Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Piece of Paper

I usually make a "weekend checklist" on Friday morning, complete with boxes to check off. And yes, I usually include a couple things that I have already accomplished. This weekend's list included laundry, responding to some emails, a little shopping, and the word "BLOG". I have been pondering a certain blog all week, but this morning when I sat down, the whole concept suddenly changed.  I grabbed my Bible to reference the building of altars in the Old Testament for the purpose of remembering. But when I took my Bible out of its spot, a piece of paper slipped out to the floor.

I unfolded it. It was a list of all the places Gary and I had spent our 24 anniversaries. We kept a running list, and every year on July 19th, we loved reading it over and reminiscing about all the fun adventures we'd had. Seeing it again took my breath away.

But it's just a piece of paper.

A couple blog entries ago, I wrote about Thomas leaving me a piece of cheesecake the night before I took him to college.  That cheesecake was so tasty. But it was the sticky-note attached that tendered my heart.  This piece of paper is now magneted to my fridge. Daily, I look at it and think about the heart that created it for me. I think about the thoughtful heart that bought the slice of cheesecake, wrote the note, placed it strategically so that it would be the first thing I saw when I opened the fridge on THAT day...a day he knew I deeply needed some "heart."

Not just a piece of paper.

I have, stashed in the way-back of my file box, a collection of random cards that I have kept throughout my adult life.  I look at them periodically, usually when I am searching for a birth certificate or tax document.  This one is a birthday card written to me by my Dad back in 1992. My Dad was a great writer, and by "great," I mean creative, consistent, encouraging and prolific!  His unique handwriting and his messages of love will forever be a comfort to me.

A treasured piece of paper.


As I learn to navigate this new "cheerleading" stage of my life, I have made a new commitment to myself and to my children. I will write to each of them each Sunday evening. Some weeks, the notes will be rather ho-hum. Some weeks they will include details of things my preschoolers have said that have made me laugh. I may or may not slip in a $5 bill or a coffee card. Some will be sermon-ettes springing from a thought or concern I've had that week. And though we talk, email, text, and facetime weekly, making most of the snail-mail subjects "old news" by the time the kids get their letters, I am convinced that there's something just a little different about getting a real letter in the real mail.

Even though it's just a piece of paper.

What are the pieces of paper in your life? The little scraps that together have formed a story? When I die, my kids will get to read through this random collection of mine, and in so doing, little gaps will be filled. They will know their mom, their dad, and their grandpa better. They will know what mattered most to me. And they will know how deeply they were loved.

So much more than just pieces of paper!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Married, With Children

I was one of those little girls who, at age two, would sit in my stroller and point out "babies" to my mom. My mother has confirmed this. As far back as I can remember, I have loved babies. I started babysitting at age 10 for two little boys next door and over the next decade managed to amass hours of experience. I remember at age 14 holding days-old Amy and panicking when she got the hiccups because I didn't know a baby so small and new could even GET hiccups. Unfortunately, I was only making $.50/hr, so early retirement is not in the cards for me.

I was also one of those little girls who dreamed of her prince. I grew up with brothers, so it wasn't so much the "mystery and intrigue" of men that appealed to me. It was more the strength. As a young teen, I longed to find Mr. Right, settle down, and start having those babies!  So, yes. My heart's desire while growing up was to be married, with children.

God is good. He honored that desire and brought Gary into my life when I was 24 years old. We were married at 26 and my firstborn came when I was 28.  By 34, I'd had another daughter and a son, and I was feeling like my life could not be better. I considered myself a good mom. I loved and enjoyed my children. Growing, protecting, educating, entertaining and feeding them was my passion, and my gifts were being maximized. Were all days good and sweet? Nope. I failed repeatedly. I often fell asleep feeling that I could have been more, done more, played more, listened more. But for the most part, I was living the dream.

Fast-forward to Friday, September 20th, 2013. Launch Day. 

I DID make Tommy a hearty breakfast. We DID load up both cars. The drive took longer than expected, but the check-in/unload process went well.  I DID make his bed while he decorated with posters. When we got him checked in, there was a little booklet called a "passport" on his desk. The RA emphasized the importance of reading this book and having it with you at all times. So, he did. The first mandatory student-only meeting was at 6. It was now 4:45. We headed to the bookstore to buy pens and notebooks. Then we ate. Tick...tick...tick...

The gumball-sized throat-lump seemed to be growing by the minute. Now it was a walnut. Then a golf-ball. By 5:45, it was a tennis ball.  At 5:50, I hugged my son harder than I have in a LONG time. I struggled to say goodbye. Tears flowed. And suddenly, as I pulled away, I realized: I was neither "married", NOR "with children".

It took me three hours to drive home. I wept, processed, and wept some more. I struggled with identity. If I'm not a wife and mom, WHO AM I?

God is not only good. He is gracious, compassionate, kind. He reminded me that I am beloved, bought with a high price: the blood of Jesus. He reminded me that I have a hope and a future. HE knows the plans He has for me, and that is enough.  It was a hard drive home, but by the time I unlocked my door and walked into this quiet apartment, I was comforted. God has provided for me in my hour of greatest need, and I have no reason to believe this will change. I am filled with a sense of anticipation...

 The Campus at CWU.  Tommy's dorm is by the green-topped building.

I told him he was lucky--his dorm is the closest dorm to food.

It gets really windy there, evidently. I did not share this news with Tommy. He'll find out soon enough!
 Tommy's dorm is called "Hitchcock." I don't think Tommy knows who Alfred Hitchcock is, and I'm hoping this dorm was not named after Alfred.

Tommy has girls living 2 doors down. This scares me.  I am glad he grew up with sisters.
Maybe the "mystery and intrigue" will not be as much of a factor for him. Maybe.
And here is the college freshman on his bed. Just looking at this picture brings the tennis ball back. Pray for my man-child, that God would continue to protect and guide him.  Thank you for reading my blog!

Friday, September 20, 2013


Launch Day!

My brother-in-law is a rocket scientist. How cool is that?  When they have a launch scheduled, his life is on-hold.  His family knows that until that rocket launches, they are in a holding pattern. 

Today I launch my son, Thomas, my lastborn child. My emotional life has been in a holding pattern this last month as I have prepared to take him to college.  I am nervous, excited, expectant, and sad. But to be honest, the winning emotion here is GRATITUDE.  

 Back in 1994, the thought of a third child was just a hope. When God blessed us with not only a third child but a SON, my heart overflowed with gratitude. Tommy has been a joy to raise. He started out laid-back, and he has been that way ever since. He has given me so many proud moments, along with some moments of raw fear, thank-you-very-much! He has been an appreciative eater, which if you know me and my love of feeding people, is a HUGE thing! He has cared for me with quiet stability.  I love him more than life.

When our lives were turned upside-down a couple years ago, I set a goal with regards to Thomas.  I wanted to heal to the point that he did not feel that he had to stay with me to take care of me. When he was accepted to Central in January, I was thrilled. He reached his goal, and I reached mine. God is good!

When I awoke this morning, I knew this day would be very different than most, so I started out the way I always do--by
making myself a cup of coffee. When I reached in the fridge to grab the creamer, there was a little box from the Cheesecake Factory containing a slice of cherry cheesecake, my favorite. A post-it note on the top said, "MOM."

The first of many tears began to flow at that point. Soon I will wake Tommy up, make him some bacon and eggs. We'll pack his car, then mine, and off we'll go...over the mountain to Ellensburg. I'll make his dorm-bed, get him situated, and off I'll go. At that moment, my role will change. I have been nurturer/grower for 25 years, starting with Molly. Today I will begin the slow-shift to full-time cheerleader.  I do not know what this looks like, exactly, but I will cherish the role just as I have cherished parenting all these years.

I am ready. I am ready because Tommy is ready. Yes, I will likely have to pull over as soon as the college is out of sight. I'll need to cry a good one before hitting the freeway for home.  And then the reality of this day will begin to sink in, and I'll cry some more. But truly, this is the best kind of pain, isn't it?  Growing children to the point that they can leave you is a beautiful privilege. 

I will miss this child!  I will miss feeding him, watching Pawn Stars with him, and hearing his "'Night Mom, I love you," voice when he comes in at midnight. I have boxes stashed in which I will send him sour gummy worms, beef jerky, laundry quarters and gas money. I will look forward to his first-day-of-school text. And I will pray for him. God is good! Tommy: YOU GOT THIS!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Three Months!

Today marks three months since I had my bilateral mastectomy, which I will (in order to make you laugh) henceforth refer to as my BM.

A lot has happened since October 18th! I've kept you up to date on most of the biggies, like blood clots, swimming a mile, and the mysterious Mondor's Disease (which is healing up nicely, thanks for asking!) I'm still on the coumadin for the blood clots...that'll end in April, hopefully. Coumadin is one of those lifesaving/pain in the ass drugs, like prednisone. I have had my clotting time checked (via finger-prick, AT the doctor's office, with a $25 co-pay each time, 11 times so far.) This is necessary to make sure the coumadin is at a "therapeutic level." If it's not, I risk another blood clot if my blood's too thick, or bleeding to death from a razor nick if my blood's too thin. Fun times, huh?

Okay, moving on. There IS life post BM. The only thing I still have trouble doing is laying on my stomach, reaching the top shelf in my kitchen, and filling my C-cup bras, which is why, a couple weeks ago, I got rid of them. This was a big day, a symbolic day. Who knows why I even kept them that long? 'Coulda chucked them on the morning of October 18th. Maybe I secretly thought I'd be the exception and mine would grow back.

I've packed about 100 boxes, as I am in the process of selling my home. I have lifted almost all of those boxes, made runs to the dump, and numerous trips to Goodwill. I have painted and scrubbed, and as of two days ago, I've even shoveled snow. So, YES. I have my strength and range of motion back. I'd put both at 90%.

I was told by my dear Dr. F that the best way to make BM scars diminish is to rub them with aloe vera. I have a friend who donated one of her aloe plants to the cause, and it now resides in my bathroom, where every couple days, I cut off a chunk and...well, I'll stop there. Let's just say the scars are looking good. I still am mostly numb, which is strange, but common. Nerve regeneration is a slow process. I still occasionally experience phantom pain. Go figure.

I'm kind of wondering how long to keep this blog going. I feel that my cancer journey was rather short compared to some who have to endure chemo and/or radiation. I am thankful that those treatments are not a part of my days right now, as they would likely flatten me at a time when I have a lot to get done. God is merciful and good. I will stick to my word and write the compression-tight blog that I promised so long ago. Maybe I'll end with that...we'll see.

I guess I didn't really give a lot of thought to what life would be like after my BM, so I haven't had any expectations dashed. Recovering from anything is a process, and like any recovery, there are good days and bad days. I have days when I grieve the loss of my breasts. Most days, though, I'm just happy to be zipping along.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 29, 2011


As I write, I am sitting in Palm Springs. I have spent the holidays here with my kids and my extended family, and it has been bliss. One of the weird results of my surgery (and mastectomy surgery in general) is an odd, come-and-go tightness in my chest. This tightness gets worse in cold weather. Since it has been in the mid 70's here, I have been much more comfortable. I referred in a recent blog to "a steel bra, two sizes too small." This phrase was not my invention. I read it when I googled "post mastectomy chest tightness" and it described this sensation very accurately. I've read that this feeling can last for 6 months or more...some in the chat room were even a year out and still experiencing it to some degree. To me, this translates "You will remember your cancer and surgery well into 2012."

This afternoon, my family and I went and saw the movie "New Year's Eve." It was a feel-good movie that touched on birth, death, distance, closeness, creativity, reflection and projection. I am one of those people who still thinks in terms of resolutions come December 31st. I know that a person can decide to start over any day. But New Year's is just a good time to do some concentrated thinking and reflecting, planning and reorganizing.

"Resolution." Being a word freak, I looked closely at this word and broke it down. Re+Solution: to solve again. I've looked at my health and my body one way all my life. Now it's time to look at it again, differently. A new solution. Though my bout with cancer was short-lived, I am reminded constantly. Clothes fit differently. I sleep differently. I'm still on coumadin because of blood clots. I have this weird tightness that responds to weather for crying out loud! Breast cancer has changed me, and I need to think over some new solutions to these changes.

This blog has gotten a bit rambly. I hope it makes some sense. I'm in a pensive, post-holiday, vacation mood. I hope that as you look ahead to 2012, you are also thinking over some re-solutions. We've all got our "stuff"...right?

Monday, December 19, 2011

My First Christmas

This is my first Christmas.

It's my first Christmas in 25 years without my husband, it's my first Christmas as a single mom, and it's my first Christmas without my boobs. In some ways, this Christmas, for me, is about loss, which is odd, because Christmas is usually about gain. We gain "stuff" from the many generous folks who lavish us with love wrapped in paper and bows. (I am not being sarcastic here. I LOVE giving people things at Christmas as a tangible expression of how much they mean to me. It's cool.) We gain memories as we form new traditions and embellish old ones. We add photos to those scrapbooks. We gain a deeper knowledge, hopefully, of what it meant for God to send His only Son.

So, can a Christmas that's mostly about loss be a "good" Christmas?

I believe it can. A friend shared with me his thoughts about what it must have been like for Mary to receive the news that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Though Mary may not have grasped the magnitude of that proclamation at the time, it became clear as her boy grew. She would eventually lose Him. As she watched Him live, she knew He came to die. I have pondered these thoughts much as I parent my 17 year-old son. What would it be like for me to stand by Thomas as he lay down his life? It is overwhelming to consider. And yet Mary's response was, "May it be as you have said." Can I face loss with the same attitude?

I want THAT kind of faith. The kind that doesn't really understand it all, but knows that it's okay not to always understand. I do not understand why I was diagnosed with breast cancer, or why my husband was unfaithful. But I'm learning to navigate the losses. I am leaning on a strong God who is able.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will also lean on a strong God who is able. If you are experiencing loss this Christmas, lean harder. Joy is that thing, deep within, that has nothing to do with circumstance, but everything to do with this fact: He. Is. Able.

Merry Christmas, my dear friends and blog-followers. You mean the world to me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mondor's Cord

Hah! You thought I disappeared! Many of you have seen on facebook that I was blessed with a wonderful surprise at Thanksgiving. My stepmom flew my firstborn home for the long weekend. I walked in the door and saw her face and heard her say, "Hi, Mom!" It took me a minute to register that she was REALLY home! I had wrapped my heart around the fact that this would be my first Thanksgiving in 23 years without her. And then there she was! We wept, both of us, and neither of us are "weepers."

After further analysis, I realized the reason behind the tears. First, I have not seen Molly since my cancer diagnosis, so it seemed like I went through a lot without her. Second, I have cried so many tears in the last few months, but these were the first tears of JOY in 4 months! It felt GOOD! Anyway, we had a wonderful visit and I consider this one of the very best surprises ever.

Now. On to Mondor's Cord. Doesn't that sound like something out of Star Trek? An episode name, perhaps: "The Cord of Mondor." Well. Instead it's the name of a complication that I'm experiencing. I had my last visit with Dr. F on Monday. The scar looks great, and for the first time, no draining was needed. He ended with "Seeya in 6 months!" Then I asked him to look at this "thing." One day while looking in the mirror, I noticed a stripe running down my rib cage, vertically, about 7 inches long. Honestly, it looked and felt like a piece of drain tubing that was left inside me, just under the skin. In fact, everyone I showed it to asked, "Did you have drains?" Well. Dr. F took one look and nodded. "It's Mondor's Disease" he said. I thought he was kidding. No, really! I guffawed and played along, "So...what's the solution?" And he then explained it. About halfway through his explanation, I realized he wasn't kidding. Google it if you're interested. It's really no big deal. But he did say that it's "very rare" and that he only sees one case every couple years. He called me a "rare bird." For some reason, this made me feel good. Anyway, this cord-thing should resolve itself in a couple months with a little heat and a little tylenol. I'll keep you posted.

Other than my sidekick Mondor, I am doing well. I will write another blog about the steel bra, 2 sizes too small. Bet'cha can't wait!