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.

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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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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!

 

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.

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Rebecca and Michael hugged up with their daddy.

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

 

Choosing Chemotherapy

On my first appointment with Dr. Victor after my mastectomy, he checked me thoroughly, said I was doing well, then reported the lab’s analyzation of my breast tissue and of the nine lymph nodes he had removed. I was a bit disappointed to learn that the cancer had metastasized not only to the one lymph node which was discovered by the ultrasound, but to one other. Lots of good news, though. The margins were wide; my prognosis was good.

“Dr. Victor, do you have any influence as to the oncologist I will see?”

“Yes,” he told me.

“I want someone who is ‘good,’ and who is friendly.”

He hesitated saying all the doctors in the oncology department were excellent, but I pressed a little, and finally he recommended Dr. Chan.

Dr. Chan's longivity chart

My husband, Rebecca, and Holly were with me at the first meeting with Dr. Chan. So kind, upbeat, and patient; answering all our questions. I suspect he spent an hour with us, going over my charts, then at the end showing me this one. May be a little difficult for you to read. The chart shows that by using all three approaches; mastectomy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, as compared with other combinations, or exclusions, a small rise in my life expectancy is obtained. I judge the rigors of chemotherapy worth the extension of my life.

(I’ve read widely. Friends have emailed me with information. Some of them advise me not to have chemotherapy or traditional treatments at all. Others support traditional medicine. I’ve listened, and will continue to do so. I’m in full agreement that a healthy body is greatly desirable, and it only makes sense that a healthy well-nourished person will be more successful in fighting a disease, so I have made the decision to eat in even healthier ways than I have in the past–in particular curtailing my intake of sugar. I will continue exercising–no doubt ramping it up a bit.)

The choice of treatment was mine, and I made it quickly. After doing so, Dr. Chan, my family, and my friend agreed that I had made the right choice.

I begin chemo tomorrow, January 26, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

How Pink the Dawn

Trees Among the PinkArising before the dawn, I cross stone landing and clamber down the three steps from our bedroom where Jerry and Winston yet slumber on our wide bed. I walk my morning trek . . .to the thermostat, to the switch whose click will throw first light on the kitchen, a glimpse at the thermometer outside the window over the sink, a push of the button that sets the coffee to gurgle.

I pull slender cords that spread wide the blinds to show the glassy expanse. Black out there now, but I know the light will come, for I remember well—recall from countless yesterdays. The rise of the mountains from the bowl of Lake Gregory will in a few minutes penetrate the dark and announce the day. Those pointy trees will still be there, firmly rooted, and I will stare, as I have thousands of times before.

My favorite couch faces that large window. I meditate and mull and consider. I contemplate options and opposing views. Life expectancy charts come to mind as do the faces of my doctors and of my children, and of dear Jerry.

Then I see it and know I must move quickly. Light is fragile. Swift as life. That spectacular pink spread, gauzy now with fog is for but a moment. I take up my camera, move through the wide opening to the front deck, make shutter adjustments, lift my camera, and doing the best I can, capture this stately scene.

Such a scene cannot be truly captured, nor can a life be truly made clear.

 

 

 

Christmas and the Detour

After two nights in the hospital, being wonderfully attended, I was released. Our daughter, Rebecca, was with her dad to pick me up, and it developed that she stayed in our home for 12 days caring for me as though I were a child, tending my two drains, catering also to her dad, cooking meals, and helping out in many other ways. Michael and Melina who live in Lake Havasu stayed also for a couple of days, cooked, cleaned and stocked up our kitchen with delicious treats and delicacies. I’m not quite sure how I have been so blessed with these four exceptional children, but indeed that is the case.

On the fifth or sixth day after my surgery, after having taken nothing for pain, not even an aspirin, I awoke to severe pain in my right arm. It was so excruciating that if no medicine had been available, I would have gone to the emergency room. A colleague of Dr. Victor had released me and at that time had written a prescription for pain and nausea medication, which we had filled while at the hospital. From that bottle, I drew one pill which did little for the pain, merely made me very sleepy, but the second one four hours later significantly reduced my agony. This pain continued for several day–think it was nerve pain–and the medicine continued to make me sleepy.

Which leads me to consider a couple of vital organs. . .

Since my two kidneys and my one liver came right along with me that day when I was born, they are now of the advanced age of 77 years and a few months. A bit elderly, one might correctly assume, and I’m beginning to think they may be a tad lax in their “doings,” for I understand they are supposed to help out with clearing my body of such things as anesthetics. Hate to fink on them, but those days after my surgery, I believe they slightly fell down on their jobs. Took a little long for me to wake up, and for days, and certainly after I started taking the pain medication, I felt slightly “out of it.” Woozy.

Christmas was a few days away and I wanted everyone here. They were reluctant, especially Andrew who has five children, but I was adamant that it would not be too much, and anyway they had already planned Christmas dinner, so my plan was to lie on the couch, and if I needed to bark an order or two, I would be available. They all came, and it was glorious, though much of it is foggy in my mind, and a couple of pictures I have (which I will not post) show me in what appears to be a totally drunken state!

Over the 25th and the 26th, 24 of my family came, kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, eating, opening presents, yelping, cooking, clanging pots and pans, youngsters running about, some clunking on the piano upstairs . . .and to me, it was perfect. They all brought their dogs, so counting our Winston, we had a total of six dogs bounding about in the mix. Mike cooked a fine 15 pound Prime Rib Roast on Jerry’s back deck smoker, Andrew brewed a huge pot of chicken and shrimp gumbo, Shawnna baked crab legs, Steve brought a Honey-Baked ham . . . pies, candy . . .dips . . .veggies . . .breads . . .

Next Christmas I’ll be well, so I won’t be lolling about on the couch. Sure was nice, though, to hear all that activity in the kitchen, all those people cooking and cleaning . . .and I doing nothing. Hmm…Perhaps, just maybe, next year I’ll have a bit of a tummy ache or a tiny headache . . .

 

 

 

 

Wonderful Confusion

“Life is so wonderfully confusing at times.”                      Andrew Buxton

After a follow-up visit yesterday with my surgeon, Dr. Victor, I sent messages to my children telling them about the great report Dr. Victor gave, in which he said, “You’re doing remarkably well.”

At times special moments reveal themselves in our lives, and though they will not be announced by the streak of a fallen star across an inky sky, nor by the call of clashing thunder, the impact on one’s life may be profound, and we are well-advised to so note these times. Such was the case yesterday in Dr. Victor’s office.

Dr. Victor’s nurse, Marge, made four of us in the room. We chatted, Jerry and I telling a little of our history and Dr. Victor talking about his two children, how “easy” they are, and how much he enjoys them. The subject segued until Jerry was talking about God and how good He has been to our family. Marge was crying, so I went over and hugged her. “Don’t cry,” I said.

“Joy,” she said. “Tears of joy.”

Dr. Victor’s eyes were riveted on Jerry, who finally said, “May I pray for you, Dr.?” Dr. Victor nodded and bowed his head.

“Thank you for this,” Dr. Victor said as he shook Jerry’s hand as we prepared to leave the room. “This has been very special.”

How arise such moments? How are we blessed with such magnificent interaction with beautiful people, of whose existence a few short weeks ago we had no cognizance? Surely  it is a majestic thing when four beings are granted such an instant.

Not only was this time special to Dr. Victor, but I assure you, to Jerry and me also. I relayed the account to my children. Nestled in his response, Andrew, my youngest child, said, “Life is so wonderfully confusing at times.”

And so it is. Recall that this magnificent slice of life came about because I have been diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma. . . .

. . .wonderfully confusing.