Safe in the Tub – the love in the midst of the impossible

Five-Minute-Friday: Safe

This post is written with the gang over at Five-Minute-Friday where we write on a prompt, for five minutes, and then post.  Don’t think, just do it!  This week’s prompt:  SAFE

It’s been sitting for nine years, safe in the bin I threw it in when I tried to return to “normal” after Andrew’s last chemotherapy appointment in December of 2007.  I cherished each card, letter, poster, and note people sent to us. But suddenly, that year, I needed to hide them.  We had more than enough reminders of Andrew’s travel through three and a half years of leukemia treatment.

I felt desperate to return to life.

Safe in the bin where I placed them. Reminders of support and love.

This week my school is kicking off the Pennies for Patients campaign for the Leukemia/Lymphona Society. On a search for the Pennies for Patients poster that featured Andrew, I rifled through that plastic tub that I have kept safe, but untouched for years. Just opening the lid provided a lightning flashback because of the innocuous heplock flush valve lying on top of the last MRI results.  I could not read more than 6 or 7 cards, as the tears blurred my vision. The valves, flush syringes and deadening cream in the bottom of tub ensured the return of the cover.

But not before a huge rush of appreciation and love flooded me.  I saw some imaginative and slightly odd cards decorated with love by children none of our family have ever met – those children who prayed for my boy.  There were recognizable post-it-notes that I would find on my desk after returning to work after a nine-hour-day at chemo.  I read hand-written poems and prayer placed in my mailbox by my high-school students and a note left on my clean pile of laundry by a friend.  A couple of empty envelopes baffled me, but just until I remembered the lady who sent us half of her over-time check for 6 months straight to help us out.  I hadn’t met her then, but she chose to bless us anyway.

There are more.  So many more.

A tub full of blessings and love waiting for when I need it, or when I can handle it.

A safe place full of reminders that our world holds beauty in the midst of ugly, and safety in the middle of a storm.

There is still beauty in our world that keeps us safe and grounded through hard times #fmfparty… Click To Tweet

Confessions my FMF friends:  I honestly have no idea how long this took me to write.  I got hung up on the tub full of blessings tonight, which forced me to write when I thought I had nothing on the prompt!

 

Five Tips for Celebrating National Survivors Day

National Survivors DayToday we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day—a day to celebrate survivorship as well as bring attention to the fact that winning cancer doesn’t always signify that the battle has ended.

Life after #cancer exists, but one should never expect it to follow familiar trajectories.… Click To Tweet

It’s a day to cheer on those who survived as well as acknowledge that survivors face ongoing challenges. Cancer changes everything—it changes one both physically and financially; it causes trauma in family members and caregivers; it can alter the course of one’s career.

All too often the survivor never mentions the subtext of those multiple ‘survivorships.’ But the reality of life post cancer can prove just as overwhelming as life during cancer.

In our case, cancer’s ravages left Pedro in a weakened state that took over a year to recover from. To this day, he has neuropathy (nerve damage) in his right foot that prevents him from enjoying hiking great distances. The chemo drugs also caused necrosis (death) of the bones in his hips and about seven years after cancer he had to go through core decompression surgery on one of his hips. Eventually, he’ll need a hip replacement.

Each of those subsequent treatments puts a financial strain on our family. A clean bill of health doesn’t mean that a survivor no longer has to worry about financial stresses and corollary health issues. It took us 12 years to pay off cancer. For some families, it takes even longer.

The emotional toll can nibble at different family members like a piranha, quietly wounding the soul until the wound festers and rises to the surface. In retrospect, I wish I would have signed the family up for counseling to treat the wounds as they happened—it may have made a difference. On the other had, I can’t let regret become a piranha in my life.

Cancer survivorship can cause upheaval at work as well. Pedro lost his job because of his cancer, and it took nine long years and additional schooling to rejoin the education workforce as a full-time employee again.

Of course, his experiences during those nine years working in construction, building a house, substitute teaching, and going to school uniquely prepared him for the job he holds now as the principal of a private school that operates almost exclusively on donations.

Remission from Cancer Doesn’t Equal Remission from Its Consequences

#Remission from #cancer doesn't mean remission from it's consequences. #NCSD2016 Click To Tweet

These five tips for celebrating a survivor will help you think outside the box when it comes to celebrating with a survivor.

