Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Oatmeal

                                                                    . . .   on a Saturday morning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fantasticks

Last week, we took Sarah and her friend, Taylor, to a local production of the musical, The Fantasticks.  Happily, it was only about five minutes from our house and better yet, it was free!  (I just love free!)

The girls decided to put on some make up for the occasion; since Sarah really doesn’t like make up, that was quite a big occasion for her.

But don’t they look mah-ve-lous, dahling?


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The musical was held in a small auditorium surrounded by a whole lot of loveliness. (J just love small auditoriums.  And loveliness.)


Everywhere we looked, there was something eye catching to gaze at.  (I just love gazing at eye-catching stuff.)


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For the musical, we got to sit in the very front row.  (I love sitting in the front row. Of small auditoriums. Surrounded by loveliness.)


The musical was performed by students from East Carolina University.  It was well done and funny and featured a whole lot of great writing.  (You guessed it.  I love great writing.)  From what I understand,  the show's original off-Broadway production ran a total of 42 years and 17,162 performances, making it the world's longest-running musical.


And so that was our big outing for the week, an event blessed with lovely ladies and lovely surroundings!   (I just love loveliness!)


A Few of Your Comments to Comment On:

Anon said: Your website keeps coming up on my anti-virus scan as a "dangerous" website. I refuse to click the "fix it" button, because I don't want to stop visiting your site. Do you know why this is happening? I am mostly a lurker, but I really enjoy your writing and reading about your wonderful family.

A.  Anonymous, I’ve had a couple other people e-mail me with the same problem.  So, since it’s happened more than once, I e-mailed my friend Wyatt, The Computer Guru, to see if he had any input. This is what he said:

“Many times this problem can be caused by the visitor's browser security or privacy settings being set too high, which filters out any tiny possibility of an attack.

To the ones who have brought this to your attention: They can simply put your site in their 'allowed' list in their anti-virus program and those bogus alerts will stop.”


Sue G.  prefaced a comment by saying, “I'm a bit behind in my reading, so I don't know if you will even see this late comment to your entry.”

I just wanted to let her (and the rest of you) know that I get an email reminder anytime a comment is left on the site, whether it’s from a recent post or a post from six months ago.  So you can comment away on old or new posts and always know that I will see the comment.

Speaking of which, THANKS to those of you who are so faithful to comment.  You really make my day!


Thanks for all the messages you left yesterday; I feel very blessed to have so many people who care about the ins and outs of this cancer journey I'm on.

Today I am off of the prescription pain meds but I'm still a bit weak-n-woozy feeling. I've been up for a few hours this morning (we had some company drop in) and now my body is telling me it's time to head back to bed awhile.

Although I don't have the energy to write a whole lot right now, I at least wanted to let you know I'm feeling a little better.

More later. . . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Not So Great, Very Bad Day

Today I am finally inching my way back into the land of the living.

The two prescription pain meds I’ve been on made me so sick that I wasn’t able to hold down any food until about 6 pm last night. On top of being hungry and nauseated (at the same time) the meds also made me feel sleepy and “loopy” most of the day. All in all? Yesterday was not such a great day.

On Monday morning before I left for my “final fill” appointment, Steve and I had our weekly conversation where he always says, “Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?”

And I always respond, “No, I’ll be fine.”

I was thinking that the first three fills weren’t all that bad and although last week was a little more difficult, I figured that that was just a fluke and I’d be back to a less difficult fill this time around.

Besides, Steve was jumping through hoops left and right trying to get paperwork filled out and files found and stuff dropped off at the bank to beat the deadline in getting this house closed by the end of the month.

So I headed out alone which was fine, because I’ve always loved taking road trips by myself, listening to books on tape, listening to music or just listening to my own thoughts in the silence. Also, I always leave a little bit early for my appointment each week so I can stop by one of my recently discovered thrift stores in Greenville; it helps make an unpleasant day a little more enjoyable when I get to do something fun thing along the way.

And so all went well for a while. I happily hummed along down the road, making a quick stop for lunch, dropping by a favorite store, and finally checking in at the surgeon’s office at 3 pm. He and his nurse went through their usual tasks of using the magnet to find the port, marking the port, and getting the needles and syringes ready to go. We were chatting about how hot it had been and how our flowers and plants were doing and everything was all light and lovely.

He started the first fill on my right side and it seemed to me that he was having to struggle quite a bit to get the saline to go in. He was pushing harder and harder and it was feeling terribly tight, tighter than it had ever been, actually scary tight. I was about to say something when all of a sudden I felt (and heard) something like a little “pop” in my far right breast area, almost under my arm. Accompanying the pop, was a sharp stab of pain, so sharp that I actually yelled. Twice. Really loud. And I am not a yeller, under most circumstances.

They both bustled around me, quite concerned, asking me if I was okay. Through gritted teeth I asked, “What just happened?”

The surgeon said that in a small percentage of patients, sometimes one corner of the expander gets folded back underneath the rest of the expander. When the final fill is done and the expander is filled to capacity, the pressure of the fill will cause that corner to fill up and pop back out into place. When it does, it rips through scar tissue and any nerves that happen to be left in that area.

And that’s what happened to me. A corner of an expander unfolded and ripped through delicate parts of myself.

I was just slightly traumatized, to say the least.

I said, “Well, will that happen again on the left side?” He said that chances were that it wouldn’t.

And it didn’t. Thankfully. But by that time I was so tense from dreading the fact that it MIGHT happen again, that my whole body had turned into one big tremble.

Before leaving the room so that I could get dressed, the surgeon told me that my right breast was going to cause me quite a bit of pain for at least 24-hours until all the nerves and scar tissue had settled back down and recovered from the trauma.

Once he and his nurse finally left, I stood there in the middle of the floor and just sobbed. Not because of the pain alone, but because of the unexpected shock of that unnerving POP, coupled with the knowledge that the pain was not going to go away anytime soon.

It took me a few minutes to get myself under control; when I finally got changed and glanced into the mirror, I saw that my eyes and face were all red and puffy. I really didn’t feel like going back out to the desk and chatting with the secretary and making my appointment to return in a month.

But I did. And although she didn’t say a word about my tear streaked face, she was extra sweet and compassionate, obviously understanding I’d had a rough go of things.

And then came the trip home. Two and a half hours. An hour before my appointment, I had taken two Aleve, which I do every week so I can get ahead of any discomfort. As soon as I got out of the office, I also took two extra strength Tylenol. Half of an hour later, the pain hadn’t been affected at all; if anything it was getting worse, probably because the numbing agent the doctor had given me during the procedure was wearing off.

I half thought about calling Steve and having him come and get me, but that would just mean trying to get two cars home and delaying my arrival at home for several hours. And all I wanted to do was to go home. And take pills. And go to bed.

Let me just say that that trip home was the longest 2 1/2 hours of my life, apart from childbirth. I never felt like I was unsafe because I forced myself to concentrate intently on the traffic and on the road as I drove. But I hurt like fire, and I was crying to beat the band almost the whole time.

At one point I was almost tempted to try and find a hospital along the way and go into the emergency room for help. But then again, I knew that that would delay me even more.

So I kept on driving. And crying.

About half an hour from home, I called Steve and through my tears told him to please call the pharmacist and figure out which of my prescription pain pills (leftover from surgery) that I could take in addition to over-the-counter stuff I’d already had. I told Steve, “I want to walk in the house and have major pills laid out on the counter, ready to be taken. Immediately!”

Issuing orders to my husband? That’s how desperate I was.

When I finally pulled into driveway, the front door opened and Sarah came flying down the stairs at a dead run, with Steve not far behind. She opened the car door and looked at me with such great compassion and concern, I almost cried harder. She helped me out of the car and then Steve took over and helped me up the stairs to house.

And thankfully, my approved-by-the-pharmacist meds (two pain killers and a muscle relaxer) were neatly laid out on the counter. Steve told me that what I was taking was going to fly me to the moon and I said, “That’s exactly what I want. I just want to escape this pain.”

They fixed me a bite of dinner (it was the last food I would be able to keep down for 24 hours) and then I was upstairs in bed and down for the count. It took about an hour for the pills to kick in and then finally, I got some relief.

I slept through the night, slept most of yesterday and slept three hours this morning.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to get off the stronger of the two pain pills but I’m still having quite a bit of discomfort so I’m not going to discontinue the second one for another day or so.

So that was my memorable “Last Filling.” I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have those done with. I have a month break, then I’ll go back for a quick check up, involving NO exam chairs, needles or syringes.

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Then in another month, there will another check up and in another month, I’ll have the exchange surgery.

I’m headed back to bed again . . . thanks for your concern and prayers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Not So Good . . .

Yesterday's final fill was extra, extra tough.

And today I've been in bed all day, on prescription pain pills, muddle headed, uncomfortable, throwing up, sleeping a lot.

When I stop hurting and my brain starts working again, I'll write more.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Final Fill Monday. Crazy Hats. Duct Tape.

This morning, Steve and I went out early for our (almost daily) bike ride. As we were peacefully pedaling home, I thought back to eight weeks ago when I was recovering from surgery and would sit looking out our front window at people riding their bikes past our house. Seeing them made me feel sad and wistful and jealous and, well, a little bit cheated.

But today? Today, I got to be one of the fortunate ones strong enough and healthy enough to get on a bike and pedal home through the early morning.

Simple, sweet blessings.

I will certainly need the memories of my peaceful morning to get me through this last trip to my surgeon today. One more saline fill. One more night of pain pills and saying “ouch” every five minutes and then I’ll be free for three months!

Although truthfully, I wish I could have the replacement surgery done a lot earlier; three months is a long time to live in the state of semi-discomfort and general weirdness that these expanders create. Some plastic surgeons do the surgery within six weeks of the final fill; others wait three months. I just happened to get a three month-er. (sigh)

But enough of that. Let me fill you in our weekend.

Saturday there was a reception at our church for a couple who is adopting four siblings between the ages of about eight and thirteen. One of their sons requested that the reception also be dubbed a Crazy Hat Party. And so it was! We were all invited to wear some sort of hat--crazy or not.

Sarah went with the non-crazy look as befits her more dignified demeanor.


However, her father grabbed onto the whole “crazy hat” scheme with the greatest of gusto. Steve loves doin’ crazy! He even accented his hat (and wig) with official Bubba teeth. His parishioners weren’t quite sure what to think about him although if the truth were known, they were probably wondering, “Is it too early in his tenure to vote him out?”



He got upstaged though, by Harold, who came in wearing this getup. (Harold’s “hat” is actually a ski mask that he bought in Wisconsin. Is that cool, or what?)


Here are two of our board members. And their hats.



If you can’t tell, Steve had a very good time at the Crazy Hat Party. (The guy in the Uncle Sam hat is the adoptive dad.)


Yesterday, we dubbed our Father’s Day service at church, “Duct Tape Dad’s Day.”

Please look at the following picture and note two things:

1. There is a pile of duct tape piled up on the platform. (Each guy got a roll at the end of the service.)

2. Steve is wearing a tie. Made of duct tape. That he created himself!


Here it is in a little more detail.



Is that creative or what?

As part of the duct tape emphasis, there was a contest for the men to make stuff out of duct tape and compete to win a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse.

We also played a comedy video in the service about duct tape and then Steve preached a sermon called “Duct Tape Dads.” It was a brilliant, creative, down-to-earth sermon that tied up the morning’s activities perfectly.

It was a great morning followed by a delicious meal on the grill after the service.

Followed by a nap.

Ahhhh . . . . I love my Sunday naps.

Okay, it’s time to get ready to leave for my Happy Appointment! (Please insert heavy sarcasm right here.) I do hope your Monday is more lovely than mine!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Room

Today is my siblings and my first Father’s Day without our dad; he passed away in August of 2009.

This week I forgot reality for just a brief moment and was about to write “buy Dad a Father’s Day card” on my to do list. But then I stopped in my tracks. And I cried.

The tears were a mingling of sadness and joy--sadness because he’s gone and joy because there’s no need for Hallmark cards in heaven.

I would like to honor Dad’s memory today by posting a piece my sister, Ruth, wrote shortly after his death.


I hate this room. It feels like a prison.

It is at the end of the hall in this sprawling, brick building. There is one wide window looking down on a busy street, so close I feel as though I could disappear down into the incoming cars, my eyes mesmerized by the constant motion three stories down. I am reluctant to look around the room anyway; it is bleak, sterile, confining.

The door is always left half open and escape is easy, always within reach. And yet I still keep coming here day after day. Free to come and go, yet still I sometimes stay around the clock. Something compels me to be here waiting. There is only one thing worth focusing my attention on and it is in the exact center of this hateful room.

A man on a bed. Dying. My father.

So I am here. I’m tethered in my mind to the lines of tubes and needles surrounding the still form. Others are around, too—sisters, brothers, mother. We have been pulled from our frenzied days to be glued together by invisible cords, unspoken words, restless thoughts, teeming with tension in the stifling air of a hospice room.

We send quick looks of encouragement to each other, give an occasional hug, discuss the future without seeming to be affected by gloomy emotions. There is even laughter at times, rather beautiful, lingering in the air, hovering over us all like a mantle of soothing comfort.

Nurses come and go, checking the numerous pieces of equipment, then tiptoe out. We are alone again, attempting to keep a flow of normal tones and conversation going while watching the bed, checking for any movement, any change, the rise of the chest, up and down.

He is still with us. We lean back. Try not to think.

But so many thoughts assault our weary minds. When will the dreaded moment come? Why does death have to enter this physical realm and snatch his presence from us? Why?

Death is here. Unseen. Invading our territory. Pressing in. Backing off. Stepping ever so lightly but marring the mind with persistent stabs of pain and doubt. It is gloating over its power to wrack the body with slow torture, pouring forth lies of destruction, aimed at the core of one’s very soul—mine and Dad’s.

But in the quiet moments that tick on and on, I sense that his spirit has held up; it has clung to the only Truth ever known. The Great I Am stands between him and the destroyer like a mighty rock, impenetrable, exuding permanent peace in the presence of utter darkness.

It would seem to the natural mind that defeat is rounding the home stretch, the finish line is in view. The decaying body has been stripped of all energy and vitality; how in the name of God will it survive? The fear of the infinite unknown rises up in me, leaving my emotions tossing about in huge drafts of hopeless longing. It strikes at everyone here.

We have no firm knowledge of what Life will be like for him. Only staunch faith holds us up now. We resolutely fasten our limited mental ability to this absolute belief that God is all and in all. He will not fail. He will not forsake, for the Bible tells me so and Dad has lived it so—for us all. His past years of leading us through the lessons of living have instilled in us his confidence—that eternity is absolutely above and beyond what we could ask or think.

Somehow he has gently conveyed to me over the years that though we are weak, He is strong. I never need doubt because Dad has lived the agony and truth of that living Word, lived it with all his guts, hung with a bulldog bite to the hand of his Lord.

So when I am so very weak, I will remember this wonderful mandate, “For my light affliction which is but for a moment works for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Those serious words ring true of his constant goal and hope—to live for the things which are not seen but eternal. Priceless.

Suddenly blessed peace presses through the emotional tumult of The Room. It so softly enters this place where we wait—flowing through and filling every particle of air and dust floating around and through us, altering the natural atmosphere of human sorrow which we mortals suffer in the final hours of seeing a loved one pass.

Away from us and unto Him. “Dust unto dust.” The ancient command becomes a bulwark of celestial hope.

My father will be gone, very soon. Gone for good from my eyes, my arms, the arms that long to be held in the safe haven of his love. Love that I have known since a child, always present for me, so beautifully given. Godlike in its unalterable acceptance of me.

Now I believe I see his footprints stretching out toward the Milky Way like tiny pricks of golden light, helping me recognize the trail home, littered with bits of hope, faith and love, released from many years of his faithful care over me. He is still guiding my path on a sure foundation where there is none. . . nothing but black, heavy deeps of endless space.

One day when I head out to follow his pioneering trail, faint to the human eye but blazing vividly to my trembling soul, I will know it has been humbly tread upon by one who has overcome the frailty of human form to gladly change over into a spiritual being of everlasting life and joy. This is my constant joy. Thank you, Dad.

And finally, swiftly running, racing, tumbling toward immense and compelling grace I will call out, “Dad, I’m home!” Then I’ll see the massive door of heaven swing forth and his answer will pull my waiting soul into vast eternity.

The familiar voice reply, mingling with exquisite harmony in a victorious song of our dear Lord, “Enter into our paradise, beloved child. The journey is done.”