Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Journey to The Edge

On August lst I was admitted to Methodist Hospital for what was thought to be a bad case of intestinal flu. They did an ultrasound that night. The next morning I awoke to a man peering over me, with the word “oncology” on his lab coat. Gulp. He said they had seen what appeared to be an ovarian tumor, and that they would operate that afternoon. The tumor was cancerous. A couple of days later he waltzed in the room with a huge smile on his face, saying “Kathy, I’ve got the best news. The tumor was stage one, grade one and you won’t need chemo. I have every reason to expect a full recovery.” I rejoiced in the good news and thought there’d be smooth sailing ahead.

A week later, I had a heart attack. There was a blood clot in my lung. Two days later, I had another. I then sank into acute respiratory failure, and was put on a ventilator. This was a very dire situation. (My primary doc now tells me that there was doubt that I’d come out of this.)

But, I hung in there. I was still on nasal oxygen and there was little hope that I’d be able to be free of it. I was transferred to a smaller hospital, Regency, in Golden Valley. By then I was more aware of things. Although I could not move due to weakness., I insisted that they turn the oxygen level down each week. And, finally, I was free of it and my levels have been great ever since.

At the same time, however, another challenge presented itself - my kidneys crashed. I have been on dialysis 3x per week for kidney failure.

I was transferred to the Walker Methodist center about 6 weeks ago for final rehab. At first I could walk no more than a couple of steps. I could not hold my head up or turn over in bed. I had lost my swallow reflex and had to be fed through a tube in my nose and could take nothing by mouth. My tongue bled from the dryness. But, once again, I recovered, and the first sip of water was another victory to enjoy.

Once I regained strength, the physical therapists became like drill sergeants and pushed me to the limit. I would return to my room after a 30 minute session exhausted.

Finally, the day came for me to go home. The biggest challenge has been not to overdo things and pace myself accordingly. It was great to sleep in my own bed and not on a pillow with a plastic case.

Due to the dialysis schedule - 3.5 hours/3x per week, I will not be returning to work. It is very sad for me to refer to people as “a former co-worker”, for I enjoyed everyone I worked with.

In a fit of insanity, I got all of my hair chopped off. The quintessential bad haircut. But, what can I say, except “it will grow back.”

I have much to be thankful for - my insurance, which covered a whopping big hospital bill; my friend Elaine, who picked up my mail; my sister Joan and husband Merle who ran errands; my sister Jane who brought Esther to see me on Halloween Weekend in her jellyfish costume; everyone who sent cards and well wishes’; my oncologist, Peter A, who is a prince of a man and a stellar physician; my primary care doc, Steve B, who calmed me during several meltdowns.

I can’t wait until the sidewalks are clear so that I can walk outside. Alas, I guess it will be awhile.

Greet each day with joy. Do something nice for someone else. Pray for peace.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bring Your Child To Work Day

Last week we had “Bring Your Child to Work Day” at the office. I have been through many over the years and some are fun. Some are not.

I am logging onto my computer and I feel two pair of eyes on me. Their dad, let’s call him “Adam”, came over and said “these are my daughters, ‘manda and Meghan. I told them you’d help them if they needed anything - I’m going to be out of the office for an hour”. Well, ‘manda and Meghan were the cutest little girls, ages 7 and 9, all dressed up for their visit. They had moved to Minnesota a year ago from Nashville and had the most charming southern accents. Their dad set them up in an ampty office near me and told them he’d go get their “treats”.

Dad comes back with two frosted PopTarts and two cans of Mountain Dew.
He leaves. ‘manda promptly burns her mouth on the PopTart and starts screaming. But soon they were both engaged in a video they’d brought..

Half hour later - “Miss Kathy, can you help us open another treat?” Gummy Bears. I asked if they were allowed to have this and both explained that their dad doesn’t get to see them too often (mom has custody) and he wants them to have as “much fun as possible” so of course it was okay.

Adam finally comes back and says let’s look in the minifridge in his office, where he has a supply of pudding snacks. The girls squeal with delight and start shoveling the pudding. Then they got thirsty and had more soda.

But it was only 10 a.m. I was actually waiting for one of them to vomit.

Things calmed down after the kids found another girl to play with and went to investigate how the paper shredder worked. Then dad took them out for a special lunch.

They came back from lunch with a big shopping bag from Candyland, an old fashioned type confection store, and dumped its contents onto a file cabinet - jawbreakers, licorice, gumdrops. Where on earth did they have room for this huge volume of food?

One of my co-workers had been emailing all morning, asking what Adam was doing stuffing his kids with sweets. I could tell she was getting ready to confront him, and she at last stepped up to the plate.
Why are you feeding the girls all this sugar? Surely you know that eating too much sugar will give you diabetes, just like it did Kathy.By then, a couple other employees were taking in the conversation, and both looked at me and nodded solemnly. Within a second, the conversation had rotated from a dad trying to win his kid’s affection with candy, to me giving myself the db by pigging out on tootsie rolls.

I said “you know, I think I’m gonna call it a day” and left.

The next morning as I put my hand on the mouse it felt all sticky and crusty. There was a little trail of half eaten Jelly Bellys leading to the edge of my desk.

Then I heard someone say that Adam had was not coming in because both girls were sick with a weird 24 hour virus. He hoped they hadn’t been exposed to anything by coming to the office……….tough world, ain’t it?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Goodbye, Mother

My mother died on Feb 16. Today I feel like I'm sitting in a maze of emptiness, with no concept of time or location.

She was 82 years old, enjoyed good health for most of her life until about 3 years ago when she was diagnosed with end-stage lung disease. She'd had breathing problems for several years, and was always tested for cardiac pathology. We'd celebrate when the angiograms came out clear, having no idea that pulmonary scar tissue was already forming in her lungs.

So, she declined, ever so gradually, but always remembered to call me on Thursday mornings, saying "hi, my girl". Then she started forgetting. One week. Then two weeks in a row. Then the numerous hospital visits started. She lived in a town 70 miles west of Minneapolis, so got to ride in a helicopter more than once. And, finally, the transition to assisted living. She'd say, "I know this is where I need to be" and the tears would roll down her face.

Two weeks ago, the staff suggested she be placed under hospice care. Throughout that day, I wandered around with my stomach in a knot, thinking "this can't be happening". My sister, niece and I had visited her on President's Day, the 15. She was very weak, but asked me to hand her the Valentines she'd gotten in the mail. She loved Valentines - the bigger and more glittery, the better. I remember my niece hugging her goodbye. I remember giving her a kiss on the forehead. I remember silently telling myself that she was just fine.

On Tue, after not having gotten out of bed in several days, she had a surge of energy and wanted to be taken to the game room to play bingo. She stayed for the entire evening. They wheeled her back to her room and she simply stopped breathing.
I got the call and spent the rest of the night sitting on the edge of the bed, staring. My dad has been gone 20 years. And yes, his death was different. At that time I was frightened because I didn't know if I could tolerate the pain of losing him. I guess I thought M's death would be easier. I am indeed glad she is no longer struggling. I'm also glad for myself - not having to jump every time the phone rings. But I still want her to call on Thur morning, telling me how busy she'd been, volunteering at the blood bank and library. Telling me that this was aboslutely the last year she was going to have a garden (well, maybe just a few extra potatoes).

The two of us never talked much about the db. I was in my late teens when diagnosed, and her only reference point was several of my young relatives had died from or were currently suffering from complications. She didn't know how to help me. I don't know what I needed. She'd ask if my testape was still negative and I'd scream back at her. My 20's were very stormy, and I think tne entire family wrote me off as a nutcase. So the silence remained until I required emergency surgery for a detatched retina. She hated the TwinCities - said it made her nervous to be here. When I called and asked if she would come and stay with me, she said "of course." For the entire 7 days that I had to lay on my face to recover, she cleaned. Tidiness is not my forte, but neither am I too slovenly. I was on heavy pain meds and would wake every so often to hear a brush tackling some new surface. "What are you doing, Mom?" ..."Oh, nothing much - do you have an owner's manual for the vacuum cleaner?"

Tonight I will be removing her picture from my family collage frame and putting it on a little table that I have for the ancestors that have passeed - my dad, uncle, and brother. The picture was taken on her 75th birthday, at a little party we had. I got her a corsage, which my sister said was stupid, but M loved it. She said she even wore it to church the next Sunday....."it was a little wilted, but I wanted them to know I got it from you".

Mom, I miss you already. I know you are in a better place. My favorite recent memory will be this past Christmas, when you had on your bright red sweater and were smiling because you family was all together. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Over the Top (..or over the hill?)

