Monday, June 20, 2016

Dealing with hair loss and round 2

Some people might wonder why losing my hair is such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, in fact, my sister, Rosanne was ready to shave her own head in solidarity. I put the kabosch on that! She was actually looking forward to not having any hair, she is a bit weird.

I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my wig when each day I found more hair in the hair brush. Last Wed night I was feeling well enough to go on a garden tour, Rosanne came up to be the chauffeur. I carefully fluffed my hair out and sprayed the heck out of it to disguise the thinness and was happy with the result. Bruce and I were going to Minneapolis on Saturday to a wedding and I had great hopes that I would still have hair.

Wed afternoon, Karen from Design Masters called and said that the wigs had arrived and we agreed on early afternoon, Thursday. It's not my hair but I'm very happy with the curly one, Karen was wonderful, gave me lots of information and tips.

"Don't wear it near high heat or it will melt!!"

That would be a revolting development!!

She had me wear it home, I need to get comfortable with it but by the time we got there, it was irritating with my hair underneath. Thursday night Bruce and I were going to see Mary Poppins at the Cherokee Comm Theatre staring Laura Kohn, his golfing partners daughter.

I showered and carefully washed my hair and suddenly it was coming out in handfuls! AAUUGGGHHHHH!!! I told Bruce to get the clippers out, it was time. As he was buzzing me I asked how he liked it and he said, "I don't." I was grateful for his honesty, he knew how hard it was for me and it also took him back to his younger days when he started losing his own hair to the dreaded, Male Pattern Baldness. With the sparce wisps of hair, I looked much like a baby bird before they feathered out.

I will always be grateful to Karen for getting me in that day, I wasn't ready to make my debut in the wig but had no choice. I tried to remember everything she told me, got the little tabs centered in front of my ears and then tucked in so they didn't stick out. I finger combed and fluffed and then forced myself not to fuss with it.

The play was fantastic! There was no one who could have played Mary Poppins better than Laura and the theatre knew it. They had to talk her into it and we are so glad they did.

Friday morning I found a headscarf to tie around my poor bald head but wasn't very happy with the result. I tried a cap but have never worn one and really didn't like that. I was looking on the internet and found a 'chemo hat' knitted of fun fur and loved it. I emailed the picture to Alex and asked if she could possibly make me one. She didn't hesitate, she jumped in her car and drove to Spencer to the yarn store where she pored over all the colors before settling on a light, multicolored package. They even had the pattern.

Saturday morning Bruce and I packed out wedding clothes, I tied the dreaded headscarf around my head and put the wig and stand in a sack and took off for Tom and Carol's where we were spending the night. On the way, Alex emailed me that the hat would be done by the time we came home on Sunday.

We had a short but nice time with the Waldack's before going to the wedding, I still feel self conscious in the wig but there were a lot of home town people and it seems that everyone knows what we are facing and  wish us the best.

The wedding was beautiful, the food wonderful at the reception, both bride and groom are fishermen so one of the choices was walleye, which we both had. When in Rome......?

Thanks to the GPS on our phone, we got to and from the wedding, reception and back to Carol and Tom's, although it was turned around and took us on a little scenic tour before straightening out. At 10 PM that was not appreciated, we stayed up as long as we could but the early morning finally caught up to us and we retired to their lovely guest room. Sunday morning Carol made us fried egg sandwiches before making our farewells and heading home. To go by Alex's, I had to read the map to tell Bruce when to cut off and only made one teeny, tiny mistake that didn't make a big difference.

I fell in love with my hat!!! It was everything I wanted and more, it is so comfortable, I can (almost) forget why I'm wearing it. Alex is going to make me another one so I picked out some different colors, the next one will be colorful.

Bruce was not able to bale all the hay he had down after all so he got to relax in the air conditioning and watch the Twins, I think they finally won a game, hallelujah! Zoe and I napped in the gazebo, listening to the birds and chickens.

Now its Monday morning and we are in Storm Lake for my 2nd chemo. I have my 'Salty Girls' bag packed that Sara brought us from Alaska, with the prayer shawl from our niece, the tablet and a book in case the tablet runs out of power and a lovely, soft blanket that our friend, Opal made for me when I told her it was always cold in the chemo room. She was here with a car full of food for us and asked me if I'd like her to make me a blanket to take for treatments. I'm no dummy, I said I'd love it and was so surprised when Opal called the next day and said she had it done and would bring it up. It's so soft and comfy, I had to hide it from Clyde, he'd lay claim to it.

After this treatment, we will go back to Omaha to see if the chemo is doing what it's supposed to, hoping to have the little buggers back on the run so I'm closer to the transplant.
I know we have more people praying for us than we even know so time will tell. Zoe and I will be in the gazebo recouperating, you know she works so hard.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Wig shopping, it's not for sissies

I knew I wouldn't be so lucky this time around with chemo, gone was the nicey, nicey stuff that let me keep my hair, this stuff means business and last week I scratched my head and came away with a hand full of mixed grey curls. Oh the inhumanity of it all!!!! If they can't cure cancer, please come up with a baldness preventative and let us keep a bit of our dignity. Although I won't mind not have to pluck those annoying chin hairs......

This was one of the things I dreaded most of all, yes, people use cliques, "Oh, it's a Badge of Courage!!" Horse Hockey, it's a darned embarrassment and I had no desire to hunt out cute head wear, I wanted to retain as much as a natural look as possible. 

And then there was the inevitable advice from sister Sara, who cautioned me to think twice about shelling out money for a wig. Her sister in law evidently didn't get along with her's, she got in the car one day, tore it off, threw it across the seat, found a pair of her husband's underwear and put them on her head.

Well, I GUARANTEE you, I'm NOT running around with a pair of Bruce's underwear on my HEAD!!!!

I got a recommendation for a spa in Spencer that did a great job for a young woman I know who went through this so I called for an appointment. This morning Bruce and I picked up Alex and went to see what they could do for me.

I don't remember the lady's name but she was very nice, knowledgeable and oh, so helpful. She first fitted me with just a generic wig to get the size, she said not to freak out, it's wasn't the style or the color I would choose but it made me want to run screaming out the door and never return, but I refrained.

Then she gave us books to look at, Bruce and Alex were right there with me and we each picked out ones we thought I would like, then the lady looked at the specifics and explained why I might or might not like it so that really helped narrow the choices. In the end, we all agreed on 2, she will order them both then I will go back for a fitting and see if either is a winner.

Then it was time to pick the color and Bruce and Alex pored over the color swatches, pressed against my own hair and discussed the pros and cons. "This one had too much grey, this too brown." It was great having them there.

And then it hits, I'm really going to lose my hair and the tears come but Alex didn't let me cry alone.

By then it was time for some dinner and we were directed to Weasies Burgers down the street and we were not disappointed. I suddenly realized I had an appetite and scarfed down a huge chipotle burger and waffle fries and regretted it on the way home when indigestion set in. Perhaps a bit too much for my tender tummy? 

We dropped Alex off at her house, hugs all around and on to Cherokee for groceries where my love fest with food continued, Bing candy bars and Gummi Bears fell into the cart, along with two kinds of ice cream. I did round it out with half a cart of fruit, Mount Rainier cherries that tally up to $12 but so worth it.

My mood had been up and down all morning and it shot up again when I pulled a handful of cards out of the mailbox, sweet, touching and belly laughing cards from caring people who want us to know we are being thought of.

My favorite today was "I'm not sure who invented sending flowers when times are tough....donuts are far more practical."

Just for today I'm grateful for those who continue to go out of their way to prop us up.

(And I'm REALLY regretting that Chipotle burger right now!)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Love is the Best Medicine!

Bruce took a well deserved fishing trip to the MN cabin this week with Janet, Gerald, son, Brian and friend, Michelle. My sisters and friends rallied around me at home, bringing food, doing chores, keeping me company and staying the night. They all are excellent nurses and they plum wore me out!

Rosanne and Kaiza were the first shift on Tuesday, Kim came with a pizza and Alex brought orange sherbet and Gatorade, it was an impromptu party and we laughed into the night in the gazebo.

Mollie didn't want Kim to leave without her when it came time to go, she thought she would fit nicely in the other seat.

Rosanne did a bunch of chicken chores and watered plants for me on Wed, then had to return to her real world. Big sister, Sara, showed up with bags of food, we certainly weren't going to go hungry! Becky picked up Kim, bringing a Beer City Pizza from Remsen and it was really good.

Another late night of laughs and stories, Sara and I both had a restless night, we were eating raisin bread toast at midnight and it hit the spot. Sara tackled my kitchen in the morning and scrubbed everything until it sparkled.

Sue arrived Thursday in her little motor home with more food, between what she and Sara had, we had a noon feast before Sara took off for home. It was just Sue and I Thursday night and I was ready for a little peace and quiet, they were wearing me out.

Sue offered to mow if she thought she could run our Grasshopper so I gave her a quick lesson and away she went. It was a job much appreciated, my neighbor girl, Jillian, might get drafted to do the trimming again.

The best thing Sue brought were her 'Knock-off Bob Dogs', we both like to meet in LeMars and have a Bob Dog when we can and this was a pretty good imitation without having to clean up and drive 30 miles for one. 

By the time Sue left on Friday, I was totally exhausted and slept most of the afternoon away, waking that night and feeling pretty darned good. Just a little wobbly and shaky, nothing a good night's sleep wouldn't cure.

