Saturday, October 25, 2014

Boys, Boys

As anyone knows who reads this blog, I look after my grandsons for a few hours on Fridays.  I try to remember to bring my camera along so I can take pictures if anyone does anything cute.  
Since looking after three boys is usually not a hands free activity I don't always get any.  

However, this is what we were doing while Christian was down for his nap. 
(In case anyone is worried about neglect, since we were outside and he was in, the monitor turned up all the way worked very well.)

Barry knows just how to run a motorcycle. 

Now, a camera in the hands of little boys...

(Sigh, I am old school, they know too much)

And, back in my hands.
These two can play fairly well together as long as Barry is following big brother.  You can see here, he wants to do things his way.
Look closely.

This a boy balloon fireman, the girl one was purple. 
Imagination and an energetic spirit fires this boy,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I am Cancer Free!

Ten days ago, I posted what I figured would be my last "cancer/recovery" post, but I was wrong.  
THIS will be the last post.

I had an appointment with my oncologist today.  I had previously done the x-ray he asks for. I had blood drawn, my blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature taken.  Then we sit down for the routine, any new symptoms, pain, weakness, change? Are there any questions?  Are you eating well?  
I get my lungs checked, my lymph nodes checked.  This is all standard procedure. 
Then she goes out to bring back the doctor who comes in all smiles, "this a a milestone, this is the place we've been working for".  "You're two years past treatment, we don't need to check you so closely"
If I was to have a recurrence it would have happened by now.  
He didn't ask me the 40 million questions about how I am living my life like he usually does.  He just gently reminded me that I fought through a horrible time and now it's over.  

It's over.  
I feel weird.
  It's like somebody just gave me the keys to the rest of my life.  I feel like someone is letting go of a string and I'm flying away.  
There's a little piece in there that is frightened with the letting go.  

I guess it's just hard to believe it's real. 


I still have 6 month check ups for the next year or so.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Perks--That's what the title means.

That's was I get when I look after my two youngest grandsons while my daughter goes to class and volunteers.  The class time I spend at their house, the volunteering at mine. 
What I also get is tired.  But that is not what this post is about.  

It's about playdough, pickups and trailers, and Barry's smirk.

It's about a beautiful blue-eyed boy, tongue or no tongue.

It's about an outfit, three times around.

It's about the third boy in the Little Tykes car.

It's about photos taken mid-jump.

And photos of wild hair.

It's getting a smile everytime you ask, "say, cheese!"

And last, but not least, it's about a three year old boy, who is very afraid of any kind of bugs right now, getting brave enough to point out a dragon fly. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 6, 2014

Two years ago, to the day, I finished my treatments for a cancerous tumor in my sinuses.  
Two years ago I started the recovery process.
July 16th of that year I started the longest 2 1/2 months of my life.
6 weeks ago I was released from regular MRIs.  I am cancer free.

I am having a hard time writing this post.  I am hoping it is the last cancer related-to-me post I will ever make.
I want to write this as a reminder of those things that are not the same as they used to be.  I don't want to come off as whiny, since some things have changed for the worse, but I would like this to be an "I know where she's coming from" moment to someone out there who goes through something like this.
No one goes through any sort of cancer and treatment without forever feeling a little haunting fear.  
Thankfully, that fear isn't always there.  Life is busy enough to crowd it out most of the time.

There are changes in my body that make it so I never will forget I had cancer.  There are things I have to push out of my mind and not think about because it makes me think about what I don't have instead of what I do.

My sinus tumor was spread throughout the sinus cavity in my forehead and down into one beside my nose and under one eye. In that space behind the forehead is the olfactory nerve, the nerve that tells the brain what things smell like.  The tumor was there so the nerve that does the smelling is gone. I can't smell anymore, nothing, and it isn't going to come back.  Many people don't realize that with the sense of smell gone, much of the sense of taste is gone, too.  I was told that I would have just the basic tastes, sour, salt, sweet, bitter, and umami.

