Friday, April 13, 2018

Research and Momentum

Does anybody else research things to death?

I spent the weekend googling every oncologist that will be in our network, checking out their profile on Healthgrades and any other place I could find reviews. Narrowed it down to two, which I then cross checked on the company website where they're both on staff. I was particularly impressed with one doctor from all the research, so reached out this week to see if he'd be willing to take me on as a patient. And Wednesday I found out he will! I'm so relieved. 

My first appointment with him will be May 8th, which gives us time to get moved.

Yes, you read that right. We're moving! TO NEVADA!

Nevada, where the air is dry and warm. Ahhhhhhh.

We started talking about moving when I was so sick in January and February. I told Ivan I didn't think I could survive another winter in Indiana. But then the whole cancer thing came up, and we thought we'd have to stay here for treatment.

Something I haven't even mentioned on here is that our son-in-law got a job in Nevada two months ago. Tina and the kids remained here in Indiana while she got the house ready to put on the market, and she did such an amazing job that the house sold in less than 48 hours! Seriously, click on this link to see photos of their home, and you'll see why it sold so quickly! For over list price! I'm so proud of her.

The thought of having both our kids and all our grandbabies on the west coast while we were stuck here in the Midwest was almost more than I could bear. It was downright depressing. Also depressing was the thought of being here through the end of the year, having my immune system (even more) compromised by the cancer treatments, and then trying to deal with another cold, damp Indiana winter. Ugh!

So my wonderful husband jumped into action and started making phone calls. Pretty sure they shuffle you from place to place to discourage people from actually following through on their quest with the behemoth that is our health care system. They wear you down until your arm and hand go numb from holding the phone, your mind shuts down from listening to endless elevator music while on hold, and you fall prostrate to the ground in defeat. Ivan is persistent by nature, though, and since 90% of his job is done on the phone, he was not deterred. And his persistence paid off! He finally found a human actually willing and able to tell him just how to go about getting our insurance coverage shifted from Indiana to Nevada. That was a week ago.

Since then the momentum has really picked up speed!

Getting my doctor lined up was the first thing on my list, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. The purging and the packing have begun, plus I still have some appointments coming up, and Ivan has a whole lot on his plate too.  It's going to be a pretty intense couple of weeks!

This move is more than just moving across country; Ivan will be looking for a new job, I'll be starting treatment for the cancer (looks like chemo will come first), and there will be all that goes along with living in a new place. So if you've been praying, keep doing it! We need strength and wisdom as we move forward.

And about that research...

I also learned that it's a good idea to get any dental work done before you start treatment; having bad teeth, and all the bacteria that goes with them, makes chemo tougher. Did you know that? I had no idea. See what I mean about researching things to death? But I'm glad to have found this out, because I want to do what I can to (hopefully) make treatments a little easier to handle. What that means in practical terms is that I have one to two dental appointments each week this month, to take care of multiple crowns, some fillings and a root canal. My mouth is a hot mess of failed crowns and fillings done back in the 80s and early 90s. Before we came back to the states, I'd been getting dental work done in Argentina, poco a poco as we had the money, but it's a slower process there. Here I've found a dentist with all the latest equipment who is capable of making crowns on site, so he does a whole section of my mouth at a time. Isn't technology wonderful?!

Nevada wasn't even on our list of potential places to move when we started talking about it, but with Kyle's new job there, it moved to the top of our list. Aside from the climate (a definite plus for my health), there are also other benefits to moving to Nevada. We already have family in the area, including a sister-in-law, two nieces and their husbands. In fact, one of our nieces opened her home to Tina and family until they can find a place of their own. Plus there are always cheap tickets in and out of Las Vegas, meaning it will be much easier to visit our son and his family in California (double score!).

I can't understate what a huge benefit it is, finding a doctor I feel is a good fit for my needs. During my research, I was especially impressed with what a particular oncologist had written for his bio page. Y'all know how I feel about going to extreme measures. When I read this, I knew he was exactly the doctor I wanted treating me: "In my field, outcome is generally judged by what we call 'overall survival'. In trying to achieve this goal, we often forget what the patient is going through to buy him or her a few extra weeks. This is why 'quality of life' is equally being addressed along side the survival benefit in today's clinical trials."

Yes and Yes!

Y'all, the next few weeks are going to be inSaNe! We appreciate your prayers soooooo much!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Holding Pattern

I've wrestled with what to write for weeks, since they first found swollen lymph nodes under my right arm. Even now, with uncertainty still hanging over me, I wasn't sure what -- or if -- I should write.

I've shed a lot of tears, and most of the them haven't been about the physical challenges I'm facing. It's about the losses others might see as small, but which have overwhelmed me.

It's the loss of personal space and dignity when complete strangers must become more familiar with my body than I'm comfortable with, and the prayer that they'll treat me with respect and compassion as they do their jobs.

It's the giving up of dreams.

I was so honored that our son and daughter-in-law asked me to come out and help when their second child is born, thrilled for the chance to meet a newborn grandchild since we were overseas when all the others were born. Their first child was 15 months old when we finally met her in person. So this was a pretty big deal for me, and realizing it wasn't going to be feasible broke my heart.

Ivan and I had dared to start dreaming of taking a much needed, long break, to set off cross country with no agenda. We talked of places we'd like to go, things we'd like to see. At this point that isn't even a remote possibility.

It's the ongoing uncertainty. I'm the kind of person who likes to know what I need to do, and just get it done. Remaining in a holding pattern for weeks on end is getting to me.

Then I read in today's devotional:
This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into my care.
You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.

I saw the surgeon a week ago, to go over the pathology report from the biopsy of the lymph nodes (that came after a CT scan, mammogram and two ultrasounds). I didn't get a straight answer because they had simply designated it as "malignancy with an unknown origin". He did say the report leaned toward breast cancer, but admitted he couldn't understand everything in the report since he's not an oncologist.

So this week I saw an oncologist, who believes I do have breast cancer. But they can't be sure it isn't in other places too, so I'll be having three MRIs and a full body PET scan this coming week. My prognosis might be really good if it's just breast cancer, because it is, apparently, a very treatable kind. But my pessimistic mind takes me to the dark places...which is why I need to hold fast to the truth that my security is in Him, and no one and no circumstance can take that from me.

The oncologist wouldn't go over possible treatment options until we get all the scan results back. He said that would be putting the cart before the horse. So more waiting, still stuck in a holding pattern.

I have some pretty strong opinions about not going to extreme measures to extend my life, if that life is going to be filled with poor health, pain and horrible side effects. Having just read "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande, I'm more convinced than ever that too often we chase after the elusive "cure" long after it's obviously futile, to the detriment of our quality of life.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to medical treatment. I definitely want this cancer cut out of my body! And I'm open to treatments that can help cure me. But I balk at extreme measures that only extend life by weeks or months, and leave the patient suffering horribly until the end. On the other hand, I've gotten encouraging messages from friends and family who have weathered the C storm and survived. I'd like to be able to send someone that kind of message one day.

It's a lot to process and I can only take it one day at a time, leaning on Him, trusting in Him to guide me through the journey. I have to know that He's walking ahead of me, leading the way. I'm grateful for the people in my life who are supportive, encouraging and willing to help in different ways.

This isn't going to become a blog that's all about cancer. Not at all. In fact, I'm really looking forward to sharing my latest quilting project: a baby quilt for that next grandchild, due in April. It's been my most challenging quilt to date (to design, not sew). Time and energy have kept me from finishing it as fast as I'd like, but it is moving along. Once it's done and delivered, I'll share pictures. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the design? Hint: they asked for a space theme!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

So much for Project 365

It's January 28 and I've had two "good" days out of the month. The rest of the time I've been battling bronchitis, acute asthma and the flu. People, Indiana is killing me! I've never been so sick in my life, and hope to never go through this again. Yes, I'd always get bronchitis when we lived in Michigan. Difference was I was younger and had some reserves to draw on; this time around I was wiped out before I started and that's not a good place.

Three rounds of meds and a cough suppressant with codeine (which, hallelujah!, allows me to finally get some sleep at night) and I'm feeling marginally better. Although last night was a bummer, with me sucking on cough drops all night in addition to the couch syrup. Gah! I'm so ready to be over this crud.

Not feeling great but I also don't feel like death, so there's that. This is progress, it's just really, really slow. Absolutely exhausted today. I have nothing left, and it's going to take some time to build my body back up, allow it to heal, and get to the place where I have some reserves again. My mother-in-law, who is 96, is doing better than I am!

I've purposely stayed away, to avoid contaminating her, but she still tested positive for influenza A last week. Thankfully it seems to be a mild case and she was able to get moved into her new shared space in medical care at the end of the week. Another big change for her.

Ivan and one of the nephews moved the furniture out of her old apartment on Saturday. Rita spent last week, and is coming back this week, to deal with all the little stuff (and there is SO MUCH little stuff). I've felt mildly guilty I can't help, but I'm also too tired to care much. Feeling confident they'll have the place cleared out by Wednesday, as needed.

Tina and the family came and got the piano, which mom wanted her to have. It was fun seeing the video they posted on Facebook last night, of Tina playing and the kids singing together. That's exactly what mom wanted!

With this being the January of Great Sickness, I'm putting a hold on Project 365. We'll see how fast I bounce back (so far no bouncing at all) and go from there. For now I'm happy to have the energy to type this short post; a week ago this wouldn't have been possible. And while I'm at it, a shout out to my amazing husband, who has been a rock, parking at the doctor's office twice this week, to make sure I get what I need (along with many other things). He's taking such good care of me!

I had such high hopes for blogging this year. hahahahahahahaha     

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Project 365, 2018 Edition

Last year I decided not to continue with Project 365 because I assumed (correctly) that 2017 was going to be a crazy year. How crazy even I couldn't have guessed! I'm glad I didn't document the year because it is, frankly, one I'd rather forget for the most part. Don't get me wrong, there were some wonderful things (can we spell g-r-a-n-d-c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n?!?!) but most of the year was just HARD, HARD, HARD.

I'm ambivalent about doing Project 365 this year because of so much uncertainty in our lives right now. I reserve the right to stop at any point if it becomes too much, if 2018 follows in the path of 2017 and becomes just as (or even more) crazy.  I'm going out on a limb here and hoping and praying that this year will be less stressful, more enjoyable, and full of things I'll want to share here. Vamos a ver!

The year did not start off auspiciously. New Year's Eve found me in a local urgent care facility getting a diagnosis of bronchitis with acute asthma. Meanwhile Ivan was pretty sure he had another abscessed tooth because of the extreme pain he was experiencing, so he was taking antibiotics we'd brought back from Argentina, in an effort to reduce the pain and inflammation. Happy New Year to us!

Monday, January 1, 2018

My side table has been filled with these goodies this week as I battled a persistent cough, congestion and difficulty breathing (not shown is my inhaler but it's nearby):

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ivan was able to get in to see the dentist first thing this morning. Turns out it's not an abscessed tooth after all, but muscle inflammation in his jaw from clenching so tightly (2017 was a stressful year, I'm telling you!). He'll be getting this device to wear at night:
Really hoping it helps because the poor guy is having trouble sleeping from all the pain.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

I'm totally keeping my Christmas tree up through February! The twinkly lights make me happy and makes it feel festive inside, something we need this winter. I took all our special Christmas ornaments and red globes off, and turned it into a blue, silver and white tree for January. I'd like to find some white snowflake ornaments but that ain't happening for a while (I haven't been outside since going to urgent care).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

We are blessed to live in a beautiful place. Our walk out basement apartment overlooks trees and bushes and a creek. All day we see a variety of birds, especially bright red cardinals. Could not get a decent photo of one; this is the best of the worst (haha!) and if you look carefully, you'll see a little red glob in the middle. That's a cardinal!
Even if I can't get a decent picture of one, I'm just grateful to be able to enjoy them daily. We can see them from the kitchen, dining and living rooms.

Friday, January 5, 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IVAN! My honey turned the big 6-0 today! Our daughter,  the grandkids and her niece brought a wonderful lunch from Rua's, which we thoroughly enjoyed together, along with some play time.
Ivan had gone shopping in the morning and picked up those super sweet mini bananas which the kids enjoyed eating.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ivan left with Tina, to go to Jonesville for the weekend festivities as our former home church installs Rob Stewart as the senior pastor. Rob started attending our church as a Hillsdale College student who helped out with AWANA, then began helping Ivan with the youth group, proceeded on to seminary and finished just as we were making the switch to missions, so there was a smooth transition from Ivan to Rob as the youth pastor at Countryside. Fast forward fifteen years and the church has added more staff (the current youth pastor is a young man who grew up at CBC) and after three years of Senior Pastor John doing less and less and Associate Pastor Rob doing more and more, they are officially handing over the baton as Rob becomes the senior pastor. I'm sad to miss this really special occasion but I'm glad Ivan and Tina could go!

Meanwhile I'm hunkering down, doing my best to get better. In hopes I'd feel well enough to get started on Eisley's quilt, Ivan picked up an overhead projector from a friend for me to use. I spent a few days playing and "auditioning" fabric for the quilt, so I have a pile ready to use (trust me when I say there WILL be changes, there always are).
For those who have read my blog for a while, you know I design my own quilts, using a projector to transfer the pattern, first to paper that serves as a master for the design, and then onto freezer paper that I can cut up and use for pattern pieces.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

While Ivan's gone I'm in charge of taking care of his winter project:
Can you guess what it is? I think I'll leave it a mystery for now. See if anyone can figure out what it is (Rita, you can't answer because you already know! haha!).