My Journey

An Unexpected Christmas

I did not tell Santa “I’d love the Brighton earrings and bracelet, a garden stone with Reid’s tiny handprint and cancer”…but it is what I received.  A surprise early December diagnosis…a phone call while alone in Dublin…merry Christmas!

“Radiology report is in on the MRI…lytic lesion on T5 vertebrae suspicious for plasmacytoma, multiple myeloma or metastases…

“What…??”

“Cancer?”

“Likely, but more tests needed”

“I’m in Dublin”

“When you return…”

Oncology…blood cancer…T5 vertebrae…these tears…this very dark room…alone…this moment…alone…this isn’t real…is it?!

Sleep eluded me the next two days…in motion…finish the presentation…cancer…

dinner meeting…cancer!

Presentation to a favorite customer I’ve know for years…I stood strong and did it!  Cancer!  Could it be my last marketing presentation? Cancer!  Room closing in… need fresh air…a walk.  Done.

For 12 years, I have walked the streets of Dublin. Business…no time…walk with purpose…no time…but one can’t be in Dublin and not feel Dublin!  The hum of the city…a beautiful Irish soundtrack.  Youthful exuberance, the rhythm and tempo beating through the walls of Trinity College…musicians sing in shadows, the tempo along Grafton Street …perform for no one or if lucky a charmed street side audience…these talents a future Hansard or Bono.  Drunken boys spill like an arpeggio from The Palace on Temple Bar after a few too many Guinness!  The andante of a stroll along the shore of The Liffey and the staccato of the shops filled with wooly treasures and Bewley’s Tea.  And nights at The Westin…my Irish family…Stephen the cheerful doorman and Padraig the waiter, brings my tea and poached eggs as he has for a decade…knows me…and Ila the waitress who serves a smile and my favorite cookies a welcome joy and friendship…my home away from home!

This moment…I see this…I feel this for the first time…And know… it’s the last time!

“I will miss you Stephen…I have a new job now…fighting cancer.”

“You will win…and I shall see you here again…renewed…on holiday…I will open this door many times more for you…I await your return to Dublin”

I hear in him sweet Irish proverbs…”your feet will bring you where your heart is”…and “love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Two hours sleep in four days. Prayer…tearful talks with family…fear…Jan calling five minutes after the doctor call…channeling mom and her uncanny intuition…love and strength from family…work…encouragement from colleagues…Shane to hold me up when work seemed a distant reality…tears with my good friend, Nicole…Wikipedia research…where is the T5 vertebrae…what is multiple myeloma…how long do I have…action…lists…ready…

Home! Hugs! Hope!

Woven between the Christmas shopping, wrapping, decorating and baking was a steady stream of doctor visits, blood tests, biopsies, paperwork, counseling, organizing work for a leave and searching for a place to settle…I land somewhere between fear and power!

It is stunning really!  A day in pain after a swim, run and long day at the computer and I was experiencing debilitating pain in my upper back. Not uncommon but just more than usual…and enough that my hubby and daughter insisted I go to the ER…a heart attack maybe?  For women, back pain is a common symptom…so I found myself at ER!

“What’s your primary complaint?”

“Chest and back pain.”

Three minutes and seven nurses and techs and I was hooked up to EKG…blood drawn.

“How is your pain on a scale of 1-10?”

“10+”

“When did it start?”

“This morning…”

Injection for pain relief…Doctor report…

“Heart is strong.”

“Blood is great!”

“But…we’re doing a CT scan to check for blood clot.”

Drifting in and out of drug induced sleep…

“Ridiculous…should not have bothered…should’ve just taken some Aleve…been better by morning…trip to Dublin…presentation not finished…new sales guy…and Christmas wrapping…party plan and decorating…too much to do…

“No blood clots and everything looks good but there is a shadow on your T5 vertebrae…follow up with your doctor and schedule an MRI.”

“T5 vertebrae?  Shadow?  Fracture? What?”

Dang it…I feel fine…it’s just age and normal aches and pains…how is this possible?…

It’s now sixty days…

3 weeks of daily radiation on T5 done

3 tattoos for radiation

Cancer team of 15 docs, nurses, nutritionist, naturopathic doc, social worker…

Two hospitals…Overlake and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

I’ve gone from no meds to a long list of meds

Meds heal. Meds make me feel bad.

I have a new medical vocabulary.

I know where T5 is.

I know what multiple myeloma is.

My car knows where Overlake Hospital is and how long it will take me to get there!

I’ve started Chemo.

It’s uncomfortable.

I have also,

Had to leave work for now.

Run a 5k with my family and Yoda.

Had dinner with Minnie and Goofy and Chip and Dale.

Quilted with my friends…our annual retreat…filled with laughter and love and fabulous fabrics.

I swim and walk as often as I can.

Learned the magic of an afternoon nap.

I hold and play and love on my grandson.

I buy pink and navy for a sweet, new, grandbaby to love…arriving this summer.

I Laugh

I Love

I Live

I cry

I carry on

I’ve re-evaluated what’s important.

Pray for wisdom and grace.

And have learned these truths…

I am loved – surrounded by family…near and far…hands to hold, tears to share, dinners, fun, and there for me listening when I cannot hear.  The notes, text messages, calls, hilarious pick me ups, packages of courage and strength (thank you Linda) from old friends and new friends and friends from far away, from Dublin and Toulouse and Singapore…all have blessed me beyond measure…

I am strong – my health is otherwise great…I swim and walk and play…and I have faith…trust the Lord and know my future is secure in Him.  So even when I am weak from drugs…emotion…fear…I find peace and strength to move on…

A hand to hold is a gift – the infusions are hard…the shots hurt…and lucky me I have had someone to hold my hand…thank you April, Alex, Barbara, Linda and Nicole…and at night when darkness finds me…Mike takes my hand as he has for 33 years…knowing…comforted.

Cancer tries to steal – but I will not let it…I feel joy…I will not let it take a day from me…Han Solo said…”never tell me the odds.”  I do not want to know…I choose to focus on living!

Cancer frees – free to release the unnecessary demands…self-imposed and impossible to accomplish…knowing I am blessed for a life well lived…unafraid…letting go…

I choose love – letting go of hurt…finding forgiveness…giving unconditional love…seeing for first time the grace in my life…the gift of a loving and generous husband…needs for everything met…the gift of my children…who love me…joy in seeing them grow and prosper.

Music heals – Mitch Albom says “All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?” I find myself lost in music and lyrics…that tell my story…give me hope, make me smile…and I feel the music as I play piano…years of peace and patience and possibility…Beethoven was right…music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life…it is now more than ever my refuge.

Talking about it helps – this is my new reality…this new journey…and I am an open book…I share because I express myself in words…words are my life and comfort comes to me in the exchange of thought and idea…ask me…I will tell you…

Yoda’s wisdom charms me – he says, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose” and “do or do not…there is no try.” – I have Yoda on my back…training me in the Jedi way…

God’s grace is sufficient for me… He is my strength and my song.  I hear this in the sweet hymn, Blessed Assurance…

This is my story, this is my song,

blessed assurance…all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest.

I in my Savior am happy and blessed

Watching and waiting, looking above

Filled with His goodness, lost in His love

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Savior all the day long

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Savior all the day long

This is my new journey…

One thought on “An Unexpected Christmas

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