Creativity: Kind of Like a Scavenger Hunt

I am a morning person.

I wake up between 4am and 5am. I go downstairs, fix a cup of coffee (two tablespoons of Ovaltine, please) and start writing fiction. I’m usually fairly content if left to shape my own world out of words—but, these past few mornings, I have felt a bit uninspired.

The problem? I’ve been sitting alone with my own anxious thoughts for far too long. Worry drains creativity. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a solution Saturday night while watching the first few episodes of Season Two of “Anne with an ‘E’”.

If you haven’t heard of this series, I highly recommend it. “Anne with an ‘E’” is a heart-warming, Canadian television show currently on Netflix. It’s based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. As a child, L.M. Montgomery was one of my favorite authors. Montgomery’s protagonist, Anne, is an orphan with a rich imagination. Anne finds stories in everything she looks at and wherever she goes.

Anne’s personality and incredible knack for discovering inspiration has prodded me to open my eyes a little wider. There is creativity out there. I just have to open my heart to it, and never stop asking questions.

For instance, I took this photo with my phone:

morning fog

What are we looking at here? In our everyday lives, it is just a sunrise in early July, around 5am. Fog is blanketing the field across the road. It crawls slowly toward our house. Is the fog hiding something? What causes such weather? Does fog symbolize anything? Creepy, right? Or, is it just fog?

This, I think, is how you spin a new short-story.

I’ve never really believed in personal writing muses. The closest I have ever gotten to one was with Wallace the Wonderful. He thoroughly enjoyed harassing me when I was typing. He liked chewing the corners of my research books and lying on my print-outs. He’s been gone since February, but I still miss him every day.

Wallace guarding weather witch

We have a gallery of sorts, hanging on the wall, across from the kitchen table (where I write). It consists of portraits of friends and family—and, of course, there’s a photograph of Wallace. It reminds me that he’s never too far away.

For now, Luna, our puppy, is too high-energy to be a writing companion (plus she’s too big now to curl up on my lap). She prefers activity, like learning how to swim:

luna swimming

Someday, when she’s older and calmer—maybe, then, she’ll doze off at my feet while I type out tales. I’ll be able to pet her copper-colored ears when I’m searching for a word. I’ll whisper the options to Luna and if I’m really lucky, she’ll snore when I say one of the words. You guessed it: I won’t use that word.

Snore translation: That word is too boring, Human Mommy. Find something better.

Although I am not quite awake when dusk falls, there are details about that particular time of day that sparks my creativity. I think I can see pieces of flash fiction when studying the solar, hanging mobile on our back porch. The stars and the angels move slowly, serenely, when stirred by the breeze; otherwise, they are still, soaking up the last of the sun’s rays.

solar mobile

It’s truly the little things—the minute details—that build a strong piece of writing and fuel a writer’s creativity. I have L.M. Montgomery and “Anne with an ‘E’” to thank for reminding me of that.

And, thank you, too, Dear Readers! Your prayers and words of encouragement give me the strength to persist, to heal, to pursue my dreams. Your love and light continue to nourish my soul. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

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There’s a Wallace in my Suitcase

In February and March of this year, I blogged about losing Wallace. His death was one of the lowest moments of my life—but you, Dear Readers, rescued me with both love and guidance. Many of you alluded to your own wounds and how God has provided for you. It is with these comments in mind, that I have tried to grow in my own faith.

I am excited to say that it’s working.

The first time I had cancer, I couldn’t go to church because I was often neutropenic. My immune system wasn’t functioning due to the chemotherapies I had to take. Any Sunday that I was actually home from treatment (in 2010, I practically lived at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Burlington, VT), my dad and I would watch a religious television program together. He’d make me scrambled eggs for breakfast and I’d drown them in my mom’s delicious, canned, chili sauce. The memories I have of watching that program with my father are some of the happiest moments of my life.

Fast forward to today: I still can’t go to church because of my immune system, or rather, the lack thereof. In response—and after reading all of the advice that you gave to me—I trolled the interwebs and found the television program that my dad and I used to watch together. Episodes are posted on the ministry’s website and, best of all, they’re free to view. I started watching the sermons regularly. And, while I miss going to church, I feel as though I am starting to heal spiritually.

I think this practice of “going to church”—while sitting on the couch every Sunday—gave me the fortitude I needed to pack Wallace in my suitcase.

wally in my suitcase 2.0

This last week, I decided it was time to go through my closet once more. Even though I had removed quite a bit of clothing items, my closet was still full. Not all of my clothes were going to fit in my suitcase—so I decided to pare my wardrobe down again—especially since I planned on packing Wallace in there.

I know that sounds strange, but I think nestled between my clothes is the safest place for his box of ashes. This is not how I wanted to introduce Wally to his new home. This is not what I imagined this move to look like. But this is what it is: my beloved cat, in a wooden box, inside of my suitcase.

He’s been gone for two months now…and the wound is still raw.

I believe, though, that watching the televised sermons has had a positive impact on my outlook. My memory is not what it used to be—scarring on your brain from cranial edema will do that to you—and, so, I call it a “miracle” that I can remember the following memories at all. While surrounding Wallace’s box of ashes with my clothes, I began to remember how, whenever I used to pack my duffle bag to go somewhere, he would try to climb into it. He was such a big cat; it still amazes me that he could actually squeeze himself into my bag. My memories of opening my duffle bag and finding Wallace inside, lying on top of my clothes, made me smile. I can still remember how he used to look at me in those moments; it was as if he was saying, “bring me, too, Mom”.

So, in the next few weeks, I will be granting him that wish. I will be bringing him with me.

As always, thank you Dear Readers, for continuing to follow my journey through cancer treatment and now transplant recovery. Please continue to send light and good thoughts. I can’t begin to describe how much it means to me. 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

A Television Fanatic

Alderaan and his chair

Caption: Photo courtesy Mat Perras.

 

It turns out that there’s a side to Alderaan that we didn’t know existed. While enjoying his extended stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s, he’s taken up TV-watching.

He likes nature programs—especially if they feature birds. Reportedly, Aldie was watching one such show, and ran up to the TV to swat a bird. He lived on a farm before he was rescued and adopted…guess he still has the instincts of a hunter/survivalist….

 

aldie waking up

Caption: Photo Courtesy of Mat Perras

Then, later this past week, Alderaan discovered a program on the evolution of cats. There was no swatting the television this time. Instead, he just watched the show, super interested, as the screen showed domestic cats his size and, then, his much larger brethren (lions, tigers, panthers).

There are days when I feel as though I have missed so much—too much—of Aldie’s development from the equivalent of a teenaged cat to a middle-aged feline. But, then, I hear anecdotes about his interest in TV and it makes me smile.

I can’t wait to have our little pal back <3.

 

Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love.

 

With Love,

Laura

Love as a Purpose

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First and foremost, Dear Readers, I would like to thank you for responding to last week’s post. Your condolences are appreciated. Your words of advice and encouragement to keep writing buoyed my spirits. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

After reading through the various comments, however, I began to notice some patterns—especially when discussing how to find one’s life purpose. God was mentioned quite a bit. As was love.

I don’t believe that these are two separate answers. I was raised in a Christian household. As such, one of the first things I learned was that “God is Love” …as is written in the first book of John. I’m not sure when or how I forgot that, but I needed all of you to remind me of it.

Loving self, loving others, love as life’s purpose—it requires work. When energy is a problem, I think that that type of love might be one of the first things to be kicked out. It’s probably one of the last things to be let back in, too.

To be clear, over this past year, I never stopped loving my fiancé, our respective families, or our friends. I never stopped loving my boys (Wally and Aldie). But, during my first cancer experience, I did stop loving myself. I was 23 years old and I absolutely hated God. Why was He allowing cancer to happen to me? Why was I suddenly living the life of Job? Fortunately, by the time I relapsed last year (2017), that anger had cooled. My faith had grown just enough to allow me to lean on God again—to ask for prayers and to believe that they would be heard.

Now, I am well-aware that there are other viewpoints, other belief systems out there. If you think what I’m posting today is a bunch of bull, that’s okay. You’re entitled to your opinions just as I am entitled to mine. I do not mean to offend anyone with this post. But, to tell the truth, I really like this idea of love being my purpose here on Earth.

I like the idea of taking care of others—for instance, cleaning out my closet and donating gently used clothes to those in need. I enjoy writing articles, pro bono, for non-profit organizations. Some of you mentioned that the hole Wally left in my heart won’t close up until I find another animal to love. Thankfully, I still have Wally’s little brother, Alderaan. Once we’re given the “okay” from my doctors to live in the same house again, I am sure his presence will help mend my broken heart. If it doesn’t, well, I guess I’ll just have to adopt a dog and give it a warm and loving home (Alderaan is a daddy’s boy after all. See evidence below).

There is peace, for me, in this mission to love—and I am so grateful, Dear Readers, that you brought it up.

Please continue to send light and love, Dear Readers. The road to recovery is still 7+ months long.

 

With Love,

Laura

I Think This is What the Bards Might Have Called a ‘Quest’

in memory 2.0

 

I am going to be honest with you—this past week sucked.

Monday: Spent living in fear that Wallace was going to die.

Tuesday Morning: Finding out that Wallace was not responding to the medications; his red blood cell counts were still dropping.

Tuesday Afternoon: Giving the “okay” to euthanize him. I watched Wallace pass out of this world. He was exhausted, just melting into the exam table. Leaving him behind in that room was by far one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

Saturday: Picking up Wallace’s cremated remains from the veterinarian’s office.

This week has felt like someone was performing a bone marrow biopsy on my heart. That is, to say, it has hurt beyond description.

Losing my Wally has made me question a bunch of things in my life—this blog for instance. Am I doing a disservice to my fellow cancer and transplant survivors by constantly writing about gratitude and having a positive attitude? I was born a pessimist; a positive attitude is not my natural state of mind. Positive thinking, however, is far healthier than fear and/or worrying. I will admit to using this space as a means of forcing myself to change my perspective. I fear that by doing this, though, I have diminished my struggle as well as the struggle of my fellow survivors. The horror of cancer treatment doesn’t end with the last bag of chemo or the last radiation appointment. The torture doesn’t end…but I don’t write about it because a) I want to shield you from it, and b) if I dwell on it, I’ll be sucked into the fear of relapsing again. I’ve been using this blog like a life jacket–and although I’m treading as best as I can–keeping my head above the water has been difficult.

I’ve also been questioning my role in this life. Why the hell am I still alive? What am I here for? There has to be a reason why I keep outliving my various expiration dates (July 2010, February 2017). People are going to start thinking that I’m some sort of android if I keep surviving all of this s*&t.

Maybe this is just my overwhelming grief for Wallace talking, but for the longest time I thought my purpose was to be a writer. Nabbing a literary agent, however, has proven to be a thankless and utterly depressing task. So, I have to stop myself and ask, am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right path? And if not this, then what?

Dear Readers, I have no doubt that my good MRI results on Thursday/Friday are your thoughts and prayers working. Last year, on this very day, I was diagnosed with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I told you that I did not have the strength to fight cancer again. It was the truth. I didn’t have the strength. But YOU carried me through. Now I’m asking you to lend me some advice (in addition to continuing to send light and love).

How did you know what to do with your life?

How did you find your purpose?

When you’re grieving, how do you find peace?

As always, thank you for your support. Your comments and encouragement have meant the world to me.

 

With Love,

Laura

One Red Blood Cell at a Time….

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As those of you who follow me on Facebook already know, one of my boys has not been feeling well. We brought Wallace to the veterinarian’s office on Tuesday, February 13th. He had some bloodwork done at that time, but the vet asked to keep him for two nights for observation. Wally had, after all, lost 5 pounds since his last visit. More concerning, however was the fact that he was anemic.

Those of you who are fur mamas can probably imagine how poorly I took this news. My thoughts leapt to the absolute darkest outcomes. If it weren’t for Seth, I wouldn’t have been able to rein my anxiety in.

He advised, “Hope for the best, but expect the worst”.

I know. Such a mantra isn’t exactly a hopeful, sunshiny, double-rainbow motto, but it was calming. It was logical. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I think—and I can’t say this with any degree of certainty—that this is the mantra that he used repeatedly throughout my cancer treatment and bone marrow transplant.

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Fast forward to Thursday, February 15th. The vet called asking permission to run some x-rays. Specifically, he was looking for masses (yes, cancer masses). He also wanted to run a thyroid test.

On Friday, February16th, we were told that there were no masses found and that Wallace’s thyroid test came back normal. But, Wallace’s stay at the veterinarian’s office wasn’t—and isn’t–quite over. He apparently has an autoimmune disease that is destroying his red blood cells. It’s most likely based in his bone marrow. Usually, cats who develop this disease, recover quickly once steroids and antibiotics are introduced to their systems. This is not the case with Wallace. He is eating better, he is interactive, bright-eyed, but his red blood cell counts continue to decline.

I feel that there is some irony in the fact that my fur baby has some sort of autoimmune disease that affects his blood. So much of his illness reminds me of my own cancer experience…with the exception that I could have blood transfusions when my red cell counts were low.

Thankfully, my veterinarian is invested in Wallace’s well-being. He wants to do everything he can to give Wallace a chance to respond to the treatment. There is still a chance that if the vet can reverse the loss of red blood cells within the next few days, Wallace will be okay.

It’s only a chance, but it’s something. I keep repeating to myself, “Hope for the best, but expect the worst”. I know he’s a mortal creature, and has to die at some point, but my heart is going to completely shatter if I lose this cat anytime soon.

Please, please keep Wallace in your thoughts.

I go to Burlington, VT on February 22 and 23 for some precautionary MRI’s. I’ll also be having some bloodwork done. It’s really just a standard checkup, but as most survivors will tell you, even simple checkups can ignite all-too familiar fears. The usual nightmares preceding visits like these have already begun.

Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love our way. You give us hope to persevere. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Happy Birthday to Meeeee

ferry tree

Last week I turned 31.

And, yes, like most women, I didn’t take kindly to the new, higher number.

I am not upset because I am getting older—aging doesn’t bother me. I am well aware that not everyone gets the opportunity to grow older. Neither am I bothered by the fact that increased age brings death closer. Truth be told, death and I have been flirting with each other since I was 23. I have lived 8 years beyond my original expiration date (July 2010).

No, 31 is a difficult number because, in my life before cancer, I had decided that 31 was the perfect age to start a family. I imagined I would have a stable, good-paying job. I thought that I would be in a healthy, happy relationship.

Check no, on the job.

Check yes, on the relationship—I have found my soulmate.

But, fast-forward to November 2016, when I was officially diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure. This is what cancer treatment can do. It can destroy cancer cells, but it also destroys anything that grows quickly—including eggs. Although still to be confirmed with additional blood tests, 2017’s 8-months of cancer treatment and then bone marrow transplant preparation (which included high dose chemotherapy and Total Body Irradiation) did nothing to help my ovaries.

Every hot flash tells me that any hope for a biological family is now gone.

I grieve for this dream.

2018, however, is not going to be the year that I give up. It’s the year that I am going to move forward. Maybe I can’t have a biological child (who would really want my genes anyways?), but Seth and I will spend time researching adoption. We will make plans. We will move toward that goal, together, and make whatever changes are necessary to be eligible to adopt.

There are so many children in need of a safe and loving home; someday, we hope to provide just that. Until then, we’ll be crazy cat parents to these two majestic creatures:

 

As always, Dear Readers, thank you for your love and continued prayers. You are our strength and the light guiding us on this journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Scatterbrained, but Thankful

wallace ornament

It’s difficult concentrating this morning. I’m not usually so scatterbrained, but here I am, on my third cup of coffee and still struggling to come up with a subject for this blog post.

I blame my distractibility on how excited I am about several things:

  • I had my first slice of take-out pizza this past Wednesday (and it was absolutely delicious).
  • In less than 30 days, I’ll be able to eat fresh food again (salads, grapes, apples with peanut butter, oh my!).
  • I engaged in risky behavior and went to a bookstore (I’m supposed to limit my contact with the public, and had to wear a mask and gloves to stay as safe as possible from unwanted germs. It was my first-time shopping since September.).
  • I summoned the courage to ask a friend about training therapy dogs (a future goal of mine).
  • Seth and I visited my family and our boys (Wallace the Wonderful and Alderaan)

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You don’t realize how much you miss places, people, food, and cats—until they’re temporarily taken away from you. If I have learned anything from this particular cancer journey, it’s to try to never take life for granted. Try not to obsess and/or worry about circumstances you can’t control. Just breathe. Just love. Savor those special moments with your loved ones.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for continuing to send light and love. You have given me the strength to endure this treatment. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Protective Service, Courtesy of Wallace and Alderaan

Selfie with Aldie

Well, Dear Readers, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything here.

I have an excuse: Radiation Therapy.

I am grateful for the nine, exceedingly quick sessions of radiation—not only because I am hoping that is has killed what remains of the tumor in my spinal cord, but because it has given me some peace of mind regarding the radiation scheduled to take place in Boston. Although there is a huge difference between localized radiation and total body irradiation (which I will receive in Boston), I feel a little more prepared now. I know what the machine sounds like. I know what radiation itself feels like.

Am I still frightened? Yes. Very much so.

As the days march onward and September 15th (my new admission date) creeps ever closer, it gets increasingly difficult to sleep. I have been waking up at ridiculous hours—3am, 4am. 5am is now sleeping in for me.

Wallace

I spent this past Saturday night at my parents’ house. I think my boys—Wallace the Wonderful and Alderaan—could tell that something was on my mind. Around 3 am, Aldie claimed the foot of the bed. Around 5:20am, Wallace jumped up by my pillow. My boys surrounded me, as if guarding me from all the nightmares that regularly visit me.

Naptime

Why is this important? Cats jump up on beds all of the time; why would this night be any different than other nights? As the date of the transplant approaches, I realize that I still need strength. I need to know that protection is nearby. I need to be reminded that support is easily found…if only one looks for it.

Dear Readers, please keep my family, Seth and I in your thoughts and prayers. Please keep the light and love coming. This has not been an easy journey nor has it been short. Please hang in there with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.