Monday, April 9, 2012

Been Busy ... LIVING!

It’s been quite awhile since I last wrote in this Blog. I have plenty of excuses, but none really hold water. Bottom line is - I’ve been “slacking!” I decided that I’d better get writing again!
Rianne has been very busy – busy LIVING! April 1st marked the 2nd Anniversary of her Cancer Diagnosis. She had a good day, although it will always be in the back of her mind. Every day is filled with challenges, but she’s been up for them and meets each one head-on. She always finds a way to make it through each day, regardless of the outcome. Some days she feels great getting out of bed and other days she needs me to pull her from the warm blankets and comfortable pillow. Some days she returns from work with energy remaining, other days she’s ready for a quick dinner before she falls asleep. Her toughest days are during her work week, as the load catches up to her. We rarely schedule events in the evenings during the week because we both know that she will likely be exhausted when she finishes work for the day. There are the few exceptions…like a trip to the theatre to watch “The Hunger Games.” When a new movie comes out, Rianne is ALWAYS ready to extend her day to catch it in the theatre. “It’s not the same on the TV as it is in the theatre!” she always argues. I have to agree, even though I need to guzzle the caffeine to stay awake through some movies. She still doesn’t drive on the highway, so the long hauls to the theatre are my responsibility. Our closest movie house is 30 miles away! She drives herself to and from work, but still has anxiety when it comes to the open road, so she smiles and lets me drive!
Far and above, her favorite things to do are to be with the grandkids and ride her quad! A month or two ago she got to do both! We picked up Kacen and Brant, headed up Euchre Creek and took a trip on the quads. We didn’t go far but did have some fun climbing the road up into the forest. We arrived at the top and ate some snacks. Minutes later, we were told to “get riding” by both boys, so we headed back down the mountain. When we returned to the truck Rianne saw a large mud puddle and couldn’t resist …. she HAD TO take the boys through it! The quad was barely moving as they rolled into it, but the excitement on all three of their faces was priceless! They made four or five trips through the puddle to satisfy their adventurous spirits. Their smiles never left their faces as we packed up the bikes and headed home.
Tonight Rianne headed to bed around 6:30. She could sleep for 12 hours every night if she wanted to. Her body is simply exhausted after a day of work and sometimes after a day of fun. This past weekend was a good test for her strength. On Saturday, around noon, we went to Bob and Pam Hunter’s for an early Easter Egg Hunt and for Easter Dinner. Rianne had a great time hiding eggs, finding the ones everyone else hid and just being able to be herself. We left around 5:30 and headed to Ty and Ashley’s for our Grand-Daughter, Paisley’s 1st Birthday Party. On April 5, 2011 Paisley Brynn Wardle was born in Gold Beach! That was a quick year I must say! Rianne played with the grandkids and the youngsters at the party, visited with people and again enjoyed being herself. Around 8:30 we headed for home. We enjoyed the day and had a great time at both places. On Easter Sunday, however, she got up feeling worn out. We went up the Rogue River to “plunk” for salmon around 11:00 but she never really did feel very good during the day. As I’ve said many times, if she has a full day, the next day she may feel poorly. That’s exactly what happened to her on Sunday – she had a GREAT day on Saturday, but needed to rest on Sunday. She was a good fishing partner and lasted until 4:30, but I could see it was time to head for home. We quickly made some soup and she was out for the night when her spoon lapped up the last drop in the bowl. I practically had to carry her to the bed. Exhausted, she slept for 13 hours last night and it still wasn’t enough. She was tired and weak today, but forced herself to find the strength to make it through the work day. She definitely knows when her body has had enough – and she listens to it!
We hope you are all well and healthy and are enjoying your Spring. Each day will get longer and longer and we hope you try to live every moment. If we’ve learned anything through the past two years, that’s exactly what we should all do – live every moment!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Get Busy Living!"

This Spring sure has been a tough time for Rianne. Sometimes it seems like she just can’t catch a break! About 5 weeks ago she caught a chest cold from somewhere and it is just now letting up enough to where she is feeling like herself again. It was a nagging cold that she struggled with every day for over a month. After a week of fighting it she went to her doctor. A “Z-Pack” was prescribed for her and it seemed to barely touch it. She returned to her doctor and was then prescribed Cipro, which was an antibiotic that literally wiped her out. She struggled to keep her strength for days. Dairy products, antacid and vitamins could not be taken with the Cipro, which caused her immune system to struggle even worse. To sum it all up, she has been exhausted and frustrated with her slow recovery.
The roller coaster simply won’t let up. She begins to feel better and her health habits improve, then she hits a roadblock which tends to make her health decline. It’s been absolutely difficult for her to deal with. She is the toughest woman I know, yet she is still pulled down through it all. It breaks me just as much as it breaks her. The toughest part is when she can hardly get up and do the things that she loves to do – sometimes just staying on the couch or in bed is all that’s possible.
Her blood draws have been good, but her level of strength has been less than 100% for weeks. She has been getting plenty of rest lately because of it, but it is still frustrating because she has been MUCH stronger at times!
She’s been on her quad twice in the past couple of weeks, which she has enjoyed greatly. She still says that buying her quad has been “the best gift I’ve ever given to myself!” She’s a very good rider and loves to do it as much as she can. Just over a week ago we went on another trip up to Laird Lake with Bob and Pam Hunter and their daughter, Jill. Jason and Eli, Jill’s sons, also went on the trip. Rianne was definitely in her element while she was on the trip. She sure loves to ride that Polaris Sportsman 500!
On Friday Rianne and I went for a quad ride up Hunter Creek and made the loop down the South Fork. She put in 35 miles and felt it the next day. She knows she’ll be worn out from the trip, but also knows how much she enjoys it, which is why she goes! It was another good trip for her.
Today she has been resting for her day of work tomorrow. She has had her hours cut in half due to the economy, but still feels anxiety before she returns to work after the weekend. Mondays are her worse day by a long shot! Hopefully she will be ready to rise and shine in the morning!
We hope you are all well and are enjoying the beginning of summer. Get out of the house and “get busy living!” Rianne would agree that it’s the only way to go!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The "Little Things" Make a Difference

I haven’t written in this Blog for quite some time, so I better get after it! Once again I’m sitting in a Waiting Room alone, guarding Rianne’s purse and my clipboard. I lug the pad of paper with me every time we meet with her Doctors, Oncology Personnel and Hospital Staff just in case I need to write down something important. Its quite amazing how so many of the “little things” make a difference during her recovery, which is why I tend to fill pages with notes and such. We never know when a simple note taken can be the difference between a trip to the Emergency Room or a peaceful night of sleep!
Rianne has been doing good these past couple of months, but she still battles with anxiety, dizziness, headaches, nausea and fatigue. I truly am baffled at how she can keep herself going each day with some of these symptoms attacking her – and often on a daily basis. She rarely has consecutive days where she feels well. Usually she has some type of an issue that harasses her twice a week or more.
A few months ago she looked down at her feet and she instantly felt a sharp tingling from her neck out to her arms and down to her toes. It jolted her to say the least. She looked up and it was gone, but when she tilted her head downward it struck again. Without hesitation she looked back up and it was gone again. On the third tip of her head it zapped her into the realization that something was wrong. She went to a Chiropractor and discussed the sensation. He ordered an MRI of her neck and spine then referred her to a Neurologist. Her initial appointment was scheduled at a clinic in Medford, but rough weather caused the meeting to be postponed. The next available appointment was for earlier this week. She dealt with the issue for a few months. During the appointment the Neurologist ran a few tests but was still uncertain of the condition. The Doctor believes that the nerves are tingling due to possible scarring from the intrathecal injections that she received in August. Its been quite a road for her with this current situation and it doesn’t look like it will just go away.
Rianne has been working full-time since January and has no intention of working any less. She fights hard EVERY DAY to drag herself out of bed and get ready for work. It frustrates me because I see her struggle on a daily basis. We try to get her into bed early each weeknight, but she sometimes feels good enough to stay up longer – but it usually costs her the next day.
