Life Lessons

tai chi red imageI really love my Tai Chi class. It is my gift to myself, to take care of me and have some “present moment” time, not thinking about the past or the future. Just being. My teacher is awesome. He asks us questions that have taught me many lessons. For example, today he asked us what we are good at in Tai Chi. My answer was that I was really good at a specific movement. But the more I considered the question, I decided that I was good at showing up. I attend class and give it all my attention and engage 100%. And it’s good for me.  The teacher said a few minutes later that I give all day and Tai Chi was a time for me to receive. So true, and depends on me showing up. On Monday as I did the form, I realized that I was going from one “pose” to the next without enjoying the transition moves. This really hit me. Am I enjoying my journey in life, or only focusing on destinations? Am I focusing on my husband’s negative prognosis instead of showing up for this journey we are taking together? I’ve said that we are taking one day at a time. I think it might be better to embrace one day at a time. It’s time to quit thinking about the future and embrace what is.

Update: My husband Steve entered the hospital yesterday with a fever of 104.4 from a urinary tract infection. He’s getting IV antibiotics and is expected to come home tomorrow if his fever comes down, but it’s at 101.8 tonight. He has a great deal of pain in his pelvic bones while walking so they will send him home with a walker.

Fun and Games

Gardner Village1Yesterday was a mixed bag. My husband Steve had radiation therapy in the morning. Then we went to buy burial plots, followed by a lovely time at Gardner Village (across the street from the cemetery) with Steve’s sister, her husband, and Steve’s mom. Had Philly Cheese steak sandwiches at Moochie’s then Steve’s family left for a few hours so he could rest. When they came back we played Farkle in the back yard until it got too dark to see the dice.  We had fun and connected with the family, but Steve was not feeling the greatest. His bone pain is making it hard to walk.

This morning I woke up to take Steve to radiation therapy and his temperature was 102.4. That’s hot!  So we went to radiation and then to the ER where a urinary tract infection was found. His family came to the ER and then we went to lunch at JCW’s. The whole time we were there Steve was shivering, but managed to eat his pastrami burger, fries and orange soda. He was very disappointed he couldn’t have a milk shake because it would interfere with his antibiotic absorption. His family left us after that so Steve could rest. He came home and watched Terminator 3. Well he sorta watched it twice because he kept falling asleep. We are hoping he feels better tomorrow because he has been planning to go to Ogden with his family to visit his father’s grave and to take an NLP (neurolinguistic programming) class. Today he wanted to go to Park City and stroll around the art galleries. Not gonna happen. But life is a mixed bag – we are having fun times, sad times, boring times, exciting times…. At least Sky Net is not a reality (that was a Terminator 3 reference).

Celebrations

Storm SparklerJuly is a patriotic month in Utah. After celebrating the 4th of July with barbecues, fireworks, rodeos and family get togethers we celebrate Pioneer Day on the 24th of July with barbecues, fireworks, rodeos and family get togethers. I especially like this holiday because my own ancestors crossed the country pulling all their possessions in handcarts to Utah. Out of 6 family members who began the journey in Nebraska, only one survived, to become my great great grandmother. Since we live on a cul de sac, we launch fireworks from the middle of our street and have a great time while sucking on Popsicles. We had fun watching the next generation take over the lighting and supervision of the fireworks.

Steve is now on his second week of radiation therapy. Sadly, he is having a great deal of hip pain when he walks. We are working on getting him a Handicapped Parking Permit and a cane. The pain is probably related to bone tumors. He is also struggling with nausea and we are not sure the exact cause of that.

The good news is that one of Steve’s sisters and his mom are visiting from Oregon. We played an exciting game of Farkel last night, and also made a quick video to wish our daughter-in-law a Happy Birthday in Atlanta. It is nice to  have family around. Another one of Steve’s sisters will be here later this week. Family is a source of strength and joy and we are so happy they are here.

Planning

So last night we met with a funeral planner. It was hard at first, but in the end we feel it is best to get everything planned and paid for. Steve is working on his obituary now because we heard that it is best to write your own. I will work on mine too. Interestingly, there are huge price differences in cemetery plots. We chose a cheap one, and took a little tour today. The longer we talk about it, the easier it gets. And having it all planned really takes some concerns off our plate.

Steve is doing well with radiation, although he finally had to have a urinary catheter placed because he was having trouble urinating. Thank goodness I know a nurse who was happy to come over and insert it. I just really couldn’t do it myself to my own husband. Hopefully he will only have it in for a few days. Apparently the radiation can cause some temporary swelling so we hope that will go down and he can urinate comfortably again.

I went to radiation with Steve this morning. Afterwards, we went out to breakfast and ran errands. It was just like a normal day. Nice.

One Hour at a Time

clock1We are taking one day at a time and today is not the best. We may have to switch to taking one HOUR at a time. Steve is having great difficulty urinating, and just feels crummy.  He insisted on attending church for a few minutes this morning, which he did. He has taken a couple of naps already and it is not yet 2:00 PM. He hasn’t eaten and I have made his favorite bran muffins to entice him. I still feel that we are in a race to radiation and I hope he will feel well enough tomorrow morning to go to his first radiation treatment. A nurse friend of mine said she will come to insert a urinary catheter if it  comes to that. That would be better than going to the ER. But I hope it won’t come to that. This is all getting so real. I find it so hard to watch him suffer. This is getting harder…

In the midst of this I have friends and family gathering around. I know they would do anything for us and I so appreciate it.

The Race is On

raceThis week has been a bit harrowing. Our understanding is that radiation will shrink my husband Steve’s bladder tumors so he will have less pain and won’t have trouble urinating. Well, radiation doesn’t start until next Monday, and Steve is having trouble urinating now. He’s also tired and has nausea. We just want him to get to radiation before he needs a catheter again. We are also working on blood thinning. He gets a blood thinner shot twice a day, unless he has too much blood in his urine. Then we hold the dose until his urine has less blood in it. However, we are concerned that without the blood thinner the blood in his bladder will clot and cause him to be unable to urinate. This week feels like a race to radiation. We want to get to that finish line before he can’t urinate. Are we having fun yet? Well, we try to.

Friends and Family

Smokey crowd July 2015I’ve known my girlfriend Carol since we were in 7th grade. That was about 50 years ago. She and her husband visited us this week from San Diego and we had a ball. While Carol and I went to Thanksgiving Point to see the flowers, my husband Steve stayed home to work on cleaning things out. Carol’s husband was looking forward to helping him. Sadly Steve did not feel up to it. He was very disappointed because he feels that part of his healing is the act of getting rid of “stuff” that no longer serves him. He’ll get there. He did some today. Carol and her husband arrived in their motor home and each afternoon they retired to the motor home to take a nap, and so did I. We are really getting old when part of the visit is a nap! Honestly, it was great! A big highlight was that Carol’s husband cooked dinner for us three times. Wow! Another highlight of the visit was our trip to Park City to see Smokey Robinson in concert. Front row seats! Talk about awesome!

We are blessed with wonderful, caring friends. And now in a couple of weeks Steve’s sisters and mother will be coming to visit and we are really looking forward to that, too. Steve is feeling tired and nauseated and has a lot of pain, but he has medications that are working pretty well. He is looking forward to starting radiation on Monday, to help control the pain.

Radiation and Friends

We saw the radiation oncologist yesterday, fully prepared to say no to radiation therapy. To our surprise it sounded like radiation would shrink Steve’s tumors, relieve his pain, and have very few side effects. The tumors in his bladder and bones would be radiated. The 13 radiation sessions would be gentle, painless, and should not make Steve feel sicker. So Steve decided to go for it. Tomorrow he will be scanned, measured, and tattooed. Treatment should start next week.

Thanksgiving Point lunchMeanwhile we are being visited by my long time girlfriend and her husband from San Diego. It’s been nice just relaxing and chatting. Today she and I went to Thanksgiving Point and rented a golf cart to tour the 55-acre gardens. Amazingly beautiful and relaxing. We had lunch and talked like we used to talk when we were in high school, just a bit more maturely. Her husband is going to cook us some dinners and will cook spaghetti for my kids and grandkids on Sunday. This is the life! Did I mention I hate to cook? But I do love to eat.

 

Church

Mormon church 1Every Sunday when my husband Steve and I are getting ready for church he says that he will only stay for our first meeting (we have 3) and then he’ll go home due to his health. So he said it yesterday and I jokingly said, “Yeah you say that every Sunday. We’ll see.” Well for the first time EVER he walked home after our first meeting. I was surprised and felt sad that he didn’t feel well enough to stay. I wonder if this is the first of many absences he will have. It felt funny sitting alone in Sunday School and maybe this helps prepare me for the future. I have to say that I am really never alone at church. I sat by a girlfriend, and many people gave me a hug and showed love to me and asked how Steve is doing. That was so nice. I am surrounded by love and caring at church and I am glad I have that. When I got home Steve was not feeling well, which is unusual. His stomach was bothering him and he felt tired. Normally, the pain is all that is bothering him and he feels pretty well otherwise. It is challenging to see my loved ones suffer. Things I’ve learned at Church, along with loving people and a supportive family, give me the strength I need to get through this.

Quality of Life

My husband Steve had what we thought was his last oncology visit today. We thought his oncologist would put him on Hospice, but she suggested a couple of things, targeted at managing pain. The first is to give him IV Zometa. It’s like Fosamax and will strengthen his bones, delaying the onset of fractures due to the bone tumors. The other recommendation is to have radiation therapy to shrink the tumors and alleviate pain. She also referred Pain - enjoy the journeyhim to the Huntsman Center’s pain management team. The pain pills he takes now are not quite doing the job. So next week Steve has a consultation with the radiation center and the pain management team. Then the week after that he sees his dentist who will clear him for the Zometa infusion. He will see his oncologist again in a month and have the infusion then.  Steve doesn’t know enough about the radiation to  make a good decision at this point. If he chooses against radiation, then Hospice care will be the next step. Either way, quality of life is our goal. Steve is still using herbs, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other anti-cancer therapies and feels that he still has a chance for survival. Meanwhile, just in case, he is getting his affairs in order. I know this all sounds serious, but at the same time we are positive and thankful and take every opportunity to enjoy life as it comes, no matter how much life is left.