Tag Archive | life

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting — “Not Enough Time”

I know my response to last week’s photo challenge was far from pretty.  But I appreciated the comments I received and I was grateful for everyone who encouraged me to continue to share the truth of my story.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of The Daily Post posed the theme “Fleeting” for the current Weekly Photo Challenge.  Naturally, my thoughts turned to the fleeting nature of life itself.  I got to thinking about how we are on this earth only briefly, and of how we have such a limited time before our bodies turn to dust and the memories we spent a lifetime making soon begin to fade.

So for the challenge this week I’ve decided to tackle the fleeting nature of life.  But to make it far less morose, I am going to focus on childhood and how quickly those precious years pass.  I say “far less” because I am still going to sprinkle a few cancer-y photos in the mix.

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As always, thank you for visiting.  And if you’d like to participate in the challenge, just click here.

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In Memory of Julie (Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved)

*This is a repost of a story written months ago in response to a Weekly Photo Challenge. I’ve never reposted any of my posts before, but I was compelled to do this with this one because Julie’s birthday was this month… And because I reread this post and realized that I am already losing sight of my “resolution” and need a nudge… Thank you so much for reading…*

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Julie (left) & Me

I missed last week’s photo challenge, but when I saw this week’s topic, I had to pull out my old photo albums.

The photos you see here embody my New Year’s resolution for 2013.  What is it?

***To appreciate that life is sometimes too short — and to fulfill some of my bucket list wishes.***

The photos I’ve chosen are from a defining point in my life.  Why was this little window of time, this blip in my life, so special that I feel the need to highlight it here?

Because the girl in the photos with me is my friend Julie.  She was one of my very best friends growing up.  I loved her like a sister.  We laughed together, cried together and reached many a milestone together.

These photos of Julie and me are from a once-in-a-lifetime trip we took together.  I know, I know, people say “once-in-a-lifetime” but they don’t always know that for sure.  Sometimes they just say this to be dramatic.

But I am saying it because I know it is true.  I know that Julie and I will never take another trip together.  In fact, we will never laugh or cry or meet another milestone together again.  Ever.

Because Julie is dead.  She was killed in a car accident 5 years ago when we were just 31.

It still takes my breath away when I remember that she is really gone, but I often find myself smiling as I think of the time we spent together.

Though Julie’s death was tragic and horribly sad, her life was the opposite.  Julie exuded warmth and beauty.  She was positive and sweet and lived her life to the fullest.  She was courageous and didn’t let anything stand in her way…

…including me.  You see, I didn’t want to go on that trip.  I had never done anything like that before.  I wasn’t adventurous.  I didn’t think I deserved the opportunity to get on a plane.

It was about a month before our high school graduation when Julie proposed the idea.  Her exchange student for our senior year, now like our new sister, would be returning home to Mexico just after graduation.  What if we went to Mexico to stay with her over the summer?

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I was not the adventurous type and I opted to stay home and work until we started college in August.  Plus, I needed to be home to help care for my little sisters.  And I had never done anything just for me before.  How could I start with something so drastic?  No, I would not go.

But it wasn’t really up to me.  Julie would not listen to my protests.  She jokingly threatened to unfriend me (we had been very good friends since we were kids) if I didn’t commit to going.  She said she knew what was best for me (and I admit that she often did).  So, on one of the many evenings I spent at her house, she made a final plea.  Again I refused.  We were munching on her delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies when she picked up the phone and called the airline (this was before you could use the internet to book your tickets).  She pretended to be me and booked my tickets while I stood in her kitchen.  Though I halfheartedly protested and though I feigned anger, I was secretly delighted.  I knew I would enjoy this special time with Julie.  And I knew I was going to miss Judy (her exchange student), who was now a dear friend and that this was my chance to see where she lived and to say a real goodbye.

This was going to be my first real adventure, my first and last hurrah before heading off to university (20 minutes away – another story!) in the fall.

So we graduated from high school, Judy left for her home in Mexico, and we embarked on our adventure 8 days later.  Before stepping off the plane in Tucson (and driving the 4 hours across the border to our friend’s house), I had been a shy straight-A student who hung out in the teachers’ lounge after school because I could always relate better to people older than me.  Between sophomore & senior year, I took every single Advanced Placement class (and there were a lot!) our high school had to offer — and aced them all.  I was voted “Class Introvert” and could get A’s on Calculus tests without studying.  I thought A.P. Physics and Chemistry were fun.  I had been babysitting since I was eight and got my first “real” job the moment I was old enough to get a work permit.  I balanced school and mountains of homework with two afterschool/weekend jobs.  I volunteered a ton — you name a volunteer activity and Julie, jme and I signed up for it.  I had a resume filled with achievements.  I had a full scholarship to Cornell University and scholarships to a number of other prominent schools for Engineering or Biochemistry/Pre-Med waiting for me and I had every intention of continuing to be that people-pleasing, old-before-my-time nerdy girl…

I thought that maybe before college I would do something crazy like cut my long hair or start wearing lipstick.  I had no idea how this trip was going to change me.

