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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not to be a martyr...


I just dropped my 14, nearly 15, year old son off at a bar so he can listen to his friend's band on "Loud and Local Wednesday."

The deal is he has to be standing on the sidewalk at 1:00 a.m. so I can pick him up.

If these ingrates don't grow up and say, "My mom was awesome..." I'll kill 'em.

For those of you who have spent time in BG, here's something for old time's sake:

On the bright side, both my husband and I have spent many hours in the same place, and we've grown up OK....kinda sorta....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Overheard in a commercial...

...for something; not sure what..........

"To do good, you actually have to do something."

It seems so obvious, but seems to be such a challenge at times.

"Doing good" varies, I suppose. For the most part, we all recognize "good," I do believe. It's the "doing something" that we bungle.

I know that sometimes I don't want to stop my life to do what needs to be done. Or I don't want embarrass others who might need help.

Doing good doesn't have to be on the grand scale. It doesn't have to mean curing leprosy or figuring out how to sop up the oil in the Gulf (although if you have ideas, now would be the time to DO SOMETHING). Doing good might be something as simple as helping the elderly man in front of you in the grocery check out line lift his laundry detergent out of his cart. Sure, he might snap at you, he might not appreciate your assistance. But so what? In the long run, will that matter in 5 years? No. 5 months? No. 5 weeks? No. 5 days? No. 5 hours? Most likely not. 5 minutes? Probably not. So, what does it matter? Odds are, you will be thanked any way.

In our culture, or maybe it's just a particularly common personality quirk that makes it so, it's hard to accept "good" offered from others. I know this past year, it has been hard for me to accept help, although I've learned to let people do good to and for me. As much as I loved having my house cleaned, it was really hard to let people clean it. As helpful as it was to have meals brought in during my bad weeks, it was also hard to accept the help. I mean, we wouldn't have starved without those meals. But my kids would probably have eaten a lot of instant oatmeal and nachos for dinner. My husband's cholesterol would probably have skyrocketed. But we would have survived. Yet, life was made so much easier, thanks to the GOOD that so many caring people did.

The thing is, no one really asked us if it was OK to do good. For the most part, they just did it. I suppose it was frequently phrased as "Would it be OK if..." but the tone was more along the lines of "Hey, suck it up, we are going to....let us know your preferences...."

I know when I assist others, whether it's something as basic and Bowling Green-like as bringing someone a meal or sending a card or care package to someone I've been thinking about, it's a blessing to me, and I'm not one to toss the word "blessing" around. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever used it before like this.

But the hardest part really is "doing something." I have to just get off my flabby buttocks, close my computer, and just do it.

And there's another one of my favorite commercial tag lines: "Just Do It."

Or as I tell my students, "Nike it."

"In order to do good, just Nike it" doesn't have quite the same ring, though.

Welcome to the world, baby Georgia!!!

For those of you who have been following along with the story of Katie and Henry, here's a happy, uplifting post on her blog.

It's true that life goes on, even when we feel like it should come to a screeching halt.

I'm so happy for Katie, and normally, I'm pretty "meh" about new babies these days.

I'm sure that the Granju-Hickman family is experiencing the emotional roller coaster ride of a life time, and I seriously hope that the day-3 "baby blues" skip visiting Katie.

But meanwhile, welcome to the world baby Georgia!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thank You

I'm quite delayed in writing this. It's at least weeks, if not months over due. The fact is, I'm verklempt.

It's been nearly a year, actually 11 months to the day, since I got my diagnosis of breast cancer. Since then, while life has taken many twists and turns, and while I'd rather just erase the whole of last year--you will never hear me say that I'm thankful for getting cancer--the support you, my friends, both in my local community as well as those of you non-local, has been awesome. I can honestly say that friendships have been deepened and strengthened.

I can't even begin to explain or describe it all. Suffice it to say, people have been wonderful. More wonderful than words can express. In fact, I don't really even know where to start.

For months, people provided us meals, transportation, house cleaning, and other niceties, such as hand crafted soap and special oils for healing skin. Friends have helped us financially and emotionally. Near strangers have sent notes of encouragement. Colleagues have taught classes for me when I've been unable to teach. Friends have made hats for my freakishly large noggin, and provided me with enough scarves to allow me to dance the dance of the seven veils. We've received bread in the mail, gift cards, and funds for me to attend a yoga retreat. Friends from a distance helped with Christmas gifts, and local friends have put miles on their carss and spent oodles of time in parking lots, waiting rooms, and doctors' offices. I'm sure I'm leaving something out. Please don't be offended. Read ahead about my memory...

