an overcrowded breakfast table.

It’s a quiet, dark Sunday morning. Dan is already at church, and Dax is still sleeping. Case and I, forever the early risers of the family, have been sitting at the kitchen table for twenty or so minutes, peacefully sharing some apple slices with peanut butter. Everything feels calm and normal. I turn my head over my left shoulder to check the time. The clock face and I make eye contact — it’s 8:15AM, he tells me — as I feel the subtle yet sharp tug in my neck.

It’s the catheter in my vein jolting me back into reality.

It’s been a month since I was diagnosed with cancer (rectal, stage 2-3) and, over my breakfast, I’m staring down both my relatively unaffected four-year-old son and the beginning of my third week of chemotherapy and radiation. Immediately all of the familiar emotions pull up a seat at the breakfast table. Anger, Resentment, Hopelessness… one by one each guest rolls in uninvited, and I have no choice but to give them the space they command.

“Tea?” I ask them all. They nod indifferently.

Case starts singing to himself as I get up to make myself some. While it steeps, I mindlessly scratch my port site. It itches all the freaking time, probably due to my skin’s reaction to the adhesive on the bandages. I mentally run through what tomorrow morning looks like for me: I will wake up about an hour before my radiation appointment, drink at least 24 ounces of water so that I have a full enough bladder for treatment, and then I’ll head to the radiation facility. After spending 20ish minutes half naked on a table while radio waves are zapped into my pelvis, I’ll dash to the bathroom to pee out all of the water I drank, get dressed, and then drive straight to my medical oncologist’s office. I’ll talk to him for about an hour, and then I’ll walk to the chemo infusion center where I’ll sit in a mint-green recliner for a couple more hours. My blood will be drawn and levels will be checked. Zofran will slowly drip into my veins. My chemo pump will be attached to my chest, and I’ll have it on me for 24 hours a day until Friday. When I’m finally released, I’ll get home to open my laptop to try and get some work done, grateful to have a remote job that allows me to work from my bed while the fatigue does its work. As I play out these events in my head, Annoyance pulls up a chair to the table. It’s all so annoying, cancer. The hours I spend in doctor’s offices these days add up to a part-time job, but one I have to pay to go to.

In my irritation, I’m reminded of Anna, my sweet chemo nurse, with whom I’ll spend a pretty substantial amount of time tomorrow morning. She’s my age, with kind, wide eyes and strawberry blonde curls. She has two kids — the same ages as mine — and she’s intimately acquainted with the realities of trying to battle cancer while also having a job and a spouse and children to raise; her husband was just diagnosed with brain cancer. She’s my chemo nurse, but she’s also her husband’s chemo nurse. It’s just so dreadfully unfair, and I check myself in the moment. Yes, my treatment is annoying. It’s not pleasant. But, it could be worse. And I know that.

Enter: Guilt, my least favorite of the emotions, because honestly, no one freaking asked you, Guilt.

He takes up so much more space than he should. He jabs Anger in the ribs, setting him all the way off, and suddenly the table is just too crowded. Instinctually, Case gets up to make room for all of these Big Feelings, brings his dishes to the sink, and goes into the living room to play with trains. I grab the hot mug of tea and lean against the counter, letting them all duke it out as long as they need to. I sip carefully. My eyes water.

Through tiny tears, I look on at all of them fighting, and all of a sudden Indignation walks through the door. His presence is commanding. He is big and loud. He points his big, scary finger through the door and glares at everyone else sitting wide-eyed at the table. He doesn’t have to say anything; they all know what to do. One by one, each of them gets up and makes a clumsy but swift exit.

I’m indignant because, in the month since my diagnosis, I’ve discovered that no one is safe from cancer. Everyone is touched by it these days. Either you have it or you know someone who has it. And there’s no explanation. No rhyme or reason. It just shows up at a routine check-up, or in my case, in a colonoscopy I had to badger three medical professionals to get. And it’s unjust and infuriating.

And it’s only just beginning.

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house of illness.

runny noses and
very hoarse voices surround
me, still standing tall.

things i love thursday: a blog for cameron.

Monday evening, right after I posted my latest blog, I received the news that Cameron, a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known since childhood, passed away. After a long battle against Leukemia, a bone marrow transplant, then Graft-Versus-Host disease, she finally fell ill with a fungal infection in her lungs and then she was gone from our midst.

The news shot through my core like an ice-cold sword. I burst into tears and spent the rest of the night angrily crying out to God.

Why her? Why? Why, one of the sweetest, most talented, most precious souls to ever walk this earth? I know so many other terrible people who get to live. Why doesn’t she get to stay with us?

(I’m one of those terrible people, by the way, as is evidenced by the horrible prayers I’ve been praying since her passing.)

