Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Weekend

Well, this blog seems to focus mainly just on cancer. But my life isn’t just about cancer. Not by any stretch of the imagination! I actually probably cram more into life every day than I did before I was diagnosed. Now, it seems that life may more finite than I imagined. (In reality, life is finite for all of us! And only God knows when He’ll call each of us home so the logic is suspect, but nevertheless, there it is!) I tend to cram my weekends and holidays as full as I can get them with as much fun as possible!

The Dallas Arboretum

Yesterday, my best friend from the 4th grade, Patti, and I spent the day together. Patti came to pick me up and off we went to the Dallas Arboretum. We attended a breakfast for new members and then we wandered through the gardens until it got too warm.

Speaking of which … we have been blessed with very cool weather in mid-August in Dallas, TX. Highs have been in the low 90’s with lows in the 60’s. Unheard of around here where August usually brings us highs in the 100’s and lows in the mid-80’s.

I didn’t take my good camera with me, but had my little point and shoot. Always. It rides in my purse! Just in case I need it. (Unfortunately, I can’t always get it out quickly enough to capture what I want to preserve. Like the day when I was going to work and a rat came running out of plants on the median of the road. By the time I got the camera pulled out, he had run back into the plants…)

Here are a few of the pictures that were taken:

 

We really had a good time together. We always do. Laughing and carrying on … life is fun when we’re out and about.

I love the Arboretum too – lots of water features, beautiful flowers and landscaping, interesting people to watch… I am really glad we joined. Don’t the pictures just make you smile? The quality isn’t great – my little “purse camera” leaves a bit to be desired – by you can get the gist of some of what we saw!

Shopping with the Grandkids

Sunday afternoon was spent shopping with my daughter-in-law and grandkids. It is time to buy new school clothes! I arrived at Kohl’s where Sara and the kids were already shopping. My youngest grandson is Jonah, who turned 4 in May. He came running to give me a hug … and then said, “But Grandma!!! I wanted you to bring your camera with you!!!” Lucky for him, I had my purse camera!!! Fully recharged!

Jonah is 4 and goes to daycare. Jimmy is six and is entering first grade, while Jonathan is 11 and going into middle school. WHAT???? When did my babies grow up … middle school already??? Incredible!!!

Don’t you just suppose that other people who were shopping at Kohls today thought I was a crazy old woman? I can honestly say that I do not believe I have ever seen anyone following a bunch of kids around with their point-and-shoot camera at the ready!! πŸ™‚ Β But, that’s okay! The kids love to have their picture taken and I love looking back at them!

Do you notice a common theme? We were there for school clothes shopping but most of the pictures were taken in the toy section!! The kids begged for toys while their mom was deciding what they would be wearing to school when it starts in a couple of weeks.

Jonah was the cutest. He asked if he could have some toys. I told him no because we were there to buy school clothes today. (Outfitting three boys is expensive!!! There was no more money for toys!) Jonah was not satisfied with that response. After all, he told me, he isn’t in school yet so he could spend his money on toys instead of clothes!!

 

Port … Still Not Fond of It!

I am still not loving the port! I hope when I go for my next treatment, I will change my mind about how I feel about having this foreign bump under my skin! It is just so ugly!!

I asked Robert to take some pictures of how the port looks seven days after it was inserted (I always want to say “installed” … what’s that say about me??!!) You can see that there is still significant bruising. I called the doctor on Friday because I was still in some amount of pain from the port. Pain may be a bit stretched … but I was certainly aware that something had been done.

Today, Sunday, I don’t think about it constantly but when I sling my purse over my right shoulder, I remember it is there!! πŸ™‚ Hopefully, by the time I have my next treatment – about 1-1/2 weeks from now, it will be sufficiently healed that I won’t be in a lot of pain when they poke through the skin to access the port!

You’ll Never Walk Alone

How do people who do not believe in Jesus Christ face living (and dying) with a disease like cancer? How do you walk that walk alone? I do not know and I praise God that I will never know because He is right there with me through this walk.

It isn’t the walk I would have chosen for myself at this time of my life – or probably ever – but it is what He chose for me. I don’t know why but I will try to live the way He wants me to – and I hope I am always a witness for him.

I heard David Phelps and his sister, Sherri Proctor, sing this song just weeks before she passed away from liver cancer at the age of 49. Watching and listening to them, you would never know they had any problems on earth. Their solid faith has to be the reason they were able to sing like this at a time like that.

