Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trying to Unwrap Patience

May 31, 2011: First, I have to say that I have always felt blessed to have a holiday birthday. I grew up thinking the annual trip to the cemetery with buckets of lilacs and peonies and gladiolas were to celebrate ME; the picnics and the parades and the barbecues were the added icing on my cake. I was actually sad when the powers-that-be changed Memorial Day to a Monday - no matter the date - because that rubbed out MY holiday! Hallelujah that this year's date fell perfectly smack dab on my day again...I needed that extra burst of celebration, especially since the picnics and the barbecues were out of the question. An added silver lining was that the radiation treatment center was CLOSED! I got a three-day break! Can you hear me sighing with relief? I may not have been able to chow down on a juicy burger and chips and dips, but my heart was buoyed by flowers and cards and well wishes and hugs and kisses and precious gifts and phone calls. I have the best family. I have the best friends. I have a great life, all 52 years of it.

Today, I was back to treatment with a plate of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (I could only eat a couple...I wanted to eat the whole batch!) for my great team of technicians and doctors. I also got to visit with Dr. Avizonis and ask her about my newest side effect - BLISTERS on the right side of my tongue! I couldn't fall asleep last night for the pain - do you realize how much you move your tongue around in your mouth? Try it right now. Close your mouth. Sit still for a few minutes. Does your tongue automatically start searching your teeth and your gums and the sides of your cheeks? Now, imagine you have tiny little SORE blisters along the side of your tongue that sting and hurt with every move - yep, ouch! Dr. A looked at my (sore) throat and my (sore) tongue with her little headlamp and declared that I would benefit from the Magic Mouthwash solution from the pharmacy. It's made up of six ingredients, like Benedryl, Novocaine, Maalox (for thickness), an antibiotic, a mild steroid, and water. She also prescribed painkillers, but only as a last resort just before bed. Even before I tried it, I knew the mouthwash must be made of GOLD (at $40 a bottle), but with my first swish, I felt relief. Numbing relief. Too bad it only lasted about an hour and a half, but oooohhh... relief. I can swish up to four times a day, and I'm saving my last swish for just before bed.

At dinner tonight, I had to push away the juicy ripe FRESH pineapple (too acidic) and the zesty herb barbecued chicken (hardly any taste) and the corn on the cob (hurt my tongue to pull off the kernels) and even my glass of ice water (too cold on those open blisters). I couldn't help but think, "what a mean thing to have happen at this point in the treatments!" I thought I was going to whip this thing and just get by with eating and drinking bland for the next few weeks. Nobody warned me about blisters! But then again, maybe it's a good thing they didn't.

As of today, I only have five more treatments. FIVE!! I can do five! I just have to have a bit more patience. I'll use a straw to keep the water away from my tongue. I'll eat while the Magic Mouthwash is still half-effective. I'll use more aloe vera on my raw and sunburned neck and cheek. I'll have a little longer nap in the afternoons. I'll keep smiling because I do still have all my teeth! I'll rub that neck scar with tender care because I know all the cancer cells are gone! I'll make some new notches in my belt to keep my jeans up! I'll fluff up all the hair I still have on my head! I'll keep praying and hugging and kissing and saying thank you because I am HERE to do it!

Is it too early to plan next year's birthday? Can I have pizza and grilled hamburgers and chips with Aaron's homemade salsa and fresh pineapple and cheesecake and a salad with loads of tomatoes and avocados? Plan on it! You're all invited!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Winding Down

May 27, 2011: This morning, as Mom and I dropped Nessi off at school, she said, "This is my last Friday of classes!" Whoa, that's right. Next Friday will be the last day of school and will only involve yearbook signings. It's sort of sad, that winding down.

However, I do love the end of school programs, especially if they involve preschool darlings and 2nd grade cuties. Last night, we gathered at the library for Avery's preschool program. What a sweet group of 3 - almost 4 - year olds! That little blond girl that we love so much is an angel and her teacher, Miss Alby, confirmed it loud and clear, claiming she wanted to "adopt" our Avery. I love that little A can count to 100 (and beyond) without a single mistake and knows the sounds/sights of the alphabet perfectly. We all got a kick out of her months of the year "Macarena" dance, too! Way to go, Miss Avery! As if that wasn't the pinnacle of a Grammy's week, Ally's 2nd grade program was this morning at the school. Mom and I flew out of treatment to make it back in time to see our girl sing and play the bells. She knew every word, handled TWO different bell tones, and was the sweetest girl in the PowerPoint presentation. She's not only the smartest girl in the class (I'm not biased at all), she's the "friend to all", and I'm so proud of her. Way to go, Ally-cakes! I do love my grand-girls!

