Two Years

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Dave in Mexico

It was two years ago today that my world shattered.  Two years ago that I heard the words that we had been dreading for two weeks.   The words I will never forget.  The words “You have cancer”.  Those words were not spoken to me, but rather they were spoken to my husband, but I was in the room and I heard them loud and clear.  The walls started closing in as the doctor started talking about treatments, surgery etc.  I grabbed onto two other words that he said, and I would cling to those words for a very, very long time.  I am still clinging to those to words “it’s treatable”.

As we sat in that small room 2 years ago, so many things went through my mind.  The first thing I thought of was “how are we going to tell the kids”?  Kaylee and Alex were getting married in just six short days.  We were in full wedding mode.  We had family already at our house……..just so much going through my mind.  I don’t think we really processed what we were being told at that time.  We went into auto pilot……told the kids what we knew, told close family what we knew (which wasn’t a whole lot at that time) and scheduled doctors’ appointments for the week after the wedding, and then focused on the joy of our daughters’ wedding.

The day after Kaylee and Alex’s wedding, Dave and I were sitting in the Oncologists office…..hearing lots of very frightening stuff.  I will never forget when he walked in the door, crossed his arms and said “we have a fight on our hands”.  Yep, that was very reassuring!  We had appointments with two different oncologists that week, and then were referred to OHSU to meet with the man that we had been is told one of the best surgeons in the country for throat cancer, Dr. Peter Anderson.  We call him the man who saved Dave’s life.  He is AMAZING!  We were sitting in his office the next week and he gave us the first bit of good news.  Dave was a good candidate for robotic surgery to remove the tumor that was blocking half of his airway.  We left his office with surgery scheduled for the end of September.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we were at OHSU and Dave was heading into surgery.  My sister, Kaylee and Alex were there as support.  The waiting was horrible.  We entertained ourselves by watching a very “interesting” family in the surgery waiting room.  I won’t go into detail, but my sister got a great picture that day that she posted on Facebook.  When we were told that Dave would soon be going to his room, we went up ahead of him.   I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m telling you the reality of our situation slapped me in the face when I got off the elevator (with a bit of a detour with my new son-in-law….we got lost) and saw “Knight Cancer Center” on the door above where we were to enter to get to Dave’s room.  That was almost more than I could handle.  In my mind, the cancer was gone.  That’s what the surgery was for.  It was a stark reminder that Dave was a cancer patient, and we were still in the fight.  Dave was a patient at OHSU for five days.  Five VERY LONG days.  He doesn’t remember much of his time there which is good, I unfortunately, remember every minute, hour, day.  It was hard.  I spent much of it huddled on a small “bench” in the corner of his room.  I slept there (couldn’t even stretch out fully) and spent most of my time there for that five days.  I needed to be there, as Dave’s advocate, and for myself.  When I was away from him, I just needed to be back so I left his room just a couple of times a day to walk down to the cafeteria to get my Pepsi and some food.  The nurses were wonderful.  Each night they would get me tea before bed and a couple of nights when it was exceptionally cold in his room (he kept wanting the heat turned down), they brought me warm blankets.

After Dave was released from the hospital and came home, then the battle to gain back the weight he had lost began.  The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes so he was facing radiation.  We had six weeks to put some meat back on his bones, before they would, quite literally, burn his throat with radiation.  Oh, that was hard work, but we did get a few pounds back on him……..then it was time for radiation.  Six weeks of hell.  Six weeks of watching my husband lose more weight.  Six weeks of watching my husband get to the point where he could only eat just a few different foods, and even those didn’t  taste good.  Six weeks of counting down the days until it was over.

