Saturday, December 24, 2011
The presents are wrapped, the goodies are baked, Christmas cards all mailed out, the house is cleaned, and finally at the stroke of midnight itís Christmas Eve and I am off work for two days. Tommy and Thor have both gone to bed leaving me in silence with my own thoughts. As I sit here in the quiet of my living room at 2:30 a.m. I think about how quickly this year is coming to an end and how much has happened in this short twelve months.
On my way to work this afternoon, I saw all the traffic backing up with holiday shoppers trying to get into the stores, people on a desperate mission to find that perfect gift for each and every person on their list.
Just a couple weeks ago I too had been out shopping for gifts, but everything I looked at seemed so trivial. So much has changed in our lives that these gifts just didnít seem as important as in previous years. I finally managed to find gifts for everyone except Tommy. I had asked him many times what he wanted for Christmas, but he would always just look at me, smile and tell me not to buy him anything. I knew what he was thinking. The only thing he wants for Christmas is his health; something I do not have the power to give him, no matter how hard I try.
We finally talked and decided to skip giving gifts between the two of us this year and instead we will give ourselves a trip to the coast in a few weeks, even if just for a few days. Weíll spend a couple days walking on the beach in the off season when there are no crowds. Thatís always been our favorite time to go. The time together will be worth much more to us than anything we could buy each other at this time in our lives.
After posting my last blog about Tommy and Thor, I was amazed at the number of responses I received from this wonderful Spark community, not only posts on my blog, but also on my Spark Page and many private messages. I am so deeply touched by all of the support that Iíve received, and also by the many stories of others who are dealing with illnesses and the loss of loved ones. The messages have been comforting, and sometimes also heartbreaking. Although I simply havenít had the time to respond to all of them, I have certainly read each and every one.
Itís been a busy and tough year between working nights and spending much time at Forsyth Regional Cancer Center. I am not complaining though. I am just thankful that Tommy has access to this wonderful group of professionals who are working as hard as they can for him. Iím also thankful that we found a veterinarian who was willing to operate on Thor to remove all he could of his tumors. While Tommy and Thor are both fighting cancer, we thank God that He has given us another year together. This is Tommyís third Christmas since his diagnosis! He has finished his chemo treatments for this year and will have another scan next week.
There are people all around this marvelous Earth who are facing difficult times for many different reasons. Many are fighting against disease for their lives or know someone who is, many have recently lost a loved one, while others are facing unforeseen financial hardships. There are so very many people who need our prayers, not just at this time of year, but all year long. Itís so easy to take life for granted, until reality hits you and you realize there never was a guarantee for a tomorrow. Each and every life is precious. Thatís why we should live every day to its fullest and cherish all of the time we are given with our loved ones.
I hope that while you are celebrating Christmas, or whatever holiday you may celebrate during this season, you will take just a few minutes and send prayers up for all of those who are not as fortunate this year. It costs nothing but a few minutes of our time. Also, if there is any way possible, please remember there are many of our furry friends who are living in shelters and dog pounds and they truly need a forever home and a family to share their love with. If you can open your heart and home to an animal, you will be greatly rewarded by the unconditional love that you will receive from these wonderful creatures.
Thank you to this awesome Spark community for all of your kind words of support. You are truly an incredible group and a blessing.
My wishes to each and every one of you for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Tommy and Thor on their golf cart.
Most people have a lot of friends, all of which are an important part of our lives. Friends come in many forms including different races, religions, nationalities, gender, and so on. And sometimes theyíre even a different species. There is a lot to be said for the old saying about a dog being a manís (or womanís) best friend.
My husband, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2009, was never what I considered an animal lover. It wasnít that he didnít like animals, rather he just didnít care about them one way or the other. His parents never allowed animals in their home when he was a child, unlike the home I grew up in where we always had dogs, birds, hamsters, turtles and fish. Our pets were an important part of our lives and were greatly loved and cared for. So it made me both mad and sad when Tommy and I married and he then proclaimed that he would ďnever live in a dog house.Ē It was really the only thing we ever argued over, and because our marriage was otherwise happy and strong, I gave up my idea of having a dog deciding it really wasnít worth the fight.
