Time to bid adieu to summer, our season of myriad changes, emotions, and revelations, but mostly one of blessings, for time allowed to aid aging parents with their struggle to retain independence, light-hearted family visits, friends who touched us in innumerable ways, and the gift of continued inner growth. Although there are aspects of this summer we hope not to revisit, we are grateful for the wisdom we have gained. Farewell Ohio!
The symbolism of the ringing of bells has been widely recognized throughout the ages and spans the globe. They have been used to awaken us, mark the beginning and ending of religious services, summon lawmakers to legislative sessions, used in celebrations, warn of dangers…the list goes on and on. In this context, they serve as a rite of passage, for those who walk through these doors, heavy-hearted and fearful, and leave with hope in their hearts, grateful for the compassionate care given to them by the medical staff and the companionship of others whom they have met on this path.
Yesterday was Terry’s final radiation treatment and as I stood waiting for him to emerge from the patient waiting area, a sadness enveloped me, an odd feeling I thought, on a day meant for celebration. I shared this with one of his technicians and Nicole, the patient advocate, who both explained how completely normal this was (me, completely normal?!). Something that had become a daily routine, something that could be done to eradicate this insidious disease, had abruptly come to an end. It made perfect sense to be having this experience. What did not make sense to Terry, and what he was totally unprepared for, was the sudden emotion that washed over him. Although greatly relieved that this chapter was coming to a close, he was also walking away from part of his family, a very kind, compassionate, supportive family at that.
We will forever carry in our hearts all who wrapped us in their loving care and are most grateful for the remarkable medical staff at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
are today’s celebrations
wrapped in gratitude
Is this the way?
Success and the end of a journey!
Nicole, caring patient advocate, and always-in-motion Gayle, receptionist extraordinaire
In the wee morning hours, I sit shrouded in solitude, my thoughts rousing me from slumber as they are wont to do. This nighttime reverie has not always been my friend, but in this moment of waning darkness, it is a welcome companion taking me on an inward journey. I find myself reflecting upon some hard truths I have learned these past few months, so many amazing family and friends who have blanketed us with love and support during a trying time, and a looking ahead to an ending of sorts.
This week is to be the final week of radiation treatments for hubby, a daily routine that we are both pleased will be ending soon. Terry has breezed through these treatments, to the surprise and pleasure of his doctor and our immense relief, in large part we are told due to Terry’s fitness level, eating habits and positive attitude. No more testing will be required for six weeks, at which time another PSA test will be conducted to see that the radiation has done its job (and we are confident it has).
The diagnosis of recurrent prostate cancer could not have come at a more challenging time, given that we were deep into our prospective caregiver roles for his parents when the news arrived. Challenges seldom seem to be timely companions but bring with them some valuable lessons, growth opportunities, if we open ourselves up to them.
I always knew that Terry and I would handle this part of our journey with a positive attitude but I was not quite prepared for a discovery I made about myself. It seems somewhere along the way I became perfectly imbalanced in my quest to balance caregiving, gardening, canning, further cancer education, nutrition plans, emotional support system for hubby, etc., etc. At times it felt as though I was mired in a rare fugue state, an empty vessel. Leaving very little for oneself is an undeniable risk for those who find themselves in caregiver roles. I thought I had this one wired, knew how to walk this tightrope, done it so many times. Ha!
The love and support sent by so many helped to buoy us and our heartfelt gratitude knows no bounds. The universe knows when to send what we need just when we need it. A perfectly timed email, phone call, inspirational thought for the day, and strategically written blog posts were our allegorical life raft. A few of you played prominently in our healing process, and hopefully I have properly shared my gratitude with each of you.
Beyond all those blessings, we were graced by two angels (in the form of a childhood friend and his spouse) who once again opened their home and hearts to us, the first time taking us in almost six years ago, allowing Terry to heal from his initial prostate surgery.
As Terry’s treatments took us to Columbus, weekdays were spent with these special angels and all that was required of me was a few home-cooked meals (perfect, as cooking is one of my passions). I don’t know too many who would so unselfishly give of themselves in such a way. I cannot express the gratitude and love we feel for these two for a debt we hope to never have to repay in like kind.
As I sit wrapped in earning morning solitude, raindrops gently tapping in perfect synchronicity upon the roof, I am reminded of a quote I came upon recently by Henri Nouwen that so aptly speaks to the personal connections we share with one another:
“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
We have been touched by so many from around the globe. Please know these grateful hearts will not forget such kindness.
The meaning behind Paul McCartney’s song The Long and Winding Road has been open to many interpretations; e.g. an unrequited love, the Beatles breakup, the unattainable, etc., but can also be a pretty darn good metaphor for life. Our personal journey will carry us along on some of the most delightful adventures but will most assuredly present us with struggles, challenging us to learn the lessons within the pain. It is the manner in which we embrace these struggles that not only defines who we are but who we will become.
Some of you may have noticed that I have stepped away from blogging for a time. Perhaps you have wondered if I have lost my way on this long and winding road or have been too busy with caregiving and gardening to spend time at the computer.
The truth is that both have been somewhat tiring, presenting both challenges and rewards. But what has kept me away is something of an even more personal nature, something that has caused us to take pause, to reflect, and to spend many of our waking hours reading, hoping to educate ourselves on impending decisions needing to be made. The subject of our distraction was a recent elevated PSA test score given to Terry, one which took us back to the surgeon who had originally performed his radical prostatectomy 5.5 years ago as a result of a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
For those who have heard the words “you have cancer”, there can be few words spoken by a doctor that bring fear into one’s being so swiftly or completely. To be given this news a second time as my beloved husband has recently is a numbing experience. Yes, Terry has had a recurrence of prostate cancer. Many visits to doctors, bone scans, CT scans, chest x-rays, and an almost unbearable wait to hear the results of these tests have consumed much of our time. Thankfully all test results were negative, indicating no metastases. And after much discussion and researching, Terry has decided on a course of treatment, one which will include radiation, as well as a greater emphasis on nutrition and supplements, to maintain a strong immune system.
We strongly believe a key component to this mix lies in maintaining a positive attitude, visualizing good health, accepting nothing less. Although a strong immune system can fight off many illnesses, it is equally important that the emotional part of our being be in alignment with our physical side, making for an impenetrable mind-body connection. Terry is going into this phase being very fit and with the attitude that this is just a small blip on his ‘life screen’ before we once again resume our travels. He is my rock and I am his and together we will walk this journey side-by-side.
Our hearts are filled with gratitude and love for our family and friends, including those in the blogging community, who have called and sent us messages of encouragement. Your heartfelt words, being carried across the miles, have wrapped us in a comforting blanket of hope. We thank you from the deepest part of our being. You are giving us the strength to walk this journey, and we feel your presence every step of the way.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt