Friday, May 20, 2011

Life Lessons

I've mentioned before on this blog and also on my Facebook account about my dear friend, Anne, who is suffering from brain cancer.

She underwent major brain surgery a few weeks ago, and although she is home now and under the excellent care of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, her doctors give her a time frame of around two years.

Despite our age difference (I'll be 29 and Anne will be 83), I never had a closer friend and confidant than I have had these 13 or so years with Anne.  I'm naturally an old soul (some would say an old fart) and she is very much a perpetual young soul.. so the age difference balanced out well. 

She has always been an example to me to not let life's obstacles beat you.. but to keep charging full speed ahead.. a life lesson I still have yet to learn.  Despite being slowed by the cancer, the radiation and the chemo... she may have slown down, but she is still charging ahead. I admire her for her courage and her strength - not only in dealing with her own illness, but in caring for her husband who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. 

I spoke briefly with her this evening before her next chemo treatment and she told me that she is now looking into assisted living apartments.  "Did you ever think you would hear ME talking about assisted living?"  No.. it's true, I never imagined this outcome for a woman so full of life and vitality, but I told her this decision proves her intelligence and bravery... to which she replied, "you calling me intelligent is something I never thought I would hear YOU talking about!"

It's so easy for us (and I certainly lump myself into this category) to wallow in self pity.. asking "why me?".  While it's healthy to feel the emotions we have while we receive them.. to grieve and feel the pain or despair.. it's too easy to stay in that despair and let it consume us.  Anne is accepting the inevitable.. as she always has.. and looking to see how she can keep moving forward.. even if it means big changes.

She has taught me a great many things about life during our friendship... sometimes just by being a sounding board for me to work out problems on my own.  I'd like to think I taught her a thing or two as well over the years... and even she admits I have corrupted her a bit (she was such a nice "old" lady when I met her!).  Now I have come to realize the very brutal reality that now she is teaching me to die.  We don't discuss things like "life expectancy" or "how long she has"... we just talk about what needs to be done in life now.. and how to best accomplish those tasks.

She keeps telling me the punch line of an old joke.. that she doesn't want to go to her grave in pristine condition, but sliding into the grave bruised and worn out exclaiming: "Damn! What a ride!"

I ask all of you out there to continue to keep Anne in your thoughts and prayers. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bring flowers of the rarest - bring blossoms the fairest...

The month of May is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Mother.  When I was a kid in Catholic school, I fondly remember the May Crowning processions in which a chosen student would place a crown of flowers upon the head of the Church's statue of Mary... and other students would place flowers near the statue in her honor.  When I would come home from school, I'd make my own "May altar" which consisted of a bust of Mary that I had - which I would crown with a paper crown - and two or three carnation flowers I'd buy from the local 7-11.

Every May I think of my yearly trek to the 7-11.. which is now a used car dealership.  I would be so proud to ride my bike and purchase flowers for Mary with my own money.  Where I got the money I don't recall.. since I always did this in secret.  Some how, I can't imagine Mom giving me the okay to spend money on flowers.

It is for this reason that I think carnations have always been my favorite flower.  I love them - their very scent brings such happy memories. 

This year, as I have done since I was a kid, I went and bought Mary some carnations.  I went to Wegman's on the way home from work and picked up a small bouquet.  When I do this, I not only like to honor my heavenly mother, but I try to remember and recapture some of the simple faith I had as a child.  Too often as an adult I am obsessed with over thinking everything. 

Once while dating my first boyfriend.. we got in a big fight.  He was wrong (naturally hahaha!) and thought he could win me over with flowers (something he knew I loved but never once bought for me).  He came home one day with a single carnation.  I remember thinking, "who buys ONE carnation?".  They are the cheapest flowers at the flower shop.  While I liked the flower, it didn't get him out of hot water.

As I placed the flowers next to my statue of Mary I asked: "Since I'm giving YOU flowers, would you send me a guy who will bring ME flowers?"  We'll see what her response is.  :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Achy Breaky Heart

I had a very creepy start to the day.  There I was, minding my own business with my ass in a chair, waiting for the water in the kettle to boil so I could have a jumbo cup of tea before work.  Out of no where, it felt as if someone was squeezing my heart... a pain that radiated to my back.

I am no stranger to back pain.. having had bad flair-ups of "sciatica" (a term I feel doctors use when they have no idea the exact problem with your lower back).  This was similar, only it now involved my heart.

"Am I having a heart attack or did I simply pull something??" -- I made my way to the phone and called my Dad.  I knew he was probably out on his walk, but figured I could get his opinion over the phone.  He at least has had some emergency response training and has also lived through a heart attack.  No answer.  Ugh.. so much for the convenience of cell phones!

The tightening in my chest was so bad I couldn't make the stairs on my own.  I grabbed a near by walking stick (aka my pimp cane) to help me up the stairs.  I don't know how I made it to the top, but I did.  I stood there, leaning on my walking stick, unable to move.  In the loudest voice I could muster, I got my Mom's attention and managed to sit in a chair.

It was a scary feeling to say the least.  The pain is one thing, but the thought of a heart attack is quite another.  Mom wanted to call the ambulance.. I said no.  I hadn't even showered yet.  I wasn't going any where!  There was no pain in my jaw or in my arm -- I took two aspirin to be on the safe side.

Still not being able to get a hold of Dad, Mom made me promise to stay put while she took a quick shower in case I did decide to go to the hospital.  Never being one to follow sound advice, I seriously debated making my way back downstairs to shower and get dressed while Mom wasn't around.  If I wasn't going to the hospital, I had to leave for work in a half hour!  Decisions - decisions.

Just as I thought the pain was going away, it flared up again and I decided not to risk moving.  After about 20 minutes the pain subsided enough that I could shower and get ready for work.

I am now convinced it was all just some sort of muscle spasm caused from the exercising I have been doing lately.  I felt fine all through work, just have a slight soreness in my chest.. like if you've ever had a bruise after hitting something -- not painful per say.. but enough to remind you it's there.

After all this drama, I was only 5 minutes late to work.  I rock!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beatifcation of John Paul II

The Church has just beatified the late Pope John Paul II of blessed memory... taking him one step closer along the official path to sainthood.  So what do we see in the media?  Constant news reports of sex abuse scandals -- just like we saw during Holy Week.  The media is always looking to trash Catholics.. and always seems to do so during our most solemn occasions.

Whether you are Catholic or not, one cannot deny the positive impact that John Paul II had upon the world - his support of life and his tireless effort to end communism in Europe.  Though we may disagree with some things he did (show me a person you agree with 100% on all issues!), we cannot disagree on his unending devotion to Christ and His Church... his personal holiness and conviction.

Though he is not yet a saint.. he is one step closer in the tedious examination process that makes one a saint.  Part of the reason for the quickness of this process so far is that many of the people in charge of examining the life of John Paul II in the Vatican offices knew the man well and can attest first hand to his holiness.

What is a Saint anyway?  Why are saints important?  My unofficial and personal answer is that a saint is someone who is still used to do Christ's will even after their deaths.  Our Lord has always used others as vehicles to deliver His messages and graces to man kind (such as the angels in scripture) - and still makes use of individuals whom He uses as example to others of holiness and Christian charity/love.

"We love you, John Paul II!"