Yesterday I had so many mixed emotions... excitement battling anxiety.
Today... I am thrilled to be alive, full of energy and yet I am still having flashbacks. Thankfully, I'm able to quickly overcome those nervous feelings that dwell within the memories; that's not always possible for me, but it is today! Proof that positive thinking can help overcome anything.
Ten years ago today the team of doctors removed all those cancer cells from my femur (along with the femur portion they had taken residence in) and they performed a total hip reconstruction. At the time, there were only a handful of doctors skilled and versed enough in this specific prosthetic to perform this surgery and they really didn't have many answers for me about the prosthetic since it was so new and was also not (I'm thinking "installed" but I'm sure there's a more appropriate and friendly term... but "installed" sort of works in this particular explanation given the feeling inside where it functions) installed in many people and those that did have it were not nearly as young as I was at the time. No answer on how long this prosthetic will last, no answers on what my mobility capabilities would be... not that they can actually answer those questions definitively anyway, but really, everything was just based on hope and faith that I would keep living and moving forward.
I suppose I had a choice to not undergo this multiple-part surgery process and just accept the fate that the doctors had given me, but today, I'm sure glad my family pushed me forward! (Thanks, Mom, I'm sure you're glad too considering I'm your favorite.)
Today, I am celebrating life with everyone I run into... co-workers, students, family, friends, acquaintances, social media friends, YOU. It's a great day today, ten years after I should have died. It's a great day every day, but that's often forgotten with the mundane stresses of daily routines. I'm looking forward to cleaning my house (that's odd... but really, when I have a clean house, I feel so much more relaxed) and I'm looking forward to planned vacations. I'm very thankful today and I'm so blessed to have the support and friendship of so many around me. Thank you all!
Today, I would love nothing more than to hit our $1,000 fundraising goal so that our family can
pay it forward to other families fighting cancer. Every dollar helps and we have reached $685 so far. I'm hoping to reach that goal today so that we can deliver supplies to the hospital families on Tuesday. I hope you will help if you can. Please click the link and read about our mission:
Today is the day after my mother's birthday and the day before I celebrate that last cancer cell removed from my body ten years ago.
Today is a day full of excitement and full of anxiety...
a push and pull of past memories and forward thinking.
I remember my mom's birthday dinner in California across from the beach the night before I checked into the hospital for my series of hip surgeries. I remember the love and support from all the family and friends that joined us that night. I remember it as one of those nights I knew could potentially never come again. One of THOSE nights that were extra special to me given the next day's agenda and the current prognosis of being two months into a six month death sentence.
Ten years ago today, I started with surgery number one. Since I would like to keep the posts around this milestone positive and uplifting in support of the excitement over the anxiety, I will not go into detail. I will only say that I remember that surgery. I remember being aware of it throughout the hours I was in. I remember one nurse who was unkind and one nurse who stood by my side and comforted me with encouraging words and a simple hold of the hand... what a difference a hand hold makes! That nurse was a saint in my eyes and I will never forget her! This surgery was the embolization- to cut off blood flow to the tumor area they were to remove the following day. I made it through and spent the night in the hospital... this night, ten years ago... the night before the "mega-prosthetic" surgery.
Today is the day that I remember slightly more vividly the events of ten years ago. Today is a day I never thought I would live to see. Every single day is a gift, an added bonus to my life. I think I am somewhat still in a bit of denial that I am here physically (and literally) walking this Earth and that it has been so long since I have had a cancer cell in my body. I feel like I'm always waiting for one to show up in those scans. Ten years? TEN YEARS?!?! Moving along from excitement and celebratory thoughts, I wonder if this will end up being the last big milestone I'll reach. If something shows up, the count begins again, if I'm lucky to get another count going. (Yeah, worry can creep into an anxious mind at any given moment... even in the most happiest of times.)
Having been through cancer, having been given an end date for my life, having been told to get my affairs in order, having been through tremendous physical pain, having lost so much... to me... my high points in life tend to be so much further up now than they used to be and much more so than most people; and my lows can spiral down, but they turn to anxiety instead of sadness.
Today... I celebrate. I. AM. EXCITED!
Tomorrow... It is unknown how I will feel, but I'm wishful that I will awaken
FULL OF LIFE, FREE-SPIRITED and
EXUBERANTLY, INHERENTLY, MONUMENTALLY HAPPY!
I hope that tomorrow I won't be able to contain the excitement of life! I hope that tomorrow I will unwittingly spread joy and love to every single individual that crosses my path. So, if you're lucky enough to see me tomorrow, please excuse my energy; it may be overwhelming. Or, on the other hand, if you're feeling down... COME SEE ME!
Diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer with a 6 month life expectancy at the age of 31, I celebrate life at 41... ten YEARS later!
Have a HAPPY day! Love your life and all its imperfections!
I do not often make time to sit and watch television. Usually, I'm so busy with work and home chores that I end up lying in bed falling asleep to whatever is playing at the time. I've set a goal for myself this year, one of a few, to create a better life balance for myself which will in turn (in theory) affect a positive change to the balance in my family as well. So, today, on the third day of the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge that I have taken on, I am sitting down after work to write this blog today, will watch a show, eat some chocolate and then will clean something out... one more bag to declutter. This process of cleansing is refreshing.
I'm looking forward...
Looking forward is not always easy when you become weighed down; it's quite effortless to feel overwhelmed, burdened and worried. It takes intrinsic strength to recognize where to focus. I tend to go through cycles of this. But, as I continue to plan and force myself to live as normal as possible... life becomes slightly better... each day.
Today... I am happy.
Today is February 27, 2017... and as I prepare and try to celebrate my 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of being CANCER-FREE on March 9th this year, I found this memory to be fitting. But first... Please read and join me in celebrating through helping others...
July 1, 2015. The last day of my 30’s! I always envisioned this day as the big party day! Downtown on a yacht with family and friends, on a cruise in the Caribbean somewhere with family, sipping tasty beverages with fruit and tiny umbrellas in my bikini (because of course I’m totally buff and perfectly tanned) while laying in a hammock slung between two picturesque palm trees; or perhaps cruising around Italian countryside vineyards! Well, here I am at home the night before my 40th birthday, and thankful to be here right now. Deep down, I am harboring a little unsettled feeling that I have not achieved my life goals by now, but then again, I did achieve most of them by the age of 28 and then lost it all when I was hit with cancer. I had the job, I traveled the world… I’ve been almost everywhere I have wanted to go by then so I really can’t complain. I’m very grateful for that. I’m also very thankful that I was able and willing to take those trips because at this point, it’s not an option financially and now my body is restricted physically.
So tomorrow is my birthday. It’s looking to be quite the day… Venus and Jupiter are aligned and I’ve been reading that some are calling this spectacle the Star of Bethlehem. Interesting. Equally interesting, is that there will be a full moon tomorrow night. Tomorrow may also be the day that I hear back from the oncologist’s office with the biopsy results from last week. Ugh. Biopsy results. Not quite the day I envisioned for my 40th birthday, considering I have a long running habit of celebrating birthdays in a BIG WAY!
Routine scans brought me back to Houston last week. No symptoms, nothing odd, no additional pain, no blood, no nothing… just routine. I had hesitations scheduling this nerve-wrecking appointment just before my birthday and thought about pushing it back to the week after, but it was too far out from my last scans so to Houston I went. I went through my usual routine: Labs, CT scan, lunch, clinic for results. Of course, I was the last one seen that day, which is fine since I had nowhere to be… but the anxiety of waiting for results can be quite the experience, especially if you suffer from anxiety issues to begin with. The doctor came in and the results were not pleasant. Not completely awful, but not pleasant. One spot in my right lung was enlarged. One lymph node in my right lung was enlarged. One area in the right breast showed up out of nowhere. So, in perfect poise, I accept this information- NOT. I wish that were the case, but no, I lose it- completely lose my composure… a 39 year old freak out… I’m crying, I can’t think, I start spiraling down and down and DOWN… I’m not sure but I may have even been rocking back and forth like Rainman. The wall starts going up, the alarms start going off in my head and I start having flashbacks to when I was told I had cancer the first time and to get my things in order. Automatic death sentence for me. The doctor is a Saint at this point because he is trying every tactic in the book to calm me down; poor guy never had a chance because I’m a pro at meltdowns. My mom always comes with me to these appointments, so she too gets Saint status for her efforts of empathetic love and then tough love, encouraging words and then boot camp words… she really didn’t know which tactic to take either. But God love her, I can’t imagine being the mother in this scenario… again!
The doctor then proceeds to tell me that this is most likely the kidney cancer returned and we just need to get some tissue samples to find out what it is exactly. “OH F*#k,” I think… that means surgery! Here we go back down the twisty slide to Hell! I don’t do well with “procedures.” Worse yet, my body doesn’t do well with drugs! Seriously, twilight drugs don’t work on me! Now I’m having more flashbacks of the last surgery, lung collapse, vesovagal episode (which basically means I scared myself literally to death), coded on the table- not good! Flashing red lights, more alarms, where’s that wall I could use right now to separate me from all this information!?! So, I hear that I have to have a mammogram (ok, I can handle that), and a breast ultrasound (totally fine) and a breast “ultrasound guided biopsy.” DAMMIT! Biopsy… the word I knew was coming, but really didn’t want to hear. Then, if one biopsy wasn’t enough, let’s go for two! Whoo hoo! This one’s even better! Down the throat into the lung (more flashbacks of the pain from my left lung collapsing. It’s at this point that I’m now internally having a discussion with my lungs to build up muscle and stay strong because we need to pull together and get through this and FIGHT, not FLEE this time! We can’t flee because it’s painful… so lung, you better just stay inflated, buddy… PLEASE!?!?!)... ok, so we’re going down the throat rather than through the ribs, that’s good. It was ribs last time. And our goal is to get 2 tissue samples from the lung. Alright then.
Even though the doctor is telling me that it’s ok and that whatever it is, we can manage it, I’m completely doubting him! Why am I doubting him as if I know anything about this cancer stuff??? Worse, I’m in total disbelief because I have been cured by Jesus himself and this doctor MUST be wrong. Wow, was I out of my element! It’s not my plan and I so totally wanted it to be right then and there. Doubt now comes into play in a variety of ways. The kind of doubt that I struggle with even today as I await those results from the biopsy. The kind of doubt that I should not have and try to “give it to God” each and every day. The kind of doubt that makes me feel guilty for having and so I ask God for forgiveness for having said doubt, yet, I’m still hanging onto it like a child with a blanky. The fact that I am now facing the possibility of a cancer recurrence has brought up the idea that perhaps my curing experience through Jesus was really just a dream. And, if that is the case, then how do I know what has been real and what has been in my head all along? Jesus cured me. I so want to believe that and now perhaps I’m failing to believe because of this setback. Is that the case? No. I believe. I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus cured me.
He gave me the message clear as daylight “You will never again need to worry about having cancer.” Yet here I am, worrying about it.
I went in for those scans and got that news on Tuesday and the next day, I met with the Pulmonologist. We set up the Bronchoscopy for Friday morning. Thursday, I went in for the mammogram and breast ultrasound. The large area in the scan was nothing, but they did find a “complicated cyst” that needs a biopsy. So, that needs to happen. Since they couldn’t schedule me in Houston until the following week, I decided to send the report home and have that done up North. Miracle number one so far… large area: nothing. Complicated cyst… they said normally they wouldn’t even biopsy it but because of my history, they recommend it. A shred of hope that it’s nothing!
My dad and brother came down to Houston per my request (mostly because I was so afraid of what would happen during this procedure that I wanted them to be with my mom so she wouldn’t be alone). OK, so Friday, per the doctor’s suggestion, I ingested my prescribed 2mg of Xanax before I left the hotel room for the “procedure.” (That’s another word I don’t like.) When they took me in the room, my brother came with to calm me down while they gave me my IV and drugs to sedate me (remember, the drugs I told him don’t work on me). The nurse was kind enough to give me a little injection of something that was to calm me a little more as well as settle my upset stomach. Oh, I’m not an easy patient. I know this. And these caring individuals are amazing! Just amazing! Well, I’m still nervous… My veins decided to flatten out suddenly that day (thanks, guys, I thought we had a pep talk last night together… we are on the same team, so let’s be strong and get through this- mind, body and spirit working together in harmony, let’s do this!) so after a few sticks of the needle, and half my hand bruised, the nurse gets my IV in… and gives me the usual dose of twilight drug. I get a little woozy, feel a little better, but still am very coherent and obviously very nervous. I put on classical music in my ears and tried to relax… but then started getting a little jittery. So, they gave me more. All the while, my brother was holding my hand and telling me it would be ok and that everything looks good… just relax and sleep. They put on a mask to give me something to numb my mouth and throat and here’s where the comedy sets in for everyone but me. NOW, I’m REALLY drugged, they ended up giving me 4x’s the regular dose on top of everything else I already had in me… and here I was, still trying to verbally communicate now with a numb mouth and throat. What I thought was coming out all fine and normal was only coming out a sloppy gibberish apparently. I was asking a lot of important questions and getting no answers but a lot of little smiles and chuckles from my brother, which only confused me. Eventually, he disappeared when I opened my eyes one time so I figured we were ready to go, but there I was, still chatting it up and wondering why I was still awake. The doctor injected something horribly painful in my throat to numb my throat more… OMG! I yelled, cried and pushed his hand out of the way then started worrying that they were going to strap me down and all I could picture in my head was scenes from the movies “Clockwork Orange” and “Fire in the Sky.” So now I’m crying and freaking out… and so it stops for the moment. I rest.
