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Saying good-bye to Suzy

Suzanne Rene Lepeintre
(1966-2017)

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“It came back, the cancer came back.” That was Suzy hurrying up the stairs three years ago. She had gone to the doctor to check on a nagging pain in her side. She and her husband hugged each other on the couch. The tears came soon after. They both knew what it meant. Time was no longer a seemingly plentiful commodity.

Time for Suzy began on November 25, 1966 in Medford, Oregon and it ended on June 12, 2017 in Bellevue, Washington. She spent most of her childhood in Eugene, Oregon where she moved at the age of 8. She graduated from North Eugene High School in 1985. It is during her undergraduate studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland that she started to travel the world, a passion that would never leave her. While in Germany, she travelled throughout Europe and beyond, hitchhiking through Greece, Egypt and Israel. She fell in love with her future husband Francois in France and Germany.  They married (for the first time) in 1992.  Her beloved children, Delphine and Paul, were born in 2000 and 2004.  The guiding thread of her life was connecting and sharing with people.  Her  friends became family and no one was a stranger for long.

Those who met her, even only once, would never forget her. There are some people whose sheer force of living and indomitable force of being make an indelible mark on your life. Suzy taught us how to be brave by relating to others fearlessly. She was fiercely intelligent, full of energy and piercingly insightful. She was courageous, sexy and funny. Suzy was compassionate with the world and herself.

Her professional accomplishments reflected her boldness to make a difference. She earned her Master’s degree in teaching English as a second language from the University of Washington in 1994. She began working for Bellevue College in 1999 and became a tenured faculty member in 2008. Bellevue College President Dr. Jill Wakefield recently wrote: “Suzy was beloved across campus for a variety of reasons: her deep commitment to educational equity, her positive spirit and courage and her dedication to our students. She was pivotal in the development of the Faculty Commons. We are so grateful to the years of service Suzy gave to Bellevue College. She will be deeply missed by colleagues and students alike.”

Suzy always said “you gotta live as if you’re gonna live.” It was no surprise that she decided to approach her disease with a plan, as she had always done. She detailed her journey with cancer and death in beautiful and exacting words. It is impossible for us to capture a sense of her intense and beautiful writing, we can only point you to her blog: https://thecolorofhopeblog.com/my-stage-iv-cancer/.

A true testimony to Suzy’s bravery was written by her oncologist Dr. Tanya Wahl: “…she met every obstacle with utmost spirit and grace. And, she had a very useful sense of humor about all of it too. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so clear about her goals, especially in caring for her family, as Suzy was.”

Family was defined by Suzy with a generous and inclusive heart, she will be dearly missed by every one of the people she included in that group. In her immediate family, she is survived by her husband, François, daughter Delphine, son Paul and sister Kaylea. Her parents Tom and Lynn Kersten preceded her in death.

It’s hard to say goodbye. It’s hard to let go of someone so young and good, so filled with life and love. Please join us on Saturday, August 5, 2017 at the McMenamins Anderson School at 10:30am for the celebration of her life. Together we can grieve her passing and remember her beautiful spirit.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the following organizations that were close to Suzy’s heart.

Camp Kesem

Harmony Hill

Swedish Cancer Institute

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Death Makes You Vomit


It’s time to make THOSE decisions. Who do I want in the room during my final moments? What do I want in the memorial?

When my brother-in-law Jerome was walking with his wife through her breast cancer death, he shared a tiny bit of the bizarreness that was created. Jerome’s belated wife, Beatrice, was a clear thinking straight shooter who knew how to call a spade a spade. She was worldly, sophisticated and down-to-earth, authentic and socially intelligent. Beatrice’s death was my first. I barely knew her. I’d been to her wedding and she to mine.  My oldest was a baby and hers were toddlers when we picnicked on the coast of Ireland together.  We shared a few family holidays.

But we weren’t close.

