Words of Comfort, of Healing

 

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In response to my last blog post, someone I consider to be a dear friend kindly asked:

“…What is your favorite thing for people to say in support? Are there certain statements that help noticeably more than others? If all we have are words to help you I’d like to use the words that mean the most to you.”

I didn’t have an answer.

As a writer, I always have words—or, rather, the arrangement of words—on my mind. For instance, I spent a great deal of time trying to describe the color of the Sternbergia lutea flower for my novel-length manuscript, Greenwood. More recently, I’ve been searching for the right words to describe a fictional Norwegian Forest cat named, Birkir. He has an important role in my current writing project, Skraeling.

Despite this constant meditation on words and how best to use them in fiction, I have rarely thought about what words would be most comforting to me in uncertain or frightening situations. I couldn’t answer my friend’s question until this past Thursday morning.

Many of you may remember the notice I posted regarding the week of June 25th. Namely, I wrote that there wouldn’t be a new blog post that week due to having so many doctors’ appointments in Boston. Among those appointments was a surgical procedure—meant to diagnose the potential presence of a secondary cancer. I’ll spare you (and me) the details of “what it might have been” and “what they did to me”. Instead, I’ll just say that I received an email on Thursday morning announcing that the procedure results were in. The email also listed the results…and I couldn’t decipher them.

I did what anyone with a difficult medical history would do—I panicked. I cried. Yes, I have been a patient, in various capacities, since I was 23 years old. Although my sojourn through cancer and transplant-land has been long, it does not mean that I can speak the language of the medical field. Overwhelmed, I kept scrolling through the procedure results, desperately trying to translate them.

Finally, I worked up the nerve to call the doctor’s office.

No one picked up. I had to leave a message.

Surprisingly, while all of this was unfolding, something wonderful happened. I realized that I did have an answer to my friend’s question. As found in the New International Version of the Holy Bible: “For he will command his angels concerning you…” Psalm 91:11a.

Alderaan July 2018

I was spiraling in a panic attack, but I kept repeating the verse over and over again. Soon, there was nothing else in my mind. The Bible verse was in my blood, in my lungs. It was the ocher buoy keeping me afloat in a sea of anxiety.

When I finally received a call back from the doctor’s office, I was collected enough to hear the words, “very good results”.

And, then, I started crying again—big, grateful tears.

Fortunately, I don’t have a secondary cancer. I will have to be monitored for any changes, of course, but in this present moment, I have time to rest and heal. I also now have words to comfort me when old fears rise.

pink wildflowers

Please continue to send prayers, light and love, Dear Readers. They are both needed and very much appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,

Laura

 

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A Temporary Absence

rain on leaves

Dear Readers,

Please note that I will not be sharing a new blog post this coming week.

As some of you may already know, I will be in Boston for several appointments on Monday, June 25th—including a surgical procedure. If possible, please send light, love, and prayers my way. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,

Laura

Learn, Then Overcome.

Easter 4 2018

Did you know that a cat with a urinary tract infection (UTI) will associate the pain of the infection with his/her litter box, thus leading to undesirable behaviors (i.e. urinating outside of the box)? Treatment with certain steroids will also lead to urinating in inappropriate places.

Alderaan is currently doing this.

I think, though, that we all do it on some level—associate our personal pain with things/places/people/specific dates. Either consciously or subconsciously, we alter our behavior to avoid what we think will cause more pain. Which, in light of my life experiences, sounds a lot like anxiety. Someone once told me to imagine anxiety as living in a box. The more you try to avoid the things/people/places that make you feel anxious, the smaller your box becomes.

This year of post-transplant isolation has stuck me in a very small box (fortunately, there’s just enough room in here for a laptop and I’ve been writing my heart out).

When this year of saying “no” to visiting friends and family comes to an end, I’m going to be in a situation not at all unlike Aldie’s:

Aldie will have to relearn how to use the litter box (which is why Mommy and Daddy bought him a new one with special litter that apparently smells irresistible to cats), while I am going to have to learn how to trust my puny immune system.

I will have to overcome the social awkwardness that this year of isolation has impressed upon me. Similarly, we are doing everything we can to help Alderaan overcome his fears and return to health and appropriate behaviors.