Trudging on with treatments. SIX more to go! I get a wonderful three-day weekend - and birthday present - by not having to go on Monday. Feeling more sapped lately, but it could be a combination of things. Not being able to eat is definitely an energy buster. But, on we go, for we know there is an end.

This weekend, I'm grateful for those who have gone ahead. I hope they know how much I love and appreciate their good lives. I am what I am because of the wonderful heritage they left me. God bless our families - they are the reason for everything in this life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Single Digits

May 25, 2011: As of yesterday, I am down to single digits until my last treatment! As of today, EIGHT!! June 7 cannot come fast enough, though I'm amazed at how time has sped by these last five weeks. I can't say it's been grueling (five minutes - really?) or painful or exhausting to go through the actual treatments. But, it has been very emotional as time has passed and the trips to Salt Lake continue and the effects have started to surface. Those beeps I hear in my ears really ARE radiation blasts! They are definitely NOT blanks!

Have had Good/Bad "minutes" the last few days:

Good minutes - driving Ness to and from school
Bad minutes - sitting in front of my computer screen to work and not being able to see well

Good minutes - eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dinner
Bad minutes - throwing up the half of banana and cup of water I had for breakfast

Good minutes - hearing Avery sing in the car on the way to treatment
Bad minutes - another bill in the mail

Good minutes - sunshine and a newly-mown lawn
Bad minutes - scattered tulip petals after a big rainstorm

Good minutes - a soft hug from Dean
Bad minutes - leg cramps in the night

Hoping for more good minutes today than bad. Gotta know that prayer will help make that happen. The sun and warmth coming through my window doesn't hurt either...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nap Mode

May 23, 2011: Had a glorious weekend with my St. George kids. Never long enough, but got to see baby Knox smile and hear him coo. That's a big blessing.

The side effects are more daunting than I thought they'd be. I'm either grouchy because I'm hungry and tired, or I'm emotional because I look kind of frightening with my lopsided hairstyle and my red neck and cheek. I've got a constant metallic taste in my mouth and I shudder every time I take a drink of water. But each day, when I climb off the radiation table, I think (and sometimes say aloud), "One more day down. The end is in sight."

Janessa and I went to the midnight showing last week of "Pirates of the Caribbean 4..." She's been counting down the days for a whole YEAR - how could I say no? It was an adventure. Lots of people in costume, especially one guy who had Captain Jack Sparrow down from his hair dreads to his buckled shoes. I was jealous of all the people munching their buttered popcorn and drinking their sodas. Worst of all, I had restless legs and couldn't sit still. Luckily, I was in an aisle seat and could stretch out a bit. Loved the movie, though. Laughed out loud, jumped at a few scary parts, and got all mushy at Captain Jack's sensitive side. Go see it, but leave the littles at home. The mermaid part is NOT Disney!!

I just finished work and am ready for nap mode. Dean is making oatmeal for dinner - maybe I'll be able to taste it if I drown it in brown sugar! Funny how those sweet taste buds are stronger than the salty ones. Lately, I tried to count the food commercials in an hour's time on TV - there were at least 2 in every break! That would be about 40 an hour! No wonder my tummy growls for pizza (Oh, Pizza Hut, how I crave a Supreme right now!) and juicy burgers and all the rest. Whatever YOU are having for dinner tonight, savor it for me, okay? I'll be taking a nap instead...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Bits

May 19, 2011: I'm pondering happiness today. I feel blessed by the small, simple things in my life. The (subdued for now) taste of homemade granola in a spoonful of yogurt...pillowcases and sheets fresh and warm from the dryer...a child's voice saying, "Grammy!"...a bright red tulip dripping with rain...a burst of energy to finish cleaning the bathroom...a drink of water that tastes neither salty nor metallic...a hug from a friend...knowing someone is praying for me...a kind receptionist at the doctor's office...a "see you after work" kiss in the morning...the pictures on my fridge...the excitement of a promised movie with my girl...two minutes to read in the car before school lets out...a snuggly blanket on a cold morning...knowing my far-away kids will be here before nightfall...a picture of the temple above my computer...an empty kitchen sink...a playlist of my favorite songs...

