Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dear Kids,
         Last Sunday morning when I wrote my letter, I was all ready to call my doctor about the pain in my side.  When I finally got a a call back, it was his partner, who told me to take miralax and wait it out.  By evening I was totally dehydrated, nauseous, and in terrible pain.  I called my home health nurse, Audrey, and she came and checked me out.  She sent me to the ER in Park City, where they gave me 2 liters of fluid.  Beyond that, they had no idea, so I asked them to transfer me down to LDS hospital (where people really know what they’re doing, unlike Park City.)  At LDS, they started my IV again, and it took a day and a half of constant fluids before I was hydrated again.  They said I had a blockage in my intestines, but they were hoping Mother Nature could solve the problem on her own.  She couldn’t, so Tuesday morning they did a process called “irrigation,” which is just like it sounds.  After that, I started improving fast.  Wednesday afternoon they sent me home again, and I’m here for good, now.
         Since then, I’ve been doing really well.  I’m learning to live with my new “equipment,” but it’s a steep learning curve.  You absolutely don’t want to have an accident!  You need to attach your equipment securely so it doesn’t leak.  You need to get on a regular schedule of eating so you can kind of guess when you’ll have a “dump.”  I know all this is really gross, and I won’t mention it again, but it’s the center of my life now.  The really funny thing is listening to gas gurgling through your guts and whooshing out.  Imagine farting through your belly button, and you sort of get the idea.
         Well, enough of that. 
         I didn’t go to church last Sunday, but I’d heard rumors that there were going to be some changes in the Spanish branch.  I texted a couple of my “hermanas” and asked them to keep me posted.  When their answers came back, I was stunned.  The Spanish branch has been dissolved!  (“dispersed,” one of my hermanas wrote in English.) I can sort of see why–the branch hasn’t grown at all, probably because of immigration enforcement and deportations and e-verify.  There are only 2 or 3 strong families,  and most of the leadership comes from the Caucasians.  Everybody who speaks Spanish has already put in their time.  But still, I’m terribly disappointed.  You can bet there were floods of tears among the Spanish saints.  But onward and upward.  For me, it means back to Francis 2nd ward for my third try at integrating there.
         While I was still in the hospital, I became obsessed with their mac n’ cheese.  It was to die for, and I ordered it every lunch and dinner I could.  Now that I’m home, I’ve been trying to duplicate it, so whenever I’ve had extra energy, I’ve staggered down to the kitchen for another try.  And I’ve finally got it!  (A combination of sharp cheddar, monterey jack, and parmesan). If you want to have the world’s best mac n’ cheese, come and visit, and I’ll make it for you.  It only takes about 10 minutes.
         Life is good again!  I love you all!  Mom

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dear Kids,
        My recovery was going really well until last night, when a sharp pain developed in my right side.  Luckily my doctor said I could contact him any time, so in another hour or so I’ll call his answering service and have them send him a note.  This is really discouraging, because things were going so well up until now.  I’ve figured out how to use my new equipment, and I was getting around a little better every day.  Hopefully this isn’t going to be a major setback.
        The best possible news is that there’s no cancer in my liver or my lymph nodes.  That means I probably won’t have to have chemo, or more radiation, either.  So in spite of the pain I have right now, I’m practically home free.  Thanks for all of your prayers, and visits, and goodies, and flowers, and just cheering me up in general.
        While I was still in the hospital I realized I was going to need a walker when I got home.  People told me you can rent them, and medicare will reimburse you, or buy them at the DI.  But I had a better idea.  I remembered that when Justin was in charge of Orchard Care Center in Orem he said he had a whole roomful of walkers and canes that people had left behind when they died.  So I called Elk Meadows, the care center up in Oakley, and asked them if they had surplus walkers.  They do!  I sent Dad up to get me one, and I ended up with two, a bare bones model for upstairs, and a super deluxe sit-on walker with brakes and a padded seat, to use downstairs.  So I can sit on this walker in the kitchen, and I have lots of freedom to fix food or clean up the sink.  The grandkids have had fun playing with it, too.  Only Tina hates it.
