My life changed dramatically and forever when I lost TJ.

I welcome you to follow along as I adjust to my "new normal".

It is not all puppies and ice cream but it is my life....real and honest.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?!?! I Don't Have Time for This!!

First of all I want to let everyone know that the prognosis for TJ's Mom is not good at all. Having said that though, she is a fighter and a tough woman so maybe with a few prayers and some finger crossing she can beat the odds that were given to her.

Battle On Carol, Battle On

I, on the other hand, went to the Gyno today for my yearly "well woman exam". Geesh they make it sound so glorious don't they? Turns out that she found a couple of lumps on my breasts (yep, both of them) and wants me to get a diagnostic mammogram right away. My regular mammo isn't due until November. As soon as I get my Mammogram I am to meet with a doctor for a surgery consult. What the hell!?!?!?! I truly don't have time for this and I told her so today. I especially don't have time for any type of surgery let alone cancer. I am still taking care of TJ and he is not well enough in my opinion to begin taking care of me. Although, if you ask him, he is ready, able, and willing. Frankly, I appreciate that about him, but we already have enough on our plate and I sure don't need to be an additional burden around here. We are just keeping in mind that we had a scare similar to this last year and it all turned out OK. This year though is in a different location and both breasts. It is what it is and we will do what we have to do.

Just a reminder to everyone that TJ gets his scan results Wednesday afternoon so please cross things and pray for him.

Battle On TJ, Battle On

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roller Coaster Day !!

Right now all I can say about today is WOW!! The morning started off great. Both TJ and I woke up early and sat on the patio with the dogs drinking coffee. Nice morning here in beautiful AZ so was very enjoyable. A little before 7:00 AM we decided to head in the house for some breakfast. As soon as we walked in the house we heard a knock on the door. I assumed it was a car guy and told TJ I was going to go get a shower. Turned out it was not a car guy. It was our neighbors (not the ones that throw flakes to my horses but the ones to the south). Too many good neighbors to keep track of is a wonderful thing! Anyway, I heard Josh tell TJ "we rounded up a possee" I am heading for the shower but thinking what the heck does that mean? I sneaked a peak out the spare bedroom window and there were Josh & Sarah, Josh's Mom & Dad, & two Elders from their Ward in our front yard. All the weeds were gone and the tree was trimmed!!!! I went ahead and jumped in the shower and turned out they all headed to the backyard to do the same thing. As soon as I got out of the shower I headed outside to thank them all. What a wonderful thing to do for us. TJ has been talking for weeks about getting someone to help him clean up the yard and trim trees and BAM we got help. I have to admit that when I walked in the backyard to thank them all I had a huge lump in my throat and could hardly speak. This was such a huge help they had no idea. TJ and I both have always been the first ones to step up to the plate and help others in their time of need but to actually be on the receiving end of help was new to both of us and made us both so grateful once again for fantastic neighbors and friends. At the last minute TJ said I should get my camera so here are a few photos I snapped just as they were finishing up.

I so wish I could remember the name of the Elders that helped but I was so overcome with emotion their names went in one ear and out the other. THANKS A BUNCH TO ALL OF YOU!!

So, that was the first part of the roller coaster ride today. We are at the top but unfortunately that speedy downhill is quickly approaching. After they were all done and gone TJ and I had some breakfast and decided to run some errands; PetsMart, Staples (for my work), Best Buy, etc. When TJ grabbed his phone right before we left he had a voicemail. It was from Joe, his Mom's boyfriend, and his mom is not doing well at all and they are at the Emergency Room. His message was garbled and we really could not understand it. Finally, Kelly, TJ's sister called and gave us the scoop, she is in the hospital in Mesa. We finally get up there this afternoon and talked to her nurse. Keep in mind that she was diagnosed with cancer about 1 week before TJ. Here are the things that her nurse told us and keep in mind nothing is set in stone as tests are being run but these are the things that they are looking at. Her heart rhythm is off, she has paralysis in her right leg (possible stroke), something showed up in her brain on the CT scan they did (possible brain mets i.e. cancer spread), and some kind of bacteria infection that they are talking to infectious disease about that is giving her a fever. Because if the infection you had to wear and gown and gloves just to go in the room!! We spoke with her nurse and he suggested that TJ not go in there at all since his immune system is compromised because of the chemo. So guess who got volunteered?! The one who always wore masks and gloves when his kids got the flue and is extremely paranoid of sickness?!?!!? Are you kidding me ??? Then TJ said, "please go and tell me how she looks, I need you to do this". So, of course I did and it wasn't so bad really and she looked OK. She obviously feels bad with the fever but really looked OK over all. I spoke with her a bit and then we took off.

I hate to keep doing this but PLEASE cross fingers and pray for her, we are very worried.

Change in my sign off tonight:

Battle On Carol, Battle On

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friday Photo Shoot Out - Incongruous

Incongruous - meaning out of place, ridiculous, inconsistent, contradictory.

This subject happened to be pretty easy for me this week. As a matter of fact I took the picture last weekend and have been waiting not so patiently for the end of the week to post it. We have the best neighbors that live behind us!! Their horses border ours and sometimes on the weekends when they feed before I do they will throw a couple of flakes of hay over the fence to my guys. My guys love it cause they get to eat early and get hay instead of pellets!! Now, my mule (Patsy Cline) is pushing 30 years old and she tends to like to sleep in. I tell ya, this girl is a sleeper and I have never seen anything like it. She wakes up and stretches like a human before she gets up. It is quite a sight to see. Last Sunday I had thought that I got up early enough to beat Adriene to feeding but alas, NOT!! This is what I saw when I looked out the window and I just had to get a picture as I have NEVER, EVER seen a horse (or mule) eat while laying down.

By the way, TJ and I hung out on the patio drinking coffee and Patsy did not get up until she was done with her hay! Even animals can enjoy a lazy Sunday morning.

So to me this is very INCONGRUOUS !!

On a side note, I am blessed to have found this group and I really appreciate all the support I get from many of the members, even when I do miss a week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Scanxiety Time

I stole that term from a fellow blogger and if I could remember who I would give them credit. But, the term fits the cicumstance. Tomorrow is TJ's scan, although we don't get the results from the doctor until the following Wednesday afternoon. Anyway, this is a very nervous time as all cancer patients and their loved ones can attest to. Is the cancer gone? Has the cancer spread? Will I require more treatment? Will I require different treatment? What will my quality of life be if I need more treatment? Am I going to make it through this? Am I in remission? When is this going to end? And believe me I could go on and on but there really is no point, it is what it is and all we can do is hope for the very best and keep chugging along.

TJ has still been having quite a bit of back pain and we can't seem to really get it under control. I thought that by now he would be doing so much better. The last couple of nights he has been waking up in quite a bit of pain and needing meds. I hate this for him as I am beginning to see his spirits droop a bit and his attitude has gotten worse. Of course I understand why but it is frustrating for me and I don't know what to do to help him. He is beginning to lose weight and nothing I suggest to eat sounds good to him.

I am asking everyone out there to please cross fingers, pray, cross toes and anything else that you can do to send some luck TJ's way as he goes for his scan in the morning. I plan on rubbing his little bald head for luck :)

Battle On TJ, Battle On

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No ER Trip & Lessons Learned from Cancer

Well, we successfully avoided a trip to the ER. I am not sure what happened except that someone flipped that switch that I have talked about in the past. While I said that neither TJ nor I really thought he needed to go to the ER I would have taken him if he felt worse on Friday. He actually felt just a bit better Friday morning so we decided to hold off and see how the day went. I would like to think it was my biscuits and gravy Thursday night that attributed to his recovery but I really don't think so. I think it was the fear of going to the ER. Also, Thursday night I stayed up until 11:00 pm to give him some more pain medication and woke up at 3:00 am for another dose. While 4 hours of sleep made for a long work day on Friday for me I do think that staying on a 4 hour schedule with his pain meds helped him immensely.

Friday TJ worked on his car for a bit and even ran the vacuum for me. We were beginning to swim in dog hair around here so I really appreciated the vacuuming. After dinner we bowled a game on Wii and shortly after that he called it quits for the night and hit the sack about 8:00 pm.

This morning we were both up shortly after 5:00 am and the weather here was beautiful this morning so we sat on the patio and drank coffee for about 2 hours. He then called a friend, Rick, and he came over to help him work on his car for a couple of hours. While sitting outside and watching the dogs goof around it really made me realize all that I have learned from this journey.

Mostly I have learned that it is OK to slow down in life a bit. Before cancer we never would have sat on the patio for 2 hours drinking coffee. We always felt like we had chores to get done or someplace to go and most of the time it was both. I have learned that household chores just aren't as important as they used to be. My house does not need to be super clean and a little (ok, sometimes a lot) dog hair never hurt anyone. Now all I want is no clutter and no filth. Time is too short to waste it cleaning house. I have learned that you really don't know what you have until something threatens to take it away in the blink of an eye. The reality of this hits you like a sharp blow to the head and brings you to your knees. Granted that reality is always in the back of my mind but I have, and so has TJ, learned to cherish every moment and not spend time worrying about what "might" happen. It is all about living in the present now. Not that we don't talk about the future, we do, but when we do it is with caution as we don't know what the next week will bring let alone the next year. The weekend that TJ was diagnosed he went in the hospital on a Friday afternoon. I was with him until late Friday night and back up there by 7:00 am on Saturday morning. It was 10:00 pm Saturday night before I got back home and the dogs had been locked in the house all day. Needless to say I had some "accidents" to clean up when I got home (thank goodness for tile floors). Obviously I could not be mad at them but while I was mopping up urine I just thought aloud, "this is just small stuff, not important, and in the big picture it is all small stuff, don't sweat the small stuff". There was a time before that I would have been crazy hysterical about the dogs peeing in the house but not anymore. When TJ came home from the hospital I told him about that incident. From that point on there have been countless times that things have happened and we both just look at each other and say "it's just small stuff, don't sweat the small stuff!"

Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain!

Battle On TJ, Battle On

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Possible Trip To The ER

I so did not see this coming! It has been 2 weeks since TJ's last treatment and he is still very, very sore. As a matter of fact he is miserable! I couldn't take it anymore so I called the Cancer Center today to see if they had any ideas to help him. I went through the usual process of leaving a message for the nurse and waiting for a call back. Usually they call back very soon, but today I did not get a call back until this afternoon. When I did receive a call it was from Dr. Nabong (TJ's Oncologist) himself. I described to him what was going on and he did not sound happy at all. Not a good thing when your Oncologist sounds worried. He asked me if I thought I should take him to the Emergency Room and I said no, we continued our discussion and his final decision was that if TJ is not better tomorrow then I need to take him to the ER and have them call him immediately.
When I told TJ this he was not happy at all (Surprise, Surprise) and informed me that he did not think this required an ER visit. I agree with him whole heartedly!! I had told Nabong that it was like the Neulasta shot was still affecting him and he told me that it might be. If that is the case then we just need to ride it out and there really is no reason to go to the hospital in my opinion and TJ agrees. Meanwhile we are going to be diligent about him taking his hydrocodone every 4 hours for the next 24 hours and see if that helps. If it does not then I will leave work a couple of hours early tomorrow and take him to the ER.
I think some of his problem is that he is not eating well because nothing tastes good to him. This afternoon after I talked to TJ about what Nabong said I received a text from him asking for biscuits and gravy for dinner. He has always loved my sausage gravy! So, I stopped at the store on my way home from work and got the fixins to make it for him. What do ya know! He ate really well and seems to be feeling just a tad bit better. I jokingly told him it was the fear of having to go to the hospital that is making him feel better. We will see tomorrow and I will let you all know.
Battle On TJ, Battle On

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Spoke Too Soon

Just when I thought TJ was settling into a nice 3 week break from treatment....BAM, OUT OF NOWHERE!! That darn back pain hits him again. It started Sunday night and has not let up. Sunday and Monday night he was up quite a bit because he was just plain uncomfortable. This of course keeps me up at night worrying about him and I have to tell ya I have been just plum tired at work this week. I am hoping for a better night tonight but as of now it is not looking good. He has been taking Hydrocodone every 4 hours and he is still just as miserable as can be. I feel so bad for him but there just isn't anything I can do for this and we just have to ride it out. I wish I could say that I don't understand but the reality of it is that I do.
You see, the chemo kills all his white blood cells and now his body is working overtime to rebuild them. His labs between treatments always show really great white blood cell counts so it is worth it (but of course that is easy for me to say, I am not the one in pain). I am considering giving him 2 Hydrocodone tonight so both of us can get a good sleep. His prescription says 1 or 2 and he has only been taking one so it should not be a problem. Heck, maybe a good sleep would help him to feel better too.
Battle On TJ, Battle On

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No News is Good News

For whatever reason I have not hardly posted this week and for those of you that follow diligently I am sorry. It was just kind of an uneventful week, which is a good thing lately. Now that we have his meds dialed in the Neulasta shot does not keep him down as long and by Wednesday or Thursday TJ was up and running.

My sister and her friend have bought a home on the other side of town in Pebble Creek and although my sister is still in Indiana her friend Diana is here so on Saturday TJ & I drove over there for a visit and a quick swim in the pool. Pool water was a bit cool for us at 80 Farenheit but was refreshing anyway. When we got home TJ took a 2 hour nap and then headed to one of his car buddy's house for a visit. I passed on this as the last thing on my list of things to do on a Saturday night is sit and listen to guys talk about cars. BORING!!! So this meant that on a Saturday night I actually was home alone and probably for the first time in my life I was happy to be home alone on a Saturday night. I did not even make a phone call to find something to do. I had some dinner and watched a stupid chick flick on Hallmark Channel. Boy was it good to have some brain dead time and believe me, you have to be brain dead to watch Hallmark movies. Just for the record I don't plan on making a habit of this. Bad part is that TJ did so much on Saturday that he slept through a big part of the race today and is back napping again.

We had an interesting morning this morning though and I am laughing again just thinking about it. We were sitting on the patio drinking coffee and the weather was beautiful but the sound of the pigeons on the tack room roof was making us crazy. TJ went in the house and got the pellet gun and took a couple of shots at them from the patio mostly just to run them off. We didn't think much about it until we decided to go inside and fix some breakfast. It was then that we realized Dobie was gone. OH MY GOD, THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA IS GOING TO BE COYOTE BREAKFAST!!!!!! We are thinking that the pellet gun sound scared him and he ran off. First we look in the house and under every piece of furniture, even the stuff we didn't think he could fit under. NO DOBIE! Then we begin searching our yard and the neighbor's yard. NO DOBIE! Ok, let's split up and walk across the street and look for him. NO DOBIE! Holy hell, he is so small and defenseless and with no tag on his collar. TJ opens the garage door and we are going to get in our trucks and drive around looking for him. When the garage door opened I swore I heard him barking in the back yard, we look and call for him but no luck. TJ tells me it must have been the dog next door. We both grab our keys. He is going to head south and I am to head north and through the desert. I get in my truck and I can't help but think that I know I heard him in the back yard earlier. If anyone knows the sounds of their animals it is me! He is so small and I really think he is hiding somewhere back there. So, I know he will bark at my truck if he sees it and I roll all my windows down and drive around back on my way out. Sure enough, I get in the backyard and I hear him barking at my truck. I am looking and looking but can't see the little butthead although it sounds like he is up by the house at the north end. I pull up a bit and look, I finally spot him and now I am absolutely cracking up. I called TJ to tell him to come home as I found him, but I was laughing so hard I could hardly speak. Here is where we found him.

What we believe happened is that when TJ walked out with the gun he closed the main door but not the security door. The gun scared Dobie and he wanted in the house. TJ, not seeing him there reached around and closed the security door leaving him trapped between the two. Although is was a good and funny ending we truly were scared for the little guy and all my dogs are getting tags this week.
And that my friends is how I missed the first half of Race Day!!
Battle On TJ, Battle On

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Relaxation

As usual the topic for this week brings me to my animals, imagine that, and it also for me brings to mind our property down south. For us we live down there but have to work in the Phoenix area, so true relaxation for us comes when we arrive "home" at "The Shack".

This is a picture of Shiner, TJ's Australian Cattle, dog taking a nap while we are on break from a ride down south. I would say he is relaxing.

This is Shiner and Okie (Shiner's son) on the ride home from down south. I guess too much relaxation makes one very tired or maybe it is too much horseback riding. Notice how they both have the entire back seat to themselves, spoiled little bums they are.

Wow, I found this picture of Leroy (he is on the left) he was my baby and passed from lung cancer 3 years ago. The dog on the right is my Mom's dog Magic who also has passed. This is a couch in my home office that mostly was used by the dogs as you can see.

TJ & I relaxing and riding at "The Shack". Cisco on left and Blue on the right. Awesome guys! Note the snow; we are at 4,700 ft. elevation there and yes we do get a bit of snow sometimes. Even us desert rats enjoy a bit of the white stuff once in a while. Heck, take a look at Cisco (left) he is so relaxed he is sleeping.

Last but not least TJ and I have always enjoyed spending time with our friends and in the past have had many a party at our home. This is one we had with the Goldfield Ghost Riders quite a few years ago. The "men" in the group are having a little competition to see who can cook the best dutch oven desert and the women were the judge. I can't remember who won but we sure did have a great time relaxing with all of our friends.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

So Far So Good

TJ is taking a nap during the race rain delay so I thought I would take the time to do a short post. Well, after all the worrying I did about his nausea he woke up fine on Saturday morning and even had a nice big breakfast. He is still very tired but that of course is to be expected because of the Neulasta shot he got last Thursday.

Today is his birthday so I fixed him his favorite for breakfast - Biscuits & Gravy. Fortunately he does not seem to have any metal mouth today so he was really able to enjoy it. For dinner I am fixing him Corned Beef & Cabbage. Now, I know that may not sound so wonderful to alot of you but TJ and I both love it and have it probably 4 to 5 times a year. I even got some Rye bread for sandwiches. Nothing better than a Corned Beef on Rye! Guess I know what I will be taking to work for lunch tomorrow.

Since we are planning on good news from his scan on August 26 (we won't get the results from the doctor though until September 2) I have been doing some research on supplements for him to take to try and keep this cancer at bay as well as talking to him about his diet. We have always been huge veggie eaters but also huge meat eaters (I include all meat in this beef, chicken, fish and pork). Probably about 50/50 in our diet and most of our veggies have always been the good ones, i.e. brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, spinach are our favorites. I would like that to change to about 70/30 or even 80/20 and as we talk about it neither one of us see a problem with that. In the past it has basically been beef 1 to 2 times a week and the rest was pork or chicken. We eat very little fish as it is so hard to get good fish in Arizona (we are both so picky about our fish being super fresh and that is difficult in a land locked state). Guess I will have to do some research about where I can get some good fish in AZ. Before his diagnosis we had already cut out refined sugar and white flour so we of course will go back to that with no problem. Right now though with his metal mouth being touch and go we are not going to do anything as I figure as long as he is eating I don't care what it is. I guess the point is that even if his scans come back good one battle may be over but the war is still ongoing.

Battle On TJ, Battle On

Saturday, August 8, 2009

WHEW...That Was a Close Call

The type of chemo that TJ gets is called Cisplatin. It is known for causing severe nausea and vomiting. So far we have been able to avoid that particular side effect. Well, that is until last night! When I got home from work yesterday TJ was up and visiting with a friend who had stopped by. I thought all was well. After our friend left TJ wanted to take a nap before dinner so off to bed he went. He got up about 6:00 pm and said he was hungry so I started his dinner for him. When he came into the kitchen, right before dinner was to be ready, he told me he felt a little nauseous. At first I thought it might be just because he is hungry but then I saw that look on his face and he said he did not want to eat anything. I got him comfortable in his recliner (with an empty trash can near) and went in search of the nausea medicine they had given us in the beginning. I, of course, being the pessimist that I am, had already gotten all of the prescriptions filled just in case TJ needed them. Well, now I have these 3 different nausea medications and no idea which one to give TJ. I want the one that will work the best and the quickest. Just as I was about to call the pharmacist (who I am now on a first name basis with as well as all the other employees at Walgreens) I remembered speaking with his Mom about nausea, she had it off and on during her treatments and was being treated with Cisplastin also. They had given her the same nausea prescriptions and for some reason I remembered which one she said worked best for her. So, once again, I am thinking, like Mother, like Son and gave TJ the same medication also. It worked! His stomach settled down after a bit and he even had a bowl of cereal before going to bed.
We were both awake about 2:30 am and I asked him how his gut was feeling and he said it seems to be fine. Good! So now I am doing the math in my head and that medicine is an 8 hour dose and he took the pill at about 6:30 pm so we are looking at exactly 8 hours here. Now I am wondering is he truly fine or is the medicine still doing its thing? Now I start worrying and can't sleep, hence why I am up at 3:30 am blogging. For good grief, I can't believe this!
Even though we celebrated his birthday last weekend his actual birthday is this Sunday and I really want him feeling half way good. Not that I have any plans for him except to watch NASCAR, I just want him feeling good on his birthday.
Battle On TJ, Battle On

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Power

Here is TJ warming up "The Shack" we have in Southeastern Arizona. It is comfortably primitive and we love spending time down there. TJ built the wood burning stove himself so we could be warm and in the morning we use it to keep the coffee warm.

This is a windmill that is near "The Shack". It is still operational and we have watered our horses there many times.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Good News - Hopefully!!

Well, I am cautiously optimistic. I have always heard not to count your chickens before they hatch and that definitely holds true with this cancer thing. But, having said that, we are pretty excited after seeing Dr. Nabong on Monday. First thing he talked about is how strong TJ is (physically) and how good his labs look after every chemo treatment. He is amazed at how his bone marrow recoups after his treatments. He is also happy to see no clinical symptoms of any cancer problems in his brain. He reminded us that cancer will always be in his body and it is just a matter of if or when it takes hold again and begins to grow. He believes the lung cancer is under control and therefore feels comfortable in giving TJ a little time off from chemo. In 3 weeks they will do a scan - head, neck, chest, and abdomen. We will get the results a week later and right now he is saying very possibly no more chemo, but if he does do more it should only be 2 more rounds. In actuality this week of chemo could very well be his last! So...yep...."cautiously optimistic" is the phrase of the week.

Meanwhile, we are making plans for a chemo free month. We really need to get down south and check out our property. It has been 2 years since we have been down there. TJ is looking forward to feeling like putzing around in the garage. He may even get some of his taste back and feel like some good dinners. Basically we just need to get some things done around here that have been put on the back burner while we were focusing on him getting better.

Battle On TJ, Battle On

Monday, August 3, 2009


TJ's birthday really isn't until August 9th but that is right after a round of chemo so we had a surprise birthday party for him and our friends Dave & Smokey. They all thought the party was for the other two so all three were surprised. Above is TJ blowing out his one candle on the cake.

Now if ya ask me that is one happy birthday boy !!!

Dena giving TJ a birthday hug. He sure does look like he is enjoying it!!

This is my favorite picture of all. Notice he is reading a card of "Gross Jokes"
He was obviously really enjoying them!
Everyone had a great time and fortunately TJ was feeling good and was able to really enjoy himself.