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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tending to Everyday Basics

My chemo brain is pretty profound. Just dealing with the everyday basics of managing a family has become a real challenge. Therefore, I have to find a new way of doing what used to come easily and naturally. Dealing with with groceries and meals is the first order of business.

The planning and executing of meals is challenging in ways it has never been before. I don't think to make meals until too late in the day. Organizing and executing a frugal shopping trip is my undoing. It's the "connect the dots" part that is such a challenge. It's like I'm in a brain fog. I can open a cupboard, look in, see food items, and see no way that those ingredients can come together to make a dish. To complicate matters, I also am unable to recall what is in the fridge or freezer. Looking at the weekly sale fliers used to mean something. I could see what could become of sale and loss leader items. Not so much any more.

I can't really explain it any more clearly. It's almost like my head is stuffed with cotton balls. Nothing "clicks."

So, I have decided that I must simplify the shopping. I shall mostly shop at Aldi. Can't get lost or distracted there. Six aisles. They rarely change. No decisions as to what is the best buy. I can flesh out what I can't get at Aldi at some other store.

Since I struggle to plan meals, I think I'm going to go with meal types. I used to, just based on my whim, come up with meals for lunch and dinner (back in the days when people were home for lunch) and shop. Now I stare at a piece of paper and think, "I have no clue what to have on Monday, let alone on Tuesday and I can't think of anything to how can I shop?"

Instead, I think if I were to know that I have to have a soup/stew meal, salad meal, casserole meal, etc...I should be able to look at sale fliers or the Aldi layout and figure out what to buy.

I hope.

So, what types of meals are out there? Here's what I've come up with off the top of my head today...what else can I toss into the rotation?

Breakfast for Dinner
Traditional (aka “grandma’s recipe box”)
“International” (aka pick an ethnicity)
Regional (aka pick a USA region)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An unfamiliar position...

So, here's a sad and unfamiliar situation for me:

Some friends and I have formed a little support group. Some call it "Strong Women" some (OK, me) call it "Crazy Cancer Club."

One of our members is dying.

She is leaving behind a husband and children, young children.

As we do so darn well here in the Midwest USA (or maybe it's a Great Lakes thing), the community is doing its best to tend to the needs of the family. Meals are being brought in. Cleaning is taken care of. Christmas is being tended to. Teachers have been met with.

It's so incredibly sad. Heartbreakingly so.

During Cancer Club meetings, we've talked about some really intimate stuff. It's one time we can laugh about the indignities we've experienced. Some of them can be quite amusing. Some, out right funny--much of that has to do with chemo brain; some, in a warped kind of way--much of that has to do with chemo brain, or did I already say that? It's one time we can talk about how precious it is to be able to poop when you need to. We can laugh about losing hair. We can express frustration about fearing that every twinge is a recurrence. It's one time where "it is what it is" can really be what it is because we all have gone through it or may confront it. Some of us have "curable" cancers. Some might be on chemo off and on for life. But this is the first time one of us has died.

And I just don't know what to do.

My love language, apparently, is food.

Another member of the club and I took dinner to the family last week. And I could not stop making food. I made a frozen meal for some later date. I made two soups. I made Magic Mineral Broth. I could have kept going.

I understand my friend, who isn't seeing people these days, enjoyed the Magic Mineral Broth.

I'm not a close friend. We've shared intimate moments. But we've never otherwise socialized.

I understand my friend is in a lot of pain.

I suppose I fear that I soon will end up similarly.

But meanwhile, I feel very awkward. At a loss for words.

I know this journey, this transition, is one that is very individual and one that we all must undertake.

Yet, I wish I knew what I could do to make this easier for my friend and her family. I feel so helpless.

And so sad.

So very, very sad.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What would you put in your letter?

I'm still dwelling on the Elizabeth Edwards story.

I feel like I've really slacked in the realm of parenting for the past year and a half. In fact, I think that I've probably really slacked for the past 10 years when it comes to my feral third son.

However, now, I'm dwelling on this letter that Elizabeth Edwards wrote for her children, in an attempt to provide for them the advice that she wouldn't be around to give later.

I have no idea what advice I'd give my kids. I'm probably not even giving them advice on important stuff now. Where to even begin?

Truthfully, on days like today and after weekends like the one we just had, it appears they take neither my advice nor my commands nor my suggestions nor my pleadings...and that also explains why the bathroom isn't clean and why, on a day school was cancelled for bad weather, that my one son had to get up at 8:00 a.m. to finish yesterday's chores...because he didn't take my advice.

Maybe ignoring my advice and my inability to provide such advice is a type of ostrich-like comfort. If it's not here, we can pretend we have all the time in the world to provide it, safely.

But I digress.

Maybe I should start such a letter. Maybe I should start such a letter here. Maybe I should do a series of entries called "Advice to my sons".

So, what would you be sure to put in your letter? What advice do you wish your mother had given you?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Purpose of Life

Some of you have probably seen this on Facebook already, but if not, here is today's most inspirational video, which is saying a lot given that it's the Season for Giving and all that and so many charities are going out of their way to solicit funds.

This very much reminds me of the way my community has embraced my family, fed our bodies and our spirits, over the past 18 months.

I think I'll choose a month in 2011 and give this guy at least the equivalent of one week of our food budget and not replace that money. We'll live on what we have around for that week. Why choose a month and not do that now? Because, after all, it is December, and since this video seems to have gone viral, I'm sure money will be pouring in.

If you want to know more, you can go here.

It never leaves

My good friend, Heather, herself a cancer endurer, posted this to Facebook yesterday:
Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.
Truer words were never written. At least nothing else resonates with more truth to me right now.

If anything, I have a history of under-reacting to health issues. Yes, I am that mother. The one who made her son play soccer for several weeks with a broken ankle before I finally admitted that maybe, just maybe, he really was hurt. I'm also that mother whose kid had pneumonia, more than once, and I didn't really think he was all that sick. Earlier this fall, I broke my hand and it took me a week to even think I should have it looked at. Um, that was in September, and here we are, coming up to Christmas and I'm still dealing with the fall out from that injury.

Yet, today, less than three weeks after having my reconstruction surgery, I have a minor ache. I can't even call it a pain. It's just an ache in the area of one of my ribs, right in line with one of my incisions.

Logically, I've just done too much today. It's hard not to, since I have no real nerve endings with which to feel pain in the area of my surgery. When I had my c-section 18 years ago, I wasn't to pick up anything that weighed more than eight pounds other than my baby. And when I did, I felt it. I felt an uncomfortable tugging in my incision. After my mastectomy, I wasn't supposed to life anything heavier than a can of pop (my surgeon's words), and for weeks, I felt it if I did too much. There was that uncomfortable tugging, sometimes painful, but a reminder nonetheless.

However, with this surgery, there really hasn't been much pain. My skin is pretty numb from having nerves cut and removed with tissue during the mastectomy. I can hold an ice cube, for instance, one my chest and not feel the cold. So, when I over do it, I don't feel my incisions. I have one tiny area, maybe about 1/8 of an inch long at the very end of one incision that seems to have some nerve endings. The other day, I thought maybe I'd hurt myself or it was infected or something, until I realized that my incision should feel a little tender when I rub it with my finger.

I'm still sleeping on the couch to prevent myself from sleeping on my stomach. I don't know why. It just seems like I probably shouldn't do that.

I have this irrational--or not--fear that I'll do my internal stitches I guess, and my implants will migrate to someplace I'd rather not have them, like my abdominal cavity. The internet is not always a good thing, you know? I read about something implant Of course, now I'm convinced that something similar will happen to me if I sleep on my side or my stomach or lift too much or or or or or...

