Category Archives: cancer

Reflecting on the Reasons

On Thanksgiving Day my cousin, Michelle, who lost her husband to cancer about a month ago, had a post on Facebook stating how Charlie had loved Thanksgiving, had been the main meal planner, did the shopping, cooking,  and eating.  Not only was she grieving the loss of her husband, but their family tradition every year involves going around the table and each person saying what they are thankful for.  Michelle posted that she wasn’t sure how she would answer this year because every year she always said the same thing…her family, her job, the love of her amazing husband and that he continued to kick cancer’s butt.

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  Michelle and Charlie – Photos “stolen” from her Facebook Page

This year Charlie didn’t kick cancer’s butt, it kicked him.  Hard.  He was still working about two weeks prior to his passing.  He went down fast.  When I read her post I didn’t even hesitate, I just started typing.  My comment to her was:

“I know what you are thankful for, it is the same thing I am thankful for.  Neither Charlie or Ron are sick, nauseous, in pain, or in any way suffering from that horrid disease.  Maybe they have found each other in heaven and are getting acquainted by trading photography tips and stories.” 

After I posted the above response the reality hit me.  I may have used my ankle surgery as an excuse for choosing to spend the holiday solo, but the reality was I didn’t want to do the meal preparations alone, at least not this year.  Ron and I had always prepared it jointly.  I stuffed the bird and baked the sweet potatoes.  Ron did the potatoes, sometimes re-baked, sometimes mashed, sometimes both.  Ron made the fruit salad.  I did the green bean casserole.  One of us made the gravy, and the list goes on.

Last year I did it all alone, but that was different.  Ron was too sick to participate in the preparations in 2015, but he was still here.  He came to the table, had a few bites of food, and went back to the couch.  Austin (our 9-year old grandson) spent most of the day sitting next to Ron.  Eleven days later Ron was gone.

I realized that regardless of how well I have adjusted there will be moments when things hit me, and sometimes I won’t realize it at the time.  What I posted to Michelle in the comments is true.  I am glad that Ron is no longer struggling to swallow, weak, or sick from the combination of chemo and the disease itself.   I have moved on with my life, I have made the adjustment to being alone.  How do I know?time-dont-rush-anything

Another question that Michelle had posed to me a week or two earlier was how I handled going through Ron’s belongings.  She was struggling with that step.  My answer, you will know when you are ready, because it will be just another task, not an emotional roller coaster.  I only recently started cleaning Ron’s clothes out of the closet.   I told Michelle that I hadn’t unpacked the bag of Ron’s clothes I brought home from hospice the day he died until a few weeks ago.  That bag had been in my closet unopened for 11 months.  I was finally ready.  No emotions, just clothes to put away.

Everyone is different and processes loss at different levels.  From time to time there will probably be something that triggers a memory or an emotion.  We are, after all, human.

So in answering my cousin’s post in an effort to help her cope with her loss, I gained insight into my own reasons for being so adamant about not preparing the meal this year.  Next year will be different.  If I don’t have people here I will be gone and doing something.  Possibly volunteer at a kitchen that provides meals for the needy.  Home alone will not become a habit of mine, of that I am certain.

 

 

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Holidays, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals

Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel

Feeling Their Pain

It has been ten months since my husband, Ron, passed away following a fifteen month battle with cancer.  I am doing well, and moving forward in my new life.  I have a cousin…or actually a first cousin once removed if you want to be technical, whose husband has been battling a rare cancer for nine years and is now in the final stages, losing his fight as well.

thankful-for-every-momentI was reading Michelle’s post on Facebook yesterday.  Many notes of sympathy and prayers.  They know her, they know her husband Charlie, they know what a great couple and wonderful marriage they had.  I, on the other hand, have not seen Michelle personally in years.  We were together as children, but not as adults.  We are in contact only by Facebook now.  However, I can truly feel her pain.

As I read her post I could feel the helplessness at watching a man who has lived an active, positive life quickly deteriorate into a person who is lifeless, sick, unable to manage even the simple things in life.   There is no “fix.”  You are moving toward the end and you both know it but don’t really want to say it.  You are losing the person you thought would be there for decades more.   It is an emotional situation like none other you will ever experience.  You aren’t losing a grandparent, parent, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or child.  You are losing a spouse.  It is different and only those who have ever experienced it can understand what a different loss it is.

I typed a reply, relying on my experience.  I had to cut it short.  I was sitting at work and almost started crying because I really can feel what she is going through.  What did I tell her?  Cherish the memories, remind him of those things.  Tell him it was a great marriage.  Tell him you will be okay.  Those are things that will bring him peace as he moves toward the end.

