15 Minutes

Today was speedy.  From the time I parked my car, (in my special, designated, radiation patient parking place in the parking garage…jealous, huh?), until I was walking back out to my car took a total of 15 minutes.  Brownie, Chipper, and Star Wars were only able to enjoy the presence of my vivacious personality for approximately 5 minutes.  😀  They likely had a small pity party when I left, drowning their sorrow in hot coffee, as it was quite early in the morning. (zzzzzzzz)

As I was leaving that congested area of town, my thoughts went to the things that can happen in a life in 15 minutes…or 5, for that matter.  Someone can go for a normal eye exam and a brain tumor is discovered instead.  A family can be enjoying a beautiful day at the zoo and suddenly their four-year old is in the gorilla exhibit.  An annual, boring mammogram is abnormal.  Parents of a newborn hear, “There’s a problem…”  Suddenly, life is changed completely.

I know. This is coming across like ‘Dodie Downer’,  (aka: Debbie Downer), but I did just come from a room full of cancer fighters, and enjoyed a brief chat with a lung cancer survivor who was awaiting her chemotherapy treatment.  It’s difficult to hide my head in the sand from the fact that

life is fragile

And  often, when we turn our eyes away or bury our heads in our own stuff, it’s really easy to treat it as though it isn’t…precious.

Many times, in the mundane ordinariness of schedules, jobs, church, and just plain busyness, I think that I become numbed to the pain or longing in the faces around me.  It can be overwhelming, I know; it’s kind of my job to know.  At the same time, without an appointment schedule, if I take the time to see – truly see –  there are lonely, suffering people crossing through my life at any given moment of every day.  For instance, while I was having all of my deep, meaningful thoughts, (you may beg to differ), I stopped at a coffee shop for an iced coffee.  Pulling into the parking space was a bit tight and an elderly gentleman felt the need to kindly direct me.  Then he gave me a thumbs up when I navigated the treacherous spot. (Cute, right?)  When I got out of my car I thanked him, aaannnd intended to keep walking, but he wanted to talk…about the weather and the coffee shop and the crowded lot.  By God’s grace, I realized he was lonely, so I stopped mid-stride and chatted for a few moments.  It wasn’t that difficult for me; I simply had to re-calibrate my constant GO-GO-GO switch!

I love a passage in Anne LaMotte’s new book, Small Victories.  Cloaked in sarcastic humor, her wisdom can say things to me that perhaps others cannot.  Maybe her words will help me avoid excessive navel-gazing and open my eyes to what is going on with others around me:

The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends.  They will ruin everything for you.

First of all, friends like this may not even think of themselves as dying, although they clearly are, according to recent scans and gentle doctors’ reports.  But no, they see themselves as fully alive.  They are living and doing as much as they can, as well as they can, for as long as they can.  They ruin your multitasking high, the bath of agitation, rumination, and judgment you wallow in, without the decency to come out and just say anything.  They bust you by being grateful for the day, while you are obsessed with how thin your lashes have become and how wide your bottom.

I’m very grateful that I don’t have any dying friends at present, but now, 5 days a week, I am in the presence of people fighting for everything their lives used to mean to them.  Maybe you are, too.  Maybe it isn’t their physical lives; maybe it’s emotional or spiritual or mental.  It can all feel like dying, just the same…I wonder how 15 minutes of our time can make a difference?  or even 5?

 

Backslider

Day 1 – no  kidding, for reals, as my daughter likes to say when she is being silly.

Today was the main event, the real deal…you get my drift; no cancellation or reprieve today.  I got to hang around in the radiation department for an hour and a half today, most of that time lying on my back looking up at a tile ceiling with what appeared to be laser lights staring down at me.  Yeah, I’m thinking they could use a scenery change, like ocean scenes or botanical gardens.

As soon as my name was called and I walked through the door leaving the waiting room, God gave me a grace gift for the day. Someone laughed and said my name; I looked up to see an old friend from an oncology center where we both formerly worked.  She was one of the people I called when I was doing my research, so I knew that she doesn’t normally work at this hospital.  What a sweet surprise to see her smiling face, to be hugged in her arms, and to hear her words of encouragement!  I smiled all the way to the changing room!

Without realizing it, in the changing room I happened to grab the most giant hospital gown I have ever seen.  I think it could have wrapped me 3 times!  When I walked out, I pulled it out quite a bit to show the two guys who were the techs working with me and they laughed out loud.  One of them said, “There are smaller ones in there.  I think they are gray.”  “NOW you tell me!” I replied.  We were off to a good start.  😉

Next came the table that felt like granite – I laid down on a small, thin, rectangle piece of cloth that was positioned under my back.  Tech #1, Brownie, (because he told me I could bring him brownies any time), and Tech #2, Chipper, (because he was Mr. Upbeat),  kept sliding me by moving this cloth tiny, barely discernible millimeters left or right to line up the markings on my body with their lasers.  Finally, I was where they wanted me and I was told not to move…or take deep breaths, so there I was with my arms over my head, on my back with Star Wars grinding and clicking and dinging around me for 45 minutes.  And what did I want to do?  Take deep breaths and move!  And my nose itched, naturally, so Brownie used a cloth and tried to scratch it for me.  Dear man – bad nose scratcher, but dear man.  😀  It was all somewhat unnerving, so I prayed…for people I knew were hurting, or in need, for my back to cooperate with all of this back sliding and back lying, and for my husband who is struggling just a bit because his beloved is having to weather this storm.

Radiation time is a good time to hang out with God.

 

So, it’s Time to Begin

Day One – or so I thought.

So, I asked myself – what do I have to say that others haven’t already said concerning their cancer treatment journey?  Probably nothing…there are so many eloquent stories that have gone before me – but, of course, the difference is that this is MY cancer treatment journey.  Truly, this blog is going to be more about life than about a small window of my life, and in reality, I’ve lived more of life than I have left.

Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about the entire process of treatment for something that was the size of a dime, surgically removed, which made me cancer-free, I’m told, but then supposedly has to be blasted to kingdom come by 30 days of radiation treatments.  Because I chose the option of surgery, my little breast has to burn-baby-burn.  The two go hand-in-hand; I get it; it was explained to me at least 10 times.  And believe it or not, I am thankful that a mammogram found the tumor early, (LADIES: do yourselves a favor and get your mammograms!).  Unfortunately for my doctors, however, I have not gone quietly into the protocol like a good soldier…nor should you.  I’ve asked a myriad of questions, which they each have answered patiently; well, two of them have answered patiently.  I have done research and talked to a friend in the oncology field and consulted alternative treatment folks.  I have refused one treatment and agreed to others.  And, my husband and I have prayed.

Which brings us to today, my first treatment…except there wasn’t a first treatment; it didn’t happen because – are you ready?  The radiology office called and cancelled because THE MACHINE WAS BROKEN.  Seriously.  This builds such confidence in a soul, right?  Not so much!  Thankfully, my confidence is not resting in a radiology doctor or a radiation machine.

Did I mention that I have prayed throughout this journey and that God has assured me that He has this thing in His hand?  Today was a minor setback.  At first, I was frustrated because I had cancelled an appointment to be at radiation…ok, more honestly, I was angry because my schedule had been changed.  My husband reminded me when I called to tell him of the change of plans that we are probably going to have to learn to be flexible during this process.  Ugh; not my best feature!  However, earlier I had prayed that God would teach me and use me during this time of treatment…I can be a little slow, but I think He may be answering me.

Lesson #1: flexibility.