Sunday, November 28, 2010

Post traumatic

There is plenty to do with cooking, cleaning, living, loving, and in the midst, when I least expect there is this tripping up that happens. Like a few nights ago when I walked upstairs. I'm still needing to lean heavy on the rail but I make it just fine and I'm about to enter my bedroom. It is dark and my door is closed and as I open the door, I get this instant swoosh of fear and dread of cancer death as if it were lurking and hiding there just on the other side.


Zion United Methodist Church, Fish Creek put two turkeys, sweet potatoes, pears, oranges and apples, stuffing mix, and two pumpkin pies in boxes with our name dropped the gift at the Washington Island Ferry at Northport. Marianne and her husband Mark are on the ferry coming on Island for the holiday. Eric from the ferry line knocks on their car window and says "you know Valerie don't you? Will you deliver these groceries?" Packed for their own purpose, M & M find room on laps, between them and the dog to deliver.


On Thanksgiving, 2010, I remembered 2009. Susan Reed wrote to me and said "what a difference a year makes." So true. Thanksgiving, 2009, medical staff were unable to rouse me and assumed I may have hemorrhaged in the brain. They tell me that I was rushed for emergency CT scan and other tests. Though I was out of conscious for nearly two days and missed the turkey, I came to and back to myself with a new note on my chart that this patient, (me), is allergic to Ativan, especially Ativan administered IV in methodical succession. This year, Thanksgiving, 2010, our family attended a community Thanksgiving dinner at Gibson's. It did not matter that we were going out. I put a turkey in the oven to cook just so I could smell it roasting throughout my gratefull day.


"I can fix you one on a little plate all by itself and I won't touch it to hand to you," said pastor Frank at Trinity Lutheran Church. He knows I am immune suppressed and can't take communion from the common cup and loaf. So, I follow the crowd on Sunday mornings and when it gets near my turn, one of the communion stewards turns to the altar and brings forward my small silver plate with individual cup and wafer. The napkin is raised and it is mine, broken for me. The energy of joy overtakes me as I feast and jump for joy. After church one day, Joyce Morehouse eyes me and asks; "Why do you do that little jump after you are served?"


I'm on chapter 3 of a book I'm writing about the cancer journey. My friend on Island said "No, don't put it on your blog. You want them to BUY it." But I'm not selling anything. I just need to write it. The children go to school. I light the candle, pour the tea, sit at the kitchen table with the lap top. After the jelly and milk have been wiped up from kids eating breakfast and running out the door to catch the bus, I picture myself in the hospital bed again and work to craft the story.

Tears in Produce

So, I'm pushing a cart past produce at Sam's Club and I start crying. Just being alive.

The Paddle

The paddle Chris gave me, the one that stayed with me in the hospital bed is beside my bed on Washington Island standing straight up. Joe is beside me and the yellow blade with the black stalk is waving at the ceiling.

Driving By

I went to see Kathy LeClair this evening. That's a lie. I happened to be driving by Two Rivers and decided I had to stop. First time I've seen her since she left Seattle, August 4. I intentionally did not want to see her for these months. I wanted Seattle to just be gone, everything and everybody of Seattle to fall away while I got to life. But, tonight I stopped to see Kathy. She made popcorn. I washed my hands in her kitchen sink before eating and she wanted to get me a fresh towel to dry on. She told the kids that I get to scoop out of the bowl first since I'm still immune suppressed. My consummate care giver still at it. Shammond carried in a poinsetta. Korrina, Joshua and Steve were with me too. We stayed about ten minutes. I hugged and said thank you and "You look beautiful," which she did in a red cardigan sweater and her hair done up and her in her own kitchen and home instead of our two bedroom Seattle apartment. I would have gotten out of there just fine if she hadn't come out to the car after I'd already gotten in the driver's seat to leave. "I just have to have one more hug," she said, coming out across the lawn without her coat on. "I want you to stay warm," she said. When she hugged me through the open window of the driver's side, a flood gate of memories opened. She was with me in the exam room, she was rubbing my back, changing my dressing, making sure I got my medicine. I waved and honked. After a few minutes of driving in the dark, my cell phone rang. "You turned right instead of left," she noticed. "We made it out fine. Yeah, I got lost," I confessed, "But now we are on 42 headed north. We'll talk one of these days, without the kids." "I know," she said.


I took the kids bowling with the Stella Maris youth group to Sister Bay Lanes. I was there for the children, enjoying every minute of watching and minding them. I think it was my dad who got me off my feet -- the memory of my dad the bowler. He was 6 feet 6 inches with his own bowling ball. The last time I looked, his bowling shoes had been in the bag with the ball for so long that the shoes had shaped themselves to the ball and were curved wafers size 15+. So, I get up out of my seat for the memory of my dad, pick a pair of size 10 off the rack for me and ask Kayla if she would mind if I take her turn in the game. "Sure mom," she says and scoots out of the way. I pick up a heavy weight and lift it to my chin, take a few steps forward on my neuropothied feet and let go the ball to the gutter. I start crying because I can't do it. I'm off balance, the ball is too heavy, I can't run yet. But the tears don't stop me. I try it again and again and again until I'm dancing on the woodwork after bowling a strike and all the kids in the bowling alley are applauding. I take off my wool knit hat to show the fuzz and bow. Big grin shared with the crowd.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ones Doing Heavy Lifting

Saturday, the one year anniversary of beginning chemotherapy, Marianne was in Lansing, Michigan, giving a presentation on behalf of our family, raising money in our honor through National Foundation of Transplant. Two weeks ago we were in Michigan closing our Dewey Lake house, members of the Sister Lakes Community Church came to help. People we didn't even know were lifting boxes from the basement and helping load the trailer. Claudia and Steve took us into their guest room. Friends are Washington Island kept our children in school and in their homes during our five days away. Sue took in Micala, Kayla and Korinna, Michelle and Tom took care of Steve, Marlene invited Shammond. Joshua rode with mom and dad in the middle and stayed close. When we left Michigan, someone put an envelop with $500.00 cash on the driver's seat. Mike and Lorraine, people we didn't know until move time, volunteered and gave four days of their life helping us move. Then, both of them drove a covered trailer with a load of our belongings to Washington Island and wouldn't even take expense money. Tim and Margo spent a day unloading the garage and storing Joe's tools in Tim's barn. Janice knew to take down Joe's bird house and stow it in the trailer. With all the stuff we were moving, Mike bestowed a hand made shaker box upon us when we left. We are overwhelmed with your generosity. Thank you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


November 10, 2009, riding in ambulance to St. Vincent Hospital Green Bay
November 10, 2010, paddling kayak with Connie and Bonnie in Figenschau Bay, Washington Island