Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adaptation and Reflection

I really enjoyed getting out in the fresh air today and taking pictures.

I'm calling this one adaptation. I was going to call it something like "ensnared" or "codependent" but I decided I wanted to keep a positive focus!

It just turned out that I was in the right place at the right time for this photo. We were just about to leave when I spotted the reflection of the bridge in the water and wandered over to check it out. 

It seems I was in the mood for reflective photos today! We had a little cool spell and my youngest daughter and I decided we wanted to get out and get some fresh air. We got a late start, we didn't get to the park till around 4, but it turned out to be a great time to be there taking photos because of the good light at that time of day.

I really think this is one of my favorite images from the day. There is something about the bulbous shape of the tree and its reflection, along with the red of the leaves.

Reflections, reflections! My sister says she sees Sasquatch over there in the background! 

Another calming image of a calming place for me to be. I have not been here since I went with my nephew in December of 2009 to take pictures. I suppose it would do me good to remember this resource I have in my own backyard! 

Maybe times like these, where you can walk in a peaceful place and see nature's beauty and be distracted from your own problems, maybe these are healing times and should be embraced as snugly as that vine is embracing the tree in that first picture!  I knew there was something important in that picture for me! 

Oh how loving is the embrace of grace!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Already, Part of My Biography

I haven’t read the little book yet, but already it is part of my biography. 

I honestly think part of the reason I am writing so much about all of this is that I want a record of the process. I think there may be times when my memory can’t be trusted but if I've left a few words here and there, maybe I will have a better understanding of what happened when I get to the other side. Of this particular trauma, I mean, not that other "other side"! Not yet, I suddenly hope!

I am in a place I have never been before. That alone is exciting, crazy as it sounds. I feel the need to act more Zennish and to focus only on what lies in my path right here, right now and to take one day at a time. When I told my spiritual director this, she asked how that felt. It feels like where I need to be, it feels like it's really true that "It's all grace." It feels like a pretty good place to be.

One huge thing that helps me to deal with this threat is the ability not to jump too far ahead, or when I have jumped there, the ability to bring myself back to what I am actually facing right now. And maybe also the ability to recognize the different ones in me and to understand where they are coming from when they are acting out, and then having the presence of mind to take care of whoever is the needy one at the moment.

There are also other parts of me who are having a field day with all this. The curious one and the writer one are in cahoots, observing how this is going to transpire and writing some of it down for future reference. What a fantastic opportunity! Who knows what I'll do with all this info but it pleases me to gather it.

In other news, I’ve gotten a majority of the things done that are on my list of “things to do before I go.” I wanted to call the list “things to do before I die” but I leave that paper lying loose on my desk and I didn’t want to upset anyone or make them worry about my sense of humor! So next week, I will finish up what remaining loose ends there are and I will go to the hospital to preregister.

In the meantime, I am trying to resist the urge to google about it. One of the things I read was this memorable quote and a veiled warning: "Sticking to a colon surgery diet can be difficult; however, not following the proper instructions can leave you feeling sick and in pain."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bubbling and Boiling

I watched my eggs boiling for egg salad (1) as I stirred cocoa, sugar, butter and milk to make one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, boiled cookies (2). Later, I stirred the makings of taco soup (3), waiting not so patiently for it to boil. As I watched the pot, I daydreamed about other things I have waited to boil in this big pot, things like gumbo (4) and mayhaw jelly (5), which, when it boils is one of the most beautiful colors I think I have ever seen.

Five foods- that was the prompt we were supposed to be writing about. And so I have done that, right here, right now.  But the back-story bubbling beneath the surface is the wonder about the things that are brewing in me. I would most like to describe it as a quickening (which seems like an old-fashioned, spiritual word), with the potential for growth. How will I be changed by the diagnosis? What might come of the time I will be recuperating? 

Already I feel a sense of gratitude and grace, and love. I am working on attentiveness.

These are the kind of things that serve as markers in one’s life. Right now I’m just watching the bubbling, waiting to see what all comes up to the surface.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tattoo Removal

We had a guest speaker/singer in church today. He spoke about asking God to give us the grace to handle a thousand things. There was no way he could have known that I’d recently started reading a book I’ve had for months called A Thousand Gifts, where the author set out to make a list of a thousand graces from God’s hand. She writes beautifully of how that process changed her life. There was no way the speaker could have known I’d decided to make my own list of 1000 graces and that the first thing on my list would be the biggest thing of a thousand things I have to handle in my own life right now.

He spoke of God’s refreshing, and told us to ask for it. He said that God is as concerned with our refreshing as he is with our victory. There is no way the speaker could have known how long I have lived so close to the edge in my life, how stressed and worn out I am, how desperately I need refreshing, and how I’d decided colon cancer was the way God was going to provide refreshing for me. I mean, you know, 4-6 weeks of recovery time is also 4-6 weeks of time to be refreshed and renewed. My main task will be to rest and let my body be healed. What better time for a soul to also heal and be refreshed?

One of the speaker’s gifts is the ability to pray for people and usually after the service he will pray for anyone who would like to be prayed over. I stood in line and waited my turn. When I got to him, he told me that I had tattoos that God wants to remove, labels that are no longer appropriate to who I am. He says God wants to put a new tattoo on my forehead, a new label. 

There is no way that man could have known that I have been laughing at the irony of me getting a tattoo one day (they will tattoo the cancerous spot the day before the surgery so that the surgeon can find it) and having it removed the very next day, when they remove the tattoo AND the cancerous spot. I am very reassured by knowing God wants to remove my tattoos. I am grateful. 

He also mentioned that I carry a lot of pain and that God wants to take that too. I’ve been thinking about this one a while myself, believing it is time for me to lay some things down and quit identifying myself by my pains. He said there should be none of this talk of me saying God should not have to take my pain. I think there is also a message for me in that statement. I know that in dealing with the colon cancer I will have to allow others to carry part of my burden. I am accustomed to being the strong one. I will have to learn to accept my weaknesses.

I often say that I have grown up hearing about God’s grace but I struggle to understand it. And I have been told God loves me but I struggle with that too. Today I figured something out. God is not chasing me down to tell me what all I have done wrong in my life. He is pursuing me because he loves me, because he wants me to be in his company. I truly believe God is using colon cancer in my life to refresh me and to love me. I am grateful. Colon cancer will be number one on my list of a thousand gifts.

But for God’s grace, there is no way that man could have known any of the things he said that were hitting my heart with the precision of a laser.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Problems on the Path

So I was five years late in getting my colonoscopy. I don’t know why I had put it off but I did. And a week after I got it down, the nurse from the doctor’s office called wanting to know if I could come in the next day to speak with the doctor. I’m no dummy. I knew she wasn’t calling me in to brag on my fiber intake. 

She had removed six polyps and part of a seventh one. The seventh one was, is, cancerous. It is in my lower colon. The plan is to go in there and remove the polyp and a small section of the colon on either side of the polyp and then to reconnect the hose, er, I mean colon. 

We went to see the surgeon yesterday. He explained everything and then said he was going to be out of town for two weeks. He said he would be happy to do the surgery, and it would not hurt to wait but if I wanted to go ahead with someone else that would be fine too. It really fits my schedule better to wait. That will give me time to get all my loose ends tied up at work. So we are aiming at doing the surgery the first, or preferably, the second week of November. 

I am learning some things already from all of this:

First of all, never underestimate the value of having that second pair of ears with you. I sort of expected to hear what I heard, but when the word cancer came out of the doctor's mouth, my brain sort of keeled over and fainted on me. I'm going to call that experience "brain drop." I heard my voice telling the doctor that I needed to be writing some of that stuff down and saw my hand reaching into my purse for a pencil. She stepped out and got me a card to write on and then offered to write it for me. But I needed to write it down, to have the words flow on paper into my brain like a road map marking an uncertain path. The doctor's small offering of a card and the nurse's hand resting ever so briefly on my shoulder as she left me in the room to wait for the doctor scared and informed me. It is amazing what people can tell you with no words.

Second of all, don't underestimate your enemy. The doctor talked like it was just a matter of snipping the offending part out and hooking the ends back together. I heard that and thought, wow, day surgery! She never said anything about if the offending part was too close to the ending part, you'd have to get a colostomy (and my offending part is in my lower colon). Also, when she said I needed a cat scan and blood work for the surgeon, she stopped short of saying "so we can see if there are any more cancer cells in your abdominal cavity."

Thirdly, be prepared for surprises, and know what they are supposed to be doing to you. If you are not sure, check with your doctor. Today I had blood work done and I was supposed to go to radiology to get my cat scan "kit". The nurse in the doctor's office had laughed and said she wasn't sure what that would be. I laughed too, and said "it's not like they will have me drinking barium." Well, guess what? First, they had rescheduled my cat scan ("probably due to "pre-cert" issues. That's usually what it means.") which upset me greatly. Surprise! Then she came out packing a jar of barium for me to drink before the test. Surprise again! Nobody in the doctor's office said anything about drinking barium. I don't like surprises. The good news is that I have until Sunday night to make friends with my "surprise". I called the office and they confirmed that I was supposed to be drinking barium.

Fourthly, one can't be a wuss when one is a cancer patient. One must learn to speak up for oneself. (Cyn, not a word!)

There is more but it's not quite all organized yet. I am sure I will learn more as I walk this path. I do want to write more about this but it is kind of hard because you know, even though the prognosis looks good, I really don't know how things will end up.

I go for the cat scan Monday morning. They do not expect any problems to show up there. Let's pray that their expectations are correct.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Sense of Place

This is another of the prompts our blogging/writing tribe/group is using to inspire us to be more regular in our blog posts. I sort of skipped over the one for last week, which was "Seven Needs." Maybe I will get back to it later. I do have a few things in mind. But for now, here is my response to the prompt of "Six Places."

  1.  On the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. There is no visible land, only water. And then you realize, there are no birds flying. And even though the ship feels huge, a whole independent world unto itself, in the grand scheme of things, you look out on all that water and you feel so tiny standing there on the deck of your "huge" ship.
  2. The little open air Episcopal chapel down in Big Lake with the gothic arched windows the Episcopals seem to favor so much, with the wooden floors and the crosses hung on the few walls there are and the pond just off to the right and the Gulf of Mexico beyond that.
  3. The front porch on the land where my grandparents lived, the “little house” or their house, it doesn’t matter, the front porch was the place where the visiting was done and the setting of the sun was watched.
  4. The sanctuary that is inside me no matter where I actually am. Lately it has been so very hard to find but it is always there. It seems that road must be travelled slowly. 
  5. In the presence of another who sees the seedier parts of me and is not alarmed, surely that too is a real place, a comforting place. 
  6. The bosom of Abraham, the hands of God, those are real places too. 
  7. Dry Creek Baptist Encampment, where I lived out so much of my spiritual growth. I went there as a child, worked there as a teen, and returned as an adult to shepherd little elementary school girls through a week of camp. This is where I met Sinclair, one of my favorite campers of all time. Sinclair had serious mental health issues and the most winsome smile you’ve ever seen. I  wonder tonight what kind of place she is in.
Watching the Brown-eyed Girl Count Fireflies
(for Sinclair)

She has seen spiders
in her breakfast bowl

where mother saw grits,
and terror in her daughter’s eyes.

There were snakes slithering forward,
threatening to swallow her whole
as mother moved to offer comfort.

Moments later, the child 
asks for red jelly.
To make a smiley face on her grits.

Now she counts fireflies, their stochastic
blinks dancing in unsteady rhythm
with the neurons in her brain.

When music breaks the quiet of night,
her attention shifts. She searches to see
what kind of bird sings in darkness, why

her notes tremble and swell.

(I've written about Sinclair before, and posted this poem here before as well. I don't know what brought her and the poem so strongly to my mind tonight. Well, I do have my suspicions, but I am not quite ready to talk about it!)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Big Girl Procedures (Old People Procedures?)

Today I had my first screening colonoscopy. I fretted a bit about having to do it but everybody I talked to said it would be a relatively easy procedure. I suppose it was. But today I learned something about myself that I did not know.

In the course of my lamenting and kvetching to a therapist friend about having the procedure done, I mentioned my fear of undignified situations, and how, for me, an undignified situation equals being out of control, and how being out of control means I feeling vulnerable and I don't like feeling vulnerable. He suggested I think of myself going into the procedure as a child and knowing the adults were there to take care of me. 

We were sitting in the room where they take your blood pressure and double check your meds and all and I hear the man next door telling the nurse he woke up too early last time he had the procedure. I thought that was no big deal, it meant he got to go home earlier. But no, he meant he woke up during the procedure! I silently cursed the man for putting that thought in my head. 

I really was not as nervous as I thought I'd be but when they wheeled me out to go to the operating room and left me lying on the gurney for a minute or two, I thought about the child (little girl) trick. So there I am, a fifty-something grown woman without her glasses on lying flat on her back pretending to be a little girl. And all these faceless adults I was hearing as they whooshed by me were there to take care of me. I couldn't see too much but I could hear plenty. I heard water running and a sucking sound and thought, to my horror, that they were working on someone just off to my left, with only a curtain separating us! But it was just a woman washing out a big tub.

I shrunk, lying there pretending to be a little girl. I could not tell what was going on, could not see who was coming up behind me and let me tell you.The longer I laid there, the more nervous I got. I learned pretty quickly that my little girl self is far less trusting of people than my adult self. She wanted to high-tail it out of there! I had to go back to being my adult self and I had to reassure my little girl self that everything really was going to be all right. In spite of her not trusting that situation and wanting to leave, my little girl self is tough and scrappy, but she does not like to be cornered into situations where she has no control. Sometimes more so than my adult self, I believe.

So they wheeled my adult self into the operating room and started the procedure. I woke up during the procedure! My little girl self must have been the one quietly watching the screen while my adult self was trying to hear what they were saying. I could not make out the words. The screen was quite interesting, I saw this loop thing but then it started getting uncomfortable and I mentioned to them that I was awake. They said they would give me more medicine and they did. And the next thing I knew they were talking to me again. Now I wonder if that was not some drug-induced dream but I think it was real. And I think part of the reason I was so calm was because my friend Cyn said next time she had hers done, she was not going to take any meds and was going to watch the whole thing. I figured I was awake, so I may as well watch at least a little bit of the show. Weird, huh?

I think the loop thing I saw was the tool they use to cut polyps. I had several of them cut off and one partially cut off because they could not get to all of it due to where it was located. So, yeah, I am waiting for a call about the biopsy and praying all will be clear. 

And now, what I really want to know. Do any of you have other versions of yourself that you are aware of that help through certain things? Or am I the only one? 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Eight Fears

Okay, another one for a prompt from my tribe of blogging friends!

Eight Fears:

I fear (in no particular order):
  1. Choking
  2. Rats and mice-I was told last week they are really two different animals but in my mind they are all the same. It is that long skinny that really grosses me out. We have a rat lab in our psychology department. I have to order the baby rats. When they arrive (usually via a slightly chubby and out of breath UPS man who has traipsed across campus carrying this box of critters), if the right people are there, they come out of their office and coo over the baby rats. Occasionally they open the box and pick the rats up and cuddle on them. I try to stay pretty much out of sight when this is going on. And I am careful about admitting how scary they are to me because this is the psych dept and if you let them know you are scared of something, they will try to desensitize you to your fear. I don’t want to be desensitized because that would mean I would have to come into close contact with a rat.
  3. Anger
  4. Unhappiness-I don’t want any of my family to be unhappy and I spent years trying to keep that from happening. Guess what? It did not work.
  5. Spiders
  6. Being rear ended-There was a time frame of about a year and a half where I was rear ended THREE times. The last time totaled my car and I had to be hauled away in an ambulance. They were trying to lift me out of the car and my dress got hung on something and was holding me back and Lord, I thought they were going to pull my dress off my body. I can now give a really mean "get off my a**" look if someone is following me too closely. It always impresses me when they clearly get my message and back off a bit because I am not usually a commanding person.
  7. Ambulance rides-They strapped me down too tight and I had to threaten to go crazy on them if they did not at least loosen the strap around my feet a teeny tint bit. I must have been convincing because they loosen the strap. A teeny tiny bit.
  8. Undignified situations-such as being pulled out of a car by hunky ambulance men and getting hung up, making it look like you were almost too heavy for them to lift.
Wow, I made it to eight! I might not have been finished with my list!

One of my bigger, most serious fears (that I am working on) is the fear of there not being enough for me. I am trying to break the mindset of thinking in terms of scarcity. I am trying to call forward my own sufficiency (and what I am talking about is way bigger than money).

That makes me think of this quote I copied from someone else's blog a while back:

Lynne Twist wrote this, it's from her book The Soul of Money--

"For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is "I didn't get enough sleep." The next one is "I don't have enough time." Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying that we don't have enough of. . .We don't have enough exercise. We don't have enough work. We don't have enough profits. We don't have enough power. We don't have enough wilderness. We don't have enough weekends. Of course, we don't have enough money--ever.

We're not thin enough, we're not smart enough, we're not pretty enough or fit enough or successful enough, or rich enough--ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn't get, or didn't get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack. . .What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life. . .

We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don't mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn't two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn't a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn't an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.

Sufficiency resides inside of each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances." ---Lynne Twist