Monday, September 15, 2014

Today was much ado about nothing......

....and I wish I were saying that the first chemo treatment went flawlessly and I came home ready to fight a bear, but that is not how the day went. Saturday I had chest and back pain, even pain when I swallowed. After calling my own private nurse, Janet, a few times and she had me check things like my blood pressure, were my fingernails blue, no they were pink and when I pressed on them they quickly returned to pink, she finally asked if I was taking my pain pills regularly and I wasn't. I took them when it started to hurt so she told me to take them every four hours and see if that helped and it did. Sunday morning I called to tell her everything seemed good and we were both much relieved.

I still didn't know what to expect on Monday because our insurance company was being a butt about OK-ing the oncologist's drug of choice. I woke up this morning with worse pain in my chest and back, as I was trying to decide what to do, a nurse called from Storm Lake to tell me everything was still on hold. I explained about my pain and she said I should see Dr. Harrison and I was able to get in at 10. We all know how Dr appointments go, it took 4 1/2 hours to see her, go get a chest x-ray, back to Dr, go get a CT scan while Bruce and Janet get some dinner, then I got a bowl of soup while waiting for the scan results and back to the Dr office. In the meantime, Storm Lake called the Dr office and set up an appointment for me next Monday because the day was obviously not going that well.

In the end, after all the tests, all the time and all the expenses that will come rolling in, there was nothing that could be pinpointed and that is the best outcome. Dr. Harrison thinks it all stems from the port placement surgery, the tissues are swollen and sore, hence the chest pain. She recommended I start taking Aleve instead of my pain pills because they only mask the pain, the Aleve will shrink the inflammation. And if you have any questions about what a kind and caring doctor she is, Dr. Harrison gave me her cell phone number and told me not to be afraid to use it. I came home feeling a bit bummed and out of sorts, I wasn't really psyched up for the chemo but was ready to, as Jean says, "Follow the trail that Brooke has blazed!" I took the laptop to the gazebo to craft this blog and to keep an eye on Murphy, she is way too interested in the chickens to be trusted. The monarch butterflies are gathering, Saturday they were all over the backyard, clustering in the trees, soaring gracefully and sipping nectar from the sedum and goldenrod that is blooming, so I got my camera. After taking about a billion pictures, I was wishing I had one of those huge, expensive telephoto lens where you can see their eyeball. There is something very comforting about sitting in the sun and watching them.

I looked up the symbolism of butterflies and found this and how appropriate right now.

Overwhelmingly, cultural myth and lore honor the butterfly as a symbol of transformation because of its impressive process of metamorphosis.

From egg, to larvae (caterpillar), to pupa (the chrysalis or cocoon) and from the cocoon the butterfly emerges in her unfurling glory.

What a massive amount of transition this tiny creature undergoes. Consider for a moment the kind of energy this expends. I daresay if a human were to go through this kind of change we'd freak out!
Imagine the whole of your life changing to such an extreme you are unrecognizable at the end of the transformation. Mind you, this change takes place in a short span of about a month too (that's how long the butterfly life cycle is).

Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly. She asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the chances of her environment and her body.

This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. Here the butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature - she asks us to recognize the same.

WHEW! I couldn't have said it any better myself! I have been given a gift, another week to heal, to cook dinner for Bruce and his friends, Grassey and Mike who want to help him chop silage. To write more thank you notes to people who have been so kind, dropping off food and staying to help us eat it. To maybe get my upstairs bathroom cleaned so if I don't feel like it later, I won't feel guilty blowing it off. 

Or could that be an answer to the question I get most often, "What can I do for you??"

Hmmmmm, maybe I can milk this thing......

Friday, September 12, 2014

The struggle continues....

Yesterday I got my port, or as someone who has gone through chemo will say, my new best friend. I didn't feel that way at all when Bruce, Janet and I were led to my little room to prepare me for the surgery. When the nurse was verifying my health history, he said, "You have thyroid disease and a history of cancer."  Hearing that was such a shock, I blurted out, "WHAT?" Then it hit me, yes I do, now every time I have to fill out a health history sheet, that box has to be checked. Will it always hit me like this or will I eventually be able to check it just like my thyroid and high cholesterol? At some point will I stop thinking my body has betrayed me?

Bruce helped me change into their lovely hospital gown and then I had a major meltdown, I couldn't stop the sobs and bless Janet's heart, she totally understood. She said, "This makes it all so real." Instead of smacking me and telling me to get a grip, she took our hands and prayed for strength to calm my fears. She also told me that crying is like a check valve, if I'd been a pressure canner full of tomatoes, the ceiling would have been coated about then.

When I woke up, I was being tucked under a warm blanket and that started the tears again so the nurse held my hand and told me it was good to cry, don't hold it in. Fat chance of that happening. She offered me toast and juice but all I wanted was water and finally to get dressed and go find Janet and Bruce. We had to stop at the pharmacy to pick up a pain medication and a lidocaine cream that I will use on the port site before I go for a treatment. In the bag was another bottle of pills I didn't know about, they are for extreme nausea, that set me off again. That has been one of my biggest fears about chemo, I've often wondered how people stood it.

