Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Hurtled Into the Valley

A book came in the mail today, brought to me personally by Heather, our mail carrier. We have the best mail carrier and now friend. We chatted for awhile and after she left, I decided to see what was inside the covers. The book is called Hot Apple Cider: Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul. I ordered it off 100 Huntley Street. It features 30 Canadian authors, so I thought I would check it out. Hey, maybe I will write for a book like that someday. Ironically, the first thing I opened up to was this piece by Angelina Fast-Vlaar. I could relate to what she had to say:

    After a week of tests and tubes and toilets, my doctor stands at the foot of my hospital bed

    And says in an everyday voice, "The tumour is malignant." He pats my covered leg and says,

    "You'll be all right." His words are lost in the reeling room that screams at me from all sick sides –

    "It's cancer! It's cancer!" My limbs freeze but I make them move and drag them down the hall,

    Repeating to make the truth sink in, "I have cancer—I now have cancer."

    I grope for the telephone. Shaking fingers fumble to find the buttons to press.

    The ringing starts and stops and his soft voice says, "Hello."

    I'm dumbstruck, realizing that one word will shatter his joy, his recent-found joy.

    Finally, while choking, "Hon, it's malignant."

    A muffled groan wells up from the depths of his loving heart.

    "Oh no, my love – I'll be right there."

    He comes and we collapse in each other's arms and cling

    As we're hurtled,


        Into the valley of the shadow of cancer.



            When our tears are dried,

            We see the Shepherd

            With outstretched Hands

            Ready to comfort and to guide.

                        He knew we were coming.

                                        (An excerpt from The Valley of Cancer: A Journey of Comfort and Hope, c 1999)

I was reminded of November 10th, the day I was studying in my office here at home, around 10 in the morning. Doug came home from work and came in to my office and sat on the floor. I talked to him about what I was studying that day. I then told him how I was so tired, and knew I needed a sabbatical, but didn't know how to get one. He then looked at me with calm concern and said, "That's why I'm home. I called the doctor. You have cancer." I doubled over in shock. "I have cancer?" I cried, overcome with grief. I began to cry. "No! It can't be possible!" I stood up and began to pace. He took me in his arms and said, "We'll get through it together, Deb." I melted into his arms, trusting my love here on earth that he was right. And trusting my Love in heaven that He would never leave us and would help us through. And thus our journey began into the valley of the shadow of cancer. Putting one foot in front of the other and moving on through each day, and escaping from the reality of it all through the wonder of sleep. Crying out and being comforted by my husband and my God, and by all the friends that have appeared to share our burden and our journey.


Monday, 30 March 2009

We had a good weekend. Saturday we went to Jon and Alicia's and trekked in to their maple syrup operation in the forest. And what a trek it was – the snow was melting, and every other step we fell through the snow. Had a few laughs, wondering if we'd ever make it! It was a marathon, to say the least and we were worn out by the time we basically crawled to the site. Afton, Jack and Ivy were there, as well as Aunt H. and Uncle F., cousin Steve and Becky and their children, and the Pirate. The Pirate came because he thought he would see me there. When I arrived, he said, "There's one of the pretty people." That's what he calls me – he's sweet. We spent the afternoon and early evening around the boiler unit watching the sap boil, although the men did a bit of work gathering sap and stoking the fire. I will never complain about the price of maple syrup again, after seeing how long it takes to boil sap into syrup. They have 88 trees tapped. The kids played on the swings and hammocks that their fathers had set up for them. The babies slept in the hammock and the sled. A playground in the forest. Here are some pictures of the operation.

A weekend to be thankful. I'm reading Carol Kent's book, A New Kind of Normal, and one of the chapters is on having an attitude of gratitude. I thought I'd list some of the things I was grateful for this past weekend:

  • The process of waiting and watching the sap boil down
  • Just 'being' with family
  • Going to Gram's restaurant in Centreville at 8:30 in the evening with the clan, tired out from the day in the forest
  • Breakfast served to me on a tray by Afton with her mom's help. Alicia is such a great mom, teaching her children to be thoughtful
  • I was able to prepare lunch for everyone
  • Sitting on the floor playing John Deere tractors with Jack. He pretended he was "John Deere" tractor, and I was "Corey the Combine"
  • Holding Ivy in my arms, sitting on the sundeck, while she ate a baby cookie. Every once in awhile she would turn around and smile at me
  • Watching Jon and Alicia finish the maple syrup to its final stage in their kitchen. Seeing how much they love each other
  • Making maple taffy in the snow
  • Having Jon come over and hug me, just because he thought I needed a hug
  • Hearing Jack say grace
  • Eating at the table with Jack and Afton, and having Afton say this to me: "You need to eat a lot of fruit, Gram Deb, so you can get rid of that cancer and grow some hair." Out of the mouths of babes… I think I'll heed her advice
  • Spending time with Doug – in the forest, sitting on the couch and in the car, just being together, and sharing our lives with our children and grandchildren
  • Taking videos of Afton as she 'hammed' it up for me
  • Thoughts of when Natalie and Aiden arrive next week


    Thankfulness – we need to be thankful for what we have. I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. God has blessed me richly. 

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Girls from Norton

The girls arrived at 11:00 – Angie, Kim and Faye, all bearing gifts – a gift bag full of quilting goodies, so to speak, Nygard t-shirt and tote bag (Mr. Nygard raises an enormous amount of money for breast cancer), funky pink sunglasses, and a beautiful plant arrangement. We sat at the kitchen table from 11:00 in the morning til 3:30 in the afternoon, discussing every topic under the sun I think, going randomly from topic to topic as women tend to do. I think we could deem ourselves amateur philosophers. I made them muffins for brunch and then salad and frozen cappuccino for lunch, along with King Cole tea (the only kind in the Maritimes). Of course, we laughed a lot. They were good therapy for me. I hope I was for them – they all needed a day away, here at the Soul Café (that's what I like to call my place). Janet White #1 arrived with my quilt and a nice blue binding and we enjoyed some more laughter and pictures in the living room for another hour. Thanks, girls – you all made my day.

After a rest, Doug and I walked 20 laps at Willie Wonka. Felt good to get the muscles working and spend some quality time with Mr. Maple. Tomorrow, we hope to go up river again to see Jon's maple syrup operation and boil some sap. Must remember our lawn chairs to sit outside in the forest. A good day it 'twas today.

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot (Eccl 5:18).

Aiden's Birthday Party

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Aiden is 1 today!

Aiden Joshua DuBois, the Manitoba man, is now a one-year-old! Natalie made a cake yesterday with three primary colours. I can't wait to see her pictures of his birthday party and all his little friends that came to visit. I'll post a picture once she emails me. Just another week or so and we will celebrate with the little man. He took his first steps the other day and no doubt will be driving a car by the time he arrives on April 6th.

At noon I took a walk for an hour on the walking trail, even though it was covered with snow. I listened to a couple of sermons on my IPod. Had a visit from C & D, and we prayed together.

Tonight we celebrated the birthday of the OT Director's husband. R & S were there as well. A great meal together, and then we played Catch Phrase, which generated loads of laughter. It's good to laugh, isn't it? You forget your problems. Laughter is good medicine. I need to remember to take more of this medication. I'm looking forward to a visit from the girls from Norton on Friday. I'm sure that visit will generate some more laughter.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Daily News Reporter here, reporting the news of my amazingly exciting life. It was such a beautiful spring day, and since I had more energy than yesterday, I simply had to get in my car and drive. Sometimes I wish I could drive until I'm done driving. Someday I'll do just that. Drive, Deb, Drive.

Arrived at Janet's house with my quilt. She lives in Scotch Settlement, wherever that is – about 20 minutes up country. We chatted some more about colours and I had a refresher lesson on quilting technique. Janet is my quilting mentor. Someday I want to be as proficient at it as she is. J. took more pictures of my quilt. She told me she was jealous – I have no idea why, since she is an amazing quilter. I think she's just placating me, but I could be wrong. She asked if I wanted lunch, and I requested fruit and yogurt, and a Pepsi. My appetite has been very strange for the past month. I certainly don't crave the things I used to. Then she whipped up some oatmeal for me and I ate that. It was the first time I've ever had oatmeal for lunch, washed down with Pepsi. There's always a first time for everything, I guess. Thanks for the great meal and the lesson, J. Except that you kidnapped my quilt for a couple of days! Said something about finding material for the binding. Right. You're just in love with my quilt and want it near.

Headed back into town and picked up D. I wanted to climb, climb up Odell Mountain. So we did, panting all the way. Only made it up as far as the water tower, about half way up. It felt so good to have the air breezing through my non-hair and the sun shining through the trees. We made a stop at the Superstore for fruit and vegetables, then up to Sears for a short time. It felt good to do normal things. When I arrived home, I found a beautiful framed photograph of piano keys and the verse The Lord is My Strength and Song inscribed on it. Carolyn's daughter, Katie did it for me. How thoughtful. The Lord is certainly my strength and my song. I never knew how much until this 'situation' in my life. I'm in the "Situation Room."

After dinner, I donned my evening cap and Doug and I went to UNB's Memorial Hall for a concert sponsored by the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. The Fredericton Ladies Choir was one of two groups performing. My mother, Beth and Judy are in the choir. This choir is amazing. Eighty plus women singing together. I met one of the directors, Peter Steeves, on my way in and he asked how I was doing (he's a friend of ours). I told him I wanted to be in the choir last fall, but alas. He told me there would be room for me in the fall. They performed five songs. My favorites were River St. John, dedicated to the troops in Afghanistan, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, a Spanish number, and a Hebrew song which the director taught the audience. We sang along with the choir. Who would think that in the morning when I awoke that in the evening I would be singing Hebrew? The audience gave the choir a standing ovation. If you live in Fredericton, make sure you go to their next concert. My mom and friends are such celebrities now.

The next group was the UNB Chorale, made up of men and women. It was a tad different, to say the least. We were treated to African songs with drum accompaniment, Chinese songs accompanied by a strange two-stringed instrument (I told Doug to take note; I might want him to make me one, although I'm giving it a second thought), a Mongolian song, a Swedish song and two English songs, one of which we couldn't understand. It was a real cultural experience, to say the least. One of the Chinese songs was about a husband who was sad because his wife had size 12 feet. We're not sure what that had to do with world peace. Perhaps her large feet caused strife in their household or something and war broke out. The last song was John Lennon's Imagine, which was nice. We tended to enjoy the Ladies' Choir much more, but were culturally 'enlightened' by the Chorale, I guess. After that the emcee stated that people could stay for a singsong of some classic peace songs, but we managed to escape. We then perused some 'juried' artwork on peace and an enormous quilt pleading for world peace. I told Doug that when Jesus comes, He will bring peace, as He is the Prince of Peace. He is what the world needs.

So that's the scoop. I thank God I had energy today. I don't take good health for granted anymore. I long for it. I pray for it. I believe He's going to heal me completely. Remind me of that when I'm feeling tired, will you?



Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Hartfelt Images by Natalie

Hartfelt Images by Natalie

Alicia's sister, Natalie, is a photographer. She has posted some pictures of the grandkids on her website. Check it out....

Today found with me with limited energy. I did not get dressed until noon. I felt like I had a 100 lb weight dropped on my shoulders. It's amazing how tired you can feel inside yet not be able to sleep. Everything seems to take so much effort. You rest for a bit, and then do a bit, then rest again. I did manage to go out for a walk around the neighborhood, then sat on my deck and listened to the wind. Cousin Els came by this afternoon for a visit. We shared some vanilla chamomile tea and good conversation. The OT director arrived with the backing for my quilt which she put in the washer to shrink, and then made me iron the material. She's always creating work for me it seems and pushing me to create, create, create. She had me cut out pattern pieces for a dress for Ivy before she left as well. No rest for the weary. I don't pay the OT director much, but she certainly earns her wage.

Janet White #1 arrived and the three of us sat and observed the quilt, deliberating on how to quilt it. Doug went out for supper with Morton & Caleb from Grand Manan. The OT Director went home even though I invited her for dinner. Said something about having a husband. Janet and I ate dinner provided by S., who said there was 'lots of flour in it' (I'm not supposed to eat flour; she says that everytime she brings me a dish she has prepared. I hope she's joking…). Jan and I went to WalMart to buy quilt batting and the guy from the shoe department cut it for us. They're having a hard time finding workers for the fabric department. I think Janet should work there, although she wouldn't be able to get away with the outburst she had while in the store. The quilt batting was on a large roll over the cutting table. She reefed on it and it started rolling off the overhead contraption, and of course, she let out a loud "who-hoo!" that startled Mr. Shoe and he looked at her as if she had three heads. I told him she gets pretty excited about things. She said she didn't know the batting roll was going to explode. She advised the shoe guy on how to cut the batting, which he did with amazing accuracy for a shoe salesman. He then tried to entice us over to his department to buy shoes. We decided we didn't need shoes.

Home again to find Doug waiting for us. We sat on the floor for over an hour basting and basting that quilt. I panted and panted as I tried to get comfortable on my knees, my side, lying down. When Janet bastes a quilt, she is a very demanding – but it's done right. When you quilt with Janet, everything is done right. It's hard to live up to her standard, but I try. It is very difficult to baste a quilt on the floor and I was glad it was over – what a workout! I wouldn't want to do that for a living. I asked her if older women baste quilts on the floor. I never saw that at a quilting bee. It must be the 'new way' to put a quilt together. I never saw my grandmother making a quilt that way, or even my mother.

At least the quilt is now ready for quilting. It's amazing that I've got this far on it, especially in my condition. The OT Director pushed and pushed me for two weeks to finish sewing it, especially that last day when I was too exhausted to finish it. My friends tend to push me a lot lately. I guess that's what friends are for. "Keep on going, keep on going," it seems like they are saying. Janet seemed pleased with the quilt and took a couple of pictures of it, then a picture of Doug, the "maple syrup guy." Mr. Maple and I then spent an hour looking through old papers from the kids' school years, looking for Jon's high school diploma. He needs a copy of it for community college (I don't know why the high school diploma, considering he already has a BA in Arts). He is in school again, working on his carpentry apprenticeship. We couldn't find the diploma, but found a lot of cute things. Someday I need to make a scrapbook. Oh, no, I shouldn't have said that – I'll probably have to do that next. Don't tell Mrs. OT.

Monday, 23 March 2009

The pain has subsided somewhat – now it's a dull ache all over my body. I found out today that it is myalgia, a side effect of this new chemo drug. I have realized over the past few days what people in pain go through – in their bodies AND in their emotions. I have lived with pain for most of my married life (fibromyalgia), but this was quite extreme. To rise above pain is difficult. I am learning so many things – things I didn't really want to learn, however…

Sunday we traveled to Jon and Alicia's for Ivy's first birthday party. Grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins were there to help celebrate the birthday of this cute kid. Jon and Alicia's children have so many grandparents! Afton and I decorated cookies before the party. It was good to do something creative and get my mind off the pain. It is such a privilege to have grandchildren and see them grow. Ivy wore a sweet yellow dress to the party and was totally unaware of why there were so many people there. She's just downright adorable.

Today I studied, did laundry (I do not take for granted the 'privilege' of housework now, given my limited ability to do it), visited the bank, went for a walk in Odell Park, had a conversation with Pastor Patrick at Superstore, attended the oncology unit for weekly line care, spilled a complete glass of ice water on the floor (every time I go there I make a spectacle of myself, it seems), had an encouraging conversation with Karen, my nurse, and stopped at Service Canada to file for CPP disability pension (who would think I would ever be doing that…). Now I'm a bit weary. When I have the least bit of energy, I do whatever I can. I must keep moving, and I need goals for every day. I'll be glad when I can complete the paperwork I need to get done; it's been hanging over my head for months now. You know, we should always keep ahead of paper, because when you're unable to think properly, it is very difficult. I need a secretary. I decided that a long time ago.

Here's a verse that encouraged me today: The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord. (Is 38:20). Another version puts it this way: Think of it – the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord. Think of it! I must go strum a few chords on the guitar. I need to remind myself to play more often.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Hi – I just wanted to put out the plea for prayer again. I am in a lot of pain these past few days and am finding it quite hard to work through the pain. I never knew there were so many joints, bones and muscles in which pain could radiate. My body feels like a pinball machine – with balls of pain hitting me all over. I pray and hope that it will soon disappear. It is very difficult to focus on anything but the pain. Pain tends to take over, and you have to fight against it and try to remain positive – which I must admit I am struggling with. I must concentrate on the positives and on the God of the positive. So, I ask for your prayers.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Wednesday was a bit of a hard day. I had a lot of pain in my body – as if needles were being constantly pushed into my lower body – hips, legs, knees, bones, feet. Side effects. Brenda and Mom came and cleaned the house in the morning. Luke and I watched videos. I spent all day in a chair until Brenda took me to Mom's for dinner. After awhile, I was able to play dominoes with Mom and Dad, Luke and Brenda, wrapped up in a fleece blanket.

This morning, I'm still feeling the needles. I'm hoping the pain will stop today. Pain really tires one out. I must go do something to take my mind off the pain – focus on something else.

Here's a couple of pictures of Brenda's boys, along with Doug's head. I'm starting to look like one of the 'boys.' Soon and very soon, my hair will start to grow back and no one will recognize me.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Ivy’s Day

Granddaughter Ivy MacDonald is now officially one year old today. On St. Patrick's Day. A Scottish baby born on an Irish holiday. Happy Birthday, Ivy! Gram Deb and Papa love you!

I awoke early and read my Amish novel for over an hour. With all the hats I've been donning, I'm beginning to feel a bit Amish myself. Perhaps I'll break out the long skirts next and wear them around the house. Puttered around for awhile and sat down to read again at 10:30. The OT director arrived, and we bundled up for a long spring winter walk out to my beloved strawberry field and trek on the snowmobile trails in the forest. A beautiful day and a beautiful walk. Home to make lunch and enjoy some of Cousin C.s' chickpea orange chocolate cake that she whipped up for me today. It's a hit, C. – Brenda and the boys enjoyed it for supper as well, along with frozen cappuccino yogurt. I tried to work on my taxes this afternoon, but alas, did not accomplish much. I have a bit of a chill and was wrapped up in an afghan for the afternoon. Brenda made supper and now they are cleaning up. We're going to try and hit the Nasis Field House track and do a few laps. Perhaps the boys can play soccer or badminton on the courts. They went skiing at Crabbe today, so they are a bit worn out. We'll try and wear them out some more. Brenda's boys, Aaron and Luke, are 14 and 12 and are nice looking specimens. Nice boys, I think. I'm a bit prejudiced.

Doug is still on his fast. It's strange not having him eat with me. He's waiting for his tongue to turn pink before he stops. I hope it turns pink soon. He feels good, though. I'm proud of him. I told him that if I can go through chemo, he can sacrifice food for a few days. It is his choice – he wants to be healthy. This is amazing for him to do this, I think.

I'm tired, but pushing through the day. I want to do what I can when I have the energy. Sometimes, however, perhaps I push myself too much. Oh well, that's just my nature.

Had a call from Natalie. I had drop shipped a birthday present to Sears in The Pas for Aiden's birthday. She went and picked it up today. I ordered a chair/table from Fisher Price that is a musical chair with songs, and the alphabet and numbers. She said it came in French – the directions, the songs – everything. Josh thought I ordered it that way on purpose. Not! They thought it was very funny. I told her to try and exchange it. If not, I guess he will be bilingual. Who knows, perhaps the day I ordered it, I was thinking en francais. Sometimes I do speak French, you know. Remember Charlene Madonna? (those of you who know this story).

Brenda is now cutting Luke's hair with Doug's hair mowing machine in my kitchen. Now I have a barbershop. Go figure. You never know what's going to happen in this house. I love it.

Desktop Wallpapers

Desktop Wallpapers

Monday, 16 March 2009

Surprise Surprise Surprise Surprise!

Once again, God came through for us! On Friday morning, my white cell count was .63. It needed to come up to 1.5 in order for Chemo #4 to happen. They tested me this morning around 8:30. At 9:30 I went back into the unit, and the resource nurse showed me my results: 7.48. I couldn't believe it! How was that possible? Are you talking about me! Amazing – great rejoicing going on in the unit. So after a bit of time, nurse Barbara injected the new drug. They had to reduce it to 75% dosage because of my liver function blood test. I did not have an allergic reaction, and after 100 mls of saline, I was able to go home. Doug and I went to the grocery store for a few items and I made some lunch. My stomach hurts and I'm a bit tired. I must go rest for awhile.

Thank you for all your prayers. I KNOW that it is because of those prayers that we had such AMAZING results today. Continue to pray that the side effects they tell me about will not happen (neuropathy, more hair loss, fingernails and toenails disappearing or chipping, etc.). We believe in the power of prayer.

Love you all….deb

Sunday, 15 March 2009

It's Sunday night and I'm in the chair after a busy day. Played and sang at church this morning. It was so nice to have Janette come and play with me. We just love playing together. We go way back; I used to babysit her. Phenny, Max and Robin sang as well. It was good to sing today, even though it took a lot out of me. In my weakness He is strong. I'm really understanding that verse more and more. It was good to see Doris in the crowd as well, and John and Wanda, Janette's parents. I sang a song by Brian Doerksen, "Your Faithfulness," and the words were hard to sing, about not knowing what each day will bring, not knowing when and how I'll die, etc., but relying on God's faithfulness to get me through. I heard a little boy crying and his father took him out – it was Janette & Stephen's son. They asked him why he was crying and he said the song was too sad and it made him cry. He's only four years old. It's as if he understood at a deeper level than we would think a four year old capable of, and that he was crying for everyone there, and perhaps for me. Many in the congregation were crying (I didn't know it until later), and then gave me a standing ovation at the end of the song. I didn't need a standing ovation; He needs one. He is the one who gives the strength to live and go on living. I want that strength. I want to focus more on God and less on my situation. That needs to be my new goal.

Our church family is so encouraging to us; it's hard to believe it somehow. They've only known us for a year now, but we feel like it's been years. After lunch, Doug and I picked up Max and we went walking at Willie Wonka's while a speedskating competition was happening on the rink. Oh, to skate that fast. So graceful. One girl fell down during a race, but picked herself up and kept going, even though she continued on the outside lane, knowing that she was no longer able to compete with the regular racers; she had lost too much ground. But she finished skating anyway. I wondered why she hadn't just stopped completely. I guess she didn't want to give up and continued skating parallel to the race. A good analogy, for me, I think. I need to ponder it more. Perhaps a couple of analogists could give me their thoughts.

We then went to Max's and I lay down on her couch for awhile. We were only going to stay a few minutes, but the couch was so comfy, I ended up watching a strange movie on TV. Max was making a roast beef dinner, so we decided to stay and eat dinner with them. Her husband and son arrived home from an out of town hockey game, a bit surprised to see me laying on their couch. I lay on a lot of couches lately; everywhere I go, it seems. Have couch, will lay down kind of thing.

The roast beef dinner was excellent, although Doug didn't eat as he is on a maple syrup cleansing diet for a few days. He watched me eat – two helpings of roast beef. I figured I was supposed to eat roast beef, given that P. called last evening and invited us to a roast beef dinner, but I had declined as Doug wasn't eating food. But when roast beef presented its face again today, I thought perhaps I was supposed to eat this red meat, something I don't eat very much. With the past chemo treatments, I ate red meat the weekend before as well. So, thought I would go with the flow and eat roast. This little piggy had roast beef type of thing. Doug drank maple syrup mixed with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Yum. He's doing good on this so far. Been on it since Saturday morning. We are certainly a strange couple, or should I say eccentric?

Doug and I just finished watching "Heartland" on CBC TV. One of the characters, a native, looked at the river flowing and said the river didn't think about where it was going or where it came from; it just goes with the flow. That's a good thought – I need to go with the flow. I need to go with the flow of tomorrow. Another chemo treatment, God willing.

My blood test is at 8:15, with treatment at 9:15. Pray that it happens, and that I don't get an allergic reaction to the chemo. I'm starting on a different drug for the next three treatments. They told me that if I get an allergic reaction that it will happen while getting treatment. So, I thought I would ask for prayer for this as well. No reaction to chemo. And no side effects with this new chemo drug. Why not? We have not because we ask not.

Talk to you tomorrow. "With God all things are possible."……………………..deb x0


Saturday, 14 March 2009


Surprises started on Thursday. One of the Bobbsey Twins called and said she wanted to come over and sing with me. "OK, come at 11 o'clock," I replied. Not really wanting to sing, as I felt so low, but I knew that it was to be, because she doesn't just call on a whim. She arrived with the other Twin. I cried a bit as I told them how discouraged I was and that I didn't want to cry too much; that I wanted to be faithful and not complain. We talked for awhile, and then I sat down at the piano and we sang together. I played with all my heart. I know it always does my spirit good, but to get me to do it is a chore. Just ask D., who has been urging me to play for years whenever I am down. I was encouraged by their visit, and I guess I encouraged them as well. Hugs all around and they left before 1 pm.

The next surprise: the phone rang. It was Natalie. "I've got good news, Mom. The airline company refunded the airmiles and the money." (This is a refund from the trip Doug and I booked to go and see Natalie last November, but we had to cancel due to my diagnosis. The airline company refused to give the money back, so we appealed the decision). We rejoiced together. "There's more, Mom – I'm coming home again. I can stay a month!" Well, my tears flowed once again. God was coming through for me today with encouragement. Every time I'm down, He shows up. I was so blessed to hear this and so encouraged. Filled with hope to have our daughter and grandson come and live with us again. To get up every morning and see that little face, see him learn how to walk and be part of his life. To have our daughter who is such a blessing to us be come home again. God is good. She will come in April sometime and stay into May. I was filled with hope – something good to look forward to. I took off to work on my quilt at the OT director's house. Mom, the rotary cutter, came over and cut borders for us. It was a good day.

Friday, the 13th: a couple more surprises. Sometimes surprises are not that great. Arrived at 11:30 for my blood test. Then over to the Rehab to have lunch with Doug. Up to his office to wait to meet with Dr. Broad at 1 pm. I rested in a chair he has in the office. Now Doug's office has many machines and air handling units, ventilation ducts, low hanging things that one doesn't have in a normal living area. About 12:40, I decided to stand up. But I was forced back down, as I rammed my head into one of the low lying ventilation ducts. I grabbed my head with both hands, as my head pounded and the blood started to pour out of a gash on my bald head. Doug put his big dirty thumb on the wound and pressed hard to stop the bleeding, as I tried not to pass out from the pain. What to do? We needed to get down out of the penthouse, to the bathroom and walk a long distance over to the third floor of the hospital! We made it downstairs to the bathroom and I put a wet paper towel on my head and walked down to the end of the rehab so we could go through the pedway to the hospital. One of Doug's colleagues saw me coming, probably wondering, "what's on her head?" But instead, she said, "You look like Doug." "Yes, I do," I laughed. Then she realized that maybe I was offended by that, and said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that." "No problem," I replied, thinking 'that's the least of my worries, that I look like Doug, I need to get this wound treated!"

We made it to the oncology ward. "What happened to you?" they asked. "I hit my head," I replied, with a waiting room full of people looking at this crazy woman with a paper towel on her head. Audra the nurse took me in and dressed it with saline, then put a steri strip on it. Dr. Broad came out looking for me, as I was a bit late for my appointment due to my wound episode. "What happened to you?" she asked with a puzzled look on her face. It's not every day that patients arrive with paper towels on their heads. We went in to her office to find out another surprise: my cell count was very low, but my monocytes were up, so she said that Dr. Raza felt my white cell count would come up as well. Thus another blood test on Monday morning. Dr. Broad checked me over and we talked about the side effects of the next three rounds of chemo. I say that I don't need any of those side effects, so I'm not ordering any. Wouldn't you agree?

