Saturday, October 7, 2017

Don't wait.




I love these pictures. Adam walked the entire Race for the Cure in Omaha eight years ago, while I was pregnant with the twins.

Ten years ago, a self-check revealed a lump that was diagnosed as breast cancer. Two surgeries, chemo, radiation, years of medications and scans and blood tests and on and on...The possibility of never having any more children was real and hurtful. Being curled up on the couch, in pain from what the chemo was doing to my body. Attending my 10 year high school reunion in a wig, and flying home early the very next day to receive a chemo treatment. Serving as a bridesmaid in my best friend's wedding wearing that awful wig. Having a plane full of people look at you strangely because you're wearing a germ mask. They're wondering what's wrong with you, what you might be passing on to them, totally ignorant of the fact that you're worried about what they might be passing on to your worn-down immune system. Cancer treatment is no walk in the park. I did everything I could then to fight it so that I could look myself in the eyes in the mirror and declare I had done all I could, should it ever show itself again. 

But deep down, I knew...I always told those closest to me that somehow I knew that wasn't the end of that disease for me. I just felt like we would meet again...it was inevitable.

Life took us to Japan, where we were blessed doubly with Anaya and Audie. Anaya's name is actually of Hebrew origin, meaning "God answered." He surely did by giving us the gift of more babies after my treatment. After they were born, I inquired about having some permanent surgeries done to put a nail in the cancer coffin. Being where we were geographically, it would have been a logistical nightmare, so they offered to watch me very closely, and they recommended I request surgery upon our return to the U.S. When we arrived in the D.C. area, and I was referred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I was optimistic about reaching a more permanent solution. However, I was met with resistance from my assigned surgeon (a female), who felt I was being "drastic."  She didn't know what I knew about our inevitable meeting that would happen again...But I allowed her to shut my intention down. I continued getting my mammograms and bloodwork, but stopped pursuing what I knew I needed to pursue. Don't do that. Advocate for yourself. 

Sixteen months ago, my annual mammogram looked like it had paint splattered across it. Not just one questionable spot had appeared since the prior year's - a dozen had. Those spots were later determined to be well on their way to cancer, but I didn’t let them get that far. This ugly scan gave me the leverage I needed to demand a different surgeon and plead my case. I elected to have a bilateral mastectomy because I was completely not interested in having cancer in my house again. Side note: in the 2.5 months between the biopsy and surgery, the lesions has already grown significantly. The surgeon actually said I was "a ticking time bomb."  The past year has been a tough one, with the mastectomy and three additional surgeries to reconstruct safer alternatives 😉, repurposing my fat in the most creative ways. It has left me tired, sore, uncomfortable, sometimes unreliable, absent, and often in need of help. But it's left me LIFE. 

There have been plenty of days I have cursed cancer and pain and drugs, and counted and recounted my 37 scars...but there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t been thankful for modern medicine, and its ability to see what we cannot see. I thank God for  guiding me in this journey, for providing the assurance I needed when making this decision, for blessing mankind with a brain so marvelous that it can INVENT. I thank scientists who have dedicated their lives to finding a cure, and doctors who have dedicated theirs to pursuing the treatments that might get us closer. It's no doubt these days, cancer is everywhere. It is an ugly beast and if you let it, it can take a lot from you. But armed with knowledge, preventative measures, and a kick-ass spirit, you can put up a heck of a fight and you can protect yourself.  I beg each and every one of you women: Do not wait until tomorrow to do that which you can do today. It could literally kill you. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Silver and Gold


There is an old scout song that starts out "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold."  Like most women, I need good friends. The kind you can laugh with, cry with, eat chocolate with, drink wine with...the kind who know a lot about you and love you, anyway. And I need some of those friends to be where I am, physically. I have platinum-level friends that have known me practically my whole life, and I know I can call on them when I need to. But having a circle of friends - a tribe - that can actually come over or go to dinner or just pass by on a daily basis. That's what I require. 

A common exclamation around this time of year is "I don't know how you do it! It's so hard to move!" And I always remark that I'm a collector of friends. It's not easy to move, sure. It's hard to leave people that I've built relationships with. However, it makes my heart glad to know that I can travel practically anywhere in the United States, and in a lot of overseas locations, and I have a friend there. It's pretty cool to think about it that way! 

When we moved here to Arlington about 3.5 years ago, I remember being really optimistic about meeting new people. But after about six months, I just didn't feel like I was developing any real relationships at all. I was disappointed. Even a year in, I felt like I had some friendships, but they were rather superficial. But somewhere along the way, those seeds took root and grew in to oaks, and it is once-again hard to leave. At the start of this school year, I invited a few neighborhood moms/friends to come have coffee at my house on Friday mornings after we dropped the kids at school. It was the highlight of my week. Sometimes we prayed, sometimes we cried, sometimes we celebrated a birthday, sometimes we grieved a loss, most often times we laughed, and every time we loved. We watched a baby grow thru her first year. It was never anything fancy, and it was never forced. Come if you can, come as you are, and just be with people who love you. It was such a joy to have my dining room full of women I love every Friday morning. 

Today is the last day of school. Ranger and I walked the kids to Ashlawn one last time. When I got home, I was suddenly overcome with sadness, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why. It's been an emotional week of goodbyes and "lasts". Then it hit me. It was Friday morning, and my tribe wasn't here. My table was gone. My dining room was empty. My house was quiet. It wasn't the way I loved it at all. And it made me sad. But then I remembered how I felt that first year - as though I just wasn't going to be able to make any friends here. And reflecting on that now, as I hold these new friendships close, brings me hope and joy. Sometimes friendships, like wine, just have to age a little before they're really good. And now, as we leave here and head to a new area, I'll take these now "gold" friendships with me. And I'll look for some "silver" ones to add to my collection.

Thanks for the memories, Arlington, VA.


Last Day of School



After AJ's 5th Grade Promotion

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Day at the Park

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone takes the time to make a list - mentally or written - of everything you have to be thankful for. I'm willing to bet it's a long list. Don't forget that!

(This is me not addressing the fact that I haven't blogged in SEVEN months)

Y'all know we got a dog, right? Ranger. He's a Texas Blue Lacey, 10 months old, and completely a turd. But we love him. We are thankful for him, even. He is comic relief every day, and a gentle reminder of my Dad. When Mom took Dad's dog, Pearl, to the breeder, she wanted nothing to do with the stud he paired her with. Instead, she showed interest in another dog - named Buster. If you're new to my life, I'll fill you in: My Dad's nickname was Buster. So, yeah, we had to have an offspring. Enter Ranger. There are lots of puppy stories between then and now, but I'll just share one from yesterday.

Our home in Arlington has zero yard. It's tough on kids and dogs. Luckily, we live just two blocks from a great park, with a great fenced-in soccer field. We have been taking Ranger to the soccer field since we can let him off the leash to be a dog and run wild for a little while. So yesterday, we bundled  up and walked down with a tennis ball for him and a football for the kids. After a few minutes of playing, the kids got warm and took their jackets off, throwing them in a pile on the ground. We continued to play, and eventually the whole family was tied up in a game of touch football. I use the term "game" very loosely. For a few minutes, Ranger was playing along. But he got bored, as puppies do, and he went to smell the rest of the field. Including the spot where the jackets were piled. Just about then, we were in between plays in our game, and I hear AJ say "I'm pretty sure Ranger just peed on our jackets", followed by Alan confirming "Yep, I think he did."  Nice.

So we made the kids jog home to stay warm.

A day in the life...Just living the dream!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Overheard...

Adam telling Grandma "I'm probably going to be an Artist when I grow up, not a professional tennis player."  Perfect.  I'll clean out the basement and keep it ready.

Anaya telling Dad at breakfast "Daddy, im going to be a cheetah when I grow up."  When Daddy explained that a cheetah was a cat, she was totally appalled at his apparent disbelief in her.  "I CAN be a cheetah when I grow up if I want to!"  Dad replies (because sometimes we can't help but argue with them) "Cheetahs are big cats.  You are a human.  You are going to be a lady like Mommy".  She replied "No, cheetahs are really fast humans"...this went on a couple of minutes and she finally just resolved to pouting because she just really wants to be a cheetah when she grows up and her dad has crushed her dream.  It's like he forgot about that cat lady in the Hunger Games.

That's all!