First, I want to ask for prayers for my friend and former colleague, Don Arnoudse. He is having surgery for prostate cancer tomorrow morning, June 8.
To be specific, please pray for peace, calm and grace as he heads into the surgery, for the surgery to successfully remove ALL the cancer, for a full recovery after the surgery, and for a clear "call" from the divine for the best full use of him to be in service to others after his recovery.
I know that he would really appreciate your good thoughts and prayers on his behalf.
As for me, I'm doing really well. I really appreciate your e-mail messages and I am quite behind in answering them. But your words stay with me; I think about them and re-read the messages. I just have trouble typing right after chemo, and then it takes awhile for me to catch up.
Chemo week wasn't fun, of course, but it was okay. I had one day where I didn't get out of bed, but that was more due to laziness than pain. Lying in bed with my chemo bag dangling from my chest, I kept weighing the things that I would need to do before I could even get to anything interesting:
-- Clean up all the hair I lost the night before,
-- Drag the bag (I know, I carry it, but it feels like a ball and chain) with me to the bathroom,
-- Change my ostomy bag,
-- Tape plastic wrap on my chest to keep shower water away from the connection between the chemo tube and my body
-- Shower, then clean the hair out of the drain
-- Comb my hair, and get bummed out by all the hair on the comb.
-- Figure out what to wear that accommodates the whole shebang
Just thinking about it made me tired, so why get up.
Of course, by 4:00, I was grossing myself out, so I hauled my reluctant body out of bed and did the whole routine. When I was finally ready to go for the day, it was dinner time! Next time, I'll just get up.
I had that debilitating stomach pain again, but it was only one day. Yay!
All is well now, and it actually takes effort for me to remember all those events, because they feel like they are in my distant past. Overall, it's been a wonderful week filled with friends and fun events. I even got to go to a Harvard reunion -- I didn't go to Harvard, so who'da thunk I'd ever be there...what a thrill!
At the same time, I'm a little apprehensive about the week ahead. My chemo schedule for this week will shift by a day. On Tuesday, I have a PET CT. It is a normal check point in my chemo path, where they use machines (and radiation) to look inside my body for any "hot spots" that might be tumors. My blood numbers look good, so I am both optimistic and bracing myself. Fortunately, I'll get the results on Wednesday.
Following my meeting with the doctor on Wednesday, I'll have chemo. This is instead of my normal Tuesday chemo. Then I will wear the chemo bag from Wed - Friday, and get an injection on Saturday. I like to think that I handle change well, but the prospect of having different nurses on a different chemo day is almost more anxiety-provoking than having the PET CT. All that said, I am relatively calm.
Of course, life isn't all chemo. Last week was Julian's last week in his preschool Yellow Room, and I was lucky to get to go to the events. This week is Aidan's last week of first grade, with lots of activities planned. I will miss the parent breakfast, but I figure it will be okay.
How the kids deal with this has been top of mind lately. Often, I simply push it to the back of my mind and focus on the day-to-day; the logistics and emotions can be overwhelming, and I just want us to be a normal family. This week, though, I felt like "death of a parent" was everywhere I looked, in newspaper articles, radio shows, blogs, and even news from a friend who knew a mother who died last week, leaving her school-aged children. So I've had to face it more directly, though it is a little comforting to know that we are not alone.
I haven't yet found alot of information on how to best help children through a situation like this. Adults have a difficult time navigating a parent's illness and potential death. What about children, who do not have the life experience, longer-term relationship or perspective of adults? My current mission is to learn more about how to help our children through this period, regardless of where this path leads.
I think about this in two ways: how to help them with their feelings right now, and how to help cushion the blow for them if something should happen to me.
As for dealing with their feelings right now, Tiron and I stumble through that day by day. Sometimes things are normal, sometimes we wonder if things are normal (we all have our "weird" moments, just in regular life), and sometimes, things are pretty heavy and we muddle through.
In case something should happen to me, I wonder how to best build a net that might catch them and cushion the blow. As hard as it is for me to think about this, I realize that it would be even harder for them if I don't. Plus, I don't know what kinds of nets they might need. For example, would they be interested in the stories that a mother might tell them when they were older, like what they were like as babies and the strengths we saw in them at an early age? Would they be interested in factual information about me? Stories about our times together? If you have any insights into this, please send them along.
Right now, I look around for clues. Though Tiron would be there for them, and I think he would do a great job, I do wonder what holes would exist and how those might be filled.
For example, almost every Friday, I attend an assembly at Aidan's school with the pre-K through fourth grader students, and other parents. The fourth graders take their turn reciting a poem in front of the assembly, a milestone in their time at the school. I love this part of assembly. I listen to each of the kids, thinking about why they chose the poem they did, how they practiced for this moment, what their speaking style is. I love seeing the families as they cheer for their children. And I wonder, if I am not here, who will listen especially to my boys, to help prepare them and to cheer them on?
A couple of months ago, a friend came with me to assembly. I sit with the parents, not with Aidan, but she grabbed a chair and he sat on her lap. He was incredibly comfortable with her, and she was completely present with him. Watching them together made me relax a bit and realize that she would be there for them, and that maybe, in some way, things will be just fine.
And I started to think -- whether or not I am here, hopefully our children will learn more about me through stories from Tiron and our friends and family who know me in different ways. This gives me a new perspective on the time we spend together with friends, how we get to know each other through the smallest of interactions, and how we become part of each other as time passes. Why we choose the jobs we did, whether we choose to exercise or chow down (or both), to read a book or have a party, how we talk about the major and minor events that are important to us, the decisions we make about how to spend our time -- we learn so much about each other in so many subtle ways. We become interconnected through these conversations and interactions, and we hold the ongoing stories of each other's lives.
Deep inside, I feel like that is what will carry them both through. The social web we create will hold them, always. And maybe that is the strongest net of all, for me as well, no matter where this path leads.
Thank you for helping us all through this time, for being the net that catches us. Thank you for always stepping in, even when we don't know what to ask for. Thank you for being so steady for us in an unsteady time, for giving of yourself so unselfishly, and for keeping your humor along the way.
Prayers to you for a great week, and thank you for your prayers for me!