Well, we’ve lived up what was left of April 2004, and have jumped right into May! And what an eventful April it was.
Al and I did make that drive up to Three Rivers to renew our vows. My nervousness of the ride lasted about the first 15 minutes, and then all my worries got left in the dust as I remembered why it was I loved riding so much in the first place! There’s nothing in the world like riding on a back country road on your motorcycle. You smell things you never have smelled before, and you notice things you just don’t seem to notice behind the confines of a car window. The orange trees were fragrantly in blossom, and I had plenty of time to think….
Most of my thoughts centered around how much I have lost, and how slowly I am healing. I thought about “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, and specifically, the characters in the book and how they related to Al and I, out there in the country searching for something of ourselves, and maybe even riding away from something too. I rarely read fiction, but I just might dust that one off and read it again. This trip reminded me of the dating years Al and I shared- the rides we’ve had, the hikes we’ve shared, the waterfalls, the rivers, the winds. How much more energetic we were. How much more willing to explore. We have done a lot in our short years. And I think we both really needed the reminder. We renewed our vows at White Horse Inn on May 17h. I had prearranged it, and we drove up there unannounced on Friday just to make sure we were familiar with the location (we didn’t know that it was a residence as well). We met with the owners, Gary White and his wife, Jeanne. Gary was very friendly, and immediately asked Al what he had gotten me for our anniversary. Al and I had looked at anniversary rings. I think Al really wanted to buy me a 5 diamond ring, because he was having me try them on. But I gently reminded him that large purchases of that nature might not be the best thing. After all, even jewelry loses its value in a secondary market. So I shared with Gary that I am still in cancer treatment, and that in Al’s defense, I had told Al that he had to wait until our 10 year anniversary to buy me a diamond ring. If I make it to our 10 year mark, then I better get that ring, but until then, we still face an uncertain future! Gary shared that he had gone through radiation treatments for prostate cancer. And I think that is what started a connection. We went back to renew our vows on Saturday morning, and yes, the storm clouds were literally looming over us. But Jeanne had stayed up the night before writing some beautiful vows and a very personal prayer. Al and I recited those vows, and also our original vows we said to one another. We were all touched, just the four of us, and hugged and shed tears together (well, us women got teary eyed). The presence of the Lord was absolutely with us, and I am certain that even though it went unspoken, we all knew it. It was a very special time, and I know I won’t forget it. Three Rivers is a very special place. Gary and Jeanne are very special people. And renewing our vows turned out to be much more than just an exercise in tradition.
Al and I left the White Horse Inn and went through Sequoia, but it had started to rain, and was snowing at the big trees by that time. So we had to stop short at Hospital Rock, and turn around to come back down because it had started to sleet even at that level. We stopped and ate at a charming restaurant overlooking the river. Al and I both found ourselves amused at the ducks riding the rapids down as if they were in little river rafts all their own. It was fun to get wet and come to rest and dry off in such a cozy spot with a spectacular view. That kind of stuff is like medicine for the soul. Needless to say, with the storm dropping snow in the mountains, the ride home on Sunday was a cold one.
Other thoughts I had were about all the things I’d still like to do. I have shared the words of Christina Middlebrook before. Well, one chapter in her book that truly spoke to me the most was about her “out of body experience”. She characterizes the process of dissociation that those who go through difficult treatments experience- how the body and mind become disconnected. And then she puts to words the slow and painful process of moving back in to your body. This trip was like that for me- moving back in, coming home, remembering who I was and who I want to be, and trying to figure out who I am now. I thought about that midwifery intensive I wanted to take to learn the skills of midwifery, and dreamed of a day when I could put them to use. I thought about that pottery class waiting for me, and what I would do with all my fired creations. And I thought about the tattooing experience that may await me- the spiritual metaphors for it, and the necessary ways that it will “open” me up. It was a good trip, a time of reconnecting on many levels.
So we came back to life, the kids (mostly Amanda) upset because we left, and I mostly just spent the week Spring cleaning. As much as I grumbled through it (Phillipians 2:14 is my continual prayer), I was so grateful to have enough of my body back to get some deep cleaning done! And it felt good to be able to invite my Dad, whom I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, into a relatively clean home. We’ve been living with ongoing construction projects for so long that our home had become one large tool box! And I’ve been so physically and emotionally consumed with cancer treatment that I’ve been pretty useless around the house. So, Dad arrived Saturday morning after a 14+ hour drive from the Portland area. He had planned on staying until Thursday, but left Wednesday. I don’t really know why he left early, because I thought the visit was good. Dad attended church with us on Sunday, and he and Al went golfing on Monday (I drove the cart). Summer’s come upon us much too quickly this year, and we were all exhausted from the sun and heat, but it was fun. The days went by quickly, and I only hope it isn’t another 10 years before I see my Dad again.
So then we wound down for a couple days, and I spent some moments teary eyed- a lot of emotions to process on many different levels. Then, last Saturday we drove down to Ontario for a family wedding. We left home early so we could stop by the cemetery where my Grandfather is. I also discovered my Great Grandparents (Grandma’s parents) are there, as well as my Dad’s Mother. So we took the opportunity to freshen up flowers for all of them. That is always a great honor for me. Some people really have a preference for how they want to be handled once they’ve died, but I told Al, take a vote and do what you and the kids decide to do with me. What do I care once I’m dead? Really, these customs we have are for the living, not for the dead. If they really need a plot to come lay flowers at, then bury me. If they want to have me always near, burn my ashes and bring me home in an urn. If they need to really let go, feed me to the fish. I don’t care! (Yes, we do have moments when we discuss this type of thing, brief as they are). We also spent the remaining time driving around to see the different houses that I grew up in around the Upland area. It turned out to be another experience of “connecting”, and I was glad for it, even though the drive down there was truly a display of the most extreme family dysfunction! You see, Amanda decided to have a bad day the moment she came out her bedroom door that morning, and after hours of listening to her screaming, mocking, sarcasm, and general rudeness, we were all frazzled. In fact, I had developed a migraine headache, and by the time we made it to the cemetery, Al was so frustrated he ended up hitting the brakes a little harder than he should, jerking us to a heart pounding stop (but we were only going about 10 mph on the cemetery road), as he proceeded to yell at Amanda right in front of an ongoing funeral/viewing in the Mausoleum chapel. I don’t think he realized he was creating a stage for our family dysfunction in front of an audience of mourning observers, but even after all of this, all I could do was laugh. I’m still laughing about that one!
The wedding was nice. Amanda always behaves herself the most in front of others, so even being in public provides a welcome relief from her persistence. We needed that break! And coming face-to-face with people who have been praying for me was the cream filling in my cake. But the icing came the week before. You see, I am a regular member of the Third Day forums (I told you I am a total Third Day fan). Al finds it juvenile and gets annoyed by it. But I don’t particularly care for the History or Discovery Wings channels either. Anyway, I had been posting my e-mail updates in the Prayer forum, but eventually made a decision to remove them. Several months ago one of the forum Moderators privately contacted me, asking me for my home address. She said “don’t question, just trust me”. Well, I responding by making a joke about sending me a package bomb, thinking that she, like so many other people, wanted to send me a card to encourage me. So months went by, and nothing came. I shrugged it off thinking she probably had good intentions, but just never got around to picking that card up and getting it mailed. Well, much to my shock, about a week ago I got a package from the Third Day management company. Again, I just thought it was the new CD I had pre-ordered, coming early. And I was excited that I was getting it a week before it’s public release date. I ripped the package open, and there in my hands was an Offerings II CD signed by all the band members (and yes, I know all of their names. Mac, the lead singer, and I have some things in common, being born the same month and year, and with a wife who spells her name exactly as mine). Enclosed was also a handwritten note by the management team stating that they have all been praying for me. WOW. Call me juvenile all you want, because that’s just plain awesome!
So Dr. Patel’s office is after me to schedule treatment. But I went back to work today, so I asked if I can delay treatment until next month. They haven’t called me back yet. But I haven’t heard about my bone scan either. I haven’t had a bone scan in a year. In fact, I’ve only had one bone scan. And my bones hurt. I don’t think it’s cancer- the pain isn’t in any one spot, and sort of moves around a lot. But I think I need a bone scan just to make sure. I am hoping that the treatments won’t be so bad this time around, being that I don’t have the cumulative effects of 7 cycles poisoning me slowly. It’s a fresh start. And the dose of Adriamycin on this regimen is lower, even though the regimen itself is much harder because it combines 3 different chemotherapy agents in a short time rather than spreading them out. The “red stuff” is what makes the hair fall out, so I’m thinking that this might not be too bad either. Although, if it came out in patches that could be worse than if it just all falls out. So, we’ll see…….
We took Jared to see Dr. Sales because he had been complaining about a growth in his belly button that was irritating him. It turns out between the pediatrician and Dr. Sales, they cannot determine what this growth is. It isn’t cancerous, but Dr. Sales recommended it come out and be examined by a pathologist. So while we have insurance, we decided to go ahead with that. Jared will be having surgery on the 6th of May to remove this growth, which is slightly larger than a pea. He is very brave, and I am sure he’ll be fine, but I hate the fact that they have to do this in the OR and I can’t be there with him. Another bit of sad news to share is that Al’s Grandmother (his Mom’s Mother) passed away a couple days ago. While she lived a long life at 92 years old, death is never an easy thing to have to deal with, and can be especially hard when you’re uncertain about a loved one’s eternal salvation. We live in times when we can’t afford to be uncertain about our own eternities…….
So today was my first day back at work. It was long, and tiresome. And many people were very happy to see me back. “You look good”, they tell me. And I’m glad that my hair is returning, my skin is shining, my eyes are sparkling and the poisons have left no outward trace of their presence (beyond the weight I gained). But I hope that these outward signs don’t provide a false hope or a premature pronouncement of “cure”. I cried over an IBC sister who passed away last month, having been declared with “no evidence of disease” in January, and then by March having mets so extensively that she was sent home and encouraged to seek the services of hospice. I cried today when I learned a co-worker’s brother, who was receiving treatment at the same cancer center, passed away last November. I really thought he was going to make it. I still have a long road ahead of me, even though there’s light at the end of this tunnel. And in reality, I think the real ‘meat’ of the journey has just begun……….
Happy Mother’s day to all of you wonderful women (Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, and Friends)!