Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The View

As I laid there in bed, it felt as if his arm was burning into my skin.  He felt so hot.

My heart started racing and I recalled the last time when Steven's skin burned mine while lying in bed.  May 2015.  A trip to the emergency room and some blood work later and we learned he had relapsed.  As I felt my stomach start to turn, I was reminded that Steven had told me that he had gotten physically ill twice this week, and he had blamed it on the pain meds.  In May 2015, Steven had been vomiting intermittently leading up to his relapse...and the doctor later blamed recurring disease.

Recurring disease.  Disease that had showed up only 8 weeks after a clean bone marrow biopsy.

In a time when my mind had started focusing on the battle in front of us-hip replacements, I think I had grown too battle worn to focus on the reason for this war.  My heart rate kept increasing and I thought I would be ill as I felt the last two years play through my mind like a movie reel.  I counted back the weeks since Steven's biopsy and knew we were right at the six week mark.  Six weeks...more than enough time for things to change. 
Unable to stand the anxiety anymore, I sat up in bed and turned towards the sleeping Steven.  I put my hand on his forehead, and then his cheeks, searching for a confirmation of the fever I feared was there.  He stirred and turned away, in an unconscious effort to remove my hand from his face.

His face felt cool.

Steven continued sleeping and I knew I couldn't.  Lying there in bed my mind would not be silenced.  I went into the living room and sat in the recliner, in the stillness, and took in my surroundings: my home. 

My prayers for Steven's continued health turned into prayers of thankfulness that I was sitting in my home, with my children in their rooms, sleeping soundly.  I also prayed, with fear clenching my heart in a way that I hadn't felt in a while, that God would spare us all from revisiting the hell that we had been through two times before.

*****

I am unsure as to why I have experienced a resurgence of the anxiety, fear and depression lately, but I am sure some of it is self induced.  As I wrote before, sometimes our minds are our own worst enemy.  Expectations should never be made because they only set you up for failure, and yet time and time again, we have them.  Expecting life (and Steven and I) to get back to normal is probably the biggest culprit.

Steven's personality is altered by the withdrawal of prednisone. (One more week and he will be completely off of it.)  I think this is a fairly common occurrence, and he is not alone in this phenomenon.  However, surprisingly, he is unaware of the change and says he doesn't notice the increased agitation.  He knows it's happening because those of us that live with him have told him...and we (halfway) joke about keeping our distance.  Sometimes this exacerbates the problem, but it is a lose/lose situation either way.

Positivity that once was Steven's trademark has been traded in for negativity.  His normal laughing demeanor and mischievous eyes, turn harsh and cool.  No conversation goes without him putting this new stamp on it, which, at times, leaves me avoiding conversation entirely.

I know that this will pass, and that the pain he is experiencing magnifies it all.  If I had severe pain that prevented me from being who I have always been, I would not be the most uplifting person to be around either. 

I do not fault him for any of this.

But I do feel it.

And I miss my husband...even when he is lying next to me in bed. 

I do get to see the "old Steven" when he is visiting with friends, mainly because I think it's easier for us to slip into a different persona when dealing with those that aren't privy to the ins and outs of our day to day occurrences.  I believe this is normal and, honestly, I am glad that it is.  Not only does it allow me glimpses of Steven's humor and charm, it reassures me that he is still Steven.

And I so love Steven.  I do.

In sickness and in health.


*****

Please know that this is, in no way, an attempt at gaining sympathy, or painting a picture of "poor, poor pitiful me."  (Anyone who sees me and all my excitement at the kids ballgames can attest to the fact that I am not a fading flower.)  In fact, I don't really know why I needed to even put this in words other than it being my mind's way of sorting out all the clutter that is inside it.  I had a nurse in St. Louis once stop me and explain that she had found my blog and she asked if she could print off certain posts for family members of her patients.  She explained that she believed it would be beneficial to them to see someone that is on the same path, and to gain comfort in knowing they weren't alone. 

I don't necessarily believe that this post is one of those posts, but who knows?  It might be.  If I only shared the upside to the transplant/recovery process, it would be a disservice to anyone who might have walked a similar path.  There are downsides, albeit in contrast to leukemia, they don't hold much weight. 

This process isn't one that is over once you hear the word "remission", although how amazing would it be if it were?  This is a new life for us.  A "new normal" to quote an overused term.  Medications, doctor's appointments, restrictions, etc. is part of our day to day life, and we are barely 40.  Although necessary, there is nothing normal about this process...  The transplant, the chemo, the medications, the effects?  None of it normal.

But we are here.  And we are still moving forward.

One thing is certain: the view up ahead looks a lot more promising than the view looking back.







Friday, September 30, 2016

Blinded by the Light

Yesterday, after being kind of down all week, I had a couple of hours alone.
 
This NEVER happens.
 
I found myself actually returning to bed, burying my head in the covers and forming my own little pity party. As I laid there, I started thinking about all the ways that my life is...well...less than fun, right now. However, I noticed that each time I wanted to wallow and dwell on all the "bad" circumstances, and the separation I feel from everyone else, I kept finding my thoughts turned to all the many ways my family has been blessed, and all the people that had blessed us.
 
Try as I might, although I still felt down, I knew that I had no reason to feel this way and that I had fallen into a trap of feeling sorry for myself.  It's so easy to do.


Each of us have things in our life that we feel alone in.  I am sure of it.  Whether it is health, finances, jobs, relationships, children...we all have things that we wish were better.  It is easy to stew about those things which causes our mindset to change.  Once you start finding fault, or falling victim, (whatever the case may be), it is easy to start adding to the pile.  Or at least it is for me.

 
 
Yesterday I emailed Steven's nurse and updated her on the condition of his hips.  The appointment for his orthopedic doctor is on Tuesday, and we both know that surgery is inevitable.  I shared with the nurse that Steven's pain level has increased dramatically, probably in part to the tapering of the steroids (which probably helped to mask the inflammation.)  He is now taking pain pills to take the edge off and is using crutches inside the house.  Of course, in public, he will not use anything to assist him walking, therefore we are limited in what we do, or where we go.  Thankfully, because he knows how much he missed with the kids when we were in St. Louis, it is still a priority to go to all their ballgames, and he still hasn't missed one.  This is so important to the kids, and me.

I also shared that Steven's knees and shoulders had started to ache as well, and questioned if this could also be due to bone damage, all the while dreading her answer.  And...well, while we were on the subject, there was this issue of a sore throat that he had been having...
 
Head, shoulders, knees and hips...knees and hips.   (Sing with me now.)
 
Suddenly, because of my own doing, I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, despite the fact that I was basking in it.
 
