Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This Ain't No Party! Please Skip the Balloons!

I can remember only one part of my prayer that day in early 2009. It was my daughter's birthday. I remember asking God, "Please! Don't let me die on my daughter's birthday!"

She and my hubby and my other daughter and family members stood beside me as the hospital staff prepared to wheel me into surgery. This was to be a debulking surgery, as they call it, for ovarian cancer. My cancer was not contained in a solid tumor...instead, it was spread throughout my abdominal cavity in little nodules covering the surface of nearly everything. When the surgery was over I would have a long line of 43 metal staples top to bottom, zipping my abdomen back together.

My Gyno/Onc had removed numerous parts of my internal apparatus. Then he carefully removed my intestines and stripped their surface, looking for and removing cancer residue. He scraped the surface of my liver, removing more of the same. When he had removed every particle he could reach (95 percent of the cancer tissue) he carefully replaced my intestines and closed. (I'm still not certain he didn't tie my intestines like so many balloons into some outlandish party display for the nurses! It surely felt that way for months afterward!)

I've learned more than I want to know about ovarian cancer in the past 20 months...the multiple kinds of chemo/radiation/surgery that ovarian patients may have to endure...the abysmal survival rates (especially for those diagnosed late stage; which most are)...the importance of having the debulking done by a Gyno/Onc rather than an "ordinary" surgeon...the so-often very short times of "remission" between one series of chemo and the next.

I've learned that the difficulty of diagnosing OVCA means that most women are diagnosed when their cancer is already advanced...meaning treatment is much less likely to provide long-term survival. Early detection is difficult but it is so important!!!

I've learned that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and I'm dismayed that so many know so little about ovarian cancer, its silent symptoms and its difficulty in being diagnosed.

So on this last week in September I want to remind the ladies amongst my readers of the nearly silent symptoms of ovarian cancer. (I don't care how old or young you may be...Pay attention to your bodies!)

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms (from the Nat'l Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Inc.)
1. Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort
2. Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
3. Frequency and/or urgency of urination (day or night) in the absence of an infection
4. Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or feeling of fullness
5. Ongoing unusual fatigue
6. Unexplained changes in bowel habits.

(If symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, ask your doctor for a combination pelvic/rectal exam, a CA-125 blood test, and transvaginal ultrasound.)

It's a fine line between paranoia and persistent "listening to your body". But Ladies! Pay attention. Listen for these so-called "silent" symptoms and be aware of your body.

Bless you.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jeans. Plain Jeans. Dirty Jeans!

Ummm, dirty denim? Raw? What's with that, anyway?

It seems that a current "fashion" fad is to buy a pair of unwashed denim jeans and wear them six months WITHOUT washing them. The hoped-for end-product is a pair of jeans that fits Your body only. Molded. Shaped. Yours!

Ummmm, Stinky!

I'm laughing, Man! I'm laughing.

You see, I've already been there. Well, maybe not with NEW jeans. But I remember, as a teen, working in the fields, hoeing corn, rogueing milo, detasseling corn, and finally (before the end of summer and return to the classroom), hoeing beans. We wore the same clothes day after day. We did that because we didn't have an automatic washing machine and the wringer washer got brought out to the porch from its closet only once a week.

When we were working in the field we didn't fuss about having clean jeans each morning. Those old Levi's took on a shape and smell of their own. Mud. Green stains. Ragweed pollen. Not to mention blood, sweat, and sometimes tears. Those jeans learned to stand on their own, so to speak.

So...will I be buying a new pair of raw denims and wearing them six months?



P.S. Excuse me while I go pull my clean jeans out of the dryer and dress clean for the day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just Call Us the PowerPort Twins!

Hubby and I shared a unique experience today. An experience that you probably would not wish to share. We sat in chairs side by side.

You may well ask, "Why is sitting in chairs side-by-side a unique experience?"

My reply? The uniqueness is that we sat side-by-side at the clinic receiving our respective chemos for our respective diseases. We each have PowerPorts implanted just under the skin below our collar bones and I call us the PowerPort Twins!

Our ports allow the nurse to simply plug the chemo line right into the port, much like you might plug a phone charger into a wall outlet. There is therefore no need for multiple needle sticks trying to find veins for access. (I LUV my PowerPort!)

Fortunately for Hubby, his chemo (decadron and velcade) takes minutes, not hours. I, on the other hand, spend nearly four hours receiving my chemo cocktail of benedryl, zantac, aloxi, and decadron, (all to prevent allergic reaction and nausea) and the chemo drug Avastin which was recently shown by clinical trial to be beneficial in extending remission time for ovarian cancer patients. Right now I'm in remission. For how long? Only God knows.

Hubby has an extremely rare disease labeled "Light Chain Deposition Disease". It is an auto-immune disease that drops stuff ("light chains"; I can't explain it to you) into the kidneys, effectively plugging the kidneys which then go into failure. He began dialysis about two weeks ago. Dialysis takes four hours, three times weekly.

LCDD has a nasty side-effect of also depositing "light chains" in other body organs...the heart, lungs and liver. This is not good! So far, we see no evidence of that having happened. Dialysis will work to replace the function of the non-working kidneys. But it cannot work in place of heart, liver lungs. The hope is that his chemo protects those organs by halting the deposits. Only time will tell if the chemo works. It seems to be...but we will not know for certain for some months.

Wouldn't it be nice to not have to deal with the waiting and wondering?

Will Hubby's treatments work for him?

Will my remission be two months? six months? two years? Do I dare even type "five years?". Wouldn't it be nice to have a definite timetable for the remaining part of our lives? It's so difficult to plan your life as if you have ten years when you don't know if you have six months. My mind goes back and forth with both scenarios for both of us. It's rather dizzying!

I do know is uncertain for all of us. You need not have cancer or some rare disease to meet Death. Let me tell you about my 92-year-old friend R.

I knew R through our interest in quilting although I hadn't seen her for quite some time. She resided in a senior assisted apartment in the small town north of us. My friend R often drove her electric scooter several blocks to a little quick shop for a few groceries. Each trip meant crossing a set of train tracks both coming and going. I don't know the whys or the whereofs but last week something dreadful happened. Somehow R's scooter tipped and she fell onto the tracks. Witnesses who saw her fall were unable to reach her in time to save her from the oncoming train.

I'm still stunned by it all. The scenario goes through my mind...what were her final moments like?....and what about the train is he dealing with this?...and the are they dealing with having witnessed this tragic scene. This woman was a good Christian woman and well loved in her community.

So I repeat my words above. Life is Uncertain...for all of us. We will each face death one way or another. It may come with cancer. It may be a train wreck. It may be any one of a thousand scenarios. It can happen at any age in any manner due to any circumstance. Life is Uncertain.

Living with two serious diseases in the household has caused us to do some serious thinking about death. We're quite open with each other and we talk about it. And that's a good thing.

We want to face death (whenever that may be) with grace and peace and no fear. It is so easy to fall into doubt and fear of the unknown things ahead of us. And so I (and Hubby) cling to the words of the Bible...the promise...the promise of Life in Christ. We trust God's provision for us, even in these present circumstances.

Today I leave you with I Corinthians 15:1-58 and particularly verses 51-57 where Paul writes the following regarding the earthly and eternal...our bodies subject to death and our eternal bodies.

51Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
For this perishable body (earthly body subject to death) must put on the imperishable (eternal body), and this mortal body (body of death) must put on immortality (eternal life).
When the perishable (our earthly body) puts on the imperishable (our eternal body), and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
"Death is swallowed up in victory."

"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I hang onto those words and I treasure them. This is a promise. From the One Who Never Lies (God Himself!).


Grace and Elegance on a Grand Scale

During their spring and fall migrations we are quite used to seeing large numbers of the American White Pelican at the lake west of town. But it is highly unusual to find a lone bird visiting town.

This morning Hubby was uptown and spotted this fellow on the awning of one of the businesses. He was busy cleaning his feathers and seemed quite nonplussed about being on his own. (photo credits go to Hubby)

I'm guessing his cohorts are settled in safely at the lake. They'll spend a week or three before continuing on their journey south. And while they are here, locals will enjoy driving by the lake to view these huge but elegant birds.
We once lived on the lake and each spring and fall enjoyed watching the huge numbers of American White Pelican in the spring and fall.

This is a bird which easily lives up to its name as one of the largest in North America. Its wing spread can easily reach 8 or 9 feet, making this bird impressively larger than the Canadian goose.

The birds are simply gorgeous and it is a wonderful thing to watch them in flight or as they fish the lake. When the flock comes in for a landing they spiral in a slow float until they reach the surface of the water. And when they fish, they fish together in sync, "herding" the fish before them.

They are a most graceful bird. And a beautiful example of God's glorious creation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sioux Falls Woman in the News

Remember my recent post about the possible dangers of talcum powder in terms of cancer?

Today's news features a Sioux Falls, SD woman who is filing suit against Johnson & Johnson, manufacturers of powder that contains talc.

To quote the news article (printed here), "The lawsuit says independent studies have shown an increased risk of ovarian cancer with the frequent use of talcum products in the genital area, and that the defendants failed to warn consumers about the risk."

Another, and perhaps more frequent, use of the baby powder that contains talc (read the label!) is in powdering baby's bottom after a diaper change. Please, please remember that the powder is so fine that particles could float in the air long enough for your baby to breathe some of that powder in baby lungs! Not a good idea in my estimation.


Monday, September 20, 2010

They're Into Nothing But Mischief!

I'm sharing my series of "Those Three Guys".

These three knuckleheads don't have a lot of wisdom, have no purpose in life, have contributed nothing of import to civilization in general. But they have been appearing (at the tip of my pen) almost daily in a small black journal. Their current viewership of one (me!) needs to be expanded. I think.

So if you're curious about them, bookmark their blog and follow Those Three Guys. You can find them here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drool. Go Ahead and Drool!

Men's inventions. They're wonderful. This particular item may be pretty simplistic in its design but it is one cool kitchen tool. The apple peeler. (click) If you're a gramma and don't have one of these in the house you need'll impress your smaller grandkids! And inspire them to help next time you make apple crisp or pie.This handy gizmo both peels AND slices! How cool is that! You can prepare a dozen apples in no time flat. There is an older version that clamps to the edge of a table but I like this one with its suction cup bottom...just turn the lever and it sits anywhere on your countertop.
Here's a close-up of the peeling/slicing.

I like Jonathans for apple crisp or pie. This particular bunch have a sharp, tangy, apple taste. There's nothing worse than digging in for that first bite and finding a bland apple with practically no taste to it except sugar.
Apple crisp...a fall treat. Sometimes I search for a recipe online. This time I used the recipe in my vintage Betty Crocker cookbook which is practically falling to pieces...I've referred to it many times over that past 47 years! (Click on photo for a closer view) You'll notice the recipe is for an 8-inch square pan. I doubled it for the 9x13 pan.

Go ahead. Drool! It's permitted.

I want to leave you with a quote:
“There are but two lessons for Christians to learn: one is, to enjoy God in everything; the other is, to enjoy everything in God.” - Charles Simeon

I think that means you can enjoy apple crisp most thoroughly...acknowledging God as the giver of all good things...including a sweet apple treat.

P.S. I have no association with the website for the apple's simply the first one that popped up when I googled.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good Night! Sleep Tight! Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!

Yes, we're all still alive at our house. And, no, we have not died. (You may be wondering what this has to do with bedbugs. The answer is "Nothing". Just keep reading!)

If you've been wondering about my absence I will tell you that we've been dealing with serious health issues at our house. In regards to my cancer I can happily tell you that I am in remission. Only God knows how long that will last but I'm grateful that this is where I am at the moment. For one thing, that means the short little stubble atop my head will grow longer and longer! Once again I will have hair! Yayyyy!

As for Hubby? Well, he's dealing with his own health issues but I'm happy to say that current treatment has him feeling better each day. We are grateful and thank God for that. (Let me add that getting "older" is for us a real education in things of the medical realm!)

Soooo....perhaps I will get back to blogging.

But for tonight...I'm off to bed. Tired. But feeling good. And happy that Hubby is feeling decent, too.

I will leave you with what we kids used to tell each other as we headed off to bed, "Good night. Sleep Tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite!" We knew a lot of useful sayings like that.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Sin in the Small Town or How I Recognize An Old Enemy

Tonight I thought to myself, "Sin in the Small Town!". You see, tonight I met an old with whom we had a hearty fight about four years ago. We won that battle, but not without suffering a few scars during the fight.

You see, I found this in our flower bed tonight. Green Misery masquerading as Green Beauty. Trying to fool me. Trying to cause me misery.

I figure the nasty things that came into this world through Adam's sin include not only sin and death, but also chaos of the created world. I figure before the Fall all plant life was benign and useful and just plain lovely. Sin changed all that.

To quote the writer of Genesis 1:31, "God saw everything that He had made, and it was very good." When, because of Adam's sin, death and chaos entered into this world, I figure plant life, too, left its originally perfect state and entered into misery.

Right now, there's plenty in Creation that is not "good". I don't need to draw you a long list. But I will show you this nasty plant, masquerading as green loveliness in my flower beds. Isn't it Green with a capital G? Who would think by its outward appearance that it could be such an enemy?

Our previous battle with Poison Ivy included numerous plants on a rental property. This is a Single Plant in my flower bed. Perhaps some bird dropped a seed. Who knows. But there it was, in the midst of my flowers, trying to fool me, hoping I would come close and touch and be contaminated by its poisonous oil. Isn't that how sin works in our lives? It looks lovely. It entices us with its beauty to come closer. Just coming close to it is the first step in being contaminated with its nasty consequence.

But I've battled this one before. I know better than to touch, no matter how casually. I grabbed a plastic grocery bag and used it as a "second glove" over my gardening gloves and yanked that baby Ivy out by the roots. Then I enclosed it in the bag and put that in a larger garbage bag for disposal.

And then I rinsed my clippers, gloves and shoes under cold water from the outdoor faucet. You see the plant secretes a nasty oil that can contaminate everything you touch and which does not deteriorate. Put those contaminated gloves in the garage all winter and the poisonous oil is still there next spring, ready to produce rash and pain if you simply touch it.

And since I was not certain that I had not brushed up against those lovely green leaves in even the slightest way, I tossed all my clothing and the gloves into the wash the moment I entered the house. I wanted to be extra careful (to the point of paranoia perhaps!!!) so I stripped in front of the washing machine (please do not be too visually minded here!!!), tossed the clothes in for a cold rinse, then a second wash with soap. And I jumped into the shower to rinse myself with cold water, then with soap, hoping to remove any possible ivy oil from my skin before it could produce painful rash.

My last big gun against this plant attack was to use a topical prescription cream on a mosquito bite that I had scratched...just in case! Thank you, Mr. Dermatologist of previous experience. The next few days will determine whether or not I used sufficient precaution!

Someday, sin and death will be done away with. Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil and that means there will be an end to sin and death. I John 3:7 ".....The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."

And creation itself, all of creation...the plant world, the animal kingdom, all will be set free from the after-effects of the Fall.

Romans 8:21-24 "....the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. ..."

In the meantime...when you encounter this plant...recognize it for what it is...a nasty plant that will cause you nasty rash and pain. Read more here about how to successfully deal with exposure to Poison Ivy.