Friday, May 1, 2015

Paradise Interrupted

Volunteering at Bosque P1010573

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:

gyn_symptoms_matrix 

“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.

37 comments:

  1. Sorry about this, but I'm sure it's just a bump in the road of life! Be safe and good luck. :-)

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  2. Holy cow! My fingers are crossed and will be sending positive thoughts your way. Your year has been full of emotion! Take care of yourself.

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  3. Wow Lynn, sorry to hear this but am glad you listen to your inner voice and took care of it asap. I'll certainly keep you in my thoughts.

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  4. One of the cancers most likely to achieve a full surgical cure, especially when handled by gyn-onc. My wife had this, had hyster with lymph node staging and was discharged from the hospital the following day at noon. She had a quick and uneventful recovery and remains cancer free. I'll be thinking of you.
    Linda

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    1. Now that's music to my ears! Thank you for sharing, Linda. Wishing your wife (and you) many years of happy healthiness!

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  5. Wishing you a full and uneventful recovery and quick return to The Lifestyle! Your matter of fact attitude should do you well as you navigate this new challenge.

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  6. Lynne, so many adventures you have shared. Thanks for sharing, praying for your rapid recovery.

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  7. Praying for you through this, that it will go well and you will soon be back to what you enjoy!

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  8. Good on you for following your instincts! Wishing you the very best in the coming weeks.. your positive attitude will carry you far.

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    1. We join you in IL for doctors, glad you were pro active. Soon let's hope the road opens again! Cyberhugs!

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  9. So sorry to hear your news but glad you are pro-active. I have stage 3 breast cancer and have been in remission for 6 years now. I will be thinking of you on this journey in your life.

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    1. Thank you Bridget. So glad you are doing well and enjoying your life. I sure hope to also bless and be thankful for every new day I am given!

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  10. You can migrate south with the cranes in the fall! Best wishes.

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  11. Well, here is to a full and quick recovery, a fun and eventful trip to Colorado and I'll wait until Oct/Nov to come meet you since I live about 45 miles south of the Bosque. Be thinking of you.

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  12. Hoping for the best for you. Volunteering does give you lots of satisfaction.

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  13. I had a full hysterectomy (tubes, cervix etc). The six week recovery and no lifting or driving is no joke. Emil me at kkeetah@gmail.com if you want to chat. Also check out hystersisters website. I found it very helpful. My surgery was in 2007 and I feel great now. Sending you healing thoughts.

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    1. Thanks Karen. Nice to know there is support out there from so many other "hystersisters" who have already been down this road. I will certainly reach out!

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  14. What a jarring switch of life plans. The words nobody wants to hear from a doctor. Thank goodness you were proactive. Hopefully this means a quick and relatively easy 100% cure. We will all be holding you in our thoughts as you go through this!
    Nina

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  15. Hang in there Lynn, I'm 51 and had a total hysterectomy at 37. I haven't missed my "junk" AT ALL!! You can do this! Prayers and thoughts are going up to the heavens for you!!!

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    1. Thanks for the support Deborah. Can't wait to get rid of these junk parts (what a way to lose some weight!). It's so reassuring to hear from others who have been through this. Thank you!

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  16. Sorry to hear about your latest challenge. The same thing happened to my wife 3 years ago right before a trip to FL. She had a hysterectomy and needed no further treatments other than follow up visits every three months. She just had her latest check up and remains cancer free. This is a very treatable cancer and I'm sure you'll hear many success stories. The hystersisters web site is very helpful. It's not good news but thanks for sharing this and writing about the tough stuff that happens to many of us. Know that you're not alone. I'm wishing and praying for your complete and speedy recovery. Please post an update when you get a chance.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this Jim-- it helps me a lot to hear from others who have gone through this. So glad your wife is doing well and enjoying travels. Exactly where I hope to be 3 years from now! I'll keep the blog and FB page updated with updates (sparing the gross details of course!).

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  17. Early detection is the key to successful treatment. I wish you the strength needed during the next few months. Be well.

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  18. Sorry to hear about this interruption in your plans but it sounds like this should soon be behind you so you can resume your travels. You're in our thoughts.

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  19. I'm so sorry for this crappy diagnosis, but so glad that you made that appointment. The best thing you can do, you've already done: regular check-ups, and especially if you think something's wrong. Thank goodness for PBS!

    Be well, Lynne, try not to worry. I had a hysterectomy for cancer, too. Over 20 years ago. Before you know it, this will all be in your rear view mirror. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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  20. Wow! As someone already said; it's just a bump in the road...you'll be back in the swing of things before you know it!

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  21. Being with friends and family is a good place to be! Hope to see you back on the road soon.

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  22. Interesting how you were drawn to watch that particular show on that specific day. So glad you caught it early. You will get to your brother's wedding and may even do some dancing.

    Hugs...

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  23. Lynn, keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

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  24. Holy Cow. I am so sorry to read this. We're wishing you a fast recovery so you can be back to your regularly scheduled life.

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  25. Lynn - wow, life has been throwing some big waves your way! Although we have not met in person, it is so apparent that you are a strong, centered and optimistic spirit. Glad you are supported by family as you heal.

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  26. I'm so sorry to hear of this latest setback. I am positive all will turn out in the end. I have also had a complete hysterectomy, and the 6 week recovery is just about correct. Don't be trying to get out and about to soon. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

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  27. Lynne, I am so very sorry to hear about this diagnosis. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers and there are a bajillion people out there thinking about you and cheering you on. I have been through breast cancer twice. We do what we have to do and then get back to the fun stuff. Hang in there Lynne and please, please keep us posted. (Those long silences are not fun.)
    Jane

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  28. Sending positive thoughts for a speedy and full recovery. All the best, Sara and Charlie ( The Ramblin' Rose: Travels with Charlie and WB)

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  29. You can do this. You WILL do this. I am a survivor and know you are as well. You are the most important member of your medical team. Also - God said it came to pass, He didn't say it came to stay. And throughout this journey don't mistake the wrapping for the gift.

    Sending love and healing prayers to you.

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  30. So very sorry to hear about your health news, but it sound like you did all the right things. Prayers and thoughts are with you for a complete and short recovery. Take good care of yourself so you can come back to "The Land of Entrapment - uh, I mean Enchantment" soon!

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  31. I have seen your blog address on a list of referrers to my blog several times lately, so I finally got around to checking out your blog .. and I guess I picked a humdinger to start in on. I will dive in deeper to read about your time at Bosque but first let me wish you good luck on your immediate detour. I too, was quite impressed with the small hospital in Socorro and the great service that they provided me a couple years back when I had a much smaller problem when I was visiting Bosque. Good luck!

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