In 2002 we ran away from Illinois where we were born and raised, and started a new life in SW Florida. This blog is about me (an eccentric old artist), ROM (my Real Old Man), Isabella (our neurotic Standard Poodle) and Emmy (our crazy snake killing Jack Russell Terrier). Oh- and the neighborhood old people. Life is good in Florida!


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Day Of Reckoning...

My first appointment with an oncologist, Dr. Ana Vanderwall, was Friday morning. Though I needed and wanted to know what I was facing, I was also dreading it. I haven't had the opportunity to actually sit down face to face and discuss anything with my primary care and pulmonary doctor after they called me with the grim results of various scans they each had done. Of course they both offered to answer any questions I had, but I am not good at communicating on the phone. Plus I was momentarily frozen in shock after hearing the results and not able to form coherent thoughts and questions. 

First thing that struck me when we walked into the waiting room of Florida Cancer Specialists was how packed it was. Mostly late middle aged and elderly people. I have to admit, as we walked in I felt a moment of panic and had to consciously remind myself to breath. 

I signed in and turned over the 15 pages of forms, my I.D.s, Medicare card and prescription insurance card and sat down to wait. There was none of the humorous banter between Mike and I like we usually do when we're stuck waiting somewhere. When my name was finally called, we followed the nurse down the hall to an examination room where she took some information and checked my vitals. Then we waited for the doctor...

She walked in briskly, very young and pretty, but then at my age everyone seems young. I've reached that point in life when all my doctors are younger than me. She asked me a lot questions and then I asked mine. I asked her exactly what kind of cancer I have and she said stage 4 metastatic lung cancer. I then asked her how much time I had and she said it was hard to know, anywhere from just a few days to possibly months. That shocked me. A few days wasn't enough, I was hoping for 6 to 9 months. She said her main concern right now was the tumors in my spine that could cause paralysis. She warned me to go to the ER immediately if my legs started to feel weak or I lost control of my bowels. The possibility of paralysis hadn't occurred to me (or shitting my pants for that matter) and that shook me to my very core.

She wrote a prescription for a steroid, Dexamethasone, to reduce the swelling in my neck which may reduce the pain in my shoulder and the inflammation in my spine. She also prescribed Oxycodone for the pain. I almost wept with appreciation that I would finally get some pain relief. The pain the past couple of weeks has been unbearable and relentless. She told me to make an appointment for next week and that was that. 

Finally we had answers. Mike was absolutely gutted. I was expecting to hear I was going to die soon, just not so soon or the possibility of paralysis. But I think Mike had been hoping there would be a last minute reprieve. I kept reminding him to stay in the moment, that we'll take each day as it comes, one by one. By the time we got home we were calmer and settled into our usual afternoon routine. 

Mike picked up my prescriptions and I eagerly took my first pain pill. I was doubtful that this tiny little pill could make a dent in my pain, so I waited anxiously for it to kick in. After about 45 minutes I suddenly realized my level of soul crushing pain was only a minor dull ache. Friday night I slept a continuous 6 hours! For weeks now I've haven't been able to sleep for more than 2 hrs. at a time. You have no idea how good it felt to sleep a solid 6 hours. 

After such a good sleep, I got up this morning feeling so much better. I took my morning pain pill and steroids, and felt such a rush of energy after weeks of barely having the energy to walk to the bathroom. So I decided it was time to strip all the Xmas decorations and white lights off the wicker tree and turn it into our sea tree with aqua lights and decorated with sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins. I soon discovered the pain med works great if I'm sitting still but with a little activity, bending and stretching it came right back. So by early afternoon, I was back in my chair with my heating pad and watching TV while Mike strung the lights for me. After resting the remainder of the day, the pain is under control again. 

So now you're updated on the latest news, my friends. Up until now I've focused mostly on the tests and technical stuff. Now that I have a definite diagnoses and prognosis, I'll probably talk more about the emotional and philosophical feelings and thoughts I'm having as I face my own mortality and toll it will take on Mike. Many may find this depressing and not want to continue reading. And that is absolutely fine, I understand completely. Our society is very uncomfortable with discussing death in general, let alone up close and personal. We'd rather focus on those who "fight" and beat their disease. But that is not what's going to happen for me, there will be no battle because my cancer got a head start and silently did it's damage before anything could be done to stop it. So I'm going to live each day I'm lucky enough to have left, being as comfortable as medication can keep me, and squeeze as much joy out of each day as I can.   


  1. I can start with “I am so sorry” and then tell u how brave you are. Neither of those options seem full enough for the words u have just posted. I wish u peace and some measure of comfort. I wish u laughter and the joy of the mundane. I wish I would have had the pleasure of reading more of your beautiful writing before u started sharing it for this tough journey but know that, going forward, I will read and truly think on each post. Thank you. Jules

  2. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this and I know that you may get lots of unasked for advice.
    But A friend that is being treated for stage 4 cancer at MD Anderson told us he is going to try this
    I know it sounds crazy but it is being researched.
    I send you prayers of healing, courage, and peace.
    K Everett

  3. I want to say something...anything...but nothing I can say will help or change this. You have been such a beautiful friend for these 10 years now, exploring this crazy social media & your art & life as it unfolds, the daily wonders, the unending beauty of Earth; the awful blows, all the disappointments, slings & arrows we must endure. I can't quit crying. If I hurt this bad, how you & Mike must feel? Love you, my dearest artist.

  4. I’m going to be following ROH. I’m sorry to think how ROM will grieve for you, but for now you do need each other in the moment. Grief therapy is something that is allegedly out there and if it is available it is worth perusing.

  5. Sending peace, laughter and comfort.

  6. Linda thank you for blogging this. It will help me as I go through this with my Mom. Yes that oxycodone works for the pain as it knocks Mom out and makes the pain more manageable. It is actually more potent thN morphine the hospice nurse told us. Your attitude will help you deal with this

  7. I’m in shock and just want to hug you. I love you. I’m here for you and Mike (rom)

  8. You are such a good writer. I was with you when you walked in the waiting room, and then in the patient room, and i felt like my jaw dropped & i have yet to pick it up.
    I think the route you are taking (no treatment) will be the most painless (hope i said that right) as you won't be suffering the pain from chemo & radiation.
    You have brought SO MUCH beauty and humor into this world. I'm glad you & ROM have each other.

  9. Thank you all so much for these wonderful warm comments. All the love and support has meant so much to me. I may not reply to each comment left, know that I read ever single word and your messages lift me up and fill my heart. I'm so grateful for all of you.

  10. I am so sorry for your gut wrenching diagnosis. I am glad your Oncologist gave you pain meds. I admire your honesty, courage and strength. I have a message for your dear Mike.

    I lost my husband of 36 years almost 5 months ago. He had a terminal illness so his death wasn't a surprise. Live each day like it's your last. Take pictures and lots and lots of video clips on your phone. Record and memorialize your telling each other how much you love each other. Be silly when you can be and focus on the blessings you will share and experience together. These moments you capture will be treasured when she's moved on. When you need to hear her voice, it will be right there. My treasure trove of pictures and videos is how I'm forging ahead, always remembering my best friend and soulmate.

    Keeping you both in my prayers.

    Barbara (@Babstheshopper)


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