Friday, December 14, 2007

Once upon a time (Take 2)

I think I found the starting block. The one where I need to start being kind to myself so I could get good at it, go into the doing-it-subconsciously-mode so I can get down to concentrating on other people and not myself.

Funny enough (or not surprising at all?) it's connected with the scrapbooking thing. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who commented on that post of mine. Most of the things you said I knew already, but I wanted to throw myself a small pity party about not ever getting the chance to scrap pages of my baby (not to mention the plural!). Now that THAT's out of the way, let's get to the rest of it.

My photo box (freshly organized thanks to various visits to my local scrapbooking shop - just pretend you didn't see that if you're reading this Mr. Bank Manager!) Going through the various categories during the past week or so, I kept avoiding my own baby pictures for some insane very obvious reasons. My sister Wilma came around for coffee the other day, and since we're partners in crime with this latest hobby, she enquired about all the pages I scrapped the past week since I've been on holiday.

When I uhmed and ah'ed she said nothing, just had that look on her face that said: "Tell me about what's bothering you really." And so I did. Ms. Crybaby came out instantly. (Maybe if I stopped drinking so much water - do you think that would help keep the tears at bay?) The words and excuses didn't make much sense at first, but she let me cry and babble for a few minutes.

What she said then made so much sense, why I didn't think of it first is a mystery. She said: " Sis, no matter what happened in your past, you have a story to tell. What's more important is not that you won't be telling it to your children, but it's important that you TELL your story. It's yours. Just tell it."

So that's what I did. I picked one of my baby pictures and scrapped it. It was a bit small for a 12 x 12 page, so I went for the 8 x 8 size. Here is the result:

For a bigger image, click *here*. I struggled a bit with the correct lighting - but you get the idea. The journaling is as follows: "Krulletjies, Kuiltjies & Kleintyd se Kiekies." So why did I write it in Afrikaans when I knew most of you wouldn't understand at all? Because all the k's are part of a letter play on my name. Translated it means: "Krulletjies (curls), Kuiltjies (dimples) & Kleintyd (childhood times) se Kiekies (photos)."

Yes it was therapeutic, and yes I cried a few times. The important part is that I started. I'm not skipping over my own pictures anymore. Looking at them is still painful, but by looking at who I was, how I changed from a little baby into who I am today, makes me realize I'm someone special. And the world didn't fall in on my head just because I actually typed it.

The lesson I learned this week, thanks to Wilma's advice, is that I need to tell my story even though some of the chapters I wanted to have in my book won't be there. It will make it different, and it will be beautiful, because it is MINE.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had no idea whatsoever about all the real life monsters out there. She also had no idea how beautiful life could be, but she was about to find out exactly how absolutely breathtaking it is!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reach in to Reach out

"In our deepest moments of struggle, frustration, fear, and confusion, we are being called upon to reach in and touch our hearts. Then, we will know what to do, what to say, how to be. What is right is always in our deepest heart of hearts. It is from the deepest part of our hearts that we are capable of reaching out and touching another human being. It is, after all, one heart touching another heart." - Roberta Sage Hamilton

Once again a quote found me when I needed it most.

For the past few months I've really been struggling in frustration, fear and confusion, because I don't know what to do, what to say or how to be.

I thought that if I reached out and helped the people I loved and cared for so that they could cope with their heartaches and sorrows, I'd forget about my own. Maybe I overdid it. The emotionally drained feeling is drowning me. Draining vs. Drowning. If you think about the two words they are quite the opposite of each other. It's the only way I have to explain the desperation I feel when I'm getting anxious when there is absolutely no reason for it.

Reaching in and touching your own heart - just the thought is excruciatingly painful. But if I don't look inside myself and be kind to the person I am deep down in my soul, I can't reach out to other people. I need to do that in order to shift my attention from what's hurting me to what I know makes me happy - being a part of making someone else happy.

By writing this blog I've dealt with a lot of the issues I've buried too deep to work through in the past. I thought I was nearing the end, getting stronger and being able to glide through life without the children I dreamed about, but I still have to learn some lessons it seems.

So... brace yourself my dear heart, you're about to be touched!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Mystery Man

Ok, you won. :)

Let's call him Mr. Saint, or just St. for short. Why? It's a wordplay on his name. I took away one letter in his real name that occurs twice and changed the u to an i. Ready? Here we go...

We met in 2002 in a chatroom - talked online and on the phone for about 3 months before we met for coffee the first time. The relationship fizzled out at the end of December of that year, but in November of 2003 he contacted me again. We took up where we left off, and became even better friends than before. Nothing seriously romantic, but the spark was there.

I wrote this piece about him a year or so ago:

"This is the story about my guardian angel. You won’t describe him as a typical one. Not even after seeing John Travolta in “Michael”. His spiky grey hair and wrinkles, even when he isn’t laughing, oddly enough make him look younger than his age - 15 years older than me. Sometimes the age gap bothers me, but that only happens when I allow convention to get in the way of my reality. To top it all he has the most beautiful blue eyes. They look straight into the deepest parts of my soul.

He loves coffee. The first cup I ever made him was in my kitchen. When he hugged me while we waited for the percolator to finish, it was so much more than the hugs I’ve been used to. It felt safe, warm, familiar and oh so tender.

Way back during the first months we knew each other, I never knew when he would come by again. Every time he closed the door behind him, I unconsciously said goodbye in my heart. Not a sad goodbye though. The deep feeling of serenity I felt after each of his visits is almost indescribable. It lasted for days after he was gone…

He gave me wings! At first I didn’t trust him when he told me to jump and just fly. But he was so patient in explaining why I am strong enough not to fear flying. He gently took my hand and showed me who I am. He highlighted all of my strengths, and showed me that my weaknesses are actually challenges waiting to be turned into successes. He told me I am beautiful, time and again, made me look at my body with all it’s flaws and taught me to love it as God loves me. He made me believe that I’m special, that I can soar above the past, into an exquisite future!"

This is a love story yes, even though it's a strange one. Not the usual type of romance where two people fall in love and live it from sunrise to sunrise. It’s different in the sense that there is so much love, feeling and understanding, but on an unusual level of consciousness. It works for us right here and now. He lives in a town 2 hours away from mine, and the space this long distance relationship offers both of us, is what makes it work.

Telling you about this mystery man of mine might leave you with even more questions than you had before. I don't know how long we'll still be part of each others' lives, but right now I'm just focusing on the beautiful journey we're sharing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Scrapping Volcanoes

Hands up those of you that are doing scrapbooking. Not just one or two pages here and there, but really being into it.

Chances are that I won't see many hands.

You know why? Because 95% of scrapbooking is about making memory pages of babies, children and families. And those of us with the Infertility badge probably aren't brave enough to scrap pages of our nieces, nephews or any baby/child we know.

I gave into the scrapbooking hobby a few weeks ago because I just had to find something creative to do. Doing school work 24/7 didn't work for me anymore. TV and movies lost its appeal. I didn't even want to do any of the arty farty things I did in the past.

Blogging and visiting your blogs got downright too difficult. The words I read hurt more than it healed: I couldn't even get myself to write about life in general. The words were there, ideas for what to blog about were all over the place but jumbled, flying around and bouncing off the walls of my mind. Every single time I started thinking about blogging, I immediately changed direction, avoiding it on purpose.

Well, here I am. Don't know if I'll be blogging often again since our summer holidays started a week ago, but maybe, just maybe I'll have enough courage to face what must be said and written.

Back to the scrapbooking thing: how sad is it for a woman my age to make her very first scrapbook page about her cat? Very. Extremely. Painfully so. Yup, that's me. It turned out beautifully, but then I got stuck.

This morning I woke up, so eager to do something constructive today. Browsed through pages after pages of scrapbook layout ideas online. You can't avoid them: babies, children, families. No matter how hard I tried to just look at the layout ideas, the pictures just shoved themselves into my face. I suddenly felt extremely sorry for myself, and just started crying.

At least it got me blogging again. But you know what? I realized one thing: even after you thought you made peace with Infertility's impact on your life, the pain you thought were gone/better, comes back to make you crumble into millions of little pieces again.

The pain of Infertility never goes away, we just bury it deeper day after day. And then something in your life triggers some seismic activities in your soul and hurt and pain erupts like a volcano. Sometimes it's only a warning rumble, but then there are times that turns cities like Pompeii into a sad part of history.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pregnant Women Are Stalking Me!

Not right now, thank goodness, but when I saw that topic in a scrapbooking email, I was quite surprised. I'm trying really hard to cope with life in general, doing lots of different things to keep my mind from wandering (wondering too?) so I've succumbed to the scrapbook-bug that's been nibbling away at me for the past few years. (Let's not talk about it right now - I spent WAY too much money on my starter kit, but boyohBOY it's fun!)

Anyway, it was kind of "Huh? What's this?" when I saw that topic, but at the bottom of the email from ScrapGirls that I receive daily, (they've got loads of ideas - subscribe if you haven't done so yet!) there was a short article that I identified with immediately.

"Customer Muse: Pregnant Women Are Stalking Me!

I have a confession.

Five long years. Yes, for five years, pregnant women have been stalking me. I am not talking about the ones that are pregnant and don't know about it yet, however, I am sure they are tracking me as well. But, I am referring to the ones that are very pregnant and about to POP; the pregnant women who can hardly walk because their load is so heavy. How do they know which aisle I am in at the grocery store? How do they know which pew I will choose at church? Do they have a built in radar system that magnetizes them to me - the infertile one? That’s how you feel when you want to have children, but it’s just not happening.

Pregnant women are everywhere. They know which parking space I am going to choose and what elevator I am going to be on. They wait on me at restaurants, check me out at the grocery store, take my money at the bank, and even ask me for directions. If you are experiencing infertility, you may be being stalked by pregnant women as well! How about the pregnant women that already have four kids in the shopping cart? Oh yes, they are after me, too!

If you have ever felt like this, I have a secret plan of revenge and you can join me on my mission. I refuse to let my joy be stolen by these attackers – stalkers - if you will. Instead, I pray a prayer of blessing on them. THERE take that! I see them coming near, every color and shape, but instead of resenting them and being painfully jealous of them as I used to be, I have decided that I will PRAY for them when they come after me.

While these women are not aware that they are my "enemies," I really believe that The Enemy encourages them in my direction to see if I will snap under the stress of our fertility struggles. My battle here is not really at all with the pregnant princesses who come my way in all of their glowing splendor, but with Satan himself and the thoughts that enter my mind.

If you have ever felt this way, take my advice and make your thoughts captive to Christ and 2 Corinthians 5:10b. In the renewing of your mind, FORCE yourself to speak a blessing prayer over those who seem to torment you. You don't have to do it out loud, just in your head. Then, you can stand tall and walk past the challenge, knowing that the King of Kings used YOU to bless someone you don't even know.

Barbarita Lee"

This is not going to be easy for me. I try to avoid the subject of pregnancy, babies AND Infertility totally - one of the reasons why I'm blogging way less than I do normally. But I'll try it because doing something nice for someone else will always make you feel better.

A little update on my mom: she is doing so much better! Visited them on Thursday afternoon when they returned from their seaside vacation, and I haven't seen her looking this good since early January. Thanks for all your prayers and support! :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Witch and I

Last night I started reading Paulo Coelho's "The Witch of Portobello". I love his books: the words he uses to weave his stories always get stuck in my soul somewhere, making me think and feel deeper than I expected to.

It's not much different with the witch. On page 5 the words zoomed into my heart and I had to read it over and over.

Somehow Mr. Coelho put the tip of his finger on the most sensitive part of my being while he was describing an episode from Athena's life through the eyes of an admirer.

Here is what he wrote:

"But then, how many of us will be saved the pain of seeing the most important things in our lives disappearing from one moment to the next? I don't just mean people, but our ideas and dreams too: we might survive a day, a week, a few years but we're all condemned to lose. Our body remains alive, yet, sooner or later, our soul will receive the mortal blow. The perfect crime - for we don't know who murdered our joy."

The next paragraph explains so perfectly how I see myself during the times we tried to conceive, when I was dreaming of my own child, buying baby clothes, living the dream during those few weeks I was pregnant:

"I'm finally coming to accept that I was only a temporary inhabitant, there as a favor, like someone who finds himself in a beautiful mansion, eating exquisite food, aware that this is only a party, that the mansion belongs to someone else, and that the time will come when the lights will go out, the owners will go to bed, the servants will return to their quarters, the door will close, and he'll be out in the street again, waiting for a taxi or a bus to restore him to the mediocrity of his every day life."

And then the harshest of realities when I woke up:

"...This is the universe I'll have to live with for the rest of my days... I'll wake up sweating and go into the kitchen for a glass of water. I'll understand that in order to combat ghosts you must use weapons that form no part of reality. Then... I'll place and open pair of scissors on my bedside table to snip off the end of the dream. The next day, I'll look at the scissors with a touch of regret, but I must adapt to living in the world again or risk going mad."

Just when you think you're getting a grip on living a strong and painless life having accepted the cruel, cold fact of Infertility, it creeps in from somewhere and you're looking - silently and stunned again - at the empty spaces where your dreams should've been...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a very cute, very lovable, and very spoiled kitty cat.

She loved her human so much that she allowed her to sleep in the big white bed every night. She didn't care so much that the human thought the bed belonged to her and that cats only had second choice when it came to choosing which side to sleep on. She tolerated that most nights.

Sometimes however, she claimed her rightful place and edged her human carefully onto the other side of the bed during the night. She did it so stealthily that the human only realized this when she woke up the next morning.

One day, a friend of the cat came to visit. They spent hours chatting and playing, and when the visitor got too tired, the cat invited him onto the big white bed. He promised to stay on his side, safely tucked away under the pillow, so that if the human woke up before him in the morning, he could get away quickly without being discovered. The cat slept at the foot end of the bed that night, purring herself to sleep, life couldn't get better than that! Her human and her friend sleeping peacefully next to each other.

The phrase "rude awakening" got a fresh meaning in the early hours of the next day when a shrill, short scream bounced off the walls of the bedroom. No sooner did the cat peep out from her safety spot under the chair in the corner of the bedroom, than she saw her human standing next to the bed with her cellphone in hand.

"Kitty cat, if I don't take a picture of this right now, nobody is ever going to believe me!"

A bright light flashed and the cat saw her friend sitting on top of the pillow. He winked at her without moving any other muscle in his body, and she got the message: "Play innocent, pretend you don't know anything!"

The cat blinked back and didn't move a whisker.

Later that day she found her friend on the southern side of the 3rd group of bricks next to the pool. She knew her human took her friend outside and dropped him off safely into the bushes, but the whole incident was terrifying. It could so easily have worked out differently! But all's well that ends well.

Now she just have to think of a way how to get rid of that picture on her human's cellphone. Damning evidence indeed!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Where are my feet?

I've said it so many times, but it stays a fact: you girls rock! Thanks for your comments and support, you're really awesome. :)

And to answer my own question: my feet are still firmly on mother earth, despite my seemingly euphoric post on Tuesday. The changed situation didn't bring sudden healing or an overnight cure; the road ahead is still going to be very rough. As Geohde rightly said in her comment: metastasized ovarian cancer is NOT good.

My mom's been suffering from it's side effects since last year this time, the origin of the disease having been misdiagnosed more than once, and because of that it has spread beyond her ovaries. Make no mistake: this is stage IV ovarian cancer, it's very serious.

Then why do I think of it as a miracle?

Because it could so easily have been otherwise. The decision to go to a different radiology unit, and thus having to change oncologists, (long & rather unpleasant story) was made in a split second. If my parents didn't decide to go to this new hospital, and making the leap of seeing a new oncologist, she would've been treated for something minor, and the cancer cells would've had a field time growing bigger and stronger. (I am sooooo sure God had something to do with that machine breaking down when it did!)

Now, despite the fact that she needs chemotherapy once a month for the next 6 months, we all feel that the doctors finally got to the root of the problem, and that it is being addressed properly for the first time since all the bad stuff started.

The good news is that there is no cancer in her lung any more. The patches of cancer found in her stomach lining, on her backbone (not 100% sure about the exact location but it's in the bone in the surrounding areas to her ovaries) and in one of the lymph nodes in her chest is really small. Doc S referred to them as "a few granules". Those of you with a medical background, please help me out if I got this wrong, it IS good news isn't it? Even though it's not in her ovaries but surrounding tissue?

Something that is very strange to me is the fact that they couldn't find any sign or spot of cancer on/in her ovaries by way of the scans. The radiologist said something about them being too shriveled up and small for him to make out anything properly. That does make sense to me, but I'm still wondering about it. If any of you know something about this, please let me know?

Despite the reality of a less than great prognosis, I see these latest developments as a new lease on life for my mom, a kind of second chance. Yes, the statistics I see of life expectancy for ovarian cancer patients is nauseating, but you know what? I choose to believe that my mom will be with us for more than just a few more months, and I'm praying really hard that whatever God has planned for her and our family, we would handle with the grace that only He can provide.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Miracles DO happen!

When last where you in the first row watching a miracle happen? Let me help you out: right about now! If you've been following my posts the past few months, seeing an Infertility blog changing into one about breast cancer, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about.

We received my mom's test results from 2 weeks ago this afternoon. Her appointment was at 2 pm, and we all would've met afterwards at Linda's house where her youngest, De Wet, had his 6th birthday party today. I had to be back at school by 5 pm for the Annual General Meeting (yuck!) and by the time I had to be on my way, there still wasn't any sign of my parents. Their cell phones where switched off, and my frustration was mounting.

About 5:30pm, I sms'ed my sisters for the umpteenth time for news about my mom, and she phoned me herself almost immediately. I got up and walked out of the meeting (was sitting right at the back so I hopefully didn't disturb too many people) and got the best news ever.

The latest test showed that the cancer that was removed from her lung in February originated from ovarian cancer and did NOT metastasize from her breast cancer of 10 years ago. The newest cancer that spread to her stomach lining and backbone is also from the ovarian cancer.

So how on earth can I possibly say it's the best news ever? Metastasized breast cancer is not curable, and you won't go into remission like the first time around. Chemotherapy, radiation etc. will only lengthen the patient's life, and later on palliative care would enhance her quality of life. The ovarian cancer is a new cancer which means it can be cured, she CAN go into remission again: my mom isn't dying, she is going to get better!!

When my mom told me the wonderful news, I burst into tears. The dam wall broke at last. I have a terrible headache since the tears dried up, and there are still a whole lot of them needing to come out, but the worst is over.

I'm still trying to get my mind around everything, and I struggle really hard to not think of the fact that things could still get worse even though it's a different and new cancer. I want to believe that she'll get better, not sicker, even though it's stage IV already.

I choose to be positive and hopeful, and to rejoice in this miracle from God - He is truly awesome!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions galore, but I've made up my mind. ("Good grief, at last!" she heard them sigh relieved.)

Last Tuesday the bunch of information regarding prophylactic treatments threatened to drown me. Before "maybe" became definitely, I played with all kinds of scenarios, but when I had to choose for real, things changed a lot.

I seriously considered each and every one of the treatments below. Not just how it would feel, the financial implications etc, but there was a time during the past week where I had my mind set on every single one of them.

These are my prophylactic options considering the BRCA2 mutation:
  1. Bilateral mastectomy, oophorectomy and hysterectomy. No need to tell you about the traumatic implications on my emotions as well as my bank balance. If I do all of these surgeries at once, it will only reduce my chances of getting breast or ovarian cancer by 90%. Yup, even if you go through all of this, you can still get the same cancer in the regions around the amputated/removed organs.
  2. Just the bilateral mastectomy. Uhm, no thanks. Period. Read more about reconstructive breast surgery HERE, if you dare!
  3. Oophorectomy and hysterectomy. Doc Greta (the oncologist/gynecologist at the familial breast cancer clinic) said it would be better not just doing one or the other, like 2 for the price of one. This option also scares the living daylights out of me, because it puts you into menopause overnight. BAM. No thanks, I'll go there as slow as I can!
  4. Tamoxifen. One of the more serious side effects of this medication is an increased risk for endometrial cancer, but since I use the Mirena, it seems the specific risk doesn't play that big a role after all. Another side effect is blood clots and hot flushes. Read more about the rest of the gory details regarding the side effects here if you're interested.
  5. Doing nothing at all, besides going for a MRI scan every 6 months in stead of once a year or less. Doc Greta prefers this kind of scan above the normal mammogram since it can spot cancer much earlier and deeper. (Seeing that it's much less painful for big-breasted woman, this is a big plus for me!) The downside is that it costs about $1000 per scan, and THAT is where the ouch comes in!
I decided on the Tamoxifen route. Normally you take this drug for 5 years, and thereafter you switch to something like Arimidex. (The wealth of information you can look up on Wikipedia is totally awesome!) Fast forward to the menopausal symptoms since I'm not there by a long shot, but I think I'll be able to handle that better than arriving at the post-menopause station overnight.

The big cry still didn't happen, but I feel it coming closer every day. All in all I'm coping and doing well when life goes smoothly. The moment I hit the slightest of speed bumps, my tear ducts open full force for a few seconds, only to close down again before the flood can get it's foot in the door. This can be quite embarrassing you know! The man behind me at the pay station in the mall today must've thought I'm totally crazy when I started crying when the stupid machine didn't want to take my money. At least I can still see the humor in it - may it stay that way!

Thanks SO MUCH for your incredible feedback on my previous post. This is the one place where I can say what I want, cry when I want and still know you won't think I went off my rocker. If my surname was Gates, I'd flew you all over for an incredible spa weekend at a 5 star Safari lodge! And those of you who asked for more information about you-know-who, just sit tight till you forget about him again. *grin* Besides, I don't have a nice nickname for him, and that won't work. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Reality check

Please tell me part of being strong is to know when to acknowledge that you're not always as tough as you thought you were!

Because I really need to do something to get rid of the rising panic inside me.

Have you ever thought of the predicament cancer patients are in? No not the illness, but their coping skills. You SO often hear how strong they are, how absolutely awesome they cope with being so sick - shining examples of survivors, heroes, people to be admired for their sheer strength of fighting the disease. Have you ever thought that these cancer patients aren't really all that strong and positive? That all the sick people before them set such high standards of coping well (even if they were just really good actors) that it is kind of expected of them to be strong and fight with everything they have? That if they just express what they feel that healthy people might think they are losers? Not that they wouldn't want to fight to survive, but do you get my drift?

I'm not even sick, I just have a silly, not-so-perfect gene that might make me sick some day, and my emotions are rising in my throat to the point where I'm nauseous and fighting back the panic. The truth is starting to sink in, and the harder I try to concentrate on the positive things, the harder the pounding in my head.

It really might be my imagination, and no it's not you guys reading here, but the people in my life outside the blogosphere, that seems to expect me to take this in my stride. More especially my close family and the man in my life. Ok, I haven't mentioned him yet on this blog, guilty as charged. We're not planning on getting married in the near future, so children aren't an option at all, and uhm, ok, well, now you know about his existence!

What I'm trying to say is that maybe we're trying to motivate each other, positive thinking and all that jazz, while we're hiding our fears. Maybe not. Maybe everyone else, my sisters included, really are coping. Linda said it's been a reality for her for a few years now, having dealt with cancer 5 years ago. She initiated the genetic testing, so I guess she had more time to think this through. Wilma said she is OK, we haven't spoken much since Tuesday, but she surprised me with her insight and summary of what she felt like, only hours after the results.

My mom has to focus on her health, even though she cried when she heard we all had the mutation. She acknowledged that she felt guilty in a way for passing it on to us, but we quickly assured her that even if we had to choose between having her for a mom WITH the mutation, or another mom without it, we would take her a million times over with it, again and again.

Today I'm finding it really, really hard not to crack up emotionally. This is NOT the end of the world, and it's NOT a death sentence, but I'm SO scared. My mom's suffering and pain the past 9 months has been a serious wake up call. Cancer is BAD. VERY bad. I never EVER want it!!

It's not that I don't pray to God to comfort me, to give me peace of heart and mind. It's just that I'm praying without words because I'm holding myself in check so hard that I'm scared to let go, and maybe that's not enough...

You know, the funny thing is that in a few days or weeks I'll be reading this post again, and by then I'll be stronger and calmer about everything. Right now however, I'm fighting the panic while feeling paralyzed at the same time.

My blog isn't going to be a fun place to visit during the next few weeks, so I won't blame you at all if you choose to skip it, or not to comment. It's really OK, I do understand. I need to get this out, I need to write about everything, even if it's not remotely related to Infertility. That's where I started, this is where I am now...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Facts & Feelings

I wanted to wait before I wrote about my feelings concerning the outcome of the test, mainly because I thought I'd be more clear about them. Not so.

This is what I know:
  1. Having the mutation just means I have an much bigger chance of contracting breast and ovarian cancer.
  2. It's just a pre-disposition to cancer, not the Big C itself.
  3. Without the BRCA2 mutation I have a 7% of getting breast cancer somewhere in my lifetime. With it, about 80%.
  4. Without the BRCA2 mutation my chances of getting ovarian cancer is about 1,4%. With it, 50%.
  5. Women who never have had children may be at greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
  6. There are numerous prophylactic options available.
  7. I do not have to decide right away what I should do.
This is how I'm supposed to be feeling:
  1. Happy to know about the mutation: now I can be extra careful.
  2. Thinking of knowing about it as something that empowers me.
  3. Concentrating on living here and now, making the most of every day.
I'm worried about:
  1. My medical scheme. It's not going to pay for the MRI the oncologist wants me to get without avail. Nor does it have adequate oncology coverage. An upgrade is needed ASAP.
  2. If I do upgrade, and they ask me any new questions, I'll have to answer truthfully about the mutation, and then they might not allow my upgrade.
  3. I can only upgrade in about a month's time, and it will only start January 2008.
  4. So many more things are going through my mind, but I'm way too scared to write them down.
This is how I actually feel:
  1. Watch this space, the jury is still out on this one.

All in all I'm doing ok. A really good cry is long overdue, but I find all kinds of excuses not to go there. So until I am brave enough to allow my tears to flow, I'll keep super-busy.

You know what amazes me? The strength I find in myself. I knew it was there: Infertility was a hard task master, but where I thought it would only have limited resources, it's like the widow's oil well. So far at least! But that is a whole different post altogether.

We're still waiting for my mom's results. She's doing OK under the circumstances. Positive and upbeat despite the pain and tiredness. Will let you know what happens as soon as we hear anything.

You all are super wonderful - your comments bring tears to my eyes, your love and encouragement makes me feel warm and cared for. I know I've said it a few times already, but you don't cease to amaze me with your non-stop support. Thanks again!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Official

Seems like the little mutation has been quietly (so far!) sitting there for the past 40-something years. Both my sisters tested positive too.

Well, what do you say when the words are still all jumbled up and running riot in your mind? "Talk to you tomorrow" might be the best option right now.

I'm not as OK as I wanted to be, but at least I know the sun will shine again in about 10 hours' time!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pulling an Ostrich on myself

You all know about the phrase to "Bury your head in the sand". Fortunately for their species, ostriches aren't that stupid, but it works for me!

I wouldn't hide my head. Some other body parts of mine most definitely.

Tuesday is looming, and I'm really scared. Confused and emotional. Trying to work, but concentration is not on the menu today.

The day we got confirmation that my mom had the BRCA2 gene mutation, I thought I might go with the oophorectomy but nothing more. Maybe, (can you see how small the maybe is?) a hysterectomy too so I won't have to handle the bleeding side effects of the hormone replacement therapy. Not to mention the fact that that in itself can cause breast and ovarian cancer - between the devil and the deep blue sea it seems!

Well that was then. I discussed it with two really good friends, and both of them said NO to surgery at all. For various reasons, all sounding extremely good and convincing at the time. I was calm and sure: I'll deal with breast cancer if and when it happens to me. Until then I'll do my self-exams, go for an annual mammogram, and change my lifestyle for the better.

Again, that was then. When my mom almost died two weeks ago, everything changed. Even though the doctors don't want to confirm our suspicions (due to professional ethics I presume?) we are almost certain the pleural effusion was caused by her chemotherapy (taxotere). She suffered from extremely painful rashes on her hands, her nails (hands and toes) was equally painful and started falling off a few weeks ago. Not to mention her shortness of breath and utter exhaustion.

Yes she is very sick, and yes chemo is everything but a walk in the park. But seeing her suffer so much, has changed my mind yet again. Right now I would cut off and out everything that could remotely increase my chances of getting breast cancer. IF I have that damned gene mutation.

I can see it for the emotional reaction it is. But I also understand for the first time why women would gladly get rid of their breasts, uterus and ovaries to be safe from cancer. Despite the trauma the surgery undoubtedly cause. Not to mention the financial implications and the physical pain. The loss of all the body parts that makes them female. (Being infertile I've been through the argument that your femininity doesn't lie in your body parts or ability to procreate a million times - this post is not about that)

Lately my body feels more like an enemy than anything else. My ovaries, uterus and I have made friends even though I felt they let me down years ago when I needed them, but now I'd rather not think of them. It's not all that difficult. The Mirena helps me to forget that they're there.

My breasts are a whole different problem though. God has blessed me with a little bit more (uhm too much if you asked me!) than I wanted in that region. But with age came acceptance, and I actually started to like them. They are full of flaws but they are mine, and even though I never wear anything in public that would announce my cleavage to the world, I secretly adored that part of me.

It's October, and it's breast cancer awareness month, and just about everywhere I look the message shouts out: "Look at your breasts, touch them, feel for lumps, look for changes, go for a mammogram etc etc etc."
(While we're on the October month subject - when last did you have a mammogram? Make an appointment TODAY. And don't do as I do, do as I say!) But I don't want to touch my breasts. I don't want to see them either. I want to ignore them, and maybe, just maybe they will go away quietly.

Forget it. They are in my face. Not literally, thank goodness no, but it's as if they have a life of their own lately. Asking for attention. I'm sure they expand on purpose just so I'd brush against them whenever I move my arms. So I'd be reminded they're still there. And then they get smaller again just to make me worried that something is really wrong. They take turns you see. One day Lefty itches, the next day Righty. Innocent itches don't worry, just like my nose or some other body part. I covered them in body lotion, quickly, so I could put them back underneath my clothes and try to hide from them again.

On Friday they started a new game. A nasty one. Sharp pain shooting through them. Like a thunderbolt (no not THAT painful!) - quick and gone again. Never in the same place twice. Happened about 8 times. But I'm not stupid. I know it's my mind playing tricks on me. This is absolutely psychosomatic. It's because they are the center of my worries and anguish waiting for the results on Tuesday.

I probably won't go for prophylactic surgery if it turned out I do have the BRCA2 mutation. (That's how I feel this second, but I retain the right to change my mind as often as I want to on this one!) On the one hand because I'm too scared (and maybe because my medical aid won't pay for it) and on the other hand because I really believe that God is the captain of my life's ship. He will take care of me, and give me the strength to handle whatever rough seas He steers me through.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holding my breath again!

I'm somewhat at a loss for words at the moment. My mom had an appointment with her new oncologist this afternoon, and I just got off the phone after speaking to my parents.

The oncologist ordered special tests to compare the breast cancer from 10 years ago to the new cancer that was removed from her lung in February this year. He wants to make sure that this new occurrence is breast cancer. According to him, the breast cancer 10 years ago was so small and so insignificant, that it wasn't supposed to recur.

He said that this might be totally unrelated to the breast cancer, that it might be related to ovarian cancer (even though there is no sign of it) and that it might not be cancer after all.

Did you read that? My mom might not have cancer. "Might" is the word we use to express possibility, so lets get this straight: There is a small possibility my mom might not have cancer after all. Can you believe that? God is amazing!

I'm realistic enough to know that the "might" could also go the other way. But you know what else? Doc S (oncologist - the newest angel in the fold) said he wants the results first, but he suspects that there wouldn't be any need for more chemo. If it turns out to be cancer, hormone therapy would be enough. No more chemo, and certainly no radiation.

I'm holding my breath; scared that if I exhale I'd get too excited and forget that we have to wait for the results. But I'm also praying harder than ever. God knows what He is doing, and whatever the results, He is holding us in His hand. Three business days stands between us and the results. Never before have I wished a weekend away, but this time I'd give it up in a second! So Wednesday here we come.

Talking about results. The Familial Cancer Clinic phoned and made an appointment with us for next week Tuesday. They have the results. We will get them on the 23rd. I'll talk more about that tomorrow, maybe Saturday. Seeing that I said I'm going to be blogging less, it looks like I've got more stuff to write about than I thought I'd have! And I'm SO behind on visiting your blogs *blush* - watch out for me over the weekend girlfriends!

I cannot publish this post without thanking you all again. Your caring thoughts, comments and emails feels like a warm, comforting blanket around me - thanks SO much for being there!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I met a few angels today...

Yup. Actually more than a few. They were almost everywhere I looked. Dressed like human beings, walking and talking like us. They talked to me too.

No I'm not bonkers, I didn't take any illegal substance, and I didn't fall on my head since I last blogged. God is working miracles in His way - and they are everywhere. Small, medium and the large ones we are still praying for, if it's in His plan for our family. Since last Monday so many things happened.

Let me say firstly: my mom is doing SO much better. She is driving around, visiting friends, and went to a coffee shop with my sister Linda yesterday. I even caught her doing some weeding in the garden over the weekend!

No, I didn't exaggerate her condition and illness last week. Everything happened exactly as I told you. She almost died before she went to hospital Sunday before last. She said she felt it, my dad saw it happening, and the doctors were very worried. On Friday she went home, not needing any oxygen or pain medication. She was still a bit tired, sometimes short of breath, but I haven't seen her looking this good since January this year, before she got sick the first time.

I went to visit my parents on Sunday, totally ready and prepared to cook for us all. When I got there, everything was done, I only had to make the salad and lay the table! And mom flatly refused my help to pack the dirty dishes in the machine. Here is a picture I took of her and my dad on Sunday:

Her face is a bit puffy from the cortisone, (my dad's is puffy because he is a big teddy bear!) and truth to be told, this picture doesn't do her justice. (They might just hurt me for posting this picture!)

Back to my story. She had an appointment with her oncologist Dr D today. We're not very happy with the way he treated her, allowing her to get so sick without doing something to help alleviate her pain, but they trusted him. Today he informed them that the radiology dept at the hospital where they are, couldn't help them with the radiotherapy mom needed - broken machine or something. So they have to go to a different hospital 80km away. My dad asked if there was a possibility for them to rather go to a hospital about 20km from them, they phoned, and got an appointment for my mom immediately.

Doc D didn't like this at all and said if they don't want to go to his choice of hospital, then he would rather not treat my mom any more. (Good riddance I say!) In less than 30 minutes my dad got all the necessary reports, x-rays etc, and drove my mom to the other hospital. Let's call this one LA - Los Angeles - the place of Angels! (Now don't get confused - this is South Africa - this hospital was where I met the angels!)

