Snatches from my brain

Mar 15

Snatches from my brain

Yesterday was Chemo Day, so during my hours at the oncology office I also got my weekly steroid infusion — along with several other drugs — to help my body absorb the chemo.  Thus, this morning, I am awake at five in the morning. This is early for me, at least in this season of life.  As much as I am wincing about what my body is going to feel like come lunchtime, I am grateful for this quiet moment.  My brain has been mulling over various things-to-share but I have a feeling this blog will be snatches of randomness.

In 2010 we moved back to Cincinnati after a brief stint out-of-state with Brad’s job.  Upon reflection of that time, I had one friend in particular who was drowning in her obligations.  She had multiple children at ankle-biter ages, a busy husband, a rigid job, a tight budget, a myriad of other very (very) normal stresses, and simply not enough hours in the day.  She was the first to say she loved her life — and I know she did.  The way that it all hit her however, was that she wasn’t feeling she was able to be herself, and that was the true hardship.  That was six years ago, and that family, my friend included, is now thriving.  However, as I think back to that time I think to myself: golly, I failed her.  In hindsight, and with the perspective of what I’m currently experiencing, I know that I *could* have, at any time, let myself into her house (we have an open door friendship after all–I am inner circle for her) and done a Ninja Mom Blitz: wipe the counters, check the dryer for things to be folded, sweep the crumbs off the floor, unload (and reload) the dishwasher, do the dishes, make the beds, tidy the kid clutter, straighten the couch pillows, collect the items from this room and return them to that room.  I think about the breath of fresh air and the reprieve it would have been for her, and I’m sad I didn’t think to do it then.  (Sorry friend!)

One friend who came in to help me this month said to me after the fact, “I know how I would feel if someone came in to do this for me, so it gives me great pleasure to do it for you.”  It really resonated that so many of us could benefit from the type of help I’m receiving — albeit probably on a smaller scale that what I am receiving — and I am hopeful that one day I will have the capacity and vision to act in kind.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear if any of you “ninja clean” for a friend in need–whether they are asking for help or not.

Last weekend we went on a road trip and it was wonderful to spend some quality time as a foursome on the journey, and to see Baby Sister’s part of the world when we got there.  She showed off all she thriving in and it is energizing to see her living as the best version of herself.

This chemo is a hard one for me to tolerate.  Well, that’s not quite true.  What I mean is: this chemo is hard for me to tolerate while living my dearly-loved Jen life.  This chemo is easy to tolerate if I lounge, veg, rest, and sleep.  I think that’s an important clarification: I have little pain or other factors that could spiral in a bad way.  As long as I rest, I am fine.  I am very grateful for this.

The problem is that I am not good at resting for days, or weeks, or — now months — on end.  I have done a lot of introspective thinking about “What makes me feel like Jen?”  “What needs to be done?”  “What do I want to do?”  And then the question I play against all of those is: how much energy does “that” cost?  That’s why I’m out-sourcing a lot of my usual mom jobs: normally I feel a certain level of pride in my home and accomplishment in such tasks, but the energy cost is simply too great for something that is lower on the soul radar.  If I vacuumed, I would spend more time on the couch.  Instead, I use that time to go have lunch with Maren at her school, I have coffee with a soul-filling friend, I play a board game with Greta, or I do something else that amplifies my Jen-ness.  Those things have much lower energy-outputs, but very high returns in making me feel like I am still the person I want to be.  I have had to learn to let go of guilt and to trust the hands and feet of the village helping me: it’s so hard and humbling, but I’ve come to believe it is good.  The rich, holy, awesome kind of good.  My hope is that my explaining it here will help other people in need open their door.  “Need” has so many definitions.


A casualty (another casualty?) of this chemo has been exercise: the exhaustion my body feels is such that elevating my heart rate and blood pressure makes my head hurt.  And if I do work out it means I lose capacity to do anything else afterwards–for hours or even into the next day.  It’s a big loss for me; I’m bummed.  Semi-related is the sucker punch of the steroid-induced weight gain: it’s irritating that I don’t like how my clothes fit.  But what can I do?  I am taking gentle walks around the neighborhood and dreaming the day will come that I can do more.

I remind myself: if I feel cruddy, I trust the cancer is being killed.  Chemo and I are on the same team.  The inconvenience of the symptoms are well worth it for extending my life and I’ll fight for that!  I will scan again in April and we’ll have the first picture of what is happening in my body then.  Until then, we simply pray and Do Today Well.  Energy thinking too much about cancer is energy lost.

Emotionally, I am mostly doing well: I am years into processing this and I walk out my Do Today Well game plan with great intentionally.  Sometimes I’m blindsided when a subject comes up that causes me to process in a new way.  On the way home from our road trip this weekend, Brad and I were trying to decide where we wanted to go and what we want to do for a long weekend — just the two of us — next month.  My mind flicked through all of the fun places and things I would enjoy doing with my love: there are so many!  As I overlayed those ideas with my energy level however, I got very sad because I couldn’t think of something that I (thus, we) could do where I wouldn’t feel inhibited.  The juxtaposition of the excitement and the crap(!) nature of the revelation was disheartening.  However, I absorb the loss, I accept it for what it is, and then we work together to make the best of it.  We don’t know for sure what we are doing yet, but I am sure it will be grand because we will be together, and that is the only thing that really matters.

Something I’m choosing not to feel guilty over (guilt = energy suck) is my correspondence situation: my brain doesn’t have the capacity to be on top of it, no matter how many times I try to move it up on my “important” list.  If you are a faraway friend (or family) in particular, I’m sorry because our exchange is hindered and you don’t get to see me in real life.  Know that your love is felt and it matters.  You inspire me, and I am grateful.

Greta has developed an oh-so-sweet habit over the past weeks.  Several times a day, she whirls over to me pulls my head down close to whisper in my ear, “I love you Mom.”  Then, she whirls off again, usually tossing a brilliant grin over her shoulder.  It’s adorable and my heart soars each and every time.  Oh, the magic that happens when that girl uses her gumption for good!

A few weeks ago, we pulled another bin of treasures from my childhood from my parent’s attic.  In it were many of my books from elementary school.  Maren has been devouring them: she wakes up early to read, she reads as she brushes her teeth, and she read the entire Felicity series from American Girl in twenty-four hours.  I was the same type of reader, and it’s yet another mini-me quality she’s exhibiting.

As Brad was running the dinner-chores-bedtime routine last night, Greta asked for a sleepover.  When the girls pointed out that there is no school today (election day), he agreed, and as I type the girls are having a sisters sleepover in Greta’s newish-to-her bunkbeds for the first time.  It was pretty adorable hear them chattering away and to see them wiggling with excitement over this simple pleasure.  I love that Brad looks to be a “yes” parent whenever possible.  It validates them, grows them, and thrills them.  He’s such a great dad: Maren and Greta are so blessed.


To further accommodate my needs, Brad is making himself available during the core after school and evening hours.  As Greta starts soccer and Maren starts volleyball this week, he’ll be able to share the duties of getting them to practice, getting dinner together (which is much MUCH simplified thanks to our dinner helpers–thank you!), and the usual evening kerfuffle.  We’re both really grateful that his work is helping us make our home needs a priority.  Let’s be honest, it’s not “his work” that is making that call: it’s the brilliant people he works with who doing it–thank you!  Our village is wide.  I’m proud of us for zeroing in on what is most important and really investing as much as we can in those areas.  Brad is definitely visionary in how to make that happen; I’m so lucky he’s my guy.

Cancer has it’s burdens and blessings.  I’m afforded this early morning writing session because of the steroids zooming around in my brain.  I’m able to imagine the cancer cells being blown up and destroyed by the cancer.  I write down these snatches of my brain so that I can process in a healthy way, so I can update you, so I can have these words forever, so I know how to pray, so you know how to pray.

I feel I’ve written about the hardship in this post, but I think I’ve done that to try to help other people who might be in similar situations (and also their helpers/village), and also because it helps you to know me.  I also think that cancer-people and other burdened people have a hard time articulating some of these things: I hope that — perhaps — other people will be loved well because of my little effort.

My very great blessing of the season that I’ve sort of referenced, but that is worth stating explicitly is that I’m able to do almost anything I want.  As I’ve been dealing with cancer for four years this month, I know that this is not something that cancer patients can take for granted.  The caveat is the amount of “buffering” on either side of the activity that my body will require before and after, and that is where I can choose my attitude.

I love my life.  My joy is fierce, my cup is full, my God is almighty.


  1. Marlayne Skeens /

    Jen ~ I can’t even imagine all you Snatches of your brain & yet you are still trying to help others w/your insight of life ~ Everyday Life ~ Your expression of guilt, letting go & realizing that guilt can rob ones energy has brightened my day ~ Thank you ? Love the ” Sleep Over ” picture ~ many might think of inviting a friend(s) over or going to a friend’s home ~ Your girls wanted a fun sister’s sleep over ~ how Wonderful & to have Dad join in reading to them is Priceless ?

    I will Do Well Today listening to your Wisdom ?

  2. jennifer /

    So beautiful and inspiring. I send you so much love, hope and healing prayers.

  3. Lisa Smith /

    Love you Jen. Praying always. xo

  4. Karin /

    This life you are living is a real one. You are REAL. That’s why your journey is inspiring. Love you.

  5. Great collections from your brain. I love your challenge of encouraging all of us to break through the barriers and help our friends in “need”. The formalness of our lives today can be debilitating. I will definitely do something unasked and let you know! Love your courage and insights and honesty.

  6. “Ninja clean” — I like that. A group of us helped a friend battling cancer to move while she was in the hospital. It was actually fun for us and a blessing for her. She calls us her angels, but I kind of like adding the ninja in the title.
    May your village continue to bless you in a big way!

  7. annie /

    Your continued efforts to process by blogging has the attendant blessing of keeping your village informed. Not a small thing as we follow your journey of healing and your decision to do your everyday with joy. Generally I think people do too much living for what we think the (more carefree) future will afford us rather than appreciating the present. Living in the moment is a discipline well worth the work.

    I hope that you feel our prayers for you.