Thursday, December 29, 2011


Thursday, December 29, 2011: Big surprise--Dean's work is changing insurance for next year. I am NOT a happy camper. I'm petrified that my favorite doctors and clinics will be "off limits" and that my "team" will be disbanded. I can't let this happen. No wonder I feel stressed and grumpy. This morning, I asked Dean to find out when our new ID cards would be ready. He called me later from work and said they weren't even close to being ready to mail out. Ouch, that hurts, especially when I have an appointment January 3rd. On the phone I go to talk, first, to the guy who handles insurance at Rocky Mountain Fab, and I can tell right away that he'd rather not deal with me. Too bad. I explain my situation and hope for a teensy bit of empathy, but no. He says I'll have to call the insurance liaison directly and ask what she suggests. He does offer to make a paper copy of the "temporary identification" and give it to Dean, so that helped a bit. I called Shara, the go-between, and she is less than thrilled to be talking to me, as well. I'm sorry, people, but when you work in insurance, don't you naturally psych yourself up for the big changeover January 1st brings? Good grief, I'm sure I'm not the only one asking these questions. She is finally helpful, in that she gets my email address to send me the "temporary ID" copy and assures me that if there is anything else I need to do, she will call me in the morning (the person SHE needed to talk to was out of the office today). At the end of the call, she said, "Good luck with your procedure," and with those few words, she became an ally. There's a bright spot. Our only worry now is if the mumbo-jumbo about pre-authorizations is going to apply to this, since it is a part of my ongoing treatment. I'm sorry they are entering this play in the middle of the first act, but that's not my fault, is it? As Eeyore says, "Oh, bother..."

I keep thinking about something that Dr. Grossmann said as he studied the written results of my PET scan. Along with the confusing medical jargon, he translated parts to read, "There is some degeneration in both knees," to which I nodded my head and agreed, "YES!"; and "there is degeneration in number ?? disc of the vertebrae, which is probably causing you some lower back pain," to which I again replied, "YES!" Amazing that when the troublesome things we just deal with every day are recognized as real and put down in words, they become legitimate. Now someone besides myself knows that my knees hurt and when I sit or lay wrong, my back hurts! Alright! Transitions are never easy, whether it's insurance or the process of growing old(er)...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mixed Bag

Wednesday, December 28, 2011: This post will be a mixed bag of thoughts and happenings and test results. I love telling about the thoughts and happenings...not so thrilled about the test results. So, if anyone asks me in person about it, I'm telling them that the results are not in yet, which is not really a fib because they aren't. But, I'll tell more in this one post and nowhere else. I'm tired of it already and I just found out yesterday. So, there you have it.

Christmas warmed my heart and soul. I am grateful for my family and the love they bring to my life. I had all six little grands and all five of my children in one spot several times over the past few days, and I was blown away by the wonder of it all. I love them all dearly. I love the hugs, the kisses, the whispered secrets in my ear, the smiles and uplifted arms when they see me, the spontaneous squeezes and giggles. I love when we're so happy, we cry. I loved going to church on Christmas Day--all 13 of us--and singing of Christ, speaking of Christ, and worshipping Him. It was the best Christmas gift ever.

Yesterday was my visit with Dr. Grossmann to get the results of the PET scan. The appointment was at 3:30 PM and after a fun few hours wandering the mall and buying some yummy smelly stuff and eating in the food court, it was a total downer to have to stop "playing" and go to the doctor. Ugh. Chelsea and Lindsey were my supporters and pillars of strength, and I am grateful that they were there with me...because the news was not great. It wasn't the worst, but it was not what I wanted to hear. On a positive note, the two areas of initial concern were no longer an issue--the bump below my shoulder blade didn't show up and the spots in my neck didn't show up. That was good. What was bad--and Dr. Grossmann admitted he hates doing these extensive PET scans because they usually always show something ELSE to worry about--was that there was a spot in my "duodenum", which is (I had to look it up on Google): "The duodenum is a short part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach." Dr. G showed us the PET scan images (which, again, are very cool to see) and indeed, there was a bright red/yellow spot just below my stomach. So weird. He doesn't know what it is and that's why we do scans every three months - to catch what is unknown and unseen. I have to have an endoscopy (which sounds delightful, doesn't it?) and then, we'll go from there. My notes from Dr. G state that if it is nothing, we go back on the "careful observation" of 3-month scans. If melanoma shows up, it may require surgery to remove it (which is extensive and risky) OR radiation and/or chemo. If by any chance it turns out to be another type of cancer (heaven forbid), another specialist would be called in to deal with it, whether by surgery and/or treatments. The endoscopy is not yet scheduled (as of the time of this writing, which is 12 noon on Wednesday--why haven't they called yet???), so I'm in limbo once again. I did make a follow-up appointment with Dr. G for January 10 at 3:30 (labs at 3:00), so that's in place. It's just the not knowing that wears me down. Today, I haven't even combed my hair or put on makeup yet. I might have to boo-hoo a bit before that happens.

But, through it all, I know I will be blessed. Whatever this is, we can fight it. If it turns out to be an inflammation, we can medicate and fix it. If it turns out to be melanoma in a new spot, we can remove it and zap it. If it turns out to be a new cancer, we can fight that one, too. I say "we" because I am never alone in this thing. Of that, I am certain.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Forced Relaxation

Friday, December 23, 2011: First, a note about my big scan day yesterday. Later, a note about the funeral of my friend, Marilee.

SCANS: Unfortunately, a big part of this new life of mine is the need for scans, both CT (also called "Cat" scans) and PET. "Cats" are shorter, less defined, and much more "easy" to fit into a busy schedule. "PETs" are essentially three-dimensional, in color, more detailed, and involve hours and hours of "forced relaxation" (as my optimistic daughter-in-law would say). When a doctor just wants to make a regular check of how things are going, they'll order a CT scan. That's the one I had last Monday, where I had to drink the nasty contrast and have the IV that shoots "warm" radiation through my body. It lasted about an hour from the time I arrived at the hospital. When a doctor has looked at a CT scan and sees something out of the ordinary or a "hot" spot, they usually want a PET scan done because it gives much more information than the regular CT. That's the one I had yesterday at the Huntsman Center (and that I've had several times in the past year). A few requirements of the test are that I am "forced" to sit in a quiet, semi-lit room (of course, I am comfortably sitting in a recliner with an oven-warmed blanket on me!) after being injected through an IV with the radioactive contrast for 75 minutes. This is before I'm even taken to the test room. 75 minutes is a L O N G time when it's three days before Christmas and the list sitting on your kitchen counter is longer than your arm. was almost tortuous. I will admit that I almost fell asleep a few times, only to jerk awake again as I realized where I was and what I was doing. I checked my watch about three times and I was just about to call for another warm blanket (why are these hospital test rooms and waiting rooms so dang cold??) when the technician returned to take me into the test room. PET scans are usually done from the tip of your head to the bottoms of your feet and require that the test be conducted in two segments--head to top of thighs...switch positions...thighs to feet. Each segment takes 20 minutes or longer. Plus, I was also required to have a separate 10 minute PET scan of my neck and head, since the questionable "spot" was in my left neck. So, for at least 45 minutes, I was on my back, staring at the underbelly of a scanner (which is very plain and non-interesting) and listening to my own heartbeat and trying hard not to fall asleep or make any movements that would influence the test. It's a HARD thing and I don't like it, especially yesterday when I thought of all I could be (and should be) doing at home to get ready for Christmas. And of course, I worried about Linds out in the waiting room, who also had an arm-length list of her own, plus three little girls to take care of. Oh boy, the patience this fight is making me practice! I won't know any results until my doctor's appointment on Tuesday with Dr. Grossmann, but at this point, I don't care. I just want to push it out of my mind for the next three days and celebrate Christmas with my family. No more hospitals, no more scans, no more needles stuck in the tired veins of my arms. No more...

MARILEE: Wednesday was the funeral of my chorus friend, Marilee. It was a beautiful winter day and the sun actually came out after weeks of gloom and gray--the "winter solstice" someone reminded us, the bringing back of the light. And light, indeed, came to me that day as I listened to the speakers and the music and reflected on Marilee's life, as well as my own. Marilee's bishop said it best, when he tried to describe Marilee in one-word epitaphs. The first he thought of was "childlike". "She was a little girl in a woman's body," he said. Suddenly the light clicked on for me. It was a perfect description of Marilee. She loved to dress up, she loved lots of makeup and big hair, she loved to sing and dance and perform. She also constantly needed reassurance and "help", whether it was for a ride because her car was broken or the need for a compliment when she lost all her hair to chemotherapy and had to wear a wig. She was always asking questions, sometimes asking the same question over and over. She sometimes looked at you with a question in her eyes and when she said, "okay," to something you had said, you realized that she didn't really mean was not okay and she still did not understand. She was a lost soul in a grown-up world and didn't quite know how to manage that world. Her bishop said she had two constants in her life: one was her love for her two little granddaughters, Jane and Paisley; the other was her involvement in the Utah Symphony Chorus and Utah Opera. It was truly something to think about and ponder. Another speaker talked about the perfect love of our Heavenly Father. You and I are imperfect and we could not (nor should not) ever judge Marilee. But the Father, who is perfect in love and in judgment, will judge perfectly--he will know and see into Marilee's heart and he will be able to acknowledge her choices and decisions and actions perfectly. My own heart was full of compassion and gratitude. I am eternally grateful for a wise Heavenly Father who doesn't expect us to be perfect in this world and knows of our struggles. I know that when I see Marilee again, she will have the enlightenment of eternity upon her and she will know the answers to all her questions. What a glorious possibility lies before us, to know and be known, to love and be loved, by one who is Almighty and Perfect! I was greatly comforted that day.

Now, on to Christmas! My St. George kids should be here within the hour, we have big plans for tomorrow and Sunday, and I am putting on my happiest face. "God bless us, every one!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

99% is still okay

Tuesday, December 20, 2011: Yesterday was scan day, scheduled oh-so-long-ago (3 mos.) when Christmas-time was just a dream away. Now, it's here on our doorsteps and I found myself, once again, drinking nasty contrast and lying in a tube, listening to an automated voice, saying, "Breathe in and hold," and "You may now breathe normally." So much the same and yet, so different, as this time, when the contrast injection began to flow through my bloodstream, the spreading warmth (that feels very weird) was present in my neck, my fingers, my forehead, and of course, my bladder. If you've never had it, it's a strange sensation. I was surprised that my cold fingers and forehead got warm. Hot flash?? I think not. Everything seemed to go very quickly, as the waiting room was not very busy and the technicians seemed relaxed and ultra-focused. Lindsey and I were amazed that we were in and out long before we expected.

This morning, off we drove again to the Huntsman Center to talk to Dr. Grossmann and get the results of the scans. The place seemed deserted, comparatively! The waiting room was empty (it's usually brimming with us cancer folks). I had my lab work done and then waited a brief five minutes before I was called back to an exam room. And then, it was only a minute or two before a little knock brought Dr. Grossmann into the room. Lindsey commented on his colorful bow tie - an orange-ish plaid today. He joked that she was "easily entertained," and we laughed. He dove right into the scans, pulling them up on his computer. The first thing he said was that they were "99% good", but that there was a "little something" that he wanted to check out. He tried to show me on the scan where there was a some type of a blip (honestly, I couldn't see what he was referring to, but you know how doctors can see what the human eye cannot!) on my left side by my rib cage, "probably about where your bra strap is." He asked if I had felt it and I said, no. He had me change into a gown and lie on my right side with my left arm above my head and then he proceeded to "look" and feel for this blip. Just as I felt a little pain, he said, "Oh, there it is, and there's a little bruising, too, which may indicate some type of 'trauma'." He had me reach around with my right arm and feel it, too. It felt quite a bit like the tiny cyst I had on my stomach - just a little "node" that kind of hurt to touch.

One great thing about being at the Huntsman Center is that all they deal with is cancer - diagnosis, treatment, studies, scans, etc. So, we shouldn't have been all that surprised when Dr. G announced that he would call a pathologist in to do a needle biopsy right there and then. Within 10 minutes, Dr. Lopez and Dr. Chadwick came in with their little cart of needles, testing equipment, and a microscope to do the procedure. I continued to lay on my side, and they took four fluid samples to test. What a blessing to know right away instead of having to wait - and what if I had had to wait over Christmas? The two doctors looked at all four samples and determined that NO melanoma was showing up immediately. Dr. G was very encouraged by this, as he said that melanoma cells tend to manifest right away and be very present, so to NOT see them in any of the four samples was great news. He still wanted to do a few other tests on the samples, but didn't seem overly concerned. I trust him. I'm trying not to be overly concerned, too.

Then, he told me that the scans were also showing two "suspect" lymph nodes in my left neck. My heart sunk. But, one thing I love about Dr. Grossmann is that he is not a "dramatic" doctor. As he read the radiologist's report on these nodes, he said that he wanted to call him up and say, "Really? You really think that's something to be concerned about?"... because obviously Dr. G was not. He explained that normal lymph nodes tend to look a little like Lima beans (now, why hasn't someone given me that visual before? I love it!) and that they are mostly made up of fat, which can, of course, grow and shrink from time to time. Nodes that are "hot" are ones that have lost some of the fat cells and can be a sign of trauma (such as recent surgery, scar tissue, etc.) or cancer or illness or whatever else. He thinks the trauma is what is happening with these nodes, but he wants to be sure, so he ordered a PET scan, the 3-D imaging (and super expensive) one. Again, my heart sunk because the other day Dean announced that his company's insurance is changing January 1. Who knows exactly what this new insurance will cover, which doctors it will cover, and just what is going to be happening with my future care? (Very worrisome...) Lindsey mentioned this to Dr. G and asked that, if at ALL possible, the scan could be scheduled before the end of the year. He was very understanding and said he would try to make that happen. When the receptionist at the front desk seemed less than convinced that we really did NEED that to happen before the end of the year, Lindsey asked if she would make a note in BIG, RED print. Obviously, the persistence worked because just a couple of hours after I got home, the radiology department called to set up an appointment for this coming Thursday. What a relief.

After the appointment, Lindsey asked how I felt. I don't think I am discouraged or even afraid, but I am disappointed. I just want a 3-month scan that comes back without any further complications. When I told this to Mom, she said something interesting: "Maybe you will never have a 'normal' 3-month scan because your good doctors will always be looking at every tiny little thing that doesn't quite fit." So true. I should be grateful for that, and I really am. I'm also grateful for doctors who use their professional expertise and their immense knowledge and don't jump to conclusions and start panicking at things like "nodes" and blips. I'm grateful that they've seen enough melanoma and know all the ins and outs to make positive assessments and order appropriate procedures. I'm grateful that I can trust their training and their wisdom. Above all, I'm grateful that I can leave the Center and still feel hopeful, knowing what I know and living with what I have to live with. Yep, these days I'll take 99%, gladly.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hope of the Hopeless

Saturday, December 17, 2011: Today I am feeling especially emotional, partly because Christmas is a mere eight days away and it will be here and gone before we know it; partly because I am worried for big and little folks in my life who are facing struggles that seem beyond their capacity to endure; and partly because the evidence that life can change in the blink of an eye once again reared its unpredictable head.

A friend from chorus ended her own life this past week. I am reeling with shock and sadness.

In the past few years, Marilee had faced and conquered a devastating cancer diagnosis & treatments. She lost her beautiful hair. She lost her long eyelashes and lovely curved eyebrows. In the past few months, she was involved in several car accidents and other health issues. Through it all, she had tried to remain hopeful and positive and was always grateful for the good things in her life, like her son & daughter-in-law and precious granddaughter. The last time I saw her was at chorus rehearsal two weeks ago. I remember thinking how good it was that her hair was growing back, curly and thick. I should have told her. She was always so gracious giving and receiving compliments. She would say, "Thank you for noticing," or "Thank you for saying so," or "Thank you for asking how I'm doing." I should have taken that extra five seconds to tell her how pretty she looked. It may not have made that much difference if she was struggling emotionally already, but it may have given her a bit of hope. Because, obviously, Marilee had begun to feel hopeless. She had come to a point where she no longer considered that "this too shall pass". She was lost in doubt and darkness. Taking a few too many pills and going to sleep must have seemed the best of all propositions in her life.

I once had a brief taste of that hopelessness, many years ago. It was long after midnight and I was driving aimlessly around town, my family sound asleep at home. I was screaming my frustration and discouragement and anger at myself to God, pleading with him to take away the pain of the mistakes I had made and the pain I was causing others. I finally stopped the car in an abandoned parking lot and I must have pounded the steering wheel and cried for over an hour until I was exhausted. That's when the Master of Lies whispered to me how sweet it would be to just end it all, to have an end to pain, to have an end to worries, to have an end to sorrow. I actually listened to him for a moment. I actually considered it. But just as quickly, I thought of my children, home asleep in their beds. I thought about the aftermath of such an act, and there was the difference. I put myself away and reached out and pulled in any source of comfort I could find, which happened to come most abundantly from my Savior. He ran to help me, to save me from the darkness. I can't say life was perfect from that moment on, but it held hope. And in all the days and months and years since that night, it has continued to hold hope. He is the hope of the hopeless. I wish Marilee had let that light push away her darkness.

I want to try to sing with a small group from chorus at her funeral on Wednesday. I hope she will see how much she was loved and will feel our hearts giving her those compliments we should have said before. At this Christmastime, we must be kind to everyone because it could be the difference between the Light of Life and the darkness of lies. There is always hope. It is a truth the world was created for, that "all mankind may be saved" by the love of their Lord and Redeemer, through faith on His name and obedience to His commandments. I know this is true, Marilee. God bless you...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Bundle

Tuesday, December 13, 2011: Yesterday, I received the happy news that my sweet niece, Malyree, had given birth to her first baby, a precious girl named Briia Madysen. She was born on 12/12 (you know how I love the number game!). I went to the hospital today to see little Briia and her mommy & daddy. Snow was lightly falling and the winter air was cold and crisp, but I was thrilled to be walking into that hospital to see a new baby and not to have some treatment or procedure done! Oh, and then to see that tiny innocent baby snuggled on her daddy's lap, sound asleep, oblivious to the big strange world she has suddenly landed in, and to be bathed in the warmth of her family's love. She truly is a gift, a special Christmas gift. When I saw my Maly, I got all choked up. She's a mother!! How can this be? Only yesterday, I snuggled with her as a tiny baby and watched her grow and become her cute self. The life cycle goes on. For the first time in many months, I was happy to go through those hospital doors to the happy place of new mommies and babies. That little bundle is the reason we all fight to live every day, so that we can share memories with those we love.

My scan is six days away. Thinking good thoughts and sending much prayer heavenward...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eye See You

Thursday, December 8, 2011: Went to bed last night with a sore left eyeball (I know, I know, I try to give every body part a piece of the action). My eyes were dry and itchy all day and it only got worse as the night progressed. Of course, part of the problem was my old contact lens. Hmm, how long have I had that one in? If I can't remember, it's way past its expiration date. When I took it out last night, there was a tiny tear in the contact. That could have been the problem. But this morning, I felt like I had a hair or some other debris (might as well use that word here, as I've been using it all week to describe the litter of fallen trees in our fair city) in my eye. Couldn't even imagine putting a contact back in, even a brand-new one (which I will do, I promise), so I put on my glasses for the day. About 10:00 AM, I called the eye doc and made an appointment to see if it was infected and if I needed drops. Of course, 20 minutes later, the eye felt better. But, I kept the appointment, just in case.

While Janessa waited in the car, listening to the radio, I had the quickest eye doctor appointment in the history of my 40-years of eye doctors. Good news - the cornea was not scratched (which I thought it would be). Also, no infection, as far as the doc could tell. Bad news - left eyeball was very dry and there were "dead skin cells" on the cornea. What?? Eeek! Doc thought it was from the old contact lens, plus irritation from the dry furnace-blasting air that is the norm everywhere I go, due to our cold temps lately. He also attributed it to "aging", though he wasn't worried enough to prescribe anything yet. He gave me a couple of antibiotic drops right there in the office and sent me home with a bottle of artificial tears, which will help keep it lubricated. More good news - he says I should be okay to wear my NEW contact tomorrow. Good. Wearing my glasses 24/7 makes me feel like I'm in disguise...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Wednesday, December 7, 2011: This morning (in the 20-degree cold), I visited the cemetery and put new Christmas flowers on Dad's grave. I was sad to see remnants of the big old fir trees that had toppled in the wild wind storm the other day. I finished putting the flowers in the vases and then sat for a few minutes in my car, talking to Dad. I told him all was well. I miss him. I can see him shaking his head at the year we've had. I'm grateful I can feel him with me.

I also came home and put the flag up to honor and remember Pearl Harbor. Grandpa Calvin served in WWII, so I thought of him today, too. What great men our dads were and are! I'm proud to be their daughter.

It's been a good day. I had my blood work done this morning, too (busy morning), and it was 2.2 - right in the range of "normal". GOOD! Been worried about that all week, but I'm not going to worry about it any more.

I'm praying that Janessa is having a good day, too. She was going on a field trip with her Science class and was anxious about who she would be able to "hang with" during the trip. I pray that she put on her brave face and that the kids she wanted to be with were kind & willing to let her come along. Who wouldn't want her to part of their group? Ah, teenage-hood. It's a beast sometimes. I'm proud of her -she's stretching & growing in many ways.

Only 18 days until Christmas...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Smells like Christmas

Monday, December 5, 2011: Over the weekend, I had a dear friend tell me that she reads my blog religiously, and that when I don't post for several days, she worries. Her advice: "Just write, 'I'm okay', once a day!" I'll try to do better, Colleen. And I am okay!

Loved having the annual "Writer's Friends" brunch Saturday morning. Has it really been a tradition for 20 years now? First Saturday in December! I love these women. They are inspiring, faithful, loyal, smart, and funny. It is a blessing to spend time with you. Thank you for loving me.

We watched the First Presidency "Christmas Devotional" last night. I realized (again) that one of my favorite Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas carols is "The First Noel". The orchestration and harmonies of this beautiful hymn are absolutely breathtaking. It makes me weepy every time. I'm always grateful for the reminder to put Christ in the center of our celebrations and to serve and love one another...and that doesn't mean just buying a gift for someone. It's truly giving with a happy heart and forgetting that you gave.

Today, Janessa and I are in full swing of our baking spree for the Sub 4 Santa service project. Last night, we made Rice Krispie treats, pumpkin/chocolate chip loaves, and poppyseed muffins. This morning, I've been baking peanut butter/chocolate bars and more pumpkin loaves, along with some banana bread. When she gets home from school, we'll start on the chocolate chip cookies, the blueberry & crumb cake muffins, and the oatmeal cookies. The house smells delicious. The kitchen is warm. Life is good.

Now that the oven is off for a few hours, I should get some other things work. And Colleen, I'm still okay!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Friday, December 2, 2011: Yesterday was a wild day - in many ways. But, let me begin by saying that hope is still alive and well and miracles continue to bless my life. So thankful.

We experienced a terrible wind storm today with gusts reaching 100 mph in some spots of the county. Luckily, in our little flatland west of the foothills, the winds only knocked down garbage cans and basketball standards and flipped trampolines around the neighborhoods. But eastward, where Aaron & Lindsey live, the winds tore away their carport, uprooted trees, tore shingles off roofs, and made a general mess of things. They were also without electricity for 12 hours, making life quite uncomfortable in the 30-degree temps outside. Driving through town, evidence of the storm was everywhere - traffic lights out, huge fir trees uprooted, branches littering the road, businesses without power, garbage blowing around, and people scrambling just to stay upright. I took Janessa to school in the morning, but the power was out at the school and many kids just stayed home because their HOME power was also out. By 11:00 AM, she was calling for me to come pick her up, and actually, I think the office workers were relieved that kids were being checked out of school.

Yesterday was also the scheduled appointment to have my "procedure" to remove the cyst that I was worried about several weeks ago. Lindsey planned to take me, even though Ally was home from school and they had no power. We were late to the appointment because of the wind and traffic lights out and were amazed to drive in to Salt Lake where there was just the slightest ripple of a breeze. No one really believed that we had just driven through our own "war zone" of debris and damage. Dr. Fisher rushed me right in to the procedure room - I'm sure he was anxious to get back on schedule. But when it came time to look for the cyst, neither he nor I could find it under my skin. I told him that there have been days in the past few weeks when I could not feel it and other days when I could. Today was one of the "no feel" days. He couldn't feel it either and certainly didn't want to cut into tissue without knowing if he was in the right spot or not. "It must have disintegrated on its own," he said. I'm sure I looked a little disbelieving - nothing is that simple in my life lately - so he reassured me that if I ever do feel it again and am worried about it, I can call him and have him take another look. And of course, when I have my 3-month scans in a few weeks, if there is really anything there to worry about, it will show up. It's just another miracle. If I had gone with the original appointment on November 10, it probably would have still been infected and easier to feel and find. But waiting a few weeks (and blaming the Coumadin!) has proved to be a blessing. No procedure. No cutting into my body again. No complications. Nothing but relief, and as my friend, Ann, said, "Not even a Band-aid." I'm so blessed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanks for Relief

Tuesday, November 29, 2011: Today I am VERY grateful for relief - I feel 98.9% better than yesterday. After some switching of meds - and thanks to sweet Linds for the loan of bottled relief - I was able to sleep well and wake up with minimal pain and distress. Am gaining strength as the day goes on, too. I've never had such a bad infection, so now I sympathize much more with those of you who deal with these beasties often. This one about did me in...

In spite of feeling like a pile of mush yesterday, we attempted to decorate for Christmas for Family Home Evening. It was pretty much all I could do to help with the tree...and leave the rest for today. I've been able to get a lot done already this morning. Just a few more things to put out and then, I'll be happier. SOO grateful for healing, health, the RIGHT drugs, and energy. Wow, I am so blessed - and a much nicer person to be around when I feel good.

Monday, November 28, 2011

List of Thanks

Monday, November 28, 2011: I've missed far too many days of giving thanks here, but know that I have been thankful in some degree every one of those days and have told my Heavenly Father "thank you" many times. After a wonderful Thanksgiving feast and feeling the joy of being with family, I echo the line, "There's no place like home..." I am very grateful for all the help that surrounded me Thanksgiving Day, from setting up tables and chairs and making the tables look pretty, to cooking, baking (my darling DIL makes the most delish pies & rolls EVER!), slicing, pouring & serving. Every detail was perfect. And though Janessa complained just a teensy bit about the rest of our "boring" weekend, it was good to relax and not have any big commitments. (She would have preferred some fun activities, but I happen to know that she finished one of her books in the stack of "unread" and started another...)

I am thankful for music - once again LOVING my privilege to sing "Messiah" with the Utah Symphony and Chorus this past weekend. "Hallelujah!"

I am thankful for the peace the Spirit can bring when things look bleak. Bad news can crush us if we don't rely on the Spirit to bring comfort and the hope & miracles of blessings.

I am thankful for meds - because today I am suffering (sigh) with a UTI. I made up my mind this morning to go to the dr's office first thing and happily, they had an opening. Got some high-powered meds that I hope will bring speedy relief. Whew. So glad I didn't wait any longer. Our bodies are really wonderful, but when something isn't right, they sure let you know it in a big way.

I am thankful for the anticipation of putting up our Christmas tree tonight. It gives me a little boost on this day when I just wish I could curl up in my bed (which I still may do for a few hours...). Bring on the Christmas music and the pine-scented Scentsy!

I am thankful for my family. They are all that really matter to me. I love them, I pray for them, and I want them to be happy, especially during this holiday season. May God hear us and bless us, every one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Musings, Part II

Monday, November 21, 2011: Yesterday was my Chelsea's 7th anniversary with her hubby, Rob. They took a little break and spent the weekend in Vegas, but unlike the typical Vegas holiday, they began their journey with a visit to the temple. And much like my sweet experience Friday, she had a unique "tender mercy" experience, too. She & Rob wanted to spend an hour in the temple (having never been to the Las Vegas temple before), so they made sure the workers knew their time limits. She said the experience was very precious, with the uniting of families beyond the grave for time and all eternity. Just as their hour was coming to an end, the temple worker looked at the doorway and said, "Hello, President, come on in." Chels and Rob turned around to see Owen Roundy, a very close family friend of my mom and dad's, who was our Bishop when we lived on Bristol Way in Vegas. He was coming in to take over the ordinance work being done. Since it was a good time to leave, Chels went up to him and introduced herself, telling him that she couldn't believe that she would see him on this day at this time - another "non"-coincidence! When she told him she was Lois's granddaughter and Lisa's daughter, he was amazed that their paths had crossed, as well. He asked about my mom's health and my health, and as Chels and Rob were leaving the room, she heard him tell the other folks that she was the granddaughter of "one of my dearest friends, Roy Passey." What a tender moment! Chelsea said that from the minute he walked in the room, she knew "Pop" was there, too. Of course he was! I'm so grateful for these seemingly small experiences that prove the Lord's love for us.

Today, I'm thankful for good health. I had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Bradley early this morning to have my ear checked and he asked me lots of questions about everything in general. Hard to believe that it's been eight months since I first met Dr. Bradley and was diagnosed with melanoma in that very office. Eight months ago, I would have hoped to be at this point, but I was very fearful and pessimistic. Today, I have an abundance of hope because I know my team of doctors will fight valiantly for me. I told him that my "procedure" with Dr. Fisher is coming up on December 1, as well as my scans at Huntsman on Dec. 19 and the visit with Dr. Grossmann on December 20. He asked if I had any other worries--any lumps or bumps--and I was happy to say, ''No." I feel good and I feel that all will be well. When I went to the front desk to make another follow-up appointment in 6 weeks, I was told that he will be "out of the office" from December 19 to the end of the year because his wife is having a baby. I'm so happy for them! My appointment was made for January 9, 2012. Wow. The new year is already here in so many ways. With hope and faith and miracles, I know all will be well then, too. I am so blessed.

Monday Musings, Part I

Monday, November 21, 2011: Many things to be thankful for this Monday afternoon. I had some wonderful experiences over the past few days. I want to share a few, and may have to go to Part II at some point. We'll see...

