Quick health update: Feeling pretty good, started one med this week, will start chemo pill next week, lots of labs and other appointments coming up, getting my port removed soon, a bone scan, and weekly PT. Yes, this is a long haul, but I'm so thankful to be done with infusions and radiation. I've been told to expect symptoms from those treatments to last two years, which isn't fun, but it's okay. I'm grateful for how things look today and that's as far as I'm gonna look.
It's been a couple of crazy weeks at Boe house. After nearly 28 years of waking up every day to the knowledge I had a young human in my house who, in one way or another, was relying on me for their daily nourishment, I have reached the phase most people call the empty nest. But trust me, there’s nothing empty about it. Over the years, as I have watched other parents reach this milestone, I’ve thought about how I would feel when this season came for Perry and me. And now we’re here. As I process it all now and think about the mom I will be in this season, it has been helpful to look back at the mom I’ve been.
I’m the mom who always did my kids laundry. No regrets there. I enjoyed it, and considered it a way to serve my kids, especially during the teen years when they were barely keeping their heads above water trying to cope with school, activities, and an overdose of emotions. I’ve seen a lot of parents wrestle with guilt over what they didn’t teach their kids before they left home. Things like doing laundry, cooking eggs, and how to change a flat tire. I’ve had a few mom-guilt moments over stuff like that, but they’re fleeting. I quickly come to the conclusion that I had to learn some of those adult things myself too and I did just fine, even without the internet. Having launched a few kids already, I am definitely more at peace watching this one go. He’ll be fine. He'll probably turn some white clothes a lovely shade of light pink. He'll probably burn some eggs. There's always roadside assistance. But if he calls and asks me for help, it’ll probably make my day to hear his voice.
I’m the mom who was too strict with my first, a little less strict with my second, probably found a balance with my third, and regrets not being more strict with my fourth in a couple of areas. My apologies to all my children for what you had to endure, whatever my approach was at the time. I was just trying to figure it out as I went. And remember, therapy is a good thing.
I’m the mom who chose mothering her kids over tending to her husband, a lot. You wanna know why? It’s because I didn’t get married to be a mom. I got married so I could be a wife and have a husband and partner. For as long as I’ve known Perry, he has been a capable, responsible, self-sufficient man. He had a great mom and he doesn’t need one now. I did, however, have children to be a mom, and I thoroughly enjoyed being needed by my children. For those of you tempted to comment or email me and offer your thoughts on how you think I’ve neglected my husband, save it for someone else. We’re on year 32 here and still going strong. Okay, some seasons stronger than others, but we’re still here, doing the work. And remember, therapy is a good thing.
I’m the mom who has had to learn a new dance - parenting adult children. This is a very different dance, with steps no one can teach you until you’re doing the dance yourself. It requires a grace you’ve never needed before and even when you think you’ve done it well, you find out the steps have changed and you need more lessons. I’m learning how the pride, satisfaction and joy you have in watching your adult children thrive is the same as when you watched them take their first steps or get their first hit in coach-pitch. It’s just bigger. I’m also learning how that pain you felt when your toddler face-planted or when your teenager got cut from the team gets deeper and sometimes darker when your adult child is hurting. This season is a mix of watching in awe as your greatest achievements in life live out their callings, and being confronted in new ways with your shortcomings and regrets. But when you add in the fun of relating to these amazing humans as adults, wow, it is awesome. I do know this - kids don’t stop needing their parents as they get older. It just doesn’t happen as often and they need you for entirely different reasons. You do less talking, more listening. Less helping, more praying. You know other voices are louder in their lives and while it makes you sad some days, mostly you are grateful for the other people pouring wisdom into your kids. And you remind yourself, therapy is a good thing.
Do you wanna know what the hardest phase of parenting is? It’s the one you’re in. Do you wanna know what the best phase of parenting is? It’s the one you’re in. I don’t think I’d want to go back to any phase with all its highs and lows. I’m incredibly grateful for each mom-season I’ve had, but even more grateful for the humans who gave me those seasons and for the season we’re currently in when they are still calling me Mom. Yes, every season has been exhausting and has taken a lot out of me, but without question, each season has left me more full than the one before. And today, my nest is still full. It's actually overflowing. Overflowing with more wonderful memories than a person deserves. Overflowing with hope for four people who love others well and who have big dreams to pursue. Overflowing with dreams of my own for what this next season holds. I’m not naive to the fact that this transition will be hard. I plan to sit on the deck and cry. I plan to annoy my children with too many texts. And I plan to remember therapy is a very good thing.
I've had a few people text or message me asking if things were going okay because I'd been quiet on here. Things haven't felt quiet, but yes, I haven't had much to say here over the past five weeks. After my last post, I think I just went into work mode. You know, the put your head down, do the work, just get through it mode. I knew these daily trips to radiation would be challenging, but there are a lot of unknowns as far as how each person tolerates these treatments, so I didn't really know what to expect. All in all, my body has handled it well. As the weeks progressed, the fatigue, pain, swelling, and overall discomfort definitely got worse, but honestly, I can't complain. Okay, I have complained, but I've tried to keep it to a minimum.
Interestingly enough, one of the things that got to me the most was the daily-ness of this process. My life was dictated by the 3:40 p.m. appointments on my calendar every day, Monday-Friday. Those next 30 minutes became robotic, void of emotion. Each day, I walked in the clinic, checked in at the desk, sat in the chair in the waiting room, waited for the double doors to open, chit-chatted with the tech as I walked back to the small room where I put on the robe, then waited for them to call me back into the radiation room. As another tech walked me back, I would tell them my last name and birth date, set my things down on the chair, crawl onto the table, take my left arm out of my robe and raise it over my head, then turn my head to the right as they placed a wedge pillow under my legs. They put marks on my five small freckle tattoos with a black sharpie, then the machine slid me into place. Three times, the tech would ask me to hold my breath as they checked positioning, then they left the room. As the machine rotated around me through the entire process, I heard the tech give instructions over the speaker as I held my breath off and on for 10-30 seconds. Ten times, in each appointment, I held my breath. I hate holding my breath. If I never have to hold my breath again for as long as I live, it will be too soon. When it's all over, I would get up, thank the nice people for the fun time, pick up my things, go change back into my clothes, say "See you tomorrow!" to the gal at the check-in desk, then walk out.
Over these five weeks, I grew accustomed to the sights and sounds in that room, the feel of the table, and the spinning of the machine. I memorized shadows, ceiling tiles, and the blips on the monitors that told me it was almost time for me to stop holding my breath. I hate holding my breath. Like, I really hate it. It was all routine. So. Much. Routine. The one thing I never did get used to, was the moment the machine rotated into the position just above my head where I could clearly see my reflection. Every single day, I would think to myself, "I just cannot believe I am here." Even after everything that my body has been through over these past 8 months, I still have those moments of disbelief.
Today at 4:20 p.m., I walked out of my last radiation appointment. Hallelujah, Jesus. One more phase, done. Next week, I meet with my medical oncologist to go over the plan for the next phase. Giddy up.
A couple of weeks ago I asked my radiation oncologist what I could say about myself after finishing radiation. Because I still have some work to do as far as treatment goes, I wasn't sure if there was an appropriate label for someone in my situation. Do I still have cancer? Am I in remission? If we're still fighting this beast, do I ever get to say I beat it? Maybe I just wanted some affirmation after all the work I've put in. We talked about things in medical terms and statistics for a few minutes. Then he said, "Basically, you're doing everything you can and I think if I were you, when you're done with radiation, I would celebrate." That was good enough for me.
Today, at 4:30 p.m. I threw a little last-minute party. I invited a few friends to join me, both in person and virtually, in raising a glass to celebrate the completion of this part of the journey. It was beautiful. My friends rock. I told the friends who gathered with me in person, one thing I have become more and more convinced of over the past few months, is that we need more parties. More celebration. More raising of glasses. It's easy to forget the good stuff these days because there is so much bad. But I promise you, the good stuff is there. Sometimes you just need someone to ask you, "What are you celebrating today?" So I asked my friends that before we left. They shared something good in their lives. And while we came together to celebrate the end of my treatment, we left having celebrated new hires, face-timing grandkids, non-profit work, ministry activities, our kids being in good places, weddings, birthdays, and so much more. Then we decided we will have more parties. Yes, please. More parties.
I’m not a big numbers person but there are a few numbers I wish I would have kept track of on this little cancer adventure. Like the number of needle pokes. Or the number of miles I’ve put on my car going to appointments. I also wish I would have counted the times I’ve had to lay on table exposed to whoever happens to walk in the room that day. What used to be totally humiliating has become tolerable and numbingly routine. Maybe I should be glad for that but I find it kinda sad, too.
I have tried my best to find humor in the moments that were most uncomfortable. Like the day I was in an MRI machine when it broke. Keep in mind I was facedown, arms outstretched over my head with my girls hanging through an opening in the table. The operator took me part way out of the machine, then left the room to get help. I couldn’t see the clock but I’m pretty sure she was gone about 30-40 minutes. I started to think they’d forgotten me or that I was actually on some sinister version of Candid Camera. When it was all said and done, I had all the scans twice, including two injections of contrast, which as you may or may not know, makes you feel like you’ve peed all over the table. Super fun. An hour and a half later I was out of the tube from hell. I left, kicking myself for not filling the prescription for Valium they had given me to take before the MRI.
My hair situation has also brought equal amounts of humor and humiliation. The first cut, the clumps falling out, the first shave, the first time going without a hat in public, all of it. I’m currently rocking what my kids lovingly refer to as my salt-and-pepper badass look. All I need to do now is to get a few tattoos and trade my tiny nose piercing for a large hoop and I’ll totally fit the part. Stay tuned.
Last week, I had another one of those appointments where I found myself laying in a room alone, waiting for the doctor to come in and inspect me in preparation for radiation, which begins today. While I’ve gotten more used to those moments, for some reason this one was a little more difficult. It might be because I’ve been feeling pretty good lately and the thought of starting a new phase of treatment is tough, knowing I’ll likely feel a little worse over the next few weeks. As I laid on the table, head tilted to the side, my arm lifted over my head, I prayed two things. First, as I felt the twinge of vertigo kicking in when the ceiling tiles started to spin, I prayed, “God, do NOT let this happen. I’m humiliated enough the way it is. I do not want to be the puking patient.” Second, I prayed, “God, I know you’re there, but sometimes I just need to know that you see this. That you see me. And that you don’t like this either.”
I left my appointment and headed to my car. I sat down, checked my phone and saw a text from a friend. He had sent me a recording of a song that had been cut by the group he sings with. The title of the song is Jesus Wept. I co-wrote it with my dear friends Sue and Joel. We wrote the song in the midst of the nightmare that was 2020 and throughout the lyric, we listed some things that grieve the heart of God. As I sat listening, I was struck by two lines in the chorus. “For the wounds that scarred our past and the brokenness to come, Jesus wept.” And I felt seen.
I like to think when Jesus wept, He wept for chemo treatments and needle pokes and mastectomy scars and humiliating appointments when I’m stuck in an MRI machine. I think He grieves over the fact I have cancer. I am certain He didn’t create me for this, but I am equally certain He knew it would happen, and He knew it would be redeemed. I can’t explain the mystery of all that, but I believe it to be true. Sitting in the parking lot that day listening to the song, it brought me great comfort to know my Savior weeps for me. I thought about the two friends I wrote the song with, how I have witnessed their unimaginable suffering, and how Jesus weeps for them too.
I’ve learned to find comfort in my own tears as well. I now see them as the way God washes away hurt and fear and sadness, and in the process, He improves my vision to see things more clearly. To see the things that matter. To see other people’s pain. I am grateful for that. I also like to think He's using my tears to grow something good in me. As if He somehow takes the crap we go through and the tears we shed and turns it into holy fertilizer and rain. Then you just need some sun. And the sun is coming out today.
For the next five weeks, I will lay on a table every day, praying those little rays of sunshine (my new name for radiation) do their job on the soil that is my body and life. I know the purpose of radiation is to kill cancer, and I'm certainly praying for that, but I'm also choosing to see it as something necessary to grow something in me. There might be more crap to step in, and I'm sure I'll water it with a few tears along the way, but I'm okay with that. After all, that's how good things grow.
Over these past months, when someone has texted asking how I’m doing physically, I’ve often responded with something like, “Sore, tired, slow….but better than yesterday.” I have been determined to choose to see improvement, even if it could only be measured in millimeters. One less pain pill than I took the day before. A little more movement than the day before. A little farther walk than I could manage the day before. These millimeter mercies have been rescuing me from my emotions and lifting my eyes from the pit when bad news has come. And they’ve kept me holding on for a day like today.
I needed this news, badly. Yesterday I got the results from pathology regarding my last surgery. 16 lymph nodes removed. Number of lymph nodes that showed metastatic carcinoma - zero. I read the report in my online chart but couldn’t bring myself to react until I’d spoken with someone at my surgeon’s office. I left a voicemail. An hour and a half later, they called me back and the case manager confirmed what I had read. No sign of cancer in these lymph nodes. Big, BIG sigh. And a few tears.