It's all the happy bits of life that keep me going. It's a body full of warrior cells that refuse to retreat. It's a heart that tries to see the child in the man on the corner. It's a spirit that knows He who conquered all will never leave me to fight alone.

I love this quote (thanks, Cindy): "What if you woke up with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

Thank you, God, for all the happy bits of my life. They are priceless.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Melanoma Awareness Month

May 17, 2011: Today, I learned quite by accident (through a post on Facebook) that May is Melanoma Awareness Month. I think that's terrific, but why is May half over and we're just hearing about this?? Where are the TV ads, the radio spots, the junk ads that come up while you're Google-ing something to prod our awareness of Melanoma Awareness? It makes me a little sad, but was I sufficiently aware of melanoma before it became the catalyst of my everyday life? No. It was just another disease that hit other people, other families. Not mine. Not me. Was I careful in the sun? No. I'm from the generation of laying out on the lawn on a blinding white sheet (to capture more sun rays) and rubbing myself from head to toe with baby oil (again, to capture more of that elusive sun). None of that sunscreen for me. I was too fair, too white, and I wanted to be brown as a berry (are berries brown?). Was I a sun "worshiper"? No. I just wanted to look good in a pair of shorts and not have to wear foundation makeup in the hot summer months. Did I ever have a severe sunburn? Yes. Probably about once a summer, on the first good scorching day. I've had blisters and peeling and all of that good stuff. Did I ever sunburn the top of my head? Of course. I was a girl of the 70s, with long hair parted straight down the middle - I'm sure there was a bright red streak down that fair white part at least once. Who knows when that turned into this? I'll probably never know.

Am I afraid to go out in the sun now? A little bit. I bought some 70 SPF sunscreen the other day. I also bought a hat, a big-brimmed hat, for those days I hope to go walking around my neighborhood soon. And though I'll do all I can to protect myself from another sunburn, I know enough about melanoma now to realize that it's not just caused by the sun. Dr. Grossmann told me that little children who have never been exposed to a sunburn have developed melanoma. He also told me that melanoma can be found between your TOES - how weird is that? It's just a strange, crazy, mean disease that charges in and unpacks its suitcase and plops itself down in your cells. But, certainly, more people would be allowed to keep their innocence and never have to go through biopsies and surgeries and radiation and chemo and life-changing scenarios if they are more careful in the sun and check their skin regularly.

I knew all about regular breast exams and mammograms. I knew about colonoscopies after the age of 50. I knew about lung cancer and prostate cancer and brain tumors and all sorts of other bad guys. I knew to watch the moles I could see for any changes. But, I didn't know that the average person should have a full body screening by a dermatologist for skin cancer and melanoma. That spot on top of my head was well hidden, identified only by Dr. Robison as he combed through every hair on my scalp. I never would have seen it. Maybe if it had been caught last year or the year before...

There's no going back. What's done is done. But, if just one person finds out more about melanoma today than they knew yesterday, it's all worth it. If my family can be protected from this wicked disease in any way, it's worth it. If just one person goes in for a check-up, it's worth it. If a cure can be found through all of the suffering, so that none of my precious grands have to worry about melanoma, it's worth it. If we can all be aware, what a difference it would make in the world - especially in the little world I live in now...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Side (and front and back) Effects

May 16, 2011: For some weird reason, I lost a post from Thursday of last week. I think Blogger was having a pre-Friday the 13th glitch, and so my post has vanished - poof! I don't remember all I wrote, but it had to do with the side effects of my first 15 radiation treatments that are now showing themselves in my body. Yes, I'm halfway through. Today was No. 15...15 to go. Wow.

