Saturday, May 17, 2014

My New Life

I see that I wrote my last blog post on February 9.  An eternity ago.  Nine days later at 6:12 or so in the evening, I became a widow.  I don't think anyone expected him to die so soon, especially since just the day before, he had a lovely visit with his mom and older sister.  But when my daughter and I arrived on that Tuesday, it was clear that he wouldn't live more than a few hours.  We filled his small hospital room with people - my two daughters, my son-in-law, my parents, two of our pastors, and other close friends.  We sang Christian songs and hymns, listened to songs from Phil's mp3 player (we discovered music we never knew he liked!) as well as from YouTube; we read Scripture; we prayed; we laughed and cried.  It was such a holy experience, unlike anything I'd ever been a part of. 

On March 1, we held Phil's memorial service, which Sarah and I planned.  The service was entirely centered on the Lord that Phil loved and served with all his heart.  Three family members shared their own tributes, and when we opened the floor for others to share their memories, what was said was moving.  We included a lot of music, or at least more than what is usually done, including singing How Great Thou Art and It Is Well With My Soul.  We had three specials:  Blessed Be the Name, I Will Rise, and Who Am I? You can find recordings of all these on YouTube.  After the service, we invited all the family members back to the house for a light repast.

Because it was winter - and what a winter it was with so much snow and cold - the funeral home held Phil's body until May 2, when we finally had the burial, which was just for family.  I chose to bury Phil in a cemetery close to our home; we were able to buy a plot in a new section.  It is near a tree which will provide lovely shade once it is grown.  I still have to design a monument.  That was a new term to me, and I think they use it because they can charge more than if it were just an old-fashioned headstone. 

It will take time for me to settle into my new life, to find out what God wants me to do.  Sarah and I have been working on organizing the house, starting with the file cabinet, which was Phil's domain.  We quickly discovered why it was completely stuffed:  he kept papers that he should have shredded long ago.  We laughed many times when we realized just how old and worthless some of them were.  We even found a receipt from an investment Phil made before he and I were married 30 years ago!  Too bad the investment failed, or I might have kept the receipt.

One of our church families has made me an honorary member of the family, which has been wonderful.  I was already friends with mom and dad (dad is one of our pastors), as well as one of the daughters and her husband (he is our music administrator), and acquaintances with two of the other daughters.  I was offered the opportunity to help lead music on Wednesday evenings, which I accepted.  Often it's just Nathan (music administrator) and me up in front, but sometimes one of our other men joins us.  It has been challenging for me because I usually sing melody, but now I'm doing harmony, which I sometimes must come up with myself.  And about ten days ago I was asked to make some cards for sending to widows, which I accepted.  (Will I receive one of my own cards at some point?)

I still have things to do around the house, which will keep me busy for quite a while.  So many new things for me to learn to care for, decisions which must be made, stuff to go through.  And I want to get back to blogging.  I have a lot of pictures to edit and share!  So hopefully that will start to happen soon, although you do realize that "soon" is a relative term, right?

See you soon!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sad News

I had every intention of writing some new blog posts, but my husband was hospitalized a week ago, and he is bad shape and not expected to live much longer.  No doctor has given a time estimate, but Phil understands that any further treatment with chemo or dialysis, should it become necessary, would be futile.  He is being kept comfortable with pain medication as the Myeloma has eaten holes in the bones throughout his back, and presumably other places in his body.  He will receive some radiation to shrink a large tumor which is causing a lot of pain.  Where we go after that is still an unknown; we take the days one at a time and pray fervently for comfort and wisdom.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013

Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation—
God's salvation now unfurled,
Hope for ev'ry nation.
Not with fanfares from above,
Not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love—
Jesus born of Mary.
Son of Adam, Son of heaven,
Given as a ransom;
Reconciling God and man,
Christ, our mighty champion!
What a Savior! What a Friend!
What a glorious myst'ry!
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of hist'ry.

"Joy Has Dawned Upon the World"
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2004 Thankyou Music

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Staying Warm, Or Trying To

Winter arrived with a bang on Saturday.  It's cold, it's been snowing, and that's not going to change.  It's more like January than late November.

As I sit here typing, I am covered with a blanket I finished crocheting over the summer.  I had started it several times using one pattern, but it just wasn't coming out right, so after I ripped it out twice, I decided to go with a tried and true pattern.

The pattern is the Little V-Stitch Blanket from Lion Brand, which I crocheted using about 1-1/2 skeins of Caron One Pound Yarn.  I made it a lot bigger by using a longer foundation row.  Once it was nearly 39" square, I decided to add a scalloped border for a nice finish. 

My blanket is nice and warm, as well as plenty large to tuck under my arms and still have it cover my feet.

In other news, things here are still crazy.  I am looking forward to finishing physical therapy at the end of December (thanks to insurance changes, but I am SO ready, even if I don't meet all the goals I "should"), but for now, I still go twice a week, and one of those days we go to an early afternoon doctor's appointment, usually for Phil, and then I take the 5:30 physical therapy slot, the last of the day.  Phil's Myeloma is still not under control, and we have added two additional chemo drugs (in pill form) over the last month.  We found out at his oncology appointment this past Wednesday that his oncologist is moving to the cancer center a mere 10 minutes from our house, which will be very helpful since we may well move to both an oral and injectible chemo once that switch takes place.  On top of that, his kidneys are failing again, and we are carefully watching the blood markers that will indicate when he will need to begin home dialysis again, after four years off all dialysis.  We are hoping to hold off the surgery needed to prepare until after the holidays, but should know on Tuesday whether we are keeping our December 2 appointment with the surgeon.  See why I am ready to be done with therapy?

I remain thankful to God for sustaining me - us - through the past four months since my knee replacement and the craziness of all these appointments.  My fibromyalgia is acting up, though, so I am counting down the remaining 10 therapy appointments with great anticipation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Practical Pre-Surgery Sewing

Before my surgery, I completed two other projects.

My daughter had purchased a little purse like this one, from which I made a pattern and sewed my own.  I had thought I would use this after surgery when I went to doctor's appointments, but as it turned out, I only used it while in the hospital.  It was just large enough for my cell phone, a small packet of kleenex, and . . . well, I forget what I put in it!  But it was very helpful.  And by the time I saw the doctor for the first time, I was using a cane and could carry a regular purse.

For about three weeks, I had to use a walker to get around.  After looking around on the Internet for free patterns for walker totes, I came up with my own.

(That's Kelly helping me with my picture taking.)  My thought was to make a bag large enough to turn into a tote bag once I no longer needed it for the walker, so the ties you see on the sides were sewn on by hand, and the straps on the top were stitched on using buttons (I sewed through the buttons and the straps).  These have also been removed.  I've stitched webbing straps to one side of the bag, but alas, it remains on my sewing table, waiting for me to take the 15 minutes to pin and sew the other sides down.

A note on the fabric:  it's a heavy-weight utility-type fabric that I found in the remnant bin and paid next to nothing for.  It was a great purchase since I got two projects out of it, and still have some left over.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Too Long!

When I scheduled my last blog post on Tuesday, July 23, the day of my knee replacement surgery, I had no idea it would be nearly three months until I had an opportunity to blog again!

Everything went well with my surgery, and I was released from the hospital on Thursday afternoon, just two days after surgery.  I started home physical therapy the following Monday (I think!); my first therapist made it seem like coming to my home was a terrible inconvenience, and even threatened me with a revision - a forced bend of the knee done under anesthesia - when I couldn't bend to 90 degrees by Friday.  Yeah, it didn't set well with me, either.  But the following Tuesday the regular therapist for our area was back on the job, and he was fantastic!  Despite the fact that therapy was difficult and painful, I looked forward to seeing Ben three times a week and was sad when he said he was sending me to outpatient therapy after just two weeks with him.  But by that point, I had said goodbye to my walker and was sporting a classy cane.

I reasoned that if I had to use a cane, it might as well look nice, so I took a fat quarter, cut 5" wide pieces, seamed them together, then created a tube.  I also stitched a casing for elastic at the top and bottom.  After I threaded the tube onto the cane (I had to take the rubber piece off the bottom), I pulled the elastic tight, tied it in a knot, and manage to slide the ends into the tube.

I have had many people ask me whether my cane is an umbrella, and whether I prettied it up myself!  One person even had a long conversation with me about how I could market my cane covers.  Sadly, I thought my idea was original, but I found several places on the Internet where people sell them, and I would have to perfect my design - do something different to secure the fabric at the top and bottom of the cane - before selling them.  But I would be happy to make covers for anyone who asked.

My schedule is extremely full, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.  Physical therapy is progressing slowly.  I saw my surgeon on Wednesday, and he told me that his observation has been that the younger a knee or hip replacement patient is, the harder the recovery is because their ligaments and muscles are still strong and resist the stretching they must do to get the knee to bend to at least 120 degrees and also to straighten fully.  So I continue to go to therapy twice a week.  (The last time I was measured about a week ago, I had a 102 degree bend, and could extend my knee to -2/-3 degrees - almost straight.)  In addition to PT, we have one other obligation every week, plus church.  My limit is three days out per week, and all that adds up to four, so my fibromyalgia is acting up, making things even more difficult.  I will be able to double up on some appointments starting a week from Monday - a doctor's appointment for one of us early in the afternoon, then PT late (the latest appointment on Monday and Wednesday is 5:30, and since I am scheduling far in advance, I pretty much get my choice of times.)  That will definitely help.

We received bad news last week:  my husband's kidneys are failing again.  They were extremely stressed for some still unknown reason during his stem cell transplant last November, and things never improved.  He had to resume treatment for his Myeloma a little over a month ago and because it hasn't started working yet, the light chains (for those of you who understand the mechanism of Myeloma) are plugging up his kidneys.  Unfortunately, the treatments which would probably be most effective and act quickly will cause further kidney damage, so he is in a difficult situation.  We met with the kidney doctor last Friday to discuss things, and will see the oncologist on Tuesday.  The nephrologist's (kidney doc) best guess is that at the current rate of damage, it will be a couple of months before Phil will have to resume dialysis, meaning it might not be all that long before he will have to have surgery to place the catheter he will need for home dialysis since it needs several weeks to heal before it can be used.  We will also have to have a refresher course since it has been nearly four years since Phil was on dialysis.  On the other hand, if the rate of damage slows down, we could have quite a while to wait.  So we will prepare as best we can.  And I will work as hard as I can so I can finish PT before we need to deal with the dialysis issue.

As you can tell, there is never a dull moment at our house!  We have been doing a Bible study as a family called Quieting a Noisy Soul.  The timing is perfect, as God's always is, as we are learning how to rely not on our emotions, but on the truths about God that are in the Bible.  It is difficult to see how much we don't know about God, but encouraging that He wants us to know Him more and more, and is patient with us while we learn.

I have more pictures on my computer to share in future blog posts, so hopefully my silence will not be for long.  Right now, though, I need to go downstairs for pizza!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Princess Cassie

I have scheduled this post to be published on the morning of my knee replacement surgery.  I will miss my kitty while I am in the hospital, and I am certain she will be lost without me since she is my buddy.

Cassie has taken to reclining on the decorative pillows from my bed.  The princess in her is coming out!

But don't tell HER she's a princess - she doesn't like it!

She also loves to sleep on the bed, and whenever someone comes in the room, she will roll over on her side, begging to have a good belly and head rub.

I can't wait to get home to (1) shower, which they won't let me do in the hospital, (2) get some much-needed sleep, and (3) to see my special kitty!