This is all happening too fast for me...

I feel like I am caught in this crazy whirlwind of grief, and love, and confusion over what to do next, and action, and inaction. As many of my dearests know, my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January of this year, and after a spring and an early summer of business as usual (my Dad has always been a very hard worker - he loves his job, with all of the responsibility, and dinner parties, and travel, and socializing), things began to quickly unravel just a few weeks ago.

He is currently in a tremendous amount of pain, unable to eat, the tumor has grown and he most likely has metastases to several different spots in his body. It rips out a woman's heart to see her father suffering this way - the part of me that is his child cannot believe what I see, and the part of me that is an adult, and especially a mother, wants to go crazy and wipe all the pain and suffering away with whatever I can.

My sisters are coming into town - Amy and Matthew are already here, and Julie, Tyler, Natalie and Noah are flying in tomorrow. I love them all so much, but I am afraid for what lies ahead for all of them. I feel the same way about my awesome extended family of uncles, aunts, and cousins. How will we all handle what is ahead?

Only in my smartest moments - which are few and far between as I rush around all day long, blinded and just moving - do I pray to God to help my Dad with his suffering, and do I talk to my Mom and hope she'll be right there waiting for him when it is time for something better.

First though, I wish we could just have a few more good days together. It has all gone so fast that basically Dad was working, and traveling, and having treatments, and enjoying his life - and I feel sad that I didn't get any of the good moments when they were there. I told myself at the time to let him go, to let him enjoy his life and doing what he loves to do...so I shouldn't be wishing that I had instead been a petulant child and gotten into a fight with him so that he would have slowed down and spent some time with me, instead. I wouldn't have wanted to be that kind of a person, and he wanted/needed to keep going.

I don't know what else to say...I'm so miserable right now.


Don't be fooled by this smile (on me) - Nathan's is real, though

Have you seen this smile before? I'm good at it. I can put it on, even in the middle of lots of sadness. For example, here I am, having cried just before this - last weekend. It was one of the sadder weekends of my life...with I'm sure more to come. We are coming to grips with my Dad's suffering and trying to help with it.

The thought that keeps coming to my head is this: I feel like my life is full of so many precious gifts, given to me by God. I feel so lucky to have had them, but it hurts like hell to have to give them all back.

But I still wouldn't forsake even one of my gifts, despite the misery of losing them. I just hope my stupid, addled memory will help me remember some of the things I've had when they are all gone.

Oh my little garden

I love it when you bring presents like this...



  1. Someone asked me if I was ok (with regard to my breast cancer), only then to tell me that she had a friend who "passed last year", after having caught hers early and having followed all the steps that I took. Obviously, I didn't need to hear that! But I guess that is all I needed to sign up for next year's Susan G. Komen for the Cure 3-day...
  2. Bill is trying to strike up conversations with a preeminent BRCA researcher. From going over his research, it seems that I may just have taken every single step I could to cause my own cancer: Have children before 3o, Gain 10 lbs between 30 and 40 (how crappy is that...), and the kicker: Don't Smoke. Don't ask me to talk about it, just email my husband if you have questions about such things. I so appreciate his research and loving care, because only hearing such things secondhand still makes me upset. What I want to know is this: I can't have more kids, and I lost those 10 lbs...am I good now, or do I have to take up smoking? JOKING, I am.
  3. Sick of cancer world being all around me. But I love the people who are in it with me...life is not always fair, but it can be so good.


Sneaking in some exercise

Last night came around and I hadn't yet exercised (well, except for the push mowing of 1/2 acre of our grass, but that probably wasn't enough), and it was getting late. Fear of the impending brutal hot flashes led to me deciding to get in some exercise at 10:30pm. However, I was still wishing to get a bit more obsessive housework done, so I find myself:

  1. Leaping around and doing other strange sweat-inducing moods as I fold laundry
  2. Running around with laundry baskets to unload them, and
  3. Finding that I can multitask and watch things on my laptop/check email and facebook as I walk on the treadmill (a little slower than usual, but still, a good use of that computer time!)
So 12:45 comes around, the laundry is folded, and I am getting in some yoga stretches, and then cat-on-the-belly time until I shower and get into bed at 1:30am.

