My Favorite Place

Quite honestly I think I am still searching for my absolute favorite place. I enjoy elements of several different places that I think I would find myself saying, “Oh, this is my favorite place!” A hike through the woods to a hidden lake, a warm summer evening sitting and listening to live music outside, a Camaro cruise through the Arboretum, a picnic at the Ballard locks with friends and so many others come to mind. Up until just recently I would have said that Seabrook, WA was my favorite place. And maybe it is…

Tom and I have been going to Seabrook since before Michael was born, before we were married, before or just shortly after I had become a real estate broker. So much of our lives have happened or been discussed while staying at Seabrook. Seabrook is a small beach town on the Washington Coast just a mile away from Pacific Beach and only 20 minutes north of Ocean Shores.   And while there is something about the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand it isn’t so much the beach that draws our family to Seabrook time and time again. As much I liking walking barefoot in warm squishy sand the Washington coast is windy and cold more often than not which doesn’t lend to a lot of time strolling the beach barefoot.

When we are Seabrook life as we know it comes to a stand still. On our very first trup to Seabrook Tom and I quickly found the silence was more than being away from the hubbub of the city life, it had to do with the lack of cell service too. We found that cell service was spotty at best especially if like me, you had Sprint. (No intentional diss on Sprint it just did not work there). A staunch business person would find this utterly annoying and down right frustrating. Quite possibly it would stop them from coming back. And yet, for us it was a deal maker rather than a deal breaker. A place where I could intentionally get away from my computer, phone, email and just be with my family is something to cherish. Don’t pinch me, this is one dream I do not want to wake from. For someone like myself who finds it difficult to not respond quickly to emails, text messages and calls this was absolutely perfect. An easy out for one who has a difficult time setting boundaries. I’m learning.

While the ocean may not call our names as the salty water crashes wave after wave onto the chilly sandy shore, there are many other things that draw us back time and time again. From the moment our truck rolls up the main street Michael and I are itching to jump out and head into the rental office. I am not sure who is more excited to get inside even though we both have two very different reasons for being excited. Michael anxiously searches about the rental office looking for sweets. A piece of salt water taffy just waiting for his little chubby dirty fingers to unwrap and cram into his mouth. The sweet taste of vacation. I on the other hand want the code. It used to be a key but now it is a code. The code gives you access to the home that you have rented. Key code in hand we drive our truck slowly down the Desperate House Wives-esque streets lined with sidewalks and families walking, couples hand in hand with little ones biking, scootering, running, strolling behind them ever a mess with sticky hands and sticky faces. Tom and I  glance at the picket fences ignoring the twinge of oh-this-is-so-not-for-every-average-American thoughts that we feel creeping in but instead allow the thoughts of impromptu soccer matches, corn hole, walks through the woods and time without cell phones to crowd in.

As the years have gone by, I believe we are at year number 11 going on 12 now, who opens the door to our temporary home away from home has changed. Michael is the one who wants to open the door these days. Code works, door flings open and his not so small anymore feet are running through the house room by room. “WHICH ONE IS MY ROOM?!?!” is shouted, repeatedly. I walk through the door much slower these days taking a long deep breath as I enter. I look around soaking up the furnishings, the colors, the décor, the home that will be our home for the next 3 nights. The space that we will unwind in, tune out of life and work while we tune into each other. So much has happened in this town. Not this home as we have stayed in many different homes. Some of these Seabrook homes hold very special memories indeed.

Central Park on Crescent Park is the home where Tom and I sat around the dining room table with our friends Tae and Vanessa. Laurie was about 14 years old at the time. Tae and Vanessa had two little ones of their own, Ashley and Josh. Their family had distinct plans of how they would grow. Two close together for 3 years of hellish sleepless nights and potty training. A couple years off to rejuvenate and then bam! 2 more littles back to back is the plan with 3 more hellish years. All in the name of sibling friendships. As much as it shocked me when I heard it, secretly I thought it was a brilliant plan. I was happy for them (assuming all clocks aligned and the next two came along as planned.) Their two littles and Laurie ran around the house and played games while us adults chatted after dinner. The dirty dishes could wait. The aroma of the bbq’d steak still lingering in the air drawing me back for just one more taste. Just across the grass of crescent park we could hear the crackle of the bon fire ramping up. Not long and the kids would be begging to go roast a marshmallow over the fire to melt with yummy chocolate and make a s’more.

Lingering at the table a bit longer we chatted about life as we know it and life going forward. The big question for Tom and I was, to have a baby or not to have a baby. When I met Tom I already had Laurie. She was 11 going on 12 years old. Laurie and I both fell in love with Tom and he in turn fell in love with both of us. Having not fathered other children and with Laurie being already nearly a teenager we just didn’t know if trying to conceive and adding a new little life to our family was the right thing to do. Laurie lobbied. We weighed the pros and cons along with the realistic possibility of whether we would even get pregnant or not. That night, sitting there in this lovely large open great room at a table with close friends, Tom and I made the decision to throw the birth control pills away and see if we in fact could get pregnant. We decided to try but agreed to accept the outcome should it be that we were unable to conceive naturally without any additional help. Not more than 40 days later I was pregnant with who would become, Michael.

We have brought countless friends with us to Seabrook wanting to share the magic that we have found. Many, practically all, end up going back with their families as their own traditions are started.  In 2012 we rented the Washington House and hosted Tom’s 50th birthday party with our kids and about 20 friends. What a wonderful and memorable weekend that was. And then in 2016 we rented Grandma Dorothy’s Cottage. Neighbor Dave and Kari came with us along with Michael and De’Vion. There was a very specific intent to this trip. I had decided it was time to shave my head. Having been diagnosed with cancer in January that year we knew once chemo began I would lose all of my hair. It was just a matter of time. Chemo was having it’s toll on me and my hair was quickly falling out. Rather than continue to let it happen I decided I wanted to shave it off. Seabrook seemed the right place for this to happen. We shave it down to just a buzz cut. That would make the rest of the falling out less painful and less difficult. Having Dave and Kari there kept it light hearted albeit emotional. Just what I needed. A safe place to laugh and cry at the same time. Seabrook holds so many moments in time for us. For a family always on the go it has been the one place we can slow down, stop and just be.

Unlike the fancy houses, the fancy décor, the fancy shops and restaurants that are cropping up, for us it is anything but fancy. It is back to the basic of just being together. Card games around the table. Walks through the woods and in the rain. Huge campfires on the beach for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Slow strolls through the neighborhood gazing at the homes old and new while dreaming up what it would be like to just live here all the time. Knowing full well it would never work. Wanting only for this time of life being slower to simply never end.

As the years go by the town grows and the prices go up. We decided not to go to Seabrook this summer as the rental amount for 3 nights seemed outrageous. I found myself making comments that it was time to find a new place for our family to go to the ocean each year. And yet, as I sit here and types this all out I find myself wanting to close this computer page and open the Seabrook Rental Cottages page in order to plan our next trip. I am sneaking a peak at my calendar and determining where we can squeeze in a few days into the already quite booked last few weeks before school. I want to pick up and drive to the one place where we stop. I find my inner being, my soul, my heart,  my mind all reaching for the same thing. The road that leads not just to the ocean (although I do love the sounds of the ocean waves, seagulls and all), the road that leads to simply being together as a family. Walking, talking, playing, swimming, eating, laughing, silently being together in the one place that holds so many big and small moments of our lives.

I am not altogether sure I am ready to call it my favorite place. I hold out that I may find another more favorite place. For now I will call it the place that holds most of my favorite moments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Your Own Mountain Crumbles

Reminder of God’s Faithfulness

 

Most of you know I am far from perfect. Not even close. You also know that I love the Lord my God and truly have believed He had good for me through my entire cancer journey from beginning to what we hope is now the end. He provided me with a peace that I knew could only come from him from the day of my diagnosis through each of my four surgeries and through the loss of my hair. Yes, vanity played a role for me. We were surrounded by friends and family who provided delicious meals, took me to appointments, delivered flowers and gifts, transported Michael to soccer and baseball, hand-made gifts of shawls and blankets, and more love than a person could imagine. I have said more than once, “If every cancer patient were surrounded as I was they would battle in a most courageous way and either recover with ease or die with love and peace surrounding them.”

One would think after 16 months of seeing and feeling so very blessed by God’s faithfulness that I would have the faith to move mountains. And yet, last Saturday I received some very discouraging news from the Seattle School District. The same news we had received a couple of years ago that not only shocked us but the many friends who were involved and knew what was going on. The difference this time was that we had been assured that we had covered all our bases so to speak. We had dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’. The proof was in the pudding and we had provided the recipe along with the dish to be certain they could see it for themselves. Upon receiving the news the only mountain that was moved was mine. It came crumbling down as though a magnitude 8+ earthquake had hit. There I sat in my upstairs bathroom a mess of blubbering rubble lost in my own despair.

Mark 4:40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I was in despair. I was afraid. Even more so, I was tired. For more than 3 years I have advocated and fought for my son’s education. I have questioned, persuaded, and challenged the system at the local school to get what I felt, what I knew our child needed. Determined to get what we pay for (public education through property taxes) I continued to meet with his teachers and the principal multiple times each year. I also helped in the classroom and expanded his education at home with our own home work while the school worked on adjustments in the classroom as they could. All of that to say, I was tired of doing so much. I was tired of asking the same questions over, and over again. And frankly, they were tired of me to. This year we hit a stale mate when meeting with the Principal in regards to what our son was being taught. In actuality, he was being forced to repeat a grade level of math that he had completed and passed the year before. The reason, they no longer were offering ‘Walk to Math’ and his current teacher felt he needed to show her he had common core understanding of each concept before she would give the next grade level material. Mind you he had completed the current grade level last year at the same school and that teacher had entered his grades into the system showing he met and exceeded the common core standards. Apparently, they did not trust her grading nor her teaching. Or they didn’t believe their eyes when they saw the passing grade in the system. The teacher, the principal and the math specialist all agreed they were doing our son the best they could by making certain he knew the standards (again) before challenging him with the next level. And so, we were forced to tell our son he would have to repeat, on a daily basis, work he had already completed. Frustrated doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt. My faith was weakened. What was so big, giant even during cancer , was reduced to a grain of sand when I received the news that he had been denied to the program we had applied to. Although the decision made no sense based on what we had submitted, my lack of trust in the Public School system coupled with my human nature reduced my faith to the size of a mustard seed at best.

Yes, I knew God had brought me through cancer. Not once, but twice. But this, this seemed like a never-ending journey that was never coming to an end. At least not in the way I had hoped. Maybe that was it. It wasn’t what I had hoped would happen. I had reviewed all the options. The courses that we could take and the one that seemed the best fit was not happening. How could that be? I looked at the information again. It was all there. All arrows pointed to go! All questions were answered. All information had been provided. The numbers made sense. And still they said no. And in that moment, I crumbled.

It was just hours before we were supposed to head out with friends to the school auction. I told Tom I didn’t know if I could go. I knew in mind and my heart that I had to go. Going or not going was not going to solve my issue and either situation put me in a place of explaining what I was going through. Knowing I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, it would most likely show if I were to attend. If my friends asked me I would fall apart. If I didn’t go they would wonder why. More than that I had really been looking forward to a night out with our friends (they are that awesome). My emotions were all over the map. One moment I was furious at the system and the decision. I was angry that I was now put in the position to find another solution. The next moment I was sad and crying. What was I going to do? Homeschool? While that is certainly an option it would take a lot of effort. I am not sure I have that in me. And then there was the feeling in the pit of my stomach that I just wanted to be sick. I literally felt like throwing up.

I got into the shower to wash my hair. The warmth of the water would soothe me, no doubt. As I stood there with the hot water running over my I began to sob. Body shaking sobs. I needed to let it out. I couldn’t hold it in. My husband turned me towards him and took my hands in his. He told me to close my eyes. What I expected was a kiss, what I got was so much more. After a couple moments of silence my husband began to pray. He beseeched God on my behalf. I don’t remember all of the words but I do remember that my husband was earnestly asking God to give me the faith to believe that he had a way. That he knew what was right for our son and that he would make it happen. He asked for me to have the strength to trust. He asked that we would be able to enjoy our evening at the auction. When he said Amen I went back to my shower. Slowly but surely a sense of calm came over me.

As if all that had not been difficult enough, as we were getting ready to dash out the door we realized our child/puppy care had canceled. Quite last minute but for a very good reason. We were scrambling. Tom called a friend to see if Michael could come stay the night. I called my neighbor to see if she would come dog sit for a bit and then crate the puppy. Both agreed. We boxed up the dinner we had on the stove for Michael and the sitter and delivered it along with Michael to our friends. Laurie handled the puppy hand off to the neighbor before heading to the auction herself. I texted my two girlfriends who would be joining us at the auction. I let them know the news I had received and that I was not handling it well. I told them I didn’t want to talk about it at the auction as I did not want to ruin our evening. They assured me not only would they not ask they would take great effort to keep me laughing. Let’s just say the succeeded. We had a wonderful time and I was so very thankful we hadn’t bailed on the event.

I fell into bed that night and slept deeply. When I awoke the next morning I was surprised that I remembered quite vividly a dream I had. Most often I forget them or only remember a piece here or there of what it was. I didn’t know what the meaning was until I sat down in the living room across from Tom and told him my dream.

I was driving my car on the freeway. Michael was in the backseat which is all quite normal. We were heading somewhere and trying to get there but traffic was very heavy. It didn’t seem we would make it. There was a turn or bend in the road ahead. A large semi-truck was on our right. As we headed into the turn I noticed the semi-truck hitting his breaks. Knowing he could see further ahead than I, I too began to slow down. As we rounded the corner I saw a semi-truck to my left and a semi-truck in front of me. They were also hitting their breaks as all lanes of traffic ahead were slowed way down. The semi-truck in front me was having a difficult time stopping. His truck was swaying side to side. Just as I feared the trailer turned over onto its side and was sliding on the freeway as the driver was still trying to come to a stop. Oddly he was not hitting any cars. There seemed to be just enough space for him to slide. I was in the 2nd from the left of 4 lanes. All lanes were completely blocked as my breaks failed and my car kept going forward. Surely, I was going to run into one of the semi-trucks. As I kept moving towards the stopped traffic suddenly there was a space between the semi-truck that was on my left and the semi-truck that was on its side in front of me. Not a lane, just enough space for my car to go through and go across all the lanes of traffic and exit the chaos on the freeway. Michael and I were crying, in shock, but okay. As we exited the freeway my car phone rang. It was Laurie. I thought she had seen the wreck on the news and was calling to see if we were okay. I answered the phone and said, Hello. Laurie said, “Oh hey mom, I just wanted to see if you had Michael with you?” I told her I did. She said, “Okay, good. You guys on your way home?” I assured her we were. She said, “Okay, see you when you get here. Bye.” It was then that I woke up.

I looked at Tom and he said, “See, God has it all figured out.” And it was like a light was switched on. This year has been like a freeway where all lanes came to a complete stop. The three semi-trucks represent the three options we have been looking at: Public School, Private School and Home School. I have no idea which truck represented which option. That wasn’t the point. The point was I was looking at them and didn’t know what to do but all I really wanted was to get my son to safety. The path provided in the dream, was a miracle no less. When nothing seemed possible. No good could possibly happen. It did.

Matthew 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I sent an email off to the district that afternoon requesting an explanation for the news we had received. The peace I had felt after Tom had prayed over me in the shower continued to sustain me. On Monday morning, I received an email that they would check into the matter and get back to me by the end of the week. The peace continued to fill me as I waited. On Wednesday afternoon as I walked into the house from picking up Michael from school I noticed that I had received an email from the district. It stated that upon reviewing the information the decision had been changed. Our son had been approved for the program we had been advocating for. What I had perceived as impossible after having been denied again and again, was finally happening. I was ecstatic to say the least and relieved on top of that. I told Michael the good news about next year. I forwarded the email to Tom right away. A smile spread across my face and didn’t budge for hours upon hours.

As I contemplated it all later part of me wanted to beat myself up for not having the faith to begin with. But then, I saw something even greater had happened. Tom and I pray for others. We pray by ourselves for our kids, our marriage, our day, etc. We rarely ever pray out-loud together. In what was an extremely weak moment for me, my husband could have wrapped me up in a hug which would have been wonderful and appreciated. Instead though he heard the voice of God call him to pray. To reach out to the rock, the corner stone of our faith and our marriage to seek peace, understanding, help, direction and comfort for his wife. Not only did God answer his prayer, calm my aching heart, but he also grew the love I have for my husband.

Posted in Writing For The Moment | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

As I near the end of my treatment I find myself looking forward to a time of healing. I envision time writing, time with my cancer survivors writing group (oh how thankful I am that I found you), time with my son every day, playing, laughing, connecting. And of course, time with Bailey. He will no doubt bring me joy and get me outside even when I don’t want to move. I have one more Herceptin treatment on April 4th. I was planning to celebrate that evening. It will be the one year anniversary of my first chemo and Herceptin treatment. One year. Who could imagine!? I say I was planning because something has come up to cause me to pause, to hesitate.

About 2 weeks ago, a friend posted on Facebook that she had a mass in her abdomen. She was heading in for an MRI, CAT scan and other tests. This is not just any Facebook friend. This girl, Heather is her name, was a childhood friend. And although the memories of time spent with her are locked away in that vault in the recess of my mind where nearly my entire childhood is, we have a new special connection. Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before I was. Another childhood friend of ours reconnected us when she found out that I too had breast cancer. Heather’s was a bit more advanced than mine as she had not been having mammograms as I was. Heather had two types of chemo to reduce the size of the tumor followed by a bilateral mastectomy. Then her treatment continued with a year of Herceptin just like me. Her treatments ended about 3 months ago and she returned to work at World Market. She also began seeing a tattoo artist in anticipation of having a spectacular tattoo done across her new breast and chest. A way of reclaiming her body after cancer.

Heather’s post on Facebook made my stomach drop and made me take pause in my plans of celebration. I messaged her privately so we could chat. As it turns out, she likely has Stage 3 Ovarian cancer that has spread to her stomach. They are doing a biopsy to make sure it is not her breast cancer returning as then it would be Stage 4. I am heart sick. Heather is just a few years older than I am, much too young to be dealing with all of this. Although even as I type this I think at any age we should not have to deal with this cancer.

I know I will celebrate on April 4th. I must. Otherwise the worry of what could happen next, what could return, what cancer I could still get will consume me. And that just isn’t me. It isn’t the me that I want to be. All of last year, through all 4 of my surgeries, through my chemo and Herceptin, through visits to the ER, I felt peace. I felt joy. I felt the love I was surrounded with from friends and families flood me even when I was all alone. Through it all I have felt, have believed that I have a purpose yet to fulfill in my life. When I think back on the many paths that I have traveled in my life to get to where I am today I can only think that there is still more to come. More that I have yet to do. That is what I hold on to.

And so, I will celebrate! Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Truth Be Told

I find it difficult to write fiction. I want to. I really do. I have a few children’s stories started. Only one of them is complete but then I started it at least 16 years ago. If all of my stories take that long I will never finish more than 2 or 3 at best. The one that is finished is the first book I ever started. I guess maybe there is something golden in that. I often thought if I could finish it that something would release like a flood gate that would open my mind to the ability of writing more books. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

This may be the reason I am drawn to blogging. It was a natural transition from journaling to blogging for me. I wrote my random thoughts, topics that interested me, places I visited or things that my kids and I experienced. It was more about sharing what had happened than it was creating a story. More than once I thought I would like to be one of those columnist that responds to readers questions. Giving advice or helping them decipher something that was weighing on them. Between telling the truth and helping someone find that light bulb moment I would somehow feel a sense of fulfillment.

And yet, time and time again I find myself thinking of books that I would like to write. One or two would be based on or completely the truth as they would come from my life journey. Their soul purpose being to help others who are living or have lived through something similar. Many other ideas jump around in my brain. A thought here and there, late at night or when I am out walking. An idea for a children’s book, a catchy title, or a glimpse, a small concept that I think would make the start for story. And that is where it ends. I jot the book title or idea down in a sticky note on my phone only to pull it up later and wonder where I would go with it. Nothing comes…..

You know what I think I need? Time. Devoted time with no distractions and only a laptop, notepad, pen, and nature. I envision a cabin in the woods with endless trails. Maybe a small bubbling creek that ripples over small, medium and large rocks a short jaunt from the cabin. Towering trees to the north and the east with the sun shining down on me from the south and the west. Mountains off in the distance standing tall like friendly giants beckoning me to come and explore. Just outside the cabin door there are wild flowers and tall grasses that wave gently in the cool breeze. I can almost hear the call  of the whippoorwills as they hide themselves in the trees just out of sight. If I were there my thoughts would flow freely. My writing would be uninhibited. Nothing would stop me. Every distraction would be but a new idea keeping my fingers moving and the words adding up on the page.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?! I need to write. The truth may come easier at first but in time I think I will be able to conjure up some really great lies, er, I mean fiction if I just keep trying.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oh SPit!