Radiation ended just three days before Christmas.  Kaylee and Alex were spending Christmas in Lynden……and I told Liberty not to waste her money flying home as I knew it would be difficult for her, and that Dave would not be really enjoying the day as he was hurting so much from the damage that radiation had done to his throat.  So, it was just Dave, me and the boys that year.  We had a good time, but it was so hard.   Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

We had all looked at the end of radiation as the end of the struggle…..oh boy were we wrong.  The struggle continued for months, which turned into about a year.  Radiation is HARD to recover from.  It keeps on working in your system even when the treatment is over.  Getting Dave to eat enough food to start putting weight back on was hard…..a daily struggle.  When April came, he went up to visit Kaylee for two weeks.  He needed it and I needed it.  Kaylee showed him what a true food Nazi was……..she put an app on his phone and made him eat the required 2500 calories each day.

Slowly Dave started gaining weight.  Slowly he started getting stronger.  Slowly, we started living again.  Doing the things that we love.  As I sit here two years later and look back, it is still hard to put into words what this journey has been like.  It has been one of the hardest things I’ve every been through.  Yet, here we are two years later.  Dave is healthy again, and he is singing which many thought he would never do.  God has been with us through all of this, and He continues to walk by our side.  As those of you who have been through the cancer battle know, it never goes away.  Dave continues to get “scoped” every three months and so far those have come back clear.  I won’t lie……each time he has an appointment, we sit in fear that we are going to hear the dreaded words “it’s back”, but so far, so good.  At his last appointment with Dr. Anderson, he told us that if we can make it to the two year mark (from the end of treatment) with everything remaining clear, that Dave’s chances of being “cured” (which they won’t say until five years) go up substantially.    As we get closer to that two year mark, we are both starting to breathe just a little easier……..hoping and praying that we continue to hear those beautiful words “all clear”.

Two years later, we are still standing, still hoping, still loving and still looking to the future.

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Wings

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog.   THAT is about to change.  Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Wings PES Seminar and it was an eye opening experience for me in so many ways.  There is so much on my heart right now that I don’t even know where to start.  What I do know is that I learned a lot about myself and the baggage I have carried around for much of my life.  Baggage that I have allowed to weigh me down and create much self doubt and a lot of insecurities.  If you were to ask me today the number one thing I learned in the seminar, I would say “I am uniquely and beautifully made.  I am ME”.  That verse popped into my head early into the four days and it has stayed with me since.  It has become my motto and I am committing to myself that when self doubt creeps into my mind again, this will be the first thing I think of.

So, many of you are probably wondering “what happens at Wings”……I honestly can’t put it into words, but it is an amazing time that I will never forget.  If I absolutely had to put it into words, I would say, it is a  time when I was able to strip away the walls and allow the true Ginny to shine through.  A time of total acceptance when I didn’t care what others thought and shared my heart and soul.  Much of the weekend, I felt like my heart was bubbling up through my eyes and down my cheeks…….and that happened in front of other people and that’s ok.  It was a time for me to deal with some things from my past that have been with me for a long time.  A time for me to let go of that scared little foster kid who was told by classmates that I was in foster care because nobody wanted me.  I was able to realize that it was way back in grade school that I the phrase fight or flight took root in my soul.  I have spent much of my life doing just that……you mess with me and my first choice is to flee…..avoid any type of conflict.  You back me into a corner and I will come out fighting……and it isn’t pretty.  This is something that I now realize and am working to change.  Something else that I have really struggled with since my time in foster care, is that feeling that what I bring to the table just isn’t good enough…….that I am not as smart as others……that I’m not as pretty as others.  I’m constantly seeing where I fall short.  That is something else that I’m committing to myself that is going to change.  Remember “I am unique and beautifully made……I am me”.  Yep, that is definitely my new motto!

I am fully aware that change isn’t instant and I know that I am going to make mistakes.  But you know what, each and every one of us is human, and we ALL make mistakes.  That’s something else I’ve struggled with for a long time.  I hate making mistakes and it is very hard for me to let go of past mistakes.  Again, something that I got out of the weekend is that the past is just that, the past.  I can’t change it and the only thing I can do is learn from it and move forward.  When this topic came up, the MercyMe song “Dear Younger Me” just started playing through my head.  If you have not heard that song before, look it up on YouTube.  It is very powerful and every word of it is true.

