Protect or Prepare?

A little bit of controversy for you today…  the next line of the blog is probably going to shock many of you and and possible start a flourish of criticism and complaints, but here we go.

I let my eight and six years old grandchildren handle my medications – and being a secondary cancer patient, there is some beefy stuff in my arsenal.

There.  I said it.  For those of you not already rushing off to call Children’s Services I’d like to explain why and how, and then you can be the judge.  A few weeks ago I blogged about old-fartinalia and how my medicines were getting so unruly I bought an idiot box – um I mean pill box – to stop me killing myself with the wrong medications.

“I remember that,” you might be saying “But hang on…  one day they were too confusing for you to handle but you’ve being letting the kids handle them?”

That’s right, I do.  Each Sunday Jordan and Charli help me take all my tablets out of the packets and fill up my pill box for the week ahead, and each Sunday I choose to be less hands on so that their confidence and skill increases.  Protect or Prepare.  Any one who has ever had a child will no doubt be faced with an endless stream of Protect or Prepare choices.    Sometimes you have to protect (when they are very small and don’t have experience) and sometimes you have to prepare (they have to go to school or learn to cross a road).  Other things are more discretionary and one of the most challenging choices is how to handle serious illnesses and dying.

My approach is to opt on the side of prepare, rather than protect my children and grandchildren from these tricky issues.  My grandkids (as with all little people, are curious and natural learners) and having three of them (4, 6 & 8) living with me at the moment, I’ve had an awful lot of sticky questions.

Jordan (left) teaches Charli (right) how to fill Nonna’s tablet box. Jordan had been filling the box for a few weeks prior to this photo.

We have had impromptu conversations about my mastectomy:
“Whats this Nonna?” asked Charli (6 years)
“That’s my fake boob honey.”
“Oh. Ok.  Why do you need a fake one?”
“Because the cancer made my real one very sick and the Doctor had to cut it off.”
“Oh, and the fake one makes you feel better about yourself?”  Charli surmised. I just had to hug her.  Little Miss I’m just six, had more understanding than a lot of adults.

We have talked about my Cancer being incurable:
“When is Nonna going to get better?” asked Jordan (8 years)
“She’s not, honey.  This type of cancer can be cured.” Said Mel, her Mum.
“So, her medicine are to stop her hurting so much?”
“And slow the Cancer down”.
Once again we were proud of Jordan’s understanding, she only turned 8 last week.

We talk openly about my treatment and medications:
“Nonna, Nonna!  One of your lollipops is on the loose!” said Harry aged (5 next week) before carefully picking up the non-drug end of my empty lozenge pain killer. Harry knows that particular drug can hurt other people and is aware of how to handle one on the loose 🙂

We’ve been fortunate in our house (and in both my grown childrens’ homes) that cleaning products have never been ingested, fire’s never been lit and medicines never taken in mistake of lollies.  I don’t believe it is because we have locked these things away and made them a mysterious taboo – in fact the opposite,  Hot, Sharp and Poison, were some of the first words my kids and now their children learn to understand.  Dangerous and breakable things were displayed safely, but never locked away or removed.  Kidlets were just closely supervised and taught about these things.

Now I have five beautiful grand children, who are being raised in a similar way. These five kidlets are very lucky that they have amazing parents who help them to see the wonder, fun and magic  in the world  as well as prepare them for life in all the forms they might encounter it. Needless to say a little bit of proud mum and Nonna bragging is sneaking into this blog but you know as much as  I adore my own children, the grand kidlets would not be as charming and awesome as they are without their other parent too. I love and appreciate my ‘other’ daughter Sharon, and my ‘other’ son Grant for the way they love, care for  and nurture their children too. I don’t like the term “in-law”  it sounds like a legal document rather than a heart based relationship, so I am lucky enough to have two daughters and two sons who between them are raising really wonderful human beings.

Disclaimer:  I am not professing that my parenting or my kids parenting is so flawless that accidents don’t happen; constant supervision is needed to teach these concepts.  No lock or education can take the place of an interested, involved parent supervising kidlets as they learn and explore the world.

I also think that by letting the kidlets be actively involved in my disease it will help them cope late on.  Medicines, doctors and long periods in bed while I am drowsy are going to become a regular feature of the rest of my life and likely to increase as time goes by.  I hope that exposure and explanations now, will make whatever happens in the future less scary and more normal for them.

To this end I encourage Jordan, Charli and Harry to come up and snuggle me on the weekends, or simple play computer games or watch a movie in bed next to me.  I love having them nearby, they enjoy the one on one time and I am happy that they are so comfortable being near by while I am sick.  I know that down the track there will come a time where I am spending more time in bed and able to do less: in these times I hope the grandies will continue to jump in next to me for a hug, chat, or a story, and that these fun memories will outweigh the not so nice ones.

Kidlets are more in tune, capable and responsible that we give them credit for.  Little hearts and souls can carry very heavy loads with such adult understanding and simple acceptance that it would put most of us to shame.  What kids CAN NOT handle is feeling unsure, excluded or not important enough to be involved.

I have trusted my kids (all 4 of them), and grandkidlets with the truth and the facts and they have responded with empathy, understanding and responsibility.   This, is why I believe in Prepare over Protect wherever possible.

Talking to a five year old about disease and dying is much more refreshing and honest than talking to most adults.  Not that this is a topic of conversation all  or even most of time in our house but on the occasion it arises we do talk, listen and  respond. Perhaps as adults we over-think the big issues, worry to much and forget to be in the moment – genuinely BE present, with the people around us.

Next time you are feeling frustrated and thinking of telling someone to “grow up”  … consider… maybe that’s the problem 🙂

A caravan, a caravan, my kingdom for a caravan or was that a motorhome?

Fighter Vanessa grabbed me by the scruff of my collar on Tuesday morning.
“C’mon, the sun is shining.  Caravans are a selling.  Let’s go!”
“No!” Frightened protested.  “I need to stay in bed today.”  I had run out of one of my pain killers and it wasn’t avaiable for a couple of days. I was terrified of how bad today was going to be.  The last thing I wanted to is go driving round the place climbing in and out of caravans.
“Well you are obviously not serious about this Parfait Party thing.” Fighter goaded.
“It will be different when I am actually on the road” Frightened tried.
“Rubbish”. Fighter retorted. “If you can’t be bothered getting out of bed to reach your goal, you don’t deserve it.  It ain’t gonna happen magically while you cuddle your pillow.”

Arrrh!  I hate it when she is right.  Off to Port Wakefield and Pt Clinton I went,  to walk around a handful of likely caravans in the flesh.  Soooo worth while.  On the first day I found out that all the pop-tops on my short list had to go  I just don’t have the reach or strength every day to be pulling roofs up and down or beds in or out.  I also realised that after a day of climbing in and out of caravans, there are sometimes that I just wont be able to come and go without a lot of pain so a toilet and shower inside is even more important than what I first considered.   Also as I looked at different sized caravans I wondered if I would be able to tow one after all.
“That looks awfully heavy and unstable.” Frightened worried.
“Hundreds of people manage to tow caravans everyday.”  Said Fighter Vanessa.
But despite Fighters instance that caravans were a viable vehicle, my mind and my heart began wandering back to motorhomes.

I spent the evening and well into the  small hours on Gumtree and Trading Post and anything that sold used caravans or motorhomes assessing a big list of vehicles.  I was sore and tired, and incredibly encouraged by the fact I driven and climbed all day.  But now  I was more confused that ever as I drifted off to sleep.  Caravan? Motorhome? Caravan? Motohome?

The magic is inside and how they are built.

Tuesday was ground hog day.
“C’mon , the sun is shining. Caravans are a selling”  Fighter chiming again.
“No! Just let me rest, please.”
“Okay sure. Rest up. No road trip then!” Fighter threatened with a very ‘no-dinner-no-desert’ tone.
“If you are serious though… I’m going back to Pt Wakefield to have a look at this private caravan sale.”
“I sat up in front of the mirror and blew a big childish raspberry at myself and hopped out of bed.

Fighter was right – if I couldn’t even be stuffed getting out of bed to go caravan shopping two days in a row, how did I really think I was going to go sight-seeing and parfait-partying all the live long day? 

Off I trotted again with Frightened and Fighter bickering away all day in my head.
“You don’t know where we are going do you?”  Frightened asked Fighter.  As I threw a  u-turn on the highway. “I do… just give me a minute to bring up a map… I’ll have a clue in …just…a … minute.”  Fighter responded (she is stubborn as all hell, terrible at directions and frankly a bit of a liar when it comes to stating her level of competence in such things).

Finally we (I?) got ourselves un-lost and found the turn-off to a private caravan sale on a rural property only to be met with a dead end.

“I told you I shouldn’t have come today.  This is stupid.  I can’t even get in the road”.  A road plant had just dumped tonnes soft fresh dirt lumps all across the road ready for grading. “It’s not a strong car, she’s old and needs to be handled gently.” Frightened said. “It’s still a car, it can do this.  JUST GO!”  my other alter demanded.   “Look that car went through.”

“He is a four-wheel drive and about six feet tall! “

“So what… JUST DRIVE THROUGH.”

And we did.  Very uneventful ride despite all the drama.  I giggled to myself about all the fun I was going to have on the road as Frightened and Fighter both jostle for the decision-making seat.  Fun times ahead!

Another successful day of caravan hunting revealed more facts:  The crew at Port Wakefield Caravans  can automate anything and love challenges, and their Aussie By Design caravans are to absolutely die for!  Frightened and Fighter are both properly in lust with this brand of van, although Frightened was muttering something about the microwave being to high and the overall size too big (Lordy girl, give it a rest).

Retiring to my laptop in the evening, still sore, still tired but still pressing on (thank you Fighter, you were right to make me go out again), I began googling a question bigger than the meaning of life… Should I buy a car and caravan? Or a motorhome?

Happy with my two days of road tripping and caravan hunting, but still perplexed, I was about to go to bed when…

… I found it!  Well I think I found it.  It was old and unexpected, irreverent and a little off kilter.  Solid, but not serious. Practical, but with room for personalisation.  If all goes well in a few days you’ll be hearing the first of many adventures from Rebs and her vintage Dodgybago!  Stay tuned

PS It was lovely talking to the helpful owners and staff at both Aussie by Design and YP Caravans & Custom Annexes . Customer service is right up there with both business even through they sell to very different markets. Together over the two days they taught me many things I did not know.

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The Finest Line

 …also known as the well known tale of the Can-Do-Its

I’ve been thinking a lot about success and failure the last few days.  Lack of the former and the iminent arrival of the later.  So today I am giving myself a pep talk.  You get one too.

We’ve all heard the famous quotes:
“Failure is another steppingstone to greatness” – Oprah Winfrey

“The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it: so fine that we are often on the line and do not know” – Elbert Hubbard

Then of course we have the classic 12,000 ways not to make a light bulb,  fall down seven times and stand up eight and so on.  All wonderful stuff to have posted next to your computer or on the back of the dunny door. Hmm… talking about dunny doors – you should see what’s on mine! (maybe one day I’ll let you have a peek)

Ummm…yes I can use MS project but…
’tis really hard to bluetack the PC to the wall 🙂

And then, I look at my to-do lists and all those quotes seem fit for, is completing pretty posters of people mountain climbing.  Hmmm… the real question is how do I apply those inspirational words to the reams and reams of butchers paper in front of me.

Well, even if I am a bit behind schedule at least I’ve made a start.  That’s something right?  Maybe taking the first step and resolving to do something I love no matter the outcome is the success.  Robert H Schuller believes so: “Winning is beginning”.

Yesterday Fighter Vanessa and Frightened Vanessa were at each others throats, nay-saying this and blame-storming that.  The only appropriate response was to turn on some soothing music, drown them out, stop thinking and start doing.

But where to start?  Lewis Carroll recommends the Beginning.  Bit conventional for my liking.  So what do I want to work on today?  Something fun, something positive, something that is going to bring the Parfait Party closer to it’s potential.

All things on my list look terribly admin-y and tedious today.  What was that about opportunity being disguised as hard work?

In yesterday’s post the Lamp was quite horrified at idle thoughts being misused.  I suspect he would be equally unimpressed with me as I sit here sighing at my butcher paper lists. I can almost hear him, “Thoughts Become Things, you know.  If you think it’s too hard and too boring, you WILL prove yourself right.” 

Ok, so how do I rethink these daunting to-do’s into something more desirable?    I’ll defer to someone well versed in Thoughts Become Things

“Think of every single thing that we ‘have to’ do to get through a day as something that we ‘get to‘ do… before our turn is over” – Mike Dooley.

So maybe the finest line is is not between success and failure, beginning and ending. Perhaps the finest line is between “TASKS I have to do” and “Having the PRIVILEGE to do these tasks”.    Joy of joys; this finest line exists no-where but inside my noggin.  Look out… here I come TO-DO – no, scratch that PRIVILEGE-TO-DO list!

Can-do-its…
can-do-its…
can-do-its..
I CAN do it!

A Recipe for a Life with Bite-Sized Can-Do-Its

Ingredients
1 life – raw
1 time machine
1 bunch of Can’t-do-its
1 bunch of Can-do-its
Sprig of appreciation – fresh

Method
Chop the Can’t-do-it’s into palatable daily sized pieces. (You’ll barely notice them – just like hiding vegetables in mince for the kids)

Place the 1 raw life into the time machine, with the chopped Can’t-do-it’s.

Bake until the 1 raw life is about to expire.

Take the well baked life out of the time machine and examine. If you are not happy with the results place the life back into the time machine until it is back to a raw state.

*For a more pleasing result try this variation made with Can-do-it’s.

Remove and discard all the Can’t-do-it’s. Add Can-do-it’s to the 1 raw life (again, chop them into small pieces and they wont hurt a bit)

Finish your creation with a large fresh sprig of appreciation and take at least one bite each day.

Never forget the sprig of appreciation, it will remind you what a privilege it is to be able to add your own Can-do-it’s to raw life and frankly no life should ever be served without it.

More A…………………………………….ll bearing

So this was my dream. Then came the challenge of making it a reality. The biggest hurdle to overcome was deciding to ‘expose’ myself for this project. This project could have been underway good month earlier but I kept procrastinating. Could I really do it? Am I ready to talk about this? Do I have the strength? Do I really really have to tell the truth?

Yes, I could say that I was going to do it. I am going to ask for donations for the bus, I am going to share my real story, not the prettied up version. But was I actually going to do it?

I just don’t know.

“Yes you bloody well are! Otherwise you might as well just curl up in your bed and die now” That’s Fighter Vanessa again, giving me a pep talk.

Frightened Vanessa made a few appearances this week. It was two days after I finished radiation and my body hurt so bad I didn’t want get out of bed. Gingerly I rolled to the side and popped a pain killer in my mouth. Then another one. A small tear rolled down my cheek and I could see my dream of the travelling Parfait Party going down the drain. I don’t even want get out of bed today, how will I manage on the road?

I shared my fears with my daughter. Told her that I didn’t think I could face people at a Parfait Party function if I was feeling like this. Even though this was only a tempory thing. My daughter said that I would find my sparkle when I needed it. Moments later she had dropped her laptop on to me, and there was my son-in-law on Skype. Cuddled in my armchair and a snuggie the last thing in the world I wanted to do was chat. Wasn’t she listening to me?

Apparently Fighter Vanessa was on the same team as my daughter as despite my worries I found myself laughing and chatting and yes… sparkling. So maybe I could be weak and vulnerable and less than perfect and still make the Parfait Party a success. Just maybe…

But still the biggest challenge would be talking about yukky stuff as well as good stuff.

Anyway, as with all things practice makes perfect so here is me practicing to be honest.

How are you feeling?

Frightened (and highly private) Vanessa’s answer: Fine thanks, I’m well.

Fighter (and sometimes brave) Vanessa’s answer: Crap, I feel tired, sore and scared. I have great days also, but I’ve just finished raditation and I feel like poo.

How is your cancer treatment going?

Frightened (and highly private) Vanessa’s answer: Fine thanks, we are managing the pain and I hope parts of my back might be healing.

Fighter (and sometimes brave) Vanessa’s answer: Since my diagnosis a couple of months ago I’ve had emergency surgery to put pins into my thigh to strengthen it, radiation to three ribs, one thigh and arm, My current medication is Letrozole tablet daily and a monthly Dumosma injection that I can now self administer, making life on the road so much easier. With a diagnosis like this the emphasis is not on cure but rather it is life quality and more invasive treatments such as chemo are deferred until later. Any pain I get is addressed with radiation to try and shrink, slow or kill that particular tumor.

Right now i guess you have the same question I had and that’s if they can slow/shrink/kill one tumor why can’t they kill them all? My understanding is that the human body can only take so much radiation and if they used enough to kill/shrink/slow all the tumors they could also kill me 🙂

I’ve just finished a round of radiation to the spine, but I suspect I need to pop back for a little more nuking shortly. It’s really hard to tell if the treatments work for a while and that’s tough, the waiting. But I am still positive that we can get this thing under control so I can go travelling and best of all so is my medical team.

I blame the spoon!

It all began the day I was diagnosed with incurable secondary breast cancer. The very same day our local Foodland supermarket started a promotion that enabled you to collect one stamp for every ten dollars you spent, and in time to exchange those stamps for pieces of a rather nice cutlery set.

“Hmm, a decent cutlery set would be nice” I thought, followed immediately by “Don’t be absurd! I’ll die before I get to use the set. I need to save money for practical things.”

“But I really like this spoon” I countered myself again.

So there and then in aisle three began the battle of the two Vanessas; I call them Fighter Vanessa and Frightened Vanessa.

Fighter Vanessa won this particular battle. I swallowed a bucket of cement powder, decided to live long enough and well enough to collect and use my shiny new cutlery set.

This set came in single settings and sets of six teaspoons, cake forks or parfait spooons. My dad lives in town and I asked him shop in multiples of ten and save the stamps for me. After a few months we had enough to complete a four person setting, so I went and invested in it. Dad continued to collect stamps – just in case 🙂 Anyway, what’s the good of having six settings for parfait and only four places for dinner. Another two place settings were added to the collection. 

Cancer = 0, Vanessa = 1 very nice cutlery set.

But what good are parfait spoons without parfait glasses …