Saturday, July 30, 2022

My insides are all jacked up

 Since the endoscopy, my insides feel like they've been all jacked up. I can't eat normal sized meals any longer and when I do eat, I have to chew things into tiny little bits before swallowing. The food seems to sit right at the junction of my esophagus and the top of my stomach. It's a nasty feeling and I don't like it. 

My gastroenterologist prescribed some medication to help until we hear back from the biopsy reports. Apparently, he took biopsies along my esophagus wall and from my stomach. With my history of breast cancer and my brother's history of esophageal cancer, to say I'm scared is an understatement. I'm trying not to think about the possibility of a recurrence, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't. 

I don't know what I'd do if the report comes back with evidence of cancer. I guess I'll face that bridge when and if I have to cross it. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

An introspective mood

For some reason today, I've been in an introspective mood. Maybe it's because of the peaceful instrumental music playing on my stereo, or perhaps the delicious steaming cup of raspberry hibiscus tea. It could be the fact that my wedding anniversary is just around the corner. Whatever the cause, as I was in the kitchen this morning unloading dishes, a thought came to mind - "I don't want to miss it." Miss what, I asked myself. And as I thought, I realized I don't want to go through the rest of my life wondering if maybe I missed something. I don't want to overlook the good things God puts in my path. I don't want to take anything for granted. I want to experience joy in the little things. 

I've lived a good life, these past 64 1/2 years. Sure, there have been some difficult seasons and I've had to fight hard to overcome them, but I'm still here. That tells me God still has a plan for my life and my number isn't up until He says so. 

Health issues always seem to knock me down a few pegs and this year, I've been knocked down a lot. It seems Satan knows exactly when and where to launch his missiles of attack. They always catch me off guard, but I don't take it lying down. I always remind myself I'm "more than a conquer through Him that loves me." 

In my China cabinet, I have several tiny treasures to remind me of special moments - dried flowers, my sweet husband picked from a roadside field, a Brazil nut that reminds me of my father, and several bird feathers that remind me of my mother. Those little things mean more to me than a pile of gold. And that's why I don't want to miss a single thing in these next years of life. 

Toward the end of the year, I'll hit a milestone birthday. I'm already trying to decipher Social Security information and it's making me crazy. 

Life seems to be flying by and I'm on the downhill slide. So, in the days ahead, I'm going to make a special point of staying present. I'm not going to let electronics steal my focus. 

I'll stand in awe at the sunrise. I'll take as long as necessary to capture the beauty of a butterfly. I'll listen well and love much. 

I don't want to miss a single solitary thing. I hope you won't either. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Don't take swallowing for granted

 It's amazing the bodily functions we take for granted until we don't have them. I never thought anything about being able to swallow until I couldn't. It's scary when food gets stuck going down your throat. I don't ever want to go through that again. 

I wasn't expecting to have my esophagus stretched when I went in for the endoscopy, but that's exactly what they did. After I woke up from the anesthesia, it felt like someone had taken a broomstick wrapped with sandpaper and scrubbed my innards - not a good feeling. 

Not being able to talk wasn't fun either. Thankfully, that only lasted a day. Now I can talk and hopefully, I'll be able to eat a full meal. I haven't tried anything solid since the procedure, but my sweet hubby brought home Chinese food tonight and I sure do want some. We will see. 

The older I get, the more I realize my body is wearing out. Things no longer work the way they used to and I don't like it. But what can we do? It's just part of aging. Sure, we can start to replace some things like knees, but other parts can't be replaced. 

I wish I'd taken better care of my body when I was younger. Hopefully, I can encourage my kids and grandkids to start now so they won't have so many health issues when they hit their mid-sixties. 

These shells are temporary. I can't wait for my heavenly body, at least it will be a deluxe edition :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Can you say Roto-Rooter?

