Lincoln County News
January 27, 2000

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my settling into my winter routine now that we finally have some snow and cold weather. I have a scare as a fever and abdominal pain may mean a return visit to the hospital.

January 15, 2000: Cuddles and I have settled into our routine of watching snow fall and enjoying my many bird feeders, now that winter has finally arrived. I enjoy watching the birds and maintain a variety of feeders to attract quite a crowd of birds and squirrels. This week, I was delighted by the arrival of a pair of cardinals, which is an unusual sighting at my feeders and I hope they will stay around for awhile. Cuddles is much more interested in my blue jays. I have a group of five or six who I guess I have overfed as they are almost the size of crows! Cuddles seems to want to keep them away from my house and windows as they are probably too large for his comfort level. Sue and Paul have also settled into our routine of restaurant reviews from home. Actually, this has become quite pleasant as we now have real winter weather with snow and cold. I like nothing better than snuggling up in my living room and watching the snow fall and pigging out on some kind of exotic take-out. I guess we should be tired of Beale Barbecue by now, but it is our selection for tonight as we felt like spicy food would warm us up. Of course, I am not pigging out on barbecue, but pretending to be as I am still limited in my menu selections. I chose a 1/4 chicken and removed the skin. I had a few bites of rice which are on my diet plus some cornbread. Though I have to avoid the spicy items, I still feel like I am having a big treat!

Tonight, we also decided to rent a videotape. I must say it was a campy video that deserves to be rented because it was so stupidly funny. It's called, "Lake Placid" and it is about a 150 year old crocodile that has somehow made it's way into a Maine lake. I don't think the setting looked like a Maine lake and the crocodile left something to be desired in his special effects, but we all had a good laugh and there were some funny lines. I think we all need to rent some aimless videos just for good laughs to keep us amused.

January 18, 2000: Today, my helper is Sherry, the catnapper lady. She takes great delight in visiting my Cuddles. We will have a busy day because this will be my first session with Sara, my OT therapist from CHANS. She has designed a series of exercises to be done about 5 times a day. One exercise can be done up to 20 times a day. I can do these lying in my bed or from my recliner chair. Most are isometric exercises and I am familiar with a few of them from having done them in aerobics class years ago. The exercises go easily and seem so simple to me that by the end of the day I am exhausted and realized I probably have pushed myself too much. Later in the day, Chris, who is filling in for Debbie, my CHANS nurse, stops in to check my vital signs and see how I am doing. She reports that all looks well.

January 19, 2000: Well, today, I am so tired, I have vowed to skip my exercises and do a few limited ones from my recliner. I guess I will never learn to pace myself. Today, my helper is Carolyn and we have set ourselves a busy agenda of undecorating my house from Christmas. I had decided to leave all my Christmas decorations up until Mid January as I missed seeing them while I was in the hospital. Let me assure you that I am not one of those folks who leave Christmas lights up all year. So today, Carolyn and I took down all the larger arrangements and carefully wrapped my antique creche scene and stored them away. Tomorrow, my friend Dot and I will undecorate the Christmas tree and we will be all done.

Today, Connie, the Executive Director of the American Cancer Society, stopped in for lunch and a two hour visit. Ben and I are in the process of closing out the books for the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour for 1999. We have already raised close to $50,000 for the Society for different ACS Divisions all over the country. I was very excited to raise this sum of money as I was unable to do more than seven Tour appearances this year due to my health. In reviewing my books, I will now be able to turn in an additional $4000.00 to the New England Division. Thanks to the generosity of so many people, these dollars will bring us much closer to a cure. Yet, much work remains to be done. I am constantly reminding folks that this year, 1.4 million people will be diagnosed with cancer and 573,000 will die of the disease. If we all make a concerted effort, we can detect cancers earlier and save many more lives. We now have close to 10 million cancer survivors in this country. Let's all work together to improve these odds.

January 21, 2000: Today, I am not feeling well with that all-too familiar pain in my sigmoid colon side. The past two days, I was a little sore, but passed it off as gas discomfort. Today, my helper is Jane and this was a miracle from God. Jane is a critical care nurse and my most qualified and proficient helper. Twice Jane has been with me during a "crisis" and I don't pass this off as a coincidence. When she arrives, I am still lying in bed and feeling very much under the weather. Jane touches my cheek and says I am flushed with a fever. I am stunned to find out it is 100.6 as I don't feel chilled or sweaty. Jane says this is a serious situation and we need to phone Dr. Tom. First, Jane wants to listen to my bowel sounds, but she has not brought her stethoscope. With her nurse connections, she soon locates one and Ben picks it up within minutes from a local health care clinic. As feared, there are no bowel sounds which is important information that Tom will need to know.

Armed with information on fever and bowel sounds, we put in a call and reach Cindy at Tom's office. Cindy says she is hoping to see Tom any minute and will relay the information. In no time, we hear back from Tom who immediately orders an antibiotic and is sending the CHANS nurse out to get blood samples. In the meantime, Jane has already made arrangements to get a clean caught urine specimen that the CHANS nurse will take back to the lab to make sure there is no bladder infection.

Meanwhile, I already have visions of an ambulance trip to MidCoast and an upcoming stay in the hospital. Jane holds my hand and tells me not to worry. She thinks we may have caught this infection early and let's think positively. Jane is always so prepared for her visits to my house. Today, she had planned on making me a lemon meringue pie! Also, she likes to bring me an assortment of tapes. Today, it was country music day and she had selected George Jones. Jane's preference in music is far ranging and she likes to surprise me and make me laugh. In any case, she always succeeds at this. Jane sits next to me on the bed and messages my side for about two hours. I take Valium, one of my muscle relaxants and my antibiotic, and in a matter of four hours I am feeling so much better. Not only that, my temp has dropped to 99.4 by 3 pm. All very positive signs. Jane asks what else she can do and I ask her to read to me from my Chicken Soup Book about pets. My nephews gave me this book at Christmas and I recommend it to anyone who loves animals. The stories are heartwarming.

January 21, 2000: Jane checks in with me by phone this morning after having worked at the hospital until way past midnight. Thank God for friends like Jane. She tells me not to worry about this weekend as she thinks I'll be all right. I was worried this morning to find that Dr. Tom is not on call. Jane said not to let this worry me and gave me several phone numbers to reach her if I needed her over the weekend. I can also call CHANS as they are on call 24 hours a day, and of course, I can still call Dr. Tom's replacement though I rely so heavily on Tom for his expertise.

The past two weeks have been tough ones for scheduling helpers. My list of 20 has dwindled as I lost several during January and February. Then, everyone is coming down sick with colds and flu and I have to avoid that. I have a group of nine now that I can regularly count on. My sister Mary Ann will be up for two days in February which will help and my parents plan to fly up sometime for a few days, but that is dependent entirely on weather. So, I am putting my organizational skills to work and added a few new folks who have expressed an interest in kindly helping me out at home.

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