When Life Gives You Lemons

I had the awesome opportunity to take a road trip with Lee and the kids last weekend.  I had been in Little Rock for the previous week doing my pre-transplant/chemo tests to make sure I was healthy enough to go through a transplant again.  Usually, my test week isn’t too bad.  Unfortunately, it started off on the wrong foot and ended on what could have been a disastrous foot.  But, God has a sense of humor and I suppose I learned that bad situations, sometimes, are good ones in disguise.

My first test last week was a MUGA scan.  MUGA stands for multigated acquisition scan.  They mix my blood with a little radioactive material, inject it back into me and take pictures of my heart.  No biggie, but I feel like I should be glowing.  There is a waiting period of about 15 minutes between mixing and re-injecting.  Lucky me, I got to wait that whole 15 minutes with Debbie Downer.

I always try to start a conversation with whoever is in the waiting room with me.  People are usually pretty interesting, helpful and positive.  Prior to this lady, I’d only come in contact with one other truly negative person.  Needless to say, that lady had blown my mind with her offhand comment about her ex-husband and her previous best friend…story for another day.  Anyway, this lady told me that she and her husband (her husband is the myeloma patient) started their journey about 14 years ago.  She said that they became close with about 12 or 13 other couples during their treatment phase.  At this point I’m thinking, “Oh, that’s so nice!  How blessed they are to have that many couples they consider friends going through the same process.”  Then she says matter of factly, “They’re all dead.”  I so wanted out of that conversation right then.  She went on and on about how none of them died from myeloma, all died of infection like central line infection, pneumonia, blood infections, etc, etc, blah, blah.  She mentioned that they never get to have Christmas on Christmas because one of the grandkids is always sick, they don’t take vacations because risk of infection in an airplane is so high, they pretty much are recluses in their home during the fall and winter, negative, negative, negative.  What a waste.  How depressing.  Tell me, what exactly is the point of surviving this stupid cancer only to die of infection?  That was the first bad situation of my week.

I met a guy in the main waiting room right after the previous lady, and his story was just as depressing.  He was out of remission, I think he said 8 years in.  He felt the need to tell me how healthy he used to be, and he never got that health back.  He was in his 30s when he was diagnosed.  Yippee.  Second bad situation.

Towards the end of the week mom and I learned that one of the patients we considered a friend passed away.  The last time I saw her, nothing about her said she was going to leave so soon.  Mrs. Washington was a radiant woman.  She had very dark skin and wore either all white or all jewel tones.  She was so so beautiful.  She always asked me how I was doing, and never appeared to have a bad day.  Mr. Washington is a minister and it seemed that their last week there, they were always in the ‘pod’ right across from mine.  We had several conversations about God, staying strong, persevering, etc.   Her cancer started as multiple myeloma, but as it sometimes does, she ended with leukemia.  Looking back, Mrs. Washington had the slowed down movements of someone very weak.  You notice that when someone has gone through a tough treatment.  It’s almost like watching someone move their limbs through water.   We knew her treatments had stopped working.  What we didn’t know, and didn’t expect, was that her body would stop working only 2 weeks after her last failed chemo.  2 weeks.

Since school starts next week, Dr. Barlogie let me go home so I could be here for the kids.  They picked me up in Little Rock and we drove to Murfreesboro for a weekend road trip.  There is literally nothing in that part of Arkansas except for Crater of Diamonds National Park, a tiny miniature golf and a swimming hole.  Crater of Diamonds is the only open to the public, keep what you dig up diamond mind in the US.  My kids LOVE rocks and digging in the dirt, swimming and golf, so we thought it would be the perfect distraction.  What we didn’t plan for was flash flooding, loss of power in our motel and 70 degree cold rain.  These conditions could have been miserable.  They should have been miserable.  But we had a BLAST!

The first night we spent the evening making shadow puppets on the wall and reading by flashlight, all while a crazy storm blew through.  It rained so hard that there were puddles in the park the next day that went up to an adults mid-thigh.  Of course the kids ‘accidentally’ stepped in each one of these.  They made mud pies, found their special rocks and explored the muddy park in t-shirts and no shoes.  We figured we should give it a rest the first day when their lips started turning blue!  We went back to our motel around 11a.m., which by that time had power, ordered a pizza and ate it in bed while the 5th or 6th inch of rain fell that day.  Towards the evening, we put on more grubby clothes, cut holes in big black trash sacks and used as ponchos, and went out diamond digging again.  Before we went home the next day, we went out again and didn’t find a thing.  Were we irritated that our weekend road trip was ruined?  No way.  We were COVERED in mud, pruny from being wet all weekend, stinky because none of us had packed enough clean clothes, and should have been disappointed because all of our other plans had been rained out.

Plans get rained out all the time, though.  I suppose it’s all about what you make of your time.  We could have been so negative.  We could have kept the kids out of the waist high puddles.  I could have stayed inside because I was worried about my risk of infection.  Maybe I should have, but I’d rather my kids remember me as the soaking wet, bald-headed, diamond digging, as full of grace as Mrs. Washington mom than the afraid, miserable mom that I could be.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad days.  I have some very, very bad days.  But I will do my best to control what I can.  I refuse to let this stupid cancer hijack more than it already has, and I will make the best of a very, very bad situation. 


‘For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’  Colossians 1:16-17

12 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Lemons

  1. Beautifully written my friend! So proud to know you. So proud of your positive attitude. I’m so sorry for all the negative people during that week. I know your positivity shone through that darkness and impacted those people anyway.

  2. Thanks for being such a positive inspiration to others- no matter what the circumstances. Prayers for your strength, resiliency and peace. Love you, Steph!

  3. You are truly amazing! God is using YOU to encourage us, not the other way around. Oh my, I think I have had the hardest summer of my life for many reasons, then there you are, so positive and making me put things in perspective. Prayers will always continue for you, sweet girl. Thank you so much for helping us, even when we cannot do the same for you, except through prayer.

  4. Well hand me a Kleenex and slap my hiney. Here I have been feeling all “poor me” today and I read your incredible words of strength and courage and you just made me straighten my spine and say “mrs washington I’m going to channel you and Steph”. Love you friend keep fighting the good fight with such dignity and grace, you make me humble and oh so proud to know you.

  5. Stephanie, while it was a very rough week with the news of Mrs. Washington and other negative nellies, I have to share with your followers the continued impact you have on others you meet, such as the 40 year old father of two in renal failure who drove all night to get to Dr. Barlogie as a new patient. He, his wife and family were in tears scared to death and you, my sweet girl, went out of your way to put them at ease; your friendship with Emily Skinner as she left Ark for her transplant; visiting with Angela, who was finishing up her first stem cell. You are remarkable and I couldn’t be more proud of the way you choose to live your life making lemonade and making lasting memories digging in the dirt looking for diamonds! I love you with all my heart!

  6. You amaze me every time I read your blogs. If there is anything I could ever do for you please don’t hesitate to ask. Praying for you always

  7. Steph don’t let anyone steal your joy. I am so glad you, Lee and the kids had such a great time. I am also so proud of you and the way you are facing this ordeal head on by not allowing this disease dictate the way you live your life. You are so right to enjoy every minute you can with Lee and the kids. I have you in my mind every day and I feel so strongly that you are going to get through this and be one of the ones that tells everyone else yeah I survived it and can share with all keep positive and have faith. I love you very much.

  8. So love your accounts of your crazy, fun, new experiences for your kids, unexpected ups and downs with weather, but most of all sharing the memory of your families unforgettable mini vacation weekend! Something your babes will never forget, you truly make the sunshine for all your family(: So sorry for the downers of the week, the loss of ones you had drawn close. Continue to embrace each day, your example inspires us all and will help us face whatever might be in our future. You are a teacher to us all.
    You will be in my prayers and in my constant thought as you battle through this next transplant(: I love you Stephie

  9. Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks so much for reminding us each day that we are graced with is a day to do or be something for someone else, show another friend or not, a positive spirit (we all know it could be worse), happiness, friendship, kindness, or grace. I was on dialysis starting April, 2004 plus six and a half years when I received a call for a possible transplant. My transplant in 2010, was from a nonrelated donor instead of a cadaver. It gives me an additional twenty or so years, my surgeon and Transplant Team and I hope. I know its a blessing from God and am doing all I can in my power to maintain this gift from God.

    Its a blessing to receive any organ from a live person, but not being your organ means one must take anti-rejection medications to prevent rejection. Stay under 130 pounds, excercise to stay fit, and remember to take the medication. No matter what, I thank God for the gift and blessing for these past four additional years NOT on dialysis. Transplants never cure, but it does give life.
    I truly loved your story of togetherness with your family no matter what and hope and pray you are doing well and lufe is treating you fairly. Illnesd is challenging and we must endure to get better and continue to do what is in our power to live a good life. Forever thanking God for whatever we have no matter good or bad. I count it all a learning experience, and a chance to share what the father has taught and allowed to learn to share with others. You are a blessing to others; I thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts with so many.


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