me in a nutshell…. or the nut that is me?

Do you ever go through a time where you just decide to reinvent yourself all at once? That is where I am at. This will be random and ALL over the place… so may want to stop reading right here…

The new me includes: confidence, energy, encouragement, energy, being supportive, being an example, having energy, being contagious, and energy.

I have decided to tackle fitness coaching. I have dreams and desires. I want to work out with chemotherapy and recovering cancer patients. I would love to have my own fitness studio with a ‘clean room’ just for that. Or perhaps a mobile gym to go to them.

I want to read personal development books at a rapid rate so I can glean from them. Reshape myself. Become successful. I have about 10 years of hustle left I think. Unless I start channeling my inner Uncle Thom and then I have 30 years left.

I have become a Beachbody Coach (shameless plug) http://www.beachbodycoach.com/ReneeGaleSurvivor and am starting my first online challenge group tomorrow. I don’t even know if I will be able to complete it but I now have witness’ so I kind of have to!!

I am trying to volunteer more. Trying to be involved more. Trying to be the happy healthy energized person that makes people want to be near me. Makes people forget where I was one year ago.

I went dancing with my friends last night for the first time in almost two years. TWO YEARS!! I was so excited. I dressed up in green. I drank coffee to stay awake longer (I made it to 11)

Today I am sitting here in tears. I hurt all over. There are several explanations for the pain.I am old. I am in surgical menopause. I am on medication that causes bone and joint ache. I am out of shape. The last one is probably the biggest factor…well that and being old. Dancing and staying up late just remind me. I need to get myself in shape.

I am so thankful that my husband gets what I am trying to do. He knows I am trying so hard to prove to everyone that I am okay. He knows I am not always okay. Today he had to hug me a little longer before he left for work.

I am so thankful for my supervisor Janice. Poor thing has to help me muddle through basic tasks some days at work because I just simply forget how to. She also has to listen to me go on and on about the same old cancer/medicine/forgetful crap day in and day out. I am trying to change that too! She is my friend but really doesn’t need to hear about this stuff all the time.

I told you all over the place today. It has been too long. I find my desire to write is gone. Even my desire to read my friends blogs are gone. I am trying to correct this. I love to write. I love to read. I think I just need to write it into my daily schedule.

I forget sometimes that life is about changing and challenges. Adjusting and adapting. Learning and yearning. Sometimes it is about crying for a moment then putting on your running shoes and going for a wog. I forget sometimes that I still want revenge until the friend comes up to you this week and reminds you that she has to run by herself because she is still one color group ahead of you. Then the annoyed anger kicks in and reminds me of why I started here in the first place. Starting from the beginning is almost the same as starting all over. Right? Funning I said starting from the beginning and it totally made me think of the scene from ‘The Princess Bride’ when Indigo is drunk and waiting.

Sheesh ALL OVER THE PLACE… Friends should never let emotional, tired, in pain friends blog!!

Anyway I have no idea if even conveyed what I wanted to say in the first place…. nut job for sure.

Family fulfills…

A while back I blogged about my grandmother passing. We had just booked tickets to see her and a few days later she passed. I was devastated. It was hard to lose her. I was unprepared and at a loss of what to do or say. I was however thankful that my Aunt Kathy still wanted us to come and visit. So that is what we did.

My little family of three flew to GA to see family. To see the Pepper side of my family. I knew it was going to be an emotional yet much-needed visit.

We were trying to figure out how long it has been since Aunt Kathy and Uncle Tom had seen my son Richard. He is going to be 28 this month. The last time they have seen him was when he was 9. How did that happen? How have I let that happen? I am so glad we were able to make that right.

We had a fabulous time! We ate so much food. Seriously I gained six pounds in four days. SIX! We snuck into the new Atlanta Braves stadium. Yes, snuck. We toured the Coca-Cola museum (Keith hates Coke) and we ate…did I mention that?

The picture above is one of my favorite places to sit early in the morning at my aunt and uncles house. I love the way the light streams in. It is a cozy and comfortable place to have a cup of coffee and just reflect.

Reflect on how much love there is in this home. My cousin Jenny and her boys bring energy and youth. My Uncle brings hustle and financial insight. My Aunt brings love and encouragement. When I sit here I feel all of that while at the same time peace. It is where I would sit when I was hanging with my grandma all those years ago. Sitting here on this trip reminds me of the love and unity my grandma brought to this house as well.

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This is the door to my grandmas room. It took me nearly two days to enter that room. I didn’t realize that my grandma kept journals and I knew I wanted to read them. I also knew walking into that room would be very emotional. I can’t even imagine how my aunt did it. The scratches on the door are from the dogs. They loved granny. She would always drop crumbs on the floor for them. The dogs miss her too and keep trying to see her. Makes my heart hurt.

When I finally had the courage to go in and sit down and read through her journals I was so thankful! She just talked about her everyday things. Playing bingo. Missing a phone call from a sister. Knee pain. Everyday things. It gave me some insight into her life when I wasn’t around. I found the journal from the year that my dad passed away. I was only able to read parts of it. I have the journal with me now and I still haven’t been able to read it. Someday I will and it will help my heart heal and grow.

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This is a picture that I took of my Aunt Kathy without her knowledge. I wanted to capture her in this pose. She places her hands together like this and moves her fingers up and down. I find it endearing. My grandmother did the same thing. Sometimes I catch myself doing it and smile and think of Grandma and think of Kathy. It must be a family trait. One that I somehow picked up.

Our trip was fast and furious. It was wonderful and emotional. It was needed. I hope it was as healing for my Pepper family in GA as it was for me. I hope my son has some good memories of his Pepper family now. I know my husband is thankful for the little time we have had with granny and family.

This is what I know to be true. Family fulfills. Fills your heart, mind, soul and your eyes with tears.

Love is Julie.

I do not know where to start. I put off writing this one because I knew I would be too emotional while composing it. So here goes nothing….

This is my beautiful friend Julie. We met at my Zumba class. She had lived 3 days in Spokane and found my class. The moment she walked in the door and introduced herself I knew in my heart that we would be friends. Something about her just clicked with me. The next day she asked me to come to her house and have a glass of wine. Now I knew we would be great friends for life!

I will never be able to explain to you how much her friendship carried me through this fight.

So many times she was just there. She yelled at me when I wouldn’t call her when I was weak and feeling awful. She has chewed me out when she feels that I talk about how unattractive I am. She has walked (slowly) with me, fed me, visited. Taken me to her place just to have a change of view and different couch to sit on. I remember once after the big surgery she came over and hoped up next to me in my bed and massaged my swelling arm for me. We didn’t talk much because I was still so drugged, yet she stayed, petting my arm for me.

Nope. I can’t get through this without tearing up. There is no way I could have done this without her. As my husband put it he and Julie are my team. She has helped him out as much as me. I honestly think they planned the whole tag team thing.

Life is so funny. People come into your life for a reason and a season. There are friends for a moment. Friends for a season. Friends for a lifetime. Julie is a lifetime friend. I already told Keith that when she moves (her husband has a job that moves them a lot) that will be where our next vacation destination will be! When she is gone over the summer I miss her terribly. If we don’t text at least once a week I feel like something is missing. I can’t find any words now that will ever explain what her friendship means to me. I just know that I need her in my life. Always.

Love is Julie.

Love is: my neighbors…

Okay so they are my neighbors, that is how they prefer to be introduced. The reality is they are my landlords. And my life is so much better since I started paying them rent!

When I met them they reminded me so much of my former boss Jay and his wife Mary. Kind, thoughtful, smart, friendly and funny. It was like a little bit of home right here in my own apartment.

My neighbors Dan and Angie. They are kind an incredibly thoughtful. They make you feel like you have known them your whole life. We shared the news with them right away. Not that we had to, but because we wanted to. We wanted to let them know I would be home for weeks after surgery. We wanted them to know why our patterns were going to change.

They teared up, smiled and hugged us. Told me that I will beat this. They gave me a cushion to help me be able to sit up and get off the couch. Angie, a retired nurse, would check in on me when Keith went back to work. They have even shared their coffee with me.

