Goodness and Gratitude

New Year’s Eve blasted into Houston on a freezing, Arctic front. Temperatures are expected to dip down into the 20’s and 30’s for 5 consecutive days. Just two weeks ago, shorts and t-shirts were valid wardrobe options.

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December 21st, and 79 degrees

In a year of personal highs and lows, it seems only fitting to bid 2017 goodbye with some additional extremes…Because coping with a cancer diagnosis, unexpectedly relocating to Houston for almost a year, participating in a clinical trial, 6 months of grueling chemotherapy, a radical mastectomy, radiation and Hurricane Harvey just wasn’t enough…😉

2017 wasn’t all bad…at least for the first 5 months. After my diagnosis, though, it certainly felt like it would be the worst year of my life. Of course, 2018 has only just begun, and 2/3s of my treatment remains. Surgery is scheduled for January 19th, which also happens to be Ben’s 21st birthday – a very good omen, I do believe. *(Update: Surgery rescheduled to 1/24th) But, until I get the all-clear from the post-surgical pathology report, 2018’s status is somewhat obscure. Even so, I am increasingly hopeful and optimistic, as my most recent ultrasound showed a 47% decrease in one of the cancerous lymph nodes. 6 months of harsh chemotherapy is doing its job –  the positive result of an often hellish experience. When I objectively observe and reflect, much good has been found in even the worst of 2017’s circumstances. Discovering and reconnecting with exceptional people who provided medical, physical and emotional healing, nurturing and unconditional love, was certainly an extraordinary blessing – albeit bestowed by an unwelcome assailant. A search for silver linings amidst a serious cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment may seem counterintuitive to some, but if I don’t try to counterbalance negative with positive, I’m sunk. Unfailingly, daily prayers of gratitude soften my response to seemingly invariable extremes, reinforcing my basic belief that human beings and life situations are rarely, if ever, one-dimensional.

December began with Ethan’s visit – short but sweet. I was nearing the end of a 3-week reprieve from chemo when he arrived on December 6th, but preparing for the 3rd of 4 “Red Devil” treatments the following day, December 7th. Part of my preparation involved a nourishing meal at a local Italian restaurant, Antica Osteria, which is within walking distance of Sally Jo’s apartment. As always, I was comforted and heartened by Ethan’s presence and determination to lighten my load. It is one of my greatest sources of fulfillment, as it is for most parents, I suppose, watching both sons develop into conscientious, caring and concerned adults. Ethan and I spent a very long day at MDACC after learning at my oncology appointment that I would need a blood transfusion. Low hemoglobin, a condition that leads to fatigue, anemia, weakness, pale skin and shortness of breath explained the exceedingly rough time I had been experiencing. When I look at my photos from December 7th, I can see the resemblance to Casper the Friendly Ghost.👻

Donor matching and an additional 4 hours for the blood transfusion made for a marathon day that ran late into the evening. Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication administered prior to chemotherapy, put me to sleep for about 1 1/2 hours, according to Ethan. He also reported snoring, but produced no evidence. 😉😴 A movie with sister, Sally Jo, rounded out our time together before Ethan returned to California.

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Following Ethan’s departure, Eric and Natalie invited me to rest and recover at their home, where my private duty nurse, Charley, could tend to my every emotional need.

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While I didn’t feel particularly great, I certainly felt better than I had after past infusions. I had been advised the blood transfusion would restore my strength, and it did. I did not suffer the same level of side-effects, and avoided some, like mouth sores, altogether. I would be in fairly good shape for Ben, Erica and Neal’s upcoming visit.

Ben and Erica arrived on December 18th; Neal 12/20. By then, I was ready for some limited field trips. The Museum of Natural Science, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens,  which included a tour of late Houston philanthropist and civic leader, Ima Hogg’s, former mansion, and yet another visit to Johnson Space Center|NASA were on the agenda. Joining us for various activities were brother, Patrick, son Landon and his girlfriend, Claire, who were visiting from Virginia Beach, and nephew, Gerrit and son, Brax. Additional highlights: My first sushi in over 6 months was heartily consumed. And, a spontaneous trip to Shoreacres and Tookies took place. Taking advantage of holiday rates at The Houstonian, Neal and I gifted ourselves a mini vacation. While we didn’t use the workout facility, Erica and I did make regular use of the steam shower. It was downright medicinal…both the steam and the time spent connecting with the delightful Erica. Neal and Ben competed in the pool, each reporting, as usual, the other’s er…”infractions,” and “shortcuts.” The familiarity of this friendly rivalry – if you can accurately characterize a 61 year old as any match for a 20 year old’s speed and stamina as a genuine competition – made me feel at home.

Christmas Day was spent at Eric and Natalie’s home.

Neal and Ben’s visit ended on December 28th, my final chemotherapy infusion day. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be there for the ceremonial bell-ringing. But, after delivering me to MDACC at 6:30 am, they were able to attend my surgical appointment before leaving for the airport. I have been eager for them to meet my surgeon, Dr. Mediget Teshome, as I knew they would be as reassured as I am by her knowledge, expertise, and calming, compassionate presence. Sally Jo, Jenny, and niece, MaryAnna, were my chemo companions for the afternoon.

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Final chemo!

Ringing the bell of completion was a satisfying, emotional turning point. No more chemotherapy…for now, anyway. IF the post-surgical pathology report finds a minimum of 1 cm of cancer in a tumor, or even one cancerous lymph node, treatment must continue. The options, though, would be another clinical trial using an immunotherapy drug, or an oral chemotherapy. A complete pathologic response (no cancer cells detected through microscopic evaluation) is the goal and objective. I’m advised it takes about a week for the pathology report, so until then there will be no sigh of relief. Reaching this milestone, however, was definitely cause to celebrate.

That evening I went home with sister, Jenny, where I’ve been kept warm, cozy, loved and well-fed. Perhaps I’m still reaping positive benefits of the blood transfusion, because side-effects this final round have been remarkably tolerable. Fatigue comes and goes; Zofran and Nexium keep my stomach issues under control. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with fireworks, or “boom, boom, lights,” as Brax refers to them, and New Year’s Day with the requisite black-eyed peas, cabbage, and cornbread.

As I consider 2017’s “good” and “bad,” I cannot help but wonder why I have deserved so much unconditional love, support and assistance. Yes, I know that’s just what families “do” for loved ones, and that I “would do the same.” But, have I really been a good enough person to deserve the constant, unrestricted generosity I’ve received from family, friends and even strangers? That’s a challenging concept for me to comprehend and accept. It has long been my prayer to become a “better” wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, neighbor. And, while I am certainly not suggesting I’ve been a “bad” person who doesn’t deserve all the good surrounding me, I just consider myself much more a work-in-progress than a finished project…Lately, one of my favorite songs – Something Good – from one of my favorite movies, The Sound of Music, has been playing in my head:

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
For here you are standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth
Or childhood
I must have done something
Something good

 

What I’ve come to realize is that the solace, comfort, encouragement and aid I’ve received from others throughout this terrifying experience is not, in fact, predicated on my goodness at all…

But, rather, on theirs.

 

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8 Responses to Goodness and Gratitude

  1. Amy says:

    Dear Jill
    I have been thinking of you!
    You are so brave and strong to be moving thru all this with such a positive attitude. You have my admiration and know that we think of you and send our prayers for your wellness and healing often.
    💜💚❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Thank you, Amy! Some days are better than others, that’s for sure…but, such is life, I guess?! I so look forward to stepping back into the Hot Yoga 1000 studio, and reconnecting with you, Kevin and our yogi friends…❤️ Of course, I’m resigned to starting where it all began…in the far corner of the room, hanging on to the wall for balance, and wondering why it’s so dang hot in there! lol…😬😉 ❌⭕️❌⭕️

      Like

  2. Julie says:

    All of these pictures make my heart happy……seeing you smiling so big in all of them. I’m so glad that all of “your people” we’re there loving on you. 2018 will be your year. I feel good news will be coming your way. You’re always in my thoughts and prayers. Love and long distance hugs, Julie ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Thank you, Julie! I love your encouraging words and support…I hope you are all well and thriving in soCal, and everywhere your water polo adventures and family fun take you. All my love toy and the family! ❤️

      Like

  3. debbie Valentine says:

    Well hello my dear!! Loved the pictures and eloquently written words! While I am sending big hugs and lots of love for an amazing 2018, I just want to you see that the love bestowed upon you, while you feel is a reflection of your loved one and not you, is given to you because they feel YOU are worthy of it! XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jill Flyer says:

      Hello Debbie! Thank you for your kind words. ❤️ I hope this finds you and your family off to a good start this year. Think of you, and all our Hot Yoga 1000 friends, so often! Can’t wait to join you in the hot room soon!

      Like

  4. Jill Flyer says:

    Thank you, dearest Della! Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018! I love you, friend!❤️

    Like

  5. Della says:

    Happiest and healthiest New Year to you and your family Jill. This is a very special year. It’s the year of “Chai” 2018!!!! And I wish you all the best in this miraculous CHAI 18 year.
    All my love,
    Della

    Liked by 1 person

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