Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back in PA

Things changed in a hurry, once we were gone, and I got a call from my sister that my mom was back in the hospital. That happened right around February 1 so I hadn’t even been gone a month yet. Mom wasn’t eating right or enough and was so weak that she could barely function. The doctor said that it’s what they call a “tea and toast” syndrome. Seniors don’t cook for themselves much, they get run down and wind up in the hospital to get built back up and the cycle continues like that. The doctor said that mom was no longer able to care for herself and needed to either go in a nursing home or someone had to stay with her to cook for her so she’d get proper nutrition. I volunteered to fly back and stay with her. Linda and I had made her a promise when we went on the road in 2007 that when the time came we’d be there to take care of her so she wouldn’t have to go in a nursing home.

I’ve been home for about seven weeks now and I can’t tell you that it’s been easy. Mom can be very nasty, doesn’t like most of what you make for her  and I think she has some dementia issues. She got really nasty towards Linda, right before we left, so I don’t know what will happen once Linda returns home. Mom’s short term memory is pretty much shot and she doesn’t listen to anything the doctor tells her to do or not do. She continues to lose weight and she can’t afford to lose much more, since she’s down to 105# now. We have gotten her to drink the Boost drinks, to try and add some calories to her daily intake. She can have all the ice cream and junk food she wants…anything that might put some pounds on her. I’ve had people tell me that due to her age that she has a right to be grumpy or cantankerous. I disagree…I think if God has allowed you to be on this earth for almost 90 years that you should be damn grateful for every morning that your feet hit the floor. He put you here for a reason and it wasn’t to make someone else’s life miserable. Has your soul learned the lesson it was sent here to learn? Have you evolved into a higher level being than when you arrived here? I know one of the soul lessons I was sent here to learn was patience and boy have I been getting a work out in the last seven weeks. LOL

While I have been in Pennsylvania with mom, Linda is still out in Texas working. She hopes to finish up sometime in May and then come back to PA. It’s been really hard being apart. It was just a year ago that we spent six months apart when I went to Indiana to do a farming internship. Now we’re apart for another 3-4 months. But we’ll do what we have to do and honor the commitments that we’ve made.

The weather has been horrendous since I’ve been home. Lots of snow this winter and they are even calling for snow showers this evening. It’s been a very cloudy winter and we haven’t even had any days that resemble spring-like weather yet. My brother is in the middle of maple syrup season and there have been many days where it doesn’t get above freezing so the sap doesn’t run. At this rate the season will continue on into April before we’ll get some warm days where the sap can really cut loose. It’s also been very, very windy and I fear that the bees will have had a tough time getting through the winter. We won’t know until we get a warm spring day and my brother can check his hives for signs of life. Hoping that came through it ok but it’s doubtful.

This coming Tuesday I have an appointment with a dermatologist in the area to get a spot checked out that I’ve been watching for a few weeks. Rather than drive 15 hours round trip to Norfolk to my regular dermatologist, I got an appt locally. That way when they tell me that it’s nothing, I won’t feel so bad. If it is something, I’ll go back to Norfolk to get it taken care of. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

I guess that catches you up on what’s been going on around here. Keep smiling and living life to the max!

Monday, January 12, 2015

On The Road Again…

Yep, we are back on the road. My mom’s health situation seems to have stabilized (at least we weren’t going to a doctor on a weekly basis) so Linda and I are currently in Texas working several parks here. Mom is super stubborn and won’t use her oxygen machine while she sleeps, and doesn’t pay much mind to the doctors so there’s not much any of us can do at this point. She wants to live a quiet life by herself so I will honor that and decided to go with Linda to do the jobs that she had planned to do. I’m doing the office work and Linda B is working with the advertisers. We left Pennsylvania Monday, January 5th in order to get out ahead of some “wintry mix” that was coming the next day. We stopped in Lemoyne to pick up our friend Dot who is tagging along till early March, then started the long drive to Texas.

Usually the weather, in the southern states, is reasonably tolerable and we can boondock some nights in rest areas along the way. It has been bone chilling cold and seems more like we are back in Pennsylvania rather than in Alabama or the Carolinas. The polar vortex (do you remember how much I hate those two words) blanketed a large area of the country and we couldn’t seem to outrun it. It snowed our first night in a campground and we awoke to the white stuff. Consequently the roads were covered with salt, the rig became a mess and the windshield was yucked up with salt and streaks. When we stopped at a Flying J, I was happy to see the long handled windshield washers in the bucket.(the day before I had tried to use the short handled ones to clean the windshield, while hopping like a kangaroo to reach the viewing area. The guy filling up next to me was over 6’ tall and took pity on me and came to my rescue and washed the windshield for me) My happiness was short lived as everything in the bucket was frozen solid….it was that cold out. Bitter cold!