Not much sleep, but NO HOT FLASHES! And I think I would take less sleep over brutal hot flashes any day. Who would have thought sleeper Pam would say that...but I would take more sleep with my normal mild hot flashes any day. That might just not be an option until I reset my body with a little exercise again.

Off to the cottages for the weekend for a little quality time, despite the rainy and cold conditions!


Coping Mechanisms

In one day, I have discovered a few things about myself...my many, many coping mechanisms, as well as a few other things:
  1. When a woman is severely stressed, menopausal hot flashes become extreme! I almost ran out of the house in the middle of the night last night, several times...both for the cooler air, and for the hope that the exercise would reduce the stress and thus the hot flashes. Alas, I did not. I probably lost a pound of sweat last night...which I made up for in fudge consumption today. Which leads to...
  2. Chocolate consumption only partially helps misery (the yucky belly feeling erases some of the positive effects). I don't need to say much more about this, but I will: fudge, chocolate chips, hot chocolate. yikes.
  3. Carpet cleaning is a great way to turn off one's mind. So is picking weeds from 1 acre of grass, and cutting 1 acre of that grass (or attempting to), with the push mower, even if it is raining on you.
  4. Thank you, God, for my mother-in-law, who despite having had her own chemo today, took my three children out for lunch and shopping. Please, God - tell me how I can help her as much as she has helped me over my lifetime.
  5. My children have learned to turn to dance parties in times of stress, maybe subconsciously. It is sure nice to watch them dance around in my old dance costumes, to the songs that have helped me through other tough times in my life. (And how weird that Emma loves the song that got me through her pregnancy? Bill put it on her mp3 player, without knowing the significance.)
  6. Social media is great for times of sadness, as is blogging, as are movies in bed with the laptop. So you might be seeing a lot more of me, little blog, facebook, and dvd player.


We go up, and we go down...many times, in the same day

Well, good bad news at the vet yesterday. Good: my kind vet reassured me that I could not have done much more, even if I had been the most proactive owner in the world. Bad: Annie's lesions are indicating an inflammatory breast cancer (which I knew), which gives a more poor prognosis. Good: it is still not time to say goodbye...she's still doing fairly well, for the situation. Bad: it won't be long now. Good: My darling vet gave me a tube of glucosamine/chondroitin goo for Nanners (for free, even), and it seemed to ease some of her arthritis/pain. Good: she purred a lot yesterday. Good: she purred as she ate tuna.

Super Bad: cancer is spreading in other family members.

Sometimes I wonder what I did to enter cancer world so decisively, as I have...but then I think of all of the blessings in my life, as well. If a girl has to face cancer world, it is really, really nice to have a dead mother. She is the perfect person to talk to...she sends the best presents and reminders that God is good and Life is good...she gives me hope that there is a wonderful place to ascend to after this life.

Super Good: special "miracles" from my Mom.

And now, since I don't care what any of you think of me...if you think I am crazy or wrong or not (but I love all of my friends and don't mean to insult you by saying this...I just am past the point of caring about things like what people think of me today. Super Bad news does that to a person.), I will share my special "miracles" with you. I don't think I have done this before.

Prepare for a long post, drop off here if you like!

Miracle #1: 17 year old Pam lost her car keys at Metro Beach.
Imagine the scenario: hard working young Pam drives herself to Metro Beach to do a run on her cross country team's home course. Said course is 1.5 miles long, not marked one bit, entirely on grass. Hardworking Pam does the course twice, and then has to return home to prepare for her job at Tubby's (sub shop) on Garfield.

Well, as Pam finishes the course, she realizes she has LOST her car key. It was tucked in the pocket of her running shorts (the one that is little, a pouch, at the top of the elastic, inside the liner of running shorts). She feels her shorts ENTIRELY (full liner feel - including private spots) to make sure the key hasn't slipped down somewhere...but of course a person would know if that had happened. Not there.

Pam starts quietly freaking out (emotional girl), and praying that she will find her key. She has no other real way to get home - her father works in downtown Detroit and will FREAK OUT about her losing her key. Her sisters are younger and can't drive. Almost none of her friends are driving their own cars yet, and even if they were, they couldn't get to Metro Beach and get her home in time for her to get to work. Plus, she has no money for a pay phone (life before cell phones - so inconvenient.) Pam starts retracing her steps, looking for her giant Mazda key in the grass. (It's only the one key - because nothing bigger would have fit in that tiny pocket in her shorts).

.5 miles pass, lots of prayers, and no key. Pam is begging the powers that be now. Maybe another 1/4 passes, and she feels it.

THE KEY IS IN HER SHORTS. In the liner of the shorts, to be exact, tucked down in a private area where YOU WOULD HAVE FELT such a thing for every step of 3/4 of a mile.

And that my friends, is Miracle #1. Thank you Mom, for taking care of your daughter. It helps to have someone on the other side.

Miracle #2: Lonely College Freshman Pam, Bursley Bathroom Incident.
So Pam is now a college freshman, leading her boring college freshman life. Pam was never a partying sort, or even really much of a friend-making sort...I wouldn't say she's a total loner girl, but she has certainly never been the most confident, or most interesting girl in the room. Her freshman year was OK...made a little easier with the help of rowing, and flew by due to the mononucleosis which made the last half of the first semester a bit of a blur. But there were some lonely moments.

On this night, some fairly nice girls were in a joking mood...and I can't remember at all what they said, but there was something that they said that made Freshman Pam feel very alone, and very sad. As she left the room, she was nearly in tears (though they didn't know, they were nice enough girls who probably would not have meant to hurt feelings. Pam never rolled with the punches that well, though.)

So, Pam went to her room (empty, her roommate had a serious boyfriend and was never around). She gathered up her bathroom bag from one spot, her towel from another spot, her keys (on a lanyard) from another.

Down to the bathroom, upset young Pam throws her bathroom bag in the sink, her towel in another, and whips her keys on top of the ledge under the mirror. (Hear the huge clang of the keys on the metal ledge, because she is upset, and wants the keys to feel it.) She goes into the stall to use the facilities, where she remembers she has forgotten to pick up her contact case from the heater (remember those)...it was on another side of the room. She is unhappy with herself, unhappy that she feels like she has made no friends, and this sets her over the edge. Failing to pick up the contact case feels like just another example of how stupid she really is.

She flushes the toilet. She opens the door. She walks to get her keys (will have to go back to the room to get her contact case), and there, perched very precariously on her keys is HER CONTACT CASE! They are practically tipping off the keys which had been flung on the ledge with such fervor. They are perched so carefully - impossibly carefully.

And then she feels it...peace, love, contentment...the kind of stuff you only feel when you are cozy and enveloped in your mother's love. It was amazing, how fast all of my sadness and loneliness went away.

Miracle #3: Pam is getting married!
It was no secret to my soon-to-be-husband that I was not looking forward to a wedding. I could not imagine life without him. He had been my family for 7 years already - my support and the person I could turn to in any situation - but a wedding was more than I could handle. There was something about the whole Mother/Daughter thing about a wedding that made me totally avoid a wedding. I had no idea how I would accomplish such a girly thing on my own...and being a motherless daughter, I was not great at doing things NOT on my own.

Luckily, Emma came along...or Emma embryo came along. Immediately, we would have the wedding, and I would have to get over my worries about how to accomplish a wedding - and fast. Still not being girly, I was very hands-off with wedding planning. I bought a dress off the rack at Nordstrom (bought two sizes, in case my pregnant belly needed more room). We found a priest who would marry a pregnant couple (thanks to Bill's dad, who had been a priest). We had a fancy reception site, so that I wouldn't have to figure out how to decorate the room too. The only thing left was the flowers.

Well, I waited a bit too long for the flowers...plus we were planning a wedding that was less than 3 months out. My darling sister went to the one florist in Ann Arbor that I knew, and asked if they would do some flowers.

"Fourth of July weekend? We are much too busy. We already have __ weddings that weekend. I'm sorry."

Julie said thanks, and then walked out, and down Main Street towards our small house.

And then she turns around, to the sound of someone running after her and calling for her.

"How many arrangements did you say you needed? I think we can handle it."

And that is how I think my mother helped me plan my wedding, after all.

So those are my biggest miracles...but I have had some smaller ones as well. Strange things where Emma STARTED falling down the stairs, only to stop right in the middle of the stairs and be fine. I don't think my children have avoided stitches thus far in our lives together because of my careful parenting...I think it is more due to some careful grandmotherly hands fixing some situations before they got bad. And then there was...

Small Miracle #1: Emma's first miracle (two weeks ago)
Emma does not like to lose earrings. In fact, just the thought of losing earrings has made her so fearful and panicky that she kept her first studs in her ears for about 1.5 years of her life (they are so tightly fitting).

Well, recently she has branched out and wears a few other special pairs...but the thought of losing them still makes her crazy.

So imagine her concern when she was wearing a different pair of earrings, for some special occasion, and she felt one of them fall out of her hair, in the shower, having been pulled out as she washed her hair. She caught the front of the earring, but the backing was gone. She immediately turned around and started looking everywhere, in the shower, water rushing down all over her.

Only to find the earring backing perched on the tip of her thumb.

Small Miracle #2: A Mother still needs her Mother (2 weeks ago)
Nathan has potty trained himself (because I am a failure at potty training), so a whole new world of swimming has come to the Lucken family. This world involves lots of swimming by both kids and Mom, in the big pool.

Sometimes Nathan and Mom decide quite last-minute that they will go in the pool, involving a quick change. That is what happened on the day I lost my beloved 3-day necklace. It has charms for both 3-days I walked, a ribbon, and a charm with the names of my 3 children on it. I remember taking it off, and I remember leaving it on the ground. I don't remember why I thought that was a good idea.

And then we swam, and then we left the pool, and I never picked up my necklace. I returned that evening for a swim meet, asked many people about my necklace (as I remembered having left it earlier that day), to no avail. I followed up the next day as well. No necklace.

Swim meet days are busy days - this year, we're at the pool (some faction of us) from 8:45-11:30am, only to return around 4:00pm (having spent the time between driving home, eating lunch, putting together the swim stuff, and packing up our picnic dinner). We are usually there until 9:30pm. This doesn't leave a lot of time for laundry, or other chores, aside from random kitchen things and maybe some shopping for food for our picnic dinner.

Well, I was sad about the necklace...maybe not bereft, because life with Bill has been so good and I don't worry about losing things as much as I used to. He is not the sort to freak out, or to call me irresponsible...he always is willing to replace lost items. But still, this necklace was special to me, and I hate losing things anyway. A few busy days pass (we had the swim meet, and then I embarked upon my crazy deck project)...I haven't done any laundry other than a load of whites.

Thursday morning comes (necklace losing happened on a Monday), and I am emptying the laundry to put in the swimsuits for the next meet (that day). I move the whites along, and check to make sure no socks have been lost in the door's seal. No socks there...but what is there? My gleaming, perfectly cleaned 3-day necklace!

I only have one answer for it's appearance in a washer full of whites (no shorts, no swim towels, no swim suits - places it could have hidden to get home with us, and I had not washed even one other load since Monday) - a Mother is still looking out for her daughter.

I hope any readers out there are looking for little love notes from their departed loved ones...I know it's not only me receiving them!


Having a hard, hard time saying goodbye

My darling kitten's breast cancer is back.

Actually, it's been back for a while now...but when it came back, it could be found in the same spot, in another mammary gland, and possibly in a few other places. (Her pupils are slightly different sizes, it seems like she has a bump on her head, and she wheezes.) By the time I found it for the second time, I was no longer looking at a cut-it-out-and-pray situation anymore...maybe just a hope-and-pray situation.

I had been forewarned. When she had surgery to remove her first cancer last August, the results told me she had cancer in her lymph nodes (putting her at stage 2 of 3 stages for cats). And here we come to Regret #1: I waited.

I found Annie's cancer while I was in the middle of my own breast cancer year. Though I don't remember the specific date, I knew I found it after my own bilateral mastectomy, after I had already begun chemo, and after I was already bald. (This puts me somewhere after the middle of May of last year). At that point, her breast cancer was more than I could really bear...and taking her to the vet, explaining my own baldness, my own cancer, and feeling like garbage while doing it - well, emotionally, I couldn't handle it. And so, Regret #1: I waited...probably somewhere from 2-3 months, until 3 weeks after my last chemo when I felt like I could handle the news, and handle taking care of her through whatever we needed to do.

Recovery from her first surgery was no picnic, even though she recovered fine. It certainly was not as easy as our veterinarian had intimated it would be....but it was a big surgery, and in a place that was not so fun (right under one of her front legs). I told her (and Bill, who paid for the surgery...) that we would be done with surgery now.

That is Regret #2: surgery (but I'm confused as to what I really regret.)

Working in a veterinarian's office, I saw people who went to the ends of the earth to treat their pets' cancers. I could never understand putting my pet or any animal through things like surgeries or chemotherapy just to keep them alive for a short period of time. I promised (in my head) that I would not do that with my pets...that I would help them be comfortable and safe for as long as I was blessed to have them. Here is where I am confused over Regret #2: should I have not done it in the first place (she's only had an extra 11 months)? Or should I be regretting not doing more of it, when I found the cancer the 2nd time? I went with my gut and said "no more surgery", but I regret that. And yet I still regret the first one.

Anyway, what's done is done, and what's left to do? My Nanners is slipping away. Her purrs are coming less frequently. She isn't writhing with joy anymore. There is blood from her tumor on the end of my bed, on the chair I used to nurse Katie and Nathan (now Annie's chair), on Nathan's car bedspread. She doesn't always like to make it to the bathroom anymore. (The rug in the kids' bathroom has worked just as well, twice. So her litterbox will move.) She vomits. She is eating a diet of almost 100% cat treats - anything to keep some weight on her. We've moved her water bowl upstairs. Crazy Hope spends most of her time outside or in her crate, to avoid potential chasing scenarios. I lie down on the floor near her several times a day, just so she can crawl up on my chest and I can gently touch her. I pray for more purring.

And today, in just a few minutes, I'm taking her to the vet. I'm praying for a few more comfy weeks, for some miracle of science that will give her some comfort before our final goodbyes. Wish us luck.


100 things

Fashioned after a life list posted by a blogger much, much, much, much more fancy and accomplished than I will ever be..

I am NOT going to be intimidated by my smallness, my lack of special talents, or my lack of imagination... I'm going to plow ahead and make my OWN life list. I believe firmly in learning from others, and don't mind at all taking a great idea and using it for myself! (And I don't expect Intel will foster my life list, either...but luckily I have Bill Lucken for that.)

So here we go:
  1. Have a garden that is so nice, someone will want it to be on a garden walk
  2. Run a half marathon
  3. Do a triathalon
  4. Start a garden club...and with it
  5. Host a perennial exchange
  6. Become a rower again
  7. Redesign my front yard garden
  8. Make a butterfly garden
  9. Go hiking in Kauai
  10. Learn how to windsurf
  11. Spend a month living somewhere else with my family
  12. Go back to school for something useless
  13. Go back to school for something useful
  14. Finish my basement, myself
  15. Have a black cat
  16. Volunteer for something I believe in...
  17. Teach myself how to swim...or take swim lessons
  18. Refrain from eating chocolate for one week (so hard!)
  19. For one week, wake up early to exercise (so hard, too!)
  20. Build a pond myself
  21. Find gainful employment
  22. See my children graduate from high school
  23. See my children graduate from college
  24. Help someone buy their first house (or renovate it)

Not very imaginative yet...but I'm going to keep working on it! Can you tell I am recently so excited about home improvement projects, and gardening...and wanting to exercise more? (but the home improvement projects and gardening are taking up all the time. For the past 3 days I have been helping Bill install and clean our *free* hot tub...and making a creek bed with all of the rocks and concrete we have had to move in the process. And I have fallen in love with power washing.


I know you want to see my crazy patio renovation...

So here are some pictures!!! For the full set, go here.

I am proud of my work...and thankful to my sister for watching my kids while I finished it! Also, I must say that Emma and Katie did a lot of work too...some power sanding, helping me start the power washer (Emma), turning on and off the hose (Katie), loading, unloading, and washing rocks (all three kids), and staining the wood (Emma). They all helped paint the pots and allowed their footprints to be painted for the rug! I'd also like to thank Dagny, for allowing me to use her picture in the set.


She's magic

This has got to be the biggest compliment I have ever received in my life...and I'm not writing it down to spread it around - I'm writing this here because my brain is total mush and I forget everything that isn't stapled to it!

At a wonderful family reunion last Saturday (Sybil's siblings and their children and grandchildren) we were all posing for a picture on the steps. Well, while we figured out the tripod/automatic settings on the camera, people were getting antsy and wanting their own shots of this scene so I hopped over the railing (in my sundress, what a lady) and offered to take all of the pictures. After all, I'm not a blood relative, so I could afford to be out of this picture of all of these people sharing the same genome! Plus, I like to be helpful.

Well, while I was collecting all the cameras I overheard someone either wondering how I was going to take all of these pictures or how I was going to get back into the picture when the tripod/camera was ready to go.

From the front row, I hear my daughter Emma's reply: "Oh, she can do it. My mom is magic."

Relative: "Oh? What can she do?"
Emma: "She can do anything!"

and don't tell me how soon her opinion of me is going to change...because she is 9.5! It changes several times a day already! But I still can't believe that she likes me that much.


What a day!

Let me start out by saying, that any birthday of mine that does not involve me getting chemo is a GREAT day! But today went above and beyond that in terms of greatness, even though my stupid husband is away on a weeklong canoeing trip down the Allagash River in Maine. (I say stupid only because I miss him. I hate missing people! And this is worse than missing, because I can't even reach him. I've still been calling his phone randomly just to see if by chance he found service, but no luck. And each time I say the same thing, "STUPID husband.")

Now that I've gone down that tangent, let's follow it and say that Bill totally deserved this vacation...especially after all of the hell I put him through over the past year (not to mention the past 16.5 years). As I learned last year, sometimes you can't avoid having inconvenient things fall on your date of birth - whether those things are hard things, or super fun things that keep loved ones apart.

Anyway, despite the glaring lack of husband in my birthday's festivities, it was a totally magnificent day. How could it not be, when Emma woke up and said, "Happy Birthday, Mom!" as soon as she woke up? My sister Amy was here so that I didn't have to drag all the kids to the oncologist for my blood draw, or to swim practice for Emma and then Katie...plus she spent time with them while I worked on my extra-special-and-secret home renovation project I'm hoping to complete before Bill comes home. And helped the kids make a cake! And bought me a present to go with my super secret renovation...THEN, she took us all out to dinner (CPK - kid favorite), and THEN, she watched my crazies as I bought some new clothes at Banana Republic (big sale, plus much overdue shopping trip. I think I was last at the mall in December).

To top everything off, look what I got for presents!
And then, look what else! (My favorite gift from the Gibbs family, but they also sent me a beautiful present as well.) Plus all the wonderful calls and wishes from friends...makes me feel like the luckiest person in the whole world. I remember being little and feeling sorry for my Mom...thinking it couldn't be very fun to get old and get cards and things like that from your kids for presents. And calls instead of toys or fancy things. Now I know so much better! Could there be anything better in the whole world than these little tokens of love?