The Big Epic

Connect with Nature - One Adventure at a Time

Tag: Challenges (page 1 of 7)

Day by Day through Cycle 4 of Chemotherapy

I’m trying something new here. I hope to update this post every day as a way to keep a record of how I am feeling day by day of the current three-week cycle of chemotherapy. With this particular chemo-protocol, I have an infusion of Gemtax on week 1, followed by an infusion of Gemtax and of Taxotere on week 2. The third week is my favorite—rest week! No infusions that week give the meds a longer time to hit the cancer cells plus allow my body a bit of a break and recovery time before starting the next cycle all over again.

I plan to update this same post each day, adding the most recent report to the bottom of this page. The first time I post this, you will receive an email if you have signed up for notification of new posts. My understanding is that subsequent updates do not send out emails—you will need to book mark this page to manually check the latest day by day info throughout the cycle. On the plus side, you should be able to use the comments because of how this is formatted on the website. Thanks for your patience!

bald cancer survivor, cancer warrior

Cycle 4-Day 1–Tuesday 6-29: had the 1 drug infusion today. And while I was sitting there with my sister as chauffeur/companion, the hospital chaplain stopped by for another good visit. And then the dietician came for a consult. I’m losing weight too quickly. We’ve got to stabilize weight loss or we will have to cut way back on the treatment meds. Once home: why hello, chills and shakes! I’d rather you didn’t visit every first day of a new cycle… but you and your high fever are now expected. At least you are gone by morning, as usual…

Cycle 4-Day 2–Wednesday 6-30: I actually haven’t felt particularly bad today. Have had some nausea which meds mostly took care of. If I had to choose one word to summarize the day it would be “sleep”—dozing, snoring, completely out, napping, dreaming, etc.! And when I haven’t been asleep I’m trying hard to increase my calorie intake. (So weird to count calories with goal of eating more, not less! Kinda like when backpacking… but chemo is much less fun…)

Cycle 4-Day 3–Thursday 7-1: still generally following pattern of past cycles. I have less fatigue and more focus today than I expected. I’ve been reading a feel-good book off and on all day long. On the other hand, nausea has been far worse than expected today. Meds aren’t helping much. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep that won’t still be hanging on tomorrow! I’m finally getting heavy eyelids now … I’ll check in tomorrow!!

Cycle 4-Day 4–Friday 7-2 can I just skip this day? Nausea was worse, even taking meds. Even had the dry heaves at one point (moments after eating—what’s up with that?!). Spent the afternoon/evening dozing after a visit from friends earlier.

Cycle 4-Day 5–Saturday 7-3 grandkids (and my son & dil) are in town for a few weeks, staying with her family. It’s a delight to have them visit! (Even if it totally wipes me out… it’s worth it…) The girls keep busy playing with their aunt’s amazing collection of dolls & accessories. And the little guy plays with trucks, reads truck books, and plays with miniature trucks! And then the adults have time to sit and chat. We should have at least one more visit, maybe more… and we are finalizing details for 5 days together in Colorado in September for another son’s wedding. Family—the best treasure there is!

Cycle 4-Day 6–Sunday 7-4:  definitely on the upswing with more energy, more appetite, less nausea, and less fatigue… even after a very busy day yesterday!

Cycle 4-Day 7-Monday 7-5:  it’s both a good day and dread day. I have some energy, I have decent appetite, and I know tomorrow is starts a rough week. It feels a bit crazy to voluntarily keep doing this now that I have free negative symptoms from the cancer itself! But we have a respite right now, not a full recovery yet…

Cycle 4-Day 8- Tuesday 7-6:  is the longest day of the cycle! This week my son from FL (who is visiting with his family & starting with his in-laws) took the day off work and drove me to the infusion center. It takes about 6 hrs for prep plus 2 different IV infusion plus drive time there and back. We had no earthshaking conversation but the meandering chat was a treasure! Thanks Rob!! 

After getting home, as usual, I’m completely exhausted and headed to bed (after eating some cold watermelon we stopped to buy). And my “friend” the high fever visited a little later. Wasn’t  as bad as sometimes—son suggested I preemptively take ibuprofen. Duh! It helped! Mostly slept the rest of the night…

Cycle 4-Day 9–Wednesday 7-7:  It’s been a blah day— not good with strong (fake) steroid energy but not (yet) aching pain from meds to kick white blood cell production into high gear.

I didn’t mention yesterday that I’ve held my own and gained a pound of weight. It’s weird working hard to eat calorie dense food and celebrating weight gain after years of the opposite!! The amount of weight I’ve lost is fine but the speed it is dropping is not good.

I got outside for awhile this afternoon. The dog searched for frogs by the pond while I watched a dragonfly ballet! And I was sitting under a pine tree which boosts both endorphins and the immune system. A good touch of nature connection is always enjoyable…

Cycle 4-Day 10–Thursday 7-8:  it’s been an okay day. Last day with steroids this cycle so still a little jittery and agitated and having to guard my energy. Hubby took me to the store this afternoon to pick up a few things, then suggested I use the scooter. I gave in … good thing since I didn’t have a much energy as I thought I had. Tomorrow is likely to begin a few days slide toward ache pain and fatigue… but by early next week I should be headed back to feeling human again!

Cycle 4-Day 11–Friday 7-9:  surprisingly, I’m not yet feeling bad. Whew! That’s a relief! Even my hips are not painful deep inside the bones like in past cycles. They just feel a bit unstable when I’m on my feet. And I’ve had enough energy and appetite to fix a number of mini snacks to eat today. I’m thankful for this day.

Cycle 4-Day 12–Saturday 7-10:  grandkids came over for one last visit before they head back home to FL. It has been such a treat to see them each week for the time they’ve been up here. I started their visit feeling poorly… but enjoying their chatter and their imagination (plus time with son & dil) soon had me feeling better! By the time they left I was beat for the rest of the day—aching from head to toe and sleepy—so it was back to bed. But oh so worth it!

Cycle 4-Day 13-Sunday 7-11:  in the first three cycles this day was the “nadir” the low point. One of them the pain was so bad I was hospitalized! But, again, this Cycle isn’t so bad. I feel silly saying the same basic things over and over—fatigue, bed, some aches, mostly okay. But this is SUCH a relief as compared to the alternative! My one complaint today is my mouth has started cracking in the corners and inside my cheeks. Mouth sores are not uncommon with cancer treatment… but I’m praying this is just a little thing today and doesn’t explode into a big problem! It’s hard enough to eat when the food tastes like cardboard or metal. I can’t imagine keeping a stable weight if my mouth has open sores…. (trying not to borrow trouble from tomorrow…)

Cycle 4-Day 14–Monday 7-12:  I’ve got the grumpies today. This should be a feeling better and better point in the cycle. But today I’ve got weary muscles (from simple  walking around the house after too much laying down time) and I’ve had a number of episodes of stabbing back pain. Grrrr! At least I’ve had a series of decent days… but that still doesn’t turn me into sunshine susie! The sun just came out from behind the clouds, I just finished a Popsicle, and I’ve figured out a transportation schedule for a crazy hectic week of appointments and obligations. So I’ll count these as my three good things for today and hope tomorrow physical and emotional feelings better line up!

Cycle 4-Day 15–Tuesday 7-13:  another okay day. GI imbalances are irritating (diarrhea & nausea) so I finally gave in and took otc Imodium… which I know will then make me constipated. I hate being a whiner, but I also hate not being able to find balance!

Hubby, daughter & dog headed back to our small town today for her to go to her writers group and so hubby can do some in person work at the office. I took an extra day + to be by myself at our summer place. It’s good to have time alone but I horribly miss family being right here plus it’s so quiet. (And the dog isn’t even here for me to talk to!) 

One more day to hang out tomorrow, then scans on Thursday and follow up doctor appts on Friday. This could be a big deal turning point… or more of the same old same old.

Cycle 4-Day 16–Wednesday 7-14:  Today is my mom’s birthday. Can I just decide that she’s going to live for many more years… and that I’m going to outlive her?? I’ve had this thought more than once today…

i also finished another Art Journal page today. I will post photos and explain more fully as a separate blog post but decided to bring it up today. Taking opioid pain meds and anti-nausea meds daily is a struggle for me. It makes sense in my head that my medical team wants to ease side effects as much as possible so any energy I have goes to healing. But my emotions just don’t agree. I finally figured out it’s a multi-layered challenge (of course!). I take pride in being generally very healthy… but taking meds for chronic issues negates that image. And opioids are dangerous and put one at risk of addiction. Why would I want to risk that? And deepest of all, in my emotions the doctors don’t worry about giving opioids to patients who are dying because any addiction is a moot point… and I don’t want to be dying so I shouldn’t take these meds. SIGH!!! I’ve identified the struggle and the lies … now how do I move past this emotionally? Another topic for my therapist I guess…

 Tomorrow is scan day/Friday is doctor appointments.

Cycle 4-Day 17–Thursday 7-15:  the stress of scan day is over for another cycle. I definitely wish this was a cancer which could be monitored by blood work and didn’t need visual monitoring! Things went smoothly this morning from the rides I had arranged to scan prep (other than 1 side of port not wanting to do it’s job at first) to managing to finish most of the contrast dye in water I’m supposed to swig. As always, after the scan I like to get a good lunch (fasting before the test is no fun)… this time mom & I went out for her birthday. And once I get home and adrenaline drops, I tend to crash and nap most of the rest of the day. (Sorry for ignoring anyone who messaged or called…)

 Tomorrow is follow up appt with oncologist to get scan results and decide what’s next. Plus a follow up appt with the palliative team to decide if we need to change any meds. Then we are taking some time for low key day trip relaxing this weekend!

cycle 4-Day 18–Friday 7-16:  Woohoo! We have clear progress and unequivocal good news! Tumors have shrunk significantly. Next week I start cycle 5 of the same chemo, looking for a bit more shrinkage while we can hopefully get abdominal surgery scheduled. How do I feel?? Wonderful and weary. Excited and exhausted. Emotions all  over the place.

Hubby and I had mini getaways planned for this weekend (which we started this afternoon by taking a nap! Haha). We figured this would give us space to hold whatever emotions we might have. Glad we are celebrating!!

 And to repeat myself (because it’s important)— I’m so grateful to Jesus for holding me close no matter what the outcome might have been. And I can’t imagine walking this road without YOUR support, prayers, encouragement, and good wishes! 

Cycle 4-Day 19–Saturday 7-17:  we slept in, then went and dodged rain while we explored Kingwood Estate & Gardens. It is a phenomenal place not far from where we live… that we had never heard of before! Downside? Not many places to sit when my leg muscles were threatening to quit…

 Then we went to a low key celebration for hubby’s mom’s 90th bday. From my personal perspective, it was good to celebrate our good news with extended family!

Boy, was I ready for bed when we got home! I could hardly get up the stairs…

Cycle 4-Day 20–Sunday 7-18:  We started our overnight getaway with an extended top down drive across the state. I remembered to wear a hat to keep my poor bald head from burning…

 We spent a few hours at a county history museum that was packed to overflowing with a wide variety of memorabilia. The guide was a good storyteller (but clueless about bald head/cancer exhaustion/needing to sit/etc!) Eventually we finished our drive to Marietta OH, happy to discover that the historic waterfront hotel was the same price as the soul-less chains. We found a little outdoor Filipino restaurant for supper, then I took a long nap, before a bedtime walk along the Ohio river. (I’m shocked I managed as much as I did!)

cycle 4-Day 21–Monday 7-19:  it’s the last day of the cycle! Tomorrow starts over again with another infusion day. On this day, we were finishing our mini-getaway by enjoying a few last things in Marietta Ohio. The museums were interesting, as always, but the ride on a stern wheel paddle boat was a treat! Just relaxing and watching the shore slide by…

 That seems like a good metaphor for the past 5.5 months—taking things as they came along and just letting things slide on by! It’s a relief to finally have specific plans and progress! But that’s another post for another day… not part of this day by day report of a chemo cycle!

 

Adrift in Time

It currently feels like I’m adrift in time, with little clear progress or known positive change. On June 24th, I added a page to my art journal about this, commenting “I’m struggling to blog or art journal with little focus–just waiting for news, for decisions–and realized this “drifting” should also be documented.” After looking at the finished page , a friend asked if I thought this was unique to my cancer journey or if it also applies to folks as they age or as they deal with chronic illness. Seems to me it applies to anyone who is adjusting to a new stage of life. But I’m curious–drop a line in the comments and let me know if you have ever felt adrift!

Have you ever felt like you were just drifting through life, things happening as they happened, no control over your future? Most often this type of feeling occurs during transitions–when one thing has finished but the next has not yet begun. Seems to me that positive, exciting times of change don’t feel like drifting because we are so excited to move forward, so full of hope for future possibilities. It becomes much harder when the future is uncertain or not yet clear.

Right now, on my health adventure, it feels like forward progress has stalled. It reminds me of floating on my kayak at sunset, no clear landing site in mind, simply letting myself drift through the water and the changing light. In a similar way, I’m currently adrift in time. I’m continuing to take the same pain and anti-nausea meds. I’m continuing to complete 3-week cycles of chemotherapy. I’m continuing to follow a pattern of feeling blah, feeling horrible, feeling okay, feeling good before starting the next cycle all over again.

It’s increasingly hard to have an answer to the questions of how I’m doing. Ummm… the same? Or maybe one of these: We hope treatments are continuing to shrink tumors. I’m bored. I just wanna whine at lack of clear progress. I’m feeling okay or I’m feeling horrid. I’m stuck drifting forever. What does one answer when it’s the same old, same old, day after day after day??

sunset drifting

Since there are no zippers or windows to my abdomen, the only way we can monitor the effectiveness of treatment against these cancerous tumors is to have CT scans every 6 weeks. That’s effective. BUT… it leaves me feeling like we are drifting between scans, uncertain of the “what’s next.” IF the med is working, we will do this. IF the meds are not working, we might try that… or the other thing. As a list-maker and calendar scribbler, I prefer to plan, and set goals, and KNOW what’s going to happen! But that’s apparently not the path I’m currently floating on.

kayak sunset

Sigh! Wanna come drift with me awhile? It’s beautiful sometimes…

Cancer Plot Twists — Chemo Week 2

I’m learning to deal with Cancer Plot Twists as things seem to always be changing! I love adventure…but at this point I would certainly be happy for some “boring” routine and stability. Last week I started summarizing multiple days of mini updates as a blog post. That way each of you who have subscribed to email notifications will receive a direct link to this post. I will still post a mini update occasionally by changing the intro page for Health Adventures on this website. (In the virtual world a page and a post are two VERY different animals!) To get the latest news immediately, you must bookmark the intro page and check it for yourself—no automated notifications for changes to webpages are available. Then every week or so, I will combine those into a blog post, and you WILL receive notification of new blog posts if you have subscribed to the email list.  Is that all clear as mud?! All rightee then… let’s talk about all the cancer plot twists from this past week.

This past week started with my second IV infusion of chemotherapy “poison” in our ongoing attempt to get tumor growth under control. A typical pattern for many patients is chemo day, fatigue that evening, gradually feeling bad for a few days after that, then gradual improvement until the day or two before the next infusion. We could say that is the typical plot of a cancer treatment story.

But as I said in the intro, I don’t seem to do anything in the “normal” way. I had a cancer plot twist followed by an even larger plot disruption! The mini-updates are below, in order of occurrence. If I was following the original plot, yesterday started week three of chemo—a week of no additional medication, supposedly a week of rest. As you will see, I’m still in the middle of plot disruption… but at least I have plenty of time to rest!

cancer chic, stylish cancer patient

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 — This was chemo infusion day 2–same IV med slowly dripped into my veins over 90 minutes, immediately followed by a new more toxic drug administered over 60 minutes. It’s a bit scary when the nurse has to sit in the room and observe me for the first 15 minutes the med is dripping to make sure I don’t have any serious reactions or side effects. I am continuing to take anti-nausea meds proactively since the first chemo day last week. With this new toxic med, I’m on three days of steroids plus have a little timer attached to my upper arm to auto-inject a dose of Neulasta to help my white blood cell count stay in normal range. And because pushing the bone marrow to produce white blood cells more quickly than usual can cause an inflammatory pain, I’m taking benedryl or claritin now to proactively prevent some of that pain. A huge plus to this day was a long visit with the hospital chaplain we had met on my first day in the clinical trial two months ago.

Wednesday pm, May 5, 2021 — Hubby and I are shaking our heads in bewilderment at how I’m feeling. Definitely a cancer plot twist! I was full of energy as we left the hospital. I was seriously talking about grabbing some supper when we got home, then asking eldest son (who stayed a few weeks longer than the rest of the visiting kids) to drive me to Walmart to grab additional comfy things to wear or use during this round of 2 cycles of chemo. But then… everything CRASHED!! I was exhausted, I had a fever over 100, I had horrid nausea and heart burn, I couldn’t sleep but I couldn’t get comfortable. Then this morning, I popped up out of bed with energy and feeling fine. I got daughter up for school (but let Daddy drive her, I’m tryyyyying to be “good,” really!) I had a good chat with eldest son while I was eating leftovers of the yummy meal he fixed for everyone last night. I had a long catch-up phone call with a friend. I ate a good lunch. I forced myself to lay down and rest but was too energetic to nap. I took a handful of meds around 12:30 and realized it had been a full 12 hours since I had taken any of the meds…and I was feeling great! I’m happy to inform you that I’m still feeling good this evening. Perhaps I may ask hubby to take me shopping. Day 1 of chemo I’m “supposed to” feel decent. But then feel worst over days 2-3. So far that’s not my pattern… I’m praying this light side effects response will continue but know I will get flattened again at some point in the coming days.

Friday pm, May 7, 2021 — I stayed hyped and full of energy through Thursday morning. Then gradually, ever so slowly I slid doooowwwwwnnnn into another crash. Same symptoms: nausea, heartburn, fever, discomfort in any position, foggy brain, and more. Checking with my doc’s office today, apparently this high/low pattern is not uncommon when on steroids for a few days. At my next appointment in 10 days or so, I plan to ask what the reasons would be to only take that steroid for three days around the 2nd infusion of the entire 3-week cycle or if I could take a lower dose of steroid for a longer time. Still not feeling good this morning–it’s been a day to be grateful for a comfy bed and for big windows that let lots of light into the bedroom.

One different thing this morning… I woke up as a one-man-band-street-performer. (Go look ’em up, really! They are hilarious!) When I got out of bed this morning and every time I tried to move around today: My hips go clickety-clack, my knees wobble, my shoulders join in with a pop pop while my thighs go jiggle, jiggle. Don’t forget about my head pounding out a crazy rhythm, thump, thump, thump. My back adds a shiver up, shiver down and my feet insist on tickle, tackle, pins and needles! Apparently, this, too, is “normal” at this stage. Drug #2 from Tuesday kills all fast-growing cells, including white blood cells. To boost my immune system, I was given a shot to throw white blood cell production into high speed in my bone marrow. And that, supposedly, explains the floppiness and noisiness in my bones! (Thanks to daughter Anna who came up with the words for the different sounds. My brain fog couldn’t have done it!)

Sunday pm, May 9, 2021 — A few texts sent to our far-flung kids on Mother’s Day evening. I’m so glad we all gathered a few weeks ago. I would have been extra grumpy if I was at urgent care and missing time with them today! “We are at the James Cancer Center urgent care, waiting on labs and for a CT scan to be done. I have had stabbing back pain all day for no reason we can think of. The Dilaudid they gave me is kicking in. I’m still aware of the jolts of pain every few minutes but don’t seem to care anymore! HA!”

And then later in the evening: “Docs decided they want an MRI to better figure out the cause of low back pain. Those tests take many weeks to schedule as an outpatient and none of us think it is wise to delay… so I’m being admitted sometime soon. The MRI will be done later tonight or in the morning [or sometime Monday, or maybe during the night on Monday, or what about Tuesday? MRI’s are an in-high-demand procedure!] Randy has headed home for the night. As long as they keep pain under control and eventually figure out the cause, I’m happy to stay, even though it’s a cancer plot twist.

What do we need right now?? Prayers, encouragement, cute animal videos texted to me, anything to keep me occupied while we “hurry up and wait!” Don’t worry, both SASSEM sloth and hubby are here to keep me company.

weary cancer patient

Monday pm, May 10, 2021 — Yep, it has definitely been a hurry-up-and-wait kinda day. I was admitted to the James/OSU last night. Sleep was disrupted, as usual, by taking vital signs, checking on pain levels, giving more pain meds, and even a doctor doing an ortho assessment. I’m happy to report today that food is decent, the quiet is peaceful, hubby is allowed to be here with me all day (while he tries to also get some remote work done), and I have beautiful views of the metropolitan area from our 19th floor aerie! Had a series of xrays done today–to rule out back pain being caused by bone/ortho reasons. Took a meandering walk with hubby around the loop of rooms. Dozed, texted with a friend, had vitals recorded and pain meds given, napped, chatted with hubby, ate lunch, dozed, had vitals and pain meds, and on and on this oh-so-exciting (??!!) day progressed. Still waiting for an MRI, possibly tonight during the night, more likely sometime late afternoon tomorrow (apparently, I’m still about halfway down the list from being added to the list last night!!) As always, thank you SO much for your concern, your encouragement, your prayers, and your support. We couldn’t get through this without all of you!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 – I keep thinking I will be discharged so I should wait to wrap up this post at a logical stopping spot. However, cancer plot twists continue to occur, I’m still at the hospital, but they assure me I will probably go home today (same as Tuesday, same as Monday, oops, not yet!) Nothing specific has been found as the cause of this back pain, but I have an updated meds list from the pain & palliative team, and now we wait for the various docs to all agree at the same time that I can GO HOME! Don’t worry… you will hear me yell “Hallelujah!” when they finally get their act together!

Since I am an active cancer patient yet again, I decided to add a “health adventures” tab to my website. You can follow my current cancer journey in a couple of ways:

  • click HERE to see frequent mini updates plus links to the pages below.
  • click HERE to see a compilation of all the mini updates archived in one place: and
  • click HERE to see photos and read blog stories about the ups and downs of this stressful journey plus posts from past health challenges.
  • Feel free to poke around the site and check out other Big Epic Adventures I have documented in the past—backpacking and other outdoor fun, becoming a certified Nature and Forest Guide, trip reports, and other daily activities.

________________________

If you hate to miss the latest reports from my Cancer Journey, you can bookmark this intro page to read frequent mini-updates OR you can scroll to the bottom of any page and sign up to receive an email notification whenever I make a new full-length blog post (not just an update to the intro page) which will include stories, photos, explanations, and a weekly summary of mini updates.

(THANK YOU for following with me on this cancer journey! I appreciate every comment, encouragement, prayer, good wishes, little gifties and other types of support. I can’t imagine doing this alone…)

Hit by a Mack Truck — Chemo Week 1

(I’m trying something different. Please be patient while I tinker a bit to make updates and blog posts and notifications easier for me to write and easier for you to receive. As you likely noticed, I mostly disappeared during Chemo Week 1 when I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck and was horizontal for much of the time. This iteration, I am summarizing multiple days of mini updates as a blog post. That way each of you who have subscribed to email notifications will receive a direct link to this post. I will still post a mini update occasionally by changing the intro page for Health Adventures on this website. (In the virtual world a page and a post are two VERY different animals!) To get the latest news immediately, you must bookmark the intro page and check it for yourself—no automated notifications for changes to webpages are available. Then every week or so, I will combine those into a blog post, and you WILL receive notification of new blog posts if you have subscribed to the email list.  Is that all clear as mud?! All rightee then… let’s get rolling!)

smashing through cancer in a VW bug

Earlier in this current health adventure, I captured in my art journal the perfect image of how I wanted to interact with cancer. I would be a classic VW bug running right through a white picket fence labeled “cancer.” Sure, there would be some owies here and there and a bit of mess to clean up, but I was going to charge forward, choose my own path, and avoid being a victim. (In case you missed it, I wrote previously about choosing to label myself as a Cancer Navigator rather than a Cancer Survivor HERE and HERE.) That image of pushing right through the obstacles, has been mostly accurate so far. I have surgery. I recover. I have scans. I have surgery. I recover. I have scans and scans and scans. I have tumors too big for surgery. I start on a low side effects targeted treatment. I’m still doing mostly fine moving forward.

But then…

         But then…

I got smashed emotionally by learning that the “easy” path was no longer mine. It was time for all the anxiety and worry and fear to get triggered by choosing chemotherapy as the right next step to try as we continue the search for what will stop the growth of these specific tumors, perhaps even shrink them. Suddenly, the “I got hit by a Mack Truck” of cancer experiences was an accurate description for me.

hit by a Mack truck called cancer

In addition to emotional wreckage, in the past week I have experienced being hit by a Mack truck in the physical realm as well. Here are a few recreated mini updates that I might have written in the past seven days, had I not been completely flattened by pain, anxiety, utter fatigue, lack of appetite, and more. Chemo is no joke, I tell you!

Monday pm, May 3, 2021 – I had the final (voluntary) biopsy for the meds trial researchers today. I was surprised to feel better than I did after past biopsies…but perhaps that’s because I’m comparing this post-biopsy day with the horrid days I had on the weekend rather putting it in the context of feeling decent on this day before next chemo infusion. Rah! Rah! Tomorrow morning it’s time for the next dose of poison to drip through my veins!

WEEKEND, May 1& 2, 2021 – I feel best first thing in the morning. That is both shocking and disorienting for a night owl. (Who? Who!!) A more accurate statement would be I feel a bit better in the morning. Chemo side effects have leveled me! But I do seem to have a bit of extra energy and interest first thing when I get up. I tried two ways of using that morning energy. One day I got up, did a bunch of things right away, pushed myself hard, and soon “crashed” again, laid flat by exhaustion, pain, and brain fog. Unfortunately, by doing this, I had no energy left for the rest of the day to do other activities. On the other day of the weekend, I tried using the morning burst of energy to do a small task slowly and gently, go rest, then try to complete another enjoyable activity. By pacing myself, I accomplished more than I did when I worked harder, worked faster, and overworked my energy.

FRIDAY pm, April 30, 2021 – Did anyone happen to get the license plate number of the semi that just leveled me? I got hit by a Mack truck of chemo side effects again! (Same list of “joys” as on Wednesday’s update…)

THURSDAY pm, April 29, 2021 – A friend asked me if I was taking care of myself by resting today. My reply was: I took a nap then took some meds. I took a nap then slowly drank some bone broth. I took a nap and woke up feeling much better. And now I’m tired so I’m going to take another nap!

WEDNESDAY pm, April 28, 2021 – First day of chemo infusion is finished. I felt fine the entire drive home. Supper still tasted yummy and I still had an appetite. But then, I felt like I got hit by a Mack truck. I was exhausted, nauseous, with a low fever, sore side and low back (I think I pulled a muscle getting up this morning), stuffy nose which means dry mouth is worse. I’m taking pain meds, muscle relaxer and nausea meds by the clock. I’m seriously hoping a good night’s sleep will help me feel more human in the morning.

Mack Truck vs fun VW Bug

So, making a short statement into a long story, I am forced to admit that no matter how much I choose to pursue adventures and live exuberantly, sometimes it is just a reality that I will get hit by a Mack truck. The bigger question is what I choose to do after being flattened…

Since I am an active cancer patient yet again, I decided to add a “health adventures” tab to my website. You can follow my current cancer journey in a couple of ways:

  • click HERE to see frequent mini updates plus links to the pages below.
  • click HERE to see a compilation of all the mini updates archived in one place: and
  • click HERE to see photos and read blog stories about the ups and downs of this stressful journey plus posts from past health challenges.
  • Feel free to poke around the site and check out other Big Epic Adventures I have documented in the past—backpacking and other outdoor fun, becoming a certified Nature and Forest Guide, trip reports, and other daily activities.

________________________

If you hate to miss the latest reports from my Cancer Journey, you can bookmark this intro page to read frequent mini-updates OR you can scroll to the bottom of any page and sign up to receive an email notification whenever I make a new full-length blog post (not just an update to the intro page) which will include stories, photos, explanations, and a weekly summary of mini updates.

(THANK YOU for following with me on this cancer journey! I appreciate every comment, encouragement, prayer, good wishes, little gifties and other types of support. I can’t imagine doing this alone…)

Storytelling to Calm Anxiety

Background:

Learning to calm anxiety can be a huge challenge for the cancer navigator who is spending time in Cancerland. This debilitating emotion is way beyond simple worry or frustration. It tends to appear when the world is careening out of control, when life feels tenuous, when it feels like a fight for survival itself. When I started having anxiety meltdowns and panic attacks this past fall (because of family reasons, not cancer at that point), I started taking meds plus making regular appointments with a variety of therapists. This weekend, while waiting for the results of yesterday’s CT Scan, I’m struggling big time. (Good morning, Honey. Thanks for making breakfast. Now hold me tight and let me soak your shirt in tears. And no, I don’t have any words to explain my outburst. Sigh… )

man calm anxiety of crying woman

I expected it to be difficult waiting to learn if this current treatment is working or not. Based on past timing, I expected the radiologist’s reports to be posted online sometime early next week. But… at the end of the workday on Friday, the test results for the chest CT scan were posted. Whew! No changes, no evidence of disease. And then… nothing… the report for the abdominal CT scan was referred to in that first report, but it has not yet been posted. Oh NO! This sent my anxiety through the roof, imagining horrible reasons for the delay.

Storytelling as a Tool to Calm Anxiety:

Off and on all day today, I’ve been using a tool I learned from my music therapist. The human brain is wired to collect stories, be guided by stories, and organize the world via stories. These stories are the way our brains resolve any uncertainties. When we only get a tiny bit of a story, our brains fill in the gaps to determine what is happening based on past experiences, similar stories, small details we notice, our feelings, and predictions of future outcomes. As you might imagine, those guessed-at-but-now-feeling-true stories will often be very skewed and might not bear any resemblance to what will actually happen.

1950s woman on phone

Using storytelling to calm anxiety can be done in many different formats—music, art, talk therapy, journaling. I initially learned about our brains’ preference for stories through an exercise of listening to a piece of instrumental music and writing down what I imagined was happening. The therapist and I then shared our stories, laughing at the huge differences. We discussed what experiences, details, and feelings led each of us to imagine that particular story. Then we did the exercise again, using the same music but capturing a different story than we chose the first time. As homework, I have been asked to practice this exercise regularly, coming up with at least 3-5 different explanations each time. (This is an entertaining activity to try with family or friends.)

A second exercise is closely related and has the same goal of building flexible thinking. In this assignment, I had to state the terrible thing I was anxious might happen. I had to identify which bits were known facts, then build on those things with a worse scenario, followed by an even worse outcome, until I had come up with 3-5 outlandish stories. This never fails to make me laugh!

Today’s storytelling:

With both of those exercises, I’ve been building flexible thinking in my brain, rather than simply clinging to one “catastrophizing” story. So, here’s the scenario for today’s therapy:

The radiologist posted the report for the chest CT scan. He has not yet posted the results of the abdominal CT scan. Why not?

My Anxiety-induced Story: Last night and today, I am fighting against doomsday assumptions. Obviously, he did not post the abdominal scan report because it shows significant tumor growth and additional tumors. The radiologist is concerned for me. He wants my doc to be the first to see the report. My doc will give me the bad news at my appointment on Tuesday.

anxious woman peers through hands on face

As I recognize my anxiety and remember that I have no way of knowing what is actually happening, and as hubby reminds me to use my storytelling to calm anxiety, I have come up with the following:

Story 1: The radiologist has worked extra shifts this week and is exhausted. The chest CT report was easy, so he posted that. But he could not keep his eyes open long enough to deal with the abdominal CT report. So, he left it in his to-do folder and went home to bed. He will be ready to handle it when he comes back to work on Monday.

Story 2: The radiologist is shocked when he looks at the abdominal scan and compares it to the images from 4 weeks ago. There is no evidence of any tumors whatsoever. He hesitates to post this as a report, however. He decides to have his co-worker look things over on Monday to verify the miraculous results.

Story 3 (worse version): The very expensive scanner malfunctioned. There is no abdominal CT to report on. I will have to wait another few weeks for an appointment to have the scan redone.

Story 4 (even worse scenario): The radiologist completed the abdominal CT report. However, he was so excited to be leaving for next week’s vacation to the Caribbean that he didn’t notice he pushed the button to delete the scan and the report rather than the button to post it. Nobody notices the error until he returns to work in another 10 days.

Story 5 (an outlandish story): The radiologist was just getting ready to post his report when Russian operatives kidnapped him. They were certain this was top secret information, so they made him save the scan and the report on a thumb drive they handed him. They then smuggled both him and this contraband information out of the hospital and to the airport where a super sonic jet transported them back to Russia. In the meantime, the US government learned about the kidnapping and heist. They insisted that both the doctor and the information be returned to the USA at once. When Putin laughed about it, a nuclear war began. It did not take long for the entire earth’s population to be wiped out… all because the radiologist dawdled on posting my results.

Your Turn: I would love to read more outlandish stories to calm anxiety while I try to not completely freak out this weekend! Please, please post your short “explanation” of why the abdominal CT scan results were not posted online with the first report! I’m certain many of you have even better stories than the ones my anxious brain came up with.

Thanks for taking time to read my silly stories! Please add your version in the comments Since I am an active cancer patient yet again, I decided to add a “health adventures” tab to my website. You can follow my current cancer journey in a couple of ways:

  • click HERE to see frequent mini updates plus links to the pages below.
  • click HERE to see a compilation of all the mini updates archived in one place: and
  • click HERE to see photos and read blog stories about the ups and downs of this stressful journey plus posts from past health challenges.
  • Feel free to poke around the site and check out other Big Epic Adventures I have documented in the past—backpacking and other outdoor fun, becoming a certified Nature and Forest Guide, trip reports, and other daily activities.

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If you hate to miss the latest reports from my Cancer Journey, you can bookmark this site to see frequent mini-updates or you can scroll to the bottom of any page and sign up to receive an email notification whenever I make a new blog post.

(THANK YOU for following with me on this cancer journey! I appreciate every comment, encouragement, prayer, good wishes, and other types of support. I can’t imagine doing this alone…)

First Day of Cancer School

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 was my first day of Cancer School. Yes, I’ve had surgery to remove tumors twice in the past 2+ years. But this was different. Somehow, spending a day in the treatment center to take my first medication through a clinical trial, followed by labs every few hours, was hard to bear emotionally and mentally. I really AM a cancer patient. This really IS serious.

First things first—I am NOT doing chemo at this point. I was accepted into a Phase 1 Trial for a very tightly targeted medication. I will take pills twice a day at home, with weekly visits to have lab work done. Unlike chemo, there have been very few side effects noted so far with those already in the study. Here’s my “handbook” for Cancer School with everything I need to know about being in a clinical trial for treatment.

Here are my notes from my first day of Cancer School. I include schedule, activities, thoughts, and various ponderings from throughout the day. Randy drove me to the hospital and stayed with me for the exceedingly long day.

We leave home at 6:15am. I have to be fasting—no food and, worse yet, NO COFFEE. (Why yes, I was indeed grumpy. Why do you ask?!)

On the hour drive to the big city, we talk about some of the realities of what we are facing—possible worst case, better case, and hoped-for best-case outcomes. It is kinda scary that within the next few weeks we will more clearly know which is likely to be true for me. We REALLY need this med to be effective!

Here is the traditional photo of the student on the first day at a new school. With my cuddly companion, Sassem the Sloth, of course.

the James Cancer Hospital; OSU medical center; First Day of Cancer School; Cancer Journey

7:30am: all signed in, heading upstairs to the Clinical Treatment Unit. Yikes! This is real.

Paperwork, more paperwork, forms, questions, more forms, informational handouts, more questions… sigh… I think a forest was killed for all the paper used today.

The nurse gets a vein on the first try (yay!) and inserts a line to hopefully be used throughout the day to draw blood for required labs. Once the first labs come back within normal ranges, my doc comes in to talk with us. He checks on how I’m doing, answers questions we have, laughs at my Art Journal pages about his words from an earlier visit. As always, he gives us the feeling that he has all the time in the world to spend with us—even though he is a busy specialist. He signs off—treatment is a go! Meds are ordered from the pharmacy, more fasting bloodwork is taken for the study, and I finally get breakfast and coffee. Ahhhhh….

I’m here for the rest of the day, with more blood draws at various intervals for study purposes. Over the 10 hours we are here, they will collect 18 vials of blood. At least I requested a bed to lounge in rather than a chair. And I’ve got the bonus of windows with a view. (Please don’t remind me that it is a beautiful, warm sunny day outside while I’m cooped up in here…)

lego mini fig; James Cancer Hospital; OSU Medical Center; City Views

10:00am: I take the first 4 pills of what will hopefully allow me to coexist with this cancer for the very long term…

The chaplain comes in to introduce himself. He asks how we are doing. I respond with a laugh, “Considering what we are facing, we are doing Fahbulous! We only cry every few minutes.” We end up talking together for quite a long time. He asks such good questions and opens doors to help us as we continue to process what this cancer recurrence means—individually, as a couple, as a family.

12:00pm: blood draw #4 for the study. Randy gets himself a lovely, healthy salad from the bistro downstairs. He offers to buy me the same, but I just want “comfort food.” Chips and a chicken salad sandwich with my usual half sweet iced tea taste delicious.

After lunch, I put the head of my bed down and doze for awhile. Early mornings, emotional stress, and boredom have caught up with me.

Another blood draw at 2:00pm. It’s a challenge for the nurse to get blood out of the pic line…but it’s still holding so far. One more draw in another four hours. Sure hope the line is still usable then. I HATE repeated sticks when they struggle to get a good vein.

Time for some art journaling, snacks, texts and planning what additional pages I want to add to this website/Heath Adventures. By now, both of us are weary—not just physically tired, but deeply drained after an emotionally difficult day. I didn’t expect the first day of Cancer School to be so hard! This is not something I ever wanted to go through…

The final blood draw close to 6:00pm was a challenge. The line didn’t want to give those last few vials of blood, but the nurse was persistent. Whew! Done for the day!

We pack up our belongings, and head home. I have all the meds needed for the next four weeks. After two hectic days at the hospital, I think I will just lay around for the next few days. I need the rest.

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(THANK YOU for following with me on this cancer journey! I appreciate every comment, encouragement, prayer, good wishes, and other types of support. I can’t imagine doing this alone…)

Let’s Raise Brave Kids (and forget “risky play”)

I want my children to enjoy adventure and be brave enough to try new things and explore new places. How about you?! This post is Part III in a series about raising brave kids and getting our kids outside. Don’t miss Part I and Part II.)

“Risky Play” versus “Brave Kids” – who cares which words we use? Is there some reason one of these phrases is better than the other? Isn’t this just a matter of personal opinion? I argue that we should all stop using the currently common phrase “risky play.” Words matter – they often invoke significant positive or negative emotional responses. Parents and “experts” around the world are discussing the importance of outdoor play for children. (See bottom of post for list of countries talking this topic.) Let’s explore how our words and actions can support our adventurous kids to better enjoy being outside.

joy in being outside

Let’s start by defining what we mean by “Brave Kids.” The words “risky play” imply danger and a need to protect our kids. Obviously, we are not eager to support dangerous behavior. On the other hand, we DO want our children to enjoy adventures, using curiosity and experimentation to explore the world around them. Although this type of discovery-based-learning has the potential for physical injury, it is also a natural and necessary part of children’s play which helps develop many significant skills and attributes.

brave kids jump glacier run-off

That’s a fine definition, but let’s go beyond the dictionary. Here are some examples of helpful activities to build adventurous brave kids. Most of us want our children to learn to walk, ride a bicycle, and swim. These are seen as important developmental milestones in our culture even though they involve risks of physical injury. Generally, we accept activities such as climbing, swinging, sliding, balancing, jumping, and hanging, especially if these things are done on a “safe” playground. It’s rarer for parents to encourage making fires, using a knife, or practicing the above behaviors in wild nature places. We need to let our kids roll down hills, climb trees, swing on vines, slide down rocks, balance on logs, jump off boulders and hang upside-down from branches! And we need to teach them how to safely make fires and use a knife.

brave kids climb rocks

But why should we allow “risky play” when it makes us anxious? What are the benefits of raising “Brave Kids”? I discussed this in more detail in Part I of this series (found HERE). In addition to the many physical, emotional, social, and academic benefits of encouraging outside time for our children, raising kids who enjoy adventure helps them appropriately judge risks, learn to try new things, and strengthens their self-confidence. It may be counter-intuitive but allowing our children to engage in exploratory play can even reduce their risk of injury!

That’s nice…but I don’t want my son or daughter to get hurt! How can I raise brave kids but still keep them safe? Like many aspects of parenting, this is a balancing act. We need to determine what is actually “dangerous” versus things that have an acceptable level of manageable risk. Then we need to train our children in how to make these judgements for themselves.

First, we need to look at ourselves. What are our own fears? What activities did we grow up doing? What things were we stopped from doing when we were kids? All of this plays into what we consider to be “dangerous.”

teen skiing at Killington VT

Here’s an example of how our own childhoods affect our beliefs and actions: my family grew up snow skiing in Vermont every year. We loved this special time together (and, of course, did not consider it to be dangerous.) In the summers, we sometimes went canoeing. That, too, was considered safe, but ONLY if we knew how to swim and wore effective life jackets. And then we grew up. My brother-in-law eventually joined us on family ski trips. We were quite surprised to find out that his family considered downhill skiing to be quite dangerous. After all, celebrities had died on the slopes! On the other hand, he and his dad and brothers went fishing in Canada each year—out on the water with no life vests even though they didn’t know how to swim. Now THAT was dangerous (in our opinion!)

brave kids and grandma hiking on the AT

Once we clearly see who we are and how our own upbringing has shaped us, we need to take time to consider the individual personalities of each of our children. This one is a risk taker, that one hates to try anything new. This one seems to always get hurt, that one is very aware of what her body can do. This one loves to be outdoors, that one hates the bugs and the cold or the hot sun. This one thrives on experiential learning, the other one prefers to learn from books or to watch others for awhile before trying things for himself.

What is our role as caregivers? We start by affirming our responsibilities as parents. Our job in all arenas of life is to give our children freedom to pursue their interests and build needed skills for healthy adulthood. This requires our support, encouragement and training/discipline to help them learn new things, make good decisions and manage risks and difficulties. As parents, we, of course, must protect our children from dangerous things which are genuine threats to their health and safety while still teaching them how to manage appropriate risks.

We need to find a balance in raising adventurous brave kids—not being overprotective nor negligent; not limiting necessary exploration nor pushing children into things they aren’t ready for; not making them fearful nor allowing them to be in genuine danger. This is where we need to remember what we learned about our tendencies and about our children’s personalities. Like most other areas of parenting, how we best support our children varies depending on individual strengths, fears, and personal preferences (theirs and ours!)

child wading in a stream

We also need to remember that getting bumps, bruises or scratches is not imminent danger. Nor is getting dirty or wet something to be avoided at all costs. When we head outdoors, we can plan ahead and bring a change of clothes, some towels, and a small first-aid kit. Learning to overcome small difficulties builds resilience to handle bigger challenges later in life!

Now that we know ourselves, and we know our kids, we can find the best ways to support each child in trying new adventures!

As stated at the beginning, words matter! Let’s guard our tongues and limit phrases such as “Stop!” “That’s dangerous!” or “Be careful!” These statements might make us feel better, but they are too general to actually teach our children safe practices. In addition, when we express our anxiety, we teach our children that we do not trust them, that they can’t handle challenges, or that we are the only ones capable of making good decisions. Instead, we need to use positive language to help our children consider what might happen next. (This article gives excellent suggestions of specific phrases and questions which help build confident kids.)   

Instead of hovering over our children (which exhausts us and them), we can build their skills and their confidence by offering our help without being pushy. As they demonstrate good decision-making and appropriate actions, we gradually give them more freedom. To support them as adventurous explorers, we can:

  • Model behaviors/attitudes about being outdoors and trying new things
  • Teach skills incrementally with supervision and grant greater freedoms gradually
  • Stay close enough to monitor their behavior but only step in if necessary
  • When we are uncomfortable with what our children are doing, take a 17 second pause to determine if this activity is an immediate danger or has manageable risks
  • Choose skill-building words (as discussed above) to support our kids

teen at a campfire

Let’s close with a step-by-step example: even though I’m terrified of simply lighting a match, my daughter Andowen became an expert campfire-maker while we were on our first long backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. Her mentor was a fellow hiker named “Blaze.” Each evening when we met up at a shelter, Blaze took Andowen with him to find appropriate tinder, kindling, and larger fuel in the surrounding woods. He had her sort it into piles near the fire-pit. He showed her how to stack the wood and how to light it without firestarters. Eventually, he had her try it under his supervision. And, of course, he taught her about keeping a safe distance from open flames and how to fully dowse the embers at the end of the evening. After many days of practicing with Blaze, the time came that we were alone at a shelter. Andowen was quite proud when she made us a campfire all by herself. (I quietly kept a close eye on her safety from a few feet away.) We took a photo of that fire, and when we showed it to Blaze later, he dubbed her the “Mistress of the Flame.” I’m still fearful of lighting birthday candles, but my daughter has the skills, confidence, and good judgment to make campfires for everyone to enjoy!

Now it’s your turn! What will you try from this post as you work to raise your own “Brave Kids” who pursue adventures?

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(Read about why I make sure to take my child in the woods…)

(When I did research for this post, I found significant discussion from multiple countries about how to support children while they safely and independently explore the outdoors. Articles were posted from Australia, Canada, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, UK, and the USA. Books about similar parenting choices include “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather”  in Sweden, and “Achtung Baby”  in Germany.)

Why in the World Should We Raise “Nature Kids”?

I want my children to enjoy adventure and be brave enough to try new things and explore new places. How about you?! This post is Part I in a series about raising brave kids and getting our kids outside. Don’t miss Part II and Part III.)

In today’s culture, there are few “Nature Kids” to be found. (This is a big change from past generations. Read about my informal poll of favorite childhood activities HERE.) Most families today have busy schedules. We participate in school and work, lessons and sports, family gatherings and community groups. We pursue connection, entertainment, and knowledge through our electronic screens, often while we are on the go. We feel like we have no time to add anything else to our hectic to-do lists. When we add fears about safety and being uncomfortable with the unknowns of being outdoors (in ourselves or in our kids), it can be a hassle (or even an all-out  battle) to get our kids outside. Why in the world should we bother?

too many screens, stop electronics use

The NEGATIVES: Study after study in the past decades show this indoor, hectic lifestyle is not merely neutral. Our children are actually harmed by the lack of being “Nature Kids.” In his ground-breaking book “Last Child in the Woods,” (written in 2005) author Richard Louv challenged that the exploding rates of ADHD are actually symptoms of “Nature-Deficit-Disorder.” The same can be said for the current rise in sensory processing disorders, delays in the development of fine and gross motor skills, childhood obesity, and even pediatric mental health diagnoses. (There are an overwhelming number of articles and studies online which discuss this problem. Here are two I recommend: “Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature” and “Less Outdoor Play is Causing More Harm than Good.”)

The POSITIVES: Okay, so those are the negative ways that too much inside time might harm our children. But why should we actively fight to help our children be “Nature Kids”? I have summarized the benefits of spending regular time outdoors in the following infographic:

infographics, benefits for kids in nature

Since childhood I have always preferred to get outside as often as possible. Once we had a family, because our kids were (mostly) homeschooled, we had plenty of opportunity for them to experience being “Nature Kids.” I admit that some of my now adult children prefer to spend most of their time indoors—but they still occasionally go for walks or drive to a park or a beach for some outdoor time. A few of my adult kids get outside regularly. And in the past five years, we have realized that our youngest daughter NEEDS extended nature time to be healthy. (Read more about this in “Outdoor Girl” and “Child in the Woods.”)

 

dragon trainer, nature kids

“To benefit your family, you do NOT need to commit to big adventures in the wilderness!”

The GOOD NEWS: With further research and through my training to become a certified Forest Therapy Guide, I found some good news for all of us. The many benefits of connecting with nature do not require large sacrifices in our normal schedules. Yes, my daughter and I enjoy living in the woods for weeks at a time as we backpack on the Appalachian Trail. BUT—you do not need to commit to big adventures in the wilderness! Studies show that even just 30 minutes of outside time each week bring long-lasting benefits. Surely, we can find that much time to improve our families’ health and well-being!

nature kids, family outside

Let’s head outdoors and begin to raise “Nature Kids.” Will you join me?

Sunrise-Sunset (Part 1) — Seasons Change

Sometimes (many times?) nature beings are smarter than humans. Seasons change but the natural world just flows along with the changes. Trees don’t look back and wish they still had their bright colored fall leaves. Porcupines don’t look forward and wish it were already warm summer. Squirrels don’t look around and worry if they do or don’t have enough nuts stashed in their surroundings to get them through the winter. Too often, we humans find ourselves stuck, wishing for something that isn’t current reality. I know I struggle with this…what about you?

A year ago, I was finishing my training and practicum to become a certified forest therapy guide. I spent an entire day on the land, from Sunrise to Sunset, noticing what was happening in my surroundings, looking back at how I had reached that point, pondering what the future might look like as I worked to more deeply connect humans with the healing benefits of nature. (In the next few weeks, I will share some of the photos and lessons I found on that beautiful day.)

sunset over lake with reeds, nature immersion, forest therapy

All of that pondering and visioning did not prepare me for where I now find myself: in a difficult, winter season of dealing with a diagnosis of chronic cancer. I’m resting, grieving, and trying to accept this new reality. I find myself looking back, wishing forward, worrying about today, none of which is particularly helpful. I am aware that I need to find a larger framework in which to place this current difficult time. Changing seasons and swiftly flowing years tell me again and again to relax into the now, remembering that none of these challenges are forever…

My training as a forest therapy guide is personally beneficial. It reminds me to take time to sit with the land, to consider the lessons I can learn from nature beings. (For myself personally, I am grateful for a loving Creator who speaks to me through the nature I love!) As I look around me in one of my favorite places, I am encouraged to remember that seasons change. Unlike the lush green landscape of last summer, I now see dead grasses and thorny underbrush. I notice a few brown leaves still attached to branches and dancing in the wind. I sit beside the stream and listen to the flowing water. I see where banks have been more deeply carved by floodwaters. I notice water flowing through new paths in the jumbled rocks. These changes aren’t good, they aren’t bad. They just ARE. I realize I can choose to follow the natural world and flow along with the changes in my own life. I can look for the lessons and support for THIS day, in the middle of THIS season.

seasons change, winter, stream, dead leaves, nature immersion, forest therapy

For the past few days, I have been singing the chorus to “Sunrise, Sunset” from a favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

“Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset, Swiftly flow the years. One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”

from “Fiddler on the Roof”

Sometimes it is helpful to look back toward “sunrise” – not wishing I were back in those days, but simply noting how swiftly the years have flown by. (My oh my we were babies when this song was sung at our wedding 38 years ago!) I think back on different seasons of life—preparing for a different career overseas; staying here in the same-old, same-old instead; homeschooling a large chaotic family; living on a tiny farm; travel and adventure on my own and with family; mentoring and encouraging folks on the margins; a son’s death and other children happily married. Heartbreak and celebration. Happiness and tears.

vintage wedding, love, seasons change, in the beginning

Just like the experience of nature beings, my life moves forward, day after day, year after year. Seasons change, bringing new challenges, new surprises, and new beauty. And I realize: I’m going to be okay. Sunset is coming…but not yet.

sunset over frozen lake, winter, seasons change, nature immersion, forest therapy

(Read other posts about TIME and CHANGING SEASONS)

Changing Season: which season describes YOUR life?

It’s autumn in Ohio and we all know what that means. The changing season brings leaves in bright red and yellow, cold blustery winds, humans wearing warm hoodies or jean-jackets and savoring mugs of hot cocoa and pots of spicy chili. It’s a time that writers talk about “letting go” or getting ready for winter or letting one’s true colors shine brightly. This year I’ve been thinking about different aspects of how seasons come and go. As I share my ponderings, I wonder where YOU might find yourself right now in life?

We live in a small town surrounded by hills and woods and rolling farm fields. Multiple times per week, I’m driving down country roads, taking daughter to lessons and youth groups in the city, creative classes and volunteer barn chores in the surrounding countryside. This year, in particular, I found myself taking photos of the fields, noticing the seasonal changes of planting through harvest for the soybean crop. As the noisy combines currently drive the rows up and down the hills, I realize there were changes all year long in the march toward harvest season. Let’s look back and consider the journey!

1—the year starts with EMPTY FIELDS:

farming, plowed field,

The dry land shows no signs of life, yet it is filled with possibilities. Winter is a time for farmers to stay inside, to dream of future harvests. Decisions are eventually made: this field will hold corn, that one timothy for hay, the other one soybeans. Soil is analyzed; equipment is serviced. Seeds are ordered; plans are made.

Disc Harrow, plowing, farming

The farmer was in the fields with his equipment a few times, getting the land ready for future use. She cleared the field: using discs to get rid of remnants of past crops and to smooth the dirt, breaking up clumps. He might spread manure over the fields during the winter to allow it time to build up the nutrient levels in the soil. As the weather begins to warm, the farmer starts walking the fields, eager for the land to thaw and dry out enough to get equipment in the fields to plow one more time before spring planting.

2—Spring brings NEW GROWTH (and challenges):

Farming, Spring, New growth

Finally, the waiting and planning and preparing is ended. This changing season is a hectic time of starting and stopping, waiting and watching for weather to cooperate, the freeze date to pass, the fields to dry out. After days and weeks of work, the various crops are planted. A faint haze of pale green appears across the empty fields.

spring floods, farming,

Some challenges to new growth can be overcome by the farmer: adding appropriate fertilizer, taking care of pest control. Winter was the time to consider these potential problems and make plans based on research and experience. Now the farmer simply carries out the plans already made. However, there are challenges the farmer knows may occur, but that are out of her control. When the weather is capricious, even the best preparations may not help. Drought or flooding destroy crops and stunt growth. Sometimes the farmer must start over and replant entire fields.

3—Time for LUSH GROWTH:

farming, summer fields, soy beans

Finally, the weather cooperates, the plants are strong, the pests are controlled, and lush growth occurs. The fields on my country drives are dark, brilliant green, crops thicker and taller each week when I drive past. The farmer no longer has a single focus on getting fields planted. Summer is a time for multi-tasking: paying attention to fertilizing, controlling weeds, prepping equipment for the next seasons. There is extra time for occasional fun with family and friends.

soy bean closeup, lush growth, farming

In this changing season, there is still waiting, but it is an expectant time. Growth is visible and plants are ripening with the promise of future bounty. It is a time to maintain what has been set in motion, to monitor how things are progressing.

4—LOOK AGAIN at colorful and bright fields:

golden fields, farming, soybeans

Late summer brings another changing season to farmers. The soybean fields are beautiful—with colorful contrast of bright yellows and greens. It is exhilarating for me to drive past this beauty, savoring the colors, looking forward to hot summer days soon changing to cool fall nights.

soy beans, ripening, dying, farming

But this is not yet time to celebrate. Look closer at those fields. This is a transition time: from lush growth to letting go of what is no longer sustainable or needed. The golden leaves that look so beautiful from a distance are filled with holes and tears. If the farmer focused only on those leaves, she would be disappointed at the apparent decline. But when he looks instead at the seed pods, he realizes a good harvest is coming.

5—now it’s time for a PAUSE:

dry fields, soybeans, farming, harvest time

Slowly, slowly, the bright colors fade, the plants dry out, the leaves wither and fall off. The countryside gradually turns from green to yellow to rusty brown. As eager as he is for harvest, the farmer must pause.

soybean pods, farming, harvest time

The farmer needs to wait for the seeds to be optimum for a good harvest—fully dry but still firm and plump in their pods. If she walks into the field on a windy day and listens, the seeds should rattle in the pods. After nine months of waiting and dreaming and planning and working, it is almost time…

6—CHAOS & NOISE are not always bad!

Harvest Chaos, Farming, Noisy Combine

It’s time! It’s time! The farmer gives a final push—coordinating support and helpers, working round the clock, doing whatever it takes to finally gather the crops. No time to celebrate now! This is loud, messy, chaotic work. The neighbors might not be happy, but the farmer knows this apparent disorder is actually the culmination of the changing seasons of farming: it’s harvest time!

7—the year ends with EMPTY FIELDS:

Country Road, Farm field, Farming

After the harvest is over, the once lush, colorful, thriving fields are left with bits and pieces of stubble. There is a sadness that the growing season is over. The fields look desolate with no crops or movement. But in the farming community, this apparent barrenness is a time for celebration! The harvest is gathered. The hard work has been rewarded. Later it will be time to look back and analyze what went well with this year’s changing seasons of farming and how things can be improved for next year’s projects.

What about YOU? What changing season are you in? Where are you in the process of moving out of the old ways, stepping into new things, fostering a new stage of life?

As I ponder these seasons in a farmer’s year, I realize there are similarities to my own life. These micro-cycles of changing seasons apply to child-raising, finishing college, starting a new business, embarking on adventures… I wonder how they might apply in your life?

Over and over, I have empty times which eventually lead to considering future possibilities, dreaming and planning. There are the early stages of any new endeavor, plans which were so exciting but always seem to move so slowly in real life, challenges that cause me to reevaluate. Once I get through those roadblocks, life often flourishes, with growth and promise of success. I love the colorful season, so fun and quirky! (But it’s hard for me to remember this, too, is transient.) Then pausing, waiting, watching to see final results. (I HATE this stage!!) Finally, the goal is fully met, the “harvest” occurs! (the kid is “launched,” the degree is completed, the business is gaining recognition, the epic adventure is completed…) YAY! Success! But then…a down time, wondering if it was worth all the hassles, pondering what might possibly come next.

It helps to remember the story of the farmer’s fields on my countryside drives. Whatever season I’m in, it’s gonna be okay…

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