I've been singing this past week with the Symphony Chorus. Beautiful music by Hector Berlioz, "The Childhood of Christ". We sang in French. I write everything out phonetically under the words, so my French is not very precise. We performed Friday night and Saturday night, and it was thrilling. I loved watching our conductor, Maestro Thierry Fischer. He was animated and emotional. He adores the music, and it showed on his face and in his wide, sweeping gestures, as he encouraged us and the orchestra to sing and play our best with our whole hearts. There were magical moments both nights. In the first act, the women of the chorus did not appear on stage; instead, we sang from the stairwell offstage, as we were "angels" singing to Mary and Joseph after the birth of their Holy Baby. I had to mouth several parts, as they were way too high for my (ever-deeper) Alto range. Oh, but for a moment, we were the angels and it was glorious. In the second act, we came on stage and joined the men for some wonderful choruses. There was also a truly beautiful number called "Trio for Two Flutes and a Harp", in which Maestro sat down and let them play completely on their own. It was the music of heaven. Listen to it sometime and you'll see. The chorus follows soon after with "O Mon Ame" (O, My Soul), a haunting, soft, a capella number that brought me to tears at the final "Amen"... both nights! I know the audience, too, was spellbound - no one moved, even after Maestro lowered his arms at the end. Silence filled the hall, and so did the Spirit. So lovely. I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful organization and to hear and participate in such moving music. It is one of my most overwhelming blessings...

Also, on Friday, I had the sweetest experience at the temple. I decided to go, spur of the moment, Friday morning, so I dropped Ness off at school and drove up the hill in the cold November morning mist. I parked and walked up to the temple doors. As I approached this beautiful building, I realized that in leaving my purse in the car, I had also left mints/gum/breath spray and all other remedies I have come to carry with me everywhere to combat my dry mouth (results of salivary gland removals AND radiation treatments) and bad breath (which embarrasses me to no end). I hesitated to enter the temple, thinking I should go back and get my purse. But, in the end, I decided I would ask one of the sweet workers if they could spare me a mint or two to get me through the next couple of hours. The temple was not very busy--it was only 8:15 AM! The dressing room was quiet and uncrowded. I walked the hallway to the waiting worker and she directed me to a dressing room at the far end of the aisle. All four lockers were free, so I decided to open the second from the left. To my absolute astonishment, there on the top shelf of the locker was a package of Trident Peppermint gum with only one stick taken from it! At first, I laughed and looked heavenward and somewhat irreverently gave Heavenly Father a "thumbs up"! But, then, I started to cry, shaking my head in amazement that He blesses me so COMPLETELY. There was no way to return the gum to its rightful owner--it was there to bless me at the exact moment I needed it. I know there are no coincidences. He led me to the exact place where a blessing awaited me. It is a marvel to me that He knows me, He knows my needs, and He is there for me, even with something so simple as a stick of gum to keep my mouth moist and my breath minty-fresh. Amazing! I am so grateful. When I left the temple that day, I left the package of gum behind. Maybe it blessed someone else, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Double Gratitude

Wednesday, November 16, 2011: As you can tell, I'm falling into the habit of doing two days at a time. I'm just such a busy bee (only because I'm only moving at half speed most of the time!) that time slips away from me during the day and it's time for bed. Sorry. But, I continue to be doubly (is this a word?) grateful for many things.

Yesterday, my gratitude involved the beautiful music of the Utah Symphony, soloists, and chorus as we prepare to perform Berlioz's "Childhood of Christ" this weekend. It's a whirlwind week of rehearsals, and yesterday, I realized (again) just how difficult this piece is. Not only has the chorus been spending extra rehearsal time on our numbers, but obviously the symphony and the soloists have been struggling a bit, too. Our director, Maestro Thierry Fischer, is wonderful and patient as he leads and guides us to the vision he sees and hears. More time was spent last night on the orchestral pieces, as they fine-tune everything to perfection. I'm sure tonight the chorus will be drilled just as extensively. It is an amazing experience to sing with such a high caliber of musicians--me, the un-trained and un-professional. I count it as one of my miracles that my neck surgeries and radiation treatments spared my vocal chords. They are not perfect, by any means, but they keep me in this circle of unbelievable music and people that have the power to lift and inspire and soothe and comfort. I'm so grateful.

Today, I am grateful for the smiles I encounter everywhere in my busy life. I spent time at a couple of stores today, and the people behind the cash registers were amazingly kind and friendly. I couldn't help but smile back! Smiles are so simple to give, I wonder why we don't hand them out to everyone we meet. I certainly need to try harder. I'm thankful that people realize how much difference a smile makes to a person who may be having a bad day or who may feel sad or who just needs a little boost. It's contagious! I wish our mouths just naturally turned up on the ends. Gotta practice this one, especially now that my muscles and nerve ends tend to droop down. Keep smiling! It's wonderful!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Clouds & Sunshine

Monday, November 14, 2011: So grateful for the time I can spend with my family. But because there were five extra people in my house for the past few days, I did not get any computer time. Not complaining...just explaining.

Friday, I was extremely grateful for the significance of the date: 11/11/2011. It was an historic day for many and a good day for most, including me. Rob passed his aptitude test to apply for nursing school. That made us all smile. We remembered those who have fought (and continue to fight) so valiantly for our freedoms and liberties, especially Calvin, Raymond, Eddie, James, John, and Jacob. We salute them and honor them. I was also tickled to watch Lachlan play soccer in Aaron & Lindsey's backyard with some neighbor boys--I loved their little cheers & huddles & imitations of the "big boys". And it warmed my heart to see Avery play with her little sister, Jane, and cousin, Olive, and be a helper. They're all growing up. They're all amazing.

Saturday, I was grateful for a warm house in the midst of a drizzly rain/snow storm. It was never exactly SUNNY, but for a few brief moments, the rain stopped spitting and the wind quieted so Chels could take our picture for our holiday cards. I know they'll be wonderful, so I'm grateful for the time Chelsea took to stand in the cold and wet and try to avoid being run over by the traffic, just so I could have the card I've envisioned. I was also very grateful to celebrate Aaron & Lindsey's 9th anniversary and to think back nine years ago--the temple, the radiant couple, the family (Pop helping in the kitchen for the wedding breakfast), and the amazing reception. I love them so much. I'm grateful for their love & support of me, often dropping their own plans to help. It means the world to me.

Sunday, I was grateful for the miracle of forgiveness--whether it's the understanding that comes when keys are accidentally locked in the car and an expensive locksmith must be called, or the Savior's love when we fall short of our potential and choose unwisely. There is a power in the Atonement that transcends the bleak discouragement that comes when we fail. In His eyes, we are like little children who must constantly be picked up, brushed off, and set on our wobbly legs again, time after time. How grateful I am for His eternal love. I would be lost without it.

Today, I am grateful for the sunshine and the fresh air...and for Christmas music on the radio. I know, I know, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. But the familiar carols bring memories of joy...and anticipation of joy to come. It's just a little pick-me-up that never fails.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reality Check

Thursday, November 10, 2011: Today, I wanted to be able to express gratitude that I no longer had to worry about my little tummy "cyst", but it was not to be. Unfortunately, my doctor and his nurse neglected to tell me that I had to be off Coumadin for FIVE days prior to any type of procedure. I am so bummed. I cried when they told me we would have to reschedule. And of course, the next available appointment isn't until DECEMBER 1, which seems like forever away. I know it will be here in a blink of an eye, but it can't come soon enough. Now, I will worry through concert week next week, through Thanksgiving and beyond, until it is finally removed and analyzed. I just want it gone. I am in a funk over this. So, I must think of my gratitude attitude.

Yesterday (yes, I didn't have time to post), I was thankful for my little girl (not so little at 5'9"). She and I went to the Young Women's Evening of Excellence and my heart was swollen with pride and love for what a beautiful young lady she is and is becoming. I'm grateful that she likes to tell me everything, because I know someday--in the realm of teenagehood--that may not be the case. I love the drama of her life--her struggles with her shyness around new and old friends, her new-found "crush" on a boy at school, her love of CHOIR (hooray!), her love of Seminary (another hooray!), and all the hoopla that comes with being 14--and a half. She is beautiful and funny, and I really must learn to be more patient when she acts a bit selfish. It's just so junior high, and I really do remember how that feels. I love her dearly. I'm so grateful to have her in my life.

Today, I am grateful (even though I'm also grouchy) for my health. I had the energy (even after my crying spell) to clean my house, including bathrooms!, for Chelsea & Rob's arrival tonight. I have a small house, so the energy level doesn't have to be monumental, but I'm so grateful that I can push a vacuum around, scrub a tub, and polish a few mirrors. Maybe if I had had the "procedure" (I refuse to call it a surgery!), I wouldn't have been able to do all that today. Tomorrow maybe, but not today. So, see? There is a silver lining in the dark cloud that dumped on me today. Okay. I'll feel better tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Tuesday, November 8, 2011: In my job, I type or populate a date field for each report, and as today was November 8, every time it came up, I was reminded that today is one of my childhood girlfriend's birthday. She and I were best of buddies from first grade to 10th grade. We lived two houses from each other on the same street. We both loved to write stories and read books. We both loved to sing and play-act. We both loved to roller-skate and ride our cool banana-seat bikes. We both loved dolls, and one year (third grade, I think), Santa brought us both the SAME doll. We were in the same class in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. We chased the same boys on the playground. We copied each other's hairstyles and ordered eyeglasses that were similar. If we weren't in our own homes, we were together. We loved to walk to 7-11 and buy $0.10 candy bars. As we got older, we loved to ride our bikes the (seemingly) long way to the public library, where we'd scope out all the best books we longed to read. Sometimes, we went to the local bowling alley near the library. We'd take our hard-earned babysitting money - a couple of dollars, at least - and eat lunch at Taco Bell, where every menu item was $0.25. Imagine, a bean burrito, a taco, and a small drink for under $1! We went to movies and the swimming pool in the summer, when the heat index was over 100 degrees. We wore our shorts and sandals in the winter and celebrated the one time it snowed on Christmas Day! We played Hide 'n Seek with the other neighbor kids and put on "concerts" and plays in someone's garage. We made puppets from paper mache. We played Monopoly for hours. We played school and both dreamed of becoming "real" teachers someday.

I am grateful for these memories. I had a blessed childhood. I loved my friends and they loved me. I hope that someday, I can find this girlfriend and renew our friendship. The last I heard from her, she was fighting a brain tumor, but was making progress. She had fulfilled her dream of becoming a schoolteacher and was beloved among students and parents for her creative, kind, encouraging personality. She is still in my heart, though I unintentionally hurt her feelings once and she chose to give up our communications. I hope I can make it up to her someday.

I have wonderful friends today. They are a light in my life. The saying is true, that you find out who your true friends are when you go through a trauma or a tragedy. They're the ones who keep track of you, ask how you're doing, keep you in their thoughts and prayers. I'm afraid that's where I failed with my childhood friend. She was going through this terrible illness, and I was selfish with my time and energy. I could have called, I could have written, I could have done more to support her in her time of need. I have friends now who have been angels in my life through my illnesses. They show up on my doorstep with a little treat or a smile and put their arms around me. They write me notes of love and support and encouragement and tell me to stay strong. They pray for me, and I feel it. I know I could call any of them and they would come running. I am so grateful for friends. I hope that through my experiences this year, I can be a better friend, too. It makes a huge difference in the quality of our little lives to know there is someone around the corner who would do anything for you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Catching up with Gratitude

Monday, November 7, 2011: I usually don't turn on my computer on the weekends, simply because I'd rather be doing other things on Saturday and Sunday than sitting in front of the computer screen. It tends to be very addicting. I feel like my Monday through Friday job that requires staring into the computer world is enough. So...I missed my Saturday and Sunday gratitude entries (as you may or may not have noticed). Here's a little catch-up:

Saturday: Today, I was grateful for a warm coat and a fluffy scarf around my scarred neck. (Who knew that my "wobbler" would be affected by the cold weather? Dr. Avizonis said that the cold may cause it to swell and be weird this winter. Gee, thanks. But, I am glad to be forewarned. It gives me a good excuse for more scarves!) It snowed on us today. Boo. I'm not a winter person. I'd much rather be warm from the sun than a heater. I will admit that the snow can be pretty, but I like it best when it covers the lawns and trees...and then swiftly melts away. It did that today, for the most part. Thank you.

Sunday: Today, I was grateful for a peaceful Sabbath...and one extra hour to sleep (Daylight Savings Time ended). Our church meetings were spirit-filled and I was motivated to do and be better. My Sunday nap was sweet, even if it wasn't quite long enough. Dinner was quick and easy and good (orange chicken and rice) and Family Council was enlightening, thanks to my two good supporters. After, we played Monopoly - and though I came in last (with my four measly properties!), it was fun. Janessa wants it to be on the Council agenda: "Board Game Time". We'll see.

And now for today's gratitude moment: Today, I am grateful for phone calls that begin with "Hello, my sweet girl!", which can only mean my momma is on the other end. She sounds so good! There was a time - not so long ago - that I saved two or three messages from those phone calls that I missed from her, just to listen to her voice over and over again, wondering if I would ever hear her that way again, if at all. I'm SOOO grateful for my mom and her continued progress and strength. I'm so grateful that she continues to worry about me and give me advice and share her love with me. I love her dearly. Yes, it's a good day when I can talk to my mom and laugh with her and catch up on our crazy lives. Thanks, Mom. Love you...

Friday, November 4, 2011


Friday, November 4, 2011: Today I am grateful for my siblings. I have one brother and three sisters, all younger. Two sisters live quite far away and we have to rely on texting and email to stay in touch. Thank goodness for modern technology! The third one lives not so far away, yet I don't take the time often enough to see her or talk to her. So, today, I called and asked if she wanted to go to lunch with me. I was going to pick her up after I ran some errands at the local mall, but she asked if she could come "window-shopping" with me. It was a great treat. She's a tough lady who has had a tough life and I'm constantly amazed that she can keep her chin up through all the trials. We laughed and oohed and ahhed over the fun things at the store and each picked out a pretty shirt for the colder weather. My sweet sister complimented me on my (not-so-cute) hair and told me my latest neck scar isn't "that noticeable." To top it all off, we ate until we were stuffed like little piggies at the restaurant! It was wonderful.

I've been a big sister for over 50 years - wow! And while it hasn't always been easy or fun, I love my siblings with all my heart. Each one has special qualities and abilities. Each one has had to find their way through this life and climb over a lot of rough spots. Each one has shown courage in the face of extreme tragedy and trauma. Each one has lifted me in one way or another through their love and prayers. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. I'm grateful for Troy, Laura, Patti, and Dionne. Love you guys - mmwwahhh!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Here's to our health

Thursday, November 3, 2011: Today, my gratitude moment is for feeling good and strong because the opposite is NOT a fun ride. Yesterday morning, I went into my girl's room to wake her up for school, as I do every morning. Usually, she's on her tummy or her side, deep in sleep, but yesterday, she was flat on her back and her eyes were HUGE. I have to admit it was a little creepy since I was expecting her eyes to be closed. She tried to smile a bit, but confessed that she had a "crick" in her neck and was in some serious pain. Not quite sure how she did it - maybe sleeping wrong? - but she had woken up on her tummy and tried to roll over...and couldn't. It took all her strength to get from her stomach to her back and now, she couldn't move at all. It was scary to me. Things like this are not supposed to happen to teenagers. I offered Tylenol and a heated bean bag, to which she agreed. That's when I knew it was serious - she hates to take meds. As we nestled the heated bag onto her sore neck and shoulder, I told her to rest and let the Tylenol work while I took a shower. When I came back about 20 minutes later, she hadn't moved except to re-position the heat bag. My poor girl! I knew then that we probably weren't going to be driving to school on time, so I left her resting while I straightened the kitchen and unloaded the dishwasher. It was probably a half hour later that she came staggering in, having pulled herself (painfully!) to a sitting and then standing position. We re-heated the bag and settled her into the recliner. Her morning routine was completely dissolved; she could barely move her head or lift her right arm. (I wanted to say, "Welcome to MY world!", but didn't...) Finally, at 10:00, she was able to get dressed, even though she couldn't lean down to put on shoes or socks. I had to help her pin her bangs back because it hurt to lift her arms. I suggested that she stay home from school, but she said she "had to go." We arrived just as the third hour class was beginning, so she left me at the office to get her checked in while she went to her locker for class. She didn't want a lunch, even though she hadn't eaten breakfast either, so I tucked a Nutri-Grain bar into her bag. I told her to call me if the pain got bad again and watched her walk gingerly down the hall. My heart ached for her.

I know pain. I know NECK pain. Sometimes, I wonder if I can handle it another minute...and then, I do. But this, THIS, was awful. I felt helpless. I wanted to "wave my magic wand" (one of my mom's sayings) and make it all go away for my girl. I couldn't. She had to endure it on her own with my limited help.

Today, I am grateful that the pain lessened as the day wore on and she was actually able to sleep okay last night. Today, she seems almost whole again. We take our health for granted every single day, but those moments when it disappears is devastating. I am so thankful that with meds and heated bean bags and loving care and lots of prayer, things do get better. Whew!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

November 2, 2011: I've decided (with a little help from my friends - la la la) to make November full of "Gratitude Attitude". I certainly have a boatload of blessings to be thankful for. Every day, I'll post something I'm grateful for in my crazy life. It's a good reminder of what is REALLY important.

Since yesterday was November 1, I'll do two "thank you's" today. Yesterday, I was thankful for the turning of the calendar on another month and simply feeling GOOD inside. I had confirmation from a loved & respected doctor that "all will be well", and I believe her. I am grateful that I can sing and rehearse with the Utah Symphony Chorus and make beautiful music, even if it is in FRENCH (Berlioz)! Stretch those vocal cords! They feel as tight as my neck muscles some days. And I'm grateful that on a cold November night, I can sit in a comfy chair with my hands wrapped around a brimming mug of hot chocolate and watch a little TV before bed. Ahhh...

Today, I'm grateful for a new coat that will keep me warm on days like today - the sun is shining, but the cold air can take your breath away! I'm grateful for a comfortable home with heat blowing automatically from the vents...and that I don't have to do laundry or dishes with water heated from a pot on a wood-burning stove! How did our great-grandmothers do it? I'm grateful for those great-grandmothers, whose faces are solemn and a little sad in their aged, sepia photos. I'm sure if they saw my "ease", they would shake their heads with wonder. I'm grateful that I live in today's world, because I know I've been saved by the medical advances that keep pushing forward and finding cures so that someone like me can find joy in each new day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Navigating November

November 1, 2011: After a glorious pre-Halloween weekend (where at times, I was with all of my kids and grands - so heartwarming to this Grammy!), we woke up this first of November morning to drizzly rain and much colder temperatures. No more Indian Summer? Boo. I have enjoyed wearing light jackets and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Today, the sun was in hiding. At least the kiddies out Trick-or-Treating last night got the last bit of fall for their holiday evening.

Remember long, long ago, when Dr. Avizonis (my radiologist at the Utah Cancer Center) told me to come back in six months for a check-up? It seemed so far in the distance... Well, today was the day. I turned over the page on my calendar and there was written, "Dr. A at 9:30". Wow. I know where some of that time went, but the rest is a big blur. My life is kind of a blur. Maybe that's a good thing at times.

First, I went to the Bountiful Clinic and had my weekly IHR blood test. They should know me by now, instead of saying, "Oh, we don't see your standing order in the computer." I patiently wait by the desk for them to search the files, which they always do, and watch as they pull my sheet from the pile, which they always do, and say, "Oh, here you are, that will just be a moment," which they always do. It's a little annoying, but today it was comical. Really? Is it so hard to put my name in the computer? I'm sure it's there 1000 times any way. The 30-second test came back with the result of 2.5, which is absolutely perfect. A quick message from my doc says to "continue on the current regimen and repeat the test in two weeks." Wow, I get a week off! Awesome. I like being perfect on at least this one thing today.

