When someone you love is sick, like long term sick, it sucks. Some of you have the non-privliedge of knowing such. For that fact, I’m sorry. If that is the case, you will read this and likely agree with much of what I write, and you will perhaps have something even more to contribute. If you haven’t really had someone you love dearly be seriously sick, but someone you know has someone that he/she loves that is sick, well, this post is for you. This is what those people in your life that are managing a sick parent/child/spouse want from you……or so I think…..
My mom is sick; she has cancer, stage 4., along with some other medical conditions that affect her overall well being. I’ve not really made note of it in the blog world. I’ve mentioned a thing or two on Facebook. Many people local to where we live are aware of her condition/diagnosis. With that point in mind, I wanted to share some things that I have learned since her diagnosis in August of 2013, just a week after my wreck and wiring of my jaw.
1. Limit questions.
One of mom’s biggest issues at the start was that she would be asked questions. “What kind of cancer is it?” “How long did they say you should live?” “When do you expect to lose your hair?” and any other potential inquisitive line of thought that might enter someone’s mind. She’s a private person, more often than not, so potential questions made her worry. At first, those opportunities made her want to skip out on events. In September of 2013, just a few weeks after her devastating news, she tried to skip out on a local street fair because she “didn’t want to talk to people about it.” That was when I was in full wired jaw and no driving mode, so ultimately she decided to go, just so the kids and I would have a ride there since Thomas was working. At that point in time, my news was more readily known, so people were asking ME questions about ME, and I responded via wired jaws. At the close of the day, I told mom, “and you were afraid people would ask YOU questions!” Regardless, she held tight to this question fear. Before her first chemo, I posted a picture of us together on Facebook, from the day we preemptively cut her hair short, full of expectation that it would soon fall out. FB friends near and far pulled through in a resounding way that day. There were hundreds of comments and likes on that single picture. Before she went back for her infusion, I clicked on the comment portion, loading them all for her view. As her eyes filled with tears I said to her “Read them mom. All of them. Each one. There are over 100 comments there mom. And guess what……not one asks you what kind of cancer. No questions, just love and prayers.”
2. Avoid Texts/Calls/Emails That Require Action
For some reason, the whole community in which I live and everyone that I’ve ever been related to seems to have my cell number. If they somehow missed out on those phone digits, they seem to have FB access through which they can send messages. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is totally amazing. I love connecting with people, and I love knowing that people care about her and my family. One thing that is sometimes exhausting though is navigating and managing the needed replies. Often, I know you are just checking up on her and me, that everything is spawning from a good intention. When you ask a question, however, you are by default asking for a response. This then requires action from me. Now, I have a few select friends that I expect questions from about her, cause they are my places of refuge to vent and worry and cry if needed. Outside of those few people, it becomes overwhelming, even when it comes from the right place.
So, rather than text me “How is your mom? Is she feeling well? When is her next chemo?” try phrasing things like this instead: “Praying for your mom today! Hope she is feeling well. May her next chemo go smoothly!” Do you see the difference there? It’s subtle really, but one means I *have* to respond, cause you asked a question. The other means I *can* respond but it’s not inherently necessary. And check this out…..the same reply can be given for both: “Mom has had two good days! We go back to the doctor next week.” So, if I feel like responding, have time to respond, or manage to remember to respond, I can do it! If I don’t, just know the message was received and appreciated, but since no question was asked, no response is required. Same premise applies to voicemails: “Just checking up on your momma! Praying for a good day for her!”
3. Don’t Ask or Offer, Just Do
People want to help her. People want to help me. I want people to help her, and believe it friends, I want people to help me! It’s been an incredibly stressful time. There aren’t really words to put into perspective how challenging the past near year has been for my family. I’ve had 4 surgeries since August 2013. There has been a stint of physical therapy and a full 6 months of no driving. I’ve added an baby girl to my family. Mom has had chemo treatments, radiation treatments, surgery, a stroke, and two hospital stays. not to mention multiple and reoccurring scans, tests, blood draws and doctor appointments. At one point, I foolishly pondered how many times Hazel had visited the hospital since her birth, and she had averaged about 3 visits a week for her first 4 months of life. It makes my brain spin. So, when you ask me “What does your mom need? How can I help?” my reply tends to be “prayers!” Now, that is a fully true response, cause she and my family do need them, rest assured. But often I just can’t remember immediately. When you say “Let me know if I can help watch the kids!” I appreciate that more than you know. However, when it comes time for the kids to be watched, sometimes I forget who said they could/would, cause I am operating in a brain fog.
