Monday, July 29, 2013

The voice inside



"The Voice"

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you--just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.” 



Do you ever have one of those days when it feels like a whole chain of events unfold so unbelievably, its as though you are in a dream? A nightmarish dream- that innocently begins with that quiet little inner voice.

Its nagging started almost right away.  

I was packing bags for our weekend get away.  

That voice inside me kept up a steady stream... "call your mom."

I kept putting it off.  Finding more to pack and being doggone sure I had everything ready to go early Thursday.  We were going.  We'd planned for so long, nothing was stopping me. 

"Call your mom."

As I went to put my phone on the charger before bed, finally, I called her.


Her voice answers, unusually hollow and thin.

"I have had such bad stomach cramping."  

"No, I didn't go out to dinner."

"No, I didn't feel up for the community room ice cream."

Oh, no ice cream?  This is not good.

Its late and she is sleepy.  She wishes me well on our trip and says she'll call her doctor in the morning. 
I don't sleep well, worried about the sound of her voice and the nagging of my own inner voice.

Thursday morning she has called her doctor and he has asked for a stool sample. But my inner voice of reason knows I need to check on her.

As I open the door to her apartment and lay eyes on her, I suddenly understand that nagging voice I've been trying to ignore.

Our plans change on a dime.

I tell her we're going to the ER and she doesn't even fight me on it.

The ER is quiet for aThursday morning.  

We get a young RN who proclaims this is her second week working in the ER!  

But there is something about her confidence, her enthusiasm.  She laughs easily with my mom and notices her spunky attitude, despite her obvious weakness.

The doctor sees clearly, she needs fluids.

He also orders a bunch of other tests.  

I feel unusually alert.  Keying into everything around us.

And suddenly the dream-like state of events starts to unfold.

Her first iv infiltrates and causes the biggest bump and blackest, biggest, bruise I have ever seen.

Mom is a trooper.  Clearly in pain, she smiles and reassures the young nurse that she tried her best.

The second line goes in no easier- it also stings, burns and bruises. She grimaces and rubs it. 

But the nurse sees a good blood return, so she adds in an antibiotic for the infection they have found, and leaves.  Moments later, her arm turns bright red and starts to itch.  I watch as the redness mounts and hear my inner voice tell me to act.

We press our nurse call button.  

And wait.

And then in a freakishly, horror-movie-tinged, twist of events- the power shuts off.  And the kid next door in the middle of sedation screams bloody murder.

The doors bolt close.  Its pitch black.  

Then eerily quiet.

All I can hear is my mother clawing at her itching arm.

Within a few minutes the lights flutter and everything comes back on.  But everything is on back-up generator.  Rumors of a fire emerge and people in the hallway swear they smell smoke.  Yet, nothing ever gets confirmed.

I now go seek out a nurse, grabbing one who isn't my mother's.  He sees instantly she is having an allergic reaction to her antibiotic, and goes to get meds.  I tell my mom he will most likely return with benadryl.  Her eyes widen when he does, and quickly shoots it into her iv line.  Then he hangs a new antibiotic.  I start to warn her how quickly she will feel the benadryl, but her eyes are drooping already as she fights off sleep.

He asks if I am in the medical field.  "No, at least not in the way you'd expect," I say with a smile. 

Her doctor comes back in to check on her.  Her tests show depleted levels of lots of things in her blood, infection, and maybe she has a virus.  But after some fluids, he thinks she'll be able to go home later in the afternoon. He is warm and compassionate and we liked him instantly.

I'm breathing easier, thinking we may salvage our weekend plans.

In the meantimes mother asks to use the restroom.  As she returns to her bed with help, I notice how short of breath she is- her breathing sounding odd.  I make mental notes, as our nurse rushes off again.

Then, as mom lays her head back, I see her heartrate monitor start to flash.  When it registers 130 it sounds an alarm and turns bright red.  I watch as it steadily climbs, 140, 150, 160- and tops out at 170!  Holy heart rate! 

I'm shocked nobody has come in.  My inner voice is loud and persistent.  "Get going Vicky... get help." I run to the desk and hurriedly tell them to come quick.  The male nurse from earlier sees on his desk, that its her heart monitor and exclaims- she's in tachycardia!  He rushes in and grabs her wrist.  Her heart is clearly racing.  As he stands watching the next few minutes, her heart rate slows and goes back down to a normal range.  He brings in leads and places a heart monitor on her chest.  Then he tells me to watch her carefully and come get him if it does it again.

