Love IS All Around #100HappyDays

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This post is way too long in coming; but, it’s been something that’s been in my head and in my heart for quite awhile now.

We are finally getting back to some semblance of a routine. Dave went back to work last Thursday, and he is really starting to look and feel more like himself. It’s been amazing to think that he went into the hospital before Christmas at least feeling fine, only to go through such a nightmare after the surgery.

Before that first surgery, my friend, Jennifer (you may know her as @LittleYawps) decided to do “something.”

Jen was raised Catholic, and in the Catholic faith, there is a tradition when a child is born. The congregation holds its hands out as if over the head of that baby and the priest says a prayer. She thought that it might be helpful to do something similar for Dave and our family.

She reached out to friends of ours through Twitter and Facebook. She enlisted the help of my friend, Lesley, who contacted my mom. The word went out across the country and around the world.

Each person was to trace their hand onto a piece of paper, cardboard or whatever struck their fancy. They were to decorate the hands and then put them in the mail to us.

My mother got our kids involved, and though it was weird that our kids paid so much attention to the mail delivery all of the sudden, I just chalked it up to the fact that Isabel is always ordering another hoodie, or that Ben’s always buying another phone case. They hid the envelopes that started arriving, never letting on that anything was going on.

The Sunday before surgery, we went over to my parents’ house for dinner. Mom pulled out stacks of envelopes. First, she had us read a copy of Jennifer’s original email that had come through Lesley. That was enough to make me sniffle.

Next, we started opening envelopes.

You can’t imagine how touching it was…to see all of these lovely hands, decorated with crayons, markers, glitter, beads, stickers…you name it. All of them had messages of love and well wishes for Dave and for our family.

It took quite a while for me to stop crying. I just kept looking at them, and thinking about the time that everyone put into them.

Over the next several days, more and more hands came. It was like wave after wave of well wishes.

The hands came from all over the U.S., and from around the world. There was one that came anonymously, and the postmark is smudged, so I’m not sure who it’s from. All I know is that someone took the time to trace their delicate hand and cover it with love.

There are so many hands. All I can say is, “Good job, Team!” All of that love and all of those good wishes and prayers worked. Dave’s surgeon is confident that they got everything and that Dave is essentially cancer-free. I am grateful for every single fleck of glitter, every sticker, every tiny little Brownie hand, every single beautiful drawing and every hand.

To Jennifer, who started this shower of love, I just have to say…you have a friend for life, my dear. Not only did the hands work for Dave, they comforted me and got me through some very dark moments. I carried them with me the whole time I was going back and forth to the hospital. At night, I’d spread them out here on the bed and look at them and cry with gratitude. I’d pull them out at the hospital and Dave and I would look at them together.

To those that still have a tendency to belittle the friendships that you can make with people through social media, people who you may never get to meet “in real life,” I have only this to say: You are cheating yourself out of knowing some truly incredible people. Distance is merely an inconvenience and does not affect the friendships that I have made.

What lucky, lucky people Dave and I are. Thank you…from the bottoms of our hearts.

Love,

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We Now Return You to Our Regularly Scheduled Program #100HappyDays

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It’s been a long two months since Dave’s surgery.  I can hardly believe that it’s only been two months; but, yesterday, Dave went back to work.

When he first got out of the hospital, he was very weak and tired easily.  He was on a fiber-restricted diet, as Dr. Koep wanted to play it very safe.  He didn’t want to risk any perforations in Dave’s colon.

When all was said and done, Dave was discharged from the hospital with two new incisions, the bigger one about two inches long, open to his abdomen.  Because it was still draining copious amounts of fluid, an ostomy bag was placed over the open wound.  That last day at the hospital, we were given a lesson in would care and changing out the bag.  Fortunately, the nursing supervisor got on the phone with our insurance company and we were grateful to know that our insurance covered home health and visits by a nurse.  I’m not going to lie.  If I’d had to help Dave take care of the incision, I would have; but, it would have been rough.

Dave got to leave the hospital in time for the Super Bowl party at my parents’ house.  Friends of the family, my aunt & uncle, and my cousin, Tom, were all there.  I think that they were shocked at how drawn Dave looked.  They hadn’t seen him since before the first surgery.

Within a couple of days after the first nurse’s visit, the incision stopped putting out as much fluid and Dave was able to revert to bandages.  Dr. Koep pronounced Dave good to go.  His blood levels were back to normal and the incision was healing nicely.

The surgeon’s office gave Dave a return to work slip and wished us well.

For the past two weeks, Dave has steadily improved.  He began to feel significantly better, and last week, he turned a corner.  His boss, Steve, had flown out from Minnesota, and he made a point to drive across town and take us to dinner.  He’s a great guy, and really cares about Dave.  On Friday, Steve organized a team lunch.  Dave drove in to work, and spent time with his coworkers.  It was a good way to dip his foot back into work.  The night before, as we finished dinner, Dave said,

“I think that I’m getting a migraine.”

I told him that I wasn’t surprised.  There was a lot of anxiety, emotion and excitement wrapped up in going back to work after all that he’s been through.

Yesterday morning, we jumped right back into our normal routine.  When Dave came out of the bathroom after his shower, he pulled on his work uniform.  He was swimming in it!  Throughout this ordeal, Dave has lost forty-five or fifty pounds.  He’s going to need new clothes.

He texted me a couple of times throughout the day yesterday.  It was good for him to get back.  He was surprised and gratified to find out how many people were glad to see him and had been worried about him.

That’s really something…finding love and support from not just those close to you; but, to also get messages of caring and concern from friends around the globe.

There will be some follow-up appointments here in the near future; but, for now, we are so, so glad to be able to say that Dave is cancer free.

Dave the Survivor

 

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Sideways

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Today was a tough day. It shouldn’t have been, as Dave is definitely improving; but, we both were emotional and weepy all day.

When I got there this morning, Dave was looking and feeling better. He’s not in any pain, and the anti-nausea medication that he’s been getting has kept him comfortable. Dr. Koep came in shortly after I arrived, and promptly stated poking a Q-Tip into the end of the smaller incision. That’s kind of disturbing to watch. He is pleased with Dave’s progress. The abdomen isn’t hard and the wounds look good. He did say that the fluid draining out of the larger incision needs to run clear, as opposed to the color of beef broth. Yes. That’s gross, but it’s even worse, considering Dave is on a clear liquid diet, and his only meal choices right now are BEEF BROTH, chicken broth or vegetable broth.

Dave will have to stay on a liquid diet for awhile longer, as Dr. Koep doesn’t want anything disturbing the healing process in the bowels.

Once Dr. Koep left, I got a bit teary. It is very obvious that tomorrow is way too soon to think about Dave coming home. Neither of us want to rush anything, but it’s hard, just the same. It’s so far away…it can take an hour to an hour and a half to get there in the morning, and to get home at night. Throughout the day, his nurses would empty the drain and Dave would say, “There’s not much there! That’s good!” Except that it is still putting out a lot of fluid. They just emptied it more often today, so there wasn’t as much each time. It’s going to take several more days to change color.

Throughout the morning, Dave tried to nap, but that’s almost impossible in the hospital. He’d been without a roommate since early the day before, and I’ll admit, that made life easier. In addition to having more space, the room was brighter. Dave could see the window, and could move more freely. I wasn’t crammed into a small corner. Dave could nod off, and would sleep for small stretches.

Before lunch, a staff psychologist came in. I offered to step out; but, Dave wanted me to stay. At first, he was fairly hesitant to talk. As he got going, though, he really got his money’s worth. It was good for both of us. There is so much to this whole experience. It is hard for Dave to be so helpless, and to have so little control over his body and his emotions. He has always been very meticulous about hygiene, and when you need help to get up and go to the bathroom, when you can’t shower without undergoing a major production, when you’re too weak to make yourself comfortable in bed, it is incredibly frustrating.

After lunch, Dave decided that he wanted to try to shower. We agreed that would make him feel much better. We had to wait, as there was a lot of commotion on the floor…people being discharged, new patients coming in, and unfortunately, a new roommate for Dave. It’s amazing to me. There are signs all over stating that the hours between 2:00 and 4:00 each day are designated as quiet time. You’d never know it, as that’s when things seem to be the loudest and most chaotic.

The new roommate is a man who appears to be about our age. His liver is apparently in very bad shape and he’s going to need a transplant. Immediately upon arrival, I was kicked out, as they had to take some X-rays. With the roommate, there is also a wife, and several family members and friends who all feel that it’s appropriate to camp out, bring in all kinds of food and talk loudly. This set my teeth on edge, and I had to take a break. I find myself, more times than I care to admit, locked in one of the little bathrooms. I’ve cried and cried and cried in there. It just infuriates me to find how inconsiderate people can be. When the last roommate. Jim, left, his daughter pulled over the chair that they’d appropriated from somewhere. It’s more comfortable than the standard chairs in the rooms. She made a ‘gift’ of it to me, and I purposely left my jacket on it when I left tonight, so that nobody would take it!

Once the roommate had moved in, we were able to get Dave ready for a shower. Poor Dave. Seeing his own body is such a shock. He has the great big scar that goes from one side of his body to the other; and, now, he’s got two open wounds…the bigger one has a circular bandage with a plastic bag piece attached. It collects all of the fluid that drains, and has a Velcro close at the bottom. It’s actually pretty ingenious. So much better than pads or bandages that would soak through and would have to be continuously pulled off of the skin. It does make Dave very upset. He keeps saying that he is broken, and can’t get to that place mentally when he will be healed and will feel normal again.

Once he’d showered, and his nurse had redone the smaller bandage, Dave felt refreshed. That does wonders for anyone in that type of situation. I had just left the hospital when Dave texted. They’d gotten the order to discontinue one of the antibiotics…the one that made him feel so nauseated. That’s good news. An order was also placed for some sort of supplement with his meal…maybe an Ensure or something.

It took over an hour and half to get home this evening. I wanted to spend some time with the kids, as I worry about them, too. We ate dinner and talked about their dad, and about school. Thank goodness our kids are older. I can’t imagine trying to do this with little kids.

Later, My mom called. I normally call her on the way home; but, I was perilously close to falling apart, and I didn’t have the energy for that while driving. I can’t tell if it’s sad that I am the age that I am, and still cry to my mommy; or, that I’m the luckiest girl to be able to do that with my mom. Maybe a bit of both. She keeps asking me what she can do to help me. There isn’t anything. We just have to wait for Dave to recover. That is happening…it just takes time.

I think that one of Dave’s coworkers is going to stop in tomorrow. That will be good for Dave. We got a call on Friday from the disability folks for his company. His leave was supposed to end on Sunday and he was supposed to be back at work on Monday. Dave had to call them this morning to let them know about this complication.

I am exhausted. I do a lot of the little stuff for Dave…stuff that nurses could do, but that we both know he’s more comfortable with me doing. I am hoping that sleep will come quickly. The big dog is snoring down alongside the bed, and the kids have settled down for the night.

Here’s hoping that tomorrow will bring progress and that Dave will be feeling that much better.

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