Caretaking Hope

I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to take that daily little pill to help my body avoid a recurrence of breast cancer. I am not just being a whiny baby about this. The side effects are killing me. My whole body hurts, my feet and hips the most, but now my hands are joining in. Gordy and I have been researching and mostly, the information makes me angry. Yes, the drug lessens cancer recurrence rates, but it does not change overall 5-year survival rates. Why? Because the side effects kill you instead. Seriously. The drug has a corrosive effect on your bones and heart, leading to increased risks of death from bone-related injuries or from heart disease. What a deal. The indicated length of time for this treatment is 5 years. My first six months weren’t so bad, but the effects have been cumulative. Now, creeping up to my one year mark, that little beast of a pill has taken my quality of life and completely thrown it under a bus. That is an apt metaphor; I feel like I have been run over by a bus and every day I wake up and it happens again.

This is not an easy thing to get our heads around. How can you say that between two choices, you choose cancer? I don’t find hope in that choice, but I am finding hope in myself. I have spent the last year researching and exploring evidence-based best practices for taking care of myself, taking care of my health, especially in light of cancer and also my c. diff. infection of last November. There is a vast body of information out there and I would like to share more about that, but later. I meet with my oncologist this Friday and will arrive armed with evidence and determination. I am hopeful we will come up with a plan that lets me wean off of drugs as prevention. This is no way to live. This is no way to die. I am working on creating a different choice for myself, one that relies on my own caretaking skills. I am caretaking hope for myself.

In the meantime, life goes on. Animals must be fed, manure picked up, dogs groomed, vet visits scheduled – the list is long. These daily rituals of animal caretaking are the better part of my day. They are the better part of me. I show up the best when I am in the company of animals. I wish I had the words for this. I wish I could explain how it feels to “Be With” and what it means to me. I spend most of my days within the confines of the farm tending to animals, trying to keep the house clean, and quilting. It is a small and unimpressive life. But you would only think that because you haven’t met Legs, for just one example. The presence of Legs makes my life large. He is the sweetest, most gentle soul. Today he had a mild eye infection, warranting some one-on-one time in a stall to wipe his eyes and face with a cool cloth and put medicine under his eyelid. It is hard for him to give over his head, especially his eyes, to be fussed with, but he works so hard at being good about it and I take my time.  Whatever he needs. When we were good and done and walking out to the big pasture, he turned around and buried his head in my belly. Touching a horse’s ears is a very intimate thing and giving me this after I had fussed with his sore eyes made me feel such joy.

Such a kind and forgiving soul.

I got Belle a new raincoat. This was important to me. She doesn’t have one for herself; only an extra one of Boo’s which is too small for her and makes her look like she is bursting at the seams (which, sadly, she is). Her new one came today and I was so excited to try it on! It is ridiculously pink and perfect in every way. If a horse could smile, I think she would have. I think she knows it was just for her and makes her look special.

She is perfect in every way.

Augustus is not with the big herd, but he shares a lot of fence line with them; a fence line that took a lot of beating up the first weeks following his arrival. It seems the herd has worked through its opinion of him. This morning, post-feeding I found them holding space together under the shade of the play ground oak tree. They stood this way for quite a long time and I knew then that everything was going to be okay. He is one of us, because they have said so.


We are all together.

And always, always, there is the company of the pups. I am never alone. If you knew each of them, you would know how crammed full of magic my small life is. They are a tribe of their own, taking care of and watching out for each other, but I get to belong, too, and that makes me very happy.

Monroe thinks she is a Maremma.

And then there is this: The smile on my face because I’ve just gotten done riding the cutest little pony in the Universe.

I love him.

We are creating a shared language, Augustus and me, and he surprises me every day with what he has pieced together. We surely did not “need” another horse, but he has filled a void in my life in such a way I am left gasping for air. Letting him happen in our lives was another big lesson to me in caretaking hope.

So I want to know what you do. How do you caretake hope in your own life? How do you bring in and cultivate hope and promise and love sufficient to heal yourself, to make yourself whole? Mine walks around on four legs, but I am also learning to cultivate other acts of hope and caring for myself. Please tell me yours.


Writing about what sings to me from a life made full with animals.

6 thoughts on “Caretaking Hope

  1. Good Morning Lisa. You have a huge decision to make concerning your little pill don’t you? Sometimes it seems most drugs have the same set of issues. That is, what is worse the chance of disease or the sure fire effects of the prevention? This is like my cholesterol medication, which I won’t take anymore. HOPE? I am spinning my wheels lately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope is hard, isn’t it? I get the spinning my wheels thing. But then I look up and realize that all that dirt digging in the same place actually got me somewhere if only because I just needed to dwell for a while. I am often a bit too urgent about calling an issue. There is something so concrete about your body’s own experience versus that hypothetical, haunting statistic hanging over your head. I don’t take it lightly. Big sigh. I am hopeful for me and I am hopeful for you, too. ❤


  2. Believe in yourself and trust the Lord for the answers. You know you Better than any Dr. They only know medicine but is not always the answer. I know the MS drug almost killed me . Good luck and thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your wise words, Cheri. I am so determined to stay centered in my trust and belief. I feel like you just infused me with a mega dose of bravery! I am in awe of you! Hugs. ❤


  3. Hi Lisa, I haven’t seen you for so long! I ran across your blog, and have enjoyed reading your essays very much! I am happy for you that you have such a wonderful life with your husband and your large family of pets! And I am sorry that you are grappling with health issues…you write about your feelings very movingly. Because you ask your readers to respond, I will: I find hope and strength through reading the Bible and, with God’s help, relying on the many beautiful promises He makes to us. I pray that He will grant you a long, healthy life, and that you will have a great career as a child therapist! (You will have many excellent helpers, equine and canine!) With best regards, Mimi Ranwick (from Fortuna Farm)


    • Mimi, thank you so much for your wise words. Horses have been such a deep part of my “therapy” and that was true from the very beginning when I called to sign up for riding lessons with you. I still remember that day! What a journey it has been. Thank you for making a connection. Hope all is very well with you.


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