She is going through the hard part.  Then there is the adjustment period following the death.  But as time passes she will be okay.  She will live a new “normal” life without Charlie.  She has a positive attitude and her new life will also be positive and good.  How do I know?  Because that is what I am doing.   I’ve been there.  I can feel her pain.  I know she will persevere and move forward.  That is the type of person she is.

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality

Swearing at Your Deceased Husband is Okay

It has been seven months since my husband passed away and I am handling it very well, except for those times when I get frustrated and swear at him.  But that’s okay.  Keep in mind if anyone else did it I would probably kill them, at least verbally.  I lived with him for 34 years, I have exclusive rights.

Only someone who has ever lost a spouse can understand the roller coaster of emotions you deal with.  People will say they understand because they have lost a grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, child, etc.  They may feel sympathy for you, but they can’t understand fully.  Losing a spouse is different.

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Ron and I approx. 1980

So why am I swearing at him?  Because it keeps me emotionally on track.  Because it relieves frustration.  Because it helps with mourning at unexpected moments.  Because it is my exclusive right and I sometimes utilize it as an emotionally stabilizing crutch to help me maintain focus.

What am I swearing at him about?  That depends on what I am doing at the time.  As I am riding the lawn mower around our backyard that has numerous things to go around, and then a tremendous amount of edging I have said on numerous occasions “dammit Ron, all I can say is I know you designed this thinking you were going to be taking care of it, not me.”    It helps me to focus on what needs to be done and set goals for getting the yard in order.   It helps me to remember that he never had any intention of me having to handle the yard work.  That was his area.

When I’m going through things he purchased at garage sales, estate sales, or scrapping and I look at the price tags on some of the items I say “dammit Ron, I hope you didn’t pay that price for this.” and “dammit Ron, why did you spend so much money on this stuff.”  I could have used the money more than the stuff, but I know he had a goal in mind of reselling those things in a booth at the Eastern Market (huge farmer’s market in Detroit) or at flea markets and that was his goal.  Everyone needs goals, and he had good intentions before the cancer took them and him.

EPSON MFP image

Ron and I October 2015

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The biggest one though, is the one that is most important.  You see in addition to a huge accumulation of stuff I need to get rid of, my house is full of Ron…photos he took, photos of him, things that we did, things that we purchased…memories.  So, when something hits me and I’m having an emotional moment, I put my fingers on his chest/body on one of those photos and say “dammit Ron, why did you have to die?”

So now you now why it is okay to swear at your deceased husband.  As his surviving widow  you have the exclusive right to verbalize your frustrations at your new life, at the things you must now tackle, at the emotions that go along with the grieving process, at the frustrations over their death.  It is your exclusive right.  Enjoy it and use it to the fullest.  Your sanity depends on it.

 

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Filed under cancer, Coping, death, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir

Change Equals Growth

When I stumbled upon this quote about how one pictured their life I throught instantly that it fits me perfectly.  A year ago my husband was fighting cancer, he was receiving chemo.  We assumed it was working but it wasn’t.  A year ago I would’ve never pictured my life the way it is now.  Life - A year Ago I would never have pictured my life as it is now.

Change Equals Growth was a motto that Ron adapted as he was fighting cancer.  The disease changed him; it also changed me…as did his passing.  A year ago the possibility of Ron dying had me terrified.  I didn’t know how I would manage things.  Then December 7th arrived, Ron passed, and I had to manage things.  Much of what I have handled in the past six (almost seven) months are things I had never dealt with in my life.  I know I am not doing them the same way Ron would have, but I am doing them my way, and that is the way it should be.

Ron handled everything financial — bills, loans, investments, taxes, insurance, and real estate.  He handled all the yard work, house maintenance, and vehicle maintenance.   Those are important things that I suddenly had to juggle and am still in the learning process with some of them.  I was forced to change, to learn to tackle numerous things while under the emotional stress of my husband’s death.  Change equals growth, and through this process I have grown.

Let GoI have applied and received a mortgage modification, learned to pay bills, met with our financial advisor, gathered tax information for our CPA, handled an IRS audit, closed our joint account and opened my own account for handling of stocks.  I have contacted numerous accounts and had things such as cell phone, internet, cable, vehicle insurance, utilities, and vehicle loans changed into my name.  I have handled contacting service people such as a plumber for a leaky toilet, car maintenance, and the hot tub store for an uncompleted repair that began when Ron was alive.  I will be calling to have someone out to repair my air conditioning that stopped working.  I have learned to run the riding lawnmower, how to put gas into it and how to use a jumper box to jump it if necessary.   I discovered our weed wacker was too heavy and difficult for me to start and operate, so I selected and ordered one that was more suited to my abilities.  I have listed property and vehicles for sale.  I have made decisions on how to juggle money and make payments on time.  I have grown throughout this process.

I have gained confidence in my abilities to handle things I never considered myself capable of in the past.  I have learned that what doesn’t get done today can be tackled tomorrow, that I can’t accomplish everything in the time frame I would like to and that is okay.  life - 10 years from now make sure you can say you lived your life and didn't settle for it

A year ago I would have never pictured my life the way it is now.  Change equals growth.   I have changed, I will continue to change.  I will continue to grow.  Everything happens for a reason.  I look forward to whatever good things life throws at me, because I can and will tackle them.

 

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We Turn The Page

Last week I wrote about my husband, Ronald Grogan’s battle with cancer.  We were informed on the 1st of December that the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do.  We began living the rest of our marriage day-by-day.

Those days were numbered more tightly then I realized.  On Thursday, December 3rd Hospice contacted me and at that point I told them I didn’t need them to do the intake appointment until the following Monday or Tuesday.  By the next day, Friday, Ron’s condition had worsened to the point where I decided to call and have them come out that day to get him set up.

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Ronald and Grace Grogan

The intake appointment was conducted Friday at about 4:00 pm, and we were told that because it is a lot of information to absorb they would send out an on-call nurse Saturday to check on Ron and answer any questions.

Saturday at around 2 pm the visiting nurse arrived.  Ron was very weak, hadn’t eaten anything and said he almost fell when using the restroom early in the morning.  After some discussion Ron made the decision that he should be transferred to the Blue Water Hospice House immediately.

2324 - Ron and Grace-  Leelenau Peninsula - North 2015

Ronald and Grace Grogan

I got Ron checked into hospice around 6:00 pm on Saturday, stayed with him until 8:00, and then went home for the night, telling him I would be back on Sunday.  I went home, made phone calls to inform family, and found out that my sister and her husband, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law all planned to visit the next day, as did my daughter, her boyfriend and her three children.

Sunday was a busy day with all the visitors coming and going.  As we approached evening and everyone except my sister-in-law had left, the hospice nurse, Holly was chatting with us.  I had made a comment about going home to sleep and stopping in the next morning on my way to work.  I live and work about 3 minutes from the hospice house, so I thought that was reasonable and convenient.

0197 Ron taking photographs-1Holly didn’t question my thought process so much as ask me questions that steered me into making a better decision.  She asked me, in my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 how much I thought Ron’s condition had worsened since I had checked him in 24 hours earlier.  I said about a 6.  Holly then looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home that night, and was I sure I wanted to be at work, because two minutes could make the difference in being there or not being there when he passed.  I made the decision to stay and my sister-in-law, Cathy, said she would stay with me.

Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up sandwhichs for dinner and a run to the house for me to grab my glasses so I could remove contacts, then back to the hospice house for the night.

3557 Ron and Tripod after implosion

Aftermath on an implosion – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

I was informed that it is okay for me to get in bed with Ron and sleep with him, they encourage that.  At 8 pm I layed down in the bed with Ron for what I thought was a few minutes.  It turns out I fell asleep and was there for about two hours.  I got back up, but then later that night went back into the bed with him, which is where I slept all night, holding his hand, covering him up when he got cold, listening to his breathing.   At 6:20 am I got up for the day.

Ron was still responsive at that time, but shortly after stopped responding to questions.  Our son called and I held the phone to Ron’s ear while Patrick talked.  Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up breakfast and lunch. In the early afternoon Cathy went over to the family room to lay down and rest.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend stopped in with just the baby.  The nurse had come in, checked on Ron and said time was getting close.

I was sitting on the bed, holding Ron’s hand, talking to him.  His breaths were getting more distant, but every time Alexandria  made a sound he struggled for another breath.  I told Caroline I thought he was hanging on and wouldn’t let go till Alex was out of the room, so Caroline, Rob and Alexandria left.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveIt was only minutes.  I told Ron that it was okay, I would be okay.  Ron took two more breaths with a wide space between and was gone.  When I realized he was not going to take any more breaths I hit the nurses call button.  When they heard me crying over the intercom one of them came in and rubbed my back as I lay there crying.  It was so close they tried to catch Caroline in the parking lot but couldn’t.

