Living in the Realm of Possibilities

27 October 2019. The doctors have second thoughts. Tomorrow afternoon, I’m to undergo a nuclear stress test to see if my heart can withstand surgery.

Now, when my grandsons have made arrangements to help me, I may not have the surgery when scheduled (29 October). What’s more, since the nuclear test is scheduled for 28 October at 2:40 p.m. and the results won’t be available until 10:00 or so, Jeff may be in the air, flying from Chicago when I find out if the surgery is a go or not.

28 October 2019. I have the nuclear stress test. The internist calls with the results: there is considerable scarring from the heart attack when I was 47. The internist says the risk of a heart-related problem occurring has increased slightly, and the surgeon will modify her surgery. I ask to speak to the surgeon because I want to know how she’ll modify the surgery. The internist says I can speak to her at 5:30 the next morning at the downtown location.

I don’t know what to do.

Doubt creeps into my mind, and I lose the staunch resolve I’ve had for surgery. Hasn’t the radiologist told me the mega doses of radiation is just as effective? I opt for the radiation. The internist tells me the radiation doctor would tell me that because that’s his area of expertise. She also tells me I was treated specially to get the nuclear stress test scheduled so quickly. I am shocked by her words, feel beleaguered, and call off the surgery.

4 November 2019. Supposed to be fitted for the simulation for radiation treatments. Nurse calls to say the appointment is canceled—two people didn’t show up for work—there was an automobile accident. For the first time since I’ve been told I have cancer, I break down and cry. My beagle, BoPeep, comforts me.

I go to the computer and research accidents, finding one that occurred on Sunday. I look at the dreadful pictures and realize my lot, even with the cancer growing in my lung, is better than it is for some. I see a GoFundMe project to help rescue a dog. I contribute. I talk to my grandson. I talk to my dogs. I feel better. I can wait.

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Living in the Realm of Possibilities

October 15. New arborvitae tree planted. It’s a sweet, little green thing. May it grow as tall as its elders.

October 16. I spend the morning at a downtown hospital. First, I have a pulmonary function test to see how well my lungs work. Then I see the surgeon and her nurse practitioner. The surgeon has three criteria for performing lung surgery: healthy heart, healthy lungs, and no cigarettes. I pass the last two, but have heart history. I’ll need to have a stress test to see how well my heart is working.

My choices are surgery, stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), or nothing. SBRT is five high doses of radiation. The standard for stage 1 lung cancer is surgery and studies show that people having surgery survive without cancer for five years. SBRT is new. Reports are available only for three years of survival sans cancer. I ask what the lung undergoes in surgery. The cancer is removed, the lung stapled. In SBRT, the affected area becomes scar tissue.

The surgeon says I’m healthy enough for surgery.

Well, I have to do something. I want to live. Four months ago, I had no idea I’d be making a life or death decision before Christmas! The trajectory of life can change in the blink of an eye. I’m not getting any younger and if I am healthy enough now for surgery, I think I should have it.

I choose surgery.

The surgery lasts 3.5 hours. Three incisions will be made just below my rib cage on my side. The hospital stay will be four to five days.

The following day, dates are set. On October 21, I’ll go to the hospital for an echocardiogram, CT scan of chest without contrast, and preadmission testing. The surgery is set for October 29. Ryan will accompany me both days.

Am I afraid? I’d be a fool not to be.

I’m fortunate to have within me a hopeful nature. Years before the cancer diagnosis, I’d find myself wondering why, when my country was in peril and I’d lost so much in life, I did not give up, or lose myself in depression and bitterness. The answer is that I always think there will come a better day and I’m a fighter for hope.

I also have a guardian spirit. I think most creative people do, especially if they live alone. When life brings me to a precipice, my spirit takes my hand and we leap together. As I write this, my spirit hovers near. I can feel warmth on my shoulder.

Next Blog: At eleventh hour, doctor orders another test.

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Living in the Realm of Possibilities

September 15-October 8: The landscaping company comes to give an estimate on yard work, which includes cutting down the dead arborvitae tree that makes me think of my cancerous lung.

I love editing on my new sun porch! Faithful pups lie on a rug in the sunshine.

On the 19th, I go to an appointment at the Radiology Department, which is aswarm with professional people showing good sense and good will. For two solid hours, they talk to me and answer questions! The doctor explains that I need another biopsy to determine whether the lymph nodes are cancerous—we can’t discuss treatment until we know. Another doctor will perform the bronchoscopy. I’m furnished with lists of people to help me post-surgery: house cleaning, rides, etc. Wow! This is the motherlode of cancer support!

I see the pulmonologist a few days later, feel good about him, and schedule the second biopsy for October 4.

I had to wait over a month to reach people whose job it is to provide solid information and support. Fortunately for me, I have things to think about besides the cancer: family, my dogs, the manuscript, landscaping, creating a sun room, planning to buy new appliances for the kitchen, etc. Then there’s always the Situation in the White House hovering over me like a big, black dripping cloud. Twice during this time, I write my senators, representative, and the newspaper, and tweet Lindsey Graham.

On October 4, I put on my surgery suit: navy blue pants and jacket, and white T-shirt emblazoned with sequined pineapples. Ryan and I go to the hospital and while I wait to be wheeled off to the surgery room, we discuss politics. He’s conservative and I’m liberal. We keep our voices down. When I get to the surgery room, I’m somewhat alarmed when the anesthesiologist manhandles the blood pressure machine. I remember asking, “Doesn’t the equipment work?” Soon after, he puts me to sleep.

On October 8, the pulmonologist calls to say the lymph nodes are not cancerous. I will see a thoracic surgeon next week.

I may get the surprise of my life, but I don’t feel like I’m dying. At least, not now.

Next Post: The thoracic surgeon

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Living in the Realm of Possibilities

September 8. In the afternoon, I take Schatzi and BoPeep to Barkefellers, a kennel for pampered dogs. Most of the dogs I’ve seen there are purebreds, but my little mutts have attitude and fit right in. Schatzi, who has separation anxiety, is always troubled when I leave, but this time, so is BoPeep. I leave with their black noses pressed against the door, their big brown eyes pleading with me to take them with me. I am haunted by their behavior.

September 9. I get up at 5:30. Ryan comes at 6:00. We get to Methodist Hospital on time. I’m given twilight sleep and something to deaden the needle site. They make a pathway from the middle of my upper back diagonally to my lung and use needles to get a sample. I am vaguely aware that two doctors are saying numbers. There was no pain.

Ryan brings me home. We talk a bit. I tell him how much I appreciate his kindness.

September 10. My chest hurts a little. I worry about my cancer treatment. I pick up my dogs from Barkefellers, then go outside and sit and listen to the voices in the trees. The dogs sit beside me.

Someone from Methodist Hospital calls to see how I am.

A scam man, claiming to be from the IRS, calls to say I owe money. I tell him he’s a crook and hang up.

September 11. One of my pending house projects happens today. Two men come to put in glass windows on my back porch so I can have a sun room. Now I have an eating space near the kitchen and a sunny place to edit my manuscript once I print it out. The only drawback is that I can see the bag-wormed tree from the window.

September 12. Today, I finish editing the manuscript on the computer, print it out, punch holes, put it in a binder. I’m ready for close editing in my new sunroom.

I called oncologist in afternoon. The biopsy confirms the spot on my lung is cancer. The doctor says he’ll send the results to the Radiology Department and someone will get back to me.

September 13. I haven’t heard from the Radiology Department so call the Oncology Department to see if the Radiology Department was contacted. (I no longer trust the Oncology Department.) I’m told the request was sent to Radiology, but there’s been no response. I ask for the phone number of Radiology. I have a long wait while the person confers with someone. When she returns to the phone, she says she’ll call me back later. I tell her she never calls me back, but she says she will this time.

Miracle of miracles! The Oncology Department calls me back with an appointment with the Radiology Department for September 18.

In the evening, watched The Spy on Netflix. Good film. That night, dream that I don’t have cancer at all—that it’s all been a mistake. I call that dreaming.

Next post: Another biopsy

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Living in the Realm of Possibilities

September 1. The “ber” months are here. I’d say “brrr,” except the coldest months don’t end in b-e-r.  The “ary” months are colder, and maybe even the one ending in “rch.”  I think about death, but I started preparing for that years ago with a trust, will, and medical power of attorney. I finally sold troublesome properties in Michigan, so my heirs won’t have to deal with them. My house is fairly clean and I’ve not been a hoarder. I’ve told my grandsons that I’ve lived a long life, filled with joys, tragedies, and plain living, and when I finally face death, I think I’ll go willingly. I’ll be tired.

Not that there aren’t things I’d like to do and see. I’d like to be proud of my country again. I’d like to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren stable and happy. I’d like to tour the east coast, maybe see some plays in New York City. I might go to Europe again.

September 4. Day before the biopsy. Methodist Hospital calls with instructions. The oncologist’s office neglected to tell me to stop the blood thinner, so my biopsy is delayed until September 9. I am furious with the oncologist’s office. Yes, I should have thought to ask, but…

I take solace in the pups. It’s been hard for me to cry since the estrangements. I want to cry. I can feel tears swell behind my eyes, but they don’t fall. I sometimes think there’s a river of tears inside me all dammed up.

I’m sure the cancer is growing by leaps and bounds.

Something else the oncologist’s office didn’t tell me: I need bloodwork before the biopsy. I drive to the hospital, let the lab take my blood, and go to the oncologist’s office, which I know closes down for the lunch hour. The new office manager is there, and I tell her about the misinformation the office has passed to me. She is supportive, gives me a hug, and says she’ll make sure employees are better trained in conveying information to patients. Right. She tells me the insurance company that runs the department doesn’t fire people.

Had a dream about a deceased grade school classmate. She said a lie I’d told caused her to redirect her life.  She wouldn’t tell me what the lie was, and I had no recollection of the matter. Might be a good plot for my next book.

September 6. Ryan’s family come for dinner. He grills hamburgers outside. I make salads: kidney bean, cucumber, and a nine-fruit salad—everything fresh except the peaches and maraschino cherries. Baby Colton is unhappy: I rock him and sing to him. He likes “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Had.” I sing it for both of us.

Next post: Finally, the biopsy

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