This dog is not to be trusted.

Yes, he looks cute, doesn't he?  Don't let that innocent look fool you.  He is, in fact, a Puppy of Mass Destruction.

This evening, we came home from dinner to find Fred in the midst of what looked to be a cooking experiment gone awry.  He had removed a 5 lb. bag of flour and two one-pound bags of powdered sugar from the kitchen counter and liberally applied them to the dining room carpet.

When we saw the snowy scene, all eyes turned as one toward the culprit, who was standing on the sofa bright  eyed and eager, whiskers full of flour, slowly wagging his stub of a tail as he gauged our reactions.

Last week, it was a loaf of bread torn open in the living room.  We later found that he had secreted parts of the loaf in various places throughout the room for later consumption.  There was some behind the television and still more under a sofa pillow.  He triumphantly presented a wet chunk to my husband several hours after we thought we had cleaned it all up.  Fred is nothing if not generous.

Fortunately, flour and sugar, while impressively messy, are not toxic to dogs and are relatively easily vacuumed up.  Our trust issues, however, will take longer to resolve.

Hair today...

I knew this was going to happen and I thought I was well prepared for it.  Still, when I noticed hair falling onto the pages of my book as I absently ran my hand over my scalp, it was a little surprising.

I'd firmly stated that I was not interested in getting a wig when we discussed hair loss at the oncologist's office.  I planned to rock my bald head - to celebrate the death of cancer cells that would take my hair with them.

That's still my plan.  And yet, the sight of those hairs was shocking.  It took my breath away.  I didn't cry then... I carefully closed my book and brought it upstairs to David so he could document the loss on film.  Then, as David held my hand I teared up, trying to shake it off and failing.

I'm re-thinking the wig now.  I won't wear it all the time... it's just that there are times I might want some hair.  Times when I just want to blend in and look like everyone else, and not be Cancer Warrior Wendy.  A little security blanket of hair, if you will.

Say WHAT???

I woke up this morning with a full-blown case of something or other.  Throat hurting, ears hurting, sinuses burning.  Yuck.  Although I am prone lately to thinking that every little twinge I feel is caused by chemo or cancer or both, I was pretty sure this was just regular old sinusitis.  Which is sort of a comfort.

I called the oncologist's office to ask if I could take some over the counter cold medicine, and to my surprise, Dr. Naidu got on the phone himself!  Wow - calling the doctor's office and having him get on the phone is like calling the North Pole and having Santa talk to you!  Maybe there's an up side to this whole cancer thing!  

So, we chatted a bit, Dr. Naidu and I.  Yes, this is probably "regular" sick as opposed to cancer sick, and yes, I can certainly take some Tylenol Cold.  Good to know.  He wants to know how I've been feeling, and I tell him about my brief 15-hour nap after shopping on Saturday.  He asks if I've finished my course of Prednisone yet and I tell him no, that today is my last day.  He says "Well, once you are finished with the Predinisone, you will probably notice that you have less energy."  WHAT???  Less energy than someone who TOOK A 15 HOUR NAP AFTER A TRIP TO THE MALL?  Are you KIDDING me?

I'm trying to picture what less energy than that will look like, and I really can't.  I already despise the lack of energy I am feeling now.  I don't like not doing things.  I want to be doing things.  I need to be doing things.  Christmas is coming, darn it, and I HAVE THINGS THAT MUST GET DONE!

And the very instant that I have this thought, God speaks softly to me, saying "I have already done everything important that has to do with Christmas.  I did it a long time ago.  All you need to do is accept my gift and celebrate it."

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Yawn... stretch.... what day did you say it was?

Woke up Saturday feeling good.  We'd planned a trip to the mall with Katherine and her boyfriend.  I needed to find an outfit for David's holiday party at work, and Katherine was wanting to try on a coat she thought she might want for Christmas.

I found the outfit pretty quickly, checked out Katherine's coat - very cute; we'll order that online since they didn't have her size in the color she wanted at the store.  We had lunch at the food court, where I made Colby trade me some of his gyro for some of my stromboli.  I'm noticing a weird taste to things lately - kind of metallic and off.  Even water tastes strange.  The gyro was particularly good, but by the time I was going to make him give me some more, he'd already finished it.  Darned teenage boys.

