Let go…

October 13, 2010

As I told the kindergarten kids at lunch yesterday, I love to learn new things.  And just because you’re “all grown up” doesn’t mean you stop learning.  Nope, you get to learn new things all your life!  The kids yesterday were so fun, and sweet, and eager to read stories and to learn.  Although I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed until 10 (and I’m horribly embarrassed to admit that, but I promised to tell you the truth), I went to recess/lunch duty anyway, and was rewarded with a much-improved outlook and extra energy that allowed me to keep both my physical therapy appointments (an hour for the lymphedema, an hour to deal with the back spasm and rotated vertebra that caused such pain this week/end) in the afternoon.

I’m not in particularly good shape, you see.  I’m in week 8 of my 18 weeks of #chemo2010.  The side effects are at once predictable and bothersome.  It’s nothing compared to what some friends have had to go through lately to fight this beast, but still it weakens me.  It tires me out.  It makes my feet blister and peel and eventually hurt when I walk.  It deadens my taste buds, and it makes it hurt in my bones, so that I don’t feel like moving at all.  But I know it’s for my own good, and the chemo is fighting the cancer cells scattered in my body, and even the lump that I’m worrying over, the one I have biopsied next week, should disappear as it succumbs to chemotherapy.  It will be worth it. 

Next Spring, when the buds appear on the trees and the forsythia in my back yard bloom, and I’m here to see it, it will be worth it.  I have to hold on to that, the hope that I will be here and healthy and myself again in the Spring.  If I let that go, I’m toast, and I know it.  So I hold on, and I believe, and I (try to) cherish every day, just in case.

The difficulty is dealing with today.  I want so much for everything to be normal for my kids and for my family.  I want so much for them not to notice, for me to just be Mama who takes them to school, not the Mama who is sick in bed and tears up a little bit at their happy kisses when they come home from school.  But sometimes I am that Mama, and that’s ok.

“That is ok,” says my three-year-old, as he scurries to me if he hears when the pain and sorrow leak out, like the chemo leaks out my feet and hands when it’s done with me.  “It’s ok, Mama.”

It is okay.  It is good, even.  Three years ago, when I was in chemo the first time, I didn’t think I’d live to see the Fall.  It was horrible.  This time, I have more confidence, but I am letting go of the certainty that I won’t still be on chemo when Spring comes.  I may need chemo for longer; I may need it forever.

But that is okay.  I’m still here.  I’m still the mother of my children, and I still cuddle them to sleep at night, reading Richard Scarrey and picture books — and just one more Encyclopedia Brown story — until 8:00.  I am doing what I can to make it to tomorrow and tomorrow and the Spring.

I’m learning to let go of what doesn’t matter, and things beyond my control.

If you come to my house, there may be stuff piled on the table by the door.  The laundry may not be completely done and put away.  I may be in pajamas or soft sweatpants, and I’ll probably be out-of-breath when I come down the stairs to greet you.

But I’ll be here, and I’ll be happy to see you.

The rest of it can wait.  The rest of it is not important. And the big questions — will I live?  Will it always be this way? Will I always be frustrated by my body’s limitations while my brain still works perfectly well?  Will I ever be strong enough to commute to a job downtown, or must I only do contract work from home, satisfying my brain’s analytical needs while acquiesing to the limitations of my body? — these questions are out of my hands.  After a week of anger and questioning and frustration poured out over the pink, I’m letting them go.  I’m putting them in God’s hands now.

I have to.  I don’t control those answers, and I really never did. 

I’m not giving up.  I’m taking my chemotherapy pills every morning and every night, until all 504 are gone.  I’m doing my PT exercises.  I’m keeping up with my blogs and loving my children and working toward my goals.  I’m cherishing each day as it is, even as I crave normalcy.  But I know that I don’t control the ending of this story.

Today, I put the cancer in God’s hands, and as I ask him to heal me, so that my children can grow up in their mother’s arms, I have to let go.  Let go, and let God.  How many times have those of us who grew up in the church (or the South) heard this?  How many times have we said, sure, of course, and then pushed forward toward our own agendas anyway?  I know I have.  I had goals, big science-y, achievement-oriented goals, and things that I needed to do.  I will still work toward them.  I’m not giving up.  What I’m giving up is the sense that I control my fate, because when it comes right down to it, when you’re sick in bed or in pain or your body is fighting itself for your very life, all you (I) have left is faith that you will be healed, and the love of family and friends that surround you.

I want to live more than anything.  I want to be my kids’ mom.  I want to work to help others, and use my brain as I was designed to.  But today, I have to learn to put my fate in God’s hands.  And trust Him.  If I do my part, he will carry me through, healing my body and my soul.



March 15, 2009

Arm swollen; giantly wrapped.
Back ribs popped out; teeth-gnashing pain.
Preschool boys, laughing, make it all worthwhile.
… but still, ouch.

Today, in 140 characters.

The how and the why

April 8, 2008

Thank you all for your great enthusiastic and supportive comments this week and weekend.  I’ve been going through a rough patch, and it all feels so … hopeless. 

But I see now that it’s only temporary, and that I WILL get better soon.

To answer a question from yesterday on HOW my ribs got out of place: here’s the theory.  The cancer in the right breast grew so fast and so strong that the weight increased faster than any muscles could compensate.  The heavy breast pulled on my muscles, which pulled on my ribs, which pulled them right out of place.  This caused the pain in the front of my chest and around to the back, since ribs do go all the way around.  Then even after the breast was cut off, the ribs were stuck in place behind my vertabrae and the muscles around them still hurt and the nerves still pinched and I was still getting pain signals from the ribs themselves, even though the weight was gone.

A knowledgeable PT is worth her weight in gold.  And, speaking of gold (but not Bretta’s weight!), I just found on the web site as I was linking yesterday’s posts, although the DC Center for Integrative Medicine doesn’t take insurance directly, many people can be fully or partially reimbursed by their insurance companies; they also have started a fund for those who can’t afford it.  More details at the link in the last sentence.

And now to the why. 

I often (between treatments, playdates, Little Golden Books, endless trips around the little wooden traintrack, Richard Scarrey adventures labeled with every little thing, veggie-pushing, banana-treating, singing, napping, and hugging my children before they get too big to be hugged) wonder why on earth I got this disease.  Why do I have cancer?  What good could possibly come out of me fighting this agressive disease, without assurance, or even odds that I’ll come out the other side?  What terrible power would sentence me to this, and my little boy to the heartbreak of being torn away from his mommy each morning as I go to treatment, sure that I’ll be tired and grumpy on my return?  What force would want to rip me away from my babies, temporarily as I heal, or forever?

And I worry.

I worry about what I did to deserve this.  I worry about what legacies, or comfort, I can leave my children.  I have resisted writing them letters, because it feels fatalistic, as if I’m ready to go the day I seal those envelopes and address them to a 10-year-old Widget, a 15-year-old Widget, an 18-year-old Little Bear, or to both on their wedding days.  I want to, but I won’t do it until I’m in the hospital or hospice for good. I just won’t. 

I have to trust that the good in God and in the world will take care of them until then.

And so part of me wants to write here about the good in the world, to increase its power and its reach until there is enough leaking out to heal me (selfish!) and to wrap my boys in comfort, and to be a better place when they grow up.  I have always wanted to make the world a better place, and part of my frustration with this disease now is that it has me powerless and stuck – again – in bed as my body fights the cell death and tries to recover from the tens of MeV of radiation that we assult it with daily.

So today I have something else good to tell you about: the BlogHers Act Mother’s Day Project.  I’ll tell you more about it as I can, but this link is a first effort to help spread the word among us bloggers, and I’ll be back in a day or two with more info about the projects themselves.  And we’ll see what we can do, working together.

<br /> Donate Now to Save Women's Lives

Edited to add: Big hugs today to my friend Splashgirl, who starts radiation today.  May hers go smoothly and easily, as mine did until week 6.  If you haven’t met her before, go follow her on Twitter or check out this post.

Highlights (review)

February 29, 2008

When I was a little girl, I waited eagerly each month for the arrival of my Highlights magazine.  Highlights for Children was packed full of stories, poems, games, and puzzles, and it was indeed a highlight of my month.

Now, my son can enjoy all the fun of Highlights at an even YOUNGER age, with Highlights High Five magazine.  It comes in the mail addressed to him now, but it’s still just as full of fun, excitement, and whimsy as Highlights was for our generation.

Recent issues featured stories, puzzles, games, poems, cut outs, and creative projects to do together. 

Highlights High Five is a fun magazine for kids in any situation, and particularly great on rainy days or sick days when you have to stay in bed.  I am so glad that the Parent Bloggers Network re-introduced me to Highlights, and that they have a magazine appropriate for my little kids!

P.S. Parent Bloggers will be giving away free subscriptions to Highlights or Highlights High Five on March 7 — check their site for details!