Family and Pets, Life After Cancer

Everyday Necklace

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I sat in my office in front of my laptop, facing the screen listening to the voices coming out of the speakers sent magically around the world through the air no less, on what is called wireless or wi-fi. Two voices came from Edmonds, WA, another from Portland, Oregon, and yet another from all the way across the United States of America in a small town in Virginia. I, here in Seattle, could also be heard when it was my turn to speak. All of our voices sounding as though we were in the same room together, talking, sharing, commenting, laughing, and sometimes catching our breath, our hand at our throats, our head shaking as we tried to convey the grip what had been read had on our hearts.

The pocket door that separates my office/writing room from the rest of our home rattled as someone on the other side slid it open. They were hesitant, not rushed and I could tell they held the hope that they were not disturbing me. My head turned to find my sweet son, a smile upon his 9 year old face with his father close behind so that I could see the apology in his eyes for their interruption. The corners in my mouth already turning up and I hoped they could see the sparkle in my eye as I watched them slide their feet across the hardwood flooring without a sound. My attention went back to the laptop as one of my fellow writers once again was speaking and I thought I heard my name.

It was my turn to share my thoughts on the second piece submitted to the group for critique, unless I wanted to defer as they had all just critiqued mine. Maybe a moment to let their words dissipate was a good idea. I jumped at the chance to go last, muted my microphone and turned back to where my son and my husband were donning their jackets. Michael, my sweet little boy, mouthed coupled with a very soft whisper, “We’re going to the mall so I can shop for you for Valentine’s Day.” His father behind him raised brow, lips moving without sound, “He insisted.” I nodded and waived a good-bye before turning my attention back to the group waiting for me. Having not heard my acceptance to go last they awaited my thoughts, I fumbled to pull up the word document and forged ahead.

Drawn into the Galapagos Islands and the adventure my writing partner was on, my thoughts held no room for what the boys were off doing. Easy for me as I am not one to try to figure out or guess the gift another may be giving me. There is something in not knowing, not expecting, that makes a gift that much more delightful to receive. I find myself unwrapping what the giver wanted to portray in the gift rather than the item itself. At times it is where they went or what they went through to find and purchase the gift. The place they chose having meaning from our or their past. Other times the gift itself reminds them of me, something I have said or expressed an interest in, or so they thought. Then there are times that there is no real rhyme or reason, it is just that, a gift, purchased and given. And yet, without expectation, even these gifts bring a joy to fill the space within me that had opened as my fingers removed the tape or tissue that held a covering over the item inside.

Our online group came to a close with the promise of two more pieces to be submitted via email by the morning for our critique meeting the following week. I savored the final sip of my soda water and rosemary vodka as I lingered in my chair, comfortable with the cushion beneath my bum, the aroma from the diffuser continuing to waft through the air around me, and soaked in the silence of our quiet home devoid of the usual hustle and bustle. A light rap on the side door window pulling me from my thoughts. On the other side out in the cold of the now dark evening, stood my sweet boy who had knocked with restraint we often think he knows nothing of. I leaned to remove myself from my chair then settled back in as my husband, Tom, approached the door key in hand.

“Hi guys. Perfect timing my class is over.”

Taking in the relief in Michael’s eyes, I turned my chair towards to the door and sat watching him remove his shoes and jacket. Pushing himself up to his feet, Michael grabbed the bag which held his gift to me. Standing there across the room from me as his body wiggled, feet shuffled, and his eyes danced.

“Come on Mom! I’m giving you my present right now!”

I got up out of my chair, turning off my computer and essential oils diffuser, and gathered my things to shut down for the night. My back turned to him I said, “Oh no, honey that’s okay. You should save your gift to give to me tomorrow night when we have our special family dinner with Sissy. Besides tomorrow is Valentine’s day.”

I have this thing about gifts. First I am a not a huge fan of them, I do not need gifts. Not a true minimalist, but a follower of the idea that I only want to have things I actually use. Not a collector of things, I have a hard time giving gifts as much as receiving them. If you are going to give me a gift though that is meant for a particular holiday, anniversary, birthday, I prefer to receive the gift on the day or at least at the event in honor of the day. Not before.

