Our New Journey

On June 9th, 2011, my husband was feeling ill. He said that he was dehydrated and needed to go to the hospital for fluids. I mentioned to the nurses that I was concerned because he had seemed a little different over the past week. After a few tests, it was revealed that a tumor had taken up residence in his brain. A biopsy soon followed. As the surgeon talked about the results of the biopsy, the dreadful word "cancer" was born into our lives, changing it forever.

Through this blog, I shared the early years of this journey.

Several years later, I'm elated to report that he is doing very well, back to work and life. Seeing him now, you would never know that he has been through such a battle.

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Usually before I begin writing, I have an idea of where I want to go. A title will hit me or a theme where all of my thoughts begin attaching themselves. Tonight, this is not the case. I just know that I need to write. I've been waiting for a couple of days for some kind of theme to come to me onto which I can attach my scattered thoughts and and form some sort of flow of writing. A beginning would be nice, but I haven't even been able to find that.

So... here it goes... I don't know where it's going, but not knowing that does not need to be a reason to delay starting.

I took a break.

There, I said it. I did it. I took a break from being at home.

Last weekend, with the help and support of a dear friend, I was able to not just escape to the fabulous Galway Downs for a wickedly wet horseshow, but I had the honor of participating.

Liz owns an amazing off-the-track thoroughbred named Sue. She has taken her through a long, patient education process introducing her to her new job-after-racing. She has brought her along wonderfully on the flat and over fences.

A couple of months ago she asked me if I would be willing to show her at the November Galway. It would be her first "big show." In my mind, I thought, "Willing? I would be honored and excited!" I love the mare and very much enjoy showing and hadn't had the opportunity to show in a long time. At that point I had never ridden the mare, but had an idea that I would enjoy her.

Soon after Liz and I had talked about the show, Joe went into the hospital, and was diagnosed with Guillian Barre as if the tumor in his brain was not enough. So, a couple of weeks passed before I could get on Sue. Once I did, I felt an instant filling into a cup of joy that I didn't even know existed. Sue is by no means an easy horse, but that is one of the things I like about her. She likes to work hard and requires hard work out of her rider. I love her work ethic. She is not very tall (by my standards- but my horse is 18 hands so I know I'm a bit off from the average), but packs a powerful punch! Liz has done a wonderful job working with her, and she is a joy to ride. Even when she's throwing a tantrum, I enjoy her.

It was about the third time jumping her that I felt that I scratched the surface of her power. I approached two square oxers in a combination that she was a little afraid of. Instead of stopping or hesitating, she flew over them as if she had wings. Those watching said that she nearly cleared the standards. I know that many of you reading this have no idea what oxers or standards are (teachers... not the standards that we teach to...), but just know that we were quite high off the ground! From that moment on, I could feel that as long as I could stay with her and out of her way, we could jump anything! That is such an awesome feeling!

Riding her brought me a happiness in riding that I hadn't felt since before my horse, Payton, got injured. It's been a good two years since he's been consistently sound, and I've greatly missed the riding part of our relationship. Sue is very different from Pai, but brings me the same flavor of joy.

Since Joe's diagnosis, people have been encouraging me to "take care" of myself. I've done that as best as I know how. I've allowed myself to cry when I needed to, leaned on friends, walked on the beach, and things like that. Riding Sue and being able to participate at a show was a whole new level of "taking care" of myself. Instead of temporally relieving the pressure valve as the other activities, showing Sue filled me with something so much more, joy and purpose.

The show itself was filled with buckets of rain and slippery footing. There were many challenges that Sue and I faced just to get in to the show arena. Several times both Liz and my coach, Terri, told me that if I felt that she couldn't handle the slippery footing, to pull up. Each event certainly presented a challenge in making her first "big show" a positive experience. Having that permission made it easier to proceed. But Sue was not interested in quiting. She was certainly up to the challenge! Around each event she got better and better, ending strong and positively. It gave me so much joy to share that wonderful experience with such a fabulous horse.

I was surrounded by rainbows. The morning of the first day, there was a double rainbow. I had to take a feet picture. As I walked down to the start box on the last day of competition for cross-country, there was a rainbow over the course. Both made me smile.

While I was away at the show, I allowed others to help with things at home. It was hard to let go of responsibility, even for just a couple of days. I wouldn't say that I came home "rejuvenated" and ready to get back to the challenges of the our new journey. The show was a lot of work, and even though Liz took care of Sue and me most of the time, I was tired upon returning.

But I do feel like I came back better educated. I'm beginning to recognize that I not only can, but need to let go of some responsibilities. I'm seeing where those that have been asking for so long can step in and help. I'm finally ready. I'm grateful for everyone that has patiently waited for direction. Up until now, the only direction I could give was asking for prayer. I'm grateful for the prayers, and now I'm ready for accepting actions that so many of you are willing to give. Pamela and Cindy helped me see that. I'm thankful for Katy for organizing the help. Believe it or not, simply organizing who can help with what was just too overwhelming a task for me to undertake. I appreciate how Katy asked specific questions, then said that it would all just get taken care of, and she would organize it. I think that I only have so much capacity for organizing, and I need to use that energy for organizing Joe's schedule and care. My mum took it upon herself to not ask if I needed meals, she just started making them for me. She knows what I like. She's an excellent cook. And now I don't have to use energy to figure out what to eat. I'm grateful for Courtney taking over caring for Pai. It takes so much weight off my shoulders knowing that he is in her hands.

To Liz, I owe the biggest thanks for putting Sue and I together at the Galway, as well as Samantha and Andrew for opening Hotel McLean for us. I'm thankful for Terri for coaching me not just in riding, but so much more! I'm thankful for Debbie listening and encouraging. I'm thankful for encouraging words and hugs from Taren, Carolyn, and Margie. I'm thankful for dancing with Keelari, Laura, Gina and Andrea (almost Bec).  I'm thankful for the smiles and hugs from all the people I got to see at Galway this weekend. It was so much fun to dance, eat, and laugh. The couple of days amongst the incredible people who call themselves eventers reminded me of who I am beyond this journey. It was a big event with a lot of exciting things going on. And all of the excitement paled to the blessings of being surrounded by some of the strongest most caring people on the planet. (I'm sure that I've forgotten to menttion some)

I know that I'm not alone in my role in this journey, but until I allow others to help with their actions, it's hard not to FEEL alone. Being away for the couple of days helped me put things into a new perspective. I returned from the event with not only the wonderful memories, but a plan of empowerment and feeling better equipped to manage this leg of the journey.

Once again, thank you all for you love, encouragement, and prayers.

<3 Gilly

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gilly... not sure if you remember me... I boarded at WGEC in the 90s with Daq, whom you rode for me at a dressage show. I was at your wedding at the ranch. I had first read of Joe's tumour a few months ago on fb on your mum's page but only today found the link to your blog charting your course through this uncharted territory with him. My heart goes out to you both. I lost my dad to cancer (he was 56) and my mum had it too but survived it. Although I am in no way near enough to do anything to help other than to read your blog and follow your journey with Joe, please know that my thoughts are with you both. Much love to you and Joe. I think you are very right in finally allowing yourself to allow others to physically help. The support of loving hearts goes a long way, but eventually everyone needs the helping hands to take over the physical burdens of everyday life.
    ~ Pam Austman in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada