Hope, Love

Good morning, from Manitou Springs. On Wednesday, Howard had his PET and CT scans. Thursday afternoon, we met with our oncologist, Dr. Matei. We took in the information. Sometimes, it feels like we are drinking from a fire hose. On Friday, HP and I stored the information and met a friend for lunch. Friday evening was quiet, and we were content as we continued to process the doctor’s newest recommendations.

After combing through pages of physician’s comments, with an ample amount of confusing clinical terminology, we jumped to the summary for each scan. For the most part, the cancer’s progression is in a holding pattern. The lung tumor is a tad smaller, yet active, and she said it isn’t time to let our guards down. No new bone or soft tissue metastases. The current bone lesions are shrinking.

During next week’s trek, Howard will have another chemo cocktail, but with 2 drugs instead of 4. To date, the chemo side effects have been tolerable. Let’s hope that next week’s treatment, with only 2 drugs instead of 4, gives him minimal side effects. Zero side effects would be even better. May we ask for zero side effects? Sure we can!

Also, next week, HP will meet with a new doctor, a lung doctor, to discuss taking a biopsy of his lung tumor. We were hoping to bypass this step, but the sample taken from his right hip in Costa Rica didn’t survive the trip back. Therefore, it didn’t provide the markers needed. Basically, the sample deteriorated with the time it took us to get back here and established in our new medical routine. If he is a candidate for this new biopsy procedure, Dr. Matei is hoping to get more markers to determine the next “cocktail” recipe and/or design a maintenance plan. It seems we aren’t at base camp yet, but we are doing okay on our hike. We are strong. We have incredible support every step of the way.

And, more important than anything else, we have each other. We have YOU, our loving family and incredible friends around the world. We have an awesome medical team by our side – traditional and alternative. We have an abundance of love in our lives. We are grateful.

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

May we all experience amazing family times and times with friends. (Jai, we will miss being with you. Yet I know our energies are strongly connected over the miles.).

Much love and gratitude ❤️😘❤️. Judi

Hope Beats Not Knowing

In my last post, I mentioned HP will be getting a CT scan to assess the progress in shrinking his lung tumor. The doctor was emphatic about not ordering a PET scan due to the amount of radiation.

Yesterday was that day. True to form, the Unplanned Journey continues. The doctor ordered CT and PET scans, along with a blood test. I mentioned to the staff that the doctor’s wishes were to skip the PET scan to which she replied, “no, Howard will complete both tests.” I’m convinced that the pecking order goes like this at the cancer center. Top dog is Scheduling. Next in line is staff. And, third, is the doctor. 🙃

Today is the day we meet with the oncologist to discuss the results and to hear her recommended course of action. Since his last chemo cocktail on November 30 (Zometa, carboplatin, alimta, keytruda, anti-nausea and steroids, and the occasional B12), I have been in this strange tug of war between fear and love. Fear of not knowing. Love of hope. It puts my mind at ease when I compartmentalize, so in my mind, the feeling of Love and Hope resides in the present moment and the feeling of fear and Not Knowing resides outside of the present moment.

What a beautiful, gigantic life lesson this Unplanned Journey is providing through what seems to be a never-ending supply of examples. I suspect these examples will keep coming up as often as needed, because it is my desire to ace the test on Present Moment Living.

What I know for sure is that Howard didn’t experience all the bad side effects that were expected with this prescribed cocktail. He still has hair. Nausea fluctuates in duration and intensity, but has been manageable. Energy ebbs and flows, but he has been able to keep up with family and friends’ activities. He continues to be on the miracle man path.

What does the future hold? Who knows? No one knows.

To be continued after today’s appointment…

The Summit

In a few hours, we will be at the summit. It has been a 6-treatment journey that began on August 15. Back in late June, when HP got the diagnosis, I was on a plane to CR the next day. Early July, we began processing the diagnosis for HP and planning our next steps. The remaining time in Costa Rica was a flurry of activities, including 10 radiation treatments on his right hip. We got to work, with the help of Ken, our son-in-love (who always loved living in CR), getting Howard ready to move back to the U.S. with me.

Some of the most fabulous friends in Atenas, CR, came to our rescue. Every day, I hope to be able to serve others as we have been served by friends and family. Sometimes it is not easy to ask for help. But this medical event was big and one we never, ever thought would be ours to handle.

As we processed more and more, the 6th treatment seemed like a lifetime away. But, here we are. It went pretty fast. Easy for me to say, right? I think HP would agree as he has made this journey, this trek, look so darned easy. He has been an awesome example for me, family and friends. A true inspiration. His strength has been fueled by a positive attitude and optimistic outlook.

Today, I thought we would wake up feeling lighter and celebratory. Maybe we will tonight. Yet, as we flowed through our morning routines, our energy seemed heavier than I had anticipated. We talked about it, and we were both thinking the same thing which took us into the future. Every time we leave the Now moment, heaviness settles in. With a lot of practice over the last 2 years, I/we have learned to recognize heavier energy, and are getting pretty good at flipping the switch to return to the Present Moment where peace and light live.

When we allowed ourselves to go into the future, for only a few minutes, we agreed our thoughts went to the next test, a test yet to be scheduled. The doctor will order a CT scan to help her decide on the maintenance plan, and then we will meet with her mid-December. After talking, we quickly recognized that the test is just another stop on our descent. We will take it in stride and with grace.

That’s another day, and today is today.

Today, we will stand at 29,028 feet and enjoy the view from the top, stronger in every way than we were just a mere 158 days ago when HP first got the word. Our undying love for each other and from all of you will give us the light, peace and strength that we need to see the way. For this, we are eternally grateful.

Gratitude and Happy Tears

As the Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close today, I hope you all had a very memorable, loving Thanksgiving holiday. And, for those of you who got out and shopped, I hope you survived and scored on some good deals. I’ve never witnessed Black Friday, firsthand, but what I have seen on TV, it looks quite interesting and memorable.

On Thursday, our family and friends sat down around Martine and Ken’s dining room table and held hands. Martine began the gratitude chain, and the tears quietly rolled down our cheeks as we tried to encapsulate all the things we are grateful for into 1 minute. One minute was not enough time to express it all, but what rose to the top were the highlights that we hold in our hearts every day.

From my heart, I expressed my gratitude for family and friends and, especially, for HP being “home” with his family to celebrate Thanksgiving 2017. A holiday that he and I have celebrated together since 1974, with the exception of one year.

Yesterday was a special day, too. HP and I went to our storage unit to see what Christmas decorations survived our 2012 downsizing. Prior to moving to Costa Rica, we sold our house and furnishings, our condo in Keystone and furnishings, and most of our stuff was gifted, tossed or sold. The stuff that survived (and has been in storage since 2012) was photos, pictures painted by our kids, favorite Christmas decorations, record albums (HP), spiritual relics (JP), reference manuals (HP and I were preppers way back when), ski stuff, winter stuff, business papers and our kids’ excess stuff that hasn’t followed them into their new lives.

Last year, when HP and I were living in 2 separate houses in 2 different countries, we talked about our storage unit and the best time to empty and release it. It was ridiculous to pay their ever-rising storage fees now that I was back in the U.S. The path of least resistance never materialized. I found the perfect little nest for me in October 2016 and was able to move some of my stuff from the storage unit to my nest. But so much stuff remained.

As our Unplanned Journey unfolded this year, HP moved back to the U.S. a little sooner than “planned”. We are embracing what was once my little nest in Manitou Springs and making it a nest for the both of us. It has been perfect for us in terms of location. We have quick access to his medical team, stores and services. The setting is peaceful. A true fairy setting. We are in nature, walking distance to Manitou Springs (and back, if we are being ambitious), and 20 minutes to Penrose Hospital where HP gets his treatments. We love our neighbors who have become friends, and the drive to Guffey to see family and friends is a beautiful road trip.

Yesterday, HP and I made great memories while decorating for Christmas. It was a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday and weekend. Gratefully, we shall store all the blessings and memories in our hearts.

Being Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

On Facebook this morning, a memory popped up from 5 years ago. I thought it was appropriate for many reasons. Tis the season. It ties our new Costa Rican adventure in with our present Thanksgiving. It’s the gap between 2012 and 2017 that is so very interesting for us and our family.

Facebook memory, “Happy Thanksgiving 2012, friends and family. I love you all. Making my first apple strudel with filo. Fingers are crossed. We are so fortunate to have Jai, Martine, Ken and Chevy all here in Costa Rica. When I reflect on this, it is almost unbelievable. A lot of faith, commitment and hard work made it happen.”

HP and I were thinking about this a couple of days ago. If our memories serve us well, this year is his first Thanksgiving with family since 2012. Wow! I am over-the-top grateful that he is here, and we are able to celebrate Thanksgiving together in our beloved state of Colorado. (We miss having you with us, Jai, and I hope you are doing something special in Michigan.)

Today, I remember the importance of remaining grateful. Perhaps, in the past, I selectively practiced gratefulness. Especially, when there were special moments/times to be grateful for. It was easy to be grateful when everything went well. What I had not learned yet was to be grateful during the darker times. To living in the Now. Just like gratefulness, it was easier to appreciate the Now moments with a gentle reminder from Eckhart, or Wayne, or Og (a special guru from many many years ago). But what I had not learned yet, through life experiences, was that being fully present in the Now moment was an actual place to reside. It has become my sanctuary.

