Monday, March 26, 2012

I am WOMAN, Hear me MOW!

This morning I mowed.  Now that may not sound like ground breaking news to you but let me tell you this…it was a something of a triumph for me.

I suspect that every person who undergoes a cancer treatment desires more than anything else to feel normal.  To do a normal thing just like your neighbor is doing.  These are things you might not think about as a whole, healthy person. After a bilateral mastectomy, you have to figure out how to get out of the stinking bed without screaming.  Your chest muscles have received the ultimate insult.  Cut on, peeled and torn open, then everything is stitched shut.  Got a mental picture of that?  NOW try to raise your poor self out of that bed.  Figure out how to raise food to your mouth without pain, and comb your hair?  All this takes determination, exercise and endurance.  You are rewarded with the ability to wash your hair, and take care of your own toileting needs.  Trust me, those two things ALONE make you feel like a million bucks!  You keep doing the exercises and keep attempting to do just a little more than you did last week.

And though it takes time, you do start to pick up pieces.  It begins with folding laundry, and doing dishes.  They are things you have known how to do for several decades at least.  But between chemo, then surgery and radiaton?  You have not done it for a year.  And even a few things you have done were a major undertaking.  Each step to normalcy is a giant step.  Soon you find you are able to mop and vacuum, dust, do all the laundry and scrub the bathroom.  About this time you question “WHY did I work so hard to regain THESE skills.”  And it occurs to you that it might have been beneficial to remain “too weak to push the vacuum”  at least when anyone was watching.  That ship sailed and the other members of the family are much too eager to celebrate your achievement…by allowing you to mop and vacuum every room in the house.  But I digress.  The object of recovery is to regain the strength to conduct your normal activity of daily living. 

So March has come around and since it has been the warmest March in my recollection, everything is in bloom.  Even the dandelions.  Yes and the grass has now surpassed the height of my Pomeranian.  Poor dear has had to learn how to leap grass clumps in a single bound.  It is time to mow.  Last year, a neighborhood boy mowed my lawn while I recovered from radiation burns.  He is such a sweetheart.

Mr. Rosey has a neurological disorder in his arms for which he receives IV therapy every 4 weeks.  His ability to mow, relies on how long ago his therapy was and how well it “took” this time.  I always enjoyed mowing …although it was on a riding mower.  We considered all the requirements we would need in a push mower.  I have to make concessions for the fact that I do have seriously altered chest muscles.  It was hard for me to pull the starter cord before my surgeries.  So the first need…an electric or key start mower.  Second need…a power drive to help me push.  Off to the hardware store and after plunking down THREE HUNDRED and fifty dollars, we took home this massive black machine, guaranteed to chew through the toughest weeds.

This thing was so advanced that Hubs and I looked like newborn fools, standing around the driveway, staring at the machine in wonder. Have I mentioned that this is the FIRST brand new mower we have EVER had in 32.5 years of marriage?  Always the standard, walk and push, used, reconditioned mowers for us.  But this time, our special needs outweighed the desire to be frugal.  I asked, “how do you start this thing?”  “There’s a key” hubs told me.  

This new gizmo, was so space age that we went diving for the manuals.  We added the oil in the oil dohickey.  We added gas to the gas tank…the only change in that was THE PRICE OF GAS!  (Do you recall the cute little squeal that R2D2 makes on the Starwing fighter when he got singed by a laser blast?  You got that?  That’s the sound my husband makes every time he pulls up to a gas station.)  We had to buy a 2 gallon gas can because neither of us can lift our old 5 gallon one.  $7.50 of gas, and baby we are cooking with…well... gas!  