For months I've had trouble swallowing. It started in December and got progressively worse. After several visits to the ER, urgent care, and to the ENT, we thought we'd found a solution. The ENT treated me for a salivary stone, then, after more tests, said I had an auto immune disorder. One frustration let to another as I endured test after test. The last one, a modified barium swallow study, revealed the problem wasn't only in my salivary glands, but also in my esophagus. 

I'd had an upper endoscopy done earlier in the year for severe acid reflux and a hiatal hernia, so I was surprised they wanted to do another, but the swallowing was getting more and more difficult. I wasn't being able to eat normal meals. After a few bites, I felt full and would blow up like a balloon from bloating. I knew something was extremely wrong. 

There had been a follow-up endoscopy scheduled for October, but I knew I couldn't wait that long, so I went into the portal and asked to be put on the waitlist. When they called Friday to offer a Tuesday appointment, I jumped on it. I knew God was in the details because this doctor was always booked up and it was rare to get a spot. If I didn't take it, I'd have to wait until October and by then, I'd have probably choked to death! 

Friday through Sunday, I existed on protein shakes and water. The test wasn't until 2:45 p.m. on Monday, so after midnight Sunday, I was instructed only to have one sip of water with my blood pressure medication. 

All day Monday, I waited and watched the clock. Time moved so slowly. Finally, when it was time to go, hubby and I dashed out the door. We'd calculated how long it would take to get to the hospital in a neighboring town - 45 minutes. 

We made small talk along the way and not long after we'd departed, a concrete mixer pulled in front of us. He was going so slow and there was no way to pass him. 

We poked along behind him for the majority of the way until finally, just a few miles from the hospital, at 2:40 p.m. he turned on a side street and we were able to cruise at a faster pace. 

I was dropped at the front door of the hospital while hubby went to find a parking space. I didn't want my slot to be given away, so I race walked to the elevators and made it to the suite just in time. 

As I sat and waited the waiting room, I was praying. God, please, help them find a vein! Every time I go to a medical office for a blood draw, the staff have trouble. I'm limited to my left hand because of the breast cancer and lymphedema. Those veins are so tiny and crooked it makes it difficult for even a well-trained nurse to find a usable vein. 

About 15 minutes passed and I was called back. As usual, the nurse had trouble. A doctor came over to see if she could help and neither of them could find a good vein. Then, they brought in a vein scanner light. 

The vein scanner lit up my veins and they were finally able to find one. 

After inserting an IV, I was wheeled into the room and the doctor told me what he was going to do. I had no idea he was planning to stretch my esophagus until that very moment! Apparently, the barium swallow study had revealed a stricture that was causing the food to stick in the middle of my throat. 

I was turned on my side and a device was placed in my mouth to hold it open. They strapped on an oxygen cannula and administered the anesthetic. Instantly, I was out. 

When I awoke, I was in the recovery room with the worst sore throat you could imagine. It felt like someone had taken a broomstick, wrapped it in sandpaper, and reamed me out. I asked the nurse if they had something I could drink. I told her I hadn't had anything since 5:00 a.m. and that was just a sip of water. I was surprised when she said no that I could get something after I left. How rude! I'm sure they had a little dixie cup they could have filled with tap water. Heck, I would have even taken water in a urinalysis cup at that point, my mouth was so dry. 

She went over paperwork with me and then the doctor came in. He told me all he'd done. Not only had he stretched my esophagus, but he'd also taken multiple biopsies of my throat and stomach. 

I'll have to wait for 7-10 days to get the results from those tests. In the meantime, I'll be living on liquids and soft foods for the next day or so while my throat heals. 

I'm really scared about a possible recurrence of cancer and since my brother died of esophageal cancer, this worries me even more. 

