Cancer

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Reminded

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

First things first, thanks to everyone who has called/texted/written to make sure I’m okay.  I am not dedicated enough to go to a midnight showing of any movie, let alone a Batman one – and in fact, I wasn’t even in Colorado on the night of the shooting.  I am very much okay, aside from being horrified along with the rest of the country.

I am reminded once again that this world is not a safe place.

Other things have been going on in my life – big events, changes of plans, last minute flights.  I spent the week in in Richland, WA, feeding ice chips to my grandmother, smoothing her hair back with a wet washcloth, sleeping on a too-small hospital loveseat.  I hate cancer with a passion, and in spite of missing a week of work, there was no doubt that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I am reminded once again that family always wins.

Life continues to feel fractured and imperfect, and “happiness” isn’t something that I feel much of these days.  But even when walking in the cold shadows, we are bound to come across patches of warm light – the trick is to just keep moving.  I am moving.  And I’m encouraged by the moments of warmth, and trusting in a hope that is bigger than circumstances.

I am reminded once again that “happiness” and “joy” are different things.

Our only comfort

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Last week, my sister-in-law lost her dad.  My nephews lost a grandpa.  And all of the Parsons lost a man who has been family for the past 9 years.

Today, Kent McElroy will be laid to rest in a cemetery in Missouri.  A few weeks ago, he chose his plot, and bought kites to be delivered after his death, asking that Jeremy and Ashley take Micah and Tyler to fly them next to his grave.  He knew that he was leaving.  If he could have willed himself to stay, he would have – but cancer does not honor our will, our wishes, our fight.

It is cruel.  It is callous.  And in its aftermath, it tempts me to be the same.

But Kent was the opposite.  He was generous, and positive, and selfless.  In the face of terminal, inoperable cancer, his heart was continually for God, and for others.  He touched so many in his 56 years – and never so many as in his last one.

I was in Kansas City last week to say goodbye.  It’s so hard to see death up close – painful, and terribly sad.  But it’s also an enormous privilege to be invited into that precious time.  I will never forget it.

Hearts are broken today.  They will be for a long, long time – and maybe forever, because I don’t know that we ever “get over” the loss of a loved one.  I think of my sweet sister-in-law Ashley, and how the mountains of her heart have slid into the sea – how nothing will ever be the same again, how nothing COULD ever be the same again.

But, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, my only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  I believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8).  And even when I can’t see it or feel it, I have faith – and faith, no matter how small, is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

kent

All the things I didn’t say

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Monday
I saw Patty Griffin on Monday night with Rachel, the cutest date ever.  We walked the mile and a half downtown to the theater, which made us feel very city-like.

But I’ll be honest: after all of my anticipation and excitement, I was kind of disappointed in the show.  The set list consisted almost entirely of her new album, “Downtown Church,” which is not my favorite, and the only “extra” songs she did were “Heavenly Day” and “Up to the Mountain.”

Patty.  Where was “Moses”?  Where was “Trapeze”?  Where was “Goodbye,” the song that I wanted to hear more than anything?  Where were “Long Ride Home,” and “Icicles,” and “Top of the World,” and “Burgundy Shoes,” and “Peter Pan”?  I wanted to WEEP, Patty!  I was ready to cry – fully prepared – anxiously anticipating some emotional catharsis… but I wound up relatively unmoved.

Sigh.  There’s always next time.  And, as Patty sings, “Everybody needs a little forgiveness.”

Tuesday
Have you ever done MeetUp.com?  Sketchy, right?  Well, “sketchy” has never stopped me.  I read about a running group on MeetUp.com, and ran with them for the first time on Tuesday night.

You know that scary moment where you walk up to a group of people, and you’re all alone, and no one really says hi, but that’s probably because none of THEM know each other either, and everyone feels equally awkward, so you all try to mask it by stretching and fidgeting with your iPods and looking at the sky?  It was… uncomfortable.  But then we ran 5.2 miles, and went for beers afterward.  I brought my A-game, and talked to every stranger within earshot.

Maybe I’ll go again.

Wednesday
On Wednesday night, I cooked a gourmet meal.  No, seriously.  This could have gone for $27 a plate at a restaurant.  Mediterranean salmon on a bed of wilted spinach featuring kalamata olives and golden raisins, topped with a balsamic and honey glaze.

I KNOW.

My friend Jenn from high school came over, and we drank a bottle of wine and dined like Greek goddesses.

Thursday
I went to the most ghetto Wal-Mart in the history of mankind.  I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to make it out without being shot in the face – or at least contracting a staph infection.

Friday
Ah, yes.  Friday.  This is today.  Good Friday.

Mom is finishing her fifth and final round of chemo with the Ifex and Adria drugs – something that no one has completed at this cancer center before, because she is the Valedictorian of Cancer Ass-Kicking, really – and will be unhooked from the pumps tomorrow.

