Sarcoma

A Reason, a Season and a Lifetime

There is a saying that was shared with me about a year ago where someone told me that “people come into your lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. It was interesting to me as I had never heard this before, and it was something I needed to hear in that moment. I was questioning my friendship with someone and sharing this information with a complete stranger; a nurse who was drawing my blood for my annual check-up, which by the way, I hate doing. Another story for another time…

I do not believe in coincidences. I do not believe that people come into our lives by chance, and this interesting piece of information was something that resonated with me in a huge way. I had never been able to rationalize my thinking of “no coincidences in life” and “the greater meaning of connections” and this person put the words out there plain as day. This particular nurse came into my life for that one, singular reason; to inform me of this interesting notion; people don’t come into our lives coincidentally. They are there for a “reason, a season or a lifetime”.

That was her reason. I will never see her again. But the impact she left with me last a lifetime.

On most days, we think we are connecting with people that we think are there for us. But I think most times we are actually meeting people we are supposed to impact. It can be hard to think of this the other way around, meaning; we actually connect with people we are supposed to impact, until it happens once or twice. I was at the airport last month and met these two women while having a beer waiting for my flight. We chatted and the one said to me, “I’m glad I missed my flight. Otherwise I wouldn’t have met you and I’m really glad I did”. The other woman offered to set me up with one of her single male friends in Seattle, to which my response was “no, thank you” ;-) But I digress…. I of course was having flight debacles galore this particular day, but perhaps this was the reason for my flight delays; to impact someone else in this case, these women.

There’s also another saying or theory that when you do through a major life change, be it loss or something else, you tend to find out who your real friends are – or are not. I like the idea of thinking that it’s more along the lines or a reason, a season or a lifetime. I’ve come to realize that everyone comes into your life for a reason – be it for your or for them. On most days I often think it’s for me, but I’ve gotten better at thinking maybe it’s for someone else. The woman at the airport, case in point; I impacted her that day. Doesn’t matter that I was having bad travel karma, the reason was I came into her life for a reason that day. That reason, I’ll never know. But it’s those connections that stay around for a while; those for a few days, weeks, months or even years sometimes. Those are our seasons. Until they become lifetimes.

Ed was my lifetime as are the kids. There is no question about that. And there is not further explanation or discussion that needs to take place. I know this. My kids know this, and anyone who knew us, or has read our blog knows this. Since his passing, I tend to see, and actually look for, the deeper meanings in the connections I make with people all of the time. And while often times the “reason, season, lifetime” can’t be seen right away, there are some connections that are clear as day, to me anyway. This is how it looks to me:

  • It’s a group of girls drinking Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas on a Saturday morning, or a different group of girls eating bar food and beers on a Friday night.
  • It’s a friendship that just ended for no apparent reason – the season just ended.
  • It’s a group of women who you have nothing in common with except you’ve all lost husbands. You just “get it” and that’s enough for a lifetime.
  • It’s a 21 year old young person that is seated next to you on a four hour flight that contains the most interesting and inspirational conversation. I know one day I’ll say “I remember her when…”
  • It’s dinner with an old friend where there is endless conversation and laughter and you can’t remember a word of what was said, just that it was great – and it makes you realize it’s time to think about moving forward.

My list is endless…

The reality is, everyone is a reason, most are seasons, and few are lifetimes. But I know who those are. Without question. I am lucky, grateful, privileged and honored to have them, as well as all of the “reasons and seasons” in my life. I learn from each and every one of them. Some just go deeper than others, and some just stand the test of time…and life.

I’ve had a lot of “reason” and “season” people come into my life; and I cherish the “lifetime” ones. They are all characters in my book of life. Some contain a brief sentence; some a page, others a chapter, and few are part of the entire story that is written each and every day.

Today, ask you to think about your “reasons”, “seasons” and “lifetimes”. We all have them. What do they look like to you?

Strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love, hope

It’s all I need to get me through each and every day.

Tracey

Sliding Doors

There’s a movie made in the 1990s called “Sliding Doors”. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow and I think it was done before she was a big Oscar winner. In any event, the story is about a woman who has a moment in life that has the potential to change everything. She simply misses her train. The movie tracks both sides of her life; the one side showing what happens in her life because she misses the train; the other as if it didn’t. And the moment isn’t life altering itself. She misses her train. The chain of events that is shown indicates that interesting paths her life takes depending upon which “sliding door” you are viewing. In the end, her lives come back together in another life altering moment. The doors close in a manner of speaking. It’s a movie that didn’t win any awards, or probably wasn’t that well known. Yet a movie that always stuck in my head, and for whatever reason, started appearing on TV last year right after Ed passed away (I was doing A LOT of mind numbing TV watching at that time). The movie came on recently as well, and it’s one of those that I always seem to watch as I am surfing.