The alternative? Command it/Schedule it/Provide It. Here are some examples of what I mean in action, two of which are from my in-laws, one from a friend:
Soon after mom’s diagnosis, my Mother-in-law gave my mom a gift card to Olive Garden. And guess who else she gave one to as well…..did you guess???….she gave one to me. Do you know what she did there? She arranged time for me to be with my mom by giving us both gift cards for food. At the time, it was even more thoughtful, cause my jaws were just unwired and I needed soft food only, which pasta could provide. She took a meal prep off my hands and off my mom’s. Perfect indeed.
After mom was most recently hospitalized, my Mother-in-law and Father-in-law came down to the house for a full Saturday so I could go and be with mom without having to juggle childcare for Daniel and Wesley. By the time the week was coming to a close, I felt like I had already tapped into all my resources. They didn’t ask to do this, they just said they were coming, even if mom was discharged. They wanted me to have a break. Mom ended up going home that day, and Hazel and I brought her from the hospital to her home and then we traveled back to my home. Once there, my in-laws began to pack up for their hour and a half drive home. As I walked them out to the car, I had a little melt-down. I was five streps past exhausted. They hugged me, encouraged me, and offered to stay longer, until Thomas got off work. I told them it was fine, I would go for a walk with the boys and then put them to bed early. In a completely uncharacteristic move, my mother-in-law takes Hazel from my arms and says, “I’ll hold the baby. You go for that walk–or a run–all by yourself!” Running is a major stress relief for me, and as a mom to three, it is hard to manage logging miles these days. “I’ll be back in 23 minutes or less!” I told her, cause I knew how long it would take me to run the route I had in mind. They had action, which lead to relief for me.
So, “Let me know if I can watch the kids!” can become, “I would like to watch the kids on Thursday for a few hours” (my cousin Leitte is actually pretty spectacular at this one!). “If I can make a meal, let me know!” transitions to “Wednesday night I will bring chicken soup to you for your mom.” It’s action, and all I have to do is receive it, not think about it. Does that make sense?
Here is the final example……a gifted photographer friend from church, Michelle, told me that she would like to take pictures for us. I was floored folks, cause she is talented, and I know taking pictures and editing them takes time. That’s not the kind of trait you just give away……unless you are looking to bless someone tremendously, a person who doesn’t know how many family portrait years might be left. My brother John was in town for a few days, and despite mom not feeling the greatest, she got spiffy looking and we all went across the street to the farmland across from my house. Michelle put forth her best effort and captured some beautiful moments of Grandma with Grandkids, Mom with each kid, My family all together. This was something that I didn’t even have on my radar, but someone told me “This is what I am willing to do…..let’s do it!” and we did! The results are pretty stellar considering the circumstances.
The power of prayers has sustained me so much the past few months. Sometimes, I knew that the Holy Spirit was keeping up the promise to intercede for me when all I could manage was groans in my spirit. I never want to minimize this part in the process, and I will never think that you are sitting idly beside as we manage if all you do is pray. Without prayer, I would certainly be lost. May you not stop, but increase, your prayers for my mom. She needs them on the good days and on the bad. We need them when healthy, but most definitely when sick. Encourage her and encourage me in this process, for I feel like it is becoming very easy to grow wary and weary of what is to come. Point us all towards God’s glory.
Please know I don’t write this to then expect you to do these things specifically for me and my family. I write this cause I feel like often we don’t know what to do for others, so with a shot in the dark, we throw something out there. Sometimes, we stifle what God wants us to do for fear of doing the wrong thing. I want to welcome you to move on behalf of Christ, to be his hands and feet, to those near you that need comfort, whether that be me, my mom, or someone else. Just be a blessing.
The second week in June our church had our annual Summer Jam event, otherwise known to most as Vacation Bible School.
Last year I was in my early stages of pregnancy and not sharing the news yet. I was the flag football leader and the weather was blazing hot every single day. This year, my baby was in my arms and 3 months old! The weather was much cooler and rained several days, and I worked with 2nd graders all week in order to have the ability to step away and nurse Hazel whenever she needed it.
I was a leader for the basketball group of 2nd grade boys (we had at most 61 kids, so we had to break them all up into small, manageable numbers, and their track time groups were the best choice). It was such a surprisingly good time being with them all week. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into what another year of life will bring my Daniel to developmentally and emotionally. By the end of the week, I had one with a full on crush for me, although he was under the impression I was 21. He obviously got quite a bit wrong in that area. We played quite a bit of basketball, and I can’t tell you how crazy odd it felt for me to be the tall one on the court :)
We all had a bit of a rough week too though, cause as I said several times that week: “ain’t no tired like VBS tired.” Anyone who has ever devoted time to the VBS cause will most certainly amen that statement. Tears were a little easier to come by for Wesley and Hazel took some long afternoon naps due to sleeping a little less in her nursery room with her lovely teachers.
Wesley actually had his birthday the week of Summer Jam and the preschool minister really made him special on the day, just like she did last year. They sang to him, which had a big impact of happiness and embarrassment.
Daniel, being school aged, got to choose an event to participate in for the week, and his event was archery again this year. At first there was a little glitch that had him in a different week event and he was a little heartbroken. Fortunately, it was made right and he got his choice of archery. He even hit the target about 5 times this year, which made him extremely proud.
It was very different committing the time to help while having an infant, but I am so happy to say Hazel was pleasant and happy each day. I was glued to my phone waiting for the “Hazel is ready to eat!!” Text that came right around it’s predicted time daily. Fortunately I was always able to get to her working just a few minutes while another adult stepped in briefly to my spot so I could nurse. (Side note: My shirt is intentionally inside out in this photo. It was inside out day, where we learned about being changed from the inside out due to a relationship with Christ, as noted in Romans 12)
All of the wonderful pictures were taken by my friends Kelley (pictured) and Michelle. They are both super fab photographers. All the normal looking pictures were taken by me :)
With an unprecedented year of triumph & struggle, Thomas has proven himself an amazing dad. I couldn’t do life without him, & I will be extremely blessed if our children turn out half as wonderful as he is. Happy Father’s Day!
One child was not too keen on getting his picture taken with dad on Father’s Day. Any guesses as to which one it was? ;)
Welsey requested a Star Wars party this year. The boys are pretty obsessed these days. All I hear is “That happened to Anakin with a scrape.” “Bobo Fett wasn’t afraid then” (yes, Bobo….they say it wrong). “Darth Vader has a red light saber” and just about anything and everything in between. They’ve helped to get their cousin, Cason, hooked on Star Wars, and his poor parents don’t know anything about it. We are contemplating arranging classes for Cason’s dad on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that he can learn some things form Thomas. Then, Cason won’t have to hear “You’ll have to ask Thomas, son. We just don’t know” anymore from his parents. Basically, it is serious stuff around the V Family home. Star Wars shall not be taken lightly. We’ve done our best to follow the important parenting obligations noted in this Star Wars PSA we discovered through my friend Jennifer. Take heed to that Jar-Jar portion though folks. We didn’t intervene with Wesley soon enough, I must admits.
Anyway, when Wesley finally decided on this theme, it wasn’t much of a surprise, since our house is full of paraphernalia, I knew decorating would be super easy. Grab the Darth Vader costume from the dress up bin, snag the Star Wars banks, display some material, and decor is a perfect fit.
I did purchase the disposable table wear at Party City on half-off. I suppose some people think Star Wars isn’t cool and the products earned a discount? Maybe it’s because in the not too distant future the new movies will be out? Who knows, really. I am just pleased that the clearance worked in my favor.
After seeing some super neat looking cookies on Pinterest, I asked an old friend of mine to recreate them in a sugar cookie version. We settled on a price of “you make me some cookies, I’ll give you some of my Thirty-One items” and the result was in my favor, I do believe. Thank goodness for talented friends! Yes, my friend Liz really did make those. Yes, they look totally awesome. Yes, they tasted delicious. And if you don’t know what they represent, you have failed at life. Maybe you should attend the classes with Cason’s dad.
Along with the amazing cookies, I decided to add a cake. In my mind, after I baked it up, I was going to develop the Death Star. It was a grand and ambitious goal my friends. I made the yummy cream cheese icing and tinted it the right color. I geared up pipe lines onto the cake, in order to make it resemble the ship. Then, I realized that I am no cake decorator. I looked at it and decided just put the glass lid on the cake stand. I asked Thomas if it looked ridiculous due to the now somewhat disgusting looking color of the icing (which was never really a great match from the start, to be honest) and he said it was fine. The next morning, Welsey said, “I know what you did Momma. You made me the Death Star!” Turns out, I succeeded after all, even if I didn’t really do much.
I also blew up some balloons and strung them across our opening between the living room and kitchen areas. I printed out Storm Troopers and made the birthday banner that I had hoped for in my mind. It was super easy and looked pretty good too, if I may say so myself.
The cousins played light sabers outside, we sang happy birthday, Wesley opened his gifts, and we chowed down on some pizza too.
All in all, it was a fun little event for our birthday boy. I am amazed what this little guy can do—how he can switch from rough and tough to soft and sweet. He can read pretty well, but he will not really let you know it. He loves art and drawing, coloring each and every day, often multiple times a day. Don’t mess with his sister, or there will be a price to pay. For that matter, don’t mess with his momma either. He’s loyal to the end, once he decides you’re worth it. His heart is big, and he shares and does the right thing, even when you would least expect it. I can’t believe all that he has to offer the world, even at a young age. I’m proud of you, sweet Wesley……May the Force be with you.
(and a secret picture I took, which blesses my heart—–daddy with son, working on the Lego box we got him)