Ringing of the Bell

The bell, silently waiting to be rung.
The bell, silently waiting to be rung.

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.

yesterday’s struggles

are today’s celebrations

wrapped in gratitude

Life…the Long and Winding Road

IMG_0232The 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

A Special Bond

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”  ~  Henri Nouwen  (1932-1996)

Normally I would blog about the little treasures to be found in a city like Columbus, OH, and there are those, but I want to take a different path for this posting. Given where we stayed for a couple of days, I feel compelled to touch upon the beauty of friendship, one that is comfortable, one that is steady.

How many of us have had the great fortune of maintaining a connection with someone from our childhood?  Terry has a special friend that he has held onto since junior high, a connection born of the fantasies of adolescent boys, and that has been a constant in his life through many highs and lows for both.

Doug & Terry on their Zundap Bella motor scooters ~ circa 1960

A cancer diagnosis for Terry brought us to Columbus four years ago and a friendship that was already long-standing grew so much deeper, a tragedy flowing into a blessing. I was fortunate to be able to share in this friendship and we were both honored to spend a couple of days at Doug and Donna’s home this past weekend.  You just know you are going to have a great weekend, one promising the creation of memories, when all you care to do, with all the opportunities presented to you, is spend time together visiting.  That is the weekend we had.

Saturday night we shared a great meal, then relaxed around a crackling fire.  A nice glass of wine, discussing our travels, everyday happenings, and kids’ lives rounded out the evening.   When I hear Donna talk about her daughters and grandsons and see the love and support that they both have for their kids, I wish I had not lost my parents so early in life and had the opportunities for these kinds of interactions.

Sunday was even better, with no one getting out of their “comfy” clothes all day long.  Storytelling, the comfort found in moments of silence, and the joy for me of mowing their lawn (I know, sounds a little odd, doesn’t it) added to the day.

Me & John Deere
Me, refusing to relinquish my "ride" to Terry

Honestly, after I realized where Terry and Doug disappeared to, I should have surrendered my hold on their new lawn mower, although I really do enjoy mowing grass.  50 years later, there they are still enjoying their toys, or more specifically, Doug’s new BMW Z4, just a tad pricier and a lot faster than the Zundap Bella motor scooters.  What a beauty she is and the two “old guys” are aging pretty good as well!

At one point in the evening Donna looked at Terry, marveling at how close we had all become, and surmised that perhaps Terry’s journey of cancer treatment and recovery, undertaken at their home four years ago, was meant to result in drawing us closer together.  She may indeed be right about that.

How do you thank someone for opening their home and their hearts to you, leaving their imprint along the way?  Doug and Donna, two endearing souls, took care of us four years ago, and did the same once again this past weekend.  What we have with them is truly a special bond, one that will sustain us throughout our lives.

Doug & Donna

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”  ~  Albert Schweitzer