I have so much more to share, and so many words just running around in my head right now, but I’m going to stop here.  I need to organize my thoughts and words and then will share more.  I will say this.  I am so excited about the future.  I am so excited about finding Ginny again, a Ginny that has gotten lost over the years of trying to be what others wanted me to be, and not just being myself.  I am me…….and I can’t be anything else but who God made me to be and that’s ok.

To be continued…..

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When Cancer Strikes

As I sit here looking over the past 8 months, I think I am at a place where I am more willing and able to talk about cancer invading our lives.  I have learned that when you are in the middle of the battle, it is just plain hard to even talk about, let alone write about……so I did the bare minimum.  Updating Dave’s Caringbridge site was about all I could handle, and even then, many times I did so with tears running down my face.

I am not going to try and fit everything into one post, I just can’t.  For one reason I just don’t think I can handle writing it all down at once emotionally and second…….there’s just too much in my head for one post.  So for this post, I am going to start at the beginning.

During the spring and summer of 2015 Dave had several different symptoms.  He was having trouble singing like he was used to and he also felt like he had something in his throat all of the time.  He said he felt “gaggy” most of the time.  He was also snoring like a lumber jack.   Three years before he had been to an ENT in town and had been diagnosed with an “over sized uvula”…..and acid reflux.  They put him on reflex meds and a few other things and it seemed to help.  Fast forward three years……to last summer.  Dave once again went to the ENT and explained his symptoms……and once again he was told that he had an over sized and inflamed uvula caused by acid reflux and once again he was put on meds and told to come back in a month.  There were no test, no “scope”……just the doc looking down his throat.  Fast forward a month.  Dave returns for a follow-up appointment with the doc and explains that there has been no real improvement and he STILL feels like he has something in the back of his throat.  Again the doctor does not scope him…….instead he tells Dave that he has “post nasal drip” and puts him on a nose spray and has him doing nasal rinses and sends him on his way.  About a week later, Dave was sitting at his desk at work and stretched……putting his hands on his neck…..and that is when he felt it.  A lump.  A BIG lump.  When I got home that night Dave showed it to me.  Those of you who know me know that I can be a bit of a Polyanna……..I look at the glass half full……so I told Dave that it was probably an inflamed lymph node because he had some type of infection.  Oh how I wish I had been right……..

It just so happened that Dave had a dentist appointment the day after he found the lump.  He asked our dentist about it and Dr. Timm did a lot of probing and took x-rays etc. and finally told Dave that it was not an infection and that he felt that Dave needed to follow-up with the ENT.  Dave called the ENT’s office and was told by the nurse that the lump could be a result of “stuff” gathering in the lymph node from the nasal rinses, but that she would schedule an appointment for the following week.  The doctor Dave had been seeing was out of town, so he was to see one of his partners.

Fast forward another week………and the day that the big C blew into our lives like a hurricane.  Dave went to his appointment and I anxiously waited at work for his phone call.  I had convinced myself that it would be nothing.   Just an infection…..oh how I wish I had been right.  Dave’s appointment was early in the morning and my phone rang about 9:30 AM……I picked it up hoping to hear “it’s nothing”…….instead I heard “they think it is cancer”.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember a whole lot immediately after he said those words.  I do remember getting up and going outside so I could talk in “private”.  I remember sobbing and not much more.  I remember Dave telling me that they were scheduling a CT Scan and needle biopsy ASAP.  I remember him telling me that the doctor “scoped” him (finally) and that there was a large mass on his tonsil.  I remember just crying and trying to assure him that everything would be ok……trying to convince myself as well.  After we finally hung up I remember walking……walking…..walking and crying.  After I semi pulled myself together,  I went back into work and just sat staring at my computer trying to keep myself from falling apart all over again…….and then a co-worker came up and asked me if everything was ok……and she touched my shoulder.  Poor Sheila……the tears started again.  We went outside and I remember her just hugging me while I sobbed.  I couldn’t even talk……just cried and finally I just blurted out THEY THINK DAVE HAS CANCER.  After what seemed like forever I was able to pull myself together and explain what was going on to her.  Sheila if you read this…..please know that you were my angel that day.  I don’t know what I would have done without your listening hear, loving heart, and sweet spirit.

I tried to go back to work but know that I didn’t get much done that day…….and then Dave called to say that they had scheduled the CT scan for that afternoon.  I sent my supervisor an e-mail explaining what was happening and left……..

To be continued…..

 

 

 

 

Jumbled Thoughts

I have had a post brewing in my head for about a month now (ever since Dave’s surgery) but don’t think I am quite ready to post it.  To be perfectly honest my feelings are two raw right now and I fear that I putting those thoughts in writing could leave me a crying mess……..so I am going avoid that for now.

Today was Dave’s third radiation treatment and the first one where I was able to go back and see them fit him with the mask and “snap” him into place.  The ladies at the cancer center were wonderful and offered Dave a warm blanket which he said he didn’t need.  They allowed me to snap a couple of pictures which Dave wanted and then shooed me out before the treatment actually began.  Let me say here and now that I am extremely claustrophobic and watching them bolt Dave to the table may or may not have caused a few tears to fall (stupid tears).   After he was done with treatment, we met with the doc.  We both really like her.  She can be a bit “awkward” when talking but she doesn’t hide anything and is very straight forward.  She showed us the computer generation of where the radiation beams are aimed at and hitting and talked with us about the potential side effects.  They are zapping the left side of his face where the tumor and affected lymph nodes were with a higher dose than the right side.  The appointment actually went very well.

It is still just to hard to say the words “Dave has Cancer”.  After he had his surgery, I found myself saying “Dave Had Cancer” until we started meeting with the docs over here and realized that they still consider that he has cancer, even if the tumor and lymph nodes have been removed, with the  chance of some microscopic disease in there, they say there is………not so sure I like that.

As I look ahead to the Holiday season, I want so desperately to find joy among all we are going through.  Joy in a baby who came to earth to save us from our sins that grew up into a man who died for our sins.  The joy in being with my family and celebrating the season.  The joy that we have medicine that can cure diseases like cancer (coming soon my thoughts about this horrible beast called cancer), and the joy that Dave is here with us and that doctors have used words like “curable”.

Many people have reminded me to take care of myself through all of this.  I am trying but it is hard.  Any time I feel like I am tired or frustrated, or don’t feel well etc., I feel like I don’t have any room to complain because Dave is going through much worse.  It is just a difficult road and I have no idea how to walk it.  I’m doing the best I can but if you happen to see me stumble, please feel free to lend a helping hand.

Well, I’d better close this for now.  Thanks for coming here and reading my jumbled thoughts.

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About “The” Picture

So……nothing like having a picture that you took going viral to push one into a blog post.  So I thought I would share how “the” prom picture came about.  Over 3 years ago our daughter Kaylee was a senior in high school and looking forward to her senior prom.  That same weekend we had a house full of body builders as my best friends’ son and his buddies needed a place to stay when they were in Bend for a body building competition.  My best friend was also here to watch her son compete and be with her buddy Kaylee as she got ready for her senior prom.

When the dates arrived and it came time for pictures, the prom kids and several of us headed outside to get pictures.  As I walked by Ryan (the body builder on the left in the yellow almost not there speedo) and whispered in his ear “I dare you”.  Now when I whispered those words, I had a visual of Ryan alone coming out and disrupting the pictures…..oh boy was I wrong.  About halfway through the pictures the three body builders literally burst out the door and started posing with the prom kids.  Poor Kaylee (the one that looks like she has a seatbelt on) almost burst out in tears.  Take a very close look at her face.  The other kids had a blast with it while Kaylee remained mortified the entire time.  The “exorcism” taking place behind the kids are my two sons Connor and Reuben who photo bomb any picture they can.

There is actually more to this story than just that picture.  It just so happened that the prom and body building competition were actually held at the same venue (one upstairs and one in the basement).  The body building boys decided that they also needed to visit Kaylee and her friends at the prom.  Thank God they at least put pants on for that.  They did almost get themselves thrown out on their ear by a very feisty and SMALL principal (female).  So, that is the story of “the” picture.

The Ultimate Prom Picture
The Ultimate Prom Picture

 

Everyone Has an Opinion

I have been pondering this post for quite some time and have held off because I am one hundred percent sure that I am going to offend someone with this post, but oh well, here goes.

Over the past couple of years, as social media has continued to grow so has the willingness of people to judge others and put them down for everything from whether or not a mother breastfeeds her babies to whether or not a young pregnant woman has gained too much weight or not enough.  Everyone has an opinion and is more than willing to judge others for their choices.

Recently a photographer in Washington state posted a picture of a young military father dressed in his fatigues holding his newborn baby swaddled in an American flag.  I was one who thought the picture was absolutely beautiful.  After all, this young father is fighting to preserve this amazing country for his little baby.  There were so many people who did not feel the same way.  They felt that it was disrespectful of the flag and many were not nice about it.  Really?  So, having an athlete who has just won a race running around the field with the American flag draped over their sweaty body is ok, but this is not?    Really?

I have also seen young mothers post picture of their kids only to be blasted in the comments because their child doesn’t appear to be buckled into their carseat perfectly or their baby is drinking from a bottle and others feel that babies should be breastfed. Then there are those who are body shamed……they are too skinny.  They are too fat to be wearing that!  People have posted pictures of their beautiful tattoos only to have others tell them what bad people they are because they have a tattoo.

Then there are the incidents when people speak their mind, take a stand on something and because their opinion may not align with others, they are put down and judged for standing up for what they believe in.  The last time I checked freedom of speech was still one of our CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.  We all have a right to our opinion and we have a right to speak what we believe and what we feel.  Others have a right to their opinion too, but we do not have the right to put others down and judge them just because their opinion may differ from ours.

Over the past couple of years I have watched more and more people say horrible  things about people on both side of the gun control debate.  And then there are politics.  Oh my gosh.  I tend to lean toward being conservative and more times than not will vote republican, but I am about ready to disown a lot of friends and family who are passing around horrible, horrible Facebook posts about President Obama.   HORRIBLE things.  I agree that Obama may not be the best president we have ever hard, but some of these “cartoons” and far right Facebook posts are just not right.

We all have a right to our opinion and we all have a right to express that opinion, but why does every little thing have to cause controversy?  Why are people so willing to judge others?  Why can’t we just respect our differences?

How many people remember Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes?  I wonder what people would do to him today if he were still alive?

 

Signs of Spring

The signs of spring are definitely all over the high desert.  Today Dave and I took a drive out to Camp Sherman and Suttle Lake and of course, I took advantage of this little adventure and got some great photos that show spring blooming here in Central Oregon.    Check out the honey bee on this beautiful yellow wild flower.

DSC_0440These flowers were growing close to a little creek that feeds into Suttle Lake.

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Green leaves are starting to appear…..

DSC_0390Just about everywhere…….

DSC_0389While the campgrounds were pretty much empty, there were some folks who decided to take advantage of the wonderful spring weather…..

DSC_0418At Camp Sherman, we saw a guy heading down the river in a rubber raft……and he was going FAST.

DSC_0376Yes……spring is here, but after 15 years in Central Oregon, I know that Mother Nature probably still has some cold weather up her sleeve so I am going to savor every single beautiful, warm moment of this weekend!

DSC_0454Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  I haven’t written a whole lot lately, but I do have a post brewing and am hoping to get it up tomorrow.  I will give you a glimpse into the topic with this simple statement.  I am so tired of how judgmental our society has become.