Archive by Author

Easter – Old and New

27 Mar

I love seeing all of the family photos and happy posts from Easter brunch, Easter egg hunts, Easter baskets, and making memories today. It is always such a cool glimpse into other people’s lives while they record memories and share their love with their family and friends. Usually, I am right there with everyone happily posting their events and photos, but today, this was not a happy Easter photo opportunity and it wasn’t really us making happy memories, but it was an important afternoon in our lives.

I didn’t get to spend Easter today with The JellyBean of all JellyBeans….I am sad to have missed her second Easter but we were exactly where we were supposed to be – with Kevin’s Mom. We drove down this morning for a nice lunch with her in her assisted living home. It is a really nice facility in Fayetteville and the staff is always so nice and very friendly. But, it was a really hard day. Kevin’s Mom didn’t show much recognition for us at all. She is quite immersed in her dementia and Parkinson’s disease has now crept into her life too. They think she might have had a slight stroke last week and our ability to understand her speech or her thoughts is gone. As she sat there at lunch I realized, for the first time, that the women I know and love, is gone. It was a very hard lunch and I realized again today how fleeting life is. As I sat at our table I had time to look around and see what was around me. There was a woman across the way that had tiny hands but her knuckles were huge. Her fingers were twisted and turned all which ways but she was alert and enjoying conversation with her family. There was a family behind Kevin that kept having the same conversation over and over and over again. The same sentences repeated, the same questions asked. You could sense the family’s frustration with the total repetition during their lunch. Then I saw a woman lovingly pushing her hubby in a wheelchair and her left leg twisted inward at the knee and then her ankle was almost hitting the floor as she walked. It sounds like a scary movie but it wasn’t….it is simply old age. I saw some of the people there visiting their parents with boredom/dread on their faces and I couldn’t help but be jealous of them. I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit my Mom in an assisted living facility. I would have given anything for more time with her. Kevin’s Mom has lived 31 years longer than my Mom. Shoot – that is how old I was when my Mom passed away. 31 years…what a huge blessing to have all of those memories and moments tucked away in your mind and heart. How lucky are these people at lunch today? Pretty lucky I think.

As I sat there I realized how fast my life is going by. Several years ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving with Kev’s Mom and Dad, at their own home, with tons of people and lots of laughter, and it seems like it was 6 months ago. Now Kev’s Dad is gone and his Mom is leaving….maybe not physically yet – but she is definitely slipping away. And my Mom is gone – shoot – she has been gone for almost 20 years. That sentence seems almost wrong – a big fat lie….20 years since I hugged my Mom? 20 years since she hugged my children? 20 years since she called me and asked me if I wanted to take the kids out for lunch? Over 20 years since we laughed together so hard that we both began to cry…..

I remember it like it was yesterday – dressing Morgan in her Easter dress and Kyle in his little Easter suit and going to my Mom’s house for a big Easter egg hunt and lunch. Now my daughter is dressing her little girl in a beautiful Easter dress and I am looking at pictures from a distance. Where is time going? How can Kev’s Mom be so old (and precious), my Mom be gone, and my daughter is a Mommy?

Sometimes I feel like I am sitting in the middle of a busy road and everyone is speeding by me in all directions and I am just sitting still, dumbfounded, that life is going by so quickly and I am missing it. I feel like I am trying to enjoy it and do it all and I am missing it….but today, even though I missed Easter with The JellyBean, we were where we were supposed to be; with Kevin’s Mom. I couldn’t help but think today’s message for me was to slow down and pay more attention. To what I am not sure – but something. I can feel it….the thoughts and feelings today were clear. People, enjoy time with your parents, no matter how crazy they make you (they grow old awfully fast)….savor every second with your children, no matter how crazy they make you (they grow up awfully fast)….and soak up every second you can with your grand babies – and we all know they don’t make you crazy at all….it seems that having a grand baby sets everything right – exactly where everything belongs and makes sense out of every other moment in life. Now I understand what all of the grand children hoopla is about. Now I understand why I see such loss in the eyes of Kevin’s Mom…today was a day of seeing old and new – through another set of reflective eyes. JellyBean

 

An Audible Gasp

21 Mar

Yes, last night after I posted my blog, I could almost hear an audible gasp throughout my Christian friends who are probably not happy about my blog. Maybe a sigh and some peeps shaking their heads. Hmm…there she goes again!  Did I mix a public post about my faith and my thankfulness about Mr Lumpcake being gone in the same post about God AND the insanity in which I live? Well yes, yes I did. That is reality of my life, my friends.

I know it’s easy to cheer on the rah-rah blogs of test results, clean scans, fun survivor things in which I get to participate. But my real life is exactly as I post it – and I always told you I would be honest with my blogs. Am I looking for sympathy? No I am not. Do I want people to be able to think once, twice, or ten times about their actions and how they treat other people – especially those going through medical issues. Yes I do.

No matter what people are going through – cancer, heart issues, chronic fatigue, Crohns Disease, or a car accident….life still goes on. People still do crappy things to you. People do wonderful things for you. People give gifts, and cards and love and attention. Some also give heartache and heartburn. The odd part is – people just don’t want to hear the truth. We live in a world full of political correctness and the premise of perfect lives due to facebook and twitter. Not many people tell about the things that really go on behind their facebook pages and posts. After all, that would be a downer, a buzz-kill, a bummer. But….it is reality. Divorce still hurts, death still breaks hearts, and people still disappoint and hurt each other…all of the time.

Did I write something sarcastic about someone being “a positive addition to humanity” in the same post I talked about God and His perfect timing? Yes, I really did. Because that is real life….mine anyway. The good, the great, the bad, and the ugly….it’s what makes us all human.

Seeing Into The Future

20 Mar

It would be amazing to be able to predict the future wouldn’t it? Or maybe not so much. Five years ago tonight I was preparing myself mentally for a lumpectomy in the morning. Cancer removal – great thing! Being able to know exactly what type of cancer I had and what needed to be done – great thing! If I had been able to look into my future that night, and see what was coming versus what I thought was coming, would have freaked my butt out. I was totally “sure” I was going to have a lumpectomy and radiation. That was my deal, I just knew. But, as we all know, things turned out quite a bit differently. I blogged five years ago tonight and called it something like “My First and Hopefully Last Surgery”….something naïve like that. If only I could have looked into the future – but would I have wanted to? I know now that God unfolds our story in the perfect timing for what we can handle or what He knows we can handle.  I certainly didn’t ever think I could handle everything that has happened. But I have – and I am better for it.

Had I been able to look into the future five years ago tonight – I would have also seen Kevin’s ex-life (yes that is the correct spelling) coming to our house the day after my surgery and handing a folder of her and Kevin’s wedding photos to their teenage son – who happened to be at our house for our custody time. I guess she woke up that morning thinking it was a good day to deliver 20-year-old wedding photos to her ex-husbands house the day after I had cancer surgery. And to hand them to her son. Double whammy – she got to pull one of her lovely escapades and teach her son how to treat other people all at the same time. If I could have been able to look into the future and see what my life held, for the next five years, with that insanity, I am sure I would be living in another state by now. Or another country. (Yes, this is the same woman who just dumped her 20-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, with no warning, for us to raise 100% of the time instead of having 50/50 custody. She is a positive addition to humanity. If everyone could have a Mom like that – the world really would be a horror show.)

So, the question is, knowing what we know now, in each of our lives, would we really want to be able to see into the future? Hmmm…..I think not. I think God has us all covered with His perfect timing and His ability to see us all through the trials and tribulations of this thing we call LIFE.

Five years ago tomorrow was the death of Mr. Lumpcake – and as I say each year on this anniversary – you lose Mr. Lumpcake…you lose.

 

 

 

Big Big News!

