Full Moon Rising…

Full Moon Rising

I’m in the middle of working on 2008 AND 2009 taxes–ugh. A bazillion receipts that need to be poured over and a mountain of 2009 medical bills is now growing exponentially and is beginning to resemble a full-scale replica of Mt. Kilamanjaro. I hate doing this. I have software programs that should simplify this part of my life and great paper systems that claim to do the same thing, but what I want to do is anything but taxes so, I put it off. I absolutely hate bean counting. It takes me forever to catch up and granted, it’s my fault I’m now in a state of freak out, but I’ll get it done somehow–I’ll just be a lot more worse for wear over the next couple weeks. Hopefully I’ll make some headway soon and this mountain of paper will get under control in time for the holidays or at least by the time Jasmine comes home. Yep, you heard me…she’s coming home…soon.

As thrilled as I am, I am extremely nervous. I don’t want for old habits to rise back up to the surface, but I have to pray that she has learned a great deal of coping skills and she will rise above all the triggers that she will be faced with daily. We had the pleasure of spending our Thanksgiving with her while she earned a 4-day pass. It was filled with love, laughter, good food, and family–just what Thanksgivings are about.

Together for Thanksgiving '09

It was our biggest blessing–to see her alive and doing well and clean and sober and genuinely happy to be with us. That blessing could only compare to our family’s other biggest blessing–me–and the fact that I am still alive 10 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer. We built fires and roasted marshmallows. We stayed up all night long and watched movies. We laughed until we cried, lost our voices, and acted completely crazy as Jasmine joined Jordan and I on our psycho shopping sprees where we waited for hours in the freezing weather just to be pushed and shoved through the stores and become so discombobulated that we were standing in the wrong lines to check out more than once. She had never shared in the Black Friday tradition before and was absolutely shocked to see the chaos.

She wanted to surprise everyone for Thanksgiving dinner and so we dropped her off a block away from Jeff’s sister’s house and as we all loaded into the house without her, she snuck up several minutes later and burst in on the crowd. Tears flowed, cameras flashed and a young girl was reminded while she was sober how much she was loved. She met up with an on again off again boy who proceeded to stay with us over the course of the next few days. He’s leaving for the navy boot camp in just a few days and I knew they both wanted to see each other. I was reminded watching the two of them that out of all the boyfriends she’s ever had–I liked him the most. I also liked the fact that when he messed up he took my motherly bitching and came back apologetic and sincere. No matter what went down between them or whose fault it was–I couldn’t help but think I’d be pretty lucky to someday have a son-in-law that nice and down to earth. They are both still young and I don’t expect anything, but I can dream and I can always hope that whoever my daughter is lucky enough to find–will treat her with as much loving kindness as Dylan has. He was also instrumental in helping me find her in Ohio after she had been taken. That alone, in my book, earns him oodles of brownie points.

Jasmine & Dylan Thanksgiving Eve '09

Jasmine made it a point to find meetings near here that will help keep her on track and we set up necessary services that will help her deal with her lifelong struggles that she will face. Before we knew it, the 3 full days flew by and it was time for another day long trip in the car to get her back. She’s been doing well and pulling straight A’s once again, but I do worry that when she comes home, it won’t be as easy for her to stay focused. I guess all I can do is pray about it. If all goes well, she’ll finish up one more class–hopefully two–and then be able to come home in time for Christmas.

Jordan, Jasmine, and I loaded up the car last Sunday and we set out (late) across the state. We went out to eat for breakfast with Jeff and Justin beforehand so we wouldn’t have to worry about eating junk food the whole way out. What usually takes us between 5.5 and 6 hrs. took us almost 7.5 just to get across the state. We followed every holiday traveller out of Iowa in bumper to bumper traffic–both lanes–never making it over 60mph. Torturous for speed demons like me. I kept reminding myself that patience is a virtue and I needed to channel all the patience I endure daily with the children I work with every day. Easier said than done when your in that much traffic.

We stopped by a rest stop for a break and Jasmine came out looking for a woman that had left her purse on the back of the toilet. I saw the woman came out and thought, “cute haircut” when I saw her and then she left quickly. We peeked inside the purse and found her phone. Going through her contacts we found a Steve and called him to explain everything to him. He was able to contact her and her sons so they were able to turn around and come back for her purse. It was an expensive Kate Spade purse and it was filled with cash and expensive perfume and credit cards. It would have been so easy for someone to steal it and go shopping. I was so proud of my daughter wanting to do the right thing. We agreed to wait and I told her that this woman was so lucky it was us and not some crook.

When the woman showed up in her fancy Lexus SUV she got out and was totally snobbish. She wasn’t overly appreciative and she didn’t even offer Jasmine $5 for returning it. I know we did the right thing, and yes we did it for that reason and not for any monetary reward–but let’s be honest–some munchie money for the trip would have been nice. We were travelling in comfortable clothes and she sized us up and down and figured we were below her class and couldn’t be bothered with us. I could read it all in her eyes. I just hate snobs. This setback cost us another 45 min. and I just had to tell myself and the girls that it was 45 min. more we had with each other that day and it was a test to see if Jasmine would do the right thing. She passed.

Working our way westward, I knew that I had one more stop in store for us. There is a tower that sits on top of a scenic overlook along I-680W in Iowa close to the I-29N exit. I’ve always wanted to stop each time we have gone to visit, but the first couple times I missed the exit. Each time after that, Jeff was with and driving and couldn’t be bothered with such trivial memory makers. On this day, though, I was in charge. We arrived just as the sun was setting. The air was crisp and cold and even though we weren’t going to stay long, I wanted to take the girls up. I wanted them to look out over a very large area and see where states of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota converge. I secretly hoped that as Jasmine and Jordan looked out across the countryside that they would see that the keys to their success are in her hands. I wanted Jasmine to see that her possibilities were endless and that she was lucky to be alive after what happened to her this summer. I hoped that she would see that her destiny was out there in this world and that with God’s grace she would find her way.

The back of the tower appears dark because of the setting sun.

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The front of the tower was illuminated with deep golds and just beyond the tower, I saw a full moon rising pictured above).

When I saw my daughters up on top of that tower–I couldn’t help but think quickly over the past year about how far each of us had come.

Jasmine looks out

Jordan joins her sister at the top

Holding on for dear life

We had all battled demons and even though we weren’t completely free of their grips, we were still standing. We were still surviving. We were still breathing. I joined my girls at the top of the tower and looked out. I needed to practice what I preached and I needed to grab onto life again–a life I never imagined would turn out the way it had, but never-the-less still grateful to be alive to see my children grow.

The air was biting and the wind caused my stomach to flip flop. I looked out over the meandering interstate that had carried my family members back and forth for months as we visited our very ill daughter over 6 hours away.

I-29N

I-680W

I never knew what the end of this part of the journey would look like, but with a crimson sky I couldn’t help but think it was amazing and better yet, it was almost finished. I looked at my girls and told them I loved them and then we took a picture of all of us.

Freezing our butts off

A gust came whipping through the tower and scared all of us. I began to descend but got really scared and had to sit down and scooch down on my butt while my daughters laughed at their “chicken” mom.

Me--realizing how I hate heights

Stop laughing at me!

With the last burst of sunshine, I took a little video of my girls playing. When I see the opening picture of the video–before I even click play, I am reminded that they are still little girls. In the grand scheme of life and for how fast they are trying to get on with their lives or grow up before they are ready–it just reminds me that right now, this very instant, whether they like it or not–they are still little. It also reminds me of a more peaceful time in our lives. A time without the drama and crisis and heartache and devastating health issues that plagued our family this year. I can see my LITTLE girls in this picture–I can see the glimmer of hope that tomorrow holds limitless possibilities. The video is just pure silliness–and also gave me a shot of my second full moon that day.

This parting shot of Jasmine with me is priceless. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how hard she was pulling me toward her. I won’t forget her telling me sincerely and unsolicited–“I Love You”–over and over–something I hadn’t heard in years. I was glad that Jordan took the picture. I’ll treasure the moment always.

I Love You, Mom!

Jordan slept almost all the way home and the trip back was easy and much quicker–5.10 hrs. to be exact. I had never made the trip that quickly. There was noone on the road for miles and miles as I’m sure everyone was already home and tucked into bed awaiting work the next morning. I drove home listening to Christmas carols and thanking God for letting me live so that I may see to it that Jasmine would get the help she needed. I thanked him for not taking her home before me (at least this past summer this summer). I prayed for no more whammies. I told him that I thought I had managed the year as best I could and that I truly believed that I needed a break. I also wondered what lied in store for me and my family this next year.

Honestly, I need things to look up in 2010. I need time without crisis so that I can try to rebuild my faith, my relationship with my daughter and all of my family for that matter, my finances, my businesses, my educational aspirations, my professional endeavors, etc. As bleak as it looked several times this year I know I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I’m just ready to start snapping it again. –Watch out!

Formal shoutout to Dylan here–God bless you and keep you safe. Don’t forget our address and when you get out of boot camp–make sure to call. You are loved and you will be in our prayers.

P.S. I took my own advice and re-registered for the upcoming spring semester. I am going to re-take the two classes I let go. I couldn’t focus last year with the bombarding information coming at me and I also reached a point where I felt I’d rather be spending time with my family instead of having my nose in a book all the time. I was worried I was going to die and I worried about it all the time. I no longer think that way. I believe I’m going to be around here for a while and I may as well get my degree finished. I just won’t try to attain it at warp speed. Third reason–my scholarship people are getting ancy for me to fulfill my contract. I really don’t want to pay back all of the thousands they’ve given me because I’m in breach of my contract with them. I’ve hashed out an extension plan with the TEACH program and I am grateful they are understanding and accommodating to my requests. Now if I could just peel myself away from all the reality TV I’ve become addicted to…:)

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She’s B-a-a-c-k…

I’ve been working on a post for a week in between being down and out with a horrible chest cold/migraine combination. I found myself in bed between 5pm and 6pm every night last week and I am still working through a lingering cough that hurts my chest each time I feel that tickle in the back of my throat. Like Pavlov’s response, my chest muscle spasms at the mere thought of needing to cough. It hasn’t been too pleasant and I am trying to suppress those darn coughs, but to no avail. It has worn me out and since I am not finished with that post, I thought I’d at least pop in for a quickie update.

As I worked on last week’s post–well, more like a rant–and worked through my illness which came on suddenly during our trip out west to visit out daughter–I was able to manage in two doctor visits as well. The first was with my plastic surgeon for my 4th fill and that was on Tuesday. I am about halfway through the fill process and last week marked 400cc so far. This experience is very bizarre and I am just slightly larger ( I think) than my real Bo, now. I see him each week and actually, today will be my 5th fill visit and bringing the total to 450cc. I can’t wait to start posting those pictures, you all will be truly amazed at how far my body has chosen to cooperate!

On Wednesday, I had a folow-up with my general surgeon–the one who cut my boob off. I see him every 3 months and he was really impressed with how things are going and that I had chosen to go through with the additional surgeries. He said he has been following my reports from my onco-man and my plastic surgeon and everything is looking good. No news was really given about that mass found in my left ovary and I figure, if it was something to be worried about, someone would have called me by now. He taught me what to look for and feel for now that I will have an implant soon and for the first time since I’ve been going to him, he was pretty gentle in his groping. He usually digs in so deep that I am bruised for a week after, but I begged the nurse to talk to him before he came in and tell him I had just had surgery 5 weeks prior. I was really surprised he was accommodating to that request. He also ended our visit by telling me I would only need one more groping with him in 3 more months which will bring the date just past the one year anniversary mark since we met for the first time. When I think that he got further with me (second base) on our first date then my husband ever did, it makes me sad. The men that have felt me up this year–both experienced and unexperienced–has really frustrated me and at times pissed me off. The hardest thing was having to watch my hubby watch these strange men feel me up. We all knew it was in the name of medicine of course, but I really don’t blame Jeff for no longer coming along to the visits. It’s just got to be uncomfortable and weird.

