Friday, August 10, 2018

When You Come to a Fork in the Road

SPOILER ALERT: This has not been a fun week, so this is not a funny post!

Now that my latest surgery is nearly a month in the rear view mirror, I am beginning to wrap my head around all that has happened. This chapter has been daunting because I have been forced to experience epic life changes at warp speed. When I went to the ER a month ago, I knew that I wasn’t feeling good, but I didn’t anticipate surgery or a colostomy appliance or a new bout with cancer in my life’s lesson plans.

Usually, once I know the facts of a situation, I am pretty good at adapting to a the situation and figuring out what I have to do next. However, all of these changes have come so quickly that I am still processing it all. Having said that, I began this round of chemotherapy a few days ago, and even though this treatment doesn’t seem any better or worse than my last round, my spirits had descended to a new low, and I wondered if I had the emotional and physical wherewithal to contend with everything.

As many of you know, my 75th birthday was on August 7th. Since my mother always made a big deal about our birthdays, I have always loved celebrating my birthday. Because I was not feeling up to a big party, several of my friends stopped by, and we had some good laughs and some good conversation and some rhubarb pie. However,  knowing that I had chemo the next day and knowing that I did not have the strength to take the Bush Boys on our annual Cubs’ game this year was definitely not a good place for me. I am not usually a defeatist, but I was feeling as though life had kicked me to the curb way too many times.

Given the fact that my head was not in a good space did not help. Feeling borderline nauseated and having an accident with my colostomy bag before my chemo began did not help. Once we cleaned up the mess, the anti-nausea drugs began to kick in. While I still didn’t feel that great, I at least felt borderline functional. By the time the infusion was finished, we came home with a new boatload of drugs and instructions, and I felt overwhelmed.

The good news is that I finally had more energy and started to feel more like myself and ready to take on whatever lies ahead. Donna and I spent a lot of time setting up a chart for my pills and for my food intake so that I can make sense out of everything. When I have a plan, I can cope with most anything. While this plan is still going to take some tweaking, at the very least, my life feels a little more in control. Next week I will have more lab work done to see if this latest treatment is on the right track.

While none of this is going to be a walk in the park, I have so much for which to be thankful. I have Donna at my side to do all of the heavy lifting--both physically and emotionally--and I have family and friends who are supporting me in ways both large and small.

In the words of Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”


  1. I think of you all the time. You know, right, that feeling down and questioning your abilities is totally normal under these circumstances? When this cloud lifts a little, and it will, you may see a little sun coming through. I don't know how to help; you rarely express a need for anybody's assistance. Whatever you want that I can supply, I would be honored to do it. My heart goes out to you and Donna.

  2. Phyllis, You are a poster child for When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I am so sorry that you are going through this ordeal again. I am sending you healing prayers and prayers for strength. You are amazing, and I am so glad that you have such supportive and loving people in your life.

  3. Yes, take that fork in the road, and use it to eat rhubarb pie! Phyllis, you are just being so human and real. That’s not the easy part. When you’re used to always having a plan and coping, it’s hard to know what to do when you run out of cope and when your plan is so way off base from what you had hoped it would be. I have run out of the cope several times due to death and so forth So I can relate somewhat to what you’re feeling right now and I’m not gonna tell you to just hang in there or cheer up or any of those trait comments. You know you’re a strong woman, but you still feel overwhelmed and that is so human and so normal and so very very difficult. You’re on my prayer list and I pray for you daily. I’m so grateful for Donna in your life so that you don’t have to work this out alone. Also grateful for class of 61 and how we come around for our classmates. Long distance love and prayers work! You are surrounded. Once in a while a good hissy fit works wonders. Scream, yell, curse, whatever it takes to vent your rage.

  4. Having a chart helps in understanding the obligatory minutia for the day.
    You are certainly brave and need to know that a whole lot of people have come to know you through your posts and those of Diane Ravitch. May the force be with you.

  5. Ms Bush! I haven't been in touch with Dave in quite a few years, but Phil Beineke included me in an email to Dave recently when he expressed concern for your health. I wrote both Phil and Dave back, and it's been great the last couple days thinking about our childhood together all those years ago. You were an enormous part of that for me, and I'm so sorry to hear about your "cancer shmantzer," but it's at least the tiniest silver lining that I have an opportunity to say how wonderful and important you were when I was 6, and 10, and 16. I wrote Dave that my most indelible memory (of many) of you is when you poured you me and Dave fizzy cokes, and both of you made such a big deal about how we had to drink them so that the fizzies went up our noses. I was equal parts confused and thrilled by the whole thing. I was such a dumb little kid, not quite understanding that it was just silly fun! But I felt the fun intensely anyway, and it means something to me that I've remembered it ever since. I'll also let you know that I'm a high school teacher--been one for more than 20 years now--and I'm not going to lie and say I'm not a really, really good one. I love kids, love helping them figure out who they are, love helping them find themselves in themselves, and I love communicating my awe and joy in subject matter (math, but I have been told more than once I do it with the inspirational style of an English teacher). And I know that I touch their lives in indelible ways that are just plain good, even if I can't characterize them in clearer ways than that. I wouldn't tell you that for no reason, though, or to brag or anything (as if many adults are impressed by particularly good teachers, after all!). I'm saying it to you because more than once, when I've thought about where I learned to do what I do, I've thought about you. You obviously were never my teacher, but I can look back and see the essence of the teacher you are in how you were at your house on Chancellor Drive (that's the right street, right?). And I can see now that I put to use what I saw, what you gave, in becoming the teacher I am. I've thought about that before, and I'm glad I get to tell you here. At least I hope I do--I'm not sure how carefully you'll read the comments section here...anyway, I'm sending best wishes and fellow-feeling and love. Kick some cancer ass. --Charles