Words Cannot Express {Simple Moment, Bigger Picture}

I have heard through the grapevine that a college acquaintance of mine has started the journey; the healing path toward remission from breast cancer. On a mutual friend’s Facebook wall, she wrote about leg hair. That’s right; LEG HAIR! I remember telling others that while my head was bald, I still had to shave my legs. GAH! But eventually, the chemo made even that stubborn leg hair fall out.

I am grateful for the healing I received.
For the hair brushing my cheeks.
For the hair bristling on my legs.
(Yes, I am even grateful for the need to shave!)
I am grateful for the doctors I continue to see.
For the words I heard just this month, “Your labs look fine.”
I am grateful, so grateful, for the forty-two years God has given me;
For my husband and daughters; there are not words enough to express my love for them.
But yet, in the pit of me, a ball of fear reigns, like a tightly wound ball of yarn.
Panic’s claws threaten to unravel the ball; to pick at it; to make it–and me–come undone.
Fear’s tendrils weave through my body, threatening to stop me in my tracks.
With God’s help, those tendrils of fear dissolve. Words cannot express His love for me.
He gently winds that fear back up into a ball and weaves the fear away.
He was with me through my diagnosis and healing;
He will be with me at the end.
Fear has no hold on me.
He is with us now.
And I am thankful.

Bigger Picture Moments this month are all about Gratitude. Visit Sarah at This Heavenly Life  for more thoughts about thankfulness.

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A Place to Hide, For a While

Growing up, I was in a combined classroom which consisted of two grades. The teacher would teach a lesson to my class, and then while we were doing our work, go over to the other class to teach their lesson. This was not an educational fad, but a necessity. Our parochial school was very small and the class sizes were not big enough to have one teacher per grade level.

So while the other class was having their lesson, I would finish my work (and sometimes get into trouble by talking to a classmate) and pull a book out of my desk.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.

Sometimes sticking my nose in a book became a way to hide from the rest of my life.

Eighth grade was tough. My family had just moved to the Chicago suburbs the year before. Seventh grade hadn’t been too bad; I made friends and felt pretty good about the school I went too. It was another parochial school–I was in with the same room with the same classmates all day long.

Eighth grade was not kind. Some of friends I had made the year before graduated and a couple of my friends moved away. A group of “friends” started to ignore me. The other girls in the class already had their group established, and while I wasn’t ignored, I wasn’t exactly welcomed.

Every day after school, I ran home and pounded the stairs up to my room to hide in a book.

The characters in a book didn’t ignore me. They didn’t tease me or tell me I wore the wrong clothes or didn’t wear enough make-up.

Fortunately, that feeling of being left out didn’t last. High school was good and college was even better. I still loved to read, but I didn’t need to hide myself in a book as much as I did during that one year.

And then, along came another year when I really needed a place to hide.

I needed to hide from the poison dripping into my veins; from the old lady across the room attached to IVs; from the cold that seeped into my bones in the middle of summer. From the anxious looks my parents gave me when they thought I wasn’t looking.

And so I opened my book.

The words blurred in front of my eyes. I couldn’t bring the print into focus. I took off my glasses, used for distance, and wondering if they needed a good cleaning. I looked at my book again, and the page swam before me. My glasses were not smeared. The chemotherapy dripping into my blood was making me too sick to read.

I closed my book and closed my eyes. Nowhere left to hide.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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A S-tick-y Situation

This post is coming to you from a new laptop! Ed went out last Friday and bought us a new Gateway since our old Dell has slowed down to a snail’s pace. Isn’t he the BEST?!?

I think Ed might be feeling sorry for me. I haven’t been feeling well lately, but now I’m started to feel better.

A couple of weeks ago, I had just taken a shower and was toweling off when I noticed something. It was a freckle that really shouldn’t have been there. A freckle that stuck out from my skin. A freckle that wasn’t a freckle after all…it was a freckle with legs. Turns out that freckle was a deer tick. As my brain was panicking, I carefully looked myself over and found a couple more ticks, yanked them off, and then ran downstairs to check Lily and Emmy. I found three deer ticks on each of them. I’m shuddering as I type this…ew, ew, EW!

We had just spent the weekend hiking in the woods down in Kentucky, which is where I think we got the ticks. The girls’ pediatrician put them on antibiotics just as a precaution against Lyme disease. She suggested I see my doctor as well, since the ticks were embedded in our skin for two to three days already. (Excuse me while I shudder some more — EW!)

My doctor put me on an antibiotic as well, only I was to take the super-duper killer of that nasty Lyme bacteria, while the girls took amoxicillin since they are too young to take the super-duper antibiotic. My system did not respond well to this medication. I felt like such a wimp. I’ve weathered cancer, for heaven’s sake, and chemo, and two Cesarean sections, and this antibiotic whipped me.

The first morning I took doxycyline, I felt more nauseous than I ever have before. After telling myself, “I won’t throw up, I won’t throw up,” I finally threw up my breakfast. Me, who never threw up once during chemo! My nausea was so bad that the doctor prescribed an anti-nausea medication. Then there was heartburn. The Saturday night after I had started taking the medicine, my chest was burning so bad that I couldn’t sleep. The next day, I noticed that I was having a lot of pain when I was swallowing food. The pain continued to get worse, right in the middle of my chest. On Tuesday, I begged my doctor to let me stop taking the doxycyline. She agreed. By Thursday, every time I swallowed, pain stabbed throughout my chest and into my back. Either the heartburn or the medication had damaged the lining of my esophagus. I called the doctor again, and she prescribed a medicine to help my esophagus heal. And all this was happening because I was taking medicine to prevent Lyme disease…I was never actually sick! I’m finally able to eat without pain, and the constant heartburn feeling I was having is gone.

Ed had some deer ticks on him as well, but his doctor didn’t prescribe anything. Ed is supposed to be watchful and check in with his doctor over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the girls have started school and I began a new, part time job. I supposed it’s a good thing that time just keeps rolling; I barely had time to feel sorry for myself. So there you go…an explanation at last!

Black Wool Hat

It’s dark now, at 5:30 in the afternoon, and I pull on my black, wool hat as I walk out the door to pick Lily up from ballet class. The edge of the hat touches my bare forehead, and I reach my hand up to scratch. My hair is tucked behind my ears, peeking out from under my hat. It’s cold tonight, and I pull on my gloves. It hasn’t been so long ago that I wore a different black wool hat, with a brim and a black ribbon around it. But it wasn’t so cold, and my unprotected scalp itched all the way around. It was fall, and school had begun. Students said, “It’s not fair! You get to wear a hat in school and we can’t!” The seven-year-olds in my second grade class knew the truth, that cancer (or rather the chemo) had caused my hair to fall out. But I had almost broken down and cried while confessing the reason for the hat. So I never explained to other students. I was too afraid that I would cry. The old adage is “Never let them see you smile until after Thanksgiving.” A teacher crying? Over a hat? I smiled and waved the questions away.

As my hair grew back, my colleagues said they’d miss my hat. I was so cute in my hat. Keep wearing it, they said. I liked my hat. It served its purpose well, hiding my hairless head from little eyes and keeping cold drafts at bay. But I never wore that black, wool hat again.

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