Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Have I Learned?

Everybody says, "I don't know how you've done it, Sherry."  And, when I look back, I sometimes wonder too.  First Jed's fall into quadriplegia, the financial disaster that brought, years of care taking, sudden realization that cancer would steal Jed, becoming a widow and then getting breast cancer a few months after losing the love of my life.  That's enough for a while.  Six and a half years of education.  Can't say I'm glad it all happened, but I can say I'm a better person for taking the journey.

So what have I learned?  First and foremost, God is in control.  Makes no sense to fight it.  Peace may come slowly, but it comes sooner with the realization that you simply are not in charge.  Now, that doesn't mean sit around and do nothing.  It means take all the energy, anger, sadness, frustration and just plain disbelief and fight against everything of injustice while at the same time realizing it's God that giving you the ability to do it.

I've learned to accept help; from any and everybody!  From the very beginning I simply could not have managed without the hundreds of people who seemed to be there right when I needed them.  We were showered with food and carpentry and equipment and care.  We had debts forgiven and joy delivered.  We spent most of our lives together rather independent of others, but our journey changed all of that for my good.

I've learned that darkness doesn't hang around forever.  In the midst of some of the worst of it, I was sure we could not survive intact.  Survive seems the wrong word, since Jed has died, but survive we did, in multi-color.  Until cancer took him quickly we lived very joyfully, shockingly joyful. Laughter colored our days and filled our nights with silliness.  Even the dark and awful times of missing him have been painted over with lovely memories rather than sharp pain.  And, when I was challenged to my core with breast cancer I can now laugh at the fact that my dog used my prosthetic breast as a chew toy.  Darkness does not hang around forever, unless, of course you want it too.  You do have to be open to the small beam of light sneaking in the deepest, darkest corners of your shock and pain.

I've learned to really see people.  Every day new people walk into my life in the shop; some of them crazy, some of them thieves, some of them pitiful, some in great pain, and some not affected by life's cruel stories.  Most are just down to earth honest people spending a little of their time with me.  Some know my story and tell me they've been praying, most are just looking for something to brighten their day.  But they all like being treated with a bit of kindness and a smile, and they all love to share their story.  Just this week I talked with a young girl who was so happy to get a pair of boots that actually worked for her prosthetic foot.  She shared her story of the car accident and the pain that she lives with still after many years.  She left with a pair of boots that Angie no longer needed and we were both filled with the awareness that it's good to really see people.

I probably always knew this, being raised a farm girl and all, but it's been reinforced these past few years.  It's okay to cuss and cry and drink and scream, even to doubt and hate.  It's not all about praise and thankfulness and giving into the spirit.  God knows it takes time.

And so, now what's next?  That takes me back to #1, God's in control.  Some people say, "you're so strong..." or many forms of that message.  Bottom line is, just like the young girl with the new boots said as she told her story, "It's not like I had a choice about it."  The only thing I have a choice about is what I take from it.  My heart is full.  My memories are beautiful, and tomorrow will be better because of what I've learned today, and if I can help someone else on their journey then I was there for them when they needed me.  Life is pretty simple.  Like my daily prayer, "help me be kind and make good decisions.  Amen 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One Year of Cancer

It was a year ago that my doctor shook me out of my denial by saying, "what you have is real."  I was trying to convince him that I just needed to lose some weight and the stress of the past few years had taken it's tole.  While both of those are true, I had breast cancer and I now am a one breasted woman. When I look back at this year, all I see is blur.  "It wasn't so bad," is what I told my daughter and she reminded me that indeed, mom, it was.  Four surgeries.  Chemotherapy.  Baldness.  Prosthetic.  Bed, bed, bed.  Blur.  Foggy memories.  Pain.  Marijuana to help.  But now I feel good.  I wish I had my breast, but it's a long scar instead.  I wish I had my husband, but that's not to be.  I wish, I wish, I wish.  But what I have is simple joy.  The misery and pain is in the past.  Memories of adventures with Jed are warm and fulfilling.  My energy is back and the future is there for the living.  Decisions are possible.  New adventures are too.  I can't say that I'm glad I had cancer, but cancer has given me a gift of discernment.  Been there.  Done that.  Moving on with thankfulness.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Journey

"It's my journey, and I'm going to take it!"  That's been my power speech for the last few weeks.  It gives me some "umph" when I say it. and it makes people laugh, so I think I'll stick with it.  Today I got word from the doctor that I am "triple negative."  That has nothing to do with my look on life or my general nature.  It does, however. tell me that my cancer is aggressive and illusive and must be treated with respect.  It indeed has a life of it's own and is taking hold in my body.  Correction, wants to take hold in my body.  I, however, have power over those little shitty cells and the war begins. 