Last year was the year of all years in many ways. It held a lot of firsts, a lot of change, a bit of pain (okay likely more than a bit) and yet it was full of peace and love and so much goodness. After two cancer diagnosis, chemo, 4 surgeries and a year of IV treatments post breast cancer, I decided it was a good idea to speak to a geneticist in regards to the possibility of any other cancers that I may be prone to.

Honestly I didn’t even know what that would look like. Can they tell you that based on the types of cancer you had what else you may end up with? When it comes to genetics how much information do they need to know about your extended family in order to determine your risk? If there is a family history and there is a connection to my DNA, then what? What can I do? What can they do?

Before meeting with the geneticist they had me fill out an online questionnaire that went through my family tree and any types of cancer they have or had. Along with that they needed to know their ages now or when they died.  Tis was yet another time when I was thankful for Facebook. I was able to contact some of my cousins through messenger and ask about their parents who had passed. I found they were more than willing to fill me in on the details they knew about.  This helped immensely as I had a lot of gaps.

As it turned out there were two types of cancer on my father’s side that I hadn’t been aware of. Upon going over this information with the geneticist it became clear that it was in fact a good idea for me to have further genetic testing. While the testing cannot tell me if I have or ever will have another type of cancer it can give us some very helpful information. The geneticist was able to share that the information would potentially show if I the genetic make-up or mutations that may cause me to have other types of cancer. It would also be beneficial to my sister and my children as well. Depending on what is found they may want to get tested as well to see if they have any gene mutations that coincide.

While the testing cannot tell you whether or not you have or in fact will get cancer it can help you determine when to start screening for certain types of cancers or take other preventative precautions. You may also decide to take certain medications to help with the possibility of certain cancers or even have surgery to have ‘at-risk’ tissue removed. For me, it will either put my mind at ease that I have no mutations to put me at a greater risk. Or it will help me determine screenings I will have to hopefully catch any possible cancers sooner rather than later. That has worked out quite well for me thus far.

The geneticist had a bit of discouraging information for me when it came to having the testing done. Unfortunately Regence, which happens to be my insurance company, does not cover the full panel of genetic testing. They prefer that you test for one mutation at a time. Even then they do not necessarily cover it in all cases if they do not deem it necessary. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer my oncologist ordered the BRCA1 and BRCA2. The results were negative. In light of that Regence would not cover the full panel the geneticist was now recommending. It would then cost me $4000.00 of pocket to have the panel completed through the company (Myriad) that my insurance, and most insurance companies for that matter, is partnered with for testing. There are many more mutations that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 do not cover that I could have. The good news is that there are other options for testing.

There is a company named COLOR Genomics.  While I don’t completely understand all that there is about this company, what I do know is that they are able to provide the same panel of testing for a fraction of the cost. $249 to be exact. Compared to $4000 that is a huge savings. The way the geneticist explained it was that they came about because they knew many patients could benefit from genetic testing for mutations that would allow for preventative care or early monitoring that couldn’t afford the fees when their insurance wouldn’t cover the testing. In reading a bit about them on their website I found that to be true along with other information. The way I read it, they knew that there were studies being done where genetic testing would help with research in order to show statistics as far as who was prone to get what type of cancer. The problem with the studies was that they were unable to provide the findings the participants as the studies were being done for statistical purposes not for the purpose of helping the participant. I imagine it is a bit more complicated than I have described it, but that is the just of it. There was mention of not having the appropriate licensing or set up for notifying the individual participants. And thus Color Genomics was formed to provide testing at an affordable price where participants are not only notified but are also informed.

All participants receive their panels back with information on the positive or negative results. They are also contacted by a genetics counselor that goes over the information. They are also required to give a physicians contact info where the results are sent to as well. They are however assured their results are private and will not be shared with their insurance company unless specifically requested to do so by the participant. They results are used in studies and research on a more generic level with no personal information attached to them in the studies aside from age, gender and race I believe. You can visit their website to read more about it. Color Genomics

It took me a while to order my kit. Procrastination at its finest. At first I waited as I had asked the geneticist to confirm that Regence would in fact not cover my testing. Once confirmed I think a small part of me is afraid to know what mutations I may or may not have. Obviously I am a huge proponent of early screening as that is how we found my breast cancer in the first place. And yet, to be told that I have a mutation that may or may not mean I will get another cancer may just be more than I can handle right now. I have wanted to believe the idea that my breast cancer was a fluke. That it was caught so early and treated aggressively so that it would not return (which actually means come back as the same cancer but in another part of my body). And yet, the small chance that something like would happen stays there in the corner of my mind. In my peripheral vision so to speak. Never gone. Always there just in sight keeping me wondering a little bit. Taking the test means I may find out that I have a genetic mutation that could mean I am more likely to get a particular cancer. Something that scares the heck out of me.

And yet, if I know then I can be proactive. I can start screenings earlier. If necessary I could elect to have surgery now and remove that area that is most likely to get cancer. This depends on the location, the organ and the overall information that would determine the likelihood of me getting another cancer. On the other hand the information could cause me to stress, worry and wonder if and when I will actually get another cancer if it shows I am predisposed to one.

I ordered my kit and received it within just a couple of days. Upon opening the kit I found the instructions were simple and straight forward. I was first instructed to login online to register my kit and the vile that my sample would be sent back in. The vial had a unique customer number as well as a unique serial number. Along with these numbers I asked to enter my personal information, my Physicians name and contact info, as well as fill out a family tree and history of cancer for all that applied. All of this information will be used when they are running the tests on my sample. Once all of that was complete I was ready to provide the sample.

There were clear and simple instruction for this as well. Now all I needed to do was conjure up enough saliva to spit into the vial filling it up to the fill line. I had been assured in the brochure and in the video online that it was not as much as it appeared. Apparently the vial had a false bottom. It was actually a smaller space than it appeared to be upon first glance. Yep, that was in fact true. The video even gave you examples of how to conjure up said spit. They said you should think about eating a piece of candy or if that fails rub your cheeks in a circular motion. Try it, it works. Saliva produced, I then had to close the cap and let a pre-included fluid mix with my saliva. This solution would help preserve the integrity of my saliva during transportation. After sealing up the vial, putting it back in the box and closing the original package that it came in which had a prepaid postage sticker already on the back, my spit was ready to roll! All that was left for me to do was deliver the package to my local USPS for shipment.

And it’s off! My spit is currently in transition to a lab in California. Once received I will receive an email notifying me that the testing will begin. Once completed I will receive the results and be contacted by one of their geneticists. Then I am supposed to follow-up with my Dr. as well. The turn around time is supposed to be 3-4 weeks from the date they receive the sample. Tick tock. Tick tock. The clock is tick-tocking in my brain. And so, I wait.

 

Posted in Life After Cancer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thought Recording Devices. Squirrel.

If only I had a recording device in my brain. I suppose one could argue the point that is exactly what a memory is for. I would then need to admit that my memory fails me time and time again. You see, I write the most amazing articulate speeches in my head. I respond to questions that have been raised or that I imagine will be raised with well thought poignant answers. I write chapter after chapter of my personal memoir in detail. Even editing the language and grammar as I go along. There is but one problem. All of this writing happens in the most inopportune places. Places like while I am out on a long walk through the woods, driving around on errands, as a passenger on a long road trip, or while in the shower no-pooing my hair. As I am writing in my head I find myself thinking that these thoughts are fleeting. Although they are good, well written indeed, by the time I get to the place wherein which I could actually write or type them out they will be gone. If I am lucky the idea will remain, but the words will be lost.

I imagine there will be a day in the not so distant future where what I need will be available. At a cost. On the one hand it would certainly require some kind of surgery to implant the recording device. Then you would need the service that would transfer the data from the device to a computer or most likely a cloud service somewhere. Both of which would cost money. On the other hand there are those that would fear the other potential cost would be even greater. Implanting a device such as this could potentially open a person up to the possibility of their thoughts being monitored by someone else. Be that a hacker or the government. Big brother is always watching, they say.

Having my speeches, writings, and ideas recorded while I am out and about would be very helpful indeed. Having every thought that I think recorded and potentially available to others, well that is unnerving at best and bit scary at worst. That’s not to say I have terrible and disturbing thoughts. Come on though, who hasn’t had a bad thought or two here and there? That moment when your not-so-sweet and not so innocent child has torn through your presentation rendering it illegible and unrecognizable. That time when your dog decided your prototype was a snack. Imagine the poop pick up that will entail. Or how about that moment when your spouse, partner, significant other said something the peeved you. Or that one day when you were standing in line at the bank waiting for your turn at the teller and a well thought out plan of how you would rob a bank began flooding your mind. It could happen.

I have tried the many suggestions that have been offered as a solution to my problem. Keeping a note pad and pen next to my bed, the shower, in my car among other places. I have had a tape recording device or two and have even recorded a few thoughts on to one when it happened to be near me at the exact time I began to write in my thoughts. that device sits on my dresser tape still installed with dead batteries. The thoughts on it have yet to be heard. There was even a time that I downloaded an app on my phone where I could record things to be played back later. There it sat on my phone unused for such a great length of time that I finally uninstalled it in an effort to free up storage space. Maybe that is my problem! Maybe the problem isn’t that I need a recording device imbedded in my brain. Maybe I need to free up storage space so that I can better store and then recall the information!

And so I sit here typing away these thoughts in an effort to free up storage space. While I was out on my walk/jog this morning I wrote quite a bit actually. I wrote a response to an email that I received from my sister. I wrote the title, tag line and intro to a book idea I have about a wonderful vacation spot that our family visits on a very regular basis. I wrote a text to my daughter, well that one I actually remembered and sent when I got home. I wrote a post for Facebook to caption a photo that I planned on taking at the end of my walk. And in some ways I wrote or at least started to write this blog article. The big stuff, the email and the book are lost somewhere in my mind or in the part of my memory that gets defragmented to free up space for other things more present. There are bits and pieces still there. I could likely recall at least some of it if I focused. If I tried. This blog post was but a squirrel…….

Posted in Writing For The Moment | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Truth Shall Set You Free, or Not

The Truth Shall Set You Free, or Not.

After very minimal research I am amazed to see how many people post on blogs or boards that they are or were in an abusive relationship. The type of relationship runs the gamut. From dating to decade long marriages, heterosexual to gay, young to old, the make-up may be different but the dynamic is quite similar. One partner abuses the other or in some cases both abuse each other almost equally. During my brief online research I also learned a new abuse type. There are the ones we think of most often physical abuse, mental abuse and emotional abuse. The new term I learned was Financial Abuse. This type of abuse was described as a partner who either drains the finances or keeps them hidden from the abused partner so that the partner cannot leave.

