Welcome to my world

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and a friend.
I've learned that who you have in your life matters more than what you have.
Thank you for stepping in to my world!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1636

I'm sitting here late at night, everyone else in their rooms asleep, as is often the case.  I'm watching womens hockey.  I'm not really a hockey fan.  I'm really not really a womens hockey fan. 

But.  It's.  The.  Olympics!

Gold medal game between Team USA and Canada.  Whether you love hockey or not, that's exciting!

I love watching the Olympics.  Not only because I love sports and these games are the best of the best in each sport.  I love everything about them..... the locations, the history, the athlete's stories.

Some of the sports I have zero interest in.  Curling, for one.  I just don't get it.  At all.  Most of the skiing events are kind of boring to me.  (Moguls just look painful)  Watching figure skating is my favorite.   Always has been.  I love watching speed skating.  I love the bobsled (those quads!!!!).  During these two weeks every four years, I become a fan of ski jumping, biathlon, snowboarding and a dozen other sports that I otherwise never ever watch.

You can't tell me you're a true American if you were not screaming and cheering when Shaun White came from behind to win his third gold medal in the half pipe.  What a truly amazing moment for him, and for Team USA.

I love the traditions of the Olympics.  I love how not only are the athletes competing against each other, but they are often competing with themselves.... to better themselves.  The Canadian ice dancers...... flawless once again.  The mens bobsled gold medal competition ended in a tie.  Yes, a tie.  In a sport where time is measured in hundredths of a second..... through four different runs, two teams ended up with the exact same time.  Craziness.

There are hundreds of storylines during the Olympics.... some sad moments, a lot of victorious moments.  People crash on the mountainside.  People fall on the ice.  People get hurt.  People live up to their potential.  They kick ass and take names, reaching the pinnacle of their sport, allowing the world to cheer them on.  These athletes jump dozens of meters in the air, landing on 3" white skis.  They speed down a mountain faster than I drive in my car (and I drive fast).  They hold each other upside down while spinning on the ice.  They defy the odds time and again, and the world cheers for them.

The Olympics bring out the ultra-patriotic athlete in all of us, and I'm always sad when they are over.
Go Team USA!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1634

Today was the second Monday in a row that I didn't go to work. 

Normally that would be cause for celebration. 
Last Monday I was recuperating from flying to the east coast for the second time in two weeks, and being away from home for 7 out of 11 days. 

This morning I stayed home because I was sick.  I'm not running a fever, so I don't think it's anything serious.  Given my medical history over the last five years, though, it doesn't take something serious to knock me flat for several days. 

Even before my cancer diagnosis I was dealing with a compromised immune system.  About a year before d-day I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, as well as Epstein-Barr virus (the virus that causes mono).  Both of those are basically a "once you've had it, you're stuck with it" kind of thing.  Even though I don't have active symptoms of either one anymore, it takes a lot of effort for my system to fight anything off.

Yesterday was a couch day (for all of us, not just me!).  I read, I had chicken soup for lunch, and we watched the Olympics all day.  All of that resting didn't help me bounce back.  I woke up this morning with the same headache, the same sore throat, the same worn out feeling.

Thankfully I am blessed with a boss who happens to be my husband, and he is very understanding about my limitations.  I had brought work home with me last week, so I was able to accomplish something today besides keeping my electric blanket company. 

It's so frustrating that something as ordinary as a cold can knock me flat and make me feel like I have to climb a mountain to bounce back.

Last night, in the middle of the night, I was hit with a wave of grief so sharp I couldn't sleep.  It has been fifteen days since my bestie became an angel in heaven.  It has been nine days since she was laid to rest.  I don't know what set me off last night, but the reality that I'll never see her, never talk to her, never laugh with her again hit, and it hit hard.

I can vividly recall every moment I spent with her during her final days.  I remember everything I said to her, and everything she said to me.  I remember what her hair looked like (dark!) and what her hand felt like in mine.  I remember hating cancer so much, every single minute I was there.

Trudy has not been a part of my every day life for a long time.  Decades.  There were years we didn't even see each other once.  There were months we didn't even talk once.  But she was always, always there.  Just a phone call away.  Just a text away. 

I have a thousand different wonderful memories with Trudy.  She's in heaven, and all I have are those memories.

I have so much love for her, with nowhere for it to go.
It breaks my heart. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1631

Two weeks ago today I was in Virginia, about to say my final goodbye to my friend.
We smiled, we laughed, I cried.  I hugged her one last time, and then as I left, I felt the grief hit me.
I honestly don't even remember the drive to the airport, or my flights home.  It's all a blur.

One week ago today I was in New York, getting ready to attend the memorial service the next day.
The grief was still with me, still sharp.... but dulled a little bit because I was back "home" and with my mom.  I don't care if you are a toddler or a grandmother - there is nothing like a mother's love.  
I got in a quick visit with my dad (who was doing really well!) and got my fill of New York pizza.

At Trudy's memorial service, I stepped way out of my comfort zone.  I knew in my heart that I wanted to say something to honor her, and our friendship.  I just didn't know if I could do it.  

I did.  

Teary-eyed from her husband's eulogy, I stood up and gave my own.  In front of a lot (a LOT!) of people (Trudy was something special) - people I didn't know, friends I haven't seen in decades, family I've known most of my life - I spoke from the heart and thanked Trudy for a friendship that nourished and refreshed my soul.

I met Trudy on the first day of junior high.  We were instant friends, inseparable from that day on.  I have so many memories that Trudy was a part of.... passing notes in school, sleepovers, trips to the mall, Friday night roller skating, cruising in her mom's blue Camaro, going to baseball games with her dad and Uncle Joe, so many different concerts over the years.  We went on beach vacations with each other’s families.  We even got our first jobs (at the same store) on the same day when we were 16.   We were at each other’s houses more than we were at our own.  We celebrated marriages (and I don’t care what Rich Sperl says, I take the credit for getting Trudy and Todd together!)
We celebrated babies.   Being a wife and mom was all she ever wanted to do.  I’m so blessed that even though life took us in different directions, we ended up back in some of the same places, too.  I only lived a few hours from her when she had Zachary.  Two years later they were stationed in Abilene when I had my son.  I went to San Antonio to be with Zac when Jenna was born, and Trudy came to visit me the next year when I had my baby girl.  
I've never used the term "best friend" regarding anyone except Trudy.  We may have lived far apart, but she was never far from my heart.  A few years ago Trudy gave me this necklace I’m wearing.  It says “Wherever you are, it’s your friends that make your world.”  Trudy’s friendship has made my world for most of my life.  She's the Thelma to my Louise.  We've shared love and heartache, fun and excitement, laughter and tears.  We even fought cancer together.
The name Trudy means "universal strength".  That’s so fitting.  Trudy is my hero.  She showed me the way when I had to walk in her shoes.  She never complained, she was never dramatic.... she’d just take what life threw at her and then move on.  She was the strongest, sweetest, funniest friend with the most beautiful heart.
Trudy left us far too soon, but hers was a life well lived.  This is a celebration of that life.  Military wife, school volunteer, Girl Scout cookie mom, swim team mom, walking partner, listening ear…. Whatever hat she wore, she was always the same amazing girl who was my best friend for 33 years.  Trudy was someone you could count on, and she was always up for anything.  So many things about her deserve to be celebrated:  her strength, her compassion, her loyalty, her fun-loving spirit, her faith, her love of family.  Sometimes you don’t realize how the little things in your life may impact someone else.  I will never think of Pepsi, Jolly Cow, popcorn at Target, Disney, road trips, scary movies, Carvel ice cream cakes, chocolate cake at Denny's, Ocean Isle Beach or the movie Top Gun without thinking of Trudy.  The 4th of July in Saugerties will never be the same for me, and I promise to toast her at Pizza Star every summer.   
I went to visit Trudy in Virginia last week.  It was my honor to spend some of her last days with her.  Late one night while I sat there watching her sleep, I made a promise to her.  The only way I could think to honor her was by doing what she did…..so I promised to live a life well lived.  I promised to make the most of every moment, like she did. 
When i walked into her hospice room last Friday morning, Todd asked her if she knew what that day was.   Trudy smiled and said "It’s Michelle's birthday".  Of course.  Of course Trudy would remember that it was my birthday.  Then she and Todd sang Happy Birthday to me.  I will never forget that moment.  It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.  Before I had left the night before, I’d put my phone up to her ear and played Wind Beneath My Wings.  She was sleeping, but the next morning, my birthday morning, she told me that she heard it. 

There has never been a time, since I was 11 years old, that Trudy was not a part of my life.
I want to smile because of all of the years I had her in my life, not cry because there won't be more.
Trudy, you are the wind beneath my wings... Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for being you.  

Mom and I finished the day toasting Trudy at Pizza Star with her husband and her kids.  Pizza and Pepsi - just for Trude.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1620

Trudy Lee (Koyon) Grant 
August 10, 1972 - February 4, 2018

When I wrote my latest blog post in the wee hours of the morning on Feb 4th, I knew.  Even though I hadn't been told, hadn't received the phone call or text, I knew.  God was getting ready to call Trudy home.

I couldn't sleep.  I finally made myself go to bed at 3:15am, and I was awake when I got the text from her husband at 6:05am.

I am forever grateful for the time I spent with Trudy last week.  Even though it was so difficult, seeing her so weak and sick, I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.  I wish I could write a beautiful tribute worthy of her, but for once, words are failing me.

Did you know that the name Trudy means "universal strength"?

How fitting.  No matter what life threw at her, she handled it with grace and strength.  Military life with multiple moves and a husband that was gone more than at home, difficult pregnancies, cervical cancer, lymphedema, her sister's heart attack, breast cancer, losing her mother to breast cancer..... Trudy never complained.  Never asked why.  She just kept on keeping on, making the best of whatever she had, and always looking on the bright side.

I'm not waxing poetic because she is gone.  I would have said (and have said) these same things about her while she was alive.  Nobody ever said anything bad about Trudy, because what could they say?  She was a loving, supportive, forgiving wife.  She was the most incredible and inspiring mother.  (Really, she puts us all to shame)  She was the friend I wish everyone could have.

I met Trudy on the first day of seventh grade.  That was in September of 1984.  There are friends who have known her longer, but I'll go out on a limb and say there's no one who has known her better for most of her life.  Whether we were inseparable in high school or spent two years without seeing each other, we could always, always pick up right where we left off.  As if no time at all had passed.  In all of the years we lived away from each other as adults, I can probably count on one hand the number of phone conversations we've had that lasted less than two hours.  It's kinda funny (but not really), but we couldn't even do breast cancer alone.  A year and a half after she got sick, I received the exact same diagnosis, and had the same treatment and surgeries. Crazy, huh?
We've shared love and heartache, fun and excitement, laughter and tears.

For me, Trudy was the one who I could just be myself with.  She never expected more than what I was, and she loved me for who I am.  I could tell her all my secrets and she could share hers with me.  So many important moments in my life.... and Trudy was a part of all of them.

There is no way a few pictures and some heartfelt words can properly express how much she means to me, and how much I will miss her for the rest of my life.  I've lost other people I loved, and some of them hit REALLY hard, but losing her is like cutting off a limb.

My husband is my romantic soulmate.... my other half.
Trudy was my friendship soulmate.... my better half.

There is no one like her, and my life will never be the same without her in it.

I love you BAH.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Kicking cancer's ass - day 1619

It's 1:38am.  I traveled from Texas to Virginia and back in the last three days.  I spent most of my time in Virginia at Trudy's bedside.  I'm physically and emotionally worn out.  And yet here I am, wide awake.  Looking up Bible verses about grief, comfort, strength and friendship.  What do I get?  A quote from Dr. Seuss. 

Insomniac blogging at its worst.

Trudy is an easy person to love.  She has made a lot of friends everyplace she's lived (and with a husband in the military, there have been a lot of places).  She has done a better job of keeping in touch with friends from home than I have.  She is the glue that holds her family together.  She is a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend.  Nobody loves her like her husband does.  Nobody loves her like her children do.  Nobody loves her like her dad does.  Nobody loves her like her sister does.  And I can promise you, nobody loves her like I do.

I've never used the term "best friend" regarding anyone but her.  Being inseparable in junior high through college or living thousands of miles apart....the words "best friends" always rang true.  She's the Thelma to my Louise.

I don't really know how to handle my grief.  Trudy is still here, but she won't be for long.  And even though I'm constantly hounding her family and friends who are with her now, I said my goodbye yesterday.  It was beautiful.  It sucked.  I laughed, she smiled, I cried.  We talked.  I hugged her as tightly as I gently could.  She squeezed my hand.  She whispered that it's always been us.... the bond we share is so special and "just us".  Her words.  

I keep waiting for the call that I know is coming.... the one I'm hoping for (for Trudy) and dreading (for me).  You'd think eventually I'd run out of tears.

I need to find comfort.  I need to find the peace that emanated from Trudy when I left her yesterday.  All I feel is sorrow.  I need to smile because of all of the years I had her in my life, not cry because there won't be more.  

We have shared so many wonderful and meaningful times.... passing notes in school and sharing clothes and cruising in my car and laughing/crying over boys and celebrating marriages and babies.  Trips to the beach and getting our first jobs (at the same store) and going to concerts and playing tennis and going to baseball games.  Fighting cancer.  New Year's Eve parties...like this one:

Given that our cancer journeys have been eerily similar, I know there are no guarantees.  Something else I know....whether I live another two months or another four decades, there will not be a single day that I don't hate the fact that Trudy won't be in it.