It was an incredible 3 weeks.  Because Julie and I were staying with Judy and her family, we “lived” in the heart of a non-touristy part of Mexico where I was the only person with blondish hair for many, many miles.  We got a taste of what it was like to grow up there.  What an amazing way to see another culture.  Our many adventures included a 28 hour (total) roundtrip escapade on an old, steamy, smelly, jam-packed bus.  We were headed to see another friend (Juan–also a former exchange student) in Mazatlan.  The bus trip came complete with dirt roads, middle of the night stops by gun-toting “bandits” in the midst of nowhere, and people who were so scary that we slept in shifts because there had been a number of recent American kidnappings on buses just like ours.  As the only Americans who had probably set foot on our bus in a very long time, we figured we were targets, which made it that much more exciting for my friends (and nerve-wracking for straight-laced me).  When we stumbled off the bus, though, I realized that it was all worth it.  The area was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  The days were amazing — swimming in the ocean, drinking pina coladas in the pool, parasailing and so much more — things I never dreamed I’d be doing.

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer thirties 30s young bilateral mastectomy death loss grief

Julie parasailing in Mazatlan

And the nights were even more incredible.  More things I never dreamed I’d do.  All of a sudden quiet, shy me who hadn’t really dated much was dancing on tables at these gorgeous open air bars, forgetting about all of the responsibilities waiting for me back home, and getting kissed by older guys in their 20s (Mexicans & Americans alike) who could have stepped off movie sets or off the pages of GQ.

On the bus ride back to Judy’s city, I felt like a new person…  All of a sudden I had gone from being a cornerstone on the math team to someone who had 25 year-olds competing to spend a few minutes on the dance floor with her.  It was fascinating and exciting.

Our next stop was a lovely little town on the Gulf with mountains in the background.  Here we had more adventures with sangria, late-night swims, and mechanical bull-riding.  Then Julie’s older brother (who was in a band & lived in San Francisco) asked us to take a couple of days out of our Mexican adventure to come to see him.  Julie hadn’t seen her brother in a while and she had a huge crush on his roommate, so it was a quick yes from her.  All we had to do was drive to San Diego & he’d have tickets waiting for us at the airport.  Along the way we stopped to visit Judy’s cousins in Tecate (right next to the Tecate beer factory) for another wonderful night filled with yummy food & drinks and happy people.  No matter where we went (with the exception of on that bus to/from Mazatlan), I never heard a word of complaint or saw a frown.  Regardless of what everyone did or didn’t have, the people we met/lived with were warm, welcoming, generous, and positive.

Even the drive up to the U.S. was an adventure.  And then we were off to San Francisco, a place I had always wanted to visit.  We didn’t do anything too exciting, but even a trip to the grocery store was fun with Julie.  And, as it happened, the roommate guy she had a crush on actually “liked” me.  Julie was very gracious about it and happily let me have my moment with him.  He was 25 and an engineer on a big naval ship — the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.  Though he was quite handsome, he was nerdy like me & we were instantly drawn to each other.  It was odd for me to realize that I had spent my teenage years feeling awkward and burying my nose in books — and all I had to do was take my hair out of my ponytail and throw a pair of jeans on (and talk to people 7 or 8 years older than me!) and voila…  Eric and I stayed up all night every night talking.  And then we all spent the days together seeing the sights.  It was a total departure from the “me” I knew, someone who had only had a few high school boys show any interest in her.  [Eric continued to send letters & call me (and my mother!) for years after this trip.]

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Julie in Spain — wasn’t she lovely?
(I didn’t take this photo — I never made it there)

Before I knew it, Julie, Judy & I were flying back down to San Diego and driving back into Mexico…  And shortly afterward, we made the long trek back to Arizona to catch our plane.  Judy’s family had a condo near the airport, so we spent one last night there — the 3 of us girls — laughing, talking & drinking more sangria in the hot tub (I hadn’t even been in a hot tub (or a condo for that matter!) before).  It was a wonderful way to end our trip.

That summer was — and remains — the best of my life.  After that I started college as a new person.  Still the old nerdy straight-A student who loved math on the inside, but with a new look and a newfound confidence on the outside.  I was always so grateful to Julie for that and so many things.