        Last Christmas I decided the best thing I could give Dad would be a new doorbell, since the one that came with our house is so quiet you can barely hear it.   I discovered on Amazon that your can get wireless doorbells with up to four chimes.  So that’s what we have, now–a chime in the basement, one in the kitchen, and two upstairs.  I’m glad we got it all set up, because we would have missed a lot of visitors and goodies over the last few weeks.
        Well, it’s almost 8 am, and I can call my doctor.
        Wish me luck! Love, Mom

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dear Kids,
         Two more days until my surgery.  I know it won’t be a piece of cake, but at least I’ll start improving, instead of going downhill, like now.  This week has been really hard, with lots of pain at my lower end, and it’s been getting worse every day.  Tomorrow I’m supposed to do the “cleanout” prep for the surgery, which is just like the prep for a colonoscopy, and I simply can’t.  The pain would be too terrible.  I’ll call my doctor in the morning and see what options there are.  Maybe I could go to the clinic and have a morphine shot.  Maybe they can clean me out just before they operate.  There’s got to be something they do for people like me.  Or, what if the patient is unconscious?  What if it’s an emergency?   I’m sure they can be creative.
         I’ll probably be in the hospital for about 4 days.  They keep you until your new system is totally working, with food making it all the way through your intestines and out into the bag.  I met with the colostomy nurse, Rochelle, who’s really nice.  (They have to be nice in this business!) There are lots of different kind of bags, and ways to do it.  She told me about people who found a whole new life with this setup: swimmers, golfers, people who were finally able to travel, and one lady who finally was able to go on a cruise.  The bags are really flat, and you can wear your normal clothes.   The nurse had me sit down and stand up and bend from side to side, and then marked with an “x” where the ostomy (the hole) will be, so the bag won’t be in the way of anything I do.  I feel really confident now, and I’m looking forward to my new life.
         The bad news is that I’ll be on a really restricted diet for at least two months, and there’s no promise that I can ever eat absolutely everything.  Here I’d been looking forward to eating anything I wanted to, as soon as the bag was in place.  Wednesday morning, at Winco, I was looking at all the foods I want to start eating, and absolutely drooling.  But it will take time.
         Yesterday afternoon Tom came by with three of his kids, and we put him right to work on my new computer.  I had a long list of things that weren’t working quite right, and he fixed everything in about 10 minutes.  Dad and I often talk about you kids and your skills, and how they benefit us.  Just think: We have an eye doctor, a computer expert, a cop, an engineer, a teacher, more than one speech therapist, a food expert, a licensed landscape architect, and a soon-to-be nurse.  We have everything we need!  Plus a lot of love and cooperation among you.  Dad and I love you all so much!
         Thanks again for your prayers.  Please pray especially hard for me on Tuesday!
         Love, Mom 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Dear Kids,
         I hope you’re all having a wonderful Easter morning!  When you combine Conference and Easter and Blake’s birthday, what could be better?  I was sorry to miss the fun yesterday afternoon.  Dad tells me that the Easter egg hunt and soup dinner went really well.  Paul and Stefanie and Josh came here afterwards to stay over, and Paul brought Josh up to my room to visit.  We tormented Tina, who was hiding under the bed.
         I’m hoping to be there this afternoon for the dinner at Tom’s.   And to wish Blake a happy first birthday!  I hope I’ll feel well enough to go. I’m slowly recovering from the radiation, but it’s been hard.  My radiation doctor said he’s never seen anybody have such a rough time, even with the short course.  The side effects aren’t supposed to kick in for at least 2 weeks, but for me, it was more like 2 hours.  We barely got home the first day when my insides exploded.  I’ve had it all: nausea, cramps, diarrhea, muscle pain, and fatigue.  By the third treatment I was so dehydrated they had to put in an IV and give me fluids.  That was the day Nora showed up at the clinic to cheer us up.  She was great! She took Dad to lunch at Costco, and they brought back Lindt truffles.  I so appreciate everything you kids have done for me, and everything that everyone else has done, too. Heather and Kim and Donna have given us delicious soups.  Everybody has prayed for me, and I hope you’ll keep it up.  I can endure all this much better because of your prayers, and the prayers of your kids, too.
         I really came to appreciate the kind people at the Huntsman cancer clinic, the one in Murray.  I was relieved to have the last treatment over with, and they wished me well.  I got to “ring the bell.”  I said it might discourage people who are still being treated, but they said it would help them.  There are lots of ladies there who’ve been through chemo and are having radiation now.  They’re all incredibly cheerful, but incredibly bald. There’s a basket of beanies that people donate, and I put in one of mine.  Remember a couple of Christmases ago, when we girls were all giving each other the knitted beanies?  I ended up with three of them, so I donated my purple one.  The next day I saw it had been taken.  I hope the lady who has it will survive and get well.
         Thanks again for all you’ve done, and for your prayers.  Love, Mom

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dear Kids,
         I’m typing this letter with nine fingers.  The non-participating finger is wrapped in bandages, because I accidentally slammed it in the car door Friday afternoon.  I had gone to Heber in the truck with Dad to pick up our car from L&L auto shop, because it had snapped a spring the day before.  (We had been driving down 300 East in Heber when we heard a loud bang in the car, like a cannon going off.  Luckily we were close to the garage.)  So here we were in Heber again, to pick up the repaired car, when I mashed my finger.  Blood was dripping everywhere, but the nice guy at the garage gave us paper towels and a bottle of water to clean up with.  Dad had to leave his truck at L&L, drive me home in the car and help bandage my hand, and then get Julie to drive him back to get the truck.  If this whole story sounds incoherent, it’s because my brain is fried from all the pain pills I’ve been taking.
         But on a very bright note, next weekend is conference and Easter.  Here’s the plan: After the Saturday afternoon session, so, just after 4:00, we’ll have the Easter egg hunt at John’s house.  Each family needs to bring enough eggs for their own children, but we’ll mix them all up. Then we’ll have our traditional bread and soup dinner.  If everybody brings either a soup or a bread, or rolls, we should have plenty.  Then the guys will go off to the Priesthood session at John’s stake center.  Afterwards, John is providing ice cream.
         The next day, which is both conference and Easter, we’ll be having dinner and a birthday party for Blake at Tom’s house, just after the afternoon session.  I know we usually have Sunday dinner between the two sessions, but because of the party, we’ll eat later, to give us more time.  You can call Kim for a food assignment.   I hope this is all clear.  I’m hoping to be there both days, for all the fun, but I don’t know how I’m going to feel.
         I’ll be having radiation, starting tomorrow, through Friday, and it’s a special intense “short course” radiation they’re using now for colon cancer.  I’ve heard regular radiation isn’t so bad, but I haven’t found anybody who’s been through this new kind.  I googled it, but all I found was very technical information from scholarly journals, geared towards doctors.  There were mortality statistics, but nothing about how the patient will feel.  So I’ll be finding out.  Wish me luck, and please keep praying for me!  I can feel the power of all your prayers!
          Because of all my medical troubles and pain, I’ve finally given up the piano class we’ve been doing at the Lighthouse church for 8 years now.  It was a hard decision.  I planned on just ending the class, but the other teachers (led by Sandra Rickett) said they definitely want to keep it going. They’ve put too much into it to just drop it all, and they love doing it.  I sure wish them well!   I’m not dropping my piano ladies in Heber, but I’ll have to cancel some of our classes.
