I’m sitting here as the grey day softens into night outside my window. There is a candle burning, and I am warm from a long hot soak in the tub. Tonight marks an ending and a beginning. Three weeks ago, I underwent a major surgery. The doctor removed my kidney and the cancer that had invaded it. The pathology report confirmed his suspicion that the tumor was encapsulated and he was able to remove it all. For weeks, I’ve been home recovering my health, my strength, and my stamina. Continue reading “Receiving…”
It’s been a week since my surgery. Time seems to have shifted. The familiar cadence of my days abruptly slowed to a new more somber beat. The world has shrunk down to the size of my home. From the quiet of my front porch, we are enjoying the first signs of spring. Continue reading “In the gap…”
The other night, I sat with friends who have weathered dozens of life’s storms together and apart. We gathered in the aftermath of a wake. We had hugged a husband who was saying goodbye to the wife of his youth, children who had lost their loving mother, women who had lost a familiar friend, and a community rocked by a sudden loss. After we dried our tears and gathered our emotions, we drove off to a quiet space for dinner.
We sipped our wine and picked at our salads. Words can be hard to find when the weight of the moment overwhelms. Together we grieve, and separately we bear our own burdens. Each of us faces our own set of challenges, still we gather for solace and encouragement in this long friendship.
Eventually, the conversation pointed to me. I confessed my fear and my exhaustion. They offered words of encouragement and love. I know that these women love me. They have walked with me through a thousand days, maybe ten thousand. We’ve known each other for over twenty years. We have born witness to each other’s days of celebration and heartbreak for a long long time.
When my friend levels her gaze at me, she speaks right to my heart. “I was twenty-four years old when my two-year old son was diagnosed with brain cancer. Somehow, I knew what I needed to do.” “They told us to gather the grandparents, because they were not certain about the future.” “They did not know what they were asking,” she chuckled. “The chaos that ensued, was ridiculous. I was able to handle it because I had one job. I was going to take care of my baby.” She smiled at me, “but twenty-some years later, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt completely overwhelmed and lost.”
That made sense to me. I know that if this were any of my people, I would roar like a mother lion! I know how to nurture, protect, and defend. I know how to create calm and order when life gets out of hand. I have a very strong skill set around these things. There is no doubt in my mind that I would know what to do if this weren’t me.
But it is me. Just like my friend described, I feel a bit lost in this moment.
She looked at me and continued. “You have one job. You must take care of yourself. You must arrive at your surgery as healthy and whole as you possibly can.” Heads nodded in unison at this wisdom. Yes, that is exactly right. My job is to gather my resources so that I am as strong as I can possibly be when I face this surgery. Okay. I can do that.
I don’t even have words for the relief that these words have brought over the past few days. I have shared them with my husband and children. We must all come to this as strong as we possibly can. So, I am taking responsibility for my energy. I’ve cleared my calendar. I have scheduled a massage, and some time alone. We’ll be gathering for family dinner on Saturday, but I’m not cooking and they aren’t arguing. I am filling up my days with beauty.
I’m noticing. It is one of the things I know fills my cup, the simple beauty of the natural world. The buds on the trees outside my window are almost ready to burst. The green shoots are peeking out from the left over crusty snow, and there are periwinkle blue flowers growing along the path to my office. The smell of the mulch pile, the sound of the birds fighting or loving in the tree, the melodies of the music I’m playing on repeat in my car all soothe my soul and fill my cup.
I am so grateful for so many words of wisdom and love I’ve received over the past week or so. Notes, cards, text messages, and long conversations have tended my heart and soul. I am humbled and awed by the ways people have poured out concern and love. I am so grateful for so many. But for now, I will be guarding my calendar and my energy. I’m gathering strength and resources for the journey ahead. I have a job I need to do.
I find myself leaning back to last week when life was normal, May was just a month on my calendar, and I didn’t know anything about kidney cancer. In other moments, I feel myself jumping ahead, into a bright future where the results show the cancer is gone, the surgery a success, and my body is healed. In darker moments, winds of worry and fear lash as I consider other possibilities. It is harder, I find, to stay here in the murky middle. In this place where my future is unknown, my innocence is shattered, and there are a lot of days left to live before my happy ending. Continue reading “The view from here…”
Last night, I met my oldest daughter to catch up and spend some time together. She’s been away through a lot of the past week and we’ve missed each other’s faces through the phone calls and text messages. We needed to share a glass of wine, some time, and some tears. Continue reading “On my side…”
Since 1994, Keith and I have been keeping a list. On it, we rank the worst days of our life. This list was born on a very bad day. That day, we sat in Burger King slurping diet Coke and dipping fries in catchup, reeling after a day in court. We decided that although this was definitely in our top five, it was not number one. For us, the worse day of our lives at that point was the day our two-year-old climbed up the front of a TV and pulled it over on himself. The resulting head trauma, life flight trip, and time in the ICU were (and still are) pretty traumatizing. Continue reading “Our list…”
Two years ago, I sat curled up on my sofa thinking about Keith turning 50. “What. The. Hell. How can he be fifty?” I thought. I was stunned to realize how quickly we had gone from being the young ones… to what are we now? Our kids are the young ones. I am still floored to think of all the years that have flown by as we raised our kids, reached for new dreams, and you know, lived our lives. I became aware that winter of time running by very very quickly. My response was to do something! There isn’t anything I would do to change the years we’ve shared or the time we’ve spent raising our family and chasing our dreams, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things I still have left to do. Continue reading “50 Before 50- A Recap…”
I landed in March, completely exhausted and depleted from the travel, the turmoil, and the grief of our fearsome February. March is my birthday month. One of my favorite months of the year… except for the weather. And yet, instead of filling up my calendar with fun events and social outings, I found myself carving out white space on the calendar. Long slow evenings at home, slow Saturday mornings, and Sunday afternoons set apart for rest have been the slowly refilling my cup. Continue reading “Better in March…”
Turning fifty has me in a reflective mood. In celebration of my birthday month, I’ve been rereading old journals and making note of the ways I’ve grown and developed over time. In this thoughtful state, I’ve put together a list of things I wish I’d known when I was 25. Half a life ago, I was a young mom, with a five-year-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a new born. We’d very recently had a life changing event, when our 2-year-old fractured his skull and had to be flown to the nearest Trauma Center. Life was about to get even more scary, and the tumultuous time ahead was already the thing I feared most. Before my 26th birthday, Keith would get hurt at work, we’d lose our financial footing, and spiral down into a darkness that I feared we would never find our way out of. Continue reading “If I knew then…”
A couple weeks ago, my family pulled off an epic surprise. To be honest, I didn’t believe they had it in them. We aren’t that good at surprises, and I particularly hate being surprised, so it hasn’t been something we’ve practiced over the years. But, they pulled off a beautiful party and gathered so many of my favorite people. I was totally blown away by the love and attention poured out that night. Continue reading “Birthday girl…”