Courage Is…

As I prepare to fly to Canada to be with my son and his family, I hold in my heart the reality that pancreatic cancer, to date, can be manageable, affording the patient more time while research is being furiously studied. There is no cure….. yet.

I do have hope. I hope that somewhere in the diagnostics, they got it wrong. I hope that it is something weird that can be cured.

I hope that even at its worst, God gives my son time, because it is within time that a cure will someday be found. Why should I not have faith that that cure could be found within his life? Within my hope?

I confess that even though I was raised by a devout Roman Catholic mother, I believed as a child, with a child’s faith. As I grew into adulthood, I did attend church.

I stopped attending church many years ago because I do not like organized religion, I felt that the true purpose of “religion” was lost by power-seeking leaders and financial greed.

I pray, when others asked for prayers, I prayed deeply when any of my children needed help. Maybe that makes me a bad “child of God,” but, if one believes in a Higher Power, He knows all of my faults, like a parent knows their own child and His love is the ultimate unconditional love.

The update on my son is that he is in the care of one of the most incredibly respected physicians in this field. And, as I mentioned before, my son lives in Canada, Calgary. His doctor is Dr. Oliver Bathe who is committed to research in pancreatic cancer and has acquired over 10,000 samples of markers for pancreatic cancer genes.

Until now, I never paid attention to the study or advancements in pancreatic cancer. This study, with which Dr. Bathe is involved shines hope for my son.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine told me that her daughter had lung cancer. This was before I had breast cancer. I had the typical reaction, I thought, “Oh shit. Her daughter is dying. How is Frieda going to handle this? How would I handle this?”

There is no ONE answer to that query. We all answer the question of mortality in our own individual ways with whatever strengths we possess. I don’t know how Frieda handled it, I do know that she was with her daughter during the progression of the cancer. They lived within driving distance, unlike my son and I who are hundreds of miles apart.

Since my first writing, after I learned of Mikey’s diagnosis, I have emotionally and spiritually traveled from shock, deep denial and anger to where I am now. On drugs – not “those” kind of drugs, but I was already taking 75mg Effexor for depression since my breast cancer, now I am taking Xanax ER, instructed by my doctor to take daily. He also gave me another prescription for Xanax immediate release for “times when you will need it.”

I take, have been taking the Effexor for a few months already and the morning after learning of Mike’s diagnosis, I took one Xanax to stop my hyper-ventilating and constant gut-wrenching cries. Maybe I’m weak for needing to rely on medication to get through this, but, as I pack today and get ready for my flight out tomorrow morning, the most important thing I need to be is STRONG for my son, his wife and my innocent, 2 & 4 year old grandchildren.

I found the hope that resides in prayer.

In closing, I just remembered a quote which a farmer painted on the side of his barn which could be seen for a great distance. I think it is just what I need right now…

“COURAGE IS FEAR THAT SAID ITS PRAYERS”

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My Son’s Pancreatic Cancer

My breakdown has passed the destructive, volatile, angry and hopeless stage where I questioned everything according to my ‘whys.’

  • Why my son? His father widowed me, at least our children were older than my son’s babies who are 2 and 4.
  • Why? This pain is the absolute worst pain in life, for his wife – she is his life partner and for her to be left with two young children is so, so, wrong. Not to mention me, his mother, who carried him, loved him, laughed, cried, argued, and applauded him for his accomplishments.
  • Why? They are good, responsible parents and adult children to their families. His wife lost her mother to breast cancer. My son lost his father to pulmonary something when he was 8 years old.

How is this supposed to make us grow through this loss of such an important son, husband, father, brother, uncle?

Just the other day, St. Patrick’s Day to be exact, my son learned of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer which has spread to his liver. He has lost 25 pounds within the last month, weight which he cannot afford to lose since he is tall and thin to begin with.

My anger has passed. I am in the hurting phase, crying at anything that sparks a memory, a tune, an advertisement with little children… “How long,” I asked my husband, “before the tears stop?”

“I don’t think they ever stop.”

So, after screaming and wailing in denial and accusations to God, even told Him that I hated Him. I came back this morning and prayed and apologized for being a brat, but He knows my heart. He knew what my reaction would be.

Now, today, with tears in my heart and soul, every broken, shattered piece of faith is rising for me to grab on to and beg for mercy. I pray for a miracle.

Pancreatic cancer which has already spread to the liver is typically considered a death sentence. I know that, my son knows that, his wife and brothers know that. I am going to cross that line of faith and say that I believe that God can heal my son, no matter how advanced the cancer. What medical science cannot do, I believe, I believe that prayer, sincere and trusting, can cure him.

I believe. I trust. I pray. I hope.

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Faith

How dare you?

How dare you come after my child?

Take my heart. Take my soul. Take what’s left of my hopes and dreams.

Spit upon me for all that I have done wrong. Do NOT take my child.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no… I fell to the floor upon reading the email where my son told me of his illness.

I SCREAMED, the cat hid, the dogs ran, I am surprised the neighbors didn’t come to the house. I wailed. I did not know what “wailing” meant until today.

