Today is a good day. It’s alway nice to be able to say that. In the past year and a half, I have learned to live with mobility issues, or lack thereof, loss of some of my independence and cancer. Living day to day, taking each days challenges and learning to trust in my strengths and abilities and learning my limits has become a way of life.
I am 66 years old. I was a wedding cake decorator for the past almost 30 years. I was thinking about retirement, but wasn’t old enough to draw social security yet, so hadn’t made that decision. I have bone spurs in my knees which prevent me from straightening my legs. I also need two knee replacements which makes standing or walking difficult. Picture standing at a bent over crouch holding on to a walker for dear life. I also have lymphedema and might mention that from time to time.
Over time I graduated from a cane to a walker and now to a wheelchair if I need to leave the house. I used an office chair on wheels to enable me to work full time and have another one at home to get from room to room. One weekend off, I got up as usual and when I tried to get up from my chair to transfer to my favorite love seat, I was unable to get up. Whatever ‘umph’ or muscles we use to stand up were not working. I freaked and decided to call 911 and go in for a checkup.
There were no discernable reasons for my sudden immobility, or inability to pull myself up by myself. I had xrays, because I had been having trouble with my right shoulder. I had a vaginal ultrasound done while I was at it, because I had had some intermittent spotting for a few months. I thought I would check out everything at once.
The ER doctor was quite helpful. He said I had dislocated my shoulder and it might go “in and out”. It continues to cause me discomfort and soreness. He said I had some thickening of the membranes? in my uterus but to put that at the bottom of the worry list. He just looked at me and said since I was overweight, had bad knees, couldn’t walk, couldn’t get up unaided, and lived with lymphedema, I should check myself into a nursing home and consider myself lucky. He had no other solution or help to give me. ‘Oh and you can leave now.’
I went home with a catheter since I couldn’t get up by myself and the lymphedema had caused me to get up during the night about 6-8 times to go to the bathroom. Since I now couldn’t get up by myself that seemed the sensible option. I signed up for home health care.
That was the best thing that ever happened to me! I received some occupational therapy and physical therapy in my home. I learned exercises I could do while sitting that have increased my strength and now I can get out of bed by myself, get into the bathroom unaided and get in my chair and take myself to my love seat for my day. Regaining a lot of my independence is more precious than you can possible imagine.
After about 6 months of working to regain my strength I finally decided to go to a woman’s doctor and get a pap smear done. It came back abnormal which began a round of new doctors and many exams and physical adventures. The result did not come as a big shock to me. I must have thought at the back of my mind I might have cancer but the inability to get up and to get into a wheelchair and to actually leave the house delayed my search for answers. I then began a whirlwind ride to treat a cervical tumor. 5 sets of chemo, and 25 radiation treatments later, I had to live with having had my pelvic area fried. Radiation affects many other areas and I developed some bladder and bowel side effects that added to my adventures. Living with more pain became common place. I realized that there were other people with more severe cancers or harder-to-treat cancers and decided they were to be applauded for their fortitude and strengths in enduring the treatments. Through it all, the Harrington Cancer Center and everyone I came in contact with, were understanding, kind, encouraging and wonderful.
Now, the 3 month waiting period after radiation treatments to have a PET scan is almost up. I will soon find out if the cancer has been eradicated as they assume. If you are a praying person I appreciate all prayers. If not…wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it turns out.