Thank you for hanging around and waiting for me. I’ve been away so long and so much has happened! I hardly know where to start.
But before we begin, a short quiz. Multiple choice.
When life gives you lemons you:
- a. make lemonade, for the family reunion, perhaps.
- b. make margaritas, for you and your friends at the condo on the beach.
- c. cringe at the unbearable sting of them on your tongue, throw them in the trash, and curl up on the couch to cry.
I would never have chosen c. But we don’t always get to choose.
The past two years have brought cancer (to me), a pandemic (to the world), and a devastating Derecho (to the city where I live). There was a lot of other bad news too. We were all living it.
Yet, in the midst of the pain and turmoil, there were glimmers of light. There was kindness and generosity. Hope emerged when we least expected.
I am a person who mostly makes lemonade. Life happens. What we do with it is up to us.
A Bump in the Road
I had already put my blog on temporary hold. I’d met a young woman who had sold me on her design skills. She was under-employed and looking for opportunities to use her college training. I’m a sucker for young eager entrepreneurs, so I agreed to work with her.
As a person, she was delightful. As a web designer, not so much. After many meetings to discuss my goals, desired look and functionality, and to familiarize her with my coaching practice (the primary goal of my website at the time), she got to work. Well, actually, she didn’t.
Four months later I had nothing that would serve my purpose. I had to let her go. No problem. My client list was full and I needed time to rethink my experience and lessons learned.
Besides, winter was upon us and it was time to choose option b. (the beach)
For a few years now, I’ve been heading to the same beach in February and March. My time. I write in the mornings, coach no more than one client per day, and then I enjoy life. Lucky me!
Then Came Cancer
During the summer, I began to experience a soreness on the left side of my throat. It was a sensation that had come and gone for a couple of years. Not a sore throat exactly, but a swollen discomfort. My doctor had looked into my mouth, done strep tests, and couldn’t see a problem. But when summer came the soreness returned and didn’t go away.
When I finally insisted that something wasn’t right, my doctor referred me to an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist. The ENT explained that our saliva glands, much like our gall bladder, sometimes form crystals within that caused the glands to become swollen. He taught me how to massage the area to promote function and scheduled a follow-up.
By the time I got to the follow-up, I was having trouble swallowing. The ENT did a scope. The scope involved numbing my nasal passage to minimize the pain when the camera went up my nose and down into my throat. Uncomfortable, but not really painful. The fascinating thing was that I could see what the doctor was seeing right on the screen as he did the procedure. We watched the camera’s journey together, and he explained everything we saw along the way.
When he got into my throat he stopped. “Oh, I don’t like this at all,” he said. “That’s gotta come out.”
Three days later I was in surgery. The surgeon removed my left tonsil and surrounding tissue, and sent it to the lab. Cancer.
What followed was a somewhat long, very painful, and fascinating journey into a world I’d only seen from the sidelines. It took a year out of my life. The surgery was in the fall 2019, followed by chemo and radiation. But the treatment wasn’t nearly as difficult as the recovery.
I learned a lot along the way, about myself, about medicine in the U.S., and about the people who work in the cancer industry.
One of the definitions of industry is this: a distinct group of productive or profit-making enterprises
In this scenario, the patient is not only the product but also the consumer. And the profit center? You guessed it. Cancer treatment is expensive.
More about my cancer journey and lessons learned along the way, in an upcoming post.
A Pandemic, a Derecho, and more Pandemic
Unless you’ve just recently joined the rest of us here on earth, you probably have your own pandemic experience and stories. Our stories vary greatly depending on many contributing elements: where you live, your occupation, your family/living situation, your health, age, race, financial means, and maybe even your politics.
My pandemic story, of course, is both similar to and different from yours. I am in the process of documenting some of the highlights and lowlights. Some of it is heartbreaking. Some of it is surprising and even humorous. Maybe not humorous, but definitely odd. Read about it in an upcoming post.
The Derecho came at us almost without warning on an otherwise warm and very pleasant August afternoon.
For those unfamiliar with the term: A derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods (source: Wikipedia. Which isn’t always the most reliable source of information, but in this case is right on.)
A hurricane? In Iowa! We’re about as far from an ocean as you can get in the U.S.
I was sitting on the deck, enjoying the sun and the opportunity to at least be outside (though not with people). The pandemic was already raging, and I was immune suppressed due to my cancer treatment. Lots of alone time!
The local sirens began to blare. Above me the sky was still sunny and bright. But to the west something was moving in fast. The sky was black and menacing. I gathered my things and headed inside. The radio blared “take shelter!”
Over the course of the next 45 minutes, I watched the storm from my basement window, too close to the window to be safe. But who knew? We’d never seen a storm like this before; straight-line winds and rain. Very different from the tornados we are used to.
The storm moved through as quickly as it came. The rain stopped and the sun came out. Up and down the street neighbors emerged from their shelters. We looked around in awe. More about the derecho and the subsequent challenges in an upcoming post.
More Pandemic, Still Pandemic
Of course, the pandemic isn’t over. As I write this, it rages on. The virus morphs itself into new strains, taking lives and causing strife and division among people and across borders. The vaccine is still in short supply.
But we will get through this too. And we will learn and grow. Look around you. There is hope. There is generosity. We are resilient.
I am thankful to be here. And, I’m very happy to be back with my readers. Thank you for waiting.
And, as for the quiz at the top of this post? I prefer answer a. I’m an optimist at heart. I mostly make lemonade, when I have a choice. But we don’t always have a choice.
I think maybe the right answer wasn’t even presented as an option. I think it would be:
d. all of the above.