Quite Frankly

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Wow, I was just sitting here, staring at my blog, and realizing it’s been quite awhile since I made an entry. My apologies. I do have an excuse or two.

I have been busy.

Wait, no that’s not an excuse. Well, it would be an excuse if it were true. I have not been busy. I have been un-busy.

And quite frankly, I’m pretty good at it.

Again, my apologies. Let’s just skip the excuses, shall we?  I can make that stuff up later.

Most of you know that we moved to Boise from Las Vegas last July.  Life has definitely changed for the better since we moved.  Reasons for the positive change are bullet-pointed below:

  • Our Las Vegas apartment had eighteen very large stairs leading up to the door. Our Boise condo has no stairs and the over-sized garage is just off the kitchen.
  • Taking out the trash in Las Vegas was a nightmare. Eighteen stairs down, then a hike up the street to the dumpster, a hike back, then eighteen stairs up. UGH. Here at our humble abode in Boise, we have our own little personal dumpster in the garage that we wheel to the curb when the garbage man is due.  After that, maybe a nap.
  • The man in the apartment below us in Vegas yelled and stomped and hit the walls (and probably his wife) and had us nervous all the time. Here in Boise, we have kind neighbors who shovel our walkway and sometimes even bring us our mail. Mimosa’s anyone?

I think I’ve made my point.  We love it here. 

Quite frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this retirement stuff years ago, when I had time to enjoy it without arthritis and wrinkles. 

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Since moving here to beautiful Boise, I have been losing weight and getting in shape.  Well, I’ve been losing weight.  The shape is still melon…ish, but that’s a shape, right?  Seriously, I am eating healthy and taking care of myself better than I have in years. Of course, I didn’t do it alone.  Joan has been right there, riding that bandwagon with me. She’s eating right and exercising more. I am proud of her. I’m proud of us.

I still have about 35 pounds to go before I reach a total weight loss of 110 pounds. I’m planning on losing those last pounds as I did the first ones…very slowly. Lots of friends and relatives have shared their favorite roads to health with me, and I’ve learned there are apparently as many and varied ways to lose weight as there are bad politicians in Washington.  I am always patient when given advice and listen intently, taking each nugget of wisdom into account.

And then, quite frankly, I forget all of it and do my own thing.

“The Terri Diet is the latest and greatest diet to hit the universe since…well, forever. It is quite effective, easy, wholesome, NOT boring, and will have you dancing the skinny dance in no time!”

That’s my marketing pitch. What do you think? I’m going to be rich! Skinny, maybe. Rich, probably not. One needs a market in which to make a pitch, I suppose. So never mind.

Truth-be-told, I actually gleaned a little something from all the good diets out there I could find, threw out the stuff I didn’t like, and consolidated the rest into a program I could handle without cheating every thirty minutes.

Somehow it worked, and here I am, a skinnier, healthier, albeit more-wrinkled and a bit tired, person. But, quite frankly, such brilliance should be shared, so I’ve bullet-pointed the elements of my diet below, for your enlightenment:

  • The majority of my diet encompasses vegetables. Green beans, potatoes and peas are fine, but the real gold lies in the dark leafy greens. KALE, BABY! Eat it in the morning, eat it at night, eat it on the weekends because it’s DY-NO-MITE!
  • If you really must have meat, try to opt for chicken, and then only 3 ounces or less. Prepare it anyway you want, but keep in mind that calories really do count.
  • Drink water, water, water. I am not a big fan of water. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to pee. Drink it.  You must, or you’ll die.
  • The last important thing on this diet is to include variety. For me, that was the key. For gosh sakes, don’t get into a rut of eating kale and drinking water just because you are too lazy to find a new recipe and make a pot of tea.  The spice of life. Oh yes, use spices too. I love me some cumin. And red pepper flakes make me blush with culinary happiness.

That’s about it.  It’s so easy. The beauty is in its simplicity. 

