cancer journey, cancer survival, journaling, stories, Uncategorized

The Story Continues

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I like hospitals best on weekends. The weekly hum of diagnostic staff, nurses and doctors is replaced with a quiet hush throughout the halls. Things slow down as the ancillary staff takes the weekend off.

As I went through the glassed walkway to the cafeteria I could see the dreary skies outside the Deaconess Hospital in Billings, Montana. It had been overcast and raining on and off for a week now. It mirrored the darkness I felt on the inside. The only bright spot was when we were able to take Darrell out for a small ride with his sister and brother-in-law. Darrell grew up primarily in Billings, so I had listened, with a smile, when he related different childhood stories. He pointed out places that were still there and their history and other places long gone. I got to see where he had started his own business as a young gas station owner until he figured out it was a lot of hard physical work for little pay.  But still, I admired his entrepreneurship.

Now, we were back in the reality of life and death. The breaking of the monotony of staring at four sterile walls was only done by lab tests, preparing for tests, and procedures.

For instance, he had to drink a gallon of a thing called “Go Lightly”. His bowel needed cleansed before surgery. “I don’t who came up with the name for this stuff,” Darrell joked, “it should be called ‘Going Tsunami’.” This was after about his twentieth run to the bathroom in less than a half hour.

The next adventure was when the student nurse came in to place the IV for the blood transfusion he had to have before surgery. She was a trembling, quiet little blond-headed girl that I thought looked more like fifteen than the twenty-five she said she was. Darrell had notoriously small veins, like his mother, and it was a nightmare for anyone to get an IV needle in his arm.

Patiently he stared at the ceiling, as she tried, failed, blushed and stammered an apology four times. On the fifth try, Darrell did something I had never seen him do. He grabbed her wrist and quietly said, “Enough. Find someone who can do this.” I know I had a dumbfounded look on my face as she fled in tears.

The room door flew open next to admit a tall, Amazonian looking woman in a helicopter life flight suit. Her voice boomed in the small room. “I hear we have a problem in here.”

Darrell growled back. “Yes, I need someone who can put an IV needle in the first time instead of poking me five times.”

The Amazon smiled. “You got an expert here Mr. Gabel. Let’s see what the problem is.”

Within seconds they were best friends. Darrell had that ability to connect to people in a warm, gregarious fashion. Joking around, she proved her expertise by getting it in with one try, while tisking about the new crop of student nurses. She apologized for the little blond, stating that she should have come and gotten someone after the first failed try. Darrell apologized for scaring her by grabbing her wrist. In the end, all was forgiven. The Amazon even checked back before his surgery the next morning to make sure all IV’s were done to her standards.

Meanwhile I was busy making phone calls and dealing with nervous family. In times of stress, we all say things that are slightly, well, off. Take for instance my father. He was always a man of few words, very smart and yet socially clumsy. I grew to understand this, take his wisdom and not be offended. This was one time I failed.

After a long description of Darrell’s health problems, my fears and the impending surgery, he tried his best to comfort me.

“Well honey, you are still young enough if something terrible happens, you can always remarry.”

It floored me. How could he even think that? Didn’t he understand Darrell was my soulmate? I hung up and fled for my stainless steel sanctuary. On the way a beveled glass doorway winked at me in jeweled colors. I held the storm of tears long enough to be able to read a sign that said, “Chapel.”  Cautiously I entered the quiet sanctuary. No one was there. I let loose the flood.

The chapel was  simple and non-denominational in appearance. Wooden pews glowed with a warm polish. A Bible lay open on a podium. One wall was lined with books of all faiths, and pamphlets filled with hopeful words.

My heart cried out in desperation, asking for healing, wanting more time. In situations like this, you sometimes bargain. I asked simply for fifteen more years. Why that number was important, I don’t know. It just was. But slowly I realized, it didn’t matter how many years, it would never be long enough. I never wanted to be parted from him. I wanted it to last forever.

The chapel would become my new sanctuary.

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It Begins

In May of 1990, I heard the diagnosis of ‘cancer’ for the first time.  The queerest feeling settled in my stomach.  My heart rivaled the cadence of a racehorse’s hoof beats.  At the age of thirty six, I had never dealt with this disease and to me, this was a death sentenced to my soulmate.

