Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 30

Conversations with a 5 year old

In the kitchen this morning:

Meg: Laurie, do you want to watch a scary movie with me?
Me: No, thank you. But you can watch it by yourself if you want to.
Meg: But....
Me: I don't really like scary movies, is why.
Meg: But moms don't get scared.
Me: I'm not a mom, so I still get scared.
Meg: What?
Me: I'm not a mom.
Meg: Yes you are.
Me: No, I'm not. You have to have kids to be a mom and I don't have kids.
Me: Nope.
Meg: Why not?
Me: Because I don't. I never have. ... I don't have a husband, either.
Meg: I don't understand this.

Sitting in chairs at the bookstore while Julie was in line for customer service:

Meg, leaning into me, running her hand over my upper arm: This is squishy.
Me: I know. I'm squishy everywhere. See? (As I poked into my squishy stomach, squishy arms and squishy legs. ... Meg's mom is rail thin, so the child has no concept of squishy women.)
Meg: Wow
Me:  I know! Come here, and hug me.

She came over and leaned into my chest, wrapped her arms around my middle and squeezed. I pushed against her hands so she could feel how squishy my sides and back are. She giggled and hugged me tighter, and then, pulling away...

Meg: It's okay that you're squishy, because you're so beautiful.

At the store, after spending ten minutes trying on shirts while Julie checked out:

Meg: You were right, I like to go to the store now.
Me: Because we got to try on shoes and clothes?
Meg: Because Laurie is here.

I love this child! (And not only because she keeps telling me how pretty I am, usually while she's running her finger over the moles on my chin. Silly girl.)

Family, specifically my little cousins, make me happy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August 29

I want to send a Thank You card to all the world.

I'm not kidding. I want to. I need to. ... It is the only thing that I can do that comes anywhere near expressing the gratitude that I feel towards you. And you. And you.

I lead a charmed life. I always have. I have always been close to my family, both immediate and extended. I have always had dear friends who have blessed my life. I have been so lucky to have known so many good people in every town/city I have ever lived in, and I have been fortunate in that I've been able to keep and maintain so very many of the relationships I've made over the years.

People have always been the most important commodity in my life. My friends have defined me for the past 30+ years. But this summer, you have saved me.

Thank you.

Thank you, to my friends. And to the friends of my friends. Your kindness, your generosity, your hard work in fundraisers, your donations and ceaseless emails, texts and FB posts have saved me. Your love has changed me, and I will be indebted to you for the rest of my life.

Thank you, from the very bottom of my heart. I love you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27 - Late

One of my very best and favorite childhood friends posted this picture on her Facebook profile tonight. It spoke volumes to me.

I love the vibrant colors. I love the encouragement to be grateful, to appreciate every good thing, to live life. Every day.

Today was a physical therapy day.

Which you know means that my arm/shoulder is killing me now. (Seriously, you should hear my shoulder blade crackle as I lift my right arm above my head. The good news is that my shoulder appears to be in working order. Now, I'm working on the muscles along, under and across my shoulder blade. We're hoping that my next PT appt will be my last PT appt. How awesome would that be?!)

Also, if you're any kind of a regular reader, you know that a PT day is an MD Anderson day. And as much as I don't love the sensation of having Lee pull my arm out of my socket and across my body to stretch my tendons out, I do so love that I have the opportunity to go to physical therapy. I'm so grateful that there are ways to fix broken and tired bodies. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have had to get treatment in such a beautiful facility, with such excellent staff.

I am so grateful for my own poor health. It may not be perfect scenario, but it's sure not worst scenario, either.

I made two new friends at MD today, while we were waiting for the receptionist to finish her paperwork so she could check us in. (The cute and little one who walked with a cane complimented me on my purse. You know that endeared me to her, right off!) My two new friends are both in their sixties. One of them is a breast cancer survivor, 16 years out. (I can hardly wait 15 years and 10 months so I can say the same thing!) Her step-daughter and two grandchildren have died of complications of fibroid tumors. She has a granddaughter, not two years old, who has a tumor growing behind her eye. They aren't sure yet if it will kill her. ... I cannot imagine what that sweet woman is going through. My other new friend is dying. Her cancer started in her throat. They thought they got it all, but it metastasized to her colon and then spread to her lungs and now it's in her brain. I just wanted to hug her, because she is happy. She is a kindred spirit, because she noticed my purse and commented on the patent leather. I love her. I love both of them. We talked before my treatment for a while, and then afterwards, I got out at the same time they did and we walked to the elevators and down to the parking lot together. And while we walked and talked, one of them said the most interesting thing...

