Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Seven Months

I’m on the road but I wanted to try post about this. Let’s see how posting by phone goes!

Today marks seven months since my surgery. I cannot tell you how much my life has changed since I was wheeled in to the operating room. I can be myself again. I can enjoy my grandchildren. I can leave the house. I’m no longer stared at. But most of all, I feel so much healthier.

However (I bet you were waiting for that however), there also the not knowing how many days this will be true. They say that this kind of cancer rarely returns to another part of the body but there’s still a chance. That has really made me realize that up can’t waste time. Every chance I get I have to grasp and drain every bit if joy from it. Especially where my grandchildren are concerned. Every smile; every laugh; every hug; every time they ask “how many more minutes?”; every single opportunity to love those little boys…I have to grab and enjoy every single moment.

This is a good thing. We can not and should not take anything in life for granted.

Life is precious. Life it’s fleeting. Life is to be lived.

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My hair is very gray. I usually dye it about every three months. I do it myself, at home. I found a dye recently, well less than a year ago, that is much better than what I was using. It is a foam in product that is much easier to apply and to see where you have applied it to and where there is no product, which means that you don’t have those “untouched” spots that translate into dyed dark hair (deepest brown is my natural color) with a lot of gray peeking in here and there. At $10 an application, it is more than twice what I pay for the other stuff that leaves gray in but it is well worth it. Plus it leaves my hair conditioned and feeling great!

I haven’t dyed my hair since Thanksgiving. That means that it is almost completely gray all over, down to my shoulders where there is still some of the dark coloring left down to my mid-back. I toyed with the idea of letting it go completely gray but I’m not ready for that. My daughter agreed that it’s not time yet. You see, I’m 59 years old. With my gray hair I look like I am well into my 60’s. With it dyed, I look late 40’s. No brainer. I decided to dye it.

Today is my grandson’s last day of pre school. He begins kindergarten in September. There will be a little presentation of certificates and pictures. I decided that today I was taking myself back. It has been a really rough three months and I am ready to start being myself again. So I rummaged through the cupboards looking for the good dye package but didn’t find any. However, I did find the old stuff that doesn’t cover the gray well. It was after midnight so I decided I would use the yucky stuff just this one last time. Maybe I should have waited until this morning or gone out at midnight. When I washed it out and dried my hair, I could definitely see a lot of gray. It seems that I left a lot untouched just below both temples. Then I realized that I only got the surface so when it is moved slightly out of the way, all the gray is underneath!

Oh well! It will have to do. It will wash out in less than a month anyway and by then I will have gotten to the store for the better stuff. I think I’ll stock up on it.

Then came the clothes. At about 75 pounds lighter than I was in April, nothing fits. I have two pair of leggings that fit loose but well enough to wear. I also have two pair of jeans that fit kind of baggy but they don’t fall down! So that’s what I have been wearing around the house. To go out though, I had my daughter take me to the store where I found two pair of nicer pants, not leggings and not jeans, that sort of fit. They were on clearance and then half of the clearance so I paid about $16 for the two pair. I’m wearing the dark blue ones today. The tops are harder to find so I dug through boxes of clothes that never made it to the Goodwill donation center, clothes that were too small when I was so much bigger. I found a few that looked less larger than others and gave them a fresh washing. One in particular is kind of gathered with elastic at the sides, creating a waist. That one is not huge on me. It’s a size or two too big but it doesn’t look like I’m a two year old playing dress-up in my mommy’s clothes. So I’m set. I’m stepping out! It’s only to my grandson’s pre school graduation but it means a lot to me.

I’m taking myself back. I’m ready to. My mind is anyway. My body isn’t entirely ready and I will have to remember to not over do things but I’m not waiting. I’m coming out, not as the sickly shell of who I used to be, but as the person that is looking forward to so much more than doctor’s appointments and medicines and fear of the cancer recurring. I’m not thinking of that today. Today is about an ending and a beginning.

I’m ready.

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Lab Report

This is a copy/paste from my Facebook status. I’m really very tired and somewhat weak so I don’t have the energy to write much more. I’ll be back as soon as I can bounce back with more of me. Hopefully in a couple of days.

So… the lab results came back with a “borderline malignancy” which has to be classified as cancer because it can recur. The organs are gone and so is any surrounding tissue. During the surgery they took samples of surrounding organs and tissue and all of those came back as benign. The type of cancer that was found almost never recurs. Almost a full 100% of women with it will not have a recurrence and will lead a normal and full life. Mine was not the typical ovarian cancer from which most women die; it was a different type. So that’s good. There is also no need for chemo or radiation. Another good. I will have to go in for pelvic exams every three months for the coming year then it will reduce to every six months then once a year. All in all, it was a good visit. I got the staples taken out. One kind of troubling thing is that I continue to lose weight. I weighed 205 on the day of the surgery April 16). Then on the 27th I weighed 157. Yesterday, nine days later, I am down to 148. So I need to try to get my system to keep food down. I’m also feeling very tired and very weak. I guess that has a lot to do with the weight loss but also the doctor explained that all my organs are in shock as a result of the surgery and they expect my recovery to be protracted so probably a full 8 or more weeks instead of the 6 to 8 weeks. I’m also at a high risk for peritonitis because the fluid in the cyst had leaked all over the inside of my abdomen causing an inflammation throughout. So I need to keep an eye on my temperature and whether I am keeping food down or not (right now, I’m not). Anyway, thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes. It has all helped me tremendously.

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Gordy was my cousin. His real name was Manuel but, because of his physical characteristics, he was known as “Gordo” then he became Gordy. I think a lot of his friends didn’t even know what his real name was; only that he was Gordy.

Although he was my cousin, I didn’t meet him until shortly before my parents moved us to southern California. I was about seventeen and Gordy was about twelve. We shared a birthday. That was pretty special because our birthday was/is Christmas day. We used to have that as a bond. We both knew what it was like to have to share our special day with everyone, making it not so special for us. We both knew what it was like to never get a birthday card or a birthday cake or a birthday party. For us, our special day was sort of skipped as everyone celebrated Christmas.

Although Gordy was my aunt and uncle’s second child, he was the oldest son so he grew up quickly and took on a lot of extra responsibility. My uncle was gone a lot. He worked the overnight shift so he was basically gone from about 9 pm and didn’t come home until 7 am then he slept until mid afternoon. Gordy learned to do a lot of things around the house. My aunt had him repair things and build things and even discipline his younger siblings.

Once, when Gordy was about fifteen, my aunt asked him to turn on the pilot for the hot water heater. It had been very windy and the pilot had blown out. When Gordy went to light it, it sort of exploded in his face. He sustained third degree burns from his upper lip down to his neck and his chest. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors treated the burns and the extreme pain but they told my aunt that he would have the physical scars for the rest of his life. My aunt was stubborn, thankfully, and would not hear of her son being physically scarred like that. She began a treatment on her own. Every day, several times a day, she would apply aloe vera gel (from a huge plant she had in the yard) all over the burned areas. When the burns healed, there was no scarring! The doctors couldn’t believe it because they were sure he’d have much scarring.

Later on, Gordy got involved in a gang. He lived in Long Beach and there were/are a lot of gangs there. I went on to college and married right after graduation. My parents split up. We sort of lost touch with that part of the family. Eventually, I did hear that Gordy had settled down and married and was no longer involved in gangs. He had a well paying job and had bought a house. Many years later, after my divorce, I sought out that part of my family and my kids and I visited them a few times. It was tough to always be the one going out there, a drive of over an hour in each direction. We tried but the effort was one way so we lost touch again.

One day, my aunt called me to ask about lawyers. She knew my ex-husband was a lawyer and she needed information. She wanted to sue Gordy’s doctors. Gordy had died. He was about 32 when he died. It seems that he had a growth of some sort on his tongue. It was removed and the biopsy showed it was malignant. Part of his tongue was removed. Over a period of months, more and more of his tongue was taken until in the end, he had none left. The cancer spread through his throat and eventually took his life. It was sad to hear my aunt’s pain at losing her son and I could sympathize with her as I have three kids of my own. I couldn’t give her answers, or at least not the answers she wanted. It didn’t really sound that there was much she could legally do but I did understand her need to lash out and blame someone; make someone pay; make sure it didn’t happen to another. But there really wasn’t much to be done.

I’ve been thinking about Gordy a lot recently. I don’t know why but I decided that maybe I needed to share him with my readers.

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A Friend Died…

…and I feel guilty. 

My friend Maria, who I never met, died on Friday morning.  We met online about three years ago.  She ran several lists in which we exchanged graphics for Paint Shop Pro and Photo Shop and another list exchanged eBooks and links to download a variety of files.  She was about 6 years younger than me.  She had a number of chronic conditions.  Last January she developed a severe pain in her side which did not respond to pain medication.  Two days later she was rushed to the ER in excruciating pain.  She had no health insurance and no money.   She and her family had just driven across the country from Alabama to Washington state for a better life late last fall and they had not yet completed the paper work to go on state aid.   She was sent home with stronger pain medication.  A day later she was taken to the ER again, this time with more severe symptoms.  They kept her for some tests.  It turned out that she had cancer in her stomach, intestines, liver, kidney and colon.  She needed surgery and treatment but because she had no insurance, she got the run around and was sent home again.  Finally, she had to be rushed by ambulance in really bad shape.  She was admitted. That was the last week in January.  She never went home after that until a week ago when she was released because she and her family had decided not to go through chemo which would only buy her a matter of months with no quality of life.  Her husband has kept us all updated, almost daily.  On Thursday he reported that she could not talk, only moan.  She could not eat or drink or swallow.  She was in pain.

This morning the email came.  She died in her sleep, with a slight smile on her face.  Her pain is over.

Why do I feel guilty?  When she wrote us the group email telling us about what they thought was wrong with her (which ended up being only a part of what was wrong) and the prognosis, Maria talked about her 12 year old daughter and how she was just out of her mind worrying about what would happen to her daughter.  Her husband cannot manage her on his own and the older daughter is not dependable and lives in another state.  She’s 18.  Not exactly  mother material.  And I said nothing other than to scold her and tell her not to give up and to remain positive.  What I wanted to say was that I would take her daughter.  That’s what I would normally say and do.  I would gladly take her daughter and raise her and look after her.  But I didn’t say it. 

Why didn’t I?  I feel older now.  Too old to take on a 12 year old girl who has lost her mother; a girl who has been home schooled for the better part of the last three years because she has some social problems.  I felt selfish, too.  I am just at the point where my youngest is leaving home for school in a few months.  In a way I am looking forward to having my turn in my life.  I haven’t had that before.  Somehow it has not ever been my turn.  And so I didn’t offer  Maria the peace of mind that she needed and wanted.    I wanted to.  I almost did.  I typed the email but didn’t send it.  And now  it is too late.  She’s gone.  I really do feel guilty.

It isn’t like me to not have offered willingly.  And that bugs me.  Am I growing selfish in my older years? I certainly hope not.  I certainly don’t mean to or want to.   I know that someone else’s child is not my responsibility but I still feel so guilty.

And I miss Maria.  Before she got sick just over two months ago, not a day passed when we didn’t exchange email or instant messages.  I know I never met her but I still feel the loss as if she had been the kind of friend that was in my home daily. 

In a way, she was.


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