Unexpected Gifts

I’m glad to hear that a number of you have tested your home for radon after reading my last blog post. Good news!

I must confess I’ve had a rough month, with a touch of the flu, then a cold which has dragged on. I still sound awful – coughing horribly – but I’m feeling much better and thankful / hoping to be kicking this cold to the curb!

But enough about that! I want to tell you a wonderful thing that happened several weeks ago. A complete stranger came to my house and gave me a quilt!

This “stranger” volunteers with Victoria’s Quilts Canada, delivering handmade quilts to people with cancer. A woman from church very kindly and thoughtfully asked them to make a quilt for me. She let me know it would be coming, so this was not completely unexpected!

What did surprise me, though, was that I broke down and cried when I saw the quilt!

When I learned that a quilt had been requested for me, I went online to learn about Victoria’s Quilts – you can click the link above if you’re interested. They have a lovely story and a strong volunteer base who seek to “bring physical comfort to those dealing with cancer, as well as spiritual comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their struggle.” They currently distribute about 600 quilts per month, with a lovely little card.

I got to chatting with the woman who delivered my quilt, and it turns out that when I was a toddler, she lived across the street from my family. We don’t remember each other at all, but what a small world! I asked if I could take a picture of her with the quilt, but she said no – it’s not about her, it’s about the quilt. Before I had any idea a quilt had been requested for me, before I had even heard of Victoria’s Quilts, people were thinking of me, caring for me, and working on a quilt just for me.

I have a confession to make. I feel small and ungrateful, but shortly before my quilt arrived, I wondered if I would like it, and prayed a quick prayer that I would like it, that something about it would be special for me. (Like it wasn’t enough that so many people put so much kindness and care into the whole process…)

You may know that I love being in or near water. If you’ve seen the art in my home, almost every picture is of water. I love the beach!

When I caught my first glimpse of my quilt, I started to cry because it’s the beach! When I look at it, I see a beautiful gift made especially for me! I am so grateful! I was surprised by how deeply significant this generous gift was to me.

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I have so much to be thankful for, including thoughtful and generous friends and strangers, my husband and kids who have done so much extra around the house these past few weeks (my 17yo is cooking dinner as I write this!), special times with family, and Easter – a celebration of the most deeply significant, loving, generous gift ever!

Whether or not you are celebrating Easter this year, may you and yours be filled with joy and gratitude! And may you know that there are people cheering for you, even if you can’t always hear them.

 

Looking intently…

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It’s been too long since my last post. I know this because so many of  you dear folks have been asking how I’m doing. I apologize for causing you concern. I am grateful for your care, kind words and prayers. I’m not really sure why I haven’t posted in such a long time … part of the answer is that I have been busy living life rather than writing about it! I’ve jumped into some new hobbies which have held my limited focus. Part of my current reality is decreased discipline and increased forgetfulness, and not really feeling like spending much time on the computer.

But probably the deeper reason I haven’t posted with my typical frequency is because I have needed time to work through some cancer grief. Cancer attacks and steals too many beloved people, and some days that’s really, really hard. This winter has been a hard season, but not without grace and joy and beauty. Sometimes we have to look intently …

March brought scans and good news from the oncologist: cancer is shrinking! Praise God! Each month a large box arrives by courier, free of charge, containing my supply of pills. Four in the morning and four in the evening. Each time with a high fat large snack or meal. No wonder people on this med tend to pack on the pounds! I am no exception, and I am happy to be alive and fat, though many of my favourite clothes aren’t fitting. Alive! So much to be thankful for! We rejoice!

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I feel better than I have since before my diagnosis. I’m still tired and have various aches and pains and side effects, but so much better than the side effects of any of the other treatments! Praise God!

In March, our middle child went on an exchange to a small hamlet in Northern Canada. What a great opportunity for which we are very thankful! The youth from up North are scheduled to arrive here for six days next month! When we first signed him up, I told the group I wasn’t sure how much my health would allow me to help. I am thrilled to say that by God’s grace I’ve been able to do my part, including baking several dozen cupcakes in February, and making art for a silent auction fundraiser.

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I hunkered down* through the last of the Winter, and threw myself into a variety of creative pursuits. I made three long scarves, numerous beaded jewelry items, and started painting for the first time since I was a kid. Painting became part of my Lenten pilgrimage, and I learned more about looking intently. I was pleased with the pictures I made, and had fun doing it! I found inspiration in the daily bird calendar, which is obvious if you look at my work! Here are just a few, starting with the Toucan which was my first ever:

*Hunkered Down is a reference to a Malcolm Guite poem that has been rolling around in my heart and mind this Winter season. You can read /hear it by clicking on this link: Malcolm Guite “Because We Hunkered Down” Feb. 2017

Here is my Easter 2017 picture:

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This next one was inspired by my son’s trip up North. I made it for the silent auction, but it was kind of hard to let it go! The words in the “footprints” are from “Dene Laws”, which he saw at the Northern school. The person who won this item in the silent auction was one of the trip leaders. He took photo’s which inspired me to make this art, so I’m really happy he has it!

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I’m always eager to head out in search of Signs of Spring! What a gift to be able to be out walking and breathing (fairly) easily! I’ve enjoyed many walks with family and friends. So much beauty! So much joy! Grace abounds! Looking intently …

Before I forget to mention, I’m off in the morning to Washington DC, for LUNGevity’s big Lung Cancer patient HOPE summit, which runs Fri. evening – Sun. I’m also attending the Advocate summit all day Friday. I’m looking forward to connecting with some excellent people and hoping to learn a lot! I’m thankful for the anonymous donor who made it possible for me to go, and I hope to honour that generous gift and make a difference! Being away for four days is a huge step for me, and it will take loads of discipline to not overdo it! If I’m up for it, I may tweet about it #DCHOPE17, and possibly post on fb. I certainly plan to update my blog upon my return! 🙂

Very often I am deeply moved by the care and compassion that dear people show. I promise you: it makes a difference! It’s hard work, being a cancer patient. Thank you for helping our family carry this load! You never know the full impact of a kind word or deed. Look intently for signs of love and goodness, and know with certainty that grace abounds even beyond what we can imagine or see! May you receive showers of blessing, and may you see flowering and fruitfulness resulting!

