Don’t Call me a Fighter

Hello, hello? Anyone hear me? Echo….echo…echo….

Ever notice how when hearing or reading about people with cancer it’s always all with aggressive words like “battling” or “fighting?” And when someone passes from cancer, it’s all “Lost their battle?” I get that the metaphor is All Hands On Deck While We Declare War On Cancer, but I’ve never identified with this descriptive tactic. I’m not a Fighter, or a Warrior, or Battling anything!

The metaphor I best relate to is like pest control. There are unwanted living things in my surroundings (be it ants, or rodents, whathaveyou) and we are trying to figure out the best way to get them out of my house! Where I live. It’s a kindler, gentler semantic but it works for me.

As for me? My “house” continues to be under control. Yippee! Tamoxifen for 19 months and only 41 more to go. I think of my CJ as in specific stages. Year One: Diagnosis and Treatment; Year Two: Coping with PTSD and Reconstruction; and as I approach Year Three: Strengthening and Physical Fitness. It’s amazing how much a toll 8 surgeries in a 18 month time frame can take on your body and mind. I’ve had a lot of “down time”, watched an extraordinary amount of TV, and read countless books. But now it’s time to get off the chair, and get my body moving, now that I am officially and FINALLY cleared to do exercise without limitations.

A quick rewind: Had my last reconstruction surgery in April. Basically we needed to adjust the size of the implants so the breasts were even and proportionate, as well as some further nipple recon. Easy peasy, right? Ummm, no.

In typical “It could only happen to JG” fashion, I developed a complication from the surgery, whereby my incision on my left side (oh lefty! you continue to be a troublemaker!) opened up. Like two inches wide but luckily shallow in depth. So back to Dr K I go, (I have a frequent visitor punch card now) where he instructs me how to care for an open wound. Oh – and I can’t go swimming, take a bath, or get the area wet until it’s 100% healed. Which means showering with a tricky home-made saran-wrap situation covering my left breast.

So I wait. And I wait. And I wait. During this time, only soft bras, no underwire, so as not to re-open or agitate the wound. From May to July, I go in a few times to see Dr K, to check in, and complain about how long this is taking to heal, and he explains to me that my skin/body is a slow healer. So I’ve got that going for me. Finally in August (I’m not kidding – I didn’t go swimming like ALL SUMMER) the wound healed up. Hooray.

So I am officially off the DL (Disabled List) for the first time since this all started. Happy Dance!

xo

JG

aftermath

I guess you could say my absence from posting has been because I’ve been busy with other non-cancer related life things. Which is funny, because nearly 18 months later, and my CJ is never far from my mind. While I’m not afraid to admit that I did indeed watch this last season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, my biggest fear is that my constant CJ musings would be compared to that of Amber Marchese who like me, had “the cancer” (as she repeatedly refers to it – even five years later) and reminds everyone she comes across every chance she gets. I don’t want to be that girl.

However, I can honestly say, I’m not exactly “over it” either. While my scars are healing, and my reconstruction is (almost) done, and the tumor is gone, the journey of the last 16 months and its aftermath still prevails. It’s like much of last year was me focused on getting better, recovering, juggling everything…and now much of what I’m focused on is digesting what went down. Wow. Just wow.

I’d like to state for the record, that I know I’m lucky. I didn’t have it as hard as others have had and I’m grateful. But the fact remains is that this journey has changed me – not just my cup size – and its impact has been far reaching.

  1. My memory: I used to have a crazy-good memory, the kind of memory that I’d have to apologize for, as in, “No I’m not a freaky stalker, it’s just that I remember you were wearing this on that” One of my proudest skills is knowing all the lyrics to Bon Dylan’s Tangled up in Blue. Now everything’s a blur and I kept repeatedly calling the guys’ CYO coach about the basketball schedule despite the fact that we’ve had this conversation before. The kids are noticing that I’m forgetting things. Anyone else? Or did I just ask you that?
  2. My good eating plan: Last year at this time I weighed 30 lbs lighter than I do right now. For reals. I’ve self medicated through junk food and it isn’t pretty.
  3. My interest in fitness: I used to walk the dog daily and get to the gym to workout, plus had tennis once a week. With 8 surgeries under my belt, I’ve been on the DL so much these last 14 months it’s been hard to maintain any kind of consistent fitness plan. I’m out of shape and just tied, still.
  4. My tennis game: I know, I know. First world problems. In the spirit of being ridiculously honest, I will share that I recently saw a picture of the girls I played tennis with at my old tennis club with a few years ago. We all were 2.5’s together! Um, now they’re 4.0’s! Wait, what? While I was dealing with my CJ, they’ve been playing tennis 3x a week and my backhand and I feel like losers.
  5. My social game: I used to be up for anything. Put on jeans and cute top and I’m there. Bam! But now, I find I’d rather binge on back to back episodes of House of Cards than have to leave the house and put on pants.

Months ago, I had written about my new normal and how the reality of my life post breast cancer is that there is no “Ta Da” parade “You’re Cured” celebration with balloons. Recurrence is very much on my radar and the doctors who treat me.  There are no guarantees. So I try to push those deep dark ugly thoughts in the back of my head and take my Tamoxifen daily like a good girl and live my life. With or without pants or leaving the house.

xo

JG

 

playing the med game

Ok, here’s the situation…

[my parents went away for a week’s vacation…]

Some of you will get that reference. But let’s move on.

Wait.

Small digression – and as long as we’re going in the way-back machine to 1988, I’ve been constantly reminded lately of the passage of time. My kids think I’m so uncool and practically groan when I make them listen to “80’s music.” A recent example is when I was driving the guys to school and we were listening to Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk” in the car.

C asks, “Who is Michelle Pfeiffer?”

What? So I tell them about a song it sounds like “Jungle Love” by Morris Day and the Time. Remember that song? They’re hardly impressed. But that’s okay because I know I’m cool. Even if I’m rocking the robe while driving them to middle school in the morning. (Yep, I’m frequently that mom.)

Speaking of time, my open wound has been healing quite nicely. Four weeks ago it was around 3 inches in length and deep; now it’s maybe half an inch. The good news is that while I’m still on the DL for exercise, I have graduated from the twice a day wet-to-dry dressings with gauze and saline solution, so a large bandage. Yes! Major improvement. I see Dr K again next week.

Next week also marks one year that I’ve been on Tamoxifen. One year down, four more to go. You’ll remember that Tamoxifen is the prevention medicine that I take that affects estrogen production in my body. Because my tumor was ER/PR positive, this meant that cancer “feeds” off of estrogen and progesterone, making it highly sensitive to hormone production.  So here’s where it gets fun (um, not really) – the Tamoxifen reduces estrogen production as well as “re-routes” estrogen from my lymph nodes and receptors in my breast, so the ovaries. It kind of “fakes out” the receptors into thinking that they’ve been fed estrogen so they’re “full.”  While this means good news for preventing further breast cancer growth, it means bad news for potential ovarian cancer growth, since the concentration of estrogen goes to the ovaries.

What does this mean? It means that for many women with breast cancer, they eventually have an oophorectomy to remove their ovaries to prevent ovarian cancer, since breast cancer and ovarian cancer are closely aligned. But what does that mean? It means instead of reducing or suppressing estrogen production, it stops it altogether – which leads to another host of potential pitfalls down the road, not the least of it is side effects more severe than menopause (fun!) and cardiovascular disease (super fun!). The other thing is, that many women who have their ovaries removed, end up doing some kind of hormone therapy to offset the menopause-like symptoms. So we’re back to the big E again: estrogen. It’s a vicious cycle.

While I’m not scheduled to get an oophorectomy any time soon – it’s on the table as a further discussion point but no decision yet – I describe this scenario as an example of how treating one thing, leads to the development of another thing, which then needs to be treated. It’s like the ultimate medical Catch-22.

Let’s go back to the Tamoxifen again. The early side effects were heavy breakouts (just like being a teenager again) and depression. This is very, very common for Tamoxifen takers. So the treatment for the treatment for cancer, was antibiotics for my complexion and bumping up my Lexapro dosage. After a few months, I stopped the antibiotics. But then the Lexapro stopped working as well, and after dealing with the emotional ramifications of enduring 8 hospitalizations, complications, delays and more fun, I was put on another medication to help “boost” the Lexapro for the short term.  I don’t take taking these medications lightly – but they’re needed for my emotional and physical well being.

So now, in addition to an oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, acupuncturist, therapist, oncology nutritionist, and physical therapist, I’m now under the care of of a pharmacologist/therapist to make sure I don’t have any drug interactions. It’s like a giant game of medical chess!

Checkmate.

xo

JG

JG interviews JG

Instead of writing a lengthy post on my feelings (down), emotions (fragile), or my current state of mind (frustrated), I will do a little question and answer sesh so you can get all the deets: how did we get here, what’s happening now, what will happen?

When did this Start?

Back in October when I had my nipple revision surgery, Dr K also did a scar revision on the right side. About 2 weeks after the surgery, I noticed that it was hot and red. We monitored it for a bit, and then I was put on antibiotics. I ended up taking 2 rounds of antibiotics.

Did the antibiotics work?

I’m not sure if they did – they prevented infection from getting worse, but the redness never really went away.  I was going to for check-ups with Dr K once a week to monitor the redness and it was starting to move along my scar line.

Why did you have surgery?

I woke up on Thursday, December 11th – you know the Supposed Storm of the Century – and a part of my scar had opened up. About 1 inch in length and there was blood. Saw the doctor that day and we rescheduled surgery for the next day, December 12th to stitch it up and close the opening.

How did the surgery go?

The procedure itself was easy – they used a local – but when I came home on Friday I was in a lot of pain, which continued through Sunday and Monday. The pain level surprised me for such a little surgery. On Monday I noticed my breast was hot and red, by Tuesday I woke up in a sea of blood where the stitches were accompanied by a low-grade fever. Uh oh.

How is this infection different than last year?

Last year I had a seroma which was blood/fluid collecting from the pocket/expander area and not draining completely. This time I have an open wound fairly big make 3 inches long and 1 inch deep.

Why did the stitches fail?

There can be a number of reasons why – the area under the breast is extremely sensitive and thin skin, which makes healing a longer process and more susceptible to infections. When I saw the doctor on Tuesday, he removed the stitches in his office, so now I have a big gaping open wound that I have to “dress” twice a day.

What’s the best case scenario?

Right now we’re just monitoring the situation. I continue to take antibiotics and picked up a refill so I’ll do at least two rounds again. There are a number of scenarios involving it healing from the inside out on its own which may take 1-2 months. After it’s healed, they can stitch me up again. I can’t do anything strenuous or that will make me sweat excessively or exercise during the next 1-2 months while it – hopefully – heals. That’s right: no tennis and no skiing. Sigh.

OK, but what’s worst case scenario?

I’ll admit – the WCS is pretty grim. It involves concluding at some point in time that the skin has either not healed, or not improving, and I have surgery to take the implant out. This would require drains for some time, and having to wait a few months before we could put a new implant in. Wait, wha?

What are you doing now?

I’m laying low. Trying not to circle the drain and spending as much one on one time with the Intern as possible. Somehow I can’t stop the image of Nancy Kerrigan in my head screaming “Why Me???” after the Jeff Gillooly fiasco.

[Interesting side note: Gillooly has shaved the mustache and changed his name.]

Back to my Intern – I’ve been neglecting him.

xo

JG

ps. If there are other questions you’d like answered – I tried to answer the ones I’ve been asked – ping me.

 

Getting “icky” with it

I need to up my nursing game.

I’m the person who never got into the TV show ER because it was way too gory for me. So you can imagine how grossed out I was when I woke up yesterday morning in a pool of blood. The blood and puss were leaking from my incision line.  Total ick. Also, did I mention how much pain I was in?

When I went to see Dr K that morning, he said it was infected he took the stitches out in the office. The most painful thing I have experienced to date. I’m not kidding. Then we had a debate about whether I should be admitted to the hospital and hooked up on an IV for 2 days, or go home with antibiotics. Thinking about the last time I was hooked to the IV, I decided to go with curtain #2. Dr K explained in great detail how to change my dressings. Came home, took the antibiotics, bled through a few more gauze “dressings” and took it easy the rest of the day. If however, the antibiotics didn’t clear up the infection by Thursday, then I was to be admitted to the hospital. Oh joy.

Do you want to know what I have to do to change my dressings? Of course you do. The area where the stitches were is now a gaping open wound around 3 inches long and maybe 2 cm deep. In other words, you can see soft tissue. It’s nasty. TMI alert: I have to douse a square of gauze with saline and then insert it into the hole and pack it in. Ew, ew, ew. I have to sit down to do this it’s so nasty. Then another gauze on top and tape it up and ta da I’m done! I do this twice a day. Hooray.

The good news is two nights of Hanukkah down and no complaints yet. A Festival of Lights Miracle!

xo

JG

 

 

Deja Vu

You’d think after 8 surgeries, I’d have this down.

The procedure itself on Friday was pretty easy. The surgery center was a breeze compared to the Hospital. I checked in at 8:10 am for my 9:00 surgery, and by 8:15, I already had my gown, socks, and blanket on in my bed. Without general anesthesia, this meant no IVs and no other pre-op tests. I walked into the surgery room and we talked while they sewed me up. I cannot say enough how I continue to be impressed and grateful for the incredible care from the nurses and doctors and assistants. They always make me feel at ease and like I’m their number #1 patient. Dr K has actually called me his VIP Patient. I not sure he’s kidding. I think I’m that awesome. I told some TMI jokes in the O/R, we laughed while they stitched, they apologized for the music selection when I demanded One Direction (as a joke I was wondering if they’d comply). I walked out of there at 9:10, and my dad picked me up at 9:15. Thanks to the numbing shot, I didn’t feel sore….yet.

So my dad drove me home and we did what any normal dad and daughter would do post surgery: stop for ice cream on Union Street because, duh, it was 9:30 am and raining, and one Must Have the Best Ice Cream as he described it. So I agreed.  I spent the rest of the day in bed and watched the entire 2nd season of The Newsroom On Demand. So good.

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By Saturday, I expected to feel some relief, but I had more pain. Not just around the incision, but also on my abdomen on my right side below the breast. So I continued to rest all day Saturday and Sunday, and finished the 3rd season of The Newsroom. So, so good.

I woke up on Monday, with a low grade fever and redness around my breast and splotchiness. The breast is hot and hard. Like some science experiment, I keep asking M, “Wanna see my boob now and see how red it is?” and he continues to decline my offer. He’s “over it” and so am I. He’s always felt I leaned towards the hypochondriac side of things – if there were a scale – and now this stuff is legit, so he’s completely confused. It feels like deja-vu when I had this last December. That time, when my breast was red and hot and hard, I was admitted to the hospital and stayed for 3 days over New Years hooked up to an IV. I’m emotionally drained, physically exhausted, and a little fragile right now. (Ok, part of it is watching the series finale of The Newsroom, I need another show to obsess over and keep me distracted during the winter hiatus.)  Reccos?

I’ve been in touch with the Physician’s Assistant, C and we’ve agreed that if my low grade fever continues or gets worse by tomorrow, or if the redness doesn’t subside or gets worse, I will pop in to see them. In the meantime, I’ll pop a little percoset and hopefully get some pain relief.

xo

JG

Inching towards the finish line…perhaps?

Time is a funny thing. I’m well aware that last year-ish, around this time-ish, I was recuperating at home. It took me a solid 4 weeks to have the stamina, energy and ability to shower on my own, get dressed, blow dry my hair, and drive somewhere. Last year my foray out in the world post House Arrest was to the elementary school’s Holiday Store  – a cute tradition where families drop off their donated items they don’t need anymore – scarves, ties, jewelry, picture frames, books, etc – to the school, and for $1 each student can “buy” two presents and get them wrapped.

This year, I am co-chairing the Holiday Store.

I hardly remember anything from this time last year – it’s all a blur.

My last procedure was last Monday (or so I thought – more on that later) to tattoo the area around my left aerola. The whole tattoo thing is a trip – they mix a color to match your skin tone, put it against your breast and compare. (Not unlike the gals at the makeup counter at Nordstrom!) Then, they paint the color on, and then the machine “tattoos” the ink on your skin. I don’t have a ton of feeling in my breasts anymore, so while the noise was deafening, and I was having a moment of heightened hot flashes, the pain was tolerable. No local anesthetic or numbing cream. Just popped a percoset pre-tatoo and VOILA all ready.

I can honestly say that the worse part of it was the “heebie jeebies” before, during and after. Hello! There’s a needle on my breast! Hello! I’m awake for this! Hello! Is this really happening? 

That was Monday. While I was there, Dr K looked at my incision on my right breast. I had it repaired at my last surgery on October 15th – but because if I were to write a book about my CJ its title would appropriately be called “The Big D stands for Delay, not D-Cup: the Trials and Tribulations of a Breast Cancer Survivor” – I had, you guessed it, a little infection post surgery. This infection called for two rounds of antibiotics to get rid of the redness and soreness on my incision. There was also puss involved. Yuckers.

So here I was on December 8th, a full two weeks after the last round of antibiotics with a new opening on the incision line. Dr K was not worried and they out some ointment on it to make it heal. Fast forward to Wednesday night – pre #stormageddon – and the opening grew bigger, and I started bleeding. A lot. Again, yuckers.

