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Posts Tagged ‘brain cancer’

Seasons

There is an old adage that says: “the only thing in life you can count on are death and taxes”. I would argue that “change” should be in there as well.

I have never been one to look to far ahead. When I was younger I used to be really fascinated with people who knew what the wanted to do, set a path, and went for it. I would always think how can you KNOW what is going to happen 10 years from now? I can’t tell you what is going to happen in 20 minutes. What if you decide you don’t really like what you are doing, or school, or people or, or, or….. so many things.

Looking back I was right, change has been constant in my life. Forty seven (no comments please) years later, I am glad I wasn’t afraid of change. Change comes in so many ways. Natural change happens with growth and education. Elective change when we make life decisions out of growth and, hopefully, our education. Circumstances can dictate change by no fault or input of our own. Even people who spend a lot of energy trying to keep things the same, experience change as time passes around them. Change is ever present and unavoidable.

Interestingly, I was pretty adamant that losing Greg didn’t change me. Three and a half years later, I would now argue it didn’t change who I am although it did change the way I look at the world around me. Life is very complicated! At times life is really tough. Then come the times when life is really good. If you have experienced any difficulty it should allow you to really appreciate and see when it is good. It is those times we need to step off the wheel, take a breath and enjoy.

I believe we should be the sum of our experiences and make the best out of the hand we are dealt along with the choices we make. As I think about this next season, I tick back over the ones that have lead me here. A lot of different emotions come over me. It makes me smile with a touch of sadness and nostalgia as a chapter closes but mostly excitement for the future. Today, I am no longer a widow… I never thought saying that would catch me off guard but it does. I never minded being on my own. However, I now realize how much more I enjoy being a partner and being part of the “we”. And with that comes peace and happiness, comfort and hope.

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Groundhog Day

I certainly hope all is well for everyone!

For the first time in as long as I can remember I did not send out a Christmas card. So instead of sending cards this year I thought it may be a good time to update the “Foster happenings”. Ugh, that was a month ago. This year has been crazy busy like years past. Truth be told, we haven’t had many years that were just run of the mill. As usual there have been a lot of changes but overall it’s been a pretty good year.

This time last year we lost Eileen after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Just saying that gives me a flutter in my heart. She fought a good fight for 4 years. And as sad as it was for her to go, it was also good to know that she’s not struggling anymore. I miss her so much.

Kate had the hardest time earlier in the year missing her grandma. It brought back a lot of memories of her dad as well. Even though she was struggling I was able to get her into some really great counseling, in doing so, she has turn around. Her grades have been great in school. She had a fantastic summer. She and Garrett went to special away camp for kids who have lost a parent or adult to cancer.  They were gone a week and loved it. And she spent the last fall playing soccer for the first time and really loved it too. Her team came in first place and one all but one of the games that they tied. not bad for a first season.

Garrett has been doing well. He tends to have smaller times where he misses Greg and Eileen but seems to take it in stride. He was diagnosed with Celiac in March so we had to make adjustments with that. I have to say he is really great about the diet changes. He never complains when things are different for him and just rolls with it. I have been super proud of his attitude especially since I really know how hard it can be.  G played soccer this year he played both spring and fall and really enjoyed it. So much so that in fall he tried out for the NASA Academy team and will begin Academy program this spring. He is also doing great in school.

And for me, I’m happy to say that it’s been a super busy but good year. I have been playing as much tennis as possible. Our neighborhood team went to the city finals this fall which was a first for me. It was a great accomplishment and experience with some great friends. My Real Estate business was amazing in 2014! I had my best year so far and enjoy my work more than ever. It  looks to be a good start for this year as well so I am looking forward to selling more Real Estate in 2015!!

On another note, I was introduced to a fellow widower (Kirk Smith) late last year through a mutual friend. It was supposed to be an opportunity to support someone else going through a similar time; which it was. I was really not interested in any other situation.  The funny thing is that we really hit it off and have been seeing each other since. He has three boys Jake (17), Will (16) and Cole (10) and when you add Kate and Garrett on the bottom its quite a mix. It does make things wild sometimes but we are really glad to be in each others lives.

So you might be wondering why I named this post Groundhog Day. First because it was groundhog day yesterday when I thought about this post so I thought it was appropriate!  And second when I was a kid I got really excited about the springtime and loved to see how soon it was coming. Now this time of the year is rough for our family/families with MANY significant life events (birthdays, anniversaries, deaths) happening in the next few months. Really, no matter how much time goes by I can get swept back by dates or times. I can be sad in an instant especially for the kids with all they have been through. Even though I know that isn’t what our loved ones would want it is hard sometimes to separate from the feelings when there are so many reminders. As we move through this time, this year, I want to be intentional about remembering the good and best parts of our memories and not going over and over the tough stuff. So even though I was a bit lazy, it’s think its good that I decided to revisit my blog on Groundhog day and get a renewed perspective for spring.

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I have no idea how it got to be November already. I don’t even know where fall went and now there are Christmas decorations up every where! 

It made me think back to last year at this time. As I look back I realize that we were doing fine, even good, as a family. We had gotten into a groove and everything was clicking along. The kids had adjusted well, but for me personally, I was still in a daze. For those who know me I can be a little stubborn! I think I was so determined to be “okay” that i was going to do it whether I wanted to or not. We traveled so much in 2012 that it was impossible to settle in. And my M.O. is usually to get away to cope (out of sight, out of mind) but it didn’t change anything here. So I decided that this year we were hanging around the house and hitting things head on.  And we have done well with that; just two trips so far. 

There is one thing I really wanted to be able to articulate to the kids over this last year; how lucky they are. I know they lost their dad. It stinks and I would have never chosen that for them.  They ate, breathed, and slept all those days and nights just like I did however there are lots of kids and people who have it much worse than we do. They have parents the chose not to be around, or perhaps having a difficult time financially, or even just being born or raised in a lesser environment. So last year, in January, I asked our Pastor if he would be willing to take us with him the next time he went to Haiti. There is an orphanage there that his daughter is heavily involved with. It seemed like a perfect way to see the other side of the coin. To show my kids what loss and being without is really like. That conversation seems like such a long time ago! Well, we are heading out to Haiti the first week in December; less that 4 weeks away. I am really excited and a little nervous but I know it will be one trip we/they will never forget. 

Last year the holidays seemed daunting and this year they seem manageable (I will let you know how that goes afterwards.) Most of all I am looking forward to my new set of eyes after our trip and to see how the holidays look in comparison! 

Hope everyone is well! 

Michelle

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This is the longest I have gone between blogs. Not really because I don’t have anything to say but mostly because I think I am frustrated!! I try not to get too engrained in standards. I know that there is usually a guide or a rule to guide us with but what I am finding out is that it’s not really what I imagined it to be.

To back up a bit, when Greg was diagnosed, we had lots of suggestions. There was medical evidence and results to show us a path. We had to choose whether to follow. Being a widow is so much different. Everyone likes to say (out of kindness), “the firsts” are the hardest. Interestingly, it doesn’t always come from other people who have been widowed. Here is the catch:  it’s easy to rationalize and sign on to. It seems reasonable and makes sense.

Then you get through the first year waiting for the unexpected. Which is really expected since you have already been warned. And because you want to believe that one of those firsts is going to be the apex of your grief and get you rolling down the other side. Then you get through all the firsts and look back and think “whew… that was easier than I thought”. Not because you don’t deeply miss your husband but more so because you didn’t have a “drive by” melt down on one of those sneaky firsts.

