Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ready to Hike?

Practicing the setup
Our dog Zoey happy to see us at her level for once

 Despite getting two backpacks donated to this cause, we've spent most of our savings account on this overnight adventure into the Superstition Wilderness, so I guess that means we have to go!

For some strange reason, I decided last year that I wanted our birthdays to be memorable.  Sometimes when you live in cancer world, your life becomes all about the cancer, so I do my best to find distractions. Last year's birthdays-Ted's is February 13 and mine the 27th-  involved a nice dinner at a beautiful lake with my parents, a puppy adoption and an uncomfortable ride on a horsey saddle at a steakhouse while a bunch of waiters sang happy birthday to me.  See!  I did remember. But this year I had to up the ante because you can only remember so many restaurants.

I decided that I wanted to check one more thing off of my bucket list.  This of course all started with Ted's bucket list in 2006 when he was first diagnosed with brain cancer, but as time passes, I've realized everyone needs a bucket list.
Zoey wishing she could go with us

We start out this morning at my parent's house with a breakfast casserole and coffee. Our friends will be taking us by 4x4 near a place called Reed's Water.  Apparently it's one of the rare watering holes in the Superstitions.  So far the plan is that our friends drop us within a few miles of there and we set up camp.  It's a 10.5 mile hike back to my parent's house with an option to call them at the five mile mark, that is, if our phones work.  Ten miles wouldn't normally be a deal breaker for us, but dear God, those packs are heavy!  Mine is 27 lbs and I'till need to add another water bottle.  Ted's pack is about ten pounds more than mine.  I predict a backache in my near future.  Wish us luck!  There will be pictures.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Of Mines and Minds

When I first met Ted, I was plagued by phobias. The phobias were byproducts of a scary first marriage and life in a strife filled area of the Middle East. Through Ted's patience and love and a lot of time, I overcame most of them.  The few fears that still existed when he was diagnosed with the GBM took a backseat to the real threat of brain cancer.  But there is one fear that I've never been able to conquer. 

L to R: Ted, Lori and Tom
I'm claustrophobic.  So when friends from Indiana met us in Bisbee Arizona last week eager to tour the Bisbee Copper Mine, panic set in.  I didn't announce my fears to anyone because  I didn't want to be the wet blanket of the group, and the copper mine tour is about the only thing to do in Bisbee, so if I wanted to spend time with friends, I needed to suck it up and go along for the ride. I secretly hoped that I'd quietly overcome the fear and nobody would be the wiser.   

I'm on the left, Ted is behind me and Lori and Tom are next to us.
My nerves started to get the better of me as we waited in line to buy our tickets. My breath got shallow and I could feel my heart beating in my ears. To the right of the ticket booth was a staging area with safety equipment. After purchasing tickets, we went to the safety area and were outfitted with a hard hat, yellow jacket, miner's lamp and an ID tag attached to a safety pin.  Each tag had a number and we had to sign our names to a list that had corresponding numbers. If something went wrong and ten tons of mountain came crashing down on us, the nickel sized pin would be used to identify us.  I had a lot of faith in that.   
Heading into the tunnel

It's dark down there!
We were taken outside and asked to find a seat on a narrow train car aimed toward a tunnel in the hillside. There were about ten cars and four people to each car.  Our friends took the car in front of us and Ted sat behind me. We sat single file with our legs straddling the benches like we were riding a horse.  There was a tour guide on the front of the train and another one at the rear.  For a brief second, I had no fear and thought I was going to pull the whole thing off, but when the conductor announced our impending departure, I leaned back into Ted and told him to have a good tour.  I un-straddled the pony ride to hell and walked briskly past 40 or so people watching me chicken out. I didn't care.  I just wanted to get as far away from the tunnel as possible.  The tour guide on the back of the train jumped from her seat, ran to the office door and opened it for me. She had done this before.  "Are you sure?" She said, not even bothering to ask me why I got off the train.  
"Absolutely sure," I replied. She then told me that the train would make a stop about 150 feet into the tunnel. That stop was to weed out sissies like me. She said I could change my mind and go back out if I felt so inclined. This news gave me hope.  Once I knew I could get a small taste of what was to come and had the ability to escape, I felt braver, so I marched back outside and power walked past the crowd. Applause broke out.  I took a bow and rejoined Ted on the bench.  As the train creeped into the tunnel, my breath caught in my throat. It was the kind of breath you get after a crying jag or when you are about to go into a full blown panic attack.  I did neither.  

When we arrived at the first stop, the guide at the front of the train yelled "How's the lady with the fear doing?" I yelled back, "Fine," and I was fine.  I was so comfortable at one point during the journey that I almost fell asleep, which freaked me out a little. I never feel sleepy. Were we being deprived of oxygen? It was a momentary lapse into panic-ville.
Great view.

Ted pretending to birdwatch
Above ground, we went to a brewery and said good-bye to our friends.  Ted and I found a wildlife refuge called Whitewater Draw. I took a lot of deep breaths there, very appreciative for the open sky above.

Great place to view owls.
I'm happy to be above ground at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Refuge.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Website with Other Survivors

I came across this website again and remembered how nice it was to see even more people living long with brain cancer.  Check it out:

Long Term GBM Survivor Stories

Sunday, February 1, 2015

High Tee: Golf is Better with Drugs

It's not a secret that Ted hates going to the dentist.  It started with the brain tumor in 2006.  Two weeks before he was diagnosed with a GBM, he had extensive dental work done, which caused excruciating pain.  It started in his upper right molar and marched straight into his right frontal lobe, manifesting itself into the mother of all headaches. Before he knew the cause, he was convinced the dentist was a card carrying member of a sadist club.

Ted at Top Golf in Gilbert, AZ 1/2015
Fast forward nine years, and despite my gentle nudging (nagging) that he see someone for various bouts of tooth pain, he has all but refused going.  There was one valiant attempt about three years ago, and he even liked the dentist, but when he got pawned off on a dental hygienist who dug a little too deep, he swore he would "never, ever, ever" go back.

I thought it was a lost cause until last week.  He awoke with extreme tooth pain again. This time it was on the left side of his mouth-which happens to be the side of the head that has recently been under scrutiny due to unexplained enhancements. This of course freaked me out.  It even freaked Ted out a little, which doubly surprised me because deep fears and emotions have been hard for him to come by since the removal of his right frontal lobe.  Apparently he and I still associate dental pain with brain tumors.

But last Monday, the pain was bad again. It was so bad that for the first time in nine years, he didn't flinch when I picked up the phone and called a never before seen dentist and made an appointment for him.

The good news was that I wasn't going to have to drag his six foot three inch 200 pound body, kicking and screaming into the dentist. The bad news was there wasn't an appointment for twenty-four hours, and over the counter pain medication did nothing for him, even when he doubled the dose. That's when I reached into the medicine cabinet and gave him the hardcore stuff only doctor's prescribe.  It's the kind of stuff that makes me want to throw up and sing opera at the same time, so I never touch it.

 So what do you do when you are high on pain meds and have 24 hours to kill?  You go golfing. We went to one of those three story golf parks that are more like a high end batting cage than a golf course.  We got the top tier, which drops three stories below your tee.  It was less scary than I imagined, but if you are afraid of heights, it might give you pause. And if you were drunk, high or visually impaired you could actually fall off of the thing.  Did I say high? I crossed my fingers Ted wouldn't  take wing and try to get a birdseye view of his next shot.

The week before, when he wasn't high on painkillers, he took me there for my first golf lesson. He patiently taught me how to drive a golf ball so that I didn't look like I was trying to play Whack-a-Mole. He did a great job. I beat him twice. He has great form and can drive a ball to outer space, but his slice is a bit of a problem, unless he's higher than a kite apparently. It was like he had gone from amateur to professional in a week.   He heartily beat me and my sister, saying only that he was dizzy for the first three shots but felt pretty good after that.  I'd say so. His mouth is better too.  It's not perfect, but he has three more visits to the dentist to get it right.