Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I See You.

Most people who are chronically ill to the place where they are disabled feel especially as time has gone on that not only is their illness invisible to the outside world but that they themselves have become invisible too. They We often feel our fight, our struggle, our lives have become invisible to others. I have a friend that if she writes me, it is only about her and though I may talk about my health, she never acknowledges it and never or very rarely asks any health related questions. Like many her "How are you?" does not mean she wants to hear about my health and as my health dictates my life course-even if it doesn't dictate my attitude or who I am, it is a huge part of my life. And I feel completely ignored. I am not sure who I am to her and I'm not even sure if she wants to be engaging with me or thinks it is the Godly thing to do to keep talking to me. But it has been painful.

In the years since George attempted suicide, I have learned not to hold grudges or have expectations of others but simply receive. I have also learned very painfully that we each bring our histories (our issues) to the table and what feels like her invalidation of my being may be part of something in her life that she is bringing to the table. Putting time into trying to see the other person's perspective has changed my relationships even if there are very few people present in my life- the ones who are absent are the ones who I probably the relationships that I work the hardest at so that if they ever are reconciled or reconnected, I am able to step into them with a quiet heart and open mind ready to listen.

Most of us who are chronically ill-especially the ones who are severely chronically ill and have multiple illnesses to navigate feel alone and invisible. Something George and I have said countless times over the last three years is "If people ever knew what we really go through..."and then we move on because if we linger, we risk going down a dark path of "why another thing and another thing?!" Oh he is so tired. 

Life changed when I realized George was chronically ill-it was probably that first year after his attempt and I was like- oh my goodness-he has been severely ill since he was a boy. And every week a new epiphany of how he as a little boy, a grade school boy, an adolescent boy, a teenage boy, a college-age young man, a man in his early twenties and thirties when I met him. As long as he can remember--since he was that little boy, he has dealt with pain adults cringe to even contemplate much less endure for an hour. He dealt with it often and without relief and without diagnosis. And as any adult would develop co-morbid depression, a little boy who learned to cope by pretending life was something it wasn't was severely depressed throughout his life. Jaw dropping revelations of severe unrelenting pain and living most of his childhood/growing up years on crutches because of severely disabling arthritis in his knee.Umpteen knee aspirations and a few knee surgeries. It wan't until his late twenties that an emergency surgery on his abdomen discovered the Crohn's and changed a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis to Crohn's related arthritis.  The newer medications of IV infusions of Remicade changed his life significantly even though things were just significantly better-not cured or "average." And that depression was always there...always. I thought he was laid back/easy going/lazy. No. He has been depressed his entire life. And even when he was using crutches for the arthritis and even when he was curled in a ball with the Crohn's, it was all invisible. He was fighting a silent fight that finally became unmuted after his almost deadly attempt and boy am I glad for this second chance. To quietly listen to him tell me about his pain whether emotional or physical and hear him vocalize how proud he is of himself for speaking the pain out loud and letting me know. The colors of his life are filling in at 43. And they are challenging and beautiful. 

The most important thing I can do for that man is to tell him "I see you. I hear you." I've texted with a few friends lately-all with multiple severe chronic illnesses -disabled -we areconnected to hold onto hope for each other. Connected so we can listen to each other's pain. Connected so that we can pray for and build each other up. Connected so we can validate each other's experience and say "I See You." 

Those of us with chronic invisible illnesses don't want our struggles to be invisible. I struggle with this because I do not want pity and I am not a victim to my circumstances. But I want to be known. I have a few friends who no longer have their beloved parent in their lives and it is heartbreaking because they still dial the number because parents can be those only people who wanted to know their struggles. I hear the brokenness in this group of people who are really severe including George because in some way we want someone to care about the hell we face each minute of every day without break and that isn't an exaggeration. 

I shower about three times a month and a couple months ago and listen to my KLOVE app when I heard this song called "Losing" by Tenth Avenue North and figured it was cheaper to buy the entire album than that song and another song on the album lives in my mind. And a verse just was rolling around in my head and usually I pick up my Canon Powershot to video journal about it. But I felt I wanted to share what I was experiencing as I have many backlogged videos-several of them happy ones that I can't wait to share; I just haven't had the chance yet.  And something happened. I don't now how it did--I just followed my heart and though it makes me feel vulnerable to share, I am sharing because I feel like it represents what I know many of my invisible friends are feeling. It is personal but I watch it and see others who are suffering. And to those of you who are dealing with an invisible chronic illness, this is for you. I am not under any illusion that because someone is healthy they don't struggle-we all do. We all want to be known and seen and validated and heard. But the longer I am chronically ill, the more alone I have become. I look to my left and to my right and the bleachers are pretty empty. Illness isolates me and this is why I want you to watch-becuase I want my voice to be heard for myself but more so for George and for anyone who has walked this way.  

I SEE YOU.



FYI: I only share other people's stories with their permission. George approved  and contributed to what I wrote about his story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Walk & Roll Into The Light 2015

This Saturday, September 26th is the 2015 Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Community Walk Event put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and if our health holds out, George and I will be walking and rolling (wheelchair) again this year!

The 2014 Out of Darkness Chicagoland Community Walk (#OODCCW) Event couldn't have been more different than any other walk I'd been a part of  (i.e. diseases) in a great way. The OODCCW is not just a walk, it is an event with speakers and a variety of tents and a memory wall and places to connect with others. The group atmosphere is one of feeling Loved and Worthy and Cared for no matter how mental illness/suicide has affected the life of the person who is attending. 

Check out our Out of the Darkness Event pages Kelly HERE & George HERE where you can donate to support the AFSP. (We'd love it if you'd support us in this cause we are passionate about.Even $10 makes a difference. However, if you cannot, please consider doing something of your choosing to support those with mental health conditions.)
The colored beads represent how suicide has affected you. The Chicagoland Out of Darkness Walk shares love and care.
No one walks alone.  September 2014  #OOTDCCW 
These young girls' lives have already been affected by suicide. Their connection was just one example of the connection I saw during the whole event: embracing, cheering each other on, talking to strangers, silently walking next to each other, supporting each other emotionally... During this walk, teams (people who sign up to walk together) often wear t-shirts remembering/celebrating the person in their lives that they have lost to suicide: from children to senior citizens. I took hundreds of photos of hundreds of different shirts; here are a handful:




One cannot help but feel the support of the community while at the walk event. So much loss has brought so many together. At least a few hundred people walked in Chicagoland alone last year so that not one more person would die by suicide. We raised money for prevention for the AFSP that goes toward suicide prevention research, outreach & educational programs and more. Check out NowMattersNow.org created by AFSP that has "research-based ways to handle the most painful moments of life.".
2014 Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Community Walk Teams listening to speakers in the event tent.
Those struggling with depression, those who have attempted, those who support people who have a mental illness and/or have attempted suicide and those who have survived the loss of someone to suicide all walked together for every person who has ever been affected by mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts. If you have mental illness, depression and/or suicidal thoughts/history, look at the amount of people that showed up for you on that day last year! Each person kept taking a step forward. You can too: one step at a time..
Just a few of the thousands that walked 3.1 miles along Lake Michigan in September 20, 2014.
We do not have to take the steps alone: consider  participating in a community walk, look to a loved one or a professional for support, spend time on AFSP.org, and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Take five minutes to create a safety plan HERE so that if you ever feel down, hopeless, helpless, worthless, you will already have a plan of where to turn. Although I had already seen how a suicide attempt affected George and our families, the 2014 walk was overwhelming in the magnitude of how many people who attended the walk event who were affected by suicide in some way. George and I were both shocked.
2014 Out of the Darkness Walk Chicago
 


You may not think you know someone who has had /is having suicidal thoughts or has dealt with/is dealing with a mental illness such as depression, but you do. Read the shirt below.
September 20, 2014 Out of the Darkness Walk Chicagoland
IN the last year since George and I walked in the Chicagoland Out of Darkness Community Walk Event for the American Foundation for Suicide prevention in September 2014, I personally, I have had two friends lose family members to suicide: one a sister and another an uncle. I am walking (rolling via wheelchair) in memory of Brenda and Ernie and to show love and support to their families, Suicide Survivors (label used for those who have lost someone to suicide), who painfully feel loss in a way I could never understand or put into words.

George pushing me in the wheelchair
2014 Out of the Darkness Walk Chicago
Additionally, I'm walking (rolling) in support/honor/memory of those who are chronically ill and struggling with depression/mental illness, for a friend who struggles with suicidal thoughts, for Melissa Dwyer, a beautiful young woman who had severe chronic intractable Migraines and died by suicide in June 2013 and many others...  And of course I walk for my husband , George, a suicide attempt survivor, who bravely and courageously continues to fight the battle of depression and gets up every morning putting one foot in front of the other even though he continues to struggle to do so.

