Jul 022016
 

I’ve fallen behind. Behind on blogging, behind on bookbinding projects, behind on 4th quarter preparations for craft fairs, letter-writing, house-cleaning tasks, sewing challenges, and more. I still have non-downloaded patterns sitting in my online account, in fact, for the 2016 Bag of the Month Club that began in January and ended in May. My excuse? Four days before my birthday arrived in January, I had major surgery for endometrial cancer, followed by eight weeks of external and internal radiation treatments.

The equipment you see in this photo represents more than $215K of radiation treatments. Thank goodness for insurance!

The equipment you see in this photo represents more than $215K of radiation treatments. Thank goodness for insurance!

During this period, I placed one foot in front of the other during daytime working hours, focusing on what I had to accomplish. When I returned home, I’d sit down in my living room rocking chair, thinking I would pleasure-read for a little while. From one moment to the next, I would fall sound asleep. This is the fatigue that every cancer patient learns about from the oncologist and medical literature, at the beginning of the treatment journey, but then experiences firsthand. Those treatments are now behind me, I have successfully completed my first three-month post-exam, and am gradually getting back on track, energy-wise.

April 21st marked the last day of radiation treatments. Tiffany and Brad, standing on either side of me, were my internal radiation therapists.

April 21st marked the last day of radiation treatments. Tiffany and Brad, standing on either side of me, were my internal radiation therapists.

Life doesn’t stop when you are recovering from a potentially life-changing disease. It’s helpful, of course, to think positive thoughts and to take time to relax. The week before Memorial Day, just a month after I completed radiation treatments, John and I enjoyed our annual cabin retreat at Backbone State Park in northeastern Iowa.

Backbone State Park

At work, I helped plan two conferences—one in St. Paul, Minnesota and another in Omaha, Nebraska. Both conferences included evening social activities. At St. Paul Curling Club, about 120 completely inexperienced employees were invited to participate in a friendly competition. Although I didn’t actually sweep a rock down the ice, I did take a lot of photos that were later posted to my employer’s SharePoint site.

This is about as close to the ice that I got. Surprisingly, the ice was not slippery, as it had been treated with a substance that gave it grip.

This is about as close to the ice that I got. Surprisingly, the ice was not slippery, as it had been treated with a substance that gave it grip. The Club referred to it as “holy water,” whatever that is!

The second evening of the St. Paul conference, everyone enjoyed a Padelford Riverboat cruise, dinner and casino-style gambling with play money. As you can see from the photos below, the night time views were breath-taking.

Padelford Riverboat Cruise

Just a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Omaha at a second conference for about 200 employees. Although the temperatures hovered in the sweltering low-90s, an outdoor social activity had been planned: a riverboat cruise aboard the River City Star on the Missouri River. After we ate a Mexican-style dinner with enchiladas and tacos, we toasted s’mores on the deck of the docked Kon-Tiki-O, waving bamboo skewers over cans of Sterno.

River City Riverboat Cruise

Today, like nearly everyone across the U.S., John and I are enjoying the first day of a three-day 4th of July weekend. We don’t have travel plans, but we will watch fireworks from our front lawn. Fortunately for us, Urbandale’s centennial celebration will be capped off with fireworks at Walker Johnston Park, just across the street from us. We’ve donated our three dollars apiece to help fund the community event, which begins with an old-fashioned midway and carnival, music in the park, a street dance, a pancake breakfast, a 5K run, a parade, cribbage tournament and soccer game, a car show, and a fireworks display. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Counting Down to the Centennial

I have decided that it’s okay to fall behind for a while, to simply take things one day at a time. The unfinished projects, housework, letters, crafts and more can sit for a bit. They’ll either get done or they won’t, depending on how important they are at the time. Meanwhile, here’s hoping you, too, have given yourself permission to fall behind and relax this 4th of July weekend!

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 192016
 

When I was diagnosed with a form of endometrial cancer a couple of weeks ago, I debated whether I would write about it. Later this week, I will undergo surgery to remove my ovaries, uterus and Fallopian tubes, and then will begin the process of recovery.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cancer is one of those words in everyone’s vocabulary that no one wants to experience firsthand. I watched my father die from lung cancer while the cancer cells marched insidiously through his body to his brain, and finally inhabited his skeletal system. Throughout that period he maintained his dignity—as much as you can while you’re propped up in a hospital bed and need assistance to eat, dress, shower and use the bathroom. Mostly he tried to ease others’ discomfort about being in the vicinity of someone with cancer by telling jokes. “How do you feel today?” a nurse or aide might ask. “With my fingers, of course,” he would respond. His daily chuckle, I think, got him through each day.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My own situation is far different from my father’s—hopeful where his was hopeless, treatable and well understood where his disease had progressed beyond the point of return, and painless (at least before surgical intervention!), where my father’s disease left him sensitive to every touch. I am fortunate to have an experienced oncologist surgeon who specializes in women’s cancers of the reproductive system, fortunate to work for an employer that supplies excellent insurance and a partial wage-replacement system while I am on medical leave, and fortunate to have a supportive husband and son.

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Still, cancer remains That Disease Other People Get. When it arrives on your doorstep, you can wring your hands and ask, “Why me?” or deal with it one step at a time, concentrating on the present moment. When people ask me how I feel, I tell them that no one feels good when cancer knocks on your door, but that I can honestly say I feel reassured by the level of both physical and emotional support I am receiving, as well as by the typical prognosis for the type of cancer I have, when it is treated. “Reassured” is my word of the month. And it’s reassuring, too, to know that so many people are praying on your behalf. Thank you, everyone!

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the pieces of advice my doctor gave me was to avoid reading every Web site in the world about cancer. I’m not sure whether he knew that I’m one of those people who eagerly research everything they can, but in any event his advice was sound. You can drive yourself crazy, reading about all of the potential detours your disease can take. My doctor pointed out that most Web sites offer general information, while every cancer is unique—just as every patient is unique. This becomes obvious when you hop from site to site, reading post-surgery advice about what you should eat and what you shouldn’t. One Web site encourages you to eat a high fiber diet, while your doctor may tell you, at least initially, to avoid such foods. Another site warns you about potential weight gain, while the next site is populated with testimonials by women who have lost weight.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While I think it is irresponsible to go into any surgery and subsequent recovery period without doing any research at all, or by not asking your doctor questions, it is equally irresponsible not to be selective about the sources you research. I like to visit www.mayoclinic.com, for example, for reliable medical information, at least as a starting point. And then I ask my medical staff lots of questions.

My goal, these days, is to live in each moment, and to not dwell unduly about the what-ifs. Worrying is wasted time, effort and energy. I’ve joined the C-Club, a membership that is far greater than I ever imagined. There is comfort in knowing you’re not alone, but also a bit of reticence about keeping your membership. The goal is to become cancer-free and healthy, and to leave that membership behind you.

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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