Friday, November 23, 2012

Going Home....

Wednesday afternoon, November 7, I stepped out of the front door of the rehab hospital using my walker. I would only step back inside this facility again as a visitor. And, that may happen sooner than anyone might think.

I spent 2 weeks and 2 days at Newport Beach Nursing and Rehabilitation in intense physical and occupational therapy. I went through therapy before in 2008 when I had my first hip surgery. That was when I was in Tustin Rehab. I thought that time of therapy was tough when I had one bad leg to work through, an internal prosthetic device and was missing a part of my right pelvis. But, this time I did not have a good "leg to stand on." So, needless to say, this time of therapy was a great challenge for me.

I wasn't really prepared for therapy to be as hard as it was this time. But, with a great deal of tenacity and a deep desire to get out of being in a hospital, I worked harder than most of the residents around me. Granted, I was half the age of most of them. But, I had a lot at stake here. And I felt compelled to leave as soon as I could.

The day before I was to leave rehab, the therapist had me run through a series of "test" exercises to see if I really was ready to go home. One of the exercises was the staircase. I had to walk up and back down the four steps to the satisfaction of the therapist. I not only performed this test with a great deal of ease, I did it without the aid of my walker, crutches or even a cane. When asked if I passed the test, the therapist said "You passed with an A++!"

I couldn't ask for more than that.

With every test I was given, I passed. I felt strong and was confident I was ready to go home from rehab the next day. I also found out the secret of the therapists when they know someone is going home. They push them twice as hard to make sure they are truly ready. My passing every test was proof I was ready for my exit.

So Wednesday, I said all my goodbye's to the therapists before I walked out, and promised to come back to show them my progress soon. It was a great feeling to be saying goodbye. I was ready to move on. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was glad to have a bedroom to my self again with more channels on the tv than I would ever watch. I would be ever grateful for no one walking into my room at all hours of the night allowing hallway lights to shine directly into my eyes.

Oh to be home...

2 days following my exit from Newport rehab, my grandma was admitted. She also had a hip replacement by my surgeon, Dr. Femino, at City of Hope. And, this facility is so close to her home it was only right for her to become a resident as well. I just got them warmed up for you grandma. Now they will take good care of you and get you back to walking well again.

Next..."More of the Same."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A 15' Angel Behind You

Today we're going back to the present day again, October 2012.

After a couple of days being in the hospital prior to surgery, the nurse (Helen) who works with my surgeon (Dr. Femino) came by to see me. She was just checking on me to see how I was doing. Mom had gone to get a cup of coffee when Helen came by.

We talked for just a couple of minutes before mom came back to my room. After peaking her head in and seeing that Helen was there we all began to talk. Helen was taking a quick break to head to a prayer group on campus. Any body was welcome to come if they knew about it. Helen offered for mom to come along. After a minute of coaxing, mom and Helen headed off to another building on campus to the prayer meeting. Meanwhile, I took a much needed nap.

Mom and Helen headed for the room where the prayer meeting was being help. The set up of this room was in small groups. Mom headed for one group and Helen headed for another. Prayer wasn't too long, it was only during the lunch hour for employees at the hospital, so it needed to go quickly.

As mom was getting up an getting ready to come back to my room following prayer, a man approached her from across the room at another small group. This man proceeded to tell my mom that while they were all praying, there was a 15 foot angel standing behind my mom the whole time. The angel had it's wings open and extended out fully. The wings were white.

Mom thought this was so incredibly cool. She thanked the man for telling her about the angel. When she returned to my room, she proceeded to tell me the story of the angel when I asked her how prayer went.

My angel watching over me.
It was a great boost of faith for my mom to have this man tell her about and describe the angel standing over her. After all we have been through as a family, it is awesome to hear how other people see the Lord's hand on our situation. We don't always see the hand of the Lord around us, but we do know that He is there. To have this man see an angel over my mom, I could only imagine what he may have seen if my father and/or I had been there.

Mom has talked about this angel several times with others around us. My hope is that those others see the hand of the Lord in their lives as well.

After a few more days, I was transferred to the rehab hospital. This was on a Monday. On Wednesday when mom and dad both came to see me in the rehab hospital, my mom brought a gift from her Liz to me. Liz had been shopping for her business and ran across a flameless candle for me. (A flameless candle is a battery operated candle which flickers as though it were a candle flame on the inside.) The great thing about this candle from Liz, was that it is an angel.

So, I now have an angel watching over me every day and night in my room. This serves as a reminder to me that God is always with me and He is keeping watch over me. I love my little angel. It may not be 15 feet tall, but it is my angel and it is fully visible for ALL see.

Next: "I'm Coming Home."

"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them." Psalm 34:7

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Step Up...

Taking a detour back to my story in 2009.

A long time friend of mine had been working with a friend of his for a way to get me in and out of my Jeep more easy. With my right leg being slightly shorter than my left, and not having as much strength in my right leg, it was difficult for me to get into the Jeep either as a passenger or a driver. It would take some time for me to wiggle my way into the Jeep, so it was necessary to find a better solution for me. We needed something for me to step on. Side rails!

The day I had my three wisdom teeth removed, a man from a local car dealership came to my home and  installed side rails on my Jeep to provide more leverage for me to get in. I was completely out of it when he was there as the pain pills along with the anesthesia knocked me out for the majority of the day. Mom watched him work on my car and took several pictures as the guy installed them so I could see the progress later, once I was out of my drug coma. And, of course, so my family in CA could see them too.

Why are side rails so important?
  1. This was a step in the direction for me to become independent and live on my own again, alone.
  2. This was going to allow me the ability to get in the driver's seat without help.
  3. These were 100% paid for by the dealership and a gift to me for being a breast cancer survivor.
And, gaining my independence is just what these new side rails did. In April of 2009, my mom was able to go back to California and be home with my dad, while I stayed in Colorado with my job and my apartment.

Next: A 15' Angel...

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7

How has God showered you with an unexpected blessing?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Getting Encouragement

It's been 2 weeks since my hip surgery. I have been in the rehab hospital for 1 1/2 week now. I am beginning to see how much stronger I am getting and how much more stamina I have than a week ago. It is amazing how the body responds to trauma and when it is in therapy.

I cannot say it has been an easy road, though. I am being stretched in ways that I was not prepared for when I came to rehab. My false expectation was that this would be easier this time because my first surgery, rehab and recovery was so drastic. But, I am learning that there is nothing easy about surgery and recovery at all.

This rehab place is wonderful. It is not state of the art by any means, but the staff knows what they are doing and really work you hard to get you better as quickly as they can. Most of it is up to you by how hard you are willing to work. I am working hard to make sure I can leave on time and in great shape. So, I am getting better day-by-day. Today, I got to have my staples removed. The area around 2 of the staples was irritated, but all of my incision looked great to the nurse.

When the doctor came in to see me, he had me walk. I asked him if he wanted me to walk out in the hall, and he was surprised I was willing to do that. But, after he saw how well I was walking, he was happy and impressed. All this was a great visit. He asked how long I was going to be in rehab. We talked a minute about it and came up with a plan, which I relayed to the head therapist here at rehab.

So, I will remain in rehab until they feel that I am able to get into and out of bed on my own. According to my doctor and my therapist, that won't be long.

What else?

Well, as soon as I am released to go home, we will get the both my medical and radiation oncologist for therapy. My doctor has released me to begin either or both treatments as soon as they would like to. So, by next week, I should have appointments set up with both of them to get the ball rolling.

I don't know how long the radiation therapy will be this time, but what ever it is, I can manage.

So cousins, today was a great day of encouragement you have been praying for.

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:4-6

Is there something in your life today where you feel like you need some encouragement? Please share it here and I'll stand in prayer with you to find that encouragement.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Managing Disappointment After Disappointment

As I digress from telling my story to date, a little glimpse into the future is what you are going to get today. I want to thank you all for the kind words and encouragement you have sent to me through this blog, facebook and by email. I will do my best to keep going even when posts, like this one, are incredibly difficult to write. My hope and prayer is that at least one person is blessed and/or challenged by my story.

