Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Protect your privates

I think about my mom a lot in September.

doris-channelmarker-headshotI went to stay with her in September of 2000, not knowing how long she had, because she wanted to die at home instead of in a hospital, and I had told her I would help make that possible.

Also, September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The month of teal. Because not all women’s cancers are pink.

I take ovarian cancer very personally. So should you. How can a disease that starts by destroying your female balls, to use the blunt words of Dr. Christiane Northrup in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, not be personal?

Five years before that September, after nearly a year of general achiness, fatigue, and fevers that started with deep chilling and ended with drenching sweats within the space of a couple of hours, over and over again, Mom’s doctors could find no infection to explain what was going on. An immunologist thought it might be autoimmune and treated her for rheumatoid arthritis, which helped temporarily but then the symptoms roared back. (The treatment was methotrexate, which also happens to be a chemotherapy drug.)

So he sent her to the Mayo Clinic. There, they spotted some irregularities on her ovaries and scheduled her for surgery, which revealed stage 3 epithelial ovarian cancer throughout her abdomen. They removed — debulked — all the cancer cells that they could, plus both ovaries, her uterus, her spleen, and omentum. That’s the fatty pad on the front of your abdomen. (We learned a lot during those years.) After she recovered from the surgery, she started her first round of chemo.

Seven months later, back in Minneapolis in a snow storm, Mom had her second-look surgery to see if the chemo had had its intended effect. The doctors were satisfied and optimistic and declared her in remission, but she would need to have ongoing regular CA125 blood tests to watch for indications of recurrence.

Eventually the CA125 level rose dramatically. It was back. Over the next five years, Mom went through multiple rounds of different cocktails of chemo, with periods of varying length in between when the count was low again. Eventually the cancer ate a fissure between her bowel and vagina, which meant she learned how to live with a colostomy. Finally the chemo had weakened her so much and could give her so little hope of living longer that she said no more.She chose to live the rest of her days well and then when her time came, die peacefully. That’s when I went to stay with her. She died five months later.

Ovarian cancer is not as prevalent as breast cancer, but it is deadlier because early detection is so much harder. Ovaries can’t be examined from the outside, like breasts , and there is no screening test. (A PAP test checks for cervical cancer, not ovarian.) Researchers are working on that, because catching it early increases survival rate.protect-your-privates

In 2015, 21,290 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the US. In the same year, 14,180 women died from ovarian cancer. Once diagnosed, chances of living five years are 45.6%. (Source: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance) My mother made it past that mile-marker, and died 6 months later.

Subtle symptoms exist. According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, The most common are:

  • Bloating
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Pelvic or Abdominal pain
  • Feeling the need to urinate frequently
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual changes
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex

Obviously these can all be caused by other, more minor things. That’s why this disease is so sneaky.

If you experience any of these things more than usual for two weeks, call your doctor. You will notice my mom’s symptoms of achiness and spiking fevers are not on this list.   I suspect that earlier, more subtle symptoms had escaped notice, and this was her compromised immune system trying to fight back.

The lifetime risk for any woman to develop ovarian cancer is 1.4%. Mine is 5% because one of my first-degree relatives had it. Other genetic factors can increase the risk for other women. (Ovarian Cancer National Alliance) Besides genetics,  risk factors include:

  • Increasing age
  • Menopausal hormone replacement therapy
  • Obesity
  • Menstrual and reproductive history. Starting your periods before age 12, going through menopause after age 50, giving birth to no children or having your first child after age 30, or having never taken oral contraceptives all increase your risk of ovarian cancer.

I share this information to honor my mother but mostly because as women it’s important to tune into our bodies and participate actively in our own health. There are no guarantees against cancer, but with knowledge we can give ourselves a better chance.

The two links I’ve provided, to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, both have more information and resources, if you want more.

Here’s to our health.

I still miss you every day, Mom. I love you.

 

 

(This was originally published in error as a separate page two weeks ago.)

Notes along this journey:

I’m not made for the corporate life. I’m just not. Others are. I’m not. It’s a box I don’t fit into. Small organization, yes. Work for myself, yes. Freelance, yes. Just be, yes.

Job searches are so much about trying to fit into the corporate life. It’s a bit disorienting that way. When people ask me what kind of position I’m looking for, I need to figure out a better way to answer, a simple way to say I want to earn enough to support myself by being a writer and a maker and a mentor and a learner and a teacher and a simple living guru and a disciple and a disciple-maker. And not worry if anyone else thinks that sounds irresponsible. I’m very responsible.

I believe I am called to live in such a way that shows another way is possible. A personal way, yet a community-building way. An artisanal way. An intergenerational way. A simple way. An ancient way. A contemplative, spiritual way. A way that supports justice and participates in restoring shalom to our world.

I do not know if in that description there are ways to fully support myself. But if God calls me to it, God will make a way. I have been consumed with how to continue to make a living. After all, paying the bills is pretty necessary in our culture. But it’s had me bound. And that’s a sign of not trusting. I don’t want to be bound. I want to make a life. My life.

I have this vision of a house like Nonnatus House. If you are a fan of Call the Midwife, you know what that means. Maybe not a full blown convent, because maybe it could be co-ed. But a place where people who like each other enough to live together share expenses, thus easing income-pressure for everyone, and share common areas. Share life. Share vision. Share service. Neighbor with their neighbors.

I stand at the crossroads, and I’m looking hard. I ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, because that’s where I long to walk. There I will find rest for my soul. (Jeremiah 6:16)

God wants me to see the path, and I want to see it. So the way will open. On that I’ll rest.

Forward motion

I’ve been quite busy this past week for being unemployed.

Let me back up. One week ago yesterday was my last day at a job I’d had for just over a year. It was a good last day. We ended well.

The next day, the rest of my life started. I feel set free. I anticipate good things. I wake up ready to take steps toward the future and enjoy the day.

Day 1: I put my home work space in order to serve me better moving forward. Well, mostly. It’s only 10 x 8 and serves as both home office and sewing studio, while also containing my Hoosier kitchen with dishes and games, because it’s actually supposed to be a dining room. It’s a work in progress.

I began reworking my LinkedIn profile. It too is a work in progress.

At a networking event, I introduced myself as a tutor, writing coach, and fledgling business owner. When I said I make aprons incorporating vintage linens, two women shifted from talking business to sharing about their aprons, a grandmother’s apron, dishes left them by a relative, things that connect to human-heart yearnings. It confirmed to me that it’s not just about aprons.

Day 2: I drove an hour north to meet with Sandy, my partner in this fledgling business. (It’s my job to get our online presence set up. I’ll share here when it is.) She took home all the aprons I’ve made to begin photographing them. I got back just in time to go to lunch with a friend from my previous employment and then wander with her through a gift shop on South Pearl. Call it competitor research.

Sandy texted me about some photo staging props she’d found on Craigslist. After some texting and deal making, since I live closer to the sellers than she does, I hopped in the car again and picked up two posable mannequins — headless children — and brought them home in my trunk. A bit macabre, I know.

Day 3: My son, daughter-in-law, and I went to two farmers’ markets. After lunch I went to pick up our other Craigslist finds: a wooden standing rack with metal hooks and some nice wooden hangers. By this time my compact car was pretty full.

Day 4: Worship in the morning, zucchini bread baking in the afternoon, plus cutting out aprons, reading, movie watching, talking to my son on the phone. Oh, and cleaning my iron, because the bottom was sticky and I can’t sew without an iron. A YouTube search yielded instructions to clean a hot iron with an acetaminophen tablet held in pliers. Crazy. But it worked. (How-to here.)

Day 5: Labor Day. Lunch with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Then another meeting with Sandy 30 minutes north. We spent a long time camped out in Panera, discussing business, life, and hopes for both, after which we transferred the headless children and display rack into her SUV.

Day 6: Roberta, whom I had met at Day 1’s networking event, and I met for coffee/tea. She told me about other networking opportunities and suggested schools to contact about tutoring. Home again, I responded online to two students who had posted requests for tutors and applied for a job at a hospital. With book club later this week, I finished this month’s selection, One Summer, by Bill Bryson.

Day 7: First I contacted two high schools and a community college about tutoring services, then posted my availability on the college’s online bulletin board. Then a get-acquainted lunch with a woman from church. Leaving the restaurant, I made stops at Hobby Lobby and Office Depot, then the bank to ask about business versus personal accounts. After supper I talked to a friend, then finished one apron and started two more.

Trusting God means taking the steps God shows you to take. Moving onward.

Let’s see what today brings.