 

Beatrice’s death was my first. I barely knew her. I’d been to her wedding and she to mine. We’d celebrated some holidays and enjoyed amazing picnics along the Irish coast. I felt connected to her because we were raising young children fathered by young brothers and both living multinational lives. She was my age, my mirror.I was terribly awkward and naïve throughout her cancer journey and her death, a tourist on the periphery who somehow got an invite to very exclusive and intimate event.

I was terribly awkward and naïve throughout her cancer journey and her death, a tourist on the periphery who somehow got an invite to very exclusive and intimate event. The Lepeintres and the Klingsheims are a solid, wise bunch. There are core values of loyalty, of protecting those closest. Do no harm, if at all possible. Enjoy the moment life offers and leave the drama outside of the family meal space. There’s a magic in the family relationships we weave. We can use them to build shelters, refuges against the turmoil of the rest of our lives. But we can also tangle ourselves up in them, strangle ourselves. I remember (or maybe I misremember) a comment my brother-in-law Jerome made when Beatrice’s health was failing. I think I was pressuring Francois to go visit. (Francois had better sense than I). Jerome told me that Beatrice and he had talked and she didn’t want some sort of long parade of sad people at her door in the last months, trying to make a connection that hadn’t already happened.

There’s a magic in the family relationships we weave. We can use them to build shelters, refuges against the turmoil of the rest of our lives. But we can also tangle ourselves up in them, strangle ourselves.

I remember (or maybe I misremember) a comment my brother-in-law Jerome made when his wife Beatrice’s health was failing. I think I was pressuring Francois to go visit. (Francois had better sense than I). Jerome told me that Beatrice and he had talked and she didn’t want some sort of long parade of sad people at her door in the last months, trying to make a connection that hadn’t already happened.I so totally get that now. It was even rather obvious then. Who wants to spend their final months on earth surrounded by death and grief and moaning of sad people only peripherally connected to you?

My therapist pointed out that there can be great connection in these moments of vulnerability. I’m so lucky to be able to say that I have that and I expect to continue to experience that. Each one of you here offer me those rich insights into our shared humanity, a touch of love and heart. In some deeper , longer relationships, there’s some reconciliation, an aligning of perspectives, between what is being experienced/has been experienced by a person you love and what you have perceived. It rings with the truth of a tuning fork when you find those moments. You can hear the overtones of understanding.

I’m not avoiding sharing. And I’m pretty good at vulnerability. I’m just choosy about which experiences I want to invest in and expand and which experiences I’m ready to seek closure in.

We all are.

At least we should be.

Death steals all of your time, even while you are still living. It tangles my mind and weakens my body. It cements me with wet layers of horribly big heavy emotions. And that’s not even considering the physical impacts.

My mother used her every last breath and ounce of energy to try and leave her daughters in a good space. Mom wanted everyone to feel as good as possible around her. It was a loving and true gift.
But it was also horrific. She insisted on trying to make one last trip with us, her daughters, for mother’s day (or was it Memorial Day?)and spent the entire trip throwing up in the car and pasting on a smile and talking about how beautiful the area was, how gorgeous the flowers were. We were like children bringing our parents breakfast in bed, burnt toast, smeared jelly and horribly oversweet chocolate milk. She sat through our road trip rituals and smiled to show us how much we mattered, that we’d done well with our little excursion. She swayed greenly and vomited out the side of the car every 20 minutes or so. By the time we arrived at our Mother’s Day/Girls’ Weekend Getaway she’d soiled every piece of clothing she had.

So this is to my friends and family. I’m just going to tell you.  YOU DID GOOD.  You were such a support for my soul, for my life. I’ve had such a great time growing, loving and learning with you. Let’s just look for those smiles, shared experiences in pictures and memories. Let’s live like we’re going to all keep on living and not try to cram vomit trips in.

And for my loved ones who might feel pushed away… I can’t even imagine the loss. But isn’t there some quote about death waiting for no one? We’ve lived our lives together for years. We are what we are, we’ve done the best we can and it’s been amazing. But dying steals time. My brain doesn’t process quickly or correctly. My tasks are buried under mountainous emotional weight. I need more and more time and more and more space. It means I’m going to have less.

But never less love for you.

