The Power of the Purge

A week ago Sunday evening I began “THE PURGE in our basement!” ENOUGH of a lower level that looks like a hoarder lives there. ENOUGH of piles of “stuff” that should be somewhere else but instead is just down there because it can be. ENOUGH of storing items that could be of use to someone else. ENOUGH of avoiding the actual filing of things that are important to keep track of! ENOUGH of it all!

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

I’m glad it was recycling week because there was so much stuff I don’t even know why we still had. Paid bills, random correspondence, stacks of meaningless/no longer relevant paper… the shredder’s gonna be VERY busy in days/weeks to come… And the other things… craft supplies, seasonal decor, packaging/wrapping items, sentimental stuff, displaced household items… It’s all been collecting down there for years. Years that have seen water pipe breaks, sewer backups, appliance replacement; all of which have caused these stored items to be displaced/rearranged – often not in an orderly manner.

A couple weeks ago, I would have been content to have left that mess continue to be, untouched and wholly unnoticed. That night, for whatever reason, I became keenly aware that I was overwhelmed by how things got “set aside” for so long and that they had become a monstrous weight upon my psyche. It was time to set about slaying the beast. So I dug in.

In light of our current life situation, this comes as no real surprise. Priorities are shifting before my eyes. These days, my mind is restless – searching desperately for distractions, things to do that transport me from the scary, uncertain reality in which we’re living. The purge is providing me with an escape. It’s turning into a spiritually fulfilling activity for me; something I can control, at a time when so little is under my control. It’s something with which I can make progress and measure my accomplishment – at a time when other, more dear, issues are enigmatic and wholly out of my control. At least in this part of my life, my will shall be done.

I hope I complete the purge before I look like this…
Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

So I sort. And organize. And toss. And assess my attachment. And get real about what is really important… in my home and in my life…

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Finding Our Way Through Uncharted Territory

Our life is currently in a state of turmoil. Upside down. Completely unrecognizable as our own. Why? Well, in a mere three months, we’ve transformed from a very happy, healthy couple of loves, married for 25 years, to a couple dealing with a husband’s:

  • colon cancer diagnosis in October, 2018
  • colostomy in November, 2018
  • chemotherapy beginning any day

How’s that for a reversal of fortune? Never in our wildest imaginings would we have ever conceived that what is happening right now would be a reality in our life.

It’s more important than ever to focus on the positives, but sometimes, truthfully, they are difficult to find. It seems more like locating the least shitty thing among all the shitty things. One significant item squarely in the “Win” column is that Scott’s colostomy is reversible. With the chemotherapy’s toll on strength and immunity, however, it will be delayed by several months. There’s no doubt that we’re looking at an extremely challenging 2019.


We’re trying to keep this ordeal in as manageable a perspective as possible by thinking of it as a temporary (albeit a significant) bump in our road. The expression “take one day at a time” has never rang truer or helped in a more tangible way than it does now. Each day that stacks behind us is another victory; one more down. It’s difficult, but we’re trying to remember that this is not our forever fate; it’s just our now – and it straight out sucks. Scott and Gina stick together and find their way – always have and always will. We’ll weather this physical and emotional storm together with our particular brand of compassion, humor and irreverence; someday it will be behind us.

As a writer, processing events and emotions by putting words to them comes naturally. Writing has always helped me make sense of things and find perspective. So there’s no question I’ll be writing frequently and passionately about this experience. As I ponder this wordy undertaking, it occurs to me that my account of our upcoming months may be of interest – and maybe even help – to others also going through life-altering circumstances like this. So my reason for sharing this deeply personal and emotional journey here on Once a Time a Time is twofold; as a personal journal of sorts, recording this experience, and as a potential source of support and inspiration for others. I’m sure my observations won’t be entirely unique, as many have walked this path before me, but I hope that perhaps they will resonate with someone.

That being said, I have no intention of turning this blog into the Cancer Chronicles. I will continue to ponder, amuse, delight and recount stories that spark my spirit and imagination. That’s the only way I know to keep my emotional life alive and maintain a sense of normalcy that we will sorely need.

I hope you’ll follow along with my observations at this intense part of our life and continue with me once we’re on the other side.

Here’s a little something to remember when facing difficult times because remember, laughter is the best medicine.

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Embracing My Inner Storyteller – At Long Last

“The shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.” ~ Anthony de Mello

Beginning this year, I’ve vowed to shorten the distance between myself and others by telling more of my stories here on Once a Time a Time. I constantly have an myriad of insights, observations, memories and, yes, stories rolling around in my mind, longing to be expressed. Yet I always seem to find reasons to avoid actually doing the writing: I’m too busy with my day job; too stressed; too distracted… But at this point in time, I’m stepping up and committing to myself to become the writer I really, truly am. To have this talent to write and fail to utilize it to a greater degree is unfair to myself and to those who may benefit from or at least enjoy what I have to offer.

I’ve always found it a natural mental exercise to put my feelings into written words – whether the result is funny or profound. Lately I can’t escape the feeling that life is giving me an abundance of subjects to ponder deeply. In fact, I’m reminded of these clever lyrics; maybe these recent hardships will inspire some words of wisdom of my own…

To life! (L’chaim!)
from Fiddler on the Roof

Our great men have written words of
Wisdom to be used
When hardship must be faced;
Life obliges us with hardship
So the words of wisdom
shouldn’t go to waste.