I don’t know how long I lay there, my guess is about ten minutes before I asked if one of them could go across the hall and advise his sister.  We both called family members to let them know.  The people at hospice left me alone with Ron until I was ready for them to clean him up.  They contacted the National Cremation Society and made arrangements to have his body picked up.

Ron was wheeled out of the Blue Water Hospice with an American flag over his body because he is a Veteran.  He will be buried in the National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.  We will have a celebration of life for him in March where his photographs will be displayed.

2009So now we turn the page.  It has been only two days since Ron passed.  I am learning how to come home to an empty house.  To move through my days without him here.  I am adjusting, slowly.

 

 

 

 

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Living Day by Day

We all live expecting life to continue as it always has.  We dream, make plans, say we’ll do things tomorrow.  What if tomorrow never comes?  What if you find out your tomorrows are limited?  That is when you begin living day by day, one day at a time.

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Ron approximately 1980

If you have been a reader for a while you may remember when I wrote in January about my husband’s Slippery Surgical Stress where due to a large tumor and cancer he had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus then raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was.  The surgery went well, he had a speedy recovery and it was believed he was cancer free.

Then at Ron’s three month post-op checkup they found cancer in his lung, which they related to the esophagus cancer.  He began a round of chemo, wearing a chemo-pack for 48 hours every two weeks.  After that round they did another scan, the cancer had gotten worse and they changed the type of chemo and he did another round, which he completed on November 19th.

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Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron had a CT Scan on Monday, November 30th.  The cancer has spread.  Chemo is not working.  Treatment is being stopped.  Ron is down to 99.6 lbs and is unable to eat or drink much.  He is very weak and exhausted all the time.  We inquired as to whether it would be beneficial to have him hospitalized and put on a feeding tube to get nutrition into him.  The answer was devastating.  A feeding tube will not provide him with an increase in energy and will not enhance his quality of life, instead it could deplete it due to potential complications.

So, I took my husband home and we take it day by day.  The oncologist will have hospice contact me.  We plan for his passing.  I pray he makes it through Christmas.   Once we hit Christmas, the next goal is our grandson’s birthday in January.  We will set goals one-by-one.

Emotionally this is very trying.  I have spent more time in tears in the past 48 hours than I have in years.  I feel horrible that he and our son (who is in prison), only have telephone contact or letters for contact during this time.   They are very close and this is hard on both of them.   I feel crushed that our youngest grandchild, who will have her first birthday on the 12th of December, is too young to remember her grandfather.  I worry about my two grandsons, ages 4 and 9 who are very close to him.  I could be a fly on the wall, it is always “where’s Papa?” when they come through the door.

So, this has been a rough year,  but it has also been a good year because when Ron got the diagnosis that his cancer was back he took a positive approach and lived like he was dying.  He took 2-1/2 weeks and drove west to Sante Fe, New Mexico and back, making numerous stops along the way and doing things he had never done…a hot air balloon ride, a glider ride, and more.  The two of us flew to Albuquerque and attended the International Hot Air Balloon Festival.  We drove north and toured the Michigan State Hospital, went up into the UP and visited our son.  Ron walked the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, and old tradition of ours.  He drove to Tennessee and checked on property we own there, taking a side trip to Nashville where he had never been.  Ron attended his 45th Class Reunion, we went to a BBQ where he saw some of his old high school friends.  He took pictures, he planned for the future.  He spent this past  year the best he could.

I am trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible.  Friends and family have been supportive.  We have people scheduled to come visit him.    I dread the day he is no longer here.  In some ways it feels lonely already.

I have adopted the motto of my teenage nephew, who a few years ago was battling cancer and facing imminent death.   His motto was “Every Day’s a Bonus.”  I’m borrowing that motto.  Every day that I have Ron here with me is a bonus.

 

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A Punch in the Stomach

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember my post called Slippery Surgical Stress in which I talked about my husband’s esophogectomy in January 2015.  After the surgery he tested cancer free, although they had removed several lymph nodes and three of those were suspect.  He recovered quickly, but continued to loose weight.

At his three month follow-up and Petscan it was determined that he now has two cancer spots in his right lung.   He had a permanent port surgically put in and every two weeks he is hooked up to a chemo pack that he wears for 48 hours, then he has a two week recovery period, then back on the chemo for 48 hours.  After a three month period they will do another Petscan to check his status.