After lunch, I was starting to slow down a bit, so David and I sat and people watched for a while so that Katherine and Colby could shop some more.   It was nice to have some quiet time with him, and nothing needing to be done by either one of us but enjoy the other's company.

I did take a quick peek into the Christmas store, which was conveniently situated right behind where we were sitting.  I picked up something for Katherine's ornament collection, and saw what I am convinced is the weirdest, creepiest Christmas ornament in existence.  It is a bare-chested, suspender wearing fireman with the tail of a mermaid - er... merman.  Don't believe me?  I found a picture of it online - ha!  Prepare to be totally weirded out.  Or... to start singing "It's Raining Men" if that's your pleasure.

Told ya.

Anyhow, we got home at about 4:30 pm, and by 5:00 pm I was sound asleep.  Woke up at about 3:00 am to let Fred out and then slept until 8:30 this morning.  Nearly 15 hours if you're counting.  And yet I've been exhausted all day today.  I sure hope this passes, because there's a busy week ahead.  Last week when I saw the surgeon, I decided to go ahead and get a port a cath implanted in my chest to make chemo and bloodwork easier.  I have  bloodwork at the oncologist on Tuesday, pre-op for the port on Wednesday, trip to Greenville for Thanksgiving on Thursday and then hopefully nothing on Friday.  On the 30th, they'll do outpatient surgery to put the port in.  I'm tired again just thinking about it.

Focused prayer requests:

  • more energy
  • that my sore throat and sinus symptoms will go away
  • for David's Uncle Bobby who passed away yesterday after his battle with cancer

And in the darkness of the night...

Comes an unexpected blessing, wrapped in pain as so many are lately.

When your children are little, you are constantly touching them.  They love to snuggle in your arms and be held.  As they grow older, your opportunities to hold them grow fewer.  They move away from your hugs more quickly.. their kisses are more brief and less moist.  By the time they are teenagers, moments of touch are fleeting and sorely missed.

At a little after one o'clock this morning, seventeen year-old Katherine came to our room in an agony of pain and tears.  A bad foot cramp had woven it's way into her dreams to wake her.  I woke to find her standing next to our bed crying.

She came to me for comfort and healing; something she rarely needs from her mom as she nears adulthood.
And in the humblest way possible, God blessed me with the ability to provide her with relief.  I took her foot in my hands, and massaged away her pain, whispering gently to her all the while.  "It's okay.  Shhh...  It's okay."  The words of every mother to her baby... holding her, loving her, my heart full with this unexpected gift of service.    


Why isn't anyone leaving any comments on my blog, darn it?

(they said the chemo might make me cranky)

Welcome to Crazytown. The Queen is in...a mood.

So, what do you do for fun after chemo?  If you're me, you go on a crazy cleaning jag.  You also get very cranky because somebody used your Swiffer vac and then instead of plugging it back into the charger in the closet, they stuck it out in the garage to die a quiet death.  I don't want to know who did it, because then I would have to kill them.  And since it is quite likely to be someone who lives here, I really don't want to do that.  I'm kind of attached to these folks.

So, instead of killing anyone, you (me) drag out the vacuum cleaner, mumbling under your breath about people who never put anything back where it belongs and why am I the only one who can ever remember where something goes in this house. Then, you (me) proceed to vacuum the entire downstairs, wet Swiffer the kitchen floor, dust everything in sight, water the plants, spray Febreeze on the spot where the dog always pees, light some Yankee candles and eat two cookies.  In the interest of self-preservation, of course.  You are, of course, doing all of this so that if you do get nauseous, your house will be nice and clean for it.  Because nausea likes a clean house, and besides, if you have to look at a messy house, you will assuredly become nauseous. You also drink lots of fluids because it's not good for the chemo drugs to sit in your bladder for any length of time.  Of course, since you (me) are nearly fifty, you tend to pee eighty times a day anyway, so there is little danger of this.  Just thinking about peeing makes you have to pee.  Hold on - I'll be right back.

Anyhow, you also stop by the hair salon to hug your friend and then go next door to the nail salon to make an appointment to have your acrylics soaked off because you're pretty sure your new schedule is going to be keeping you pretty busy.  You invite the girls over to play cards tonight, hoping you are not going to be sick by then.  You also hope you are not going to be sick tomorrow when the surgeon takes out your stitches, which is totally gross and would probably make you a little queasy even without chemo.  You admire your needle-free arm and think you are starting to look like a junkie. You're not really sure what a junkie's arm looks like, having only seen one on TV, but you are pretty sure it looks something like your own arm. You think about how much you are going to enjoy taking a shower without first covering your arm in plastic wrap.

You blog a little, and admire your own sense of humor.

Focused prayer requests:

  • no nausea
  • no nausea during suture removal
  • no nausea

Thought for today...

From the devotional "Jesus Calling" that my friend Joey thoughtfully sends to me each day.

LEAVE OUTCOMES UP TO ME.  Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out.  Think of your life as an adventure, with me as your Guide and Companion.  Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me.  When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help.  When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence.  Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me.

You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven.  So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me.

Psalm 27:13-14, Exodus 15:13

Me and Dr. Naidu

This is me with Dr. Naidu at my first office visit after hospital discharge.  If he thought it was weird that I wanted to have a picture taken with him, he didn't let on.

A heaping helping of boredom with a side of the shakes...

Today was my first day of treatment - Rituxan day.  Rituxan is an antibody treatment that targets the lymphoma cells and kills only those cells, unlike chemotherapy.  It doesn't work on all kinds of cancer, but has proven effective on the kind that I have, so we are adding it to my treatment regimen.

I arrived at Carolina Blood & Cancer (catchy name, huh?) at 9:00 am, and was soon tucked away in a huge recliner, where I would remain for the next eight hours.  First, (you guessed it) yet another IV was started.  The nurse found what she termed a "really pretty vein" and set out to get it.  Unfortunately, my veins have all gotten wise to this kind of treatment lately, and this one decided to go into hiding - sliding all around the needle as the nurse tried to get in.  I had my foot tucked up underneath me and was twisting the leg of my jeans up into a sweaty fist to take my mind off of the proceedings.  It didn't work.  Another nurse was summoned and a smaller needle procured - this one sliding almost effortlessly into the vein.  Whew.  Have I mentioned that I hate needles?

For the next three hours, I was infused with Benadryl, saline solution and finally, Rituxan.  Since this was my first Rituxan infusion, they started me at a low rate, gradually increasing it every half hour after checking my blood pressure.  I busy myself with magazines, email and music.  For excitement, I wheel my IV pole to the rest room.  There's no Wi-Fi connection - thank goodness for my iPhone.  Friends text me to let me know I'm in their thoughts, and I am able to catch up with my Ruby friends.  I am amazed at the number of people who are praying for me - it's a wonderful feeling.

Around noon my flow rate was adjusted up again.  All of a sudden my throat started to hurt.  Then my ears felt funny and my nose got stuffy.  And then the chills started.  It's a cold that starts from the inside and spreads out.  The nurses were really quick to cover me with warm blankets, as was the sweet wife of the patient next to me.  One of the nurses makes me a cup of hot herbal tea.  It tastes like floor sweepings, but it's warm and I am very grateful.  Before I knew it, Dr. Naidu was there checking on me.  The Rituxan was stopped, and the saline turned up.  Pretty soon the shaking slowed down, and I was able to eat my PB&J sandwich - best thing I have ever tasted.  (Yes, I know the tenses are messed up in this paragraph, but I'm too tired to fix them. Deal with it.)

After a while, the Rituxan was re-started and I was able to tolerate it with no further problems. By 5:00, I was packing up all of my stuff and heading for the door.  By 5:30, I was shaking uncontrollably again, teeth chattering, muscles tight.  David tucked me into bed with the heating pad and a pile of blankets.  That helped after a while and I was able to sleep for a bit after eating about four bites of chicken chow mein - all I could manage.  It's 10:18 pm now, and I am feeling fine.

Tomorrow, I start my Prednisone and head back to the cancer center for my chemo - Cytoxan and Vincristine.  It should be a much shorter visit this time - the nurse told me I'd probably be there for about an hour and a half.  Good news, but I am dreading the side effects.  Praying mightily. Good night all!