Bruce called late and said he would be on the road early Saturday with a lot of things to do when he got home. I woke up early this morning and went right to the gazebo where it was cool with my iced coffee. I felt rejuvenated and finally got dressed, fixed sugar water for the bees and went to the pond to see how they were doing. They were receptive to the feeder bottles, all three hives look quite industrious and some of the comb is heavy with honey. It felt good to get out and do something constructive.

Back at home, Otto was sunning himself on the rocks.....

.....and this was one of the painted lady butterflies that hatched and I released last week. I see them hanging around the plants every day.

It was a busy, tiring week but I feel so loved and cherished by everyone. Even the dogs are taking their nursing duties seriously, they are outside the gazebo with me each day, only leaving when they hear a vehicle drive in to escort any visitors to the back yard. Everyone tells me how quiet they are, no barking, jumping, or being a general nuisance in the rear end.

"She's resting so don't stay too long!"

Feel free to stop in, we'll be in the gazebo.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Happy 24th Anniversary to US!

June 6, 1992, a day that went down in infamy as Bruce went from a 42 yr old bachelor to a married man and has never looked back.

How young we were! 

We have received anniversary wishes and cards all day long, never dreaming the trials and tribulations, the joys and happy memories we have stockpiled in those 24 years.

Happy Anniversary, my loving hubby, how was I so lucky to have found you??

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The bump in the road has become a mountain to climb

After several weeks of doctoring and finding the lymphoma was wrecking havoc with my system, I spent time in Mercy Med Center in Sioux City getting relief from the incessant pain, a bone marrow test on both hips, and spinal tap that thankfully showed no invasion of cancer cells. That is exceptionally good news because now I can use my own stem cells for a transplant later in the summer.

I've been struggling to put down all the blessings Bruce and I have received from God, family, friends, garden club and people we don't even know are praying for us. I'd like to list each one but it's just too daunting right now.

From the box of Sherri's Berries to a sunny box of 'sunshine' from two dear nieces, from the wonderful nurses to the little Hispanic man who cleaned my room at the hospital the last day, asking if he could do anything else for me and that he would be praying for me.

For the food that really hits the spot and a chuckle from an iphone picture of a little girl's bare footprint in the dust from her Grandma's floor. 

I'm finding I can ask for help instead of waiting for someone to read my mind what I need and that it helps not only me but the giver. For the friend who planted flowers so I can have food for the soul to the neighbor father and daughter who mowed and trimmed the 'hay field' in our yard while Bruce was burning the candle at both ends in the field.

I'm so grateful for my oasis in the backyard that has lowered my blood pressure from the upper 180's when I came home to 118 at my dr. visit yesterday. And for my wonderful nurse, Monica, who never lets me cry alone. And I honestly don't know why I want to cry, we get upheld on Angel wings every day.

I hope you all see yourself in this heartfelt missive and I live for the day when I, too, can return a fraction of the blessings we are getting each and every day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Things I learned (the hard way) about capturing a swarm of bees.

I thought I had it all figured out, I didn't have another top bar hive so thought I would just install them into the swarm hive that Sue, Rosanne and I made for Sue. It was half the size of the hives for Rosanne and I to install our package bees in and for them to live happily ever after.

It was pretty plain Jane, just a box with entrance holes on each end, top bars for building comb and a piece of plywood over the top. Since Sue had a swarm at her house once, we hoped another might find this tasteful residence and move it but they never did so Sue sent it home with me to use. Swarm boxes work best if you can anchor them in trees and we made this little puppy so heavy, that wasn't an option! So it sat in my garden shed.

Morris had to get in on the photo session, bless his little heart, we miss him. 

This is the big sister to the little hive above and it seems that the bees are happy in their homes.

When I put the ad out on Craigslist, I didn't have an empty hive but thought I'd deal with that if I ever got a call. Much to my surprise I did get a call but thought I had it covered with the swarm hive. Simply install them in that hive, give them some bars of drawn comb out of the other hive and build a permanent home for them at my leisure.

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

It wasn't.

When I built these hives, I used a plan I printed off the internet, I really never thought I would be building another one so didn't save those plans. Everyone has they own idea on how to build a hive and I wasn't thinking straight. I needed to build this new one exactly (or a reasonable facsimile, you would have to see my building skills) so the top bars with comb that I put in the swarm hive, would fit in the new hive. 

The smart thing to have done would be to go to the pond and take some basic measurements of the old hives to use - but then I've never been accused of being smart. I kind of flew by the seat of my pants, I knew I'd made an error on the top measurements when I tried to fit a top bar from one of the other hives in the new hive and it was too big, only about 1/2" but that counts. I just didn't realize  that was going to come back to bite me.

After slaving away for a week, taking apart, scrapping parts of it, agonizing how to make it all fit together, I finally finished it Sat night. Bruce was busy in the field, dealing with his own problems so I called my neighbor's, Tim and Jalene, they came, helped me move it to the pond and level it. My plan was to move the bees early Sunday morning before they were awake. Late Sat night, I put a blanket in the back of the gator and awkwardly, it was heavy, lifted the hive on to the blanket.

