Oh, yes, I did.
This is to make my oldest daughter, Keyssie, smile as big as anything, and to make my mother-in-law almost proud.
But me and Nathan?
Cancer doesn’t have anything on how adorable we are. For realz.
We had made it through a delicious dinner, and were devouring pie and family scripture study when Nathan discovered a pair of sunglasses in Five’s pocket.
Obviously, they were not his, and he was frozen in some obvious guilt.
We calmly asked where he got them, giving him the chance to confess or explain himself.
“Maybe they are mine?” he asked.
“False,” I said, pointing to the time out spot.
He got up, with his head hanging low in shame, the way his biological father does, and walked to time out without protest.
This is part of cancer: that rules are still rules. We have worked hard to maintain “normal”, though sometimes have given special treats or had special activities to make up for scary things or missed time or because-this-is-all-Mama-can-do or because-this-is-the-only-time-Mama-is-awake. But one thing we have already discovered is that rules still have to be rules, even if Mama is sick.
And if there is anything that will turn Mama into a bear, it is lying. I have seen the destruction it causes, and warn them against it. Lying is always an automatic time out.
And he knows it.
While he sat there in ear shot, Nathan and I continued taking our turns reading, without him now, turning family study into couple study, and finishing dessert.
We cleaned the table off, and waited for his five minute timer to finish.
I talked to Five while Nathan took the toddler to the potty. This is our normal. This has nothing to do with cancer, except that I still can’t lift her on or off the potty, so Nathan is a trouper as our toddler continues potty training and has to go every hour, which means that is Nathan’s job for at least four more weeks.
I asked Five if he was ready now to tell me the story of the sunglasses, and he said, “oh, yes, Mama.”
“I am true, Mama. And the story is that the sunglasses were just sitting there and I do not know whose they are and maybe I took them so they could be mine but they are not mine so it was a bad choice and not very smart of me.”
I thanked him for telling me the truth, and told him to go put on his pajamas and brush his teeth and think about what will happen next.
He left, Nathan brought the toddler to me to say good night, and I did a few dishes.
Because sometimes I can stand up a little while. Some little things I can wash and put away, and some little things I can get in the dishwasher without bending over too much.
This is a moment about cancer. I move slowly and carefully. I try not to be frustrated, and for sure do not complain, mostly because I am glad to be doing anything out of my sick bed, even if it is dishes.
Five comes back in his pajamas, and tells me he knows the sunglasses have to go back to the learning center tomorrow, and that tonight he will “pray for the forgiveness of my life.”
We try not to laugh.
He is so, so funny.
Nathan walks with him to tuck him into bed, and stays for his prayer, which went like this:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that I can go back to the learning center tomorrow. Thank you that I can take the sunglasses back tomorrow. Thank you that I can tell my teacher that I took the sunglasses and that I am sorry. Thank you that she can say it is okay and I can keep them.
Except they are not mine so thank you that maybe the sunglasses belong to a first grader.
Or a second grader.
Or a third grader.
Or a fourth grader.
Or a fifth grader.
Or a sixth grader.
Or a seventh grader.
Or an eighth grader.
Or a ninth grader.
Or a tenth grader.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
I really love that kid.
And before I could finish typing this, he was already asleep, with spider man hanging upside down from the bunk above him.
He really, really cracks me up.
This is me, with the last honeysuckle of the summer:
Nights without sleep are horrifying. The dark hours are endless, and the stillness is oppressive. Different than the day, when people text or email or drop by to encourage me or make me smile, the long nights are quiet and alone and by far the biggest emotional challenge thus far.
It is a hard, but perhaps necessary thing, to be left alone with your fears at some point.
They must be faced to be overcome.
The last three nights have been so much better! I hope I am on the other side of it, and getting back into a routine schedule for my body. Three nights ago and two nights ago, I was able to sleep until 5am. I still had to get all the way up out of bed just to turn myself over, since I cannot just roll over, but I was able to go to back to sleep each time. This may seem like a little thing, but to me, it is a miracle.
Last night was even better. I slept until 7 this morning, and only woke up three times in the night!
I haven’t had that much sleep since before we had that last foster newborn!
Well, except for when I had cancer and we didn’t know it, and I would just come home from work and sleep until the next day until I was nearly late for work again.
But so much sleep is what made me wake up feeling so spiffy and spunky, I am sure of it.
I did the most natural thing a girl should do: put on my running shoes and headed outside before anyone could stop me!
Nathan could not go with me today because it was later than when we took a pretend walk yesterday, and he had a video conference meeting with his New York fancies. So I knew I needed to stay close to the house, not go far, and be super careful. Except I didn’t.
It was an accident, though! Really!
I thought the best way to stay close was simply to walk around the block, so that if I got tired I would already be halfway home. I thought this was better than walking out far, and being stuck because I couldn’t get back. Excepting what I forgot was that we don’t have normal tiny square blocks in our neighborhood. I walked a whole mile!
A mile isn’t very much, but it is a tiny win for me! I have walked six minutes at a time, several times a day, for the last three or four days, and walked 11 minutes with Nathan yesterday. So to do a full mile today was a little insane, and took me a whole 24 minutes. Normally, I could do two miles in that time (I am a slow 5k). But I just took it slowly, and just one step at a time, and I did it! It felt amazing!
Well, except the hills in our neighborhood, which today, to me, felt like Utah mountains, I am sure of it.
But I did it.
I was so proud that I posted about it on Twitter, using the “TinyWin” hashtag, not knowing that was actually a marketing thing by Crystal Light. My bad. Crystal Light is really proud of me now, though! Chris and Heidi Powell are proud of me, too, if you wanted to know. That’s what happens when a girl is off work too long and spends too much time on the internet.
Know what else is awesome about the internet? These cocoa bean farmers try chocolate for the first time. I know, right? Who knew chocolate was a symbol of class distinction? Ugh.
This is where I am, between worlds.
I can help the toddler get dressed, but can’t pick her up to put her on the potty. I can give Five a hug, but can’t get in a tickle fight with him. I can watch things that don’t require my brain, but can’t stay awake for legitimate study.
I am trying to use my time wisely. I am doing my scripture study, and I do get a tiny bit of Hebrew done every morning after my “walks” before I fall asleep. I am trying to help. Yesterday I was able to make Nathan lunch, and even did a few dishes. If Nathan gets laundry through and brought back to our room, I can sit and fold things, with a few naps in between.
Every day is a little better, even if I am moving slowly. I think the fevers are passed, and my pain is better each day. The pain has changed, too, from the wrenching and throbbing and intense everywhere pain to now just feeling like a really bad bruise from the bottom of my ribs to the tops of my thighs. When I walk, it does not hurt me if I go slowly, unless I change positions or direction too quickly. The worst pain, though, was yesterday – twice – when I sneezed three times in a row, and each time felt like someone had a knife and just cut across and down my belly. That was bad! Mostly, though, these days, the pain just feels like a bad bruise I am aware of all the time.
I did stop narcotics as soon as I could, because I really don’t like them. That is not a religious issue, other than I personally feel like it’s harder to pray when I am taking narcotics. Also, I know that the sooner I am off narcotics and can have a clear head and not be an “impaired professional”, then the sooner I can go back to work. But because of my work and having seen the effects of addition, I really, really, really do not like narcotics. They also make me very sick and itchy, so I was glad to get off them as soon as I could. I even got in trouble in the hospital for not clicking my morphine button! I think I have not had any pain pills since last week, and now just take one Alleve or Tylenol as needed.
I have stitches today that are dissolving and coming out, so there is some discomfort, but it is not a painful thing, really. Just uncomfortably uncomfortable.
Mostly, I sleep.
That’s why this is a very boring, anti-climactic update, except less pain is good and no fevers is good and being able to eat and sleep is good. I can almost move around some, and still sleep lots. I cannot do as much as I pretend, and am still pretty limited on functioning. I am awake, more, and suppose myself to be conscious, so that I am starting to be able to read books to pass the time and study when I can think and blog just for writing practice to wake up my brain and go on walks anytime I can escape.
That’s how I got out this morning.
I loved seeing everyone’s summer gardens, and it so cool and lovely. There were surprise lilies out everywhere, as if they had popped out in full bloom just to cheer me on. I pretended that all the homes that had the lilies were where all the friends of the lady who owned our house so many years lived. I imagined them gathering to gossip, sharing bulbs, and walking between their houses with little garden gloves on.
I walked, and walked, and walked. I listened to music and felt the fresh air and watched the clouds roll in. I felt my body move, my lungs breathe, and my legs wake up. I felt the internal tightness of my belly, reshaped now without balls of cancer in it, and held my core with my hands – except now there is no baby in there, just muscles cut through and trying to heal.
That’s when I saw the honeysuckle.
I stole one, begging forgiveness of its host, and took my picture, and then pulled the string to taste.
It was too late in summer already, and the honeysuckle dried up, and no honey to taste.
Like me, I thought.
There will be no more babies, I remember, and there will be no more miscarriages.
This isn’t about how I can foster as many babies as I want, or how I have two awesome children they say we will be adopting, or how it is a relief not to endure more miscarriages.
I get those things, and am grateful for those things, and they are perfectly comforting and so we call them blessings, and perfectly well-timed so we call them tender mercies.
But this moment is not about that.
This moment is just the reality piece, the grief piece, the seeing-what-is piece.
It is true that I am grateful they got all the cancer out of me, absolutely.
But it still cost a part of me that I will never get back, and there is still grief in that, even if just for a moment.
I don’t fight against it, and I don’t let go of the comforting pieces, but for this one quiet moment, I just let it wash over me, with no one around but birds and flowers and this little piece of honeysuckle.
I would bury the little honeysuckle, in memoriam, if I were able to bend over or stoop down.
But I can’t.
So I just look at it, and let just one tear fall, and open my hand.
And the honeysuckle blows away.
I stand there for a moment, watching.
I close my eyes, then, and just feel the wind blow away my tears.
And then I do the only thing there is to do: just keep walking home, one step at a time.
The last two nights have been so much better! I still have to get all the way up just to turn over every couple of hours, but I am able to go back to sleep. I also have not had any more fevers in two days.
Getting so much sleep means I wake feeling stronger, which brings more normal. I can help dress my children, and feed them breakfast, and cook my own oatmeal. I am awake for my scripture study, and get to do a little Hebrew each morning.
My favorite part, though?
Nathan taking me for a walk. Even if I can’t go far yet, and even if I am slow as anything, it feels amazing to be out of the house and in the fresh air. I love and need the sunshine on my skin, and to move felt glorious – excepting the part about living at the top of a hill.
So now I will nap. Again.
But it was a good bit of normal, and that counts for something.