All I can do is pray and trust God's got this. I'm so tired of going through medical procedures. I just want to feel normal for a change, but what's normal, right? Are any of us really normal? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

A valuable object lesson

This morning, while on the phone with my youngest daughter, I decided I'd get a headstart on dinner. During the summer, I like to make use of my crockpot because it's too hot to stand over the stove and cook. As I was digging through our big chest freezer, I pulled out a package of ground beef. Noticing the date on it, September 2021, I asked if she thought it would still be good. I could tell by the silence on the other end of the phone she was busy Googling an answer. A few minutes later, she responded, "If the meat has been kept at zero or below, it will be fine. What temperature is your freezer set to?" I had no idea. She then asked me to look for the thermostat. Assuming it would be near the top back of the freezer, or along one of the sides, I began moving things around. All of a sudden, I had an avalanche of cold meats falling on my head! I picked them up as quickly as possible and put them all back into place on the top shelf, the shelf I'd designated for meats since it was closest to the vents that blow out the cold air. "I don't think it has one," I said to her. "Yes, it does," she said, "all freezers have a thermostat." 

I was so frustrated. I'd looked in the freezer and couldn't find a thermostat. Since I'm so short, I decided to go into the house and get a stepstool. As soon as I had it in hand, I went back to the freezer to look again. 

Since I'd already checked the top shelf, I moved to the second one. Moving frozen fruits and veggies, I found nothing. My daughter was still on the phone with me and encouraged me to check the door, perhaps there was one there. Nope. Nothing. 

It was cold standing in front of the freezer. I was worried about keeping the door open long since the warm air from the garage would put the food at jeopardy. Closing the door again, I went inside and searched through my appliance manuals until I found the one for the freezer. There was nothing helpful in there! 

My sweet girl asked me for the freezer model number. She was going to look up information on line. I couldn't find anything on the paper manual so I went back to the freezer to see if I could find one. That's when I got the brilliant idea to start at the bottom and work my way up. 

Moving frozen breads around, I looked at the very back of the bottom shelf of the freezer. Nothing! Now I was really getting frustrated! This was a name brand appliance, a good quality item, surely there had to be a serial number inside and surely there had to be a thermostat!

I got down on my knees and started moving things from the next shelf. Frozen Chinese entrees and convenience foods began to tumble into my lap. Holding the cold things, I continued to look. When I'd moved the last item on that shelf, way back in the back right hand corner, I could see a dial! Oh, thank the Lord! I quickly flipped on my cellphone light and shone it on the dial. Sure enough, there was a thermostat! My daughter said, "What's it set on, Mom?" I looked and saw that the dial was set on 4. Yikes! The dial only went up to 9 with 8 and 9 being marked as the coldest range. Turning the dial up to 7.5, I felt better. I wondered why I'd never thought to check the thermostat before? We'd had this appliance for 8 years!

After I'd come inside with my ground beef and slipped it into the microwave for defrosting, some verses of Scripture came to mind: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have everlasting life; and these are they that bear witness about Me. “Yet you do not want to come to Me, that you may have life." John 5:39-40. Why did those verses pop into my head? I guess because I'd been searching for something that was in plain sight. 

I kept thinking about the verses and realized in Bible times, the disciples didn't have the New Testament. All they had was the Old Testament so even though they didn't have the writings telling about Jesus' life and miracles, they knew about the prophesied Messiah. Though Jesus spoke to the common people in parables, He had given His disciples the ability to understand His teachings, but often, they still were baffled at times requiring Him to go into a deeper explanation. Jesus was right there among them and still at times they didn't get it! Wow! Just like the freezer thermostat was there all along, I just didn't see it. 

Jesus doesn't hide himself from us. He wants us to know Him. 

Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." 

The obscure thermostat brought peace of mind when I found it. Knowing I could control the temperature and keep our foods safe for long periods of time was comforting, but even more so was knowing that God used that object lesson to remind me to always keep my eyes fixed on Him. I hope you'll choose to seek Him daily and allow Him to use some of life's little frustrations to remind you that He sees and cares about you, because He really does!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Some days you have to laugh!

 Some days you have to laugh! Especially when the annual email reminders keep coming in telling me to schedule my mammogram. I have nothing to mam! I have called several times and notified the doctor’s office that they can stop sending me these reminders. When they ask why, I remind them I’ve had both breast removed but to no avail. The reminders continue to come.  

