Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Category: Love (Page 2 of 3)

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life

What is The American Cancer Society Relay for Life? I had heard something about it, I had never really given it much thought. However, after being diagnosed with cancer last summer, The American Cancer Society has provided me invaluable education and resources to help me navigate my cancer detour. I am infinitely grateful for their support of cancer research, education, and community awareness programs.

This year as a celebration of finishing chemotherapy and returning to a strong state of health, members of my family, friends, and colleagues have committed to walking with me in Relay for Life of Saratoga. If you would be willing to donate or to walk with us, I hope you will visit my page and support Team Chel! in this event.


Writing on the Heart

Writing on the Heart

During the past few months, I have written about the many ways my family and friends have shown their love and care for me, which I have come to think of as writing on the heart. By how we respond to others, we leave little notes written on their heart. These etchings can be bitter or sweet memories. It all depends upon us and how we make them feel. In recent findings by psychologists John and Julie Gottman, relationships that succeed over time have two things in common: kindness and generosity. The partners in these relationships respond positively to bids, or requests, to pay attention to things they are interested in and that is like writing on the heart with positive words of affirmation and love.

Recently, I was in a situation and I needed to reach out for help. Although I used to think of myself as quite the independent person and tried to do things on my own, I have found that I need people a lot more than I thought. In this situation, my help came from a source I hadn’t thought to reach out to at first. I hated to impose, but I really needed someone’s help. It was a relief when the person said sure and stayed with me until the problem was resolved. It was reassuring to know I wasn’t alone and that someone with more knowledge about something was there to advise and support in that moment of need. That person was writing on the heart, my heart, and saying you matter. I care. I am your friend.

Last year I faced another situation I could not resolve on my own. One of the hazards of teaching primary grades is that sometimes they pass on runny noses, upset stomachs, or little critters from their head to yours. In all my years of teaching, I had never had the latter happen until last year. As I sat on the couch one evening as it neared bedtime, I felt the eerie sensation of something crawling on my head. I reached up and pulled a live louse out of my hair. Since I live alone, there is no way I could have given myself lice, but I also knew there was no way I could rid myself of them. So, just when I should have been settling down to sleep, I was calling Julie, a teacher friend of mine, and asking if she would help me. Without hesitation, Julie went to the all night pharmacy, got the necessary shampoo and comb, and came over to remove the remaining lice and nits out of my hair until about 1 o’clock in the morning. It was gruesome and wholly unpleasant, but Julie did it because she is my friend. She was writing on the heart, my heart, and saying you matter. I care. I am your friend.

This week, I lost a fellow on the cancer journey: Geraldine Sims. Although she was fighting an arduous battle herself, she took time to reach out to me with encouragement and kindness. She prayed for my recovery, even when faced with the reality of her own failing health. She challenged me to have greater faith, even when things looked bleak, and to love and encourage others in spite of my own suffering. Her example of loving support was writing on the heart, my heart, and saying you matter. I care. I am your friend and sister in Christ.

I could tell you story after story about how people over the past few months have been writing on my heart with words of encouragement or acts of kindness. How I wish I could share about each person who sent a card or package that arrived at just the exact moment to encourage me when it was most needed. Or, the hug coming just at a moment I felt weak and hopeless, and the warmth of love stuck me back together and renewed my strength to go on. Each person was writing on my heart, making it stronger, making it more loving, making me a little different person through their love and affirmation.

So, I have been thinking about myself and what I might be writing on the heart of each friend or family member. I want to be purposeful and not reactive. I want each message to be positive, not negative. I don’t want to write I am too busy. I don’t have time. You are unimportant. Something or someone else is more compelling than you right now.

Instead, I want to be writing something positive like the friends I mentioned here: You matter. I care. I am your friend and I am here for you–anytime, always, no matter what.

How about you? Has someone been writing words of love and affirmation on your heart lately? I hope so!

Please know you matter. I care. I am your friend.

15 Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumé

15 Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumé

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I began learning all I could about the disease, what it meant for my life, and how I could help in the process of returning to full health. This began my accumulation of 15 chemotherapy skills that will never go on my résumé. At first, I scoured the internet, especially sites like The American Cancer Society, The Mayo Clinic, Livestrong, The National Institute of Health National Cancer Institute, and even found helpful articles on Pinterest. During meetings, appointments, and phone conversations, I began taking copious notes in a dedicated cancer notebook on what was said by the surgeon, the physician assistant, the oncology nurse who facilitates a support group, the R.N. who serves as case manager through my health insurance, the social worker at Cancer CAREpoint, billing departments, health insurance customer service representatives, my pastor, or my knowledgeable and experienced oncologist . The ability to learn and implement my new knowledge has become an important skill to returning to complete health.

Through it all, I have gained more information than I ever thought I would need about health, the human body, and cancer. This has often been gained with my own body the subject, which has forced me to develop skills for discussing delicate or personal subjects with decorum, while being perfectly candid. Sidestepping important issues can be detrimental to health–my health, and that simply isn’t an option for me. My quest to return to complete health has led me into situations that have taught me other skills.

Other Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumé

Being able to clamp or unclamp an IV line becomes critical if the pump malfunctions. Stopping the flow of the medication or checking to see if a line was inadvertently clamped is pretty helpful to know in case of other emergencies, too. Unfortunately, I learned by firsthand experience that pumps do malfunction. Which brings me to my next newly acquired skill.

Troubleshooting a chemotherapy pump while on the phone with a customer service representative can be a challenge. The pump is set by the nurses in the oncology practice to deliver chemotherapy at a certain rate. While the nurses have access to wide function of the pump, patients can only stop or restart the pump. That way, delivery of the chemotherapy cannot be tweaked by accidental pushing of buttons while the patient is at home sleeping or doing other everyday tasks. While I do not know about all chemo regimens, I know there is a specific rate at which my chemotherapy drugs are administered and it is unwise to mess with it. Therefore, the button blocking function is a fantastic thing.

That is until your pump starts repeatedly alarming at 9 o’clock at night and you have to call the pump company’s customer service line to resolve the issue. Then, they tell you how to sidestep the button blocking function to get some relief from the sleep robbing noise of the pump. Of course, they also make sure the button blocking feature is reactivated before letting you off of the phone. As you may know from personal experience, talking technology in the wee small hours with someone who knows an infinite amount of information about the technology in question can be somewhat of an exercise in careful listening and following directions. We still couldn’t solve the problem, but we tried.

Being frank with my oncologist about which chemotherapy infusion room I prefer. Infusion day is several hours long, so the atmosphere of the room can impact the level of patient comfort. As a reflective introvert, I found the larger infusion room just inside the practice door and across from the scheduling station to be noisy and lacking privacy because every single patient walks by the door on the way to an examining room. And, the discussions around the schedulers’ desk are sometimes often, but almost always audible in the larger room. So, voicing my preference for the room in the back, which is smaller and literally the last door accessible in the practice, became necessary. Nobody passes the room going anywhere else in the office. People literally have to purposefully walk to that room. As a result, little outside noise filters in.

Packing a chemo bag has become a time-consuming art. Over time, my enormous bag has come to contain all manner of helpful items such as those  mentioned in my earlier post What Should Go in My Chemo Bag. Finding and packing healthful but nausea proof snacks to munch while passing four to five hours in the chemotherapy infusion room can be challenging, but oh so crucial to a good chemo day.

Weirdly Humorous Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumé

Describing bodily functions with a straight face has become a regular exercise within the confines of the surgeon’s or oncologist’s examining rooms. No topic is taboo and no question is exempt from being answered.

Putting Emla Cream over my port site on infusion day without getting it on my clothes before covering it with Press’n Seal or numbing my fingers in the process has become one of my greatest accomplishments. One day I forgot to put on the Emla Cream at home before heading to chemo and of course that was the day the oncology nurse used the wrong length needle and had to stick my chest twice before being able to set up my infusion. I have not forgotten the cream again and I could probably guarantee that I never will. It was not fun. Not fun at all.

Who knew that exposing my mediport site in preparation for an infusion in a well-populated infusion room without modesty curtains would eventually become a matter of fact and devoid of undue mortification? There still may be a bit on occasion, but somehow I have learned it can be borne. Those of you who were breastfeeding mothers had an advantage over me, but I now consider myself quite experienced. My question to all of you experienced mothers is if the previous state of modesty ever comes back because I am finding it a bit harder to remember what the big deal was.

Wearing a chemotherapy pump as a fanny pack without feeling like I am suffering fashion suicide didn’t take long at all. As a matter of fact, it only took one time knocking the pump on the floor with the IV tubing yanking on the bandage covering the inch long needle connected to the mediport site in my shoulder before I decided to go the fanny pack route. I would choose painlessness over fashion faux pas any day!

Discerning if my oncologist is being  serious or humorous. He is such a kind and knowledgeable doctor that I trust him implicitly to tell me the truth according to current medical research. We are both so serious about cancer and me getting well that honestly, I had to ask him to smile when he joked so I would know he was kidding. Now, I am perfectly clear about when he is joking–and it wasn’t as often as I previously thought!

Using the restroom while the mediport is connected to medications hanging on an IV pole without 15 Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumégetting turned around, tangled up, or tripping on the tubes or IV pump power cable can be tricky at first. My chemotherapy is given in liquid form, so after an hour or two of liquids seeping into the body, it becomes necessary to use the necessary. Trips to the restroom as a chemo newcomer became lessons in problem solving and Houdini worthy escape acts. After awhile, I learned to dance with the pole, making sure it mostly stayed on my left side and if I had to switch sides how to do so without tangling everything up around me. The importance of keeping the lines and cables securely fastened also became clear rather quickly.

Patient to Patient Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumé

Learning when to be a quiet listener and when to share what has helped me. No two people experience the same stress with a cancer diagnosis or impact of cancer on their lives. Each detour is different because each patient is unique and the disease attacking their healthy cells is unique to them. So, sometimes listening and validating the fear and frustration is just as important as later sharing that according to recent medical research, using a baking soda rinse is the most effective way of dealing with treatment related mouth sores .

Having empathy during a phone conversation with someone who is vomiting on the other end without getting sick myself.

Sharing frustrations and then moving beyond. We all have frustrations, stress, or doubts and with an ongoing health condition sometimes they can mount up. It is helpful to have friends who recognize and acknowledge those feelings without letting you send out invitations to a pity party. Just hearing someone else say they have gone through the same thing basically neutralizes the temptation to linger in those low places we can all walk into at times.

Being a friend to someone who is wrestling with metastatic disease is the skill I probably least desired to gain. I wish all of the patients I have met would successfully defeat this horrible disease. In the past, I felt so helpless and inadequate to condole with the suffering. Instead of avoiding them, I find myself drawn to their faith, hope, strength and tenacity to live. They challenge me to “live to live and not live to die” because I see them using everything within them to do exactly that: to live.

One friend in particular has challenged me by her unwavering faith in God. She has inspired and encouraged me when we know that for her, cancer will become her ultimate journey, while for me it is simply a detour. Her implicit faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness carries her through the bad days, and a phone conversation with a listening friend can help a little, too. It doesn’t solve our cancer woes, but somehow it resolves quite a lot of life’s issues. And that makes living truly wonderful!

Chemotherapy Skills That Will Never Go on My Résumé

These 15 chemotherapy skills that will never go on my résumé , but that have become crucial in my life may never help me gain a better salary or a less stressful job. However, they have become part of who I am and how I go about life. In different ways, these skills will stick with me and help me be a better daughter, sister, aunt, friend, colleague, and who knows what else. I look forward to the journey of finding out!

White Blood Cells and Platelets

White Blood Cells and Platelets | Why Are They so Important?

The most closely monitored values during chemotherapy are white blood cells and platelets. Low white blood cells and platelets are a common side effect of chemotherapy. Levels of white blood cells and platelets reflect how equipped your body is to fight off disease and how able it is able to clot when bleeding occurs. The Mayo Clinic and National Institutes of Health Clinical Center provide nice overviews of the roles white blood cells and platelets play in maintaining overall health.

If those results fall within acceptable ranges, then chemotherapy continues. But, if they fall below established counts, chemo is put on hold while measures are taken to boost those counts. Undoubtedly you have seen commercials on television for Neulasta, but there are other medications, such as Neupogen, that also work to boost white blood cell production. The medications are painful to take because they are working in your bones to stimulate production of these much needed white blood cells. From experience, I can tell you it hurts something like those growing pains when you were young. Unfortunately, boosting the white blood cells can cause platelet production to crash. So, the oncologist has to balance it all to get the right combination so that both values fit the criteria that means a patient is healthy enough for chemotherapy.