The fence jumping, hog feeding farm girl in me tends to believe that everything can be managed by just being a bit more tough, but I think this one got me straddled over the fence.  My journey has left the farm and moved on to the simple drips of the poison that will soon flow through my veins in a barbaric attempt to kill the bad stuff.  Chemotherapy lurks in my journey's future. 

So how do I put this into some kind on sense?  Best I can come up with is, "there is no sense, and that's that."  Struggle as I might with why, and all the mind meanderings of who, why, where, what and when, I come up only with, "because."

I'm a little more than a month past my mastectomy, and was prepared to hear the doctor say, "Looks like we got it all," when I get the news of my new journey.  My faith is no less strong.  My eyes are a little bit more open.  So, "It's my journey, and I'm going to take it!," seems to be working for me. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's Not Fair

So today I got the news that I will most likely have a mastectemy in the very near future.  Basically, all I can say is, "That really sucks."  I recently had a friend tell me that, "It's not fair,"  when asking me about my cancer.  Well now that has a dissonant ring I never expected to say, "My cancer."  It is what it is.  Back to the fairness issue.

Really, what does fairness have to do with anything except how we treat people?  My cancer has nothing to do with fairness.  It is, however and eye opener.  What does it have to do with?  Is it toxisity we breath and eat?  Is it stress?  Is it just chance?  What I'm sure it isn't is punishment or unfairness.

What my friend was referring to was my year...or maybe my several years...but she's just plain wrong.  Yeah, I would call this year, 2014, one of my less favorite years, especially the starting and ending parts.  My husband dying in Januaury, and me with breast cancer in December does seem to wrap up the year with some pretty raw wire, but here I am thinking about the fun times this year has brought me, from a girlfriend road trip cross country, to lovely fun trips to see my family, and a warm and comfortable home surrounded by constant activity and friends.  And, as I ponder this year's mix of rainbow and rain I am filled with the knowledge that, it's good.  All of it.  Like another friend recently said, "It's God's tree, and I'm just sitting in it."

And it's a lovely tree indeed, God's tree.  It's not one that deals in fairness, it's one that just is.  My theology is really simple:  God is.  That's it.  I don't get it complicated with behavior or punishment or fairness.

So, even though I would like to fall into crying and sadness, the closest thing I can get is shock. Just didn't expect this one.

It's sort of like when dad's prize bull just dropped dead, before  he even had a chance to frolic with the females.  Dad had saved all of his money, extended himself beyond his good judgement, brought that fertile fella home and within a few minutes of getting him to the pasture, that darn expensive promise had a heart attact and died.  I remember dad's face.  I remember his distant stare, his broken spirit.  It was shock.  Of all the things he thought or knew might go wrong on the farm, his prize winning bull having a heart attack and dying, was the last of his thoughts.

That's me and breast cancer.  Of all the things that I know that can go wrong, I just didn't have breast cancer wired in as a possibility.  But, it's God's tree and I'm just sitting in it.  I've been blessed with so many amazing tree sitting joys, I'm going to just keep sitting here and take what comes.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


My family always ate meals together at the table.  All three meals.  Farm families can do that. Breakfast of pancakes and gravy.  Big dinner of roast beef and potatoes at noon, and usually soup for supper.  Something to be said about sitting around the table looking at each other that many times a day.  At breakfast we always had the radio on to catch the news, usually weather, because that was the only news that really mattered to farmers.  At dinner (lunch to most) we would talk about the day, the crops, the weather, the jobs that needed doing, and of course how good the food was.  And at supper, we talked about everyone's day.  What we did, how we felt and how we could make the next day better.

My brother, Rod and I sat on a bench by a big glass window.  I fell backwards through that window when I was very small, but have no memory of the incident, only a long scar on my thumb.  But I do remember that we sat on that bench every meal of every day. for most of my growing up years.

One dinner meal is vividly picturesque in my mind.  As usual, we had gone to Broken Bow (about 40 miles away} on a Sat. morning.  I had my piano lessons every Saturday morning while my parents bought the week's groceries.  This particular Saturday after piano lessons. my mom took me into the Ben Franklin store and together we bought my first bra.  I selected a finely padded bra to give rise to my barely budding breasts.  I was so proud.

We got home in time for our noon meal.  I sat on the bench I had always sat on, but now I was voluptuous. I had on my padded bra, and I stuck out like nobodies business.  Well, my brothers had a hay day.  Needless to say, I was embarrassed.  But, I was getting them, tits, and by the reaction of my brothers, it was a pretty big deal.

Lots of year and lots of tit experiences have come and gone since then. We women learned as children that they were pretty cool and we could flaunt them to get remarkable and often pleasing reactions.

Not long ago I was wanting to look my best for an important function.  I had a dress made especially for the event.  "Go get fitted for a real bra," were my instructions from the dress designer.  So I went to Nordstroms and  spent hours being fitted for the perfect look.  I was so convinced that these bras
would make me beautiful, that I bought 3 of them and spent nearly $400.  They are painful to wear and I don't think I'm any more or less  beautiful with or without them.  Point is, tits are problematic.

And now, I'm at the most problematic point I've been in all my tit time.  I have cancer of the tits.  I suppose I should be more politically correct and say, I have breast cancer, but that seems to give them too much importance.

I'm at a place where I may soon choose to no longer have breasts, and I have to decide how I feel about that.  I stand in front of the mirror and say to myself, "not bad, even for an old lady like me," while at the same time imagining how I will look without them.

Self image is critically important. For the young girl sitting across the table from her brothers, self image was everything, and breasts were the magic pill to wonderfulness.  As a woman who has lived with those things since those early days of budding, I know there were times when losing them would have been a crisis.

Now, it doesn't seem important.  I  so wish to not have to go through all the mess and pain and inconvenience that my breast cancer poses, but whether I have tits to put into my uncomfortable $100 bras or not is not the issue for me now.  My issue is Rowan.  Rowan and the great grand kids and all the grand kids.  They sure won't care if I have tits.  They just want to have my music and joy, my laughter and games.  They want me healthy and happy.  I want that too.

I've put my tits in the hands of both God and my surgeon.  And I will move forward with music and joy and laughter long after their hands have done their duty.  Cancer be gone in whatever form that needs to be.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Farewell, Dear Friends

As much as I've loved you, and as helpful as you've been to me, I'm going to leave you.  I hate to write this, because then I have to act, but I am, I am going to leave you behind.  And you've been so comforting.  Brandy and Potato Chips.  My close friends for many years.  My nightly partners in grief and survival.  My lover substitutes, my sensual joys.  I'm leaving you behind, because I have a new battle to fight and you are not the tools I need for this battle.

You probably didn't cause it, but my body has taken on a new challenge, breast cancer, and my old friends, Brandy and Potato Chips just have to go.  I'm just getting a grip of it's reality as it comes in waves, but somehow I am now in a new place where taking charge has a whole new meaning for me.
All the things that I know are good for me, and all the things that I know are not good for me are swimming around in my head, and the only thing I hear is, duh.  Seriously, duh.  So it's time to take care of me.

Breast Cancer.  Well that really sucks.  But, oh, well, it could be a head on collision when I have no choices and no chances.  So this ride will be full of amazement for sure, but what it won't be full of is Brandy and Potato Chips.  Ready, Set, Go.  I sure don't want to ride this ride, but I'm on it, so I might as well ride it with a clear mind and grease-less fingers.  What lies ahead has only one assurance, that I will be lifted up daily by my family and my faith.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It felt really good, until the fall

It felt really good, until the fall

So I spent the morning in the beauty shop hanging out with one of my favorite people, Joey.  We both like to write, but we drag our butts, having them wrapped around our own belief that, even though we know we're amazing pens, there's the fear that nobody else gives a rip.  After all, lots of people write, you know.  What makes us think we're good anyway?   And then it came to us.  Such a novel thought.  Hold on!  We can appreciate each other's mixture of words!  You know, like dress designers who get together and ooh and ah over each other's work, or car guys who stare for hours at the other guys slick and shinny fenders and rims, or crafty people who make stuff and strut around all proud while others swoon over their creation.  I mean, really, we're just as good as them.  We can write and we can share.

 We challenged one another to get off our butts, or on, as usually I write on mine, well, not on mine, that would be difficult, but sounds track.  What to write?  We decided something funny.  Well shit, that's easy.  My life is just one bundle of tragic laughs.  So, here goes, Joey, my friend.  I'm on my butt, I'm writing fast because I really need twenty bucks.  

