Tag Archives: children

50

16 Nov

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written. If you read my last blog I spoke about being weary. After coming home from Alex’s 6 week hospital stay from the stroke, I was physically exhausted, mentally fried, and soul-crushed tired. All of that turned into functional depression or maybe grief over the past month or so. There’s a lot of talk about mental health these days so it seems ‘safer’ to speak truth and this is me being vulnerable. I say ‘functional’ depression because I continued to work, and smile, and socialize, and maintain my regular ‘high achieving/ goal oriented’ daily life, but then there was the other side. There was the underlying sadness that I could feel wanting to pull me down, and the tears that would show up at random times. It was like skating on thin ice wondering when it would start cracking and hoping I didn’t fall through. I still feel it come and go but I also feel like I’m coming out of it. I have PTSD from Alex’s stroke. When he doesn’t respond to a text within minutes I’m panicky, if he sleeps 5 minutes longer than normal I wonder if he’s ok. I hate it. He has one more procedure coming up to make sure his AVM is completely gone and it happens to be the same week as my CT to measure my tumors. It’s a lot. I probably need therapy.

I have to say this past year has been a challenge (cancer, emergency surgery, stroke, job stress and changes) but for every bad thing that’s happened there have been a million awesome things. Balancing the weight of having cancer was(is) difficult enough, but then I had to dig even deeper for strength to help my son. Isn’t that how life is? Never comfortable? Adversity and challenges come and go to help us know what we’re made of. We can either cower and crawl into fetal position or push forward and say ‘screw you, I’m not going down that way.’ It’s funny, my word for 2019 year was/is renewal. The definition of renewal is to make new; refresh after an interruption; to restore. This has been a year of interruption and constant renewal has been tough. How ironic.

Last October I turned 50 and I felt a mind shift; maybe wiser, maybe more confident. Even though I got my AARP eligibility card in the mail (thanks for the reminder I’m a pre-qualifier for senior discount, AARP), I didn’t feel older… I felt a little more bad ass. In my 30’s and 40’s I felt a little nervous or maybe insecure about getting older but when I turned 50 everything kind of came together. After cancer, divorce, re-marriage, a really sick kid, I know what I’m made of and I’m pretty comfortable in my skin. Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:

  •  You are stronger than you think
  •  50 is still young, don’t fight it
  •  Stay connected with younger people, it keeps your mind active and there’s lots to learn from each other
  •  Simple is better, there are so many things you don’t need; assess, trash, donate
  •  There are still so many good people in this world
  •  The Golden Rule is truth. If everyone treated people how they would want to be treated the world would be a better place.
  •  Actions are more important than words; Words don’t matter if your actions don’t match
  •  Words can break you
  •  Bad things will happen
  •  There’s no need to be around toxic people, they just poison you and it takes too long to recover
  •  Everyone’s days are numbered, live like it
  •  Sadness comes and goes
  •  Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, read the book (paraphrased from Dolly Parton)~because everyone comes from a really good story
  •  Beauty and ugly both come from the inside, not what’s reflected in the mirror
  •  There’s no ‘perfect time’ to follow your dreams, just dive right in
  •  Loving God is different than being religious
  •  Life is still filled with wonder just open your eyes

Lastly, always be grateful.

Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.’~Mark Twain

 

Weary

16 Sep

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Alex (and I) left the hospital a little over a week ago and it’s been so good to be home. He’s been getting better at hyper speed and it’s been amazing to watch and honestly, pretty miraculous. He still has some work to do but his recovery has been phenomenal and I am beyond grateful. The Monday after we came home I had my appointment with my oncologist and just like that, I was back into my ongoing cancer journey.hospital

This past weekend Alex spent some time at his dads and it was the first time since the stroke that I wasn’t around him. It made me a little anxious to be away from him but gave me time to sit and digest everything that had happened over the past month and a half. I’m tired, but more than that, I’m exhausted and soul-weary; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Over the past 10 years I have fought and beat cancer 3 times and am now fighting for the 4th time, Stage 4 metastatic…then Alex has a stroke. That doesn’t even include divorce from a (still) difficult ex, remarriage, step-kids, new jobs, moving, sending kids off to college and all the daily obstacles ‘normal’ life brings. I. Am. Tired. I picked up a couple of my old journals, one from almost 20 years ago and one just 5 years ago and both were filled with so many struggles but all my entries ended with ‘thank you for…’ I have never asked God why I got/have cancer, I did ask why Alex had a stroke, and I have asked why life just can’t be easy for awhile because there always seems to be something, and that something has felt enormous (cancer, stroke). God didn’t promise easy. If you’re familiar with the Bible at all, NONE of those stories point to easy. But still…

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.’~
– Ernest Hemingway

When I was first diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, there was a time when my prognosis was not great, and while I was praying one night I audibly heard God say ‘trust.’ Maybe it was in my head, but it was an interrupted thought and just the word ‘trust.’ Since then, that has been my mantra, trust Him. I am not questioning my faith because man, without faith in these trials I would be flailing. In fact, I believe I can still stand strong because I am trusting God to hold me up. I am not alone in this crazy thing called life. I do feel at this moment like my soul needs refreshment. It feels heavy, sometimes sad, and honestly it feels harder right now to find a thank you because I’m just tired; tired for my child, tired of fighting cancer. Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ I am craving that rest, not just sleep, soul rest and refreshment. Psalm 71:14 ‘But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.’ Small steps, Big God.

alex homeIt was a tough 6 weeks. What sustained me and gave me energy? Love. Love is a superpower; love beyond any words, love that took action. My fierce momma bear love gave me the energy I needed to take care of Alex and to be there fully for him. The crazy love I received from my home team: my husband, kids, parents, friends, Alex’s friends and teachers, the parents of Alex’s friends, etc, helped sustained my spirit and kept me secure that yes, the world at home and around me were also taken cared of. The love Alex and I felt from the nurses, staff, work friends, acquaintances, and even wishes from social media strangers was incredible. Love does make the world go round and life always moves forward. ‘It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.’~Vincent Van Gogh

 

Courage

28 Aug

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This has been one of the toughest weeks in the hospital with my son. As you know from my last blog, my 16 year old suffered a stroke on August 2nd. Since then he went from the ICU to a step down unit, to in patient rehab. He has made TONS of progress in terms of speech and his right side gaining movement, but all of this progress was leading up to 2 procedures to ‘fix’ the AVM in his brain; one to stop the blood flow in that area, followed by brain surgery to fix the actual malformation. What went from deepest sorrow, to joy from getting better, returned to grief and fear this past week for these next two steps. Everyday since last Friday, grief, fear, and joy lived simultaneously in his hospital room. During the day we would experience the joy of something gaining motion but at night, the fear of the upcoming procedures and what changes may happen would steal the joy. Then there were the questions amidst tears in the quiet before bed each night; Why did this happen to me? Why can’t I just be a normal teen? Why me? I didn’t know this momma’s heart could break even more, but watching your child in pain and struggling with these unanswerable questions broke the remainder of what I had left.

How do you answer these questions when you don’t have the answers? How do you remain courageous when you yourself have fear? All I could do was hug him, cry with him and tell him that it was ok to cry, be afraid, and ask questions but in the morning he needed to fight back and to push forward. I told him to ask God to strengthen and sustain him and to give him peace. For a kid (and even for an adult), that sounds so generic and blasé’, but it’s what I have to hang on to so I’m going to hang on to it. I also told him when he’s older, he can tell his kids and grandkids about the scar on his head and how he overcame the biggest challenge of his life when he was just a kid. Ann Voskamp speaks of grief and loss as a type of empty or negative space in our hearts which gives our lives definition; its constant presence in our thoughts and actions. She then says that God uses this space to give us permission to pause, help us reevaluate and draw our attention to what is positive-God Himself and the hope we have.

I am exhausted, mentally and physically. On top of this, we had 3 kids recently go off to college and another is starting her senior year of high school. Life moves forward. I thought that a Stage 4 diagnosis would do me in, but watching and caring for your child through such a major health crisis goes beyond human capability. I understand the being strong and fighting part when it comes to me and my fight, but for my child? It’s the next level. Children believe you when they see in your eyes that you believe, and it has taken every inch of my being, with HEAVY reliance on my faith to be strong and courageous for both of us. Love gives courage. We talk about life in seasons, ‘this is just a good or bad season,’ etc, but I heard Shauna Niequist on a podcast and she referred to life as more of a railroad track, the good and bad happen simultaneously side by side. I agree because I’ve seen it every day we’ve been here and even through my own cancer journey. In this hell, there has been light. On the worst of days, there have been glimmers of hope. There may have been tears but there has been laughter as well; always good and bad side by side.

The love we have experienced from friends, family, nurses, even strangers have meant so much and has lifted us up. I cannot thank you all enough for all the cards, texts, gifts, and prayers. As a Christian, I have always known the story of God and Jesus but now I understand even more the incredible sacrifice; a Father watching his son suffer real human suffering to give us all hope. That is love. Love gives courage.

Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you…I will uphold you.’~Isaiah 41:10

 

Is God Still Good

16 Aug

img_4179About a month ago I was scrolling through social media and one of the cancer survivor/fighters I follow had her first scan one year after being told she was cancer free, and it was still clean. This of course is reason to celebrate and her comment was ‘God is so good.’ I hate to say it, but in my mind I thought, What if the scan results did not turn out that way…would she have still said, ‘God is so good’?

I have had a beyond crazy couple of weeks. About 2 weeks ago I was part of a celebration called Brushes With img_4060Cancer. I was matched with an artist (singer) and we collaborated together to create a piece of music with spoken word. There were several other artist/cancer thriver collaborations and the night was beautiful. At the end of the night I was presented a painting from an artist who told me he was inspired by my story and the painting he had been working on that evening was meant for me. Cue the tears of joy, gratitude, awe, etc. I left on a high. God is good. The very next day my 16 year old son suffered a stroke. The very. next. day.

Two weeks ago today, my son suffered a stroke due to AVM, an undetected malformation in the brain from birth. The tears of joy the night before turned into tears of the greatest sorrow and desperation I have ever had. I have never felt such depths of grief until I saw my baby, right side paralyzed, unable to speak that first week, with so much fear in his eyes. Was God still good? I obviously have had my fair share of bad stuff, but that first week (last week) felt like I was in an alternate reality. The words, ‘God only gives you what you can handle,’ meant (means) nothing to me because this, I couldn’t handle. Then there’s, ‘Things happen for a reason,’…what reason? Why do I have Stage 4 cancer and why would my youngest have a stroke? Here’s what I think (and excuse my language), shit happens. It just does. We were not promised heaven on earth or some euphoric life. I live in Michigan, we have long, gray winters, Michigan is not heaven. This is real life.

When Jesus was on earth, He experienced real life too. God doesn’t give us what we can handle, what kind of God would punish us to see what we could handle? I have felt completely helpless in this situation and I can’t handle this on my own, so on the contrary, I believe God helps us handle what we’re given. Ann Voskamp writes, ‘The Writer of the story has written Himself into the hardest places of yours and is softening the edges of everything with redeeming grace.’ I like that, He is softening the edges of this nightmare.

God is still good. In the case of a Christian life instead of ‘seeing is believing’, we have to live by ‘believing is seeing’. Romans 8:25 says, ‘But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’ This situation sucks. Me having cancer sucks. I know for sure though, that believing in God offers me the hope I need to push forward. This hope is the release needed to say, ‘I have no control over the situation and I hand it to You.’ Erwin McManus says, ‘Our ability to endure, persevere, to overcome is fueled by this one seemingly innocuous ingredient called hope.’  So, having metastatic cancer but still stable after 2 years? God is good. Alex progressing and getting better slowly every day? God is good. The hundreds if not thousands of people who have prayed for us over the past couple of weeks? God is good. Jesus living on this earth and suffering real, human, pain to give us hope? God is good. We will all have some adversity and some, even major tragedies which will be 100% awful and make us question everything. For me, the bits of peace and even the smallest rays of hope come from my faith in a big God, no matter the outcome. I am not alone. Small steps, big God. God is good.

Motherhood And Cancer

26 Sep

facetune_22-09-2018-17-18-00Last weekend my son went to his first official high school homecoming dance. He didn’t have a date but neither did most of his friends. Interesting times but I guess less pressure if you just decide to go with a bunch of friends. When I first found out cancer was back a little over a year ago my primary thoughts were of the kids not having a mom around to see them graduate, get married, have kids of their own, etc. Since I’ve been stable over a year some of those thoughts have faded (a little) but every time something significant happens like graduation, off to college, or this homecoming dance, my heart swells and I feel so grateful to still be here.img_4293

What can I say about being a mom with cancer? Many of my emotions I can’t even iterate on paper. This may be the hardest part. When I first got cancer the kids were 5, 7, and 10 and my thoughts were consumed with being able to raise the kids to at least adulthood when maybe they wouldn’t need a mom as much, but now that my kids are there or close to that ‘adulthood’ age I realize they still need a mom and maybe even more. Watching them grow up and being there for these moments is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I guess the best description of being a mom with cancer is ‘overwhelmed’; every event, every moment, every time they lay their head on my shoulder, every great conversation, every text or call just to say hello, and every ‘I love you’ is overwhelming, like my heart may burst into a thousand pieces with joy and love. On the other side, every harsh word or rude comment, every ‘you’re so annoying’, every time they make a bad decision, it is absolutely piercing heartbreak. Thankfully the negative is not often but it still happens and it’s hard. Having cancer has magnified every single emotion for me and as a mom, sometimes the emotions feel unbearable, both the good and the bad.

As it stands, motherhood is a sort of wilderness through which each woman hacks her way, part martyr, part pioneer; a turn of events from which some women derive feelings of heroism, while others experience a sense of exile from the world they knew.~Rachel Cusk

Metastatic cancer generally has no cure, it’s all about time. Being stable means more time. Being stable over a year? Slow growing…more time. I don’t want to miss anything. When they were young, I wanted to see them through to adulthood. Now that they’re older teens/young adults I want to see the rest of their stories and how it all shakes out so I’m kind of mad about it. There is no good time to have cancer. The teen/young adult years, I have decided, are the hardest years to parent. This is the time when kids push boundaries, try to bend the rules, and try to shove their way into adulthood and oh yeah, they can drive away. Why am I mad? Because at a time when I want to hold them tight and spend every possible moment I can with them,  they are trying to push off into the world. It stinks. It’s hard in general to parent during teen years but even harder with cancer because again, it’s about time. So. Incredibly. Frustrating.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt.

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How has cancer changed my mothering? I stare at the kids longer when I see them trying to memorize every feature. I move heaven and earth to be available for the times that they want to see me. I cry a lot more and not just when I’m sad, but when I’m ecstatic as well. I cry so.much. I hug them until they have to push me away and I pray for them and their future without ceasing. Motherhood stretches our hearts bigger and wider than we could have ever imagined and when you add cancer or any illness for that matter, your heart  stretches to the point of breaking. I read somewhere that cancer is not just a disease of the body but of the mind, body, and soul. So true. I will not let cancer break my spirit. I will take ‘stable’ as long as possible. I am a mom. I am strong.

Today I wear one of my favorite lips products of all time, Dior Lip Glow in Berry. I have this in 3 different ‘colors’. Essentially these are lip balms but each brings out a natural hue from your lips. I love these because they’re moisturizing and give your lips enough color to feel ‘finished’. Cheers!

Another Goodbye

8 Aug

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I just came home from a week long family vacation at a lake in northern Michigan. It was a beautiful and relaxing time spent with extended family just a few hours from home. The last morning we were there I walked out of our camper toward the lake and saw my daughter sitting alone on the bench at the end of the dock and I burst into img_3600tears. It’s August and in about 20 days I will say goodbye to my daughter who is taking the next step in life and moving away to go to college. Oh my heart. A few years back I said goodbye to my oldest boy as he left for college. Although I cried when I dropped him off I was mostly excited for him to start his next phase of life. There’s something about a daughter. I was telling a friend that with boys, they are struggling to find their place and their manhood throughout high school so when it’s time for them to go to college or just move on into adulthood, you as a parent are ready. I know I was ready to let him go, not in a

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Now 2 off to college

bad way, it was just different. He was ready to be a man, but my baby girl? Different. I’m so excited for her next adventure yet my heart hurts a little as I prepare to let her go. I listened to a podcast today that reminded me that your child’s goodbye is hardly ever permanent, it’s just another part of yours and their story you weren’t ready to write.

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence’~ Denis Waitley

As I looked at her at the end of the dock I thought about all the goodbye’s we have shared over the years. I could almost feel img_3628her hand leaving mine as I remembered dropping her off at preschool, then kindergarten, then the week long summer camps in elementary. Then there were the really big and scary goodbyes as she learned to drive and drove away alone for the first time, and in her case the mission trips; the scary goodbyes as she left for Kenya and Haiti. Raising kids is a long series of goodbyes and as they learn how to adult we learn how to let go. So hard. Add me having cancer? I. Can’t. Even.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.’~Elizabeth Stone

I can’t talk about the goodbyes without img_3777speaking about all the amazing and fantastic times before, after, and around the good-byes. I vividly remember the day she was born, her first hello to the world. I have loved watching her grow into the smart and driven young woman she has become and I am truly excited to see her fly. For now I continue to prepare myself to have my house as a place she visits instead of a place she lives and to leave another piece of my heart somewhere else.

If you would have your child to walk honorable through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from her path, but teach her to walk firmly over them-not insist on leading her by the hand but let her learn to go alone.’ Anne Bronte (changed from son to child and him to her)

Today I wear Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Sugar Bloom which is a deep shimmery pink. I have this lip treatment in a few colors and they are great for summer. They are moisturizing, have a lot of color and are sun protective with SPF 15. I chose this color today really for the name ‘bloom’. It’s time for my daughter to bloom. Cheers!

Trusting

8 Jul

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’ Prov 3:5-6

What does that really mean? Another version says ,’…do not depend on your own understanding,’ while another puts it this way, ‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out on on your own.’

This verse has been one of my life mantras since getting cancer the first time in 2008. It’s a bible verse I’ve heard most of my life and it was one of the first I memorized years ago but like everything else, I had my own definition of what it meant to trust God. What I found is that it is so easy to say the words but when adversity happens and the words have to be put to the test, well, that’s a different story. In other words, it is so easy to trust God with YOUR plan of how things should be but what about God’s plan, what if His plans are different? Not so easy to trust, huh? After getting cancer the first time I had faith that God was in control. When it came back the 2nd and 3rd time I still had the faith but then I had to exercise my trust muscle and make it stronger. I discovered that faith is a noun, a belief in a higher power without proof or evidence, while trust is a verb. Trusting God means releasing all our anxieties, fears, plans, and NOT trying to figure things out on our own; releasing control BECAUSE we have faith in God. It means taking that death grip we have on our lives, our futures, our kids, our careers and opening that fist to let in some air and release fear and control even if it’s just a little.

My daughter left for Haiti last week on a mission trip and right now, Haiti is a bit unsettled. I have had some communication with her and all seems to be ok. What part of that can I control? Nothing that I know of so I have to exercise my trust muscle knowing God is in control and trusting Him as well as the powers that be that they are working onIMG_2574 a plan to get them home. I have metastatic cancer which generally means we (Stage 4 cancer fighters) do all we can to get more time. In my 4th battle with cancer I am doing all I can in my control and I am trusting a big God that He knows what He is doing whether it’s a cure, staying stable awhile, or not. Not my plan, His. Pray. Release. Pray. Breathe. Pray. Peace that passes understanding. I cannot function in fear because there’s too much in this world to be afraid of. Everyone goes through adversity, there are always times to practice trusting but we have to be willing. Yes I want Audrey home but I also know she is doing something she loves and feels called to do and this ‘event’ will not stop her from serving in the future. Yes I want to be cancer free but trusting God does not mean life is perfect because again, that would be our plan, to me it means that I trust He knows, I trust He hears my prayers and knows the aches of my heart, and I trust He knows my fears and anxieties. With that I have some peace and I know it’s come from so much practice having to trust. Tomorrow I may feel a little differently because we’re always being stretched but for now, I’ll keep praying and I’ll take today. img_7238

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie Ten Boom

No lipstick today, just a PSA…Don’t forget SPF on your lips because they can burn too!

 

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