Three Gifts of the Father.

By the time I became coherent and realized that, in fact, I had just had surgery and wasn’t really playing with random children at the beach, I was in my hospital room with Brian by my side. Everyone had kissed me goodbye and returned home, I was in a ton of pain, thirsty and hungry. It must have been the drugs because I was suddenly concerned about a white bag sitting on the counter.

“What’s that?” I grumbled.

“Your dad bought you a few things while you were in surgery.”

I motioned for him to bring me the bag. I lifted my bed up, focused, and watched as Brian showed me what was inside. The bag contained three gifts: a square, a stone, and a scarf.

A Square.

It was a flat, squared-shaped magnet, colored white and aqua that read, “Cancer Sucks. That is All.” Nothing speaks a greater truth. No matter where in your body or what kind, cancer sucks. It shakes your foundation and unsettles your soul. It is a logistical pain in the ass. It is very expensive. It’s scary. While I have no control over what cancer is or does, I can control the way I react to it or the way I deal with it. Some days I say this to myself and it helps; I mean it and believe it. Other days I laugh and laugh at myself, saying instead, what-the-fuck-ever sista; this shit sucks. Either way, it’s ok.

A Stone.

It was a polished white oval with gold script lettering that read, “Celebrate Life.” I have found there is no better way to do this than to sing at the top of my lungs along with Toto. I found so much joy signing ‘Africa’ the other day, tears actually ran down my face. I don’t know if it’s because I love the song so much or that I am so incredibly thankful that I didn’t lose my voice after surgery. When faced with the possibility of loosing it, having a voice really is something to celebrate. I could have also been just really excited to finally be alone in my car. I’ve celebrated by saying ‘yes’ to almost everything lately. Yes to staying up late, yes to new shoes, yes to cookies for breakfast, and yes to TV binges both for me and the kids. All of which is okay. Life really is great and so much of it is worth celebrating. As much as cancer does totally suck, it could be so, so much worse.

A Scarf.

There were actually two scarves, one hot pink and one aqua. We had planned a beach vacation prior to my diagnosis and were leaving 10 days after surgery. My surgeon gave me the okay to go but only if I made sure the scar was completely covered, protected from sun and water. I cannot think of a better way to accessorize a bathing suit in the middle of the summer than with a scarf.

I was nervous about the trip for a multitude of reasons but despite my worries, I found that burying your feet in the sand really does have therapeutic properties. Walking along the surf is often exactly what the doctor ordered. Laughing with your family while teaching your children the game of spoons (a game that has a very long history in our family) is incredibly good for the soul. Watching your daughter win the spoons championship is the icing on the cake! Or in this case, the cream on the pie. I had a slice of key lime pie twice a day, every day of which I do believe had a positive effect on my overall healing. Our Lady of Emotional Eating, pray for us. 

I wore those scarves everyday. There is no doubt people thought I was totally nuts. Picture it: black and white mod one piece, large brim black hat, and a hot pink scarf. If that isn’t the image of a high maintenance weirdo, I don’t know what is. Truthfully, if I had even one shit to spare, I still would not have given it. I wore those scarves with pride and let my flag fly. Be weird. That’s okay, too.

I discovered that my days were very much like the beach waves – some good, some not so great, some perfect. The important thing wasn’t so much the quality of the day, but that the water was continually flowing. Some days I didn’t crack a smile until 10am and other days I woke up laughing. The best thing I could do was give myself space to feel however or whatever I was feeling that day. An exercise in peace and patience….even now at home. Either way, good days or bad, it’s okay.

These three gifts turned out to be a true reflection about life for me right now. We are all going to have times that suck. There may be days, weeks, or months that suck, and it may be really awful, but no matter what, hold on to the promise that it will get better.  It will. Remember that there is always something to celebrate. Even the tiniest, smallest thing can be celebrated. Sing in the car. Laugh with your kids. Buy yourself the shoes. Have a cookie for breakfast. Let your flag fly. Be you. Be the best you, you can be no matter what. All of it is so totally, and completely okay.

 

#LTYM LIVE!

