Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Remembering Cheryl....

Dear Readers......

It is with great love and sadness that we tell you that Cheryl passed away last Wednesday, April 22nd on a sunny evening with her beloved Robert at her side.

My name is Cathie A. and I am the sponsor of the blogger, Cheryl H.   I am here in Cheryl's home with Robert and we both feel Cheryl's presence as we have hacked into her blog (she would love us being naughty).

As I'm sure readers of Cheryl's blog know...she was a wise and witty woman with 29+ years in the program of Al-Anon.  She was also a very talented writer, gardener, painter, stained glass artist, seamstress (really...who sews their own jeans?), hysterically funny, dear friend, sister and much loved spouse.  Her talents, her humility and her ability to laugh at herself were inspiring.

Robert was telling me this morning of the joy of them both falling into fits of laughter after noticing an oversized jar of Nutella while grocery shopping.   One of my favourite personal memories was of visiting Cheryl in hospital with another Al-Anon friend after her last surgery ... the three of us exchanging stories of our own pre-recovery insanity and laughing so hard that Cheryl had to ask the nurse for pain relief after we left.  Such is the stuff of a simple life well-lived.

Cheryl spoke often of the gifts that working the Al-Anon program had given her.  Her ability to use her program in dealing with life's challenges (yes, even the REALLY big ones) was amazing and an inspiration to many (I put myself at the top of that list).

Thank you for allowing me to share my memories of my dear friend Cheryl.  If you wish to share your thoughts and feelings here......please do.....Robert would love to hear from you.

Love in Al-Anon, Cathie A.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Keep It Simple

A reader posted a comment on yesterday's post, about "Keep it Simple." Now there's a mantra for cancer treatment craziness.

When it comes down to what really needs to be accomplished today, and what can wait -   Keep it Simple - we need groceries to fill the fridge, more than we need to drop off extra supplies back at a hospital office kind enough to give them to us in the first place.  We have to eat today - they have sufficient supplies that our paltry return will be as nothing on those well-stocked shelves.

When it comes down to what each of us can bear, if Robert needs a time-out to straighten his head or just have the cool water of peace swish through his soul, then keep it simple - make the space for him to go off alone and putter, by giving myself the space to start a painting, cut out a garment I wish to sew, or do one of  a zillion things I can do, alone and happy.

When the logistics are getting complicated about who can drive me where, to get this or that done on this or that day at this or that time, and I can't yet feel comfortable driving myself to a distant hospital for a CT scan to stage the tumour - keep it simple -  call my sponsor/dear friend and ASK. She of course agreed, which means I get to have a meeting with my sponsor and some wonderful laughs and the pleasure of her company, making this an outing I can enjoy instead of just another obligation.

Keep it Simple. Cut my day down into bite-size chews, and that way I'm not faced with a mountain I think I need to devour within the next ten minutes; I can take it one step, one day at a time.

Thank you for that blessing,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

So It Begins.

I had my first radiation treatment today. It was all over in a matter of minutes; I was finished before realising that they'd started.

It was painless,  but I'm told that with the attending "sunburning" of the skin which will occur, I may suffer further pain on top of what I'm now experiencing.

Last night I spent some time cleaning my glass collection, polishing the beautiful golds and reds and purples. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for my friends, my lover Robert, my sister: who cares for me, and is struggling with her own pain about it all, and my brother, who adores the painting I made for him, which he received yesterday, finally.

I miss my meetings so much, but am too ill to attend them. When someone comments here on my blog, it feels a little bit like a meeting, and I am truly grateful for your input, please know that, and keep talking to me!

I'm hoping that my fight over this cancer will succeed enough for me to go back to a more normal form of life, with meetings, and social encounters, and gardening. I'm feeling like I may be able to beat this one back enough to have some more life granted to me. I'm too young, and unwilling to accept dying yet. I want to live.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Denial, Or Waiting It Out?

Denial means that I am refusing to acknowledge a truth which sits right before me, "large as life, and twice as ugly."  

Waiting it out, means that I have clarity regarding the situation, and an ability to understand that it's beyond my immediate control.

I've had many times in this journey in Al-Anon, when I've been so far gone into a state of HALT that I couldn't distinguish between whether I've been in denial, or whether I was waiting it out - I could not tell the one from the other, no matter how I tried.

It's been fascinating for me to add "moderate to severe pain" to HALT, so I'm not just hungry angry lonely or tired, I'm also in sufficient physical pain to inhibit and affect my judgement. In enough pain, I can be completely unable to grasp the lifeline of hope and serenity. 

That which a few hours earlier, seemed only a struggle up a relatively minor hill, and well within my reach, thanks to all those who love me, and are more than willing to help shoulder the burden to reach the summit...

.......given enough physical torment, somehow morphs into an asinine plan to try climbing Mount Everest in a track suit, with a hot dog  and one banana.

When I'm in denial, I feel weak, hopeless, ineffective, stupid, and like a bad person.

When I'm waiting it out, I know that my powerlessness is a gift, allowing me time to seek through prayer and meditation, closer contact with my Higher Power.

Closer contact with my Higher Power brings me peace, and the belief that I can get through whatever is to come. Not merely get through it, but feel boundless gratitide for, and joy in my beloved Robert, who understands my heart,  and brings me 50-year-old sewing machines, with which I putter about, and oil, and shine and polish, until they run with a softly powerful purr and a perfection of stitch not possible from new plastic models. The other day, I sent to my brother 3 pictures. - one of the new/old machine alone in its beautiful wooden cabinet, with the two-tone blue enamel, and chrome dials gleaming, and then one each of first Robert, and then me, perched on the sewing chair, and grinning with wild glee.....

