health

Staying in Focus:Weekly Writing Challenge: My Rocky Road

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

The Rocky Road

I was cruising right along
when this rocky path appeared
and now I have been walking it
for many trying years
and yet it leads me onward
there’ve been obstacles, I fear
but despite the looming shadows
I have no time for tears
each day I have, I celebrate
this precious gift I’m given
and I for one have vowed to make
each one a day worth living
so moment by moment, mindfully
I take a step most carefully
along this steep and rocky road
trying not to stumble
I strive to end each day
with hope in a new tomorrow
my heart assured, my spirit free
safe within the circle
of my  friends and family,
I choose to dwell on happiness
and not waste time on sorrow.
2013 pc

One day I am living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family and the next day I receive a diagnosis that changes my picture perfect life forever. Life can be like that, and we must learn to roll with the punches.

I had noticed changes in my body a few years before diagnosis, but caught in a difficult passage through menopause, I attributed some of it – the anxiety especially, to that.  And then, in 2007, a routine colonoscopy found a polyp that we did not know was cancer until after surgery.  The anesthesiologist I had for that procedure suggested I see a neurologist for the tremor I was experiencing. I followed through once I had recovered from the colon cancer operation, already certain of the answer –Parkinson ’s disease.

And now, 6 years later, I am still living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family, but living a life quite different from what I had expected. Now I must take 3 prescription drugs, 2 of them 3 times a day to facilitate walking, control the tremor, and slow down the progression of the disease. 3 additional medications address my blood pressure, anxiety and thyroid. For dessert I have folic acid, a multi-vitamin, vitamin D, 4 fish oil capsules, and a full size aspirin to complete my daily feast of meds. Then there is exercise. I have a small, powered stationary bike that I use every day, keeping the rotations above 80/per minute, aerobic walking using the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home programs on DVD, followed by yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance. I also lift weights three times a week for strength training. It takes a big chunk out of my day but it beats the alternative. I complete my regime with a relaxing meditation

Fortunately, I am 5+ years out from the cancer surgery and so far so good. I have had a total of 7 colonoscopies to monitor things and I see an oncologist twice a year and take an aspirin daily. So far my regime has been successful in keeping me moving and slowing down the PD. This summer we took a cruise to the British Isles and I walked every day. We did an “On the Deck 5K Walk for the Cure” around the ship. So although I’ve  had to make major changes (retiring and giving up driving).  I have adjusted to life along this Rocky Road.  I take each day as it comes and try to treat it as the gift it is. I allow myself time to continue to grow and learn new things through online classes, visits to museums, and writing poetry, my memoir and currently, a middle grade children’s novel. Spending time with family and friends is paramount in keeping up the spirits and continuing to participate in life.

My mother endured months of bedrest to  avoid miscarrying me, so that I am here at all is a wonder; that I’ve lived 60 years and have had a marvelous life filled with love and support from my family and friends, and have been married for 37 years to my soul mate and best friend my husband, Bill, is simply miraculous.

Since I can’t know whether the road remains rocky the rest of the way, or smooths out for me for a time, I continue to walk along it (as best I can) try to keep healthy and fit to write and celebrate the gifts each new day brings.

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: A Pat on the Back

Daily Prompt Tell someone you’re proud of just how proud you are.

I have several people I am especially proud of . Two of them, my mother and my friend Debbi, are battling breast cancer.
Mom has had it 3 times – she has had 2 mastectomies, radiation and chemo in her battle with this relentless disease. At 90 years old, the chemo proved to be too much for her, and she has chosen quality of life in the time she has left, verses weeks of such debilitating  side effects.  I applaud her strength in deciding for herself  what she wants her last days to be like.

Through all this she has not lost her sense of humor, telling me that every morning. by the time she washes up, puts in her hearing aid, her false teeth, her glasses, fastens on her prosthesis and “harness” as she calls it, and puts  her wig in place, it’s time for a nap! We wonder about what percentage of these morning add-ons you must have to reach android status! Now we want to get her an alert system and she sighed saying another thing to attach to my body!

Debbi has had her surgery and is about to complete her radiation, and then begin chemo after Labor Day.  She, too, retains her sense of humor, saying at least with the wig she will not have to worry about bad hair days. The worst thing about it all, my mother has said, is that it changes your body image so drastically. Even at 90, she mourns the loss of the body of her youth. But these are strong women, who know what they have to do to survive, and for them, retaining their sense of humor is the key. They’ve learned to live day by day, celebrate all the moments when they feel a little better, or the sun seems a little brighter and keep on keepin on. So to them, I dedicate this poem:

My True Heroines

You are beautiful…

the light that shines from within

cancer cannot  reach nor dim

your sense of humor is your strength

nothing can touch your inner grace

the body may have to take it’s blows

but as everybody knows

you are the spirit that lives within

though the body may change

you’ will always remain

a heroine to me

for you are beautiful….

pc2013

Daily Prompt: The Green-eyed Monster

Daily Prompt: The Green-eyed Monster:

I am not a jealous person in general. I don’t yearn for material things to the point of jealousy. But I must admit to a weak moment or two, when I see people walking  or running with such ease, not even aware of what a gift that is. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease six years ago, there  are days when it’s harder to move than others, and only with medication  and  lots of exercise is it possible to walk  at all. Running and playing tennis, even driving, are activities I have had to let go. And as this disease is progressive, if  a cure is not found, I may lose my ability to walk completely . For the  most part, I try to live in the moment and  not worry about things beyond my control. I just enjoy each beautiful day as it unfolds, and I try not to let jealousy creep in. Rather, I want to shout out to others to celebrate their good health, and enjoy simple things like walking and moving. I am thankful for so many other gifts I have and there are people who suffer with illnesses far worse than PD. Jealousy is merely wasting precious time, I remind myself. I don’t have time for it.

Staying in Focus: Pat and the Mystery of the Colonoscopy

Well, while all of my faithful followers were tucked snugly in bed last night, I spent the night drinking.  No, I wasn’t on a binge or celebrating the Super Bowl.  I was drinking a cocktail of PEG 3350, Sodium Sulfate, Sodium Chloride,  Potassium Chloride, Sodium Ascorbate and Ascorbic Acid mixed with water.  In other words, a  product called MoviPrep, ( sadly, no relationship to cinema), the foulest tasting concoction on the planet, designed to cause your intestines to turn themselves inside out and hang themselves out to dry. At both 6:00PM last night, and worst of all, again at 3:00AM this morning, I downed a liter of this foul stuff followed by a 16 oz. chaser of water. By now, I’m sure many of you recognize the colonoscopy cocktail party. First, you starve (all day) then you binge (on the MoviePrep), then you purge (believe me, your intestines will take care of this part, your job is to get them where they have to go — fast!)

While I was waiting for things to, ah, start happening, I was playing Mystery Manor on Facebook.  And I started to think that while the prep is all too real, the colonoscopy itself is a bit of a mystery. I’ll explain my thinking further in a minute. (Keep in mind it is now 4AM and I’ve had about 3 hours sleep, so thinking is a challenge at this point)

By the time the second round was finished, it was time to head to the colonoscopy center, where very nice, gentle people, put me to bed, with nice warm blankets and enough wires and electrodes to turn me into a cyborg.  They wheeled me into an icy cold room, asked  a few questions to confirm my identity, just in case someone off the street decided to steal my colonoscopy (Is there a lot of that going around?) and then I woke up back in my  curtained cubicle, and my husband (designated driver) was waiting there to take me home..

And that’s where the mystery comes in.  Unlike other medical procedures, there is little evidence that one was done. Through the magic wizardry of the doctors, all I remember is – nothing.  One second I was awake and the next I was waking up somewhere else. I don’t even remember falling asleep!

If you have surgery, you remember because you have stitches and stuff.  If you have a tooth pulled at the dentist, you have stuff stuffed in your mouth and a missing tooth. If you give birth, you have a baby. But a colonoscopy — no scars, no stuff, no baby.  You may have the need to push some excess air out of your system, but that’s about it.

However, the wizard of colonoscopies, Doctor Stephen Furs, and the man who knows the inside of my colon far better than I, solves the mystery at last — he brings proof of the procedure – full color pictures of my newly-cleaned colon in  8 X 10 glossies. No, I’m kidding about the 8 X 10 part, the pictures are creepy enough in thumbnail size.

Now, I will spare you from having to view my colon picture gallery (they’ll be on the mantle at home if you want to drop by) and if you’re thinking, well, photos can be faked – trust me, no one is that imaginative!

But despite my humorous take on all this, colonoscopies are a serious business. Were it not for my primary care physician, Dr. Maureen Dollinger, urging (and nagging) me to get my first colonoscopy, I may have learned too late that my polyp was cancerous. As it turned out, I had a procedure called a colectomy, where the part of the colon with the polyp was removed and that took care of the problem. I was spared a colostomy bag, chemo etc.by this timely test.  That was over five years ago and seven colonoscopies later. l want to urge everyone out there who is 50 to call and make an appointment today.  I waited until I was 54, and it was almost too late.

And despite the rather unpleasant taste of the cocktail, it is worth it in the long run. The prep is the hard part; the colonoscopy is so easy you sleep right through it.   If I can soldier through the prep 7 times, anybody can.

For any of my followers in the Raleigh, NC area, there is a 5K Run/Walk for colon cancer awareness on Saturday, March 2, at Fred Fletcher Park in Raleigh.  For more information go to GetYourRearInGear.com/Raleigh. Get out in the sunshine and take a walk for a great cause. 75% of the funds stay in the local area to fund colon cancer awareness, prevention programs and bringing screening opportunities for those under or not insured.

Oh, and by the way, my colonoscopy was clear!  No polyps in the colon.  Next one: 3 years from now.  I think I can wait that long for another colonoscopy cocktail.

Bottoms Up 😉