Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The days tick down like water slowly dipping from a faucet--maddening, predictable, yet with a tight intensity lurking beneath the surface; it's as if each drip is tightening a screw, or pushing a boundary, and the danger is a sudden rupture or failure.  I don't just mean within Mark, I mean as a metaphor for the situation itself.  It is quietly tense, the waiting is just as suspenseful as waiting on a verdict, and then, yesterday, it came.


I was out on the canals, taking a long walk to clear my angry head.  I woke up in a foul mood, one of those days where you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  I was angry over the whole situation.  I had nightmares that night, and woke up and cried, and then just lay in my bed feeling waves of anger and sorrow washing over me, as strong as any physical tide.  So, I decided the best plan of action was not to just remain in bed stewing (which I had considered), but to get up and out, and let the wind and the sun clear away the damage.

As soon as I started down the path, earbuds in, Joyce Meyer going, my phone started blowing up.  That irritated me even further initially, until I saw it was Dr. H.  My breath caught, and for a second, I contemplated letting it go to voice mail.  I wasn't sure I could handle the call alone, but that instant of cowardice immediately passed, and I picked up the call.  Dr. H. was as jovial and to the point as usual, "Pancreatic, I'm afraid, as we had suspected, but hoped against.  But, don't lose hope, his case is extremely unusual, so perhaps he has a fighting chance!"  Then, he began to list all of the week's goings ons, including port surgery, chemo consultations, and chemo itself.  I just slowed my pace down until I came to a bench, and after we hung up, sat there staring at the ducks in the canal.

After a while of just feeling the wind and the sun, I roused myself, and called Mark.  From the conversation, I could tell the doctor had not called him.  He had left me to the task.  I decided not to tell him that news over the phone, it was not a kind or caring way to do that.  When Mark asked if I had heard news from the doctor, I said he had just given me some information about changing the appointments around, but hopefully we would hear something by the end of the day.  I know it was a white lie, but it could not be helped.

I pulled myself slowly together, went home and washed up, left a steak for Anthony, and headed out to meet him.  I told him the diagnosis at the end of his work day, when we were alone, and he was finished and closing up his office.  He took it stoically and resignedly.  We both knew this was a possibility, we had just prayed it wasn't, but we knew it could be, so it wasn't a complete shock.  We hugged, left quietly, and went back to his mother's farmhouse where he could rest and I could make him a light supper.

We talked about his wishes, final arrangements, and other things that made me so sad and queasy inside, but he initiated it, and I had to respect him, and give him a measure of control over the possibilities, so he can feel at peace with everything that is going on.  He told me all he wanted done should he lose his battle, and I promised him it would be so.  He said wanted his post-funeral luncheon at the restaurant we had our wedding reception in, so he could feel as if he is there with us.  I cried about that all night, the thought of it, the bittersweet mix of grief and memories of past happiness that would be there, even if he wasn't.

But, I resolved myself to help him battle this out to the end.  Cancer is not going to claim another person in my life without getting a good ass-whooping itself.  It's a dark, vampire entity, and we are busting out the garlic (literally!) and every weapon in the arsenal.  Cancer, watch out.

Friday, April 19, 2013


It's nice and quiet this morning, with the occasional car passing by, and the sound of the rain hitting the window.  I slept very late this morning, almost until 10 a.m., but I don't care.  I needed it, for sure.

Mark also got some rest, and was off to work as usual today.  He says he feels better, and for that, I am happy.  He will be doctor free (hopefully) until Tuesday, when he goes in for his port.  I know how important it is for him to have his life back, and to be able to do the things he usually does, so being able to work, visiting friends and new places, go out for dinner, etc. are all things we are looking forward to getting back to doing.  It's been a really tough month.

In the quiet, I find myself disconcerted.  Now that I have time to think and breath, I feel anxious.  I look at my paint brushes, and find they just stare back at me absently.  They don't beckon me, and I don't feel compelled to pick them up.  It is a strange feeling.  I just stare out the window at the rain, as if a giant blister has enveloped my mind, both drowning and insulating it at the same time.  I don't feel anything, just anxious, and it's a vague, queasy anxiousness, an anticipatory anxiousness, as if I was waiting for something, and I don't know what.

I was so exhausted last night, and I had tons of stuff to do.  I had to enlist Gabby's help, poor girl, because I had to be both in Tamaqua to pick up Noelle and in Brodheadsville to pick up Anthony at the same time, and did not know how to navigate that.  She was gracious and offered to drive Anthony home, since she was only a few miles away.  I got Noelle, and by the time we all got back to the house, dropped them off, and left to get my truck (I had left it at the hospital yesterday and drove Mark home in his car), it was close to midnight.  Everyone was hungry for a "midnight snack," so we went through the drive thru for some forbidden food, got my truck, and I bid Gabby "goodnight" and thank you.

As I pulled into the driveway at home, we have a very large streetlight that fully lights up our driveway.  I got out of the car with my arms filled with a bag of junk food, sodas, purse, keys, cellphones, miscellaneous papers, etc., and as I closed the door to the car, the reflection in the window showed a figure running up behind me!  It startled me so bad I dropped most of everything (including spilling Dr. Pepper down the front of my shirt), and whirled around, expecting to see someone literally face to face with me.  I stood there a minute, looked around the car, composed myself, picked everything up, and spooked, walked toward the house.  I saw movement by the bushes then, and that was enough.  I burst into a full sprint to the house, got inside, and locked everything up, and delivered the disheveled food.  I guess it was my mind playing tricks on me.  I guess...either way, sleep was a welcome friend last night!

So, for today, I don't know.  I don't know.  I guess I am on autopilot, and things will figure themselves out as the day wears on.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cancer sucks.

So, weeks have stretched on, days and days of test after horrible test, and we know that whatever cancer it is, the metastases need to be dealt with quickly, since that is the immediate threat to Mark. Biopsies, scopes, scans, blood workups, etc. and nothing shows why he keeps needing blood transfusions. I asked if it could be bone marrow failure, and that may be a possibility, but no one will know until the bloodwork is back, so we wait and wait.

 Cancer is a never-ending waiting game. If you don't learn to deal with it, you will go insane for sure. Mark's up-and-down scopes were done today, and he could barely get himself up to bed. He was so drained from the the disgusting gallon of liquid he had to drink for the last 24 hours, plus no food, plus his counts being so low, he was staggering like a drunken sailor by the time we pulled into the driveway, and I was fearful he wouldn't be able to make it up the steps into bed. Thankfully, he did, and is sleeping comfortably now. Day by day is how we go.

 I feel so drained, and frustrated. I feel helpless to answer his questions, and I am hardpressed to interpret what the doctor's tell me, and state the message both truthfully, compassionately, and in a way that will inspire him to continue to hope and fight. I am exhausted now too, and we are only a month into this nightmare. Prayers and praying help, and I have to just take it very very slow and not deal with the little things, just focus on the bigger issues in our day to day.

 Yesterday, the high school called while I was in conference call with the doctor. They kept beeping and beeping persistently through, to the point where I thought it was some sort of an emergency, and put the doctor on hold for a moment. It was so a teacher could complain that my 17 year old young adult "sassed" her. Guess what? Deal with it yourself, Miss Teacher. 17 year-olds know the rules, and know that Mommy really can't do anything to punish them, especially in the midst of a crisis, so either my 17 year old follows the rules, or Miss Teacher does what she needs to do to discipline her. I told her that specifically, that my child is now a young adult, and "telling" on her to me was no longer the right course of action. To be frank, my 17 year-old needs to make up her own mind whether or not she wants to continue with her education and follow the rules, or not. That's the bottom line. Mommy can't repair everything any more, and Mommy needs to focus on her incredibly ill husband--that's where Mommy's responsibilities are.

 Now, some people may find that offensive, but I don't care. I am old school, and I believe that if you are 17, can do whatever you feel like doing without your parents being able to do a thing about it, as is much of the case nowadays, then young adults can start taking responsibility for their actions as well. Bottom line. Do the right thing, or pay the consequences in your life--all people need to learn that, and when you are 17, it's a good time to begin. So, giving up the director's chair in everyone else's life has been a good start, and one of self-preservation. I have to help Mark get through this, and keep my own sanity as well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sucker punched

The news takes your breath away: cancer.  It's as if someone rings your doorbell, and when you answer it, you get sucker punched in the face.  There is no way to respond to it with any degree of logic or rationale...it just sucks away all of the air in your lungs, all of the reason in your mind.

That was the news we are facing. Cancer.  How?  Why?  All of the usual thoughts start swirling around...and then the fear grips you like a boa constrictor, getting tighter with each breath.  I have to just shake away the negative, and move with the positive and constructive.

So, Mark is ill.  I still can't comprehend it.  The enormity of it is so large, it's like squeezing an elephant into your Volkswagen Beetle.

Now, he just needs help, kindness, understanding, and support.  We must get him situated, we must get him into his treatment immediately, and we must make sure we can all work together to make sure his days are happy ones, ones that will bring him peace and comfort, no matter what God decides for him.

So, we begin the odyssey. Biopsies, surgeries, chemotherapy... I pray for strength, wisdom, courage, and faith.  For all of us.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


"Quiet tree in the flower meadow" by Hilary J. England, 2013
12" x 12" oil on hardwood panel

Life is still a maelstrom, but I am fighting my way through the tornadic winds.  Some very disconcerting and ominous events have taken place lately, and until we better have a full grasp on the implications, I rather defer to say any particulars, except that this will be a truly humbling lesson in Christian love for me, and perhaps one that was overdue.

I have to look at this situation from that point of view, because there is no other point of view that makes sense, or hits the bottom of my gut with the resounding thud of truth, that leaves that feeling of knowledge so plain, it's like seeing the nose on your own face.  The feeling of, "How did I not see this coming?" or "I was blind and much worse."  I can only pray now for the strength and grace to continue to make the right decisions, and overcome anything bad in this situation with love.  Love conquers all things, and now, I have a chance to see this in action.

So, here is a painting I painted while ruminating and meditating on all of these ponderings.  I needed something to reflect how I was feeling, which was sad, but hopeful, nostalgic, but grateful.  I don't feel afraid anymore.  I know there is a reason and a plan, and if the Lord took me to it, there is a vital and essential reason I must experience these things, and He will get me through it.  It may be very painful, but we all know that growth and change are painful at best, so I will just trust and not fight against these things.

Carry on- Beginning Life in Lockdown

“Study of dramatic back lighting” oil on wooden panel, 16” x 16” Strange Times Beginning Life in Pandemic Lockdown Life in ...