Tag Archives: grief

Rule it out

Late last Thursday night I felt a lump. I was immediately quite worried. It was decently sized- nickel to quarter- and felt a little painful. I told Harry and he asked, “Are you worried?” Dear soul. I love him so, but I wanted to pound him over the head.

I called my doctor’s office Friday morning and was able to get in at 4:30. By the time the doctor stepped foot in my little sterile square land, it was 5:15. She had something urgent come up. I became so bored (no magazines! seriously?) that I posted a shot of the exam room to instagram and twitter. What the hell was I thinking? I looked at how many twitter followers I had and who they were and realized it was no big deal, but knew I’d better not hesitate to call my mom. Anyways, by that point in the waiting, I had gotten over my initial nervousness and come to a place of thinking that I was about to draw a monopoly card to get out of jail free. I didn’t think I’d be calling her to tell her anything else.

After lots of questioning my doctor told me I needed to go through the full work-up because cancer was a possibility. Not likely. But it needed to be ruled out. Good god. God is good, but good god. Really. Hearing that I needed to schedule my first mammogram and ultrasound quickly brought me out of my social media all-is-well-coma and back to a place of fear.

I got home a little before six. Imaging was closed. I left a voicemail, but would have to wait out the weekend. I didn’t make dinner, I didn’t help with the boys getting to bed. I just laid in our bed in shock.

I cried with Harry but didn’t freely sob until after he got the boys to bed. I cried when Miles crawled into bed with me to hug and kiss me goodnight and tell me he wished I felt better. I could see the concern in his face, too. He hasn’t seen me cry much. He’s only a few days shy of his third birthday. That’s what I had been thinking about until I found the lump.

I am proud of how I’ve handled this, and realized I’ve actually learned a thing or two in the past few years about how to be vulnerable. I called my mom and dad, instead of assuming it was better for them to wait until I knew something for sure. I also emailed a handful of friends and family. I knew I couldn’t handle any more phone calls after doing the awful mutter-sob-breath-mumble-cry-talk on the phone with my mom, but I knew I needed support. I needed texts, I needed calls, I needed prayers, I needed hugs.

I am learning. I am not a rock. I guess I am also not an island, though I do like to sing along to that song, so I will continue to proclaim that I am when Simon and Garfunkel grace my home.

I have been to the worst in my mind. I have left my husband and my boys. I have realized that Miles probably wouldn’t remember much of me if I had the most awful, aggressive form and went quickly. He might remember me, but probably not the healthy version of me. I am trying really hard to not go to this place often.

I have been spiritual, a believer in God and Jesus, since my early teens. (If you’re wondering where I fall on the spectrum from fundamental to liberal, I’m probably about as close to the far end of liberal as one can be without falling off the edge. I think God can handle me cussing here.) Many times, God has prepared me for things yet to come. I can look back and see faithfulness. What doesn’t help, though, is when I read into things I’ve been soaking in lately and assume it’s all because I freaking have cancer.

Because Harry and I both have friends from high school who have children with cancer, one of them with a very rare form of childhood cancer, it’s easy to think things like, “Well, yes, I could be one of those one in a million who gets breast cancer under the age of forty without a family history of breast cancer. Someone has to be.” The sun shines on us all, the rain falls on us all. And lightning strikes one unlucky chap every once in awhile.

In the past month or two, I’ve been introduced to the powerful words of Lisa Adams, a woman with terminal stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I have kept up with her since, including her twitter feed, which gives a really amazing look into her life. I’ve also finished a little book about a boy’s time in heaven during an emergency surgery that I never checked out but read because it was in our home. Of course, I immediately thought, “That’s all because I needed this preparation!”

The same goes for so much of my history. It’s easy to chalk it all up to “necessary growing trials.” As if other people’s traumas and tribulations were for somehow for me. How twisted and ridiculous is that? Ugh. I hate it. But, I went there. (I probably have my childhood fundamentalist background to thank for this.) For several weeks during college I took care of kids I grew up babysitting while their mom went through intensive breast cancer treatment and spent most of her time in isolation. I could attribute that time with those precious kids to preparing me for my time with mine. Check! First stupid way to try to rationalize this. My sister was hospitalized for months with an extremely rare, neurological disease while I was in junior high. Check! Second stupid way. It’s easy to travel this road. I think that’s a really dangerous thing about over-spiritualizing things. Shit happens. Sometimes there isn’t any rhyme or reason. God comforts, yes. I even believe in miracles. But I don’t think they’re like gumballs in a machine that our prayers automatically release.

So, I wait. I would like to say that I know I’m going to be fine, but I don’t. Sure, very long term- but I’m not referring to heaven. I can’t lie and say I know what path my life will take. None of us do. God doesn’t make these promises to us. Today I wait with a full heart because I have been very loved this weekend. I know I have a really good team.

I know the odds are in my favor. I really like those numbers. I also treasure your prayers, cheers, hugs and messages. So, please pray for me. My family. My friends. We would so very much like for this to just be a cyst or random lump. Most are benign. Chances are good. But if I’m wrong, we will need a lot of support and I’m counting on at least a few good jokes and stories from those of you who read this. You’re going to be in my corner, alright?

I am sharing this with you (readers who I assume I only know from real life because I don’t think many strangers read this, but if so, “Howdy, stranger!”) because I have felt so bouyed by my little handful of friends and family who already know. I let them in on my pain and fear. I don’t think I would’ve done this a few years ago. Maybe not even a year ago. It has made an enormous difference. I am now letting everyone in on it because I think more openness will also be a gift to my family and me. (I writing it all is therapeutic for me, too. Thank you, Brené! I should send you chocolate or something.)

Cheer me on, tomorrow I’m about to get my breasts pressed like paninis. I’m really hoping that’s the worst of it, but if you’ve been through mammograms before and have any tips, I’m all ears.

With deep appreciation. ~K

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A Growing Heart

Thanksgiving’s timing comes perfectly for me this year. I am feeling keenly aware of how easily things can come crashing down, changing everything. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. This is without a major crisis in my life, just the recent experiences I’ve had with feeling depressed and overwhelmed. I think it’s been a humbling experience, letting me know I’m not immune from those things.

Of course, like most of you, I could fill pages with things I’m thankful for. Most are pretty predictable and you could probably write at least one of my pages for me. There are a few things I’m thankful for this year that surprise me, though. That show me how my heart has grown. That show me where I need to grow. That give me hope. That make me grieve and yearn for healing.

I’m a member of a gym that has multiple buildings we can use. The one closest to our house is slightly run down, not in the best part of town, and attracts a pretty diverse group of people. There is nothing flashy about this place. In fact, the nicest spot is probably the childcare room. Some people just come to shower, many of whom are homeless. Some people come purely for conversation. Most come to exercise. Lots of parents drop off little ones in the fantastic kids room complete with big playmats for tumbling, tons of toys, no televisions, and interactive, engaged staff. It is water for my soul to go to this gym. Not solely because I get to exercise while my boys play contentedly and the rain pours outside. It’s the spirit of the place. It’s a micro community, supporting people in whatever their needs are. I don’t feel any sense of competition at this gym.

There’s a man I see there regularly. He is quite overweight, always sweating profusely while he rides a stationary bike. Soaked clothes, dripping on the floor. Most of the people surrounding him weigh less than him, look more fit than him, and certainly everyone is drier than him. But there he is, clearly giving it his best. I’m not sure I’d be so brave. It takes a lot of courage to enter a scene as the most vulnerable. He is impressive, so very strong. I am thankful for him.

I’m thankful that I’m being kinder to myself. Loving and forgiving myself a bit more- quirks, bad mood / depressed / sharp tongue days, neurologic deficits (we all have ’em, folks), new wrinkles and all. Not giving up on things I hope to change, but giving myself more grace for the journey. I am entering the weight room on a regular basis, something that always makes me uncomfortable at first. I hate that it’s frequently a male-dominated scene. But I go. I lift free weights in front of the mirror, looking at my body because it’s either that, close my eyes while I lift, or not face the mirror at all, both of which would be quite odd. So, I’m using this time to try to really see myself. To let my eyes be evermore accepting of what they see.

There’s a woman at the gym that I first met in a small weight-lifting class. She was quiet and kept to herself. I’m persistent in wearing people down with kind greetings, so by the end of the class session, we were having brief conversations. While passing her in the locker room yesterday I said hi and casually asked how she was. She told me she was feeling pretty anxious, she hadn’t heard from friends about Thanksgiving and wasn’t sure what she was going to do. Maybe she’d go to a movie, she added. At least the cheap theaters let you watch as many as you want. I ached for her.

She continued on with her bigger story. I went from quickly packing up my stuff to get the boys to sitting quietly on a stool in the locker room, listening to her. After losing her job a year and a half ago, she’s been homeless for a year, in and out of friends’ homes and various transitional housing units. That’s when I realized why there were four big bags at her feet. She was just moving into a new place and had to carry everything with her, but first she needed to get to a temp job. I was honored she shared all this with me after such a simple question. She also accepted my offer to drive her to the job so she could avoid walking in the rain with her bags. I’m thinking of her today, hoping those friends called and she has a warm meal and feels loved. She is so strong, allowing me to know these broken pieces and help carry the load, even if just for a few minutes.

A Hiatus to Grieve

Even though my first post was just a few months ago, I began the process of writing this blog five years ago. Truly. Since becoming a mom I’ve pondered sharing how my professional training in speech-language pathology has enhanced my experience of motherhood. I’ve probably drafted fifty posts in my brain. I’ve discussed it a bazillion times (I think my oldest considers this a real number) with my very patient husband and close friends. It just took me ridiculously long to get over my hurdles of perfectionism, anxiety and self-doubt and take the giant leap.

My primary hope for this blog is that it brings anyone who interacts with children on a regular basis more pleasure in that experience, as well as helping build a better relationship for the dyad through opening up the communication pathways. I hope to relieve some of the stress by providing a few strategies that help with communication struggles. I’d be thrilled if storytimes transformed from a struggle to a joy. Same with mealtimes. Basically, it boils down to this: I know how incredibly hard caring for children day in and day out can be and I am hoping to lighten the load.

My goal is to post weekly but I don’t want to be a slave to the blog and start posting inane contributions just to keep it going. I value your time. I value my time. But, I do feel that pressure. So, the fact that I haven’t posted in several weeks stresses me out a bit.

It’s not that I haven’t written. I have actually spent hours writing. Most of that time was spent angrily venting my thoughts after the Aurora shooting. Coming so close on the heels of the Seattle shootings (Cafe Racer is close to our house and the other spot downtown was close to where Miles and I were at the time), and being in my homestate near the homes of several college friends’ parents, I felt this deeply. I dropped more than a few f-bombs and sat on it for a week, realizing this is not the place for that. There are many excellent journalists who have shared my viewpoint far more articulately with much better research. So, I took action instead- signed a few petitions and emailed legislators.

But even prior to the shootings I was questioning aspects of this blog and feeling hesitant to write. A friend of mine, whom I deeply care about and respect, wrote this about parenting advice. I completely agree with her point about grieving and it was something I needed to read at just that time. I was wrapping up several weeks of dealing with increased anger and impatience towards the boys and Harry, unable to pinpoint why. Her post encouraged me to sit with it a bit and I ended up balling in Harry’s arms a few days later, crying about a variety of things I’d bottled up for far too long. But I needed to think awhile about the rest of her post and why I was hit so hard by it that I didn’t want to post here.

Basically, the last thing I want to do is make “parents everywhere feel like shit.” I know the judgment facing parents.I have sat in that boat, wondering why someone would act a certain way or horrified by a parents’ harsh words towards their kid, and considered that adult less because of it. Now, on my better days, I still think those thoughts but it’s tempered with more grace, compassion and understanding. I realize that I have no idea why someone might be acting that way. Given how much privilege I’ve experienced, chances are their life is much, much harder than mine. I also know that I don’t even come close to knowing it all. There are so many aspects of parenthood that are so ridiculously hard, to think that we have all the answers would be idiotic. Lastly, I am deeply aware of how lost sleep can turn a well-meaning loving mom into a mean ogre. After having Miles, particularly in the first year(s) when we were incredibly sleep deprived, I became the craziest looney on the block. Dr. Harvey did not help me. I was losing my marbles. I was really quick to anger with Charlie, who was at that lovely irrational age of 3.5. I was haunted by all the advice against letting younger babies cry but knew how desperately we needed to be sane. But I could only talk with a few very trusted people about it because of fear of judgment.

So, today’s post is simply to ask that you help keep me in line. If you’re feeling judged or inadequate because of something I write, please let me know. I do not want to go there. My desire is to be a place of inspiration. If you need encouragement in communicating with your little one in a certain way, please let me know. I might have some ideas that may help. This is not to say that I don’t have strong opinions about issues. I do. Oh, yes I do. But, my hope is that you’ll know when my opinions and advice are perfect for you and when you can leave them behind. Or maybe you just need to chew on things for a little bit and re-evaluate later.

In the meantime, I am taking my friend’s advice (I see the irony) to continue grieving while disregarding her advice to not take advice (and in my case, share it). My comment on her blog included this: 

 I really agree with the spirit of this- a parent’s healing needs to be a progression and grieving happens as a life-long process. One thing I notice about parenthood is that my grief, as it comes in waves, absolutely (deeply!) impacts my parenting style. My anger can surprise me with how quickly it will swell and then be directed at my kids. This shock sends me reeling to my books or favorite articles for reminders and ideas that get me through until I’ve had the time and space to properly understand the trigger. Parenthood just doesn’t allow the luxury to reflect during a moment. Those tips can help buy time.
I feel like I am a pretty good judge of what to take or leave. Some of it is crap. Some is fantastic. Some is neither here nor there. As far as development stuff goes (like language), I love learning about child development. My degree in speech-language pathology has made parenting much more FUN. Understanding development better has made my experience much richer. I know how to meet my boys at their level. I can connect much better with them. I wouldn’t have this without a stronger knowledge base. It’s 100% enrichment.
There’s definitely a difference between knowledge and advice. Knowledge allows a place of empowerment from which one can grow and flex along with the relationship’s journey. Advice will sometimes be more rigid and wrong for some, and sometimes be just fine.

I am remembering my own issues and talking more about them, instead of shoving them aside. I am taking steps to care for myself better. I am reading the stories about the theatre victims with amazement at those people who acted out of tremendous love and courage that night. I am reading the stories about Seattle’s Cafe Racer reopening, with the owner embracing a commitment to continued community for that spot. I am smiling and saying hi to the people I pass because it’s a lonely, lonely world sometimes. I am chasing my children around the house while wearing a colander on my head because we all need a laugh. I am letting Miles harvest carrots that are one inch long because he thinks it’s fun and it helps me hold my garden more open-handedly. I am inviting people into my home even though the toilets might be gross and the kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped since June. I am going to keep writing. I don’t want my anxiety of potentially offending someone to stop me from sparking any good that might come from sharing ideas. And I’m thinking about the next nugget of knowledge I’ll share with you.