1. When you celebrate a survivor, remember that that battle might not be over—it’s just being fought on a different front.
2. Continue to come alongside a survivor (which means listen more and talk less).
3. Don’t be afraid to ask sensitive questions—What do you find the most difficult part of your life after cancer? or I know you’re in remission, but do you still need support in any way?
4. Offer to help. Maybe the survivor could use free childcare once a month to reconnect with a spouse. Perhaps the survivor needs help cleaning the house or shopping for groceries as they build back their strength.
5. Give advice sparingly (and only when asked). Survivors don’t need to hear about your neighbor George’s second-cousin-once-removed who had cancer and went on to win an Olympic medal).

What about you? Do you have a survivor you’d like to acknowledge?  Tell us a little about them and their battle and leave a line of kudos and encouragement (and don’t forget to let them know in person, too). 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up an inspirational post.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!


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Peace for Lifetime: The Self-Help Book I Didn’t Know I Needed

peace for a lifetime

Peace for a Lifetime Review

This book is the first in a trifecta of books that I really needed to read (but didn’t realize how much I needed to read them). Reading Peace for a Lifetime is like sitting down with a friendly counselor in the comfort of my own home. Lisa Murry never pushes or insists, she just quietly guides the reader through the necessary steps to discovering more about one’s self (not an easy task for someone like me).

I first picked up Peace for a Lifetime because I wanted to support a fellow blogger and writer with her book baby—not because I particularly felt the need for increased peace (I thought I had a pretty peace-filled life, thank you very much). But I soon realized that the book isn’t just about obtaining peace.

#PeaceforaLifetime isn't just about peace. It's about emotional abundance, too. Click To Tweet

First of all, Lisa explains emotional abundance and its importance in our lives. A key element (especially for women) lies in learning to stay an individual even in the context of a relationship—it’s all too easy to subsume oneself in one’s spouse or children, as any wife or mother knows.

Lisa constantly points the reader to the only source of true nutrition for feeding our emotional selves—God our Savior. She also points out that we have to get to know ourselves and learn to own our emotions before we can be truly fit to help anyone else.

As a recovering caregiving (from my husband’s journey with cancer and my daughter’s struggles with mental illness), I know all about the importance of self-care. But I learned a new term in Peace for a Lifetime—self-nurture. For me, the most powerful words in the book are these: “I cannot allow myself to be intimately known by another person if I haven’t first spent time becoming intimately acquainted with myself.”

As I progressed through the book, I came to understand that maybe I haven’t spent enough time over the years getting to know myself—which probably explains why I don’t feel ‘grown up’ yet—despite the fact that I’m pushing fifty. I jokingly tell my students that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Ok, so maybe I know, I just haven’t wanted to really analyze or admit it.

Lisa has a great acronym for dealing with communication—LIFE. One must live calmly, implement healthy communication, free others (as we free ourselves) and engage in collaborative conflict-resolution skills.

Peace for a Lifetime is easy-to-read, well-researched (a delicate balance—to be both easily understood AND well-researched), and it includes questions at the end of each chapter that help a reader evaluate her or his self.

If you’ve felt a vague unease about how your life is progressing, or just plain unsettled and unhappy, this book will help you gain clarity about yourself and your needs. I mentioned that it’s the first in a trifecta of books God put in my path—the second one is Holley Gerth’s You’re Already Amazing LifeGrowth Guide and the third is Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s Living Forward.

What about you? Have you ever picked up a book, thinking you didn’t really need it, but discovered that it was just what you needed at the moment?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining my friends @blestbutstrest and @caregiver mom for an #inspirational link up. Check out the great stories! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Why That Proverbs 31 Woman Really Chaps My Hide

Proverbs 31 WomanThe Proverbs 31 woman irritates me. I think of her in my head as Mrs. Perfecta Esposa (in a snarky sort of way). Ok, maybe it’s the ideal of Perfecta that really rubs me the wrong way. Well, in all honesty, the fact that people think that anyone should live up to the standard of Perfecta just seems wrong (especially if it’s some very human male pointing out a woman’s shortcomings). Even worse, when a caregiver holds herself up to Perfecta and then slides into depression because there is just NO way one can care full time for another human being plus act like Perfecta.

People don’t understand that the woman mentioned in the epilogue of Proverbs is the ideal woman for that time and place. There are things she has that I will never have—servant girls, for starters. We don’t have that kind of money, but I’m sure if we did, I’d do a great job of portioning the needs of my maidservants.

And seriously, who can get up before the crack of dawn do all the household chores, put in a full day’s work at school AND select the flax and wool for spinning and weaving—I knew how to spin when I was little, but I haven’t found much need for that skill in the last forty years.

In addition to all of the above, I have no skills in stock market trading (although I did act as the general contractor when we built our house), nor do I have extra funds lying around to invest.

I know how to sew, and used to make church dresses for the girls when they were younger—shoot, I even made my own wedding dress and then remodeled it for our eldest daughter when she got married. But I can’t weave sashes (my skills were limited to finger weaving key chains and loop potholders in grade school), nor does my family wear scarlet when it snows (we prefer anything insulated and waterproof, thank you very much).

If the lamps don’t go out at night, it’s probably because I’m up too late trolling Facebook. While my arms work vigorously during my workouts, they complain vociferously the following day (giving me the perfect excuse to avoid housework).

Purple isn’t my favorite color, but when I can afford it, I wear linen—during the winter, though, Gore Tex products are more my style.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Bible is out of date or out of style or worse, not true. I just think that women beat themselves up because they’re not THE Proverbs 31 woman (e.g., a superwoman type).

What we often miss or overlook or ignore is the fact that Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem. Each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This means that all of those things that the wife of noble character does happen in alphabetical order—not chronological order! Anyone who has ever had a toddler or two running around the house knows that without a nanny, mamma ain’t going to get a lot done.

But that’s ok. The reason Perfecta’s children rise up and call her blessed has a lot to do with Perfecta’s intentional parenting through each stage of her children’s lives. Believe me, I don’t think the writer had teenagers in mind when he penned those lines! Toddlers are too egocentric and pre-teens and teenagers tend to think their mother’s IQ rates the same as charcoal.

The key resides in verse 30 “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;/but a woman who fears the Lords is to be praised.” The ‘fear’ here is not the ‘oh-I’m-so-afraid’ kind of fear. It’s the ‘I-live-in-reverential-awe’ kind of fear.

God doesn’t expect us to meet the standards of an ideal woman. He expects us to live in awe and reverence for him. If I live a life that honors God, that other stuff will fall into place. It probably won’t happen overnight, because allowing God to rework my sinful nature will take a lifetime.

If I focus on all the ways I don’t measure up—I’m wasting my time and energies. Click To Tweet

I don’t need to compare myself to anyone (including Perfecta)—I only need to chart my progress in comparison to the woman I used to be before I accepted a personal relationship with God to change me into who he wants me to become. And that’s good news for the weary caregiver (or momma or wife or teacher or woman).

What about you? Have you ever compared yourself to the Proverbs 31 woman? Have you ever been in a caregiver season and really berated yourself or felt hopeless because there was just NO way you’d ever measure up?

Do You Have a Life Plan?

Living Forward

 out-of-control focus? A Life Plan Can help: Part II (CLICK FOR PART I)

Have you ever had a focus problem? Mine started when I became a parent (parenting is HARD work and seems to require all of our focus!), and intensified during my caregiving journey. About three years after Pedro’s miraculous healing, I realized that I needed to re-find my health. Our girls needed a mom who could keep up with them as they entered their pre-teen years, and I had a hard time doing much of anything. Suddenly, I had a new focus.

It took nine months of hard work, eating better and exercising more, but I eventually lost my caregiver weight (I may have over-focused on weight-loss and healthly eating, though, because our youngest daughter ended up struggling with aneorexia her sophomore year in high school).

When I took a photography class six years after Pedro’s recovery, I started to realize my my focusing problem. Hyper-focusing on something has its advantages—a photographer can create ‘bokeh’ where the subject matter jumps from the print and everything outside the plane of focus takes on a soft blur. On the other hand, spending the time to stitch together a panorama that shows a larger-than-life view of the subject can produce a startling effect, too.