Once you are in the second year you start hearing “the second year is sometimes harder than the first”. Really, Really? That’s great. So truth be told it has been harder for me, even in this last month or so. I want so much to mark things off a list and feel that we have done a good job. Not just for us but with Greg’s memory and legacy. We passed the normal benchmarks fairly well but now what? When is it ok to ……

Now come all the questions. My counselor told me that grief was the process of adjusting to life without the person you lost. Totally makes sense to me. He also said the loss creates a wound, especially since Greg and I were so close. So it’s like being torn apart. The wound has to heal over time along with all the adjusting. So, what I feel like I have learned is grief doesn’t go away. Over time it should lessen and soften. It is with you in the saddest of times and in the happiest of times. In some ways I feel like the unwelcome guest of his cancer has turned into my live in companion of sweet memories of Greg. It’s name has changed to grief. I have been avoiding my guest but now I hope I can start to embrace it, to learn from it, instead of being afraid of whether it will hurt or make me uncomfortable.

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How we Roll!!

How we Roll!!

So today is the one year mark from Greg passing quietly into heaven. I am sure that everyone, just like myself, is wondering what today would bring. And so far, it’s all good.

I decided to take a day away. So last night my dad stayed with the kids and I went to the hotel Greg and I went to the fall before he died. In case you are wondering, it’s been so great! I took some time and looked back over letters, emails, pictures the kids drew, and I even watched the memorial service. Here is what I came up with.

In life, we celebrate “anniversaries”… the accumulation of time, events, and memories. Of course, with the anniversary of a death that isn’t possible. I don’t miss Greg any more or less today than I did six months ago. I know it gets easier over time but there will always be the same void. So, six months from now, I will miss him in the same ways. Although, I was reminded that as a family, we made it one year. That is an important benchmark that I had not really thought about. Thank you Denise!

After watching the service I realized that there is something really great the hasn’t changed…. The “Celebration of a Life”; a life well lived. That is what I heard and saw in everything I looked at. As I have said in many ways this past year, we are blessed. As much as I would not have chosen this path it’s been an amazing journey. We had the absolute best of a terrible situation.

Here are a few things I am super grateful for over this past year:

1. The kids NEVER talk about their dad being sick. If you ask them what they remember they will say taking walks, kicking the ball, daddy’s hugs. Amazing.

2. Greg’s absence continues to remind me of ways I need to improve in my life. As independent as I am, being married to Greg made me look at myself in a different way.

3. A voice! Greg’s illness and journey had given us a way to be able to further his memory and his story. This blog is just a part of that and there are so many people who don’t have that opportunity to talk about their loved ones.

4. My extended family… I love the Foster’s as if they are my own flesh and blood. I can’t even imagine what life would be without them. Nor would the kids.

I miss Greg and will forever love him. I hope we never forget the intimate things that made his life and death so valuable. I will never get over the treasure he left in our children and friends. And I feel guilty sometimes with how much we have gained in spite of great loss.

Please continue to celebrate his LIFE — and know that Greg is in Heaven, smiling, encouraging and celebrating too.

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Since it is Valentine’s Day, I guess it’s appropriate to talk about love….

You may be wondering how I am feeling since it’s my first Valentine alone. Actually, I feel great!! I haven’t ever been a fan of Valentines. It forces people to do some silly things in the name of emotional love. It also disappoints a LOT of folks who don’t get their expectations met. Lastly, it honors superficial love. The kind that is fleeting and can be affected but something as small as candy or cards! Yuck!

Two years ago today, Greg and I were sitting in the surgeon’s office for pre-op. I didn’t even realize it was Valentine’s Day until we started looking at dates trying to figure out when he might be out of the hospital after surgery. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tease and I remember saying, “you sure know how to treat a girl!”. Last year, Greg had a significant decline right about now. He was visibly struggling with the cancer and no longer able to do much of anything on his own. He went out the week before Valentines with his best friend Rob to just spend some time hanging out. Rob has a coin shop and sometimes goes by other shops to trade merchandise. They stopped in a store and after talking with Greg, the owner of the shop gave him some earrings to give to me. Funny thing was, Greg was so overwhelmed that someone would give him something he broke down in tears as he gave them to me. He kept saying “I can’t believe he just gave them to me”.

Here is what I know about real love. (Notice I didn’t say “true” love…. I have no idea what that even means.)