For over 4 years now, I have been going through the pains of cancer, surgery, recovery, therapy and then back through the process again and again. I have not had a chance to regain much of a normal life following cancer as I would have wished. I would suspect that most women who experience breast cancer have to manage their emotions at the beginning of their journey and manage the pain during their treatment. Once they are on the road to recovery, check ups may give them great joy when they know the cancer is gone and they are in remission or are considered a survivor.

For me, check ups are often met with great despair. Most times, fear sets in and disappointment follows when the doctors tell me they have found another spot, or as they call it "lesion." This time, seeing my doctors in September, there are not any new spots (lesions) but growth of ones that have been there and a new trial of a bone fracture. How did I get a bone fracture? And where?

Last boot I got out of the car for in
Cheyenne, WY due to the pain, 8/4/12.
In August 2012, my mom and I took a day trip from Colorado Springs to Cheyenne, WY. We had a fantastic time driving around the capital town looking for all of the fundraising art "boots" at different businesses. The city really made this a fun "treasure hunt" finding all of the different boots around the town. They were amazing and bigger than life!

Toward the end of our touring the city, my left leg (the so called "good leg") became increasingly difficult to walk on and I had a tremendous amount of pain with any movement. For several weeks it was so hard to maintain a good attitude and put on my "game face" because the pain was so great.

Now that we have seen the doctors, had x-rays and a PET Scan, we know why I have had so much pain. The neck of my left hip bone has a compression fracture just below the ball and joint. All the pressure of moving and walking on it is causing more pain. The solution, surgery! I need to have a partial hip replacement to repair the portion that has been broken. That was all I needed to hear, more surgery. My first inclination was to break down crying asking God, "When is this ever going to end? I'm so tired!" Then, I want to get mad that things keep coming at me without an end to them. I get rid of one problem only to face another issue as soon as we have an answer to the one before. It seems to be a never-ending cycle. I really cry out to God for relief from this cycle. I need a break, just not "in" my body.

So, how does one manage all of the things that seem to come into your life and wreak havoc on you? The best thing that I have come up with is to remain focused on the Lord. I know it sounds like a cliche. But, I have really found it to be true. The only way I have been able to manage every disappointment and challenge that has come my way to date, is to keep going back to the Lord and telling Him how I feel. Ask Him for guidance, ask Him to intervene. And, sometimes He doesn't seem to answer with what we are looking for, but He is building character not only in me but in those around me as well.

This gives James 1:2-8 a new perspective when talking about your trials. Many people have trials that are with people, or finances, or minor health issues. Most people are not put through as many health issues and serious surgeries as I have been through in the past 4 years. The only way I have kept the "joy" going is to keep my focus on the Lord.

I encourage you to look at James 1:2-8 as an opportunity to focus on the Lord in your trials to find your joy as you go through it. Because, you are going through it!

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." James 1:2-8 (NKJV)

How do you manage your disappointments and trials?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Another Loss of Wisdom

I am sorry it has been so long since I have updated this blog. Life has taken a few twists and turns, which I will go into next time as a digression from the timeline. With that said, back to 2009.

Having felt as though the therapy I was getting at work was not working the way I had hoped it would, I decided to make a change. My chiropractor checked around with several therapists in town and finally found one a couple of miles away who thought he could help me. My condition was not one most of the therapists had understood, so my chiropractor wasn't going to send me to just anyone.

This therapist was Mark Deysher (pronounced die-sure). He had been in the Air Force for many years and had seen a lot of combat related injuries. Once he retired to Colorado Springs, he began working for Select Physical Therapy, a division of Healthsouth.

Mark was the absolute best person for me to go through therapy with. He had such a caring way about him and made you feel as though you were more important than business. He always wanted to make sure you were progressing as best as you could. However, the company didn't like that about Mark and chose to get rid of him. I didn't go back because of that. But I digress slightly. Mark did wonders with me and I do miss him to this day. I will go into our therapy sessions more another time.

I was doing fairly well, so on the weekends mom and I would travel around the state finding new and interesting things to keep us from getting tired of only having appointments and work during the week. We had a lot of fun finding larger than life rocking chairs, funny restaurant names and just plain seeing the sites. Colorado has a lot more to offer than just your ski resorts. Colorado is really beautiful.

But, even with all of the site seeing, life can always bring you back to reality. In March, I finally went to the oral surgeon and had the remainder of my wisdom teeth removed. I was in so much pain after that. Having my major hip surgery was a walk in the park compared to having my teeth pulled. It was so bad, my chiropractor had to realign my jaw several days later. I really didn't enjoy that process at all. But, you do what you have to do, right?

So, I'll tell you all about the past couple of weeks that I have been offline and then get back to the story after that.

Next..."Managing Disappointment After Disappointment."

"No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Given the ALL Clear...

The same week we have a fire in my apartment complex, I have to go to California for my 6 month check-up. Not only was I going to have to fly (you read all about our traveling fun in "Losing Wisdom") but I would have to leave my apartment for several days not knowing if I was going to have a place to come back to or not.

With a hint of apprehension, mom and I set off to California. I was certain this was going to be a good check-up, but until the tests were over and the Dr. gave me the results we had to wait to find out for sure. The way I was feeling about this check-up was really positive though. I would go through several tests of a PET Scan and X-rays of my right hip before meeting with Dr. Femino to see how my prosthetic was doing. After gaining a good relationship with him, my appointments became much more friendly. We would do our greetings with him and Helen, get to business about the tests, and then move into random conversations about all types of topics. Sometimes dad and Dr. Femino would talk about the USC Football program, while mom and Helen talked about recipes or vacations. I would bounce between each of the conversations being able to add my two cents to either one of them.

Dr. Femino was becoming a much softer person when we would meet with him, and it was a nice change from our first meeting together. Helen just became more dear to our hearts every time we saw her. She was (and still is) such a positive influence in our lives. She and I email each other encouraging things such as scripture, devotions or poems we run across in our daily lives. It truly is wonderful to have one of your medical professionals not only pray for you but with you. Helen is the best! And, we love her so much.

Dr. Femino went over the images from the PET Scan with us. He sat down at the computer in the room, found the images of the hip and showed us what he saw and what that meant. When looking at some of the images, you could see the internal staples holding the mesh in place which kept vital organs from dropping and causing issues. You could see the prosthetic clearly and an outline of the prosthetic in a milky white. He called this milky white outlining around the prosthetic "New Bone." We all had to ask what he meant by that and with great pleasure he told us that my body was fully accepting the prosthetic and building calcification around it making it stronger.

Such great news that was. The prosthetic was getting stronger because my body was building a wall of defense around it. What a cool thing. Thank you God for making this happen!

Dr. Femino was very pleased at how everything looked. He didn't see any new areas of tumor and felt that all was well. He said he would see me again in six months, but call if anything happened between now and then. This was great, and my parents and I could not have been happier.

We also met with Dr. Paz for a brief time, where he confirmed the great results and also talked about the "new bone." Both doctors had just given me the "all clear" to continue life as I know knew it.

Next..."Another Loss of Wisdom."

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Fire"works in January?

Christmas and New Year's were over. Mom and I were getting back to more decorating in the new apartment. We had only been here for around two months. It was a Sunday night as mom and I were talking about curtains and colors for the living room area. Mom was standing on a chair beginning to measure and hang a curtain rod above the sliding glass door from the living room to the patio. I was watching t.v. Mom noticed an orange glow outside the blinds that the apartment management places on the windows and sliding doors throughout the complex.  She peered out of the blinds to see that the grass was all orange and flickering. As the wife of a firefighter you know what orange and flickering means, fire!

Mom ran outside the building to see where it was coming from. Then she ran back in and told me to call 911 as the building was on fire. She ran to the maintenance man's door directly across from us and starting banging on the door yelling that there was a fire on the third floor and that we all needed to get out. As mom and the maintenance man knocked on all the doors in the building telling everyone to get out, I was on the phone with 911 telling them everything that was going on and that I couldn't get out until mom came back to get me.

As I was being walked out the door by mom, uniformed officers were on their way in. We told them our floor was evacuated as I was the last one to leave the ground floor and to check the second and third floors for others. Following me out the door was a third floor neighbor with his dog. His mom just happened to be someone I worked with, so he was heading to his mom's house for the rest of the night.

Mom and I got in my car and moved it to the street so the fire department didn't have it in the way of fighting the fire. It was a good thing too, as the ladder truck needed to be right in front of our place to fight it from above. It would be hours before we knew what was going on. Mom walked over to the clubhouse where a lot of the residence from our building and the adjacent building were. She had left me in the car so she could just go check on what we were to do. It was nearly 45 minutes before she came back. I had all that time to think about what was going on and come up with all kinds of scenarios in my mind. I didn't know if I had an apartment to go back to or not. I didn't know if all my belongings were ruined from smoke, fire and/or water damage. I was a complete wreck of emotions sitting there by myself, not knowing.

The 2nd and 3rd floor fire damage from the outside of
our building. My place, untouched by the fire, only
had debris and water on the patio outside.
When mom came back to find me crying, she laughed in the panic of knowing that I was ony that way because she had been gone so long under these circumstances. It was a little funny that I was crying, though. I really had nothing to cry about that I knew of. It was just all emotions. Mom got me and my wheelchair together and we rolled over to the clubhouse. Since my apartment was on the bottom floor us the unit that started the fire, I was going to have to go to a hotel for at least that night. Since I was the resident on the lease, I had to go in and talk with the Red Cross volunteers and the apartment management about what was going to happen next and such. It was not a very fun evening.

I texted my boss to let him know what was happening and that I wouldn't be in the office in the morning. We called our family and let them know what was happening and to be praying. The firefighters were very nice and kept us all updated as best they could. After another long while, some of the residents were allowed back into their apartments as they had no damage, only the smell of smoke. Since I had unique circumstances and needed some special items from my place to stay in a hotel, the firefighters and our management escorted my mom to our apartment to grab the things that I needed. in order to leave. They weren't gone too long before mom came back empty handed.

Come to find out, absolutely NO damage was done to my place inside at all. No water damage. No smoke damage. No fire damage. The firefighter came back in complete disbelief at how my place was spared. The apartment manager came back completely awe struck at there being no damage. Mom came back thoroughly elated that there was no damage to my place and we were going to be allowed to sleep there if we didn't mind the smell of the smoke. It was all up to me whether I thought I could handle the smell or not. Mom and I moved back in right away and slept there that night (noise from the firefighters and all).

This was just another blessing from God that my place was spared from everything that could have happened! There was not a doubt about it and we made sure the apartment management and firefighters knew that God had protected us. We also thanked the firefighters for their efforts of saving the building completely. Without them having put the fire out, the building would have been lost. So, between the firefighters and the Lord, I had much to be grateful for.

Next...."Given the ALL Clear."

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Daniel’s Friends Disobey the King

Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Saved in Fiery Trial

Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Nebuchadnezzar Praises God

Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this." Daniel 3:1-29

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Losing Wisdom

Getting back to Colorado was about as bad as getting to California by airplane. "What do you mean? Flying is much easier than driving across country." You ask. Well, let me explain in detail for you.

Packing and unpacking is always the fun part of getting ready to and coming back from travel. What happens in between for you and me is a totally different experience as you will soon see. Upon arriving at the airport, I have to prepare to be pushed in my own wheelchair from the get go. Not by someone who works for the airport or the airline, but by my mom. We always get to the airport earlier than most people because of what you will read coming up.

Once we get everything out of the car, me into the wheelchair and gather up all of the tickets, boarding passes, id's, etc. mom has to push me to the check in line and then push the luggage to the check in line. Throughout the entire line, mom has to keep shuffling between the luggage moving and me moving in the chair. By the time we get to the front and are called up to use the electronic check in system, mom is exhausted from all the back-and-forth pushing and pulling of me and the luggage, and the airline personnel is less than excited to wait for us to begin our check in process. They usually huff a few times before we get our confirmation number out and begin typing on the kiosk.

After about 10 minutes checking in, they usually find out that they have to do a special handling since I am disabled and get my luggage checked without having to pay their lame fees. Then they get really happy again (ha ha) when they have to print tags for us. Are we having fun yet? It has has been anywhere from 20-35 minutes just to check in. And that is if the line isn't too long.

Next is the absolute best part of flying, getting through security. So we wrap through the line like everyone else, carry-on luggage and all. Our carry-on luggage includes: my back pack with Lap Top, iPad, Power cords, Portable Hard Drive, Cables and Accessories, mom's carry-on bag full of whatever didn't fit in my backpack and her things, 2 purses (mom's and mine), 2 cushions to pad my wheelchair seat, 2 sweaters or jackets, 2 books, acceptable snacks for mom and me and once we get through security at least one bottle of water if not 2. The best thing of all of this stuff is that mom gets to put all of it on the security screening table by herself because I'm usually waiting for a female TSA agent to  give me a full body pat down as I set off the metal detectors even if I get too close to it. The even more fun part for mom is that she is usually completely through the security screening process, repacked and has her shoes back on before they ever start patting me down. I always have to wait for what seems like an eternity to get mauled by the TSA. They are always so apologetic when they find out that I have cancer. They never know what to say at that point and want to get it over with as soon as they can.

So, another 20-30 minutes have gone by and now we are just out of the security area and on our way to the gate, via stopping for water or coffee first (depending on where we are flying from). Mom is still pushing me in my wheelchair while carrying her purse and carry-on bag and wearing my backpack full of heavy electronics. I try to put stuff in my lap so she doesn't have to carry it all, but she insists doing it any how (big point of conflict between us every time we fly). We may also stop to use the restroom so neither of us has to on the plane. If not, we make the stop before our connecting flight in the next airport.

We finally make it to the gate. We still are not done though. Since I have my own wheelchair for travel, we have to get special tags for it from the gate agent. We also have to make sure they know we need extra time to get on the plane so I am out of everyone's way when they all board. Once this is done, we are finally able to sit and wait to be called. All-in-all it is usually about an hour from the time we get out of the car to the time we sit and wait to board (usually another few minutes only).

We are boarded first so we can get to our seat and have all our stuff put away before everyone else boards. This way, we don't hold anyone up getting on the plane and us leaving the gate on time. The gate agent usually wheels me done the jetway to the plane, while mom follows with most of the carry-ons. I get out of the chair and make sure the leg-pegs have been removed from the chair and are in mom's bag before I start down the aisle to the seat. I am usually on my crutches by this time. Mom makes sure the chair gets folded up and is at the gate check door for them to take to the cargo area. Then she makes sure the flight attendant knows that we will need the chair again when we get off the plane, so they can make sure it gets delivered to the plane's door again. By the time mom and I get to the seat and she puts everything in the overhead bin, we are both tired and ready for a nap.

Once we take off, finding a comfortable position to sit in for the entire flight, is a challenge. I usually have to move around A LOT during the entire flight. There is no "Sit Back and Relax" on a plane for me because the seats don't recline enough for my disability. By the time we get to our connecting airport (usually Denver), I am in a ton of pain. We have to go through the entire deplaning bit, just opposite of getting on. We are almost always the last to deplane. Sometimes while I am getting in my wheelchair at the door of the plane, the flight crew already has their belongings and makes it to the gate before I do. Sometimes I just had to walk off the plane I hurt so bad.

Then, we race through the airport again to the gate because where we land and where our next light leaves from are on opposite end of the terminal. This is usually where mom is huffing and puffing to get us there and hurts herself in the process. Not a good thing! By the time we catch that last flight, we are even more tired and can hardly wait to get home so I can lay down from the pain and mom can lay down from exhaustion.  But, we still have to get the luggage and me to the car and drive home. Usually we put me and the carry-on luggage at the curbside while mom goes, gets the luggage and takes it to the car waiting for us in short-term handicap parking. Great day, huh?

