The Prom-Mom's Perspectives and Ramblings...

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Art of Packing~

Not to brag, but spending 6 straight months packing a bag nearly once every week really does turn one into a near packing-expert.
The first trip we packed for, we really weren't sure whether or not we'd be coming home. My GP had sort of set us up mentally to expect surgery right at the beginning of this whole journey and he'd of been right had there not been cancer in my lymphnodes. But in confirming multiple abnormal lymphs through all the initial OHSU tests, the plan, as most of you know, took a huge turn and chemotherapy became the first trail.

I wish so badly that we'd of taken a picture of the bags and bags that mom and I and Jill had in tow for that trip!!! Oh my. Funny.

So funny.

Of course, I had one bag just for the things we planned to 'decorate' my hospital room with---tons of awesome frames, keepsakes, meaningful trinkets and verses--all things I will be re-gathering in a few weeks for my real upcoming surgery.

Another bag was dedicated to comfy hospital clothes and any button-down shirts we could find in our houses, knowing that the doctors wouldn't be allowing any extreme arm-lifting movements, if even for just putting on a shirt. (Yes, this is going to be the case in three weeks, also.)

The second trip we took, after we knew it was not for surgery, was quite down-sized...though I'll admit now that it was still far from modest. A simple one night stay--a Sunday night to Monday afternoon--and still probably three outfits, three pairs of under garments, a couple of different coats, a large variety of jewelry and hair things (as I had not yet lost my hair), my computer charger as well as my phone charger, three or four different pairs of socks and shoes, a couple of books, a couple of crafting projects, and even the 'just in case' things you bring for those unexpected scenarios... ie: sunglasses in case it's suddenly sunny in the dead middle of winter?! ha!
The next three or four trips were the same type of over-packing. It wasn't really until the fifth week in a row that, out of sheer experience and exhaustion of doing so, I revamped my ways.
Mom--my side-kick in I-5 travel--even had a good laugh with me about it as we were leaving on one week...'Look at how much lighter and smaller our bags are!', we both exclaimed.

By week ten, I felt I'd crossed and earned a new level of packer-respect... call me frequent traveler and pin the expert badge -->right here<-- please.
So what do my bags look like now you ask? Oh, I'm so glad you asked. ;)

I still use the same bag---a wonderful pink duffle gifted to me from my precious friend Julie at the very beginning of this journey---and it has it's place under an accent chair in my room on the days between our weekly going and coming.
In it's right front pocket, one pair of clean undergarments for the one night we stay on an average basis and one to two head-wraps/scarves, while the left front pocket permanently holds a small overnight bag with just the very basic hygiene essentials. The big inside compartment is emptied upon each return and is re-filled with the following basics each new week: one pair of pants, two shirts, one pair of socks, one pair of pj's, one sweater/sweatshirt/light jacket, one pair of shoes, one lap-top in case, one special blanket (during infusion weeks) and small travel pillow, one docs box (on physician-appt weeks) and one wallet--filled with at least one twenty-dollar bill (for insurance co-pay), ID and basic wallet essentials.
Yes, I stopped bringing my whole purse, as even that got old to cart around, unnecessarily.
Finally, on the very top of the bag, in another small pocket (such a great bag with all it's storage!) phone charger, equipped with a USB option on the end of it so I could plug it into mom's computer and save myself from bringing two chargers. All about minimalism here, peeps! ;)

The true beauty of this 'system' is that Sunday rolls around and since I already have an entire other bag to pack (the little men's), effort and time is of the precious essence. Effort-wise, it's really not bad. Time-wise? 10-min max...that's all I need. What is that compared to before??


I never really timed myself, but just taking an estimated stab, I was probably at upwards of an hour. Really. One. hour. To pack just myself! 

What. a. waste.

As with every leg of this journey, there is something to be said for this improvement. Sure, it's great that I am now a pretty fast packer... but I think the even bigger lesson--the even bigger GAIN--lies in the fact that I no longer pack in vain. I pack only what is necessary, just the basics of what will be needed for the trip...and no more.

In thinking about this over the past few months, I've realized that this is much like the lesson I am learning in life right now. What unnecessary things have I filled my life with that are just unneeded? What can be removed from my 'bag' to lighten the load and make things more simple for myself and our family?

