Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to Work

As a child all I ever wanted to do was be a stay-at-home mom like my mother. She's 77 years old and never held a job outside the home. My dad went into the navy at the end of WWII and later transferred to the air force. When I was a baby he briefly worked 2 other jobs in addition to that.

God did not have that planned for my life, though. He knew before I was born that that was not to be the case. Today I started my 21st year of teaching English. We had to do a team building activity, which I really hate. We had to answer a questionnaire and then find someone with at least one of the same answers. One question was, "What would you do if you didn't teach?" I replied, "Be a stay-at-home mom." Someone laughed at me. Yes, laughed. A few years ago it really bothered me because I was made to feel by some people that I was less of a christian for working, but it's not like I had a choice--either before my divorce or after.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More CVS Deals

Here is what I got at CVS this week:

For a little over $7.00 I got:

4 packs of Pepsi products

1 Stridex

1 Shampoo

1 Conditioner

1 Airwick refill

I earned $5.50 in ECBs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thank You, God

This post is a joyous one for me. Let me preface by saying my 14 year-old son and I have had a strained relationship for years. He is extremely strong-willed and rebellious. His father and I separated in 1998 and divorced in 2000 (another very long story to come later). His father left town nearly 6 years ago without telling our son even goodbye. He moved back to Colorado. Since then my son has gotten two Christmas cards and $10 for Christmas the last time. No birthday. No child support. Nada. I think this has a lot to do with his attitude.

Well, he is very, very close to my father and spends a lot of time an hour away at my parents' house. He goes every other weekend and for much of his school breaks. He came home today after 2.5 weeks with them while I recuperated. Anyway, today he helped me get my classroom ready for school (I return Thursday to a year-round school.) with no complaints. He is insanely jealous of our pets (a lab and two cats, one of whom is 19). Yet, tonight he has lain on the couch all night with the 19 year-old cat in his lap. We have had great conversations and he even allowed me to read the Bible and pray. He usually hums, makes noises, or other things. Thank you, God, for what I see as a breakthrough. My dad has been counseling him like crazy every chance he gets.

God is good!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Being Frugal

I love getting something for nothing, or nearly so. I have learned the art of CVSing from my friend Monica ( Here is what I got today for $.52. I just have this aversion to buying toilet paper because we get nothing from it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Simple Pleasures

My surgery will be one month ago Thursday. Tonight I decided to take the plunge (so to speak) and take a real bath, not a sponge bath in the sink like I've been doing. I have never been a shower person; give me a bubble bath everyday. I looked at the wound vac and decided I could put the water in about 4 inches and I'd be fine. My, I feel clean for the first time in a month. That is how I relax every evening---that and with candles. It's strange how we take things for granted. To me, this is one of life's simple pleasures.


Today I had lunch with a dear older lady from church ( We meet for lunch about 4 times a year (on my school breaks), and she never lets me pay. Next time I told her it was on me, though. What makes Mrs. Becky so special to me is that when I was undergoing chemo she sent me a card a week. I have a sterlite container FULL of her cards. I won't throw them away. She was such an encouragement to me. I'd like to be such an encouragement to others.


I have never tried my hand at gardening, but something prompted me on Memorial Day to do just that. I planted herbs and peppers in containers on my front porch. Here are the peppers. They are growing like gangbusters.

Almost Free

I had my surgery four weeks ago Thursday and came home from the hospital 8 days later with a wound vac, which means my left side incision is healing from the inside out. I have a computerized contraption with a loooonnnnggg tube that pumps drainage out. I have almost none, and my incision is healing so rapidly that the nurse told me yesterday she thinks the doctor will take that off tomorrow. What will come next until it's healed? Maybe seaweed! Yes, seaweed! All I know is that once that thing is off, I will feel back to my old Free to be more active. Free to go back to Curves to get this weight off. I'm already eating better---fresh veggies from the farmer's market and whole wheat bread and couscous. I even gave away half a box (half a pound) of Harry and David truffles a friend had sent me. Now, for me to give chocolate away, I MUST be serious.

Monday, July 14, 2008


When I look back on the last year, I marvel that I made it. People at school would tell me how strong I am. Yes, I am strong, but I can say that I made it because of God and the fact that I had no choice. A parent of a former student emailed me last week wanting to come over and help me with housework. She, another single mother, marveled at my attitude. I responded back that she would have done the same thing I did. With God giving me the ability, I had no choice but to keep working and keep plugging on. Single mothers have no one to fall back on, so we DO.

I have said that to say (oops, I sound like my friend/colleague Carol) that I am a whimp when it comes to pain. Chemo. came every two weeks on Wednesdays. Luckily we have a cancer center 10 minutes from my house. Last August I went into the hospital for outpatient surgery to put the port in my chest. A week later I began a six month, 12 scheduled chemo regimen. When I walked into the cancer center and sat down to wait my turn, I was a basket case. Tears streamed down my face and I was, well, blubbering. The senior RN comforted me, explaining that they would spray the port area to deaden it somewhat before they stuck the needle in. Well, to make a six month story short, it didn't always work, and it NEVER totally deadened it. Finally, there was one person who could reasonably do it without too much pain. Chip was the only male RN there, and he was good. By the time I left, though, I'm sure he was glad to get rid of me (on January 23, 2008).

So, what was chemo like? Well, I'd go and sit for about 3 hours hooked up to the IV in the recliner. There was a large flat screen tv and we'd watch Food Network or Fox News. Almost all the dozen recliners were usually taken. That's a sad reality on cancer. I was usually the youngest there at 44. I'd nap, grade papers, or watch tv.

At the end of my time, they put on the pump. That basically means I wore a fanny pack from the time I left on Wednesday until lunch time on Friday when I'd go back and be disconnected. I used it as a life lesson to explain to my 6th graders what cancer was and what the contraption was going into my chest.

There were, of course, side effects of chemo. Before chemo I had pretty long curly hair. I say pretty because I always got nice compliments on it. Well, halfway through I lost most of it. I bought two wigs; one was the Oprah wig and one reminded me of Wynona Judd. Then there was the hand and feet tingling. I could no longer type because of it. Finally, the worst thing was the weight gain, yes, gain. I went from 120 pounds to 147 pounds in 6 months.

Now, 6 months after chemo ended, I can type again, my hair is slooowly growing back, and I have to tackle the weight. Even so, I am here, I'm alive, and God has been good. I only missed about 4 days of work due to chemo when my boss no longer got me coverage for my treatments times.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Being Truly Blessed

As I clicked on Fox News' website this morning, I read with great sadness that Tony Snow had died of colon cancer after a long battle. Many of you may not know who he is unless you're a news junkie like me, but he was Bush's White House Press Secretary before having to resign due to his illness. I hear so much about people dying of colon cancer, yet I didn't. I cry every time I hear of someone dying from it. Tony Snow had his entire colon removed; I only had a section removed with the tumor. When I lay in the hospital last July, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner died after a *ten year* battle with it. She was a shell of herself as I watched her on Larry King Live just days before her death. 18 months ago a colleague at work's father died after it had spread throughout his body. Both he and Tammy Faye didn't go to the doctor right after their symptoms; I don't know about Mr. Snow.

The key here is to know your body and get to the doctor as soon as anything changes--a mole, bowel habits, a lump. I am so blessed and I know that, especially since the doctor said my 7cm. tumor had probably been growing 7-10 years, which means it started in my 30s. The cancer center will monitor my blood every three months for 3 years and then less often after that. I will have a colonoscopy a year for 3 years.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Handling What We Are Given

When I was diagnosed with colon cancer last July, I never asked, "Why me?", like some might. I saw it as another obstacle in life we are handed. We all have them; some are larger than others. That first weekend (I got the diagnosis on Friday.) I was worried. What happens to my son if I die? His father had moved back to his home state without a word five years earlier. There was no way of getting in contact with him. My parents were 76 and 79.

The morning of the surgery, Wednesday the 11th, I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom. As I lay back down, a peace came over me. I had a vision, a picture. It was the only one I've ever had. There was Jesus wearing a white robe on a white horse. He had a spear in one hand. I was behind him, and behind me were faceless people. I knew then that I was going to be ok. That was God reasssuring me because Jesus was leading me into battle, and behind me were prayer warriors: people from my school, my parents, and people from church.

The surgeon biopsied 19 lymph nodes and they were all clear. I was cancer-free. Nevertheless, he said I needed chemo as a precaution. More than a month after surgery, I started chemo. I will write about that in another post.

Learning to Take One Day at a Time

Today I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at my own blog. I find such inspiration from reading the blogs of a few women from church. I am a divorced mother of one 14 year-old son. I am a one year cancer survivor as of today. Last May I started having the symptoms of colon cancer and went to my doctor after two weeks. He put me in the hospital Memorial Day weekend because my hemoglobin was so low (8.5). A cat-scan showed diverticulitus. I went ahead and taught summer school in June but still didn't feel well. The surgeon said I needed a colonoscopy. I had that done July 5 and on the 6th I went to see the surgeon. He told me I had colon cancer. I was 44 years-old. I remember staring at his ceiling in disbelief as he droned on about surgery. He sent me right to the hospital for pre-op tests. I would have surgery on July 11. I immediately called my dad and told him; then I called a co-worker whose father had just died of colon cancer that had spread all over his body. She rushed over and went with me to the hospital for what would be 4 hours of tests.