Finally! Chemo is over!

It is! Can you believe it? Yes, I still have to wait for the side effects to subside but that should only take a couple of weeks. Although, you know what I’ve noticed? That my body seems to have gotten used to the chemo infusion every three weeks because just a few days before the third week my mouth starts to feel tender. We’ll see how it goes this time but I’ll try not to think about it too much so that I’m not bringing it on with my thoughts. Anyway, I wanted to let you know how I feel about chemotherapy and the fact that I’m done with it.

First of all, I think I was fortunate in that I thought I was going to go through 16 rounds of it. That’s what I was expecting and trying to get ready for – sixteen! So when, on my fourth round, the nurse said, “Only two more to go!” with a big smile, it felt like a HUGE relief. Not only that but it felt like it went by soooo much faster. I have to admit though, that the last two were the hardest because I knew that I only had two more to go and it seemed that the hands on the clock just wouldn’t go fast enough. But it finally came and no, it’s not over because I still need to go through a Herceptin infusion every three weeks and of course, surgery but I’ll jump through that hoop when I get to it. Right now I want to enjoy the fact that I no longer have to go through the upset stomach and the tired legs and tender mouth and especially, the tasteless food. That’s what I’m happy about right now.

I also want to tell you that I could not be more grateful and fortunate to have the family that God gave me. I’ve had all the support that anybody could want and for that I’m grateful. I know there have been days when it didn’t seem that way, when the housework put me in a bad mood or when your brothers’ screaming was too much or you made me mad or when your dad was too sensitive and made me mad too, it may have seemed as though I couldn’t see the good that was happening in our home or like all of this was going to be so much harder than anybody would have thought but believe I was trying hard every single day. And look at us! We’ve made it through the first part and we’re alive and happy and sometimes mad or sad or whatever but isn’t that every family? And considering what we have been through these past months, I’d say we’re doing awesomely (how do you like my new word?) well, don’t you think?

The last thing I wanted to tell you is that I’ve decided to start a new blog. Remember how you though one my new journals was going to be about the current political/social situation? (Yes, I do NOT want to write his name) Well, no the journal hasn’t been completely about that but I do have to mention it every once in a while. But what you and the journal made me think was that what I want to say, I want to say to others not just to myself. I have a lot of thoughts about everything that is going on and not so much politically but socially because that’s what makes my head feel blubbered. So, yeah, that’s one of the reasons I started the new blog. Another reason is that I needed a platform for my writing because I’ve been stuck with your grandma’s story and haven’t been able to write much about anything else. I need a place where I feel like my writing is serving some sort of purpose. If you go right now, to the new blog ,you’ll notice that I haven’t written about anything serious yet, that’s because I’m a “test the waters first” kind of person, you know that. Besides, writing essays takes a while and although I enjoy writing them, they are not easy to write but you know that already don’t you?

There you go! that’s what’s going on right now and what I hope you take from this is that gratitude is very important. Always be grateful for the little, the medium, and the big people, things and situations that life gives you. Being grateful for the little things though (food, water, warm showers, the window in your room, sight, touch, sound, taste, smell, etc.), that is especially important because it keeps you attentive, grounded, and happy. It takes practice but it is doable, believe me 🙂

As always, I love you very much!

Mom

 

P.S. The new blog address is: esperanzabeltranblog.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My (lack of) hair, again . . .

I’ve been thinking that I had not shared with you how I felt the day I shaved my head. That was a very important day in my life with cancer. And because I can’t remember exactly what I felt, I’m going to share with you that very special part of my journal.

I shaved my head.

Of course I cried. I had to. I think it was like the ultimate sign of my having cancer. This whole cancer thing still feels strange. Foreign, even. Like it’s still not something I’m going through. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. As in: Really? It’s me who has cancer? Or maybe it’s not so much a question as it is a shock. I don’t know. All I know is I have a lot to be thankful for. My husband who, not only shaved my head and shaved his own, but also cried with me when I faced him with my bald head. Maybe it was the waiting for the baldness to arrive that had me in a rut. I don’t know but whatever it was I guess I simply accepted that I had to do this, like the quick pull of a bandage. It’s faster and less painful but painful nonetheless. And I’m still a woman. A stronger woman? I hope so. I strive to be so. There’s still a picture I need to take. I know that one day I will want to look back just to see how far I’ve come (or will have come). There’s still a lot of work to do. Still a lot of fears to overcome. It’s okay. All will be – is – as it is supposed to be and You (God) are with me. Thank you!

