I had intended to now start posting about my wonderful time volunteering at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. To share all the amazing wildlife I’ve been seeing and learning about, and share stories about all the wonderful people I’ve met here in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment (from Refuge staff and volunteers, to visitors and local townspeople).
Most importantly, to share how fulfilled and profoundly “balanced” the call to nature and wildlife volunteer service has made me feel. Infinitely better than the increasing guilt and emptiness I’d been feeling of trying to fit into the rather self-indulgent, self-absorbed “bucket-list tourist” mold of some other retired full-time RVers-- all candy! all the time!
But the road beyond Candyland, it appears, is not always smooth and effortless—it can sometimes be one heck of an off-road, rock-crawling adventure. Last week, my life veered off into one of these new and very unexpected detours. Time to hold on to the handle bars for quite a ride!
A few weeks ago while watching TV at dinnertime, I found a documentary on PBS about the rock band N.E.D. (comprised of 6 gynecological oncologists) whose mission is to fund-raise and bring music and awareness to the plight of all the other female-specific cancers far less popular (or well-funded) than breast cancer.
With the recent loss of a former classmate to cervical cancer, the film caught and held my attention immediately. After watching, I decided to quickly Google the symptoms of these cancers and came across this chart from the Centers for Disease Control:
“Hmm, that’s interesting,” I thought. I was mildly experiencing the first symptom and thought for the past couple of months that it surely was just menopause slowly trotting away on its last legs. But since it was time for my annual physical anyway, I went ahead and booked an appointment for the next week with a doctor in Socorro just to confirm.
At the exam, the doctor was sure it was probably just routine post-menopausal stuff, but since I fit a few of the risk factors, he immediately ordered a full array of tests to be sure-- “You have insurance, right?” Thankfully, due to ACA (aka Obamacare), yes I sure d0!
For such a small town, Socorro’s little hospital was incredibly friendly, fast, and efficient. I was able to get most of the follow-up tests performed that very same morning, and the results began posting to my online patient chart within just a few hours after that.
Within just one week, the doctor was now able to give me a diagnosis. Although not the one I had wanted, it’s the most workable and treatable cancer of the bunch, so for that, I am grateful. I have endometrial (uterine) cancer-- what we’re currently hoping will turn out to be an early stage version that is highly responsive to treatment.
But full staging and a treatment plan won’t be entirely known until the next step – surgery. In this case, an exciting total hysterectomy. Yahooie Louie!
Since that surgery requires no driving or lifting for a few weeks afterwards, I knew I could not stay solo in my RV out in the middle of New Mexico. So, I’ve now made a rapid cross-country dash back to family and friends in Chicago who have generously offered to help get me through this.
I meet with the Gyn Oncologist here next week to (hopefully) get a surgery date scheduled ASAP. I really want to still somehow get to my brother’s wedding in Colorado in mid-June (even if it’s a quick trip out and back to Chicago), so fingers are crossed that I’ll be able to do that.
While the next few months are filled with uncertainty, I am optimistic that I can resume my full-time RV volunteering life by this Fall. I’m currently penciled in to return to Bosque by Oct. 1st to finish the job I started there, and be able to witness the return migration of thousands of sandhill cranes, snow geese, and ducks to their winter home.
In the meantime, I’ll start posting my Bosque photos, and look forward to revisiting some of my favorite Chicago nature areas this summer as time and energy permit.
As the first post of the year aspired, this year should, indeed, turn out to be quite meaningful.