Saturday, March 21, 2015

Joy Cometh In the Morning

said Debra, my sister-in-law, who has been a rock for me to lean on this past long month. She said this while staying with her husband in an ICU in a hospital in Fontana, here in Southern California, somewhere. He is recovering from quadruple bypass surgery, which he had on Thursday. Considering this, I hesitated to call her, but I knew I needed to and I knew she would want me to. 

I finally broke down last night. This is what happened:

The day before, doctors called to ask my consent to do a biopsy on a lesion on my husband's tongue. Yesterday, they called again to inform me of the results: A fungus infection. Not cancer, which was good, but a fungus can be just as devastating to our bodies. Strangely, I knew this from a cat we once had, who got a strange fungus on her brain. The doctor said it had not yet, but could spread very quickly throughout his system and then the consequences would be very serious. 

This is what I gave my consent to: 
  • Remove the part of his tongue where the tissue was already dead. 
  • Allow them to remove the breathing tube and instead do a tracheostomy to help him breathe. 
Fortunately for me, the doctor said my husband was alert, understood, and had agreed to this. Since I'm still the official consent giver, I had to agree also. Of course I did, there's really nothing else to do. 

And then I cried. And cried. For the first time I let go and let out all my sorrow, anger, and frustration.  I cried for a long time, heaving cries, you know the kind we did when we were children. 

Then I called Debra, who quoted Psalm 30:5 ~

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. 

I will see him tomorrow, today I will walk the dogs, mow weeds, and go to the dump with all the food and old spices I purged. Then I will take a long hot shower, using the lavender and salt scrub from the Dead Sea, my neighbor brought back from Israel; and the wonderful soap from Montana, my friend Janice sent for Christmas. 

If I can accomplish all that; if I can get really tired and sleep well tonight; if I can see my love tomorrow and know he's able to deal with all this adversity ~ joy will come.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Update On Hubby & Hepatitis C ~ Update On Me ~ And What To Do About The A to Z

Yesterday, March 18, 2015, (I had to note the date) after 33 days, I knew that my husband recognized me and understood me. They removed the breathing tube on Monday, but had to re-insert it after he became very tired. I spent a couple of hours with him and one hour in the support group. Before I left, I said: "I have to go home now and take care of Samson and Faith." He nodded, and a smile came into his eyes. A precious moment, after all this time.

I love support groups because you learn so much and you do understand that you are not alone. Listening to the people in the group, I was astonished to learn how many of them are suffering from Hepatitis C, the chronic infection that my husband had. These people either have a new liver or are waiting to receive one. It many take 20 to 30 years for the HepC virus to destroy your liver, but when it does, the results are devastating. Because so many may have the disease and not know it, I'm adding this quote:

Contracted via blood-to-blood contact, hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. Many people infected with chronic hepatitis C (HCV) have no symptoms. In fact, most people do not know they have the hepatitis C infection until liver damage shows up decades later. 

I am mentioning this because it can't hurt to have your liver function checked. Now that there's a cure. 

My husband was diagnosed in 1991 and, since he didn't have any of the other risk factors or risky behavior, he most likely got it from a 1986 blood transfusion. Ironically, at a UCLA affiliated hospital. There was no good cure until December 2013, when the drugs my husband took came on the market. Earlier this year, I was tested, and fortunately was negative for the virus. 

I know we didn't take this disease as seriously as we should have. When we heard on TV ads for the new drugs that HepC can cause liver cancer, my husband went back to his liver doctor. Tests were done, and he was diagnosed with liver cancer. And so it all began, back in May of 2014. I hope that his nod yesterday, and the glint in his eye, mean that we have turned a corner and are moving toward better and healthier times. A long road ahead, but we will travel it together. 

While this may look like a nice forest picture taken from an airplane, it's just the weeds that have sprouted all around our house. Since I can't handle the weed-whacker or the gas operated lawnmower, I put my electric one back together, charged it up, and started mowing. It went great and was a lot of fun! 

In the house, keeping in mind the extra clean environment that will be needed for my husband, I moved on to clean the refrigerator and its freezer drawer. (In there he had collected, amongh other things,  a bunch of fish heads, no doubt for some future fish soup. All gone now, there will be plenty more where they came from.)
I still have the large freezer left to do, but it will be a while before hubby can home. 

Then I moved on to the spice cabinet, yes, a whole corner cabinet dedicated to spices, herbs, hot sauce and so on. I purged all with expired dates, scrubbed the shelves, and organized the rest. There's now lots of room for more stuff in this cabinet; they made them pretty big back in the '70s when our house was built. And now I'm working on the cabinets dedicated to pantry service. It feels so good, I must have wanted to do this for years!

This post is getting way long, but it's only because I write so few. Just as when someone calls me now, I tend to babble. I guess because I have no one to talk to here. Human contact is very important, after all.

I signed up for the A to Z before all this happened with my hubby. I have always done it a day at a time, enjoying the challenge of coming up with something new for each letter, just the day before. So I hadn't thought about it, at all. Then on St. Patrick's Day, I realized that April is not far away. My theme to be was: Treasures From My Bookcase. I had picked out some books I wanted to write about, but that's all. So I decided to skip the A to Z this year. Too much uncertainty. 

The top shelves of one of my bookcases (when it was nice and tidy ~ a mess now).

While I fretted about this decision (I enjoy the A to Z so much, after all) before going to sleep, I remembered that I used to have a weekly post, called Wednesday's Book, where I actually reviewed books. Then I thought that maybe I could find some books in those posts, plus some from my annual posts about Good Books. I got so excited, I almost jumped out of bed to check it out, but contained myself and waited until Tuesday morning. I had to write something new about a couple of books; and it took some editing, adding the theme, adding some other books to a post, adding some from my Kindle, but I now have posts from A to H more or less completed. So, maybe I can do it, we'll see. 

For those of you who made it to the end of this long post, here are some spring flowers posted outside our stores in town. We had no winter this year, not a single snowfall (and I so wanted to see what Faith would do in the snow....), and now spring is almost here, officially. Have a good day and thanks for stopping by. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Human Kindness ~ An Update With Some Good News

A view from William S. Hart park, Newhall, California

Human kindness is overflowing in my life right now: From strangers sent over to my blog by blogger friend Janie Junebug; from my husband's eldest sister, who left a long and loving message about the love the family feels for me and thanking me for taking care of her brother; and from all the rest of his family and many friends. From all of you, my blogger friends, who don't seem to mind that I'm so tired and not able to get back to all of you, reading your latest posts and leaving my comments. Kindness from old friends and new. Thank you.

A colorful bottlebrush tree.

Thursday, my husband had the final surgery related to the liver transplant, where they attached the bile duct to -- where I don't know, doesn't matter -- intestines perhaps? The doctor said he would call when the surgery was over, no one did. No one called with updates, in the past a nurse called. By day's end I was scared, really scared. I lost all the peace I had felt, my stomach churned, my heart beat too fast, and my mouth was dry......

The barn at the park. You can see the face of one of the two horses that live at the park through the opening in the middle. Part of Mr. Hart's conditions when he donated the estate to the county was: Entrance should always be free and farm animals should always be kept there. 

Finally, late in the day, I called the intensive care unit and asked for his nurse. And all was well. She told me the surgery went fine and ended at 2 p.m., they removed two lines from his heart (his heart?? - I didn't know he had lines in his heart), and he is resting, recovering.....

I couldn't resist another picture of this sweet deer.

Yesterday, I learned that a few other medicines were reduced. He is still in critical condition, or as the nurse, from somewhere in the British realm, said in her lovely accent: Guarded. 

Rachael gave me 18 eggs from these and the rest of the chickens at the park.

I am holding up pretty well. I only drive to Los Angeles twice a week now, Wednesdays and Sundays, but it still makes me so very tired. I slept 11 hours after I got back on Wednesday and I'm still tired today. And with gas prices on the rise, two days a week of gas and UCLA parking will cost me close to $500 a month. That includes a McDonald's latte on the way home, but no food -- I bring my own because food is so expensive at the hospital (or so it seems to me, who has not spent much time in restaurants since moving to the canyon).

Other than that, I enjoy being alone and getting a lot of work done around here. I managed to put our electric lawnmower back together and charge it, so today I will begin to mow weeds and grasses that are popping up everywhere after the December rains. They don't need much to come to life. 

And I'm cleaning out our two freezers, getting rid of old, expired, food. When done, I'm taking that and the rest of the stuff I purged from hubby's boxes (3 large trash bags) to the dump. I enjoy this kind of mindless, but result producing work a lot right now. Doing it adds to my physical tiredness, but in a good way, and I sleep remarkably well, considering. 

