Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not Wasting Today's Grace on Tomorrow's What-if?

I was taking a bike ride last week with my dog, Heidi -- the German shepherd, in tow. I was a bit blue? depressed? sad? mournful? I couldn't quite find the word, but it wasn't normal.
The promise of spring!

Then the thought struck me, What if this is the new normal?

Several weeks prior, my wife found a lump in her left breast. Doctor's visits and diagnostic procedures kept getting progressively worse... but not terrible. The pre-op biopsy confirmed breast cancer: Stage 1a. A subsequent MRI showed that the tumor was slightly larger, upping the diagnosis to 2a. (A week later, post-surgery results indicated a more likely Stage 2b (over 2 cm with lymph node involvement) That's where we are at right now.

What-if's are rarely true. I've found that if I can imagine it, it's most likely never going to be that scenario. I read a helpful quote recently: "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future." -- Physicist Niels Bohr

When dealing with potentially life-threatening diseases, it's easiest to what-if in the negative, worst-case direction, but Leslie has done the opposite too: What if this whole ordeal serves as a gigantic wake-up call to better health, a better perspective, and a new and better future? She's already used it to improve several aspects of her life: mentally, emotionally, and relationship-ly. (Yeah, relationship-ly! It works for me.)

After considering "What-if this is the new normal?" I laughed. What-if I had to live life with a 10% mental/emotional cloud? Oh well.

But what-if's seldom come true. In reality, life eventually moves into a new, unanticipated "normal."

Little bits of color on the path.
My oldest daughter Joanna sat with me during Leslie's operation (lumpectomy and removal of lymph glands). We reminisced some of the daunting circumstances surrounding her mother's bout with pancreatic cancer a decade and a half ago. In the midst of that abnormal normal, we had some good times. We ate a lot of meals together. We went on vacations. She did school and sports. We lived life in what was "normal" for us. Looking back, they were extremely trying times, but most of the time, they just felt normal. Each of us in the family did what we had to do to make things work. And it did.

And it will this time too.

"Each day has enough trouble of its own." "His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness." Those two Bible verses helped me create my game plan. Just do today. Don't waste today's mercies (grace, enablement) on tomorrow's what-if's? Many days, we just made it through the day. Most days, we had some fun along the way. Some days were stormier than others, but we made it through to the end of each day. For most of that five and a half year fight with cancer, we didn't know if we'd win or lose, but we fought, one day at a time. Or one hour at a time when things were tough.

In these current circumstances, life still hasn't settled in to the new normal. Tomorrow we meet with the doctor to discuss the pathology reports that came out of the surgery's biopsies. After that, we'll have a better idea of what the new normal for our next stage of this journey might hold. I anticipate a series of new normals... winding roads ahead? That's my guess. So we'll go slow.

Dramatic lighting when looking up!
But for now... Leslie gave me a new name, "Donald Nightingale Evans Jr." That's my job for today. That's a job that I can do, given today's grace, I can be a care-giver.

I'll do my best not to waste today's grace on tomorrow's what-if's. Tomorrow comes with its own gift of grace to be what I need to be when I need to be it. Right now? I'm off to the drug store! Duty calls!

Stay Calm and Carry On my friends. (And thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and support. No one fights alone. And you've all let me know, we. are. not. alone.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring 2014: A Bend in the Road

It's been more than a year and a half since my last blog entry, but now I'm back.

So, what's changed? A bend in the road.

Before the Bend
Normal purposeful stress...

Summer before last, I wrote, "It's all a matter of balancing purposeful stress with  intentional rest which leads to positive personal adaptations.That's the plan. What really happens will be the inevitable dance that happens when plan meets life, but that's half the fun. That's what I call Navigating Through Life!" 

For a year and a half it's been a nice dance. It's been fun.

Last school year (2012/13) went well. All the challenges were in a nice range of do-able, with only the amount of stress that keeps things interesting. 

The summer was also excellent. My grand-kids are now near-by, just two blocks away, so we get to be involved with the Haan clan on a regular basis. My daughter and son-in-law are great parents, so their kids are a joy to be around. It was a good mix of fun, helping out, and being entertained. 

This school year (2013/14) has been excellent as well. Changes at work mean that I'm concentrating my efforts on fewer students. The other teachers miss my help with their under-performers, but district policy has focused my efforts. I've enjoyed the changes. My small groups are smaller, and I'm able to teach writing in a more holistic manner (Writer's Workshop). Lots of good things are happening in my classroom.

The Bend
Found this on a six mile walk... processing the news.

So, what changed? What's the bend in the road? Life is easier when the stresses are purposeful, intentional, and minor. Those can be fun, but it's the unplanned bad stuff that sometimes sucks. 

About five or six weeks ago my wife discovered a lump in her left breast. It turns out that what she felt was just a bit of benign, fibrous tissue, but under that lump lurked a small malignant tumor. And the road turned: breast cancer.

We've been on a journey new to us, but familiar to many. After about ten diagnostic procedures and doctor's visits, surgery (lumpectomy) happened last Thursday, two days ago. Now, my wife is recovering from the surgery. 

I have a new role: nurse and care-giver. I guess it's just a new part of what it means to be a good husband: become what is needed based on what happens when "plan meets life." 

Bends in the road impede vision. But mostly, they require a change in speed, a change in direction, and a new sense of alertness and flexibility. 

Thanks to family and friends... 
That's where I'm at. Part way through the bend. The road doesn't end, it just bends. So what am I doing? Feeding my faith and starving my fears. Taking it a day at a time. Listening to the travel guides (doctors). And trying my best to be a good travel partner to my wife, whose life is traveling down roads that she and I would never have chosen. (We both lost our first spouses to cancer a decade and a half ago.) 

I'm back to blogging because I have some things to muse over. I'm back because, ultimately, I write to figure out what I think about things. I write because I'm hoping that it helps me navigate these bends in the road. And I write to inform fellow travelers that they aren't alone either. 

I saw a pink bumper sticker not long ago that said, "No one fights alone." This is me, not fighting alone.