Sunday, May 29, 2011


Cancer makes me angry. 
 No, more than that- it really pisses me off.  I would think the reasons are obvious, but just in case they’re not, look at these pictures of my husband.  My handsome, strong husband…
This photo was taken in January 2008. I was three months pregnant with Marley, and Jim had just found a tumor on his collarbone. 
Christmas 2008- This is what chemo did to him.  He was so horribly sick and swollen that we had to buy larger clothes  for him just so he could be comfortable.   The chemo made him so ill that he had to stop only 2/3 of the way through the rounds his doctor wanted him to do.  We had to choose- die from chemo, or roll the dice that it had done enough good to keep him here. 
2009- He looks better here, right?  Sorta.  Look closer, at his eyes.   He was so weak from treatments that he spent most of his time in bed or lying on the couch.  He was trying his hardest, but very aggressive chemo takes a while to recover from.  And then he had to start radiation, which also made him very sick. 
Still 2009, but six months later.  The rollercoaster ride that we were on was looking better.  Jim was trying a different, experimental chemo that actually gave him nearly a year of good quality of life.  The main side effect was fatigue, which we learned to accommodate.  But he got to spend that time with Marley, keeping her home with him while I worked.

We dared to hope that maybe, just maybe, he would beat this thing.  I remember him telling me, “I think I’m gonna get to take her to her first day of kindergarten”. 
2010- Jim turns 40 in April.  I threw him a surprise birthday party, for the second year in a row.  He didn’t catch on last year as I prepared to have his friends from Indiana and Michigan come to celebrate with us, and he still didn’t catch on this year.  Some of them drove 4 hours to be with him for his birthday, cause we all knew- he might not be here next year.  We were still hopeful, but things were starting to look bad again.  He’d been rejected from the clinical trial of chemo that he was taking because his cancer outsmarted it- and began to grow again.  He was to undergo even more radiation- he was pushing 100 treatments.  His shirt pretty much summed up his attitude toward cancer at this point.  We both knew the odds weren’t looking good, but we went on with life.
I remember we were both feeling so excited and blessed that he got to celebrate Marley’s second birthday.
But he got sicker… and sicker… and sicker.  He knew, I think, that he wasn’t going to make it another year.  He tried his best to do all of the things he could to make memories with Marley.  That fall we went with friends to an apple orchard/petting zoo to pick out pumpkins.  He didn’t have the energy to carve them, so we painted them instead.  We went to the fair- twice- and he made sure Marley got to play games to win prizes and ride the ponies. 
Look closely at his eyes.  You can see the pain and misery he was in.  He was feeling terrible that day, but he was dead set on going.
And then he was hospitalized when the cancer ate through one of his ribs and broke it, causing it to bleed and collapse his lung.  This was where the real downhill slide began, I think.
By Thanksgiving, my husband was looking like this…
   He’d been in the hospital for four  days, but they let him go the day before Thanksgiving.  Which is a good thing, because he was itching to leave so badly that when they didn’t discharge him fast enough, he ripped off his heart monitor and was ready to pull out his IV’s himself.  I literally had to grab his hand and stop him.  He was determined that he was going to leave that hospital and make the trip to Indiana to eat Thanksgiving dinner at his sister’s house.  I’m pretty sure he knew it was going to be his last one, and there was no way he was going to miss his favorite foods! 

That year he was too sick to go with me to pick out a Christmas tree.  He couldn’t muster the energy to help me decorate it either.  And we didn’t make it home for family Christmas celebrations.  But when he opened a game he’d really been wanting for the Wii, I got this corny smile…
We neither one knew that he only had exactly a month left on that Christmas Day.  I’m glad we didn’t know, because it would have ruined a really, really nice day.  We’d been talking about it, and he was hopeful that he’d make it till June to see Marley’s third birthday, but we both knew it wouldn’t be much more than that.  Those are hard talks to have with your spouse. 

2011- The pain is more than he could bear.  He finally gave in and went to the hospital, hoping that they could help him manage his pain where oral medication couldn’t.   Five days later, I came home without him, devastated. 
A few weeks later I had the courage to go through his medicine cabinet.  This is a sampling of the medicine I threw away, and it’s not even all of it. 
This is why cancer makes me angry.  It robbed me of my husband.  It robbed Marley of her Daddy.  It robbed his family of a son, brother,and  uncle.  It robbed many of a good friend.   It robbed Jim of the oportunity to take his daughter to kindergarten.  It robbed us both of another child, and Marley of having a sister or brother to grow up with.  It robbed him and I of the joy of having our grandchildren come to visit.  It took away SO MUCH.  It’s been four months since Jim passed away.  I know you go through cycles when you grieve. 
Well, I’m angry, really angry. 
Because I have good manners, I’m not using the words I’d really like to use when I describe how I feel about cancer and what it took from us.  Truth be told, I’m more than angry.  I’m pissed, and that’s the nice word that comes to mind, if you get my drift.  Writing this post has actually made me sick to my stomach, but it’s part of the process, and it needs to be done so I can continue to heal.  Now, don’t be worried that I’m going to become bitter.  I’m not angry with God, because I know this wasn’t His plan for Jim or me or Marley.  I’m not bitter at all, I’m just good old-fashioned mad, angry, pissed, whatever you want to call it.  I know it’s normal, and I know it’s healthy, as long as I don’t stay this way.  I’m not that kind of person anyway.  But I DO need to sit with these emotions, acknowledge them, and process them. 
I share this with you because I want you to understand.  Maybe when I talk to you I might seem closed off.  Or I might ignore your question of “How are you?” and talk about other things instead.  Maybe when we spend time together, I might seem distant or preoccupied.  Well, I am, I guess.  But I’m trying my best to work through this.  And if I’m keeping my mouth shut (which I admit is not normal for me!) it might be because I’m fighting a battle inside to keep myself together.  I’m trying my very best to live life in the moment and find good and  happy things to celebrate. 
But I’m also pissed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Favorite Photo

I think this is my all-time favorite photo of Jim and Marley.  We were on a vacation.  My older brother Geoff had given us a week at a lovely ski resort in northern Michigan.  There was no snow since it was June, but it was a wonderful vacation.  We were away from all the distractions and humdrum of everyday life.  The weather was perfect, and we were just RELAXING. 

