Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hands and hearts

I just finished packing. I'm not going very far away but will be spending a ton of time in the OR family waiting room tomorrow morning as my mom undergoes surgery for cancer. It's been a crazy couple of weeks. Mom came home and has been feeling better since the stent was implanted. All that and more comes out tomorrow as the surgeons perform what they are calling a radical approach to the cancer.

Original biopsy results that were expected to confirm colon cancer came back inconclusive, we found out at the pre-op appointments on Monday. There is now a possibility that it could be pancreatic cancer that moved to the colon. So, that's incredibly scary.

Mom is her usual strong, positive self. The family is worried but we are all keeping our spirits up and hers too.

When I was packing my "busy bag" to bring to the hospital tomorrow I grabbed my current book and my journal.

But I had this nagging thought that the written word would not be enough to keep me calm and distracted. That's when I grabbed my quilting bag. I haven't quilted in a while. I've made several quilts (sewn and quilted all by hand) and had started one in February. I haven't done much on it since my writing seems to have taken over my spare time.

Most quilters I know think those of us who do all of the work by hand are insane or incredibly patient. Maybe we are a little bit of both. When anyone asks me why I do all this by hand (the full-sized quilt I made to the left took me 1 year and 9 months to complete, and then I gave it away!), I tell them that there is a certain peace that comes with doing handwork. It's becoming a lost art. With the exception of our cellphones and keyboards/mouse, we do very little with our hands these days.

I find that piecing and then quilting by hand to create a quilt is one of the most personal things I do. And also the most contemplative. When I have the needle and thread in one hand, and the fabric in the other, my blood pressure immediately drops. My mind loses all the crazy junk that runs around in it all day. And all I think about is "Put the needle in; pull the needle out." I call it Zen Quilting.

And that's just what the doctor (me) ordered for (me) tomorrow. Since I have no control over the outcome of the surgery or the full biopsy, I can at least feel that I have control over something. As I sew the pieces together tomorrow I will reflect on how lucky I am. Lucky that I have a mother that I love so much, lucky that I can be there for her and my dad, and lucky that I have hands to do the needlework. Hands that my mother and father gave me. I will use them well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shoulders, parents, and timing

Taking a few moments to update the blog with the latest. Normally I write more introspective pieces but this is mostly news.

About two hours after a PT appointment last week, I got a call from my dad that he was at the hospital with my mom. She was very sick and was being admitted. I raced over there and stayed very late into the night.

Long story short, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. The day after she was admitted, I picked up my dad and we spent another long day at the hospital while the docs confirmed the diagnosis and inserted a stent. She is home for a couple of weeks while her colon settles down and then will go back in for surgery to remove the cancer.

The surgeons have been wonderful. She is getting great care. They feel the cancer is contained and surgery will cure this.

At almost-80, this is a lot on her but my dad is of even greater concern. He is exhausted and stressed beyond belief. They've been married for 57 years and are very close.

One of my first thoughts as I was driving home that first night at 11:15pm, was that I was SO glad I didn't opt for surgery on my shoulder. If I had, I would not have been able to be there for them.

My sister lives up in Maine and can't be there in a flash like me. She is so great about making calls, and coming down to help. It's a huge relief for me. But I'm the go-to person for my folks and, although it's exhausting and stressful, I am honored that they trust me with their care.

The shoulder is getting stronger with the PT. I feel that, if I continue with four more sessions and my home exercises, I will be okay for a while. The CFS, well, that's never going to get better and I have to rest in between each crisis.

But as long as I am available to help them, it is actually easier on me. I can take an Advil for the shoulder if needed, but I can't give them a pill to help them when they need me.