Spark of friendship


A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
~Proverbs 27:9

Last Wednesday, Entrepreneur was scheduled for another set of CT scans to monitor the renal cell cancer spots in his lungs. While many friends are aware of the anxiety that always builds up to these appointments, one friend took their support a bit further.

No one is definitively claiming authorship of the mini mural that appeared at the end of my driveway Wednesday morning, but I have a good idea who the artist is. And, I love her for it. She is truly a sparkly person that dispels darkness wherever she goes.

I purposely didn’t crop out anything out of this photo or “pretty it up” in any way. I think the juxtaposition between the beauty of the chalk drawing and message with the raw reality of the concrete, asphalt and winter scruff makes the point quite well.

Playing along with Sparks and Awww……Monday. Annie’s Sparks philosophy is very simple.

The negative energy of the world has become thick and oppressive. Social media has become a part of this dare, negative storm. There is an obvious, universal need for more positive energy and peace. And, we can be a part of this affirmative change.

I believe we are meant to be lights in this world. If we allow our light to shine, we can see where we are going. It is then that we can begin to truly see each other clearly. There is hope. Together, we can light up the entire world!

 

Sandee’s Awww…..Monday is a simple blog hop where all that’s needed is a photo that makes the viewer say “awwwwwww.” How easy is that?

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An unconventional Valentine’s Day

Today is our one-year anniversary. Most people speak of this in terms of relationship status. But today marks a very different anniversary for Entrepreneur and me. It was one year ago today, Valentine’s Day, when he went into surgery to remove a cancer mass in his brain.  Not exactly what you would put in a Hallmark card.

One year ago today, we were waiting for him to get out of post-op recovery. With my support system at my side, the minutes drug into hours until I could lay eyes on him.

And then next 10 days in the hospital were spent getting him stable enough to begin the long, hard road to recovery. I can say, without a doubt, these were the scariest days of my life. The cognitive deficit due to post surgery swelling was disturbingly real. And there were very few reassurances those first crucial days.

Looking back, 2017 sucked. This event forever changed our lives and derailed many of the the plans we’d been formulating for our retirement years. The surgery was difficult enough, but the aftermath has presented challenges that have left me with a loss as to how to overcome.

Targeted radiation to the area of his brain affected by the tumor gave way to 6 months of Bell’s Palsy. Oral chemotherapy is taking its toll with the challenge of providing nutrition to combat the fatigue. He left the hospital with high expectations to rehab and regain his strength and abilities. And he was on track for a remarkable recovery. One year later, he most definitely has impressed his physicians and surgeons, but when the oral chemo is actively destroying any gains, being optimistic and proactive becomes harder and harder. It grates on us mentally, psychologically, physically and spiritually.

Our support group is awesome. These people are the shining light in the middle of this dark journey.

I admit, I took for granted this would simply be a bump in the road. I expected him to rally and overcome obstacles like he’s always done in the past. But, nothing is a given anymore.

One year out…..he’s still part of our lives. He’s trying hard to push through the destructive effects of chemo so he can spend as much time as possible with his daughters and granddaughters. There is so much to live for.

But, there’s been a shift in perspectives. Gone are the aspirations of us having an active, retirement lifestyle. Every day is a struggle. Every day is a gift. Many cancers can be put into remission or destroyed completely. Not renal cell cancer. There is treatment, but no cure or remission. His scans have been clear over the past year, which is a blessing and cause for hope.

Entrepreneur would like to engage and live whatever is left of his life to the fullest. I’d like to say we’re not letting this get in the way, but that would be a lie. No matter how much we say this condition is not going to get in the way of living life to the fullest, the reality is….it’s in the way. If fact, it’s set up a roadblock that seems awfully difficult to get around. As long as he’s on oral chemo, his stamina is reduced and the usual effects of the drug are ever present.

The new normal.

Entrepreneur does not like his “new normal.” This type of chronic cancer steals joy and steals hope. And I’m not sure how to deal with these feelings or help him to overcome the feelings of loss of a meaningful life. I would love nothing more than to focus on enjoying whatever life is left….it’s just so much harder to live it to rather than to say it. I pray for an advancement in the treatment of renal cell cancer…..an immunotherapy treatment that would help combat the relentless destruction of the body from oral chemo. Clinical trials are underway for new ways to manage this cancer…but….and this is the cynic in me….when the chemo pills cost the insurance company upwards of $5K per month, where exactly is the incentive to find a cure?

So, today, Valentine’s Day, is especially poignant this year. It not only marks the one-year anniversary of brain surgery (two thoughts that should never, ever be combined), but also serves as a reminder that nothing in life is a given. Stop letting trivial arguments get in the way of spending time with those you love. Put aside those family disagreements and ask yourself….if you were in my shoes…just how important those petty irritations and grudges really are.

Happy Heart Day and may those your love know how much you care about them today and always.

A little glimpse of Joy

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
~William Shakespeare

I think I came across my first Joy encounter last week. Of course, there’s been some moments of happiness, but like we discussed earlier this year, Happy is not necessarily the same feeling as Joy.

This Joy encounter came from an unexpected source….the cancer radiation treatment center. Yes, you heard correctly.

Entrepreneur was scheduled for three radiation treatments last week. We drove to the hospital entrance for radiation patients with more than a little anxiety building about how these procedures could end up. Radiating the brain….the stuff of which anxiety is made.

It was a dreary, chilly, spring day with on and off rain showers. Much like our frame of mind. But as we drove into the private parking area for radiation patients, this is what greeted us.

A sea of yellow daffodils planted between the reserved parking spaces and entrance.

I felt my heart lift as soon as I saw them. Of course, they didn’t negate the harsh reality of what was about to happen inside, but for a brief moment, I was caught up in the beauty of the moment. I thought of all the hours it must have taken to plant these bulbs last Autumn. I thought what a wonderful gift to those experiencing the challenging darkness of cancer.

And, I noticed some of these splendid blossoms had been mercilessly beat down onto the ground, unable to hold up against the spring storms. What a shame, I thought. So, I rescued them to live in vases in my home. There is some poetic justice in this, right? 🙂

Joy. It can surprise us in the strangest of places.

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Renew and Replace

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.
~Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring

Yesterday was the “first day of spring” although here is felt more like mid summer with temps in the mid 80sF! And, last week we had a hard freeze. So it is with spring in middle Missouri. I thought this was an interesting quote and am still processing its meaning.

My thoughts are still pretty much a jumble in my head these days and I’ve not been successful in penning anything worthwhile. But, with yesterday’s teaser, I’m ready for warmer weather. Although winter was not a harsh one, it came with its own set of challenges.

As I look ahead to warmer…and hopefully, better days…..I’ll leave you with some of the hopeful signs I found around the yard and vow to come back soon with something of more substance.

Asiatic lilies

Iris

Houttuynia (Hoot-en-ia) Caution: this plant is awesome, will grow anywhere, and is invasive. Plant at your own risk.

Comfrey

 And my favorite:

Happy spring!

For better or for worse

For better or for worse…

It’s been five days since my post on Entrepreneur’s unexpected brain surgery. Definitely a low point in our 36 years of marriage.

For richer, for poorer…

Emergency Room visit, five-hour surgery, recovery, and in-house rehabilitation; not to mention more CT scans, MRIs and other tests too numerous to count; and we’re not even to the part that involves treatment for any remaining cancer cells…let’s just say I’m feeling the “poorer” part of the vow. We met our deductible in…oh, about the first minute.

In sickness and in health…

In less than a week’s time, my over-achieving, fiercely independent, take-no-prisoners husband…the man who has come back from countless athletic injuries, a hematoma under a shoulder blade, rotator cuff surgery, knee surgery and, most recently, a kidney removal from cancer…has been humbled beyond belief by the need for a walker and help with the most mundane daily living tasks.

Because the cancer mass in his right temple measured 4.7cm and went deep into the brain, this necessitated the neurosurgeon cut around inside his head. And when people cut around inside your head, there’s trauma, swelling, bleeding and other damage that results in diminished physical abilities, capabilities and strength, And that’s in addition to the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma that occurs when your body and thought processes don’t want to play well with what your brain want them to do.

But I signed on for the long haul. And a long haul is exactly what we’re facing now. Unless someone has faced this type of humbling disability, I’m not sure it’s possible to convey the feeling of sheer terror and helplessness that accompanies stepping into these unchartered waters.

It’s hard to remember that today’s “reality” will not be the reality of a month from now…or two months from now….or six months from now…or a year from now. Success will not be measured by the calendar days but rather, by accomplishments…however long they take.

Our lives are forever changed by this event. I’m not sure I can even comprehend what our family will go through over the coming weeks, months and years. All I know is I will be beside him every step of the way. I will celebrate the small victories as well as the major milestones. I will cry. I will curse the fates. I will pray.

“I will hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
~Isaiah 41:13

But I know we are not facing this challenge unarmed. We are not climbing this mountain alone. The outpouring of prayers and support is literally spanning coast to coast…as well as a few across the pond (a shout-out to my international Facebook/Bloggy friends). We are connected to an amazing support system and unbelievable prayer warriors. Earthly angels sent to minister to our family. No, we are far from facing this alone.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
~Isaiah 35:3-4

And I need to remember this when the days seem overwhelming, when the nights are filled with fear, when the odds look like they are not in our favor.

entrepreneur-surgery

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
~CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

But, I’m sure it’s going to feel more like this…

We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 
~Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966)

Spring’s impromptu photo session

So I’m sitting in the office “working” when she tugs on my sleeve. It’s not so much a tug as a violent yank.

My muse, the one who has been playing a game of one-sided hide and seek for months now whispers in my ear, what do you think you’re doing? Twix is mercifully asleep. Entrepreneur, The Investigator and Peanut are all out of the house. And I’m left alone…and to my own devices. A wave of panic washes over me that I may not have much time. So I grab the camera and head outside to capture a little bit of spring before everyone returns home my calm disappears.

Here are a few shots of my impromptu photo session with Mother Nature. This is much harder than it appears as our springs are usually accompanied by 20mph winds, making still shots almost impossible.

Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.
~Gustav Mahler

I think this is my new favorite spring photo. It’s a serviceberry tree blossom. I love how, sometimes, a great shot will just wander in front of the camera and need very little tweaking. And I simply must tweak….it’s in my DNA.

serviceberry
Texture by Kim Klassen; happy heart, 50% multiply.

Your mind is a garden,
Your thoughts are the seeds,
You can grow flowers or
You can grow weeds.
~Unknown

Wow, isn’t this quote the truth. How many times do we sow the weed seeds of negativity, blame and unhappiness. Even when we plant the seeds of hope, peace and tranquility, if we don’t pull those weeds of doubt and fear on a regular basis, they will eventually choke out any beauty we hope to grow in our hearts and minds.

blue phlox

The day the Lord created Hope
was probably the same day He created Spring.
~Bern Williams

For me, the unfurling of a leaf is one of the best symbolic signs of Hope nature offers us. What better way to show confidence in the future than by the creation of a new leaf? In it holds all the potential for a strong, healthy life. It’s like spring is making good on its promises after a dark and desolate winter.

redbud leaf

Life stands before me like an eternal spring
with new and brilliant clothes.
~Carl Friedrich Gauss

For those of us who live in where winters are long, cold and hard, the prospect of spring brings excited anticipation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we embraced this mindset for our lives? To wake up each day eagerly anticipating new experiences that lie ahead? Yeah, I can’t do it either.

yellow-green daff

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. 
Notice the bumble bee, the small child, 
and the smiling faces. 
Smell the rain, and feel the wind. 
Live your life to the fullest potential, 
and fight for your dreams.
~Ashley Smith

All the above blossoms are wonderful, but these are the ones I’m waiting anxiously to bloom. My dwarf lilacs are still buttoned up tight….leaving me with nothing but anticipation. But, I’m sure I’ll know the moment they open because their heavenly scent will travel through the house. Like these buttoned-up buds, life is full of potential, even when it seems like it’s not going our way. All we need to do is pay attention to the opportunities that can present themselves…sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

lilac buds

Hope you’re enjoying spring if it’s arrived in your area. 

Linking up with those who love to share at Life Through the Lens, Texture Tuesday and Texture Twist.

Feeding faith and starving fears

spider mum center72

I don’t know whether to be thrilled or terrified.

Inconclusive.

Entrepreneur’s biopsies of his lungs and thyroid are inconclusive for cancer cells. A biopsy confirmed the cells in the removed kidney were, indeed, renal cell cancer. But the spots on his lungs and thyroid….which the physicians were 99.9% certain were metastasized renal cell cancer….cannot now be definitively identified as such.

And without a definitive diagnosis on those areas, the future is unclear. Do we go ahead with the IL-2 treatments and put him through the hellish side effects and risks? Do we wait and biopsy again in a few months and hope they don’t spread further?

More questions. Less answers.

Inconclusive.

How does that happen? What determines inconclusive? What does it mean when cells are in limbo?

To be sure, there are many prayers being offered up for him and our family. Prayers of comfort, healing and guidance. Deep down I’m hoping and praying that inconclusive is another word for transforming….cells being healed and cancer being removed.

And life goes on as usual. Work is super busy and it’s looking like March is going to be relentless, so I’m secretly hoping he’s not out of commission for most of the month in treatment. My class will be approaching high gear on their projects in March, which will require hours of grading and availability for student questions. The Investigator’s schedule shows no signs of letting up either…which translates to the same for the home schedule. The amount of attention each of these areas will need from me is daunting.

So, for now, I’m remembering my word for 2015 going to stick with feeling thrilled at inconclusive….and keep the mindset that there just might be something going on behind the scenes we can’t see. This year, we’ll celebrate a quiet Valentine’s Day together and be thankful for the memories that are being made in this house.

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope. ~Author Unknown

Linking up with LTTL and Friday Finds
Life thru the lens fridayfindsbutton2