Spring round up

May 15

“Your hair!”

That’s what people I see around town yelp at me when they see me.  “Your hair!” they say.

I’ve been growing hair since last July, so it has grown out into a normal-looking short hairstyle.  My cancer status is once again anonymous to strangers.  (Many people incorrectly assume you are healthy if you have hair.)  Also, seeing a formerly bald person with hair is quite a shock, hence the yelping.  It is nice to go outside in the hot weather with no hat and to not have my head get sun burned.  A small thing, but it’s significant to me.  Wind in your hair is a wonderful sensation.

This month I also have some purple/blue streaks in my hair.  Maren turned ten in April, so she and I went to our salon on March 31 where we she had the peekaboo streak of hair behind her right ear colored turquoise.  I decided to go teenybopper and get color in my hair too.  Now that I’ve been bald a few times over, you can’t really scare me with hair style/color.  What started as purple has now faded to blue and it has been a playful spring ‘accessory’.  Maren liked doing something bold and gutsy, and it was fun to see her dimple flash as people noticed it and commented.  She endured a little bit of unpleasant teasing at school about it, and she turned that into a good experience that tested her moxie: she likes her hair, and that’s what matters.

Spring has been busy: Maren turned ten(!), Greta turned six(!), and we only have seven more days of fourth grade and kindergarten.  A new game is playing “Hogwarts”.  They wear old black graduation gowns around the house (hilarious on forty-two-inch-tall Greta), write amazingly creative and ingenious spells, and make both their imaginary worlds and my real world better with their games.  Maren made a broomstick (the Anderson 4,000) out of paper, tape, and leftover school project wooden rod supplies.  Greta wheels a mini suitcase around with her magic supplies and all of the stuffed owls in the house.  I haven’t been writing much because I have been both prioritizing other things and dealing whatever is ‘on fire’ now.  The girls are delightful little people, and so sweet in their unique ways.  Greta is still really into yoga, and Maren just finished up a really fun volleyball season.  We can’t wait for summer when they can stay in their pajamas and have play days.  It’s official that the long languishing days of babyhood and toddlerhood with no plans for the day/week are behind us.  I sort of miss them, but I knew they were fleeting and soaked them up when they happened.  Now it’s on to new, bigger adventures and I’m excited for a summer of creeking, hiking, playing, and everyone carrying their own crap when we go places!  We’ve unofficially started our summer bucket list:

-Maren wants to learn to cook spaghetti and make meatballs.  We plan on finding the recipe, taking her to the store to do the shopping, and letting her do all the kitchen work.  Go Maren!

-I want to teach the girls better table manners — lol.  We plan on setting a formal table with all of the superfluous place setting items that you get at a formal restaurant, learning how to fold fancy napkins, and teaching them etiquette in a fun way.  Pinkys out!

-Fondue dinner.

-Picnic in the neighborhood roundabout.

-Greta is determined to run her first 5k.  Last year Maren and her friends ran one, and I didn’t sign Greta up because I thought she was too young (my mistake, obviously).  Two of my friends ran with the gaggle of pretweens (I was too weak to run at the time); we cheered them on, and as they zoomed past us with 300 meters to go, Greta charged off and became part of the race.  I hollered after them, “Friend! You’ve got Greta now, mmmkay?!” and she just gave me a thumbs up as she ran off in pursuit.  I’ll never forget Greta after the race, “That was so easy!  I didn’t even train!  And I ran FAST!  It was awesome, and I am an awesome runner!”  She had no problem bragging even though she ran only five percent of the race.  The other pink faced girls who worked for their medals just let her go with it.  That’s Greta though, and she is awesome.  It’s time to let her run a real 5k.

Last year we watched a friend prepare for and compete in his first triathlon, and both Brad and I felt interested and challenged.  On Christmas morning, Brad opened up an envelope wherein I had signed him up to compete in a triathlon in June.  (I was nervous to give it to him because it was kind of a double-down challenge — I hoped he would be excited!)  Brad has enthusiastically jumped into the sport, and I’ve actually been in awe at how quickly he is improving in the three disciplines.  The training and preparation for such a feat is no joke, and Brad has been diligently training for the past five months.  I have been so proud of him!  He’s had fun, and it’s been inspiring to watch him.  I love that our girls are growing up watching him do this, and I just wish I could do it too.  It’s very much a family affair, and making us oh-so-ready for some summer family adventuring.

My sister is still making and selling her Happy Thought Bubbles, and I always have a lot of inventory stored at my house for locals who need/want some.  At the request of some teachers whom we’ve gifted Happy Thought Bubbles to, I brought a bin of bubbles in to a couple of the local schools, left it there for a few days, and let teachers ‘shop’ easily at school.  That’s a standing option, so if anyone wants me to bring a pop-up Happy Thought Bubble shop to their home or place of work, just let me know.  I’ve got it all set up and in my trunk, so it’s easy to do.