The anesthesiologist came in and had me sign some papers after they waited to let some of the other drugs wear off a bit and counteracted them with additional drugs. I can hear a little disagreement about when my pants were supposed to come off, so I checked to see if they were still on… yep. Still there. I guess I was entertaining just about everyone in that room by now after all the drugs and numbing agents. Still somewhat coherent to talk, but not really… I’m still thinking I’m talking and it’s coming out perfectly. So, the nurse asked me to please remove my pants and I automatically go into freak-out mode! “Just in case you need to shock me?” I fearfully questioned. The room goes into hysterics… except one person who yelled out as if I were deaf, not drugged and numbed, “NO! THE PADDLES! JUST IN CASE WE NEED TO USE THE PADDLES ON YOU!” So naturally, I reply with bulging eyes, “YEAH! That’s what I said! Are you afraid that my heart will stop from all these drugs!?!” Everyone there is just laughing and I’m not getting it at this point. Finally, the anesthesiologist looks at me and says, “we won’t need them… everything will be ok.” Sigh of relief. Somehow, when someone touches my hand or arm, looks me in the eyes and states that everything will be ok, It REALLY makes me feel better inside. That reassurance that I’m ok is needed. I don’t know why, but it just helps. And, I so very much appreciate every single person that has done this for me… and for everyone else out there too. And I’m out.
They took 8 tissue samples from my lung. All went well… very well, actually. The Pathologist was in the room analyzing the samples to make sure they got the right cells… and they did. But, nothing short of a miracle, in this preliminary glance at the cells, there were no cancer cells found! MIRACLE number two! They also said that the spot that showed growth was just a blood vessel. MIRACLE number three! We did not actually anticipate this good news. We thought we would be confirming kidney cancer. Somewhere deep down inside though, I was expecting no cancer. After all, I had been cured and the doctor could be wrong. My doctor stated “most likely” it is cancer. (Now flip to the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”) “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” Yep… one little shred of HOPE to bank on.
Having that hope, I meditated the night before while trying to fall asleep. I did all my breathing techniques, I prayed for a very long time… not only to God and Jesus, but my friend, whom I was missing so much that week, who passed away from the same cancer just this past October. This was the one time I REALLY needed her here and it was already a tough visit to start with. I prayed long and hard that night for that little shred of hope. I reimagined my experience with Jesus and felt that rush of energy emanate through my body while I focused on targeting my right lung with that curing energy. I located the memory and belief of our bodies having everything we need to heal ourselves and I was on a mental mission that night to heal quickly so that when they pull those samples out, they won’t find cancer because I will have gotten rid of it already with the help of Jesus. I am cured. I am healthy. I am happy and I am thankful.
So here I am, now 30 minutes left of being 39 years old… sitting alone in front of my computer writing this story. I am SO glad I am home with my family. My peaceful husband sleeping in the bed next to my desk, our three daughters tucked into their comfy beds, our four dogs sleeping wherever they are… and right now, even though I’m not on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean or enjoying a wine flight in Tuscany, I’m perfectly content and deeply satisfied to be exactly where I am right now. I’m still nervous about tomorrow, wondering if I will get the call telling me I do or do not have cancer in the lung, but it is what it is and I will do everything I can to celebrate my 40th birthday and put that anxiety away for a day. We’ll see. But along with the planetary alignment, the full moon and the plethora of rainbows that I have seen since my scans… today, I was given so many blunt signs to let it go. I was searching online for a birthday cake idea with one of our daughters. In our search, we saw a LOT of rainbow themed cakes, which I thought nothing of it really since there are a lot of rainbow themed cakes out there and it’s not anything unique or new… but then I came across a cupcake with a rainbow that just simply caught my eye and the text under it caught my eye even more “The Amanda Cupcake” it said. “OK. I get it, God. THANK YOU!” I mentally sent up to Him. And I took a deep breath to calm myself a little. Later that day, my husband was flipping through Facebook and said, “Check this out!” It was two photos of the aftermath of the tornado that recently hit Oklahoma. One photo was the top of a telephone pole that had been ripped apart and now was simply a Cross hanging alone in the lines above a road. The other was a photo of the clouds that looked to be a large hand, as if He was saying, “Jesus is here and all is in My hands, so let it go… we are here.” All these signs.
Of course, being the over analytical freak of nature that I am, I have to admit, I wasn’t quick to jump to ease and contentment. I started thinking that my test results could still come back showing cancer… and perhaps He is telling me that it will be ok if they do, but then why did Jesus say he cured me and that I would never have to worry about cancer again? All I know is this… When that phone call does come, and after I get through this breast biopsy next week, I will be on a new path.
I didn’t get to choose which way to go at this fork in the road, but one way or another, I’ll move forward.
As of now, I’m still holding on to that experience with Jesus and the rush of healing energy I feel when I focus on that experience. I’m holding on to that little shred of hope and possibility that there is no cancer in my body. At this moment, 11:45pm on July 1, 2015… the last few moments of being 39… I can officially say that I will have gotten through the rest of my thirties “CANCER FREE!” And, I will keep hope and faith that I will start and end my 40’s cancer free as well.
Fast forward to today's date... I went through a summer of biopsies that year... all NED! (No Evidence of Disease) And now, I'm ready to celebrate that 10 year anniversary... a gift of life I never anticipated having.
Well, I am sorry I have not had a presence here in months. I'm not quite sure why I have gone AWOL, but I'm back and I have set a finish line for my book... though I know I am going to need help from someone to show me the path to editing and publishing... I'm a visual artist, not a writer. I think fear may have crept its way back into me like an incognito spot of sludge that just sticks and lingers. I've removed that now. Fear can be something that we don't want to admit we have but the truth of the matter is that we all have it and it shows up in various forms and affects us in unlimited ways. Fear and anxiety sometimes sit side-by-side, not always, but often. I'm not a psychologist either, nor do I aspire to become one, but it's comforting to think that I know just a little bit about a lot of subjects.
I've been caught in a web of frantic routine. And... as of last weekend, the clothes can wait! Quite literally. Laundry... I'm convinced that clothes multiply like dividing cancer cells the moment they are thrown in the laundry bin, but then the washer automatically eliminates them because I never see any great new items... or even matching socks for that matter. THERE'S SO MUCH LAUNDRY ALL THE TIME! It's exhausting and I've been putting my household chores higher on the priority list than they should be... and I've been lacking in prayer and connections to God because I have not made the time. My mom called the other day because she thought she might come out and visit and I immediately went through all the things I had to get done around the house on this day and then... this is an even crazier thought... I wondered why she suddenly offered to come out to visit after she had earlier stated she didn't want to be around sick kids (two of our kids are fighting allergies or colds or something small) because she just overcame something herself. So, naturally, in true anxious form, I imagined the worst case scenario: Is she terminally ill and wants to tell me in person on a bright, happy and warm day and this is her chance?! Seriously... things like that do happen, and sometimes they happen to me more often than others, so it's not totally out of line... just a bit, but not completely! She phoned me after I reached out to her with no success and called me a "ninny" for thinking that. I had no idea what we were going to do that day, but I knew I'm wasn't going to put her to work on my house that looks like the Tasmanian Devil came through it several times over. The clothes can wait!
