Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Isn't it ironic, don't cha think?

For years, my mom has been complaining about a lymph node in her neck being sore and inflamed.  I blew it off as just allergies.  No big deal.

A month ago, mom noticed a lymph node in her groin that was inflamed.  She said she was headed to the lab to get a biopsy.  I was headed to work for a 12 hour shift and didn't have time to think about it.  Unfortunately, I got a call several hours later that mom had Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Two weeks ago, mom had a PET scan, an MRI, and a bone marrow biopsy.  For two weeks, I couldn't think about anything else but the results of those tests.

Today, I found out mom has Stage IV B-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Stage IV.  Wow.  How could such a healthy, young, gorgeous woman have Stage IV anything??  The cancer has spread to all of her lymph nodes, her spleen, and her bone marrow.  Wow.

I dare you to guess her age

And, yet, I find myself thankful for the diagnosis.  Because my mom has taken such good care of herself and looks so young (how many times have we been asked if we are sisters??), I took for granted the fact that she would live to be 100.  If anything, my mom looks healthier and younger than she did 20 years ago.  So, this wake-up call has been a blessing in some ways. 

After all, how many of us really stop to tell each other how much we appreciate them?  How the fact that they taught Girl Scouts in 1983 still means so much 30 years later?  How seeing them snuggle with your children means more than the world?  
Mimi "scratching" Haley's back with a brush

The word ironic continues to pop in my head.  It's ironic that my mom's dad, Grandpa Walt, lived to be 79 after a lifetime of smoking, drinking, swearing, and bacon-grease loving.  My mom, who NEVER smokes, hardly EVER drinks, NEVER swears, and ALWAYS throws out her bacon grease, is 61.  A cancer diagnosis is quite ironic.

It's also ironic that if there is any stage IV cancer you want to be sentenced with,  non-Hodgkins lymphoma might just be the one you would pick.  It seems to be just like any other chronic disease you live with.  You get a few rounds of chemotherapy every few months, and then go on with your life.  And, the chemo used is an antibody that attacks only the cancer cells.  Losing your hair, throwing up your toenails, and spending days in bed are highly unlikely.  

And, I find it ironic that cancer has stricken our family at all.  Sure, my dad had some kind of malignant skin cancer removed.  And, Grandpa Walt underwent radiation for his prostate cancer.  But, all in all, my entire family has dodged the cancer bullet. We could only avoid it for so long I guess.  Alzheimer's disease has run rampant in my family tree.  Other than that, we've been a fairly heathy bunch.  Until now.  

Two weeks from now, mom will start chemo.  I'm guessing waiting on test results will be the story of our lives from now on.  In the meantime, I'll be praying for healing and reminding loved ones how much they mean to me. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A good time was had by all

This past weekend, we went to Bryon's 20th high school reunion in Santa Fe, NM.  The quick trip turned into quite the learning experience for us all.  The girls had a blast with the grandparents, while Bryon and I enjoyed playing "tourist" and catching up with old friends.

Even though he grew up there, Bryon hadn't seen many of the tourist spots.  We were both in for a total shock upon arrival to set up at the Scottish Rite Temple, aka the "Pink Church".
What secrets lie within?
Every high school gathering back in the '90's involved the instructions, "meet at the pink church."  Prom night after-party?  Meet at the pink church for further directions.  Skipping out on swim practice to go hiking?  Meet at the pink church at high noon.  You get the idea.  

The funny thing was that he and his classmates had never been inside until this reunion.  Who knew there was such beauty housed in the temple?  The theater took my breath away, and the chandeliers looked like they belonged in a European church rather than a Southwestern fraternal building.  Now that the building is open to tours and can be rented for parties, this place has made it on our Must See list for Santa Fe.  

Most beautiful backdrop ever
While we were busy playing tourist, the girls were staying with Bryon's parents in Los Lunas.  Grandma and Grandpa Birdie had all kinds of fun stuff to keep our girls entertained.  Grandpa had a coconut for the girls to crack open and taste. 
He is one brave soul

Fresh coconut milk

Just like an island girl
Grandma and Grandpa also pulled out the tractor and Big Wheels in an attempt to burn energy.
Watch out Nascar!  Here come the Pfaffs.

Caution:  Student Driver

We all met up in Santa Fe at the Childrens' Museum for family day at the class reunion.  For years, we had been trying to find Haley's "money", my mom's word for what makes a person tick.  My money would be dessert.  Bryon's money would be engines.  Shelby's money would be unicorns.  PacMan's money would be dots.  You get the idea!  I've never seen so much joy in Haley's face as when I turned her loose with the face painting crayons.  
Really, Mom?  I get to use as much as I want?
Such concentration in the mirror
Pure joy!
Another classic Haley pose

Bryon also got a chance to go up in the plane his dad recently completed.  The flying experience was a thrill for him, as his dad even let him control it for a split second once they got up in the air.  Will anyone be surprised when one of our girls grows up to be an engineer??

We decided to drive out to New Mexico this trip (Hello, Southwest Airlines, what ever happened to the Wanna Get Away prices??).  I was pleasantly surprised at how grown up the girls were in the car.   We weren't totally exhausted and ready to choke each other by the time we got home.  I think I've got this parenting gig figured out!  

Shelby having fun in the car
The tech gods smiled on us!