Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes: What You SHOULD Do For Someone Facing a Health Crisis

5 posts down, 2 to go!  

I'm just chugging along and joining all the links ups I've been telling myself I should join and then never got around to it.  Today I'm doing a double Fulwiler.  I'm pretty sure that's what it's called in the biz.  I'm doing 7 posts in 7 days AND since it's Friday I'm also doing:

Also hosted by Jen Fulwiler
Yesterday I talked about what you should NOT say to someone facing a health crisis.  Thank you everyone who contributed to the conversation.  I mentioned in that post that everyone faces difficulties differently and that that list was from my perspective.  Well, after talking to my friend Sarah, you'll be surprised to see that 2 of my don'ts are also on my list of dos.

In order for this to make sense you need to know that my friend Sarah is a complete weirdo, otherwise known as an Extrovert.  She took an MBTI personality quiz just so I could be 100% accurate on my blog because that's what good friends do, waste time on the internet for someone else's blog.  Anyway, for reference, Sarah is an ESFJ and I am an INFP which means we are completely opposite except that we both favor Feeling over Thinking.  All that to say, we are so so different from each other that our running joke is to call each other "Weirdo" and ask "How are we friends?", but we are dear dear friends.  Anyhoo, Sarah told me today that she experiences "How are you?" and "I can't imagine" totally differently than what I described, and Sarah has faced some true hardship in her life.  So, to make things really confusing, here are the things you SHOULD say or do for someone facing a health crisis:

1.  Say "I can't imagine."

Confusing right?  I know.  I'm going to quote Sarah now (with her permission):
I know I say that one but I don't feel like I say it in a way that is looking to be comforted.  I say it in a "I have never gone through what you have been through so I can't say that I understand so I am not going to pretend I do."...I feel like it is annoying when someone acts like they understand your situation when they really don't.
I get what Sarah is saying here.  I don't think anyone who says this is purposefully trying to make the patient or caregiver they are talking to comfort them.  I know they are trying the exact opposite, and I stand corrected, because for some it really is a sentiment they appreciate hearing.  Sarah went on to say that when people expressed this sentiment to her it made her feel like she wasn't carrying her difficulties alone.  I guess a good policy is to reflect on what you know about the person who's facing the health crisis.  If you don't know them, my instinct is to just stick with "I'm sorry you're going through this".

2.  Ask "How are you?"

See above.  I really don't know exactly what to think of this.  It is so foreign to my personal instincts, but I do know Sarah and I know that if she were going through something difficult this would truly be an important way to love and support her.  If Sarah is this way, I'm sure there are many others like her who read my advice yesterday and were like "What the heck?".

I think that after reflecting on reasons you should or should not say "I can't imagine." and "How are you?" the conclusion I've come to is this:  if you know this person well, do what you think best fits their personality and what you know about them and that you aren't saying one of these things because it's what you would want or because it's what you want in that moment.  If your goal is to love that person, even if your foot ends up in your mouth, you are still doing the right thing.  So now, on to the rest of the list of things you should do:

3.  Pray

I know that, even if you are a believer, there are times when praying doesn't seem like enough.  There are times that "I'm praying for you." sounds trite and like something that people just say.  Please, please, please, if you do nothing else, pray for their healing, pray for guidance, pray for their peace of mind, pray for comfort.  Please pray.  I cannot overstate the power of your prayers.  I cannot overstate the tangible support and relief your prayers offer that no other gesture or statement can even touch.  If you are not a believer, when you tell someone you are thinking of them, that you are sending love and light or good vibes, or a myriad of other similar sentiments, please do not doubt the efficacy of these offerings.  Not only do these prayers and similar offerings lift up the recipient at that moment with their love, they truly have lasting effects.  There is no real way for me to convey it except to say that up until my cancer diagnosis my belief in the power of prayer was largely on blind faith, but now, having walked through that valley, "I was blind but now I see".  "The power of prayer" is not a catchy phrase, it is the most egregious understatement of all time.  In fact, prayers and well wishes and good intentions are the reason that "you can't imagine", because when you try to imagine it you are not factoring in the effects of the very real prayers and grace you will benefit from when you are in the thick of it.  It is beyond human understanding.  So please, if you do absolutely nothing else, pray pray pray and rest assured you have contributed the single most important thing you have.

