Sunday, April 29, 2018

Dear Kids,
         Luckily, my medical news for the week doesn’t concern me at all.  Dad has a red spot behind his right ear, more than an inch across, that looks like eczema, but isn’t.  He’s tried every possible cream to get rid of it, including prescriptions from two doctors, but it stays on and on–it’s been there about three years now.  So on Wednesday he finally had it biopsied.  I thought that meant just a few cells being scraped off, but our dermatologist cut way in, down deep.  I held Dad’s hand, just like he’s been holding mine for so many procedures.  The cut bled a lot, and they closed it up with a stitch.  We were supposed to find out within a couple of days what was wrong, but no news is good news.  (If it’s cancer, the doctor herself calls you back almost immediately.)  We should find out what it is on Monday, and hopefully also find out how it can be cured.  The good thing was that it was finally Dad’s turn to be on the doctor’s table, not mine.  But hopefully we can both stay out of hospitals for a while!
         Thursday I made my first foray out into the real world, since my surgery.  Dad and I went down to the senior center in Heber so I could teach my piano classes again.  My ladies hadn’t had their lessons for three weeks, and I absolutely couldn’t wait any longer.  I probably shouldn’t have ventured out so soon, but it was wonderful interacting with real people again.  (Besides you wonderful kids, who have been so gracious about visiting us!) All eight of my ladies were there, and they had all practiced diligently since I last met with them.  It doesn’t get any better than that!  They all told me how glad they were to be back at piano again, and how much they’d missed me.  I’ve absolutely never had such good piano students in my life!  So although I was dragging low physically, it totally rejuvenated me!
         I’ve started eating lunch in the senior center cafeteria again, instead of my lonely sandwich in the piano room, but I bring my own bland food in a takealong tray, and heat it up in the microwave in their kitchen.  This week I was really glad to be eating with the group again, because our entertainment was the Timpanogos middle school choir.  You can hardly find a kids’ choir in Heber that doesn’t include at least one of our grandchildren, and sure enough, we spotted Emma in the group.  They sang really cute songs, including “Under the Sea” and “Johnny-be-Good.”  Emma was the cutest girl there, by far! I’m so proud of all our grandchildren, and their wonderful talents.  It looks like the gene for performing and entertaining has been passed down to almost everybody!
         Life is good again!  I appreciate you all so much!  Love, Mom

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