Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment

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Last week I had my "last" appointment with my oncologist. Technically, it was the last appointment related to my year long course of treatment. Semi-annual follow up appointments are my new norm. Due to the nature of my cancer, I don't think I will officially be free of Dr. "W" until...like...well...never. Yet when I left his office last week, I did so without having an exact return date.

A first in over a year.

My next appointment won't be for 6 months which is far enough into the future they could not schedule my appointment at this time. While I'm sure this doesn't sound unreasonable to most, to a cancer fighting chica six months is an eternity.

Since the end of August last year I have had 116 cancer related medical appointments. How do I know?

I counted.

And that was only those recorded on my company calendar. There were several not posted during my absence after surgery. Who knows what the true number is. Considering the ginormous amount of poking and prodding I received over the course of a year one would think I would be thrilled to be released back into the world of only-go-to-the-doctor-when-you-feel-like-you-are-gonna-die.

But I wasn't thrilled. Something was nagging me and it wasn't a pleasant feeling.

After chatting it up with Dr. "W" and being informed I was a free woman, at least for a while, I did what I always do...climbed in the car for the 20 minute drive home. This post-appointment commute time is always reserved for processing all the information thrown at me during my most recent visit. It is used to focus on the positive and for directing my attention to the remaining battles to be fought. However this time things were different. My commute was cut short. Why?

I fell apart.

No amount of "processing" could prevent the tidal wave of tears that began to flow from my eyes. The flood gates had opened. I had a meltdown to rival all meltdowns. Unable to drive, I pulled into the first empty parking space I could find at a nearby grocery store and cried like never before. It was such an ugly cry too. One complete with runny nose, heaving sobs and hiccups. As I sat in the parking lot, wailing like a baby, the only thought running through my mind was...

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!? 

In other words... 


Before we go any further, I need to explain the significance of the above obscenity. I'm one of those who rarely uses the "f" word. I'm not saying that makes me bigger or better than anyone who does. It just isn't my go-to-swear word. Trust that I do spew forth a few curse words from time to time...my most favorite being shit. And I say it with a true country girl twang. So it sounds more like "sh-ee-et"...all long and drawn out. I've tried to train myself to say it in a more refined way but it just ain't gonna happen. When cussing, my country roots are hard-wired into my system with no means to over-ride them.

I also would be lying if I said I've never dropped the "f" bomb because I have. Most often in times of great distress. Yet even with obvious times of "great distress" such as divorce and cancer being a part of my past, I still haven't used the word that often. So...when my only thought was WTF, I knew something was seriously wrong. My reaction was completely unexpected. For the life of me I could not figure out what was the source of my anxiety. Should I not be happy my journey through hell was over?

Again...Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?

Once I squeezed out every single tear I could possibly muster up, my mind cleared enough for me to see the reason for my sob fest.

I was afraid.

And rightfully so. No longer would I be under a doctor's watchful eye. I would be on my own for 6 long months. Sure...that doesn't sound like such a great deal of time before my next check in for a check up. But the fact remains that last year I went from a clean mammogram to full-blown stage 3 cancer in 8 short...very short...months. The thought of what could happen during these 6 months was more than I could take.

When my battle began, the "c" beast tried to catch me unaware. It craftily worked its wiles without so much as a hint of its existence. When it attacked, it came fully prepared to be make a BIG statement in spite of me doing my part to avoid its invasion or at least arrest the rogue cells early.

I did annual mammograms.

I did self-exams.

I was very aware of my body.

I had done all we are told to do for early detection. Yet none of this prevented the onslaught of an aggressive enemy determined to take me out. I did not catch the "c" creature in its early stages. It had won the first battle with a surprise attack...a fact I could not deny. A fact I had not really considered until now. Thoughts swirled around the question of what if the slain beast resurrects itself. It was time to deal with the horrific thought that the cancer could come back.

No cancer fighting warrior wants to believe the battle is not yet over...or even worse...that they may eventually lose the fight. But the hard cold truth is that a recurrence could happen. Cancer is a formidable opponent. Until a cure is found, it can and will win at times. This past year alone, I lost two very dear friends to this monster. Both battled breast cancer. Both were young. Both did everything they could to fight. But they lost. And my heart is broken.

I am well aware of the severity of my situation and I intend to give it the respect it deserves. But I refuse to give it anything more than that. My time in the grocery store parking lot left me with a lot more than a red nose and puffy eyes. When I shifted my car into drive and headed home, I did so with a new resolve to enjoy the moment. To live today with no fear of tomorrow. Cancer claimed this past year of my life. For now, I am cancer free. Why in the world should I give the horrid "c" creature one more second than is needed to obliterate it from my being?

I am alive.

And I'm going to live.

I will not give in to my fears of what could or could not happen. I will enjoy each day without a worry of what tomorrow will bring.

In other words...

I drove home with a smile on my face for I felt I had found the perfect way to tell cancer to "F(oxtrot) off"!

Monday, September 19, 2011

When a 1/2-Inch Isn't Exactly a 1/2-Inch


They say hair grows at the rate of a 1/2-inch per month. While not considered a substantial amount, when comparing "no hair" to a 1/2-inch of hair, I'll take what I can get and be happy for it.

Before losing my hair and many times after, I did numerous google searches on hair growth. I consider myself a true "google girl" because I google anything and everything. Knowing I was about to become a baldy prompted many online queries on hair in general. The consensus regarding growth rate was exactly as stated above. So when I read to expect 1/2-inch growth, I expected exactly that...1/2-inch each month. And who would blame me for believing?

I got my info from the internet.

And we all know the world wide web doesn't lie?


In all my research, no one stated the 1/2-inch would be given to me with conditions. Actually, I'm stretching the truth just a bit. Exceptions and conditions were given...I just didn't want to believe them....I wanted to hang onto the hope of getting my 1/2-inch of hair each month! You know, positive thinking at its finest. But just like everything in life, there are exceptions to every rule.

One condition mentioned is the medication I'm taking could hinder normal growth. Given this drug is saving my life...well...I guess you can see why this growth inhibitor is pretty easy to accept. Another relates to my overall health. Okay...I just went head to head with Stage 3 cancer. I'm thinking my overall health hasn't been exactly working in my favor. And still another rests on the amount of rest I'm getting. Does that mean I need to slow down and smell the roses? I have yet to master that one. Rest isn't in my vocabulary. Factor in stress and the fact we are all "unique individuals with differing growth rates", I can't help but wonder why "they" ever made the 1/2-inch promise to begin with? Like...don't we all experience stress? And just who are "they" anyway?

Chemo ended February 4th. It is now September 19th. That is just over 7 months (7-1/2 months to be exact). I should have 3-1/2 inches of hair (technically 3-3/4 inches). No?

But I don't.

I have just over 2 inches.

Guess I'm one of those "unique individuals with a differing growth rate".

Mind you, I'm not complaining. I'm actually enjoying the process. If you had told me I would have uttered those words prior to losing my hair, I would have laughed in your face. But things have changed for me. I used to find my state of being all wrapped up in the kind of hair day I was experiencing. A good hair day meant an overall good day...a bad hair day...well...that just sucked! Now my hair carries very little weight with regard to my disposition. It just isn't that important anymore.

That being said, I really do miss my long hair and you can bet I'm letting it grow at whatever rate it will grow, doing everything I can to accelerate the process, all in hopes of having long hair again. In the meantime, I'm working to embrace each growth phase...trying my darnedest to "rock" each "look" along the way.

But I have a point to make. Don't I always? I've stumbled upon another life lesson in the arena of hair growth. I know...I seriously over-analyze everything. A life lesson from hair??? Hmmm....

The point I want to make is simply this. We all get caught up in expectations and in so doing, we can sometimes miss the thrill of the ride. We are too busy looking for what we think we should be getting and find ourselves not enjoying what we have.

I'll go ahead and admit it...I do pull out the ruler each month to see how much my hair has grown. And I will continue to do so. Just so you know, watching hair grow is a clear reminder of the truth behind the saying "a watched pot never boils". Repeatedly measuring hair growth is a futile process. But I can't help myself....I'm anal that way. However, I no longer whine about how slow it is growing. Let's face it...it's only hair. I've been without and survived.. I think life will most certainly go on...

even if my 1/2-inch isn't exactly a 1/2-inch.

Met up with any unrealized expectations lately? If so, how did you handle them?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Faith Defined

Faith can be a difficult thing to define. Then again, it can be quite simple. In a nutshell, faith is nothing more than a belief in something. Yet for me, it goes far beyond that. Faith is what gets me through each day. It is the guiding light that fills all the dark times. It provides the power that propels me forward when I feel like giving up. Without faith, I would be nothing.

Sometimes I get my inspiration for posts from the most unexpected places. The catalyst for this one came from an episode of "Millionaire Matchmaker". Okay. Okay. So I just admitted to watching some skanky TV. But believe it or not, a very powerful statement came from last week's marathon. (Ahem...I watched 3 episodes ...back to back...followed by an episode of "Dance Moms". .. and I would have watched "Russian Dolls"... but I had to work the next day and it was getting late. No need to judge me over my viewing choices...I already judge myself harshly enough...umkay?)

