Mary’s courageous battle with cancer ended in the early hours May 8th.
I am going to die! Now, everyone knows. It is no longer a secret. You are going to die, too! Sometimes, I feel like that is what people are asking me when they say “how are you doing?” I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone ask me that question and my answer isn’t enough. They keep going until I say “well, the original prognosis was 4-6 years.” This is received with some comment about “hang in there” or “well, you’re in our prayers.” To those people I say, “stop asking how I am if you just want me to be dying!” I have no intention of going anywhere until the Lord is done with me, so, kiss off.
I apologize for starting a blog entry out this way but I am seriously annoyed by this. Josue and I have been a couple places in the past week where people have responded to us in this way and I think these people stink (look Mom, I didn’t say they suck, even though I really wanted to). On the other hand, I ran into a lady that graduated from Minico (Go Spartans!) a year before Lance. She walked right up to my bald headed self and said, “well, it looks like you’re going through something. What’s up?” I told her I had cancer, to which she responded “umm, that sucks. How are you living? ” It was the best question ever! She was interested in how I am living and not how I am dying. In case you’re wondering, I think about dying everyday. It’s hard not to when your mouth taste like you swallowed a cow turd, leaving even water to be repulsive. It’s hard not to when you freaking have cancer.
For those of you that are not aware, I started in a Master’s Program at ISU. What kind of an idiot signs up to get a counseling degree when they have cancer? The idiot that hadn’t planned on cancer. I am in sessions, as a client four days a week. That’s insane. Everyone I practice with wants me to talk about cancer because it makes their sessions easy. They always want me to talk about the fear of dying and how emotional it is to have a terminal illness. Then, I get grief from the professors when I’m not “vulnerable enough” about death. To which I respond “Dude (yep, I use dude), I’m not nearly afraid of death as I am life. So why aren’t these students asking me about what’s really hard?” Let me tell you, it would be a heck of a lot easier to just let go, but what good would it do? Would it help my relationship with anyone? Would it get me closer to my eternal goals to leave this life now? Need I really answer these questions, come on, really.
Since my last entry, I’d like to highlight some pretty awesome things that I have lived through, because, if you can’t tell, I haven’t died through any of them. My feet got too painful to run the GT Relay. Luckily, Lance called in a ringer. My cousin, Tanya, is something pretty spectacular. She didn’t just join the team, she led them. Literally, she started us out on our first leg and finished at the front of the pack. None of us knew what to expect from her so we waited at the starting line for awhile, mostly so Lance could Go-Pro everything, before heading off to get Tanya. When we finally caught up, she was nearly done and we were all blown away. She was a real joy to have in the car. I didn’t really know her much before this event. Let me tell you, that girl was raised right. She is a real example to me. I was humbled by her insight to raising kids, being a spouse, and setting goals.
Speaking of good people, this year’s Team Dragon Ash had quite a few changes. Reflecting back on the adventure, I’d say it was the best team yet. I’d like to post some shout outs to a few. Jorge is amazing. He does what is hard because he genuinely believes it gives him connection to life as it is intended to be lived. Katie goes past what she believes she can because when she sees a need, she fills it. Lance is ridiculous and should never be given a Go-Pro. Then, there is Amanda. She goes beyond what she knows she should because she was made with the intention of climbing every mountain, figurative or real, that is set in front of her.
While it is true that I started school, so did Maximo. To make the event even more rememberable, I forgot to pick him on the first day. I was in school and without my phone. Once again, my Elle’s Angels came through. They figured out how to contact Josue, in Mexico, and get the school to release Maximo to them. All the while, they were communicating in their best Spanish (Rachelle’s really is something to behold) with my mother-in-law. How do you forget your kids on his first day of school? I have no idea but I managed it.
We got tickets from EIRMC (yep, my insurance pays them more than $50,000 every 21 days and all we got were tickets) to the Chuckar’s baseball game. So, naturally we saved them and went on Breast Cancer Awareness night. Ann and Dain joined us. We got free shirts and a bunch of swag. I got put on the big screen…that was cool. My kids got broken bats from the players. I got a foul ball from a little boy sitting in front of us that he and his brother both signed for me. I won’t lie, my favorite part was the pulled-pork nachos. Who knew nachos could be so good? It was so much fun. My mother-in-law went. It was her first American Baseball Game. She had no idea what was going on but she loved the clapping and cheering and mascot. Oh yeah, and she loved the ice cream in a little, plastic ball cap.
We are settling into routine. My chemotherapy was changed to Friday to accommodate my schooling. Marina is back to dancing a few days a week. Maximo loves school. Josue is busy. Ana is living with us (turns out she is the best mother-in-law ever). The neighborhood kids can’t play during the week which makes me sad to not see the three littlest guys as often. The transition out of summer has happened. I like routine. It’s safe. It’s familiar. What I really like is the idea that a year ago I would have never thought I could do this and now I wouldn’t want to miss out on it.
Well, second scan results are out! Not as good as last time. “There is a 4mm nodule within the right middle lobe previously resolved, though appears to be returning.” It was explained to me that this means the chemotherapy is no longer having it’s original affect. Basically, my body is developing a tolerance and it is no longer working.
The doctors want to proceed with the dosage today. They were expecting the results to be different and haven’t made a new treatment plan. Thursday, I will be called back into the office to hear the new options and a new plan of attack will be chosen.
Now, there are lots of ways to look at this.
- Someone stopped praying or started doubting. If so, whoever you are get it together. This disease needs all of us.
- There is no way the Lord was going to let us go through this with no hiccups or trials. This is just a set back. We’ve beaten it before and now we will do it again.
- I was beating it too fast and the Lord has decided to slow me down. I was feeling so good, even started back to work more. This is a reminder that slowing down is what is need, despite my belief that I feel better than I actually do.
Any of these are good options. Maybe they all apply. I really liked Karen’s response to the news the very best. She responded to the news of the 4mm nodule be texting, “I have faith bigger than that.” I believe we all do. Don’t get me wrong, a set back like this is a real blow to my hope but then I remember all the guidance from the Lord. The most valuable at a time like this are words that came from a blessing not long ago, “everything in my life has been preparing me for these moments.” I must be prepared. The Lord, apparently, thought this trial would be necessary but was merciful enough to prepare me for it.
I once told the Lord I would not complain about this. I said I would do what was needed to help those around me take the most from it. These blows, remind me that I still have things to take away from this too. I have some learning and some trusting of my own to do. I wrote a blog entry once about why I chose the name Tan Sports Car for this site. I still believe that’s who I am but today I found something on my tan sports car I had never seen before. There is a chip in the exterior paint. Underneath this tan sports car paint, I found a little pink. And you know what, I AM TOUGH ENOUGH TO WEAR PINK.
Hey everyone! This Friday is the War Bonnet Rodeo. My favorite EIRMC is the big sponsor that night. They do a whole “Tough Enough To Wear Pink” theme. As part of their campaign to have more women get there screenings, they asked me to do a video for promotion. Josue, my kids, and myself will be riding around the arena in a truck when they show the video.
It’s become a big deal to me that more women take care of themselves. It’s our privilege. We deserve it. I encourage everyone to think pink. Help good women live good lives.
A belle is defined as a woman or girl admired for her beauty or charm. As in, the belle of the ball. Well, allow me to introduce the Twin Falls Belles.
These girls define the word belle in every way. My niece plays for the team, while my brother-in-law coaches, and my sister manages or, in other words, runs the money and stresses out over a lot of emails and intense parents. I’ve been really into watching them play tournaments whenever they are close to Idaho Falls. I have been so lucky. The tournaments I have attended all fell on chemotherapy weeks so going kept my mind off me and made it way more tolerable.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the most recent tournament here on Idaho Falls. When I showed up to drop the girls and Eric off for their first early morning game on Friday I was confused when they were all wearing pink uniforms. Karen hadn’t said a word and my niece left the house dressed in gray. It wasn’t until the head coach turned around and showed me the back that I really understood. The team had a breast cancer ribbon wrapped around a softball with the words “battle for Mary” printed on the ribbon. I cried! I didn’t cry for me, although I was touched, I cried because this had been done to honor my sister. While I love these girls and they have truly lifted my spirit at some very difficult times, they were showing the most tender mercy to my sister who gives all she has to everyone she can. I wept all the way home to pick her up, wondering how I was going to hide my crying. Luckily, she was in such a hurry she just yelled at everyone to get in the cars and we were all off. Oh, she cried too! She cried when she saw the team, knowing it had all been coordinated by the coaches and parents. Then, mom cried.
The girls played the best game I have ever seen them play. The first game they played, they were there to win. The other team could hardly get on base. I was a bit confused when the last batter hit a double and they called her in to the dugout. Then, I realized that the game had been called because they were so far ahead. My precious niece had killer hits in every game. She was amazing. All of the girls were. The final game they played was a close one. The loss was tough to swallow but the girls went down with a fight. They played like they never have before.
To those girls, I say: “you are true belles. You have scored a run in my heart that will be talked about long after you play for other teams. You are beautiful. You are charming. You will forever be the belle of the ball game. I am so grateful for the act of dedication to the way you played that hot day in July. Thank you for recognizing my sister and loving her. You give me hope that there are still great people out there. You are wonderful girls and you will make amazing women.”
I wouldn’t have guessed that a 14u softball team could touch my heart so profoundly but they have left their mark. If life was to be measured in statistics, I would hope that I can have a few RBIs like the one these girls have scored. May I be as dedicated to lifting the hope of others as they have been to lifting mine. Go Belles!!!!
I would like to express that chemotherapy is not bad but the Infusion Room at EIRMC is not big enough. I went over this morning, same as always, to find all six bays full. That’s not all. There was a nice couple, whom I met yesterday at my blood draw, finishing up their antibiotic infusion in the entry of the door. Just a bit further in, next to all the supplies, there was a nice lady getting treated for kidney infection. After talking with the stressed nurses that were clearly trying to manage everyone, Josue and I decided to leave for an hour and return when they projected an open bay.
Marina, Maximo, and I returned 70 minutes later to find the same couple from yesterday, the kidney infection lady, a good-looking vet with an infection in his knee, and an older lady with hot pink pants on. We jumped in line. The available chairs were next to the kidney infection lady. Turns out that my kids got a good chance to practice their people skills and learned some new vocabulary. Kidney shared her stroke story and my kids were so nice listening and asking polite questions. The only weird part was when she complimented Marina’s “thongs.” Marina had no idea what thongs were. I had to rephrase her statement using “flip flops.” My kids are still laughing at that word. I can’t wait until they figure out what the word thong means now a days. That will be a real education.
Anyway, chemotherapy is kept in the hospital in the form of a brick. So, when I arrive and the nurses from infusion order it from the pharmacy (located in some hidden place in the hospital because I have never seen it and I have been all over this place). Pharmacy, once the order is placed, begins breaking the chemo brick down into a liquid form so that it can be shot into my veins. Apparently, this brick was made by some fairy with a vengeance to still time from the average person because it takes forever. From the time they made the call to the time it was delivered in the biohazard double bagging, it took 2.5 hours.
While I love talking to all the people in infusion, and I adore the nurses (truly they are the best in the world), I would rather be doing something else. Good things come from being in the hospital that long. Marina has started to talk about wanting to grow up and be a nurse and Maximo talks about being a doctor. These are both promising professions. Plus, I have met some pretty cool people. In just one day, I got the Hot Vet, Kidney, and Hot Pink Pants…all good stories. Each one of them has their reason for being there and their life outside of the Infusion Room.
None the less, the days best humor came from my sister, Ann. She sent me a text “happy tree sap.” I laughed when I realized you can put a comma anywhere in that text and it just gets funnier. For example: “happy, tree sap” or “happy tree, sap.” Teresa stopped by with her kids to keep me company a while. That was awesome but, again, there is a space problem. Teresa’s two kids are sitting on each other while Maximo stands and Marina sits on Teresa. We were crammed in the smallest of all bays. It makes for a cozy visit until the nurse has to wedge in to shut off the IV pump and remove my port access.
So what does infusion really do. It pumps a highly toxic chemical into my body that requires the nurses to remind me that I shouldn’t be around people for the next few days, when I just sat squeezed into a room with people that are only there because they are sick. Oh, the irony of it all. They still time from my day so that I can have more years. Chemo kills my cells so that I can live. I guess the Infusion Room is a miniature model of live. We pay our costs to have out benefits and hope we got a good deal. I’m pretty with my deal. No major complaints (wink, wink.)
The transition from our old life to this new one is not as easy as you’d think. We had our old routine down. I knew when I worked. Josue knew when he worked. Our kids knew the daily grind of it all. This one is not that way. We scheduled things and then medical changes happen. We can plan out our week, do a regular blood test on Tuesday and by Thursday I’m getting a call for some test that will inevitably come out negative but will take the standard million hours to do because of the way hospitals functions. It has made committing to anything very difficult. Then, Josue and I find ourselves discussing how guilty we feel that we don’t commit. We have become those people. The ones that want to be there but never are, or we randomly show up when we the schedule actually stayed open but nobody was planning on us so they have to uncomfortably make room.
Then there is the fatigue! Imagine going to bed around 9:30 pm, waking up about 7:00 am, and feeling like your body is made of led because of how heavy it feels to lift. After 9 1/2 hours of sleep, you are still exhausted. The worst part of the fatigue is that it is the only symptom that has a gradual onset. It sneaks up on you. It creeps in and does not creep out. Running and other activities help but starting them is extremely difficult. There is no motivation because you never feel rested.
Throw in the never ending feeling of numbness in you feet. Neuropathy is stupid. I view it as completely unfair. My big toe on my right foot has not been felt for weeks. I can press it into the floor and feel the pressure in my nerves further back in my foot but not on the actual toe. Wait! I lied. It has been felt. When I run, somewhere between mile 2 and 2 1/2 I can feel it. Oh boy, can I feel it! My feet will start to sting. They get that familiar feeling that everyone knows. It the one that happens when your feet fall asleep from sitting on them too long. It’s the one where you know it will hurt to move them but if you do the blood will start to circulate and they will feel better. Only, in my case, they just have the hurt feeling because the nerves are messed up.
Some days I wonder where I fit. Most days I just don’t want to fit anywhere. The transition doing a lot to feeling like you do nothing has mentally beat me up. My kids are awesome at reminding me that they love having me home, even if I’m not as active as I was. Josue is great at coming up with things to do and keeping us active. I know this change is a good thing and the transition is good but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m grateful for the things I have recognized as needing changed and taking more of an active role in my home life. I am really grateful for that blessing. However, suddenly I find myself having to redefine my identify outside of home. I helped build a little program at work and now it is time for it to restructure without me and that is sad. I love being a counselor. I am passionate about working with people but cancer has decided that isn’t my main role for the time being. I guess my new adventure is learning to master the roles I am being given now.