Each handicap is like a hurdle in a steeplechase, and when you ride up to it, if you throw your heart over, the horse will go along, too. ~~Lawrence Bixby

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Senior RV

My son sent this photo to me this week. I especially love the flat screen TV in the RV.

I thought it was a joke, but apparently not:

Let's go camping!!!

Adventures Were Had

September 9-12, 2011.

Adventure #1: Friday morning, I get a call from Chris at All in One letting me know all three boxes are on the UPS truck, due to arrive at the shop by 10:30 – can I get there soon for the lift installation? It’s the call I’ve been waiting for, since everything else for the weekend hinges on whether the scooter lift gets installed and whether I’ll spend the better part of the day at the shop while it’s getting installed. I go prepared: iPod, book, laptop, sandwich, water, cell phone and lists of calls to make. I know that they have a big screen TV in the waiting room and I also know that the US Open tennis tournament will be on for the duration. I have my choice of scooters, walkers and wheelchairs to get around the store and could even grab a nap in one of the big recliners if I want. Home sweet home. Well, these people have gotten enough of our money the last couple of months, we’ve paid our rent.

Around noon I realize that the Element is still in the front parking lot. Wtf? Chris explains that the regular UPS driver was off and the sub didn’t have the route down so absolutely set-your-watch-by-him punctual, so the parts didn’t arrive until 12:30. We discussed many options, one which involved leaving the Element and using one of their rental vans for the weekend. Since we're traveling to Eugene that evening, that option isn’t very appealing, but we start the paperwork. Then one of the techs comes up front to say he thinks he can get it done by the end of the day so, even though I had other places I was hoping to be, I tell him to do it.

My wonderful sister-in-law Bonnie is passing through town, so she stops in and takes me to lunch. What could have been a nerve-wracking, frustrating day turned out to be pretty darned pleasant. I was on my way home by 4:30, lift installed, ready to roll with my new scooter in back, hooked onto the new scooter lift.

Adventure #2. Saturday: Laurie is teaching a class all morning at Lane Community College in Eugene. We’ve stayed at an upscale Holiday Inn but had to leave early to get to the college, so no breakfast. We both assume there will be edibles at the classroom or in another building, but we come up pretty empty. I feel panicky, I need food and coffee, it’s going to be the hottest day of the year, there is loud construction all over the campus and I’m stuck here for a few hours with Liza in tow. I’m grumpy and snappy (and dopey and sleepy…) and wish I could just drive home, but I talk myself out a complete meltdown and scoot off with Liza to explore.

Click for larger view; more views on my photo blog:
I am not disappointed in what I find. There are gardens and many fantastic pieces of public art everywhere. The first sculpture I come across – Living Vessel by Devin Laurence Field - is a photographer’s wet dream: stainless steel polished to a mirror surface, shadows, reflections, cut-outs, an amazing juxtaposition to trees and water garden. I could spend hours right here, just photographing this piece. My mood has shifted completely and I spend the next few hours blissfully scooting around campus discovering more art and gardens. Liza is a perfect companion - she stops and starts with me over and over with no complaint. I end up with a few hundred photos, and the adventure ends just as the day is beginning to get unbearably hot.

Adventure #3. Monday morning, back home,. The battery indicator shows that the scooter is still about 80% charged so Liza and I take off on our long route scoot/walk. When we’re about half way to the park, the scooter slows slightly, then crawls, then comes to a stop. When I try to move it, it emits an annoying series of beeps that I’ve come to understand is scooter-speak for “you’re fucked.” I’m far enough away that walking home is impossible – I can only manage a block or so these days and I’m probably eight blocks away. It might as well be eight miles. I happen to be in the vicinity of a couple of young women with several children and two strollers, so I do one of the things I’ve come to do so well – ask for help. If I can get a ride home, I can bring the car back to pick up the scooter. One of the women lives several blocks away; she tells me it will take her “awhile” to walk home and load her kids in the car so they can come back to get me. I gratefully accept and tell her I’ll wait (as if I have a choice) and if I make any progress, I’ll still be on Lincoln Street. I watch the troop amble eastward, about as fast as you might expect, which at that moment seems like a herd of turtles. I begin to regret not taking the offer of help instead from a woman who came out of her house when she heard the beeping and saw the commotion.

I manage to limp the scooter another couple of blocks – if I turn it off and sit awhile, then turn it back on, I can get ten or twenty feet further along. I discover that, for some reason, it runs longer in reverse, which is somewhat confusing to Liza and probably pretty bizarre to any neighbors who may be watching. But I don’t want to take a chance on having it die in the middle of the street, so I hunker down and wait. And wait and wait. After what seems 45 minutes I decide I’ve been abandoned; I eke another block out of the scooter, then decide I can probably make it the few remaining blocks on foot. It’s not easy, and I’m on the verge of tears all the way home – tears of pain, of helplessness and frustration.

When I return with the car, Lessie, who lives nearby, comes out to see if I need help. Once again, the kindness of strangers touches me deeply, and my belief in humanity is restored. The scooter loading goes smoothly, considering I’ve only done this a couple of times, and Lessie and I talk about our dogs and decide a play date is in their future.

Of course, I'm wigged out about the new scooter not working, so I pore over the owner's manual. My best guess is that the deep cell battery has not acclimatized yet. It needs a few cycles of running and recharging to get it acclimated, so that's what we do.

I've had several scooter/walks (scwalks? squawks?) with no further adventures of this caliber. And I now take the cell phone with me, complete with neighbors' and taxi companies' numbers programmed in. It wouldn't be an adventure if we didn't learn from it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years After

September 10th, 2001. Late afternoon. I am still groggy from the sedative they’ve given me for the colonoscopy, but I grasp the seriousness of what the doctor is telling me. “It’s a mass in your rectum,” he says. “We won’t know for sure until the pathology report comes back, but I’m 99% sure it’s cancer.” As I’m trying to absorb this information, Gwen arrives to drive me home. She can tell by looking at me; we don’t speak on the way to the car. We don’t need to.

I’m tired when I get home. I make a couple of phone calls, but I’m keeping this close to my vest until I have all the information. I pull out the papers I’d started working on a few years before for my will - I don’t really think it’s a death sentence, but I’m taking it seriously. I have a little bite to eat and go to bed.

When I wake I’m surprised that I’ve slept through the night, but I’m in a daze and need some comfort, some normalcy, some reassurance. I check email; my sister Jackie has sent a cryptic message, something about being grateful that no one she knows is flying that day. I’m puzzled, but Jackie is always the first to have the news dialed in, so I turn on the TV. And the newscasters are saying this: “We are under attack.” I watch the images over and over, stunned. In those moments, I can’t make sense of what is happening in the world, and I can’t make sense of what is happening in my body. It is all too much – I collapse in a heap on the couch and weep and weep.

Even though I’d planned to take the day off, I decide to go into work. I can’t bear being alone in those hours – the hours of not knowing if there is an all-out war being waged on the US or if the four planes are it; the hours of not knowing if my diagnosis is terminal; the hours of wondering what is in store in the months to come, for the country, the world, my body.

After the initial shock, I am convinced that this thing will not kill me. I meditate on the tumor and it comes to me as a small, scared animal that is lost. I give it permission to leave and tell it I will help to find its way out.

The pathology confirms the doctor’s opinion; diagnostics stage it at IIIC T3. I am immediately thrust onto the treadmill that is cancer treatment protocols, and I quickly learn more about it than I ever wanted to. It’s a year of non-stop medical appointments, diagnostics, surgeries, chemo, radiation, more chemo, blood work, more diagnostics, injections – plus my own chosen protocol of naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, homeopathics, herbs, guided meditation, counseling, all manner of woo-woo, support groups, nutritional guidance and supplements.

The kindnesses that come to me from family and friends are overwhelming. I am cooked for, transported to and from appointments, sung to, held. My sister Nancy spends two weeks with me post-surgery. A beautiful quilt is made for me by many hands; prayers are said, songs and poems written, healing rituals performed. People at work donate vacation time so I can take the time off I need to recover from surgery. It is a profound time, a time to test my mettle and my faith, to let go and trust, to learn to ask for help when needed and accept it when offered. Above all, I learn how well I am loved.

The long-term effects of the cancer treatments begin to show up almost exactly five years later. Five years – the milestone, the objective. If a cancer survivor makes it five years from diagnosis, she is considered to be out of the woods. She has achieved the goal! She is cancer-free. N.E.D. = No Evidence of Disease. But there are consequences. The trade-off for surviving, apparently for me, is a diminished quality of life – “diminished” being a relative term. There are many things I can still do, but there are many I cannot, and it’s necessary to make major accommodations to our home and our lives. I tell people: This is the price I pay for still being on the planet.

And as I think about today, ten years after, the blessings I’ve received, the richness that is my life, it is a price I gladly pay.


I wrote this song toward the end of chemo treatments when I came to know that blessings and challenges often come from the same place.

Grit and Grace
© 2001 Terri Grayum

I’ve been picked up and tossed around by the winds of my life
Winds that blow strong through the night
When the hurricane blows and there’s no place to go
I just hold on ‘til the morning light
Oh it’s the same wind that brings the first breath of spring
And carries songs that the river sings
And the great eagle soars over wild rocky shores
On the same wind beneath her wings

All the tears I have cried when my faith has been tried
Gather in waters so wide
And the floods that come down tear the roots from the ground
And bring down the mountainside
The same water flows where the ancient trees grow
And quenches the thirst of the earth
And washes me clean in the sacred stream
Of the waters that bring rebirth

A test of our faith wears more than one face
Sometimes it’s grit and sometimes it’s grace

I’ve been burned by the flames of hatred and shame
Sometimes I don’t know how to trust
When the wild fire burns, the forest returns
Her bounty to ash and dust
The fire that ignites on the darkest of nights
Is the love burning bright in my soul
And the flame lights the way to the joyful day
When the Spirit makes us whole

A test of our faith wears more than one face
Sometimes it’s grit and sometimes it’s grace

Thursday, September 8, 2011


It was bound to happen. Feet - hands - brain - disconnect. Steep driveway -- backing up -- panic.

It looks something like this (actual damage may vary):

The garage door belongs to Gwenlyn's brand new landlady. No people were injured in this event. The Element is fine. Thank the good goddess for insurance.