After leaving my husband in late 2002 it took a lot of time and therapy to process all that my daughter and I had been through. During that therapy it was inevitable to follow my trauma timeline all the way back to my childhood. While thinking and talking about abuse is quite difficult and painful, not being able to recall events is equally if not more frustrating. My inability to remember much of my past leaves huge gaps with unknown possibilities making it nearly impossible to determine how I got to where I did and what to change in some areas going forward. My options are to undergo hypnosis to see if I can recall my past, ask family members to share what they remember, let it go and accept that the unknown is in fact unknown for a reason. I hesitate to ask my family members, at least the ones closest to the situation for a few reasons. The strongest one being that the family way was made quite clear when the worst of the abuse was uncovered. Although a spot light was shining brightly, nearly blinding you if you looked for too long. That light was quickly turned off. Like a plugged ripped out of the wall socket. No sooner had the flood light of truth opened the surrounding eyes when darkness once again covered the evil that had crept in and lurked around hidden corners in what was supposed to be the safety of a child’s home. Just when I thought the truth would be spoken it was quickly swept under the rug and we were told not to speak about what had happened to anyone. Not only did we keep the secrets, our grandparents did, our aunts and uncles (the ones that knew) and the Pastors of our very own church. Are they not the ones that preach, the truth shall set you free? Instead they walked the path of the hidden truth for the safety of my father, my mother, they said for us kids, and for their beloved church.

And so I was taught to hide the truth as the truth was embarrassing and shameful. To this day it seems those closest to the situation would rather hide or forget the bad that happened. And that is why I do not ask. I fear all I would hear is the good that they remember. Maybe hearing the good times would be good for me since I don’t remember them hardly at all. I’m learning that maybe I do not remember them due to the fact that I feel I am the only one holding on to the truth. Like the voice crying out in the wilderness, begging for those closest to the situation to wake up and acknowledge the truth. Accept the truth. Maybe then I would be willing to listen to and accept that there were good times as well mixed in with the abuse. The other reason I hesitate talking to those closest to the situation is that I fear my honesty and determination to hold on to what happened will hurt them, make them angry at me, make them push me away even further. And yet, I remind myself the separation already exists. What closeness we have is superficial at best. Hidden truths have a way of creating a barrier seen or unseen, recognized or not, it is there. And so I write.

Writing is how I best process information. It helps me to see it in the black and white, challenge and change as needed, accept and grieve, and then in hope of healing move forward. I am finding that what works for me is not necessarily accepted by others. I have always known that people learn and thus process differently. Having been a home school mother of one child, as well as the mother of two children one being a girl and the other being a boy, I am accustomed to the fact that what works for one does not necessarily work for the other. The first time I started writing about my abusive past I was completely taken aback when a person in my life told me to stop writing or they would cut me off. I do not exaggerate. This individual had a track record in the past of coming into my life only to exit, usually quietly, with no contact for periods no less than 6 months and at times up to 2 years. Only to come back in with the promise that the desertion would not repeat. And yet it did. Those times the desertion was due to her own life choices. Choices that went against how she had been raised, I believe she felt she had to live out her life in private so as not to feel the guilt we might impose upon her just by knowing. I have come to accept that this is just who she was. Years have passed since she walked out of my life yet again. This time for good. More recently I began writing again. Having gone through two different cancer diagnosis the past year I found myself once again in a space of reflection and processing. With time to sit and be, my desire to write once again grew louder and louder. So loud that I have found it difficult to ignore. And so I began to write. My writing seems to be innocent at first. I take precaution and care in what I put down on the page knowing that others will read, will hear what I have to say. My initial writings are often light hearted even cheerful. I found this time that the past seemed to come forth more quickly and with an unexpected fervor. I thought I would write about my cancer journey and found that my abusive childhood and marriage were what were most prevalent every time I sat with my fingers poised to begin typing words that would appear on the screen in front of me. Still I tried to tip toe around the subjects and kept the writings as light or as basic as possible. Not divulging the truth in full detail, not just yet.

One of my recent writings had a singular sentence that referenced the abuse my father subjected us to. It did not detail exactly what he did. And yet, that one sentence stood out like a throbbing, pulsing sore thumb to one reader. And that reader texted right away. While this reader did not tell me to stop writing per say, basically that was the just of their message. Or at least, it was to say if I continued they would no longer be present in my blog life. Will that extend to real life? Only time will tell. The reader went further and un-friended me on Facebook. Now this is not your average Facebook friend. You know the ones that you see their posts in your feed and often scroll on by. Once in while you stop, re-look at their name and ask yourself, Why are we friends on Facebook? We aren’t ‘friends’ in real life. Meaning we do not get together, hang out, go to lunch, chat on the phone (truthfully speaking I do not chat on the phone with anyone). You make the connection, maybe they were a high school friend or acquaintance, a parent of one of the kids on your child’s sports team, or a fellow parent from the school PTA. You know each other now or in the past. You bump into each other on the rarest of occasion and thus are ‘friends’ on Facebook. They have a window into your world and you into theirs. No, this is not one of those friends. This is a person that has been in your life since the day you were born. This person was there day in and day out through it all. You were once very, very close sharing hopes and dreams real and pretend. But that was a long time ago. You were young, oh so young. At some point you grew up and grew apart but the connection was to remain, it had to. You are blood. And so, in time you reconnected and became friends on Facebook. Where all relationships real or fake at least seem real. And so it is with this friend that decided to unfriend me on Facebook so that they would not have to see my blog posts. It surprised me. Not that they didn’t want to see the posts. That part I was prepared for. It was the drastic measure taken to not see, the truth. I was not hurt that they unfriended me. I just didn’t see how it was necessary. I guess I just would have handled it differently. If I did not want to read what someone posted I would scroll on by. That simple. I just wouldn’t read it. I wouldn’t click on the blog link. Or if they posted incessantly I would block their posts from my feed. No need to fill my feed with crap I don’t want to read. But unfriend them? Naw, I wouldn’t do that unless I truly did not want them in my life at all. Unless I really wanted to say to them, ‘We are not connected anymore. Not in real life and not in the fake life of Facebook.’ Or maybe, I would be saying nothing more than, ‘We weren’t really friends anyway and I don’t care to have this window into your life anymore. Let’s close the curtain, okay?’ But that is me, how I would handle the same situation. And yet, I respect that it was a choice they had to make. Facebook being what it is, an online way to stay connected. To not be connected on Facebook is not to say that someone is not my friend. We just aren’t connected on the internet. Instead we are connected or not in real life. I suppose I could go on and on about Facebook, internet and real life connections. I will save that for another day, or not.

