Thursday, November 25, 2021

Two years, a pandemic, massive protests, multiple health issues, an insurrection, and a house of our own later...

I haven't posted in almost two years, because what do you say when there's so much going on that you don't even know where to start?!

At the end of 2019 I was hopeful about things looking up in 2020...I was finally going to finish cancer treatment at the end of May 2020 and we were making plans to do more once I started gaining back my health and getting stronger and having more energy.

Let's just say that was a pipe dream. 2020 was the most difficult year of my life. Beside all the things happening around the world, I struggled with one health issue after another: two hospital stays in June and an emergency gallbladder removal, a broken wrist in October, started on 3 daily asthma medications in November to try and get that under control (still on 2), and we found out I have a leaky heart valve in December. I spent the last 10 days of 2020 wearing a heart monitor. Then there's the emotional toll: the isolation of lockdown, and even after it was lifted, we continued to self-quarantine because of my health issues. The heartbreak of seeing far too many churches and believers decide their "rights" are more important than loving their neighbor.

Then 2021 started off with an insurrection and major gaslighting by the former party of Lincoln. No doubt about it, the past two years have been rough on so many levels. But they have also been good. My faith is stronger even if my body isn't.  

We've been blessed with another grandchild! Gilbert Ivan Herschberger was born June of this year; he's the only grandchild we were able to see as a newborn. Watching him grow and change over these months has brought such joy!

We spent time with our son and his family in California on three separate occasions this year (something we do not take lightly after seeing them only once in 2020!). Those opportunities to spend time with Jon, Nat, Adalyn and Eisley were so precious! We also had a wonderful long weekend earlier this month with Tina and her family, when we all traveled to Long Beach, CA, and had a blast together.

In May we started house hunting seriously. What were we thinking?! In the middle of a crazy housing market, and when the temperatures here in Vegas were regularly in the high 90s and low 100s?! But we persevered, and with help we were able to find the perfect house for us. It's a single story, three bedroom, two bath home with an attached two car garage and a nice sized back yard with a large covered patio. Ivan, who has been renting a one car garage since February 2020, is looking forward to expanding his "office/shop". [FYI: we will never be able to park in the garage. hahaha] Light floods the main living space which is open kitchen/dining/living. There's a gas fireplace (perfect since I can't do real fires any more because of asthma) and with three bedrooms, one will be my dedicated library/crafting space. 

Throughout this year though, looming over us, was my heart issue. At the end of last year we learned I had a leaky mitral heart valve that needed more tests to determine the severity. With Covid shutting down all non-emergency hospital procedures here in January, it was months before I could get tests that have to be done in the hospital. Finally in May I had a transesophageal echocardiagram which did indeed determine it was severe enough to require repair or replacement. In June I had leg angiograms on both legs because my cardiologist thought there might be calcium deposits causing issues (there weren't). In August I saw the cardiac surgeon who ordered a few more tests, and sent me back to the pulmonologist to get clearance for surgery. 

 The pulmonologist ran more tests, and while my lungs are not in optimal condition, I was cleared for surgery. My lung capacity is under 3 (normal is 4-7 liters) and my right diaphragm is weak. Theory is that because my heart is not functioning properly, that has lowered my lung capacity. Hopefully fixing the heart will also help my lungs.

A heart cath at the end of October showed no blockages so no need for any bypasses, "just" the mitral valve replacement. Based on test results, they decided a replacement is warranted. I'll be getting a biologic valve (cow or pig). 

I was originally scheduled for open heart surgery on November 19, but at the beginning of this month we found out the tenant in our house (who had a lease through the end of the year) was moving out early. We were elated! I was not looking forward to moving in January, early on in the recovery process. I got the ok from the surgeon's office to push back surgery to December 10, so we can move first!