In one of my first visits with Dr. Avizonis, she said it would take 2-3 weeks for the various side effects to start popping up. Since she's a pro at this radiation stuff, I shouldn't have been so surprised Thursday morning when I felt a few dozen strands of hair in my hands as I showered. The more I washed, the more hairs fell and gathered on top of the drain. Just a few days earlier, I had told Chelsea that I needed a plan for my hair - it was growing out of control and the back was totally un-shaped and ugly. I thought I needed a hair appointment to get it "thinned". A-HA! Nature gets the clue and does its own thinning! It's been five days now since last Thursday, and every morning's shower has given me a little clump of hair to scoop up from the drain and throw in the trash. I still can't tell if it's just a widespread "thinning' or if there is a specific spot that is slowly going bare, but so far it's not noticeable. And I've been promised I will NOT go bald, so that's a plus. It just makes my intense dislike of cleaning up hairs in the bathroom a double whammy...

Friday was a melt-down day/night. I tried to pay some bills, but the money ran out in a split second. I was stressed to try to work as many hours as I could (it was the last day of my pay period, so the rush was on to earn as much as possible for this little paycheck) and I was overwhelmed by all I needed to get done for my Scentsy open house on Saturday. Janessa had been doing little jobs for me all week - like putting labels on my books and sorting through my tester jars to weed out the discontinued scents - but there was still the basic cleaning house and setting up to do. I asked Dean to vacuum for me and that was a huge service. (He even did the bedroom where no one but me would see.) Later, we took Janessa to a party and decided to go to dinner. My taste buds have slowly died (another side effect), so eating has become a burden rather than a pleasure. We went to a buffet so I'd have a bunch of different choices of what I could taste and what I couldn't and just what would fill up my tummy. It was semi-disastrous. I was craving salad, but it tasted awful. I ate about five bites. I went back for fish and vegetables. The fish was blah. I tried a roll with butter and raspberry jam and could only eat two bites. I wasted so much food. Only the green peas and clam chowder were doable. It was terribly depressing.

So, that night, as I went through my bedtime routine of flossing, brushing, rinsing, massaging goop into my scar area, I lost it. I sat on the edge of my bed and had a 60-second pity party. Poor Dean. His wife is barely recognizable lately. The hair, the taste buds, the sore throat, the dry mouth, and the stress of life just overwhelmed me. I went to sleep with tears on my cheeks, but I woke up the next morning feeling better. Didn't I say once at the beginning of my treatments that Fridays would be hard after the daily barrage of radiation? I should amend my last post to say that SATURDAYS and SUNDAYS are now my favorite days of the week, as long as I can make it through Friday.

I'm thankful that these side effects are temporary...I will be able to taste again...I will have normal hair again...I will have full energy again...I will be able to take care of myself and my family and my home like before...and Fridays will be just another day in my life. Yes. Grateful for all of that and more, like life itself. That's a big one. And since all this fuss and "fun" gives me more time with my great family, it's all worth it. Every last strand of hair and punk taste bud...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday At Last

May 13, 2011: Friday has become one of my favorite days, especially after 9:00 AM. The weekend looms ahead, no matter how busy, with promises of not having to be on the radiation table for two whole glorious days. (I'm really not complaining about the treatments themselves, which are easy and quick - just the fact that they must be done at all.)

My weekday mornings are pretty much routine now. Drop Ness off at school (hopefully before 8:00, though some mornings are definitely better than others), drive a mere five more minutes to Aaron & Lindsey's house, help put little tiny girls in their car seats (Avery reminds me every morning that she knows how to climb up herself!), get into the passenger seat beside Linds (who is a terrific chauffeur and comfort to me) and take the freeway to 3900 South and 7th East in Salt Lake (about a 15 minute drive). Linds parks around the back of the building, where a convenient "back door" to the clinic is open. I walk in and sit in the treatment waiting room, usually with several other "lucky" people, where a camera in the corner alerts the technicians that I've arrived. I'm called back by one of the techs, who have me put my initials beside the date in my personal file and check to make sure that it's MY picture I see and MY neck x-rays on the monitor before going into the treatment room. They help me onto the table, give me the knotted dogbone to hang onto, put a strap around my feet, and get me pressed into my lovely mask. My eyes are closed, but I feel myself being raised and then moved forward into the radiation chamber. The techs talk to each other, calling out my personal coordinates back and forth, to which they always respond, "Perfect." Then, I hear them walk away and someone usually calls out, "Okay, we're ready to begin." I hear whirring and clicking of machinery, and then comes the first of the FIVE long beeps that signal the radiation "blasts". The first beep/blast is about 20 seconds long - I know, I've counted. It's definitely the longest, so I imagine it's the granddaddy of all, the first and biggest and most potent. That's just my guess, but I imagine the longer the blast, the bigger the gun. This first blast sounds like it's coming from the top of my head. The machine moves and clicks and then comes the second blast of about 12 seconds. Another adjustment brings the third blast of about 14 seconds. More moving and whirring and I hear the beep of the fourth blast, this time closer to my ear on the right side; it's about 12 seconds again. And finally, the fifth and last blast, which sounds like it's barely inches from my neck scar, comes for another 12 seconds. The End. Finis. "I'm all done, Mama!" The techs come back in the room and set me free from all the restraints, and I'm out of there with a smile and "see you tomorrow." Five minutes, maybe six, and then 15 more minutes driving back to my car at Lindsey's.