There are two different verses I appreciate and cling to on this topic:

Ecclesiates 2:11-'Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil that I had expended in doing it, and behold, it was all vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.'
Psalm 119:37- 'Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me Life in your Ways.'

So, ask yourself today about your 'art of packing.' Do you carry around a lot of unnecessary things? Do you need to review what you force yourself to pack out of sheer vanity?
Or are you just surviving (and THRIVING!) on the basic necessities, keeping your load light and your life uncluttered...allowing God to provide anything missed or 'unexpected?'
If you are carrying tons of extra stuff just because you think you may 'need' it, I have to tell you from at least my own experience...the only thing you'll gain is a broken zipper and a very shallow life~

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dear Daughter~

This is a letter I typed a while ago when it became totally real that we will not be able to have anymore babies, due to this journey. My mama's-heart was extremely sad from this news, but even more disheartening was the realization that I will never get the chance to have a daughter--something that has always meant a lot to me, even as a child, years ago.
This letter is just a prayer, not intended to sound ungrateful for the gifts that I already have, rather just an expression of my heart--the loss that is present there from knowing I may never get to share a mother-daughter relationship, which I know, from experience, is just a different kind of special~

I spent so much of my childhood envisioning you...
dreaming about the relationship we'd have, innocently mirroring the one Nana and I have, also, as mother and daughter.

When I married daddy *with his Norwegian roots* my dreams of you became even more perfected...
even more detailed.

You were to be born bald, cause that's just the McGee/Ziebart curse--though both of your brother's proved that even a little skiff of dark hair was possible against all other odds. But by the time you were a year old, you had beautiful soft, shiny blonde locks...and you inherited your daddy's pretty blue eyes, like your brother Lincoln.

Blonde haired, blue-eyed... soft, and meek.
This is how mommy saw you in dreams.

Other physical aspects that both of your brother's received from us were yours, too. Long, beautiful fingers ('piano hands,' as our family calls them), the charming, blue eyes that I already mentioned... though yours I think were even bigger than the boys'...glassier and rounder, too. Ears like mommy's, that stuck out just enough to make you, what I call, 'cartoon cute,' even though I detested mine as a little girl. Sorry, but you got them, anyway. :-P

Things you possessed all your own are a bit foggy for me still. Some I can see, others I used to tell myself would be revealed once you existed beyond mommy's heart. You did have a soft voice though--maybe something that you got from daddy--but I still like to 'hear' it and think that it really was just yours, uniquely. You also had your own very special ability to reach your daddy's core in a way that none of us other three possibly could. I see you so clearly, with your tiny femininity, climbing quietly onto your daddy's lap, melting him without a single word--his strong hands tenderly holding you close on his thigh as he pulls down your cute little dress with his other hand to preserve your precious modesty.
This, perhaps, I am mourning the most...never getting the chance to witness this.

You see...
your brother's are the biggest most undeserved blessing that God has given daddy and me and we cherish them beyond anything else in this world. But you only ever lived in my mommy's heart--and my desire for you was perhaps completely and utterly selfish...what I dreamed of having the opportunity to experience. The deepest part me daydreamed about doing your hair in the many 'do's' I very purposely learned on my barbies and baby-dolls as an early adolescent. It's pathetic perhaps that I can even close my eyes and feel your soft strands of baby-hair in between my fingers as I french-braid it. But it's there...I can't help it because you are just too real.

I know typing this to you is pretty silly...maybe even ludicrous and selfish to some...but it helps me to 'paint' you with real words so that I can let you go and hopefully let my heart finally rest.
I can focus on your two, beautiful brother's and how fortunate I am to have such gifts.
I can embrace my two, beautiful niece's and let them fill some of the void that dreams of you created.

But before I do dear, sweet daughter of my heart, I just need you to know something very important...

I love you.

I started loving you long, long ago...
and I never stopped. 

I adored you.
I was proud of you.
I wanted you and still do.
I could never see our family fully 'complete' without you.
I dreamt of you through every beautiful mother and daughter I saw at the park or the store.

But since I can't have you, I pray that God creates you anyway... and that you are born, somewhere out there, to a mommy completely deserving of you... who raises you to know your Awesome, Heavenly Father, and treats you like the beautiful, little angel that you really are.

And maybe, if I'm lucky enough, our life-path's will cross...just so that I get the chance to see, with my earthly eyes, what a true beauty you are.

And if and when that day comes and the circumstances in which your mommy and I meet are more personal and sweet...I really hope I can braid your hair~

Mouse below this line to hear a song that a former-student wrote based on this post:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Femininity...what's that?

Funny how losing my head hair---rather shaving my head before completely losing it--really didn't make me feel that much less like a female. Losing the rest of my hair however, particularly my eyelashes and eyebrows, started up the initial 'sub-human'/partial-alien' feelings, yet it wasn't really until the later parts of chemo that the absence of 'beauty' and femininity really crept in.
The more 'male-like' bathroom 'engagements' from all the fun gastro-intestinal side-effects. The onset of menopause symptoms...not to say that that's not a woman thing, but it does encompass all that is 'young woman', passed. My fingernails becoming discolored--that was, for some reason, just one more shred of girly-ness, gone. 

But the tip of the iceberg has to be the actual, spoken plans of chopping off 'the girls.'
Not to be too crass or offensive, but if I didn't know I still have a 'hoo-hoo' down there I think I might be experiencing downright gender-identity issues, ha! :-P

Really though. 
It's AMAZING to me the things we take for granted--mind you, they are of NO matter to God--but they are still things of this life that, in our flesh, help us define ourselves.
Once upon a time, I complained that my girls and gravity had finally met each other and the 'perk' of my twenties had officially passed go and not collected two-hundred. 
Once upon that same time, I scoffed at women who would ever consider fake breasts, if just for cosmetic reasons, but naively categorized such surgery into one judgmental 'insecure reasoning.' Yet yesterday, I spend the day discussing the very plans to give me such.


Even one of my best girlfriends had a good laugh at the irony of a conversation we had in the not so distant past when I'd preached 'Implants? Oh, I'd never!'--ha. Thanks for that shoe-in-mouth, Lord. ;)

Of course, the emotions tied to the good, sweet memories of breast-feeding my children are there...but those are linked to the even deeper, nearly gut-wrenching emotion that I'm done having children anyway, so the breast-feeding becomes inapplicable.

The idea of having absolutely zero feeling in either is also a big bite to chew on. Not that any of you need a gross sex-ed lesson from this, but let's face it--that fact really does stink!

Just the surgeries to create them for this no-surgeries gal is a bit to digest when described in pure facts of incisions and scarring ...and possibilities, possibilities, possibilities galore!
ALL to 'recreate' some part of my femininity.


Sorry, but for me it's hard to feel like someone stretching my skin and placing silicone-filled sacks under my peck muscles gives me back some of my woman-hood. For me, fake is fake, and what the originals did to help me function as a female was a lot more than sit on the front of my body, looking 'boob-y.' They produced the very hormones that got me into this mess--the female ones.

There's a shirt that read's 'Yes, they're fake... the real ones tried to kill me' and yes...I FULLY intend on purchasing that shirt... cause the fact of the matter is, my feminine hormones and my original set of girls really did try to cut my life short.
So, goodbye girls. It's been a trip... and though we really never had any fights before this, we can no longer be friends.

As far as those evil hormones, we were confirmed at this week's appointments that I will be infused with a chemo called Herceptin that is a target drug to kill off those hormone receptors every three weeks for the next year, as well as a take an oral hormone receptor BLOCKER for the next 5 to 10 years of my life.
Yes, so much for my thirties and any shred of child-bearing years I may of had left, haha.

But what's the trade for all this femininity?

I'm selling it for more days of living.
And when I think of it that way, I can almost hear Howie Mandel's voice saying
'Hayley Ziebart...You made a good deal!'~

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Next Chapter...

Hard to believe it's been nearly six whole months since the day we first got the cancer report. Weird to think that just shy of four days of that half-year anniversary we'll be in a meeting to discuss the next part of this journey.

With the chemo trail officially behind us and one more 'bad week' worth of a 'break' coming to an end, we sit now at the bottom of the next trail.


Now before you go thinking I have tons of dates and answers for you, don't get your hopes up quite yet. What we have right now is just the date to set dates, meet surgeons, talk surgery plans and begin grasping this next big part of the hike.

This coming Tuesday, mom and I will be headed back up the freeway--a drive that has certainly lost it's 'luster'--not that it ever had much, ha! All day Wednesday will be a series of tests much like the ones that kicked off this whole journey. MRI, ultrasound, heart echo, EKG, bone scan, pet scan, cat scan, and mammogram will all be routinely carried out in order that my medical team can re-stage the tumor and provide their professional opinions concerning my continued treatment.
Aaron absolutely can't miss anymore days than necessary at the clinic since he's the only one seeing patients.. and therefore every day missed is income lost for us.. so he'll be making the trek separately on Wednesday night so he can be present at the surgeon meetings on Thursday.

What Aaron and I both feel at this point, prior obviously to next week's meetings, is that I will be opting to have a bilateral mastectomy (lemans terms: both 'girls' removed), and during that procedure, have chest expanders inserted in preparation of future reconstructions. There will also inevitably be a certain amount of lymphnode removal (termed: lymphadenectomy), for which I hope and pray will not be more than the small handful that were found abnormal in my initial testing. Although as of now, all are 'clear' from successful chemo treatments, I've already been told that leaving them in there is not an option. Once they have shown abnormalities, they must go. This means the possibility of facing other things after the case which I will not go into now, nor will I waste energies on worrying over, but it is agreed by all the experts that the importance of their removal far outweighs all possible side-effects.

I've never been anything but real in this blog, and I'm certainly not going to stop now.
I am mortified at the idea of surgery--so many scars--suddenly not being the physical person I've grown 'comfortable with' for the past 33 years of life. It's a very weird thought, indeed..but certainly not one that many haven't faced. I still can't decide whether I'd rather just immediately lose some limbs, like in a horrible accident, or have so much time to 'prepare' for doing so.

But in the end, it's just a body.

I am reminded of the many examples in the bible where flesh is the superficial. All of our bodies are dying and fading away from the moment we're born. They don't nor should they ever define us. They are not who we are, rather just the shell that we function within.

God OWNS my body. He designed it, created it and has complete control over it. He is not concerned with it...nor does He want me to be. He makes that very clear in His Word to us and now more than ever these Truths are what I am learning to cling to.

God is concerned with my spirit only. My body can endure whatever this life may bring upon it, but my spirit and the mingling of that spirit with His Spirit cannot be touched. That eternal relationship cannot be tampered with and it can never be compromised.

So when you are looking in the mirror next--examining and picking apart all your imperfections--remember two things for me:

Firstly, be grateful for a healthy, working body--assuming you are blessed with one.
And secondly, remember that concerning yourself with your superficialities is a sad waste of precious time that you could and should be using to work on things of more eternal matter~

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cancer talk...

It seems like any time I go out in public these days, I run into someone I know or who recognizes me and 'knows' me through 'a sister of a cousin of a friend' or what have you. One of my friends recently said 'I feel like your a celebrity' when we were out and about--to which I scoffed, laughed and reminded her we live in a small town where just living here means you know half the population, cancer of not. ;)

Anyway. The conversations are all so similar.
We heard/read the latest. We're praying. How are you? What's next?

Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. Blah. Blah Blah. .....

A friend spouted off over the phone this past week yet another common one... 'I'm sure you're sooo tired of talking about cancer', to which I replied... yes, I am. Cancer is not a nice topic. It's not a nice word. In fact, there really isn't ANYTHING NICE THING AT ALL about cancer.

However, something very significant dawned on me recently while I was 'meditating' on this entry and subject area.

'Cancer talk' consumes my interactions with people because I am THAT BLESSED to have many--like hundreds, many--be that concerned with and for my life.

This is me pausing .................................. IN. AWE.

What makes me so special?! Lots of people deal with cancer. In fact, I cannot believe how many people I participate in 'cancer talk' with who know someone whose been there... Fought it. Won. Lost.
It's not even that uncommon to have someone tell me they themselves faced it at one point in life.

Like someone on a KPIC post for one of the fundraisers held for us commented, 'What makes this girl so special...she just has breast cancer, lots of women in Roseburg have had breast cancer.'
I actually posted a reply to him saying, 'I agree!' haha. Cause I do.

Yet, the continued uplifting messages. Cards. Hats. Hugs. Public approaches. Fundraisers. Prayers.

I am sick of talking about cancer.
But NO, I'm not DONE talking about it, because every time I receive another opportunity to do so, I am reminded of how utterly surrounded by love and concern I am.
Frankly, in the midst of all that is totally and utterly awful about cancer, those 'talks' and what they stand for recharge my desire to 'kick it in the bottom' so I can be semi-guaranteed future 'non-cancer talks' with the many of you who have proven your love and desire to see me move past it and get back to just living~

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dare to Live In Joy...

Since this whole journey started, one of the most awesome results of 'awakening' to life and it's preciousness (and having others do the same through my circumstances), has been reconnecting with the many people that have graced my last 33 yrs of life.
It really is quite incredible how many people bob in and out of this short, earthly life of ours.
Though perhaps even more mind-blowing is realizing that every single one of them was strategically and thoughtfully placed in it!

Though I've already experienced, yet not blogged, about some significant reunions as a result of the 'grapevine' (especially in our tiny little town) working it's way around, this past weekend was particularly moving--so much so that these fingers can't type another 'blog of the heart' until this gets laid down.

By the most lovely of intentions, an old high school friend decided just a few weeks ago that we needed a reunion of old friends. Life is flying by, things have changed so much and before any more changes, it was time. To that we all said 'amen, lady!'--and so, she began arranging it.
Thanks to modern technology and social networking, in three weeks time we had a plan. Being that this very same friend and myself had unsuccessfully arranged such a get together for just her and I multiple times in recent years, I was a bit embarrassed at just how easy and fast it all came together! But hey...let's just leach onto the excuse that in all years before cancer, I've been a complete numbskull with little grasp on time and life's preciousness.

You hear it all the time... LIFE. IS. SHORT. But it really is!

Perhaps the redundancy of it's use makes us complacent to it's wisdom--but we need to remind ourselves that it's used so much because there are many around us who have had that 'wake up call'--
You may not live until your 80.

I know. Sorry to burst your bubble. 
But statistically speaking, you likely will not.
Just in talking with another awesome sister-friend tonight, I admitted that before cancer, I really did think I was going to live that long of a life. Everything in my thought process was 'Oh, I still have another 50+ years.... my life's not even half over, yet!' 
HA! Like any of us know that. But it's amazing how many of us think that way!

Anyway. Whatever the case, I'm over being that naive and this weekend felt like the beginning of new wisdom--in more ways than one.

Sunday, while driving out to the reunion, I found myself thinking a lot about one particular person I knew would be there. A girl who got me through some of the roughest parts of high school life--not because we sat around having tons of deep heart-to-hearts or completed each other's sentences--but because she literally did then and still has the most unusually amazing take on and relationship with life itself and the precious minutes that add up our short lifetime.

I remember my days with her so fondly, yet am ashamed to admit my inconsistent drive for zest, willingness to dare, and wisdom to be free from silly adolescent social bounds. Little things like posing for a picture in the most obscure and random way because who the heck wants to see just another stand and smile photo?! I'd nearly forgotten about it all--the feeling of allowing myself such wonderful, child-like joy--and my heart suddenly ached harder than ever at the lesson that this girl, even years ago, was strategically placed in my life to teach me.
Life's too short to live every moment in such dull, systematic and lonely ways.

They say hindsight is the best wisdom and I'm really beginning to understand this more and more, everyday. I have so much hindsight about self breast-examinations, clueless and/or careless medical communities...things related to this journey. I have so much hindsight about goals I have for our family, leaving the lunch mess for a while to read that favorite story book again with my eager sons. 
Little did I know, however, how much hindsight I'd gain from all the people who are 'treking' this journey alongside me.

God has given us, ALL, gifts. Each of us has a special design, made to 'mingle' nicely--purposely--with those He brings in and out of our lives.
My girl-friend's gift is joy.
Joy in food. Joy in sunshine. Joy in rain. Joy in baby chicks. Joy in laughing. Joy in silliness. Joy in childishness. Joy in a great hat or a simply outlandish article of clothing. Joy in a good story. Joy in building others up. Joy in triumph.
Joy in THE LORD.

As she said to me Sunday, while practically lifting me over her head in a massive and near bone-crushing *but awesome* bear-hug, 'I really didn't even realize how much I've missed you'...
and oh how mutual that feeling is!

On my drive home I was able to soak in how much I really didn't see or understand as her God-planned purpose in my life back then, like I do now.

Yes, she brought me joy then, absolutely. But to ask me now what that joy means?
Well, all I can say is I'm honored to know someone who genuinely grasps that every moment of life is a God-given, Jesus-sacrificed gift! That in every moment and most all circumstances there is a reason to all out gut-laugh if you just look at it from the right perspective. That sleeping through this life (like I was) in a dull, systematic manner isn't really living it and honoring the extreme sacrifice made for us to have it.

So from this point forward, if we're laying on the wet ground or jumping into the nearby bush to take a unique picture...I so get it... and I am so with her! And who knows, maybe if I'm wise enough to really , truly dare to Live In Joy, I'll be in that bush before she is~

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Four R's...

Red Bullet. Radical Surgery. Reconstruction. Radiation.
There you have it. The four R's of this mighty journey back to health.

I can't say enough, from the confines of my cushy yet somehow encumbering place on the couch, about how READY (another r-word) I am to be done with the first leg of this journey!
The 'red bullet' has more than earned it's rightful title---bringing with it all sorts of 'fun.'
In the past seven weeks, the lovely red (along with the many meds prescribed to me for it's affects) has made sure I received the all inclusive experience... heartburn, constipation, nausea, acid-reflux, hot-flashes, hair-loss--all the rest that hadn't gone yet--skin sensitivity, cold/flu symptoms, respiratory pressure and shortness of breath, metallic taste-buds (or just none at all), broken sleep, muscle soreness, bone ache, fatigue and overall complete lack of energy. I'm sure there are some I overlooked, but this is not to keep score or throw a pity-party, rather simply to provide an insight to my physical-being realities at the moment.

It's funny what poison physically does to a body. I wouldn't recommend it for unnecessary reasons, that's for sure. ;) Of course, as many keep reminding me... 'If that's what it's doing to you, just think about what it's doing to the cancer!' Indeed. That is a nice thought...... and I most certainly hope and PRAY it is doing something to the cancer so not all this momentary endurance is a complete loss, ha!

As we near the Red Bullet's last 'heeve-ho'--infusion #4 of the 'red-dread'--I struggle a bit to not think about the next trail. No, I'm not worrying or fretting over things in God's Hands and I haven't lost sight of the fact that He's leading the way... but it is still MY physical body that is enduring and this is all new... unfamiliar. A lot of people don't know that I have never even had a surgery before--not even a broken bone before this! Call that irony, for sure.
Many of you have asked about the impending surgeries and what they will look like. I haven't really been able to answer that question because frankly, we don't have all the details yet, either.
What I CAN say, however, is the discussions Aaron and I have had about it and that we both feel anything less than a radical double mastectomy is just not being careful enough. Both of our guts tell us that the 'girls gotta go' so this is the serious discussion we will be having with my assigned surgeon, plastic-surgeon, oncologist and nurse practitioner in just a few weeks from now. I most certainly will blog about those discussions and the decisions made from them concerning the surgery trail, I promise.

We still have a LOT of hiking ahead--though in some ways, I feel I really did trek the scariest trail, first... even though when I'm being completely honest from my flesh side of things, I am terrified of the surgeries, scars and procedures ahead.

I was just telling a friend the other day that I still find myself awaking in the middle of the night, wishfully wondering if it was/is in fact all a dream. Who can blame a person. ;)

Above all else, no matter how many other R's still lay ahead, my REDEEMER went before them!

Thank you, all, for your continued support. Our church family, for your ongoing thoughtful meal-providing and gas help...friends and family for your ongoing messages of love and support...and all other loved ones and even new acquaintances for your ongoing prayers.

You are holding the four of us up more than you will ever know~

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