Monday, January 21, 2013

That "healthy glow"

Kind of "Sci Fi" don't you think?
The tanning salon
I have now finished one week of radiation therapy.  One down, five and a half to go.  It's kind of like a really high priced tanning salon.  You should see the healthy glow that I am sporting on my right side.  I think that I mentioned before that it was decided by the tumor board to give chemotherapy along with the radiation.  So, Monday morning I spent 6 hours getting chemotherapy and then a half hour getting radiation.  The chemotherapy agent chosen this time is cysplatin, the same one I had the first time around.  I am told that the dosage is less this time and they aren't giving me adriamycin at the same time so hopefully it will be less damaging.  Still, by Friday I wasn't feeling too great.  Saturday was worse and I went to bed early with a bowl by my side.  Sunday I seemed to feel better which was a blessing since I was supposed to teach at ward conference.  All in all, not fun but not as bad as last time.  The radiation makes me sleepy.  They say that will get worse as it goes along.  I'm also told that the oral side effects will worsen after the second week.  I guess it will cause mouth sores, trouble swallowing and sinus problems.  Oh well.
Life is great

Other than cancer drama, life is great.  Our little grand daughter just gets cuter every day.  She can now sit up on her own quite well for a little while.  She's also getting pretty good with her hands and moving things around.  It's great trying to get her to smile and giggle.  Peter is getting ready to go to the temple for the first time.  He had his final interview with the Stake President yesterday.  The Stake President told him "This is a great day for your parents".  Peter replied, "It's a great day for me!" and he is right.  He is counting down the days until he leaves for Barcelona on his mission.  Jarom continues to date a very nice young lady.  He brought her by for dinner yesterday and the whole family agrees that she is lovely.  Seth was just asked to come for another interview for medical school in Chicago.  The school is even paying his way this time, so all the better.  JoLynne is getting around better all the time on her healing legs.  It seems like her endurance is better and her pain is less.  Nobody has stolen our identity for weeks now and no pets have died so we are feeling pretty good about life.

People frequently tell me that we are in their prayers.  I just want you to know that we take that seriously and we are very grateful for your faith in our behalf.  I don't know how decisions are made in heaven but it can't hurt to have a lot of people pleading for you.  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"There and back again"

We have recently returned from Minnesota, our Disney cruise and some wonderful family time in Florida.  It's was good to go but it's nice to be home!

Balmy Minnesota attire
The part of our the trip involving Minnesota was kind of a "necessary evil".  As you probably know if you follow this blog portions of my jaw cancer had returned and needed to be removed surgically.  The doctors decided to try and remove the tumors through my right nostril.  During surgery they found that they needed better access so an incision was made under my upper lip allowing the surgeon to access and remove the rest through my right sinus.  Not a fun surgery but certainly not as bad as last time when they peeled off the whole right side of my face.

My operation was on Tuesday and we were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday to go on a cruise with our family.  We were probably a little crazy to plan a trip so soon after my surgery but it was a leap of faith.  In retrospect it all turned out well.  All of this is going to me make me more compassionate to my patients in the future when I treat them.  It turns out that getting your mouth cut isn't that comfortable.  Nothing engenders compassion better than personal experience.  After the surgery I was somewhat swollen for the next few weeks and I had to be careful when I was eating so that food wouldn't push on the surgical site but overall the recovery wasn't too bad.   Gratefully eating isn't that big of a part of taking a cruise. :)

Beach at St. Thomas
So we arrived in Florida and met our children at the airport.   We had  chosen to go on a Disney cruise since they were the only one we could find that would allow a 3 months old baby on board.  This was our first cruise ever so we have nothing to compare against but it was wonderful.  There was fun stuff to do every day, way too much food,  beautiful sunsets and lots of time where you didn't have to do anything.  I've decided that it is way nicer to recover from surgery on a cruise ship than in a hospital room and it costs a lot less.

Drowning in a life jacket
Our cruise left from Florida and headed to St. Thomas.  With all our trips to Mexico we are somewhat used to beaches in December so laying on the beach seemed just right for Christmas.  Taking our grand daughter swimming in the ocean for the first time was simply a delight.  From there we went to Puerto Rico.  The day we docked was rainy but we didn't care.  We put on Disney ponchos and trudged all around San Juan.  We were looking for "old town" and at one point we asked a policeman for directions.  He just looked at us and said, "It's all old town".  Anyway, we had a great day and the rain cleared up after a while as well.  From there we went to an island owned by Disney and spent another day on the beach.  It rained that day as well but we still had a great time.  The rain just helped to clear everyone off the beach and leave it all for us.

Epcot at night
After seven days at sea we returned back to Florida where JoLynne had rented a home for us near Disney World.  We couldn't check into the house until the afternoon so we went for a ride in the everglades on airboats.  Our cute little grand daughter was simply "drowning" in the life jacket but it worked, sort of.  it was amazing to skim across the swamps and see birds and alligators everywhere you looked.  The home that JoLynne rented was just perfect for the twelve of us.  I don't think that I mentioned that we had every one of our children with us and our son in law and grand daughter.  We managed a "full house".  Days were spent at Disney World and evenings spent playing games and watching movies.  It was wonderful.  The park was full but JoLynne, the master planner, seemed to get us onto the rides with almost no waiting for the most part.  She is amazing.
Disney at Christmas.
Apparently we weren't the only ones with this idea

Finally on Saturday it was time to return to real life.  It's hard to go from 70 degrees and sun to snow and 20 degrees but it had to be done.  We came home to shoveled driveways thanks to our wonderful neighbors and a nice warm home.  So nice to sleep in our own bed again.  And, even with all the fancy food of a cruise ship somehow what you make in your own kitchen just tastes better.

Holding my nephew,
Finally someone with my same hairstyle
Well, on this Wednesday we meet with the radiation oncologist here to start making plans for my radiation. We have high hopes that it will not be so devastating as the chemotherapy.  We are especially hopeful that with the radiation and my last surgery we can finally defeat this cancer once and for all.  I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone but this last year has taught me things that I don't know that I could have learned the same in any other way.  I have a CTR ring that I wear.  I know that CTR stands for "Choose the Right" but  I wear it because for me it also stands for "Choose to Remember".  I hope that long after I am cured I can always remember what this year has taught me.

Among other things cancer has taught me:

  • Trust in the Lord and He won't disappoint you.  He may not take away your trials but He will walk with you through them.  Having Him by my side has meant everything to me.
  • The blessing of family in times of trial.  I have felt help from people from the other side of the veil, especially my mother.  My children have lifted me (literally at times) when I couldn't lift myself.  I can't even express what JoLynne has meant to me.  I have come to look upon her as my guardian angel.  Words can't express what I feel.  
  • The true meaning of charity.  I have seen such amazing kindness and caring by those around me
  • Why the Holy Ghost is called the "comforter" and what that really means.
  • The power of the Temple in bringing peace and helping us to find answers to our questions.
  • The power of faith, especially on the part of people who care about you and priesthood blessings to bring about miracles.
  • Sunset over Disney
  • What really matter in life.  Things that seemed so important to me before seem less so now.  I appreciate a sunrise more, looking at my grand daughter or holding her while she falls asleep are pretty high on my list now.
We are so grateful for each day and for friends and family who love and support us.  Thank you!