I hadn’t read this util now and I’m glad I felt this way because as you know I don’t always feel like this. But when it’s necessary, I do. I have to. I have to because if I don’t then I will fall deep. Becoming bald was not easy but actually being bald has not been all that hard. It’s easy to cover up, it’s forced me to get creative and see myself in a new way. It’s one thing less to worry about in the mornings. It’s forced me to see a part of me I had not seen before and today, physically at least,  I know myself just a little bit better than I did before. All this is not so say that I want to remain bald because I don’t. I already have a stylist lined up and  am more than excited imaging how I’m going to style my hair when it grows back. What if it grows back curly? or brown? or thicker? or white?! I try not to scare myself with that but I do think about it and if it does grow back white I gonna try my hardest to just own it and be happy to have hair. We’ll see how that works out for me.

I leave you with a picture I took today on my morning walk . . .

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P.S. I love you very mucho!

Love,

Mom

 

 

HONESTLY . . .

Honestly, I was feeling like a superwoman the first few days.

You’ll feel nauseous, you’ll be in bed, throwing up, you might cry of pain, every worst possible scenario was spoken to me. But when I got up from that comfy chemo chair and walked out of the City of Hope without a single pain and one, two, three days went by without too many reactions, I wondered what the heck all those doctors, nurses and ex-cancer patients had been talking about.

I had been getting up before 6 to shower and get your brothers ready for school. Up early and doing the things I usually do. Friday I drove 100 miles to see my therapist because I really felt like it and because I was feeling up to the drive. Yeah there were some stomach cramps and towards the end of the drive the bones in my feet were beginning to hurt. Still, I tried to keep my spirits up with my Spotify lists of fun music. Like 2Pac and Eminem. I know you’re thinking I should be listening to Celine Dion and Ana Gabriel. I agree, just not always.

When I got home yesterday and saw the delicious chicken legs in the skillet and the colorful vegetables in the steamer that your grandma had prepared, my stomach got excited. I sat down at the table with her and took a really nice bite to the meaty part of the leg. Tasteless. Just like the lunch I had taken with me for the drive. No flavor. My tongue feels raspy, as if it just had a handful of salt poured over it. Even water has no taste. Can you imagine? I can’t even taste the absence of taste? Anyway, I still ate because I was hungry and because I have to. But by the end of my dinner I’m wondering if I will have to live without taste for the next couple of months. I’m worried, I’m already not a big eater.

I woke up today, Saturday, with pain in my feet and my stomach cramping. I didn’t get up to shower, instead I got up to spend 20 minutes on the toilet because chemo has made me very constipated. After those very long minutes without my book, because I had forgotten to take it with me, I walked out to the kitchen and had breakfast. As tasteless as the chicken leg. The rest you know, I laid in your bed trying to stay put. While you showered I started thinking and told myself that I am not exempt from any of the discomforts (I know that’s putting it lightly) that other cancer patients have had. I’m not Superwoman, I am not superhuman and I do not have a free pass. What I do have is this. Where I can let you know what it’s like for me and where I let you into my mind if just for a little sneak peek. I hope it’s not too scary. Lol

I leave you with this, a text my writer friend sent me:

Everyday [in treatment] is a day closer to full good health.

This just summed up everything for me and I hope it does the same for you as you go through this with me.

I love you with all my heart,

Mom

It’s A Long One

Okay so, I’ve been gone. I had promised not long ago that I would start the blog again. Surprisingly, I’m feeling pretty good today, considering I just went through my first round of chemotherapy. Honestly I wasn’t feeling afraid, I was actually just ready to start after going through so many tests and phone calls with the insurance. I just wanted to get the whole thing started. As I was sitting there in that very comfortable recliner with a pillow and a warmed hospital blanket, I noticed almost everyone had a family member sitting by their side. A mother, a daughter, son, husband, wife, friend. It was beautiful  and I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I was one of those lucky ones with my husband by my side. All the nurses were nice, I was being taken care of, I was in the right place and with a name like City of Hope, what else could I expect?

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It’s been a few hours now since I came home and all I’ve felt is a stomach ache that comes and goes as it pleases. I think the positive reaction my body is having to chemotherapy might have to do with three things: my change in foods, Nina (my therapist), and the decision to open up mind a little in regards to religion. Let me explain.

The first – food – it’s been hard not being able to eat chocolate or ice cream or potato chips or any red meat. Hamburgers look appetizing sometimes. A glass of the orange juice we keep in the refrigerator for you guys seems like an easy choice at times, but I hold back and the reason I do that is because I want to be around for you guys. I want to be around for a long time because I don’t think I’m done here. I think there’s still so much for me to do and so much to see you guys do because I know you guys are gonna do some awesome things. I believe that with all my heart. Just like I believe in what it is I’m here to do, even if sometimes I’m completely confused and don’t know what direction to take. I also do it because I want to set a good example for you guys and I know I fail sometimes but at least in this I want to feel like I’m doing, if not everything right, at least my best. And believe me, I am really doing the best that I can in removing these foods from my diet.

The second – Nina and therapy – has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself and for my family, that is a fact. It’s a slow process, you might see me swing back and forth at times but I’m learning how to pick myself up faster, better, stronger. I’m learning how to let go of the pains of my childhood. It’s not easy, just like the food. I’m learning that the things we really want in life are hardly ever easy. Actually, maybe even never but that is what makes them worthwhile. And when we get there and find out that in that “there” there’s more. I’m learning that that famous search for happiness has no exact answer, no place or time or thing. All it is is a choice. That’s it. We can either choose to be happy or we can choose not to. That’s it. We wake up everyday with the opportunity to make that choice. Happy or not happy? I’m learning that life is not without problems – ever. We all have problem because honestly life would probably be boring without them. The thing is how we deal with them. What we tell ourselves about those problems. Do we blame ourselves? Others? Do we dwell on them day in and day out. What do we tell ourselves about our lives about ourselves? We can either say and think positive things about ourselves and others or we can say and think negative things about ourselves and others. Again, it’s simply a choice we have to make everyday. And it’s hard, yes, but we can keep using “it’s hard” as an excuse for not doing what is best for us and in turn for the world or we can just keep trying. No, we can not do everything perfectly every time, all we can do is try, fail and try again. I think the hardest thing of all, for me at least, has been forgiveness. I think it might be one of the hardest things for many of us. Forgiving, in an unforgiving mind, means letting that person go without the proper punishment. What does that person who hurt you get? How can they just go around life as if they never did anything? What about all the pain they caused you? And then because we can’t forgive those who hurt you, you can’t forgive yourself for the stupid things you did, for the pain you caused to somebody. And you realize that just the way you’re carrying that sense of fault with you, they person you blame might also be carrying that same bag. Unfortunately, sometimes it requires some screaming, some actual speaking up and saying, “You hurt me and I’m mad!” Sometimes it’s the only way to let it go. And sometimes that takes courage or at least the desire to finally not feel the tiredness that anger and resentment cause. That’s it. Or you don’t wait until that moment, you do it simply because you want to be happy and because you simply realize that the person who hurt you was probably also in pain and didn’t know how to deal with it. In the end what has really begun to free me is forgiveness, believe it or not. It’s such a huge weight that has been lifted from me and it feels good. I know that there’s still more work to do but I also know that if I was able to do what seemed impossible, then I am able to do all the other stuff.

And finally – religion. I know that this is a hard subject because of all the things that I’ve believed and maybe still believe because I have a very objective point of view and because I prefer not to follow blindly. I have questions that I might never find an answer to and I finally realized that that will be in any religion if I were to choose to change. Questions will always be there inside of me because I’m just a curious person by nature. But for now, I’ve come to the conclusion that Catholicism is the religion I was born into and that I am a bit lazy and a bit not interested in moving to another religion in which I might end up feeling the same way. I’ll stick with Catholicism because that is where my roots are and because that is where my traditions are. I love altars, I enjoyed doing the forty day chocolate fast this year for Easter, I love the celebrations of the saints of each village. I love nativity sets in Christmas, I love Quinceañeras and the blessings of babies (even if I don’t agree with the Catholic reasons for baptisms). I love all of that. I think I realized that giving that up would be a little like giving up a little of who I am. I might not agree with everything they say or do but I know that every time I walk into that chapel behind the church, I feel safe, I feel like I can think and talk to God in any way I please and He won’t mind. When there is mass I hear singing in the background and my heart sings with them. When I walk out an old lady is kneeling on the center isle, praying, chanting and for some reason I feel connected to her because that is how feel when I’m pleading with God trying to get Him to tell me what it is I’m supposed to do. Although I feel more like spiritual person than a religious one, I do feel like a Catholic church is that physical place, besides my home, where I can practice my spirituality. It feels good to have this place where part of my childhood lies.

So there you go, that is what’s on my mind now. They’re things that are sometimes easier to say in writing than out loud (for me at least) but whatever the case, it is important to say.

Please remember always that I love you and that everything I do – the good, the right, and sometimes the bad and the wrong – I do for you three and of course for me too.

Love,

Mom

 

Death and Time and the Lack of Words for it . . .

There are so many things I want to tell you about I don’t even know where to start.

Let’s see . . .

There’s yesterday when I made the mistake of making fun of Gael exaggerating his knee scrape (you know how he likes to overdo his little scrapes). When I picked him up from school he had a band-aid on each knee because he had been running, tripped and scraped both knees. He held his shorts up all the way to the car, we went to the market and he kept walking and holding on to his shorts, at home he complained even more. By dinnertime he couldn’t even handle getting up on the chair. Your dad was home by then and I made the mistake of saying that he was dying (of pain) only I didn’t say “of pain,” I left it at dying and he took it literally. He thought he was really going to die and I kept saying no, he wasn’t going to die but he kept crying and I couldn’t figure out what to say to fix what I had already said. Fortunately, after a few minutes he was okay but when I was dressing him after his bath he remembered and began to cry again. This is kind of how it went:

“I don’t want to die! I’m not old. I’m not old ma?”

“No, you’re not old,” and then of course you know me, I try to keep it real with you guys and of course we’re all going to die and I couldn’t lie to him and say he wasn’t going to die, so I said, “It’s going to be a long long time, one hundred years.”

“When? Tomorrow?”

“No, not tomorrow, a long long time. You’re a kid –”

“I don’t want to! I don’t want to be old! I don’t want to die!” he was ready to cry by now and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it so I said I had to go to the bathroom and left it to your dad who, of course, had no problem telling Gael he wasn’t going to die just to get him to stop crying and go to sleep.

“I don’t want to die,”

“No, you’re not going to die,”

“Nauj is going to die? He’s old?”

“No, he’s not going to die either.”

Tú estás viejito? I don’t want you to die!”

“You don’t want me to die? Okay, I’m not going to die.”

“Y mamá? Y Mayerlin?”

“No, tampoco. None of us are going to die, we’re going to be eternal.”

“Why everyone gets old? The house too?”

“Yeah, the house too.”

“Why?”

Now, how do you explain this to a four year old, life and death and time? So your dad just says, “because that’s life.”

“Oh . . . when we go to the new house this house is going to be old?”

“You don’t want the house to be old either?” (Your dad asked this like he was walking on glass)

“Yeah, it’s okay.”

(Relief!)

“Ok.”

That’s when it was finally safe for me to get out of the bathroom and go to bed.

“Daddy said I’m not going to die. Tu no?”

“No, we’re not going to die.” (If you can’t beat’em, join’em right?)

“Read me a book. The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” (Ironic don’t you think?)

“Okay.”

. . . he was a beautiful butterfly!

The End

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There’s also this morning that I was listening to the radio and they were talking about parents using iPads to replace teaching their kids the basics like abc’s, colors, shapes, etc. Is it okay or not?

There’s also the Lila Downs concert I never wrote about.

Then there’s Tia Pilar’s birthday party which I know I already told you a lot about but the one thing I didn’t tell you was how all the kids, rather than run around and play together, were all pinned to their phones or iPads and how Gael fixed that just a little.

And finally there’s this little poem and picture I want to share with you, can you tell what story it is?

But all this will have to be on some other posts so until then . . .

Love you and miss you,

Mom

I’m Sorry

I’ve been away for a few days. Between fixing the house, packing and painting the cheer box I haven’t had time for much. But I’m still here 🙂

I haven’t even gone to the writing group and I probably won’t go tomorrow either. Plus, I think I need to keep my writing to myself for a while.

Today I’m going to draw Gael’s animals in his room. He’s so excited. Especially because your dad gave him the idea of painting a different theme on each wall: safari, farm, sea, and insects. But I’m not gonna do that. Unos dos caballos y ya.

No, maybe not just two horses but I’ll have him choose between farm and safari. Although, I think he became a little confused about which animal goes where. He thinks the safari is the zoo and since we went to the zoo when we visited you, and he saw chickens and pigs there, now he thinks chickens and pigs are safari animals (aka zoo animals).

I already tried to explain it to him but his feelings get hurt – you know how he feels about his animals. Lately, everywhere we go he fills his plastic bag with the green trim and his elephant backpack with as many animals as he can carry. He takes them EVERYWHERE. Were you there the day he actually fell back because of the weight of his backpack? He was sitting on a little ledge and the weight pulled him straight back. Haha! Luckily it was only dirt that was behind him and he didn’t get hurt. I wasn’t there but your grandma told me and I’m laughing just imagining it.

This picture is now on my desktop

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You chose a beautiful place to go to college, I really loved it. ❤

And I really love you,

Mom

This Weekend . . .

I’ve been packing a lot lately. I’m almost done. And I thought we didn’t have a lot of stuff. I’m trying to get rid of as much as possible, really. I’m going to try and keep ONLY what we need, I’m gonna get rid of a lot of dishes that have just been sitting there and I’m going to buy only what I REALLY like for the kitchen so it looks cute and that way I will feel like cooking. Not even with a cute kitchen you don’t think I’ll want to cook? Okay, maybe you’re right but I do have to cook anyway and if I have a pretty kitchen then maybe at least it’ll make me want to walk in – and look around : )

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s carne asada at Angeles Forest where the sun was shining and leaves were sprinkling over our heads.

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mmm . . . want some arroz rojo?
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Your dad went crazy and, well . . . can you find him?
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Then we went on a hunt for some treasure and came upon . . .
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A zoo and its zookeeper!
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There was a super tall baby giraffe who was eating a tree . . .
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There was even an octopus that was not in a good mood and attacked your brother, that fight got pretty cray cray!

If this zoo is still around when you come home I’ll take you to it, the zookeeper is pretty awesome, he has all types of animals.

A lot of homework this weekend? Keep up the good work!

Love,

Mom (who loves you very much!)

How Are You?

How was your day? Your first day of college classes? Were they fun? Hard? Exciting? Nerve-wracking? Boring?

All of the above? (except boring, I hope)

Well, échale ganas!

I know you can do it!

At home, things are as normal as they can be, considering we’re down one (miss you!)

Yesterday we spent the day with your grandma, your uncle and his girlfriend. (Nauj went to work with your dad)

We had a good day, if you don’t count the fact that I was feeling a little down, or not really down, just worried. Worried about you. Are you eating well? Will you be okay? Are your friends responsible friends? Will you forget about us? Are you being good to yourself? Plus so many other questions that didn’t let me concentrate on Gael all that much, after all we were taking him out for his birthday, even if it was only us five.

First we went to La Placita Olverathat was nice. I always love going there. We went into La Plaza de Cultura y Artes so Gael could play in the Calle Principal (aka Main Street). At first he just didn’t understand what he was supposed to do there but when we played pretend in the little grocery store, he got it and then he didn’t want to leave.

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I offered him chiles from a jar but it was glued shut, then I offered him a can of beans (or something else, can’t remember) but they were screwed on to the shelf. Then I offered to weigh the (toy) fruits and vegetables he had put in the basket (a real basket, a canasta) but the needle on the scale was missing. OMG! But he was having fun anyway, and you know I enjoyed it too. First it was my turn to stand behind the counter and I charged him $5 cause we were in the 1920’s but when it was his turn he charged me $100 because he only knows the present where it costs $10 to buy a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs. So that’s what he charged me. He’s so cute.

We also went inside the clothing store and he tried on some nice clothes

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So cute!

Then we went back out to La Placita and looked at all the little stands with all their cute Mexican (and sometimes not so Mexican) art. They have a lot of new stuff now: mirrors backed with a Loteria card and decorated with glitter glue, aprons with chile and skull prints, wallets that look like conchas of all the three colors that I think a stared a little too long at because I was getting hungry, tissue paper fiesta banners, and this cute wood thing to hang on the wall that I plan on making cause it is so easy to make and I could put any picture I want on it. Your uncle’s girlfriend liked it and I might make one for her too, with a Frida picture, you know how much she likes Frida.

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Do you ever wonder how many times you’ve shown up as a random person in someone else’s picture?

We also went inside the Avila House, I never get bored of that place.

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But Gael was kinda bored in there, so we just took a quick look.

We finished the day off at the spaghetti place we like on 3rd St. Only this time I didn’t choose spaghetti, I chose rice, chicken, and veggies (yeah, I know, then what’s the point of eating there? pero se me antojó, sorry). Gael chose pizza though. I thought the old lady in front of us in line was going to pay for his slice, she kept talking to him then asked his name and called him to stand next to her when her turn came up but then she just left him standing there so had to pay. Ay que viejita . . . she was so nice and cute though.

Finally, to end the day we went to the park across the street where the entrance is pretty much lined with vendors selling all their colorful toys and shhh . . . tuff that every kid begs their mom for. Ayayay! But Gael didn’t ask for anything. I had already bought him one of those at the Placita Olvera, it was inside the elephant backpack with his animals.

Hope you had a good weekend too! Glad you’re making friends. Thanks for the pictures, my favorite:

Love,

Mom