Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wrapped in Memories

Each night when go to bed, I wrap myself in memories. Memories of my Mother who has been gone from this life since March 12, 2013. Mom made many quilts in her life time. Not the fancy, beautiful quilts that win prizes in the county fairs, but quilts that she made from our outgrown clothing, and lined with worn blankets, or something similar, just to make them nice and warm and snugly. I remember many quilts that she made over our lifetime. Some made from fabric that was so heavy, it was hard to roll over in the bed at night, back when we were very small. The older houses that we lived in, had no heat other than the wood stove in the living room, or maybe the heat from the cooking stove. A warm quilt was such a treasure back then. One that was made well enough to hold in body heat.
As Mom lay dying, those last three months of her life, my sister and I spent all of those final days with her. At night, we snuggled up in the warm quilts, on cots, close by her bedside. I have acquired a few of her old quilts, over the years, and they bring much comfort to me, today.
I remember when I was first out of high school. I had taken a night shift job. That meant I must try to sleep during the day, while the rest of the family scurried around in the house. It was hard to get use to, but Mom allowed me to sleep in hers and dad's bed away from the noise of the younger children, as they played. I remember their bed being so warm and snugly. I guess it takes a little more living to learn how to make a bed feel that way. I think I have learned it by now, but Mom's quilts are a big part of my warm and snugly beds, even today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Getting Old is not for Sissies

This past year, I have had more medical issues than the combined 66 years prior. Everything seems to begin falling apart all at once. I really have no right to complain, since I have been so healthy for so long, but it definitely hard to accept. It is my opinion that some, not all, but some of the problems I am experiencing are related to the chemo pill I must take for 2 years following my cancer removal. The majority of the symptoms, I can handle, but the weak muscles is the worst. I have always been strong and had boocoodles of energy. Those two symptoms are the hardest to accept. I have had my one year scan and check up with both my surgeon and my oncologist and got good reports from both. During my visit with them, I voiced my thoughts about the weak muscles and questioned whether my heart would be affected since it is a muscle. They are now recommending a stress test. I have been having several episodes of chest pains. Nothing major, but enough to get my attention. The heart is the first thing to pop into my mind. Could this be a warning of worse things to come? Hopefully, with this, test, we will be able to see what is going on. I pray it is only stress causing the chest pains.

Now I am dealing with another totally different issue, unrelated to the chemo pills, as far as I know anyway.  I have been doing a lot of reading and feel the thing I am dealing with now is a Baker's Cyst. There is a swelling in the back of my knee and it makes bending my leg or using the muscles in my leg very painful. From the reading I have done, it must be a fluid that has built up around a joint. The more reading I do, the more frightened I get. It says it can heal and go away on it's own, but then there is a chance it may require surgery. I have an appointment with my family doctor next week for my routine checkup. I tried to get in earlier to no avail. I think I read that the fluid sac could rupture and the fluid could run down into the calf muscle and cause more problems. I am already experiencing the sensation on the soul of my foot of standing on a couple of small water balloons.Could this be the fluid from the ruptured cyst? I hope not, but it does sound logical. The entire thing makes it very uncomfortable to walk, so hopefully I will get to the bottom of this issue before too long. The rains have hampered my work in the yard and gardens nearly all Spring and Summer, so far. I have had to spend a lot of time indoors. I am ready to pull my hair, or someone's hair, out over it all. I pray this, too, will pass, as have so many other hurtles in my life. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Potatoes in my Bed

early stages of my raised bed... 30 X 5 ft.

a sampling of my new potatoes

We bought a bag of red potatoes at the local auction this year, and I decided I would plant some of the eyes in my new raised garden bed just to see how they do. We have had the wettest Spring I can remember in awhile. It has been extra cool and rained more days than not. I suppose it was just what the doctor ordered for my potatoes. I harvested a full 5 gallon bucket from only a dozen hills. They were amazing. I cooked up a batch of potato soup for a gathering we were having a couple of weeks ago and they were such a hit, I have decided to cook another batch for our outing at the lake on Sunday. I have a few tires remaining with the last few hills that have not been harvested yet. It, too, was an experiment, so having such good luck with the potatoes this year, I will definitely be trying it again next year. With potatoes though, one just knows it is a hit or miss thing. A lot depends on the weather and other factors, as to whether or not you have a good crop. My raised bed is young yet, so I'll need to add a lot more soil and other things in order to make it better. I am so pleased with the results, I can't imagine it being any better. My tomatoes are doing great. I have sweet peppers coming on. The watermelons are growing good. I had a few strawberries earlier this season.. I have a few strawberry corn nearing maturity.  I've had loads of onions, My cucumbers are bearing good. And, oh yes, my potatoes. I dare say, I have impressed my own self with the abundance of veggies that I have grown in my new raised bed. I have planted some beans lately and they are coming along nicely. Who could ask for more in such a small space. Having a place to raise your own food and enjoying the process as we both do, is truly a blessing. We are so blessed, and we thank God, daily, for this wonderful life we are living.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One year later, no sign of Cancer

Here I am once more, grateful for the opportunity to tell the world, I am alive and feeling so blessed. One year ago. After a lengthy heart examination by Dr. Mehta, an Elizabethtown Cardiologist, it was determined that there was something out of the ordinary, showing up in my exams and scans. With the insistence of Dr Mehta, we engaged another doctor q,Dr. Marshall Johnson, for his assistance in determining exactly what it was they were seeing . After a few more tests, Dr. Johnson felt it was something that required a specialist. He immediately hooked me up with Dr. Charles Scoggins at Norton's Hospital. We then made arrangements to have it checked out, whatever it might be, as soon as possible. Within a week. I was meeting with Dr. Scoggins when he expressed to us, it was indeed cancer. A GIST cancer. He had seem enough to know. Our next step would be to take it out, send it off to determine other factors. Fast or slow growing and in what stage.Within another week, I was headed for surgery with Dr Charles Scoggins at Norton's Hospital. At 5:30 in the morning of June 17, 2014 .I was being rolled into surgery. After roughly, an hour later, we were informed that a mass the size of an orange, was sitting directly on top of my stomach, not in the lining as was originally thought. Now the waiting. Four days later, about the time I was ready to be released from the hospital, the results were in. Dr. Scoggins came to my room to tell me and my family the results of the tests we had been waiting for. The Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumor was a fast growing tumor in the 3rd stage. We were indeed blessed. Had it gone into the fourth stage, it would have metastasized and went to my liver and my brain. There would have been no stopping it. So, here I am, one year later, having just recently got the results of my one year scan. All Clear. Praise, God!  Although it has been a somewhat difficult year for me, adjusting to the fact I do not have the strength I once had, I do feel I am so grateful. I feel I am getting my strength back gradually. I have been on the chemo pills for the last year and was told I will need to be on them one more year, if all goes well, and they do not change the guidelines on that order. There has been talk of moving the time on the pills up to five years. I feel tthe chemo pills are holding me back from regaining my full strength, but I am trusting that with the help of God,my Oncologist, Dr. Vivek Sharma,and my surgeon, Dr. Charles Scoggins, I will be just fine. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Step back Facebook. I'm blogging today.

Since joining the Facebook world, I rarely get around to posting on my blog anymore. I tend to write about much of the same things on my FB posts and folks seem to enjoy my daily entries, but since the things I post about on my blog will eventually end up in my little books, I need to get back to posting here as well. I will try to keep them both up to date, if possible, but this time of the year is a busy time for me anyway.  We'll just have to see how it goes.
bed covers to deter cats

1 of 2 compost bins and compost strainer

more space for small chickens

my raised garden bed

volunteer tomatoes

The cats awakened me  at 5 am  and after feeding them and letting them out, there was no way I could fall back asleep. I lay awake, thinking of a project I had been wanting to undertake for some time. It was just turning daylight, so I had to get to it.  We no longer use one of the enclosed dog/chicken pens, so I have been gradually disassembling it. We, at one time, had multiple sections of woven wire, given to us by Cousin Keith. Pop has since hauled most of it off for scrap, much to my dismay, since I used and loved that wire. It came in so handy for so many of my projects. I use it to make compost bins, strainers for composted soil, small cages for various uses, wind and frost caps for my plants, temporary fencing for the chickens to have extended space to get to more bugs and grass. So many uses. Now that I am down to only a very few sections of the wire, I had to disassemble the old pen in order to reuse that last section that was used overhead to keep the varmints out and the chickens in, but I got it done. A lot of trimming of honeysuckle and wisteria vines, but I managed to get it done much quicker than I had originally thought. My flock of smaller chickens, bantam and silkies, now have more space to scratch and eat. No where near the trouble I had anticipated. Much to my surprise, I found a lot of volunteer tomato plants growing in the abandoned pen. Most likely they are cherry tomatoes. They reseed more readily than most tomatoes and since I had chickens in that pen last, the seeds were, most likely, left from the table scraps I had fed them.  No matter. They were a welcome sight. I'll let them grow where they are. Who knows. That pen may make an excellent greenhouse after all.  That was a plan I had for it sometime back, anyway. Now I know. It will work as a greenhouse, but that is another project for another day.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is this what they mean by "Noodling"?

Hershell and I got a call this week from our friend, Budco, who was filling in a pond for a field tiling job he was doing. He called saying the number of fish coming out of the pond was unreal. Would we like to come and save a few more for our pond. We jumped in the truck and headed that way. No thought of how things would be when we arrived. Thank goodness I had enough sense to pitch a net in the truck. Hip boots never entered my mind. When we arrived on the scene, we found a couple of hog wallow type streams that we needed to cross. Not even the 4-wheel drive truck would help. It was a trip we needed to make on foot. The muck and mire where we needed to cross was too wide to jump, but we had to try. Hershell made it across without getting too muddy. I attempted to jump to what I thought was a solid spot, but you can guess the rest of the story. My solid spot target turned out not to be so solid. My foot slipped, bringing me down, flat on my back, in the mucky hog wallow of a stream and since he had tried to help me, down he went, too. We were both laughing so hard, it took what seemed like forever to get ourselves up and out of the muck. After we got over the embarrassment and humiliation, we proceeded to dip up many fish to take home to our pond. 21 blue gill and 6 bass. Not a bad days fishing. I hope my former classmate, Nelson Burnett, is following my story. I'd like to tell him, "If this is anything like noodling, I want no part of it ever again. Sorry." Many years ago, he informed our eighth grade class that he had been dubbed with the nickname Noodler. When asked why, he replied, "Because I love to noodle."  I never knew until that day what noodling was. I have since learned that it means getting in the water, feeling around under the water, and catching fish with only your hands. I, personally, don't see how that could possibly be any fun, but hopefully, you don't need to get down and wallow in the mucky mud to noodle.
Above are a few pictures from our trip. Hershell had rinsed my back side off a bit with the ice cold water from a nearby creek. The water was too cold for much rinsing off. It's a wonder we both didn't catch pneumonia.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Energy and Motivation, Don't Leave Me Now!

I guess I could put an ad in the local paper, but I am afraid the things I have lost, cannot be found that easily. I have a long list of excuses as to why I have gained several extra pounds in the last year, but the plain truth is, I have been snacking too much and not getting enough exercise.

The Cancer ordeal of this past year did have a tiny bit to do with it, but it was not the only factor. It took the better part of the summer to heal from my surgery and I did tend to stay in and do as little as possible during the healing process. Then there was the Iron ordeal. I had to go to the James Graham Brown Cancer Center once a week for a 2 hour session of intravenous iron. Louisville being 60 miles away, and the traffic being so bad at times, I was a nervous wreck each time we had to make the trip. Pop does the driving, and he scares me as he is much older now, not to mention, he thinks he is still 25 and driving on the racetrack, which he was really good at, back then. But age tends to change a lot of things, and he doesn't accept change easily. Many times when we'd make the trip, one of his two daughters would go. Most times, they would drive, but occasionally, they will let him drive. They truly want to believe he is just as capable as he was when he was much younger, and do not want to hear me say he does not need to be driving to Louisville.  I've lived with him for the last 37 years, so I feel I know his driving habits a little better now. I would rather one of them would drive. They are both good drivers, although they do drive faster and take more chances than I ever would. I guess it's a case of choosing the lesser of the two evils.

Nevertheless, the Cancer and the Iron ordeals are behind us, for the most part. I am still taking the chemo pills daily, and I still need to have a CBC once a month, regular check ups with both my surgeon and my oncologist, once every 3 months. and a scan every 6 months. Both doctors are in Louisville, so that's a pain, having to make the trips backup there, but when you consider my alternatives, it's not that bad.

The Winter was really rough on me this time. Over and above the other issues, I have been experiencing a lot of troubles with one of my shoulders. Both tend to bother me a lot, but the right shoulder froze up completely. It, too, was possibly brought on by inactivity. During the time I was recuperating from the cancer surgery, I was doing a lot of work on the computer, planning my big 50th class reunion. I was on the computer the better part of every waking hour for much of the Fall and Winter. I was the number one, search and find, person, for locating our 169 plus classmates.
I enjoyed every minute of it, but I do think it may have played a big part in my shoulder joint freezing up. I went through a few weeks of physical therapy, and it helped somewhat, But I still do not have the complete mobility back in that arm. Mom had a similar problem with her right arm and shoulder. They would not do surgery on her because of her age, but I do not plan to have surgery at any age on mine. I am hearing too many stories of bad results for folks who have had the surgery.

Now,back to my topic. Spring is here now. My aches and pains seem to diminish with more activity and a change in the weather. It will take me all summer to clean up the mess left from my inactivity of the past year. Things tend to get out of hand in the yard and gardens, without regular routine care. I have been working with these things for a few days now, and I do feel I am rebuilding my strength and stamina a bit. It's a slow process. I am struggling with low energy and weak muscles, but I plan to persevere. Hopefully, I will get back to my usual self before Winter hits again,along with the long spells of inactivity which accompanies it. I have never been one to do my exercising indoors.

I do believe the fresh air and outdoor activities tend to play a major part in how one feels, but diet does play a huge part in it, too. Thus, I have just today, ordered Dr. Phil's 20/20 Diet Book. I have never been one to follow a diet, and do any good, but hopefully he will have a few pointers that I can use in my own routine.I'll check in, in a few days to post an update on how I am doing.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Our Family Grows

