automotive, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain

Windshield Fairies for my Birthday

Nobody gets by unscathed, no matter how well maintained. We were meant to break, but we were meant to kindly build each other back up. That’s what my birthday was like, because my husband is my rock.

My family’s cars have been used and reused. They are in a constant state of repair.  We have four. I know, it’s ridiculous. My husband’s day job is managing information and programs for a major air conditioning company. His night and weekend job? Maintaining our vehicles. My day job is managing my body and energy. My night and weekend job? Feeling guilty about my day job. I know, I have to get a better job.

Happy Birthday to me!…. For my birthday, my husband scheduled time for auto glass repair technicians to come to our home to replace windshields on the Honda and the Chrysler. Yes, for my birthday, on my birthday. It was one of the best presents I could have asked for. I had gotten so sick and tired of  hearing myself nag to my husband about the cracks that go across both windshields. I have been nagging for a couple of years now. I can still hear my annoying, whining voice in my head, squawking about that windshield. I was equally annoyed by his continual retorts that it wouldn’t be worth it, because the vehicles probably wouldn’t make it through another Wisconsin winter anyway. So, should I wait until winter for it to crack apart and crash onto my lap? Call me crazy, but driving down the highway with thousands of cracked windshield cubes on my lap in subzero temperatures is not my idea of fun. I may be a Green Bay Packers fan, but not one of those crazy ones that wants their eyes frozen shut as they drive down the road. That would be very unsafe. So, after a couple of years of whining, he scheduled to have them repaired. On my birthday.

Happy Birthday to me!… The day before my birthday I took my migraine pills, cursed fibromyalgia, tested out a magnetic bracelet for pain relief, wondered how much of my fatigue was a part of cancer treatment recovery,  slept away the day and held my breath to see if the windshield fairy truly would come. By day, my husband Mike was working and making meals. By night, he had pulled the Honda into the garage to make another dream come true; Mike would fix the brakes on the Honda so that our son can drive to a new high school, out of our district, to pursue the educational experience he dreams of. Meanwhile, Jake, our son, drove the Focus back and forth to the city for auto parts.

It was 8:20 p.m. when I woke up to Mike saying that he had to leave. Jake had been in a car accident and that Jake said he was alright. He had been hit while turning by the auto parts store. Knowing that Jake was alright and that Mike was there for him, I decided to stay in bed and rode the struggle bus with my headache and nausea. Texting and waiting to be texted, I worried. Somehow, they still had managed to get the parts for the brakes before the store closed at 9:00 p.m.. The guys got home safely and I convinced my husband to wait until morning to get the Focus towed home. He had had a long enough day. 

7F13C5BE-312D-40C5-B935-2D7B97A3A253The next day was my birthday. I felt a little better. Slow, but steady. I ate. Mike took the Honda with its new brake drums to meet up with the tow truck driver and the Focus in the city. As rain sprinkled through a sunny sky, the windshield fairies arrived in my driveway, prepared their work area and tools, then swiftly got to work.

Windshield fairies don’t do brakes, which is unfortunate. Although Mike had fixed the brakes on the Honda, he had to drive home with only the emergency brake. He had done a fine job of fixing the brake drums, but the fix had fixed so well that the increased pressure broke the rusty brake lines.  Mike made it home safely to our driveway where the two grown fairies stood with their work truck for an extra hour. Patient and kind were they.

Two broken cars, a tow truck and Mike made it back home safe and sound. And the magical auto glass specialists were there ready to make our road views anew. After they had fluttered around and buzzed on their cell phones for an extra hour in wait to once again work their magic on another windshield, we filled the garage with the Honda, that apart from the broken windshield we thought had been fine that morning. The tow truck crane gently took the smashed car to a second rate spot on the lawn. Sweeping into the garage, the windshield fairies once again worked their magic. Mike gave the fairies an extra treat for being so kind to stick around and work their magic on the second windshield. Everyone was safe, sound, sick of cars. Well, Mike and I were anyway. Happy Birthday to me!

It still being my birthday, I rested on the couch. But, my son wanted to do something to make my day special. Bless his heart. We all sat outside in the sun at my favorite restaurant. I had a Dr. Pepper with my favorite meal. Soda is like poison for your body, yet I felt compelled to reward myself with some. A very old lady said that her secret to living to an old age was having a Dr. Pepper everyday. It doesn’t really extend your life. We capped off the day around a campfire with family and drove safely home. Happy Birthday to me!…

Within only days, there have been a couple of trips back to the automotive store and my husband has worked his own magic on restoring the brakeline. Our son’s dream of taking the Honda to his new school has come true.

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And… now we are onto the body of the Focus.

Life, it’s chronic.

 

Thanks for visiting!

Breast cancer, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain

The Picture of Health

Featured Photo: Nathaniel T. Schultz Photography, Minneapolis.

 

Below is the picture I took the day after mammograms, ultrasounds and a biopsy. It is also the ‘before’ picture; before the official breast cancer pathology report and more than a year of treatments.

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It is my first ‘before’ picture. Before the official breast cancer pathology report came back, before having chemotherapy, before the bilateral mastectomy, before weeks of radiation, and before I would have a year of immunotherapy treatment. Before basically living at the clinic and knowing the names of so many people taking care of me the best they could. I knew that I would end up taking pictures along the cancer treatment road. I knew I was not going to ever be the same, physically or mentally.

