A little trouble

January 17, 2012

I’ve been having shortness of breath for several weeks, which we chalked up to the pneumonia, but it’s just gotten worse. Yesterday I had trouble just walking from one room to the next. Today, just sitting on the couch with a friend. In fact, I’m still having trouble, even though I’ve been hooked up to the oxygen all day.

We’re going to the ER now, to get scans, at the direction of my oncologist. Please pray for us tonight.

Love to you all and all whom you love,

Savoring three good days, and Christmas Eve

December 31, 2011

By the grace of God, my good days lasted through the Wednesday before Christmas, enabling me to spend time with my dear friend Marty; go to prayer group as just “one of the girls,” standing when they stood, staying to the last; wrapping presents with my husband; leading our family’s Jesse Tree devotions; and going to school Wednesday to watch Little Bear’s nativity pagent.

The little kids were so good!  They each had a part to play, and they took it seriously for God.  Little Bear was “a little shepherd, with JG!” his best friend, as he never hesitated to remind us.  The two of them cracked themselves up a bit, and I have pics of a cunning little smile peeking out of the string-tied headdress, but it was all in good fun.  I had fun too, delighting in their success and joyously hugging so many of the mamas I had seen only via email and facebook this year.  Members of my prayer group rejoiced with me a second day as our kids ran around afterwards, celebrating the hour or so of freedom – at school with friends, but free to play as they wished, securely in the care of loving teachers and parents.

And then I rested.  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were miserable, catching up from the times I had joyously spent in the company of friends and family (my parents for three weeks, and then my husband’s parents for two weeks and counting).  I lay in bed, discouraged, sad, and with pain wrapped around my sides and straight through my bad spot (where the terrible pain indicates cancer) as if pierced by an arrow right where my spine meets my waistband.  Nothing worked on my pain, and I cried and cried alone upstairs for much of the days, passing the time reading scripture and novels alike, searching for something to inspire me, to distract me, to pass the hours, and to give me strength.  The times I was able to go downstairs with my family were delightful, if too short:  making myself comfortable enough with the fancy chair, pillows, and oxygen; playing checkers with 7 year old Widget and teaching him chess (at his request!); and just sitting by the lit-up Christmas tree overflowing with presents despite our rule this year to just choose three….

I just had to tough it out, waiting for methodone to take over and reduce the pain, aided by fentnyl for breakthrough pain (as if it were ever not breaking through) — but the medicines’ effectiveness lessened as my tolerance increased.  Truthfully, I ought maybe to have stayed in bed Saturday evening, but I couldn’t.  Saturday night – Christmas Eve! – was the culmination of so many things for me. It was a goal, you see.  A goal set just about a year ago, when we were told that the cancer had spread to bone, first the ribs and then the spine, neck, and hips, and the pain came back, and we were gobsmacked by the setback that began as a year of treatment and worry, changing attitudes and trying to understand what our “new normal” might be.  This year was to be Widget’s year in the Christmas Eve Nativity play, you see, and we had looked forward to it for so long – we already had plans for the grandparents all to visit our house this year at Christmas, for the first time ever – and I remember crying in frustration a year ago that I might not be here to see it.

But I saw it.  I picked myself up off the bed and put on my pretty clothes, and went to the church with grandparents from all around.  We saw Widget pass by in his costume, and, I have to say, there’s never been a finer Joseph since the very first one.  He was so handsome in the dark maroon fabric, serious face giving way to twinkling eyes as I surprised him by stopping by the children’s prep room before the church service began.  He ran up to me with a great big hug, and, as I saw him start to get overwhelmed by the excited children, I was able to whisper to another parent that that happens, and if he starts trying to control things, it’s only because the ruckus makes him nervous.  The room quieted (coincidentally); I left, and Widget later joined us in the pew.  As the priest stood up to read the story of the nativity, the little children took their places around the church.  Widget found his place in the back, standing next to the little girl who was to be Mary, and they walked slowly and seriously down the aisle to the altar.  Finding a manger there, the little children knelt and listened while the story played out and the others came to worship the Christ child, symbolized of course by a doll.  Afterwards, I was so proud of my little boy turned bigger boy, and when he sang the carols from the hymnal with me, I might have shed a tear.

I led a prayer myself later in the service, the same one used to pray for the sick and dying each week, and it was right and good.  And then, just before we walked out, singing Joy to the World, a visitor to our church came and knelt at the manger, bringing his gifts first to the symbol of the Christ child, and then, we hoped, to children everywhere.