Flying J popsicle

We arrived in Port Aransas on Saturday and are set up in a nice site on the corner of the park. The owner is away on vacation and her front desk clerk quit the day she was to leave on vacation. She picked a woman patron in the park to run the desk while she’s away and we’re not sure if we’re on the site she wanted us on or not but we’re set up and will be here till Sunday. We’re working on four parks in total and will be here till the beginning of February. The weather was horrible when we arrived. Rain and 20-30 m.p.h. winds, then in the overnight hours we had thunderstorms/lightening and 30 degree temps. Today it is still windy though the temps are a little warmer. Other RVers who have been here for a while told us that it’s been really cold and miserable this year. The parks all seem to be busy (with the weather the way it’s been up north…who would want to stay home to experience that?).

Once we finish working on these parks, we will go to the home office for TACO training, then on to the company meeting and then to the northern part of Texas to work on the Texas travel guide. It’s not warm but it’s warmer than back home. Life is good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A sense of Normalcy Returns…

It has been a long haul with my mom’s medical problems and she was getting pretty discouraged about it. She’s had a drain line in since she went into the hospital over Labor Day weekend. Finally this past Thursday the doctors felt that it could come off so she is free of it. Yahoo ! Along with that came the daily care of flushing the line, dumping the bag and changing her dressing. It is a big relief to her to not have that anymore but she still has other medical issues such as her weak heart that are taking their toll on the rest of her body. Her ankles swell because her heart can’t pump the blood to her feet and back again so she builds up fluid in her ankles. It has been hard to see her in this diminished capacity and it’s also been like looking at the future me and what my senior years might hold in store for me. If there’s one thing that stands out most of all, it’s that you can’t slow down at all. Once you stop moving, it is the beginning of the end. You need to stay active in whatever interests you and it’s so important to get up and move around. Get physical exercise so that all of your organs get oxygenated.

While all of this has been going on, we did manage to get the RV site put together. We have water, sewer and electric hook ups. The electric came just in time….the temps have been getting pretty chilly around home. This Saturday the forecast is calling for high temps in the low 40’s. Brrr….

Currently we are in Norfolk, visiting Linda B’s kids and grand-kids. I had my four month check-up today for my melanoma and all was clear. There is an excellent dermatologist on staff at the medical school where Linda’s daughter teaches so I am going to her for my check-ups. They did a complete body check (they look at every mole and spot in every nook and cranny on your body….even in your hair) and everything was good. The Dr. said it was really easy to check my skin since I don’t have many spots on my body anyway. I have to have these check-ups every four months for the first several years and then they can go down to every six months. If I’m clear after five years, then I will only have to go once a year to be checked. She said that chances are good that I will have some type of reoccurrence, even it is a basal cell. Since the skin cells have been damaged, from childhood burns, there is a strong likelihood that something else will pop up. The good news is that with basal or melanoma, they outwardly appear and aren’t a hidden cancer, like breast cancer or lung cancer. I’m hoping that her prediction is wrong, because I really don’t want to have to go through any more skin surgeries ever if I can help it.

While I was taking care of mom, Linda went out and worked two parks in New York state and did an amazing job. I have always been the salesperson in the team but I knew that she had it in her to do really well with selling and interacting with the business owners. She said she was petrified at first but she kept remembering what I told her that it’s not about “selling” or “pitching” people. I told her to pretend that she is just talking over the backyard fence to someone and telling them about what our company does and how it could help them in their business. She said she kept telling herself that and it really helped. It must have because she grew the job by over 20% and did an awesome job! She is headed out this Sunday to work two parks in the Lancaster area and work her magic once again. I will stay behind and help mom. Mom has an appointment coming up with the cardiologist while Linda is away that I’ll take her to. Since she’s not driving anymore, I am her chauffeur to town or anywhere she needs to go.

Linda will return to enjoy Thanksgiving with us and then will leave again in January to work on parks in Texas and not be back until May. Sad smile It will be like going through my internship all over again….being apart for that long but it’s what needs to happen right now. Mom needs me here and Linda will be great on the road. She’ll have Boomer to keep her company. Sometimes life ain’t fair but we do what we gotta do and keep on moving !

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Found the Source of Mom’s pain…

Wow, it’s been a month since I’ve put up a post. A crazy month indeed. I’m writing this while I wait for the home health nurse to arrive to check on mom. Mom went in the hospital over the Labor Day weekend and was in almost a week. I had taken her for her last PT visit on a Thursday. The next day she had a stomach ache and it kept getting worse. She agonized through Friday night but early Saturday morning she called my brother and said she needed to go to the ER. At the Troy Hospital, they determined that her gall bladder was enlarged and infected so she was transported to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. There they put a drain in her side, near her gall bladder in an attempt to drain the infection and shrink the size of the gallbladder. Her gallbladder was too large to operate on laproscopically and due to her age and heart issues, they didn’t want to do general surgery. She spent the first half of her time in the hospital sleeping 24/7 and then she started to feel better and all of the pain, she’s been having in her back and side for the last few months, has gone away. She was discharged on a Friday, going home with the drain still in her side. Linda and I were scheduled to leave on that Sunday to work two campgrounds in New York state for two weeks. I stayed behind, to take care of mom and Linda B went to NY, with the rig, to work the jobs. Mom’s drain has to be flushed twice daily, bag emptied and dressing changed. Funny how our roles have been switched. B is really the nurse (an LPN by trade) and I’m the person who does the selling for our business. Now I’m playing nurse and she’s selling for our job. That’s versatility, for sure !

Mom returns to see the surgeon on Monday and we’ll see if the drain has to stay in longer or if it can come out. They also need to determine if she has any gallstones that might be irritating her gallbladder. I’m hoping that her gallbladder will settle down and behave so she won’t need surgery. Not sure her heart is strong enough for that. Right now she is finishing up a 24 hour monitoring of her heart functions. I took her yesterday and they put a heart monitor on her and by the time I finish typing this paragraph it can come off. I then return the whole thing to the cardiologist and they will analyze the results. Hoping for good news.

Besides all of that going on, the excavation to set up an RV site is going really slow. We want to be able to park the RV here when Linda returns this weekend so that we will be close to help mom and keep an eye on her. The water line got put in yesterday but now we need the sewer and electric hooked up. The excavator worked a couple hours yesterday but hasn’t come back today. It’s hard to get anything finished when someone only works a couple hours at a time, one day a week. I just have to keep telling myself….all is well….all in due time.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Troubling Times

Since my last post we’ve had some great visits from family. The first weekend inP1010288 August, Linda’s oldest son and his family came for the weekend. The kids had a great time with Grammy Linda, riding on the carousel, riding the zip-line and just plain having fun.

Today Linda is with the kids again at Chad’s company picnic, at Knoebel’s Amusement Park. Should be a great day to make more memories with the grandkids.
On Thursday of the next week, my daughter arrived from Boston to spend the weekend. Jay, my son, arrived at 5 a.m. Saturday morning after working till 11 Friday night. Jay and his girlfriend Kelly didn’t get much sleep because we had to be in Elmira, NY at 10:30 for Joel’s burial. It was the first timeClawson kids that I’ve seen Joel’s daughters in a lot of years. Sad that it was under such sad circumstances but great to see them. From the left: Lisa, Liz, Laura, my son Jay and daughter Becky and Anne.
Joel was buried next to his infant son and is in good company. He’s in Woodlawn cemetery where Mark Twain, Ernie Davis (first Black Heisman trophy winner), and Hal Roach (producer of Laurel & Hardy and The Little Rascals) are buried. The cemetery has been full  for quite some time so it didn’t come as a surprise when Liz called that there were no vacancies. The family thought they would have to resort to having Joel buried in Erie, where he grew up and where his mom and dad are buried. Liz called again at a later date and lo and behold there was an opening and it was right next to Joel’s son. We were all beyond shock. We continually get little reminders from Joel that he is with us. On Friday Becky, Linda and I went to a couple yard sales outside of Mansfield. We had been talking about Joel, and the fact that he’d be happy knowing that he’s in the same cemetery as Mark Twain, right before we pulled up to two particular yard sales. As I was looking around, at the first one, there was a small drinking glass that told about Mark Twain and that he was buried in Elmira where he wrote many of his books. Of course Becky had to buy that little glass. She and I walked across the lawn to another yard sale and there staring us in the face at the first table was the book, Huck Finn. We laughed and knew that Joel was clearly with us in spirit that weekend. We couldn’t leave the cemetery that day without paying a visit to Mark Twain’s gravesite.
Mark Twains grave
Oliva Langdon grave

