It is a well known fact that my mother cannot swim. She can't float. She can't put her head under water. She just can't swim. Period.
When I was about 9 years old, we went to visit my grandma, aunt, and cousin about an hour and a half away. It was a Saturday, and my dad wasn't able to go, as he was working, protecting the highways and byways of our area. My mom, quite the independent woman, decided that it was absolutely NO problem to take me and my younger brother to see her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece. As a little sidenote, we had just recently moved to this area because of my dad's promotion and transfer, so this was our first trip to see them from this town, and we were therefore on somewhat unfamiliar territory.
In order to get to their town, we had to go past a heavily used truck route that swerved around a large lake. Okay, no problem...mom could handle that, and it was pretty looking at the lake with the boats out there. HOWEVER, when we came home it was night, and that means dark.
Saying that I was petrified as we approached the lake area was an understatement. I was 9. I could read the signs. Darn. I knew what was up ahead. THE LAKE. THE SWERVING ROAD. THE TRUCKERS.
I distinctly remember praying to myself over and over that we could make it past the lake without landing IN the lake. In between prayers I was making plans. I knew how to swim. A little. WHEN we went in the lake (not IF) how was I going to save my mother? I would need to get her out of the car first, then shove her to the surface, then push her to the edge, IN THE DARK. My 4 1/2 year old brother would be on his own for a while, but he was a tough cookie and would figure out a way to handle the situation. HAHAHAHAHA
I even went so far as to crouch down in the front seat, where your feet go (and before seat belt laws were in effect), thinking my plan through over and over, while still praying. When we got past the lake without incident and were only about 10 miles from home, I felt the world lift off my shoulders.
I never shared this with my mom until a few years ago and of course she just laughed and laughed. They always thought I was overly dramatic. They just never quite understood me.
Fast forward to yesterday.
My mom came to use the new pool. Alex and I were already in the water, having a good time, so it was great that she came...the more, the merrier. But knowing her thoughts on swimming, I made her walk around the outside of the pool to see how the inside was shaped. I wanted her to see that it sloped down on the sides and from the level shallow end to an 8' x 7' flat pad in the deep end. She didn't think it was a big deal. Okay, whatever mom. I'm just trying to help you out here.
Let me interject here that she loves to get tan in the summer and likes to get in the water while on vacation, as long as it doesn't go past her shoulders.
She came down the steps and was surprised that the shallow end was only 3' deep. "Couldn't you have gotten the shallow end a little deeper?"
"No mom, this is the way it is made."
"Oh. Well I think I'd like it a little deeper here."
"Sorry mom, we can't change it."
I had put the rope across that divided the flat shallow part from the beginning of the slope that didn't stop until you hit the pad in the deep end, which is about 8' deep.
She immediately tried to go underneath the rope. I warned her. "Mom, it will start to slope downward and there will be no stopping you until you get to the bottom. That's why I put the rope up...to help you so that you won't drown."
She started to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. I think the idea of her sliding down that slope was giving her the giggles. I told her to watch me and I walked down the slope most of the way, then came back to her to show her.
After getting herself wet by kneeling in the water a little she attempted to float on a raft. Once I got her situated on the raft and she QUIT LAUGHING ABOUT IT she was set. For a few minutes.
She kept messing with the rope, so I took it down and told her that she better not roll off the float or she'd drown. Then I told Alex that we needed to hire a life guard, just for grandma. She burst into laughter then and started to sway on the raft. I pushed her over into the shallow part and put the rope back up.
Honestly, it was like watching a toddler out there.
She eventually got on a different float that was bigger than just the standard raft and felt very relaxed. She didn't like hitting the rope all the time. FINE. I'LL TAKE THE DARN ROPE DOWN. AGAIN.
I stayed with her as she went over toward the deep end and I told her not to be moving around or she'd roll off and there was no guarantee that we could save her. She started laughing like crazy. That was it for me.
I pushed her back to the shallow end and the rope went back up.
Whew...she was now confined to the kiddie section. I felt such relief.
I had to go inside to check to see who had called...we had heard the phone ringing, and you never know who it could have been. It might even have been my dad, checking on my mom. (It wasn't dad, it was Ted, just seeing how things were going. He must have been taking a break at work.) I told Alex to keep an eye on grandma while I was gone. He laughed. At least it wasn't that evil laugh that makes you wonder what someone is really thinking. Fortunately it was a quick trip inside and when I returned she was still okay. Not long after that though, she decided she'd had enough sun for one day and went home.
I think we need to get an all weather phone jack and phone for out there, with a direct line to 9-1-1.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
It is a well known fact that my mother cannot swim. She can't float. She can't put her head under water. She just can't swim. Period.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
My oldest son is 20 years old and is going through a difficult time right now. Since he was young, around 7 or 8, he's been following wrestling. Now I'm not talking about pins and points type wrestling, but smashing chairs, and bouncing off the ropes type of wrestling. Joey is such a huge wrestling fan that he will gladly pay up to $50 for a pay-per-view of a special wrestling event. And Joey is NOT a spender! Last summer he saved everything he earned at his summer job, with the exception of about $75!
One of the first wrestlers that caught his eye was a Canadian guy, Chris Benoit. For some unknown reason, this man murdered his wife this past Friday, murdered his 7 year old son on Saturday, and either late Sunday or early Monday, committed suicide. I'll spare the details, because that's not the point here.
The point is that Joey is struggling with why a guy that he admired for his "acting" and wrestling would do such a thing. Of course in our conversations we've mentioned enhancement drugs and various steroids. I've also mentioned possible personal "demons" that never showed themselves.
Joey is hurting over this, and no matter how old he is, it's hard to watch your child suffer. I think that I can understand the depth of his hurt and disappointment, but I'm sure that it's deeper than I can imagine. Wrestling is something that is really important to him. I wish I could make him feel better about all of this....but I can't.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I hate the name "Cynthia." I detest my middle name even more. That's why it doesn't appear very often ANYWHERE.
Pepina Marie and Marina Concetta, being cute as can be.
Posted by Cindi at 6:37 PM
This past winter our family corporation sold some land to a manufacturing company.
(Did you notice that I wrote family corporation? Yep, we are really hot sh*t, being that we have a family corporation, you know. It makes me laugh just to think about it. This is why there are attorneys...they suggest things like family corporations when they think it will be beneficial to you, hahaha! And by the way, we're definitely NOT hot sh*t!)
Anyway, this land that we sold is behind U.T. and A.P.'s house, down the hill, and across the bypass, probably half a mile away as the crow flies. The company that purchased this land from us is working with a deadline. They have to be in their new facility by December 31, 2007 (which I SERIOUSLY doubt will happen, but what do I know?? There is absolutely NO SIGN of any building going on yet, or any type of building material on site.)
Ted and I have french doors in our bedroom that open up to the back patio, not to be confused with the back porch that opens up off the kitchen. (When we were in the process of building I was informed that there is a difference between a patio and a porch. A patio is NOT covered, and a porch IS covered. And yes, we have one of each. In fact the back patio is rounded and Ted and Harry, a friend of ours, thought that it would make a nice stage for a band for Alex's graduation party in TWO years. Sorry guys, not anymore since we put the pool in!)
I digress, as usual.
Many nights we sleep with the door open in our bedroom. The screen door is locked, but the big door is open because we like the fresh air blowing in. That, along with the ceiling fan and the air conditioning kicking on occasionally throughout the night, makes for good sleeping. (And by the way, my dad isn't to know that we do this, being that he's retired law enforcement, so mum's the word.)
Six mornings a week (thank goodness they take Sundays off!) we can hear the heavy equipment at the site start up and go backwards. The continual "beep....beep....beep" of whatever pieces of equipment they are using can slowly drive you insane. It's like torture. It WILL continue. You have NO control over it. It wakes me up, and I'm not a happy camper when I'm awakened in the morning. I'm much better if I wake up on my own. Oh, did I mention that they usually start around 6 am???? Yes, that's SIX in the morning, as in one hour after FIVE am.
You might think, "well, just close the stupid door!" IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE. YOU CAN STILL HEAR THE BEEP....BEEP....BEEP WITH THE WINDOWS AND DOORS CLOSED. GGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
Yesterday afternoon I was out in the pool for a little while. BEEP....BEEP....BEEP.
I swear, they only go backwards, never forwards. That must be a real challenge, to push around dirt while going backwards. They do this all freaking day long, until around 5 pm.
Do they not realize that it's summer and I am a teacher and I enjoy my summers which means that I like to sleep in a little??? Do they not know that BEEP....BEEP....BEEP is okay to hear for a few minutes, but not all day long??? Do they not know that if they go FORWARD, it won't BEEP....BEEP....BEEP???
Is it a guy thing to constantly go backwards? "My 'BEEP....BEEP....BEEP' is louder than yours."
Yes, I'm grateful that we sold the land and made a little bit of money off the deal (which really wasn't that much considering that the aforementioned attorney got his cut, the realtor got his cut, and the fees that we had to pay were enormous, and the rest of it had to be divided up three ways). I'm also grateful that this company will be adding over 100 jobs to the community in the next year or so (it would really be great if one of those jobs would be for my oldest son who will have a business degree after only 2 more years of college).
And I'm MOST grateful for the fact that are NOT working on the land 24/7.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Each new appliance was supposed to last 5-7 days...mine would last about a day and a half, sometimes 2 days during the first couple months. By trying different techniques we were able to get it to last about 4 days by the end, thank goodness. At the beginning, my skin was getting raw all around the stoma (the actual opening) from using the various wipes, adhesive and powder.
This is what was used each and every time the appliance needed changed.
I'll warn you now...the next picture is pretty gross. It's a picture of my actual stoma with nothing on it. I took the picture when I was changing the appliance. This picture was taken after having the colostomy for about 5 months, so my skin was not too raw all around it anymore.
Okay, this is enough for one day.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Joey and Alex refer to Uncle Tim as "U.T." and Aunt Patty as "A.P." It's been like this for several years and we think nothing of it, but I suppose to people who aren't aware of my sons and their "verbal shorthand" for lack of a better term, it can be confusing.
They also like to use the last syllable of a word, instead of the whole word, but only for certain words. Joey "sizes" 5 days a week (exercises). Both boys like to use "chup" when they eat almost anything (ketchup). Alex really likes "cream" too (ice cream). It was goofy at first, but now it's what we expect to hear from them.
Anyway, A.P. got out of the hospital today. It's been a long week for her, with a L O N G incision on her 5' tall frame, and all those staples to deal with. She is so grateful that the surgery is over though, and as of right now it looks like she won't need chemo or radiation, so we're all thankful for that. She's always busy doing something or another, so this has been pretty tough on her. Her mom has been in a nursing home for basically 2 years, with a short stint back home, and several trips to the hospital, and A.P. goes to see her every single night after work and on the weekends A.P. and U.T. take Mary to their house for several hours at a time. In the past couple of years, Mary has had a quadruple bypass, her big toe amputated, then her leg amputated up to right below her knee, THEN her other leg amputated to the same point. This woman is still going strong! The following is an article about her that appeared in our local newspaper:
Need inspiration? At 81, Mary **** learning to walk again
Mary **** loves to walk and intends to do a lot of it ... as soon as she can.
It was difficult for her to do so the past two years because the 81-year-old diabetic double amputee literally didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Today, thanks to two new prosthetic legs, Mari is beginning to achieve her goal, and while she requires the aid of a walker, she is happy to be taking those first steps toward independence once again.
Mary resides in *** **** Health Care Center assisted living facility at *****, where she is a daily inspiration to both residents and staff.
Despite the fact that medical problems have plagued Mary’s family through several generations, she said she has never succumbed to self-pity. Her father, Antonio *******, was diabetic and walked on a wooden leg.