 Asian pheasant.

I will end with the picture of the Asian pheasant, and, for the first time, with hope for the future. It will be a very long journey. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Visit With Rachael ~ An Update On My Husband

I wonder if I can do this: Sharing happy pictures from my visit yesterday at Rachael's place of work, the gorgeous William S. Hart park, with the increasingly sad, scary, but maybe also hopeful news of my husband.

Don't look at me, look at the gorgeous landscape behind me.

William S. Hart was an actor and director of Western movies in the early 1900s who donated his retirement home and surrounding land to the county of Los Angeles. I pass by the Newhall exit for the park every time I drive to UCLA and it was easy to make the short detour to the park and so worth while.

The pictures will be from the park, the story will mostly be about my husband and my feelings about where we are now. 

My friend, Rachael. 

This is the latest on my husband: 

He got a new liver Saturday. He survived what I will describe next: 

When they opened him, they found his stomach, liver, and whatever else is in there, covered in infection. The surgeon, who called me Saturday night, said his stomach looked like it was full of asphalt. I don't know what that means, if it was black or what. They did some sort of rinse to help clear the infection. As best they could, it is still there. 

Rachael takes care of a herd of 13 American bison. Here are two of them.

The doctor then said (while sounding so darned cheerful) they spent three hours attempting to stop bleeding; they had to transfuse my husband, my poor husband, with 86 units of blood. I think he said one unit equals one pint. Then they packed him to keep the bleeding under control (whatever that means), then sewed him up temporarily, without finishing the transplant. The surgeon said this often happens. It's better to give the patient a chance to rest for a day or two than to just push on with the surgery. I think he also said they had to code my husband three times. He was talking so fast, but then he's a surgeon, and as long as he's a good surgeon, never mind what he has to say about it. I got it: It was a very difficult operation. 

 A not so good picture of the actor's beautiful home. This place is just gorgeous. On the top of a mountain with panoramic views all around. I'm so happy Rachael is working in such a beautiful environment.

The plan is to open my husband up again today to finish the transplant and clean out more of the infection. The way my husband looked yesterday, I don't see how he could possible survive another surgery. But the doctors over there are so positive, so optimistic. I talked to a doctor who said my husband was a challenging patient. I can just imagine! Everyone assured me he was doing a little better yesterday. It is amazing what they can do these days to keep someone alive. 

I'm feeding the little mule deer the park took in after someone "rescued" her and tried to raise her in the suburbs. Rachael named her Deer Abby and she's the most adorable critter. So soft to pet, those ears, ah... she  touched my heart and I was happy again.

After spending a couple of hours with my husband yesterday, I feel at peace with whatever happens. The good thing is that he has a new liver, the old liver and the cancer tumor are now gone. He could recover and get relatively well; he could recover and be an invalid for the rest of his life; or he could pass away. This uncertainty has been awful for me, but something happened yesterday and I feel at peace now.

He was heavily sedated. I sat a bit away from him and didn't touch him because I petted animals at the park and thought there might be something on my clothes. They make sure you wash your hands a lot over there, but still. There was no place to touch him anyway - every inch of him has something stuck in it. Lines going everywhere. 

 I always love to meet a donkey. This one was a bit snappy, maybe she's a retired movie star......

I am learning so much from being in this situation. When the nurses left for a minute, I stood there and looked at his face with all those tubes - in his nose, his throat, and covered with a blanket because he was so cold. As I stood there, I felt such strong, enduring, love. I knew that the 30 years we have been together always had this strong love there, surrounding us through happy times and sad. My husband was always there for me. Yesterday, I learned that no matter what happens, his love will stay with me. 

 Rachael with an old steer. Yes, all you need is love and cuddles, no matter who you are.

Ever since my husband came home with Faith last summer, I have worried. Doing the math: if Faith lives a healthy, normal life, she will be at least 12 years old. Which means I would have to live to be 86, at least. While this has put some pressure on me to eat my veggies, go for my walks, and so on, I still worry. 

Then Rachael called me last night and told me she needed a key to our house. In case something happens to me, she wants to be able to get in and take care of the dogs. She assured me that with all her friends who work in animal rescue, or who are just animal lovers, she would find a new home for them. I never asked for this, so in the midst of all the difficulties and worries, I get this gift. This priceless gift of knowing that our dogs will be OK. 

