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Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Every time my mother has felt ill, she has reminded me that she has written her obituary and it is in the computer.

The woman has had two strokes, two TIA’s,  breast cancer, and a total of 24 surgeries or procedures in her 89 1/2 years of life.  She has about everything wrong with her heart that can be and the 24th procedure was this month.  So, you can well imagine that I have kept that thought in my mind:  “My obituary is in the computer.”

We thought she was having a third heart attack for the month and took her into the emergency room in intense pain.  Luckily, and I say this with all my heart, she got a good physician (this time) in the ER.  Last time she was in (this month) she was in for six hours and had a second chest x-ray after three hours because they just realized it was blurry.   This doc knew right away that he was not dealing with a heart attack and ordered an MRI on her abdomen.

They found a larger gall stone had fallen into a duct and was blocking the area between her liver and intestines.  Her liver was enlarged.  She was in immense pain and in an ambulance some 50 miles to Indiana University Medical Center.

We have spent most of our time since at Indiana Medical Center and found it to be the best, ABSOLUTE BEST, bunch of nurses, student nurses, doctors, interns, cleaning staff, people on earth.  The one ‘poor quality’ nurse really stood out after seeing so many who rushed in to help her to the bathroom just because they heard her tell us she was going to need to go soon.  She rarely had to push a button.

We were told that she had two options and neither was good.  If they did not do surgery she would die and if they did surgery, there was a 70% chance she would die.  That night, when I went back to her apartment to pick up some things for her, I turned on the computer and looked for her obituary.  I had already grabbed the name of the mortuary.

There was NO OBITUARY.  What there was, was a read-only file called obituary.  I did not tell mom that this document, that I presumed she had worked on so hard, was blank.

Ten days, a PIC line (which is a line they put in after no one can bear to stick her again since her blood clots in the needles anymore), and a procedure later, she was recovering and I got up the nerve to tell her about the missing file.  Her response:

“Oh, I know that.  I haven’t written it yet.”

WTF, is she just playing with my head?

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In 2007, I faced mortality when I had emergency heart surgery and stayed in intensive care for six days.  This post is about a woman learning to be a vegan, and not for altruistic reasons either.  I wish I was that altruistic. A little back story is in order here.

I have this theory:  Two people with intense medical histories should not procreate.  I am the product of a family with cancer and a family with cancer and heart disease:  A double whammy.  I have been fortunate, through the intervention of the medical establishment who has managed to remove just about every non-essential or redundant organ in my body, to have dodged the cancer bullet.   

My brother died at age 46 from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He did not believe in going to the doctor and waited for three months after he found a lump.  That, and five direct ancestors and three not-direct-line relatives, and an HMO, took his life.

In 2005, I watched as my mother deteriorated from heart disease.  She survived breast cancer but had/has congestive heart failure and all of her heart valves were/are leaking.  I said, “not me” and began a program of alternating aerobics and weight lifting.  Me, whose mother told me “ladies don’t sweat,” who was always picked last for any sport in gym, who was winded from walking up the library stairs, I was now loving weight lifting.

In 2005 and for nine months, I watched my diet and exercised.  I lost two dress sizes and not a single bleeding pound.  Yes, muscle does weigh more than fat, apparently.  I could now run up the library stairs without a thought though.  I beat it.  I would not suffer what my mother was.  I would be in great health.  Then, I woke up one morning exhausted. 

It progressed for two years until the aforementioned heart surgery.  Sorry, guess it was a lot of back story, but here we are.  Fast forward to early 2010.  I am eating good enough that I have lost thirty pounds, and am eating a fairly low fat diet.  I’ve never been much of a beef eater, although the rare Prime Rib is appealing.  I like turkey burgers, chicken and fish.  I’m happy.  Then, I go to the doctor.

My G.P. is concerned that I am tired again (that seems to be a main symptom of many women’s heart problems.  Cardiologist does another Cardiac Catherization, as the stress test does not show a problem on me.  My blockage is still there.  The bi-pass failed.  The surgery did seem to take care of the spasm that was putting me in danger, though I am also on medication for that.  But, now I am one vein short, if I ever need one.

I am told that I am not a candidate for further heart surgery.  The blockage is at the heart, where a stint will not work.  Since it has not gotten worse in four years, I should just keep doing what I am doing.  WHAT?  Keep my fingers crossed???  That’s not me.

I had recently seen an interview with President Bill Clinton, who decided to do something about his heart blockage.  He went on a vegan, oil free diet.  It is based on a diet you can read about in  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. 

See more here:  http://www.heartattackproof.com/     and here, a modified version from his fireman son:  http://engine2diet.com/28-day-tools/

So, I started eating what I imagined this diet was, but every night dinner was whatever husband fixed for he and the boys because I was just so hungry.  Then, the book came and the fun began.  Stay tuned.

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All in all, given that I had no idea I had even had it, when I woke up, it wasn’t bad and the report was all good.

I had a humorous anesthesiologist, which is probably the first time I’ve had that. He was cute too. But, when he told me the shot he was putting in my iv would put me out in about thirty seconds, he wasn’t kidding. When I woke up, I didn’t even know I had gone in and had it done. I thought I had just dozed off.