I’ve learned to ask myself which kind of focus I need in a situation. Do I need to focus intently on something small and detailed? If so, for how long should I spend time on that one thing? Would stepping back and looking at the bigger picture help me more?

Learn to distinguish what kind of focus you need for each of life's problems. Click To Tweet

I actually find looking at the bigger picture a difficult task. Out of the 80,000 or so (but who’s counting, right?) photos that I’ve taken in the past five years, only a fifth of them are landscapes.

Life reflects art. I do ok focusing on the small things and the details, and I can even do some mid-range planning (for a few months or years) but I hesitate to step back and look at the really big picture—my life and where I’d like to be in five, ten, fifteen or even twenty years. That’s why a letter in my inbox got me pretty excited this week. I’m on the launch team for Michael Hyattt and Daniel Harkavy’s upcoming release, Living Forward.

Living Forward is a book about creating a life plan. Other than a vague sense of ‘I’d like to get married, have some children, have a fun job and enjoy life’ I’ve never had a life plan. I’ve had a great life drifting, but it’s time to step back and focus on the really big picture. I want to stop drifting and start living intentionally. You can find more information about the book by checking out this post. 

After reading the first chapter, I can’t wait to read the rest of the book and start charting a life plan (aka, focusing on the really big picture).  What about you?  Do you have a life plan or are you like me, just drifting along?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining my friends @blestbutstrest and @caregivermom for some inspration for my Monday! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Out-of-focus Caregiving Can Harm Your Health

watch your focus

I learned the hard way what happens when I lose my focus.

I opened the box and quickly tore the wrapper from around its contents. Ah. Pure bliss—a thick layer of dark chocolate covered an incredible sweet bar of chocolate ice cream. “How do you spell relief?” I asked myself. “H-A-A-G-E-N D-A-Z” I said under my breath as I bit into heaven and I started trudging up the eleven flights of stairs to Pedro’s hospital room.

I took the stairs because I wanted to eat an ice cream bar, and I figured the climb might cancel the calories. A niggle of doubt wormed into my brain. After all, I’d already put on about 45 pounds since Pedro’s initial diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma six months earlier.

My internal argument raged as I huffed and puffed up flight after flight to the blood cancer ward.  “Everyone says I need to take time for ME,” I thought. “If I want to eat an ice-cream bar, that’s taking time for me, right?

Unfortunately, I had lost my focus. I had focused so intently on helping Pedro get well, that I lost sight of myself and the bigger picture of my life. I coped with stress by eating—too much, too quickly and too often. I had quit exercising (I had a perfect excuse—big cities had dangers around every corner, and if something happened to me, what would happen to Pedro and the girls?).

My focus had caused a severe case of denial. As in, I thought I needed to deny myself everything good and healthy in my life in order to help Pedro, and then I ignored the results of my denial (increased feelings of tiredness and ability to cope without resorting to crutches—like chocolate).

It's unhealthy to deny yourself everything good in life when you become a #caregiver. Click To Tweet

Photography eventually became the catalyst to help me understand balance in my life. But that’s a story for next week (and my five minutes have ended).

(You can find my first caregiver self-care tip here.)

What about you? Have you ever had a season of caregiving or extreme stress that caused your focus to slip?

Community Caregiving – the best medicine

A visit, a gift, your time and your care - all are huge blessings!

A visit, a gift, your time and your care – all are huge blessings!

“Mommy, I want to go to Cradle Roll class”.  The girls headed out the door with daddy on the way to their classes and then church, but Andrew and I stayed behind.

I rubbed his bald head and said as brightly as I could, “We’ll go read some stories and sing some songs!”

He headed to the bookshelf, but the look on his face told me I was a poor substitute for the real thing.

They told us that Andrew had to be kept away from other kids during certain phases of treatment.  They told us he had to be kept germ free at time – it was in his best interest to miss out on things that other kids his age were doing.  Sometimes that was SO hard.

In fact, it was almost easier when he was actually hospitalized!

We dealt primarily with three hospitals throughout Andrew’s three and a half year chemo treatments.  All of them treated us wonderfully.  The nurses, every single one, were kind and caring.  The doctors were attentive, the treatments were scheduled and we were treated with respect.  Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, in Portland, was truly amazing.  They had social workers to explain Andrew’s leukemia disease to his four-year-old mind and also to his sisters (7 and 10 years old).  They made sure, as parents, we were informed.  We were never treated as though this was old business and our questions were not important.  They had videos, and musical instrument carts and book carts and visiting therapy dogs.

But we lived a long ways from hospitals, social workers, parents-of-leukemia-patient- community support group and a long ways from instant help and the charities often connected to children dealing with cancer.

But one of our unexpected blessings was the way our teeny tiny little community rallied around us throughout Andrew’s fight against leukemia.

Andrew was able to attend his own little church because of the kindness of people

Andrew was able to attend his own little church because of the kindness of people

In fact, the Cradle Roll teacher had someone come in and video the program (I had been the teacher before Andrew got sick) so that Andrew could watch it right after it was done (now it’d probably be live-streamed).

Many times, after a school program, there would be a quiet knock at the door and one of our students would hand in a prize from the program: candy, crafts, it didn’t matter what it was – it mattered that they remembered my boy.

Christmas season arrived and Andrew began talking about last year’s neighborhood Christmas party that was traditional.  “Mom!”  he exclaimed.  “Remember last year Santa knew all about me?  Do you think he will again?”

Santa had been Andrew’s uncle the year before, this year it was going to be a student – one of the ‘big kids’.  I carefully explained to Andrew, “Buddy, I’m sorry.  You and I are not going to be able to attend the Christmas program.  There’s a lot of sickness going around.”

“I’ll wear my mask!  I’ll be careful!” Andrew thought he had a plan.  But we were so far from medical help and if he got sick it became and emergency in our lives.

“No.”  I was forced to say, “We have to stay home.”

Andrew was filled with Christmas cheer because Santa remembered him!

Andrew was filled with Christmas cheer because Santa remembered him!

Imagine Andrew’s sheer joy when right after the party the doorbell rang.  His sister answered the door and a jolly voice declared, “Ho, Ho, Ho!  I missed my buddy Andrew during the Christmas party!  Is he here?  I have something for a boy named Andrew!”

Andrew flew around the corner and attached Santa, who handed him a present.  Santa whispered to me that he had sanitized everything and he wasn’t sick, “Is this OK?”  asked Santa.

Was it OK?  It was the best thing ever.

Those people who don’t forget you in their fun moments and that take care of you in unexpected ways.  What a blessing!

When the community comes to the patient and remembers them during community events, it brings joy! #write31days… Click To Tweet

Read more from the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving!

Caregiving Sorrow Turned Into Joy

God can take a caregiving nightmare into pure joy. It's all in the focus.

God can take a caregiving nightmare into pure joy. It’s all in the focus.

Today I join Kate Motaung and the writers at Five Minute Friday and the prompt is:  Joy.

The first few moments after the doctor said the word “Leukemia” I was frozen, until I bolted for the bathroom and lost my stomach into the sink and stared at myself in the mirror, took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and went back to my family.

  • Shock.  I thought he had the flu.
  • Terror.  Don’t people die from Leukemia?
  • Numbness.  What does this mean?

The first few hours after diagnosis were a whirlwind of getting Andrew up to a bigger hospital, finding a place for the girls and preparing for the fight of my son’s life.

  •  Panic.  I don’t know how to deal with this!
  • Disbelief.  This is something that happens to “those people”.  You know, the people on the prayer chain!
  • Alarm.  What was going to happen to our family?

The first few days in the hospital, my eyes leaked almost constantly.

  • Fear.   Was I going to lose my son?
  • Sympathy.  There was not one.easy.proceedure.  They all hurt.
  • Anxiety.  Could we do this?

The first few weeks in the hospital were filled with tests and transfusions, medications and vomit, and a weird combination of silence and bustle.

  •  Agony.  EVERYTHING was hurting my boy.
  •  Loneliness.  The world was doing its thing, and we were in a small room fighting for life.
  • Worry.  How do we keep our girls moving forward with a “normal life” and still be here for our son?  How do we keep our jobs and live in the world of chemotherapy?  How were we going to PAY for all this?

The first few months involved so many miles of driving the four-hour trip to the hospital, my husband and I trading back and forth between home and hospital stays, an acquaintance with medication and procedures and our new life.

  • Resignation.  It was all real.  It was happening, and we had no choice but to deal with it.
  • Angst.  It was all real.  This was going to continue for a while and it was going to keep hurting and it was going to keep interrupting our family and changing our lives and, we STILL did not know if our boy was going to make it.
  • Fatigue.  It was all real.  It was everlasting and time flew by.  There was not a day that was easy nor a night uninterrupted.  Sleep was a distant memory and food did not settle nicely into the stomach – not my boy’s, not mine.

The first few years we had a routine that was comforting (there was always a sense of belonging when we returned to the safety of the cancer ward and the treatment room.)  Andrew knew the nurses and doctors by name and they ALWAYS took good care of us.

  • Reality.  This was it.  This is what we had and it was our job to deal with it.
  • Uncertainty.  The feelings of fear and anxiety NEVER left.  Their constant presence was a load that I fought with in order to be a woman of faith.  I KNOW God holds our future, but could I deal with what the future held?
  • What ifs.  Those what if thoughts hounded me constantly.

Yes.  Our world was flooded with things we never asked for, were sure we couldn’t handle and the pain that stabbed ME every time my son was stabbed with a needle was overwhelming.  But gradually, as routine took over un-known and in the midst all those bad words above, began to sneak HUGE moments of joy.  Little reassurances that God was with us.

  • Joy.  My son’s unbelieveable faith.
  • Joy.  The comforts of stranger and the supportive response of our community.
  • Joy.  Connection to family.  Hours in the hospital forced me to spend unscripted time with my son.  We told stories, sang songs, prayed, read books, played dominos (oh.my.word – there were a few weeks there where I hated dominoes we played so often) and built legos and drove cars around the bedspread.  We cuddled and watched movies and held hands.  Andrew and I had countless hours in the car together with music and laughing, or me watching his dark-circled eyes fall asleep and knowing we’d get home before the nausea hit.  When my husband and I traded, and I was home with my girls, I valued the time so much that I put chores aside and cuddled with the girls more, reading stories and laying on their beds and taking walks in the woods.  I didn’t sleep, because laundry happened throughout the night, but my girls were such a priority.
  • Joy.  I learned to let go of perfection (well, except with the medication and doctor appointments, I might have turned a little OCD in that department) and just be.  Spend time with those I love.

And those were my moments of joy.  I found joy in the wilted flower my girls picked.  I found joy in the quiet cuddles before bed.  I found joy in the cards telling me people were praying and joy in the KNOWLEDGE that God walked with me and He wouldn’t forsake me, even if I didn’t’ like what happened during this life.

My joy came from knowing that this life wasn’t the most important.  Pain happens.  But joy comes from knowing that one day we won’t have pain.  Fear is there, but the joy of knowing the END result is heaven can override that fear.

I mourned and struggled, but God turned my mourning into dancing and filled my feet with joy. Tweet this!

Steve Green’s old, but happy song can come true, listen here!

Read more from the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving.

The Kindness of Strangers

Kind and caring words are some of the best gifts

Kind and caring words are some of the best gifts

It was really hard to see Andrew’s hair fall out.  It was incredibly difficult as Andrew’s skin went from pale to pasty and straight on to completely colorless.  It was annoying that he had to wear a face mask to go anywhere at all.  It was lonely to be isolated.  It was really hard to balance the doctor visits, the need for prescription medicines and Andrew’s need to be germ-free with the time crunch and necessity of getting the meds while we were in town to save on two hours of driving.

But oddly enough, all of those things led to a completely unexpected blessing.

Often, after a chemotherapy treatment, we needed to stop by the pharmacy for the follow-up medicines for the next week (insurance dictated that we could never order ahead).  On those days, I had no choice but to take Andrew into the store with me.  This was an ordeal.

It involved wiping the shopping cart down with a Clorox wipes, laying a clean blanket down, fastening Andrew’s mask securely over his mouth and nose and helping him into the basket, where he would flop down with nausea and exhaustion.

Since we lived an hour from town, I would order the prescription and then grab groceries while we waited.

This story isn’t sounding like a blessing, is it?  It didn’t feel like it at the time either.