I’m not done living yet.

I’m going to live as if I’m living long enough to take it for granted, just as we’ve always done.  We’ll take each day and enjoy its gifts.  And if there was some magic moment or experience you didn’t get or couldn’t find, I have a really really great therapist I can recommend.  🙂  Seriously.

(So please don’t make me vomit, OK? 😉
And keep those cards, lunch invites and emails coming.

Thank you. I need you.


April 2017

With my cognitive processing issues (speed, coherence, time/location disorientation, stars, happy thoughts, blue bubbles, wet dog nose interruptions and such) writing is becoming a challenge. Spontaneous napping has been my response to cognitive overload and I really do enjoy laying here on my scrumptious couch and meditating on the people around me, all of this love and wisdom and presence and connection encircling me.On really emotionally heavy days — like when I talk our daughter through her summer internship choices and remind her how my death can and will impact how each of these choices plays out — or when Francois and I have to actually pick up the phone, talk to some stranger at Sunset Hills Funeral Home about arranging a meeting to discuss my funeral arrangements, every muscle move, every micro-decision, becomes a pull against hard stale tooth shattering taffy

On really emotionally heavy days — like when I talk our daughter through her summer internship choices and remind her how my death can and will impact how each of these choices plays out — or when Francois and I have to actually pick up the phone, talk to some stranger at Sunset Hills Funeral Home about arranging a meeting to discuss my funeral arrangements, every muscle move, every micro-decision, becomes a pull against hard stale tooth shattering taffy
So there is a loving, warm pull of my own small space, my bed, my bathroom, my puppy, my lover, my soul-mates (Suzy Club!) It’s a small flicker of a candle flame cupped in my hand. I really need massive amounts of time to myself.

It’s a small flicker of a candle flame cupped in my hand. I really need massive amounts of time to myself.

I really need massive amounts of time to myself.

And at the same time, I really need you. Every small thing you do surrounds me with warmly colored emotional echos, brightly colored shadows of human forms layered against each other, a tissue paper collage of love.

The beautiful flowers from these amazing soul driven, heartful colleagues. Spring flowers always capture this moment of beauty that only a poet, I think, come close to expressing in words. I’m no poet, so I’ll just say thank you. They make me so happy.

Lately you’ve all been answering my small heart-soul requests in rather mystical ways. I really wanted a piece of jewelry to give my daughter that she would keep forever. Something unique, but young and subtle, something local and related to her passions (beauty, justice, passionate commitment, strength,…) but enduring, sturdy.
I tried looking for this on my own. I didn’t have the stamina.
I’d given up.

Then, suddenly, in a care package put together by my colleagues I discovered a pair of locally made earrings, a dance of metal in action befitting the strength of my daughter and the elegance of her womanhood. There were cards and flowers. And a check that was uncomfortably generous, but ended up filling a very precise emotional need I did not think could be helped.

My daughter works very hard and uses the resources available to her wisely. This put her in the enviable position of actually being granted every high school junior internship and acceptance to every summer science program she applied to.Some of the programs are paid. Some cost money. One of her highest preferences, of course, is an internationally recognized program…that costs money. Quite a bit of money.

Some of the programs are paid. Some cost money. One of her highest preferences, of course, is an internationally recognized program…that costs money. Quite a bit of money.

It’s part of the reality of the world and college is about learning to navigate values and resources. It’s not a big deal. We are lucky. We have access to amazing opportunities and resources.
But there is a small emotional twist with us.We could stretch hard and make the summer program she desires work. If we do stretch hard and we get her into that program, she’d be off hiking the mountains of Colorado with Physics scholars for an entire 6-weeks. For François and I, it’s a dream come true and we want to give our daughter that opportunity.

We could stretch hard and make the summer program she desires work. If we do stretch hard and we get her into that program, she’d be off hiking the mountains of Colorado with Physics scholars for an entire 6-weeks. For François and I, it’s a dream come true and we want to give our daughter that opportunity.But for her, she has to weigh her choice with a hanging judgment about her role as a daughter – Is she abandoning her family?  Burdening them in a time of need?  Her choice requires a gamble on when her mother’s going to die.  How does a 17-year old come to terms with that? How do any of us live in anticipation of a loved one’s death?