This is a wild boar! Rachael raised him and his sister and earned their love and respect. 

Saturday marked three weeks in the ICU, three weeks of fear and worry, and now, feeling the love and support from family, friends, Samson and Faith, other critters (how much they give us, these animals), and nature, I feel at peace. And I feel a love that won't end, no matter what. 

I hope this format worked for you. To read some difficult passages, but to also feel the happiness of spending time with a good friend in a beautiful place with some lovely critters. Good and bad, happy and sad, that is life after all......

Monday, March 2, 2015

Good Books I Read In 2014 ~ Part 2. And A Short Update.

After driving to L.A. last Wednesday, I drove down the mountain to Bakersfield on Thursday for a medical checkup. I got very emotional as I came out of the radiology lab, saw the empty Jeep, where hubby always was waiting for me before. A beautiful drive though, through the mountain pass. 

The good news about my husband is that he is now maintaining a normal blood pressure without medication. The rest is about the same; he's been moved to the ICU in the liver specialty suite. He's still not awake. I get very frightened when I think about how long this has gone on - since Valentines's day. So I'm not doing so well today. 

Until I can come up with a new post (and catch up on yours), let me share this old draft with you. It's part two of the good books I read in 2014. I hope you enjoy it:

I know this much is true, by Wally Lamb

I love Wally Lamb's humanity and the poignant books he writes. This book tells a pretty disturbing story of the lives of twin boys, one who later becomes a paranoid schizophrenic. His brother, Dominick, narrates the book and touches your heart as he feels the burden of caring for his brother. There's a book within this book, a forgotten manuscript written by the boys' Italian immigrant grandfather. It becomes a big part of the story, as Dominick, the healthy twin, studies it in an attempt to learn more about his family's history.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

After I finished The Goldfinch, I decided to read The Secret History, Donna Tartt's first novel. I soon realized that I had read it, I guess when it was first published in the 1990s. Even though the characters in this book are just as psychologically damaged (worse, actually) as the ones in The Goldfinch, they are without the whiny self-pity I so didn't like in that book. Instead, I enjoyed this tightly wound mystery a lot.
Clara and Mr Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland 

The story of Clara Driscoll, a professional woman in the late 1800s, who is also an artist. As the head of the women's division at Tiffany's New York studio, Clara conceives of, and designs most of the leaded-glass lamps that became the iconic signature for which Tiffany Studio is still remembered. Clara is never recognized for her artistic contributions and, since Mr. Tiffany does not employ married women, Clara must eventually make a difficult decision. 

I found this to be a very interesting book about the life and struggles of a professional woman a little over 100 years ago. As talented as she was, both as a manager and an artist, Clara had few options. It brought to mind how much we take for granted today.

Children's and YA Books of 2014

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

A book about teenagers with cancer that somehow helped me deal better with my husband's diagnosis. After all, the boy and girl were so very young......  

A best seller with a movie out, I think nothing more needs to be said. Except that it made me want to read other books by this author. 

Hibbs The Cub with No Clue, by Roland Yeomans

Hibbs came into my life as hungry bears, real live ones, were raiding our trash bins. Falling in love with this clueless, but always hopeful cub, who learns about life while walking through a strange and dangerous valley, I wanted to grab a real cub and hug it. Instead I read on, smiling.

The Butterfly Basket, by C. A. Waldman

I posted an in-depth review of this book about life in our canyon during the Great Depression here. It is a delightful book about a young girl learning about life, nature, traditions, and friendship. 


2014 was a tough year for me, and when life gets difficult I read mysteries, police procedurals (in the great Swedish tradition), and fast moving detective novels. Those of you who are familiar with Kathy Reichs' books can perhaps understand how thrilled I was to come across them.

Once I discovered her books, around October, I spent much of my time reading about the adventures of Dr. Tempe Brennan, a crime- solving forensic anthropologist (also featured in the popular TV show Bones, which I have not seen and don't plan to watch). 

And then there was S, which I began to read and put away after reaching the middle of the book. It is a strange, unpleasant even, read, but intriguing as well. I will definitely get back to it eventually. 

Please click  here if you are interested in checking out Part 1 of the good books I read in 2014.


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