10 August 2015

Live Well ~ Die Well





Yesterday was horrific. Russ refused to eat, drink, get out of bed or communicate.  I cried most of the day.

This morning as I turned over in our bed, my heart in my throat, I found him awake and alert.

I could sense today was not going to be an ordinary day. I was right.


'Babe I am so sorry about yesterday. I just checked out. 
I may be sinking into depression. I am just so tired. I don't know if I can do this.
I am so sorry.'


Instant tears leapt from my eyes as I saw my once strong man, now bedridden, crumble in agony at his admission. I took his hand, reminded him of our conversation three months ago, where we agreed that when he felt his fight was over that it would be OKAY.

The assurance fell from my lips as I promised that, until his last breath, I would fight on his behalf. The rest of us will fight but he does not have to live up to our expectations. He can rest in the freedom of knowing others have got his back.

He reached across and wiped the tears from my face and said the words that tore my heart in two.

'But I don't want to leave you.'

I reminded him, come what may, I will see him again soon. We will run those perfect trails in the New Earth. The ones where I won't get tired or be scared of snakes. We would be together again. No pain, no suffering and no running injuries!

And he smiled.

I promised him I would take care of our kids,  I would make sure his legacy was tangible every single day of our lives. I promised him that while we hold our faith firmly until the end we can still plan for a glorious exit.

There will be no defeat in this thing we call death but only unexpected victory.

08 August 2015

The Bottom Line

It has been four months.

Four months of unabated hardship.  (woe is me)
There have been silver linings;
moments of sweetness but only because we have truly sought them. If I look back, in wordly terms, we have had a pretty kak time.

At every turn worst case scenario has bitten us.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a doctor say these words in the last few months; in a variety of contexts :

"Unfortunately this can happen, it's unusual but it can happen. I am so sorry."

I have long ago given up asking the infuriating WHY question. All this did was make me angry, bitter, confused and ultimately completely unsatisfied. I have simply had to settle for the HOW.

How do I get up today?
How do I make it through this hour? 
How do I know if this pain will ever stop?
How do I make sure I survive and am enough to take care of the emotional needs of my kids?
How do I tackle the horrors of admin, banks, lawyers, home affairs and SARS in the face of death?
How do I care for myself, my man and my kids?
How do I reconcile my future to what I have known in the past?
How do I make it through the night listening to his laboured breathing without screaming in anguish?
How do I live another day with the knowledge that my person is leaving me? 
How do I deal with the fact that grieving is already a daily occurrence and yet there is still so much more to come?

I have seen so much in the last four months. Scripture, inspirational quotes, learned people, youtube clips, testimonies, books.... so much  has found its way into my orbit but ultimately the answer to life is not very complicated. In fact it is very, very simple.

Life is hard. Accept that you have no control. Surrender. Now go get on with it.

29 July 2015

Trusting aint for Sissies




God and I have always had an issue with the concept of trust.
I am not secure that His plans are better than mine.
The latest turn of events have pretty much made my case.

Russ and I have plans. We have amazing, long-held plans that were about to be executed in June. We have worked towards this goal for many years. We were waiting for Levi to be 9.  We are poised; the kids all happily home-schooled. Russ with plenty of contract work available overseas. Many other little things all PERFECTLY lined up for our PERFECT plan to work/travel for 2 years abroad and show our kids the world.

And then everything in our world just went bat-shit crazy.

What kind of a God thinks this plan is superior to ours?
Particularly a God that claims to love us and to be able to FIX stuff like this in a heartbeat?
Bloody hell, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

I have 30 years of history with Jesus. I know that even as I type this He is still in control.
I know that I can trust Him. I know that even though I am so angry, sad, heartbroken, disappointed and utterly devastated that one day this will make sense. That our time here is just a nanosecond in the face of eternity

 but

I have kids who do not have the security of a long history with Christ. I have kids who are looking to me; watching me and taking their lead from my behaviour in this situation. (which has been a bit all over the place)

I have had to try to communicate to the kids that our faith is in God. Our faith is not only in His ability to heal. Our faith has to be in the God that can heal but perhaps, for reasons we cannot grasp, will not heal Russell.

How can I impart this to my children when I am still wrestling with it myself?

All I know is that we have today.

I have to take the opportunities as they arise and trust for the right words at the right time.

25 July 2015

Chased by Grace?

Chased by grace. That phrase found me early in this messy journey.

Frankly the last few weeks have felt utterly graceless. I have felt abandoned, betrayed and pissed off but that will have to be a story for another day.

Instead I will write about today.

Russell is pretty much bedridden, although, with some help, he can do the basics. He sleeps most of the day. Apart from that he chills in bed and occasionally parks off in a chair in our room. We chat when he is up to it. We don't stare longingly into each others eyes, sobbing over our situation. We tend to shoot the breeze and we laugh over dumb things. He doesn't read or watch tv. Going downstairs is a chore and it's way too noisy and chaotic.

I share this randomness with you so you can understand the following conversation I had with him today. (bear in mind I haven't been anywhere with my kids in weeks)

Me: Babe, I am going to take the kids out to lunch okay? My mom is here if you need her.
 
Him : Wait! Let me come with you.
 
Me: (raised eyebrow) Dude. Seriously? If you can make it up and dressed I can take you along for sure....But seriously?
 
Him: Huh? You mean I cant come?
 
Me: Babe! You are too weak, I cant possibly take you to the mall!
 
Him : (with a lopsided grin) Well, that's a bit disastrous isn't it!?

And then he dropped off back to sleep.

This is a true story. And there are quite a few more stories like this that many members of my family can attest to. I could be alarmed, disturbed and a bit freaked out but I have chosen to look at these exchanges and see a real blessing in them.

1. Russell is not experiencing any pain whatsoever.
2. Even though his condition is worsening in terms of weakness and lucidity he is completely upbeat and amusing when he is lucid. He speaks of the future and is seemingly unaware of the gravity of the situation.

A few weeks back, while he was in hospital having a transfusion, we cleared the decks. We spoke of our lives together, our mistakes and our hopes.

We spoke of our kids; we said all we needed to say. We did it in a time of strength; when it was easy and eternity wasn't knocking too hard. I am forever grateful for that day. I do not need to say anything more. He does not need to say anything more.



Sometimes grace displays itself in the most unlikely ways.

Seeing my husband gently slip away pain-free and positive is grace personified.

10 June 2015

Twofers

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-fer
Two-fer (twofer, two fer, 2-fer, etc.) is short for "two for one." It can refer to: Buy one, get one free, a discount sales promotion offering two items for the price ...

Today can only be described as a 'twofer'.

Russ has had a very rough week but yesterday saw him far more clear-headed and able to eat. He managed to take a short walk into the garden and made a few business calls. Great. Really good.

We had every confidence that this morning he would be even stronger. Today we faced a long car ride to Plattekloof to see Dr Spies for a 2 hour intensive assessment. The ride was uneventful; no traffic and Russ felt fine.

The appointment was inspiring, educational - everything we could have hoped for short of 'the magic bullet'.

The journey home was not good. Russ became increasingly nauseous and uncomfortable. I had to pull over and the unfolding events were traumatic and left us both panicked and fearful. Thankfully I was only 10 minutes from home at the time.

The afternoon was awful for him. Awful for us to see him struggle.

Tears. Our tears, the kids tears. My folks and the tribe all gathered to pray for him.

My prayers - messy, desparate and mildly rebellious.

My mom's prayer - strong and searching.

There was tenderness in the trauma.

Within minutes Russ was relieved of his pain. His vomiting stopped. His nausea dissipated. By this evening he was animated and 'eating like a bird' but eating something nonetheless.

And so the ride continues.

Up and down.

Joy and sorrow.

Two sides of the same coin.

Twofers.

02 June 2015

The Real Deal

Things became very messy on a recent car trip. Or just very real.

The kids and I were on our way to the hospital to see Russell last week. There was some Christian cd playing and the lyrics (that normally are so encouraging and faith-building) just set my brain on FIRE. And not in a good way.

I turned the music off and began a rant of note at God. Seriously, He and I had words. Serious words. No holding back from my side whatsoever. Tired, I was. Tired of all the platitudes and endless songs full of hope, joy, mercy and unfailing love.

My three kids sat in stunned silence. I turned the music back on and carried on driving. Within seconds I was compelled to turn it off once again.

'Any of you kids have anything you would like to say to God right about now?'

*silence*

'You sure? He knows what you're thinking anyway.'

*shaking of heads*

'Okay'

I reach to turn the music back on.

'Wait! I have something to stay to Him!'

'Sure, buddy - go ahead - say what you feel.'

"Why??"
"Stop it!"
"Is this what we deserve?"

I did not even try to answer any of his questions.

This is my son who I catch with silent tears running down his cheeks.
My son who will not allow me to hold him when he is sad.
My son who insists he is FINE when he is hurting.

Finally he is opening up his heart to me and to God to ask these hard questions. He didn't even need me to answer them.

He just needed to vent to the only One who can graciously take our pain and give us the strength to keep going regardless of whether we ever find the answers.












31 May 2015

How are YOU doing?

So many have asked me this question.  I don't have the answer. Examining my feelings is really not helpful to me at all. I just allow them to happen to me which means I cry in public places nowadays.

This is not a 'ra-ra' victory post about how everything happens for a reason....or about how this is such a growth experience for us.... or any of those (possibly true) pontifications.

Millions of people are in my position. I am not alone or unique in my pain but somehow that fails to comfort me in any way whatsoever.

Faith summed it up recently:

'It is like my heart opened one day and all the light, love and joy walked out and now it is full of pain, darkness and despair.'

I have to agree....I liken it to a slow bleed. I can only pray that it stops before it completely destroys me.

This will eventually end and perhaps I will find joy and happiness again one day but until then I have to work extremely hard to cultivate those moments and even harder to keep fear and despair firmly at bay.

I am extremely mindful of and grateful for, unending support from my family, my friends and my community. There is no end to my gratitude to those who so selflessly give to us in our time of need in so many areas.

12 May 2015

How are the kids doing?

This is a question I have been asked countless times. The answer is not an easy one as each child responds completely differently in such traumatic circumstances.

Telling the children was the single most painful experience of my life.

Our prayer has always been that God would place an age-appropriate veil over each of the kids hearts and minds, that they would only hear and absorb what was necessary in that moment. Each of the kids have had conversations with me (and shed many tears) that show they have faced their worse fears.  They are aware of the severity of the situation but they understand that we hold a hope and a real faith that Russell will be restored.

 We have been learning TOGETHER, as a family, to live in a place of uncertainty.

 Initially we all almost suffocated within the confines of our fear and pain but TOGETHER we are making small inroads .... Knitting uncertainty, gratitude and intentionality into the fabric of our lives.

This conversation between myself and Rachel sums up how the kids are doing:

Rachel: Mom! The songwriting workshop is amazing! I loved every minute of it even though it was a bit like a therapy session.

Me: What? What do you mean?

Rach: Well, part of writing songs is learning to tap into your own emotions so we did that and lots of the kids shared stuff that's happening in their lives. It was pretty hectic - everyone cried!

Me : Did you share your story at all?

Rach : Nope. But their stories were far worse.

Me: (gobsmacked) Really?? Can you tell me anything?

She proceeds to tell me stories of divorce, bad child/parent relationships , blended families etc

Rach : Our story is pretty sad Mom, but at least we all in it TOGETHER.

Thankfully I was wearing large dark glasses  as I could barely see through the tears as I marvelled at the miracle of these words of wisdom from our brave, courageous
child.

10 May 2015

Take Me Back to Egypt

*Chemo weekends suck eggs.

Seeing Russell literally devoid of all energy for 3-4 days has taken some adjustment.
The first time it happened I fell apart. This weekend I fell apart a tiny bit less.

I have to confess to having some intense moments of self pity this past week.

It's not fair!
How can this happen?
Seriously?!
 
In my head I know that cancer does not play favourites. It has no demographic but SERIOUSLY?
 
And then the lights went out. Loadshedding. We were all sitting in the lounge, subdued and heavy-hearted.  I found myself reaching for a book called The Story by Max Lucado. I purchased it a year ago and it has been sitting neatly on our school shelf, untouched.
 
We read, by torchlight, for two hours. We covered Moses' birth until he took the moaning, ungrateful Israelites out of Egypt. We read about the incredible way  God provided and cared for his people and yet they STILL wanted to go back to Egypt where they lived as slaves.
 
Faith was horrified that the Israelites could be so faithless; how they could not see that God had rescued them and that he daily provided their immediate needs; that He had a great plan for them.
 
It hit me right between the eyes.
 
I am a miserable Israelite.

Yes, my life **BC was pretty incredible but now I am in the desert. I cannot change this but I can choose my response to the experience.

Our faith is being tested in unimaginable ways;  it is really easy to be a Christ-follower when life is dandy and your biggest problem is where to go on holiday.  Facing a future where you cant even plan a holiday takes a special kind of courage - one that comes from a special kind of faith.
 
I am not going to lie. Egypt still looks pretty damn good to me but I have to confess that in our desert ramblings God has been faithful each day. 
 
The 'each day' bit is crucial to this plot. I have explicit instructions to not look at tomorrow or next week or next month. Consequences of my trying to look further ahead involve me coming apart at the core of my being.
Instead we attempt to look at today; to trust for financial, emotional and physical provision and He has not failed us.
 
It is important to note that I am NOT saying God made Russell sick to teach us some great, spiritual lesson. I don't understand it - all I know is that bad stuff happens in this world but God is good.
 
 
 
*Weekend after chemo
**Before Cancer
 
 
 
 
 


05 May 2015

A Jarring Return


Here I am 7 months later and our lives are  looking very different. I once again have to write, to process and ultimately share our everyday life which is now anything but ordinary.

Russell was diagnosed with cancer a month ago. A shocking diagnosis that has left us breathless.
In an instant our world has changed forever.

My immediate instinct was to batten our hatches and keep everything close to home. I did not want to see  or talk to anyone. Ever again. I had my immediate family and some very close friends who were my safe space and they sheltered me from the world. Questions flooded my phone, each one piercing my  broken heart as I had to relive the horror of our situation. Ultimately my sister set up a fb page and whatsapp group for us to post relevant updates.

Little by little I felt God breaking down my defences and preparing me to share our story. Initially I felt sick at the thought - sharing our struggles and pain felt indulgent and garish. I did not ever want to be perceived as a victim. I did  not want to become the poster child for inspiring people. I just want to be Mel. I know the real me; I am not brave and courageous. I am scared all the time.

But herein lies the secret -  the Person in whom I have faith makes me look good. In my weakness He makes me strong.

He is where I take my pain and my fear.

I trust Him.

I have relented.

I will write.

22 October 2014

Glimpses


Rachel's hair has become a separate person in this house. It has a personality all of its own. It is making us poor trying to find out exactly what it needs to keep it from running a-mock!

I have great sympathy for her as I have never had tricky hair. It has always been a wash 'n wear affair for me. To see her constant battle (and often MY BATTLE!) has been quite a journey.

From time to time I have been taking her to the salon to have it professionally blown out - it lasts beautifully for a week. More recently I have become aware that my bank balance is not going to support this luxury which means I need to add 'professional blowdryer' to my portfolio.

It took me a good hour to get her hair to look like this. It is by NO MEANS perfection but it was free! We will trundle along but one day she is going to have to learn to do this herself as I think this luxurious, untamed head of curls is here to stay!

Talking about hair --- I did have some fun with Faiths this week -- doing a sideways wrap around the head vibe plait. Pretty advanced for someone like me who is still challenged by a french braid!




Levi. No hair issues there so lets take a look at his warrior project instead. He worked diligently on this project and watched the full Shaka series on Youtube.

He also read many books on different warriors before choosing the three he wanted to showcase.

 It is his first completed project since being at home and he is very proud of the work he did!




21 October 2014

A month in races

The past four weeks have seen Russ and I do races every Sunday. Not something we have done since the Summer Trail Series in early 2013. A while ago I felt I needed to give my running a Vit B jab. I was feeling blah and bored and unmotivated. I knew I had to do something drastic. I sat down one quiet Sunday afternoon and logged onto the Runners World calendar. I booked 6 races there and then. Boom.

To be honest I didn't think we would do them all! I felt pretty sure I would have bailed on at least one by now …..this past Sunday was a close call. After a month of 0530 Sunday rises I really felt entitled to sleep in …and the howling gale outside seemed to agree with me. Luckily I have a secret weapon….Russell! He relentlessly gets me up and out the door as he knows full well I will thank him later.

Below are the four races we have done to date. The Chappies Challenge was my favourite by far - the scenery and my time were both largely to blame for topping my fav list. A close second was the 14k trail run purely because I LOVE offroad running and I did enjoy the less frenetic pace. Trail 'racing' is never really a race - not to me anyway.

The Gun Run was okay, I ran this one alone (wanted Russ to be able to run his own race for a change!) I became bored and annoyed. I think I started too fast and a stitch plagued me from 6kms which really hacked me off. To add insult to injury Russ somehow missed my finish, despite coming in 10 minutes before me! We ended up searching for one another for ages in the 8000 strong crowd. (he refuses to run with a phone)

The Cape Town Peace run was really well organized and a great race but it was my first race in a long time and I had some teething issues. The most revolting being I thought the finish was within 500m so did my thing of going 'balls to the wall' only to realize that I still had a kilometre to go. I was not amused. :-/

I have never been a fan of 10k races, always felt it is a bit of a waste of time, energy and money to get up and race only 10kms but I have since changed my mind. Racing is fun, its social and it keeps you motivated. Ten kilometers is an easy distance, not real need to do extra training or to get stressed if you get sick and miss a week. It is the kind of distance you can just run and enjoy anytime. I will certainly do more 21's in the future but for right now I am happy to throw down 10-15k and just have fun!


We have found this time really special - this thing that we do together. Despite Russ being away from home regularly we know that Sundays we spend together doing something we both love. There is simple ceremony in doing these races together from the way we get ready, to the run to post run celebrations and recovery.

I am thankful for the kids that are so accommodating. They stay home and potter on until we get home. They allow us the time and have not once complained.

Our next race is a family run and I am really looking forward to all five of us getting out there again.

22 September 2014

Weekend in Review


Friday afternoon saw my sproggles going off to their cousins for an overnight stay. This did mean that I would have a very quiet house for a couple of hours.


I watched a movie. (I think?) Or maybe I tried to watch a few but I can usually only managed a few minutes and then get totally bored and feel like I am wasting time. Overall I did nothing - I pottered around my house talking to my dogs, staring into the garden and at one stage I found myself sitting on the couch, in the dark in total silence. Why turn on lights. It was maybe a bit weird but I really liked the stillness both visually and auditory. Charly didnt even bark at the runners passing our house - I think she sensed the mood and valued her life.

Saturday morning Russ and I did park-run. He was on a mission….'the only good pace is suicide pace and today looks like a good day to die'. Yes, that was him on Saturday morning - me, not so much. I took it easy as I knew I had a race the next and because easy is all I am capable of doing right now!

We met up with some friends at Parkrun and they invited us for breakfast which was so lovely. They live down the drag but we seldom get together - spontaneous outings are the best!

The afternoon saw me all alone again as Russ took Levi and some mates to Newlands for rugby. Levi had been counting the sleeps until he could take his friends (Newlands virgins) to rugby!




I definitely feel a bit like orphan Annie when my family is out ; I did MAD, CRAZY things like finish the laundry, sorted out cluttered spaces, fixed some curtains and altered my bikini (yes, i did!). I really am a potterer at heart and being in my own house makes me very, very  happy. The only downer was that there was not much food in the house but even that did not tempt me to go to the mall….pronutro and tea did the trick!

Russ arrived home later that evening with all the kids and TomToms GPS watches for us! (he had collected our race numbers and had visited the expo…) Both our gamins died a few month ago and we had been in deliberations as to whether to replace them or look at something new. Happy birthday to Russ and early happy birthday to me!

Sunday morning saw Russ and I crawling out of bed at 0530 to go off and do the Cape Town Peace Run (10km). It was a fantastic experience although i did find the first 2kms annoying as you can't run due to the masses of people….can be a frustration if you are wanting to run a personal best. Anyway, I had no intention of PBing - I just wanted to finish and feel good. Despite the very slow first 2kms I still managed to finish in under an hour (just!) so I was well happy with that.


I really enjoy doing races with Russ - even though it can be intimidating as he really has to tone it down…and my pride aches at times but every now and then he waves a friendly goodbye and runs his own race. ;-)

Sunday arvie was very low-key; took the kids for lunch at FLM, did some housecleaning and then just chilled out. I did watch Dallas Buyers Club on my iPad last night - a movie worth watching and it did proves to me that Matt Mcconaughey (am not a fan) can actually act. He was a shadow of himself - playing an AIDS patients in the 1980's) in this movie and he was truly amazing.


17 September 2014

Photo post from Mcgregs/Montagu Break

Spoilt with gorgeous weather

My very happy man playing the fool!

The super tube at the springs provided HOURS of fun

Never fails to entertain

My beautiful teen

Never enough turn on the super tube - waiting for the attendant

our mini-golf champ

just a-chilling and relaxing, mcgregor style

We found a natural warm waterfall!

my perfect trio

Visiting Green Gables - so pretty

There were 5 in the car and the selfie had to happen...

Lunch - the BEST salads everrrrr!

Dominoes and downtime

Nothing like a super tube to help you find your inner-kid

The dog-whisperer in action 

Some of us are just more organized than others

Awesome dude explores

Dinner adventure in Montagu - we loved Ye Olde Tavern

My handsome mini-man

never to big to find a lap and steal a cuddle

Sunset walks are what we do in mcgregs

School can happen - wherever we go

This little midweek holiday was wonderful - just what we all needed. Looking forward to finding our next place to explore.

09 September 2014

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

We are back from an amazing week away. we didn't do anything especially spectacular - there was a far amount of series watching, sleeping late, swimming, reading and loafing about.

We spent most of the week in Mcgregor barring a couple of days that were spent at the Avalon Hot Springs. The weather was simply perfect - cool enough to appreciate the warm water but hot enough to still feel the burn of the sun (in a good way)

The kids spent many hours going from the warm pools to the chilly super tube - definitely worth the groupon!

We are back home and getting into school mode is proving a challenge. Not just for the kids but for this mama too. I swear I can feel summer beckoning me and she causes me to enter holiday mode at the drop of a hat!

We always run with the 'work hard in winter, play hard in summer' so as soon as those nets are up at the beach we will be spending many happy hours down there again.

I am far more housebound with the three kids at home. I used to be able to school Faith in 90 minutes a day but now that I am working with all three kids it is proving a time consuming endeavor. Not too mention the squabbles and general hysteria that break out occasionally.

Days like today remind me that I am doing the right thing though. I am comfortable right down in my soul that this path is right; even on the mornings when I wake up and am assaulted by thoughts that ask me 'what have you done, crazy woman!'

Today I employed the services of a lovely young lady (yet another home schooled child, the daughter of my friend, T) to come and help Rachel with some maths. While I am well able to help her, our relationship is tenuous when it come to mathematical debate. I am sure D is going to prove a valuable asset over the next few years.

Tuesday lunchtimes has become our 'hit the gym' slot. I find Virgin far more interesting and exciting when i take my tribe along with me. They are all highly motivated and enjoy working out. Rach LOVES the pool and did over 30 lengths today. Levi and Faith cycled and did other cardio work with me upstairs - Russ is keen to get them all involved in a triathlon in the coming month or two.

I am still running. Been through a lazy patch but never did stop. My enthusiasm waned but have managed to forcibly harness it by registering for two races in the next 4wks. Nothing like a deadline (and the threat of a bad race) to get you up and hitting the road again.  Levi is fast becoming a worthy 5k partner with him hitting a sub-30 recently. Very soon he will be outrunning me - bring it on!

I am unable to upload photos right now as I am rebuilding my photo-library from scratch after it crashed!!! Probably because it was 150gig….I will upload photos this week so pop back to have a look see.