I've tried so many times the past few months to write my blog. But how do you go from talking about Cancer to explaining how to finish a Countertop? The lightness and humor that once flowed easily has been hard to find since December when I held 3 things in heart:
1. Bruce knew he had Stage 4 Lung Cancer. What he didn't know was the 1st doctor told me he might only live 3 months.
2. Because the cancer had spread to his spine, a fall could paralyze him or be fatal. Our dream home had become a potential for a nightmare.
3. He would not be returning to work and I would need to assume all the responsibilities of Surfaces. If not right away, within at least 6 months.
And in the craziest twist, our only good news turned out to be a gene mutation. Most people cringe when they here mutation but in lung cancer it is like winning a golden ticket (with odds of less then 8%). Bruce has the ALK mutation which means he can take a targeted therapy with better outcomes and less side-effects then traditional chemotherapy. But you don't know how your body will respond and when it will stop working. And it is expensive. So I started 2015 thinking I might possibly lose my husband, my home, and my business. As Bruce said to me after a long day of tests and doctor's visits, "who did we piss off?"
Karma. I'm not sure there is always "a plan" in suffering. What if sometimes really bad things happen to good people for no reason at all-just bad luck as unfair as that sounds. I couldn't think of anything we had done that warranted such a stiff lesson from the Universe.
But maybe Karma wasn't the question but the answer? An opportunity to release my burdens and begin embracing our life again. After all, Anger and Fear will hold your energy as much as Love and Friendship. I needed some better juju and I needed it soon.
Outwardly I tried to be optimistic. I wanted to be brave and keep Bruce's spirits up but inside I was balanced right on the edge of despair and grief. I felt like a fraud. Then I got a call from a finisher I met last year. She was returning to her love of finishing after caring for an elderly parent. I sensed that Ann just needed someone to say, "give yourself permission to let go. Enjoy the moment." We had nice conversations during the class that I hoped would encourage her to re-embrace decorative arts.
The day in December when I posted my blog about Bruce's cancer, Ann suffered the worst of losses-her son passed away. A young man who had just talked with her on the phone the day before was gone. But in her own grief, she called to talk about mine. Because her son Taylor embraced joy and living in the moment she had found some comfort. He sent her a sign in his passing, that gave her peace. She shared all this with me and I have thought about our conversation everyday since. Talking with Ann reminded that loss is universal. Suffering unavoidable. But beauty and happiness are possible. Relationships endure. Later my friend Anna would send me this:
No One Fights Alone
I needed to re-set my physical, emotional, and spiritual self before I could move on to what is ahead. This meant getting our home ready to sell and finding a new place to live. Learning our home and store finances better so I am prepared to manage them. Keeping my body and mind healthy.
Maintaining Surfaces' classes and sales. Finding ways to celebrate the milestones of this year. And do these things with Gratitude, Love, Generosity, Kindness, and Forgiveness. No small task.
But I couldn't do them alone. From the moment I told family and friends the reality of our situation, we have been the recipients of Instant Karma.
My brother in law Stan flew out to help. He has given me guidance on budgets and our home. In the early days, he provided Bruce companionship while I started tackling the house. His love for his brother expressed in words and deeds eased my own suffering and helped me with forgiveness. I am fortunate to enjoy a close relationship with both of Bruce's brothers and my sister in laws. And his nieces and nephews
They even hosted a party so Bruce and I could celebrate a milestone birthday while enjoying time with their extended family and friends. The Slaton are not my blood family but definitely the family of my heart.
My sister Sally. She may be the baby in the family but she became my pillar of strength.
Sally has her own demanding career teaching children with Autism and Spectrum Disorders plus two children of her own and a husband. She came over multiple times during the week to help me clean and pack. We had signed up for our first marathon before Bruce's diagnosis. Because of her, I continued to train and remain mentally & physically strong even when I wanted to give up.
Together we ran that marathon which had become a metaphor for my life.
It was important to me that Bruce knew I could achieve this goal. We ran the Oklahoma City which seemed fitting since it raises funds supporting the memorial created to honor sacrifice and loss. But also the will to survive and go on!
And my brother who offered much and took the time to research matters of trusts, medical directives, and other things I had not thought about on his own. He still checks in to see how big sister is doing.
The quiet hero of this story is Emily. Talk about Instant Karma. Emily grew up in the home behind ours but we had never met her. Until she happened to come into our store with her Mother's Designer Friend. A recent graduate of Fine Arts, Bruce offered her a job. And thank goodness he did. I am not exaggerating when I credit Emily with keeping our business running. Through-out all the hospital stays and doctor's visits, she has kept Surfaces' open.
My Circle of Trust
You are truly lucky in this life if you can have deep and meaningful friendships whether you see each other every week or once a year. These are the people who have shared my fears, struggles, and hopes for the future.
My "faux sisters", Sue, Suzanne, and Mary coordinated the efforts of our finisher community to help us in our time of need. They organized shifts to work on our home and meals during Bruce's first days of diagnosis and treatment. They set-up the accounts that allowed our out-of state friends to donate to helping get our home ready to sell.
Sue, My Conscience Sister. Thank you for being there with me and Sally when I found out Bruce had cancer. For helping me with classes, working on my house and many road trips-I am grateful for your integrity and steady support. Thanks to you and Jim for opening your home on Thanksgiving and being there many times over.
Suzanne, My Soul Sister. Thanks for being the caregiver and checking in with me weekly. For taking the time from your busy schedule to work on my house when you had so many things going on in your own. I am grateful for our deep discussion about life but also for the laughs-we share the flair for drama. You are the kindest of souls. We are grateful to share so many happy memories with you, Thom, and Donovan. We are a family of our own making.
Mary, My Compass. The sister that helps me be steady and even. We needed someone that could keep things focused while sharing an amazing laugh! Bruce always lights up when he finds a meal from you. Your presence in the studio is appreciated in many ways. We are grateful for our friendship with you and Dave.
Ashley, who picked right back up at Surfaces when I needed help during Emily's honeymoon. Thank you for working on the house and bringing your talents to planning my 50th Birthday party with our local friends. Everything was perfect and I will cherish the memories always.
Jeanette, my guardian angel. Thank you for your hard work on our home and at Surfaces. You are an important part of our family. I can always count on you to lend a hand or an ear.
Mona, Julie, Heather, Tyler, and Eber, thanks for working on our house and being a part of my party. Your support of us and Surfaces is greatly appreciated. And to Kevin, thanks for popping out of a cake and singing to me-but mostly thanks for all the lake memories.
My friends Sass and Sasha. We have exchanged many cards and late night emails. I know that you are due some good Karma too and I always include you in my private requests for Joy.
My friends Anna and Jackie:
My Faux Community
To everyone that sent us a caring token from videos to hand-made items. From gift cards to cash. For your prayers, messages, notes, and posts. You made a difference to us and helped us prepare for the next chapter in our lives. We can now say good-bye this house but we will take all your love and support into our new home.
The love you take is equal to the love you make.
I can now let go of my burdens....
And write about countertops again!