Not Down Or Out

It could be worse. I might not be laughing.

Category: Liebster Award

In Sickness and in Health

liebster-award

One of the duties associated with having been nominated to receive a Liebster Award is that you should name others to receive it as well.

I have read that some have named a single blog while others name as many as 11. Today I am naming two:

http://sarahandycancer.wordpress.com

and http://happilyhomeless2.wordpress.com/.

Both are written by wives loving a husband through cancer. Around the world today there are millions of husbands and wives giving care to a partner through sickness.

I am not married. I was once a long time ago. I am soon to be divorced twenty-five years and was married for seven years before that. I am not fascinated by the condition of marriage. I did not destroy my wedding photographs, but I donated my wedding dress to charity, threw my wedding band into the Potomac River, and gave my engagement ring to my niece because I did not want to see it in my jewelry box any longer. I do not watch TV shows in which women say “yes” to dresses and shriek at family and friends for failing to make a wedding day perfect. I can be counted upon to smile and cry during others’ weddings, usually because I am a little disappointed that my own wedding day remains my happiest memory in a good life.

My husband left me. That is unusual. I understand that women initiate about 66% of divorces. http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/women-initiate-divorce-66-of-the-time-why-do-they-want-to-get-married-567068.html. This is ironic when you consider how much literature there is out there for women who seek to bring a man to one knee so that he will propose, she can accept, and they can dedicate their lives to the accomplishment of the best wedding anyone has ever attended.

Many of my friends who remained married, many of them happily ever after, are now in the process of guiding children through the last years of a college education, through the acquisition of a first post-college job, or into the bonds of matrimony. There have been times when I have envied them their finger-painted-art-covered refrigerator doors and their Mother’s/Father’s Day celebration breakfasts in bed, but I am not envious of their tuition bills or the prospect of planning and paying for the best wedding anyone ever attended.

I enjoy Pinterest.com as a way to pass the time when my mind is fried and my body will not relent at bed time. But I confess that I am saddened by the number of racy photos of brides in lingerie to be sent to the groom on the morning of a wedding to keep him focused on the prize, the photos of tackle boxes filled with mini-bar-sized bottles of alcohol alongside make-up and hair devices in the bride’s toolkit, images of high fives during a post-ceremony kiss, and the snapshots marked “need this photo” for our special day.

I remember my wedding day with (a depressing amount of) good will because of what was not happening. I did not begin the day reviewing a checklist of poses that the photographer had better capture for my album. I did not have, nor imagine for a moment that my groom had, cold feet. It never would have occurred to me to send him pictures to review prior to the ceremony. I did not need a shot of liquid relaxant to walk down the aisle because I was anxious about perfection eluding me. I did not usher friends in front of the camera for lots of “must have” memories. In fact, I found the few photos my photographer staged for us kind of silly.

I just got up, got dressed, and walked down the aisle on my dad’s arm and pledged love to someone who was a friend and a lover. Of course, things did not end well. Maybe I should have cared more about the details. I suspect that is not what makes marriage work either.

I do admit to being envious of the brides who got it right. I read Sarah and Andy’s story because they read The Princess Bride to each other while Andy recovered from surgery following his diagnosis with stage 3B gastric cancer. When they wed they planned to have a family. They found themselves unable to have a child and unable to adopt one. They exchanged the dream of a an art-covered refrigerator door for late-night dashes to the ER following the removal of Andy’s stomach. Despite all this, every time I see one of Sarah’s postings show up in my Reader page on wordpress.com I smile at their photographs of post-marriage kisses taken in sickness and in health. I find myself rooting for the latest posting to disclose a landmark in Andy’s recovery. It’s hard to be cynical in the face of a good love story. Sarah makes me believe in their dreams.

In the blog Happily Homeless 2, Handsome Husband is not Every Woman’s dream. He’s already divorced, a recovering alcoholic, raising children. He remarries, this time joining his life with that of a woman raising children of her own. They seem like hopeless romantics. Both are so open to remarriage and the difficult task of blending families. It’s reassuring to know that once married, many men and women remain open to doing it again. But men seem a little more open to it than do women, ironic when you consider how men are perceived as needing to be dragged to the altar:

The perceived benefits of divorce differ by gender. Women were far more likely than men to say that having their own self-identity was a top reward….
…….43 percent of women said they emerged from the split against remarriage.
Only 33 percent of men said they wouldn’t remarry.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=713110, quoted at
http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/women-initiate-divorce-66-of-the-time-why-do-they-want-to-get-married-567068.html.

In the case of Happily Homeless and Handsome Husband, you have two people who believe in marriage (and each other). They also deal with cancer. But, unlike Sarah and Andy who face it together while young, they deal with it at the end of a twenty-three-plus-year marriage while young-at-heart. I have not gone back yet to read the earliest entries in Alison’s blog. I found it recently and have read its latest chapters. Instead of talking about a perfect wedding, Happily Homeless describes a different type of ceremony. The gown is a hospital gown worn by the groom. The best man and other attendants are the couple’s children. The flowers are sent by well-meaning friends. The family and friends are there to say good-bye to the groom. The bride is dealing with the pain of life without him. I cried as I read of this couple’s happy ending, too. And I envied them even though they also walked a painful path because they held on so tightly to each other until parted by death.

What makes me nominate these two blogs for the Liebster Award is that the award and these two blogs are about caring. The bloggers discuss what happens when life gets tough and your partner needs you in ways you don’t need your partner. They speak of how you sometimes have to find balance because suddenly the ground beneath your feet is shifting. They tell tales in which no one gets by on fairy dust or magic. They are about the hard work in marriage. They focus on the relationship being built and maintained. They still have dreams and fantasies, but they have realities that test the fabric of their dreams and prove that dreams can be as tough and as flexible as rubber as it meets that bumpy road.

The stories of caregivers are what you cannot foresee when you watch TV shows about brides choosing the right dresses and bridezillas picking the wrong battles. Some think the battle is over when someone’s put a ring on it. Some think that they need their liquid courage to walk down the aisle. Some think that the beginning of a honeymoon is the beginning of life lived happily ever after. Some think marriage is about the right poses in a book of memories. Some begin the next day and days after it facing a whole new set of challenges. And the truly heartwarming thing is that some people make it! They (men and women) take their vows and find ways to keep on living them:

I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

I smile at weddings because they are the start of a venture that holds the promise of something wondrous. My heart may still ache when I think of loves that fail, but it is healed by the stories of loves that last when health is failing. I am grateful for the chance to observe people cling to each other proving that the finest in us is what counts, not the finery that surrounds us.

Facing the End

I am a positive person. I think sometimes I am a little bit of a Pollyanna. I am also getting old, which is why I know who Pollyanna is. Anyway, one of the most inspirational blogs that I read is by a man who is running out of options and time. His world is filled with pain. Maybe you are not in a positive place right now. Maybe his blog is not the right thing for you to read. But, if you are up to it, Mike is telling it like it is for him. And I can be positive about what I am learning from him even though I know he is facing a fate I don’t always feel I can even contemplate.

If you’re up to it, check out Living Life to the Fullest from the End Stage: https://miketerrill.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/when-it-all-comes-crashing-down/comment-page-1/#comment-181.
I think Mike inspires like no one else when it is time to put away the juicing recipes and stop buying antioxidants and think about the fact that life is short but the memories you make with and for others can survive what you cannot.

I recently was nominated for a Liebster Award. It’s about caring. So I’m going to pay it forward by asking that all the many caring bloggers and visitors who stop by this page now and in the future say a prayer or hold a thought or take a leap and read what Mike has been saying. Because how a man lives is also about how a man dies. And this man’s struggle has touched my heart.

Liebster Fest

As I understand it, one of the responsibilities of a Leibster Award winner is to disclose eleven random facts about herself.

Eleven Random Things You Don’t Know About Me

11. I am allergic to eggplant. I am not allergic to any other food. I only became allergic to it in the last ten years. Before that, I loved baba ganoush, eggplant parmesan, and ratatouille. I am not allergic to dust or grass or pollen or pets or any other common item. It is odd that eggplant has become my kryptonite.

Eggplant

Eggplant

10. My driving philosophy is “Lane Loyalty.” Yes, I have a “driving” philosophy. When I am behind the wheel of a car I look out for the cars already in the lane. If you see the sign that says merge left or merge right and instead pull into the lane about to close down, race ahead, and then try to cut back into the line, do not expect my mercy and kindness. Wait in line with everyone else. Read the signs and make adaptations in course in an orderly manner. This driver does not care if you wave your middle finger or curse. After I see that you have been forced to wait a little, then I will let you in, but I do not reward people who ignore lines.

Merge

9. I don’t text, IM, or use my cell phone. Oh, I have a cell phone. I carry it with me when I am out and about. But one of my idiosyncrasies is that I like being out of touch for part of the day. I will return your call if you leave a message, but I prefer to answer calls and emails when time permits me to give the matter my full attention. Sounding alarms or repeatedly calling me does not alter my priorities. I like to aim for thoughtful communication. That does not happen when I am driving, working, or contemplating my life.

No cell

8. I love watching the political shows on Sundays. Sometimes I watch them again when they are replayed after the late evening news.

george

7. I do not have cable TV and my TV is more than twenty years old and needs an adapter and an antenna to receive a signal.

TV

6. My favorite TV shows are Big Bang Theory, Elementary, Saturday Night Live, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Wipe-Out, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, and Doc Martin. I can see all of them on free TV.

Sherlock on BBC

5. I am absolutely terrified by spiders and centipedes. Spiders can bite. Centipedes run at you when you threaten them. That kind of strategy scares me as I smash the centipedes dead.

Centipede

Centipede

4. I have a vacuum for every room of my apartment. They come in handy when I encounter a spider or a centipede!

Love my Orecks best!

Love my Orecks best!

3. If I ever have a cat again, he’ll be yellow and I’ll call him Chairman Meow. My prior cats were Mr. Whiskers and Lady Grey.

Yellow cat

2. I collect children’s books written when my mom was a child–like Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Maida, the Happy Hollisters, and Honey Bunch.

Judy Bolton

1. I really do have so many “things” that my apartment is a little museum to the memory of my deceased relatives. This picture hung on the wall of my Grandma Elsie’s home. It reads:

I love you when you’re laughing. I love you when you’re sad. I love you when you’re teasing. I love you when you’re glad. I love you when you’re fooling. I love you when you’re true. And the reason why I love you is just because you’re you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In my next post I will pay it forward by nominating some of the many blogs I follow.

Liebster Award–Thanks to Lisa

liebster-award

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by Lisa Higgins, a practitioner of massage and other alternative and complementary treatments. For those cancer survivors who struggle with lymphedema, Lisa’s services can mean relief from pain and suffering that conventional treatments often prove unable to address (and may have caused). Having met breast cancer survivors suffering from lymphedema, I appreciate the value these services offer to people seeking to find balance in bodies that are disrupted by disease, illness, toxicity, and stress. When I finished chemotherapy and radiation, I visited with a local naturapath and pursued several approaches to detoxifying my body. Lisa’s blog discusses natural means of addressing many of the conditions that sometimes stump conventional practitioners. She also discusses treatments that complement conventional treatment. You can check out her blog– Lisa Higgins – massage across the table at ozhigginswordpress.com.

It is one of those interesting coincidences that such a practitioner has nominated me. In about 2003 or 2004, seven or eight years before I was diagnosed with uterine cancer, I was feeling sick and could not identify a cause for it. I actually worried that I might be dying. I say “worried” but will admit that I was not worrying terribly. I told my friend Dominique that I sometimes felt like a dying creature and that I had no strong desire to reverse the trend.

Dominique introduced me to Dr. Kevin Pearson, a naturapath. Kevin became my doctor and then a friend. He helped me rediscover my desire to live. I think some of that treatment (including craniosacral therapy, the taking of tinctures of essential oils and flower essences, and process work) I received from Kevin and other practitioners to whom he introduced me seemed very “woo-woo” to me at the time. I was conventional at the time and yet very underserved from a health standpoint.

Kevin died of rectal cancer. I observed his non-conventional treatment of his disease with respect but also great discomfort. He never wavered in his commitment to treatment consistent with his views that some of modern medicine was out of step with the ordinary rules for the preservation of life. He succeeded in reducing the size of his tumors. He sustained his life a long time. I think his body succumbed not to the cancer but to his weakened state resulting from cancer treatment. He was not a peaceful patient. He fought hard for life.

Had I never met Kevin, what might my cancer treatment experience been like? First, I would have received my diagnosis while in a state conducive to shutdown. Instead, I felt ready for treatment and hopeful that it would succeed. Second, I had made some changes in my life. I worked out with a trainer for some time after I met Kevin. I may have had cancer, but I was physically strong. I needed eight packs of blood when I was admitted to the hospital. My doctor could not believe I was walking when I showed up at his office for an appointment to discuss “heavy periods.” In the words of Caitlyn, my trainer, I had a freakishly strong upper body. I ended up needing that after my hysterectomy. I was eating better. When my surgeons questioned my fitness for surgery they put me through a battery of tests and found none of the expected diseases present. Third, I was open to advice about alternative and complementary treatment. I had positive experiences with Kevin and his colleagues’ care. I had undergone about a year of hypnosis and had learned to hypnotize myself, a skill that helped me cope. I was treated at a county hospital and received the standard care. There was no multidisciplinary team advising me on diet, use of supplements, stress reduction, or how to recover from conventional treatment’s side effects. When Dominique showed up at the hospital with a biofeedback tool that she thought might help me deal with pain from a thoroughly toasted bladder, I accepted her help and it did help.

I understand from reading Lisa’s nomination posting and the link that she provided to another blog that explains some of the award’s history (http://sopphey.onimpression.com/2012/05/liebster-blog-award-origins.html) that this is a sweetheart award. I need to do some nominating to pass it forward. I will do that after I have a chance to reflect on this experience.

For today, I want to appreciate the people like Lisa Higgins, who care for and treat people to help them find health and happiness in balance. If my blog helps lead someone to feeling better, then it is a way to repay the practitioners who have helped me feel so much better.

Thanks, Lisa, for this nomination!

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