lesliepurchase

52 Weeks, 52 resolutions in my humble quest to be a better wife, mother, friend, survivor

Week 19: Help for hubby. July 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 1:19 pm

This week coincided with my husbands birthday so it wasn’t really a stretch for this to be the theme.  Our lives are so busy these days that being nice to my husband translates in to the very practical terms of helping him get things accomplished.  So this week in addition to caring for the kids, I took on a couple special projects to take some of the load from him.  The first was to seek a payroll provider for his corporation.  After months of hard work it was finally time to take home a paycheck from his new business except, we had no idea how to legally do that.  Well, maybe not no idea but let’s just say we had lots of questions.  A couple of phone calls and meetings and I am happy to say we are on our way to getting a paycheck.  Yay.

Next up, disability insurance.  The notion that we had not yet purchased this essential piece of insurance is surprising.  While we usually view insurance as only for extreme situations we know all too well that the unexpected can throw a mighty big wrench into the best plans.  We would have done it sooner but there was always so much going on and it is a decision that requires much time to research the options to understand what you are buying.  This task took a little longer than I had expected.  It is complex.  I am happy to report though that now we are comfortably ready for catastrophe, at least from an insurance perspective.

The last task was setting up a retirement account.  This is secretly fun for me.  I love financial planning.  It has become a hobby of mine since I left medicine.  I love poring over sheets of financial information.  The endless minutia of finance fills the void in my detail oriented mind that was left when I stopped my surgical residency.  The other night I told Rob I wanted to read to unwind before bed.  I couldn’t tell if he was proud or worried about my choice of reading material.  It was the latest letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.  I had looked forward to reading it all day.  It made me laugh out loud a couple of times.  I’m that lame.  So picking a retirement plan was like heading to a candy store.  Lots of choices but they all make you happy in the end.

This week was tiring.  Though it felt good to cross some major tasks off the list it seems new ones immediately fill their place.  In some ways we are in the treadmill stage of our lives where no matter how much we carry out there is always more to be done.  I guess I can’t complain though.  Last week Olivia had a surveillance MRI that was negative.  We are officially cancer free.  If finding an insurance policy is what I am complaining about life can’t be that bad.  What’s next Rob?

 

Week 18: Fleece week

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 1:17 pm

Perhaps a better title would have been fleece free week but it didn’t have the same ring to it.  This week my goal is to dress like a normal adult woman and not a bum.  I used to love shopping and dressing well.  Time and children has changed that perhaps inexorably.  I feel like a martian when I go to the mall and the only stores I end up going into stop at size 6x.

I seem to be stuck in a rut of black fleece pants, black t-shirt, and fleece jacket.  Sometimes I change it up.  Mostly, I vary whether it is a short-sleeved or long-sleeved black tee.  Also, sometimes I will wear a grey fleece  jacket instead of the black one.  But, that is only if I am feeling especially whimsical.

It makes sense on some level that this is my uniform.  For one it is easy.  The past year was hard enough without adding what to wear to the list of endless big decisions we were making.  It also felt safe.  Who wants to wear color when your daughter is sick.  Not me.  It felt too showy.  I wanted to fade into the background in the hospital.  Keep a low profile and just get through was our plan.  It felt like residency all over again.  I just wanted my nose to the grindstone until the worst was over and the black fleece uniform fit that profile well.  It was sturdy and serious and non-threatening all at once.  Perhaps I am reading too much into the clothes I wear but I don’t think so.  Clothing projects a lot about who we are and mine was saying no-nonsense Mom on a mission.

This approach made a lot of sense to me while life was tense and uncertain.  The problem is, although life is no longer that way, the uniform endures.  I have not moved on in any way.

I used to love clothes.  Like a lot of young women I used to love shopping with my Mom.  It was a time for us to connect and enjoy each other.  Beyond that, the business and artistic side of the fashion industry is fascinating to me.  Even when I was pregnant, a good outfit could make me feel body confidence.  I lost some of that swagger when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Interestingly, it wasn’t the thought of losing my breasts or deforming them that worried me.  Specifically, I was worried that if I was dying it didn’t make sense to waste money on new clothes for me.  That was surprisingly one of the first random thoughts that crossed my mind in the minutes after my diagnosis.  It was superficial and deeply meaningful all at once.  It is possible that part of me still struggles with that idea.  It is time to get over it because I look like crap.

Entering adult clothing stores just leaves me feeling silly.  I feel too old for the trendier stores like Abercrombie but not quite old enough for Chico’s either.  What is a girl to do?  Answer, bring her husband.

