After several days of being in constant pain, I was exhausted today. I was also still somewhat sore. Enough so that I spent most of my work day sitting with a heating pad. I have new empathy with people who deal with pain on a constant basis. I have least have the expectation that it will subside, if not before my next treatment, then at least when chemo is over.
Probably needless to say, I was beginning to feel crabby. I knew I needed a distraction, so after dinner we went out driving around. And while Patrick made a quick run into a store, I sat in the car and looked up funny memes. And laughed. It felt good.
When we got home, I found this in the mail from my mom.
And this from my sister.
My family for the win! It’s like they knew it was going to be a bad day. I’m so thankful for their continued checking in and reaching out. My day has definitely ended better than it began.
Several weeks ago my mom told me that she, a couple of my sisters and brother-in-law were planning a surprise for me. Today she texted that it was scheduled to be delivered. When she gave me a 12-4 pm timeframe, I got very curious on what it could be. I even told Patrick that it sounded like a timeframe for furniture delivery. I was stumped.
About 12:30, my sister FaceTimed me and I could tell they were in her car. When I recognized the houses in the background, I was legitimately confused. They were outside our house! They had driven 3 hours to come see us. On our coldest day yet. This is my family.
I’m not gonna lie, I burst into happy tears. I just couldn’t believe they were here and in that moment, I realized how much I miss seeing them.
Because of Covid and my immunocompromised status, we sat outside, bundled up so much we were barely recognizable. They had planned ahead and brought chairs and blankets and hand warmers. We plugged in a heater and chatted for as long as we could handle the cold, which was about an hour. One sweet hour with my sweet family.
True to form, they also brought a Valentine’s basket with homemade cookies, puzzles made from family photos, a blanket with everyone’s pictures on, and other goodies. We’ll have some ongoing reminders of their visit.
What a great surprise. Lucky me they aren’t big Super Bowl fans. I’m so grateful for their visit and for their love.
Today I’m thankful for my in-laws. Every chemo day, Patrick’s parents have sent us something wonderful. The first treatment was a beautiful bouquet that I can’t believe I don’t have a picture of. I really thought I took one, but no. I do remember it well; it had seeded eucalyptus and soft lavender roses. It was so lovely. The last couple of treatments were edible arrangements. The first included brownies and the second included chocolate covered fruit. Yum!
The truth is, my in-laws are always very generous and giving. They’re eager to help or support anyway they can. But even more than that, they’ve been great at making me feel part of the family from the beginning.
I have to admit, when Patrick and I started dating, I had my fears. I’m older than he is by not a little bit. My kids were teenagers already. In fact, one of the first things I asked him when we got more serious was if he was sure he shouldn’t be dating someone younger. Someone who could give him beautiful babies. But he’s stubborn.
Then I got pregnant and had a miscarriage, and my fears grew. I hated that I was taking his option for his own family away from him. But he said it wasn’t a deal breaker. He’s dedicated.
And here I am, dragging him through cancer with me. One more hardship and difficult year of worry. But he’s been protective and supportive and says it’s just one more thing we will get through. He’s strong.
Through it all, my in-laws never expressed any doubt, at least to me, that I wasn’t anything but deserving of their son. They’ve happily included me in their lives from the beginning. I worried that they’d see me as someone too old and with too much history to be right for Patrick. But my worry was all mine. I guess I should have known for they taught him by example to be stubborn, dedicated, and strong. I’m thankful for them. And grateful to be part of the family.
You know what’s great at the end of a tough week? Talking with folks who have your back. Today I was lucky enough to have several conversations with people who are on my side. A couple of them were work colleagues, encouraging me to not stress about some of the difficulties happening with my job. They’re actively looking for solutions on my behalf.
And tonight I spent quite a bit of time talking with my mom and a couple of my sisters. Even when we are just catching up on the week’s activities, it’s comforting to chat with my family. There’s something grounding about family that makes things feel alright.