Driving to the Utah Cancer Clinic, I had some moments of anxiety. These were the roads traveled for all those weeks of radiation. It's something I never want to repeat, but with melanoma, there is no telling what the future holds. The rain turned to snow as I pulled into a nifty parking spot just a few feet from the front door. Walking through the doors is hard, too, because much like the Huntsman Cancer Center, you know why all these people are here. They have cancer. I have cancer. We should wear signs to signify what we're coping with, but I'm glad we can remain a bit anonymous. I felt sorry for the obvious sales rep, who sat stiffly in a chair waiting to talk to someone about something other than cancer. I wondered if he worried he'd "catch" something. I watched a young mother with a scarf covering her bald head come out of the radiation room and herd her two little ones into their jackets and out to their car. It just isn't fair, is it? Finally, I'm called back by Allison to be weighed and shown to a room. I'm still about the same weight as I was when I left six months ago, which is good for me and makes Allison happy. A radiation tech smiled and said, "This is about the only place where we're glad when you gain weight." I told Allison about my second big surgery and she is sympathetic. She looked at my neck and said, "Yep, someone has been carving you up!" She left the room to make copies of my pathology reports for Dr. Avizonis to look at and I picked up my book and continued to read as I waited.

Dr. Avizonis came into the room with a look of disbelief. "What is going on?" she said with that understated anger at the meanness of cancer. I told her about finding the lump, learning that it had melanoma, going through the left side neck surgery, learning that none of the lymph nodes had cancer, and even about my mom and her struggles. She pulled up all my lab tests and pathological reports on her computer and printed them to put in my file. She seemed happy with what she read. Then, I tell her about my latest scare a week or so ago, when I discovered another little lump on my tummy as I was showering. I told her about the amazing "coincidence" that I was scheduled to see Dr. Bradley the very next day and that the moment he walked into the room and asked how I was doing, I cried a little and told him of my discovery. I told her that he performed his first abdomen needle biopsy on that tiny lump right there in his office and that the results came back that there seemed to be no cancer in it. I told her about my visit to Dr. Kerry Fisher, a general surgeon, who just "happened" to have an opening the next day after seeing Dr. Bradley, and that he ordered an abdomen/chest CT scan at LDS Hospital, who just "happened" to have an opening that same afternoon ("could I come to the hospital right now, as we don't have anything to do?!") She looked at the results of that CT scan on her computer and saw how the technician believed the lump was caused by "injections" to the area (remember my 10 days with the Coumadin injections?), an opinion shared by Dr. Fisher, too. Dr. A checked out my neck, listened to my heart and lungs, and then wanted to see this tiny lump for herself. When she felt it, she immediately nodded her head and said, "I agree that this seems to be caused by your Coumadin injections. You still need to have it removed and tested, but I don't think you need to worry about it at all." What a relief to have all three doctors on board with the same opinion. Of course, I know that anything can happen under the microscope - I certainly know not to trust my Goliath. But, I feel very reassured that the doctors are all in agreement. I have an appointment to have the lump/cyst (yes, let's call it that - Dr. Fisher calls it a cyst) removed on November 10 - in Dr. Fisher's office, not in a hospital. That makes it even better to me.

I walked out of the Utah Cancer Center with an appointment for six months from now, and I have faith that when that calendar day comes around, I'll still be cancer-free and healing and surviving. I'm a warrior. Nothing happens by coincidence, and I know that everything that just "happens", happens for a purpose, even a little cyst that shouldn't be there. It has shown me that God is in all the little details of my life, from scheduling appointments to guiding my fingers to trouble spots to giving me the doctors who will help me make it through these tests.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Daily Progress

Monday, October 24, 2011: My girl and I returned last night from a few days vacation down where the days are sunny & bright and the evenings are star-filled and cool. Loved it. Every second. Not only did I feel that warm air on my face (yes, our good weather is waning by the minute here), but I had my heart warmed, as well. Time spent with family will do that for you.

From the first moment I saw my cute Mom, standing to greet us, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her daily progress. She doesn't see the day-to-day miracles - like doing her own laundry and fixing her own peanut-butter toast breakfast -but the rest of us are cheering like crazy! I am so encouraged by her strength. It isn't gigantic - it fluctuates almost hourly - but it is there. She's using her funky walker and carrying things from room to room on its little seat. She was discouraged about getting it at first - thinks it's what all the old people have to use! - but I told her that I see that little black, wheeled walker as an "injury aid", not an old-person aid. It's helping her gain confidence and balance while she recovers from her injuries. She showers herself, combs her hair into its signature spikes, and dresses cute. She came to eat pizza at Chelsea's one night and watched the little kids splash and play in the condo pool another day. Our Mumsy is coming back!

We had a good, long talk about some of the things that happened in the hospital that she doesn't remember. I hope I was able to explain some of the hard parts and questionable parts that didn't (and still don't) make complete sense. None of it was clear cut. It was simply emotional, and that is never easy.

Last week, I saw Dr. Bradley for a follow-up. I told him (among a bunch of other things) that I had an earache. When he checked my right ear, he said it was "full of junk." Under the microscope, he discovered that my eardrum had a dime-sized scab on it. He dug it out (owie!) and found a bunch of dried skin underneath, irritating it and causing a bit of infection. Of course, radiation is to blame for all that skin. Remember how itchy and dry my ear was? Where else could it go, but down into the ear canal. And at one point, after my last surgery, when Dean was coughing his guts out with his pneumonia, I wore earplugs to bed every night, which probably accounts for the scab. So, I'm glad to have that cleaned out. Janessa helps put drops in every day, which I hate - I can't stand the sound or feeling of "water" in my ears. It freaks me out every time. But, hopefully it will heal quickly and I'll be done with that. There's always something new to make me say, "hmm, really? I needed to worry about that, too?" Day to day, I'm handling it. Mom and I are tougher than we look...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Necks...and Cars

Wednesday, October 12, 2011: I've realized lately that I notice and study necks. While I'm watching TV or talking to people, I look at their necks. I guess it's because the neck I see most and have a personal connection with is slightly say the least. I see those girls with their gorgeous "swan" necks--long and slender--and I wonder if they've ever even thought about that thing between their ears and their shoulders. They may worry about a few creases and wrinkles or that double chin, but if they're like I used to be, they never give it a second thought. It's just there. I look at pictures of myself (pre-March 2011) and see my smooth white neck (and the double chin) and get a little sad. Right now, I fit in quite nicely with the whole Halloween decor, even without the staples. I hide my neck a lot, whether with my (slowly growing) hair or the collars on my shirts or my collection of pretty scarves. I look at earrings now and think, the smaller, the better, just to keep attention away from my neck. But, honestly, don't worry--I know that someday "the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame..." (Alma 11:43) I think about my sweet mother-in-law, Janice, who suffered with crippling arthritis in her hands and feet, and how she must feel now, in heaven, where she can walk without pain and her fingers are straight and long and beautiful. Someday, I will have a long, slender neck without scars or stiffness and it will be in its "perfect form." I know this is true. I can live with the scars. "There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with." (Harry Crews) Yep, all done.

Good news - my "Goldie" car is back! Yesterday, Dean and I went to the body shop and picked her up. She has a shiny new bumper and tail light AND a new battery which makes the old ignition problems obsolete. She starts up like a champ now! I've been taking this good, reliable car for granted, too, and realized yesterday that I really am blessed. No more black truck. Dean was sad to give it back, but it served its purpose for two (gulp!) weeks and now we're back to our normal transportation. I'm so glad! We can put that whole mishap behind us at last.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kneading out the kinks

Monday, October 10, 2011: It's Monday morning and I've been going full-steam-ahead for hours now. Usually, I go sans makeup and smooth hair to take Ness to school, but when I need to be "in town" for a while, it requires the whole sha-bang of getting ready before we can head out the door. I dropped her off at the usual time and place (but, since we should be getting our car back sometime today, it may be the last morning for a "truck" drive!) and then swung around the back streets to hit the grocery store and use the two coupons that expire tomorrow--one was for bottled water at $2.99/24-ct. case, and the other was for three cans of Chunky Campbell's Soup for $0.99 each. I love soup in the fall/winter, and this was a good deal. Of course, I couldn't pass up the GIGANTIC marshmallows (have you seen them?!!) for $1.00 a bag (I think we'll have indoor S'Mores for FHE tonight) and the maple bar donut for breakfast, but still felt like the stop was worth my while. As I headed to the post office and the bank, I realized it was Columbus Day and neither one would be open! Drat! Those little chores will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

I pulled into the IHC parking lot, a half hour before my physical therapy appointment. I had a library book to pass the time, but decided to get my blood tested (the INR--whatever that stands for--to check how thin/thick my blood is while I'm taking the Coumadin). I have a "standing order", which makes me feel a little bit like an invalid or someone chronically sick. Hmm, I guess cancer could fit into that last category. But, still, I don't like it and can't wait until this little phase is over. I didn't have to wait long in the lobby. A quick finger poke and drop of blood is all it takes. The monitor blinked back, "3.1", while the phlebotomist said, "Oh, it's a little high." I assured her that it has gone "down" since last Monday, when it was "3.6". I'm hoping my dosage will be changed again to 2.5mg EVERY day...or maybe, "you can stop taking it altogether" would be nice, too. We'll see what the doc says in the next day or two.

Then, I walked over to the PT building and checked in. I have to fill out a "pain" chart every time I go. Today, I'm feeling mild pain in my left shoulder and neck, mostly because it's morning and I've slept on that left side. The receptionist asks if I'm going to pay my co-pay today, and I tell her I need to check with my insurance company. Surely, I should be done with co-pays if I've met my out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles for the year? I want to be done. It could mean the difference between continuing to go for PT or not...

I like Dr. Dayton. He's kind of a nerdy guy, but nice. First thing, he wraps a warm (sigh) towel around my neck and lets me lie on the table for about five minutes. It feels heavenly. Then, he takes the wrap and pillow away and holds my heavy head in his hands and starts to massage. He turns my neck, he kneads the knots in my scars, he stretches the tight muscles until they feel better. I do some exercises, too, with both a PVC-pipe bar and a stretchy cord. Even those feel good. Then, he measures my range of motion and compares it to last week. Granted, I haven't been faithful about the home exercises--I probably only did them halfway--but the measurements are still better this week. I've gone from a 100 (no idea how or what that number is) in the motion of raising my left arm above my head to a 136. That sounds good to me! Both measurements of turning my head left and right have also improved, so I'd say progress is being made and recorded. I leave, feeling that I've spent a good hour away from home.

I'm a little concerned about my jaw. It clicks and pops a lot, and yesterday, as I tried to sing in church, my jaw was terribly tight. It not only hurts, but it doesn't make for a very pleasing sound. I'll ask Dr. Dayton about it on Thursday. Maybe he can knead those kinks away, too...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Wednesday, October 5, 2011: My momma got to go home to her own house Monday afternoon! I called her yesterday to see how her day went and she said it was "scary". After a month of being in the hospital and having people around to bring her meds and meals and help her with every little thing, she was scared to do things on her own. She tried to take a shower, but didn't have the strength to turn on the water. Poor Mumsy! I know today was better, because a home health nurse was coming to help this morning. I'm sure as they come and encourage her to move and get stronger, she will feel less frightened. It is scary. I know.

I got my hair cut yesterday. I think it's the first real cut since March! That's terrible! I think having a stylist who now knows my story (and who won't get freaked out by the scars and the missing hair in back) will be a blessing. My bangs are short today. I wish they were a little longer. But, give them a week (or less) and they'll be okay again.

My car went to the repair shop on Monday, and yesterday they called to tell me the "damage report". Everything checked out, except for the obvious damage to the bumper and the tail light. But, I was also informed that the battery was nearly dead. I asked if he thought that was why I've had issues lately with the ignition and the car not starting right away, and he said it could be the cause. Then, he told me that they had had to "jump" the battery a few times already. In my dizzy, "September-mode" thinking, I could imagine my poor car, virtually "dead", and the "paramedic" repair guys having to shock it back to life with the paddles! CLEAR!! Zap! Oh, sorry, that's not so funny, but I did have to chuckle at the visual. My poor little Taurus. Today, the insurance guy called to tell me that the bumper repair would take until at least MONDAY! Good grief! We're already going on 8 days since this little accident occurred. So, looks like we'll have the rental truck for a few more days, which is fine, as long as we don't have to travel far distances.

Dr. Beckstead's office also called this morning (lately I'm either at the doctor's office or on the phone) to tell me that I can reduce my Coumadin dosage on Mon/Wed/Fri to 2.5mg (which is half a pill). The other days of the week, I'll take the whole pill. That tells me that my 3.6 blood test showed him that my blood was getting too thin and we're cutting back. Yay! Hopefully the next report will show him that I can be taken off completely.

It's rainy today...and cold. I hate to think that summer is really gone. I'm trying to ignore my cold feet, but it's not working so well. Time to pull out my woolly socks, I guess.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Something Better

Tuesday, October 4, 2011: October started just the way I wanted it to--I was in a sunny place where I could watch 4 year-olds playing soccer and snuggle with a baby and share sweet potato fries dipped in Ranch dressing with a blue-eyed munchkin and hug my fragile-but-getting-stronger Momma, among other sweet blessings. It was also a time to hear the Prophet and feel goosebumps from the Spirit. I know there is a God and He loves me. Look at all He has given me and my family! It is amazing.

Today I'm counting blessings again: We have a beautiful new garage door. Our car is at the repair shop. I don't have to give myself shots any more. I'm getting my hair cut and styled, finally. It rained this morning and Fall is in the air. I'm putting up new decor for the season, primarily pumpkins and colorful leaves. I'm going to chorus tonight--I've missed singing. I've started Physical Therapy for my neck and shoulders. My first session was yesterday morning and it already feels wonderful. Dean's cough is slowly getting better. Mumsy was able to go home yesterday and sleep in her own bed last night. She is healing.

I'm back to finding the "good news" in every day life. Whew. Feeling better...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Last Day of Hard Knocks Month

Friday, September 30, 2011: I am already flipping over calendar pages to tomorrow, when the month changes from "Super Stressful September" to "Outstanding Optimistic October"!! Yes, we can do it!

This morning, we received the second bid on our garage door replacement. Now, we're waiting on the insurance company to select one of the bids and get things moving. It's frustrating, especially when both companies looked at the garage door and said, "We could get this done today." Okay, let's do it then! All the red tape is discouraging. Meanwhile, my car sits and waits, too, and when it is finally dislodged, it will go off to a repair place for another undetermined amount of time. We do have a rental "car", which happens to be a TRUCK. Brand-new 2012 Chevy Silverado with less than 100 miles on it. Very nice, but not exactly what we need for three tall people. And if we can pry ourselves away from all the drama around here, it's not exactly what would get us down to see Mom in comfort. Style, maybe, but nothing we could really relax in for that long drive. Dean is going back to the rental place to see if there is something we can swap for. We'll see. At least we have transportation now. THAT was another pain altogether.

My visit to the Huntsman Cancer Center on Wednesday was a good one. Dr. Grossmann is very reassuring and informative, and I love that all my doctors are "team players". There was a bit of excitement in the waiting room, as one of the patients waiting to be seen was a man in handcuffs and leg shackles, accompanied closely by two uniformed policemen. Obviously, cancer strikes whomever it wants! As Linds and I sat and waited for our turn, one of the nurses came out to talk to a woman and her husband sitting nearby, and we overheard the nurse say, "Everything came back clear. You're all clear." I watched the woman's face and knew every emotion she was feeling. First, the unbelief; then, the absolute relief, and then, the pure joy and gratitude. It was so sweet and made Linds and I all teary. I wanted to hug her, but she was too busy hugging her relieved husband. When we finally saw Dr. G, the wait was worth it. He asked me about the blood clot and what medications I was taking. When I told him I was doing injections AND taking Coumadin--possibly for the next 8-9 months--he grimaced a bit. "That's quite conservative," he said. He promised to call Dr. Beckstead and confer with him about how long I would need to stay on the drugs. Definitely not 8-9 months, which made me very happy! He went over my pathology reports from the neck dissection, which was quite interesting. I discovered that Dr. Bradley removed 22 lymph nodes from one level of my neck (when Dr. G said the number of nodes removed, he sounded almost astonished!), and then he removed six more from another level. So, when we say Dr. B is thorough, we mean it! Beside each description of the levels were the test results, and I loved seeing "no cancer detected", written after each paragraph. At this point, I am a Stage 3B, but Dr. G was quick to say that usually the differences between 3C and 3B are not a great factor in treatment or survival. He pulled out a cool graph card from his pocket (well used) and showed me how the stages determine survival rate. Right now, after this latest surgery and pathological report, I have a 60% chance of being alive and cancer free in five years. That's doesn't sound like the best, but I was actually encouraged by that number. I think when I was first diagnosed, I was given a 20% chance of survival in five years. Dr. G then went over again all the ins and outs of the clinical trials, relating the side effects and the advantages, and then calmly asked, "So, what do you want to do?" Amazing that these doctors who know so much still leave the decisions in our hands. I told him that since my pathology report had shown no evidence of cancer, I did not want to do any clinical trials. "You want to continue on Active Observations?" he said. Yes, that's exactly what I want to do. Isn't that a great term? Active Observation. We're looking actively to keep those cancer bad guys from winning. I'm back to the 3-month scans, the next one scheduled for December 19. Now, that could be a good thing and a bad thing. It could really be a reason to make merry at Christmas, or it could be total downer. I'm going to think positively and know that it will be a GOOD Christmas. No cancer. None. At all.

I am also waiting today to hear from Dr. Beckstead about further injections. I took my last shot this morning and really, REALLY don't want to refill that prescription. I'm hoping Dr. Grossmann has talked to him about lowering my doses and time on the Coumadin, and that my good score of 2.1 on Wednesday will give me the all-clear. Waiting, waiting...

I talked to Lachlan this morning, too. We're both excited about his soccer game tomorrow and that Grammy will get to see him make some goals! I'm also hoping we can take Mom for a little drive and let her soak in some sunshine and fresh air. I think that makes everybody feel better, but especially after a month in the hospital. I'm going to work hard on that one.

Dean is feeling a little better after a few days on antibiotics, and I feel stronger every day. Yesterday, I actually put in a good amount of time for work. One of the supervisors sent me a message, thanking me for working into the night. I know it will just keep getting better. And now that September is over, I can "press forward". Thank you, Lord Jesus! Without you, I would not be sane enough or healthy enough to put one foot in front of the other; but with you, I am standing tall, poised to sprint to whatever lies ahead, scars and broken things and all. What a precious gift of comfort and peace and healing You have given me this month. It has been the difference between life and death, joy and despair, laughter and tears.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Tuesday, Part III)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 (still): Dean was diagnosed with walking pneumonia today. Had to have a chest x-ray and is on super powerful antibiotics and an inhaler. I'm in stun mode.

Car is stuck in the broken garage. Claims adjuster coming tomorrow, but still not soon enough. I'm a walking zombie.

Enough said.

Will September Never End?? (Tuesday, Part II)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011: I took Janessa to school this morning, came home, and was sitting at the table going over the mail, when I heard a loud CRASH that sounded like it came from the garage. WHAT was THAT?? I opened the door from the house to the garage - and saw that my garage door was crumpled from the outside in, with my car inside, of course! Then, I heard a tiny knock at the front door. Oh, dear. I opened the door to find my across-the-street neighbor in a panic. She had pulled out of her driveway to go to work and had lost her brakes, crashing into my garage door!

REALLY??? We have to laugh about it or we would be in hysterics. Am now waiting for her insurance company to call so we can begin the replacement process.

One of my good neighbors was walking by and saw the damage and told me that he is off work today and wouldn't be needing his car, so I was welcome to use it anytime. Thankfully (and not coincidentally!), today is one day this week where I don't have a doctor's appointment (besides Dean's at 4:00 PM), so I didn't have anything planned to do before picking up Ness from school. Sweet Lindsey had already offered to pick her up for me, but then Good Neighbor appeared on my doorstep with his car keys in his hand and his car in my driveway, "just in case you need it." I feel very blessed.

Okay, are we just exaggerating...or has September been the CRAZIEST MONTH in history for our little family? Bring on October, quick, before something else goes wrong!! (oooh, bite my tongue for even mentioning it...)

Healing Heart and Head (Tuesday, Part I)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011: Sometimes I forget that this journey of mine is not just a physical healing - from surgeries, biopsies, tests, lab work, countless doctor visits and health questionnaires - but it requires emotional healing, too. I forget that just as my wounds are still fragile and painful to the touch, so is my little tender soul. I forget until some little thing that usually wouldn't matter much sends me crashing to a halt. I've kind of been "beat up" this month, me and my family, and after 27 days of it, we're just a bit sensitive to pain and stress. So, I cry a few tears and mutter a few complaints...and then, pick myself up and go on. I hope my family - especially Dean and Janessa - will forgive me and know that someday I really will be better.

Monday, I went to see Dr. Beckstead, my primary care physician. It was a late appointment - 4:00 PM - so, I picked up Ness at school, took her all the way home, drove all the way back up to town - and it was still just 3:30. I decided that I would go to the Physical Therapy place across from the Bountiful Clinic and make some appointments to start therapy on my neck and shoulder. As this latest wound starts to heal, it's getting tighter and "ropier", and since I'm still dealing with tightness and tingling on my right side, I figured some physical therapy to loosen up the neck would be worth it. Also, I have a little diminished mobility in my left shoulder this time around, probably from a sensitive nerve that got "touched" too much. I find myself struggling (just a bit) to put deodorant under that arm (can't quite lift my arm high enough). I also realized the other day that when I try to put my hot rollers in my hair, I'm kind of "trembly" with raising up that arm. Funny how I think standing on my tiptoes is going to help me reach higher with my arms! It's a little frustrating, but Dr. Bradley warned me about this and I fully believe that the full mobility will come back with a little tender care and exercise. SO, I made my first appointment! Next Monday morning, bright and early after I drop off Ness at school, I'll go and be evaluated and then, we're off to the races! It felt good to get that all arranged.

I was still a little early to my appointment with Dr. Beckstead, but I checked in and sat down with my library book to wait. (I had also made an appointment for Dean to get the cough that he's had for 3-plus weeks checked out, for my sanity and his!) I read a few pages, but couldn't really concentrate with all the littles and bigs getting flu shots and check-ups and pregnancy tests, etc. Late afternoon appointments are not the best...all the back-up from the day squashes together...and there we wait. Finally, I was called back to a room, weighed (for those keeping score, I'm now down 43 lbs from March), blood pressure taken (high again), and then kept waiting for the doc. Oh me oh my... Dr. Beckstead appears about 15 minutes later, takes a good look at me (I haven't seen him since March) and says, "You've been on quite a journey, haven't you?" Yes, indeed. He asks how the shots AND pills are going. Pills? I'm supposed to be taking the pills, too? I tell him that Dr. Bradley explained that I do the shots FIRST and then go on to the pills, and he shakes his head sadly and says that he wanted me to do BOTH. Now, he won't be able to test my blood today. How frustrating. I'm deflated. He explains how the shot's benefit is instantaneous, but not long-lasting. When combined with the pills, there is a better overall effect to get the blood thinned and "maintained". The combination is "therapeutic", whatever that means. He wants me to start taking the pills as soon as I get home and then every morning. Since we've missed a few days of the pills, I'll probably have to do the shot regimen longer. Ugh. He tells me to come back on Wednesday for a blood test and explains that he wants my score to be between 2 and 3 (as the number gets higher, the blood is thinner). Too thin is not good. I want those magic numbers of 2 or 3. He gives me a medical website where I can go and see my own scores and keep track. I like that. He also gives me a "standing order" prescription to the lab, where I can go and get my blood tested anytime. But then he drops another bomb - I'll probably have to be on the Coumadin for 8-9 MONTHS!!! This is devastating to me - I'm the non-pill taker. And, Dr. Beckstead continues, if you ever get another blood clot, you'll be on it for the rest of your life. Oh, lovely. With each new detail of news, my soul gets heavier and heavier.

I leave his office feeling like I've wasted time and money today, just because of a little mis-communication between the two doctors and myself. I want to get better, not stand still or go backward. Then, my car won't start right away. It's just one more thing on a pile of ashes that is already crumbling. I have a little meltdown when I get home.

I've got to remember that the emotional hits need attention, too. I've got to remember to rest. I've got to remember to eat something healthy (Swedish fish don't count). I've got to remember to listen to good music that makes me know God is near. I know I'll look back on this and have no memory of the little hiccups that happened, which is a good thing. I just have to keep praying and trusting in a loving Father to get me through the bumps, as I heal physically and emotionally.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Saturday, September 24, 2011:

"I dim. I dim.
I do not doubt
If someone blew,
I would go out.

I did not.

I must be brighter
Than I thought."
--Carol Lynn Pearson

This morning, I pulled up my bootstraps, said a prayer for calm hands and nerves, sat in my rocking chair, and gave myself an injection like I'd been doing it for years. Dean was right - it wasn't that bad. I opened the package with the pre-measured dose already in the syringe, uncapped the tiny needle, put it up against my flabby tummy, and thought, hmm, wonder how much pressure I'll have to use to get it to go in. Answer: not much at all. Before I knew it, it was in and I was pushing the medicine out of the syringe. All painless. A tiny bit of sting after I pulled the needle out. All done in 15 seconds.

Thank you, Lord. I am strong enough to handle this, too, I guess. Who knew? Only YOU.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good and Bad Again

Friday, September 23, 2011: This morning, Lindsey took me to Dr. Bradley's SLC office to get my 19 (gulp!) staples out. I was nervous because I can sort of remember that it pinched and stung the last time I got staples out six months ago. He came into the exam room and then went back out again to look for the "staple remover". We laughed that he had to run to Office Max. But lo and behold, those 19 staples came out slick as can be! No pinching, no pain. My adorable rope wound is still kind of numb, so I didn't feel anything but a bit of a sting at the end. Tender mercy! Hip-hip!

Linds and I remember to ask Dr. B all the relevant questions we were both pondering - had he sent Dr. Grossmann the pathology reports yet? Could I get a "prescription" to Physical Therapy again (and I promise I'll go this time)? He answered everything in his usual informative way and then, right as he was going to leave the room, he said, "How's your calf?" I didn't understand him at first (I thought he said "cath" ???) - oh, my leg. Well, it still hurts. Weird, huh? Sometimes it hurts worse than the wound. "Let's send you downstairs for an ultrasound," he says like he's sending me out for pizza. "A cramped muscle shouldn't still be hurting after a week."

I took Linds home to take care of her littles, did a little checkbook balancing, checked email, and then drove back to the clinic. I wore my floppy pajama pants, but they still made me change into a gown so they could view the "whole leg". The sweet little technician let me watch the screen for a few minutes and see the "wink" of the artery as it pumped blood, but as I was looking to the right, my neck started to hurt and I stared at the ceiling instead. She pushed on my thigh, up near my groin, and slowly moved down to behind my knee and onto my calf. Once in a while, she turned the volume of the machine up and I heard the ocean-whooshing of the blood rushing through my veins. Kind of cool. She went over the area behind my knee a bit longer than the other spots and then announced she was finished. She gave me a towel to wipe the sticky gel off my leg and said she'd be right back after conferring with the radiologist. Uh oh.

I know I cause myself more stress and worry because I don't ask enough questions. As she came to get me to take me back to the dressing room, why didn't I say, "So, what did you find? What did the radiologist say? What is it? Huh? HUH?" No, not me. I walk behind her like a meek little mouse, all the while thinking I've got a blood clot the size of New York City lurking around and it's going to go galloping up the vein to my heart in the next five seconds. She tells me to get dressed and go back up to Dr. Bradley's office, where he will give me the results of the ultrasound. Again, I ask no questions. Silly girl.

When Dr. B's nurse, Carol, sees me, she says, "Lisa, what are we going to do with you?" And when I laugh nervously, she says, "It's just a good thing you got that done today, isn't it?" So, she knows - and I don't. She tells me to sit on a chair in the hallway instead of in an exam room and that Dr. B will be right out to talk to me since he's in with a patient. He comes out, but I'm pretending to read my library book, and Carol comes down the hall and says, "Lisa has a clot. The radiologist wants to talk to you as soon as you're available." There. She knows, he knows, and now, I know. I have a blood clot in my leg.

Dr. Bradley sits beside me and tells me that there is a clot (he calls it some fancy medical term), but that is there is some good news mixed in with the bad. The clot is small and is only blocking one-third of the vein, allowing blood to continue to flow through. He explains that this may mean my body has already been trying to dissolve it, and that this presents a unique and challenging treatment. He says he wants to confer with Dr. Beckstead, my primary care physician in Bountiful, and that he'll call me to let me know the plan of action. I leave the clinic in a daze again, which is becoming more the norm than the exception.

I'm barely a few blocks away when my cell phone rings. It's Dr. Bradley, and he talks to me as if he's phoning an old friend with dinner plans. He has talked to Dr. Beckstead and they agree that I should take two approaches to this clot. The first is to do INJECTIONS of a blood thinner - heavy-duty power - twice a day for five days. The second part is to take blood thinning pills - one and a half pills at first, then down to one in the end. I will see Dr. Beckstead on Monday, where he will test my blood to see if the injections are starting to do their job. After that, he will continue to monitor the situation, and in fact, has told Dr. B that he is "happy to take care of me." I've heard it all, but I'm still hyperventilating about the INJECTION word. I hear myself ask, "I have to give myself a shot?" Yes, Dr. B says, a little injection twice a day in the stomach. "Will you have any problem with that?" Is that a real question? YES, I WILL!! "Do you have a family member who can help you?" All this time and I still can't even watch Dean give himself insulin shots. My head is nodding, yes, but my stomach is twisting in knots. Am I really that big of a baby? YES!

I get the shots from the pharmacy, along with my gallon of milk, loaf of bread, and Raisin Bran. All in a day's purchase from my friendly grocer. Dr. Bradley had said earlier, "I'm sure you have no idea about all of this, since you've been so healthy." That's right! I am learning things I don't want to know! I'm sure the pharmacist sees the fear in my eyes because he wishes me good luck as he tries to avoid staring at my wound. I'm sure he's thinking, that poor girl, how much more does she have to endure? I'm thinking the same thing.

I can't do the first shot. I can't even look at the needle and pull it out of its protective packaging. Dean shows me how he does his injections. "Look, it's easy," he says, as he aims that needle toward my belly. I lose it. I cry like a little kid getting a shot in the bum at the doctor's office. He says to look away and he'll do it quick, so I do...and he does. It doesn't hurt - until he pulls it out, and then it stings. Bad. I'll have to do it myself in the morning. It may take me ALL morning to gather up the courage. I'm such a wimp. After all I've been through in the past six months, this may be my undoing. I'm feeling very picked on tonight.

"What am I supposed to learn from THIS?" I ask Dean. "Maybe that it's not so bad," he says wisely. Darn, I hate it when he's right.