View From The balcony
Bethany Village, Oregon
As I write this, it is 5 A.M. in the morning, it is overcast, cold and rainy and I am wondering why am I here? It isn’t Kansas, Toto, and it sure as heck isn’t Hawaii, but it is Portland, Oregon. We left Hawaii on 9/22 so we have been here almost a month. It has been a busy and chaotic month with mostly doctor appointments sprinkled in with unpacking boxes as they slowly trickle in and shopping for stuff for our new apartment. In the last 5 years we have transitioned from a two hundred acre farm in eastern Oregon to a 6,000 sf lot in Kona to an apartment with no yard in a retirement “community” called Laurel Parc located in Bethany, Oregon, west of Portland. And, no, it has not been easy but it has been the right thing to do. It has all been necessitated by the return of the Mucosal Melanoma cancer in my left sinus area and the need to be closer to the medical facilities that both Jeri and I require, and to be closer to our kids and grand children. Since the cancer has now shown up as a spot in my left lung and in a lymph node under my right arm, it is classified as terminal. Technically, life is terminal since none of us is going to leave this world alive unless the Lord returns.
Two and a half weeks after arriving in Portland I developed a fever and ended up in the hospital ----- again, and spent four days receiving anti-biotics to fight off a infection in my left sinus. A CT scan revealed that the cancer is growing and the bleeding from my nose is increasing. We have spent a lot of time talking to various and sundry doctors about what to expect in the months ahead, and what, if any, options are left as far as quality of life issues are concerned.
I have begun Immunotherapy with the hopes of beating the cancer back enough to stop the bleeding and the less than 10 % chance that it might kill the cancer. It has far fewer side effects than chemotherapy and I figured, what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am scheduled today for my third infusion. They do this every third week.
Radiation, which works on this cancer, was off the table for consideration at first. But in an effort to control the bleeding, radiation is now under consideration. In the past, radiation has been used to stun the cancer in other patients which has stopped the bleeding for 4-6 months. It involves 5 treatments on an every other day basis. I have already received more radiation than anyone should have and the doctors are concerned that more radiation treatment will potentially damage the left eye and the brain. I asked the radiologist what happens if we do nothing and he responded that the cancer would invade the left eye and I would lose it, and the cancer would eventually spread into the brain. So, if I understand this correctly, no matter what I do I will lose the left eye and suffer brain damage. Since I am not a “do nothing” person we are going with the radiation with the hope of stopping the bleeding which will greatly enhance my quality of life. If I lose the left eye, so be it. That’s probably why God gave me two.
So I asked the radiologist what the plan was going to be, as my first session is scheduled for tomorrow, the 18th. He said he didn’t know, was still working on it and consulting with the oncologist and the surgeon. His concern is that they don’t make things worst but improve the quality of my life by getting the bleeding to stop. He also said that I have taken them into new territory where they do not have the experience of dealing with a patient that has had three cancers, and had the Mucosa Melanoma return after 6 years. Apparently I have become their learning tool, which is fine by me if they learn something that may help someone down the road that has this disease. That’s how progress is made in medicine.
Meanwhile, Jeri is having her own set of difficulties. She has had stomach issues that has caused her to lose 24 lbs. in the last three or four months. She no longer is able to eat protein except in very limited amounts.
We are still waiting for a decision from the doctor. She is also experiencing severe pain in her right arm and shoulder which has no explanation. We are still trying to regulate her Parkinson medication and that has been a challenge. But the worst issue is that the beginning stages of dementia has begun to settle in and she is now aware of it. Between the two of us, a good portion of our day is spent on “Easter egg hunts” looking for things that have been misplaced or put in mystery places.
To say we miss Hawaii is an understatement. We developed close friendships there that we have had to give up, not to mention a loving church family. We have traded sunshine and warm tropical breezes for overcast clouds and bone chilling rain; shorts and flip flops for socks, shoes and long pants with flannel shirts; a house with a huge lanai to an apartment with a small balcony that barely holds two chairs.
But we have gained being closer to family and former friends. Just yesterday, my grandson Mitchell and his wife Hanna came over and visited and we played cards together. What a blessing that was. Our son Chuck has flown in from Chicago to spend a week with us and give Randy and Lani a break.
And so life goes on, changes occur and adjustments are made. I have not a clue to what the future holds, except to know without a doubt that God is in control and He has a plan. I have no idea how my body will react to this Keytruda where typically the side effects don’t start showing up until the 4th or 5th treatment. The kids are concerned how I will react to more radiation and the effect it will have on my quality of life and I cannot give an answer. I will know more when I find out what the program is and how long the treatments will last.
Jeri and I am both in uncharted waters of knowing that I may not be here in 4-6 months, surely less than a year. I am almost 78 and even if I was healthy I could die any day, yet today we know with some certainty that death will occur within a year. We have revised our wills, set up a living trust for all our assets, up dated our medical directives and set up power of attorneys for when that day arrives when we are incapable of making decisions.
What I do know is that God has promised to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death, He will comfort me with His rod and staff, will cause me to lie down and rest in green pastures along still waters. His grace will be sufficient for me.