I've tried to get this blog out for a while now but was too ill and so I wrote it very slowly. I'm just happened to finish three years ago to the days George was in a coma on life support in ICU ect. Each year I use these days to celebrate George's life and I am so thankful he is here to participate in this walk with me because as the doctors say, it is a miracle he survived the suicide attempt brought on by severe undiagnosed depression.

A couple months ago, my husband George and I shared a little about our experience at the 2014 Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Community Walk Event in the short video below; George shares an epiphany he had while attending the event. Video content is different from the above written blog content (Video contains captions.)


9/20/14 Out of the Darkness Walk
Chicagoland
Please consider supporting/donating to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as you can seeit is something George and I are passionate about. Even $10 makes a difference! However, if you cannot, please consider doing something to support those with mental health conditions. Please check out Donation Walk Pages: Kelly HERE & George HERE.
Feel free to pass this along to anyone interested.

Hold Onto Hope!
Micah 6:8

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time to Catch-Up Vlog!

It has been a while since I have had a chance to catch you all up on what is happening in the lives of my husband George and me!  So George and I teamed up on a video to share what we've been navigating the last ten months geared more toward our family and friends who are interested in what has been happening with us. Please watch the the video below as we have lots of important info to share from beginning to end.

Last week (the week of August 16th) was pretty intense and there is some important information on which we need your prayers and support which is why we created the video. As of Thursday August 26th, we are still waiting for CT scan results and praying about treatment options. We realized we needed to just start sharing and this blog is the fastest way to share news.

I've been planning lots of blogs with videos and photos we've already gotten ready; yes George is in some of them! But as time is of the essence in getting this information out, this video is solely health related, but trust me we have a truck load of fun videos and photos of our adventures we plan on sharing in future posts.

We did not share this information with anyone but our parents at the time it was happening. So everyone is equally special in getting these updates in this timing!

We hope you will return the favor in "catching us up" with what is happening in your neck of the woods even if it is only one line in the comment section/on a text message/in an email! We want to hear how you are doing too! We have been off the grid for quite a while.

Enjoy!

 (If you are deaf or hard of hearing please see THIS LINK on my closed captions policy.) To my buddy with bilateral Meniere's disease-I will get you a summary asap...probably not until next week. Sorry!

In closing, neither George nor I believe in comparing struggles. It is our opinion that if you have pain, it matters. Period. In our opinion, pain (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) is subjective. No one else's experience can add or take away from your experience; we all go through hard times. Our hearts go out to anyone struggling right now. Keep Holding Onto Hope!

**If you are actively writing a blog, please post in the comment section so that I can reconnect with you as I lost my entire Blog Roll when I re-organized my site recently!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Everyone Should Take 5 Minutes 4 Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention has been weighing heavily on my heart recently, and I want to encourage you to take a moment and share this information with your friends and loved ones. You never really know what is happening in someone else's life- even those the closest to you. Take a moment to read through this post as there is new and updated information shared. Check out Now Matters Now! There is no time like the present to let others know "If you are hurting, I care."

**Check out this Concise Version of this blog as it has many helpful resources**
Concise Version:
If you are in crisis or are suicidal, please call the (US) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-8255
Don't live in the US and are in crisis or are suicidal? Check out the International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders.org.
Click to Chat in the US with someone by using the button on the right side of the Lifeline home page HERE.
Learn about how to Create a Safety Plan HERE and consider using THIS Safety Plan TemplateBoth George and I have one!
Download the MY3 app for your smartphone HERE available on iTunes & Google Play.
Lived through a suicide attempt? Check out With Help Comes Hope - support for persons living with suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
Support others using this helpful Suicide Prevention Toolkit. Great ideas for Facebook & Twitter.
Lost a loved one/friend to suicide or know someone who has? Check out the AFSP's "Coping With Suicide Loss" support section.
Don't know what to say to someone who is going through a rough time? Send a Lifeline E-Card to someone to show you care and to share hope.
Do not miss out on my favorite support website with free "researched based ways for managing the most painful moments of life" at Now Matters Now.
Participate in supporting Suicide Prevention Research by attending an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out Of Darkness Event/Walk or supporting someone who is attending. George and I participated in Chicago's Out of Darkness Event in September 2014 and it was powerful. We are planning on September 2015!
Learn more by checking out two fabulous websites:  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
And  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are hurting. I care.

