Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Moving On

Sometimes, the Universe gives us a nudge, then follows up.  For example, tomorrow's move. On the surface, it makes no sense for Kate to move now.  She's two weeks out of surgery, almost done with grad school. She's been here for six years, and it's been fine.

Nudge: I was here in early June for one of Kate's chemo trips.  I ran into her landlord while doing laundry in the basement.  He told me he's putting the building up for sale, and wanted everyone on year-long leases starting in July, or they'd have to move out at the end of the month.  In rather indignant tones, I told him he couldn't kick Kate out in the middle of chemo!  He backed down, but just a bit; extended her move deadline to the end of July.

Nudge:  Kate checked with grad student housing; they normally have a three to four month waiting list.  But a slot for her magically opened up for August 1st,

Nudge:  The upstairs plumbing broke here.  The landlord fixed it, sorta, but there's now a bulge in the wall behind the cheap wallboard he installed over the plaster.  Now I have a hard time breathing in the bathroom. I am sensitive to mold.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Nudge:  Just this week, they've started a large construction project across the street.  They're clanking, beeping, raising dust and taking down trees as I type.  (I know the trees, at least some of them, are weed trees, growing along the property line, but I still cringe every time I hear the crack of the healthy wood fall under the ax.  I have to admit, I'm not convinced trees don't have souls.  I want to run out, like the Lorax, and speak for the trees, but know resistance would be futile.  **sigh** All I can do is to send them a quick prayer of thanks for the shade they've provided here for the past years, the buffer they've provided between the windows and an ugly parking lot view.  Goodbye, trees!)

Kate's still got a ten pound weight limit, but my sister's coming to sit on her during the move. A grand team is assembled and ready to help tomorrow and also with unpacking on Friday.

Ready, set, MOVE!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rapid Healing

Youth and Fitness:  1
Chemo and Surgery:  0

Yup.  Turns out that if you're young and in good shape you can bounce back from surgery more quickly than you'd dared to hope.

We went back down to Rochester last Thursday for Kate's followup appointments.  Her drainage output had dropped to a safe level, and they had no compunctions about removing the painful drainage tube.  (They put the tubes in when they remove body parts to collect the nutrients your body sends to nourish the parts it hasn't yet figured out have gone missing.)

Within a couple of hours of yanking the tube the pain lines at the corners of her eyes had eased.  She slept well that night, and has continued to rapidly heal.  Her brain is back in motion and the biggest challenge of the upcoming weeks will be to remember the 10 pound weight limit on lifting.  

She is most appreciative of her baby breasts.  They'll get filled to size over the next few months, but she is happy for now to have regained balance in her chest.  It turns out that the prosthesis is uncomfortable and heavy and that women's clothing is designed for more-or-less equality in the chest.  Neither of these facts are a surprise to anyone, I'm sure.  (She is giving me a new appreciation for my own barely-appreciated implants.  Perhaps if I'd gone without for a while, I'd be more tolerant of them.)

Perhaps the biggest relief has been the lifting of the chemo fog that has dogged her steps for the last three months.  Finally, she is able to plan, to think without becoming overwhelmed within the first fifteen minutes.  She can talk to her friends without exhausting herself; can venture out of the house for social engagements.  She is taking baby steps on her long-delayed thesis.  She can't work for long periods again, but at least she can work.  The words on the page make sense!

Hope Is.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Surgery Successful, Again!

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
Last week was long.  

We headed down to Rochester on Tuesday afternoon so we could be there bright and early for Kate's round of doctor appointments on Wednesday.  After we'd gotten to town and found some dinner, Kate suggested we go find a liquor store so we could have a goodbye party for her breast.  I was a bit taken aback, Kate rarely drinks, but was happy to drive her there. We walked in, and I started looking at the wines and fruit beers. Kate headed straight for the whiskey. I recalibrated, and we ended up with a great tequila and peach/raspberry Grand Marnier. We headed back to the hotel and had a fine toast to thank her body for carrying her this far.

Wednesday's appointments were much less stressful than those for the previous surgery; dare I say they were routine? We'll cut here, these are the risks, these are the benefits, are you sure you have considered this option?  No party on Wednesday night; reality had sunk in and alcohol had no appeal. None.  We had a quiet night.

Her surgery was first of the day on Thursday, which meant we got to be at the hospital with the dawn; our check-in time was 5:45. We got there on time, she was properly in the systems so check-in was painless, and then we got to wait. They took her downstairs about 7:30, and I promptly ran out for coffee (it seemed a little rude to pick it up before then and drink it in front of her...).

