Expect the Unexpected

As most of you know I had surgery to remove my right thyroid about two weeks ago. Why remove it? It has had a nodule on it for about seven years.The nodule has been growing a small bit with each ultrasound. The last ultrasound showed a speedier growth than the previous ones. With consultations to my Endocrinologist and Surgeon, we decided it was time for it to go.

With three biopsies that showed it was benign, all of us expected the post excision biopsy to be the same. Well guess what? It is not benign, my biopsy shows a papillary cancer, encapsulated and well defined in the nodule. So now what? The plan is to remove the other lobe and be treated with radioactive iodine and become a Synthroid user for the rest of my life.

I am disappointed and sad. I am also a weary of having the C word wander into my vocabulary, again. Everyone reassures me this is different. Thyroid cancers are slow growing. I will probably die of something else first. Yet, I wasn’t expecting this and I am not happy, at the moment.

What about Africa? What about traveling back east? What about the rest of my life? It pisses me off that cancer can stop so much. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was ripping angry. Now I am just confused on how to handle this information.

Both of my doctors tell me it is OK to do Africa for two months. When women are pregnant they wait the full nine months, if they have to, before removing a cancerous thyroid. I get it, I really do, it is slow growing. I also know that when I found the lump in my breast they told me not to worry. “It doesn’t look like cancer.” When They thought it showed up again (it did not), I was told not to worry. I have now trained all the doctors to never tell me not worry.

I also remember Jim’s (my deceased husband) surgeon when they first thought he had metastasis say, “Go to Peru, make memories for you, make memories for her, make memories together. When you return we will get the bone biopsy. Same diagnosis, same treatment, same prognosis.” After the trip to Peru we returned, the biopsy was positive, he went on chemo and five months later he died. Now I know this is not the same but….I need some convincing.

My surgeon says I am experiencing some PTSD and I am sure that this is correct. What do I do with that information? He reminded me that this is a whole different type of cancer. Jim’s was aggressive with a poor prognosis.

I am seeking a second opinion to confirm that it is OK to wait five to six months before the rest of the treatment. I am thankful that the Moores Cancer Center is close.

When I had breast cancer, Jim was here to support me. Now I am alone. I know, I am not alone but I do feel a bit alone. Who do I talk to? Who do I share this news with? What if no one offers to help me out?

I am not alone. My friends have boldly stepped forward to love and help me. I don’t see that changing unless I do something really, really stupid. And even then I think some of them would be here for me. That is what friends are for.

I was hesitant to write this post. As I look back over the years I have pretty much shared everything, why not this? What I need from all my readers and friends is good, positive support. I don’t want to hear the worst stories. Please don’t ask me how I caused this cancer (I got that from a few people when I was diagnosed with breast cancer). All I want is love and support and an occasional ear. Diversion therapy is good.

I will continue to plan my life. Africa is still on, at the moment. I am not sure when I will leave the west coast, that depends on the second opinion appointment. After some quiet contemplation, taking a few days to digest and work through this information, I plan to go back to experiencing life to it’s fullest day by day. As one of my friends said to me “This is just another of life’s big hiccups”.

 

 

 

“The Power to Rise Again”

There are times in my life when I can use encouragement, support and more from known and unknown sources. When life gives me a hard push or I am struggling with indecision or fear, encouragement in positive outcome helps me so much.  The known sources are my friends or people I know through social media, like those of you who follow this blog. The unknown sources may be inspirational books, poems, and news articles.

About four months ago a good friend of mine, Pat, introduced me to the “Sunday Paper“. The Sunday Paper is Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter publication that offers news and views for a meaningful life.  This newsletter is one I quickly began to look forward to receiving each week. I like to go to my inbox before I even get out of bed to read the inspirational message at the beginning of the Paper. Each week there is usually something in this message that resonates with me and gives me courage when I need it most. I feel like each week there is something in these messages that speaks directly to me.

Now before, you of different political beliefs begin to think, “Here is that liberal Janet speaking out” or “Maria Shriver-just another Kennedy” I encourage you to go to the web site and have a look around. It is amazing what she comes up with week after week. She posts you-tube videos that are pertinent to the weekly theme. There are interviews with authors. There is so much in this paper, that I rarely read or listen to everything before the next week’s paper appears in my in-box. Some weeks I just read the inspirational message and short prayer at the end of the message.

This morning’s delivery in my inbox is titled The Power to Rise Again. If you click on this title it will take you directly to her page.

I have considered and thought about this article of inspiration often through out my day. I needed to read or hear what she had to say. At times it is hard to deal with other human beings. I am dealing with some issues with another human being at the moment. It feels unfair how I am being treated and even though I know “this too shall pass”, well right now I am in the middle of it all and it is a struggle.

Here are some of the quotes that I have found encouraging in Maria Shriver’s message this morning.

These days when I go to church on Palm Sunday, though, I find myself really thinking about the significance of the day. I also find myself thinking about how fast the court of public opinion can change someone’s life, just as it did for Jesus Christ.

On Sunday, he was met with adoration. By Friday, he was dead on the cross. I mention this because if we spend our whole lives working for other people’s admiration and validation, it’s worth remembering that external validation can change on a moment’s notice.

“The game is going to test you, never fold. Stay ten toes down. It’s not on you, it’s in you. And what’s in you, they can’t take away.”

He was right. Life is a test. It was for Jesus Christ, it was for his mother Mary, and it is for each and every one of us.

Life will always test us. I know it has tested me, and I know it has tested you. On many occasions, I have found myself saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” Or, “Wow, I have no experience for how to deal with that.”

But over the years, I have also found great moments of awe and wonder and joy in life’s surprises. Time and again, these surprises have led to me discover strength within myself that I never knew existed.

I say all this to remind you that if your week starts out great, but hits a bump along the way, you can still rise again by the following Sunday.

Life will test you and it will surprise you, but you have everything you need to rise up and move forward with strength and courage. I love knowing this to be true. I love believing it.

I have found such support in these words today. I will spend the rest of the week digging deeper into the Sunday paper for joy and enlightenment and support.

And then next Sunday….a new edition will be there to greet me.

 

 

A Quick Follow-up

This morning at five thirty a.m. I arrived at the hospital with my good friend, Phyllis, at my side. Today was surgery day. The day was finally here. I was ready and nervous and ready. In we went.

I am a believer in being a strong advocate for my own health care. I see any event involving my health care as a team effort. I like to believe we are a team, everyone who is involved with the event of the moment. I met Autumn who admitted me to the pre-surgical area. Around the corner were the nursing staff and everyone else involved with “getting me ready”. My surgeon, who I love, came in said good morning and marked the side of my body where I would have surgery. Then the anesthesiologist showed up.

At seven thirty in the morning I was wheeled into the operating room. I was introduced to the whole staff. I asked the staff, the anesthesiologist, and Dr Ressa to focus on me, tell me that I am doing well and that my healing would be complete, even though I would be off to sleep.  They offered to play soft and upbeat music. Well just how nice is that?

With all this out of the way I went to sleep. Two hours later I slowly woke in the PACU. I have a small suture line at the base of my neck. My throat was sore from intubation and the best news of all was given to me. When I was fully awake I could go home. I know that I still have to wait for the biopsy results to come back but…..going home gave me the affirmation I needed – there is probably no cancer.

Phyllis got me cozy in her comfy chair, pain pill on board and I was ready for a sleepy and comfortable afternoon. This evening I am a bit more awake. Phyllis is making sure I take it easy. I could not ask for a better friend. She is even entertaining Elsie. Well of course she is, she loves kitties too.

I want to thank everyone for all your good wishes. It is hard to put into words just how much all your kind words mean to me. I believe that all these good wishes, prayers and more, helped this day to run smoothly.  I am honored and blessed to have your support and encouragement.

Know that I am in full recovery mode and I can now begin my spring and summer travels, beginning May 1.

I hope you will come along for the adventure.

 

What To Do When I Am Sleepless

This Friday I am scheduled, finally, for thyroid surgery. I have planned this out. I feel confident that this is the correct thing to do and yet….sleep has been sporadic this week. I go to bed and my mind is full of random thoughts. Sometimes I fall asleep only to wake a few hours later. Then I cannot return to dreamland.

Miss Elsie

I can become frustrated or I can enjoy these sleepless moments during the night. The first thing that occurs is Miss Elsie, sensing I am awake will leave her cushy bed on the front seat and come snuggle with me. These moments are pure joy and I treasure them.

Then I begin to listen and feel. Now that it is warm enough I sleep with my windows open. I can feel the gentlest of breezes coming into the van. If I listen hard enough I imagine them whispering to me, telling me the tales of the invisible presences. I imagine the wind brings Jim’s touch to me from out there. I like the coolness on my skin. Once in a while the breezes will blow in sweet smells of flowers in bloom. Sometimes the smell is not quite as pleasant, meaning there might be a skunk close by.

I am in coyote country. I guess most of us are now. They have seen them on the streets of New York City. There is something special when the pack howls in the night. It reminds me of all those spaghetti westerns-sitting by the campfire with howling in the background, just prior to the cattle stampede. The coyotes are very vocal, at night, in the hills around Santee Lakes. Their multiple voices add to the special moments in the quiet of the early morning.

If I am involved in a good book, I may  read for an hour or so before I, once again, attempt to return to sleep. If any of my computers are near-by I may play a few games. Mostly I like to lay, listen and feel and pet Miss Elsie so her purr can add to these quiet moments.

I have two nights to go. I will not be surprised to be waking in the wee hours for these next few nights. Nerves are just nerves and I am so sure they are part of a very normal process. I look forward to returning to a better night sleep next week. Although I will miss the Elsie moments.

I am the first case of the day on Friday. I enter the hospital at 5:30 A.M. and hopefully will be out of there by noon. I am holding on to the best case scenario. It is hard to ask for thoughts and prayers, these are terms that are so overused in today’s world. If you can, drop a thought my way on Friday morning. The power of others loving me can do so much to help the healing process and good, very good outcomes.

Until then I look forward to what tonight brings.

 

 

The Date-Surgery is Scheduled

A little over a week ago I got the call from the surgery scheduling department. I am going for thyroid surgery, first case of the day, April 5. That sounds so easy to say. It gets put on my calendar. I still feel strongly this is the right thing to do and yet…..

I am nervous. As soon as I got the date, seriously, within twenty four hours, I was down with a cold. I have rarely been sick, despite healing from breast cancer, Jim’s death from cancer, selling the house and other such events that show up in my life. Yet the day after being given the date for this upcoming surgery I get sick. What the heck?

This is a big leap of faith. Faith that I have chosen the right course of action. Faith in myself. Faith in my doctors. Faith in the system. Faith in just about everything. Here is what I know, I feel strongly that this is the correct course of action. That has not wavered. I really like my surgeon. He is kind and strong and competent and treats me like an intelligent human being. This is a good thing. I also like my endocrinologist. He is another good man who has never said the words…”there is no need to worry”. I asked him not to ever say those words after I first met him and he never has. He is also knowledgable and competent and compassionate. I feel like we are a team.

I am getting my alternative healing team on board as well. I want to go into surgery as healthy and strong as I can be. It is time to book appointments for massages (Beth), acupuncture (Gayle) and myofascial release (Kelly). My background is in holistic health education-that is what my masters says-so I want a complete and whole team to help me go into surgery and heal in record time after surgery. It is a commitment I make so that I can be back into my life fully as soon as I can.

One recovers from colds. I am in the recovery phase. I am glad to be out and about and seeing the world at large, after lingering on the comfy chair in my friend Phyllis’s condo, watching Marvel Comic movies and sniffling and sleeping away five days of my life. Thor is still one of my all time favorites.

The good part is that Phyllis and I have a huge handle on our upcoming trip to Africa this summer. Whoo, planning takes time. Despite my sniffling and sneezing we are down to the last few reservations. Africa is on the radar. It certainly gives me something to look forward to. Now it is time to get down to reading about South Africa and Kenya. I need to learn Lightroom (I just subscribed). It is time to delve more into my camera and find more magic in the camera body and it’s lenses. Ooh and I get to go shopping.

First stop: Victoria Falls

Here is something I have learned about myself over the last many years. I am not fond of planning holidays. Jim always had to sit me down and firm up plans after days of putting it off. I love to travel. I am not a big fan of planning. And…I used to be a tour manager. What? How does that work?  I don’t know. I actually enjoyed putting together a tour. The more I focused on the planning the smoother the tour went.

I tend to be lazy. My traveling in a mobile home, my RV, has given me the ability to decide at the last minute. What direction am I heading? Who or what do I want to see? Does that campground look good? How about a road into the National Forest or BLM? I find this lifestyle lends itself to last minute decisions.

For now, I am once again stationary in San Diego. I have a great support team of friends around me. Even though I am stubborn and think I can “do it on my own”, I know that I will reach out to all these people who have supported me without question over the past six years and longer. I am glad they are around. I am glad they understand my stubbornness and show up any way.

And then there are those of you who are far away or who I have never met. With all the support known and unknown, I am ready to walk forward to April 5. And..I will come out the other side ready to travel east.

Always Moving Forward.

 

 

 

 

A Different Winter in the Desert.

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With daylight savings time arriving this weekend, I have been reflecting on my winter and the arrival of spring. This winter has been a very different winter than the previous two.

The first two winters after I went full time,  I went solo into the desert, in my RV. I saw a few friends along the way, and even traveled with a few for a short time. Those first two winters were solo winters for me. I withdrew from too much “people” interaction and contemplated life, my existence, what had happened with Jim and more. I call these two winters my existential winters.

It is not easy to delve into the depths of myself and work my way out the other side of some dark and truthful moments. Since then I have discovered that it is not unusual for people in their mid-sixty’s to go through this self evaluation and reflective time. It was very reassuring to discover that I was not alone and that it is a process that others might be going through as well.

And I thought I should be done growing by the time I arrived at this age. Ha!!!

This winter was very different. I chose to stay close to San Diego as I was truly hoping that my thyroid surgery would be behind me, by now, and I would be in the recovery stage. Well, guess what?, I am still waiting. The surgeons must be very busy.

I went to the desert about two hours east of San Diego and spent the winter. The Anza Borrego desert is an amazing place. It is alive and usually dry. It is a good place to be solo, yet my time there, over the past few months has been delightfully active with other people. I camped near a good friend of mine, Peggy, for almost two months. I enjoyed meeting her new beau and spending time hiking and exploring the area with them.

Friends in the Desert

Sandy and Pat arrived. They are fellow Roadtrekers and delightful people. I am happy to be friends with them. More hiking ensued, including a climb to the top of Coyote Mountain. The three of us met two winters back at the White Water Draw Wildlife Refuge (AZ) and we are friends. I cherish them.

More friends arrived, Karen, Larry and Joni. I had the opportunity to hike and camp with them in a different part of the park. Karen and Larry arrange private river raft trips. I met them when I became a swamper for Zee on the North Fork of the Flathead River, over a year ago. They are fellow desert hounds, hikers and explorers. 

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I took time to meet new friends on the east side of the Salton Sea. Rhonda and Jim are more fellow Roadtrekers. They spend part of their winter running away from Michigan, seeking the warmer weather of Southern California. I spent two nights at The Fountain of Youth RV Resort. For two days I enjoyed the hot springs and getting to know this delightful couple. They took me on a tour of Slab City, East Jesus, and Salvation Mountain. I might suggest a visit to this unique spot.

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A few days later Mary, (Zee) arrived after she traveled for two months in Mexico. After spending time on the east side of the Salton Sea and getting some serious bird watching in, oh those cute burrowing owls, we met up with Karen and Larry in Joshua Tree National Park. We arrived in time to witness a Superbloom on the south side of the park.

Being stationary near Borrego Springs gave me the opportunity to become involved in the town, meet the locals and check out small town life. It was a seven mile ride to town from my campsite. This is a small town in the desert and a hub of activity. I attended the theater, an Independent Film Festival, saw the San Diego Ballet Company perform, went to yoga, and enjoyed playing bingo. Their new library is also an amazing place to sit and work, read or ponder. Oh, and the best place in town for goodies is the Fudge Store. Yummy. (try their Maple Fudge-trust me it is to die for.)

fullsizeoutput_2921The desert has always been magic to me. This year was a very different experience. It was wild and rainy and flash floods became common. I have never seen the desert so green or so wet. On the intense rainy days, my favorite activity was to go see the flash floods. It was a very cool thing to watch. I hiked into waterfalls that usually are dry. Not this year. I love seeing nature at its wildest. This winter was the desert’s turn.

My winter was different. I felt ready to be more social. It was fun interacting with everyone and yet, I could still find time alone to contemplate and breath and just be. It was a good winter in the desert.

I have returned to San Diego. Currently I am staying with my friend Phyllis. We are intensively planning our trip to Africa this summer. There is work to be done, reservations to be made and much to discuss. We are doing well. We have not gotten into arguments yet. It bodes well for a two month trip to somewhere very different.

I enjoy San Diego. I am more of a tourist now in this city. I take the time to go see things that I would have put off, while I was still living here. Though I am enjoying my time here, my mind often wanders to those wide open vistas and a bit of longing fills my soul. I know that I will return to those wild open spaces as often as I can.

The world awaits— Out there awaits. 

I am on my way.

 

 

Roadtreking & Grief

“Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.”

“Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people, but individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill health or the end of a relationship.”

There has been an on-going story out of Kitchener, Ontario over the past several weeks. To make a long story very short, Roadtrek, the company who manufactured my RV, due to some issues that have yet to be revealed, is closed. This fine vehicle no longer has a mother ship to return to. And…I am feeling sad.

This company always welcomed me to it’s factory. I was welcomed as if I were family. When I had an issue I could chat with them on line or call them. Names such as Leo, Deron, Sean and others were my go to guys with all things Roadtrek. Now these people and nine hundred others have lost their jobs and are trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. For some this was the only job they had ever known. It is a hard reality they have to face.

It is a hard reality I have to face, too. I no longer have a mothership to go to. Who do I turn to when no one else is able to solve my issue? Although I do have other resources out there, currently I feel like I am at a loss.

I started this post with two quotes from Wikipedia. I know grief, personally. My husband, Jim died over six years ago. Whew talk about grief. Many things are now better in my life yet this issue of loss still raises it’s tentacles and wraps around many parts of my life. Often I don’t see it coming until it is present and I have to cope and understand these issues all over again. 

I am grieving for the loss of this company. I have lost friends, I have lost the Company. I feel sad and a bit melancholy. And yes I am grieving. Thankfully this is not the strong unrepentant grieving of Jim’s death, but make no mistake about it I am certainly grieving. 

Like many of us who own these wonderful machines we are trying to figure out what is next. I am thankful I am no longer in warranty. I have resources. I know there are people out there who can help. I don’t have the easy fix of calling the factory. I am going to have to learn even more about how to take care of my home. 

I also understand that it is important to give myself this time to grieve. It is OK to feel sad or angry or melancholy or whatever other emotion I feel over this loss. 

And then….I will get in my Roadtrek, EmmyLou and go off on another adventure.