A Wife’s Merry-Go Round

One of the hardest parts of being a survivor’s wife is living in a world of what-ifs.  What if the swollen lymph nodes are not because of strep throat?  What if that rash isn’t just poison ivy?  What if the cancer comes back?  I worry every day that we won’t recognize the symptoms.  I am constantly on alert.

Even in my heightened sense of awareness, there are certain times of the year that trigger what I would consider to be a near panic.  One of those times is the couple of weeks leading up to a routine oncology appointment.  When the office starts calling to remind my survivor about CAT scans and blood work , my anxiety begins to build.  As the date of the appointment grows closer, my stress level climbs like a thermometer in August.  What if the CAT scan comes back inconclusive and we have to wait for PET scan results?  What if the blood work shows elevated levels?

Even harder than worrying is trying not to let it show.  I’m supposed to be the strong one.  I got us through three years of what-ifs.  I should be able to handle waiting for a little appointment with our favorite doctor. For the most part, I think I’m being successful in managing it all, but then I find myself sleeping less at night and being more short-tempered with the kids.  I have to remind myself that they don’t understand – they have no idea what is going on.  They also survived such a difficult time in our lives, I owe it to them to protect them from the worry.  Sometimes, I just have to take a step back, breathe and enjoy a nice glass of Riesling, all while refocusing my energies on what’s important.

We survived another oncology appointment today with a clean bill of health and for that I am eternally grateful.  Now to tackle the next 6 months as a better person than I was yesterday…

Stronger

 

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The Importance of Quality Time

We all get busy in life. Work, kids, family, dishes, laundry…the list is endless.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the routine of raising a family and just as easy to sacrifice quality time with your partner in the process.  Often, we find ourselves with a peck on the cheek as our spouse runs out the door to drop the kids off at school and you don’t reconnect until you lay your too tired head on the pillow at night. This becomes the norm, not the exception and somehow the romance is lost.

The most significant thing that the past 5 years has taught me is that it is important to take the time to nurture the relationship with your spouse. One day you might not have that opportunity.  It doesn’t have to be a week long vacation to the Bahamas (although that would be really nice).  It can be a twilight walk around the block or sitting by the fire pit with a glass of wine. Whatever time you can carve out of a busy day can be enough.

Every year we take one weekend in June to recharge our batteries and reconnect with one another. Believe it or not, my responsible, devoted husband used to be a die-hard adrenaline junkie! In his younger days, he raced Super comp Motorcycles (yikes!).  For the past four years, the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) has hosted a national event at our local drag strip in Epping, New Hampshire.  One live race, and I was hooked!  I am now a front row spectator with a favorite driver in every category.

race day

For this one weekend, we spend our days cheering on our favorite drivers and our nights outlet shopping and exploring new restaurants.  We stay at quaint bed & breakfasts and simply enjoy one another’s company.  We talk about whatever comes to mind – work and kids are off limits – and rediscover why we fell in love. The romance that falls lower on the priority list (but never forgotten) is a priority. My husband holds the door for me and holds my hand.   I look forward to this weekend for the whole year.

Take the time, whether it is a few minutes or a few days, and make sure you are connecting with the person you have chosen and who has chosen you.  The day will come when that opportunity is no longer there.

Finding the right cause for me

I am a big believer in giving back.  There are millions of causes out there, and it’s hard to know which ones really invest in the causes you are passionate about.  There are regular Facebook posts and news reports related to the shady activities of charities that claim to raise money for worthwhile causes.  Some of those reports are more disappointing than others.  I am always disappointed when I see reports of funds being mismanaged by organizations claiming to support veterans and children. I wonder how people can exploit the suffering of others and still sleep at night.  I sure couldn’t!

Of course, over the past few years, I have been much more aware of charities that support cancer research and families who have been plagued by the disease.  I support several of my friends and family members when they participate in various Relay for Life events. can see how these funds are invested back into local communities and supporting them has been very rewarding.

Lately, I have been searching for my own cause to support and have finally found one that not only aligns with my personal mission to help eradicate cancer, but also encourages me to continue my quest toward being more fit in my 41st year than I was in my 31st year.  The Great Cycle Challenge raises money toward ending childhood cancers.  It challenges riders to commit to riding a set number of sponsored miles in the month of June.