By this time it's around 2 pm. I thought I would be walking at Willie Wonka's by now, but alas, there was more. We left the unit once again (I feel like I've lived at the hospital this week). I decided that we should stop at the Medical Staff Office to show K. my head as I thought she would get a kick out of the fact that I hit my head. But she was on vacation and didn't get to see my lovely head. On the way, however, we met D., a friend who is a nurse. She was very concerned that I should have a tetanus shot since I don't ever remember having one in my life. She took us into her office, gave me some Tylenol for my aching head, and made some calls – to my family doctor, who was gone for the day, the emergency room, and then finally to the oncology unit. "Send her back up," they laughed and we'll get Dr. S. to order a tetanus shot. So up we went to the unit again. "What are you doing back here," from nurses and workers, and more laughter that I just didn't want to leave. I think I was the entertainment for the day.

We waited. The oncology pharmacist had to do some research as to whether I qualified to receive a tetanus shot or not. Dr. S., the other family oncologist, came out and said they decided that since my cell count was so low and the fact that the injection was intramuscular, that the risk was too high for receiving infection from the tetanus injection, plus I couldn't fight the invasion of tetanus anyway. She told me to stay away from sick people so I wouldn't get any microbes in my wound. I told her that I would have to stay away from Doug then, as he has a cold. She laughed and said for me to get rid of him or something like that. So, with that we left once again. By this time it was 3 pm! I was hoping for a good walk at Willie's, but went to Shoppers to take my prescription in, and to the Superstore for groceries, wondering what I was doing out with all these people with my legs feeling like jelly and my head aching. Wondering if I passed out in the grocery store if anyone would pick me up and wonder, "what is wrong with this bald headed woman with a deep gash in her head?" I think the blow affected my decision making skills, but I made it out of the store and home with the groceries. Sometimes you just have to keep going, no matter what. Plow through it.

So, surprise, surprise. Now it's Saturday, and I'm hoping that there are no surprises other than good ones. My sister Brenda comes tomorrow.

I pray that the next surprise will be that my white cells shoot through the roof on Monday morning and I can start chemo #4. And astound the doctors yet once again. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Surprise, Surprise

Many surprises in the last couple of days. Here's one in case you're wondering. My white cell count today came in at .63! Even lower than last time (.84). But my monocytes are coming up, so the doctor thinks the white cell count is also coming up. Once again, another blood test Monday morning at 8:15 to see if I can start chemo #4. So, I put out the word for prayer once again – that over the weekend, white cells arise! I spent most of the day at the hospital. A comedy of errors, I call myself. Now I need to go to dinner. More later, and I'll tell you about the last couple of days.    

Thursday, 12 March 2009

It was a better day today – a couple of surprises which encouraged me and lifted my spirits. Once again, God came through and sent me encouragement through His people. I was too worn out tonight to write, but will write tomorrow after meeting with the doctor about my cell count.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Doug was home sick today with a cough and cold. He slept in the other room last night so he wouldn't keep me awake. We're hoping I don't catch this cold right now. I slept quite well, but today I was extremely tired. Went to the hospital yet again this week for an ultrasound on my mastectomy site; still having some problems with it. The radiologist remembered me after I told him that I was the one who almost fainted last October when he tried to perform a core biopsy. "Oh, yes, you're the one we put in the hall for awhile! We remember you." Yes, that's me. I told him that I guess I knew that I had breast cancer that day, and the reality of it all scared me.

B. came to see me this morning for a visit, and returned awhile later with a "hang in there" stuffed animal. He is hanging from the kitchen cupboard door. I keep looking at my "Hang in There" card, trying to remember this when I'm feeling low, like I am today. This afternoon, Doug and I had a long conversation about our situation. More tears are coming now, which is difficult for me. I don't want to lose control. I want to be strong and full of faith. But, I realize more than ever that I am human, and totally dependent on God and His plan for me. I guess I've been disappointed with God a bit, wondering why He didn't protect me from this disease. Or was it my own doing? So many questions that I have no answers for. I want to be cancer free forever, and not worry about whether it will reappear at some time. I'm tired. And I was even more tired after crying for awhile. My husband is so kind and encouraging—what would I do without him? He covered me up with a fleece blanket and I drifted off into a deep sleep. When I awoke, we watched Extreme Makeover, about a woman police officer who got shot in a robbery incident. She was paralyzed from the neck down and is spending her life in a wheelchair. She had a policeman husband and a little girl. I could identify with her tears, yet her situation is much worse. I didn't get to see her new house as it was a "to be continued" episode, but I'm sure it will be fantastic.

If you're praying for me, please pray that I be encouraged and have hope – hope to get through this next few months of treatment, and hope for the future. I know He has a plan for me, and a future, and plans to prosper me and not to harm me, but when you're tired and not feeling so great, it's hard to remember that. I can feel prayers, and I need them right now. Please continue to pray for my blood test on Friday – that the white cells come back to normal.

My friend D. reminded me today of something my mother always said to me, "things will look better in the morning." Good advice, Mom. Thanks.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

White Cell Count

I thought I would post a request to begin praying that my white cell count come up to normal by Friday, when I will have a blood test and meet with Dr. Broad at 1 pm. Wouldn't it be great if on Friday that she said, "It's a go for Monday, Deb!" The next three treatments will be a completely different chemo drug. Pray that I don't notice the change – that side effects are minimal or non-existent and that I can breeze through the treatments. With God on our side, why not? Thanking you in advance….

The Quilt of Life

"Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs, the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, til each appears before God in Zion. Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob…" (Psalm 84:5-7).

This was my reading this morning, and I wondered about the Valley of Baca, and how "they" made it a place of springs. Baca was a dry place, but the pilgrims were on their way to Mount Zion to worship God. It didn't matter that the valley was dry; "they" were so happy to be on their way to the mountain. They went from "strength to strength," as their journey was a difficult one. They found new levels of strength for each leg of the journey, until they reached their destination – the mountain top and God's presence. "Blessed are those whose strength is in You." Yes, my strength is in You, O Lord. Give me new strength at this halfway point.

Went to the OT director's house to work on my quilt this afternoon. Had to use my seam ripper and rip out one whole row of blocks, as I was not satisfied with the way the points went together. I thought to myself: "Wouldn't it be great if I could just rip out the parts of my life that don't look right, and sew them all over again?" But I know that's not possible. I have to be happy with the quilt I'm given. I proceeded to sew the quilt blocks together again and discovered that some of them were still not perfectly matched. Something to do with the fact that I'm human, I guess.

Perhaps some day this quilt and the quilt of my life will be beautiful anyway, whether the points match or not.

Monday, 9 March 2009

We had a wonderful time with our children and grandchildren on the weekend. Stopped and visited with the Pirate on the way, and he and Doug deliberated on one of the Pirate's inventions. They are two peas in a pod; made from the same cloth. Had lunch with the Pirate's parents and cousin W. Of course, we were in Coldstream again, wherever that is. Never been to Coldstream so much in my life, I think. That's OK – it's good to return to one's roots; you realize the value of family when you are 'under the weather.'

On to Jon and Alicia's, to be greeted by three cute grandchildren. I wish it was so easy to see Nat, Josh and Aiden, alas…. Perhaps we'll see them this summer. Afton was her usual Princess self, playing 'mirror, mirror on the wall,' using the fireplace glass as a mirror, standing there in her pink princess dress, not realizing I was watching her with amusement. Jack is still obsessed with trucks and tractors. It's what he thinks about every waking moment. Jon says it's the first thing he talks about when he awakes. Ivy, almost 1, is living up to her name – she climbs on everything, including Jack's toy car carrier, chairs, the couch, and people. She's quite a ham, too, and I don't think she's going to be a princess like her older sister, but a tom-boy. She can push a truck and tractor around the floor with gusto, just like her big brother. I left my ball cap on for awhile in the house, until I asked Jack and Afton if they'd like to see my bald head again. "Feel it," I said, and then they had their hands all over my head, squealing, "Prickly! Prickly!" and laughing with delight. Quite a game – the "Feel Gram Deb's Head Game." Only available for a limited time only. They played it a couple of times over the weekend.

We piled everyone into the van and took off to the back country behind Bath and Bristol. What beautiful country – high and wide. We discovered places like Killoween, Kilfoil and Moose Mountain. The kids all fell asleep. We were looking for some crown land on which to build a fire and roast some marshmallows. But it seemed like everything was privately owned, so after a couple of hours, we came home and Jon built a fire in his yard. He loves living in the country. The kids and I sat in lawn chairs and we made S'mores. I made the kids a miniature 'Frosty.' After I finished building him, Jack said, "Thanks, Gram Deb," in his soft manner. I wanted to melt into the snow myself right about then.

We had dinner together, the kids ran around some more and Jon asked me if I wanted to help serenade the kids to sleep. He played his guitar, and we sat on their beds and sang songs to soothe them to sleep. It was beautiful. They are good parents, and we are privileged to watch them raise these children.

On Sunday after church we drove out back to Kenneth, to the maple sugary. We enjoyed all you can eat pancakes with all the fixin's and all the syrup you could pour on them. Of course, we left with a litre of maple syrup, purchased from their mini-store. A great time was had by all. To Jon's house again for rest and relaxation. Even though I had a headache all day, I managed to read a book by Ken Gire about the life you want, and the life you get. Its premise was that beauty comes out of upheaval. Interesting reading. I'm trying to finish books this year, and have started a list of the ones I'm reading (I also read more than one book at a time). I would also like to read the Bible through in 2009, but just decided last week, so it may be 2010 before I finish.

Before we left their home last evening, Jon put his arm around me and said, "You're a young looking woman." What a great son. He's not afraid to love on his mother. I always think of that book by Robert Munsch – "Love Me Forever," and know that he would cradle me in his arms when I get older, just as I cradled him when he was young. Raising boys to show tenderness is such a great thing. Jack and Aiden are going to be great sons to their mothers.

Natalie called and said Aiden has a new place to store bananas – behind his ears! He loves to smear bananas on his head and then tuck them behind his ears. Aren't babies great? Nat's a great mom, and is enjoying Aiden's antics. Both Aiden and Ivy will be one year old this month. Hard to believe a whole year has passed. Must be about time for another grandbaby or two to make an appearance, don't you think?

Today was a busy day: Passport office (I've been trying to get my passport for over a year), Dr. Randall's office, Sears, Zellers, a sporting store, Dr. Christie's office, the hospital for PICC line treatment, topped off with a 40 minute walk at Willie Wonka. I prayed for favour today, and that I wouldn't have to wait too long (especially at the passport office). Everywhere I went, it was like clockwork – it was like everyone was waiting for me. Favour. I bought new sneakers today. My old ones are just not providing the support I need. Salesperson Billy waited on me and was so helpful and kind. I told him I was going to mention him on my blog. He even taught me how to tie my sneakers properly to prevent get shin splints while walking. I've been tying my sneakers for how many years now, and never knew that there was a different way to tie a sneaker. You can learn something new every day, I guess. When I asked him how much the sneakers were, he told me the price (over $100.). I really wanted ones that were less expensive, but they didn't have them in stock. He looked at me and said, "I can make them $20.00 cheaper for you." (Because he didn't have the ones I wanted in stock). I knew that this was favour – "I'll take them!" We talked about my situation, and his experience with cancer in his family. We talked about his life and what he wanted to do for a career. He told me that he wants to be a teacher. I encouraged him to do so. We shook hands and I thanked him. I felt loved, even while buying new shoes. Thanks, Billy.

My thoughts and feelings are buried so deep inside it's hard for me to voice them. Sometimes I'm afraid to let them out because I might cry too much. But these past couple of days, I do know that God loves me, and that He won't leave me. He has shown me His love through our children, grandchildren, and the people I encountered throughout this spring day.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

It's a beautiful Saturday. We are traveling up to Bristol to see Jon and Alicia and the kids. Cheryl is going back to Saint John this morning. She got storm stayed, and we were happy to have her stay with us another day. The last two days have been filled with much activity: working on my baby quilt, a gathering of friends on Thursday night, with a surprise visit from Shelly and David, a walk at Willie Wonka's, a hockey game on Friday night, and a meal at McGinnis Landing with friends. I love people, have I ever said that before? Friends bless us, they renew us, they love on us, and they give us hope. I thank God for friends.

I have been having waves of deep tiredness, as I feel the effects of the third chemo. The waves come and go, washing over me. I simply have to let them pass and ride the wave of tiredness until it leaves. I feel like I'm 'under the weather' right now. But as the weather gets better outside, so will my health. That is what I believe. I'm looking forward to Spring. I'm looking forward to hair as well. My Chia pet, Chia, is now growing hair. I'll post a picture of her. We have a competition going on. Currently, she has more hair than I do, but I'll catch up. You can't catch me….

My friend, Ph says it's going to be 15 degrees today. C and I offered to buy her a bikini if that was so. The temperature is already up to 5 degrees, so perhaps she'll be right. I hope so.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Woke up at 6:30 again and read until 8. Reading Keith Green's Biography. It is fascinating. Takes me back to the 70's (scary thought!). I was young and carefree then and so in love with God. Now I'm trying to be carefree. The love with God thing is not hard. We've come through way too many things for me not to love Him. He has never failed me and He never will, because He can't fail. He's not a man – He is God.

Went to the OT Director's house again to work. I decided it would be like going there for work – it could be my temporary job. Go and cut fabric and sew, lay on the floor when I get tired, have a frozen cappuccino or an orange, and get back to sewing straight lines until it's quitting time at 4 p.m. The rotary cutter woman (my mother) was under the weather, so she couldn't make it to the fabric shop. Good thing, I haven't got the $650.00 to pay her salary yet. We decided we should go into business, but that we wouldn't make very much money, what with me lying down on the job so much. I thought we could call the business, "Lethargic Quilt Shop" (LQS). Our motto could be: "We'll take two years to make your quilt."

Came home to find Cheryl from Saint John. She came to visit for a couple of days. She made a wonderful dinner for us. L. dropped by with olive oil lotion (I need all the lotion I can find to keep my skin supple. Just kidding).

Well, I must go and eat some Laura Secord chocolates that arrived mysteriously on the verandah. Whoever the mysterious donor is, I thank you. It has been befuddling me all winter as to who you are.

Doug went to deliver a spare washer and dryer we had hanging around. When he gets back, we're going to watch Fireproof with Cheryl. She needs to be prepared to see the movie at her church on Friday night.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

I know I haven't written much for the past week or so. I just haven't had it in me. I think I'm just tired. I haven't done email much, either. Sometimes we go through phases, don't we? This week has been good so far. Today I was able to exercise on the trampoline for about half an hour. Last week didn't yield much exercise, but that's understandable, I guess. I need to let myself off the hook. I've said this phrase many times to people over the years. Now I'm using it on myself. This afternoon I went to the OT director's house and we each started a baby quilt. Hers for her niece, mine for the next baby that comes along in my life. I know I'm going to have more grandchildren. I would like to have eight, but not sure if my two children are up to it. Six or seven will have to do.

It felt good to work with fabric – to cut it, to iron it, to sew it. How soothing. All the colours, and how you can make something beautiful out sewing little squares together. I need to be creative; a part of me is missing when I'm not. Whether it's music or crafts, or working with words, it's just me, I guess. And I gotta be me – since I'm not someone else. Now I'm not making any sense. To sew straight lines has a certain satisfaction to it. If you like to sew, you'll know what I mean. I had to lie down on the floor once and sit in the chair several times, but I made it through the afternoon. Mom came over and was the official 'rotary cutter' for the afternoon. She said she would only charge $650.00 for her services. I find she's a bit expensive, but worth it, as long as all her squares are square. We're going to continue working all week long, and see if we can actually get 'er done.

Doug is home now and I'm making maple glazed salmon, sautéed gourmet potatoes (I call them that; my own recipe which turns out differently every time), and vegetable mixture. We'll finish that off with sautéed bananas and maple syrup on yogurt for dessert. Might as well make it a maple syrup day. I can't wait til the syrup runs at the end of the month. Jon and Alicia are going to be in production, and we're hoping to participate in the 'sugaring.' Something to look forward to. Everyone needs something to look forward to in order to keep going. If you don't have hope, you cannot live.

“The Peace of Wild Things”

When despair grows in me

and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water,

and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

            (Wendell Berry, Collected Poems)

Monday, 2 March 2009

I'm still here. Our internet went down on Saturday, after a city guy caught his front-end loader on our cable line. We're working off W's internet right now. The signal is rather weak. Hope to get it fixed by Tuesday. Today I'm having running on slow-mo; it's noon and I'm still not dressed. Had a headache all night and feel quite listless today. Just finished reading Psalm 119 out loud; a very powerful reading about asking God to preserve one's life and following His precepts. I'll write more later. Must go now – need to go to the OT director's house for lunch, then to the hospital to receive line care. I am feeling the effects of cumulative tiredness right now. Perhaps it's just for this day. More later….