*****
 
I spent the time in St. Louis praying for the day when my husband was cancer free.  It is all I longed for, and what I prayed for. 
 
He is currently cancer free.
 
This past week I started losing sight of how far we had came and started only looking at how far we have yet to go.  I would like to say that my feelings were prompted by such heartbreak over Steven's pain...but that wouldn't be entirely true.  Although I hate seeing him hurt, it would be much more honest of me to admit that the theme at my pity party was probably celebrating poor, pitiful me.  Poor Kim, she has to do this.  Poor Kim, she has to do that.  Poor Kim, she wants to be able to do these things with her husband.   
 
Poor Kim...when will anyone ever take care of her? 
 
Oh yes.  It was a great party.  Aren't you sorry you weren't there?

Thankfully, as I stated, the party was crashed with reminders of blessings that have rained down like confetti, making this journey all the more bearable and colorful.  I knew that my mindset had to change.  It isn't "poor Kim" at all...  No, in fact, Kim is so very fortunate and she needed to realize it. 
 
And so, although not easily, I. Realized. It.  I got up, got moving, said a prayer of thankfulness, and carried on.
 
I decided to purposefully look upon all the good things in our lives.  How could I, of all people, fail to see how lucky Steven and I are?  If nothing else...we are home.  It is far too easy to look out into this world and find those who are struggling much more than I am.  Than Steven is.


Sadly, we are far from being the only people with trials.  In fact, it would be much harder to look out into the world and find someone without them.  Impossible, actually.  There is more than enough suffering to go around...  I hope to maintain this clarity, and I will strive to help carry someone else's burden or lighten someone else's load.  It is, in all actuality, the best way to make you put down your own.
 
Who knows, maybe I will even forget where I placed it.

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dear Donor


Dear Donor,

I have tried to mentally compose what I would say to you if this day ever came.  In fact, once, only a few weeks ago, I sat down at the computer to start putting those thoughts into words.  And then I stopped myself.  Although my husband was doing well, it felt as if writing a letter that can only be sent after someone reaches the one year milestone, might be tempting fate.

Although, honestly, I don’t know that I believe in fate. 

What I do believe in?   God.   Prayers.   Mercy.   Miracles.  And the unbelievable selflessness that was shown to us by a stranger- you.

Two years ago, my husband started feeling more tired than usual and blamed it on a cold that he couldn’t get rid of.  He was a self-employed fence builder and worked as a contract laborer building pipe fence around power substations.  It was hot outside and he was welding.  We blamed his fatigue on that, but this was my husband, and we should have known better.

*****

You see, my husband has always been a bit super human and had survived both a bull-riding accident that severed his liver, as well as a tractor flipping over on top of him, breaking his leg.  He was the hardest worker I had ever known and solid muscle.  He rose before 5 a.m. to leave for work and many nights, didn’t come home from work until after 8.  Dedication to his family was a priority, as was providing for them. 

In fact, this is what he was known for, aside from his handlebar mustache - being a hard worker and being an AMAZING father.

*****

On September 5, 2014 we found out that it wasn’t a cold.  Or his heart.  Or mono.  No, my husband, the definition of health, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia-AML.  In one moment, our world crashed down around us.  I remember telling the kids that their daddy had leukemia and our son, 9 years old at the time, said “That’s CANCER!”  The fear in his voice only mirrored the fear in our hearts.

Shortly after his diagnosis it became obvious that he would need a stem cell transplant to have any chance at survival.  My husband and I traveled three hours from home and stayed there for four months, separated from our children, while he received treatment and his first transplant.  The first transplant was a blessing in more ways than one.  The stem cells were from his brother, from which he had been estranged.  The two siblings were brought back together.

Yet, despite the blessings, five months later my husband relapsed.

In an effort to get him back into remission he underwent intensive chemo once again, and this time you could see the devastation his body was enduring.  Throughout his prior hospitalizations and transplants, he would get up every day, put his clothes on and treat it as any other day…determined that it would be.  However, after his relapse, his body just wasn’t able to do that.  My husband, previously 165 lbs., weighed in at 113 lbs.  The super human before me looked like anything but.  And, for the first time, even he doubted that he could make it through this horrible disease.  Although we were never without hope, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that hope had started to fade somewhat.  

When the doctors started looking for another donor in May 2015, after his relapse, we found that the only 10/10 match could not be located.  They started looking at the possibility of having to go with donor that wasn’t a perfect match, but were hesitant to do so.  In the meantime, my husband underwent more chemo, closer to home, in an effort to prevent the leukemia from getting worse.

About the same time that we found out that the chemo had been successful in almost completely eliminating any trace of the mutated gene that caused his cancer, which was unexpected, we also were told that a 10/10 match was located.  YOU. 

*****

Last year, when everyone else was thinking about celebrating Labor Day, you were getting ready to be a miracle worker.  A potential life saver.

As we prepared to travel the three hours back to the hospital to begin treatment to prepare my husband’s body for transplant, our hometown, who had rose up in support of our family, was reminded to pray for you, the donor, during this process. 

I hope you felt those prayers that day, and every day since.

You have changed my life and I didn’t have cancer.  Both of my children are changed forever, and they didn’t have cancer.  And, it goes without saying, my husband was changed physically, and emotionally, because of you and he DID have cancer.

But he doesn’t today.  Thanks to you.

You have allowed my family 365+ more days as a family of four that we wouldn’t have had without you.  You have caused our eyes and heart to be opened to the selflessness of strangers around us.  You have made this big world, smaller, and reminded our family how we are ALL deeply connected.

This year, the year that my husband wouldn’t have had without your gift, we have gone on a family vacation to Gulf Shores. He was able to spend summer break with his children. Because of you, we have had more time to laugh together, play together and love together.  My husband has been able to go and watch our kid’s baseball, volleyball and basketball games.  He has been able to enjoy the farm and family he had worked his whole life for.  My children and I have been able to see his physical body recover, and because of your gift, I hope that their mind can erase the image of their daddy when he was so ill.  You have allowed us a year to fully appreciate the outpouring of love, support and kindness that has been shown to us, and you have given us hope that one day, we will be able to repay it all. 

You have allowed others, through our experience, to better appreciate the gift of life.  You have given us hope that this story we have shared might have a happy ending.  You have given others hope, through my husband.  You have motivated others to register to become donors because you so selflessly were.

In short, YOU have changed the world.