4.  Reach Out

If you hear that someone you know is facing a crisis, even if you haven't spoken to them in a very long time, even if you only know each other through friends of friends, even if you've never actually met them in real life--if you feel moved to reach out to them to offer encouragement, just do it.  Don't worry that it will be weird, or awkward, or intruding.  I know that after all I've said about being private and introverted and concerned about burdening people this sounds counter-intuitive, but so many people reached out to me in big and little ways after many years and over many miles and every single time it was so uplifting.  Send a card, a note, a Facebook message, an email, a tweet, whatever.  Don't feel weird.  I felt so loved and supported and I was delighted every time someone reached out to me to say "I'm thinking of you, I'm praying for you, I'm here for you.".

Let's get practical, practical...
I should be banned from Google Images.  Moving on.

5.  Meals

Who doesn't love food?  The Terrorists.  No really, this is a 1/2 brainer.  I was going to say no brainer but there are a few things you should keep in mind to make this as easy and helpful as possible.  First of all, be sure you know of any dietary restrictions.  After you know what the family can and cannot eat, it's great to coordinate with others as much as possible.  When the enormity of our situation became apparent, some dear friends (including the previously mentioned Sarah), got together to plan amongst themselves how they could best serve our family.  The idea they came up with was genius.  Very often when a Mom has a baby, her friends and others around her will put together a calendar using a program like Care Calendar.  This is a great option, but when a family is facing something that will last more than a month or two, it can become really difficult to manage continuous, consistent help no matter how badly you want to.  If you have young kids and all of your friends do, which is our situation, no matter how much you'd like to think you could keep up the pace of providing meals for months on end, it is really difficult.  My super smart friends figured out that if everyone who wanted to contribute meals made a frozen meal or two and dropped them at the homes of a few "Meal Coordinators" who had deep freezers,  many more people could contribute consistently over the long term.  It eliminated the hassle of trying to get a meal ready on a certain day for a certain time when lets face it, it's hard to do that for your own family most of the time.  It made it possible that on a day when things were going well in one of my friends homes and things were clicking along they could double or triple the recipe they were already making and freeze it and voila, they fed our family for a few nights instead of just one. It eliminated the hassle of moms with young families having to pile everyone into the car during the crazy dinner hour.  It also offered more privacy to my family during a time when things were constantly disrupted.  Once a week one of my "Meal Coordinator" friends would email me and say "How many meals do you want this week?" and then would drop off what we needed.  That way, if Michael was home and wanted to cook (because he is amazing like that), he could do that and we could use the meals when it was best for us without worrying about anything going to waste.  What if you want to drop a fresh meal?  What a treat!  That is always welcome too.  

What if you're far away?  Well, one of the most humbling gestures I received was from a dear lady I used to cheer with in college who now lives far from me.  I was not always very kind to this loving soul.  It shames me to say that.  She got in touch with another dear friend who is still near me and arranged to have a whole Panera Bread lunch sent to me so that I wouldn't have to worry about getting lunch around for the kids one afternoon.  I can't begin to express what a fun, generous blessing this was to receive.  So if you're far away, send something!  We also received edible arrangements and grocery store gift cards and grocery bags full of staples and all were such blessings.  All of these things lightened our load and helped us to focus more on the task of getting better and to focus on each other rather than the practical aspects of feeding our family.

6.  Hire Someone To Do Housecleaning

I'm not very adept with PicMonkey yet.  PS, this is not really my house but all Moms know how fast this could happen.
The other amazing thing that Weirdo Sarah (xoxo) arranged for us was weekly housecleaning.  You read that right.  She collected money and arranged for a very adorable, very sweet, very efficient young lady to come to our house for 3 hours every week to clean up.  In those three hours she picked up, vacuumed and washed our downstairs floors (our entire downstairs is tile and hardwood), cleaned the downstairs 1/2 bath and the kids full bathroom upstairs, vacuumed the stairs and upstairs hallway, wiped down my kitchen cabinets and island bar stools.  If it had not been for her our house really would have looked like that picture up there.  Moms out there I know you feel me.  Even if you can't manage to get together funds for a weekly cleaning like this, even if it's just one time, it is such a blessing.  You don't need to hire a professional service, find a college or high school student.  Ask around at your church, your local Newman Center, or a local homeschool group.  This kind of help isn't always easy to accept, but it is vital, especially when a young family is facing a crisis.  

7.  Expect Nothing In Return

The kind of whirlwind that ensues when you or a loved one gets a life changing diagnosis is all consuming.  Sometimes you will send a note or an email or a gift and hear nothing.  I'm still haunted by times I've not responded to kindness in a timely manner.  In my case the reason for this is two fold, first, because when part of the time you are not capable of much of anything but the very bare minimum (at times the bare minimum being opening your eyes) and the rest of the time you're playing catch up and trying to make things slightly normal for the rest of your family a LOT falls through the cracks and you don't want it to be that way.  The other reason is that just like you don't know what to say and it all seems like not enough, there are no words this side of heaven that can adequately express this level of gratitude.  If I could lay prostrate on the ground kissing the feet of every person who has extended their love, generosity, and support to me and my family during this time and I could do it without it being The Most Awkward Thank You Of All Time I would do it and it would not come close to showing my most humble, passionate gratitude.  I want to do big things for every person who has loved us through this in ways big and small and yet there is nothing big enough.  It is paralyzing.  So, if you say something or do something and the recipient doesn't respond how you expected, have mercy.

Also, you may say something that is totally kind, right, loving, and perfectly suited to the persons needs and they might be having a tough day or just be overcome in that moment by what they are facing and they might cry, or be mad, or ignore you, and it will have nothing to do with you.  They are going through a difficult time and sometimes when faced with adversity we are very very strong, and sometimes we just lose our damn minds.  So please, have mercy.    

I hope this list is a bit helpful.  As I wrote this I realized that those of us who have faced a health crisis or other significant hardship and those of you who haven't are all in the same boat.  We each want to express feelings and intentions to the other that words cannot adequately communicate.  When someone faces an illness or other crisis we want to help so badly, we want it to go away, we can't stand the thought of someone facing it and it is scary to think it whatever it is could really happen so close to us.  I get it.  I remember.  In fact, even now, having walked through my own outlandish difficulty, I feel powerless to do what I really want to do, which is take it from them--to make it disappear in an instant.  We all want to know what the perfect thing is to say or do and I started this list with the intention of tying it all up with a bow for you, but I'm reminded now of why we all short circuit when we hear of another's suffering--it is because we are powerless to stop it and anything short of stopping it seems puny and insignificant.  Well, if you get nothing else from this list, please take away this:  you can't take it away, but your efforts no matter how imperfect, are not insignificant.  

Love is never insignificant.

These takes were not quick.  Back to you readers...what would you like to add?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What NOT To Say To A Person Experiencing A Health Crisis

Well readers, are you tired of me making a big deal about writing 7 posts in 7 days?  Sorry.

4 down 3 to go!  Go check out the other participants, there is so much great stuff out feedly is bursting.

This post is brought to you by the number -10 which is what the wind chill was when I decided we were not driving to Occupational Therapy and coming home to work on this post instead.

This post is also brought to you by the letter K because one Mrs. Kendra Tierney at Catholic All Year has requested that I write a post about what NOT to say to someone with cancer.  I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I've held back a bit from sharing them because if you are a dear soul who has said one of these things to me I do not want to hurt your feelings because I just don't.  The thing about someone having cancer, or a miscarriage, or an accident, or some other health crisis is that first and foremost our human impulse is to DO something or SAY something, and that is a beautiful thing.  Almost everything I'm about to share is not offensive or even really wrong, it's just something that can be handled better when you have a clearer perspective.  So, if you read something here and are like "OMG I think that was ME, I think I said that!", let me put your mind at ease--I don't remember isolated incidents or even think people who say these things are anything other than kind loving people who mean well.  Some of these are things I've said to others myself.  Kendra asked in reference to talking to someone with cancer, but these really apply to anyone facing their own health crisis or the health crisis of a loved one.

The following list is in no particular order.  Please remember that different people respond to a health crisis like cancer differently, so this is from my individual perspective as a former(woohoo!) pregnant cancer patient.  Based on my experience you should NOT say:

1.  I Can't Imagine

You're right, you cannot imagine what this is like if you have not been through it and you know what?  I don't want you to.  Facing something like cancer treatment during a pregnancy, or cancer in a loved one, or whatever is so much worse than anything you can imagine but it is simultaneously not nearly as bad as it seems in a way that I can't explain.   There are also so many blessings that you also will not be able to conjure up when you play make believe about what this is like.  If you find yourself trying to imagine, or feeling like you should being trying to imagine please do us all a favor and stop.  Spend your time being grateful for your own health and healthy loved ones, do something for your family, stop yourself from complaining about something in your life that is small in the scheme of things, in short--be productive.  Be glad you are not in this situation and do something with that gratitude.  Please also ask yourself, how do you expect the sick person or sick person's family member to respond?  Think it through...because in polite society conversations are a two way street and when you say something like that the burden is now on the sick person to say something...but what can they really say?  Not much.  In fact, the burden is essentially now on the person facing the crisis to comfort you.  Now, that is something I realize has to do with how I'm wired.  When you say "I can't imagine" I hear it as "This is upsetting" and when someone is upset I want to comfort them.  But really, that's messed up.  The sick person should not really be doing the comforting.  So, really, stop trying to imagine and just be grateful it's not you and then do something productive with your gratitude.

2.  How Are You?

I know.  I know.  What else can you say?  Not that.  This goes back to that thought exercise where you ask yourself "How is this person supposed to respond"?  Whether or not you should say this probably varies with how close you are to the person in question.  If you are very close, it might be ok.  Everyone needs someone or a few someones that they can really confide in about their difficulties.  But if you are just acquaintances or just aren't sure?  Don't ask.  In polite society this question is a formality/nicety that is part of the social contract.  Part of that contract is that we understand that most of the time we don't really expect a person to answer honestly.  I know this one might cause a lot of upset but really, everyone knows someone who always answers with way too much information to this question and most of us strive to not be that person.  Furthermore, you likely have a good guess how we're doing...if we're going through chemo or nursing a family member through some kind of difficult treatment the short answer is "not great".  Because we know you know this, we now have to say the polite thing that is a lie, or we have to tell you stuff that feels like oversharing. You can probably guess pretty well how we feel even if you are following my advice and not trying to imagine.  It's not a secret that cancer treatment sucks.  What you're really trying to express when you ask "How are you?" is "I'm thinking of you" or "I care about you" or "I hope you're doing alright".  In fact the best thing to say "I hope things are going OK" or something along those lines.  That's what you really mean and it puts us in control of how much we share.  We can just respond with "thanks" or elaborate on what's going on with us if it seems right at the time.

3.  Why Didn't You Tell Me/Update Me/Call Me Back

Because I'm dealing with cancer and you're not.  Seriously.  Because something like cancer is all consuming and people want you to repeat the story over and over and over and over and it is exhausting.  I started this blog to help me process what I was/am going through but also so I could cut down on how many times Michael and I had to repeat our story.  I know you might feel left out and want to know the details, but the sick person or their caregiver is absolutely mired in the details and if they are trying to have a positive attitude they have to focus on that and not on repeating the litany of crap they can't escape.  Please cut the people who are ACTUALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CRISIS SOME SLACK.*

*This is a good time to direct you to this excellent article about Ring Theory.  The only quibble I have with it is that I feel the the patient's spouse or direct caregiver should be in the center ring with the patient.

4a.  Are You Going To Try (Insert Alternative Therapy Here) Because Big Pharma Doesn't Want You To Know About It

and it's ugly stepchild:

4b.  This Probably Happened Because You Vaccinate/Eat Meat/Use That Shampoo/Talk On A Cell Phone/Live By Powerlines/Brush Your Teeth etc.

If I accomplish nothing else with this post it is my fervent prayer that:

Pardon Tina's french, but seriously?  Seriously.
Let me be clear.  Statements 4a and 4b are always WILDLY OFFENSIVE.

Before I go any further I'd better out myself to everyone who believes in the secret cabal of Science and Medical Types conspiring to KILL ALL THE PEOPLE that I am a paid shill for the pharmaceutical industry.  That's right.  They pay my bills and feed my children.  You see, my husband is a Medicinal Chemist for a pharmaceutical company that develops cancer drugs.  When you tell me that there is a miracle cure out there that the Evil Pharmaceutical Industry doesn't want me to know about you are defaming my husband and his coworkers.  So thank you helpful person with an internet connection you have put me in the position of defending my treatment plan and my spouse.  I'm a big girl so I'll deal with it, but the person I'm really concerned about is the person who is scared and overwhelmed and doesn't know you're full of bologna.  That person is going through one of the most terrifying, draining experiences of their lives and they are making decisions that are so so difficult.  They do not need you coming over and stirring the pot of confusion because a sidebar ad on your facebook feed sold you a book about Acai berries or whatever dragon fruit nonsense it is they are peddling out of the goodness of their hearts. You are not a doctor, you are not a scientist, you are not their doctor so ZIP IT.  Unless they explicitly ask your opinion and/or for your suggestions their treatment or the treatment their loved one is receiving is none of your business.  

