Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Life is a Patchwork Quilt

Tomorrow John and I will get up at 4:45 and be on I-95 South heading toward Boston by 5:30 for my 7:00 AM appointment--treatment #8 out of 9. I know I'm facing five to seven days sapped of energy and feeling just plain lousy, but I also know those will be followed by seven days of feeling pretty much like my old self.

So today, I distracted myself and spent a few hours in my quilt room strip piecing a new quilt top I'm making for someone special. During breaks, I checked my email and logged onto Facebook a couple of times. An old friend I hadn't heard from in twenty years accepted my "Friend Request." On a whim, I had searched for him and there he was, staring back at me in his profile photo; twenty years older but the same warm smile and friendly eyes. Another friend I haven't seen in eleven years posted a reminder that today was the anniversary of her husband's death. I remember it well.

When I returned to the sewing machine and the rather mindless task of strip piecing, my thoughts carried me back twenty years and the memories of our old friend who is now a new "Friend" on Facebook. I thought about the circumstances that brought our families together. The laughter and fun our families shared together. I thought about the sorrowful circumstances that separated us too. Names and faces of people I haven't thought of in years came to mind.

As my sewing machine whirred on and stitched together the colorful pieces, images of our life eleven years ago filled my mind. Again, I thought about the friend on Facebook who reminded us today is the anniversary of her husband's death. I hadn't thought about the circumstances that caused our lives to intersect in a long time. Memories of fun get togethers and difficult hospital visits surfaced; the funeral of a father who died too young and left two young girls with no daddy.

Hmmmm, it seems life is a patchwork quilt--patches of happy, joyful times as well as patches of sorrows and regrets.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pacing Myself

You can't tell from this picture I took a few minutes ago, but today there is a gentle breeze that makes the treetops full of dry, yellow and orange leaves say, "Shhhh." I know because I sauntered up and back on this road just before lunch. I've been daydreaming about feeling well enough to go out for walks so it felt like a dream come true.
Saunter, stroll, however you want to think of it, the pace was very slow. And there were moments that felt sacred. Like when I stopped to take in the myriad scents all around me, the most pronounced being the thick piles of wet leaves and pine needles. Ahhhh, it smelled so good! I also had to stop, close my eyes, and let the warm sun shower me in its brilliant light and breathe in deep breaths.
At the top of a rather long incline, I stopped for a moment's rest and noticed a small snake in the middle of the road. At first I thought it was roadkill until I got right on top of it and its head was lifted up. I took a wide berth around it and caught sight of a blue jay criss crossing the road in front of me, like a self-designated spy checking me out. It seems that slowing down has its benefits. I heard the hollow rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker echo through a stand of leafless trees. Unseen squirrels chirped off and on and I imagined them storing acorns for the cold weather that's just around the corner. The inevitable caw-caw of a crow punctured the serenity but I didn't mind. I even heard the gentle snorts of Ava's favorite horses off in the distance.
For that short half hour, I accomplished a few things. First, I actually took a walk! Second, I sucked in as much fresh air as I possibly could, while I could! Third, I discovered a new sense of hope that one day my life will no longer be focused on this interruption called breast cancer. Nope. One day, I will resume my brisk, two-mile walks on our dirt road and return to Curves to rebuild the strength in my muscles and bones. One day, I will feel healthy again. I know it. I look forward to it. I can get through these next few months. I can! I will! And just like I had to pace myself to go for this half-hour stroll, I will pace myself as I navigate the second half of my breast cancer journey.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Que Sera Sera

Before my diagnosis on July 1st, my life was ordered and predictable, just the way I like life to be. I worked three days a week and at least once a week, my grandaughter Ava would come spend the day with me or, more often than not, spend the night. We played her favorite music and danced around the kitchen. She climbed into the jogging stroller and we walked up our dirt road to see the chickens and horsies and picked daisies and black-eyed susans along the way. We ate breakfast in the living room. And before naptime and bedtime we read a couple of books of her choice and sang a song or two. She always requested "Que Sera Sera."

Now that I have few days that I feel close to normal, the days are few and far between for visits from Ava. Both of us miss the days before my diagnosis. In the days following my first treatments, Ava would ask, "Can I stay at your house, NeeLee?" I would have to tell her it wasn't a good time and as time has gone on, she doesn't ask anymore. When I do have a few good days, and one of them includes a day when my husband is home, Ava does come spend the night. Such precious times they are too.

Last night was one of them. She and I watched Charlotte's Web while Papa made dinner. She refused the booster seat and chose to sit in the dining room chair like a big girl (she'll be three in January). She gobbled up raspberry shortcake for dessert and there was just enough time for one episode of her favorite TV show, Calliou, before bedtime.

Ava gave Papa kisses and hugs. Papa said, "Sleep tight!" as Ava climbed the stairs. She called out, "Don't let the bed bugs bite!" and we all laughed. She and I settled into the rocking chair and after I read her two books, I said, "What song would you like to sing?" As usual, she said, "Que Sera Sera." She faced me and snuggled against my body, her head on my chest and I started the song: "When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here's what she said to me. Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Que Sera, Sera." Ava sang with me last night. She doesn't always sing it. I love it when she does. We sang it again, two more times, same verse.

I'm not sure whether Ava is drawn to the tune or the words. I suppose a little girl asking her mother questions might be part of it and the tune is certainly appealing. I've loved that song since I was a little girl actually. I remember hearing Doris Day singing it on the car radio. Last night the words of the chorus felt particularly poignant for me. "Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see." I have three treatments left. A four-week wait, then surgery. It's still uncertain whether I'll have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. It's still uncertain whether there'll be a recurrence in my future. What will be, will be.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

From the Inside Out

My eight-hour long visit to the Dana Farber yesterday began in the basement level of the building where Nuclear Medicine is housed and where I reported for my second heart MUGA test to look at the function of my heart. First they removed a small vial of blood, made me wait 15 minutes while they injected it with a radioactive substance, and then reinjected it back into me. The MUGA machine is similar to an MRI but not so claustrophobic and it is noiseless. It requires being flat on your back for 45 minutes so I planned well and set my I-Pod to play my favorites list in random order. About 20 minutes into the test, a familiar contemporary Christian song titled "From the Inside Out" began to play. As the refrain crescendoed, the words jumped out at me and took on new meaning.

My heart and my soul

I give you control

Consume me from the inside out Lord

Let justice and faith

Become my embrace

To love you from the inside out

Everlasting, your light will shine

When all else fails

Never-ending, your glory goes

Beyond all faith

And the cry of my heart

Is to bring you grace

From the inside out Lord

My soul cries out

From the inside out Lord

My soul cries out to you

The MUGA machine was peering inside my body, looking at my heart beating. It occurred to me that God sees me inside out, God sees my heart beating and my tumor shrinking. The song plunged me into a heartfelt prayer like never before--a prayer to embrace the rest of this journey with a renewed sense of God's everlasting light and never-ending glory.

I've been on the lookout for God's provision since the early days after my diagnosis and have no doubt hearing this song from my random favorites list was not coincidence. I call it a God-incident and I am deeply grateful for the experience.