Saturday, August 24, 2019

Countin The Days

Wednesday.
Back to work.
Like any ol day.
Cept I went to bed last night with a lump forming on the back of my left hand, near my wrist.
And by morning I couldn't move my hand and the pain was significant. I couldn't pick up my phone. Or wiggle my fingers. Or turn on the tap.

"It's hand cancer."
"I'm going to die."
"Or maybe it's arthritis."
"Would God do that? Breast cancer AND crippling arthritis?"
"How am I going to function today?"
"How am I going to function EVERY DAY til mid-September when I get the biopsy results?"
"What if it needs to be amputated?"
"I need to breathe."

I got ready, one-handed.
Drove to work, one-handed.
And refused to google "lump on back of hand, near wrist."

It was a mostly non-productive morning. Seeing I had been away from the office on Tuesday, I had a backlog of emails to sort through. And a few more people I needed to communicate with about my upcoming medical leave.

I took a couple Tylenol and hoped it would give me some flexibility so I could use my keyboard.
Seriously.

Who has time to think about breast cancer when one's hand is likely going to be amputated?

"Dear God.
Thank you that it's not my right hand.
Amen."

At noon, a friend from work took me out to lunch.
Where we talked about a lot of things, ate some delicious food, and then she said some really lovely words, and because I was being wonderfully distracted, I didn't think about my lumpy, throbbing, aching hand once! It wasn't healed, but the pain level dropped to dull ache. So grateful for friends who provide conversation and food to keep you from obsessing about your owies.


Back at my desk, my phone dinged.
It was Maxine. She was making me dinner:


























Here is my advice to you.
When building up a friendship circle?
CHOOSE AT LEAST ONE FRIEND WHO LOVES TO COOK.







































While her family cleaned up/did dishes, she and I walked around her garden...


























... where she cut an assortment of flowers for me ....

























... and arranged them in a vase while we visited.

Then Brian and Megan joined us for a game of Azul:




















... where it doesn't matter who won. The important thing is that we had fun.
(Except the person who DID win, had MORE fun.)
(Because this is the most competitive family EVER.)

Hand? Sore hand? What?
Hahaha.
Yeah, it's still tender and swollen as I/m writing this. But pain level is down to a one. Flexibility is compromised, just like my shoulder. Maybe it's cancer? Maybe this is aging at is finest? Maybe it's nothing?

Dear God,
Could it not be cancer?
Thank you.
Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ahhh, Thursday.
When I got to work, this was on my desk:
























Insert heart and drooly face emoji's here.
I LOVE Blackberry jam. It's my favorite-ist.
So much yum.

Today was last day that my creative team would all be together in the office for months. (A couple peeps were taking Friday off. An editor was taking the last week of Aug off. And then, on Sept 3, there was going to be a mass exodus; 4 gals would be on vacation and I'd be having surgery. By the end of September everyone else will be back. And I have no clue where I'll be. For a 'planner', this season of Procedures, Then Waiting For Results is a trial. Trying to see it as a Grand Adventure Into The Unknown, with limited success.)

ANYWAY, seeing it was our last day together, I paid for a pizza lunch for us all while we watched Sheila Haan's GLS presentation on Difficult Conversations. I know how to throw a party. You wish you were on my team.

I don't know how long I'll be off work.

If my Cancer Journey is just a quick detour, (surgery then radiation), I may be back by the end of September, assuming I can work and be radiated at the same time. If they find more cancer, and chemo is part of the process, well then, hell. Shit. and damnnnnn. Then I may be off for awhile.

So these last days of August have me planning for the worst; getting everything lined up til December. (My boss would like to see it all mapped out til February, but even I can't see that far into the future re: project details.) I'm preparing a Project Management Manual for the people who'll be doing my job in my absence. I'm introducing all my vendors to my co-workers, so while I'm away, they can all play. And I'll try to get my filing done so no one can see how much I hate doing it.

And my hand?
The lump is still there.
But the pain has decreased.
I have movement again.

I met Terry at Chapters/Starbucks after work for tea n talk. We both bought a book first.
I got this one:






















and Terry's choice made MY heart sing:


























(She's reading Louise Penny this summer...)
(I couldn't be more proud.)

I'm saving mine for my post op days. I intend to fill those days with good books/healthy food/addictive netflix shows (need recommendations here)/minimal drugs/maximum sunshine/and gentle exercise. (TO be completely honest, I'm looking forward to September.)

Dear God,

Thank you for friends and books and blackberry jam.
And tea.
Amen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's Friday.
My hand?
Doesn't even hurt a little bit.
LIKE NOTHING.
What happened on Wednesday? What was that all about? The pain was so severe I was considering amputation. And today it's working like normal.

Good thing my doctor's office was closed on Wednesday when I called.

I am deciding right now, not to talk about pain. It's so fleeting. And boring.
Things hurt.
And then they don't.

Amy surprised us all with more fodder for her blog.
It was supposed to be something, but it wasn't that.
So she put out a bowl of broken meringue bits, a bowl of whipping cream and a bowl of berries.
We ate every last bit.
And licked the bowls.
There's probably a sermon in there. (Or as my pastor friends used to say, "That'll preach.")

OH MY GOODNESS. SO delish. I will serve this sometime in the future.
Presentation ISN'T everything, sometimes.











































And then I got a lovely email from the Bard of the Beach people.
Earlier in the summer I'd bought tickets for Dani, her mom and I to go see The Taming of the Shrew together.
I'd accidentally bought them for the wrong date (the date of my biopsy) so I had to ask them to pleeeeease exchange them for Sept 4. I explained the mistake, saying the procedure was on my mind, and that date just didn't work for me.
They were super gracious and exchanged them for the new date at the start of September.

So I emailed them (again) and thanked them (again) for making the switch to Sept 4, but asked if they could transfer them (again) to a date at the end of Sept as it turned out I have breast cancer and need to have surgery on Sept 3.




















Hello Jane,

Thank you for getting in touch with us, we can certainly take care of that exchange for you! We have moved your tickets to the best available seats in your price category on September 20th and have emailed your new tickets to you.

Please let us know if there is anything else you need, and we wish you all the best with your recovery.

Kind regards,

Alexandra
Box Office

There are some lovely people in the world.

I met Donna for dinner at Milestones.
We were celebrating my birthday.

















She has the best cancer stories:
Her mom got breast cancer at 68. Had her breast removed.
Four years later, got it again in the other breast at age 72. Had it removed as well.
Lived to be 94. And didn't die of cancer.

Years ago, one of her (younger) neighbours got breast cancer. She had knockers.
She decided to get a double mastectomy and have her breasts reconstructed.
Smaller. Perkier. Size? B. She was anticipating, with joy, having two B's.
In an act of friendship and solidarity, her friends all had two bees tattooed on their ankles.
Buzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Is this all I talk about nowadays?
Boobs? Nipples?
And what it feels like (emotionally) to have them removed?
Why I am not getting everything lopped off and rebuilt?
The longer it takes to have surgery, the more I think about it.

If the next 20 years are anything like the previous 20 years, no one is going to see them anyway.
And if I wasn't marriage material when I was younger and healthier, I'm sure as heck no prize now with a cancer diagnosis behind me and botched up boobs ahead of me. Sigh. Haha. I need Sept 3 to be over so I can move on.

ANYWAY, it was a good, good evening. And I drove away with flowers.

























And arrived at the lake around 11 to see every single light on in the place.
Clint was there.
He, like me, likes being in a well-lit environment.

Know what I love?
Pulling into the driveway and seeing that someone is home.

Dear God,

Thank you for friends who bake, friends who cook, friends who like to eat out.
Thank you for food and friends to eat it with.

Amen


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's a rainy Saturday, and I'm at the lake.
I'm sitting outside, under the covered deck, wearing long sleeves and pants and socks.
You'd think it was winter the way I'm dressed.

But the fresh air is crispy and clean. The view of the mountains, trees and lake is calming. And the sight of All My Papers spread out around me is inspiring. I've got things to do. And things to think.


























I bought myself a new desktop calendar for work.
This one is SO pretty.
If I was throwing a My Favorite Things Party - this would be the thing. Aug 2019 - Dec 2020, big squares, small numbers, room for notes down the side, lovely design, metallic ink and only $9.99 at HomeSense.













































Nothing gets me more enthused about work than a fancy, clean, pretty calendar.


























Also on my picnic table are some notebooks.
The top one (I had too much to dream last night) was started on Jan 1, 2019.
Typically these books are mostly for To Do lists.
But I started this one with a prayer:







































Hahaha.
"Why am I dreading this? Why do I think this (hearing God's voice and following through on what He asks of me) is going to be hard? Why can't I anticipate this (hearing God's voice and following through on what He asks of me) with joy?"
"I know You love me and want the best for me. WHY DO I THINK "THE BEST" is going to be something I hate?"

I want to go back and warn JanuaryFirstJane that her story gets a plot twist in Chapter 58. She should start exercising.

Jan - May were mostly To Do Lists, but in June I made sermon notes:



























































Looking at my notes...

Ideally we/I want to be able to say, "It is well with my soul", when sorrows and diagnosis-es roll.
(On this date, I was still waiting for the results of my first biopsy and had just found out that Rose had cancer. She would die just days later.)

How do we get there? How do I get there? To that place of rest? That place where I can say, EVEN THOUGH the fig trees have no blossoms, and EVEN THOUGH there are no grapes on the vine, and EVEN THOUGH the olive crop fails, and even though I don't know what's going on with my boob, YET will I be content, happy, at peace, praising God for all the good things.

The way to get there?
1. Remember what He's done in the past. (He hasn't let me down yet.)
2. Have hope in the God of the future.

You've got to believe in something.
You've gotta have faith in someone.
Might as well be God.
There ARE other options for sure. And go ahead if it gives you peace and hope.
But as for me, on this day, I'm gonna just trust that He's got this.

...

The following week was June 30 and a new sermon series had started; Summer in the Psalms.
Jeff started the series off with Psalm 121

I read it again this afternoon, on the table on the deck just as it started to rain.

























Wrinkled Bible pages for the win.




















Then I listened to the sermon again.
It's a good one.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm on Day 24 of living with this diagnosis. (I'll stop counting when we get to September. It's easy to add up the days in August because I got the word on the 1st. Once we get into the Fall, it's gonna be too hard to do the math.)
Every single day thus far I've experienced a moment of unexpected joy. A kindness. A declaration of love. An attentiveness. A heightened awareness of God's hand on me.
It really hasn't been horrible.
I've been joking that "cancer has been very very good to me". And it has.
One friend observed that when we were together in January at a writing retreat, I had said I had nothing to blog about. And now? I do.

I think constantly about the other August First Ladies and pray that their days are not All Bad. I'm praying for young Tessa and trust that she's got a gang of supporters holding her up as she faces her future.


Dear God,
Thank you for cancer.

Amen
~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's after 9 pm on Saturday night.
Clint and I just had supper; I made the roast vegies. He did the chicken.



























I'm back on the deck, under the propane heater (that he turned on for me), finishing up this blog post, then getting back to work on Basecamping the Email schedule through to the end of November.

He's back in the kitchen, making a large batch of spaghetti sauce for tomorrow's supper at Drew and Dani's. I am so glad that I have a couple kids who know their way around a kitchen.































































































Three things I'm thankful for:

1. I thought I'd be up here by myself this weekend. Lovely surprise to be sharing this space with my oldest. I'm trying very hard not to be annoying.

2. It's been a smoke-free August. I was hoping our summer wasn't going to be cut short because of forest fires. August has been awesome.

3. My lake bed. I rilly love it.

4. Evenings like this.

5. Stretchy pants.

6. An email message from my lake neighbour, who is a nurse, that yes, she'll be here during the second week of September. She'll definitely be available for anything I might need if I decide to recover up here. (Her daughter, also a nurse, will be here as well.) Sometimes I think God just shows off, by supplying DOUBLE what I ask for.

7. Patio lights.



Peace out, friends.
xo

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

And Sometimes Love Looks Like a Harry and Megan Mug

Sh*t got real today.
My cancer class was this morning.
7:45 - noon, they said. Pay for 4 hours parking, they said.

I arrived at 7:45
Paid for parking.
And waited in 3C, the Pre-Admissions corner of the building.

At 8 am, two nurses came and got me.
We walked down to the Ground Floor, to the education end of the surgical centre and entered the large, bright, windowed, classroom. There was room for 12 of us at the table. (6 cancer people and our 6 'care people'.)

I was the only one in attendance.
No other patients could make it.
And I didn't know who to bring as a support person.

Eventually I had 4 professionals provide me with a very personal, very focused, very quick overview of All The Things That Could Go Wrong, How To Look After The Drainage Tube, How To Prepare for Surgery, What Services Are Available If You Have No Support People.




















I was given some complimentary pillows, a million booklets and a number of forms. My hands and arms were measured, in great detail, because Lymphomeda is dangerous and a real threat, but I'm not to worry, as 95% of patients don't get it. And she checked my range of motion.

Remember, back in May? When there was a crunching sound in the shoulder? And I dropped/broke my camera? (May was also the month I felt the lump, so THAT was my medical priority...) Wellll, when she asked me to raise both arms straight up, over my head? Only one arm could do that. The other one didn't even come close. It pointed out. Not up.  Like, towards 9 on a clock. And that's the same arm that'll have lymphnodes taken from it's armpit. That's the arm that'll need physio. SOooo, SILVER LINING. By the end of this, my shoulder will end up getting the attention it's needed.

By 9 am I was done.
Everyone had downloaded all their info into my brain.

And none of that info was fun.
(Plus I'd clearly paid too much for parking.)

I went back to my mom's to process. To read the material. And try not to freak out. 
I went back to bed.
My way of handling things I can't handle?
Take a nap.

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to. I'd just been given a crap load of gross intel.
But I did.
Sleep that is.
And dreamt about folding lawn chairs and their webbing and how it breaks down.

I woke up at 11.
And decided to get a practical bra before my 5 pm appointment with the intake nurse.

I drove to Langley, to the Mastectomy Shop, and walked in.
It's a retail/medical store. Not a fashion/lingerie store.
Everything screamed CANCER in there. It was quiet and it's entry way was at the back of the building and the products all were on display in a logical way, not as a pretty display. Nothing enticed you to say, "Ahhh, I love this! Hope they have it in my size..."

Her, with a compassionate face and soft eyes: Hi, can I help you?

Me, with every ounce of bravery in me: Yeah. I'm having a partial mastectomy in a couple weeks and (tears start flowing) my coworkers raised some money for me to get a bra....

Her, with her compassionate face and soft eyes and gentle voice: How very kind of them. Are you OK? May I hug you?

Me, embarrassed by my tear ducts: Thanks, I'll be OK. Uh, I wasn't expecting to cry. Sorry.

Her, with her compassionate face and soft eyes and gentle voice and knowing smile: Oh, we're very used to that in here. Come. Here. Tell me your story. When is your surgery? What is your diagnosis?

Turns out it was too soon for me to be shopping for a boob holder. She said to wait til 6 weeks after surgery to see how much of my breast is removed. Could be that I'll need to get a knitted knocker to fill in the gap left by them 'cleaning out the margins'.

It was the first time I came to terms with the idea that they might be scooping out more than a teaspoon of tissue. And the scar is going to be significant. I mean, I kinda knew it in my head. But my heart got on board while I standing in that Store for Imperfect Boobs and it was sad for me.

I left there and drove over to work, where I was told a pink gift had been left for me at reception.


























Hahahaha.
That pink bag was CRAMMED full of snacks from Britain.
Including tea and a Harry and Megan mug to drink it in.
So fun!
So thoughtful!
So perfect!

Julie T and I went to the same church for 10 minutes back in the early 2000's.
(This was the first church that closed down on me.)
(Well, not just on me. It closed on everyone. I happened to take it personally.)
Her parents are from Manchester and at some point in my life I'm just going to sit in her kitchen and listen to them chat when they come to visit. #bestaccentever

Thanks, Julie for the unexpected, totally delightful surprise on a crappy 'cancer' day.

My (ex) brother-in-law had sent me a message, suggesting a Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage. His friend was a RMT and she did this type if treatment for many cancer patients.
(I am a cancer patient. That's a title. Along with mom, sister, divorcee and project manager.)
So I called her to see if she could fit me in.
She couldn't.
So I dropped in to the brandnew therapy clinic in my neighbourhood to see if they had a RMT who could do MLDs. They didn't.
So I called Fluid, who has a RMT and they're located right next to my work. But no one answered their phone.
Three strikes. I'm out. I guess it wasn't meant to happen.

Thus far this hasn't been my favorite day.

At 5 I had my phone meeting/interview with the intake nurse.
She asked a million questions as she filled out forms. These forms are the exact same ones I've already filled out. Twice. We really need some sort of central computing system so that all levels of medical care don't have to maintain their own data bases. My two cents.

She gave me very specific showering and sleeping and fasting instructions.
And I really have lost all interest in this project.
I'd like it all to just go away.
I don't want to read the millions of brochure pages. I don't want to check out websites. I don't want to go back to that specialty bra store.

Waaaay too many hours of talking to myself/whining to God about this period of preparing for the next procedure.

And then I drove down to White Rock to meet Shelly who'd planned a picnic for us.




















(Chicken Enchiladas with mango salsa, sour cream and refried beans. Lemon Tiramisu for dessert.)

























































































We talked, cried, prayed and sat at that table til the sun set, the twinkle lights came on and the moon rose. It was a little bit magical.

A gentle way to end the day.

I am so very lucky.


Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Surprises in pink bags
2. Friends who do picnics
3. Kind, compassionate, caring strangers who sell bras for wonky boobs
4. Non-rainy evenings
5. Back-to-work days. I'll probably need to take another day off next week for procedure-related appointments, but other than that? I'm hoping life will feel normal again til Sept 3.
6. A theme verse: Isaiah 43:1 (It was given to me AGAIN tonight from a former co-worker from years ago. The first person to pass it along to me was my brother.) Since Aug 1, it keeps coming at me. Feels like a holy echo:







Tuesday, August 20, 2019

When Love Looks Like A Bra Fund

The (other) August First Ladies have been heavy on my mind lately, but especially today.
Are they being loved on?
Do they have families? Friends? Co-workers?
Who is walking alongside them?
Do they know they're not alone?







































This morning, two of my friends at Focus (young women I work closely with) walked into my office with huge smiles, a basket of goodies and a plant.

Then they closed my door and said, "You're probably going to cry. So we'll give you some privacy. But first we want to explain."

"This plant grows very well in dark basement suites that get no natural light. It'll bring life to your living space..."

"And this robe is for people who've had breast surgery. It has pocket inside for ice packs to rest on your incision. A matching sports bra has a front velcro opening, so you don't have to lift your arms uncomfortably. I talked to my sister-in-law who is a nurse and asked her to give us some practical ideas on what to give you..."

"You are so very loved, Jane. And this is our way of showing you that. We talked about waiting to give this to you at the end of the day, but we couldn't wait. You need to know. We love you."

I hadn't even looked in the basket or read the cards and I was a snotty blubbering mess. BUY KLEENEX FOR MY OFFICE is now at the top of my shopping list. They left and I explored.




















SO many completely appropriate, wonderfully personal, incredibly practical, wildly beautiful things.
I can't even.
So many words of encouragement, promises to pray, and lots of love.

Love.

I'm getting it by the truckload these days.
It's unexpected.
It's overwhelming.
It's humbling.

If love can cure cancer then, well, uh, mine must be cured. Because. Uh. Never in my life have I felt this loved before. It's quite something.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago.
She's married. Has kids. Is adored by her family.
But it wasn't enough; she was after more. Fame, maybe? Riches?

Her: I always wanted to be loved by everyone in the room.
Me: I didn't even want to be in the room where everyone was. I just wanted one man to love me.

And today. It felt like everyone in the room loved me.
And I just don't know what to do with that.
Except say thank you over and over again because I just don't know.
And I hope I get to live a good long life so I can love on others in the same way.

I really need a kleenex.
This card was from Amy and Laura and it just made me laugh. But the words they wrote inside made me sobbbb.


























And from the rest of the team, inside a suitable Bible verse card:

















































... as well as slips of papers tucked in, because they'd used up all the space.

My love language is definitely words of affirmation.
So even if the basket only contained the two cards, it would've been enough.



























My (cancer) verse, designed by Amanda. I love, love, love it.
Coiled, lined notebook; fancy pen; incredibly beautiful word search collection; Max Lucado book; candle (seashore scent); floral water bottle; reading light.
(I'll bring the plant home tomorrow.)



























Still in the basket:



























Mani/pedi gift card; Skip the Dishes gift card; Gas card; Indigo gift card; hand cream; lip balm; moisturizing face masks; snacks; silicone straws, and $200 for a bra or two. (The robe and matching bra are in my bedroom and I'm too lazy to go photograph them.)

RIGHT?
SO generous and thoughtful and amazing and Thank You God that I work with such an incredible group of humans.

And God? Those other August First Ladies? And Tessa? Please? Could you surround them with caring folk as well? Dump a load of love on them too, OK? Let them not be alone in this.


~~~~~~~~~

I had Fish n Chips with Faye after work; then we walked along the promenade.
We talked about our kids (she has three girls. I have three boys). Our lives couldn't be more different. (We're both divorced). Our lives couldn't be more similar.
We both have shoulder length blonde hair. (We're the same!). She has lush thick beautiful bangs. (We're different!)

Anyways. We walked. We talked. (She suggested that might be my spiritual gift.)
And she prayed. Out loud. While we were walking. (I suggested that might be her spiritual gift.)

Its just crazy how good my life is. I don't know why I got this diagnosis. I can spend the rest of my days questioning God. Or I can just accept what is, and watch for the lessons.
I hope I'm a better person when I come out the other side of this. Softer. Gentler. Kinder. More aware. More loving. A better giver. A sensitive listener. A dependable friend/sister/daughter. A trustworthy, fun mom. A committed prayer-er. I also hope I'll have hair and 1 3/4 boobs when I'm done. And an inexplicable desire to take up some type of physical activity that burns belly fat.


Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Caring, creative, kind co-workers.



























2. Garments with pouches for ice packs. Whoa.




























3. Friends who pray, out loud, while walking, for your kids.




























Shalom,
xo