Like I said, I'm verklempt.

So, I'll simply end with an update of what's taken place, what's happening now, and what the future holds.

The Past:

Six rounds of chemo (herceptin, carboplatin, taxotere) every three weeks from August-the end of November.

Bilateral mastectomy with tissue expanders (stage one of reconstruction) December

Four rounds of chemo (Adriamyacin, cytoxin) every two weeks Jan-March.

Six weeks of radiation, daily, March-May.

11 herceptin infusions, every three weeks, March-? (I have 6 left)

All in all, I made it through all of that relatively (?) unscathed. The doctors all seem to believe I "handled it well".

Not counting the absent hair and faux boobs, I guess I did, all things considered. Several of the drugs are cardio-toxic, including the herceptin, but my most recent echo-cardiogram was fine.

The radiation most likely did some heart and lung damage, but I'm running nearly daily and am in the best shape I've been in in over 20 years. I completed a 5K race today, as a matter of fact.

I've lost 30 or so pounds and managed to keep it off, while most women who undergo breast cancer treatment gain weight.

My hemoglobin is nearly normal, or at least up to nearly double digits, which is an improvement. Having a nearly sufficient amount of O2 in your blood can never be appreciated quite enough.

I have a fair amount of peripheral neuropathy, leaving the front third of each foot nearly numb, having shooting pains in my feet (but that's an improvement over the pains that had been in my legs and ankles for months), and numbness on the tips of my fingers. At least that doesn't seem to slow down my typing, but it does make turning pages a bit challenging.

I've also noticed a fairly significant change in cognitive function, but theoretically, that should lessen over the next year or so.

I get to start the rounds to all the doctors again this month to find out if there has been any permanent damage to other systems: kidneys, pancreas, liver, adrenal functions, etc. Hopefully, I won't have any progressive cardiac or lung damage in the future.

Otherwise, with the exception of some fairly significant fatigue at times, which is supposed to diminish over the next 11 months.....

I feel great.

Really, I do.

I don't have the energy I used to, which coupled with the cognitive changes, means that things I used to take for granted (and still never accomplished very competently) such as meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation are a real challenge. As is keeping up with deadlines and remembering things that need to be the fact that I'd signed my youngest child up for the STARS program this summer, yet have never once sent him.....Household chores are sketchily accomplished, at best.

Yet, one advantage is that I DON"T REMEMBER that I"VE FORGOTTEN THINGS.

So, if I forget to fix dinner, oh well, I'll forget that I forgot eventually.

And one good part of fatigue is also apathy. I don't care if the bathroom sink is gnarly. And as soon as I'm away from it, I forget it's gross.

So, in general all is good.

As for the future? I'm scheduled to have the next stage of my reconstruction done the Friday before Thanksgiving.

I've delayed it for several reasons, one important one is psychological. Right now, I feel good, and I want to continue to feel good for awhile. But most importantly is a medical reason....I don't deal with anesthesia so well. Add anesthesia and its potential side effects to my cognitive changes, and no one thought it would be a good thing to expose me to more anesthesia than necessary. If I wait until November to do my reconstruction, the plastic surgeon can remove my port, saving me from having to be anesthetized for that surgery as well. Two for the price of one!

Hopefully, that will be the total end of it all...

My family has held up fairly well. As well as can be expected when faced with a wife and mother's mortality and sickness. It has been a rough year, but I think no one has been permanently harmed.

Nothing will be the same again, but a few of the boys' friends have really come through for them, hanging out, being highly supportive, not being creeped out by a bald, sick mom. They even invited me to coach their indoor soccer team two sessions this winter, and were quite understanding on the nights when I just couldn't do it.

Tynan was quite the sport about going to school, even though he didn't like it much at all. Aidan ended up rather liking school, especially socially. He'll be going back, although BGHS isn't the best fit for him. Tynan will probably be home next year for fifth grade. Nathan will be mostly at the university next year.

