Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trudge - verb \ˈtrəj\
: to walk or march steadily and usually laboriously

or as I have heard it defined most accurately:

To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.

We've been doing a lot of trudging lately, here, in the Thies house, or at least if feels that way.  I had a decent check up at Mayo a few months ago. My liver is still looking good and though my lung tumors are still growing, they are doing so at a slow pace. There was some discussion with my oncologist about possible treatments for my lung tumors and a clinical trial was proposed, but I left undecided... and I am still undecided. I return to Mayo in a couple of weeks for my normal scans and check-up and I expect the trial will be discussed again.
Back at home, I decided to return to work on "a limited basis", and since it is near impossible to have your own classroom on "a limited basis", I am substitute teaching 2 - 3 days a week. I decided to return to work mostly in efforts to help make ends meet financially around here, but also partly because I miss being in the classroom. Let me tell you, working again has been a huge adjustment, not just for me, but for Kylynn as well. Subbing is tough, not that I thought it would be a breeze, but some days... Wow! And I can't even begin to tell you how exhausted I am. Most evenings, by 8:00 (8:00 folks! What the heck!), I am ready to go to bed, and often do. This is a tiredness that I have never felt before. I don't like it. But I trudge on.
And worse than my trudging, and likely adding to my trudging, is that fact that Kylynn seems to be trudging too. Since school has started, Kylynn has been having a rough time. I can't recall a time when I have ever seen Kylynn this out of sorts.  She has a lot going on, my wee one. Respecting her privacy I will just say this, I can only imagine what it must be like to be 8 years old and to know your mom has cancer and to understand all that that could mean (and make no mistake, Kylynn understands). And on top of that worry she has normal 8 year old stuff going on, school issues, friend issues, normal kid stuff. My baby is trudging, it breaks my heart. 

Now, this may seem off topic, but bear with me:

The philosopher Friedrich, Nietzsche once said: “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Now to be fair, that is really only half the quote, and taken as a whole means something a little different than what I'm getting at but, taking just that part I get this from it: Dwell for too long on any one thing and it can consume you or define you. There are many different "abysses" that we could gaze into in our lives but around here the biggest abyss is cancer. And it is a dangerous abyss to say the least, full of whys, hows, and what ifs. Gazing into that abyss never produces any answers, only more questions and uncertainties, and it is an abyss that gazes almost instantly back into you. Now, I am an adult, I know that it doesn't do to dwell on cancer (though every caner fighter is entitled to from time to time, in my opinion) and so I keep busy, and Kylynn keeps me busy, and more often than not I am able to skirt the edge of the abyss without too much gazing into it. Kylynn, however, is just a child, a fact which neither protects her from the abyss of cancer nor equips her with any weapons to fight its gaze. So we, the adults in her life, do our best to give her distractions while trying to teach her ways to fight the abyss on her own. But she is a small warrior. Brave. Strong. But small, and still learning. She revels in her dancing and karate, both of which provide her with an armor or sorts against the abyss of cancer, and she enjoys being with her friends and family which also give her some safety, for those things I am grateful beyond words. But  her abyss defenses are not fully formed yet.

And so we trudge on, one foot in front of the other, me trying to guide my girl's steps away from the abyss even as my own falter. But even on the rainiest day, when the abyss yawns greater and more immense than ever and our heavy hearts cause use to trudge, there are friends, true friends, who lighten our burdens, and family whose ever present love gently pushes us away from the abyss. We are blessed, even in our struggles.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kylynn Aria
   Over the past month I have managed to cross off a number of items on my "bucket list". The biggest of those has to be seeing my Kylynn Aria make her First Communion. When I was first diagnosed and sat looking at my sweet girl, who then was only a year and a half old, it broke my heart to think about all the events in her life that I may never get to see. Her First Communion, her Confirmation, her high school and college graduations, her wedding, the birth of any babies she may have. It's a long list and I still worry about seeing many of these things, but I feel so blessed that I was there to see my baby make her First Communion. When I traveled to Medjugorje all those years ago in 2007 the only thing my Aria asked me to bring her was a pink rosary. I picked out the cutest pink rosary that I could find and brought it home to her. But my mom and I also searched all over that small village buying all the different pink rosaries that we could find because I wanted to have them to give to Kylynn on all the big occasions that she had ahead of her. When I brought those rosaries home it was hard to imagine that I would ever get to hand my Ari one. She was so small then and her First Communion seemed a lifetime away. I cannot begin to tell you what a joy it was to put that first rosary in her hands and telling her the story of how I looked all of Medjugorje for these special rosaries for her. Kylynn may not have understood the huge significance of the moment, and that's okay, she will remember it when she is older and understand. But for now, I knew what a big deal it was and that's enough. Another special thing about Kylynn's First Communion is that we had my wedding dress made over into a communion gown for her. It turned out beautifully and looked like a smaller version of my dress. Kylynn also wore my veil.
Kylynn and Me

The second item that I recently crossed off my bucket list was seeing my little Aria in her first feis. (A feis is an Irish dance competition.) Kylynn loves Irish dancing and, in my humble and perhaps a little biased opinion, she is really quite good. I thought that perhaps competing might make Ari a little nervous but it didn't seem to faze her at all. In fact, my little dancer has told me a few times how much she likes to be on stage. I am so proud of Kylynn and her dancing and I love the confidence that it has given her and all the wonderful dance friends that she has made. Kylynn's circle of support has been growing by leaps and bounds and, while that is an item that will never be fully crossed off my list, it makes my heart happy to know that she continues to gain true friends who will be there for her if I have to leave her earlier than I would like.
Kylynn Aria
Kylynn and Sydney

   These last two items that recently got crossed off of my list are, in the grand scheme of things, smaller, but still very important to me. By now you must know of my love for the singing group Celtic Thunder and the delight that they bring me. I have previously had the opportunity to meet most of the guys in the group but the two that I have wanted to meet the most, Ryan and Neil, have managed to elude me... until recently. As luck would have it, these to talented and not bad looking men teamed up to play at some smaller venues with their Acoustic By Candlelight tour. Last weekend that tour brought them through the Chicago area and I was able to see them two nights in a row!  After the show the guys took time to meet with everyone, take pictures, and sign pictures and, in my case, a shirt for my Aria. So that was one item checked off my list.
Neil, Me, & Ryan!
Neil & Ryan holding a message for Kylynn

    The last item that I recently checked off my bucket list was also at the Acoustic By Candlelight concerts. Ryan and Neil sang a mixture of their own songs and ones that were written by others. Because of the length of the concerts, the guys couldn't possibly sing all their songs but I was hoping for one song in particular of Ryan's. Ryan wrote a song named, "The Village That They Call The Moy" and it was written about the village that he grew up in, in Northern Ireland. I've never been to The Moy, my family that is from Ireland is not from the north but rather way down south in county Cork, but for some reason I adore this song by Ryan above all the others that he has written. Luck favored me again and Ryan sang "The Village That They Call The Moy" not at one concert that I went to, but at both! I was a happy girl!

    So, that is four items crossed off my list in the matter of a month. It makes me nervous to check so many things off so quickly. I think I need a longer list! I am so blessed to have gotten to see all of these wonderful events take place, and let's face it, I am extremely blessed to still be here and doing so well. I love joyful days like those I have been having and I will keep that joy with me as reinforcement for my umbrella so that I may be able to weather even the rainiest day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flying Casual

Wow! It really has been a long time since I last posted. So much has been going on, and I am happy to report that is mostly good stuff!

First, I returned to Mayo in January for a check-up. It was four months since my last check so I was quite nervous. However, everything still looks stable! My liver is still full of big holes from tumors being removed but there is no sign of new tumor growth. YEA!!!! My lungs still have all of the tumors that were the before, but they are growing at a such a slow rate that my doctor feels that there is no need to restart chemo right now. And here is the most surprising news, my doctor said I can go six, count them, SIX, months before I have to return for another check-up. That means the rest of Kylynn's school year will not have to be disrupted by my being away at the doctor. In fact, this school year has been Kylynn's first since she started school that I have only had to make two trips up to Mayo Clinic. That makes me smile.

In other news, Kylynn has been keeping me quite busy with her Irish dancing. We just finished up the St. Patrick's Day marathon of performances where my Aria was in ten shows over the course of a week. It was a lot of fun and I am so proud of my girl, but I am also exhausted. Now it is on to the Spring Performance and Kylynn's first feis (Irish dance competition) in May!

So there you have it. A happy little girl and six months before I have to return to Mayo. Many people have been asking me what I am doing about my cancer and the best answer I can think of to sum up what I am doing right now is a quote from my man, Han Solo in Return of the Jedi:

Luke: Vader's on that ship.
Han Solo: Now don't get jittery, Luke. There are a lot of command ships. Keep your distance, though, Chewie, but don't look like you're trying to keeping your distance.
Chewbacca: [barks something]
Han Solo: I don't know. Fly casual.

That's me, I'm flying casual, keeping my distance from cancer and Mayo without looking like I'm trying to keep my distance. :)

So it would seem that even the worst storm has to recede sometime and though it almost certainly will return, you learn to enjoy the sun when it shines and master the art of flying casual!