No, no, no, no, no… not my child.

I do not want to outlive my children.

With all that is happening in the world, what right have I to ask anything. I believe I have a right because my son is good. His 2 & 4 year old children need a good father. Do not make his wife a widow.

I am lost within my beliefs that there is such a thing as praying for good. The balance between right and wrong. I wonder. Is there really a higher power who cares? Are we just pawns?

My child’s life isn’t going to change the world. Will my faith? Will yours? Is there really a balance?

I don’t know. I don’t care. I am the mother. Balance doesn’t deserve my son as a trinket.

“Show me you are real, show me a cardinal…” A fuc***g blue jay came to my water bowl.

The night grew longer. “Show me you hear me, send me an owl.” Owls are not a big deal.

No owls. No birds. No fuck*n’ bats.

I prayed relentlessly for the son that went to war. I prayed, knowing that he went to war in fit shape. The battle was yet to begin. I felt that I, my prayers had a head start.

He lived.

Now, now, I am informed of a battle with another son. A battle which is half won before I even knew there was a battle.

Pancreatic cancer which has spread to the liver.

No, no, no, no, no…
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Revisiting Tamoxifen’s Side-effects

August 13, 2014, was my one-year cancerversary of the day cancer was cut out of my body through bilateral mastectomy. At that milestone I began to question my decision of quitting the hormone blocker, for the simple reason that so many people in my family have had or succumbed to cancer. I began to fear my decision to stop Tamoxifen could be increasing my chances of cancer recurring.

I was happy to be alive on that anniversary, making it through the year of multiple visits to the breast surgeon, oncologist and plastic surgeon. I was content to sever the relationship with my breasts and not require chemo or radiation. But I began to fear death, a fear which I believe I absolutely, totally ignored during that year as I focused on becoming “whole” again.

I honestly never gave a thought to dying. Dying was an unacceptable outcome and I never entertained any thoughts about what life might be like for my husband and children if I were to die. I closed that path of thinking, sealed it with impenetrable, air-tight, thought-proof doors. But, for some reason, a month after my first cancerversary, on my birthday, all of my fears came rushing to the forefront of my brain and for the first time since my diagnosis, I feared death and decided that I had better quit gambling with my life and start taking my hormone blocker, Tamoxifen, again.

Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker and should work well in preventing any recurrence of my type of breast cancer, it is the same drug that my mother took for the rest of her life when she had breast cancer. By the way, Mom lived to be 92. So, once again, I began taking Tamoxifen, convincing myself that there must have been other reasons for my side effects, which I had not documented.

TamoxRetinaDis

List of Tamoxifen side-effects
Disease of Retina of the Eye

TamoxCatrcts

List of Tamoxifen side-effects
Cataracts – Severe

June 12, 2014, I was diagnosed with a macular hole; that diagnosis was the beginning of three eye surgeries, the first, to repair the macular hole, the second, cataract surgery on that same eye – cataracts typically develop after macular hole surgery. The third surgery was to remove a cataract from the other eye. Note – cataracts are considered a “severe” side-effect of Tamoxifen. Cornea disease and blood clots of the retina are also possible severe side-effects of Tamoxifen. I can only pray that I do not suffer more eye problems as a result of taking this drug.

Feeling weak, vaginal dryness, weight gain, blood clots, stroke, high calcium in the blood, depression and high triglycerides are but a few of Tamoxifen’s other possible side-effects. Of these, I have experienced fatigue, vaginal dryness, weight gain, depression and through the results of a recent blood test, triglycerides that are off the chart!

Besides an unbelievable history of cancer in my family, there is also an outstanding incidence of stroke and heart disease. I was nearly blown into another reality when I saw the results of my recent blood test! That was it! I made my final, hopefully life-saving, decision to stop taking Tamoxifen. Weighing the odds of which disease to die from, as if I have a choice, I feared living life as a partially paralyzed stroke patient (like some relatives of mine) or a BLIND, paralyzed stroke victim.

guntoHeadI feel it’s almost like choosing my own death which is ridiculous, I mean, a plane could drop out of the sky and land on me in my backyard, or more than likely, I could die in a car wreck. But, if those things do not happen, I choose to make the most of my life in between now and my eventual, inevitable demise. I choose to NOT suffer Tamoxifen’s side-effects any longer.

I might still end up with cancer, I might still end up with heart disease, but, if it is due to my genes, that is out of my control, some day it may not be uncontrollable but for now, it is. I am supervising control insofar as lessening the chances of further and worsening incidents of Tamoxifen’s side-effects, by not taking the drug anymore.

Note to self: Remember! Mark this in memory that I have written this experience so that I do not forget “why” I have chosen to stop Tamoxifen.

Here is the Hormone Blocker Effects (in xls format, readable in Libre or Open Office Calc) document I compiled, comparing Tamoxifen’s side-effects to the other hormone blockers offered to women like me. I found Tamoxifen’s side-effects to be a shorter list than the other drugs’ side-effects.