* I have had and given real love.
* It’s not a feeling; it’s a choice.
* It doesn’t have anything to do with what you receive; it’s what you give out of the overflow of your heart.
* It is sacrificial and the sacrifice returns tenfold.

I vividly remember promising Greg that no matter what I would not leave his side. That was the day he was sent to the hospital; needless to say I had no idea what I was talking about. Although it was a rough, heart wrenching ride at times, it was also tender, sweet and filled with love that I can’t even describe. I have never felt more loved and cherished my whole life. One of the most rewarding things that I did was being able to sit and hold his hand the day he died. He had been unconscious for almost 36 hours but there we sat. I remember sitting there propping my feet up holding his hand for what seemed like forever. I don’t know if he knew I was there or not, but it didn’t matter. I was holding onto my promise.

You may not think you can do something like we did. And I hope and pray you never have to. But I do know that you can lay your life down for someone else. Take your desires, wants, needs and ideas; put them aside; even if just for a day. No expectations of anything in return. And you will slowly begin to see real love because it doesn’t come in a box or without work. But it does last forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Autumn has been an interesting time for me. As a family there have been a lot of beginnings and ends this time of year. Greg and I met and were also engaged in November. We moved into our house in October. We learned that Kate was coming two days before Christmas, and Garrett was born three days before New Years. That doesn’t even count all “given” events like Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday all the way through to Easter.

It also marks the beginning of our journey with family illness two years ago. Plus the beginning of the end of our journey with Greg’s illness last year. This time last year the cancer was taking over and there were lots of hard decisions facing us along with the last Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and so on.

Truth be told, these last few weeks have been a little tough. The holidays have crept up and I have gone through a lot of different emotions that I hadn’t planned for but shouldn’t come as a surprise. At the end of the day I feel thankfulness. It’s the antithesis to grief and keeps me focused on what is good and right in our lives. It keeps my perspective going in a healthy direction.

After seeing lots of posts on Facebook about what my friends are thankful for I thought I would try to throw some down!

Thankful for:

1. The hope we have in Jesus. Without THIS hope we would be failing miserably. Jerimiah 29:11 — For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

2. My amazing husband. Without Greg, and our combined experience, my life would not be so rich. As much as I miss him, his memory keeps me sharp and wanting to be a better me.

3. The most unbelievable kids a person could ask for. They have matured in ways kids shouldn’t have to but they were also spared the grief that we felt as adults and are thriving. They are priceless gifts beyond my wildest imagination.

4. My family that is constantly on guard in the background, ready to be called up at a moments notice.

5. Greg’s family, who I can’t imagine life without. Gram, Daudy, Denise and Jay. I deeply love you guys in ways I never knew as possible.

6. The best and sweetest friendships that a person could have… too many to name but know I love all of y’all!! Thank you for sticking by us even when it was terribly difficult. Could not have done it without you guys….

7. A wonderful church who has literally carried us on their back at times. Thank you for every prayer, thought, meal, word of encouragement, then and now!

8. Pastor Johnny, who took a personal interest in our family even with thousands of other members of the church to care for. Thank you for every prayer, text, email sent. Thanks you for making sure that we were cared for and the personal time and attention you lavished on Greg.

9. Solid Source Real Estate – I am grateful to be able to continue to work and be a part of making things happen for others doing something I love to do – be a real estate agent!

10. My sweet pets… Well you know how that is.

11. Being able to travel all over this year with my kids. Its been a crazy busy summer but we have done incredibly well.

12. For Greg taking such good care of us, even now in his absence. It makes it possible for us to do more than we could imagine.

13. Being able to give back, not just things, but being able to invest in others the way we were cared for – Cochran’s and Cooks’, you know who you are!!

14. A comfy home with everything we could need or want.

15. That we live in a world where memories can literally be captured. We have so much to remember in our lives with that it makes the “missing” easier.

16. Music, love me some tunes and love hearing our kids singing and dancing around the house.

17. Tennis

18. This Blog!

19. Coffee

Ok so now I digress…. Needless to say we have so, so many things to be thankful for. There will be bumps for us, especially for me, over these next 6 months or so. But we will keep our heads up and our tudily-doos (attitudes) in the right place so we can see all the bright things that are around us.

I hope everyone had a very “Thankful” Thanksgiving.

Love to all!

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If you know us,well, then you know it’s crazytown for the Fosters pretty much all the time. To be fair, it’s also because I have realized that I can pretty much make a “story” out of anything. No, I am not embellishing. I just have a knack for making something mundane into a story. Also, I have not been as quick about posting. We are simply adjusting and half the time I think, really… does anyone want to know that? I am behind with a few things so bear with me whilst I catch up.

So here is the general update:

Garrett was released to walk again mid September although it’s been a slow go. He was  really reluctant to put full weight on his leg and wasn’t  bending his knee much despite four physical therapy appointments. There was improvement but not as much as they would have liked. So at his one month check up after being released they found a couple of places the rods were irritating his knee and making it hurt. Ugh. The next week the little guy had his second surgery to remove the rods. Good news was that his bone was 99% healed so he was on the right path. The second surgery was two weeks ago and he has been running around ever since. His movement has improved dramatically since his rods were removed and sometimes I can’t see a limp at all. YEA!

The end of September, we took our third family vacation to Destin with our sweet friends. It was the best vacation so far although (I seem to use although a lot. Would someone let me know if there is a better transition word?) Although, we did encounter a few bumps. If you have been following this for a while you might remember that Kate was sick last time we went to Destin with Greg (a year ago May). She specifically told me that she hoped she wouldn’t be sick at the beach this time. I assured her she wouldn’t because that was a virus. Enter boy who throws up on her leg the day we are leaving… Seriously??? Kate woke me up super early, the first day, crying saying she wanted to go home. As it turns out she was sick and needed to throw up. So, day number one was spent with Kate throwing up every 20 minutes. It took most of the day to convince her that going to the beach doesnt’ make girl throw up…thankfully we only had one day of that!

The other fun thing we did while we were gone was try to find our missing puppy who also escaped back at home the same day. I never thought for a minute that he could or would for that matter get out. It was a pain just to try to get him out the door when were home much less without added encouragement. I felt so badly for our sweet friend who was taking care of our dogs and her family. They scoured the neighborhood and did everything we might have done in our absence.

As it turns out, a delivery driver from Macy’s picked our puppy up off the street. The driver tried to find who he belonged to. No one really knew he was ours so they were unsuccessful so they jumped into the truck and took him along. After a few days of phone call we were able to figure out who has him and coordinate his return due to a super nice manager in the delivery department. Yes it’s a sweet story but I really learned something. I was really upset by the fact that I didn’t know where our puppy was. We had just gotten him so we weren’t super attached but the fact that he was simply gone we making me crazy. It was really hard until we knew he was safe and not taken away by a coyote or something. It made me realize how hard it must be for other people, wives, children who lose a loved one suddenly. We were spared that sadness and anxiety by having full knowledge of what we were dealing with when we learned Greg was sick. I have always been super grateful that we had the time but now I see it as even more of a priceless gift. We have been so protected in spite of a challenging  journey. I believe it will continue and I hope that I will also continue to see the grace that was provided to us in retrospect as it is revealed in other stiuations.

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Since the moment Greg was diagnosed with terminal cancer we talked of quality of life.  We made our decisions based on it. We cried over it. And thankfully we lived it. Even so, I have begun to realize that it’s a lost art. Not only is quality of life lost on us, it actually requires effort, time and most importantly, consideration.

qual·i·ty/ˈkwälətē/ 

Noun:
  1. The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something: “quality of life”.

 If you google the word “Quality”, this is the first thing that pops up. I love that it mentions life. Even more wonderful, it uses the word excellence. Another word that seems lost these days.

Greg was all about quality. Not only in his illness but in life in general and often in the small things. We used to joke about how it wasn’t good for him to go shopping. He would alway pick the most expensive/well-built item we were looking for. It used to be a joke but now its a beautiful reminder of what was an integral part of his spirit. He looked for quality and excellence; and also expected is from others. That sometime made for some interesting (difficult) arguments but at the end of the day it saw us through an amazing year.

The other thing that has struck me over these last months is how easy it is to miss the quality of life; excellence. While Greg was sick we were almost forced to respect every moment and be acutely aware of how we were spending our time. We got down to true basics and really focused moment to moment. It became really important to recognize, maintain and preserve each moment that came our way. Thankfully there was no shortage of experience! Since Greg’s passing I have certainly missed him physically although there have been many times that I have felt his presence while looking through pictures and videos. In many ways he is still here and will be as long as we choose to let the memories continue and flourish.

Another stark realization is that I really miss the intensity of the last year. Each day felt packed with such richness that even in the hardest moments the days were full. Now it’s easy for me to see and feel hollow moments as I spend a lot more time by myself. But I have also realized that intensity and fullness of life are a choice. We chose to live full lives in light of Greg’s illness. I must choose to live a full life in light of his passing. All the moments were there before he was sick, we just didn’t notice them the same way. Now I have to look at the moments and events with my new eyes and decide to recognize them, maintain them, and continue to preserve them the same way otherwise the lesson of “quality of life” is lost on me as well.

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Hey, in case you didn’t know life moves on. It’s always fun to say except when you might want it to slow down a little bit. I just looked at the calendar to see how long it’s been since Greg’s passing.  It was exactly six weeks ago yesterday. That sort of surprised me. It still seems like yesterday and forever. 

I am getting used to the idea that he won’t be stepping in the door at any moment. I have released my grip on a few select things in the house but for the most part his things still represent comfort and they probably will for a long time. So instead of moving his stuff, I have pretty much torn up every other room in the house. I have lots of piles of our things that are going bye-bye. I had a large pile of boxes that we had been saving for a long time in the basement. After I put them out yesterday for the trash I was a little worried our neighbors might send out for a shopping intervention. There were probably 20 boxes of all sizes and contents out on the street. So far no one has knocked on the door with a film crew.

We are also winding down the school year. Garrett is no longer a pre-schooler and it’s off to Kindergarten to follow in Kate’s steps. They are going to do awesome, especially together. It’s so funny how they have made their own adjustments over these last six weeks. They know without question daddy is gone but we all still talk about him everyday. We talk about what he would like or something that he had said to them. The other things they really like to do is going to visit his grave.  It takes a while for the ground to settle so there  isn’t a marker yet. Even so the kids really enjoy reading about the others who are also buried there and we got to see five huge wild turkeys running around.  Interestingly enough,  I didn’t like seeing it messy so I cleaned off the old flowers a couple of weeks ago and laid some sod. And, if you knew Greg, you knew he was quite a grass guy. Well, I certainly set the bar high! It takes a lot of work and water to get the grass situated and growing. Thankfully we have had lots of rain over the last couple weeks and I have watered in between. So it’s hard not to miss his “spot” for the bright green grass growing! Makes me a little proud. Hopefully I can keep it up.

Yesterday Garrett had an end of the year show and I didn’t like going myself. It was always important to Greg to attend those type of school activities.  I am not sure he even missed one. Today when I picked Garrett up it was almost like saying good-bye to a part of Greg also. Noonday Christian Academy has been our kids home away from home for four years. Greg loved, loved everyone there and was very grateful that we had chosen that particular school for the kids. We talked often about how different things might have been under different circumstances.

It still amazes me how many people Greg touched. I still have letters, cards, and people telling me how much he meant. God is taking my void that I was feeling all over the place and filling it with wonderful memories. I think the coolest thing that I am realizing is how much he became a part of who I am. When we got married it was for better or worse, richer or poorer, etc. but I love knowing that not only were we together he truly rubbed off on me. Now instead of feeling the emptiness I am beginning to just see him subtly woven into all the corners of our life.

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