One day, this past few months, Pop and I were working with the winter's wood supply, when we heard the 3 dogs barking incessantly at something they had treed. We investigated and found it was a young calico cat. It didn't appear to be a full grown cat, but maybe 3/4 grown. We called the dogs away and between Pop and I, we coerced the kitten down from the tree. It seemed to be comfortable with humans, so we went about convincing the dogs that it was not a varmint, so they,too, become  comfortable with each other, right away. It seemed to be a well kept cat. It was healthy and friendly, but it was determined to follow us, every step we made. We'd go inside. It would follow. We'd go outside. It would follow. It knew exactly where to go inside the house, for water, To the commode. That told us that it must have been a house cat where ever it had come from. We continued on with letting it be a house cat, but it definitely wanted to go outdoors to do it's business. It would use the litter box if it had to, but we could tell, it preferred to do that outside in the dirt.We noticed it getting fatter and fatter, or so we thought. It only took about 60+ days to figure out it was not fat that was making her appear much bigger. Pop was worried she had a tumor, and sure enough 60+ days later, she had 5 little tumors. We have spoiled them all rotten now, and it will be hard to let them go, but we are pretty sure we have found homes for most of the babies. We plan to have Callie, the Mother cat, neutered as soon as possible. She is a darling pet. It is hard to understand who would have dropped off such a great pet, but with the economy being as it is nowadays, we figure they could not afford to feed her, plus most likely knowing she was bred, did not help.  Our male cat has been neutered so we know he was not guilty of fathering the kittens.She had to have been bred when she was dropped or shortly thereafter, by a neighboring male cat. They do tend to travel great distances, when in season, to find a mate. No matter. She is our cat now, and we love her dearly. The babies are all precious. Each with it's own darling personality. They will make great pets for their perspective owners soon, although we will miss them terribly. It is so easy to get attached to a tiny kitten, as we are learning, all too well.

Back in the Saddle Again

This has been a very rough year for me and I am hoping with the arrival of the Spring season, to be able to get things back on track. My muscles have deteriorated over this past Summer and Winter, due to inactivity. The Cancer scare, hopefully, is behind me. I had it removed and I am now taking 300 milligrams of Gleevec, a chemo pill, once a day.The healing from the surgery took about 6 weeks, but then we learned that my iron levels were bottomed out, so that took another 6 weeks to get the treatments for that taken care of. All in all, I have had very little outdoor activities to keep my muscles built up as usual. One of my shoulders froze up, probably due to the same reason, and I am convinced that age and the weather had a bit to do with it also. I went through a few rounds of therapy which helped to a great extent, but I am sure some of the pain and discomfort will be with me always. I have kept myself busy as always, through this lengthy recovery from all of the above. I have busied myself doing lots of my many craft interests, but the one that captivates me most often is making the little pincushions.This is only a few of my pincushions as I have been giving them to friends and family as gifts this past few months.I enjoy making the little pincushions, although they are very tedious and time consuming. The process does seem to have a calming effect on me, so when I am stressed, they are the perfect distraction and remedy.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

So Life Does go on

It has been nearly seven months since I have last posted and life does go on. I have been taking the chemo pill for roughly six months now, They first had me on 400 milligrams, but that appeared to be too strong for me. They keep a close watch on the blood levels for all sorts of things. It seem the 400 milligrams were affecting one of the components they were watching. They backed me off to 300 milligrams and that is where I have remained up to this point. I was told early on, that I would possibly be taking the chemo pills for at least two years, but the last trip I made to my Oncologist, Dr. Vivek Sharma, I was told that they are studying these cases and are considering moving the length of time to five years. Evidently, the cancers of some have returned after stopping the pills after only 2 years. I don't seem to have any side effects from the pills. None that stand out anyway. Many of the side effects mentioned in the literature they provided, I was already feeling from age.

I have had my first 6 month scan on the cancer and all seems to be clear. Thank God. I must continue to have my blood monitored once a month. I went to my family doctor this past few weeks for my regular semi annual check up and all of my numbers are great. That was no surprise though, since I was in excellent health when they discovered the cancer and am today. That is why it was so hard to understand how there could be a third stage, fast growing cancer, inside of my body. The only symptoms I ever had that there could possibly be something wrong was an occasional change in my heartbeat. Sometimes it would act up and do weird things, but I have dealt with that, for my entire life. My heart has always concerned me. That is why I keep a good heart check up every ten years or so.

The last time I decided to have my heart checked was in early 2013. I had been eating a bit more chocolate than normal, so I figured that was the problem,  To be on the safe side, I went to my family doctor and she put one of those halter monitors on me and sent me home, telling me to wear it for 24 hours. Upton returning the monitor, they read it and informed me that they had seen some irregularities in the rhythm of my heart. That called for more tests, so I was sent for an electrocardiogram with Dr. Mehta. He checked my heart over and decided my heart muscle was strong, but I did have a leaky valve which would not kill me,BUT he had seen something else that concerned him and he felt I needed additional tests to determine what it was. I chose and was sent directly to Dr. Marshall Johnson. Carmen and Pop had used them and they trusted his judgment. Dr.Johnson recommended an endoscopy. it appeared to be a tumor in my stomach, and possibly in the lining of my stomach,so he could not get a good read on it. He suggested I go on to a specialist in this field, Dr. Charles Scoggins, who worked with the Norton's Hospital, University of Louisville, and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.We felt if Dr. Johnson trusted him, then we would trust him. Dr.Johnson went out of our examining room directly to the phone and hooked me up with Dr. Scoggins/ Within a day or two, we were at Norton's, having surgery on June 17, 2013. Dr. Scoggins looked at the tests that had already been run on me, and he stated up front. It is a cancer. That was for sure . A GIST cancer. A Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumor. It needed to come out asap to be tested to see if it was fast or slow growing and in what stage it was. The Brown Cancer Center and the University of Louisville both came to me with papers to sign, requesting me to relinquish to them, a sample to be studied. Evidently the GIST cancer is not that common, possible 3-4 thousand cases. found in the U.S. per year. I willing agreed to both studies. I remained in Norton's for four days while they sent the tumor off and had it analyzed. The surgery only took 45 minutes since the tumor, which was the size of an orange, was sitting directly on top of my stomach instead of in the lining as they had first thought. Dr. Scoggins was only 45 minutes removing the tumor along with five percent of my stomach. He had anticipated being in there two and a half hours. Thank God once more, it was a much simpler procedure than they had expected. We waited for the result and four days later, Dr. Scoggins informed me that it was a fast growing, third stage cancer. Thank God again, they were able to get the entire cancer out in tact. No surrounding lymph nodes to be affected, so that was another good thing. On the fourth day, Pop and the girls came to take me home. Pop had a room at the motel where they provide rooms at a reduced rate for family of patient, so he was close at hand for the most part. He did go home a time or two, to check on things there, but for very short visits then returned asap. There was a bit of confusion about my check out time, but nothing to really get concerned about, since all else had gone so well. We headed home and didn't realize the trip was a bit rougher on me than we had thought. Upon getting me into the house, I collapsed in the living . I felt myself going going going, but was able to get to a chair before passing out. Thank God, once more, Carmen was there and took control. She knew exactly what to check for. She called her husband,David, who is a paramedic, to bring oxygen and whatever else she deemed necessary to revive me and get me stabilized. In no time I was better and in my bed. I guess the activity of getting me home from Louisville was more than my body could stand after having surgery and being in bed for 4 days. The healing time from the incision was roughly four to six weeks and that was rough, especially since I had never had any kind of major surgery before, but being in such good health anyway, it was not that bad. We did learn during the next few doctor's visits to Louisville, that my iron was below normal and needed attention. That would require four trips to the Brown Cancer Center in the next four weeks. Once a week. Each time I went, I would take a 2 hour session of intravenous iron. It turned out to bring the most wonderful results. I felt like Super Woman. My levels were 6 when I began. The normal range was 11-60, so I was definitely low on iron.  I have always known my iron levels ran low since I was never able to give blood on that account. I tried to eat liver at regular intervals, but evidently my body was not absorbing it correctly. Not taking in enough vitamin C with it could have been a contributing factor, considering I have learned since that iron absorbs much better when taken with  Vitamin C. It's been 7 months now, and I have had so much going on in my life during these last few months, I have had no time to dwell on the fact that I ever had a cancer inside my body and had gone through such an ordeal. I am so blessed and I know it. I am so grateful and thankful for the help I have had from my entire family. They stayed beside me through this entire journey. I am thankful for the team of doctors who worked with me and brought me through this life altering saga.