Friday, September 27, 2013

Tonight you belong to me

This is absolutely adorable.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My one year journey with Cancer

Nobody ever wants to be told they have cancer. That word seems to have a death sentence associated with it. So here is a synopsis of my journey so far.


Cancer

I have been contemplating writing this for a while now. I just don’t know how to express my true feelings into words. This cancer thing has been a difficult and trying journey for me and very emotional for me. Well, let me start from the beginning.

 One year ago I had a routine colonoscopy (every ten years). Everything was normal like all the other ones. But as he finished he advised me to go see an urologist because the right side of my prostate was enlarged. I have had no symptoms. How he could tell that is beyond me, but he is the doctor.

On the way home I thought about what he said and kind of put it on the back burner. But this was my reaction: “I have prostate cancer”. I knew it even though a doctor had not told me anything yet. I had this confirming feeling from the spirit that my initial thoughts were correct.

The very next week I had my scheduled annual physical. And during that they took blood for a cholesterol check and for a PSA test. I am able to see my test results on line and got an email that they were posted. My jaw hit the floor but I didn’t want to believe it. My PSA level for the past 20 years has been at a constant 2.5 (anything below 4 is normal) and it had jumped up to 13.85 in no time at all. What do I do? I continued to ignore it in my active thoughts but knew I needed to see another doctor. Over my entire life I had seen a doctor on average about 1.1 times per year.

After Labor Day I met with an urologist and had another exam. He confirmed that the prostate was enlarged. And with that and the fact that my PSA was so high, he told me further testing would need to be done. Two days later a friend, Kyle Winkel, was in town and I asked for a priesthood blessing from him.

I went for an initial Bone scan and a CT scan. This was a new experience for me, especially when they inject radioactive stuff in your arm and that stuff is incased in lead.
 
When this whole episode started in August 2012 until now, I have seen more doctors and had more scans and had more people see me in compromising positions than I have had in my entire life.

I went in for an ultrasound guided biopsy in which he took 12 samples. They were sent to pathology. The results were that I was at a Gleason 8 with T2/T3 (stage 2 or 3) cancer, and he recommended surgery to remove it. He said that ten of the samples were 90% cancerous.  He said that it was a very aggressive type of cancer and that he would be cutting all the nerves (too much cancer to try to save them).  He said it would not kill me now but it needed to come out within six months. This is when it really hit me. I said I was too young to have cancer. The floor fell out from under me. I was devastated. The wind was knocked out of me and my blood ran cold. At this moment I became very self-centered and selfish (I don’t know the word to use). There was no other person in the entire world that was sick with cancer. I was the only one on the planet that was sick. I only thought of myself. Why did this have to happen to me? I went home in a daze, not caring about anything, not seeing anything around me. And I went to bed.
 
Those feelings didn't last long because I realized that hundreds of thousands of people win the world were worse off than me. I pulled myself up by the boot-straps and got my right mind back. I was only one of millions of sick people in the world and each one of us needs to deal with it. I have tried very hard to have a positive attitude and keep my spirits up.

I didn’t want anyone to know, except those very few people I chose to tell (my children and a couple of close friends and I swore them to secrecy). I am a private person and I didn’t want a pity party or to be put on any watch/care list. I just wanted to be left alone.

The doctor told me to go home and think about my options, besides surgery and call him back in three weeks. I thought about it for only a few hours and made my decision, after talking with my daughter Kirstin. She said to get on his surgery schedule now in case his is very busy.

I had robotic surgery in late October, which was great. Instead of a long incision, I had four pinky finger sized incisions and one larger thumb sized one, all in my abdomen. I was healed up very fast, and the Percocet was great (and I asked for a refill too). I was told that they got it all and it was all within the prostate. That was sent to pathology also. Those results were a bit more alarming. He said that the cancer was a Gleason 9 and that it was T3b (one step from stage 4) – because it has spread outside to the seminal vesicles. The Lymph nodes that I took were clean. So in one month's time, I went from a Gleason 8, T2/T3 to a Gleason 9, T3b - very aggressive is right.

There are lots of side effects from this kind of surgery that I needed to get used to and I really didn’t get used to them for several months. Fatigue is one of the biggest side effects – no details on any other will be given here. So for about three months it was rest and relaxation. I am certainly glad that I was retired because I would have had to quit my job otherwise. And I am glad that it was just Judy and me in the house. It was sure fun to have my granddaughters come and visit because they would check on me and doctor me and just make my day brighter.

In early Dec my PSA was zero, which is what it should have been. With the prostate gone there was nothing left to make the prostate specific antigen.

In early Feb I had another PSA test and it was 1.1 (still normal but this alarmed me because it was supposed to remain zero). I went to see the doctor and he said that he would set up an appointment with the radiation oncologist next door at the hospital. He had mentioned at the beginning of this that I may need radiation therapy after surgery if any PSA producing microscopic cancer cells remained.

One more brick to the head came shortly after this. The Oncologist called me to tell me that there were some suspicious spots on my bones from the baseline CT scan they took before the radiation treatments. He said he thinks that the cancer had spread to my bones. I hung up the phone, dropped to my knees and began to cry. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father that I didn’t want to die. This was the darkest day of my life so far, because when cancer starts to spread, most times you are terminal. Shortly after my pleadings I was reassured that I was okay. I will be watched. That spot showed up on my very first CT scan and it had not changed. Then they saw a spot on my lungs and I had to get another lung CT scan. Both of these spots had not changed and I will be followed for two years.

I bore my testimony in April and told my ward what was going on and I told them that I was supposed to learn something from this and that some kind of blessings will come from it.

So I began 7.5 weeks of daily radiation treatments Apr 2, 2013. I was blasted with X-Rays in several places around my body by a computer controlled machine, which was quite amazing. I had three tattoos put on me to line it up so I was always in the same position every time. I got a CT scan before each treatment, which showed any changed of my insides from the initial baseline scan and the machine made the adjustments. Each treatment lasted about ten minutes and when I was finished with my last treatment on May 20, 2013, I had received my lifetime maximum radiation to that part of my body. Radiation also makes you fatigued. I still try to get a daily nap because I am so tired. Well maybe I am just used to taking naps – they are great.

So there it is in a nutshell. I have journaled about this adventure in my life and so far it is 39 pages long. I hope I have not bored you. This has been a difficult challenge for me and some life altering things for me. I will not know if I am cancer free and in remission for another year. I have a five year plan for my recovery which was restarted again after my radiation was complete. I will be seen by my doctor a couple times per year for that time. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A lazy walk across the Stone Arch Bridge and the mill ruins

Last big event was a visit to the Stone Arch Bridge to look at the raging Mighty Mississippi River.
Amelia says I am a little birdie. Feed me!
So Aunt Kjerstin helped.
Ta Da! I am standing here on the Stone Arch Bridge.
Looking at the ruins.
What used to be the river water intake to the mills to grind the wheat.
Airplane.
I am here over the Might Mississippi River.
The water is raging.
We are all here.
I love you Aunt Kjerstin.
An unhappy child. I want to walk.
I got my wish. I am looking at the river through the bars.
I will save you Mingah.
Almost to the other side.
In the background is the new I35W bridge that collapsed a few years ago that killed 13 people. It was rebuilt in a year, newer and better than before.
I see the other side. Almost there.
Horse and Buggy ride.
One, Two, Three.......
Swing!
Our Stone Arch Bridge (used to be a railroad crossing).
Mommy is giving me a ride. I like this.
The ruins from under the bridge.

The old Gold Metal Flour Mill.
Ellie and Erik ran ahead of us.



The boys have found something.
Ellie and Kjerstin
Boo!
The little mermaid.
Another shot of the new I35W bridge from river level.
Kjerstin needed some extra help getting the stroller up the hill, so Charlie hooked up the tow rope and helped. Later the tow rope became a dog leash and he wouldn't give it back to mom for her bag.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Como Zoo time

Everyone wanted to go to the Como Zoo in St. Paul. We got there in mid morning and it was packed and no place to park. So we backtracked about three miles past the fair grounds to catch the shuttle bus, a new Jefferson Bus Line bus, in which we traveled back to the zoo in Air Condition comfort.
Kyle had already returned home to Edmond so the rest of us went to the zoo. We were meeting the Smentek kids there to spend time with some other cousins.

Erik, Charlie and Ellie found a statue of a tortoise and climbed on for some pictures.
And then we saw Mairin. We found them.
Kellan wanted to be in the picture too and besides,he loves his sister.
So happy to have lunch. It was a hot and steamy day but we were under a giant umbrella that was over our lunch table.
Logan
Kellan
All eight kids climbed onto the giraffe statue for a picture. And them we saw the sign that says No Climbing.
The crew lined up for a rest in the heat.
Kellan and Logan climbing rocks. And then I hear, " Hey, get off of there!"
Behind that fence is an Arctic Fox. Millie, look the other way.
Liam is too tired. It's a hot one.
Waiting for the fox to return.
For a year and a half I have been teasing Charlie about sucking his thumb. When I see it in his mouth I tell him that I am going to eat it. And then really fast grab his hand and attempt to eat his thumb. I would tuck his thumb under his fingers and pretend to eat it. Then mysteriously make it reappear and put it back on. It didn't take long for him to do all that on his own when I threaten to eat it. He would say, "They are gone. I sold them at a garage sale".
Nope, I don't have any thumbs.
Oh, they're back. See?
Phesssst!
Oh, here is the fox.
Gramma with the girls.
One, Two, Three Swing.
Tried it with Erik but it didn't turn out so well.
She is just so adorable!!!!
Then they met the TIGER, just inches away on the other side of the glass.