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Bubble Wrap, Stress and Recurrence

©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

I think it would be an understatement to say that most of the country has been inconvenienced by last week’s wicked cold spell. While I didn’t have rolling blackouts, my rural electric company was struggling to keep the power grid on that services our middle-of-nowhere residence. Midnight, Tuesday, the power began coming on and off every few minutes. Actually, it was more off than on. Because my house is a 100-year-old ranch hand bunkhouse, with original doors and windows and NO insulation, the inside temperature instantly began to plummet. Quickly I made a fire in the fireplace and began throwing blankets, tablecloths, sheets and a cowhide over the few windows that have curtain rods (no neighbors, great views, no curtains), and covered my thin Oushak rugs and cold pine floors with comforters and a sleeping bag.

Twelve hours later, as I stoked the fire, dressed in three sweaters, a sherling coat, hat, gloves, ski socks and boots, waiting for the electricity to come back on, Molly put her paw on my knee and leaned toward me like she was going to tell me a secret. Poor girl. Her teeth were chattering! While it had been a three-dog night and day, Molly wanted no more of it, so I packed a bag, called a hotel, drove into town, boarded the dogs and checked into La Quinta. Who knew I’d have to change rooms twice until I found a room without bullet holes in the windows?

The next day, armed with 40 feet of bubble wrap and two rolls of duct tape, I returned to the Little House and covered every window and outside door, some of them twice. When the power and the central heat finally returned, I turned on three space heaters as well and waited as the inside temperature reached 40, then 50. It was dark outside, and way below freezing, and just as the thermostat crested 60, the house blew a major fuse. Frustrated, and feeling like I’d taken two giant steps backwards, I realized the longer I stayed, the more I ran the risk of being trapped, unable to get down our steep, soon to be covered in snow and black ice road. So once again, I left and checked back into La Quinta.

The skinny guy at the front desk was the same one who’d checked me out that morning. “Haven’t I seen you before?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I checked out this morning.”

“Do you have a reservation?”

“Not this time,” I answered.

Looking slightly puzzled, he asked, “When did you have one?”

“For last night,” I said. “But I checked out this morning.”

He paused and peered at me, then pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and frowned. “And you don’t have a reservation?”

“No,” I replied. “Do you still have rooms available?”

“Yes, but you don’t have a reservation.“

Obviously my clarity and patience were wearing thin. “Excuse me,” I said. “But this is sounding like a ‘Who’s on First’ routine. I just want a room, without bullet holes in the windows, and yes, I know they’re from the punks next door… Do you have gin?”

After three days of fast food and no hairbrush, or working hotel blow dryers, I look like a bush baby, but my dogs and I are finally home. The bubble wrap seems to be helping because the temperature in the Little House is holding at 73. We’ll see what the morning brings.

During all of this, it occurred to me that stress is one of the causes of breast cancer recurrence, and the past six weeks have provided me with a lifetime of stress: my precious husband died unexpectedly; I ripped out the entire undercarriage of my car, searching for him that night; the pump motor at the bottom of the well died, leaving me with no water; someone I’m close to is in the midst of a serious life-altering snit; I’ve had no heat for three days, and I may have put my life on the line to stay in a sterile motel room with bullet holes, bad pillows and no working blow dryers. If I’m not an upcoming candidate for breast cancer recurrence, no one is.

Most of us work hard to get through cancer, prevent recurrence and survive the other adversities life puts in our path. We stay positive, eat right, exercise, pray and get support from our family and friends. I haven’t met anyone for whom giving in is an option. Even in our darkest moments, the resilience of the human spirit is remarkable. While I have great friends, the hole in my heart is huge, and I have leaned on God a lot during these last six weeks. Like a silversmith or goldsmith, God is refining us, tempering our metal and removing our impurities through life’s tribulations and trusting in Him. At the moment, I think I should be nearing 18k gold… at least temporarily.

While bubble wrap works to keep the cold weather out, it won’t protect us from disease and loss. As my friend, Gayle, says, the hurt would still get through, plus then we couldn’t see out the windows. So for the time being, how about we find comforters whether they be God, or friends, or Twitter, and draw strength from all things empowering that helps get us through the night.