Secret decoder ring…

I recently had a “routine” MRI. Add this to the list of things I never thought I’d have to bother with. Every 6 months for the last 5 years, I either have a mammogram or an MRI. One of the spots they removed 5 years ago was pre-cancer and only found via the MRI. When your tissue is dense, sometimes that’s the best way to see what’s hiding. If you’re not familiar with how this works, first you get into the fancy outfit, then you have an IV put in so they can do a dye contrast. Then you wait. You have to be face down on the table with your chest hanging through the opening. They position you just right, with both arms over your head. They hook up the IV and slowly slide you into the machine. I have no idea what this part looks like because I always close my eyes when I lay down and do not open them until I’m done and out. This is a 30-40 minute procedure. They take the regular pictures and then let the dye flow through so they can see if there is anything they missed. While you are laying on the table, the machine is clicking and banging and whirring. Sometimes it sounds like you’re by a jet engine. This clinic gives you music headphones to wear. So, armed with my contemporary Christian music & a blanket of prayers, I lay there as the machine does its job. The prayers for calm and peace must have worked because I actually fell asleep this time. I woke up to the technician saying, “Are you doing Ok?” When it was all done, I gathered my glasses, the key to my clothes locker and put my mask back on. I changed, used sanitizer and went home.

It was in the mid-90’s that day. I was in a hurry to leave, and I suppose they assumed I have had this done before so I’d know what to do. But, I forgot to drink enough water to flush out the dye. And I was outside in 95 and sun. Every other time I’ve had it done, it’s been winter. Dehydration wasn’t rally a big concern. Mine was pushed out from March to June because of COVID. I think I will remember the water next time. I ended up very sick, vomiting, headache, etc. I had to take the next day off from work because I was still sick. I was able to get rehydrated and rested. It was a Tuesday. I missed my blog post that week. That was why. I hadn’t written it ahead and then got so sick.

I waited for test results. I tried not to worry, but why hadn’t they called? What was up? I sent a note to my Oncologist to see if he had heard anything. He was out of the office. They did reply to me though:

“…stable postoperative and postradiation change of the left breast most pronounced in the 9 o’clock position without suspicious masslike or nonmass-like enhancement. No contralateral abnormality or suspicious adenopathy. Continued breast screening according to ACR and ACS guidelines is recommended. Benign Finding.

This is where the secret decoder ring would come in handy. Um, I think this means I’m good? I forwarded the whole paragraph to my sister who is a nurse, just to confirm. Yep, you’re good. Wheew. Thank God. Meet with the Oncologist this Thursday just to make sure everything else is fine and determine next steps. Navigating medical issues is scary. It’s hard to know what they are talking about, and sometimes it’s overwhelming. If you are going through this, ask questions, but write them down whenever you think about it. You may get doctor’s office amnesia” and forget every question when you sit down. So having a notebook for questions is helpful. Don’t worry if you think it’s a silly question. If it’s bothering you, ask. If something doesn’t seem right, tell them. Their goal is to help you.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. And if you find a ring, maybe it will help.

Empty Nest?

This is a baby sparrow. It fell out of the nest in an evergreen tree behind our house. The little ball of fluff sat motionless in the grass. Somehow, our son noticed it before the cat did. When we got close it it, the mom freaked out. She chirped loudly and tried to fly at my head. She knew her baby wasn’t ready to fly on its own yet, but she couldn’t lift it back to the nest. She brought food to it and tried to make noise to scare off any danger. Empty nest… we refer to people as “empty nesters” when their kids(s) leave home. I feel like sometimes we can be like that momma bird, wanting to protect and shelter our young. 18 years can seem like forever when you’re the kid, but it’s a blink of the eye for the parents.

I have one more year with both boys still “in the nest.” A year from now, I will have had a graduation. This year, graduations looked different. Empty nests became full again. Plans changed, and were revised, and changed again. We have no idea what the coming school year will look like. Some nests will remain full and some will empty again. Letting go is difficult. I’m not ready to, but I know it’s important. Hold on too tight & they will go wild when they’re on their own. Lack of structure isn’t good either though. Responsibilities and consequences are important too.