1 Mar

5 years ago today, I heard the words “you have breast cancer” and my entire world, and life, was forever changed. I have been very open and honest, sometimes too honest, about what has happened in my life during the past 5 years, but I told you back then and I will tell you again, if I can help one woman, I will bare my soul.

So there isn’t going to be a big party for my 5 year survivor mark like I thought I wanted. I have very mixed feelings about these parties now and as much as there is to celebrate on this day, I do not want to “rah rah” myself and pat myself on the back, for making it to 5 years. It is a bitter/sweet occasion for me because I have lost far too many friends in the last 5 years to breast cancer and I know that this pink ribbon rah rah club is not the club it appears to be. I have seen it destroy bodies, hearts, souls, marriages, trust, friendships, and lives. It keeps taking my friends. So for me to “rah rah” myself on this day seems a bit arrogant….or…something. I am not totally sure I have words for this day, but I do have to tell you how I am spending part of it.

You might know that my friend Terri has won a $10,000 contest to “pursue your passion” and she wanted to do that by helping me pursue one of mine – mingled in with hers. It’s to help women in Jamaica with mammograms and breast cancer. We are still in the planning stages but the work is going to be amazing – I can just feel it. Terri asked me a few weeks ago if I could have lunch on March 1 or 2 with her and a woman she would like to include in our mission work in some way. Selfishly I picked March 2 because I wanted March 1 to be my day….a day to turn on or turn off – a day to call my own – a day to remember – a day to reflect. She wrote back and said she checked her calendar and couldn’t do March 2 – could we do the 1st – so I agreed. After all, our mission work in Jamaica comes before my own bizarre thoughts and feelings of “my” March 1st right?

After having a few days to mull this over I realized something. My main motto for the past five years has been to help other women, to introduce survivors to one another for support, to help run a TNBC Group for this type of breast cancer, to help the American Cancer Society by raising funds for their lifesaving research and their programs for cancer patients, and to support other survivors. So on this day, this wonderful March 1st day, what better way could I possibly spend part of it than planning our mission trip to Jamaica? I know that while we are sitting at that lunch, it will be almost exactly 5 years to the hour, that I received my diagnosis. If you could look back into March 1, 2011, you would see me sitting in my office at Primax working, a gnawing feeling knowing that my biopsy results were due back in the next few days, trying to stay calm and focused and just work. The phone rings, it’s my doctors office, and I go to answer it – but then I want to ignore it – but I cannot ignore it because the answer is on the other side of the call. “It came back early” whips through my mind – it must be good news then. I answer it the normal way I answer all of my work calls and cell phone calls “this is Laura….” ….silence…..and then I hear Dr Horner clear his throat and he says  “I am sorry Laura, you have breast cancer”…..BAM…..life turned upside down and one of the biggest life changing story-lines begins to unfold right then. Andrea comes into my office….I tell her it’s breast cancer and she immediately hugs me and I begin to cry. “It’s going to be ok….I know it’s going to be ok….a lumpectomy…some radiation….it’s going to be ok”…..

If you could step back into that office, in that moment and tell me all that was going to happen in this particular story line of my life, I would have never ever believed you. I would never have believed the story would unfold as it has and that I would be helping more women than I can count. If you sat in my office chair that day, the day I was diagnosed, and you said “Laura, exactly five years from today, you will be sitting at lunch and presenting your story, and Terri’s story, and planning a trip to Jamaica to help HUNDREDS of women, stay calm – battle hard – let go of your vanity for your own mental health – and just let God do what He needs to do through you”….I would have never believed you. I can picture you sitting in my office visitor chair and telling me those words and in my fuzzy haze of disbelief I would KNOW that you were totally crazy. How could I ever believe a wild and crazy story such as this? How can I even begin to describe to you how I question my own reality these days….Terri and I – in Jamaica this summer – in a small town – bringing mammograms and support to hundreds of women – and being able to hold their hand, pray with them, and tell them – “I survived this and you can too”….how can I describe to you what this feels like? I cannot – there are no words for me to paint this picture…..

Instead of a party to celebrate my 5 years of survivorship – we are planning a trip to Jamaica instead. I am so honored to top off my breast cancer story with helping so many women, during a one week visit, in Jamaica. It’s all due to Terri’s heart and both of us knowing that God is going to use our stories to lift up the spirits of many women in Ocho Rios Jamaica and to provide screening to those who desperately need it.

Happy March 1st friends! Thanks for all you have done to encourage me and lift me up when I couldn’t hold myself up straight. God’s not done with my story yet – so stay tuned and watch how the biggest undertaking I have been part of yet – unfolds.

A Dream Come True

18 Jan

A bucket list item. A dream. A passion. A goal. We all have these things floating around our mind, heart and soul. Some of us work hard to fulfill them – some of us have faith in God that these things happen because He allows them to – some of us have all of these ideas fluttering in our minds and we think we will get to those items “someday.”

You all have seen my blog posts over the years about my own bucket list. My dreams. My goals and my passions. I have shared a lot – probably too much.

But what I have to blog about today leaves me without words. I have written and re-written this blog several times. I really don’t have the words to tell you what has happened. So, I am going to use a piece of a story submitted by a breast cancer survivor that I met several years ago. She submitted a story to her employer to enter into a contest they had to “pursue your passion”. Here are some of her words:

Of all my “angels,” one in particular, my new friend and sister survivor Laura Renegar was, perhaps, one of my strongest cheerleaders – calling, texting and/or emailing before and after every doctor appointment, every chemo treatment, every surgery to check on my mental state, share words of encouragement, insights about what to expect and even tips on how to prepare to various procedures, clothing to wear (Silk pajamas work best following a mastectomy, by the way.), etc. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this experience without her.

 One of the most remarkable things about Laura, however, is that she does this for SO MANY women, through her volunteer work for the American Cancer Society. After losing her own mother to breast cancer years ago, Laura wanted to make a difference so she built a team to walk in remembrance of her mother, with proceeds benefitting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for the American Cancer Society. She appeared in local and national ads promoting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and her team is now the largest team in the City of Charlotte and for the past two years the largest team in the South Atlantic Division, which covers Georgia to Maryland! The Primax Pink Warriors (Laura’s team) has turned into an army of people raising awareness and raising funds for the fight against cancer year after year. She is a true “future maker,” and she makes a difference for so many people.

 Now, my dream is to help Laura make a difference, by traveling to Jamaica to bring easy access to mammograms to underprivileged women who live in that country – a place that Laura’s heart calls home, even though her physical home is in North Carolina. Not only do we want to help ensure the health of these women’s bodies, but we’d like to contribute to their mental wellbeing, as well, by sharing our personal stories of survival.

 Her amazing story submission goes on but how exactly do I sit and write a blog about Terri Andrews using her chance at fulfilling her passion and her dream and instead, she chose to fulfill mine? Everyone who knows me knows my heart lives in Jamaica half the time. Kevin and I vacation there once a year,we were married there, we have made friends there, and I cannot wait to go back again. But this time I will be going to do what I do here….and Terri is going with me. My passion for breast cancer fighters and newly diagnosed breast cancer patients is going to weave into my passion for Jamaica, all thanks to Terri. I am honestly so humbled, thankful, and totally being stretched. What do I know about going to another country to do what I do here? Hmmm! Terri and I are moving ahead and the plans start to take shape this weekend. My faith is being stretched and I am so excited, and nervous, and thankful, and so so so looking forward to taking Terri to the country I love and spreading our hope, strength, and faith all over these women. We are believers. We are survivors. We are alive and willing to share our lives and our hearts with these women….and we cannot wait. Meeting Terri a few years ago has become an awesome plan of God’s work unfolding in our lives, and in the process adding such an important piece to my story and now Terri’s.

I will be blogging this adventure as it unfolds and then Terri and I will definitely be taking you all to Jamaica via the internet. I don’t want anyone to think that this is a joy trip or something to be taken lightly – we are not taking this lightly. To be allowed to use our passion to help other women, in my favorite country, is going to be heart wrenching, faith stretching, and we will have to completely put our faith and trust in God for this “pursue your passion” mission work….and I couldn’t be more honored. Thank you Terri – for making MY dream come true!

 

 

Reality Check – Times Two

26 Dec

This Christmas truly was a “perfect” Christmas for me. Last year was The JellyBean’s first Christmas and not only was I sick from getting my Prolia shot (my bone shot) I caught the flu two days before Christmas. Besides being chemo/surgery sick, last year was probably one of the sickest I have ever been in my life. I spent the Christmas week in bed. Kyle came over Christmas Eve and sat across the family room from me because he absolutely refused to allow me to be home alone on Christmas Eve. We have traditions you know! It was always Christmas Eve church service, home for a Honey Baked ham and some of our favorite side dishes, and new Christmas jammies. Christmas morning would come and Kyle’s gifts would be on my left side of the tree and Morgan’s on my right. They would pose for the mandatory Christmas morning photo in their new Christmas jammies and after our gifts were opened we would have our breakfast casserole. Around 1:00 they would head toward their Dad’s house and most of the time they spent the rest of that week with him. Most Christmases when they left (early in the divorced years) I would tear down the tree, put away all of the Christmas clutter and I was done with Christmas once my children left the house. Sometimes they went to Michigan after Christmas Day for a week but usually when they got home, Christmas at our house, was gone. I don’t think I ever told them that my Christmas ended when they walked out the door.

Then in 2009 Kev and I got married and our Christmas traditions ebbed and flowed and changed and got a bit twisted around due to blended family issues. But most of the time our traditions stayed in place….until last year – the JellyBean was born in October so Mike and Morgan were in Anderson and I got sick two days before Christmas. Mike and Morgan are sticking with the same tradition I had with my kids, and for this, I am thankful. My kids woke up in their own beds, with me, every single Christmas morning – no matter what. Even after Morgan got married – she and Mike “came home” and we all woke up together. Kyle moved out a few years ago and the condition was he had to be “home” by the time we all woke up the next morning – and he was. Every year. I have always been happy and thankful for his timeliness and diligence in keeping our traditions intact. This Christmas was going to be spent with The JellyBean on Christmas morning so we transferred our Christmas traditions to Mike and Morgan’s this year. Well, some of them anyway.

I went to Anderson early Christmas Eve day and spent some time with Haley – then when she napped, Morgan and I did the cooking for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Then Kevin and Kyle came down from Charlotte after Kyle got off work. This is the amazing part of my story. Kyle and Kev came all the way to Anderson on Christmas Eve for dinner and some JellyBean time and we all woke up together on Christmas morning. We were with our precious 14 month old that has brought so much love, laughter and joy into our lives. I didn’t think Kyle would leave his house and his routine to come and spend Christmas Eve, on an air mattress, in Morgan’s living room, and do a five-hour driving turnaround in less than 18 hours. But he did. And so did Kev. And having them there, for that time, made my Christmas perfect. When we all went to bed Christmas Eve my mind began thinking about the importance of this Christmas. This truly would be the last Christmas morning I would wake up, in the same house, with both of my kids. We all know it happens, we all raise our kids and live in separate towns/cities/states….I get that. But for me, this was huge. I have been living a different type of life than I ever thought I would and that includes watching people lose their lives and their loved ones far too often. People in my circle become sick, sometimes very sick, and these losses are changing me each time it happens. This has truly cemented my perspective on how important moments are, and for me to wake up on Christmas morning, with my kids in the house, is huge. I thought this year I would be with Morgan and not Kyle and last year I was with Kyle and not Morgan. And Christmas was ok. It was fine. I was thankful for the memories we made separately. So, I never thought I would have them both with me again like I did this year. And to top that off watching our precious Haley toddle around the room, give us her goofy smiles, and look at us with love in her eyes was amazing. This probably sounds lame to most of you – but for me, this year was monumental. I know it won’t happen again, and I am ok with it. I really am. I am thankful that I had this year as my last year with them both, and I knew it while it was happening. As I thought about that on Christmas Eve and I prayed for my stage 4 cancer friends, and my cancer fighting friends, and my survivor friends; the gravity of time really hit me. Moments. Making memories. Traditions. Family. Goofy jokes. Rehashing old memories. Laughter. Love. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. And all the time that wraps up into one great Christmas memory.

I think I just needed another perspective smack in the head and I got it – but more than that I was able to be thankful, during the moments I had, while it was happening. Over the years I have always been busy cooking, wrapping, shopping, running 100 mph, and then some….but this year, I allowed it all to sink in and I was aware, present, and I found balance during a very busy time. Talk about a blessing! Even Christmas morning I was enjoying our time so much while it was happening, I burned breakfast. First time for everything!!

Christmas reality check #2 – we went to see Kevin’s Mom today in her assisted living home in Fayetteville. Her Alzheimer’s has progressed rapidly since Kev’s Dad passed away in February and as I sat there watching her my mind was busy wondering about what she was thinking. It was sad to see her rapid speech as mumbling bits of words and repetitive kind of stuttering, but then she would have total moments of clarity. We could hear what she was saying – and she knew what she was saying. Then I realized that she is turning 93 this summer and she has seen her family traditions come and go and change and rearrange themselves a million times over. She is now a widow and I know she her mind didn’t register or remember anything about Christmas. I am not sure she realized why we brought her a gift today, but she was happy we did. But, the best part was that you could see the love in her eyes when she looked at Kevin and realized who he was. Ahhh….one of her kids was home!

That’s what all of this is about. I am rambling and scattered and this is not coming out like I had planned…but if my young Mom friends could realize how special their moments are with their babies, no matter how long the days are, remember the years go by really fast. I am thankful for Morgan and Kyle, for giving me a Christmas morning together – it was amazing. I cannot be more grateful than I am for this gift. Now you can start your own traditions, in your own homes, and come and see me later Christmas Day – whatever works for you – works for me. (Kyle – until you are married and have kids, you can always come Christmas Eve and Christmas morning…whatever you want is ok with me!) And for my friends that are my age – cherish your parents. My Mom has been gone for far too many years and I would give anything – anything at all – to have one hour back with her. Even though Kev’s Mom is physically here – mentally she is slipping away a little further each day and this is hard to watch. So very hard…but while she is here, like today, Kev took her hand, made eye contact, caught her in a clear moment and he said “I love you Mom” and she looked at him, smiled her sweet smile and said clearly “I love you too”….moments, memories, time with our kids and our parents. That’s what it’s all about and of course, for me, time with The JellyBean. She fills my heart and my soul more than I could have ever imagined – and watching my daughter be a Mommy overfills me with love and gratitude for having this time with them. These are memories that some of my girlfriends aren’t going to have and this breaks my heart. These are moments that people can take for granted, and knowing not to, is a gift of being involved with cancer patients. Time is not taken for granted in the cancer community and we know we are not promised tomorrow.

So with all of this rambling on and on – I hope you all can see I had, what I consider, a perfect Christmas….and with that being said – I hope you did too. I hope your hearts are happy and your minds of full of awesome holiday memories.

 

A Private Movie Party for The Polar Express!

23 Nov

Who wants to go see Polar Express in a “closed” movie theatre with hot chocolate, cookies, and a visit from Santa??!!! I will be there because I have never seen this movie – and Kelly McKay is coming in her jammies and she is going to be my date. See the details below and call to get your tickets! What a fun holiday party this is for you and your kids – or if you are like some of us…..you and your friends!

The Polar Express

 

 

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