Just over a week ago she changed one of her medications over from a time release pill to one that has immediate effects. She noticed instantly that the new Effexor pill was causing her some discomfort. She discussed it with me and stated how she felt dizzy and slightly nauseated that day. We were unsure of which pill was causing her to feel poorly, so we decided to try having her take the new Effexor at noon to see if the symptoms would return shortly thereafter. Return they did, and she spent the afternoon fighting dizziness and nausea. At 3:45 she called me and asked me to pick her up and take her home. Lacey and Becky (from Curry County Title) decided to both take her home so that one of them could drive the van home for Rianne. I couldn’t stand the worrying for long, so I left the school at 4:00 and drove home. When I walked in the door I was greeted by Lacey and Becky who wore very concerned faces. Rianne came out of the bedroom in tears, apologizing up and down for being sick. Sometimes I don’t understand why she apologizes for feeling poorly, but I’m guessing its because she feels like she’s causing others to be put out – which is never the case. Many people have been unbelievable with their generosity and love for her. They care and just want to help in any way possible. The dizziness was causing her to feel nauseated, so she took her Ambien early and drifted off to sleep for the night. The next morning she awoke feeling fine, walked on the treadmill, made a couple of juices with her new juicer and got herself ready to go to work. She and I decided that the Effexor had to go. She hasn’t taken any since and the dizziness and nausea haven’t attacked her like they did that day.
Rianne tends to put on a happy face all day, but deep down inside she’s usually feeling some form of discomfort. Even the little stressors can cause her grief. On our way up to Coos Bay this morning I requested that she do the driving. She agreed to drive up but lasted about 20 miles as she began to sigh … and sigh … and sigh. It was obvious to me that she wasn’t comfortable with the responsibility of handling the van, so I insisted that she pull over and let me drive. When we traded places she began to relax again and the trip became much more pleasant for her. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s the “little things” that end up being important throughout the course of the day.
I made the HUGE mistake of giving her a “heads up” that my teaching position may be cut due to budget reductions. Currently, Oregon is downsizing tremendously on the budget and it may mean that my job is cut. I shared the information with her and it caused her to become very stressed, which is NOT good for a recovering cancer patient. We battled the possibility of our lives being turned upside down AGAIN and spent a weekend sitting in the living room discussing the options, which aren’t exciting at all. Finally, I decided to write a letter to the School Board to share some reasons to keep the Shop Program. We both spoke at the Board Meeting last week and have felt better about things since then. In retrospect, I wish I wouldn’t have said anything to her, but it is what it is. Now we have to hope and pray that we will be able to continue working in Gold Beach and that our lives will improve one day at a time!
For over a month now, Rianne had been bothered with another plugged ear. For those of you that don’t know, she had a plugged ear for months and it ultimately became one of the side effects of the cancer in her head. As I type, she is going through another Brain MRI – her third in a year. She is anxious to receive the results of the MRI, which may take a few days. She also caught a head cold over a month ago and, I’m hoping, the plugged ear could be related to the cold. We’ve both been battling to eliminate the coughing and crud in our lungs from the cold that seemed to hit everyone around us this spring. Maybe that’s all it is and her ear needs to pop open … the results of the Brain MRI will tell us what we need to know.
From my seat in the Waiting Room I often experience loneliness, but today Rianne gave me HER take of what SHE experiences while enduring an MRI...
...“The first thing they do is make sure I have no metal objects on me, but I’m always one step ahead of them. I hop onto the machine and then they make me comfortable. Next, they lock my head down then they slide me into the machine. There isn’t much room to spare and I’m told not to move. My mind drifts from place to place once the obnoxious noise from the machine begins. Today I thought about camping in Elk River, Idaho with Magic and the boys when they were young and how much fun we used to have. From there I reminisced about fishing for salmon in the Rogue River Bay. It’s one of my favorite things to do next to riding my quad. Next, I thought about a quad ride we took up to Devil’s Half Acre and on over to Laird Lake to fish and have a barbecue for dinner. I then thought about my new Granddaughter, Paisley, and how much I want to just hold her for an hour or longer. I think about the possibility of having cancer again and ask myself if I can go through all the treatments for a second time. Would it all be worth it or not? The beating of the machine sounds like someone playing a set of drums from the 1960s. I feel helpless and alone in the loud machine and I wonder if my husband must be feeling alone, as well. Then, after 68 minutes of hearing the noise I am pulled out of the machine. I receive an injection of “contrast”, which is a dye that seeks out cancer, tumors and infections so that the machine can read them more easily. In I go again for another 30 minutes without being able to move at all. My mind races again from place to place. Sometimes I sing one of my favorite songs to pass the time. Today I sang to myself, “I look out the window and what do I see…popcorn poppin’ on the apricot tree!” I’ll sing or keep my mind thinking just to pass the time. I feel an itch but know I can't move. What do I do to stop it?! Eventually the sweet voice of the machine says, “hold still – this reading will be three minutes. Don’t move – this time it will be two minutes.” I drift off to sleep and dream of being a vampire living in a coffin, then Corey , the technician says, “Ok - we’re done Mrs. Becker. Just lay there until we pull you out of the machine and unhook everything.” They help me get onto my feet and I thank them as I head for the door. I find Magic in the Waiting Room and he greets me with 10 kisses on my forehead and tells me that he loves me! Okay, maybe only a kiss or two – but he does tell me that he loves me!”
Rianne has been really excited about watching our 4 year old Grandson play tee-ball games. Kacen ran over to Gramma Rianne several times during his game last weekend and put a huge smile on her face each time he visited her. He pleaded with her to stand on the field beside him, but she reminded him that she was his “Number 1 Fan” and had to watch from the side of the dugout. He sure was cute out there on the field and Rianne was in heaven watching him play!
We are REALLY looking forward to some decent weather so we can bust out the quads again and fill our lungs with the fresh mountain air. It has been a very wet and rainy past few months – we’re due for some R & R and the quads give her a great boost of morale! We hope that you are all healthy and happy – have a great week!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beet Juice Blunder

Once again I am sitting here in a waiting room while Rianne goes through surgery. This time the Chemo Port is being removed. During her last blood draw the initial saline fluid inserted into the port caused her intense pain immediately. Melissa, the oncology nurse, had a suspicion that the port was damaged and scheduled a Die Study for that afternoon. The doctor inserted die into the port and read the results of the test. Sure enough, the port was fractured and needed to be removed. Fortunately for Rianne, her treatments are complete and further blood draws will be taken through the veins in her arm instead of through what was once a port in her chest.
Each time that I sit alone in a waiting room my emotions run rampant. On January 28th we celebrated our 22nd anniversary together, which painted a very clear picture of our ages and of the many days that we’ve been together. My love for her grows daily and I can’t even begin to imagine what my life would be like if it were ever without her in it. Thus, the importance of living each and every day to its fullest becomes clearer and clearer, even as my rump sinks deeper and deeper into this uncomfortable chair as I type. We had some puny little disagreements this morning as we anticipated the surgery, and now I feel awfully sorry about even bringing up some of the “small stuff” as she calls it. I can’t wait to see her again as I choke on the anxiety that fills my system. My nerves aren’t able to rest, even though I know that she is in good hands with the surgeon who has worked with her numerous times this past year. I feel an urge to do something – anything – to keep my hands and eyes busy so that I don’t look around the room at other people who may be less fortunate than my wife and I are. Our struggles this past year have been immense, yet we are still very blessed to be in the position that we are in today. Still, I can’t help but be slapped back into the reality that my wife of 22 years has absolutely no guarantee that the cancer will be gone for good – nor do I have any guarantee that the tide can't turn on me at any given moment. Life is short and we all know it. Life is wonderful, but it is also fragile. We never know what our future will bring, so we must embrace each moment as it arrives. Maybe that's why she always wants to get out on the Quads whenever it's possible!
Rianne has been in good spirits these past few weeks and her health has been good. She has been routinely creating juices with her Jack Lalane Juicer in the mornings. She has been rising early, walking on the treadmill and heading straight to the kitchen to create a juice for the day. She is getting to be quite the pro at it I might add. But don’t trust her juice if she adds beets to it, as you may get a little excited when you see what the waste looks like! After a mega-dose of beets in a juice she made the other day, a few hours later (during a visit to the bathroom) I panicked thinking that one of my kidneys was bleeding profusely! It startled me until I remembered that bright purple beet juice might end up close to the same color on its way out of the human body! Rianne scared the juice right out of me and she also enjoyed the laugh of a lifetime with it!
Her juicing has added strength to her day. She often adds flax seed and powdered protein to the juice to boost her energy level and immune system. Ginger root has been another ingredient that has added positive results and flavor to the morning. Some swear by the importance of blended fruit and vegetable drinks in the diet and we would have to agree that an improvement has been noticed in how we feel. Its been encouraging to see her rise in the morning refreshed from a good night of rest and head straight to a healthy start for the day ahead of her!
Work has gone well for her. She is exhausted at the end of the day, but she continues to work full-time and refuses to settle for anything less. She has learned that her weeknights must stay clear of any late activities if she plans to feel good the next day.
We’ve learned to try not to schedule too much on the weeknights so that she will prevent feeling miserable tomorrow from overdoing it today. Its tough to monitor, as she sometimes feels strong enough to get out and have some fun, yet we both know she’ll likely pay a price for it later – usually in the form of exhaustion. Sometimes she gets frustrated with me when I say "NO" to something, but it's usually with her best interests in mind. I told her today to think of me as her “Public Relations Manager” instead of her grouchy old controlling husband who won’t let her do anything. I think “PR Man” has a better ring to it – especially when I have to remind her of how physically awful she feels after a full day of work and play! The oncology staff has warned us that it could take up to a year for Rianne to feel her complete self again and we certainly understand their advice.
Well, I guess it’s just about time for her to walk out of surgery (yes, I type slowly … VERY slowly!) We are truly grateful to have family members and friends who support us as you do. Without you this road would have been impossible to imagine. We hope that you and your families are healthy and happy. Thanks for being an important part of our lives!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Well-Rested Rianne!

Rianne has been doing well and had a good month of January. Her toughest challenge lately has been her fatigue at the end of a long day of work. Her spirits have been strong and her attitude has been great. She has a new outlook on her life and is very happy to still be here. Her Brain MRI came back clean and she has been smiling since she heard the results.
Lately, she has been very conscious of getting plenty of sleep. It is 8:00 in the evening and she’s sound asleep as I type sitting up in the bed next to her. I have actually grown very fond of the sound of her breathing while she sleeps. It is very comforting to me, as I seldom worry about her when she is resting well. The sound of her “light snoring” reassures me that her body is taking good care of itself!
A few nights ago, however, she woke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom – an hour later I found her asleep and sitting upright on the couch. I was startled to see her there on the couch, after what I thought was going to be a quick trip to the bathroom. She was sound asleep but instantly I went into a panic, wondering what will be next. I’ve heard horror stories of what Ambien makes people do while they are “asleep” and I worry about Rianne every time she gets out of bed in the night. I can only hope and pray that she never grabs the keys and hops into the van to go for a drive!
We’ve been spending our weeknights at home for the most part. We turn in early and the results are a well-rested Rianne the next morning. Her worst day is Monday, as she gets a new anxiety attack in the morning before she heads to work. It’s tough to explain, but my guess is that she stresses about the length of the week ahead of her and gets anxious about it. She pushes herself through it, arrives at work and eventually it goes away.
We are anticipating the arrival of spring and hope to get outside more often as the weather improves. On Saturday we went steelhead fishing and she admitted having difficulty trying to multi-task as she fished. The slick rocks beneath her feet, balancing against the current of the stream, casting without hanging up on streamside brush and listening to me giving instructions all took a toll on her. She lost her footing and fell hard as she attempted to ascend a steep gravel bank. Tears came to her eyes, as she became highly frustrated at herself. I held her and explained that I fall every hour as I fish and that the bank she climbed was very steep for any sure-footed climber. I should have known better, but didn't understand what I was putting her through - until she let the tears flow. Even then I didn't truly understand her frustrations until I imagined myself walking in her waders after an exhausting year of a life-changing experience. I often overlook potentially difficult situations that she may encounter without a second thought, yet Rianne continues to have moments where she struggles, even a few months after completion of her treatment.
She regained her confidence and we fished for a couple more hours and called it a day. Simply getting out in the fresh air has helped Rianne immensely.
We are excited about the New Year and hope to live each day as if it were our last, as we’ve learned how special each and every day really is! We hope that each and every one of you feels the same way and that your year becomes a great one!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rianne is CANCER-FREE!

“I cannot live scared to death to live!” Rianne would wake up some days with an anxiety attack greeting her even before she left the bed. “The anxiety is killing me,” she often said. Rianne couldn’t take it anymore! She was scheduled to meet with her Oncologist on December 21st, but her anxiety was choking the strength right out of her. She had to know and she had to know immediately. On Tuesday, December 14th she made the call, begging to know the results of the Post-Treatment PET Scan. Minutes later her Oncology Specialist returned the call and told Rianne that the Scan looked clean and that Rianne is CANCER-FREE!
Tears of joy overcame her as she struggled to catch her breath. She was at work when she took the call, which was very positive, as she has an incredible support group at Curry County Title. She enjoyed a moment of celebration with her co-workers before she gave me a visit. Katie brought her to the high school to tell me the good news. I was just locking up the Metal Shop when she slowly stepped out of the vehicle and began her walk toward me. Her face was long and her eyes were red. It was the first day since April that she drove herself to work, so I immediately assumed that something was awfully wrong with her. Before she reached me quick scenarios ran through my mind - “is she sick and needs me to take her home? Does she have anxiety again and does she need me to take her to her doctor? Did something happen to one of her parents?” Naturally I assumed the worst, as I’ve learned throughout her battle with cancer that I should never get my hopes up too high. As she continued to walk toward me I read the face that I have seen look that way so many times before. I knew that what she was about to tell me was not going to be good.
“I called Susan and got the results of the PET Scan back.” She said.
“The cancer is back, isn’t it?!” I dejectedly said.
“She told me that they couldn’t find anything and that I’m cancer-free!” The words barely made it out of her mouth before she exploded into tears. She was crying so hard that her body shook. She leaned into my arms and sobbed. I asked her if they were tears of joy and she simply shook her head “yes!” She no longer needed to talk – all she wanted was to be held. Tears flowed from my eyes, as well.
Since then plenty has happened. She was greeted with numerous phone calls from friends and loved ones who expressed their congratulations to her for being cancer-free and winning the fight. Her anxiety levels have dropped drastically since she heard the good news - and deservedly so! A giant burden was lifted off of her shoulders when she was told that the cancer was gone.
Unfortunately, however, she has not yet returned to her normal self. “Give it 6 more months” she was told by Susan, her Oncology Specialist. “Your whole existence on the face of this earth has been put into question.” It has been great to be cancer-free, but the frustrations of the recovery period have caused some setbacks.
On Saturday, December 18th she woke with a headache and couldn’t shake it through the course of the day. That evening, Ty and Ashley dropped off the grandkids and went on a date. The combination of a long day, a headache and the activity of baby-sitting quickly developed into a migraine. Her eyes became cloudy and every sound and movement caused it to worsen. I eventually called Ty and he came to the house to pick up the boys. I led Rianne to the van and slowly drove her to the Emergency Room, as each turn and bump in the road intensified the pain. The ER nurse remembered Rianne from her migraine in August and immediately cared for her. This time the doctor went straight to the Dilaudid and had her pain lessened quicker than the treatment for the unbearable August migraine did. We left the ER after a few hours compared to spending numerous hours there 4 months earlier.
She is cancer-free, but she still needs to watch her every move, as do I. Unfortunately, I brought home a cold from the school the last day before Christmas Break began. A few days later her throat was sore. With her immune system suppressed due to the cancer treatment, she struggles longer to fight off colds. She was sick for well over a week and still wakes up with a stuffy nose and a cough.
Her spirits, however, are high and continue to climb. Knowing that she is cancer-free has given her a mental and emotional boost unlike anything she has felt in the past 9 months. Your support, love and friendship have also continued to give her a boost. We both appreciate you and thank you for all that you do!

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Birthday Fun!

I can't resist - I HAVE TO post a cute video and photo from our dinner tonight with Bob and Pam Hunter celebrating Rianne's birthday. We changed our initial plans and went to the Mexican Restaurant in Brookings. It sure was great to see her laughing and smiling the entire time! She had a terrific evening and a wonderful birthday!! She wants to thank all of you who sent cards, letters, texts, phone calls and birthday wishes!