Koyaanisqatsi

Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word that loosely translated means “life out of balance.” (Ref – Wikipedia).  This is how I view my life.  It has no balance, it swings from high to low and it is like quicksilver, changing with a fluidity and momentum that defies description.

Today was results day for my husband’s most recent CT scan so went to the hospital to meet the Oncologist.  The results were not great but not the worst either.  In this CT scan the radiologist identified a blood clot in my husband’s lung that apparently had shown up on previous scans but not been mentioned or brought to anyone’s attention until our discussion today.  A little worrisome but hopefully the Fragmin (blood thinner) will continue to allow the body to break the clot down over time. The Oncologist advised that my husband’s cancer has progressed from his last CT scan.  The cancer’s progression has manifested in a couple of nodules and lymph nodes in his lungs.  Not huge increases but significant enough to put my husband back into the chemo grind starting this Thursday.  The original “mass” is still not in evidence, however, another large nodule was identified in his lower right lung.  So the chemo is without a doubt the way to go.  The drug administered, however, has been changed to Docetaxel which has different side effects from the first combination of drugs used. I suspect that the last of his hair will go and the fatigue again will be an issue – I am hoping that the nausea is not.  This remains to be seen.  The chemotherapy sessions are three weeks apart and there will be three.  So the next nine weeks are scripted.

The visit to the hospital today meant I got to meet up with my sister who works there.  She always pops over for a visit, if she can, her schedule permitting we’ll have a coffee or lunch.  Today was a brief chat – just long enough to hear that she had her own issue – the week before she’d had a minor heart attack.  She attributed it to stress, which is likely correct, but how do we remove the stress out of our lives?  Even when we think we have a handle on things oftentimes we still feel stress or strain or frustration or fatigue or concern (and so on) about events occurring within our lives.  The usual response to something like this is a prescription which makes it all seem better but never really addresses the underlying causes.  Needless to say hearing this news from my sister was very upsetting.

My sister-in-law commences her first chemotherapy treatment tomorrow.  She has a cocktail of chemo drugs that include Oxaliplatin, Fluorouracil and Leucovorin.  Her treatments are every two weeks and will continue for approximately six months.  She will have the chemotherapy treatment at the hospital but will leave with a “baby bottle” that continues the treatment and will be removed approximately two days after the initial hospital administered treatment.  Reading up on these drugs it appears that fatigue will likely be a significant factor throughout, but everyone has a different response and we can only hope that for my sister-in-law she has a good response to the treatment.  Her attitude is great going in – just get ‘er done.  Likewise tomorrow my niece (in-law) starts her chemo treatment for breast cancer.  This is the start of a very aggressive program since it is her second go round with breast cancer,  I can’t imagine how she is feeling.

This is the chaos of my life – all around me crazy things are happening – life altering or life threatening things.  It’s out of control – which is the one true thing, the utter lack of control.  This is the reality we all face, we do the best we can but still nasty stuff happens.  Right now it is “koyaanisqatsi” for our family and we seek ways to bring things back into harmony and balance.

Do Things Have To Happen In Threes?

We are into the home stretch for 2014 and it can’t end soon enough.  I’ve stopped saying “what else can go wrong”, because invariably something else does go wrong.  Nothing or no one is out of scope for us this year.  We have three family members engaged in the battle against cancer and it’s frightening to think of the implications on this family for the future.  We have my husband, my sister-in-law and now my niece (in-law).  All different types of cancer.  For my niece (in-law) – it is her second go around with breast cancer related disease and the doctors are moving very quickly.  For my sister-in-law it is cancer of the small intestine/lymph nodes; now that the surgery is done, they are moving forward in getting her on chemotherapy – which will commence in mid-January.  For my husband it is lung/bone with his next check up scheduled for January 13, 2015.  Recently he hasn’t been feeling well, however, he got great news last time when he felt completely lousy – so here’s hoping.

Needless to say, 2015 has some ominous overtones to it, however, there are some bright spots too.  We do have a grandchild arriving in February which is great news.  Our daughter is healthy and well and will deliver a little boy, her first child, around the end of February.  My eldest son informed me that they (he and his wife) will be working on their third child in 2015, hoping for a daughter, but there are no guarantees.  And my youngest, well, I think he is feeling the crunch about children, apparently he and his girlfriend were talking about children today, after he picked her up at the airport.  Could be a fertile year for our little family!

I typically write on this blog to either clear my thoughts or share information.  Today hubby is raspy and congested and I’m worried about him in general – so this forum serves as my outlet.  Ironically when I sat in front of the computer to write there were three pieces of paper sitting on the desk in front of the screen.  Two pieces I had printed out some time ago; their matter is Drynaria and Dipsacus (yang tonifying herbs for bones, tendons and brains).  The third piece of paper was a recipe handwritten by my mother many, many years ago for Blue Cheese Dressing.  How it got separated from all the other recipe cards is beyond me.  My mom had more than her share of cancer-related issues so it seemed funny that here I am feeling so low and come across this recipe – maybe a message in that?  Maybe I came across the other papers to remind me to refocus, not get sucked down into an emotional vortex that serves no purpose, rather to keep looking up and forward because optimism and hope feed the spirit and nourish the soul.

For the benefit of my sisters, here is ma’s Blue Cheese Dressing Recipe:

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons dry white wine or lemon juice

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Put the first 7 ingredients and 1/2 of the cheese in a covered blender.  Blend until smooth.  Stir in remaining cheese.  Cover. Chill.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.  (Omit the milk for a tasty fresh vegetable dip.)

Surgery Update #3

That's her on the left doing her Tai Chi.  She loves this pic, it was taken by a professional photographer and made it in the local paper. (Photo credit is on the image.)

That’s my sister-in-law on the left doing her Tai Chi. She loves this pic, it was taken by a professional photographer and was published in a local paper. (Photo credit is on the image.)

I went to the hospital around noon today to do check-in. My sister-in-law remains in the ICU and is still sedated – although not as heavily as she had been before.  She moved her arms and responded to the nurse as her position in the bed was shifted.  Her blood pressure is a little on the low side and she remains on a respirator.  The intent is to keep her intubated for a few more days to allow her body to focus on fighting infection and healing.

She has had four infusions of albumin and I believe she has had one blood transfusion.  The swelling in her belly, although not as pronounced as on Sunday, is still quite significant.  Although this all sounds quite alarming to a non-medical person like me, the nurses and doctor have assured us that she is progressing well.  Certainly, despite all the tubes and machines around her, she looks as well as anyone can in that situation.  Her skin tone has improved since she was admitted and, she’d be pleased to know, her hair is holding up great.  (God I love this woman!)

I can hardly wait until we can actually chat again – she’s keenly interested in all the comings and goings in our little town. Last night was election night so even though she’s sedated I told her all the results — because I know she will be very happy with them.  Keep those positive vibes headed her way.

Surgery Update

My sister in law came through the surgery okay.  Apparently the type of complication she developed, which was a leak in her intestine, happens in about 5% of cases. She will remain in the ICU and be under heavy sedation for the next couple of days.  Obviously there is concern about further complications so she is in the right place for now.  They will monitor her for infection which is the most significant concern.  Access to her is strictly limited at this point in time which is a protection for her.  Fortunately she has a great outlook.  Even while she was waiting for her surgery she was still interested in all the goings on around us in the ER – she likes to have her finger on the pulse of activity in our little community.

Keep her in your thoughts and prayers – all that collective love has power.

A Visit to Emergency

Unfortunately things have not gone as planned for my sister in law.  She came through her surgery well but had some swelling and discomfort while recuperating in the hospital.  Still in all they discharged her on Thursday and she went home where her two sons were staying to provide her support and assistance while she mends.

On Friday I went over and did check in and decided that perhaps us women should stick together and brought her home to my place.  Her sons were okay with it and she agreed so we packed her up and brought her home.  That night her discomfort increased although the pain didn’t.   Her legs were still quite swollen as was her belly.  She had no appetite and no desire to drink or even move.  We tried to keep her moving but it winded her, absolutely took her breath away.

On Friday, she had a restless night and the painkillers caused her hallucinations. It was difficult to get her up on Saturday morning.  Her breathing was very labored.  Apparently she has used puffers in the past and asked me to go pick them up from her house.  The prescriptions were quite old but she used them anyway and seemed to get some relief.  Still she seemed over the course of a couple of hours to get worse not better.  Around dinner time we made the decision to take her to the hospital.  She went by ambulance which was the right choice – she was seen immediately and needed to be.  She had developed a complication that required immediate  surgery.

Gas from her intestine had leaked into her abdomen and was pushing up her diaphragm.   No wonder she was feeling short of breath!  It was quite remarkable that she wasn’t in pain – she was struggling to breathe yet was not really experiencing pain.  The doctors at the hospital moved quite quickly to get her diagnosed – she was in and back for a CT scan in record time.  So it’s 1 o’clock in the morning and here I sit, along with her son, waiting to get the all clear from the surgeon.

Cancer is the darnedest thing.   It’s like that tumor was still trying to wreak havoc on her even after it was gone – one last kick at trying to make her life miserable.  The surgeon said it would be a couple of hours in the OR. It’s likely we will get the update by 2 a.m.