Umami /ˈmɑːmi/, a savory taste,is one of the five basic tastes,
(together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty). 
A loan word from the Japanese, umami can be translated as "pleasant, savory taste." This particular writing
was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai "delicious" and mi "taste."
People taste umami through receptors for glutamate, commonly found in its salt form as the food additive '
monosodium glutamate (MSG). For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.

However, I don't have any sweet taste, except a little something in honey and fruit., that isn't really sweet, just different.

Because my tumor was large and very aggressive, I was given very aggressive treatment, two kinds of chemotherapy and radiation, all at the same time.  Both radiation and chemo make enough changes in the body that the side effects last a very long time.  They told me a year to 18 months.  Then they told me two years.  Some of the side effects are permanent. Some I didn't expect.  Some the doctors didn't expect.
I received the maximum dosages of radiation to the front part of my brain, my sinus area and my neck, to make sure that no rogue cancer cells escaped into my lymph system.  Radiation to the mouth kills the salivary glands and once they are dead, they don't come back so I drink water all the time to compensate for the resulting dry mouth and to facilitate swallowing. I have water handy at home and carry a water bottle out of the house.  The radiation produced scar tissue in my throat, essentially making it smaller and making swallowing more difficult.
Food management is a major issue in my life today, and will probably always be.  Chewing is harder because of loss of muscle strength and lack of the saliva that breaks down food as I chew, Scar tissue affects how wide I can open my mouth.  My tongue isn't as effective for the same reasons as above for controlling the food in my mouth.
I can eat many things, but they need to be wet, or able to get wet.  Some things I can use water to help get things out of my mouth and into the esophagus.  Some things I would rather avoid.
Spicy foods, citrus, and vinegar still burn my mouth which is rather like starting over two years ago with brand new skin in there.  I am hoping my mouth will toughen up yet over time.
Food isn't nearly as enjoyable as it was.  For years I wanted my life to live by the rule,
"eat to live, not live to eat".  I have achieved that goal.  I don't eat because I enjoy the taste, I eat because I want to live.
That used to be a problem, and when my metabolism went down, my weight went up.  I am thinner now, not because of any great will power or decisions on my part, but because eating is hard for me.
Some days it would be easier not to eat at all, but thankfully I get hungry, and I am also coming to realize that without food, I have no energy and get depressed.

Another side effect that I am having a hard time coming to terms with is my lack of energy.  I can't do as much as I used to and after two years of waiting, this may be all I get.  Thankfully, I can do most of my own work and some extra, but I can't get everything done I used to do.  Somethings just have to wait.  It's like I aged 20 years in that 2 1/2 months.  Most people get 20 years to do that.

One totally unexpected side effect was the affect that radiation had on my hearing.  My Eustachian tubes do not work properly since I had radiation and caused fluid buildup behind my ear drums resulting in hearing loss.  To counteract that I had tubes put in my eardrums, which eventually fell out leaving holes in the ear drums which also cause hearing loss.  So, I hear about half as well as I used to.  When I first went to the ear doctor about the hearing loss, he says very casually, "oh, that can happen after radiation."
I don't know whether it is better to know these things before treatment or after.
Most of me thinks after since I had enough to face just getting through treatment and it is easier to be thankful afterwards for what is left.

Yes, I've lost of a lot of things.  My smell, most of my taste, and a good share of my hearing.
My voice has changed and I can't sing decently anymore.  
I've lost my previous energy, and some of my brain power.
I've lost weight.  
I have not lost my life, my sight, my cheerfulness and my enjoyment of life.  
I have gained a greater appreciation for my family, my friends, and my life.  
My life is different from what it was.  
It will always be different.  
In some ways, I look ahead with trepidation.  What will old age be like for someone like me?
That, and knowing that few people really understand what life is like for me are the hardest things for me to face.  
You know, everyone has something to face, and I don't know what they are facing either.  It is hard to understand just what someone else is going through unless you have walked in their shoes.  
Yes, life could be better, but it could also be so much worse.  
And I am thankful for everything I have.

Here are a few links that mark the changes.
During treatment.

One year.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

August/September--Day by Day

I really lost the ball on this "take a photo every day" during this cycle.  At one point I woke up and thought, "I haven't taken any photos lately!"  That spell was over a week.  
So, what I have done is used 35 photos taken over the course of what should have been the 5 weeks of consecutive days in the August/September cycle and used those.  
They were not take one a day, but they were all taken for a reason, some with this post in mind, some not.  They are numbered in numerical order, not calendar order. 

1. Our pullets are laying eggs, so now we get a double yolk-er now and again.
2. Every morning I notice the sunrise.  It is new every morning.
3. This was taken August 26th.  The day I went for what turned out to be my final MRI, barring exceptional circumstances.  These are my MRI socks.  
4. This mug from my dad, "What cancer cannot take from you It cannot take away your faith, shatter your hope or lesson your love.  It cannot destroy true friendship, invade the soul, or take away eternal life.  It cannot conquer your spirit"
5. A Friday babysitting day, Lorene is in class, I am watching the two little boys.  
6. August 27th, Barry turned three.
7. We celebrated Barry's birthday on the 29th, with a construction birthday cake.
8. I remember these dishes from when I was a kid.  They were the "special" ones, but they weren't favorite's of my mom's so she gave them to Lorene, who loves them.
9. Barry helped Papa build a sandbox for his birthday present.
10. Zane spent Barry's birthday hidden in a cave of blankets, downstairs, away from the party lest he infect everyone with a stomach virus.
11. Callaway Kite Fly, August 30th.  It was a pretty neat day, watching all sorts of colorful flags flying.  The best was one with 5 fish attached to one line, Each fish was over 10 feet long.
12. One rooster in amongst the hens.  He made good broth, but tough eating.
13. I love this little vase that usually hangs on my window.  Those little pink roses I also love.  There is just something about pink roses.  Besides, I carried them when I was married.
14. My brother gave us a tie-dye pair of pajamas when Lorene was little.  She wore them from age 2-5 and then Lynette wore them until they were too small.  When Zane was born Tim sent him a little onesie suit of the same stuff.  Now, all three of those boys have worn the little one, and boy2 is on the large one.
15. When you want chocolate chip cookies and all you have is mini m&m's....
16. The "three cuspideers" together at York after many years not together at York. 
17. Irrigation has ended.  The corn is drying.
18.  Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.
19. Another Friday babysitting.  Barry likes my homemade playdough best.
20. Scrapbooking again.  Lynette's graduation book, her photos until the end of 2014 and most of my stuff is going OUT!! Sorted and thrown.
21. Yay! Grapes from a friend.  I will sort them and put them in the freezer to be made into juice and jam in the middle of winter.
22. I have the two little boys on Monday afternoons while mama is volunteering with the Activity Director at the nursing home.  This Little Tykes car is now on multi-generational use.
23. This is a third boy wearer of this cute little outfit, too.
24. Anyone remember Ticonderoga pencils?
25. I love the sunsets, too, but I don't know how well the pink shows up in-between the leaves.
26. John Deere shirts.
27. At the zoo with great-grandpa, gramma and papa, grammy and auntie, mom, dad, and three little boys. I was worn out with all that walking. 
28. Our ash tree is rushing the season.
29. Harvest has started.
30. It is embarrassing to think how long this sign has been in the cupboard without being on the wall for Jim to see.  I deep cleaned the cupboard, found it and with the help of 'command strips'...viola.
31. I've got my things ready to grab and go tomorrow.  My purse, my knitting and my ever present water bottle.
32. Leaves are falling in pretty colors in Wisconsin.
33. Barns and dairy farms are a big feature of the area we were in.
34. Our weekend was more special than colored trees.
35. Sunday go-to-meeting shoes.