Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas, Crystals and Chemo

Christmas feast with the Calgary kids. At my request Larry cooked rack of lamb.  Like everything he serves up, it was awesome!  

In some ways this Christmas was a challenge for me but mostly it was very easy. Taking all my paraphernalia on the road for three nights away from home wasn't as difficult as I expected. It was the Scammell's year to host it and they did it in style. They expected very little of me, and that's pretty much what they got. I opted to arbitrarily cancel the gingerbread house making extravaganza this year. As Avery said, "It's okay, Dad didn't make perogies last year but he did this this year!"  I spent a fair bit of time presiding from my position on the sofa right there next to Gramps ...

Christmas morning
The Christmas Eve traditional reading of our pop-up copy of The Night Before Christmas, purchased in 1975 

It was cold (-12ºC) and snowy outside but being good Canadians we went out in it anyway.

Avery making the required Snow Angel in her backyard
Avery is pulled on the Vintage Marshall Toboggan to the the toboggan hill, Gran and Gramps bring up the rear

The Scammell's community is filled with young families many of whom came out to toboggan on Christmas Eve day. I had a fold up chair and a perfect position from which to spectate the entire outing ...

Enjoy this short video 
We bid the family good bye on Boxing Day and promptly went to a crystal store. Long distance energy healer, Maggie, suggested I get some crystals. Nearby energy healer, Verna, suggested Earth Gems. We were completely blown away entering this lower level, expansive, treasure trove of crystals and gem stones ...

Just a small portion of Earth Gems on 17th Avenue in Calgary

Both Bill and I went a little nuts (how could you not?) buying mainly amethyst as it's touted as the Master Healing Crystal ... 

They're all mine, except the two pieces on the far left which are Bill's selections

We had settled up and cashed out when I suddenly was struck by the need to buy a Star of David. I immediately knew exactly which one of the two on offer that I wanted but I had no clue as to the properties of opal which my selection is graced with. I've since read here and realize that this was my most un-calculated, intuitive purchase. 

Why the Star of David? I was not raised a Jew but I do have Jewish ancestry which promptly concluded when my great grandfather married a Christian lady. Many of you know about the International Saltiel Family and their reunions every three years. We've been fortunate to attend three, Thessaloniki, Greece in 1997, Barcelona in 2000 and NYC in 2012. We're looking forward to attending the one in Madrid in 2018. Back to the star. Energy healer, Verna, with no previous knowledge of my Jewish heritage, suggested that I find a time with both our daughters, only, to have a group meditation. With Denise on my left and Laura on my right they sat on my hospital bed each taking one of my hands. From somewhere high above us, we were to invoke the light of the Star of David to shine down and encompass all three of us. The girls were to acknowledge and accept what was happening to their mother. I opened my eyes to sneak a peak at our daughter's faces and was profoundly moved. Their furrowed brows, deep in concentration, was one thing but the love pouring from their faces was divinely precious. The amulet I wear is a reminder of that time we shared.

Blue opal on the downward (toward the heart) facing triangle

December 27th was the last day a Home Care nurse came to change the incision dressing. With the great crevasse closed it was determined that it no longer needs bandaging and I'm now applying vitamin E oil to the scar. While my bladder continues to improve its natural output I must still self catheterize to fully void it. 

At The Tom Baker Cancer Centre (Calgary) I'm to receive a chemotherapy treatment every Thursday for eighteen weeks. December 29th, I went to my first treatment fearless and calm which I feel was reflected by my blood pressure reading of 123/80. During my hospital stay it was all over the map and often off the charts getting as high as 180+ over something as absurdly high. 

First through the IV was a saline flush then a dose of Benadryl which rendered me so groggy that I slept through most of the rest of treatment and all the way home on our 1.5 hour drive. The bonus was all that napping didn't interfere with my night sleep. Next came a bag of Carboplatin, a saline flush, then a bag of Paclitaxel and a final flush. It was over in less than the predicted time. 

The first and second treatments will be administered thus but I'm having a port installed January 6th (in my chest) for the rest
I was prescribed anti nausea medication prior to the treatment and have been given more to take for the two days following it. I'm most fortunate in not normally experiencing nausea and I don't have any now. As was reported by two other friends, who have been through this, the chemo drugs alleviated their joint pain and it seems to have reduced mine as well. This will be an absolute blessing for me as my left hip/leg has given me no end of grief since leaving off narcotics in hospital. The only little, negative effect I've noticed is a tenderness to the touch on the underside of the lower arm which took the IV.

To all who continue to shower both of us with love, well wishes, food and flowers, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I really didn't expect that something like this could open up so much love and generosity. 

Pleased with how I am healing, I enter 2017 with this mantra - Perfect Health Please - and I wish the same for all of you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Undesired Adventure

November 29th, 2016, after a grueling two weeks at Foothills Hospital, Bill takes me home

Posting further about The Friendship Tour and any summer/autumn art adventures have been pre-empted by major surgery. Three weeks ago yesterday I had a tumour, along with the part of the colon it was in, removed along with a radical hysterectomy. Oh and they took my appendix as well.

In mid July my bowel movements became abnormal. Blood in my stool prompted the colonoscopy on September 19th. The scope couldn't get past the mass in my Sigmoid colon. A CT scan (October 6th) revealed a 4cm probable malignant growth. The pathology report was a month in coming back. Although the growth was in my colon its cells were from somewhere in my reproductive system. On 
October 25th, at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre (Foothills Hospital, Calgary) we met with an amazing team of women at gynaecology oncology - everyone but my surgeon. 

October 28th I was given November 15th as my surgery date - a date which is my mother's and my brother's birthday (both deceased). I met my surgeon, Dr. Glaze, ten minutes before my operation. In the OR she asked "Would you like a hand to hold?" I fell in love right there. She held my hand until i went to sleep. At the time of surgery my colon was so inflamed it couldn't be reattached to my rectum so I awoke with a stoma and an ostomy bag. This is temporary and will be surgically reversed in at a later date.

As if the surgery, with a general anesthetic, wasn't tough enough there were countless complications. I contracted pneumonia. My breathing was difficult and shallow so I was put on oxygen for a few days and was given two units of blood.   

A chest x-ray revealed a small clot in a lung. For that, and for six months, I'm daily self injecting Tinzaparin, a blood thinner.  

Fluids built up under the incision. Day five, most of the staples had to be removed to drain the fluid. There was no infection and the sutured fascia deep down in the wound was clean and intact. After that the incision, a great crevasse some 3" long x 1" across and 1" deep was dressed (unpacked and repacked) daily. I was most impressed that both Denise and Laura (Bill took a peek as well) witnessed hospital dressing changes without gaging, flinching or fainting. Since being home a home care nurse comes in daily to change the dressing. The wound will slowly heal from the inside out. 

Taking narcotics for a week gave me nightmares so I discontinued them and took only Tylenol extra strength as needed. During my hospital stay I had a total of three foley catheters. The last one was a constant irritant. As a result of the surgery my traumatized bladder (nerve end damage) rarely voids urine of its own volition. I have to self catheterize to fully drain it. This is called and in-and-out catheter. Although it may take a while I'm counting on my bladder returning to full function. 

When I'd been in hospital for nine nights Laura, with the nursing 14-month-old Everett, flew in from Manila for five days. That was the very best tonic, I really started to improve once I held our baby in my arms.

November 24th, Laura and Everett arrived from Manila

Bill and Denise visited every day. Larry and Avery came often. Hospital food is so abysmal that the family made and brought me delicious soups, breakfasts and suppers.

Most of my crazy kids at the end of my bed.  Missing are Adam and Amira

The final complication was a lump in my esophagus. The first throat scope couldn't get past this. I was given antibiotics and, for three days, was put on a clear fluid diet while the lump reduced. A smaller scope was used the second time. They were able to reach down into my stomach. The problem is simple but annoying - acid reflux. I've never had that before. I’m on a proton pump inhibitor to keep stomach acid from erupting up into my esophagus.  

We were told I'd be hospitalized for 5-7 nights but I spent a full two weeks in hospital. Once all the complications were under control I was ready to go home. The night before being discharged my surgeon came and sat on the side of my bed to deliver the pathology report to me and Bill. The cells of the tumour came from an ovary. Dr. Glaze said that she had got all the cancer out of me. I made her tell me that three times, she said it's “Gone, gone, gone.”  Even so she has recommended a round of chemo to prevent it from returning. This won’t commence until after Christmas.  

Without trying I lost ten pounds from June to surgery and a further seven in hospital. My energy levels are low and I tire easily but my appetite is good, I am eating larger meals which will no doubt fatten me up. For the first couple of days I confess to not caring if I lived or died but after enduring those I wasn't going to cave in. My relentless spirit was back and I'm committed to being completely healed.

Visiting out of the Lilliputian double room 

It was mid afternoon when we left the hospital under a clear blue Alberta sky when the mercury was at a happy plus 7º celsius. I wanted to get a hit of Christmas, to enjoy the decorations at Market Mall. On the short drive to the mall, like a dog with is head out the passenger window, I sucked in the fresh air. At the mall the big girls had borrowed a scooter so I could get around with ease.   

The mall wasn't busy and we enjoyed just touring the aisles, doing a little shopping
I'm not sure who enjoyed this more, me or Everett

Something I really wanted was to have the family photographed, not with Santa, but at his court ...

Look at all those happy faces

We've been home a week now which has made me and Bill feel so much better. Even though winter has struck with snow and frigid temperatures (yesterday's low was minus 27º celsius) we get out walking most days. Although my energy levels are low I can feel my strength returning; every day is better that the last.

The love and energy pouring in from everywhere can literally be felt. To everyone who paid hospital visits, sent healing vibes and prayers, cards and emails of support, gifts, flowers, and mountains of food we are incredibly grateful. Special thanks to the friends who sent in the amazing energy healer, Verna. She's coming to see me at home tomorrow. 

Onwards and upwards. I just know the next adventure will be a great deal more fun than this one!