Ivan got a key from the tenant last Tuesday, November 16, and we jumped right into all the things that need to be done before we move. First up was getting the air ducts cleaned, and from the condition they were in (seriously gross!), we doubt they'd ever been cleaned since the house was built 35 years ago. Ivan began pulling carpet out of the bedrooms, Tina hired someone to come in and deep clean the house, we started getting utilities switched into our many details involved in moving. We're being proactive where we can, to eliminate allergens that would aggravate my asthma and make the lung situation worse: clean air ducts, hard surface flooring throughout, and a good deep clean.

My sister arrives Friday to help with the move/organizing the house. And her husband was here from last Saturday through Monday helping Ivan lay hard surface flooring in the bedrooms. They live in Colorado so it's not like they can just drive over; they fly back and forth! Our family has been such a huge blessing 💕

Kyle and Tina helped me haul a couple loads over in their van and ours on Sunday, which we mostly stored in the garage. And I'm trying to take advantage of every trip to the house to take more stuff. The big move will be Saturday though. Tina helped Ivan start installing baseboards in the bedrooms on Tuesday; they finished our bedroom which is the biggest. So we have some things to finish, but even if it all doesn't get done before we move, we're in good shape.

Moving this weekend will give me almost two weeks to get settled in before surgery. But knowing how my sister and Tina will have most things organized this weekend, there won't be a lot left to do! 

Being in our own house, with freshly cleaned air ducts, the light streaming so beautifully into all the rooms, and the patio to relax outside...these will all go a long way to healing not only my body, but my soul. Both have been battered by the events of the past couple of years. Part of the trauma has been that I've really struggled to read. That's slowly starting to change, and I have a stack of books to read as I recover.

I am hopeful about 2022!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

2020: I like the symmetry

But I have to say that 2019 has been a good year. After a number of really hard years, and despite continuing with cancer treatment and the challenge of starting a new business, the "yoke" has just felt lighter (Matthew 11:28-30). God has been gracious and provided in ways we couldn't have even imagined. It's hard to put into words how thankful we are for His healing power in my body; when I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I was at stage 3B. To go from there to no sign of cancer in 18 months is a gift we do not take lightly! The opportunity for Ivan to work with our son is another huge blessing. It's interesting that Ivan's first entrepreneurial enterprise was Hoyt & Son Construction, started back in the 1990s with Jon. Now they're back in business together, again in the building industry, but on a whole other level! And to be only a 15 minute drive from Tina and her family has been such a gift too! We love the time we get to spend with them.

Jon and his family are just over an hour flight away, allowing us to get together way more often than was possible in the past. They came for Thanksgiving and it was such a treat to watch the grandkids play together. A favorite was the magnetic building tiles, but they also played dress-up, learned new games, did a lot of craft activities, as well as just chasing each other around and laughing. Love these kids so much!

We packed a lot into those five days! Natalie and Tina surprised me with an early birthday celebration, by decorating and getting all the supplies together so we could make candles together.

We took the three oldest grandkids to see a live production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", which they loved, and will remember each year when they hang their Grinch ornaments on the tree.

Each of the couples got a night out without the kids. We ate too much, laughed a lot, and just enjoyed one another's company!

 (I really love this photo of us piled on the couch with both our kids and all the grandkids!)

Jon was promoted at work again this year! He loves what he does and it shows. Natalie, using her immense creativity, will be opening an Etsy shop soon.

We couldn't believe how much Eisley had changed in the four months since we'd last seen her... from just learning to walk back in August, she's now running and, boy, is she fast! Her vocabulary is growing and she's her own little person, not "baby Eisley" as we used to call her. Even at this young age (19 months), she's showing an aptitude for taking things apart and putting them together.

Adalyn, age 5, started kindergarten and loves her Montessori school. She also enjoys dance and voice lessons, playing at the park with her friends, dates with Daddy, being a big sister, and cooking and crafting with Mom.

Kyle started a job as salesman at a new RV dealership at the beginning of the year, but it wasn't long until he was promoted to sales manager. He's kept busy whipping the department into shape! Tina loves being a stay at home mom who is also a fashion blogger and photographer. You can find her at Tina In Real Life on Facebook, where she shares what works (and doesn't) in mom life.

Simon, who turns 6 this weekend, also started kindergarten in the fall and loves his teacher (he often accidentally calls me "Miss Migg" haha!). He's made lots of friends in school and in the neighborhood. We cannot believe how much and how fast he's growing and learning!

Betsy, just under two years younger, wants to do everything her big brother does and she's learning and absorbing like a little sponge. She spends Tuesday afternoons here, while Tina helps in Simon's class, and we thoroughly enjoy our time with her. She's very much Tina's "mini me" and reminds me so much of Tina at this age.

This was a tough year on my maternal side of the family. We lost Uncle Jack and his wife, Nancy (less than a month apart), then Uncle Martin (the last of mom's siblings to pass) followed by the death of my cousin Ruth from cancer. I wasn't able to make it to any of the funerals except Ruth's. As hard as it was to lose her, the chance to see cousins I hadn't seen in decades was special. We count it a privilege to spend time with family whenever we can. So the girl's weekend with Tina to Colorado was super fun! We saw family in Denver and Colorado Springs. The Sunday afternoon we were there we enjoyed a fun time out in the country. This photo was snapped right after Tina, me and my sister Beth finally emerged from the corn maze -- can you see the relief we felt!?

Pretty excited to say I'm cancer free! I started radiation the day after Christmas last year, finishing in February, and then continued with Herceptin treatments through May. Now I'm taking a pretty strong oral chemo drug until next June. Don't enjoy the side effects, but it's nothing compared to what I went through last year, so can't complain! Getting the cancer free diagnosis meant it was time to celebrate!

Ivan has stayed quite busy this year as manager of the new real estate investment business he and Jon started. He spent the year researching, looking at various possibilities, and then they finally purchased several multi family properties and began renovations on all of them. We're learning a lot and having fun while we're at it!

We have settled into East Valley Bible Church, a church plant here in the Vegas valley. The sense of community is strong and we are grateful for the fellowship with other believers. Ivan's leading a study during the monthly men's prayer breakfast. Kim had fun attending a craft night one of the pastor's wives hosted earlier this month.

We have felt truly blessed this year, and now we look forward with anticipation to 2020 and what the year might hold.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Marking More Milestones

Today marks a milestone, and this week marks another. I think it's important to acknowledge and remember what God has done -- and is doing -- in our lives.

It was on February 2nd of last year that I ended up in the emergency room because my doctor thought I had blood clots on my lungs. I didn't, but that's when they saw the swollen lymph nodes for the first time.

On February 7th this year I'll finish radiation therapy, the last big hurdle of this journey with cancer. I'll still have to go every three weeks for Herceptin treatments until May, but those are a breeze. The end of radiation marks the end of the Big Three, as I call them: chemo, surgery and radiation.

Radiation hasn't been a walk in the park, but it's nothing compared to chemo or surgery, so this southern girl isn't complaining. I've been using aloe vera, cutting off chunks of the leaf, slicing it open and spreading the goo all over the radiated area before applying lots of moisturizer. I was doing great until I ran out of aloe vera and it took several days to track down more leaves, and in that short amount of time, I burned. Now I'm using aloe vera twice a day, which is helping heal the existing burn and preventing it from getting any worse.

Fatigue hit a week after starting radiation, and has been unrelenting. But my doctor assures me that within 3-4 weeks of finishing treatment, my energy levels will start edging up. THE END IS IN SIGHT. 

I don't know that I'll mark these milestones every year, but right now they feel important. Along with:
April 24: first chemo
August 22: last chemo
October 17: surgery
December 26: first radiation

It's funny, but I don't remember the date I got the actual diagnosis. It was not a one-and-done kind of thing... first they biopsied the lymph nodes with the results indicating cancer, and then a week or so later we met with the first (of several) oncologists who told us it was breast cancer. Those first weeks were a fog, and I'm forever grateful for my dear friend, Jennie, who went with us to all the various appointments and asked the right questions, and helped us process through what they meant.

It feels a little weird looking back and seeing how much has happened since last February 2nd. How could so much be packed into twelve short months? It's not only the cancer, but Tina and her family moving to Las Vegas with us following close behind, a new grandchild, our son dealing with all the changes brought about when Microsoft bought out Github, the death of our first fur-grandbaby Leo (best dog EVER!), turning 60 and celebrating for a week with our whole family...

I don't think it's an understatement to say that pretty much every aspect of our family's lives has seen huge changes this past year. 

Last February 2nd planted a seed of doubt deep inside that bore fruit with the cancer diagnosis, and blossomed through much of this year as I struggled to handle all that the treatment protocol entailed. This February 2nd a seed of hope has replaced the doubt. I know that, regardless of what the future holds, I'm stronger than I thought I was because I don't have to rely on my own strength: I can trust in God's immeasurable power, and in His sovereignty. Right now the prognosis is good, the end of the hard stuff is in sight. I'm thankful for that, and don't take it for granted. I'm also keenly aware that only He knows the number of my days. It's just up to me to make the most of them.

I look forward to seeing what 2019 brings our way. There will be the glorious and wondrous and exciting surrounded by the mundane and ordinary -- and new milestones to be marked!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Milestone Birthday

I'd gotten out of the habit of celebrating my birthday. Not that I think birthdays are a bad thing, or that I regret getting older (it beats the alternative!). I actually loved birthdays growing up, even if I do have the misfortune of being a December baby -- meaning I received a lot of singular gifts to cover both birthday and Christmas. Ha! Any other December babies relate to that?! But life got busy... and then busier, with so much to do, and it just felt inconvenient to take time out to celebrate. 

This year, though, my family decided that between fighting cancer and turning 60, we needed to mark the milestone. So I just enjoyed the BEST birthday week EVER 😍 Jon, Natalie and the girls flew in from California and it was non-stop family time. I got to hug on ALL the grandkids -- when they'd stop long enough, that is. Four kids aged four and under equals perpetual motion and noise! 😂 We enjoyed so many great conversations, sharing memories and making new ones that my heart is overflowing.
The Bellagio Conservatory transformed for Christmas
Checking out the holiday light display at the Ethel M Chocolates Cactus Garden

And don't even get me started on my birthday dinner! Kyle made a shrimp scampi that was beyond delicious and Natalie created another of her masterpieces: an absolutely decadent chocolate cake with a surprise in the middle!  (Yes, everything was gluten free!)
Dove candies, edible gold glitter and chocolate chips in the middle!

One of the highlights was reading really sweet comments from friends and family that Tina collected. She printed them off, cut them up and clipped them to the window blinds, hidden behind the curtains so I didn't even notice them until she and Jon drew back the curtains. What fun!

Along with awesome gifts, homemade cards from the grandkids... seriously, everything combined made for the BEST birthday yet.     

Thankfully I was far enough past surgery, feeling good, able to fully engage and enjoy the experience. Recovering from surgery was more challenging than anticipated, especially the first month. I'm happy to say the pain has decreased significantly since then. Whew! 

The pain levels started going down the week of Thanksgiving, so I was also able to enjoy time with my sister and her family who drove out from Colorado. We only celebrated Thanksgiving once while living overseas, so I relished every bite of the very traditional feast we shared at Kyle and Tina's. And to make the holiday even more special, we received the good news that chemo had done what it was supposed to do, and between that and surgery I'd gone from stage 3B to stage 0! Woot, woot!

This week the surgeon cleared me to begin radiation. It had been delayed a bit because of fluid building up, which necessitated weekly needle drains. This coming Wednesday they'll do a CT scan and use that to map out the plan for therapy. No exact date yet, but we anticipate radiation will start the week after.

2018 certainly hasn't gone the way we expected, but it's been a gift in so many ways. We are grateful for God's direction and provision, and have been reminded in very tangible ways what an extraordinary blessing it is to be a part of His family. Certainly worth celebrating!