In what can only be described as a the biggest shocker of my marriage, it turns out my husband is a fantastic shopping companion.   He picks colors and styles that I wouldn’t notice. He is patient and generous with compliments but not so much that I don’t believe him.  He is the Andre Leon Talley to my Anna Wintour.  Who would have guessed?  We went to two or three stores and found enough new stuff to make me feel pretty but not so much to throw off our retirement planning.

This week I wore not an ounce of black or fleece or any combination of them.  I felt pretty good.  It felt like our life feels now, happy and cancer free.  A girl could get used to this.

 

Week 26: You may have noticed… June 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 1:50 pm

that I have not posted a resolution in a while.  This is not because I have stopped keeping them.  On the contrary, my weekly assignments are alive and well.  The essays about them are written, some partly, some fully, and some only in my head.  The surgery in the spring tripped me up a bit and led me to fall behind.  It doesn’t take much to derail good intentions, a busy week, a small complication from surgery, the ending of the school year all plot to overthrow the best laid plans of mice and Moms.

Then, out of the blue, inspiration strikes.  Being the dutiful procrastinator that I am, I promptly ignore it.  When it comes a second time though, you must listen.  So this week my resolution is to CATCH UP.  It wasn’t on my original list but perhaps it should have been.  If I am being honest with myself I should have seen the need for this week coming.  Fear not dear reader, in full disclosure, I never got to 52 resolutions on the list so this won’t displace some nobler goal that would have led directly to perfection.

Rob and I are fortunate to have extraordinary nieces on both sides of our family.  Truly, the next generation of women in the family are really something special.  One of my nieces, sent me a most wonderful email the other day with a link to a story she was writing.  Sadly, she is my husbands relative so any claim on her genetic ability is lost to me.  I’ll find a way to take credit for her eventually though.  She is a lovely young women inside and much to our dismay outside as well.  She is a double threat.  I read the story full of joy.  I enjoyed the characters and the story but most of all I loved the voice that I heard throughout.  It was Sara’s loud and clear and it felt as though I had spent a couple of hours with her when I was done.  When it comes down to it, isn’t that what writing is?  It is lending yourself to others.  When I am writing, I sometimes struggle with feeling like I am simply dominating the conversation, which of course I am, but there is usually a point to it.  Hearing Sara’s voice made me miss my own again.  I thank her for it.

Of course, though inspired, life came between the computer and me and so it took the second event to spur me to action.  The passing of Nora Ephron was acutely felt.  Her work was part of the fabric of my youth and her writing was groundbreaking.  I was listening to a radio piece discussing her life with her friend and fellow author who made the statement that the most important thing she did was be true to her voice.  Her writing makes you feel like you are having a one-sided conversation directly with her.  Once again, here it is, the voice that is so important.

I get caught up in trying to say something meaningful or thoughtful in my posts and the truth is that sometimes it doesn’t matter.  Regardless of whether there is anything to be gained by these posts they are true to me.  For better or worse, they are my voice.  I’ll speak up more soon.

 

Week 17: One hundred rungs of gratitude May 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 3:56 am

A few weeks ago I had a surgical procedure to remove my fallopian tubes and uterus.  My variety of breast cancer puts me at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer and uterine cancer was present in my family.  While the downside of removing my ovaries at such a young age is great, there is some research suggesting removing the fallopian tubes may lessen or delay the risk of developing ovarian cancer.  The plan was a two stage approach.  This first surgery is to be followed by another in three to five years to remove the ovaries.  Sounds fun huh.  In the meantime, regular blood work and ultrasound exams of my ovaries would hopefully alert me to any problems at an early, read treatable, stage.  That was how two Mondays ago I found myself in an OR waiting area once again.  This two stage approach is relatively novel and experimental.  Rob and I discussed all our options extensively with the gynecologist oncologist and were comfortable with our decisions.  What scared me out of my mind that morning was the consent form I was about to sign.  Though we had reviewed the consent thoroughly before, it was not actually signed until the morning of surgery.  The form began innocently enough with the stated removal of parts.  The scary part was the long list of potentials.  You see it was entirely plausible that once she opened up my belly she would find something that required further intervention.  It was agreed that if she found anything suspicious for cancer she would biopsy and proceed with staging which is a huge operation requiring weeks of recovery.  The thought was almost too much for me to bear.  I signed the paper, reminded the resident to stay the hell away from my ureters, and went to sleep.

My first thought upon waking was to find out which surgery I had just undergone, the little original one or the big one.  Anesthesia is  a funny thing in that when you first wake up from it there is no appreciable difference between an hour long case or a ten hour one.  I tried desperately to ask the recovery nurse but she must have suspected I was delirious and ignored my probing.  I changed my tactic and requested Rob repeatedly.  After what felt like hours they finally allowed him back and he was able to share the good news that all looked well.