The Quest Continues

I moved here a year ago. I started a new job that I thought I would stay with for, say, four more years and then I could retire. I had it figured out.

But “it wasn’t a good fit,” as they say euphemistically when a job sucks the life out of you. I totally respect the organization, but this type of work, especially in this place, is no longer healthy for me. So I’ve resigned, effective at the end of August, without a next job lined up. #stepoffaith or #desperation.

When you’re burned out, you don’t look for the same kind of work that burned you out.Therefore my search now is as much about a change of direction as it is about finding new income.

I believe in calling. I also believe mine is changing.

I crave a whole life. Not compartmentalized. Shalom giving and growing, for myself, for those I love, for the world.

What needs to happen to get there?

First, a lot of prayer. Also, trying to tap into the resources God has made available to me.

I’m doing personal work with a career coach and a counselor, which involves homework. Meditative, thinking, feeling, writing homework.

I have books I want to read or reread and actually do the exploratory exercises they recommend. In case you’re interested, they are:

One thing Michelle, my career coach, is helping me with is the workup to an Etsy business. This involves a line-in-the-sand date by which to research, write a business plan, create more of the products that my friend and I want to sell, set up the account and all the social media marketing pages, and write an editorial calendar and some blog posts to get us started.

Pretty exciting, because my creativity wants really badly to come out and play.

But I also have to support myself in the process. And by support I mean both income and self-care. My days don’t seem to have enough hours to do it all, but taking a step or two every day toward my new life is part of supporting myself in both ways.

So what did I do today, this Sunday, this day of rest? I paid attention to my spiritual health. I bought some luscious peaches, ice cream bars, an avocado, and a gorgeous red pepper. I had some conversations with family members. I texted with a couple of friends. I worked the Chicago Tribune Sunday crossword. I watched an episode of The Gilmore Girls. I filled out a job application. I did laundry. I made notes on potential blog topics, which is part of homework. And here I am, writing this one.

Finishing this job well is important, but I am looking forward to being free of it so that I can move more fully forward, even if I can’t see all the steps yet.

Steps. Onward.

 

 

 

I need another bookcase.

Here are two, full.

bookshelves

Yes, they are in front of the fireplace. I never use the fireplace and consider it a waste of valuable space in this 699 sq. ft. apartment, so at least this way I regain a smidge of floor space in the living room.

I can hear some of you now, thinking, “If she would get rid of some of those books, she’d regain even more room.” Believe me, I got rid of lots of books as I downsized to move here. Maybe someday more can go, but not now. They are my friends. And actually I keep finding new friends. A hopeless case, I guess.

Back to bookshelves. These are not the only ones I have. But they’re all full.

The one tucked under the tiny bar in the kitchen holds cookbooks as well as glass jars with dry staples and some vintage mixing bowls.

The bedroom has three, one on each side of the bed plus another that is actually two old wooden crates, stacked. They hold kids’ books that belonged to all three of my children, my collection of French books, Bibles, my high school and college yearbooks, and other miscellaneous books.

The hallway — yes, the hallway — has one that holds books related to my  job and various work-related 3-ring binders, collateral, and office supplies. That way they’re all within easy reach of the table in the tiny dining area that serves as my home office, sewing room, and yes, dining space. Some day I can clean out the job-related stuff and gain back at least one shelf for books.

You will notice that I do not group my books by color. I tried that once. It lasted about two weeks. I couldn’t find anything. My books are not decorative accessories. I know them by name. I’ve read most of them and sometimes refer back to them. The rest are in the to-read queue. My friends belong near others with something in common: topic or genre or author.

Now if you look back up at that photo, you will also notice that besides the color thing, these are not staged-for-publication bookshelves. I didn’t pretty it up for you one bit. Because this is not a decorating blog. It’s a life process blog.

And my life is not primped and polished.

It’s still a rough draft.

And right there, I think I mixed my metaphors. But for now I’m okay with that. It’s my life that’s real.

 

 

I spoke at a breakfast Rotary Club meeting this morning. The club meets at a rec center about 30 miles from my house.

