Coping Strategies

Staying in Focus: Meditation and Mandalas

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2018 began as a high stress year for us, beginning with my husband’s diagnosis of prostate cancer. In preparation for the radiation therapy he would receive, he underwent a procedure to place three gold markers in his prostate.

A few days later he developed an e-coli infection in his blood, which landed him in the hospital for three days. It could have been worse, but the hospital staff was on the ball, and started him on antibiotics immediately. Needless to say, my anxiety levels were on 24-hour alert.

Fortunately, I had developed a system for dealing with anxiety, as part of my regimen in handling my Parkinson’s disease. This is a simple system, no drugs required, consisting of Meditation and Mandalas.

My meditation is based on calming my mind and body with relaxed breathing and the repetition of two lines of a poem I wrote and use as a mantra.

Let It Go

I take a breath, I let it go
I feel the calm, I let it flow
I embrace the moment, I am still
I let gentle peace my spirit fill
I clear my thoughts, now is the time
To silence fears within my mind
I can cope with this I know
I take a breath, I let it go…

I will repeat this poem several times, and then, as I feel the calm flow over me, I’ll use the last two sentences as a mantra.

I enjoy all types of coloring books, but my favorite for calming my nerves and reducing stress are the mandalas. I have posted in the past about how stress-reducing it is to color. For years the only good coloring books for adults were available in museum stores. A few years ago, however, it was discovered how stress relieving coloring can be and suddenly there were coloring books everywhere – from bookstores to the check-out counters in grocery stores and pharmacies.

The word mandala means “circle” and they represent our connection to the universe. Coloring a mandala is a soothing process, and once I have completed coloring it, I can use it as a focus point in meditation. As I gaze at the mandala, I focus on the colors and patterns, and this helps me to clear my mind of fears and anxieties. When troublesome thoughts arise to distract me, I gaze again at the beautiful colors in my mandala and continue with my meditation.

Choosing colors for my mandalas is the artistic part of the process. I usually use 5 to 6 colors, and try to balance cool and warm colors, and a complementary or contrasting color as well. Then it is just a matter of coloring in the pattern.  A color wheel can be helpful with this step. I find that Prismacolor pencils provide a rich, saturated finish. A good pencil sharpener is vital as pencil points must be sharp to fill in small areas. An interesting  thing about coloring mandalas is that you really don’t know how it will look when it is done. As more and more of the pattern is colored, the image grows brighter and more vibrant.

The next time you have a lot of stress to relieve, give coloring mandalas and meditation a try.  Thankfully, my husband is almost finished with his radiation treatment. and my stress levels have eased. Now I can color for the sheer fun of it, but I’ve worn some of my favorite colored pencils down to the nib.  I’d better stock up because I just ordered 3 new mandala books from Amazon. It always pays to be prepared…

 

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: I Walk the Line: Love Will Keep Us Together

Daily Prompt: I Walk the Line

Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

As I have written before, I have two precepts I follow in life. One is to love one another, the other to do unto others, as I would like others to do unto me. They may seem too simple at first glance, but they can take a lifetime of practice to achieve.

Let’s look at the first one – love one another.  Some of the others may be easy to love – our parents, siblings, spouse and children are hopefully on this list. But what about that mean boss we have at work, that workmate who tries to make us look bad, the teacher who makes us feel inadequate, the classmates who bully us? Can we truly learn to love these people? As I said earlier, what seems so simple a statement is actually quite complex.

The key is to look beneath the layers – the personas people adopt for a variety of reasons. Most likely they experienced a lack of love themselves, somewhere in life; perhaps they act as they do because that is what or how they were taught; perhaps there are biological reasons for their actions – brain injury or psychological  disorders. If we try to peel away the layers and reach the core of a person like this, we will find a lost soul, confused and abused and acting as they do because they know no other way. Even if we can’t change them or cure them, we can understand and have empathy for these lost souls, and we can succeed in loving one another.

With the second precept, unless one is a total masochist who wants to be abused and treated badly, we desire to be treated fairly, to love and be loved, to be accepted and cared for, appreciated and needed.  To receive these desires one must transmit these desires to others – as in karma, what goes around comes around.  If we approach others with understanding rather than judgment, with kindness rather than hate, we are following this precept. If we think about how we like to be treated and carry it forth into the world, love will find a way in and spread throughout. To make changes in the world we each have to be the change; to be loved, we each have to love one another.

It is as simple and as difficult as that,

I will repost my favorite poem that reflects these  thoughts:

He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In !

– by Edwin Markham

Daily Prompt: Staying in Focus: I Am Still Me

Daily Prompt:  I am a Rock. Is it easy for you to ask for help when you need it, or do you prefer to rely only on yourself? Why?

I tend to rely on myself and really avoid asking for help.  One of the things I was most afraid of in telling people that I had Parkinson’s disease, was that it would change the way they were with me. I didn’t want them to see the disease and not see me anymore. I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, or assuming I couldn’t do certain things while I still can.

Aside from taking my pills and exercise I tend not to think about the PD much at all. The day may very well come along when I no longer can ignore it, but no sense dwelling on that now. It’s a waste of the present to worry about the future.

I’ve never wanted to be the center of attention for any reason, preferring to work on the sidelines, stand in the shadows and plow my way through whatever awaits beyond the curve up ahead. Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I focus on what I can do, and let the rest unfold as it will. One way that I help myself is by supporting the researchers working to find a cure for all people dealing with chronic and degenerative diseases. Supporting this research can give friends and family a direction for getting involved, and dispels the awkward, “I’m so sorry, what can I do?” moments.

My husband and I did a5K ‘on deck for the cure’ walk aboard the Caribbean Princess while on a cruise. This walk I did in honor of my mom and friend, Debbi, both fighting breast cancer. There are walks and runs for just about every disease researchers are working on.

As most of you probably know, The Michael J. Fox Foundation has helped to fund researchers working for a PD cure. Michael is returning to TV this fall on NBC, September 26 at 9:00. He will portray a man with Parkinson’s disease, who is returning to work after 20 years. (A perfect example of art imitating life).The members of Team Fox are asking people to sign up and host premier parties to support Michael and spread the word about PD research. 1,855 people have already signed up to host the premier parties. If you are interested check out:

http://www2.michaeljfox.org/site/PageNavigator/ThinkAble_PremiereParty.

They provide ideas for your party and it will help spread the word about PD and the current research being conducted. So if you know someone who has PD and need a way to show your support here’s one idea you might find both fun and supportive.

Everyone needs compassion, sooner or later. The truth is that we must learn to handle the cards we are dealt, but that is not to say supportive people in our lives cannot walk beside us. Just keep in mind the disease is only a part of a person. It hasn’t changed his hopes and dreams or her need to continue living a life as normal as possible for as long as she can.  And don’t worry. The Simon and Garfunkel song may say “a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”  But people do. And you’ll know when to ease their pain and cry with them. Until then, just be their friend.

Staying in Focus:Weekly Writing Challenge: My Rocky Road

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

The Rocky Road

I was cruising right along
when this rocky path appeared
and now I have been walking it
for many trying years
and yet it leads me onward
there’ve been obstacles, I fear
but despite the looming shadows
I have no time for tears
each day I have, I celebrate
this precious gift I’m given
and I for one have vowed to make
each one a day worth living
so moment by moment, mindfully
I take a step most carefully
along this steep and rocky road
trying not to stumble
I strive to end each day
with hope in a new tomorrow
my heart assured, my spirit free
safe within the circle
of my  friends and family,
I choose to dwell on happiness
and not waste time on sorrow.
2013 pc

One day I am living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family and the next day I receive a diagnosis that changes my picture perfect life forever. Life can be like that, and we must learn to roll with the punches.

I had noticed changes in my body a few years before diagnosis, but caught in a difficult passage through menopause, I attributed some of it – the anxiety especially, to that.  And then, in 2007, a routine colonoscopy found a polyp that we did not know was cancer until after surgery.  The anesthesiologist I had for that procedure suggested I see a neurologist for the tremor I was experiencing. I followed through once I had recovered from the colon cancer operation, already certain of the answer –Parkinson ’s disease.

