Tube is removed!

My Tuesday CT scan went smoothly (I get the results this coming Tuesday) and my Wednesday visit with the Wound and Ostomy Nurse gave me lots of new information to process. All good!

On Friday morning, I was scheduled to get my nephrostomy tube removed. Woo hoo! In the pre-appointment phone call, they told me this: The doctor will inject dye into the tube and make sure that everything is flowing smoothly. If it is, they will remove the tube, and no sedation needed. If not, they will make a decision of what to do, and it may involve sedation.

The uncertainty on the medical front can be a little crazy-making. The logistical side also weighs on me, as I don’t like to inconvenience people, but I cannot drive myself home from these appointments. This requires me to ask a friend to keep the whole day free to pick me up at “whatever” time and in whatever drugged shape I am in, and to find folks to manage childcare, school pick-ups, etc. To top it off, my husband was out of town.

But friends were flexible and generous, we solved the logistics, and I was eager to finish up the week of appointments. On Friday morning, the Uber arrived promptly and I got into the car, looking forward to some quiet time to settle in before my procedure.

“Hi, are you Marie?” the driver asked in his unmistakable Minnesota accent. Knowing that the typical Midwesterner is chatty, I settled in for a conversational drive. My quiet time would have to wait.

We arrived at the hospital on time (despite traffic, construction zones and rain – very impressive) and I checked in. They asked me to have a seat until they called me, so I did.

Next, two women walked in together. One was dressed like any customer you might see at Starbucks. The other was dressed in what I think of as hospital clothes: Ugly clothes that you can easily wash in scalding water or might even choose to burn. She was quite thin (like me!) and her clothes hung on her like a hanger. I’m guessing that she was the patient.

“Hi,” she cheerfully greeted the person at the check-in desk. “I’m Deborah. D-E-B-O-R-A-H.”

She chatted like I do when I am nervous, about the pencils and her students. Once she was checked in, they called for me and someone led the three of us (Deborah, her friend, and me) downstairs to the room where they prep us patients. I still wanted to have some quiet time, so I walked behind the others. We checked into pre-op, then sat together.

I noticed that Deborah was wearing a nephrostomy bag. As much as I thought I needed quiet, I was compelled to ask her about it. She lamented that no one could tell her how to live with this, and I could relate. (They only told each of us, “You’ll figure it out.”) We shared our few personal tips and tricks for wearing the bags and handling the tubes, how to sleep (which is, not), etc. She told me that, at one point, she had two of them, and she hated them. I could relate to that too. I didn’t tell her that I hoped to get my tube removed that day. We joked about having so few body parts left inside our abdomens.

Soon they brought us each to our own little curtained area so we could be prepped for our procedures, and I wished we could chat a bit longer.

The nurse anesthetist walked into my curtained area, and we immediately recognized each other from my prior procedures. She was also chatty. Clearly, I was not going to get my quiet time yet, so I put my own agenda aside and conversed.

She described what would happen in the procedure room and – I love this part – NO ONE PUT AN IV IN ME. No one. I was prepared for them to say, “Just in case we need this” but no one did. I was thrilled.

Soon they wheeled me out of my area, past all the other patients. Everyone looks so sick in this context so I try not to look at them, but I suddenly saw Deborah, and we gleefully yelled out “Hi!”

The nurse wheeled me to the procedure room, where I transferred my body face-down to another table that had an x-ray machine hovering over it. The nurse kept talking and talking, now about another patient who loved to do food-related travel and was soon going to Greece with a famous local chef. She also talked about his love of wine and how he promised her a bottle of something really special. It occurred to me that while she may not be administering anesthesia for this procedure, she was effectively distracting me. She does her job well.

She transitioned to telling me that my doctor does a wine-tasting fundraiser every September to benefit the Boy Scouts. I was intrigued. His son was in Scouts, she explained, and he fully supports his son in everything he does. Then she mentioned that he also sells handmade lanyards to raise money for autism, and I was again intrigued. I briefly shared our family story with her and the doctor appeared.

He introduced himself, then immediately turned his focus to directing the Fellow, who was doing the hands-on work. The procedure moved quickly. I loved that the doctor said all good things during the procedure, like “this looks good” and “it’s a smooth flow.” I don’t think he said them for my psychological benefit, but I was still grateful.

The Fellow injected dye, watched it on the x-ray machine, removed the stitches and the tube, and bandaged me up as the Attending Doctor guided him through it.

As they wrapped up their work, the doctor said to me, “All done. Now you never have to see me again.”

The first time I saw you, you made me cry. Gulping, devastated sobs.”

“You were furious with me.”

I laughed. “I was. I hated you.”

The nurse interrupted us. She shared that she told me about his fundraisers, and I shared that we had a few things in common. He started to tell me all kinds of stories about his son and daughter. He was obviously proud of them both and had a good sense of humor about their personalities. I loved listening to him animatedly share the details.

When he left the room, the nurse said, “I have NEVER seen him talk so long, much less to a patient. That was something.”

During college, I had a job as a bank teller. One of my favorite moments of the day was taking a super grumpy customer and shifting their mood before they walked away from my counter and into the rest of their day.

In that moment, I had that same feeling. Though I suspect that this time, I was both the teller and the customer.

As they wheeled me back to the pre- and post-op room, we passed Deborah, getting wheeled to her procedure. The nurses stopped so that we could connect one more time.

Maybe I wasn’t supposed to have a quiet morning. Apparently, it wasn’t what I needed.

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need

Rolling Stones

I hope you find that you get what you need, as well as what you want!

Blessings and love,
Marie

Angel appearance

Quick health update: All appointments went well! Thank you so much for your prayers, positive thoughts, and everything else. I swear that you can move matter, and I really appreciate your efforts on my behalf. Thank you.

I have three stories to share, so I will do them in three separate posts. The first one is from Friday night, after a long three days of medical appointments.

Suddenly craving pad Thai, I googled to find the best places near me. (Does one capitalize Google as a verb?) The top recommended spot wasn’t exactly “near” me but the drive was tolerable.

If you have spent time with me in person, you may have noticed that I rarely carry a purse or wallet, and even more rarely carry cash. I usually carry my phone, whose case holds exactly two credit cards.

Back to pad Thai. I called, placed my order, grabbed my phone (with its two credit cards) and made my way to the restaurant. Once inside, I noticed an ATM machine. That usually means the establishment is Cash Only. Sure enough, when my eyes scanned the counter, I saw the large sign: CASH ONLY.

No-name ATM machines (with their additional withdrawal charges) annoy me, but it was more annoying to drive back home to get cash that I wasn’t even sure I could find. So, I tried my Visa card in the ATM. Didn’t work. I tried my American Express. Also didn’t work.

I called American Express and while I got excellent service from a real live person, I couldn’t get cash. I hadn’t set up the process in advance and it takes 21 days. Too long to wait for pad Thai.

I called Visa. Because it was issued by the same bank where we have our checking account, I thought I would have some luck with them. But despite giving them every bit of identifying information, they couldn’t share my password or help me get cash.

Unsure what else I could do before I left, I decided to try the card one more time and guess one more password.

While I was doing this, someone hugged me.

Lisa!

She and her husband had appeared suddenly, out of nowhere! It was so fun to see them there. And then, on top of that, they had CASH. Not a lot, they said, but they were willing to share what they had.

In my usual greedy way, I ordered way too much food. I was willing to accept some cash, but I didn’t want to take all their cash. But guess what! Whoever took my order over the phone thought I said that I would call back to confirm the order.

That meant that they hadn’t even cooked or assembled my little piggy order! I could order from scratch! Pad Thai was less than $10, and it was all I really wanted anyway. So I ordered pad Thai as Lisa and her husband handed $10 to me and went on their way.

Wow. Gratitude and awe. Angels all around. I hope you can see yours, or that your invisible ones are giving you the support you need.

Blessings.
Marie

All is good!

I’ll admit that it is way easier to celebrate God when things go well.

I’m totally celebrating! I am thanking God and all of you for all your prayers and help in making the surgery even more successful than ANYONE expected.

The plan was to place a nephrostomy for at least two weeks, to make sure there is no infection, to deflate the kidney and make it easier to place the stent, etc. And the doctor told me, he never places stents in the first surgery because he always has to go back and fix it.

So I was prepared (as much as I guess I could be – was still freaking out) to have the nephrostomy and a constant companion bag.

BUT they not only placed the tube but they also PLACED THE STENT!! We were thrilled.

The show isn’t done: This is sort of a “starter stent” and I have to have the “big girl stent” placed another day. And I still have a tube hanging out of my back, along with a huge bandage (and still no showers allowed). Awkward.

But, really, NO BAG for the expected 2-4 weeks! I had it for about 36 hours, more than enough for me, as I’m running out of places to hide bags under my clothing. Woo hoo. Hopefully soon, I can have the tube removed and shower again. But in the meantime, I am THRILLED about the forward progress!

I know for sure that your prayers and support made the difference. So much energy going that way. Thank you. When I was under conscious sedation, I could feel it. I believe that faith can move mountains. What a difference! Thank you.

If you want a story from the day, here is one. Otherwise, thank you for reading this far and for all you have done with your connection to God and the great energy grid! Sending love love love! And, now, this story:

I arrived pretty nervous, but EVERYONE I encountered was not only pleasant but also uplifting. After I signed in, the receptionist sent my husband to the cushy breakfast area while a volunteer took me and another woman (older than I am) to get prepped.

It was a little bit of a walk, including an elevator ride, so the volunteer made small talk and I let the other woman carry the other side of the conversation. I really wasn’t into it.

When we reached the prep area, the volunteer left and the other woman and I sat in adjacent chairs, waiting to be called.

Already in chatty mode and actually quite friendly, the woman asked me, “Is this your first port?”, leading me to I assume she was there to have a port placed.

“Oh, I’m not here for a port,” I told her. “But I do have one.” And I showed it to her.

“They ran out of veins,” she sighed.

“Oh, the port is MUCH easier. Much. To be honest, it took a couple of months to get used to it.” Her eyes got wide, so I quickly added, “But now I barely think about it.”

Like me, she had a right-side mastectomy, so I told her they would likely place the port above her left breast. “I do notice it when I drive, when the seat belt hits it a certain way. Otherwise, I really don’t think about it.”

They called my name and I told her that she was going to be great. We never shared the type of cancer we were dealing with, or why I was there, but that is okay. Allowing myself to make a connection helped me to relax and regain confidence, and I hope that her procedure went just as well as mine did.

Thanks to God and to you!

Love and blessings,
Marie

 

 

You are always welcome

Thank you for hanging in there with me. I’m still recovering but getting a bit better every day! Just getting out of bed, showered and dressed is an accomplishment. I spend my days lounging around the house between naps. Being in the house for weeks can feel isolating. It is great to know that I’m not really alone.

During one of my lounging sessions, I caught the movie Moonstruck on TV. My favorite part is the last 20 minutes or so. If you haven’t seen it – SPOILER ALERT.

The movie centers around an Italian family. This final scene takes place first thing in the morning. The mother is in the kitchen cooking oatmeal and, one by one, people arrive – either from upstairs or through the front door. First the daughter (Loretta, played by Cher), then the brother of Loretta’s fiancé, followed by Loretta’s aunt and uncle, Loretta’s father, his father, and, finally, Loretta’s fiancé, each joining the crowd in the kitchen, until there are more people than chairs assembled around the table.

When I first watched this movie in the 1980’s, a coworker from a British family told me that she loved the movie but the ending was unrealistic: People don’t just show up at your doorstep! And why would the mom make so much oatmeal?

But for me, growing up in an Italian family, that scene was the most realistic scene in the movie. Friends and family are WELCOME to show up at your door, anytime. And of course there is always food on the stove, plenty for everyone.

As I watched this final scene last weekend, I realized how incredibly grateful I am to everyone who just shows up. Sometimes it is at my door, which helps to alleviate isolation and adds color and dimension to my day. Sometimes it is online, or through meals, or cards, or a myriad of other ways. You are so very welcome. And while I don’t always have something on the stove, I am happy to share whatever I have. Again, you are always welcome.

Love,
Marie

The skinny branches

Our second-story bedroom window looks out at a group of deciduous trees. (I’ll post a pic on-line at some point…)

Now that the leaves have fallen, I pass the time in bed by watching the squirrels run across the branches. The branches sway and the squirrel sometimes pauses. But I’m constantly awed at the ability of the squirrels to stay balanced on such skinny limbs, and the ability of the branches to stay strong and hold the squirrel.

This season, we’ve had many turkeys in our neighborhood. Up close, they are much larger than I imagined. From our kitchen window, I can see them nibbling on the kale and chard in our planter:

Turkeys eating kale and chard

The other day, I noticed a group of turkeys at our neighbor’s house and was amazed to see them walk across the top of on a fence.

IMG_1131

And then, I saw one nesting in a tree!

IMG_1138

Larger and heavier than a squirrel, I was even more in awe of their ability to balance, and of the tree’s ability to hold them.

I recently received the results of my CT scan, and was thrilled to hear that everything looks stable. I know that I am lucky to be alive this far out from my initial diagnosis, and at this time of year, I think back to the time I was initially diagnosed.

For me, the roughly 8 weeks between my diagnosis and start of chemo was unsettling (to say the least). It felt like I was facing a death sentence and unable to do anything about it.

During this time, though, one of my friends sent an article to me about a scientist named Stephen Jay Gould.

Stephen Jay Gould was a professor of zoology at Harvard University, and a specialist in the theory of evolution. In July 1982, at the age of 40, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer, with a median survival time of eight months after diagnosis.

The distribution curve looks like this (adapted from the graph on page 12 of the excellent book Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber):

This meant that half of the population diagnosed with mesothelioma died before eight months.

“But the other half, on the right, naturally spreads out beyond eight months, and the curve … always has a long tail that can extend to a considerable length of time.  … Stephen Jay Gould died twenty years later of another disease.”

He figured that someone’s got to be on that skinny end. It might as well be him.

I decided to adopt his mindset, and while I have wobbled on those skinny branches from time to time, I’m gratefully still here.

The squirrels and the turkeys remind me that although it might look crazy and impossible to balance on those skinny branches, they do it. They inspire me.

And it occurs to me, frequently, that you are helping to keep those branches strong, and to remind me that sometimes, they sway in the wind but it is all good. Thank you.

With love and gratitude,
Marie

 

Connections in Various Forms

Although I like to picture myself the way I have always been, sometimes I get shocking glimpses of my body that I cannot ignore. For example, I walked by a mirror and wondered “Who is that woman with the super skinny arms?” (Yes, one can be too thin.) Or one of the kids recently asked me to go bike riding with him, and when I said yes, my husband noted that I had not been able to move from the same spot for almost three hours – was biking a realistic possibility?

I don’t want to see myself like that; it just feels too limiting. Inside, I feel like the same person and I don’t like to think that my body has changed at all.

In the meantime, I again experienced a series of morning sneezes. They started a few weeks ago – two or three sneezes just after waking. Usually, sneezing really hurts my abdomen but these did not. Still, they came one after another every single morning before I got out of bed. Over the weeks, they became four, then five. The other day, I counted six sneezes in a row.

At sneeze number six, I finally remembered that my grandfather used to do the same thing, so I laughed and asked if this was him.

The sneezing stopped. I smiled, thinking that meant he got his message across, letting me know that he was with me.

A few hours later, standing in the driveway of a friend’s house, I remembered that morning and the sneezing. I laughed at myself and decided I was making too much of a coincidence.

Was it really you? I asked him in my mind as I looked from the driveway to the street.

As if in answer, a landscaping truck drove by. In large letters on the side of the truck was the name of the company, which was the same as my grandfather’s last name.

Okay. I can be skeptical but honestly, this stuff is such a kick! I’m glad that we remain connected to those we love, regardless of the form we each take.

We all grow and change form, in one way or another. We gain and lose weight. We build muscle and lose it. We change our perspectives and beliefs. We wear fancy clothes and sweatpants. Our hair changes length, color and volume. We age. My own physical form may be changing but, like my grandfather who is no longer here in physical form, we can still connect in the ways that we are able. And it can be so much fun.

Regardless of your form today – whether this is a fabulous day or you have areas where you would like to be “better” – I hope you have fun connecting with someone or something you love.

Blessings and joy always,
Marie

Windows of Opportunity

About two years ago, at Shira’s suggestion, I worked with Dale Swan. Her fabulous work with Tibetan bowls physically changed my energetic vibration in a positive way.

Shortly after we started working together, she was diagnosed with a cancer recurrence. This time around, the diagnosis shook her at her core, and she stopped work to focus on healing.

We connected very occasionally, and each time, I witnessed her struggling more and more. I heard it in our brief phone conversations, could feel it in her emails messages and once, when I ran into her, I saw that she did not have the strength of life force and the confidence that one has when you are feeling well and grounded. To me, she felt smaller and scared, and it scared me.

After that, she sent an email to me saying that writing would help her, but she was unable to get any words out. Could I work with her on that? For a million reasons, I never did get back to her, and we didn’t communicate again.

In recent months, I have been thinking of her and feeling her presence in the way that I feel when people have died. I was afraid to check and kept pushing the feelings away. But recently, I woke in the middle of the night, again with her presence so strong around me. I couldn’t get back to sleep until I googled her name.

And yes, she had died.

I read her obituary. I checked out her website, and I re-read our old email correspondence.

I got to learn all these other dimensions of Dale, like her work with the Indigenous Grandmothers and as an ordained minister, and I was sorry that I didn’t get to explore those with her when she was alive. I was sad that I didn’t step into the opportunity to help her write again.

She did indeed drop into an abyss, but as I read more, I learned that she rose out of it to write again. A few months after she wrote to me, she had a breakthrough and her writing started to flow. She got to record her story for her children and her grandchildren in a way that was powerful for her and, I hope, for them.

I read as her voice grew stronger and she regained her grounding. Learning this made me feel a little less guilty about not stepping up.

Bigger than that, though, I paused in wonder at how, if we are supposed to be doing something, God will somehow provide that window and the support. We may need to be patient, but the opening will appear and we can choose what to do.

For whatever it is that would help you to grow into who you would like to be, I pray that the right openings present themselves and that you are able to see them and step into them. And I am grateful for the openings that I have been given, and for my strength in stepping into the ones that I have. It always changes my life.

Love,
Marie