Today is just one of those emotional days, I guess…  
I haven’t experienced any triggers (songs, smells, or seeing the kind of car she used to drive). I even woke up and worked out at the park this morning, which normally working out keeps breakdowns like these at bay. I was just driving down the highway and was overcome with emotion. Missing Mom. Wanting to call her and ask her where she thinks I should go to school. Wanting her to call me and tell me she misses me and wants me to spend the night so she can make gluten free French toast for me.  
It’s days like today that I have to remind myself that it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to want to be alone or to ask for company or support.  
I want to encourage you to feel whatever emotions you’re experiencing. Allow yourself to be angry or sad or whatever it is. Allow your mind, body and spirit to be present. Don’t bury them. Let them come to the surface and overflow.  
Cry if you need to.  

Scream into a pillow if you need to.  

Be overenthusiastic about whatever is making you happy right now.  

Let the negative feelings run their course, and move forward.  

Let the happy back in.  Let it fill you.  Find those moments to be happy and positive.  And share them with those around you.  

So, I’m not usually a fan of fruit with my poultry…  It’s always seemed so weird…

Once, I made a traditional German dish that consisted of pork chops, apples and raisins, and that totally blew my mind and made me actually like pork chops.  So when I found several various recipes for “Hawaiian chicken” yesterday, I decided to give it a go!

I’m currently crockpotting this delicious smelling dish at my office, so if I end up not liking it, there are like 7 other people I can pawn it off on.  They like it when I feed them.

INGREDIENTS:
4 pounds of chicken
(Aldi had some gorgeous boneless, skinless thighs, so I got that)
20oz crushed pineapple (canned is fine)
1 teaspoon-ish of cinnamon
1/3 cup-ish of honey

I prefer to use the crockpot liners (I know, Rebecca….you hate cooking in plastic), but I was out and Aldi was out so I just sprayed some of Z&K’s Pam into a ziploc bag when I went to check on their dogs during my lunch break.  I also dumped some of her honey and cinnamon into another ziploc bag….but figured I needed some more honey and picked up a jar of it at Aldi when I went for the pineapple and chicken.

So, line your crockpot OR grease it up….whatever you prefer, dump the chicken in (cut up if you prefer) and top it with the entire can of pineapples, cinnamon and honey!  I ended up going a little nuts here with the honey…  Remember how I said I didn’t think I put enough in the bag at Z&K’s?   Yeah, I ended up getting caught up in conversation with some of my coworkers and squeezed about half of the brand new jar of honey over the chicken…oops…  Anyone need Diabetes?

INSTRUCTIONS:
Cook on high for 2-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
(Time varies depending on how frozen the chicken is.)
((Speaking of freezing, this could totally be frozen ahead of time!))

I used my pink handled office scissors to cut up the chicken, and while it meant I only had to wash them and my hands, it took longer to cut the partially frozen chicken thighs with the scissors than it would if I would have just cut it.  “But you’re at work!  Certainly you don’t have alternative means!”  Yeah, actually, I keep a knife and a cutting board here in the office, but was feeling pretty lazy.

The aroma is divine right now and it’s been cooking on high for about two hours.

Hopefully, it’s good.  Otherwise, I just spent <$12 to stay in the good graces of my coworkers.

Mom wanted us to take a trip to “someplace beautiful and warm” together to scatter her ashes.

Anyone who knows me and my sisters knows that asking us to spend time alone together is like asking a teenager to give you his Xbox.  It won’t happen without a fight.

After Mom passed, we planned our first trip for the weekend of June 10th and decided to go to Key West.

I had decided a long time ago that I wanted to take Momma to every place listed in her favorite song “Kokomo” before she died.  She got too sick too fast for me to make this dream a reality, so I’ve let my sisters in on my plan and they want to participate.

Being the ultra-planner that I am, I started Googling and Pinteresting this morning and found some stuff that’s worth sharing.

First of all….this blog.  I’m so glad I found it….  Like, beyond thankful.  Hollywood makes spreading ashes look so easy when it’s done in movies, but, in reality, they stick to your hands, can get in your eyes and get stuck in lip gloss… apparently.

Here’s a link to everything I’ve Pinned so far.  I need to take a break before I get all emotional at my desk.

Talk soon.  😉

Alright, ya’ll.  I finally did it.  I have amazing friends who support my gluten intolerance and encouraged me to make a gumbo.  I did some research, compared different recipes, but ultimately relied on what I remember of my family’s recipe.  It was delicious and they all raved about it, so I figured I’d do the world a favor and share the recipe.  😉  (Mainly because the loan officer I’m working with asked me to send it to her and once I realized how much work it took to type it all out, I figured I’d post it here for my future reference…lol)

So, you’re welcome.

Read the rest of this entry »

We have been watching Mom for changes in her disease. Since she’s on Hospice, she can’t undergo testing or anything, so we can really only rely on what she tells us, what we intuitively pick up on, and changes in her behavior.

Over the last couple weeks, Mom has started with intense focal headaches…signs that the cancer Read the rest of this entry »

The hardest part is watching her cry out of fear and knowing you can’t shed your own tears with her because she needs you to be strong. 

The day before Thanksgiving, Mom decided to go on hospice. They didn’t think she would make it out of the hospital, but she’s been home for about a month. We take turns caring for her. 

Most days her tears are from happiness. She said last week she didn’t know being happy could feel this good. Today, she got short of breath and scared. I don’t know what she fears and I’m too scared to ask her. I’m sure it’s a fear of the unknown. 

I turned on her oxygen compressor, handed her the cannula and held her hands as she looked into my eyes and let her tears overflow her own and shed down her face. 

It breaks my heart. 

I want nothing more than for this to be over for her. I hate seeing her in pain, and that’s pretty much all she feels now. Constantly. 

  

Christmas 2015

Every year Thanksgiving looks different, and this year is no exception. This year, it’s just another day. This year, it’s one more day Mom is spending in the hospital. This year, it’s catered by Cracker Barrel via a dear, long time family friend. This year, it’s the day after Mom officially stopped pursuing cancer treatment and chose to allow High Point Hospice to make her final days as comfortable as possible.  
This year, it could be sad, but like every other day I’ve chosen happiness, thankfulness, transparency, and strength.  
That doesn’t mean that I am stoic and cold; completely the opposite. I have learned that there is strength in feeling the emotions that come in (oftentimes unexpected) waves, expressing them however necessary and moving forward with a level head.  
Over the last couple of weeks, Chris Tomlin’s song “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) has been on repeat in my heart. I finally downloaded it today and listened to it over and over as I drove into work. I needed time to cry, to let God speak to my spirit, replenish my strength and patch the cracks in my heart that come from being overtired and simply dealing with the daily struggles that come with this journey. I have learned that there is significant power in appreciating the hard times and emotions, because it makes the good ones feel so much better and makes the smile you see on my face and the eruption of laughter you hear so very genuine.
Through all of this, I have been blown away by all of the amazing people who have shown up and shown epic love for me and my family. The offers of fulfilling wants, needs, and promises to pick up the phone any time day or night have been nothing short of a reminder, in the midst of one more transition, that I am loved, blessed and fortunate beyond measure.
I would like to challenge you to also choose happiness and thankfulness, regardless of your belief system and regardless of what life may throw your way. Remember that there is always someone out there who has it worse than you do. Remember that sometimes you need to cut negativity out of your life and refocus your energy on the positive. Remember to use your hands and words to spread hugs, love and kindness to all, but especially to those you hold dear. Remember that tomorrow is not promised. Remember to be thankful for what today looks like because, if tomorrow comes, it could look far better or way worse than today.  
And finally, remember that I love you. And Jesus loves you, too.
xoxoxo

My Mom isn’t the first woman in our family to have battled Breast Cancer.

Her mom, my MawMaw had it in the late 80s-early 90s, I believe.

And, boy, was she a fighter! And a pistol. And a lot of other adorable southern sobriquets.. But, mostly, she was my best friend.

I don’t remember much about her treatment. I remember she wore a bra with prosthetics in the cups. And I remember she wore a wig a lot. She paid her dues, went through chemo and radiation and the cancer was beaten. We thought we had several more years left with her.

My Mom’s father passed away before I was born. He had heart problems and emphysema, so she had a lot of loneliness to fill and couldn’t bear that we were in middle Tennessee and she was in deep south Louisiana. So, she moved up to Tennessee to spend a few months at a time helping to raise us while my father was driving a truck cross country.

That’s how we came to be so close. We shared a bed. She taught me to sew. I helped her quilt.

When we were old enough and required less attention, MawMaw stopped coming to spend those months with us and started rooting herself in a community of her peers back home. She was going to church with her sister when she met a wonderful man and fell in love. They were married and they started visiting us together.

They came up the Christmas I was in the 6th grade. We were studying alliterations, poetry and illustrations in English and I had drawn a turtle wearing a girdle… something my MawMaw never spent a day without. I was so proud of this drawing (that probably went with a poem, but I can’t remember now) and couldn’t wait to show it to her.

We were all so excited to see MawMaw Ruth & PawPaw Mickey. I remember being bummed because I had the flu and missed a lot of school just before winter break. I hoped and prayed that I would be better by the time our honored guests arrived! I wanted to play with them; PawPaw was teaching me how to swing dance and my sewing always needed improvement.

MawMaw woke up one morning not feeling well. She had the same symptoms I had while I had the flu. They were staying in my room and I was camping out in the dining room….I was certain she had caught what was left of my flu bug and I felt awful. I kept apologizing to her over and over. MawMaw had stubbornly sworn off doctors since her cancer, so we tried every home remedy we could think of and nothing was taking the edge off her symptoms. It kept getting worse, so they rearranged their flight accommodations to go back home before New Years.

When my Great Aunt Libby picked her up from the airport, she took one look at her sister and brought her straight to the ER. She was yellow and jaundiced and had lost so much weight while she was with us. She was admitted into the same hospital where I was born and underwent extreme testing.

Her blood work came back showing high levels of Hepatitis C. I’m assuming they were really high because her liver shut down almost immediately. The only thing we could trace it back to was when she had a blood transfusion during chemo. Back then they only checked the blood for AIDS.

They said we didn’t have much time left, so the three of us girls and Mom drove down a few days into the new year and visited as much as Mom could bear to have us in the hospital with her.

I remember trying to give her a hug as she lay in the hospital bed, unable to do anything for herself. Mom was scared that I was going to hurt her because I was on the same side as the IV. MawMaw fussed her for fussing me and let me hug her anyway. “What good is the goddamn IV, anyway?” she asked, sarcastically, through the oxygen in her nose and the rawness in her throat caused by incessant coughing.

I laid there with my head on her chest, making very sure not to put too much pressure on her; I was very aware that she was so thin and frail that the weight of my head could cause her to have trouble breathing. I remember telling her I loved her and she got choked up. Eschete women never show emotion; they’re always strong. She choked on her tears and started another coughing fit. This time, I saw the bright red blood on the tissue that my family discussed in hushed tones while they thought I was sleeping on the living room floor.

She became unresponsive only a couple days later.

I was standing at the foot of her hospital bed when she took her last breath on January 19th, 1998.

We were surrounded by family singing Amazing Grace and she left our world and joined our Heavenly Father.

My dad contracted Hep C a few years ago “from a dirty tattoo needle at a biker rally”. He’s been fighting it off pretty well and has been fortunate enough to have found several different concoctions to ward off the disease; several of which have not been approved by the FDA. I’m not certain what’s made him so lucky, to be honest. He hasn’t exactly lived a good life. I think he still needs time to figure out how not to be so selfish. God needs him to grow up a bit before bringing him Home.
  
All of us. A long time ago. Mom, MawMaw, me, Misty and Jessica. 

it just keeps coming. 

And it’s going to. 

And that sucks, but it’s the reality of cancer. 

Mom’s cancer has grown. 

Spots we haven’t heard mention of since the very beginning are now causes for concern. Specifically, a spot in her liver. There’s also fluid build up around her right kidney. 

The fluid that was around her heart and lungs a couple years ago was cancerous. I wonder if this is, too. 

It most likely is according to the tech’s reaction to her bone scan Friday. Her exact words were “Did they mention anything about your kidney or liver? Because you’re glowing extra special there.” 

Oh, but let me rewind a bit. 

Since Mom has stopped chemo, the neuropathy has dissapated dramatically in her fingers and toes. They don’t want to put her fragile body through the same harsh IV chemo again, so the only option remaining for her is a clinical trial through the Sarah Canon Cancer Center. 

And, as luck would have it, there’s only one trial available for the kind of cancer she has. 

This trial involves a lot of extra tests which is why we had the bone scan done. 

I’m worried the tumors in her brain are back. She’s been comaining of headaches. She never gets headaches. 

I know this is all only going to get worse before it gets better but I don’t want to see her suffer. 

She told me that she wants to do the trial because she wants to be with us for a few more years. She wants to watch us grow some more, she said. 

Poor thing. Every day is a struggle for her. And, in turn, every day is a struggle for me. 

 
Superwoman herself receiving her nuclear medicine for the scans.  

Tonight I’m not brave.

I’m not courageous.

I haven’t been since we left the new oncologists office yesterday.

My Mom has been off of chemo since October.

They did pet scans on Monday and her cancer has grown. The spots in her bones and soft tissues are larger. And there’s a spot in her liver that hasn’t been mentioned since all of this started almost two years ago.

Her new doctor is nice. Much nicer and much more real than her old one. I like him. He even offered Mom a hug at the end of the appointment. It was touching.

I’ve had meltdown after meltdown today. Sometimes over the stupidest things. All I know is that crying when the air is so dry leads to ridiculous nosebleeds. And I don’t feel that release when I’m finished crying anymore. Not yet, at least.

I’m just as angry and frustrated and scared as she is. I don’t want her to suffer anymore. There’s a mass growing around her esophagus. You can feel it when you run your hands down her neck. They think it’s what’s keeping her from swallowing. So she goes in for an MRI specifically on that part of her neck Monday and Tuesday we go back to the oncologist and talk options.

I’m praying that radiation will be the first choice. She hates not being able to enjoy food.

She tried eating a pop tart yesterday morning for breakfast. It got stuck. She tried to wash it down. That got stuck, too. The regurgitated substance looked like a violent waterfall of ruby red liquid. She’s mastered throwing up while sitting in her spot on the couch and turning her body slightly to the right to aim at the trash can.

On days like today, it’s harder watching her suffer than knowing she’ll be taken from us soon.

Her doctor said two years.

Two years without chemo and she’ll be gone.

Baeleigh will only be 7.

So, just keep reminding me that I am brave.

I’ve heard it so much recently that I know it must be true.

Sometimes you have to be that person to remind another of their strength.

I’m blessed to know a few awesome people who will continue to do just that.

But right now all I can do is cry and listen to Your Great Name on repeat.

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