End of the year update

I hope you all had a merry or a happy whatever winter holiday you celebrate.  Here at the missing kidney household, the mood was less festive than previous years and definitely more lazing around in jammies all day.  (Hey, I’ve got cancer.  Don’t judge!)  Luckily, we did have a not so little anymore elf that pushed us to decorate, buy a tree, etc., this year.  Her name is Miss M.  She bossed us all into making sure lights were up and that we wore happy smiles on our faces at all times.  Seriously, though, neither Reil nor I were particularly into Christmas this year.  The holiday joy was hard to find;  we really just wanted to nap through most of the season.  It’s been a long, hard year.

On the up side, though, I took a week and a half long break from my cancer meds, and that helped immensely.  I’d reached a point where all I felt was “Why bother?”  The side effects were wiping me out.  Two days into the break, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my body and my soul.  I’ve been back on the meds for almost two weeks now, and I still feel good.  I’ve been telling my family and my friends to remind me in a few months that if I’m feeling poorly, it will be ok to take another break.  But for now, I feel good, and that’s enough.

I’ve been going a little overboard with fabric shopping, but I am getting a lot of quilting done, so I feel I’m justified.  Plus, the fabric is so pretty!  If you’re on my blog’s homepage, there is a link to my Instagram account, which should show some of what has been keeping me busy.  I hadn’t really missed quilting for the 5 or 6 years when I wasn’t doing it, but I am very happy to be back into it.  I’m looking forward to the new year, and starting up my watercolor class again, too.

So, really, not a lot going on.  But I have been able to spend quite a bit of time with old friends and extended family over the past two weeks.  I’ve been doing things I enjoy.  I’ve got very little stress.  Not bad for living with stage IV cancer, huh?

Dancing with death

Last night I sat next to Molly, watching my aunt dance with her new husband.  My stepfather walked onto the dance floor and took his sister, the bride, in his arms for their dance.  And, of course, I sat there thinking of how much I’d love to see my son and daughter, currently mortal enemies, dance together at one of their weddings.

It had been a long day, starting with the kids circle support group.  We had a large group this time – about 12 families.  After the kids went their directions, the parents gathered to talk.  One parent noted that we had a high proportion of people with very advanced cancers – metastatic colon, lung, pancreatic, mesothelioma, and kidney (me), among others.  A few of the cancer parents had been given a timeline – a year, two years.  Others of us don’t have a timeline yet.  We aren’t blessed (or cursed) with that clock ticking quite so loudly.

But still, it’s there.  And even if our use-by-date is unsaid, we know that our time is limited.

I know that the likelihood of being able to watch either of my kids get married is slim.  I hope that I’ll be there, as well as for the births of their children and all the other highs and lows of their lives.  I hope to see my children become friends, or at least be able to be friendly with one another.

And that’s where I was, emotionally, as I sat, sobbing quietly, in a bathroom stall, where I’d run to hide my tears.  But spending my time mourning my (possible) losses isn’t living, at least not how I want to live.  I want, need, to be in the moment, enjoying my family, my friends, my life.  When I forget the present, I dive into the bleak possibilities of the future.

With that in mind, I wiped off the tears, splashed water on my face, and went back downstairs for a slice of wedding cake and to dance and laugh right then, in the present, with my family.

My year in books

Here I am, looking at fabric online, AGAIN.  Contemplating purchases of many, many yards of luscious material because it is just so pretty (and let’s face it, I’d be getting a deal here.)  If I click the purchase button, you all have to promise to kick my ass into gear and get some quilts done!  I can’t bitch too much because I have two finished tops, one almost finished top, and another well on the way.  But there’s still lots of fabric in my drawers and it needs to get used, and I haven’t been doing a whole lot about that.

After a weekend of doing nothing but lying on the sofa, watching TV and movies, because I couldn’t do much else (I missed a Camp Kesem reunion and a 4-H sewing meeting, where I’m one of the leaders), I finally have some energy.  This, I’m sure, is in no small part because I’m taking a short vacation from the cancer medication.  Last week I finally had it up to here with constant diarrhea and literal butt hurt, so I contacted my doctor and got the OK to go off it for a week or so.   Of course, I used the energy yesterday and today to finish consuming the latest Department Q book, The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  It was due today, and I couldn’t renew it again, so it had to be done.  I love my Danish mysteries.

Over the past seven years, I’ve tracked all of the books I’ve read on Librarything.com.  (My user name there is Lisabee, if you want to connect.)  Most years I read or listen to about a book a week.  This year, perhaps for obvious reasons, I’m falling a bit behind – so far, only 43 books, with 3.5 weeks left of the year.  (Yikes, that means there’s only 2.5 weeks until Christmas.  But that’s another post.)  This year has been mostly thrillers and mysteries, which isn’t far from the norm for me, but there’s definitely been a stronger trend towards the comfort reads for me.  Again, probably for obvious reasons.

So, what HAVE I been reading?  Lots of mysteries, of course!  Last year, one of my co-workers, Cheryl, introduced me to Nevada Barr, and I’ve been making my way through her Anna Pigeon series, all set in national parks.  I just wish I could visit them all, too.  I read or re-read a few of the Kathy Reichs‘ Temperance Brennan (Bones) books.  I also started reading a new series by Malla Nunn, set in 1950’s South Africa;  enjoyed Stuart MacBride‘s newest Logan McRae, Aberdeen detective, full of wonderful characters; and got my second taste of Harry Bingham‘s Fiona Griffith, and another of Sharon Bolton‘s Lacey Flint.

I’ve also read the new books by a few other of my favorite authors. Michael Connelly – both Burning Room (a Bosch novel, and again terrific) and The Gods of Guilt (Lincoln Lawyer, good).  I can’t wait for the Bosch series to come out on Amazon Prime in February.  Lee Child put out a new Jack Reacher novel, which, while fun, wasn’t quite the top of his game.  I also listened to a novella (High Heat) set when Reacher is 16 (sometime in the 70s).  Barry Eisler put out a new John Rain novel, which like High Heat, goes back in time to when Rain is young – 19 or 20 and just out of the military.  I tend to lump these three authors together because they almost always put out terrific work.  Their protagonists are also getting older – Rain and Bosch born in the 50s, Reacher in 1960.  So they’re all well past their physical primes, and all in “business” in very physical fields.  So I wonder where the authors will go with these characters.  Eisler seems to have taken the series backward in time, and I’m hoping to see a new arc of novels with a young Rain.  I suspect that Connelly might focus on the TV series (hope?), but it sounds like there might be at least one more Bosch book.  Jack Reacher will probably be kicking ass and taking names until he’s 90.

Lest you think I’m all murders and mayhem, I took a few side trips to Australia.  Three books by Liane Moriarty, who I describe as the thinking woman’s chick lit writer, and who managed to continually delight me, and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, which was a wonderfully fun romp through Asperger’s.  (Did I really just write that?  Oh, read the book.  You’ll see.)

I turned to Christopher Moore for some comedy, too, and can’t even begin to stress how amazing he is.  We listened to The Serpent of Venice on our way to Portland and Thanksgiving time.  It’s a mashup of The Cask of Amontillado, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello, and the audiobook performance is exceptional, hilarious, and a rollicking good time.  I listened to Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal right after my diagnosis and surgery.  I’d read it already, but enjoyed the second experience just as much, if not more than the first.

And of course, there were the cancer books.  I’ve read part or all of a number of them.  But the best book about cancer that I read this year was The Fault in Our Stars.  Read it, watched the movie, cried the whole way.

Ok, now I have to go order some fabric, and then turn to the giant stack of books next to my bed.  You guys should go read some books or send me your favorite recommendations.


Birthday blues

Yesterday was my birthday, and it kind of sucked.  My family did their best to pamper me and love on me, but despite their efforts, I felt like crap all day.  Sluggish, tired, fatigued, depressed.  In the afternoon, the three of them went off to see a movie without me (but with my blessing) because I didn’t have the energy to go.  Instead, I stayed at home and cried.  It was the end of a long week that, although it had a lot of great points, generally showed me how life isn’t the same any more.  I’ve tended to reject the idea that I’m “fighting” cancer (primarily because who wants to fight against their own body?), but I’ve found that what I’ve really been fighting to achieve is a sense of normalcy.  And, unfortunately, in that fight, I feel like I’m losing.

We started the week with a short trip to Portland.  It really is a 10 hour drive, and that exhausted me so much that I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with my family, my brother and his girlfriend as much as I’d have liked.  We did a little bit of sightseeing – Voodoo Donuts (forget my last post!) and Powell’s Books – and then I was wiped out, needing a nap.  Luckily, we’d rented a very comfortable apartment that we could return to, letting the kids play games with their awesome uncle.  But that seemed to be the rhythm of the weekend, actually the whole week, and probably weeks before, too.  Do a little bit.  Be wiped out.  It was just much more noticeable when there were people and things I really wanted to see and do.

We spent Thanksgiving with a group of friends.  It was a lovely day, but I was fighting a massive headache and extreme fatigue.  Luckily, in this group there are people who love to talk and tell stories, and so I didn’t have to exert myself much – just stay awake and enjoy the fun.  And even that was difficult.

The lack of energy is difficult for me to handle, in general.  It’s one thing to not be able to hike long trails.  It’s another to have a walk around the block leave me tired.  And entirely another to not be able to have the energy to be able to get off the sofa to work on a quilt.

I’ve dealt with depression in the past, and I can see myself beginning a spiral down.  And so, I’m re-evaluating my vitamin situation.  I’m trying to make sure I get outside for sun exposure and a little bit of exercise each day.  I’m probably going to try to increase my anti-depressants.  I might try to get back in to talk therapy.  I’m hoping that these efforts will pay off by leaving my head as healthy as possible, even if my body lags behind.

But, man, it all just leaves me tired.