Wednesday, July 27, 2016

R & R completed

Home from a great vacation and time for an update…

It was a good decision to sneak away on a trip in between convalescing and the next round of 'healthcare social life' and all that this will entail. Great to feel well, be completely pampered and removed from all reminders of my day to day situation.  It'll be a while before I'm able to travel again. We picked up the grandson and was he ever excited! The questions, the questions on the way to the airport. A quick check in and he got to break in that brand new passport - the US border agent even let him stamp his own page. We were separated for the flight and so his grandfather was in the rear (apparently surrounded with badly behaved children) and I was the entertainment manager for the five year old "Wow, the houses look like dollhouses, we're in the air, when are the snacks coming?" etc. Just a short flight but….passing through clouds is "pretty awesome" I was told. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is a good plan. 

A rush hour cab ride from JFK airport to Manhattan gave us lots of time to see the sights. Settled in to the hotel and out to source supper - the concierge recommended an Italian restaurant a few blocks away and we enjoyed a wonderful meal of homemade pasta with great service. We spent the next morning and early afternoon on a tour bus in Manhattan, grid locked at times, high heat and humidity and frequent stalling of the bus until…it wouldn't restart and we wandered a few blocks to be picked up by another tour bus. Sourced food at a deli and decompressed for a while in the air conditioned room before taking the subway to Yankee Stadium to watch the Boston Red Sox whoop the Yankees. Back just before midnight and were all instantly asleep. Breakfast at Applebees in the morning, a walk to Central Park and bicycle cart tour with a very nice Turkish student and a cab to the cruise pier. 
Atlantis, Kennedy Space Centre
A chaotic noisy embarkation and finally we were onboard the Norwegian Gem. We explored the ship, the buffet, met our cabin steward Eugene, attended the muster drill and most importantly registered the lad for Splash Academy (saved our sanity). Splash Academy had wonderful daycare workers of many nationalities and I was very pleased to be advised that our grandson was "the best behaved boy here" which I am thinking was accurate as I heard the same staff member telling another couple that their son was allowed to return as he had improved his behaviour - so the praise wasn't casually given. The sea day activities included the water slide and pool games vs just lounging in the sun, but it was a fun difference. We docked in Cape Canaveral and enjoyed the Kennedy Space Centre - highly recommend it if you are in the area - which you could easily spend two days visiting. Great Stirrup Cay (private island) in the Bahamas was lots of fun and we tried out the snorkel which was a $30 Walmart purchase with no expectations. The grandson took
Great Stirrup Cay
On the reef off Nassau
off like he'd been snorkelling all his life (it took me a long time to get the hang of breathing through that tube when I first started) and was amazed at all the little fishies - even thought he found Dory. Great beach day! For the next day we booked a snorkel excursion in Nassau and were a bit skeptical as to how it would go…30 minute boat trip out to the reef, 15 ft. depth and significant waves and….that didn't deter the little man one bit. Off the end of the boat with his grandfather and had to be convinced to climb aboard when it was time to leave. It was a great collection of fish mind you. The following day on the ship when we went to the pool deck, I couldn't get down the ladder fast enough and he was swimming (no life jacket) across the pool. We have a swimmer! A successful cruise on many levels, including that I gained some weight, enjoyed myself, got a lot stronger and generally feel like myself again. 

Back into NYC and disembarkation was another chaotic and very slow moving event. Grabbed a cab, stored the luggage and over to the American Museum of Natural History which was an amazing way to beat the heat and humidity. Cab, luggage, airport check in and a bite to eat. As we were preparing for boarding…Delta made an announcement of flight delay (a passenger heard there was no pilot available) and then the story was 'weather' in Halifax and cancellation with flight in the am. So….after waiting in a long disgruntled line of passengers the Delta staff finally gave us a new flight (I vetoed the NY to Montreal to Toronto to Halifax first offer) from La Guardia (not JFK) later the following afternoon, voucher for shuttles and a night at Parc Hotel in Flushing, NY near La Guardia (which turned out to be a nice suites lodging for Asian visitors with a fusion breakfast (dim sum meat buns, strange fried crullers which were dipped in soy sauce, croissants, cereal etc. There was a bit of confusion at check in when the Asian night clerk kept asking for a credit card for the name on the vouchers. We had to convince him that five year olds don't have visas and he'd have to accept the shore captain's. Before departing we spent a few hours shopping in the discount mall next to the hotel and I managed to score new jeans and sneakers at a reasonable price, even after the currency exchange. With all the pounds dropped I now fit into a size 10 which is something I haven't done in years. 

Over to La Guardia, attempt to check in…oh we're flying WestJet from another area of the terminal. Where are the bags? The promise was that they'd been shipped directly to Halifax in the morning and would be awaiting us. Oh, so there was no room for us on that flight but…you shipped unaccompanied luggage? I've been on a Delta flight where we all had to deplane and claim our luggage before being cleared for take off as there was an extra bag for goodness sake. Through security and time for supper before the delayed flight departed. The grandson was tickled as "we got to ride on the big plane" ahh to have that magical thinking of that age. Off to Toronto and cleared customs (easier without bags and no one asked) and then a short wait for our flight home. A desperate search for our luggage at 1 am with the West Jet agent telling us that it was nothing to do with them (oh really? you just flew us here as a code share with Delta but are dropping us) so a group of us were finally rescued by an Air Canada agent who went into the luggage area and found them for us. It really had nothing to do with him actually, but he was very kind. An uneventful drive home and arrival at 4 am. Returned the grandson in the afternoon after doing our laundry and it was an early night for all of us on Monday. 

Tuesday I got my bloodwork done as a baseline for chemotherapy and had a short visit with my former co-workers. Found the son of one of our GPs doing a locum in the ER - very strange to find a classmate of the oldest daughter in charge of a busy emergency department. Off to Frenchy's to supplement my wardrobe as I'm tired of grabbing my clothes at the waist to keep them up. Scored big time with capris, shorts, t-shirts and tops…even found a cute pair of baby socks for my grand baby to be. Checked the mail to find some lovely cards from various friends and a gorgeous quilt made with love for my chemo journey. Good thing we live in the country so there was no one to see me sniffing at the super mailbox. Overwhelming the support and how much it means. Not always easy to accept all the help if you've been an independent sort. 

Today I got the safety inspection for the car done and discovered the brakes need to be redone (warranty at least) visited with former coworkers and ran errands in town. Got a haircut as I won't want my scalp touched I'm sure after treatments and had some strawberry shortcake delivered by a buddy before rushing off for an appointment for chemo teaching. Lots of information and reading materials which ensure you are well educated. Different side of the healthcare system for me and having to ask the questions and look into how the next five months will go is a new experience. Tomorrow we head down to the city to overnight with the daughter and son-in-law before the early Friday am appointment and chemotherapy scheduled following so will head home after treatment. 

Expect to post a positive report after my treatment so stay tuned. I'm pasting this link for some positive thinking here:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mission Making Memories

Lest I have alarmed you with my medical history the previous posting, let me reassure you that I am doing well, really well. In fact so well that I've booked a last minute cruise for the shore captain, myself and our grandson, which leaves this weekend out of New York. The itinerary on the Norwegian Gem is kid focused so should be a fun, yet busy trip. We plan a visit to the space centre in Cape Canaveral, snorkelling on Great Stirrup Cay and in Nassau we're still researching as the grandson isn't 48 inches tall which is the minimum height for all but the baby rides. Grandfather was very disappointed as he had volunteered to be the partner on the rides. We fly to New York tomorrow and the cruise begins Saturday. The grandson wasn't aware of the vacation until this evening and is reported to be 'super excited' I have no doubt of that. Good to only have the one night with that knowledge as time moves slowly for five year olds. The travel partner has sourced tickets for the Yankees vs Red Sox game on Friday evening and I just closed my eyes when the price came up on the screen….it's only money right? Picked up sunscreen and children's tylenol and gravol "just in case". A friend brought some toys/games to occupy the lad on the flight, bought a mask, snorkel and flipper set for him etc. 

Registered the grandson for swimming lessons at the end of August which will hopefully work with all the appointments which I'll have. I had to confess to my specialist that I was going on a trip as he was trying to arrange a visit with the nurse for chemotherapy teaching and he was delighted, telling me to "enjoy myself". I've been walking to the mailbox and amfeeling stronger each time. Eating lots of good food and although I've gained some of the weight back it was quite a struggle to find clothes which fit for the trip. Usually the problem is not that they're too big but that they've shrunk! Good thing I found a belt.

A friend who has recently sold her home has offered to house sit for us which means attending the greenhouse and kitty sitting. Nice to have the house occupied while we are absent and the kitties always enjoy human attention. A bit of putting the house in order was required today and I had to show the shore captain how to turn on the vacuum as that is on my list of restrictions. A few repair jobs that have been waiting for some time such as the shower door in the bathroom and screen in the back door were taken care of - always nice to have a reason so that such lists get taken care of. 

