy........these are the things that matter.  Our very life will fade away.  It is the difference we make in the lives of others that will live on after we are gone.

My heart is heavy but I know my friend will be in a much better place soon.  She will not be in pain. She will not be afraid and worried.  She will know peace and joy in a way that we cannot begin to imagine.  I will miss her so very much.  We have been friends for 13 years now.  There will be a huge void in my life and in my heart. I hope I can replace it with memories of the good times we've had together.  She will live on in my heart and soul.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sunny To Partly Cloudy!!!!!

It seems like a very long time ago that I was recovering from surgery and treatment for breast cancer.  In actuality it has only been two years.  I'm really not sure why it seems longer than that because in another sense time seems to fly!

I remember thinking that I just wanted to get everything over with; my plan was to have all my surgeries and treatments complete during the year of 2010.  This way I could put it all behind me and get on with my life.  Everything almost went as planned; I had it all finished by the end of that year.  I was thrilled that I had no complications and my body was healing after being assaulted with toxic chemicals and surgical tools.

I started on the hormone therapy arimidex.  Having estrogen receptive breast cancer is the kind to have.....that is if you get breast cancer. At least, that's what my ob/gyn told me when he called to break the news.  So, in the fall of 2010 I began my hormonal treatment.  Arimidex is an aromatase inhibitor which is medical jargon for keeping the body from making estrogen. The side effects include extreme fatigue, joint pain and bone loss.  It reduces the recurrence rate by as much as 40%!!!

So, on with my life I went!  My husband and I took a trip to San Antonio.  Each day was filled with long excursions.  That's how you row when you choose to travel with him.  I love it but sometimes I just struggle to keep up!  I often tell him he needs a younger woman.  Although I'm joking, I think there is a part of me that believes just that.  When we returned home, I was exhausted!  I reminded myself that my body is still recovering from chemo and to be patient.

After a couple of weeks rest, I head off to Florida to spend a week on the beach with my sisters. It was absolutely wonderful!  The three of us had never been to the beach together and we had such fun. We laughed and cried, we walked on the beach and enjoyed beautiful sunsets together.  The last day there we built a huge sandcastle. I had forgotten how much work actually goes into one of those things!  I was sore for days!  It was a reminder of how out of shape I was!

Thanksgiving arrived and we had about 20 people for dinner.  I remember thinking on Thanksgiving night that I had over extended myself.  I still had Christmas decorations to get up and shopping to do! There never seemed to be enough time to get it all done. Plus, I was trying to listen to my body and rest whenever I felt the need.  I often asked myself how people work during chemo; not to mention, those that run marathons and seem to have some sort of super human strength.  Then I remind myself that we're all different.  Its o.k. if I'm not running marathons! The most important thing is I am regaining my strength; I'm getting my life back.

The problem was it just didn't seem like I was getting my life and myself back to normal.  Things didn't seem to work for me like they did before breast cancer.  I didn't like the clothes in my closet, I didn't like my home decor, I didn't even like the same foods anymore.  I wasn't sure who I was.  It seemed that dealing with breast cancer had stolen my identity! My life had become a series of diagnostic exams, doctor's appointments, surgeries and literally everything I did revolved around my diagnosis.  I was actually having a sort of identity crisis!

The fatigue continued and I went off the arimidex for a month.  I restarted it in hopes that I would tolerate it much better the second time around. That was a pipe dream!  When I realized that my bone density had decreased tremendously in the past couple of years, I made the decision to go off the arimidex for good.  My oncologist switched me to tamoxifen.  I knew this would be a much better choice for me.

In the meantime, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease.  This is an autoimmune disease whereas my body was actually being attacked by my own immune system.  I went months before I was able to get in to see an endocrinologist!  I thought I was dying.  The fatigue was enormous; my heart rate was rapid.  It was a struggle to maintain daily activities.   I learned  that people often have problems with their thyroid during or after chemo treatment.  I'll never know whether the chemo therapy actually caused the Hashimoto's Disease.  I do know I was predisposed to it as my sister and father also have been treated for it as well.

So here I am two years later.  I'm now taking a reprieve from the tamoxifen. My oncologist assured me that being off it a month would not be of any harm.  The fatigue had gotten bad again.  I wanted to see if there was improvement in my activity level after going off the medication.  There was a great improvement!  So much so that I landed myself in the ER yesterday with back spasms from muscular inflammation.  

During the past couple of years I have come to realize that I will never get my life back....the life that I had before breast cancer.   I am not that person anymore.  In fact, I don't even want to be her.  I want to be the woman that I have come to know as my own best friend; the woman I depend on  for my own peace of mind and well being.   There is no going back....there is only moving forward.  There will be sunny days, as well as, cloudy! I will take each as they come and look for blessings and joys along the way. 

 Breast cancer does not define me but it has certainly redefined me!  That's how life is! Our trials and tribulations in life mold and shape our very being.  They give us strength and courage to face each day.....and to make the best of each in our own special and unique way!

NAMASTE
 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Calm After The Storm!

 

We all know what it feels like after a storm has passed; the air has a fresh smell about it. Mother earth has had a nice cleansing, the trees glisten with their freshly washed leaves.  It is refreshing and a sense of renewal hangs everywhere.  However, if the storm has taken lives, if it leaves a wake of damage in its path, we will probably not sense the cleansing affect of the storm. We will only see the damage, we will only see the pain and grief.

The devastating storms that struck Kentucky and Indiana in early March took many lives and changed hearts forever.  It left in its path broken buildings, dead bodies,  and survivors who were in shock and grief stricken. 

 It will take time for people and entire communities to rebuild their homes and lives. It will take time to heal the emotional pain and suffering. It will take time to feel somewhat "normal" again.  Time is the ever present healer.  However, even time cannot completely heal the wounds. Time cannot wipe away the scars that remain.  Time will not erase the memories or fear of another storm on the horizon.

Life itself is a lot like those tornados that wreaked havoc on so many.  We all have many storms to endure.  One thing I've come to realize, as long as we live, as long as we take another breath, there will be something dark and foreboding  on the horizon. There will always be an issue, there will always be something that must be dealt with.  It might be losing a job, divorce, losing a loved one, foreclosure, and it might be cancer.  

When you think about it, our storms are always about losing something or someone.  If we can go through life without holding onto people and things so tightly,  if we can learn to live without thinking we own things that we really don't, if we can only relax a bit and realize that everything we enjoy is only borrowed.  This includes all our material possessions, the people we love, and our life itself.  Everything has a beginning and an end. 

As I grow older, I am always amazed at how fast time has gone. It seems like just yesterday that our kids were small and the school and church activities were endless.  I look in awe at how quickly my youth has vanished.  I know that it is so important to accept and enjoy each stage of life we're in. I also know we must have peace with our past in order to have acceptance of the present and future.  I know that each day, no matter what we are enduring, brings blessings to be had. 

I believe if we can accept the natural flow of life, including the aging process, then we will open our hearts and minds to enjoy each day to the fullest.  If we can accept the fact that we won't live forever, that someday we will leave this life for one much better than we ever imagined, we will have made peace with the fact that we are not immortal. 

 I'm not saying to give up the fight.   I'm not saying to throw in the towel.  Always, always give it your all.   However, sometimes when we think its the end, its only the beginning! Think of the lowly caterpillar and the cocoon; when he thought it was the end, when the caterpillar is wrapped in a small and dark cocoon, when he thought it was over and done, it was only the beginning of a new and beautiful creation.

Life is like that.  We are constantly going through transitions. Most of them are so small we miss them.  Many times they happen in tiny increments that take a lot of time. We are all constantly in a state of change.  Even as we age and our skin starts to wrinkle and our memory is fading, we are growing in awareness of what really matters.  

I wish I had the insight thirty years ago that I have now.   However, perhaps that's not how life happens.  Perhaps I am just where I need to be today.  Perhaps my life will come full circle and I have peace in believing that I will live each day knowing that this moment is all I have. Its all any of us have.

We waste so much of our precious time on negative emotions. This only robs us of positive energy which brings all the good things we need to live, love, and laugh.  

Today I will listen to the birds sing, I will breathe in fresh country air, I will write, I will pray and give thanks for my many blessings.  I will honor my life and who I am.  I will acknowledge to our creator that I am just where I need to be and open my heart to new beginnings.