We ended up going out for a nice family lunch that day and then my mom suggested we see "A Dog's Purpose." I had heard it was sad and I knew there was controversy, but after researching the alleged dog abuse, I found it to be false; so, we went to see the movie. If you've not seen that movie, I'm just going to say one thing... my mother owes me big time for that one! I'm a dog-lover with 4 dogs in our house and that movie had no right entering my heart and tearing it up to shreds over and over and over. It was pretty much a certifiably traumatic experience which brought back intense feelings for my Sally-dog that passed away so horrifically. My mother and I were separated in the theater by one of my daughters and the two of us were gushing with tears the entire time and then of course bantering back and forth about it and laughing at each other, which made the kids laugh at us because we were so sappy. Ugh... that was an experience to say the least. I was tired just from watching that movie!
Even though the movie wasn't really what I would have liked to have seen, our family bonding day was worth every moment of it. The laundry wasn't finished that day, but my internal spirit was filled. Control is a characteristic of anxiety and letting go of that can be helpful.
So much since my last post. First, my apologies. I find myself now in a position where I feel I may need to edit my words, share less, and carefully manage what seems to be just a little too much at once. But, as I have pondered the possible outcomes of sharing my personal life with others and what it may cost me in the end, I realize that it will ultimately end with higher reward. And so, I will continue this blog and I will continue my book. This comes from the heart and somewhere much more important than any Earthly gain/loss. I guess I needed some time to think about what to do, what to say and how to handle everything before making this post.
My last post was way back in April... to catch you up on my happenings:
- We went on a vacation to Disney World then over to Alabama to visit with family.
- Our oldest daughter is moving in and my husband is building her a bedroom/bathroom in our basement... because he's amazingly handy at EVERYTHING.
- Our three younger girls are growing faster than I like to admit.
- My in-laws made a big move... for the better, I think! Congrats to them!
- Our dogs are adjusting to having a cat in the house, who thinks he's a dog. I'm adjusting too.
- And... I was hired as a high school art teacher... the root of my hesitation here.
I watched one of my neighbors mow the lawn yesterday. I don't normally watch people mow their lawns. I'm not sure why I stopped to watch momentarily. But while I did, I started thinking such happy thoughts for this person, whom I don't know all that well. We have a few neighbors that I know have battled or are battling some type of cancer. More people than I think there should be. This neighbor is one of them. I watched as this person walked back and forth in the heat and humidity pushing that mower and I thought, "how AWESOME that he/she is able to do this!" Mowing the lawn. A chore I've never enjoyed partaking in. But this simple observation brought back years of flashbacks and feelings for me. I immediately felt all the darkness that consumed me during my healing period after my big series of hip surgeries... the feeling of helplessness and loss of all activities I was accustomed to and so abruptly. Anxiety started to show its face in a split second of watching the mower. I had to put my head back into the present and ground myself with where I physically stood to escape those memories that often seem so torturous. I then continued to watch and the next wave of emotions fell over me as the feelings of anxiety subsided and the excitement and happiness took their places. There was a time when I wasn't able to mow the lawn. I can now; it causes pain... but I CAN DO IT! I wonder if this person ever has those feelings. Do I internally over-exaggerate these feelings? Those of you who know me well are probably rolling your eyes thinking, "are you kidding? YES, YES YOU DO!" But it doesn't matter, it is what it is for me and for each of us. As I watched, I recalled laying on my stomach in physical therapy trying to bend my knee to lift my foot off the table. Something so simple... and I wasn't able to do it. That's how weak I was in the beginning. I can lift it today, but it's still fairly wobbly when my foot is up in the air. I never regained full strength. Did I give up? Did I reach my limit? Did I settle for "doable?" I don't know. I do know that the day I got that foot off the table was a very exciting day for me though. The day I ditched the walker and moved on to crutches was another milestone. Then I gradually went to using only one crutch. Then I walked with a cane for a very long time. The day I decided not to carry that with me was unsettling, nerve-wrecking and liberating all at once. Walking. It's amazing that we can take for granted such simple things that mean so much in our lives. Beyond walking... climbing stairs! That's a battle I fight every day! My house has stairs because it's almost impossible to find one-story houses for families these days! I'm happy to be able to climb them, but it's no easy feat for me... the person who used to love jumping up the stairs skipping every other or third step in a Tigger-like bounce. Oh did I feel like I was such a pro at quickly gliding up stairs. Now I'm happy just to reach the top. And stairs are everywhere... here a stair, there a stair everywhere a stair, stair. Ugh! But I can do it, and that's what counts.
This short moment of watching my neighbor mow the lawn made me think about writing here again. I related it to my next obstacle which I now face... holding a job in which I am not the leader. As a leader: I have the flexibility to step outside if I feel anxious, or head home if I have the after-effects of a panic attack and can no longer mentally function. I have the ability to make my own schedule. I am able to work it out if I am in too much pain to be on my feet all day. I can share my cancer-experienced life with the general public (which already is no easy task). These are all advantages I will lose when I start this new position. I'm nervous I may not be as great of a teacher I once seemed to be because of my hip, because of the anxiety, because of WHATEVER!
My being now is not what it was before cancer.
I think that's the problem. I need to get over this never-ending hill of fear and frustration. I used to be polar opposite what I am today. How do I get that back?! I'm not sure I ever fully will but I know that if I reject this new job, then the fear wins and I will head in the wrong direction. So, I have to at least try... and usually, when we fully TRY, we succeed. So I plan on succeeding.
I will balance this job with my studio and with my home life. I WILL balance.
I AM BALANCED! (repeat)
It's going to be imperative that I maintain balance. Balance affects performance. Balance affects anxiety levels. Balance... affects others.
So what exactly am I afraid of here? I'm not afraid of working for others, being in a classroom, teaching kids, making lesson plans, meeting deadlines or anything like that. I'm scared of myself, my internal self. How does someone with anxiety hold a full time job that requires being responsible for others' lives? Well, I need to suck it up and manage or BALANCE myself. It's pretty simple really... at least in concept. (I'll start with positive affirmations.) But that's not just it... what happens when they all find out I'm a cancer survivor or that I suffer from panic attacks or that I have pain issues with my hip that could potentially cause me to be out of work a day or two at a time... what happens if I have a setback and end up having more surgery and am out an extended period? What if this happens in my first year of work? We all know that people can't get fired for these things, but we also know that people DO get fired and are told it is for other reasons. So what happens then? I'll tell you what happens. LIFE GOES ON, so LIVE IT and STOP WORRYING! (Wow... that's an epiphany, genius I tell you, genius... what a concept... as if it's a new one! Why is this so difficult to grasp and enact?)