“Just look what a difference technology has made in artificial limbs,” she said. “My father couldn’t bend his knee and had to walk stiff legged. I can walk almost like I have my own legs. Isn’t that a miracle?”
Mary’s brother, Louis, was born with Duchene’s muscular dystrophy and died when he was 21. Her own son, John Jr., was also born with Duchene’s, and the family’s life revolved around him until he died at 28.
“My daughters (Brenda ****** and Patty *******) were easy by comparison,” Mary said. “We all pitched in to help, but most of the responsibility fell on me.”
John Jr. was diagnosed when he began to walk and was in a wheelchair for most of his school years.
“That was in the days before vans and electric lifts,” Mary said, “and I had to lift him and the chair in and out of the car. He never missed a day of school. Wherever he wanted to go, I took him.”
And “wherever he wanted to go” meant sporting events.
Mary admits she is an avid Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Indians fan as a result.
“I had to become one,” she said. “I was there all the time, what else could I do?”
The family also was and is dedicated to ***** High sports. Mary and all three children are graduates of ***** High, so they attended every baseball, basketball and football game.
“Sometimes I would get to yelling too loudly, and John would get embarrassed and tell me to be quiet. I just told him, ‘Listen, you brought me here. If I want to yell I will, and you will just have to listen.’”
Sometimes at home John would have three different radios and a TV set all on different stations so that he could listen to four different games at once. He was a statistical genius and kept stats on all of his favorite Ohio teams.”
John was determined to do everything he wanted. Mary went along for the ride.
She recalled the time they were visiting Niagara Falls, and he decided he wanted to go under the falls, wheelchair and all.
“John always said, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. Just treat me like you do everyone else,’ she said.
“And that is exactly my philosophy too. I never ask, ‘Why me?’
“I just say, where do we go from here.”
Mary, Louis and Brenda all carried the muscular dystrophy gene, and because the family was aware that it is passed from mother to son, Brenda chose not to have any children.
Patty, who does not carry the gene, has one daughter, Holly, 31.
In 1998, Mary’s husband John died, and in 2005, just two weeks after her 80th birthday, she suffered heart failure and underwent a quadruple by-pass and mitral valve repair. Because she was diabetic, the harvesting of veins from her legs left her with poor circulation, which ultimately led to amputation.
“It was odd,” she said. “I had two little infected ingrown toenails, and they ended up costing me my legs. The doctors tried everything they could to save them, but nothing worked. I was fortunate that they were able to leave me my knees, because that makes it easier to walk with the prostheses.”
Mary lost her left leg in 2006. When she was fitted for the prosthesis, the doctor told her not to expect to be able to walk right away. The minute it was fitted she took two steps and soon was able to walk around the grocery store to do her own shopping.
The right leg amputation took place last January. Mary took four steps when fitted with that leg. Her immediate goal is to be able to walk from her chair to the dining room table and back, a requirement for leaving rehabilitation and returning to her own apartment in *** ****, where she has lived for two years.
“I don’t mind not having my own legs,” she said. “I just want to be able to walk. If you don’t try, you will never get anywhere.”
Her only regret is not being able to drive.
“She has such a good attitude,” said nurse Susan ********. “We’ve seen her through both amputations since she came here after heart surgery. Amazingly, she never gets depressed. I’ve never heard her complain.”
Johnalee ******, restorative aide in physical therapy, also is amazed. “I’d have folded a long time ago, and here she is so inspirational to others that our home activities leader, Shannon *****, has decided to go to school to learn to work with prostheses,” Johnalee said.
Mary, who said her toughness comes from her father’s ‘good old fashioned Italian bull headedness’, advises everyone to take good care of themselves.
Daughter Brenda said that after taking care of her father, brother, grandmother and son, her mother is careful about diet and health, and Patty adds that her mental health is really what keeps her going.
“I’ve never heard her say anything bad about anyone in her life,” she says.
The daughters both work in town, so they are able to visit every day. Between their visits, Mary participates actively in social programs, attends Mass, and watches sports and game shows on television.
Recently, she began watching “Dancing With the Stars.”
“I should be on my feet any day now,” she said. “And who knows, if I get these legs moving right, I may be dancing too.”
It's easy to see where A.P. gets her strength. Her mom, Mary, is a very special woman. We're just glad that they're both doing well right now!
Aunt Patty, and yes, her arm is in a sling because at the time this picture was taken she had recently had shoulder surgery.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
My brother-in-law Tim likes to refer to the area we live in as "The Compound." This is due to two things...first of all, he is a HUGE Kennedy fan, especially the late President John F. Kennedy. I swear he has newspaper clippings and magazines from his death, even though Tim was only in 3rd grade at the time. He watches each and every TV show that comes on about the Kennedys, and not once, but EVERY SINGLE TIME IT IS ON. And he records it too. As you may know the Kennedys have an area on Martha's Vineyard where a bunch of them live, and it is called "The Kennedy Compound."
It really is convenient...and nice too. We all get along and can walk right to each others' houses very easily. We've even thought about getting a used golf cart in case we have things to take to each others', but Ted and Tim each have a John Deere riding lawn tractor and they just use those to go back and forth.
And that is why Tim calls it "The Compound."
Posted by Cindi at 5:49 PM
Friday, June 15, 2007
Which leads to another topic in which he has shown SO much responsibility. He saves his money. I mean, he SAVES every penny that he can. WOW. A couple of months after he graduated from high school he wanted to get a CD (the money kind, not the music kind) and he asked my mom to call around for rates. He went with the best rate and a few months later, he told me, "Mom, I know that most people put money in a CD and forget about it. Not me... I lie awake at night wondering how much I made in interest that day." WHAT A KID!
Here's a picture of him dancing with his cousin Kelly at her wedding on May 13, 2006.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
As of today, Ted and I have been married 27 years! Oh my...what we've gone through together.
