Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Uncertain times

If you live on this planet I'm sure you are aware of the state of craziness that is happening right now. I know it may all seem extreme, but let me say thank you for doing your part from the small percentage of people you are trying to save right now. From everything I've read and understand (Not an expert on any level) my home is looking at a while before we get to socialize again. I've never felt the need to expressly say it here before but I am an extrovert, a big one!!! The knowledge that I'm not sure when I will see my friends again, when I will get to return to work, or even when I will get to grocery shop for myself again is overwhelming to say the least. What isn't overwhelming is the opportunity to see the world and my community shine. People are showing up for each other and that makes me so happy!!

I thought I'd take a moment to share how my house is showing up for others and for ourselves this week. This isn't a competition or a show of how great we are doing, believe me there has been a lot of screen time, this is just ideas to help you see what still can be done to feel like a community even when you feel so alone. Also as a reminder, my home is immunocompromised so while sharing things I've prepared here in my crazy sterilized home feels safe to me, I wouldn't recommend sharing anything with someone or a home you know to be immunocompromised.

So where did we begin?? Earlier this week Oliver and I searched YouTube and found a video that walks you through a painting class. We sat together and painted side by side, pausing the video and rewatching parts that confused us. We both wish our paintings had been better but the experience was pretty neat. Sawyer was interested in painting at a different level! He has been asking to paint his bedroom for awhile now but life keeps us busy and it hasn't been high on the priorities list, but guess what...we got nothing but time now! So we researched colors online, called the paint store and placed our order over the phone, did a speedy pick up and now are taking the bedroom painting a day (or a wall) at a time.





























Not gonna lie, I felt good about all of that, and then I remembered I had days, weeks possibly months of this and I wanted to cry. Eventually I remembered that I had already kind of done this once before. When my boys were little Jeremy was sick and for a while I felt like and sometimes even was a single mom. To cope I would set out an activity every night before going to bed so that when they woke up they had something to do while I guzzled coffee, started a load of laundry or did whatever needed to be done. This helped all of us survive that rocky time in our lives. So I went old school and I made playdough! I set it out and every one in the house has played with it! It's been so fun! When I made it I made extra and we went for a walk around our neighborhood and left surprise bags of playdough with an anonymous note for our friends with young kids in the neighborhood. The boys loved doorbell ditching friends so it was a game as well as a little exercise and it made us all not feel quite so alone.





The last thing I'm going to share has been sooo easy and yet silly and fun. I know that with the quarantine a lot of families are taking walks around their neighborhoods, I mean we all need some exercise right? So the boys and I put up a bright sign that says "JOKE OF THE DAY" and everyday we are putting a new joke up for the walkers to see. Today's funny: Ducks have feathers to cover their butt quacks. ;) Funny right?!? Hopefully it brings someone a smile today.

Anyhow there has definitely been more home cooking, more puzzles, more walks together as well as more xbox, more tv and less showers all of which I'm making peace with. I know I feel very alone right now, but I also feel so grateful that my community is banding together to keep my family safe. You may feel it's all extreme or unnecessary so if you need a face to remind you why you are doing this let me present exhibit A: 




Still mostly sane,

Liz

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Fair Weather Friend


There's a common theme that keeps appearing in conversations around here, friendship. Sounds simple enough, meet someone that makes you feel good, hang out, laugh, be friends. Except its so much more. Sometimes friendships are even work. I'm not talking about the people who you feel obligated to call friends, but actual people you want to see and matter to you can require something that is hard to give. 

I consider myself a good friend, I reach out when I know people are going through something. I make meals when births, illness or life has happened and people still need to eat. My house is always open to all. I strive to make everyone feel welcome the second they walk in the door. More of my holiday meals have been spent in the company of friends than family (settle down we like our family just don't live that close to any of them) as an adult. These are not measurements of good friends, these are just ways that I have been known to show up.  All these things are things I do out of love, for my friends. I feel so lucky to be able to support my friends, and I truly give all I can...when I can. 

Recently I've had to come to the hard truth that I am not that friend right now. I'm not apologizing for it, I have had to be and continue to be 100% focused on my immediate little family.  The struggle is internal. The struggle is with wanting to invite people over but knowing that the speed of my house is about 1/3 the speed of real life. The struggle is asking my family to be uncomfortable for even a minute because we all live in a state of uncomfortable most of the time right now. The struggle is not knowing when I will be that friend again. Jeremy has been in treatment for one year this month. One year, and our house is feeling it over here. We are all starting to hibernate, we are reserving our energy for the smiles you see when we have to leave our fortress. We are surviving, but I am not that friend.