Besides, this fortune from May 3, 2017 encouraged me to go for it…

Posted in Inspiration, One Writer's Passion, The personal development of Gina | 1 Comment

And the Results are In…

A happy us

Literally, as we pulled into the parking space at the gastroenterologist’s office, the radio began playing the first few notes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ The Waiting (is the hardest part). Scott’s response, “Ha, like that song hasn’t been on a constant loop in my head for the last couple weeks!” To which I replied, “Yup, mine too, Sweetie.” Then we chuckled a little. “See,” he said, “We can still laugh.”

And yes, we could. We always can. Apparently, no matter what. And with that, we entered the medical building for our appointment to learn what was going to impact the rest of our life: the results of the CT scan done yesterday on the mass discovered during Scott’s colonoscopy.

“I’ve got good news.”

Those were the first words out of Dr Robinson’s mouth after offering us each a hearty handshake. At which point I heaved the heaviest sigh of relief ever. I think I was making up for all the breath-holding I’ve been doing since the morning of  October 18.

And there was no “and some bad news” to follow. It continued to be the best news possible in this situation.

He reported that the CT scan showed no indication of Scott’s cancer having spread into the colon wall, nearby lymph nodes or liver, which was the purpose of the test to determine. That being so, he said he was no reason that Scott could not be CURED by having the affected portion of his colon removed. No chemotherapy. No radiation treatments.

We were quite stunned initially but I felt a smile coming on and a warm sense of encouragement that I hadn’t felt in a couple weeks. There have been SO many fears and concerns unearthed; wild fits of “what-ifs” experienced; numb silences endured… So all those questions scribbled in the spiral notebook I’d brought into the office were – for the most part – answered within a few moments or were no longer applicable to the situation. A couple, though, were still worth asking: What kind of cancer was this? Answer – Adenocarcinoma. It’s actually the most common type of colon cancer, being the culprit in 95% of cases. As to the question: What will recovery from surgery most likely be like? The answer indicated that it is relatively not too bad, especially due to the location of the mass in the sigmoid (lower) colon. Things can be reattached and rarely is there any change in function.

Of course, he made the disclaimer that, should the surgeon who performs the operation see something when in there that did not show up on the CT scan, that could change. But for now, we are taking this as the best, most positive report we could have received.

Excuse me while I take another deep breath. Still processing here…

Ok, so we left the office with a referral to a surgeon with whom I will make an appointment tomorrow when his office opens.

So for now, we are guardedly optimistic that this could be over and done with – just a brief, sour memory – very soon. And we’re perfectly fine with that. I have no doubt that this ordeal will stay with us forever, etching the importance of physical diligence and medical testing deeply into our psyches. Health is nothing to be taken for granted – and it can vanish in as little as one sentence spoken by the right person.

From the bottom of our hearts, I want to thank everyone who has reached out with a message, gave or sent hugs, prayers, positive thoughts or even took a second to hold a good thought for us. It’s not over but we are so deeply relieved that, not only do we know what we’re dealing with, but that it’s not as bad as it could be.

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How Our Life Completely Changed in Two Hours

Writing about this has been on my mind because that’s how I process information best. But writing about this means that I have to accept a cold, hard fact: A malignant mass has been found in my Sweetie’s colon.

He had his first colonoscopy last week and the growth was discovered then. A hungry, healthy man walked into the doctor’s office with his wife and an overwhelmed, bewildered couple walked out two hours later. A biopsy was performed and the results came back confirming the malignancy yesterday. So indeed, it is a fact that, at least for the time being, Scott has cancer.

The stage and scope of the disease will be determined by the results of a CT scan scheduled for the 31st. Many scary questions will be answered on the following day when we have a consultation appointment scheduled with the gastroenterologist. That’s the day we’ll learn what we’re really up against here, including the state of the cancer (has it grown into the colon wall/spread elsewhere?) and next steps.

The dynamic duo who is us!

We are gobsmacked, to say the least. And frightened. And sad. And distracted. And confused. And angry. We feel as if we’ve been punched in the stomach, in our minds, spirits and bodies. The time between now and next Thursday afternoon is going to feel like an eternity. And as gut-wrenching as this waiting period is going to be, we fear what we may hear. We want to know and don’t want to know simultaneously. It’s agonizing.

I’m worried about Scott. Scott’s worried about me. How are we feeling about/coping with/bearing all this at any given time? We, of course, are trying to stay calm and think positively for each other as well as for ourselves. We’re trying to keep our minds and hearts focused on the “what is” rather than let them spiral forward into even more scary scenarios. But I have to tell you, it’s no easy task. Lots of breathing, meditation and comforting hugs are happening around here (yes, more than usual…). As much as we’ve been through in our 26+ years together, this past week has been far and away the most challenging and heartbreaking.

We’ve already told a select few about what’s been going on. And now I feel I can broach the subject, reluctantly, with the rest of you. It’s not that it’s any kind of secret but it was really hard to talk about. The support we’ve garnered these recent days has been staggering; the good wishes and prayers deeply appreciated.

Our strategy to weather this storm is to cling to one another, depend upon one another and never hesitate to share our feelings with one another, however sad or frightened. We will arm ourselves with as much information as we can gather and give ourselves permission to feel overwhelmed – or positive – as needed. It’s the only way we know how to get through things – and it’s always worked for us in the past. So don’t knock a good thing, right?

I recently heard from my mother-in-law Sharon, herself a three-time cancer warrior, say that the moment you are diagnosed, you are officially a cancer survivor. That sentiment right there is where we’re hanging our hat.

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