Nightingales and Chickadees

 

There is a crocus blooming beneath our apartment’s front window. Every time I see it, I find myself hoping that it is spring’s herald.

crocus

My scars, and my bones, need some warmth to chase away the ache of old wounds.

My spirits could use some sunshine to lift them up.

I’ve been relying on little things to elevate my mood. In recent days, I’ve found myself laughing as tiny bubbles float upwards from our kitchen sink, filled with dish soap. It reminds me of Disney’s cartoon version of Cinderella—when she was scrubbing her stepmother’s floor. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched the movie, but I believe it was at this point in the film that Cinderella started singing a song about the nightingale.

little things desk

Unlike Cinderella, it is the chickadees in the nearby cedar hedges that make me smile. Even though the sky is often cast in gray, and it’s cold out there, the chickadees welcome every morning with a cheerful tune. It gives me the courage to pack yet another box in preparation of our move.

Handling change—even positive change—productively and with ease, is not my forte.

We’re still hoping to close on the house by April 30th. I’m not sure if that will happen, but that’s the goal. I didn’t understand how involved (and stressful) the home-buying process was until we began it. I guess, maybe, most things in life are like that. We don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into until we’re in the thick of it.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me. I appreciate your presence here as well as your commentary. Please continue to send love and light.

 

With Love,

Laura

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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

Punxsutawney Phil is my B.F.F.

Sunshine pours through the windows. The sky is a brilliant shade of azure. This is the sort of afternoon wherein the promise of spring can be felt on the breeze. And, yet, here I am, just finishing a cup of hot cocoa. I’m securely wrapped up in blankets; feeling wintry. I think this is how the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, must feel every February when we wake him up. Disorientated. Disgruntled. No wonder why the little guy always seems to see his shadow—cursing us with yet another 6 weeks of winter.

I don’t think Phil is a spiteful groundhog. The poor guy is just trying to do his job.

I feel as though Phil and I in the same boat. Except, unlike Phil, my job isn’t to predict the weather. My job, in this current moment, is to heal. Today, healing looks like sitting on the couch and writing a blog post. Tomorrow, healing might consist of something completely different. The day after that—who knows?

magic

For now, though, I’m going to follow in Phil’s footsteps, curl up, and take a much-needed nap.

Please continue to send light and love, Dear Readers. It makes an enormous difference in our lives.

 

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

Valentine’s Day

forever ago

Caption: It sounds crazy, but it seems as though this picture was taken many lifetimes ago. At the time, I had longish hair. I didn’t know anything about bone marrow transplants. So why am I using such a dated photo? Simply because I think the hearts augment this post.

 

When I was younger, and single, I used to dread Valentine’s Day. The holiday served only to remind me that I didn’t have what everyone else seemed to have—a significant other.

Oh goodness, how times have changed!

When you hear someone say, “let love find you” or “love happens when you least expect it”—it’s true. I didn’t expect to fall so quickly for Seth. Little known fact: when Seth and I started dating, I was determined not to give my heart away. I was tired of having it broken. But Seth was different. He found my weak spot almost immediately: words.

He wrote incredibly beautiful messages to me. Just as significant, he has a gift for telling amusing stories (and, as a writer, I enjoy listening to such stories). He’s been a reliable and compassionate caregiver, forgiving me even for peeing on his shoes—twice—when I had cerebral edema.

Poor guy.

I am so, so grateful to have Seth in my life—to have his love. There is no doubt in my mind that he is my soulmate.

Since Valentine’s Day is this coming Wednesday, I also thought I would take a moment and thank YOU, Dear Readers, for following my blog. Your support and words of encouragement keep me going. Even when I’m suffering from writer’s block, knowing that there are 101 readers waiting for a blogpost, helps me to find the words that I need to share my story.

Please, Dear Readers, continue sending love and light. It truly makes a difference.

 

With Love,

Laura

“Think Happy Thoughts”

joy and books

(Caption: I did not buy “Ella Enchanted” at the book fair. I bought it at a used book store, but, considering it’s publication date, it may have been at my last book fair in Elementary School!)

 

Most of us are familiar with the Disney movie, Peter Pan. In order to fly, Pan’s friends must a) be sprinkled with pixie dust and, b) “think happy thoughts”. While I have no interest in flying, I do want to lead a positive and happy life. I would like joy to have a regular place in each of my days. As a pessimist, though, this often feels like an impossible task.

In addition to being a pessimist, I am also quite stubborn. Sometimes, I can’t tell if being stubborn is a strength or a fault. In this instance, however, I feel that my stubbornness is a strength. As difficult as being positive is for me, I’m too stubborn to give up on my goal of becoming an optimist (or, at the very least, a realist).

Huge change in perspective, right?

How do you go from being anxious 24/7 to looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses? For me, I think the transformation is going to require baby steps. I am going to have to crawl at times. In case someone else is attempting this enormous shift in thought patterns, here’s my big plan:

  1. Continue to keep my daily gratitude journal.
  2. Stay as active as I possibly can. Exercise releases endorphins, after all.
  3. Volunteer (I have a few ideas in mind).
  4. Discover what brings me joy and make it a habit.

Step Four is perhaps the most difficult step for me. Joy is something I rarely feel. At some point in my life, I became impervious to it. It was a lot easier to feel joy when I was a child—as I was recently reminded this past week.

Naps are not something I usually take, but damn this last Wednesday I was exhausted! As I sat on the couch, my eyelids grew heavy. I couldn’t fight it, so I curled up into a ball and pulled the blankets over my head. As I was drifting off, I started to think about a magazine that had arrived in the mail. The magazine featured books (mostly New Age titles). Now, as I hovered between consciousness and sleep, the magazine melded into the weekly book order forms that I used to receive in grade school. This thought then sparked my memory of the book fairs that took place in Elementary School.

A rush of pure joy awakened me.

I marveled at how I had so easily forgotten about the book fairs. I LOVED the book fairs! I have been a voracious reader my entire life and the book fair was always like a dream-come-true. So many monographs! Pretty bookmarks! Stylish pencils and erasers!

The best part of this memory/day dream? It changed my sour mood for the rest of the day. I was suddenly happy, excited. When an anxious thought tried to invade, I just blocked it with the memory of the book fair’s wheeled, metal cases.

Obviously, as an adult, I won’t be attending any book fairs in the near future. The memory of them, though, serves a purpose. They are a “happy thought”. They are a joyful memory that won’t help me to fly, but when called upon, can certainly help shift my worldview.

Positivity, here I come!

Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me. I hope the week ahead treats you all well. Your encouragement has meant the world to us. Please keep the light and love coming.

 

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

Christmas Day

 

cuddling

Above: Wallace and Alderaan caught cuddling. 

 

Let me preface this by saying that I’m really not complaining; I love winter. I am currently wrapped up in two blankets—and contemplating dragging a third one onto my lap. Or, I might just warm up with a cup of hot cocoa (topped off with whipped cream, because, why not?).

It amazes me how quickly Christmas seemed to arrive and, then, pass by. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the beginning of December. Where did it go? What was I doing? I expect this week to be just as hectic as last week was. And, that’s why, Dear Readers, I am going to leave sticky notes around the apartment to remind myself to:

breathe;

smile;

laugh;

and hold happy memories close.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of December. I hope you’re able to frolic in the snow. I hope you’re able to stay warm.

We’re back in Boston late this week for another check-up. Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love. Your kind thoughts and prayers make a difference.

 

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