Update 51

May 9 – News today is that I am flying high! Work has begun on our addition and now besides there being no patio there is no anything in our back yard! It took them two hours to demolish all my hard work of years! I watched them tear it all out and was a bit sad as another era is ending but was elated at the same time since a new chapter is beginning! We are having the same guy who is pouring the slab go ahead and do the block work. Harold was going to do it with my help (fetching stuff and hauling concrete blocks!) but we got a very good price from the contractor and this will save Harold’s back and sanity as well as mine! As of right now we will do the roof ourselves, trusses are being fabricated by a truss company, all the windows and doors and all the finishing work inside. Work will progress much quicker with someone else laying the block! Means I get into my studio that much sooner!

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and true to form (being a Mother) I helped Jennifer dig up and replant the whole area in front of her townhouse. She made a gourmet lunch for us which was delicious and within my eating boundaries. Harold cooked dinner for us and then Jen took me to see Les Miserables! It was amazing. I rented Phantom of the Opera while at my hotel in Nevada and that was also fantastic so now I am adding Critique Chris to my various personas! Daughter Jaime sent me a beautiful pewter angel that says, “If you were born without wings……….do nothing to prevent their growing” – Coco Chanel. The most amazing thing is that I bought her the same angel but with a different saying, “You will do foolish things but do them with enthusiasm!” – Colette, and have it stashed away for her birthday! That is how she lives her life – not foolishly mind you, but with great enthusiasm! Now I think I shall send it to her early.

On a sad note I am asking for prayers for my friend VJ. She has had breast cancer once, a reoccurrence of the same breast cancer due to some cells that got missed the first time and when I saw her in February she was complaining about not feeling well all the time, being tested for everything under the sun and she just wrote and told me she has been diagnosed with colon cancer. She said she had to quit work – she worked all through the two breast cancers and treatments – as she is just exhausted. Her doctor told her that it is her body trying to fight the cancer. She will begin radiation to see if they can shrink the tumor. I don’t know much about colon cancer but with VJ’s permission, I will write her story as it happens. A huge difference is how she feels. Breast cancer never made me feel bad at all, only the treatments. She has not even begun treatments and is feeling very badly. Please keep her and her family in your prayers as cancer is truly a family disease, it affects everyone in the family in some way. Soapbox Sue will make a brief appearance here by reminding you to have a colonoscopy. The procedure was a piece of cake, I was asleep! The prep was the worst, drinking all that junk but to know I am fine was well worth it.

Some good cancer news. Another friend who has a very rare type chose to do clinical trials as hers was incurable. She is doing very well and is very hopeful about her future so that was great news. Another friend had an abnormal ultrasound and had to go see a surgeon. We were all on pins and needles until after her appointment and the abnormalities turned out to be cysts. She has to go every six months for an ultrasound but that is way better than what it could have been. One more friend who is very young, twenty-six, had to have a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer and she is just fine, they feel they got it all with no further treatment for her. She has two wonderful children and was offered the option of having another baby before having the surgery but she opted for the safest route.

June 7 – Just chatting here. I got a letter in the mail today from my Primary Care doctor about some blood work I had done last week. They were checking for Cholesterol, Triglycerides, A1C (diabetes) and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The paper says Normal. I see him on the 9 th and will find out if all really are normal or was that just for one of them. What great news that would be!

Just returned from a quick trip to Pensacola, Florida for my Father-in-law’s 86 th birthday! We drove up on Thursday and back on Sunday! Whew! Stayed in the “Hotel from Hell” – based on a star rating this one would be in the minus but it was all that was available. There is a big festival there this time of year and everywhere else was full. The trip was great, Jennifer went up with us and Jaime and Co. came in from Dallas so it was a mini reunion of our own as well as for the rest of the relatives.

Still don’t have any slab for our new addition! Everyone said it would be a series of hurry up and wait and they were right! Now it is supposed to be the 14 th when we get the slab. I have a huge white plastic back yard right now framed with wooden boards with pieces of iron sticking up. How attractive! However, I finished paving my first courtyard and that will be the photo of the month. Construction Connie I am!

Still managing to keep things in perspective as far as work and life I believe. Hope I can keep that up and not slip back into my old ways.

A sad note here. Remember how excited I was to be in contact with my high school art teacher? Did I tell you she even called me one Saturday a few months ago and told me how proud she was of me and my accomplishments? That meant all the world to me and last week she died. I knew she was ill but didn’t realize it was that serious. I cried and cried, mostly for me as she is in a much better place from reading about her last days from the kind friends that let everyone know about her passing. I mention this because in the past I would not have said anything and just tucked it away in some little tight compartment inside. I have learned that it is okay to grieve and to cry and to say you are sorry for yourself that someone you cared about died. Funny thing about grief, at least for me, to admit to being sorry for me. I am sorry she died but not sorry that her long dreadful fight is over. I am sorry for me that I will never get to talk to her again and glad for her that she is no longer in such pain. This is part of what therapist Debbie was trying to teach me – how to grieve. I never let myself grieve over anything before, it just got tucked away with the statement, “That’s just the way it is.” Grieving hurts, makes my nose run and messes up my eye make-up! But then it is over and I can look at it anytime I want and even cry a bit more and actually feel better for doing so. That is my new message for these journals, allow the grief in for you and for those you love. Grief can even be for a situation where you might be a caregiver and you need to grieve for your very much alive self for the place you are due to someone else’s illness. I know I will never again shut the grief out but allow it to run its own course. I asked Debbie once when I would stop the crying that was always so close to the surface and her answer was, “When you are done grieving.” I still cry every once in a while for myself but now it is more for others and I never even used to do that! I have come a long way on this journey! Grieving Grace and Weepy Wanda have been hanging out here a lot lately!