Today was the day. I shaved my head. Or more accurately, Patrick shaved my head. I’ve actually been losing my hair over the last several days, but I refused to shave it prior to my second chemo treatment. I was told it was after the second one that I would most likely lose it, so I was disappointed when I noticed it earlier. I was keeping it through the second treatment out of principle.
First off let me say that losing your hair is difficult to describe. It’s weird. I thought I was prepared but I’m not sure anyone really is. Running my fingers through my hair resulted in a fistful of strands. Eventually, I’d notice hair hanging lower than others and if I tugged on it, it would pull out in clumps.
And brushing?! Holy cow. I could make small animals with what came out. This was from one gentle brushing yesterday.
Today I couldn’t wait any longer. I felt like PigPen and his dust cloud only mine was a cloud of fallen hair everywhere. On my clothes, on my desk, in every plate of food. It was time to get rid of it.
I turned on All American Girl by Melissa Etheridge which felt fitting for the moment as well as the day and Patrick got started. This is another thing I can honestly say I never expected to be doing, but here we are.
I actually thought it would be funny to let it fall out naturally just to send funny progression photos to my family. If you met my family, you’ll understand. We all enjoy a good laugh, especially at each other’s expense. Which may sound mean, but my family is also fiercely protective of each other when necessary, so it’s a good balance. If my scalp didn’t hurt from the hair pulling, the slow fallout may have happened. The photo album would have been epic too because I’m pretty sure one side was losing it faster than the other. I already had one bald spot on the top.
To stand in solidarity, Patrick asked me to shave his head too. It was such a sweet gesture, and I can’t even adequately express how much it means to me. I’m blessed to have him on my side. Losing my hair isn’t easy, but I’m thankful today to have this milestone over. It’s just hair and it will grow back one day. In the meantime, I get to play with wigs and hats and scarves. Fun!
Today I took down our Christmas decorations. Well, most of them. I kind of ran out of steam so I left some of the little trees around. They seem wintery still and I’m not ready to see the house so empty.
This is one of the areas I left that makes me happy—it’s a combination of nature and family mementos. I’m thankful for these little spots in my house.
I love birthdays, probably because I like celebrations. I like carefully chosen presents and special dinners. Balloons and cake. But mostly I love that birthdays remind us that people we love shouldn’t be taken for granted, and so we celebrate that they’ve been with us another year.
Today is Patrick’s birthday, and to him, birthdays are just another day. He couldn’t care less about a celebration. In fact, one year he insisted that all he wanted was to be left alone to work on his house. So like any good girlfriend, I ignored him and showed up at his door with a present and a slice of cake. It took a lot of will power not to bring a balloon, but I didn’t want to push my luck. After all, I had promised not to do anything.
This year, regardless of his party pooper attitude, I celebrate the fact that he’s been in my life another year. Yes, he’s a bit of a curmudgeon. Yes, he’s often antisocial and snarky. But he’s also one of the best people I know. Generous. Intelligent. Fun. He makes me laugh with his sarcasm and wit. He makes me feel safe with his dedication and honesty. He’s been accepting of my quirks, my horde of shoes (most of the time), my crazy family, and my general silliness. And when I’m feeling my lowest, he’s supportive and compassionate; I know that he always has my back.
Our life together may be low key, but it’s never dull. He’s challenging, interesting, competitive, and curious. Sometimes he pushes my buttons, but he also pushes me to grow. I know I’m a better person with him. So today, I’m extra thankful that I can celebrate another year, and I hope there’s many, many more birthdays to come.
Merry Christmas! I hope yours was as joyous as mine. I spent it with my family, doing what we do best–joking around, playing games, and eating. I’m thankful for the generous spirit we had at my mom’s house, and it wasn’t just the pile of presents that were exchanged. Although that was impressive. In fact, even though we exchanged names so we didn’t have to buy for everyone, my oldest sister gave us each bracelets and my younger sister gave us a heart paperweight with “sister” on it and a framed poem she had written. I’m blessed to be part of a family that really enjoys being together and giving to each other. Sometimes the giving is in the form of teasing, especially when we are playing cards. But it’s all in good fun and we know it. At the end of the day, we pitch in to help clean up or carry things to cars or give hugs. I’m grateful we were able to spend Christmas together this year. I know it won’t always be possible.