For now, I will soak it up like a sponge, but still let them experience life. Sometimes I really do feel like I’m in the middle of a teeter totter, trying to keep my balance. Someone once told me they prefer the word “harmony” instead of “balance.” Harmony sounds so much smoother and musical and peaceful. Balance makes me think of the teeter totter. Are you old enough to remember getting the wind knocked out of you when someone jumped off? I am. Let’s focus on harmony instead.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Whether you’re an empty nester, have a full nest, or somewhere in between, I hope you stay connected to those you love. We’ve had to get more creative, learn new technologies (Zoom) and even go back to some old ways (letter writing.) Stay safe, stay healthy. You are enough.

Victory gardens, what are you planting?…

“Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II.” Wikipedia. This was done to prevent food shortages and ease the supply chain. With COVID19, several people have started gardens in 2020. Wether it was out of boredom or to be able to have their own food, the number of gardens is on the rise. This is evident by the lack of seeds and gardening supplies in town.

Our own garden is much larger this year, but that’s because we will take our produce to the Farmer’s Market and sell locally. A friend shared some thoughts with me about gardening. These seemed appropriate, given the recent events.

“Whenever I plant a garden, (literally or figuratively) I hope to look forward to the results of the seeds I’ve planted. If I sow kindness, I hope to reap more kindness. If I plant squash, I don’t expect watermelon. Judgements are the weeds of the garden. They can choke out all that we really want. So today I will live without judgement and focus on what I am planting.”

Powerful words. We can’t plant squash and expect watermelon. We can’t plant hate and expect kindness. And the weeds… if you’ve had a garden, you know that the weeds are a never ending battle. They compete with our crops for food, water, attention. Judgement does the same thing. It can try to choke out our crops, try to grow taller than our plants and take over the whole garden if we don’t do the work. The work to get rid of the weeds, keep them under control and let the other plants flourish takes time. It takes effort.

This is me weeding my garden. I wasn’t going to post the picture because it is not flattering, but it ties into the post well. When I was weeding my garden, I thought of my mom. The countless hours she spent just like this, with an elbow on her knee, bent down weeding with her garden shoes. We had 2 garden spots on our farm. They were my mom’s hobby. Looking back on it, I think she enjoyed the peace and quiet. She could see the difference made and knew the importance of keeping the garden clean.

She was (and is) an example of keeping the judgement weeds out of your garden also. My mom gave to others whenever she could. Even when we had little, she found ways to bless others. A listening ear, a kind smile, a baked treat or a hand written note… she was a quiet example for me and my sisters. During all of the turmoil this year, our kids are watching. They are watching our actions. Are we weeding out judgement? Are we tending our own gardens?

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. I hope my garden is plentiful this year, and the weeds are few. Take care & God bless.

Baby step…

This was the view from my floating raft Monday night. The sun beams peeked through the clouds as we floated down the river. The clouds gave a reprieve from the 92 degree day. The cool, clear water felt refreshing as we made our way down the shallow river among the turtles, muskrats and ducks. It was a peaceful night, and a baby step towards being around others.

Since mid-March, we’ve been mainly at home. Work and school from home, meals at home, & working in the garden at home. As our state continues to open up more activities, and lessens restrictions, we’ve been around more people. Our friends from Fargo came down last week for a tubing down the river adventure. We ate outside at our place and kept our social distance, but were so happy to be around other people. When it hit 90+ on Monday, it sounded like a good idea to do that again. Even for an introvert, being alone for the last 2+ months has been a challenge. It’s time to baby step back into society.

There are guidelines on opening up restaurants, guidelines for going back to work, guidelines for visiting others, guidelines for hugging relatives (but not for too long)… it’s overwhelming and exhausting. I’m thankful to have a job, thankful to have been able to work from home, and thankful for some extra time with my family.

It’s still a bit scary for me as a cancer survivor. Am I at a higher risk? How much higher? I made the first step in setting up my MRI for next week. It’s a “routine” for me since I have dense tissue and a history of breast cancer. Then early July I will see my oncologist, possibly for the last 6-month check. Perhaps I will get moved to yearly appointments after that. Baby step to Tuesday. And then I pause, because a random Tuesday was when I got bad news. Stop, refocus, change the story. Tuesday’s can be good. They are good.

When some of us are still isolated, it’s ok to reach out. It’s ok to baby step to the next thing. Oh, and if “What About Bob?” is on Netflix, I highly recommend it. I’m pretty sure we could quote the whole movie at our house. So if you’ve seen the movie, “I’m doing the work, I’m baby stepping.” I’ll get there eventually.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Even if it’s just baby steps, I’ll help cheer you on!