Sunday, August 7, 2011

Catching Up

What a year 2011 is turning out to be. This feels like a "trial by fire" year - if you can get through the trials, you're stronger and you have proven your mettle. Or maybe I should say "when" you get through.

So what have the trials been?

Stress and loss.

The biggest stress has been our adventure with cancer. The day after Mother's Day, I took Eldy to urgent care. For several weeks, he had been weak and pale. We thought it was his new blood pressure medication. Nope. It turned out to be stage 4 colon cancer. He had surgery that week and the tumor was successfully removed (laparoscopically, amazingly enough!) A few weeks after that, he started chemo - a regimen called Folfiri, to be exact.  It's not fun, but has turned out to be effective. His CEA level was at 20 early on - last week it was 3.0. This is amazingly good news! He's lucky to have an iron strong constitution - so the side effects aren't as bad as they could have been. A few days ago he gave in to the hair loss - we started by buzzing his head, then shaving it. Looks kinda cute, I think! Yesterday he put a little mustang sticker tattoo on the front. I know I'm overusing the word amazing, but his unfailing humor has really inspired me. :-)

The other major stress has been my job. I've been working very hard, fairly long hours, and the office politics have been exhausting. I had thought that being on a spiritual path might help me be immune to that sort of thing, but that's not the case. And of course, the hardest part is that now that I finally have my beloved loom room weaving studio, I've hardly set foot in there - too many chores to do when I'm off work, and not enough remaining energy for embarking on new projects.

As for loss - it started with losing Joy in March. That still hurts. Then we lost a niece to suicide, and my sister has lost several sister and brothers in law to cancer this year. One of my dear weaving friends just lost her husband to a motorcycle accident.  I suppose the fact that I'm now 58 and have had so very little experience with loss before this year would indicate I'm very lucky. I was a Girl Scout - I should be prepared. But is it every possible to prepare yourself for loss? You don't really know how you're respond until you are going through it. No amount of speculation can make you aware of the fact that the hardest part of grieving occurs in the moments where you've forgotten about your loss, suddenly remember, and then can't breath for a moment.

But there's a corollary to the process - a very heightened appreciation for all that we usually take for granted. My relationship with Eldy now has an ease and intimacy that we've never had in 27 years of marriage. I'm so grateful for that, and I'm over the moon happy that the chemo is working.  I'm making a special effort to notice and appreciate the many wonders in my life - the joy we felt yesterday sitting in the backyard on a lovely summer day, watching hummingbirds darting around "protecting" the feeders. Later, we sat out front in the driveway with our neighbors' son Logan, the navy pilot, hearing about his adventures landing on carriers. I pressed a shutter button in my head - to make a note and remember a special moment.
So, what I know is that life is good and precious. And I'll close with a close-up of the image at the top. I spent a lovely day in July with my friends Mary and Taryl at the Visions quilt gallery in Liberty Station, and found this dragon woven of natural materials. I was going to hang it in my loom room, but maybe I'll hang it near the front door instead - to remind me that treasures are woven from simple materials, and the greatest protection comes from love and creativity.