There are two moments I want to highlight. One was when my mom came to stay and help out after the surgery, they rushed on trying to get the attic apartment that they had been renovating ready enough for my mom to have her own space to sleep. They put up a mattress and a chair for her. Some towels for the bathroom and a light for her to read by. So thoughtful and helpful for us too. The other was when my cousin Kris came with her RV. We asked for a good place for them to park it. Dan said he knew the best place. The back yard! He let them plug-in and stay in the back yard for a week. Dan and Angie played with the kids and brought their granddaughter over for playing too. They visited with Kris while Keith and I were at work.

Every year they go to AZ for winter. I find it funny because we moved here from AZ. They actually go back and visit where we used to live! My mom works at a tourist place and they always go there. When they went this last time they purposefully sought out my mom and then went to lunch with her. These are real people. These are real neighbors and I know that I was meant to live here at this time in my life.

Love is my neighbors Dan and Angie.

 

Love is so very blessed…..

This is Kathy. We met through work……..yada yada yada.

Kathy is kind. There are no other words. She is just kindness personified. I did not tell Kathy about my cancer. We rarely saw each other but when we did we always laughed and smiled and hugged. The story really  starts with Anita and Linda.

Linda and I became friends at work years ago. We sat at the same lunch table. Linda took a job downtown but we would text each other occasionally. When I started teaching Zumba classes Linda came. She came to ALL my classes. Anita was a downtown coworker and she heard about my classes and started coming. Linda and Anita were my two faithful students for years. When you teach fitness classes the few faithful become your friends and allies.

They were there when I had my scare all those years ago. They knew when I would go in for my yearly mammogram because the stress of it made me work it out in class and they suffered for it. They knew that I had to have a biopsy done and was waiting for my results.

I will never forget that day. I was parked in front of the gym and Anita came over to help me unload the Zumba Steps for class. She asked: did you hear from the doctor? I said, ‘yep I have breast cancer’ She froze. Asked me if I needed to go home. No, I needed to work out. She quietly agreed and continued to help me unpack my gear. We walk into the gym and Linda asked the same question. Tears started forming in her eyes. I yelled and told her I haven’t cried so she is not allowed to cry. We did our step class and worked up a good sweat. Then we hugged and parted ways. I asked them to please keep it to themselves.

That is when Linda shared with Kathy. A trusted person that she knew she could talk to. Someone who knew me. Someone who would keep my secret. Someone who wanted to be helpful. Linda and Anita and Kathy would come and visit me. They brought dinner and flowers and gifts. We laughed and ate and just enjoyed each others company. I can’t think of three better people/friends/coworkers/workout groupies to have.

I decided to combine the three of them in this one blog. Mainly because both Linda and Anita refuse to have Facebook or social media.  I don’t know why I don’t have a picture of me and Linda since we actually see each other out side of work often. I know I don’t have one of Anita because she is out-of-town every weekend working on her house that her and hubby are building.  And this is the only one I found of Kathy and I.

For Christmas this year Kathy gave me a gift. She actually MADE the gift. It is a fancy wooden block with wires to place pictures in that simply says “so very blessed”

This is how I feel about Kathy. She makes me feel so very blessed. Her kind heart and smile  are sincere and meaningful.

This is how I feel about Linda and Anita. I love these three ladies. They have done so much for me not just this past year but for so many years prior to the cancer. Stable, thoughtful, reliable, fun, energetic, encouraging, kind, sharing, compassionate are just a few words to describe these three friends of mine.

Love is so very blessed.

Covered in love..

Today I am sharing about my friend Daniella. The one day when I was blogging about the cancer and fears and such I somehow posted it to Facebook. I struggle with technology. As soon as I figured out it posted public I took it down. Daniella was one of the two friends who saw the post before I removed it. She saw it the same day that I was coming over to her house to workout with her. I walk in the door and hug her (our usual greeting) and she looks at me and flat says ‘do you have cancer?’  I was taken aback, yet at the same time a bit relieved. We talked about it for a few minutes then continued with the workout. It was comforting.

