FROM THE DOWNHILL SLOPE

LIFE NOW   UPDATE STATUS  MAY THROUGH SEPTEMBER

The Challenges

Last official status update was in April.   The time since has been as happens in most lives both good and bad.  First the bad.  David’s struggles and hospitalizations.   For about a year, David has struggled with back  and hip pain.  It has grown increasingly worse and in June the doctors at Kaiser Permanente, our HMO,  decided to do more tests and discovered he had a tumor in his abdomen.

David was born with only one kidney, something only discovered in his late fifties: the tumor grew in the space where his other kidney would have been.   Whether it was slow or rapid growing no one knew.  Anyway, he had major abdominal surgery in June,  and recovery  was not a pleasant experience,  the  tumor was large, he was opened from belly button  to collar-bone .  His stay in the hospital was painful, painful as was the slow crawl back to his former self.

The good news was that the tumor was not  malignant.    His surgeon says in all his 15 years of practice this is the only time a tumor of this type was not malignant.   We all  hoped that the tumor was causing his pain,  but it wasn’t.  David recovered completely from the surgery, but what prompted it all remained—hip pain that makes it hard for him to walk.

He  woke up September 11th  with severe pain and what my mother called it “Up-chucking.”   He didn’t wake me and with my hearing loss I hear very little at night, makes sleeping easier, but is not useful at other times.   David tried to make it to the bathroom,   once there almost fainted,  hit his head,  then crawled back to bed and waited an hour until I woke up. When I woke up, “Look at me.”  His face was covered with blood.  Men!  Then he said I should drive him to Urgent care.  Men again.This woman is such a wuss and almost did as he asked.    Which I did (As an aside, let me note, once upon  a time I was good in crisis.)   Now I am more muddled and driven by uncertainty and anxiety–not helpful and not a sign of emotional fitness, but my new reality.  Second aside and lesson: The sick or injured should never dictate  whether 911 is called. I called Daniel before doing as David was commanding.  Daniel he said, “Call 911” and so I did.

As  David could talk and it would keep me out of the middle, when I connected with 911, I handed  him the phone.   In less than 10 minutes eight or nine firemen arrived.  It was like one of the circus scenes where people keep popping out of a tiny car.  Seems they were having a training and brought all their trainees to the call.   Each one was sexier looking than the next.  That I can comment on what the younger folks call “Eye Candy”  tells you David is once again on the mend and looking back is easier than living through.

David was whisked off to the nearest hospital and diagnosed with pancreatitis probably due to a gall stone.   The treatment meant removal of his gall bladder.  The gall of a gall bladder is a mischief-maker you apparently can do without quite easily.   Surgery was not possible however until the stone has passed and the resulting irritation of the pancreas  subsided.  That means nothing by mouth and staying in the hospital on IV feedings, staying mostly in bed, and every two or three hours one or another blood test monitoring for all sorts of other complications.

After almost a week, David had the surgery and it was “successful.”  A day or two after surgery  we were allowed to pick whether he should stay another day in the hospital or go home.  I was torn, but ultimately thought my life and his would be easier if he came  home.  So home he came.  With him came an oxygen creating machine and twelve oxygen tanks.   In hind sight we clearly made the wrong decision.

His pain kept increasing and we were finally told to get a CAT scan.  The result?  Immediate admission to the hospital as his pancreas was once again inflamed.  David was surprised;  I was grateful.   He was once again on a nothing my mouth regime, but this time the treatment seemed to work.  He came home two days ago and although distressed by being so weak–almost a month in bed can do that,  is no longer in pain.  Keeping our fingers and toes crossed that the road ahead will be smooth for a while.

So what about me and my staying strong.   Until September all was level and I must confess to feeling at last I could live as I wanted.  Then along came   a bug.   I was so tired I could hardly get out of bed.and dealing with nausea, low-grade fever, sweating and  chills.  There was a plague in ancient times called Sweating Fever.  Killed you quick.   Well, I am still here.   I sweated things out for a week before calling the doctor–as the saying goes “See a doctor and he will cure you in a week; don’t see a doctor and get well in seven days.”   I didn’t get well, could stay up for only about an hour at a time  so off I went to the doctors.  I had a blood workup  and every thing was ” normal” or “better”.   Didn’t make me feel better.   The good doctor said, “Must be a virus. Come back in two weeks if still sick or if get other symptoms.”

The irony being for me that I had spent most of August working out and rebuilding my stamina.  “Pride goeth  for a fall” my mother often said about what she called “Uppitiness.”  I didn’t fall, but everyday that passed meant more and more of my hard work was for naught.  Yes, I could say–maybe it was the hard work, that didn’t make me sicker; but that was little comfort.   Staying strong is always easier to say than do.

I had planned to go back East and attend my 55th High School Reunion.  As September and the virus dragged on, I felt less and less like I could get up the energy to get myself there, then I started day by day to feel a bit better.  I was my usual self when  along came David’s  crisis; I was grateful I had not purchased the plane tickets.

David’s crisis called on my strength,  not just the big stuff, but having to do all the little things David usually does including: driving more than I usually do–the hospital is an hour away, gassing the car–all self-serve here, a flat tire the night of his second admission to the hospital, the check engine light flashing and staying on, computer problems, paying bills, having full responsibility the days Ben was here, and caring Whisper.  Whisper added to the challenge; she has been having seizures for about a two months and they have been getting  more frequent.  The vet had said wait, but come in if she starts having them weekly. That time had come.   Amy helped get Whisper to the vet as it wasn’t something I could do alone.   The dx is possible thyroid problems and she is now on medication and seems a bit better.   Once again we have our fingers and toes crossed.

When I  handled the smaller problems and jobs as well as the larger crisis,  my sense of strength increased.  I am proud of myself.  To be honest, however, my strength was only partly mine.   Dan has been in the process of changing jobs and Zach is far away, but both were there with emotional support.  Amy was the one helping with concrete stuff and I  don’t think I would have managed without her help.  My real- life friends and internet friends added their support.  Relationships  are the most important factor in my ability to stay strong.   Two other things sustained me:  caring for Ben and my writing.

The good stuff

Before David went into the hospital we took a four day trip across Colorado and the Rockies, into Utah, stopping briefly at Zion National Park and then  onto Mesqute, NV which was our base for two  days.  Should you head that way, don’t miss the Virgin River  as you are entering Mesquite.  it is spectacular.

Our first day we headed out to Hoover Dam, then circled the Grand Canyon, stopping at all the overlooks.  The trip back to Mesquite took us through  lots of open range and  the Vermillon Cliffs–also  not to be missed.  Darkness descended and with it one of two scary adventures.  We had gotten somewhat used to driving through open range and staying alert to cattle ambling across the street.  We did not expect to find one on what seemed to be a village street with a cliff on one side.  David was driving and there in front of us was the biggest, blackest steer either of us had ever seen.  Surreal and very scary.  Fortunately, he was halfway across the road,  no cars were coming toward us, and David has excellent reflexes.  He served in time and although we shook for a good while there after, we counted our blessings.

Next day we did Bryce and Zion canyons.  Zion was our favorite,  mainly because we could drive through it, not just peer in from the top.  Every turn in the road was another “Ahhhh” moment.  From Zion we hopped over Bryce  and then headed home by the back roads aiming to get to Green River, Colorado by the sleeping time.  Well laid plans.   Again the scenery was spectacular.   As night began to fall, we started worrying about finding food as for we had not seen any place to eat since leaving Bryce.  We were relived when  we found the Burr Trail Grill and Deli .  Not only was the food good, but the waitress–there was only one, was bottled sun shine.  She radiated joy.  David insulted me by saying the rib steak was the best he had ever eaten.  I  have almost forgiven  him as he was very hungry and that does play a factor.

Fortified with food, we headed east with the sun setting behind us and straight into scary experience number two.  We had gone less than a quarter of a mile when we saw in our rear-view mirror a  truck that had zipped by  us collide with a deer.  The deer was not yet dead, but obviously soon would be.  Terrible.

Both Zach and Dan have collided with deer but the deer were killed instantly.  Dan’s car was totaled, Zach’s survived.   That was the beginning of a very scary drive to the next town as deer were all over the place and not at all careful crossing the street.  We drove slowly, reached Torry in one peace and found a bed in one of the last motel with a vacancy.  Cost more than the Motel 6 in Green River, but neither of us wanted to keep playing dodge the deer.

The motels were full because Torry is the nearest city to the Capital Reef National Park.  Driving just the out skirts of the Park made us thank the deer for keeping us off the road.  Another site not to be missed.  Awe inspiring.   I hope my young friends take the time to tour our National Parks.  I wish I had done so when younger and wish with all my heart,  we could have come as  a family.  We did lots of camping in the East and I am grateful for that.  I am also grateful that David and I had this quick car tour.  If you are not yet on the down hill slope make sure you tour the canyons of the West and can do more than sit in a car or hike only a little bit.

More good stuff

Ben continues to be our joy and a source of  rejuvenation.  We are so lucky we can be his child care providers.  He has just learned to crawl and that  keeps everyone  on their  toes.  He is  also beginning to pull himself up.  He is a  great explorer,  wants to feel and mouth everything he can get too–particularly loves wires, which is helping him learn the meaning of “No”.    He finds not being able to go where he wants frustrating and has ten second temper or frustration tantrums, but is easily diverted.  He is mostly happy but as with many when he is not, he is not: fortunately that usually means he is tired and he will sleep.  Pictures included.

I managed a quick business visit back East, over the Fourth of July.  That meant an opportunity for a to pend time with Zach and Max.   Some of the things we did:  Hiked, swam both at Lake Tonetta, and in Zach’s back yard pool.  Also got to watch a wonderful  small town Fourth of July Celebration.  Most of the town were either in the parade or applauding from the sidelines.

Once David had regained his strength from the first surgery,  Max and Zach come here for a  visit.  Max is an energizer bunny, on the go and keeping those around him on the go.   We bought a Big Wheels  and he made good use of that on Colorado’s parks and trails.  We have neighborhood bunnies, and   Max learned quickly  he couldn’t catch one.      One of Max’s morning pleasures was tending my patio garden.  Tending it meant picking a flower for me every day.  The Geraniums have recovered.

We were able to do three events with Amy, Daniel and Ben while Zach and Max were here.  One was attending the Ice Cream Festival at the Civic Green Park two blocks from our house.  Free Ice Cream, Jugglers musicians.  Max was a hit with a younger crowd because of his Big Wheels which he graciously shared with a group of other kids.

Then we took a day trip up to the top of Mount Evans.  No we didn’t hike, it was a car, trip, a two car trip—up,up, around, and up again.  Several stops along the way.  One stop showed the root of a small mountain top flower—the root was huge, I think twelve feet long and a good yard around.  Then it was back down, down, and down.

The  final event  was dinner at Sweet Tomatoe, a hike around the Littleton Park—with Max leading the way on his Big Wheels and then a quieter walk through the Columbine Memorial.   Amy went to school at Columbine and has good memories as well as the sadder ones that came after she graduated.  It was dusk when we were there and my pictures didn’t turn out, not that I took many.

One other sad event,   Buddy–Amy and Daniel’s Australian Shepherd Mix and long time companion finally needed, as Daniel put it, to move back to the earth and contribute to new life.  It was a hard decision, Buddy had  been totally blind for many years, but happy.  He also had a tumor and was not able to get around so it was time.  Prolonging death is never useful.

I know in one of my more recent From the Downhill Slope posts I talked about the difficulty my growing deafness was causing.  Well now about $2500 dollars  poorer, I do have a hearing aid that is an aid.  For those of you interested it is an Oticon and I got a personalized inner ear mold to use with it.  It’s sound can be adjusted while it is in the ear without an external device.  Because I am totally deaf in my right ear, I still have to be turned the right way and it helps to look at the person directly and have them talk directly to me.  Can now hear at movies.  Bothers me that hearing aids are not covered by Medicare and know as our income has dwindled this will be the last I can afford, grateful, however to have it, it makes a major difference.  So many just don’t have the funds but are “too rich” to get help anywhere.  Angers me.

My novel goes slowly but I at least am enjoying the writing and the research.  My blog serves as the a soothing occupation when I can’t move ahead on the novel.  Staying strong and know you are too.  Life is often a struggle and relationships difficult, but friends and family make the difficult struggles worth while. Thank you all for being part of my life.

The pictures are collages and might not interest all of you, but I know some will want to see.

Canyonland’s trip

The July Fourth Parade

My Visit to Zach’s

Zach and Max in Colorado

Mount Evans Trip

Ben’s summer 2010

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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