June 12 – I have the most fantastic news to report! I went on Thursday to my Primary Care doctor to discuss the results of my recent blood work. They truly were normal! First time in years! Best of all, the A1c test was 5.5 and “normal” (non-diabetics) is under 6.0!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He was properly impressed with my results and I now have to still test my blood sugar every morning but only have to check at night a couple of times a week to be sure I am still on track. I lost weight and he said if I lost more we could discuss eliminating some of my medications! How’s that for good news! Of course he threw in not to rest on my laurels but to keep up the diligent work. However, that news on top of only having to see the oncologist every six months instead of every four is icing on the cake. Even my deep tissue massages are fine – she finds troublesome areas, gets rid of them and off I go! I see her once a month now for maintenance. So, all of you wonderful people out there who prayed for me, thought about me, wished me well when you saw me – Thank you! It all worked! I am probably the healthiest I have been in years even though I have diabetes and am a cancer survivor. Goes along with the life-threatening scares I guess! A very Happy Harriet here!

The weight is coming off slowly but I am okay with that because it is staying off. I found that if I eat less carbohydrates, not eliminate them mind you as I need them to balance my blood sugar, am eating more fruits and veggies and cut down on my meat portions and most of all stop eating when I feel the least bit full. Finally gave up chips as I simply cannot control myself with a bag of them open! These are not huge changes but they have certainly worked. I faced the fact a long time ago that I will never be a thin person, never have been, even as a child so why would I expect to be now? I just need to get to a weight that eliminates the need for certain medications and to keep my blood sugar in control and that my clothes fit comfortably. You know what? That is doable – being a size 2 is not so…………………….

Yesterday was a day of emotions. I was going out to work in my yard and overheard the TV talking about an upcoming program on life altering surgeries and they mentioned reconstruction. Now, I was on my way out to be Greta Gardener and all of a sudden I was Weepy Wanda! Stopped me right in my tracks and I started to have very leaky eyes! Just slammed into me that I am one of those people and I even though I am so very glad to have been able to have the reconstruction and look normal in clothing, I was weeping for the fact that I had to have it in the first place and for why I had to have it at all. I recovered, went out to work and a couple of hours later I was talking to my neighbor and he told me of a lady at his church that went in for a mammogram, they found very advance breast cancer and she died in a month! He didn’t know details like how long it had been since she had one or if they tried treatments of any sort but the fact remained that she died of breast cancer. I was okay talking to him but when I was alone I got all weepy AGAIN – this time because I am still here! I truly don’t think about it every single day but it is still always lurking there in my mind. I am not afraid, just saddened a bit when I think of it. Maybe I am still grieving. Apparently Emotional Emma will be here for a while yet!

One more mention of grieving. I have been thinking about what I wrote earlier in this update and realized I have never grieved because I didn’t know how. I am sure you are thinking, “How is that possible?” Well, it is sort of like knowing about chemotherapy. You knew about it before you read my journals but you knew about it from the outside and now you know exactly what it is from an inside point of view. I think everyone assumes people know how to grieve. I do not think that is true. I always thought that grieving was about the situation – someone died, a pet died – for example. I thought grief was for them and was very surprised to realize it was for me! It was for how I felt about what had happened and how it affected me. No one ever explained grief, they just talked about it as if it were a given that everyone knew. A good example is when I was told in a group meeting for breast cancer survivors that we would go through a period of mourning for the loss of our breasts. My answer was, “No way! They were trying to kill me so why should I grieve for them?” No one corrected me and I realized just recently that I would grieve for their loss for ME not for THEM. I am not sure I am explaining this clearly but I felt they were gone and good riddance to them so what was there to grieve over? Now I feel because I had to have the mastectomy it affected my life in so many ways – there is the grief over the loss part – not their loss but for the change to my life. Maybe I am the only one who didn’t get this whole concept but I am willing to bet there are more people out there not knowing exactly what “to grieve” means in reality. The dictionary defines grief as “a deep and poignant distress caused by or as if bereavement” and grieve as “to cause to suffer: Distress, to feel grief; Sorrow” I thought it was all for the other side of the equation and would be selfish to feel bad for me. Soapbox Sue signing off!

A note here on the journals. I was part of a painting convention a couple of weeks ago and had a booth there. So many people stopped by to tell me how glad they were I was doing well, that they had tread the journals and passed them on to others and I was amazed at the number of men who said the same thing. Visits to the site are over 4800 now and I have never checked it where there has been no activity. Both my webmaster Marian and I are both thrilled and humbled to know the journals have helped so many people. I still get emails from people all over the world who have read them and have their own story to tell about how they were affected by reading them and to whom they sent them to for information or just for comfort. I am always so very touched by those emails.

Okay, enough mushy stuff! Here are the photos I promised.

One is my former “garden” as it is now (white plastic, pipes and rebar!) and the other is my new courtyard that I created and paved by myself!




This is what the new courtyards between the wings of the new addition will be like when they are completed.




Goodbye for now,

Margot, keeper of the Perky Twins a.k.a. Soapbox Sue, Greta Gardener, Weepy Wanda, Critique Chris, Construction Connie, Grieving Grace, Happy Harriet and Emotional Emma

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