Archive for March, 2012

What a ride!

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I am back-peddling here a bit, to start from the beginning of our vacation.   We are Florida bound!  We left on March 1st in the afternoon after leaving C.J. in the capable hands of my Dad.  C.J. loves hanging out with her Papa Roy.  She gets to eat people food, tease the cat, eat some more, and tease the cat some more.  It was very hard to leave her especially not knowing just exactly how long we would be away.  They are both great company for each other, plus I feel I owed C.J. a vacation too.  Aside from my hospital stays, she has been my constant companion keeping my spirits up.  Although she is getting up there in years and she does sleep a lot, I know she is hanging on as long as possible.  For a senior golden retriever in her 14th year, she is not too creaky with her  joints and still enjoys walks.   I think dogs have a sense when us humans just aren’t right, despite the fact that we think we are doing great.  So yes, she deserved a break too, to be spoiled and go on her own holiday with her “Grandpa”.  I think she knows she has some more work ahead of her babysitting me once treatment begins when I return home.

Since we were close to my Uncle John & Aunt Elise’s home, we stopped in there for a quick hello and goodbye and of course giggles and we raided their kitchen for baked goodies.  They always have treats in their kitchen, unlike ours.  Butter tarts were the day’s treasures.  We visited shortly and on our way out the door my uncle handed me a few candies for the ride.  Ironically they were lifesavers.  I like that name and that is what this vacation is for us.  A lifesaver, a much needed break for us both.  Rick especially.  He works so very hard.

As we begin our 26 hour drive to the Florida Keys, as usual I am seeing everything with cancer eyes.  I am seeing all of the signs.  I am tuning in to certain billboards and interpreting them as to how they relate to our situation.  Some of the ones that I noticed were:  (and I am not making these up and they appeared in this exact order too)

I determine my own schedule.

I will tackle my future fearlessly.

Believe in yourself. 

Reach beyond the ordinary.

Make miracles happen.

And then we arrive to warmer temperatures and the first signs of spring we see are wild daffodils blooming along side the highway, yes, these are the flowers that the Cancer Society sells for fundraising efforts and they are used in their logo.  The daffodil campaign is launched the same time that I will be commencing chemotherapy.

I  know I am supposed to be delaying treatment for this trip.  I don’t doubt it for a second.  I am glad I made this decision.  We need this time together.  So we pass by all the daffodil surprises and as each kilometer is left behind us, I feel we are leaving this cancer crap in our dust, slowly but surely, I am kicking it aside.

Day two of the drive presented us with challenges.  They are called tornadoes.  I kept looking behind us and all around us and black skies as far as we could see.  I feel safe with Rick’s driving skills, but the unpredictable tornadoes, not so much.  This is what cancer does to my brain.  It’s always with me.  I see these skies and I say inside my head, bugger off cancer, your grey skies aren’t following us to Florida, you can chase us, but we will get ahead of you and finally leave you behind.  Get the point yet?   Take a break from tormenting us would ya?  You don’t have to remind us that you are here.  Trust us.  I say all of this internally because if I say it out loud, Rick will think I have officially gone coo-coo.  Yet here I am spilling the beans all over this keyboard.  I feel I have to share my deepest thoughts, so that if anyone else is going through these same emotions as me whether they are a cancer survivor or a co-survivor that they know they are not alone.  I can’t possibly be the only one that thinks this way, and well, if I am, then maybe I have officially gone off the deep end.

Kentucky and Georgia were spent driving through heavy rains, and of course tornado warnings.  We met our friends Johnny & Donna in Georgia.  This was the first time we visited them at their home.  We know each other through our work, I prefer to describe them as friends rather than work associates.  The lovingly welcomed us to their home and we enjoyed the conversation and view from their back patio before we headed out for dinner together.  As we were driving back to their home, the town’s sirens were going off, the tornado warning sirens.  First time we ever heard these.  I was, let’s say concerned.  We made our way to the safe zone in their home while the tornado ripped through a few blocks away and when Donna graciously offered their guest bedroom to us for the night, Rick replied, no thanks, we’ll keep on driving.  We all giggled about it.  And so the drive continued for a few more hours.  As soon as we arrived at the Florida state border the heavy rains literally stopped right there.  It was another sign as far as I was concerned.  A sign that we were finally reaching where we needed to be.

I was getting excited once we reached Miami because the Florida Keys were in our reach!  We reached sunny, beautiful skies with pelicans flying about.  Key Largo was first, then it just kept on getting more beautiful the further we drove.  We stayed the night in Marathon which is roughly half way through the Keys.  We walked across the road from our hotel and enjoyed dinner at the Island Fish Company.  All healthy eating habits went out the window at this very spot.  Rick says to me, “Oh just have at least one alcoholic drink a day and enjoy yourself a little”.  With my renovated liver, one drink is equal to about 6 or 7 drinks pre-surgery.  So I agreed, what the heck.  I looked over the cocktail menu and this is what caught my eye immediately.  A house specialty drink called “Pain in the A$$”.  Yes, I ordered it.  It was delicious.  I said to Rick, “I am drinking down this pain in the ass, literally and leaving it back at home.  I am not going to think about the fight ahead of us while we are away, I am going to enjoy this vacation at full attention!”.  Well, all it took was one drink, a delicious dinner and I was persuaded to share a deep-fried key lime pie with my guy.  No need to buy souvenirs, I’ll be bringing home a double chin with me. 

Tomorrow morning we will be making our way to Little Palm Island.  Our paradise retreat for the next 5 days.

I believe that paradise is also a state of mind.  I believe that I am already there.

 

Physical freedom gone…

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I am writing today from my work.  CEO of Save My Ass Inc, reporting from Surgical Day Care.   This is my first day back to work since learning of the return of this cancer thing.

Today my name is Bed #31.  I am also known as Case #SJ-2012-3557.  For privacy reasons, I’m told. It just seems so impersonal.  When the nurses approach me bedside, they call me Karrie-Ann.  My real name.  I only use it when my health card is being exercised.  Well Rick uses it too when he wants to make sure that he has my undivided attention.

As a little girl, I didn’t like the Ann attached to my name because I felt that the way it was pronounced by some people (especially when I was in trouble) that it sounded kind of snobbish to me.  Now that I am a grown woman and realize that my young Mom at the time I was born was only 22 years old, gifted me with such a pretty name.  I feel bad that I don’t use it more often.  Even though my closest friends and family call me “Kar” which is what I prefer over Karrie, I don’t bother interrupting the nurses when they call me Karrie-Ann.   Thank you Mom for such a lovely name. 

So Mom is hanging out with me today, she is also part of this Bed #31 area.  I have changed into the ever so familiar dark blue hospital gown  (why it’s called a gown, who knows).  The nurse has arrived to ask me the usual questions about allergies, why I’m here, blah, blah, time for the intravenous to be set up.  My veins have all withdrawn from the surface of my body.  I guess they’ve had enough.  I hate when they set it up through the top part of your hands.  Well my wish came true.  I gave the nurse permission to slap my hands harder to get my veins to rise to the surface.  She found one between my thumb and wrist and went for the poke.  Ouch that smarted a bit but at least she was successful.  Can’t say I’ve ever been poked there before. In the end, I think I actually preferred it there.  It’s never too late to try something new, right?

Mom and I continue to read our trashy magazines about the rich & famous and all of the latest scandels.  It occupies our brain from thinking about the real reason why we are hanging out here in Bed #31.  Our last few moments before my physical freedom ends and we start fighting this high-jacker again.  An hour later another nurse appears and says, we are ready for you Karrie-Ann.  Kiss to Mom and I am wheeled away, for a little elevator ride and a 20 minute wait in a hallway at the radiology department staring a blank wall with paint chips.  These beds seem quite hard after a couple of hours.  Dr. Greg appears.  The same doctor that performed my first port-a-cath surgery.  He’s hot.  Dark hair, blue eyes, need I say more? 

I transfer myself to an even harder surface.  I am surrounded by computer monitors and all kinds of high-tech equipment and I see my name on the screen.  Darn, this is reality.  They really want me.  Well, they want case #SJ-2012-3557.  Dr. Greg has already explained all the risks of the procedure with me.  Blod clots, lung puncture, etc. etc.  This time the port will be going in on my left side because of the issues that I had before with blod clots in my arm pits and because I have too much scar tissue in the old site.  He explains to me where the port (the bump that I will always see and feel in my chest) will be located.  There is no hiding this one.  This one feels wierd because the tube part of it that is inserted into a main vein was put in at the base of my neck, not in the center, but just to the left.  I can feel it when I swallow, cough, it’s odd, but I will get used to it.  When I turn my head to the side, this tube pulls.  I feel like I need to exercise it to stretch it.  I  know that is silly thinking, and that my body and brain just have to adjust to this new foreign object we will be carrying inside us.  I am not complaining at all.  This port is a super convenience thing.  It makes the chemo administration so much easier.  It’s a vein saver.  I can get chemo through here, all future bloodwork draws and this new port also has the capability of CT injections.  The contrast dye used in CT’s can be used through this port and it is delivered at a higher rate through your bloodstream than the normal method which I read makes for a better, clearer picture for the radiologists to read your scans.  I am always learning stuff on this journey, and I feel it is so important that I share it with you in case you ever are in a situation where the information can be shared to help someone else.

