Friday, February 14, 2014

Parking Lot Friends


This week was a week of 'Events'. I turned 39 (yikes), a good friend passed from cancer and this time of year marks my own anniversary with cancer. Three years already - seems like yesterday and so long ago all at the same time.

Today we head out to say our final goodbye's to Kristin. A mom of young kids, wife, daughter, sister, and friend to many. Thinking of the great hole she leaves behind has got me remembering her. And I feel the need to somehow memorialize what she was to me. I know she was so much more then my few memories of her but if we each share how she touched our lives we get a picture of the whole of who she was.

We met when our girls entered kindergarten together. Our school was a small country school with a parking lot made for visiting. Quickly we got to know each other -- the newbies and the regulars and even a few teachers congregating by the fence waving goodbye to our kiddos as they bounced up the stairs single file. And we'd catch up on each others lives, happenings in the school, laughing and chatting but also sharing the hard things.

And when the school board decided to close our school we banded together and fought with all we had to keep it open. To keep our community intact. This was the first time I saw Kristin's never give up attitude. She fought and spurred us to fight to the bitter end. If nothing else, that time solidified friendships between all of us that have lasted in our hearts and I think will last for a long time to come.

It was with these parking lot friends that I shared my fresh diagnosis of cancer three years ago. It was one of the first times I had to say the words out loud and I chose these women to share it with. I knew I could trust them with my sorrow, fear, and shock. And they gathered around me like I knew they would. With prayers and meals and encouraging words at the crucial times.

I remember Kristin stopping me in the parking lot the next day, taking my arms and giving me a small shake while staring directly into my eyes.

"I'm leaning in," she said. "I know you are a private person and you don't always share everything thats going on but I want you to know I'm leaning in and I'm going to ask you questions and call you and give you hugs. I want to know how you're doing and what your doctors say. Some people say I'm a bit overwhelming so if I am you just tell me to back off." Then she hugged me and we went our separate ways and I never did tell her to back off.

She celebrated the passing milestones with me: surgery completed, chemo #1 finished, then chemo #2 and at the end, after a year and a half of treatment she dropped off a celebration gift she had been holding for me and we rejoiced that I was in the clear.

It was only weeks later that she called me with the news of her own cancer diagnosis. The shock and tears and the why's - It didn't seem fair - but as I tell my kids about 3 times every day - life isn't at all fair. So I moved from the supportee to a supporter of sorts. Sharing small bits of wisdom for chemo nausea (milkshakes) to the loaning of wigs and scarves (beau beau - stupid name but great scarves) and the commiserating of shared experiences.

Unfortunately her journey with cancer would not have the positive outcomes mine has had. And she is gone. My Fierce friend. Fierce in love - for her kids, her family, her friends. Fierce against injustice, Fierce in Life. She is gone and she will be missed by so many.


I'll leave you with a conversation that I had with my 11 year old daughter Ana just a few weeks ago:

Her and I were talking one day about praying for healing. She asked why she should even bother to pray that way - it never works. (to be clear - I think this was in regards to her own sore throat!)

I said, "You know Ana, I don't know why God chooses to heal some people and not others. That's going to be on my list of questions to ask Jesus when I get to heaven."

"You mean we get to talk to him and ask him questions - like face to face?" she asked.

"Yep. I think we do."

Without a beat of hesitation she retorted: "Well, that's going to be a long line up!"

I have to admit that I've never thought that there might be a line up in heaven to chat with Jesus - but she may just be right!

To my other Parking Lot Friends - I appreciate you more then you know.  Feel free to share your own memories of Kristin in the comments.

Friday, May 10, 2013

2 Years and Counting

Two years ago I was recovering from 2 surgeries and getting ready for chemo. I still had my hair. I didn't know what was in store for me. And wow - it was so very hard. The hardest thing I've gone through - physically and emotionally. Hard for Sam and the kids. Hard for my mom and dad and Sam's mom and dad. Just Hard.

I had my yearly scans in the past 3 weeks and I'm pleased to report there is no evidence of malignancy. Yippee! Along with my yearly breast MRI I also had a mammogram. I went back forth about having this scan. I've read many many many articles about the risks (it's radiation after all) and the benefits (it's helped detect early pre-cancerous tumours). My family doc supported me not doing it. He felt that I didn't need to be exposed to the extra radiation and that I was covered with the breast MRI but I couldn't say no to it. I tried but it left me feeling exposed and vulnerable. Crazy right? So I had both.

And they're clear! (Well - the mammogram report isn't back yet but I'm holding out hope it will give the same report as the MRI.)

I feel like I can breath for another year. I can plan for things and live.

But I also have felt a little bit down. Not all days are as positive and hopeful as this one is. Some days are a struggle. I struggle to get out of bed, to do normal activities. Some days I'm just sad or overwhelmed. Some days I lack motivation for anything. This spring I've had a hard time being the organized control freak that I usually am. I don't know what we're having for supper and I don't clean my house as regularly. Some days all I want to do is watch Grey's Anatomy on Netflix or read a whole novel. From what I read this is normal and while I'm grateful to be normal I'm ready to be sad less and joyful more often. But it's coming - I can feel it coming!

Monday, March 25, 2013

to savour: enjoy completely


Have been reading one thousand gifts and feel so heart swollen - tears threaten to break over at random times when I think of it. Her writing yes - but also the idea of gratitude being the catalyst for a fuller life. A life that savours. Isn’t that what I’ve been wanting? What most of us want? 

My tendency is ingratitude. Or at the very least a gratitude that is flippant and quick. The kind I don’t think about, not really. I love the authors idea that true thankfulness slows us down. And isn’t that when the savouring can happen? The growing, the intentionality?

It’s sort of like lifting your eyes to the sunlight, breathing deep, smelling spring. But every day. Even when it’s raining and grey and your floors need washing and the dishes are piling up and you haven’t done laundry for a week and you know you’ll have 15 loads (this could or could not be the case right now in my laundry room :).

It’s about finding the sun in the doldrums isn’t it? Learning to find the sun, not just being able to experience it when it magically appears. 

I have so much to be thankful for when I think about cancer and living. This week is 2 years since my first surgery to remove cancer and I am healthy and active and alive. But so many days I forget that I’m thankful. I stew and complain and give into frustration. I’m ready to learn to find the sun. 

I’m glad I overcame my prejudice against the overly marketed ‘next best thing’ and picked up this book.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Sun and Shield

For a few weeks now the words from Psalm 84 have been popping up everywhere. I'll think about them when I wake up in the morning, as I'm stressing about what to make for dinner and as I look out the rain streaked window - especially as I look out the rain streaked window.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield (vs 11). 

Often when it rains - and it has sure rained a lot around here these past weeks - I find myself rushing from my van to the house or to the grocery store, dodging puddles, praying I won't get hit by a car and that my hair won't have the little style it has rained out of it. My head is down. The world is grey. 

But on the odd day the sun splits through the clouds, all that changes. Rushing turns to strolling, I don't mind waiting for the light to change or the car to pass. I lift my head, close my eyes and feel the warmth. The sun can change me. Give me strength, bolster my emotions, even turn listlessness into energy. And I always take the time to stop and look up, to enjoy it, to feel it.

The Lord God is my sun and shield. So why don't I stop more to enjoy the Light. To feel the warmth of His presence on my face, to let Him infuse me with his strength, power, grace, love. I need to stop more for that. 

And the shield part? Well I sort of see that as the Lord God is my sun and my sunscreen. I could sit out all day under his glow and never fear of getting burned. He's the fire and the protection from the fire. He's all we need.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Awakening

This word, along with a song by the same name, has been on my mind lately. There are many things that have made me feel awake this past month: a family trip to Disney and along with that good connections, activity, exercise, being fully present in different moments. All very good. And on the heels of that, a trip home to my family for Christmas. So very good. Connections, time spent, relaxing, chatting, eating, chatting some more, eating some more. (my juicer is getting a good workout these days as we come down from the Christmas festivities!) I came home tired in body but refreshed in spirit. I felt very awake.

The kids and I arrived home on New Year's Eve. Sam had been spending the day at a conference called re:TURN and we joined him for day 2 on New Year's Day. It was the perfect way to bring in the new year. Letting God touch and restore, heal and revive different parts of my spirit and heart. I felt myself awakening.

God clearly spoke to me, through others and through my soul, some very healing words. And they really worked to bring me fully present with Life. I have dreams, hopes, ambitions and desires. But they've been on the back burner. Not even simmering, but getting cold and congealed and unappealing during the last few years. 'I have not forgotten you,' was one of the words that stuck out to me the most.  'i have not forgotten my plans for you, my purpose.' Those words were definitely awakening.

But lets be honest here for a minute. It's hard to hold onto those words constantly. To always feel like I'm moving forward. This week was back to the grind of school lunches, daily suppers, laundry, cleaning. And it rained - a lot. And I felt blue on more then one occasion. Like I have this opportunity, or even obligation, to really Live. I feel like I've been given a huge wake up call - Don't waste your Life! I know this and I want this but it often overwhelms me to the point of inactivity - so I'll just sit on the couch and read a book or watch stories on tv about people who are actually Living (even if it is fake!). And a whole week goes by and I haven't pursued a dream or even maintained one.

But I do feel more awake then ever. I hold onto the passion I know I have, even when I don't feel it.

Slightly shifting gears: I've wondered for a while now what this blog will become now that I'm cancer free and my life isn't taken up with the grind of appointments, treatments and tests. I'm not going to blog about any one thing. I'm into healthy eating but this won't be a food blog, I like decorating but nope - not enough to blog about it. I read a lot but I won't do book reviews, I'm learning to quilt but this blog won't be about that either. Every day is a chance to grow. Every day is a chance to be something different then you were yesterday. And I know that God is changing me minute by minute if I let him, if I'm open to that. So this blog will continue to be my journey through this life that I don't want to waste. Some days might be funny and light others heavy and sad. Maybe I'll blog about one topic multiple times while I process my way through it. Or maybe I'll jump around a lot. I don't really know :)

I guess we'll find out what this blog will become, together!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Milestones

I was discharged from the Abbotsford Cancer Clinic today. 

That feels like a milestone to me. I went to my Oncologist appointment knowing this would probably happen and didn't really think much about it. But as the day wore on I realized how great it felt to be done. Follow up is now with my family doctor. 

My Oncologist told me to go and 'Live your Life.' 

Alright then - I will.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fear Again: Part 2

Fear of death and disease are very real, tangible fears. Easy to recognize and therefore fairly easy to acknowledge and deal with. I've stated many times here on this blog and to friends and family that I choose not to let fear dictate my life. I choose to not fear but to trust God, not fear and Live.

So if I'm so adamant about 'no fear' in this area of my life what about how I live with fear in other areas?  It hit me the other day that I am not exercising my 'no fear' muscles when it comes to writing a novel, or  getting a job for instance. Fear is paralyzing me in these areas specifically and I think it's time I did something about it. 

But wow - it feels like this fear is harder to handle and I'm not even sure what to call it. Maybe fear of failing miserably, fear of what others will think of you or fear of being out of touch. It's so easy to just put it off for another day. Procrastination is one of my biggest problems. I'll clean the house rather then write, decide I don't have enough time before the kids come home and I don't like to be interrupted so I'll just wait till tomorrow. And then tomorrow something else happens and soon it's 3 years since I've picked up the proverbial pen and written anything more then a grocery list. Procrastination is just my unhealthy response to fear. 

Interestingly enough I'm not a procrastinator in all area's of my life. I plan meals early in the day, I clean my house regularly, I'm almost done my Christmas shopping, I don't like leaving things undone. Except for when it comes to creating. Maybe it's the fear of being vulnerable. Being creative is often a very vulnerable space. You are stating who you are through what you write, or what picture you choose to put on your wall, or the style of house you like, the kind of music that speaks to you, how you like to spend your free time, and those things are very personal. They speak about what's inside, they reveal what kind of person you are, what you love, what you dream about. 

This maybe goes without saying but often the things we fear the most are related to the things that are our biggest desires and dreams. I first started writing for fun when Zach was a baby. I love him so much but he was a very cranky baby and cried a lot (my mother in law liked to say he had distinct sides  - gloom to glory). And I had Ana who was not even 2 when her brother was born. It was a crazy time as other mothers will attest too. I loved reading and books so I decided I needed to do something for me, for my mind, for my spirit and I started writing a novel. And then I told a few people. In the beginning it wasn't a problem. I worked on it when I had spare moments and it morphed and meandered and changed from something terrible to something a bit more coherent but never quite right. 5 years into it I began to regret that I had ever said a thing to anybody. I dreaded the questions: 'how's the book? are you almost done? what's it about? I began to panic a bit. I was stuck somewhere in the middle of the story and couldn't find my way out and everyone expected me to be published by now! (at least that's how it felt). And that feeling of fear and panic did not help me to keep going. 

I'd go to writer's conferences and become motivated for a while and write every day (for about 6 months I even managed to get up at 5am and write till 7 when the kids woke up) but then it would feel difficult again and I'd start thinking about what would happen if someone actually read it, I'd get discouraged and stop for a while. And then, well, cancer wasn't helpful either. 

So here I am. Back at that place I was 2 years ago. And still wondering what to do about it. What to do with life. How to deal with that fear. Then there's the idea of getting a job. I've thought about it for a few months. My oncologist thinks it would be good for me. But my kids are still home by 3 every day and can't quite stay on their own yet and - oh yeah, I'm terrified. I started a resume a few months ago and even sent it to a friend to look over. It overwhelmed me. I mean, I haven't worked for 11 years. So that resume is gathering dust in my inbox. I haven't even looked at the suggested changes. 

Right now these fears of real life seem so much harder then fears of cancer. So weird, I know. But cancer was something I had to meet head on. I couldn't let it win. It was evil and yucky and not something I wanted. So I dealt and deal with that fear daily. But this? This fear of pursuing a dream? What do I do with this? What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if my writing sucks and is worse then anything anyone could imagine and I'm totally deluded? 

And now I've written a post for others to see that chronicles some of my deepest fears and insecurities. I must be crazy. Pressing Publish will not be easy. But I have this sneaking suspicion that I'm not the only one to feel and fear these things and in the spirit of moving on and dealing with fear...