Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What a difference a year makes . . .

Today I worked in my yard for almost 4 hours. You might ask, "Was the weather really nice?"
No. It wan't bad, but I would have much rather been out working in shorts and a tee shirt than in my sweats. It was cool and overcast, a little windy, but I did enjoy getting out in the fresh air.

A year ago, things were much different. I was dying. Yes, I truly believe that if I had not gone to the hospital, that if I continued to live as I was, within a month, I would be gone. I was not feeling well, not eating much, not doing much more than sleeping. I had little energy and I was loosing weight.

I was waiting to have a colonoscopy. But, before that, I was planning to go out of town for Easter. I told hubby that he would have to get his things together for our 4 day trip, something that I normally did, but just didn't have the energy to do. One thing lead to another and we missed our plane. We spent the whole day in airports flying stand-by. It was all I could do to walk to the places we needed to be and it was almost impossible to carry our carry-ons.

Over the week-end we did several things that involved walking. I pretty much always found a place to sit and watch as other family members were involved in activity. The night before we were to leave I got sick. We ended up calling the airline to see how we could reschedule our flight. We were able to reschedule for the following day. I slept most of the flight. Walking through the airport was one of the hardest things I had to do. I just kept thinking . . . Don't stop, you'll be ok as long as you don't stop.
Hubby told me later that he would have bet that I wouldn't have made it so well on the flight home.

Today, I raked and swept and pushed the wheel barrel. I trimmed bushes and brush from where I wanted it to be. I pulled weeds and picked up branches, all things that I could have never done a year ago. Yes, a year makes a difference.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

February 2015

Fast forward to February 2015. Again it is the end of winter and I am not feeling well. About every 8-10 days I am having tummy troubles, then vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. At first, I'm not too worried about it. House guests over Christmas had the flu while they were here and I've been cleaning that room. Also, in my line of work, it's not uncommon to have children cough or sneeze in my face or vomit at my feet . . . YES, not often, but it has happened.

The first couple of times I felt sick, I awoke in the middle of the night with my stomach gurgling, but still didn't think much of it. It wasn't until one day at work that I got sick and had to leave, that I thought it was something more serious than the flu.

I started to watch what I was eating more carefully. In doing an internet search, it seemed that many of the symptoms that I was having were characteristics of Celiac Disease. I was still working, but could tell my energy level was going down. My hair was thinning and my appetite diminishing.

In about 4 weeks I had lost 18 lbs. We were planning a trip to Washington for Easter and again here I was sick. I never went to the Dr. when I was being sick. I would be so sick that I knew that I could not make to the hospital or ER without getting sick several times in the car.

One Sunday, several hours after I had been sick and was still feeling not so good, I decided that I would go to the ER and see if I could get some medication for diarrhea to take on our trip. That was my biggest fear. Getting on a 5 hour flight and being sick.

At the ER, I told the DR. what was gong on. He said it sounded like it was possibly 1 of several things, but probably a virus or an ulcer. He gave me medication for diarrhea and a referral to go see a Gastroenterologist.

A few days later at the Gastroenterologist's we discussed having a colonoscopy. I have had several of these and after my last colon surgery, had always had problems drinking the prep for them. I let my concerns be know and the Dr. always came back with, "That's not going to happen."  ( Really, don't you think I know my own body? I have not been your patient before and everyone is different.) He rattled off several things that "could be wrong", ending with . . . "It could be a ulcer or a virus."

Hhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmm. . .


Sunday, March 6, 2016

How did I get here?

In life, there are roads that we choose to be on and there are roads we happen to come upon. Cancer is never a road that one chooses. We are told that our lifestyle can cause cancer. We are told that things we eat, drink, or are exposed to can cause cancer. We are told that we can develop because other's in our family have had cancer.  My mom never smoked or drank. She exercised and ate healthy. But , she ended up on a road that she was unable to get off of. At the time I found myself on the same road, I didn't smoke or drink. I also exercised and ate pretty healthy. My mom and I had different cancers.

In January of 1993 I was feeling tired and rundown. Isn't that something that normally happens as you get older? Ok , I was only 35 years old. I had a teenager, pre-teen, and 2 year old. I worked full time and did all the running around, taking kids here and there and being involved with things that I thought were important. I never had pain. I never got sick. I wasn't losing weight. One day at work I went to the bathroom and there was blood. A lot of blood. So much that it scared me. I went home right away and called the doctor.

A few days later, I had a doctor's appointment. After an examination my doctor said that he could not find any cause for the bleeding. He thought that perhaps I had a bleeding ulcer or hemorrhoids. As a precaution he was sending me to a Gastroenterologist.

As a society, we are told that at age 50, we need to begin screening for Colon Cancer. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Today looks like a good day!

This past January, my 3 year old grandson came to visit for a month. The temperatures were frigid! The snow was crunchy. Most of the time he was here, temperatures were only in the teens or twenties, but that is not something a 3 year old understands. When he woke up, if the sun was brightly shining his first words would be, "Today looks like a good day!"
The sun is shinning and we still have snow. You can see some spots of ground and there is a slight breeze. When I go into town this afternoon, I will probably see a few people out in shorts. After all, it's suppose to be a balmy 36 degrees f. The heatwave is just beginning!

I am so looking forward to Spring. To walk my yard and see the tiny plants pushing their way through the ground. Last year at this time I found myself on a road that on one wants to be on, yet many are there. No one ever makes a decision to travel that road and even though we are told that things we do can lead us to that road, I don't believe it's something that we do or don't do that gets us there. Can you imagine how life would be if we analyzed ever movement we made?  And, there are so many things in the world that we can't control. Are you going to go crazy worrying about those things? 