Yesterday, HP and I went to see his oncologist. (Prior to treatment #5, she wanted to see him to discuss the next steps. She hinted that she may move him to a maintenance plan after #5, because he is doing so well, determined by his PET scan in October. As her words went through our personal filters, we both heard, “chances are very good that #5 is your last chemo treatment, and you will go onto maintenance”). So, with light hearts, we expected to get confirmation from her. But, that is not what happened, which is often the case with our fabricated expectations.

Yesterday, she said, “I will schedule treatment #6 for November 28, and then we will meet again after a CT scan to see what maintenance options will work best.” From that point on, all our other questions evaporated from our minds. Our hearts became heavier. But why did this news hit us harder than what we expected?After our appointment, we stopped at a nearby restaurant to grab something to eat. (HP’s appetite or taste for good food has never waned through his 5 treatments.) We were both quiet as we processed what had just happened.

Our conclusion is that our hearts became heavier for one reason only. It wasn’t because we heard bad news. There had not been any new test results to drive her decision down this “new” path. In reality, the path was not new at all. It had always been discussed, 6 treatments 21 days apart. She simply stayed the course. I can’t help but believe the one reason our hearts went from light to heavy in a matter of minutes was because our expectation bubble was popped.

The gap between 2012 and 2017 has taught us some very valuable life lessons. Even if there is a dark time, be more Grateful than ever. The Now moment is where peace lives. And, for heaven’s sake, try hard to not fabricate expectations. When the bubble pops, the pop can be very loud. HP and I talked about still being able to Dream and Hope, but at the same time Flow. When we are totally in the flow, there are no loud pops. Yesterday, we experienced some sadness. And I am so grateful for the sadness, because it was a great reminder of what is important in our lives… Family + Friends + Love + Gratefulness + Now + Flow + Dreams + Hope = Life. I’m confident this Unplanned Journey will shine a bright light on other life lessons, and I say,

“I am grateful for what I have learned along the way and for what is to come. Happy Thanksgiving to you all and your loved ones.”

The Unplanned Journey (our new norm)

Before I get to the unplanned journey, that began with a diagnosis of stage IV non-smoker lung cancer, it may be helpful to first talk a little about the past.

HP and I have been together since 1974.  The summer of 1974, he graduated from Western State Colorado University, in Gunnison, Colorado.  His plan was to come home to Michigan for the summer and return to Colorado to live and work.  That was the planned part.  The unplanned part was meeting me, JP, and falling in love.  HP didn’t return to Colorado in 1974.  Rather, we both fulfilled the Colorado dream in July of 1998, 24 years after than the plan.  Grown children.  Houses sold throughout the years in Michigan and Virginia.  One dog and one cat.  And our “stuff”.

Fast forward 14 glorious Colorado years, and the bug bit us.  The “we have to move and explore bug”.  May of 2012, we took the biggest leap ever and landed in Atenas, Costa Rica.  Our adult children arrived in January 2012.  Being renters, they were more free than HP and me.  Four years on the market, our home in the Colorado wilderness sold.  You see, not everyone enjoys the same things HP and I do.  So, if I say we had 6 showings a year, I may be exaggerating.  It was a miracle when it finally sold.

The liquidating and downsizing our “stuff” took only a few months.  The most stressful time of the move was figuring out how our 2 kitties would do with the long plane ride.  The kitties had their sedative, as did I.  After 5 hours of “plane sleep”, we woke up in San Jose, Costa Rica at 5:30 AM.  It was surprisingly easy to uproot, downsize and start an entire new book in our lives.

In the U.S., we lived a typical life… marriage, kids, careers, fancy cars, nice homes, travel for work, family and friendships.  In Costa Rica, we lived a typical life of expats in terms of residency, acquired our driver’s licenses, we began paying into their public healthcare system (for a mere $200/month), I retired, enjoyed weekly yoga, daily swims, retreats, hosted biweekly massages, and socialized with friends.  Our house and casita were the perfect environment. Our little casita became known as the “Zensita”.  Retirement for me became all about health – food and extracurricular activities.  We made a bunch of incredible friends.  I mean, truly incredible!

From the boondocks in Michigan, to suburbia Washington D.C., to the Shenandoah/Blue ridge mountains in Northern Virginia, to lazy Florissant/Royal Gorge areas in Colorado, to Atenas in Costa Rica.  We moved a lot.  Friends and memories.  HP and I have been and are blessed.  It seemed, we were living the American dream, and then the expat dream, all totally planned.

So it seemed….