Unfortunately for me, my white blood cells and platelets continued falling this week, leaving me with low values that were just within the acceptable range for my scheduled chemotherapy treatment this week. However, they are below what is considered normal for the average person: so I have a high risk for getting an infection or having trouble with my blood clotting if I get a cut.

Preparing me for what could be my final chemo treatment, my wise and gentle oncologist reassured me that approximately 80% of patients on this regimen only make it through treatment number ten and that I had done well to get this far with the difficult course of treatment. So, I am confident that no matter how things go on from here, that I have received the treatments I need to beat this disease and resume my course on the journey of life.

White Blood Cells and Platelets

2015 Messiah Community Sing and Play Along at Stanford

Other Lows not Measured by a Complete Blood Count

What I am finding most difficult today are the instructions to be very careful to not get sick, which is a much greater risk given my low white blood cell and platelet counts. This translates into do not go anywhere or see anyone except for treatment purposes.

While on this detour, I have followed the directions of my extremely conservative oncologist and taken time off work, avoided places like grocery stores, and stayed away from other places where there are many people and the risk of infection is greatest. In December, I pled for an exception to attend the Community Sing and Play Along Messiah at Stanford University. I was instructed to go masked and gloved, but feeling like a sideshow was utterly worth it to attend this favorite annual seasonal celebration!

Solitude is starting to take a toll after months of this self-imposed, but doctor prescribed, isolation. After being admonished at my appointment with the oncologist this week to be very careful and to abandon my plans for a quick trip into the bookstore, I had to postpone plans to visit with friends in my home and change plans for my ride to chemo due to a  sore throat.

While I am so grateful for the love and support of my friends and family, I am required to avoid much needed time spent with them. This week, I found it impossibly difficult and have been overwhelmed by tears more than once. Though humiliating to admit, it’s only too true. As I mentioned in my post Bestowing the Gift of Presence, we need people, especially the ones who love and care for us.

I want to be well and will do all I can to be completely healthy again, but this has not been a quick and easy detour. My strength sometimes wanes and in those moments I find myself borne up by you faithful ones. I am infinitely grateful for your persistence in accompanying me on this bumpy, unexpected cancer detour. Your companionship through cyberspace, USPS, thoughtful care packages, and other creative means gives me the encouragement necessary to keep fighting the good fight until I am back on the paved road of life’s journey.

So, if anyone has time to Skype, FB message, or call someone you know going through a challenging time, you could make a huge difference. I know I would love to say hello for a few minutes since I cannot visit with you in person. Feel free to  comment below, email me, or send me a message on Facebook if you’d like to set a time to connect. Or, if you have another friend going through hard times, I encourage you to find a way to remind them you care. A fellow cancer patient called me today and after we chatted, commiserated, and encouraged one another for awhile, we both felt better. You can make a felt difference like this in someone’s life today. It doesn’t have to be a time intensive contact, but it can make a meaningful difference for the person.

Thank you for sticking with me during the high and low white blood cells and platelets!

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

A couple of weeks after my parents’ wedding anniversary, my sisters and I organized a dinner and family get together celebrating a lifetime of love. My parents’ love for each other and for each of us who was born into this microcosm of loving commitment.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love with a sparkling cider toast to Mom and Dad – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

I have watched my parents for a lifetime and made some observations. Frankly, I think that 53 years is a pretty amazing benchmark and I hope that the people in my life that I love will benefit from the lessons I have learned from my dad and mom.

Something I have learned from Dad and Mom is that you must care about and take care of one another.  My mom fixes my dad’s favorite meals just because he likes them and it makes him happy, even if they aren’t her favorites, too. Dad always carries in the groceries and other heavy cargo to and from the car for Mom. Their relationship is symbiotic. They look out for one another and show their care and affection in these simple, yet meaningful ways. Simply put, they are a great team.

Dad and Mom also remember why they fell in love in the first place. But, even more than the memories of the love at first or second sight, is the lifetime of shared experiences, the highs and lows, the stresses and accomplishments that glue them together. After 53 years, sometimes it is hard to see who one is without the other. They complement one another.

