“Post-it notes of greatness in the file of f-ing miserable.”

date pic

Facebook memories popped this up on my time line last week.  Two Marches ago.  Night before chemo #5.  Joel and I went on a date.  I put on a dress, big earrings, and slapped on a hat and we headed out the door.  I ordered a glass of wine and had a delicious piece of trout.  Joel and I talked about cancer for a little bit, but mostly we talked about our kids, our travel dreams, our jobs, and what we were grateful for.  It was a wonderful night.  Like one of the best.  Smack dab in the middle of the lowest points of our lives, we had a series of magical moments strung together like pearls on yarn.  Seeing this picture brought it all back.  I was happy that night.  Not take-a-deep-breath-and-force-a-smile-happy, but real to-the-bone-happy.

Important to remember.  I’ve lumped most of November-May of 2015 into the “fucking miserable” file, but there were some post-it notes of greatness in there.  And I don’t want to forget them.

None of us gets out of this journey unscathed.  We will all face loss and tragedy.  But the lows of the bottom will be matched by the highs at the top.   Spring will follow winter and night will always fade to day.  This is a guarantee woven into the fabric of our universe.  And even when we are at the bottom, if we look hard enough we will see the flickers of hope.

The morning after this date I got the news that I couldn’t have chemo #5.  My blood counts were too low.  My body was too weak to knock it down with another infusion.  I was beyond upset.  My sister-in-law had already left her family to travel to St. Louis to help care for our kids, we had dinners lined up, I had taken sick days at work . . . everything was set for the aftermath of chemo #5, and now I couldn’t get it.  I remember saying the only thing worse than getting chemo is not getting chemo when you need it.  I was terrified that the cancer cells would reorganize during the chemo break and take me down again. I was so angry.  (Like crazy, scary angry).

At some point I went to Whole Foods to get more Turkey Tail mushrooms (a supplement believed to help white blood cell counts), and I saw a magnet that said: “If you are going through hell. . . keep going.” And then another that said, “In the end it will all be okay, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”  I remember breathing.  I remember my fists un-clenching just a bit.  These cheesy slogans were speaking to me.  They were saying: keep going . . . it’s going to be okay.

Two Marches later I am home from a week in sunny Florida.  I read on the beach, laughed at poop jokes with my kids, wore a swimsuit that covered my scars, spotted dolphins, drank coconut martinis, played football in the sand, kissed my husband during the sunset, and found myself bubbling up with happiness.

So my friends . . . if you are going through hell — keep going.  It’s going to be okay.  Hold on tight, look for the post-it notes of greatness in the file of “fucking miserable” and survive.  You’ve got this.

Izzy.

izzy

My dad never wanted us to get a puppy.  He said he didn’t really like puppies.  He wouldn’t even hold Izzy when we brought her home 15 years ago.  She was just a tiny black and white fluff ball and the rest of the family couldn’t keep our hands off of her, but my dad thought we were crazy for getting a puppy and had no interest in her cuteness.

But soon enough Izzy worked her magic on him and he had an instant best friend.  It’s easy to love my dad.  He is silly, and kind and makes you feel okay about the world when it disappoints you.  He has a magic about him that makes people feel at ease, and a trustworthiness that makes it feel okay to share your story.  He is a natural born therapist.

And Izzy was easy to love, too.  She had a such a calm spirit about her, and seemed content just sharing space with you.  She fiercely loved being outside, and when she was young she served as an excellent hiking, camping, and canoeing buddy.  She licked faces, cleaned up under-the-table crumbs, was gentle with babies, and loved looking out windows and lying in the sun.

We all loved Izzy, but my dad loved her the most.  He talked to her, walked at night with her, and while at my parent’s house I would often turn a corner and find him lying on the floor next to her asleep.

Whenever it was my duty to watch her, I would get strict notes about how many times to walk her, how many cookies to give her, and how much time I should spend petting her.  This last weekend while my parents went to Chicago, Izzy had to stay at our house.  She could no longer walk down steps, so my dad built her a ramp.  A very well-constructed ramp complete with side railings and carpet so she wouldn’t slip.  That’s that kind of guy my dad is.  And that is how much he loved Izzy.

So when I had to tell him that I thought it was time to put her to sleep, it wasn’t easy.

But it was time.

We said goodbye to Izzy today.  And saying goodbye is hard.  And I am sad because I loved that dog.  And I am sad because our whole family loved that dog, and now there is an Izzy-sized hole.  And I am sad for my dad.  Because he had a special bond with that dog.  A special connection that I know will be sorely missed.

She was a really good doggie.