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Freedom!

I feel so much better! The side effects of this chemo continue to be difficult, but I’m alive and I can breathe pretty well. There are times when I even forget about the cancer … something I previously hadn’t been able to do since every breath was a reminder.

I used to cough constantly – especially if I was talking. I couldn’t sing, shout, or even talk much since my voice wasn’t working. Walking – even part of a short block – at a brisk pace not only gave me shortness of breath, but started off coughing that wouldn’t stop for up to half an hour. Some evenings I wondered if I could make it up the stairs to my bedroom.

Right now I feel so free! I typically go the whole day without coughing. I can sing a little bit, and shout to my kids if I need to. I still suffer from shortness of breath, but not nearly like it was before: there’s a spring in my step!

free!

Yesterday I took our kids and some of their friends to the park. I cycled there, and together we formed quite the procession on bikes, scooters, a skateboard and roller blades! The kids had a blast at the park and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and taking photo’s.

Even my chest x-ray last month showed improvement, and chest x-rays don’t show small changes! I am so very thankful for this new chemo and for the greatly improved health I’m enjoying!trying new things!

I have another chest x-ray and an appointment with my oncologist next week, and I am hoping we’ll be able to slightly reduce the meds I’m on and thus hopefully reduce the side effects.

I am so grateful for this freedom and energy, and I want to make the most of it!

I hope that you know deep freedom, and are living life to the full!

PS: Guess who we keep finding at the park … a gift that brings us joy!

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New Chemo and Side Effects

I started new chemo meds on Monday, and lots of people are asking how it’s going. It’s hard to know so soon: my nurse said it would take about a week to know how it’s working. This has been a tough week for me since I think I ate something bad over the week-end, and I’ve had an upset tummy for most of the week. I’m tired from being off the steroids as well, and have spent most of the week in bed. I don’t know how much the new meds may be contributing.

Last night I experienced some exciting drama in the form of strange visual effects. I saw flashes of light, and all kinds of unexpected things in my peripheral vision. I don’t know how to describe them, except to say they remind me of watching tv in the “olden days”, when ghost images would appear beside the actual image when the reception was poor. (Really frustrating when watching hockey: which guy is going for which puck?!) It was a bit like that, with repeated images swirling around the edges. Pretty wild!

The pages of information from the pharmacist indicate that these kinds of vision changes are a serious side effect from this medication, and urge the patient to tell their doctor straight away. I called my oncologist’s nurse this morning to ask about this, and she was unaware of this side effect. There are no doctors that she can ask until Monday. She said since it only happened once that I should continue with the meds. I’m thankful I’ve got an appointment with my oncologist on Monday.

Apart from the exciting light show last night, I seem to be experiencing only a few side effects. I had some horrible headaches earlier in the week (also a side effect), but they seem to be gone now. I’ve got a strange taste in my mouth and a bit of nausea, but it’s not too bad.

I don’t know how the new meds are affecting the cancer. I think I may be coughing a bit less, but I’m not sure. I’m definitely still coughing.

Many of the side effects from my first chemo continue, but it’s possible they’re improving. I still seem to bruise easily, but didn’t get a bruise from my blood test on Monday. My hands and feet continue to be numb / have strange feelings, but occasionally – perhaps increasingly – they feel more normal.

One thing I’ve been reflecting on lately is the idea of waiting. It’s relatively easy to wait for a short amount of time, but it grows increasingly difficult, especially when pain is involved. When I was labouring with my first-born, I was expecting it to take 24 hours or more. I wanted to deliver him without any pain meds, but shortly before he was born I asked my nurse what pain meds I could use. She said, “You’re doing so well!” … and then came another contraction and I forgot about the possibility of pain meds. Jono was with me, holidng my hand and getting me ice chips. Their encouragement made all the difference to me. Their encouragement kept me going when I felt that the pain was too much and the path was too hard. Even so, I’m glad my boy came quickly (about eight hours, if I remember correctly!) because labour is hard work!

Here is a quote which captured my imagination some twenty+ years ago. It’s by S.D.Gordon, from his book Quiet Talks on Prayer.

Waiting

It means steadfastness, that is holding on;

patience, that is holding back;

expectancy, that is holding the face up to see;

obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do;

it means listening, that is holding quiet and still so as to hear.

What do you think of this? What do you think it means? How does it ring true (or not) to you? Is it capturing your imagination? Does it apply to your life now? How would you describe/define waiting? What makes waiting easier / harder for you?

I’m feeling much joy these days, and I’m so thankful for my family and friends and gardens and birds and the beauty in this world. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get out for walks again sometime soon.

Thank you for your encouraging words, faithful prayers and support. You have no idea the difference you make.

Three of my Valentine’s Day Highlights

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Our plate overflows with chocolate quadruple layer cake!

1) Not only did I get to go to a “Look Good Feel Better” workshop (for cancer patients), but I got to make a joke which caused the entire room to erupt in laughter. To bring these women such joy brought me immense joy! Wonderful volunteers and program!

2) My oncologist called me a “superstar” because I’m doing so well on the chemo and my blood work is excellent! I think it definitely has a lot to do with all the healthy food, warm thoughts and prayers people are sending – thank you!!

3) Hanging with my family this evening …