Sunday, April 26, 2009

Signs of Spring

A wise gardener carefully prunes the vine to make possible a greater rebirth come spring. The wisest of all gardeners took shears to my vines last fall. Since then, I have felt in close harmony with mother earth and her offspring of trees, shrubs and flowers; who at the end of the harvest gathered to herself her decorations which in summer and fall produced colorful shows and delightful fruits. As the weather turned cold, every living entity followed the ancient pattern of gathering in unto itself, instinctually sending remaining nutrients to its roots.

I too gathered in unto my roots that which was nourishing and sustaining; love, friendship, and faith. Meanwhile the destructive shears of poisonous treatments hacked away at my decorations, leaving a scattered mess of fallen hair, bulging body and scarred flesh lying wantonly at the base of the once thriving vine. The winter snows continued to cover my ground, nevertheless, I was sustained by the hope of renewed and regenerated growth and health—the promise of spring.

It has been a long winter here in the West; so too has this winter of trial been long, but spring has finally arrived! With chemo completed and only 8 more radiation treatments to go the sun is warming my roots and branches and my rebirth has truly begun.

The radiation treatments have been a daily affair; every morning from 8:00-8:30 I spend time on an x-ray table nicely cradled in a custom form with my arms and hands above my head while the serious machinery is lined up with my new tattoos and then shoots beams of deadly rays into the upper right quadrant of my body. Every other day, I get what is called “fancy wear” placed on me, a golden mesh of metal known in the biz as a “bolus” which apparently conducts the rays faster, deeper into my body. I didn’t notice any real side affects aside from fatigue during the first half of the treatments…but they warned me that the radiation builds up and that I would start to see red, sore, and possibly blistered skin in the second half. And so it is. I am reduced to giving careful hugs and slathering my body with Aquaphor and monitoring my activities so as not to wipe myself out. This has been a challenge; I have spent more Sundays in bed recovering after an active Saturday, and if you really want to hear a sob story, ask me about my attempt at a swim workout. J I feel like a kid at the end of the school year, anxious to remove the confines of the schoolroom and feel the summer sun on my face.

Speaking of sun, I have a week of tropical sun scheduled in June. I will be going to Maui with my angel mother and her dear friend Chris, and possibly my dear friend, Dayle. Chris has a condo time share which she has graciously offered to us and I was able to use my miles to purchase a ticket. What a wonderful treat to look forward to and a lovely boost to body and spirit. I will most likely spend the majority of time lounging on the sand or snorkeling in the water; even though I understand that there are lovely sights to see if one heads off in jungle paths. While this would usually really appeal to me, it won’t be an option on this trip because…

Many of you know that I was diagnosed last September 15th, a day before a scheduled major foot and ankle reconstruction surgery. Well, first things first, the life-saving treatments were moved to the top of the priority list, and the foot and ankle were postponed until later. One can live with a broken ankle, but only for so long. So, I have decided to “slip” in this surgery between the end of radiation and the reconstruction surgeries slated for sometime in the fall (the skin has to have time to heal from radiation). A week after I return from HI, on June 23rd, I will go in for surgery. The status of the outcome is still unknown, as it was last fall; the dr. will start out with a scope to determine the health of my ankle joint, and if it is healthy enough, he will take bone and cartilage grafts from my knee to “glue” the cracked talar dome back together, (this is the top part of your heel bone where it meets up with your leg bones). And since he is making a mess of things, he will fix the bad carpentry of a previous surgical attempt to flatten my arch by re-breaking my first metatarsal and repositioning it…hopefully resulting in my weight being properly distributed to the ball of my foot rather than the second metatarsal head, which is the current state. If on the other hand, the joint is not healthy, he will remove the scope and we will have to wait for a cadaver donor with a good joint match and then start the surgery again. I pray therefore, that my joint is healthy, as the second option is not only more complicated, but who knows when it will happen. I am scheduling short-term leave again with work and hope to be out only a couple of weeks. My desire to walk someday without pain is strengthening as treatment for cancer ebbs.

Speaking of walking, another fun activity I am looking forward to is participating in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I have done this a number of times in the past, but I think this year will be a little different for me… I will be one of the women wearing the pink t-shirt and perhaps my name will be on someone’s tag of “in celebration of”. It is always an emotional (in a good way) experience, and I am looking forward to participating in it with friends and family. For any of you who may want to join, it will be held on Saturday, May 9th, at the Gateway. Registration is still available on-line. The nice thing about this event is that you don’t have to be a runner; you can walk a mile, or run or walk the 5K. I will be walking the 1 mile, unless the ankle is feeling super that morning, and I may attempt to go the 5K. Nonetheless, the experience of being there is one I eagerly await.

Indeed the sun is shining down on me; my exposed cuts from the pruning shears are seeing new growth. The hair on my head is keeping pace with the blooms and buds of the trees. I have felt my roots sink deeper in the soil of faith; hopefully the fruit of my future will be more abundant and flavorful. The master gardener has seen fit to cut me down a bit to spruce me up. I only hope that I fulfill His vision of my future beauty.

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
Algernon Charles Swinburne


Alicia said...

Look how cute you are!!!

Miriam Latour said...

Beautifully written, Gretch! And look at all your pretty, downy hair! You look fabulous and are fabulous.

801MOMof11 said...

You are amazing! Bless you for your upright positive attitude and thank you for an uplifting blog, Hugs, Carol Poulson (your Mother's friend)

C. Rick said...

Thank you so much my sis! How beautiful! You are the BEST!

Matt said...

Gretty--master of mastering faith, example to us all: how you are loved and admired...and always will be a hero to me and to so many. Love you so much!

The Moffitt's said...

I celebrate you, Gretchen. I admire so much your ability to put faith first and make it through. I'm so glad you have. Thanks for sharing your experience. Oh, and it sounds like you have the coolest mom. :) Love you! Good luck on the feeties, as we call them in our house!