Thursday, November 27, 2008

The "Homecoming"

"What happened to your hair, Grandma?" Trenton asked yesterday as he rubbed his chubby fingers over my fuzzy head.
"Do you mean why does my head feel funny?"

I hugged my sweetheart grandson a little closer.

My locks and even a few eyebrows and lashes are starting to make an appearance now that my chemotherapy treatments are finished, thank goodness. At first, getting used to being hairless was a bit of a stretch for this vain old gal.

Eventually, though, I got used to it and I really don't mind going without a hat, even in public now. I definitely never wear any chapeau of any description within my own walls. Too hot. Too bothersome. Too indicative that vanity still gnaws.

It's been almost six months since my locks departed. That's a significant portion of Trenton's life when I think about it. Grandma without hair has been the norm for a while. So as he ran his little fingers along the top of my head yesterday, Trenton got a bit of a surprise.

"Grandma's hair is starting to grow back," I told the little munchkin.

Trenton looked at me with that irresistible grin and then stroked my head once again and made the most precious statement:

"Grandma. Your hair is coming back home!"

So there I have it. My hair as it slowly emerges really is coming home to roost - right on top of my head. And for that I am grateful. I'm not particularly fond of the hue, however I keep telling myself - at least it's hair.

I remember when Trenton asked the very same question when I lost my hair back in June. "Where is Grandma's Hair?" became the title of a rhyming picture book manuscript that I wrote as a result.

Here's a taste:

Where is Grandma’s Hair?
© 2008 Glynis M. Belec

I looked in the bathroom
I looked behind the chair
I looked in the cupboard
Where is Grandma’s hair?

I looked in my bedroom
I looked in my bed
I’m worried about Grandma -
There’s no hair on her head.

I called up the doctor
On my plastic phone
But he would not answer
There was no dial tone.

I looked in the laundry room
I looked on the shelf
I looked in the basket
I can’t find it myself.

So I went up to Mommy
And asked her what was wrong
“Grandma’s hair has disappeared -
It used to be so long.”

“Grandma has a sickness,”
Mommy’s face looked sad.
“The doctor called it cancer
But the news isn’t bad.”

“When Grandma went to hospital
The doctor said, ‘Don’t fret.’
We’ll give her some medicine
No need to be upset.”

I went into Grandma’s room
She was wearing a hat
She gave me a hug and asked,
“Shall we have a chat?”

‘Yes,” I told my Grandma
“Where is your hair?
I have looked in every room
I even said a prayer.”

“The medicine the doctor gives,
Sometimes makes me sick,
My hair fell out but then he said,
‘It will soon grow back in thick.’”

Then Grandma told me something else
She said, “Come over here.”
She winked and opened up a drawer
And then she pulled me near.

I did not need to search again
For Grandma’s long, lost hair
When I looked inside the drawer
I laughed at what was there.

Grandma called them “hair hats”
Blonde, black, brown and red
Wigs of every size and shape
To cover her bald head!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Follow the Leader

[Photo: Amanda ~ Chip off the old block~]

A funny thing happened on my way to adulthood. I was followed. My children were apparently eyeing me all the way. That delightful old adage - do as I say, not as I do - got tossed out the window. And no matter what I said, my children become more of what I did.

I spent most of the day yesterday helping Amanda pack for her impending move. With a 6 month old baby and a busy little two and a half year old, Amanda has to work double time to get her kit and kaboodle packed and ready for relocation. So I was happy to help. She's a bit stubborn like her momma' so I had to convince her to let me help and that she didn't need to do this all by herself.

I get a big kick out of how alike we are. She is very independent but she has a lot of my traits. Some not so good. Yesterday it was confirmed that I have created a junior packrat. She is just like 'yours truly' for stashing and saving. I totally sympathized with some of the 'but I might need this later' comments from my darling daughter. Our similarities are obvious in many areas.
There were moments, yesterday, when I knew she wanted me to tell her to toss out something but then we would both think of good reasons for keeping said object. Take the collection of wine bottles from the many weddings. They did have nice labels and photos of the happy couples. I remember the same dilemma when I moved. I was so glad when I ended up purging my own collection of photograph-adorned wine bottles.

Finally we made a decision. She would only toss the empty photograph-adorned bottles. The full ones she would keep. We felt bad tossing the happy couples into the recycling box. But we moved on. And so the day continued. Decision after decision.

Packing is not an easy task for packrats.

On the whole, we actually did well sorting and discerning between need and want. However, I must say that our packing session likely took a little longer than perhaps might be considered the norm. There were so many decisions to make. But we had lots of laughs along the way and we both came to the conclusion that we have a lot in common.

As I watch my big-little girl interact with her own little ones, I see me. She speaks with my grandchildren in the same manner I spoke to her. She disciplines them the same way I disciplined her. She loves them as much as I love her. We have the same sense of humour. The same bossy nature. The same desire to please.