We turned the key and nothing.  Oh.  We are supposed to push the red thingy three times, two seconds apart –such a complicated mower.  And he turns the key again.  A couple chugs and then nothing.  This went on for 15 minutes, by which time we were both sweating like farm hogs, feeling snarky and as stupid as an Ozark hillbilly in the city.  Who buys a mower smarter than they are?  Out of frustration, the man turned the key and let the starter squeal.  To our astonishment, his fit of frustration made the thing start!  Apparently the starter is SUPPOSED to squeal as it starts up the engine.  We had been letting go of the key too soon.  He took a couple swipes around the back yard to give our Pom, Leia some room to play and take care of business.  But he was toast after that.  His IV treatments were this same weekend and his med head was pounding like tympani drums.  When I saw he was as pasty as pancake batter, I ordered him to quit.  He obeyed.

Bright and early this morning, I located my mowing shoes from the back of the closet, tossed on my capris and chose a soft cotton bra to soak up the sweat I knew I would shed.  A ratty shirt and off I was off to the outside.  And... then back in to grab the sunscreen to spritz the side of my neck that had been radiated.  And a cotton sunhat to protect my neck and chest from sun rays.  Although at 8 am those rays were still a little on the weak side.  But precaution vs. regret, I followed the post radiation rules.  I turned the key, let it squeal and it roared to life.  Then every sleeping person on my block rose up and cursed me.  I supposed with all this power, a lot of noise is required.

Initially I had thought to mow the back yard, but we have this annoying triad of cherry trees.  After the third time I felt the swipe of trees branches across the face, I was ready to rise up and proclaim “Yes Father, it was I who chopped down the cherry trees.”  I don’t know why we keep them…they produce the most sour, eyeball puckering cherries we have ever had the misfortune to bite into.

I decided to leave the back yard for the man when he feels better and I pushed the heavy, black monster to the front.  I may have to name the thing, “Shaq”.  I fired it up again and began to plot my pathway down to the street, and turn.  Along the street and turn.  Back to the house and turn.  The orchestrated dance of lawnmowing.  Oh the beauty, the power, and the sweat.  Thank you Lord for whoever thought to put the power assist on a mower!  I had worked up a sweat, but with each push, each unwelcome burn of my under used muscles there came a sense of empowerment.  I may not be fast.  It may not be the prettiest cut, but I am MOWING the yard.  Just like a normal person.

Honestly I only got one side of the yard done.  I quit when the muscles started to shake like jello, and the burn in my buttocks and thighs reminded me I had not done this in 2 years!  If I wanted to follow through on my plan to mow an hour each morning, I had to pace myself.

So I came in, slipped off the grass stained tennis shoes, got a bottle of water and sat down to regale all who would listen that I. Mowed. Some. Grass.  Thank you very much!  J

Assignment 15 - Write a post involving a recipe or a process, but try to infuse the post with your personality or thoughts.  Don’t over think this one.  Brushing your teeth, cooking macaroni and cheese, and grocery shopping are all seemingly mundane processes, but they are intriguing when we see them from your perspective.  Word to the wise, steer clear of the “and then I” syndrome. 


  1. Congratulations! Mine is about twice as high as a Pomeranian. Every time some one intends to mow ... it rains! On days when the schedule is full to overflowing ... the sun shines! I have heard rumors that the wayward daughter is coming over on Wednesday (to meet her parole officer ... sigh) and will mow the lawn then! Praying for sunshine!

    And congrats on your awesome recovery and bravo to your cheerful outlook! I know it's hard!

  2. Thank you Beth. It's odd the things that thrill you when you deal with chronic pain, illness or disabilities. My ground was very boggy in a lot of places so I did have to put out a lot more energy that I thought should be necessary. Which is why I only got a quarter of the yard done.

    My handsome son is stopping over to mow for the cost of dinner and gas money. I think someone told him I was mowing. As bossy as he is getting to be..."Mooooother! Stop doing stuff like that and wait until Mandy or I can help you." I imagine I will get lectured. :)

  3. Oh our sweet, wonderful Rosie! You are such a blessing! I love your writings! I love the way you have the ability to bring us right where you are and we can see what you see and share in your pain and triumphs! I wanted to play the Rocky theme song for you!