This was especially welcome news given the last time I found myself in this situation. Shortly after my breast cancer diagnosis I was scheduled for a mastectomy with sentinel node biopsy and possible axillary dissection.  The evidence suggests that if the sentinel node or first node that the affected tissue drains to does not have cancer then the rest of the nodes do not either.  In my case, the sentinel node had the teeniest tiniest fleck of cancer that the pathologist happened to spot requiring the larger axillary dissection.  One of the worst moments of my life was waking from that surgery and having Rob say that they had to do the dissection.  I understood all too well the implications and was devastated.  In the end, all my axillary nodes were cancer free and the original fleck on my sentinel node was so small that there is some debate over whether to even count it at all.  Truly a best case scenario that I could not have envisioned lying in that bed.

Last week I flashed back to that moment and was overcome with gratitude.  In fact it was number thirty-four that day. Since I was having surgery that week I thought I would take on a resolution that was easy.  I didn’t want to be overwhelmed so I found one that required no physical effort.  One of my favorite books has an entire chapter devoted essentially to gratitude.  In it, it teaches of a Jewish tradition encouraging adults to say 100 blessings of gratitude a day.  We as a family try to say something we are grateful for every evening in November leading up to Thanksgiving but this is a whole new level of commitment.  In the book it acknowledges that to fill a quota that large no opportunity must be wasted.  As such, it describes the blessings beginning with the act of waking.  There is even a prayer for going to the bathroom because “wondrously, the tubes and passages that should be open are open and those that should be closed are closed.”  Perhaps it is the general surgeon in me but I remember those words resonated with me the instant I read them and have stayed with me ever since.  It is amazing that all the moving parts of the human body work as well as they do as often as they do and it is even more astonishing that we don’t celebrate it.  I thought one hundred blessings of gratitude would surely tune me in to the wonder all around me and what better week than one I was dreading and feeling sorry for myself over.

I have always found gratitude to be the special medicine that lifts my spirits.  When life is hardest, it is helpful to delineate the good that still exists.  As I was thinking of a title for this post it struck me that the blessings of gratitude are like rungs on a ladder that lift me above the everyday worries and hassles and show me the bigger, and usually better picture.  There are many large blessings in my life.  Not having any evidence of cancer in either myself or my daughter quickly come to mind.  Rob continues to build a successful practice, Joe and Jack are growing and happy.  We live in an incredible community.  Life is most assuredly good.  Those phrases of gratitude come quickly and easily.  The value of one hundred is that it forces you to look beyond the obvious.  You get down to the simplest of pleasures.  The delightful warmth of a heating pad, the aroma of coffee, the sounds of children playing outside are all part of my daily fabric that I tend to take for granted.  While it may seem strange that not having cancer shares space on the same list with my kids all having the same front cowlick that my father has, that week it made perfect sense.  Counting all my blessings large and small, it turns out, was time well spent.

 

Week 16: In the land of rocks and water April 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 3:06 pm

There was a moment on Tuesday morning in Yosemite when we crossed the line from being good parents to being badass parents or possibly just bad parents.  In my mind, it was when the paved road stopped and the dirt road began.  We were trying to find a trailhead and the dirt road seemed reasonable especially given the four-wheel drive vehicle we were driving.  The real turning point may have been the wrong turn ahead.  The guidebook we were using was, in retrospect, written before the second “road” was built.  This first attempt landed us at the edge of a strip of concrete covered with a waterfall.  Pretty, but not passable.  After turning around on the very steep and narrow patch of dirt just before the certain doom falls, I did have thoughts about scrapping the entire thing but I guess that is what Rob is for. To push me to do something, even when I am scared, because it could be amazing.  I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with three kids instead of just one.  We finally made it to the trailhead traversing rutted muddy paths and snow.  To say that we were the only ones around is not quite correct.  There were at least two people at a campsite visible from the trailhead but they didn’t seem like the kind of people who wanted company so we passed without a word.  We headed off into the trees with purpose.  We were seeking something special, something amazing.  As we walked, we joked about the children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt.  It was funny until we noticed some animal prints in the snow.  No, they weren’t bear prints…..mountain lion.  We tightened up the group and walked on.  The next patch of snow brought us to the bear prints.  I understand that most reasonable people probably would have turned around at this point but we were so close that we were compelled to continue.  A few jokes about bears and we were at our destination.  We turned a corner, looked up and in front of us was the most amazing tree I have ever seen.  It is called bull buck.  It is the second largest tree in the world.  Now, to be fair, I am a big fan of even the most ordinary tree.  I am easily impressed, but this creature would give a lumberjack pause.  You have to stand hundreds of feet away just to take a picture of it.  It is awe-inspiring.