I'm thankful for my art background. I'm SO grateful to my parents for supporting my artistic interests... through high school, through college... all the way through today! I feel that with this artistic background, I have an advantage over others in that I am a phenomenal problem-solver... as an artist, I find a way to get through anything because there's always a way. Nothing is ever only black and white. ...and I'll overcome this worry and I'll find my path.
I'm excited about this new endeavor. I am looking forward to working with the already seemingly friendly staff and molding new, young individuals interested in art. I'm anxious to build my lessons for the year (though I'm overwhelmed with the disorganization of supplies which is setting me back because I can't get a grasp on what materials I have to work with yet). I LOVE the drive to the school... through the farmlands... it's very serene. I like the classrooms and the school building. I'm SO HAPPY that the studio is staying open and that I get to keep my dream going. I'm interested to see how the two will mesh in a year or so because I'm sure they will grow from one another... all in due time.
It's quite inspiring what we are able to gain from observing others and reflecting upon ourselves. Now, go mow your lawn.
I often say affirmations. I learned this while recovering from my hip surgery. I was so depressed, had no will to live and felt defeated. I was seeing a counselor. Each morning I awoke, and each morning I DID WAKE, I sat up in bed and then took my time getting up and getting moving. Not that I had a choice in how fast or slowly I went... I was at snail's pace regardless of my mental wishes. So, I would stand up and with each slow step towards the bathroom, I would say a short affirmation.
"I am well."
"I am happy."
"I am healthy."
"I am cured."
"I am feeling good."
"I am energized."
"I am thankful."
"I am strong."
I had a lot of small steps to the bathroom, so some of them were repeated, which I think is just fine considering it took some convincing to believe that what I was saying was true. It is important to say them aloud and not just think them.
I cried... a lot... during that time. I didn't know what to believe. I was still in a state of shock. I didn't know what to think. I could not make decisions if my life depended on it... and it did.. and I still did not make many, if any, decisions. Nothing was within my control for about six months or so... at least that's what it felt like at the time. Looking back, my state of mental well-being was at least to a small degree within my control, but I had no idea at the time. My mom was my biggest cheerleader and my coach... either giving me the love and cheer I needed or the shove and push to snap out of it. Hot or cold. Both worked at different times.
When I would reach the bathroom I would make it a point to stand in front of the mirror (my counselor suggested me do this as well) and then tell myself some of the affirmations to my own face. This was much more challenging that one would think and whether or not you think you need it, I suggest you try it anyway. I didn't like what I had physically become and I did not like looking at myself in the mirror. Not that I did before all of this but at this point, I tried to steer clear of reflections. Maybe I'm the only one that saw myself like this, I don't know. I didn't like myself. I saw some other being in the mirror. Someone puffy, sad, worn out, obviously torn apart, discolored, weak, unmotivated, ugly and dark. I'm pretty sure I could come up with more negative descriptions of myself than I could affirmations. As I would say these affirmations to myself in the mirror, I felt bad for myself because I didn't believe any of them and I absolutely did not consider the possibility that this exercise would help in any way.
I got out of bed today- NINE YEARS LATER and still alive!
Today, that meant me rolling over first and snuggling into my husband. (Huge feats... "rolling over" is something I didn't ever think I would do again on this date nine years ago and "snuggling into my husband" is another gift after having been through a divorce and now in such a wonderful partnership.) That was followed by talking to four needy dogs anxious for my awakening. (Four live beings depending on me. We have children who also depend on me as well. Imagine that. If anyone would have asked me nine years ago or even five years ago what I thought my life would look like today, it certainly would not have included anyone depending on me for anything nor a family of this size... that was only ever in my hopes and dreams.) Once up, I realized that the floaters in my eyes were bad and then immediately went into slight anxiety having memories of injections in my left eye. Of course, that instantaneously was self-diagnosed as a worst case scenario and spiraled into cancer and needles in the eye within about two seconds. I breathed a bit and felt congested then realized it was likely my allergies. I conducted some calm breathing and talked to the dogs for a couple minutes before I actually rose from bed. And then... I verbalized affirmations on the way to the bathroom to help soothe myself and as I said them today, I inhaled deeply as if to breathe in belief. I AM O.K. I didn't stand in the mirror today, I normally don't as most of you can tell on a daily basis I'm sure. I walked down the stairs in my pj's with my furry entourage and then released them into the backyard, all the while repeating affirmations intertwined with dog directions. The weather is nice this weekend, which is a determining factor in my overall mental state, sadly. So, thankfully, as I reached the glass door, I internally felt happiness as I noticed the sun was out, the sky was blue and the air was warm. I walked over to the kitchen to start the coffee, filled the dog bowls, moved the visiting cat from the dog food, let the fur-babies back inside, mixed my coffee and sat down at the table, facing that glass door to the world and thought...
WOW... I am SO THANKFUL today. Today... is a great day!
(Be aware... I have posted a photo below of the staples/stitches after surgery.)
I remember seeing the Orthopedic Surgeon prior to the day of the surgery. I remember the medical campus and the building. I remember the waiting room, the large curved waiting room filled with sad, worried people... some of whom were not able to have the surgery they needed to stay alive. They didn't have the option- because of their insurance. At the time, there were only a handful of surgeons that performed this type of surgery and I was lucky one of them was so close to home... and even more lucky that I had insurance they accepted. All those people in the waiting room that were there with those bad insurance plans were there in hopes to catch the doctor on his way in or way out to beg and plead and hopefully find a way to get the help they so desperately needed. I didn't see a light at the end of their tunnel for them, so I started bringing little gifts to the waiting room. Silly little things with little notes on them just to let them know that someone cared. I passed them out in the waiting room to everyone. It was just little samples of lotion with my card and a happy note. Nothing extravagant. I think it also helped me stay busy while I waited. I find that's very important to do when facing life-threatening illnesses that you are waiting to discuss with a professional who is going to either give you good news about living or bad news about possibly not.
This is a microscopic view of the mutated cells. The enlarged circle area is a tumor that is forming. Dr. F. took the tumor from my kidney, liquidized it, ran it through a machine that separates the mutated cells from the healthy cells and then put them into petri dishes and is growing more of my tumors. Then, he puts them into smaller individual dishes and tests cures on them. He gave us a tour of his lab... pretty interesting stuff. The long squiggles are the blood vessels that the tumor is forming to search for nutrition.
When I was called in once, I only remember little pieces of this particular meeting. I remember him opening a case, similar to a metal briefcase like the mafia carry in movies when they handcuff it to their wrists, which held all the parts of what they would replace about 5" of my femur bone with and then reconstruct the hip socket. I remember looking at my mom like “I can’t handle this… this is way too much information for me.” She caught the look and said it was ok for me to not to have the details. We needed to do this and get through it and we needed to trust the doctors. Sometimes in extreme situations, it's comforting just to hear an "it's ok" from someone you trust. In this particular moment, I was mentally "checking out" very quickly... retreating to my internal self and overwhelmingly, anxiously contemplating my options, which were really either having this surgery or letting the tumor cells continue to flow and grow anywhere they please to multiply and eat me from the inside out until death. So, yeah, I chose surgery. But the rest of the meeting is not in my conscious memory. It's blocked like so many other memories.
