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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.

 

A Healthier Life

I think sometimes people who have not experienced cancer first hand do not realize that it changes the way you live your life forever. My husband has developed several conditions from the treatments associated with cancer.  He now has a heart condition, so he can’t exercise the same way he used to.  Walking on the treadmill for ten minutes leaves him winded.  The chemotherapy has caused his bones to not heal after an unrelated surgery. Life is never the same after cancer – even in remission.

Healthy eating is one of the things that makes everyone feel better, post-cancer or not. If your spouse is anything like my spouse, one of the most significant changes that we needed to make in our lives was the adoption of a healthier eating plan.  I’ve always eaten fairly healthy – by balancing my fried food weakness with an equal portion of veggies.  My husband, however, is strictly a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  He could eat carbs, in the form of pasta, every night.  At first, I really struggled to incorporate healthier options into our not-so-healthy- diets. Then I learned how to use healthy food to my advantage.

My current fall vegetable obsession is butternut squash. I have found ways to hide it in just about anything. Here is one of my favorites:

Not so ordinary red sauce (serves 6)

1 – 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

2 T tomato paste (I use a tube that can be stored in the refrigerator. Less waste)

½ cup low sodium chicken broth, divided (substitute vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian)

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb butternut squash, cut into 1” cubes*

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot, steam the butternut squash by bringing 2” of water to a boil. Add squash, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Squash should be soft enough to mash or puree

In a large pot, sweat onion and garlic in 1 T of olive oil until onion is translucent – about 5 minutes. Add Crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/3 cup of the chicken broth and stir well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (Easy on the salt.  It’s usually in the crushed tomatoes).Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

When squash is done, mash well with a fork or puree in a food processor/blender. If you use an appliance, you may need to add the remaining chicken broth.

Add mashed/pureed squash to red sauce mixture. Depending on the brand of tomatoes you use, you may need to thin the sauce out with a little extra chicken stock. Serve over your favorite shaped whole wheat pasta (another healthy substitute)

*Shortcut alert: Precooked butternut squash is available in the freezer section of most supermarkets. Follow the package directions to thaw and skip right to the mashing/pureeing step.

This sauce only has 92 calories per serving and only 1 single calorie is from fat! (According to my calorie counter app). You’re also getting 2 servings of vegetables in every portion. That’s a win-win!