My mom was almost swept off her feet by caring, helping, supportive nurses at "LA hospital". They were there less than a minute when the new doctor, Doc P, met them and discussed everything in detail with them. She sent my mom for a CT-scan and a bone density scan. That took a few hours, and while my dad went home to rest a bit and get some reports they forgot at home, I popped in to say hello. It's 5 minutes from my home where the old hospital was 20 minutes' drive away from me.

I was just in time to give my mom a hug and a hello before she went in for the bone density scan. We thought it was best for me to go home, since the scan would take about 45 minutes and by the time that was over, my dad would be there again. Just as we kissed goodbye, one nurse told me:

"No don't go, come in with your mom, you can keep her company. Come sit here, everything will be OK."

That was just one of the darling things they did for us. When my dad arrived 30 minutes later, another nurse called me to go get him and show him where my mom was, and brought an extra chair for him to sit on. They were so thoughtful, efficient, just wonderful! I left them a few minutes later with the promise of coffee at my place after they saw Doc P again.

There were a few minutes during the time I waited for them when I almost panicked. The news from these tests might not be good at all. But then I realized how calm I felt when my mom told me everything that happened before I arrived at "LA hospital". When they told me later that the scans showed my mom's cancer had spread even further than her lungs, it wasn't a shock. Not good news at all, but we felt cared for, safe.

The bad news is that the cancer has spread to the membrane around her intestines, her spine as well as some lymph nodes in her chest. But the good news is that these cancer cells are small, and treatable, they do not have to operate. Realistically it might never be operable, but we still have lots of hope. And her lungs are clean!

Last week this time we thought my mom was on the verge of dying. I was crying most of the time, even though God's grace gave me strength. On Tuesday she told me her cancer is terminal, and her response to the treatment will determine how long she will still be with us. In other words, she will be receiving mainly palliative care, making her last days as painless and comfortable as possible.

Realistically speaking again: yes, she might still be terminally ill, and the treatment she will be receiving at this new hospital might still only be palliative care, but it's as if the sun has broken through the rain clouds, and everything looks bright and beautiful.

Hope has shone through and filled our hearts to overflowing. Thank you dear God!

Monday, October 8, 2007

A memory for eternity

Today brought me the incredible gift of a very special moment in time that I shared with my mom.

I phoned her early this morning, to ask how she slept and how she was doing, but she was scarcely able to speak to me. She was so out of breath and in so much pain. When I said goodbye, we both cried.

A little while later my dad phoned, in tears, and when I asked how things are going at the hospital, he answered that it wasn't going well at all. When I hung up the phone, the dam walls broke and I started to cry uncontrollably.

The shock of seeing my mom so utterly weak and in pain over the weekend took it's toll. The heartache of having her crying against my shoulder when she was too tired to undress herself couldn't be held in check any longer. Yes it was rough being the strong one when my mom needed me, but it was so special to have been there for her.

When I got to the hospital, she was much calmer and restful and the medication started doing it's work. She was so strong and so brave: making jokes with two of our friends who drove to the hospital with me. After they left, she was too tired to talk, and I again realized how positive she tries to be for everyone else's sake.

I had some songs on my cell phone of Anne Murray's Gospel CD that I wanted to share with her, and after I plugged in the earphones for her and started playing the songs, I paged through the newspaper lying on the bed, holding her hand in mine.

Two songs later, she motioned to me to lie with my head on her tummy. She took an extra pillow and puffed it under my head. My very sick mom, making me comfortable to lie with her...

And there we were, my mom lying with eyes closed, me sitting next to her, lying with my head on her tummy. Her hand was on my head, her arm framing my face, and while she listened she stroked my hair.

A bit later she took one of the earphones from her ear and held it next to mine. The song she shared with me was "Bridge over Troubled waters" and the first words I heard was:

When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

We just lay there, looking at each other, tears rolling down our cheeks. When the following lyrics were repeated in the song,

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

she brushed the tears from my face and said: "I love you so much!"

We cried, we smiled, we loved. It was the perfect song for the perfect, most precious moment I've ever had with my mom, and I will cherish it in my heart for eternity.


Thanks so much for everyone's support and love in response to my previous post. You will never know just how much it means to me. Each and every comment was like a warm, comforting hug in real life.

My mom went to hospital yesterday when the pain and shortness of breath got too much for her to bear. The oxygen and morphine made her much more comfortable today. She suffers from malignant pleural effusion, a rather common occurrence with women suffering from secondary breast cancer that spread to their lungs, and they started the drainage earlier this evening. My dad said it was excruciatingly painful for her, but that it improved her breathing ability a lot. They drained about 2 liters of fluid within the first 2 hours! The fluid in her left lung (actually the pleural cavity) was starting to infiltrate the right one and pericardium (the membrane around the heart). Tomorrow they are hopefully starting radiation therapy, and her chemo will be adjusted to accommodate this new development. She is very, very sick, but it's going better every day.

My mom is the bravest, strongest, most positive person I know. I was ready to give up on Friday, but she is fighting back like a fierce lioness. She won't ever be cured of this cancer, but I believe that her strong will is going to help her heal.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Life is precious

It looks as if my mom's cancer has spread despite the chemo therapy. The fluid in her lungs was tested and the results showed its filled with cancer cells. She's not doing well physically: she is extremely tired, and has difficulty breathing and speaking. My dad's not doing so well either, understandably so. Please pray for them, for the rest of my family too.

I won't be posting very often: words seem few and far between. Besides, Infertility doesn't seem so bad when my heart is aching for my mom...

Life is so precious, and time is running out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Spring Break

I'll be gone for a few days, running away to a beautiful little place in the Drakensberg mountains called Engogo Riverside Lodge.

It belongs to my sister and her husband, so family stays for free.

Actually, BIL promised I can go there for free for the rest of my life as payment for the website -
Yippeee! Check it out, I'm rather proud of it!

My parents, youngest sister Wilma, her hubby and 2 boys are going to drive down tomorrow, and Linda and her family will join us on Thursday.

Thinking of all of you: those in the middle of new cycles, those of you in the early/middle/late days of pregnancy, and those of you in limbo. Please don't get up to any mischief or do things I wouldn't do. *grin* See you all next Sunday!

PS: Thanks for being patient with me while I wrote out the hurt in the previous post. I'm doing OK: tears are a wonderful way of cleansing the soul.

Still waiting for the rain...

The tears came yesterday afternoon. About nothing, and about everything. I’ve been crying since then.

I cried about winter that left without as much as a goodbye. About spring that came during the night, left its fresh green colors and crispy, sweet smell, but disappeared before the morning broke. And about summer that made everything hot before I was ready to shed my winter disguise.

I cried about the children running in the mall, clutching balloons and eating ice cream, because I’ll never feel little arms creeping around my neck, nor a sweet, whispery voice breathing “I love you mom” into my ear.

I cried about the baby geckos scattering up against the wall, because I’ll never have the chance to call out “Come look my love!” and teach my child the wonders of nature.

