Joy Along the Detour

Yesterday sweet Jerry drove me to Kaiser in Ontario for what is proving to be my last visit at the radiation department there. Dr. Ro examined me thoroughly, then declared I am doing well, and unless some unexpected event develops I do not have to return there. Yes! I do have scarring under my arm from the severe burns, but it does not bother me at all.

So life, precious life continues.

My life consists of much more than my cancer detour. A few days ago Jerry received this in the mail.

DSC_4243How blessed of God I am to be allowed to share in the ministry of my dedicated, godly husband. For more than 60 years he has carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Despite his exceptional accomplishments, including assuming the pastorate of two churches, and establishing another one, things have not  always been easy for him. His mother died when he was four, his dad when he was twelve. He was moved from place to place during the remainder of his childhood, living with older siblings, then living with a couple who had a dairy farm where he earned his keep by rising well before dawn to milk cows. Before he went to school each day, he delivered the milk to various places in the tiny town of Starks, LA. When he was a high school senior he went to live with his brother Bill who encouraged him to go to college after he finished high school. He followed that excellent advice, and four years later he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in the education field.

In 1994, he was struck by a drunk driver and was dead in the street. A lady revived him and he was taken to a hospital where he spent five months. He had almost unimaginable injuries including a broken neck, bleeding into his brain stem, broken hip, multiple other breaks, ruptured urinary bladder, bruised heart, kidneys…Doctors gave him little hope of living, then of walking, but if you saw him today you would never suspect he endured such a calamity. (The first book I wrote is an account of this event, entitled A Thousand Pieces. Available several places including Amazon. You may also order the book from me and I’ll ship you one.)

. . .and still he ministers. How blessed we are.

So despite the little cancer detour life continues, glorious life.

Advertisements

Fingernails, Burns, and Chemo Curl

My chest and the skin under my right arm were more severely burned than I had thought, so that for about two weeks following my final radiation treatment I had a significant amount of pain. Healing has come, although my chest wall is still tender after having a layer of all my skin in that area peel away in ugly grey strips. I’m thanking God that I developed no infection.

A result of the chemotherapy is that I am losing all my fingernails. As the old ones slough off, new nails are growing, beautiful and fresh. No pain at all.

DSC_4226Chemo curl. I’ve always had very straight, fine hair, and when I heard about the chance of curls developing after chemo, I ordered some! Voila! I now have curls, and am loving it. I’ve read fairly extensively about this phenomenon, but no one seems to know why this change often develops after chemo treatments. Usually the change is temporary; I’m hoping mine will be permanent.

I am feeling extremely well, and believe all my strength has returned. My 78th birthday was the 24th of July and my children threw me a delightful party in San Diego at the South Beach Jetty of the Pacific. Three grandchildren came home with Jerry and me, and at the end of their visit of almost a week I felt no more tired than I would have before this little session with cancer. I am extremely grateful, and with all my heart worship Jesus because of His extreme mercy to me.

Again, I want to thank each of you who is following me during this little detour. Your love, prayers, and comments are wonderfully significant to me. I treasure every word you are kind enough to send.

Recovery Monday

On other days, recent days, we would have pointed our faithful Jeep down the hill toward Ontario for one more radiation treatment, perhaps a short stand-in-line at the pharmacy, or a visit with one of my doctors. Not today.

Today, I recover. This morning I sat for awhile on the cement steps leading to our front deck. I watched. I looked and listened. I have blisters under my right arm, a sore, decimated chest wall beneath which is a grateful heart, and today I have a head that reels. I’m a follower of the news, one who listens much, who is interested in the election that looms before us. I’m aghast at our world. How can we humans speak as we do? How is it that we slaughter each other at such a rate? How.can.this.be.so?

The steps, though. Where I sit. I watch as two lizards dart before me. My camera is beside me, lens cover removed, and as I lift it to my eyes, the couple spatted, I guess, and in a flash one is gone. This one, though. This brave critter stopped quite near me. He posed, and held. Steady, he displayed his long “fingers.”

DSC_3810

Behind him stands a frog. Well, a replica of a frog, who is of green metal, and who appears to be holding a clarinet or some such instrument. I laughed when I noted these two critters in this juxtaposition.

DSC_3809-2And it was better than police shootings, or blatant lying, or coarse, vulgar language. Or the utterly ridiculous question of whose lives matter.

DSC_3788Hummingbirds rushed by Jerry’s face today as he watered plants in the front.

DSC_3795Bokeh, they call it. Light, unfocussed light shines through the scarlet bird feeder.

DSC_3782The bigger birds have scratched about and their food is scattered on the railing, and this morning there was a dead bird in our driveway.

And God knows. He is in charge. Still. Capable. Not in trouble. I rest. I recover.

 

Radiation 25

The night before, I baked the goodies I would take. Yesterday morning I wrapped them in a festive way. I chose cards and wrote notes on them. One for the exceptional clerk who checked me in almost every day at the Kaiser facility; the other for the sweet crew that manned Linac # 3 where they tended me over a 5 week period, 5 days a week. Linac is the name of the radiation machine. Number 3 is the one to which I was assigned.

From the first day, the calibre of people whom I have encountered during this quite unexpected detour in my life’s road has amazed me. I have been treated not only professionally, but in loving ways, and with utmost care and dignity. Yesterday was no exception. When I gave the little gifts, the staff were so appreciative. We hugged–some of us more than once–and yesterday  I felt as though I was leaving friends when Jerry and I walked from the facility to our car in the parking lot. “I’ll miss you,” a couple of them said to me. “Maybe we’ll see each other in a grocery store or something like that,” Zack said almost shyly to me.

DSC_3775Because it was my last visit, I was scheduled to see my radiation oncologist, Dr. Ro. I was surprised when after he examined me he said I had significant radiation burns under my arm, so that he must prescribe a cream designed for severe burns. I will see him for a follow-up visit in about a month. For a couple of days I had noted a little discomfort, but didn’t think too much about it. Perhaps because my entire chest wall where I had the mastectomy is quite numb is the reason for my feeling very little pain. The danger is infection, Dr. Ro told me, indicating that we must stay “on top of it.”

“Come by here after you’ve seen the doctor,” the receptionist told me when I checked in. “We have something to give you.” When I returned to her desk, she smiled broadly and handed me this certificate. Wished me well, said she would miss me.

DSC_3799

Rebecca had wanted to be with her dad and me, but she could not, so it was only loyal and faithful Jerry and me who went to lunch at Lucille’s Barbecue to celebrate my last radiation treatment. With not one complaint, this dear husband of mine has driven me every day to my radiation treatments–80 miles round trip. How blessed, how very blessed I am.

Sweetest daughter, Rebecca, came to our home later in the day, bearing lovely flowers, a balloon, and a precious hand-written card.

DSC_3786

So. I’ve jumped another hurdle, and am looking ever upward and forward. God is so dear and precious to me. Has held me close during these challenging months, and blesses me more than I could possibly deserve. I am forever grateful.

Sixty and Eighteen Go Together

It is the 18th day. It is the 60th year.

…….Counting the one this morning, eighteen is the number of radiation treatments I have had.

……Totaling them all, sixty is the number of years Jerry and I have been married. Today is our anniversary.

A year or so ago, as we talked about this momentous occasion and how we would celebrate it, high on our list was a Mediterranean cruise. Then came November 2015, my routine mammogram, and the quite unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. We changed plans. The cruise deal was out, but after my chemo was finished and I had regained my strength, here in Crestline, we would have a nice party with our family and close friends. We decided on a date and made sure all our children were free at that time. Then Dr. Chan recommended I meet with a radiation doctor. I did so, and was shocked when Dr. Ro advised me to have 25 radiation treatments. We cancelled the party plans, understanding that when today arrived, I would be deeply into daily radiation treatments, and not knowing how sick or well I would be feeling.

So, today is the big day, and despite no momentous celebration, I am extraordinarily happy. And Jerry is happy. God has been extremely good to us. Blessed us. Favored us. Chose us. Gave us four remarkable children, a passel of grandchildren, a flock of great-grandchildren, and an enormous group of exceptional friends and other family.

Rebecca went with us to Ontario for my treatment, then we all went to The Cheesecake Factory in Victoria Gardens for lunch. Delicious food. Rebecca snapped a couple of pictures.

 

DSC_3624

DSC_3621

Toward the end of Summer or the beginning of Fall, we plan to take a road trip up the coast of California. We have wonderful friends scattered here and there in this great western part of the United States, and we haven’t seen some of you for a long time. Maybe we’ll pop in for a visit. 🙂

EDIT: Just as I was finishing up this piece, a delivery lady  brought to our home the most beautiful deep red roses. Jerry grinned as she brought them in to me. Sure enough: Love, from Jerry. He is the best!

DSC_3635

DSC_3636.jpg

Lessons in the Weeds

At Kaiser this morning, they took me in early for my 14th radiation treatment, so before noon we were back in Crestline, and since it was so early we decided to go to the lodge and have lunch with our senior friends there. We were more than half an hour early, so while Jerry signed us in and found seats, I would take a few pictures. I took my camera out of its bag. “I’ll snap a couple of pictures, then be right in,” I told Jerry.

I learned lessons during those few minutes this late morning and want to share them with you.

DSC_3577

I walked across a small field. Shaded by lofty oak trees, the land lay in shadowed darkness, so dense in some directions that I was unable to discern the objects that made up the short distance toward the creek bed. Then my eyes were drawn to a shinning pattern, for in the middle of the unlit, dusky regions glowed this round of glorious light.

This first lesson is obvious. In the midst of darkness, sorrow, and gloom, there always can be found a packet of light, a spot of joy, a round of glory. God is its source, and when we find ourselves frightened, surrounded by dreadful circumstances, unsure of anything, then is the moment to look about us . . .and find the light!

I sat down on a small bridge area and watched. Waited. Among the weeds little bugs were jumping, and as I looked closely, I saw they were lady bugs. I didn’t have a really fine lens with me, for this morning I had decided to take my oldest lens out of my camera bag, and use it for the day. So with my humble 18-55 Nikon kit lens, I photographed this fine lady. (Are there men lady bugs? Hmm . . . guess so or we wouldn’t have any baby lady bugs, would we?)

DSC_3578

The second lesson was also obvious to me, for as I stared, focussed, and refocussed on this tiny bug, I saw with comprehending eyes its struggle to reach the top of this drooping weed. She fell more than once as a small wind blew the plant back and forth. But she persevered, and when I left her she had neared the top.

So, as I walk my cancer detour, I too will persevere and will pick myself up if I fall. . .and if I do I will climb again.

And you? We’re all faced with disappointments, challenges we didn’t expect . . .but also with opportunity to fight more, seek the light, and climb higher. Onward!

 

Radiation and Celebrations

When I learned that Gentry’s high school graduation day would be toward the middle of my radiation treatments, I was not sure I would be able to attend, for the threat of side-effects, and especially of extreme fatigue was on my mind.

DSC_3559However, last Thursday came, the special day, and I was feeling wonderful. At 10:00 in the morning I had my 11th treatment. When it was finished Jerry headed our already loaded Jeep toward San Diego. We stopped for food then drove to Andrew and Shawnna’s home (Gentry’s parents) where we visited a couple of hours before it was time to leave. The graduation exercise were held in the open air theatre of San Diego State University. Beautiful. Very impressive. So very proud of Gentry. A meal for the family and friends at Lidos Italian restaurant followed. It was late when we plopped down on the comfy bed in Andrew’s home.

For breakfast Andrew took us to a charming place in La Jolla where we ate outside, the magnificent Pacific in our distant view.

Treatment number 12 was scheduled for early afternoon, so we said our good-byes and traveled again to Ontario Kaiser Permanente.

On Saturday, Mike and Melina drove over from Lake Havasu for Father’s Day. Jerry smoked scrumptious ribs, I added a few things, and on the back deck we four feasted.

Sunday morning: Father’s Day

We four joined Rebecca at her church in Rialto for a delightful service, then for lunch we met with Melina’s parents and others of her family at Martha Greene’s in Redlands.

IMG_0765

Rebecca and Michael hugged up with their daddy.

This morning I completed my 13th treatment. I feel wonderful! Onward!

 

Prayer, the Ultimate Treatment

DSC_3265Since the first days of my knowing I had cancer, my family, my friends, and multiple church bodies have prayed for me. I am the first to acknowledge the sterling medical care I have had, but nothing compares to being touched by the Great Physician.

I’ve had hands laid on me in prayer in my home, in other’s homes, and in several different churches. On Monday when Jerry and I were ready to leave Rohr Park in San Diego after a great Memorial Day picnic, a group of ministers and others gathered about me and prayed for my healing.

How blessed. How very blessed I am.

Tomorrow morning I begin my radiation therapy. It comforts me to know many, many people will be covering Jerry and me in prayer.

Radiation Treatments

I was able to report during my follow-up visit with Dr. Chan a few weeks after my last chemo treatment that I was feeling well, very well, in fact. I had regained all my strength. My energy level was high, and my spirits were soaring. Dr. Chan smiled, and I could tell that my words pleased him.

DSC_2815

He spoke again of my needing to be on a five-year regimen of hormone blockers, and as he spoke, he typed an order into the computer. On our way out I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up the first of what will be many bottles over such a long time. More on this segment of my treatment later.

Dr. Chan surprised me during this visit by saying he wanted to refer me to a radiation oncologist. Although he explained that his reasoning for this reference was that he wanted me to have access to every possible treatment, I gathered he might be leaning toward thinking I would not need to have radiation. So, on the day that Jerry and I drove to the Ontario Kaiser facility where such treatments are done in this area, I was feeling well and rather carefree, for I did not expect to hear what I did.

DSC_2817

His name is Dr. Ro, the radiation oncologist, to whom I was assigned. Kind and generous with his information, he spoke to us at length about this line of cancer treatment, and of my particular case. Should I have such radiation? The decision was mine, of course, but when Jerry pressed Dr. Ro, he offered his opinion that I should. And so I will.

There will be 25 of them, daily five days a week, for five weeks. Last Tuesday I had my first visit in the unit, where multiple pictures and X-rays were taken. My chest area is covered widely with red marks that will be used to guide the technician. On Monday, I go there again for further studies, permanent markings, and a full schedule of my treatments.

I’m not happy about this development, and at one point last week had the thought that I would call and cancel, but I quickly discarded that idea, for my thinking is that I want to do all I can to cure and/or prevent the return of this hateful disease. I’m feeling extremely well, and honestly don’t anticipate another round of weakness and other side effects. (Dr. Ro said the fatigue that comes with radiation treatments is not as severe as that I suffered from chemo.)

Anyway, I am up to it. Have God’s mighty hand holding my feeble one. Can do it. Am strong.. .besides that I’ve been working in my gardens, and they are beautiful. I’m sharing with you. Hope they bless your day.

DSC_2812

Last Chemo Day!

When Dr. Chan walked into the room where Jerry and I sat last Monday he said, “Congratulations!” Time for my last chemo treatment! He discussed my lab work, noting that everything was perfect, did a cursory check of my heart and lungs, and cleared me for my final treatment that was waiting just down the hall.

“We’ve had a few bumps in the road,” Dr. Chan recalled, “but we worked through them. You’re doing great.”

Shirley last chemo

Holly last chemo.jpg

What an exceptional, dear friend is Holly. She calls, visits, brings flowers and other gifts–even once sent a cleaning crew to our home. She joined us in the waiting room, bearing gifts which she revealed once I was settled in my final chemo chair. She set a tiara on my head. In my hand she placed a significant, wonderful placard festooned with curly, streaming ribbons. Other patients smiled; a couple of them spoke congratulatory words to me.

Jerry Last Chemo day

My dear honey. Faithful, giving, and loving. How much harder this detour would be without his support and caring ways.

Three last chemo

Although an innumerable group has supported me through these weeks with prayers, gifts, visits, food, phone calls, cards, flowers, monetary gifts, and internet communication, it is these three whose faces I have seen at my chemo sessions. My only daughter, Rebecca, has spent weeks at our home, she calls every day, brings food, cooks meals, and attended every chemo session.

Nurses last chemo

Two of the four nurses who tended me during my sessions are pictured here. They helped me through some extremely tense, potentially dangerous, moments. Wonderful, dedicated people. During my hours at that last session, suddenly one of the nurses said, “Let’s do the final chemo dance,” and both of them circled about our area for a few minutes of celebration dance. Holly was quick enough to get a short video of it, but I can’t seem to load it here.                                     .Last chemo jerry, shirley, bekRebecca brought balloons to the party!

Jerry Last Chemo dayWe celebrated  with a meal at Cocos in Rialto. Believe it or not, I wore my tiara  and carried in my balloons and chemo sign. We clapped and laughed and planned more celebrations.

(Because I promised honesty paragraph: We had said our good-byes, each of us had taken to our cars, and as Jerry and I drove off the restaurant parking lot, I became violently ill. Had to circle back, park again at Cocos while I rushed to the bathroom. At home, I collapsed onto the couch.)

But here I am seven days later, though very weak, feeling much better. The tiara is on our dresser in my bedroom. Occasionally, I run my hand over its sparkly surface.