I felt especially bad for posting a blog link on my Facebook right around the time the rest of my hometown started posting about Cameron’s death. I felt so tacky, so self-serving. I felt like a total ass.

But there is something many people from our hometown didn’t know about Cameron.

They all knew she was sweet. And hilarious. And fiercely intelligent. And crazy talented. Anyone who’s spent five minutes with Cameron can tell you any of those things.

But one thing no one but me knew about her: Cameron loved this blog. 

She did. She loved it so much. She loved my writing. And I can’t even tell you why someone so great, someone so smart, and someone so incredible, would even read my (sometimes nonsensical and always emotional) ramblings, let alone love them. But she did.

She would always message me the minute after I posted a blog and thank me for speaking to her heart. She, just like me and many other women out there, fought the same body image ideals of our twisted society. And my writing gave her hope and peace and encouraged her to love her body (even when, in the end, it didn’t seem to love her back).

And so today’s TILT is dedicated to Cameron. To the person she was, and the person she made me to be.

——

I first met Cameron Huster at our church when we were little. She played the harp and I burped on purpose. She was small and sweet and I was tall and loud and wild. She made friends with the other girls in our children’s ministry and I climbed kumquat trees and pouted. And that’s how we grew up.

When we got to high school and I went astray, she was the only person from my churched upbringing that remained my real friend. And never in a “man I hope I can rub off on Lindsay and be a good influence because OOOH BOY is she awful” way. But in a genuine, “I care about you because you are worth caring about” way.

When I learned that I was going to Florida State University for college, she reached out to me because she was dual enrolling at FSU our senior year (because I wasn’t kidding about her being a freaking genius) and made plans to meet up with me and show me around. She was the one who told me that I had to go to MoMo’s and try “pizza as big as your head”, a pizza place that ended up being integral to my quality of life during my nine years of living in Tallahassee.

When I got pregnant and then had Dax, she was one of the people who was SO excited and grateful for my new journey. She came by to snuggle him and brought him toys (a music instrument puzzle and an orchestra music box, complete with — of course — a harp) because she loved Dax so very much. She loved him so, not just because he was cute and tiny and a baby, but because he was mine. And she loved me. For some reason this smart, talented, sweet, incredible person loved meMy whole self. My opinionated, aggressive, stand-offish self. She loved me and she loved Dax because we were just the way we were.

Cameron Huster believed the best about everyone. And that included me. She believed that, even though I had my demons, I was worth a damn. She always treated me as such. Even when I was falling asleep in the pews during the church services in which she played that harp, she always loved me and made me feel worthy of love. And I never wanted to fight her on it, to tell her, “No, actually, you’re way too good for me.”

Because even more than all that, she made me actually believe that I was worth a damn.

This morning while I was eating my breakfast and trying to organize my thoughts for this blog post, I kept saying in my head that this world will be a much crappier place now that Cameron is gone. But you know what? That’s a lie.

Because of all the people she touched — like me — this world is going to be a better place because she was in it. She left a piece of herself in me, and in everyone around her. And while her body may not be with us, her spirit permeates the air in things like the words I write in this blog and in the conversations we have with those around us.

She may not be breathing anymore, but she is alive. And I am grateful that she is alive in me.

Love you, Cam.

31 days to discover what i know.

oconnor-bday

For me, writing has never been a hobby. It’s has always been the way I process my interactions with the world. It’s a compulsion. Like breathing, it is almost involuntary for me. I’m not entirely sure I have a grasp on my own thoughts until I can see them written down. It helps me make sense of things. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel creative and like I can change this world for the better. Maybe. It makes me feel like I might even have the slightest bit of control over my life.

LOLOLOLOL

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been a writer. I remember being in 4th grade and attending a Young Authors Banquet at my elementary school, clutching in my tiny hands a novel I’d written (and illustrated!) on computer paper and carefully stapled together. The very next year I remember a teaching assistant (who wasn’t exactly fond of me) snatching my journal away from me during class because I couldn’t seem to quit writing and focus on her lessons.

When the internet happened and, almost beyond my own consent, slithered its way into my daily life, I naturally began to write on the internet. (Shout out, LiveJournal!) Then, in 2009, this blog was born. Thanks to technology, candidly chronicling my interaction with this world through my own highly biased lens was easy, fun, and exciting! If you’ve been reading me for any length of time you know that I’ve always been as authentic as possible on here (because I know no other way) throwing all caution to the wind, pouring my heart and soul out to whomever may be reading/watching/listening/whatever to the words I have to say, not necessarily thinking of the implications of my very naturally occurring practices. And people liked it. And I liked that people liked it.

But then recently, I learned that some people DON’T like it. Maybe they don’t like me. And, furthermore, may even be hurt by it and/or me. The line between my blog and myself had become so blurred that I wasn’t able to see where I ended and the internet began. And so I was hurt by it. So I was hurting myself by writing on the internet, despite not really knowing any other way to interact with the internet.

In other words, I’ve recently found that writing on the internet can be really tricky.

Get away, Captain Obvious. No one asked you.

Needless to say, over the past few months, this has rattled me into a blogging silence. I’ve found myself staring at blank pages terrified to say the exact things I’m feeling because they may offend someone or, worse, actually hurt someone and then, by proxy, hurt me. So instead of writing, I’ve been… just… not.

Not even in my journal.

Because how do I know my journal isn’t gonna go squealing to its BFF my blog? I mean really, Self. Come on. You’re ridiculous.

Anyway…

That’s a pretty vague (again, the authenticity of this whole internet thing is a sudden terrible fear I have) explanation to my unexpected blog silence over the past few months.

But hey! I think it might be over!

My dear friend Beth posted on her blog that she’s gonna do this thing in October where she writes for 31 days. And she invited anyone else who might be up to the challenge.

And I thought, “Hey. I might could be.”

And then I opened up my blog to write this post and I got scared. So who knows.

Are any of you up to the awkward challenge of me trying to figure out how to blog again? *desperately searches for a fist bump somewhere* Come onnnn.

some stuff i wrote.

Last weekend, a good friend of mine let me know that there was a free writing workshop being offered by an author who was in town to speak at a church. As you can tell from my dusty blog (hello cobwebs) my spirit hasn’t exactly been… um… pleasant enough for blogging…

Oh well — if you can’t be honest on the Internet, where can you? 

I’ve been in a major life funk lately.

There I said it.

And I hate blogging when I’m in a funk because it makes me re-feel all my funky feelings and, because I write on the Internet, it subjects all of you lovely people to my funk, too.

It must have been providential, then, that this workshop was titled, Open-heart Writing; like open-heart surgery, it is painful but life-saving.

The author gave us three prompts (one at a time) and gave us ten minutes to jot something down (on PAPER! with PENS!) And, despite the time crunch and my inability to edit, I kinda liked the things I wrote. So I’m gonna share them with you, the Internet, in lieu of a funky-feely blog post.

Cool? Cool.

PROMPT 1: Describe the room.

The room is golden, both in color and in ambiance. It doesn’t sparkle though, fighting a looming tarnish. The windows pour in a summery stream of mid-February, south Florida morning, as I sit between a Diane and a woman whose name will always be to me, Also Talks WIth Her Hands.

Laura sits at the head of our mango-colored table, adorned with silver rings on her fingers and around her neck, and her crooked smile and quiet voice reminds me of Erica.

PROMPT 2: The most important room in my life. 

Converted

Walking along the maroon, cracked tiles, the soles of my shoes always stuck a little bit, presumably because there was residual barbecue sauce forever festering in the pores of the tiles. The smell has gone, but the look of the interior of Mickey Andrews’ Barbecue Joint (was that its name?) would always linger in the church corporate gathering area.

It was in this dark, awkwardly arranged ex-restaurant where I was reintroduced to a guy named Jesus Christ who, contrary to everything I’d ever been taught as a small, loud-mouthed girl, loved me so very much just the way I am.

Being a converted barbecue restaurant, the dining tables exchanged for handmade wooden cafe tables and broken stadium seats, it doesn’t really look like a church. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much.

There were no stained glass windows, only dingy double panes dressed in cheap, plastic blinds. There weren’t any bad, last supper themed murals. Instead there was a thick coat of dark red matte and framed artwork by members of the community. Instead of a chancel with an organ and handbells, there was a rickety, slapped-together collapsible stage precariously cradling a drum set and a few acoustic and electric guitars, as well as a homemade stool for the pastor to teach from.

PROMPT 3: Tell the story in this photo. 

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The hot, sticky air disguised itself as that of mid to late May, but the calendar, turned to the twelfth month, called its bluff. Comforted by the shelter of a banyan canopy, sweating in long sleeves, you and I struggled to keep up with a smaller, more wild version of ourselves, who had just learned how to walk.

Stifled by both the south Florida winter’s heat and the reality that a toddler and a clock ticking seconds closer to nap time were a volatile combination, our appearance was remarkably pleasant. The perfect little trio, an enviable Christmas card, telling terrible lies to all its recipients.

“Things are beautiful and perfect here! We love our life! Cheese!” was what we said on the sandy path, our unruly boy trapped in the binding and protective embrace of a tired and frustrated father. Deep in our eyes, though, the truth was louder.

Sadness, loneliness, and betrayal leaked out of us onto the card as the cruel sun climbed higher behind the defenseless branches. But we are here, alive and robust in perspiration, together in a beautiful and clumsy dance of survival.

Like the Spanish moss to the stretching limbs, we are committed to growing and stretching upward, downward, and in spirals.

The end.