Because I haven’t written for so long (sorry about that!), everyone wants to know ‘how I’m doing’.  So: I’m calling this chemo “medium”: it’s not terrible, but it’s not easy either.  I’ve been getting this drug every Monday for the last twelve Mondays, and I’ve been slowly feeling ‘better’  as the weeks go by.  Drugs “wash out of” and “wash in” your body so it takes quite a while to assess how you are going to handle any changes.  Over the last three to four weeks (as the prior drug is now — I think — washed out), I’ve felt a marked physical improvement from the side effects.  (Very few of my symptoms are from the actual cancer; most are from the drugs that are keeping the cancer from growing.  As ever, I love these cancer-killing drugs despite their side effects!)  I started walking and exercising a little bit.  My brain is operating better, akin to the lifting of a fog.  I celebrated the end of feeling like I had the flu for eight straight months.  I started to think about how I can use my newly gained hours in my week and decided to start small-but-big: I’ve been working on spending more quality time with Brad — if I “miss me”, I imagine he “misses me” too.  Brad really has loved me so well through all of this; I want to make sure I’m doing the same for him.  It’s easy to get busy, so I’m trying to get busy in the order of my real priorities.  It’s nice to feel more Jen-ish, but it also makes me want more more more.  I’m trying to continue to streamline and strategize to live both a very full life and a very efficient life; it’s a niche that not many people can relate to, and, honestly, it’s a bit lonely in this niche.  As I’m navigating, I’m stop-starting a lot: taking on more than I should, and backpedaling to recover.  Everything has been neglected, the big things and the little things, so I’m trying to bring things back in the right order.  Hopefully I’ll land in a sweet spot of doing today (really really) well for a good long stretch.

One evening last week I went for a walk/run in my neighborhood.  Halfway through I was feeling like I might not die, so I decided to make my distance a 5k (3.1 miles).  I also decided I was going to finish it in forty minutes.  Darn if I didn’t finish it in 40:07: those seven seconds have been pissing me off since I did it.  It’s a good example of how I compensate for still being “Jen” whilst accommodating the hardship of my circumstances: a forty-minute 5k is hardly brag-worthy, but because it was my goal, it’s the seven seconds I’m mad about, not the forty minutes.  I plan on running another unofficial neighborhood 5k this week and you KNOW I will make it well under forty minutes.  Having self-competition and the ability to physically move again has been a blessing, and I am hoping that it continues.  For a while there, I was so weak I couldn’t stand up very long, and I jokingly-but-honestly said that my strengths these days were “One, napping, and two, going out to eat and talking with people,” because doing anything else was simply too strenuous for me.  I’m glad that particular season is over, and I’m hope-hope-hoping I stay feeling as well as I am now for weeks and months to come.

The support for our family has been so essential for me to cope with my side effects.  With summer coming and the change in schedule and season, I’m going to be making some changes to the care calendar and I’m currently thinking on what help I need and how to organize it.  It’s burdensome to still be asking for help — both Brad and I wonder if we should keep asking for help with meals, cleaning, etc.; we are afraid we are taking advantage of the deep generosity of our village.  It’s also been five years that we’ve all been doing this, so I’m grateful to those of you who have stuck with us, served us, and loved us so well.  One of our great wishes is to spread as much love as we have been given.

8 comments

  1. Karin /

    You keep asking! It is a blessing to others to bless you and yours. It takes the focus off self and small things and puts it where it belongs – on others and the big picture. So happy you’re walking/running and summer is coming! Enjoy that wind in your hair my friend!! Love you.

  2. Penny K /

    “It’s easy to get busy, so I’m trying to get busy in the order of my real priorities.”

    THIS spoke to me. It’s important. And its reality for pretty much all of us.

    Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom. Unintended possibly. But oh so very wise.

    <3

  3. Dave /

    50 years!

  4. Newbie Friend /

    Your table manners focus reminds me of when we were raising our family, we would tell the kids they were going to get sent to the “school of etiquette in Connecticut”.
    It was only when they got to be teenagers that they realized there wasn’t really a school by that name. It was a little motivator that worked.
    Sorry that the last months have been so hard on you. Glad that you are gaining strength and prioritizing your energy and time. Continued prayers!!!

  5. "Another Jen" /

    The “Anderson 4000!” OMG!!! I want to meet her. Mine are Hogwarts-bound as well.

  6. annie /

    I’m glad to hear from you again. Because of your recent side-effects I always worry that you aren’t feeling well when you don’t write. Obviously you can just be busy living your life like everyone else. Which is the point, after all!!

    Your wish has been granted. You spread as much love as you’ve been given. You can relax. :)

  7. Cindy Mitchell /

    Jen, you sound amazing.. I love the story about the hair.. You should have posted pictures..Good luck on your running.. Keep up the great work..Take care and you and your family have a great summer.. Great to hear from you.

  8. I’m not there to give in-person help, but I know *I’m* glad that it’s been 5 years, because that means five years of Jen being Jen with a village that loves you so very much.