They felt badly for me, because I am young.

I don't feel badly for me, because I am young. My body may be a lot slower than it was a few years ago. I may hurt in places that I shouldn't hurt, and I may have digestive issues that I never would have thought possible prior to 2010, but I am young. I have time on my side, and of all the cancers in all the world to have, I happened to grow one of the very few malignant tumors that aren't likely to metastasize. Ever.

I am young. (Well, relatively. I mean, I did have a 20 year high school reunion this summer, but in the grand scheme of things, esp when I'm sitting in a cancer treatment center, I am young.) My body will heal faster than my 60, 50 or even 40 yr old counterparts will. Time is on my side, in that there may be a cure in my lifetime. (Bring on the stem cell research!) I am so blessed.

I am so blessed, in that I have always had skilled and dedicated doctors on my side. I am so blessed, in that I have had opportunities, through surgeries and treatments, to meet people whose journeys are different (and, I think, much more difficult) than my own.

I am so grateful for my new friends - for so very many cancer patients I have met along the way - because they give me perspective that I would not have had without them.

People, life is good. Even when in it is hard, and/or when The Plan seems like crap, life is good. There are good people, and good things all around us. Enjoy them. Every day.

August 27

To be read in a creepy, sing-songy voice... I'm ba-aaaack!

Did ya miss me?

My internet was out all week last week. Weird, right? It was annoying for a day, and then I adjusted. I got busy. I didn't even think to try logging on for three days in a row. It was actually kind of nice to have a vacation from my internet-based lifestyle (you know, with the blogging and/or Netflix watching, it turns out that I had been using the internet probably a little too much). And then today, I missed having a computer, so I called the nice people at Cox and got myself all fixed up.

And thus... I return to you from my six day foray into the world as it was prior to the internet. (I read a lot last week. A. Lot. As in, a book a day for multiple days. Also, I went out and had meals with actual (not virtual) friends, and spent an afternoon with my brother.) Last week was a great week. Being internet-free was excellent, in that it helped me realize that I need to literally unplug a little more often.

That being said, having the internet back is also excellent. I have my voice (that is, my fingernails clicking away on a keyboard) again. Ahhhhhhh... I do love that sound.

Of course, I don't really have a whole heck of a lot to say. But I'm gonna waste some time (both yours and mine) and type a bunch of stuff anyway. (I mean, if we're gonna get back into the swing of things here, we're gonna do it right!)

What you've missed over the last week:

Not much.

A) I've survived working part-time. (So far, that is.) Last week was easier than the first week. I'd posted about my first day of work going better than I'd thought it would or expected it to. (Wasn't that a great report? I was thrilled!) Too bad that "easier than I thought it would be" only lasted for the one day. The second day in that first week, I wanted (read: needed) to lie down before 9:00 AM. The third day, I woke up in extreme pain that didn't go away until the weekend. Awesome. The second week went a little better, in that it wasn't until the fourth day of the work week that I thought my body may have broken in my sleep. Luckily, this week is a short week (I am Utah bound tomorrow night), so I should be able to get through this week without the back pain that comes along with being mobile and productive in the mornings, specifically: sitting in a chair, clicking on a mouse and sifting through loan files that are three inches deep in paper.

B) I watched the Batman trilogy. Yup, you read that right. TRILOGY. (And it was about time, too!) I wasn't able to see The Dark Knight Rises when it first came out in the theaters, due to my inability to breathe like a normal person. I needed to wait for my respiratory system (and... uh... anxiety level) to course correct, so I could handle the theater experience. I am pleased to report that I did not have one single freakout during the entire movie (though my jaw did literally drop more than once, Kirk was with me and he can attest that this is truth). ... Of course, I still think The Dark Knight is the best of the three. (I can't help it. I freaking love that movie. - And no, I don't only love it because Bruce Wayne is a rich and pretty boy for the entirety of the second movie in the trilogy (read: no prison scenes), though that's certainly never going to hurt his cause.) Dark Knight Rises was good. I mean, it was epic, in the true sense of the "all encompassing, story coming full circle" definition of the word. But I prefer the stark dark v. light themes in Dark Knight. I love that Batman takes the fall for something he didn't do, because the city couldn't find out they'd had faith in the wrong man. I love that he can't let their faith be destroyed, because that would mean The Joker won. The Dark Knight is a thing of beauty to me, in that Bruce sacrifices everything for the good of the people and city that he loves. The "set the dogs on me" speech at the end of Dark Knight gives me the chills (and makes me cry). Every time. Without fail.

