Time Left & How to Spend It

On Monday, I went to our shop for the last time. I haven’t been much since my diagnosis, but even though it was nearly empty, memories of my work there came flooding back. Helping customers old and new and creating ads and social media. Scrolling through hundreds of emails looking for potential new product.

One day, I was in the middle of revamping the stationery section, ordering new product, and the next I was in the hospital with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The decision was made fairly quickly that we would need to close the shop. Between the appointments, getting chemo started, and getting my pain managed, it was easy for me to avoid the store, or even thoughts of it. When I did get there, though, it was tough. I was sad that I was losing such a big part of my life because of cancer, but I pushed those feelings away because they were too painful.

Besides, when I received my diagnosis, I didn’t think I’d last as long as I have. It hit me Monday at the shop, that I’ve lived six months so far from my diagnosis. Not only that, but I’m thriving, really — responding phenomenally to treatment, feeling pretty good other than fatigue. It seems like I may be here for a while longer.

And while that’s really great to think, it’s also daunting in a way. I’m no longer content to just float along essentially waiting to get worse. I want to feel a sense of fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong — I’m proud of the hard work I put into teaching my son. It provides me with satisfaction to know that I’m contributing to his education. But I feel like I want more.

Between homeschooling the kid and my chemo recovery, I’m unable to get out in my Bible ministry much during the week — which I know would provide me the greatest sense of satisfaction and fulfillment I can find in this world. But, I do go when I can, and I try to arrange Bible studies that I can participate in after the kiddo is done with school for the day.

I have an opportunity to mentor new cancer patients, and I really look forward to that. But I’ll need to be balanced in how involved I get. I have the tendency to want to help everyone, and that often leads to me stretching myself too thin.

My social worker has encouraged me to go ahead and start engaging in activities that will create memories for my family after I’m gone. It’s important to me too — because I want to do these things while I still feel pretty good. We have our trip to Alaska in June — which is going to be amazing — and my social worker has given me some other really great ideas. So I want to spend time on these important activities as well.

As you all know, I love to write. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but I am writing a novel, too. It was an accident, really. I started writing a short story, but it got too long. So I decided to stretch it out and beef it up and try my hand at a novel. It isn’t a goal I’ve ever had, but now I’m anxious to see if I could get it published. I’d also love to land a recurring gig on an online magazine or something like that, but I have no idea  how to get that ball rolling. I’d just like to write and to be read. And hopefully to help people through that writing.

I don’t know how much time I have left, but I’d like to use that time well. Reasonably, but well. Get out in the ministry when I can (which will increase this summer); work with first-time cancer patients, make memories with my family and friends; and write for a wider audience. Sounds do-able, right 😉

Tell me friends, what do you do to find self-fulfillment? What brings you the most satisfaction and joy? Please share!

xoxo

Advertisements

Not Goodbye

We said “see you soon” to two of our best friends last night. We’ve known them almost ten years. Our times together are marked by laughter. Our kids, despite the age difference, get along fabulously.

These are people we can text and just say, “Wanna hang out?” Most of our time together is spent talking, playing games, watching TV or a movie and laughing. A lot. Ours is a comfortable friendship — there is no competition or need to impress. They see me without makeup and without my prosthetic.

They were there for me through my first battle with cancer, and they have been here for me again this time. She, her daughter, and her mom celebrated my last chemo with me (remember the boob cupcakes?).

She was there for me when I lost my very best friend, offering support and wise advice. She’s younger than me, but I don’t notice. She’s dealt with so much in her life that she seems older. She’s comfortable in her own skin, unafraid of being herself — something I still struggle with at 40.

She’s an entrepreneur, a talented photographer, and recently added teacher to her titles when she started homeschooling her daughter. She’s not afraid of new things — hence the move.

I will miss her tremendously, but I don’t worry about staying in touch. I can be a good long-distance friend. There is texting and FaceTime. Instagram and Facebook. And there is always the opportunity to visit.

No goodbyes, my sweet friend. Only see you soon. Have fun on your new adventure. I love you.

xoxo

On Books and Constancy

IMG_2841

Yes, that it is a book laying next to a toilet. The one in our powder room, to be more specific. The kid enjoys a good read while sitting on the throne. I know it seems funny for me to take a picture of this, but wait until you read why I did.

You see, that particular book — Harry the Dirty Dog — was written in 1956. I bought it from an adorable book shop about 8 or 9 years ago, when kiddo was around 2, and it’s one that has remained in his possession no matter how many times we go through his books (about every 6 months). He loves it. It’s one of his favorites — one he goes back to again and again even though he’s almost double digits and living in the 21st Century.

Books have been a part of the kiddo’s life since before birth. We read him Bible stories in the womb. We’ve read books to him nearly every night of his life. He’s an avid reader, and even chooses books over Minecraft sometimes.

I love that he chose to read Harry the Dirty Dog last night. I love that he has this enduring love — this constancy — for the books read to him as an infant and toddler. I love this picture because it shows me that while our family is dealing with some BIG life-altering things (like seemingly unending cancer treatment and the prospect of moving), my little boy finds security and solace in a good old book.

Kids are resilient, I know. We are told that pretty often, usually after some kind of minor parenting fail. And I’ve always believed that when he’s overheard an argument or when I showed him how to peel vegetables and he peeled off part of his skin. He’s resilient; he’ll be fine.

But when Mom gets cancer, it’s a whole different ballgame. The things I had always done for my child were suddenly insurmountable. There was no chaperoning field trips or volunteering at school; there were months when I couldn’t drop him off or pick him up. Times when those designated to go in my stead forgot him, and the school had to call me. I even had to miss his year-end project because I was recovering from surgery.

As any mother would, I worried that all of this would negatively affect him. That he’d be scarred for life. Instead, though, he made straight As for the entire school year. He reached a big milestone spiritually. He was resilient. Someone told me that those accomplishments mean that he feels secure.

Somehow, in spite of the upheavals that Cancer caused (and still causes), my husband and I managed to keep our little one feeling safe and secure. Mostly, I credit my husband. He took over so many of my activities — reading and saying prayers nightly, dropping him off at school, attending that year-end project — and most importantly, caring for him spiritually. All while taking care of me.

I look at my son daily, wondering with amazement at how seemingly “unaffected” he is by my illness. I know he is — in the way that he occasionally snuggles up to me for longer periods of time, or how quickly he’s willing to do something for me — but for the most part he’s a happy kid.

And I realize that he’s happy because he’s loved. Books may come and go; the snuggles may disappear; but he is and always will be able to rely on our love. It’s the biggest constancy in his life.

A Few of My Favorite Things

phase two-2

That’s right! Tomorrow we begin Phase Two of my Chemotherapy. Twelve weeks, once a week. If you’re curious, the cocktail I’ll be receiving is Taxol and Carboplatin. I’m a little nervous, since different drugs cause different reactions, but I’m super confident in my Oncology team, so I’m sure everything will go great.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a few of my newly favorite products.

  • Mangiacotti Whipped Body Lotion — In the interest of full disclosure, we sell this at our shop here in the South. I brought this product line home to try so I could speak with knowledge to my customers. The whole line is awesome (lip repair, hand repair, body soap), but am I smitten with this lotion. It is light, but absorbs into my skin so that it is hydrated all day long. There is no greasy residue, just softer, saturated skin. I’m even using it on my bald head.
  • Organic India Tulsi Sleep Tea — Shout out to my friend D who introduced this to me (and just replenished my supply). It is so tasty and relaxing. In fact, I just drank a mug of it and I can feel my eyes getting heavy. It’s been something that I have had a taste for even right after chemo treatments. Love this tea. BTW I linked back to the brand’s sight, but I’m sure you can pick up at health food stores.
  • Eucalyptus oil — This isn’t a new product for me, as I purchased it for making cleaning supplies, but I recently brought it back out at the beginning of Chemo. Chemo can increase mucus (sorry, I know its gross) and make you stuffy. Especially when you have to stop your nasal spray because it’s now causing nosebleeds. I suffered for days, until I remembered I had Eucalyptus oil. I put a few drops into my aromatherapy diffuser, and BAM! Stuffiness relieved.
  • Erin Condren Planner — OK, so I discovered this at the beginning of last year, but this year I have become even more reliant on it. Tons of appointments plus Chemo Brain (I am so forgetful) equals disaster. But not with my EC Planner. Everything gets put into it. It’s color-coded with stickers and pens. It is the awesomest thing ever. And do you know what I just discovered?! Etsy has a TON (like 250 pages) of stickers that designers make to go with it. I have some that I will show you in a post soon (I’m waiting for them to arrive). The Erin Condren Planner deserves a post of its own, that’s how amazing it is.

That’s all I can think of now. The tea is kicking in and I’m getting too mellow to think up anymore gems.

xoxo