Let’s Get Practical

Most of the writing I have done in this blog and what I will do has been emotional.  The reason being that terminal illness is very emotional.  Every emotion in the dictionary at some point comes to the surface ‘when the family has cancer’.  We can not get around it, or change it.  We must accept it and do our best to work through the sea of emotions that we struggle to control, lest we be controlled by them.

However, this morning it occurred to me that ‘when the family has cancer’ or some other terminal or serious illness, there are practical issues that must be addressed.  Sometimes these issues are small and minor. Sometimes they are significant.  Sleeping issues. Bathing issues.  Feeding issues. Appetite issues. Clothing issues. Toileting issues. Mobility issues.

My plan is to discuss one category of issues at a time.  Please feel free to offer suggestions.  Perhaps your family has faced the same challenges and you have answers that worked for your situation.  We would like to know about it.  I know there are families who are facing serious situations even as I write this.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Let’s make this time free and open and practical.

Father, I pray for families who even right now whose world has been turned upside down by cancer or other illness.  I pray that You will give them comfort, peace and grace equal to the moment.  I pray that You will grant them support through friends and family, that you will meet their physical needs and their emotional needs.  Father, be the Healer, Counselor, and Comfortor for those families.  In Jesus’ name. Amen

Big Spring Alon Refinery Explosion: The Day Our World Rocked

Just over three weeks has passed since the February 18 explosion. Amazing progress is being made in the clean up of all the charred remains of the fire. I drive by the refinery every day as I go into Big Spring and every day there is less evidence of the disaster than the day before.

Everyone has gone back to their daily routines. Some have repairs to their homes and businesses that have been completed or are in the progress of being completed. The person who was most seriously injured in the blast is now home with his family to finish recovering.

Yes. It appears that Big Spring has returned to normalcy. However, I think Big Spring has forever been changed. Our world was rocked that day and what was once normal for us will never again return.

Though my husband and I did not exerience the explosion because we were both out of town, those who did still share vivid memories of the feel of the rumbling under the ground before and after the explosion, and the sound explosion which made them think “a plane must have crashed—in my house”. Our world was physically rocked and we will never be the same.

Almost two weeks after the explosion, I left town to go on a short road trip to Abilene. I had been busy all day with various tasks and had not given much thought to the refinery. As I drove east on I-20, I began to feel something. It is very hard to put my feelings that day into words. It was a type of heaviness, worry, longing to go back home just to be sure that everything is all right. I knew in my head that everything was fine at home and in Big Spring. However, my heart was still reeling from the emotions that came from the explosion. I know that others, especially refinery workers, first responders, and their families are dealing with similar and probably much more intense emotions.

When the refinery is reconstructed to the point that production can be resumed, I am sure the people of Big Spring, will be collectively holding their breath, concerned that another explosion could happen. I believe we will always have a small seed of worry about the safety of the refinery even though we know that all safety precautions are being taken at the plant. Don’t misunderstand me, as a community we are very supportive of Alon, and the people who work there are our friends, neighbors, and family. But on February 18, 2008, our emotional world was rocked and we will never be the same.

There were many things that went right that day. Things that only God could have done. There were no lives lost at all. Not during the initial blast nor during the time the firefighters put their lives on the line to extinguish the fire. There was no wind that day, even though high wind had been in the weather forcast. The explosion happened on President’s Day, when there was little or no office staff in a building that received heavy damage. The traffic on the interstate was also light that morning, due to the holiday, resultling in only one injury. God’s protective grace was evident to everyone that day. Our world was spiritually rocked and we will never be the same.

Yes. On February 18, 2008, Big Spring, Texas, received a miracle from God, and we will never be the same.

Updates on Wayne

It has been a while since I shared with you any news about Wayne.  As you may remember from previous posts, he is my Sunday School teacher and deacon in our church.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several months ago and has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments since then.

His radiation treatments are completed as are his first round of chemotherapy.   He is currently taking his second round which began about three ago.  He seems to be feeling better and is even gaining back some of the weight he had lost.  Low white cell and platelet counts are a problem and have delayed some of his treatments.

He hasn’t had any new scans since this round of chemo has begun so we don’t know what the cancer is doing, but we are praying that it is shrinking and that Wayne will be restored to health.