Early Sunday morning I tiptoed out to the bees, wrapped the blanket around the hive, I didn't think to plug the entrance holes, duh! I set a cement block on top of the blanket wrapped hive, had to convince the dogs that they were not going, which isn't easy, and set out. I hit a small bump and the hive fell over on it's side!! 


The top bars fell off and bees came swarming out, I hurriedly prop it upright and wrapped the blanket around it again, then headed for the pond. I figured any bees would follow us, after all, they followed the pickup from Sioux City.

My plan was to move the top bars, now loaded with honey, into the new hive and shake the rest of the bees out. Despite my corrections, the top bars were just a little too long for this hive but no problem. I'd brought the reciprocating saw and planned to knock off the excess.

Bad idea, with the first vibration of the saw, the heavy honey filled comb fell off the top bar!


I did have my rescue kit just for this predicament, women's plastic hair clip to clamp onto the honeycomb and zip ties to fasten them to the correct topbars. I had to do this with each one, luckily I had enough. (The bees will reattach the comb to the topbars and late I will cut out the clips and they will repair that spot. Bees are quite ingenious.)

After shaking the bees into the hive, I left the swarm hive on it's side to encourage the rest of the bees to pack their bags and make the move into their new home and left for the day. That night I went back for the hive and found some bees stubbornly hanging out in the swarm hive so I shook them out and hoped they had the good sense to follow the others into the hive. 

Back home I took the hive outback and found a bunch of bees clustered around the cement blocks it sat on, dang it! So I set the hive back up on the blocks and they immediately started the trek up the blocks and into the hive. I gave them a day to settle back in, last night I plugged the entrance holes with wine corks and this morning loaded it into the gator for the trip to the pond. I had to discourage the dogs, they just don't understand the gator leaving and they aren't in the back.

I laid the hive on it's side on a table across from their permanent home, it's chilly so they aren't moving much but it's supposed to be in the 80's today and sunny.

A few bees flew out of the hive to see what was going on so I left because I didn't have my bee suit on.

On the way home, I searched the ditch where I came upon a pheasant nest while asparagus hunting....

....and there she was! It's a big deal because our pheasant numbers have been down the last few year, we would go all summer and not see any young pheasants.

And you can see why the females are so drab, to blend in with the grasses. The rooster pheasant may be flamboyant and noisy but count on the hen to do all the work of raising a family.

You go girl!

Friday, May 20, 2016

A bump in the road

The bump has a name, Lymphoma, it's back and growing rapidly which was a shock after being pronounced clear just one year ago and undergoing two rounds of maintenance therapy to keep the bad guys at bay, it wasn't enough.

It started so innocently with various leg pains after we got home from Jamaica in Feb, moving around, annoying at first and then disrupting sleep. I had too many scans, xrays, ultrasounds, dr visits and blood draws to count, when Dr. Brenda found a mass on my right kidney and liver lesions. After a liver biopsy one week ago, we were on pins and needles waiting for results and it took Bruce, losing his temper with the pathology dept at Mercy to shake loose the diagnosis yesterday.

Now things are no longer dragging, Dr. Rao is consulting a doctor in Omaha on what steps to take, more, harder, stronger chemo? A candidate for bone marrow/stem cell transplant? It's disheartening but I will do whatever it takes and I have a tremendous support group with our families and friends and especially Bruce, who is my rock. 

I want to be able to function and sleep without pain pills - is one going to be enough? Are two, too many? Am I going to get addicted? I want to enjoy life again.

Once again the cards are coming in, telling me that I'm not alone, I even had a couple of mystery presents to cheer me up and I finally found who sent them, Bruce's sister, Carol! The first was the great chicken socks that I wore to the biopsy.

The second arrived the next day, again no record of the sender, it was a 'grow your own butterfly kit'...

...complete with 5 Painted Lady larvae that frankly looked dead!

But they are growing, I never see them move but they do, I think they wait until my back is turned before venturing to another part of the cup. And they are pooping up a storm.

When they make a chrysalis, I will move them into this little tent to watch them break out and get strong before releasing them.

There are too many things to do for me to sit around and mope although Zoe and I do spend quite a bit of time in the gazebo. Otto comes up each morning on the rocks of the pond to sunbathe and perhaps catch an unsuspecting bug?

I'm building a hive for the bee swarm that Bruce and I captured and I need to get it done so I can move them in. They have made themselves at home in the trap hive, filling the combs with honey so that is exciting.

I have a white erase board on my refrigerator with the heading, "Just for today, I'm grateful for;" and I fill it in, today is "Doctors who care." If not for Brenda, I don't know when they would have figured it out and it would have had more time to do it's dirty work.

I'm also grateful for all of you.