Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Outta Be In Pictures

I am working on another entry about Nauvoo, but I wanted to post this short one about the ride. So pardon the interruption.
This is a long, tough ride. Mike and Brad are feeling the effects, especially since they rode for several hours in the pouring, drenching, very heavy rain yesterday before it finally cleared up. I got exhausted just driving through it, thinking about them trying to ride their bikes on roads that were solid ponds of water.
That being said, the farm roads and historic highways of the midwest are stunning. I feel like I am riding through locations for movies I have seen. There is Field of Dreams, or It Happened One Night, or Friendly Persuasion. The sunsets remind me of one of my favorite things about living in Minnesota years ago. The little towns that have been proudly preserved are like the historic parts of Philadelphia, without the crowds.
Today, Mike and Brad were able to do part of the ride on a bike path that has been created along a river. It led to the longest covered bridge in the state of Ohio. It is probably longer than 200 yards. It is on the Mohican path, and can only be accessed on foot, horseback, bicycle or buggy.
Yes, I said buggy. We are in Amish country, where even Walmart has a section in the parking lot for buggies.
We made our way along the path to the covered bridge, and Mike and Brad cycled through it while I waited on one side. While I was there, a horse drawn buggy with a family came up the path to the bridge. Sam barked at the horse while I held him back, but they all smiled and waved at us while they passed and rode through the bridge past the others on the other side.
For a moment, Mike wasn't tired or sore. He was just thrilled with the whole experience.
Ahh, real life.
Better than the movies.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gearing Up

I am writing this while sitting by a huge cornfield in Illinois. I am reminded of what my curly hair does when it is 99% humidity outside. And for several hundred miles I have seen field after field of corn or soy beans. Isn’t anything else grown in the midwest?
Mike and his brother are doing the Nauvoo to Kirtland Temple to Temple Ride. My doctor strongly recommended we go ahead with this ride, and I will have surgery two days after we get back. I have been going over the volumes of information she gave me, and I can see why she wants us to do what we can before the surgery. So much will change afterwards, and since we know part of that will include at least 7 weeks of radiation, and I won’t be able to leave town during that time, and Mike needs to be recharged, prepped, energized, geared up and fortified with more than 47 vitamins and minerals in order to hang in there through this with me, going ahead with this planned trip was important.
I’m enjoying this, too.
We were able to drive to Missouri and see some church history sites around there before picking up Brad in St. Louis. Then we went on to Nauvoo. This is the first time we have been there since the Nauvoo temple was rebuilt. I will write more about that in the next blog.

It has been nice seeing Mike and Brad doing this ride together. We have not lived near Brad since we were in college, so it has only been short visits at reunions and during travels for 25+ years. This is a rare chance for them to spend time together.
Like any two siblings, they have much in common, and they are also completely different from each other. So this is interesting for me to see the dynamics.
When I periodically pass them on these farm roads, I like seeing them in active conversation, sharing their thoughts and experiences as they ride through this beautiful countryside. They are catching up on all their childhood to middle age stories.
When we sit down for dinner each night, and the conversation goes in all directions, I can tell when Mike is either just relaxing and enjoying it, or keeping his opinion to himself so everything stays relaxing and enjoyable.
Each also brings a different physical experience to this ride as well.
Brad lives at sea level. When they go up a slight hill, he can feel the air thinning.
We live at 6000 feet. Mike is feeling like he has to chew each time he breathes in, the air is so thick. When we were driving over the state line from Colorado to Kansas there was a sign that said that was the highest point in Kansas at 4039 feet. It’s been downhill since then.
Brad is in good shape, but has not been riding a bike as much as Mike. So they stick together and Brad drafts off of Mike. But several times a day Mike has to stop and be on a business call. Brad will keep riding to get ahead for a while. When Mike is done he “time trials it” until he catches up, and he loves that. I love that crazy man of mine.
I think of what it would be like to have this much time with just one sister at a time, or my brother, doing something that we both really wanted to do. Or just having time together. What an unusual and precious experience that could be.
I am glad Mike is doing this. He is covering a long road this week.
The much longer road starts next week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"C" Is For Cookie, That's Good Enough For Me

