It has been quite awhile since I have written about my health. I have been traveling quite a bit and most of it on my own. I did three cardio classes at the YMCA today after my scans this morning at the hospital. It was nice to know that I was missed. One of the older ladies I dance with has a brother who has cancer. I have seen her with him at the cancer center at my hospital in Omaha. The two of them went to the pink out game at Creighton University this past Saturday and watched the basketball game. She brought a pink Creighton vs. Cancer shirt for me today to class. It was so very unexpected and so very appreciated. Now I have something pink to wear during workouts on Valentine’s Day. Anyhow, as one person so aptly put it to me this weekend, “I never thought you would make it this long.” Well, I have and contrary to popular belief, it is a battle every day. No, I am not being hooked up to nasty chemo treatments every week. I have been there and done that. However, the nasty little white pill I take every day and those 2-inch needles in my hip every 4 weeks cause their own havoc in my body. Those side effects I deal with every day. When I watch the news, I have noticed they always lead with the horrible, shock-factor story to grab everyone’s attention. Since I have survived 3 years with a terminal disease, people…friends and acquaintances….and even some family members have stepped away. The horrible shock factor is no longer present….it has been over three years and I didn’t become a bald skeleton and become super sick. I did give up my hair for several months and I was very very sick at first due to a rare reaction to a chemo drug, but I have been fighting to make my story one of a person who fought each day with the cards she was dealt and tried to live her life to the fullest. So, I don’t bother telling most people about my scans anymore…. or treatment days. Those hospital visits used to be like notches on my belt – the things I survived to do again. My Joe was all about supporting me making those notches. I usually have at least one or two tears either in the waiting room or in the scanning machine knowing I won’t be getting a call from him directly afterwards, like he almost always did. A lot of stuff (feel free to insert a stronger word there) has been going on in my life the last few years and people are tired of hearing about my woes. Heck, I am tired of it. It exhausts me to carry it all the time and deal with it daily. So, I understand people stepping away. However, for the handful of people who have stayed with me through thick and thin and all the crap that life has thrown me lately, I want you to know that I truly treasure you. For the rest of you, I ask you not to give up on me. I am so, so tired from everything I have been dealing with lately….so much more than I am willing to share in this forum. I am not up for entertaining visitors or going out. It is just too tiring to try and put on a half-way happy face in public. Life is full of peaks and valleys and currently I am in a valley. However, I am using a photographer’s eye in this valley of my life to look at the beauty around me…. because it is still there. I just have to look harder for it. As for those scans…I don’t have an appointment with my local oncologist yet to hear the results. I have an email into his nurse, who should either release the results to my online chart so I can read it, or maybe she will call to set up an appointment. I will let you know when I know what the results are. Either way, I meet with my sarcoma specialist from the Mayo Clinic next week via zoom to discuss my treatment plan.
I would like to finish with two things that I have found interesting over the last couple of days. One is the lesson of being kind. You never know what battles someone is waging that you don’t know about. When I was driving home from Texas, I stopped at a gas station just south of the Oklahoma border. I filled up my tank and then went in to use the restroom. I have lived in cold weather climates for the better part of my adult life. When you come into a store, especially during the wintertime when there is so much snow, dirt, snirt (snow and dirt mix – if you have ever lived in a northern tier state, you know what I mean!), and salt out there, it is polite to wipe your feet on the mats just inside the door. There wasn’t any snow (although there had been 4 days prior) but out of habit, I voraciously wiped my feet on the mats inside the door. The man behind the counter said to me, “I have a dog that does that in my back yard – right before he shits. You aren’t going to shit on my floor, are you?” I kid you not, this was a direct quote. I know because he repeated himself because I literally just stared at him flabbergasted that he had said this to a complete stranger…and a customer. His coworker, a woman, told him he was weird. I told him, “I was just trying to be nice.” This man had no idea that I had stage IV cancer and CT scans looming over my head in a few days. He had no idea that I lost my oldest son less than a year ago and that I still cry for him every day. This man had no idea that I had just left my parents with my mom being alone for the first time in 55 years and my dad confused in a memory care unit. He didn’t know anything about me. He could have been kind. He wasn’t. I am sure he thought he was being funny. Stuff like that would have gotten a pretty strong retort back a year ago. This time, that stupid comment broke me. I drove down the highway in tears because it was just one more thing. Really, the only thing that snapped me out of it was imagining my Joe decking him, because he would have for someone speaking to his mama that way. Lily and I once went to Sam’s Club years ago. She was little but still remembers the whole thing. I was trying to get one of those gigantic Sam’s Club carts free from the line of carts folded together. I tugged and tugged and got one loose. A woman was behind me waiting her turn to do the same action for her cart. I gave her mine and started tugging on the next one for us to take. I turned around and she was crying. I immediately asked her if she was okay. She had just lost her mom and this tiny act of kindness tipped her over the edge. The world had been going on around her while she was grieving, and no one was being nice to her. So I hugged a complete stranger in the Sam’s Club corral because she needed it. So please, be kind. You never know what someone is dealing with.
The other thought I found interesting was told to me just tonight at my cardio class. The instructor is a pastor’s wife, and she is such a compassionate person. We have ended out class praying over women in the class before. She always ends her class with “exercise for your heart.” She tells us that we have worked our muscles and our heart is a muscle as well. She then will read a story, a quote, or some type of inspirational reading to us to think on for the week to be better people. This is why I always try to attend her class. She only teaches on Monday nights. Tonight, she talked about whether you are a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer just reflects the temperature of the room. Is it gossipy or crude? Are we lowering our standards as a person to fit the temperature of the room? Instead, we should be a thermostat: someone who can bring up the room with happiness, thoughtfulness, compassion. The mercury in thermometers is poisonous. Don’t be a thermometer. Be a thermostat and make an impact on people versus letting them control you. I thought that was a pretty interesting concept…so wanted to share it.