FINALLY!!

The videos from the Listen To Your Mother Baton Rouge show have finally arrived! I couldn’t be prouder of the show and having been a part of it. It was a true honor to share the stage with the other women and I hope to work with the show in some capacity in the future. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

I wanted to be sure the link to my closing piece had a permanent home here, on my blog, especially since this is really where it all began. Here, in all its glory is,  I No Want It.

 

XOXO

 

Just Ask.

So, I’m pretty sure you have figured out by now that I didn’t die. Thank the good Lord because that would have sucked so terribly bad. The days leading up to surgery were filled with stress and anxiety. To fix that, I decided to clean my house from top to bottom – steamed bathroom floors, cleaned windows inside and out, and washed basically everything in the house that was made of fabric. I can’t imagine how bad the cleaning tirade would have been had I not had the Xanax to keep my feet on the ground.

While stress and anxiety were completely expected, what was completely unexpected was my willingness to ask for help. How in the hell that happened, I have no idea. Look, I will be brutally honest, I make no effort to hide the fact that I’m a kick-ass working mother of two and wife who has all of her shit together. I mean, aren’t we all? The absolute last thing I need is help. No thank you, I’m fine. F-I-N-E. Right? F-I-N-E.

Well, maybe I don’t need help on a random Thursday around 10am but after a cancer diagnosis and pending surgery, more than likely, I do need help. In a big way, actually. Asking for it wasn’t something I normally did or necessarily liked to do. At all. But in this situation, there really wasn’t an option.

I first asked for help when I called that awesome receptionist at the Baton Rouge Clinic. I so wish I had asked for her name because she needed to be recognized. That woman was a true-to-form rock star. I’m still amazed that I did it but I actually accepted food from total strangers! Friends from church organized dinner for my family for over ten days. Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done without these gracious people feeding my family day after day.

I needed someone to watch my kids. All day. On a Wednesday. Throughout all of this my brother’s wife had said repeatedly to me that she’d help in any way. She offered to watch my kids numerous times so I took her up on her offer. I hated making the request – it felt like so much to ask! She immediately assured me that she would be there, just for me to tell her what time to show up.

The requests for help continued. I need ice chips. Please may I have something for the pain? Mom, can you stay at my house another night? Please can someone help me to the bathroom? What about something solid, like something that I can actually chew. Can someone please make that happen? None of this was within my comfort zone but I focused on my family – our children. If I didn’t ask for help now, I would not be able to help them later. It was for my own physical and spiritual good.

I can only blame it on the pain meds but I took this picture the morning after surgery:

IMG_5674

I call it my ‘proof of life’ photo. I survived the surgery and lived to tell about it. I never needed that emergency trach that sat ominously next to my bed, with a label “DO NOT REMOVE FROM ROOM!” I asked for help a million times and I didn’t implode. I showed the world that I couldn’t do this alone and not a single person pointed or laughed. It’s a good thing because I’m fairly certain that my requests for help will continue. I’m still not sure how to process what lies ahead.

Thyrogen…injections…levels…scans…levels…isolation…radioactive…ablation…

What I can process, though is the love that I see and feel around me. I can process how I much I love my kids. I can process how I feel about my husband who has been an absolute steadfast rock-of-life throughout all of this. (The next time any of you see Brian, please be sure to give him a high-five or a hug, or whatever you deem appropriate because the man has been AMAZING.) I can also process the fact that I’m ready and willing to do anything and everything to get well and be healthy, even if it means asking for help.

Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thanks for all of the help. xoxo

 

 

Love in Action.

We say it all of the time:

“I love you.”

“I love her.”

“I’m in love.”

Years ago before I was married my mother gave me some powerful advice about love. “Be Missouri. Make sure they show you.” She reminded me that the words are really easy to say, but it’s the actions that count. Love is a verb.

As mothers, it’s easy for us to love our babies and children. We cradle them, gently sing to them, rock them, prepare meals for them, engage them continually reinforcing our actions of love. We hug them, we listen, we pack lunch, we make them laugh. We show them each day how we love them.  I honestly haven’t thought that much about how this is expressed between adults. Romantic love, well that’s easy. What about ordinary, everyday love?

