Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life abundant, even with cancer

Martha took me in this morning. Jerry felt he needed to be there but I forced him to go play golf, wrenching his arm almost out of its socket.  I convinced him by reminding him how I cherish one on one time with my daughters, and if he came Martha would have to leave because Spa Chemo at Texas Oncology only allows one visitor at a time. 
Martha has amazing empathy: when the Benadryl kicked in through my IV line she immediately fell asleep, letting me know it was time for my nap! I was able to report to Jerry that Martha also proved to be a good urban food forager for lunch. So we did just fine.
Dr. Smith said I am in great shape but it's clear I'm one of those who will need a white cell booster shot after each chemo. She says it's common and nothing to worry about, just means I need to go back tomorrow for the injection, which has its own side effects. Personally I am so much stronger than when I went in for chemo I can't help but hope that the effects from the chemo will be much less than they were with the first one. 

But truth: you can't predict. Overall my arc was: Chemo, one great day (thank you steroids), two miserable days, one tired day (but able to go to see Lincoln and enjoy it), and then steadily feeling better and actually good at least part of each subsequent day. I got two white cell injections and had one bum day but otherwise the main symptom is fatigue, which sometimes comes on suddenly, maybe even right after I get up and have my coffee. Then I have to rest. Unpredictable.

That said, walks with Jenny have been a terrific boost, because she has had to go out at least six times a day and each outing is 10-15 minutes at a minimum at a fast clip. We have covered as much as 1.5 miles on a single outing, so it's a great way to build stamina. And oddly, I have yet to have to wave down a ride back to Benedict House during a walk with Jenny! Go figure.

Now I am going to embarrass Jerry.

I'm not surprised, as this is not the first medical crisis we have been through together, but I am amazed anew by his understanding, tenderness, concern and care for me. As I tap away, he is preparing a dinner of blackened salmon, wedge salad, Brussels sprouts, and gnocchi! He is my best buddy in the journey of life. 

We have settled into a wonderfully amiable stage of our relationship that endures through thick and thin, and we've had plenty of that along the way. We laugh often and loudly, we argue heatedly and unfairly, we get excited reading the same book and loving it.

John Paul II wrote beautifully, truthfully, and compassionately on the mystery of the gift of one's self in marriage--"self" encompassing body, mind, and soul. (Interestingly, those self-same elements with which we are bidden to love God.) 

We have learned much about forgiveness, not only of others but of ourselves on this journey. Not a week goes by in which the recitation of the general confession at Church does not apply in some way to us as a couple, but neither does a week go by in which First Corinthinians 13:4--8 does not equally apply.

We realized soon after we set out to build Down Home Ranch that there is a power that mystically arises out of the vows of a married couple and out of the reality of their union, whether those vows are to love one another even when you just don't feel the love, or to build something together--a family, a business, a Ranch for the fruit of that union and others like her.

"A cord with three strands will not be broken." Thank you God, for being the tie and that third cord that has bound us together for 40 years, even when we didn't really know you.  Thank you for allowing us to see our "children and our children's children standing tall and strong as young olive trees around our table," and to see the community of Down Home Ranch become what we first envisioned it to be.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Three moms on a Monday afternoon

Monday afternoon two friends stopped by to see me and wish me well. Both are moms of daughters with Down syndrome, like me. Our daughters are 20, 28, and 38, so among the three of us we are confronting an interesting array of life issues that affect families of kids with disabilities, a topic never far from our minds or the reality of our lives.

Ashley is young, and her daughter Cristina in transition from high school to adult life.

Suzanne's daughter Julia has lived at the Ranch for several years and is approaching middle age (at least middle age for Down syndrome, which comes on quicker than for the rest of the population). Suzanne very recently and unexpectedly lost her husband, and she, Julia, and brother Jason are dealing with that sad reality.

Kelly, of course, is my daughter who at 28 feels she has nailed the early part of adulthood and is ready to move on, hopefully with her beloved Sterling, to a place of their own.
And I, of course, am in treatment for ovarian cancer.

We sat in the late afternoon light coming through the windows and talked of life, our daughters, our hopes and fears--all of which are there in abundance. Suzanne brought me a book by a friend of hers that she thought would speak to me. Ashley had brought me a pyramid of Texas oranges to pump me full of vitamin C before the next chemo.

Our daughters were out in their world, doing their thing, as we did ours.  But our minds were, as always, preoccupied by them.

We lamented our limited ability to advise our daughters, to console them in their grief, or alleviate their obsessions on their fears (Kelly is horrified by my hair falling out and no amount of explanation that "balder is not sicker" will suffice.)

Life's harsher realities will not pass them by.  They must face them just as we must. It is not fair, but there it is.  But in truth, we have little more at our disposal than they.  Our fears and tears are equal in this at least.

What makes it bearable is when friends reach out to offer encouragement, faith, and understanding, despite the grief, the busy schedules, and the holiday season roaring away outside the walls of our shared concerns.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Must Read This!

Friends, this is the absolutely best-described first hand account of what happens to us when life hands us an infant with a significant handicap and our life changes forever.  It is from Slate Magazine, and it is a wowzer.

Feel free to let the author know that yes, she can look forward to many more years of those "full-bodied hugs." 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

5:00 PM on a Tuesday

I decided to take Jenny the pup outside for a little stroll as the Ranchers were leaving work at 5:00.  Neighbor Tom, Isaiah House RA, was in the front yard ready to greet his guys when they arrived.  We chatted for only a few minutes and then here came the onslaught of adult trikes and bicycles hurtling down the Village road.

"Woo-hoo!" Kyle yelled as he bore down upon us.  Tom H. and Sterling weren't far behind.  We talked about this and that and Jenny and I proceeded up the trail.

I saw the Timbercrest ladies loading up to return to their home in Taylor, and went over to say goodbye.  Terry brought me up to date on her mom's health, and I headed back on down the road.

Passing Gabriel House, Mark came jogging out the front door and onto the road.  "Hi, Judy," he called as he sped on by. 

I came to Martha House just in time to see six spiffed up gals coming out of the house dressed up to go to dinner at the Olive Garden in Round Rock to celebrate Alaina's birthday.  Nothing like dinner at Olive Garden to ensure that they move out of their work clothes quickly into something more presentable!

Passing Barnabas, Zach moseyed out to say hello and give Jenny a scratch.  Andrew proudly showed me the flowers blooming in his tiny garden.

Rounding the bend toward home, Mark passed me again as I saw the Isaiah House guys already coming out to practice for their next flag football competition.

Though it was only about 5:20 or so, the sun was already low, and the Village lights blinked on.  Jenny did her business after attacking and defeating a few windblown leaves, and we came in the house to finish making supper--a delicious smelling pot roast from the first beef we'd raised from our Angus-Wagyu herd.

And Jenny loved the bone.