The Beginning of Thanks not the End of It

I didn’t miss posting about Thanksgiving in Australia simply because there is no Thanksgiving in Australia at least not in the month of November.   Thanksgiving is one of the few U.S. holidays that is unique to Americans and oddly enough not grossly over commercialized.   We’re too busy giving thanks I guess.

Australia’s Thanksgiving

Australians have what some rumors call a National Day of Thanksgiving in the month of May.  It sounds like it was something conjured up by a Christian network in the mid-2000s and maybe (or maybe not) recognized by the Australian government.   But do Aussies actually celebrate this National Day of Thanksgiving?  I can only wonder without some Aussie input.

It doesn’t bother me that other countries might create their own day of thanks. Maybe your thanks will override our thanks since I’m sure everyone is not thankful enough.   I can already hear people saying out loud (mostly Americans probably), “I’m thankful, I am!”   Be more thankful.   If you’re healthy and you know it, clap your hands and be so very, very thankful.

No Thanks, Scary Thanks & Real Thanks

There is inner turmoil between my bethankful woman and my I’mpissedandscared woman and since this is not a Thanksgiving blog but only sounds like one, let me share my lists of No Thanks, Scary Thanks, and Real Thanks.

  • I give no thanks, nothing, nada, zilch to the doctors who have been treating Hook for the past six months but do not see him as a person.   Do I expect too much?  Maybe.  Except Hook represents for these doctors one of very few patients who is likely to become candy-free.   He’s not just a statistic so stop treating him like a number!
  • No thanks to– I have to say it: cancer.  That disgusting blob of killjoy which attaches itself to healthy cells and feeds off organs like a parasite.  With all the fat floating around in the universe, why couldn’t cancer attach itself to cellulite? We’d all sign up for it then.
  • More no thanks to a healthcare system that didn’t allow for a nurse practitioner to help Hook and me navigate the healthcare process until …wait for it…six months after we’d been navigating the system on our own.   In fact, I’ve been so upset about this for the past week that I couldn’t even post a blog.  (Yes, I’m blaming healthcare for my lack of writing!  Genius, no?)  No thanks for the added layer of bureaucracy.
  • A big fat no thanks to Hook’s oncologist who loves to answer a question with a question.  When I asked, “Should we get a second opinion?”  He answered, “Why do you feel you need a second opinion?” and I said, “Let me ask that another way.  Would you recommend we get a second opinion?”   His answer, “You could.”    Thanks for nothing, but shhhh, don’t tell Hook I wrote this.  He likes his fist-bumping oncologist.
  • Finally, I am not at all thankful for mastering the art of living-in-limbo in a constant state of ‘wait and see.’  It sucks.

Okay.  The no thanks is off my chest.   That was my fear and frustration talking.   Now let’s hear from my heart.

Scary Thanks

Scary thanks are those thanks I give because I know it could be worse (way worse).  I know I’ve somehow skated by and I’m not quite sure why I get to be part of the lucky group.  Scary thanks are those cosmic chuckles we all give from time to time when Good Blessings aren’t checking I.D.s at the door because not all of us would be admitted:

  • I give thanks that my life’s circumstances aren’t worse or worse than yours whoever you are whose life is worse than mine.
  • I give thanks that my husband is who he is, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.  If things get worse, please remind me that I wrote this.
  • I give thanks for those nurses who do answer our questions, who give us frank advice when it’s not always in their best, political interest to do so.  God bless all nurses always.

Real Thanks

  • For our families.
  • For our wealth of friends.
  • For our lack of debt because we like to live like monks.
  • For my work-from-home business.
  • For my stupid cat.

I’ll always be thankful that life in Australia was even a possibility, is still a possibility, and who knows maybe next May when some Australians celebrate a Day of Thanks, the Hooks will be celebrating with them.  It’s the beginning of thanks, not the end of it.  Sing it with me people!

Hook’s Surgery is Dec 6th  I’ll probably post twice that day.   I’ll either post or spontaneously combust and you can read about it on Twitter.  😦

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From Funk to Super: The Hook-Australian Update

The Olympics came and went, August came and went and now, if I’m not careful, September will come and go, too.

My lackadaisical attitude hit right after my last blog posting.  I’d been in a bit of a funk, the kind where you have all these different directions you could go but none of them are completely where you want to go.  Instead of going anywhere, you decide to go nowhere.  You come to a dead stop like slamming on the brakes in the middle of the road even though there’s no car in front of you.

Some of you know what I mean.

August required some Brothers Johnson to help me get the funk outta my face.  Snoop Dog wouldn’t do.   And to help this process along, I did what any self-respecting, mature woman of 47 would do:  I ran away from home.

Running Away From Home

When I was 14 years old, my father, Lou, took a stand against my late night talks on the phone with my then boyfriend.   Remember the kitchen wall phone with the long, winding cord that you could twirl around your fingers as you talked?  I would sit on the steps leading down to the basement with the door between the kitchen and the basement partially closed so I could giggle in private.  Exercising his patriarchal rights, Lou took away my phone privileges.  In an act of teenage defiance, I hopped a bus from Saginaw to Flint. 45 miles away, learning the hard way that $10 dollars doesn’t go very far when you have to buy a $4.50 bus ticket.  I was gone for what felt like an entire week but was really only three days.  I chose Flint because I had a friend who lived there and it felt brave to my 14-year old self.

Flint, Michael Moore’s Flint of Roger & Me, is not a place people run to but away from.  No one runs to Saginaw either but at least Saginaw had one thing going for it – it wasn’t Flint.  I was taking a stand (so was Lou), fed up (so was Lou), and I meant to take drastic measures (again, Lou).

Running away from home when you’re 14 is eye-opening.   Running away when you’re 47 is just another charge on the credit card in San Antonio which is where I ran to.   My tastes and my friends have changed, but my lifelong desire not to be stifled has not.

I sent a text to Hook the next day just in case he hadn’t realized I wasn’t there anymore.   Poor Lou agonized over my absence.   Hook probably didn’t notice until I didn’t show up for dinner … the next day.

After getting our lives back in order, Hook’s and mine, I realized that I hadn’t taken a break.  Oh sure, we’d spent weeks and half weeks on and off in Port Aransas but that was more for Hook’s decompression.  Beach or no beach, I still worked doing my virtual recruiting and career coaching.

Within a three-month period, we went from planning a life overseas to planning to save Hook’s life to redesigning what our new, temporary lives would be.   In a bad case situation, it’s the best of circumstances.  No sane person could ask for more and that’s not just a repressed Pollyanna talking.   We really couldn’t ask for things to be better.

But the summer came and went and I missed it somehow and then Hook said something he shouldn’t have said (what husband doesn’t?) so I waited until he left for work one Friday morning, just like I’d waited for Lou to leave that morning back in 1979, and I packed a bag and ran away.

And it felt great.   Just like it had before.  And this time I could drive myself, so there.

I know most women, if presented with the right amount of alcohol in small intervals, would admit to the secret desire to walk onto a train, hop in a car, get on a plane and just go.  No note, no call.   Nothing to anyone.   Ppfft.   Figure it out for yourself.

 And What Does Any of This Have To Do With Being Down Under?

Well everything actually.  One of the allures of Australia, and one of the reasons we are still determined to get there, is that Aussies have this knack for going with the flow.  It’s different than say with the French who pretend to care only about wine and taking it easy but who are closet tight asses and whose weather can really suck.  Or even the Mexicans who claim to live on a mañana schedule in siesta time which feels great initially but the flow still needs to flow at some point and the whole mañana thing eventually gets on your nerves.

We chose Australia because it is on the other side of the world with an 11-hour difference, sometimes 12 depending on how we are monkeying with our clocks.  When Americans are sleeping, Australians are awake.  When we’re working, they’re dreaming.   People in Perth have the Outback in their backyard and they rest against the Indian Ocean.  We here in Austin have some incredible parks and Lady Bird Lake.   I love Austin but there’s just no comparison to the beauty of Australia.

One of the gift books I’d received, Mutant Message Down Under, was written by Marlo Morgan, an American woman who takes a four month walkabout in the Australian Outback.  There was some controversy surrounding the book because the author wrote it as fiction but then later said it was non-fiction but then changed her mind again and said it was fiction.  Fiction schmiction.  That woman did a walkabout and she convinced wellness gurus Og Mandino, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Wayne Dyer to write praises for her book.  Then Harper Collins turned around and published a million copies.

Here’s what we know:  there was a woman, there was an Outback, she walked.    And I want to walk, too, in the Outback in 2013; we think/hope/are planning.  “We,” remember?  Everything is ‘we’ now.

The Super Hook Update

Hook has passed through six weeks of intravenous chemo and is now onto daily radiation with chemo pills as a chaser.   The radiation with chemo sandwich will continue through the rest of September and the first week of October.   Then his body will take a rest from all the drugs with surgery planned for November.

Hook is doing great, a teensy tiny bit on the tired side, but otherwise great.  Or “Super!” as one of our nurse practitioner/advisors/doctor’s assistants (I have no clue what she is) says to us every, single time we meet.  “Do you feel tired or do you feel super?”

You cannot ask Hook if he feels tired because his automatic answer is, “Tired?  Well, yes, yes I do feel a little tired.”   And then I have to butt in with, “No, he’s not tired.   He sleeps a little more in the morning but his energy is the same.   He’s still swimming and bugging and fishing.”

“Super!”  Our assistant doctor-like person says.   She is who the doctors have us meet with so we’ll feel like we’re meeting with them.  We only actually get to see the doctor every third visit.  Do they really think we can’t tell the difference?  Our person is bubbly but annoying, perky but forgetful, genuinely nice but eternally distracted so much so that I want to punch her in the face before her mouth ever opens to save us both the hassle of conversing.

But I keep my hands to myself, screaming only in my head, when our practitioner/advisor forgets to tell us what we really need to know or says things like, “I just can’t keep all these prescriptions straight.”  And how does she think we do it? Or, she forgets to set up a “very important appointment” that is so important she cannot tell us why it’s important or who it is going to be with.   “It just is.  Trust me.”   Super!

You should have seen Hook’s oncologist and radiologist fist-bumping him after the first set of test results came in.  That’s how excited they were that the chemo was killing off what it was supposed to, and the radiation was not burning a hole in his skin.

The doctors exclude me from their excitement; they do not raise their closed fists to me because we are not on the same team.  I am on a maybe-surgery-won’t-be-necessary team, and they are on a he’s-almost-ready-to-be-cut-open team.   I’d have a little more faith in the process, in the medical system, if it seemed everyone was reading from the same game play.  But we meet and re-meet and discuss and re-discuss and have the same conversations over and over and over again that it takes everything in me not to punch them all in the face and say, SUPER.  But I don’t.  I am antsy but quiet; stoic with a wide-eyed hysterical look which I’m quite certain doesn’t look super.

2013 Australia Plans

Our plans are still on for Oz-land in 2013, so much so that Hook will meet with an academic guest from Curtin University of Technology this month.   The Curtin contact will be in Dallas and a connection to a connection to a connection was made and viola, they will stop in Austin to meet.

Why It’s All Going to Work Out

Four months ago, when Hook and I received the soap opera-like phone call about his diagnosis from a nurse who couldn’t answer any of our questions, we sat down side-by-side and scrolled through websites together to read what we could about pancreatic cancer, the stages, and the possible outcomes.

My first thought after reading was, Okay. This is going to be okay.  Hook read the same sites and thought, I have six months.

We communicate like all married couples communicate– we don’t– and our initial reactions to the situation were comical:  Hook wanted to update beneficiaries; I wanted to update our plane tickets.

We did update the beneficiaries and we cancelled the plane tickets but only because I didn’t listen to my instinct, and my instinct is this:  The only thing that’s ever going to kill Hook is me.

It’s all super!   And I am keeping the funk outta of our face(s).

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