Thick in the midst of David’s cancer treatments, we’re all getting some heady lessons over here.
One. You’re going to need some time to adjust to the new reality of your life.
One second we had all these fun things to look forward to — and now we don’t. One minute my vigilant husband was kicking life’s butt and now he’s the one getting kicked. The world is upside down and if you can’t get used to standing on your head from time to time, expect major vertigo.
While the world outside is flush with new life and chirpy song,
David’s in a fight for his life.
That takes some getting used to as we all try to wrap our minds around our new mental landscape.
Two. Cancer is a full-time job.
Someone said that to David right after he was diagnosed and he shrunk from that initially; I’m not sure if it was the idea that he didn’t have the time to make it a full-time priority, or he thought he’d manage cancer like the inconvenience it was, but we are learning that it’s all consuming. It’s a Grade A time-suck.
The problem is this — cancer is also a bully that shoves everything out of its wake and because of its lethal capabilities, you can’t ignore or wish it away. You need to make it a priority.
So you spend that time. On the phone. In waiting rooms. In elevators. In radiation. In chemo.
More docs. Half-drank lattes and shuttling around. I’m just the caregiver, and I can’t believe how consuming it in.
And for David, cancer is more than full-time — it’s a 24/7 reality. Sometimes he wakes up from a nightmare to realize the pain he’s feeling is all too real.
Three. Cancer has shown me that you need to get comfortable with the unknown, because that vexing gal is going to be like your shadow, matching you step for step for a very long time. Count on nothing, don’t rely on firm dates for anything, and if you have any kind of plans, cancel them right now.
We had to cancel this summer’s big European adventure — our first big family vacation in three years and our last before Oliver goes to college– because David is probably going to either be too weak from his treatments, he will be in surgery or recovering.
It’s so cliche, but it’s one-day-at-a-time over here, and as a control freak, this is really vexing.
Four. At times like these, you can’t alleviate all of someone’s suffering or heartbreak.
If you’re tending to someone really sick, prepare to be powerless, no more than a needless nag at times. And that all you can do sometimes is turn up the sound machine next to the bed in an attempt to drown out the awful whimpers that emanate next to you. David is in tremendous pain, and it’s dreadful not being able to help more than I am.
Sad thing is my bag of cooking tricks no longer work on him as he’s barely eating. As a feeder and someone who derives great joy from taking care of my family, this is so hard to watch. I’m learning that I have to channel that impulse elsewhere.
Good news is that there’s an endless supply of needy and grateful recipients around me.
And that brings me to my biggest lesson I’m getting to here.
Five. When life is challenging, gather and give joy as often as humanly possible, in whatever form that has meaning for you.
How does that work?’
For me, it’s a whole lot of yes-es.
Yes to watching my favorite toddler get her first haircut.
And hanging out with some of my favorite people at PDX Flea afterward.
I’m saying yes to as many coffee/lunch/walk dates as I can.
(We’re so spoiled with our cafes and restaurants in Portland.)
I’m gladly accepting the gift of my brother coming up to spend a quick 24 hours with us to show us how much he cares about all of us.
I’m allowing myself the joy of walking the farmers market in the sunshine, and filling my basket with everything that speaks to me.
And I’m gratefully accepting any and all treats people want to give us.
I’m lucky enough to have friends who drop off amazing treats, like this wondrous pizza from Ranch.
Or flowers from their garden.
Or champagne or caramel-filled waffle bites
My advice– don’t wait on these treats or shove them into the back of the pantry or fridge.
Put them front and center and for just five minutes, enjoy these treats.
Luxuriate in them, and allow the pleasure of this activity fill up your joy cup.
This has been maybe one of the hardest lessons– to give myself permission to enjoy what my life partner cannot– to truly eat.
I’m learning though that spending all this time filling up my joy cup allows me to nourish others also in need of TLC.
So I can devote an hour of time to shop and prep on a dime when Oliver comes home unexpectedly from school requesting a Chicken Caesar salad.
Or hosting his Con Team dinner party for 7 (and one of his teammate’s 18th birthday celebration).
Or getting up with Charlotte every school morning at 5:45 so I can make both my kids a delicious, nutritious breakfast (like this raspberry smoothie bowl).
And it gives me the energy to pack up lunch for all the Constitution Team teachers and coaches
who accompanied the thirty four students on a flight to DC for their national competition.
(Grant placed third nationally, meaning out of the 1 million kids who started the year in the We The People program, Oliver and his teammates placed in the Top 100).
(Oh, and I packed up some joy for the chaperones, too.)
Lastly, my constantly refilling joy cup has allowed me to give it my all on Thursdays, our full day at the hospital doing the round of doctor appointments and both chemo and radiation.
I restocked my LOVE box
and last week I made a double batch of chocolate pot de cremes
and distributed them all that day (including these mini ones reusing adorable containers from Costco).
I’d been given a stack of gorgeously curated and executed collage art cards
from a stranger who’d heard about my LOVE box,
and I distributed some of these in the Chemo Infusion Room and they were much appreciated.
Aren’t they beautiful?
(Their creator, Kimberly Makris, has an Etsy page; search her name there or you can access it through her Instagram handle of collagemontagepdx.)
Thanks to all who’ve reached out to me or dropped off a treat
or told me you’re in your thoughts or prayers.
May you all find yourselves healthy — and knee-deep in your own personal joy.