Recipes for Stress

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

With Summer moving quickly into Fall and having experienced two botched attempts to spend some time in my backyard “pool,” a vinyl blowup Bill bought and filled for me on my late June birthday but whose upkeep proved to be more than I could handle without his help, I devised another plan to soak up some much needed Vitamin D. I drug my zero-gravity chaise from the screened porch out onto the back lawn and positioned the sprinkler where it would water a parched area containing bedding plants and hanging baskets and where I could receive the benefit of a cool spray every 30 seconds or so. Ahhhh.

My neighbor Myriam came over, pulled up a lawn chair just out of the sun and the sprinkler, and visited for 45 minutes. Rebecca stepped over from next door and had a giggling fit at the picture of me lying supine in my purple Kmart bathing suit, wet from head to toe, enjoying a cool drink and a friendly visit with Myriam as the sprinkler made it’s gentle arc. Rebecca vowed to drag out her sprinkler when she got home from her job as a teacher; I had assured her that this was an instant cure for fatigue and for stress. Both of which have plagued our little household lately.

Caring for my sweet husband (who can be pretty grumpy and disagreeable when the side effects from his treatments are fresh) is indeed at least a 20 hour a day job. While he sleeps a great deal, the pattern for his sleep means that he is awake often throughout the night. Yes, we try to rest or nap when he does, but that is hard when the rest of the world is awake and busy and when household chores seem to have increased with a patient in the house. As I promised earlier, or “warned” might be a better verb here, I want to give you, my still faithful reader, a true view of what this experience is like for those of us who are watching and waiting, hoping and caring, cooking and feeding, cleaning, bathing and dressing, as well as driving or riding the hours necessary to make our way to and from the scores of doctors and treatment appointments. Fatigue and stress are constants with patient and caregivers alike.

I am extremely fortunate to have a loving family and many precious friends to help along this journey to cure and recovery. My brother was here for a week of “vacation” so he could drive us to Riverdale for Bill’s twice weekly Radiation Blasts and to Fayetteville for the first Keytruda infusion. I had developed a terrible eye infection which has made my driving dangerous, so I am extremely grateful for my “baby” brother Scoot whose real name is fittingly, James as in “Home, James!”

He became more than a driver-companion for Bill during the seven-day stay. The two had never spent so much one-on-one time together, their age difference (18 years) and the miles that separated us (Scoot lives in North Augusta, S. C.) had prevented them from developing the bond that now grew into true Brotherly Love. Bill and Scoot shared stories about my dad (who died when my brother was only a boy of 17); Bill had known, admired, and loved Dad for over a dozen adult years, and we all laughed and reminisced much as families do in happy reunion times, even though these were often difficult times. Scoot seemed as determined as I to make the hours that Bill felt well enough to talk and share meals together as pleasant and sweet as possible. Sometimes Bill just sat and listened, smiling at some foolishness that we recounted; like the time Scoot and I got lost in Savannah (before IPhones or GPS) and simply decided to trust the sun and simply head West and then North West on back country roads while drinking cokes loaded with salted peanuts and listening to golden oldies. We made it home to Augusta in record time.

Just as Scoot had to head Eastward home after one full week of helping with driving and house chores, my daughter Kim was on her way West to lend a hand for another entire week. She brought her work with her as well as her cute and cuddly little Brussels Griffon, an old gentleman dog who has spent a great deal of time snuggled in Bill’s lap—the two snoozing away. No appointments this week, but the challenges presented by the after effects of the anesthesia, the radiation and the first Keytruda treatment have been great, I could not have managed without her, nor without my daughter Leslie’s steady help.

It is those friends and neighbors like Rebecca Shriver and her entire family who brought huge portions of their delicious Parmesan Chicken and Fettuccini Alfredo to our family, and my sweet friend Ruth Gray (who has owned a part of my heart for years) who like a magician pulled an array of goodies from her gaily covered basket yesterday. The pickled peaches will be delicious with the greens and butter beans and special corn muffins she brought, and the Friendship muffins that are her specialty in times of joy or stress are much appreciated.

It is easy to see why along with the stress, anxiety, and fatigue our family has experienced during these eight weeks, I have managed to add 10 pounds to my already plump frame! But more than anything, it is the prayers, the calls, visits, and personal notes that have buoyed our spirits. Along with these came a little crocheted square Ruth brought from her church which, with these instructions, read:

Lay this softly upon your palm,

Feel God’s grace, His love, His calm.

Lift your cares and joys in prayer;

May the Lord bless you and give you peace.

Amen

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