Archives for category: grief and loss

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
This blogger was tired and so was her mouse!
The blogs of the year had been posted each week,
With the goal that 52 would end as the peak.

Yes, a goal had been hung, like a stocking with care,
A blog a week for a year, and she was quite nearly there!
“I’ll continue on,” she thought; but while all snug in her bed,
Visions of junior mints and a blog break danced in head!

Last January she came, dressed in pink from her head to her foot,
Her mind was from her cancer was all tarnished with soot!
When she started to write, old thoughts served to remind,
Of the icky days of old, but Oh! The gifts she would find!

When out of the blogosphere there arose such a clatter,
It seemed what she said, to lots made the matter!
So onto her laptop each week she flew open the sash,
And her WordPress publish button, she nervously mashed.

She said not a word, but went straight to her work,
Writing about PTSD, grief (and some really big jerks!)
For after five years, she had a head full of ideas and hair,
And the scars and the lessons of cancer to share. 

The keys of the keyboard; Oh! how they danced!
As the emotions of the big C trampled and pranced!
She wrote and she wrote of feelings both wise and quite fearful,
And a few posts about her wee ones, which made her quite tearful!

This new little blogger so lively and quick,
Knew in a moment, she was no longer sick!
Finding mirrors and perspectives alike in the blogosphere,
And humor, frustrations and commonly held fears.

And then in a twinkling she saw on her screen,
The comments of the bloggesses so sweet and serene.
New friends o’er the world were nestled all snug in their beds,
While Blue Geckos and Underbellies danced in their heads!

She made more friends than imagined (and all she quite fancies,)
Like Wendy, Katie, Marie and both of the Nancys.
Philippa, and Beth, and Brenda and again,
We mustn’t forget Jan, Terri, AnneMarie and Renn!

They giggled about chemo and “twang arm” and more,
And shared the experience of fear to your core.
They talked about thigh cancer and things lost and found,
And they shared cancerversarys, and how klunkers abound!

They shared their frustrations at finding a cure,
And found peace in numbers, of that I am sure!
They found new friends in the most extraordinary of places,
Like Yangon and Ireland, and lots with no voices or faces!

They talked about bedazzled bald heads and daisy dressed ports,
and they found in each other, a worldwide cohort!
They held virtual hands as “Captain Anxiety” danced in their heads,
And celebrated after those quite harrowing rechecks, the finding of NED!

But after working her goal of a year full of blogs,
She needed a break to refresh, from unleashing the clogs.
Yes her little chemo brain-brain needed a rest,
And she needed to cuddle her wee ones, in their little Who-nest.

And what to her wondering eyes should appear,
As she hit publish on this Christmas morning so dear?
As she glanced out from her laptop, while wishing for snow,
She looked back and saw, “Hurray! It’s your 52nd blog!” in the glow!

More rapid than Komen, all year the bloggers they’d came,
And she knew in her heart they’d continue the same!
So she rode out of sight shouting, “Carry on Y’all,
And blog away, blog away, blog away all!”

“On Philippa and Wendy, Annemarie and Renn
On Katie and Nancy, Beth, Terri and then,
Do you recall, the most famous blogger of all?
Marie the red-headed blogger; she led the blog ball!

For a month (maybe two) she’ll be gone but return,
With new blogs on life’s other travails, and fresh ideas to burn!
But for now laying a finger on her laptop to close,
A break from her blog, was the path that she chose.

As she hit “publish” today with a quiet Christmas morn’ tap,
She found her goal in her stocking, and settled for a long winter’s nap.
And she exclaimed with such love as she drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to y’all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Back soon,
xoxo 
Lauren

When all the noise is gone there is only God.  ~Author Unknown

 

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This post was written the first Christmas after I had cancer; it still reminds me every year of what is important and and what is not.

 

See God does put us right where we need to be.

Yesterday was slammed for me and I still had yet to pick up the two CD players and the Yankees cap I needed to complete the list of my “angel tree kids.”  I was further frustrated as I planned to do the shop last night while Amelia carpooled to dance with another kid, and then she told me at the last-minute that surprise! It was parent’s night at dance and I was expected to go watch the practice and dance with her.

So off we race to Target at 4:45, trying to run in before dance with me wondering when in the world I would get to the specialty store at the mall for the Yankees cap.

We get to the CD player aisle to find the shelves COMPLETELY empty, I mean nada player to be found.  I couldn’t believe it.  Amelia says, “Just go ask the guy.”  Now when in Target have you ever gotten an answer other than “Sorry we’re out;” especially a week before Christmas?