Louis has been home a lot, which has been a big help, but it would be a bigger help if he had a job he could go to :) However, as long as he's home, he keeps himself busy and is almost as good as having a wife.

But if anyone knows of a traditional housewife we could use or a job for my husband, any leads would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway, thank you very much, friends and loved ones, for helping us get to this point and still be capable of humor.

We love you all and hope to return the kindnesses in the future.

The Pickle Chase

I completed my first 5K today.

Notice I didn't say "I ran my first 5K today."

The day didn't start out that great. Somehow, I incorporated my first alarm into one of my dreams. So, I over slept. I barely got there in time to register and get to the start, so I didn't get a chance to warm up. Then I had ipod issues, which slowed me down. Plus, I'd forgotten to reset my play list....

I completed it. That's what I set out to do.

Initially, when I signed up, I was running for about 3 miles nonstop. Then the AP Reading and an herceptin infusion intervened. Herceptin just seems to trash my stamina.

So, I adjusted my goal to finishing in under 45 minutes, with walking included.

Then I adjusted my goal to finishing without, seriously.

But, overall, it's over. I did it. And I signed up for another one next week.


I have mixed feelings about "the modern generation." Social media is awesome and has certainly served me well. I go waaaay back to the dark ages with internet friends....all the way to 1995. I know a lot of people don't understand how you can be friends with someone you've never met, but these are real, deep friendships for the most part.

As far as other media goes, for the most part, it's been a Good Thing for us, except on those days when I want to throw it all out the window. My big boys grew up without TV for many years. Now we have three televisions, all hooked to cable, one of which is hooked to a dvr. I don't know how we lived without dvr. We didn't have cable until 9/11. The events of that day had no bearing on our getting cable...we'd moved and the house we were in didn't get decent reception with the rabbit ears. However, the 9/11 images were the first clear images they'd seen on live television for years.

Even then, we only had the most basic cable package...local channels only, mostly. I think there were 11 channels. Then, four years this month, we expanded our cable package to be able to watch the World Cup, and have never looked back. Then we added wireless internet, a dvr, and now each person has his or her own laptop and cell phone, texting and facebook account....

there's even a dedicated gaming computer up in the boy space.

We went from "NO VIDEO GAMES;" they are evil, to....ok, hand held OK the Play Station you found in the, all hell has broken loose.....we have an Xbox, a Wii, a PS2, and a Game Cube as well as one remaining Gameboy, Two Gameboy DS's, on PSP, various Ipod devices (at least 3 shuffles, two classics, one nano, and my touch).

Before you start adding up the expense, please consider that not a single hand held system was purchased new, and only one of the other gaming systems was purchased new, the lap tops are nearly all low end of the line machines, and the gaming computer was built for us by the wonderful Uncle Guy, at no expense to us.

None of this was the original intent of this blog entry, though. What is happifying about this is how much more in contact we can all be, as this picture can attest. We are all about soccer this month (well, most months, but this month in particular). Here's a picture of Nathan and Tynan, sitting together on the couch. They are watching a World Cup game, playing World Cup on the PSP together, and Nathan is texting with friends about the soccer game and plans for getting together here to watch the USA/Ghana game later in the day.

So, it's not all bad. And there is quite a bit of good. And their multitasking is working to help them form some good relationships.

In fact, while I was composing this entry, two other boys have shown up over here, the game is over, and the PSP game has been won, and now they are all out fixing a stereo speaking in someone's car, after first googling and youtubing how to do so., how well you serve us. How happy you can make us.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Feral Third Child

