A Year Ago

A year ago, I couldn’t go to the back of my parents’ property to see the Trilliums.

That’s because a year ago, my father was going into the hospital. We missed a lot last year; the trees coming out in leaf, the magical ponds that appear only in the spring,

…we missed the little things that deserve our attention. We missed a lot.

But we were more afraid of missing the things that could have been. We were afraid of what might not be. We were lucky, blessed, if you will. A year ago things looked very bleak, or so we thought.

Six months ago, however, we found out what bleak was. But that was then and this is now. Six months can make a world of difference.

Today, I went for a tractor ride with my father. He worked. The fact that he could do so, well, there are no words.

We looked at the flowers, the magical ponds and admired that no matter what happens in nature, spring always has a way of giving us hope.

The Bubba Guy

The Big Guy has left me.

He says he’ll be back in two days.

Damn training.

What a perfect time to share a Big Guy story! That’ll teach em….

When I met The Big Guy he was 6’2+ and about 175 lbs. Pretty lean. By the time we got married, he was 185 lbs. Still very trim. I won’t tell you how much I weighed when we got married, but suffice it to say, I exploded after the birth of two kids. I never had to diet before, so being in my mid 20s and learning how to control my diet was a big deal. His weight never changed, which was frustrating as I tackled losing baby weight times two.

The Big Guy was very supportive. NOT. It wasn’t that he didn’t want me to lose weight, he just didn’t understand the concept. Because I didn’t feel I should deprive the household, I would still bake and have treats in the house. I just wouldn’t have any. And then I’d have to fend off The Big Guy, who would constantly offer to cut me a piece of cake, pie or square and then feign surprise when I stated that I “couldn’t” eat it.

Such support….

He still doesn’t understand why I don’t partake in dessert following each meal and why there are still two unopened boxes of chocolates on the counter from Christmas.

Uh, mainly because I DON’T want to staring down 200 lbs again!!??

So I was less than sympathetic when he came home with news the other day. He’d just come home from a physical with our new doctor, for which he was LONG overdue.

“Did you know they weigh you every time you go in for an appointment?” he asked.

“Yup,” I replied, thinking that I was pretty sure I’d mentioned this to him already.

“Well the nurse told me I was 192.7 lbs!” he exclaimed. “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?”

<PAUSE> In fairness, I had noticed The Big Guy was a little Big-ger, but it certainly wasn’t a bad thing. We had argued at Christmas that he was not a Large but an Extra Large, and I was listening when he was telling me that his pants were fitting tighter. His new job has him tied to a desk or his truck most of the time. Then there is the whole age vs. metabolism debate. Did I think it was a problem? Nope. Would I have told him if I thought it was? Jury is still out on that…. <PLAY>

So the weight conversation lasted a while, with The Big Guy fearing this was the top of the slippery slope that sees him ending up as the Human Pear; a tall man with a gut out front and long thin legs. As I choose my words carefully, I offer a couple of suggestions.

“We’ll walk together at least once a week!” I offer.

“Can you believe that? 192.7 LBS!” he replies.

“Maybe you’ll have to start watching what you eat.” I suggest.

“I’ve never been 192.7 lbs in my entire life!” he exclaims.

“You know, we’re talking about seven pounds,” I point out.

“I KNOW! SEVEN POUNDS!” he nearly faints.

I remove myself from the conversation for two reasons. One, because he obviously needs to come to terms with this unmitigated shock he’s just experienced.

And two, because he can’t possible get his head around the fact that what he’s gained is less weight than either of his sons that I gave birth to.

A Conversation with Myself

It was an innocent enough question.

“Uh, so what is your age now?” she asked. A light little voice with a Romanian accent.

“I’m 40,” I reply.

“Ah,” she breathes. Now I’m worried. She ever so delicately asks me what skin products I use and what my routine is. She then asks me if I have any products for Mature Skin. I have dry, sensitive skin which is the BEST skin EVER if you want to age prematurely. All I need is a heaping helping of leathery skin from OD’ing on sunbathing and it’s the perfect storm of old lady skin. She’s giving me advice, every so kindly, about taking care of myself; making sure I have the right products; the proper routine and regimen.

Here we go….

I’m laying in the dark with lovely, relaxing Nature Music playing. Little Sister has started the two-part process of covering the greys. My head is now turbaned and I’m getting a variety of lotions and potions applied to my skin. One feels like water, the next feels like Jell-O before it sets. I get a mask and a neck and shoulder massage before my little European friend leaves me alone in the dark while the mask seals on to my skin.

Vanity is not a tolerated characteristic in my family. Look good, yes. “Maintain” yourself? Who do you think you are? My big indulgence is the dye job (sorry Little Sister – “colouring”) but my nails aren’t always done. I give my own manicures and pedicures, mostly in the summer time when they are exposed. LS and I have talked about me going grey, since that’s what my hair has had in mind since I was 19. So I’m starting to think, why fight fate?

But as I lay in the dark I start a conversation….with myself.

“This feels SO good! I really need to do this more often!”

“Really?? You have the time to come down here and get all pampered and primped for most of a day once a month!?”

“But I think it’s good for me! This is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time!”

“That’s great, but where are your priorities?”

“Well I try to take care of everyone else, why can’t I take a break for me too?”

“Really?! Sounds rather self-indulgent!”

“If a doctor told me I had to take something for my body’s health, I’d do it. What’s so different about my skin?”

“Vanity.”

“I’m NOT being vain!”

“Sure sounds like it!”

You get the idea. I focus on the babbling brook running through down through the speakers and into my head. So much better than my inner voice.

In my truck on the way home – with a jar of moisturizer beside me, the second chapter of the conversation begins. But it includes the information given to me by my new little friend – the magician who makes me look fresher, if not slightly puffy from spending two hours flat on my back in the middle of the afternoon.

“I’m going to do this! I’m going to start taking care of myself.”

“Of COURSE you are.”

“Well, you know what? She told me it’s easier to start taking care of myself now, than it is in 10 years when things REALLY start to slide.”

“Next you are going to be shooting crap into your face.”

“NO that’s GROSS!”

“Well then you’ll end up with surgery.”

“I don’t want plastic surgery!!”

“Ah! You want a nose job!”

“Well that’s different – it’s a genetic thing!! It’s a brutal nose.”

“And your eyes?”

“Well I’m convinced I’m going to wake up one day and won’t be able to open my eyes – and I can thank my father for that too!!! Freakin’ droopy eyelids! You know WHAT?? I don’t want to CHANGE myself, I just want to TAKE CARE of myself.”

“Sounds like justification to me….”

At this point I turn up the radio and sing, because honestly, how does one end an argument with one’s self?

One books next month’s appointment…..

Top 10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Cancer

As you now know, my father was diagnosed with Cancer earlier this year. Over these past 8 months, it has been a battle that too many people have become familiar with. My mother-in-law lost her fight the day after Dad’s surgery and within the past three years we’ve also lost an uncle and a cousin.

Suffice it to say, we have A LOT of experience on what is helpful and what is not when it comes to support. I consider it my service to humanity to offer the following:

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY TO SOMEONE WITH CANCER, OR THEIR FAMILY

1. “Don’t do the surgery. They’ll open you up and it will spread!” – I’m pretty sure that’s not how Cancer spreads, and your paranoia will only incite further paranoia. How is that helpful?

2. “There’s no point in doing the Chemo/Radiation/treatment.” I’d love to see your credentials in the medical field, or anything other than hearsay, because, again, putting the Fear of God in someone who is already stressed, isn’t really a great idea. The suggestion is that treatment is in vain, that the Cancer will return anyway. How is this productive? Millions of people beat Cancer every year. Don’t you want this person to be one of those people?

3. “Have you heard of the Broccoli/Sunshine/Herbal treatment?” You know what, just see Number 2…..

4. “My mother/father/uncle/aunt/son/daughter/dog/mailman had that kind of Cancer and two weeks after they saw the doctor, they were gone.” What exactly are you trying to accomplish with a terrifying statement like that? Cancer isn’t scary enough, you need to worry them that they have less time than they think they do?? I mean, come on.

5. “Jane Doe is suffering from Cancer.” My issue with this is the word “suffering“. When you are told to be strong, fight, find the courage and stay positive, the word “suffering” is one of the most damaging words you could utter. Try, “Jane Doe has been diagnosed with Cancer.” or ¬†even, “Jane Doe is battling Cancer.” So much more empowering, don’t you think?

6. “You look so GOOD!” I have yet to see someone battling Cancer who actually looks “good”. If anything, you make the individual self conscious and the internal conversation is something like this….

“Dear God, they think I look good when I look like THIS? I looked good when I had my hair, my eye lashes, my appetite, 40lbs more. I look like shit and now I feel even WORSE.”

7. “Oh my, you don’t look so good today!” It’s better to say nothing at all than to make a statement about personal appearance. This is someone who is walking through Hell for their life – are they supposed to have a “good” day? I mean, really…..

8. “Oh you poor dear!” This gem is usually reserved for family members – and when its the kids, the hair stands up on the back of my neck. Try “I bet you are a great help for your Poppa!” or “I will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers.” Conveys the same intent without the implication of hollow sympathy.

9. “What can I do to help?” I bet you don’t see the issue with this one, do ya? The problem is that the person you are asking this of has a tornado of stress, drama and information swirling in their heads. They are grateful to remember to bathe, never mind make a To Do list. You are asking them to sort through their upside down life and come up with a custom list of tasks you would be suited to do. Why not say, “Can I help drive?” “May I drop off a casserole?” “Can I cut your grass?” These are specific tasks that the care giver or patient can look at and say “yes” or “no” rather than generate a task to assign you. Don’t be offended if they don’t agree to your suggestions. You have opened the door with a genuine offer, and in a still moment, when they have collected their thoughts, they may remember your kind offer. Then your phone may ring.

10. “You better get checked out!” While this comment is likely to be well intended, it’s usually unnecessary and if anything, causes more anxiety. When my mother-in-law was ailing, the last thing her sons needed was to be reminded that they might face the same fate. Don’t get me wrong, they were more than aware that the Cancers she battled can be passed genetically, but they didn’t need that stress adding to the concern they already had for her, and their father.

In conclusion, while many people think they are showing concern and empathy by asking these questions, it’s a case of the void between what is being said, and what is being heard. Remember that the best way to show your interest and support is to ask simple, short questions, void of overt emotion. Perhaps you’ll catch them in a moment where they will want to share their thoughts and feelings. They aren’t looking for answers. They don’t expect you to have a solution. The fact is, their reality is overwhelming in that moment, and they need to release the backlog.

Be an ear. Not a mouth.