Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things I dislike

I really couldn’t eat any of the meals that were delivered to my room today. Didn’t feel well. Just walking and talking exerted too much energy. I am not one to usually dwell on the negative things regarding my treatment. I don’t particularly care to. No not me. I am always the eternal optimist. I try. I don’t have to try too hard though, because it is in my nature.

To understand what I'm going through, my daily struggles, it would be helpful to know a few of them. Here is a list, a small sampling, of some serious side effects and struggles and others not so serious but bothersome nonetheless. I suppose I could call it:

“Things I dislike”

My portacath being accessed or poked in the chest. The color of the chemo. Urinating the color of the chemo. Getting PH levels tested of my urine. Peeing in a cap placed on the toilet at the hospital. Constantly peeing and hoping to make the toilet! The walker, now the crutches, soon the cane. Getting winded after the simplest of tasks. Leaving my dogs with other people; I miss them. Needing more rest than before and having lots to do. “Chemo Brain;” what were those things I needed to do anyway? My poor memory. Throwing up. Mouth sores. Taste buds constantly changing. High body temperatures, which could mean a simple antibiotic or hospitalization. Blood clots. Learning to self inject; not the knowing how part, but the long term need to do so. Headaches. Body aches. Eyelashes falling out into my eyes. New anxieties over things I didn’t have before. Too many meds to keep track of. Blood transfusions. Body flexibility (or the lack of); it’s getting better though. Loss of all my independence...

The list could go on but I feel that my eyes are red and worn down.

Night comes quickly. Nurses are in and out taking vital signs. Halls are quiet now. I have a beautiful view of the entire Salt Lake City Valley. The city lights are winking at me (their congratulations). I had forgotten. This treatment marks the end of cycle two! Each milestone takes great physical effort, faith, and courage. Think I will put my cares aside and try to drift off to sleep. Positive results await me this week. I can feel it. I will soon be feeling better. Just takes time...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The walk

I came into the hospital in Murray for another round of chemo on Thursday night, July 15th. I was hoping to see some familiar faces. Sure enough right when we turned the corner off the elevator of the 9th floor, my dad and I started catching smiles and hellos from nurses who had worked with me before. I got settled in my room and started putting things away how I liked them. Some of the comforts of home I’ve been bringing are pillows and 3-5 gallons of Payson or Provo water. Hey, it’s just what I like!

Something I enjoy doing to pass the time is taking walks. Typically it is my crutches and I, and Leslie with the IV tower, around the patient’s floor. On Sunday we made some new friends, albeit not in the best of circumstances. We met Fia and her family who are from American Samoa. The love they seemed to have for one another was deep. She shared some things about their extended family and why they were there that day. Her cousin had just been taken off of life support, battling stomach cancer, and they were all there to support one another, show their love, and say their final goodbyes.

Fia’s family filled up the hallways and all day long children could be heard. If I had to make a logical guess, I would say that there were about four or five generations of family members in attendance; maybe 40-50 people.

The hallways and bedroom of this woman were brimming over with her loved ones. Much to my surprise, there was not a lot of chaos. I did pass people who were showing teary eyes and looks of contemplation. But I saw more around who were laughing, smiling and seemed to be telling stories. Fia was the one who initially stopped us in the hallway to say hello. She asked about my condition and wanted to know my story. We talked about how their family members came over to the states after joining the LDS church. She also humorously told us about her niece going against their culture by playing water polo instead of joining the rugby team. She said their entire family was very supportive of her anyway, taking up half the bleachers at every single game.

In looking back today, the walk provided me with two things; exercise and reflection. I walked right into an opportunity to meet someone new and find out a little more about their history and how much they value their family. It was great to see those values and feel how united they were.

It is unfortunate that not all walks in life will end the way we want them too, such as for Fia’s cousin. But it would appear their family took important strides to remain together and be together for one another, so that this woman would not have to make her final walk alone. I thought it was touching and it gave me a lot to think about as I took my walk back to my room on the 9th floor. Things can suddenly take on a whole new meaning. My fluffy pillows from home, which I brought to the hospital, became less significant. The love I have for my family and my appreciation for them and their sacrifices grew stronger and more important. Life is a journey. Many people have been involved in my journey. I have much to be grateful for. I have more walking to do. Many more walks to take…

I love my family.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This too shall pass

It is already mid July of 2010 and about half a year from where I started; getting tested, diagnosed, having meetings with doctors, surgery, recovery in rehab, and treatments. I have done so much in so very little time. And yet the road still seems so long ahead of me.

Independence Day just came and went. People in my neighborhood got together for the 4th of July weekend with family and friends to celebrate with backyard barbecues, fireworks, watermelon, and games like water balloon tosses. We had a barbecue in my backyard as well. Ann, my roommate, spearheaded this event. I was only glad that I had an appetite for food!

My thoughts pertaining to Independence Day were more centered on what kind of independence I would have next year in 2011 right around the 4th of July. Would I have freedom from chemo, freedom from hospitals, freedom from crutches or a cane? I gave very little thought to the real reason, and the history behind this holiday. I felt a little bit selfish, but it did not make me feel unpatriotic by the least bit. I love my country and my freedom and everyone who ever came before me that helped make it possible.

I was recently thinking about breaking my femur, having an incredible surgery to replace it, learning how to walk on it, and day by day making more progress. With time and healing I should be able to walk just as normal as I once did. And then the thought crossed my mind that there are others who didn’t get the same outcome as I did. I feel so blessed all the time to have my leg. It was the very first question I asked my doctor upon learning the news; would I lose my leg? This is the kind of cancer that in years past (and not too long ago actually) they would simply amputate the area that was cancerous. They only do this in very rare cases nowadays. There are others who have lost limbs, but not due to illness or disease, but in the line of duty. Soldiers... American soldiers now and in years past have had the possibility of coming home without an arm or a leg, if they even come home at all.

When I contemplate about the things that others have done for my country, or me I realize that what I’m going through is not that hard in comparison. Many people have trials that I cannot even fathom. I’m strong, and will make it through this. I have help from family, friends, neighbors, church members, and loved ones.

Every time I think about my right leg and the new equipment therein, I am amazed. How grateful I am for miracles. Modern medicine has made it possible for someone to be literally cut open from their hip to their knee for an 8-hour surgery. I am grateful for the education of my doctors and nurses who administer to me. I am thankful I still have 2 legs. I am looking forward to my independence from these temporary side effects that I have currently. Life is precious! So I will set out to enjoy all backyard barbecues, parties, and holidays. I will treasure my time spent with family and friends, and even remember this experience and other trials I know will come...and be grateful for my life and life's events. For I know that this too shall pass.