Starting now

My Dad loves to drive.  Even now at 86 years old and just weeks after having a knee replacement, he is back behind the wheel.  He has always liked driving, but as he grew older and past retirement age, his actions behind the wheel seemed to get more aggressive, and he appeared to take more risks.  Thus, he would spin out of the driveway, accelerate down the street full bore, only to meet the stop sign (that had been there for dozens of years) 15 houses down with a big slam of the brakes, then off again full speed.  If you had been relegated to the back seat, as I was during my annual visits to spend time with them, this resulted in being thrown back in the seat on acceleration, only to bounce forward at every braking – often leaving me feeling greenish around the gills from all the lurching.  This also coincided with a stage in my Mum’s Alzheimer’s Disease that left her restless and agitated.  The only thing that calmed her down was…… going for a drive in the car.  She would stand by the front door, pacing up and down on the spot until we were in the car for yet another drive.  So, much of my visits were spent lurching  here and there, with Mum content in the front seat, Dad enjoying himself driving like a rally driver and me nearly needing a bucket in the back seat.  It often felt like we were sailing through intersections leaving a trail of hooting horns and possible destruction, as Dad defied the laws of traffic and common sense.  This was confirmed to me when one of my adult sons was with us, and crawled from the car looking decidedly ill and stuttering…”but, but, but…”.

Now this could have been a time of fear for me, but I had to make a decision.  Live in fear at least three times a day while driving with my Dad, or putting my trust in my Heavenly Father.  And that is what I did.  I am confident that my times are in His hands – and His hands are big enough to hold me safe.  Once I made my mind up on that – I didn’t have to fear my Dad’s driving.  I can’t say I ever really enjoyed it that much, but the fear was gone.

And now, it is time to bring that thought back to mind – my times are in His hands.

The chemo I have been taking for the last 3 months is not working and has had some very rugged side effects.  It is no longer an option to continue.                                  My lovely Oncologist has made it clear our options for further medical treatment are at an end.

So what can I do, but put my trust in Him who made me and knows me inside and out and who knows – my times are in His hands.  Now this doesn’t mean I am about to fall off the perch tomorrow – but we are looking at months rather than years.  And I have every intention of enjoying each day that I have, and seeking to be a blessing to those around me.  I have much to be grateful for – I am fairly comfortable, have good care and am surrounded by people who love me.  So we are good, and ready to keep on living right to the end.  Starting now!

Bad hair days and avocados

Well, it’s been way too long since I have posted here – but I’mm baaack! So what’s been happening?  So glad you asked.  Sit down and let me tell you what I have been up to:

  • A month or so ago I went on a quilting retreat with some of my old sewing friends from my time on Mt Tamborine.  Twenty crazy crafters got together in Boonah in the lovely scenic rim of outer Brisbane.  A delightful, relaxed time full of lovely home cooked food, lots of chatter and laughter and lots of creativity zooming through the comfortable campsite.  Every need catered for, and so nice to catch up with good friends. A wonderful get away from my usual outings to dotors and hospitals.
  • I have had a progression in the growth of tumours in the liver. this has stressed the digestive system, making it difficult to eat or retain much food or fluid.  The outcome was two trips to th Emergency Department for rehydration,and lots more medication to try and settle things.
  • I have also begun a new chemotherapy regime. I now have a three week cycle that goes like this :  Day1 Carboplatin and Gemcitabine, Day 8 Gemcitabine, Day 15 off, and start again.  It, along with the effects of the tumour growth have made for a fairly lousy few weeks – especially when the chemo knocked most of my blood components down to critical levels.  A blood transfusion has helped with that, and I no longer feel like I am swimming through treacle to get from one room to the next.  To all blood donors out there – I thank you.
  • If blood tests after this second cycle do not show marked improvement, the regime will probably be stopped and reviewed for further options.
  • Two weeks ago we lost a dear friend, John from Tamborine Mountain, in a tragic  accident at his home.  HIs wife Gloria, (who was one of our crazy quilters on our weekend away) was with him as he passed away, crushed beneath the bus he was working on.  John was a genuine mate to many, and although always busy, was ever willing to go out of his way to help anyone who needed it.  I have always said he had a heart as big as Australia.  He will be missed by many and  our hearts are sad.
  • Although I wasn’t in peak form, we were able to go to the Mountain for John’s Memorial Service.  It was a sad time, but also lovely to catch up with special friends. And sitting on the deck on a beautiful, sunny winter’s morning, overlooking the Gold Coast and enjoying fresh avocados on toast for breakfast with dear friends wasn’t hard to take either.
  • With the progression of disease has come a whiter shade of pale. I daren’t sit on our cream lounge without wearing bright colors or at least lipstick, because I blend right in and may get sat upon. My hair has come back very white, so I have a somewhat insipid appearance (with just a tinge of yellow) – but at least I have hair now. Believe it or not, I even had a bad hair day yesterday!  Who would have thought that was such cause for glee?
  • I have made my 3 minutes of fame on a radio broadcast on ABC Radio‘s Encounter Program.  The whole program is about “The Power of Vulnerability”, based on the research of Dr Brene Bown. It is an hour long show, but I appear at about the 25 minute mark, and the link can be found on the Radio National Website.

So that is what I have been up to.  And what have I learned in this time?  It’s an old tale, but I know it is true – people and connection is what is important in life.  Enjoy each day and tell people that you care. Know, too, that God cares and I can truly say – He is and ever present help in times of trouble.                                                                                                                                            Oh, and enjoy the bad hair days – at least you have hair!

It’s a big thing for me. It’s time

It’s a big thing for me. It’s time to renew my Nursing Registration. I have been a registered nurse for 36 years now, and have loved caring for and helping people.

I had eight years off to care for my littlies, but apart from that I have worked as nurse for all those years.  Aged care work was convenient when my boys were very young. I could get the hours that suited, so that their Daddy could take over care when I headed out the door. ( They will never forget the endless fish fingers that featured on the menu far too often when I worked in the evenings.)

For one whole year I worked night duty every weekend.  That bought us a second hand people mover which meant we could easily transport the basketball team, and the foster kids in comfort.

A move interstate found me working as  “Associate Charge Nurse” in a small but vital country hospital.  I was again able to work hours that suited the family, and we were all able to ride bikes to work and school.  We all loved living in the country and the wonderful experiences that come with it.  Yabby fishing in the dam, spotlighting for rabbits at night, learning to drive the ute on the properties, and exploring the Wimmera region.

Jobs and life have a habit of changing, and led us to our first home in Queensland.  Brisbane gave me an opportunity to work within the field of disability services.  I  became part of a small team providing respite for children and young adults with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours.  The term “challenging behaviours” is very appropriate and led to some interesting and often embarrassing incidents.  We were a close knit team of 5, and loved our clients.  We were able to chuckle about the time Elspeth swam out to the depths of the sea and dog paddled for hours.  Nothing could entice her back, and she nearly drowned her “rescuers”. Only after her Dad’s wallet and watch had been swallowed by the tide (reinforcements had been called for), and our team members had missed the last ferry from the island where Elspeth resided, did a bribe with icecream lure her back to shore.  Another time, Edwin – a tall and gangly 17 year old – fell in love with a salesman at the shopping mall.  He gave him a big hug, and refused to let go.  The salesman spent the next hour in Edwin’s fond embrace – all the time yelling “I’m not scared. It’s fine”  He finally had to come with us back to the car before Edwin let go of him, and consented to move on.  Lots of challenging, fun times. Definitely easier when you could say goodbye to the challenges at the end of the day.  The families do not have this option,  for them, these are daily occurences and not at all funny. They suffer much.

One year later, my husband bought a pharmacy in Far North Queensland, 1700km north of Brisbane.  For 11 years, I worked beside him – using my nursing skills to provide diabetic education, wound care advice and general help in the Pharmacy.  We loved serving the people of Innisfail and had the motto “More than medicine”.  Our customers became friends and we enjoyed our years there.

On selling the shop, we moved south to the beautiful township of Mt Tamborine.  It is a lovely place to live and I was privileged to work at the local Medical Centre.  We had a great team there with 8 doctors, 5 nurses and lots of wonderful admin staff.  As the nearest hospital was 35km away, anything could and would walk in the door.  As well as general vaccinations and daily dressings, we saw lots of emergencies. Anything from snakebite to chainsaw accidents.  Lots of chest pains, anaphylactic reactions and even, once, a stabbing.  (remember Lynne, the two hours it took us to clean up all the blood, that had sprayed over every item in our large treatment room?)  The work was interesting, and I loved every day.

After 5 years, my husband took a position at Rockhampton Hospital.  I was also able to get  work there in the Day Surgery Unit.  I enjoyed being back in a hospital and had some lovely people to work with.

And then came my diagnosis – Cancer.  First I needed 6 months off to undergo surgery and aggressive treatment.  Then my doctor told me another 6 months to recover.  But things got worse instead of better, and I now realise that I am not able to get back to nursing.   I was able to renew my registration last year, but now….. it is time to let go.

It has been a wonderful career, and I have loved caring for folk and working with wonderful people in many and varied settings.  I am sad to be putting it behind me, but am grateful for the special people and great memories it has given me.  I am blessed.

A lily

I remember the first time I realized I am a cancer patient.  I was at the Royal Brisbane Hospital, and had to find my way to the Oncology Services.  As I walked underneath the sign pointing the way, it hit me – I was an oncology patient.  I didn’t really feel any different from the day before, and my looks had not altered.  Yet, tears flowed as I waked along the long corridors towards the treatment rooms for my appointment.  I had cancer.

What makes a cancer patient different from anyone else?  If you walked into any oncology waiting room in any hospital, you will see many and varied people.  Some will look sick and have various stages of hairloss.  Others will look fitter than most of the general population.  You can not tell by looking.

One thing most will have in common – they have faced the reality that none of us will live forever.  It is confronting to face a life limiting illness.  As much as modern science has made many breakthroughs in the area of treatment, it has not conquered cancer.  I know the cancer in my body is not curable.  I am grateful that it has been held back by chemotherapy, but am aware that this is limited.  It’s something I have come to terms with.

It is a comfort to know that, although my ragged old body has taken a beating by this disease, it cannot affect my Spirit.  Yes, there is more to life than just this outer shell.  The real me – my personality, my inner being, will live on.   And knowing this brings peace.

Meanwhile, as the body gets weaker and more tired, I can still have joy.  I can laugh at my grandbabies funny antics and enjoy time spent with my precious family and lovely friends.               I have much to be grateful for.

I can’t claim to be a lily, but I love the words of Ben Jonson, who lived in the 16th century:

It is not growing like a tree

In bulk doth make men better be,

Or standing long an oak, three hundred year

To fall at last, dry, bald and sere;

A lily of a day

Is fairer far in May

Although it fall and die that night

It was the plant and flower of light.

In small proportion we just beauty see:

And in small measure, life may perfect be.

A mother’s heart

My husband had a very special mother.  Each morning she would raise the blind and wake him  with a freshly squeezed orange juice, then turn on the shower for him.                                                 He was twenty six at the time.

Hmmm….. he does’t get that any more.

If you are a mother, you will know – a mother’s love is all enduring, all encompassing and never ends.  There is nothing I would not do for my children.  From the day they came into this world I have cherished them and still do.

God is like that.  He says in Isiah 49:15,16 –

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?    Though she may forget, I will not forget you!   See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

We often talk of our Heavenly Father, but I think God also has a mother’s heart.

What does a caterpillar say?

My youngest son was a cutie. And as well as being the perfect baby (after two wriggly, go getters, it was nice to have a placid child in the family) he soon grew into a charming toddler with an enquiring mind.     Once he hit three, the questions started:

How many teeth does a snail have?

What does a caterpillar say?

How does the water know to come out of the tap when you want it?

From morning to night it was question after question.  One we never figured out an answer to – where DOES the itchy go when you scratch it?

Then, there were the questions about God:

If God is everywhere, is he in a bottle of tomato sauce?

Does God get itchy eyes from being under the sea?

If Jesus is in my heart, does he have to hang on so he doesn’t slip down my leg?

Now, I have a few questions about God too.

But, once I experienced His peace and love in my heart, the questions didn’t seem to matter so much.

Sometimes, especially in time of difficulty, God doesn’t give us answers – He gives us Himself.  And that is enough.

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