Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Holding Patterns

A few years ago I was on a flight that started out pretty uneventful.  The plane left on time, I had an aisle / emergency row seat, and the guy next to me didn't smell bad, take his shoes off, or want to talk which always makes for a pleasant flight.  Things were rocking along just fine until out of nowhere we hit some pretty awful turbulence and the pilot announced that we would be making an unplanned stop until the storm passed.  So we did.  And we just sat on the tarmac at a strange airport that wasn't even on our itinerary, unable to get off the plane, yet unable to go anywhere....and no one could tell us how long we'd be there.

We tried to make the best of things.  The flight attendants even started passing out food and drinks to make us a little more comfortable.  It helped, a little.  But no matter how hard I tried to be calm, I was incredibly anxious.  I knew that there was no way I would make my connecting flight, and I'd unlikely be making it home that night.  I had children to gather from grandparents and a job to show up for the next morning. I had appointments, commitments, responsibilities. This detour was not working into my plans whatsoever and the worst part was....I was completely not in control of anything.  So as I sat there, I remember thinking that the only way I was going keep from having a full blown, anxiety laden meltdown was to focus on just the next thing.  The big picture was way too overwhelming because I had no idea how....or when....this detour was going to end and I would be back on track.  So I did the only thing I could do at the moment...

I stayed seated.  I breathed.  I read.  And I enjoyed a free candy bar.

When we finally made it back into the air and arrived at our airport, we were forced to circle in a holding pattern for what seemed like days, because there wasn't a spot for us to land yet.  We had to wait until it was safe.  When the traffic finally cleared, we landed.  A little unnerved, but safe. Nothing else really mattered at that point.

Life has a way of throwing us off our charted course, doesn't it? Sometimes an ugly, unpredictable storm comes up and you find yourself at a dead stop, and then sometimes you find yourself in a holding pattern.  And sometimes the only way to survive is to focus on just the next thing.

A few months ago my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Hello, turbulence!  After her lumpectomy, they told us that they got it all, it had not spread, and they thought she would only need a few weeks of radiation....such a huge relief.  Over and over we all said how grateful we were that she would not have to go through chemo or any other surgeries.  Then a few weeks later, after additional testing, they determined it was worse than they thought and not only would she need chemo and radiation, but they didn't get clear margins and would have to do another lumpectomy.  

More turbulence.

Then midway through her first round of chemo, they discovered a serious heart issue and told us last week she would need to have open heart surgery.  At that point the overhead bins flew open and all the luggage landed on top of us.  I think we're still digging out.

After meeting with the cardiologist last week, we left with a plan which includes another 12 week round of chemo, the surgery to re-excise the tumor, then after she recovers from all of that, open heart surgery, another 2-3 months to recover, then radiation.

The big picture is much too much to even process.  She's truly handling everything with grace and courage and strength, but I keep reminding her that her focus has to be just on today.  Or maybe I'm just trying to remind myself.  Not only because of this, but life has really thrown me off course lately and I feel like I'm just sitting on that tarmac again....completely not in control and unable to do anything but be still.  And breathe.  

And so I picked up a few candy bars at Trader Joe's the other day because, well, chocolate makes everything a little more bearable.

If you're a praying person, pray for my Mom, will you? And for those of us who are on this uncharted course with her.  We need patience, peace, and grace for the journey.

And chocolate.