Monday, November 9, 2009

All We Are Saying, is Give Peas A Chance.....

Some time during the last century, I was in a beauty pageant. I don't know which of those two things is harder to admit-- the time or the place. Nonetheless, like all dutiful, (and competitive), contestants, if asked, I was prepared to answer the time-honored question that would surely put it in the "bag" for this Miss Dothan wanna-be. Regardless of my stiff competition, I had done my homework of past queens and was prepared for any brain teaser that might possibly give a mere hint of my true inner beauty. My plan was a sure bet, as long as the question could be answered by any one of these three fail-proof answers: 1. Mother Therese, 2. The Holy Land or the ultimate response, 3. World Peace.

As the emcee pulled the question out of the bucket, I stood on the Dothan Civic Center stage in my baby blue chiffon dress with dyed shoes to match and could hear my boyfriend Russ whistle. And then Press Thornton yelled something about, "Do it Tiny...." (that was my nickname). Refocused, I prepared myself to recite any one of my three rehearsed answers when out of nowhere, the unthinkable happened. Emcee: "If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?" "Pardon?" I said, in an attempt to buy time.... Quickly, I tried to think how any of my canned answers could be rephrased and still woo the judges.

My brain was whirling.....perhaps I would say, "If I could change anything about myself and why, it would have to be my attitude." (yes, that was it! ) "I wish I could be more patient and forgiving, say like Mother Therese. Why she would surely leave her walk with God, in the Holy Land, to come to the U.S. and help President Carter get those hostages out of Tehran, then we'd have World Peace for sure." Maybe I would even say something about 10% inflation??? No, that would be too self-serving.....

But by the time the emcee had finished repeating the question, I had spun around on a dime and completely changed my mind. The answer was a no-brainer; I'd asked myself this same question every day for the past 16 years. I wanted to change my nose. I was one of 4 girls and the other three got my Mom's cute little pug. As luck would have it, I had gotten my Dad's Roman-Henry County nose. It was clearly a mix-up of grand proportions. That's what I would change and that's exactly why. I had a man-nose.

As I prepared to answer with the truth, I caught a glimpse of my sweet parents sitting in the front of the auditorium. Nervous for their middle child who'd shown no interest in beauty pageants or public speaking, they were clutching the program and each other's hands. I couldn't do it. The thought of embarrassing my Daddy was far more painful than that of embarrassing myself. Runner up would just have to do. Yet again, I was beaten by a nose.

Besides his profile, I inherited a lot of things from my Daddy. The son of a farmer, he knew the definition of hard work, very hard work, at an early age. And the son of the Depression, he understood the value of money. (My husband will confirm that I didn't inherit the latter.) He and my Mother taught us that money didn't make a man and that everyone put their proverbial 'pants on the same way'. My parents treated everyone the same; with respect and dignity. They didn't care which zip code you lived in and wouldn't dare ask what your profession or Alma mater was because it didn't matter. Unless you gave them good reason, they would be nice to you. They were hardworking, unassuming people who did the best they could to raise four children and bury two. They went to church, they tithed and they laughed. A lot. In spite of their overwhelming tragedies, they beat the odds, stayed happily married and made us their priority.

I've always said that I grew up spoiled and rich. But it wasn't money that I was talking about because we certainly did have it--it was love and attention. I watched my Daddy dearly love and respect my Mom. Every night while she was cooking in that tiny kitchen, he would sneak up on her and put ice cubes in her pants. She would scream and dance as if she was surprised and he would walk away with a devilish sense of accomplishment on his face. We were his life. My daddy was present. He didn't hunt or golf or fish or go out with the guys. Not once. Not ever. My, have times changed. As a parent of four, I struggle daily to keep it together. My impatience gets the best of me, even under good circumstances. I never heard either of my parents use profanity--how can you have 6 children and not let one fly every now and again???? ( well, there was that time that my sister Karen rode up on the back of a motorcycle with Wes Johnson. It wasn't pretty.)

When I was 12 or 13, I was invited by my friend Gerri to swim and sun at the inner-sanctum for who's who in our town, the Country Club. whooowhooo. It wasn't the first or the last time, but this particular summer day was like a show and tell for my Daddy's life lesson and I will carry the memory to my grave. My Daddy had never been to a private club before and didn't much care for his daughter wanting to go either. He was afraid I would be exposed to that personality altering disease, a-little-too-big-for-your-britches syndrome. After we parked our bikes, Gerri and I surveyed the pool to see who was there that day. It didn't take long before I zeroed in on a new sign that had recently been professionally painted and hung on the fence by the entry. The new DCC logo was beautifully painted in script across the top and the heading POOL RULES was centered just below. The usual restrictions were listed in gold cursive type: Members Only, open and closing hours, No Running, etc., and finally, painted at the very bottom, in all caps, it demanded: ABSOLUTELY NO SHELLING PEAS AT POOL SIDE. I'm laughing as I type. I couldn't get out of the pool fast enough to get to the snack bar. That's where the only phone was. We laughed out loud, my Daddy and I. His fears were immediately dispelled, I was still a farmer's daughter after all. These country clubbers too had put their pants on just as he had that morning. No longer would there be brown paper bags from the IGA collecting pea hulls from the Moms at the Club. Pea shelling was officially reserved for the back porch of your own home.

My Daddy became my hero that day. His words had been validated, confirmed and painted in green and gold for all eternity. We are all the same. Take away the cars, the homes, the private clubs and the titles and we're all God's creatures. And there's no application for that.

This lesson has become abundantly clear for me this past month. Cancer, like any disease, does not discriminate. Your income, or address, or your status makes no never mind to pain and suffering. What can make a difference (besides health insurance and that's a whole 'nother blog) is attitude. We can choose every day, every single day, how we will respond to our situation. Underneath it all, we are the same. Let's make a promise to ourselves that tomorrow we will put our pants on, but with a different, no, a better attitude. As Dale Carnegie used to say, "If you act enthusiastic, then you'll be enthusiastic." (Atlanta, class of 1986). I challenge each and every one of you to stand in the mirror and say to yourself, "Today, I will have a great attitude!" I promise you, it will make a difference in your day. Let me know how it works for ya.

Cancer Update

I couldn't even post a comment after my first treatment because I was so sick. But for those of you who've kept up with my blog, I must tell you that when Ted and I got to the waiting room for my first infusion, I got settled in my chair and looked up at the television and "Let's Make A Deal" was on! I didn't even know that show was still being made. I laughed out loud and knew God was too.

My second treatment was this past Friday and though the chemo went well, I couldn't get the Avastin because my blood pressure was too high, which is a side effect of that drug. I feel better this time, but the nausea and headaches are persistent. Both are side effects and come as no surprise. Fatigue will probably show up tomorrow. My hands and feet are beginning to tingle and will eventually begin to blister and peel. That too is expected. In the Clinic Friday I sat next to a beautiful young girl( probably around 25) who suffers from Sickle cell anemia. She has been coming to UAB for transfusions, every other week, almost all of her life. The gentleman across from me is unable to make red blood cells on his own, so he too comes for a transfusion every week--since 1997. Even though we all put our pants on the same way that morning, I don't think I did it with as much dread as they probably did. Once again, I'm the luckiest girl in the room.

My 3rd treatment is November 20. That will be the last of the Doxil, then the Taxol will begin in December. Bald by Christmas :)