Beautiful

Beautiful
My once dainty hands became ugly.
Blisters from handling hell hot saute pans,
Cuts from too swift knife work,
My little finger permanently out of joint,
Mishapen, arthritic and painful on cold days.
Ugly brown scars from blisters burst
And reformed,
A long scar from a knife…
All the ugliness from a career of cooking.
When we married my husband slid the ring
Over the stump of my ring finger
and tenderly kissed it.
Years later he kissed the scar
On my stomach –
The scar where the laser knife slit me from navel to pubis,
The doctor removing from me
the organs and lymph nodes
Holding the cancer in his hands
and discarding as meducal waste.
My husband said:
Wear the two piece bathing suit at the beach – show the world you are a survivor,
So i did.
Because I am.
I showed off my scar proudly
And held my face up to the sun
And laughed.

Haibun Monday: Outside my (hospital) Window

Today it is Haibun Monday and I am giving the prompt for today.  The post accidentally went live Friday – sorry!  Accidents do happen in the real and the poetic world.  I am asking people to write a haibun (one or two tight paragraphs with a seasonal, classic haiku at the end) about a memorable birthday or, a full moon or…both combined!  These last few days shows us a super moon in the sky – the closest the moon has been to earth in 69 years!  Enjoy the moon, enjoy the haibun. Come Join us at dVerse Poets Pub for some splendid reading.

Outside my Hospital Window

I spent my 55th birthday in hospital.  I had been diagnosed with uterine cancer and I had just been operated on to remove the cancer.  Luckily, it was caught in its very early stages and I was one of the few lucky ones who did not die of this form of cancer.  But…I was sick with complications from the anesthesia and deeply depressed.  All I could eat was some pond scum broth, water, and coca cola.  I had thrown up everything but my toenails.  And I had been presented with a birthday cake by my mother, husband, and mother-in-law.  It ended up at the nurses’ station for them and anyone else to eat and enjoy.  November 16 was a grim birthday for me but I was alive.

Outside my hospital window, the sycamore trees were alive and golden, waving their leaves in the breeze.  I could see them from first to last light.  They reminded me I was alive and at this point, I had been pronounced cancer free.  I spent a lot of time in silence in that room, watching those tree leaves, watching birds hopping from branch to branch, gazing at the clear blue sky during the day and the huge full moon at night.  I was sick as a dog but I was alive.  I was alive.  Happy birthday to me…I sang.  Happy happy birthday to me.

golden leaves shimmer
during the day – full moon shines
bright during the night

public domain NASA photo

public domain NASA photo

Mrs. Kanzen, you have cancer…

I have written before about being diagnosed with cancer and now being a cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed in October six years ago.  We see all of the time information about and campaigns for breast cancer. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – normally a silent killing cancer, but again, because of vigilance on the part of my PA and the grace of God, I am here to send you all this love letter. Ovarian cancer is almost always diagnosed too late and mimics symptoms of other diseases. We don’t hear as much about the other cancers as we do breast cancer for some reason.

Ladies: please have your gynecologist, when doing your PAP smear, take a swab from higher up in the uterus which is where this cancer starts. Tell your daughters, your sisters, your mother, your friends. Men, you do the same thing with women you love and want to continue to love for many years.  Everybody, get those colonoscopies and men, bend over and crack a smile for your MD.

Taking care of ourselves – men and women, is important. Lots of fresh veggies and fruits, low fat diets, exercise, certain foods to eat; stop smoking and stop fooling yourselves with those steam cigarettes that contain nicotine. Just stop it. I stopped smoking over 30 years ago from a 2 pack a day habit, cold turkey. You can do it. I know you can. We’ve heard all of this so many times, we don’t hear it any more. When my dear papa was dying, he had me promise to stop smoking.  I did it out of love.  I think you all have people you love and who love you.  As a cancer survivor and your biggest fan, please, please, please take care of yourselves.

I hope this works as I am always link challenged.  This is supposed to be a downloadable cancer awareness color chart….ovarian, my ribbon, is teal.

ribbon_color_chart_printable

Hugs and love….

 

Six Years Ago Today – Return from hiatus, Cancer, and other such things

With apologies to my friend Bill Hamilton: I don’t like Florida. Good people there but it is just too darn hot and steamy – and the mosquitos…..like a biblical plague. Enough about that.  This is a long post and I hope no one will be offended by it.  I hope you will please read all of it.

This is one of those rambling posts and eventually, I’ll get to the points about the kindness of unstrangers (one of my favorite topics) and to tell you all, God’s not dead. Please don’t stop reading because this is an important post and concerns a diagnosis of cancer. I know many of you do not believe in the existence of a supreme being for whatever reason. And that is cool. I neither condemn nor attempt to convert. I just want you all to know: God’s not dead.

Six years ago, I should have died from uterine cancer, but I did not. Six years ago, I was not feeling well, was constantly tired, in pain, troublesome symptoms. I had scheduled an appointment with my MD and based on things I had told her, she determined I needed more of an exam rather than just the usual. It happens on that day, she was not able to come into the office so her PA (physicians assistant) took her calls. Being a bit hypervigilant, he examined me and took the procedure a little further than usual. A week later, my PAP smear came back with an abnormal reading. I was sent to a specialist who biopsied and then two weeks later, I found out I had uterine cancer.

Uterine cancer is normally a killer. It mimics other diseases and symptoms and because PAP smears usually are not taken from higher up than normal but this one time, the PA went higher. Because of his vigilance, the cancer was caught at virtually ground zero. Women usually die from this cancer because it is usually found and diagnosed too late.

The week before this diagnosis, I was teaching my adult Sunday School about acceptance and God’s timing. Tuesday, I was told about the cancer. I’ll be honest; I felt like I was sucker punched. I sat in my car and wept and shivered and wept some more. I kept hugging to myself that God would take care of me. I told myself over and over that what God brings me to, He will carry me through by His grace. I assured myself that the oncologist I was referred to, would take care of me. I went to him that afternoon because of the diagnosis. He told me it was nothing short of miraculous the uterine cancer had been found so early. That there was hope for my recovery. I then went home and told my family.

Telling my family was the hardest part. My mother was angry. She said that I didn’t deserve this, that I was a good person and God had no right to do this to me. My husband looked like I had kicked him in the family jewels and just stared. I was calm. I told them it would be okay that I believed, however it turned out, that it would be okay. The oncologist (one of THE best in Richmond for women’s cancers) would be taking care of me and was optimistic about my recovery. I had faith in the love of God and His plans for me.

I told myself this over and over and over. People at my church prayed for me and my family. People who didn’t know me prayed, sent their positive thoughts, vibrations, wishes…I was so surrounded by love and light from so many people, many of them strangers.

The day came for my surgery. I would be in hospital on my birthday – I took note of the irony of that. Now this is the really hard part. I know people are going to scoff at this but that’s okay too. My family and some friends were sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear how things went and would go in the future. My husband said the doctor, when he came out was very still and had an odd look on his face. He thought to himself, he’s going to tell us she died, that she will die, that it is hopeless. My mother began crying.

The doctor then said, the surgery went well. When I opened her up, the parts that had shown up on the MRI and PET were clean. There was no cancer – everything was as clean as when I was born, no lymphatic problems, no cancer. He went ahead and performed the surgery to be on the safe side. He shook his head and told them, “This is a first for me. Your wife, your daughter is fine.” He then shook hands with everyone there and went back to perform another surgery. My mother said people began to cheer and hug each other. When my family was allowed to see me, they told me what had happened. Truly, it turned out okay. So again I say, God’s not dead.

For some reason, I was given this incredible miracle. No, it was not a mistaken diagnosis. I saw the results of the tests showing the infected parts of my body. I got a second opinion and went back to my oncologist.

I have been in Florida with my mother. She is currently in a rehab health center. She had decided to give up and starve herself to death and came really close. the week before I went down, every time the phone rang, I expected it. She asked me to please bring her some good juicy tangy Southern tomatoes. I made her tomato sandwiches twice a day while I was there and she ate every bite. I spoke to the Doctor and dietician about what she was being fed (pureed food that looked like a combo of pig puke and cow poop and smelled about the same) and why? So now she is being fed regular food and doing okay with it. We all know hospital food ain’t the best, but she is eating some of the food off her tray every day and drinking her nutritional supplement. She has gained four pounds. From being at death’s door, she is now waiting to be transitioned to assisted living.

I told Mama about all the amazing people and especially those of you in the blogosphere who sent prayers to her, who sent positive vibes and feelings of light and love. She was so encouraged by your kindness. I was as well. We still have some tough times to go through, but I feel better about some things regarding her.

And again I say, as long as there are people who care, even about strangers, no matter their belief or unbelief, that God’s Not Dead. I am proof of this. The way my mother was encouraged and lifted up is proof. I never cease to be amazed by the goodness and caring of my fellow humans on this earth.

So however you feel or believe, that is fine.  Just don’t ever stop believing in the goodness of our fellow travelers on this journey of life.  Never stop caring, never stop letting people know you care, always accept that care and love from others.

Surprising Survivors II – ME!!! – from Hurricane Cancer

Five years ago, I was in hospital 11/16, recovering from cancer surgery (Please see my post about The 11/16 Society).   It has been five years since that time. 

I count my recovery and survival to various things:  the first is the grace and kindness of my God and His healing power.  After that, I thank my Physician Assistant, my MD (he’s the oncologist the doctors around here send their wives to), the amazing nurses in the hospital unit, and the love and support of my family, friends, and the 11/16 Society. 

I know there are those of you who refuse to see a PA – my insurance pays for a real doctor so I want a real doctor!   My real doctor was too busy to give me my annual pelvic exam so her PA stepped in.  Because he is a diligent person who truly cares, he was hyper-vigilant with the PAP smears – one for normal, one higher up, and yet another higher up. 

 Because of this, ovarian cancer which would have been discovered until the deadly stage was discovered at Ground Zero.  He sent me to the #1 oncologist for such cancers.  My oncologist operated and was able to remove all parts (I think the term I used several times while still groggy was “gutted like a fish”).  He said no other parts were affected but he removed to be safe.  The tiny beginning was removed along with the yet unaffected sections.  He also did laser surgery and used that wonderful glue instead of stitches and staples – no infection, clean healing. 

I kept up my regular visits as ordered from both him and my PA.  I hope in future you will remember this when given a PA instead of a real doctor.  A dear friend of mine and newest member of the 11/16 Society, is in the process of being a PA.  He will be perfect – intelligent, diligent, kind, compassionate.  I can see his sweet face now as he tends to his patients. 

The week before I received my diagnosis, I had to teach a lesson to my Sunday School class about acceptance – of God doing things in His own way and His own time – bringing us out/through the exile of divorce, disease, depression, unemployment, grief, homelessness (Jeremiah 29:4-14).  If we seek Him, He will find us and when the time is right, He will bring us home (my version of this long scripture).  It also assures us God is aware of us and His plans for us – His plans, not ours.  When I received the diagnosis, I at first felt I had been sucker punched.  But then, I began to again go to the truth of this book and verses.  I became calm.  My husband and mother were basket cases. 

When the surgery was over, I was told I was fine and would be fine.  I smiled because I already knew – knew however it ended, I would be fine. 

My friends showered me with cards, flowers, balloons….the members of the 11/16 Society who were still alive or in the US, camped out when allowed and smiled and smiled – their gift to me was a small satin pillow to use when I needed to cough.  Just what I would have given one of them in similar circumstance.  On my birthday, they kindly ate strawberry shortcake for me and told me how good it was.  Everything tasted like pond scum to me for about a month afterwards. 

This year, I am going to eat my own strawberry shortcake and then send them an email to let them know how good it is and to thank them.  On 11/16, I am going out to dinner with my husband.  I am going to let my friends know and those I didn’t know thank you for your prayers and smiles and good wishes.

Those of you, who like me are survivors – remember how special we are and how we can help others get through their exiles.  Those of you who are just beginning – you have my prayers and smiles and are being carried in heart.  

We are the wildflowers blooming during after a storm in an unlikely season.  We survive storms, frost, wind, sadness.  We are amazing grace, walking.

 

HIS Eye is on the Bluebird, the Osprey, Me, You, and……

Every day, I drive over a long bridge which spans a wide and beautiful river.  Along the river banks, special structures for eagles and osprey have been erected.  I can’t see the activity in those very well unless I pull over and pull out binoculars. 

Some of the trees, right at driving level, contain nests of various birds.  Sprouting out over the trees are several cell phone towers.  Ospreys have elected to use these for their nests.  I can see these very well as I drive past.  It was with much interest, in the early spring, I observed nesting couples and then later, amazingly enough nestlings.  It was amazing because they were so close, you could see Mr. and Mrs. Osprey feeding their babies or swooping down to the river to catch fish and then fly over and drop into the nest.  The nestlings could be observed fighting each other for food and generally, being competitive siblings. 

Mid-summer, we had a day of shear winds, tornado activity, golf ball sized hail, torrential rain.  All over the city, trees were down crushing cars and houses.  Power was out all over the city.  For a change, we didn’t lose our power.  We had trees down in the yard but nothing crushed.  The big thing to me was the crushing of one of my bluebird houses.   After the storm, I frantically pushed branches away and found that Mr. and Mrs. Slim, who have been building nests and raising families for seven years, while dazed and confused, were safe.  Mrs. Slim was huddled under a group of branches with the two nestlings and Mr. Slim was under another group of branches.  I cried with relief and gently took one after the other, to place in an unoccupid bluebird house.  They were cushioned on a hollowed out bed of pine needles, lint, and moss I had hastily arranged for them. A couple of hours later, I observed Mr. Slim putting food in the birdhouse entry for Mrs. Slim and the kids. 

The next day, on the way to work, thinking of my how my little friends had had their original home destroyed and how close they came to being crushed, I was fearful of going over the bridge and not seeing osprey nests.  I just knew the nests would be obliterated.  The west end of town was hit much harder than the south side of town. 

I should know better than to worry, but as I am a control freak, I just have to take back some stuff and worry about it.  Yes, I know God can take care of things much better, but I just have to poke my little pug nose into things, grab things with my too small paws, and take control by worrying. 

As I crossed the bridge, I looked up.  And grinned.  The osprey nest was in not only good condition, but the family was going about its feeding and eating rituals.  I saw Pop swoop towards the river and Mom with her wings over the kids and getting them preened for breakfast.  They were safe.  Of course.  I had prayed the night before because they were in such a tenuous position.  But then again, they were in the hands of God and you can’t be safer than that. 

I remembered back to when I was diagnosed with cancer several years ago.  I am in my fourth year of being cancer free.  Not only did my PA (physician’s assistant) find the cancer, he had the knowledge and wisdom to send me to the oncologist that the local doctors send their wives too.  Not only did I have an amazing oncologist, when he went into the area to remove the cancerous growths and lymph nodes, the Greatest Physician had already been there and removed the worst and largest parts of the cancer.  My oncologist was amazed that what had been seen on scans, biopsies and other reports, was totally different from he found when he went inside me.  When I came out of surgery, my husband gave me the report.  I was not surprised.  Joyful, yes.  Surprised no.  A couple of months earlier, I had taught a Sunday school lesson on acceptance and trust.  The lesson was in Jeremiah 29.  The people of Jerusalem were captive and in exile but God promised them, that in His perfect time, he would deliver them and take them back to their homes.  If they sought Him, He would find them.  He had plans for them that would be to their good. 

I felt that I was in exile, captured by a disease and by fear.  However, I remembered the lesson that God would deliver me…no matter how it turned out, I would be fine.  I opened my heart to Him and sought Him.  He came just for me to keep me from harm, He never left my side.  Just as He watches over the bluebirds, osprey, me…… and you! 

Jeremiah 29:10-14 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plan to prosper you and not to harm you, plan to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me, come, and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

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