Dear Cancer: Get Lost and Stay Lost. Sincerely, Her Daughter.

Today, my Mom sets off on a journey new to her, familiar to many: chemo. We spent the weekend with her and Dad in California, and despite the circumstances, we all had a wonderful time.

Our family has been consumed with the development of her cancer since the last week of October, two weeks before we moved back to Arizona. Since then, in the midst of boxes and unpacking and getting our residential affairs in order and job-searching and holidays, time has speedily hustled us up to this moment, because that is what time does. It moves us forward.

This is actually Mom’s second go-round with cancer, but she didn’t have chemo the first time. What’s happening now was not supposed to happen. The daily Tamoxifen therapy she’d diligently followed after her first surgery proved ineffective… the cancer came back, and this time, it’s different. It’s HER2+. Aggressive cancers need aggressive treatment, so we’re looking at a year of all-out war, all told.

I haven’t talked about this here yet (and I wasn’t sure that I would) because the audaciousness of it simply defies words. The whole thing has been rather bewildering. It’s devastating and scary when it happens to friends and relatives, but to someone in my immediate family? That’s when it exits the realm of thinkability, leaves us looking at it, agape and aghast, from another dimension. This thing, this cancer, it’s like an obnoxious, uninvited dinner guest who just kind of showed up and sat down at the table, elbowing itself forcibly between all of us at once, making space where there wasn’t any to be had. It’s installed itself there like a fifth member of the family, and it’s demanding to be fed. Its hunger is voracious, and it’s rapidly grabbing for whatever it can get its filthy, greedy hands on.

Sure. We’ll feed you. Enjoy your chemo cocktail. And Herceptin. And radiation. AND SO ON. WE WILL NOT STOP FEEDING YOU UNTIL YOU COME APART AND CEASE TO EXIST. AND THEN WE WILL FEED YOU SOME MORE.

We’ll feed it, alright.

Today, the doctors will start slipping poison to the intruder.

Unfortunately, the poison will affect Mom as well as the intruder. I preemptively wrapped her up in a fuzzy warm robe and socks and slippers and a hat, because the Bay Area’s winter chill will increase as her treatment progresses, and she’s tiny. Her armor. Soft armor for a strong woman. She’s still good-naturedly running around accomplishing twenty things at once with her characteristic efficiency; she’s as indefatigable as ever. Callaghan and I couldn’t get her to just sit while we did things. That’s where Dad comes in… Dad is another weapon in her arsenal, maybe the most important one.

She’s well-armed, and that’s reassuring. An abundance of love and lots of prayers from family and friends. A lively sense of humor, a great attitude and a great deal of fortitude. The way I see it, the intruder has no chance. It’s outnumbered.

 

Flying home to Phoenix over southern California

Flying home to Phoenix over southern California

When Barley Knocks, We Answer the Door

Why hello! It’s Thursday! It’s not Wednesday, nor is it Friday. I’m posting here today because we’re off to California again – flying this time – and I’ll mostly be off-line until Monday (“mostly off-line” meaning I’ll likely check in on Facebook to wish friends happy birthdays, but I’ll be scarce other than that).

This last week saw the end of an apparent cold snap through the relentlessly brilliant, bright blue sky, chilling the apartment just enough to result in two well-furred kitties for winter. Ronnie James and Nounours are all puffed up and ready to go.

 

Winter-coat-wrapped kitties are well-ROUNDed kitties.

Winter-coat-wrapped kitties are well-ROUNDed kitties.

 

Speaking of furbabies… two weeks ago, I was leaving a message on a friend’s voice mail when I was comically distracted by some fuss at the door. It started with a scratching, bumping sound, but the commotion really started when Callaghan opened the door and a German Sheppard practically spilled inside! Our door excited him somehow, and his Mommy was there (they live across the way… we share the stairs with them), introducing us. His name is Barley.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that “Barley” is just about the cutest name for a German Sheppard that I’ve ever heard. I wish you could meet this dog. He’s a funny, adorable, lovable sweetheart, is what he is.

Barley. I’m thinking of him now because he’s currently alone over there, and I can hear him barking. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it does make me want to go play with him.

What’s the cutest name for a dog you’ve ever heard?

Thanksgiving in California – The Real Thanksgiving!

So, that little stealth mission I’d mentioned in my last post?

On Thursday afternoon, we spontaneously decided to join Mom and Dad in northern California for Thanksgiving. We hit the road at 11:00PM, arrived the next morning (the drive is 10-11 hours) and spent a fantastic weekend with them. It was especially great when my brother and nephew showed up! Thanksgiving on Friday felt so much like the real Thanksgiving that all day Saturday, I thought it was Friday. There’s nothing like family. It had been three years since I’d visited mine in California, so that trip was a long time coming.

