Archive | July, 2011

The Envelope

29 Jul

A while back, as I was packing for a weekend get-a-way with my husband, I came across a large envelope tucked away at the back of my dresser drawer. Hidden and forgotten, this envelope had laid there, still sealed shut, for nearly four years.

Holding it in my hands, I wondered if I should finally open it. But I didn’t. Instead, I slipped it back into the drawer with every intention of forgetting it existed. 

A week or so later, I was still thinking about that envelope. It bothered me. And so I decided that the envelope had to go. I would open it, and then I would get rid of it. That decided, I ripped it open.

Inside that envelope were the “before, during, and after” pictures my plastic surgeon had given me at the completion of my reconstruction. Alone, I spread the 8 x 10 pictures out across the comforter of my bed. A visual story of my cancer journey.

Cancer is a journey best traveled one day at a time. The fresh scars in the photos were not unfamiliar to me. Yet, the sight of all those pictures together at one time seemed overwhelming and shocking, each picture bringing back memories better left forgotten.

I started feeling light-headed and wondered if maybe I should not have opened the envelope after all.

But then a really good idea occurred to me. I gathered up the pictures, and I shoved them all through the paper shredder. They made a most satisfying sound as they were ground up into teeny bits. I felt myself smiling. And I knew that envelope of pictures would never be able to bother me again.


Princesses Don’t Go Camping

22 Jul

Even though I have written a book about cancer. And I write a blog about cancer. The truth is that cancer is pretty much my least favorite thing in the whole world to write about.

I much prefer writing silly stories for children.

A few years ago, my husband Dan and I, along with our three kids, were enjoying a camping trip deep in a forest near an Idaho lake. All five of us (six if you count the dog) slept in our small camper.

One overcast and moonless night, I suddenly awoke. As I lay there wide awake, I got the best idea ever for a children’s story. Perhaps I dreamed it. I’m not sure. But the amazing thing was that not only did I have the idea, but I had the whole story, word for word, clear as day right there in my head.

From past experience, I knew that if I waited till morning to write down this story, it would be gone. However, I certainly did not want to risk waking up Dan & the kids in the middle of the night. Yet, the story was too good to let go…

So ever so slowly, I eased out of bed. The darkness in the camper was absolute. Silently feeling my way along the kitchen counter, I was pleased to come across a paper napkin leftover from dinner. Now if only I could find a pen, pencil, or even a crayon. I kept searching with my hands. Under the table, I finally found something that would work — a colored pencil my daughter must have dropped the previous day. I just hoped it wasn’t the white one.

There in the dark, on a paper napkin, with a colored pencil, while the rest of my family slept, I wrote the entire story.

This month that very same story was published in the Highlights for Children magazine. It’s called “Princesses Don’t Go Camping.” If you happen to come across a copy of the July issue of Highlights, feel free to take a look at the story. Of all the children’s stories I have written over the years, this one is my most favorite.

I love stories about princesses. The princesses always get to live happily ever after.

 And they never, ever get cancer.


14 Jul

An empty prescription bottle sits on my dresser. The label says – No more refills. On July 1st, I swallowed my last pill of tamoxifen, bringing an end to five years of cancer treatment.

Now that the treatment is over, I was so hoping to finally be feeling better. I’m not.  This is disappointing, of course, but I had been warned that the side effects of tamoxifen can take up to six months to subside.

Even though I still feel pretty lousy, I did notice one really good thing that has taken place since I stopped taking the tamoxifen – eyelashes! Tamoxifen does not cause total hair loss like intravenous chemo does. But it does cause hair thinning. I’ve spent the last several months doing comb-over tricks trying to hide the balding spot on the back of my head. And I lost most of the eyelashes on my lower eye lids. However, a few days ago, I was delighted to see tiny new eyelashes sprouting on those lower lids.

I know. It’s kind of silly to get so excited over something as insignificant as eyelashes. But to me, those lashes are an indication that my body can and is recovering from the one-thousand, eight-hundred and twenty-five days of taking tamoxifen. As I see it, those eyelashes are nothing less than a loving gift of hope from a Heavenly Father who has known the exact number of hairs on my head each day during these last five years.

Remember the one-word New Year’s resolution that I shared with you awhile back? It was renewal. I had hoped that 2011 would be a year of renewal for me. A time of restoration. A renewing of my body, mind, and spirit. Eyelashes.

I’m ready for it. Definitely ready.