dig for the pony waiting

Wandering And Waiting

Yesterday I drove 540 miles roundtrip to take my daughter back to college after her week off for Spring Break.

Today I mowed our half-acre lot and power washed the front walkway and part of the patio before finally taking a shower, eating dinner and taking a nap before calling Mom for our evening chat.

Tonight I’m looking forward to my favorite Showtime drama Homeland. This Sunday ritual includes a bowl of air-popped corn and a ginger ale.

I’m also putting carnitas in the Crockpot to take over to Mom’s house for dinner tomorrow night.

I was going to bake a cake, but decided that Pepperidge Farm’s Chocolate Fudge cakes in the freezer section of my local store looked like a much better idea. My sister and her family are in town for part of their Spring Break – a rare treat for us to see them.

It seems like lately if I’m not driving, napping, showering, eating or cleaning something, I’m watching YouTube videos on how to build raised bed planters from discarded pallets. As of tonight I’ve calculated the amount of soil and compost I’ll need, and decided chicken wire on the bottom of the planters is the best possible way to keep out the gophers.

In my borderline manic behaviors I see my desperate desire to control the uncontrollable changes that are afoot on many levels.

I can’t help but notice that my once dark brown hair has turned gray seemingly overnight. I ponder going back to coloring it, and then I drop the idea because Mom says it looks good the way it is.

My bed is a rumpled pile of half a dozen pillows, a down comforter, a top sheet that wads up at the foot of the bed no matter what I do and my favorite super-soft purple, cream and turquoise colored fleece throw from Costco.  I bolster the pillows all around me prior to sleeping and tuck the fleece under my chin before taking a deep breath in and exhaling just as deeply before I pass out.

I talk to myself a lot. I’ve always done it, but I think that up until recently most of it was just chatter in my head or under my breath. Now it’s just out there, turning heads in the grocery store. Usually it’s as I’m trying to remember what to do next or what to bring with me as I’m darting out the door to the car.

I’m in the car a lot. It’s about 70 miles roundtrip from my house to Mom’s house and depending upon what’s up, I drive that loop 3 to 5 times a week. It can be tiring, but 99% of the time, I’m just grateful I can do it. I’m also grateful for Pandora radio. The 80’s stations in particular.

My head hurts from problem solving, and my heart hurts because I know I’ll never be able to solve the ones that impact those I love so deeply. I grasp to control the uncontrollable, even though I know it’s not my job.

There are so many personal lessons being thrown in my path these days, and the learning curve is very steep.

I guess the good news is that despite being weary in a way that I’ve never felt before, by the grace of God I continue to be able to do what I need to do to help others and still remain relatively sane while doing it.

Tomorrow is a big day of sorts. Mom, my sister and I will go to a check-up appointment with Dr. Savage and learn the results of Mom’s MRI. By 11am we will know if her cancer has spread and if the new chemo treatment is working.

Mom has been extremely pained as of late, but I still think that much of what she feels is frustration and fear. Living with this diagnosis constantly on her mind and walking around in a fog and getting weaker due to the chemotherapy, all take their toll. I know there are times she wonders why she is still here and why she is fighting so hard to stay.

I’m hoping tomorrow Dr. Savage can deliver that reason why.

And praying Mom can hear it.

 

 

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Navigating The New Normal

A cancer diagnosis is different for everyone, but it impacts us all in many of the same ways leaving us disoriented and confused in a mental fog made of fear.

Whether you are the patient or their support system thoughts of cancer tumble through your mind from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until you close them at night. These thoughts orchestrate your dreams, and wake you in the middle of them only to torment you some more.

And then there are the questions from others…

  • How are you feeling?
  • Do you know anything more?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Do you have a will?
  • Have the doctors told you what to expect?
  • Chemo…radiation…surgery or all of them?
  • Are you going to lose your hair?
  • How is the family taking it?

Step 2: Educating The Troops

While talking with Mom last night we both agreed that one of the toughest parts of a cancer diagnosis is how hard it is to share the news with family and friends.  We’re quickly finding out it’s equally hard to see the look of fear on their faces, hear them cry over the phone and know that the avoidance of contact by some is simply their inability to weather the roller coaster of emotions we’re riding every day.

Living With Cancer

The thing that we have to all remember is that living with cancer is not the same as dying with it. Living with cancer means that you add to your daily routine more medical-related stuff, but life goes on. The house still needs cleaning, the bills still need to be paid, etc… but you have one more big thing that is always on your list – keep going and kick this thing!

I think it’s important to remember that we are all dying of something with an expiration date stamped in invisible ink somewhere on our bodies. Cancer patients just happen to have a clue as to the likelihood of their end date.

These are my tips for relating to someone I’ve known for 48 years…most of all keep it real.

It’s OK to ask how she’s doing, but don’t forget to tell her about you and yours too. Distraction is a good thing! A funny or uplifting story is always appreciated.

Don’t feel like you have to ask about the cancer every time you talk with her. We all know it’s there, and if you call, she knows you’re thinking of her.  It really is enough. She knows that the blog is keeping you up to date and that’s helpful because she knows you’re reading it which allows her not to go over things again and again.

If you’re going to take her on an outing, remember she tires easily so keep it short. It’s a lot of fun to get out of the house and visit, but stamina is not her strong suit right now.  Short visits allow for more of them throughout the week too.

Feeling sad is part of it, but try not to express that sadness to her so much that she feels she needs to comfort you.  That’s exhausting and while you will end up feeling better (she’s really good at comforting others…) it leaves her feeling even more depressed about the circumstances she finds herself in.

Helpful Insights for Caregivers, Family and Friends

“If people could understand how emotionally vulnerable we are when we first are diagnosed and in treatment it, it might help how we all interact and communicate. During that time, I mostly appreciated closeness, warmth, encouragement, and companionship. I didn’t need sympathy, war stories, or to hear “how brave” I was.” – Anonymous 

Don’t get me wrong – love, support and friendship are essential.  It’s the delivery of that good stuff that sometimes gets overwhelming to receive as much as it is to give.

To help us all I found some articles that list things that people with cancer want you to know and some that offer tips for how friends can help. 

I personally found many suggestions in these articles very helpful and I hope you will too.