A day in which good news is received and sort of appreciated.

Today I have an appointment with my oncologist to discuss the results of my bone marrow biopsy and PET scan. The bone marrow biopsy shows no sign of cancer - that's a good thing.  At this point, I start to cry.  I was pretty much convinced it had spread to my bones, and I am almost afraid to believe that it hasn't.  I remember reading my mom's pathology reports after she died, and seeing the seemingly endless list of places where her cancer had metastisized.  I have been afraid (and truth be told, still am) that the same thing will happen to me.

The PET scan shows that the lymphoma has pretty much spread throughout the lymph system, but no other organs are affected.  Another good thing.  My cancer should be responsive to the antibody treatment, Rituxan, that we discussed at my last visit.  That's the one with the mouse protein.  Still more good news, and  David is really pleased.  My survival rate has gone up to 90% at five years out.

We do want to set up an appointment with the transplant doc in Greenville, just to establish a relationship if I should need his services down the line.  He is the person who would do a stem-cell transplant if my cancer is recurrent or does not respond to treatment.  Dr. Naidu says he will have their office call us.

"How soon do you want to get started?" Dr. Naidu asks.  "Right now!" I shoot back at him.  "What are you doing tomorrow?"  he asks, not  missing a beat. Man, talk about quick on the draw...

"I guess I'm having chemo!"

We discuss the pros and cons of having a port put in for chemo, and I decide not to do that right now if the nurse thinks my veins look good.  I'm a little nervous about  this, since the nurse at the hospital blew one of my veins when I had the bone marrow biopsy.  My arms are sore, and I'm getting needle-shy.  Dr. Naidu doesn't pull any punches - he tells me I'm going to be getting stuck a lot over the next six months.  I will be having two chemo sessions per week, two days in a row, and then will take Prednisone for five days.  This cycle will repeat every three weeks.

One nurse comes in and draws some blood, and then another nurse comes in, pronounces my veins good enough for an IV and shows me around the chemo area.  I spot a red curly wig sitting in a basket on the floor and comment on it.  "That's a donated wig - we often get wigs and hats donated, and we just put them in the basket for patients to take."   Okaaay... as if I needed a clue that this was not a regular doctor's office...

There are lots of recliners in the chemo room she shows me, and an alarmingly large number of people in them.  I am just a little freaked out by this.  I'll be here for about six hours tomorrow; longer than usual since it's my first time, and they have to start with a low dose of Rituxan and gradually increase it to see how I will tolerate it. After this first time, they can start me at the full dose and it will go quicker.  Tomorrow though, I will be bringing a lunch and hanging around for most of the day.  Thursday should be a shorter session - 3 or 4 hours.

After we leave the doctor's office, clutching drug info sheets,  David takes me out and buys me chemo presents - headphones and a lap desk so I can use my computer to watch movies comfortably during my appointments.  We also go to the library so I can check out a stack of books.  I want to make sure I have plenty to keep me occupied tomorrow.

When I get home, I'm reading emails.  One of my Ruby friends asks me if I'm scared about the treatment. (Raquel - I am so glad you asked.)  I respond:

Yes, I am scared.  Especially for this first time because even though they gave me the paperwork with the side effects, I really don't know what to expect - KWIM?  The doctor said each patient can have varying side effects, and differing levels of severity.  I really hope that mine are not too bad.  I am scared at the thought of poison going into my veins.  I know that this is what I have to do in order to send the cancer into remission, but I don't want to do it.  I want to just get up tomorrow and eat breakfast and clean the house and make a list for Christmas shopping this weekend instead of wondering if I will be sitting with my head in the toilet by the time Saturday rolls around.

David is really excited that the cancer has not spread to my bones or other organs, and I (somewhere deep down inside) am too, but right now, I am mostly scared.  Really scared.  Will you all pray really hard tomorrow?

And then I start to cry.  When David comes downstairs, I'm in the kitchen rolling out the pizza dough.  He can tell I've been crying and I tell him "I don't want to have to be happy that the cancer hasn't spread to my bones.  I want to not have cancer." He knows.  He holds me tight and whispers that he wishes he could take the chemo for me.  I know that he would if he could.

Katherine comes down and asks if I'm okay - my eyes look red.  I tell her I've been crying a little, and she says she has been too.  I hate cancer.  I really do.

Focused prayers for:  minimal side effects of chemo

God is great, camping is good, my friends are crazy...

And I sincerely thank Him for all of the above.

On Thursday, I went to the hospital for my bone marrow biopsy. I was a little scared at the prospect of it. I had been assured that it would be less painful than a kidney stone, which was pretty meager comfort. Kidney stones hurt. After the fact, I've had people tell me it was the most horrendous thing they've ever had done - yikes! Glad they told me that after.

I was NPO (nothing by mouth) after midnight the night before the procedure.  By the time we got to the hospital, I was trying to barter with the nurses for coffee.  Nothing doing.  I offered blood, which they took anyway and still didn't give me coffee.   I was thinking of telling them I had cancer, but I figured it wouldn't do any good.  They probably already knew.

My doctor was very cute, which I understand does not effect the procedure in any way, but it sure is nice to have a handsome man to look at while you're being told they are going to drill a hole in your bones.  In addition to my husband, of course.  Who is very handsome.  In case you were wondering.

Anyhow, they gave me some very, very nice medicine which promptly knocked me out cold.  I'm told it doesn't have that effect on everyone, but I sure am glad it did on me.  I remember nothing whatsoever about the procedure itself.  David says I looked rumpled and sweaty when I came back to the recovery room, which suggests I may have had a rougher time than I remember, or that I completely lost my inhibitions and was chasing the cute doctor all around the OR - take your best guess.

Anyhow, I went home around lunchtime and proceeded to sleep the rest of the day away.

On Friday, my girlfriends and I had some Mexican food for lunch, packed our bags, hopped into the car and took off to go girl camping.  Girl camping, in case you were wondering, consists of:

  • building a great big fire with some help from the nice man at the neighboring campsite
  • roasting marshmallows over said fire
  • playing lots of cards
  • reading and staring up at the trees a lot because it's so beautiful
  • wearing bras on our heads (doesn't everyone do that when they go camping?)
  • going back into town midway through the weekend for a PET scan (they don't do that either? Are you sure?)
Yes, on Saturday afternoon, the two best girlfriends anyone could ask for loaded me up and drove me 30 minutes back towards town so that David and Katherine could pick me up and take me back to the hospital.  Then, they waited for me to be done and hauled my butt back to the campsite.  They could have just said "Hey, why don't you just come camping with us another time, so we don't waste four HOURS of our weekend hanging around waiting for you."  They could have, but they didn't.  They ROCK.  More about the PET scan later.  I have to finish putting the groceries away.

And there was dancing, and singing, and movin' to the groovin'

This morning, I turned on the 70’s music station to keep me company while I do housework.  I want to finish as much as I can today because I have a bone marrow biopsy tomorrow at 8:00 am, and I’m not sure how “uncomfortable” I’m going to be after that. 

The music was too good to resist, and pretty soon I was rocking out in the living room, much to the dog’s apparent amusement.  Ha – like he has any rhythm.   I’ve always loved to dance… it reminds me of being at Boston’s on the Beach with Andre and Taylor back in my single days.  We’d dance all night – just me and my two best guy friends in the world.  I remember doing the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest with Katherine too when she was very little and loved to dance with her mom.  I can’t help but wonder when I’m going to be feeling good enough to dance like this again.  I want to remember to do it every chance I get.

After I got my diagnosis, my friend Kathy was the one person I really wanted to talk to.  We’ve been friends for more than twenty years, but had lost touch for the last few, right after she was finishing up her treatment for breast cancer.  Kathy and I have done just about everything together – working at the same job, dating, shopping, French lessons, marriage, kids – and now, if I could find her, I knew that she would help me do cancer.  I knew that she would understand my fears and anxieties, and that she would be the perfect person to laugh and cry with, and to celebrate the fact that we are both alive today, no matter what happens tomorrow. 