Except that every single time we had to do this, something kind of amazing happened.  It would go a little like this:

“Oh my dear,” kind eyes peered out of a wrinkled face, “what kind of cancer does he have?”

“He has leukemia.”  I kept my replies simple.

“How old is he?” 

“Four.”

“Oh my.”  The little head would shake, “Bless you my dear, I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you.  I had cancer two years ago and I know how miserable the treatment makes you.  Bless his heart.  Would it be okay if I pray for you?  How long is his treatment?”

“We have about three more years.  And of course, we would love for you to pray!”

Certainly the description and the details changed with each pass through the store, but I began to see that there is a huge community of cancer survivors out there, and there is a huge community of strangers who have not had cancer, but still notice a person in need.  People who care.  People who pay attention.  People who listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

None of the strangers in the store gave any money, or gifts or anything tangible – they simply gave a moment of their time, some words of encouragement and some prayers of blessing.

And I will never forget their kindness.

In the worst moments of caregiving the kindness of strangers can make a huge difference! #write31days #caregiving… Click To Tweet

Read more in the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessing from Caregiving.

CNA or a Fairy Godmother to a Caregiver and Patient?

When hospital workers go above and beyond, it means the world to patient and caregiver alike!

When hospital workers go above and beyond, it means the world to patient and caregiver alike!

Laura entered Andrew’s room, carefully sanitizing her hands and greeting Andrew with her big friendly smile.  She was a favorite, because each time she entered, she always carried on a cheerful conversation, whether Andrew was well enough to respond or not.  She bustled around wiping sinks and counters, picking up whatever needed picking up and making Andrew’s bed with swift efficiency.  Andrew, on this morning, was glum and unhappy, not his usual talkative self.

“Laura,” I ventured, “are you going to be here for a little bit?  Andrew and I are really sick of The Lion King and he wants to watch Bambi.  Maybe I could run look for it?”

“Oh sure!” Laura responded with a grin, “I’ll be here for a little bit, you run along, grab some coffee or something while you’re out!”

I hurried along the sterile hallway rejoicing that my boy was comfortable and with someone who cared.  I searched the video cabinet, set aside for the cancer ward, and there was no Bambi.  I went down the hall to the outpatient clinic, then ran downstairs to another clinic.  At last I returned to Andrew’s room, defeated.  No Bambi.  Andrew’s dull eyes didn’t change much, but he grumbled just a little bit.

Laura mopped the floor while we discussed other options besides Bambi.  No other options appealed to the sick little man and he declared, “There’s NOTHIN’ to do…” and slid his body deeper under the covers.

“Well,” Laura chirped, “let me see what I can do.”

As Laura left the room I whispered to her, “Don’t worry about it.  Andrew can just figure out how to be happy in spite of not having his movie.”

Laura looked at me with kind, understanding eyes, “Mrs. Bovee, these kids have so little control over their lives, it’s just not fair.  Let me see what I can do, it’s a simple enough thing and Andrew is really very good natured and doesn’t ask for much.”

Laura came in and out of Andrew’s room for the next several hours, taking temperatures, checking blood pressures and bringing water and the requisite burrito.  No Bambi appeared and honestly, I was tired and didn’t care.  Andrew was having a really grumpy day and I was straining to find ways to occupy his mind, while letting his body rest.

Mid-afternoon Laura came skipping around the corner of Andrew’s door, waving a Bambi triumphantly over her head, eyes sparkling and grin wider than ever!  “Sorry it took so long,” she panted, “my mom missed the first bus option and so it took an hour longer than we planned.”

“What?” I asked in surprise, “this movie came by bus?”

“Yes,” Laura was still catching her breath, her eyes still sparkling, “I called my mom this morning to see if we still had Bambi at our house.  So she caught the bus, but just missed the one that comes directly here, so she had to catch the bus…..”

And Laura described several hours of travel that I wouldn’t want to deal with ever, let alone for a movie.  Her mom (who had never met Andrew) had traveled for 2 ½ hours across the city of Portland to bring a grumpy little cancer patient and his caregiver mom the movie Bambi.

Some people are more than medical professionals, they should be called fairy godmothers.

Some medical people should be called fairy godmothers, working magic above and beyond the medical #write31days… Click To Tweet

For more in the series of 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving.