Archive for November, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses…
November 30, 2011

If wishes were horses? What does that even mean? And why did I think of that?

I guess I was just brain-dead after spending literally the entire afternoon in doctor’s offices. I had an appointment with my primary care physician today. A 2:00 appointment and was out of there by 2:40. It’s always like that there. They are awesome. It went well. He said everything looks great. Even he is now scratching his head over the weight loss, however, so he ordered some blood work which I had done at the Cancer Center since I was heading there anyway. Wants to see if I am absorbing any nutrients when I eat.

Yes…got to the Cancer Center a little before 3. Got right in for labs and really didn’t wait too long to see the nurse. THEN, however, I SAT in that waiting room until after 6:00 before I got in to see the doctor. Those of you who have never been a part of the Cancer Center experience can’t imagine how exhausting that is. But, it is what it is. If you recall, today was the day I was to get the results of my PET Scan and my dream…my Christmas wish…was that this would be the day that I would graduate, so to speak, to a full-fledged survivor. One of those people who does have to still come in regularly for follow-up exams, but much less often and that’s all there is. No constant diagnostics. I REALLY, REALLY was hoping for that. Well, the good news is…the PET Scan wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t completely good either. Everything was clear except for some unexplained fluid in that “horribly twisted colon” (if you remember that ridiculous story) and a 2.2 cm pelvic tumor which they believe to be benign but can’t be 100% certain. Combine minor red flags and you get a referral to another specialist. Yep. Another doctor. But, I guess more eyes on a situation improve your chances of figuring it out. That’s what I am trying to convince myself of, anyway. So, we’ll see.

I’m really trying to not be too bummed about this, but really, all I wanted for Christmas was to be able to put all of this behind me. Guess I’ll shoot for next year. I will be back at the Cancer Center in 6 weeks for more labs BUT don’t have to see my oncologist now for 3 months. Something is better than nothing and I know it could be worse.

If wishes were horses, what? They’d have a better chance of coming true? Still can’t figure out where that came from.


A Thanksgiving Story…
November 24, 2011

On this beautiful Thanksgiving Day, I have a story to share with you. It’s a story of love and Thanksgiving.

Did you know that cancer is not exclusive to humans? Dogs can get cancer too. Especially Golden Retrievers. Several weeks ago, Matt and Sara had to take Spencer in for a tumor biopsy and then begin the painful waiting period.

Shortly after they were married, Matt and Sara welcomed a Golden Retriever puppy into their home. They named him Dexter. He was a wonderful loving dog…very special…very devoted to his family. Unfortunately, while still young, he developed cancer and died shortly thereafter in Matt’s arms. So, the thought of them possibly having to go through this again left me heartsick.

Finally last night, on Thanksgiving Eve, they received word that Spencer is cancer free. I can’t tell you how thankful we all were for this news. Having someone you love face a possible cancer diagnosis is very painful, whether they are human or not. This time, as with Sara’s recent experience, we received a gift. Thank you, God.

Hoping for a similar report of my own on Wednesday…and hoping that you all had a great day with family, friends and great food. Once again, Happy Thanksgiving!


The Bougainvillea
November 23, 2011

My mother passed away in November of 1997.

Nearly 3 years prior to that, she and my Dad moved home from Denver to live with us. She had Alzheimer’s and he had terminal cancer. My mom loved plants and always had a house full of them. One of her pride and joys in later years was her Bougainvillea. When they moved, my sister Susan took the Bougainvillea to give it a new home. It was January and it would have been extremely difficult to move it across country at that time…probably at any time.

Some time later, an unfortunate early cold spell appeared to have taken the plant since it was left outside. But, she took it in and was determined to nurse it back to life. She even cut off a piece and gave it to me so I could try my luck. We both ended up with Bougainvilleas.

The year she died, that Bougainvillea shot out two pink blooms just before Thanksgiving. It was just as though she were letting us know that she and Dad were still with us.

To this day, I have that plant. Every spring Ken drags it outside and every fall he drags it back in. And, believe it or not, every November it blooms…a constant reminder that they are with us in spirit. It brings me joy. It brings me comfort. It makes me smile.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


Taking Chances
November 20, 2011

We’re home! Believe it or not, we went to Omaha yesterday. I KNOW…there were some 40+ accidents here in town yesterday due to the freezing rain, but we didn’t know it was that bad when we left. We got up early and I went to get my hair cut. When I got home, we dabated what to do but we had been planning this last getaway before the holidays and I didn’t think it really seemed all that bad when I was out, so we elected to go. We had heard it was supposed to be warmer south of here anyway.

Oddly enough, given the reports we read later on Facebook and Sioux City Journal online, we had no problems. None. The drizzle let up south of Onawa and the temperature did edge up…at least to above freezing. We got to Omaha shortly after noon and hit my favorite spots (T J Maxx, of course) and Ken hit the music stores. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn and just had a really, really enjoyable time. We needed this because this week is kind of back to reality again. Ken has an exam scheduled for tomorrow and I have a PET scan Tuesday morning. I will check in at 8:30 to be injected with the radioactive sugar stuff and then relax in the recliner in a darkened room while it makes its way to wherever it needs to go. The scan is scheduled for 10. When it’s over, we wait. I will see both my primary care physician and my oncologist on November 30. I have my fingers crossed that those visits will bring the long awaited release from cancer patient status to a more relaxed follow-up schedule. It’s been a really long time coming. We’ll see.

In the meantime, we will continue to seize opportunities to make memories whenever possible. It was a great week-end.


Gotta Have a Plan
November 15, 2011

So, I had a chance to catch up on the blog I referred to last time and here is where that is at. She is out of the hospital. The surgery was successful. They found, however, upon examining the portion of the liver that they removed, that there was a spot of cancer that had not shown up on either the PET scan or the sonogram. The good news is, they removed that part of the liver. The bad news is, now she has to worry about the same being true for the part of the liver that was not removed. But, there is no way of knowing today, so life goes on. She started chemo again on Veteran’s Day. And, as odd as this may sound, she takes comfort in that fact. Surgery is over and now she has a plan. For however long, she will be receiving drugs to kill any cancer cells that may remain. They believe that she is cancer free…but, still. And, they will do PET scans every three months. No guarantees, but, it’s a plan. And, to her, mentally, she is miles ahead of where she was several months ago when she found out that the cancer had metastasized but had no idea what they were going to do about it.

My “third time’s a charm” friend met with the Radiologist today. For WEEKS he has known that he has cancer again, for the third time, but has not known what they were going to do about it. He said to me today, “We have a plan.” You have no idea how comforting that is when you are going through the cancer experience. Without a plan, you know that this toxic thing is inside of you and it doesn’t belong there and you just want them to move forward and kill it, in one way or another. But along the way, they have to run tests, do consults, weigh the options and through all of that, you have no plan. It is amazingly disconcerting. But, today, they have a plan….a three phase plan. Been there, done that. It’s something to hang your hat on. They’re going to do this, this and this. And, that will hopefully take care of it.

My heart goes out to these two people and to another friend whom we just learned is having open heart surgery today. It’s tough. But, they’re not alone. The band Ken plays with, on Sunday, did a song with these words…

Never once did we ever walk alone…Never once did you leave us on our own. Comforting.


I Don’t Get It!
November 7, 2011

I have another blog that I have followed through most of my cancer journey. We have two completely different styles, but our stories are so similar. I think that is what draws me to it. She was diagnosed several months before me and, just a couple of months ago, she found out that the cancer has now shown up in her liver. She recently had a liver resection and I haven’t been keeping up with it very well, but this past week-end, I decided to catch up. Turns out, she had almost no posts since her surgery because it was such a difficult recovery. Just yesterday, she wrote a little. She shared that she had finally begun to feel well enough to post and then suffered a set back. I’m not sure what that means, but it really got me thinking.

I don’t know her, but she is obviously going through a really tough time. A good friend of mine just found out that he has cancer…for the THIRD time. Three different types of cancer. Another friend with cancer is struggling today as well. And these things are bothering me. How does this work?

Why is it that some people get catastrophic illnesses and others do not? For that matter, why do some go through tragic circumstances of any kind and others do not? Is it that some have a specific lesson to learn and that is how they are to learn it? Or is it that some go through these things to help someone else learn a lesson? Or, is it just random?

I remember when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He really struggled with that fact and didn’t handle it well. Who could blame him? He was the sole caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s. And then he developed terminal cancer. The problem was, I think, that he was a very dominant personality. He had to be in control. But, suddenly, she had Alzheimer’s and he had no control over that. Then he developed Esophageal Cancer and had no control over that either. Because they moved in with us after that diagnosis, I was very close to the situation and remember totally thinking that if/when I was diagnosed with cancer some day, I would handle it differently. It is comforting to know that toward the end of the 5 months that he survived the disease, he did come to be at peace with it. But, it was a struggle. Was that experience meant to be a learning experience for him or for me? I don’t know. Maybe some of you with greater spiritual insight than I can make sense of this. I just look around and see so many people I care about struggling and I can’t help questioning how this works?

How is it that this lady whose story is so similar to mine ends up with liver metastasis and I do not? How does a really great guy end up with cancer three times and others are never diagnosed with cancer? I’m not whining…just wondering. We all have our own lessons to learn and our own roads to travel. But, how is it determined what those will be?

Sorry this is so heavy today. It was just on my mind and I guess I’m feeling a little unsettled right now. Sometimes I just don’t get it. But, I guess the good news is, I don’t have to.


The Passing of Time…
November 3, 2011

18 years ago today, our first grandchild, Tyler, was born. Hard to believe.

We had a great trip to Colorado…got home Monday evening around 8. What a whirlwind time, but great fun. Lots of good food and good times. Shopping, too. We went to a giant Ikea store…our first time visiting one. Our family participated in the weekly trivia contest at Big Poppa’s BBQ and took first place. Made a speedy trip to the outlet stores. Matt and Sara got moved back down the mountain. And, we celebrated birthdays together. Sara’s was right before we got there, Ken’s was while we were there and Tyler’s is today.

Tyler is living in Denver this year. We miss him but he is doing wonderfully well there and we are so proud of him. I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. I can’t imagine that I can be old enough to have an 18-year-old grandson, but time passes so quickly. Age is all relative. What is important is that I am well and able to celebrate these milestones.

Coming up…PET scan on November 22 and consultations with both my internist and my oncologist on November 30. In the meantime, NO medical appointments. I think the constant appointments are going to become the exception rather than the rule and life is slowly getting back to normal. Time passes.

Tonight, I celebrate life, love, birthdays, grandchildren and the passing of time. Happy birthday, Tyler John Stueve. We love you.