So much funny stuff.  Let's start with the salon visit.  Seriously it's comic relief to just walk in, sit and watch.  Check out the posters.  "keep calm and wrap on,"  "What is your Eufora Promise?, "Inner strength creates outer beauty, strong, be inspiring, smooth stylish bold vibrant refined unique real......"  There's more, but gag me.  First of all, not one person there is trying to be REAL.  They're trying to be something they, quite frankly, are not.  Why else do we go to salons?  I can't argue with the inner strength creates outer beauty message, but there is absolutely nothing that goes on in that, or any salon,  that develops inner strength.  How does that message get into a bottle of something?  Bottle of brandy, maybe.  Now, what is your Eufora promise anyway?  Well, if you look carefully at the poster it looks like a marijuana plant.  Is there a secret room in this place where we can smoke a joint or two and share our great euphoric promises?  Now, we just might find inner strength, become smooth, stylish and inspiring if that were the case and believe you me, I'm sure we would be real.  And maybe, just maybe, I could be calm and wrap on, all at the same time.  It's all just a bunch of phony stuff for us to gobble up so we can feel REAL.  Now, if I were real, I would be as gray as gray gets and I would probably be spewing stuff at people that I think are so ridiculous.  I just love the parade.   

Lest we not forget the gorgeous guy who came in with great hair and walked out with none, except a tuft on top.  He was proud.  He was happy and he was nearly bald, on purpose.  What gives.  He was still gorgeous. 

And, could she be anything but a good example of beauty.  I mean the strut in the tight pants and 4 inch boots, the extensions hanging over her over made eyes, her smirky smile that really is saying," look at me, I'm so dang great."  How I would love to take her aside and teach her how to dress.  How did she get to own that place anyway?  I counted 40 times back and forth.  He feet must hurt big time at the end of the day.  Nobody can do that for real. 

Then there's the blond addict who walked in not looking bad, but by the time the hairdresser took out all of her extensions she had most of what was on her head laying on the table next to her and I shuddered at the thought of someone trying to run their fingers through her hair and either bring out a chunk, or feeling like she had scurvy.  I hope she warns any potential hair fingers partner.  

I sorta like the blue haired girl.  Perky for sure, but what's with the hat?  

I'm such a bitch.  I go there to do exactly what they are all doing, become a better version on myself, but jez, do they have to be so weird.  Actually it was a kinky way to start my day.  Reality is whatever we can get away with covering up. 

So I have breast cancer.  Now this is pretty shitty news given that fact, well, nobody wants breast cancer, but just how many bad things are okay in one single year?  There's probably a formula for this.  Guess I haven't maxed out the secret formula which gives great hope to those of you just smoothing along in your life.  Shit is coming your way.  No way to get ready for it, except of course to make sure you "be calm and wrap on."  My first mistake was getting a mammogram.  So they found something, went after it, cut me open big time, and in case you're wondering, it hurts like the devil to have a two inch gash wrapped around your nipple.  My God, did I use that word, nipple?  On no, that's not the "N" word.  Moving on.   Well, what they went after was nothing, but golly gee, they found an edge of terribleness......cancer, and now, well, of course, they have to go get that.  Another boob bombardment and I'm in the system now, so......shit I'm going back to the salon to find my real Eufora Promise and to become REAL. 

So the doctor told me that if I'm going to have breast cancer this is the best breast cancer you can have.  You can't imagine how good that made me feel.  Duh!  My son gave me the best medicine possible, laughter.  In a serious talk he asked, "which breast, mom?"  "Right."  "Whew!  Thank God, I never liked that one much anyway."  I have been laughing for a week. 

My wallet, phone, got stolen off the counter of the shop last week.  I was a few minutes away from the counter and bam, it disappeared.  I didn't even know it was gone.  Then I get a call from Ubaldo.  A police officer was at the door with my wallet/phone.  They nabbed him within 15 min. of taking it off the counter.  So, if you're gonna get robbed, that's the best robbery you can have.  I think that's like my cancer.  It's gonna be a pain, but no big deal. 

Stuff has to be funny or it's just no fun to go through.  My husband died this year.  He gave me more grief than a bean supper, but he was the love of my life.  We laughed everyday about the crap, literally, we had to deal with, and I miss him with an ache that creeps into my pours.  But he would be the first to tell me, "laugh, baby, this is what we've got!" 

Joey told me today that he had started riding his bike.  I said, "that must feel good....." and he responded with, "yes it felt real good until the fall."  Well, shit, Joey.  Don't you know how metaphoric that is? Everything was good until the fall.   Even Jed.  Until his fall he was great.  And then he wasn't.  So the trick is, to keep that bike riding feeling going in our lives, that I'm gonna be the best I can be place, that "what is your Euforic promise place, that inner strength makes outer beauty place.......anyway, keep it going until you get bad stuff.
 And then, when you get bad stuff, just dance.  Laugh and know that it wasn't your plan, or furthermore, a result of anything you did.   And remember that friends, the real ones, the ones who can be calm and wrap on, the ones who have inner strength to give them outer beauty....the REAL friends  will laugh with you, make your hair pink, smoke a joint with you, and  just sit and stare at others who have no idea that life is funny.