Thursday, July 25, 2013

I didn't even know I was looking

I think it might have been just about forever since I’ve taken a minute to write, well here anyway.  I’ve spent the last two years writing the newsletter for the Aggie mom’s club in San Antonio. This year I passed the torch and will enjoy being a mom of a beautiful Aggie senior.  So back to writing about things not just maroon…

My daughter is interning at the zoo this summer (and working full time and taking online classes....whew) so I bought a zoo pass, which gets you in at 7:30 am.  Now that involves having to get up before the sun, but it has been well worth it.  She is working in the Hixon Bird Center, of course all the way in the very back corner of the zoo, so it’s a nice walk, in the heat, with the five pound camera, bag, flash….no – it’s still worth it!! The Hixon center’s rounded walls and air condition make it the perfect stop to cool off and get some great pictures.  The first time this summer that I went there, I sat on the bench for about an hour watching the birds live in their indoor oasis.  The middle of the center has all kinds of birds living in the tree under the massive skylight.  The perimeter of the building has glass enclosures for other, larger birds.  Being so early in the morning, no other patrons were around. I was able to sit and watch the birds as they went about their business in this little bird city.  

The tiny tiny little red bird kept posing for me and the brand new baby didn’t even stand as high as the lowest part of the “Do not feed the birds” sign.  I found such joy in photographing the birds. I didn’t even know I was looking for joy.

I did this for a couple of weekends, yes, sleepy eyed and all….but leaving the zoo at nine when the long line is forming outside to come in, paid for itself.  This last weekend, we went to the Japanese Tea Gardens, just outside the zoo.  I was amazed at how green the place breathed.  I anticipated more flowers, but we are in the 100’s here, much to hot for anything to grow but cactus.  While walking the gardens for the first time since, well, maybe, yes, since the sky rides used to land in there, perhaps even in black and white…….the most beautiful orange flower popped out at me.  I had never seen anything so beautiful, so dainty, with green shoots draping from its delicate vine. 

I figured this plant was imported perhaps to give the gardens some accuracy. By nine in the morning it was breeching 100 degrees of hot, or so it felt, so we left.  I still am having great difficulty regulating heat. 

So the weekend flies by like it always promises to do, while the work week drags on just because it can, and I drive in to work the same roads I have traveled for the last eleven years. I come to a stop light in the Monte Vista area, the very same light that has stopped me when I am running just on time every morning, and I glance to the left and this beautiful orange color catches my eye. With eyebrows raised (I can do that again without painting them in!) I am stunned to see the very flower, green shoot draping plant as in the garden.  Wow, I think to myself, they imported the flower too. I continue the five more blocks to work and see the plant over and over and over and begin to giggle thinking the only imported thing must be my brain!  These wondrous plants have been in my very path all these years.  I only had to look for them.

On the way home that day, as I catch sight of the same plant over and over, I smile and think to myself we only need to look for things.  

Seek and you shall find. 
Make sure you never stop looking as the rewards are glorious. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hope and despair

Yes it is late. I should be sleeping. But I have a feeling of despair deep inside of me. I can’t say it is a hopeless feeling, just a little bit of sadness really.  I have another friend that has recently been diagnosed. I have yet another friend that is putting forth every effort to stabilize her stage 4 cancer. Then I have so many wonderful friends I met online some done with treatment, some just beginning, and many just trying to stabilize their cancer too. Stabilize cancer. What an oxymoron it seems. Cure cancer. What a pipe dream that seems.

But it will come. Just has diseases in generations gone are now just a vaccine, cancer will be a faded memory. People in the future will stick out their arm, get their shot, and wonder why it took so long to get there. The iron lung is a museum piece and the chemo chair will join it one day too. Yet so many more people will die from cancer before then…..

See. Despair. I just don’t understand the science behind cancer, the biology, the genetics. I can’t grasp did I do something wrong? Did she, or her, or them? What is it that makes us all the same, vulnerable to cells that decide to not die and slowly weaken or kill the host? I am confused by who gets healed, who’s doesn't come back, who’s never really was gone, who’s spreads? Certainly, with all the millions of us graced by cancer, certainly there is a common denominator? Random. That must be the common ground.

Tonight as I tell myself there is no room for despair in my soul or heart, I remember Sunday, Mother’s Day.  In my parents’ back yard was a tiny little creature born just that day calling to its mother as if to say, “I can do this, stay by me.” And the mother deer stayed by her side until late that night when after so many failed attempts to stand, the little fawn managed to steady itself and slowly wander away with its mom.  So many times I called out ‘I can do this, stay by me.” And so many stood right beside me. Despair has no place where hope is present. Hope. Let that be the common ground.

In all the cancer, in the little fawn and its mother, hope’s ribbon dances through treatments, illness, and even new life. We are not promised to be healed on earth, I understand that. We are not promised life without despair even. But we are promised hope.  (Job 12:10) “In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the life breath of all mortal flesh.”  And that, is a good place to be.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fire cadets racing for the cure!

I was up before the sun today, yes that is strange I must admit. But my brother invited me to join up with the San Antonio Fire Department for the Komen race.  Doug and I headed to the Alamodome and I got some great pictures of the antique fire truck and of my brother starting the race and finishing the race.  As he crossed the finish line I couldn’t help but get overwhelmed with pride, love, and honor.  I felt he pushed the envelope to run that 5k to will cancer away from me, from everyone.  I remember at Christmas when I was in treatment and we got together with my dad’s family, all the cousins, I had stepped outside, bald as an eagle, and lost all the strength that holds your knees in place.  He was right there, out of nowhere, making sure I was okay.  Today, I felt like that all over again….

I went to the race to take pictures of my brother, and really with nothing else in mind.  I guess I had forgotten a lot of the stuff that happens there, like walking into the survivors’ tent through a two line train of young cheerleaders yelling for each survivor as we pass through.  I forgot about all the sponsors that are there handing out free food, water, scarves, and so much more. And apparently I had forgotten where we walked to and from last time.  I was in treatment when I went the first time, and Doug and I were talking about the route we had taken then. I couldn’t remember anything other than getting a carnation at the finish line, perhaps that’s why they handed them out!

After the race to find a cure already, we went and had breakfast at Crackle Barrel.  Our waitress, as chance would have it, lives up the street from us.  She is about a year older than my daughter, and of course we used to see her more when the kids were growing up.  I knew her baby brother had leukemia and her mom had battle breast cancer.  When she came up to our table she told Doug how much she liked his shirt, I think they said Inspire. Then she saw my survivor shirt and gave me a hug like my own daughter would. I asked about her family and she said her mom was battling breast cancer for the fourth time, this time in her liver…..

And then the day just fell into place. All the pink, all the cute t-shirt sayings, all the cancer sucks, all the everything – we come together as a group because we are helpless to do anything but come together. Cancer can strike, will strike, whether you’re skinny, fat, old, young, healthy, sick,…Sure it’s about raising money, but surely it’s about so much more….

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wow. March 5. Today is the anniversary of my cousin Yvette’s death and the anniversary of our grandfather’s death. My grandfather died in 1957 from lung cancer. Yvette died in 2009 from adrenal cancer.  They have both been on my mind all day. This evening ideas collided and probably much from a little poking by my beloved cousin, I started to created greeting cards – for breast cancer patients. My sister had been after me for a long, long, long time to make cards out of my pictures.  Her 29th again birthday was in January and I surprised her with my very first prototype of a thank you card.  I made her cry, doesn’t take much for us anymore.  I even named my “line,” Pink Chair Cards & Photography by Gina Marie.  The Pink Chair comes from a picture I took on my nieces farm of a dinning room chair, painted pink without it’s legs, and hug from a chain to make a swing.  That day I spent with her I remembered her beautiful mother that had just passed from breast cancer….

So last week I sat down and created 3 more designs, an Alamo one, a birthday one, and a sunflower note card.  They arrived in the mail today and I was tickled at how cute they were.  When I got home today, I decided to try my hand at a full size folded card since I got a coupon in my email.  I scrolled through my pictures and found one of the traveling pants, that young stage four breast cancer ladies had signed from around the country.  I had the privilege of watching a 28 year old sign them here in San Antonio.  Right in the middle of the picture was a pink ribbon and the word HOPE. That was it, I was on a role and 3 breast cancer card designs later I took a break and checked my facebook.

My nephew, Yvette’s son had asked for memories about his mom so I filled in my high school fun memories. If my light wasn’t on in my room, the light bulb above my head would surely have been visible!  She’s poking me again - Facebook, I thought. I’ll create a facebook page to promote the cards – yes cart and horse and all that stuff – but I was excited.  I created the page and had to, just had to enter an address.  Seeing that this is a work from home thing, I wasn’t going to splash my address on facebook, so I used San Antonio as my street address, and San Antonio, Texas as the city and state.  I had to enter a phone number as well.  I played around with the page adding the picture of the pink chair and then hit edit on the information tab.  I was able to delete my phone number, yeah, and then a red bar comes across the screen over the map of my “address.” The message says it couldn’t pinpoint my address on the map.  

The map point, the little red bubble that shows where you are, is pointing almost exactly to the corner of Guadalupe and Laredo streets. These streets are not in my zip code, I’ve never mentioned them on facebook, but at that very corner is the home where my grandfather lived until 1957.  I almost fell out of my chair… my pink chair.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Breast cancer rises in young women, but don't worry they said...

So a news report came out that breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer occurrence among women 25-39 has risen in the last few years. The report continues published today in the journal of the american medical association, researchers found the increase in women 25 to 39 years of age. and it's alarming because we don't know exactly why this is happening. it could be rising obesity rates, early menstrual periods, even environmental factors that we don't have pinned down”  The report ends with  for most women, you should start getting mammograms around the age of 50. and in the meantime, you can keep up with your self-examinations, watch your weight, stop smoking, and of course, if you find anything that strays from the norm, that's when you check in with your doctor.” * Yes, this was a real news report, February 27, 2013.

So like the good patients we are, we hang on doctors’ words, and if you hear a “you’re ok, I don’t think we need any more tests” we usually smile, shake the doctor’s hand, and sigh a huge sigh of relief knowing the bullet just passed us by.  We generally accept that it’s all good, and are more than glad too. Well my friends, not this time. I feel personally responsible to let everyone know that my tumor sat on my chest wall, buried deep under tissue and it was only by the grace the God that the tissue was irritated and much like the pea under the mattress I was able to feel something.  I never felt my tumor, it was impossible.

I had received, when I just turned 40, my first order to get a mammogram. I detested the idea of the process, so uncomfortable and exposing. I ignored the order that lay on the seat of my car, then made its way into the glove box, then into the trash. At 41 the tissue rose and my story started to write itself.  I was uncomfortable and exposed much of the next year, over and over.  I asked my surgeon how long he thought the cancer had been growing. He said, at least a year. Had I gotten the mammogram at 40, they probably would have seen something, ordered tests, etc. and I just might have not needed the chemotherapy or the radiation. But on the other hand, if that tissue hadn’t expanded to form a false lump,  I might not have gone for that mammogram at 41, or 42, or 43. And well since doctors are saying not to go until you are 50, and I like to shake the hand and “know” nothing is wrong, I might not have gone until I was 50.

Let’s get practical, I might not have made it until 50. In one year my triple negative infiltrating ductual carcinoma grew 5 cm at least. In ten years????…..
Please know there is no recipe to getting breast cancer. Skinny people get it. Smokers get it. Non smokers get it. Obese people get it. Polluted areas have people that get it, clean air people get it. If it were this simple, we’d have a cure. I’ve always said that cancer does not discriminate. It sucks for everyone that gets it. But you can be proactive in your own heath care. You can insist that someone listen. Find a doctor you trust and one that listens to you, there are plenty of good ones out there. Be a partner in your own health. And when the bullet comes right at you, you can lift your wrists with wonderwoman’s bracelets and deflect them one by one.  Knowledge is power, empower yourself!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Let the mountains move, and she will wake...

Today I am inspired by faith, hope, and love. I witnessed all of these tonight in a family at the most trying of times, in an impossible situation even, yet their words, their graceful movements, showed Christ’s light as a beacon in the dark.  Today it seemed my retreat continued, as if I had never left the beautiful property nestled in the hill country of south Texas and all while the water fell from the sky and the earth drank its living water.  Inside the hospital walls it’s easy to forget if it’s day or night, sunshine or storming, and as I entered the all too familiar hospital nothing was as I remembered it fourteen years ago. 

I quickly got lost in the tiled floor and ceiling as she led me to the floor her mom is on.  I felt so disoriented in a place I once visited everyday for months.  I was humbled to visit with her, her dad, her sister, and her beautiful mom, a true sleeping beauty.  I don’t know how long it was that we visited in the room, well, it was until shift change. I said my goodbye for tonight to the most gentle, soft spoken sleeping beauty, and joined the family in the cafeteria while the nurses attended her. 

I shared my father’s story with them, his months in ICU there, his awakening and disorientation afterward.  I told them how when he did wake after numerous plays of “Back Draft” in the vcr, he didn’t quite know who we were, or who he was even, well he couldn’t remember that he was married anyway. He thought my sister was a star on a soap opera and that I was the best nurse he’d ever had caring for him.  I shared with them the little sleep, the little food, and no time to do anything else those first few weeks, and of course about the time I passed out, in the ICU room, and really there isn’t much room for that!  We shared a lot of information, they so kindly told me how their mother is progressing, and we talked about faith, the only kind of faith, the blind kind.  

I was telling them about little Paige who will pray over the sick, when all of a sudden a stranger walked up in need. We helped her, and she wanted to thank us, so we said, just pray for Valerie please.  She then told us how she brought her dad, Hank, in two days before with his sugar over 600 and the last time it happened he slipped into a coma. I asked her if the doctors told her negative things about his recovery and she quickly said, yes they did. She then tells us, but then one day, he just woke up. Sometimes God speaks through others and tells you just want you need to hear. 

In faith, in hope, and in love, I had the privilege of watching this family tonight. I received my own message through them tonight, I remembered that nothing is hopeless, even when we feel despair and can’t take another step. We walk. We walk in faith, hope, and love just as this family is doing every moment of each day until Valerie just wakes up. And if faith, hope and love are the precursors for moving mountains, then let those mountains move, and she will wake.

Please add Valerie to your daily prayers, for her speedy recovery to awake.