Pink October

I received a phone call from my doctor’s office this afternoon. Insurance previously denied the claim for a breast MRI I had in April. There were two levels of appeal, and today’s call informed me that our final appeal was not successful.

This news was disappointing. After all, my doctor is a specialist. She weighed all my risk factors before ordering this particular test. I was so confident that information would change the decision.

My risk factors included family history (my mom is a five-year survivor), extremely dense tissue, and my use of hormone replacement therapy. Over the past eighteen years, I’ve experienced extra mammograms, ultrasounds, two MRIs, a lumpectomy, and multiple needle biopsies-all benign.

Rehashing these details did not help. My frustration only grew. And then my sweet husband called. He calmly reminded me that I could not change this outcome. The MRI had provided peace in a moment of uncertainty. And that was more important than money.

Writing through my frustration brought transformation. I am left feeling thankful. Thankful for my mom and my current health status. Thankful for an expert doctor who is comprehensive and thorough. Thankful for a husband who knows what I need to hear just at the right moment.

Our first outing after her mastectomy. ❤

I do find it interesting that this decision came during Breast Cancer Awareness month. The month in which we celebrate and encourage survivors. A time to remember those no longer with us. Time focused on raising research funds and seeking a cure.

Who knows? Maybe it came at just the right time, forcing me to write.

I will see my doctor later this month for a checkup. My prayer is for continued positive results. I will not live in a spirit of fear for what might happen in the future but will continue to be diligent where my health is concerned.

So in the middle of this pink October, here is my reminder-Early detection is the key! Don’t delay in getting your yearly mammograms!

Boys to Men

Last night, I listened as my oldest son gave the best-man toast at his best friend’s wedding. He spoke with confidence and humor as he described their friendship and his genuine happiness for his friend.

It was one of those moments of clarity. The ones which solidify the reality of time and remind me how quickly it passes.

Robert and Jeremy have been friends since junior high. Before they were old enough to drive, we would take turns shuttling them back and forth to each other’s houses on the weekends. They spent many hours playing video games and watching movies. Student group activities and church camps also provided hangout time.

Their friendship continued through high school. After graduation, our family took them on a senior trip to Colorado. Together, they hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, the highest point in the continental U.S. Quite an accomplishment for these two boys who used to use yogurt containers and empty monster cans for bb gun target practice in the backyard.

College meant living several hours away from each other. Keeping in touch and visiting whenever possible remained a priority. They even continued a tradition involving Christmas presents. One year involved a shovel and map coordinates, another required thawing a block of ice. Crazy boys!

I’m pretty sure these two have been mistaken for brothers a time or two. We felt like Jeremy was another one of our kids. And I’m certain his family often felt the same about Robert. That’s what happens with close friendships.

In five short months, their roles will be reversed. Jeremy will be making a best-man toast at Robert’s wedding. Both young men will be standing next to their lovely, precious wives. And believe me, Caitlin and Erin are special young ladies. They have to be to put up with these two. 😉

Once again, it will be a moment of clarity.

Another moment which solidifies the fact that these two boys have become men in what seems like an instant.

Another moment which will serve to strengthen their friendship.

Another moment which leaves behind a beautiful memory. ❤

Tiny Little Steps

Our last full day in Colorado, we chose to hike the Agnes Vaille Falls trail. This particular hike is not long, about a mile and a half round trip. The problem for non-locals is elevation. The trail begins at around 9,000 ft. and another 500 ft. is gained by the falls overlook.

I hiked this trail for the first time twenty-six years ago. Gart and I were on our honeymoon. Younger, and in much better shape, it was not a tough trek. And the views were amazing!

I’ve hiked the trail several other times since then. The last time was in 2012, a little harder for me than that very first hike on our honeymoon in 1993.

Gart, Rachel, and Ryan wanted to make the hike on this trip. I wanted to as well but wasn’t confident I could make it to the top. I am a tad older, and not exactly in tip-top shape. But I had to give it a try.

We headed out, water bottles in tow. Gart reassured me we would take breaks. We let the kids go ahead of us. Not long on the trail, and I was breathing heavy. I kept telling myself, “You can do this. Just keep moving.” But honestly, I was worried.

Then I heard the most encouraging words coming from my husband. “You can do this. Remember, tiny little steps. One foot in front of the other. You’re doing great!”

Gart knew how much I wanted to succeed. He also recognized my doubts. Perfect timing, his words were exactly what I needed to hear. The higher we went, the more confident I became. My thought changed to, “You are going to make it!” And for just a moment, I fought back a few tears.

About three-quarters of the way up, there is a huge flat rock on the trail. It provides a perfect spot for photo ops with a beautiful mountain backdrop. We have a picture of us standing on this rock from our honeymoon and then again in 2012.

Despite some changes to the trail, that rock still sits in its place. And when we reached that rock on this hike? I was so happy! There were no remaining doubts in my mind. Our daughter, Rachel, snapped our picture in the same spot we first stood twenty-six years ago. And me being mom, we also got a pic of her and her younger brother, Ryan.

Once we reached the peak of the trail, the waterfall was clearly in sight. We stood there, looking across the rocky ravine at the beautiful falls. We snapped pictures, talked to another hiker, and studied how the area has changed.

On our way down, we chose an alternate loop trail. A few turns and steps lead down to the flowing stream. I heard Gart’s voice once again. “Well, Mama, how much of an adventure are you in for?” I certainly couldn’t quit now!

Moments later, we were crossing the stream. Carefully placing our steps, we walked across some fallen trees. Further down the trail, we did it again!

The remainder of the hike was easy, all downhill. The hardest part long past. As we reached the car, I was smiling. “Yay! I did it!”

I’m sure Gart would argue, but I would not have made it without his words of encouragement. Seeing those falls again, taking our picture, experiencing this beautiful place with my family…it was worth each tiny little step.

Dreaming of…

Dreams are fascinating. I don’t often remember mine. When I do, they are usually crazy. Last night I had two vivid dreams. This morning I felt compelled to write them down.

In dream number one, I stood in the middle of an auditorium, possibly a church. A stage with rising levels in front of me. People stood all around me and on varying levels.

I noticed water seeping in around the edge. It rose quickly, but no one else seemed concerned. I began to panic. Looking up, I saw Gart standing on one of the higher levels in front of me.

I frantically made my way up to him. Despite the now chest-high water, Gart was calm and collected. I was terrified. He pointed towards an open door to our right side and said, “Look. We can get out right over there.”

Dream number two involved our youngest, Ryan. Gart, Ryan, and I were driving near the ocean. Once again surrounded by people. Once again surrounded by water. Huge waves lapped at both sides of the road as if driving through the middle of the ocean.

Needless to say, I felt anxious, ready to turn around. But Ryan said, “Let’s drive a little further. There’s a sinkhole up ahead I really want to see.” We drove forward, and sure enough there it was; a huge sinkhole, spreading and quickly filling with water. We finally decided to turn around, but the car just spun around in circles.

Back to reality. After describing my dreams this morning, Gart said “Well, that makes sense. You’re under a lot of stress and worrying about things you can’t control.” Hmmm…he’s probably right. Shhh…do not tell him I said that. 😉

As I type, the house is full of moving boxes. No longer neat and clean like it has been for the past month. Until now, my summer days have been filled with making sure the house was ready for showings. There was routine. I knew what needed to be done each day.

Now we have a contract on our house. Yay! The past two days involved signing papers for selling our current home and buying our new home. Closing dates are set, tentative moving dates established, and moving boxes everywhere. Definitely cluttered, the house and my thoughts.

But what about the second dream? Why the addition of Ryan? Well, he is our youngest. He just graduated from high school, is working every day, and begins classes at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in September. My baby…making his way in the world. Saying I’m emotional is an understatement.

Today I may be swimming in a sea of moving boxes, but there is no rising water. I may be figuring out how to let go of my youngest, but there is no engulfing sinkhole. Those scary images came from my dreams. Dreams which brought laughter and a reminder that I need to let go.

Next week we are heading to Colorado for a much-needed vacation. Time to unwind and relax, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The mountains are calling my name! As are the peaceful, flowing streams. Not the mighty ocean waves. Not this trip, anyway.

Like an Avenger?

This morning I knew where I was going. I got lost on my first visit to this destination.  I would not get lost a second time. After all, the first visit was only a week ago. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2019/07/10/journey-to-somewhere/

I had not expected to be back so soon. It seems a bit surreal. I am not complaining. My doctor leaves nothing to chance when it comes to breast cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection.

Waiting for my name to be called, I witnessed her speaking with a family. Wearing scrubs and hair cap, she must have come from surgery. She approached the waiting family with confidence and kindness.

Observing this scene increases my confidence for today’s adventure.

As a result of last week’s mammogram, I am having a diagnostic mammogram on my left side, possibly followed by an ultrasound. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve been here before.

Would I rather be somewhere else? Most definitely!

Surprisingly, I feel calm. Prayers from friends and family bring peace. Yesterday there were moments of panic, but those have faded.

A text from my husband. Perfect timing. ❤

He always makes me laugh!

A sweet lady named Carolyn took my initial pics. She was kind, and I appreciated her procedure. During a mammogram, there’s a moment where the technician says, “Ok. Stop breathing and don’t move.”  But Carolyn continued speaking, “only four seconds.”

In those three little words, she acknowledged the pain and offered reassurance. Her voice gave me a focal point.

Back in my room, a text from my mom. 

My mom is using emojis!

More waiting. Will additional pics be required? An ultrasound? Not going to lie, my vote is for no more pics. But if necessary, I will take a deep breath and close my eyes, remembering each lasts only four seconds.

A quick phone call from my friend, Marina.

Carolyn returned with news-no more pics! However, ultrasound has been ordered. So, I wear my flowery Avengers’ cape a little longer. Once the ultrasound is complete, I will happily trade it in for some non-hero street clothes. 😉

All done! Results? The radiologist recommends repeating today’s tests in six months to make sure there is no change. Reports will be sent to my doctor. For now, I wait for her follow up instructions.

Why am I sharing the details of this personal experience? To encourage women to get their regular mammograms. To offer reassurance concerning additional testing. No, it is not fun. Yes, it is uncomfortable and sometimes scary. More importantly, it is life-saving. Early detection is key! 

And thinking of that flowery cape in terms of an Avenger? Well, today it made the whole ordeal a little more bearable. 

What a difference one week and a little humor can make!

Carry Them With Me

My daughter, Rachel, and I made a trip to Hobby Lobby yesterday. Her goal was to purchase frames for her newly acquired teaching certificate and college diploma! They are now ready to be proudly displayed.

I was also shopping for something to display. A storage box or pretty container for storing letters. Not just any old letters. Letters which were written by my husband, Gart.

We have moved many times over the last twenty-six years. Somehow, I managed to keep up with the letters. They have occupied several different boxes and resided on a variety of closet shelves. As we prepare to move from our current home after fifteen years, I decided they need a more prominent location.

Rachel and I walked down the aisle of decorative boxes. There were many shapes, styles, and colors. One immediately caught her eye. “Ooh look. This is cute! It looks like a mini-suitcase.” After exploring several others, I returned to Rachel’s pick. Perfect!

Once home, I carefully transferred Gart’s letters to their new home. I couldn’t walk away without reading several. Sweet memories.

Some were typed, carefully folded, and placed in envelopes. Others hand-written on notebook paper and folded in half. Each marked with his unmistakable signature. 😉

The messages were just as varied as the paper on which they were written. Notes from when we dated, the rest scattered throughout our twenty-six-year marriage.

I miss you. I love you. I’m sorry.

The new box is proudly displayed on my dresser. As I glanced at it this morning, my first thought was, “How perfect! My collection of love letters carefully placed in their very own suitcase.”

I will always carry the sentiments expressed by the words in my heart. And the papers on which the words were written? I will continue to carry them with me, in their very own suitcase, wherever this life leads. ❤

Pack a Bag!

We are preparing to put our house on the market. Work to be done-minor repairs, small updates, painting. The tallest order being the painting of the entire interior. We’ve never experienced this before. We have painted a room or two, but not an entire house. Definitely a job for the professionals.

So, the professionals came yesterday. Originally they were coming later in the week. Not that any of the following would have changed…

The crew came early in the morning. We headed to school and work, not giving much thought to this process. Fast forward to the late afternoon. Drywall repairs all done. Windows covered and taped. Trim taped. Plastic tarps covering everything else, and I do mean everything.

The closet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom cabinets all sealed shut. I couldn’t get to my clothes, makeup, hairstyling stuff-nothing. Only one thing to do. Laugh and have a little adventure. Not too far, of course, we had work the next day.

Ryan headed to his friend’s house for the night. Gart and I made a Target run. A blue t-shirt for $8, underwear, toothpaste, and some inexpensive makeup. I would wear my jeans again but had to have a clean shirt and underwear. Deodorant? There was some in my desk drawer at school. Hair? Ponytail for the second day in a row.

After Target, we were ready to crash. A quick stop at Sprouts and we had dinner to take to the hotel. Thank goodness, our room had a microwave, coffee pot, and some decaf. The decaf a necessity to accompany the brownie we bought to share.

Getting ready the next morning, I realized my new blush and powder did not come with any brushes. Who knew Kleenexes could substitute? I glanced in the mirror-it would have to do.

Extra coffee helped me get through the day. A sweet kindergarten boy said, “I like your shirt, Mrs. Morris.” If he only knew. A 4th-grade girl gave me a hug and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Morris?” “Yes, I’m ok. Just a little tired,” I smiled. Pretty sure she could tell I was a little out of sorts.

Tonight our adventure continues. I’ve only cried once-Sorry, Gart. ❤ Ryan is at his friend’s house again. Another night in a hotel for us. This time I have a change of clothes, my own makeup, and flat iron. Oh, and I don’t have to wait until I get to school to put on deodorant. 😉

The painters will be finished tomorrow. Things will go back to normal. We will be one step closer to selling our house. The result will be well worth the little inconvenience.

I hope we never have the need to paint a whole house again. One thing is certain. If we do and the painters call to say, “We will be there tomorrow,” the first thing I will do is pack a bag!