Saturday, October 29, 2016

Comfort, peace and gentleness

It's been a rough summer. After knee surgery, the return of cancer, more chemo, radiation and extreme fatigue I feel drained and hopeless. The side effects from radiation have been baffling but mostly I feel a great deal of anxiety and I am emotionally overwhelmed by it all. I often find myself paralyzed and depressed, mentally and physically. The advice I receive is to sit with these emotions so I can calmly respond to the situation and not just react erratically. But sometimes its just too much and I feel the need to withdraw and find a safe place of comfort, peace and gentleness. The place I go most often for comfort is imagining an incident that occurred the summer before my mom died. I stayed at her house that summer to help and to be with her. She was weak and in severe pain. One afternoon she asked me to go to the store for her to purchase some ingredients for dinner. For some strange and inexplicable reason I got very ill at the store. Cold sweats, stomach cramps, nausea, dizziness were among the symptoms. I would run back and forth to the bathroom in between getting the items my mom needed. The staff at the store wanted to call an ambulance. Finally I agreed to call my family to come pick me up. I don't know how I looked but my mom gasped when she saw me so it couldn't have been good. She took me home, tucked me into bed and then fixed and spoon-fed me some chicken soup, as if I were a small child. It felt familiar and comforting but still I tried to get her to stop so she wouldn't exhaust herself. She said it felt good caring for me like she had when I was little and she wanted to continue. Without words, we both knew it would probably be the last time. She sat beside me on the bed putting cold cloths on my forehead until I fell asleep. When I woke up she was curled up at the bottom of the bed near my feet, sound asleep. I asked her why she hadn't gone to her own bed but she said she wanted to be close to me in case I woke up and needed her. Her hearing was not very good and she was afraid she wouldn't hear me if I called.

Betty Jo Passmore 
 August 1935 - September 2014

I am glad we had this experience together before she left us. My mother, like most mothers, had her faults but it is her gentle, loving care that I hold most in my heart. Well, that and the guilt for not cleaning my house as much as she would've wanted me too.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

together apart

His face was brown, tanned from working outside in the summer sun.  I asked him how she was and the lines formed on his forehead. His worry was palpable. His concern painful to watch.  "She's been in the hospital. She has an infection everywhere. They gave her 12 bags of antibiotic." I asked if she was here today.  "She's seeing the doctor. She has an infection. They gave her 12 bags ..." His words faded as he stared out the window. He spoke of her with the feverishness of someone who might lose the one thing he couldn't live without. Later he asked me if I was doing okay. And he talked for a few minutes of other things. Like what was growing in his garden and the irrigation pump he had built to keep it watered. But in his eyes you could read where his heart and soul was. She cancelled her treatment and they went home to the farm...a giving up or a giving in? He said he had cancer before, then he had some heart surgery and now he thinks his cancer is back.

When I go to treatment there are multiple stories like this. The suffering astounds me and I feel a connection with it. I feel the camaraderie of the others but at the same time the fear hovers over us all. There is a lot of joking, singing, encouraging, comforting...a strange mixture of love and sadness that brings us together in our illness.


Every morning I have an appointment with a beast called Trilogy.
Lights flashing, red beams shooting,
sounds of clicks and whirs engulf me, body and mind. 

I struggle to hold my thoughts away from the beast, feasting instead on fleeting images that soothe and calm.
And sometimes, only sometimes I succeed.

After I leave the beast the dance of life goes on  

But in a limping painful way.
Not a graceful ballet instead a clumsy waltz
With stops and starts and angry steps.
And yet it does continue...

For those who are not aware I am out of remission and back into treatment. Its a tiny relapse but the attack against it is aggressive. No baldness this time but threats of more nausea and other unpleasant side effects. I am moving through it with great fear and trepidation finding bits of comfort as life provides from time to time.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Dad's birthday

This truck was in Tampa, Florida. It resided in front of a fresh produce stand that my parents used to visit. My dad loved this old truck. Maybe reminding him of his youth. When I came to visit once he was eager to take me to this location so I could photograph the truck. Which I did and then turned it into a jigsaw puzzle for him and my mom. After they worked the puzzle they gave it to the man at the produce stand who owns this truck. When my dad was ill I went to visit him in the nursing home in September of 2015.  We happened to visit the produce stand so I took more pictures. Then in November, when I visited again, we drove past and the truck was gone.  Now dad is gone too but will be long remembered...bigger than life kind of peace now.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Visions and Dreams

Visions and Dreams, Georgia 2013 ©Rhonda Prince

I remember your visit.
Feels dreamlike and distant now.
It happened on an overcast day,
with the gentle hint of rain
hanging in the breeze.
I sat in a darkened room,
surrounded by doubt,
blinds drawn, thoughts
gloomy and somber,
trying to find relief.

But you slipped in my heart,
Like a skeleton treading softly,
Out of my crowded closet,
in a hushed calm,
dripping with the residue
of memory and sorrow.
In quiet and tranquil tones,
you whispered
the secrets of the
universe in my ear.

Then wrapping a magic cloak
around my shoulders
You led me into the mist.
And showed me the
messages in the clouds,
the writing on the wall,
and the dark caves and flowered fields
where one can escape
from the ceaseless onslaught
of life and fear.

You asked me to explore
 to find serenity and peace.
Yes, I know you will leave soon
And I will feel the loss.
I will probably lose my way again.
And again. But each time I
Will wait for your visit to
Bring me back to
paths to follow that
lead to silence.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The evening wore on...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 moment at a time

Just a quick and happy update... My three month check-up went well. Cancer has not returned and I can continue, for now, striving to heal and get my life in a perfect, organized blissful state! Hoo-hah!

Actually a friend suggested imagining a celebration of Me! What would that entail? I tend to be shy and reticent...don't like to trouble anyone but if I could I would throw a huge party that would reflect my feelings of happiness and relief when I received this news. Life can be short and often times complicated so moments of peace should be celebrated. I dreamed of my house being in order...the hardwood floors shiny and polished, the dust released from captivity, everything in its place with the sun shining in the spotless windows. And since I am dreaming I would have someone else do all the cleaning!  I saw my friends and family gathering in the sparkling living room on the couch and chairs and others on the porch sipping sangria and snacking on elegant party food. I would serve plump dates stuffed with pecans and then wrapped in bacon and heated to crunchy juiciness. And fruits and hummus and delicious cheeses and rich dips with breads and crackers. And certainly something with shrimp!  The hum of laughter and chatter would fill the air. I would move from group to group sharing some of each topic before moving on. Making sure the plates and glasses stayed full...listening to old rock songs from my past that still bring nostalgia and lightness to the mood. A DVD of Wallace's photos would be available on the television for everyone to see what a brilliant photographer he is. The walls covered with lovely photographs my husband had taken. My sister quoting the Jabberwocky, Agnes dancing with Sarah and Sam making everyone laugh with the sarcastic humour we have all come to love and enjoy. Dan and family would make the trip to join in the merriment.  I, of course, would be taking photos of all my loved ones as we enjoy each other. No talk of daily life or drudgery, only light conversation or deep discussions on the meaning of life! And then chocolate cake or yogurt and figs or some decadent pastry that brings oohs and ahhs as we sink our teeth into sweet treats. For those that can stay late we will refill our glasses and cuddle together in the living room to watch a movie. Munching on leftover food and watching something fun like "O, Brother" or something more melancholy and thought-provoking like, "The Hours".   Then maybe just a few of those I am closest to would stay on talking and sharing the joy right into the night and early morning. Trials and tribulations may return...I expect they will... but for one night it would be good to celebrate Me and life and love!

(For Pam G.) - Its always a good feeling to finish your homework. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

And we move on...

photo taken by Paul Boocock

I will be the first to admit it has been a rough summer. Not whining, just fact! Recovering from chemo, the brain bleed and the seizure has been an uphill battle. Fatigue, lots of headaches and little sleep. Also, my magnesium levels have been low so I was going every week to have an IV infusion of magnesium to try and boost my energy. And, finally, because I am not on steroids anymore arthritis pain has increased making movement difficult. Painting a lovely picture of my life, aren't I? But I say all that to say this...I think I have begun to make a positive turn in my recovery...or at least a curve if not a full turn. I celebrated my birthday and retirement with friends and family. We are going to Florida to visit my sister and father. Today we joined the gym. A generous gift from my sister. I avoided going for a week but today was the day to begin the steps toward getting my life back on track. It wasn't easy, but to my surprise I didn't keel over from exhaustion. I did a few minutes on the elliptical machines, some exercises on weight machines and a short ride on the stationary bike. And I lived to tell the tale. The endorphins  lifted my depression a bit. Next week I will go for my three month check up to see if I am still in remission. My father's conditions worsen and my sister has her hands full. But today I have hope...

Thursday, June 11, 2015


My last blog post mentioned the fact that we never know what is going to happen next. My sister called it a crap shoot...this has proven to be true for me in the past month. On the day I went to have my final chemo treatment I had been suffering from severe headaches all weekend. I was also running a slight temperature. I assumed it was a sinus infection. When I went to the chemo lab they decided not to let me get the treatment until I had a CT scan and a MRI to check out the headaches. They wanted to make sure that the cancer had not spread to the brain. I was terrified. The next day the headaches continued to worsen so we decided to make a visit to the emergency room on Tuesday evening. We waited over four hours, a scan was done and I found out it was a brain bleed that was causing my headaches. Thankfully it was a small bleed so no surgery was required. The brain bleed probably happened because of the blood thinners I take to manage the blood clot they found last February. The blood thinners were reduced and I had all sorts of scans and tests to make sure I didn't have a brain tumour and I went home. My sister had arrived from Florida to spend Mother's Day with me. Since it was the first Mother's Day without our mother we decided we wanted to be together. On Sunday we planned to do some shopping together, visit Starbucks, spend some time at a local meditation center and then go out to eat. We made it as far as the shopping. I remember arriving at the store, picking out a few items, placing them in the cart...and then my memory has a lapse. I am told I froze in front of a shelf of towels. My sister came back to where I was and couldn't get me to respond. She thought I was joking with her and threatened to call the paramedics if I didn't answer her. As she dialed 911 she finally realized I was unable to respond. She tried to get me to sit down but I only put one arm around her neck and tightly grasped the shopping cart with the other hand. The paramedics arrived and took me away. They told her it was a stroke but it was actually a focal seizure. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes in the hospital emergency room with no idea of where I was or how I got there. I was quite confused for some time but gradually the confusion has faded though I still worry about brain damage or the possibility of having another seizure. The seizure happened because of irritation from the brain bleed. As the brain bleed resolves then the chance of a seizure lessens but the fear is still there.

So what was supposed to be a celebratory time of finishing my chemo has become a complicated time of new medications and visits to neurosurgeons and neurologists.  A scan has shown the blood clot has decreased in size to the point it was not visible on the scan. Also, there were no signs of cancer on the scan. Some good news in the middle of crisis.  On the down side I can't drive until I am seizure-free for six months. I can't return to work. I feel discouraged and frightened by these new complications. Things are probably not as bad as they feel but who knows?  I am presently tiptoeing through the tulips waiting for something worse to happen or for things to improve.  I'll let you know...

Monday, April 27, 2015

crap shoot: something that is random, not based on skill.

Today the all-important blood levels held and I had another chemo treatment.  It was a day of mixed emotions. Isn't everyday?  Seems to be for me.

The fact that after today I only have one more treatment is very exciting but also scary. The realization I am returning to real life is a bit daunting. I'm glad to be getting through but at the same time I have been at home since August and cancer has changed me in many ways. Will I be able to keep up with life situations the way I did before? (And sometimes I didn't handle life the way I wanted so will it be even harder now...with physical limitations and chemo fog?) We shall see... And of course there is always the possibility of cancer returning hanging over your head but I'm hoping with time that fades some. I want a fresh start...a new and better life...we shall see...

Then one of my friends who I have chemo with was told today that treatments were not working and she should consider hospice. The doctor told her she needed to think about quality of life since she struggles to come in but is receiving no benefit from the chemo. She and her granddaughter were crying and I just wanted to hold them in my arms and take care of them. Make everything better. I know it is impossible for me to do but its what I wanted. So I said the few words of comfort I could and hid my own tears because it is what seemed best at the moment. Watching their pain was excruciating. But it is all part of the cancer nightmare.

Later that afternoon I met a woman who has been cancer-free for seven years. She beat the odds with a cancer that often comes back quickly and with a vengeance.  It gave me hope! Talking with her lifted my spirits from the emotional morning and as I left the infusion lab I felt new strength. This could be me...I could beat the odds too.

As we were leaving, a woman approached me. I met her at my very first chemo treatment last September. She was back because her cancer had returned again. She had almost two years cancer-free but it returned. She had more chemo and went back into remission but it only lasted three months and she is back for her third round of chemo. I felt my hope fading and my heart went out to her and the fear she was feeling. She acted very positive  it would just be 'maintenance chemo' and she would go back into remission. I hope that is true for her and will support her in this effort any way I can.

So after bouncing up and down all day I finally arrived at home for a long nap. Or actually several short ones. I feel good (steroids) and am ready to keep battling. I discussed all this with my amazing sister and she kindly reminded me that life is a crap shoot, even if you don't have cancer.  We just don't know what will happen from moment to moment so we take each day at at time and try to have hope and strength and appreciation. Yep that's what we try to do. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

at the window (in the light)

The softness of the day filtered through the shabby screen
bathing the two of them in a weak and desolate light.
The window flew open and hundreds of doves were startled
scattering into the dark gray sky.
The beating of the wings pounded in her ears
As the birds rose higher, they disappeared from view
The quiet they left spread like fingers around her heart
She wanted the birds to come back, surround her pain
With their gentle sounds and proximity.
She needed everything close, within reach, to hold both
Of them in the sway of life.
It was all too fragile, all too delicate.
Something substantial would save them from
The tenderness of the moment that provided
Injury and healing  all at once.