Month: January 2017

Roasting Marshmallows

My oldest daughter wanted to have a bonfire over the summer.  That was all she wanted.  A simple bonfire where she, her sister and perhaps a few of the neighborhood kids could sit around roasting marshmallows.  A summer rite of passage.  It was so simple.  And yet, it wasn’t.

I remember the night my exhausted and impatient husband finally gave in to her pleas.  Both girls squealed with delight and buzzed in and out of the back door with all of the supplies that they would need.  I could hear them from my bedroom.  My youngest daughter, smiling ear to ear, came up to grab a sweatshirt and stopped to ask if I was going to join them.  “Not tonight,” I smiled at her.  “I’m going to rest.”

She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and ran off to the bonfire.  I waited for the sound of the door closing behind her before going to my window.  I pulled the curtains back, looked down at my little family and then I cried.  Really, really cried.

There are so many things that cancer takes from you and so many disturbing thoughts that it leaves behind.  That night, cancer stole my family from me – my ability to sit with them, laugh with them, care for them. 

I hated that I couldn’t care for them.

People started showing up to help when they heard about my diagnosis.  Our family first, with so much trepidatious love that it made my heart hurt.  Then came our friends, unsure of the right words but certain in their determination to help.  Our neighbors were next, curious and confounded…“but I just saw her last week looking so happy.”  

And then came the strangers.

Yes, strangers – complete and total strangers started showing up at my door because they heard I was a mom who had just been diagnosed with cancer. The strangers had a name:  Sparrow’s Nest And they had a purpose: to care for my ‘nest’ while I couldn’t.  I couldn’t. 

I hated that realization; that understanding, even from strangers, that I couldn’t take care of my ‘nest’ the way I always had.  I couldn’t take care of my family, my kids, in the same way I had before that stupid, dreaded diagnosis.  I didn’t want someone else to take care of my family, I didn’t want anyone’s help, I didn’t want cancer!  But, the reality was that I did have cancer and I did need help.  

And so, every Tuesday, Curt -a total stranger – would show up on my doorstep with home cooked meals and plenty of treats for my girls.  I hid myself away in those early weeks, unwilling to accept this new reality that required strangers to care for my family.  That didn’t stop him from coming though.  Every week Curt would appear and, just as quietly, disappear.  His quiet calm was a stark contrast to the whirling chaos happening inside my head.

When school let out and summer vacation began, Sparrow’s Nest was there with several months worth of snacks for my kids.  Fall came, the kids went back to school and Sparrow’s Nest was there with new school supplies.  Thanksgiving came and Sparrow’s Nest was there with a complete feast for my extended family.  Christmas came and Sparrow’s Nest was there with gifts for my girls.

But the greatest gift they gave me was caring for my family when I didn’t want them to but really needed them to.

I’m grateful now that the hardest parts of my treatment are over and I’m looking forward to summer bonfires with my little family.  But I’m also keenly aware of the fact that there’s another mom out there hearing those dreaded words right now.  Another mom mourning the loss of time she’ll never get back with her kids.  Another mom who is so angry right now because she can’t take care of her family in the way that she wants to. I hate that there’s another mom out there feeling that way.

I get it.  So I need to do something about it.  I need to wrap her family up like Sparrow’s Nest did mine.  I need to help care for her family so that she can take care of kicking cancer’s ass!

Next Fall, I’ll run with Team Sparrow in an effort to raise money to help another family.  Simply leaving my bedroom was a challenge this past fall, so it’s as much a personal challenge as it is a meaningful quest, and I hope that you will help.  Help with a donation of as much or as little as you can give because I can personally assure you that every single dollar makes a world of difference to a mom who’s wishing for roasted marshmallows with her little family. ❤

To make a donation, visit the Team Sparrow donation page and enter my name, Jean Marie Trick, or my friend, fellow cancer ass-kicker and fellow Team Sparrow runner, Marci Cox, in the Team Sparrow Runner line.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you and thank you Sparrow’s Nest. 

 

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My Inheritance

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I became slightly obsessed with my dead grandmother.  Or, more accurately, I became obsessed with all of the things that I – the youngest of four siblings – inherited from my dead grandmother who I had never met.

Why did I inherit the fine china set that I’m certain she never ate a meal on?  The fine china that has stayed neatly packed in my attic since the day we moved in.  How on earth, with two older sisters, did I inherit her diamond engagement ring and her gold wedding band?  And the biggest question of all:  why did I inherit the breast cancer that killed her?

I spent a lot of time wondering if I’d been cursed or somehow ominously marked when I brought her things into my home.  I wondered if I should throw them out, let each beautiful dish shatter into tiny pieces or ceremoniously burn every serving tray, platter, tea cup, gold band and diamond ring that she ever touched.  I wondered if all of these things had somehow gotten lost or misplaced when she died or when my grandfather moved;  if they had mysteriously disappeared 50 years ago, never to be touched by me or my siblings, would I still be feeling this hideous lump?

I wondered.  A lot.

Before my own treatment started, I dug out my grandmother’s wedding band.  I needed to touch it and imagine how it must have looked on her hand.  I wondered if, like me, she tugged on it or spun it when she was nervous or when they told her she had breast cancer.  I wondered if she wore it during the treatments that failed her so miserably.  I wondered if she had it on when she died.

I put it on my own finger to see how it felt.

That very same day, a dear friend sent me a necklace – the angel of strength.  I put my new necklace on and began spinning that old ring and I cried.  I cried because I suddenly realized how miserable it must have been to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 1960.  I suddenly understood that the heart attack that killed her was a direct result of the treatment that she was hoping would save her.  I suddenly recognized why my own diagnosis of breast cancer came with regular visits to the cardiologist.  I suddenly realized that my dead grandmother was a part of my own, personal clinical trial.

And I suddenly realized that all of those things she left behind, all of those things that found their way to me, were with me for a reason:  a reminder that I had my very own angel of strength always hovering nearby.