Monday, September 28, 2009

The Fall Harvest Cake

Yesterday I attended the local annual C.V.B.C.A. (Cumberland Valley Breast Cancer Alliance) fundraising event. The silent auction seemed to be a huge success; I noticed literally hundreds of women happily writing down their "bids" on the pink cards located next to each item. In fact, I bid on - and won - a few items, namely a Byers' Choice Caroler, a woman sporting a cute white dress adorned with the pink ribbon symbol for breast cancer. But there was one item that really caught my eye: A Fall Harvest Cake.

This Epicurean delight retained the perfect shape of the circular bundt cake pan in which it had been baked, and it had also been carefully wrapped up in pretty cellophane paper and tied with a pink ribbon. But even beyond its noteworthy appearance, I wondered what on earth a Fall Harvest Cake tasted like. The more I looked at it, the more I thought that I just HAD to have it. So I quickly wrote my bid on the card, at $10.00.

There! I thought after replacing the pen on the table. I'm sure that everyone will keep walking right on by this silly cake, and they'll most likely pass it up for something much better, something that will last longer than a couple of days, I thought as I smiled to myself and felt my salivary glands gearing up in anticipation.

The afternoon continued, and several times when I wasn't tasting the refreshments, laughing with friends, or surveying the other items that were included in the silent auction, I'd glance at the card next to the Fall Harvest Cake.

As I checked the pink card assigned to this cake, I'd noticed that several woman had OUTBID me and that my original bid was way at the top of the list! In fact, it finally came down to one woman who seemed as hungry as I was to win this particular masterpiece. Her name, interestingly, was also Karen, although I didn't know her. The price of that Fall Harvest cake had escalated; her bid was the highest, at $55.00.

By this point, it became more of a game, a lighthearted competition, as to who would fold first: me or the other woman who continually outbid me. I'd find myself walking by the cake table and glancing at the last price, and each time I did this, I noticed that the woman had made a counter offer on my Fall Harvest Cake. In response to her efforts to secure that cake for herself, each time I'd write down a price that was $5.00 more than her price.

Finally, the bidding came to a close. I was the last person to offer a price for that Fall Harvest Cake. It sold for $90.00. All the proceeds for this event were donated to women with breast cancer who needed financial assistance. I was happy to donate the $90.00. But what I really wanted at that point was to take the cake home, sit down with a cup of coffee, and savour a delicious slice.

And I did just that. I tasted apples, cinnamon, and a few walnuts, all nestled within a perfectly moist cake. While enjoying this treasure, however, another thought occurred to me: I needed to share the cake with others. For some reason, it just tasted too good to keep to myself. And part of me felt a little guilty for outbidding that other woman, whoever she was.

So, after enjoying the last morsel of my piece of cake, I carefully cut the remainder of the beautiful cake into 10 slices, placed them onto a large platter, and covered the plate with clear wrap and a pink bow. The following day, I drove to my husband's office where I dropped off the cake for others to enjoy. And the smiles that I received as I gave the cake away was worth it - every last cent. I silently bid farewell to my Fall Harvest Cake. And the funny thing was, it was so easy to do. And it felt wonderful...

So many times in life we think that we really want something and would do almost anything to obtain it. But when it comes right down to what really matters in life, seeing the smiling faces of other people is worth more than any amount of money. Make someone smile -- it'll do wonders for you! Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Father's Hug

You know, there's something so sweet, so innocent, about a simple hug, but when you receive one so tenderly from your 77-year-old frail father, it's so much more. My dad, along with my mom, raised my siblings and me (there are three of us) to be self-sufficient, true to our word and resilient. Yet, when I hug my dad these days, who will celebrate his 77th birthday tomorrow, I see a man who, unfortunately is becoming increasingly debilitated, physically weaker, and often mentally confused. Now only able to ambulate with the help of a walker, his thin appearance, increased sleep periods, and decreased appetite (resulting in a bony frame which is barely able to support him) remind me of the passage of time and of days gone by. Days when I was a child and he'd effortlessly lift me up into the air, and I 'd squeal with delight. Or those warm Saturdays when he would finally come back inside the house, beaming and sun tanned, after mowing the lawn all afternoon, his smiling eyes greeting me, and I didn't even care that his hands were dirty and grass-stained. Or the times when I'd had an argument with a friend and he'd be there - at just the right time - to listen to me through my tears.

I wrote a poem for him, today, the day before his birthday. I probably won't share it with him, though. I'm not sure why I won't. Maybe it would make him sad. Or, more likely, maybe he wouldn't really understand it - due to his diminished cognitive ability - and that would make me sad. But I thought that I needed to write it and share it with anyone who can relate to a father's hug. And although my dad may not see his next birthday and my heart will be especially heavy on that day, I know that our heavenly Father will always be there to give us the strength we'll need, at just the right time.

Daddy, Do You Know?

He used to sling me up onto his back,
"Giddyap!" I'd squeal with delight,
"Daddy, do you know," as we rounded the bend,
"That you are my hero - my powerful knight?"

He gave me away, walking down the aisle,
I remember the tear in his eye,
"Daddy, do you know," as we danced alone,
"That I'm not really saying good-bye?"

His first grandson arrived one cold March night,
To my babe, he sang lullabies,
"Daddy, do you know," as we smiled at him,
"That he has your handsome, dark-colored eyes?"

Years later, his voice from his hospital bed,
Resembled an old man's, to me,
"Daddy, do you know," as I hung up the phone,
"How I long to see you in heaven, so free?"

For our worldly bodies are fleeting and marred,
They're nothing but vessels, you see,
"Daddy, do You know," as I prayed to our God,
"How grateful I am for his memory?"

I love you, Dad.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Really Quite Funny

I received a phone call yesterday from the receptionist who works at the diagnostic imaging center. She called me to say, "We'd like to schedule your routine MRI scan for this week or possibly next week."

That's strange, I thought, since I'm not due to have my next MRI until November, and in the past I was unable to schedule MRI's until the one year anniversary date or later, due to insurance coverage.

Even though I told her that I wasn't due for an MRI until November, she continued to ask me questions and I continued to answer them. Through the phone, I could faintly hear her dutifully typing the information I'd given to her. Then the old familiar question came: "When was your last period?"

"About three years ago, but I've had some slight slight spotting maybe two or three times since then," I responded.

An awkward silence ensued. There was a pause in her typing. And she broke the silence by asking, "You don't have periods?"


"Oh. So you've had a hysterectomy," she deduced confidently, albeit incorrectly.

"No. I've had chemo," I replied, trying to sound neutral, as my irritation mounted. I guess this particular piece of information wasn't noted anywhere in my records.

The typing stopped again. " don't get periods anymore?" She questioned - again.

Poor girl, I thought. "No," I replied. "I don't." More silence. I got the feeling she didn't know quite how to enter this type of information on her computer screen, or as if there wasn't enough space on her data form for statements such as "no periods since having had chemo."

"So when would you like to schedule your next MRI?" she asked again, while moving on to a topic she could understand.

"November," I said for at least the second time now.

"Oh, I'm sorry, but we can't schedule the MRI until closer to the time, closer to November," she answered.

By this point I was totally perplexed. Why did she even call me at this time? I think what really bothered me was her lack of knowledge about chemo and its side effects, such as its tendency to propel many women into early, and unwanted, menopause. Am I the first person she's ever called who is menopaual at age 47 - due to chemo?!?

"How about if you call me in November then?" I asked, again trying to sound pleasant.

She agreed to do that, and the typing stopped again. We both hung up, and I wasn't sure who was more confused - me or the receptionist.

Shaking my head, I couldn't help thinking that, without a doubt, I'll be asked the same set of questions again next time I am called, including this one: "You don't get periods anymore?"

Some things never change. And it really is quite funny...

Monday, September 14, 2009

You Never Get Used to It

Today at 12:15 PM I will visit my oncologist for another follow-up appointment. It's been over three years since my diagnosis, but the appointments keep coming, and they keep reminding me that it's never really over. Every three months or so, I visit with my oncologist, or my surgeon, or the lab technician (for blood samples to be taken). In addition to those visits, I have either an MRI scan or a mammogram every six months.

You'd think that I would eventually get used to all this. But I don't think that you ever do. In fact, during my last mammogram in May, I needed to have additional "angles" assessed because the technician reported to me that the radiologist had seen something "suspicious" in the mammogram pictures. Upon hearing the words "something suspicious" my heart rate soared, my body quaked, and I felt week in the knees. The tech. didn't appear to notice my anxiety as fear crashed into me. Instead she just said dryly, "We need to take a few more pictures because the doctor thinks he sees something that we need to 'chase', but I guess you're used to that, right?"

No, you never get used to it. Not any of it. Not the scans, the blood work, the office visits, nor the waiting for the results to be known. I just faked a smile, and I could feel my palms become moist. My mind filled with images of more chemo, and more explanations to people that I'd had a recurrence. More uncertainty loomed.

I raised my arms and gripped the thin metal bar located along the side of the mammogram machine. I held my breath as instructed. I tried not to cry. The additional pictures were taken. It seemed to hurt more this time. My breast was red from the compressions of the machine; it throbbed afterwards. Finally, I left the room to sit in the radiation suite and wait for the results. Those were some of the most agonizing minutes I've ever felt.

"You're all done. They were all clear," the tech. finally reported to me. Fortunately, during that particular visit, the repeat mammogram turned out to be negative.

Almost numb, I arose and I walked into the small dressing room once again to change back into my clothes. Before I removed my gown, I instinctively grabbed a small white towel from the shelf and held it to my face. I didn't want anyone to hear my sobs of relief, combined with sobs of momentary anguish, that just erupted from my soul.

I often read several blogs from women who are going through treatments for the second or third time and I silently (almost selfishly) ask myself, "What if I'll be next? What if this day will mark the beginning of a second recurrence for me? What then? Why have I been spared from a recurrence thus far?"

No, you don't get used to it. Not ever. Over time, the thing you do get used to is the daily reminders that life is too short, too precious, to ever take for granted.

There's one more thing that I need to remind myself to get used to. And here it is: God is in complete control. He's the One I lean on, and hold on to with all my strength, while I wait for lab results to be known, or as I hear the hammering noises of the MRI scan vibrating all around me, or as I sit in the doctor's office waiting for my name to be called.

Submitting to God's will for my life is the most difficult, yet at the same time the most liberating, concept to embrace. He has all the answers and knows all the "results" already planned for my life. Although it takes getting used to, each and every day I need to lay down my burdens and fears to the only One who already knows.