I cried when my mom phoned, because I’ll never be able to see the wondrous joy on my parents’ faces when I tell them I’m expecting their grandchild. I cried because I’ll never see my dad on his knees next to my child, teaching him how to put the bait on the hook. I cried because I’ll never see my mom with my child on her lap, holding her close while reading about the love of Jesus.

I cried about my sister’s phone ringing, hearing her say something to her son, knowing no child of mine would ever ask my advice, need my teaching, my consolation when heartbroken, or share their joy when happy.

I cried when I smelled the Yesterday-today-tomorrow flower because it reminded me of my grandmother. And I cried when I realized there will never be a grandchild of mine remembering me in the smell and colors of a flower, or anything else.

I cried when I smelled the earth when I watered the garden, missing the rain with an ache in my heart, as much as I miss the children that are there, rather than in my arms.

I cried about my forever empty womb, my empty heart, and my child-empty future.

I’m still crying about my broken dreams. About unanswered prayers, those who were answered differently from what I begged of the Lord.

I’m crying for me, for the woman that buried her grief for so many years, trying to be strong, trying to be positive, trying to put Infertility behind her, not realizing it’s not something you can move from one place to another. Once it’s part of your life, you might be lucky enough some days to just remember the pain when you see the scars.

But then you might be one of the unlucky ones that are beaten down and left standing naked and alone, when everyone around them is clothed in parenthood.

I’m crying because I know I have to. It’s time to wash away the cobwebs that grew over the hurt I buried deep inside. I know the tears will cleanse my soul, and I know I will be even stronger when this too has passed.

Maybe I’ll cry for another hour, maybe till tomorrow or the day after. Maybe I’ll stop when I’m tired and weary and carry on in a week’s time. Maybe this time it will be enough.

For every beginning there always is an ending, and like the song says: “...the sun doesn't go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round”.

I'll find different clothes, different than what I longed for; different clothes to hide my shame and grief. I will not be beaten down by Infertility. I will not be humiliated by the way it stripped me from my most precious of dreams.

I will wear my new clothes with pride, lift my face up into the light, and start dreaming different dreams...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Do you realize?

My words are few and far between these days. But so you've noticed. Schools closed yesterday for a much needed spring break. Even though it's short I'm going to try my best to make it sweet too. Starting by sharing this video clip with you. (Received the link twice in my inbox today, so you might already have seen it somewhere else!)

The second thing I'm going to do is to visit all my dear blogfriends again. I've missed coming to say hello on your blogs, so be on the lookout for more than one comment from me!

You know by now that I'm a quote-aholic, so let me share todays special one with you as well:

Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high. Look it squarely in the eye, and say, "I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me." -Ann Landers

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

About healing & eye-candy

I found this quote a few days ago, and it's been growing on me ever since.
“Paradoxically, a group of humans becomes healing and converting only after its members have learned to stop trying to heal and convert. Community is a safe place precisely because no one is attempting to heal or convert you, to fix you, to change you. Instead, the members accept you as you are. You are free to be you. And being so free, you are free to discard defenses, masks, disguises; free to seek your own psychological and spiritual health; free to become your whole and holy self.” Scott Peck

The community I landed in whilst trying to sort through the jumbled chaos of emotions I had (still have!) about Infertility and my divorce, is such a safe place. It allows me to become more whole and even though it rolls a bit strange from my fingers onto the page, more holy too. Thanks for being part of this special community, without you it wouldn't have been the same.

And what would healing be without some eye-candy? I saw the movie "One night with the King" with my mom yesterday. It's the story about Queen Esther and how she saved the Jews. It was beautiful! The music, the set, the costumes... and then that man. (Insert a picture of me salivating, tongue hanging on the floor, blushed, flushed etc!)

Before I go on, you need to understand something first. I'm not the type of woman that swoons easily over a man's looks. Dominic Purcell of Prison Break fame got my knees weak, and John Travolta always had a sweet spot in my heart, but Luke Goss, especially in this movie, had me breathless more than once!

He plays King Xerxes, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I was sincerely jealous (for a whole bunch of minutes) of the beautiful Queen Esther. But only till I went to sleep last night - then my subconscious turned me into the queen, and someone looking exactly like Luke Goss played my king!

Ok, back to earth. I can't believe I'm gushing about this man, it's actually very embarrassing admitting it when I always thought that other women doing the same were really totally silly! But between us, if I had to choose between Dominic Purcell (having just seen a yummy photo of him to refresh my memory) and Luke Goss, poor King Xerxes would lose out big time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weeding around my dreams

This post doesn't have much to do with Infertility, or those tests, or sadness, or worry, or anything else you might've come to expect from me the past few months. It does have a little bit to do with me having (for the very first time mind you!) heart palpitations and shortness of breath about a certain not-so-well-known actor. It has more to do with what might seem like something really small, which actually is quite bigger when you start thinking about it.

There I was today: still very much in the aftermath of a just-saw-a-great-movie-high-feeling, busy drawing money from the ATM. I just had a nice chat with my mom over a cup of coffee, discussing our family's plans for the Spring break next week.

Just as I entered my pin, it was there. Slightly to my left in the music shop. Sitting serenely between a few guitar like instruments. I only had eyes for that one, beautiful, breathtaking, chestnut brown dream.

The ATM prompted me to finish my transaction, and the next moment I found myself inside the shop asking:

"How much is that cello in the window?"

The guy behind the counter smiled just slightly, and without missing a beat he said:

"R4 500. But if you want, we have cheaper ones available." (R4 500 = $625)

"It's OK, I'm still dreaming about it."

With a smile I turned and walked out the door, having lost my heart on that beautiful instrument.

It's something I've been dreaming about since I was a little girl. Picture this: a big, empty room with a shiny, golden brown wooden floor. The tall windows on 3 sides of the room are open, and the late afternoon breeze is billowing the sheer white curtains inward. I'm sitting in the middle on a chair, wearing a long, flowing white dress, playing a haunting melody on the cello between my legs.

This picture I found is minus the white dress, but it's the closest to the image in my heart and mind.

So why is asking about the price of a cello in a shop window so important? Because it brought me one step (a giant one!) closer to actually signing up for cello lessons. Right now I'm only dreaming about being able to afford a cello, not to even mention the lessons, but it's not that far out of reach at all.

I have enough of a musical background to be able to master the lessons quite easily, then it will just be lots and lots of practice. Having studied the piano for 11 years in school (and playing exams up to grade 6 level) and being a member of an orchestra for 4 years from grade 4 to 7, I might just be able to handle the little black notes on the musical stand.

Now I just have to adjust my dream a little bit to include those very sexy shoes - the rest is about to become a reality. Well, soon, I'm sure! If you wondered where I got the topic from - there is this little plaque on my computer screen: "Don't let weeds grow around your dreams." So I engaged in a bit of gardening today!

Will be back tomorrow to tell you more about that scrumptious actor I "discovered". He is worth the wait, I promise!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Limited perspectives

Just when I thought I'm seriously suffering from mental constipation (sorry for the gross image - it was the best way to try and describe what's going on in my mind lately), along comes an email from one of my favorite websites. I've quoted from it often in the past, so you know it by now.

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.” Marcus Aurelius

We never have enough information to enable us to fully understand the truth of the reality around us. And there is never only one correct perspective about anything.

Knowing this helps me let go of my tendency to label things as good or bad. I suffer least when I can accept reality just as it is. And I benefit most when I open my heart and mind in appreciation.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Angela Monet

It explains my see-saw emotions somewhat. I feel real crazy some days; not that it's strange, I'm a bit wacko most of the time! *wink*

We haven't heard back from the clinic about the tests yet, and even though the results are in the back of my mind all the time, we're doing OK. My youngest sister Wilma isn't talking much about the results, which bothers me a bit. Linda (she's the one who had cancer) is expecting a positive result, meaning that she has the BRCA2 mutation. We might hear something within the next 10 days, will keep you updated.

Meanwhile I've been working my butt off, just wish it would get a bit smaller to show something for all my hard work! Our schools close this Friday for a week long Spring break, and I can't wait. I'm up to my ears (and deeper!) in assessment, reports and planning for next term. Keeps me out of trouble and from thinking too much, but then again it keeps me away from my favorite pastime too: visiting your blogs!

We've (my cousin A and I) submitted the first module of the course we're developing to teach barely literate rural women how to sew garments. (Have I told you guys about this yet? Can't remember!) I'm just sooooo proud of what we've accomplished so far. Even though we get paid for it, I feel it's my little part in doing something for the community. There is a very remote chance that I get the opportunity to facilitate this course as well, IF they can schedule it during the school holidays.

Some great news regarding school this week: my principal told me he decided that he wants me in the Computer Lab full time next year (yessssss!!!) and that means no extra curriculum subjects. It means more time to concentrate on teaching the kids what I'm dreaming of doing. Even though I love teaching Natural Science, my energy is divided too much, and I cannot concentrate enough on what I really want to do.

On Thursday he asked me if I would like to take on the task of the library as well and I'm just thrilled about it. After Tuesday we won't have any books left in what is currently called our media center. We've donated most of the books (that are so old that my parents used to read them when they were children!) to a neighboring Afrikaans school. During the last 4 years our school changed from having mainly white children to 100% black children from Tswana, Bapedi, Xhosa and about 50 refugee children from Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Malawi. (A few other cultures are represented too) So the books which are 95% Afrikaans totally unsuitable. We need a brand new library.

Ok, you might think I'm totally crazy. But this is a wonderful challenge, and since the new library/reading lab is going to be right next door to the Computer lab, (connected by a door on the inside, having separate entrances) this is going to be heaven for me! It's not going to be accomplished within a few months, but maybe in 2 years time, the picture in my head will be a reality. I'll post a "before" photo in a few weeks' time just to show you what we have to perform miracles with.

Last but not least, Pamela Jeanne is celebrating her 100th post - congratulations my friend! May the next 100 include telling us about the runaway success of your book and lots more accolades about your wonderful writing ability.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Chicken soup is not enough

Wow, you're incredible. You wouldn't know quite how much your overwhelming support means to me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Some people say the internet is a cold, heartless place - it's everything but that! Thanks for making me feel cared for - each and every one of you made a difference in my life with your heartfelt comments.

I haven't been posting much the past 2 weeks even though I had much to say and talk about. But since it wasn't positive and upbeat, my posts never got past the first 2 paragraphs. Thank goodness blogging is paper friendly - I would've had a forest worth of wasted paper from all the restarts!

Why I didn't just write what I felt and get over with it? Well, you might have realized that I have this thing about trying to be positive, seeing the bright side of every trying situation, to keep my chin up, look for the silver lining on the dark cloud, pull a stiff upper lip, let it go off me like water off a duck's back - I can go on almost forever using the phrases we have, but I'm pretty sure you get the message.

Growing up in a family of strong people (maybe it's part of being human, not just an Afrikaner thing) we were taught from a very young age not to bend under pressure, but to be tough, get up and go on. No matter what. So that's what I've been trying to do.

"It's not all that bad." OR "I'm stronger than this, there are worse thing that can happen." OR "Tomorrow the sun will shine again." OR "There is a lesson somewhere in this, I just have to keep on looking for it." Phrases like these have been part of my artillery of bounce backs whenever something upset me. All of the above mentioned phrases have truth in them, and yes, they have their own respective place in self-motivation. Sometimes they work, but sometimes they backfire terribly.

I've always thought that I have some kind of personality flaw when no amount of positive self-talk worked to keep the sadness and heartache away. Or that the black dog of depression was scratching on the door, looking for the smallest of openings to force himself into my life again.

And then I found this book on my brother in law's office desk when I was baby-sitting their kids earlier this week. We were playing "Prime Suspects" on his pc, and I had to be close-by to translate the difficult English words so their bright little eyes could find the hidden objects. At first I thought it was a new edition of the very successful "Chicken Soup" books, but "When Chicken soup is not Enough" proved to be something totally different.

"When Chicken Soup is Not Enough is a down-to-earth, bottom-line look at how our thoughts, emotions and attitudes affect our health, sometimes dramatically. This book demystifies the mind-body connection. It will empower anyone seeking higher levels of health and fulfillment in their life." Dr. Larry Dossey on Ralph E. Retherford's book.

The following paragraph struck me full force:

"Often, experts tell us that all we have to do is think positively. They tell us that emotions like anger, grief, and shame are harmful to our health. They aren't. These emotions are harmful only if they are denied, minimized, or suppressed into our unconscious. There, the energy persists and builds unseen until it becomes powerful enough to wreak mischief on our bodies.

If you try to use positive thinking to avoid bad feelings, you risk pushing the feelings into your subconscious. If you permit them to surface and can work through them, in time they disappear. Joys are short-lived, and so are negative emotions, as long as you are willing to feel them and let them go."

Now I know why my mom has been suffering from terribly painful, itchy hands that look very much like chilblains, except that she has now developed big blisters all over her knuckles and fingers too. She is the text-book version of positivity and strength - smiling, laughing - being super-positive despite being very, very sick from the chemo therapy she has been receiving. Her oncologist says it might be from the cortisone and chemo combined, and maybe just an allergic reaction towards the drugs she is receiving. No ointment has helped, and believe me has tried many! (She needs to read this book too!)

I also understand why I've been suffering from blinding migraines and other unrelated health issues lately - and here I was blaming everything on spring. Actually, our winter disappeared overnight and it's hot, hot HOT - very suddenly. So forget about spring, we skipped that - summer is here to stay. (Ok, I just did it again, changed the subject when I try to face the facts!)

*Sigh* - I'm sorry for not being happy and smiling and upbeat. Sometimes we can handle reading about other people's sorrow and grief because it helps us in understanding our own emotions. And sometimes it's just too hard to handle. I'll try my best to get this out of my system as soon as possible, but until then I need to write about it.

I also need to cry. LOTS. It is sitting there just behind my eyelids, high up in my throat too. I'm scared to give in to the emotion, but I know it will be better to work this through. You have to fill the bath before you can pull the plug to let the water out... maybe I just won't plug it to start with. *wink*

Thanks for being there, and thanks for listening - you're very special to me!