It might sound too grandiose to be believed.  I will be the first to admit that we live in a small town that most have never heard of, and in comparison to others, our “world” is pretty small.  That being said, the world is changed one person at a time and YOU have changed many, many people.  Yes, the actions of a person that we have never met have altered multiple lives.  Family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and people that have joined us on this journey have ALL been changed by YOU, through your gift to my husband.

My heart is full and I know I am failing at adequately conveying what my family wishes to say.  “Thank you” is not sufficient.  In fact, I don’t know any word in the English language that is.  Whatever your life holds, know that you have already made an impact that many will never have the chance to make.  You are, in every sense of the word, a hero.  Mine.  My children’s.  And, of course, my husband’s.

*****

There are so many times that our family has mentioned you in conversation.  Whether it was because my husband, after 42 years, suddenly developed a liking to Chinese food, or because of some new interest he picked up… you, the donor, are brought up, wondering if we can in fact, attribute these new qualities to you.  We wonder if there are physical or characteristic similarities.  We contemplate whether or not you share his amazing (yet sometimes maddening) sense of humor.  We think about the circumstances that prompted you to register as a donor.  And the kids and I wonder if you know what an amazing man you saved and what an amazing man you are.

I hope you do.

I pray you do.

There just aren’t words enough to express it…so I will just end it with:

With humbling and inexpressible gratitude,

Your recipient’s wife

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Imprinted On My Heart

Saturday, September 10, 2016, Steven celebrated his first re-birthday.  It was a day that the kids and I, and I am certain Steven as well, had hoped and dreamed about.  Making it a year seemed a milestone that, this winter, seemed almost unreachable.

Weeks, marked off by trips to St. Louis, passed and gave way to months...and now we have found ourselves at the year mark.  And it seems surreal. 

*****

A few months after Steven's first transplant, I naively thought about all the ways we would celebrate him making it to a year...  I wanted to include everyone that had supported us and helped us and cheered us on along the way.  I wanted each and every person to be able to be thanked, appropriately, by us.  I wanted us to celebrate the amazing care, concern and generosity shown to us by others, AND celebrate Steven's good health.

However, as we now know, that milestone wasn't to be reached, and a lesson was learned. 

Even after seeing first hand the fragileness of life, I had, only months removed from a hospital, began planning the future as if it were guaranteed.  Of all people, I should have known better.  So much better.

However, I think that this is a flaw that most of us have.  We are surrounded with news stories depicting tragedies everyday.  We all know someone whose life was altered suddenly, without warning.  And yet, we get up each day and expect to do the same tomorrow.

I am trying to be more aware and appreciative of each moment, regardless of how ordinary it is.  Months went by that I longed for ordinary, and now, I am choosing to embrace it.

*****

As Saturday approached, no parties were planned.  The year mark was ushered in quietly, but with incredible thankfulness.  As I woke up next to my husband, I turned to him and wished him a "Happy Re-Birthday" and thought of how different the view was, one year later. 

Steven got up and started getting ready for the day ahead. 

You see, it is appropriate that on "Steven's day", the kids were the center of our attention and efforts as Steven wouldn't want it any other way.  Our kids have always ranked Community Days just under "Christmas and birthdays" when it came to excitement and fun and incidentally, Conway was celebrating Community Days this past weekend, at the same time we, as a family, were celebrating Steven reaching his first big milestone. 

We hadn't been able to go with the kids to Community Days for the previous two years, as Steven was in the hospital both times.  This year was special as we were able to, once again, share this beloved tradition with our kids.



Lakyn and I sat with family and watched the parade, waiting for Steven and Blake to make their appearance.








Blake had recently purchased his own tractor with money that he had made selling his calves and was extremely excited to show it off at the parade.  Steven rode beside Blake on an axel, allowing Blake to sit tall (and independently) in the driver's seat.  As he drove past, enthusiastically waving at everyone, you would almost think that he was running for office, and I couldn't contain my smile...   I joked with Blake about wearing out his arm waving, and he said he couldn't help it..."everyone is just SO nice!!"

And he is right.  They are.  If we have learned anything these past two years it is that, most people, are SO nice.


Of course, it wouldn't be Community Days without a turtle race and Steven had collected turtles for a week.  In fact, Friday morning he retrieved one and it "bailed" off the back of his truck as he was bringing it home.  Luckily we found it, in the driveway, and it's escape attempts were unsuccessful.



Lakyn was unsure whether or not she would be considered "too old" to participate, but picked a turtle just in case.  Luckily there were no age restrictions, and Lakyn wasn't too old, therefore we figured that Grady wasn't too young.  This worked out nicely for Grady, since his turtle won it's "heat".  At six months old, he made a smooth $6 in the turtle race, which wasn't too shabby. 



Blake's turtle also won it's race, which increased his spending cash by $6 as well. However, that didn't last long since there is always something to spend your money (and your parent's money) on at Community Days.




As the boys loaded up to head home and rest a bit before coming back that evening, Lakyn and I bought a funnel cake and decided that it would be our "re-birthday cake".  We ate it on the way home, following the boys, and our friends, Jerry and Sharon, the whole way home.  The sight was something I enjoyed, and appreciated.  


Lakyn even climbed out the sun roof to capture the moment.
 

And, of course, returning home never gets old.
 
 
 
*****
 
Later in the afternoon, when we returned, Lakyn, who had been working at a booth raising money for her class trip to DC, continued to make sales.
 

 
Then, while taking a break, she walked over to me, in front of her friends, and gave me a hug - a good, long hug.  Being in no hurry to break apart, she held me, or I held her (I am not sure which), for quite some time.  It didn't escape my notice that my girl...my baby girl, was as tall as I was. 

In that moment I wanted to cry at the realization of the all the things she had been through and the woman she was turning into, and I wanted to curse my inability to make time stand still
 
*****
 
Later that evening Blake asked me if I would ride the carousel with him, and I agreed.  My heart warmed as he grabbed my hand and I couldn't help but realize that I am already on borrowed time.  The fact that he hasn't already became "too cool" or "too big" for this is surprising, and I mentally vowed to imprint the feeling of his hand into my mind.  And heart.

We waited in line and discussed which animal we wanted to get, and I decided that I wanted to ride the chicken.  Although he was previously wanting the lion, he told me he wanted me to get to ride on the one I wanted....  As if it mattered.  It was as though my sweet boy didn't realize that I didn't care about the carousel ride at all...I just wanted to be with him.  Especially because he wanted to be with me.
 
As the carousel took off I was surrounded by music from my high school days.  Being physically unable to refrain from singing along with a song I know (it has to be an actual medical condition), I belted out the song while riding the carousel and found Blake just looking at me as then leaned over and rubbed my back.  I smiled at him and asked if I was embarrassing him.
 
He claimed I wasn't, although I think he might have been trying to spare my feelings.

As he continued to rub my back and shoulders and look at me, I asked him why he was staring.  He told me, in complete earnest, that he wasn't quite sure what he should be doing at this time...  He didn't know if he should just watch me, or attempt to sing with me - even though he didn't know the song, and had decided that instead, he would just rub my back as I sang.

And so he did.

 

As the ride came to an end, he leaned over and said, "I love you, momma", and gave me a kiss right there on the carousel.  My heart exploded into a million pieces.  I wondered, had I not missed this tradition with my kids - two years in a row, if I would have taken the time to go stand in line and ride this child's ride with my son.  Would I have stepped back and taken note of the importance of his invitation?
 
Honestly, I don't know.  In fact, I don't know if Blake would have asked me to ride with him had our last two years been anything other than what they were.  I don't know if Lakyn would hug me and hold on, despite being surrounded by friends.  Maybe they would have already outgrown this need of me.  Maybe they wouldn't understand and appreciate the presence of their parents. 
 
I will never know what my children would have been like had our lives not been altered the way they have.  Has it changed them for the better?  The worse?  I am not sure. 

I do know, however, that they have a daddy that will never take for granted his time with them and a mommy who is trying her very best to slow down enough to let them love her...  I can not imagine having missed this weekend with my kids, and neither can Steven.

This time together was the very best "re-birthday" present ever and I hope this tradition never ends.

 
Community Days -2007
 
 
Community Days - 2009

 
Community Days - 2009
 

 Community Days - 2010


  Community Days - 2010
 

Community Days - 2012
 

Community Days - 2013
 




 



Monday, August 22, 2016

Living Color

Today we are officially two weeks away from the two year anniversary of Steven's diagnosis.

Two years.

It is hard to wrap my head around that, seemingly, large passage of time, because for us, time stood still...  We missed events, people, anniversaries, birthdays and the day to day occurrences that most people take for granted.  Our world was, and our days were, dictated by disease.

All I need to do is look at my children to see what I missed and what I lost.  In the midst of treatments and remission, relapse and results my children kept growing and kept doing.  For much of this, I was absent.

However, all I need to do is look at myself, my husband, my children, and the world around me, to see what I have gained. 

*****

I have always tried to be a good person - a good human.   Some days I did a better job than others.  Every day I fell short.  However, after Steven's diagnosis, I realized just how short I had fallen.

There is something about cancer, and it's diagnosis, that magnifies every emotion a person can experience.  It is almost as if our senses are heightened to every stimulation. Maybe it isn't cancer, per say, but death. 

It makes sense, after all. 

My senses were heightened after giving birth, and my heart thought it would explode with the new discovery of love.  Why wouldn't those same senses be heightened when "living" death? 

When you stand to lose the only life you've ever known, every sense you have is raw and exposed.  However, during this period of exposure, every stimulation took on new life.  A kind word could shape an entire day.  The offering of hope could redirect thoughts.  An unexpected act of generosity could reform every preconceived notion that had been held about this world we live in.

And this heightened awareness started to reform me.

The more I was "given", the more I wanted to give.  It was the only way to balance out the emotions that assaulted me.  Thankfully, and sadly, you don't have to look hard outside of yourself to find people who are in greater need than you.  The world is full of those who are in need of love, money, friends, hope, understanding or perspective.  Granted, some of those things are easier to give than others, but all are in desperate need.

In fact, I believe that world reformation starts when we look first at the needs of others.

*****

I can say that my perspective has completely changed and this change has tilted my world on it's axis.  The things I once believed were important continue to fade day by day, the people I once held the closest I have relinquished back unto themselves and the time that I once prayed to stand still now moves forward and I am thankful to have made it, successfully, through one more day.

Each day I continue to grow.  And some days, I take a giant step backward.  However, even on those days, I can't unlearn the things I have learned, and that alone holds me accountable.

While we are all free to give love, money, friendship, hope and understanding to those around us, we can't give someone perspective.  But life can, and does, give us that.

People will, by nature, only see what they want to see until they are forced to do otherwise.  Some people live their entire lives and never are.

I used to be consumed with frustration by people like this - those who failed to see the results of their self centeredness on the world around them.  Now I know that God will open their eyes in His time as He continually opens mine.

I used to want to plan, and formulate, and manage every aspect of my life so that it would go smoothly, without incident.  Life forced me to see that only God plans lives and lives without incident aren't really lived. 

I used to be very unforgiving of myself, and sometimes others, when my high standards weren't met.  Life has shown me the only standards that matter are God's.  I have to remind myself of this constantly, but my heart is more open to accept it now.

*****

I have so much work to do on myself as a person, but the last two years have been a crash course that I needed. A boot camp of sorts.  I wish I could have learned what I have learned without the pain, suffering and anxiety that it caused me, Steven, our children, and others, but I am forever grateful I learned it.

Some never do.

Almost two years later and I am not sure the old Kim would recognize herself.  (And I am not just talking about the weight I put on eating my feelings and sitting around a hospital...) Although it didn't come without a price, I don't want to go back to my old mindset.

And, honestly, I feel sorry for those who continue to live in their own, small, black and white world, where the biggest concern is theirs...  How sad.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hardbound Memories

Back in the olden days, long before "the l word" entered our life, I used this blog as a way to record random bits and pieces of our family's life, and record my thoughts.  (I can't blame my family for those.)  I was initially coerced into starting one, and those who strong armed me wrote too.  Then they stopped and I continued.  Of course, only a handful of people ever read what I wrote, (and even that is probably being generous) and honestly, no one cared.

And that was ok.  That wasn't why I wrote.

My blog wasn't something I promoted or even really told people about.  Only those who shared an interest in blogging generally stopped by, or a friend or two that kept caught up on the freak show that was sometimes my life.

After a few years went by, my mom discovered I wrote (long story) and inadvertently shared my blog with most of her email contacts. 

Yeah.

So, in return, I did some quick house cleaning to make sure that I hadn't wrote something that would embarrass someone...and called it good.  I was ok with embarrassing myself, just not embarrassing others.  My mom also started printing out books of each year's blog posts and putting them into hardbound books and giving them to me to keep.

What began as a thoughtless, mindless avenue to vent, brag, relive and review became a tangible item to scrutinize and dissect.   Coincidentally (or not...), I also stopped writing as much. 

Then, Sept. 2014, my husband was diagnosed with leukemia.  I couldn't process it all.  My life turned into one that I didn't want to live and yet, there I was.  And there he was.  And our kids?  Well, there they were too, being shuffled between home and hospital and living with their aunt and uncle. I started to write again in an effort to keep everyone "in the loop" but it transformed into a place where I would try and process the current situation, and many times I felt as if someone else had done the writing.  I would re-read what was written and try to take my own advice.  

Many times the advice that I "gave" myself included encouragement to get back out into life and live.  Slowly, little by little, that has been just what I have been doing.  And it feels good.

I don't want my kids to look back through these hard bound books that contain snapshots of our lives and someday believe that our days were devoid of any normalcy and happiness from September 2014 on.

They weren't.  They aren't.

Although, as Steven admitted this weekend, worst case scenario thoughts are always there and bring fear and anxiety daily.  The "what ifs" can not be escaped.  Day to day life often brings with it thoughts of the future and ours is still very uncertain.  Steven confessed to wondering about, and worrying about, the ramifications if blasts were to show up when he has blood drawn, or if leukemia was once again detected when he has his bone marrow biopsy in two weeks. 

And I worry too.

I always will.  I have written frequently about my anxiety and worries and the, sometimes, crippling fear, but I haven't written much about living these last two years.

And we are living.  Thank God, we are all, still here, living.

I have decided that living is just as good of a reason to write, and record, as worrying is.  Probably a better one, actually.

So, consider yourself warned.  Although I might not share all my posts on Facebook, if you happen onto my blog, the content might just be that of someone who is living this crazy life they were given...and trying to make the best of it.

After all, aren't we all just trying to do just that? 

You have all made living this life a little bit easier, and for that, I thank you.


 

Friday, July 08, 2016

Loosening my grip

In life, I found that I have always clung to the familiar.  The certain

That principle stood true when dealing with everything from foods, to friends, careers, and beliefs. However, looking back, it is hard not to be overwhelmed with the realization that I have spent so much energy in my life shielding myself from unfamiliar situations.  These situations ranged from not trying foods that I *think* I won't like, to avoiding people, places and situations that I wasn't familiar with.

Thankfully, not everyone is like this, and it's definitely a good thing.  I have found that I have held close many things in my life that I should have loosened my grip on years ago. 

Lately there has been a sadness that has lingered in my heart that I haven't been able to shake.  For the past (almost) two years, my emotions have primarily been dictated by Steven's health.  I have rarely felt sadness, joy, fear or anxiety about anything other than situations directly related to my husband's health and the subsequent well-being of my family.  However, lately, other emotions have started sneaking in. 

Maybe this is a good thing.  Maybe it's about time.  Maybe it's a sign that I have started moving forward...   Maybe.

Going through a major life changing situation forces you to loosen your grip on those that weren't willing to come with you through your journey.  My reach didn't extend far enough to hold on to them...

Unfortunately, cancer is not comfortable and I pray it isn't familiar to you.  Thankfully, it also isn't certain, which is why we are where we are today.

So I take a break from our journey, only to find that I am not the same person that I was when I started.  My eyes are opened wider.  My grip has loosened and I have let some things, and some people, go.  However, I have also reached out to others along the way.  I branched out.  I was forced to venture out into the unfamiliar.  I gave up on comfortable because I had found it was only an illusion, and at best, temporary. 

Today, while asking God to help me let loosen my grip on another circumstance and disappointment, it became so clear to me that holding on to things only prevents better things from being within your reach.  (And, yes, I know it's been said a million times.  Still, today, it felt that the message was meant for me.) I don't believe God intended for our hands to grasp things, but to be open to people.  I don't believe he meant for us to hold a few close, in turn preventing us from touching others. 

I can help people who couldn't help me. I can care about people who will not care about me.  I can open my eyes and see things clearer than before and be open to being led wherever God chooses...even if it is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. 

Yes, my grasp must be loosened. 

But, I probably still won't eat salad.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The message

As I stood in the shower covered in soap and shampoo, my mind went wild.  It started by recalling events of the previous baseball practice that Blake had, when in some sort of twist, connected in ways that even I don't understand, I found myself thinking about God, His voice and His will for us, and how we are to recognize it.

Seems like a stretch, doesn't it?  Imagine living in my head...

I stood there in the shower with water running down my back, reliving moments in the past.  Many moments of my past I wish I could forget, and the time since Steven's diagnosis takes up a space all it's own... Thinking about some of the things that we have been through, and seen, can be a stumbling block for me.  If I keep my eyes on today, the present, I do fairly well.  Usually.  However, the past and it's heartache, and the future and it's uncertainty, leaves me shaken. 

I have found that life leaves you two alternatives: finding strength, and the resolve to plant your feet to withstand the current or simply allowing the current to carry you away.  The current is powerful and comes in many forms.  Sometimes it is lethargy...and allowing the world to reduce you to a form that sits and observes as life passes you by.  Sometimes it is avoidance and denial...where you refuse to consider what 'might be'.  Sometimes the current is made up of the world and the desire to just wrap yourself up in the promises of what life offers if only your life had taken a different turn...and the emotions that envelope you when confronted with the fact that your life is what it is.  Yet your life is yours alone to determine what you do with it.

In the end, that is all that matters, right?  What we've done with this life we have been given.

*****

So, again, I was asking myself if I would know God's words, and will for me, when and if I heard them.  I was wondering if that unmistakable path of communication really existed for us...

This train of thought led me to, once more, think about the preacher and his visit to our house last August.  I put myself in his shoes and I thought about the anxiety that I would feel, pulling up to a home where two people I had never met lived...where one of them was inside, currently dying.  I thought about the awkwardness of introducing yourself to these people, only to declare that the Lord had sent you to tell them that cancer wouldn't win, and that the sick would be healed...  I thought about the nervousness that the drive over would contain, the mind spinning thoughts that played out every possible reception that might be given.  I imagined that I would wonder if the worries and the pain they were experiencing would cloud both their vision and hearing and that, instead of hope, blame might instead take root.

Then my mind settled on the fact that, despite anxiety, nervousness and uncertainty, something stronger had been at play that day in August.  Something was stronger than the possible ridicule, embarrassment, and backlash that he, the unknown preacher, might face, and that something, or someone, told him to "go".  And he listened...

*****

I have found that over time, it has become increasingly obvious that not everyone's mind works like mine does.  Not everyone thinks about the effect that actions, words, and attitudes have on others.  Not everyone thinks about the motives, and situations that push others to act a certain way.  Not everyone has their mind running wild trying to understand people and why they do what they do.  Not everyone would think about the preacher and what he was feeling when he knocked on our door, because they would be busy thinking about what they were feeling...

And that isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

Maybe those people are more free to do and say what they feel and think. Maybe there is a certain freedom in that way of thinking...or not thinking.

But my mind thinks.  Constantly.  And generally, it's in an attempt to understand. 

However, that day, in the shower, I wondered if I would ever be able to be like that preacher and cast all the doubts, and worries, and over-analyzing aside and find myself able to listen to, obey, and truly understand what I believed to be the voice, and will, of God

Surely His words could pierce through my scattered, never ending thoughts.  But would I hear Him?

Almost as if in an answer to my heart and mind's questioning, an image, almost like in a movie, flashed through my mind.  The memory was so clear and vivid. In that instance I knew that, without a doubt, God could speak to, and be heard by, me.  Yes.  Even me.

In fact, He already had.  How could I have forgotten...?

I saw myself sitting in a pew at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis. I had came to the 8 a.m. mass with my mom and dad, while Lakyn and Blake stayed back at the hospital with Steven.  It was the Sunday morning following our surprise admittance in October 2014, when we found that the chemo hadn't worked, and prior to Steven's first transplant.  That morning, in church, I am not sure that I heard much of anything that the priest said.  My thoughts were racing and my fears had me under their control.

I was in tears before the mass even started.  Shortly after it did I remember looking back as a young family, with four small kids, entered the pew behind us.  I wondered at their choice of seat considering the activity level of their children, their late entrance, and the open pews in many other places...places much less visible and in much further proximity from other church goers.  Still, I had other things to think about...meMy life.  My husband.  My kids.

I remember spending the entire mass praying and trying to make bargains with God although I was pretty sure He didn't work that way.  I promised to bridge gaps in relationships.  I promised to reach out to loved ones that I had let grow distant.  I promised to forgive those who I felt had done unforgivable things.  I promised so much...  I begged God to save my husband and each time I gave a reason why he deserved to be spared, it seemed as if God pointed me elsewhere.  As much as I tried to tell God why I needed Steven, and what I needed from Him, God kept showing me what others needed from me.

I cried.  I sat there during mass surrounded by a chapel full of strangers, and I cried.  I hated being weak and I tried to keep it under control.  I didn't want sympathy from my mom and dad, or even gentle touches of their reassurance.  I knew they couldn't give me the peace I needed and kindness made it even harder to keep myself in check. 

Throughout mass, my prayers were only interrupted by the sound of cries, talking, playing and banging on the wooden pew behind me, coming from the four young, restless children: the oldest, maybe four, and the youngest in a baby carrier.  I marveled at the young parents, and the number of kids with so few years separating them.  I would glance backwards, occasionally, wondering if there was any discipline that the parents would exercise, because the distraction was becoming increasingly apparent.  Here I was, in a church, begging for God's grace...and yet I was barely able to sort my thoughts for the sound of squeals behind me.  My mom looked over and gave me a knowing glance, letting me know that the kids were as big of a distraction to her as they had been to me.  I lowered my eyes, and again bowed my head.

During my prayers, I truly felt that God, by refusing to give me peace about Steven's situation, must be telling me that He wasn't going to see him through.  I wanted to hear Him, and feel Him say that Steven would be ok.  However, that morning, all I felt was desperate.  And alone.  

After mass I knelt down and said my final prayers.  I raised up and prepared to go.  I needed to get back to the hospital to make sure Steven, and the kids, were still ok.  The anxiety of being away from them had almost gotten too much to stand and I felt an urgency to get to them. I picked up my purse as the kids behind me were being wrangled by their parents in an effort to get them bundled up and out the door.

I turned to leave and it was then that I felt God speaking...and I knew it.  It made me uncomfortable and I didn't want to believe that it was Him.  So I hurried myself and mentally told myself all the reasons why I couldn't do what He wanted, or why I must have misunderstood Him, and began to leave. 

In that moment, the feeling was so strong it was almost as if someone had put their hand out and stopped me in my tracks.  I knew then that I had to follow through, or I would have a feeling of disobedience all day.  If not longer...

With mascara trailing down my cheeks, red eyes, and a face swollen from all the tears that had been shed over the previous five days, I turned and faced the overwhelmed young mother.  As she saw that I was turning and directing myself to her, she looked up at me with questioning and a bit of apprehension.  Rightly so.  I had glanced back throughout church, generally with tears in my eyes, and pain on my face, and I am sure that the sight hadn't felt overly warm or welcoming. 

Shamefully, maybe I hadn't intended it to be.

But in that instant I knew, with no doubts, what God wanted me to do and what I needed to say.  I looked at her and then looked at her children.  With tears in my eyes, I commented on how beautiful her children were, and I told her how amazing I thought it was that she made a point to get up, get her four small children ready for church, and come attend the 8 a.m. mass with her children and her husband at her side. 

As I continued talking, I could see her start to visibly relax, although she had to be wondering why this crazy woman, with crying eyes, had decided to start up conversation.  I told her that I had two children of my own, years older than hers, and that I knew what a struggle it was to get everybody ready and out the door on time.  I told her that I admired the determination she had to make sure that they made it to church, and that I was sure this importance would not be lost on her children.

She smiled and let out her breath which she had held, and nodded, seemingly both in acceptance of the compliment and in acceptance of the strain that she carried and held all through mass, when she knew that it would have been easier if they had just stayed home. In that moment, I could almost see the relief and I hope that my words fired her  determination to continue the Sunday morning battle, and beat the stress that, no doubt, attending services brought.  I believe that is what God intended my words to do...because they weren't my words.  They were His words and I was the voice.

I was the voice that didn't want to be used and had many reasons why:  I was physically a mess and I couldn't keep the tears from flooding my eyes.  I had my own problems.  I, myself, had fought irritation over their lack of obedience, and restlessness, while I was trying earnestly to talk to God.

Yet, God used those children, and their parents, to talk to me

In my life, I have never had a conviction as strong as that one and there was no doubt  who  was convicting me.

*****

I pray that the same held true for the preacher who claimed Steven's healing.  Despite a million reasons he had to stay away...he knocked on our door and shared his experience.  I often think about him and his words- the words that I have to believe were God's.

I hope that the woman and her children still attend church.  I hope that love and understanding floods everyone that sits near to them.  I pray that my heart may be open to hear the voice of God more often, because there has never been more peace than I had in that moment-the moment when I knew I had done as He willed me to do.

Although my words were meant for that family, I believe that God intended for my actions, and the humbling of myself, to be a lesson for me.  God, in that instant, showed me that it wasn't about what He could do for me, but rather, what I should do for Him.

I hope I never lose sight of that.

What hope, and what encouragement, would we all bring to others if we listened to God, and did as he asked?  What would our conversation looked like if we "talked" to God about someone other than ourselves? 

He is there.  I believe that if He is able to speak to me, through my strung together, and far off thoughts, He is able to speak to us all.

How has God spoken to you?




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

His Gift

This morning, while driving to work, I was admiring a rainbow that had formed after the early rain. My mind raced witha million thoughts, much like it does at nearly any given moment. However, one thought settled: This rainbow, was MY rainbow. A rainbow from God, for my birthday.
How corny is that? I had just decided that the rainbow before me, for the world to see, was meant just for me.

I realize it was ridiculous and I knew it even as I thought it, but that didn't keep my mind from continuing on. As I marveled at God's handiwork and majesty, the thoughts continued...

If this rainbow, my rainbow, was sent to me, WHAT was it's message? Was it the traditional promise that God wasn't going to let the rain (literal and figurative) keep falling? That there wouldn't be a flood? What message was God sending me, with the gift of a rainbow on my 40th birthday? (Yes, the gift that I had claimed as mine...)

So, I decided to google, "the biblical meaning of a rainbow". I wanted to know, in google's words, what the broadly accepted view was and what scholars had deemed the "right" message. And the answer? "A symbol of God's faithfulness and mercy".

Yes. A symbol which God gave "me" on my 40th birthday. My thoughts immediately clung to the coincidence of the "40". After experiencing rain for 40 days and 40 nights, Noah was "gifted" a rainbow. On my 40th birthday I was too.

40... Once again, I turned to Google, wondering the biblical relevance of 40, as determined by people much smarter than myself. I knew it was mentioned many times throughout the Bible, but what was the common thread? I found out that "40" in the Bible, generall represented a period of "testing, trial and probation".

So, today, on my 40th birthday, I am choosing to believe that God gave me a visible gift of His faithfulness and mercy, after this period of testing, trial and probation that my family has been through. I am clinging to the belief that God has already permanently healed Steven, and that I will continue to build on the faith that has been made stronger during my last "40".

Faithfulness and mercy. I couldn't think of a better gift.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Waiting

I was standing at the foot of my bed folding laundry that was still warm from the dryer.  I had called Blake in to join me so that I could talk to him about his upcoming birthday.

Admittedly, it was like my mind had unconsciously just blacked out that week on the calendar and I didn't even realize it.  Once I realized that it was three weeks away, it jarred me with the unexpectedness of it all.  

How had I failed to have it on my mom radar?  The weight of the oversight felt like it would crush me.  This was my son's birthday and I was his mother...and all these years I tried to never lose sight of the fact that when you are a child, you live for Christmas and your birthday.  There are all sorts of reasons this is true, and yes, I know gifts are one, but happiness and joy and being celebrated are all reasons too.

And I had failed to even think about his day of celebration.

I could offer up excuses.   For the past week, I have been trying not to think about the future at all.  The news last week of Steven's lowered counts, and the intensified fear of relapse, set me back to a place I hadn't been for awhile.  It's funny how it took me being in my bed with covers over my head, dreading the day ahead, sick to my stomach and fighting back tears and wishing I didn't have to get up, to realize how far I really had came in my recovery.

******

I started seeing a psychologist after returning home.  I needed somewhere to go with my pent up worries and fears and I knew that she couldn't take them away and that no one could, but I was willing to do anything that would help...and it sure wouldn't hurt.

After taking a "test" of very odd and random, yes-no questions, I was surprised with a few of my diagnoses.  Obviously, I was rated high on anxiety/depression.  That alone was pretty spot on and I didn't need that test to tell me that.  Not far behind, though, was PTSD and social aversion. 

The last week has given me perspective that I didn't have before.  Returning to where I was, reminded me where I had been and I had came a long way.  I didn't avoid going to the grocery store or Wal-Mart, or to a public place.  I enjoyed going to my kids' ballgames.  I would leave the house to go out and eat with family.

In fact, I had returned to work in January,  and had forced myself to act "normal" since then.  However, in hindsight I now realize I was acting less and less.

Yes. I had definitely gotten better, but each day this week has been a struggle and many days I went to bed feeling like I had lost the battle.  Letting my mind linger too long on the "what if" of relapse was enough to paralyze me all over again.  The fear of being separated from my kids and the fear of losing my husband had me regressing and returning to the place where I had once been before and I know my kids deserve better. 

*****

As I folded a pair of Blake's jeans I looked at him and said with excitement, "So...what do you want for your birthday, buddy?"

He looked at me and his face grew red.  Then his eyes got glossy.

I knew what was coming and I started towards him.

"What?  Why are you about to cry?"

As the dam burst he shared that all he wanted for his birthday was for his "daddy to be ok". I told him that was all I wanted too, and that, right now, he was.  Right then, in that moment, his daddy was at home, and healthy, and active.

In an avalanche of emotions he released feelings that had been kept inside-probably some for almost a year and he spoke of how he felt like we "always" missed his birthday since Steven's illness. Even before I could gently remind him that only one birthday had passed since Steven's diagnosis, and that we had made it home from the hospital last year in time for it...or remind him that even though we had to leave the party early to go back to St. Louis that evening, we made sure that everyone stayed and the party went on, Blake, still crying, but in a wisdom beyond his ten years, realized all that himself and said..."It isn't that.  That's not what I meant.  It's just...I guess...bad memories."

And my heart shattered.

Because, oh, how I knew of the bad memories.  Suddenly, I wasn't so surprised that I hadn't thought of Blake's birthday.  That day...that painful day.  Blake playing outside, cake and presents sitting around, people laughing in the other room...and Steven sitting at the kitchen table telling me that he felt like his 113.6 pound body was shutting down on him and that he wasn't going back to St. Louis - because he wanted to just stay home and die.

Yeah.  Bad memories.

Although Blake's memories aren't the same as mine, and he doesn't know about his daddy's feelings that night, he knows that his daddy was so very sick.  He knows that we had to leave in a hurry.  He knows that we spent that night in St. Louis and that a few weeks later we found out that all that chemo that contributed to the physical shape my husband was in, had failed to completely kill the cancer because it was still alive and well.  He knows that the friends that were supposed to come over and celebrate his birthday with him, didn't, until August due to the fear of exposing Steven to illness.

My aching heart moved me and I picked up his 86 pound body that is almost as tall as mine and I carried him to the chair in my room and I rocked him.  And we both cried.  I assured him, without false promises, that right now, everything looked good with his daddy.  Right now, I didn't see any reason that his birthday wouldn't go off without a hitch.  However, I also told him that I can't promise that things won't change and, unfortunately, we both know how quickly they could.

And then God punched me.

Not really.  But He might as well have.  And I needed it.

I had been praying that I would come to clearly recognize God's voice, and yesterday it came through loud and clear...and it sounded a lot like my son's.

"Mom?  It feels like all we are doing is...just waiting."

Right there.  That's when He hit me.  Because the moment the words left Blake's mouth, I knew what he meant.  I have struggled with this since September 5, 2014.

I am waiting.

I am not living.

I am waiting.

I am waiting for something...some false sense of certainty, whether in the form of a cure or a death.

Isn't that awful?  How horrible am I?

Do not mistake those last two words of that statement for a wish.  If God was to take my husband from me, it would cripple me like nothing ever has before.  I pray and pray and pray for God to save my husband, and I pray again that He listens.  I am sick with worry in a way that many can never imagine, and so, I also ask you not to judge.

This false sense of certainty I long for?  I venture to say that you take it for granted too.  

I know that only God knows what tomorrow holds and we are called to trust Him, but this world, it lulls you into a false sense of security.  How easy is it to go day to day and just expect tomorrow for things to be the same?  Most people just take it for granted...

But now I never can.

I attend graduation and see pictures of kids and their parents and wonder if my husband will still be alive to see our children graduate.   A possible school trip for the next school year is being planned and my daughter asks if I can chaperone and go along and I can't commit because even in just a year our lives could look drastically, totally, unrecognizably different.  

How will our life look?  Well, that is anyone's guess.  

Where will we be?  St. Louis?  Home?  

Will we still be together?  In tact?

Sure, I have heard it before.  You could say that everyone's life bears the risk of trials and loss.  And they do, and you are right.  However, has someone told you that there is a 50% chance that yours (in the very near future) will?  

If so, then you know, all of a sudden, no decision is an easy one.

And so you find yourself sitting in the waiting room of life.

I don't believe that is where God intends us to be...or where He has put us.  

*****

I asked Blake what exactly he felt we were waiting for.  I sensed I already knew, but I wanted him to tell me, and I didn't want to put words in his mouth.

I was a little relieved when he only voiced the positive, "for daddy to get better".

He knows, and I know, that we both know there is another side to the "waiting".   It had been only a few weeks before that he had asked me, again, how many years had to pass before we could feel more certain that his daddy wouldn't relapse.  I told him, "3-5 from the time of transplant and we are now eight months out".

He nodded.

That's too much waiting for any child to have to do.

He will be almost 16 years old (and Lakyn will be 18) when they get done waiting for "their daddy to get better".  

They will be so much older than that if he doesn't, and I don't mean their age.

The waiting has to stop.  I have got to force myself to stop it.  I never, ever would have believed that the kids would've picked up on this struggle, much less feel it themselves, because I thought I had came so far. 

Far isn't far enough.

The kids have wanted to go camping but my own "bad memories", associated with Steven's relapse last May, had kept me from it.  I never told the kids why, and despite their begging, I still haven't planned a trip this summer.  

I just keep waiting...and my waiting is preventing my kids from having good memories.  Good memories to replace their bad ones. 

So...with you all as my witnesses, I am vowing to try and wait no more.

I also challenge you to put aside anything that makes you hold back from living the life that you should, and the life that your kids need you to live, because your kids are growing up while you are waitingWaiting for whatever it is that you are waiting for.  I think most of us have something, and it isn't always as dramatic as a husband and father fighting cancer, but it is debilitating just the same.  God does not wish this for us.  I have got to find a way to give God this anxiety and stop pulling it back out of His hands.

I know that this will be a huge challenge for me.  My heart is in it, but when my mind is gripped in fear, my body follows suit.  And vice versa.  Logically, I can know what I should be doing and why, but emotionally, sometimes it all threatens to be too much.  And so I will pray more.  I ask you to do the same.

This year, this summer, I don't want to wait anymore.  I'm going to need your prayers to get out of this waiting room and out into life.  Please pray for our whole family.

Living-2010

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Perspective

Sunday will be one year since Steven relapsed.  We are so thankful that this year, we are starting the summer off at home.  When school let out today, Steven picked the kids up...a vast difference from where we were last year on the last day of school.  

Tomorrow we have plans to set the pool up.  Last year we never did. 

There are so many differences and so many things to look forward to.  I'm working on focusing on those things.  

Yesterday my anxiety was sky high as I started off the morning making an appointment for Steven to have his hip x-rayed and making sure that his labs still looked good.  They did.  He had mentioned at our last appointment in St. Louis that he had pain when walking and raising from the sitting position, but he was optimistic that it would get better.

 It hasn't.  

The doctor decided to look into it and make sure everything looked alright.  Although I am sure that this is most likely just a result of all his body has been through, my mind hasn't forgotten what we've been through.  I'm afraid it never will.

However, God has a way of gently speaking to us, and making us listen, even over the noise of our brains screaming at us.  Yesterday, just when I felt that I would buckle under the weight of the world, a message from someone Steven and I had met along our journey came through.  While asking about Steven and I, they also asked for some assistance in a matter.  My assistance. I agreed and once again, I noticed that helping others was extremely efficient in taking the focus off of me and my worries, and shifting the focus to someone else.  

It's good to be reminded that it's not all about us in this great big world.  Regardless of how big our problems or worries seem, it's not all about us.

Shortly thereafter, I received another message from someone totally different, someone I hadn't met, someone that wanted to share with me her experience. Our experiences were different in every aspect other than we were caring for someone we loved with cancer.  However, that alone is more common ground than I ever hope to have with someone.

In her message she shared how reading about Steven's trials, and 'witnessing' how he has came through them, has helped her. It was then that I was, once again, reminded of how there is strength in numbers and regardless of how we might feel in the moment, we are not alone.  

No, it's not about us in this great big world, but we aren't all alone in it either.

I guess it's all about perspective.

I shared with Steven the events of my day - something I'm trying to do more of.  I have found that trying to shield him from my anxiety, strains, and worries, in an attempt to not to add to his own, ends up making both of ours worse.  As I let him in on the story of the strength that his journey had provided another, he broke down.  It hasn't been for nothing.

Perspective.  I think it's something we've both gained and something I hope to never lose sight of.  Sometimes, when I start letting worries, and life, get the best of me, I need to remind myself that it's not about ME, but rather, it's about Him, and what we can do to help each other out on this journey.  

Help each other.  Love each other.  Keep your perspective.

If I don't remember, I'm pretty sure He will end up reminding me.

(Picture of the space shuttle launch taken from the International Space Station.  Kind of puts it ALL into perspective, huh?)