So, all of you out there, who should have a colonoscopy, but who are afraid of indignity or pain or just plain putting it off. Don’t. I will say, the day before is like having the flu but it beats letting a possible cancer grow in your colon.

So, there is my health message for the day.

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Were you ever in a relationship where you woke up one morning and said, ‘This person is making me old.’?

 

It’s not that they are actually making you old.  Mother Nature does a fine job of that on her own and when your genes add something like heart disease or cancer to the mix, it is scary. And, it is not that I am afraid of death, because I am not. And, someday I will explain that when I am feeling very psychic and ready to open my soul to the world (plus a death experience- not my own though).

 

What the thing is, is that I want to enjoy every minute of this life while I am here.  It is way too short not to.  I used to hike, picnic in the Dunes State Park in the winter, ski (cross-country and downhill), and just explore.  I went camping every chance I got.  Daughter-of-eleven and I once went camping with the tent and a roll of aluminum foil.  Seriously, I forgot blankets, bedding and utensils.  I stopped and bought a spatula and a blanket.  You can make a very good bacon and egg breakfast on foil, over an open fire.

 

I have visited every state in this union except Alaska. I have camped in Canada and spent two hours in Mexico.  That’s a whole other story.  I have whale watched and driven a large cargo van up a gravel mining road in Colorado.  That MAY just be what is wrong with daughter-of-eleven.  She was with me and never quite got over that adventure.  She did not mind going up so much, it was the backing back down the narrow, steep, drop-off, gravel mining road that did her in. 

 

The point is, and I am sure there is a point somewhere; I am not ready to sit in a rocking chair yet.  I have given up most things for years now because it seemed so unfair to my husband to do things without him.  He cannot help being disabled, but I realized a few years ago that I was getting older than I should be because of not living and it was not doing him any favors either, that I was declining.  He does what he can and I need to do what I can.  As I said, life is just too short.

 

I started out taking violin lessons.  It was something I had always wanted to do and I inherited my uncle’s violin.  So, the last year and a half I was in Wyoming I studied with Rainer Schwartzkof and, if I do say so myself, and actually, my teacher did; I’m rather an advanced case study on violin.  It may have been the years of music in school. and teaching myself to play organ.  But, by the end of the year and a half, we were doing Mazas duets and, oh, how I loved that.  I gave that up when I moved.

 

So, now that I am all better (my chest has been opened and my heart repaired) and I again have health insurance to get some rehab to help me get exercising again, I am anxious to get back to the violin.  My goal: to play Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida by Wolff; Three Pieces from Schindler’s List by John Williams and I have a book of Classical Solos to tackle.  I am also anxious to get back to painting.  

 

Until they get me settled in rehab, I walk (on our four acres), and I tend the garden (getting my pulse rate up a bit) and I take pictures, and I write. Irritating Chihuahua accompanies me and occasionally sneaks away, but when I am out of doors, it recharges my batteries.

 

Life is too short, not to live it.

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There are some things parents should not do; naming your child after beaches and spaceships may be yet two of those things.  But, definitely, do NOT name your child the exact same, albeit not common name of a relative.

 

My brother was named David Merle VanVleck.  Mom wanted to name him Allen.  She had loved the name Allen since she was a little girl, but since she also had a boyfriend named Allen-before she met Dad, he would not agree to name my brother Allen.  David was decided upon and Merle was picked by mom, because it was the name of the one cousin who treated mom nicely in Dad’s family.

 

It takes awhile to accept a new wife in some families.  Suddenly, everything the previous wife (who is deceased-which is even worse, especially for her) ever did is wonderful and besides, the new wife is a floozy. She must be; as she wears mascara, lipstick, nylons and high heels.  It was around 1940, after all and her new sister-in-law did not think too highly of her.

 

So, this baby boy comes along and they name him David Merle VanVleck, without ever once thinking about the fact that Dad’s brother and his wife also named their little boy, who might have been a year older or not, David Merle VanVleck.  This would have been fine if my brother had stayed in Indiana and not moved to Illinois and a neighboring city to his cousin.  But, he did.

 

Let me put a disclaimer here; as with all family posts, there must be a disclaimer.  Don’t sue me.  There, that’s it, ‘cause I’m going to tell the truth, as I remember it and I don’t have any assets worth suing over.  Unless you want that laptop with VISTA.

 

Unlike my brother, the other David Merle VanVleck; my cousin, David, had a mean look about him.  I didn’t like the way he would glare at me, when I was a young girl, and say mean things and then smile. That smile, I was convinced had a mass-murderer type of aspect to it and I avoided him when I could.  

 

When my cousin grew up, he made a lot of debts he did not pay, and then he stole money from his father and who knows what else.  I don’t because I still stayed away from him. He also left his wife, who is a beloved member of this family yet and loved him (and even cared for him at the end) until the day he died. His current wife did not show up for his funeral.

 

My brother, having moved to the nearby town in Illinois, would receive his cousin’s bills and collection notices, and all kinds of other troubles.

 

What brings me to this place is that even yet, eighteen years after his death, I think it may be haunting him still.  One of my search terms the other day was:

david van vleck sucks

2

     

Two people, actually searched those four words.  Now, my brother’s name gets a lot of searches for it.  I know there are other VanVleck’s out there and some may even “suck”, but I gotta tell you that both of my families, the good and the bad, David Merle VanVleck’s are deceased now. Both from the cancer that haunts both sides of my family and both were way too young when they died.

 

But, I will guarantee you that my brother was not the David Merle VanVleck, who “sucked.” David was an outdoors, camping, camera toting, phlebotomist, computer nerd, Boy Scout Leader, and listener of The Irish Rovers that we all loved.   And, I am stating we all loved my brother, David, and not the Irish Rovers.  Thank goodness for head phones.

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As my reader’s know, I love my Cloud Tags and my search criteria.  Today, I’m really wondering about the people who have been searching for “David VanVleck” lately. I personally have known two David VanVleck’s. One was a cousin and one was my brother.

My brother passed away in 1990, at age 46. He attended Calumet High School in Indiana and was in the band with Mr. Barberi, a fantastic band director. David played a clarinet in Jazz band. He was in the Air Force and, when he left the service, He worked in Illinois and Indiana as a phlebotomist. He and his wife had three children.

He was a wonderful guy, with a passion for music and books, Boy Scouts, nature and camping. He also loved computers and had a MENSA IQ.

David died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and, if you are searching him because you knew my brother, David VanVleck and this David VanVleck, I would so love to hear how you knew him, how you remember him.  I miss him every day.

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My dad and David during WW II

It is raining in central Indiana. Since I grew up in northwestern Indiana, this does not surprise me. It is the reason that all I want to do is stay in, drink hot oolong/Jasmine tea and curl up under a blanket with a good book.

 

Actually, I love the rain. One of my favorite memories is camping with my family in the rain. Sitting in my living room, I can smell the wet canvas and hear the sound of the tent zipper. My brother and I would play Cribbage by the fire, after the rain cleared, or while sitting at the picnic table, under a tarp. He also taught me to play chess. He loved games. I don’t.  I have a compulsion to create and, the whole time I am playing a game, I feel I am wasting time when I should be painting.  But, I do make an exception for Cribbage and chess and would give a lot to have one more game by the fire.

 

My brother, David, was under two when our dad went off to war. He, mom and our sister lived with our grandmother during this time.  David loved our Uncle Donald.  He followed him around like a puppy dog until Uncle Donald DeWitt shipped out. One day, he woke up from his nap screaming. Grandma and mom went running in to comfort him. He told them that Uncle Donald was hurt, and they put him in a jeep, and they drove him into the forest, and he was never coming back. David was inconsolable. My grandmother said, she knew right then that her son was dead. David’s dream was a warning for her.

 

It was true. Uncle Donald was fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. There was a company in the U.S. that ran out of gunpowder so they decided to try TNT (excuse me if I have the names of the powders wrong). Uncle Donald’s weapon exploded.  An ambulance was not available, so they put him on the back of a jeep to take him to the field hospital; through the woods. He was DOA.  When they received the death notice, the day of his death was the same day as my brother’s nightmare.

 

My brother was born six years before I was. I understand he liked to spoil me when we were little. I don’t remember much of that but I do remember that he was always there to listen, when the world seemed to be crushing me. I also remember him reading or listening to music. He would come to dinner with his nose in a book. In fact, one day he came out of his bedroom when mom had company, and the company asked her who the boy was, who was visiting. They had been to our home several times but he was always in his bedroom reading and they had no idea she had a son.

 

David went off to the Air Force and became a phlebotomist. Mr. Nasty Nice would draw blood, take bodily fluids, and test them. In those days, I believe they just put their thumb over the end of the test tube and shook it up.  However, you would incur his wrath if you took a drink out of his water glass.

 

 

When he signed up for military service, he got the deal to pick where he would be stationed after basic training. As any sane person would do, he chose Hawaii. He actually spent the last years of his service at Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland. The Air Force has quite a sense of irony, doesn’t it?

 

After he left the Air Force, my brother worked at a hospital lab in Illinois. His co-worker invited him to dinner one night and introduced him to her daughter, Terri. They married and had four wonderful kids. He was head of the lab at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hammond, Indiana, until he got involved with computers.  It was a passion for him and when he became ill, he was able to work from home as he became more ill.

 

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma took his life.  He fought it for two years.  As the disease progressed and the treatments took their tole, he developed a cough. One of the few things he could enjoy was eating lunch with friends in the hospital cafeteria. One day he was coughing in line and another hospital employee told him, “If you are that sick, you shouldn’t be here.” I kind of understand, but he wasn’t infectious and for the rest of the time he had left on earth, he ate lunch alone in his office.  Which was not right either.

 

People tend to panic on their fiftieth birthday. My brother didn’t.  He panicked when he turned forty. This was before they diagnosed his cancer. I joked that he should wait and get upset when he turned fifty. Something in him seemed to know he would never make it to fifty, and he didn’t.  He passed away in 1990. I miss him every single day; especially the rainy ones.

 

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