Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cancer treatment - the gift that keeps on giving

It is January. It's cold, dreary, and full of frozen yuck.

Four years ago this month, in January 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer.   It was not the worst time of my life, but it was close. My reality changed irrevocably.

I spend that entire year undergoing cancer treatment.  It wasn't as hellish as you might think, mostly due to good drugs, and even better friends and family.  I had at least 4 or 5 surgeries, months of chemo and radiation. I find there are many bits I don't remember.  Watching a video, Firelord will say "We've seen that", but it seems new to me.  The kids will mention something they did, and I have little to no recollection of the incident.  I remember taking trips to Steamboat, meeting my cousins in Yellowstone, girls night in our basement.  I remember over a hundred meals being brought to our house.  I don't remember suffering too much - then.

I suffered more the year after.  That year I was supposed to be relieved and grateful.  My hair started to grow back.  My chemo-yellow skin pinked up.  I looked "normal".  But I didn't feel normal.  I wasn't what I had been.  I needed to sit more, and more often.  My words stuttered and fell unspoken.  My short term memory was no longer sufficient for many every day activities.   I had constant pain, not just from the surgeries, but from peripheral neuropathy.
I looked fine.  I was expected to get back to "normal" life.  I consistently let people down with my inability to meet expectations - myself most of all.

I tried to tell folks, but no one wanted to hear it.  I learned that the only acceptable response to "How are you?" is "fine".  If I told my truth I was "complaining" and after all, "You're alive, right?"  Which was funny, since alive hurts a hell of a lot and didn't always seem to be worth the price I was paying.

Just before one of the surgeries the nurse asked "DNR?" to which Firelord shouted "NO!"  He told me "You don't get to choose, you have kids."  I wasn't allowed to survive for me.  I didn't survive for me.  I survived for my kids.  To do otherwise was too selfish to be allowed.  Because I was a mother I allowed myself to suffer the torture that is cancer treatment.

Of all the things a cancer patient is supposed to be, selfish isn't one of them.  Cancer patients should be warriors, bravely battling.  Cancer survivors should be happy, grateful for the treatment that probably saved their lives.  Cancer patients should be cheerful, remembering how many people are working to support and save them.  God forbid the patient/survivor notices that the cancer hadn't yet done any harm and that the treatment did significant permanent damage.  God forbid that we ever express impatience with our new limitations and continuing pain.

2013 was a really, really hard year.

2014 was a little better.  By last year, 2015, I realized that this was it.  This was as good as it was going to get.  Three years out - I had made all the improvement I was likely to make from my cancer treatment induced injuries.  It wasn't bad as it was that first year of survival.  Now I've gotten used to it: wrapping my hand every night to minimize the affects of lymphodema, the constant pins and needles of neuropathy,   the joint pain, dry skin, and poor memory caused by the aromitase inhibitor...

I've accepted a new normal, and it's not so bad.   It's not that it's all kittens and rainbows.  It's that I can see past the constant every day pains and discomfort in my body to the every day joys and trials of my life.  Bit Boy will graduate high school this spring.  He is planning on going to university.  Lego Kid is a 9th grader, learning the ropes of high school and exploring a new kind of independence.  Hot Dog is approaching adolescence, but still a boy, my last child.  I get to see them every day.  They still have their mom.  The price I paid for that is high, but not too high.

The effects of cancer treatment are something that I will never be allowed to forget.  But the experience of raising my kids, of getting to see them grow and change, that's something I will never dare forget.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

December Book

Krakatoa, by Simon Winchester

Seriously?  One book?  Ya, I think that might be right.   What can I say?  December was a busy month.  I started Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in Dec, but just barely, so it wasn't finished until January.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My wish for you...


This is a time of year filled with holidays.  Every human culture, throughout space and time, has found a way of celebrating the change of seasons, a change of heart, a turn in history.  In the US, as in much of the world, we are a pluralistic culture.  We have so many things to celebrate.

Hanukkah, Chalica, Kwanza, Yule, Solstice, Christmas, Mawlid Un Nabi, Yalda, New Years, these are just a few.

We diversely celebrate.  
We celebrate in our diversity.
Out of the many - One.

And yet, it's a hard time of year too.   It's these holidays that remind us of those who are missing.  Loved ones who have died, family who are estranged, friends who are far away, we feel our loss.  For those whose family of origin aren't safe or supportive, it is an especially hard time.  Our hearts ache for something that is gone, something perhaps we never even had.

In the end, we are all seeking the same thing; community, comfort in the darkness, the warmth of love, moments of peace, a touch of grace.  

This time of year....
regardless of your faith

Be Kind, 
Be Patient, 
Show Compassion

 I wish you all, all the best.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

November Books

Dying for a Living, by Kory M. Shrum
Dying by the Hour
Dying for Her
Dying Light

So, ok.  I binged.  These were fun little reads, comparable perhaps to the Sookie Stackhouse novels.  This just goes to show that BookBub freebies work.  Now I've caught up with the author so I can't binge on these anymore.  Boo.

Yes, I read some other stuff.  Wish I remember what....

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Summer/Fall Books though Nov.

Sigh... Missed some books and months.
Maybe I'll get back on the horse soon, maybe not.  I just haven't been reading much, nor keeping track of my reading.

But, for what it's worth, here's a bit of what I've read recently.

How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
Neverhome, by Laird Hunt
Redeployment, by Phil Klay
Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austen
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, by Caitlen Doughty
Kennedy Wives, by Amber Hunt and David Batcher
Twilight Tenth Anniversary (alternate), by Stephenie Meyer
Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

How to be a Woman is really, really good: funny, feminist.  Now I need to go find everything she's ever done.
Neverhome was good 2/3 of the way through when it took a turn for the weird, tragic, and depressing.  I should have skipped the ending.  (I'm a happy ending kind of gal, I don't need more reality or ironic tragedy.  Thank you.)
Redeployment is a collection of short stories, a bit uneven, but well worth the read.
P&P as good as ever, but I did have to check to be sure.  ;-P
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was a little library find, and unexpectedly good.
Kennedy Wives was fine, reminds me that history has lots of stories we don't always explore.  At least, stories that I didn't explore since so much of this was before my time.
Twilight?  Not really any better re-imagined with a male in the lead role.  Ah well...

Lean In was a hard read for me.  I have not yet been able to articulate my response to this sort of feminism.  I'm still looking and waiting for the kind of feminism that doesn't require a looser. 
You can have the old patriarchy; women are for procreation not leadership and children need their mothers so they can't be spared for outside work. 
You can have the kind of feminism that was popular when I was being raised; telling women you can have it all, meanwhile the latchkey kids are the ones taking the hit. 
Then there's Lean In, which tells us that if we pick the right husband, make enough money, and find a good nanny, we can have it all - so cool - unless you're a poor woman, marry a schmuck, or accidentally hire a nasty childcare worker. 

Where is the feminism that makes sure the children have what they need, that men pull their weight, and where people (not just women) make family and childcare a priority?  (Last I heard it might be in the Nordic countries.)

See me going off on a tangent and blathering on?  That's why it's my blog.  

And aren't you glad you didn't have to listen to me while I read Lean In?