The past is the present for future generations who do not know their history

Pullen

Dearly Beloved…

we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings. Thirty-eight years ago today. Sandra Gail Peebles and Douglas Aaron Pullen became husband and wife. And they have lived happily everafter. Mother clipped this from the paper 38 years ago. You can still see her scissor marks. Happy Anniversary Sandra and Doug Pullen.

Sandra Gail Peebles Wedding Announcement


Things I Learned from Cancer 101 (9)

Lobular Breast Cancer. Single file cells and c...

Lobular Breast Cancer Cells

by Sandra Pullen on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 9:51am

You know that sinking feeling you get in your gut while standing on the edge of a cliff?  Yeah, that one.  Hold that thought.

Now, imagine that you have just been told to step off…………..

 There is nothing but air.   You will surely fall and die. 

Next, I want you to take that “feeling of fear”  and transpose it on to the face of every one you love. That is what the family of a cancer patient looks like………….

I am the oldest of five children.  Born and raised in a time when you never worried about your children playing outside, as a matter of fact, none of us ever considered staying inside on a beautiful day. 

A bicycle was the accepted mode of transportation.  Designer jeans were not an issue.   No cell phones for distraction.

You had everything you needed…your best friend and a dollar for a drink and a honey bun at the store.

You went to Church on Sunday, and Mom never had to make us go.  Our attendance was expected.

Life never got much more complicated than that.

Our family has been abundantly blessed with good health.   Grandparents lived to ripe old ages, after living a full and happy life.

The closest I had ever come to cancer was a paternal aunt with Breast Cancer.   It was so long ago, that I barely remembered it.

Then it happened.  The diagnosis. The surgery.  The recovery.  The acceptance. The establishment of “new normal.”

To rebuild  your life after the beast enters is not the easiest thing to do.  I did what I had to do. It never occurred to me to give up, to not do what I had determined I would do and be in my life.

But.. my precious family still had to deal.

Looking back, I can see that each of them dealt with the beast in their own way.

My brothers and sisters have always known and still do, that I am here for them. They can talk to me about anything. Sometimes I give good advice, and sometimes I just listen.

But I’ve always been here.

Now they had to face the possibility that I may not “be here” 

I know they love me.  I never doubt that, just as they know I love them.  We have and will always love each other.

If you know my family, you know these truths..

1. We are affectionate.

We love one another and  are not afraid to show it.  Hugging is acceptable. Kissing is optional.

2. We are loyal.

All for one and one for all.

3. We are always and I mean always here for each other. 

No one has to go through troubles alone, not with the Peebles Clan.

4. We are LOUD!

I know, but the truth is what it is.  I have watched many videos of us at family gatherings and the volume has to be turned down.

Like my daughter Shelley says, “It’s the only way to be heard in this family, to get louder than others.”

My family is very important to me.  I was taught that you “took care” of the little ones.  And I did that. 

I have been told, I did it so well, that I would take their punishment for them. 

Now before you get all “well she is just bragging” on me, wait a second…

I was only a little girl, and I certainly don’t remember doing it…….so it’s not as noble as it sounds. But… I would do it today in a heartbeat.

Just as they would for me.

But the beast was one enemy that they couldn’t fight for me. That one had to be dealt with one on one 

.Man to man.

Beast to SURVIVOR

Every brother, every sister that I have would have fought the beast for me. I know that, if they could they would have gladly done what ever it took to get me through the battle with the beast.

But in life,  there are some battles that are meant to be fought alone.  The only help you have or will ever have is HIM.

And that is all a warrior needs in a battle of any kind is HIM.

Please never think that I am better than any other survivor out there. I never felt special or singled out for any special or divine purpose.

I was just a working mother, with a life that I loved and a family that I loved.

Battling a beast as strong as cancer was not on my life’s agenda.  Or so I thought. Now, looking back, I realize that it is exactly what I was supposed to do and be.

It is a time of my life of wonderful lessons.

Lessons learned and hopefully taught to others through my struggles of how life can be lived.  And that the beast doesn’t always win.

Most of the time it wins, but there are those times that we can look at with new hope, new faith, new strength. Those are the times that we should strive for whether dealing with cancer or with the jerk who cut you off on Woodward Avenue.

Those times when you know you are loved, you know you are strong, you know you are the “best you can be”

You just know !

And if the battle with the beast is lost………………………..

What then???

Well, to be absent here is to be present……………where???

That is the question.

I love my family, they love me.

There are just no givens in life. No certain outcomes. No promise of another day. No guarantee that what you want is what you’ll get. Not one of us is guaranteed our next breathe.

But you are promised an eternity. Time without end.

A wonderful alternative to the beast

Eternity, what a lovely word

The next lesson I learned from cancer, and every day life is this.

Family is the heart of the matter

We don’t get to choose them. They are GIVEN to us.  I love that idea!!   This group of people were chosen just for me. This Mother, this Father and these brothers and sisters are mine.

