Life’s Focus

Life’s Focus

I’m discovering that even though battling cancer with a loved one is very, very difficult and very, very exhausting, it’s also very difficult and exhausting to try to merge back into life afterwards. During the cancer battle, life’s focus narrowed down to a task, a moment, and a room. We focused on making it through THIS task at THIS moment in THIS room in the doctor’s office or Cancer Center or hospital. We didn’t worry about tasks beyond what was absolutely necessary. If we weren’t home or if we were too tired or busy to cook, we ordered out. We slept when we could and moved when we had to.


But now that we are merging back into life, our focus is widening again. We have to prepare meals, we have to work at tasks that, out of necessity, we had postponed. Where before, I summoned the energy to do what I had to do, I now find myself with little energy but many things to do. I’m finding some of these tasks overwhelming and exhausting–even the thought of them are overwhelming and exhausting–and when I feel too overwhelmed or overtired, I feel a bit irritable or grumpy. I’m trying not to because I really do not like to be Grumpy. I do not even like to be slightly Grumpy.

I told a friend that I was sorry I am feeling tired, overwhelmed, and grumpy and she said that she believes that now that we have made it through the cancer treatments and surgery, all the exhaustion is surging forward. I think it must be like a credit card–you can postpone payment but sooner or later the bills come due. My friend said to give myself time. I have loving, patient friends.

Yesterday the weather was sunny and in the lower 70s. It was very, very nice. The forecast had said it would be much the same today so this morning I took the tarp off the patio table on the front porch. I planned to sit there and drink coffee, but the day was much too cool. So I checked the forecast again this morning and it said the high would be only 50. It wasn’t too cold to work outside in the morning, but about noon it began to get windier and the wind made it feel colder. Brrrrr.

This is part of the dead tree and crushed fence.
This is part of the dead tree leaning on our garage…and the fence it crushed.

I like working outside in my gardens, but we can’t really enjoy our yard until we get the dead tree down so it doesn’t fall and hurt anyone or crush more fences. We really can’t put that off. Once the tree is down, we can repair the fences. Besides the fact that the broken fences look awful, Danny has found a way to get out of the yard. We thought we had all the obvious places blocked, but he’s been getting out somehow and running through the neighborhood. Then he comes running back home filled with joy at having had such a grand adventure. Silly dog.

The wood EJ must split. He split quite a bit of it today.
The wood EJ must split. He split quite a bit of it today.

In order to buy more fence pieces, we had to borrow our friend’s truck, which was filled with firewood that he was giving us. We unloaded the truck yesterday, but the wood was heavy, the work was exhausting, and then there were piles of firewood all over the back yard. Many of the pieces have to be split or sawed so they will fit into our wood stove and I worried about EJ having to do it because splitting and sawing hurts his damaged back.  When I saw the piles of wood in the yard yesterday I felt overwhelmed and wanted to cry.

We were going to get the new fence pieces today, but it was too windy to try to transport them so we decided to wait for a calmer day.

We need to prepare the ground in the back yard so we can plant a veggie garden, but we can’t do that until the wood is out of the back yard. The wood can’t be out of the back yard until it’s split/sawed. It can’t be stacked into the woodshed until we finish putting sides on woodshed. We were putting up new fences and also using fence pieces as “siding” for the woodshed last autumn but we didn’t finish it because JJ got cancer. Once JJ was diagnosed with cancer, work on everything else stopped. We can’t finish putting the sides on the woodshed until we get the dead tree down since the dead tree is next to the back of the woodshed. Removing the dead tree is key to getting other tasks done.

This morning EJ split quite a bit of the wood. He will have still more wood to split/saw when the dead tree comes down. He was able to cut down some of the dead tree with his pole saw today after he split the wood. Whenever he cut down a branch of the dead tree, I dragged it in front of the garage and used my garden pruners to cut off the smaller branches, which I put in a pile that the Village will haul away. EJ will have to saw up the larger branches for firewood. Our neighbor said he’d take the dead tree down using his bucket truck, but we don’t know when he can do it so we decided to just keep chipping (or rather sawing) away at the tree. We worked hard today and made some progress, although we still have a lot to do.

Vine Monster
Vine Monster

Meanwhile, when I am not helping EJ, I am working in the garden near the bird feeders. I want to get this project done so we can access the cherry trees and bird feeders without stepping on flowers. I have been trying to clean out the “garden island” so that I can plant flower seeds to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The “garden island” is filled with vines–and so is the surrounding areaa that we have mowed. I yank and pull and prune the vines but the vines stubbornly grip the ground. I feel as if I am battling an insidious Vine Monster that wants to conquer my world. Ha! I refuse to let it win. However, I can only battle it for short bursts at a time because it exhausts me. I am trying to be careful so that in pulling out the vines, I do not also pull out the tulips and daffodils that are already there, but some of the flowers are looking a bit battered.

This is my herb garden.
This is my herb garden.

When I was not helping EJ or battling the Vine Monster, I worked at cleaning up my herb garden. When that gets all cleared out, I can buy and plant herbs to replace those that died over the hard winter. I am not working hard on this garden yet because it’s not as much of a priority as the other tasks. Mostly I just work on it when I’m waiting for EJ or I need a break from the Vine Monster. There is no Vine Monster in the herb garden. Instead, there is a Berry Bush Monster along the fence that claws me whenever I get too close. However, it is not as difficult to fight as the vines.

I worked outside until I was stumbling with fatigue. Then I came inside and made a big pot of chili. It’s so cool out that it feels like chili weather. Plus the chili is easy to reheat and it will allow me to keep working outside rather than have to stop to prepare meals. I also made more potato salad because it is delicious and I have been craving it lately.

I know, I know, you can say “relax, pace yourself, you don’t have to exhausted yourself working in the yard.” But we have to get the dead tree down so it doesn’t hurt someone, and we have to split, saw, and stack the wood so we can plant a veggie garden, and we can’t do that until we finish the woodshed, and…..I do enjoy working out in the yard. I want to get the difficult “must do” stuff done so we can enjoy the yard this summer, but I wish we had had more time to rest before we had to tackle all this. All this work is why I didn’t mind Winter lasting a long time.

JJ's incision with staple dots and tape.
JJ’s incision with staple dots and tape.

By the way, JJ’s hair is growing back. Right now it is very soft and fine like baby duck fuzz. I’d take a picture of it, but it doesn’t show up well enough in a photograph. We are wondering if his hair will be black.

Also, JJ’s incision is healing. I asked to see it today, and thought it was interesting that I could see little dots where the staples had been.  I wonder if the dots will form scars too? When JJ went to get his staples pulled out, the doctor said that the nurse would put a row of surgical tape across the incision and he should just leave the pieces of tape on until they fell off. He has only two pieces of tape left. He pulled on one while I took the picture and I said, “UGH! STOP IT!”

Now that I have taken a break and written this post, I need to go wash dishes…


2 Comments on “Life’s Focus

  1. O my Teri I just can féél how you are feeling. You have to do so much and not all your strength is back. I do see what you mean by focus on life. Because that I had several times myself. And when you are in the small part with just that one task you couldn’t imagine that you’ll ever will worry again about so many things I even promised myself I would NOT. I was wrong life itself knocks on our door with the day in day out normal stuff and we are going right ahead to do what needs to be done. But your friend is right you have taken strength in advance to cope with JJ’s battle and now you have to slow down to find yourself back. And i can see the pile of work you and EJ have to do but please take also a bit care of yourself. The good thing is you both are getting back in shape before the summertime…..With the tree the wood and the big garden….:-) But please take the time now and than to just sit and enjoy a book or a movie or just the stars…….
    . JJ will just have a small white line on his belly and stomach the holes from the staples will just disappear. Mine did so his will too. Love you all very much and a big hug. ❤ ❤


  2. As the sun is rising and shinning brightly from the east, I pray you too are feeling the warmth and comfort that only comes from the Son who is holding you in His arms and bringing you peace as He tells us all will be done in My time. Leave the anxiety and take up holy trust, you are faithful and He wants you to take this day and enjoy it with you family, He is in control so give it back . We love you guys,


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