Phyllis Bush, dear friend, founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education, leader of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, and great soul, has been writing a blog about her battle with cancer, wiphich she prefers to call “cancer schmanzer.” This is her latest update. I hope that as Phyllis thinks of her many wonderful memories, she enjoys remembering the sustained innovation she received at the last NPE Conference, when Carol Burris announced the establishment of the First Annual Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. The entire room, activists from across the nation, jumped to their feet to honor this remarkable, cheerful, resolute, brilliant, and kind warrior.

Open the post to see Phyllis’ wonderful photos and an inspirational quote.

Some of you who follow this blog may wonder what has been happening in my life.
The reason that I have not written is because since I wrote my previous blog cancer schmantzer has delivered a bunch of not so pleasant gut punches that I am still trying to figure out. More pointedly, the month of November seemed like one long, kick in the pants. On November 1st, I ended up in the hospital with a bowel blockage, and then later in the month I spent another week in the hospital with another one. Apparently, a tumor has been causing the blockages.

My care team decided to resolve the issue conservatively because that seemed the
safest option. While being hooked up to PICC lines and IVs is not my idea of a good time,
if my docs thought that was my best option, then I was all in. Since I like to be pro-active,
I asked if they could move my next chemo appointment sooner to shrink the tumor
(if possible) rather than to wait for my next trip to the ER. Whether this will work or not is largely dependent on whether I can gain some of the weight that I lost while being hospitalized, and part is dependent on whether we can keep the tumor at bay.

Trying to sort out what all of this means has been mind-boggling at best. My docs are looking
at all of my options to find the best treatment. My palliative care team is talking me through options so that if those treatments don’t work, my end of life care will consist of my choices about what is acceptable and what isn’t. The week before Thanksgiving, Donna and I spoke with our rector, and he gave us a road map of what my next steps are. Thus, I have been spending a lot of time making end of life decisions, and I have enlisted my family and friends to help me do some of the research so that I can make the best decisions. While this has been emotionally draining and exhausting, the good news is that if I make a miraculous recovery, that would be great. If not, all of this will be done, and I won’t have left Donna and David with the burden of making these decisions.

PHOTO: With Donna at the NPE Conference in Indy in October

Photo: With David on Mothers’ Day

I have always been more than a little introspective, but this has caused me to be even more so. During a discussion with a friend, I remember telling her about the last time that I saw my mother before she died. As my mom and I sat and talked, I asked her if she had any regrets. Even though I knew that she had had her share of heartaches, she simply said this: “No, I have had a good life.”

Remembering her words, for a moment I lost my usual stoicism because I realized that, like her, I have had a good life. That does not mean that I have had a life without heartache and pain, but those things pale in comparison to all of the great stuff that has happened in my life. I have had the privilege of having an amazing family and amazing friends. I have had the privilege of standing up for what I believe. I have lived, loved, laughed, and followed my bliss. What more could I ask?

On my mom’s birthday several months after her death, I decided that David and I needed to commemorate this milestone day. I bought a pink and silver mylar balloon, and we wrote something pithy on it, and along with my friend Judith, we decided to launch the balloon with a few words and a prayer.

When we went out into the front yard, there were too many trees, so we decided that we would go over to the baseball field by the neighborhood middle school, say a few words, and then launch the balloon. So we did. Much to my dismay, as we launched the balloon, it rocketed into the air at warp speed, and then the balloon disappeared. Of course, I was disappointed at this EPIC FAIL!

As we were getting ready to leave the field, we looked up into the clouds overhead, and we saw the reflection of the sun on the balloon, which was blinking brightly like a beacon….and I knew that was my mom, in her own way, telling me everything would be okay….and I knew that it would be.

As I think about those whom I love, I want them to know that everything will be okay. I may not be present physically, but I will be nudging you to do better, to be better, to be kind, to be joyful, and to laugh at yourself and the world around you.

Despite all of the crap sandwiches we get served in this life, this is a wonderful world, and we need to be mindful of our part in making it so.

For those of you who are neither Cubs’ nor baseball fans, I am including this picture of rookie David Bote’s walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th during the playoffs. While a grand slam may not be in my playbook, I am hoping for the best but preparing for whatever lies ahead.

Whether it is taking a kid to the zoo or to Zesto for ice cream, whether it is writing a letter to your legislators, whether it is running for office, whether it is supporting your favorite charity, DO IT!

Monday morning quarterbacks are of little use to anyone.

Whatever you do, live your life to the fullest. Once again, do what matters to you.