I left Amanda's house with a smile on my face and three bags of 'stuff' I might use (no wine bottles). Then I thought of a poem I wrote a while back for her birthday card.

Sometimes I watch you.
I watch the way you look at your children, my grandchildren.
I watch and wonder where the years have gone and how it is that you are now a mother.
Then I see the dependent, adoring way your children look at you.
I remember when you used to look at me like that.
But time marches on
You, my once desperately, dependent daughter have become a fiercely independent woman.
Did I teach you that?
We had our moments of conflict.
We faced joys and challenges together.
We overcame grief and sadness.
We triumphed.
I love spending time with you.
I appreciate when you ask me for advice.
It makes me feel valued and worthy.
Our relationship is special.
We are more than mother and daughter.
We have become friends.
(God has blessed me beyond measure!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

With the Cross of Jesus...

On Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 I had the privilege of attending a Remembrance Day service with my Dad. Amanda, Trenton and Jocelyn were there, too. When my children were younger and we were heavy into our homeschooling years, I would always make sure we attended the service and spent the day with Mom and Dad and other veterans. My parents are both WWII veterans.

Dad was in the Royal Marines and Mom was a VAD in the navy and she was also in the ATS (Auxilary Territorial Service). When we attended this special day with my parents each November, we went not to celebrate war, but rather to celebrate life and freedom. We were grateful for the sacrifices that my parents and others made so that we can live in the true north strong and free. We all learned so much about people and attitudes and about both the heartaches and the victories of war every time we went. We heard the stories and shared in some of the memories.

Amanda and Trevor always enjoyed going and they particulary enjoyed going to the auditorium at the Parkwood Veteran's Hospital and sharing fellowship, cake and stories with many veterans.

(PHOTO: Dad [with the eye patch] and some of his Royal Marine Buddies at the cenotaph in London, Ontario on November 11th, 2008)

I remember the Mountie in full dress. Trevor thought the big man in red was so tall. He was compared to Trev, at the time. Now I am sure my sweet long-legged 6'3" son would tower over him. I think being there every year helped foster a respect and appreciation for what some of these men and women went through so many years ago.

(PHOTO: Amanda and Trevor 1992 at the Parkwood Veteran's Hospital in London. Visiting with Staff Sgt. James)

Life is fleeting, so I have discovered. I have nothing to complain about in my situation when I really stop and take stock. At least I never had to stare down the barrel of a gun or fear that I may tread on a landmine. I never had to worry how to stretch out rations to feed my family, nor did I have to hurry them to a bomb shelter or feel sick as the sirens blared for the third time in one day.

Dad and I were actually interviewed for the London Free Press this past Remembrance Day and the interviewer said something interesting to me. She spotted my bald head and said, "It looks like you have been fighting a battle of your own..." I thought about that comment later and I guess there is some truth to that. So if those wonderfully dedicated and decorated veterans survived and overcame their battles, then I can do it too. I'm thinking about that song again...On ward Christian Soldier, Marching off to war. With the cross of Jesus...going on before!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hope and Hallelujahs

We made it through the day. My appointment at the cancer clinic has come and gone but I am having some troubles wondering about what to do with my emotions. My own oncologist was vacationing in Nice, France - his home town, so there was another doctor filling in for him. This wonderfully gifted, hospitable doctor, accompanied by a student doc, attended to me with honesty and a forthright manner. Gilles and I had met this doctor before during a couple of my chemo sessions, so he was not a stranger. He actually has the greatest bed-side manner. :)

First, the news is not bad about my post-chemo check-up. I had bloodwork and it showed no problems. There is another blood test which I had - the CA125. It takes about a week to get the results back, so I am sure if there is an issue, I will get a call. I also had a physical examination which revealed nothing untoward. Another positive indication that things look good.

The jumbled feelings I am dealing with at present derive from some of the fine doctor's words. He basically told me that he cannot say 'all is well' because there are no guarantees. His approach was 'nothing is for sure' so we will wait and see. I didn't want to hear that. I wanted to hear things like, "Cancer free..." "Clear sailing..." "Everything is looked after and you have no need to concern yourself..." "we were able to zap all the malignant cells..." Instead I heard things like, "I cannot say for sure that this won't return..." "We just don't know..." "There is a 50/50 chance of recurrence..."

I guess I sort of knew all this in my head but I wanted to dance out of that cancer clinic today with a new breath of fresh air and a carefree spirit. It didn't happen and I am doing way too much thinking.