So, after being home for a day or two from our Christmas vacation home, I have to go into the dentist to get my tooth fixed. After taking some x-rays of my mouth, it is decided that it is better to extract the tooth as it is wisdom tooth. So, not only did we decide to take that wisdom tooth out, we decided it was best to take them all out. We took care of the one causing the most problem and set up another time to come back and finish the job.

What a great New Year this would turn out to be. I was going to have a tooth removed. Yeah!!!!!!

Next, "Fire"works in January....

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." James 1:2-8

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Doctor a Day

Even though I returned to work on November 17, 2008 completely full-time, there were a lot of therapy appointments thrown in throughout each week. I began a couple weeks after returning to Colorado. At my workplace we had a Health and Wellness department with a small gym to work out in plus services from a massage therapist twice a week and a physical therapist three times a week. So, I started with physical therapy in the office 2-3 times weekly.

This therapy was completely different than any of the therapy I had been doing either at the hospital/rehab hospital or the home therapy in California. While those sessions entailed me doing the majority of the physical work, this therapy was all manipulation of muscles, nerves and/or scar tissue. While it was working on softening those areas, it really wasn't strengthening my muscles or toughening me up to walk more, better or stronger.

For several weeks, this was the treatment I was receiving. Don't get me wrong, it didn't hurt me to have this type of therapy; it just didn't help the way I thought it should. Simultaneously, I was seeing a chiropractor who was working with me several times a week to ensure my upper back and arms along with my neck were doing well and not straining. Being on the walker was more of a "leaning forward" walking motion which could add strains in other areas of the body. The physical therapist was a not fan of chiropractors and made it plain that she didn't agree it would help. She thought it was doing more harm than anything else. So, it was a catch-22 situation for me. I knew the chiropractor was doing great things for me, and I was torn.

Needless to say, I was having all kinds of appointments throughout the week, including massages, which kept me very busy and tired after a full day of work. Every once in awhile, my therapist would throw in something new like taking the stairs or learning how to get in and out of the driver's seat of my car. After all, mom was going to have to go home to California and I would need to get myself around to appointments and work and fun stuff with friends. I also had the dermatologist to see as I was still weaning off the steroids from my allergic reaction in September.

While I was working and going through appointments at work, mom was setting up my place and cleaning the old place so I could get the deposit back. She did such a great job cleaning and filling nail holes in the walls that I got my entire deposit back with a note that said they had never seen a place so clean once someone had vacated the premises. Go mom! Can we hire you out?

Mom did a wonderful job of decorating too. My new place was now more of a home than an apartment (and it still is to this day).

A few days before Christmas, mom and I flew home to California so we could be with the family for the holiday. It hadn't been too but a few weeks since we had moved me back, but it was good to see the family and spend the holiday with them. The only thing that went wrong was I broke a tooth. I had broken this tooth back in 2005 before I had gone to Thailand on a missions trip. I had a root canal and a temporary crown put on. The temporary crown wasn't meant to last more than a couple weeks until I had returned from my missions trip. But I had made it last a few years. Now I was going to have to take care of this on the fly when we got back to Colorado. Bummer.

Christmas was a lot of fun with the family though. We had everyone over to our house, including some neighbors who didn't have other family to visit for Christmas and a friend on mine and her husband. This has become a tradition for us to have this Christmas party at our house over the years now. Soon, it would all be over and we'd be back to Colorado soon. I love Christmas! Not just because it is a time t spend with family and friends, but because it allows us an opportunity to share our faith with those family and friends and celebrate our Lord.

We have a lot of fun at our house at Christmas. Mom out does herself every year.

After cleaning up and putting everything away, mom and I head back to Colorado.

Next..."Losing Wisdom."

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Are there family traditions you have for Christmas? How does your family celebrate our Lord?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Full-Time Position

Receiving my 5 year certificate of service.
After moving from one apartment to another apartment for three and a half days, going back to work was a little refreshing. Everyone was so happy to see me. It made me feel as though I really matter to these people I called co-workers and friends. While I had been out on medical leave, I surpassed the milestone of working for the non-profit ministry for five years. When you achieve that milestone, and every five years thereafter, you receive a certificate of achievement. The day I got back to the office, I was presented my certificate and a card from my department of congratulations. I was nice to be recognized for the time I had put into the ministry.

One other person in my department was being celebrated for having achieved a milestone in their service with the ministry as well. We both received our certificates and we celebrated with a cake for breakfast that morning during our normal morning devotional.

There was not much work that happened that first day back with all of the well-wishers that trickled through the department that day. But, the rest of the week felt as though life was back to normal. I walked with my walker all over the ministry for meetings and lunch and snacks, still meeting with people that were happy to see me back on the office and doing well.

Mom would drive me to work and drop me off at the front door to our building in the morning. She would come back at the end of the day to pick me up and take me home or to any appointments I may have. It was nice to be back in the swing of things as it had been before, just with a different walk now. All my days were worked as full-time days. I never went back as part-time. Praise the Lord!

Next..."A Doctor a Day."

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 107:1

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Move Across Town

So, mom and I had a wonderful meal at Harry's Roadhouse. I just ordered French Toast, while mom ordered the Blue Corn Waffle with bacon. We were so excited to be eating there. When our breakfast arrived, mom told the server that we still needed her side of bacon. She got a very funny look from the server as she walked back into the kitchen to grab a side of bacon for her. After digging into her waffle, mom found out that the bacon was cooked inside. No wonder she was getting funny looks from our server. Of course, now fully embarrassed, mom and I both ate the extra side of bacon!

We completely enjoyed our time at Harry's and knew that we would be back any time we traveled through Santa Fe again. For now, we were headed back to Colorado Springs. As we set forth on our last leg of the journey home, we called the family to let them know we were on the road again (hearing a little Willie Nelson in the background).

As we drove through the hills between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM, mom and I got the surprise of our lives (again)! The snow had fallen overnight so the roads were wet with some patches of snow here and there. We had to use the windshield wipers once again to clear the spray and splatters from other vehicles. As the day before, all-of-a-sudden the wiper on my side of the car started flailing about with each swipe of the blades. NOT AGAIN!!! We thought we left the ordeal with the Indians behind us. But, no. They struck again.

Mom and I didn't have a safe place to pull off the road, so we waited until we had an exit. The first place to pull off was not until Las Vegas. We found our way to the nearest gas station and pulled in. Mom got out and did her best to get that wiper secured. We were definitely going to have someone look at these wipers as soon as we got to Colorado Springs! I wasn't going to continue driving this way without being sure they were affixed properly.

After getting back on the road, my grandparents called. My grandfather had gotten a great deal for me to move to a ground level apartment. There was going to be a lot of fast working to get me packed up and moved right away. I started making phone calls while my mom was driving. I started with calling all my friends to see if they could help me move over the weekend. I then called the new apartment complex to find out what we needed to do for my moving in and signing the papers. We were going to call them again when we got to town and arrange to meet that afternoon. I called my work to see if they could get a bunch of boxes for us to start packing. I called utilities, cable and phone companies to start the process of changing addresses right away. I couldn't believe how everything was coming together so fast and easy! This was for sure the hand of the Lord at work for me. I had been pretty nervous about moving back to a third floor apartment, but God was working this out in first class style.

By the time mom and I reached the Colorado border, I had everything lined up to begin moving Saturday morning. I had people from work, church and elsewhere that were all going to meet us at 9am and get me moved. I also had friends stacking boxes at a co-workers desk so he could bring them to my place on his way home. Still, I was completely amazed at how God was working this all out.

It was just passed lunch time as crossed into Colorado. A few more hours and we would be back home putting the finishing touches on getting me packed and moved out so I wouldn't have to deal with stairs (they were the least practiced in therapy). Mom and I didn't stop for lunch so we would be sure to get to the new apartment and sign all of the papers to be able to get the keys and start moving a few things on our own Friday. That gave us tonight and all day tomorrow to pack as much as we could and get the big things moved on Saturday while I had all the muscles employed for the day.

We got to the new apartment office just before 4pm. We signed all of the papers and got the keys in record time. By 4:30 we were opening my new apartment and looking at the space we had to work with. This place was twice the size of where I was now, and was not much more in rent. What a blessing this entire move was turning out to be. Plus, it was within two miles of work. As we entered my new apartment, one of the maintenance men were there installing a brand new washer and dryer. Another blessing! No more dragging a laundry basket to the local laundromat or friends house. I would be able to do laundry anytime without bugging anyone else.

Mom and I left my new place and headed to get something to eat. We grabbed some fast food and made t back to the old apartment. We had a load of boxes waiting for us at the front door and a few more inside. Mom got the car unloaded of things that we needed for the night, we ate dinner and began throwing whatever we could into boxes from my entertainment center and bookshelves. We made such a mess, but we didn't have long to get as much done as we could.

Friday came and we had made only a dent in the one-bedroom place. But, we were trying our best to get it all accomplished. We had to take a break though to go find a moving truck big enough to handle all my furniture. We headed for U-Haul and tried to get a mid-sized reserved for the next day, but it was a small one or a large one, no in-between. So we took our chances on the big one. We'd go first thing Saturday morning and pick it up. Back to the old place we went putting most things in boxes and some thing just in the car.

Mom took a run or two to the new place with clothing and stuff that didn't need to go in boxes, while I stayed and tried to put small things from the bedroom bookshelves in boxes. I found all kinds of things. When mom returned, I dressed up in some of the things I found to break up the seriousness of getting this all put together. So, here I am sitting in my wheelchair in my old bedroom with red reindeer antlers on my head. We had a good laugh and moved right back into packing up.

Saturday came and we left to go get the U-Haul truck. It took much longer than we thought it would take and a few people were already at the old place waiting for us. (I'm not allowed to tell you about the drive back to the apartment, but let's just say there was an entire street corner involved with the big truck.)  We made it back to the apartment and started putting people to work with getting the major furniture loaded. A couple of the ladies had already started packing up the kitchen, so we let them continue with that. Mom started helping the guys order the major furniture to best utilize space while I sat and helped anyone decide what to do next.

By 11:30 we had most of the apartment packed and loaded into the truck. The guys were waiting for a few last minute boxes from the kitchen and bedroom before closing up and heading to the new place. We got that all buttoned up and everyone had directions to the new place. One guy offered to drive the truck and mom GLADLY gave up that job. Only problem was that someone who had already left had the keys to the truck with them, so we were stuck. After calling the guy that had the keys and him racing back with them, mom and I had the guy follow us with the truck.

We finally got to the new place and got everyone started with bringing in boxes and furniture. It was super quick and they had everything in its place. Mom and I had sandwiches, chips and soda ready at the new apartment to feed everyone and as soon as they had finished unloading everything we all sat around and ate together. The job was done with a few minor things mom and I could handle later. I still had two weeks left in the old place to get it emptied out and cleaned up before the final inspection. The only thing left to do at the new place was to get everything unpacked and decorated as this was now my home for awhile.

Mom and I had our fill of moving by the time everyone left. But we still had a few things to do at the old place before night-fall, and we wanted to make sure we slept at my new place that night. So we went back to the old place and gathered another car full of things and called it a day. We started getting some things together to take showers and changes of clothes, got some dinner and settled in for the night. Tomorrow was another day before I started back to work on Monday.

Sunday was a little more of the same. Unpacking boxes and putting things away in the kitchen, bathrooms and bedroom. The living room and front bedroom could wait a little while longer. We did what we could and rested a little to prepare for the week ahead. After all, it was going to be my first full day of work since August. Bring it on!

Next..."A Full-Time Position."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Heading Back to Colorado Part 3

Me with all the Guy Fieri and Triple D stuff
at Brandy's Restaurant in Flagstaff.
Mom and I got up and ready to go. Mom re-packed the car with our night bags and we checked out of the hotel. We headed to Brandy's for breakfast and had a great meal. They have a wonderful Chai Latte, that I wish I had here in Colorado all the time. Brandy's was hard for us to find the first time we came through. But, once we found it we were hooked. Brandy's is one of the places we saw on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri (DDD or Triple D) years ago. Mom and I like to try places he has been if we pass through a town and we can remember we wanted to try a place there. We always tell them we are there because we saw it on Triple D. Brandy's was no exception.

After breakfast, mom and I stopped at Starbucks on the way back to I-40. We always fill up with coffee and use the restroom before hitting the road after our meal. We managed to get all the coffee we wanted and also a couple more snacks for the road. As we left Starbucks for the interstate, we stopped to fill up the car again, and we were then back on the road. This time we didn't do any site seeing as we had hit all of those places on the way to California. We just kept running down the road (hearing a little Eagles song in my head, "Well, I'm running down the road Tryin' to loosen my load...Take it easy, Take it easy...").

We passed through all of the towns in Arizona and crossed into New Mexico before stopping again. We stopped in Gallup to fill up the car and also use the restroom again. We also stopped at the Walmart in town because we were in desperate need of windshield wipers. Since it was November, there was rain and some small flurries of snow along the road, windshield wipers were a much needed item now that we were in a place where winter prevailed. We found the right wiper blades for my car and were outside trying to put them on, when we were approached by an American Indian who was willing to help. While mom was working with him on her side of the car, I was on my side trying to remove the wiper. Another American Indian came up and asked to help too. So, with the weird angle I was trying to work at, I gladly let him help.

After 15 minutes of these Indians trying to get them changed out, they finally had success (or so we thought). Mom got me in the car and one of the Indians asked me for money for helping us. And here I thought they were just trying to be nice to these ladies when they really had an agenda to get money from us. Little did I know that mom had already given the other Indian money and he had taken off. Mom and I tried to explain that we gave his friend money for helping, but he said they were not friends. So what kind of scam was this that they were playing? Mom wouldn't give up and give him more money (and rightfully so) but this guy was not taking no for an answer. I had already locked my door and the back passenger door as mom was going around to the other side to get in. This guy started trying to open my door to talk to me (or was that what he was really doing), but I wouldn't let him in. I rolled the window down very little and told him he had to go, we didn't have any more money to give. He wasn't very happy with us and was getting agitated. His speech was not easy to understand ad he was beginning to get belligerent. Good gracious, we did what we could at the time and we didn't ask for his help, he and the other guy had offered. We were getting scared by this point and drove as quickly to the interstate as we could getting out of this town. It took a while of being on the road before we felt calmed down.

A couple of hours after our encounter with the Indians (and settled nerves), the rain got a little heavier several miles outside Albuquerque and mom turned the windshield wipers up to a more frequent cadence. Everything seemed to be fine for a while when all-of-a-sudden the wiper on mom's side of the car came unhinged and started flailing around the windshield with each swipe of the arm. It scared us both so bad we were paralyzed in our seats (and for the driver to be paralyzed while on a highway in the rain, that is not a good or safe thing). When we gained our composure and our hearts stopped pounding so hard, we got a good laugh out of the whole thing. We pulled off the road in Albuquerque and mom attempted to fix the wiper. All I could do at this point was shake my head in disbelief at what had just happened and offer a few snickers here and there while rolling my eyes, too. Mom got back in car rolling her eyes and shaking her head in disbelief as well and we set off for the 45 minute drive to Santa Fe.

We have now vowed to never accept help from anyone in Gallup again, especially Indians!

We arrived in Santa Fe that evening still having no idea how to navigate around town and its outskirts. After checking into our hotel, we tried to find a place for dinner I wanted to try called Blue Corn Cafe. My Sprint phone had a navigation system which I was using to locate this place. It took us back across the Interstate and away from civilization. It was just short of being dark and we found ourselves wondering if we were ever going to find this place. We come close to an area that was a little more well lit. The closer we got, we started to see signs not to pick up hitchhikers and to keep your doors locked. Where in the world were we? Finally, when we found a place we could turn around, we realized we were at the state correctional facility. I really didn't think that mom or I were interested in eating at the cafeteria of this state run facility, even if the food were good. It was just not a place we thought we would like to spend ANY time.

Sprint navigation page.
Mom was completely beside herself and could not turn the car around fast enough heading back the way we came. By the time we got back to the other side of the Interstate, mom was just ready to stop at any place we knew the food was going to be okay. Neither one of us was willing to find the Blue Corn Cafe at this point using my phones navigation.

We stopped at Outback Steakhouse and calmed our nerves at the first table we could get. Mom told me she refused to allow me to use the navigation feature on my phone ever again. I didn't have any problem agreeing with her on this one!

By the time dinner was finished, we were laughing about being at the state correctional facility and knew we couldn't tell anyone about this, especially not my dad. We headed back to the hotel to settle in for the evening. At the traffic light just before our hotel, I looked to the right just seeing what was around. I started laughing hysterically and pointing in the direction of a couple of buildings and a small strip mall. Mom was trying to figure out what was so funny. Then she saw it. The Blue Corn Cafe in the parking lot behind out hotel! That stupid navigation!!!

We got to our room at the hotel and were ready to crash for the night after all we had been through that day. We called the family to let them know we were settled in and would call when we left the next morning. Mom took a shower and then we sacked out for the rest of the night.

Me waiting for breakfast at Harry's Roadhouse.
What an ordeal. This day was way too crazy. New Mexico was turing out to be a dangerous place for us just to drive through!

Mom and I got ourselves together, packed the car and found a place to eat breakfast. We really love to watch the Food Network show Triple D. Guy Fieri had reviewed several places in Santa Fe  but we wanted to head to the one we saw some great food from called Harry's Roadhouse (mom was really eager to try their Blue Corn Waffle with Bacon).

Next..."A Move Across Town."

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heading Back to Colorado Part 2

After breakfast and repacking the car, mom and I headed for the nearest Starbucks we could find. We had to have coffee for the car ride, it was imperative for both of us. The day was already beginning to warm up, even though it was November, so I opted for an iced coffee. After delaying our departure from town by 45 minutes, we were back on the road and headed through town and toward Boulder City.

We made our way down Tropicana Ave. past the airport and UNLV through the housing district. We were as far from I-15 as I had ever been in Vegas. Most of my trips had been down Las Vegas Blvd with all of the major hotel chains called, "The Strip." I had driven through several times coming and going to Colorado before. I had even been to town for two weddings (my grandparents being one). We travelled down the road to I-515 and headed toward Henderson and Boulder City.

I-515 ended at the south end of Henderson and dumped on state hwy 93 to Boulder City. We passed through Boulder City and past the turn off for Lake Mead. We were heading to The Hoover Dam. Neither mom not I had ever been to the dam and we were both excited to check it out. We found a turn off with a great view of Lake Mead and stopped for a quick picture. Then we headed to the entrance for the dam. The rangers were checking each vehicle for explosives to protect the dam. Mom and I got really worried that they were going to make us unpack the entire car to check it.

The ranger came to the door and asked a few questions looking in the back the entire time. We knew he was wondering how he was going to check for explosives in this vehicle where you could hardly see any open space. The whole time I was praying he would take us a no threat and let us go through without having to unpack the entire car. It would take mom another several hours to put it back together if he did. I really think that having mom (a blond) driving, he felt we were of little to no risk and graciously let us through after learning we were coming back from my cancer surgery. We told him we were taking life by the horns and doing things we never would have done before, like seeing part of our country's national parks.

We slowly drove through following all the other visitors to the parking structure built for the slew of visitors passing through each year. Mom and I grabbed our purses and cameras and headed out to see this engineering wonder. We did a few things such as the observation deck and walking across the dam and back. We took pictures at prime spots like everyone else and acted like true tourists. Once we had done our due, mom and I headed for the car and continued driving eastbound across the dam. Half way across, you enter into Arizona. So we continued our trek toward Colorado.

Mom and I had a few snacks in the car with us, so we kept moving toward Flagstaff for our next night's sleep. We got to Kingman and filled the car up. We took another little detour through Williams to see the fun little gateway to the Grand Canyon and made our way to our favorite hotel in Flagstaff. We got ourselves checked in and headed into town to find a place for dinner as it was dark now.

Dinner was less than memorable, but that was okay. We just wanted to get in bed, get some good sleep and head to our favorite breakfast spot in the morning, Brandy's. Getting out of Flagstaff was always a chore for us because Brandy's was off the beaten path and we back tracked to the Starbucks down the road from our hotel before filling the car with fuel and getting back on the road. Tomorrow was another day and we were having a good time together already.

Next...Heading Back to Colorado Part 3."

Sometimes a song can put things into perspective when dealing with the issues of life. Live Like You Were Dyin' is one of those songs for me. You can view all the lyrics online, but here are the few that really speak to me:

”I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds
on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'”
And he said,
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'

Like tomorrow was a gift
And ya got eternity
to think about what to do with it
What did you do with it?
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

This doesn't mean I think that you should go out and do things you would never do (as in sin), but it means to think about what is most important in life and don't take it for granted. Make the most of each day you have. Tell the people in your life you love them. Take that vacation you have always wanted to take but were waiting for the "right time" to take it. And, get closer to the God who made you, gave you life and knows you better than you know yourself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"If It Weren't For..."

I digress again as this is heavy on my heart:

Tonight, I am torn internally. While I write about my journey four years ago, I was at a place of faith where I knew that God was right there with me and that He was guiding everything which was going on. It was easy that time to put my trust in Him fully and not lose site of my faith in the process. I felt His presence with me from day one.

I walk a much different life now.

Things for me are so much different four years later. Without giving a lot away from the journey, my struggles are now daily and extremely intense. The struggles I face feel more real than before and sometimes life seems futile. And I have to say that this time God doesn't make a lot of sense to me, which is why I am now reading When God Doesn't Make Sense by Dr. James Dobson. I find that I can identify with what he talks about through the first part of my journey. We don't know why God chooses to heal some and not others. We can't box Him in and say it has to be a certain way or we don't believe either. At least I can't. But it does't change the fact that I don't understand why now is so drastically different for me than before; why my struggles are so intense and seem to test my faith and trust in Him even deeper. I now have asked, "Why me?"

Scripture says:

"Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." 1 Chronicles 16:11

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have found myself explaining to people how I feel most recently saying, "If it weren't for the pain, I would be doing good (or great)." Dr. Dobson talks about this in chapter 3 "God Makes Sense Even When He Doesn't Make Sense."He relays the story of Martha and Mary calling on Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus and their lack of questioning Him when he didn't come until after Lazarus was in the tomb for several days. They didn't ask Him "Why?" He didn't come when they called for Him. Mary said, "...if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died..."

I can see a lot of Mary in me as I walk this new path. I don't see Martha hurrying about to "do" things, I see myself as Mary was, at the feet of Jesus. I tell Him, "If only You would take the pain..." I don't have to know "why" this is happening to me on this side heaven, I just wish "If it weren't for the pain, I would be doing good."

Thanks for taking this trip with me today. We'll get back to the journey tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Heading Back to Colorado Part 1

Mom and I were on our way out of town now. We headed toward Las Vegas and the MGM Grand for the evening. We had missed lunch, so we pulled of the 215 freeway at Foothill Blvd which is also part of the original route 66. We stopped at the In-n-Out Burger we found and each got a burger and shared french fries. We wanted to make sure that we were able to have dinner when we got to Vegas. We were only going to be there for a short time and had to decide where we were going to eat so we could have a plan in place and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Too bad we weren't going to be there for 2 nights, maybe we could have seen a show. I've never been there to see one of there shows. How fun would that have been?

Mom and I finished eating our burgers and got back on the road fairly quickly. We made it over the Cajon Pass and through the Apple Valley before making it to Barstow. Barstow was the city where you either turned off and headed toward Arizona or kept going toward Las Vegas. Usually we stopped for fuel and a coffee in Barstow no matter if we were coming into California or leaving, and today was no different. Barstow was always extremely windy and hot, which make mom cranky because the wind is so bad there. It is the high desert and wind does happen!

We got back on the I-15 and headed past the turnoff for Arizona. We came to a little truckers town off the interstate called Baker. Baker is known for its larger-than-life digital thermometer  seen from the interstate. Near the thermometer is a Bob's Big Boy restaurant. My family went to Bob's for many years as I was growing up. It was a place mom and I went for lunch after church or for an early dinner quite frequently while dad was working. The locations near where I grew up had all closed years before I left California. And, even though I didn't want to ruin my dinner in las Vegas, I got a burger and shared it with mom. It was so good! Just like I had remembered, only smaller. Or, was it that I was bigger? Who knows. I was good either way.

Across the street from Bob's and the thermometer is a Greek food place. If you have watched Triple D (Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives) with Guy Fieri on the Food Network, you may have seen this place featured on one of those episodes. There were a lot of crazy white Greek statues and the blue color from their national flag all over the place. But, we'll talk about that more another time. For now, just know that we got back on the interstate and headed toward Vegas again. We were only a couple of hours away at this point and it was late afternoon.

Not long after mom and I cross the state line into Nevada, we stopped at the Outlets looking for one specific item mom had missed before leaving California. We looked for a couple of stores and couldn't find any other place that we wanted to go into to. But we did find the item that mom was looking for. I was in my transport chair instead of using the walker. We didn't know how much walking I was going to be doing, so it was a good idea to just use the chair. After walking the entire outer part of the Outlets, we decided to keep moving on to Vegas.

We finally made it to our hotel and got ourselves parked in the structure behind the hotel. We got everything we were going to need for the night out of the car and either loaded on top of my transport chair, or mom was carrying it while I followed closely using my walker. We found the check-in counter and mom got us registered. By the time we got to our room, mom and I were really ready for bed and not a night out for dinner. But, we got ourselves ready and found our way to the various hotel restaurants to see what looked the best. We were so tired, neither of us could really decide what we wanted or where to go. We ended up going to one of the restaurants run by the hotel itself called MGM Grand Buffet. Nothing spectacular, we just ordered off the main menu since it was a little later than we had planned to be there. It got us fed and back to the room for the night.

Laying down in the bed that night never felt so good. I slid into the sheets and fell to sleep. Mom and I got up the next morning and slowly made our way to the same restaurant for breakfast. We did our due, went back to the room and packed everything up. We headed back out with me guiding our way through the city to our next destination.

Next..."Heading Back to Colorado Part 2."

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
Psalm 139:7-10

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Making Plans

Sarah (left)
The moment I began to let my few friends know that I was going to be coming back to Colorado shortly, the more real it became. Since June, God had been with me and my family through what most people would have felt their entire life crushed by, cancer. With the exception of our family vacation and my brief return to work before surgery, our world had been consumed by doctor appointments, therapy sessions, insurance calls and hospitals. The peace that I personally felt as such a part of my everyday life could have only come from the Lord being right there with me. That peace was nothing I could concoct on my own.

The friends I called and texted were Sarah, Laurie and Vicki. Vicki had been in contact with my mom throughout the surgery and stint in the hospitals. Mom had been emailing updates on my condition and prayer requests for specific situations to Vicki directly. Vicki was my contact point for anyone else at work to know how I was doing. She sent out great emails to a mass group I had created of people who had requested to be notified so they could be praying. Vicki was great at getting these out for people to know what was going on. Laurie was another co-worker of mine and sat right next to Vicki. We were like the Three Musketeers at work. Where one was, the others were sure to be near. And then there is Sarah. Sarah and I have know each other for several years from going to church together. She was and still is such a great friend. I have watched her children grow up.

All three of the girls were excited I would be coming back. I asked they keep it between the three of them for now until I knew the exact date I would be back. I was so happy of the possibility of going home soon, but to leave my dad and grandparents was going to be tough. They had been such a support system over the past months, and I was going to miss them all.

So, the weekend came and went like a blur. Monday started with physical therapy again with Dr. Christian. We talked about the perspective time frame for leaving for Colorado and he stepped up our session. He was ramping up to send me on my way. So again my session was a complete "drench-fest" with my cool down in the pool. Later that morning, mom and I went to see Dr. Faraday and talked with him about leaving soon. He was on board with  me finishing out my three appointments (counting today) and setting me free to go back. It was exciting that it was all coming together.

So mom, dad and I talked about it and felt that the following week would be best for mom and I to begin our trek to arrive in time for me to be back to work by the 17th. We had our departure date set. Now we had a lot of work to make it happen. We had many details to discuss when we got back as I lived in a third floor apartment and wasn't going to be able to stay there very long, I was going to have to find a new place once we got back. Many other details were going to have to be tackled one-by-one as we could get to them; doctors, therapy, etc. We talked with my grandparents and let them know what we had decided and when we were leaving. Everyone was happy that I was well enough to head back, but sad as that meant that we were not going to be a 15 minute drive away any longer.

Mom found an absolutely fabulous deal on a hotel in Vegas (MGM), so we booked our first night there so we could break our trip back up into small chunks as not to make it too hard on me. Even though Vegas was not on the southern route home, we had a route in mind that would still get us back on the southern route after leaving Vegas. I wasn't fond of traveling through Utah, so we tried to make our trip go through Arizona and New Mexico is possible. I had a good sense of navigating us throughout the mountains and the desert, so mom trusted my plan for the trip home.

The consignment chair for recovery.
Mom and I met with our grandparents for one last "happy hour" dinner at The Claim Jumper the night before we were set to leave. We had fun and laughed and joked. We talked my grandfather into taking a look at apartments for rent that might be on the first floor as we drove back. That gave him something to research, and he LOVES to research stuff on the computer, this was a great fit for him. Grandma was going to follow our progress on the map. She loved to figure out where we were and where we might be by a certain time of day, so that had her occupied for a few days. Dad was the only one that didn't have a job to do while we were gone. He was perfectly content with watching Fox News, working in the yards (front and back) and listening to Leo LaPorte the Tech Guy on the radio.

Now that everyone had their stuff to do, mom and I got ready with all our stuff to leave the next day. In the morning mom began to prepare the car with all of our belongings and the new chair that we had bought for me to sit in at the house. I was going to need this new chair at my place too, because there was nowhere for me to sit when we got back to Colorado. Dad helped mom get the chair in the car and she continued to work on getting the car packed just right. Mom had a knack for packing the car so that we could to the things we needed during the trip in the daytime, we could get the stuff we needed for the hotel stay from the back in the evening, an then repack it again each morning. There were so many things to take back with us that the chair caused a lot of packing issues, so it took a lot longer for her to pack it than we had thought it would take. Our time frame for leaving we way off by now and we were not going to get to Vegas before dark. So, we had to adjust our plans slightly in getting out of town.

My grandparents came to the the house to say goodbye one last time. Mom was a little frazzled since it was taking so long to pack the car. She did her best to keep her emotions at bay, but it was just too much for her. She and I finally got ourselves in the car and we were off, 2-3 hours later than planned. But, God knew we needed that extra time for some reason. As we drove away, mom was drying her eyes. We prayed for safety and a good time together on our trip just before hitting the freeway. We knew that without the Lord guiding us, anything could happen. We were off now on November 10th.

Next, "Heading Back to Colorado Part 1."

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Do you and/or your family pray for the Lord to protect you on long trips? Do you had any stories of how He protected you from harm while on a trip?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting Better All the Time

Having the PICC line removed was such a wonderful feeling. There would be no more end caps swinging and smacking my arm as I rolled around the house or down the halls of the hospital to meet with Dr. Femino. There would be no more continuous tucking of the IV line and end caps under the mesh sleeve which was used to cover them from other peoples view and to aid in keeping them clean. There would be no more sudden pulling or catching of the lines and end caps while I lay in bed watching television or tried to roll on my side will I slept. There would be no more trouble with those things, and I couldn't have been happier. (PICC stands for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, which basically means that a small, flexible tube is inserted through my vein in the arm around the bicep until it reaches a larger vein near the heart for medications to be administered for longer terms. A PICC line allows a patient to not have multiple IV's run through their hands or wrists as those veins can get tired and wear out easier. PICC's allow for longer term care.)

Dr. Richard Faraday
It had been four days since Sarah had taken out the PICC line and I was getting ready to have my appointments with both Dr. Zand and Dr. Faraday. Dr. Faraday is a part of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, which was one of the rehab facilities my parents had visited as a potential place for me to get my in-patient therapy. My dad had not been part of these appointments we had been having with the doctors, and so he decided to stay home so he wouldn't ask a lot of questions to try to get caught up with my treatments.

Mom and I met with Dr. Faraday first at his private practice office off site from St. Jo's. During my time with the daptomycin antibiotic and the prednisone steroid, I had been checking my blood sugars and documenting them for Dr. Faraday. If there were elevations in any of the days, he would be concerned if it were dietary or if it were the steroids causing the lift in the numbers. I could explain my dietary intake over the week if he needed.

However, Dr. Faraday was pleased with the numbers of my blood sugars and decided it was no longer necessary to monitor them. He searched the rashes mostly found on my legs at this time. He could see that the steroids were taking affect and doing exactly what he wanted them to do, reverse the affects of the allergy and put me back to health again. He was very happy with the progress and gave me a game plan for weening me off the steroids by the end of the year. He also lowered the dosage of the steroid  from 30mg to 20mg. He felt good about where we were heading. He wanted to schedule a few more appointments over the next two weeks, but he was fairly confident that I would be able to return to Colorado and my job soon if I could find dermatologist to manage my care until the end of the steroid course. Mom and I were more than pleased to hear this news as it meant I was getting better, and vowed we would find someone before we got back to Colorado to continue my treatment.

Dr. Alex Zand
We scheduled our next few appointments with Dr. Faraday's office assistant and left for Dr. Zand's office just around the block. Parking was a complete nightmare. His office is in the building adjacent to the Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and shares their parking structure. After several times around the block, mom finally let me out at the front door of the building and I went up to his office.

There were at least 10 other patients and their family or friends in the waiting room when I arrived. I went to the front desk to check-in and signed the check-in form as instructed by the sign sitting on the counter in a plastic stand. Mom finally came in about 10 minutes later. I was still sitting there waiting to be called. After several people had been called back, including people that had arrived after me, mom went to the front desk to inquire about how long it would be before I was to be seen. She was asked a bunch of questions by the lady behind the desk, and finally was told I needed to complete ALL their paperwork. "WHAT? You had got to be kidding me? Why couldn't they tell me that before instead of me sitting here for 20 minutes? I could have been done with it by now." In my opinion, this was an annoying staff and poorly run office. I was not happy about their lack of service, but Dr. Zand was such a nice man, I decided it wasn't worth getting upset and overlooked their lack.

I had a slew of papers to fill out and mom helping me with getting insurance cards out, reading numbers for me and then putting them all back; I was getting through this load of papers they had given me. When I finished, mom was kind enough to take them back up to the front for me. I think she was more worried that I would say something inappropriate to one of the staff and was trying to run interference, not only for me but for them too. So far, I had been in this doctors office for 45 minutes and hadn't even been to the patient rooms yet.

Finally after close to an hour, it was my turn. My name was called and I was taken to fairly large room in the back. All my vitals were taken as is the case with most doctors office visits for me these days. The intern who was brought in to my room to take vitals was very nice and pleasant to speak with. The nurse he was assisting was less friendly and was not a pleasure to be around. Several minutes went by and Dr. Zand finally came into the room. He talked with mom and I for several minutes before taking a look at the rashes on my legs, which were the only remaining part to show for my allergic reaction. It wasn't long sitting there talking and being examined that Dr. Zand decided that he was satisfied with the treatment I was receiving from Dr. Faraday and he recommended I complete my treatments as instructed. Dr. Zand said his goodbye giving me a letter stating I was released to go back to work.

Cool! I was released by Dr. Zand. I would finish my next three appointments with Dr. Faraday and maybe be able to go back home to Colorado.

My workplace, Focus on the Family (2008)
Work had been nice and understanding about my being out on medical leave. The certified nurse in the health office at work who had been my contact for my time off was beginning to send emails and call the house and cell phones notifying me that time was running out on my medical leave allotted and I would need to have a plan in place to return or resign my position. So, this was a breath of fresh air for me to know that I was nearing the end of my treatments and would possibly be returning to work within the time frame for me to not have to make the decision to resign my position. Pretty much a load off my shoulders and a blessing from heaven for sure.

Mom and I called dad when we were back on the road and let him know we had been detained because of the doctors office staff, but we were heading back home now. It was well after lunch by the time mom and I got back to the house that we just had a couple of snacks as not to ruin our upcoming family dinner. While mom prepared dinner, I sat and talked with dad about what each of the doctors had to say and asked his opinion of when mom and I should start heading back to Colorado comfortably if Dr. Faraday released me as well. Based on my conversations with the nurse at work, I had to return to work by November 17th in order to keep my job. That was also my dads birthday and I was torn with staying longer to celebrate with him or to head back and keep my job. Today was October 30, 2008, and I had just 18 days until my work had to begin again, or else.

In talking things through with him, dad made it clear he wanted us to go back to Colorado and for me to keep my job. So that was what we were going to do. At my next appointment with Dr. Faraday in a few days, I would let him know about the decision I had to make and see if he was going to release me from his care in time to return for work or if I would be staying much longer than I had anticipated or even hoped. After finishing my talk with dad just as his favorite news talk shows were about to begin, I felt a wave of peace flow from my head down to my toes and I knew, without a doubt, everything was going to work out just fine.

With the minor set-backs we had experienced with the infection and the allergic reaction to Vancomycin, blessings were beginning to replace disappointments one-by-one every few days. It was incredibly refreshing to know that after everything my family and I had experienced and what we had endured for these past two months, God was now turning around for the good. His timing is nothing we can predict. But we still need to have the faith to know He is there for us and will take care of us, even if no one else is.

While dad and I were finishing talking, mom was cooking dinner and my grandparents stopped by the house. My grandparents would usually stop by my parents as they were on their way home from Costco shopping or medical appointments at City of Hope. My grandfather would always come in say hello to dad and I after they first arrived, then go back to into the kitchen and talk with mom while she cooked. Grandma usually just stayed in the kitchen with mom until they were close to going home, then she would come into the doorway of the den, say hello/goodbye and maybe give me a hug before heading back to the kitchen to leave. This was the routine they were known for because dad was always watching Fox News during the dinner hours and didn't want to talk, so they took the hint and left him alone. Mom was always really good about filling my grandparents in on the conversations with the doctors since they couldn't talk with me in the den while my dad was watching Fox. That was okay, because he was the most informed in the family about what was going on in the world and the world of politics.

I was going to have another physical therapy session in the morning, so I would be talking with Dr. Christian about the potential plans to leave and see what he thought about our proposed schedule. If all the doctors were on board, I would be back to work on Monday, November 17th. I could hardly wait to let me friends know once I knew for sure. But, I started texting them and calling anyhow, as I could hardly contain myself.

Next..."Making Plans."

"The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace."
Psalm 29:11

Has there been a time when you felt the peace of God come over you during trouble and you knew the Lord was going to work everything out? Share that moment with us here.