Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Poem (of sorts) and Voices of Friends After a Dark Night

Wide awake at 2:38 a.m. might be one of the scariest, darkest, loneliest experiences in the world. I'm back to sitting up at my laptop, trying to also move around a bit more.Working on making the necessary changes to keep my gut from hurting with the tension of all the adjustments I need to make. Sometimes, doctors don't tell their patients all they need to know, and they are left scrambling to figure things out.

Given Truths

#1: Low moments come.
#2: You're gonna need some help. It's okay to ask.
#3: Sometimes, acknowledging the darkness is enough to send it packing.
#4: If not, find yourself a safe place to scream, whine and b*tch without the need to feel perky. 


I'm having trouble adjusting to the dietary changes that are necessary after my surgery. It's a matter of seeing what works for my body. It's like walking around with a bit of a tummy ache all the time, because you aren't feeding your tummy what comforts it and helps its little feelings. Food in the South is a source of comfort and love and eating is a way of enjoying life. My tummy is not at all happy, most of the time. I told my family earlier today that it is distraught, and misses its little colon friend. I don't know how to comfort my tummy.


I should soon know what stage my cancer is in, and will have an idea of what further treatment I will have to endure. I'm told my body will adapt. I even know of some folks whose bodies have adapted. I'll keep you posted. I've been told I'm courageous. My aim here is to be as vulnerable and honest as I can be. I would appreciate your prayers and holding the light for me. Even in the depths of darkness, there is light and love that will carry us through those times.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Been Draggin'

I don't know why it's been so hard for me to begin to write the news of what was begun at MD Anderson. It took a little while for me to absorb, and there were people I had to talk to in person, and through texting, to let them know what was going on, and I ended up not knowing who I'd told what, and then just plain got tired of talking about it, partly because, well, I'm still waiting.

Turns out, the surgeon wants to take more of my colon that I thought she would. I wasn't sure I wanted that, and she seemed to be offering me the option of taking less, but she ended up saying she really recommended taking the more aggressive route. If the insurance will cover it, they will do genetic testing to see if I have a certain genetic marker which would indicate future problems, and help them know how to watch me in the future. It seems hardly anyone ever gets colon cancer after the first time, and this puzzles them, so they are looking at a possible genetic cause. So, I'm waiting on news about that.

In the meantime, I have a date for surgery. I will go for pre-op appointments on the 29th, with surgery on the 30th. I will not know the time of surgery or even the location of the surgery (inside MD Anderson) until I call them between 5 and 7 on the 29th. It will be like before, 5-6 days in the hospital, with anywhere from 4-6 weeks recovery time (including the hospital stay, I think).

 I won't know until about 8 days after the surgery whether or not I will need further treatment (chemo or radiation). If needed, I hope to be able to do that in my home town under the direction of MD Anderson.

I've had a roller coaster of emotions and imaginings since I've come home. There are a lot of possible variables but I trust that I will be all right through whatever comes, as always, by the grace of God.  This does not mean all will be easy (dang it!).

The dragon is an art project that was done with the help of some of the younger cancer patients at MD Anderson. There are lots of peaceful areas to sit and be still. We explored a bit in between appointments when we were there. And when I am able to walk the halls after my surgery, I will explore a bit more.

I don't know if I will post again before I leave. If I don't, I will see if I can get one of my Facebook friends to leave word in the comments on this post (or on my most recent post) to let you know how I am faring. As always, I would appreciate your prayers and warm thoughts. I am grateful for them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Deja Vu`

For those of you who are not my friends on Facebook, and do not know, I was found to be anemic at my last check-up. That prompted the doctor to recommend that I have my colonoscopy in September (I was due to go in for it in October). They removed a couple of precancerous polyps and found a tumor inside my colon. I did blood work and a CT scan. The blood work was clear, the CT scan showed no swollen lymph nodes.

I was referred to MD Anderson in Houston. I had some trouble getting my records sent out in a timely fashion. For one thing, the radiologist who read the CT scan said there were no masses. When I asked about what the doctor that did the colonoscopy saw, they said they would have the radiologist reread the CT scan. Well, that took, like, forever, and the radiologist finally said the tumors just sometimes don't show up on scans. And by "forever," I mean, about a week. But when you know you are facing something like this, it can feel like forever while you're waiting on the paperwork to be shared.

In the meantime, MD Anderson, having not received all my paperwork, moved me to what they call an inactive list while waiting for the rest of my paperwork. Everything eventually got delivered and now I have an appointment at MD Anderson for Friday, October 10. And Monday, October 13. And Tuesday, October 14. Friday will be more blood work, an EKG, and another CT scan. Monday and Tuesday will be appointments with two different doctors. I hope when I leave on Tuesday, I will have a date with a surgeon.

I'll be in and out around here, I'm bringing my laptop with me. I'm also going to try and do something fun in Houston over the weekend.

I'd appreciate all the prayers and warm thoughts you can muster up!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Can't Keep Dancing

This is another one that is done completely on my phone with an app that allows me to combine two pictures into one. The angel is one of my most favorite cemetery angels ever. The background is a page of handwriting from my journal with the words blurred. I found the poem while looking through my email draft file for suitable quotes (I used my draft file as sort of a picture-less personal Pinterest account to save things that are interesting to me, mostly quotes and links, and sometimes bits and pieces of my own writing).

Anyway, I wrote the poem sometime in January of 2012. I'd just had the first colon cancer surgery in November of 2011 and my son died in December of 2011. One could safely say I was pretty raw at the time. But here's the thing--I am still dancing, or doing my best to dance. And I realize there are arms that are stronger than mine holding me up, along with a bevy of friends and family who are surrounding me with their love and prayers and support. I'm very grateful.

Another thing I am slowly learning is not to keep telling myself "I don't think I can...." The fact of the matter is, I can, and I have. We must be so very careful about the stories we tell ourselves.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Beauty and Pain

This is the work I feel like I've been doing, particularly with my last two blog posts.

This one was done entirely on my phone. I have a new app where I can combine two different photos, and then I go in and add the text. I have gotten a little better in my ability to add a large block of text, such as this one was.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Spiders and Drones and Poems, Oh My

The night before I saw the spider, we were watching a show on TV that depicted drones flying around with automatic weapons on them. The drones were flying into the crowd and randomly shooting people. There was no place to escape the shots. 

I imagined how seemingly easily this could happen. There were drones taking pictures at the Color Run I’d done earlier in the year. They were kind of creepy, dipping in and out around the crowd, snapping photos.

And suddenly, sitting in my little house out in the woods, the darkness, looked so much darker. And the world felt so much scarier. 

What I realized early this morning as I sat to write in my journal was that the anxiousness about the drones shooting people and the experience of the spider hanging from his web in the tree laid bare my sense of vulnerability that I have been feeling, but not acknowledging, as I have been trying to get things together so I can see someone at MD Anderson about my cancer. The waiting and the sense of having no control over the situation are places of extreme vulnerability for me.

Yet, we are all often more vulnerable than we care to admit. When you are confronted with the death of a child, or a serious health problem, you tend to become aware of your own vulnerabilities. 

I’ve been reading a book about writing personal poetry. Sometime over the weekend, inspiration struck and I wrote a piece of personal poetry. The poem explains the photo, the scene in the photo was the inspiration for the poem. Please understand that I am allowing myself to go into dark places, and I am sharing my vulnerability with you, but I really am about as okay as I can be with my health situation. People say I am courageous. This is where I can usually agree with them—I am not afraid to go deep and explore the dark crevices. 
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. … Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. -BrenĂ© Brown


On my kitchen windowsill:
   watermelon seeds rest
on dried tea bag papers—
   the intentions being:
the seeds will be planted
   to grow in the darkness
of next summer’s ground
   while the tea bag papers
will be used to create a work of art
now lying
undiscovered in my heart.

   “The problem is:
you think you have time.”
   No one knows:

The seeds, the tea bag papers,
   they are my talismans,
visual and tangible symbols
   of my desperate and unspoken
hope: that I will have time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Irrational Fear

My mind has been a bit preoccupied with fear lately. Perhaps it has to do with the looming date with a surgeon to remove another cancerous part of my colon that is hanging over my head, a date that has not yet been set, for various reasons mostly having to do with doctors who don't seem to see any need to rush getting my records over to MD Anderson.

I've got some smart people affirming my courage and my braveness. But still, I was newly challenged by this quote from one of my Facebook blogging friends:
"Look. It is blowing my mind how afraid women are of apparently everything these days. Ladies! Listen to me! One of the most powerful things you can do right now to change the world is STOP BEING AFRAID." --Lois Johnson
After reading the quote, I put my phone down and went outside to see this guy hanging around. I immediately went back into the house to retrieve my camera and very bravely stood under the spider and his prey to take pictures while the words STOP BEING AFRAID reverberated in my ears!

One of my biggest fears before the last colon cancer surgery (in 2011) was the tube that was going to be coming from my stomach and up out of my mouth. I fretted anxiously over that silly tube until a very good friend finally said something on the order of "Listen, the tube is not your enemy. The cancer is your enemy." I did finally put that concern out of my mind. The crazy thing was that I was so out of it after the surgery that I was never really consciously aware of the tube! It wasn't totally an irrational fear, but it was a fear on which I spent way too much time and energy, considering the other things I was facing.

So, I don't know. Somehow the spider became a messenger who "spoke" to me of fear and the crazy ways we sometimes handle fear.

There was a spider web above the picnic table. There was a large spider in the web and an even larger grasshopper in the web with the spider.

The spider scared me. Knowing he was hanging there above my head scared me. I was afraid of accidentally getting caught in the web as I walked outside. It was an irrational fear—the web was ten feet above the ground. I am barely five feet three inches tall. But, hey, who says all fear is rational? 

My husband asked if I wanted him to knock the spider web down. With a little hesitation, I said, “I guess so” and so he did. Is this not often the tactic we use with the objects of our fear? We take it down, we stomp it, we get it before it gets us. And some of us cower down and slink off to another spot, which is what I was quite prepared to do had my helpful “Mr. Fix-it” husband not intervened.

Yes, I know sometimes those tactics are necessary. Evil is real and there are plenty of legitimate things to fear in this world. But—a spider? Well, yeah, there are some spiders to be feared but I don’t think this one was poisonous.

I thought of an essay I’d read where a woman saw a spider in her bathroom, attempted to eradicate him, failed to do so, and eventually made her peace with the spider as she became aware of their shared energy.

“Did you kill that spider?” That’s what I asked my husband after I remembered the essay and began to think again about how we are all connected and interdependent, about the whole huge, beautiful (corny, cheesy) circle of life in which we are all ensnared.

It’s true—death is a part of life. And there are real dangers in life that stir legitimate fear. But how often do we mistake legitimate fear for irrational fear, and what irreversible damage do we do in reacting to an irrational fear?