That trip was the last time I saw Judy… Until 5 years ago — for Julie’s funeral.  Julie was killed by a drunk driver in Spain, a country she loved so much.  The special young man she loved survived, but he was seriously injured — and he had lost the love of his life right before his eyes.  I was no stranger to loss or tragedy, but this was beyond anything I could wrap my mind around.  When jme, who had grown up with Julie from the age of 3, phoned to tell me what had happened, it was an absolutely heartbreaking call.  Jme got on a plane to come back home from Seattle.  And Judy flew from Mexico to stay at my house so we could be together to bury our dear friend…

Though her life was short, Julie’s impact was great.  She made everyone feel special and she touched lives here and across the Atlantic in deep and lasting ways.  The world was a far better place because she was in it.

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Julie (rt.) and me
Early morning somewhere in Sonora, Mexico

So, this year I resolve to be more like Julie.  I resolve to check some things off my bucket list (and to make a bucket list).  I resolve to just “go for it” more.  I resolve to work on living my life to the fullest (I’m sure it will take me a while to get there, but I vow to work on it).  And I plan to honor her memory by trying to find and nurture the little light that she saw inside of me when we were just girls on the edge of new beginnings.

In Memory of Beautiful Julie – 1976 – 2007

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

Though this wasn’t compiled in time for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge last week, I did pull together the images for this purpose, so I will post with this title:

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life — School Break

I hope you enjoy the photos.  And I hope those of you with children home on winter break are managing / enjoying the time!

Thanks for visiting, always!

The Night I Lied to You

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Alright, technically I didn’t lie.  But I may as well have.

Do you remember that night?  It had been a muggy summer day.  But when you pulled up in your car at dusk, it was as if the humidity was sucked from the air, leaving a perfect July night in its wake.

I met you downstairs and we got in your car and drove.  And drove.  For hours with no destination in mind. I don’t think the destination was as important as the distance we put between your little car and our ‘real’ lives.

Into the city, out to the outlying rural towns.  On highways and country roads.  As the mixed tapes we made for each hummed in the background, we talked and talked.  We always talked like this, soaking up each and every drop of our time together.  It was as if we had never spoken before and had to learn everything about each other in one night.  And it was like this every time.

We drove into the starry night.  The music played on with professions of love and stories about loss and visions of star-crossed lovers escaping into the night together.

That is what we were.  Star-crossed lovers, you and I.

We drove through so many little towns that night, asking so many questions of one another.  We were playful and serious, thoughtful and direct.

A casual observer would think we held nothing back when we talked.  But we held the most important thing back.  You knew it.  I knew it.  We both knew that we both knew it.

But tonight was different.  I knew it would be different when we drove through that farm town.  We had already made our way through a handful that looked just the same.  But this place was different. As we drove down that dark road, your headlights piercing the darkness, raindrops began to fall.  We had just been talking about what you would do if you found out I was getting married.  Would you show up and tell me not to go through with it and ask me to run away with you?  Or would you watch me give my life to another?  Or would you stay away?

Though thoughts of marriage were far from my mind, of course I knew the wedding you were talking about was to your former best friend.  A guy who didn’t treat me very well.  A guy who you no longer seemed to care for.  Yet, he was the guy I was seeing.  He was away now.  Gone for a month on vacation with his parents.

And I had time to think about where my life was headed.  I was only 21.  I was independent and strong.  Bright and educated.  I was moving up the ranks at work, making a name for myself.  I had just gotten another raise.  I could have had a bright future ahead of me, but I was considering a move from the apartment I shared with a roommate to a place with the guy who didn’t treat me so well (we’ll use an acronym for him going forward — GWDTMSW).

And you and I were here, in your car, feeling as though we couldn’t get our timing right.  You were seeing someone or I was seeing someone.  Or both.  But we loved each other and had no trouble expressing our feelings in lengthy letters over the years.

But out of respect for GWDTMSW, we danced around the giant pink elephant in the car.  In fact, out of the corner of my eye I could see that pink elephant waving at me from the backseat.  But I ignored him.

And we drove.  Into a little micro-climate in this small town.  A fleeting rainstorm.  Heavy drops of fresh rain pelted the car as you told me it would be too much for you to bear.  You could never sit back and watch me marry another.  You would let me make my decision, but if it wasn’t you standing up there taking my hand, you would not be there.  I gulped as I considered the prospect.

The heavy rain gave way to a sprinkle.  And just then, this desolate country road was filled with frogs.  Little bits of green hopped in front of the car.  There were hundreds of them.  They extended as far as the reach of your headlights.

I made you stop the car immediately, lest we not squash a single one. It was an incredible sight.  Magical, really.

I jumped out of the car to scoop one up, just as I would have when I was 8 years old.  I was filled with glee as I held that slimy little friend in my hand.  And you were grinning, too.   Happy that I was happy.

I forget how long we waited for the frogs to clear.  Shooing them to the edge of the road was slow but rewarding work.  You inched your way through the thinning crowd and I walked ahead and kept clearing.  We lost some of Kermit’s brethren along the way, but the losses were unavoidable.

Afterward, we reluctantly decided to drive back to my apartment in the city.  We both knew the night would end when we reached my driveway.

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It still took time.  These were the days before GPS and we only vaguely knew where we were.  And we traveled roads neither of us had traveled before.

But I felt more found than lost.

We found our way together.  As we pulled up to that disheveled former mansion turned apartment building, you asked if I wanted to take a walk.   The area was divided into two parts.  Bad and good.  My apartment was a few hundred feet from the invisible divider.  On the bad side.  So we abandoned the car and made our way to the ‘good’ side.

We walked on the tree-lined streets, each dotted with lovely cottage-likes homes and large historic mansions made of stone or plaster.   We walked close enough for our arms to brush against each other occasionally.  You made a comment about how the people in their cars were probably wondering why you weren’t holding my hand.  And you said that you would if I would let you.  But I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I couldn’t.  Because I was loyal to GWDTMSW.

As we came up on East Avenue again, you stopped and turned to me.  And this was where you asked me to marry you.  You knew I was the one.  You had been in love with me for years.  And I loved you, too.  I knew you were the love of my life.

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I remember my response as though it were yesterday.  “Yes, barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

What kind of response is that to a marriage proposal?  It is the kind of response you give when you know that something or someone will get in the way.  It is the kind of response you give when you don’t want to lie, despite how much you’d like to simply say, “Yes.” It is the kind of response you give when the bad things you have experienced in your life have so warped you that you are afraid to just choose happiness.

We continued on our stroll.  Dawn would be breaking soon.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Well, I have returned from my first adventure…but things have been far too hectic and I have been far too exhausted (and ill with cellulitis) to write about the experience yet.  But it is a post I am looking forward to sharing!  In the meantime, I thought I would return with a photo challenge post.  Thank you so much for all of the likes and comments on my last post — and for being there to cheer me on…

These may not be the greatest photos, but to me, they are wonderful representations of this week’s photo challenge topic, “love.”

There were many contenders, but I am far too tired to add them all (and I don’t want to bore you!), so here are just a few.  I may come back to add more at a later date…

Thank you for reading!

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It was Christmas and my littlest sister decided that after all of my chemo and surgeries, the best gift she could give me would be a little companion to help me weather the remainder of my cancer treatments.  So she chose this sweet little mini dachshund and presented her to me with a red ribbon around her furry little body.  Ginger has spent many hours snuggling with me and giving me comfort in the two years we have been together.  And she is a wonderful reminder of the special kind of love sisters sometimes share.

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Another Christmas photo…  I was sick and so tired.  And my sweet miniature schnauzer, Mattie, snuggled up next to me.  I had so much to do to get ready for a busy day of making our Christmas rounds that day, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to lay there with my special girl.  And I am so glad that I did because she died suddenly of cancer a couple of months later.   She loved me unconditionally and I miss her as much today as I did when she first died.

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And my boys…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/weekly-photo-challenge-love/

 

Messed Up

cancerinmythirties.wordpress.com breast cancer death kids children family life loss marriage
You’ve won another argument
because I have given up
I swore I wouldn’t fight back anymore
But I gave in this time
I engaged, I didn’t just let it go
Until I came to my senses, that is
But it was too late
How do you stop a freight train that’s barreling down the tracks?
You are unkind to me
Your words are bitter and seering
You have hurt our children
inside and out
You prefer things to people
but you turn on your charm so no one will see through your facade
And facade it is
It is not real
You are not real
But this is all painfully real
You are selfish
manipulative
indignant
Lies roll off your tongue
like raindrops off rooftops
Yet you will outlive me
You will see our children grow
And hold their children in your arms
And you won’t care
How could the universe have gotten it so wrong?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

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PowerPort (port) through which chemo and other medicines and fluids can be administered. Also great for lab draws and scans for which I.V. contrast is necessary. I was reluctant to have the port placement ‘surgery’ back on May 7, 2010. But I am so glad I wasn’t given a choice & was ‘forced’ to do it — it has been a lifesaver!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/photo-challenges/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/photo-challenge-delicate/