The Prolia ad

Wouldn’t it be grand if there was a handbook for life? Along with Dick and Jane, it would be required reading. Just as Pete shows Sally how to hang upside down on a hammock, we would know exactly how to do life.

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We might know just what to say–and when–to snarky people; we’d be able to act in socially appropriate ways when confronted with unforeseen events; we would parent flawlessly; we would handle medical emergencies with knowledge, poise, and flare; we would, indeed, be fully prepared for every single situation thrown our way.

Now, I know what you are thinking. There ARE handbooks for life, and you would be correct. A simple Google search offers many. Some come with free shipping.

handbook for life_I stand corrected.  Or, do I? 

Let’s imagine that scenario, the one where there is a how-to book with specific, no fail instructions for life.

  1. I wouldn’t have landed on my caboose when Cory pulled my chair back in Sunday school. Did I have a bruised ego and hiney? You bet, I was standing in the front row.
  2. I would have done the right thing when grade school buddies encouraged me to pick a lock with a piece of plastic. The plastic broke, the lock was jammed, and I had to write a letter of apology and, front and center, read it to the entire class.
  3. I would have had better judgment in matters of the heart and not allowed a certain relationship to sizzle long after the flame had died.
  4. I would have “read the writing on the wall” and quit a certain job; I spoke up–I stood up for myself and refused to be a doormat–and told the truth; it infuriated the boss who let me go.
  5. I would have spoken up in many other situations had I known it was the best thing I could do.
  6. I would have known how to better evaluate friendships–I would have paid attention to the signs–such that I would know, without a doubt, who and who are not real friends.
  7. The HUGE life lesson I learned the hard way–that NOTHING others do or say is ever about you–would have been learned a lot sooner.

I learned and grew from every single situation above…because I wasn’t prepared. 

When we think of having a how-to book, let’s face it, how many of us would read or consult it when most needed? Can you remember the Dick and Jane stories, right now? Are they memorized? No. Life happens too fast and too hard, and we’d never be able to recall or consult in a given moment.

We aren’t supposed to know ahead of time how to do everything perfectly. I’m guessing most would agree that we were meant to suffer and experience hardships, to learn, and to grow from our experiences. We were also meant to experience joy, love, and the beauty life also offers. We were meant to experience it all.

We don’t grow from reading about how to do life; we grow from experiencing life, when it makes us feel and think. What I choose to do with my growth experiences is my path, my journey, and so, when I heard the Prolia ad this morning, the one that said “Life is full of make or break moments,” it emphasized that there can be no life handbook. We are on our own.

Sure, there are books about living our best life; see the one above, for example, offering 52 tips for happiness and productivity. Yet, I haven’t come across a book about how to prepare for brain cancer. There isn’t one, and there is no handbook for life.

Knowing that we cannot always be prepared for life and realizing that we are all in this same boat is liberating. The saying, “Relax! No one knows what they are doing,” brings smiles for its truth. What does that leave? It means doing the best we can.

meme_make or break_jillian michaels-

Caring for my husband with brain cancer may be the hardest thing I’ll ever do. I also know that I can and I will.

Life’s hurts and pains are when transformation occurs. They require us to leave behind our comfort zone. It is the very place our minds and hearts are stretched. We begin to think differently, we realize things we hadn’t thought of before, and we are now aware of aspects of life we hadn’t known before. Certain truths emerge, others fade. Appreciation takes a front seat. If not before, now is when love settles into the heart.

Unasked for, yes, but pain brings growth.

Pain is where the light enters.

meme_the wound and light_rumi

The situation

“Perhaps the very best question that you can memorize and repeat, over and over, is, ‘What is the most valuable use of my time right now?’ “

~ Brian Tracy

One evening years ago as we’d just sat down for dinner, the phone rang. My husband answered. It was our oldest son who, two weeks prior, had graduated from college. He and two buddies had gone camping in central Oregon. After some preliminary catch up, the rest of us heard a pause in the conversation. We noticed that my husband suddenly looked concerned after asking, “How are things going?” The next thing we heard was, “A situation?

Our son had called to tell us there was a situation.

That evening was Saturday, May 10, 2008, the beginning of Mother’s Day weekend, and the next day, my birthday. Our son had called to say he’d been in an accident, assured us he was OK, but that he needed to have surgery soon. He’d broken his jaw in two places: the worst was center front, a clean break through his chin, and the other, a compound fracture, next to a lower molar.

Accident?! Broken jaw?! Surgery?! A situation?!

We learned surgery would be early Sunday morning, May 11. Our son had been bumped down a notch on the surgical priority list. Another young man whose leg had been badly broken was deemed more urgent; his surgery would be that night. Our son was stable, not in pain, and all considered, a pretty lucky young man. His surgery would be first thing the next morning.

We drove to Bend early the next morning while our son was having his jaw repaired. It was my 49th birthday. Situated in a ski area, this hospital is known for its great emergency care. We arrived just as our son had been wheeled to his room.

There are many things I’ll never forget about that weekend. Our son was treated exceptionally well and healed nicely from that day. The two buddies acted quickly and responsibly. The accident did not involve drinking or driving. The injuries could have been much, much worse. The kindness shown to us by one of the buddy’s parents won’t be forgotten; they offered us their camper to avoid a hotel bill. It was an interesting way to spend a birthday, and I’ve since asked all of my children not to do this or anything of the kind ever again (but especially on my birthday). One family joke that emerged from the experience has been our son’s use of the word situation during his description of his accident.

And there it is. The situation.

Sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected situation. We must act and behave accordingly, the best way we can. We sometimes are forced to make decisions quickly, we stay in places we otherwise would not, we meet people we’d never have met if not for the situation. We learn to take care of ourselves with the help of others, and sometimes discover kindness in places we would never expect.

I wasn’t the birthday girl, my role was mom and all I could think about in those moments. Our son was released from the hospital with his jaw wired shut–this lasted for eight long weeks–and lots of instructions for how to prevent choking, vomiting, and how to cut open the wires should either occur. Our drive home was long; dizziness was possible, so our three-plus-hour commute was deliberately slow. Food and diet were drastically altered to accommodate our son’s needs. Follow up appointments were made with doctors and oral surgeons.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t know what to do. A situation can feel surreal. The most valuable use of our time was to do the best we could for our son during those weeks. We learned what we needed to do and we acted. Right now, my time is best used caring for my husband. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, but I do what I can. Each situation requires I put on my big girl panties and do just that.

One thing I know for sure: I will always smile when I hear the word situation.

meme_perspective

The glioblastoma wife-6

Last week was very busy.

Bruce had an MRI and we saw the neuro oncologist (NO).

Last month he began what they call 5/23.

He takes Temodar for five days straight. That is followed by 23 days off.

Temodar is chemo in pill form. After what oncologists call the SOC (standard of care), patients then move to a higher dose. Standard of care for Bruce has been two craniotomies (where the surgeon goes into the skull to remove a tumor, or to drain a brain bleed or hematoma), chemotherapy, and radiation.

Labs are drawn twice over the final week, and after his case goes before the tumor board of oncologists, the next step is decided.

The “less than one centimeter” sized spot they are watching has improved. It has not grown in the last month, it now has a dark center, and perhaps the very best: there is no blood flow now to this area.

Cells need a constant supply of blood in order to divide and grow. That the spot is the same size indicates it’s probably dying; that the center is now dark indicates it may be necrotic (dead).

Words fail to describe the relief, the immense relief, of that moment.

The next step is a higher dose of Temodar. The specialty pharmacist delivers it to the house. The first, SOC dose was 140 mg/day. Now he will try 400 mg/day.

He starts today.


On the lighter side:

When vacuuming on Saturday, I saw in a corner something dark and rounded, something curled up. It could be a leaf, I thought.

I accidentally caught the dark thing in the head of the floor attachment. Uh, oh.

As per usual, I unhooked the next sleeve up in case the object freed itself. We have a central vac system and I wanted to avoid a blockage farther up the line. I reached inside the attachment with two fingers to remove the thing, and was pretty proud of myself when I was able to pull it out.

Did I mention I was in the mudroom, where we keep two cat litter boxes?

Uh, huh. You get the picture. A 59 year old woman who should know better, I found myself standing there with a cat turd in my hand.

It was a fairly fresh deposit, I realized, as the odor permeated the air in front of me.

I stood there, holding a fresh calling card in my hand, staring at the thing. My mind wandered:

I’ve had cats my entire life. Old turds don’t stink, I knew, and started thinking about old turds versus new turds. Somehow the smell mostly dissipates when a deposit isn’t fresh. I then wondered how a turd found its way across the room from the boxes. Was it deposited there, or was it played with? Had Otis and Gandalf played a friendly game of kick the turd? 

These are cats, I told myself; a turd could be found anywhere in the house. I recalled that Otis was feral but has never had an accident in the house. I trained him myself. Gandalf has a history we know nothing about, but was completely box trained when I brought him home. He, too, has always had perfect aim. This was perplexing, until the absurdity of my thinking registered. As I stood there asking myself these questions, I started to laugh. 

I was still holding the thing.

I don’t think I was spotted holding a turd, talking to myself. If I was, no one has said a word. Bless them.


The sun is shining. It might snow tonight.

My hair is full of electricity.

The rash on my face is fading (with a little help).

I’m sleeping more each night (with a little help).

Bruce is working every day, swimming most days, and driving.

His NO said he’s as “strong as an ox.”

Life. Is. Good.


Blessings and thank you for reading. ❤

No doubt

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself.”

~ Alan Alda


There were times as a dental hygienist I thought I couldn’t be effective. 

Before I met my firstborn, I had reservations about being a good parent. 

Recently, I’ve felt I could not go on, move forward, in the life we now lead. 

In every situation above, I proved myself wrong. When I think back over certain situations or events, I am left to wonder: How did I do it, how did I pull it off, what specifically did I do to get through a situation?

DENTAL HYGIENIST

As a hygienist, I relied on my training and later, my experience. The longer I was a hygienist, the more confident I became as an effective caregiver. One expects this might happen, but what about dealing with very difficult people, bosses and staff included? There were many challenging patients whose advanced disease made treatment very difficult, and many whose personalities made it equally difficult.

I’ve met a rainbow of personalities in the course of my career. During difficult times, I tried my best to do the right thing, do my job, stay away from drama, to not gossip, to be friendly and helpful, and go home peacefully at the end of the day. I stood firm when I felt I’d been wronged. There were challenges I simply felt I could not endure, but I did.

In the end, I relied on education and personal ethics, and who I’ve become because of both.

PARENT

My sister came up with one of the greatest strategies of all time when it comes to parenting. She used to tell her children when they asked for something she didn’t want them to have that it could not happen or be true because “It isn’t in The Parents’ Handbook.” To children everywhere, put that in your pipe and smoke it!

When I think back on various times parenting my children, I am reminded of strategies used on me but also on personal goals. I am the recipient of wonderful parenting because I have/had wonderful parents. Lessons don’t die. My goal to teach early (be firmer with them when they were young) and then let them fly, worked. My sister and I are very proud of the people our children have become (if we do say so ourselves).

The principles I speak of come from within, and what has become ingrained in me.

WIFE

I’m in the midst of a situation that requires me to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. I’ve had to call on parts of me that may have collected a bit of dust in the recent past.

  • It requires courage unlike any I’ve known
  • It requires quick thinking, the ability to put fear aside, and to act quickly
  • It requires I think in emergency mode, at all times
  • It requires I carry on, no matter how difficult
  • It requires I speak up and loudly if something seems off
  • It requires I be our own best health advocate; I’ve taken on the big guns
  • It requires I be watchful, 24/7, and/or whenever I’m awake
  • It requires I be present, in every single way, day and night
  • It requires I surrender, because I have no choice
  • It requires I trust; those who know me well know this is hard for me.

Every single point above is not easy for me. I’ve been stripped naked for all the world to see. I’ve never felt more vulnerable. So, how have I done it, how have I managed to function effectively as the wife of a man with brain cancer every day since September?

For each of the top three scenarios, I survived and managed because I did not doubt myself. Yes, I questioned, but in the end, I managed and acted and thought and did because something told me I could.

Deep down, I knew I could do it, I still know I can, and that is what propels me forward. I don’t know how; I just know I can. As a hygienist and parent, I have relied on me. I can do it again.

No doubt.


meme_doubt


Blessings and thanks for reading. ❤

The very best good

I visited my doctor last week. After my exam we talked. She asked how I am doing. She knows my world has turned dark.

I shared with her my coping mechanisms. Calm, a motivational site on Instagram, has been most helpful. A quick burst of cheer and positivity, it also offers thinking messages. I’m rereading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, an inspirational resource. He discusses a valuable “lesson” about seeking approval. Ruiz pointedly says, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It’s because of themselves” (and I believe his adage “Don’t take anything personally” should go right up there with Thou shalt not kill. Is that an oxymoron? You’ll have to read the book).

My doctor said it sounds like I am staying positive. I told her that while this has been most difficult, I know that one day, the sun will shine again; it may be a long while, but it will shine. It doesn’t mean I am happy my husband has cancer. It means that I am looking for the good, and if there is something good, I will find it.

So when I saw this little meme the other day, I knew it was meant for me. Is my husband’s cancer diagnosis what I wanted? Is it what I needed? Oh, HELL no, but it may be what someone else needs. 

meme_not what i wanted_maybe what i neededMaybe someone out there needs to hear my words. Maybe someone can learn from our experience. If you’re familiar with my previous posts, you may remember that Bruce did not have typical symptoms of glioblastoma. If I had missed the odd behaviors and had not acted, he would not be here right now. This is a powerful message.

Is anyone witnessing odd behavior, confusion, and forgetfulness in a loved one? Have these all hit at once? Are there body weaknesses? Are they in a fog? Are they sleeping a lot? Are there financial mistakes? Do they say they are fine when you ask? HAS YOUR DOCTOR TAKEN YOU SERIOUSLY?

Would I have shared this message had it not happened to Bruce? That isn’t how life works. It often takes tragic events–our own or those that happened to someone we love–to find our voice and act. The brutal realness of life may propel us to come forward. Isn’t this often what we see? Mothers of children victim to gun violence become public advocates for gun safety, for example. Cancer isn’t what I wanted, but maybe sharing and speaking my truth fulfills needs, for me and through me.

This is the something good, the very best good, I can see right now.

The “best” brings into focus Ruiz’s lesson mentioned above. Speaking my truth is about me, even though it may be difficult to read what I write about cancer. It may be upsetting to learn how it has affected our family and countless others. Cancer is ugly and my words may be raw.

These aren’t good reasons to be silent. That helps no one.

meme_impact vs approval

Got it. Thanks, Tim.


Blessings and thanks for reading. ❤

Mr. Big Boy knows

They say pets know. They can tell when their master is ill, or when something is wrong; they seem to have a sense about what is going on in our lives.

I have to say that with our Russian Blue, I agree.

cats_gandalf on my shoulder_feb 2018Meet Gandalf, otherwise known as Mr. Big Boy. He’s tipped the scales at 18 pounds, but after several conversations about heart health and exercise restricting his food, he’s now closer to 15.

Gandalf has been a member of our family for three years. I spotted him in a shelter snoozing on a chair pad. Oblivious to his surroundings, I approached with caution. When I saw those emerald eyes, I was hooked and didn’t hesitate long before bringing him home.

Here’s the thing about Gandalf. I AM his person. He follows me everywhere, and is either on my lap or curled up at my feet. He waits by my recliner, sits next to me during mealtime, and whines when I’m gone. He demands attention when people come and go, and seems excited or nervous, as if it’s unsettling. He cries for kibbles when anyone nears the kitchen. He behaves like the resident dog. Our Mr. Big Boy is very chatty, but usually with and because of me.

Until recently, Gandalf never jumped onto Bruce’s lap. Not ever. Bruce isn’t a “cat person.” Not a “dog person” either, Bruce tolerates our furry, feline friends. I believe they know they aren’t his thing, and because they know, they gravitate towards the one my daughter calls The Cat Whisperer.

Imagine our surprise when Gandalf broke the ice.

This video makes me laugh. Gandalf stayed even though Bruce watched the news and did not pet or engage Gandalf in conversation. The most Bruce did was raise his hand.

I saw the wisdom of Gandalf’s ways and believe he knew exactly what he was doing.

img_20190113_0839492871302482811.jpgI suspect he knows far more than I’ve previously acknowledged.


Meet Otis, Gandalf’s little brother. Otis was a feral, born under our house. The day we captured him he was three months old. He weighed 2.4 pounds, was dehydrated, had low body temperature and an infected eye. That same day he bit my finger. He likes to sit on my chest. He attacks Gandy (and people toes) whenever the mood strikes. We have a love/hate relationship. He’ll be three this May, and can be a real sweet cat when he isn’t being a turd he’s half asleep.

I doubt he knows what Gandy knows about people. He usually runs for the hills–my box of scrap fabric in the upstairs sewing room–when people come over.

I probably shouldn’t underestimate him. He’s dumb like a fox.

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Blessings and thank you for reading. ❤

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