So today didn't go according to plan.
The plan was to: A#1)Take driver's test. B#2)Pass with flying colors. C#3)Get driver's license back. D#4)Drive myself to my doctor appointments, pick up groceries, or, omigosh, go see my horse! The possibilities were endless!
Ambitious, yes, but I'm nothing if not a little determined to make up for lost time these days. More often than not, my haste to check things off my list comes at my own detriment when those plans mysteriously fall apart...
Me, through frustrated tears: "I like having a plan. Plans make me comfortable. But I'm going on two years of nothing going according to plan."
Boyfriend: "I know..." he chuckled and gave me a squeeze, "but let's learn from it, okay?"
So, I laughed too. I know that once I can laugh about it, I can learn from it, and this lesson was begging for my acknowledgement.
Sometimes, it feels like the same lesson, on repeat. I miss something, make a mistake, and the Universe just hits the Play button again. A lighted placard, patiently illuminating the words "Try Again". My own little Groundhog Day...
Sometimes I see it right away and laugh with Her. Sometimes the irony of a lesson slaps you in the face so hard, you can't even see straight right away. The lesson becomes so profoundly clear, you have to admire the creator of the lesson. And then you realize it's you. YOU put yourself in that place to learn THAT. All the while, She's begging you: Are you getting it yet?
Like when you go to take your driver's test, after over a year of not being able to go anywhere by yourself. You're on time, you have all of your paperwork. And you're at the wrong DMV. That's right - I drove to the wrong place to regain the ability to drive by myself. Hmmm...
Today I lost my patience with Her and yelled, "What the F#%*k do you want from me?"
And She shot right back, "For you to do better."
Current location: Aurora, IL, baby!
We're traveling again, so I'm still sorting through pictures and stories, but I've come up with a fun list of fast facts a la Girlbert and Boyfriend's Big Road Trip.
Equipped for travel and leisure with:
- 1 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser
- 1 bitchin' roof rack (more on that later)
- 1 2-person tent (cozy, with a GREAT view!)
- 1 full-sized air mattress
- 1 feather bed
- 1 blanket, set of sheets
- 2 down comforters (for desert camping, no less)
- 2 mountain bikes, helmets, shoes, tire pump, etc.
- 3 yummy pillows (because two couldn't possibly suffice)
- 1 trunk containing food and food preparation, including Grandma's cast iron pan and Boyfriend's favorite (favourite) wooden spatula (which we left at the first stop, but thankfully promised to be kept safe by our gracious host)
- 2 suitcases
- 1 propane stove
Electronically prepared with:
- 1 inverter with 4 AC plugs with which to charge all electronic devices while on the road
- 2 iPods
- 2 cameras, 1 point and shoot with video, 1 digital SLR with 2 rechargable batteries
- 2 tripods (1 Gorillapod, 1 gianormous regu-pod)
- 2 cell phones (1 smartphone; 1 waterproof, 3 year-old, flip phone - can you guess who belongs to which?)
- 3 GPS'- Garmin Forerunner for biking/running, Garmin 60Cx for bike/auto navigation, Nuvi 760 for auto navigation
- 3 laptops, 1 Windows machine, 2 linux machines that sometimes have issues finding wireless, hence the Windows... (He-hello, Tech Support?)
Just the stats, ma'am:
- Days on the road: 17
- Miles traveled: 2,615 (4,218K for the little brothers out there!)
- Number of videos taken: 43, totaling 2 GB
- Number of photographs taken: 2,388, totaling 17.9 GB (seriously!)
- Number of times we used the Windows computer: 4
- Number of times we used the linux machines: 2
- Number of grocery runs: 2
- Number of meals out: 8 (out of 51 possible meals!)
- Number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches eaten: 12
- Percentage of crap brought along that was actually used: 32%
- Times we set up camp: once
- Bumper stickers collected: 13
- Average MPG in the Land Cruiser: 12.5
- Days we were home before getting on a plane to our next (exotic) destination: 6
- Number of doctor appointments and blood tests in those five days: 4
We have returned. What's that? You didn't know we were gone? Great.
Our trip had been in the works for months, with the primary purpose being to visit Boyfriend's brother, sister-in-law, and new nephew, James. Road tripping inevitably involves side trips and unexpected delays, but the plan, as loosely defined as it were, was to get out of California and do something different! No doctor appointments, nothing concrete, no obligations. Just drive and see. Sweet flexibility!
We didn't make a big deal prior to our departure, because my platelets were scary low, throwing my chemo schedule for a loop because "there's really nothing you can do, but wait for them to go back up again." I wasn't going anywhere until those platelets went back up again. So much for flexible.
Our first big road trip, our first vacation in, err... two years, all up in the air - because I needed more platelets?
Nobody was going to tell Girlbert there was nothing I could do, so I took those uncooperative little platelets into my own hands. I opened my mind, Googled, asked my cancer support group friends, took my vitamins, exercised, and I ate and ate the biggest variety of foods I could come up with in five days. On day five I took my next blood test and marched it upstairs to oncology.
"This is better - whatever you're doing is working!" My uber-oncologist smiled and shook his head as he flipped through the results of my blood tests, past and present. I'd done my homework, listened to my body, and more than doubled my platelets in five days. Whew for a flexible mind!
I started my chemo that night. We packed up and left the next day.
"Watch a plant for 5 minutes, 15 minutes, half an hour, and you won't see any change. But come back the next day, and there's new growth. There's always something happening, even when you can't see it."
"Focus on the good, focus on the positive changes, not the setbacks."
"Remember how long you have been training yourself to do things the way you currently do them. It may take at least as long to untrain yourself; to train yourself to do it a different way. Change will take time. Be patient with yourself."
It's been almost a year since my shaman said those words to me. I repeat them to myself often. I write them down over and over in my journal. And I still struggle to remember...
I just recently lamented, "It's been a year, and nothing's changed!" Staring setbacks in the face seems to be my specialty these days.
But I bring this up now, because Spring has settled in and set up camp here in the mountains of Santa Barbara. All she has left to do is wait for Summer to arrive.
And so the next season of my journey has begun. I'm planting a garden: sowing seeds, digging in the earth, feelings running through me, just as dirt runs through my fingers.
Gardening has always been a grounding experience (I guess the metaphor's pretty obvious!) for me. But it's always been my own thing. I drive myself to the nursery, pick out the plants, seeds, soil. Bring them home in the back of my Explorer. Set everything up, dig up the soil, set the plants into their new homes, and care for them all summer.
But this year is different. This is the first vegetable garden for both of us, in the past I've always stuck to a flower and herb garden. Just something to do in my free time, and I've mentioned my ongoing interest in making things look pretty, right?
This is the first time I've ever tried to make a garden make sense financially. We're trying to actually save money constantly spent on fresh, organic vegetables, and I've never been very interested in crunching numbers. Leave it to the promise of a garden full of nature's bounty to bring out the "Mathlete" in me!
This is the first time I've ever had to plan a garden with someone else. Every decision must be mutual, because it's our time, our money, our effort. It's a big lesson in working together, which is hard work for both of us. And all of my patience seems lacking as eagerly await to get my hands dirty with a project, happy to put off the hard stuff for another day. Let's buy the vegetables and plant them! We'll figure it out as we go, right?
So it seems I have much to learn from the vegetable garden this year. I will continue my lessons in Letting Go and Accepting Help from Others, all while taking an advanced course in Compromise and the Science of Mutual Decision-Making. And I'm really digging into it. Sinking my fingers in, sifting through the lessons, sowing the seeds, anxious (but willing to be patient) to unearth the gifts that are sure to emerge from the combined efforts of myself and the universe.
It's been over a year since the event that led to my diagnosis. Apparently this blogging thing is hard to keep up with when you're not all hopped up on steroids, so I haven't been keeping you all as up-to-date as well as I would like. Not to mention the fact that all of my excess energy has been channeled toward growing a brand-new head of hair! (Evidence in the picture!)
So - I've compiled a list of questions that I find myself answering. Frequently. I've added a NEW PAGE (a link in the menu above, as well) to this site for those questions, but here's a little teaser:
What and when was your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with a type 2 astrocytoma in my right temporal lobe - brain cancer - April 27th, 2009. I'll never forget the date, because I had to make sure and write a blog post honoring my little brother on his 30th birthday (April 26th) before I went to the hospital for what seemed like a possible concussion. It's important to have priorities.
How did you discover your brain tumor?
I had a seizure while home alone April 24, 2009. I had been getting ready for bed, it was late, and I brushed my teeth and washed my face. Then suddenly, I found myself, 'coming to' at my desk, in front of my computer, which had been shut down already. "Huh - I thought I already went to bed," I thought, and went to bed. I had no history of fainting or seizures.
The next morning I had a headache. And a fat lip. And when I got up to pee, I noticed the bathroom rug was all wadded up in the middle of the bathroom floor. Something wasn't normal, but maybe I just tripped and fell in the night and hit my head and didn't remember. When Boyfriend returned home later that night, and I told him what happened. The headache persisted.
The following morning the headache was worse. We talked about going to the ER to see if I had a concussion, but I didn't have insurance and we were broke. I'd had a head injury before - I knew they'd want to do a scan - cha-ching! So I decided to take a nap. After I laid down, the left side of my body began to tingle, my ears began to ring and I detected a horrible taste in my mouth. (I now refer to these feelings as my 'conscious seizures'.) I was scared, so I called for Boyfriend, and described what was happening. It was very uncomfortable, something was definitely wrong with me. It was time to go.
Boyfriend called his boss about getting his payment for work early so that we could go to the ER. His boss said, "You just take her, and I'll take care of it."
So we went. As soon as we got to the ER, and the words "hit my head" escaped my mouth, I was put in a neck brace and strapped to a gurney. Here we go, I thought. I had a CT scan and was brought back to a waiting room with Boyfriend. I had another 'pins and needles' episode, telling Boyfriend, "It's happening again, I'm having that feeling again!" He called the nurse and she gave me an anti-seizure drug. She explained to me that what I was feeling was a mini-seizure, that I'd probably had a grand mal seizure at home two days ago and hit my head.
Then the doctor came in. "We looked at your scan. I'm so sorry, but you have a very large tumor in the right side of your brain. That is probably what is causing the seizures. But you need to go to the other hospital for observation and to have an MRI."
Boyfriend was holding my hand, so I squeezed it, looked at him and the tears started. "I'm so sorry," was all I could think to say.
His face was already even with mine, his eyes locked on my teary ones, "We'll get through this, don't worry."
One wipe with the back of my hand, and the tears were gone. Of course we will.