I don’t know when they’ll ever get it. In the past, I would be offended when these would come, but now, I can’t do anything but laugh.

I guess it’s a good thing I’ve developed a sense of humor over the years along with a thick hide. It would be so easy to take offense, or wounded and hurt. But what good would that do? It wouldn’t change a thing. Oh well, I guess I’ll continue to get these for the rest of my life. Hopefully one day, they’ll figure it out. By then, it will be too late, lol!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Raspberry Remedy

Today started out with a visit to my primary care physician. For some reason, before I left the house, I became extremely nervous. I don't know why, but lately, I find myself experiencing anxiety in various situations. It's not something I enjoy and though I do my best to talk myself out of it, sometimes I can't. The doctor at the cancer treatment center tells me it's post cancer PTSD. That makes sense. If I think back, I can't remember being extremely overwhelmed in crowds or reacting adversely to loud, unexpected noises - all symptoms of PTSD. 

I haven't driven much lately and that makes me nervous, too. Usually my husband drives me everywhere. It's nice having a personal chauffer, especially on the days when my arms are swollen with fluid from lymphedema, which is always worse in the summer, but I made it there safely by praying and listening to Christian radio. 

When I arrived, there weren't too many people in the waiting room. I was thankful. Everyone had on masks. I was called back quickly and the doctor came in a few minutes later. He did a brief exam, wrote my prescription and I left. On the way home, I took a few deep breaths realizing I'd been holding mine. 

My cell phone was going off with all sorts of notifications. When I looked at it, I found a couple of messages from the patient portal. Opening them, the nurse gave me information on scheduling an upper endoscopy. It seems the gastroenterologist wanted to do another one. That really scared me, especially since my brother died of esophageal cancer that had metastasized. 

I've been having a lot of problems swallowing lately. It seems food gets stuck in my throat so I'm trying to eat smaller portions of soft foods or take in only liquids. 

The only appointment available was in October, which seems so far away, but I took it and asked to be added to the waitlist. Covid has caused many doctors to have limited availability for their patients and those who can't get in usually end up going to urgent care. 

Feeling stressed to the max, I heard a voice calling from the kitchen - it was the raspberry sorbet hubby had recently picked up for me from the grocery store. Should I or shouldn't I? I asked myself the question over and over until, I finally gave in. 

What a nice treat the raspberry was! It seemed to cause me to calm down and relax. Perhaps it was the immediate sugar rush or perhaps it was the cold, I'm not sure which. In any event, I'm thankful it brought a little joy and a little peace to an otherwise stress filled day. 

I did find I had to eat it with a plastic green fork though. The stainless-steel spoon was unbearable and gave me a freezer burn on the roof of my mouth. Ain't nobody got time for that!

Doing whatever is necessary for self care is important, even if others think it's silly. I happen to love raspberry sorbet and think I'll make sure to use this stress relieving remedy often. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Box of Regrets


Tomorrow is my 8th cancerversary. You'd think I'd be overwhelmed with joy today and extremely excited about reaching this important milestone and you'd be right. I am, truly, but I'm also overwhelmed with grief. I still long for the me I lost, the me who was self-confident and self-assured, the one who existed long before cancer came knocking at my door. And though I feel conflicted today, I beat myself up for feeling this way. 

Why is it so easy to look back on life and be reminded of all the nasty, horrible, awful things that occurred or remember the bad choices we made? Why isn't it as easy to be filled with gratitude? It seems it takes more effort to count my blessings than to count my regrets. 

Today, my youngest daughter sent me a link to this song, Box of Regrets by Mega. I'd never heard it before but wasn't surprised at how it pricked my soul. My youngest knows me well, almost too well. And while she doesn't know all the terrible, awful I've experienced in my life, I have shared a few of the more painful things with her. She and I are so alike that it scares me at times. 

We're both empaths. It's a difficult gift to bear, but one God hands out to a select few. I'm thankful He gifted us with empathy, to love others so deeply is one of the ways we can be most like Christ. I don't think I'd want any other gift if I'd had the right to choose. 

8 years. I never thought I'd make it this far post diagnosis. I assumed I'd die before the 5-year mark, especially since I didn't go the conventional treatment route, but God had other plans. In His sovereignty, He's granted me favor. He's allowed me to continue living so I'd better dump out my box of regrets and shift gears. It's time I learn to maintain an attitude of gratitude, as cliche as it may sound. 

So today, I'm making a commitment to myself. I will make a conscious effort to focus on my blessings more than on my regrets. 

The first verse of the song sums it up so well: For too long I've carried
all of my woes, scrutinized them and held them close. All the missteps and mistakes, I've let them linger taking up too much space. Indeed. 

But God...

He has taken my burden and set me free. 

I guess I just needed to be reminded of this today, so thank you, my sweet girl, for the song and for being you. I love you, Jamie. Always and forever, Mom

Box Of Regrets
By Mega

For too long I've carried
All of my woes
Scrutinized them
And held them close
All the missteps
And mistakes
I've let them linger
Taking up too much space

Until you took the weight and set me free
Oh, you came along, and you held the key

To my
Beautiful box of regrets
It's time to change
It's time to forget
For too long I've cried to
Looked at my life through
My beautiful box of regrets

It was painted with my pain
Held a mirror when I fell from grace
The strangest comfort familiar hurt
Useless treasure all I was ever worth

Until you took the weight and set me free
Oh, you came along, and you held the key

To my
Beautiful box of regrets
It's time to change
It's time to forget
For too long I've cried to
Looked at my life through
My beautiful box of regrets

Setting fire to the heartache
Now I'm burning, burning the past
Lift this weight from my shoulders
It's time to let go I can no longer hold this

Beautiful box of regrets
It's time to change
It's time to forget
For too long I've cried to
Looked at my life through
My beautiful box of regrets

Beautiful box of regrets
It's time to change
It's time to forget
For too long I've cried to
Looked at my life through
My beautiful box of regrets
Beautiful box of regrets

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Multitasking failure

Today is Wednesday but it sure feels like a Monday in my book. I haven't been sleeping well and it has really affected my mental abilities. 

Earlier in the year, after a sleep study test, the doctor determined I have sleep apnea. He said I stop breathing an average of 8 times an hour. I always wondered why I'd wake with a start several times during the night and asked him about it. He said when you stop breathing your brain jolts you awake to make you start breathing again. I found that both scary and interesting. 

I was prescribed a CPAP machine and began using it right away. Using a CPAP is a complicated process. First of all, you have to be fitted for a mask. There are so many types of masks, and it took a while to find one that I felt I could deal with. 

The first mask wasn't really a mask but what they call a nasal pillow. It was a small cushiony thing that had two holes in it that were to match up with your nostrils. It seemed to work well for a few nights and then, it didn't. The air was leaking out and causing me to have dry eyes, so I had to switch to another type of mask.

The new one covered the nose and mouth. I thought it would be great, but it caused me to have tracheitis and gave me claustrophobia. After two trips to the ENT, two rounds of Prednisone and steroids, I finally got rid of the tracheitis. The pulmonologist said, "Lay off the CPAP for a month or so and let your body heal," so I did. During that time, Breathe Right strips came to the rescue. Though not a perfect solution, I managed to get some sleep which is better than none. 

Last night, after talking with my husband and getting his opinion, I decided to give the CPAP another try. I was scared and hesitant. I didn't want to get sick again. If you've ever had tracheitis, you know what I'm talking about, if not, imagine having the worst sore throat you've ever had but way down deep at the base of your throat. Throat lozenges and sprays don't reach that area. 

We prayed before I hooked into the machine asking God to protect me from infection and I got settled into bed, turned out the light and about thirty minutes later feel asleep. Sometime around 5:00 a.m. I woke up and realized I'd taken the mask off my face at some point during the night because it lay on the floor. 

Looking at the app on my phone that pairs with the CPAP, I saw my score. It wasn't very good. It was an 80. Usually, when I use the machine and do well with the hours of use, low levels of apnea, and good mask seal, I'm between 95 and 100. Although the score was low, I felt better than the night before when I'd only had a few hours of sleep, so I got up and got busy around the house.  

Things were going well until I spilled a glass of juice all over the kitchen table, my Bible, and the upholstered chairs. I still don't know how that happened, but after cleaning it up, I did some sewing and completed another project or two before it was time for lunch. 

While talking with my youngest daughter, I slipped a few frozen egg rolls into the toaster oven and turned it on. I had 25 minutes before they were going to be ready, so I folded a load of laundry and took out the trash. When the bell went off on the toaster oven, I was still on the phone with my daughter. Reaching for potholders, I went to take the food out and discovered I'd failed to plug in the appliance. Rats!!! So, I had to plug the oven in and start the timer all over again. 

I'm realizing one thing. I shouldn't multitask anymore. I used to be able to do it and do it well. Now, not so much. If all this happened when I got a pretty good night's sleep, what in heaven's name would have happened on the morning after a really bad night's sleep???

Maybe I'm just getting old or get sidetracked too easily to focus on more than one thing at a time, I don't know but today has been an epic fail in the multitasking department. 

I guess I'd better stay off the phone when I make dinner tonight otherwise another disaster might happen. I sure don't need that. 

It's so hot outside, I could fry an egg or two on the back porch, but I'll try to be a little more creative. 

Happy Hump Day! In 3 days, I'll celebrate my 8th cancerversary! I'm trying to think of a creative way to do it this year. If you have any suggestions, leave me a comment below. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Almost a firecracker

Happy Saturday! Today would have been my Daddy's 90th birthday. It's so hard to believe he's been gone for 11 years now. I sure miss him. He used to always tease and say he was almost a firecracker. He loved the fourth of July and would always shoot off black cats and M80s. Mama was always afraid he was going to blow his hand off because he'd wait until the last minute to throw the firecracker. He loved to put them in tin cans too to hear the loud bang. He would laugh and laugh. Of course, we only got to hold sparklers, but it was so fun to see his boyish excitement over something so simple. 

He'd always stop at roadside stands a few weeks before the holiday to buy fireworks. His parents used to live in Griffin GA which was a little mill town. No one there made more than probably 10,000 a year if that, so little luxuries meant everything. 

On the fourth of July, we'd usually fire up a little charcoal grill in the backyard and cook hotdogs and hamburgers. It was a big deal because we didn't get to do things like that often. Daddy loved cooking out, too. I can still see him shirtless, in his jeans and loafers with his Brylcreem slicked back hair. He'd be sweating like a pig but he loved every minute of it. 

My brother, sister, and I would be running around the yard barefoot playing tag or chase or something and Mama would come out occasionally with her apron tied around her waist to oversee what was happening. 

When it was time to eat, we'd usually go inside because the bugs were bad in the summer, but sometimes, we'd get to eat outside. That was a treat, especially when we had a ripe, juicy watermelon for dessert. Daddy taught us to spit the seeds and we had a blast with red juice running down our chins and yellow jackets buzzing all around. 

There are so many things I remember about him. He was so fun loving but also had a temper at times. I miss him and think of him fondly. 

Losing parents is hard. Even when you're grown and know death is coming, there comes a time when you'd give anything to hear their voice again, to feel their touch, or just sit in their presence. 

Daddy, you were a firecracker in my book and always will be! You were something else! You lit up my sky with your smile.  

Another one dies from Breast Cancer

It's a sad day. I'd just recently posted on Cure Magazine about my happiness over celebrating my 10th cancerversary and then today, ...