To get there I rose early, put on some confidence clothes — today a sleeveless LBD with a black/gray/white flowy scarfy cocoon thing over it, because it’s July and 90 degrees  was predicted but I’m a teeny bit self-conscious about the crepiness (not to be confused with creepiness) of my upper arms — and gave myself plenty of time to get there because you never know with Denver traffic. This is something I have continued to try to outsmart since moving here 11 months ago, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The traffic was not bad, the sun was up, it was a glorious summer morning. I found the place with only one missed turn. The rec center was off a main street in a fairly new development on ground that used to be Stapleton Airport before it was replaced by DIA.

Kudos to city planners for the way they have redeveloped that area into mixed use areas of retail, office, residential, and open space. (Except that like everywhere else in Denver, housing costs are through the roof, making it very difficult for lots of people, even if the area includes a few mixed income/affordable housing units.) This center was  on open space. Lovely day, like I said.

I went inside, met people I had only emailed with before, ate some fruit and a scone with my coffee, made some follow-up-worthy connections, and gave my talk. As I left, I passed the area devoted to stair-climber machines and treadmills. They were full.

I thought as I walked out into the fresh bright air, why would people pay membership fees, drive their cars however far, park and go into a building and exercise on these machines, when they could just take a walk down the lovely streets and on the trails set up for walking and running? This is Colorado, where it’s sunny, like, 300 days out of the year. People move here in droves for the gorgeous weather. And it was morning, so it wasn’t too hot yet.

What am I missing?

And then — and then — we have more people than ever being put on mega-doses of vitamin D by their physicians after they are deficient in that essential nutrient. Spending 30 minutes in the sun a day meets our daily requirements, or so I’ve been told. Look it up.

What I saw this morning is not peculiar to Colorado. You can go anywhere in America and observe the same thing. It’s a symptom of something. What would you name it?

As Brian Wilson said, “I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.”

 

 

Potato salad for breakfast? Why not? We order eggs and hash browns all the time when we eat out.

I made potato salad last night, and it was my supper, along with a bowl of blueberries, au naturel. A good portion of both, lest you think I’m wasting away here.

Actually, I’m not eating potato salad again for breakfast, but I thought about it before I remembered the leftover canned pumpkin in my refrigerator that need to get used up. So I made some pumpkin oatmeal various-flours bread, which is in the oven as I write. I can anticipate the potato salad for lunch.

In a pinch, in a hurry, I might buy potato salad from the supermarket deli. But I don’t like it as well. It’s usually too goopy for my taste, more like mayonnaise with some lumps of things in it.

I make potato salad like my grandma and mom made potato salad. No written recipe, which bothered me as a newlywed but doesn’t any more. Eventually you get it.potatoes eggs

Here’s what went into yesterday’s batch:

4 good-sized potatoes that I had found in the produce clearance bin at the supermarket about a week ago. Peeled, chopped into the size pieces I wanted for the salad, boiled in water until tender. More than once I’ve cooked the potatoes too long and they’ve more or less disintegrated when I stirred together the salad. No worries. At a pot luck one time someone asked me for my recipe because they liked that I used “mashed” potatoes. It’s called not setting a timer. Oh, and don’t forget to salt them. I often forget. You can salt  afterward, but it’s a bit less even than salting the potatoes in the water.

4 eggs. These were farmers market eggs, laid by happy hens that get to toddle around a pasture instead of stay squeezed into a cage or pen. The cost of the eggs probably ate up the savings on the potatoes, but well-treated hens matter to me, and the eggs taste better and are better for you, I believe. My grandmother had chickens, and I grew up with farm eggs.

Some sweet onion, chopped up.

 

Some sweet pickle relish, maybe 1/4 – 1/2 cup, with juice. Grandma would have chopped up sweet pickles she had put up herself from cucumbers she grew in her garden. In my gardening days I would have done the same, but now I just try to find sweet relish that is not made with high fructose corn syrup.

Enough mayonnaise to moisten it all, but not so much that it drowns it. I use olive oil mayo these days.

A healthy squirt of mustard. Yellow, brown, whatever you have. This time I had brown.

Stir this all together in a big bowl. Add more mayo if it’s too dry. Taste it. Add more mustard or salt if you think it needs it. Or more pickle relish juice. It’s your salad.

I like real food. No purist, but I try to eat as close to real food as I can, given the rest of my lifestyle. I like my potato salad. It’s one of those common sense things that got passed down to me, just hanging out with women whom I loved who knew how to do stuff.

I think Mom and Grandma would be okay with eating potato salad for breakfast, too.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: