And the Countdown Begins

In the wee morning hours, I sit shrouded in solitude, my thoughts rousing me from slumber as they are wont to do.  This nighttime reverie has not always been my friend, but in this moment of waning darkness, it is a welcome companion taking me on an inward journey.  I find myself reflecting upon some hard truths I have learned these past few months, so many amazing family and friends who have blanketed us with love and support during a trying time, and a looking ahead to an ending of sorts.

This week is to be the final week of radiation treatments for hubby, a daily routine that we are both pleased will be ending soon.  Terry has breezed through these treatments, to the surprise and pleasure of his doctor and our immense relief, in large part we are told due to Terry’s fitness level, eating habits and positive attitude.  No more testing will be required  for six weeks, at which time another PSA test will be conducted to see that the radiation has done its job (and we are confident it has).

The diagnosis of recurrent prostate cancer could not have come at a more challenging time, given that we were deep into our prospective caregiver roles for his parents when the news arrived.   Challenges seldom seem to be timely companions but  bring with them some valuable lessons, growth opportunities, if we open ourselves up to them.

I always knew that Terry and I would handle this part of our journey with a positive attitude but I was not quite prepared for a discovery I made about myself.  It seems somewhere along the way I became perfectly imbalanced in my quest to balance caregiving, gardening, canning, further cancer education, nutrition plans, emotional support system for hubby, etc., etc.  At times it felt as though I was mired in a rare fugue state, an empty vessel.  Leaving very little for oneself is an undeniable risk for those who find themselves in caregiver roles.  I thought I had this one wired, knew how to walk this tightrope, done it so many times. Ha!

The love and support sent by so many helped to buoy us and our heartfelt gratitude knows no bounds.  The universe knows when to send what we need just when we need it.  A perfectly timed email, phone call, inspirational thought for the day, and strategically written blog posts were our allegorical life raft.  A few of you played prominently in our healing process, and hopefully I have properly shared my gratitude with each of you.

Beyond all those blessings, we were graced by two angels (in the form of a childhood friend and his spouse) who once again opened their home and hearts to us, the first time taking us in almost six years ago, allowing Terry to heal from his initial prostate surgery.

Our angel friends, Doug and Donna
Our angel friends, Doug and Donna

As Terry’s treatments took us to Columbus, weekdays were spent with these special angels and all that was required of me was a few home-cooked meals (perfect, as cooking is one of my passions).  I don’t know too many who would so unselfishly give of themselves in such a way.  I cannot express the gratitude and love we feel for these two for a debt we hope to never have to repay in like kind.

As I sit wrapped in earning morning solitude, raindrops gently tapping in perfect synchronicity upon the roof, I am reminded of a quote I came upon recently by Henri Nouwen that so aptly speaks to the personal connections we share with one another:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”   

We have been touched by so many from around the globe.  Please know these grateful hearts will not forget such kindness.

grateful heart

Life…the Long and Winding Road

IMG_0232The meaning behind Paul McCartney’s song The Long and Winding Road has been open to many interpretations; e.g. an unrequited love, the Beatles breakup, the unattainable, etc., but can also be a pretty darn good metaphor for life.  Our personal journey will carry us along on some of the most delightful adventures but will most assuredly present us with struggles, challenging us to learn the lessons within the pain.  It is the manner in which we embrace these struggles that not only defines who we are but who we will become.

Some of you may have noticed that I have stepped away from blogging for a time.  Perhaps you have wondered if I have lost my way on this long and winding road or have been too busy with caregiving and gardening to spend time at the computer.

The truth is that both have been somewhat tiring, presenting both challenges and rewards.  But what has kept me away is something of an even more personal nature, something that has caused us to take pause, to reflect, and to spend many of our waking hours reading, hoping to educate ourselves on impending decisions needing to be made.  The subject of our distraction was a recent elevated PSA test score given to Terry, one which took us back to the surgeon who had originally performed his radical prostatectomy 5.5 years ago as a result of a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

For those who have heard the words “you have cancer”, there can be few words spoken by a doctor that bring fear into one’s being so swiftly or completely.  To be given this news a second time as my beloved husband has recently is a numbing experience.  Yes, Terry has had a recurrence of prostate cancer.  Many visits to doctors, bone scans, CT scans, chest x-rays, and an almost unbearable wait to hear the results of these tests have consumed much of our time.  Thankfully all test results were negative, indicating no metastases.  And after much discussion and researching, Terry has decided on a course of treatment, one which will include radiation, as well as a greater emphasis on nutrition and supplements, to maintain a strong immune system.

We strongly believe a key component to this mix lies in maintaining a positive attitude, visualizing good health, accepting nothing less.  Although a strong immune system can fight off many illnesses, it is equally important that the emotional part of our being be in alignment with our physical side, making for an impenetrable mind-body connection.  Terry is going into this phase being very fit and with the attitude that this is just a small blip on his ‘life screen’ before we once again resume our travels.  He is my rock and I am his and together we will walk this journey side-by-side.

Our hearts are filled with gratitude and love for our family and friends, including those in the blogging community, who have called and sent us messages of encouragement.  Your heartfelt words, being carried across the miles, have wrapped us in a comforting blanket of hope.  We thank you from the deepest part of our being.  You are giving us the strength to walk this journey, and we feel your presence every step of the way.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.  ~  Eleanor Roosevelt

Medical Update ~ Time for Reflection

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~  Rabindranath Tagore

For those who may not know, 4.5 years ago my dear hubby Terry received the news that many of you can relate to, the “you have cancer” message.  To say this news took the wind out of our sails is an understatement.  We quickly began to unravel our plans to start our RV life as the future looked rather uncertain at this point.  Through divine grace, a mother’s keen recommendation for a must-have book, a close friend’s referral and unselfish gesture of taking us into their home post-surgery to heal, and the countless well-wishes of family and friends, we feel much stronger and wiser.

My strong he-man!

If a man is faced with this diagnosis, prostate cancer may be the lesser of many evils as most times it is a slow-growing cancer found in one’s “golden years” and it is left alone.  Unfortunately, Terry was informed he was too young and the tumor too large to ignore, so surgery seemed to be the best option.  Blessed with none of the horrid side-effects this disease can hand you, Terry donned the Lance Armstrong LiveStrong bracelet and vowed to wear it until he had reached the “industry standard” survival rate of 5 years.

On the trail, in his element

Fast-forward 4 years, through many anxious moments following regular PSA tests.  All had great results until this past January when Terry’s PSA score was somewhat elevated.  Once again we unraveled our plans as it seemed bone scans and MRI’s were in Terry’s near future and we felt the need to sit tight where there was a plethora of excellent medical facilities.

Last week yet another PSA test.  I try to put myself in Terry’s shoes as he leaves the lab and begins the waiting game.  Although I can empathize and pray for a good outcome, putting myself in his shoes is not possible, for this is his personal journey to walk.  We all have these, being unique individuals, and face life’s obstacles differently.  Terry knows I am by his side and for me, that is what is important.

Hiking the Oregon dunes

Terry’s latest PSA score was the same as the previous two, which means he has held steady for the past nine months.  The good news – the number has not increased.  The not-so-good news – the number is still somewhat elevated, which means there is something going on.  This “something going on” could be benign or could be something else; we don’t know.  The doctor is confident enough that he feels the watchful waiting can continue for another 6 months.

Many who now live with cancer or consider themselves survivors wear the Live Strong bracelet, as did Terry, until a few days ago when his broke. Ironically the break occurred while anxiously awaiting a return call from his doctor on the lab results.  His first thought was “wonder what that means?”.  My initial reaction was “you no longer need this; it’s time to move on”.

Living Strong

Terry and I often talk about how deeply grateful we are for the ability to experience life as we are, seeing this magnificent country, walking in nature, feeling the hand of something greater touching us.  We can dwell on the ‘something else’ or we can live in the present moment.  It is our choice and we choose to live the now.  Terry chooses to breathe in the beauty around him, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people we are meeting along the way.  I choose the same, as I walk by his side.

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Watchful Waiting

So what the heck is watchful waiting anyway?  Well, in medical terms, for someone facing prostate cancer, it can be the standard treatment, given your test results.  Hubby Terry received this cancer diagnosis almost 5 years ago, one that roughly 1 in 6 men will receive sometime in their life, not unlike breast cancer statistics for women.  Unfortunately, given his age at the time and his Gleason Scorehe was not a candidate for watchful waiting, too young and tumor too advanced.  A prostatectomy was in order instead and he has been blessed to have a wonderful surgeon.  Ever the vigilant one, Terry has done his follow-up tests like clockwork ever since.

Our change in plans came about as a result of a regularly scheduled PSA blood test earlier this year.  Although not alarming by any means, the finding did not fall within the ‘normal’ range, which should be negligible once the prostate has been removed.  Additional PSA tests done here within the past two weeks have all provided the same conclusion, which could indicate any number of things.  Terry received the news from his doctor’s office that a battery of tests was to be the next course of action, to rule out a few things.  However, after further analysis and given that the PSA test score has not continued to increase, his doctor notified him yesterday of the decision to forego further tests for 90 days and practice watchful waiting instead.  What to make of this?  It feels like we are in limbo, as nothing has changed except to move the date out for yet other procedures.

A good lesson to be learned during this watchful waiting is to get back to the present; live for now; and not focus on what may be 90 days down the road. None of us knows the road ahead so why not look at what is around us instead?  Given the beauty found in this country, it sounds like a sound plan!  Special thanks to everyone who sent warm thoughts and prayers our way.

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