Technically, I'm in the middle of my recovery period, and I have this ache. It's a tiny ache. I'm guessing it's from the bra I'm wearing today. Or that I lifted, pulled, pushed or otherwise over extended myself today or yesterday. I've been dealing with student portfolios, and no matter how much I try, I'm sure I'm lifting too much, even though I dragged my one son out of bed to help me get them to school the other day and had students carry them around campus for me. I cooked today for the first time since surgery. In an effort to spread out the work for some cooking projects I need to have done by Friday, I thought I'd break it up over the course of a few days, but I did get a little carried away today.

So, there is ample reason for a little ache. Here's how little the ache is. I don't feel it at all this instant. My injured hand hurts more while I type.

So, why am I convinced I have bone cancer?

Yeh, right, because the whole cancer thing never leaves, even if the cancer itself does.

Not too long ago, I did a 13 mile run. I had a weird pain in the front of my one ankle after that. I still feel it, but it's not a big deal. And then there's my broken hand. And now this rib thing. This past spring, when I first started running, my hip hurt. I've been x-rayed, probed, palpated...I'm nearly 50 years old. I've spent the last decade or more mostly sitting on my butt doing nothing very active. My body was assaulted with chemo and radiation. And there is no reason to expect that I won't have some aches and pains. The break in my hand wasn't even serious...just a small fracture. My entire weight fell on it. If something were seriously wrong, the break would have been worse (Yes, I've asked every doctor I've seen).

Yet, I'm convinced that I have bone cancer.

I could get a bone scan. But somehow the idea of radioactive stuff injected into my body, especially after all the radiation I've already received this year, freaks me out even more.

Have I mentioned that I freak out about leukemia, too? Yeh, every bruise makes me think I have leukemia.

And then there are the dreams about radiation poisoning...dreams where my hair and teeth fall out.

Yeh, it never leaves even when it is gone.

Stupid Cancer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do YOU want to die?

Of course, we've all had this conversation at one time or another. You know the one, "Would rather know the hour of your death or has it come as a surprise? Slow and lingering with time to make your peace or fast? Fire or ice?"

But that isn't what I mean today when I ask, "How do you want to die?"

I've been thinking a lot about Elizabeth Edwards this week. She knew years ago that her breast cancer was most likely going to be the cause of her death. Of course, she could have been hit by a bus or gotten pneumonia or been killed in a plane crash. However, when you are told that your cancer is "treatable but not curable" you can probably bank on it eventually killing you. At least when it is breast cancer that has metastasized to your bones and then your liver. Treatments--chemo and radiation--can only be used when one is strong enough to tolerate them. Since the treatments themselves are ravaging....well, some people endure a long time. Others not so long.

Yet, how do you want to die? Elizabeth Edwards seems to have done it the same way she lived, with grace and dignity. At least publically, at least as far as the press is presenting it. She's reported to have posted to Facebook a farewell message of sorts:

“I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my
friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have
carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good
times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are
numbered. We know that.

It isn’t possible to put into words the love and
gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me
every day. To you I simply say: you know. With love, Elizabeth."

Ignoring stories of marital discord and harpy-ish behavior, because this entry isn't really about Elizabeth Edwards at all, those are pretty graceful words. It's even rumored she didn't write them Or that they were written a while ago and she was just waiting for the right moment to post them.


What would you post to Facebook just days before your death? Huh?

I'd like to think that I'd have the where with all to be as graceful. The reality, though, is that I'd be more likely to post something like "fuckedy fuck fuck fuck...this is so fucking unfair. Why me? Fuck, I'm pissed. Why isn't this happening to someone who deserves it?"

I imagine most of us die in the way we live, so my death will not be nearly as graceful. My life certainly isn't graceful.

If we die the way we live, I just might live forever because I'm the ultimate procrastinator. Here it is, 4:50 p.m. and I haven't gotten very far with dinner plans yet today.

I supposed this all means I need to make some changes in my daily life if I want to approach death with a right mind and right intentions.

I need to dwell on this some more. I don't want to dwell on death, but let's face it, dying is the only certainty in life. Maybe we should all think about it a little more.

How do YOU want to die?