Great Cycle Challenge

 

Right now I have committed to riding 100 miles, which is still a little scary to see in print.  Mother Nature is not being very cooperative in helping me to get outside to ride, so for now I will have to begin my training indoors on a stationary bike. I’m hoping, if my training goes well, to increase that number to 150 miles by June 1st.

To learn more about the Great Cycle Challenge or to support me with a donation, please visit https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/CameronGrant.  Even the smallest donation can help to save a life.

Everybody needs a little time away…

When I originally started this blog, I was proud of being the strong one.  I was the spouse who had held it together while our family turned upside down.  I worked full time, was pregnant with our second child, sat in on countless doctor appointments, tucked in our child and never missed a school event.  I substituted for dad during hospital stays and times when getting out of bed was just not possible for him.  I did it all with an unwavering faith that our time as a family was not up.  I KNEW we would beat cancer!  There was no other option.

Several months ago, I came to the realization that I was very capable of being the strong one, but much less capable of dealing with the actual sadness that accompanies illness. One night, after positive results from my husband’s fabulous oncologist, I realized that the only time I cried about everything we have been through is the moment we received his diagnosis.  From that day forward, I put on a brave face and soldiered on.  No matter what happened, I never waivered.  Not once did I let myself believe that we would not win the war the war with cancer. I never broke down. I never let myself feel.

Fair warning to all of the strong ones, being the rock eventually catches up with you.  For me, the moment of truth came from a friend’s innocent Facebook share.  A country music fan, she share the story of Joey+Rory, a duo who were also married.  Joey, the wife, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had gone home to pass peacefully with her family.  Her husband started a blog to document their journey (http://thislifeilive.com/). I couldn’t stop myself from following. I read about her slow decline from perfect health and viewed pictures of her bonding with their young daughter.  As the posts became more somber and it was clear the end was near, the amount of anguish I felt for this family and my own continued to grow.  I couldn’t help but think that this could have been us.  I could have been the one sitting next to that bed.  Our children came frighteningly close to having to say goodbye to their father. I recognized myself in Rory  – he is the strong one.

Joey Feek passed away this afternoon, at the age of 40.  When the blog updated and Facebook flooded with the news, I felt such an overwhelming wave of sadness and loss – for someone I didn’t even know.  Their story of love and heartache rang so true and real and so much resembled the bond that Dan and I share that for a moment, I was unable to separate the two.  All of my fears, all of the thoughts I never allowed myself to have flooded my conscious.  The tears that I never allowed to fall were unstoppable.

I had forgotten how cleansing a good crying jag could be.  This superwoman just remembered that she is human.

I am still thankful every day that our family was given a second chance at life.  I don’t recognize the life we had 7 years ago, but that’s ok.  I love our life as it is now and I will love our life as it evolves into something new tomorrow.

 

Fall Resolution

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Some people make New Year resolutions every January.  Since fall is my favorite season in New England, I have a tendency to make fall resolutions.  As I mentioned in a previous post, last fall I committed to a healthier lifestyle by combining the Advocare products with a healthy diet and exercise.  Although I have used the products faithfully over the past 12 months and maintained a relatively healthy diet, I have not maintained my desired exercise level.

That all changes on Wednesday (Tuesday is my mother-in-law’s birthday and she has requested a dinner that I wouldn’t necessarily consider super healthy).  On Wednesday, I will begin a 10 day Advocare cleanse.  This requires that I return to clean eating and recommit to my exercise plan. No dairy for those 10 days.  Although this might sound like a hardship to some people, I don’t drink milk and yogurt is definitely not on my list of favorite foods.  I will be fine.   The best part is, within 24 hours, I will feel fabulous.  Clean eating always makes me feel like a new person.  I have more energy and never get that too full feeling.  I promise you that this will not turn into a 10 day gripe-fest while I recharge.

