Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Short, but not so Sweet

Forget all of the wish making, and freebies, and other cancer 'perks'.

This week can be summed up in 4 words: Cancer stinks like mayonnaise.

That is all.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

It is a new morning, and we are in various stages of getting ready to go back to the hospital---meaning I am up trying to get organized and packed, and everyone else is asleep.  We learned last time that scheduled admission is relative, and since we live so close to the hospital, not to pack every single thing we might need, just in case we have to turn back around and head home.  It is kind of strange to be in a reality where we are hopeful that we can get the poison sooner rather than later...

Anyway, we are still relatively early in this whole cancer journey, and it has provided much food for thought.  Darren and I have mentioned several times how exponentially more difficult this whole thing would be if we were divorced, or addicted to something, or didn't really like each other, or were selfish.  Just your everyday dysfunctional conditions that really don't coincide well with crisis management.  There is a reason that couples are statistically more likely to get divorced during or after battling a lengthy illness of a family member--it is not easy to maintain a functional relationship with so many balls in the air.

Darren and I were lucky enough to have dated for five years before we got married.  And even though it drove me absolutely insane at the time, I was lucky enough that he insisted on engaging in meta-communication.  Big word that means communicating about how you communicate.  Drove me crazy, but it paid off in bucket loads by the time we got married, because I had learned not to hang up, or walk out, or pout when things weren't going just the way I wanted them to go.  And looking at so many relationships we have observed since that time, I am pretty sure that we are in a very slim minority of couples that communicate about anything functionally at all.  It has served us well, and has become absolutely essential with this annoying cancer thing.

After we got married, we kind of considered it our responsibility to tell other couples we knew who were about to get married to be aware of particular problem areas that could arise during marriage, and the need for communication about them.  Areas like money, housekeeping, time and sex.  I don't think any of them paid any attention, because they had it all together and marriage would be a piece of cake for them. Sure it would be...

Since then, we have watched couples implode left and right, in good times and bad times.  The signs are evident, but there have been few resources that are comprehensive and practical, without sounding like all you have to do is pray to make things better.  Which makes all of this a very long introduction to a resource I have just reviewed by Sandy Ralya, who is the founder and director of Beautiful Womanhood.  I signed up to review this before Harrison was diagnosed and I have stopped officially reviewing books for a while, because I was curious to see if this resource was better than the Pollyanna resources that are out there now.  It is.

I actually reviewed a series of resources for The Beautiful Wife.  The main one is the book itself, but a separate Mentor's Guide and a Prayer Journal for the book were also included in my review package.  I have to admit, I was skeptical, not because I thought the concept was lame, but because I have seen similar attempts to address this issue that have been so lamely done.  Ralya did a very good job of writing about the issues that a woman faces as a wife, and at the same time offered practical guidelines and steps to begin working through these issues, either with or without her husband's involvement.  Each chapter included questions for reflection, and well as some hands-on steps to do.  This is where the prayer journal really comes in handy.  While it is not necessary to use one to follow along with the book, it provided additional exercises and action steps that seemed much more useful than other prayer journals I have seen.

The content and format seem very well suited for one-on-one or group settings.  The Mentor's Guide provided a very good outline for someone in that type of situation as well.  I have never been involved in any type of mentoring program, but more and more churches seem to be offering programs like this one.  I know of several that don't have any real type of curriculum or guidelines, and a resource like this would be most helpful.

And now, it is off to the hospital.  Again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This Week In Cancer

You know, unless and until cancer is put on your radar, there is just a lot that you don't know about.  And let me just say, when it comes to cancer, ignorance is bliss.

But, cancer comes along and there is this whole world of information out there that takes the brain space that was formerly occupied by all manner of things important and trivial.  The way my mind is working lately, I figured I needed to go ahead and get some of the good info in writing so I won't forget, and just in case anyone stumbles on this one day in a newly diagnosed cancer blur and could use some helpful info.

So, these are just a couple of the things I have stumbled upon in the past few weeks:

--SuperSibs! -- the hospital social worker passed on an info sheet about this non-profit agency that is dedicated to the siblings of kids under 18 who have been diagnosed with cancer.  They sent the younger boys a neat package in the mail, with the promise of more each month.  At this time when so much time and attention is being given to the brother 'lucky enough to have the cancer and get goodies from everyone', this has been so helpful.  All of this is free.  We like free.

--American Childhood Cancer Organization -- have books, DVDs, journals, and stuffed animals available simply for asking--again, all FREE.  I sent a request online last week, and got a big box in the mail just a few days later.  My teenage boy loves his stuffed chemo cat.  Who would've known?  Our current favorite is a book for siblings called Oliver's Story.  My youngest really responded well to this one.

--The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green--I suppose this would be labeled as Young Adult fiction, and I would never have bought it if we weren't in this place.  The main characters of the book meet at a teen cancer support group, so it takes a coming of age story in a new direction.  The main guy, Gus, has the same type of cancer as Harrison (osteosarcoma), and is 14 months NEC (no evidence of cancer).  It is not a feel good book, per se, and is not the kind of book that would be found at Bible Book Stores.  The kids have cancer, and kids with cancer are sick and vomity and some of them die.  Plus, they are teenagers, so that tends to take the story in places that too many YA fiction books go to nowadays (think Juno-esque).  But, for some reason, it was good to for me to read.  Not for my mom, or husband, or even Harrison to read, though.  Not yet.  Maybe when he is about 5 or 6 years NEC.

There have been some discoveries that are a little less tangible, but no less touching.  Probably even more so, because they are blogs by people dealing with their own cancer stories.  I don't know them personally, and I am pretty sure I never will.  However, they are putting themselves out there, and it is helping me in my cancer place.

--Johnny Optimism -- a cartoon post every M-W-F, by someone with their own cancer diagnosis, that catches the whole insanity of navigating the medical cancer maze.  It requires the reader have a dry sense of humor to appreciate.  Harrison and I laugh and laugh when we read them.  My mom, on the other hand, is a little bit mortified by them. It is still WAY too early for most of our family to be joking about the situation.  It sure helps us, though.   Just a sample:


--Life is what you make it, a blog by JRose.  She is coming to the end of the tunnel in the next month or so of her treatment for breast cancer.  She is currently having radiation treatments, and plans on returning to work in April.  All of her posts aren't cancer related, which is refreshing, because it is a reminder that no one chooses the cancer path, and even though it may take center stage for a while, life goes on in other ways as well.  Thank goodness. Just a sample--Cancer Patients are the Happiest People I Know.

--SteveMcKinion.com--I just learned about this one this afternoon...As I am sitting with Harrison in the hospital... And he has FINALLY fallen asleep for a while. I don't know Steven either, but he posted a link on my husband's Facebook wall that chronicles his own journey with having a 10 year old son who was just diagnosed with leukemia this past December.  He has written so well about so many things we have been facing or feeling, but I just haven't had the time or energy to post.   My current favorite post of his has to do with the cancer beads (We Don't Want Your Cancer Beads) that are given to cancer kids to commemorate each step and procedure.  It is such a neat idea, and we take ours everywhere, but still...

I'm sure there will be more rays of light to come, helping to chase away the icky darkness that seems to go hand in hand with cancer sometimes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Toilet Paper Trumps Roses (Tokens of Love)

Valentine's Day is one of those interesting days to read through my Facebook feed.  The range of posts and emotions runs the gamut, from multiple pictures of pretty/yummy/thoughtful/expensive presents to my single friends posting anti-Valentine's Day posts and down-on-love videos.  Then there are those who post pictures of their cute kids with their cute outfits and the cute craft like foods/cards/beadwork things they made for their kiddos.

I am pretty much just a Valentine's Day observer myself, making token gestures to my kids and maybe my husband.  I used to worry that I wasn't modeling good Valentine's behavior for my boys, and that their wives would blame me one day for their lack of romantic participation in this holiday.  OK, maybe 'worry' is too strong a word. I am reframing it as I am teaching them to be good love-ers every day, and not to rely on some store bought token to convey that only once a year.  If that doesn't work, then by that time they will be out of my house, and can take it up with their therapist on their own dime.

And speaking of dimes, this family has been living paycheck to paycheck since I quit my job years ago to stay home with the boys.  If my husband came home with ANYTHING out of the ordinary for Valentine's Day, then I would know that he put it on the credit card, which is not worth any special warm fuzzies that might accompany said gift.  I would be like, "Do you know how much paper towels and soap we could buy with whatever those flowers cost?".  I wouldn't say that, but I would probably be thinking it.  Forget not squeezing the Charmin, we sometimes have to ration it if it is too close to payday.  "No, John, you can't use 4 squares today--only 2 1/2!".  Just kidding...sorta.

So, I have spent my limited down time today looking at the latest Valentine related videos from the Skit Guys.  I post their stuff a lot, but they always make me smile or think.  Here are a few of my favorites from this year--only a few minutes each.

All Wives Want for Valentine’s Day
All Wives Want For Valentine's Day

Killer Marriage Tips
Killer Marriage Tips

needHarmony: Definition of Love
NeedHarmony:Definition of Love

Check the Box
Check the Box

Whatever your take on Valentine's Day, and whatever life is throwing at you right now, I hope your day brings blessings your way, or that you are reminded of the blessings you already have.  Even if they aren't wrapped in pretty red paper.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Becoming a Plus-sized Woman Overnight

A few random thoughts on this week in pop culture:

Mr first WH album - on cassette

Whitney Houston died yesterday.  The cause of death hasn't been released yet, but this hasn't stopped people all over the Internet from making all kinds of speculations and posting their opinions.  I have only read through a couple of news posts on this, but people sure can be mean and nasty.  Was it drugs, or suicide, or Bobby related, or accidental, or...whatever...?  Why does this even matter to the public at large, or anyone for that matter that isn't somehow personally related to her?  I've been thinking about her poor mama, who has been Whitney's champion and probably her biggest prayer warrior for years--(Cissy Houston can SANG!).   I will remember Whitney Houston as a beautiful lady and amazing singer, one that brought me a lot of smiles over the years.

--The Vow -- new movie release this weekend.  This is the chick flick men all over will be forced to attend as part of their Valentine's Day sacrifices.  Poor, poor men.  Based on a true story, it tells of a woman who was in an accident and lost her memory and doesn't remember her husband, but he refuses to leave her.  I haven't seen it, but probably will at some point--without my husband in tow.  That is my Valentine's Day present to him. Total weep-fest, I'm sure.

--Star Wars, Episode 1 - 3D re-release -- as if George Lucas hasn't milked that cash cow enough, I will now be expected to fork out matinee prices (plus $3.50 for the collector's edition glasses) for 3 boys for the next 6 years, for movies that they have seen multiple times on DVD.  I fell asleep during our show.  Twice.  Totally worth that $9 for a little uninterrupted rest.

--Republican primaries -- I can't stand following them this go round. The GOP appears to be on the verge of total implosion.

--Super Bowl -- The New York Giants won.  I sure wish I could say that the New Orleans Saints won, but maybe next year--it will be played at the Super Dome, and could be the first time a team has played on their own field for the Super Bowl. 

--Greece -- folks over there are going crazy and revolting against the government, with potential 'catastrophic consequences' if something isn't done this week.  I would be most appreciative if they would hold off on their implosion until I can make my bucket list trip there one day.  Thanks so much.

--Size 12 is apparently the new plus size for women's fashion--Oh, really?  Well, thanks for your input, fashion industry.  Now I feel super special.  #not-letting-a-number-define-me

--Valentine's Day this week -- I'm hoping to get the chance to get my thoughts on that whole exploited day down in writing.  Short summary?  It is an over-hyped day designed to make money for the industry and heartache for those with or without sweeties.  I plan on spending my Valentine's Day sitting next to my son as he is getting poison pumped into his body, one drop at a time, in the form of chemo, and waiting for my husband to come and relieve me so I can go home and tuck my other two into bed.

Now, that's what I call love.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What would YOU wish for?


Remember how I used to be gifted?  And how I was able to take really fun classes that didn't have tests or grades with other lucky students that were natural test takers, and that just didn't seem right?  Oh, the educational bliss of the 70's....

Anyway, one of our unit studies in the 6th grade was on Ancient Greece.  We spent six weeks studying the food, and the mythology, and the Olympics, and the culture of that Mediterranean land.  We looked at pictures on one of those new fangled slide projectors--the ones that you could see the dust in the air when the screen was blank,
and it would get stuck every now and then, and then the whole thing would run hot so we just read for the rest of the class because the teacher didn't have anything else planned for that day.  And oh, what beautiful pictures they were.

Have you ever seen pictures of the coastland of present day Greece?  Oh. My. Goodness.  I am not sure that color blue exists anywhere else in the world.  I decided right then and there that one day, I would see those places for myself.  That was over 30 years ago, and it remains at the top of my bucket list.  I was naive enough at the time to think that I would surely get there before I was 30 and too old to enjoy it.  Now, I am pushing for 50-55ish, and hopefully before I have to buy myself a new pair of knees.  I don't have a definite itinerary, but there is this 14 day cruise that takes people to a different island each night...

While never completely out of my thoughts, this idea has been more in the forefront lately thanks to this whole cancer thing.  Harrison was just informed yesterday that he has been approved for a 'wish' with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  I've heard about this organization before, but thought it was only for kids who have a terminal diagnosis.  It turns out that just having a potentially life threatening diagnosis and being under 18 is all that is required (you know, something simple like that).  So, now it is his turn to dream.  He has to come up with his top two choices, and it is pretty much a done deal.  They haven't given any monetary limits, but I am sure they exist somewhere.  They have said that a person can't get any room additions to their homes, or any vehicles.  He has considered a European cruise (I have trained him well), or a trip to Hawaii or Australia.  Or maybe a Best Buy/Game Stop shopping spree.  He can't travel well for a while, at least until his leg is rebuilt and functional again, and a year of chemo will drain all his energy and immunity, so we shall see.  I am trying not to influence his decision.  This is HIS once in a lifetime wish, one that he will tell his great-grandchildren about one day.  It should be fun to watch.

It would be a whole lot more fun to watch from the deck of a ship that is sailing through that amazing blue water, though...