There are advantages and disadvantages to being the Feral Third Child.
One advantage is that your mom, who isn't paranoid about much but is paranoid about balloon death, will let you wear a balloon hat.
Another is that your mom won't die on the sunscreen hill if it's after 6:00 p.m.
Nor will she die on the bike helmet hill for tooling around the neighborhood.
Nor will she die on the bedtime hill. Or the chore hill. Or so many hills she nearly died on with your older brothers.
In essence, the Feral third is feral because peace is more important than principle. Hence, the Feral Third basically has no bedtime, no wake up time, few scheduled chores, plays with balloons, can avoid sunscreen if he so chooses, and doesn't always wear his helmet. He's seen movies that make my toes curl for many reasons, heard jokes that aren't appropriate for any human to hear let alone a young one, and knows more about the physical attributes and activities of some humans than some of my adult friends.
He hangs out with teenagers at an age when I wouldn't have wanted my older boys to hang out with preteens. He thinks taking their abuse is a sign of love, which has led to some distinct fearlessness on the soccer pitch.
However, the Feral Third also tends to get overlooked. He is after all nearly 5 and 7.5 years younger than the older two, who were a pair for much of their lives. They are nearly back to "pair" status now, sharing friends again, hanging out together--especially if said shared friends are involved--sharing interests, playing on the same soccer teams last fall and all winter, sharing clothes (albeit begrudgingly at times), etc. But Feral Third just isn't quite there, no matter how much he thinks he should be involved. The 17-19 year old crowd just doesn't want to drag a 10 year old around. The 14-16 year old crowd avoids him by avoiding our house much of the time.
Oh, he tries to lure them in. He has a grand collection of Nerf guns which entices the older boys to play with him at times. It's the rare male who can pass up a good Nerf gun. He throws out "that's what she said jokes" with the best of them, much to my chagrin. But he really is the third wheel, sadly.
One huge disadvantage to being the Feral Third is that he hasn't grown up needing to make friends. Because we homeschooled for so many years, he had built in playmates until quite recently. His brothers were always home, especially during the day, and when nothing else is going on, they are quite satisfied having him around, even now. More so in the past, when they were both younger. If he didn't have brothers, there were other homeschoolers to fill in the gaps, but in general, he didn't need friends.
Now he does. Sadly, though, most of his friends have built in friends with siblings who aren't half a decade younger than them. And neighborhood friends, which we don't have. And mothers who still arrange playdates because these boys are their "oldest" or close enough for mom to still be involved.
So, while his friends are always happy to play with him, they rarely call him. And he doesn't have a long list of friends for him to call because he's pretty choosy.
This all means he frequently feels very left out.
However, the biggest disadvantage to being the Feral Third is that his physical milestones are, by now, just fill of the "oh well" factor in the family. When the Ideal First needed to regularly wear deodorant, it was an "Ordeal of the Grandest Sort." What kind is best? What is least toxic? Where should he keep it? blah blah blah. By the time the In the Shadow Second needed regular use of deodorant, we were able to say, "Look to your brother..." and it was still a sort of Rite of Passage, involving labeling his to keep it separate from his brother's, etc. With the Feral Third, it was "Oh My God, you stink. Get some deodorant. Wear it." And the poor child had to root around in the bathroom supply cabinet to find some unclaimed deodorant, which ended up being some that I used shortly after my surgery, before I realized I no longer had body odor.
And it's up to him to remember to use it.
I can't imagine what it will be like when he has to start shaving.
Poor chook.
No wonder he's feral.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting My Girl On, part I

99.9% of the time, I'm not only satisfied to be raising all boys but also very appreciative to be raising all boys. I never "got" the girl thing when I was a girl, and it wasn't until I was fully an adult before I even really enjoyed being much in the company of other females, other than a few, select friends, most of whom were not very girly. I had a really girly-girl friend in junior high for awhile, and I mightily tried to live up to her standards of girldom. In high school, off the top of my head, I can't think of too many girl-girl friends with whom I was or two, but not many.

My mother wasn't overly girly.

I would try. And after a few weeks of getting up early to blow dry, apply a curling iron, don the make up, and coordinate the outfit, but eventually, sooner rather than later, I'd be minimizing all the hair work and make up and wearing tshirts and jeans if given the chance.

Not a lot has changed over the years, except that I focus even less on fashion and style.

I spent many an enjoyable afternoon when younger cruising the mall, but I can't say that shopping has been an important part of my life for the past 25 or so years. I go on search and destroy missions: I need X. I go in search of X. I rarely get Y or Z. I rarely just head out to shop for the sake of shopping and without certain items in mind.

My boyz, while clearly having ideas about what clothes are worthy of wearing and which are not, aren't overly interested in fashion. If the shirt has AE on it, they'll wear it. One wears plaid shorts; one won't. One wears long sleeves; one won't. They rarely shop for the sake of shopping.

Two buzz their own hair or have me buzz it. And when I say "buzz," I mean "buzz." One puts no attachment on the electric clippers, taking his hair as close to the scalp as possible. One gets his hair cut a few times a year and isn't too picky about style. He knows what he doesn't want more than what he wants.