Santa kneels at the Nativity

The next week I would pay for being out that night, exerting myself beyond where I thought I could, but it was worth it to see my beautiful Widget be so reverent and grown-up, to sit with Little Bear on my lap and worship God, and to look fondly down the pew and see all of our grandparents together for a day (not to mention visiting friends!), and for the next day’s family celebration besides.

The week has been at times horrible and at times terrifying, but my medicines are again starting to catch up to the pain and I have a new commitment from my doctors.  We will control the pain.  They will control the pain, using new approaches and stronger medicines, and they understand now how very terrifying it is for me to work so very hard and to endure so much for so long in hopes of reaching a goal (sitting in a chair with minimal pain; reading, writing, and playing happily with my children; and eating dinner each night with my family) that is far below the quality of life enjoyed by most, and far below what I consider an acceptable exchange for giving up days each week for chemotherapy and other infusions, losing my hair, my independence, and my ability to leave the house without someone driving me (I’ve only driven once since July), and suffering the pain of metastasis in my bones that sends me to bed in tears one or many more times a day.

To survive now, I need to come to terms with this exchange, and to find out what I can do to make the days worthwhile, so I can sleep peacefully at night while we wait for the medicines to heal – or at least to relieve pain that the cancer has caused.  I am trying to shift my perspective from anger that my future that has been taken from me into gratitude, again, for all the days that I have been given since my cancer metastasized and indeed, since my initial diagnosis with breast cancer in June of 2007.

Our Christmas card this year was stuffed full of pictures of the good times – so very many good times that would never have happened for me without the medical advances enabled by cancer research, the confidence that comes from belief in a loving God and the existence of tomorrow, and a supportive and loving family that loves me for what I can do, not judging when I can’t.

“It’s not fair!”

September 23, 2011

How many times have I said those words this year, or in 2007 with my diagnosis?  How many times do we all think those words as we haul yet another load of wet laundry out of the washer and into the dryer, or sit resignedly in the car for yet another commute to work, while we imagine that our next-door neighbor has it so much easier?

It really isn’t fair, is it?  He gets to send his laundry out to be done by strangers.  She has a nanny AND a lawn service.  They get to go away on vacation after vacation, and she had cancer, sure, but no recurrence.  There’s always someone who has it better than we do.

And yet, were any of us promised a perfect life?

Listen to this story:  Once there was a man who needed some work done on his land.  He went out early in the morning and hired laborers to work that day, for a fixed wage.  When he came back to town later in the morning, he saw more men standing around and hired them as well, saying he would pay them a fair wage.  At noon, he hired another group of men, and again three hours later.

At five o’clock, he ran into more men standing idle in the town, and he asked them, “Why have you been standing idle here all day?” “Because no one has hired us,” they said, so he sent them to join the other workers.  That evening, when the work was done, his foreman paid the workers, starting with the last to be hired.  They each received the daily wage that was promised to the first.  Each group was paid, in order from last to first, and they each received the same wage.

Those who were first hired grumbled, saying, “The men who came last have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.”  The landowner replied, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the lastcomer as much as I pay you.  Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why should you be envious because I am generous?”

This story comes from the Bible, from Matthew, Chapter 20, and Jesus ends the story by saying, “Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.”  It is a difficult reading, and one that I have always had trouble with.  I was raised by parents who believed in a strict work ethic, and when I complained, my father intoned the maxim “to whom much is given, much is required.”  We were lucky, they taught me, to have a house to live in, good food to eat, new clothes to wear, toys and books – so many, and so much, and so I must go forth into the world and give back more than I was given, to help others as I could.  I have lived by that maxim, and I am teaching my children by that maxim, and they come back with the same rejoinder: “It’s not fair!”

And we struggle.  But this parable, taught in church last week and again in my new prayer group (and thank God for them, because I feel already blessed by the experience and the people therein), teaches us something very interesting, and after a week of challenges, I think I finally understand it.

Life is given to each of us.  We each get one shot at this sucker, and we are never really told that it will be fair.  We each get one life, one daily wage, and that’s it.  The guy next door gets one life to live.  The mom down the street gets one too.  No one ever promised us the same life, the same opportunities, the same blessings, or the same time to live.  No one ever promised that.  We are promised one opportunity, one life, and how we live it is between us and our Creator (I believe).  There is no comparing.

And so when one of my little children comes to me after dinner and say, “But Mama, he had a fruit snack earlier today too! That’s not fair!” I am able to stand my ground and say, that’s right, it’s not fair between you two.  You haven’t gotten exactly the same today.  But you asked me for a fruit snack, and I gave it to you – did I not keep my word?  Didn’t you get what you were promised?  As they reluctantly agree, I remind them that that’s what we learned on Sunday, and that it doesn’t do any good to compare what one gets to his brother, because it may not be fair.  But I will keep my word to each of them, and they will have what they need, and treats besides.

Now I need to take the passage to heart, and to stop raging on days when I don’t leave the bed (like yesterday, because of pain and great fatigue), “It’s not fair!”  Because it’s not.  That’s true.  I can’t imagine a scenario where anyone would be happy to get cancer at 35, and think oh, yeah, well, that’s fair.  That’s ridiculous!  But I am coming to terms with it, and it’s easier when I stop comparing my life to others.  I wasn’t promised the same life as my neighbors.  I was promised a life.

As I sat and talked to Jessica this morning, I reminisced a bit – I was so lucky, to be able to go to college, to study, to move here to work for NASA, to then get my dream job – the job I was ready to work my whole life for – of overseeing the competitions for new space missions, and for being the scientist at NASA Headquarters responsible for a mission to outer space.  I had that job for five years, and I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t imagine what would come next.  I wanted children.  I was so lucky that I was able to have them, my beautiful, wonderful, smart, and kind little boys.  When I got ill, I begged and pleaded and prayed that I could get the oldest one settled in kindergarten, on his way to a life of loving school, and the littlest, then barely more than a newborn, in a preschool that he loved, with support from friends and teachers and the families of his friends were anything to happen to me then.  I couldn’t imagine that I could live that long, but I prayed and I tried and I kept fighting.  These dreams have come true.  The boys are settled into a wonderful school, where they are loved, and supported, and safe, part of the school family, and they spend their days as they should, learning and playing, and when they come home, we are lucky enough to spend time together, with milk and cookies, then doing homework and practice on their letters (Widget wrote 14 thank-you notes over the last two days!) before they have a little tv and I rest again for that hour before Daddy comes home for dinner and we are all together again.

I have everything I ever wanted.

Am I sometimes envious of others, who may get forty-plus more years on this Earth than I?  Sure.  But I was never promised 80 years. I was promised a life.  And boy, have I had a pretty incredible life.

I’m not done yet, but I am finally coming to understanding about the parable and about what I’ve been given, and I am again grateful, for God has kept his promises to me and I have lived the best way I know how.  I have been truly blessed.

A Grocery Store for Tigers

April 23, 2011

When the kids caught me resting in bed again, I made light of it and invited them to watch a little tv with me.  We clicked through the channels and found nothing that we both wanted to watch, until we saw that Discovery was airing an old-school nature documentary.  Intrigued, we paused, and C joined me as we re-introduced the children to the wild beauty of a nature flick, tigers, gazelles, herons, and all. 

We watched the beauty of the savannah and the tiger leaping majestically through the air in final pursuit of the gazelle, landing with a thud as he broke the weaker animal’s neck and began to feast.  Then my children protested, stunned at the violence of the wild, asking “Why, Mommy?”  Why did that tiger chase the deer, Mommy?  Why that tiger EAT the deer?

Oh, my child.  My sweet, sensitive, sheltered children.  I’ve protected you from the harsh realities of cancer and death for so long that somehow I’ve neglected to teach you about death, and now you are 4 and 6 and shocked that animals must kill other animals for meat.  I remembered to teach you that death exists, as we bought guppy after guppy and talked about fish eating other fish, but your sensitive child minds never made the leap.

So we snuggled in and watched a little more and talked about it, your father at first making light of it, answering, “Because tigers can’t go to the grocery store!”  We laughed and snuggled and broke the hard facts to you gently and at the end you understood that tigers hunt to provide food for their families and for survival, and that we can be sad for the gazelles but happy for the tigers, because they got to feed their baby cubs.

And what you took away from it was fascinating, proclaiming after the movie,

Mama, when I grow up, I open a grocery store for tigers.

I chuckled and hugged you and told you that was a wonderful idea, for it was, and I was so proud of you for thinking of it.  For facing the problem head-on and for answering the violence that you saw with a creative, non-violent solution.  And so we all four agreed that when you boys grew up, we would move to the savannah and open the Niebur Family Grocery Store for Tigers.  Even though we knew full well that you would grow up and understand and lose interest in the meantime, we supported you two, and we took you seriously, and we wanted to help you change the world, to make it just a little better for the gazelles.

The joy is all the more joyful….

April 18, 2011

Today, I am filled with happiness, at the good news that my chest tumors are healing, at the way my body moves today, and for the amazing friends that I have made on this journey through life.  You all are such a treasure to me, and I revel in your friendship. 

I’m really unbelievably excited to be alive today, and I spent the morning making plans (truck touch May 7!), volunteering to help with school events, and looking up resources for my kids to help them make it through wherever this journey through cancer may take us.  You’d think I’d know all the resources for kids already, leading a group like Mothers With Cancer, but the sad truth is there just isn’t much out there for young kids dealing with a parent’s illness, and I want to help them every way that I can.  Leaving my children is my worst nightmare, and I will FIGHT AGAINST IT to the last, but today, even on a happy day, I can help them through it.

Because that’s what life is, isn’t it?  Joy then sorrow then joy again, the highs all the higher when we have known the depths of despair and pain.

I forget this sometimes (like when I’m sweating feverishly and time doesn’t pass as my bones cry out in pain as they are attacked by a new infusion of Zometa), but it is so critical to realize.  The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.

It’s a special week for many of us, both Passover and Easter Week, the two always intertwined.  My boys have celebrated Passover at their nursery schools and we have talked about it over the years, and I am so glad, for it must have been a very special night when Jesus had the Passover Seder with his disciples and told them of what was to come.  Although Catholics don’t celebrate the Seder per se, we do we remember this one each Sunday, as we break the bread like Jesus did, hearing his words at that Last Supper just as the apostles did at Seder. 

But do you remember what happens next?  In Matthew 26, we read the words we hear at Communion, and then there’s more.  After dinner, Jesus and his friends go out into the garden.  He takes three close friends with him to go and pray together, as he knows that the time of his death is near.  He knows that it’s going to happen, and “He began to feel sorrow and distress,” praying, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”  Do you see that?  Even though Jesus knew that He would have to die soon for the resurrection to occur, the cornerstone of Christian belief, He felt sad.  He was distressed.  He was not complacent, or even particularly happy about it.  He prayed in fact, for life itself, clinging to what he knew, and reluctant to suffer death even though he would soon be with his Father in Heaven.

You know, I never noticed that before today.  I went to read the passage to tell you about the last phrase, that as hard as I pray, as hard as we all pray, I know and you know that not all prayers are answered the way we want them to be.  Not all cancer patients survive or heal (God bless the family of Stu McCorkindale).  Eventually, none of us do.  But that doesn’t mean that our prayers aren’t answered.  God answers prayers.  He surrounds us with love and strength and medicine and friendship, and sometimes it helps extend our life and sometimes it brings us peace. 

Today, this week, I know that God has answered my prayers.  He is healing me, with love and prayers and medicine and friendship.  The cancer in my chest is healing, not growing, and the cancer in my bones could be hypermetabolic (lit up on the scan) just because it is fighting to survive against the medicine that I’ve been taking (my oncologist’s theory), not because it’s new.  Regardless, I’m here, almost four years after I noticed that there was something wrong and went to my doctor to check it out.  My children have grown from babies to big kids, and I am so, so grateful for the time we’ve had together.  Each moment, each hour, is a gift that I treasure, perhaps all the more because there have been times — even very recently — that I thought they would never come again.

And as I go through Easter week, I want to remember (please forgive me for the overly religious words today, but this is a true and honest window into the life of a woman with cancer, and this is where my mind is today) that it is the dark moments in the Garden and the Crucifixion on Good Friday, terrible times for Jesus, that made the joy of the Resurrection possible.  It is okay to feel the sad times, the scared times, the anger and despair times — Jesus felt it too — and we need not beat ourselves up over moments of distress.  It’s normal.  Human, even.  I am comforted with the words I have learned while writing here today: 

The joy is all the more joyful when we have known sorrow.

Blissfully Happy

April 10, 2011

I’ve been blissfully happy this week, and too busy to blog!

Three days with Marty and her wonderful boys, full of action and adventure and play, all within my little house.  We did leave one day to venture to Ikea, and it was all colors and corners and wonderful things – and of course the long walk to the checkout with preschoolers.  🙂  But we had a marvelous time, just being together and playing with our little ones.  Little Bear missed preschool (I don’t even know how many times) in favor of play with our friends.  Our old friend Beth came to visit, and we told stories of times gone by and marveled at how things had changed.  Marty and I were mistaken for sisters – twice.  She loved my boys, and I hers, and I protected one fiercely from a man at the metro station intent on (verbally) pushing his anti-gay philosophies in front of impressionable little ones.  I say that not to brag, but to remember.  We must teach the children tolerance and love, and to remember that God is love, and we are to love one another, as we have been taught by words and by example, being loved ourselves.

