Thursday, September 21, 2017

My Life: Cancer and a Storm God


Image from picjumbo


I'm driving my husband to a chemo treatment in the pouring rain. It's mid-morning and early September, but the road is so drenched in water and fog, the white line on the side of the road is almost invisible. Wind rocks the car, and my fingers grip the wheel so tight they hurt.

But I can't let go. I can only breathe. And pray. Heavenly Father please help me get through this.

In another life, just a few weeks ago, we'd never have left the house in a downpour like this. If the storm hit unexpectedly, I'd have pulled off the road. Waited out the storm. But we have a ten o'clock appointment with a small bag of poison and not going isn't an option.

Ahead is a stretch of road that terrifies me in bad weather. Low in the valley, it collects the fog like a bowl and the water pools on the freeway instead of running off. I'm terrified of hydroplaning and the truck we pass that is turned almost completely around doesn't do anything to ease my fears.

Just before we hit the dreaded spot, the fog lifts enough to make the road visible a few more feet ahead. My windshield wipers catch up with the water, clearing the view, and a calmness settles in my chest. We are going to be okay. The rain drenches us all 25 miles we drive, but we make it in one piece.

Later, when we are done and the sun is elbowing through gray clouds outside the treatment center, my husband tells me he wasn't afraid as we drove.

That's all fine. But he wasn't the one behind the wheel. Remember how you used to drive in stuff like that rain, I think, back when I got to sit in the passenger seat and close my eyes when things got a little scary? I can't close my eyes now. Not anymore.

My husband, ever the Ancient Near Eastern Studies with a Emphasis on the Hebrew Bible graduate, doesn't leave it there. "Did you know that in classical classification, Jehovah was known as a Storm God?"

I didn't.

"There were war gods and fertility gods and any number of other gods, but Jehovah had control over the elements. A Storm God. That is why it was significant when Jesus Christ walked on the water and calmed the seas. He was essentially saying 'I am the Storm God. The God of the elements. I am Jehovah of the Old Testament.'"

My heart lifts a little at this, images born of years of sunday school lessons and seminary. Jesus walking on water, Jesus rebuking the storm. "The master of ocean and earth and skies."

He keeps talking and his voice is breathy and scratchy. Talking this much is hard for him. A side effect of all the procedures done and medicines given to him. "It was like we were going to chemo with the Storm God. I felt comforted and safe. I knew we were going to be okay. I could tell that you were nervous though. I told God, 'I know you can control this water. You have control over all the elements. If it be thy will, please lift the rain a little so she can see.'"

I remember that moment, the easing of the rain, the peace settling inside me.

That evening we realize my husband is almost out of pain medication. It's 4:30 on a Friday and we have no idea which of the sea of doctors we've seen we are supposed to contact for refills. He has spent the afternoon visibly shaking under a mound of blankets. Now he has a fever. If he runs out of medication over the weekend, what will we do then?

I pull out the discharge papers from the hospital he spent twelve days at. Other than when I had my babies, I've never stayed overnight at a hospital. I'm 31 years old. I've never dealt with a serious illness and my 36 year-old husband has never either. Not until cancer. I feel like a frightened teenager again. Someone tell me how to do this. I don't know how. 

I call the family practice doctor, get a recording to call the pharmacy, who then tells me to call the doctor who prescribed the medicine. A doctor I've never met and my husband doesn't know. The pharmacy gives me the number they have for him and tells me to give it a try. I reach the seventh floor of the hospital when I dial the number. The same floor we left a few days ago. They tell me to call the family practice doctor. I call back and wait until I finally get a receptionist. She directs me to call another doctor, The oncologist we saw earlier in the day. So I call the office who does the chemo treatments.

It's almost five.

Jess answers. I don't know him. We've never met. I stumble through my explanation. How we've never done anything like this before. How we don't know what we are doing, and I don't want my husband in even more pain over the weekend.

He tells me he'll check with the doctor. When he comes back he says "If you can be here in thirty minutes, I'll get you the prescription. Here's my personal number. Call it when you get here. The doors may be locked."

I herd my three-year-old to the car, leaving my husband in the bed and my ten-year-old on the couch with a video game. We drive the 25 miles again and get to the treatment center by 5:30. Jess meets me at the office. He gives me the prescription and talks me through the latest chemo symptoms. I know he must have waited for me. He went out of his way. I can't stop thinking about that.

I've been numb for a little while. Too scared to feel too deeply, or maybe just too overwhelmed to think about anything but what has to come next. It's almost dinner time. I haven't made any food. I still need to fill the prescription. My daughter is hungry and tired.

But out over the valley, the sun breaks through the still overcast sky, and a ray of light runs in a straight line to the earth below, a spotlight on the very place I'm headed for. The storm comforted my husband. The light comforts me. I say a prayer of gratitude. Thank you, for Jess.

The woman who rings up the prescription remembers me from the phone. Another pharmacist lets my daughter have a free sucker. I get a text message from my husband. Someone from the ward has brought us dinner.

When the pharmacists ask me how I'm doing, I almost start crying right there. Not because it's so hard or I can't do it anymore, but because Jess waited. Because everyone who helped me on the phone was so kind. Because dinner is waiting at home. And two pharmacists took time to look beyond the prescriptions they were filling.

The fog and rain have lifted just enough for me to see again. I know we are going to be all right. We're being carried in the hands of the Storm God.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

WIP: Break and You Are Worth It

Here's the latest news on my new releases this year.

You Are Worth It: Eternal Perspectives for a Young Woman received its first review! Check it out on Christy Monson's blog: Connections with Christy.



Break has also been getting some reviews. (Check out this blog review if you are interested: A Creative Addiction)

Also super exciting is that Seagull Book is now carrying Break! My sister-in-law saw it in store and then I did some searching and found it online. This is the first time Seagull Book as picked up one of my books. So I am pretty happy.

We should be getting ebooks up soon and even though Amazon says Break is out of stock, it's usually a pretty fast turn around if you order it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Create: Cookies and Kids

My son has recently discovered an interest in cooking. He's been doing simple meals for a while (think mac and cheese from a box and Ramen noodles.) But since attending his first webelos meeting where they were working on earning an award for cooking, he's been asking me a ton of questions about what I'm cooking and how. He especially wanted to know how to cook a fried egg and just the other day made one all on his own.

My daughter has always been my little shadow in the kitchen, but it's fun to have my son joining us more often now. I'm discovering I'm more of a social cooker. I enjoy it all much more if I have company. The same goes for chores. I blame it on being born eleven months after my sister. I always had someone around to hangout with and do my chores with. (I'm sure my natural tendency toward clutter also plays into my avoidance of cooking and cleaning, not just the lack of social company, but hey, it's a good excuse.)

My mother recently broke her wrist and was craving some chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies. One morning, we whipped some up as a surprise for her. The kids loved it. (And so did my mom.) Though my son did mention that the cookies look a little bit like . . . something gross.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Women I Admire: Still Going Strong

Sisters in my Stake, in front of quilts they will be donating soon.


One of my first posts on this blog was about a group of women in my hometown who got together every Tuesday morning to do humanitarian work. (Check out the original post here.) After several years and two other towns, I moved back into my childhood home this summer. Crazy life kept me from the going over to the stake center on Tuesdays, but now that school has started, I went back. This time I had a daughter in tow, pedaling the same bike with the same bike trailer I'd used to haul my son over in. But everything is older. The bike, the trailer, me. I don't remember it being so hard to bike all that way! And that same day, my little boy started fifth grade.

Fifth!

Despite the years that have passed, I found a scene straight from my memory. A handful of women, many of them the same ones I met that first time, still faithfully working away, one tie, one quilt and one project at a time. I had to take a moment to think about the sheer numbers involved in what they've done. Using mostly donated materials from the stake, they have tied at least one quilt each week for the last five years! And that's just the basic stuff. They also make school kits, shopping bags, Days for Girls kits, newborn blankets, newborn kits, and a bunch more stuff I can't even begin to tally up. The stuff in the photo below are the supplies they have to move out of the room so they can get to the stuff inside. Most of the boxes are full of things to make the Days for Girls kits. They were getting ready to take them to a humanitarian meeting the next day.
The foyer outside the Humanitarian room in our stake center

The amazing thing is the reach these women have. They provide countless opportunities for the stake and community to serve and get involved, from asking for donations, to taking supplies to families or groups willing to assemble kits, to sending home sewing projects with people who can't make it to the Tuesday meetings.

I love that they are still working away like this, making a difference one Tuesday at a time. Big miracles truly come with small steps and even a small town humanitarian effort can do incredible things.

A few of the women who come to tie quilts.