Monday, August 30, 2010

Changes in the air

As I sit here this early morning, window open to the quiet murmurings of the new day, I realize that life changes, slowly before our very eyes.

The golden mornings of summer are being replaced with the cooler air of a changing season. Autumn is on the way.

And so this past week brought changes to my diagnose as well. With the addition of a liver surgeon came more tests, two this week, a 3D CT scan and then a few days later a call came with the results. They saw more spots and wanted me to have an MRI as soon as possible. So at 8 PM on Wednesday evening Clint & I traveled downtown to Jeff for an MRI with attention to the liver, the order said.

Now anyone who has had a MRI knows that it is not a fun experience. I would much rather be traveling downtown for dinner and drinks but that was not to be. As I lay in that tube trying to breath and relax, I looked around at the clouds painted on the walls and the palm tree rising above my head. They try hard to make it as pleasant as possible and I guess I was suppose to imagine I was laying on a beach somewhere. Yea, a beach with a construction site! That banging sound the MRI machine makes as it takes your picture kind of makes it hard to believe you are on a beach!!!! 

The Doctor called late Friday afternoon.
He told me that the tests are very sensitive and that now they see liver involvement on both sides of my liver. He discussed this news with both my Colon surgeon and my Chemo oncologist and now they will put their heads together over this past weekend and call me on Monday (today) with a new and different course of action.

He explained that I will have to have more chemo ... this time aimed at the liver. He didn't have all of the answers just yet. A whole weekend to digest this new development! Oh goodie!

So I did what I knew would take my mind of this!

I gathered the four grand kids and went down the beach overnight. My daughter Tina, her husband Rick, Christopher~ 6 years old, Brandon and Finn both 4 years old and Gavin- 20 months, Clint and I ... off to North Wildwood. Where the sun and the sand and babies playing in the surf took my mind off of tests and diagnose. Where the tilt-a-world and the teacups on the boardwalk spin you senseless.  Where fudgy wudgies and sand castles rule!
We had a blast! as the kids called my name hundreds of times and we built sandcastles and buried our feet in the sand all thoughts of MRI's and Cancer melted away in the late summer sun.

I am not sure what is a head of me. Hopefully some answers will come by the end of today.
I am trying not too think too much. Just enjoy each day, each morning, each sunrise and the laughter of those beautiful kids!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tears for my Tree

Majestic is the word that comes to mind.

Standing tall for over 70 years~maybe more. The huge Silver Maple will always be with me. I woke up to it's shimmery silver tinted leaves in the early morning. Squirrels running from branch to branch, birds perched on it's graceful limbs. In winter the snow gathered in the Y of the biggest branches, my first indication of a snowy wintry day. My tree stood stately and majestic, casting a cool and protective shadow over my house.

In spring, the tree would come to life in what seemed like a few days, with new shoots, buds and leaves unfurling. I'd see my first Robin on a branch and the smaller birds would make a nest among the branches.
In summer our tree was lush with leaves and activities. In early June almost every year a family of raccoons would make it home in the hollow between two large limbs. As I napped with my grand kids in the early afternoons, we would fall asleep with our eyes turned towards the window hoping to see the baby raccoons venture out among the branches. They usually came out to play when the sun was setting and the sky became luminous with the light of dusk.

As autumn approached the leaves would start to turn yellow and the radiance of light would turn the tree to a golden shimmering Century standing guard before they started to float to the ground below and create a carpet. Thousand of leaves came from that tree. Piles and piles to run through, gather and celebrate fall.
Our tree did not lose it's majesty in winter. It stood tall and bare but very stately, guarding our house, shading from the sun, protecting it from harsh weather, swaying in a storm, it's branches rustling in the winds.

Everyday I would look out my bedroom window~ it was the first thing to see as I opened my eyes to the morning light. It filled the window with it's magnificence.
I loved this tree, it was massive with roots above the surface and a trunk so big around, 3 adults holding hands could not encircle it's base.
It stood to the left of my house, shading the lawn and providing relief from the sun in the sweltering days of summer.

Over the years the big tree was trimmed and lightened. At a glance you could see it was aging ... time was taking it's toll, the bark was peeling, dead branches would come down during summer storms. Part of the tree had no growth, it was in the twilight of it's life.

As each storm came barreling through over the seasons I would run to the front yard to look at the tree, gaze up to the branches praying none would fall. I would check the base of the tree, the roots would sit on the surface of my lawn and I would think to myself, someday soon this tree will not have the strength to remain standing.

It was a fear justified because of the age of the tree and also it's size. How would it fall? should I cut it down? that was something I had been putting off.. it was impossible for me to call someone to take the tree down, my tree~ I loved that tree too much... just give me one more season ~I couldn't imagine my tree not being there.  So I decorated it's base with pots of flowers and the most beautiful bird house, a wine box with a copper roof that Clint made for me, and I prayed for each storm to treat my tree gently.
But there is time for everything and much of it out of our control.

We left for our time away in Anguilla on a Saturday early morning. I woke up extra early to water my flowers and plants before going to the airport. As I stood outside with the hose in my hand, I turned to look up at my tree. I gazed upward through the branches, pass the squirrels and the bird house, through the abundant branches and leaves, I looked at the tree a long time thinking to myself it seemed to be leaning to one side, but it is a huge tree and maybe I was imagining it.

On a plane, on a beach miles and miles away.
The call came the very next day around 6 pm on a Sunday night .
"Mom, are you sitting down?" my daughter asked "no one is hurt but please sit down" and she told me. My tree fell down.
No one was hurt and nothing was damaged ~ that alone was a miracle. The street that I live on is an active one. Cars drive up and down constantly, people walk their dogs, stop and chat, runners jog by, walkers pass the house in a leisurely manner, but as the tree fell, quietly ... no one heard a sound...majestically ... it hurt no one, not a thing, but just laid itself down across my lawn and my neighbors driveway. Her car was not it the usual spot. The tree fell on a diagonal not touching the fire hydrant or the wires or poles that sit across from it.
Not hurting or harming anything but blocking the whole street. Commanding the respect and attention it deserved!
My tree laid down and I wasn't even there to see it, to whisper goodbye and thank you for 40 years of shelter and enjoyment and companionship. For the changing spectacle of season and the wildlife it brought to my doorstep, for guarding my home, my children and lending elegance to my home.
I loved my tree, the memories will now sustain me but I will never forget my tree.
A big gaping hole where it once stood proud and oh so tall.

Cars stopped, people gathered, neighbors took pictures, my tree fell and now the sun is shining brightly against my bedroom window, blazing the bricks a bright red. My home feels bare, my house unsheltered, the landscape is different. I will miss my Silver Maple and I give thanks for the many years it stood beside me, protected and shaded me.

It brought me such joy! I will miss it terribly!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Peels of Laughter

I started this week with some startling news.

Even if I was expecting it ~ it still shocked me and still does.
The thoughts that run through my head are constant despite a valiant effort NOT to think about it.

On Monday I realized what I needed to do. I needed to do what makes me happy...... if I am happy then that is what fills my mind and heart.
I realized I needed the sound of laughter... uninterrupted peels of laughter.... I needed grand kids!
I picked them up and we went to lunch... then to a place we call " the jumping place" not it's name but just what we call it!
I sat and watched them run and run~ sliding and slipping down tubes, up ladders, around and round ... and I heard peels of laughter.

Today, early this morning we rounded them up and headed to "The Please Touch Museum".. it was crowded but still lots to do and plenty to keep the kids going for almost 4 hours. Once again their peels of laughter made me smile.

Then I came home and we made dinner together... we lined up with aprons on and pasta boards in front of them .... making gnocchi!!! tons and tons of gnocchi ... they were fast learners and loved making gnocchi ... to this day it is my my favorite pasta of all!
We called and invited their parents and my parents and their other Nanny and Pop and even Mom- Mom came ... 15 around my large table... with food I just threw together... I loved doing it ... I haven't really cooked like this in a long time and I loved having the table overflowing with family.
And before it was all over tonight I heard more than once~Peels of laughter!

You know what???~ It was JUST what I needed!~Peels of Laughter!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


It was an incredibly long day... I was exhausted... we left at 7 AM yesterday morning for a 8:30 home about 6 PM.

We saw the Liver surgeon around 10 AM .. he took a look at the CT/PT scan from last week along with the report.

The news took me a bit by surprise! or maybe it didn't.... I was trying not to read or talk to anyone about this but I couldn't help it!  I wanted to at least be a little bit prepared for what he was going to tell me.
I knew this was serious when the first thing the surgeon said as he sat down was "You do know that the liver grows back? it rebuilds itself."

"I can take a look at your time of colon surgery and if it looks good, with no complications I can do it then."

As he sat with me and told me that the three spots they found are all on the right side, he told me that they will take out the RIGHT side of my liver! A whole side???? really??? I guess I was thinking he would go in with something like a melon scoop and just scoop out real nice the three spots, but no~ they want the whole side!

As I sat there trying to process this information so many questions came to mind: do you do it at the same time as the colon Doctor? do you just stand there scalpel in hand hovering over until the colon surgeon gets done? what? how? and namely why?????

He was calm, good & prepared to answer all my questions.

They won't know until they open me up if the liver operation can be done at the same time, he told me that these are BOTH two very serious operations by themselves and it would depend on a number of things, my health, can I be under anesthesia for that long a time, probably 3 to 4 hours for each operation. Also there has to be NO complications what-so-ever when the open me up. The scar will look like a hockey stick... from my groin to under my breastbone and then across to my side and around. WOW!~ a hockey stick.. my grand kids will be thrilled! How big is my liver? I asked "As big as a football" wow this guy is really into sports!

He wanted me to have another CT Scan as soon as possible this time one in 3-D so it would give him a road map of my veins and arteries, as they slice and burn as they go along. He told me it would be like a big bad scrape on your arm when he finished...OK

Now comes the good part~when I asked about recovery his response was serious as he looked me right in the eyes "No dieting!" yea like I was thinking of going on a diet! those of you who know me know I hate that word diet and anything low fat!!!

He told me that the liver takes a lot of energy to rebuild, so along with plenty of rest I need to consume a lot of carbohydrates~ eat pasta & bread my two favorite things to in the world!!! I am looking at the good side!
If the liver operation cannot be done at the same time as they take out part of my colon... the next step would be to recover from the first operation for about 8 weeks and then have the right side of my liver taken out.
My poor liver, I took such good care of my liver, never taking so much as an aspirin if I didn't absolutely need it, never drank myself into oblivion ~ although that sounds like a good idea now!

And so I was able to schedule my 3D CT Scan for 2 PM, we had 2 hours to kill, Wow! We can have lunch!!! always thinking! but no I had to fast for this test, so Clint &I drove around town in bumper to bumper traffic at noon in center city to try to pass the time.

I had my test which included a series of waiting in different rooms for about 3 hours total. We headed home around 5PM... what a long long day.

Another issue that came up, my bilirubin, (sounds like a country western singer to me) ~a liver function indicator is high... high enough to want me to go see a liver specialist before the operation is scheduled.

As I called to break the latest news, first to my kids, then my Mom & Dad and my brother & my sister,  I was OK. Still joking and looking at the lighter side.

I didn't break down until later that night, sitting with Clint in our darkened bedroom, the tears came then.  Fear is peaking out of the edges of my mind, nibbling at my confidence, shaking me to my roots.

It is hard not to think about what will happen, how I will feel, how long will I not feel like myself, how long will I be the hospital? how long to recover, how long with a bag attached to my side, how long ~why? how did this happen to me? all questions with no answers.

And so this morning I woke up .. took a deep breath and I will do what I have to do .. I am strong ... so many people tell me this each and everyday so it must be somewhat true. I have to believe this .. it is all I have.

So keep those good thought, prayers, good energy coming~~~ I need them! and a Martini!!!
(Jeeze I'll be an alcoholic before this is all over!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Roller coaster ride

I've been holding my breath for about a week now.

I started this week with my PT/CT scan and then blood work. The tests were done in the beginning of the week and both my doctors appointments were not in until the end of the week... that left the middle of the week filled with angst.
I kept myself busy but the anguish of waiting did catch up with me at unexpected moments.

I tried to analyze what I was feeling. Was it fear? hope? probably a combination of both and much more. It was almost worse than the initial diagnosis. I was waiting to find out how the tumor reacted to treatment and what was next.

The days of my doctors appointments are long... we leave the house around 9 in the morning and sometimes don't get home until 4 PM or so. The waiting rooms are just that ... waiting.. waiting... thinking.. thinking. The magazines are Cancer magazines, you just can't get away from it!

I know so many of you are praying for me and sending me good energy, hope & love during this time and I thank you! I truly need it and it helps me so much.

So, I will give you the good news first.

When the surgeon examined me his reaction was of complete delight! "I don't even see the tumor. I only see the scar where the tumor was!" He told me I had the BEST possible reaction to my treatment... couldn't have gone any better he said! He was ready to schedule my operation within these next two week... I will recover quickly he said... I am in great health.

Then he read the written report on the scans... a scowl came over his face. No NO NO he said..we need to address these spots on the liver! Spots??? what spots?
I was told oh- so many months ago that there was a minuscule dot on my liver that could be nothing... it was so small that when they sent me for a biopsy of the liver the doctor couldn't find the spot to biopsy so they just decided to go ahead and treat the colon and re-visit the liver after treatment.

Well it seems that the pesky little dot doubled in size and two more showed up to keep him company.
"If the cancer is to spread it it common for it to go to the liver." My oncologist told me today as he went through the report with me ... word for word... bless his heart!!!! those hours in the waiting room melted away as he took his time explaining the report and what it means and answering our questions over and over.

And so here I sit.. not knowing much more than I did in the beginning of the week other than.. now it is in the liver. (I think I need a drink~what the hell!) A double Martini~PLEASE!

Next week I will meet with another surgeon... this one a liver surgeon. He, hopefully will coordinate with my other surgeon (my-oh-my, so many doctors!) He will give me more information on what is going on (I hope!)

I am sitting at my desks with my rocks and fountain and crystals and ribbons and healing stones.
I am OK. I feel like~ it is what it is and I will do whatever I have to do. I will get through this. I am strong, I am positive, I have a wonderful support system and yes I can do this!

But first~ a double martini!!!~for the roller coaster ride!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Well this is the week. I came home from a wonderful relaxing time away.
Time away from stress, from doctors, from life in general and time away from Cancer.

I came home to a week's worth of tests & doctors appointments. Monday was the PT/CT scan. Tuesday was blood work. The results have been faxed to my doctors but not yet to me. The results of those tests must be given to me face to face on Thursday with the surgeon and Friday with the oncologist.

Today is Wednesday and I am in a holding pattern trying not to think. It is what it is and I will deal with whatever comes my way. Easier said then done that's for sure!!!

I felt so good while we were away. I said to Clint on more than one occasion"I am cured!!"
Hope does run eternal!

I came home to a pile of cards & notes, all wishing me well, prayers and positive thoughts from my friends, family & clients.

I came home to read a wonderful, inspiring article written about me by Ed Gebhart in The Sunday Daily Times.

I came home to my fight again... and after reading that article I realize that yes, I am strong and yes, I am a positive person and yes, I will be OK. It gave me a chance to see how others are looking at me and that is what is uplifting and inspiring to ME!

So I will write again ... after seeing my doctors and finding out what they have to say about the next step! And yes I will BREATH!!!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Healing in Anguilla

They say that the ocean is healing and I can attest to that.

This time away was planned last year before I knew about this Cancer and Clint & I were determined to keep our appointment with tranquility.

We come to Anguilla every year at this time. It is Carnival time here and a week's worth of celebrations and boat races.
Today is August Thursday, a day where the boat races are held on our beach Mead's Bay.

As I write this there is no one on the beach.. it is about 8 AM and the festivities will start later in the morning.
About 14 big sailboats or so will line the surf. Colorful sails will flap in the wind. Shacks are set up to sell local foods.

We will eat some of the most delicious ribs & chicken as well as conch chowder & goat soup, fried jackfish, johnny cakes and of course rum punch.

It has been a time of healing for me, I feel like myself again. I am dreaming & planning and writing. My energy is back as well as my zest for life! this was so important for me... to have this time alone with my husband & my mind.

I am enjoying each and every day of my life!!! My life is now!!! I am making the most of it!