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The Fight Between Carnival and Lent

Swoosieque:

After reading Mark’s post regarding today, Fat Tuesday, I was so impressed with the intricacy of his observations that I have to re-blog it. I am sure you will find it interesting as well.

Originally posted on The Gad About Town:

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Kampf zwischen Fasching und Fasten (“The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”) depicts today, the day before Lent. Today is an important enough day in the Christian calendar to go by a few nicknames: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” “Pancake Day.”

Any day that is associated with food, whether because restrictions are about to be imposed or restrictions are to be erased for one special day, by rights ought to have as many nicknames as it can bear.

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In Memorarium

Memorarium – I know I spelled it wrong but that is how I remembered hearing the name of a favorite Catholic prayer. Oh, I knew the prayer, memorized it when I was a youngster, but I always said the name wrong and that wrong memory caused a problem a few years ago. It actually caused a friend of mine to dislike me and because she thought I lied when I told another person on facebook that the Memoraire (the proper name of the prayer, oops, no it is not! The proper spelling and pronunciation is Memorare.) Anyway, it was my favorite prayer and I had prayed it daily when my son was in active duty.

My friend saw my claim and accused me of lying, reminding me that SHE taught me the prayer just a year or so ago. She also accused me of trying to impress people on Facebook. I denied her accusations angrily because it aroused the fears and feelings I endured while my son was engaged in war. How dare anyone call me a liar when I merely reported how I handled a mother’s fear for her son – through prayer.

She also was angry at me for not being there for her when her brother died the same time I was going through my mastectomies. I phoned her as soon as I had a lucid moment between pain pills. She was unavailable at her job so I left a light-hearted message, letting her know that I survived the bi-lateral mastectomy. Her e-mail reply was cold. When I pressured her as to what was wrong and why did she unfriend me on facebook, she explained that her brother died and that I should have told her when my surgery was going to be… and that she “needed” me during the time of her loss.

Even though I was taking pain pills, I was aware if and when the phone rang – no one called. Those close to me, knew to not disturb me. She didn’t know to not phone me, she didn’t know of my surgery date. So, if she really had needed my company, she could have phoned me – I’m always home and she knows that.

She added me back to her friend’s list but the coldness remained evident and her sharp wit had a way of cutting deeply. I eventually unfriended her and moved on, as I have done with others who are not true friends or honest family.

Today, a mutual friend on facebook informed me of the passing of my ex-friend’s mother over the weekend. I wrote back to the mutual friend, offering my condolences and the promise of saying a few prayers for both, my ex-friend and her mother.

We may have outgrown each other but my heart mourns for anyone who loses a loved one and my soft-heartedness wishes I could have been there to offer my support. I know very well about losing loved ones. I sometimes think that having been widowed at 33 years old, I have a tougher skin than others when it comes to recovering from grief. I had to move forward when my husband died, I had children who needed and depended upon me.

Death is no friend of mine, but sometimes, especially with the elderly or the suffering, it can be a welcome visitor to end unbearable pain.

Red Roses

R.I.P. Mrs. “O”

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Who Was That Man?

Daily Post:  Remember when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it.

Back in the old days, when I took an avid interest in understanding my dreams, I kept a dream journal upon my nightstand and would faithfully scribble recollections of my dreams in it upon waking, or even in the middle of the night if a dream awakened me.  It has been decades since a dream journal laid upon my nightstand. I think it coincides with my youngest children  having grown and left the nest.

WhoWasThatManLast night however, I had an incredibly strange dream!  It qualifies for strange because of its players and  story line. Upon waking this morning, I wrote four words in my mind’s dream journal, “Who was that man?”

There was a young man in my dream.  He was gorgeous, according to my taste.  And, we spent the night together! Of course, I was young and beautiful in this dream, so it was not as if this aging old lady was robbing the cradle.  But, the dream was very sensual for these two young, beautiful persons.  I will not delve into the mechanics of their physical escapades, since that is not the point of today’s Daily Post Challenge. Besides, since it was my imagination that conjured this dream, I shall let you conjure your own story line.

TallDarkHandsomeWhen the young man untangled himself from the twisted pile of sheets  where we laid, he warmly kissed my forehead, and walked to the shower. I followed him to the doorway and watched him.

When his dripping wet, glistening, tan-skinned body stepped out of the shower and wrapped a white towel around his waist, I awakened from this dream and began to wonder what on earth is going on with my brain! Then I got out of bed and started my morning duties.

After the dogs were fed and injected with insulin and my husband left for work, I stopped by my blog, I wanted to see if the Daily Post is working any better than it was when I last participated. When I saw today’s prompt, I knew I had to write about my dream. I had to write about this sexy, dream lover! His image is burned into my mind’s eye. He was more gorgeous than any movie star, he was even better looking than the model whose photograph I added here. Yet, I do not know who the man was. Where did I come up with his handsome, masculine face? This shall be in the back of my mind all day today.

When I was young and wrote in my dream journals, I wondered what the meaning of my dreams were. Now, I just want to know….

Who was that man?

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