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 15, 2011

God Doesn't Give Us More Than We Can Handle... REALLY?

How many of us wish that we had a dime for every time we heard "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" as we are going through tough situations. How many of us have said it ourselves to a loved one while searching for comforting words? It is comforting to believe that eventually the trial will end you'll be okay on the other side.

A couple of years ago while searching for comforting words to offer a friend I examined that saying more closely. I asked myself, so what if someone is strong enough to endure, does that knowledge or belief really make it easier? Does it take away the pain? Does that mean that stronger people are destined to endure more difficult trials simply because they are stronger? How is that fair? Who would want to be stronger if only to endure more pain? Suddenly this saying meant to bring comfort seemed to be doing the opposite.

As I thought about this saying, I searched for the positive. Finally it hit me... Maybe that saying is not true after all. Maybe God does give us more than we can handle. Maybe we are given more than we can individually handle so that we are given the opportunity to lean on others. In this thinking I came up with my new belief.

I believe that in life we are given more than we can handle. As we are pushed beyond our individual capacities for surviving life's trials, we lean on others when we wouldn't otherwise. As a result both parties are blessed, both the giver and the receiver. Acts of kindness are born out of love. I believe that God exists is in that love.

I have felt much more comfortable in the giving help side of that relationship than in the receiving part. Through this journey, I have certainly been forced into a place where many times I cannot walk on my own two feet, and have had the blessing of leaning on others. As the weeks and months have passed, I've felt more wobbly, but not really known how to reach out. I know that it sounds silly as so many of you have offered to help, sometimes specifically, sometimes generally, but the offer has been made hundreds of times since the beginning of this journey. Often as people have said, "Would you like me to..." my response has been, "No thank you, I've got it." As I wrote previously, it's easy to feel alone when not accepting help of others. Much of my feeling of aloneness has felt paralyzing, where I've wanted help, but hadn't known how people could help or even simply saying, "yes," when help is offered.

Slowly I've been figuring it out with the help of loved ones. As specific help is offered, I've been better at saying, "yes." One thing that has helped me has been when I've thanked those who've helped, they've frequently responded with gratitude in allowing the help. And that is where his idea of God's existence living in the love fueling these acts of kindness resurfaced.

I also know that through such trials we have opportunities to grow that we wouldn't have otherwise. Without such adversities, how would one grow? What would life be like without such growth? Thank goodness we have each other to lean on through these pains.

Thank you to all of you who've helped both Joe and I stand when we've been too weak to stand on our own. <3


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanks for the Umbrellas

As it poured down rain yesterday, the title "Here Comes the Rain Again" popped into my head. But then I thought about the wonderful kindness shown to both Joe and me this past week through the most recent trial, and I thought of umbrellas. Umbrellas that give shelter from the rain.

Joe began a round of oral chemo Nov 1st. The plan was 5 days of chemo this month. Then 5 next month, and so on. We will be altering that plan.

As the days went on, the more tired he got. This was not surprising. I know that chemo is poisoning the body as well as the tumor. I know that this isn't easy for the body to take. So, I wasn't too concerned until I arrived home from work Monday. He complained of a terrible headache and was asking for pain pills even before I put my school bags down. I gave him the pain pills, then noticed that he hadn't taken his morning pills. One of the pills is a steroid. The headache made sense knowing that he had missed the steroid. I gave him the steroid, and asked him to take it. He did. This was unusual because he had been getting up and taking them religiously for so long.

The next morning, I brought him his pills before I went to work. I tried to wake him and ask him to take his pills. I told him that I was worried about his brain swelling if he didn't take the steroid. He would open his eyes, stir, and say that he was trying, but I couldn't get him to wake long enough to take them. I had to go to work, so I left them on the nightstand beside the bed. When I got home, they were gone, and he was on the couch. So, I hoped that he had taken them.

This routine occurred Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, I called the nurse to see if she thought I should bring him into the ER. She said that as long as he was cognitively aware, keep him stimulated, but I didn't need to bring him in. When I arrived home on Thursday, he had another painful headache. I gave him pain meds and asked him some simple awareness questions. The only thing he seemed to be aware of is who I was. So I told him that we needed to go to the ER. I tried for about an hour to get him to go to the car. He was too confused to follow my directions. So I called 911. The paramedics arrived, asked him more questions, and brought him down to the ambulance.

After admission in Kaiser ER and a CT. It was revealed that he once again was suffering from swelling on his brain. He was admitted that night... well really it was 6:00 AM Friday morning.

The neurologist examined him in the morning, and after talking to his neuro-oncologist decided on a course of steroids. She didn't put him on the same massive dosage that he had been on in early September, but more than he had been currently taking (or not taking). With this came the understanding that it would take longer for the positive effects to be felt, however he wouldn't have as far to step down once he stabilized. He spent Friday pretty confused. He just wanted to rest on his side and not be messed with. He didn't understand why nurses kept coming in stabbing him with needles.

On Saturday, he was feeling better. He woke up in the hospital before I arrived in the morning and didn't know why he was in the hospital. He called me which was a good sign. Later Saturday, he took a walk around the nurse's station, and I was comfortable taking him home as long as he agreed to take his meds. He wanted to get out and promised to take his pills.

We've spent a quiet Sunday at home. He has asked several times about his pills. He made sure that he had taken what he needed to take. This was good for my heart. One of our neighbors came over for a bit, brought lunch, and watched some football. Later, his dad stopped by for and hung out for a bit as well.

Joe has still been a bit confused about time today, but has been so much more himself. The doctors and nurses at Kaiser were patient and kind through his stay. They took excellent care of him during his stay. My friends and family took wonderful care of me. I am so grateful for the love and support. It is so nice to know that we are not in this journey alone. It's nice to have an umbrella when it's raining.

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