Longer Version: If you are in crisis or are feeling suicidal, please call the (US) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:1-800-273-8255 OR go to their website & Click to Chat with someone by using the button on the right side of the home page. Outside the US, check out the International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders.org.

As George & I say: Everyone Should Take 5 Minutes 4 Suicide Prevention regardless. We came up with this saying because George's suicide attempt was a shock to everyone including himself. Create a safety plan (find out about creating one HERE); consider using THIS Safety Plan Template ; put copies in places you can easily get to if you ever happen to need it. (G & I each have one!)

Read about and Download the MY3 app for your smartphone HERE available on iTunes & Google Play; it is an app which helps you create a support system, put together a safety plan toolbox & store your information confidentially.

If you have lived through a suicide attempt, check out With Help Comes Hope - support for persons living with suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline AND  the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are two websites I go to regularly. Both have excellent information on helping yourself and helping others. The NSPL has a great way to support others through their Suicide Prevention Toolkit. The AFSP has a support section called "Coping With Suicide Loss" if you have lost a loved one/friend to suicide or know someone who has.

Do not miss out on the website: Now Matters Now. It is an INCREDIBLE website created for you and me whether we are in crisis or not. Find out why I think this website is so fabulous by reading the  Now Matters Now's About page below:
We have had suicidal thoughts and emotions and problems that felt unsolvable. Here are our stories, including research based ways for managing the most painful moments of life. We teach Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Current Emotion, Opposite Action and Paced-breathing. These skills are part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT, proven to be helpful for people considering suicide. These tools are not considered a replacement for one-to-one counseling. You do not have to have suicidal thoughts or mental health problems to use these tools - they are useful for most people and many problems.
(In August 2014, I shared about our plan to participate in the AFSP's September 2014 Chicago Out Of Darkness Event/Walk in a post I wrote, called "And Into the Light,"  If you supported George & I participating in this walk monetarily or otherwise, therefore you supported suicide prevention research like the research that went into creating the Now Matters Now website. We plan on participating in this worthy event again this September 2015. I look forward to sharing photos and our experiences from the 2014 event.)

Please share suicide prevention information with those you love on email/Facebook/Twitter. Share the lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 & website, information from any of the above mentioned websites. The Suicide Prevention Toolkit has some great prompts for Twitter & Facebook as well as warning signs easily shared to social media. Just scroll down on the link HERE. As the NSPL says, "sometimes it is hard to know what to say when someone is having a rough time" and so they have Lifeline E-Cards you can send to someone to show you care and to share hope. Thank you for taking 5 minutes 4 suicide prevention.

If you are hurting, I care.

*Nothing in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your health care professional.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Redeeming by Writing

"Quite often a difficult, painful or frustrating day can be redeemed by writing about it" as said by Henri Nouwen in Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (April 27). 

Writing has always been an outlet for me. I have journaled since I was seven years old; the first place was a small pink diary with a kitten on it which was thick enough to have a lock to protect my secrets from my five year old brother! Several months ago, George and I read all of my journals through high school; by far the funniest was age thirteen. I never thought I was boy crazy!! According to my journals, I was...though only in my mind as I didn't start dating until I was fifteen years old. George and I laughed at the things the thirteen year old version of me said with the type of intensity that lasts past that moment of laughter. 

George and I were surprised to read how much I wrote in my journals about being sick from a young girl through high school. From seven years old to my current thirty-five, there have been significant breaks when I did not write. As writing (along with photography) has pretty much documented my life, why didn't I write during my engagement  or about meeting my in-laws or buying our house or or about wedding preparations or the wedding day or my wedding night or the honeymoon or the first year of marriage? I became disablingly ill ten days after I was engaged and though we always thought I would "get better" I never did. I got worse. 

Around that time frame, my journals were more full of prayer requests from others, Bible verses, quotes from devotional readings and books that I wanted to remember and an occasional comment or prayer to God with long periods of silence in between. 

Fly With Hope began in June 2008 and I have loved writing here; although I would hope that somehow my journey would help someone else for the good, the writing has been cathartic for me and helped me start redeeming my challenging days.  

The last few years I have had trouble cognitively processing language and it makes everything more difficult. Expressing myself also has been a challenge in the situations I am exposed to (text/email/phone). I rarely see anyone outside of George and my healthcare providers though when I attended our couple's small group a week ago, words were hard to find. Geroge talked more than I did and that is a jaw-dropping experience! (Though I personally loved listening to him talk as he is obviously so comfortable with that group that he freely shares his mind.)

I have started at least twenty different blog posts in the last few months that were never finished and even more if you count the last couple years as I have struggled to keep my brain focused. It does not help that I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing; it started in high school, through undergrad where I got one of my minors in English (the other was Spanish), through grad school and my sixty page thesis. I am sure the reason I have been bad at emailing since emailing started is because I would edit my emails to death. I still do which is why no one gets emails from me. I have drafts from emails more than a year old! I even edit text messages to death. George takes cat naps waiting for me to respond to a family/friend's text. I need a recovery group for editing!

All that to say, I realized I'm not getting anything published on my blog because 1. Writing is harder for my brain and 2. I am an editing nazi. The problem is that actually enjoy editing my work until it says exactly what I want to say. I'm not looking for affirmation or kudos but a written work that makes me feel good when I read it. 

So, I have decided that I am going to start posting without all the editing! And I'm planning on adding a new dimension to Fly With Hope.

I have been video journaling for about three years because for one reason or another I hadn't been able to write it out.  Video journaling led me the idea of adding video blogging (vlogging) to Fly With Hope.  So,  I might post a video instead of something written-simply because it is easier for me. 

To my knowledge I have at least one reader who is deaf/hard of hearing. I apologize that you may not have access to the vlog content I plan to post. I will try my best to post captions or at least a summary! 

Thank you for coming on this journey with me of trying out a new way of redeeming my days.  I will be editing less, writing when I can (hopefully more) and sharing videos on occasion. 

P.S. It is really hard not to edit this more, but here I go!
Keep holding onto hope!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Marmee

Early November 2005: The shared hospital room was dark and I was glad to have the window bed as my roommates were revolving. Many of my friends had come to visit me in the hospital including one who had become a dad for the first time just days earlier. His wife called me on the phone and I could hear the gurgles of their newborn baby through the hospital phone receiver. My work supervisor had come bringing bags of magazines and crossword puzzles and even cried when seeing how weak I was. My dad endured the torture of such a small space and seeing his daughter in pain he couldn't fix. Cards and flowers had piled up in the window sill. George, who was my fiancĂ© of two weeks, would race after work to catch me before visiting hours were over. 

But there was someone to whom visiting hours did not apply: someone, who I can still see quite clearly in my mind with the blue light of the IV pump reflecting off of her face in the darkness: my mom. I am not sure what time it was -- late.  As I reflect, I see how Mom's eyes were closed, her body slightly bent forward in the uncomfortable looking hospital chair;  her hands in her lap were open, fingers gently separated and palms facing the ceiling as she was in prayer. 

Admittedly, I have not read the book, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, but I have seen enough movie versions to be more than familiar with the story. The mother character was affectionally called "Marmee" by her four daughters. There is one scene in particular where Marmee is away attending to her husband who had been wounded in the Civil War. But when she got word that her daughter, Beth, who was prone to illness had been doing very poorly, Marmee rushed home and in the 1995 movie version of Little Women, she practically ran home from the train station, burst into Beth's room, immediately assessed the situation, knew exactly what to do and took control by starting right away working with determination to help her daughter be well.

Before the early November 2005 hospitalization, I had been quite ill since September with e coli that wrecked havoc on my body. On a certain day in late October, I developed symptoms including vomiting, headache, hypersensitivity to everything and a Migriane that would not disappear--though at the time, we did not know it was a Migraine. I didn't even know what a Migraine was! George had done his best to take care of me, but I was so sick I was no longer eating or drinking and could no longer get out of bed. The medications I had been given were not helping either.

A few days later, my bedroom was dark as the sun had set. Gatorade and crackers sat on my nightstand untouched as I could not drink or eat. I had become so ill that I could not think straight and laid as still as possible staring at the ceiling. I heard a knock at my condo's door, quiet conversation and then to my great relief, my mom, who by car lives six to seven hours away, came in the room. Once Mom had realized how ill I was, she had taken a plane and a taxi to get to me as soon as possible.  She was backlit from the hallway and I could not see her face, but I could smell her comforting Chanel perfume and I knew everything was going to be okay.

My Marmee had arrived...

She immediately took charge; realizing I hadn't drank in a long while, she retrieved applesauce from the fridge and got me to take tiny bites. Since then, whenever I see individual applesauce containers, I think of that night and how my Marmee had cleverly started to rehydrate me. She took charge and got my primary care doctor to admit me to the hospital. She was my advocate, my comforter and my cheerleader. Most of all she shared Love that is impossible to put into words.

After a couple days of hospitalization, there were no answers, but I was still severely ill and quite weak as I could not tolerate even a bite of cracker. Another evening and the blue light of the IV pump lit up Marmee's face; she gently stroked my forehead and as I closed my eyes, she started to tell me a story about a little girl. It was the most beautiful story about a girl who was so loved and about all the things she enjoyed and experienced as she grew; eventually I realized she was telling me about me. As the gentle calmness of my Marmee's voice rhythmically calmed my soul in a way that can only come from a trusted mother, I finally drifted off to sleep after being fitful to that point.

Those days were over nine years ago and my mom has continued to encourage me, support me,  listen to me, advise me, take care of me, pray for me with devotion, come to my side when she herself was ill and much more that I know I do not even know.

Recently, I have been especially ill. Mom packed up her SUV with her three dogs and headed my way. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the way into the trip her Toyota Highlander hit a patch of ice that caused her to skid across the interstate at 55 mph going down into the ditch and ramming into the embankment. The side airbags deployed and she was taken to a hospital for evaluation and scans which showed nothing serious. Despite the fact she had been in a serious automobile accident that caused physical distress and pain and would shake anyone up, she got on a plane two days later and flew to my side. We knew there would be no talking her out of it. When my mom is determined to do something, she is going to do it. Everything she did to help George and me was so much sweeter as we knew she was making a sacrifice because she was in pain herself.

Again Marmee rushed to my side and she was more helpful than she knows or will admit.  As George has become more in touch with his emotions, he has become more affected by my illnesses and depression makes it even harder. Marmee was a mother figure to George which was just what he needed at that time. Loving and supporting George as a mother would is part of what makes my mom Marmee.

There is not enough time or space to write how thankful I am for how my mom loves me and others. And I know that I am not alone in experiencing my mom's love. She is a woman who loves God and loves people.

Sharing about my Marmee stems from our celebration that she is now a five year colon cancer survivor!!! Getting a colonoscopy saved my mom's life as she was diagnosed at 54 years old at stage 3b out of 4.  She had a particularly aggressive form of colon cancer as her colonoscopy at age 47 was clear and in only seven years the cancer not only developed but had spread to her lymph nodes.

Colon cancer can be prevented by getting a colonoscopy starting at age 50 and every ten years after that unless you have a family history like I do, you would get it earlier and more frequently. My first colonoscopy was at the age of thirty. And of course if you are having symptoms, get thee to a doctor now!

When it is time for you to get a colonoscopy, don't hesitate!! It is not scary at all; what is scary is not getting one, developing cancer, having to go through chemotherapy and experiencing whole body side effects from the chemotherapy that permanently affect your life. Words cannot describe how painful it was seeing my mom go through chemo and its affects during the many times I was there. I can guarantee that a colonoscopy is much easier than 50 hours of chemotherapy every two weeks for six months equalling a grand total of 12 rounds. And that is just the beginning... Get your rear checked!

My mom frequents the same fast food establishments and as she has a talkative and caring personality, she talks to the people working the drive-thru. I mean really talk; not like "can I have an extra ketchup?" but "how are you doing today?"  She is kind and caring and it shows. For many many years now she has been randomly paying for the meal of the person behind her in the drive thru and then telling the cashier to tell the person it is a random act of kindness. By the time my mom got cancer and was going through chemo, the people at these specific restaurants knew her well. And one day while talking to one of the cashiers, she mentioned in passing that she had cancer and was going through chemo. The next time she drove through that fast food restaurant's drive thru and she pulled up to the first window to pay, the cashier told her that the employees had paid for her meal. I still tear up when I think about this story and she may kill me for telling it but you get an idea of her personality by how much she affects so many people in a positive way...not just me.

Happy Five Years Cancer Free, Marmee! You are so very loved and appreciated--more than words can say.

(You can read about my dad in a post I wrote called: My Dad's Gift of Himself)