I know I was one of the first however-many people to have this specific prosthetic and I also know that I was the youngest that this doctor had heard of. He was not able to answer many of my questions, though I'm not sure that any doctor would have been able to answer them. I was wondering how long this prosthetic would last. Would I have to have this re-done at some point? If so, what's the average life expectancy of this new body part? Because I really didn't actually want to know the answers to any of these questions, I vaguely remember his responses. I remember him saying that most people that get any prosthetic in general will need sort of a "tune-up" somewhere around 5-8 years. But, this one was a much larger one than normal and very new and durable. He said it could last 20 years or more... he just didn't know because it's too new and because most of the people that get this type of prosthetic are much older and end up "passing on" before the prosthetic wears out. OK... So, longer than 20 years then. Like let's just say 60 years. That should be ok.
March 8, 2007. This was the day after my mom's birthday... the day I checked into the hospital for the first of several operations to replace my bones with titanium and whatever else. The first surgery was to cut off the blood supply to the tumor in the femur. I was awake for this one and very nervous. I had two nurses with me at the time... one whom I call the Nazi nurse and the other who became a friend for a while until we lost touch after moving so much. Without her kindness, I do not know how I would have gotten through that operation. I don't know about you, but sometimes a simple touch, a hand hold or even just someone laying their hand on me can create such comfort... for whatever reason. She was there and noticed every single time I started to worry more than I needed to during that procedure. I can't thank her enough.... To all you nurses out there, THANK YOU for being with us when we need you most. You'll never know how much you truly make a difference. As a patient, I know I don't express my thanks when I'm in the moment, but know that I am grateful... and likely, your other patients are as well. The next day was the big event... the main surgery.
My mom had her prayer group going for me. I don’t know when they began but I do know they created a prayer shawl that I cherish to this day and keep bedside. I took that shawl in with me to surgery with the surgeon's approval (you know it's a risky procedure when the surgeon lets you take objects in with you). I asked my family, including my then atheist husband, to pray over me pre-op with the shawl over my body. The doctors said that I would need "x" units of blood during the surgery (I can’t remember the exact amount, but it was something around four units) and then possibly more after the surgery in recovery… basically I would lose a lot of blood and this was going to be a long serious surgery.
Other than the miracle of prayer, how did I get through that surgery without even one unit of blood?
I did receive some in post-op, but not any during surgery! (Thank you to those that donate blood... you have saved my life, a few times over... if you don't donate blood, please do.)
Fortunately, I did not remember any “light” experience or ANY experiences during this surgery. But, when I came out, my pain scale seriously changed!!! OMG THE PAIN! Morphine was not enough. I did want to die. I will not lie… I was in shock, depression… I just didn’t want to get through it because it hurt so badly. The morphine was making my nerves amplified and I’m pretty sure I had superpowers for feeling things more than The Princess and the Pea. The doctors left a pen under a leg, which felt like a dagger. One of my family members got that out of there right away. Then, there was a hair in a very uncomfortable spot for everyone… between my legs near the hip area! OF COURSE! Here comes the humor in all this. Now, my mom had already been through Hell with me and all this cancer crap and now I am post-op, in severe pain, on drugs, with an abductor pillow strapped between my legs and completely unable to sit up to get this hair that is stuck between my legs near my hip! My younger and brother reluctantly agrees to reach in and grab it for me and he did with one perfectly aligned reach, THANK GOD! Oh, the relief! The poor guy! I'm ever FOREVER so so SO grateful for that act of kindness! (Humbling for us all.) If you have never had morphine, you won’t understand, but if you have, I’m sure you get where I’m coming from here. Back to the pain. This surgery changed my pain scale significantly. What I originally thought was an 8, was really only a 2 at most. Now when I go into a doctor’s office and they ask me where my pain is on a scale of 1 to 10, I always ask them if they want the REAL scale of someone who’s been through Hell or the normal person scale. I’m always astonished that they always ask for the normal person scale. Why don’t they want the real scale?! Why do we have this scale if we can't be real about it??? Whatever. Fine... I almost always just say 6 unless they ask for the real scale. That way, they understand I'm in need of assistance, but it's not too horrible that I have to head to the emergency room or call an ambulance. 6 it is.
I was in the hospital for quite some time. I ended up having a third surgery (compliments of the hospital) because they sewed in the drain tube. DAMMIT! Of course they did that. I was in a teaching hospital, a university... I'm guessing they let a student stitch me up. It was no small surgery either! I don't remember how long it was, though I'm sure my family remembers. We figured this problem out when one morning two student doctors came strolling in to try to remove the drain tube. This THIS was a HORRIFYING experience and one I wish my brain would have blocked out. It's a spotty memory, but here's a few of the moments I remember:
- the jerking and jerking of the tube from the side of my hip feeling like my entire hip and groin were going to be ripped out in one strong pull leaving me like a rag doll.
- one of the doctors actually climbing onto the bed on top of me to get to the tube from another angle... unsuccessfully.
- me screaming and then literally blacking out from pain.
- my parents running in just in time to save my life from the "tweedle" doctors in training.
- the raising of my bed so that weights could be hung from the tube in hopes to pull it out slowly.
- huge x-ray/scan machines to find out why this tube was not budging.
- the realization that if those doctors had been successful in ripping that tube out of my hip, it would have ripped out a whole lot more too! Thank God they didn't get it out!
...and I remember playing cards in the room with my family. I love my family. I have THE BEST family! I hate being alone... and I was NEVER alone in the hospital because of my family.
Then I went through Occupational Therapy inpatient for a couple weeks. My family and a few friends would come visit every single day. We would play cards, watch TV, joke… it was actually pretty nice (aside from pain and worry). My favorite day was when one of my brothers had to use the toilet. The bathroom doesn’t lock in rooms like these, so he made sure to tell us all that if the nurse comes in to clean out my bedside commode, please have her come back another time as he would be in occupying the toilet of which is needed for that job. Well, she came in while he was on the toilet and in usual Griswold form, we all forgot to tell her because we were focused on our card game. It was the scream from the bathroom and the scream from the nurse as she opened that bathroom door and saw my brother that made us all remember that he was in there! Oops. At least it gave us all something to laugh about... I'm not sure that nurse will ever recover. My brother will... or has... maybe.
I remember having to wash my hair with dry shampoo and feeling so useless. I remember having to shower down the hall in a pvc/net chair, basically, get hosed down. I felt so bad for the nurse who had to do that job. I didn’t feel bad for me at that time, just her. WHAT A WONDERFUL PERSON!!! It takes a very gentle soul to go into a profession that requires that of you. I remember being so thankful for everyone on that floor who came in to help me… Being grateful and thankful even through all the pain and tears. Without every single one of these people, I would not be here today and I'm sure I would have lost all hope and desire to live.
I don’t remember all the perfect timing, but little by little, I was able to sit up. I was able to move from the bed to a chair. I was able to walk with a walker. Eventually, I went home. I needed constant assistance for months! Not days or weeks, but MONTHS! My mom and dad basically lived with us and her best friend came down to give her a break and help me. Brothers and friends came out to help in shifts. The family and friend support I received is unfathomable. I went from a walker to crutches to one crutch to a cane... all of which took about 8 months before I was walking on my own again... what a process! I did go through outpatient physical therapy, which was depressing and difficult... maybe I'll post about that later.
Overall though, GOD is good and I am so grateful.
Through this process of healing, I sadly found out that some of the friends I considered close were not friends at all while others I didn’t think cared much were there for me. True friends are hard to find so when you find one, keep close. Always count your blessings.
The pain... it never went away fully. I do not think it ever will. I always have some degree of pain in my hip area. Most of the time, it's not enough to think about; but, there are days where the pain puts me out of commission. ...like today. Weather affects it, oddly, and I didn't realize rain was in the forecast. The hardest part of dealing with the pain is the reality of knowing that I sometimes have no control over what my day ends up being like. Today, I did manage to get some errands run, but then had to head home and lay down rather than finish off my chores... hours too soon. It's frustrating and I won't lie... I do get upset and angry that I'm not physically able to do everything all the time. It takes some self conversing to get to the acceptance point and just deal with it. So today, my laundry isn't done, my kitchen isn't clean, my bedroom isn't finished being picked up and I wasn't able to sit at the computer to work. Que sera, sera. I move to affirmations and thankful thoughts... thankful to have such a home to go to when in pain, thankful for the support I have around me, thankful to have a schedule that allows flexibility... so much to be thankful for, every single day. Now I deal with the pain... it's about a 4 on the real scale (that's about a 9 on the normal person scale)... it upsets my stomach when it gets up there... So, tonight, this post is being typed from my laptop in bed now that I've rested for several hours and am able to sit up a bit.... in my roomy room with my fluffy, warm duvet and millions of pillows... my four fur-babies are scattered around the room just waiting for me to move in hopes to get some attention.
Life is good.
My parents treated us all to an absolutely amazing vacation last week to celebrate so many life events together... Me being cancer-free for 9 years this month, my dad's milestone of being cancer-free as well, my mom's birthday, my 40th birthday last year, my husband's 40th birthday last year, a brother's 40th birthday coming this year, his wife's college graduation this year, another brother's college graduation this year and his girlfriend's college graduation this year as well. We just wrapped it all into one HUGE celebratory week together in Caribbean! We sailed on Celebrity's Silhouette ship for a week to Cozumel, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Haiti. It's nice to get away, and even nicer when you visit new beautiful places... more importantly, though, vacations like these resonate in my heart and remind me of how wonderful life really is and how thankful and grateful I am to be living it... with family.
For those of you who may be unable to travel to such places, I hope that you will enjoy seeing a few images and reading about this trip and that it brings a smile to your face and warmth to your soul.
Of course, no vacation comes without my dark but always faithful companion, anxiety. A plane ride was inevitable for this trip as I needed to get from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale in one day. I know the drive should take about two days and trust me when I say I seriously considered driving down in one long stint... by myself. The thought of being held captive in a small seat barreling through the skies with no ability to step outside to breathe fresh air and claim some space around my body if it so chooses to panic is not a happy one, to say the least. However, the thought of allowing this disorder to cripple my ability to travel the world is far scarier than that plane ride. I do everything I can think of to overcome my fairly new fear of flying. I've traveled the world my entire life and LOVED it! I've been to Italy multiple times, France, Scotland, Greece... sailed the Mediterranean... I've been around the globe all the way to Australia even! I've flown to Hawaii... twice! I've been to the Caribbean and all over the U.S. What is the problem now!?! I internally argue with myself every time I book a flight because I'm angry with myself for now having this issue to deal with and it must come from within, but it cannot win! (Though, honestly, sometimes it does.) I even go so far as to try to estimate when the busiest time at the airport will be and then hope to get a flight during a slow time. (Psycho) So, I got on that plane and kept myself occupied with music and a movie and made it down to Florida... ALIVE and able to walk off the sky bullet consciously, happily and newly excited for the cruise! Cruises, on the other hand, do not make me anxious, oddly enough. I've determined that it must be because I can walk around, I can have space around me and I can step outside and breathe if I need to. Whatever. It is what it is.
We started the vacation off with a full double rainbow over the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast while having some tasty beverages. If you've ever wondered what's at the end of a rainbow... here ya' go! Nothing but beauty and amazement. I'm sorry my camera did not capture the second arch... if you're not aware, when there is a double rainbow the second one sits above the more vivid first rainbow with colors in reverse order. When there is a triple (which I have only ever seen once), it will then reverse back again. As you know, I love rainbows. They are a sign that everything is ok. What a perfect way to begin this family vacation of celebrations!
On the most upscale, relaxing ship I've ever been on, we set sail on Sunday afternoon. I'll be honest, our first two days were rocky with high winds and our captain was hysterically funny about it during his morning announcements. Our first stop: Cozumel, Mexico. I'm not a fan of Mexico... only because my body doesn't handle it well. After living in Arizona and California and having traveled to many places in Mexico only to return with Montezuma's Revenge each and every time, I've decided that Mexico is not good for me. It's a beautiful place and has such a unique culture, but it just doesn't agree with my body. So, when we arrived, I only shopped a little for gifts for the kids. I had considered taking the long journey up to Chichen Itza or the Tulum ruins because I so very much love seeing ancient ruins and have never seen a Mayan pyramid or any pyramid for that matter. But, I was told I would not be allowed to bring my own food and beverage, so I nixed that option pretty quickly and stayed on the island. Unfortunately, my husband's dive excursion was canceled so he was stuck with me for the day. It turned out to be a warm, sunny and gorgeous day and I was happy to have him by my side as the rest of the family went on submarines or played games on the empty ship.
We were in Cozumel for the day then sailed on to Grand Cayman... I love that place. Once again, though, my husband's dive excursion was canceled. Poor guy. I had originally planned to rent a Jeep and drive my parents around the island to a beach- simply because I just wanted to drive on the right side of the car and left side of the road... in a Jeep because I love Jeeps. But, in Cayman, there is no dock and people are tendered in to port. There were 7 ships in the bay tendering at the same time and we were the last to arrive. Figures. So, we didn't get tendered in until the afternoon which meant no Jeep for me. But... if that's all I have to be bummed about right now, that's great! Fortunately, at there was no anxiety for me... though I did think about the possibility of it if I was was going to be stuffed into one of those lifeboats which they used as tenders. I was able to get a seat in front on top and outside! Score! Once again, we casually meandered around town. My husband was able to buy some of his favorite rum cakes and we bought some more souvenirs for the kids then went back to the ship. The view from the ship was stunning... each stop was more beautiful than the last.
Heading to Jamaica. I've never been to Jamaica before and haven't heard many good things about it from others, but we had a WONDERFUL time! The views were breathtaking, the beach was gorgeous, the food was great, the drinks were plenty and we were all on the same excursion this time. 40 of us loaded on to an air-conditioned bus and drove about an hour to a private beach where we each had a large, padded beach chair under palms and other trees, which surprisingly housed hundreds of very large, leggy, striped spiders! Needless to say, I was in the water nearly the entire day. And for some, that was the highlight of the day. Jamaican dancers worked their way across the beach for the guests and my husband and I had probably a little too much fun as we danced in the water behind the actual dancers. My brothers both have video of course... and likely many others do as well. You may find us on You Tube soon. LOL When we got back to the ship, we didn't realize we were suddenly famous and now known as "The Water Dancers" who provided several minutes of pure hilarity for many beach-goers that day. Another day with no anxiety. If only I could do this EVERY day.
One last stop on this trip... sadly, it's already almost over. It's so nice not worrying about anything for a week though... other than the occasional, yet scarce, anxiety tugging on me like a small child in constant need of attention. We head to Labadee, Haiti for our last land visit. Having seen the poverty in Jamaica and having been to Labadee before, I know what's coming. I like to spend my money with locals rather than corporations so when I shop abroad, I do tend to look for people on the side of the roads or in small markets who sell handmade items not found in big shops with brand names. I know Haiti has such a market, but I didn't know how big it had gotten since my last visit there. We docked! Last time it was tenders only. We talked to many of the locals who beg you to buy ANYTHING from them. They are all competing for your money... because they need it so desperately. I had saved the bulk of my cash for Haiti for this very reason and I knew I could buy some artwork from them, which is really what I love. I had tried to negotiate a price on a Oaxacan wood "animalito" in Cozumel, but wasn't able to get it where I needed it to be and so I am animalito-less. The beaches on Labadee are stunning with views of distant mountains and endless skies. We had wanted to ride the zip-line across the bay, but we didn't book it in time and missed out. (I suppose I should really try to be a better planner; I tend to let anxiety get the best of me though and prefer to play-it-by-ear so I'm not committed only to cancel if anxiety shows up that day.) So, once more and for the last time, we wandered small booth-like shops. Mark and I chose two beautiful paintings of beaches for a steal of a deal with cash to the locals and then we bought a few small items for the kids as well.
Cruising isn't really about where you go and the stops you make. It's more about the journey... such is life. I've been on a few cruises in the past and this ship was by far the best. (The worst ship was the one that sunk in the Mediterranean on the sail date immediately following ours! My mom and I wondered how that ship was floating and contemplated walking around with our life jackets on just in case... then it sank!!! Thankfully it sank AFTER we got off.) This cruise had very few children (which is nice if you're on an adult-only vacation) all of whom were so well-behaved! The food was phenomenal, the views were spectacular, the service was top-notch, the ship was gorgeous and we had such a great time!
There were two "Evening Chic" nights (formerly known as "Formal Nights") this sailing. My dad was not feeling well the first night and missed out, but then gradually came back to life and made it out for the second special evening. He is Scottish and owns his own kilt... we rented kilts for the rest of the men. I didn't take photos those nights since they had photographers all over the ship. We did buy some photos, but I have yet to scan them to post them for you. My husband is also Scottish, but has a different tartan than my dad's family... it was fun to see them all in kilts and in their appropriate colors. The ladies all wore black cocktail dresses. The food that is included with the cruise price was so delicious on this ship, but the specialty restaurants... there are no words... we had a hard time leaving those places after such decadence. How very blessed and lucky we all are to have been given this opportunity to enjoy life together for a week in such luxury. I am SO thankful. SO SO THANKFUL!
We said goodbye to our beautiful white ship, which they paint at every port, and headed straight to the airport. In usual Griswald form, I got stuck at security. TSA wouldn't allow me to go through the new scanner (even though I was TSA approved) and forced me through the metal detector, which ALWAYS alarms because of my metal hip/leg. And, as you likely know, if the metal detector goes off, they pat you down. So, I got the pat-down. Usually, this isn't an issue. This time though, they rubbed my entire body and then tested the gloves and told me that I tested positive for explosives!!! WHAT!?!?!! Of course, my dark companion showed up immediately to handle the situation for me, so I let TSA know that I have anxiety. They informed me of the process and allowed my husband to come to the little room with me. I was told that hopefully, the next rub-down will clear... according to TSA, many people test positive for explosives in this airport because of all the sun-tan products and lotions... whatever... news to me! If the second rub-down hadn't cleared (thankfully, it did), then they said they would have to question me and search my bags... then possibly DETAIN ME!?!?! And here I was, entering the airport just moments earlier with hardly any worries... relaxed, not fearing the flight and ready to go home. So much for that blissful feeling. Party's over... back to reality... BAM!
I'm home now and as I reflect on this family vacation, I can still feel the calmness and joy that sat inside me throughout the entire week. I hope I can hold onto it a long, long time. <3 It's interesting to think about how I feel when facing the possibility of having cancer and then comparing it to the feelings I have of worry when it's not about cancer. I often feel guilty. But the reality of it is that anxiety comes and goes in my life... regardless of the severity of the situation. Anxiety doesn't care as much as cancer isn't prejudiced. I was happy to have not had as much anxiety as I now "new normally" do... if only for a week.
P.S... Regarding my selfie at the top, before anyone gets the wrong idea... Yes, I'm in the car. NO, I'm not driving.
If you have read my last blog, you'll know I've been dealing with a little anxiety. I'm not yet ready to post the next section of my medical history or current concerns, so to try to keep my mind occupied, I scheduled a day of errands and some fun stuff with the girls the other day. While sitting in LensCrafters with the lights flickering... I started to feel uncomfortable... for no reason of course. So, I got up and walked around. My little entourage came along and as I was trying on my favorite brand of glasses, Coach, I came across these next to my normal style. As I grabbed a set, one little blondie grabbed another and then the other two followed along... then it was selfie time. We all made "cool" faces. I couldn't help but to laugh because the little munchkins were having so much fun bouncing around and pretending to be people they weren't. Maybe we should really start to act like children... well, actually, I do that quite often, maybe too often sometimes. Kids seem to know how to handle life's problems with so much more curiosity instead of concern like most adults, I'm convinced. In any case... the whole extravaganza actually worked and transferred my negative thoughts into fun and happy experiences in the moment! That is why when I got home, I Photoshopped out the background and stuck a colorful fun setting in there instead... much nicer than a wall full of other glasses, don't you think?
I have said it before and I will say it again... if you haven't yet, schedule in something fun to look forward to... even if it is a special dinner, a night out, an afternoon stroll or a chocolate brownie. Whatever. Having something happy planned in your day can make all the difference in your attitude and sometimes even help push back the negative thoughts that lead to anxiety.