Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make Lemonade

Late yesterday afternoon, there was a knock at our door. When I answered it, it was my neighbor, Preston carrying a huge bag of lemons freshly picked from their lemon tree. A beautiful boy that I have known for most of his life, he insisted that he bring the heavy bag of lemons into my house and put them where ever I needed them to go. His dad, Pete had picked them for us. They live two doors up and I did not even know that they had a lemon tree.

Being sick has its advantages. Every day, a kindness is bestowed upon our family. Every day, I learn something new about some one that I care about. Every day, I have the honor of spending time and/or visiting with someone special. Some may call just to "check-in", post a message for me on Face Book or converse with me on Twitter. Yesterday, my Aunt Kay stopped in with some groceries and we chatted for an hour. All in all, I am getting to know people like I never had the time to before.

The lemon delivery was a direct result of the "Circle of Love" that my wonderful friend Cathy Norcutt initiated and set up for me. Something she has done in the past, a couple of weeks ago, Cathy asked me for email addresses of friends and family who have offered to help us with incremental needs dependent upon what might be going on in our lives and/or how I am feeling. I was immediately drawn to the idea because while I appreciate all of the offers to help, if I need groceries (for instance) and I am too tired to shop myself, I am unlikely to pick up the phone and call anyone when the need arises. It is awkward for me...and frankly, it is exhausting. With a "Circle of Love" in place, I have one point of contact, Cathy. Cathy sends out a blanket email...and whoever has time to respond, responds. It is a beautiful thing and a big stress reliever for me. I am very grateful.

So, yesterday afternoon, when I saw Cathy while picking Madison up at school, I inquired about our friend Tara's lemon tree. (Cathy had brought me big, beautiful lemons from this tree before and I use lemons every day to dress my salads and in my smoothies.) Cathy thought that there may not be too many lemons left from Tara's tree....but sent an inquiry our through my Circle of Love. Preston showed up on our doorstep about an hour later. I was so taken aback that I did not know what to say. However, Preston's smile as he proudly handed over the bag was absolutely beautiful. The gesture warmed my heart.

Yesterday's series of events shed a positive light on my predicament. Yes, I am sick. Yes, we are scared. Pardon the pun but life has given us lemons....but with the care, kindness and compassion bestowed on us every day, we making lemonade.

Truth be told, Madison and I made old fashioned lemonade last night....even down to creating a simple syrup and squeezing the lemons ourselves using Dad White's old Tupperware juicer. AND the outcome is one of the best things I have tasted, EVER!

On another note, if you would like to visit the Helping Calendar that Cathy and I have set up and/or be a part of my "Circle of Love", please visit

Monday, September 26, 2011

Days and Hours until CT Scan

The days go by like hours; the hours go by like days. My heart sinks with the report of each blood test, the numbers not being horrible...but not showing remarkable improvement, if any. There are just two days and a couple of hours until my first CT scan since I started chemo.

Yet, my spirit sores once I strategically trick my brain  into overtaking my fear. As I sit here typing this entry, I am in a good place.

I read a great Chinese Proverb on Twitter tonight (thanks to @AncientProverbs): "Pray to God, but keep rowing towards the shore." I love is how I live my life. I have hope; I have faith, but I firmly believe that even prayer will not ensure me a long, fruitful life, if I do not put in the effort myself. Every minute of every hour of everyday is a conscience decision as to what is best for me in that exact moment. As a mother and a wife, many of my decisions involve what is best for my husband and children as well. Deep down, the choices I make feel deliberate and part of a plan. I am living. And I love it.

So, Thursday morning, I will have a CT scan of my abdomen and chest. The blood work that I mentioned above is fairly stable. I am slightly (and only slightly) anemic. (More spinach, please!) BUT, my white count is stable, red count is stable and my neutrophils levels are good. My liver function panel is slightly improved. Since the cancer resides in my liver, this is somewhat encouraging. My tumor marker test is up, however. This and my little bit of increased pain is what got to me today. Do not get me wrong, my pain is NOTHING like what it was before I started chemo. It has increased, none the less, initially making my mind play tricks, doing the cartwheels and back bends that I watch my daughter do at gymnastics week after week.

Then, I realized that at this point, it is what it is. The blood tests are each only small indicators of what the CT scan might say. Might being the key word. I also know that even if I ate an all raw food diet tomorrow, it will not change the outcome of my CT scan on Thursday. All this being said, I know we will just deal with what ever news we receive. We will get the results on 10/3, when we see Dr. Sweet. And, in the meantime, maybe I will just have some pizza and ice go with my spinach.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quick Post for an Inspired Day

I did not intend to write in my blog this morning. In fact, I had decided against it, while sitting here sipping my coffee. But then I thought about the fabulous day that I had yesterday. Inspired by the beautiful women that we met while attending the Blue Man Group at the Civic Theater last night, I decided to jot something down. Sharing my joy, brings me solace.

Saturday started out a bit crazier than others. Many events were on my plate to coordinate and attend: Madison's gymnastics, Harrison's soccer game, Madison's 8th birthday party and tickets to see the Blue Man Group. This not to say that I did not have help. Steve and my parents were fabulous...with my mom taking a lot of the lead on Madison's birthday party; my dad helping with several aspects of the party...and of course Steve, who masterfully picked up the slack throughout the day.

The day brought many blessings. Many happy moments that I would not trade for hours of sleep: a win on the soccer field; frosting birthday cupcakes with my girl; the smiles on eight-year-old-faces as we provided a successful party craft that had all of the girls giggling; a nap in the afternoon; and, a fabulous interactive performance with the Blue Man Group last night. In addition to all of these special moments, while at Civic Theater, we met some very special ladies that had heard our story from Steve's brother.They were gracious, concerned and out and out two of the nicest people we have met in a while, even sharing their jelly beans and giving the kids one of their Blue Man Group programs to take home. It is special people like these that really help raise my spirits. As much as stolen moments with my kids mean the world to me, the kindness of strangers eases my worries in manner that is often untouched by my caregivers.

Regardless of how great of a day I had yesterday, as I might have predicted, I woke up with a slight cold this morning. This is not to say that I will not participate in activities today as planned....though, I may be watching the Chargers game from the couch.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

He Sleeps

He has no worries,
While he sleeps.
Life is normal,
While he sleeps.

I'm awake with the birds,
While he sleeps.
I toss, turn and arise,
While he sleeps.

My turn to worry,
While he sleeps.
My chance to weep,
While he sleeps.

Coffee made, dishes done,
While he sleeps.
My dog at my side,
While he sleeps.

Kids awaken, sharing the day,
While he sleeps.
The days wears on,
And, I will sleep.

He wishes for healing,
While I sleep.
Understanding my struggle,
While I sleep.

He frets, sometimes weeps,
While I sleep.
Future unsure yet certain,
While I sleep.

Grading papers, hard at work,
While I sleep.
Lights turned off, house locked up,
While I sleep.

Exhausted and worn,
While I sleep,
He falls into bed,
While I sleep.

He holds my hand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Broken Down, Cancer Treatment is Not so Scary

My dad went with me to chemo yesterday. I really enjoyed our time together and admire his bravery for joining me. From a parent's perspective, it must be really hard to accompany your child to something like chemotherapy. Especially when it is a recurrence of cancer for a child that had reportedly "slayed the beast" once before. I also think seeing my child with a picc line and a shaven head would be particularly difficult. A parent's own mortality staring them straight in the face by grace of, in this case, their eldest child.

Difficult as it may have been, I was really glad that dad came with me for my treatment yesterday. Mainly because broken down, chemotherapy treatments are not so scary. First and foremost, you will never experience a more caring atmosphere than in a chemotherapy suite. The nurses are angels, who seem to love what they do and share knowledge and thoughtfulness freely, never passing judgement and always with a smile. Secondly, there is a bond shared by those receiving treatment in the chemotherapy suite. Sometimes discussed openly, sometimes shared only through fleeting eye contact across the room. We are all there for the same thing. We all have hope. We meet other parents there with their children. Some younger than me even. Some much, much older. All ethnicities. All types. The environment is very kind. Lastly, the treatment does not hurt. Mainly due to my picc line, nurses efficiently yet cautiously administer doctor's orders week after week, while I sit comfortably in a recliner covered in warm blankets and drinking my green smoothie (and often eating my lunch too). Of course, depending what is going on, some weeks are more difficult than others for me, emotionally. However, my positive spirit to prevails, and I try to enjoy my time to just sit.

I was happy that my dad got to experience this. I was also glad that he and I had some alone time to just sit and talk. Not that we talked about anything earth shattering. But how often do any of us really get that chance? Personally, I have a really difficult time concentrating on anything while chemo is being administered. Reading is pretty much out of the question. I might get an occasional Face Book or Twitter post up. I might glance through a magazine. But other than that, I am all ears. My brother called yesterday. My sister in law, Kelly texted too.It is so very meaningful to me that they both checked in....despite all of what they have going on up in Portland. Anyway, there is something so calming to me to just listen. To have a conversation and really pay attention to each and every word. I do not care if we are only talking about the weather. Or even about the adventures of someone I barely know. I just like to listen and be listened too. I suppose it takes my mind off the poisons that are being infused into my body.

So, returning home yesterday, for the first time ever after chemo, I napped. With each treatment, I am getting more and more tired. Frustrating as it is, now that the kids are back in school it is easier for me to adjust my schedule to accommodate an afternoon snooze.

Following my nap, I attended a wonderful restorative yoga class at A Gentle Way Yoga, led by Lanita. For those not familiar with yoga, in the most simple terms, restorative yoga is slow and gentle, focusing less on changing position and more on breathing. During part of the class, Lanita suggested that "yoga can heal what can be healed," and as in all breathing exercises of late, I developed an acute awareness of my sick liver. It was then that I had a unique vision which took me several minutes to decipher. Coming to mind first was a beautifully marbled tumbled rock, the type you would find on a river or beach, made smooth through ages of tousling in the water. Through continued concentration, I realized that the black rock represented my tumors. I have been told that cancer cells are just regular cells that are missing the DNA giving them a productive function in the body. That being said, I forgave these helpless cells for not knowing what to do and gave them permission to leave and go back to the sea from which they came. I envisioned them being replaced by the soft, fine, delicate sand representing my "normal" liver cells. I realize that this vision seems very lofty, but in my experience with alternative therapies, these visions are very helpful and even promising at times. I never discount them.

Other than that, as I mentioned earlier, the kids went back to school last week. I am exhausted. Even exhausted enough to give my ticket to the San Diego Chargers' Home Opener to my son! However, my white counts, neutrophils and red counts are normal, or normal enough. So, that just means that I am tired from chemo and life in general. I can work with that, I guess. Diet helps.

I am still working on a raw diet. My goal is 75% raw. I am also focusing on the more alkaline foods. My diet demands that I eat little to no meat, preferring a good quality red meat or even better, fish to chicken (all cooked, of course). I have always like vegetarian dishes-so this suits me fine. I have discovered I really enjoy just about any salad with a little olive oil, pepper and sea salt and lemon sprinkled/drizzled over the top. I also am loving my kale, banana, lemon, celery and apple juice green smoothie. (Lemon goes into everything these days, as it acts like an alkaline in the body when digested.)

As far as my medical care, it could be a whole other post. However, Steve and I did see Dr. Sweet on Friday. We have scheduled my CT scan for September 29. From this, we will be able to tell if the chemo is working and how well it is working. I will have a follow up consult with Dr. Sweet on October 3 and will resume chemo again on October 10. More to come.

In closing, I am realizing that I need to post more often, in order to avoid these lengthy entries. Thank you for your patience as I ramble on and your dedication to reading my blog. It really does mean the world to me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thoughts of Swimming

Yesterday, Cooper in tow, I visited my parents' house to water my mom's blossoming tomato plants. While watering the plants, I noticed at least a half-dozen oranges on their orange tree. Oranges from that tree are absolutely delicious! Knowing well that they are not an alkaline food, I craved their sweetness and wandered down into my parents' yard to pick some. Maybe I can have one every other day?

In doing so, my flip-flopped feet got pretty dirty. The tried and true way to clean them.....the pool. The pool water was warm. Warm enough that my even my dad would have gone swimming. (Dad does not go in until the water reaches 84-degrees.) The pool was like an old friend. Upon my foot's first dip, I wanted to dive in and swim all of the laps that I always told my parents I did when they inquired as to what I did that day and I did not want them to think I was lazy. With a picc line attached to my arm, I cannot do that. As Cooper looked on (he is still afraid of the pool water), something deep inside me began to hurt.

I was glad I was not alone. Cooper is a great companion. He knows when I am upset with or without outward signs. This time, I did not shed a tear, but instead jumped out of the pool as quickly as I dipped my feet in. Memories came rushing back, like racing my brother across the pool when we were kids taunting each other to see who was faster; laying poolside with my girlfriends working on our "tans"; rough housing in the pool with my dad; the time I got stung by a bee while floating in a pool lounge chair; and, more recently, the memory of taking Harrison swimming when he was barely one-year old. A memory that truly warms my heart, I remember that it was a perfect summer night....and I am not even sure if my parent's were home. In the pictures I have in the scrapbook, Harrison has a smile from ear to ear. Recollecting all of these memories, I also thought of the times where I did not go swimming because I was nervous, even in front of my parents, about how I looked in a bathing suit. Especially now that I cannot go in, those worries seem shameful now.

Solemnly gazing into the welcoming water, I wondered if I will ever be able to swim in that pool again. My brain says, "Well, of course you will be able too." I know picc lines are not forever. At the same time, I know that the reality is that I will be on some sort of chemo for the rest of my life. Maybe it will be in pill form? The thought of getting a port sends shivers up my spine. If I were to get a port, I believe it would be placed under a collar bone. I cannot imagine messing with my chest area any more. Gaining weight like a yo-yo since I was 17-years old, even when I felt the worst about my appearance, I used to take such pride in how pretty I looked in a V-neck top. Not so sure I would be able to wear V-necks with a port.

This morning, I woke up with all these thoughts racing through my head and hurried to my laptop to post this blog entry. I started to think how the entry would make me seem like I am feeling sorry for myself. However, I think this is OK. Sitting here writing it, the tears have come and gone and now I feel better.

I also realized that along with all of my limitations this summer, my cancer recurrence has brought the best gift in the world, more time with my kids. A working mom, I have never been "off" for an extended period during the summer. I have never been able to treat the kids to the "lazy" summer days that I enjoyed growing up. This is exactly what I did this summer. I even got to be the fun, cool mom a couple of times and spoil them. Those memories count for a lot. Those memories are what dry my tears and enable me to keep fighting.