Yes, the last two weeks have been all mixed up with Bible and friends and difficult scriptures (the blind man, healed, and Lazarus, raised from the dead, both in RCIA and on Sunday) and hope and fear and fearing to hope.  I had my scans on Friday, and I marked my 1 year anniversary since my last surgery on Thursday, and I celebrated only by not thinking about it at all, and by siezing opportunities to LIVE as much as I could. 

Bon came to town Thursday night, arriving just as our government was about to shut down.  I lay in my bed Thursday afternoon and evening, exhausted from a trip to Union Station with the three darling little boys, Marty, and C, and wondered how I would even be able to drive over to see her.  But on Friday, I had my scans and wanted so much to LIVE strong and get out of the house, and I drove to U Maryland, where Theorizing the Web was to take place later that day.  We met and I liked her immediately, not surprisingly, since we’ve been friends since 2006, never mind the fact that we had never even met before. 

We talked so long and so much about the differences in our government that I suggested we go see it!  We skipped the Capitol, it being full of angry men refusing to compromise, but I took her to the Library of Congress, my favorite place in the world, a palace of words, and she proclaimed it beautiful, a temple to knowledge, and we stood in the atrium for moments that felt like forever, soaking in the monument to learning, adventure, work, and books built in 1897, capturing a distinctly American era, with its ptuiis (small sculptured cherubs) holding books and bows and the telephone.  We listened to Tom the Tour Guide, a lovely retired man who clearly loved books as much as we, and he taught us tidbits not only about the building but about America’s strong and proud history, and we reveled in the opportunity to be surrounded by creations of past scholars and artists, and with others who also appreciated such things.  We paused for a moment afterwards in the downstairs hallway with Science and Family at one end, and Poetry at the other, accented inexplicably with a giant collage of technology – flat screens from floor to ceiling – and marveled at how we each felt immediately at home.  We walked to Union Station in the rain, gawking at the Supreme Court and the Capitol on the way, covered as it was with what we now knew should have been the Liberty Cap – proposed twice – ever the symbol of fights for freedom, that would have been preserved forever on our Capitol if Jefferson Davis had not stood in the way of early designs.  And now it is gone.  We walked, and talked about the flowering cherry and pear trees, and the lilac trees in PEI, and Oscar and Posey and Widget and Little Bear, and then the homeward train came to a stop, and a magical afternoon was over. 

I slept again Friday night, after our traditional Friday Night Pizza with the boys, and woke rested yet still exhausted.  The boys came back in and snuggled with C and me for an hour, just wanting to be with us, and us with them. 

After a time, I got up and went to a double baby shower, thrown for Minky and also for Jess, and had the most amazing time with Justice Stacey and UrbanMama, TechSavvyMama and TeachMama, Laundress Sue and Stimey, and I tried not to think about anything else, but the scan results weighed on me, I have to admit.  I came home ready to make a memory with my kids, and we watched Star Wars together, snuggled on the couch, for their very first time, and it was magical.

but then Old Ben (Obi Wan) died in the movie, and Little Bear had lots of questions as I snuggled him to sleep last night.  “Mommy, why did that man die?”  He was very old, my sweet.  He had finished what he was meant to do.  “Anyone else die?”  Well, my sweet, everyone dies.  (This was the first I had told him this; he has been exposed to more than he ever should have been, with my cancer fight; the least I could do, I thought, was to shield him from needless death until he was old enough to understand.  But now he was asking.  It was time.)  “No, Mommy.  Not Mommies!  Mommies never die!” he exclaimed, strong, confident words from within my arms.  Oh, my sweet.  Everyone dies, someday.  “But not mommies.  Not til they’re very, very old?”  (Oh, my heart.  Bent if not broken.)  Mommy will try, sweetheart.  (He was quiet. It was time.)  But if I do?  I will watch over you from Heaven.  I will love you always, and I will love you from Heaven if I must.  I will watch over you always, and my love will be with you in your heart.

And then he suddenly fell asleep, and I could not tell his thoughts.  Across the room, I heard Widget sucking his thumb, which he does when he’s thinking hard and forgets that he’s a big boy now, and so I crossed the room and talked with him for a while.  But he is 6, and guards his thoughts, so I do not know if it was the right thing or not.  I want so badly to reassure them but not lie to them.  To not promise that I will always be here and not die until they are all grown up.  Because I can’t promise that, and I will not make promises that I know will be broken, at a time when I cannot reach them to hold them in my arms and comfort them as I have so very many times.  And so, I make promises that I can keep.  I love you.  I will always love you.  My love is always in your heart.  Remember that, my dear ones.  My love is always in your heart.

And as children’s church this morning took up the story of Lazarus, I dashed downstairs to be there with my Widget (C was with LB), not even knowing what I feared, but when he raised his hand to share, it was only that his dog had died, many years ago, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  When I rejoined him in the pew, I held him on my lap and hugged him, never wanting to let go.


February 6, 2011

My heart continued to race all day Saturday and got worse as time went on, despite spending the day quietly sitting in my chair while the children played.  I did nothing more strenuous than sorting the long-accumulated “to file” pile and feeding all my previous hospital, chemo, radiation, and physical therapy bills and receipts into the shredder as my emotions fought each other – anger that I had had to have so much treatment, relief at shredding the reminders of the past, and sadness that I needed to do this, to save C from having to do it later.  I’m not sure why I kept the receipts so long, physical reminders of difficult days, except that I had some vague notion of needing them “for taxes.”  I don’t need them for taxes.  Our federal health insurance plan has covered everything but my consultation at Sloan-Kettering and a good bit of physical therapy for my weakened back and lymphedema.  And my lymphedema sleeves, but I just smiled when I saw those and the pretty patterns named on the receipts.

By 5:30 I couldn’t sit still while my heart raced (and my breath was short, as if I’d been running a 5k there in my chair) any longer.  I woke C, sleeping through a light bout of the flu, and left the boys with him while I went to CVS to check my blood pressure, as a well-known side effect of the nexavar is increased blood pressure.  It was high, but not scary high, so I emailed the clinical nurse handling my clinical trial and called the oncology fellow on call.  When she called back, she was firm: Go to the E.R. 

When Lisa and I got there (never go to the E.R. alone! you ALWAYS need an advocate!), my blood pressure was 195/138, and I looked over at her in the waiting room and said lightly, “Get comfy, Lisa – they’re not going to let me go home anytime soon.”  We were rushed through the intake process and not an hour later I was being wheeled in for a CT (with IV contrast pushed into my arm, lymphedema be damned, but I had no choice).  We called Colleen and told her that I was really sorry, but I’d miss the novena tonight, and settled in, ginger ales in hand, trying to talk lightly and pass the time as if we were at the coffee shop instead of in a sterile white room with blue curtains and a terrified man in a PCP rage strapped to a bed nearby.  His screams shook the ER, but the nurses just shook their heads and smiled sadly, saying, it’s early for this tonight.

We settled in, tried to ignore the rage next door, and met the next shift of nurses.  We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the one who had both calmly brought the restraining straps to the nearby ruckus AND put the IV in my arm without blowing a vein (yay!), but I will remember her, her kindness, and her friendly laugh for quite some time — her name was Marissa.

At 8:59, the attending physician came back in and told me that all my tests — blood, x-ray, and CT — were clear for pulmonary embolism and pneumonia, that my blood pressure had returned to a high normal, and that I would be discharged after the last test for congestive heart failure, came back (it’s a risk because of all the radiation I had to my left side); I wouldn’t have to stay after all.  She was careful to answer my questions about the CT carefully, saying only that it was negative for pulmonary embolism and pneumonia, and that I need to follow up with my oncologist on Monday.

Whatever.  Monday is Monday.  That means I have today to rest and play quietly with my boys, and to enjoy the warm sun through the window, regaining strength as I take a break (again) from the medication and allow both my heart and my feet to heal (yesterday I was reduced to fuzzy slippers, and today it is too painful to take more than the necessary steps).  And to do something other than filing today.  As I told Lisa yesterday, “I spent the day doing paperwork. I’m not dying today.  I’m not spending my last day on earth doing paperwork.”  Yes, mundane tasks will always need to be done.  But they can be balanced with joy and hugs, and today I will try harder to create joy, and to give hugs.

And, yes, I continue to pray.  And yes, I noted that I was given the all-clear at exactly 8:59, as Rebecca called my iPhone as friends left the novena, and I was able to call her back and tell her immediately that I was okay, that I was going home, and that there was no reason to worry.