My beautiful younger sister Claudia has breast cancer.
She discovered a lump in her breast in January, and life has changed for her since that day.
It's interesting that she has always been very active in the Susan B Komen Race for the Cure in her work activities. I don't think she ever imagined herself being a beneficiary of some of the good things that that organization has helped to make a reality. Claudia has always been an inspiration to me in many ways over the years, but lately, she has really amazed me with her courage, strength, humor and grace as she fights this battle.
She's been taken on a roller coaster ride, with changing diagnoses and treatment options that have at times been pretty hard to swallow along the way. One day, the news is uplifting, and the next it's a devastating blow regarding what lies ahead. But she's already survived 2 rounds of chemo and is forging onward. Yesterday, she shaved her head, because her hair was starting to fall out, and she bravely decided to take that route and face that demon proactively.
Today, when I logged on to her "CaringBridge" journal*** that she's keeping, to document her journey through all of this, Claudia made it official by saying:
"Well, I guess this post just has to be all about the hair, or lack thereof, eh? As of 2:00 pm yesterday afternoon, I am officially Cue Ball Head lady. I love it. It's much, much better to have a teeny, tiny bit of hair on my head, than the normal amount of hair that I had, which was falling out anywhere and everywhere, all the time. It's a little shocking, or disconcerting, to wake up in the morning and see this in the mirror, but I'll try to articulate all the feelings associated with this experience, 'cause hopefully, it will never happen to you, and hopefully it will never happen to me again. So, let me try and explain all the thoughts it brings to my mind."
My siblings mean the world to me, and I hope they all outlive me: I can't imagine my life without them. I've often said of both my sibs and my son that even if they weren't family, I'd want them as my friends. I'm a very lucky woman.
No one in our family has ever had cancer, and while we know, rationally, that anyone can get cancer, I do think my sisters and I have always sort of had a "we don't get cancer" mentality, so this has been a surprise to us all. I write this on Claudia's behalf, as she is encouraging all women to make sure that you get your mammograms, every year! (When I had mine this year, the technician told me that over 70% of breast cancer cases are in families who had no prior history of cancer! A staggering statistic that amazed me.) So get those mammograms!
Thank you, all you kind people, for your thoughtful support while my dad was undergoing his bypass surgery, too. He went through a pretty harrowing time when his body filled with fluids post-operation, and they drained almost a gallon of fluid from his chest! Finally, he can breathe again and he's not struggling the way he was.
I'm hoping that both of them are well on the way to recovery, and that they can put this difficult year behind themselves soon. I appreciate all the kind notes and thoughts people shared with me. (Claudia and her family, below: L-R: Mike, Chris, Claudia, Kyra)
Thank you all very much!
"Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk." (--Susan Scarf Merrell)
***If you are interested at all in reading Claudia's journal, you can log in to CaringBridge, and type in "ClaudiaSchmidt" to visit her website there if you like. She's quite inspiring.
Spring has definitely "sprung" at Duke Gardens right now...
I will be out of town visiting my dad in Georgia tomorrow, and I knew this would be the last chance I'd have to see the full spring "show," so I headed over to the terrace area of the Duke Gardens yesterday after work, instead of heading straight home.
My dad, "Tony," came through his open-heart surgery, and he's heading home from the hospital. He's a real trooper. I'll take the memories of the beautiful gardens with me, but I took these photos for daddy.
So enjoy these with me. I'll try to bring my paints and see if I get any time when I can do some sketching!
Some time in the next few months, I'll also try to get back out there, and take some more photos in other areas of the Duke Gardens. It is a stunning, tranquil place. Happy Spring, daddy, and everyone else!
Now, I've shown you all the beautiful garden photos, but what I didn't show you is the infamous "green slime" that covers everything this time of year in North Carolina. Every spring, I forget that it will come, and for a few weeks in spring, we're covered in green pollen everywhere.