November 8, 2018
Glen had a better sleep last night. He was only up on the toilet around 4 -5 times and some of that was not even for pooping. He was taking Dr. Torres advice and downing Imodium every 8 hours. Still oozing but definitely helping. He also sweated up his bed again…we choose to take this as a good sign. We’ll have to ask Dr. Torres about it again.
My sleep was in and out as usual, but at least I had more sleeping than not last night. My shoulder blade and mid back muscles screamed at me, in spite of Lydia’s amazing skill as a masseuse. Yesterday she moved my arm around and dug right into the muscle groups – except it was on my right hand side (also a problem), but not on the left where the current muscle group was complaining so loudly every time I took a breath. Silly muscles. Stress always hits my neck, shoulders and head. Such fun. Hope, I whisper to myself. Live in Camp Hope. Live as if you’re not in pain and eventually it will go away.
Dr. Torres came in after breakfast with Ricardo, the same young gentleman who took the large portion of blood from Glen. We found out that Ricardo is a nurse from a different lab that Issels works with. It was time for the blood to go back into Glen’s veins. Today he was getting two in one treatments – the Lymphokine-Activated Killer Cell (LAK) and Natural Killer (NK) Cell therapies. Glen’s blood had been cultured and “trained” for 48 hours to recognize and attack the “bad guys” – the cancer cells. I felt like bouncing up and down with excitement. Here was the first step and the whole reason for paying $28, 500 US funds just for this week alone. Here was hope and hope is a good thing. It took a mere ten to fifteen minutes for the blood to rapidly drip back into Glen’s veins. After that was done they gave him a multi-vitamin IV, which took two hours.
While the second IV was happening I went down to the Pharmacy (Pharmacia) to fill my order from Dr. Torres for muscle relaxants. It was very kind of him to help me out. We found out he grew up on a cattle ranch and knew how to ride a horse. Bonus. I tend to like anyone who knows his or her way around a horse. It’s a natural bond. I was ready with my phone translator but when I got down to the Pharmacy there was an English-speaking lady in a wheelchair being pushed by a young Mexican gentleman. I jokingly asked him if wasn’t going to stay and interpret for me too. He shrugged and did just that. I love God’s blessings! I got my seven pills and headed back up to the room. Checking to make sure Glen was ok, as if there was anything I could do to help anyway, I took his order for more shirts from “Sam’s Club” and off I went.
On the way down the elevator I was met by Maureen, a fellow Canadian who was here as a companion for her daughter Sheilagh. She was excited to meet me saying, “Oh, are you from room 210? Dr. Torres told us about you and we wanted to meet you. We knocked on your door last night but there was no answer.”
It must have been the only few minutes when Glen was out of the room. I was happy to meet a fellow Canadian. It’s amazing how homesick one can get when in another country. Everything here was good but different. The language, of course, was a big difference. The landscape was nice with hilly mountainous areas sparsely filled with a few palm trees and other trees I did not recognize. The hospital was situated beside an elementary school and middle school, which apparently made it a safe neighborhood. I believe that is because there was a higher police presence around schools. As I walk through the neighborhood I definitely saw quite a few police either parked or driving around, some with lights flashing though I couldn’t see why or what they were doing. There is a very nice neighborhood walk around a few blocks that takes me around ten minutes past the gated school and around. I can see the hospital tower from wherever I walk so I feel safe during the day. Although it’s safe Glen and I are amazed at how dirty the streets are. We are also completely guilt ridden with the amount of water bottles we are throwing in the garbage because this is a nation that does not recycle. If North America were to do anything helping other nations begin recycling would certainly be a noble venture!
Walking past the hospital again the guard smiles at me as I keep on going. I’ve been cooped up a long time in a little room and loving to move I am very exhilarated to be outside in 22 degrees Celsius sunny weather. My walk soon takes me to “Sam’s Club” which looks exactly like Costco including the Christmas decorations already for sale. I head to the men’s section and grab a few medium t-shirts that have just a few buttons in front. Spying a light sweater I grab a navy blue medium one. Walking over to the sweat wicking t-shirts I grab two more for Glen, avoiding the pink one because I didn’t want to bring anything back. Moving over to the women’s section I grab myself a few t-shirts as I too am running low. I found ankle socks for Glen by asking one of the ladies that worked there. Sign language seems to work just fine. Saying the few Spanish words I know helps the people to smile at me too. I have heard that these are a friendly, fun loving people but it’s hard in the hospital setting to see that. Walking the streets all the people, even the mothers and children, also avoid eye contact, which really surprises me. “Remember you’re in a big city Laurel,” I remind myself, “It’s not a small Saskatchewan town.” Nonetheless I try to make eye contact and at least nod at some of the women and children offering a few “Ola’s” for good measure. It can’t hurt to try!
Walking to the checkout, I stand there for a bit completely ignored by the workers. Being rather the impatient sort I motion to them and ask in English if I can pay for my stuff there. They shake their heads and point me to the customer service desk. I shrug and mumble, “Really? I don’t see anyone else going there…” but obediently go where I’m told.
“I was told to pay for this stuff here,” I say to the young woman behind the counter.
She looks confused but then starts ringing me through. Her limited English and my limited Spanish make for very little conversation. She hands me the Interact device so I can pay. Sticking in my Master card I am oddly surprised when Spanish pops up for instructions. I laugh at myself and do the logical thing, enter in my PIN number and hope it works. It starts beeping at me, and the young woman motions for me to take my card out. I really can’t help but smile at the language navigation. I’m sure the people are very friendly if we could understand each other more.
“Gracios,” I nod to the clerk. She smiles back and nods, “Denaro.”
Holding my items without a bag but with a receipt I walk out the door to have my receipt checked. Another beautiful young Spanish woman checks my receipt and bundle of clothes and nods. I walk through the doors and set off the alarms… Ugh…I do a U-turn and head back to her. “One of the shirts,” I motion as I talk and point to the shirt, “did not have a tag…” She seems to understand me and waves me out the door again. Off I go … and set off the alarm again. I look back at her, hopeful. She motions me to keep going so I do. I feel like I’m making a get away and hope no “policia” come and arrest me for nothing.
All is well and my over-active imagination rests for a minute. Arriving back in the room Glen is eating lunch and my lunch is ready. I must admit I truly don’t mind not cooking for a bit. Another miracle is that so far I have not reacted to a single thing I’ve eaten in spite of not really knowing what’s in the food. I’ve even eaten the apple and pear slices they’ve put on my tray even though I told them I was allergic to these fruit. No reaction! This is a complete and total miracle because normally I get an anaphylactic reaction. Thank you Jesus!
Glen’s IV finally finishes and he is exhausted. He tries on the clothes I bought him and to my dismay the first three items are too small.
“I know you hate taking things back,” he starts.
“Yeah I do. Even in English!”
“They don’t fit. You’ll have to take them back,” he responds.
My mind works quickly and jumps to another solution. Donovan is the smallest man in our family… “Or Donovan just got two new t-shirts and a nice light sweater,” I smile triumphantly; pretty sure I dodged the “take it back” bullet. I’m not sure why but it’s one of my least favorite things to do. When Mom had cancer and subsequently passed away in 2010 (and I still miss her so much!) I told her and Dad I would do anything for them – except take things back to the store. It’s weird, but true. It’s one of my eccentricities I guess. Glen smiled. When stubborn meets stubborn what can you do but smile?
The afternoon was emotional for Glen. This is hard on me. It’s brutal to see the man I love doubt and be short. He was very tired and slightly feverish so I acknowledge that out loud and again in my mind so that I can try to give him space. I am trying to stay firmly planted in “Camp Hope.” It’s something I can only accomplish through the grace of God giving me Holy Spirit power to do. We had played a few games of Yahtzee. Disagreeing on the rules brought out some emotions in both of us.
Before we knew it the afternoon was leaving us. I headed up to floor five for my massage from Lydia only to be met by another woman who led me into the massage room. Her name was Elizabeth. The massage was not at all helpful and lasted only half an hour. When I asked her to massage my neck she got me to roll over. Being again, quite obedient, I rolled over and hugged the pillow to my bare chest. Then she proceeded to “move” my neck quite rapidly back and forth. I really need to develop more words. That was not helpful! Being Canadian I thanked her and paid my US $30.00 for something that was not worth that much. Lydia’s massages were worth more than that. I wondered if this young woman had any training…and then chided myself for whining. I am thankful for the massages I got and decided to leave it at that but not to rebook unless I could for sure have Lydia. The problem was how to communicate that to the staff? Oh well!
When I returned to our room Maureen and her daughter Sheila were there chatting with Glen. When Dr. Torres walked in Maureen looked at him with teasing eyes and said, “Are you holding out on me? I need a massage too!”
It felt really good to laugh. We compared stories with them. Sheilagh has breast cancer. As I found out later that evening when we stopped in at their room her story became clearer. She works for the UN and has lived in 50 plus countries in the past 23 years. Eight of those years were in Afghanistan. She has had a very stressful life. Being counsellor’s we are constantly under stress and take in a lot of secondary trauma. I can only imagine the stories she must have. Sheilagh currently lives in New York City. I told her that Glen really wants to visit New York City and she offered us her home to stay in while there to save on hotel bills. Perhaps in the future we can go and do Glen’s dream trip to New York! I offered our home to both of them as well and voila, we now have new friends from New York and Toronto – and they’re Mennonite at their roots too! Bonus!
The conversation ended for Glen as he picked up a call from his parents. I ended up staying in their room for a while as we discussed health food, the Issels diet which we both thought we had already mostly been doing for years. Sheilagh was a fellow “do it yourself” making everything naturally including soap and deodorant like I do.
“None of this is fair!” Maureen piped in. “Why don’t the people who eat crap, smoke like chains and drink like fish get cancer?”
“I guess I must have done something really bad in my previous life,” Sheilaugh added.
“Well,” I said, “It does rain on the good and the bad. Sometimes things just happen for no good reason.”
“I guess we’re still figuring out if we’re the good or the bad then!” Maureen said. She was cute. I liked them both. Maureen had short white hair and lived in a senior’s complex. I felt bad for her sleeping on the uncomfortable “couch”. It was bad enough for me but for a senior with hip issues it just didn’t seem right. Maureen was also a fighter having crushed breast cancer three years prior to now supporting her daughter and best friend Sheilagh through the same thing.
Nothing about all of this seems right. But it is here nonetheless and we all need to deal with it. Maureen and Sheila are probably not going to do the three weeks in the outpatient program in Santa Barbara. We are signed up for it even though it is expensive ($8500 a week plus our accommodations and food). Glen started questioning the wisdom of us going there. That got me questioning it too. My mind remembered one of the reasons… I’m tired. I’ve been fighting Lyme Disease for forty years, most of that not knowing what I was actually fighting at the root. Just three months before Glen was diagnosed the first time with rectal cancer it was confirmed with a naturopathic doctor that I indeed do have Lyme Disease. One year after that Joshua’s health got worse and worse and he was found to have Lyme Disease. He went from a premier soccer player at a high level, playing basketball and every other sport extremely well, and an honors student to not being able to climb out of bed and barely making it up the stairs. I could barely make it up the stairs but for all those years I would struggle up and down the stairs taking care of Glen and Josh and seeing clients in between. Not just a few clients. I was seeing six to seven clients in a day, making supper, cleaning, watering the plants, going to do my horse chores and crashing by day’s end. Only by the grace of God! People wonder why I work so hard. It’s because I love what I do. I feel called to help people and I am empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to do it. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take a toll on one though. We needed someone else to take care of Glen just for a bit. This warrior needed a break and from what I’m hearing from God I’m supposed to be resting too.
The evening was done. I called friends who were visiting us from Alberta using the Facebook Messenger Calling app – except we weren’t there because we left so quickly. I wanted to check up on their daughter Alyssa who got a massive migraine after Rowena, my good friend and the one I hired to help me take care of NeurOptimals (really my “personal assistant extraordinaire”!) gave her the second treatment. Ray and Cassandra were visiting with Ed and Rowena so we had a good laugh with friends from afar. The conversation ended with more laughter as Glen pressed buttons on my phone and crowns and funny things came on our faces!
Then it was off to bed. I took half a muscle relaxant and lay in bed for hours quite awake…Lord please let this work!!