I rarely play this “what if” game. Even after watching this movie, I never have thought about what a view through my own “sliding door” would look like; until last Saturday morning. I was going through my very usual morning routine, when I walked over to where Ed’s urn sits (no ashes as we scattered them ceremonially in the San Juans last August, but the urn itself is beautiful so I keep it out in view), and I looked at it as I usually do. And while I would never forget his birthday, I was acutely drawn to the engraving of the dates on his urn. Yep, his birthday is coming up, and then his death date seared in my head. And it hit me; not only is it his birthday, but it would have been his 50th birthday. And like a bolt of lightning, I had a clear view through the “sliding door”. In that split second, I saw what would have been happening had we in fact been celebrating this major milestone of a date.

Had Ed not gotten sick and not lost his batter with synovial sarcoma, the past year would have been filled with intense ribbing on how “old” he was going to be. Hell, since he turned 46 I’d been telling him he was closer to 50 than 40. His age had always been a running joke between us. When we met I was in my 20s to his 30s. Never mind I was 29 and he was turning 34; not a big age difference but back then, 20s vs. 30s was a big deal. He would have continued to refer to himself as a “cantankerous old fart” and no one would disagree. Josh would have taken immense pleasure out of the entire “giving his old-man- dad crap” year, and Jenn would have continued to do so in a sweeter way. I would have planned a huge party to celebrate surrounded by all of our friends and family that could make it. Maybe we would have even taken that trip to Italy that we always talked about but never got around to doing. The glimpse through the “sliding door” was beautiful. It was brief and it was something I have not experienced before. I was grateful to have it for that fleeting moment.

Then I looked through the current “sliding door”. The one without him. The one where birthdays stopped just shy of 49. The one where we are all moving through life without him, creating newness that we never asked for. I realize how funny it is that in this “sliding door”, 50 seems incredibly young to have lost his life, yet in the other “sliding door”, 50 would have been considered old. I look back to the fog I was in a year ago at this time and realize that perhaps I can now look through the other “sliding door” because I can handle it. I hate every moment of every day without the love of my life being here with me, but I have gained strength to withstand it. I even managed a smile as I looked through the other “sliding door”.

The view was allowed in for a moment, and it’s not something I dwell on. Life “is what it is” and what happened happened. I couldn’t change it when he was here, and I can’t change it now. I can only continue doing what I am doing; trying to figure out life without him honoring him as best I can every day.

Today, on what would have been Ed’s 50th birthday, I continue, we continue, to honor him. I try to be the person he saw me as being as he always saw me better than I saw myself. I see changes in Josh and Jenn that reflect the same; being the young adults that their dad would have been proud of. The three of us will raise a glass to him today, probably taking a look through the “sliding door”, but more likely just sharing the memories we created as a family.

I invite you all to do the same at some point today; remember my wonderful husband. Honor him in some way by looking back at your favorite memory of him. I have to think it will bring a smile to your face…which is what he’d want for each of us.

Strength, Courage, Wisdom…Faith, Love, Hope – it’s all I need to get through every day.

XOXOXO,
Tracey

 

What’s Next???

This time last Saturday, I posted an update to Facebook letting friends know that I had officially resigned my position from Microsoft. Resign isn’t actually the right word. I had been on a personal leave of absence (LOA) first to care for Ed, and then of course to care for myself and my family after his passing. My LOA end date was coming on January 17, 2014, and I needed to decide if I was going to go back or not. Obviously I chose not to return for a myriad of reasons, none of which I need to go into great detail other than to say this; Microsoft, while an amazing company, and amazing place to work, and a place that gave me an amazing amount of support and compassion during the most difficult time in mine and my family’s life, can be a hard place to work. And I have had enough and still have “hard” in my life. I don’t need it professionally at this point and time.

The comments I received on my Facebook post about this were incredibly supportive and humbling. I’m still never sure what to do with this other than to stay grounded in myself and accept the kind words; something I haven’t always been good about. I don’t take compliments well, but am learning to be better. The most interesting comment of course I did receive is, “What’s Next” and I haven’t posted any response, not to be coy, but just because that is not an easy answer. And there are really two ways to answer this.

The question I think inquirers are asking is, “what is your next job and/or what company are you now going to work for”? When you have worked for one of the largest and greatest companies in the world, where does one go next? First, yes, I have another job. The answer to that question is easy. I have taken a marketing role with a Schaumburg, Illinois based company, Flexera Software. My wonderful friend and former Lexis Nexis manager, Maia, called me with a job offer I couldn’t refuse, and I accepted (there is lengthy story about all of this that I will save for another time. I will only say that sometimes a good friend knows exactly what you need when you need it. And that is Maia :) ). I am now working with her, and other former colleagues in a really fun environment, and as far as enterprise software goes, a good product. I am not moving back to Illinois, rather, I am able to work from home which allows me to continue to let my dogs run my life :) So professionally, the “what’s next” answer is easy. I’ve changed jobs and companies.

But what I hear the question, “what’s next or what’s your next adventure” the answer goes far beyond what my job is, which is the second way to answer the question. The job part is only part of the answer because the reality is, I, like many other, have a mortgage to pay along with other bills, and well the dogs do eat fairly expensive food and treats :) The reality is though, I see the next chapter and adventure as more than my job and while for so many years of my life, my career and job was a big definition of who I was. That is not what I want any longer. I am, and always have been more than my career, especially as a wife and parent, but now more so than ever. And my next adventure is figuring out who that person is, what that person wants to do, and where she wants to do it. This new job at Flexera Software gives me the opportunity to learn new things as a professional marketer, and gives me the flexibility I need to learn these other things about myself. I can take the time to figure out “hobbies” as I’ve started thinking about all of things I just want to try right now. More importantly, I can decide where I want to be while doing it, as I just am not 100% certain I will stay here in this house, or potentially even Washington State.

The house I live in today was mine and Ed’s. Seattle, Microsoft and everything about where I am today is about our life. And the same would have held true if I were still in our house in Naperville. That was OUR house, our life together, our adventure together. And now it’s my own adventure to figure out and live. The kids are always part of this consideration, but as adults, in their own respective homes, it’s really about what I need for my next chapter. And like any good book, it doesn’t write itself quickly or easily. It takes thought, creativity, care, detailed planning and careful consideration; one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, and one chapter at a time. The “new job” chapter is a good one so far. I’m fortunate to really enjoy what I do, have fun doing it, and actually get paid to do it. Not everyone gets to say this, and I am fortunate to be able to do so. There are, however, other chapters to be written.

As we approach the one year anniversary of Ed’s death on February 3, I will continue to “write the book”. One day at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, and in this case, one blog post at a time. I suppose in a sense, all of our lives are just books, the contents of which, we determine. How exciting the story is, is really up to us and how we choose to live each day. I encourage everyone to go create a really great paragraph of your book today :D

And for what’s next right now…the daily dog walk…let’s hope for some exciting squirrels :D

Thanks for reading and “listening”.

Strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love and hope

Tracey

PS – GO SEAHAWKS!!!!!! :lol:

The New Normal…

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a blog as it’s been hard to figure out what to really write about. We, and when I say “we” I am talking about Ed and I, started this blog to keep everyone up to date on his battle with sarcoma. That was the purpose. Well, as we all know, his battle is over. So do I end the blog especially since it’s no longer “we”? Or how does it evolve and serve a different purpose, along with the entire “Team Blackburn” website, Facebook community etc.?

I’ve written a few things to keep people informed about how Jenn, Josh and I have been doing, but I just can’t imagine writing to everyone letting them know about how we are all dealing with our grief of not having Ed here any longer. Many keep up with the goings on of the PNW Blackburn’s mostly by Facebook posts, emails, phone calls and the occasional Skype happy hour (my personal favorite). It’s in these vehicles that I can share my feelings one on one, share my tears and laughter, and I appreciate all of you that have been on the receiving end of those conversations. They are never easy for either of us, but as true friends and family, you have been there. And I am thankful.

So here we are on October 3, 2013. It has been eight months since Ed has passed. Eight months to the day. It’s hard to believe, and really the biggest indicator that the time has passed is the changing of the seasons. I had this notion that I was going to get through the summer with all kinds of projects and goals, that many of you have seemingly “been with me” in enduring. The biggest was of course was my quest to skipper my boat with the ultimate goal of scattering Ed’s ashes out in the waters surrounding San Juan Island. I wouldn’t say my boating skill building went exactly as I had expected but I did it. I managed to successfully, and with some level of confidence, tow the boat with the truck, skipper the San Juans and lay Ed’s ashes to rest exactly where he requested.

In addition and on a more day-to-day pace, many of you have kept up to date on my new lawn mowing expertise and the love of new lawn grooming toys (my next purchase on the docket is a powerful leaf blower), my scooping up and disposing of dead creatures in my yard, and the ever so famous HUGE spider in my garage that I had to call my neighbor to kill (I just don’t do spiders). And finally, let’s not forget the bird getting inside of my chimney stack and then fireplace. Not my biggest moment of strength as I “called the people” to come help, as even I realize my limitations.

And the most recent thing that happened was last weekend during the torrential rains. Turns out my gutters need to be cleaned, something I was aware of but had not yet scheduled. Well unfortunately, two of my gutters were majorly clogged so much so that rain was pouring off of my roof, creating a pool of water in an area near vents to my crawl space and inevitably letting water into the crawl. Not a good situation. One of the gutters I could reach. There I was on a ladder, with gloves on, scooping out leaves and crap from the gutter. The other one was one that I just couldn’t get to without help and thankfully; one of my friends came over and took care of it for me.

I was telling a friend of mine about this whole gutter situation which lead to talking about how I hate when this kind of thing happens. Ed took care of all of these things related to the house. I never took it for granted, but at the same time, it is always such a reminder of not only how hard some of this stuff can be, but that he is just not here. And he’s never coming back. As much as I half expect him to just walk through the door with his familiar “hey babe”, it’s just not going to happen. And I know this. I hate it, but I know it and I accept it. I’ve never been in denial about his being gone. I watched it happen. The entire 18 months of his illness to his very last breath.

And people say time helps. It does. And with the change of seasons, I have become acutely aware of the change as well as my own changes; my “new normal”. You see, as much as everyone thinks my going back to work and/or getting back to some sort of routine that I used to keep, will have things start getting back to normal, there is nothing about my “old life” that I can do today that is “normal”. Because in what version of my old life was scooping shit out of gutters, shoveling dead critters, mowing lawns, killing spiders, fixing fences, driving a Chevy pick-up truck, towing a boat, skippering a boat, packing a gun etc. EVER normal? It wasn’t. This was not my life and there is nothing that I did in my past that will ever be normal again. Not even writing and sharing my thoughts in this blog. Oh and btw – I was pretty happy with my old life and what I considered “normal”. I didn’t ask for this “new life” and “new normal”.

So what is this “new life”, “new normal”, and what is this blog now? I can think of a few things I do want it to be:

1)      Do –honor Ed and keep his memory alive, as well as create his legacy.

2)      Do – live intentionally and with purpose. Still working on this, and right now, getting through each day is the best I can do, but I know there is some purpose for me. Probably related to number 1.

3)      Do – continue to drive sarcoma awareness. NOT just cancer – SARCOMA. And end this disease. Probably related to items 1-2.

4)      Do – inspire. Not sure what to inspire, but I want to use mine and my families experience to inspire others. See items 1-3 :-)

So that’s it for now, but there’s more to come. While Ed is no longer with us, I am still here. Josh and Jenn are still here. Skip and Zena are here :-) It is my job to continue leading this family and Team Blackburn. While we are no longer “fighting” if you are reading, then you are still here. Living. That’s a great starting place for the “new normal”.

Strength, Courage, Wisdom. Faith, Love and Hope. It’s all I need to get through every day.

Tracey

XOXOXO

A Week in Review…Let’s Discuss…

This week Angelina Jolie came out with her big news about having a radical mastectomy as a preventative for breast cancer. The knowledge that she has as a carrier of the BRCA gene and her mother’s history of ovarian cancer, puts her in a higher risk category of getting breast cancer. So she took the information she had and made a personal choice to have this procedure. There has been much media coverage on this, and I have more emails in my inbox from every medical journal and newsletter to which I subscribe with articles expressing opinions on her choice both to have the procedure(s) done as well as coming out publicly to discuss it. The press cycle has died down mostly, but let’s discuss…

I had lunch with a friend this week, and I asked what she thought about Angelina’s big news. Her response, in my opinion, was right on. She said “It has people talking, which raises awareness, which is good”. I couldn’t agree more. Because if we think about it, at one time, not too long ago, breast cancer was a “rare woman’s disease”. Until people like the one’s featured in a USA Today Photo Gallery this week, as well as Nancy Brinker, sister of Susan Komen and founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and now a very public Angelina Jolie, talked about it, people didn’t discuss this “rare women’s disease”. Now it’s all we are talking about…this week.

If I put this into sarcoma terms, I think about the similarities of the situation. No one really talks about this rare disease unless you know about it personally. And if you are reading this blog post, you do know about sarcoma personally. You know Ed. You know me. And maybe you even knew Sadie. And we know sarcoma. So let’s start talking about it. It’s very easy and here’s how. In the event you are talking about Ed, myself, my kids or any Blackburn and the question about how Ed died comes up (and it will), the response can’t be “he had a rare cancer”. Talk about “it” and the “it” is sarcoma. Please don’t describe it as just another cancer because we, as a people, have become so desensitized to the evil that cancer is, we blow right past it. Who doesn’t know someone that has been impacted by cancer of some kind these days? But sarcoma, that is different. It is rare. It is unknown, but we can change that. I will change that, but I need your help, and it’s as easy as what I mention above. You’ve all asked how you can help, and here’s how. When talking about Ed’s SARCOMA type of cancer, please use the word SARCOMA. Not just cancer, not just rare cancer, but SARCOMA. And then the words “rare cancer” can follow. As can that he had one of 50 different sub-types of sarcoma called Synovial Sarcoma. And if you want a more detailed “elevator pitch” that gives more statistics about sarcoma, I can provide that, or just visit our Facebook page at Team Blackburn – Fighting Against Sarcoma. In the meantime, I’ll put my useless knowledge of pop culture out there with some other very public, yet “quiet” examples of sarcoma that I am guessing most of us have heard of, but have not even realized to discuss:

• Sarcoma seems to get glamorized in Hollywood in such movies as Flight (the scene in the “smoking stairwell”), 50/50 (a true story based in Seattle), and Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice (the mom of Cooper’s son). These are only the ones that I have seen and/or noticed, but there could be others. It is this because sarcoma is such a rare diseases that no one will remember it anyway? Let’s discuss…
• I just went to http://www.people.com to bring up a story that I had read about not too long ago regarding a high school girl, Katelyn Norman, who had osteosarcoma aka bone cancer, and had one wish to be able to attend her senior prom. Her high school brought prom to her, at her hospital bedside where should could fulfill one of her “bucket list” items. The next day she passed away. Let’s discuss…
• On March 5, 2013, Hugo Chavez passed away from cancer, and the media coverage focused on who he was as a leader, and not the cancer he died from. The type of cancer had not been mentioned in any coverage I had seen and I found it odd. Usually, the cancer that is the culprit gets full attribution on news coverage, giving a shining spotlight that it so much wants. I became curious as to what kind of cancer Hugo Chavez caused his death. So I did a quick Bing search to see what I could find and to my surprise, the cancer plaguing Hugo Chavez had never been revealed. For whatever reason, he, his family and his spokespeople kept this a huge secret. I cannot imagine why, however, that is everyone’s individual right. Not everyone is like me and wants to scream from the rooftops to let everyone know and raise awareness for the greater good. Reading as much as I could in the news coverage, things sounded eerily familiar; pelvic tumor, chemo, radiation, surgery – the general story that one hears of most cancers, until I added a few other things; unexpected bleeding episodes, cancer returning to the surgical site, spread to the lungs, and finally, his last hours were spent in acute respiratory distress, all in the timeframe of two years. Now I am not a doctor, but I am confident in one thing. I am an expert on sarcoma and guess what – this has all the likings of it. And further reading of news articles that got past the political implications of Hugo Chavez and delved into his health and cancer had doctors speculating just as I have. His cancer shows signs of both prostate and colon; however, there are enough idiosyncrasies of both that also have medical experts pointing to the potential of his cancer being sarcoma. Again, I am no doctor, but to a degree and expert, and I am telling you, in my opinion, this is what he had. Let’s discuss…

And that’s the week in review…let’s discuss…

  • Grow Where You Are Planted….
    …is something I heard for the first time about two weeks ago. I was at Trader Joe’s picking up some groceries. As the woman in the checkout line in front of me was finishing her purchases, she was picking up her bags and looked at the young, male cashier and said “Grow where you are […]
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  • What do you do for fun???
    I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night and was asked “what are you doing for fun”? And I had to really think about that one as I’m doing a lot of “stuff” but I’m not sure how much fun any of these things are. But the overall question got me […]
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  • A Reason, a Season and a Lifetime
    There is a saying that was shared with me about a year ago where someone told me that “people come into your lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. It was interesting to me as I had never heard this before, and it was something I needed to hear in that moment. I […]
    Traceyb
  • Sliding Doors
    There’s a movie made in the 1990s called “Sliding Doors”. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow and I think it was done before she was a big Oscar winner. In any event, the story is about a woman who has a moment in life that has the potential to change everything. She simply misses her train. The […]
    Traceyb
  • What’s Next???
    This time last Saturday, I posted an update to Facebook letting friends know that I had officially resigned my position from Microsoft. Resign isn’t actually the right word. I had been on a personal leave of absence (LOA) first to care for Ed, and then of course to care for myself and my family after […]
    Traceyb

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