I used to count the number of blasts and the length of the blasts to feel that the end was in sight - or should I say, within hearing distance. I've noticed the past few days that my mind wanders now - I'm thinking of my day and what needs to be done, or my worries and how to solve them - or I'm simply listening to the "Enya" music that's usually playing in the room. Soothing. Comforting. I guess I don't need to count anymore. I know the end will come. Today and tomorrow and the next day - and then one day around June 6, it will truly be THE END.

Ah, the weekend. How nice it is to see you again...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Judge Not

May 11, 2011: For the past two mornings, there have been "new" people in the treatment waiting room (when you go at the same time every day, you learn to recognize what's new). They were there yesterday, but I only briefly observed them. Today, I openly acknowledged them - and there is one of my tender mercies for the day.

Yesterday, I sat in the nearest chair to the hallway, which meant that the "new" people were several chairs away from me. My first glance - only a split second observation - put adjectives in my mind: two people (one man, one woman), 80-ish year-old woman, 60-ish year-old man, rumpled clothes, man with long scraggly hair, woman with deeply-lined face and obvious lack of teeth, skin etched with rough living. Imagine two homeless people pushing shopping carts with their worldly goods inside - that's what I thought I saw. From the hallway, I heard a child's voice, calling, "Mama, I'm all done. All done, Mama," and into the waiting came a slight figure with very short gray hair and an adult woman's wrinkled face, clutching the dressing gown in her two little fists, smiling as she told the woman sitting there, "Mama, I'm done now."

Now, I'm staring. "Mama" gets up and tenderly puts her arms around "Betty", her daughter, who has just had radiation. The sweet nurse, Sandra, pats Betty's back and says, "You did well, Betty!. We'll see you tomorrow," and then Mama and Betty go into one of the dressing rooms and shut the door. Sandra turns to me and says, "We're ready for you, Lisa."

This morning, Mama and Betty's brother (he has to be) are sitting in their same chairs when I walk in. My heart is still full from yesterday. I smile at them and say, "good morning," and they both smile and say it back. Mama calls me "honey". "How are you today, honey?" We start to talk. Brother asks if I have breast cancer too. No, I say, and tell him snippets of my story. Both their faces are instantly concerned. He tells me that Betty has had a mastectomy and that "we almost lost her - she only had a week to live." Their love is heavy in the room. We talk about our treatments - Betty has to have 25, compared to my 30 - and then, she'll go on to chemo. My little brain wonders how they'll pay for all this, which is one of my biggest worries, but they only think about Betty. We laugh when we realize that we are both crossing days off our calendars, and Mama admits that it's the only way she can keep track. Then, we hear that little voice, saying, "Mama, I'm all done," and Mama says sweetly, "There's my girl," just like my mama would say, just like any mama would say, and in comes Betty, grinning from ear to ear, a handmade knitted cap on her head. The nurse motions to me that it's my turn, and as I pass Betty, I pat her on the back. Mama stands to take her into the dressing room and says to me, "Good luck, honey." "Thank you," I say. "Good luck to you, too."

I hear the Savior say, "Judge not." We are not our bodies. We are not our scraggly hair, our wrinkled faces, our rumpled clothes. We are not our missing breasts or our scarred necks or our bald heads. We are not the burns, the broken parts, the dirt, or the weight. We are what is inside, and no one can "see" that unless we reach out with our hearts. Thank you for teaching me that - again - today, Lord. See you tomorrow, Betty and Mama and Brother. We'll chat more then.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One-Third Down

May 10, 2011: Had a blessed Mother's Day weekend. Warmish weather. A great chili cook-off that scored me "Best Darn Chili" award (thanks to Chelsea's Chicken Chili Blanco recipe). Dinner with my Mister and my baby-cakes. Tears on Mother's Day, shared and alone. "I love you's" that mean the world, literally. Priceless children. Precious grandchildren. Beloved mamacita. Blessings by the truckload.

Yesterday marked my 10th radiation treatment. One-third of the way through this path of my little journey. Today, I walked into the treatment room to see Mark and Mary, two of my favorite techs. "Ah," I said, "you're waiting just for me!" "Yes," said Mark, "we've got your bed ready and your pillow fluffed." My bed - the narrow metal table with a fresh "placemat" for me to lay on. My pillow - the plastic mold that holds my neck in the right position. All the comforts of home. Yesterday, as Mark unclipped my mask from my head and face, I subconsciously rubbed the places where it smooshes me the most - my chin and lips (remember when it used to be my windpipe? This is such a relief, though it leaves "road rash", as Dr. A calls the indented pattern of little diamond shapes that linger on my skin for about a half hour after the treatment). Mark saw me trying to bring those spots back to life and said, "You know, we don't want you to get too used to this thing, right?" RIGHT! Only 19 more treatments to go!

Once a week, I get to visit with Dr. Avizonis for a few minutes, just to check on how I'm doing. She came in today and said she was glad I was still smiling at her. "We'll see how you feel in a couple of weeks!" she joked. I told her there were minimal side effects so far - more dry mouth (but not unbearable) and increased loss of my taste buds. Taste buds are interesting fellows, you know. I could taste that spicy salsa I made over the weekend (that burned my hands for about 24 hours!), but the ketchup on my turkey burger Sunday was as dull as dust. Blech! Linds thinks I need to try Indian food - see if some curry wakes up these guys inside my mouth. Other than that, I'm doing well.

I asked Dr. A to check my neck scar, simply because it has felt different the past few days. She looked at it, felt it, and said it looks like it's "reinventing itself". I wondered if it was being "cooked" from the inside - some of it seems so stiff and hard. She said the radiation is certainly making things inside "inflamed" and "swollen", but she is not a bit concerned with the scar area and everything looks perfectly normal. She suggested I try to massage it during the day with my Aquaphor to loosen it up and make it feel less stiff. I guess I'll add that to my nightly routine of taking out contacts, drinking a big glass of water, flossing, brushing with fluoride paste & rinsing with potent fluoride mouthwash. It feels like I spend more time in front of the bathroom mirror at 10:00 PM than I do the entire rest of the day. The last thing Dr. A said to me as I left the examining room was that I am "doing great." And I am.

Now, if it would just stop raining...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Stories behind the Scars

May 5, 2011: A week or so ago, my sweet niece, Britnee, sent me a quote that has haunted me ever since - and not in a bad way. It keeps me looking outward, instead of in, to see beyond my small, minimal scars at what others are having to deal with.

"We must see all scars as beauty, okay? This will be our little secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived." (from the book, "Little Bee")

I follow the blog of Stephanie Nielsen, a beautiful young woman who was severely burned in a near-fatal airplane crash a few years ago. She is scarred from head to toe and is unrecognizable from her former self. But, she has the most beautiful way of looking at life now and expressing gratitude for the small, simple things. I have a lot to learn from her. I sit in the waiting room for my radiation treatments, knowing that all the other people in the chairs around me are dealing with their own nightmares, their own suffering, their own Goliaths - and yet, they come in cheerfully, they sit and work on the never-quite-finished jigsaw puzzle, they do Sudoku while they drink the nasty contrast for their scans, and they chalk up another treatment like it's a day at the gym. I'm glad I don't know their stories. I'm afraid it would crush me. But I'm also glad I can sit beside them and soak up some of their positive-ness. Look at me, their scars say: I'm a survivor.