Yet, we can be all over noise, movement, experiments, craziness. As one friend said in passing tonight, as I commented on the coolness factor of someone else's boy chomping on a "Pop-It" and having it explode in his mouth, "You are suited for having all these boys" (or something to that effect). Yep, I am. I'm thriving on it. I'm good with it.

I always feared having a girly-girl daughter. What if I just didn't get her? What if she wanted to do things that I have no desire to do? What if she wanted me to teach her about make up? What if she acted like I acted as a young woman? In general, I'm lazy, and girls just seem like so much work to me.

But I digress. In sum, in general, while I wouldn't have sold a girl child to the gypsies and would have loved her from the soles of my feet to the top of my hair, I don't regret not raising any girls. I'm quite content.

That said, I've enjoyed having girls come through my life, more so now that the girls are older. Actually, I enjoy the boys a lot more now that they are older, too. There's nothing like real conversation to make me appreciate a person, male or female.

I rather like it when the boys' female friends come over. I really enjoyed having a girl along on our recent Tennessee camping trip. She provided a slight change in energy from what I am used to. I enjoyed talking about things she and I share an interest in, books that we've both read--books that wouldn't have appealed to my boys at all.

And the first week of July, my niece, Sophie, will be here. For the past few years, she and I have taken part of a day and I've gotten my girl on. We shop; we go to lunch; we watch a chick flick. One time, we did our nails. When my other niece, now in her 30s, was young, I took her out to buy makeup. It's really nice to spend quality time with young women, especially now that I'm old enough for my wackiness to be forgiven (I hope).

It's fun to get my girl on like that. I wish Sophie lived closer, so I could do it more often. I wish that the one girl who's somewhat of a regular at the house weren't so busy these days. We'd planned to have a girl-night at one point, but her job and my family got in the way.

Hmmmm....what should I plan to do with Sophie this summer?

Thought for the day (6/23/10)

My wonderful nephew, Henry, and my niece, Sophie, had birthdays this week. Yes, they share a birthday, but aren't twins. We just have a thing in this family for having kids share birthdays (Tynan shares one with his stillborn sister; I had to convince the doctors to postpone Nathan's induction so he wouldn't share one with his stillborn brother; Nathan, Aidan, and Tynan all share birthdays with either close friends or children of close friends....Tynan and Brendan--for those of you on fb, Brendan is also known as my favorite son--Aidan and Layan Elwazani, Nathan and Mary Scherer).

Henry turned 15. Sophie turned 13. They are wonderful kids. They will be here to visit soon, and I'm already planning to get my girl on with Sophie.

Because my brother and I are adopted, I've never really been attuned to family resemblance in my life. However, watching the cousins and seeing all the similarities, both physically and emotionally, has been a wonderful gift. Interests, likes, dislikes, temperaments, physical features...all intertwined with quite different upbringings and COOL to watch.

In honor of Sophie becoming an official teen and Henry moving into the full teen experience, I've lifted this quote from the Dalai Lama as a gift to them. If all of us, especially adults, were to keep this in mind and act upon it, the world would be a better place for everyone, and we'd be setting a good example for those younger people watching us:

If we develop concern for other people's welfare, share other people's suffering, and help them, ultimately we will benefit. If we think only of ourselves and forget about others, ultimately we will lose. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.

Happy Birthday, Henry and Sophie! I can't wait to see you next week!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

update June 22, 2010

I posted this as a status update on facebook, so for those of you here who aren't there, here ya go:)

I have more to say on this and owe a more complete update, but must go to bed. I promise to be more forthcoming in the near future.


good check up with radiation onco today. Dr. F was as pleased with my current health....low bp, low heart rate, clear lungs, good cardiac echo, skin and tissue not showing any issues or contractions and showing lots of flexibility. He says he anticipates that reconstruction surgery will go well and there will be goood... results. He anticipates the fatigue will recede over the next 6-12 months.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Why soccer rocks the world

I heart soccer. The only thing better than watching my own kids play soccer is watching the World Cup matches.

As parents, my husband and I made a conscious choice to sign our eldest up for soccer over T-ball. We could only afford to enroll him in one activity that year, and soccer it was.

Our thinking at the time was that soccer was more egalitarian, less US-centric, and, as a sport, would reinforce values such as cooperation and teamwork. Also, we figured, soccer could be played just about anywhere, by just about anyone, and didn't require special a pinch, any ball with bounce would do or a wad of rags.

Soccer can also be played alone.

So far, this has proven to be a good decision and we don't regret it. For the most part, it has been a very positive experience for all three boys. It has been a positive experience for us as parents, too. In fact, I've missed sitting on the sidelines with the parents of Nathan's cohort this past season, since he didn't play spring ball nor is he playing June league.

Both of the older boys have met and formed what very well could be life long friendships playing soccer.

However, the absolutely one of the bestest "soccer is wonderful" stories I've heard was posted to my facebook wall today.

I had started the thread by commenting that I like the sound of thousands of vuvuzelas being blown en masse. Really, I do. At least on tv.

One of my long-time friends, from waaaaay back in high school, commented that she imagines her one son, who is autistic and not highly verbal, must also like the sound of the vuvuzela. In her words:

tom and i both think the drone is what makes george a world cup fan. today he even said "soccer" -- and he RARELY says two syllable words.

Doesn't that speak to the miracle of soccer? How awesome is that!!! It brought a tear to my eye.

Soccer has certainly rocked his world.

Long time love

I had an infusion today. With herceptin, infusions are fast and easy. The actual infusion takes maybe 45 minutes, max. Of course, that doesn't include the waiting. All told, I plan on 1.5 hours per infusion, which compared to chemo is a breeze. Plus, herceptin, while it tends to make me bitchy, otherwise doesn't seem to have any negative immediate side effects (it is cardio toxic so it could have some pretty crappy long term side effects, but in general, I don't feel bad when I get these infusions).

Unlike the chemo patients, herceptin only patients have it easy, plus most of us have hair.

In a sense, I guess you could say we are the "graduates" who are coming back to school to visit.

Today, when I was waiting to go into the infusion suite, I was sitting next to a quite elderly African-American gentleman. He was still, solemn. Very still. As I was waiting, one of the infusion nurses came out and told him he could come back and bring his wife her crocheting and see how she was doing. Away he went.

When I finally got back into the suite, I ended up striking up a conversation with her. She struck me as quite a bit younger than her husband, but what do I know? Anyway, it became clear that today was her first chemo infusion, and it was clear that she and her husband really love each other.

Later he came back into the suite, carrying her large purse. Holding it comfortably, yet as if it were a foreign object. He just wanted to check on her. He wanted to know how, exactly the infusion machine worked. It's sort of magic. It's like an IV drip with a regulator on it, or something like that. He inquired about her crochet project...a kelly green and white afghan with 3-D flowers on it, for her grandson.

Overall, he exuded concern.

He was wearing pleated slacks that bagged on his slight, stooped frame and a long sleeved dress shirt, buttoned up to the top button. She asked him to bend over, and my first thought was that she was going to give him a peck on his cheek. Instead, she straightened the back of his collar.

After he left, she and I struck up a conversation and she told me that he had been her pastor for 19 years. Then his wife died and five years later, they were married. They are approaching their 13th anniversary.

Knowing he'd already lost one wife helps explain his concern, solemnity, and quietude.

I've heard horror stories of husbands not "getting it" when it comes to their wives' chemo treatment, men who think women should be up to sex on on chemo weeks, men who think their wives should be making them dinner, men who don't understand the deep fatigue that comes with chemo. Honestly, I've met several women I've been quite concerned about.

But this woman today, I feel she will be well taken care of in the weeks and months to come.

That man obviously adored her. And she him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A new twist on iconic words

I've been making a huge attempt to fully appreciate my children every day. Although today is Fathers Day, this recent post in Katie Granju's blog about her last weeks of parenting Henry, really spoke to me about the hard work of parenting. Certainly, we don't get to choose the parenting tasks placed in front of us some of the time. We do, though, have an obligation to do them as well as we can possibly do them.

Free at last, free at last....

Henry's story...remembering

I know most of my readers have no real clue who Henry is. But I also know that quite a few of you have mentioned that his story has touched you.

So, if you knew him or know of stories of him through his mama or were just touched by his story through my blog leading you to his mama's blog, please leave a comment here and let Katie know.

Not only does Katie have the hard job of grieving her own 18 yr old son and helping his siblings navigate those rough waters, but she also has to prepare to welcome her newest daughter to the world sometime in the next couple of weeks, and to then consider how to make Henry real to this child, too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thought for the day (06/19/10)

In keeping with my Helen Keller theme of recent, and because my house is cluttered and when my house is cluttered my mind is cluttered, which leaves me incapable of composing anything meaningful, I leave you with the following quote by Helen Keller for you to contemplate:

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
Helen Keller

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yet another parallel to pregnancy/childbirth....

When a person is pregnant, their life becomes an open book, so to speak. Or maybe others see a pregnant person's life as a library book...there for sharing with others. Total strangers feel perfectly comfortable asking questions such as "When are you due?" or "What are you having?" They also feel totally comfortable telling the pregnant person horror stories, asking about bodily functions or telling about their (or their partner's) bodily functions....nothing is quite so wonderful as having some guy tell you about his wife's anal fissure, for instance.

I'm finding life to be very similar down here in L'ville as a visible cancer survivor.

Other survivors have approached me and that's quite nice. But it's the civilians who are getting in my bubble. One woman approached me...granted, she's in her 80s and a pretty straight shooter to start with, and said, "So, why do you wear that sleeve?" A few minutes later, she asked, "So, why is your hair so short?" Really lady? Wouldn't, "So, do you have cancer" or something similar be a little easier? Or, how about the question I got today, "So, what is your health status?" From a total stranger. Better yet, after being asked about my story by someone I have just met this week, the man then asked me, "So, if it was in your lymph nodes, doesn't that mean certain death?" To be honest, sir, drawing breath means certain death at some point....why would I discuss my mortality with a stranger? During a 15 minute work break, to boot? Oh, wait....I WOULDN'T.

Don't get me wrong. I have absolutely no problem discussing these issues with people I know. In fact, I'd rather discuss it openly than to leave people I care about guessing and wondering. I enjoyed the "So, what's up with the shooter sleeve?" questions I've gotten from some of my younger AP reader acquaintances. One long time acquaintance, former BGSU'er, out right said, "So, this year was a rough one for you, eh? When were you diagnosed?" That's fine and dandy. She KNOWS ME.

Another reader who is a survivor, sitting across from me at dinner one night, nodded at my sleeve and said, "I took mine off 18 years ago, and I've never had a problem, but I still do my exercises, just in case.....the first week of August, I'll be 20 years cancer free" and then teared up. Awesome! But the virtual stranger at my reading table who just won't let it go...the one who has asked me about my insurance, my sick leave, my prognosis, my surgery....while I'm fine and dandy about letting people I know feel my cement boobs in the Meijer parking lot, I really don't want to discuss my surgery with some virtual stranger, a man in his 60s, who I just met two days ago and with whom I've shared maybe 200 words up until this point....

It has been neat to have had a few people notice my sleeve and ask me if I'm a runner....if only! But I'll take that as an assumption:)

I guess it would never occur to me to ask a virtual stranger, "So, why are you blind?" unless it had come up in conversation. Yet, people always ask pregnant women things like, "Was it planned?" I wonder what would happen if someone, in answer to that question, were to respond, "Actually, no, but I figured this was easier than an abortion, plus I'm s super duper procrastinator, so here I am...."

Sort of like when strangers ask, "Did you find it yourself?" What would they think if I answered, "Actually, it was airport security that found it....I was pulled aside for random screening....."

Thursday, June 10, 2010


My FB friend, Christine, quoted Helen Keller as her facebook status today, which sent me in search of more Helen Keller quotes. Keller had a lot of good things to say.

The quote on Christine's status today is "No one has the right to consume happiness without producing it."

Like gratitude, happiness needs cultivation. I picture a little garden of happiness flowers. Flowers themselves are a short lived part of the plant cycle. Necessary for the production of fruit and reproduction of plants, but short lived themselves. Bees spread their pollen and similarly, when one person creates a happiness, other happinesses can be pollinated. Yet, happiness is fleeting. Happiness might lead to satisfaction, gratitude, peace, comfort, or other emotions, but happiness itself is fleeting, hence our desire to consume it. Yet to consume without producing is selfish. It's very similar to cutting fresh flowers. Although pear blossoms are beautiful, they need to stay on the tree. To cut them and enjoy them indoors takes away the tree's ability to produce fruit. Fruit is much more sustaining than blossoms. Pollen in a house isn't healthy. It makes you sneeze.

