Our New Journey

On June 9th, my husband was feeling ill. He said that he was dehydrated and needed to go to the hospital for fluids. I mentioned to the nurses that I was concerned because he had seemed a little different over the past week. After a few tests, it was revealed that a tumor had taken up residence in his brain. A biopsy soon followed. As the surgeon talked about the results of the biopsy, the dreadful word "cancer" was born into our lives, changing it forever.

Through this blog, I will be sharing my journey.

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers.

-Gilly

Monday, July 25, 2011

...just another day... kinda

Today was an interesting day. I don't think that "interesting" is the right word, but it was all I could think of...

This week I'm participating in a science training for school. It is every day from 8:00 to 4:30. Since the training happens during Joe's radiation appointments, some wonderful people have offered to take him to his appointments. Both of us have been a little nervous about this as it is out of what we had established as routine. Joe has still been going to work and has enjoyed tremendous support from the staff he works with. (Truly we are both so blessed in so many ways.) So, I dropped him off at work this morning, and the plan was for Andy (his dad) to pick him up for his appointment, then take him home.

This was a great plan until... his eyesight started going "haywire" in the early afternoon. He was seeing similar starburst type things as the first night we went to the ER. So, Andy took him to the ER to get checked out. It was not too long after they arrived that he began to feel a lot better. (I think it's kind of like when you take your car to the mechanic because it's making a sound, and it doesn't make that sound when you get there.) Anyways, they gave him fluids and did a CT scan to check for fluid build up in the brain.

Andy texted me when he went down for the scan because he wasn't sure if they would be out in time for what he called the "ray gun" appointment. I called the radiation center and let them know.

The scan came back normal (except for the tumor of course... but we all knew about that... this time). So they released him. The neurosurgeon did mention that things like this could happen after the surgery for the biopsy. whew! Big relief!

They made it to the "ray gun" appointment on time and then they went to dinner at Chili's.

Now Joe is home resting after his adventurous day and feeling much better. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not Always Pollyanna

I've been trying to spin things in a positive light. Every time shit happens or I feel overwhelmed, I look for the silver lining. I look for the lesson. I look for where and how God is molding crappy stuff into useful, beautiful pieces of art. I'm really good at this, and I'm thankful for that gift. But is that always realistic and the best course of action? I'm not saying that it's a bad thing to do to look on the sunny side of a situation, but at some point the not-so-sunny side needs to be acknowledged because it's part of the situation too.

For days I've felt a welling of sorrow in my throat. I know that keeping busy helps keep the tears away, as as I've been busy, they've stayed away. But there have been moments when I've been in a safe place to let them come. Several times they've seemed to start, but for one reason or another, they stopped. I think that I was trying to pin down a specific reason before allowing them.

Finally tonight I was out with the dogs...alone...and I felt the tears knocking at the door again. I told them it was okay to come. I was in a safe place where I wouldn't cause anyone alarm, and they wouldn't be stopped. As I felt my eyes begin to fill with water, I felt sorrow. As I allowed that feeling to stay, I realized the cause... loss.

The news of the tumor meant a loss of a life as I had come to know it in so many ways. I so feel for Joe as he has certainly, at least for a time, lost so much of his life as he knew it. He has lost not just his short-term memory and energy, but so much more painful has been loosing a sense of independence and confidence. Simple decisions and tasks we both took for granted have now seemed like huge mountains to climb. I miss the freedom that we both enjoyed, and now, at least for a time, is gone. So now with a specific cause for the sorrow, the tears finally came out.

With those tears for the current situation came more tears of loss from the past. I didn't filter. I didn't discriminate. I didn't judge. I just let them come.

Then, finally they stopped. They were done. I took a deep breath and finally sat in peace. Not in happiness, not in contentment, but no longer feeling like I had a bounty of tears chomping at the bit to burst out.

I hesitated to share this writing in the blog because I'm trying to keep things as positive as possible. But this too is part of the journey. And I know that readers of this blog are kind, compassionate, and will understand completely.

Thank you all so very, very much for your prayers, encouragement, support, and most of all... your LOVE.

Gilly

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Success with No Drugs!

One week ago today Joe started his radiation treatments. He started his first treatment taking two valium. That was what finally helped him go through the CT scan while snapped to the table in his mask. Since the first treatment went so well, he's been taking less and less of the valium.

...and today he made it through with NO VALIUM!

I think that I needed a valium today as I waited in the waiting room. He was gone for much longer than usual. I was worried that he was having trouble. It turned out that they were taking some x-rays and it was a little longer treatment. Whew!

Then we met with Dr. Tova, his radiation doctor. She was just checking in on him and seeing if we had any questions.

Thank you again for all of your love and prayers!

Gilly

Monday, July 18, 2011

Beginning the First Full Week of R & C

After a restful weekend, Joe's first full week of enduring both radiation and chemo has begun. Tonight he only needed 1 of his anti-anxiety meds. Tomorrow he'll try half a tab. Each time gets easier and easier for him. It will be good when he can go in without the anti-anxiety meds. They are really messing with his cognition.

Tomorrow we will meet with his doctor.

We are certainly feeling in good hands.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1 Down, 32 to Go

Tonight Joe successfully underwent his first radiation treatment. He did it with the help of anti-anxiety meds, but he did it. He came into the waiting room from the treatment saying that it was a "piece of cake." That was really good news because he has 32 more treatments to go. He will be going five times a week (Monday through Friday) for the next several weeks.

He said that it feels like a huge weight has been lifted as it seems that he is taking an action towards getting rid of this pesky tumor. I know that it always feels better to be actually doing something rather than waiting to do something.

I know that many of you have been doing something for us since you first heard the news. You've been praying and sending positive thoughts. And I know that has helped and continues to help. =)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mission Successful!

Tonight was Joe's "dry run" for radiation. We were a bit nervous. As we arrived at Radiation Medical Center, he had taken his anti-anxiety meds but was still feeling anxious. There were a couple of tense moments sitting in the waiting room after he scanned his card letting them know that he was there.

I know that it didn't take long, but it felt like we were waiting quite a bit of time before a man in brown scrubs came to the door and called him through. Joe followed, and I held my breath. I checked my texts and tried to play some games on my phone, but I was too nervous to concentrate. I found myself staring blankly at the tv in the waiting room. One of my favorite movies was playing. For a few moments, I found myself lost in The Music Man hoping that things were going well behind the door.

Joe walked into the waiting room. Briefly my hear sunk thinking that he hadn't been gone long enough to have had a successful mission. I asked how it went, and he said, "not bad." He said that it was really quick and easy.

Yay!

As we left, we walked away with a schedule for 33 treatments. The first one begins tomorrow night.

Thank you all so much for your prayers, support, and encouragement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Prayer Quilt and Prayer Square

Yesterday we received a unique and touching gift.

Word at the horse stable spread about Joe's tumor, and it was wonderful to receive the support from everyone as I began to return to the ranch on a more regular basis. It was so touching to speak with fellow Willow Glenners as they offered support and encouragement. I really appreciate kindness as people asked me what we need. I truly feel more than anything, we need prayer. I know the amazing power of prayer, and it may seem like a simple request, but for the moment that is what I feel we need the most.

After telling Joe's story to one of the boarders at the ranch, she asked if she could have her church make Joe a "prayer quilt." I humbly said yes. It sounded like such a lovely idea, very touching.

It came out beautifully and with a card giving information and instructions. On the quilt are a number of knots. Here is what the card says:

"Each knot is a prayer that has been said for you. More prayers may join those already in this quilt. As a friend, relative, doctor, nurse, or visitor wishes to pray for you he or she may tie another knot over one already made, giving you more visible signs of God's comfort and love."

I have decided that when someone writes, texts, calls, or face to face tells me that they are thinking about us I will tie another knot.

In addition to the quilt, the kind people from "The Prayer Quilt Ministry" at St. Mark's Lutheran Church also made me a prayer square.

Tomorrow, Joe will be going through a "dry run" before his first radiation treatment. The doctor wants to line everything up, take and xray and make sure the radiation is hitting the right places and missing the right places. Hopefully everything will go well.

I will post tomorrow and let you all know how it went. Thank you for your prayers.

I love the prayer quilt and the prayer square. They are both as the card says a "visible sign of God's comfort and love."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Today our nation celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence as well as the struggles and sacrifices that bought our independence and has ensured our freedom over the years. I've been watching a series on the History Channel called "How the States Got their Shapes." It has been interesting learning how rivers, railroads, alcohol, politics, and so many things formed the states into the shapes we know them as today. As the host of the show has gone from state to state, one of the themes that has come up is an independent spirit.

There is strength in independence. It is that strength that helped the early colonists survive. Certainly an independent spirit is what spurred the once separate colonies to unite together and declare independence from Britain. Pioneers heading west also had to have had such strength. Clearly an independent spirit shaped our nation.

As much strength as there is in independence, I think there is even more strength for one who is independent to ask and accept help. Both Joe and I recognize that this journey requires more than the strength that God has given our independent spirits. It requires more than what the doctors can provide. We would be foolish to turn down the help that so many of you have offered.

Over the last few weeks I have found the strength to pick up the phone when I've needed a pep-talk. I've found the strength to admit that things are not okay. I've found the strength to ask for help as well as prayers.

Joe has found incredible strength in allowing me to help him. Since the biopsy, he has felt "fuzzy," and has allowed me to be his "personal assistant" (a title I've given myself).

We sincerely appreciate each offer of help. I know with such a situation, it is difficult to feel anything other than helpless, or that what you are able to do or offer is far from enough. We want you to know that every meal, hug, up-lifting word, call, and prayer has helped immensely.

We are so grateful that we don't need to go through this independently.

Thank you,

Gilly

Friday, July 1, 2011

Celebrating Normality (Laura's word)



Several years ago I developed a lunch ritual that I found comforting. Although in many aspects of my life, I've enjoyed the spontaneous and unexpected, I've taken comfort in preparing and eating my lunch, doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again, day after day. It's one aspect of my life that I can easily control and take comfort in predictability. 

Today Joe went off to work like many days before June 9th. All that was planned for him today was a nice, normal day at work, no doctor's appointments, no tests... just work. 

It has been a lovely day. After seeing Joe off to work, I met my dear friend, Tara for a wonderful walk. From her house, we walked towards Balboa Park via Starbucks. We walked to the fountain then over the bridge and through the rose and cactus gardens. We stopped to smell several roses. Tara was an amazing listener (as always) as I talked about recent events with Joe's struggle. She has such a great way to put a positive spin on each aspect. I am so thankful for all the positive people in my life that help me keep a healthy perspective. 

As we made our way back, walking past the zoo and through the Spanish Village, we talked about favorite memories of childhood moments and explorations of the park. As our two hour walk came to an end, we talked about looking forward to next year's classes. It was so nice to have a long, positive talk. I'm so very lucky. 

After running a few errands, I found myself at home where I made myself my favorite lunch, PB & J crackers.

So, today was a delightfully normal day. And we have a delightfully normal evening to look forward to.