I laid low all evening, the port was beginning to hurt but I didn't want to take a pain pill till I went to bed so hopefully would sleep all night. They worked great, right now hydrocodone is my new best friend, it wasn't long until I was 'floating' and didn't wake up until 3 am for another dose. I didn't know what to expect from the surgery but I didn't expect it to be quite this painful and that was depressing. Bruce has been wonderful, trying to cater to my every whim mostly I just want to lay on the couch, under my flannel quilt and not move. I know people have wondered how yesterday went but I've not felt like emailing anyone.

Then my friend, Becky, called and said she was bringing dinner so Bruce didn't have to cook and that just goes to show the mysterious ways that God works. Just a year ago her daughter in law, Brooke, was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation and now is cancer free. Becky just got back from seeing them and she showed Brooke my first blog. She said when Brooke finished reading it, she said that was exactly how she felt the first trip she made to the oncologist. Brooke also said that getting the port put in was the worst part and that I would not get sick from the chemo. After sharing tears and fears (and chocolate, chips and other junk food) with Becky for the last 3 1/2 hours, a couple of text messages and a phone call from Brooke, I'm feeling as though I will make it through this after all. 

I'm not writing this to make you feel sorry for me, I wasn't sure I was even going to be able to tell this chapter. I have found it's very cathartic to write about my journey and I'm even thinking about changing out of my pj's now! I'm also finding out if you want to know how much you are loved, come down with a serious illness. So many people are praying for me and tell me I'm not fighting this alone, my friend, Paula, put it very succinctly in a card, "They always say that hard times and bad things happen for a reason and only makes you stronger. What a load of crap!"

The first chemo was set for Monday but the hospital called today to say they are getting the run around from insurance so we are on a wait and see right now. So stay tuned and hopefully I will find out for myself that the worst is behind me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rallying the troops or circling the wagons....what ever you want to call it.

I've kept my family at arms length ever since I learned of the dreaded diagnosis, I don't know why it has been so hard to share what is going on with them. Maybe because I've always been the 'little sister' and they know me so well, I knew the floodgates would open and I feared I would never get them closed again. Regardless, they said "Enough!" and came in mass over the weekend, with motor homes, dogs and food. The floodgates did open but the world didn't come to an end and I didn't cry alone.

My brother, David and wife, Ruth, are here from Missouri with their little dog, Dixie, driving a behemoth of a motor home and it was a challenge getting it in our driveway. Ruth was driving and Dave was giving directions and at this point I was wondering.


The gazebo was filled to the brim with family and family dogs, much to Zoe's disgust. Rosanne's dog, Jr. is deathly afraid of cats, thanks to our mother's cat, Kitty, so he was content to sit on Rosanne's lap, "You won't let that cat get me, will you, huh, huh?" 

Rosanne's granddog, Toby, is much fawned over at their house so he could care less about Zoe, it's all about him. Mollie is desperately trying to get to know him outside and Toby didn't give her the time of day either.

Dixie, Dave and Ruth's precious pooch, loves cats and so wanted to make friends but Zoe spurned her also, took up residence behind a chair and soon asked to be let outside so she could have some peace. 

Much food was prepared and everyone moved outside to eat,,,,, was a cool evening so the fire in the chiminea felt wonderful. My sister in law, Sue, fell in love with it, if it comes up missing, I know where to look.

Janet and Foof were invited to the banquet so my family could thank Janet for all she is doing for both of us.

Lacey, our free range horse, heard all the people in the backyard and decided to make a visit!

Lacey is 28 years old and now is in assisted living with three square meals a day, this was a hint that supper had not yet been served.

"Hi, Foof, got anything here for me to eat??"

When she decided nothing looked like a bucket of sweet feed, Lacey went on her way but I soon followed, she made her point.

Getting a little demanding, don't you think? 

We woke up to rain and hail Monday morning so it was nearly 11 AM when we sat down to a delicious brunch of biscuits and sausage gravy served up by Sara and Ruth.


The day ended in sunshine and the travelers packed up their homes and headed back down the driveway.

Bruce and David both helped Ruth get the big one safely out of the driveway.....

....onto the road....

....and away they went, with promises to be back if we need anything and I know they will.

Zoe and I retired to the gazebo, she was happy to have her home back and I thanked God that I'm lucky enough to have a family that cares so much.

Then I took a nap.

 Company can be exhausting.

Monday, September 8, 2014

You're 92 Bernice, and we're throwing you a party!

Our church organist, Bernice, turned 92 years young on August 31. The congregation decided to throw her a surprise party with a potluck after church, it would have been perfect to have it on her birthday because that was a Sunday. The only problem was, it was Labor Day weekend and half the congregation was going to be gone. Since we are a small church, we needed as many present as possible so put it off till this Sunday, the 7th. 

Bright and early Sunday morning I was up finishing my dishes for the potluck because Bruce and I were meeting Barb at 9:30 at the church to set the tables. I had my camera and as we drove over the bridge that crosses our creek, Bruce said, "Look!" There were the twin deer frolicking in the water! He turned around while I got the camera ready and drove back.

You can see where her chest and belly are wet, they were having a great time.

The two, the other one is partially hiding behind a weed.

Suddenly they got nervous...
"We're outta here!"

Bernice is always the first one to church on Sunday, she arrives at 9 and practices for an hour before people come and service starts at 10:30. She has been playing the organ for over 50 years and played for each of the five French weddings, I bet she wondered if she would ever play for Bruce's!

 I knew we wouldn't encounter her, she is a creature of habit and never comes downstairs till after church is over. We were free to decorate, set tables and prepare food and did we ever have food. You will never go hungry at a Presbyterian potluck!

Barb got Bernice a corsage that I pinned on before church but she hadn't a clue what was going on downstairs. I told Bruce it was his job to get her to the basement and he accepted that challenge, I think we surprised her!

Barb ordered a beautiful cake and it was also delicious!

Our youngest member, Addison, being cuddled by another 'grandma'.

And her painted toenails!

Her older brother, Treton, who we have enjoyed watching grow up since he was as tiny as Addison.

Our favorite 'fill-in speaker', Don Tisthammer and wife, Trish, from Cherokee were sitting at the table with Bernice when Barb got up to thank Bernice for all the years she has played for our church will little recognition. We can count on one hand the number of times she was gone.

We had a great crowd and so much food...'s nice to see all these faithful parishioners to take time to celebrate this occasion. 

Bernice got her chance to say thanks and we gave her a rousing applause.

And doesn't it just make your heart go pitty-pat when men take over in the kitchen for cleanup?

No man was ever shot in the back while doing dishes.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

♫I Want To Mow Brome...♫ or ♫Hay Down, Hay Down....♫

Bruce has a strange quirk, he can integrate song lyrics into everyday tasks, instead of Bobby Bare singing, "I want to go home, I want to go home...." Bruce will be in the hay field singing, "I want to mow brome....". His brother in law, John Rogers, upon heard Hank Ballard singing Finger Popping Time, "Hey now, Hey now..." translated it to "Hay Down, Hay Down!" With all the rain we have had this summer, putting up hay has been challenging to say the least, we had both brome, for my horses, and alfalfa for the cattle down most of the week, with very poor drying conditions. Today finally, Bruce was able to rake the fields and about 4:30 we went out to bale the brome since it was the driest.

There is baling hay and then there is baling hay, for the horses we get out the old New Holland baler and put the hay in small square bales that I can handle myself. It's a lot of work and Bruce does most of it, stacking the bales on the rack and then in the barn. I get off pretty easy, driving the baler and unloading off the rack. Usually it is about 100 degrees in the shade when we do this but it was a gorgeous day today, sunny and cool. This is my view from the little Deutz tractor, we have big Deutz also, my job is the run the back tire right next to the windrow so the baler can pick it up.

This is Bruce's job, stacking a bale....

...going back to wait for the next one to pop out of the baler.

He's hot footing it to this pasture gate so I can drive in and turn around to go back and pick up the next windrow of hay.

The breakdowns don't happen often but it's always frustrating, not only did the twine roll up in the 'knotters', so 2 bales did not get tied....

...when I started the baler, I didn't have it running fast enough and heard a BANG! The pin in the flywheel sheared so that had to be fixed.

This time Bruce got on the tractor and ran it to see if everything was working correctly.

The haystack grows as we near the end of the field.

These are the soybeans that are starting to turn, our first field, eventually all the leaves will fall off and just the brown stalk and bean pods will be left.

Bruce does all the fun jobs, such as getting this long outfit, out of this gate without running into the posts or losing bales of hay.

The tractor and baler are through, can he get the hayrack also?

Yes he can! And narry a bale of hay on the ground....

...and we are off, down the road to the pond where more hay is waiting to be bundled and tucked away into the barn for winter. Both drivers hug the ditches as we meet.

This is a selfie I took of me.

Bruce gets a little rest while I make a big turn with the tractor, he's rapidly running out of room on the rack.

Back at our barn, I'm throwing the bales inside and Bruce stacks them.

Murphy got in the way of one bale, she didn't understand, "GET OUT OF THE WAY!" and ended up under a bale. She took refuge at the top of the stack and stayed there until we finished.

There were a few bales that were too green to put in the barn so we took them to the cows in the pasture, I was driving the tractor and Bruce was throwing them in the bunk. We are supposed to be the weaker sex, you know.

This is how Bruce and his dad put up all their hay for years, thousands of bales, each one moved at least three times by hand.

Makes you tired just thinking of it, doesn't it?

Then some enterprising person invented the big round baler so now Bruce can go out in shorts, if he chooses, bale his alfalfa.....

...put it in the barn....

...and take it out of the barn, all from the comfort of his tractor.

God Bless America!