My 'fill-in' Doc talked about some deep seated feelings I have on occasion and stressed my right to be concerned. He also alluded to the fear factor and how I must be very fearful and have thoughts about death and what might happen and the like. Given my good news, as far as today's tests are concerned, I wondered why he would talk about that, but I guess he was attempting to draw me out and discuss my feelings on the 'what-ifs.' It was actually a nice opportunity to talk about my faith. Gilles started it and told the good doctor that we have a strong faith and that sees us through so much. Then I told him that I do not fear death and where I will go one day is not a cause of stress for me. My biggest sadness trigger is leaving my family, my friends, my grandchildren, my loved ones...we had a good chat about that and much more.

I basically am exhausted. The week has been a long one and a busy one with lots of travel and headwork. I just need some down time. Some time to think; to relax; unwind and to pray.

Cancer, no question, is life-changing. I just want things to be the way they were before, but they are not. They never will be. So I will accept the things I cannot change and forge on. I heard a song this past Tuesday...Remembrance Day...Onward Christian Soldier.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Let the Little Children...

When I go to heaven I sure hope God lets me help in the nursery. I love children of every age and ilk. I love their innocence and their honesty. I love their forthright display of feelings and their demands for basic human needs. Feed me, I'm hungry. Change me, I'm wet. Cuddle me, I'm lonely. Total dependence. Total faith that a loving mommy or auntie or grandma...will tend to their needs.

Today I picked up Amanda, Trenton, Jocelyn and Janice and we headed to my niece's home for a baby shower. Gilles, my happy hubby, has six sisters and this niece is on his side, so you might well imagine the estrogen that was circulating.

The sisters and daughters, daughters-in-law and nieces and girl cousins and toddlers and babies and pregnant mommies present were a joyous feminine crowd (with a few baby boys tossed in for variety) and were a tribute to God's instruction to go forth, be fruitful and multiply.

"It's like we're at a day care centre!" one grown up gal said. I agreed. It was lovely. Babies and children squiggled and squirmed. They gurgled and drooled. They even joined in the games and played tape the bottle on the baby - a variation of 'pin the tail on the donkey.' It was fun. It was fun to celebrate Lisa's soon to be baby arrival. It was fun to be with family. Most of all it was fun to gaze upon all those little sweethearts who were no higher than a chair leg, but a lot more active.

When Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 -"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..." I am thinking he was pointing out to us (stubborn people,) that we need to be more like children and to have that simple child-like faith. Being a follower of Christ isn't hard. It's child's play really when you consider the mechanics.

As I watched the little ones play and laugh and focus on the moment this afternoon, I thought how we big people get our knickers in a knot sometime about things that really don't matter. I'm thinking that if we took a few lessons from the little munchkins around us, we would be a lot less stressed and would be a lot more likely to find pleasure in the world around us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Tyranny of the Urgent or Sunshine and Sandboxes

Trenton did not look too happy when he heard the answer to his question. "Where are my toys, Grandma?" When I told my sweet grandson that we had put them away for the winter, he looked at me with a crooked smile and a wrinkled forehead. I imagine in his little two and a half year old brain, that did not make sense.Why on earth would I put away the toys when today was a perfectly sunny, playable day?

Big people like to plan and prepare and 'get ready.' Children live for the moment. If it's sunny the toys should be there.I wonder who's right? It's good to plan and prepare and to think ahead. But should it be the rule all the time? I mean take this afternoon - we missed out on a good old fun day in the sandbox because the toys were tucked away for the winter.

Since being diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in April of this year, I have had my eyes opened a few times about a million things, including the tyranny of the urgent. I know God was prodding me into something. He used my situation to teach me plenty about trust and focus. He showed me how to appreciate who I am, what I have and how meaningful relationships are. I discovered that slowing down and sniffing the chyrsanthemums or playing with grandchildren or finding joy in the butterflies and bee balm, or visiting with friends takes priority over tasks.

I didn't like the cancer or the chemotherapy. The loss of locks made me shiver and quiver about my body image at first. The trips to London to face the prods and the pokes were not something I looked forward to. But I continue to marvel at the lessons learned through all this.

In Romans 8:28 it says, " We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him , who are called according to His purpose." Even now, I am able to see how God is -and has been, making good out of my situation. For that I am truly thankful. Okay...I am off to hug someone.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Everytime Trenton sees this picture, he says Grandma and Papere are wearing puppies on their heads. I think we look more like we are sporting caramel sundaes with a cherry on top. If the truth be known, we are actually adorned with Chip and Dale heads. This delightfully mature vision of us was snapped when we were on our wonderful trip in Florida.
And just one more reason to smile...yesterday I received the report back from the doctor's office about my mammogram and ultrasound. The news is mean mean the news is good! The two suspicious areas turned out to be naught more than a couple of rotten little cysts. Phew. Sweet relief.
Now the next hurdle is November 13th at the cancer clinic in London. I'm thinking positive that all will be negative! Did I say that correctly?
All's well with the world today. One day at a time sweet Jesus! Now I am off to have a caramel sundae for breakfast. xx Love Puppyhead #1