Then in March 2007 my 20 year old son, who had been living in an apartment, decided he wanted to come back home and go back to school (yes, reality had set in for him). All was fine until he informed us that he had just that week acquired a sickly, three-legged, red Doberman pinscher. He wanted to bring ďThorĒ home with him. After a lot of ďdiscussingĒ this with Tommy, he finally agreed that Jeremy could bring the dog home, but he would have to build him a lot out back because the dog was not living in our house. So, Jeremy came home with all of his belongings and a skinny, sick dog. He built him a dog lot and bought him a dog house his first day home. We immediately took the dog to the vet and they treated him for a severe case of hookworms and he got all of his shots and a full check-up.
Thor was one of the friendliest and sweetest dogs Iíd ever met and I immediately fell in love with him. He then began to work his magic on Tommy also, something I had previously thought was an impossible task. Yes, I began to see Thor breaking down that tough exterior of Tommyís and working his way right into his heart. Then one afternoon, within one week of Thorís arrival, Tommy brought him inside the house making sure to tell us it was only for a few hours because the weather was so bad outside. His new outdoor dog house was quickly replaced by two indoor dog beds. Thor never slept outside again.
After Tommyís diagnosis of cancer, it became more important than ever for him to get some exercise every day. He began taking Thor on daily walks that they both seemed to really enjoy. On the occasional days when he felt too tired to walk very far, he would ride his golf cart around the property and eventually taught Thor how to sit on the cart and ride with him (this has become one of Thorís favorite things). The bond between the two of them was growing. They were becoming best buds. When I would go to work in the evenings, Tommy would always have his buddy with him for company. I watched the transformation of my husband from the tough guy ďheís just a dumb dogĒ attitude to a much gentler person that would often cater to Thorís desires. WOW, I was in awe. Thor was able to do what I was not.
Then about six weeks ago, I noticed two lumps on Thor, one on each of his back legs, that were quickly increasing in size. I showed them to my daughter-in-law, who is a vet tech, and she immediately loaded me and Thor into her vehicle and took him in for a biopsy. We received the bad news that they were cancerous tumors. Because he was already missing a front leg, amputation was not an option. He was scheduled for surgery and the lumps were removed two weeks ago (his stitches were removed this morning). He has healed well, but one of the lumps was in a bad spot and they were unable to get clean margins on it, so it will surely return. The vet hopes that the removal of the tumors will give Thor a couple more good years.
I now wonder if this is the reason Thor was brought into our lives. Thor was able to win Tommy over, become his best buddy, keep him exercising, and now they are both fighting for their lives against the same disease. Could this really be a coincidence? I donít think so.
Tommy's pancreatic cancer has now spread to his lungs and his doctor has told him she cannot cure it, only try to slow it down. Just a few nights ago Tommy was laying on the couch watching TV and Thor was in his bed. He began to talk to me about how great our last 17 years together have been and how he wished we could have 17 more together. Thor immediately got up off his bed, walked over and laid down on the hard wood floor in front of Tommy as if he was coming to comfort him. Tommy reached down and began petting him and saying, ď Youíre such a good boy, and youíre not just a dog, youíre part of our family. Youíre just like every other family member.Ē I watched in awe, knowing that this was a moment between the two of them and I was just a spectator. They were two best friends facing the same challenges and uncertain futures and I was not a part of that. Even though Thor doesnít understand his illness as we do, he seems to be very connected to Tommyís emotions and they have brought much happiness to each otherís lives.
I sat on my front porch the next morning and watched Tommy and Thor walk away from our yard and down the road, a man and his dog, his best friend. I was happy that they had become best friends, but I was also suddenly struck with a harsh reality. I knew that on this morning they would come walking back to me shortly, but sometime in the not so distant future, they will both almost certainly leave me forever. I felt a little wave of panic knowing that I cannot hold onto them forever. Only God knows how long I have left with them, so I will try to make sure we all enjoy whatever time we have left together.
I believe our pets are a gift from God and they bring so much happiness into our lives. What Thor has done for Tommy, and all of our family, is living proof of that. Love your pets and care for them.
Friday, June 03, 2011
Most days I feel like I'm sitting in a car racing down the highway at 100 miles per hour with nobody at the wheel. My life is spinning wildly out of control and that is something that's difficult for me to deal with. I've always been, or at least felt like I was, in complete control of my life. But for the last two years, I have felt helpless; I mainly stand on the sideline now and watch as everything progresses beyond my control. In the last two years both Tommy and I lost our jobs when our employers shut down, I watched my sister lose her 18 month old granddaughter, Maddie, to Leigh's Disease, and Tommy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the day Maddie was being buried.
And now, I feel more helpless and more afraid than I've ever felt in my life. Tommy's latest needle biopsy on his lung confirmed what he has been saying all along. His pancreatic cancer has metastasized to both lungs. His oncologist is a wonderful doctor, but also very honest. Surgery is not an option. She is offering him a new regimen of three chemo drugs, one that is sure to have numerous side effects. She made it clear that this is not a cure but rather palliative care that will hopefully slow the progression giving him more time and a better quality of life. I'm not sure how you get a better quality of life with all the side effects they talked about, but hopefully his will be minimal so he can still go and do some of the things he loves. He begins this treatment on June 20.
Since the day he was first diagnosed in 2009, everything in our lives has changed. Weíve learned to live one day at a time and to try and find some happiness every day. We now plan all activities, vacations, lunch with friends or family, everything, around his appointments. As hard as we try to put it out of our minds, PC is ALWAYS there. When you go on vacation, for a walk in the park, to visit friends, or anywhere, this PC is always there in the back of your mind. I see it in the eyes of friends and family every time they look at Tommy. There is a sadness just below the surface that they can't hide.
Tommy has opened up more to share his fears with me. His biggest fear is not the possibility of losing this battle, but the possibility that his young grandchildren wonít remember him. He also says he worries about leaving me alone, worries about what this is doing to his parentsí health, and worries about finances. This in turn causes me additional worry because I donít want him under more stress. Yet, Iíve also seen a strength in my husband that I never knew he had. He is a true fighter and refused to give up when he was initially told he had 6 to 12 months. He has bounced back from every obstacle thrown at him thus far and never complained. He has vowed to fight until he can't fight anymore and I have promised to be there with him.
We're going on vacation next week and will spend 10 days in the southwest. He's always loved watching the rafters going down the Rio Grande; this time, we've made arrangements to be in a raft. We're taking him to all of his favorite places and we'll do our very best to put PC out of our minds during vacation; it won't be easy.
If there is any good to be found in all of this, it would be that our already wonderful marriage has become even stronger. Weíve learned to lean on each other and share of fears, concerns, and joys every day. We've learned that it's okay to laugh and to cry. Weíve learned that life is too short to take even one single day for granted. Weíve learned to say I love you more than ever, not only to each other, but to all our family members and friends. Weíve learned there are no guarantees in life for anyone. Our priorities have completely changed. We no longer worry about the material things in life; instead we work on happy memories.
I wish I could spend more time on SP, but right now I spend most of my days off work with Tommy. There is so much we want to do and so little time.
I love all of you for the amazing words of support you've given me over the last few years. Thank you.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Life has been pretty good lately; busy, but good. But it seems like every time we begin to get comfortable, life throws us a curve. Yesterday was one of those days.
Tommy has been feeling so well lately that we were pretty convinced that the three small nodules in his lungs must be something benign and not metastatic cancer. He went for his PET scan on Monday and yesterday we went back to his oncologist. The results were definitely not what we wanted to hear.
The largest nodule (the one they tried unsuccessfully to biopsy in December) has now doubled in size (about 2cm), has now taken on an oblong shape and now appears "mildly hot" on the scan. In addition, Dr. Shearer said that more tiny nodules have now developed in his lungs. None of these are good signs.
He had such a bad experience when they attempted to do a needle biopsy of the largest nodule in December (extremely painful and lung collapsed) that he swore they would never do that to him again. Dr. Shearer, however, was able to convince him that this was much to important to ignore and that she had to be sure what it was before she could decide how to proceed. So, he goes back to the hospital next Tuesday so they can try again to biopsy the large nodule. We'll then go back to see Dr. Shearer next Friday to find out the results.
We are nervous. It looks like the chain of events with this pancreatic cancer is unfolding exactly as his surgeon said they would in September 2009. I'm so afraid that this will come back as adenocarcinoma and that will immediately put him in Stage IV pancreatic cancer. We've already been told that if it is metastasis, that surgery is not an option at this point.
Just trying to stay busy for now and hoping and praying for good results.
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