At the exact moment we had to make this tangled choice about personal interest, financial interest, parental entanglement…and death and regret… At that moment we received a check from my Bellevue College colleagues.  They’d held a fundraiser and suddenly I could tell my daughter that my colleagues had raised money to cover the summer and she only needed to worry about what she wanted for that summer. She didn’t need to worry about us.

I think we ended up in the same place. Delphine will stay in Seattle and not go to Colorado. But she’s doing so because she chooses to, whether that’s because she wants to spend summer more available for me or for other reasons, it’s her personal choice and not an effort to spare someone else.

Wiping a tiny bit of the guilt and resentment tangled up in a mother’s early death is such an amazing gift.

Thank you.

With this kind of emotional light, there are no bad days.

(But I do have to admit there are good hours and harder hours.)

THANK YOU.

 

I lost my dog.

I lost my dog.

I’d taken him with me to my appointment with my oncologist (he waited in the car during the appointment) and when I drove up into my driveway, I opened the door for him to get out of the car and then sat there for a couple of minutes, mindlessly scrolling through my inbox on my phone.

Sometimes I sit in my car while it’s parked in the driveway.    I return from some errand and I just sit there.   It’s like this pause between movements, where the conductor still has her arms raised, her baton pointed, but the music is sliding away. When I was momming, working, wife-ing and otherwise engaging with my communities fulltime, it was a stolen fermata, a space to breath alone for an indulgently long moment.  More often, nowadays, it’s a space for gathering the courage to lean against the inertia of fatigue.

So yesterday, I take my pause and I get out of the car.   Immediately I hear it.

Stillness.

There’s no wiggling, winding, grunting labrador trying to tangle himself in my legs.  No barking at unseen predators in the woods beyond out property line.   No thumping bumping sound of galloping paws on bark mulch.

I am stunned.

That dog never runs off, especially silently.   But I hadn’t put his invisible fence collar back on yet.

I call.  I yell.  I looked over the perimeter of the yard.  15-minutes and there’s no response.

I realize that I can’t really trust I’ll be able to get back up the hill to our cul-de-sac if I wander the neighborhood looking for him  And even though I know he’s a sweetie, he’s a big, dark furry presence who gets excited by other people’s fear and he can drum up quite the barking storm.  He could definitely scare a neighbor.

What if he gets hit by a car?!

So I send out an email to our neighborhood list.  Within minutes I have neighbors responding online that they’ll go out looking for him. While they search I sit there helplessly at the front door.

All sorts of conspiracy theories are building in my imagination.  He was stolen!  Dog-napped!  Someone is getting revenge for his barking!

It’s been a surreal morning.  I’m tired enough now that I have to make some real choices about work.     But working in this position is really great.  If I let go of this job, I’ll probably never get it back.

My feelings are so tightly twisted and tangled.  They feel like a huge, hard, growing mass pressing against my stomach and lungs, pushing out against my lower back.

Not knowing what is happening causes me to imagine all kinds of horrible things.   So I realized I really need to know the answers, even if I’m afraid to hear them.  It was a morning for answers I had already heard, but needed to digest again.  I needed my oncologist to tell me again.

Yes.  It’s very likely I will die by the end of June.  Yes.  We are trying very hard change that.  Yes, there’s always hope.  No, realistically, there’s not a high probability that we’ll get much more out of this body.

I’m relieved.  I like having a plan.

And I’m suffocating.

So I make air.  I blabber at the doctor about painkillers and politics, not even making sense to myself.

And the dog has been stolen.  I call my husband.  I’m the distressed wife needing his rescue.

“You have to come home!  Fudge is missing!”

Maybe he’s been poisoned.

You can feel it in the silence.

Fudge is gone.

I can’t even remember if his tags were well attached to his collar.

A neighbor walking her dog makes her way up the driveway.  She’s one of the people who reached out and offered to help go look for Fudge.

As she passes my minivan parked in the driveway, we hear it, his thumping and bumping.  His bark.

Eagerly, patiently, quietly waiting for me to let him out.

 

Thank You

There is definitely some humor in recreating the dining room scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.  Watching Francois spin in circles as he looked for a receptacle, any receptacle, to catch what I had motioned to him was coming, definitely amped it up.  But the problem with this spontaneous restaurant vomiting episode (and no, no other customers were harmed in the making of this scene.  We were the last clients at the Sleeping Lady Resort’s Kingfisher Dining Hall.), the problem with this episode is that it was clearly about my liver getting so large there was no room for my stomach, or more specifically, those last two Tablespoons of Chamomile tea I sipped down.  And then slupped up.

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My 80-year old aunt visited this weekend from Lancaster, PA.    We visited the Chihuly Glass Museum in Seattle and ate at Collectibles restaurant.  We visited Pike’s Market and hosted a crabfest with my nearest and dearest.  We even ventured on a walk into the wooded, hilly, park in our backyard.  Hanging out with Aunt Shirley is always a treat.  She’s the aunt who wrote me hundreds of letters while I was traveling in college.  When I was a middle-schooler, she sent me the very best books to read from her lovely bookstore.  She married into the 50’s culture and joined my mother in helping to ensure her children, nieces, and nephews marched towards the 21st century.

Hanging out with Aunt Shirley for three days was my exact energy match.  I’m 80 years old now.

Except I’m not.  It turns out her heart was failing while she was here.  They had an emergency procedure to put in a pacemaker the day after she returned to Lancaster.  Ha ha.  So I’m an equal match to my 80-year old aunt in the middle of heart failure.

There’s something comical in that!

I misjudge how weak I’m getting.  I think it’s because my lovely family and friends make me feel so alive and present.   Francois, Serena, Ramona, Medora, Janis, Breck, and from down in Eugene, Kaylea, my core group, the ones who are there supporting me so often I don’t even notice I’m being supported.  They ones who create a family holiday, with hearty laughter and just enough kid chaos, out of any weekend dinner.   The ones who send a text cartoon, a hello-how-are-ya, without really needing a response.   And let me have a weekend off completely from socializing when I need it, too.

And it was all so easy.  The generosity of my aunt, and my cousins for supporting her in this, let me finish a few edges of chaos that still hung around the corners of my life, layers of mess created by years of overextending and quite a bit of willful neglect.  Now, after fixing all the broken and worn out spaces in my home,  I had my house and garden cleaned!   (It’s amazing how much easier it is to have visits when you don’t have to be afraid of what the kids might step into, outside — or what the guests might find in the kids’ bathroom…)

Francois and I just came back from a mid-week trip to Sleeping Lady Resort.  The trip was made possible by Breck and Ramona, who came to live at our house with our kids while we were gone, and Jana and Dave Gordon, who’ve become my neighborhood backup family for Paul.

Maintaining intimacy in a marriage over 25 years is hard.  Then add kids.  Then add cancer.  Then add terminal cancer.  It takes some mindful intention to create spaces long and nurturing enough for the kind of unfolding we have to do.

It’s been a lovely week of soft, messy cotton sheets and sunlight gardens.

And very small sips of tea.

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It’s All Good

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On Tuesday, lifting my body out of sleep was like pulling a thick wad of sticky taffy off of a sore tooth.   Each step pulled.  The ascent up the stairs necessitated a brief head-in-crossed-arms lean on the kitchen counter.

It’s a “good week” cancerly speaking.  It’s the third week in my three week Doxil chemo cycle, the week I’m more apt to have energy.

But yesterday was my PET CT scan fasting day and this morning I’m out of gas.

At the hospital, I’m sorely tempted to stop and rest in a Starbuck’s chair on my way to Imaging.  These chairs are less than 100 feet from the imaging entrance.  After the scan, I decide I really need to eat before trying to drive back home.  And while I wait in line at Starbuck’s, I wonder why they don’t have benches where we-of-the-weak-kneed-desiring-coffee-and-croissants can sit and rest while our lattes are brewed.

One of my soul-sisters, Michelle Andersen, is coming over for lunch today.  She calls me while I sit with my latte and digest my croissant.  “Want to meet now?  I’m done early.”

“Sure!  I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”

I’m thinking, “It will be OK.  I don’t have to talk.  Michelle can do the story telling.”

One digested croissant, a latte and a quick pain med and I’m good to go.

I’m so talkative Michelle can barely get a word in edgewise.

It’s a delightful morning where the spaces of time, context and geography that have separated us so often melt away.  We’re as close as two young international students in Germany, cleaning houses for food money and living off of rice, chocolate, cheap champagne, and ice cream.

When she leaves to pick up her kids from school, I’m so happy.  This is a good moment.  This is a good day.

On Thursday, I’m having a good day.  I wake up feeling well rested, right before the alarm goes off.  My empty stomach is calm, so I eat and drink whatever pleases me for breakfast.  At work I’m focused and efficient.  I’m able to write up proposals and draft some training curriculum with ease.  I feel the benefit of my experience.  I have the answers the tutors need that morning.  I’m able to jump in and help students as we get busy.  When I leave my shift, I pick up my dog and we go to the dog park to play.  I throw the ball way out onto the lake and I feed the dog French fries as a treat.

That dog will do anything for a  French fry.

Today is a good day.

On Saturday I feel good.  I spent most of Friday napping, so I’m the parent in the best shape to get up at 5am and ensure our daughter is up and ready for her Robotics tournament.  She was, of course, up and ready before my alarm went off.

I come back and crawl back into the warm bed with my spouse.  We sleep another three hours and then make love in the quiet of our morning house.

I run errands.  Costco is a breeze.

I arrange playdates and Paul spends very little time on any screens.   It’s a good day.

Friday Paul and I were supposed to take the train to Leavenworth, a crazy overpriced German looking tourist trap village in the mountains near Seattle.   We were going for the train experience.  But the train was delayed 12 hours.  It’s the reason I had time to take so many naps that day.  We hung around at home and hoped the train would run the next day on schedule.  We both wasted too much time on our screens.   I felt pretty good, cancerly speaking.  But Friday wasn’t such a good day.

Saturday evening Paul and I wait for our train departure.   It’s delayed a mere three hours, but because the coach seats were sold out, we’ve booked a “roommette” so we’re kind of excited to get time in the bunks.

And then I see the letter.  The rejection to my Doxil treatment from my insurance company.  My stomach turns and I feel my anxiety rise.   They are arguing, again, that the heart-poisonous nausea inducing bald-making Adriamycin is good enough for me.  I don’t “need” the gentle (expensive) stuff.

I’m getting angry.  I’m tired.  I’m frustrated.   Internally, I’m getting a bit stormy and dramatic.  Should I switch to Adriamycin, suffer and then sue?  Should I switch treatments all-together and have my friends and family sue the company after I’m gone?  This is one of the last treatments we think might be effective.

Today is starting to feel like a bad day.

But then my PET CT results come in and there’s progression.  Yes.  My cancer is spreading.

I’m relieved.  There’s no need to fight the insurance company, to wonder “what if?”  and “what then?”

Things are pretty clear.  Doxil isn’t working.

So I call Amtrak and I order a sleeping car room for the way back, as well.  What the heck.

We’re going to have fun.

So now we sit in the beautifully renovated King St Station and we wait on beautiful hardwood benches.  The benches make my back hurt a bit. But Paul and I take selfies.  And even though the train’s been delayed yet another hour, we’re happy it’s leaving at all.

 

It’s a good day.

Calm Weather Storms

Have you ever fallen into the perfect sleep on the perfect bed?  Where the sheets are so soft they blur into the edges of your own self?  Where the mattress so comfortable you no longer know where you are in it?  Head at the feet?  Feet to the side?  On your tummy?  On your back?  The room temperature is so perfect you can’t tell if your feet are tucked in or hanging out.

There’s a fog that rolls in at twilight on the Oregon coast that makes that tactile effect visual.  It’s calm and enveloping, relaxing and reassuring in its ability to erase horizons, borders, shorelines and landscapes.

The feeling of dying I had was like that Oregon light with the comfort of that perfect bed.

I was standing in perfect comfort in an indisguishable light, feet resting something between sand, water and air.

And now, with our new treatment plan of Doxil, Xgeva and Neulastra, I feel my feet pushing, again, against a solid surface, my eyes discerning shapes on my horizons.

Moving out of that light space is like pulling myself out of that perfect sleep on that perfect bed.  It’s like moving from silent, nurturing float on buoyant salty waters into a saturated sand that sucks at my sinking weight.

It takes so much effort to walk back onto that shore of the living.

Today…

is day 3 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I can’t imagine making it until summer.   Today I plan my transition at work and encourage my colleagues to start looking for my replacement.  Today I’m not sure I’ll see Spring.

Today…

is day 7 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Death no longer feels like something I stand (float?) in.  I walk along the shore.  I enjoy the view.  I feel the sunlight.

I breath more easily into my ribcage.  Certainly, my liver must be less swollen.  Today I take naps because I want to.  Not because I have to.

Today I get take out pho because it’s fun, not because I can’t stand the idea of cooking.

Or so that’s what I say to myself, today.

Today…

is day 10 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I can’t imagine making it until summer.   Today I plan my transition at work and encourage my colleagues to start looking for my replacement.  Today I’m not sure I’ll see Spring.

Today standing up too quickly makes me breathless.  I sit down on the toilet (seat closed) to rest while I brush my teeth.

Today…

is day 12 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.    I invite my friends over to help me unpack those final boxes still packed up in the garage because of our remodel last year.  Today I trip over shoes and fall down in the garage.  I yell FUCK FUCK FUCK with a ferocious, energetic wind of pain and surprise.  Today my neuropathy sucks and I am thrilled by the energy I have to be so upset about it.

Today I am an open walled house and my emotions blow through, bouncing against the room corners of my own fears, funneling into my projected grief.  Today I hide from my dear cousin Kerstin’s reach from the East coast.  Today I storm at my spouse and tell him he’d better leave for awhile because I fear for his safety.  Today I blow tears of resentment at my best friends Medora and Janis.

And today they respond by bringing me flowers and chocolate.

Today…

is day 18 past my Doxil chemo and my Neulasta supplement.  Today I finish three projects at work.  I sit and help a student working on a high stakes application but terrified to mention her religion or ethnicity because her family is from one of Trump’s banned countries.  Today I make a difference because I have what she needs, today.

Today…

is day 3 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I can’t imagine making it until summer.   Today I plan my transition at work and encourage my colleagues to start looking for my replacement.  Today I’m not sure I’ll see Spring.

Today…

is day 7 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Death no longer feels like something I stand (float?) in.  I walk along the shore.  I enjoy the view.  I feel the sunlight.

I breath more easily into my ribcage.  Certainly, my liver must be less swollen.  Today I take naps because I want to.  Not because I have to.   Or so I tell myself.

Today my daughter asks for help on an application.  I’m so happy to read her writing.  She’s complex, insightful, focused, analytical, self-aware and honest.  Today I see me, 50 year-old wiser me, in her.

Today I’m hopeful and happy.

And when she says we need to stop at 10pm so she can work on her essay due at midnight, I’m grateful.  My body is screaming for sleep.

Today…

is day 10 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I can’t imagine making it until summer.

Today one of my best friends suggests planning a big girls’ weekend, maybe to northern CA.  I raise my eyebrows and look at her with a long face.  “What would be your goals?”  I ask.

Today I’m overwhelmed by the idea of effort.

Today…

is day 12 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I think a trip for the girls sounds like fun.  Maybe something local.  Maybe something that doesn’t bankrupt my family.  We could do this.

Today I take a nap and fall asleep so hard that I forget who I am for a  moment when I wake up.  It makes me wonder if dying just feels like forgetting to wake up.

Today…

is day 18 past my Doxil chemo and my Neulasta supplement.  Today I can’t imagine not living at least another year.   Today I call my lovely aunt and convince her to come visit.  I plan an Easter visit with my soul-sister cousin.  I book a weekend trip to Leavenworth on the train with my darling 12-year old.  Today I book a spa weekend for my husband and I to Sleeping Lady.

Today…

is day 1 of my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I ask my oncologist about next treatments.  Y90?  Herceptin/Perjedta and Doxil together?  Today I’m certain that even though there’s a clear wave back up after each wave down, the up never quite makes that original starting point and I’m definitely patterning down.

Today I talk about how that hard lump in my liver, the one I can feel through the skin and under my rib cage, is clearly growing.

Today she says she thinks it’s actually a bit better.  She says we might not need to change treatments at all after the next PET CT.

Yeah.  Ok.  Maybe.

Today I schedule the next PET CT.

Today…

is day 3 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   Today I can’t imagine making it until summer.   Today I plan my transition at work and encourage my colleagues to start looking for my replacement.  Today I’m not sure I’ll see Spring.

Today…

is day 7 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.   I’m enjoying this as a “good day” and reflecting that I guess I do know what “good days” and “bad days” mean, now.

Today…

is day 8 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.  Today I’m a bit tired.  But honestly, still feeling pretty good.  Today I know I’m supposed to feel overwhelmed with fatigue, but I’m doing OK.  Today my liver feels a bit better.  My lungs a bit less encumbered.

Today I think maybe I’ll squeak some more months out of Doxil.

Today…

is day 10 past my Doxil chemo with my Neulasta supplement.    The housecleaner I scheduled arrives.  A gardner comes and provides a quote.

Today I am supported and loved by my colleagues, who tell me they’ll make this work.  They tell me I’m valuable even if I have to work a bit less.

The dog park is accidently bathed in sunlight today.   It’s a nice break from the persistent grey rains of winter.

Today I travel down to Oregon with my close friend Medora, to see my sister.  I’m happy to see her.  I enjoy her and am so glad for Medora’s help in making the trip.

Today…

is day 11 past my Doxil chemo and my Neulasta supplement.  Today I definitely feel stronger.

And my family feels it.  I harp at my husband.  I cry about what will happen to my children in the future if he doesn’t start nurturing them.  Nurturing us.  Nurturing me.  (And who will nurture him?)

Today I think about what I know I could contribute to our faculty if I still had the energy.  I recognize that even though I love the team carrying forward and admire their wisdom and skill, I can see how my participation, my role, would still be important.  Today I see what I could be adding and I feel a sense of loss.

Today I go through old photos and videos and think about how active I was when my daughter was 12.  I think of how much I brought her, showed her, orchestrated around her.  And I feel for my 12-year old son.   He and I laugh about how he got the wiser parents, the parents who probably do less harm, but they’re a lot more tired and a lot less fun.  His eyes don’t laugh.

Today I start looking farther out onto the horizon.  I plan training workshops for tutors for Spring quarter.  I look for an acceptance letter, a chance to attend the Little Pink Houses program for families living with cancer.  It’s a week of family cancer camp in Key West, FL…way out in June.

Today I start mapping out the summer schedule.  When do Pascale, Simon and Etienne arrive from France and Mayotte?  What should we all do together this summer in August?

Today I think I might see the eclipse.

Today I’m taking my son to see Carrie at Bellevue College and we’ll try reading Stephen King again.  He was my favorite middle school past time.  But I’m thinking it might have been because his characters were so tied into the cultural reality I lived then.  It’s no longer my son’s reality, so his writing might not be as entertaining now.

Today I’m going to try and make French onion soup.  And today, I’ll be really really grateful for the pre-made slow-cooker meals Ramona and Breck bring over.    Because then I can take my nap, walk my dog, play with my son, and still feed us.

And today I realize I still have a full week of “good days” before the next chemo.  So I start wondering what I should do with the next ten “todays.”