Enjoy it! David is one of the best tenors alive today, in my opinion (which isn’t worth much since I have no musical sense).

 

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone
R. Rogers/O. Hammerstein II

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk

You’ll never walk
You’ll never walk alone.

Awake

Well … it is 1:00 in the morning. I have to be at a school at 7 to do who knows what? And, I’m supposed to be there until 4 PM … I have a feeling that won’t happen – especially since I am still wide awake at 1 AM.

I think the place where the port was inserted is healing. I have tried to get a picture of it … it leaves a really ugly bump under my skin. It almost looks like I have grown a third breast. Just what I need! πŸ™‚

It is really weird to have the port. It is hard. And, sometimes, I can feel the catheter in my vein too.

picture copied from https://bit.ly/2HkvHmn

This is what is under my skin and in my vein… I am not loving having it. It is alien. It is ugly. But, everyone tells me I am going to love it when I have treatments. I only have to get stuck once a visit. Blood for labs will be drawn through the port and the drug I am getting will be infused using the port. Since my veins are in pretty rotten shape after being stuck so much over the last 9 months, it will be a good thing to have it, I am sure. I just need to start accepting it better!!

Here is another good thing about it. Because it is inserted completely under the skin, there is no need to try to keep it clean and there are no tubes hanging out… I’m sure it will stop bothering me when the bruising improves and I don’t constantly feel it. I hope so!!!

 

Faces of Cancer

I started writing this article yesterday while I was in the waiting room at the Seay building at UT Southwestern. I guess I lost Internet before it was saved so I lost it all πŸ™ I’m really sad about it because I felt “inspired” while writing it and think it was good (and no one can ever dispute that since it is gone, gone, gone!).

I am going to attempt to reconstruct what I wrote, what I was feeling when I wrote it. Wish my memory was not horrible! That’s a BAD sad effect of having chemo (or maybe of getting old or maybe both) – no memory. At all. Thoughts rush into my mind and leave before I can grab hold of them!!

Going to a cancer center is eye-opening. They are all full. When I go to Texas Oncology at Presbyterian Hospital, the waiting room, the infusion room, and the hallway where you wait for labs are all full of people. When I go to the Seay building of UT Southwestern, there are even more people everywhere you look. So many lives struck by cancer.

Full waiting room. Too much cancer!

Yesterday – Monday – we had a hard time finding a place to sit even though there are two different large waiting rooms to choose between. My picture doesn’t reflect how very crowded it was, but it is the only picture I tried to take of the waiting room … It’s a little blurry but I decided that’s okay because I am not trying to identify anybody who was sitting in there … just to record the crowd…

If you are not personally affected by having the disease yourself, you know someone – usually a friend or family member – who has battled some kind of cancer at some point in their lives. My dad died of cancer at age 49. My beloved stepfather, Bob Massie, was eaten up with cancer and passed away just five years after he and Mom married. My maternal aunt died from cancer and my paternal uncle did, too.

Over the last few years, Robert and I lost two great friends to cancer – Mike Schoolfield and Richard McCann died about a year apart. Another good friend, Steve Massengale, was given only weeks to live after cancer that had eaten him up was discovered. His is a success story!!! He has been a survivor for at least 10 years!! The more I think, the more friends and family I think of who have suffered from cancer. Some fall victim and some beat it … but they and their families have been touched by it.

And, for every person who receives that awful diagnosis themselves, there are family and friends who love them whose lives also change immediately and forever. It is an insidious disease for sure.

In the relatively small department where I work, Janice’s husband has had lymphoma. He is currently in remission, praise God!, but has developed multiple myeloma – the disease Robin Roberts from Good Morning America chronicled as she has battled it. The brother-in-law of my friend Cindy is battling leukemia. They had it under control for a few months, but it has returned now. The grandmother of another coworker has been fighting cancer for months, surprising the doctors who thought she would die within only weeks of diagnosis. My former boss was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer only months after I received my diagnosis. Cancer is just everywhere. Everywhere.

I just read recently that David Phelps’ sister passed away last year. David is the unbelievable tenor who often sings with the Bill Gaither Vocal Band. His sister frequently sang backup for David when he was on the road doing concerts. You would never have realized it by looking at her or watching her, but she was fighting liver and back cancer that ultimately took her life. She was only 49. She had so much life left to live, but cancer cut it short. For some reason, that broke my heart. She always had a big smile and seemed so full of life. Gone…………..

It doesn’t matter how much money you have. How old you are. What your name is or what your parentage is. What color you are. Cancer does not discriminate.

These melancholy thoughts were in my mind when I saw the following in one of the waiting rooms yesterday:

This young mom and her daughter were both messing with the doll the mom is holding. Mom was braiding the doll’s hair, using great care to do a good job of it. I wish I had had my good camera and the nerve to ask if I could take a picture or a series of pictures of the two of them. Mom, with her mask and bald head from chemo. Daughter with her smiles and happy countenance. For some reason, the two of them represent The Face of Cancer to me. There is a lot of sadness in this picture but also hope. Neither Mom nor daughter appears to be giving in to the disease.

On the other hand, I am struck by one more thing when I observe the people in these cancer centers. Nearly everyone has a very pleasant attitude. I hear polite, happy people speaking. I rarely see anyone who doesn’t smile – even when they look like cancer has really ravaged them. Very few appear to have given in to the disease. I do believe that you will see more happy and contented people in the cancer centers than you will at nearly anywhere else. I sometimes pat myself on the back for having a good attitude about being sick, but truthfully, it is more common than not for cancer patients to have a positive outlook on life.

At the same time as I saw the mom and young daughter above, there was another man and his family or friends sitting there. Lots of hospital staff came up to the man to speak and kid around with him. He is obviously a favorite. Based on his appearance, I have to wonder how much longer he has on this earth. His head was not bald like the mom’s is but you could tell that chemo had done its work on his hair. He was skinny … REAL skinny. Sick skinny. But, his smile was bright and cheerful. He also represents the Face of Cancer to me. I wish I had gotten a picture of him.

I decided that I would try to get more pictures of people in the waiting rooms when I go. So many stories. So many heartbreaks. And, at the same time, so much joy! The faces of cancer. They are you. They are me. Everyone is impacted by this insidious disease in one way or another – everyone.

Got the Chemo Port

Robert and I were at UT Southwestern for a long time yesterday. We had to arrive at their St. Paul Hospital by 7 AM so that I could get a port inserted. The chemo and constant pokes and pricks required from frequent blood tests, CT scans, and treatments finally wore my veins out, making the device necessary. Everyone says I will be really happy to have the port.

It was a frustrating morning. We rushed to get there by 7 … it is an hour away from home so we had to leave really early! We waited for 45 minutes to get registered at the hospital. Great! There was only one girl working registration for the entire hospital on a Monday morning. To her credit, she was ultra-patient. I just don’t understand why she didn’t have a whole lot more help. We were behind two people and when we left, there were two or three more waiting. Plus, people kept coming in from the “street” and asking questions, etc. that the girl also had to answer. Because I hate to be late to appointments, I was getting really anxious … and another “a” word … angry!

Once we finally got up to the floor where the little minor day surgery would occur, things started happening. I got an IV so they could give me some medicine to “relax” me during the procedure. Blood was drawn, vitals taken (my blood pressure was lower than it has been in a long, long time … go figure??!!!).

Next, the physician’s assistant came in and introduced herself. The surgeon didn’t insert the port. The PA did. Hmmmm. Hope my insurance wasn’t charged for a surgeon.

The clock was inching toward my 9:00 surgery time and I was anxious to get it over with. But, while things popped when we first arrived, they suddenly slowed to a turtle’s pace. We saw NO ONE from about 8:45 until not 9, not 9:30, not 10!!!!

I already told you how anxious/excited/angry I get when things don’t go like they are scheduled!! I was getting pretty upset because the surgery was going to take an hour and then I had to recuperate for an hour before being released. Well … I was supposed to be over at the Seay building by 1 for my labs, doctor appointment, and treatment. And, we planned to go eat breakfast before we went there since we are usually there for 7 or more hours and I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything from midnight the night before the surgery. I was seeing all of our plans going by the wayside and I was restless and unhappy about it!!!

Finally, at about 10:30, someone came to get me to take me to the operating room. Let me tell you, he was no driver!!! He bumped me into every possible wall from leaving my room until we got to our destination. He said he was going to knock the mean out of me!! (I’m afraid it didn’t work!)

Truly, while I was getting upset, I don’t think most knew it (Robert did). One of the technicians in the operating room – a really sweet English girl with a great accent – mentioned that she heard someone who was jolly was on their way in. Jolly … haven’t heard that word in a long while but appreciated having it used to describe me because I do try to be positive and yes, even jolly, most of the time!

Anyway, while things didn’t go along on the timetable I wanted, the port was inserted (I keep wanting to say “installed!”) with no problems. The medicine they gave me to relax apparently put me all the way to sleep – I was out of it during the actual procedure despite my intent to stay awake so I could write about it!

I got Robert to take some pictures of what it looked like after the surgery. You can see how bruised things already were around the incisions, etc. …

Today, I am sore from the incisions made to insert it. On the other hand, I am enjoying a day at home relaxing – no bath and no driving for 24-48 hours so no work for me!

I tried driving last night when Robert and I went to Subway to grab some dinner. Yeah … I found out why I wasn’t supposed to be driving. The port is installed on my right side. Turning my head to look left or behind me … ouch!!! Nearly impossible at this point!

I’ll post picture of what it all looks like when I can take the bandages off tomorrow. I can’t wait for that!!! The tape is driving me crazy … maybe more than the incisions!!! πŸ™‚

Months Later…

Surprises

If you had told me in October 2012 that I would still be here and feeling pretty darn good in August 2013, I would have thought you were very optimistic. Facts back up my pessimism. Less than 50% of all Stage 4 lung cancer patients live for one year after diagnosis. I realize I haven’t actually made it a year yet … I have to make it to the end of October for that … but God willing, that is going to happen.

Entertaining myself during Chemo

This picture was taken at UT Southwestern where I was receiving a test drug as part of the research study I am in. It marks the last time I will have an infusion through a vein in my arm (or hand, as the case may be). Tomorrow, I go in for a port. No food or water after midnight. Arrive at St Paul Hospital by 7. St. Paul is an hour away! We’ll be getting up and getting with it early!!

As you can tell by the picture, I don’t look particularly sick except for the tubes coming out of my arm. It is because I am NOT very sick. My blood tests continue to be nearly perfect. My organs are holding up beautifully. I haven’t lost weight (not necessarily a good thing in my mind but most people find that a positive). Despite receiving chemo for six treatments of a 3-chemical cocktail and six more of one chemical, I didn’t lose my hair. It did get really ugly though so I had just had it all cut off not too long before the picture above was taken.

What’s It Been Like?

Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, I don’t think it can ever be forgotten or even pushed very far back from the forefront of thoughts. The fact that I have stage 4 lung cancer – the deadliest of all cancers – with only 15% of all those diagnosed, including those diagnosed at an early stage – living for five years – controls nearly everything I do. For instance, vegetables are not my favorite dish but I try hard to eat dark green vegetables every chance I get (realizing, of course, that we eat out most every meal). When we eat at a buffet, I will frequently choose to eat fish. I drink vegetable and/or tomato juice by the gallons. I try to stay away from carbonated drinks and, despite craving on occasion a mixed drink, I have refrained from imbibing. All in the interest of a healthier lifestyle.

Likewise, you will find me walking my dogs every morning. They are such a blessing. If I didn’t have them, I know I would not make myself get up and out. Not only do we walk, we also go to agility practice most Saturday mornings – even now in the hot August Texas summer heat. Last week, between the two dogs, I ran 6 or 8 complete courses. I have to sit down between runs and catch my breath, but I can still run! Thank you, Jesus!!! I am blessed.

For the first few months, I refused to buy anything for myself. I didn’t want to spend any money on someone who was short for this earth. I finally broke down and purchased several pairs of slacks and lots of little summer tops (admittedly, the tops have all come from Walmart or Sam’s, but still!). I’ve signed up for magazines that have subscriptions that run for a year. I’ve signed up for dog trials and photography classes.

On the other hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed listening for hours to the Gaither Vocal Band. Some of their videos make you happy; make you want to clap and sing along with them. I looked into going to a concert of theirs. There is a 3-day event in Tennessee over Memorial Day 2014 that sounds like a ton of fun. Tickets would amount to several hundred dollars. I have chosen not to invest despite the fact that really good seats are still available.

I’d really love to have a new car, too. But, I don’t want to purchase something long term that Robert might be stuck paying for without me here to help.

So, short term, there are not huge changes in my life. I can’t go to as many agility practices or trials because of stamina, desire not to spend excessive amounts of money, and a growing lack of interest. But, I have developed new interests that take a little less stamina (maybe), such as photography. Why can’t I ever find a cheap hobby??!!

I have more to say, but it is getting late and I have to get moving early in the morning. I’ll try to revisit here a whole lot sooner than I have been so far!