This was my second journey on that road. It was similar, yet so different. On that road, people are so tired and miss so much, and when they are there, at least after awhile, they don't care. Sleeping days away becomes the norm. I don't remember Spring last year. I don't remember sunshine or rain, birds or flowers. I don't remember watching the grass turn green or watching kids ride their bikes. I remember my daughter calling and saying, "Today is warm and sunny out. You should sit in the yard, read and soak up some sun." But I didn't. I was stuck on that road. Luckily, I have been able to detour off that road. It takes work and help from others. 

Yes, today looks like a good day. Will I sit in the sunshine? No! It's still too cold for me. But I will be watching from my window. I will see the cardinals and the robins. I will see the kids who walk their dogs after school and the guy who runs every day, no matter the weather. I will be watching to see those tiny sprouts emerge from the ground. Because today IS a good day!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My first true encounter with . .

. . cancer was through my mother. I had known others who had had cancer, some who had died from it, but no one that was in my daily life.

My mother was one of the most energetic people I have ever known. She had 3 adult children, a high schooler, a middle schooler and 2 grandchildren. She worked, baked wedding cakes, ran a food co-op and was a Sundy School teacher. She helped take care of a sickly nephew and an ill Father-in-Law. Clothes were always clean and meals were never late. Anyone who was in sports was where they needed to be, when they needed to be.

When the weather was nice (we lived in the mid-west), she would walk every morning (around 5am) with a friend . . . before her real day started. One morning in May of 1989, while taking her morning walk, she felt like she could not catch her breath.

 At this time, my parents were looking for a new house, 130 miles away, due to my father's job transfer. Mom had several episodes of feeling like she couldn't catch her breath, but doctor visits had not shown any answers for this. Once they found a house, even before it was purchased, she found a family doctor there and started going for tests.

I'm not sure when it was actually stated that she had cancer. There was never a primary source found. What was happening was fluid was filling the lining of her lungs and cancer cells were found in that fluid. My parent's moved into their new home Father's Day week-end of 1989.

My brother and sister-in-law came from Ohio for a couple of weeks to help my parents get settled in their new home. Once mom started chemo, I was there every week-end for about 5 months. On Friday I would load up my 2 children, dog, and laundry and drive 130 miles. I would spend the week-end cooking and cleaning and visiting with mom and then drive back home, late Sunday night so my children could be in school the next day. This was a great time of bonding. We had tapes that we sang to and we were able to discuss what was going on with Grandma.

The chemotherapy that mom was taking was so strong and the results were so dramatic from week-end to week-end. I remember going one week-end and it had turned her hair white. The following week-end, her hair was all gone. Because we were able to talk about the changes on the way home, my children were never afraid of her or looked at her any differently . . . except when she tried once to wear a wig.

Even with the strong drugs, the lining of her lungs filled rapidly with fluid and she began to have to have it suctioned off weekly. At one point she had a procedure done to help keep blood clots from traveling to her heart. It did not go well and we almost lost her. After that she never regained much strength and was told because of it, the outlook for her recovery was not good.

When the holidays came, my Grandparents came from Arizona to stay with her. Dad had had some health issues and needed someone who could be there all the time to help out. By this time, Mom was so weak and had lost her appetite and had lost a lot of weight. She tried to be so strong. She would say that God was teaching her patience.

All this time I know people were praying for her. As small children we were taught that God will answer your prayer in one of 3 ways, yes . . . no . . . and wait. I truly believe that my Mom lived so long after diagnosis because of those prayers. Some might say that God was not caring to let her go through all she went through. It's strange how narrow our focus can be. It's also amazing to realize the things you take in from the events that form your life.

Spring came early in 1990 and I remember being in my parents front yard when the realization that it was time for Mom's life in this world to be over. I actually prayed that her suffering would end and she would go quickly. I also confessed that I knew it was our (my) selfishness that had kept her here so long. I went home that Sunday night only to be called back 2 days later.

Mom passed away 5 days before her 49th birthday in March of 1990. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Milestone 2/29/16

Yesterday was a milestone in my journey that began a little over a year ago.

 A year ago, the beginning of February 2015, I began getting sick every 5 or 6 days. When this began, I was cleaning a bedroom and bathroom that some family members had used over the holidays. While they were here thay had the flu for several days. For a couple of weeks I had cracked the windows trying to air the germs out. I had also started back to work, going into schools working with children who had colds and sometimes flu, so I was't really too concerned.

Yesterday, my Power Port was taken out!! In case you are not familiar with a Power Port, it is a device that administers chemotherapy over a long period of time. I had 12 rounds of chemotherapy over 6 months. Each time, the "chemo" bag was attached to the Power Port for 42 hours. 

Starting anew

I have dabbled in blog land for several years. Yes, I called it "dabbled", mainly because it has not been consistent. I am in awe of those people who can write something everyday and engage people. Hopefully, I can become one of those people. Not because I am a wealth of knowledge, I'm not. Not because, in anyway has my road been special, it hasn't. BUT, because I have gone through  what many other's have gone through and I have come out the other side. More and more are joining me on that side and that's a GOOD thing.

Hopefully, many will find this blog and share it. Hopefully it will help someone who just found themselves or a loved one on this road. Hopefully, it will encourage and strengthen someone. And if you find yourself here, please let me know, ask a question, make a comment, or just say "Hi".