Stories from a Life I Didn't Plan

Tag: Christmas Lights

Looking at Cancer in the Rearview Mirror

Looking at Cancer in the Rearview Mirror

December was incredibly busy. In addition to the frenetic energy of five- and six-year-olds as they anticipated the arrival of Santa, I had what must have been an all time high number of health related appointments. My teaching schedule led up to the Friday before Christmas and with eleven appointments for my health, little time for shopping or card writing remained. Needless to say, I accomplished little in preparation for the holiday, which passed quietly and simply.

However, some very exciting things happened during December and the early days of January. In December, I had follow-Looking at Cancer in the Rearview Mirrorup tests to monitor my progress after chemo and had mixed results from the PET/CT scan. While there was no evidence of cancer (grand shout of jubilant relief), a growth noted on my original CT scan from 2015 showed enlargement. Consequently to avoid future problems, the oncologist referred me to another specialist for a biopsy to determine the nature of the growth.

Although the oncologist recommended I take a break, enjoy the holidays, and schedule the biopsy for February or March, the office staff from the specialist’s office called, worked me into the schedule for a consult, and then scheduled me for the complicated biopsy just two days later–all before the end of the year. I think it is the only time I have ever had a health care provider work me in before the new year in order to take advantage of my deductible already being met.

The growth turned out to be nothing worrisome. In fact, I was probably born with it, but for some reason it has gotten bigger.

Anticipating the preliminary findings of the biopsy would ultimately be confirmed and with my oncologist’s blessing, I met with the surgeon in preparation for the removal of my mediport.

With family far away and friends back to work after the holidays, I decided not to undergo general anesthesia, but instead to have my mediport removed using local anesthetic so I could drive myself to and from the hospital. As a non-emergency, outpatient procedure, mine was pushed back from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., then to 1:00, and finally to 3:00 p.m. All of the staff were very kind and apologetic about the time changes, but for me the exact time of day simply did not matter.

While in surgery, everything went smoothly. When the surgeon said the mediport was out of my chest, I cried–not from pain or discomfort, but from sheer happiness.

Before Christmas when my oncologist told me he had no reservations about having my mediport removed, I was over the moon–not because the mediport caused undue discomfort, but because it symbolized the pain and uncertainty of cancer and chemotherapy. Having my mediport out heralded my return health and traversing the final length of the cancer detour.

Although for the next four and a half years I will be monitored regularly to detect any sign of cancer, I am content knowing the expectation of trained medical experts is that in 2017 and beyond, I will continue to be looking at cancer in the rearview mirror.

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights Los Gatos cropAlong with  watching predictably saccharine sweet holiday movies, baking Christmas treats, and wrapping presents, driving around looking at holiday light displays is one of my favorite seasonal pastimes. Each year, I drive out in search of new neighborhoods with creative expressions of seasonal cheer. Although it would be  impressive to say my annual wanderings are researched thoroughly and plotted unfailingly, my navigational weakness means that more often than not I chance upon newfound delights by mere serendipity or the happenstance of taking a wrong turn.

This year, I stumbled across two delightful, though very distinct, displays in my wanderings. My first find featured the mature trees lining a lovely neighborhood lane. Although some of the homes were tastefully decorated, the highlight of the block for me was the light-wrapped tree trunks lining the street. Even houses that opted out of house lights had a wrapped tree near the street, creating a unified theme. The lighted trunks created a simple, but breathtaking effect, transforming the entire street with the magic of the season.

The second find was an individual house on my drive home from the grocery store. Driving along a residential street after an evening stop at a nearby store, I happened to notice lighted windows in a house and upon closer inspection noticed the windows were filled with scenes created using different kinds of holiday dolls.

Doll House 1croppedAlthough the photos I snapped do not do justice to the seasonal whimsy displayed in each tableau, the essence of the holiday cheer captured in these window vignettes inspired me with the childlike wonder I associate with Christmas. Each window features a different theme, but with equally delightful results. I drove away from the house feeling cheery with childlike wonder inspired by the seasonal display.

While  tinsel and colorful displays of lights do not capture the heart of the season, I found they can bring cheer and delight to the harried shopper trying to cross one more thing off of detailed wish lists. In those moments of pausing to listen and look around, I somehow find time and space to celebrate and commemorate Advent.

In these busy, task-filled days, may you find quiet moments of peace, joy and celebration.



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