Mark Twain stone
Many of the Langdon family members are buried in the area around Mark Twain. Someone had placed a cigar and lots of coins on top of Twain’s grave. For many years, when you’d visit the study that is located on Elmira College’s campus (the little building that was moved from Twain’s house on the hill and where he spent  time writing his books), Joel’s voice was the narration that came out of the machine that told of Twain’s life in Elmira.
Although it was a sad day, there were many things that made us smile.
Monday morning Becky left to drive back to Boston; then around 1:30 I got a call from my sister-in-law that mom had fallen. Mom went out to get her mail, out of the mailbox attached to her porch railing. She fell back and hit her head and had a palm sized lump on the back of her head. Edie drove her to the ER and Linda and I met them down there. For the past two weeks, I’ve been taking her twice a week to physical therapy. The doctor wants to try and strengthen her legs and improve her balance. Luckily she only had a small hematoma but lots of bruises all over her body. They sent her home and I spent the night with her to make sure she was ok through the night. Linda and I have decided to set up an RV site behind mom’s house so we can be close to her to keep an eye on her. We made her a promise when we went on the road, eight years ago, that we’d take care of her when the time came for that so she wouldn’t have to go in a nursing home. We can only stay, here at Bucktail campground, till the end of October so we need to have someone hook up water, electric and sewer and put in a driveway so we can get onto the site. I used to live behind my mom, back in the late 80’s, so the connections are capped off under the ground, from when I had a mobile home there. There’s no pad anymore or driveway because my mom put a one car garage on the gravel bed that I had for a driveway so you can’t get back to the old site without putting in a new driveway. We’ve gotten some prices and hope to have work start soon. The sooner we can move to my mom’s, the easier to check on her and be close to take her to appointments. Last week she had an MRI to try and figure out what is causing the pain in her back. She’ll learn the results of that on Monday. It’s hard to see your parents get to this stage in their life and harder, I know, for my mom to accept these changes. She told me the other day that the hardest thing is not being able to drive. She always liked being able to get in the car and go wherever she wanted to go. Now she has to count on others to take her and I know that is tough for her and a loss of her independence. Tough times ahead for sure…

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Mom !

mom in 2014Today is mom’s 89th birthday. She hasn’t been feeling well lately. She has a lot of pain in her back and can’t stand for very long. Since we’ve been home, we’ve taken her to the doctor’s several times to try to get to the bottom of her pain and she has another appointment next week where they might fit her with a back brace. Her family doctor said that she has severe scoliosis of the spine and the vertebrae are twisting around and causing the pain. In a recent trip to the ER we found that she has an old compression fracture in her back so that probably isn’t helping either. Since we’ve gotten back to the area, we’ve taken over mowing her lawn for her. She has about an acre of grass to mow and bouncing around on the mower was not helping her back at all so we told her we’d do it for her.
My mom has always had a green thumb and loves the flowers that she has around her house. Linda and I weeded out the front bed and mulched it really well so that the weeds won’t be so bad for her, since she can’t bend over and work in them anymore. It’s tough to see her in so much pain and not know how we can help her. LiliesTomorrow she is going to the casino with my sister and we’re going to have a surprise waiting for her when she gets back. We drove by this gardening place today and stopped to look around. They had this lily that has huge, dinner plate size blossoms on it and the greatest fragrance. We bought it and a purple butterfly bush to put in an empty spot that mom has right off the deck where she can see it. She hasn’t seen many of her flowers this summer, that are out in the yard, because she’s afraid to walk out there by herself…for fear of falling. This way she can see it from the deck as it blossoms and it is loaded with blossoms !
Mom thought that a new, adjustable bed, would help her get a good night’s sleep so she bought one and the guys delivered it and set it up. I think she’s spent maybe two nights in it since she got it. It’s too hard for her to get in it and get situated where she’s comfortable so she just spends her nights in her recliner. I hope that the doctor can figure out something for her this next week that will get rid of the pain and make it easier for her to get around.
Linda and I have been busy the last few weeks. We’ve trained two different teams2014-06-28 19.05.18 since being home and they are now out, working jobs and doing great. One couple is originally from Pennsylvania and the other couple is from Texas. We love helping these teams get a great start on their new career with AGS and seeing them do well. We feel Doran and Mark July 2014like proud parents that send their kids out into the world to make their way.

water womanToday Linda had to help out at the Grand Canyon Marathon, working a water station at the first stop. I went along to help out. She volunteers with a group called Haven of Tioga County, which is a group for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. There were 600 runners signed up for today’s race but I don’t think they all showed up. Today it was a half marathon of 13.1 miles and tomorrow is a qualifying event for the Boston marathon with about 200 people running 26.2 miles. We had to get up at 4:30 and be in Wellsboro at 6:00 a.m. but we were all done by 8:00. It was a fun morning.

 Haven water table
 I guess it’s been a while since I’ve put a post on the blog. The week of July 4th, we took the rig up to Seneca Falls for Linda’s family get together. It was great to see everyone…some I hadn’t seen some for over a year. Last summer I had gone to Terra Haute, for my organic gardening internship, and P1010161didn’t have a chance to see many of Linda’s family. The weather was really hot and humid the first few days we were there and then we got a break and the temps dropped back into the 70’s and was very comfortable. P1010158

Some of her relatives only come to visit once a year so it’s a special time for all of them to get together. Lots of great memories were made this summer…..
P1010267My scars keep healing and getting better. I rub some of the bee bar, that my brother gave me, on them each day to help to soften them. In the near future I’d like to go to a massage therapist and see if she can help the numbness and nerve pain. The pain has gotten much better but just the feel of material on my underarm sometimes is really irritating….just the feeling against my skin. I want to make sure that the tissue is really healed up well before I go but I think it would be beneficial. We are staying in Mansfield, at Bucktail Camping Resort, for a while so that we can be close to mom and help her with errands and appointments. She hasn’t driven since she fell at the end of May and has had frequent doctors appointments to try and get her pain under control. Life goes on and we’re rolling along, taking what comes. We’re thankful to have time with family and enjoy life.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Two Weeks Post Surgery

I apologize for the delay in getting a post on here to let everyone know what the pathology report said. Most of you heard it on Facebook but the surgeon called and said that they got all of the melanoma in my arm and the two lymph nodes were clear. Wahoo ! Tears of joy flowed from Linda and I as Dr. Nicole gave us the news. We were just pulling into our campsite from visiting mom so I was really nervous and wanted to get the car parked, not knowing what emotions I might have when I heard which side of the coin the news came down on. It was all glorious and all our prayers paid off.
I asked the doctor about the numbness I have in my armpit. It’s such a weird sensation (or lack thereof) to rub on deodorant and not feel what you’re doing. She said, “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that you might have some areas of permanent numbness”. Wow, that’s a big side effect to disclose. She said that most of the feeling should come back but when nerves get cut, it’s hard to tell what areas will stay numb. The numbness I can tolerate…I mean, cause well I don’t feel anything there. The part that really bugs me is the nerve pain that starts about 2” from my elbow and goes almost the whole way to my armpit. It’s been really hard to explain to Linda what it feels like so she can maybe offer up suggestions for what might make it feel better. Then one night, I thought of the perfect analogy.
When I was around 12 or 13, like most pubescent girls, I was starting to get that downy hair on my legs. While it didn’t bother me, I knew that most of the other girls in my class were shaving their legs so I thought that was something I should do. I asked my mother one day if I could start shaving my legs and she said “no”. Well, it must have been at that early age that I adopted the philosophy of “Don’t ask permission, just beg for forgiveness later” (which I’ve used extensively ever since). My mom had one of those clunky, steel razors that when you twist the handle, the razor compartment doors lifted up to reveal the blade inside. I remember being mesmerized by the action of opening and closing that thing. To a wide-eyed young girl like me, it was like gull wing doors opening on a Delorean sports car and it seemed so cool. Knowing that this was back in the early 70’s, it was not a head pivoting, contour following, aloe gel covered, triple action blade razor like we now have. One blade in a fixed, non-forgiving stainless steel instrument. Those weren’t gull wing doors on a Delorean sports car. They were more like Bilco doors on a damn root cellar. So I found myself in the bathtub and this was the day that I would take that rite of passage of clean shaven legs. With that razor in my hand, I started at my ankle and drew it, in one fell swoop, up to my knee. I wouldn’t have to worry about fuzzy legs for quite some time, because that maiming device in my hand had removed every hair follicle from my ankle to my knee. You know that pain you feel when an area of your skin has been ripped raw and is exposed to the air ? That’s what the nerve pain on the underside of my arm feels like. Linda gets it now and I think, like the numbness in my armpit, it will just take a while for it all to settle down and heal. I don’t remember my mothers reaction at learning I had disobeyed her in regards to my attempt to shave my legs. Without telling her, it was pretty evident by my raw shin. I hope that she gave me some lessons on the fine art of doing it but that was many moons ago and I really don’t recall. But I do remember what the pain felt like and now I have a modern day connection to my past. How special is that ? LOL
In other news, we are spending a lot of time at mom’s house. I took her to the doctor earlier this week, because she still has a lot of pain in her hip to knee area. They x-rayed her and nothing is chipped, broken or cracked. They gave her the usual shot she gets in her hip and she’s feeling better most days. We have to remind her to do things in small batches. If you clean the whole house in one day, chances are you’re going to feel it the next day. She is really frustrated that her body is not keeping up with what her mind wants to do. I know how she feels.
Last night Linda and I went to dinner with a group of friends that I haven’t seen in maybe 15 years. It was so great to see familiar faces (I had trouble remembering names) and catch up on what folks have been doing. They are going to try and start getting together each month so we’re hoping that we can be part of that.
We are training a new AGS team this week, here at Bucktail. Anxious to work with Tim and Cindy and get them off to a great start. Hope everyone has a great week. I know we will….every day is such a blessing when you don’t have a serious health concern hanging over your head. I feel very blessed !

Thursday, June 12, 2014

One Week Post Surgery

I don’t have a whole lot to talk about but figured I would give everyone an update. We arrived in Mansfield, Pa on Tuesday and got a campsite at Bucktail Camping Resort. We stayed here a couple times last summer when Linda spent time with her grandkids. Linda did all the driving to get here…all 1700 miles from Aurora, CO. Although I wanted to help her do the driving, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t. I unhooked the car from the rig, while Linda checked us in, and just carrying the hitch into the garage of the rig made me get really woozie and I had to lay down so I wouldn’t faint. I get tired quickly but don’t nap cause I have a horrible time getting a good night’s sleep. The area directly under the incision, on my arm is that numb, ouchy feeling like you get when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize your foot or hand has fallen asleep. Linda and I were just talking about what might be causing it cause it’s driving me crazy. I was trying to do some stretches to see if the muscles are tight, etc. to alleviate it and then it hit us. We can see on my arm where they had to pull the skin together, where the melanoma spot was, and the skin in that area is really tight and it’s directly under there where the numbness is. Just wrapped too tight, I guess. See I knew there’d be an explanation for it. Just don’t know how to loosen it up. I think the numbness is Bucktail Campsiteeasing up….just not quick enough for me.

I can’t get over how lush and green it is here in Pennsylvania. We had gotten used to so much drought-stricken areas out west that this is such a stark contrast to all of that brown backdrop. It’s also been raining ever since we arrived so it’s getting super green and super lush. Our site is nicely shaded and has a beautiful, tall shag hickory tree towering up through the tree canopy. It’s just gorgeous and so majestic ! Boomer is having a ball exploring different parts of the campground as we go out for little walks. They are calling for more rain tomorrow but the weekend is supposed to be perfect so tomorrow night the peace and quiet we’ve experienced these last few days will be replaced with the squeals of little kids and their families. The air will be filled with the smell of campfires and camping will be in full force. Since this campground has so many rides and amenities, geared towards children, the daily rates are quite high so it is pretty quiet during the week. There are many seasonal sites here and that is what draws families to come here from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. They can leave their work behind and get away with their families for rest and relaxation.
Tomorrow it will be one week since my surgery. The doctor said that it would be 5-10 work days before the pathology report would come back on whether the melanoma has spread to my lymph nodes. We’re hoping that we will hear sooner, rather than later and that we get the “all clear” message to resume life as we know it. Until then, I’m trying to “hang loose”, rest and get my strength back. I thank everyone for their prayers and good wishes. Keep ‘em coming…..the biggest speed bump is yet to come.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


After 2 hours in the operating room and 3 hours in recovery, the surgery is all done and we’re on the road. My day started out with a small dose of radioactive juice injected near where I had the melanoma spot. The tech rubbed the area to get theDo I look happy juice moving. Then they slid me inside of this machine and they took a 2 minute long picture which shows the juice moving to the closest lymph node area. It could have gone to either my neck or my armpit. The radioactive juice goes to a sentinel node, which is the node responsible for draining. The two ladies who were working on me were super nice and there wasn’t any pain whatsoever in what they were doing.Explaining the info to me They put a little screen to the side of me so I could see what they were seeing. Linda was in the room with me the whole time. She was the official photographer of the events of the day. They took a total of 3 pictures and on the last one, one of the ladies reached in and marked with a marker where they thought the sentinel node was.Branded with the xlet letter

Here’s my scarlet letter.

We finished up with this stage and then we had to wait till 11:30 for the surgery so we had several hours to kill. A couple friends of ours (Thank you Bobbie and Nancy) had suggested that we ask the parking crew and see if they had any RV hook-ups so we could bring the rig and stay there, if need be. They have 2 hook-ups but the guy said it might be a little tight because they are in a regular parking area. HeSurgery lodging suggested that we park in Lot 6 because the one side was blocked off to have the striping done. So Friday morning, we drove the rig to Lot 6 and parked in the empty lot. Once the radioactive test was done, we went back to the rig to hang out.
At 11:15 we went back across the street to the hospital and my surgery prep started at 11:30.
Surgery prep

Debra (as seen in this picture) was my nurse and she is also the charge nurse, responsible for all of the nurses in the day surgery area. Super nice lady ! And she gets an A++ for her putting in the IV line in the back of my hand. That is one of the things I hate the most about surgery cause it hurts when they put it in. Not when Debra does it. So slick…Debra was explaining to us that Univ. of Colorado hospital is a “magnet” hospital, which means the nurses have a big say in what goes on in the hospital. They are not slaves to the doctors, like in most hospitals. The nurses have meetings with the doctors about the care of patients and there are pretty stringent guidelines that have to be met in order to have this distinction and UOC has gotten it for the last 4 years. We’ve been really impressed with the hospital staff and their style of healthcare. Mission statement
Here is their mission statement….

My surgery was scheduled for 1:30 but another surgery got put in the schedule so I didn’t go until about 2:45. As Dr. Nicole explained to us, once in the ER she would use a small Geiger counter to locate the radioactive juice. She then inserted a blue dye that would get absorbed by the sentinel node and let her know which one to take out. She actually took 2 nodes out of my armpit and then proceeded to remove any cancer cells that were around the surgical site on my shoulder. Here’s what Surgery aftermathI wound up with. The cut on my arm is 4.5” long and the one under my arm is about 3” long. All through the process, Linda could track my progress with a color coded system that showed her what stage I was in. Coding of each procedure My patient number was 142787 so she could watch the monitor in the waiting room to see what was going on.

Status boards per patient

Here’s the status board patient’s families can track their progress throughout surgery. It’s a really cool system.

My body does not do well with anesthesia. They gave me a anti-nausea patch behind my ear before the surgery and four different meds in my IV with anti-nausea medicine in it but none of them did the trick. barf bag puppetThey gave me a couple of these dandy barf bags, which I thought made for great hand puppets (they were empty at this point). Finally I was discharged around 8 p.m. and one of the nurses put me in a wheelchair and took me all the way to the rig. What awesome customer service ! We had hoped to get on the road right after surgery but I was in too much pain to tolerate any bumpy roads. we decided to spend the night in the parking lot and we got on the road at 7:30 on Saturday morning. The worst pain is under my arm, since it’s in such a tender spot. I’m surprised how low the incision is….really close to the top of my left breast.
Linda is doing all the driving because just the act of holding the wheel would be very painful to me. I’m in charge of taking naps and doing a whole lot of nothing. Since our bedroom is in the loft, we’ve been pulling out the sleeper sofa so I can get in and out of a regular bed. Much easier than trying to crawl on my hands and knees to get into the loft. Linda drove 500 miles yesterday and we stayed at a truck stop last night. We have 1200 more miles to cover to get back home, in PA. We are in a waiting game again for the pathology report on the lymph nodes they took out. Could be up to 2 weeks before we hear if they got it all or if I will need more treatments. I suspect that if the cancer is found in the lymph nodes, then I will probably have a scan to see if the cancer has gone to any other part of my body. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they got it all.
Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes that I’ve seen on Facebook and on our blog…it means a lot. I’ll keep you posted as we hear more. Enjoy the rest of your weekend ! I think I hear the couch calling my name so TTYL.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Joel Would Be Happy

  On Saturday, when we arrived at the Flying J, we filled up with gas and propane and then I unhooked the car from the rig. When everything was filled up, I moved the rig around back to a quiet part of the parking lot that was behind the store. This wasn’t part of the usual trucker area, but an area where the “bobtails” (just the truck part of the combination)could park. Like I mentioned in my last post, another motorhome was parked there so I backed in next to them.
That evening we had supper inside at Denny’s. When we were filling up with gas, we had noticed a young man and his dog, hanging out in front of Flying J. He wasn’t panhandling or anything…just looked road weary and hot. His dog looked like my son’s dog; like he might have some Rhodesian Ridgeback in him. The man had a huge pack on his back, but was very clean and well kept. We didn’t give much thought to this duo and thought maybe they were catching their breath and getting ready to hit the road.
When my son called me around 3 a.m. that his dad had passed, we were up for the day. A couple hours later we went into the store to get something to eat and found this young man and his dog, sleeping under a small tarp on the sidewalk, around the corner from the entrance to the store. We could see the dog’s paws sticking out from under the tarp and knew he was curled up next to his buddy, getting some rest before setting out the next day. It broke our hearts to see this and it stuck with me as we walked back to the rig.
I waited till I thought that they were awake and went out to talk with the young man to see what his story was. I had filled a large zip-lock bag with dog food for the pup and grabbed a couple treats from Boomer’s container. As I approached the young man he was walking around in almost the same spot we had seen them sleeping. The pup had a rawhide toy that he was playing with. I asked the young man where he was headed and he said he was going to Wyoming to visit some family. He had spent the winter in NY and was hitchhiking up to the Cheyenne area. He was hoping to get a job driving truck. He was very polite and humored this mom’s questions of “do you have money”, “do you have food” and “what do you need”. He said that he needed socks so off I went into the store, hoping that Flying J stocked something so basic but knowing that they aren’t exactly a Wal-Mart either. They did have a 6-pack of socks so I bought them and took them back out to him. I gave him the dog food and he started re-arranging his backpack to find room for it. He said he wanted to get over to the TA truck center because that was on the route he needed to go north on. He had pulled a muscle walking so many miles the day before and was trying to rest up a little before heading out again. The heat of standing out on the highway for several hours had taken a toll on his dog so it was good that they stopped for the night. Once I came back to the rig and told Linda about our discussion, she went out and asked him how far it was to the TA plaza and he told her 7 miles. She loaded him and his dog into the Xterra and headed out to take them up the road so they could get a start from the TA. She said he was so appreciative of the ride and she gave him $20 to give him a couple meals for the next leg of his trip.
It was a small interaction but one that we felt really drawn to, that sad Sunday morning. My heart was so heavy for Joel and my kids but I know that as generous as Joel was, for all of his life, he would be proud. Joel spearheaded the campaign in the Sayre/Waverly area in 2011 when so many homeowners were devastated by the flood. Times when I would chat with him or exchange e-mails, he was helping someone rebuild this or that and the rebuilding continues until today. He served on the Salvation Army board and loved everything that he did with them. The Valley Business Alliance was such a huge part of his life and he so loved to help others in any way he could. He never asked for anything for himself and got by with so little. His heart was so full of generosity and compassion for others. HeSanta Joel played Santa Claus for many years at the Sayre Theatre and this year he sent me an e-mail of an interaction with a child that touched him so deeply. When he asked this particular little boy what he wanted for Christmas the little boy teared up and said, “Why can’t everyone just get along ? Why can’t everybody just love one another?” I’m not sure that Santa had an answer for that little boy but I can almost guarantee you that Joel gave that little boy a big hug before he climbed down off his lap. He was very moved that something like that would come from the lips of a small child. Things like that touched him. Joel was very sentimental and not a Mother’s Day would go by that he didn’t send me an e-mail and thank me for Becky and Jay. He loved all of his kids and grand-kids so much and felt that they were such a blessing to him. I think that blessing flowed the other way too….they were blessed, for too short a time, but blessed nevertheless with a father who was such a great role model of love, selflessness, compassion and friendship. He will be greatly missed but his legacy lives on in them and in all of us, should we decide to help our fellow man. What do you want your legacy to be ?