          But life is good. It’s all good!  I love you all!  Mom

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dear Kids (and anybody else who might be reading this),
         Practically everybody knows that I have colon cancer. The colonoscopy I had on Monday showed the tumor really clearly. It’s about 3 cm across and 1 cm deep, and it’s partly covering my lower sphincter, which explains a lot of the pain I’ve been having. After the cancer showed up on the colonoscopy, they had us stay at the hospital for a cat scan and an ultrasound, to get better pictures of it. If it hasn’t spread, my chances for recovery are really good. There’s a spot on my liver that might be problematic, but there are liver surgeons who go after those. So I’m really optimistic. I’ll have five days of really intense radiation, starting a week from tomorrow, and then I get a week off to recover. Then, on April 10, I’ll have surgery where they’ll take out the last few inches of my colon, and hook me up to a bag, which I’ll wear it for the rest of my life. I’m really looking forward to the change. That part of my anatomy has been giving me trouble for 33 years now, but finally I’ll be rid of it. I won’t always need to know where the nearest bathroom is. I can go backpacking in the wilderness, or stay at a primitive campground. I’ll be able to eat foods that I’ve had to avoid for the last several years--maybe even ice cream! I can barely imagine how nice that will be!
         You know how the ads on your phone always reflect what you’ve been googling? A couple of weeks ago I was getting ads for brown sandals, which I’d been looking for. Then, last week, I started getting ads for colonoscopies. (They really have ads for those!) Now I’m getting ads for lawyers who specialize in wills and estates. How creepy is that!
          But I really have a strong feeling that I’m going to survive. I don’t think my time is up yet. And it’s all in the Lord’s hands, anyway. Thank you all so much for your prayers! I can feel the power of so many good people praying for me, especially children. I think the Lord gives special attention to their prayers.
         Dad and I slept over at Nora’s house Friday night, after watching Paige in "Peter Pan." (She was a very cute fairy.) Cathy Ackerson was there! She had been to a conference in Salt Lake, related to her work with Wells Fargo. She’s just as lively and friendly as ever! We slept over in Nora’s basement, which now has carpet. Vanessa’s family was sleeping over, too, on their way to Disneyland. But there was plenty of room for all of us.
         We also got acquainted with Nora’s new lovebird, Boris. He’s still a chick, but large for his age. He has spectacular colors of green and bright blue, with peach on his throat. He knows he’s beautiful. He’s very friendly, probably because he was hand fed. I’m looking forward to playing with him a lot more, when we visit there.
          So life is still good! I love you all! Mom

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Dear Kids,
         I’m uploading my Mom letter a day early this week, because Dad and I are going to swap out my desktop computer for a surplus school computer that Tom got for us, and it might take us more than a day to get everything set up again. My desktop is at least 10 years old, has only one working usb port, has trouble reading CD’s and DVD’s, and is slow to open and close its tray. The one we have from Tom isn’t new, but it’s newer than mine, and I’m sure it will work better. Besides that, we’re saving it from the crusher.
         If anybody has stopped reading my Mom letter, I don’t blame them. It’s only medical news any more. But that’s my life! I saw a proctologist ("bum doctor") on Monday, and he wasn’t very nice. He was completely unsympathetic to my problems, and didn’t seem at all concerned about my symptoms, but he scheduled me for a colonoscopy Monday morning. At least I’ll find out if there’s anything seriously wrong with me. One good thing–when I told him I could hardly stand the pain, he said he’d prescribe me "a couple" of percoset. When I groaned, he said he’d make it 40. I told him he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
          And it’s a good thing I got loaded up on pain pills, because Wednesday morning I had to have a root canal. There was a filling Dr. Condie had done the week before, and he had warned me he’d gotten very close to the nerve, and it turned out to be too close. I thought once I had the root canal my tooth pain would be gone, but it hasn’t let up yet. It’s so bad, I hardly think about my other problems. I take the pain meds every four hours, and I’ve gotten to be like the mean old lady in "To Kill a Mockingbird," who always set her alarm for her next dose, and tried to make it through till then. I hope the tooth pain will let up before Monday, so I’ll only have to deal with the colonoscopy. Which reminds me, I have to do the colonoscopy prep Sunday afternoon and evening, so we won’t be up for visitors Sunday night. I’m sorry, because we always enjoy having you kids and our wonderful grandkids come and visit us. It’s the highlight of my week.
          I hope I can write a more pleasant letter next week. If I don’t write at all, it’s because we couldn’t get the new computer set up, or because I decided that life itself simply isn’t worth it. I hope you’re all doing better than I am.
          Love, your unhappy Mom