And now, 6 years later, I am still living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family, but living a life quite different from what I had expected. Now I must take 3 prescription drugs, 2 of them 3 times a day to facilitate walking, control the tremor, and slow down the progression of the disease. 3 additional medications address my blood pressure, anxiety and thyroid. For dessert I have folic acid, a multi-vitamin, vitamin D, 4 fish oil capsules, and a full size aspirin to complete my daily feast of meds. Then there is exercise. I have a small, powered stationary bike that I use every day, keeping the rotations above 80/per minute, aerobic walking using the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home programs on DVD, followed by yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance. I also lift weights three times a week for strength training. It takes a big chunk out of my day but it beats the alternative. I complete my regime with a relaxing meditation

Fortunately, I am 5+ years out from the cancer surgery and so far so good. I have had a total of 7 colonoscopies to monitor things and I see an oncologist twice a year and take an aspirin daily. So far my regime has been successful in keeping me moving and slowing down the PD. This summer we took a cruise to the British Isles and I walked every day. We did an “On the Deck 5K Walk for the Cure” around the ship. So although I’ve  had to make major changes (retiring and giving up driving).  I have adjusted to life along this Rocky Road.  I take each day as it comes and try to treat it as the gift it is. I allow myself time to continue to grow and learn new things through online classes, visits to museums, and writing poetry, my memoir and currently, a middle grade children’s novel. Spending time with family and friends is paramount in keeping up the spirits and continuing to participate in life.

My mother endured months of bedrest to  avoid miscarrying me, so that I am here at all is a wonder; that I’ve lived 60 years and have had a marvelous life filled with love and support from my family and friends, and have been married for 37 years to my soul mate and best friend my husband, Bill, is simply miraculous.

Since I can’t know whether the road remains rocky the rest of the way, or smooths out for me for a time, I continue to walk along it (as best I can) try to keep healthy and fit to write and celebrate the gifts each new day brings.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: A Pat on the Back

Daily Prompt Tell someone you’re proud of just how proud you are.

I have several people I am especially proud of . Two of them, my mother and my friend Debbi, are battling breast cancer.
Mom has had it 3 times – she has had 2 mastectomies, radiation and chemo in her battle with this relentless disease. At 90 years old, the chemo proved to be too much for her, and she has chosen quality of life in the time she has left, verses weeks of such debilitating  side effects.  I applaud her strength in deciding for herself  what she wants her last days to be like.

Through all this she has not lost her sense of humor, telling me that every morning. by the time she washes up, puts in her hearing aid, her false teeth, her glasses, fastens on her prosthesis and “harness” as she calls it, and puts  her wig in place, it’s time for a nap! We wonder about what percentage of these morning add-ons you must have to reach android status! Now we want to get her an alert system and she sighed saying another thing to attach to my body!

Debbi has had her surgery and is about to complete her radiation, and then begin chemo after Labor Day.  She, too, retains her sense of humor, saying at least with the wig she will not have to worry about bad hair days. The worst thing about it all, my mother has said, is that it changes your body image so drastically. Even at 90, she mourns the loss of the body of her youth. But these are strong women, who know what they have to do to survive, and for them, retaining their sense of humor is the key. They’ve learned to live day by day, celebrate all the moments when they feel a little better, or the sun seems a little brighter and keep on keepin on. So to them, I dedicate this poem:

My True Heroines

You are beautiful…

the light that shines from within

cancer cannot  reach nor dim

your sense of humor is your strength

nothing can touch your inner grace

the body may have to take it’s blows

but as everybody knows

you are the spirit that lives within

though the body may change

you’ will always remain

a heroine to me

for you are beautiful….

pc2013

Daily Prompt: Normal/Staying in Focus

Daily Prompt: Normal

Normal is a very subjective term. It can mean that everything is as it should be – our child’s temperature being normal is  a good thing. Hearing the doctor say everything is normal at our yearly physical causes a sigh in relief. Normal can also mean typical, just a normal day, uneventful but pleasant.

Lately, however, with labels slapped on everything  and everyone,  normal can come to mean slightly inferior. Take for instance, food products. Everything is super improved, now more vitamins, no trans fat. What once  was acceptable, or normal, is now implied  as less desirable than it used to be.  We shy away from normal, and ally ourselves with the new and improved.

Also consider those annoying bumper stickers . “I have a gifted chid at Blah Blah Elementary School , or “Proud parent of an honor student at Dismal High School.”  Nobody has one stating, “I have a normal child  at… ” , although  a larger majority are in the normal category.  Normal was once acceptable.  People were happy to have  a normal child, live in a normal neighborhood, have a normal dog. Now people feel the need  to proclaim their superior status by  bumper stickers reflecting the flavor of the week in  government education programs. Or to announce that they have 3 Bouvier de Flanders and an Affenpinscher, instead of one normal dog named Spot.

Note to parents  out there: The same people rating children as to whether they are gifted,  are the verypeople who currently cannot handle the job they were elected to do, namely, to solve our country’s many prob;ems. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in what they have to say. After all, they came up with the phrase “SNAFU” meaning SITUATION NORMAL: ALL FOULED UP.

I will now share my special secret with you: I knew my children were gifted before the government got around to figuring it out.  All children are gifted. We are all gifted. We just need time to explore and discover our own special gifts. It takes more than a bumper sticker.

So if we are all gifted anyway, and we strip away the labels and peel off the bumper stickers, what we find is normal.  Remember, normal is a subjective term. What’s normal for me may not be normal for you. And it is okay to shake normal up once in a while by taking a cruise, parachuting out of an airplane,  learning digital photography. Nothing wrong with stretching your normal to cover more things. Normal doesn’t mean you have to conform, because everybody’s normal is different. Normal is just our base, our haven for when life gets out of hand and throws us too many punches.  Normal is going home at night to your spouse,  2.5 kids, and Spot, and living the American dream ,whatever that means to you

May we all be blessed with some normal in our lives. No bumper stickers required.,

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Never Say Never

Daily Prompt: Never

If there is one thing I have learned in life, it is to never say never. Life has a way of surprising you at every turn.  You may judge others at one point in your life, believing that you would never do as they did, only to find yourself in the same situation years later, reacting in the same way and doing what you said you never would do. Usually statements beginning  with the words “I would never…” come from inexperience, the certainties of youth that life will temper as the years unfold. Many of these  certainties are uttered by those yet to become parents.   I will never let my child eat fast food, watch television before they are forty,  bribe them to get good grades.  My child will never get a tatoo,  wear clothes like that, use makeup before they are forty, get  D on a report card. Tread lightly when making such claims or in judging others from your place of perfection because you will soon learn that  nothing in life is certain. The best laid plans, the strongest philosophy, can be felled by a two-year old having a temper tantrum or an adolescent simply doing what adolescents do – challenge you at every turn. Your determination never to gain weight, never to interfere in your grown children’s lives, never to  become your mother, are all nevers I have seen fall by the wayside, discarded in a moment after years of certitude. I  have  seen acquaintances  and family members deal with things they never imagined, never saw coming, never expected to impact their lives. I’ve found that life has  a way of humbling us as we negotiate our way through it.  As the years pass, life erodes our sharp edges, softens our perspectives and opens our minds to possibilities never considered in our youth.  My humble advice is never say never…because you never know…

Focus On: Quiet Courage

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” -Mary Anne Radmacher.

the voice of quiet courage
                    by pat coyle

it is an office with a cut glass chandelier in the lobby
brilliant pictures grace the walls
framing a much different world
than the one they inhabit –
those who must come here
those who fight the silent battle
with fortitude and  quiet courage

Called forth by a smiling nurse
one on each side, the three musketeers
questions are asked, answers given
blood pressure taken
he will be in soon
and we wait

I look over at her she sits quietly
lost in her own thoughts
lost in a world not of her choosing
searching for a beacon to show her the way
the way out, the way back, the way home

he  arrives

strange words float in the air
metastatic, PET scan, estrogen, radiation,
but then they fade and scatter
diminished by one word,
which fills the room with the taste of fear
chemotherapy

 he explains

she nods
not understanding some of it
bewildered by most of it
but knowing her musketeers are getting it
and will explain it to her

taken orally, not as harsh
less side effects
no hair loss

he leaves

to give orders
write prescriptions
arm her with the weapons needed
to win the day
we relax somewhat and breathe again

she gazes down
she does not recognize this body
crisscrossed with battle scars
this is not me, she thinks
but it is, and she knows
she will do what she must
she will take what she should
for as long as she can

she is a fighter
she is a survivor
she is our mother
and we, her musketeers

And so we enter the next phase in Mom’s battle against breast cancer with a visit to the oncologist.  My sister, Mary Lou, and I accompanied her, both for moral support and because, despite her hearing aid, she misses a lot of what is being said. And who wouldn’t, hearing impaired or not, when the doctor is throwing our words like metastatic, Pet scans, and chemotherapy at you.

The bottom line is that the first cancer she had (22 years ago) was estrogen driven. When it re-occurred  later, which was 5 years ago, it was treated with radiation, and then she was given tamoxifen , a drug that helps suppress these estrogen driven tumors. The doctor was curious as to why the tamoxifen failed in light of this third occurrence and then the pathology report arrived and showed that this was not an estrogen driven cancer, but a metastatic one, capable of moving to other parts of the body. It is  a completely different cancer. So she must have a PET scan to see if any of it has metastasized elsewhere. If not, then she will take six chemotherapy pills orally each day for two weeks, then be off for a week, and this rotation will last quite some time, perhaps for the rest of her life. If cancer is present elsewhere, then a new protocol will have to be addressed.

The good news is that side effects are milder than intravenous chemo, she won’t lose her hair or experience the vomiting associated with it either. Some nausea, maybe, and we have to watch her coumadin dosage, as the new medication will boost its blood thinning properties.

So again we wait, for the PET scan to be scheduled and the new meds to be acquired.
We will try to do so with the same fortitude and quiet courage she has exhibited through all the challenges of her life. No matter what the future holds, she knows the three musketeers will see it through together  — all for one and one for all!

Focus on: Painting and Planning and Parkinson’s

Life is a trip.Don’t miss the boat:)
– pc 2013

   

 I had a visit with my neurologist on Thursday.  So far, so good.  Meds are working and I seem to be in a holding pattern. Bill and I decided to take advantage of this and book a cruise around the British Isles in July.  It will be a 12 day cruise, with 2 days to explore London after we leave the ship.  We will tour Ireland, Scotland, England and spend a day in Paris We are looking forward to the trip.  Neither of us has been to Europe and although we took a nice stroll through the neighborhoods of Victoria, Canada last summer, the final port of call on our Alaska cruise, we have yet to acquire a stamp on our shiny new passports.
 Right now, there are days I almost forget I have a degenerative neural disease, but I know that will not always be so, unless a cure for Parkinson’s is discovered, So I want to do what I can while I can.! That means getting enough exercise to keep the body moving, and challenging the mind so it stays sharp.
  I find that anything I do with my hands is very helpful in keeping my fingers nimble In addition to exercises, So I do some cross stitch, make jewelry and I love to paint. I’m not an artist, however, but I enjoy  paint-by-number painting.  It helps my fine motor coordination; is a calming activity and I get to practice patience as well.  Here are a few of what I call masterpieces. from a wannabe artist:

I found this little garden angel irresistible

I found this little garden angel irresistible

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There’s something about a barn in the snow…

.  I  find the paint- by -number to be more relaxing because you don’t have to figure out the color   scheme. .However, as I paint, I begin to see how the artist  used the colors to achieve the total effect, so it is a learning experience as well. I am in awe of anyone who has this natural talent. My niece, Becky ,is one of them. Her paintings are so intricate,  She will work hours on just a small section of a painting, and her finished work is amazing. What a wonderful gift!

King Tut. I am fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian

King Tut. I am fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian

Just recently I came across something new in the paint- by -number scene, from a company called Diy oil paintings, and they are bright, abstract and delightful to paint. I chose the one I did because the blues match the colors in my living room. I have ordered a second one before I finished the first. What makes these stand out, besides the bold, abstract style, is that they are printed on a canvas you have to stretch over a stretcher frame supplied with the kit.I have found the paints to be of excellent quality – not the thin, runny stuff you find in other kits. Here is the finished product. Different, isn’t it? I like the bold strokes of the primary colors, the effect of wet pavement shimmering in the lamplight. In this small sample it may appear there is one person walking, but there are two, if you look closely you can make them out. Where are they going on such a cold, wet night? Maybe they couldn’t resist walking together, no one else about, under trees decked in autumn dress, the colors glowing in the lamplight, surrounded by a cloak of midnight blue. 

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I’m anxious to start the next one! I have dabbled a bit in painting on my own.  Mostly mountain, sunsets and butterflies. I’d like to try this style now.

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I painted this butterfly to match the blue-greens of my kitchen. The first mountain sunset is in acrylic, the second is a watercolor.

So for as long as I can, I will challenge myself with new ventures. Painting is much easier than my other current challenge – algebra. I never mastered it in high school, but I can say I’m getting there, There is a sense of satisfaction when I come up with te right answer. My online courses have been superb. My next one will be Introduction to Internet Writing Markets.

I have just wrapped up my course on magazine writing and will be sending out some articles to test the waters.

I also have plans for the publication of two of my books, more about that next time.

In the meantime, take some time to let your creativity loose. You may be surprised about what you can do. In                the words of my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gough, If you hear a voice inside you say ‘You cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

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Staying in Focus: A Day Out of Our Life

There is probably nothing as stressful as a day at the hospital, waiting for a loved one to emerge safely from surgery.  We arrived at the hospital at 5:45 AM and soon after people began pouring in, most of them looking as tired as we already felt, after a night of little sleep, due to both fear and anticipation in getting there and getting through the day.  Once you enter those doors,  you enter a new time zone — hospital time. You can literally see the hand of the clocks moving slower.  Around 6:30, mom’s name was called and she received a paper to carry to the next stop on her journey.   An orderly escorted her in and in a relatively short time my sister, Mary ,and I, were escorted to a room where they had her prepped and ready to go. The little room was crowded with scrub-dressed staff bustling around, and after a visit from the anesthesiologist and her surgeon, it was time for her to begin her journey. We said our goodbyes and found our way to the surgical patient waiting area. This room was quiet, filled with anxious people awaiting news.

But thanks to modern technology, this is eased somewhat by a large TV screen displaying a chart which tracked the patient’s progress through surgery, recovery and onto their room or release. There is also a staff member there to answer the phone when the surgeon calls, or make calls to get you information if needed.  Fortunately, my sister is close friends with the head of the maternity wing of the hospital (Central Carolina) and her daughter, Jackie, is on Dr. Gordon’s surgical team, so she was with mom in the OR. Given all this help, support and information we were assured all was going well throughout the procedure.

Everything went like clockwork, and soon it was time to go up to her room, but she’d hadn’t arrived yet when we got there, so we sat  down to wait — hospital time, remember.  Finally, she arrived and they had her hooked up to so many wires she looked liked a Borg (see Star Trek: The Next Generation). She dozed on and off all afternoon, but she was more alert than I had anticipated and was visiting with my brother and his family when we left. Mary and I sighed as the elevator delivered us to the first floor.  We exited the doors we had entered eleven hours earlier. Step one complete.

. I’ve often marveled at the way a day at the hospital really does require that you take a step out of your life.  We entered before dawn and on this February evening, the sun was already setting as we left.the hospital .But whereas we had stepped out of our lives for a day, on the outside, the world continued on, business as usual. People were working, walking their dogs, jogging through the park, driving home from work.  We had missed it all.

But despite our weariness, we had seen mom  through the first step on this long journey to save her life.  The doctors tell us she needs six weeks of healing before any decisions or discussions will take place.

I returned to Sanford on Sunday, and stayed at my sister’s house.  On Monday, mom’s friend,Betty, and I went to collect mom from the hospital.  I stayed with her at her house until Wednesday when the doctor removed the drain tubes, changed her dressing and approved her trip up to Cary for the weekend.  On Sunday, my sister will come and fetch her for another appointment on Monday, for which the doctor hopes to have the pathology report.  They want to know where this tumor came from. The answer to that  question will determine our next step.

There may be more obstacles as we move forward on this journey not of our choosing. But  we must play the cards we are dealt, or as Betty said while we were waiting at the hospital, you have to live until you die.What choice have we?

Note: For anyone facing a life threatening illness, surgery or any kind of long hospital stay, the following idea worked  for us.  My niece, Jeanette, suggested we  each write a letter of encouragement to my mom, or “Nana” as she is to so many people. We passed the word around and soon the letters began to accumulate. I placed then in clear plastic paper protector sheets and put them in a binder.  By using the plastic sheets, the letters are preserved and for  those who sent cards we opened them up and  inserted them into the sleeves, so both the front and inside of the cards can be seen. I put a cover sheet on the front of the binder, which also had  a clear plastic pocket on the front, and wrote, “To Nana, With Love”  —  a collection of cards and letters to encourage you during your recovery.

Mary read the letters to mom and she loved them. To know so many people are pulling for you is very comforting. Like I said in my last post, if you send ripples of love out into the universe, love ripples right back at you!