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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Step

Friday marks two months since Miss Elsie took a walk. I decided to give her two months. I stayed in the back of the campground where she disappeared and waited. I walked the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, put her on all the different sites I could find, went to the shelters one to two times a week, and still no Elsie.

I recognized a few weeks ago that I was going to have to wean myself from my campsite and this park. I decided that the best thing to do was to move to another site within the park for 3 nights so I could adjust to not waiting and experience something a bit different. Currently, I am camped on one of the lakes and it is quite lovely. I enjoy being near the water and watching the ducks and birds.

Taking the next step into the New Year has many different meanings for me and for most of us. Just because the ball drops at midnight doesn’t mean that our lives start fresh. My life continues to move on to a few new steps. The first next step is obvious, moving away from my campsite and getting ready to move on with my life.

In the middle of the whole Elsie debacle, I continued to recover from my second thyroid surgery. Neither of these surgeries, the one in April and the one in October, was a hard recovery. I did some alternative healing modalities to quicken the process. The scar is barely noticeable (thank goodness for a few wrinkles). I try to remember to massage my neck often. I want to keep the scar tissue at a minimum. And, I remain positive.

The next step in this process is deciding whether to move forward with the radioactive iodine treatment (RAI). My endocrinologist is really encouraging me to follow through, yet I have been hesitant. You may wonder why and so do I. There are no real clear answers to this hesitancy. I have decided to go forward with the next step, which is an appointment with Nuclear Medicine. This is when I will get the definitive details on the whole process. I also know that I can stop the process at any time.

Taking the pill is definitely a process. First I have to switch medicines, that has been done. Two weeks prior to the ingestion of the RAI, I need to go on a low iodine diet, so that any thyroid tissue that is left will be thirsty for iodine. Next, I have to isolate myself from the general public for a week to ten days. That is the hardest part. I need to be eight to ten feet from the closest person. Can I stay in my rig? What precautions do I need to take?  How do I manage the daily chores of living in an RV? How, what, when and where? Yes, this is what I ask myself.

I belong to two thyroid support pages on Facebook. The people on these sites have been extremely helpful and supportive. When something happens in my life these support groups are a lifeline. I am sure others feel the same. I also have been accessing another web site, Thyroid Cancer Survivors. This site is loaded with information and knowledge and a cook-book. The best support is being supported by others who have already gone through what I am going through now.

I know I have a lot of support out in the big wide world, yet when it comes down to this week in my life, I am in it alone. At times like this, I miss Jim. I miss having someone to bounce everything off of. I miss having someone to take care of me so I can go into retreat for a week. I miss someone being there to make it easier. Yet I will endure and it is only a week of my life. Well, that is not too bad.

The desert at it’s best

Tomorrow I leave the campground. I am visiting a friend in the mountains, cold but not too cold. I come back into San Diego for an appointment mid-week and then I am driving east. It is the desert season. I plan to arrive in Borrego Springs and Anza Borrego State Park by Thursday at the latest. I have friends there and I am looking forward to catching up. With boots and poles in hand, I am looking forward to hiking the hills and washes.

The nice thing about the desert being so close at hand, I can easily drive into town the night before my appointment on the 23rd and when it is done, turn around and drive the two hours back east. At the moment I realize I need to be flexible. I want to move forward with my life even while I wait.

It is important to remember to take one step at a time. Too many steps all at once increases stress. I don’t like to do stress so I will take it one step and then the next. It is all any of us can do. And look for the positive in each given moment.

Taking the next step.

 

Conversational Narcissism

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”                      Epictetus

Sunday I took myself out for a late breakfast at a restaurant near where I am camped in San Diego County. The Trails is becoming a favorite of mine. The menu is good and even though it is often crowded and there is a wait, as a single I get to sit at the first come first serve counter. I love sitting there. I never know who is going to be sitting next to me.

The first time I went I met a young man who shared with me all of his favorites on the menu. We had a delightful conversation. Since then I have seen him again. As I walked in he was walking out. Yesterday I met Dan, an older man, an author, and quite the conversationalist. I spent almost two hours chatting with him, learning about his unique and interesting life. For two whole hours, I left my cell phone ignored on the counter, and when it did ring I simply set it to message. I don’t do that often enough these days. It is definitely something I would like to do again and a bit more often.

Lately, I have had some sites cross my Facebook page regarding the topic of Conversational Narcissism. When I reposted it I was amazed at the responses I received. It appears many of us saw a little bit of ourselves in the related post: The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend. This article and further articles I have researched on this topic have made me very aware of my human fallacy when attempting to support and listen to my friends and others.

