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It's Monday Again...

Gail's Journey

My Mondays used to be scheduled and very similar. I knew what to expect. After the weekend, which usually involved good family time, time alone with Don, sometimes fun with friends, and then great worship services on Sundays, I would return to work on Monday. My days varied according to time with different patients, but involved the same schedule every Monday. Now I’m having trouble realizing the days of the week! Time is flying by and each moment is precious, but I can’t rely on the same schedule. I don’t know what to expect.

It’s Monday again. I wrote my last blog last Monday morning. I had plans for that afternoon, but everything changed. Weeks ago, I read the side effect lists for the chemotherapy drugs. They all sounded horrible and some have affected me so far. I read that “hair loss” was likely. I knew it was coming and more hair was coming out than usual every day. I read that I should not wash my hair every day during this process, so I waited a couple of days. I went to take a shower and wash my hair “as usual” after writing the blog last Monday morning, but there was nothing “usual” about what happened. Nothing in the literature said that long hair that was falling out could matte so tightly that a finger or even a pick would not go through it! No one wrote that it could all become one large tight knot in the back on my head, entangled in the healthy hair still hanging on……but it did! No amount of different conditioners or hair oils made a difference. I found myself crying, now sitting in the bathtub, trying to face the reality that I try so hard to face and yet deny at times, as I am still learning to cope. Our youngest daughter, Kristin, was downstairs, but I didn’t want her to see me like this. She is already hurting. All of our daughters are hurting, but I know she has to face each moment of this with us as she lives at home.

Kristin has been waiting on me hand and foot. She keeps reminding me to keep up with my fluids. She has been making “sneaky shakes” most days, as she calls them, to boost my nutrition. She makes them out of frozen bananas, organic whole milk, cocoa powder, vegan protein powder, and sometimes, organic peanut butter. However, the portions of each are part of her secret recipe as she continues to “sneak” in more calories. We have long talks and try to keep humor alive through these trials. I didn’t want her to see me right now. However, when she realized I was gone “too long”, she came looking for me. She spent the next hour trying to get the tight matrix of knotted dead hair undone, with no success. She broke down crying as she whispered, “Mom, I can’t fix it!” My children should not have to “fix” things for me! That’s my job, to fix things for them!

I called Don who was at work. He knew something was wrong when it got quiet on the end of the line. You see, I’m not one of those people who can cry and talk at the same time. I am not the woman we see in the movies who can cry and spill her heart in words at the same time, with make-up and beauty intact. When I am crying, the words stop. They get stuck behind the large lump and spasm in my throat. I tried to force out a few squeaky words, and I think he understood the word, “hair”. He responded, “I’m coming home!” For the next hour, he tried to work out the knot, which was even bigger and as thick as his fist, but with no success.

Many of you reading this know Kathy Hunter. Kathy is a strong Christian woman, shining Jesus wherever she goes. Her caring and serving attitude is evident in her smile, her words, and actions. At church the day before, Kathy had told me that whenever my hair got to a point that I needed help, that I should call and she would come to my house. Kathy received a call Monday night and was in our home Tuesday morning. Kathy has been a hairdresser for 36 years, and said she had never seen anything like it. For the next couple of hours she also worked at the matted mess, but we concluded that it just needed to be cut. Kathy made a very difficult situation so much more bearable. She cried with us, and prayed with us before she made the first cut with the scissors. I knew I was going to lose my hair eventually. But this is not what I expected. Kathy was able to make the disaster into a cute haircut that I am enjoying for a short while. More hair is coming out daily. Kathy is awaiting my next call and has her clippers ready, along with another dose of love, support, and prayers. I guess another thing I did not expect was to be showered with so much love, so much support, so much caring from so many, even from people we do not know! I am learning so much from others. I am gleaning from others’ wisdom, others’ sacrifice, and watching Jesus work through so many!

It is Monday again. I could write for hours about the rest of last week, but it included trying to go to work last Wednesday, only to end up on the Turnpike trying to get to Harrisburg because of an accident on 83, and having to stop along the road to throw up! I’m so glad my husband was driving as I had been dizzy off an on. He insisted that I not drive. He’s a wise man! I ended up back at home. But on Thursday I did get to work for a short time. Then I got to spend some time with our daughter, Andrea, who came up from Baltimore. That was a good day, except for fatigue and random dizziness. On Friday, I had a break from chemotherapy but had to go to the hospital for lab tests. By that night, I received the call that my sodium was critically low and my red blood cells were very low and I needed 2 units of blood. Well, that at least explained the fatigue and dizziness. I was to go the hospital on Saturday for the “type and cross” to make sure they got the right blood matched for me, but was told they couldn’t schedule the infusion until Sunday morning. But God intervened and they were able to fit me in for the infusion on Saturday. I didn’t expect to spend most of the day at the hospital on Saturday. However, AS PLANNED since October, Don, Kristin, and I went out to eat, then went to the symphony at the forum as they featured James Bond music! It was awesome!

I was able to be at church for both services on Sunday. It is so good to worship God through music with my church family! Don’s sermon was great! I have been listening to his sermons now for over 34 years, and learn something new each time. I just have to say, my husband is an awesome speaker! He communicates God’s message and life issues in such a practical yet deep way. He doesn’t know how gifted he is…but this humility is one of the reasons he is so effective and endearing to those who glean from his teaching and wisdom. His gifts are “God-ordained”, and many agree with me :) He is also teaching me about sacrifice.

After church on Sunday, we came to Altoona to visit my parents for a couple of days. We made plans before “life changed” to visit in mid-January, but that had changed too. It is always good to go home to my parents’ warm home and beautiful farm. There is peace here. This will have to be in another blog. My parents are amazing people, who lived their faith and helped me to fall in love with Jesus. They are also hurting through this trial and crisis.

It is Monday again and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I know I will continue to fight the fight with treatment, but I will not give up praying for a miracle. I don’t know what to expect, but I know who holds the future. I know the Lord is with us, even though he seems silent right now. I know he is hearing the prayers of so many who are lifting us up! I know he is using my situation to draw others closer to him. I know he is teaching us to trust and rest on his promises. We do feel his peace. I know he cares that losing my hair is difficult. I am reminded of the sacrifice Christ made for me and how the Father’s heart was broken. I know I can trust a God like this. I know he understands.