The nurses and Dr. Greg and I are all discussing his recent cruise vacation while he is performing the procedure.  I am awake for all of it.  Local freezing, a sedative, dark protective glasses on me, Top 40 music, the atmosphere was nice.  My blood pressure is great, 112/77.  I am completely relaxed.  Dr. Greg uses several words like “mosquito” when he wants a nurse to hand him something.  I wonder what instrument or thing the mosquito is.  They continually ask me how I am, I reply the usual answer which is “peice of cake”.  The hardest part of the whole procedure is praying that I don’t break out into a coughing fit from this darn cold.  All is good and the procedure only took about 30 minutes I would guess.

I graduate from Bed #31 to Bed #5 and shortly afterwards, Mom appears.  She kept herself busy reading magazines, shopping in the gift shop, etc.  I am so lucky that my Mom is supportive and loving.  I am so grateful that she changed her work schedule to spend the day with me.  Due to the sedative I cannot drive for 24 hours, so she graciously accompanied me to work today.  Thank you Mom!  I made you a promise quite some time ago that I will always have your back and here you are, having to carry me on yours.  It’s not the way things are supposed to go. 

No lifting anything over 10 pounds for 2 weeks.  No big deal.  I’ll be good in a couple of days.  I am glad that I was blessed with a high pain tolerance.  The last time I went through this I asked for 2 percocet for the hour ride home and they hit me right away, I broke out in sweats, shakes, and lost all control of keeping my eyes open and my head from spinning.  They gave me a prescription for tylenol 3’s, but I don’t intend on taking them.  This is the minor ouch stuff.  I am not trying to be a hero, I just would rather feel what’s really going on rather than mask things.  That’s how I judge how the healing is progressing. 

I arrive home to find Rick with a kleenex box under his face.  Not feeling good.  My cold has reached him.  We are a lovely pair tonight.  Bed by 8 pm and so our cancer fight begins again.  We feel like crap but our chins are in the air and although we are conjested and trying to breath normally, I know we can do this together. 

As I drift off to sleep I head off to some happy places, I am thinking about our recent vacation.

If Once You Have Slept on an Island

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

If once you have slept on an island,
you’ll never be quite the same;
you may look as you looked before
and go by the same old name.
You may hustle about in street and shop,
you may sit at home and sew,
but you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
wherever your feet may go.

You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
and close to the fire keep,
but you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
and tides beat through your sleep.
And you won’t know why and you can’t say how
such change upon you came,
but once you have slept on an island
you’ll never quite be the same!
~Rachel Field~

I was going to write about our adventures getting to the island, however time has slipped quickly by me since I’ve returned home.  Here I am, tonight, my last night of physical freedom.  Tomorrow I am hospital bound to start this fight again.  Mom and I will be spending the day together until I am wheeled into the surgical room to have the procedure done to get the port put back into my chest to prepare for adminstration of chemotherapy next week.

I am taking my memories of the island with me.  The best vacation ever.  Thank you Rick!

The poem that you just read was left for us in our bamboo pole mailbox on the first night of our private island retreat.

I love those last few words….. you’ll  never quite be the same.

The Fortune Cookie…

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I interrupt my island reporting to share my fortune cookie note with you before it ends up in my pocket and in the washing machine. Sometimes we get real dumb ones, but today’s was perfect. I dedicate this fortune cookie to my blog. Thank you for helping me heal through my fingertips by writing.

It stated….

YOUR HEART WILL ALWAYS MAKE ITSELF KNOWN THROUGH YOUR WORDS.

Buying some time…

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

 

I realize you are likely wondering what the latest news is. I am sorry I have been silent, but I had to be. I ran away. Literally…and Rick was the get-away car driver. I (we), I mean, Rick, bought us some time. We left on Thurs. March 1st without any real set plan of when our return date would be. We literally planned to not have a plan, or time commitments or that more common term in our daily life lately, known as “appointments”.

The only thing we knew upon leaving life as we know it, otherwise known as reality, would be that we would be spending 5 of our days at a private, exclusive resort where mostly uber-rich people go or people like me with a forced early retirement package (ie: terminal cancer) would endulge in. Hey, we can’t take our retirement funds with us right? Thankfully I was a smart, young work-aholic before I retired at the age of 39 and saved for my golden years. We never know what the future will bring us and I certainly wasn’t anticipating this hurry up and work on your bucket list now before you run out of time arrangement.

Enough with the rambling and pity party. Let me tell you more about this buying time idea. It is called Little Palm Island, located in the Lower Florida Keys, a 15 minute boat ride from Little Torch Key. Captain Greg was our first connection to this beautiful private island surrounded by everything that one would imagine to find in paradise. I read a quote once that stated “Paradise is a state of mind” and I do agree with it, but to actually be in it also, well let’s say I am in heaven. This Earth Angel has landed and I feel so grounded. I am alive, breathing and simply being.

At many times throughout our first day on Little Palm, I have thought to myself. I need to blog, I can’t keep this paradise all to myself. I hope my chemo brain allows me to remember the stuff that I keep repeating to myself in hopes that I won’t forget. I carry a notepad with me to help me remember. Funny thing is that as I sit here working on my first post, I have my notepad with me and I haven’t yet glanced at it so see what I wrote because these words are coming from my heart and mind, right at this very moment. I will glance at my notes maybe another day. I hate that I have to remind myself of what made my heart sing at certain moments. But right now, right here I am telling you what my heart is singing and where my stage is.

I am alone. It is roughly 8 pm. It is our first night on the island. I am in what is called the Great Room. It is like a huge living room but private. This is one of the few places on the island where there is internet access so that I can write to you. It is also a library and there is one television in here. It is the only t.v. on the entire island. The suites do not have any. This is an island to unplug.  There are only 30 suites on the island and they constantly remind you to unplug from life with no cell phone signs everywhere and the staff where shirts that say “Get Lost” or “Do Nothing”.  I am unplugged and I have no problem turning in my cell phone to the room’s safe for the 5 days, however I can’t stay away or unplug from my fingertips to continue to heal through this keyboard. The Great Room is a small building that has a grass thatch roof and tropical decor throughout. I am seated in a comfy bamboo chaise lounge with palm tree designed cushions and a nice cozy soft blanket.  I am alone.

Back to buying time. We have to return back to our reality by March 29. This is the date that I will have day surgery to have the port-a-cath put into my chest again. The original plan to deal with this cancer thing was to go directly to the operating table and my doc wanted to do this right away, and it was pencilled in for March 13. I said no thanks, way too soon, I’ve got some business to take care of first. Like how about, I am still chewing on the news of cancer’s return and can’t quite swallow it. Surgery was then rescheduled for March 26 because I said I was going away to take care of me first before I was going to take care of cancer. As I posted before, the surgery plans went out the window because it was discovered that the tumours are too big right now and we need to attempt to shrink them first. So I took matters into my own hands and I booked the date for the port-a-cath thing as to when it was convenient for my schedule. I know this might be kind of dumb, or perhaps really stupid as I am fully aware that this cancer of mine is growing day to day and yes, spreading or in medical lingo, metastising. If I hadn’t already been down this trip to cancer land before, I wouldn’t have hesitated as to the dates scheduled for my treatments, but I have been down this road and I do know that even though it’s lurking inside me and taking up camp, I do know that I am not going to expire tomorrow, or the next day or in a couple of weeks. I have time and I am going to share this precious time with my guy, my Rock, my spirit protector, my battery charger, my love. This may be our last chance to enjoy time of good health and feeling normal, and looking normal even though we both know what’s about to happen once we return home. Sure I may bounce back and be able to rejoice in another year of health, but statistics dictate that is only an 8% chance of actually happening.

When I return to writing you in my next post, I will start from the beginning of our journey to paradise. (reluctantly admitting that I must refer to my notepad/memory reminder book) We are five days into the trip now so we have a little catching up to do and then I can’t wait to write about our future days. The future sunsets and sunrises we get to enjoy, the future good feeling days to experience. Good night for now. Hugs, Karrie