It had started quietly enough. Darrell was a hard working man, running his own theatre business. I worked at the hospital to supplement the income. So it was no surprise to me that after he got what we thought was the flu, that he would come home in the afternoon to take a nap.

You see the symptoms, but you attribute them to something else. Like maybe he just couldn’t shake the flu. Until one morning, due to an extreme pain in his left side,he couldn’t get out of bed.

“If you don’t go see the doctor today, I will call an ambulance right now,” I growled. I had been encouraging him to see a doctor, but like most men, he said he was fine.

“Okay,” he acquiesced with a grimace.  I helped him get ready while calling into work.

Two hours later I was breaking the speed limit trying to get to Billings, MT.  His hematocrit was 18, normal can be anywhere from 28 to 35. Somewhere he was losing blood. His doctor wondered how he had managed to walk in there, let alone be conscious.

I knew Darrell was sick because this was a man who never closed his eyes when I drove and he was passed out in the back seat. Normally I would have been gleeful that I was pushing the little K-car far beyond it’s limits at 80, but my mind was filled with fear.

I prayed.  Please don’t let it be leukemia, please don’t let it be an internal bleed, please don’t let it be……on and on. I didn’t leave out much it actually could be.

Finally, with tears scalding my cheeks, the road blurry in front of me, I slowed down. I decided I would just trust the Creator I had prayed to for so long. This was in His hands. Whatever the outcome, I knew He would get me through. It wouldn’t be the last time I would take this test.

A calm filled my heart and mind. As we checked into the Deaconess Hospital, Darrell revived enough to joke around with the receptionist.

“Yes, my last name is Gabel. All my relatives live in the Billings area. If their last name is Gabel, I’m probably related.” Billings was his home town. They had a lot to talk about. But I was thinking If she called me Mrs. Gabel one more time, I would smack her.

It seemed foreign to me. The oddest things stand out when you are under stress. Mrs. Gabel was Darrell’s mom, not me. It seemed so impersonal. Yet Darrell and I rarely used warm little nicknames, like ‘honey’ or ‘sweety’. Having started our relationship off by working with each other professionally, we always used our first names.

That was about to change. A lot was about to change in our world. Unfortunately I would become intimately acquainted with cancer.

I felt that sinking feeling when my husband’s mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2006.  We raced to fulfill her last few desires.  The last two months were agonizing for all of us.

In 2008, I once again heard that detested word. I already had a foreshadowing of what was to come when I noticed my husband limping across the living room, then discovered the lump in his thigh.  This time though, I was a little more battle scarred.  I knew the routine and dug in.

And just as I finally thought we had won the battle, I heard the word that I detested in March, 2015. The feeling that washed over me this time was pure anger and determination.

I realize now I will never hear the word cancer and not feel that moment of panic. No matter how many times I face it. Like any disease, it insidiously and slowly saps our energy. It takes our loved ones in pieces. Yet, as dark as this might sound, it is a mixed bag of blessings as well.

You never look at a relationship the same. It becomes more precious. You can never appreciate truly someone or the time spent with them, until you are stripped of the expectation they will be with you forever on this earth.

All I can say is cancer simply sucks.

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Living in the Shadow of Death

On May 12, 1990, our 4th Anniversary, we received the news that Darrell, my husband, had colon cancer. So the journey began…….

That was going to be the opening line to the book I had planned on writing someday about my first introduction to the world of cancer. But I chose instead to live every minute of time I had with my husband to it’s fullest limit.

Sadly, on September 6, 2015, we finally lost the battle to cancer, twenty-five years later. During the last months of life flights, tests, surgeries and hospital stays, I stared out windows of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at Salt Lake City thinking that I should be journaling this journey once again.

I have decided to finally put into words the struggles, joys, lows and knowledge I gained from it all. It won’t be in the order of how it all happened, there will be humor and tears and I must warn you now, there will be talk of miracles.

Over all, I simply hope to share some of the incredible things that happened along the way. In letting you look into the trials and tribulations of living with cancer, I hope you get some treasured nugget of hope, encouragement or knowledge of what this disease is like.

Feel free to ask questions. Don’t be shy. I’m happy to share…..

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And Your Opinion Is?

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And your opinion is…..what color is this dress? Really folks! Why is this even a debate?

If you haven’t seen the furor over the black/blue or gold/white dress, you are blessedly ignorant and I’d suggest you stay that way. Unfortunately for those of us immersed in social media, it has become a maelstrom of fierce opinion.

Actually, I feel it is an indicator of a much deeper problem. With the freedom of the internet comes the ability for everyone to have their own soapbox to stand on. A simple question easily becomes a heated argument.  But it also shines the light on how much discontent there is in the world today.

If you are a photographer you know how light striking an object can determine the perception of what color it is to the human eye. If you are an optometrist you know how the eye is constructed and that no one has the same vision. Color can appear different to each person. If you are a psychologist you understand that trapped as we are in these bodies, with limited senses, we feel and think we are the center of the universe. Or our perception is limited only to our five senses and they are different for each of us.

And there you go. The crux of the problem.  Perception. Since we are locked into this one body we assume our perception is the only one out there. If you disagree with me, then you are wrong because I don’t see it that way. Throughout our society on every level we see this today. Chat sites, politics, religious views, environment, money, even the lowly product or book review!

Now there are those who understand they are not the center of the universe and are curious to experience what the other person perceives. Then there are those who are stuck in their limited perceptions.

More and more, in an age where we live much more comfortably than our ancestors, we are spoiled and have far too much time to ruminate on such trivial matters. It is much different when you all are running for you live from a natural disaster, or starving to death in a drought. Our herd instinct kicks in and we suddenly put our perceptions on hold to help one another, instinctively knowing we need numbers to survive. In a time of plenty though, our self-centered sides take over and we have time to nit pic.

Of course I’m simplifying a complicated species and problem. And yes, I’m viewing this through my very limited perception. But one thing I perceive, with the internet comes a lack of respect, common sense, and manners.

I, myself, see different views of this dress and understand that some will see blue, others white. I’m okay with different views, unless I hire you to paint my house. Then we will have to discuss our different views of color and I hope we can come to a compromise.

So for the sake of peace, and your blood pressure, realize we are not all alike. Thank heavens.

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Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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I ran across this interesting blog idea and thought, ‘why not?’  I’m a little rusty at blogging and this looks like fun! 🙂  So I signed up, and I’m ready to go. Check it out, would love to have you join in the adventure.

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Why not sign up today? It’s FREE

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2015.html

Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

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I Feel Sorry for My Friends….

10406931_553974144724977_902247022532984007_nI really feel sorry for my friends, family and social media contacts. It takes a special, patient type of person to put up with a writer. Think about this. You have to accept there is something not quite right with someone who wants to talk about their imaginary worlds and the people who inhabit them. Yet this is thought to be acceptable behavior because they can use the excuse they are writers.

For instance there are those times when you (the loyal friend), are talking to them and they stare off into space, thinking about a possible new plot twist. Talk about rude!

How about when you find them, sobbing in a corner because they just killed off one of their favorite characters? Or you go to a movie with them and they dissect the plot holes, or how it could have ended better?

As if that is not bad enough, they want you to join in on their insanity after the book is done. They insist that you read it, as they sit there bouncing, fidgeting and waiting for your opinion. Let us not forget how you innocently befriended them on Facebook, or Twitter, or a blog, and now you get all their eager updates about their books.

Honestly, I hope this is an exaggeration. There is some truth in it  though, because at one time or another, I have been guilty due to my passion about writing. I had to learn how to temper my excitement around my friends. Not to run them off with some of the strange things going through my head, or bore them with my joy in the new hobby I finally had time to pursue.

I want to thank all of those dedicated friends and family who stand by their author friends. We appreciate your time, your votes, your support and your love.

For me this next year is going to be very busy as I work to release two children’s books and a historical romance. I promise to work on my bouncing enthusiasm.  So  when the advertising shows up occasionally, or I join a contest here or there, please be patient, I promise it won’t be for long!

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