Today, my mouth is too dry to eat crackers. Food sticks to my teeth without that little thing we take for granted, called saliva. I've mixed a concoction of salt & baking soda water to rinse out my mouth, per Dr. A's advice yesterday. It doesn't taste too good, but it works! I guess when my taste buds go in a few days, I won't care anyway.

Time for an enchilada to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I'll also eat some red grapes, as I read yesterday that they are a good cancer-fighting food. Gotta boost up those killer cells as much as possible. Go, Team, Go!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday

May 4, 2011: Happy Birthday to my wonderful daughter-in-law, Lindsey. I am so grateful for her in my life right now. She has been by my side from the first days of this journey, and continues to be my taxi driver, my friend, and my advisor. I love her dearly. She is one of my best blessings.

Today is a beautiful day. I can't help but smile and feel joy. The sun is out, the grass is green, the sky is a radiant blue, and "all is right with my soul." I had my 7th radiation treatment this morning. My mask didn't hurt, my breathing was calm, the room was a little warmer, and there was the smell of fresh-baked glazed donuts in the air (Linds sent me in to treatment with two dozen donuts for the staff to celebrate HER birthday - very sweet). I had a short visit with Dr. Avizonis, who made me laugh. She told me to "enjoy the honeymoon" for as long as I can before the side effects of treatment start popping up. She gave me an easy, home remedy for dry mouth (from the loss of my salivary glands) and reassured me that the metal taste I'm experiencing now will probably end by next week - when I lose my taste buds! She also told me that when I do lose my taste, I shouldn't worry about "balance" in my meals - "Go ahead and eat whatever feels good in your mouth and sounds good to your ears, even though your tongue won't care a bit." I like that! I hope something chocolate wins that test...or maybe ice cream...

"Smile. Let everyone know that today you're a lot stronger than you were yesterday." Great quote. And if you're wondering, I'm smiling right now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Month, New Week

May 2, 2011: Went south over the weekend and enjoyed a wonderful "blessing day" for our sweet Knox Aaron. It was a beautiful spring day, all six of my grands were within hugging distance, and I felt so grateful. Rob gave his precious son a sweet blessing and the Spirit was strong. In the circle were both "papas" and two wonderful uncles. We are so blessed.

After the blessing, a member of the congregation got up to speak and said, "Knox Stephenson. I want all of you to remember that name. Did you see the size of the men in that circle? Knox is destined to be a tall, superstar basketball player someday. Remember that name!" I loved that.

Last Friday, I had a mammogram. It was a piece of cake. Even the cute technician remarked that I was "very relaxed." And why not? I've lost all my inhibitions about my fat rolls and lily-white skin, and one more test in the grand scheme of things is just one more hour in my life. The best part was the chance to meet "Martsie", who was truly an angel in disguise. She was deeply concerned after hearing my story and shared that she has a friend battling melanoma who has created a sort of forum for us "soldiers" to lift and help each other. When she gave me a hug as I left the office, I thought in what other circumstance would that ever happen, unless we've been touched emotionally by each other? It only confirmed to me that, though this is a battle, there are countless "first aid stations" along the way with just the right love and compassion and gentle inner healing to keep me going day to day.

This morning started a new week of radiation treatments. I woke up with a runny nose (hopefully from allergies) and all I could think of was, "please don't sneeze under the mask!" My nose is squished anyway - it always takes a minute to calm my breathing and not panic that I'm not getting enough air. But once again, the everlasting kindness of the Lord took over. I was fine under the mask, I was able to breath, I didn't need to swallow, and my runny nose has disappeared.

It's also a new month. Before I erased April from the dry erase calendar on my fridge, I wrote down all the doctor's appointments and tests I've had during the month. FOURTEEN! 14 visits, a couple of vein pokes, teeth and eyes checked out, meeting new doctors, revisiting old ones, seeing my life mapped out in a daily parade of treatments. Who would have guessed? So grateful that I don't know - exactly - what my future holds. I might run screaming from the room. And then again, I might be totally overwhelmed at the bountiful blessings pouring down from heaven. I have no doubt in that future - it has already happened and continues to happen each and every day.