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So, what’s next for this crazy, soon-to-be-skinny grandma?

Tune in soon for the next chapter on my new and improved retirement life.  I have much to tell.  Soon I will be taking on a new venture, the thought of which has me all giggly and goose-pimply. 

Are you curious?  Well, quite frankly, I have laundry to fold so I can’t discuss just yet. 
However, the picture below is a HINT. 

Any idea what I’m up to?

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Prednisone

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Last week, I went to my doctor with severe cramping/pains in my left leg from the left lower buttock all the way down the leg. I have had the cramps and pains for some time now, but nothing quite like those that presented in the middle of the night when I got up to go to the bathroom.  I stepped down on my left foot, and it felt much like I would imagine an electrocution might feel.  I’ve never felt anything like it, and made it to my doctor at the earliest opportunity. 

It takes a lot to get me to the doctor.

My doctor examined me, trying to pinpoint exactly where the pain started. She didn’t believe, but wasn’t sure yet, that it was sciatica, but rather a different nerve that was irritated.  She prescribed a five-day treatment of two prednisone pills per day.  She told me it was a steroid and a powerful anti-inflammatory. She continued that it also came with a very long list of possible side-effects.

She was not kidding.

When I read the info that accompanied the medication, I almost decided not to take it at all. However, the other side of my brain took over, reminding me of the pain I’ve endured and the fact that if I don’t do something, it will only get worse.

The first day I took the two pills with food, as prescribed, and waited for I don’t know what to happen. My doctor had also prescribed some anxiety medication for me, as I told her I had been a nervous wreck with all this pain.  I took the anxiety pill in the evening.

The first night, I spent the entire night alternating sweat and shivers. I had to go to the bathroom several times (as usual) but I did not have any of those horrific pains I had experienced last week.  However, I did feel extremely achy, a little dizzy, exhausted, and damned depressed. It was a really bad night.

The next day, I woke up early because my body ached so badly, I could hardly lie there anymore. I took my second day dose of prednisone and had breakfast.  By mid-day, I felt wonderful, had no pain, and went about my day like a normal human being.  It was a mind-blower for me because I’ve been enduring this pain for a long time.

The second night, I took my anxiety pill and went to bed. I ended up getting up a total of eight times to use the bathroom, and had night sweats alternating with the shivers. By night’s end, I was so exhausted, I slept in the easy chair most of the morning. The afternoon was full of pain and sore joints. I had a low-grade headache as well.

What the fuck?

The next morning, I called the doctor’s office right away.  They didn’t get back to me until after 5 pm and my calling them three more times, but when they did, the doctor said it was normal and I should stick it out for the five days.

Well, although skeptical, I caved in and forged on. Today is the fifth and final day and I just took my last prednisone pill. I have had a horrible five days, except for that few hours of bliss on the second day, and I will be on the phone with my doctor first thing tomorrow morning.

So why am I writing on an otherwise humorous blog and reporting my medical misadventures?

I am writing because that’s what I do. This medication has taken five days away from me that I can’t get back. I have hardly been able to write, and I’m smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo.  I have been in constant pain of one sort or the other, even though the main objective of soothing the “electrocution pains” was satisfied.  But the question remains: will the agony return without prednisone in my system?

That is the ten-million-dollar question.

I’ll let you know what happens next. The doctor said if the prednisone didn’t do the trick, we would move on to the next step.  Of course, she didn’t say anything about what the step would be. 

Electroshock therapy, perhaps?  Brain scan? A root canal? A tonsillectomy? (Yes, I’m delirious. It’s the pills, I tell you.) Or maybe they will prescribe physical therapy where they hang me upside down for reasons only understood by top-notch medical professionals. Humpf. Obviously, I haven’t a clue, but I’m running out of patience, as my pain is my constant companion.  Not knowing what is going on plays tricks on my mind and makes me want to feed into any one of my many compulsive tendencies.

I swear I had a half gallon of butter pecan ice cream in the freezer.

If I had any advice, it would be to thoroughly question your doctor on any meds she prescribes, and when she explains it, ask her again. And again. Until you have a full picture.

I will update this post once I’ve seen my doctor again.

The saga continues…

And wouldn’t you know it? I live in a NO medicinal marijuana state.

Okay, climbing down off my soapbox and exiting my pity party.  I think there’s still some wine in the fridge. I can wash the ice cream down with that.

 

 

 

Interview with a Warrior

Last winter, I met the most amazing man. His name is Tony Nicholson and he is my cousin. I was almost grown when he was born, so I never really got to know him when he was a child. Then we lived thousands of miles apart, and, well…time goes on. Finally, we touched base online and had an amazing connection. Tony is 49 years old, married to a lovely woman named Sherry, lives in Tennessee, and is a Cancer Warrior. His journey has been one of bravery, personal resolve, and intestinal fortitude, and I am honored to have him as my guest. Please welcome Mr. Tony Nicholson…

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Tony, when did you find out you had cancer?  Did you fall ill or find out from routine testing?

I was diagnosed the first week of January 2017. I started having some stomach issues Thanksgiving Day, 2016. The pain was bad, but I hadn’t been to a doctor in 20 years. No way was I going because of a stomach ache. By Christmas, all I could do was work and go home to bed. The day after Christmas I was pretty much bedridden. I broke down and went to the doctor a couple of days later and he and I both thought it was my gallbladder. I went for a test, my gallbladder was bad, and was scheduled for surgery for the following week. I didn’t make it that far. I was so weak and so sick I honestly thought I was going to die. I remember taking a shower so that I would be clean when they found my body.

My wife took me to the ER where they immediately took me back and started testing. The on-call doctor first suggested that I might have cancer. It was confirmed a few days later when a biopsy was performed during surgery.

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I woke up from surgery without my gallbladder, without 13″ of my colon, with a colostomy bag and when tests came back, a stage 3 cancer diagnosis. I was devastated.

How did you feel when you got the news? Did you resolve to fight right away, or was there denial before acceptance?

I was hospitalized for 13 days. Thoughts were running through my head: Am I going to die? Am I going to be a burden on my wife and family? How am I going to pay bills and keep my house if I can’t work? Thoughts also of chemo and the side effects…

I knew I had to fight to stay alive. I promised my wife, my kids, my sisters, and my baby Grandson that I would fight with all that I have. I promised my Grandson that we would go see Mickey Mouse someday. I’m determined to keep that promise.

What was the diagnosis and treatment plan?

I met with the Oncologist in my hospital room. She told me that I would require 6 months of chemo every other week. She also said that the odds were 50/50. She told me that she simply didn’t know. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.

How did your family and wife Sherry react to the news?

Sherry was stronger than me. She kept telling me that I was going to be okay. My family supported me the best they could. My sisters came to the hospital every day.

How long before you began chemo?  Tell me about your first chemo experience.

I started chemo on Feb 15th. I was so scared, but I was trying not to show it. They took me back and took blood, took my vitals, and after a checkup with the Oncologist, I was off to the treatment room. Sherry was by my side the entire time. We sat in the reclining chairs. I can remember asking Sherry to move an IV stand because I couldn’t see that face of hers that gives me strength.

The nurses at Tennessee Oncologists were beyond great. They calmed my nerves. They stuck a needle in my stomach about the size of a pencil. It hurt like hell, but was necessary to help control nausea. Then they ran some other anti-nausea meds through my port that was put in the week before. Then came the chemotonychemo

drugs. It was scary seeing Nurse Barbara dressed like she works at a nuclear power plant. I was holding Sherry’s hand and she kept asking if I’m okay. The entire process took almost 6 hours. I had to wear a chemo pump for 2 days after each treatment to keep giving me meds slowly over time.

Did you bond with some of your fellow cancer warriors and did you have any special care givers who made your journey easier/better along the way?

When you spend 6 hours a per day every 2 weeks in the chemo room, you get to know the staff and other patients. You become part of their lives and you let them into yours. The tough thing is getting attached, then realizing the patients have cancer just like you. I began talking to a man named Mark. Mark had colon cancer just like me, stage 3 just like me, and a colostomy bag just like me. He got his shots in the stomach and from what I could tell, had the same protocol as I did. For some reason, Mark’s chemo didn’t take and he lost his fight on Sept 11th. Could’ve been me.

Nurse Barbara stands out as far as my nurses go. She named me the “Chemodale Dancer” and made me a bow tie that made some of the other patients laugh. She also heads up the cancer support group that has helped me tremendously.

How did you come to call yourself a “warrior”?

The term “Cancer Warrior” came from a fellow cancer patient named Barry Rinks. When I was diagnosed, I reached out to him to ask about his fight, his treatments, and his outlook. Although he didn’t know me personally at all, we talked a lot about treatments and about God. He made me see that death is nothing to fear if you have God. He helped lift such a burden off me. I didn’t know at the time that Barry was so close to losing his battle. He went home to Heaven around Labor Day.

I understand your wife Sherry was your life-line and your primary care giver. How vital was she to your ultimate and overall recovery?

Sherry was/is my care giver. Without her, I would be dead or in nursing home. There is not enough time or space to tell all she has done for me. I know this seems short, but if I start listing things, it is going to be extremely long. She has kept me alive.

How many months were you in treatment? How did you cope with daily life? Did you stay home a lot or get out as much as you could?

I did chemo for 6 months. I was out of work for 3 months. The nurses at the oncologist office did a great job with my nausea. I had some but it was manageable. The fatigue, on the other hand, was awful. I had never felt so constantly run down. I couldn’t eat, drink, or touch anything cold. Trying to get the colostomy bag fixed to where it wouldn’t leak and make huge messes was a big issue. The mental part was harder for me than the physical. I had 3 months to think about my life and how I was going to make positive changes, be a better husband, father, brother, son, and grandpa. I told God if he decided to take me I’m ready, but if not, my desire is to be that man who I want to become.

I stayed at home a lot. I had to get out and take care of some things because Sherry had to work. After 3 months and against doctor’s orders, I went back to work. It was hell. They took my office job away from me while I was out and cut my pay. I was also told that if I couldn’t keep up, they didn’t need me. So, I would leave chemo and head directly back to work. Because of this, I developed blood clots in both legs and kept a barf bag on my table in case I got sick while working.

Tell me about your last day of chemo.

My last chemo treatment was on July 13th. Sherry made signs for me to hold while taking pictures. I rang the bell as I was leaving. Then I cranked up the music as myself, Nurse Barbara, another nurse, and a volunteer did The Conga up the hallway.

When and how did you get the news that you were cancer-free?

After my last treatment, I went for tests to determine the condition of my cancer. We got the tests back a week later, and the cancer was gone. My Oncologist told me during my checkup.

How are you now and what is your next step in overall recovery?

Right now, I am still battling the residual effects from the chemo. My fingers and feet are both numb and I have balance issues. I have joined a gym and can ride a stationary bike. I’m working on my weight so that I can get a colostomy reversal.

What message would you like to convey to the world regarding your journey and the fight against cancer?

If you think something is wrong with your body, then something might be. It’s better to know for sure. Go to your doctor and get checked. Please get those colonoscopies, mammograms or any other cancer detecting tests. Most insurers will pay 100% for preventive care. Everyone should get a colonoscopy before age 50 (listen up, Nicholson family!) They’re not fun, but may save your life.

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I would like to thank you, Tony, for sharing your story with my readers. I am sure everyone is just as thrilled as I am to know you are cancer-free and moving on toward a full, wonderful life. The world is indeed a better place with you in it!

Please leave comments for Tony below. He would enjoy hearing from you all!