One of the millionaires was actually a nice guy. Unlike the other sex-crazed, douche bag featured, this guy seemed to have his shizz together. When Patti was quizzing him with regard to his preferences, he divulged past hurts. We could see ...and feel...the wounds of his broken heart. It was a totally "awww" moment. A rather unpredictable "sweetness" for a show that can be...okay...is... most often crude.

Then it happened. That knock-me-off-my-seat moment when a statement was made that caused a million light bulbs to go off in my head at once. Thank goodness for Ti-Vo as I had to replay the sentiment over and over lest I heard wrong. It was "Millionaire Matchmaker". No way in the world something this profound could be found amongst the smut. Yet there it was. An "aha" moment wrapped up in a neat little trash-TV package. This is the thought shared by the wounded, wealthy man.

"Don't pray for one to love. Pray to be ready for them when they come."

Now I'm not saying the likes of Patti Stanger is out there peddling faith wielding promos with her prime-time spot but I found this to be pretty inspiring. It is in keeping with the way my prayers have been going of late. Yes, people, even repulsive-but-sucks-you-in-anyway reality TV can offer a pearl of wisdom every now and again.

You see, a few weeks ago, I felt like my prayers were on auto-pilot. A feeling I often get. I seemed to be asking for the same things over and over again. I was getting tired of hearing myself so I knew God couldn't help but be bored to tears. However, nothing had changed. My requests were the same. Then one day as I began my litany of petitions, a thought hit me... right between the eyes. God heard me the first time I made my requests. And the second. And the third. And so on. And so on. What if I just accepted that He would answer my prayers in the way He sees fit... which is what I want anyway... and simply thank Him for what He is going to do?

In advance.

Because I believe in answered prayer and stuff like that.

You know...kinda like putting my faith to the test.

Scripture states the only way to make God happy is to have faith in Him. To trust Him. To seek Him. To believe He will never forsake those who seek Him. Well...not to sound all pious and such ...but I felt I had the "seeking" part down. What was missing was the faith. The belief that He will bring good things. That even in my darkest days when no answers are to be found, He is there offering hope that only comes from Him. He can and will bring me peace. People, I should know this! I've lived it this past year. Yet, there I was, not taking that additional "leap of faith".

Now much of my prayer time is praise time. And my days are much brighter as a result. I still have requests and I continue to seek Him in all things. But those circumstances that require time and patience are handled differently. I lay them out and let them go. Then I transition to a state of gratitude. Do I know how God will answer my prayers? Not at all. Do I believe He will? You bet. Just like the statement from the millionaire of last week's viewing pleasure, I'm no longer focused on asking for what I want. I now yearn to have a heart that is prepared to receive what is to come. For I know He has plans for me.

So I ask to be ready.

I thank Him in advance.

And life couldn't be better.

So tell me...what do you do to get out of a prayerful rut? Do you find it easy or difficult to believe God hears you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Resurrection

Hello, dear blog friends! I'm back and oh how I've missed you! Life is finally returning to a somewhat normal state...depending on how you define normal...so I felt it high time I jump back on the blogging bus.

As you would assume, so much has happened during my time of silence. Much of it would be deemed blog worthy and then some of it not so much. For those who have been long time blog friends, you know I rarely label anything off limits when it comes to sharing here. Let's face it, a girl who writes about her fat feet, over-grown breasts, a nightmarish exam of her lady parts and random marathon pee sessions...well...I guess you could say there ain't much left to deem "private". But the journey I've been on has left me in a foreign land. One where I'm not sure of my feelings let alone understanding how to share them. One where fear, pain, hope and overwhelming gratitude reside side by side. I've been dwelling in a land of rediscovery... running in circles trying to settle into this "new world". I would be lying if I said the transition has been easy. But I can promise it has been worth the struggles.

The original purpose of this blog was to simply write about the changes brought about by children fleeing the nest and learning to navigate those changes as a single girl. That time of "life change" is over. Another curve ball called cancer was thrown my way. As the "c" devil came crashing in everything else seemed less important. It felt as if my old life was dead. So I buried it. Along with this blog.

Now...life has been resurrected. I'm on the other side. Living in a new world. And I want to share. So I'm resurrecting this spot in cyber space. I'm back with new stories. New insight. New perspectives. I hope you all will follow along as there is nothing to make a "new land" feel more like home than visits from old friends.

Happy Monday to you! Hope to see ya around!