Another reason this is one of my favorite photos is because it exemplifies Jim and Marley's relationship.  He was the big, strong daddy, and she was the little tot who followed him everywhere, without a care in the world.  There was nearly a year when Jim was on an experimental chemo, and he was relatively healthy.  During that year, he was able to keep Marley at home while I worked, and the bond the two of them formed was incredible.  They went to the park almost every day to have lunch and play (the pile of Happy Meals toys in her room was proof!).  Jim knew all the names of the characters on the shows they watched together on NickJr.  I think he secretly loved the shows as much as she did!  They made castles and forts out of Lincoln Logs and Legos.  They played with her little barn that made noises.  I used to joke that Marley had more "boy toys" than little girl toys, mostly because her daddy enjoyed playing with them as much as she did.  They chatted about anything and everything.  He knew better than me sometimes what she liked to eat.  He kept her on a nap schedule. 

It was a strange role reversal for our family.  He was the stay-at-home parent and I was the one who went to work every day.  But it worked for us!  I'm so glad they had that time together, because he was able to give her so much love and attention.  He was in his glory.  His whole world revolved around a little one year old with curly hair, and he loved it. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Potty Training

I hate potty training.  It's tedious, time-consuming, and messy.  But now and again Marley makes it funny.  I've been bribing her with marshmallows ("smooshmel-dows", she calls them)- one for pee and two for the other one.  About half the time she tries to get two marshmallows out of me, even though she's only earned one. 

So the other day she comes running into the livingroom, sans pants or underwear, excitedly yelling "Mama, I pooped, I pooped!!".  Being the fantastic mommy that I am, I sighed  jumped up off the couch and made a big deal out of going to the bathroom to see said deposit.  Only there wasn't a deposit, just liquid.  When I pointed out to her that there was no poop in the potty, her "I want two marshmallows" little mind kicked into gear.

Without missing a beat she replied, "Yes there IS poop in there, Mama.  The poop is hiding under the pee.".

I gave her two marshmallows just for being so inventive.

Looks Like Her Daddy

Most people, when they see Marley, say that she looks like me.  I  see her dad in her.  I guess it's just a matter of perspective.  I've been going back through some of the photos of her first six months of life.  It's been quite a trip down memory lane!  And one thing that really struck me is how much she looked like Jim when she was a baby...

This is a dead ringer for a look he used to give.

And how much Jim looked like his dad!

I think this is my favorite. 
We called it "The Dillon Stare". 
Jim liked it enough to have me print it out on 8 1/2 x 11 paper and hang it on the fridge!

She looks more like her dad in this one for what her finger is doing than anything else! 

First Halloween.  Jim wanted her to have a hat...

...but all she cared about was her toes!

We used to joke when she was a baby that there was no way he could deny her.  She's lost those chubby cheeks, but I still see him in her every day. 
Especially the nose.  And the eyes.  And the stare.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday... Sort Of.

This photo was taken in the situation room during the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. Look at the faces- no words are necessary.

*Thanks to Carlos Whitaker @ Ragamuffin Soul for the photo. You can click on his blog in the right column.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Authenticity and Judgement

 This came across my email the other day, and I thought that it was good.  I need these reminders sometimes! 

James McDonald

     Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when there is the log in your own eye?    - MATT 7:1-4

     All in favor of authenticity?  Here is the first step in practicing authenticity.

     First . . . by not judging others. Notice that it says in Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that you be not judged." Now, I've got to tell you, people are always, like, slapping that on everything. "Oh, you can't judge; don't judge!"

     That's not what the verse means. Jesus wasn't categorically dismissing all things requiring judgment. Look at Matthew 7:6 where He talks about precious teachings and the decision not to share with people who don't want to listen. Doesn't that require a judgment?

     You can judge actions/behavior. (see 1 Cor 5) Parents, don't ever let your kids back you away from judging actions by saying, "Don't judge!" We have to judge actions. Call a lie a lie. Disrespect disrespect, and disobedience disobedience! The gift of discernment is a spiritual gift.

     Here's what Jesus is talking about . . . what we don't judge:
- We don't judge motives. You don't know why people are doing what they're doing. Don't ever let yourself say, "I know why she's like that." "I know why he's doing that." No, you do not! Only God knows a person's heart. He doesn't want us judging the territory that is His venue.
The judging of the heart . . . that is God's job!

- We don't judge appearance. Don't judge a person by the color of their skin or the clothes that they wear, or the car that they drive, or the place that they live, or the job that they have. Don't judge people by what they look like. You can't tell a book by it's cover. You can't! And God hates that.

- We don't judge harshly. Don't hold people to a standard that you're not keeping.
     Notice in Matthew 7:2, "For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged." Yikes! So, the judgment that I give to others, that's the judgment that I'm going to get. If you're constantly judging, God's like, "You're writing the script I'm going to use to judge you!" Not great!

     If you want to get serious about authenticity as a person, harshly judging others' motives and appearance has to stop.

                   - James MacDonald

 *James MacDonald is the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinios.