Perspective and circling

I was rear ended last week and perhaps the good thing about rear ending someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer is that (in my case anyway) they might not sweat it. Yes my car needs fixing and going to the police station and calling insurance took up half my day,  yes my back and shoulders are sore but my girls who were with me are a okay (thank you car seats) and we are all alive. I hugged the lady who hit me, she was shaking, apologizing over and over and I told her, it’s okay, they are just things.

Things can be fixed and at the end of the day they don’t matter as much as we think they do, beyond food and clothing and shelter to keep us healthy and dry and warm.

It is a little like cancer. Perspective. As far as cancer goes I have it pretty lucky. Low grade is in some ways better than high grade or heaven forbid aggressive. Caught relatively early and I had my colonoscopy yesterday and there weren’t any lesions in my bowel or colon: also pretty lucky. Having my main tumor removed without complications already is lucky. *Possibly* not needing chemo also very fucking lucky. Being able to live without everything there is growth on right now – lucky.

This doesn’t mean it feels easy or that I feel lucky. Even yesterday after the happy colonoscopy result I felt pretty numb, likely in part from the colonoscopy prep which involves over 40 hours without solids and crapping out about 30 cups of fluid followed up by getting a camera put where the sun doesn’t shine (I will laugh about this one day but that day is not today) but also because whenever a test or procedure or call happens, it is there again. A reminder. Real. Something growing in your body that shouldn’t be. Before the colonoscopy results could really sink in I got a call from my other doctor (I have a bowel oncologist and a gynecological oncologist) telling me she was moving ahead with scheduling ovary removal. Again good news(ish) but also hard, a reminder of what is still to come.

Every time I feel positive and well and like “by the grace of God I got this shit handled” I think that will be it. I will be strong and positive and happy each and every day until this is over with. I will be grateful and zen and drink my green juice and take my supplements and essential oils and pray and say my affirmations and see my acupuncturist from now until forever if I need to.

Until I’m not feeling that way anymore.

I had a moment of supreme irritation last week thinking ahead to the colonoscopy and again yesterday getting the call from the gynecologist where I felt so angry at myself about my emotions. About how I was feeling scared again. I’m incredibly grateful in a logical way for the positive colonoscopy yesterday, but the week before it really settled in that this was happening because they might find something else. 

I was mad at myself that I was feeling negative feelings again. But more than that I was upset because I realized that this process will continue until this is done and that makes me feel so, so tired and also beat down. I realized I will circle through  feeling like good will come from this, that I will be refined in ways I both knew I needed and in ways I had no clue and how beautiful that will be and between feeling not so redeeming things like anger and fear and general bitchiness and self-pity.

The harder parts of the circle seem to trigger another round of ‘I shoulding’ myself (I should be handling this better, I should be being more positive, I should be more grateful, etc., etc., etc.), followed by another round of mourning, needing comfort and burning some fears up.

I’m tired now, this week especially again but it’s okay. It’s okay to not always do everything well.

It’s okay because I have been through this a few times already. I will lean into what is getting me through, continue on in this circle, and come around again to the top.

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Giving thanks – even on the hard days when I don’t feel like it. One of the things I’m leaning into.

 

Posted in Cancer, Living with purpose, Mental health | 3 Comments

New Years and New Words

Yesterday our whole family wrote down our top ten list from the past year. We have done a family list for five or so years now, we stole the idea from one of our friends all those years back, but this was the first year everyone, even Haven could write their own down.

Some things made all of our lists, our new (to us) hot tub, some aspect of our amazing summer vacation to the west coast, the same with our trip to Hawaii last March. Swimming with a pod of wild dolphins is a pretty incredible event for a ten and eight year old to check off their bucket lists. All of my kids have some of their daddies love for adventure in them so cliff diving made all of the kiddos lists and so did doing some pretty challenging hikes. Also some aspect of regular everyday life: being homeschooled, working in the garden, cooking, reading books, each a little different but something ordinary made each list.

At times it feels like 2016 will always be remembered as the year I was diagnosed with cancer and that 2017 will always be the year I deal with the treatment. Yet I know that isn’t so. 2016 was the year I found out I had cancer, yes but it was also the year we had the most perfect Christmas and hiked into a volcano. It was the year we started Anahola Board Co in earnest and it was the year Aaron moved his office to home and after covering two territories for almost a year, worked regular hours. Thus we had more down time and more sanity, we had forgotten how comparably easy it is for him to work only one job.

2016 was the year everyone could ski and swim and paddleboard and hike and bike well. It was a year of watching my not baby, babies grow and live, seeing more of who they are emerge, and let me tell you that is one of my most favourite things in existence.

It was the year we had so many full and rich days at home, just living, and talking, and being together, learning, pursuing our passions. It was a year that as parents we got to see our kids thrive at what they love and also push themselves at things that don’t come so easily. It was a year we tried to do the same for ourselves.

It was a year of folding laundry and drinking coffee or tea, while the other person cooks (I’m laundry, Aaron’s cooking in case you were wondering) and continuing to work on the home we love out here in the country, building a new deck and growing more flowers, mowing the grass and feeding chickens. It was a year of family and friends, laughing and crying. It was a year of many memories.


2016 was good. At times it was exceptionally challenging, not just in our own little blessed life here but obviously also in the world at large where there were much bigger crises than one called cancer. But despite all of this, there was love and it was good.

And now it is 2017. I’m a person who loves resolutions and intentions and one words and all that jam. Perhaps no year has taught me we can do all of that and still have so little control than 2016. Also, perhaps no year has taught me that we can do all of that and it can give us comfort in ways we never expected.

Although I never blogged about it, my words for 2016 were ‘It is well with my soul’. The words come from this song.

‘When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.’

They were in the center of my vision board for 2016 and I can’t really explain why at the time, except it was spoken to my soul and so there it went. I cannot tell you how many times looking up at those words helped me this year.

This year I’m keeping it simplish as specific plans are a little more up in the air. My word is ‘nurture’ and my goals are as follows:

  1. Love well: God, my people, those around me in my own community and the world, myself
  2. Kick cancers behind and enter summer of 2017 (medical timelines permitting) cancer free
  3. Spread some peace in the world
  4. Being open to whatever else comes my way; while praying this involves more jumping off things into water, sunshine and seeing all the miracles of everyday life.

2017 I don’t know fully what to expect but I know this: there will be love and it will be good.

Happy New Year and lots of love from us

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding light

Today is the shortest day of the year and also the first day of winter. I crept out of bed before any of my kids and even though it was past eight it was still pitch black. Tonight it will be solidly dark well before we have dinner. I’m looking out the window at part of our forest while I write this, the trees all bare but their branches beginning to be lightly illuminated by the sky behind them as the sun rises. There isn’t even enough snow to cover all the fall leaves where they lay thick in the wild parts of our yard. Trees don’t have trouble with the stark stripping down and apparent death of this season, they thrive on letting things go to nourish what is coming next. It’s not always so easy for us humans.

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It has been two months to the day since I had an emergency appendectomy where they found not an infected appendix but instead a tumour that had ruptured my appendix and also some deposits on my right ovary.

It has been about six weeks since I found out exactly what that tumour was, a low grade appendicital neoplasm and also that the deposits on my ovary were mucousy which is how this tumour  spreads.

It has been five weeks since I found out from my amazing surgeon (who did everything right during surgery even though this is very rare) an approximation of what oncology would do.

It has been a week since I have met with one of my oncologists for the first time.

Here is what I’ve found:

It takes about two weeks, maybe a bit less for your mind to wrap your head around the idea that yes, this is happening to you. You are really allowed to feel sad or mad or anything else you want about your diagnosis during that time even though there are worse tragedies going on in the world, because, well you just are.

It takes about a week (for me anyway) after it all sinks in to get incredibly fed up of thinking about life without you, so I wrote about it because that helps me process it and shake it off, but also my husband gave me this.

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It takes about one week of wearing this elastic band with one hard snap each and every time I thought about life without me in it until I didn’t really need it anymore. (Idea from Kris Carr’s book, Crazy, Sexy, Cancer Survivor).

If I am having a bad day, I put it back on but mostly now it is this:

One day at a time

Putting your big girl panties on

Being held up by the prayers and encouragement of those who love you and a God who calls you beloved.

Because it takes about zero days to realize how much you love your life, and by that you mean your family, your friends, your faith, your very own self, even this often very broken world. I think this is what we call blessed; when you have all of this, so dear to your heart that you have such gratitude, despite what ever else is going on. So you suck it up, you breathe them in. You absolutely get drunk on everyday moments like brushing your girls freshly dried hair and saying I love you and eating dinner together around the candles.

You revel in moments that you no longer take for granted like waking up alive and hearing your prognosis is good. Because it takes about zero days to realize that to survive you have to look for the light, each and every speck of it, especially during the darkest days of the year.

 

Posted in Cancer, Everyday holy, God's love, Life in the 30's | 3 Comments

Advent is for waiting

It has been brutally cold here this week – our first true Alberta cold snap of the season, the kind where the air hurts your face and your lungs. We have very little snow which is so unusual for us and so all our winter favourites – sledding and both kinds of skiing are not happening yet. A  few weeks ago we started skating because the girls have been asking for years to learn and with the lack of snow we thought why not? And so we have been skating once a week or so. I haven’t skated much since high school and I forgot it kind of feels like swimming, the lightness and freedom of gliding across the ice, mind clear for a minute or two.

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This morning, on the way out the door to choir, a kiddo got sick in the garage, which I saw coming as she didn’t eat much of anything yesterday. I was hoping to spend the day going on a walk in the woods to bring clarity to my body and mind, among other things. Instead I spent the day tending to an under the weather kiddo. Washing dishes, watching lots of food network and reading stories together. The holy, fatiguing work of motherhood.

Today was a lot like all our days right now. Not very spectacular, in fact pretty darn ordinary. These days we are doing our normal life and not much more. Work, school work, keeping the house tidy, making meals, going to appointments, soccer or dancing and music depending on which kiddo and what parent you are on any given day. Trying to remember things like putting money under the pillow for lost teeth and showing up for parent watch night the right week.

I can’t remember an advent season so void of so many of our usual advent things. Aside from the lack of outdoor snow activities, we aren’t caroling or hosting anything or doing a lot of extra volunteering. We aren’t making cookies or doing almost any gift buying or making. I haven’t read the kids even one of our advent/Christmas books yet and I keep thinking about sending cards but not making any forward momentum.

For me this year, advent has shifted. Instead of doing and celebrating, I’m waiting and I’m making space. I’m trying to make room in my heart for something new to be born; exactly what I’m not sure yet. I’m reading poetry and I’m sitting in the dissonance I see in the world and in myself of so much hurt and also of so much beauty. I’m thinking about hands: held open, held empty, receiving God’s love. This sparser advent I’m having this year, it feels right, it feels fitting.

I have been watching the stars every night in a little bit of meditation. We are lucky to live far enough from the city lights, so that on a clear night the sky is absolutely brilliant. As I gaze past Orion or the almost full moon I can’t help but think about the universe and all it’s wonders constantly expanding, creation happening right this very instant when I look up. This advent I’m trying to open my heart to any iridescent knowledge they may want to pass onto me. I wonder if they are waiting too.

Posted in Everyday holy, God's love, Life in the 30's, Parenting | Leave a comment