My friend Colleen has nominated me for the
Over the Top blog award. Colleen and I first became acquainted a couple of years ago when she was talking about the pink lady slipper. I replied back that it is the Minnesota State Flower, and we've been friends ever since. We also both wear Mary Poppins hats, although in recent days, with our below-zero weather, I've taken to
my Elmer Fudd version with the earflaps.
Colleen was also very helpful to me when my mother transitioned to assisted living. Her dad was in a nursing home and we emailed a lot about dealing with aging parents. Thanks Colleen.

Here are my responses to the survey

1. Where is your cell phone? I don't own one.

2. Your hair? Wild Oat with Carmel highlights.

3. Your mother? In assisted living.

4. Your father? Deceased for 22 years.

5. Your favorite food? Pasta salad with tuna, celery, onions, and Hellmann's real full fat mayo.

6. Your dream last night? Don't recall.

7. Your favorite drink? Ice cold Diet Pepsi with lemon.

8. Your dream/goal? Peace of mind.

9. What room are you in? Drafty bedroom.

10. Your hobby? Knitting and beadwork.

11. Your fear? Becoming disabled from db and being a burden to someone.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Maintaining my health and aging gracefully.

13. Where were you last night? Home.

14. Something you aren't? Skinny.

15. Muffins? Blueberry

16. Wish list item? Car.

17. Where did you grow up? A small charming prairie town in central Minnesota. Free band concerts every Friday night in the park. Quiet, tree-lined streets. Neighbors helping one another.

18. Last thing you did? Ate a Lean Cuisine and two perfectly ripe clementines.

19. What are you wearing? An unbecoming fuzzy purple bathrobe and big clunky clogs my cousin brought me from Norway.

20. Your tv? Too small.

21. Your pets? None. But I'd like a miniature Schnauzer. I'd put bows in its hair.

22. Your friends? Precious beyond gold.

23. Your life? Chaotic.

24. Your mood? Anxious.

25. MIssing someone? Yes. My friend, Andrea, who died last March.

26. Vehicle? None. I gave up my car over a year ago in order to have more $ to pay diabetes expenses. However, I am very partial to Honda Civics.

27. Something you're not wearing? Medical i.d. bracelet.

28. Your favorite store? Knitpicks Online Knitting Store

29. Your favorite color? Sapphire blue.

30. When was the last time you laughed? This morning.

31. Cried? At 3 p.m. at work. My middle nephew fainted during basketball and was being evaluated for cardiac problems over the last two days. They found he has unstable blood pressure, which runs in his dad's family. It can be controlled with medication. When my sis emailed me and told me he was going to be okay, I cried, because I love him dearly.

32. Your best friend? E.

33.One place that I go over and over? Fort Snelling State Park - I call it my "hidden jewel" because it's right here in town and few people know about it. And I certainly don't go blabbing it around. It has trails for hiking and biking, a swimming beach and picnic areas. There are two picnic shelters for use in winter, with big stone fireplaces. Very peaceful on a summer afternoon, sitting under one of the big cottonwood trees......

34. One person who emails me regularly? JT, a lawyer from my company's NY headquarters. I have to check in with him, so it's not voluntary.

35. Favorite place to eat? The Bombay Bistro. Yum times ten.

And here are 3 sisters that I pass the torch to:

Zazzy, also known as my vindaloo sister. Zaz is not afraid to delve into deep emotions and has a lot o f wisdom and insight. (And two very cool kitties). She is extremely honest with her life and determined to improve it. She also has a cookiong site, Chicken and Eggs which always makes me hungry.

Next we have Molly, at
Dam Diabetes. Molly , who lives in my neck of the woods, blogs about her super-pooch, Dixie. (I think Dixie is from anoter planet.) Dixie helps Molly to safely live an active life as a schoolteacher, despite having hypo unawareness. In the summer then go canoeing at
Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. This wilderness is populated by big mean bears, mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, and, of course Bigfoot.

And Heidi, over at

The D Log Cabin, who writes creative poetry. Heidi is a very smart lady and knowledgeable about science, medicine and db. Heidi is also an EMT, and if I were in need of medical assistance, I'd like her to be the one to help me.

Wow. That was a lot of linking. And my 'puter ain't in a linking mood. But it was fun to get reconnected again after not posting since November.

Happy and Healthy New Year to all! xoxoxoxoxox