It is the cancer that prevented him from gaining weight, and instead caused him to lose more.  Prior to having the tumor he weighed approximately 180 lbs., then due to the blockage by the tumor in his esophagus he was on a thin liquid diet, which caused him to lose a tremendous amount of weight.  When he completed his surgery in January 2015 he weighed 133 pounds, he is 111 lbs now.    While the doctors have not given him a time frame, if he continues to loose weight he will not survive.

Given that information he began checking into our finances, what money I would have coming into the home if he passes as he is retired and collects social security and a pension.  He is putting all the financial records in order, looking at headstones, cemeteries, and planning his own memorial service.  Hopefully it will be a Murphy’s Law situation and by putting everything in order he will end up in remission and live a long time.  Life is a Melting Pot, and sometimes the mix isn’t what you hoped for.

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Slippery Surgical Stress

Why is it we have had great weather until the day we have to leave home at 4 am to drive over an hour away for my husband, Ron’s, surgery? As if the day wasn’t going to be tiring enough, that was the way it started.

We were told that he would need to be at the hospital at 5:30 am for a 7:30 am surgery. Ron is a morning person, so although I thought we should get a hotel for the night before the surgery, he didn’t think it was a problem getting up at 3 am to be on the road by 4 am for the drive to the hospital. I told him if we were driving at that hour of the morning, he was driving.

Of all weeks for the weather to turn bitter cold and some spots on the roads were definitely slippery. Ron is retired and spends a lot of time driving to various locations to take photographs. I work full time and have only a three minute commute to get to work. Although we used to live in a more populated area, I am no longer used to the heavy traffic driving bumper-to-bumper.

Ron’s surgery was scheduled at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. The drive requires traveling on expressways that tend to be very busy. What I couldn’t believe is how many cars are on the expressways at 4:30 am! What the heck time of day do these people start working? Combine that with it being dark outside, the roads slightly slippery at points, and Ron going only 60mph but still passing everyone on the road, I was tense.

I’ve ridden with Ron for 34 years in all kinds of weather.  He does not loose control of the vehicle, but I guess the days of feeling invincible have given way to the fear of what could happen.  It probably didn’t help that prior to getting on the expressway he slid through a stop sign on our cut across, which is a dirt road, to the expressway.  My words when that happened were “don’t go in the ditch on the way to the hospital.”   Then on the expressway as we are passing other vehicles I would periodically ask if it was slippery and he would respond “it’s getting that way.”  Obviously, I just felt the sway of the wheels a bit on the road!   I used to drive fast on the roads when I had a 4 x 4, but we were traveling in a Ford Focus.

Ron did not have any problems maintaining control of the vehicle.  It was the other vehicles that were making me tense.  There were a couple times when a car decided at the last minute to move over in front of us and was driving considerably slower than we were, requiring Ron to break firmly.  A couple times cars weren’t lane changing but for whatever reason decided they needed part of our lane and moved over at us.  We had a semi we were passing that was very close to us on the passenger side, too close for my comfort.   My downfall was I wasn’t chewing gum, which was probably a blessing for Ron.  When I am tense and chew gum I tend to chew in a way that causes the gum to repeatedly crack.  Probably because I wasn’t chewing gum my jaw was hurting because I had apparently been clenching my teeth.  I also had to repeatedly concentrate on relaxing my shoulders and legs, as they would get sore from tension.

View showing esophagectomy procedure in three steps.

View showing esophagectomy procedure in three steps.

We were only 15 minutes late arriving at the surgical center.  If you have ever been to U of M Medical Center you know it is huge.  I have a map in my purse of the buildings so I know the route from where the car is parked to where Ron’s hospital room is.  His surgery went well.  He had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus and raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was, so his stomach now starts in his chest and is like a long tunnel down to his intestines.  He was predicted for a 4-6 hour surgery and was in 5-1/2 hours.  The surgery was on Tuesday and he is doing very well.  The medical staff are very pleased with his progress.  The normal stay after this procedure is seven days, but release is dependent on certain milestones being met.

Needless to say it has been an exhausting week.  I had the hospital make hotel arrangements for me the night of the surgery, and I was very glad I did.  By the time he got through recovery and into a room it was around 4:30-5:00 pm.  I didn’t leave the hospital until 8 pm.  When you have been up since 3 am and at the hospital since 5:45 am, it is a long day, and I still hadn’t had dinner.  It was 10 pm before I was settled into my hotel room for the night.

I am glad the day of slippery surgical stress is behind me and the recovery process is now underway.  I anticipate Ron being released to come home Tuesday or Wednesday and then life should begin to return to a normal routine.