Today is brought to you by the letter "C".
C is for Compassion and Courage.
Thanks to all of you, for everything.
I am overwhelmed. So many people sending cards and messages, sharing their own journeys, fasting and praying with us, leaving homemade cookies, soup, fresh picking from their gardens, listening, answering questions, and so much more. I knew of a number of women who are cancer survivors, now I know of many more. Some of them are very private, but they have generously and courageously told me of their experiences, let me ask many very personal questions, and helped me have more information about what is ahead.
Every time I go somewhere, when I return there is something on my doorstep. Handmade cards, drawings from children I know, nourishing foods, special treats. The other day, 10 people from church showed up to help us finish a yard project. It all lightens the load, and lets Mike and I have our strength for what cannot be handed to someone else.
I debated sharing this whole experience with others. But I remembered how much I want to help when those I know are carrying burdens. I need to take this beyond a concept, and let it be the way I live.
And I feel the thoughts and prayers of others working on me.

C is for Care, as in the Red Rocks Cancer Care Center.
I guess timing really is everything. Apparently, this tumor probably started growing about 8 to 10 years ago. I felt it a few months ago because fibrous tissue grew over it. This new cancer center was opened a few months ago. I have met with several of the specialists there, and I am amazed. They took all the time needed to go over every scan, test and report, every option, every part of my life that will impact the healing. My surgeon is not just looking at her part in removing the tumor, my radiation oncologist is not just looking at his part in therapy. They are helping Mike and I form a team with them to overcome and kill the thing that is trying to kill me. And they want me to come through it healed and stronger than ever.
After Dad died, there were people who had worked with him who told us how he was one of the few bosses or teachers they had who would pray with them and for them, and who would hug them. I can now say that I have doctors who pray for me, accept prayers for their own guidance, and who hug me.

C is for Comedy. This is not only from my sisters, it is now officially doctor's orders. So I look for ways to endure with joy. I will take surface level humor as well.
I could go with pop culture, such as the line from "The Devil Wears Prada"..."I'm only one stomach flu away from my goal weight." Maybe I am only one treatment away from my goal weight.
If you need some great humor around this subject, go to youtube and search for Jack Black Mammogram.
This is also a good time to see what kinds of crazy head pieces my artist siblings will make for me, even though (at least for now and I hope never) there is no chemo planned.

C is for Chocolate. The really good kind. I think there should be a clinical trial on the healing properties of fine chocolate. Sign me up for that one.

C is for Cheese, as in "Do you want some cheese with that whine?" Please ask me that if I ever do. Whine that is.

C is for Choice.
Since this is early detection, I still have some choice in some aspects of my treatment. So if you are wondering how important it is to get regular screenings, check-ups and do self-examination, stop wondering. It horrifies me to think how little choice I would have otherwise.
And I always have a choice in how I live. So I choose my life, and every part of it, including the cancer. This is part of my journey, and I am blessed with a wonderful life journey.
Besides that, if I gripe about not wanting this life, and complaining that things should be different, it is exhausting, boring, and makes me unbearable to be around. I'd rather not be alone right now.
Michael told me yesterday that when he gave me a blessing the night before the biopsy, he knew it was cancer, but that we would make it through this together. That is when I knew that he had chosen to make this his battle, as much as mine.
This is how powerful choice is. A few days ago I had an MRI. I had to lie on my stomach, my face laying in an uncomfortable cutout, my hands over my head, not moving for 40 minutes. The physical discomfort was there but not extreme. The mental and emotional strain of thinking about why I was there, and what the scan might show is overwhelming. Mike had talked the technicians into letting him be in the room, holding my hand the whole time. Even though we couldn't talk to each other, he would squeeze my hand every minute or so. This is our battle. And each time I would feel overwhelmed I would think of all the people praying for me, and God's awareness of each of us, knowing us by name. I felt unseen hands placed gently all over my back and legs, easing the tension and worry.
That is the journey I choose.