In Sickness and in Health

Battling cancer with love, medicine, and the Giver of both.

Feathers and Fluff

I’d like to think it’s pretty common for God to give a ‘mascot’ (for lack of a better word) to someone in a time of sickness or difficulty.  A symbol.  Something physical that holds special significance.  For a friend of mine, it is sunshine.  For me, it is birds.

It all started about a year ago, several months after my transplant.  God began vying for my attention through those amazing little puff-balls.

I was wrestling that big beast called anxiety…yet again.  It was blowing it’s foul breath all over me.  I was weak and wasn’t winning too well.  Until… I looked outside and saw a flock of sparrows congregating outside my kitchen window.  They were feeding in the grass.

My thoughts went something like this:

Sparrows….

feeding on whatever they can find.

God is taking care of them like He promised.

YES, God, I get it!

Except it wasn’t a frustrated ‘I get it!’  It was a dawning, a realization, a ‘light-bulb’ moment.  “I GET IT!”  And it took only a nano-second to ‘get.’

One of those birds is a fraction of my own value!  But You feed them???  You know when they plummet from the sky on their last flight???

In that brief moment the message was so crystal clear that my beastly enemy had no choice but to grovel at my feet.  No pinning necessary.

More than once that image has been my weapon in the months that have followed.

 

Fast forward to this spring…

I have a hanging geranium on my front porch.  Two wrens decided it was an ideal spot for their nest.  So with much delight we watched the process.  They really did a phenomenal job, bringing grasses and twigs and all sorts of items until they had a secure little home.  Soon there were eggs and then came the ugly hairless stage…creatures always straining their beaks for a tasty worm.  I kept my plant watered during this time and it seemed not to disturb them too much.  From time to time, we would peek in to see how everything was getting along.

About a week ago, I was watering.  As I peaked in, low and behold, a black beady eye was staring back at me.  This little guy had hair!  And not just baby fuzz but actual feathers.  He watched me warily.  As I moved around to water the back of the plant, I began to express to the Lord how much I’d really like to see these creatures fly whenever the time comes.  I declare that message was only half-way to heaven before I heard a fluttering and was startled to see Junior exiting the nest.  He fluttered down to the grass and though I thought it quite graceful for a first flight, I was worried.  I wasn’t at all sure he was ready for this and I feared I had rushed him.

The mother was nowhere in sight…probably on vacation.  So, I stood back in awe as he wibbled and wobbled his way over to the concrete.  He had a very nimble little hop once he reached a hard surface, but talk about toothpick legs.  Actually ‘half a toothpick’ legs.

I debated settling him back in his nest, when mom finally showed up.  She was ?@*&#^%!  I have to use that word ’cause I can’t read bird brains.  I chose to believe she was overjoyed to see her young’un finally leave the nest.  But I declare, she threw a curse or two at me.

About this time, I noticed the two siblings had emerged from the nest and were finding footholds on the plant and the rim of the basket.  Incessant chirping ensued.  The babies, caught up in the excitement and terror of the moment.  And the mother, beside herself with what I’m sure is the biggest day of the year for her.  She had a particular chirp directed at them.  To my pea brain interpretation, it was an encouraging instruction to let go and FLY!!  At one point she even flew up to the nest and down to the ground to show them how simple flying was.  yeah right.  It was amazing to see her focused training.  Every now and then, a scold flew out of her beak if I so much as moved.  Believe me, I know what her scolding sounds like.  I had many opportunities to receive it throughout the prior weeks when I got too close to her brood.  So by now it was inscribed in my memory.  I’m sure I was a nuisance at this moment simply by watching, but I wasn’t going to miss this answer to prayer…not for anything.

As soon as each baby mustered it’s courage and found it’s wings (how cliche-ishly pun-ny) the mother herded them under our car.  Yeah, mighty safe place, Mom!  But she didn’t keep them there.  She exited out the other side and led them to a great big tree that happens to be right in front of the garage.  She then flew up to one of the lower branches, continuing her encouraging chirp.  This branch was maybe 10 feet off the ground.  I wondered how this was going to work.  The babies started to slowly climb the tree.  A little fluttering got them up a few inches where they clung to the bark with those ‘half a toothpick’ legs.  They repeated this until they reached the branch and received a rewarding bite or two from mom and dad. (he showed up late!  Musta been on an even longer vacation)  Sorry to say, Junior #3 had a rough go of it.  He was almost to the branch when for some unknown reason, he decided the garage roof was a reasonable destination.  He made it to the edge and hung on for dear life, but unfortunately he didn’t have a secure hold and he tumbled to the ground only feet away from me.  On his way down, he banged the side of the wall but somehow he managed to land right side up.  Or if not, he was on his feet in a second, flustered and trying to make sense of what just happened.  I could see his little chest fluttering.  Tough little guy.  He was soon hopping back to the base of the tree to attempt a second round of grueling climbing.  And finally, he made it.

I have not seen them since.  I hope and pray they are okay and enjoying their freedom.

I’m not going to end this with a cute little moral or application.  But somehow I believe all this has something to do with His ‘symbol’ to me.

Do you have a ‘mascot?’

 

 

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Clear Scan

We are again rejoicing in another clear scan!  The doctor said it is completely normal.

Thank-you Jesus!

Happy dance!

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Good-bye Medi-port

A little over a week ago Josh and I walked into the hospital for an appointment to remove my medi-port.

YAY!!!!!!

Before we went in, they told me I would receive only local anesthesia for the procedure.  I was a little leery of that idea.  When they put my port in they at least put me in twilight zone.  But it was actually fun being wheeled into an OR and being awake the whole time.  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  The procedure didn’t take long, maybe 20-30 minutes.  I felt him tugging and pushing and pulling.  At one point something squirted into the air but I have no idea what it was.  It didn’t seem like blood.

A year ago, a simple procedure like this would have had me in a panic.  I was so exhausted from transplant and things as simple as CT’s made me feel anxious.  No matter how unreasonable the anxiety was, it was real!  Anxiety has been an issue for me all my life and I learned to deal with it to some degree.  But when I hit rock bottom physically I no longer had the capacity to ‘deal with it.’  I won’t go into all the details here.  But I wanted to write this part of my story and share it with whoever might be helped or encouraged by it.  The long and the short is that for several months after the transplant, I had an ‘as needed’ anti-anxiety medication called Ativan.  It helped a lot for those times I was too weak to hold things together.  When that ran out last December, I was getting better but knew I still needed something.  Because Ativan is a narcotic they didn’t want me continuing on it.  I discussed with my doctor the possibility of going on a daily medication explaining that I think I need something more.  He agreed and started me on Paxil and I’ve been on it ever since.

It was a journey to adjust to the idea of being on an anti-anxiety medication.  Before deciding to go on it for sure, I was in a turmoil.  At times I wasn’t at all convinced I needed it.  I was getting better.  I thought I’d be fine.  I wasn’t suicidal for Pete’s sake.  Other times I saw how weak (physically and emotionally) I still was.  I sought the counsel of friends and family over this time.  I will never forget what one friend told me.  She said, “Jean, you don’t have to be a hero!”  Thanks to the advice of friends and the support and leading of my wonderful husband, who knows me best, I took the plunge and have been thankful ever since.  It was a slow change, but once my body was fully adjusted, I could tell a world of difference.  I was much more happy and peaceful, often catching myself singing around the house.  And guess what?  My white-coat problems are basically nil.  I can walk into a hospital and finally have a normal pulse.  I didn’t know if that was ever going to be possible.

I’m not one to enjoy cure-all proclamations and I don’t get excited when people start naming all the benefits of whatever they’re on (sorry, I guess I just did).  I have a lot of cynicism and can smell a placebo from a mile away. :)  Some of my own benefits from this medication may be in my head, but when things improve without me even thinking about it, I’m pretty convinced.

Believe me, I’m not proud to be on a medication like this.  Neither am I ashamed.  I needed it and I took it.  And that’s just the way it is.

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Living

Well!  As my husband alluded to in the last post, I am enjoying spring and absorbing it all I can.

I thank God over and over for what He has restored and the life I am able to live now, knowing I have no guarantee of the future.

I am living life fairly ‘normally’ at this point.  Gardening, landscaping, housekeeping, and even playing some church softball.  About that…

Softball was never my favorite sport or one I was very good at, but I used to be able to at least hit a pitched ball.  The other night I thoroughly embarrassed myself by playing with a bunch of men and one other lady (church people).  I stepped up to the plate, a little hesitant with it being several years since I played, but decently confident I could hit.  I struck out.  ‘Just a fluke,’ I thought.  ‘I’ll get it next time.’  I have no idea how many times I was up to bat, half a dozen?  I never even ticked the ball.  Not once.  I’m still mulling it over.  My husband graciously suggested it got to my head.  “Watch the ball all the way in,” was repeated numerous times by well-meaning advisers.  A kind gentleman suggested I try T-ball.  ‘In some ways it’s harder,’ he assured, ‘but it really helps with the hand-eye coordination.’  I died inside!  I wanted to tell him that my hands and eyes have always been pretty good buddies, just not tonight.  And I DON’T want to be treated like a kiddy beginner, thank-you very much.  I felt this strong compulsion to explain to everyone that I’m not usually this bad.  But you know how that goes.  It kind-of falls flat in the face of current reality.

I declare, chemo did a number to my brain.  Hah!  No one really fell for that either.

So…the conclusion of the matter is that sometime my husband and I are going to go to the field ALONE!  He will pitch to me and I WILL hit that ball.

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Memory and gratitude

jeanworking

A year ago she was languishing in a sterile hospital. Today she was playing in the sun, breathing true air, and rooting around in the dirt. Life is awesome.

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April 2

Today is my transplant birthday.

I am one year old.

Glory!…

Glory!…

and more Glory to the One who holds life and death.

 

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Hello…anybody home?

It’s been awhile.

We are home…

Although for all you know we’ve been visiting the moon.

Ever since yesterday afternoon, I’ve been longing to write this.  Earlier this week on Tuesday, I drug myself out of bed and headed off to do another routine PET Scan.  Just yesterday we heard from my doctor who reviewed it and said the scan is completely normal.

Completely normal.  Two incredible words!  They produced a string of “awesome’s” from my husband right there on the phone with the nurse.  I was in the neighboring room and felt a wave of relief wash over me.

We are thanking Jesus up and down.

I suppose I will always feel a nervous tension every time I do a scan, but it IS getting easier.  Thankfully!

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One Year Ago…

Our hope lay in shards.

This is the one-year anniversary of my second diagnosis.  We thought I was gonna die.  And here I sit, typing at my computer.

God, You are our help!  Our times are in Your hands.

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Pig Chasing

Over the last two years I’ve written about what I’ve done ‘in sickness.’  So in case you’re wondering what I’m doing ‘in health.’ …

You’ll never guess.

Pig chasing you say?  How did you know?  Oh… the title.

Yes, pig chasing.  Monster pigs.

You see, we live in a small apartment on our landlord’s property which is adjacent to our neighbors (duh) who live with three pigs and some chickens.  Only, the pigs and the chickens seem to like our land better.  Grass is always greener right?  The pigs are penned up.  But the chickens…well, let’s just say if they ever sell them, they can truly label them as ‘free-range chickens.’  Really, I’m used to them coming over so much that I hardly think about it anymore.  I did have an urge to rush them the other day, so I followed the instinct and the stupid rooster stood up to me.  Amazing!  Uh… I admit I was leery.  I had this nagging sense that he just might fly in my face if I crossed his boundaries.  So I let him be.

Now, as for the pigs.  Yes, they are penned up.  But, being pigs they root around and apparently find great pleasure in wiggling their way out.  Several days ago I was in our entryway and glanced out at a huge dog on our porch.  Uh…wait.  On second glance my eyes bulged as they beheld a large brown… PIG??  I raced for my camera and rushed out to document this trespassing creature.  I succeeded in chasing him back to the pasture that separates us from our neighbors (our landlord’s longhorn cows inhabit this bit of land).  And from there he trotted on home.  Unfortunately, in all of this scramble he found a bucket of chicken feed in the garage which seemed to delight his piggy desires.  In the meantime, our landlord let our neighbors know their pigs were out.  Needless to say, a rather chaotic scene ensued.  Our neighbors own a business right on their property.  So…about three men, a child, and a woman were running after these pigs like maniacs with rakes and sticks and what-have-you.  HILARIOUS!

After much difficulty, the pigs were again behind wire.  I thought, “Hmmm…that big piggy knows exactly where to find some tasty, free chicken feed…”

A day or two later, I had my good friend over for coffee.  She has three little boys who love to give bread to our landlord’s chickens.  We coaxed them out the door but decided to go with them as they were begging for our presence.  We grabbed our cameras and out we went.  I was getting close to the boys when I heard a sound from the garage, and upon turning to investigate, was horrified to see not just the former convicted brown piggy, but his partners in crime.  This included another brown one, about the same size, as well as a black one with a white stripe around his middle.  I thought the brown ones were big, but this black one was a monster.  I honestly was scared of him.  And here they were, munching down on the prized chicken feed.  It was a huge mistake to even start talking.  As soon as they perceived our presence, they started coming out.  I began chasing the brown ones.  They’re ‘chickens,’ but the black one… hmmm.  He came trotting out of the garage, straight for the three boys.  Now, you have to understand… this pig was big enough for ME to be scared of him, let alone the boys who weren’t even half his size.  But the pig trotted right over to them as they clawed up their mother’s arms and legs, shrieking all the way.  I decided this beast wasn’t going to daunt me, but even with my advances, he managed to snatch the bread out of the terrorized boys’ hands.  Unbelievable!!!  I realized this guy was going to be intimidated by none, which made me furious.  My friend succeeded in getting the boys into the house.  In the meantime, I chased the brute all over.  Only it wasn’t really chasing, because he only ran when he wanted to and if he saw a piece of bread he gobbled it up.  He was completely nonplussed by my presence.  In fact, he acted as if I wasn’t even there.  Offensive, to say the least.

After getting the boys in the house, my friend joined me in the pursuit.  We grabbed brooms.  By this time, I meant extreme business.  Not that I was responsible for chasing him back, but I had a personal score to settle with him. This pig was not going to dominate!  My friend stood in the garden literally pushing against him with a broom.  Unmovable.  And when he did move, he came my way.  A knock on the nose hardly phased him.  I pushed the bristles into his snout and after several whacks, he finally turned around.  One more swat on the butt got him into the pasture and trotting off.

The three pigs hung around until our faithful male longhorn, Bambi, took over.  He’s not very aggressive for a longhorn which is probably good or the pigs would have been bacon.  But he did let them know he meant business and soon they were trotting on back.

And again, the neighbor was notified.  What followed would be funny, were it not that our neighbor is a very angry man, by all appearances.  I don’t think those pigs have any ears left.  Mine are still tingling.  I pray for his soul.  Maybe I’ll take him a loaf of bread someday.

In the meantime, I have a very forgiving friend who stoops low enough to chase pigs with me.

9 Comments »

Rest

I am unbelievably amazed at what that four-letter word will do for a body.

After a much needed nap, I feel nigh to wholeness again.

Exhaustion is a torturous thing.  At its ‘best’, it forces you to stop and rest.  At its worst, it paralyzes you so you cannot rest.  In the last two years I have indeed discovered these two different kinds.  I thought exhaustion was exhaustion.  Nope… There is a sleepy exhaustion that is quickly remedied by a good night of sleep or a sound nap.  And there is a frenzied exhaustion that demands a reprieve, but it follows you to your bed and refuses to let you go.  Yes, exhaustion can be a torturous beast.

I’m still regaining my endurance and I’m often toying with the line between low energy and exhaustion.  I like to flirt with that line and see how much I can get by with.  Yes, me being me, I tend toward living in extremes with middle-ground crying out for attention.  Not really a great habit.  I realized recently that uh…maybe it doesn’t have to be how much I can “get by with.”  How about living with a little energy left over?

I can’t always predict when I’ll come to that line, which makes life very difficult to commit to.  Conserving energy is an art.  But thankfully, it is getting easier.

I’ll be humming along…flirting, squeezing out the last ounces of energy like a toothpaste tube that’s already dry.  And…oops!…all of a sudden I’m over that line.  Yikes!  In those times, I feel like a puzzle with pieces strewn all over.  And if I’m pushed too far in that state, it comes nigh to panic.  As if the pieces are contemplating fleeing the scene without a hint of return.  Then it quickly becomes the exhaustion that won’t let you go.

Forgive me for all the metaphors, but they’re coming to me like gnats in droves and they really do fit like a glove.  Ok, now I’m over the top.  Sorry.

Back to the exhaustion, or rather the title of the post, rest makes me feel all settled and whole inside.  Like the pieces decided to stick around after all.  Ahhhh…

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