When we were up to see our daughter, we were given news during our family session that she is doing really well. We worked on a home living contract for when she is released and we learned that she has earned a pass home for the holidays! We are thrilled and busy getting the house ready and plans to do some fun things. It means a shortened work week for me as I will need to take Wednesday off and drive myself up to get her and bring her home. She’ll be here for four days and then I will return on Sunday and take her back. If all goes well while she’s here and if she maintains her levels when she gets back, she could be released by Christmas. That would be fantastic! The keys to everything, her success, her future, everything are in her hands. I pray she is strong enough to start taking back the reigns to her life. I pray.

Jeff & Justin have been putting up the Christmas lights, and doing a lot of yard work. I have been working slowly through my cold and this weekend I trained to present a class at the Arsenal this weekend. I will take the class over and begin presenting on occasion. I love that! I am also working on 2008 taxes and starting in on 2009’s. I hate that! Jordan babysat this weekend and worked on homework and confirmation studies. We all are gearing up for a big Thanksgiving with Jeff’s family like we do every year. Saturday night we were given tickets to see the Holiday Pops concert given by our local symphony and it included a Cirque de Soleil type of experience. The performers were called Cirque de la Symphonie (hit the play button when you get to the preview video) and it really was an enjoyable and free family experience! On the way home from the show, I developed cramps in my abdomen. They were reminiscent of menstrual cramps, but that couldn’t be–could it? I haven’t had one since January 2009 and my onco-man has given me two hormone tests to see where I stood with regard to menopause.

The first time the test came back, I was borderline menopausal and he chalked it up to that. The last time I saw him, we took another blood sample and that eventually came back saying I was pre-menopausal–not borderline. What changed? Now the cramps on Saturday night? I wondered if it could be something else, but Sunday morning came and Aunt Flo came back just in time for the holidays. I wish I could say I was happy about that. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to think. Honestly, I’m worried all over. I was just beginning to let my guard down. Maybe that’s why its here again. I have always felt that ever since that initial diagnosis, the extreme freakout I have been living in as a result of that diagnosis ever since, my daughter’s health and well-being, my husband’s job situation, our mounting financial obligations to a myriad of medical facilities, the monumental stress had instantaneously shut down that monthly cycle.

It is true that extreme stress, certain health conditions, and certain medicines can stop Aunt Flo from showing up, but now–after 9 months of not having one–she’s back. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Does it mean that it has just taken me 9 months to finally calm down–really? I don’t have the stress load from school, my mastectomy is behind me, the chemotherapy has been called off, my tests are beginning to look ok, my daughter is somewhere I can locate her and she is doing well. My head is getting back in the game of life and looking forward to new beginnings with next year, my outward self-image is looking up, and my accreditation is behind me along with several other re-certification processes. Could my body just be signaling me that I have successfully chilled out enough to resume its normal functioning?

But…what if…this is a sign that something isn’t right? The Tamoxifen is supposed to shut down production of my estrogen which was feeding my cancer. Could it be that the meds aren’t working? Am I still producing estrogen in spite of the meds? If I’m still producing estrogen, then I’m still ovulating, then I’m still having periods. What does that mean in terms of my prognosis? Should I get my period back? Should the meds prevent that from happening? I am confused and worried. I have two calls in to my onco-man. I’m waiting for someone to call me back. Has this happened to anyone out there? Can anyone tell me what’s going on? Is this normal? Should I be concerned? Maybe my body has finally expelled the last of the chemo drugs. I don’t know. I wish the phone would ring…

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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