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. 

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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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I’m thinking of doing this.

I’ve been craving books lately.

This looks like it could be fun.

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Christmas.

And it wasn’t quite as awful as I thought it was going to be.

We had lots of fun and exchanged presents.

All of my gifts came from my 5 year old niece this year. I took her shopping on the eve of Christmas Eve. She made a list of everyone she wanted to buy for and had to find the perfect gift. After 2 different stores (a crappy Target and an amazing Ross, in the same shopping strip) and roughly 2.5 hours, we had found all of the gifts Baeleigh wanted to give to everyone. Even me. And I didn’t see what it was until Christmas morning. Thank God for attentive cashiers who love children.

We got them home and wrapped them together. She buried mine in tissue paper and taped the box closed on her own so I could help her wrap it.

It was precious. And it rebirthed the spirit of Christmas in my heart.

Not because she got me something but because I saw her lighting up with the knowledge of the meaning of Christmas and the discovery of how fun it is to give.

My favorite was today’s gift.

My sisters and I surprised Mom by hiring a photographer (an old classmate of mine) to take family photos of us at Mom’s house. 2pm snuck up on us and Kristin rang the doorbell before we had finished our makeup or gotten Mom to change clothes. Kristin walked around the property to find some spots to shoot while I handed Mom a sweater and told her to go change.

Kristin got some amazing images and has already given us a sneak peak.

We all ended up crying and laughing. Even Kristin.

If I could, I would live here with Mom and spend every waking moment with her. Spending this time with her has given me courage to come back more often.

I definitely need to get an oil change asap, though, before these miles burn up my engine.

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Tears.

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Laughter.

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Love.

Sometimes life just sucks.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but feel it and pray it moves on.

I’m sitting here. Knowing I need to clean this office so I can go home, but why rush heading home? I’ll be alone there, too.

It’s kind of amazing how a wave of darkness can overwhelm you so quickly. And out of nowhere.

Food Laughter Love

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I think every single one of us knows someone who is growing a beard right now.

(No Shave November, anyone??)

It seems beards are back in full force and are here to stay!

So why not give the men you love and adore a soft beard that will make both of you smile?

It’s SUPER EASY to make a beard oil that will nourish that ruggedly handsome man’s facial hair.

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