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Lincoln County News
February 24, 2000

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes another stay at Mid Coast Hospital. My sister, Mary Ann, and her friend Deborah, visit for the weekend. After another blood transfusion, I am free to come home where I will be treated to some extra home health care, a real luxury! Valentine’s candy and an improved appetite add to my boost in spirits.

February 12, 2000: Today, I was released from Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick after my blood transfusion. I have been in the hospital a week and a half. It is a great relief to be going home again. My Doctors are letting me go on a "watch" because I should be on the alert for several problems including a fistula and the small brain tumor in my thalamus.

Before we leave the hospital, Ben and I take about ten flower arrangements down to the nurses’ station. I can’t begin to carry all of these beautiful flowers home and I know that many of the patients will enjoy their cheery appearance, as some folks just don’t receive gifts or flowers. I trust it will brighten their day.

February 13, 2000: My sister, Mary Ann, and her friend Deborah are still here visiting and help me move all my Valentine decorations back home. They are soon busy re-decorating my house in Valentine theme so everything looks festive. They are leaving this afternoon for the long trip back to NJ, but they will be breaking up the trip by staying at Christy’s house in Bedford, MA tonight. It is a sad parting, but Mary Ann promises to come back up in a few weeks to visit again, probably with our sister, Peg.

Four of our Corvette friends from Andover, MA area, Dan & Karen Gale and Al & Diane Dow, whom we have known for nearly 20 years, came up to see us. It is really so kind of friends of ours to drive three hours to visit. It means a lot to have such dedicated buddies.

February 14, 2000: I am determined to take it easy and rest up this week. In the hospital I really forced myself to do my therapy exercises and some days it just exhausted me. Today, I talked to my CHANS nurse, Debbie, and told her how I was pushing myself beyond my limits. She told me to take a week off from the exercises and just relax. It was a nice feeling to have her support on this and make me feel like I wasn’t just goofing or slacking off.

I will be having more home health care beginning today. My caregiver will be Holly, and she’s a real sweetheart. She is thrilled to meet me because she thinks I am a celebrity! She works for CHANS, the Community Health And Nursing Service that has been helping me weekly. Holly will bathe me daily in the morning and stop in again in the afternoon to see if I need help. What a luxury!

Today, is one of my favorite days of the year: Valentine’s Day. Actually, I am just hitting my prime on dark chocolates right now. With my appetite almost back to normal, I have given Ben my regular order for chocolate butter creams and also suggested he throw in a few chocolate covered cherries. I was disappointed with the quality control on some, so I am thinking of doing some on-the-spot inspections sometime. Ben didn’t want me to open any of my candy until today, but sampling began as early as Sunday.

Today and tomorrow I am short of helpers, so Ben stays home with me. It seems that everyone is sick with the flu or colds. I have to be very careful of whom I’m around so I don’t pick up any of these illnesses. Fortunately, my helpers are aware and go to great lengths to keep me away from bugs.

Ben spends the day setting up my room with my new bedside table. Also, for the first time, I get to see my new motorized lounge chair, which is an absolute delight. It is so easy to get in and out of; however, the chair has been commandeered by Cuddles while I was in the hospital. Obviously, he thought it was ordered specifically for him. He is reluctant to let me use it. He has become very mouthy since I’ve returned, so he lets me know, in no uncertain terms, that he’s in charge. I find myself threatening him with the sprayer bottle of water on frequent occasions. My plants have been also shrinking daily as he munches away on what are hopefully non-toxic leafy fronds. He is definitely getting more daring and feisty and knows his limits in terms of my reach with the sprayer bottle. I still cannot believe he is 1-2 years old, weighing in at around 13 ½ lbs. And acting more like a circus cat than a normal feline!

February 15, 2000: I am especially enjoying the new look in my living room. While my Dad and brother were here last week, they helped Ben paint the dark paneled wall in my living room in a color that matched a pecan tan in my wallpaper. The result is fantastic and the room looks so much brighter and cheerier. Tonight, we rehang my pictures, so everything is back in order. The wall painting was one of my winter projects, the next being much more ambitious, to paint the kitchen and hallway a lighter color. This will be quite an undertaking, but I figured I’d have a painting party with friends.

February 16, 2000: Today, is a very full day of visitors. First, it is Carolyn’s regular day to help me. Then, long about midday, Charlene arrives with Ann and her sister, two very good friends of ours from a Corvette Club in Chelmsford, MA. They have driven up to visit with us for the day. We have a great time catching up on all our old news. They also bring boxes of special muffins from a place called the Gingerbread House. These confections are hard to describe, but are delicious. The gingerbread are filled with and topped with a cream filling. There are also Boston Crème, strawberry filled, pumpkin and several other flavors. There are several locations in MA and I believe their business started out making Gingerbread Houses around Christmas time.

February 17, 2000: Today, I have a new helper, Mabyn. She is really super and bills herself as a jack of all trades. I know she will be a very reliable helper, and in addition she is a computer guru who can help me with my book and column duties. We are planning a variety of activities this week. First, I am sending her shopping while Holly my caregiver is here. Christy’s and Ben’s birthdays are coming up and we are planning an early celebration this weekend. Christy will be driving up for the weekend and plans to arrive tomorrow around midday. We are due a big snowstorm, so I am hoping she will get up here before the roads and weather conditions get too bad. Mabyn and I have talked about a few ideas for gift items for Christy, and Charlene, my veteran shopper, has already picked up one of the items this morning on her way up to my house.

My appeal for extra helpers has really paid off, and around 2 p.m., a potential new helper, Elaine, arrives for an interview. Interestingly, I was contacted by three nurses who offered to assist me with some short blocks of time. I make arrangements with Elaine to keep in touch and she will be available in a week or so to help me out.

February 18, 2000: Mabyn is here until early afternoon. We have a fun time wrapping up a pretty basket for Christy's birthday gift. Christy arrives before the predicted snowstorm starts and Mabyn can get home and also settled in before the weather turns too nasty.

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