Picture this: Our first summer in Moses Lake. Temperatures often in triple digits. Pregnant. So pregnant....Eli, due mid August, is 11 days late (11 days!) and a whoppin' 9.5 pounds. Our little rental...technically a 2 bedroom...with one window AC unit in the living room. Jason and I made our room in a (poorly insulated) converted shop on the opposite side of the house. During the last month or so of my pregnancy, I started sleeping on the air mattress in front of that AC unit. By morning, my hip and watermelon-sized belly would sink through that mattress to the floor. But...AC!
Oh, did I mention I had stage 3 cancer and didn't know it?
I felt like I had the flu. Every day. My breast was hard and hurt. I was tired. So tired. I attributed all of it to being a pregnant mama, in the heat, doing my best with two toddlers. I remember saying, I'm amazed being pregnant while parenting toddlers isn't better population control....Who would willingly do this again?
Jason worked night shifts on the weekends, so I often took the girls to my parents' in Spokane. He got silence and the coveted air mattress in the living room during the hottest part of the day. And we got air. Central air.
It was hot in Spokane that summer, too. To escape the heat, Mom and Dad started taking the girls and me to their favorite beach on Priest Lake.
Sandy beaches surrounded by forested mountains...it's not hard to see why this quickly became my Happy Place.
I loved pushing my girls on their floaties...allowing the clear, cool water to share the weight of my heavy belly.
I hadn't heard of Inflammatory Breast Cancer yet, and I trusted my midwife when she dismissed my early concerns about breast cancer. At this time, my biggest worry was how we would handle the addition of a baby boy in our little family.
I miss that.
More than my breasts. My long hair. Functioning ovaries....When I pass a group of young adults having happy hour on a patio, or see a busy family playing on the beach...that carefree feeling is now just out of reach for me. Like trying to grasp a handful of the lake water.
I didn't think I'd make it to Priest Lake in 2015. My original double mastectomy was scheduled for mid June. I envisioned a summer propped in a nest of pillows (or worse yet...shudder...a lift chair)...bandages...pain killers...physical therapy...
When surgery was postponed (you can read more about that here), I tried to appreciate the gifts of summer.
Trips to Priest Lake were a little tricky that year. Eli was crawling, and by July walking. Stuffing handfuls of sand into his curious mouth.
All three kids were in diapers. My body was tired from months of chemotherapy. My chest was criss crossed with biopsies...gruesome stitches that were slow to heal on cancerous skin. I could only go into the water up to my waist. I had to load my bald head with sunscreen.
But to the lake we went.
We went to play. To cool off.
To try...at least for a few hours...to forget.
This summer I'm home in Moses Lake again. Two hours further from Priest Lake. The Pink Door House has central air conditioning. We spend less weekends in Spokane. More time at home...pulling weeds. Visiting the Saturday Farmer's Market. Filling up the kiddie pool.
The kids and I recently joined Mom and Dad for a long weekend at Priest Lake.
Four days covered in sunshine, sand, and lake water.
Four days to forget cancer.
To remember my Happy Place.
And hold onto that carefree feeling.