“Conversational Narcissism was coined by sociologist Charles Derber and describes the tendency to turn a conversation back to yourself. Conversational narcissists tend to keep the focus on themselves, so you’re getting attention but not giving any away. It invalidates the other person and what they’re trying to share. The problem is, talking about ourselves is natural, so it’s hard to notice when you’re overdoing it.” (Marissa Lalibert)

I have experienced this with Jim’s death, my own experiences with cancer and currently with the loss of Elsie the Cat. Many times the conversation was turned around to the person who was attempting to listen and support me. There are times that this made me feel unacknowledged and uncomfortable. Never, please never tell someone to move on. Need I say more.

Part of being human is recognizing my own frailties and learning how to change and grow from this recognition. I recognize that I have also been the one turning the conversation to myself. I hope that it happens less now. I am more aware of this conversational tendency and I can catch myself, take a deep breath and turn the conversation back to the person who is needing my support and love.

In my twenties and thirties, I studied medicine and spirituality with the Native American culture. I valued the “Talking Stick”. The Talking Stick is a tool used in many Native American traditions when a council is called. It allows all council members to present their point of view. It is passed from person to person as they speak and only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk during that time period. Using an object, any object is a visible reminder to those of us not holding the stick to be quiet and listen, really listen. The person holding the stick is able to complete a thought or idea. The speaker feels his opinion is respected and valued and considered.

The Society of Friends, more commonly known as The Quakers also practice this art of listening in their Silent Meetings for Worship. “During worship, a message may come to us. Friends have found that messages may be for our personal reflection or for sharing on another occasion. Or they may be led to stand and speak. Friends value spoken messages that come from the heart and are prompted by the Spirit, and we also value the silence we share together. Following a spoken message, we return to the silence to examine ourselves in the Light of that message. Meeting for worship ends when one Friend, designated in advance, shakes hands with his or her neighbors. Then everyone shakes hands. No two meetings are ever the same.”

Back to Dan at the restaurant on Sunday. He was a delightful man with a very interesting past. The longer I sat there, I realized he never asked me anything about myself. For almost two full hours Dan spoke of himself and his life experiences. Dan never even asked me my name. Although I enjoyed hearing of his life and the history of Los Angeles, where he grew up, and what he had achieved in his life, he never once asked me about myself. What was I doing there? Where did I live? The usual conversation openers when people meet for the first time were not present.

In certain circumstances, maybe Conversational Narcissism is OK. I learned a lot from Dan. He was a storyteller and wove the stories of his life in an interesting and ear-catching way. I had a delightful two-hour conversation with him. I did not feel devalued or left out. Even recognizing that he never asked me anything about myself, the two hours were delightful. I had no expectations just a good breakfast companion.

I also think that what we see as a one-sided conversation, maybe contributed to loneliness. Dan lived alone, I live alone. Sometimes when I am around others I will tend to talk more than when I shared my life with Jim and even Miss Elsie the Cat. Yes, I do get tired of my own company. Yes, there are ideas I want to share. I do try to catch myself when I feel like I am talking too much. I believe I do better at this today than when I was younger.

I am sitting in a coffee house as I write this. My ears are a little more tuned into conversations around me. The art of conversation is hard. Unless we have taken classes in the art of conversation, all of us struggle just a little with the whole idea of communicating with others. I was not taught how to converse as I was growing up. You just did it. Sometimes it was successful and others, well, not so much.

As we approach the holiday and we gather with family and friends, our conversational awareness will be tested. The family often is the ultimate test of conversation. They can be the most critical and the most supportive. As I approach Christmas day I hope that I can remember to take a deep breath and truly listen to the joy of others in the celebration of this day.

 

A New Month-Moving Forward

December third will mark a month since Elsie took off. There have been sightings. I have answered every one. I have met some very nice people and seen some sweet kitties, yet all of them are not my cat. Sigh. I have become intimately familiar with the shelters in the county and the numerous web sites that help people find their animals. Cats and dogs go missing and so do parakeets, bunnies, geese, and pigs.

I know you all wish me well. I know that all those good thoughts and prayers are being sent out to support her return and to support me. I want you to continue to do this, yet what I need now is to not dwell on it so much. The longer she is gone the less is the likely-hood of her return. I need to get my life organized as a truly solo person. Could I ask you to continue to pray for her and me without letting me know with each blog post or a facebook post? Each time I see that someone is praying for her safe return or to support me, it puts me into a sad place and I need to go there less. I need to look ahead while hoping for her safe return.

I am staying in San Diego for another month at least. I still have doctors and dentists appointments to contend with. Most of them are complete and I still have some major decisions ahead. Yep, that is correct, the rest of my life is moving forward, just minus my little kitty.

Janet & Pat

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I was given a surprise visit by a fellow Roadtreking friend. Pat lives on the San Juan Islands off of Washington State. She is on a several month drive-about of the west visiting family and friends. Knowing that she would be close, she decided to come and give me a pick-me-up and a diversion. It was delightful to see her and her two pups. We talked and caught up and broke bread together. I am glad she thought enough of me to rescue me from a serious case of the doldrums. It was a good couple of days.

I successfully made it through Thanksgiving. I had some interesting offers come in for my plea not to be alone for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had to say no to some, as they were not local and I have made a commitment to myself and Elsie to give her two months.

I actually had three Thanksgiving dinners. Santee Lakes, where I am camped, had a potluck on Wednesday night.

On Thursday I went to dinner at my friend and one of the best yoga instructors around, Lisa’s home. Along with 19 others, I celebrated in an intimate delightful setting. We feasted well. The food and the company were warm and receptive. I am glad I stretched myself a bit and enjoyed this holiday with others. Thank you, Lisa.

Yesterday saw my third helping of turkey served at a good friend’s house here in San Diego. Cynthia and Ward had a full dinner with all the fixings. Dinner was followed by a movie and pumpkin pie. Their home is always welcoming and open to me. I am glad Cynthia and Ward are friends.

Christmas is next. I am going to remember to breath my way through this holiday. I gave up giving presents many years ago. That took a lot of stress off my plate right away. No more late-night trips to the stores so I could go shopping when there was not a hoard of people around. No more calling my family to ask what they wanted for Christmas and then buying them gift cards. All of this has allowed me to breath more and stress less.

It is so much more joyful for me, during this month, to take time to enjoy people’s company. Going on a hike or walk, strolling along the waterfront, enjoying a good meal and conversation is a gift I can really enjoy. Would you care to join me? It would be delightful to catch up with close friends, fellow tour guides and acquaintances. Let’s take a walk or get a cup of coffee. I am open to unique suggestions as well.

And for all of you who are further away, I will carry you in my mind and heart. That is sometimes the closest that one can get. I look forward to future visits to those far away places.

Today I am thankful. This month I am thankful for friends and family, for those, I have met and for those, I will meet. Always, I am thankful to breath.

 

 

 

Impatiently Recovering

Walking the Beach-Helps in Healing

It has been a week since I had the other half of my thyroid removed. I am recovering well. I tend to overdo it a bit, then I have to rest up for a day and try again. Sitting still or lounging around has never been me. I like to hike. I like to bike. I like to walk on the beaches. I like to be busy.

Today I went over to my storage unit, yes I do have one of those, and by the time I got there, I did not feel so well. I sat inside my storage unit and pondered why I felt so awful. Oh right, I had major surgery a week ago. Oh right, I have not been drinking enough liquids. Catching a ride with Lyft, I found my way back to the RV park I am staying in and have been lounging the afternoon away and drinking lots of fluids.

The really, really, really good news is that I am cancer-free. The biopsy came in at the end of the week with no trace of cancer. Yes!!! I immediately felt a bit lighter on all levels of my being. The decisions are not done as I have to decide whether I will do the radioactive iodine treatment. I will see both doctors over the next few weeks and will listen to their advice, yet this is a decision I will need to make for myself.

One of the phrases that has been a part of my life since I was diagnosed with breast cancer is “Get all the input you can, make your decisions and then don’t look back”. With that in mind, I am researching radioactive iodine.

Elsie and I moved back into our home on wheels on Tuesday. I am hidden at the back of the campground at Santee Lakes. Although the water is a distance away, I am enjoying the low visitor impact in the back. Each night I hear the coyotes, so you know that Miss Elsie is in before dark.

I am feeling very grateful for my friends, Cynthia, and Ward (who took care of me) and Nancy (who took care of El). Because of their caring and support, I believe that everything went much smoother. My recovery would be flawless if I had remained at my friend’s home. I may not have found myself pushing too far too quickly. That is a lesson that I continue to need to learn.

My friends have been calling and reaching out. I am glad to be remembered. It reminds me, that even at my lowest moments, I am loved and supported by many. I am remaining grateful and thankful for such good friends.

I am so thankful for a No Cancer Moment.

 

Breathe

This time of the year is always a bit difficult for me. I arrive back in San Diego to get all my medical and dental completed for the upcoming year.

Dr appointments loom or have already been finished. My annual mammogram is complete. Although it has been almost ten years since my diagnosis of breast cancer, this time of the year I notice I become slightly anxious as I await the results of the mammography. I have about ten days to go before the results are in.

This year, 2019, is a bit more difficult. I have surgery on Friday to remove the other half of my thyroid. I have cancer. I have papillary thyroid cancer. My left thyroid will be removed to prepare me for the radioactive iodine treatment that will seek out any thyroid tissue that is left anywhere in my body.

Today I had my pre-op appointment with my surgeon. Dr. Ressa has followed me through breast cancer treatment and now the thyroid. These visits are never easy for me. I have a lot of questions. Being a nurse makes it harder because I read a lot. Being a one-time cancer survivor increases the number of questions and concerns as well. Having had almost six months to anticipate this coming Friday has allowed me to evaluate and add more questions in my mind.

Here is what has not helped me while waiting to have this surgery.

  • I have heard the good stories and the bad. It does not help me to hear that this is a “good” kind of cancer to have. There is no “good” cancer!
  • It is good to hear positive outcome stories, it truly is, however, I would encourage those who say this not to devalue my situation. At present I am anxious and a bit worried.
  • Surgery is surgery and not to be taken lightly. I am not taking it lightly and I would like others to not brush it off either.
  • Don’t question if I caused this cancer. Don’t tell me that if I had done something different I wouldn’t have cancer. It seems that only people who have not been challenged with this diagnosis say these things.

The bottom line? I have cancer. That statement alone is overwhelming and a bit lonely. How is it lonely? I have found since Jim died, I have no one to talk to daily about things that make me happy or things that concern or frighten or discourage me. I miss having that daily person to check in with and support me no matter what. Even when I might have done something stupid or said something out of character, Jim was there to give me a hug or counsel me through indecision and worry and often lead me in the right direction to correct wrongs.

It is hard for me to do this for myself. I can, it is just harder. In my current lifestyle, I find I have to push myself to interact with others. Often the campgrounds are full of air-conditioned RVs. When these hot Santa Ana days are upon us, very few people come outside or interact with their neighbors. I don’t blame them. It is “hot” in San Diego county these days.

Joining cancer support groups sounds like a good idea. I have joined a few thyroid support groups on Facebook. They are filled with nice, mostly women. Here is the deal with these sites. The women who post are having issues pre or post-surgery. I now avoid them as surgery looms nearer, they scare the heck out of me. I find I am overwhelmed on these sites. I feel sorry and sad for these people who are going through difficulties and I worry about me and my outcome. I have taken a hiatus from these groups until I am post-op.

When things like this arise, I miss my family. I have two sisters and two nieces that live over two thousand miles away. Their lives are busy. When things like this come into my life, even if I recognize it is complicated, I would love to have them show up on my doorstep and take over for a week or two. As a rational adult, I recognize this is not possible, yet the little girl in me still wishes that one of them would show up anyway.

This is where friends have stepped forward to help me out over the next few weeks.

 

Miss Elsie the Cat

  • My friend, Nancy, is taking Miss Elsie the Cat into her home and life. She loves kitties and Elsie has always really liked her. It is a good fit.
  • Cynthia and Ward are taking me into their home for the weekend post-surgery. When I think of this offer it brings tears of gratitude and caring to my eyes and heart. I am so thankful for their caring and support. With their support and encouragement, I will be on the road to recovery and dancing quickly. (They are members of the Scottish Dance community in San Diego).
  • Phyllis is my go-to friend. She will help in any way that I will let her. After traveling for two months in Africa we still remain good friends. That is an accomplishment in itself.
  • All my friends near and far will be loving and supporting me. I feel so fortunate to be loved by so many.

Now I need to take a deep breath, push worries aside, walk into Friday with positive thoughts for the best of outcomes. I need a mantra for this. So far the only one I have come up with is “breath”. The other mantra I have had for years is “You are a good and caring person and worthy of being loved”. I often say this to myself as I look in the mirror morning and night. Now I say Breath.

Asking for thoughts and prayers is a statement that has been degraded over time. There have been too many situations over recent years that have made me hesitate to ask people for this. Instead, I will ask you to send a breath my way on Friday filled with whatever you want to fill it with. It will help me walk into a current unknown future. I have no doubt that I will feel the love and support.

Moving forward, one step at a time.