One of my sisters isn’t coming to Christmas this year. And I’m kind of relieved. See, all four of my sisters and I decided we’d go to my mom’s house for Christmas. Laura’s husband is in Afghanistan, so she’s coming with her two kids and maybe two dogs. Tammy lives by my mom, so her whole family will be there. My younger sister and her husband are flying in from Las Vegas. (People actually live in Las Vegas. It’s weird.) I’m going with my two kids and my dog. And Brenda was initially coming up from Florida with her two kids. Her husband was going to be working. It was going to be a great Christmas because we would all be together which rarely happens. Until Brenda’s husband lost his job and found another in Texas and then he was going to come up too since he would have a break before he started working. And that’s when I stopped looking forward to our big family get together.
See, Brenda’s husband is an abuser. I’m no longer softening it. They’ve been married for years and he’s progressively gotten worse. Or maybe not because it’s hard to tell what the real truth is anymore. For years I was a sounding board for my sister’s complaints…starting with his controlling behavior. His accusations. His anger and threats. The first time she told me he hit her, she made excuses for him. His drinking hard alcohol, which he normally doesn’t do. His stress. His whatever. I told her then she should get out, but he apologized and promised and for a while, things were better. She asked me not to say anything. The next time he hit her it was worse–worse threats, worse anger. She hid outside in the bushes at their house while he searched for her, yelling to her that he was going to kill her. Finally pushing her into the living room furniture, breaking a table. Still she stayed. The day she called and told me that he had been arrested, I was grocery shopping. I listened without talking while she described how he had tried to kill her, really meaning it this time. He had ripped off her underwear and choked her with it. She had a burn mark across her throat because of it. I went home, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried. And then I called my older sister and told her everything. Said I planned to go to Florida to get her. We told my parents and made a plan. But Brenda found out and begged us not to come because this was finally his wake up call. He was going to get help and things would be better. That was a couple of years ago, and things aren’t better. They’re just different. Four months ago she called because she found out about his cheating. She finally was going to make a change. I was ready once again to do whatever I could to help her out. Then three days later, after he begged and cried and made all the same promises, she decided to stay.
I know my sister needs help. Her kids need help. My brother-in-law needs help. But at this point, I don’t care about him. I don’t like him. I don’t respect him in the least. I told Brenda I couldn’t pretend to be happy to see him. I told my mom that I was afraid I’d say something at Christmas and makes things worse for my sister. And maybe I don’t have the right, but I’m angry. I’m angry at my sister. I’m angry that she continues to stay and that she doesn’t see her own worth and that she’s doesn’t acknowledge how it’s affecting her kids. I’m angry that I keep trying to help and she won’t let me. I don’t agree with her choice to stay. I don’t agree that instead of coming for Christmas, they are driving to Texas to stay in a hotel because they sold their house and haven’t found a new one yet. I find it all so unbelievably unbelievable. But I also know that statistics say it takes at least 7 attempts before someone actually leaves an abusive situation. She’s trapped in something that is too hard for her to get out of right now. But when she does, I will, of course, be there. My anger isn’t blame, it’s just anger. Relationships shouldn’t be that way. My once independent sister is someone I don’t really know anymore. My nieces will have scars from living in an abusive family that even they don’t understand. It shouldn’t be. So, selfishly, I’m not-so-secretly glad that I won’t see my brother-in-law next week. But I’d trade the holiday to bring my sister home.
When I moved into my house, I got an old school chalkboard to hang in my kitchen. I envisioned it as a way for my kids and me to make grocery lists or leave each other messages, like where we are if we’re gone. Instead it quickly turned into a place for silliness.
I love how my kids don’t miss a sarcastic beat. Like when a math friend used it for a math lesson.
Today I found this…it makes me laugh. My kids are clever and creative. I’m so thankful for the fun we have every day in these small ways.