Monday, May 16, 2011

Catching up

It's been over a year since I have blogged, and that is hard to believe. That year included a fairy tale trip to Gallicia in Spain in May along with my sister Mary, hosted by my daughter-in-law's wonderful, remarkable parents, Rafael and Pilar. I wrote about that to family and friends...actually writing only through half of the trip, which also extended on to a week's stay in London with my daughter-in-law Cristina and son Dale William.

But I missed the family reunion at Spofford Lake in New Hampshire in August; my cancer was acting up. But I was in high hopes of having a stem cell transplant at Stanford University in the fall (Mary is a donor). However, it turned out I had too many cancer cells in my body to go ahead with the transplant. Instead, I was put into a research program, taking an experimental pill to shrink the lymph nodes in my body (I have both Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma) along with chemotherapy to tackle the leukemia.

The routine was biweekly trips to Palo Alto, with the chemo taken only once a month. I needed a number of platelet and red blood transfusions, but all seemed to be going well; the lymph nodes certainly had shrunk back, until Jan. 4 of this year, when I had to go to Reno's Renown Hospital's emergency room with horrendous stomach pains. This began a 2 1/2 month stay in the hospital, with short breaks of a day or two.

My first visit was for an obstructed colon. Surgery was out of the question because of my platelet counts; the surgeon was not optimistic that I would survive. It was a trying time. Mary flew from Virginia to be on hand for over a week; my sister and brother-in-law, already traveling to visit, stayed a few days, and Cris and Dale, who had just returned to London, turned around and came back for about nine days. I was the center of a lot of attention, but I was also so miserable and often groggy from morphine that I could hardly appreciate it. I did know how tough it was on Dale and that broke my heart.

Less apparent to me were the number of people who were praying for me. My sisters put me on a number of prayer chains, as did members of our church, small as it is. I am absolutely convinced that the prayers of these people, most of whom didn't know me, but prayed because they love Jesus Christ, saved my life.  I pray today for God's grace and peace for them.

Still, when I went home at the end of the month, I found myself back in the emergency room three days later and back in the hospital with a high fever and double pneumonia. There went another month. I was virtually chained to my bed with an alarm system so I wouldn't get up on my own. During this time I lost over 20 pounds...and they were muscle, not fat pounds. I could no longer walk unassisted. So at the end of the month I was released to a rehabilitation hospital where I spent nine days. All was not over: Less than a week later I was back in the hospital for an additional nine days because of more problems with the colon. All the while I had to take tremendous amounts of antibiotics and have several transfusions; I thought they were trying to make me chemically perfect, which I believe is an impossibility.

When I came home on March 19, finally, I was pretty much a basket case. Dale became my long-suffering nurse. He still is, although I am walking much better now. I think the muscle tone in my legs and most of my balance is back, but I tire easily, and sometimes I just hurt. This week I went back to Stanford to see if I can get back into the research study, or at least be able to take the experimental pill again, but I have no definite answer on that as yet. In the meantime, I feel a shadow of my former self. Gone is most of my energy. I haven't been able to babysit, and I miss that intimacy with my grandchildren. When Ione sees me, she hugs me and tells me she loves me. I tell her I miss her. Maddox, almost 6 now, is less demonstrative, but blessedly impish.

I do a lot of reading, too much really; it gives me a backache after a while. I have cooked a little, and I think I need to force myself to do more. I go to physical therapy, and I enjoy that; I do well. Several of my sisters call me almost every day, though we are widely separated geographically, and I've come to know my big brother better through his phone calls. The kids call too; I know they are worried, and I wish they didn't need to be.

I have a lot of trouble sleeping at night. I try to ration the pain pills, which do bring on sleep. The nights seem so long; I wake up and sometimes get up several times. I want to be very strong and brave about what is happening to me, but inwardly I am not.  I have faith in Jesus Christ, but sometimes I don't. Last night I cried because I thought I really have no faith; I don't trust. I know this is all in God's hands. But I know I want to see my grand kids grow; I want to see the grandson Cris is expecting in October.  I don't want Dale to be left alone and bereft. I feel so bad thinking of leaving him.

If I were a better Christian, I should have more faith. I have had a good life, a wonderful life, and I praise God and love Him for the many blessings he has bestowed on me. But I don't want to take the cup, although of course, like everyone, I will. I hope it will be later rather than sooner. I hope my kids will remember that I want them to hold a big Irish wake to remember me. I want them to stick together and look out for their father. I hope I'm not being a great big baby.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."    Hebrews 11:1