Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Throwback Thursday - The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer

This is a repeat of a post from 2016, with a lesson as fresh as today.

A former New York State Senator from our area passed away from prostate cancer.  He was 63.  He represented our area for years and was in the news for years.  A county official, meantime, has been battling lung cancer for several years.

In mid-April of 2016 a former co worker passed away, from breast cancer.

The rest of this post  is originally from May of 2014. And if I was to update it, it would contain even more sad news.

Since I blogged this, the person whose news caused her friend to break a lunch date with me passed away, as did the friend I gave the "Ugly Stepsister of Cancer" essay link to.  The person who broke the lunch date got her own cancer diagnosis in late 2014 (continuing NEC in April of 2018). And since then, a high school and college friend has battled breast cancer.

When will it ever end?  Certainly not today, and if you want to read more about male breast cancer, check out this post that starts out with a man who makes kettlecorn.

The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer (from 2014)

While I would love to blog about spring today, there is something going on that I need to blog about.

But first, a picture for my blog readers to enjoy.  In the language of flowers, hyacinth can mean consistency.  Or, it can mean "I'm sorry, please forgive me."
Last week, I got an email from someone I had a lunch date with.  She had been in communication with a woman she knew.  That person had "a cold that wouldn't quit." Finally, the person sought medical help.

It wasn't a cold.  It was lung cancer.  And before that woman could blink twice, she was being put into hospice care.  Her family called my friend and told her the woman was asking for her.

It was, needless to say, overwhelming. What do you do when you go to the doctor and find out you have something you never expected?  Well, my friend broke her date with me (good for her!) and went to her other friend - one who is suddenly making the acquaintance of the Ugly Stepsister of Cancer.

I decided to go to the library, now that I was without a lunch date. I found a wonderful book there, written by a local (well, from Ithaca, but Ithaca is only an hour from where I live in upstate New York) breast cancer survivor, called "When Your Life is Touched by Cancer". The author is Bob Riter. 

Yes, the author is male and is a breast cancer survivor.  Yes, men get breast cancer.  And, in fact, my spouse is at risk due to his family history.

There is one cancer that Bob Riter, who has worked with cancer patients as the executive director of The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, calls "The Ugly Stepsister of Cancer".  It is lung cancer.

Lung cancer patients bear a burden no other cancer patients bear.  They find themselves required to explain their cancer, over and over.  "Do you smoke?"  "Did you smoke?" they are asked when they tell others of their cancer.

If no (which is the case of someone I know who has been battling lung cancer for over two years),  the patient has to explain that yes, some 15% of people who get lung cancer never smoked.

If yes - well, it's your fault.  No support for you!

Why, ever, would we EVER want to blame someone who has cancer for their cancer?  But my friend has been through this, and now my friend's friend will have go to through this, too.

Also, last Tuesday, I gave four trees to a work friend who lives out in the country to plant in honor of a late neighbor,who died while I was on vacation in April.  I can still remember the day he told me, matter of factly, that he had cancer, and how he was trying to make his peace with it.  (And no, I won't describe "his battle", because that's another thing Bob Riter talks about.)

Finally, last Tuesday, my mother in law found out that her cancerous tumor is dead, but she still needs testing to make sure the cancer didn't spread.  And, meanwhile, she has bills coming in.  She's elderly, she does not have boundless energy, and she asked us to help investigate some of the bills.  She seems to be falling through the cracks of help. Wrong cancer. Wrong place of residence.  Wrong wrong wrong.

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately.  So what I did was....email Bob Riter.

And he emailed me back!

What a marvelous person, and the people of Ithaca, New York are so lucky to have him in their lives.

He gave me some starting points with which to help my mother in law.  And, he recommended that I give my friend with lung cancer a copy of the "Ugly Stepsister of Cancer" essay. He's generously posted it online for any of us to read. (To my friend,  I'm sending her the essay.)

If you have cancer, or have a loved one or friend with cancer, I highly recommend this book.  It is a treasure.  It covers so much, in simple language and in easy to read bites.  Bob Riter has thought of everything.  Well, everything but the line of Hallmark cards I'd REALLY like to see, but that's a blog post for another time.

And now, I hope I don't have to talk about cancer again for a long, long time. But, sadly, I know that is not going to happen.

The Nature Stories Around Us

Where I live in upstate New York, the students have left (well, most of them) for the summer.  But much remains.  In the morning, around 4:30 am, the birds start to sing and, for a half hour or so, the morning is theirs.  Their singing tells stories we humans will never know.

Then the sun rises on a walking trail called the Vestal Rail Trail that, years ago, was a railroad track.

Now, thousands of people walk, bike, roller skate or run on it.

This past Sunday, the trees were blooming,telling their own stories.

Sunday, the pink dogwoods were still in bloom.

Sadly, much of what you see blooming at this time of year are invasives, not native to this area.  Still, many of these blooms smell so nice, even as they choke out native vegetation.

Like this honeysuckle.  What story does it tell?
Or this honeysuckle.

Many enjoy the scent of the invasive Russian Olive, but I don't.  (And no, olives don't come from these trees.  One could wish, though.)

And finally, while not an invasive where I live, these black cherry trees have such sweet smelling blooms.  I understand, though, that they are now considered invasive in some parts of Europe.   I know the story this tree tells - those blooms are among my favorite.

I wonder how many people walk past these trees, intent on exercise, without stopping to smell the flowers, without pausing to learn their stories.

Stories, all around us, and too many of us are wrapped up in our own story.  Maybe that's not all a bad thing, but, on occasion, I just need to escape.  When I do, I'm thankful nature is there for me.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Remembering #MusicMovesMe

Today, on #MusicMovesMe, guest conductor John Holton of The Sound of One Hand Typing asks us to post songs of either remembering or forgetting.

Who are the Music Moves Me bloggers?  We call ourselves 4Mers and this is who we are:

The Head 4M'er (Engineer) is XmasDolly.  Her co-conductors are:  Callie of JAmerican Spice, (who right now is doing on and off visits) and ♥Stacy of Stacy Uncorked♥   Also,  Cathy from Curious as a Cathy and Michelle from Michelle's Musings and MerrimentAnd, ahem...me.  

But before I begin, I am remembering the most inspirational moment I can remember in a long time - the sermon in the royal wedding Saturday given by the Reverend Michael Curry and the rendition of Ben E. King's Stand by Me that was such an inspiration to me.  

And now, what music is moving me today?

Remember (Walking in the Sand) - the Shangri-Las from 1964.

September When I First Met You -sung by the late, soulful, Barry White, from 1978.  I so remember that soulful voice.  White died at age 58 from kidney failure, waiting for a kidney transplant.

From 1985, Don't You (Forget about Me) - Simple Minds. Many remember this from the opening and closing credits of the movie "The Breakfast Club".  It was Simple Mind's first hit, and only #1 hit in the United States.

A song by one of the guests at the royal wedding Saturday - Sir Elton John singing a rewritten "Candle in the Wind" as "Goodbye English Rose" at the funeral of Prince Harry's mother, Princess Diana, in 1967.

Another Elton John song about remembering - Crocodile Rock.

I end on an upbeat note,  September - Earth, Wind and Fire.

Today, we should all remember the power of love "the redemptive power of love", in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  "Love is the only way".

See you next week for another Monday of music.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

And Again and Again and Again

The columbines in my yard are starting to open.  Once upon a time, they were just another pretty mid-spring flower.  Now, they have another meaning - the name of a high school where one of the first modern school shootings took place.  Now, these mass shootings have become epidemic.

Now, we face a crisis in our country - continuing gun violence. Day after day, month after month, the news reports roll in.  There are so many shootings that some barely get any news coverage.

We, the American people, have taken sides, and while we yell and posture at each other, the death toll mounts.  An elementary school massacre didn't resolve us to face the issue head on.  Several church massacres didn't. A nightclub shooting didn't.  Or a country music concert in Las Vegas.  Or....or...or.

We marched in Washington and it didn't help.

We gave everyone our thoughts and prayers, and then moved on, until the next mass shooting.

I speak as a resident of one of the many communities (Binghamton, New York) which has experienced this violence.

We tap dance around it. 

Our President is right when he says his responses, and our conversations, have become routine.  Everyone's response has become so predictable on both sides. More guns! Less guns! Fewer laws! More laws!  The guns were legal.  The guns were illegal.  The shooters were mentally ill.  The shooters were sane. The shooters were students. The shooters were Muslim.  The shooters were Christian. 

But, whatever is true, the people they killed are just as dead.  Their families are just as shattered.

How many more times will this article on the 28 deadliest mass shootings (yes, the Binghamton one appears on it) be updated before we come to a national consensus?

Or, will it be like the years leading up to the Civil War? We couldn't find a resolution to slavery, and we ended up with a terrible war, a terrible post war period, and echoes that still echo into our present day.  Will we be able to, finally, have an actual conversation, and actual, true action, to what is happening to our country?

Or will something so horrible, something none of us can now imagine, have to happen first?

Yes, I realize comparing gun violence to the United States Civil War is like comparing apples to oranges, or perhaps comparing a grape to a watermelon.  So let's think of these semi monthly massacres in a different way.

It is easy to think about terrorism.  It is us vs. them.  We are civilized.  They are pure evil.

But when it is us vs. us, it isn't so easy.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. You may or may not see it in whatever comments this blog piece produces.  (I don't expect agreement.  I do expect civility.)  When you look at the hate that similar posts on other blogs generates, it shows you how close to the edge we are - the edge of where people who speak out are demonized, and even have death threats directed against them.

Will Santa Fe, Texas be the tipping point?  Or are we still waiting?  Is this is how we will continue to define our country?

Our future as a united nation depends on it. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Non-Persistance of Memory

They got out of the vehicle and walked into the chapel.  "They" being Prince Phillip, 96, and Queen Elizabeth II, his wife, 92.

They weren't assisted. They walked without canes or walkers. They had their memories, and fully participated in the events of today.

We had a wonderful time watching the royal wedding this morning, even waking up early to see it.

Later in the day, we visited my mother in law, 90, along with two relatives visiting from out of town.  My mother in law is in rehab after three hospitalizations since the beginning of April. 

She can't get out of bed by herself.  She needs assistance for many of what are called, in the United States, the "Activities of Daily Living" (dressing, continence, feeding, transferring, bathing).

Mother's Day, last Sunday, was good for her.  She had shrimp Newburg for lunch, courtesy of the rehab place, and then an Ultimate Chocolate Cake we bought for her.  She wore a wrist corsage.   Her grandson was there.  All three of her sons were there.  Her two daughter in laws were there.

Today, she didn't remember any of it.

Tomorrow she may not remember the out of town company that spent several hours with us, or the other relatives she FaceTimed with on their iPad.

Watching Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth II made me wonder:  is it just us?

Does dementia exist in other countries?  Are people this infirm?  Is it a function of our environment?  Our relative inactivity?  Has "modern medicine" failed us?

But my mother in law was never inactive. 

At one time she was so sharp we joked that she was sharper than either of us.

The other day she sat in the sun and asked two of her sons if it was sunny.

Yesterday, she couldn't remember where her autistic son lived. 

She steers conversations to the past, talking about her honeymoon (in 1950) as if it was yesterday.

And it's only the beginning.

One day, we know, she won't recognize us.  Already, she has forgotten that I work, and wondered (one day when I visited her on my lunchtime) where I had gone.

Without memory, do we even exist anymore?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rainbow Road #SkywatchFriday

After a storm in upstate New York on May 4, a rainbow appeared in the eastern sky right after sunset.

But there was more to come in the west.
That isn't a river in the bottom; it's the shining road.
The trees hadn't grown their leaves yet.

What a beautiful blue hour.
I published this photo last week as a teaser - here it is again.

The rainbow was long gone.  Fortunately this storm didn't do much damage, and I was able to appreciate the beauty of what came after.

Join Yogi and the other bloggers who watch the sky each Friday at #SkywatchFriday.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

It Did Happen Tomorrow

My heart goes out to those in the Northeast United States without power, without roofs, without cars, and to the families who lost loved ones in the storm on Tuesday.  This includes the county where my spouse spent his teenaged years.  That county (Putnam) is under a state of emergency after being hit by two tornadoes.

There were even reports of tsunami-like waves off the coast of New Jersey.  I grew up in New York City.  I had never seen skies that looked like pictures of the New York City sky I saw on Facebook in my years of living there.

And then there was the deracho that hit our nation's capital and the nearby states.

They could easily make a movie called "Storms Gone Wild"  but it would be truth.

Years ago, the Weather Channel had a series called "It Could Happen Tomorrow".  Well, it's happened.  All over our country.  All over our world.

I shake my head at those who don't believe in "climate change", as if it was a belief and not a reality.  If we don't stop politicizing this issue, and face it head on, we are going to be in a lot of trouble.

Our trees and crops are suffering.  Farmers in this area were put behind in their planting.  And the growing season seems to be migrating - witness our April of constant cold weather and even snow.

But among the doom and gloom, May flowers still bloom.  Spring has rushed to catch up, and spring has caught up here in the Binghamton, New York area.
Crabapple on my street 5-15-18

Here's some proof.

Cherry tree.

And, on the West Side of Binghamton, what I think is a weeping redbud.

Nature.  So deadly.  And so beautiful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spring Things - Flowers (What Else)

I had so many flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (the 15th of each month) that I had some extra photos of flowers in my yard to share with you, my dear readers.  Time to enjoy wordlessly....

Bleeding heart
Variegated Solomon's Seal
Happy Violas
Yellow Bleeding Heart
Vinca and Sweet Woodruff (the sweet woodruff has tiny white flowers that are hard to see)
Tomorrow, I promise, a break from the flowers.