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!


  1. I think it's good that you told her about the problems at work. I don't know Rianne well, but I think I know her enough to know that being kept out of the loop would be even more upsetting for her. She needs to know what's up in daily life. Keep us posted on the test results. When Rianne is feeling up to it, bring her up to visit the farm. We have two bottle calves now...

  2. Magic and Rianne! Thanks for the update. I just can't even believe how much stress you're still dealing with. I'm so glad you have such cute grandkids to help counter it a little! Magic, if you need any more help fighting for the shop position, look up Michael Gurian's books (like you have any spare time, right?!). He makes some really compelling and scientifically-based arguments about how essential those kinds of programs are, especially for boys/young men. He even has a handbook (I haven't read it) specifically for school administrators and teachers that I'm sure reinforces those things. Good luck! You are amazing dealing with all that you do and still staying so positive and faithful. You are truly one of my heroes. Love and hugs! Amy