So I find this kindly elderly black man, a Target employee at the end of the aisle. And I ask him about the two I want, a pink one for the girl and gold one for the boy.  He quietly scans the bar code of the empty shelf for the pink one and says, “Wait here, I’ll find it.” Off he goes, not to the stockroom mind you, but somewhere out of sight, and boom he comes back around the corner with one in his hand. Next, he scans the boy’s one, and again says, “Wait here” and he comes out not a half a minute later with the one I wanted in his hand.

I thanked him and said jokingly said, “Gee, you can’t make a Yankees ball cap appear can you?”  And he says, “Go over right next to the fitting room in men’s.” 

So Amelia and I start walking down that way and this HUGE spilling over the top filled cart comes out of the video gaming section and almost knocks into us. I mean it was filled to the brim with toys and games and clothes and food and a PSP. There was this little kid, like 7-year-old kid holding the side of it, absolutely dancing out of his skin; he was jumping up and down and an ear to ear grin. And with him is this crowd of adults laughing at his glee, and his mom, crying saying “Josh, this is just gonna be the best Christmas we ever had!” 

Turns out it was the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey team doing the charity shop with families.

Off Amelia and I wander, (very doubtfully mind you,) to the very far corner of men’s to find a small hat section we never even knew existed, and on the bottom shelf, there it sits; one Yankees cap.

 Go figure.

 And just like that, we remembered what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

And just like that, we understood what may seem like a bother or a chore to knock off our lists as we are busy living our own busy lives, may be an action that can affect the world exponentially, in ways we could not even imagine, unless it is put in front of us.

We remembered that steadfast and even believing in the impossible makes it possible.

I was reminded of what a privilege it is to be able to buy gifts for my kids at Christmas to start with, and what a gift it is to be able to give joy to other people’s kids. And how really, that is why God put us here; to take care of our brothers and that God always puts you exactly where you need to be when you need reminding.

Reminding of what a privilege it is that your kid is healthy and can dance, and you can watch and are alive to dance with her.

I’d like to believe that if I went back to Target today, and asked about the employee to find to him thank, they’d say, “M’am, we don’t have an elderly black man working here.” And then, when I went to men’s section, they’d say, “We don’t carry Yankees merchandise.”

I won’t test my theory though; I’ll just choose to believe in my angel.

“And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown” ~Linus Van Pelt

Years ago, then President Kennedy made a speech about the space program and our need to keep advancing it. He referred to the story of some little boys running through the green, green fields of Ireland and coming upon an orchard wall that seemed perhaps too high to climb. Instead of turning back the boys took their hats and threw them over the wall, and thus, then had to climb the wall to go get their hats; the toss leaving them with no choice but to go over the wall to retrieve their caps.

I have always been a throw my hat over the wall kind of girl. Sometimes it’s because I am just dying to know what’s on the other side, sometimes it’s just for the thrill of the climb. Being an eternal sunshiny optimist, I think it’s mostly because I believe that what is on the other side of the wall is not better than what I have, but something new and different and grand to experience. Mostly though, just like those little Irish boys the toss is made to force me to do something I thought I couldn’t do, to make something happen, to experience something that would not have had I not done so. Truth be told, I get a wee bit agitated when there are no walls to climb, my fingers itch and fidget with a cap in hand, and I start to actively search out walls when that happens. 

When we are making our way through our life and come across the cancer wall, I think that most of the time our oncologists and surgeons rip the cap out of our hand and toss it over the wall for us. They lay out their neat tactical plans of how we will scale the wall and give us visions of how 85 or 95 percent of the people have made it over, and how they are living life on the other side of the wall. We want to visit this magical and unbelievable land on the other side and really don’t have much choice but to go after our cap to cover our bald heads; then too, to go after it is infinitely better than staying on this side of the orchard wall, where things appear to be dying.

But after cancer, as we continue onward through the vast field that is our life, what do we do when we come upon a wall? Do we bemoan the fact that it is unfair, because we already had to climb the big wall o’ cancer? Do we even have the strength or gumption to climb anymore? I mean honestly what’s the use if we are gonna die while trying? Do we avoid walls altogether? Do we see it as a positive or negative? An adventure or labor? 

Cancer makes us hesitate. It makes us want to hold on to what we have and clutch tightly to our caps because well, we might need it to cover our bald noggin again sometime soon. Cancer makes us afraid to plan and take on new things. Throwing our hat over a wall feels like buying green bananas. Cancer eats zest. Cancer makes us afraid. Cancer makes us tentative and bit distrusting of planning for the future. Cancer makes us think the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t. In the months just after treatment is completed it is hard to believe there are better days ahead, it feels counterintuitive to trust that the ice is thick enough to skate out on and into our future.  

After five years, I prefer to look back at that time of caution and fear as a time when I was just resting and gathering my strength. I remember it now, with my sunshine spin, as a place where yes I may have taken the cap off and considered the toss but in the end held kept it in my hands as I sunk down with my back against that wall to as they say in the south, sit a spell.

But I can tell from my perch high atop of yet another wall, five years and a million walls out from cancer that once you catch your breath and no longer need that cap to cover your head, cancer becomes a catapult sailing you high over the wall and into life after. Cancer catapults both our caps, and us. Cancer makes us want to experience everything that is behind wall number one and two and three and four. Cancer in the end, makes us adept and easy hat tossers, and skilled climbers with a penchant for finding even higher walls. Cancer makes us grateful for the toil of the climb.

To move from a place of fear, from a place of clutching our caps to our chest to a place where we are making the toss we have to believe that the days ahead are better than the days behind us. We must believe we are capable of making the climb and will live to see the other side in order for us to throw. We must be willing to give up the status quo and the safety of what we know, for perhaps the devil we don’t (which may in fact, be a devil of a good time.) We must toss our hats over with glee and sense that an adventure beholds us, not a tragedy. We must be excited about the climb. But mostly we must actively find our own walls by beginning to move through life again. That is what life is all about Charlie Brown; making the run to kick over and over, even though the ball may get pulled out at the last minute.

A tad impulsive I am yes, and admittedly I have been known many a time to toss before I totally think it through. Sometimes I have created my own walls just so I can toss. But I have found that ninety-nine percent of the time the climb is worth it and that the sweat and toil of working toward a goal remind me I am alive. If I thought about it too long, I might not make the toss; cancer has given me the luxury of not having a lot of time to think about it.

Life is in the preparing to climb. Life is in the climb. Life feels like drawing the deepest of breaths when you are on top of the wall. Almost always, I find not greener pastures but my hat, and lots more life experiences to fill it with.

There are a million things that cancer took from me but two million more I have because cancer, many found on the other sides of walls I would have never thrown my hat over had it not been for cancer, and many found while making the climb.

And heck, I’d rather die while climbing a wall than die while standing at the bottom, anxiously peering at it, clutching my hat, trying to screw up the courage to make the toss. As Mr. Buffet says, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

I didn’t survive cancer to just stand there. Neither did you.

Walls don’t come to us, we must go to them. As they say, ships in the harbour are safe, but that is not what ships are made for.

The prospect of a short life has made me to run gleefully to them, and throw my hat over the wall again, building my wings on the way down the other side.

Just not angel wings…not yet at least.

“One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on”

~The Polar Express

It was indeed a great Thanksgiving here at the ranch. The week started off with a grand gathering of all the people I love for our Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and then like a wide-angle lens zooming in, became more focused as I pulled my wee ones closer and closer, ending with just me and the kiddos doing oodles of fun things these last few days. Read the rest of this entry »

Once when Amelia was just a tiny little cutie pie (as opposed to the even bigger cutie pie that she is now,) I woke up to a sticky note on my bathroom mirror. It said in little kid printing, “Thank you for protekting me.” Read the rest of this entry »

I know this blog is supposed to be about breast cancer and its emotional life, but take second look-see at the top of the page, at the fine print part that reads, “and life’s other trevails.” (I know, the spelling is subject to question) Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve recently taken on this less than sparkly little habit of calling 2011 my Lost Year. Read the rest of this entry »

Pink.

Who knew such a benign and gentle hue could summon such strong emotions, and could wield such power? Read the rest of this entry »

Once, when Amelia was about three or four years old, she, Colton and I were driving along. The two of them were of course in the back seat and all of the sudden Amelia yells, “Who’s driving the car!?” In the seconds that I was trying to figure out what she meant, Colton chimed in and answered, “Mom is.  The person who has their hands on the big wheel up in front is the one who is driving the car.” Read the rest of this entry »

Yep you read that right. Five Ears. Not five Years.

Y oh Y, you might ask, did I drop the Y?

Because I’m talking mouse ears silly, that’s why; Mickey Mouse ears to be exact.

As I hit “publish” on this beautiful orange juicy sunny Florida morning, I am sitting poolside at our very favoritest hotel in the world, the Pop Century Resort in Disney World. Enjoying a big cuppa of Mickey Joe and a tummy full of Mickey waffles, I am both overshadowed and comforted by the familiarity that is a four stories tall Mowgli and Baloo next to our hotel room. I have achieved Disney nirvana here next to the Hippy Dippy Pool; yes indeedy, I have all the bare necessities for this bear to rest at ease.

This trip marks the fifth pilgrimage to the House of Mouse for us since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As it is for everyone, cancer treatment was hell for my little family. Looooong months of the drip drip drip of chemo, surgery, weeks of radiation but the worst for a mom was the pain of lots of the fun things that kids like to do like sleepovers and other potentially germ ridden activities being put on hold. My kiddos were so little when cancer came to our house, and I promised their little faces that when the treatment was over, we were going to go to Disney.

Disney World became our carrot, or more correctly our cheese.

Now I had a lot of naysayers about the wisdom of me taking that first trip when I had just finished radiation and still had the drip of Herceptin going, the loudest of which was the voice of reason in my own bald noggin. I realized that I was in no physical shape to trutz two little kids through the massive undertaking of flying, touring four parks in four days, and lasting through 12 hour days in the heat. Beyond broke, I was digging into rapidly dwindling emergency savings to take the trip. But as with most things in life that I really want, when my Pop or other logical adults like my alter-ego voice in my own head reminded me of the sensible thing to do, I didn’t listen.

For some reason, going to Disney represented so much more to me than a vacation. It was about being normal again and bonding with my kids in that familiar way that we had about us before cancer came. It was about giving them the tradition of joy my mom and I had there together. It was about saying that cancer was behind us and promising them that good times were just a day away.

It was mostly about too, I suspect honestly, the fear that it was the last chance to get them to Disney World. It was hard for me to believe in the future.

As I think back on the evolvement of our trips over these last five years, it seems that the tempo of each one has mirrored much of where my life and healing was at that point. That first year out I led my life at a frantic pace, wanting to squeeze ALL of life in because I was scared I’d miss something, scared there would be no tomorrow. And too, that first trip to Orlando was kind of an awful Disney Overdrive, a busy bee buzzing through the parks. Sometimes now, as I look back on it I feel sad when I remember the intensity of the trip, how much I crammed into it so that they would see every last thing, and do every last thing, and remember every last thing– afraid we’d miss something; afraid it would be, well, our last thing. We got up early for magic hours, and stayed up late to see every fireworks show, every parade. Exhausted, hot, tired and cranky kids racing through the parks in a way I doubt they remember much more than a blur.

Truth is, much of my life at that time is still a blur.

Cancer had made me lose trust in body, and this fear showed up on that trip. I sent my son on rides alone because as much as I LOVE rides, I worried about the trustworthiness of my Herceptin saturated heart, and did not want to poke the skunk on Expedition Everest with two little ones in tow. Cancer, despite being told to stay home, wound up coming with us anyway; refusing to be left behind and bringing with it the heavy luggage I carried through each park every day, baggage that contained my ID, insurance card, my oncologist info, my cardiologist, the kids’ dad’s emergency contact info, and list of all current poisons being infused…just in case.

How we did that trip said a lot about how tenuous my life felt at the time. Even though I went to there to feel normal, I couldn’t find normal, or even the illusion of normal, not even in Fantasyland. There were no big adventures had in Adventureland and Tomorrowland well, it just made me uncomfortable, because it made me think too much about how there may not be a tomorrow.

As the years went by however, and I got a foothold on life, the tempo of our visits to Disney also fell in step with the cadence of my healing psyche. There was no longer this mad rush to see and do everything, to cram it all in. Adventures were found at last, fantasies came true, and cancer was not allowed admittance into the Magic Kingdom ever again.

And eventually, I began to trust that there would be a Tomorrowland for we three Mouseketeers.

My kids grew, right along with my confidence in living. They got to where they packed and carried their own luggage and we rode all the thrill rides. Back when my pace to see and do it all was frantic, I remembering wondering why if you came all the way to Disney you would waste a day at the water park or the hotel pool, instead of being at one of the parks. And what do you know, last year Amelia and I went to Typhoon Lagoon for the first time ever, and had THE BEST time; I have discovered the glory of sliding down Summit Plummet, unceremoniously plucking my swim suit out of my butt as I stood up, and then polishing off a giant turkey leg in its wake. I found that a lot of good conversation happens on a lazy river and during quiet afternoons at the hippy dippy pool.

The memories our family has stacked up now, after five ears, are more than even Dumbo could carry:

Embarrassing my kids each year with the extensive diorama I create in our hotel room window, hot days where we hit “the wall” and formed a mini flash mob-ish hat search in the Emporium for the goofiest goofy hats to sport for the rest of the day. Surprising my little ones with giant icees with Mickey feet while they were sitting and waiting for a parade to start, garnering a collective kid eye roll by standing up and clapping when Barack Obama stood up for the first time in the Hall of Presidents. Popcorn for dinner, Princess breakfasts where I asked Colton who that Aladdin looking guy was and he said, “Uh that would be Aladdin mom,” and the look on Amelia’s face when Belle hugged her told her she was pretty. Going into the animation studio to draw 5 times in a row, and sharing Pixar joy with Colton while watching  Luxo pop out and perform while waiting for the Toy Story ride. Light up ice cubes at the Sci Fi restaurant, Soarin’ in the smell of orange groves and devouring, well, more than one or two French pastries in Epcot.

We girls still giggle about following a drip drip drip of chocolate ice cream trail along the pavement back to our hotel room one day, finding a smear of chocolate ice cream on the door frame, and then opening the door to find quite happy Colton on the bed with his chocolate ice cream cone…(finally a good kind of drip.)

How each day I gave them a souvenir allowance and took glee in seeing how carefully they picked their parts for Mr. Potato head to fill the box, and how they danced around when I surprised them one evening with a bonus allowance for an extra little somethin’ somethin’. Watching my princess become even more of a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, seeing them laugh face to face at as they spun in the teacups together, and a tiny Amelia clapping with giant Mickey hands at Fantasmic. Finding every Hidden Mickey the park with Colton, and riding in a giant honey pot 42 times in a row with my own little Lilo and Stitch at the Halloween party. The “Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow,” announcement on the People Mover perfectly chimed in on by mom on cue, giant clear balloons with a blue Mickey heads inside and the thrill we felt when we traded for the pin we had searched high and Lilo for. Watching my kids pretend to be completely appalled at how boring they think the Carousel of Progress ride is each year when I make them ride with me, and how I make the ride even worse by singing, loudly, along with the song, “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Louder and louder each year, as I become more convinced in tomorrow. More grateful for tomorrow. More confident that tomorrow will be great and big and beautiful things.

We did indeed find new frontiers in Frontierland after all, and normal found us, nested us in the soft white gloved hands of Mickey.

But what I most remember most aren’t the rides, or the things we saw, but the times. The times. And the very best of those times were always, always Mickey gloved hands down, the evenings back in the hotel when tired fits of giggles overtook us and we laughed until we cried. Oodles of giddy giggles launched from the deep comfort of being in this insular, happy place; a place where, as we slept in the shadow of Baloo we did indeed forget about our worries and our strife. The times I thought we may never have again.

In our home, a long narrow ledge surrounds our stairs. Lined up on that ledge, in a mini mouse-like timeline, you’ll see our Mickey ears from the all the years of Disney trips. Cute pink little girl ears, Kermit the Frog ears, Steamboat Willie ears, and Toy Story ears. Ears that look like a Pumpkin, and ears with a Sorcerer Mickey Wizard Hat perched between them. And lastly, classic Mickey and Minnie ears with “Colton” and “Amelia” and “Lauren”embroidered in gold thread on the back. On the doorknobs to my home office hang lanyards loaded with Disney trading pins, each of strand telling a unique story; a tale of what we loved that year and what made us smile and laugh, of what calmed us and what made us find us again.

These things represent so much to me, they hold so much meaning….healing, longevity, a visual measure of a life coming to pass that I wasn’t so sure would do so, five years ago. Our own personal Disney vault of memories; the times…the times where we were overshadowed by Baloo and the simple bare necessities, instead of cancer, the times where we lived, no basked in a great big beautiful tomorrow. Cancer no doubt, takes a lot from us but sometimes, sometimes it gives us something, or just plain allows us to find something that was right in front of us all the time. It urges us to find the time.

It’s hard to see, but sometimes, cancer allows us to live.

Sometimes, it takes soaring above it all on the Astro Orbiter or on an Aladdin Magic Carpet to see it, and sometimes we must climb to a perch in the Swiss Family Treehouse to spot it. Sometimes, it is found deep in the space of a mountain, but mostly, it is found right next to us in the excited breaths of those we love, and in the deep pull in, of our own breath, as we Splash down a Mountain.

Without cancer, I don’t think this Disney thing would have ever gotten started in the first place. It would have been just another one of those things put off indefinitely, to when the kids were older, to when there was enough money to do it, till I was totally healthy…. till tomorrow.

Walt used to say, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”

Yes Walt; a mouse, a single cancer cell and a woman who didn’t lose the sight of one thing, one dream-living to see her kids in mouse ears, spinning with glee in teacups and flying high above it all in Dumbo.

One pair of ears at a time, I lived my way into Tomorrowland. And it is for sure, A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.

“Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow,” Lauren is looking for you.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

So there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Just a dream away

~The Sherman Brothers

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