There is a wonderful concept in Hasidic tradition that expresses the idea of balance.  “Keep two pieces of paper in your pockets at all times.  On one write, ‘I am a speck of dust.’  On the other, “The world was created for me.’” Staring up at that massive tree I truly understood this edict.  The tree was roughly 2700 years old.  It had been alive for the entirety of man’s modern history.  Every human I had ever known or read about was alive during it’s reign of the forest.  It’s size and status completely dwarfed even the most productive human let alone me.  I was completely humbled.  Yet…..yet, there was the unmistakable feeling that this tree was planted 2700 years ago but an unseen hand just so I could gaze upon it on a Tuesday morning in April and feel loved.  That probably sounds crazy but that is, in a nutshell, the feeling of divine love I felt while taking in the sight of bull buck.

The largeness and longevity of such a creature puts things into lovely perspective.  What am I going to make for dinner tonight seems like a laughable question in the face of such a creature yet this question torments me on a near daily basis.  Complaints about bad drivers and coworkers, perceived slights and kids schedules all pale in the face of bull buck.  These things seem to bounce from him and disappear fulfilling their own insignificance.  Even a big thing like, my daughter had cancer last summer didn’t stick to him, though it didn’t bounce either.  Instead, bull buck seemed to absorb it as if to say don’t worry I got this one.  Mixed in with the 2700 years of witnessed sorrows and joys it felt like a good place to leave it.

As we turned around to head back to the car I felt lighter.  Though we still had mountain lion, bear tracks, snow, and rutted paths to cross before we reached the road, the worst felt behind us.  Sharing worry and sorrow with a 2700 year old tree might not be for everyone, but if you find yourself on this path in the woods one day, I highly recommend it.

 

Nothing but pine trees as far as the eye can see April 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 11:25 pm

We are sitting in our hotel room near Yosemite.  Joe is playing with the crappy toy contents of his Easter eggs as though they were beloved treasures. Jack and Rob are having a rousing game of go fish.  Jack is winning. Olivia is covering her body with stamps.  Life is good.  The trip has had some bumps.  Jack threw up the very first night and his health went down from there.  I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say that he is going home with significantly less clothing than we came with.  Sometimes it’s just not worth saving the unders and shirts that bear the brunt of a sick kid.  The hotel that was chosen for us was just outside the southern entrance of Yosemite so to get to the Yosemite valley where the waterfalls and big rocks are took about an hour and a half of driving on a windy steep mountain road.  We have spent more time in the car on this vacation than we typically do in a month at home.
It was not all driving and puking though.  The first day we went ice skating in the rink at our hotel.  It was the first time on the ice for all of our kids and they really enjoyed it.  There is a former Olympic ice skater who now works at the hotel and she took Olivia on the ice to spin and play.  The look on Olivia’s face as she was spun around and around was one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Ultimately, we would have done things differently if we were allowed more input but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.  We had a chance to spend precious downtime together as a family and I am grateful for it.  I have done a good job of focusing on the  present moment and not thinking too much about the life that awaits us back home.  As a wise Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  This week we stopped and looked around and I really like what we saw.

 

Week 15: This moment is a gift that is why it is called the present. April 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lputhenp @ 6:22 pm

As most of you know we are planning a trip to Yosemite.  Invariably, at work and at play we often focus on the past and future at the cost of the present.  Next week, I resolve to put the present in the spotlight.  This is harder than you might think especially for Rob and me.  Planning and delaying gratification are essential to becoming a good physician but we elevate it to an art form. We max out retirement accounts, drive a 13-year-old minivan, and still use the same bedroom furniture that we got from a thrift store in college.  This is the first nuclear family vacation we have ever taken that didn’t also involve a conference.  Some of that is because of the big C but not all.  Next week though, I plan to throw planning out the window and just exist moment to precious moment.  By the way I do realize I just stated I plan to not plan but baby steps ya know.

We are trying to go into next week with no expectations other than to be together as a family and see what kind of tree trouble we can get into.  The only goal Rob has set for the trip is to spend one afternoon napping with our children.  Don’t worry I will pack sunscreen, and bug spray, and layers.  But, I will make a real effort to not look too far into the future while at Yosemite.  I resolve to not think about next week, or next year because the false sense of control planning gives me is folly.  Nothing is guaranteed and this resolution will pay homage to that fact.

People often say that vacations will produce memories that last a lifetime.  Making memories are a funny thing.  Joe had a first grade choral concert the other day and I was amazed at all the parents who spent the entire concert jockeying for position with their smart phones to capture the concert in video.  They ended up watching the entire thing live via their phone instead of with their own eyes.  I can’t help but think none of them will ever re watch the rousing rendition of Alabama Gals again but live in person it was perfection.  So while we will surely take pictures in the park I won’t waste time getting the perfect pose.

Next week will surely be a challenge but if we can meet it in any way it will be a gift.  As Mother Theresa once said, ” Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

 

 
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