Saturday, August 24, 2019

Countin The Days

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.

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.

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?

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?
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.


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.


It's Friday.
My hand?
Doesn't even hurt a little bit.
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,

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.

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.



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:

"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.


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.

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