I might even dare write, although they might take issue with my choice of words, that my parents are unabashed feminists. During my lifetime of family memories, I only remember my dad supporting and encouraging my mom to follow her interests and reach her goals. He always believed she could do whatever she put her mind to do. It never diminished who he was and he never felt threatened by her achievements or by hearing her opinions. They made decisions together. They discussed things as equal partners and proceeded down agreed upon, sometimes heatedly agreed upon, paths. This model of sharing life together and joint decision making is an aspect of their relationship that I am proud to have as part of my heritage. It helped to shape me as the independent and confident person I have become.

Likewise, Dad never set limits on what he thought we, his four daughters, could do. He taught me to change a tire when I was old enough to drive a car, but urged me to get a good job so I could be in a position to have someone else change it for me. Dad told us we could do anything we wanted. There were no boundaries Dad put on our dreams. I am grateful for Dad, who affirmed and believed we could do the amazing.

Mom was always the heart of our home. She is the one who greeted us when we came home from school, taught us to cook, bake, sew and other lost arts of homemaking. Mom read us bedtime stories and colored in our coloring books with us. She is the one who faced down teachers when we came home in tears and later explained to us why we were in the wrong once she understood the grown up version of events. Mom demonstrated how to be a loving, protective caregiver, while modeling how to be a competent, capable woman, worthy of being listened to with respect for her wisdom, knowledge and experience.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

The Original Six Crowes – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

At the center of their relationship, Dad and Mom have faith in God and that anchors them and the rest of us, too. Through dark and difficult days, Dad and Mom are quick to reassure us that God is faithful and that he hears our prayers, even when we do not see it played out immediately in daily life.

In recent years, our family has faced daunting, unexpected challenges, the latest being my detour with cancer. Yet in the midst of it all, Mom and Dad pull together, lean on one another, and become the oaken strength needed to pull us all through. Their unshakable faith in God and in each of us steers us all through the deep waters of the unknown with the assurance that we will be okay. Things may not end up how we thought or wanted, but we will still be okay.

One of the fears I had for my parents as they grew older was that they would find retirement boring and become antiquated and dated in their thinking. Throughout my life, I had heard of people who could not figure out what to do with themselves and their health deteriorated. Or, they lost touch with the technological advancements of the times and unwittingly ostracized themselves by becoming difficult to include because of their inflexible ways.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

Family Celebrating a Lifetime of Love – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

This has certainly not been the case with my parents. In their retirement years, they have disproved the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” While I could comment on that being due to them being Crowes and not dogs, I will resist the temptation and simply say I think it is inspiring.

Since retiring, my parents have each developed new and unique interests they pursue individually. I can imagine how hard it would be to have dinner conversation with someone every night if both did the same thing all day everyday. Their pastimes give them something novel and interesting to share with one another and with the rest of us. Mom has developed her knowledge of technology and helps Dad with his projects when needed. It is exciting to see them craft their skills in new areas.

As you can see, we had compelling reasons to be celebrating a lifetime of love with our parents and boy, did we have fun! My sisters and I decided to put Dad and Mom through all the traditional paces of young love, like cutting the cake together, linking arms to drink to a teetotaler’s toast, and kissing on demand. They good naturedly played along, making the evening all the more festive.

But, we also planned activities that we had shared with Dad and Mom over the years. We played games, sang gathered around the piano while Mom played, and ate a delicious meal together, all of which was an integral part of our family life when we were growing up. And, I remembered how much fun we were together! I smiled and laughed and enjoyed celebrating a lifetime of love because I am a result of that love and commitment. I would not be the person I am today without that specific set of parents and those smart, multitalented, wild, and crazy sisters.

Surrounded by this great throng of people, I was struck by the many and varied talents represented. And to think, it all started with a young couple in love. Each of my sisters is intelligent, articulate, artistic, and funny. Their children have benefited from their unique talents and developed their individual expression of the innate artist within.

My eldest niece, Catie, has developed one of her great talents into a successful photography business and has graciously allowed me to use her photos in this post. Please check out more of her work in the following links:   Catherine Leanne Photography and Catherine Leanne Photography Blog . If you know of anyone in need of a creative photographer for an upcoming event in Northern California and beyond, I encourage you to contact Catie.

Celebrating a Lifetime of Love

Two Original Crowes’ Anniversary Cake – Photograph courtesy of Catherine Leanne Photography

Each one of my sisters used their gifts and talents to organize this celebration. Alice planned the menu and delivered food from Tantardini’s, a European Bakery-Deli. Absolutely delicious. She also spearheaded the keepsake picture frame we all signed for a picture taken by Catie to commemorate the celebration. Leanne coordinated the upcoming not-so-secret-now getaway we decided they needed as a break from the stress of chemotherapy and other daily pressures. Lynnette oversaw the creation of the balloon bouquets by her teenaged sons, designed the table centerpiece, and created a cake that was both delicious and beautiful (assisted in the final touches by her twin sister, of course.) There were other things they did, but my sometimes unreliable, chemo affected brain cannot recall it all now.

Forgive me if I have crowed enthusiastically over my family, but I feel enormously blessed to have been born to these parents and to have grown up with such witty and interesting sisters. As we were celebrating a lifetime of love, first and foremost, we celebrated our parents’ love for each other, but I couldn’t help but reflect on how much love over our lifetime they have lavished on us.

I think that’s an incredible reason to celebrate.

Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions

Before beginning treatment, I met with a physician assistant who reviewed lists of dos and don’ts, including chemotherapy dietary restrictions. I had no idea there would be so many things I would be avoiding and easing out of my life when I began this cancer detour.

Little by little I am implementing both short-term and long range dietary modifications to improve my health and overall chance of beating this disease.

Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions: Short-term Modifications

While on chemo I try to avoid anything that would cause foodborne illness. Foods I avoid are unpasteurized or moldy dairy, unpeeled raw fruits or vegetables, undercooked meat (yes, that means sushi), and unpasteurized honey or juice. Thankfully, I have much practice with many of these measures because of the time I spent in Ecuador. In addition, I have to minimize foods containing antioxidants because these tend to promote a healthy immune system while chemotherapy is trying to undermine it, with the goal of killing cancer cells in the process. In my quirky way of trying to understand it and keep it from being something too mind-bending, I sometimes find the 1970s song, “Killing Me Softly” comes to mind.

But, seriously, if you know of anyone with a compromised immune system and would like to know more, check out the American Cancer Society Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families.

Dietary Restrictions: Long-term Changes

In addition to the short-term measures to keep me healthy while on chemo, I have taken on some major long-term dietary transformations with the goal of improving my overall health and avoiding a recurrence of this dreaded disease. The relationship between diet and cancer has been studied extensively, so if you are interested I suggest you do a search for more info. A good place to start is the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

My very conservative oncologist suggested I adopt a Mediterranean or Asian style diet, avoid anything out of a package, and try to simulate the ancient ways of eating. Since I do not hunt and am not yet ready for vegetarianism, I have to be more than a little creative and have come to haunt Pinterest looking for healthy recipes made from quality ingredients. One of my dietary shifts is to eat less meat, especially anything processed like deli meat, sausage, ham, or bacon; and eliminate from my diet bottom dwelling seafood, such as shrimp, oysters, scallops, etc., which are all believed to contribute to certain cancers.

As a great carbohydrate lover, leaving behind the packages of pasta and bread has proven a greater challenge than omitting so many meaty choices. Thankfully, my mother has been willing to support me in this dietary revolution and explore the offerings at the local mill to find tasty whole grains that would add healthy carbohydrates into my diet. We have had fun taste-testing some of the obscure finds like spelt, which has become a favorite with its nutty flavor and satisfying texture. A vegetable spiralizer has offered plant-based substitutions for pasta. Tasty zoodles, or zucchini noodles, have become a healthier, but scrumptious pasta alternative.

Lamentably, I have found no solution for my sweet tooth. So, I consider tasty, baked goods my chief dietary vice because the pastries and goodies I crave are definitely processed and made from packaged ingredients. Over time as I adjust to this new eating lifestyle, I hope to reduce my sugary indulgences.