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Filed under cancer, Family, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage

Caught in a Tornado

It started out as a heavy wind, then the momentum kept building, blowing harder and harder, starting to spin around me.  The power increased steadily until it was overpowering, hitting me with its impact and before I knew it I felt like I was spinning uncontrollably.  I was caught in a vicious tornado, life had thrown too much at me and I was loosing control.

Ultimate Measure of ManBack in July my husband, Ron, began having some trouble swallowing when eating.  By the time we returned home from vacation in August the problem had become much worse.  It was discovered that he had a large tumor in his esophagus and that it was cancerous.    During the time it took for the various tests and consultations with doctors to be done the tumor became worse and his ability to eat went from normal to soft foods only to very thing liquids/broths.  At the beginning of his 5-1/2 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation his esophagus was 90% blocked.  He has lost around 40 lbs and is down to around 131 lbs, very thin.  He finished his chemotherapy last week and today, the 4th of December, was his last radiation treatment.  The treatments have reduced the tumor and four about 1-2 weeks he was able to get some foods down, but the burning from the radiation has now caused that to be extremely painful.  We have to wait about a month for the burning to heal and the poisons from the chemo to leave his body.  In January he will have surgery to remove the esophagus and they will raise his stomach up to replace it.  Once those steps are done and he recovers from the surgery he should be able to resume a normal lifestyle.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that my husband and I have been trying to adopt our granddaughters and lost one to adoption already.  We found out on the 17th of November that although we have never received an official denial that another family has been found and she will likely be placed with them in January and adopted in June.  DHS has fought us all the way, and although we have not totally given up, we know that we are not likely to succeed in any attempts we make.  If you are not familiar with what has been going on, you can read about it in Power of Emotion and Attempted Adoption:  An Emotional Whirlwind.

My father has been experiencing health issues for the past year or so, plus struggling emotionally since my mother’s death in 2013.  He recently went into the hospital in a weakened state and with fluid around his lungs.  He was  transferred to a medical rehabilitation facility to regain his strength when a set-back sent him back to the hospital about a week ago.  I spoke with him on the 7th of December and he was uncomfortable, weak, and having difficulty eating/swallowing.  On the 2nd of December, his 75th birthday, he began to fail badly.  They attempted to drain fluid from his lungs and one collapsed, his kidneys were not working properly, and a multitude of other problems existed as well.  Throughout the day he changed floors in the hospital twice as his condition worsened.  By the end of the day he was intubated and not expected to live through the night.Death

The hospital is two hours from where I live.  Ron is weakest in the evenings and has had some dizzy spells and falls so I didn’t want to leave him home overnight.  The emotional impact was hitting me and I was struggling with  everything — the loss of Kiley to adoption, Ron’s condition, and my father’s anticipated death.  I was able to call the hospital and they held the phone to his ear so I could talk to him.  I was surprised when my sister, who lives near him, called the next morning and said she was at the hospital, he was failing very fast but they could maintain him for family to arrive.  I called into work and hit the road.  I was lucky, the roads were clear and very little traffic, I was at the hospital within about 2-1/2 hours from when I received the call.    My father’s skin was cold and clammy to the touch, his vitals were very low, but when I spoke to him I could tell from his facial movements that he could hear me and was able to register what I was telling him.  My sister and I decided to go to the cafeteria for a quick lunch, as her son-in-law and a pastor were expected to arrive and we would then remove life support and switch him to comfort measures only.   When we returned to the room we said a few final words to him.   Once we made the change in his treatment he passed peacefully within about 20 minutes.

children reinvent your worldOne life ends and another begins.  My daughter is pregnant, a high-risk pregnancy and her C-Section is scheduled for December 12th, so 1-1/2 weeks after the death of my father, the birth of another grandchild will take place.    The juggling of life continues as we have to drive her 45 minutes away to the hospital where she will deliver, take care of her other two children while she is at the hospital, and handle getting her and baby back home and to her follow up appointments.

I’m either adjusting to the speed of the tornado or it is loosing momentum.  We are now down to my grandchild’s birth, a family Christmas at our house, my husband’s surgery in January, continuing to monitor what happens with our granddaughter being adopted out to a non-relative rather than us, and my sister and I sorting through and cleaning out our parents’ home and belongings and handling the details of settling their estate.    It only goes to show that Life is a Melting Pot of incidents and activities.

 

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Filed under Adoption, cancer, death, Family, grandchildren, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, parents