My regimen(t)

Jan 15

It’s about that time: I’ve been on this drug combination long enough to understand how I feel and to get into a routine.  I’m on Herceptin (infusions through my port), Faslodex (shots), and Ibrance (oral pills); I like that these three are all administered differently: as I visualize cancer being destroyed, I like that I have a variety of pathways of attack.  I liken my regimen to my regiment: warriors for good. This combo is treating me really *really* well; I feel better than I have in two years.  Last winter I spent most of my days in bed, and this winter I have dusted off my recipe box, dumbbells, and bookshelf.  In a potent way, it feels like I am also dusting off my brain and my body: I’m asking both of them to function in arenas that I haven’t attempted in — literally — years.  One example is how different this holiday season was for us: Brad and I did the math and figured out that we served our combined families three hundred meals over eleven days when we hosted them back-to-back in December.  It is a big blessing to have the energy to serve; I’ve missed it. In seasons where I am sick from my treatments, I have spoken about the things that I give up: everything from cooking for my family to being in shape, from having a job to volunteering at church.  I’ve given up a lot.  I’ve also spoken about the blessing of this process: I have had the privilege of evaluating and holding on to only my most dear priorities.  I’ve had to pare down to the core essence of Jen, and fight for the things that make me feel the most alive.  I never do anything because I ‘should’.  Few get to be as fiercely intentional with their most valuable resource (time) as I do.  I get credit for this, as does Brad, and my entire village for helping us with a level of commitment that often overwhelms me. Now in this season of betterness, I feel I’ve gotten to pause and look around at the treasures at my feet and decide which ones I am going to pick up.  Ironically,...

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Dear December, we can only laugh

Dec 15

Dear December, we can only laugh

Evidence it is December: Greta’s teacher called me last week right when Greta got to school.  “Jen,” she said, “Everything is fine, but I just want to you to know that Greta showed up with two lunches (packed in two separate lunch boxes) today.” I laughed because what else can you do? I had just spent the twenty minutes between when Greta gets on the bus and when Maren gets on the bus running around looking for Maren’s lunch box and muttering like a crazy lady, “I know I packed it.  Where is it?”, said, “Ah HA!  I am losing my ever-loving mind.  Thank you for telling me where it is, and I sent Maren to school with a different lunch.  I was sure I was going to find it in the dryer or something.” God bless our teachers who take care of our kids and their mamas. — I went to wash my face at the end of a long day and looked in the mirror to find that I had only put mascara on one eye.  (My eyelashes and eyebrow hair color can best be described as ‘clear’, so it is a stark difference to have one eye made up and the other not.) Ooops.  That was an interesting look for a Tuesday.. — I went in to school last week and had lunch with Maren and her friend, we’ll call her Peppy.  Peppy joined us after she went through the lunch line, and the three of us sat down at a table.  Peppy was eyeing her calzone with a funny look, so I asked, “What’s with the look on your face; I can’t read what you are thinking right now, but it looks amusing?!” Peppy, “Well, my mom announced this morning that she’s not making lunches or doing laundry anymore.”  Peppy is eleven, and she says this with a deferential tone and shrug wherein I could infer that this was a long time coming. I pretty much burst out laughing, knowing daughter and mother as I do.   “Did you get a warning or a heads up or anything, or did this just happen?” “Nope, no warning,” she laughed and shook her head, “But I don’t...

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‘Tis that time of year

Nov 30

‘Tis that time of year

Tomorrow is December first, and our conversation at breakfast this morning was focused on elves.  Greta goes to a school that is all kindergartners and first graders.  There is not a chair in the school where the seat is above my knee, and it has the largest lost-and-found quadrant you ever did see in a school. This former high school teacher’s opinion is that it is basically a building full of minions and everyone who works there is a saint. The staff are amazing, the principal is everybody’s favorite, and it’s just altogether adorable. Many of the teachers — in their infinite wisdom about leveraging every resource to maximize learning — have an elf come to their classrooms in December.  I think this is awesome.  Last year an elf appeared in Greta’s classroom, and there has never been a more exciting thing to happen in kindergarten.  The first thing they did was vote on a name based on suggestions from the kids.  The winner?  Jenna Tinkle Winkle. Is that not the best elf name ever?  All month long I was regaled with tales of Jenna Tinkle Winkle and her antics. You know where this is going, right?  Greta still believes in all things Christmas (YAY!), and at the rate she’s going she might be like my sister and never admit that it’s not real.  Greta asked me this morning if an elf was coming to our house, “Because, like, every single person in my class,” she says with great weight and drama in her tone, “has elves in their house.”  This is so Greta; she has a pulse on her peers and knows what people think and say about all the things. “Huh.  Hmmm.  Erm,” I say, because I’m rapidly assessing whether I have the capacity and motivation to elf it up this December.  I’ve never elfed before, and I know it’s a whole thing. “Maybe I will write a note to the elf and put it under my pillow and tell her to come out,” she says nonchalantly. I blink. “Why are you going to do that?” “Mom.  That’s how I talk to the Tooth Fairy,” her tone full of authoritative knowledge.  “Don’t you think it is how I...

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Hard is good. Good is hard.

Nov 10

Yesterday (note: not actually yesterday, this just took me a few days to write), I had a bit of a tough day.  And I pushed through writing about it because it’s important to record the hard things too.  The warm stories make me smile, but I’m not whole without the hard too.  The best life lessons come the hard way, right? I’m physically feeling better.  This is fantastic for me, as I’m used to not feeling well.  The best short explanation I’ve found of living with chronic illness for those of you who really want to know what it is like is from Christine Miserandino’s The Spoon Theory (link).  It’s well worth the read, and I keep meaning to get a poster both for myself and some to donate to my oncology office and the girls’ schools.  In this season, I have more ‘spoons’ in my bank, and it is translating to a higher quality of life.  Yay!  (Read the story!  You’ll be glad you did!)  It’s so helpful to have the people around you understand what you are feeling. To have a bit of a reprieve from the ick brought on by my chemotherapy is like the first warm sunshine of spring.  It’s that wonderful. As one does when feeling well and whole, I decided to exercise, and was ready to do all the exercise things.  At least, my mind was ready.  When it’s cold, I work out at home in the basement with not much more than a balance ball, hand weights, and bands.  As I descended the steps my soul was applauding with praise that I have had no vertigo or nausea for a few weeks now.  Such freedom!  As I went from lift to lift and movement to movement, I transitioned from frustration to disappointing shock at my weakened physicality.  It’s not surprising, per se, but I was overwhelmed with sadness at my weakness relative to ‘before’.  I’ve always used words like powerful, fierce, and strong to describe myself, and yesterday I felt none of those things.  I seemed to grieve each muscle group in turn from biceps to hamstrings, from grip strength to overhead presses.  I was short of breath, and in pain, and...

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A happy heart and a great day

Nov 03

A happy heart and a great day

In the past few weeks, I’ve found these two notes around the house.  The first was written by Maren when she was having a tough moment: ‘Working on a happy heart!’.  She needed space and time, but her self-proclaimed goal was clear.  And I will sit outside the door and pray for that process — the ability to dig out of the hard space and into the light — all day long.  I love that she ended her beginning with an exclamation point: it says, ‘I got this!’  She declares her victory in the process, and so very often the process is the victory.  Proud Mama moment doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel when I see her emerge, transformed by her own slogging hard work to get to a good place in her heart. The second note is Greta’s.  She wrote down her goals (jobs) for the day: piano practice, homework night, dinner (yum).  In the box off to the side, the wrote, ‘Ready for a great day tomorrow.’  Even at six, Greta is clearing a path for good things for herself.  For a girl who loves control, she loves identifying what she can do and revels in her independence. In this note I see her learning to take responsibility for her own great days.  No one can give you a great day: it is a gift you give yourself.  Greta is a maximum kid: she does everything big, and I love that she sets — and raises — her own bar often.  That’s power, and pray over her all the time: Lord let her use her power for good. I wish upon you a happy heart and a great day today. ____________________________________________________________ Medical update: As you know, on Monday I was told I couldn’t start Ibrance on Tuesday as scheduled because my white blood cell count was too low.  (It was 0.8, and needed to be 1.0).  The team suggested I come in on Thursday for a re-check, and I told them would come in on Wednesday because delays in treatment are not my style.  My team goes along with my antics when they can and acquiesced to my bumping up the schedule.  And I asked...

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