Finding the Good

Yesterday the doctor said “Go live your life.”  No more surgeries, no more chemo. Some regular screenings, but the healing and moving on officially starts today.  A colon re-section, as a nurse anesthetist friend told me, is MAJOR abdominal surgery but that is now in the rearview mirror.  Mild chemo is a misnomer.  There is nothing minor about the poison that my husband infused and swallowed. The saving grace was that it was short-lived.  Right now, tests are saying that 3 months did the trick and there is no sign of cancer. He is one of the lucky ones.  We are on the other side of this unexpected disruption to life.

IMG_3797 Cancer makes you feel small in an incredibly large and unfamiliar landscape.  The first days of knowing the diagnosis felt surreal. Life was buzzing all around us yet we had a secret that was making our world stand still. There was a wall between us and everyone else in our lives and we were pressed up against it’s cold hard truth.

After a couple of weeks of processing the shock of a diagnosis,  my husband and I made a conscious decision to share this news.  I look at generations past and how they were more apt to keep the hurt, the sadness, the struggle private.  To put the cloak of hush around your shoulders as you face the world outside your front door sounds incredibly difficult, especially in 2019. The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It has walked in that front door and taken a seat at our kitchen tables, our family room sofas, our favorite chairs. We are connected in so many ways to so many people that, to us, it seemed like it would be an added layer of stress not to share our news.  So, we told our world, either in person, on the phone or through social media that we are now fighting cancer.  And that led us to a conversation with a long lost friend who we happened to see at a holiday party.

Because he saw a Facebook post update, he shared that he is a 4 year survivor and looks back on his cancer as a blessing.  I’m not sure that we are quite there yet, but hearing him so sincerely proclaim this gives me hope that we may be able to have that outlook someday as well.  He also helped me reevaluate.  For weeks we had been saying we are ready for 2019 to be over; but an honest accounting of the last several months reveals many blessings indeed. So many of them have to do with the friends and family who have been there for us in so very many ways.  I have learned the importance of an encouraging word on social media, a text, a phone call, a card in the mail, a kind word in person.  All of the ways people reach out nowadays have helped us power through the last several months.  After we started sharing this we have never felt alone in it and for that we are grateful.

My husband looks forward to the day when his news isn’t the news that prompts a person to start  a conversation with, “We think about you all the time”, or “You are in our prayers.” Feeling surrounded by so many thoughts and prayers is both humbling and extremely touching.  I am certain even just the knowledge of those prayers have helped both of us through the bad days and kept our eyes on the prize of the end of chemo and the beginning of recovery.

IMG_0806As my children were facing the hurdles of growing up I would often tell them to find the good in a bad situation.  Discovering your spouse has cancer feels like no kind of good. It is the worst kind of fear, a lonely vulnerability and permeating sadness all unexpectedly dumped on your doorstep. The script of your life suddenly flips and ready or not you are taken down a path you never planned to travel. But there is goodness in the friends and family in our lives who are willing to show up and walk a piece of that path with us.

We are now on the other side of this time in our lives.  It will take us a good part of 2020 to unravel what we unexpectedly went through in 2019.  But as we emerge changed from this experience I am clinging to my friend’s declaration of cancer’s blessing and grateful for the gentle reminder to continue to focus on all that is good.

The Time between Solstices

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Winter solstice 2019. A day that’s filled with light that seems to pull everything sharply into focus.  The irony of the shortest day of 2019 is that it’s light is abundant and it’s a shame it has to end so soon. Before long the sun will sink below the horizon giving us the shortest day of the year. When it rises again we will be inching our way towards those long days of summer and a solstice marked by early morning sunrises and late nights filled with light.

The time between these two solstices has been the most challenging I’ve known.  A much loved father-in-law was laid to rest on the summer solstice and a grieving husband was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer two months later.  The sorrow, the panic, the fear, the numbness, the slow acceptance. The medical appointments, the surgery, the complications, the healing. The decisions, the chemo, the waiting, the worry.  This time between solstices has at times felt otherworldly as if we are watching it unfold as someone else’s story. Surely death and cancer aren’t what this season is about in our lives…we have no experience in such things! The weeks and months since the longest day of the year have been filling with a darkness that has threatened to permeate our hours and instinctively we fight to push it away. One thing is certain…we are ready to move towards sunnier days. It is reassuring to know that the calendar is confirming that we are.

Grief is the companion you slowly get used to. Cancer, one of the scariest words we know, sets up shop in your household and life continues to happen around it.  Despite being jolted out of the reverie of a life untouched by death and disease, the patterns of our world continue on. Thankfully, we still get up each morning, we follow the routines of our days, we watch our children find their place in the world and our baby grandson grow.  And all the while, the days shorten over a period of time until it’s time for them to lengthen again. At a rate of approximately 2 minutes/ day we are either getting engulfed by darkness or holding the night at bay.

IMG_2881.jpg I am finding solace in the solstice.  The Northern Hemisphere is moving towards the light now and it seems a good metaphor to believe that we are too.  My husband is one of the very lucky ones.  His prognosis is good, his chemo is intended to cure.  He has about 6 more weeks of  treatments.  By the time he swallows that last pill and starts down the road to putting this behind him our days will already be filled with 49 more minutes of light.  Just shy of an hour of more light in our days is improvement and so is a chemo regimen that comes to a close.  Starting tomorrow, we are moving towards brighter days and I am grateful to find myself embracing the promise of a lighter load.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rather Late Wedding Anniversary Post

Anymore, so much of who we are is tangled up in each other.  5 years of dating and 33 years of marriage pushes the clock incredibly close to 40 years of us.   I’ve been with you so much longer than I haven’t. Through the years there has been a part of me that has become lost in that. At times I’ve fought it, but more and more I’ve accepted it.  Love is a tradeoff and I’ve traded some independence for an awful lot of comfort.  It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been close enough.  It’s been surprising at times, this marriage of ours, but it has also been consistent and predictable.

In some ways we couldn’t be more opposite.  You’re the practical, reliable one. I’m the dreamer. You are generally quiet, I could talk for days.  I push you, you pull me back in.  There are interests and talents we do not share, but have learned to appreciate in one another throughout the years. The seasons are  interesting with someone who can always teach you something new. To me, the best part of my evening is bouncing ideas, opinions, stories and news back and forth with you. But like I said….I could talk for days.

We’ve got a lot of time for that now. It’s just us. For real. What was once a loud, busy and chaotic household is now only sometimes filled with their voices, the voices of our children, and then only for a few hours at a time.  Our kids have grown up.  All three are solidly entrenched in the lives that sent them beyond our front door and this house has permanently become a dwelling for two.  At times I miss the chaos, but often I don’t. We can both be filled up and content with the quiet.  I like where we are at and I still like that it is with you. In fact, I can’t imagine it not being with you.

You have provided in a way that has given me the chance to live life on my own terms and that has been a huge gift.  At my best I have embraced it and at my worst I have squandered it away. I’d like to think that I have given you as much, but feel that I have fallen short.  I do an inventory of our life together and many pieces of it I have not been brave enough or devoted enough to tackle. I am still banking on the fact that there is plenty of time left to accomplish all the undone things, to DO more, THINK less. I do cook though and I joke that your gift of time to me has paid off for you because it gives me the time to nourish you with sustenance, (sometimes welcomed, sometimes eyed suspiciously),  and all good things, (like my opinions and trivial facts, and interesting stories).

Recently we were challenged with a really hard few weeks. I’ve always told the kids to find the good in a bad situation.  There certainly isn’t much good in the death of a parent, but having each other to lean on as we faced illness, decline, mortality, and the emotion of watching a life in this world end was something to cling to when the days felt impossibly hard to get through. And the aftermath…well we will get through that together too.

IMG_1170There will be more hard times.  I’m not brave so I am scared of them and long to dream them away.  Our incredibly good life will be visited by the sadness, sorrow and pain that is just as much a part of a life-well-lived as the joy and laughter.  I’m big into gratitude lately and want to believe that that is the best way to get through the trying times.  And so, I start with being grateful for you, for the life we’ve made together, for the absolute promise of “for better or for worse.” and for our unending devotion to us.