happy birthday, friend

Seven and a half years ago, I was anticipating staying home with a baby full time and I was nervous. Our neighborhood was a bit sketchy–we saw our share of suspected drug deals and the language that was shouted by pedestrians was often ugly. When Zoe was born and my mama-bear instincts kicked in, I talked of moving. The phone was my only connection to my dearest friends (including my sister) and I was isolated at home with a baby I was just learning how to parent.

Moving wasn’t really an option and I’m not sure what it would have solved anyway, so I started to pray for a friend. OK, I begged a little.

And when Zoe was about three months old, a tall blonde woman knocked at my door with a white-haired, blued-eyed baby strapped to her chest. This was Emily. She lived only two doors down. She was a Christian. And an educator. And her husband worked in computers. And her daughter was six weeks younger than mine. And, and, and.

Let me just say that I’ve prayed many prayers and begged often, but seldom have requests been granted so big. It was like I asked for a candy bar and God gave me Willy Wonka’s whole factory.

In those first years with our babies home, Emily was the first person I called in the morning with, “what are we doing today?” and the last person I called before Mark got home–so that she and I could both grouse that our husbands had left their Holland jobs (blocks from one another) far too late and we wondered if we could hold on to a squalling baby one moment longer.

The years that have followed have brought more than either of us could imagine. I knew the first time (of many) that Emily rescued me when I was chemo-sick that God had answered my friend request so big for a reason. But when Emily and I hoof it out to Breton and back on our walks or when we watch our daughters exchange messages in a short-hand only time and love can arrange, I also know that God brought us and our families together for more than just the trying times. We have stored up far more laughter than tears.

Tonight we celebrated Emily’s birthday. Our husbands talked computers and movies. Our daughters played with reckless abandon and complained expertly when the evening was over. Like puppies, they will greet one another with great enthusiasm when they are reunited at school in the morning and despair when they are parted. We had a big meal, ate cake, opened presents, and marveled at the enchanted scene with which the girls had set the table.

After it was all over and the dishwasher was humming, Emily and I went out for a walk. It was lovely.

Here’s to you, Emily. Here’s to many more walks. Many more birthdays. And much more laughter. And here’s to a prayer extravagantly answered.

birthday Emenchanted table

treatment update

Mark and I met with Dr. Campbell today to go over my CAT scan of almost 2 weeks ago. After waiting 2 hours to see him and then going through all kinds of statistics and measurements the upshot is: stay the course. CAT scans measure in 1/4 inch intervals and the nodules we measure are in millimeters, so room for error, speculation, and interpretation abounds. We agree heartily with Dr. Campbell’s assessment that the nodules in my lungs are essentially stable. I won’t try to chart and graph all the measurements we went through with Dr. Campbell. He and Mark share a great affection for white boards.

I did get my way with having a week off from treatment this week to, quite literally, catch my breath–though Dr. Campbell quipped that he thinks I must negotiate prices for used cars on the weekends.

the old saw

The last week and a half has been a nutty one. After treatment on September 24, I did my usual preps for the usual side effects, and a few strange things happened. I’ve been short of breath (especially at night), and I’ve had a two-day stint of highly motivated nausea. Add in some exceptional bloating and a few nosebleeds and there was my confusing and depressing health status.

My oncologist, concerned mainly for my heart, has checked it thoroughly with a CAT and an echo-cardiogram. My ticker seems fine. I’ve had water pills for the bloating, and switched back to my old allergy med hoping that the switch was the reason for the shortness of breath. I’ve also been assured that the cancer is not to blame for the shortness of breath.

Today, I’m not nauseated, my breathing is decent (still catch on the deep breaths), I’m back to normal size (no bloating), and my spirits are OK despite the persistent rain. We’ll meet with Dr. Campbell on Monday afternoon to see the CAT results in terms of chemo efficacy and then I’ll badger him until he agrees to put off chemo for another week so that I can have a week of kind of normal.

I write all this, not just to tell you all every little detail of my health, but because I’m exhausted by it. Sick of being sick. Sick of making people worry. Sick of leaving work for another test. Sick of waking up and immediately assessing every little nuance of how I’m feeling.

But I’m also writing this in wonder, because no one else seems to be sick of it. My parents still swoop in at a moment’s notice with cold washcloths for my head and a meal for my family. My mom stays in my house while I convalesce and does my family’s laundry. Sara and Emily coax me out for tea and toast after two rough days. Colleagues call to check in, drop off apples, and pick up my ever slackening slack. Chris and Alison call and drop off food. Jane drives from Madison for the Race for the Cure for the fifth time in a row. Heather and Jane stay overnight before the race and fill my house with laughter. Mark sends me to bed early. Assures me that Zoe will be fine. Cleans up the kitchen. Gets Zoe off to school and heads to work himself. Again.

Then yesterday, here comes my sister-in-law Beth with a box of freezer meals. Vegan. She and Mark’s mom had been cooking all day for us. I now am the proud owner of a freezer full of love. Wow.

I write this because I am stumped at how all of these lovely people–and more I’ve neglected to mention–are not sick of this. That they haven’t just fallen away because this is just the old Turner family saw–Tash in bed, not sure why. That they continue to contribute to the Komen Foundation at my request. That they offer meals and mean it. That they call, and care, and pray.

It’s been YEARS, people! How do you do it?!

I am amazed. Grateful. Overwhelmed. Humbled.

Thank you.