The same goes for hypothesizing right to the patient or caregiver's face about what could have caused their suffering.  This is even more cruel than questioning their treatment.  What good can come from suggesting they have caused their illness or that it could have been prevented had they been as informed as you are?  In the cases where it could have been prevented you are a day late and a dollar short, but very often, there is nothing that could have been done and you have no business suggesting to a sick suffering person that it could.  It is just wrong.  Do not do this.

I have a separate post in the works at some point when I can do it charitably that will address attacks on science and scientists.  Just to make things fair I also have a post in the works that directly addresses the medical and scientific communities: *SPOILER ALERT* you are crap communicators and do yourselves and the public no favors with your crap communication.

So that's it, some guidelines for what not to say to people dealing with cancer, or really any other health crisis.

P.S.  If you do say one that is not 4a or 4b don't freak out, we all know you mean well and we've said them ourselves.

What about you dear readers?  If you've faced cancer or another medical crisis, what would like to suggest people NOT say?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

5 Favorites: Because I Need To Have 7 Posts In 7 Monkey Flippin' Days!

3 posts down, 5 to gothiswascrazywhatwasIthinking?!?!?!?!?

I've decided to do my inaugural 5 favorites post and link up with Hallie at Moxie Wife.  Sometimes people have a theme for these theme will be Random Awesomeness.  So without further ado here they are:

If Leslie Blodgett asked for a pint of my blood I would give it to her no questions asked because she is a sorceress.
I love Bare Minerals.  I see on the package up there that I'm supposed to spell it bareMinerals, but no matter how you spell it if you are a Mom you must RUN to the nearest Ulta/Sephora/whateva and get you some BAREMINERALS.  Why?  Because there is no blending.  Because you can put them on with one hand while nursing a baby.  Because they will make you look natural and not like you are exhausted even when you are pregnant and getting chemo.  I always put on my bareMinerals before chemo.  I called it my "Dear Medical Community: If I don't get better you will look like loser because look how I'm glowing!" face.  Maybe you've seen Leslie Blodgett working her alchemy on QVC and become mesmerized by her putting Mineral Veil on some girls face and just when you were about to order the spell was broken and you wondered if it could all be true and I am here to tell you it is true.  Maybe you're not a make up person and you think you'll mess it up.  You won't.  You can't.  They last forever.  You will love them forever.  Get Ye some BareMinerals.

More Alchemy
If you have kids or pets you need Folex.  I read about it in one of Dwija's Five Favorites and I'm so glad I listened to her.  Always listen to Dwija is the lesson there.  I'm a bad blogger.  I had amazing time lapse photos of marker on my couch cushions disappearing before my very eyes but I deleted them on accident.  After 3 minutes all the marks were barely visible and then I threw the cushion covers in the wash and they were perfect.  Did I mention that the slip cover in question is off white?  I've used this on all the bodily fluids and ahem, solids, that little people can deposit in your home and on your stuff and you need this.  

Not the bug.
Do you listen to podcasts?  I listen to eleventy billion podcasts and this is one of my favorites.  The Moth describes itself as follows:
 The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story – and The Moth’s directors work with each storyteller to find, shape and present it.
Since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience.  
Moth stories dissolve socio-economic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges and see with new eyes.

I don't know what happened with that formatting up there when I cut and pasted and I can't deal with it now.  Each podcast is a recording of one these storytelling events.  If you love stories you have to start listening to The Moth. 

Nerd Alert
In order to heal my Chemo Brain I'm supposed to do puzzles and things to exercise my memory.  Michael and I play Ruzzle on the iPad, and it's really fun, but I'm a word nerd and just slapping together letter combinations for points and with no value for actually knowing words feels icky to me.  It's so mercenary.  Don't get me wrong, we still play and it's really fun, but what I love about this game is that it's really about the words-- knowing words and learning words.  There are 4 different games: Speed Drill, Tunnel Vision, Name That Thing, and Hidden Letters.  All the games with the exception of Name That Thing are different plays on finding synonyms and in Name That Thing you just Name That Thing.  If you love words and want an app that is really about words and not just arrangements of letters you will love this.

Apparently Mark Spitz was so fast he didn't worry about drag.

Can you believe that picture?  It was one of the first images that came up in a Google Images search for Olympic swimming.  Michael Phelps wears those super high tech expensive suits and Mark Spitz couldn't be bothered to shave his mustache.  I've been swimming a few times a week for over a month now and let me tell you it is hands down THE most underestimated workout.  Hands. DOWN.  Just a few weeks after chemo I made an ill fated attempt at getting back into running and the pain in my knee made one thing abundantly clear:  until I regained some of the muscle mass I lost during chemo there was no way I could even think of running again.  I decided to give swimming a try so I could have a low impact cardio workout and now I'm hooked.  It is a full body workout and according to To get a workout roughly equivalent to running, you have to swim only about 1/4 as far as you would run.  I hate getting in the pool, I'm a huge baby about cold, but gosh once I get going do I ever LOVE swimming.  I just swim laps, I'm working up to doing sets of 100m of freestyle at a time.  I'm not there yet but I'm seeing progress.  I usually try to tread water for a while too, talk about a butt kicker!  I'm up to treading water for 15 minutes at a time and that's another great exercise for your body AND for your mind.  If you're looking for something to shake up your workouts or you want to get back into exercising but you're worried about your joints, seriously, try swimming.*

*I know what you're thinking...if I swim...I have to wear a bathing suit.  I know, but the good news is that not that many people swim.  When I go it's usually just me and 2 old men.  Who cares how you look in your bathing suit.  If it makes you feel better I started swimming when my hair had just started growing back in and I was still way out of the routine of any underarm maintenance.  I got to the Y and started to change and realized much to my amazement/chagrin/relief/frustration that I was sporting a very euro underarm look.  For a minute I was like ugh, now I have to go home after I made all the effort to get here.  Then I realized that was dumb, I'm a 34 year old postpartum cancer survivor and if someone was offended by my hairy pits I would survive and so would they.  I got in that pool and swam and swam like a little fish.  Whatever your story is that makes you not want to put on a bathing suit, well, that's the thing that makes it all the more admirable when you put it on anyway.  The End.

P.S.  If you haven't could you like me on Facebook?  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Channeling My Inner Goat: What Cancer Taught Me About Negative Self Talk

One night last May, after I'd started chemo but before chemo was really kicking my butt, it was really warm.  I don't like warm.  Well to be honest it was probably like 68 degrees and I was likely having a pregnancy induced hot flash but like I said, I don't like warm.  Michael came in our room to find me flopping around on the bed like a fish out of water trying to get comfortable and we had the following exchange:

Michael:  Do you want me to grab you a blanket?

Me:  Ugh..NO...I'm DYING...

Michael:  .................................could you..........................not...........................say that?

End Scene.

That little exchange really stopped me in my proverbial tracks.  I felt horrible.  How could I use that phrase: "I'm dying" so flippantly when it was possible that I could shuffle off this mortal coil sooner than anticipated?  I could do it partly because we say "I'm gonna die" and phrases like it all the time in casual speech, which of course is how I defended this behavior to myself.  That night, in the following days, and all the way up to this moment, I've wrestled with this.  The truth is that yes, it is just a casual turn of phrase, but it is also a bad habit.  I'm prone to hyperbole and in difficult frustrating situations this is often the soundtrack in my head:

I can't take this another minute, I'm gonna die.

I will not survive this.

KILL ME NOW!! (delivered while shaking my fist at the heavens)

Am I suicidal?  Of course not.  I'm just having a melodramatic pity party, and unfortunately I'm so prone to these types of histrionics that I can easily work myself into a snowball of doom over things that are tiny and fleeting in the scheme of life.  There are so many negative aspects to this self talk, not the least of which is that if considerable time, effort, and money has been expended on a daily basis precisely so that you will not die it is kinda crappy to shake your fist at the heavens and beg for a lightning bolt because a little person wrote on the couch or whatever.

I don't mean it like that I argued with myself.  Then why say it? I annoyingly myself.  Even worse, none of the situations that prompt this sort of melodrama are actually that big of a deal.  I never go down that mental road when faced with actual trials.  When it took 4 tries to get my line in for chemo?  No worries!  Breath through it!  Offer it up!  I'm in labor with no drugs?  Enter into it.  Accept it.  Breath through it.  Offer it up.  Even that dark dark night when I found out I was a pregnant cancer patient, I never once said I would die.  I wondered how on earth I would do it, but I never once expressed a desire or a fear that I would die.

But if I have to have this conversation with my 4 year old 6 times before I get down one cup of coffee in the morning?

4 year old:  Mama?  Is tomorrow is the next day?

Me:  Yes.  Tomorrow is the next day.  It is the day after today.

4 year old:  What day will it be when I wake up tomorrow?  It will be tomorrow?

Me:  When you wake up tomorrow it will be Wednesday.

4 year old:  And it will be tomorrow?

Me:  Well, then it will be today, because it will be the day you are on.  Tomorrow means the day that comes next.

4 year old:  So Tomorrow is the next day?

Me:  Yes.  Tomorrow is the next day.  It is the day after today.

At this point in the 5th or 6th iteration of this super fun exchange I'm mentally shaking my fist and bellowing "KILL ME NOW!".  But really?  Kill me?  Now?  Awesome attitude for a cancer survivor with 6 kids.  But...BUT what I really mean is I don't want to do this now.  I can barely tolerate this now.  Spending all day dealing with little kids can occasionally make me feel like I am on. the. brink.  I don't want to die, but I start to feel like a caged animal that's getting poked with a stick.  I just want out.  I definitely don't feel like having that conversation again, or cleaning up that mess again, or keeping my composure through someone's temper tantrum again.

I was talking through this with my sister one day and I was trying to express this conundrum.  Sometimes, I told her, I get so overwhelmed and frustrated that "I want to die" just doesn't sound wrong.  Sometimes I just don't want to deal one more second.  But I obviously really don't want to die all the way...I just want a break.  Some kind of suspended reality like a coma or something, but it can't be a coma coma because it would cause hardship for my family.  It just needs to be temporary and short, like narcolepsy...and that's when it hit me.  I want to be like this:

I want to be a fainting goat.
It's the perfect plan.  The next time I hear squeals coming from the room containing 3 little girls who should have been sleeping an hour ago and I go upstairs only to be greeted by requests for more drinks, more snuggles, or pointing fingers of blame at their cell mates I just want to pull one of these:

Oh, your sister was breathing loud?  See ya.
I want to have a reset button.  When I'm on the brink of losing it and the crazy just keeps coming at me I want to be able to just hit the deck like one of those goats.  Tell me that wouldn't stop little people in their tracks.

Kid:  I want a yogurt.

Mom:  No.  Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes.

Kid:  I'm so hungry!  PLEASE!  I just wanna yogurt!

Mom:  I know you're hungry and we will eat in ten minutes.  I am done discussing yogurt.

Kid:  Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom


Once I formulated this theory, that I wish I could just faint momentarily when things got overwhelming, I didn't really need to faint anymore.  Where I would normally launch a pity spiral of doom I would immediately get the mental image of a fainting goat and it would make me laugh and in a way it gave me the mental break I was looking for.  Sometimes I even pantomime being a fainting goat by dropping my head to one side, sticking my tongue out the side of my mouth, and closing my eyes.  I just let myself go kinda limp.  It makes me giggle everytime.

This is a gift cancer gave me.  It showed me a bad habit I'd developed, that terribly negative and melodramatic and frankly bratty self talk, and presented me with an opportunity to replace it with something much more positive.  Had I not faced the actual threat of death, I would have gone on indulging in these ungrateful, vapid mental rants and I would have continued to tell myself the lie that I shouldn't have to deal with the poop in the tub, the siblings bickering and needing instruction, the person driving too slow when I'm running late...I DO have to deal with that.  I have to deal with all of that, with love, with compassion, with patience, and with a positive empowered outlook.  It is my privilege to deal with that, because that is the stuff of life.  Sometimes I might not feel like being patient when someone pitches a fit right before they put their shoes on for school because the seams of their tights aren't quiet right, but I have to remember that it could pretty easily be someone else having to deal with it in my place because I'm not there.  Instead of going off the deep end and even joking about death, I'll just close my eyes and channel my inner goat.

So, the next time your kids are making you nuts, or you're stuck next to a lady at a dinner party who is droning on and on about her bunions, or someone is asking you if you're done having kids, or when you're going to have kids, or whatever it is that makes you feel like you're on the cusp of losing your goodness gracious mind, instead of succumbing to some kind of negative mental spiral, think of these guys:

You're welcome.

Monday, February 24, 2014

7 Posts In 7 Days?!?!?

What are you trying to do to us Mrs. Fulwiler?

Just kidding.  She doesn't have a gun to my head, but she might mail me a scorpion.

This week I'm participating in the "7 Posts, 7 Days" link up over at  Because I'm already freaking out about what I will write all 7 days I'm opening up the week with a cheater cheater pumpkin eater and telling you about my facebook page.  Will you go over and like me?  That way the people in my real life who only want to hear about my 2 year old pooping in the tub can be spared the notifications about my blog posts.

This is still not much of a post so I will also tell you 7 things about me that you might not already know:

1.  I'm an INFP on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  That basically means I'm a ball of feelings on two legs that would prefer to spend most of my time hiding in my room.

2.  I was a cheerleader in high school and college which you don't need to tell me makes no sense when referring to #1 on this list.

3.  I hate spiders and I  could never articulate why until the brilliant Allie Brosh finally put one under a microscope and showed the whole world what I'd been accurately perceiving my ENTIRE LIFE:

If you think this picture is not an accurate depiction of spiders you are a sociopath.  Or dumb.  Or a dumb sociopath and you and your ice cold heart scare me almost as much as this picture.

4.  I can't wait to be an old lady someday.

5.  I took the "Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?" quiz that was floating around facebook and I got:
I've never killed anyone.  Just so we're clear.
I really really wanted to get the Dowager Countess so I spent a whole day wondering where I've gone wrong with my life.  I'm comforting myself with the thought that Lady Mary and I are working our way up to Dowager Countess status.

6.  I wish Hershey's Nuggets with Almonds were real medicine, but I know they are the very best fake medicine.

7.  My bark is much worse than my bite.

That's one post down, six to go!  I promise I'm working on some that are less fluffy!  Please go check out the other participants on Jen's Linky Post and don't forget to like this blog on Facebook!

Monday, February 17, 2014

4 Months And A Day

Yesterday was 4 months since my last chemo.  In some ways I can't believe it's been that long and in other ways it already seems like a lifetime ago, like elementary school or something.  It is both far in the rearview and and ever present.  It feels like it's way in the past because I'm exercising again, Pilates once a week for now plus swimming laps several times a week.  I'm really and truly The Mom again, driving all over kingdom come and feeding and clothing and schooling and just Momming all day.  I arrive at the end of the day tired and overwhelmed and pretty sure there is no way I can do it again the next day, but it's not because I'm sick, it's because that is the life of a Mom of small children.  Many days go by where I wouldn't think of cancer at all if it weren't for my short hair and little reminders.  I still have bruises on my arms where the IV's were for my last 2 treatments.  Seeing them reminds me of the serious stuff they were putting in me not to long ago.  Most days I still can't wear my wedding rings because I still puff up from poor circulation.  This is improving as I exercise more.

My hair has really come in and I rarely cover my head anymore.  This is a new development in the last few weeks, as my comfort level with my new coiffe grew and the kids' did as well.  The first place I ever went with a bare head was to Pilates at our YMCA and it was no big deal because almost everyone else in the class had short hair.   I have my italian genes to thank for the lightening fast regrowth I'm experiencing.  Right now I look like Fantine, but a really romanesque Fantine so I guess that makes me Patti Lupone?  Seriously, could it get any better?  I would argue that no, it could not.  But, I couldn't find a picture of Ms. Lupone as Fantine post hair selling when I made this:

Anne Hathaway as Fantine vs. Do you know how hard it is to take a profile selfie and also my neck isn't that short but I had a cowl neck sweater on.

So that's my hair update.  I'm really feeling better all the time.  Avery continues to do beautifully and is now in the 22nd percentile for length and the 40th for weight so not only is she on the chart...she is ON the chart.  She's our little sweet fatty baby.  As for our 4 month milestone, she's not that impressed:

What's the big deal Mom?  Aren't we just always going to be kicking ass on a daily basis?

Finally, please pray for 2 precious children facing difficult diagnoses:

First for Ava who was diagnosed with brain cancer a few weeks ago.  Her Dad Jeff is a friend from my days as a cheerleading instructor with the National Cheerleaders Association.  Jeff and his partner brought Ava to the ER and were told she had a brain tumor the size of tangerine.  The tumor has been removed and now they face treatment.  Please pray for Ava, her dads, her sister, and everyone who treats her.

Please also pray for a little boy named Benjamin.  I don't know Benjamin or his family personally, but we have many friends in common.  Benjamin is another child whose parents found out their child was facing brain cancer.  Benjamin's cancer is very aggressive and he, his parents, his siblings, and his treatment team need our prayers.  Please pray for them.  That link is for an event that already passed, but please continue to pray.  

Hope all is well with you dear readers!