We left for Arizona yesterday morning and got home after dark. I thought I’d share a few road trip pictures:

 

Passing a southern California wind farm.

Passing a southern California wind farm.

 

We crossed the Arizona border late in the day, just before dusk. The state of Arizona turned 100 last year, and the centennial signs are still up.

We crossed the Arizona border late in the day, just before dusk. The state of Arizona turned 100 last year, and the centennial signs are still up.

 

You know you're in AZ when you start seeing these helpful DUI prevention signs on the highway... "Drive Hammered. Get Nailed." Oh, Arizona! haha

You know you’re in AZ when you start seeing these helpful DUI prevention signs on the highway… “Drive Hammered. Get Nailed.” Oh, Arizona! haha

 

Another telltale sign: saguaros, particularly when silhouetted against a blazing sunset.

Another telltale sign: saguaros, particularly when silhouetted against a blazing sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

An Idyllic Fall Weekend in the Country with Family

Somewhere north of Dallas, about four-and-a-half hours away from here, there’s an A-frame house nestled on the side of a country road, surrounded by sycamore, pecan and walnut trees. Inside live my cousin and her husband. Their three grown kids have headed out to their respective urban pastures, but the kids’ personalities bound throughout the home with so much liveliness, you’d think they still live there! And that’s wonderful, because Callaghan and I missed them when we went up to spend the weekend.

 

We spent a perfect fall weekend with my cousins at their home in the country just north of Dallas.

We spent a perfect fall weekend with my cousins at their home in the country just north of Dallas.

 

So that is where we went when we took off early on Saturday morning, and where we stayed until late Sunday afternoon, and that is why this post is a day late – because of all the pictures! I took over 200, and it was revealed after the fact that somehow, the image file size setting in my camera had gotten bumped up to 16mgs, which made re-sizing them rather time-consuming. Add to that the usual selection process and some errands to run, and, well, here we are on Tuesday with Monday’s post. (Sorry about that.)

In addition to re-connecting with my cousins, the weekend involved fossil-hunting in their creek-bed (there’s a creek and a bridge on their property), a go-kart spin on their road, a visit to Ray Roberts Lake, a visit to my cousin’s daughter’s house (which was excellent, because we got to meet their new son-in-law, though their daughter couldn’t be there), and a visit to the University of North Texas, where my cousin’s husband works.  Most importantly, there was lots of conversation over great food. (Note to Self: ask cousin for the recipe for her delicious vegetable curry!) It all made for an interesting and fun and totally unique time that we wished could have gone on longer. We hope it isn’t too long before we can see them again.

With that, here’s a slew of photos, which fail to convey the splendid and unexpected fall magic that is fossil-hunting in northern Texas. Imagine going apple-picking for the rarest of apples in a privately-owned orchard! Honestly, though, I think the company we were in had everything to do with the marvelous time we had. There is nothing like family.

 

Fall is lovely in the country north of Dallas. This is my cousins' bridge. The creek lies beneath.

Fall is lovely in the country north of Dallas. This is my cousins’ bridge. The creek lies beneath.

 

 

A fossil amongst the fallen leaves in the creek-bed

A fossil amongst the fallen leaves in the creek-bed

 

 

Look what we found!

Look what we found!

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Turning the bend

Turning the bend

 

 

A perfect little fossilized shell!

A perfect little fossilized shell!

 

 

I can smell the fragrance of the country fall air just looking at this picture.

I can smell the fragrance of the country fall air just looking at this picture.

 

 

Stories in the stones

Stories in the stones

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

The part of the creek that had water in it in spite of the drought....

The part of the creek that had water in it in spite of the drought….

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

In the creek-bed

In the creek-bed

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Fossil finds

Fossil finds

 

 

Callaghan and me (with an ancient snail)

Callaghan and me (with an ancient snail)

 

 

Hidden corners...

Hidden corners…

 

 

The treasures we found!

The treasures we found!

 

 

Our collected fossils

Our collected fossils

 

Saturday night…

 

The Christmas lights they leave up year-round make the place even more magical!

The Christmas lights they leave up year-round make the place even more magical!

 

 

A little décor near the front door. LOVE IT.

A little décor near the front door. LOVE IT.

 

Sunday morning…

 

Callaghan on the go-kart!

Callaghan on the go-kart!

 

 

My turn

My turn

 

 

Pile on!

Pile on!

 

 

The four of us

The four of us

 

And in the afternoon:

 

Overlooking the beach at Ray Roberts Lake

Overlooking the beach at Ray Roberts Lake