Must get myself to bed as we'll have an exciting time ahead (and hot as the forecast is 32c in NY on Friday) however I think I'm as excited as the grandson….one more sleep and it's Mission Making Memories time. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

I'm baaaccckkkkkkkkk

After a hiatus of over two months (likely my longest blogging absence) I am bacckkkkk. Thanks for your patience and lack of scolding. There's been a lot going on in my life and I finally have some answers so will update you. Although this blog is usually focused on others as patients, I have been on the other side of the curtain for a bit. It's been an interesting experience and the 'research' I've done will allow me to share with patients in the future. The highlights:

I began experiencing symptoms while working north and they increased when I arrived home in mid April. I began a round of Dr. appointments, tests and good news/bad news (much like Curious George who if you remember was a curious little monkey where for example…unfortunately he fell out of a plane, fortunately had a parachute, unfortunately it didn't open, fortunately there was a haystack, unfortunately it had a pitch fork, fortunately he missed it, unfortunately he also missed the haystack) if you get my drift. The first gynaecologist appointment resulted in a uterine biopsy and ultrasound and on April 29th I received a life changing call from the surgeon which is never anticipated "the pathology on the biopsy shows it's malignant". This resulted in more tests with an MRI (almost lost my mind with claustrophobia) and CT (gastrographin - the contrast media - tastes nasty and gives you the runs) to ascertain spread (appears localized) and then referral to the NS Cancer Centre. Depressing spot with great staff (mix up and no appointment but I was fitted in) and saw a surgeon who booked me for a hysterectomy within 10 days. Grandson gave me a cold and I panicked and got some meds pre op so as not to get cancelled. Surgeon advised that chemotherapy would be started in three to four weeks and I'll be doing six cycles with treatments every three weeks as an outpatient in the city. Had a great post op stay in hospital with lots of visits and really swift recovery - only took tylenol for pain, no narcotics. Discharged on day three (they wanted to send me day two) and remembered well we used to keep patients for over a week post op hyst. I ran into problems within a day of being home with abdominal pain and vomiting, feeling the worst I've ever felt in my life. Back and forth over the next week multiple times to ER and finally at two weeks post op a CT was done showing I had two large intrabdominal abscesses and an enlarged right kidney. This resulted in more consults and finally transfer to the city hospital for ten days of IV antibiotics and tests such as oral/rectal CT (which is as much fun as it sounds) and a cystoscopy with insertion of stent in my ureter. Will have a CT in a few weeks and start treatments. So, enough gory details as I'm now home, eating a low fibre/ high protein diet to get myself built back up as I am down to 135 lb. I have wrapped my head around the positive outlook required and am a fighter so this is a just a bump in the road. Tough way to get the summer off work though I am enjoying the sun on the deck as I look at the ducks in the harbour in front of the house. 

I have another few weeks before I can drive myself and that is a pain, now that I'm feeling better. We have never been a couple where mister has to drive me to the grocery store. His version of 'shopping' is running in and picking up several things and rushing out. Yesterday I found myself saying "you have left the cart in the middle of the aisle would you do that with a vehicle?" multiple times as he did not follow any of the direction of flow, park near the shelves rules while organizing meals in my mind sending him sourcing ingredients and lifting heavy (have a 10 lb lifting restriction) bags etc. This was accomplished with audible sighs and eye rolling. It was likely my one 'shop' in a while so I made it count and for my troubles he commented  "if this had gone on any longer I was thinking I needed to bring a change of clothes".  It was a bit more complex with the label reading to switch to low fibre for me (a temporary requirement from all my complications) but really not as painful as the life partner interpreted. I borrowed the juicer machine from a daughter and am experimenting/learning with it as it's the only way I get my fruits and veggies for a bit. 

Have been overwhelmed with the support of family and friends on this journey as I have been spoiled rotten. Visits, offers of help, gifts (adult colouring book is awesome), calls, house calls to mind the kitties and the green house while away, flowers, messages have made me feel so special and a bit overwhelmed. Came home from shopping to find delicious chocolate chip cookies and a good book on the counter. Anyway, enough of the illness talk…I am already scheming as to how I can fit in a cross border trip before treatments (travel insurance wouldn't cover a pre-existing condition once I begin chemo) and perhaps an interprovincial one on good weeks…..gotta have plans. 

I have managed to shirk my baby shower hostessing responsibilities through this journey and the grand baby's other grandmother has stepped up to the plate so next weekend will be spent celebrating a new addition to the family expected in September. Nice chance to see everyone in a positive celebration. 

As my poor job share partner covers my rotation and speaks of all sorts of work related projects it is just background noise at this point as my sick leave has started. Enough chatting, out to source some vitamin D.