10/26/2014

The Sun Will Shine Again



I always thought time went by quickly with my own kids But I am finding, with grandchildren, it truly is accelerated.  It seems like it jumped from diapers to school in no time!  Maybe it is what the kids eat these days, too many hormones in their food.  It is hard on us older adults as we want to be able to hold the little ones in our arms as long as we can.  We don’t have the responsibility of the harder tasks associated with child-rearing! How unfair that the time slips by even quicker.

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Back in 2007, we thought our 125 lbs. lab Charley was obsessed with breasts, notably mine! 
 Well, actually, just my right one for some
reason. Many of you have heard this story but it bears repeating.  One day in early Sept.  I leaned over to pet him, and bam, he charged into my chest with his rock hard head.  This time, he knocked the wind out of me and the pain was intense. I had bruised horribly and did a self-exam for anything suspicious. And yes, I admit it; I was one of those back-sliders, women who did not faithfully perform self-exams.  

There was no mistake, something was there but it didn’t feel like a pea, so I am assumed it was tissue damage.  The rest of the story is, short version, I received a cancer diagnosis within weeks.  Charley saved my life.  And yes, I love my dog now so very much and I think he is King most of the time! (Please don’t tell him I said that. He is spoiled enough.)



 The other two little people that were critical to my cancer battle were my two grandchildren, first Kaleb, and then Ava to follow in December 2007.  September, the month I was diagnosed, was when my daughter was due with my first grandchild. I remember coming home after being diagnosed, staring at the mirror above my dresser and thinking about the fact that I had cancer and now I was going to be a grandmother. 



 I guess it was a God thing, because the week I had my first breast surgery was the same week my grandson was born.  When my daughter called to tell me she was in labor late one evening, my chest was bandaged up, I was still bleeding under the bandaging and was wishy-washy on whether I should leave and drive from Nashville, TN to Northern Kentucky. I had a follow up visit the following week with my breast surgeon but my daughter wanted me there.  Your mother gene kicks in and against my husband’s concern, I threw things in a suitcase and off I went.  Did I call my surgeon to check in first?  Well, no but in my defense, it was after hours.



 Driving up north, I cried quite often.  It was a good 4 ½ to 5 hour drive if you maintain the speed limit.  I was somewhat worried about bonding with my grandson because of having a cancer diagnosis.  Something told me to not get too attached to my grandbaby.  If I didn’t make it, I didn’t want this baby hurt. And I was worried about getting there in time for my daughter also. I wanted to be there for this critical time in her life if she wanted me there. I was trying to respect her space with her husband but when she called, I was super-charged!  I drove fast, half afraid of dying from driving too fast and then, the other half of the time, I was worried of dying of cancer, reflecting on the thought there was a cancerous tumor in me. 


  

When I was half way there, my son-in-law Scott called to say they had to do a C section.   Christina was and the baby were going to be okay but he would be born before I got there. A grandson was coming into the world as I drove up north on that lonely dark highway.   Wow, a precious new life from my bloodline.  It is amazing when it happens, a real miracle.  How odd, it struck me, that I would be fighting for mine and he, would be beginning his. 
When I got to the hospital, I was so relieved to see my daughter there resting.  An adorable baby boy was close by, Kaleb, who made it impossible to look anywhere else.  Christina kept trying to get me to pick him up and I kept refusing. Finally, she asked someone in the room to pick him up and put Kaleb in my arms. I think I felt like I had died and gone to heaven when I held my grandson that first time and looked down at his little face.  He was so tiny, so precious and reminded me of her, my daughter. It is funny how we mothers have flashbacks when our children have children.  

Christina asked me to walk over close to her at the bedside with Kaleb in my arms. When I did, she began to speak. I distinctly remember her saying “Mom look at his face. Then she
began to talk, choking up as she explained she partially wanted me to come up to see her so I would see him and hold him and know Kaleb needed me as a grandmother.  She wanted me to remember his face when I was going through treatment and whenever I struggled so I would always know there was this precious little boy who needed me as a grandmother. She said she knew I would be a fantastic grandmother to him. That would keep me fighting, she knew it, and so did I. It was a special moment, a powerful one that I will never forget. 


Shortly thereafter, Ava, his cousin was born; my first grand-daughter and she was an additional motivator.  I thought of Kaleb and Ava during treatment often.   I know God
blessed me with both of them to help me get through the long course of treatment, the complications and the fear that goes hand in hand with cancer.  It also was a great investment of my time, when I had the chance to spend time with either of them.  It literally re-energized me. 

Last month, Sept., I hit my seven year anniversary. I have hit a few mile stones in my recovery from the aggressive type of cancer I had. The next one I am shooting for is the 10 year mark.  Last month was also my grandson Kaleb’s birthday.  He turned 7; obviously, it always coincides with my cancer anniversary.  The memories of my cancer treatment I have left behind. They are blurred by all the wonderful memories I have instead of Kaleb and my other grandchildren. I prefer focusing on those. 



I hope you will pray for cancer patients that they will have a little person in their life like Kaleb or Ava. These children have a thirst for living life which helps keep a patient dealing with a life-threatening disease reminded life is worth fighting for, even on those days you feel sicker than a dog and every inch of your body feels blah. Every day new things are on the horizon.  You simply must open the window and let the sun shine in.   



Bonds with children are a funny thing.  They never really quite break.  Kaleb and I don’t live close to each other.  We don’t see each other anymore either.  But I had the joy of being an active part of his childhood up until early this year. I discovered, with grandchildren, as with your own children, your love only continues to grow with each stage of development.  Yes, I love him more now than even that first day he was born and I held him in my arms.   



 And so, I retain my memories, my pictures and the love I have in my heart for adorable Kaleb. I recall our conversations, the sound of his laughter when he made me laugh, the look on his face when he was sad, mad and full of sheer joy!  Kaleb could make his grandfather laugh like no other. He used to call Kaleb Mr. Personality!   I miss the “I love you Grandma’s” but I know God has us bonded where it matters the most.     And I know this is also true for anyone that was a part of his life that is no longer.  He was and is sunshine to us. We are grateful that we were able to touch his life and he ours. 



He will learn one day that it was not by our choice that we are not a part of his world.  God

will let him know he has one of the keys to my heart always.  And when he gets to heaven, I know my loving Father will let me greet Kaleb, my grandson with his big beautiful dark eyes, with open arms to cradle him once more. Until then…….grow little boy, find your place in the big world!


Attached to this blog on a link is a video of some of Jim and I's most prized memories of Kaleb. How to capture 6 1/2 years in a song, impossible.  This is our best try.  Click here & see why we know we have been blessed!

 And, in closing, a special thank you to many of you reading this. You know who you are, several in Northern Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Tennessee. If I have left someone out, I apologize. Your support for Jim and I these past few months has been incredible and the compassion, I really can’t say how meaningful it has been to both of us. We have drawn so much strength from those of you who wanted to share, listen, support and encourage.  May God bless you and know too that our door works both ways.






10/15/2014

Blue for Fellow Bluebirds






Whenever there is a gathering of cancer survivors, there is a common bond.  It goes beyond having had cancer.  It is not something as explainable as that. And there are some people that don’t take their mental growth it to the next level.  But many do.  Many come out on the other side, once it is in remission, not quite the same. And those that continue to battle it, do not either.


I think the fear of death is lessened.  Facing your mortality is something everyone experiences with a diagnosis of cancer. Looking at yourself in the mirror and realizing you have that C word is scary and early on, it is normal to question if the doctor is wrong and there is more of it in you. Will you survive the treatment? We all have heard of people that have died from the treatment and not from the cancer.  


The questions, the what ifs cause an unending bundle of nerves and anxiety.  The only way to gain some control is to let go of trying to control. What a paradox, having to let go when you want to control. Cancer teaches you that you don’t.  You didn't pick the time of your
birth and you won’t pick the time of your death. You can only choose the way that you live.

So you begin to evaluate the way you live. I think you gravitate towards survivors that have experienced what you have or people that share your sentiments, be positive with the life you have left. Negativity leads to sadness.  Anxiety and stress leads to illness and immunity issues.  Those lead to cancer and cancer kills. You learned that firsthand.  Let God pick your time of death, not you.  Poor lifestyle choices will make that time come much quicker.

One of the best places, I found, to surround myself with cancer survivors is Camp Bluebird sponsored by a local hospital, St. Thomas in Nashville, TN.  When I attend it is like being back home at a family reunion or with an entire collection of best friends, diverse but as close as can be


Instantly, upon arriving and being greeted with hugs, there was that immediate connection.  It is an unspeakable bond though most of the time our diagnosis is not discussed. You may wonder why and simply the reality is, because it doesn't need to be. None of us let our diagnosis define us as people.

We have lived through cancer, experienced it, we do not need to talk about it. Some there are still living with is, some may not survive it and some of us may get a re-occurrence
between now and the time we return.  Now is the time to rejoice in being together.  We want to cherish each other.  Living life,  every moment as if it is the last and reinforce each other’s attitudes about life.  We do this, energize each other because so many people in the world do not care to love unconditionally, will not listen to others non-judgmentally, will not hug for no reason or embrace unselfishly. We know this is needed;as Diana Ross sang “What the world needs now is love sweet love.” 



Now, when I am outside or looking out a window and I see a bluebird suddenly appear, I smile.   I think of all my dear friends at Camp Bluebird, of all we share and how we care.  I then say a prayer thanking God for the treasure of each and every one of them.   Link to Video from Camp By V. Gliatti

Nurse Staff at Camp that volunteer for free at Camp