I'm going to focus on producing more happiness, won't you join me? What have you done to produce happiness today?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's Graduation Day!!!

I graduated from the Couch to 5K running program today.

I'm not sure I'm running quite 5K, but I'm sustaining "non-walking forward movement" for 30 solid minutes.

I brought the entry form home for my first 5K.

Yeah me!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Early June 2010 update

Wow. I can't believe it is approaching mid-June already! Where has the time gone?

It's going to start blowing by now.

I leave for a week of scoring AP exams in Louisville in two days. Somehow, that week always seems to last 10 days, what with one day preparing to leave and two days decompressing after returning. It will be interesting to see how this year goes given my decrease in cognitive function, which seems to still be an issue with immediate recall and focus, and increase in fatigue, which doesn't seem to be decreasing at all and at times is quite debilitating.

The trip to L'ville comes right on the heels of our trip to Knoxville/Cumberland Gap. It would have been nice to have taken that particular trip for a happier reason. It almost seems wrong to have used the need to attend a funeral to take a short vacation, but it also seemed like the right thing to do.

The memorial service for Henry Granju was beautiful. The music was lovingly chosen. Dylan's "Forever Young" was very appropriate, and touching given that it was the lullaby I sang to my children and was also played at the memorial service for our babies. Hearing hundreds of voices sing "Let it Be" was also beautiful. Chris, Henry's father, wrote and delivered a very touching eulogy.

I was worried for a moment that the ground would open up when the Hubbell-Staeble clan went up for communion. It was nice to be back in an Episcopal Church. Genuflecting rocks my socks!

Later Saturday, after spending some time decompressing with Louis' cousin and her family, the kids and I loaded up and headed to the Cumberland Gap to camp. Given that we didn't really have a plan or know what we were getting into, it turned out rather well. We found a decent camp site, got set up, and set out for food. Little did we know that we chose the wrong direction on the highway, directly away from the nearest town with real eateries and options. Instead, we drove, and drove, and drove, and drove, and finally, a nice woman in a small gas station with what was called a "deli" said she'd make sandwiches for us. It appeared that nearly all gas stations had a "deli." They certainly use the term loosely: bologna sandwiches and chicken salad, all served up on either white bread or hamburger buns. For the vegetarians in our midst, the pickin's were mighty slim. Nathan ended up with American processed cheese food slices on a bun, and Patience opted for cold, undiluted Campbell's vegetable soup.

Sunday dawned waaaaay too early as far as Aidan and I were concerned, but Tynan, Patience, and Nathan went off for an early morning hike. Clearly these flat-landers, born and bred, were intrigued by the topography. We later all took a hike, stood in the middle of the Gap, etc. and then headed into a real town for lunch, during which it started to rain, so we then went to see a movie. Thank the goddess that matinees were $2. Marmaduke the movie was an ideal time for me to catch up on some sleep. When we came out, the sun was out, humidity was high, and we were happy to head back to the campground, where the kids all took another long hike and I lounged and read.

We managed a rip-roaring fire that night, turned in early, slept fairly well albeit a little damp. Nathan and Patience woke up and went running, which solidified in Patience's mind that she does NOT appreciate hills for much more than their beauty, then we packed up and got on the road.

It is so cool to have other drivers in the family. Nathan did most of the driving and I got to nap and read for most of the drive. I, of course, got the boring part, between Dayton and BG.

Camping after the funeral was a nice, healing experience. It was a trauma free trip, not counting the accelerated heart beats caused by the two Brown Recluse spiders we stumbled across and the Black Widow Spider that was on Nathan's leg. Other than that, the kids were very well behaved and enjoyable to be with. It was a nice way to kick off the summer and helped us all recover from the past year. It also gave Louis time at home, without us to get in his way, to scrub the carpets and work on grouting the shower stall....not exactly fun times, but necessary chores best done when others aren't around to bung them up.

One good thing about fatigue is that it enables one to sleep deeply and solidly in the middle of the woods, bear warnings be damned.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


As my friend Cee posted as her facebook status:

Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate--Charlotte Gray