Asking and then allowing people to be that friend to me is painful, but I do it anyway. I know how good I feel when I am able to help others so I remind myself that those around me also want to feel that joy, but it doesn't always make it easier. Doing hard things make my life a little easier so we push forward. Why do I feel the need to share this? I guess I'm hoping to encourage you to do whatever it is to show your love to your friends. Your smile, your hug, your little "thinking of you" text may really turn someones day around, and just because they aren't initiating doesn't mean they are less of a friend...sometimes it just means they are in the thick of it. 

Until the skies are sunnier, 
Your fair weather friend

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Resolutions

The year is less than one month old...did you make a resolution? Are you on track? Did you already give up? This year I didn't make a resolution and apparently this is a bold stance to some.

Yesterday I had someone ask me what my new year resolutions were and when I told her I didn't make any she said "Wow, I don't even know what kind of life you must lead to not want anything to change!" I'm not sure how exactly she got from point A to point X but nothing could be farther from the truth. All I could think was wow, where do I even begin? Do I explain all the stuff happening in my life that I want changed that no resolution will fix? In the moment I did not. I did take a moment to tell her, "My goal for 2020 is to be kinder to myself" As astounded she was that I may have no bigger goals for myself, for me that one thing is enough. I have made resolutions in past years and all that I've accomplished is the feeling of failure. Every time I am imperfectly working on a goal I focus on the failure and not the small step that was made. I am tired of feeling like a failure.

So this year instead of seeing a mountain of laundry or dishes and thinking I am not doing enough I will try to see the beautiful joy that is always having food in my belly and clothes on my body. Instead of seeing a roll or a dimple in my skin and thinking I could use a nip or a tuck I will try to see this flesh and bones that have birthed two babes, and is strong and carries me every day. While I attempt to remember that loving myself will only make me better for those around me, I will try to remember it doesn't make me selfish to love myself as I sometimes fall into the habit of thinking. I know this will not be easy for me, I know I am my harshest critic but I will try every day.

Yesterday in an attempt to be kind to myself and also do something for the greater good I donated blood. I've talked about this here before how I know the impact of a blood donation, but you may wonder how that is being kind to myself. Well...I've started inviting friends to join me! So I tripled the impact by inviting two friends but also spent an hour with two friends.  So maybe next time invite others to things you know matter, I thought it would be silly to invite someone to donate blood but both my friends eagerly jumped at the opportunity! I guess my giant words of wisdom for you are be kind to yourself. Resolution or not.

With a grateful heart,
Liz

Monday, January 6, 2020

Closing out 2019

Since the holiday craziness is finally behind us, I guess I can officially procrastinate no longer. Let's do a Jeremy update. I guess you could say that I've perfected procrastination. Or I wanted to get through the holidays without really sinking in to our reality, but here goes. I have to go back all the way to mid October to give you a full picture that's when Jeremy had a routine pet scan to see how the chemo he was on was doing. When we showed up to his chemo appointment later that month his Doctor came in to tell us he would not be receiving chemo that day. The pet showed that new growths had appeared, meaning the chemo was not working. He recommended we take a six week break and let Jeremy's body recover a little since he had been on chemo for so many months at this point.

We made it about 3 weeks before Jeremy decided he wanted to move forward with some sort of treatment. He was going stir crazy thinking he was just letting his body grow cancer....so we met with a radiation doctor and started steps towards starting radiation therapy. The plan was set! Jeremy would be in radiation Monday through Friday the entire month of December.  In the planning stages of radiation they do more scans where they discover that there had been significant new growth. So around Thanksgiving time he finds out that he is no longer eligible for radiation and that he needs to start a more aggressive form of chemotherapy asap. The new chemotherapy is given once a week for two weeks then on the third week he gets a break and starts the next cycle on the fourth week. Last week he completed the second set so this week there will be no chemo.


Ooohhhhh I almost forgot that in the middle of all this fun, Jeremy got shingles! Soooo fun! NOT!! Luckily this happened before he started the new chemo so while it did delay us just a tad it mainly was just an uncomfortable couple weeks for Jeremy.

I think I hit all the highlights (or more accurately low-lights) of the past few months in regards to Jeremy's treatment. We are surviving on all the good days that happened in the midst of those months. We have spent more days with family in those months than normal. We've had more friends visit than usual and we've enjoyed more meals from friends then feel like we deserve. All these things hold us up on our weak days and keep us smiling even when the nights seem dark.


This guy keeps us smiling too, I don't know how he does it but at every appointment he shows up with a smile and continually entertains the nurses and doctors. For now I guess I don't have much to say besides thanks for stopping by for our quick little update over here!

Let's hope 2020 is a little kinder to us all,
Liz

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Let's talk Kesem

This post is long overdue sooo here goes: There's this little place that's oh so close to my heart. So much so that I think basically everyone who knows me knows about it. Every time I've tried to write about it here I usually talk myself out of it because I don't want to feel all the things. Today I've decided is a day for feeling, so here goes, lets talk about Camp Kesem!


Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Kesem is the largest national organization dedicated to supporting children impacted by a parent’s cancer, at no cost to families. Our innovative and fun-filled programs provide children with peers who understand their unique needs, and create long-lasting impact.
  
That's what their website will tell you, here's what it wont:
For the purpose of this story I will assume your kid like mine has had a parent get cancer, If that is true you have seen your kid become someone different since diagnosis. You've seen their sparkle dim. You've probably put them in counseling, you've offered more love than you thought was possible, and you've excused behaviors you normally wouldn't all in hopes that you could see them sparkle again. Let me tell you a secret, I know how to get the sparkle back!! It's called Camp Kesem, and it's truly Magic!


You may be thinking that I'm hyping this up a bit much, but I promise I won't even do it justice. Let's start at the beginning. Kesem is a nationwide organization that provides summer camp for kids (for free) whose parents have/had or passed from cancer. The camp is put on and paid for by money raised annually by the counselors, who all happen to be college students. OK color me impressed already! When I found out that our local chapter here at UC Davis was not only responsible for raising 150K a year to send kids to camp but that they had to plan all the day to day activities, find mental health professionals, as well as nurses to join them at camp and still be expected to be full time students I was floored. All I could think about was all the things I was doing at their age....imagine more beer and less kids. What kind of people would choose this to be the organization that they committing their college age self to? Well only about the most impressive people I've ever met!


When I first heard about this camp I brought it up with my boys. Wanna hear how excited they were? Their exact words were "You want us to go to a camp where everyone has parents with cancer? Ummm, no thanks!" So it's safe to say we didn't go that year. What we did do was talk about it a couple times, watch a few videos on YouTube and eventually we went to a picnic they host annually to help keep in contact with campers as well as get to know prospective camper families.  Basically it's a big field day, a picnic with games for the kiddos all run by those amazing college kids I talked about earlier. I couldn't make it that day so Jeremy and the boys went without me, when I asked about it after it was as if I had asked about a trip to Disneyland. They couldn't stop talking about all these people they'd met. Honestly I only understood about a third of what they were saying because all the counselors go by funny names so I kept having to ask things like "Is splash a person? Beatz is his name not a sound right?" What I never had to ask was if they had fun. The joy was all over their faces. Needless to say that year was the boys first summer at Camp Kesem.


Drop off happens at a park in Davis on a Sunday in early summer. We were all nervous, knowing they would have each other made all of us a little calmer. Jeremy and I had big plans for our child free week which ended up looking like work, dinner, pass out...it was too quick and pretty great. Friday rolled around and we couldn't wait to pick up our two boys. As they came off the buses one thing became quiet clear, we had definitely missed them more than they had missed us. We got a giant hug from each of them as they ran quickly back to their friends and counselors. The car ride home was where we started to learn about Kesem. It started simple "So how was camp?" After a quiet pause a simple "Mom, Kesem is Magic" slipped out of Oliver's mouth. They both had been very worried about having to share their cancer connection. I had checked and reassured them several times before they left that no one was made to share their story. If they decided to share their story it was completely up to them. So I cautiously asked "did you talk about papa?" this was answered by Sawyer "Yes, but I don't want to talk about it." I won't lie I wanted to hear everything!!!! But part of the magic I've learned is that they have this safe community that is all their own.


Over the years I have had glimpses in to their camp experiences, Sawyer shared once that during cabin chat he had been sharing with his group about how his father had missed two of his birthdays while in the hospital, he said when he was done the boy next to him shared that his dad had missed every one of his birthdays since he was six. This was one of the first times that I know Sawyer completely understood that even though his dad had missed something very important, the most important thing was that his dad was here. His dad got to tuck him in at night and wake him every morning. I had tried for years to explain how fortunate he was for years and all he could see was that his dad had missed two of his birthdays. The words he used to express his feelings about these campers were that he had found his people and I could see it in his face that his heart was healing. As sad as that story sounds it was something that through the years I hadn't been able to impart on him. The growth I see in my boys yearly on their week away continues to amaze me.  If that week was all we got out of camp it would be more than enough but throughout the years camp has escaped the confines of the one week away and has slipped in to our everyday lives. Counselors have come to watch my boys play soccer, as well as joined them for pick up games at the park on a weekend. We've invited some in to our homes for dinner, pumpkin carving, even just some good old fashioned video game playing. They are eager to connect, and have truly become a second family.


Every year people graduate and move on from Kesem and the whole family thinks well next year won't be as good, and somehow new amazing faces show up and wrap their arms (literally and figuratively) around us all. Here's where I as a parent know that these people are honestly super humans, as they graduate their commitment to this organization is completed, their duty done, yet I don't have enough hands to count all the graduates who are now just friends.  After graduation if they wanted they could just use this as a resume addition and have a little karmic deposit to cash in on in the future, but to them it is so much more. To us it is too.


Since becoming a part of this community I've dedicated a lot of time to helping them raise money, for one simple reason More $ = More kids at camp! No child in this situation should feel out of place or like they don't know where they belong. No child should be forced to grow up before their time. Kesem  is dedicating to giving these kids their childhood, and a community.  If you know of anyone who has a child whose parent has dealt with cancer, invite them to research  Camp Kesem and if you don't know anyone (that's amazing) but maybe you could still help send a kid to camp?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Hug them, please

I've written before about how I am a hugger, I was raised by huggers and I've created two more people who also are good huggers and who enjoy hugs. It's taken me awhile to realize not all children or adults like being hugged so I'm trying to become more conscious and always ask but I definitely identify as a hugger! I've loved having my boys always want to curl up for an early morning snuggle, but now that we've entered that lovely preteen angst-y fun it happens less and less. I can still count on them for quick kiss goodbye or goodnight but the soul feeding hugs have become harder to find.  It may sound silly but I'm worried for my boys because they aren't getting all their hugs! I still find my hugs everywhere, I seek out friends, I hug almost anyone I meet, I've even stopped my car to hug friends I haven't seen but who are going in different directions then me, but my boys main source of hugs is home and they currently aren't having it here. I think they feel like my hugs are trying to cure something or take away sadness. To be fair they 100% are! But that doesn't make them any less needed!! Anyhow this is a simple, small request to those who may see my children, if you too are a hugger (or you aren't but are willing to be uncomfortable for a few seconds) ask my boys for a hug. I know they could use it! ...who knows maybe you could use it too!


XOXO-
Liz

Thursday, September 26, 2019

state of tired

Usually right around Jeremy's monthly chemo I get the urge to reach out to the masses (hello if you are out there) and give an update or just a hey from Sac Town! Guess what time of the month is, chemo-time!

So today at the infusion center an older gentleman who was volunteering there playing the piano stopped to chat with us, he told us he had personal experience with the cancer center and told Jeremy to keep fighting the good fight.  When Jeremy replied with a smile "oh I've been fighting this fight for almost 9 years, I'm not giving up yet!" You could see that the man and the nurse beside him were both shocked to hear it had been that long. Once the man walked away the nurse looking much softer said "wow that's a long time to be going through all this." I'm not sure what the correct response is, or what one wants to hear at this point. So a simple "Yes it is" is all that was said. It got me thinking about something though, about how the way people perceive our lives can affect us.

Have you ever heard people say that the best part of getting older is not caring about other peoples opinions of you? Or that as you get older you just say whatever you want? I don't believe I've reached that age yet, but I do think that something similar happened in our cancer story. We started our cancer journey in January of 2011 watching what we said, spinning things positively always, worrying about how those around us would receive the news. Over the years I've stopped doing that. With each recurrence it's almost like a small filter came off with it. I just don't have the energy or want to make my life look pretty for others anymore. To be blunt I'm tired of wrapping my shit up with a pretty bow. So I've stopped for the most part. I think my friends are worried for me because I answer frankly when asked how I'm doing. I think my family wishes they were closer to help with mundane tasks like transportation and meals but honestly I'm fine. Is my life is a constant state of exhaustion, does my house often have mountains of laundry laying around it, am I doing more than my share of the housework, honestly yes, but I would guess the same could be said by many of you. Do I struggle? Am I tired? Hell yea, and now, after eight and a half years, I'll tell you all about it when asked.

I'm guessing a lot of this is no revelation to anyone. It has definitely had me doing a double take on my own life though! I've always considered myself authentic and honest so to realize I wasn't sharing everything felt dishonest. It's taken me a minute to realize that sugar coating it and caring about others wasn't hiding or lying about my life. Just like now not sugar coating sometimes feels crass or rude but it isn't. This messy, crazy life is all mine and it's beautiful and obnoxious all at once and yes I'd change a lot of it if I could.


Smooches-
Liz