I’m so proud of her.

Contrast

Friday, March 19th, 2010

If I were to write a (very late) blog today, this is what it would say:

3 months of silence.
Followed by 1 week of crazy.
Beat.  Sapped.  Tired.
But happy.
Ate so much.
Ran so fast.
Didn’t really sleep.
Got something I was hoping for.
Love my friends gobs.
And gobs and gobs.
Like, hug-you-in-the-sunny-parking-lot gobs.
Gorgeous in Nashville today.
Flying to Austin tonight.
Val’s picking me up.
Hooray, Val!
Joey and Sam are getting married tomorrow.

But it’s snowing back in Colorado.
And Mom’s in the hospital.

I can’t really focus.  Social whiplash and emotional incongruity.  Reasons to cry while the sun shines down.  And I think that’s just like life.

It’s all going to be okay.  Right?  It’s all going to be okay.

All hail the redhead

Monday, January 11th, 2010

So, remember why I moved to Denver?  Because my mom has cancer?

Well, as she put it this weekend, “I’m not sure that I have cancer.  But I KNOW that I have chemotherapy.”

It’s true.  In the last 2 months since the initial diagnosis, cancer has felt like a joke, a deception.  This woman is a hoss.  I mean, when I was a little girl, she once climbed a neighbor’s fence in her nightgown at 11pm to free our cat from a trap he had baited with tuna fish (long story).  She has had three surgeries, and bounced back like nobody’s business.  After the tumor was removed in early November, and even after she had a significant amount of muscle and tissue removed from her hip and thigh a month later, she has been walking without a limp, relatively painless – kicking ass and taking names, basically.  Even after the diagnosis, nothing about her outward health indicated that wicked, sinful cells were present in her body.

But then she started chemo.

Let me tell you something, friends – if you have never seen anyone experience the horrors of chemotherapy, then there is no way to understand what this poison does to the body.  I didn’t know – not really.  But last week, I learned really quickly.  And it’s terrible.

Round 1 of infusion is over, and the next 13 days will consist of her body rebounding, only to be taken down again during round 2.  It’s like pushing a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down to the bottom.  Second verse, the same as the first – a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

Apparently, 89% of people who experience chemo lose their hair.  In my mom’s case, it would happen 14 days after her first infusion – which is a week from today.  We’ll see.

For those of you who don’t know, my mom has gorgeous red hair.

Oh, you’ve never seen?  ALLOW ME TO SHOW YOU.

mom

(angels singing)  Have you ever seen hair CASCADE like that?

And for one more recent, here are my parents today.

mom_dad

If you are a man, you should probably ask me to marry you RIGHT NOW.  These are my genes, people.  It’s only going to get better.

A lot of you have asked how my mom is doing, so I wanted to give you an update.  I might have taken the opportunity to petition for a man, too – but don’t worry, Mom surely approves.

(Right, Mom?)

Bumming me out

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

When I moved to Nashville two years ago, I switched to Bank of America because I never wanted to have to switch my bank account again – so naturally, I chose the bank of AMERICA.

It turns out that Bank of America is actually the bank of NOT DENVER.

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Yellow traffic lights in Denver last roughly half as long as they do anywhere else.  When the light turns yellow, it means, “Arrest, or be arrested.”

– – – – – – – –

Every 5 minutes or so, my toilet screeches like the Nazgûl.

– – – – – – – –

The doctors installed the WRONG PORT in my MOTHER’S CHEST.  That’s probably the only time you’ll ever see the words “my mother’s chest” on this blog, so soak it up.  She showed up for her first round of chemo yesterday, and caused quite the ruckus when they discovered the WRONG PIECE OF HARDWARE SURGICALLY INSTALLED IN HER BODY.

Chemo went forward anyway, and she goes back again today.  The “Red Devil” is now pumping through her veins.  And righteous indignation is pumping through ours.

Is this real life?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I moved up to Denver on Friday night, and have been camping out in my apartment on an air mattress; my stuff should arrive late this week.  I live off of exit 206 (an homage to Seattle) on a street called Franklin (an homage to Nashville’s little sister) next to Cheesman Park (an homage to me, the cheese man).

Over the weekend, I was invited to watch a movie with strangers, made friends with two brothers who own a wine shop, had an incredible seafood meal, lunched downtown with my mom and sister, ran into a friend from high school in the park, organized my closets, bought a brushed nickel trash can for the bathroom, went on 2 runs, tried my new shower (it is awesome), and visited a church.

I keep driving around, thinking, “I can’t believe I live here” – and not because I’m shocked at the reality, but more because it doesn’t feel real AT ALL.  It’s like a fake life.  I’m like this kid.  I know that it will become more real with time, but right now, it feels like I’m pretending.

Well, then, here’s a hefty dose of real life: Mom’s chemo starts today.

Cancer’s going down.