It’s Who I Am

Aug 14

It’s Who I Am

During this past regimen of chemotherapy (January to July 2016), I felt like I had the flu most of the time. The way that my body absorbed that particular drug was very consistent… I felt the same degree of side effects for almost that entire six month period.  I had treatment every Monday, and I didn’t feel major changes Tuesday versus Friday versus Sunday, neither was it dramatically different three weeks before or a month in.  Physically I wasn’t ever in an acute situation; I felt weak, nauseous, exhausted, achey and drained.  It was not debilitating but it was definitely a pervasive condition that affected the way I navigated my days.  There was never a window where I couldn’t function at all, but there also was never a window where I felt good.  A varying amount of grit was necessary at all times.  A six-month “flu” really is the best analogy I can think of when I try to describe it.  There were also other random side effects: hair loss was obviously one of them, but also weakening and detaching of some of my fingernails, and what I call “grip strength pain.”  Anytime I tried to open a jar, squeeze hard, or pinch, my hand/fingers burned like they were on fire.  Chemotherapy is weird, folks.  I just learned to adapt to all of it. I should add that I’m incredibly proud of the fact that I maintain my role as present and active mother in the lives of Maren and Greta.  They are (of course) my priority during the day, and I honestly don’t think they remember I have cancer very often.  They are used to my obvious symptom (baldness) and I fight hard to use my best energy for them.  As I plan and prioritize I know that I am doing mothering well.  Praise the Lord! It helps that I know the chemotherapy is my best medical shot at keeping the cancer at bay.  In contrast to the flu, where you want to get over it, I wanted to thrive in it because I want my body to be strong with and without chemo.  I always view chemo as a teammate, and that helps my desire to thrive (and...

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Robin

Jul 29

“Help” is a tricky thing, I’ve learned over these past few years.  Help is hard to define, hard to identify, often consists of a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of dynamic.  And, sometimes additional burdens end up being heaped on the “helpee” even when intentions are the opposite.  I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good helpee, and I say no when I don’t have the capacity to receive something or if what’s being offered isn’t actually helpful (despite the intentions of the offer.) As you know I’ve opened the door for “help” in various capacities over the past few years.  My mother-in-law (SuperGramma) has swept in on a few occasions to fill my shoes when I am bedridden.  A caravan of meal wagons are lovingly delivered: in each meal I see the personality and gifting of the person who created it.  My landscaping blooms with a cheerful memories of the day it was planted; it can’t help but thrive.  At this point there’s no question that my windows and my floors are more likely to be cleaned by servant-hearted friends rather than by me.  As a family, our fun moments are buoyed higher by the gifted-ness that is often bundled with them: a gift card, an experience shared, a sacrifice of someone else for the blessing of us.  I put a laundry bin of dirty clothes on my back porch and it magically returns folded and ready to put away. Most of the time help is like this, real and life-giving.  Occasionally, when I’m disorganized or over-tired or grouchy, help is exhausting… I overbooked in some capacity.  But I’m always learning how to receive better.  I think being a good receiver is probably as important as being a good giver.  Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself these days.   Good help allows me to be Batman.  As Batman, I become the best version of myself: my Jen-ness shines as I write, run, serve, and hope.  As Batman, I’m the hero to my children: the fun mom who says yes and plays with them and tapes the artwork to the wall and asks interesting questions.  As Batman I’m available to Brad: not distracted with a woefully long to...

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Ah, summer

Jul 27

Regular life goes on.  Cancer-centric moments are blissfully not the focus of my average days.  Sure, I make lots of allowances to accommodate the cancer treatment and impact on me… but I do not let that consume my thoughts.  My thoughts are consumed by the good things in my life.  Poor Maren has had a sore wiggly tooth for the past ten days.  She would ask for pain medicine to dull the ache, and she does not generally complain unless it is legitimate.  I had offered to pull the tooth and/or see the dentist if she thought necessary.  As we tromped down the steps after the swim meet on Saturday, she said with a sigh, “Mom my tooth hurts.  I think I want you to pull it out.  Is it wiggly enough?” “Let me see,” I said, and gave her tooth a nudge.  It was on the threshold of just wiggly enough where I thought I could pull it.  “I am happy to try to pull it when we get to the car, but I’ll have to pull hard and it will hurt.  So, think about whether you want to endure the acheyness of leaving it in, or whether you want to deal with the one-time pain of having it pulled, but then healing from there.” She nodded and gripped my hand as she contemplated this on the way to the car. Greta, always good for some comic relief, plodded along next to us, tired after a big effort of swimming.  “Phew!” she exclaimed, “Swimming Olympics are exhausting!”  Because Saturday’s meet was at the big indoor pool, she associated it with her most recent reference for indoor pools: the Olympic swimming and diving trials we watched on television a few weeks ago.  Love that girl, and I love that she thought she just competed in the Olympics.  Confidence pours out of Greta. When we got to the car Maren decided to have me pull her tooth.  I took a clean tissue, had her hold on to the arm rest of the car and squeeze.  It took two giant wrenching tugs, but it came out with lots of bleeding.  And sure enough, the root edge of the tooth looked like an...

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Reset

Jul 20

It’s scan day, and I’m tired.  I have to wake up like normal person on scan days, so I’m short-changed on sleep for two of my last three nights.  And my body knows this and is mad, but we’re making the best of things, my body and I.  The team in the nuclear medicine department was very apologetic about Monday’s mishap this morning, and I got a ten dollar gas card from the We Care team at the hospital as an apology for the inconvenience.  It’s all good; it’s not a real problem, after all. Last night I played Uno with Greta, Qwirkle with Maren, and then went immediately to bed.  Like I said, tired.  Sometime after I fell asleep but before Brad came to bed, Maren crawled up into bed with me.  She couldn’t sleep, promising that she wasn’t up thinking or worrying or stewing… her body just wouldn’t cooperate and let her rest.  She lay with me: her head on my chest, her body stretched down the length of me.  She’s so tall yet she still fits.  We had spent much of the day together and I reflected on her in-between-ness.  She’s reading Harry Potter, excited for school, nervous about camp, opinionated about how to spend her time and choices, worried about not knowing her multiplication tables well enough, and beginning her quest to define and decide her own identity.  After fifteen minutes she was asleep and I nudged her back to her own bed.  As I re-kissed and re-tucked her into her own cozy bed, she was full of sleepy but giant dimpled smiles and I gave a prayer of thanks that she was reset with snuggles and mama love. Greta’s reset button is pushed more frequently.  She’s so present, so intense, so full of ideas, that she burns out and needs time each day (several times a day, usually) to regroup, refresh, reset.  One such reset came yesterday evening after a full day of fun.  In the late afternoon she gave an adorable artistic presentation with my aunt.  Greta played the role of director, producer, narrator announcements girl, and was also the primary performer; my aunt was relegated to secondary performer and spent a fair amount of...

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Problem vs Pwobwem

Jul 18

When Maren was little she would talk about her “pwobwems”.  As in, “Mommy, I have a pwobwem.  I can’t find my baby doll.”  My kids make my life so awesome just by being themselves.  So many of my smiles start with them. My sisters and I have evolved her babyhood lisp into an ongoing joking conversation amongst ourselves.  We have come to define the difference between problems and pwobwems in our everyday conversations.  Problems are real, legitimate, life-interrupting things.  Pwoblems are inconveniences, slights, offenses, and worries.  Problems need to be solved or compensated for at the cost of something else.  Pwobwems can generally be eliminated with an attitude adjustment, forgiveness, and attention. It’s a great shorthand piece of conversation when sharing life with someone:  when we identify something as a pwobwem versus a problem, the person on the other end of the conversation has a better idea of how to best respond.  It’s good insight into the gravity of a particular situation from the other person’s perspective.  It also makes us laugh, so that is a win. Today I got up pre-dawn for my PET scan: an early alarm, donning a metal-free outfit, pre-rush hour drive to the hospital, two hours in the nuclear medicine department, a ritual post-scan morning, and meeting Brad at the oncology office to go over the results.  Life has been so busy that I think I only told about five people that the scan was happening today.  I’m operating a day or two at a time, and just didn’t get around to spreading the word as I usually do. It turns out that a sensor broke in the PET machine this morning during my scan; the results are incomplete, unreadable, and unreliable.  A repeat scan is needed, and these images are being scrapped.  Whatever is visible in the images can’t be counted as accurate because the “values will be off” due to the machine malfunction.  Brad arranged his workday today around the appointment, we buffered arrangements for the girls, and no one from the hospital called us to tell us what had happened: my team at the oncology office alerted us first.  All of this is highly frustrating and annoying.  I lost a half-day this morning,...

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