Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pickin' and Peckin'

That would be what I am doing today - picking through my mind to try to do a mental house cleaning and then, pecking away on the old keyboard to try to put those thoughts into practice.

Not an easy task for me on any day but after the past 2-3 weeks worth of garbage in, very little of it moving on out and away from me, it is a move of necessity right now. I really have to clean out all the garbage thoughts that often crowd the small space available to good stuff in my mind.

I am, I guess, what would be termed a "cancer survivor." I was diagnosed three years ago this past March with colo-rectal cancer via a colonoscopy.

When that first procedure was performed, I was very depressed, having a lot of problems with my intestines, unemployed, and pretty much scared about how the heck I was going to survive.

The best thing that happened to me then was that the surgeon I had apparently had the ability to read me like a book and understand that he would have to take charge of my life, in no uncertain terms. And that is exactly what he did for me then too.

After the procedure, he came and spoke to me and my daughter, outlining for both of us what he found and then telling me what I was going to do. He didn't give me information and then say now, you have a choice to do this, that or some other thing. He flat out said, "This is what you will do!"

His instructions were that in two days, a nurse would come to my home and insert a "pic" line - an iv line that would remain with me for the duration of the first phase of my chemotherapy. Then, they would start the chemo which would run, 24-7, through a "porta-pac" unit for the next 6-7 weeks.

After that, the following Monday, I would report to Altoona Hospital where I would meet Dr. Jack Shocker, the radiologist, who would then set up for me to have radiation treatments for the next 6-7 weeks too. The surgeon also informed me that I would be responsible to get myself to Altoona for that first visit at the Radiation Department but that every morning thereafter, a van would come right to my house and pick me up, take me to Altoona and then return me safe and sound to my home.

After completion of these two prcesses - chemo and radiation - I would be given roughly a 4-6 weeks break to rest up, recover a bit and then I would have surgery to remove the tumor that had been found in the colonoscopy. The game plan here was that the radiation would shrink the tumor to a more manageable size for removal and the chemo would prevent further growth or spread of the cancer.

After having the surgery, Dr. Timothy Phillips (my leader now) then informed me I would have six months of follow-up chemotherapy after which, provided all went as he had laid things out, I would then be pronouced to be "cancer free!"

Had he not given me this game plan that day, if he had given me information and told me to decide what I wanted to do, I most likely would have gathered up my clothes, purse, daughter, thanked him for his time and opinion, and walked away with no intentions of ever returning.

But, because of his take-charge attitude towards me, I listened to his plan for the next 10 months of my life and actually followed his orders pretty much to the letter. The only thing he told me to do that I have yet to follow through on is to quit smoking. I'm still not quite ready to leave that crutch behind me.

I had the chemo, did the radiation, rested a couple weeks and had the surgery. All seemed to be going fine until about 2 weeks after the surgery when I started getting terrrible pains in my left buttock that seemed to start at the backbone and spread across the cheek and down to the hip-leg joint. It took roughly two more weeks then of all kinds of tests - cat scans, x-rays, you name it, before the doctors finally figured out what was creating all these issues and lots and lots of pain. Two buldging (or herniated) discs!

I then began physical therapy that lasted from late July until the end of December of that year. Took the first six weeks of therapy to get my body to a point where I could begin to walk, sit, lay down without being totally miserable with the pain these two disc were wreaking on my system.

Because I was recovering from having had the colon resectioned and was taking large doses then of pain medications for the back problems, I developed more problems then with my lower intestinal tract of severe constipation with occasional bouts of "lets see how fast you can move to get to the bathroom" episodes.

All this led up to my filing for social security disability because I knew there was no way I could return to a work setting and be a good employee with my constant trips to and from the bathroom. I had things down to a science in my home by then too - knew exactly how far I dar stray from the bathroom in the house at any given time then too - a luxury you know isn't going to exist in any work site.

And, as a result of all those issues, 18 months after my initial diagnosis, a judge at my hearing for the disability, agreed with me that working again would be extremely difficult for me to manage under those circumstances.

It was during that 18-month period though that I discovered how much I enjoyed trying to write.

I did a couple little essay type pieces and even managed to sell one to a magazine - something that did wonders for my ego, I might add. I also found a small local monthly publication and the editor/publisher there liked the type of writing I did and she began to use little articles I wrote that pertained to our local area. From that, I found myself hearing from people at church, at the local grocery store, even e-mail notes from folks, telling me how much they had enjoyed this or that piece I had written and was I going to keep writing these little pieces too. Also a really good ego-booster, I must add.

And that is what began my desire to put my thoughts into words on paper or in little files on my computer and also, into these blog sites I have now set up to use to try to help clear the fogs and cobwebs out of my mind.

The intent here is to write about my feelings, as well as my opinions on various topics. And, if anyone else is interested and reads these blurbs I post here and maybe even takes away from this medium a little bit of information that helps to inform in any way, shape or form, then that is all the better.

I'm working my way through what can be construed as the ending portion of my journey here on earth and trying to do it in a way that will provide insight perhaps to my children and especially to my grandchildren who, right now are way to young to listen to Grammy tell them the story of her life - such as it was, such as it is today.

Not that my life has been ultra-spectacular or any such thing as that, but so they will know and perhaps understand, what things happened to me over my time here -before them, during their time growing up, and maybe give them insight into why they are the way they are too - thanks to those goofy genes I may have provided to them way back in their beginnings too.

Well, hopefully, that's what this blog will do!

Time will give the answer to that if I was successful in my venture or not.

No comments: