Friday, January 22, 2016

The End of 2015

The last few months have been full of excitement and change. I've finally completed my breast cancer treatment (radiation) in October. While there are so many bigger issues I've dealt with and will still deal with for many years, one little annoying one is having to not being able to open things with my fingers, like these little butter things I wanted to open for my biscuits.

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Just before Thanksgiving, my MIL passed away. The last ten years have been rough for her. From breaking her hip , moving into an assisted living facility and declining in health and mind. I reread my blog entries today and loved to see where I had written here or there about her. It reminds me of how much I loved her. From eating ice cream , spending quality time in the hospital, , taking her to doctor appointments, not recognizing me anymore, celebrating birthdays with her, and all the times in between. I have been missing her for a decade, and still do. I know she's up in heaven looking down and smiling. At her memorial service, my girls and I took a picture.

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Christmas preparations were interrupted by another surgery (gall bladder) but it ended up peaceful and festive. I was definitely in a different place than I was a year ago, oblivious of the raging cancer growing within me. I have a whole new perspective on friendships as well. There are those friends and family who don't know what to say so they slip away quietly. And then there are those who have always been there and who continue to shine brightly like SIL Patti. Having been a BC survivor, she was a calm voice in a sea of anxiety and her never ending greeting cards throughout the year were priceless. My brother Mike who lives next door was a huge help especially with picking up and dropping off my kiddos as were my daughters. And then there are those who were acquaintances and then moved up into the friend category with their assistance. My friend Kathy brought lots of food for the entire family probably once a month for the whole year. In addition, the fact that she had to come by the house forced me to get up and clean. It would take a few days in those days when I was really sick with chemo and that was great motivation to remain in the 'real world.' Of course, my hubby stayed by my side the entire time. I had other friends who were very helpful and I am grateful to have a wonderful circle of friends and family. I'm very blessed.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Reading at night...

I've returned to reading again. Usually I read while I'm visiting my SIL when everyone else naps. But now, I'm reading more at home. I am in the middle of a pretty good book on my Kindle. Also, I'm on CD 17 out of 19 of a book in my car (that I listen to while driving back and forth the long journey each day to radiation.) That's not all, I'm also reading a book to my kiddos at night as well. We're 37% through it right now, lol! It's amazing how they listen so much better to a book and it's details rather than everyday requests and commands I make to them. I used to read to my kiddos a lot especially in the summers but I've gotten out of the habit. I want to continue it...and make it a nightly thing for years to come...that'd be a wonderful plan.

A couple nights ago, my youngest was looking for something to do and I wasn't allowing him to play on his electronics (he had gotten a warning for something or other at school and that's a consequence of mine that I give him.) I told him to read a book. So he picked one out and came in my bedroom where I was laying down resting and started reading out loud. It was a Dr. Seuss book and I peered over and listened to him read. Hearing his little voice so intrigued in the story was the highlight of my day. I'm grateful today for life and it's blessings.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A half a year later...

It's amazing how my life has changed in the last six months! From suspecting cancer before Christmas to almost the end of chemo next week. I've finished Taxol and have one more A/C (Adriamycin Cytoxan) infusion. It's been a long lonely journey. I can't wait to be able to go to movies again and I've missed not going to the school when my kids have something going on. I miss my stamina and can't wait to be able to walk for more than 10 minutes without having to stop and rest. I can't wait for the neuropathy on my fingers and feet to go away because I miss being able to pick things up or open stuff. I miss my fingernails and toenails and how they used to look. While my fingernails aren't too bad, my toenails are dark/black and the nails have started coming up. I miss my old life...

This is a pic of one hand a couple of months ago (I have trouble pushing the button and holding the phone at the same time so I haven't taken recent pics of them.) In fact, I find that the buttons on the remotes of the tv and car keys are the most painful things during the day.
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ok....enough whining...

In other news, my granddaughter has healed well from her first hand/feet surgery and will be having another one next week. She has three fingers and a thumb now...and will soon have a fourth finger on each hand! My daughter will walk to my house a few times during the week and then borrow my bike with the kid seat on it and then go bike riding. I love seeing them, especially Olivia.
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And my boys have gone to spend some time at the farm with my SIL. School is out and they're having fun and it's good to get away from home sometimes. A couple weeks ago, we visited a friend who had this awesome magnolia tree in their yard so I took a pic of them. Yeah....I'm missing them!
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cancer....and stuff

New vocabulary:

hormone receptors
chemo port

I have breast cancer and it's spread but not everywhere. I am currently doing chemo for 24 weeks, then surgery, then 6 weeks radiation, then 10 years taking tamoxifen. I want this stuff gone and am doing all I can do help it leave peacefully!

Early in my diagnosis, I was driving the kids to school and had to stop for a moment to get my tears in order. My fourth grader said, "Mom, lots of people have cancer."

Yes, that gave me perspective again.

And recently, he said, "Mom, I'm glad you're alive." ...ok. I am too...and will continue to do what I need to do to be cancer free again. He seems happier when I wear my wig (since my hair fell out) especially if we'll be out of the house and I don't blame him. I'm just a month into my treatments. It's tough being a kid and even tougher having a mom with cancer.

I may not be doing many posts but now know why.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lost and Found

My kiddos and I went to the mall yesterday. I hadn't been to the local mall in a long time, especially for the purpose of shopping/searching for something, rather than to run in and buy something from a specific store. We were looking for a newsboy cap for my youngest son who was a character in a play (and needed it to complete his look as a street boy in Charles Dickens time.)

While there, my older son bought a toy helicopter from a kiosk in the middle of the mall (from money he's been keeping/saving for over a year.) He spent $43 on it. Amazingly, Santa was already there too (and there was no line.) As I started to walk by, my younger son walked up and got in the line to see him. I smiled and just followed him...why not? So they talked and took a picture with Santa too. We searched in six stores and were headed for the last place (a major department store at the opposite end of the mall.) Just before we got to it, we stopped at a cookie store and bought some cookies to munch on (a kiddos love the sprinkled sugar cookies there and since we don't go to the mall much, it's something special we love to do while there.) We sat down to eat them at a nearby circle of chairs. Afterwards, we went into that large store and went upstairs first to the bathroom and then to the children's department where I found an associate to show me where the hats were (I would have never found them.) We went up to the cash register to buy the hat when I realized that I didn't have my purse!

I immediately ran back to the bathroom and was sickened to see that it was already gone! I asked the service desk associate if anyone had turned in a purse and nobody had. I went back to the hat section and checked again (it wasn't there.) I returned to the service desk where tears started running down my cheeks. They were writing down my name/phone number when a stranger suggested they check the security camera. I hadn't even thought of that. They looked at it and said that there were two people who came out of the bathroom after I had and they didn't have the purse (though it could have been hidden in a bag.) The lady said that they were checking to see if they were still in the store. Meanwhile, I just kinda slumped down on the floor and began to list the contents in my my head...while still crying a little...

...all my gift cards I'd been saving to use for Christmas gifts
three books of stamps
$49 and several credit cards
drivers license, health cards, frequent shopper cards
papers with addresses and phone numbers I hadn't written in my address book
phone charger cords
my medication and inhaler
extra glasses and calendar
my wallet which was a gift from my late SIL and memorial from her funeral
my son's cub scout patches that he earned this year
peppermints, chapstick...

My older kiddo went back one more time to look at the hat section, just in case. I must have sat there for 15 minutes, trying not to break down crying, but feeling lost and angry. At some point, the associate asked the security people to double check to make sure that I entered the bathroom with my purse. Of course, now I'm picturing what I looked like going into the bathroom (with my kiddo,) how long we were in there, hoping we weren't doing something stupid, that my kiddo wasn't picking his nose, etc.

And then, much to my surprise, after 30 or 35 minutes, a security person came out just as the associate said that they didn't see me go in with my purse. I thought I definitely had it with me and even pictured it on the hook in the bathroom stall, yet clearly I was wrong. I felt stunned and couldn't even think clearly. My older son started telling me that it might be at the chairs. Chairs? What chairs? I couldn't think fast enough to catch up with what he was telling me. I finally caught on what he was saying and couldn't contain him. He asked if he could go check and I just said, go! He took off running and my younger son followed him. The security guard and I followed them. We went down the escalator, turned the correct way and went out the entrance to the chairs (where there was no purse.) I then asked the guy what we needed to do now. We walked back into the store to use the phone at a cosmetic counter to call the mall security and it was then I saw my wallet (that had been inside my purse.) I could see the lady talking to me and couldn't understand what she was saying. Then it clicked, they had found my purse. She was telling me that someone had turned it in to them and that she had just left a message on my phone at my house. All I could do was start crying (again) and start hugging her (and the other two cashiers.)

And then, I told my kiddos that we needed to get through the mall quickly as I looked horrible (red faced, swollen eyes.) We quickly walked through the mall and got to our car! I had gone from being so sad and angry earlier to being grateful and blessed. Needless to say, I was emotionally tired.

As we were driving away, I thanked my older son and told him that I was very proud of his courage to run to find my purse and that I was incredibly happy that he stayed calm with me. Inside, I was thinking about his awesome protective instinct and how amazing that he (and my younger son) knew that while their mom was having a weaker moment in the wake of her misplaced purse, they didn't act up and just waited patiently. He said that he wished he could do something for me too and his dad. He mentioned that we buy birthday presents for him and Christmas presents (his birthday is today and we celebrated it last week) and he wished to go with his dad to buy one for me and with me to buy one for his dad. I had forgotten that important part of childhood. I remember doing that for my parents and had not actually taken the time to have them do that for us in the last several years. Such an important reminder. I'll make sure that's on our list of priorities this year.

After I got home, I saw that there were three calls, two from the lady who found my purse and one from the associate from the store. I immediately called back the lady who turned my purse in and thanked her immensely.

And the picture to remember the day..
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Thursday, September 25, 2014


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...enjoying the white sands of Florida and watching my family play in warm clear waters and soft powdery sand...all day long.

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...taking midnight walks on the beach looking for creatures that come out only at night.

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...going to the movie by myself and realizing I'm the only one in the theater the whole time...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A June Vacation Away

Around Christmas, I made my annual call to my Aunt (one of my mother's three sisters.) My mother's side of the family don't really do the 'family' thing so, as kids, we didn't really communicate with them much. The fact that they lived on the other side of the country didn't help either.

After my mother died, her mother, brother, a sister and aunt came to the funeral. I had just turned twenty-four and was pregnant with my second child. I didn't want to continue her history with her side of our family so I began my own relationship with Christmas card at a time. About ten or eleven years later, my family and I drove up to NY to visit my BFF and visit some relatives while we were up there. I visited my uncle, grandmother and one of my aunts. It was the last time I saw my grandmother as she died in 2010 (Alzheimer's.)

Fast forward to this past Christmas, during my conversation with my aunt, it came up that they had bought an RV the past summer. Since we had also gotten a used popup, it seemed like the perfect way to see each meet in the middle. I then worked on finding a place to meet. As it turned out, we'd both have to drive 13 hours to meet so I chose an RV park in North Carolina. We agreed on the dates and I made the reservations months ago.

It finally happened last week! We made the trek up north to meet her (and her hubby, adult son and granddaughter who were traveling with her.) But first, I called up a cousin who lived in an neighboring state and invited myself (and my family) to visit. I last saw her over thirty years ago and we had recently become FB friends. She was very nice and let us hang out and even spend the night. It was initially scary (I'm not usually that assertive) but it turned out awesome.

Me and my cousin.
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Then we drove to the place I picked out. It was not what I imagined...but there were really nice things about it. It was mostly shaded, a creek ran through it (making heavenly rushing water sounds all the time) and it was small enough so that my kiddos could run around independently (not too far, of course.) My older son learned the names of the staff within a couple days and waved and said 'Hi (their name)' as they drove by on little cart things. The staff were incredibly nice and accommodating. My visit with my aunt and her family was so nice. We just enjoy sitting in our chairs near the fire (yes, it was a little cool at night, to my delight) for the first two days!

Me and my aunt.
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Then we went white water rafting another day and then hiking another day. Then we parted ways. Hopefully, it won't be another decade before we meet again.

I love that part of the country. I love the mountains, the green trees, the scenic highways...I love riding down the smoothe roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 30 or 40 miles an hour enjoying the switchbacks and scenic overlooks. I observing so many picnic tables at gorgeous curves on the short area we traveled and wished I had more time to just sit and enjoy the moment.

I had a lovely week.

Stopping along a road in the Great Smoky National Park. The creeks looked inviting but the signs above them tell a different story.

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One cool thing about going somewhere on a trip is stopping at different places to eat. Here's breakfast in Gatlinburg.
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Enjoying the creek where we stayed.
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We went white water rafting down the Tuckaseegee River (the tame parts with Class I and II rapids since we had little kids.) We stopped for a break. The water was freezing but felt good since the sun on our backs seemed really hot. During our time, my hubby almost fell out of our raft but we found out later that my aunt's hubby actually did. Luckily, he got right back in afterwards.
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Me (and hubby)
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I just loved stopping at so many overlooks. My cousin (and his daughter) are in this one with my boys.
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My first grader standing on the wall near the sign. This was the highest elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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My fourth grader and first grader.
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This picture doesn't do this breathtaking scene justice. While you were up there standing on the edge of a mountain, you could feel the cool wind blowing on your face. Everything below looked pristine and beautiful!
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Here's a stranger we saw along our hike. He gave us info about where to hike and what we'd see in the next ten minutes or so while walking. He was quite knowledgeable and I asked if I could take his picture. He said sure. I'd love to be this mobile and healthy in twenty or thirty years or so...I'd love to plan and take jaunts to places I loved and escape for a few days or a week just doing stuff like this.
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Oh, here's something we'd never seen....wild strawberries. They were delicious!
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Our popup camper.
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Catching tadpoles...I used to do this too when I was little. He held it long enough to show me and then returned it to it's home. I love the look on his face...
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My littlest guy...loved going to the Titanic Museum (Pigeon Forge, TN.) He always checks out Titanic books at the library and looked forward to going there. You couldn't take any pictures inside the museum (copywriting policy) so we asked one of the staff to take a picture with him before we went in.
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It was nice to get away and take a break from everything. It had been a really stressful month leading up to this vacation and I'm glad I didn't cancel it. We all loved the change.