How I Am Doing, Friendship & More

Last Wednesday I took the Radioactive Iodine pills and immediately went into isolation. Everyone said it was easy. I would have no problems and I would be fine.

Here is what I want you to know. This Has Not Been Easy!!!!! Here is what happens when I have no thyroid hormone in my body. I took the pill at 10:30 a.m. By 4 p.m. I developed a ringing in my ears. It was more like a high pitched squeal. And I bottomed out. I have been exhausted and lacking in energy. But the ears are a big deal.

Finally, on Friday my endocrinologist ordered me back on my meds a day early. Hypothyroidism can create tinnitus (ringing in the ears). My squealy friend is still with me and I am exhausted often.

Sunset Over Mission Bay

I am patiently waiting for the tinnitus to go away. I continue to drink lots and lots of fluids and I push myself to take a short walk every day. Tonight I got far enough to see a beautiful sunset over Mission Bay. That certainly picks up my spirits.

This too shall pass. I am not complaining, I just thought you might like to know how I am doing.

I really can’t complain. I am camped at the end of a culdesac or driveway. It is private and pretty when the afternoon sun shines through my rig. I am slowly getting my taxes together and I finished and mailed in my California ballot. I am getting things done.

My friends, Cynthia and Ward, have gone way beyond being good friends and hosts. They designated a downstairs bathroom to me so I did not have to worry about using my bathroom in the rig for the past 5 days. I often slip through the front door with my key and they don’t even know I am in the house. It has worked out well.

This is a sign of true friendship, really true friendship. I am overwhelmed and grateful for their graciousness and caring for me. They have let me slip into their lives without a second thought, as far as I can tell. I am grateful for friends such as these.

Ward & Cynthia the day we took Jim’s Ashes to Sea

I met Cynthia and Ward through Scottish Country Dancing. I have known Ward since I moved to San Diego in 1985. He is a teacher for the San Diego Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. I have known both of them for many, many years. Cynthia and I have become good friends since Jim, my husband, died from cancer seven years ago. I have enjoyed getting to know her. I have been grateful over the years for their ongoing support. She is a very talented crocheter and stitcher. I have renewed my crocheting skills with her encouragement and teaching. It is a fun and ongoing relationship.

I will remain here for another week so I can recover at a snail’s pace if need be. I am aiming to recover a bit faster than that but my body will decide that point not me.

Tomorrow I can go back out into the world. I have to attempt it because I need to take care of my rig and get more propane. Life continues. on.

What is next? On February 28th I get a full-body scan to set a baseline. I am a bit nervous about this. I can do this, though. Nerves are just a part of the whole game plan. I get nervous every year when I get my mammogram. Cancer has a way of doing this to a person.

My ultimate goal is to get through this moment in time and move forward with my life. I know I will be in the San Diego area for a while. I need to make sure I am on the right dose of Synthroid (a synthetic thyroid hormone). It takes time to build in the body. My next labs will be in five weeks. If it is OK then I am good to go. If not, they change the dose and I wait another five weeks to get my labs drawn again. I may not have to wait here but if I do, it is not too much of a hardship to be in San Diego and surrounding areas.

I can do so much more with all your support. Today I am grateful to see another sunset. Today I am grateful for all those who love and support me. Today I am grateful.

Getting Ready to Glow

This past Friday I returned to San Diego. I am getting ready for the next part of the treatment for thyroid cancer. I needed to be in the city early for lab work.

Happily, at the moment I am parked south of town, on the bay. I love the convenience of the Bike the Bay Trail from here. It is a flat and often windy ride. I had plans to bike the whole thing but then I remember the horrible disrepair of the streets around Imperial Avenue and decided to bike the better section down and back. It is a great trail, mostly off-road and takes one around the south end of San Diego Bay and up The Strand to Coronado. It is a flat and windy ride and very pretty. On The Strand, the bay is on one side and the Pacific Ocean is on the other. As you arrive in Coronado there is a beautiful view of the Hotel Del Coronado, one of the grande dame of hotels built in the 1800s. This time I biked it without too much of a headwind, it made for a nice ride.

Tomorrow I leave here and move into my friends’ driveway for several days. On Wednesday I will drive to Kaiser, alone, take the pill and semi-isolate myself for approximately a week. My little home on wheels will become my sanctuary for this time.

sag wagon summer

Who knew my Roadtrek would ever be needed for this purpose. EmmyLou has been a sag wagon for a summer, driven friends to spend Easter with the family, and an art studio, and more. Now it is going to shelter me, continue to keep me from harm, and safe until this is over. She is definitely a wonder mobile.

I am a bit nervous and overwhelmed about this whole thing. I am putting this nuclear medicine into my body. It is a scary thing.

On the day I began a low iodine diet, I started reading a book titled Radium Girls. It is about the introduction of radium onto the world stage. Very shortly things started to go south for the women who worked in the watch factories where they painted radium onto the hands of the watches. I woke the morning of the diet and stopping my meds in sheer panic. I couldn’t do this. I mean, these women were dying from radium poisoning.

Thankfully I was staying across from Jim and Rhonda. I walked over there still panicking. They calmed me down, suggested that I return the book to the library (which I did) and then we talked it through. Jim reminds me a lot of my husband Jim. He was calm and insightful and asked the right questions. The final question he asked was “What would Jim say to me?” I looked at him and I said he would be compassionate and understanding and then say move ahead, get it done so we can move on with our lives. After all, there are adventures out there that are waiting.

It took a few more days for me to make a final decision to move forward. Once that was made, then I could enjoy my time in the desert with friends and sleep better at night.

Here are a few things I know. I choose not to die from cancer. After all the years working as a nurse, loving Jim through his disease, cancer is not kind. If I can, I want to remain cancer-free for the rest of my life. I know ultimately we don’t always have a choice yet there are some ways we can encourage that route not to occur.

Head and neck cancers come back. They are known for this. Not everyone experiences a second round but many do. Jim did. I choose to do everything within my knowledge to help prevent that from happening.

Once the radioactive pill is taken I know there are certain things I can do to help my body survive radiation treatment and I will diligently do all that is required, drink a lot of water, suck on hard sour lemon candies and stay on the low iodine diet for a few more days. I will be a very important part of the team that is assembled to help me through this. These people do not only include all the medical people, they also include my friends and family.

I am getting ready to glow and move forward. It is too bad I can’t become a superhero for a week and use this opportunity to fight for what is good and right. Oh wait a minute, I can do that without radioactive iodine.

My current mantra is:  “Get Through February”. Many of you ask what is next and although I know you are curious, it causes a bit of anxiety in me. Why? Because I don’t know. I need to get through the end of the month and the first few weeks in March and then, hopefully my world will open up a bit and I can explore what may be next. Currently, I need to get through February.

The desert helped me to feel strong physically, mentally and spiritually. I am in the best shape I have been in, for quite some time. For now, I want to take this forward and focus on today. Tomorrow can wait.

Getting ready to Glow.

 

 

 

 

It Takes Just One Person-It Takes a Village

Today I went on a bike ride. This is my last day in Borrego Springs for a bit and maybe until next year. I decided to bike to Henderson Canyon Road to see what the flowers looked like. Were they there? Were they big? Were they small? And off I went.

When I arrived at Henderson Canyon Road there were paper napkins all over the road. It appeared that a crate had fallen off something and smashed and it’s contents, the napkins were scattered far and wide. The wind was picking them up and blowing them into my desert. How could that happen? I propped my bike on a sign and decided to take action. I was going to collect every single napkin. I didn’t care how long it took. They were not blowing into my beloved desert.

I knew it was going to be a chore, but I got started. A few minutes passed and another bicyclist rode by. He looked back, turned around, got off his bike and started to pick up napkins. Two more saw us, they got off their bikes and joined our effort. Four more came saw all of us, got off their bikes and started picking up napkins. Before I knew it, every single napkin was in someone’s hands.

What to do with those napkins? Someone had a bag and in they went. Others got stuffed into a day pack. The rest got stuffed into pockets. Except for the smashed wood bits no one would have ever known that a few minutes before there were hundreds of napkins on the road, blowing off into the desert. We picked up every single one.

When the first biker stopped, I laughed when I saw him start picking up napkins. When the others stopped my heart glowed. None of us talked very much, we just went to work. What a team. I enjoyed this moment in time. I truly had no idea this would happen.

One person’s action can have a chain effect. And that is why I titled this post “It Takes Just One Person/It Takes a Village. My action triggered everyone else and for those few moments, we became a village. It was companionable and fun. And when it was done, we thanked each other, mounted our bikes and left. I was proud and delighted.

If I hear someone say, “What difference can just one person make? What difference can I make?” I now know it can make a difference. It is a simple lesson with impactful insight.

It was a good day today.

 

 

 

 

 

Friends in the Desert

A majority of the time I travel alone in my Roadtrek. I hike alone. I bike alone. I have gotten used to my own company, quirks and all.

On January 6, I left San Diego for the desert, Borrego Springs and the Salton Sea (all part of the California Desert). I love to visit the desert to breathe the air, hear the quiet and contemplate. The gentlest of breezes catch my attention. It is my time to renew, refresh and think things through.

The past two years have been different. I meet friends, travel with them, hike with them and more. Most of them I only see once a year, in the desert, in the winter. They arrive from Washington, Oregon, California and further. They come for a few days, a week, or the season.

I feel like I have been a social butterfly.

Peggy and Roger greeted me as I arrived. Peggy and I met traveling in our small B class RVs. Peggy has moved up to a larger rig since she met Roger. Usually, they are here for the winter season. This year they changed it up as they are heading east to take a cruise out of Miami in February.  I had about a week and a half with them before they started the meander east. It’s always fun to meet up with Peggy, she likes to play Bananagram.😁We talk and chat our way through hikes, catching up on everything.

Upon my arrival, Cori was here for a night in her Roadtrek Zion. Cori, like me full times in her little rig. Although our visit was brief we were able to get an evening hike in before dinner and a visit. The following day she pulled out for Quartzite, AZ.

Hiking with Sandy & Pat

On Jan 21 I had to leave for San Diego for a few days. Dr appointments waited. Three days later I arrived back at my free campground to meet up with Sandy and Pat. They own an older Roadtrek and travel each winter. I love these people. Last winter when we met up I had a hard time keeping up with them on the trail. They used to be ultra-marathoners. This year it was much easier. I am in better shape and have been hiking or biking most days since I arrived here.

I never know where I will meet up with Sandy & Pat. One July they were traveling from Britsh Columbia back to the United States and they found me in northern Montana camped next to a lake. We celebrated the Fourth of July together, got some kayaking in, hiked, and had a good steak dinner, then we were on our way in different directions once again. I have met them in Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and California.

Forster’s Tern

Salton Sea

 

Sora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After they left I headed for the Salton Sea. I love birds, all kinds of birds. At this time of year, the Sea is full of migratory and stationary birds. This winter, I have been there three times. It has yet to disappoint. I went for a day with Peggy & Roger (see paragraph 3), once on my own and this time to visit Rhonda and Jim at the Fountain of Youth RV Resort & Spa. Michigan is harsh in the winter so these folks head south in their Roadtrek for a few months every winter. A benefit of the Fountain of Youth are the mineral hot springs that are available when one lodge’s there. They are delightful people and I am glad to have met and become friends with them. I also like that they are up for any adventure. While we visited and caught up, we hiked to palm groves with thousands of palm trees, known as the Dos Palmas and Adreas Grove.

Jim, Janet, Rhonda & Cricket

We also had time to explore the eclectic and funky town of Bombay Beach, and have dinner at the American Legion (the lowest one in altitude in the United States).

I also had serious conversations on this visit with them. I miss Jim, my husband who died from cancer seven years ago, I miss having someone to hash things out with. I am glad my friends are willing to come forward and fill that role when I need someone to talk to. They asked the right questions and hopefully, I found the right answers.

Another day we bird watched along the marshes of the Salton Sea always ending with a visit to the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge to see the resident burrowing owls. Beyond cute! While I was visiting there Gary, another full-time RV’er came in the night before I left to say hi and visit for a couple days. Gary gave me his knee scooter when I broke my ankle five years ago. He and Penny have been on my radar ever since.

Karen & Larry

I left The Fountain of Youth and drove up the street about twenty miles to meet up with Karen and Larry. I met them through my friend, Zee, who is in Mexico for the winter. I first met them on a river trip in Northern Montana on the North Fork of the Flathead River. This is my second year of meeting them in the desert. They are from Oregon and travel in the winter months. The added attraction of my meet-up this year is they have two kitties that travel with them. I needed a kitty fix.

Solei

They followed me back to Borrego Springs and we have been hiking and four-wheeling and of course, talking. There are marvelous things to explore everywhere I go. It is often much more fun to share it with someone else.

The flow of people in and out of my life is something I miss when I am traveling solo. This winter has more than made up for the social side of myself. On days I when I want some solo time I am able to say “I am going biking today” and I get that alone time I need in the desert. It is also nice to retreat to my Roadtrek and close the door when I need to. We all seem very respectful of the time we spend alone and together. Friends do that for each other.

Friday I am returning to San Diego. I am camping posh at an RV resort in Chula Vista for a few nights and then will be camping in another friend’s driveway for several days as I finish with the treatment for thyroid cancer.

I have family that I love and care for and hopefully, they feel the same for me. Yet, I have a true family of friends all over the country and Canada. I am grateful that they include me in their adventures, great and small. I am thankful they open their arms in greeting. I am thankful that they accept me in whatever shape I am at the moment.

Today I am thankful for true and good friends. Today I am thankful.

A Girl & Her Tools

When Jim and I were a team, I used to tease him about trips to Home Depot. He would walk into the store and immediately developed this glazed look in his eyes. He loved Home Depot and any other store that had tools and other items that he could dream about.

While I still owned my home, I began to appreciate his tools. I soon found myself walking into Home Depot and developing that same glazed look on my face. My first purchase was a battery-run drill. I love that little drill. It is in a cool orange case with different drill bits. I have added new bits as I have needed them.

Since then I have purchased more tools. With each one, I read about them and learn how to use them properly. I carry my tools with me in my rig. I actually find I enjoy looking at them and trying them out.

My second purchase was a riveter so I could replace the cabinet latches in my rig. When I first tried it out, I was so excited to see how easy it was to complete the job. The right tool makes it so much easier.

I recently decided to take Jim’s Dremel Tool out of storage and add it to the items in my rig. I really like the Dremel tool. I have used it with a diamond sander to repair my windows. They now fit so much more snuggly. There are no leaks and when it gets cold, down to the 30’s tomorrow night, my Roadtrek is warmer. The right tool for the right job, that is what I say now.

 

Two weeks ago I sold a computer desk and file cabinet out of my storage unit, in San Diego. The people who bought it were having trouble putting it in their SUV. We needed a screwdriver to take screws out of a shelf so there was more room to fit the two pieces in the car. Those screws were tight. I immediately said, “wait I have a drill” and went to my rig to get it out. Within a few seconds, all the stubborn screws were loose. Both the desk and the file cabinet fit into the back of their SUV and they were on their way.

More evidence to prove the right tool for the right job.

When I first purchased my sweet little Roadtrek, I told myself that if anything went wrong with it I was going to find someone to repair it. It is amazing how that has changed. Unless it is totally out of my league, I will attempt to fix it myself. It is not unusual to find me creeping under the rig to look around. If something is held in place better, with a few zip ties, out they come and the job is done.

I appreciate the encouragement other RV owners have given me to try solutions first. When something is new I ask for instruction, in person or on the web. If it looks doable and will not cause irreparable harm I will give it a try.

Being involved with repairs has helped me to learn more about my rig. I find I don’t panic as much when something goes wrong. I can take a deep breath, and see if I can figure out a solution.

What is fun for me is to be able to offer my tools to men and women in need. I can even tell them how to use them. I was proud of my little drill in the orange case the other night. I was proud that I could bring it along and get the job done.

I am proud to be a girl and her tools.

 

Another Next Step

Two days ago I returned to San Diego from the desert, dragging my feet all the way. It was finally time for my appointment with the Radiologist to discuss the next step regarding the treatment for thyroid cancer. I have been very good to this point of compartmentalizing the whole issue. Now it is time to bring it back into focus again and deal with it.

I have received questions from some of my friends wondering when the next step would happen. This morning, along with my good friend, Cynthia, I was off to my Nuclear Medicine appointment. The Doctor was a very nice man and extremely patient as we reviewed the preparation for this upcoming procedure. The preparation appears to take more effort than the treatment with the radioactive iodine.

This morning the doctor and I discussed how I will live for the week of being radioactive. It looks like I will be able to stay in my rig. I will need to be mindful of being too close to people and avoid children and pregnant women. There are certain things that are part of RV living. One of them is managing my gray and black water (waste). After speaking with the Doctor this morning I am feeling a bit more comfortable regarding that management issue. It is not always easy not having a permanent home.

I am scheduled for treatment on February 19. Two weeks prior I start on a low iodine diet, stop my medication to begin to prepare my body to receive the RAI. I want to starve any thyroid tissue remaining in my body so it is eager to receive the RAI. The week after ingesting the RAI I will be radioactive. Unfortunately, I will not gain superpowers or become a Marvel Comics character. Shoot, wouldn’t that be cool?

It all sounds so logical and easy. I am dealing with emotions. At this appointment this morning, I discovered more emotions than I expected. I found I was weepy and a bit scared. I am worried. I have had cancer for a second time. I don’t care if it is a very treatable cancer, I still have had it. After Jim had head and neck cancer, I swore that it was the one type of cancer I never wanted (not that I want any other kind), and here I am with head and neck cancer. This appointment was in the hospital where Jim was treated and spent the last two weeks of his life. I did not present my best self this morning. Thank goodness for tissues.

After my appointment, I went for a bike ride, a long bike ride. Exercise helps gets my emotions back into some semblance of control and order. And now I am writing this. I am at the moment emotionally exhausted. I am working my way towards acceptance. Acceptance of treatment, Acceptance of needing to rely on friends since my family members live far away, Acceptance that I will need to be in and out of San Diego until the end of February. Staying put too long, makes me think I am missing something somewhere else. 😀 Always the intrepid traveler.

During my three days here I have successfully sold a desk and file cabinet from my storage locker. It was a bit of an adventure getting both pieces into the buyer’s SUV. With great persistence, we were able to get both pieces in, and off they went. Bernadette and Tom are a very nice couple and I feel like two more “Jim and Janet” items went off to a good home. Next, the kayaks. This will be another tale for another post.

Tomorrow I will return to the desert. I am looking forward to it. I am driving into a meetup with good friends that I see yearly, in the desert and sometimes other places as well. Sandy and Pat are such a delightful couple and I look forward to meeting them again. I am ready to hike. I am ready to relax and get on with a normal life for a little while. The one thing I do not want to do is wait. I want to get on with life until the middle of February. Winter is desert season and I am off to enjoy it, in all its glory.

Getting ready and getting moving.

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Desert and Back Again

As the new year unfolded I departed San Diego to drive east to the desert, and the small town of Borrego Springs. I spent a great part of last winter in this community and liked it enough to return for another year. It is close to San Diego so I can return for appointments when needed.

Another attraction for me is seeing my friends Peggy and Roger again. They winter here and so do I. When they leave, they are going on a cruise, I will certainly venture a little further out into the rest of this very large state park.

I love the desert. I appreciate the quiet and the slowing down that seems to be required to stay here. It is a process to quiet and slow down. It doesn’t happen automatically.

Phase 1

When I first arrive here I am itchy. I want to hike. I want to bike. I want to go into town and find out all the things that are happening. I want to be busy.

Phase 2

After a few days, I find I am getting slower to start. I like to lay in bed and read and play computer games. Uh oh, I am beginning to relax.

Phase 3

Phase three started last night. I had been out bicycling during the day and did not remember to drink enough water. By evening I was exhausted and tired and recognized the signs of dehydration. Instead of going to my friends I chose to stay in. Read and go to bed early and drink, drink, drink.

Early bedtimes make for early risings. This morning I awoke just before dawn. I started to read. It is a good book. I reminded myself to look out the window to see what the sunrise was like. I immediately sprang from my comfy bed, grabbed the camera and went walking. A beautiful amazing sunrise can wake me instantly.

Ah, I am getting to the desert point of view. The desert is marvelous in the cool and quiet mornings. The animals and the birds are still about. The breeze is soft on my skin and there is still a chill to the air. It is so quiet and peaceful. I feel like I am the only one in the whole world, awake and enjoying this moment in time. I have finally arrived to that desert state of mind.

Next week I have to return to San Diego for an appointment. I can already feel myself dragging my feet. Shoot I just got settled in and now I have to go to the big city where everything is so much busier. Retaining this quiet when I am somewhere bustling and big is still a lesson I need to learn. Yoga helps. Meditation helps. Seeing friends helps. I don’t mind this too much when I know that my return to the desert will be soon, really soon. It will be good to see friends. It will be good to finally get the last phase of the treatment for thyroid cancer in order.

I can make plans and then return to the desert once again.