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.

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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.”

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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.

 

Of Warm Blankets

At the Kaiser Center in Ontario where I have my radiation treatments, just outside the dressing room, where this morning I donned the outfit for my 20th treatment, there is a stainless steel windowed cabinet that houses warm blankets. Frequently it is chilly inside this department, so a warm blanket has often been a comfort to me (and to many others, I feel sure) to wrap around my shoulders or spread over my legs or arms during my actual treatment.

I considered warm blankets today as I waited. I reckoned with the understanding that sometimes warm blankets are not of wool or cotton, not something I might hold in my hand, but otherwise . . .

DSC_3108.jpgPerhaps a bud from my garden, a single stem from the florist, or a dandy stick or stone found along my morning walk.

DSC_3082Eye contact with a stranger as she lifts her head. A smile.

DSC_3022A word of approval. A nod of understanding.

DSC_2994Hand on a shoulder. Whisper in an ear, “I’m here if you ever need me.”

Today during my cancer treatment time,  I reflected on warm blankets.

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.

 

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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!

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Only Eight to Go!

My 17th radiation treatment this morning followed the pattern of the previous 16–no negative reactions at all! In the afternoon I had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Chan, whom you may recall, is my primary oncologist. My blood pressure was 128/67, my heart and lungs were clear, and my oxygen saturation was 99%.  He grinned when I told him how wonderful I am feeling.

We visited for a while, discussed a few things, then he stood, extended his hand, and said, “I won’t need to see you again until 6 months have passed. You have been a trooper!”

It was late afternoon when Jerry and I arrived home. He lighted the smoker on the back deck to grill the salmon we would be having for dinner. I seasoned the fish, then he placed it on a cedar plank and cooked it to perfection.

Fresh blackberries that needed to be eaten were in my fridge, so I engaged in a major indulgence and whipped up a blackberry cobbler.

DSC_3614DSC_3619It is said that cancer feeds on sugar, so I have made the commitment to drastically reduce my intake of the luscious white stuff. Notice I said, reduce, not delete!

So, because a bowl of warm blackberry cobbler is not quite complete without a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I indulged in a major splurge and tackled this . . .

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Only 8 to go, friends.  (Radiation treatments that is, not bowls of blackberry cobbler oozing with melting vanilla ice cream!)

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.

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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?)

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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!

 

The Day of My Ninth Radiation Treatment

It’s been a good day. Good to think that I’m a third of the way through these treatments. The irradiated parts of my skin are in great condition, and I still feel very well. As one of the nurses bent over me today adjusting my body on the table, I told her how terrible I felt with chemo, and how great I’m feeling now. She smiled, and with a touch of warning in her voice said, “The radiation effects can sneak up on you.” I told her I was aware of it, and that I have myself mentally prepared–just in case.

Early this afternoon here at our home, one of our Crestline friends (whom you may have met here) called and asked if I was up for a short visit.

Of course I was, and Jerry snapped a picture as this delightful 86 year-old charmer and I sat together in our living room.

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She came bearing a gift.

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The flower is a wild iris that she picked from along the road as she took her morning walk. (She walks a mile a day, sometimes two!) The bottle is recycled, she told me, and I could see it was. During these days of my cancer detour I’ve received lots of gifts, and extraordinarily beautiful floral arrangements. None surpass this beautiful, elegant, humble gift.

DSC_3534And so…….my day–the 9th of radiation–has been a very good one. Trust yours has been as well.

My Tattoos

I have never secretly desired to have any part of my body tattooed, and certainly I have never voiced a hankering for such an intrusion onto this aging body of mine–actually I think the process is a bit on the silly side. Now, though I must tell you, that I have six tattoos! Five are on my chest area. One is on my neck. They are tiny little things, and if you look closely here you will see the black dot on my neck.

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Happened this way. Yesterday was my second visit to the Oncology Radiation Department at Kaiser Permanente in Ontario. After I had checked in and waited a very short time to be called, I was introduced to a darling young lady named Zac, who introduced me to two other women who will be involved with my treatments. After I had stripped to my waist and had donned a beautiful hospital gown, I climbed onto the table where overhead were machines that would photograph once again the area that is to be radiated. Both my arms were stretched over my head and I was asked not to move at all. They positioned my body a few times, and the picture taking began. A doctor analyzed and approved the film. The technicians then removed the red temporary markings on my body and began the tattoo job.

“May I choose butterflies or flowers or something like that?” I asked.

“No, afraid not. We only do one style here,” one of the techs replied.

There was little pain involved in the scenario. The worst part was not moving for a half hour or so, and besides I’m of the curious type and wanted to look around and see everything that was going on, but I could not. I did see a few reflections in one of the camera lenses. My face itched and I wanted desperately to scratch it, but I muttered to myself that I shouldn’t be a sissy . . .and I thought of persons who are paralyzed . . .

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Zac gave me a printed treatment schedule, along with guidelines to help me through the process. Beginning June 2, I will travel to Ontario (about an hour from our home) 25 times for radiation treatment. July 7th will be the grand finale. A party will be in order . . .and you’re all invited.

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.

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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.

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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.

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