We see the true face of humanity; the wonderous good and dismally bad, within the space of two life changing experiences: 1) winning the powerball, and 2) a cancer diagnosis. I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing one of these experiences and it is through this that I have witnessed love as an action and it’s beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

Love is stopping me in the hall to ask how I’m doing and standing there long enough to listen to the entire, oddly crafted, winding answer. Love is sending a hand written note with words of support and encouragement. Love is praying with me. Love is sitting with me, crying alongside me while I worry out loud of the possibility of death. Love is laughing while hugging me and exclaiming, “But you’re not going to die!” Love is beautiful hand-made pajamas. Love is offering to watch my children and taking off work to actually do it. Love is calling daily and simply asking how I’m feeling. Love is reminding me that I am never alone. Love is hot food waiting at my door.

I don’t think I have ever witnessed a greater expression of compassion, love, and humanity as I have in the past few weeks. On the eve of my surgery, I don’t think I’ve ever seen love in such full and complete action. I feel it. Brian feels it. Our children feel it.

My deepest and most sincere gratitude to everyone who has reached out and truly loved our family.

Peace out! See you on the flip side…

xoxo

I Took a Xanax and Didn’t Die.

I’ve heard someone describe a cancer diagnosis as like being on a roller coaster. Some days you are up, some days you are down, and some days you are stuck hanging upside down dangling at the mercy of a carny and his willingness to hit the release button. There can be no more perfect metaphor; this is exactly what it is like.

After we met with my surgeon, I was up. Like really, really up. Brian and I both felt super confident with him and really liked his bedside manner. He covered every one of my questions and then some. He was willing to talk with me as long as I would have needed. He was very honest; told me that this type of cancer does like to come back. It’s possible that I will face it again down the road but the odds of me dying from it are seriously slim. “It’s likely not going to kill you. You may need more surgery or treatment, but the cancer won’t kill you.”

My mantra after that meeting was simply this: It’s going to totally suck, but it won’t kill me.

Just as I could feel myself climbing to the top of the roller coaster, thinking I was about to enjoy the view from my sky-high perch, I began the descent. The fall was swift and I could barely catch my breath. I call it anxiety because there really isn’t another word that accurately describes it. It’s really much more than that. It’s a total and complete breakdown of your normal physiological and mental capabilities. My fingertips would tingle and go numb. Sleep was elusive. My head felt like it was buzzing. I lost three pounds in as many weeks. When I did sleep it was hard; not hard like a good sound sleep, it was hard as if every muscle was clenched. When I would fall asleep, the pain in my shoulders would jolt me awake. I would wake up with sore muscles and aching joints. I recognized often that I probably had not taken a complete breath within the past hour. My chest burned.

I rode my bike. I weeded the garden. I helped Audrey sew a mermaid tail out of a deconstructed lab coat. Yes, we did this. Nothing helped.

The cancer I have may not kill me but the impending heat attack I’m about to have certainly will.

I called my surgeon and he was out. My primary care physician is out on maternity leave. My GYN is out of Fridays. I called the scheduling desk at Baton Rouge Clinic and all I can say is that those ladies are total rock stars. I tearfully told her what was happening and she kept me on the line while she called every internist in the building until a human answered. She’d been in the game long enough and knew better than to put me through to a voicemail.

I met with a doctor I’d never met before which only ratcheted up my anxiety. What if he tells me to suck it up and be strong? What if he thinks I’m crazy? What if he thinks I’m doctor shopping?

He didn’t think any of that. In fact, when I opened my mouth to talk with him and only tears came out, he assured me that I really didn’t have to tell him anything. He was there with me and for me.

The truth is, I’m not a pill person. I’m not really a medication person. I’d rather not take anything if I can help it. My progesterone cream is all natural and I buy it at Whole Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a nut, I use bleach to clean my toilets. I’m just not a big fan of medication. Honestly, it scares me a bit.

But this is different.

Basically all of my panties are big girl size so I did the right thing and popped that fucker before bed. I silently prayed that I wouldn’t die. I mean, how bad would that suck? I’m happy to report that, in fact, I did not die, instead….I slept. I slept comfortably and relaxed. I didn’t sweat all night. My joints didn’t ache. Praise. The. Lord.

It’s Saturday and we had to get out of the house. I desperately needed to get out of the house. I wanted to go to the zoo but I didn’t want to be a wreck the entire time. I (somewhat) confidently took a tiny dose and we all headed to the zoo. I didn’t die. I had fun. I smiled. I felt normal. Something I haven’t felt in a long time. Every time I checked I was actually breathing; full and complete breaths. Despite my fears, I didn’t fall into the Koi pond or end up inside the monkey enclosure, either. I was a normal mother, a normal wife, on a normal trip to the zoo.

I’m still not sure that I’m a pill person or love the idea of medication. But, for what this has done for my quality of life (and not dying from it), all I can say is praise sweet Jesus, Mother Mary, and any and all of the Saints that had a hand in creating this tiny, round, miracle tablet.

Peace out. (Like, literally, I’m at peace.)

xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Side.

“I just want to know. I can handle it, whatever the outcome, I just want to know. The waiting is the hardest part.”

Over the past few weeks I must have said this a thousand times to various people. I was sure that no matter what the doctor said, I would be totally fine, knowing I finally had an answer. In truth, the wait was brutal. An epic exercise in peace and patience. From 1:09pm on June 9th – 11:43am on June 20th I was like a walking, talking version of Schrödinger’s cat. Might be, might not be. All I desperately wanted was to be on the other side of the phone call.

The call came and while I certainly didn’t like the answer, at least I had one. I knew. My life was now all encompassed by the 99% certainty of eight, pap-stained direct smears interpreted by a pathologist. So why don’t I feel better?

While technically my wait for results is over, I am now faced with an entirely new wait. Here I sit on the other side of the call and I feel less certain, less secure, and less at peace.

I’m waiting to not feel crazy, however, under the current circumstances I don’t think this will get better. I laid in bed Monday night wrestling with my new reality and it hit me like a thunderbolt.

What if he gave me the wrong results??

That’s it! It made sense and seemed perfectly within the range of possibility. What if he was really trying to call Marilyn Lamont but dialed my number by mistake; and in a state of panic I just went with it? That would mean that Marilyn received my results that the biopsy was benign and I received hers! I feel bad for Marilyn. It’s going to suck so bad when she finds out that this was all a big mistake.

I’m waiting to get off this crazy train.

I’m waiting to meet with the surgeon. What if he’s a total goober? What if he doesn’t think I’m a nice person? What if he accidentally damages the nerves in my voice box and I can no longer speak? How can I live not being able to tell my children that I love them? Sure I can write it and learn sign language but they need to hear the sound of my voice! See what I mean?

I’m waiting to no longer feel afraid.

I’m waiting to know if surgery will be enough. I’m waiting to know if I will need additional treatment. I’m waiting to know if it’s in my lymph nodes. I’m waiting to feel secure. I’m waiting to feel like there is solid ground under my feet and I’m no longer tethered to the clouds trying to function like a normal person while I’m dangling from the sky. I’m waiting for certain people to do the right thing. I’m waiting to no longer feel scared.

I’ve read and often heard it said that of all of the worst that cancer is, this is the one that you want. Well, no one wants it of course, but because it is highly curable this would be the lesser of two evils. I get it, I do. But being on the other side of the phone call, I can tell you it’s not the lesser of anything.

I’m finally sitting right where I had longed to be and truth is, it still sucks. The wait is still there; I’m now just waiting for different things. All of this is currently unchangeable so I have to focus on the things that do make me feel secure; the things that do tether me.

My family is amazing. My mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law have been steadfast. I know that Brian cries a bit every time he hugs me lately and despite his fear and worry he is rock solid, compassionate, and always ready and willing to help slow the crazy train of my endless mind.

My friends have shown the greatest love and support and I am humbled.