We were both 21 when we got married (Okay, do the math and you can figure out how old we are now!). We "thought" we knew it all. We "thought" that we were all grown up. We "thought" that our life together was going to be smooth sailing and we could just survive on our love. Excuse me, but I'm laughing like crazy right now, hahaha.
Like all young, married couples we had to make some adjustments at first, and that was quite interesting, to say the least. I am the oldest of two children, and Ted is the youngest of three children. That fact right there made us view things from different perspectives.
We went through the period of not having two nickels to rub together. We went through the period of thinking we could read each other's minds. We went through medical issues together (mostly mine, sigh). We went through child-rearing differences together, trying to figure out what was best for our sons. We went through losses together. We've gone through happy times together too.
Throughout all of the years, we may have gotten angry with each other at times, but common sense always prevailed, and we were able to come to terms with our issues, no matter what they were. (I've personally discovered that it's all in the approach.)
At the beginning of our marriage we didn't realize that our love was just beginning. Now we know that. Since that warm, sunny day in June of 1980, our love has continually evolved and has become much deeper. Ted mentioned to someone a few days ago that he thinks we became even closer after I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I think he's right. There's something about changing your spouse's colostomy appliance that just draws you together.
Overall the years have been wonderful to us. We have two fantastic sons, and they are both great young men. They both work summer jobs and do their absolute best in school. They both are kind, polite, respectful, and caring. Family is important to them, and they would do anything for those they love. We live in a beautiful house that we turned into a home that has everything we could ever want. We would rather stay home than go anywhere, because we enjoy our home so much. We are so fortunate to still have three of our parents with us, and the fourth, well, he's just down the road at the cemetery, and we stop by to say hello often. We benefit from the expertise and experience of our parents, and hope that someday we will be able to do the same for our children.
Ted, I love you more today than yesterday, and not as much as tomorrow!
Monday, June 11, 2007
One year, while on our annual vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC, Alex decided to write in the sand with a stick. This was the only phrase that could be captured though. He was going through that phase when he said (and wrote) weird, goofy things.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Pepina and Marina have brought us so much joy...I never would have imagined that they could have come in and just taken our hearts they way they have. They make us laugh when they do things that are so funny, and they make me cry when they are hurting (like after Pepina was spayed and when they both got their shots).
We first mentioned getting a cat after only living here for a few weeks. It was the night before Easter and Ted walked into the bedroom and said, "Don't go in the pantry, I saw a mouse in there. I'm going to Lowe's to get traps right now." Gee, you don't have to tell me TWICE. That was it for me...it was CAT time. Alex and Ted even made up a song:
HOWEVER, either Larry made it back in, OR he was in hiding, OR he sent word to all his friends that we were a safe haven for mice, OR something, because we DID have a mouse a month or so later. One evening I suddenly heard Ted yelling at Pepina to "get it!" and then he came and shut the bedroom door and said that "P" was on Mouse Hunt. He had seen one and watched Pepina go right into her stealth mode. Someone opened up our bedroom door and I saw a blur go by and then Pepina. I was NOT getting off the bed, no matter what. Unfortunately she was not able to get that mouse at that time. Later on, around 2 am, though, I heard Pepina running through the hallway. When she does that it sounds like a herd of elephants. She was running so hard that she bounced off the cold air register. I finally felt brave enough to get out of bed, open the bedroom door, turn on the light and look at her. She had a dark string hanging out of her mouth. As I wondered where she got that, I realized what it was...A FREAKING MOUSE TAIL!
I yelled for Ted and he was finally able to get it out of her and he had to dispose of the "late" rodent. We praised Pepina like crazy...she did just what nature intended for her to do. GOOD GIRL P!
She earns a diamond in her tiara for each mouse she gets...she now has SEVEN diamonds!! Her last diamond was earned early on the morning of January 2, so we might be finished with the mice.
(As a side note, I tried to brush her teeth after catching the first mouse because I didn't care for the mouse breath, but that didn't go too well...now we just give her a lot of kitty treats and I'll wipe her teeth off.)
Anyway, I digress...Pepina often comes in the bedroom and sleeps on my chest during the night. She's getting pretty heavy, but that's okay. I love the feeling of her sleeping on me, but she really needs to work on lying still so I can get some sleep. Marina has now discovered that this is the thing to do too. For her first couple of weeks she was in the pantry at night. We had a card table tightly up against the pantry doorway and a baby gate on top of that. She quickly learned to scale both. Around 5 am, I would feel the bed shake and realize that Marina was right there pouncing up the bed to get comfy on my chest. We could never figure out how she got out of the pantry, until Alex saw her do it one night before he went to bed.
Somehow the two "girls" knew to take turns when it came to sleeping on me. Pepina is heavy, and Marina takes about an hour to settle into a comfortable position. In the meantime, she loves to walk around in a circle on me, continually trying to shove her butt into my face. It's difficult to sleep with them on me anymore.
Last night was especially rough for some reason. Marina just couldn't get comfy, and then expressed her displeasure when I rolled onto my side. She finally got up on my upper arm, until I rolled again. When I got up to go to the bathroom, she was waiting on the bed for me to come back. I fooled her! I went over to the recliner! Fast forward 5 minutes....there she was, and then Pepina showed up and they were both lying on me. I got very little sleep last night, so when Ted got up a little after 6, I told him to take the girls out of the bedroom and close the door.
Ahhhhhhhh....I slept until almost 10:00 then! Tonight they will have to sleep out in the living room, or with Alex because I want a good night's sleep! I love them both, I really do, but I also need sleep occasionally!!
Posted by Cindi at 11:04 AM
Saturday, June 9, 2007
The fence guy was here yesterday, but he left a couple of minutes before I got back from picking up Alex from work, so Ted talked to him. This morning I had another thought about something in regards to the fence, so I called him, but he doesn't work on Saturdays. I left a message for him to call me Monday. They put their orders in on Mondays, so I want to make sure that this gets in on time. It will be the end of the month before the fence can actually be put in, but I don't want any delays once they get started.
