Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's warm under the covers

Hubby just came home from a dog trial. He worked two of the three days at the beagle club. There were at least two inches of snow on the ground and I couldn't figure out why anyone would be out running dogs in this weather!

This time last year I would have gone with him if I could, but he can't ply me out from under the warm covers on the bed for anything now! Everyone asked where I was. He just kept telling them I was home in bed.

I'm not sick or anything, I just enjoy sleeping in on weekends. Hubby is one of those go-getter types and you can't keep him home in bed for anything! And I've tried.

Usually he's out hunting on weekends or running some of the dogs. If it's not the beagles it's his german shorthaired pointers. He just got back from a week of pheasant hunting in North Dakota with my dad. They had a great time.

I used to go to brace beagle field trials by myself when hubby couldn't get off work to attend. Most of the time I was the only female handler at the trial. I met a lot of people, most that I'm happy to call friend.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2007. After suffering with diarrhea for six months (what the heck was I thinking?) I went to the family doctor. He sent me for test after test. All came back negative. Finally I suggested a colonoscopy citing family history of colon cancer. We scheduled the colonoscopy for the 5th of September. I was the youngest person in the surgical prep area. I remember waking up with the doctor telling me I needed to have surgery right away because they had found a tumor. Hubby and I cried our eyes out. No one else in post-op was given bad news.

Shoot, now we have to find a surgeon. Like, who do you ask? No one I knew had a surgeon for backup so we got a referral from the family doctor. He made an appointment for me the following week.

I thought it was going to be a consultation so I went alone to see the surgeon. Lord, this guy was scary! The first thing he said to me after he sat down was this is a fast moving cancer and it's probably spread to your liver and lymph nodes so you don't have much time. Knock me off the chair why don't you?! We scheduled the surgery for the 17th.

I left the office and went to the nearest place I could think which was the restaurant my son was working at. He wasn't there so I sat and waited. I called everyone I could think of to give them the news. You always wonder how people react to this type of news. I sat and cried and made phone calls. Thank goodness for my cellphone.

All of my family came up for the surgery. No one person had a nice thing to say about my surgeon. Thank goodness he's a good surgeon. He removed the tumor and 17 lymph nodes plus 12 inches of colon. The lymph nodes came back clear. He felt a mass on my pancreas but didn't want to remove it.

He sent me for an endoscopic biopsy at UPMC to find out what the mass on the pancreas was. Thank God! This was the place I needed to be. The biopsy came back as colon cancer which spread to a lymph node which attached itself to the pancreas. From here it's good news.

I was referred to Dr. Jim Moser at UPMC! (Update December 19, 2013: Just found out that Dr. Moser is now in Boston!) From our first meeting with him we felt such a relief! He explained what we were dealing with and what the game plan was. Six months of chemo to shrink the lymph node, followed by possible radiation, and surgery to remove the lymph node.

My mom had been staying with us on and off throughout my recovery from surgery. She wanted to be with me when I started chemo but she had bronchitis and was contagious. I had signed up for a clinical trial to test a new chemo drug. After 12 days on the drug I ended up in the hospital. It became toxic to my system and almost killed me. I was in the hospital for 11 days and missed Christmas with my family.

Everyone tells me about my hospital stay because I don't remember any of it. Even though I almost died it sounds like I had a heck of a time and kept everyone laughing! What a blast!

Mom came to stay and stay she did. Almost the entire six months of chemo she stayed and took care of me. I don't know how some people have the fortitude to get up and go to work, take care of their kids, etc. Most days I stayed in bed. Mom would get me up in the morning and fix me breakfast, make sure I drank enough fluids and took my meds. Then I'd take a nap and she'd wake me back up before hubby got home. She cooked our food and washed our clothes. There wasn't anything she didn't do for us.

The Arnold Palmer Cancer Center is a real godsend. The people are amazing! They treat you like gold or better. They treat you like FAMILY. The patients sit around talking to one another and family members are encouraged to be there with you during treatment.

So, I made it through six months of chemo. In between all of this I'd had two PET scans to see if the cancer was shrinking. It was. My surgery was scheduled for the end of July 2008. I was so nervous up until about a month before surgery. Finally I prayed and asked God to allow me to have peace about the surgery. I left it to God and Dr. Moser.

I recall getting to the hospital that morning and being in pre-op but nothing after the anesthesiologist put nerve blocks in my back. Five days later I woke up. The surgery was uneventful. Dr. Moser didn't find any cancer although he found where the cancer had been. He cleaned off the pancreas and searched the other organs. Nothing. It was a miracle!

For some reason I stopped breathing after surgery and was transferred to ICU. I was there 5 days. I was on a ventillator. I do recall waking up and everything was this transient type dream. I kept thinking I was having de-ja-vu. Then hubby walked in and my mind became clear again.

I had absolutely no pain after surgery. None! I had them stop the pain meds in my IV while in the hospital.

I was so thankful to be alive! Dr. Moser stopped in to see me and told me that all the pathology slides came back free of cancer. I couldn't believe it! It was too much to have asked for! As my mom says, "we're blessed."

It's now almost 4 months after surgery. I went back to my part-time job just 2 weeks after surgery. I can lift 50 lb bags of feed and am now back to feeding our animals every day except weekends.

You see, I really enjoy my weekends. I love to sit in bed all day with the newspaper or my laptop. I've got my phone on the nightstand and the tv across from the bed. Everything I need is in close proximity to me. The bed is warm and I can reflect on the second chance I've been given. Hubby is just disappointed that I'm not out there basking in the cold weather right alongside of him. Maybe I can get him to join me in bed. Can't hurt to keep trying!

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