My writing going forward will likely include a thought or two about my past, my childhood, my abusive marriage, my year of cancer, my current life and then thoughts that have nothing to do with all of the above. There will be truth and there will be fiction. I will try to decipher between the two for you so you are not left wondering. Although it could be fun if you were at times left wondering. For you and for me.

Truth. Hidden and uncovered. Read or unread. Still remains the truth.

When I was researching the other day it was sparked by being unfriended by this person due to my writing of the truth. Each time I have started to write about my past whether it be my childhood or my first marriage, inevitably I have come to the inner conversation where I wonder who I will lose in the process. I am not so callous as to be able to disregard or ignore the fact that the truth I will write will hurt some people. Some of which in no way at all deserve to be hurt again. For they too were the victims in these stories. Others were simply by standers, guilty if at all only by association. They played no role in the abuse other than being related to the abuser. It was in thinking of these people that I began a search. It was something along the lines of “If you write the truth do you lose family and friends?” or “abuse victims who tell the truth only to lose family and friends”. I didn’t have a lot of time but what I came across was post after post of individuals sharing briefly how they had been or were being abused by their partner. One article spoke of how abusers were often abused themselves as children. Not an excuse just a link to the underlying causes of abuse. The chain that is often never ending. Sometimes it is a heavier chain than others. Sometimes it wears thin and is nearly broken only to be strengthened by the next generation as a new abuser picks up the traits and begins again the cycle of abuse.

Once in a while, I am not sure of the statistics or if there are any, the cycle is broken and the abuse stops. I can only imagine, I must believe in order for this to happen that the truth would first need to come to light. The flood light would need to be turned on and the guilty would need to be at minimum acknowledged as such. The victim would need to share the pain, the hurt. Or maybe the abuser, the guilty one would be the one to shed light on their actions in order to break the chain that binds them. Once broken the victims could be released as well as the guilty. Both or all would be free to speak the truth as they so choose and find a way to heal from what they had been through. Each in their own way could process through all that had happened and determine how to change, how to heal, how to move forward differently. In a way that would not hurt others. Not repeat the cycle yet again. And in that realm of choices would also be the choice to not speak the truth, to not process the pain, to not heal or change but to ignore, hide or sweep if you will the truth back under the rug. And sit in hope. Hope that by ignoring what happened and instead focusing on the good that was there, the bad would over time dissipate or decompose along with the memories. Fading away to leave only room for the good that had once been. And when sitting in that truth of only good memories one could stand in shock and utter disbelief when someone else years after the fact begins to cry out.

At first the voice is small and quiet growing increasingly louder as time and strength allowed. Not in order to seek justice for the guilty but to seek healing for herself and for others who are too weak for their voice to be heard. For those who have questions but have no words and don’t know who to ask. For those who feel pain from the ones who are to protect them and love them and can’t understand why. For those who have not been told that what is happening is not okay and needs to stop. For those who are afraid to leave. Afraid to look like the one giving up, the one walking away, the one who is guilty rather than being seen as who they are, they are the one who is the victim. For the ones who so badly want to hear that they are not alone. They are not the only one that has been treated this way. It is not them, it is the abuser who is bad. Who need to be told they do not need to be ashamed although their past is riddled with shameful events. Their shame can be healed. Self-respect and self-worth can be restored. They can come to a place where they can forgive those who unjustifiably hurt them in ways unimaginable without giving up the fact that what the abuser did was in fact as wrong as wrong gets. That by forgiving they are not justifying but letting go. Letting go of the pain, shame, hurt, guilt, hate and anger that at times consumes them from the inside out. And by letting go they are not doing the abuser a favor but giving themselves the gift they deserve. The gift that the truth has to offer. The truth shall set you free. That is if you choose to acknowledge it and follow the journey it takes you on in order to get to that place where you are free indeed. Your journey and your place of being free may be similar to mine or it may be very, very different. All however, start in looking at the truth square in the face. As horrible or simple, as painful as that may be. Are you ready to be free? To feel free from the burden that weighs you down? I was. I am. And so, it is with that in mind that I look at the truth square in the face and by doing so I write about it.

 

 

 

 

 

*I am torn. I feel compelled to write the whole truth. And yet, I feel the hesitation of hurting those I loved in the past and those I love to this day, some more now than back then. I am uncertain as to how I will proceed. To write the truth and post it….or write it and wait to decide if I will publish it as a book….or if writing it in and of itself will be enough.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment