Sunday, August 18, 2019

Summer of Sunflowers and Sunsets

I'm getting the hang of this.
Waaaaay more moments of peace than moments of anxiety.
Way more smiles than tears.
Way more hope-filled dreams than certain-death dreads.

I have never felt so loved in all my life.
Mention you've got cancer and you are the recipient of love and prayers and acts of kindness and floral bouquets. It's crazy man.

This stunning arrangement was delivered to me at work because she doesn't know my home address. We've never met but she's read my blog for yearsssss.

THANK YOU SEPTEMBER for your generous, beautiful, supportive soul. So unexpected. So appreciated. So lovely.

I tried to make Tues, Wed and Thurs of this week 'cancer-free' days. Since May (when I found the lump), my summer months have been about appointments/waiting for results/more appointments and procedures. I wanted a few days where I wasn't going to think about it.

I wanted a few days of just me n my girl (OK, me n Drew's girl) at the lake, enjoying life. Dani had taken the week off and wondered if I could join her for a few days?

I worked on Monday, she shopped/prepped for a stagette, and we both arrived at the lake around 9 pm. We put on pajamas then watched the first half of Season Two of Downton Abby. (She'd never seen it before. She loves it. (And The Crown!) God gave me a daughter-in-law that loves British shows.) LIFE IS SO GOOOOOD.

Tuesday was the perfect day-at-the-lake kinda day. We both sat at the water's edge, reading. This was our view:

Then we stopped in at the Cultus Lake Flower Festival  before picking up things at Canadian Tire, then having dinner at Earls, outside on their patio. We ended the night by finishing up Season Two of Downton Abbey.

On Wednesday Dani's girlfriends came up for the day, then Drew and Val and Cassie came for dinner. (I made ham and scalloped potatoes.) While the kids played games on the deck, Val and I talked about life things and cried. (Which bothered Drew. So we talked quieter.)

You know how some days are just perfect?
This was about as close to perfect as possible.

Earlier this summer, BD (before diagnosis), I read a book I LOVED:

The chapter that really resonated with me? Make Life Memorable.

  • Normal days can be made special - can be made memorable - with a mindset toward adventure. Consciously choosing to create memories will stretch the experience of time. When we say we want more time what we really want is more memories. 
  • One might inquire of this 24 hours; Why is today different from all other days? Why should my brain bother holding on to the existence of THIS day as it curates the museum of my memories? 
  • We have three selves: 1. The anticipating self who wonders about, plans and worries about the future. 2. The experiencing self who is in the here and now. 3. The remembering self who thinks back to the past. CREATING MEMORIES REQUIRES PRIVILEGING THE 'ANTICIPATING' AND 'REMEMBERING' SELVES IN WAYS THAT REQUIRES SERIOUS SELF DISCIPLINE. 
  • The anticipating self is the planner who sets anchors in the future. (Anticipation may account for most of the happiness associated with events.) The remembering self is anticipation's side kick; she is the keeper of your identity. We can anticipate for years. We can remember for decades. 
  • If my anticipating self wanted to do something, my remembering self will be glad to have done it. My experiencing self may be too tired to bother to go ahead because, well, TIRED.  But do it anyway. Remember this: all time passes. Whether I do anything fun, adventurous, stretching, out-of-my-comfort zone, hard, or nothing, I will soon be on the other side of the next 24 hours. It can be filled with an evening in front of the TV or it can be filled with something else.  
  • Conscious fun takes effort. So we overindulge in 'effortless fun' (scrolling through instagram posts about dinner parties) and underindulge in 'effortful fun' (throwing a dinner party). 
  • Minutes spent in boredom and anxiety pass slowly and they can add up to years which are void of memory.
  • Memory must be cultivated. You can help the process along. You can actively choose to document your adventures in way that will help you pull them out. 
  • Carve out time to dwell in the past.  

Today was one of those days. Memorable.

And then a couple of deer showed up in our backyard...

... went through the hedge and walked down the road ...

and then a flock of bats came out and swooped and dove at the girls. #memories

Now that I'm on the other side of a cancer diagnosis, I am hyper-aware of the passage of time. I sure don't want to be wasting memory-making opportunities on watching dumb TV shows. I anticipate that I'll have my old age to park in front of the TV, but now while I have energy and time? I want to intentionally fill it with moments that have meaning and purpose.


On Thursday morning, from my bedroom at the front of the house, with all the windows open, I could hear Drew leave for work. Then I heard Cassie drive away. And it just felt lovely. Knowing they'd been here for night. Knowing they were off, going to jobs. It is not lost on me, how lucky I am to have employed, self-sufficient, independent kids. Early that Thursday morning, I was thankful that they had jobs to go to. And I was even more thankful that I could back to sleep for a few hours.
(And thrilled that my gift of Being Able to Sleep Forever in the Mornings had returned. Those first few days after Aug 1, scared me. I woke up early, in panic mode, unable to relax. HUGELY relieved that I can put myself back to sleep if I try hard enough. :) )

(YES, I realize I just wrote about memory making and not wasting time doing non-memorable things and then I go on about sleeping in on days off. Don't try to analyze me. My thought process is a mystery. I am committed to making the days count, after 11 am.)

Dani left before noon, so I sat in the lake by myself for a few hours. I'm still trying to get through all of Louise Penny's books this summer so that when we get her latest book on Aug 30 at her book launch, I'll be all caught up. Her's will be the first book I read as I convalesce. I'm on book 11, but book 9 (How the Light Gets In) is my absolute favorite. SOoooooo good. (After I finish this one, I have three more to read in 12 days.)

I met Sue in Surrey, then we had sushi on the beach at 7 while the sun set. That sentence was brought to you by the letter S. Sue has cancer too. Lymphoma in her lungs. That sentence was brought to you by the letter L. The S sentence was more fun.

Our view to the left:

Our view to the right:

And in front of us? Our view while we talked and laughed about Life with C and possible tattoo designs?
Was this:

Dear God. THANK YOU for sunsets. And friends who sit on sandy lawnchairs and talk about things we are afraid of. And things we can control. And those other things that You look after.

Thank you for summer nights. And warm breezes. And ocean smells. And Your promises. Thank you for revealing Yourself to us when we wonder if You're real.

Thank you for creating us with memory banks. And the ability to recall and relive the good moments. Thank you for All The Good Moments this summer. Especially the ones that are accumulating AD (after diagnosis.)



And then Friday happened.
Oh Lordy. That was a hard morning.

In an effort to be responsible and pro-active, I met with a lawyer about my will. My last one was prepared by the lawyer who handled my divorce, twenty years ago. I have no memory regarding his name, or where his office was located. (So many references to 'memory' in this post.) Interesting that my brain has chosen to forget those details. And my lack of love for filing, coupled with the fact that everything I own (with the exception of clothes, laptop, camera, and a few books) are all STILL BOXED UP hasn't made it easy for me to access the actual documents.

So I decided to start over. Brand new will.
Easy peasy.
Just divide everything three ways.
Almost everything is boxed up, and my $ are easy to access. Should be a simple document. Heck. I could probs just write it myself.


What if I live?
What if cancer doesn't kill me?
What if I live, but am incapacitated?
How would I like my life to look? Where/what type of facility do I want to care for me?
At what point do I want the plug pulled?
Who do I trust to convey my medical wishes? Who do I want to assign as my Medical Representative?
What about my finances? Who do I want to assign as my Power of Attorney?
SOMEONE has to deal with my property/boxes of things. Who do I want to assign as the Executor on My Last Will and Testament?
And then there were a couple other details regarding Probate Fees and Estate Taxes. How did I want to offset/handle those?

I started off the hour confident and calm. I left feeling nauseas and overwhelmed.
So much to think about. My brain was tired.
Sadly, I went to whiny mode, wishing I was married to someone who loved me and would help me with this stuff.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've been told a million times in the past two weeks that I am  a strong woman. But I never wanted to be strong. I wanted to be a wife. I never wanted to be some poster girl for Independent Woman Magazine. Blecccchhhh.

Pity party x 1000.

And then I went to the dentist.
I know, right?
Glutton for punishment. Let's cram ALL the Crappy Things into one day.

But it was OK. He froze me up real good.
Then popped off the temporary caps, cemented in the new ones and now I have a dazzling row of teeth. Took twenty years to get em all done. But they are. Done. And lovely.

So if I die, and there's a viewing, I'm gonna ask that my mouth be partially opened and my lips held back with masking tape, so y'all can see what I've been spending vacation dollars on.

I tried taking a smiley toothy pic afterwards but my face was frozen to my eyeballs so it came out wonky. Here's a no-tooth smile.

I'm going to blame it one the work that'd just been done on my teeth.
Somehow it affected the smoothness/coverage of my make-up.

Here it is again, with the Hollywood app.

Excuse me while I go open my Funeral Slideshow file and update every single photo of me.
Let's all imagine I don't have blotchy skin.

And don't say anything about my hair.
Let's pretend its nothing we pay attention to/comment on.
I may lose it all, and then what?
WHAT WILL BE LEFT TO TALK ABOUT in regards to my head?
All I'll be left with is splotchy skin and a honking huge nose.

Maybe I need to experience some humility? I need to feel insecure about my scalp? I need to appreciate my eyebrows more? Oy. Let me overthink this for an hour or six.


From there, I met up with Jenn, for a late birthday dinner and movie.
Chicken Teryacki Box and Spiderman.

Everything about that sentence was delicious. And fun. And a great Friday night activity.
I love movies.
And I'm a huge fan of Spiderman and this one? Was so so good. Spiderman. A nod to Ironman. And teenage romance. What's not to love?

And then.
Then her and I sat on the curb in the parking lot for two hours and talked. About life. Cancer. Friendships. Faith. And unexpectedly, (like really unexpectedly) she started to cry. Sobbing. Couldn't hold-her-shit-together tears. So I held her.

This cancer thing? Is a hug-causing disease. So many hugs. Long hugs. Real hugs.

My poor Jenn. She'd come undone. And in that moment I felt the full weight of her love. And I understood how scared she was for me.

I am loved.
By a couple non-family members.
I never knew this BD.

I was aware that I was probably liked well-enough. But the expressions of love? Have humbled me to my core. Oh that I might live long enough to love others as well as I've been loved on these past 19 days.

I woke up to this Facebook post on Saturday morning:

Twelve days ago, I got word from my best friend that she has breast cancer.
Talk about a cognitive reset.
The world fell out from under my feet. I can’t imagine how it felt for Jane to get the news sitting in that exam room alone, expecting an all-clear and getting the opposite.
We met last night for her belated birthday dinner and movie. Sushi and SPIDER-MAN. The perfect combination. Then we sat on a concrete divider in the parking lot and talked. For two hours. Jane was strong and brave and analytical and, well, Jane. Halfway through, I lost it.
Jane is my person. She was my first real friend in Canada. She knows all my warts and secrets and weird obsessions. She has survived the black hole of Jenn and stayed the course for 16 solid years.
So she has to be okay. Even though this isn’t about me at all. But I made her promise that she would be okay because I love her. So many people love her. She is kind and brave and smart and talented and forgiving and faith-filled and she loves with her whole heart. She has shown me grace when I needed it. She has shown me an example of spirituality that I have not seen in others of her faith. She has been there since the first days of me becoming who I am at this moment and has walked beside me, never judging, only lifting.
Please think of my Jane. She is a pillar of strength in a swarm of tsunamis. She has to be okay.

Oy. Oh Jenn.

I will be okay. If not on this side of eternity, definitely on the other side. But science and stats are saying I'll be alive and well for a long time yet. Many, many more movie nights ahead for us. xo

(And as an aside, CAN JENN WRITE A SENTENCE OR WHAT? She also writes books. With many many good sentences. )

It's now late on Saturday night. I'm blogging on the deck at the lake. Clint is here, putting together an Ikea bed-frame in his bedroom, checking on me every half hour or so, keeping the propane heater going so I stay warm. I feel well-loved.

Three + things I'm thankful for:

1. Expressions of love

2. Praying friends

3. Propane heaters

4. Sons who know how to turn on propane heaters

5. Left over ham and scalloped potatoes

6. Local strawberries

7. Books

8. Movies

9. People who cry

10. Conversation on concrete curbs

11. Conversations on lawnchairs as the sun sets

12. Conversations online

13. Conversations with the Almighty One

14. Big, bold full moons

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