Thursday, April 30, 2020

Across TEN Aprils!

Ten Aprils.  Ten Aprils I dared not dream I would see.  Ten years ago today, I had the right upper lobe of my lung removed three days after having radiation to a brain met, all due to melanoma, diagnosed at Stage IIIb seven years prior.  In 2003, there were NO effective treatments for melanoma other than the surgical removal I had.  Things weren't much better in 2010 when I progressed to Stage IV.  Ipiliumab (Yervoy) was on the horizon, but not yet FDA approved.  Neither were any of the other immunotherapy drugs or those used in targeted therapy for BRAF positive patients.  Ongoing clinical trials required measureable disease which I did not have.  So, I came home from my surgery/radiation hoping.  Hoping for one more spring.  Hoping to heal quickly.  Hoping to live to see my children, a high school senior and college sophomore, become the independent beautiful adults I knew they would be.  Hoping to return to work.  Hoping additional progression would be slow.  Hoping for a cure.  Savoring the incredible beauty that spring brings to my part of the world.

I was back at work in 3 months.  But, the progression I feared was rapid.  In October I discovered melanoma on my right tonsil.  Tonsillectomy Friday.  Back to work on Monday.  In December of that year, amid nonstop searching, B inquired about a trial at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.  He was told I didn't qualify, but learned of another.  A trial testing a new immunotherapy, MDX1106 - anti-PD-1 - later named nivolumab - now known to the world as Opdivo.  Dr. Weber called my husband back himself.  B was in Wally World, scribbling details on the back of a cereal box grabbed from a shelf.  The world is a crazy beautiful place, is it not?  Life is not easy.  Lots of times it is not the least bit fun.  Still, it is precious.  Not to be squandered. 

My Aprils are blessed by the three Kwanzan Cherry trees B planted as saplings in 2008 to celebrate my being 5 years past my original melanoma diagnosis with the hope that such a milestone meant we were free.  An erroneous celebration that has brought us much joy.

During more of the crazy that life brings us all, COVID-19 and its necessary restrictions has made me even more appreciative of how incredibly lucky I am.  Unlike others, we have plenty of food.  We have lots of books, music, and the world at our fingertips via the internet. We have lost no dear ones to this horrible virus. We have two beautiful acres to spend time working on and playing in, unlike those without open air to enjoy.  We have worked to create a little Appalachian garden here at home, and in April in particular, it repays our efforts in full.  The Virginia Blue Bells are one of the first to peek out above the winter leaves.

The dog wood I planted the year we moved in really outdid herself this year!

Everything is better when you have someone to lean on.  I am grateful for the many dear ones who have held me up when times were hard.  Life lessons demonstrated by Bluets and B's photography!

I love my fairy garden of Mayapples, their incredible blooms only visible below!

My beautiful pink azalea that I must say has a great deal more vigor than it did when it was a "Fort" for Ruff Ruff and two crazy kiddos!

So much of my garden exists through the generosity of friends, like these graceful variegated Solomon Seal from Trina.

Delicate 'Blue Flags', crested dwarf irises, scooped up and brought home by my runner boys.

Some of B's favorite flowers amid fallen cherry petals!!!
Beautiful Bleeding Hearts.

One of my favorite nooks.

My lovely Johnny White Irises.  So named after the respiratory therapist who gave me a bag of rhizomes when B and I got married.  They have moved with me to all our homes and have been gifted to Roo as well!!

Rhodies around a blue shutter!  It's the little things!

The Lazarus Willow - felled in an ice storm - righted by our dear friend Lester - as a lovely frame all these years later.

Lungwort!!!!  A plant I happily attained, mostly because I loved the name - much to B's consternation - after lung surgery.  More mundanely known as Pulmonaria!
My field of wood poppies and Mayapples makes me incredibly happy!

These last five - Jacob's Ladder, Foam Flower, Blood Root, Toad Trillium and Yellow Trillium grow wild here in the Smoky Mountains.  I have worked to protect and propagate them.  Their appearance feels like a gift each year.
Speaking of gifts -
This amazing lady has cried with me, entertained my children, taken care of them when I could not, and made me laugh so hard my stomach ached.  She happens to be my neighbor and a dear friend.  I am blessed to have had her in my life and am so fortunate to be able to share visits at "our place" in this time of COVID!  I love you, Kay!
Sneaky paparazzi snapping pics during a visit after a run.
Life has handed me more shit than I ever thought I would be able to deal with.  Yet, I have been so blessed.  I had the strength to get through it after all.  I am still here.  Loved.  Running.  Living in the presence of beauty.  My dear ones well and healthy.  Not at risk of losing my home or business.  I can help the ones I love if need be.  My heart breaks for those who have suffered losses from melanoma, COVID, the recent destructive storms in our area, and so many other ills.  Brent and I are both frustrated that there is so little we can do to make those lives better, those hearts whole.

Today, I share these photos, hoping that they provide some small joy, some spark of hope, a message of beauty and love, to those that are hurting.  You are stronger than you think.  And for all the pain and suffering - there is beauty ~ still.

Much love, les

For more spring beauty there is this:  My past Aprils