Maybe I really am in the medical field?  

I set my eyes on her monitor and watch closely.

When mom starts shivering I go and inquire about a warm blanket.  

"Sure, the warmers over there, help yourself," the woman at the desk responds.  

I suddenly miss all the "spiffs" I seem to get at Roger Maris.  Warm blankets doled out like clock work- snacks and drinks offered continually, nurses in constant watch and communication with you.  

I say a quick prayer, "Thank you God, for showing me how lucky I have truly been in my cancer care."

I look at the clock, as my energy wanes.  We've been here since 10 am and its 3pm.

The doctor comes back in.  Considering mom's unstable nature, he'd now like to admit her and watch her for awhile.

The young nurse comes back in and announces- the hospital room should be ready in 15 minutes.  She has called and was told they have all kinds of empty beds.  As soon as mom is assigned, they'll transport her.

Who in their right mind would think it'd be nearly FIVE MORE HOURS and 6 apologies before she is settled into her room?  Clearly not any of us.  

By now Rick and the boys had come and were in the mix of it.  Clearly our plans for going out of town have changed.

And mom just remained a trooper through it all.  

She didn't complain about the wait.  She didn't complain about the bruises now running up and down her arms.  She didn't complain that they had said she could eat or drink something, but nobody brought her anything but a sprite when I went in search of it again. 

And I was out of energy, completely.  

I finally left by 9 pm, seeing how played out mom was, hoping she'd be able to sleep well.  


Over the past couple of days she has rested and received fluids, completed a battery of tests. She has gotten rid of the horrible stomach cramps.  

I've watched her win over staff person after, nurse, after dr.  They each hug her, pat her hand, or tell her what a great patient she is.  

Yet, I can only shake my head and wonder at how an environment can also harbor so much human error. 

Like the intern who brought in a script for her "pneumonia."  WHAT?  I said "how did we determine pneumonia when her lung scans were clear?"  

"OH... SORRY... wrong patient.  So sorry.  Too little sleep, lots of new patients."  

He is young, and juggling a lot, and I forgive him.  But it makes me feel hyper vigilant.  I am convinced if you have a loved one in the hospital, make sure someone stays with them to check and double check everything.

Its with relief mom passes all of her tests with flying colors when they are ready to discharge her.  As I type this, she is resting comfortably in her chair at home.  

I feel like I've traveled light years over the past few days.  

In a lot of ways I gained more empathy for what Superman goes through in taking care of me.  I tossed myself aside for a few days and poured into mom. 

I felt useful and like all that treatment I have received, taught me, how to help my mom. 

And my inside voice has quieted once again.

"In the narrow halls of the inner ear, echoed is the song of Light."
Marie Alana Stiles












Thursday, July 25, 2013

Life-lines


Pioneer Woman's sour cream noodle bake.  Recipe here.

Yes, I made this for dinner last night and I'd highly recommend it.  We skipped the green onions and did some garlic instead.  

Talk about a night and day difference.  And I'm not sure what it really is?  But somehow without changing a whole lot of anything, Dr. P gave me the confidence to keep on with the Tykerb.  He seemed pleased.  Pleased with my blood counts.  Thought I looked great.  And I had to admit, I was feeling better than last weekend.  

So he gave me some management ideas for my symptoms and I felt reassured.


We then discussed what the coming treatments may entail, and I realized they entail not just the possibility of diarrhea, but losing my hair, nausea, and a whole truckload of other possible side effects, Better the devil you know sometimes.

So I told him we'd stick with Tykerb as long as we could... and then he enthusiastically replied "And you never know what new treatment is in the pipeline!"

I swear, he threw me a life-line just then.  He fills me with hope when I am running thin sometimes and its all I need to go home and swallow my next dose of 5 orange Tykerb pills.


Monday, July 22, 2013

the smallest moments...


I awaken slowly, my mouth pasty and sticky.  Dry.  I need water.  I start to rise and then my stomach starts to contort.  Hurry.  Fly through the dark.  Stumble against the wall and let your fingers work their way to the door handle.  Hurry.  Seconds too late, your stomach won't hold on any longer.  

 My stomach has roiled and churned, cramping and bloating.  Emptying its contents again and again.  


