Reminders

My first inclination is to look at my girls. They’re so young and innocent in this picture. They have their whole lives in front of them to do with what they please. The eldest has a smile and sparkle in her eye that light up a room, and while you can’t see it in this picture, the youngest’s giggles were contagious, her expressions, priceless. They were, and are, my everything. And I am so lucky to be able to share these adventures with my husband.

And then I see us in this picture. We look like babies ourselves. And while from this picture you may not see the toll that my cancer took on our family, I know it’s there. Next month marks 16 years since I was diagnosed. 16 years. How is that even possible? But in the same breath I can tell you that it seems like a lifetime ago, until situations pop up and all those emotions and fears jump back to the surface. Emotionally, I am currently in pop up mode.

About two years ago I was having biopsies done for my autoimmune/inflammatory disease. I have the slash in there because the medical world is constantly fighting over if Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease or an inflammatory disease. And when I say constantly, I mean constantly. To the point of when I go on my support page on fb (because damn, you need support when you have this disease) they have started arguing over the same thing. How about this? How about we focus on trying to find a cure for the disease and find treatment that doesn’t make you feel like shit all of the time, or make you gain 50 pounds, instead of wasting time fighting over if it’s and autoimmune or inflammatory disease? Let’s start there. But I digress….

Back to the biopsies. I never worry much about the results of the biopsies because they always come back as Sarcoidosis. Until one day, they didn’t. The doctor called me to tell me that an area where I had radiation from breast cancer tested as having atypical cells. Now to clairify, atypical cells does not mean it’s cancer. They are just different. But also to clairify, it does increase the risk of turning into cancer. And because of the radiation, I am at risk of developing angiosarcoma http://sarcomahelp.org/angiosarcoma.html (in case you want to read up on this tricky type of cancer). When I heard the doctor say something other than Sarcoidosis, I could feel all of my nerve endings jump. Just these tingles going through my body, throwing my back to 2004 when my cancer journey started. I felt my brain go into to hyper drive. Could I go through cancer treatments again? Did I even want to? And the girls. What do I tell the girls? And how will it affect them? And what do I do about work? Do I work through it all again like last time? But this time my job is very physical, could I even do it? That is just a snippet of what my brain went through within minutes of hanging up the call. The only information I had was the my previous oncologist was going to be contacted and an appointment was going to be set up with him. Back to the Gonda building, floor 10 at Mayo. This was all surreal. And painfully familiar.

I saw my oncologist, whom I absolutely love and trust 100%. And there was a plan. The plan was to do nothing. ??? While every fiber in my body just wanted the rest of the area that contained more atypical cells to be removed, and after a lot of back and forth in my mind, I understood why. If you remove all of the area that has those bumps of atypical cells, there is no way of knowing if they are changng. Accepting it was hard, and still is. Knowing there are some little cells in my body waiting to do something, or nothing at all, sucks. The unknown sucks.

After a while the little bumps I felt on my skin went away. The saying of out of sight, out of mind holds true. Every once in a while I would feel around for them and as the time went on of not feeling anything, so did the fear. Until yesterday. I found more bumps and it was just a reminder that these atypical cells are hanging out in my body. I honestly believe that one never gets over that fear after having cancer. It can lay dorment, and you may not think of it as often, but it’s there. I am trying not to focus on those bumps, but it’s hard. So I write about it, to get some feelings out, and in time I’m sure I’ll go back to not checking for them daily. That’s all I can do

Something to Aim For

This is Mary and I. She is on the right. Sadly today was Mary’s last day of work. We have worked together for what seems like a long time, but in reality, I believe it’s only been 2-3 years. When Mary started she was eager to do things right. And in doing things right, she tend to move a little slower than the others. At first this frustrated me. I couldn’t understand why as time went on her speed didn’t increase as well. But then I got it. She wanted things done right the first time and to make that happen, she moved at a pace which allowed for that. In thinking about it, I believe her taking her time to do things correctly probably saved time since we wouldn’t have to catch her mistakes and fix them. Because she is human, there were slip ups now and again, and not that I encourage people making mistakes, but I loved when she did because I would get the usual response from her, which is “Ugh! I’m such a goober!” A goober! She called herself a goober and it made me laugh every time.

Mary is a person that we all should strive to be like. She admits her mistakes and corrects them with with a smile. She cares deeply about people and really wants to know how you’re doing. In the years that I have known her, I have never known her to talk about anyone, or talk bad to anyone. She is always positive and that thankfully rubs off on people. She works hard and is willing to take on most challeneges, again, with a smile. Part of my job is to go through time cards and approve them. Mary struggled when she first started with remembering to punch in and out. Pay period after pay period I would have to hunt her down and find out the hours she worked and adjust her timecard. Every other Monday you would hear me yell “MARY” through the warehouse, and she knew right away what I needed. So she decided to give herself a reminder…….

This was taped to the outside of her locker and her punches became more consistent. Today, she unfolded this after taking it out of her pocket, and said that she wanted me to have it and that there was a nice note on the back which basically said “I think I forgot to punch back in after lunch”. How could I not laugh? Mary’s note is now hanging on the inside of my locker, which will be a daily reminder for me to be more like her. Mary was well loved at work by anyone who came into contact with her. Her contagious laughter, her bright smile, and her warm heart will be missed. Today we had a hotdish cook off and potluck to send Mary off in the way she deserves. I wish the best for her because she deserves it, but mostly I hope she stays the goofy goober that she is and visits often.

More Than They Know

This is one of my favorite pictures of the girls. They say a picture is worth a thousands words, but this picture, I can hear it. The eldest was hitting the tickle spot on the youngest, which in all honesty doesn’t take much. But to hear the laugh and see the fun they were having was priceless. As kids they played together and I loved listening to them playing make believe, and making their stuffed animals “talk” and the laughter. My gosh, the laughter. Fast forward to about a month ago, where now the girls are 17 and almost 16. The laughter was sparse between the two, and in fact at times they were downright hostile and mean. So much so that sometimes I had to leave the room because not much hurts a mother more than the people they love hurting each other intentionally.

( That’s just for cuteness value and to show that they really did enjoy each other.)

We sat down quite a few times to discuss their relationship and to allow for venting to each other. I had hopes that they would get all of it out and on the table and be able to start fresh from that moment on. But without fail, things would change for a week or so and it would be back to the fighting every time they saw each other. It was exhausting, draining, sad, and disappointing all at the same time. But then came last month. The eldest was sitting on my bed and we were talking and the topic of her sister came up and she voiced that she just wanted a relationship with her. I stopped the conversation and brought in the youngest explaining that we were talking and she was mentioned and I didn’t want to talk behind her back. I started the conversation with, “Your sister desperately wants a relationship with you”. And from there, the ball rolled. But this time, it wasn’t a vent session, it was feelings layed out instead. There were grudges that were being held onto tightly, and we decided that to move forward, each of them had to be willing to loosen the grip on the grudges and let them drop. They agreed. Now, I have been through many conversations like this with the girls but I upped it this time. I told them that if they chose, they could go out together just to hang out. If they wanted to go out to eat, I would give them money to do so. Same with a movie, etc. As long as they were spending time with each other, to almost get to know one other as young adults, I would pay for activities they chose to do. They both seemed up for it, and last night was one of the times they spent together. They came home laughing, giggling, and even though I was half asleep, we all got into my bed and talked about the night’s adventures. And they laughed more and showed me pictures and as I sat there listening to them I saw what looked like dare I say, a friendship.

And just like that, after so many attempts, it finally seems like maybe we’ve taken two giant steps forward. Do I love that fact? More than they know.

Every Day Masks

“In a world where everyone wears a mask, it’s a privilege to see a soul.”

That it is. And if you are lucky to come across people in your life where they feel comfortable enough to share their soul with you, don’t let go. Because in life, masks are abundant. From people you come across in the street that you know (but dont really “know”), to co-workers, to people in church or school, everyone has a mask they hide behind. The reasons vary why people feel the need to not let themselves be exposed. Fear of being perceived as weak, fear of getting hurt, lack of trust, insecurities, guilt, the list goes on and on. It’s a way of keeping ourselves feeling safe. We don’t want to let others in for numerous reasons, and each person has their own. And I get that. But sometimes people wear a mask for self serving reasons and that can do more harm than good. It can affect more people than you know and not in a positive way. It can create an environment that is less than pleasant, and leave people around you wondering what in the hell just happened.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes that mask slips off, unbeknownst to the person wearing it, and a sliver of truth oozes out. And if you’re fast enough, you’ll see it, whether it’s a positive ooze or a negative ooze. What you do with that information is up to you, and certainly depends on the situation. Just keep in mind that while some masks are innocent, there are just as many masks out there who are looking to do harm, looking to make you the bad guy, looking to shoot you down to try and build themselves up. Those are the masks to watch out for. Those are maybe the souls that aren’t quite the privilege to see.

Clear

I took this photo a couple of years ago. I was amazed at the sight of this tree, the magic of bridge in the back, the steam rolling off the river, the color of the sky and the hoar frost on the tree. I could look at this picture all day. While the steam off of the river obscures the view of some of the picture, the crisp blue sky above is just so clear. And that my friends, is the opposite of how I am feeling right now. So I will continue to look at this picture, hoping that things will become clear to me soon. That is all I wish for right now. #soulsearching #clearasmud

How I Know I am Getting Old and How to Stop it

Ok, so the whole stopping it part may be slightly exaggerated. Or not true at all, because we all age. We may not like it, or maybe some do, but it happens to the best of us. It’s natural, it’s empowering, it’s exciting, it’s….exhausting. I don’t know about you, but I spend an awful amount of time debating if I should just suggest to everyone that they have cereal tonight for dinner, or do I make a trip to the store. Cereal wins. Hands down. The thought of manuvering a cart around people and objects and trying to be polite when I’m dead tired and just want to sleep is exhausting in its self. Ah yes, getting older. It’s not for the faint of heart. But there have been other things that happened that have proved to me that I just don’t know much of what is going on anymore, and in a lot of cases, why.

For example, technology and all that goes with it, a lot of times just elude me. You would think that being part of the generation (Rock on Gen X! Or don’t.I don’t care) that witnessed technology explode, that I would know more and be able to keep up. That would not be true. I do know that when I was finally able to enjoy the perks of email in college, I did it. A lot. Even if it meant I was writing one sentance to a friend and logging off. That was of course after having to wait for a computer to open in the lab of the dorm basement. Curse those people who were actually using the computers for real things like term papers! I needed to let Dana know that our group of friends were going to meet at the football field to play tackle football in the snow. Or that we were going to walk around the area we termed “the loop” for the thousand time. Or that we were going to go to the Stars and Stripes family cafe where we would buy a soda and maybe some bread baskets because that was all that we could afford. Very exciting stuff, that email. Now, I sit on my little lap top doing whatever, and my kids will say “Mom, if you just press blah blah blah, it will blah blah blah”. And by blah blah blah, I mean I don’t understand the shorcut they are try to teach me so I wave them off and take the long way. Probably not as efficient as I could be.

But it’s actually the smartphone apps that throw me the most. SnapChat. I don’t get it. How is it that much different than a text? I know that things disappear after you post them, but seeing as that people can screenshot them, why bother? The filters…ok, a lot of them make me laugh. I can’t deny that fact. And when Nadia and I woul do face swaps from the hair books in the salon, I did laugh until I cried. But other than that, I don’t seem to have much use for that app. And you can tell that by how I tend to leave things unread there. Sorry Toni!

Tictok. The mere fact that I had to look up if that was one word or two and, extra bonus, come to find out it ends in a k shows my age. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a phone shoved in my face by both of my beautiful daughters and heard “look!” Or “watch this!” And most of the time I do watch. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I furrow my brow in confusion, sometimes I shake my head, but a lot of times after watching I just say “why?” I just don’t understand a lot of what people ae posting.And for the love of God, why.

My body makes weird noises when I stand, and even weirder noises come from my mouth. A grunt/groan type of thing. I used to stay up late doing whatever, now, I look at the clock and it’s 9:00pm and woah…I better think about turning in. And the mere fact that the distance between this year and 1990 and 2050 are the same….well, that’s just crazy talk.

There are a few of the things that I have noticed that tell me I’m getting old. Throw some of yours down in the comments and let’s commiserate together.

Dedicated

It’s been almost 27 years since I met Dion. That means I have known this man for over half of my life. 27 years is a long time ago, but in the same sense it feels like just a few years. Time is a weird thing. Short times can feel like forever, long times can feel like moments ago and time can change a person. Either for the better or for some, the worse. I am lucky to say that time has done great things for my husband. He’s been at the same company for over 20 years, moving to different departments, offered great opportunites to grow, and he has. His dedication to his job shows in the work that he does, and he is a great role model showing work ethics for the girls.

And while I admire that factor greatly about him, what I admire even more is what he does for us, his family. With having an inflammatory disease and a job that some days physically drives me in to the ground, he steps up. And not once has complained. Well, at least not to me and I wouldn’t blame him in the least for venting to his friends. He works hard and I’m sure gets exhausted picking up the slack that I can’t do some days. His number one priority has always been his family. Sometimes a little on the overprotective side, but I hear about way too many parents who don’t care what their kids do, or with who, and I would rather parent with a person like Dion any day than a parent who doesn’t give a shit. Much to the dismay of our kids, who may feel at times that he goes overboard, I’m sure one day they will understand too. You, know, that ah-ha moment you have as a parent when you realise that no, your parents weren’t trying to ruin your life, they just loved. And worried. And wanted you safe.

But lately, one of my favorite things that this guy does is every morning he makes lunches for the girls. And every morning he writes a little name card depicting whose lunch is whose. He is getting creative in the cards and the one above is one of my favorites thus far. I’m sure the girls look at them and shake their heads thinking that they are an awful lot like a dad joke (which he happens to love and have plenty of). But the day will come when they are no longer in our house and I’m sure will miss the goofiness of their dad. But more than that, I hope they will see the unconditional love he has always given them, the support, the advise (sometimes looooong drawn out advise), and the extra things he did to put a smile on their faces. But most of all, I hope someday they can share their life with a person who does the same for their family.