Chemotherapy Dietary Restrictions: New Favorite Recipes

You may be thankful that you will not be bumping into me at a potluck bringing some strange, unappetizing dish to share, but I have pinned nearly 600 healthy, yummy-looking recipes on my Greens, Fingers, Bites, and Sides and  Hearty Dishes That Look Yummmmmy! Pinterest  boards that I am anxious to try. A few of my favorite recipes I that have tried so far are Baked Honey-Marinated Cod, Greek Marinated Chicken, Baked Teriyaki Chicken, Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken Recipe, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Balsamic ReductionI love trying the recipes and consider it an adventure in discovering new, savory foods.

What are your favorite healthy, clean eating recipes you and your family liked? I would love for you to comment below or email me using the contact link in the menu bar or on the bottom of the page. Frankly, I can use all of the creative eating ideas I can get.

While cancer may be my detour with its various short-term chemotherapy dietary restrictions, a healthy diet is an integral part of my journey of life.





Doing Common Core Math Before It Was Common Core

When I was a student, my parents helped me when I had questions about my homework. My mom helped with English and writing, while my dad handled math and science. During my school career, math was taught through solving algorithms. However, my dad was doing Common Core Math before it was Common Core.

Because I spoke the language of algorithms and my dad spoke of numbers as if they made sense, I felt like we were using two different numeric systems. My dad had learned from his dad, my Pa Crowe, how to quickly add numbers by decomposing and composing them in his head. Dad could break numbers down into manageable parts or substitute more easily manipulated numbers in order to find area, sums, and all kinds of other mathematical values. Inevitably, our math conversations ended up with me frustrated because I could not follow Dad’s mental math since I had limited mastery of numeracy.

As time marched on and higher order math became an integral part of my studies, this lack of numeracy became a hindrance to me because I could not effectively manipulate numbers. I could not figure out what a reasonable mathematical solution would be and was practically incapacitated if I did not  have an algorithm to depend upon. While Dad could solve problems by understood numbers and employed diverse mathematical methods, they made little sense to me because my teachers forced me to follow algorithms and rarely gave me a chance to understand numbers.

How ironic that as a teacher I would be challenged to rethink math in order to teach my students the kind of math Pa Crowe taught my dad, and my dad, in turn, tried to pass on to me. I became grateful for the mathematical conversations engraved upon my memory, as well as the ongoing talks I have with Dad. As an adult, I have gained the sense of numeracy that escaped me as a student largely because Pa Crowe and Dad were doing Common Core Math before it was Common Core.

Ways to Support Someone During a Serious Health Crisis

ways to support someone during a serious health crisis

Chemo Infusion Number 2

Since I began leading a very sequestered life due to chemotherapy, many of my family, friends, and neighbors have offered to help me however they can. So, I have been thinking of suggestions for ways to support someone during a serious health crisis.

As an independent, single person, sometimes I find asking for and accepting help difficult. I hate to inconvenience anyone and hesitate to ask if I think I will be imposing. And frankly, sometimes I cannot think about getting dressed, let alone what I might need. Nevertheless, I am deeply grateful to these kind folks for their offers and have taken many up on their kindness.

First, try to find out about the person’s needs and health limitations. Then, decide how you are able and willing to help . Finally, make a sincere, specific offer of assistance.

In addition to the myriad tasks my mother does for me, I have a neighbor and friends who get me groceries or other miscellany at the store; a friend who offers to go to chemo with me; a friend who brings dinner on the weeks my mom is at home and brings various items from the store; a sister who acts as my personal shopper and is not a bit bothered by becoming the annoying person in the store on her cell phone while she FaceTimes me to show me a product before making a purchase; a friend who comes over to walk with me; and another friend who calls to say, “I’m on my way to Target or Costco, can I pick up anything for you?” It is a lot less intimidating to ask someone to buy something for you when they are already at the store.

One of the casualties of health is energy. Staying on top of everyday tasks as simple as housework and meal preparation can become an unachievable goal.  If you have time and are willing, consider offering to sweep, mop, vacuum, clean the bathtub, launder clothes, or take out the trash. Maybe bringing a meal would be helpful, once you find out what dietary restrictions have to be followed. Perhaps you could take the car to get gas or offer to drive to appointments or help with chores, like banking or going to the post office. If they are in a chemo fog, or have chemo brain, they might need help organizing tasks like paying bills and keeping track of medical appointments and prescriptions.

If you are not sure what you can do, I have a few other suggestions of ways to support someone during a serious health crisis, and I encourage you to check out other websites that share creative ways to be supportive, like 20 MORE Things You Can Do When Someone You Love Has Cancer,  44 Ways to Make the Day of Someone With CancerHow to Help a Friend Going Through Treatment for Cancer, My Angry Cancer, and We Need to Stop Saying, “Let Me Know If You Need Anything” .

For me, when my friends have been specific about how they can help me, it makes it a lot easier to say, “Thanks. I would really appreciate that.” And, I do. I truly do appreciate each kind act you do for me.


Bestowing the Gift of Presence

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I often felt inadequate and uncomfortable when I went to visit friends or relatives in the hospital. Of course I would gladly pray and offer encouraging words, but I often walked away feeling as though my visit had little impact. This feeling was not because I  believed the prayers or words of encouragement that I offered were meaningless, but because when I walked out of the hospital room I saw no visible change in the physical condition of the person. It seemed like my visit had not made a difference. I did not understand that I had been bestowing the gift of presence. In other words, I showed up and accompanied the individual in the moment of need.

Now, five months after my own diagnosis, I realize that bestowing the gift of presence, or simply showing up, is the most important thing. My admission to the hospital was very quick. I had a doctor’s appointment and a couple of hours later, I was admitted to the hospital. None of my family members had time to get to me before I had to go to the hospital, so a dear friend took me and stayed with me. She supported me by bestowing the gift of presence as I did the paperwork and tried to navigate the unfamiliar workings of a hospital.

A few hours later, my mother arrived and never left. Just a few short hours after that, the cancer diagnosis was made and I had another diagnostic test before being prepped for surgery the next morning. So later that night, my dad and three sisters all came to see me, as well as long-time family friends. My two oldest nieces came. My older sister stayed, holding my  hand, all night in the room with me the night before surgery and my youngest sister the following night.

The presence of my family and friends comforted and encouraged me as a tangible demonstration of their love. I did not have time to grow anxious about surgery or even about having cancer because I was surrounded by the people most important to me. As my hospital stay extended, other friends came to visit. They were there with me and somehow this unexpected cancer detour felt better, easier, and far less frightening.

As  I continue with chemotherapy, I have many friends and family members who are with me. They call, send texts, cards and gifts; go with me to appointments; post comments on my blog, Facebook page or Caringbridge pages, surrounding me with their prayers, love, and encouragement.

This cancer detour is a lot less lonely and frightening because of all of you. Thank you for bestowing the gift of presence. Your presence makes a world of difference to me.


An Unshakeable Legacy of Love

Two days ago my Granny Crowe would have turned 101 years old if she were still alive. Although Granny left us before we were ready, she left her family an unshakeable legacy of love.

When I was a girl, on Saturdays my family would drive to Granny and Pa’s where my sisters and I would play with our cousins. We would run around outside and do who knows what, but we had fun because we were at Granny and Pa’s.

My most precious memory of going to Granny and Pa’s was how special I felt in the middle of that grand group of cousins. Granny had a gift for making people feel like they were precious and exquisitely loved. Among the murder of Crowes, I was an insignificant pipsqueak. I was born with crooked feet, a speech impediment, and brown eyes. I was the second of four girls and there was nothing significant about me except for one thing: most of the Crowes had the most beautiful blue eyes.

But not me.  My eyes were brown. Over the years they have lightened up to a more nondescript color, but when I was a girl they were most definitely brown. Granny made sure that having those brown eyes made that crooked footed, tongue-tied little girl feel special. I believe Granny made each of us feel that loved and special, even though there was a great bunch of us.

Nothing made me know I was loved quite like being drawn to Granny’s breast in a hug so deep I could almost feel her heart beating.  Granny’s love flowed into me through her sweet embrace and touched me to my soul. I knew I was loved deeply.

Granny and Pa’s legacy lives on. Recently, one of my Crowe cousins hosted a family Christmas party. I was excited to see pictures of the event via Facebook. I marveled at the number of people attending the party and the smiles on their faces as they enjoyed being together as a family during the holidays, just like we loved going to Granny and Pa’s on Saturdays. Those pictures reminded me of how Granny left an unshakeable legacy of love in the heart of more than one little, brown-eyed girl.


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