My faith. I couldn’t get by without it. None of this makes a lick of sense but I’ll surely go even crazier trying to figure it out. All I can do is place this in God’s hands and pray that He will give me peace, cover my mistakes, and graciously forgive me when I yell, “Slow the fuck down!” to some lady while shopping at Wal Mart. Only He knows how human I am and eventually we all breakdown during a shit show. He also knows it’s OK because the bitch totally had it coming.

xoxo

When Our Pediatrician Treated Me.

My son is four. He is almost always happy and has the most infectious laugh. He loves to laugh, too. He’s affectionate and easily expresses his feelings; especially his love for me. For the past few nights he has not been himself. It’s like a switch right around bedtime – suddenly out of sorts, cranky, downright confrontational. To call bedtime a struggle would be an understatement. He doesn’t want to sleep because, “sleep is boring!” He won’t stay in his bed or room, engages in a standoff with me in the hallway, crying when I walk away. I know behavior, I know best practice and I applied all strategies. I offered hugs and love neither of which he wanted. I tried to ignore the behavior which only led to him attempting hand stands in the dark almost taking down my table lamp. He wanted mommy, then daddy, then mommy, then daddy, ad nauseam….

This afternoon Brian suggested we bring him to the doctor to maybe check his ears. I’m usually not that quick to make an appointment especially when there is really no sign of anything being wrong with him. But, we have had a long history of ear issues and he is known to have ear infections without typical symptoms. So with no hesitation I opened the app on my phone and took the last available appointment. Who in the world makes and appointment for 4:50pm on a rainy Thursday for a reasonably healthy child? Me.

She looks in his ears. Fine. She checks his throat. Fine. Tummy is great, too. She asks him some questions about what’s been going on at night and if he’s possibly sad, angry maybe, scared, or even just really, really tired. Of course his answer to all of her questions is ‘no.’ He’s super! I shift uncomfortably in my chair because I’m starting to feel embarrassed for taking up our doctor’s time.

This makes zero sense for me being here.

My throat tightens.My eyes start to burn.

She looks directly at me and asks, “How are you?”

Tears begin to stream down my face. She casually, yet swiftly ushers my son out the door and has him join the nurses to look through stickers and have a sucker.

The truth is I’m not ok. On May 12th during my annual exam my gynecologist found a lump in my neck. On May 18th I had an ultra sound. On May 20th I found out I have a large, dominant, solid mass in my thyroid. On June 1st I had my first appointment with my endocrinologist. On June 9th I will have a biopsy.

My words and tears fell freely as she listened. She offered me tissues and asked good questions. She gave me advice, both as a doctor and a mother. I felt overwhelming guilt; realizing instantly that William was responding to my current state of stress and anxiety. Of course I try to hide it but either I’m a horrible liar or my kid is highly intuitive. I’m fairly sure it’s both. She reminded me not to take on unnecessary guilt. She reassured me that no matter the outcome, I will be ok. William will be ok. We all will be ok. It was like a good, honest conversation with a friend that I desperately needed, only with a $25 co-pay.

It’s no surprise he’s affected. My current state is fragile. Sometimes tense. Often preoccupied. Worry. Lots and lots of worry. I worry for them, though, not really for me. I am perfectly content with the idea of removing any body part that may be plotting harm. If my thyroid is trying to kill me, take the fucker out. Besides, you haven’t been doing a great job of keeping my hair smooth lately so you can suck it on the way out. But for them, for a million different reasons, my heart aches for them.

I’m working on it. I pray often. I try to keep busy. I adopt huge ass pianos. Which, by the way, turned out to be a terrific decision for our family. I stare obsessively at my kids which freaks them out and that make me laugh.

I’m human and far from perfect and admittedly I see that while my kids don’t know any of the specifics, this is all affecting them in unexpected ways. They are resilient and I pray that this time in our lives will soon be a distant memory that only I remember.

For now, I focus on gratitude. I’m thankful for my family, friends, and faith. I’m thankful for my husband. He is more than I could ever ask for or imagine in a partner. Today especially, I’m thankful for being 41 with a really great pediatrician.

xoxo