When life gets challenging, it adds to the confusion when we need to decide whether it is time to rest and float or time to “seize the day” and find a micro adventure to affirm life. Since recurrence of cancer this winter, I have spent many hours and days just resting. Some days that was all I could manage. Other days it was what felt like what I needed to “do” was to just “be.” But there have been a few moments when I was called to DO something bigger, something that was an adventure, something that affirmed I am still living, not actively dying (yet).
A few weeks before the cancer diagnosis, my 83 yr old mom and I went downhill skiing for a day here in Ohio. It had been a few years for her, and seven years since I had strapped sticks to my feet and hit the micro-slopes of Ohio. Ahhh, wind in my hair, “dancing” down the hill (please don’t tell me how awkward I look…it FEELS like dancing!), laughing at ourselves and having fun in the sun. It was worth going back another time or two after that first outing.
Then came the shocking diagnosis of return of cancer, very aggressive this time. Our first reaction when we saw the test results but before talking with the doctor, was to find ways to celebrate LIVING! I splurged and ordered two pairs of snowshoes which gave us many hours of pleasure having access to snowy trails inside the woods, not merely walking paths around the perimeter of snowy places. And hubby took a quick trip to Florida to hang out with kids and grandkids. Ahhh, breathing room when our breath was snatched away with fear.
Is it a micro adventure to find a new marker of identity? I’m going to claim it as so! I’ve had a quirky hair cut and bright teal stripe for quite awhile. But… then my hair started falling out. So, we made a trip to the woods and cut it quite short. Eventually, it turned to a very short fuzz with no color. Fortunately, just as I was losing my trademark colors, I found a travel companion. SASSEM (Slow And Steady, Supporting and Encouraging Me) Sloth goes with me to all appointments now. He has become my new trademark. Some of the staff makes sure to talk with him when they enter the room, and they love a chance to hold him! Whew! I may not be the gal with the teal hair anymore…but I AM the girl with the cute sloth!
April 8, 2008 is the date one of our teen sons died unexpectedly. We usually find something life affirming to do on that day. This year, nothing seemed right, especially in the middle of my own cancer treatment. Late in the day, this terrified of heights and not so thrilled with storms gal decided to climb the local observation tower in a nearby park, yes, all 140 feet and 224 see through metal steps to the platform! Whew! That was a stretch and an adrenaline rush!
Family and Friends gain importance when your life is in crisis! We’ve made a point to meet with friends when I’m feeling up to it. And it was wonderful to have all of our kids gathered at the same time in mid-April before I switched to chemotherapy treatments. There was lots of talking, laughing, crying, and loving as we spent a few days together, considering what my diagnosis might mean for our family. Plus, grandkids were able to visit over a number of weeks in June. Always extra special time, even when it is draining! Time with others who are precious to us continues to be important, using phone and face time and social media when we are scattered too far apart to be physically together regularly.
I spent a few days in the hospital in May, with unexplained stabbing pain in my back. Not a pleasant one, but I’m also calling this a micro adventure. It was unexpected, it took flexibility to adjust, and by the end of the testing and referral to palliative care for ongoing pain management, it was actually life affirming. SASSEM sloth was, of course, with me. And daughter sent him a light saber to protect me during long nights!
This summer we are living in two locations: our house in small town Mt. Vernon and our small play farm near Marysville OH. After years of having renters at the farm, it is finally back in our possession. It is a delight to see how many trees have grown and how park-like the place now looks. It is a gift to be able to walk out the door straight into nature with limited traffic and few neighbors. I’m trying to get outside daily for all of the benefits I have written about before. (See HERE and HERE.) And I’m delighting in the country sunsets unimpeded by houses or by many electric lines.
The latest round of scans were high stakes. Either this chemotherapy regimen was effectively shrinking the tumors (meaning I’m finally ready for surgery 5 months after discovering the cancer had returned) or this type of chemo was useless for me and it was time to try something more toxic. Either way, we scheduled a few days to get away together, needing a micro adventure or two to draw us closer together. We would need time to adjust to limited mortality or time to celebrate success! We are happy to announce that I’m having surgery soon to lessen the tumor load and reset the clock on prognosis—hopefully to many more years! (We visited an estate gardens, had some good meals, and wandered a steam-boat town along the Ohio River, including an overnight in a historic hotel.)
Throughout the spring and summer, there have been many days where I have had very little energy to do anything. When the weather is nice, we often choose to take a “top-down-drive” after dinner. The convertible that felt like such a luxury to begin with, now feels like a treat and a sanity saver as we wander country roads with wind in our hair (or not! HAHA)
A few days ago, I finally pushed past my fears of not being strong enough and got back on my kayak here on our little farm pond. It was fabulous to float with little bits of paddling, in the golden light of early evening. Daughter’s dog was confused as to what I was doing, and our resident red-slider turtle came to check me out as well. This was a good metaphor to remind me that during times of chaos and challenges it is important to balance rest time with choosing to live large one micro adventure at a time!
As always, thanks for supporting and encouraging me on this health adventure! I would love to hear about any micro adventures you have tried recently—just drop a comment below!