I had prepared myself to be okay if the report had shown cancer in even a few nodes, due to the fact my oncologist had told me I had an 80% chance of the cancer having moved beyond the nodes they had already taken in the previous surgery. But to get the news that ALL were negative…well, this was above and beyond.
As much as I’ve shared with you on this journey, there is a whole lot more I haven’t shared. Maybe someday. But when I tell you how badly I needed some good news, I mean I REALLY needed it. If you look at my cancer chronology in my journal, you will see how every piece of news I have received since the day I was diagnosed has been worse than expected. Every. Single. Time. It hasn’t always been a lot worse. Sometimes it was. Sometimes it was just millimeters worse. But always worse. I was starting to feel like nothing I had been putting my body through over the past six months was working. I had been telling myself the physical pain was worth it because it meant progress, even though it rarely felt like progress. But I was beginning to think it was all for nothing.
Having to process all that negative news takes a toll. And when you heap that upon the pile of physical crap you’re dealing with, the weight of it all feels like more than you can bear. Worst of all has been having to continually deliver bad news to the people I love most. It brings me to tears even as I type this. So in the days since the last surgery while I waited for pathology, I had many conversations with God begging him for even the smallest amount of good news. Something I could pass along with joy and relief; not more news I would have to deliver with a positive, reassuring tone, all the while about to crumble inside. I prayed, “God just give me something small. Even if we’re talking millimeters better. Just please not worse.” And God came through.
Yesterday I got to send texts I hadn’t been able to before. Finally. And while this particular news doesn’t change my course of treatment at all, it does give me enough of a boost in my spirit to dive into the next phase of radiation, hormone therapy, and those stupid grapefruit-joy-denying chemo pills. I’m a long way from being able to be declared cancer free, but it’s okay. Today, I celebrate something good. And I’m just so, so grateful.
Health Update: After much deliberation, I have decided to go ahead with surgery tomorrow to remove additional lymph nodes and have a lymphovenous bypass. Because the results won’t necessarily change what my treatment will look like from here on, I wasn’t sure I could put my body through any more procedures this soon after the last one. But after meeting with both my medical oncologist and radiation oncologist, and coming to terms with the likelihood that there could be more cancer lurking in there, we decided it’s best to get as much out as we can. After that, I’ll do radiation later this summer, every day Monday through Friday, for five weeks. Then, a chemo pill for two years and hormone therapy for 5 years. Onward.
It felt like the last straw. I was reading through the paperwork my oncologist had given me about the chemo pill I’ll be taking for the next two years. Most of it was medical mumbo jumbo. Then I got to the part that said I couldn’t eat grapefruit while on this medication. WHAT?! I read it again. “You have got to be kidding me,” I said out loud, sitting at the kitchen table. “Well, let’s just suck ALL the joy out of my freaking life!!” It was too much. “Nice, cancer. Take my hair, take my eyelashes (which, by the way, eventually all fell out), take my boobs, take my energy, and now you’re taking away my favorite fruit!! You’re the worst.” Harrison was in the kitchen by this point. I’m sure my little tirade was confusing. He was probably thinking, “Is this supposed to be funny? How am I to respond to this outburst? Yeah, my mom is losing it.” Okay, I know it’s just grapefruit. But seriously, I was done.
After learning that cancer was found in the lymph nodes taken out during my mastectomy, I felt like I needed to adjust my thinking a bit. Reassess. Recalibrate. Refocus. This journey wasn't going to look like I thought it would. Sometimes I think back to the conversations early on when I was assured that a year from now I’d be cancer free and this whole mess would be behind me. I guess that’s not my story after all. Things haven't quite gone as I planned. Ha! Welcome to life, right? A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Yeah, I know that verse. I like that verse. Except when it feels like God directs my step right into a big pile of horse poo. (I would use another word, but my husband hates "colorful" language so I shall refrain.)
There have been a few days when I feel like I'm looking up at God saying, "Uh, do you see this? Do you see the crap I have stepped in? Could you not just make me step a little to the right, the left, anywhere but here?" But here's what I'm learning about poo. Crap. Manure. Those other words. As gross as it may seem, it really does help to grow good things. I'm a little disgusted at the thought of that, but apparently there's stuff in there that nurtures the soil of my life and allows me to blossom and bloom into something better. Something stronger. Something healthier. More beautiful.
When I have those little chats with God regarding what I've stepped in on this path, I picture Him looking at me, sometimes smiling, sometimes sad, always compassionate, and saying, "Oh sweetie, I know you don't like it, but you are exactly where you're supposed to be. I don't like it either, but I'm using all of it to do something truly amazing. Just trust me." I also usually picture myself stomping off like a pouty six-year-old. "Fine," I say indignantly. "It's a good thing You're sovereign." As if my six-year-old self understands the sovereignty of God.
I'm dreading another surgery and recovery. I'm bummed about needing radiation and chemo pills for two years. And I'm grieving my stupid grapefruit. But I'm also comforted know God is growing something good in me and He'll fertilize it however He darn well pleases. And I really do trust Him. So, onward. Day by day. Step by step. Even if the places my feet land really stink sometimes.
Health Update: I’m 10 days post op and doing well. Mostly, I sit. I sit in the recliner, on the deck, occasionally on the couch. This is a new thing for me, sitting for long periods of time. I can see why people like it and I’m game for awhile, but as soon as these stupid drains are out of my body, I plan to move a little more. Surgery went well, recovery is going well, and all I had to do was wait on pathology. That came yesterday.
Yesterday was a good day. I keep telling myself that. It’s good to know things. It’s good to have a plan. It’s good to know I’m making progress, even when it feels like two steps forward, one step back. But yesterday, it didn’t feel like a good day.
Long story short, pathology was not what I had hoped for. Cancer was found in some lymph nodes which means I’ll have another surgery soon to see just how far this crap has spread. Radiation is now a part of the plan. When, I won’t know until we get these next test results back. I told Houston yesterday I have never once thought cancer would kill me; only that it would make life uncomfortable for awhile. Now, “awhile” looks a little bit longer.
I won’t lie, yesterday was hard. Grief. Anger. Sadness. Weariness. All the things a person should feel after getting that kind of news. But just before I went to bed, there was a flicker of hope, a very present peace, and I knew when I woke up this morning things would look and feel better.
God is a finisher. His Word tells us that. He starts things and He finishes them. He started something in me and He will finish it. I have no doubt about that. What bugs me sometimes is I want Him to tell me how and when He’s going to finish it. AND, I want Him to cheer me on all along the way. Pats on the back, happy feelings, satisfaction. I’d also prefer comfort and monetary gain, but I’m well aware those aren’t always a part of the plan.
What I really want is for God to say, “Well done!” at every turn. The problem with that is I’m not done. I’m still doing. I’m still putting one foot in front of the other. Still putting in the work. Still taking some punches. Still figuring stuff out. One day, I’ll hear Him say it. Until then, I’ll “do” until I’m “done.”
In the meantime, it isn’t as if He isn’t encouraging. He says things like, “Keep going.” “Be faithful.” “I am with you.” “I love you.” Those are very good things to hear and they make me want to look at days like yesterday and say it was a good day.
So this morning, I got up, put the coffee on, put on actual jeans and a shirt instead of pajamas, put on make-up and earrings, made myself a spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and feta omelette, and went to work. (Please don’t lecture me about still recovering from major surgery - I’m still just sitting here on my deck - and resting is one of the things I “do.”) There are songs to write, books to read (and write), and people to connect with. I may not have the stamina I wish I had right now, but with whatever energy I do have, I’ll sit here and do something. So even if parts of today get a little rough, tomorrow I’ll be able to say, “Yesterday was a good day.”
I may regret this. Blogging while on strong medication is never recommended but there are a few things I don’t want to forget so I’m taking my chances.
Twenty-four hours ago I was checking into this place and as soon as I get my discharge papers, we are out of here. I knew the time spent here would be short, but good grief, the condition they send you home in is crazy. Tubes, battery packs, breathing tools, and more. Obviously my movement is limited so Perry has his work cut out for him.
Drugs are my friend. They are doing their job and for that I am very grateful. I also don’t like how they make me feel (other than pain relief) so I’m hoping to get off of them sooner than later.
UNMC has good ice and relatively good food. If you ever find yourself here, order the spinach, tomato, and mozzarella omelette for breakfast, but avoid the turkey sausage. Gross. And drink the cranberry juice, because bladder infections suck.
Pathology will be back in 7-10 days, and then I’ll know if more treatment is necessary or if I can just recover from this part and move on to the next phase of reconstruction. Until then, we pray.
Fun fact, my entire medical team has been women. Surgeon, plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses, aides, even my oncologist back home. I am by no means a feminist, but dang, the ladies were out in full force. Good job, girls!
I can’t explain it, but I still have moments when I think I am living someone else’s life.
As hard as this past 24 hours has been, I actually woke up and had the urge to write. I called Perry and told him to bring my iPad so I could blog while I was still here. I think that’s a good sign.
Health update: Since finishing up chemo on April 1st, my energy has steadily increased, and most days, I feel pretty good. My last day at school was Friday. I am so grateful I was able to work throughout treatment and finish up the year by attending Houston’s graduation, Saturday morning. Tomorrow (Monday) morning, I will arrive at the Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha and undergo a bilateral mastectomy. I will also begin the reconstruction process, although some things remain up in the air as far as that is concerned due to the uncertainty regarding pathology and the possible need for radiation. The thought of needing more treatment after surgery isn’t much fun, but I’ve come to terms with the possibility it might be necessary. Whatever the outcome, surgery means I am one step closer to putting this behind me. Whether it takes one, or two, or twenty steps to get there, I will still be one step closer.
I’ve been trying to write something meaningful or inspiring tonight, and to be honest, I’ve got nothing. Just a head full of thoughts about tomorrow and a few other random things. So, here ya go.
1. The Boe family is done with high school. It was a great run, but I’m also okay with it being over.
2. I’ve gotten most of my taste back. Things still taste a little bland, but it’s getting better. And coffee tastes like coffee. Hallelujah.
3. Les Miserables is one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever witnessed. A redemption story at it’s finest, with music that moves me nonstop from “look down” to “until tomorrow comes.”
4. I am not getting a boob job. I am having a bilateral mastectomy because I have cancer. Big difference. I laugh at the comments and I’ve made them myself, so I get it and it’s okay. But I’m also grieving who I was and what is happening to my body.
5. Here are the movies that suck me in, every single time they play on TV: Any Harry Potter film, A Few Good Men, Shooter, and Martian. If you haven’t seen them, you’re missing out.
6. I love seeing high school seniors take high school freshmen under their wings.
7. Leo, my sitting cat, has been naughty lately. I won’t go into all the details, but Perry ain’t happy.
8. I am really hoping the hospital I’ll be in has good ice. It matters.
9. While I am dreading surgery on so many levels, I am honestly looking forward to a summer with VERY little on my plate, other than getting well.
10. For too long, the intense fatigue I was experiencing severely limited my creativity and ability to dream and plan. More energy these days means I’m getting a little of my creative swagger back. That feels good. So stay tuned because I believe some cool things are coming soon.
Today, we are having a party. My youngest, Houston, will graduate high school on May 15th and today we will celebrate that milestone with family and friends. As I’ve written previously, one of my greatest fears on this cancer journey was missing out on special moments in his senior year. After the Covid high school experience he’s had, any activity or accomplishment is a gift. I just didn’t want to miss any of it. God has been unbelievable gracious to me in that aspect as I’ve been able to be present, even when it was a bit of a struggle to be there. So grateful.
When my surgeon said she wanted to schedule my surgery four weeks after my last chemo treatment, which would have been around May 1st, I made it clear that was not going to happen. “Sorry, doc, I’m not available until after graduation day.” She wasn’t too happy with that schedule, but agreed to it as long as she could operate on the Monday morning after graduation. So, that’s the plan. May 17th. I’ll be honest, I’m dreading every minute of this next phase. I just keep telling myself, whatever it takes to get this crap out of my body is fine. It’s not fine, but it’s fine.
Graduation day will be recognition for the 169 students in Houston’s class. But today is all about Houston. Let me tell you a little bit about him.
Houston came into this world when life was a little dark for me. I’d lost a baby just a few weeks earlier and I wasn’t ready to be pregnant again. God knew better. Houston brought light to my life and has been brightening the world ever since. His smile and laughter is pure joy. He is a dreamer. He is unafraid to try new things. He cares deeply for people and easily celebrates others’ successes.
Houston has a lot of words. When he was in 6th grade, I created a blog for him so he could go home from school every day and use up some of those words. I couldn’t handle all the words. I love all the words, but some days, it was a bit too much. The blog helped. In recent years, he’s been able to use his words to broadcast high school sports. He’s really good at it and is thoroughly entertaining. I’m quite certain there will be more words in the future.
Houston has accomplished a lot in his 18 years. He’s also made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’m proud of him for all of it. The stuff that has made me stand up and cheer, and the stuff that has kept me up at night, grieving and praying. It’s the latter stuff that has given him an understanding of grace which he pours out on others in ways that humbles me.
Houston and I clash a lot. I’m talking knock down, drag out fights. Yelling. Saying things we shouldn’t. Slamming doors. It’s ugly. We both hate it and it makes us sad. But I will say this, as quickly as our fights can go from zero to a hundred, we are equally quick about making our apologies and talking through our issues. So there’s a positive.
For some dumb reason, Houston has decided to go to college out of state. I can’t begin to express how much I will miss seeing his face every day. However, he has agreed to FaceTime every morning and every night so I’m sure I’ll be fine. And I told him I’d visit once a month. And I’m sure he’ll want to come home once a month. So really, it’ll be like a really busy senior year of high school, right? Yeah, right...
As you can imagine, Houston has had to endure hearing, “Houston, we have a problem,” countless times in his life. But today, it’s only, “Houston, we have a party.” As I type these words, I’m thinking of more people I forgot to send invitations to, more things I could have done around the house, and adding to the list of things Perry needs to get at the store, asap. Regarding the invites, if you’re reading this and if you know Houston, you’re invited whether you got an invitation or not. Seriously, come celebrate with us. When the nacho bar runs out, I’ll open up the pantry and we’ll sit around eating cereal or tuna or canned vegetables. It’s all good.
The past few months have changed the way I view days like today. I suppose it has changed how I view every day, but definitely these once in a lifetime moments. Then again, every day is a once in a lifetime moment. Kinda makes me want to throw a party every day.
So, here’s to Houston. Huey. Hojoboe4. The baby who completed our family and the young man who is gonna do big things. Watch out, world.
You might be surprised to see me address you as such. Friend. To be honest, I’m a little surprised to be referring to you as one, but it seems fitting, and so you are.
I never dreamed we would meet and certainly hoped we wouldn’t, but here you are. My companion for the past 10 weeks. And today, I hope we say goodbye forever. Before that happens though, there are a few things I want you to know.
When you walked into my life, uninvited, unwelcome, and unknown, I feared you. Over the weeks you’ve hung around, I’ve come to realize you really aren’t that scary. You’re annoying, you’re time-consuming, and you bring with you a host of other acquaintances that make my life pretty miserable some days. I dread our time together and the mess you leave in your wake, but I don’t fear you anymore. I need you to know that.
Mostly, I want to thank you.
Thank you for giving others a chance to shine. When my people heard you were coming, they rallied. They showed up in the most beautiful ways that continue to bring me to tears, daily.
Thank you for angels like Deb and Brenda who stick needles in my chest, hang IV bags, tape ice packs to my feet, and ask me my last name and date of birth 50 times as they usher you into my presence. They do it with joy and compassion and usually a story or two that makes me smile.
Thank you for sparing most of my eyelashes and my eyebrows. Some aren’t so lucky that way, and it has been no small thing to look in the mirror every day and still see some of the old me.
Thank you for the physical exhaustion and the pain. I’ve always tried to take care of myself, but you’ve demanded I raise the bar and that’s a good thing. If for no other reason, bowel health. Sure took that for granted.
Thank you for reminding me what glorious things taste buds are. I can’t wait to pamper them.
Thank you for doing your job. I've thought a lot about exactly what it is you are doing to me. The war you are waging, the damage you do, and the death you cause. I have done my best to be grateful for your part in making a way for life, full and productive. Some days, I probably didn't seem grateful, and thought more about what you've stolen. But deep down, I truly am glad you've been here.
Thank you for confirming so many things I thought I believed to be true and now know for sure. Here are just a few I’d like to mention. First, the stuff of earth is of no value but it’s okay to fully enjoy life’s blessings. Second, trials don’t mean you aren’t walking in God’s favor or blessing or abundant life; remember, gold is refined by fire. Lastly, God is good all the time.
I want you to know your presence has changed me forever. For the better, and for bigger purposes than you. It isn’t as if you’ve been small and insignificant, because you haven’t been. You’re just smaller and more insignificant than what’s coming. I believe that with my whole heart. So, as we sit here together in this chair for the last time, I bid you farewell, chemotherapy. May we never meet again.