He continues to teach Sunday School, sing in the church choir and is even helping to build the new addition to our church.  We are so grateful that he feels well enough to do those things

Wayne and his wife, Glynn, are such an inspiration and blessing to each of us.  We pray for God’s hand to continue to be on them, comforting, strengthening, guiding, and protecting them as they travel down this very difficult path.

Taking Care of Your Parents

“Once the parent becomes the child, there’s actually a sweetness that returns to the relationship as it calls up from the heart maternal feelings instead of old rebellions and resentments.”

This is a quote from Darla concerning the changing of roles we experienced as we walked down the cancer path with our parents.

I remember thinking….”This situation is about them, not me.” It is about what is happening to them, not what is happening to me. The important thing is about the cancer in their bodies, not the weariness in mine. It is about their physical pain, not my emotional pain. It is about making sure they are as comfortable as possible, not whether or not I got a shower that day. They became the focus of my attention.

There are no perfect parents and mine made their share of mistakes with my sisters and I. I still carry with me baggage that came from some of the poor parenting decisions they made. However, once they entered the arena of terminal illnes, I stored all that baggage in a closet in my mind and closed the door. None of it mattered. None of it was important.

What was important was the fact that my parents were sick and I was not going to abandon them. No matter what. With the baggage behind closed doors mentally, I was free to love my parents and care for them in their last months, weeks, and days without any resentment or contemplation on how this was affecting my life. Yes, I had my moments of exhaustion, physical, mental, and emotional.

However, those moments were temporary, because I recognized that my parents illnesses were also temporary. One day they wouldn’t be sick any more. One day they would not be in any pain. One day they would be completely healed. Their lives would come to and end here on earth and they would be in heaven “standing tall and whole”.

Because their illness was temporary and would one day be over, and because my life would then return to normal, albeit a new normal without my parents, I kept putting ‘one foot in front of the other’, day after day caring for and loving my parents.

As I share these thoughts, I must also say that my sisters also did their share and more. We were all in this together and none of us grumbled or complained to each other or to our parents.

However, Darla did jockingly say to Mother one day, “Mother, if you and Daddy were both going to have cancer at the same time, you should have had more children!” She gave us our laugh for the day.

The Pendulum Swing of Emotions

Think of the swing of a pendulum. Its swing in one direction is equal or almost equal to the swing in the other. Our emotions during a time of crisis such as a terminal illness swing back and forth from despair to elation, depending on the events of the moment.

Last week when Wayne and Glynn were facing a series of scans and tests which would show whether or not Wayne’s pancreatic cancer was responding to the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They were scared, nervous, emotional, worried, and any other negative emotion you can name. The morning they left to go to Dallas to have these tests run, Wayne looked bad. He was weak. He was pale. His eyes filled and overflowed with tears frequently.

Once they received the results of the tests and learned that the cancer had not spread, their pendulum of emotions swung back to the other side. The degree to which they were worried corresponded directly to the degree to which they were excited. The next time I saw Wayne, he had a big smile on his face. He no longer looked pale and he was about to eat a big plate of food.

Whenever you are in the midst of physical trauma such as this, your emotions will experience the same trauma. You may be very sad, filled with despair and without hope, and then something positive will happen. It doesn’t have to be something big. It may be a small as one meal that tasted good, or a test that came back with good results or at least no bad results. Then your emotions will ‘latch on’ to that one positive thing, and immediately swing to the other side of the pendulum.

I remember thinking about my emotions when my parents were sick. At that time I compared my emotions to a roller coaster ride which is not an inaccurate description. I remember saying that I had experienced every emotion you could name while Mother and Daddy were sick, especially during the 3 months when Daddy was in the hospital, with Mother also being in the hospital 5 weeks during that time. It was horrible.

Once we understand that these emotions will be there, we can not fight them, but instead seek to control them. It was during those times that I had ‘scheduled cries’, moments when I could let my sadness, despair, frustration, anger, hopelessness, rise to the top of my mind and heart and flow out the tear ducts in my eyes. By giving my emotions space to be in control for a while, then once I finished crying, I could then control my emotions, for a while at least.

Your emotions are going to be part of what you are enduring. You are going to feel everything you are going to feel on both sides of the pendulum. You can’t stop it. Instead you should expect it and accept it. Then you can control it.

And oh, yes, get all the ‘mileage’ you can out of good news. Yep. Let the good news carry you as far as possible. Smile. Laugh. Tell it to everyone.