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One of the best parts of the Advocare program is that I love it enough to share it.  I do want to be clear that it is not a diet program – it is a lifestyle change.  Even when my cheat day turned into a cheat week, the majority of the philosophies have stayed with me.  This is how I lost over 20 pounds and have kept them off for a year – even through the holidays!  It’s also how I got my family to eat healthier.  Everyone feels better when I sneak shredded zucchini into the hash browns and butternut squash puree into my pasta sauce.  My survivor doesn’t complain when the number on his scale goes down either.

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(Sorry for the not so clear “before” image.  It best depicted how I looked)

So, for tonight I will enjoy one of my daughter’s sugar cookies while I watch the Big Bang Theory and prepare myself for a healthy fall.

A Little Bit of Fun

Now that school is back in session, our weekends are usually filled with errand-running and other busy activities that give us very little time to just relax and spend time together.  Today, we decided that puttering around the house was a great idea.

Our 12-year-old daughter’s idea of relaxing is baking.  She definitely did not inherit this talent from me.  I loathe baking.  All of that measuring and waiting just drives me crazy.  I am a much more organic cook – a little of this, a pinch of that, a smidge of this.

Today she decided that she would relax by making sugar cookies from scratch.  I love baking when all I have to do is put the dough on the pizza stone and take it off.  Unfortunately for my healthy initiative, they turned out great!!!

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In case you are a baking-lover like my daughter or just want to try your hand at these great cookies, here is the recipe:

Sugar Cookies

2 2/3 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1 cup of softened butter

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 375 (350 if you are using a dark or non-stick cookie sheet)

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder into a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla using a mixer.  Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until completely incorporated.  Roll into golf ball sized balls and bake for 8-12 minutes.

Tips: If you don’t know how your oven runs, cook one cookie first to determine timing.  This way you won’t ruin a whole batch.

Also you can definitely bake these on a cookie sheet, but we prefer the texture created by cooking them on a pizza stone.  Not only does the stone pre-heat in the oven for more even cooking, the bottoms are a little crispy and the rest of the cookie is nice and soft.

After they are baked, you can definitely get creative!  Dip 1/2 in tempered chocolate or frost them with your favorite icing.  The possibilities are endless.

Enjoy your cookies and the weekend with your families!

Survivor Perspective

I have been thinking about this blog post for several days.  There’s something I really want to share, but not at the expense of offending anyone who we are fortunate enough to call a friend or family member.  One of the hardest things about being a survivor’s wife is learning a different way of communicating.  The Big C is a scary topic that most people don’t understand.  I know that questions are not being asked and comments are not being made maliciously, but I want to give a little perspective on the emotions and memories that those questions and comments can provoke.

On Monday, we attend a wake.  One of my husband’s very good high school friends passed away.  This was especially difficult for him because this friend was diagnosed with Leukemia around the same time he was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  They had a special bond because they endured months of chemotherapy at the same time and could commiserate about the experience.  Not only was my husband devastated by the loss, he also carried a certain amount of survivor’s guilt – the “why me” of remission.  Although he was determined to attend the wake and provide whatever comfort he could to his friend’s family, he also harbored the fear that people would look at him and silently ask “why did you survive when he didn’t?”.  I’m sure it wouldn’t have been intentional, but I can’t say I wouldn’t have done it had the situations been reversed.

We also knew that this would be the first time my husband would encounter some classmates and former friends since being diagnosed in 2011.  Everyone would want to know how he was doing.  Their concern would be genuine, but they would have no way of knowing that he couldn’t talk about it there.  Too many emotions were already swirling around in his heart.  He really didn’t have the ability to keep his emotions in check while discussing his own condition.

The moral of the story is, if you ask someone who has or has had a potentially terminal condition of any kind how they are doing and their answer is short, please do not be offended.  They greatly appreciate your concern, they are just unable to express their feelings.  My survivor does the best he can to talk about it when asked, but it is a difficult conversation for him.  The best gift you could give any survivor (or survivor’s wife) is compassion and understanding.  They will appreciate it always.

In the meantime, it is important to remember that life is precious; it is also very unfair at times.  No one should lose a spouse or a child or a parent at the young age of 42.  Treat every day is it was intended – as a gift.  You never know when it will end.

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