Friday, August 29, 2008

without a title

I sit. I type. Distracted by movement outside the window, I look. I am mesmerized, then filled with warmth and love. The three of you, cousins, having a blast on the last weekend of summer. Riding bikes in bathing suits, splashing in the pool, playing with the neighbor's dogs, creating a little house out of beach towels and folding chairs, chasing frogs and crickets. Watching you run back and forth across the yard unabashedly, full of exuberance.

To see the smiles and to hear the laughter makes me think of you. The innumerable memories I have of us playing in the backyard, fishing in the creek, playing kick the can, catching fireflies, playing in the mud, feet filthy from fresh, wet dirt, sweaty from the thick and sticky summer air.

I praise God that my girls have a cousin close in age whom they call a sister. I pray to God that they may know the closeness of sisters, the joy of being best friends, the confidence of always having someone at their side, supporting them. Please, God, let that be your will.

I wish you were here to see how they have grown to love each other, how their relationship mimics our own - not close to perfect, but never wavering in importance. I wish you were here to laugh at their comments, their jokes, their performances. I wish they could recall without a doubt of your unconditional love for them rather than relying on my verbal reminders. I wish...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In the Great State of Hannah Montanna

Right after dinner, I turned the tv on to find out what was going on with our weather. Still raining buckets. The tv was on CNN and the Democratic Convention. The convention was in the middle of doing the roll call of states. This process seems to be much longer every convention as each state brags about its attributes. It was Montana's turn. Sadie asked me what I was watching. I prefaced my answer by saying, "It is very complicated, but I am going to explain it once. You will not be allowed questions and you may not ask me to repeat myself." I know I sound terrible, but if you knew my children, you would call me smart. We have spent HOURS talking about the new bridge they are replacing on a road we frequent - repeating the same conversation, the same questions, the same comments.

I start the process of explaining things and Jay interrupts me to tell me that I am making it way too complicated and shouldn't even try for a 6 and 8 year old. I think, "Whatever." I should raise the bar high, right? I made it to my example at hand, Montana, and Lily (4) announced, "No, Mommy, it is Hannah Montana."

Maybe I should give that one to Jay.

You say tornado, I say...

I heard vague remarks about tornadic activity in the area today. However, I was a little surprised when the kids told me they were in tornado drill mode for over and hour today. The details were a little sketchy, but I think they were in the halls, hanging out, not doing much during lunch/recess time. What a nightmare for teachers. Anyway, the kids were talking about tornado this, tornado that. Lily piped up and said, "I don't see any tomatoes. There aren't any tomatoes." Ethan tried very hard to clearly say, no, Lily, it is tornado. She just didn't get it.

A couple of tornadoes were in the area, very light on damage, no one injured. We have gotten a ton of rain. It has been since I have seen this much rain. I have forgotten what it is like to get wet! We lost power for a few hours as well. Thank God for generators! Hopefully, this will alleviate some of the drought conditions we have been experiencing for what seems like years.

The Oil Press

When working through some of my thoughts and emotions mentioned in my previous blog, God led me to the passage of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is so incredibly appropriate that I felt it necessary to comment on it.

Matthew 26:36-44
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done." And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more....

I did not know that Gethsemane aptly means "Oil Press." Of course, knowing you might have breast cancer is really not comparable to knowing for sure you are going to be crucified, but I still wanted to examine what was Jesus feeling, what was his attitude?

He was grieved.
He was distressed.
It was not his will, not his choice - he wished another.
A little aggravated at his friends, perhaps?
Finally, clearly he was spiritually willing to take on God's will for him, but his body (flesh) maybe wasn't so willing.

Looking at my reaction to my procedures, I can say:

I was grieved.
I was distressed.
I wished the result to be benign.
I was aggravated that I had to wait until Monday for results.
If this was my lot, I was, of course, willing to accept it, faithfully knowing God would have a purpose in it and would grow me through it. But, when I thought about the physical parts of what I might endure, I wasn't so willing.

Hmpf. Maybe I wasn't so off the mark after all. Thanks for the revelation, God.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Personal Pain

So, I wasn't doing nearly as well as I thought I was with the prospects of being diagnosed with breast cancer (of any form). I have this ridiculous paranoia that when I speak of my fears and angers that I am not trusting God. How many times have I encouraged someone to, "just trust God," to take care of them. Although I informed my friends of my situation, my response was "it will be what it will be." I even tried to laugh it off with the thought of getting an upgrade. However, the reality of what was going on inside of me was apparent as Monday drew closer.

For some poorly thought-out reason (or actually no thought given), I drove Jay and my mom to my Monday appointment. That was not a good idea. I could hardly focus on driving, my speeds were really out of control and I fretted the entire way that we were late. My heart was racing, my stomach churning and I can not begin to tell you what the mundane car chatter was about. I was so tense, my shoulders and upper back carrying the load. I practically ran to the office, leaving my family behind. The waiting room was suffocating, I could not sit still. The "patient information room" was even worse. My stomach continued its roller coaster and I thought I might vomit. My head was spinning as the reality of what I faced seemed to keep smacking me. The doctor came in and introduced herself to all members of my party (mom, dad and Jay). To quote her, "I really believe we have nothing to worry about." I wanted clarification. "So, it is nothing?" My body almost folded in half. I flopped back on the sofa I was sitting upon. The bile still rising to my mouth. It was over. I was done. Was it really true? As I wrote earlier, the doctor confessed to me that she was very relieved. She did not expect the results I received (a fibrocystic condition that presented itself a little oddly). She was very worried. I will go back in 6 months for another follow-up.

The question is: If I truly believe that God takes care of me, if I trust Him completely, should my reaction have been so severe? I thought if I verbalized how I was really feeling, I would hear the same words that I have told to countless others - obvious, but not helpful words at the time. I would be labeled, perceived as weak spiritually. I would be seen as the boy who cried wolf, worrying over what was unfathomable. To write this is difficult, but I am laying it all out on the table. I know God is in control and He will take care of me, but that does little to minimize the stress and anxiety of what I know the journey of cancer to be. Shouldn't it be different?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The first day of the rest of your life

Actually, I have always hated that that line - tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life. Like somehow every thing prior to that has been erased. Anyway, it just was too perfect of a title for this post considering it encompasses first days school, my medical journey (like there haven't been enough posts on that this year) and today (which was yesterday's first day of the rest of my life, right?).

The first day for E and S was on Tuesday. Their attitudes were fairly positive - S more than E. We are working on new routines this year - alarm clocks, preparations the night before, more responsibilities with supplies, etc. As I posted last year about the first of school, Sadie has refused to wear the cute plaid jumpers with peter pan colors. Therefore, when cleaning out drawers, I packed all that up in a tub for Lily. Imagine my complete, near pass-out shock when Sadie said she wanted to wear a jumper on the first day. O-kkkk. Out came the tub and a jumper. I pulled out some polo shirts for her to choose from for under the jumper. Her response: No, mom, you wear those round colored shirts. Don't we have some of those? Out came the tub...again. She was pretty pleased with wearing it, along with her pink converse low-tops. She came home happy and excited about her year - along with the discipline process which involves money (possibly her love language?)

Ethan headed off fine, but came home in a bit of a mood. A friend that was on the original class list from school was evidently switched last minute and so that brought a bit of disappointment. He is not really one for new situations and I think he just needs a little more time. My efforts at growing him with a self-worth measured only by God is certainly being tested already this year. Comparisons to others is starting and his desire to be included concerns me. I just need to pray a little more fervently, though I think a lot of this must be learned through experience. And maybe, just maybe I am more sensitive to this because it plagued me so much in my youth. I did not know God. I had no measure except for the world. I believe that my history would be vastly different had I a different set of glasses through which to see my environment. Oh, and it should be mentioned that E already misplaced his jacket and forgot one assignment at home and this is just day 3. Pray for us.

Lily is lost. It doesn't help that we have been separated some this week because of work. She is very clingy and it hurts my heart. I realized today that she has never really been apart from me. If she has, it has almost always included E and S (her own unique Linus blanket). She is becoming aware of herself, the world and her place in it. It is a little perplexing to me because her head knowledge is so advanced, but the awareness of her environment, etc. seems to lag. On the other hand, she is so social, making friends wherever she goes. She is more than ready to start school which begins after Labor Day. We are still teetering in the balance of nap/no nap land. So tough to let that one go and deal with come crankiness late in the afternoon.

I just put them to bed. Lily was almost asleep before I officially tucked her in. These early mornings and varying schedules must be taking its toll.

I am still groping, blindly, through my days. This whole work thing/mom thing/wife thing is still completely unpredictable. I had a revelation during the last few weeks:

I like predictability and stability. I do not handle change well.

There, I said it. Gone are the carefree days of my college and my young adult life. I am not the person I was in my early 20s (but who is?). I never thought I would morph into a set in my ways kind of gal. I mean, I hitchhiked/backpacked through Africa for Pete's sake. Of course, I shudder at that thought now. But, to admit this change has taken place is tough. I am sure most of this is a natural progression. Children, economic responsibilities limit your choices, right? Stability is good, right? I feel like I am trying to convince myself. I should stop. Admitting it is half the battle. I made a good start tonight.

Monday, August 18, 2008

whoooooo hooooooooo!

Great news - if you didn't already figure it out from the title. I have a benign condition called fibrocystic something. Most women get it in their lifetime. Mine presented itself a little differently and was only on one side. The doctor said she was extremely relieved, because she was expecting much different results. (confirmed that my mom and I were reading her correctly). So, I will get a MRI in 6 months to make sure all is normal and no more areas of growth. Zippy! Now, on to figuring out why my cycle is so out of whack - 2 weeks here, 3 weeks there. Here's hoping to 28 days this month!

I have much more to write about this - things I have gleaned, etc. But, I am making a great, homemade meal for my family to celebrate! I will try to get more down in the next week.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

quick clarification

There are many possibilities of these biopsies. They could, in fact, be benign. I don't want anyone to think I have been told stage 0 or 1 at all. It is just at this point, if the pathology suggests early, non-invasive cancer I would be stage 0. Just trying to make sure the understanding is that we just don't know and all "conclusions" are merely subjective at this point, based on some research, verbiage from doctors and history. Pray for clear results.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Considerably More Worrisome

Interesting title. So, let me tell you how it came into my ears today.

As a reader of this blog, you know that my sister, Ansley, died a year and a half ago from breast cancer. Even though we have no familial history of cancer, let alone breast cancer, except for Ansley, who was diagnosed premenopausal, I am in what is considered a "high-risk" category (20-25% chance of cancer in her lifetime). Therefore, I have been told to not only begin the process of yearly mammograms, but to add to it a yearly breast MRI. This was my third year of a mammo and my second year of MRIs. Every year I get a little uptight, a little anxious for these tests In my mind, the threat of cancer always seems to be like a pack of hunting dogs heading to me in the distance.

Thankfully, this year's mammogram came back normal. Two weeks ago I had my MRI at 10:15am. At 2:00pm, my phone rang, caller id said: Breast Center of Greensboro. I said out loud to a dear friend, "Well, this can't be good," but thought it would be about insurance. I was informed that there were changes in this MRI in comparison to last year. Three areas were showing an increase in contrast. (Atypical/cancer cells take an increase in contrast therefore they "light" up more on the scans.)

They recommended that I come in for an ultrasound and biopsy, if they weren't able to locate an area large enough, I would need to have an MRI-assisted biopsy.

Say what? My heart sank, tears were in my eyes and I had to seriously fight to control my emotions which were racing.

As we were leaving for Ocracoke the next day, I was not thrilled at the prospect of waiting. I mentioned that to the doctor. She offered for me to come to her office right away for the ultrasound and possible biopsy. Off I went, making calls to family along the way.

My mom met me in the lobby and it was extremely hard not to let our emotions take control. There were so many levels of remembrance for us and they were all coming back.

The ultrasound did not pick up anything large enough to be testing, which was good news. Small, actually nothing in size, is good. However, the doctor continued to recommend having an MRI core biopsy done.

So, today I went to have this procedure done. After consulting with the doctor who was performing this procedure, I came to the understanding that in my case, even atypical cells (even if non-cancerous) tend to grow, at some point, into cancer. Most likely, if that is the diagnosis, they will need to be removed.

The procedure itself was long due to the scanning before, during and after the procedure. It was uncomfortable (laying perfectly still for nearly an hour), painful with three long sticks of numbing medicine and bizarre (sensation of a bug-like object in your breast). The original intent was to take one biopsy at a location on the bottom left side. However, after the first set of scans, the doctor told me that she would like to go ahead and do two biopsies because of the spot on the top. I hear that news while laying flat on my stomach, boobs hanging free-fall through openings in the table and unable to move.

After the procedure was over, I asked why she decided to take the additional biopsy. She said, "because the location at the top was considerably more worrisome and I don't want to have to go in again." Yay for her proactivity. Pooh for that description.

After that appointment I had to go back to their main office to get a mammogram done.
I know - what? During the biopsies, they inserted two tiny clips in the exact areas where they took tissue. That way, if a surgeon has to go in to remove anything, he/she will know exactly where to go. And yes, they will remain in my body - forever. A little odd, but she didn't think anything about it. Unfortunately, that was really not a pleasant experience as I started bleeding from one biopsy site and had to have all my dressings redone.

I am sure that this is all a little shocking and the "it just can't be" response is probably there as well. I am good. Really good, in fact. This is going to sound a little crazy, but I think this is going to be pretty easy. It certainly has been caught early - way ahead of Ansley. I will, most likely be a stage 0 or stage 1. I can get this all behind me and hey...might get a chance of an upgrade! Goodbye sag-city!

So, say a little prayer for me and my family. This is a road we are all-too familiar with and it is uncomfortable at times. The children know nothing and I will keep it that way until absolutely necessary.

Time that I grab another ice pack out of the freezer and take some more ibuprofen. I will end with one of my favorite mantras: God is good all the time and all the time, HE IS GOOD!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Comments from a reader

After I wrote my entry "Getting Freaky" I received an email from an long-time friend. She had much to comment on and rather than type it in the comments section, she emailed me. What is amazing about this friend is that she has the MOST amazing memory of any person I know - tiny details, events, emotions, etc., have been perfectly preserved in her mind. Ones that have long since left my brain. Scarily, sometimes they aren't even familiar and I was central to the story (how does that happen). Anyway, I asked her permission to post some of her comments as they 1) add to the content of the post (details that I have forgotten) and 2) add to the humor. Thanks, Jennifer, for the permission!

In reference to the LOVE CLUB entry:
First of all, the club you remember when I started the Muppets club and you and Ansley came over and upstairs in my house? You and I (I made the correction) had to be between 9 and 12 years old. I think Angela came too. We all picked characters to be (code names): I was Mrs. Piggy, you were Kermit, and I distinctly remember Ansley choosing Fozzie Bear. Vivid memory for me about Ansley. We drew pictures that day and that's when I realized what a good artist Ansley was. Also everyone had to bring 25 cents for dues. Is this bringing back any memory for you?
All this to say how cute the club thing is for Sadie. The promise and water bowl are in the movie. At least her club already has a purpose in mind...mine didn't. Looking back on it, that's sad.

Secondly, on the things that scared you (or scarred you depending on how many "r"s I include in the spelling!)...
You are not alone in the Ouija board thing...Jeff had an experience w/ one in college. He wasn't playing it but the spirit was directly attacking him by name on the board as roommates/suitemates played. All b/c he was a Christian. He argued scripture to it and it was saying, "Kill Jeff". His story gives me chill bumps. I'd love to hear yours!

That slumber party...was I there? Who hired the storyteller...anyone I know? Was it Jackie Templeton, storyteller? She told a story called "Tillie" that was pretty scary. I saw her twice, once at the HP Theatre and another time I can't recall and I'm wondering if the party was it. I know I've heard "Tillie" twice. Is that the ghost story you speak of? The Jamestown ghost is another one that gets me.
BTW - She is correct in the name of the story teller and the name of the story!

Has anyone else had time to think through what is scary or just freaked them out? I would add two more movies: "Children of Men" and "The Day After Tomorrow".

Additionally, I love when there are comments. One day, I plan on printing this blog for my children (no other ambitions). The comments will go along with them so would like for those that peruse this blog to make their mark.

Monday, August 11, 2008

conversation with Sadie

Little comment from Sadie at the beach:

Sadie: Mom, you have skinny legs.
Me: Oh - thanks Sadie.
Sadie: I mean, skinny legs for a big mom.
Me: (smile)

So close...

Random Notes from Ocracoke

We descended for the 6th year to Ocracoke Island off the coast of NC. This island is only accessible by ferry. The route we take puts us on a 2 hour 15 minute ferry ride. It was interesting to see Lily look at this trip from completely new eyes. It was like the veil had been lifted and she was experiencing everything for the first time. She couldn't understand how we would get our car onto the ferry asking, “Do they hook us onto the boat?” She also couldn't grasp the concept of an “island.” She started crying our first morning because we told her we were going to the beach. On Ocracoke you have to drive out on the beach. There are no hotels or houses on the beach. She was crying while stammering, “I don’t want to leave the island.” But, now, at the end of the week, she understands.

The week has been filled with wonderful memories. We are finally getting to the point that I can sit down and do a little reading while watching the kids. I am not on a crazed, constant running, completely unrelaxing jaunt. And people ask me if we are going to have any more kids?

Most of our days have been spent on the beach. We pack the car (Grand-D’s 4x truck) and lunches and head out for the day. This year there haven’t been the schools of little fish or the shelling we are used to and that has been a little disappointing, but we have seen quite a few dolphins. We watched a man land a 60 lb. (5’) ray which was quickly cut and released. It took him a very long time and we have heard they are some of the toughest fighters. But it was a cool experience and then a little creepy thinking that was lurking out there! Luckily, we hang in the tidal pools and the shallow side. The weather has been lovely on the beach with a wonderful, constant breeze. I hear there is a heat wave going on at home so am glad we are here.

The kids, particularly Ethan, have been focused on shopping, too. That is something new. But, I recall Colby did the same thing around this age. Of course, we made the obligatory trip to Teach’s Lair (aka the pirate store). Ocracoke’s most famous resident was Black Beard (aka Edward Teach). Sadie and Lily got “jewels” in a little velvet bag. They have a large bin with varying colored plastic jewels and coins. Every year it has been the same thing for Sadie and I spend until October market cleaning them up. Then they find a permanent home in her junk box or else wind up in the trash. This year Lily is mesmerized by the jewels. I think she believes they are real. Ethan bought, with his own money, a new cap gun or rather, a large rifle. Before anyone stands in judgment about this, they haven’t been around boys very long. Even when you try to keep them away from “violent toys,” they will find a stick and turn it into some type of weapon.

We met a local family that our kids have just made instant buddies with –MacKenzie and Chandler. McKenzie is in between Ethan and Sadie and Chandler is Lily’ age. One characteristic trait that is developing in Lily is her ability to become friends instantly with other kids. She is drawn to her peers and they are immediately, “her best friend.” She will discard her own siblings in a nanosecond especially if that “new best friend” is a boy. Should I be concerned? She is going to be our social one and probably will be the one with “needs improvement” under unnecessary talking on her report card. I have no idea who she gets that from! Ha!

Yesterday the O’Neals came to swim with us at our pool. The kids had a great time. Sadie and McKenzie exchanged addresses. I think it will be fun for them to write to each other. I bet Ethan will join in as well. I got my first pen pal in 3rd grade and it was so much fun to get mail. Life on the island is so different than for us and I imagine the children will enjoy hearing about how different their lives are despite living only 5 hours apart (plus ferry). We made plans to see them next year – fun! Sadly, I think I forgot to get a single picture! What was I thinking?!?

On Tuesday night, we went to the volunteer fire station for bingo. We almost didn’t get in this year, there was quite a line (they max out at 100). They are raising money for a new fire station which is really important in an isolated island like this. If a fire becomes uncontrollable, supplemental help takes a long time to arrive. Last year, at bingo, we racked in the money as I think almost everyone won something. This year, lucky Sadie won the second game, playing all by herself. Three other people won as well so the winnings were rather small ($5). But it all worked out as Ethan won a door prize to the Sweet Tooth (candy store) for $5. We need to go spend that gift certificate! Bingo started at 7:30 and we didn’t get home until around 10 as in previous years. It makes for a fun, but long night. Sadie actually fell asleep during the second to last game and I had to finish it up for her. Lily was really good, playing with her crayons and m&ms. Ethan was just steady freddy, occasionally getting overwhelmed by the speed of the caller. He was in “his zone” just watching everything going on around him and not totally paying attention to the game.

Lily has really taken to the pool. She wouldn’t put her face in the water a couple of weeks ago – Jay took care of that before we left. She wouldn’t leave the steps when we arrived, but now, with the aid of a life vest, she is swimming all over the place and jumping in. I hope next summer that we will have a more consistent swimming location and they can all improve on their abilities. Ethan and Sadie swim and jump in everywhere without any aides, but I would like their strokes and confidence to improve.

Life here is so simple. I don’t know of another place that puts me in such a relaxed state. We tend to stay at a place that has few units (maybe 10) of which several are contracted with the Coast Guard. There are few, if any, other people at the pool almost making it our own private oasis. The tourists that stay on the island tend to appreciate its beauty and they take care of it. Our unit barely looks lived in and I know it has been rented out for at least 3 years. The shops are quaint and I can always find unique gifts for the kids.

Ansley is here. I have not yet ventured to Springer’s Point to “visit.” I don’t know what is holding me back except the mosquitoes. They are a little vicious this year and I hate the smell of the bug spray – I think cancer is growing just by smelling it. However, I might make a trek out there in the morning.

Yesterday we messed around in the village getting snow-cones made with finely shaved ice. We manage to snag a great picnic table right by the harbor. The breeze was blowing and the weather couldn’t have been better. I could have sat there all day. Like the monkey she is Sadie found some great trees to climb and I got some great pictures. The camera battery went out this morning and I forgot the charger. Thankfully, it is the last day.

I dread packing up and heading out tomorrow. I love this place. Wish every place had this rhythm of life.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Getting freaky

I saw the following clip on CNN which completly freaked me out:

I started thinking about other things that have freaked me out in my life. Here is a short list:

1. "Seven" the movie. I wish in every part of my being hat I had NEVER seen this movie. So disturbing. It is my fervent belief that it is these types of movies that give the mentally disturbed fuel for their dimented fantasies.

2. The Oujia board that my friend Katie and I messed around with in late high school. I know it wasn't mine, so was it yours, Katie? Wrong, wrong, wrong, I tell ya. Just opens the doors for evil. I truly didn't know better.

3. "The Day After Tomorrow" movie (once again). Some may laugh at this one, but seriously, I thought it was so realistic in terms of our environment. Maybe I had watched Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" previous to watchting "TDAT," thus heightening the nesting urge to stockpile bottled water and non-perishables.

4. A story told to me at a slumber party in 2nd or 3rd grade. It was a birthday party sleepover and the parents hired a professional story teller to come to entertain the mass of little girls. Not sure where the parental guidance was on this one, but she told the most frightening, horrific ghost story. Really, what were this girl's parents thinking?

5. Finally, the time that Ansley pretended to have gone psycho on me. Seriously, she faked this ridiculous mentally deranged look on her face and then got a kitchen knife (yes, a sharp one) and then proceeded to stalk me until I was cornered in the back of me parents' closet. No, my parents were not at home and yes, this is a true story. By the time is was all over, I was hysterically screaming and crying. Ansley felt a little bad, but through her apologies I could hear a little lilt to her voice indicating some giggling. It is a wonder I didn't grow up completely scarred. Despite this little event and several others I will not retell, I still consider her my best friend.

Question of the day: What things still freak you out?