Gratitude

I have so much to share and so much to say (perhaps I should refrain from the latter), yet before I dive into the weeks since our month follow up visit in Houston, I had to share this brief interlude of today’s experience(s). In many ways, this brief post may capture the intensity, yet simpleness of the days since finding out that Andrew was indeed in remission and given the green light to go ahead and enjoy life until March, when the next set of scans are ordered.

 

Today:

First, I woke up with Langie snuggled in next to me. The days are long since passed that I even hear/feel her come in during the night and fewer and farther between, so its always such a special treat to smell her and hear her breathing when I stir. I truly felt deeply thankful for having her beside me as I quietly snuck out of bed to start the morning.

 

Secondly, today, the “Values” email that graces my inbox each morning was for “Gratitude” and here is the quote:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

-Melody Beattie

 

Then today, I was graced with three absolutely delightful emails of love and appreciation and thankfulness – gratitude from others. What a TREAT. 

 

The first came from a school administrator, who I also call a friend:

“I truly appreciate you!”

 

The second came from a dear friend from afar:

“I am missing you. Live Strong.”

 

The third arrived on my phone while I watched Chasie’s swim practice. I was feeling very emotional and I had a knot in my throat. Perhaps a knot for deep gratitude, perhaps a knot of deep sadness, perhaps a knot just ready to receive…it simply said:

“I love you”

 

I am humbled and I am filled with rich and real and true GRATITUDE.

Tomorrow, I am dedicating some of my day to expressing MY gratitude for the many, many blessings that hug and hold us, day to day. 

 

Love,

Brooke

 

A Samurai Warrior’s Creed

I have no parents – I make the heavens and earth my parents.

I have no home – I make awareness my home.

I have no life or death – I make the tides of  breathing my life or death.

I have no divine power – I make honesty my divine power.

I have no means – I make understanding my means.

I have no magic secrets – I make character my magic secret.

I have no body – I make endurance my body.

I have no eyes – I make flash of lightening my eyes.

I have no ears – I make sensibility my ears.

I have no limbs – I make promptness my limbs.

I have no strategy – I make “unshadowed by thought” my strategy.

I have no designs – I make “seizing opportunity by the forelock” my design.

I have no miracles – I make right action my miracles.

I have no principles – I make adaptability to all circumstances my principles.

I have no tactics – I make emptiness and fullness my tactics.

I have no talents – I make ready wit my talent.

I have no friends – I make my mind my friend.

I have no enemy – I make carelessness my enemy.

I have no armor – I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.

I have no castle – I make immoveable-mind my castle.

I have no sword – I make absence of self my sword.

– Anonymous Samurai, fourteenth century

Carpe Diem! If Not Now Then When?

6 weeks out from surgery. Brooke and I traveled to MD Anderson last week for my surgical follow up. Thankfully it went well. The surgeon was pleased and I am on track and recovering quickly. The one bit of concern was the persistent headaches and dizziness I have been wrestling with, a small cause for concern.

Brooke and I watched the surgeon’s face when I mentioned the headaches and dizziness, a flicker of concern, and he ordered a brain MRI to make sure I was clear. The MRI threw us for a loop. It was poignant reminder of how fragile we are, and that even with a good prognosis nothing is for certain when dealing with cancer. We had another 48 hours of “what if”, waiting for the results, holding our breath, and breathing through the uncertainty.

Thankfully the news from the MRI was positive, no issues. Most likely the headaches and dizziness are from a lingering sinus infection. Makes sense, my body has had other issues to worry about! So I started a round of antibiotics and the headaches and dizziness, although not entirely gone, seem to be receding.

Holding uncertainty is our new norm. Now, like so many other survivors, we play the cancer game. I am in remission and that is excellent, we stay vigilant for 5-years, get regular scans, and live as healthy a life as possible. Good diet, low stress, plenty of exercise, gratitude, and appreciation for everyday. Brooke and I can now let go of the constant fear and ease back into a “normal” life. Yet for me I feel as if I have walked through a looking glass. My life changed August 1st and it will never be the same.

As it turns out my cancer was farther along than previously thought. My first pathology report in Boulder said it was in situ, so early that a quick surgical procedure and I would be cured, a 100% survival rate in five years. My post surgical pathology revealed a bit more advanced nemesis, Stage 1B. The five-year survival rate for people with this stage, who have had my exact procedure and outcome, is 60%-80%. My surgeon said I should be on the “higher end” of that scale, I am relatively young, fit, and the tumor had not invaded the pleura or lymph’s. Good news. 

And yet, if you deal with %’s each day, as I have been trained to do, that still leaves risk on the table. 1-5 people, standing exactly where I am standing today, will be dead in 5 years. I don’t say that to be dramatic, it is just a fact. And while I am more than confident that I am solidly in the majority, I would be foolish not to be cognizant of this reality.

Like so many elements of this journey this too is a gift. I fully intend to live my life with the knowledge of another 40+ years ahead of me. At the same time if in 3 years I learn that I have stage 3 or 4 metastasized brain cancer I don’t want to have 1 minute of regret. Not 1 minute! I am not sure I can make that claim about the last 3, 5, or 7 years. I wonder how many people can?

I know that along the way I have made what I thought were meaningful sacrifices, trading X now for Y in the future. No more. I don’t want to have any “I wish I had…” spent time with my family or friends, time in nature, exercising, or investing in service to others. I do not want to waste another minute, personally or professionally, in areas that I am not completely passionate about.  Life is too short. The gift of this cancer is that standing facing my own mortality, I can no longer pretend otherwise. That genie will never go back in the bottle.

Isn’t that really the case for all of us? I wonder what the actual statistical percentage is for each of us once we pass 40 years of age? Life happens, illness, accidents, whatever…Maybe we all have an x% chance of survival in 5 years? Perhaps the only difference is that I have been given the gift of awareness to remain vigilant, to not slip back into the daily trance, the constant societal and cultural allure of “planning for the future at the expense of the present”.

As all the great spiritual and wisdom traditions teach us, death can come at any time for each of us, “this body too shall be a corpse”. The trick is to never forget the timeless wisdom, to live everyday as if this were our last. Carpe Diem!

 

 

 

 

Servent Leadership

I read a short passage from a daily bible reference this morning. It offered a model of leadership in service to others. In so many different religious traditions the message is repeated often and very clear. To lead is to serve others before yourself, everything else is the use of power for personal gain. Interesting to consider as we watch the machinations of both political parties in Washington pursuing their own agendas for their own personal and political gain at the expense of the welfare of the Republic.

Go the extra mile in service of others…

Jesus speaking to his disciples in –

You know the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as ransom for many.

Matthew 20:25

Ode to Brooke

Brooke has been amazing over these last 2+ months.  I cannot imagine this journey without her by my side, supporting and loving me while also holding and supporting our 3 precious children. It has been an extraordinary time. Cancer is unlike anything I have previously experienced. It has been trying and stressful on all of us in many different and unexpected ways. And in many respects our journey has just begun. The love and connection we share as a family is the foundation that holds us strong.

Recently as Brooke’s  birthday approached she was very clear, with me and her friends, that she wanted a simple and quiet day, no fanfare. We exchanged a few presents, and the kids made some really special cards. I decided to also mark all that is special about Brooke and honor her through the written word. This is not award winning verse by any means, yet I have tried to capture and share her unique essence. With love and gratitude…

Bright rays of light

warm as the suns glow

expanding to fill the space.

Radiant smile, sharing warmth and ease.

Musical laugh, disarming and opening,

offering others to feel their own joy.

Quick to care for all,

action and deed manifesting a hearts calling.

A balm for you, a gift too so many.

Mama lioness, soft and fierce,

nurturing with firm resolve.

Driven with spirit, yielding with love.

Strength, commitment, focus, integrity.

Love, sister, partner.

Nourish the circle, feel your light

Holding…deep vulnerability

I was a horrible mom last night. I went to bed with a sick stomach and heavy heart after yelling at the girls and getting upset with Miller. I literally couldn’t get out of my own way. I watched myself getting upset, at the time feeling so justified in my frustration and angst. The clothes all over the floor of every room, the mess in every corner, the lack of respect for me nor listening to a word I say – a nd yet, no one deserves to be yelled at. No child deserves to have their sweet innocence poisoned by a mother who is so tired and so scared. You see, I am holding. At times I am not sure all that I am holding, yet I catch myself with my shoulders practically touching my ear lobes. I am so tired, and truth be told, I am scared. So scared. I have been scared for weeks and weeks now. And I haven’t wanted to say it out loud or to anyone with too much emphasis. Andrew’s surgery was a success, and I am still scared. Andrew’s prognosis is good, and I am still scared.

 

I feel weak. I work hard each day to have perspective and believe me, I KNOW how lucky we are. I KNOW how fortunate we are that Andrew’s lung cancer was found incidentally, and as such, his survival rate is far greater than it would have been if it hadn’t been found so early. And I am truly grateful. Deeply grateful, in fact. And yet, for some reason, I still feel this deep underlying fear. I pray, I give of myself to others, I pray some more, and I am still scared. It doesn’t consume my waking hours, and yet it has exhausted me.

 

It was my birthday earlier this week, and my gift to myself? NO plans. NO commitments. NO obligations. As graciously and as gracefully as possible, I declined the amazing and generous offers from dear friends to celebrate me, nurture me, give to me. And I spent much of my birthday sleeping. I am truly tired. I have napped every day this week and gone to bed early each night. I can’t seem to get enough sleep. While Andrew needs very little physically from me now (he is more than capable of making his own food, has started to drive his car, can help with the dishes, folding laundry, etc), there is still so much “holding” for me to do. When I am not home with him, he is never far from my thoughts and heart. I worry about him. I question my ability to be his best possible partner during this time. I lack confidence in how to best help him bridge this time between diagnosis and the current stage of remission and the future, as a cancer survivor. Apparently, there is a real deal psychic “holding” that goes on, that is quite taxing. At least for me. I am humbled by this process. I am also embarrassed that it seems to take so much out of me. I would like to think and believe that the sheer magnitude of gratitude that I feel each day for Andrew’s incredible story and long-term prognosis would be enough to carry me and fill me up. Yet, I am tired. And I am still scared.

I adore this man. He is courageous and marvelous. He is smart and beautiful. And he feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to be given this new lease on life, this “second chance”. He does not take it lightly. Nor do I. Yet, it is exhausting. I do not say that with an ounce of complaint. I am grateful for this deep exhaustion. I am grateful for the opportunity to feel so deeply, and to also feel so alive with my fears. Yet, I am tired. And scared

I was a horrible mother last night. I woke up with a clear head this morning and started my apologies with Lang, who is our first to rise. We sat on the floor of the kitchen while our tea water boiled. We hugged and hugged, and I whispered in her ear. I apologized for being harsh. I apologized for not being stronger, for not knowing when to walk away to sit with my fears, rather than project them onto her. I thanked her for being such an incredible light and embodiment of joy and love and for gracing me with the honor of being her mother. I did the same with Chase when she got up. And I had some time with Miller later in the morning to express my apologies. Lang and Chase could barely recall what I was so apologetic about and yet they hugged me with incredible vigor and strength and Miller responded with deep emotions. We are all holding a lot right now. We are vulnerable. I am FAR from perfect, and yet I hope that I am learning and growing.

I pray to surrender more to the vulnerability and magnificence of this time. I pray for strength. I pray for understanding. I pray for wisdom in how to best support my precious Andrew. I pray for courage as we go forward in this lifetime as changed individuals, as a changed couple, and as a changed family. I pray for patience in my parenting. I pray that Andrew remains in remission for many, many years to come.

We go to Houston on Monday  morning. Its time for Andrew’s surgical month follow-up and while I have great faith and trust in the grand plan, I am also scared.

 

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

-Brene  Brown

 

Good night. Today was a much better day. I believe that tomorrow will be even better.

Love,
Brooke