I found her through You Tube of all places, and left a message for her.  She called me yesterday, sounding just the same as always, and my heart immediately swelled to ten times it’s normal size.  It was like we’d never been apart.  She gave me some chemo tips, advised against a wig (they’re uncomfortable, and as Kathy says, hair is overrated anyway), and talked about our seventeen year old daughters.  Kathy also told me something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday.  She suggested that when I pray, or when others offer to pray for me, to ask for specifics.  I like the idea of focused prayers very much, so I thought that I would start journaling here about what my prayer specifics for the day are.  If you would like to pray for them (and me) too – I’d be ever so grateful.

Prayer specifics for today:
       that my cancer has not spread to my bones or elsewhere in my body
·         that I will be able to be productive after my biopsy tomorrow and move through the discomfort
·         that I will feel up to going camping with the girls this weekend
·         that I will not freak out too much about chemo
·         that I feel like dancing a LOT more before I leave this world, and that I am able to

Okay… had to get up and dance again – “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” by Barry White.  And half way through, I found myself reaching up to Heaven and singing it to my Father – Lord, I can NEVER get enough of your love.  You make me dance and sing, and you own my heart. 

We're off to see the oncologist

Today, I saw the oncologist. We are in the process of staging my cancer.  Sounds kind of like a Broadway show, only not as much fun.  So far, it’s looking like a Stage III or Stage IV low grade follicular lymphoma, which David says sounds like a hairy kind of a cancer.  As you can see, we’re all trying to maintain our sense of humor here.

There was talk about antibody treatments, stem cell therapy, chemo, markers… I don’t care for the lingo and I don’t want to learn it, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.  It appears as though I, the woman who could never learn a foreign language, is about to become fluent, or at least conversant in Cancer.

I have added two more appointments to my burgeoning social calendar.  I’ll have a bone marrow biopsy this coming Thursday and a PET scan on Saturday.  That cuts into the middle of my girl camping trip this weekend, but we’ll work around that.  Priorities.

The oncologist tells me there is an 80% survival rate at 5 years across the board for patients with this type of cancer, but he says it’s not unreasonable to hope for way more than that.  I do.  From what I understand, there is no "cure" for this type of cancer. Instead, I will probably go into remission and then at some point in the future, there is a likelihood of recurrence. I told the doctor that I have a 17 year old daughter at home, and that I wanted to attend her wedding someday and hold her child in my arms.  It’s good to have goals. J

Day Two

Wednesday is a day where a lot happens, and at the same time, nothing much does.  From my perspective, I have been poked, prodded, catheterized, injected, sampled, studied, and drugged.  I have had my personal space invaded by the kind and caring nursing staff and flashed my butt at same nursing staff when I got up to brush my teeth with my gown flapping open behind me.  People keep asking about my pain, but I really don’t have much.  Probably due to the generous supply of Dilaudid provided by my doctors, of which there now appear to be about seven.  There’s the hospitalist who saw me in the ER, the new hospitalist I was handed off to upon admission, a surgeon, a urologist and an oncologist, none of whom I have yet had the pleasure of meeting.  Or at least remember meeting.  What’s to be done with me?  I’m not sure yet. It’s pretty clear that an 8mm kidney stone is not coming out of an opening the size of… well, it’s a small opening.  At least not without some help.
I’m tired… dozing off a lot and not able to focus on reading the book David brought me or watching television.  I’m in a delicious drug-induced kind of a haze, where the hospital bed is more comfortable than any I have ever slept in before.  The nurses are great – so sweet, so wanting to make sure that I am doing okay.  I love them all.  Especially Rahima, who lets me brush my teeth and take a shower.  How wonderful.
It’s after 8pm by the time I know what the plan of action is.  I’m scheduled for surgery at 7:00 am with the urologist, who will use a laser to blast my stone, catch the pieces in a basket and then put in a stent.  Then, if the surgical schedule can be tweaked, I will be moved from the cystoscopy room to a regular OR, and the surgeon will remove a lymph node or two in order to make a definitive diagnosis of lymphoma or something else.  The oncologist says we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, and I try not to, but I already suspect that the ER doc was right.  It will be easier (for the surgeon and for me) for him to take the lymph nodes  from my groin rather than laparoscopically from my abdomen.  We’re hoping the schedule will permit both surgeries to take place under the same anaesthesia so as to avoid putting me under twice. The anaesthesiologist comes by about an hour later to let me know that we are A-OK for both surgeries.  Boy, these people work late.  I am so grateful for all of their hard work. I can’t help but think that schedules like theirs have got to be hard on their families and their personal lives.

My nurse tonight has a daughter Katherine’s age who is also in the band at Rock Hill High.  She’s so wonderful, and I have a nice time talking with her about the girls and band.  David and I promise to email her some pictures we took at a competition a couple of weeks ago.  It’s good to have a normal, non-medical conversation.  She removes my catheter and the extra IV line from the inside of my right arm (where it is driving me crazy).  Earlier that day, they put a new IV line into the back of my left hand.  Hurt like the dickens when they did it, but that’s a much better place to have it.
After midnight, when the nurses and doctors and techs have gone and my room is dark, a few lonely tears escape.  I’m not afraid of the surgery – somehow I know that will be okay.  It’s the bigger, darker thing that looms out there that frightens me. 

And thus endeth the second day.

Flash Forward

These posts are kind of like a movie I saw that started at the end and kept flashing back further and further to the beginning – just a bit confusing and hard to keep track of.
Fred is home from the vet – last night he ate a huge bowl of cat food when he snuck into Katherine’s room.  Cat food has too much fat in it for dogs to digest, and he made himself good and sick.  The vet pumped him full of fluids – he literally looked like he was wearing a jacket made of water.  His back  wobbles when he walks.  They also gave him something for the nausea.  He may have pancreatitis from his celebration of gluttony – we’ll know more within the next 24 hours.  He just threw up again, but seems otherwise better if somewhat subdued.  He’s chilling on the sofa with a blanket over his water hump.  Poor Mr. McFrederson. 
While David was at the vet, I got a call from my surgeon.  I told him I’d just been admiring his work, and he seemed amused.  We exchanged some small talk about my incision, it’s healing process and my follow up appointment with him on the 20th.  He said he had my pathology results and asked if I had spoken with anyone about them yet.  I told him I hadn’t; that I have an appointment with the oncologist tomorrow, but that no one would give me any info over the phone.  I said “I guess you don’t want to do that either.”  He replied “I will if you want me to.”  I did.  And he did.  “There are two types of lymphoma” he said.  “Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s.  You have non-Hodgkins lymphoma.” 
“Thank you so much for telling me” I said.  “I really needed to know.  Now I can move on from here.”   I like Dr. Crain.  He’s a little on the dry side and very serious, but he gave me a precious gift – information.  Now I really do feel as if I can proceed.  Now that the diagnosis is in place, the plan can be formulated.  I am a planner, and it gives me some measure of comfort to know what’s coming.
I email the Rubies (more about my personal flock of angels later) and some other friends to let them know the diagnosis.  I’m not hiding this – the more people I tell, the more there are who can pray for me and ask their friends to pray, and their families, and their churches, and their paper boys and checkout clerks and their postmen and anyone and everyone they know who will take a moment to pray for me and for my family.  If you are reading this, would you mind saying a little one right now?  Thanks.

Back to the beginning...

Up until now, I think I’ve been handling this whole thing pretty well, if I do say so myself.  Of course, feeling that I have been covered with a warm, fuzzy blanket of prayer has helped immensely.  I’ve prided myself on staying calm and focused, retaining my sense of humor, and just taking the one necessary next step at a time. 
Let’s back this train up to last Tuesday, so you can see where it all began.
I’d been having some pain in my back and hips lately, and attributed it to arthritis.  I’d never had arthritis in my hips, but I do have it in my hands, and at nearly 50, it seemed reasonable to assume that it might be spreading, exacerbated by the cooler, wetter weather we’ve been having.  I was having trouble getting warmed up at the gym – I was stiff, and it didn’t seem to go away.  I started doing more stretching and less circuit training, but I just couldn’t get loose. 
It was the first Tuesday of the month – stamp club.  I was prepared (for once) and had already completed my project to share.  I’d made two hybrid cards; a combination of traditional paper crafting and my new Digital Studio program – something I was in the process of getting certified in.  I was excited to show the girls at club what I’d done.  
I was also in my traditional pre-that-time-of-the-month cleaning frenzy.  The laundry was all done, the floors mopped, bathrooms cleaned – the house was looking good.  I knew it was “that time” because I was cramping, although the pain seemed to be only on one side, and was stabbing right through to my back.  At 4:00 pm, I took a couple of Tylenol and lay down for a while with Fred.  By 5:00 pm, the pain was gone and I got up and started dinner.
Although I didn’t have much of an appetite, I ate a pork chop and had some fruit.  I went upstairs and put on my makeup, getting ready for club.  The pain started coming back – quickly, taking me by surprise.  It was 6:30 pm, and I told David I wanted to lie down for a few minutes and see if the pain passed again.  About fifteen minutes later, I asked him to call my friend and tell her I wasn’t feeling well, and would not be at club.  By 7:00 pm, I was in the bathroom crying and admitted to David that I probably needed to go to the hospital. 
By 7:30 pm, I was in a wheelchair in the ER, crying softly and writhing from the worst pain I had ever experienced.  The waiting room was crowded with people waiting to be triaged.  Many were wearing surgical masks as a precaution against the flu.  I was embarrassed to be crying in front of everyone – they were all eyeing me uncomfortably – but I just couldn’t stop.  David told me later that he was toying with the idea of wheeling me outside and calling for an ambulance from his cell phone so that they would see me more quickly.  During this whole ordeal, I felt the need to keep apologizing for the inconvenience.  David has been travelling almost non-stop for the past three weeks, and the poor man just got home Monday night. 
By 9:30 pm (and here I am relying on David’s time line, as mine is somewhat blurred) I have seen a doctor, had a CAT scan and felt the blessed relief of IV Dilaudid.  They’re pretty sure I have a kidney stone.  I had heard the pain from a kidney stone was worse than labor pain, and I had always maintained that anyone who said that had never experienced a labor pain.  I was wrong.  I’d take labor any day. 
Some time later that evening – I’m thinking maybe 11 pm or so – the doctor came back in with the results of the CAT scan.  I did have a kidney stone – a huge 8mm stone – the cause of all my pain, and as it turned out, one of the greatest blessings of my life. 
The kidney stone that caused the pain, that brought me to the ER, that got me into the CAT scan machine also caused another surprise to be revealed – lymphoma in my groin and abdomen.    Maybe it was the pain meds, or maybe it was the total unreality of the words, but I took the news with complete calm and maybe even a little nonchalance.  The ER doc explained that lymphoma was a very treatable cancer, and that if he had to choose a type of cancer to have, lymphoma would be the one to go for.   He tells me “I’ll be honest with you – it’s going to be a rough couple of months, but this cancer has a high cure rate.”
By 3:00 am, or only a few doses of Dilaudid later, I am tucked into a hospital bed and sleeping soundly.  And thus endeth the first day.

It's too much

Monday, November 9, 2009

10:00 am – This morning I completely lost it.  Fred (my rat terrier) is sick – cold, shivering and vomiting.  I don’t know what to do, so I call David crying.  This is his first day back at work after being at the hospital with me for the last three days.  He hasn’t even been in the office for an hour yet, and I am calling him to come home.  I don’t have a car today, so I can’t take Fred to the vet myself.
David doesn’t hesitate – he tells me he’s on his way as soon as I tell him what’s wrong.  I wait the 20 minutes or so it will take him to get here, still in my bathrobe, rocking and crying and begging God to please not take my dog.  David arrives, lifts Fred gently from his crate and prepares to transfer him to his carrier when Fred vomits again – nothing but foam.  He leaves with Fred and I stumble to the shower, where I completely break down.  “It’s too much” I sob to God.  “It’s too much.”
I notice that my hands are going about their business; washing my hair, soaping my body, skimming gently over the suture line where the surgeon closed my leg back up after removing two very enlarged lymph nodes just four days ago.
Four days ago my life was normal.  Then, within 24 hours, it went spinning out of control, leaving me here, shaking and crying, wet and naked, begging for God’s help.  I know he is there, but I can’t feel him just now.