They started operating just before nine, and that's when the day got long and I suddenly wished I'd thought to have someone come down for the day. I could have used some moral support; someone to talk to and to help stop the nightmare litany running through my head listing all the bad things that can come out of surgery. (Even routine surgery that doesn't involve chopping off body parts.) I found a quiet corner to curl up in and a jigsaw puzzle to distract me. It helped, but then I went to grab a bite of lunch and when I came back, someone had picked up the puzzle and put all the pieces back in the box. I didn't have the heart to start over again, so I sat back and closed my eyes and tried to think positively. It didn't work so well.

Fortunately for my overactive imagination, surgery went smoothly and they finished right on schedule. It took over an hour for her to come up to her room from recovery, but when I finally laid eyes on her again, I was pleasantly surprised. She wasn't nauseous in the least.

From then until now, recovery has been smooth. Despite her chemo-ridden body, it's been smoother than last time; far better than either of us had dared to hope  It turns out that if you never get nauseous, don't mess up tissue by digging for lymph nodes and don't get a massive butt bruise so you can't sleep comfortably, you recover more quickly.

She's still on a steady dose of pain meds, and will be until her drain comes out later this week, but other than that, she's already rarin' to go.  At her insistence, we went for a slow 2 mile walk yesterday, and when we got back, she was tired but felt better for having gotten out.  She hadn't overdone it at all. We won't talk of the state of my nerves - I was sure, after the first few blocks, that she was going to keel over and then I'd have to explain to the imaginary jury why I'd gone along with her idea to get out just three days post-surgery. I was glad to be wrong.

This week, we just wait for her to recover. Her marvelous friends have again signed up to bring food, so that's off the worry list. Her hair has begun to come back in; there's a black stubbly shadow on her previously bald head.  Her energy has begun to return, I think she has turned the corner on this battle. (insert huge sigh of relief!)

Hope Is!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Marching Band

It was a normal Saturday night here at Kate's apartment in Minneapolis. I was reading a bit while Kate read Alexandra her bedtime story.  Glancing out the window, I saw what looked to be a marching band filing into the normally-empty-on-weekends parking lot across the street.  I read for a bit more, then my curiosity got the best of me, and I went outside and across the street to see what was going on.

Turns out there was a big competition at the U of M stadium just under a mile away, and they were there for warm-ups.  I thought for about three seconds, then went back inside to see if Alexandra wanted to come outside and watch them for a bit.  Something to delay bedtime?  She was in!

Back outside we went.  There were about 150 young people in the lot, moving in an impressive display of synchronization.  All horns - trumpets, mellophones, tubas and euphoniums (I learned something, I didn't know there were mellophones...).  They didn't play much, but what a sound when they did!  The band is based in California, called the Blue Devils.  The students, ages 15 to 21, come from all around the country.  They start their summer in early May with 9 to 9 practices (?! No wonder they're good!), and end just before school begins.

I thought Alexandra would get bored with the rehearsal, but she loved it.  Her eyes sparkled, she was full of questions, loved the sectionals with the sound of the higher toned trumpets drifting across the lot in counterpoint to the bass euphoniums in front of us. The band members responded well to their audience of two, and came over to talk with her. She got shy, wouldn't talk to the nice conductor (the conductors are also students; he is studying accounting at a university in south Florida) who offered to let her touch the white feathers on his hat AND the sequins on his sleeve, but rather just looked at him with wide, wondering eyes.

They were only there for about 45 minutes; we stood and waved and wished them luck as they filed out.  As I looked down at Alexandra's shining face, I was glad I had indulged my curiosity bump - I would have been sorry to miss this glimpse into the lives of the members of a touring marching band. (Note to self:  keep paying attention to what's going on across the street!)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Run in Circles

When in trouble,
When in doubt,
Run in circles, 
Scream and shout!

That's me this week.

My last day at Cristo Rey was last Thursday.  I leave town tomorrow.  In between, I've been busy saying a temporary goodbye (again) to friends and attempting to celebrate the 4th with my old neighborhood. (that last was a serious fail - I gave up shortly after lunch and went home and slept for two hours.)  I've been trying to get my house in order so I can comfortably leave. Simultaneously practicing some serious procrastination - I really don't want to spend another day driving.

And in my spare time, I've been reflecting again on how life can turn on a dime.  There is an 18 year-old in a local hospital.  He will lose his eye after a careless moment with fireworks.  I am sending my prayers.  I am also guiltily thankful the young man is not someone I know; grateful, this time, my circle of loved ones was not the target of life's arrow of misfortune.

One moment, all is OK. The next, life makes us retrench. The cataclysmic events come without warning. senseless. entropy making its mark? I know better than to ask why; there are no answers. but I ask anyways.

Awareness that life and health are not givens comes back in full force - and I am thankful for the good things in my life. I have friends and family to stand beside me. My brain works. All my moving parts are more-or-less functional.

Love Is. God Is.
even when the bad times come. as they do, into every life.