I take 2 Immodium, then a third dose.  Then a fourth.  How many can I take?  How many should I take?  What are the odds of having to go to the ER if I call at 2:45 am?  Good, I bet.  



I drink handfuls of water from the faucet.  My lips burn.  Sores have erupted all over the edges of my tongue.  I feel like I've scorched my mouth somehow.  My face is red, and rashy, with acne breaking out all around.  Tykerb rash.   It's expected.  

I scurry back to the medicine cabinet and grab my Ativan- my sleep in a bottle. 

I skip going to the lake the next day, weak and tired.  

I edit and edit picnic photos from Cully's Kids.

And this much I know is true. 

 I won't.  I can't.  I will not let Cancer take my joy.  

I will cling to the small.  The tiny.  The littlest of moments that sing to me.  

As they do... those bright-eyed-joy-filled kids.



So I make tea, in my new mug... and there it is...




... the coffee mug that sums up my mantra "life is found in the tiniest moments... live your moments full..." from the friend who lives them fully with me. 








And the card.  With the words... that my baby boy told me he picked just for me... 11, going on 40 that kid.  


He read these words...



And said it was this phrase that made him know... this card was for me.


yep- 11 going on 40.


And I read it over and over again.  Small. Tiny.  Perfect.  The beauty of life living inside the small. 

Can't take my joy...





I'm better today.  Its tricky, but we'll figure it out.  I will see Dr. Panwalkar in the morning and polish off my visit with a vitamin H infusion.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cully's Kids 2013

I wanted to start this post off with a big heartfelt thank you to all of you who showered me with love yesterday on my birthday.  I felt all your hearts, pouring through your words, boosting me, lifting me, putting an extra beat in my own heart.  I couldn't ask for anything better, bigger.  I feel blessed.  And I'm still that girl looking over her shoulder wondering "who" that girl is who has been given such abundance.  Plus- even thought we ended up at the clinic yesterday- ha- it was just to pick up my mother who needed a blood transfusion.  No ER and no jinxes- just many birthday blessings. 

Finally- are you ready for the big reveal of what left me speechless?  Here goes...


I've heard this said about Cully's Kids' weekend several times over the last few days, "its my favorite weekend of the year!"  I couldn't agree more.  For so many reasons- do you have a few hours, a few days?  Because I could tell story after story, and in fact, that is why it becomes nearly impossible to figure out a shortened version of what to say.  But here I go...

The event kicked off with a social at Usher's and a silent and live auction.  First of all, the items people and businesses donate to help raise funds for children with cancer and other diseases/disabilities, are so generous.  That alone is a big draw.  But second, just add in a few NHL hockey players to mix and mingle with the rest of the hockey community, and its a night of pure delight and entertainment. I think you truly have to go and experience it, to get the full effect.  


I decided on using just my phone for photos,  knowing the ambient light would be hard to compete with.  So here are just a few photos I took of just some of the friends I am always honored to be around.    These are my hockey family- and they do more for me than I could possibly express. I could have taken photos all night long.

















Rick shot a cool photo outside of the Xcel Energy Center on the day of the playoff game we attended.  He created a "painted" portrait and blew it up large and donated it to the auction.  




The is one of our favorite shots of Matt warming up for a game. His eyes are lasered in on the puck, which he skillfully blasts to the back of the net. 




But by now, we all know, Matt Cullen no longer plays for the Minnesota Wild.  Matt Cullen will be playing for the Nashville Predators for the next two years!

So the Predator's sent the very first official Matt Cullen jersey to Minnesota to be auctioned off for the event.  It was paired with tickets to a Predator game along with a bunch of extra perks and spiffs!  The bidding started at a few thousand dollars and then steadily climbed.  Finally, at 13,000 dollars, the package had been won!  



The night was slowly winding down, and I have to admit, I was exhausted.  As the event wound down we prepared to go.

Okay- for those of you awaiting the big news I have... here it comes.


So I am sitting at a table chowing down a burger, when my friend Bridget says, "I have to go get something, wait here, I'll be right back."  Well I don't have my shoes on and I am in no hurry to go anywhere.  

In minutes, at the top of the stairs I see Bridget returning with something yellow in her hands.  Her smile is getting bigger and bigger and I swear she is trying to lock eyes with someone very close to me.

Quite suddenly, I realize, she is holding the new Predators Jersey.  Oh my- some very lucky soul- sitting very close to me- is going to get her husband's first Predators jersey!!  



And as I look all around me, Bridget's eyes don't waver from my own at all... because...

ITS ME!  Totally me- who has been given the jersey by the man who paid for the package.  His name is Dale.  When he said to Matt, "who should we give the jersey to?  Matt said "Vicky Westra."  Oh my stars!  And it took me 2.8 seconds I think, bare feet and probably ketchup still clinging to my face, to run upstairs and throw my arms around Dale.  He quick- hugged me then shooed me off- obviously a very humble man.  




My feet haven't quite come down to earth...


And this is just day one of three for the event... and I still have some pretty amazing things to share...








Tuesday, July 16, 2013

it's my birthday...



Its a story I've heard over and over throughout the years. I am jinxed. On my birthday. My mother would tell you it started with my birth. A 36 hour labor. The hottest day, of the hottest month of the year. I've never heard the end of it!

Here is just a sampling of my "jinxes."
  • The day I turned 4 I dropped a cement brick on my big toe and spent the night in the ER getting shots in that toe so I could have the nail removed.  No birthday party that night!
  • The year I turned 7, Great Grandma Julia died.  No birthday party this day either.
  • The day I turned 10, we had invited all of our relatives over to our lake for a big party. We have one pathetic picture of me hoisting a sheet cake with flushed red cheeks and glazed over eyes, right before my mother dashed me off to the ER. Strep throat this time.
  • The next year, I got off easy. My brother took one for me and tore the ligaments in his leg the night of my party. His turn to go to the ER!

And then I stopped keeping track of which event happened which year. 

Do you remember the day John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Caroline and her sister died in the plane crash? July 16th. I just know I was well into my 20's and watching the footage on tv made me shiver. 

Its really odd. Yet its uniquely me. And, despite the weird coincidences of all of these events happening on my birthday, I still ended up having really great birthdays.  

All these years later I treasure the people I was surrounded by, the chocolate cake baked by my Aunt Carol, all of my cousins showing up which were a big and fun- filled crew.  Those are the things that really stand out...

But if you were to ask what I wanted today for my birthday? Its really pretty simple. Lets just all make it through the day without any trips to the ER and we'll call it good!  


I have tons of photos I'm editing about our Cully's Kids weekend and will be sharing soon!  I'm off now- to find some cake! 







Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy 16th Anniversary, Superman




When I was a senior in high school, I went on a youth trip to Washington DC, and New York City.  Only one person wanted to go to the top of the World Trade Center with me.  He brought a camera and wanted to take timed long exposure photos of the traffic and city lights streaming below.  The two of us stood, quiet and still, looking out of a window onto the world- alone, together.  I was smitten from the git-go.  

We couldn't have known one day those Twin Towers that had offered us a first glimpse of the two of us standing alone against the world, would tumble to the ground under terrorist attack.

I couldn't have known that it would be years later after we started college, that his lens would seek me out. 

But in college, I said no... no way, no.

Well, okay.

Then...

Yes.  Definitely yes.

I couldn't have known we wouldn't last.

After a solid couple of years of dating we would feel too young to get married.  So we waited.  Dated others.  Waded through heart ache. And discovered we always came back to each other. 

But we couldn't have known he'd be asked to move to Idaho for work,  after I had enrolled in graduate school here.  We flew back and forth a lot.

And then...

One day, he threw his bike on his Honda Accord, and drove 1135 miles with a ring in his pocket to my house.  He woke me up out of a sound sleep early in the morning.  I was crabby.  Oh I couldn't have known.  But... he leaned down by the bed and said he had finally come to get me- for keeps.

The Twin Towers are no longer. 


But those two young teenagers, getting their first glimpse of the world, would stand the test of time.  We've had plenty of hardships to weather and have been broken down, but have grown stronger each time in those broken places.


Happy 16th Anniversary to my Superman!  

What I should have known- "It's your love"... has filled in the cracks, glued us together and made me feel like no matter what tries to tear us down, love will be enough to see us through.

This was our first dance of our wedding night, 16 years ago today!




I love you more, Superman, more.  



Honored that we will be surrounded by people we love at the very place we held our wedding reception so many years ago... more to follow... and just wait till you see what I was given last night... holy smokes... unbelievable.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

where the girls go barefoot


















When I was 3 or 4 it was decided I could benefit from corrective shoes.  They came in colors of brown, black, or brown and black.  They had square, boxed toes, hard leather sides and bottoms, and were just plain ugly.  Plus they were budget busters and we only went once a year to get a new prescription by the foot doc and then off to the specialty shoe store.  Oh how I hated them.  I had to wear them all year round, even in the summer. No tennis shoes... and worse, no bare feet for me.

Then one year the foot doc retired.

I was also due for my Kindergarten check-up.  So my regular doctor, Dr. Christu, had me walk for him.  

And he scoffed.

"Sure, she's a little knock-kneed, but I have never heard of a brand of shoe to fix that!  If I were you, I'd take her to JCPenney's and buy her some Keds.  Heck, its summer, let her go barefoot if she wants- she's earned it."  

Oh. My. Happy. Heck.

I've been a barefoot kind of gal ever since!  



We spent part of our weekend down at Grandpa Jim's lake.  Grandpa was off visiting down South, so we had the place to ourselves.  Nolan tubed behind the boat.  The boys fished.  I took photos.


My Tykerb arrived yesterday and I took my first 5 pills last night... I had a restless night of sleep and  felt sick as soon as I stood up this morning. Thank goodness for Immodium and Zofran- and bible study which got me out the door this morning and was just the distraction I needed.

We have a jam-packed next few days.  We have 3 full days of Cully's Kids, our wedding anniversary and a wedding to attend that same day, and someone is having a Birthday next week.  

Plus, its barefoot weather.  And that is worth everything and a whole lot more. 
















Saturday, July 6, 2013

...in the small moments missed.



"None of us knows how long we have. Remember that a pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted… in the small moments missed. None of this is forever grace. That’s why it’s amazing grace."               Ann Voskamp



The envelope arrived yesterday. 

My CT scan results show increased metastatic disease.  In one place where there was once two small spots, it now looks like one spot of 2.7cm.  In several other areas new nodes were prevalent along with some lesions.  My chest tightens as I read.

In his note to me, Dr. Panwalkar explains we simply did this CT scan to have a baseline to compare with future scans.  I know he is suggesting I don't panic and worry about the results. 

He has this.  HE has this.  

Friday I heard from the specialty pharmacy that my Tykerb was being prepared by the pharmacist and they would call to schedule delivery soon.  HURRY UP TYKERB!  

I will take 5 pills.  Daily.  I will have no days off.  Daily now.

The irony of this whole thing?  I told Dr. P I felt pretty well, but struggled with fatigue and a heaviness in my chest when I go for long walks.  I was thinking LUNGS.

Thank goodness HE is the doctor.

He upped my HEART medication.  Voila!  I almost instantly had a return of some energy.  

I'm up to two miles in my walks, rounding the corner into 3.  Take that lung mets!  



So when I got the fb message from my friend Kim, who is also a breast cancer survivor, that she and her husband would be traveling through town and could we meet?  I was thrilled.  

She is a faith-filled, sweet and warm, woman.  She is a survivor!  




Kim delivers these Hope Lives Now Baskets and blogs here.

So many thoughtful and encouraging gifts tucked away in the basket.  The mug has become my new favorite for my morning coffee.  Thanks Kim for visiting, connecting, and encouraging.  It felt like meeting an old friend!  I could have sat and laughed and talked all night.  I was left feeling so recharged by so many grace filled moments that night.




July 5th marked the 3rd anniversary of my Father's passing.  There was another bulky envelope tucked in with the rest of the mail.  It was a Minnesota license place similar to the one below.  


google images


We got a good laugh when we realized it was for my Dad's old truck.  We couldn't help but feel a nudge from him.  We miss him so.

So we decided to head for the lake.  It was one of my Dad's favorite places to go.  I was a girl after his own heart, and just wanted to honor him in the missing places of my little girl heart. 

With Nolan off on his own adventure, Rick, Colton and I took off.





My usually non-water child- could have fooled me! 







No trip to the lake feels complete without a little Zorbaz to eat. 




Then, while the men fished I took off with my camera, adding to my collection of the small. The grace. Being sure not to miss my moments.  



















And while I live in the moments, collecting and adding them up... I wonder... if Grace starts movements... what is the movement awaiting me?  




When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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