As the project has moved along, the boys, along with Ted and I have become more and more excited about it. I mentioned to Ted that the whole thing would be even more thrilling if we turned off the air conditioning for a while and the pool would be the only way to cool off!
Thursday, June 7, 2007
The nurses knew of me because my mom is a retired RN from the same hospital. They told me they were so sorry that it was indeed a tumor and I was just numb. It took me about 30 seconds to regain a little composure. Then I asked Dr. P what the recovery rate was for this and when he said about 85% I thought to myself, "YEAH, we can do this!" Then I asked the next step. He said that he would do surgery later on in the day, and that he would see me again very shortly. He left the room to go out and tell my mom and Ted what was going on and within a few minutes they were in the room with me. That was a big help. I was trying not to cry, but a few tears were sliding out. Thank goodness they were both strong, because I needed that. My mom is ALWAYS strong. She's a tough italian woman! Ted, well, I wasn't so sure how he was, but at least in front of me he was fantastic.
The next few hours were sort of a blur, until two surgical nurses came to my room to take me down to surgery. One of them said hello to me, like she knew me. When I seemed a little puzzled, she said that she was M's mom. M is a second grade teacher at the school I teach at, and I have known M since we were in high school together. I had seen this woman at our school, helping her daughter M on different occasions and had actually met her. Believe it or not, it was a real relief to "know" someone. She was absolutely WONDERFUL with me! Because of HIPPA and privacy, I told her that she could tell M what was going on. I knew that she wouldn't, unless I gave her permission. She asked if I was sure I wanted her to know, and I said yes...M and I are close at school. We can tell each other anything about people at school and situations at school, and I know I can trust her completely.
Because surgery was running behind, they let my mom and Ted into the surgical "holding" area to be with me for a little bit. Eventually I went to surgery, and things were pretty much a blur until the next morning. As I awoke in the morning, I realized that I was in pain all over my body. I ached absolutely everywhere. I felt like I'd been hit by a semi and thrown 100 yards. As I was just thinking about that, in walks Dr. P, my surgeon, and he said, "Hi...I'm the truck that hit you!" Because I had been thinking that exact thought, I started to laugh and that put me in more pain.
However, he had good news. He said he took out about 15" of my colon along with a golf ball size tumor. Yes, I had a colostomy, but it was temporary. He said that he felt confident that he got everything that he needed to get and that I probably wouldn't remember most of what he was saying right then. I think he was right! He checked my colostomy and incision, then said he would talk to me later.
Since the day before, I had been telling the staff that I wanted a private room, and it just so happened that one came open. So while Dr. P was out at the desk, writing in whatever secret documents doctors write in, he saw me being wheeled out and around the corner. He looked at me with a questioning look and someone told him I was going to a private room. He said something about he was sure I wasn't being dismissed yet!
Within 10 minutes of being in that private room, a vase with a beautiful flower arrangement was delivered...it was from my good school friend M and her family. That really brightened up my day. Over the next several days, a total of 11 different arrangements came and they really helped brighten up the room.
I had been trying to get in touch with my principal but had not been successful. I had told her the previous Monday between the time I found out about the gallstones and the time I went to the ER that I would probably need gall bladder surgery and didn't know if I'd be able to start the year out. That Friday night I was finally able to touch base with her. I'd been leaving voicemails and messages with people, but hadn't been able to talk to her in person. When we finally did speak, she said that she saw the Caller ID say the hospital, and she asked if I had had my gall bladder taken out. I told her that it was a little more involved than that and told her what was going on. She really felt bad. Of course she was also thinking about getting a sub for me, and not knowing how long I would be off work. I had no idea how long it would be either, but promised to keep her informed. Then there was also the fact that the staff would be told, and our secretary's sister had died of colon cancer about a year before. I didn't want her to go through being reminded of that whole nightmare again, so I told my principal to keep it very upbeat with the secretary.
The next day as I was up in the chair in my room with my mom and aunt visiting, I actually got a meal. I remember eating a glazed carrot first. It was soooooooo good. I hadn't really eaten in at least a week, and at that point anything tasted great! I had about 5 bites and that was all I could handle. That day was good as far as getting to eat was concerned, however it wasn't so good as far as the colostomy was concerned.
My colostomy became notorious for leaking. A colostomy appliance should last 5-7 days. Mine weren't even lasting ONE day before leaking out the sides. In fact, on that Saturday a nurse started her shift at 7 am. The first thing she did was change my appliance. This is not a simple, short process. It can take up to 30 minutes at times, depending on how messy it is. This nurse worked 12 hour shifts. The last thing she did, just before 7 pm, was change my appliance. The next morning, she came in at 7 am, and her first thing to do...was to change my appliance. They tried everything they could think of and eventually they could get it to last an entire day. What a mess.
Throughout my stay, Dr. P had repeatedly mentioned that the colostomy was temporary. He said that it could be reversed in a couple of months. HAHAHA...little did he know that I had this all figured out in my head. A couple of months is two months, which is close to 8 weeks, which really isn't much longer than 6 weeks, and could even be not too off from one month, which is only about 4 weeks. So I was planning on having this thing reversed by Labor Day weekend. OH MAN, WAS I EVER WRONG!!! On my last day there, he mentioned that I would need to see an oncologist after the pathology report came back to determine whether or not I needed chemo. Then he said that they couldn't reverse the colostomy until after chemo (if I needed it) was finished. Talk about bursting my balloon.
Then I went home on Monday, August 15.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
So off we went to the Emergency Room. Ted told them that I had gallstones that were giving me a LOT of pain. Once they took me back to a room, they attempted to get an IV in so they could give me pain medication. Well, that's never an easy thing for me...I have tiny veins, they're deep, they move a lot, and I have a poor blood return. Oh lucky me. It took about half an hour to get an IV in, and it was the smallest they had, a pediatric IV. The pain meds finally started to help and I was feeling a little less nauseous. Poor Ted was sitting in a chair next to me, dozing on and off. He was so tired. The ER doctor came in and said that they were going to send me for a CT scan, but first I would have to drink some stuff. I felt as though there was no room in my stomach to eat or drink anything, but they forced me too. I took it a sip at a time, about 16 oz. of chalky stuff with a tinge of a citrus taste. As I drank it, the nurse informed me that the tiny IV I had in my hand was not big enough for the CT dye, so they would have to start another IV. They looked and tried everywhere, and then after 30 minutes, they decided to try to get it into the top of my right thumb. THAT HURT SO BAD but it worked. Then off to CT I went. By this time it was around 3 am and I was so tired in addition to everything else. I just laid there and let them do their thing with me. I didn't care at this point.
The guy who did the scan was so nice and kind, but I barely remember anything else because I was dozing on and off. After the scan I was taken back to my room and had to do more waiting. Then I began throwing up again. In case I didn't mention it before, prior to this whole episode I had probably thrown up about 5 times in my entire life, so this vomiting thing was new to me. Around 5:30 am, Ted said he was going to go home and lay down for just a little bit and call his boss to tell him that he wouldn't be in. That wasn't a problem, because his boss is actually his brother-in-law. While he was gone...in came the surgeon. He introduced himself to me and was very VERY kind. He asked if I'd ever had any pain on my lower left side. I told him that I used to, and when I had mentioned it in passing to my OB/GYN, he hadn't seem concerned, and I really hadn't had the pain since my hysterectomy 3 years earlier.
Dr. P (my wonderful surgeon) told me that something showed up on the CT scan in that area, and that it could be diverticulitis or possibly a tumor. I sort of snorted and thought to myself, "Well, it sure as heck isn't going to be a tumor, that's for sure." Then Dr. P said that he was going to order a naso-gastric tube (I had no idea what that was at the time, thank GOD), admit me, then do a flexible sigmoidoscopy later on, so that he could see what we were dealing with. He mentioned that if it were a tumor, he would take it out, along with part of my colon and provide me with another way to empty my waste. I looked at him and mentioned "colostomy" and he indicated that that was what he would be doing, but it would be temporary. Okay, this was enough to think about. He left, assuring me that he would be in later, and right after that Ted came back. I explained it all to him and he assured me that it wasn't a tumor. Then two nurses came in with some tubing and other stuff and said that they would put in my naso-gastric tube.
They told me that I should suck water through a straw and it would help. They were going to put a small tube up my nose and it would go down my throat and into my stomach. I really knew I was in for something nasty when one of the women held the tube a couple of inches away and said, "don't make us stop because it will be much worse if we have to go in a second time."
OH MAN. I have NEVER endured anything like that and hope I never will again. It was absolutely HORRENDOUS. I could feel them pushing and shoving this tube up my nose, then down down down my throat. The pain was awful. One woman was holding one of my hands down while holding my head still. My other hand was holding the cup I was sipping from and the other woman was SHOVING that tube in. They finally said it was in and I was crying. Ted was crying because it looked so bad from his position. That tube began to suck the stuff out of my stomach. Even though I'd thrown up about 15 times since the evening before, my stomach was still pretty full apparently. Since I hadn't eaten hardly anything for 5 days, I didn't think there could be much there, but apparently there was. I saw all this yellowy gunk coming out and into a bottle. It was NOT a pleasant sight or feeling.
Ted called my mom and dad to tell them what was going on and then off to an inpatient room I went. Throughout the rest of the morning they continually took my vitals and then gave me an enema, what joy. Nothing came out except what they put in. Finally it was time to go for the flexible sigmoidoscopy. When I got to the room, I grabbed Dr. P's arm and I said to him, "What's your gut feeling on this and don't you lie to me." He looked me in the eye and said that he thought it was a tumor. Five minutes later, on the TV screen that I was facing, I saw it...a tumor...that I immediately named Lucifer.
It looks like a beautiful morning! A little after 9 am, and it's sunny, but cool, 51 degrees. The pool people are here working and I'm really trying to be patient, but I just can't WAIT until we can get in the water and swim. I love that feeling of total exhaustion that you get after swimming hard. Hopefully, it will be all ready to go by the beginning of next week. Our electrician, John, was here last night and said that he'd be surprised if it was finished in less than a week and a half. Thanks for the positive thoughts John.
I could play this "housewife" role forever...not working outside the home, staying up late if I want, sleeping in if I want, catching a mid afternoon nap if I want to, coming and going when I want, cooking dinner almost every night, knowing that if I don't get my things done today, I can work on them tomorrow. Of course, I'll be ready to go back to work by mid August, which works out great since we start back on August 20.
My parents are wonderful...yes, my mom can get on my nerves at times, but she means well. When Joey wanted to buy a car before his senior year in high school, my parents gave him money toward his car because he had worked hard on his grades AND he'd been saving all his money. That was so generous of them! Now Alex is going to be taking his drivers' test in about a month or so, and my folks are going to GIVE him their old car. They have a VERY nice car that they keep in the garage and only drive about once every few months and on the annual trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. They bought it in May of 2001 (that makes it 6 years old) and it has about 14,000 miles on it. They have another car that they use on a daily basis and they are ready to replace it. In fact, last night I was talking to my mom on the phone and leading her through several websites, looking at cars. My mom and dad have a tendancy to talk about things for a L O N G time before actually doing anything about them, so I'm really surprised that they're moving on this car thing so quick. They are looking at a Mazda3, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, and Ford Focus. They test drove two yesterday and will probably test drive the other two today. When they get this new car, they are giving their old Mazda Protege to Alex. Hopefully he'll be able to take his drivers' test with this car because it's so much smaller than our Trailblazer or Dakota. My folks want to treat the boys fairly, and said that they checked it out and discovered that the value of their Protege is just about the same as the amount of money they gave Joey, so they feel that it's fair. Joey has commented that he doesn't want our house to look like a used car lot...so Ted has said that he will park his Dakota over at the farm (his brother's place that is right behind our property...this is a topic for another time!). We have a three car garage that will comfortable hold two vehicles, so two others sit out. When we first decided to build, I mentioned a four car garage and both Ted and Mario (our builder) disagreed. I was flexible, so I dropped the suggestion. Now they both realize that I was RIGHT, imagine that. Anyway, thanks to my parents' generosity, Alex will have a car to drive to work for the rest of the summer and to school in the fall.
I only hope that Ted and I are in a position to be as generous to our grandchildren as my parents are to our kids.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
I think I figured out how to add pictures to here. Being that I'm not extremely computer literate, this is good, hahaha!
This is Pepina, just relaxing on top of the refrigerator. Really, she's just waiting for someone to open the refrigerator door so she can have some turkey!
This is Marina, relaxing on our bed, trying to decide if the remote control is something she can figure out or not!
Last night my parents stopped over and that was nice. They were so relieved with my test results, even though they both said that they expected nothing to show up. Well, deep down, that's what I expected too, however, we all know that things can turn out quite differently than what we want them to be. We also had mom and dad look out back and see the pool that is being installed. It's amazing...or maybe totally normal...I'm not sure, but here I am approaching my late 40s and I'm still worried about my parents' reaction to things. They seemed to be okay with it. Not totally thrilled, but okay with it. At least they didn't say anything bad about it. I know they're just worried about making sure that we financially prepare for our retirement and future, and Ted and I appreciate that immensely, but this is something that we put a lot of thought into before making this decision.
Today my sister in law goes in for a rectal ultrasound to check on the status of a tumor that was discovered when she had a colonoscopy a couple of weeks ago. She's been back to the surgeon, to the oncologist, and now off to have this test done. If the tumor cannot yet be staged (which is what the doctors think) then she will have surgery to have it removed. Period. If it CAN be staged she will need to undergo chemo and radiation first, then have surgery, then have chemo again. We've been praying that they can't stage the tumor, but even if they can, fortunately it's been caught early enough that it may not have been spread to any lymph nodes.
Cancer is a real bastard. How dare this cruel disease sneak into someone's life and change their life FOREVER!!! Not only does it usually require treatment that takes a while to complete, but it haunts your mind for the rest of your life, at least it has mine, so far. Cancer, I really hate you, but I am going to win this battle.
Today I have big plans, hahaha. I plan on doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen. Heck, I may even clean the master bathroom if I have time! I can finally relax and enjoy the summer now and just do the normal things that I want to do.
While I've been working on this post, our two cats have been bouncing off the walls! Pepina, now a fully grown adult cat of 15 months old was settled into her ways, until we brought Marina into the house a few weeks ago, at the age of 5 weeks. Marina has adjusted to life here so well. Anything was better than the cat shelter, I'm sure. Pepina wasn't too sure about this household addition and did a lot of hissing and growling for a couple of days. Now they are used to each other, and Pepina makes it clear that she TOLERATES Marina...it's so funny! Last week they discovered that they can chase each other for entertainment, and they sound like a herd of buffalo running down the hall and throughout each and every room. When they catch each other, they would stop and just stare at each other, as though they didn't know what to do. Hysterically funny. Now they pounce on each other and roll around and tumble. When the sounds of distress start though, we now give them a little spray from the water bottle. Interestingly, it's little Marina who is the instigator 95% of the time. I had NO IDEA that having a cat (or two) could be so much fun. I like to think that we are offering them a much better life than what the cat shelter or even some other people could offer them. They make us laugh so much, and we are so grateful that we made the decision to have them come into our lives.
On the corner of my nightstand I have a 12" stack of unread magazines. My goal is to read at least two a day until I get through them. Of course that's been my goal for the past few years, hahaha, but this year I will accomplish my goal!!
Well, it's time to tackle that laundry and then the kitchen....or maybe not...hmmm...gotta think about that one!
Monday, June 4, 2007
This morning I had my colonoscopy. Yesterday was pretty rough, not eating anything except a little orange jello, then trying to get all those pills down to clean me out. The pills are huge, and I had to take FOUR of them at 5:00 pm, another four at 5:15, another four at 5:30, another four at 5:45, and yet another four pills at 6:00. I managed to get them all down with only minor gagging, and around 7:00 pm, started to "GOOOOOOOOOOOO" if you know what I mean. At 9:00 pm, I had to take another four pills and when those just about came back up, I decided that I was done with them. I was to take another dose at 9:15 and the last dose at 9:30, but I was finished. There couldn't be anything left in me!
We got to the hospital around 7, I had the procedure done at 9:15 or so, under a twilight sleep, and then finally got home around 1. They made me stay until I went to the bathroom and ate something. They brought me a light lunch around 11:30 and it was actually pretty good. Either that or I was just extremely hungry.
Anyway, my surgeon said that everything was just FINE!!! No polyps or tumors or ANYTHING! I was as clear as could be! All of our prayers have been answered and I am really grateful and thankful for that. Now I won't need another colonoscopy for THREE years, thank goodness! I've had no symptoms, but it's always nice to have that official reassurance that all is well.
It's impossible to even put into words how good this makes me feel. I think that at long last I can now really start the emotional healing process from cancer. This has been a long time coming, and I'm just deeply relieved. It was all I could do to not burst into tears right then and there when they told me all was well.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Flashback to mid July 2005:
We had just broken ground on our new house on July 11, and I was having breakfast out with school friends. We were all talking about what was going on in our lives and I mentioned about breaking ground on the house. I jokingly said that Ted suggested that I take the upcoming school year off to be available to make decisions on our new home. We all laughed at that.
Flashforward to August 3, 2005:
Alex (then 14) and I were in Canton doing some back to school shopping. This was way out of the norm for me, as I usually wait until the last minute. We were getting Alex clothes and supplies and had been to Old Navy, Target, Kohls, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Aeropostle. We were tired and hungry by this point, so we went to Rockne's for a late lunch. When our food came, I started eating french fries, as they are so much better when they're hot. I thought that the burger could wait a few minutes. I finally took a couple bites of the burger and got a little bit of a stomach ache. I decided to take the rest of it home. Alex finished his stuff all up, and off we went. That night I didn't feel well. The next day I felt really lousy...sort of nauseous. Alex wanted my leftover burger from Rockne's and I told him that I could possibly have food poisoning, so he should just throw it away. Friday I felt a little better and realized that I hadn't had a BM for a few days. Aha...maybe that was my problem. I just needed to "go". I hadn't been hungry at all, so I was barely eating anything. On Saturday I forced myself to drink a can of Pepsi and eat a small chicken pot pie. In the past, that combination would always make me run to the bathroom. It took a L O N G time for me to get that down, but the worst part is that it didn't work. The next day, I didn't eat because I felt so sick. Monday morning our builder had called just to see how I was. Our builder is a man we have known for years and an EXCELLENT carpenter. He told me that I needed to call my doctor. To take my blood pressure pill I needed to eat something. It took me half an hour to eat one saltine cracker. It was terrible. Then I called my doctor, got in immediately, and then he sent me to the hospital for bloodwork and x-rays.
I finished up with the labwork at the hospital and had to take Joey (then 18) to the doctor for a follow-up for something...I can't even remember what now. His doctor was running way behind and I was feeling miserable. After an hour of waiting, they told us it would be at least another hour and gave us the option of waiting or rescheduling. Joey and I opted to reschedule. When we got home there was a message from my doctor's office. I called them back and was told that I had gall stones and they would make an appointment with a surgeon for me. I told them to make it ASAP because I was in major pain. They called me back and said that it would be that Friday. I told them that I couldn't wait that long because I was miserable.
For the rest of the day, I was in so much pain that I could barely stand it. That evening after Ted and the boys ate dinner, Ted took Alex to Wal-Mart to get a binder, the last thing he needed to start the school year. While they were gone I began throwing up. Up to this point in my life I had probably thrown up about 5 times in my entire life. I was feeling so bad by this point that I was crying. Joey was scared because I was in such bad shape, and I was a little concerned too. I asked him to call Grandma, my mom, the retired RN. She came up and talked to me for a few minutes before Ted and Alex came home. Throughout the next few hours they tried to get me to go to the Emergency Room, but I kept putting it off, thinking I would feel better soon. My mom even gave me an enema, but nothing helped. I finally resigned myself to the fact that going to the ER was what I needed to do, but wanted to take a shower first. I was so weak I had to sit on the edge of the tub while I took my shower and when I washed my hair I couldn't even put the conditioner on it. After I got out of the shower I didn't have enough strength to brush my hair, and we went off to the ER.
This is enough for one day. I'll continue the story again very soon. For now, I'm not eating today (what fun) and will take a bunch of pills tonight to get "cleaned out" for my colonoscopy tomorrow.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Thursday was our last day with kids at school. Yesterday was a work day, and a day that doesn't rank too high on my "A" list.
I found out for sure that next school year I will be spending two afternoons a week at a parochial school, teaching remedial reading. This particular parochial school isn't even in our school district, but (according to the principal there) has students from our district who require reading intervention services. The principal does not by law have to provide our district with those students' addresses or the assessment tools they used. Sounds a little fishy to me, but nevertheless, because of where I live, I'm the lucky one who gets to service them. Yea. Remind me to cheer about it. There IS one good thing about it though...our Title I coordinator has told my principal that I am to be taken off the duty schedule for next year because of having to travel to an additional building, so that's really nice.
Toward the end of our time at school yesterday, a couple of teachers decided to give out a gag award. I'm sure they were trying to be funny and also attempt to get a point across, but I personally think it was rather unprofessional of them. One of them will more than likely not be with us next year because of her family relocating (depending on whether or not she can find a job) and the other one...well, as far as I know she'll still be in the building. Even though I'm not extremely happy with my principal right now, I would never have gone quite as far as they did. I just hate to burn any bridges, and some may have been burned with their little award idea. Anyway, let's just say that what they did is not anything I would have done, but if it works for them, then that's their choice.
After I left school I had to go to the hospital where I'll have my colonoscopy on Monday. I was to meet with someone from the anesthesia department. I got there at 1:30 and they said my appt wasn't until 2:00. I knew that, but what was I to do? Ride around for half an hour with gas at over $3 a gallon?? I was just hoping they might be running a little ahead of schedule. Nope. They were running BEHIND. By the time someone came to talk to me it was 3:00. They wanted me to stay to talk to someone else too, but that would be at least another half hour, so they gave me the option of coming in a little early on Monday. I took that option.
I've become really worried about this test. I really don't have any reason to doubt that it will all turn out just fine, but I'm still concerned and can't help but wonder if there will be another tumor or polyp or just something.
I suppose it would be a good idea to spend the next entry or so discussing the cancer.
It's very hard for me to mentally begin summer vacation until this test is over and done with. Then I will be able to relax. Until then I feel like I'm on pins and needles. Patience is not one of my strengths. (Talk about an understatement!)
The pool is coming along just fine. I don't know all the technical terms to use, so I can just say that the "shell" is set up, or maybe it's called the form? I don't know, but it's there, and the pump and heater are set up and I think they are tied in also. Hopefully by mid-week we'll be able to swim. I can't wait! Ted is getting really excited about it too, so I'm happy about that.
Speaking of Ted, he's serenading me with his acoustic guitar right now. I'm sitting in the den and he's just playing away. I like hearing him play the acoustic, but the electric guitar is just "okay" for me. I really like it when he plays things I know and I can sing along.
In less than 48 hours, my procedure will be over with, thank goodness. Then I can begin to enjoy summer vacation.