So, back to the Dr’s I go Thursday afternoon – driving across the bridge while everyone sane was tucked at home during the crazy storm – and a huge shoutout to FFM who drove me there – and guess what?

No? You don’t want to play this game? (M doesn’t like it either)

I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with “GORE MURGERY”

Yep, for those of you at home who guess correctly More Surgery – you win five points.

I report to  the Hayes Valley Surgery Center tomorrow morning at 8:00 am. Oooo la la!  A new medical facility! A local anesthetic! No IV! Dr K will re-suture my incision lickety-split and I’ll be home in time for a marathon of bad TV I’ve recorded on my DVR.

But, alas, I won’t be able to attend the Holiday Store. You know, the One That I am Co-Chairing? Nope. I have to stay in bed and “rest.” Good thing I’m an expert at that.

xo

JG

 

 

 

Year in Review

Friday marked one year since my bilateral mastectomy. Has it really been a year? It’s been a year of ups and downs and mostly detours and delays but I’m incredibly grateful where I am, at last.

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Here’s my year in a nutshell:

  • 7: the number of surgeries I have had
  • 8: the number of hospitalizations
  • 200: the number of cc’s they filled my expanders at first
  • 650: the number off cc’s in my now-permannent implants (36C thankyouverymuch)
  • 8: the number of physicians I’ve seen this year including my oncologist, breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, nutrition oncologist, integrative therapist, acupuncturist, OB/GYN, and general physician.
  • 6: the number of pillows I require to sleep comfortably on my back post surgery
  • 2014: the number of the year in which I spent New Years Eve hooked up to an IV!
  • 10: the number of personal products that had parabens, PEG, or PPG or, “fragrance” in them. (I’ve swapped out my shampoo, conditioner,  body lotion, facial moisturizer, sunscreen, body wash, deodorant, shaving cream, hair styling products and perfume to organic and non-toxic alternatives)
  • Too many to count: the number of phone calls, emails, letters, cards, thoughtful gifts, home-made meals and love that we received during the last 13 months.

xo

JG

 

walking the walk, not just talking the talk

After 3 full days of wearing the same ensemble, I insisted that Miss J not only change her clothes, but also shower. After some mild but tricky negotiations, she finally submitted to my request (now an order) and returned with wet hair wrapped in a towel, wearing her fleece robe, the scent of body wash on her damp skin.

“Can I talk to you in private?” she asked in a quiet voice.

When we got to her room, she took a deep breath, burst into tears and said the four familiar words I’ve heard in my head for more than two decades and heard as friends complained out loud : I think I’m fat. 

If you’re just recovering from pulling your jaw off the floor, you’re not alone. Not only is totally ridiculous from an objective standpoint as Miss J a healthy, growing, nearly 10-year old, but also because I had hoped that these inevitable critical shaming thoughts wouldn’t enter into our lives for at least another five years. I’d hoped. I was naively wrong.

I took a deep breath, stood very high on my imaginary soapbox and gave the speech. You are healthy. You have strong muscles. Strong bones. You are growing. It is your job to grow. That’s why we strive to eat healthy. That’s why we limit sugar. There are good kinds of fuel for your body, and not good kinds. You should be proud of your body and the things it can do….

And that’s when it hit me. I’m great at handing out advice – especially when it comes to self esteem issues – but not entirely great at taking it. So much of my satisfaction – and happiness – is tied to my confidence about how I’m feeling on the outside, not on the inside. And it’s been quite the roller coaster this year which after a grateful Stage 1 diagnosis, has largely focused on my outer appearance: I had lost weight before my CJ began, then had the bilateral mastectomy, then the delays and complications, hospitalizations, new medications which led to weight gain, then more surgeries, more nips and tucks, and ta-da 12 months later: I’m not only sporting two new breasts and two new nipples, but I’m also sporting some new pounds as well. Oh, goody!

And here’s the thing: my too-tight skinny jeans have been a constant and recurring reminder that I am, at present, Not in Shape. Like I needed a daily reminder! That voice in your head? The one that guides, instructs, warns, and validates? It also criticizes like a broken record: Must lose 15 lbs.  Must unbutton top button of jeans.  Must be grateful that yoga pants are an acceptable form of clothing out in the world.

[I’ll admit it – at first I showed signs of the ubiquitous yet bewildering phenomenon called Size Creep: That’s weird…these must have shrunk in the wash. I’ve never been this size before.]

Friends say  to me: “Don’t be down on yourself, you’ve been through a lot,” and they’re right. I haven’t really been able to properly exercise for the last year, I’m still months away from returning to the tennis court, and now that I’ve nearly given up alcohol (my oncologist says no more than 2 drinks a week), I have very few vices left. There’s only one way to properly satisfy my need to self-medicate: through food.

[Hello Halloween candy!]

So when I Miss J shared her fears with me, (Turns out – that this was an insult that came from one of her brothers earlier in the day…I told her to relax, that they’d continue to insult her, and they’d only get more harsh with time….) a little part of my heart broke.  How am I expected to give her advice? Me, the one with 6 surgeries and 7 hospital experiences in 12 months under her belt and a whole lot of unhappiness about The Way I Look Now. We are our own worst critics. I know that. But why?

So instead of making The Monday Diet Vow that I do every Sunday evening, I decided to make a different promise to myself this Sunday. I will try not to torture myself about the weight gain; I will try to show my daughter how to have a healthy attitude about her body; I will appreciate the things my body can do; I will be proud of my imperfections and battle scars.

And so while I’m talking the talk, I will be walking the walk – and taking the Intern with me, because after all, he likes walks.

xo

JG

marriage vows and wedding poems

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The Intern and The Poem

During one of my recent spirited closet clean-outs, my old Intern (the girl) joined me. (My current Intern – the dog, was on hand as well. And no, my closet is not that big. We were cozy.) Amidst the scarves, belts and boots re-org, Miss J stumbled upon a photo book from the year we got engaged leading up to our wedding. I’m not exactly sure when or why I stashed it there, but I have a suspicious feeling that it has something to do with the leather corners of the photo album being chewed.

[Current Intern problems. Was noted in his last performance review: “Intern needs to stop chewing on leather shoes, belts, handbags and photo albums immediately or consequences by way of a probationary period will be enacted.” Signed and Dated 2014.]

The photo album starts with the brunch we had the day after our engagement, spans the nine months from November to August of wedding showers, special luncheons, and a most festive rehearsal dinner. It also includes a poem that M wrote to officially ask permission. This has been a family tradition that I believe started with my Poppie who wrote a poem to ask for my Nana’s hand in marriage. After the poem is presented to the extended family, everyone “approves” it by signing the poem. Ours has signatures of cousins, aunts, parents and uncles. Miss J giggled uncontrollably as she read the poem. “Mazel” it said on the sides; “We wish you many years of happiness” it read below. We had the full support of our family as we started to plan our life together.

And plan we did! At our wedding, we shared the wedding vows we had personally written to each other. Our promises and goals; hopes and dreams; pledges and visions. We’d be globetrotters! We’d have kids right away! We’d always laugh together! I’d promise not to cook! Drenched with all-consuming feelings of love and excitement, we naively promised things like supporting one another through tough times, always being on the same team and having each other’s backs. You know, the “in sickness and in health” part. But with just lovelier words.

I think about that ubiquitous vow often. How it rolls off the tongue and how natural it is, and the sheer simplicity of that concept. But the thing is, it’s not simple at all. Supporting your spouse through The Unspeakable is one of life’s biggest challenges. Speed bumps and sharp turns are a natural part of life’s road map and we’re prepared – well mostly-ish – for them when they hit. But an all-out 9-car collision, is not on anyone’s radar. And that’s where things get really interesting.

M and I went to a beautiful wedding a few weeks ago. The bride and groom very much in love, very much excited for the joining of their lives together and the adventures ahead. And I found myself sitting there – one year post my diagnosis – for the first time really listening to their vows. Like many couples do, they promised a lifetime of unconditional love, support, and acceptance. And while I don’t doubt their intent, it made me think how unprepared we were when the rocky times hit. No one is.

When we blindly say “in good times and in bad,” we’re not really thinking about the bad. And so when the bad happens, it can be quite a shock. So now you’re not only dealing with what that bad thing is, but how to be the right kind of communicator, supporter, and spouse-whisperer to your partner in marriage and life.

And here we are, 15 years after M penned the poem, having been through our CJ, I realized it’s changed us, as things do, in big and little ways.  We’ve practiced being better listeners. We’ve learned to have more tolerance for The Things We Can’t Fix and less worry about The Things We Can. We have developed better definitions of what’s important and what’s not. And we did all these things without a road map and sometimes not being on the same page. And that’s possibly the true meaning of a successful partnership: one where you allow each other the latitude to negotiate their own process and journey.

(You can guess which one of us that means listening, and which one of us that means processing by discussing all and any scenarios.)

xo

JG