Friday, March 27, 2015

Luck of the Irish

Top o the Mornin' to Ya.

Ireland is on my bucket list. A bucket list that I have not formalized because that is bad luck. It's also why I haven't written my book yet- this story is still working itself out. Would like to keep the plot twists to a minimum from here on out. And until my fairy godmother appears with grand plans for a great european tour- I keep on the building suspense part of the story.

I grew up in a good Irish Catholic family. I remember my uncle and his family making the trek to Ireland to find our roots years ago. The funny thing is we are such a melting pot-but yet somehow the Irish part resonates with us.  I think one thing I've learned from this heritage is that luck is what you make it. Certain things are just chalked up to luck. I am a very lucky woman.

Phil often jokes that he is more Irish than me. It is true. I think ancestrally speaking- he has a much clearer link to that island than I do through his Bourne side. I remember the day Phillip was born and the doctor looked from me to Phil and back to the ginger haired cherub we produced. Didn't expect the red hair- he told us. But Mallory sounds like a pretty Irish name. Despite the fact that it isn't really. The Irish blood comes from his mother's side. I've joked with him for years that Mallory means unlucky. And it is probably french in origin, from "malheure" meaning unhappy or unlucky. The Mallory name travelled from France and England to Germany and the US. Some from Ireland.

I am of the Connolly clan. Meaning, valiant, wise. Also more English by way of Irish. My other half is Eberle, French-Canadian and German. I am truly a mutt. My children even more so. I embrace this part of us. I find that mixed babies are the most beautiful and I sincerely hope that the genetic diversity will help them overcome some of the shortcomings. Balance. Luck. But that is where the strength is. I remember my uncle brought us back cards with the Connolly crest on it- I still have mine tucked away- I thought it was interesting that it had 5 seashells on it. That was it. I don't know what I was hoping for- rainbows-lions-shamrocks and scythes- something that felt a little tougher than seashells. Yet if you think about it- shells are homes, they are travelers, they are a hearty bunch.  I looked up the Mallory crest and it had a weird Lion beast on it. And a horse- which I thought was fitting since Phillip means lover of horses. Oh yes the jokes there have been exhausted. And during our most recent discussion as to our familial luck and whether or not it hinges on the name- I found this...

The meaning of Mallory in German is - War Counselor. And somehow that seems most appropriate of all. Which is good- Germany was already on the list of European bucket list destinations.

Just as in life- where you've been influences who you are but also where you are going. How you look at obstacles can really truly affect whether or not they are surmountable. The shell is shaped and weathered by the sea. If you go through life thinking you are unlucky, bad luck will find you as you will attribute every unfortunate event to that omen. Yet if you approach it from the other direction, as an opportunity to direct change- then new paths open up. Sure there may be roadblocks and you may have to lay some paving down- but just think of those who follow not having to pave their own way. When I travel one of these metaphorical roads, I wonder who was responsible and send out thanks to the universe. Some people call this praying. Some people give thanks to God. But God was working through individuals like you and me- and that is where the beauty is. Simple people with some bad luck that turned a journey into something greater than an anecdote. By sending out thanks to the universe, I have to trust that my grateful energy will go where it is needed most- just as in times of trouble I close my eyes and allow it to be returned. 

So luck may throw some challenges- but when you resign yourself to knowing that your role or strength is in meeting these challenges as a trusted advisor- a war counselor- it takes some of the power away from the unknown and puts it into our hands. It does not make it easy. But as humans we are in the constant search for meaning- and sometimes we have to choose which meaning we would like to believe. My truth is this- my unlucky circumstances have made me the luckiest woman in the world. 

I met my husband when we were children.  Somewhere in all of our losses, we found each other. In a way that most people never experience. He asked me a few nights ago what I wanted my legacy to be. He is not the first one to ask. I've had friends and relatives jump in on many projects- and recently a friend asked me outright- do you want this to be your legacy? I hadn't honestly thought of it in those terms at all and the suggestion horrified me. No. My nonprofit work, LivingLFS and the support group are not my legacy. It is needed, it is one of my many families. But it is not mine, it belongs to everyone who has LFS or loves one of our war counseling families.

When Phil asked about legacy I cried for quite some time. We both have been drifting in this choppy water. Not knowing the timeline. Not knowing the plot twists to come. I don't want to have THESE discussions. But I also know- no matter how well you know a person, or their wishes- these conversations need to be had. It is always better to be prepared, but preparing sometimes feels like taunting the cancer Gods. Perhaps if I don't finish my story- it cannot have an ending. Which we all know is flawed logic, as sometimes the main character gets offed in the midst of the greatest battle. But then you see how strong the supporting characters are. 

And in that realization, I found my legacy. My legacy is the thing I have spent my entire life building. My family. Our children. My supporting characters.  They are the best parts of me. They are parts of my parents and their parents. And the worst- my stubborn, valiant little mutants. Through this great melting pot- they are my work, my memories, my time on this earth and the things I am most proud of.  And it is appropriate that they are only half mine- because you just can't beat an amazing collaboration. And a little bit of Luck.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Springing Forward

Spring is always a busy time in the Mallory house. We have 4 birthdays to celebrate in a month. This year we have also been fortunate to have a bunch of spring visitors. I like to think it's our sunny disposition that brings our friends near, not my horrible misbehaving cancer.

We brought in March with my friend Jen spending a week spoiling us. We had sleepovers at Koolina and got to play tourist for a few days. She took the girls for a couple days while I rested from the last round of chemo.

Fortunately this chemo has been a lot easier than abraxane. I get a bit nauseous, really tired for a few days and achey.  At my appointment last Monday, my onc was really impressed with my bloodwork. Not that I have much control over that, but if my counts drop it makes everything trickier. My recent ECHO showed my heart is doing good too, so that is also good news. We are 2 months out from gamma knife and I'm feeling pretty good, but it's also time to schedule the next brain MRI to see what's going on. The scanxiety starts as soon as we start talking about it because that means it's also time to do other scans. And here I have to balance how much I want to know with when I want to know it. We will see what the brain MRI says and decide what to do from there. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, so I think about all of our plans.

Last Friday I turned 39. And I usually don't like to bring attention to my birthdays but to me this year feels like a big deal. Most women my age are lamenting wrinkles and gray hairs and dreading the big 4-0. I would like nothing more than to bring in the big 40 with style. I am just happy to have hair- I could give a rosey rodent's rectum if it was gray or blonde or the nice mousey brown that it is. It is soft and I like that the kids will sit and pet my new baby hair. As for wrinkles- bring em! Badges of experiences I want to have.

The other day I collapsed into a puddle of goo in the shower when it occurred to me that it was in fact my birthday. It IS a big deal. It is a big day. For years I thought 43 was the magic number- anything past that was bonus time as many of my mutant relatives seemed to have a tough time getting past that birthday. Even when I was diagnosed at 36- I felt relatively secure that I had time. That there were gonna be more birthdays. I can't live like there aren't going to be. I can't. SO I won't. But it doesn't mean I don't wonder. It's only human and that is something I feel like I've been reminded of a lot lately- how completely humanly mortal I am.

I used to go on all of the kids' field trips. Now the thought of petri dishes and bus rides compounds nausea. I had been looking forward to the 4th grade whale watching trip for years. But it was a chemo week and there was no way I could be responsible for kids, on a boat, while nauseous. So Phil got to go. And even though I was so happy for him, I was sad. Then he texted me- NO whales. They didn't see any whales. The good news- they got vouchers to come back and see whales. My birthday present from Phil and Lily was a trip to see whales. It's funny how things work out. That is what I remind myself when things start going bad- sometimes it's just the push forward we need to get us where we should be. A good reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of thing- but then there is the whale- just breathing and there we were boats full of humans squealing over his mere act of breathing.

I miss normal. I miss grocery shopping and yard work and spring cleaning. I miss having the energy to do these things and not worrying that I will hurt myself or make myself sick. I miss the possibility of new. I think back on all of the hard times and miss how easy they were.  But I am really grateful that I knew enough to appreciate the normal times. And then I get upset for wasting any energy missing something that is no more. And I wonder how much time it will be before I look back on days like today and long for how easy they are. So instead of lamenting, I made a pot of soup and did the dishes. And I thought about how I always want to blog more and spent far too much time trying to find pictures for this post and never did find the ones I want.

The last couple of weeks were crazy busy. I was getting ready for a Dining out for Phil's Squadron. I have not been to any work functions for ages. It just ends up being one of the things that gets triaged. But Phil and I both know that his work is a huge part of our lives and our community and I really wanted to put forth the effort to be there. So over a month ago, I ordered dresses online. They were all too big. Normally this would be a very happy thing for me. But now it meant extra work. Trying to get a dress  to an island when running around to stores requires effort and time I just don't have to spare. And after an appropriate amount of stress- I resigned that it was going to be OK. That I had options and if the dress did not arrive- I would make do with what I had. Fortunately the dress made it and my neighbor's mom is a seamstress and willing to take up a dress with little time to spare.

I started back to Physical therapy. It has been months. My hips are feeling the effects of the aromatase inhibitors. No one recognized me. And that's how I feel a lot. Unrecognizable. And then the questions start-you look great- are you in remission? You have hair- does this mean you are finished with chemo? No one wants to hear that things aren't coming up roses. And I am grateful that people see me and talk to me yet each question is a painful reminder that I am not on the path that people want to hear about. It is part of the reason why going to social events is so hard. It takes effort to choose to be positive. I decided that I'm charting my own path and it is positive.

We celebrated Lily's birthday early, with one of my oldest friends and her family. Like I said, we've had a string of visitors. It's been nice. The tempo never calms downs here, which is tough. Phil went to Atlanta for work. Lily got sick, the water heater died, and it's a special order. None on island. So I am absolutely over normal- nothing like a healthy dose of Murphy and his laws to keep us hopping. And every day I think- I should blog- and then something comes up. Usually I hug the kids or get distracted.  Last night we played scrabble while singing along to Phantom of the Opera. Which was just what we needed and I think- as much as all the ick stinks- I have constant reminders of all the good and that is what spring is all about.

Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)