September, after all, is coming.

crocus

Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love. For those of you who knew about my struggle with unexpected weight loss (a big no-no in transplant land), I can assure you that I put some pounds back on and am now at an acceptable and healthy weight. My doctors are pleased with my progress and we will be starting my pediatric shots in May!!! I know; it’s an odd thing to be excited about. But I am excited.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with me through this.

 

With Love,

Laura

Just Some Quality ZZZ’s, Please

Squishy

Confession: I’m 31 years old and I sleep next to a stuffed animal every night. More precisely, he’s a unicorn named Squishy. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been tremendously anxious lately. So, in an attempt to calm my nerves, I sprayed Squish (that’s his nickname) with lavender-scented perfume. It helped…a little…but I still didn’t make my big goal of sleeping in until 6am. I made it to 2:22am.

Like a lot of people out there, I don’t sleep well. I tend to be restless. When I do dream, I usually have outlandish nightmares (and not the good kind that can inspire writing projects).

Why am I sharing this? Because I am on the hunt for ideas to help me sleep.

When you, Dear Reader, have difficulty sleeping, what do you do? Do you listen to music? Do you have a glass of warm milk? What works for you? What doesn’t work? I am open to suggestions, so please send them my way!

We go back to Boston this week for another check-up. We will also be going to Burlington for a neurology appointment. It’s going to be a busy week; please keep the light, the prayers, and the love coming. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Windows

alderaan-14-1612

We’ve had our littlest fur baby, Alderaan, for almost three weeks now. He continues to be a love bug, crawling into my lap and head-butting my chin whenever he wants to cuddle. He enjoys playing with his big brother, Wallace the Wonderful, and he absolutely adores his human daddy. But I’ve noticed something interesting about this bundle of light gray fur: he stands his ground.

What do I mean by that? Well, Dear Readers, each morning as I drink my coffee and continue laboring away on the most recent rewrite of my novel, Alderaan will climb onto the back of the couch, set his front paws on the windowsill, and stare out at the street. I suppose there’s nothing peculiar about that—most cats window watch—but what caught my attention is how much my little love bug trembles whenever people or dogs pass by. His whole body will shake with fear, but unlike Wallace who will run for cover (Mommy isn’t judging you for that, Wallace!), Alderaan stays his ground. He will not budge. He will not break eye contact. Alderaan endures this discomfort until it passes, only relaxing when the perceived threat on the other side of the window vanishes from his field of view.

This little cat’s courage astonishes me and it has made me question, can I do the same? Do I have the wherewithal to stare down the parts of my life that are scary and/or uncomfortable? Do I tremble and endure? Or do I tremble and run?

By most accounts, I live a good life. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and most importantly, I am loved. But I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with the weight of my cancer experience. I continue to struggle—every day—with the task of rebuilding my life. Most days, if I am being honest, I take Wallace’s approach and run for cover.

Example? The past two months, I have been in an inordinate amount of pain. It started with isolated hip pain and has progressed to include both legs. I am stiff, loosing flexibility, and, the way I ache—it reminds me too much of my stint in ICU and the pain of relearning how to walk. I’ve been pretty good about ignoring that similarity. I am, in fact, quite gifted at pushing ugly feelings and emotions down. But last night it came rushing out of me. Last night, despite medication, despite aromatherapy—I woke up sobbing, shaking. I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t make it stop.

It was Alderaan that came to the rescue. There was a purr rumbling in his throat and a reminder: these memories surface for a reason. Emotions pushed down for too long will inevitably come roaring up out of us. And we have a choice; to see them for all that they are or to run from them.

I am choosing to see them.

I am choosing to see the similarities in the past and the present and to remind myself that “now” is not “then”. That the situation is different. That I am different.

I wanted 2017 to be a year of growth—of building resiliency, of strength—and the Universe, through this inexplicable leg pain and the memories it is triggering, has presented me with that opportunity. I may tremble at what I see, Dear Readers, but I will not avert my eyes until I can look at my past without fear, without judgement, without reliving it.

A little cat showed me how to do it.