Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Fronts of Life Blow in...

One of the coolest things about living in the Dallas area is the weather. Now, I'm not talking the triple digit heat of summer. That's what you put up with just to get to live here. The great weather is just around the corner. Fall in Dallas is the best time of the year. It's also one of the times when we get to see storms blow in from out of no where. We just happen to be in a part of the country where the weather patters from the east and the west collide and on occasion it also includes some Arctic air are straight down from Canada. These events create fronts that draw a distinct line across the sky. It's a clear line of demarcation from what was to what is to come.

You see that line as it approaches, knowing that blue sky will give way to black clouds and violent storms. We had one of these on Thursday afternoon. It happened to hit just as we were leaving work in Denton for our much too long commute back to Dallas. Thankfully, Brian was driving because neither Carol or I could have stood the stress of the torrential rain while behind the wheel. It came out of no where, eclipsed the sky and dumped so much rain that you couldn't even see the front of the car much less the other cars around us. Yet, we drove right on through it.

Sitting in that back seat I couldn't help be so thankful that Brian was there to drive us. Neither one of us felt we could have made it through it. So, as I sat there putting my complete trust in his hands to get me home, it reminded me of how our relationship should be with God. He should always be behind the wheel, driving us through no matter what the weather.

Life is a series of these storms. Some of them we see coming and some we just look up and there it is out of no where. We are not prepared and have no shelter to protect us from it. The real question is whose hands do we depend on to get us through in the storms? We know who it should be. But do we go there first? Or do we try to handle it ourselves?

I've gone both ways on this, but I can only recommend one of them. It's the one where you totally surrender it to God and know that he will fix it. I spent years trying to handle everything myself. It's exhausting. I'm just not doing that anymore. People ask me all of the time how I'm handling this cancer thing so well. It's because I'm not handling it. I'm participating, but not handling it. It's what freedom is really about. It reminds me of the disciples when they were out on the water with Jesus in the boat. He was sleeping so when the storm kicked up, they became terrified. They thought they would perish and that he was going to sleep through the whole thing! Instead, He got up rebuked the waters and settled the storm. Then He asked them, "Where is your faith?" How often are we in that same boat? Knowing Jesus is right here with us, yet we feel as if we will drown. In that case, Where is OUR faith?

The beauty of it is that those fronts, and storms aren't forever. Just as quickly as it appeared on Thursday, it left. And as I was approaching home I was reminded of something beautiful. The backside of any front brings with it the sun and renewal. So, I snapped that picture from the side of my car (driving 45 miles and hour looking out the side window) as a reminder. No matter how dark the storm or black the night, He will always get us through to the other side. And take a look at how that other side looks! Gorgeous sun and clear skies... I can honestly say that I have experienced no storms in my life that didn't leave me changed for the better once they passed.

Today I made it through a "storm" that's been haunting me for a while. I got my GI Jane. Buzzed all of my hair and had my wigs fitted, and it was great! We laughed about it and had no tears whatsoever. I'm getting to fight on my terms. Blue skies ahead, black cloud gone. Now we're one step closer to getting this done. We actually had fun. Thanks to Sharon for being my video woman and support that was forbidden to cry. You did a great job. Thanks to Tracy and everyone at All About You. You are all wonderful. I couldn't have done it without you. And as I left there...nothing but blue skies ahead and that front line behind me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Confessions of a Compulsive Hat-Buyer

I have a confession to make. A handful of you already know this...I’m an addict. My story’s not unique. It all started with just one, maybe two. I thought I could handle it. I didn’t know what I was messing with…I found out about the hair and had what I thought was a harmless thought, “I should get a hat.” That was all she wrote. Notice, I thought “get A hat”, not “get 23 hats”…

I hear there are people who can stop at one. Occasionally they will go buy a hat and not even think about hats again for a long time. Some people go their whole lives and don’t even know they’re hat-addicts because they never bought one before, kind of like a Baptist alcoholic. I think I heard a joke about that one… (And for the record, as a born and raised Baptist, I'm allowed to tell it.) At any rate, I now know that I used to be one of those hat people, but am no longer.

In my defense, they’re A LOT of cute hats out there right now. They’re everywhere! Either that or I just started noticing them. The odd thing is that I don’t even like to shop. The fact that I was at the mall on Saturday is more unusual than the fact that I was wearing a wig, which I have never done before.

I got my first two when Mom and I went to buy Pj’s for my surgery. Turns out that I had no button-down-the-front Pj’s. And when you have that surgery, you can’t pull a shirt over your head since you can’t lift your arms for a while. So, the Pj’s were a necessity. That’s how she got me to the mall in the first place. The hats were between the Pj section and the door at Dillard’s. So, since there was a huge sale (75% off!), we casually picked up two that looked kind of cute. I didn’t even pay them attention for a while. I was busy with the surgery, recovery, and everything else. But once I got obsessed with the hair…that all changed.

Now, you should know that I DO like to BUY, but not to shop. There’s a huge difference. If you “shop” you like to spend the day in many stores or the mall, looking around with no specific goal necessarily, and you could come home with something, a lot of things, or nothing. Ugh! I don’t do that. When I shop it’s a mission (as in black ops, not small church). You get in, get out, and if you do it right no one even knows you were there. That’s how you BUY, not shop. The faster you can pull it off the better. That’s why the Internet is so dangerous. You can buy anything you want whether the stores are open or not. Up at 3:00 am? Need a hat? No problem. We got your hat right here!

I could spend a great deal of time justifying all of the good reasons that each of my hat purchases was legitimate. The first dozen came from the American Cancer Society’s online store. How could you argue with giving money to the American Cancer Society? What with having the cancer and all…Plus, it’s a good cause. I bought some pink stuff at The Breast Cancer Site, also a good place to spend your money. Then there’s 60% off day. That was Saturday when I capped off the collection (no pun intended) with the last two. I actually even started stretching the truth about my addiction. I told Terri at work today that I bought A hat in two colors. When she thought I meant one, I did not correct her. She caught on though. For the record, I did buy A hat in two colors, it just adds up to two if you’re paying attention. Besides, I didn’t even get the black one. So, I was proud that it wasn’t three. The black on was really cute.

All of this begs the question, What is going on here? What’s with all the hats? I’m not usually a hat-wearer, so why the compulsive need to buy so many? I couldn’t have told you until today. When I got out of the car at work this morning, the wind was blowing SO hard in our parking lot. It was cool, dry, which is the thing that I always look most forward to when the weather FINALLY cools down after the triple digit heat of summer. But today I had a different thought. Instead of my usual complete joy in that moment, I felt panic. What if it’s this windy next Monday? I had visions of my “hair” flying across the parking lot. That vision was immediately followed by a series of surprising feelings. Shame, embarrassment, terror. It was fleeting, but it was there for just a second. Then a quick sense of security because I had a hat to wear to protect me from that. Like a hat is some Harry Potter-esque cloak of invisibility/wind protector...

Shame and Embarrassment??? Really??? There’s no shame in having cancer! Where in the world did that come from? Still, that’s what it was as sure as I sit here and type this. So I thought about that all day, and I came to a couple of conclusions.

First, no matter how far past the teenage girl we once were that we think we've grown, she's still there. You know the one that thought the whole school was looking at the minuscule little zit hidden where no one could see it anyway? Yeah, her. She's still around even if you think she isn't. Secondly, sometimes it takes things like cancer to remind and reveal these things to us. I had no idea she was still hanging around. But, now that I know she's there, I can handle her because 40 years of life teaches you a thing or two.

One of those is this: People don't look as closely at us as we think they do. Most of the people I encountered on Saturday in my wig never knew I was wearing it. And if they did, so what?? As I've already said, there is NO shame in having cancer. Another thing is this, the only people that it should matter what they think are the ones that love us hair or no hair. And the hair really doesn't matter to them anyway. Then finally, when we do feel that way or if we just want a cute look, it's completely OK to grab a hat and head out the door.

Women spend so much time beating each other down in this world. "She's put on a few..." "Did you see what she was wearing?" "I would just DIE if that happened to me..." "She did what with who? I'd NEVER do that!" Gossip everywhere. Whole industries are built on finding flaws in others and exploiting them. Beating others down to build ourselves up. It doesn't work. It just changes the standard by which we judge ourselves as well. It's always too high when it comes to our appearance. We need to STOP it! We're all in the same boat really.

Each of us is God's creation that He made to be exactly who we are. Unique. Special. Needed. And above all else, LOVED, just the way we are. We can always do better in how we behave, serve, or treat others, but that's OUR imperfect human sinful nature. It's not a flaw in his creation. My pastor says regularly, "There is nothing that you can do to make God love you any more, or any less." He already loves us completely, totally. If He can love us with all of our imperfections, why can't we?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One down five to go, and a date with my new hair...

So I spent Friday plugged into the IV machine getting my first round of chemo. We got the day started with blood work about 8:30 followed by a trip to Ihop. I had about an hour to kill between drawing blood and being able to see the doctor and get things going. They told me to go have a normal breakfast. So, Dad and I went to Ihop where I proceeded to eat 2 eggs over easy (my favorite), hash browns, 2 pieces of bacon AND 2 pancakes with a large glass of milk...ALL of it. I'm sure that's a normal breakfast for someone...At least I didn't lick the plate. He didn't finish his...quitter. But, he did stay the whole day with me except for a couple hours when I had other company. That gave him time to go home and console Mom who wasn't handling it well that morning. She chased me out to the car crying. I thought something had happened to Brayden, but she was just sending her baby off to chemo. I can't imagine if it were Brayden, so I get it.

The rest of the day went better than expected. My nurses and all of the people that work at Texas Oncology were all so wonderful! I was so well taken care of that I couldn't believe it. It's a little boring sitting in a chair all day, but that was broken up with a wonderful visit from my new friend, Amy. Thank you so much for coming to see me!! One of the hidden blessings in this cancer business is all of the people that you would not have met otherwise. Amy is one of those people. You see, she has already done all of this. We were diagnosed with the same kind of breast cancer. Since there's more than 20 kinds that we know about so far, she's the only person I have met that has MY kind. It is so inspiring to have support from someone who has walked this road and become a survivor of the exact cancer that I have. Besides the giant daisy balloon she brought me really dressed up my IV pole as I cruised the infusion room later in the day.

The giant balloon also actually added to the flair of the moment when I mistakenly broke all of the rules and escaped the infusion room. This is a full service facility. So, they have a pharmacy on site where they fill your prescriptions for nausea or whatever else you will need while you get the chemo. Fantastic! No Walgreen's wait on the way home...Well, when they came and told me my prescriptions were ready and that the pharmacist needed to talk to me, I got up, unplugged my machine and took off down the hall to the pharmacy to get them. That's apparently a big NO! NO! I guess mobile chemo patients aren't the normal thing in the hall (maybe it was the balloon...) but everyone looked like they would fall over when I pulled up to the window at the pharmacy to get my drugs chemo and balloon in tow. They lady behind the counter said, "What are you doing here??" and one of the nurses from infusion came running out to get me. So, I was recaptured and returned to my chair. Oops!!

So, when I say full service, I mean it. The pharmacist came to my chair to go over the nausea drugs and make sure I understood everything. He was wonderful as well. (That won't happen at Walgreen's when the guy behind the glass shoves the drugs into the "tube" and out to your car.) They weren't lying either when they said that they could keep me from getting sick. I've taken the Zofran this weekend, but that's it. They pump anti-nausea drugs into you before the infusions, one of which lasts for 3 days and they seem to have worked so far. So, bye to Chemo #1. We've done it.

Since I felt pretty good when I woke up Saturday morning, I decided to get dressed, slick back my real hair, put on one of my wigs with a cute hat and go out into the world. Next Saturday it's for real, but I needed to know if I could do it before I HAD to. So, I did. I went to the mall and a couple other stores for a test run. Then I met my mom and Carol for lunch. It was a good experience. Mom and I even went to get her clothes for her 50th reunion before I began to feel too run down. I CAN do this. Thank you Jesus for YOUR strength. It's the reason I'll get through.

Today, I only made it to church and Subway. I've rested and that's what I needed to do. I am going to do more of that. I understand why my nurse was concerned. Even thought I ranted about it before, I get it now. I'm not going to try and push it as I go deeper in the process. The effects of the drugs are cumulative and I don't want to get on the wrong side of this. Chemo is no joke. It's poison. So, I'm going to follow the advice of my medical team and put my health first.

One last thing, if you're praying for me, please do tomorrow. I am having to get the Neulasta shot in the morning to make sure my white count doesn't get dangerously low. That can be brutal because the main side effect is bone pain. The good news is that Friday my count was so high that I'm only getting 1/2 a dose. Like so many other things lately, I've been told it's "prophylactic". So, we're trying to keep it that way. We'll know by Wednesday or Thursday if I'm going to feel it.

©2009 80% Sporadic | by TNB