Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Rehab Experience Continues

(This blog entry pertains to events that happened in May/early June 2008. Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting this entry posted. I must admit that I thought about writing my column, but it seemed that "time" got away from me. I have been busy -- I guess I say this in my defense, with Relay for Life business. I have been doing lots of team fundraisers, arranging more events, and simply getting ready for our big RFL that is set for March 30, 2012 at the Central FL Zoo in Sanford. 

I survived my time in rehab, again. And, fortunately, my stay was much shorter than my experience in 2005 when I was in much worse shape physically and mentally. All that work between 2005 and early 2008 made a huge difference in my ability to recover faster and easier. Thank goodness, because I did not want to go back to the beginning all over again. I also made a couple of friends during this stay so at least, the time I spent in rehabilitation was not all that terrible. There were some good days.
One of my fondest memories were the visits from a local church group who brought along their “furry friends.” Having visits from dogs of all sizes became a treat I welcomed. I never realized how much it meant to have the “affection” of an animal during a rehab type experience. I had animal visits at my previous rehab center, so I knew what to expect. However, I relished the opportunity to “pet” and “play” with my new friends. If they arrived while we were in therapy, everything stopped. The dogs took center stage. I would wheel myself over to one of the new arrivals or, if unable to move quickly enough, a dog came to me. Big, medium or small .. dogs all of sizes and breeds came to visit. Just petting them was a comfort. Even the patients who had been complaining just a few moments before, began smiling when the dogs arrived. Not only were the visits appreciated by the patients, staff got into the moment as well. They too enjoyed the visits. 
Making the time move quickly in rehab was not easy. After wrapping up therapy and having lunch my afternoons were relatively quiet. Occasionally, I decided to join in a game of Bingo or would climb into my wheelchair and ride around the building with my “new buddies” well enough to also travel about in a chair. We would find something to do. Perhaps visit the nursing home side of the building. On that side of Tuskawilla Rehab, there was a large aquarium. Yes, I watched the fish swim back and forth. Seriously, it actually killed some time. We also took in a movie (there was a large screen TV in that section) or simply chatted with residents who lived there. (Many were also taking daily rehab, so I knew some of the men and women on the nursing home side of the building.) A group of us would also venture outside -- either to the courtyard garden where we could sit and talk for hours or the front entry, where we could see the “outside” world for a short time. 
When I had visitors, such as my brothers or my kids, I would take a “trip.” They would roll my wheelchair off the rehab property and I would enjoy a quick visit to the nearby Burger King or Firehouse Subs. That was a special treat, a chance to “escape” and be part of the “real world.” Sitting in one of those two locations, either munching a sub or finishing off a burger was a genuine treat after being “trapped” for weeks in rehab. Since I lived in the area, I knew what was beyond the building where I was staying. So, I wanted to still feel like a part of the neighborhood. Grabbing a bite with my daughter was fun, even if it meant a major ordeal of moving me in a wheelchair from place to place. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Another Discovery About Me

Recently, I was clearing out a storage facility I had used for years. Inside, it was wall to wall and floor to ceiling -- boxes! Everywhere you looked, boxes were stacked upon boxes and in many cases, the cardboard boxes were “broken” from the heavy weight of another box upon them plus years of just sitting in one spot. Fortunately, my son Brian really helped clear things out and by the end of January, I was “shed” free.
While going through the “mess” inside the storage shed I was sorting a box of items when I came across a collection of cards. When I was hospitalized back in 2002 (during my lung surgery) I received cards from family, friends and coworkers. I had quite a collection and quite honestly, had forgotten that many of these cards ended up in a box. I had been storing these cards for years. 
When I began to realize what I had before me, I found myself looking closely at one of the cards. It was a lovely design -- mostly pastels with the words “The Oak Tree” as the title on the front of the card. This is what it said: 
“A mighty wind blew night and day,
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away,
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around. 
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing, Oak?”
 The oak tree said, “I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away,
Shake my limbs, and make me sway,
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth,
You’ll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn't’ sure
Of just how much I could endure.
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you, 
I’m stronger than I ever knew.”
Then, following this beautiful verse, the card read:
I know you can get through this...
You’re good, and you’re strong,
and you have a lot of people
around you who care..
people like me.
As I felt tears welling up within my eyes, I read the name written below the verse. It was signed ... Your friend Harold
Wow! I have not spoken to Harold in years. There was a time when I saw him practically everyday. We were both cast members at the Disney Reservation Center and we worked together in Guest Services. Harold and I (along with the rest of the gang) shared many, many laughs. And, over the years we worked together, we also shared our sorrows, our tears and our fears. He had been dealing with an issue close to home at the time I was hospitalized. His Mom was fighting her own cancer battle. Knowing this, I was not at all upset that he had not come to visit me or contacted me sooner. When I received his card, I knew he was thinking of me. 
And, as I read the card twice over while standing inside the shed, I could feel some tears forming -- but I also knew I was smiling. I recalled a time when I had “good friends -- coworkers with whom I shared so much of my life” and now, many of them no longer really a part of my life and yet, I felt close to them. Harold’s words spoke to me: “Marilyn... your friends & family can help you, but you must continue to fight & believe you can beat cancer.” 
The card was signed.. “Take care & know I’m here & still care.” Harold ....   I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and saw an image of my friend -- I saw a room full of colleagues I had not seen in years ... I felt a strength that came from within. That card brought back so many memories. The best memory of all -- knowing I had people out there who cared about me and that, the words they shared with me many years ago, still continued to be heard and understood. It was “me” who needed to keep fighting. Harold was right -- I had to be the one to “beat” cancer. I was the one who needed to be strong. 
It was a true “Hallmark” moment.