...... and I've got new cancer tumours.....

......but they will only have the room in my life that I choose to give them. My choice, thanks to this blessed program.

Thanks to all of you who write, share your experience strength and hope, and to those who read. When I first began this blog, I could never have imagined the love and caring I would feel, and still do. Blessings, and may you wake to the knowledge that you are loved by a Higher Power.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Change Is As Good As A Rest,

I saw the radiation oncologist yesterday, and he recommended 15-20 radiation treatments, rather than chemo, as these new tumours are close to the surface, and palpable, unlike the original lumps, which were in my lymph nodes. Those two original lumps remain shrunken back to a normal size, so that's good.  I'm still gaining weight gradually, and that too is an excellent sign, given the circumstances. 

As my primary oncologist commented to us at my first appointment with her last year - apart from the cancer, I'm in excellent health.

Later in the afternoon, I met with a doctor and nurse from the pain and symptom department, because the pain from the cancer has been increasing to the point that I have become very uncomfortable. 

After giving me prescriptions for several medications, the doctor spoke for some time about how if I were not to use the meds as prescribed; if I waited until my pain was unbearable before taking them, instead of keeping an eye on the clock, and seeing that it was time for the next dose, they are ineffective. He listened carefully as Robert told him that I have a tendency to wait and hope that the pain will go away without my needing to do anything about.

(This is the third doctor who has given me the same talk about pain medication.)

Which brings me to today's topic - self-care.

I was raised in a home where my pain was negated, dismissed, minimised and mocked-  whether it be mental, emotional, or physical. It was made abundantly clear to all members of that family, that only one person's pain mattered- my adoptive mother.

After breaking her pelvis in a fall just after her 98th birthday, and spending 5 weeks in hospital, she died a week ago this past Monday. It feels strange to know that she is finally gone from this world. I'd made my peace with her, and had no anger or resentment left towards her for many years now, thanks to this wondeful program.

But I realise that even after all this time working my program, I still have patterns of ingrained thinking which can catch me unawares. One such, is the belief that I need to keep my physical pain to myself, minimise it, not "bore" others with complaint or even mention of it, and that somehow, it's my own fault that I'm in pain. 

How this is the case, I cannot articulate clearly even to myself, but I struggle against that one often.  I need to remind myself that I'm not to blame for getting cancer, and that I deserve relief from the pain.

I deserve relief.

I'm a good person, and I deserve all of the wonders that life, love, and the blessings of Al-Anon have to offer. It's my choice as to whether I accept love, caring and relief from pain. I wouldn't expect Robert, my sister or brother, or a dear friend to suffer in the way that I've felt I deserved to suffer, because I believed that I was a bad person.

Friday, January 30, 2015

New Lumps

As I'd expected, the new lumps are cancerous. So it's back onto chemotherapy, and hope that the new regime shrinks these lumps, in the same way that the first six months of chemo shrank the original small tumours. I go for another CT scan to see if it's metastasized to any of my major organs, and I'll keep you posted as to the news.

On another subject, it's a stunning day today, sunny and mild and beautiful. A glorious day in which to be alive. I'm going to put in some sewing work on the new coat I'm making for myself, and pray for guidance, comfort, strength and hope.

Where there's life, there's hope. A simple truth. I am so grateful for all of my friends,  my brother and sister, and for my beloved Robert. One day last week, I was fed up and weeping, and he made a remark which made me burst into helpless laughter. What a man. And what an enormous gift he is in my life. A treasure, and the best thing that has ever happened to me, he is.

I'm feeling grateful for all of my blessings, and for the delicious sunshine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Emotional Wealth.

These days, thanks to the wonders of Al-Anon, I have great emotional wealth. My dictionary defines
"wealth" as an abundance of valuable resources, and I certainly have been granted that. I have the valuable resource of program wisdom, and I have been truly blessed with an abundance of friends to walk this path with me.

I have friends with whom I keep in touch, who live in cities many miles away, but I am able to get together with them for lunch and a visit every few months. In between visits, we exchange regular emails, and I smile to see their names in my email inbox. They are a richness in my life. Some are in program, some are not, it doesn't matter, we are close, and they add greatly to my joy.

One of the unexpected blessings of this cancer journey is that I have been allowed to realise how I am loved, by the way my friends have responded, with support, encouragement, humour and anything else I've needed, whether I knew I needed it, or only they knew.

I have a sponsor with whom I can speak with utter honesty. Last week before the meeting, she hugged me and asked how I was - I wasn't doing well last week, and when she gazed at me, concern and humour and affection in her eyes, I was completely undone, and began to weep. She stood up, came to me, and held me in her arms while I wept. I felt so safe and cared for. It was exactly what I needed, and it gave me the release of tears and the comfort of her arms around me. Of such relatively small but important things are friendships forged and solidified.

We make each other laugh like crazy, and can talk about anything - what an enormous gift.

Before Al-Anon, I didn't know how to be a good friend. I used what I jokingly call "The Mafia solution" when I was angry or disappointed in someone - "You are dead to me from this moment!"
- I'd just cut them off, and never speak to them again. I couldn't deal with conflict, so I just avoided it by avoiding them.

Al-Anon has taught me how to give, and how to receive love. Never, before Robert, had I ever thought I would love a man the way I love him. And never did I think a man would love me the way he loves me.

I have great emotional wealth, and it sustains me through whatever it is that's happening. I know I have people who love me, and I know I have plenty of people I love and adore. I am a truly lucky woman.

Thanks so much to all who have written their support and encouragement on this blog, it means a lot to me, and I'm grateful that you have taken the time and effort.