Ahhhhh... The Batman. What's not to love?! (Except, uh... maybe the prison scenes. As much as it pains me to say it, Christian Bale has some bizarre facial hair and it troubles me when he's not clean-shaven and pretty.)

And... uh, yeah. That's about it. Working four hours a day and watching Batman. That's all I do.

Now you're all caught up on what I've been doing since I was last able to write. I'll see what I can do to come up with something more lively and exciting in the next week or so... Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 19

I went to church today.


That's right, I am growing up, getting better and making an honest effort to re-enter the real world.

I went. I sat (in the back, by myself, keeping to my usual routine of sitting on the end of a row, and then blocking myself off by keeping an appropriately placed hymnal on the chair next to me so no one could get actually sit by me... leadership sort of hates that I isolate myself so, but I get claustrophobic in the middle of a pew and haaaaaaaate having people who I don't love like family sitting close enough to touch me). I smiled and waved (just call me Princess Di) at some friends in the congregation who had noticed I was there. I sang.

It was glorious. ... Until I started to get really tired and uncomfortable, about 30 minutes in. (Final decision made: I am out as soon as this meeting is over.)

And as soon as the meeting was over, I made a beeline for the door. Too bad a good ten women made a beeline for me at the exact same moment. I stood there with my arms up in a defensive motion, saying "No touching!". Too bad not everyone wanted to hear that and I had a couple sweet women come up from behind and glom onto me. Bless them. ... I so should have practiced talking like a prison guard more. I think maybe I need to say "NO TOUCHING" in all caps. Bother.

As it was, I got out of there with only three people having touched me, which I'm considering a colossal win.

Mind you, I still came home, clorox wiped the door knob where I'd touched it with my "church people" hands, lysoled the donation slips and envelopes I'd brought home with me and proceeded to wash my hands and face with anti-bacterial soap. Twice. ... Yes, I'm a little more OCD than usual right now. Before you judge me, just remember that I lost a spleen a couple months ago and have already seen evidence that my immune system isn't what it used to be. A girl can't be too careful. (And I happen to really, really enjoy the linen scented Lysol.)

After I'd deloused the place (by which I mean: doorknob), I ate a couple peaches (it's August... that's what I eat in August) and lied down on the couch. I was out like a light in under 30 minutes and slept for almost four hours.

I was able to go to church, see some friends, sing some songs, eat some peaches and take a nap today. I'm calling this Sunday a success!

Friday, August 17, 2012

August 17

A few random thoughts I've had over the last week or so that I thought I would share with the www:

- With Dr. G having taken all the guts (and the fat) out of the left side of my body, I am now skinnier on one side than the other. (It's not obvious when I have clothes on; but when it's just me and the mirror, sometimes I have to laugh out loud.) And what with physical therapy focusing on my right arm, I realized the other night that, if I'm not careful, I'm going to end up looking like that freak in Lady in the Water. (You know, the one with a lopsided body.) So now I am lifting a can of beans with my left arm, too. I figure this way, my upper body will be the same on both sides, even if my waist isn't.

- It has occurred to me that it's very possible that Dr. H may have told me that he loves me, and even proposed, when he visited me in the hospital (twice!), and I was too drugged to respond appropriately. I should probably clarify, at my next appointment, that if this did, in fact, take place and I either continued sleeping (or worse, went off on one of my paranoid rants - pain/drug related post-surgery psychosis is no walk in the park, I tell you!), that he should say it/ask me again. I mean, just in case he's been feeling the part of a spurned lover/doctor, he should know that I wasn't in my right mind and that if he asked again, I'd say yes. (Jo agrees with me. I think she just wants him to come to Sunday dinner so she can talk to him about his homeland, but I'll take all the support I can get in my (I know, imaginary) relationship with Dr. H.)

- Cancer has taken over my brain. (Figuratively. Literally, it took over my retroperitoneum, my kidney, my spleen, part of my colon and part of my diaphragm. To my knowledge, my brain is cancer-free. It's just a little more warped that it used to be. ... And it was bad enough the way it was, thanks.) I went to the grocery store the other day and there was a ridiculously attractive bald man in the lane next to me. I looked at him. He looked back at me. And all I could think was "I wonder if it was chemo?". No "Hi... Hello... How YOU doin'?". Nope, I just stared at his beautiful bald head and wondered if he was a cancer patient. Ugh, Evans, get a grip. (I really should keep up on the flirting - or, at the very least, making polite conversation - until my plans for Nathan or Dr. H come to fruition. Honestly!)

And I've decided that's probably enough sharing of what goes on inside my head. For today, anyway. Be sure to check back tomorrow. By then, I could have very well had three (or more) very similar thoughts/experiences. ... I do what I can to keep it lively here at Cancer Girl Central.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 16

My arm hurts. A lot. I will tell you why.

First things first, I went back to work this week and had to read (or... uh... scan and then promptly delete) about 1,000 emails. That's a lot of mouse clicking. I hadn't clicked a mouse in eight weeks, and it turns out that the repetitive motion of pressing down my index and/or middle finger for 2+ hours took a toll.

Another work related arm issue is the driving. My sad little arm twinges anytime that I need to turn my steering wheel, and I've gone from staying within a 3 mile radius of my house (to go to the grocery store, Chick-fil-A (I do love me some fried chicken!), and Jo's) to driving an hour or more in the round trip to work and back.

Oh, and the lifting and flipping of paper isn't helping shoulder any, either.

What I'm telling you is, my arm hurts. A lot. ... And differently than it used to.

I had my  physical therapy appointment this afternoon, and it turns out that it's not just work that's making my shoulder hurt. Oh, no. It's not work. ... I mean, work (and the having to use my arm more than I have been) is a small part of what's going on, but beyond that, it seems that the swelling/post-surgery stress that's been keeping my arm stuck to my side for the last eight weeks has gone down. When I had the swelling, my shoulder couldn't move in the socket. There was a little glitch in the system, sort of a cartilage blockage that wouldn't allow the bone to move into the socket and make a full turn. ... Well, the swelling's gone down. And I've been developing and using my muscles, but I don't have full/tight muscle control. So, what I have happening now is that I can use my muscles to lift my arm, but I can't hold it up, because the bone goes into the socket, but can't stay there. It just slides right out and across the back. That's right. Bone on bone. Every time I lift my arm.

No wonder my arm hurts, right?!

Between the sore and over-worked muscles that I've been using to click on the mouse, turn my steering wheel and flip papers over vs. the bone-on-bone slippage when I force my arm over my head, my gimpy arm is gimpier than ever.

After some serious arm pulling, twisting and a deep tissue massage this afternoon by said physical therapist, I am semi-lame. The good news? She was able to work most of the clicks and gristle out of my arm with all of her pulling, pushing and twisting, and she taught me some new tricks that I can use to pull and hold my arm where it needs to go so I can get better.

I so love physical therapy, btw! (Have I mentioned that? I can't remember.) I so enjoy the therapist. She's incredibly friendly and easy going, and she gives me all kinds of information about what's going on with my body (and why). She's teaching me how to leverage my body against itself, so I can help it heal. (It is fascinating to me, how with a very simple set of tools - soup cans (as weights) and pillows (to adjust height/support) - I can strengthen both my gimpy arm and my currently non-existent core.) I love that I get a full hour of hands-on therapy. I love that she takes the time to teach me things, and can answer every question I've thrown at her about how bodies work. I love that she gives me suggestions of what I could/should be eating, so my digestive system can get used to its new life. I love that she talks to other doctors in the facility about me, so she can get the best idea of how she can best help me with my colon issues. She is super fantastic, and she has helped me so much - even (or esp) on the days that she makes me hurt.

And speaking of the hurting, my body is shooting warning signals at me that it is done with the typing for today. So, I shall stop with the typing. I think that I'll go for a walk, and then come home and lie on my left side (not my right) and watch some Leverage while I wait for my arm to return to its former glory. Or, you know, until I fall asleep. Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August 14

Today was a good day. It started with a morning walk at 6:00, during which I got to watch the sun rise. It ended with an evening walk at 7:00, during which I got to watch the sun set. (I'd like to report that I set a new personal best in time, btw. I walked a mile in 28 minutes today. ... I know that this sounds less than impressive to most of you, but I haven't been able to do that walk in under 30 minutes for over two months, so this is progress.)

Also, I went back to work today. And... (drumroll, please) it didn't kill me. It made me a little more achy, a bit more sore, and a lot more tired than sitting at home and reading has been making me, but it didn't kill me. I did really well, sitting in my chair, reading my emails and putting a loan file together, until about 11:30. That's an hour or two earlier than I usually want (read: need) to lie down, but considering that I woke up at 5:30 this morning instead of my I'm-not-working 7:00, and then went to work and did more, physically, than I have in eight weeks, I'm considering it a win. I had to pick up a prescription at the WalMart after work, and then I came home and crashed. Literally. I fell asleep on my couch, watching TV, and slept the afternoon away. ... Something I haven't been able to do since July 25th. (Yes, I keep track of that sort of thing.)

It appears that the upside of getting up early, taking a shower, putting real clothes on and going to work, sitting in a desk chair and being hunched over a loan file is that it yields the result of nap time returning to my daily life. This is a blessed relief. I think I'll go back tomorrow.

*And for any of you who may be having a freakout that I'm back at work already (a surprising number of people think that this summer has gone by really quickly and it's not possibly time that I could/should be back at work), let me put your minds at ease and say... I am back at work, but with modified hours. I'll have six weeks to ease back into my full time schedule. I'm working 4 hours a day for the first four weeks, 5 hours a day in the fifth week and 6 hours a day in week six. I'll go back full time the last week of September. (Prior to surgery, I'd talked to my doctors about how long I'd need to be out both full and part time. We'd talked about 6-8 weeks full time (and I needed all 8 weeks, because let me tell you... I was still walking with the walker in week 6 and didn't drive until week 7. I can't imagine how hard this day would have been a week or two ago) and 4-6 weeks part time after surgery. The graduated hours were a suggestion from my physical therapist,. I've had between 5-8 weeks part time after my prior surgeries, but I've always gone from half to full days at the end of the part time period, and it's been brutal. I'm quite sure that the gradual return will make the adjustment monumentally easier.)

As I said earlier, this has been a good day. I was able to spend time in nature, at my two favorite times of the day, no less. I was able to see my friends and co-workers, whom I love. I was able to re-enter my "normal" life, even if it was just for a few hours. I got to take a nap, after which I ate a ginormous bowl of watermelon for dinner.

Today has been a really good day. Really, really good. Here's hoping for another one of those tomorrow, nap and all!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 12

Last night, I went to a birthday party. That's right, I was social. ... For about two hours. After I'd spent the day on my couch, resting, so I'd have enough energy to go to said party. (Listen, it had been publicized that there would be waffles and other breakfast food at this party (you know how I do love bacon). Also, single men.)

So, I went to the party. Spent some time talking to the birthday girl, who is a perfectly delightful person. Spent some time talking to other friends, whom I hadn't seen or talked to since a few weeks prior to surgery. Spent some time making some new friends.

And I ate breakfast food:

1) Eggs, which I know I can handle. (We all know that I eat eggs on a regular basis. I swear, I either have eggs or fried chicken every single day of my life. What can I say? I'm a huge fan of the chicken-based food group.)

2) Bacon, which I soooo want to be able to handle, so I like to try it out every other week... just to see if I've been able to make improvement on that front.

3) A corner piece of a waffle, piled high with strawberries and peaches, in hopes that the fruit would counteract the effects of the white flour that I was about to put into my body.

I am pleased to report that I didn't suffer any immediate results of having ingested both my beloved bacon and a waffle square at said party.

I am less pleased to report that my stomach woke me up just before 4:00 this morning with its audible gurgling and groaning, as it is currently trying to process the breakfast food that I ate for dinner last night. (When I was in the hospital, one of the nurses made a comment along the lines of "Most people would kill for bowel sounds like that!". For the record, I am not "most people". I'd much rather have a quiet and peaceable digestive system, thanks.)

Which brings me to this morning's Pollyanna moment: The good news is that my stomach isn't waking me up like this all the time anymore. (It was like this every day, after every meal or snack, up until about two weeks ago.) My guts are improving and getting stronger. This is good news. I just need to lay off the waffles (and, sadly... bacon) for a while, which is doable (even if it is a  bit of a bummer).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August 9

A timeline of the recent Thursdays in my life:

9 weeks ago: June 7th

Jo drove me to MD Anderson for my 90 day scan. The CT that revealed my new little friend. (Yeah, that's what I call the grapefruit-sized guy that cost me my spleen, a foot of my colon and the corner of my diaphragm. My left kidney was always gonna go, because it had been touched by too many tumors, but the other organs were impacted directly by my new little friend, aka: Tumor #4).

8 weeks ago: June 14th

I had dinner with my friend Kimmie. We laughed, we cried. We talked about cancer and boys and how glad we are that both of us have healthy enough self-esteems that we can eat an entire pizza and still feel awesome about ourselves. She is one of my happiest friends, and four hours with her - and Mama Spinato's spinach calzone - were exactly what I needed at that point in my life.

7 weeks ago: June 21st

Surgery. By which I mean: left nephrectomy, partial colectomy, splenectomy, excission of two liposarcoma tumors, hernia repair and a general removal of all fatty tissue on the left side of my body. Oh, and I also lost a 5x5 centimeter portion of my diaphragm. It was ugly. And it was painful. I mean, this surgery (and the recovery thereof) redefined the word pain. (And I really thought I'd known pain before. It turns out that I hadn't. At all.)

An aside: When I asked my friend Google how to spell nephrectomy (I'm just getting used to this word, and heaven forbid I commit the grievous sin of a typo here at Grammar Nazi Central), the following quote popped on one of the hits, "An open nephrectomy is highly invasive (as you can well imagine), and recovery is longer than if done laparoscopically." .... Uhhhhhh... ya think? I laughed out loud. (I can do that now. It's awesome!)

6 weeks ago: June 28th

I ate solid food for the first time, post-surgery. I don't even remember what it was, but I remember wishing that it was the Dilled Salmon from the hospital that I had my first two surgeries in. (Seriously, I loved that stupid fish. One of the best fish dishes I've ever had in my life, and it came out of a hospital cafeteria. That's nuts.)

5 weeks ago: July 5th

It stopped raining, and I could breathe again. ... It rained all day on the 4th, and my lungs were not doing well with the wet, humid air. The more it rained, the harder it was for me to take a breath. I went to bed that night, literally afraid for my life. (Not only because it was difficult to breath, but because the 4th of July is one of my Top Two Most Wanted Death Dates (the other is my birthday, because I love to see headstones with a birth and death date on the same day... makes it really easy to calculate how old a person was, and I love that), and I was a little nervous that I had survived surgery only to die on one of the Top Two Dates.

An aside: So, yes, I'm a little bit morbid, I know, with my Top Two Most Wanted Death Dates. (Also, my lifelong desire to have a wig made of my own hair if and when I should have to do chemo and have it all fall out.) But these are things that I think about, and let's face it... if I think about it, I write about it.

An additional aside: Yes, I like to walk cemeteries and look at headstones. Cemeteries are incredibly peaceful places to me. I love the history, the monuments, the epitaphs, the love that is all around me in a cemetery. (Two of my favorite vacation days ever were spent combing through historic cemeteries in Kentucky with my friend Shannon.)

A further aside: I know what songs I want to have sung at my funeral, and who I want to speak. (In my defense, this has nothing to do with the cancer. I've been planning my funeral for over 20 years. The musical numbers and speakers have rotated a little over time, but I've been planning The Big Event since I was a kid. It's up there with the wig, when it comes to life events that I want to control.)

4 weeks ago: July 12th

I had my follow-up with the surgeon. I got to read the pathology report. The margins were positive.

This is not what I had wanted to hear, but understood that Dr. G had done everything he could do. He is the second doctor who's saved my life by cutting cancer out of me, and I'll love him for that, forever. (Even if he did call me "punky". Punk.)

3 weeks ago: July 19th

Mom's birthday. Brea drove over to surprise her and we went to lunch at Logan's. I ordered a bowl of potato soup and ate almost half of it. ... Brea had brought over a container of those little lemon bite cakes from Costco (absolute heaven, I tell you!). I took two bites and almost gagged on the sugar that afternoon. Later that night, Mom was eating one and I asked for a bite, because I know that I love them. Again... gag. I haven't had sugar since. I don't even want it. (Who am I? I don't even know. But I will tell you that I am not throwing all of the frozen cake that's in my freezer out. I live in hope that there will come a day that I'll wake up craving chocolate Nothing Bundt cake, and I need it to be there for me when that day comes. Faith in every footstep. ... Or however that goes.)

2 weeks ago: July 26th

My nose started to run, my right ear hurt and my throat started to swell. How in the world I caught something when the only place I ever went was to the doctor's office is beyond me, but I was sick. I mean, S-I-C-K.

1 week ago: August 2nd

I (finally!) felt well enough to go on a walk. It was exhausting. It was really hard work. I could hardly breathe, and it took almost an hour to walk a mile (again). But I was outside, and I was walking. And both of those things made me really happy.

Today: August 9th

I'm driving. Not far, because it hurts my right shoulder like you would not believe to have to spin the steering wheel, but I am driving. I've only taken pain meds three times today. (Like, since I woke up at 6:00 AM. That's 17 hours and counting. This is amazing to me.) My stomach is still weak - both internally and externally. I have to be really careful what I eat, so as not to upset the very (VERY) delicate balance I have going with the wheat bagels and the fried chicken. I'm starting to do very (VERY) minimal exercises (as per my physical therapist) to strengthen the abdominal muscles that I lost seven weeks ago. I wake up feeling pretty good, usually between 6:00 and 7:00. I eat my first breakfast as soon as I wake up, and then I go for a walk. Sometimes my back starts to hurt while I'm walking, sometimes the back pain doesn't show up until about 10:00 AM. (Once the pain shows up, it stays until I'm able to go to sleep at night. It only leaves after a full night's sleep, and the most I have is four hours a day without it.) I'm able to get around my apartment pretty well in the morning, but by 1:00, I need to lie down. For the rest of the day. Most nights, I'm able to go on a walk in the evening, but it depends on both how much my back hurts and what I've eaten. (I try, once or twice a week, to vary from the bland diet and I'll eat something out of my current norm... just to see if I can handle it. On Tuesday, for example, I ate cilantro. Gigantic, huge, monstrous mistake. I was sick from about 2:00 in the afternoon until way past my normal bedtime. Lesson learned, and I am back to fried eggs and toast.)

The good news is... I like fried eggs and toast. As weird and limited as my diet is these days, and as much as I do not love the constant back pain, I know that my body is getting better and stronger every week. And I know that it will keep getting better, and it will keep getting stronger.

As I look back on the last several weeks of my life, I am so grateful for modern medicine, for the miracle of narcotics as pain relievers, for the doctors and nurses (and my own sweet mother) for taking care of me when I was in the hospital. I'm grateful for markers that show improvements from week to week. I'm grateful for friends and family who've gone way, way out of their way to serve me in so very many ways. I'm grateful to the www for helping me spread the word that I needed help, and for the many, many people who've shared their faith, their prayers, and sometimes their hard-earned dollars with me. I'm so grateful for the outpouring of love that I have been privileged to receive. I'm grateful for the sure knowledge that people are good and kind and generous. I am grateful that my heart has been changed, and that my capacity to feel, receive and share love has been enlarged.

I am grateful for the last nine weeks of my life. As hard - and as long - as some (okay, most ... just kidding, all) of those weeks have been, I would not give that time back or trade the experience for anything in the world. It has been hard. Recovering from surgery - and having to live with the reality of the C word  - is hard. But the strengthening of my spirit and the overwhelming love and peace that I feel has been worth it. At the end of the day - at the end of this nine week juncture - I made it. ... Now, here's to hoping that the next nine weeks are all downhill!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August 7

My mom left on Sunday.

She was with me for over six weeks. And when I say "with" me, I mean it literally. She stayed at the hospital with me, sleeping on the pseudo-couch in my hospital room, subbing in for the nurses in every way that she possibly could. (It's true. They actually offered her a job because she was so diligent in charting how often I went to the bathroom, down to the cc's yielded each time.) We were in the hospital for 12 days. She came home from the hospital with me and slept on my couch for over a month. She ran my errands, she bought my groceries, she tied my shoelaces when I couldn't bend over. She did my laundry, she set an alarm to get up in the night to give me my medicine, she warmed up my soup and fried my eggs - every day. She made me laugh, and she let me cry. She listened to me. She took care of me. And the whole time she was here, she said that she was happy to be here. Time and again, I'd hear "How lucky are we, to get to spend this much time together? Who else gets this?!".

I love her.

My mother is the kindest, most selfless woman that I'm sure I'll ever know. She is the best nurse, chauffeur, personal shopper and window washer on the face of the earth. She even washed my porches the day before she left, because she knows that I am neurotic enough to be bothered by dirt swirls on cement.

I'm so grateful for the time that I've had with my nursemaid mother over the last two months. (Okay, over the last two years. But most recently, the last two months.) She is, indeed, a really really nice Mormon lady.

Thanks, Mom, for coming. And for staying. I love you!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August 5

Yesterday was a red letter day, in that I put makeup on for the first time in over six weeks.

That's right. Makeup.

Wednesday, last week, I looked in a mirror... and for the first time in the six weeks since surgery thought "I should put some mascara on". It took three more days for me to actually DO my makeup and/or hair, but it's good to feel - and look - a little more like me.

As many of you readers may know, I do not wash my face before I go to bed (it is rumored that this may be the reason why I'm still single), so it stands to reason that I woke up this morning with mascara on. And then I promptly went to the bathroom and put my contacts in. No glasses for two consecutive days in a row. I haven't done that since mid-June. ... Gosh, it's nice to look in a mirror and see myself looking back at me. Short of the angry red scar on my neck (where they punched a hole in my jugular), I am as good as new.

And goodness gracious, do I have big eyes. ... I'd forgotten how much bigger they are when I have makeup on.

Almost big enough that I can tell myself that I look like my grammy.


Other random things I haven't done in six weeks: my hair and my nails. I realized on Wednesday, when the perma-bun started to bug, that my hair had been in a bun since June 21st, save two days (one of which, it was in a braid). I painted both my fingernails and toenails the night before I had surgery. Jo took me for a pedicure about three weeks ago, but my fingernails have been barely scraping by (pardon the pun) on six week old nail polish.

I stripped my old nail polish off this morning and repainted all ten of my fingernails. My hair is down. My contacts are in. I have mascara on. ... I may not FEEL exactly like my old self, but I'm (finally) starting to look like her again, and I'll take a win wherever I can find one.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August 2

Reunited, and it feels so good....

Just kidding. It didn't really feel all that great, but I did it anyway.

That's right, I took the walker out for a spin this morning. (Something I hadn't done since last Thursday night's walk.) I tell you what, getting sick on top of recovering from surgery was not a good idea. (Like I planned it.) I've been so tired and weak that walking from my recliner to my kitchen sink and back would wind me, so I called it quits on the walking for a while. But yesterday afternoon I started to breathe a little bit easier, and when I woke up this morning, I thought I'd see if I was up to a little walk down the block.

It turns out that I was. (Sorta.) Mom and I walked our almost-a-mile walk, and I did it in just over 30 min. (I know that still sounds pathetic to most of the free world, but I'm telling you that it used to take an hour to walk that route, so I'm considering it a win. Esp after having been able to nothing but sit/lie still since Friday of last week.)

And yes, this is a new/different walker than I've had in years past. As you may recall, that walker had a few... uhm... issues. Having to replace the tennis balls on a regular basis being one of them. The morning after I came home from the hospital (one month ago today, thankyouverymuch), Mom and I went for a walk around the grounds at my apartment complex and my walker was ALL OVER THE PLACE. (Seriously. It wouldn't drive in a straight line. One end seemed a little higher than the other. The wheels kept sticking.) On our way back to my apartment, she said "Let's put Dad on a new walker before he leaves town". And so we did. And what a beaut this new walker is, with her wire basket, 8 inch wheels and metallic red paint... I love her! (Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to being walker-free in the next two weeks, as I prepare to go back into the real - working - world... at least part time, but I have love-love-LOVED having this new walker!) Having four (count them, 8 inch) wheels instead of two itty-bitty wheels and tennis balls has been such a blessing.

Thanks, Mom & Dad, for buying me such a sweet ride! ... When I was 37 and needed a new walker. ... You're the best!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August 1

Do you remember my having posted about Kimmie's car wash last month?

Well, it happened.

And it was wildly successful.

Between my fabulous friends who supported the event, strangers that Kimmie & Co were able to flag down and ask for donations, and a sweet, sweet homeless pan who emptied his pockets when he was told that they were washing cars to help their friend who's fighting cancer...


That car wash raised enough to pay my rent this month. 

Exactly enough to pay my rent.

I thank the Lord all the time for the people in my life, and for the good people in the world. I firmly believe that if you give people the benefit of the doubt, and an opportunity to be kind, 9 times out of 10, they will be.
A big, fat THANK YOU goes out to my friends, a lot of really nice strangers and one sweet homeless man for paying my rent this month. I love you all, even if I haven't ever met you. Thank you.