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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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Love is Russ.

My friend Russ. He is kind, caring, trustworthy and thoughtful. He has helped strangers stranded in the road. Opened his home to people who have had nowhere to live. Even trucked home groceries for someone who didn’t have enough room in their own vehicle.

We met at work. In fact on my first day I went to the lunch room and all the tables were full except one that had one person sitting there. It was Russ. I asked if I could join him. Of course he said yes. I asked how long he has worked for the company. He said this was his first day. I was excited and said ‘mine too’!! We have been friends ever since.

Many a date Russ, Marilee and I have gone on together. A booze cruise, the auction that you drink at, dinner, dancing. We enjoy each others company.

It was that auction we were at when I told Russ. Marilee and I were whispering about the cancer. He stopped us and said ‘I know there is something wrong, I can see it in your face just tell me, I can handle it’ So I told him. He was quiet for what felt like a very long moment then said “you are going to beat it” Simple as that.

After my surgery I couldn’t shower. So I had an appointment at the local beauty college. Russ asked if we could get coffee some time soon. If I was able. He missed seeing me at work. I said we could meet at the Thomas Hammer downtown after I get my hair washed. He was the first friend I saw outside of my home after surgery. It was great. His smile and laugh made me feel at ease even with all the drains attached. He didn’t care he just wanted to see me for himself to make sure I really was okay.

Valentines day of 2016 I get a text from Russ. Hey, I left something at your front door. Flowers and chocolate. Just so thoughtful.

One of the greatest gifts he has ever given me was introducing me to his friends Kathy and Scott. Kathy came with Russ to my Zumba classes and she and I hit it off. She is sweet and kind. Her husband (Scott) was recovering from intestinal/stomach cancer. I would often ask Russ for updates on a man I have never met. Then one day Scott came to work as the maintenance manager where I work. One day Scott sat with me for lunch. He shared his story with me. Turns out he went with the same cancer clinic I did. He talked about how great they were. How through everything the clinic was supportive and kind and informative. He never questioned his care. I was questioning if I made the right choice, I had friends telling me I didn’t. This was the reassurance I needed. The peace for my heart and head. What a blessing and he had no idea! If it wasn’t for Russ I may never had this moment.

Russ  hugs and smiles and cares. My life is so much richer having him in it.

Love is Russ.

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Loving more…

This is Marilee. Marilee is my friend. Everyone should have a friend like Marilee. (:

I know it sounds like one of those silly memes on Facebook! Seriously though Marilee is a great friend.

She and I met at work but never really hung out. One day I was invited to go on a wine tasting tour and I could bring a friend. I invited Marilee. Let me tell you, once you drink too much wine and start over sharing you become friends for life! That is what I think of with Marilee: friend for life.

She was working that fateful day that the phone call came. I was walking out to the dock and she was coming in from the receiving floor. I walked up to her and said ‘guess who has cancer now?’ She was like,’who?’ I said, me. She was dumbfounded and just hugged me. She insisted it was going to be okay. I asked her not to say anything. I was only letting a handful of people know. She hugged me again and went on her way.

We got to this school fundraiser that involves wine and an auction. Brilliant on the schools part. Get people all warm and fuzzy from the wine and beer and then sell stuff to them. Anyway we go with our friend Russ. It was about two weeks after the diagnosis and she wanted to know if I was still going. Of course! Business as usual. We laughed and we ate and we did the silent auction (before the drinking) and we laughed some more. We had a good time. We savored every moment of it. Who knew what was in store for me? Nothing had really been decided yet. She made a point to make sure we had fun.

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This picture was taken at that event.

After my big surgery Marilee would come and visit. She brought dinner for me and Keith and spent time just visiting. She would update me about work and tell me how great I looked.

When I went back to work and still hadn’t gone public about the cancer a co-worker told me that she knew about it. I asked how and she said Marilee told me I think. I told Marilee and she was so pissed off! I NEVER told anyone Renee!! I know she didn’t. She was so upset  and fearing that she would lose my friendship she confronted the co-worker and made her apologize!! There is no way Marilee would ever lose my friendship. But she worried about it. I love her for that.

During chemotherapy she would keep her distance (hugging was severely limited during chemo) but smile and wave. I knew she was pretending to hug me.

After chemo and another surgery she and I went to another annual event that we enjoy. It is at a winery (imagine that) up on the hill. It is always a dress up and themed type party with live music and dancing. We always have a lovely time. The featured image at the top is from that event. We danced and drank and ate and laughed. All felt normal and right in my world for that moment.

Let me add just one more thing. Marilee has been giving me her hand me downs when she cleans out her closet. Every time and I mean EVERY TIME I wear one of her outfits I get compliments. She has fun and funky taste. Nothing I would ever buy for myself, yet it transfers over to me just right.

I adore Marilee. She has been so loving and kind to me. She has hugged me and supported me. We laugh and cry together. I am so thankful for her care and concern during my fight.

This is Marilee loving more..

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Loving….

This is my friend Shannon. We met at work. When she came to work with me in the office we became fast friends. She is so caring, and giving, and thoughtful. So much so she has literally given her last five bucks to someone in more need than she. It was her LAST five bucks yet she gave it to someone who may not have had five bucks for a while. I don’t know how she can be so compassionate and giving when there were so many times she had nothing to give.

Shannon was one of the first few friends to know. When I got the call at work I texted her the results. She was working in the back. She had been promoted to supervisor and no longer worked with me in the office. Anyway she came running into the office in tears. Hugged me so tightly and said it wasn’t fair. She went on about how it isn’t fair because I do it all right. I workout I eat right, I laugh and have friends and take care of myself. How could I possibly have cancer. As most people know it has nothing to do with how fit you are, how healthy you eat, how happy life is. Cancer doesn’t care. Cancer takes whoever it wants.

Shannon and I like to have dates. We kept the dates up after the call. We went and had sushi and painted pottery together. We laughed and shared and gossiped about work. It was perfect. It was normal. It is what I needed.

When I was recovering she came by with lunch. It was very sweet. She went to the local health food store and bought lots of yummy foods. I felt bad, I still feel bad that I couldn’t eat the salad she brought. I had eaten it recently and then threw up. If you are like me whatever you ate right before you throw up you never want to eat again. I could see she was disappointed . Not in me but in herself for not getting something I wanted. I tell you, I still feel bad for invoking that emotion in her.

Being back at work full-time she will check in on me daily. With a very cheerful ‘how you doing’ This matters. This makes my day. That and her great hugs.

This picture was taken years ago at a wine tasting day with other friends. It is my favorite picture of us. When I was going through everything this was her FB picture. It was a reminder that she was thinking of me. For Christmas she had the photo printed and framed. I will ALWAYS have this now no matter where I am.

Having Shannon in my life has given me reason to keep fighting. Fight to be good. Fight to be thoughtful. Fight to be there when needed. Fight to be ready to fight.

Love is my friend Shannon.

The love continues…..

I don’t know if it is the weather or perhaps because I have been under the weather. Continuing to write daily about the people who helped me through my fight has become a chore. I am just so tired that even taking time to write is exhausting. No matter I am going to tackle it once again.

Today I am talking about my friend Kim. Kim came into my life through Zumba. We were taking the same class together and we hit it off. It was easy being friends with Kim. We loved the workout classes we took. We were both on a quest to eat better and make healthier choices. We laughed and danced and ate together often. She took my family in at Christmas. Well she took us to her mother-in-law Linda’s house for Christmas. Linda has since become my friend and they all feel like family. That is what it was about Kim, she was family.

Kim had breast cancer before me and shortly after my mom. It was an eye opener and heavy experience watching my ‘Spokane sister’ go through this. Her cancer was advanced. She had to do six rounds of chemotherapy before they could do her surgery. It was hard to be there for her when I didn’t fully understand what she needed. Being on the other side of this now I TOTALLY understand what is needed.

As I was going through chemo. Kim would check in with me often. The day that I had a cold and skipped work because it was the first round of chemo and it scared me. She came over and picked up this very special orange juice I wanted. It is expensive and I have only seen it at the health food store. Didn’t matter she drove out of her way to get it for me. She remembers those moments oh so well. Still so fresh in her head.

When I found out about having to do chemo she helped me cut my hair way shorter. They say that if you cut your hair short it will be easier to deal with losing it. That is a lie but at the time it sounded good.

I am thankful to have my friend who is like family in my life. Kim would ask all the right questions. Check in on me often but not too often because she knows how tiring all of this can be. She would come and visit to clean my house or do the dishes yet keep the visits short. Most importantly she would pray for me daily.

Love is continuing. Today love is my friend Kim.

Love is ever-growing

I told Keith I wasn’t going to write about him in this series. I explained that I wrote about him often through all of this. He said he agreed with me and wasn’t sitting over here going  ‘why hasn’t she written about me’ I knew that is how he felt. I wasn’t going to write about him. Then Sunday happened..

 

On Sunday I was taking it easy. Still recovering from my cold. Not in any hurry to be active or productive. I had a board meeting I had to attend that afternoon and a few things I wanted to cross off my goal list. That was it. Outside of the cold nothing out of the ordinary in my life.

I watched a movie on Netfilx, Nancy Drew. I made coffee. He got up I made us breakfast. The coffee was good.  The movie was fun. I didn’t burn breakfast. It was a very normal routine day. I keep repeating this so you understand that the next part just can’t be explained.

I got up to shower so I would be cleaned up of the meeting. I get out of the shower and then it happens. I start crying. I can’t stop crying. I go to Keith and tell him the best way that I can why I am crying.

When I was drying off in the bathroom I looked at my hair. My short, super curly, fifty shades of gray hair. I lost it. The hair is killing me. I can’t do it anymore. I look in the mirror and I see the gray and it is an instant reminder that I am broken. Forever broken. So many people love the gray. Have told me over and over again to not dye it because it is such a pretty color. That I can pull it off. That it doesn’t make me look old. I don’t see any of that, I see broken. I see abnormal. I see evidence of a fight that aged me.

Keith listened. He didn’t interrupt me. He started to tear up with me. He didn’t want me to cry. He says “Renee I love you let’s go to the store and get you some hair dye now” “whatever I need to do to help you so you feel better about yourself”

He drove me to a beauty supply shop. He watched me cry again talking to the sales girl. He helped me pick out a color. When I asked if he would help me do the back of my head he hesitantly agreed to it. (my friend ended up helping me instead, he gave a sigh of relief)

The moment we did that I felt empowered. Like I was taking something in my life back in control. I became productive and did dishes, laundry and cleaned the bathroom. In all honestly I felt empowered and encouraged because of Keith. He has done so much for me over this year. I never knew he loved me this much. I never knew I needed him this much.

Often now I find I do not want to do anything without him. I think this is what love is. When you realize what love is.

We are celebrating this month. Our anniversary is the 16th. We will be married for 29 years. I feel like this past year has been our strongest and best year yet.

Love is ever-growing. Love is Keith.