Looking through my Facebook feed one day, I came across one of the photographers I had been “following”. His name is Nate Schultz. My daughter had previously modeled for him and I had been following his work since; beautiful, original artistic work. Nearing the end of my cancer treatment days, he posted a black and white photographic composition of his which I really found unique and particularly intriguing. It was an artistic nude photo of a subject that looked to be young and seemingly healthy, which is beautiful in and of itself. The photograph is burned in my mind. It got me thinking more about the human body and the appreciation for the bodies of different ages, not just the coveted beautiful bodies of childbearing-aged women. I tried to google pictures of older nude models and candid nudes of people from around the world, National Geographic type pictures. I ended up frustrated with how little my searches had turned up. Maybe I wasn’t searching enough?

Still, I continue to hold that one particular photo of Nate’s in my mind. Of course I “liked” the photo on his Facebook page. (If you would like to see it, it is on the Facebook page of Nathanial T. Schultz Photography, the February 9, 2018 post.) I made this comment on that post:

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By this time, I had over a year of cancer treatment under my belt, a year lacking exercise, a year of personal growth and reform. My body transformed. And I was challenging both myself and Nate to embrace the change. To my delight and surprise, he extended an invitation with open arms. We would meet. We would create.

For real! I felt humbled, respected and impressed for the chance to have a subject like me be an example for others to see, as well as a reflection for me to see. I was upfront that I am no model, and I couldn’t pay him, which Nate was fine with. He was presenting it as a gift. He wanted me to be myself. I found it to be so accepting, comforting, and flattering. It was cause to trust him as an artist and a friend. Life hands us losses and hands us new joyful gifts. Opportunity is handed to you to do with it what you decide. Nate decided to take his talent and love for photography and make an opportunity to live with passion and encourage others’ passions.

We scheduled to meet up on a March winter’s day, the day before spring was to start. I drove the mini van up to the studio through the overcast 30+ degree, typical winter day to Minneapolis with a migraine hangover on board,  and a dragging fatigue. Inside, though, the energy climbed. Excitement and pride rose in anticipation of the new meeting and the opportunity to share my truth through new art. . I entered the old and worn building that has been dedicated to creativity and ascended the stairwell.

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Coincidentally, it was the last day before my final breast cancer treatment. Nate and I met with a hug, then shared stories about cancer: his loss of many loved ones, my cancer-free pathology report and how the cancer has changed me and my loved ones.

Like I said, I am no model and I feel even less so since my body’s immune system was taxed, my muscle strength deconditioned, my energy level sunk, my chest became a surgeon’s project, I gained more than 25 pounds and my hair is growing in curly from the chemotherapy. It is an awkward duckling transformation from what I had gotten used to being.

It is spectacular how gracefully a human body can fight and how much others’ grace helps it to heal. How the human spirit lives!

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Nathaniel T. Schultz Photography

This picture is the new ‘before’: the kickoff to life after cancer.

Within one hour, Nate and I met face to face, shared vulnerable stories, made a snapshot of a story and, with a simple connection, he tricked an unexpected, spontaneous laugh out of me!

Life will expose you. It will make you laugh. Life, it’s chronic.

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Our see-you-later selfie.

Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain

You are One of Life’s Mountain Goats

It’s not just about the climbing. It’s also about standing up.

Life is like a mountain and you are like a mountain goat. There are times in which you need to climb up. There are times in which you need to climb down. There are times you must stand your ground. There are times you must simply stand still.

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First of all: mountain goats aren’t goats. They are related to goats, but more closely related to gazelles and antelopes. So, you may choose to consider yourself a mountain gazelle or mountain antelope if it suits you.

You must climb up. Soon after birth, young mountain goats must dash among the mountain terrain with their mother. Ironically, it is for safety that they must climb dangerously high on intimidating slopes in order to defend themselves from predators such as cougars and wolves. We must also skillfully work our way to the high road, taking courses of action that lead us to not only the most acceptable place, but the place that would least likely get ourselves or others in harm’s way. Look where you are going, and steer clear of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

You must climb down. There are times when we must just first survive before we can thrive. In the winter, mountain goats will come down to lower ground to eat, being vulnerable to being preyed upon by the wolves. Oftentimes we need to take risks in order to develop and grow. Our challenges may make us stronger or they may make us weaker; but our challenges make us. Be mindful of the wolves in your life. Take responsibility for your own needs.

You must stand your ground. A mountain goat knows how to fight for their best life. During mating season, billies (males) will fight each other with their horns to get the right to mate with the female. Females fight females. These nannies know how to use their horns to protect their territory, their kids, and their food. It is not a stretch for me to relate to these measures. We all want to find someone to bond with. At the same time, we know how to claim our territories and resources. It’s when we get a little too obsessed in claiming these things that we compromise our relationships.

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There are times when you simply must stand still; keep your balance. Mountain goats are famous for this. They are built with the cloven hooves and toes that spread wide. Pads on the bottom of each toe are rough and make it possible for them to keep a good grip. We also need to keep a good grip on our lives. Focusing on one spot can help you balance on one foot. Focusing on the priorities and potential dangers in life can help balance your life. Mountain goats will rest under the shade of an overhang. Rest and enjoy your view.

We need to know when to move forward or take a step down.  We need to know when to stand our ground and when to stand still. Look up; look down; look out. Assess your situation. Keep your footing. Take a deep breath. Life, it’s chronic.

 

For more information on mountain goats, visit:

http://www.nationalforests.org

http://www.defenders.org

http://www.nationalgeographic.org