“No, mom. I won’t hear of it. I am giving you your gift now.”

My back still turned, the small voice inside of me spoke. ‘Let him give you his gift. It’s what he wants to do. Don’t squash his excitement and make him wait. We don’t always have to wait for the right time, the right place, do the right thing, do we?’

“Alright, let’s do this.” I smiled overwhelmed by the feeling welling up inside of me, this was right and for once I was going against all things me and just letting the moment unfold as it may.

“Yes! Okay, come into the living room. Come on dad, let’s go.”

Michael hurried into the other room, whether from excitement for the gift he was about to give or to be certain I would not change my mind or his dad would not step in and decide that we were in fact going to wait until tomorrow, I do not know. As I stepped through the doorway into the living room I caught sight of Michael already on the sofa, one hand holding the bag from Macy’s the other patting the seat next to him.

“Here mom, come sit here next to me on the couch.”

“Okay, okay, I’m coming”, laughter bubbled up in my throat as I went to sit next to him.

“Dad, tell her the story.”

Tom chuckled before responding, “Well, I have to say I tried to talk him out of it, but his mind was set on what he was going to get you before we ever left the house. I tried to get him to go to Ross or Fred Meyer but he wouldn’t have it. We got in the truck and he said he wanted to go to the mall. To Macy’s in fact. He was resigned, wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say, so I said okay. You can tell her the rest buddy.”

Tom looked at me once again with those eyebrows raised. I’ve come to know that look from him when it has to do with Michael. It’s the ‘Hey, I tried to talk him out of it but you know how he can be when he has his mind made up about something’ look. The corners of my mouth remained turned up as I soaked up the excitement radiating from every pore in Michael’s body.

“Okay, Mom, I went to Macy’s and got you this. Here open it. Then I will tell you what happened.”

He handed me the white paper bag with large red star on it. Not a wrinkle in sight the only fold being the one at the very top, the sales lady having turned the top down and creased the fold tight before handing his purchase to him to bring home. I sat holding the bag for a moment, my hand stroking the smoothness before unfolding the top and reaching inside. A receipt slipped out and fell onto the couch as I pulled out the square box inside. I raised my hand to my lips and glanced at my son as he picked up the paper.

“I’ll show you it in a minute.” His eyes sparkled as he held onto the receipt and looked at me.

Savoring the excitement he was feeling and the joy I was receiving, I held the box before lifting the top off. There lay the most exquisite silver chain on a pillow of white batting.

“Feel it mom. Isn’t it heavy?”

I picked up the thick rope chain. It was heavy with a coating that made it smooth as silk to the touch. Breaking up the monotony of the rope chain were round circles snug on the chain every two inches or so. The clasp. also unique, was a larger circle on the one end and a bar at the other.

“Put it on mom! Do you need help?”

I held the two ends in my hand and they met behind my neck as I put the chain on. My right hand positioned the bar so it would go into the circle and through, then releasing it perpendicular it was held through the circle so the necklace would stay put. As I did, my mind flashed back to another necklace that I have upstairs in my closet with the same clasp. It was my mother’s. A bit flashy, layers of black beads that hold a charm that hangs in the middle of chest. The charm is a clear glass square that has several diamonds, fake, the gems float in the square that is edged with diamonds all around it. I have worn it a few times with a cocktail dress, otherwise it stays hanging in my closet.

“Do you like it mom?”

Without waiting for my response he goes on.

“Look at the tag.”

Ignoring my thoughts that want me to explain how it isn’t appropriate to look at the price of a gift nor is it appropriate to tell someone the price you paid for the gift. I instead listen to the small voice that is telling me to do as my son is asking of me. Grant him this moment. I pick up the tag and look at the front and then the back. Eyeing my husband who once again has that look on his face followed this time by raised hands of mercy hovering just above his lap, I tell me son the sales lady covered the price with a return sticker. I explain they do this so the gift recipient doesn’t see the price of the gift. Then I hush my own voice reminded by that small voice that I am saying too much.

“Oh, okay, well here, look at the receipt.”

My eyes grow big and my fingers caress the thick chain laying against my neck. I look at Tom, a look of disbelief as he nods his head.

“Oh honey! You spent sixty dollars on me? Wow! That is so very generous.”

“I tried to talk him out of it. In fact, even the sales lady who wasn’t all that, let’s say good-natured with kids, she even tried to persuade him to buy a different necklace that was on sale for less. He made his choice.”

My fingers remaining on the chain, I handed the receipt back to Michael as I looked into his eyes. I saw a flicker of hesitation.

“It wasn’t all of my money. I still have over seventy dollars. The sales lady did show me another necklace after I found this one. It was a silver chain also. It was more dainty. I had her get it out of the case so I could look at it more closely. It was real pretty. And it cost forty dollars. Even the sales lady said the other one was more fancy, special. She said this one was more ‘every day’ kind of chain. That’s what I wanted, something you could wear every day. And I didn’t spend all of my money. I still have plenty.”

His eyes looked at me as he finished his last word. My heart caught in my throat as I removed my fingers from the chain and reached out to touch his leg.

“Hey buddy, I want to tell you something. I completely get what you are saying. You want to know what this makes me think of?”

“What?”

“Two things actually. One is a very special necklace that I have upstairs. It is a thin dainty silver chain that has a heart on it made of tiny little diamonds. One year before Mother’s day a radio station ran a contest and asked listeners to call in to share a story of why their mom was the best mom. The stories were on the radios web page for a few weeks where listeners could go and read them again. Then people would vote on the story they thought was the best. The winner would receive this beautiful necklace to give to their mom for Mother’s day. Well, your sister called in and told a story about me and she won! I love that necklace and every time I wear it I think of what she did for me. It is fancy and dainty and I wear it now and then with special outfits.”

“Wow, that’s cool that she won it for you.”

“Yeah, but you wanna know what other memory this makes me think of?”

“What mom?”

“Well, several years back before you were born, Mother’s day was coming up. Something inside of me really wanted to buy my mom a pair of diamond earrings. I had never bought my mom anything extravagant like that before. I wanted her to know that I loved her more than anything, wanted to give her something out of the ordinary, different than  say your typical Mother’s Day gift of flowers or a candle. The only thing was, I was a single mom at the time and couldn’t really afford too much. I asked my boyfriend, your dad was my boyfriend then, what he thought and he said although it was genuinely a good thing to want to do it, my mom knew how much I loved her and didn’t need diamonds to express it. I believed what he said was true.”

Love threatening to spill out and poor down my cheeks welling up inside of me, I squeezed my son’s hand and smiled before telling him the rest.

“I spent time with my mom that Mother’s Day and gave her a card telling her of what I had wanted to buy her but hadn’t. My mom cried silent tears and hugged me close, telling me she knew how much I loved her. We sat and enjoyed lunch together on her couch until she was tired and needed to go lay down and rest. A month later my mom died. We didn’t know at the time that she was that sick. I didn’t know it would be our last Mother’s Day together. The thought never crossed my mind. What I did know was that I had wanted to express to her in a tangible way, a gift, the love that I held inside for her. To this day, there is a part of me that wishes I would have thrown caution to the wind and purchased diamond earrings for my mom. Not because she needed an expensive gift to know I loved her that much, but because I wanted to give them to her.

It means so much to me that you wanted to buy something very special, and spend your money, no matter the cost. You knew what you wanted to buy me and you did it. Thank you my sweet bugaboo. I love this necklace and I will wear it all of the time. There is a time to be frugal, to buy things on sale, to not buy gifts when we can’t afford them. And then there is a time to go ahead and be generous, be extravagant, and buy what we want for the one we love.”

I reached out and drew my son close to me. Wrapping my arms around him I felt the love from him that I so longed to give to my mother on that Mother’s Day so long ago.

And then my son, being the nine year old that he is said,

“Okay mom, now you have to put the necklace back in the box. Tomorrow at dinner I am going to give it to you again and you have to act surprised. Just like you are right now, you have to do all of this all over again for Sissy. You have to tell her the story you just told me and everything, okay?”

The small voice inside of me spoke once again, ‘Do it. Give this to him, it’s all part of his gift. Let him have all of this as silly as it seems.’

“Okay, honey.” My eyes met with Tom’s one more time, it was my turn to shrug my shoulders and raise my palms up in open willingness.

Michael took my necklace and placed it back on the cloud of batting, closed up the box and delicately returned it inside the still perfect, without wrinkle or crease, white paper bag. He folded the top down as the sales lady had and placed it on the dining room table where it would await the re-unveiling.

 

 

 

 

Christianity and People, Life After Cancer

Live Out Loud

My post yesterday has been running through my head. I am in the process of writing a memoir. Part of that process is reading other people’s memoirs and articles about memoirs. One interesting point that has stuck out to me in my reading went something like this:

“If a family consisted of four siblings and all four siblings wrote a memoir about their childhood, you would most likely end up with four very different books. ”

That leads to the question, Who is lying? The article went on to say that quite possibly, none of them are in fact lying. They each have their recollection of what their upbringing was. Each have cherished or not so cherished memories, a different perspective or point of view of holidays celebrated, family vacations and daily life. Who’s to say that one’s perception or memory is more right than another?

Over the years I have shared different parts of my story. Sometimes in private conversations with friends, or with strangers when the opportunity arose, or in a group setting such as a teen girls group or women’s group. Each time I have shared the response has been positive and taken me by surprise. More than once a woman has come to me after to share her story or tell me that what I ha to say has inspired her to move forward in a direction in her life that she had been contemplating but lacked confidence or the strength to go ahead, take a risk on herself. Often I have been asked, why haven’t you written a book?

Years ago, I contemplated writing a book and even began the first few pages. As the words hit the paper shame clouded my view and covered my head. The heaviness overwhelmed me. Through much counseling, soul-searching and heart healing I came to a place where my past no longer brought on shame, nor did it bring on anger, instead it filled me with confidence. As powerful as that felt it was also intimidating. Where had this inner strength come from? Was it there all along, only stifled, pressed down, hidden under the pain and shame? Or was it new? A result of overcoming all that had suppressed and oppressed me over the years of my life. Whatever it was, and however it came to be, I welcomed it with open, albeit reserved arms.

No sooner had I come to grips with who I was and who I was becoming to be when I found my body had succumbed to cancer. Just as I had welcomed this new-found strength I welcomed the cancer within my body. That may sound strange to you. For me, it seemed right. Cancer was a way of slowing myself down. After an abusive childhood, I entered an abusive marriage at the young age of 17 1/2 years old. It took just over 10 years to admit, come to grips with and then find a way out of that relationship, not only for me, but for the small innocent child we had brought into the world. Then it took years of living life, going to therapy, and plenty of conversations with myself and God to bring to the point of self forgiveness and empowerment to use my past to help others if at all possible.

When cancer hit, I thought, “Okay, this is the perfect opportunity for me to take some time to rest, reflect and write.” Little did I know that there would be much rest, a great deal of reflection and little to no writing. The writing I did do, centered around cancer and how I was doing. There were days that this brought me down. I battled with my brain as I wanted to use every minute of this ‘down time’ to the best of my ability. I’d love to say I learned quickly, but honestly it took a good portion of my treatment to get through my thick skull that this was to be a time of rest and reflection, a time to soak up the love and affection of friends and family, something I always had a hard time doing. That alone was therapy for me.

As my treatment ended and I saw the light at the end of rest tunnel, I became afraid. Had I really wasted the time that had been given to me? It seemed as though I had. I had nothing to show for it in the way of evidence of having used the time wisely. Thankfully, many good friends, my husband and my daughter told me over and over again, I had done with the time as I should have. I had cherished every moment with them, allowed my body to rest, spent time with friends new and old, near and far, sitting, chatting, listening and soaking in their love and affection through word, food and deed. I have come to accept that my time of cancer, treatment, surgeries and healing was for more than physical healing, it has also attributed to my mental and emotional well-being as well.

As I have returned to the ‘real world’ or life post cancer, of work and family activities, I do so with a renewed heart and an even greater balance of life. I love my work in real estate, I love my time with family and friends, and I love my time writing. As I write I wonder at times what life would be like if we were more real, more honest with who we are. If you know me well, you have heard me say, “Did I just think that out loud?” The idea that my honesty, my truth would come out of my mouth and not be held in, in order to keep the peace or be politically correct. I am not referring to saying things that are hurtful to others without filter or compassion. I am speaking of saying the things that are held back when they should be said, seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly. Stand up for what is right. Speak up when an injustice is occurring rather than watching silently, shaking your head as you walk away. Or sharing your mistakes, your past, your failures as a parent, or wife, mother or father, sister or daughter in order to help another realize they are not alone.

And so it is with that heart, that I write and I share. Not to shame anyone, but to help others, whether that be to help them find an answer, or help them realize they are not alone. I am here. Real. Raw. Living. Thinking. Writing.

Life After Cancer

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

As I near the end of my treatment I find myself looking forward to a time of healing. I envision time writing, time with my cancer survivors writing group (oh how thankful I am that I found you), time with my son every day, playing, laughing, connecting. And of course, time with Bailey. He will no doubt bring me joy and get me outside even when I don’t want to move. I have one more Herceptin treatment on April 4th. I was planning to celebrate that evening. It will be the one year anniversary of my first chemo and Herceptin treatment. One year. Who could imagine!? I say I was planning because something has come up to cause me to pause, to hesitate.

About 2 weeks ago, a friend posted on Facebook that she had a mass in her abdomen. She was heading in for an MRI, CAT scan and other tests. This is not just any Facebook friend. This girl, Heather is her name, was a childhood friend. And although the memories of time spent with her are locked away in that vault in the recess of my mind where nearly my entire childhood is, we have a new special connection. Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before I was. Another childhood friend of ours reconnected us when she found out that I too had breast cancer. Heather’s was a bit more advanced than mine as she had not been having mammograms as I was. Heather had two types of chemo to reduce the size of the tumor followed by a bilateral mastectomy. Then her treatment continued with a year of Herceptin just like me. Her treatments ended about 3 months ago and she returned to work at World Market. She also began seeing a tattoo artist in anticipation of having a spectacular tattoo done across her new breast and chest. A way of reclaiming her body after cancer.

Heather’s post on Facebook made my stomach drop and made me take pause in my plans of celebration. I messaged her privately so we could chat. As it turns out, she likely has Stage 3 Ovarian cancer that has spread to her stomach. They are doing a biopsy to make sure it is not her breast cancer returning as then it would be Stage 4. I am heart sick. Heather is just a few years older than I am, much too young to be dealing with all of this. Although even as I type this I think at any age we should not have to deal with this cancer.

I know I will celebrate on April 4th. I must. Otherwise the worry of what could happen next, what could return, what cancer I could still get will consume me. And that just isn’t me. It isn’t the me that I want to be. All of last year, through all 4 of my surgeries, through my chemo and Herceptin, through visits to the ER, I felt peace. I felt joy. I felt the love I was surrounded with from friends and families flood me even when I was all alone. Through it all I have felt, have believed that I have a purpose yet to fulfill in my life. When I think back on the many paths that I have traveled in my life to get to where I am today I can only think that there is still more to come. More that I have yet to do. That is what I hold on to.

And so, I will celebrate! Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

 

Life After Cancer

Oh SPit!

Last year was the year of all years in many ways. It held a lot of firsts, a lot of change, a bit of pain (okay likely more than a bit) and yet it was full of peace and love and so much goodness. After two cancer diagnosis, chemo, 4 surgeries and a year of IV treatments post breast cancer, I decided it was a good idea to speak to a geneticist in regards to the possibility of any other cancers that I may be prone to.

Honestly I didn’t even know what that would look like. Can they tell you that based on the types of cancer you had what else you may end up with? When it comes to genetics how much information do they need to know about your extended family in order to determine your risk? If there is a family history and there is a connection to my DNA, then what? What can I do? What can they do?

Before meeting with the geneticist they had me fill out an online questionnaire that went through my family tree and any types of cancer they have or had. Along with that they needed to know their ages now or when they died.  Tis was yet another time when I was thankful for Facebook. I was able to contact some of my cousins through messenger and ask about their parents who had passed. I found they were more than willing to fill me in on the details they knew about.  This helped immensely as I had a lot of gaps.

As it turned out there were two types of cancer on my father’s side that I hadn’t been aware of. Upon going over this information with the geneticist it became clear that it was in fact a good idea for me to have further genetic testing. While the testing cannot tell me if I have or ever will have another type of cancer it can give us some very helpful information. The geneticist was able to share that the information would potentially show if I the genetic make-up or mutations that may cause me to have other types of cancer. It would also be beneficial to my sister and my children as well. Depending on what is found they may want to get tested as well to see if they have any gene mutations that coincide.

While the testing cannot tell you whether or not you have or in fact will get cancer it can help you determine when to start screening for certain types of cancers or take other preventative precautions. You may also decide to take certain medications to help with the possibility of certain cancers or even have surgery to have ‘at-risk’ tissue removed. For me, it will either put my mind at ease that I have no mutations to put me at a greater risk. Or it will help me determine screenings I will have to hopefully catch any possible cancers sooner rather than later. That has worked out quite well for me thus far.

The geneticist had a bit of discouraging information for me when it came to having the testing done. Unfortunately Regence, which happens to be my insurance company, does not cover the full panel of genetic testing. They prefer that you test for one mutation at a time. Even then they do not necessarily cover it in all cases if they do not deem it necessary. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer my oncologist ordered the BRCA1 and BRCA2. The results were negative. In light of that Regence would not cover the full panel the geneticist was now recommending. It would then cost me $4000.00 of pocket to have the panel completed through the company (Myriad) that my insurance, and most insurance companies for that matter, is partnered with for testing. There are many more mutations that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 do not cover that I could have. The good news is that there are other options for testing.

There is a company named COLOR Genomics.  While I don’t completely understand all that there is about this company, what I do know is that they are able to provide the same panel of testing for a fraction of the cost. $249 to be exact. Compared to $4000 that is a huge savings. The way the geneticist explained it was that they came about because they knew many patients could benefit from genetic testing for mutations that would allow for preventative care or early monitoring that couldn’t afford the fees when their insurance wouldn’t cover the testing. In reading a bit about them on their website I found that to be true along with other information. The way I read it, they knew that there were studies being done where genetic testing would help with research in order to show statistics as far as who was prone to get what type of cancer. The problem with the studies was that they were unable to provide the findings the participants as the studies were being done for statistical purposes not for the purpose of helping the participant. I imagine it is a bit more complicated than I have described it, but that is the just of it. There was mention of not having the appropriate licensing or set up for notifying the individual participants. And thus Color Genomics was formed to provide testing at an affordable price where participants are not only notified but are also informed.

All participants receive their panels back with information on the positive or negative results. They are also contacted by a genetics counselor that goes over the information. They are also required to give a physicians contact info where the results are sent to as well. They are however assured their results are private and will not be shared with their insurance company unless specifically requested to do so by the participant. They results are used in studies and research on a more generic level with no personal information attached to them in the studies aside from age, gender and race I believe. You can visit their website to read more about it. Color Genomics

It took me a while to order my kit. Procrastination at its finest. At first I waited as I had asked the geneticist to confirm that Regence would in fact not cover my testing. Once confirmed I think a small part of me is afraid to know what mutations I may or may not have. Obviously I am a huge proponent of early screening as that is how we found my breast cancer in the first place. And yet, to be told that I have a mutation that may or may not mean I will get another cancer may just be more than I can handle right now. I have wanted to believe the idea that my breast cancer was a fluke. That it was caught so early and treated aggressively so that it would not return (which actually means come back as the same cancer but in another part of my body). And yet, the small chance that something like would happen stays there in the corner of my mind. In my peripheral vision so to speak. Never gone. Always there just in sight keeping me wondering a little bit. Taking the test means I may find out that I have a genetic mutation that could mean I am more likely to get a particular cancer. Something that scares the heck out of me.

And yet, if I know then I can be proactive. I can start screenings earlier. If necessary I could elect to have surgery now and remove that area that is most likely to get cancer. This depends on the location, the organ and the overall information that would determine the likelihood of me getting another cancer. On the other hand the information could cause me to stress, worry and wonder if and when I will actually get another cancer if it shows I am predisposed to one.

I ordered my kit and received it within just a couple of days. Upon opening the kit I found the instructions were simple and straight forward. I was first instructed to login online to register my kit and the vile that my sample would be sent back in. The vial had a unique customer number as well as a unique serial number. Along with these numbers I asked to enter my personal information, my Physicians name and contact info, as well as fill out a family tree and history of cancer for all that applied. All of this information will be used when they are running the tests on my sample. Once all of that was complete I was ready to provide the sample.

There were clear and simple instruction for this as well. Now all I needed to do was conjure up enough saliva to spit into the vial filling it up to the fill line. I had been assured in the brochure and in the video online that it was not as much as it appeared. Apparently the vial had a false bottom. It was actually a smaller space than it appeared to be upon first glance. Yep, that was in fact true. The video even gave you examples of how to conjure up said spit. They said you should think about eating a piece of candy or if that fails rub your cheeks in a circular motion. Try it, it works. Saliva produced, I then had to close the cap and let a pre-included fluid mix with my saliva. This solution would help preserve the integrity of my saliva during transportation. After sealing up the vial, putting it back in the box and closing the original package that it came in which had a prepaid postage sticker already on the back, my spit was ready to roll! All that was left for me to do was deliver the package to my local USPS for shipment.

And it’s off! My spit is currently in transition to a lab in California. Once received I will receive an email notifying me that the testing will begin. Once completed I will receive the results and be contacted by one of their geneticists. Then I am supposed to follow-up with my Dr. as well. The turn around time is supposed to be 3-4 weeks from the date they receive the sample. Tick tock. Tick tock. The clock is tick-tocking in my brain. And so, I wait.

 

Life After Cancer

Basking in Perfection

It’s barely past noon on hump day. The sky is grey and thick with clouds that block out even the slightest glimpse of the blue sky that I gazed upon this morning. And yet, I find myself, hands wrist deep in warm sudsy water washing the dishes with stuck on food that sat upon the counter from yesterday no less, with a smile on my face. There is a warmth in my heart that only comes from the feeling of being content. No, more than content, satisfied. No, more than satisfied happy. No, more complete than happy, accomplished. Or maybe it is all of the above together. A perfect combination of satisfaction, happiness and accomplishment with the overall understanding of being content.

This morning I woke to my ‘alarmy’. It is a phone app that you schedule alarms and choose the method in which you will turn that alarm off. You can either shake your phone a specified number of times, solve a math problem or take a photo with your phone camera. The point being by the time you have done one of these things you are awake and most likely out of bed. Thus you are more likely not to go back to sleep. I am anti alarm clock myself. I don’t recall the last time I owned one. When I got our puppy though I quickly realized I preferred to be the one who determined when we woke up than he. And so I set this alarm clock for the both of us. Each morning as it goes off I pick up my phone and turn it towards puppy who is sitting in his kennel waiting, albeit not always patiently or completely quiet. He begins to dance around in anticipation that I am going to let him out of his kennel. I shake my phone the appropriate number of times to turn the alarm off as I walk slowly across the bedroom to the puppy. I set my phone down on the fire-place mantle and proceed to put on my jacket and socks knowing the first thing I will be doing is taking a puppy outside to go potty. I’ll save you the details from there.

After walking Michael to school with Mr. Bailey (the puppy) I headed in a different direction than our typical daily route. Last night in one of those imaginary conversations with myself I had determined that puppy and I would take a longer walk this morning. We walked across Greenwood and north to 145th St to the entrance to LLandover by the Woods. A trail that goes down through the forest. It was actually one of our better walks with Bailey only stubbornly sitting down refusing to walk one more step a handful of times. You have no idea the accomplishment this is. He tends to stop and sit as any dog aproaches. Not out of fear but in hope of meeting the dog. He does the same any time a human being, young or old, is passing by. No matter if they are on the same side of the street or the complete opposite. Once in the woods Mr. Bailey was all in a-tither. He loved it! For once he was a few steps ahead of me the whole way. As we neared the end of the trail we turned around and headed back. Mr. B so far has never failed to recognize that we are ‘going back’. His pace quickened a bit more and I found that we were jogging up the hilly trail. Good for both of us. My heart began to race and my breathing labored. I was the first to slow the place. Bailey could have run the whole way back. One day I will too. At the top of the trail we slowed again as he realized we were leaving the woods and heading out into the noisyness of the streets. If only we hadn’t been heading home he would have fought me for sure. He seemed to be able to sense that the direction we were heading would lead to home and thus be worth walking on the busy street sidewalks.

Back at home Bailey spent some time out on the back deck giving Maya (one of our kitties) a hard time. She hissed and swiped ineffectively. Bailey did seem to sense she didn’t want to play, much to his dismay. Persistant as he is, he tried again and again to approach her but her mood never changed. Full on anger with growling, hissing and swiping continued no matter the direction he tried all the while his tail stub that it is wagging 100 times a minute. Finally I pulled B back and let Maya run down the deck to the yard. Not exactly where she wanted to go but better than the alternative of being with the puppy. Bailey and I headed inside where he curled up on the rug looking satisfied and tuckered out. I sat down to my computer and began writing. I began the first of what I hope will be a children’s early reader series about Mr. Bailey. This one is entitled Mr. Bailey Comes Home. Another will be Mr. Bailey Walks in the Forest. And another will be Mr. Bailey meets Griffey. I’m sure others will come to me as time goes on. I tried not to worry too much about the details just yet in regards to the vocabulary, number of words on the pages or in the book. I focused on putting the words in my mind on the screen. Editing will come later.

My home phone rang as I typed. It was mom. The one and only person other than telemarketers that calls my home phone. Each time it rings I think to myself its either a sales call or it’s mom. I hope for the latter. Mom and I had a lovely chat. Her greeting was filled with the smile that I know was on her face and her strong and warm embrace reached all the way through the phone line and encircled my body. We shared the blue sky that we were both reveling in here in Seattle for me and up north in Everett for her.

As per usual she asked how I am doing. Letting me know that she and dad pray for us every day but wondered if there is anything specific or new that they could lift up in prayer. I shared how I was doing and then let her know that Tom and I were just talking last night about Michael, our strong-willed child. So much alike and yet in this so different from his sister. On the one hand there are character traits in a strong willed child that when honed correctly are the design for a strong independent leader. On the other hand strong willed children can be tyrants, bullies, stubborn and disrespectful. Deciphering the difference, cultivating the positive traits and knowing when and how to discipline the negative is not easy. Mom offered godly wisdom with examples and scripture. Go to the source she said, the Bible and tell him that just as you are called to obey God he is called to obey his parents. Part of my job as a parent is to obey God and raise my child the right way. Which includes teaching him to honor his father and mother, to respect authority and to ask forgiveness when he doesn’t. The part I found intriguing was the idea of sharing with him that I have to obey God in training him to obey his father and I. So often kids feel like the parents are the ones telling them what to do and never being told what to do. That doesn’t seem fair. Hearing that I too am called to obey just as my son is was eye-opening for me and I hope it will be for our son as well. It was really nice to listen to advice from mom, a grandma who loves and cares for our son and only wants the best for him.

I went back to writing, taking a break here and there to hold my sweet, loving and still tuckered out puppy. After eating lunch I looked once again upon the pile of dirty dishes not getting any cleaner sitting there on the kitchen counter. It was then that I also noticed the little red light on the dishwasher indicating it was full of clean dishes. After emptying the dishwasher I ran hot water to get the task at hand done. As I washed each dish scrubbing away the dried on food I couldn’t help but noticing how I was feeling.  Content, happy, satisfied, accomplished, as though I had been doing exactly what I wanted to be doing from the moment I stepped out of bed until right then. And to think it was just barely past noon. More hours left in this day, more time to be with puppy, to write, to clean my house, to walk to pick up our son from school, to prepare dinner for our family and to clean up messes. Oh yes, there will be messes….. in fact puppy peed on the floor during part of this perfect day. In his defense he was so excited to be once again trying to convince Maya that she should play with him. She on the other hand was a hissing, growling swatting claws out mess of anger. He got so excited he peed! Oh puppy.