3-24-20: Jell-O Should Not Hurt

I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been waiting to feel better before I simply whine all over the page. It’s been a hellish two weeks suffering what I call the torment of the damned. My throat and esophagus were so burnt from the radiation to my spine that I could barely dribble down some water and no food. Rick dutifully collected all my little spoons and bowls of odd soft foods that I’d attempt to eat and then abandon all over the house. Jell-O hurt. Milkshakes hurt. Applesauce hurt. Water hurt. Burps hurt. I told them that radiating someone’s esophagus should be outlawed. I ended up receiving IV hydration at the hospital Monday through Friday last week. The pain was like a hot pipe inserted down my throat all the way to my stomach. It felt like the little chartreuse green radioactive brick that Homer Simpson tossed out his car window on the way home from work at the nuclear power plant ended up in my throat. If my esophagus looks anything like the radiation burns down the center of my back, it would explain why it hurts so bad. The pain keeps me up but before it wakes me I have two favorite moments every night. The first is that delicious fleeting moment upon rising out of sound sleep when I’m barely conscious but there is no pain. The second moment is the one that immediately follows: just before I remember that my body is riddled with cancer.

I’ve been quarantined except for hospital visits for two weeks now. I cannot afford to get Covid-19. Rick has bleached all washable surfaces – counters, door knobs, handles, my car’s steering wheel. IBrance knocks down white blood cells and red cells leaving my immune system weakened. This mountain woman has rarely thought of herself as fragile. Alas, I am only human and this mortal flesh is getting heavily bombarded in the name of extending my life. I’m currently on my second ten-day stretch of radiation, this time where the tip of my hip screw is screwed into a cancerous chunk of bone in my pelvis and an especially painful lower right couple of ribs. They’ve assured me that the beam through the hip is not hitting any painful internal organs and the zapping of the ribs is a tangential glancing blow across the bow. I keep trying to remember that I’m investing in my future – a future where I can play with my grand babies, watch them grow and become their own unique people, and witness my children’s pride; a future where I sit by a mountain lake sharing a meal with friends; or sit in the sand by our cove in Mexico sipping a Margarita with Julie and Marty.

The radiation has left me exhausted. I can walk about 20 steps. I walk to the kitchen and put my head on the counter. I walk to the living room and toss myself onto the couch. I nap three times a day. Where is that woman pushing her way up Lucy’s Foot Pass in Kings Canyon last August? The danger in being a Clinical Lab Scientist (married to a PhD in Biochemistry) is that I know a lot of things that can go wrong and I pester my doctor about all my hunches to explain things. Thinking the exhaustion is due to frying my thyroid while zapping my spine, I had a TSH done. No, it’s fine. Thinking my red cells got too low, I had a CBC done. No, my hemoglobin’s an 11, fine. Crap. I guess I just have to weather this.

So, bottom line: I’m now able to eat some and drink, although it’s still an effort and a fight against pain. I nap my day away and wonder if this is my new normal. On a stormy ever changing sea, I’m trying to see what this journey ahead will be like and I get worried that this is it. With the preciousness of life never more evident, I feel like I’m wasting it.

But, one thing’s for certain, the cards and texts, flowers, calls, emails, and even homemade cookies! have sustained me and put a smile on my face. Thank you all. Banning and Regina, and others, are shopping for us. People are supporting Rick in ways that I don’t even know. And Rick has been there from badgering me to drink to holding the bucket when I lose it. I could not have done this alone. And even as the stock market crashes, what’s really important has never been more evident.

12 thoughts on “3-24-20: Jell-O Should Not Hurt

  1. My heart hurts for you right now. No one should have to go through this. You are one of the strongest, toughest gals I know and that helps! Thank you for putting yourself out there and letting us be a part of your journey, as painful as it is. You are loved by so many, including me! Hang in there!

  2. You are walking a hell of a trail. But this ‘new normal’ will not last. You WILL enjoy real trails again. You WILL get back to your beloved mountains. Thank you for sharing your journey and allowing us to send you healing thoughts and wishes for joy.

  3. Karen, I know so many who have gone through this and are back to riding their horses, walking their trails, and living their lives to the fullest. I know that you will too! Your strength of spirit alone inspires so many of us. Hang in there kid! Loves and prayers to you!

  4. Karen Gail and myself have you in
    our prayers everyday. If you believe in Angels Rick sure is one.Take care. Hang in there.

  5. Thank you for sharing your journey and your heart. Our quarantine here in Los Osos makes me feel isolated from your life. You’ve built a network of concerned and loving people. It is my strong belief that you will be the winner of this battle, but pained that you must endure for now. 💕💕💕

  6. You are an amazing woman, beyond courageous! Somehow you are weathering this; do you know what inner strength you have? Your descriptions, your writing- how have you found the energy to write so beautifully- so clearly. What a gift to have Rick by your side and that you are surrounded by support- which you have allowed yourself to be open to. So love and healing and hugs to you.

  7. I’m so sad for the changes you are experiencing in your trial. You are a gifted writer and a very friend. I treasure your friendship most dearly. I know this time in your life will not last forever. The radiation therapy will end and a new norm will prevail. My hope is that Dr. Martin has the right cocktail to allow many years of adventures with all the people who love you.

  8. Visions of you.
    Healthy. Strong.
    More than surviving. Thriving.
    Somewhere on the trail.
    Trees. Rocks. Waterfalls. Sunbeams. Breath.
    Life flowing through you.

    Sending you love and hugs.

  9. Dear Karen, I wish that I was able to compose uplifting, heartening, and poetic phrases that would transport you to a healthier and happier place than where you find yourself right now. The best I can do is to say plainly that we are all hoping that the healing is underway, and that we care. Hugs.

  10. Hi, Karen
    We’ve only met a few times thru Rick and SAR and at the Art in the Yard but I wanted to reach out and let you know you’re in my heart and prayers. I’m so terribly sorry that you’re going through this and can’t begin to imagine the searing pain you’ve described or the kaleidoscope of fears, anxieties, hopes you must be feeling but your prose makes it achingly visceral. I pray that you receive healing, comfort, and peace; that you remain strong in spirit and soul to carry on; that you’re protected from infection during this especially risky and vulnerable time; that your doctors and caregivers remain healthy and are granted the insight and wisdom to successfully guide your recovery; that Rick remains healthy; that the love and support surrounding you provide you with encouragement and extra strength when you need it; and that you’re soon restored to the life and activities you long for. Blessings to you and Rick. Jan

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