When I was recovering from surgery Daniella was kind enough to bring over her collection of movies for me to watch. She brought over a few fun books too. She would text me often. Always with kindness. Always wanting to know what else she could do for me.

Daniella had been learning to knit hats. When I decided to do chemotherapy I knew exactly what Daniella could do to help me. I asked her to knit some pink hats. She was overjoyed!! Something to help me. Really help me. It is cold here and as I lost my hair it became colder. The hats were perfect and purposeful. I used them this winter too. Every time I wear them I am reminded of the kindness of my lovely friend Daniella.

Daniella: supportive, comforting, talented, giving. Today I am sharing about being covered in love. Pink knitted love.

 

Haunted…

I am still haunted by fatigue. It overwhelms me at times. The fact that I am hot flashing all the time doesn’t help. The hot flashes have gotten worse. I turn red all over and get prickly skin. People can physically see me go through them now. Also the sleep, the sleep is less and less while I sweat and sweat.

So I caved…

I called the doctor in tears on my break and asked to prescribe the anti-depressant that should help me deal with the hot flashes. I had been counseled by three doctors about what my options were. If I was going to go on one I had decided the anti-depressant would be the way I go. I wanted to just get through them with no medicinal help but I guess I am not strong enough after all. I go to the local pharmacy and pick it up and start that night. It took about three days for it to make a difference. IT MADE A DIFFERENCE!!!

I didn’t have to sleep with the fan on in the bedroom anymore. I actually had to wear long sleeves and tights to stay warm at work. It was working. IT WAS WORKING! Relief. Sleep. Human. Normal.

Then I noticed that my urine looked a little pinkish in the bowl. I shake it off, I am sure it is just my eyes playing tricks on me. The next day I had some spotting on the toilet paper. That is not a good sign. Maybe I just wiped to hard and tore the sensitive skin down there. On Thursday there were no longer any doubts. I was bleeding. I had the darkest stool. In fact it was black. As it was floating in the toilet it had a wispy trail of blood following it too. So that means it was in the stool and around the stool. I call my oncologist right away. Feeling good about being proactive and doing something about it.

I get the nurse. I tell her what is going on. I am convinced it is the Effexor XR. It is the only thing that has changed in my life in the last week. She brushes it off and tells me it can’t be the med. I asked if she was sure because it was listed as a side effect in the paperwork from the pharmacy. She insisted that all the years that her and my doctor have been.  prescribing this med it has never happened and maybe I just have a virus. Maybe.

I asked if I could stop the med. It is one of those that they tell you to not stop abruptly. She said that I could if I wanted too but they are certain it is not the med. She then told me I needed to go get blood work done after work. Ugh, a blood draw. You know my experiences with those. And it was my 29th wedding anniversary and I had reservations that night. But I went, because you know bloody stool. It was the best blood draw I had ever had. Thank goodness for that. I stopped the med. Went to dinner and worried.

Friday morning my stool was a bit more normal looking. Lighter in color with just a few dark spots in it. The nurse said I should call the office on Friday because they will have the result by then of the blood draw. I called. Turns out they ran the wrong test. I had to go back for more blood draws after work, again. The regular nurse that told me it can’t be the med was gone. The covering nurse listened to me. Said she hasn’t seen that before as a side effect but knows it is possible. Was glad to hear that it looked more normal once I stopped the med. Apologized about the wrong test being done. Told me that if I had the dark stool over the weekend to go to ER immediately. In my mind a much better conversation.

I don’t like that nurse #1 made me feel like I am crazy and have no idea what I am talking about. She even admitted that she did not take the time to look up and verify if that was a side effect of the med. She just knows it isn’t. She has made me feel bad before when the office forgot about me and never made a follow-up appointment. I think this is what bothers me more than waiting for the test results.

Anyway the hot flashes are back with a vengeance. I can’t stop crying and being mad at my husband and my body. I can’t sleep again because of the night sweats. I think blood in your stool is bad, very bad but I am so crazy from sweating that I almost feel it is a small price to pay. The fatigue is back and haunting me. Making me crazy. This has been my week. Hoping for answers today. Hoping for another option to help with the hot flashes. Hoping to not be haunted anymore.

Love is Kristin

Today I am sharing about my cousin Kris. This woman blesses my life so much! She is one of my favorite people. Always has been.

In a time when everything becomes so clear and so foggy at the same once. A time when you know you don’t want to stay the same but are forced to remain stable. A time when you just feel overwhelmed and lost and focused all at the same time. It is comforting to have friends and family that will not leave your side, even if virtually.

So many times Kris would check in with me via text or Facebook. Sending me virtual hugs. Drinking coffee with me online. Laughing and encouraging and concerned.

Yet the most wonderful thing that my cousin Kris did for me was add me to her summer traveling schedule. Her little family of five jumped into an RV and traveled for weeks. They made sure to come through Spokane just to hang out with me. We went cherry and raspberry picking. We hung out each night and had dinner together and watched movies and laughed. I hung out with the kids so Craig and Kris could have a date night. We hugged, we laughed, we smiled, and we hugged and hugged and hugged.  It was wonderful and quite honestly exhausting. I was still getting my energy back from chemo. The thing is Kris understood that and made sure that I had time to nap or sleep in. This is love.

Love is my cousin Kris. Beautiful, smart, kind, thoughtful, encouraging, amazing.

 

Love is Michelle

Okay I took a hiatus from blogging for a while. I haven’t had the energy or emotions for it. A lot going on in my head and body lately. Today I am determined to start again and bombard you all with more love stories…..

This is my friend Michelle. We met at work (imagine that) We live very different lives yet have found this deep connection. We are incredibly optimistic people who will always work hard at finding and sharing the silver lining in any situation. Sometimes it takes us a moment or two but we ultimately find it.

I didn’t share with Michelle right away what was going on. She works downtown and will email me occasionally to touch base. My email said I was out of office. She knew something wasn’t right. I got the text. What is going on? So I told her. I have cancer. I had to have surgery. I am recovering. She replied with ‘ when can I come visit?’

When she arrived she just sat. She sat and listened. She sat and cried for me. She sat. One of our things is spending time together. Sometimes we have to schedule it months in advance. But we understand the value of it. We don’t do it a lot but we know the value of just being present with each other. It was the best thing she could have done for me.

I don’t know how I would get through life especially the cancer part without friends like Michelle. She is thoughtful, kind, lively, enthusiastic, encouraging, supportive and non-judgmental. Having her on my support team is why I am a fighter. Why I will always be a fighter.

Love is Michelle.

Love is my friend Pam….

Pam and I met at work….I have a lot of friends that start that way. We drink wine together too. I am sensing a theme….

I had the hardest time telling Pam. I didn’t see her at work that day or even for a few days after the call. As time passed it became harder and harder to bring it up. We went to the movies together and dinner afterwards and it still felt awkward to bring it up. We were having fun and I was feeling ‘normal’ sort of…  Finally I told her in the most awkward way, messaged her via Facebook. Ugh.  Her response was like the others. Stunned. Fearful. Supportive.

Pam and I enjoy watching movies and we share the love of Harry Potter. She had her friend make a light for me. When she brought it she tried to quote the line from the movie when Ron is given his light thingy majjiger (yes that is the technical name) from the will. It was very thoughtful and a very cool light. It is made out of one of those glass shower bricks. It is in my bedroom and it always making me smile. Like Pam. She always makes me smile.

I remember we celebrated with breakfast after I was done with chemo. It was Marilee and her hubby Curtis. Pam and Lenny and Keith and I. My little friend circle of six. I gave lots of hugs because I finally could. Pam gives great hugs. Pam gives great compliments. It was a wonderful breakfast of celebration.

She would check in on me often. She guarded my secret carefully. She cried for me. Worried for me. Laughed with me.

Fighting cancer is hard. Harder than anyone can ever realize until it is your turn to fight. Having a friend like Pam makes the fight just a tad bit easier.

Today love is brought to you by Pam.