There is no one in the world who has a family like mine.  The unique personalities and bond that we share is not so common these days.

I’m not saying that we are perfect…… just that we are perfect for each other.  Mom, Dad, Anthony, Beth, Bryan and Karen

You are truly my foundation.

Family…. The Heart of the Matter.


Things I learned from Cancer 101 (8)

by Sandra Pullen on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 11:30am

When we mess up, immediately, we seek an excuse.  We’re only human.  How many times have you heard that?  Or said it yourself?

To be human is sort of a given, I mean, I doubt you could be anything else, right?

But to be human is not an excuse for mistakes.  One mistake is just that, a mistake……….but the second time you make the same mistake, it has become a choice.

Choice, choices, decisions  all equal  free will.  Just a little something that GOD gave us.  The freedom to choose.

Most of the time, our choices are good ones.   To go to the best college, who to marry, which dress to wear…….Roll Tide or War Eagle.  

Choices like this are easy to make.  There is not a lot of effort needed to make those type of decisions.Austin, Aaron, and Allison Pullen

I heard once…”I’d rather die than to take any more chemotherapy”

WHAT????   Are you crazy?

Now, I understand. It becomes a choice of quality over quantity.   So often choices we make are selfish, made with  ourselves as the number one consideration.

When it comes to a child with cancer,  decisions become  much harder to make. ” Well, there is no decision to be made. I want my child healthy and whole, no matter what the cost.”

We all do.

It’s our job as a parent, to want the best for our children and set out to obtain it.  But what if the best is painful?   During Austin‘s treatments,  I remember Aaron, my son casually mentioning a slight irritation with his wife, Allison.

Now being the mother that I am and that my children know me to be, I wanted to get defensive and take his side. But instead I found myself saying…”Don’t tell me about arguments because you are mine, and I love you.  I will always take your side, but………….you are not always going to be right.

Our heavenly Father is the same way after all, He is where we learn it. He is always on our side, even if and when we are not right, but yet He loves us.

The best for Austin was three years of Chemotherapy and oral medicines. On a particularly difficult day, we tried to give Austin his chemo med in pill form.  Every single time, he would throw it right back up. We knew how desperately he needed this medicine and we were desperate to get it down.  We tried, water, milk, cool aid, holding his nose, a syringe. Nothing worked.

I asked Allison to go and call the Doctor and ask if we could get this medicine in a liquid form. Maybe we could get it down and it would be easier for him.  By this time we were all in tears and Austin was exhausted.

Allison returned.  Her face pale and tired. She looked that way a lot for those three years.  She never stopped. Not once did she say, “I quit” She was strong and knew that she had to be for her son. That’s what we mothers do

“What did he say”  I asked “It doesn’t come in liquid form”  she replied. “Well why not? Don’t they know how hard it is for a two year old to swallow a pill?” “I asked him the same question.  He just said that it doesn’t come in liquid form because, babies aren’t supposed to get cancer.”

Oh my poor baby!   My heart ached  those three years for him.  My own cancer was never as painful  to me as his was for me.

Nothing about that time is pleasant for me to remember. 

Nothing about that time is happy for any of us. But I will tell you this…. I love that boy!  He is special in more ways than one.

The innocence of childhood protected him and insulated his little mind from so much.   He doesn’t remember some of it, he was only a baby. But he does know the way to St. Jude.   If he is in the car and see’s his surroundings, he can tell you really quick,  ” I don’t wanna go to St. Jude!”

Aren’t we all the same?   I don’t wanna go!   I don’t wanna!   I don’t want to have to deal with cancer, it is physically and emotionally painful.  Well, guess what?   Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!!   That is one place, one circumstance that you have NO choice.

You know what, if I find out there was a choice about this cancer business, I’m gonna really be pissed!!! I had no choice, Austin had no choice. Not about cancer, not about treatment.

The beast.   I hate the beast!  I wish IT would get cancer and die!!

Now, having said all of that, I want you to know………the next thing cancer taught me is that life is about choices……..good ones, bad ones, ones we didn’t make,  all of them come together to make us who we are. 

But, the most important thing to remember about your choices is this……………they always affect some one else.  We don’t get to be selfish all the time.  Our actions, though our own, affect the people around us. Whether for better or worse.

I choose to be happy, never trusting any one else with such an important part of my life.  My happiness.  It’s all up to me. You see GOD gives us that choice to make.  HE doesn’t coerce us, or force us to love him. 

My earthly father has never forced me to love him,  I just do!  I don’t question that love, it’s just there.

All I have to do is love him back.

And I choose to do just that…………..love him back

I choose life, happiness and most of all………..My Saviour

Choice……..means one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen

Only one…..Choose.

I did, and I didn’t need cancer to teach me that,  I already knew that!!!


Things I Learned From Cancer 101 (7)

by Sandra Pullen on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 8:08pm

What has gone so terribly wrong in this world that newborn babies in their mother’s arms, get cancer?

How does that happen?

The types of cancer are many and varied.  Osteosarcomas, Neuroblastomas, Lymphomas, and so many other technical names that are too difficult to pronounce and impossible to spell. 

I simply call “it” the Beast.

The word beast is defined as a cruelly rapacious animal. A living organism.  Fits cancer perfectly.  A cruel beast.

The damage done by the beast is visible and sometimes, obvious.  Austins’ precious little bald head is something I will never forget.  Nor will I forget the first time, his Aunt Shelley saw him as his hair was beginning to fall out.   Her face crumpled as she got out of her car and came around to hold him. We all felt the same way.  The pictures tell the story much better than I can.  They are put away.  Out of sight, out of mind.   So we hope.

When the cancer beast entered my life and world, I never looked at it as a punishment.  It never occurred to me to feel “picked on” or  singled out.

It did however make me more determined to live my life in such a way that others would know, the beast can be beaten.

Now, having said that, never think that for one second,   all stories have the “happily ever after” ending. 

Sometimes the beast wins, and that is what breaks my heart.

When Austin was diagnosed, I admit, I did question…….Why my baby?  Why Austin?

The Pullen Grandchildren

Doug and Sandra Pullen's Grandchildren

One trip to St. Jude and I assure you,  you will not be the same person you were before. It’s one of those places that should be sad, and sometimes it is……..very!

  I will never forget the first visit we had with our Austin there. 

We were so happy to see him!  It had been three weeks.  I was so excited that I ran in and grabbed him up, leaving my purse sitting on a table in the common living room. 

He wanted Papa and I to take him outside to the playground, and of course, we did.  He played on the slide and ran around like he had never met the beast.  The only indication that he was sick was his pallor.

After about an hour, I realized that I had left my purse inside.  Oh no!   Inside were my credit cards,  check book and money.

Doug hurried inside, hopefully it had not been stolen. 

When he came back to the playground, he had the strangest look on his face and my purse in his hands.  

“What’s the matter?”  I asked. 

I will never forget his words.

“It was right where you left it.  Sandra, down here, I don’t think it’s about money. What these kids need, money can’t buy”

You’re right, more tears.

The leaving was torture.  I remember sobbing as he stood in the doorway of the Ronald McDonald house, his little arm waving bye bye to Nana and Papa.  I left my heart there. 

On the interstate, traveling home, all I could feel was heartbreak.  I cried until I couldn’t see. And all at once, I remembered, I had left my purse!

We turned around and went back. 

This time when I had to leave my baby, he was sleeping so peacefully.  It wasn’t easier, but it wasn’t quite as painful to leave him this time.

Yes, you would expect St. Jude to be a sad place.

But with so many little children gathered there, it is filled with giggles and smiles. The play room is awesome, the playground  is a wonderful place for them to explore and just be…………..NORMAL

Cancer patients have only one need, and that is a cure.  We know logically, that the beast can rear it’s ugly head at any moment in time.   After  nine years, it’s still the first thing I think of when I open my eyes, every morning. 

For a split second, I question.  It only lasts for a second, then I’m up and off to start my day.

With the talent and money in this country, why are we still trying to find a cure for this disease?  Jonas Salk did it. But so many  diseases have NO cure.  Oh, they  have treatments, Alzheimers, Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma, and the list is endless.

There are only treatments.   Why? 

I have no answers.   Only questions. 

The beast is not pretty, and it’s painful. It’s after effects never go away. To this very day, I can’t drink from an aluminum can. Chemotherapy makes your mouth taste like you have been sucking on copper pennies.   The metallic taste is very fresh in my memory. 

Some times, I smell a scent and am immediately transported back to the Cancer Center.   It’s funny how a scent can trigger a memory. 

Austin wont eat anything that smells like grape. So much of his medicine was grape flavored.

The beast causes a chain reaction. Not only does it affect the patient.  It affects the parents, the siblings, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles and on and on.

Austin’s big brother was only 4 when the beast entered.   He wasn’t old enough to understand why his mommy was away.

I can never forget how my heart broke for him.  He woke up one night, crying with an ear ache, and all he wanted was his mommy.

How do you explain cancer to a four year old?   He did not understand that it was not his fault.  He asked, “Aunt Shelley, if I’m a good boy tomorrow, can I see my mommy?”

How can the human heart deal with such hurt? How will I ever over come so much heart break?  How could I watch Austin suffer? How could I watch his parents go through this???? My heart HURT!   How could my heart survive this much pain?

Now I know….

Just as easily as it can love unconditionally.

Just as it accepts and loves with out question.

Just as easily as it bears your hurts and pain.

Just like Jesus did for us.

Without a doubt.

With unconditional LOVE

And that is another gift of cancer…………To LOVE

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The Pullen grandchildren…

form the circle of life.

The Pullen Grandchildren

Doug and Sandra Pullen's Grandchildren