Nichole’s Slices Of Life, 13

26 04 2009

Did I mention how life is uncertain last week?  Well, I plunged right into an uncertain week with Jim calling me home from work on Monday morning.  I knew he wasn’t feeling well when I left but I had no idea I would end up spending the day with him in the emergency room.

I rushed home and called 911.  I knew that Jim would never be able to endure waiting in the emergency room to be seen.  By calling 911–he would be assured of instant attention.  We had a long day.  Ben, my son ,and Sandy, my oldest daughter ,spent most of the day with me.  Vera was able to come when she finished teaching her class.  Maria had to work at the post office and couldn’t come but her husband came for a bit.

There was nothing very conclusive about the day other than the doctor was very nice–kept checking on us –and worked hard to communicate with the VA in Nashville.  Since it is written all over Jim’s charts that he is inoperatable –no one was in a hurry.  Jim’s main complaint that day was his legs. 

We left the hospital with an energency appointment at one of the VA clinics in Nashville on Tuesday morning.  The doctor there was very attentive and started cutting back on Jim’s medicines.  He also was very compassionate about Jim’s leg problem and ordered him some medicine for “restless leg syndrome”. This doctor checked on Jim both Wednesday and Thursday mornings and further changed his medications.  I have a pill cutter and he would instruct me how to shave the medications.  He also reminded us to keep our appointment with the cardiologist at the VA hospital on Friday.

That proved to be an event that I hope is life changing for the better.  The heart clinic is only open on Friday.  That is why we couldn’t get in to see him during our crisis.  The cardiologist was a “bulldog” of a doctor who gave us an hour and half of his time.  He completely threw out four more of Jim’s medications calling them “crap”.  He told us that by the thickening of tissue in Jim’s CT scans –it is apparent that Jim has never been properly cared for with his chronic blood pressure problem.  That was news to me as Jim has faithfully followed all doctor’s orders about his blood pressure since he was diagnosed at age 28. 

The doctor drew a chart for Jim to take his blood pressure daily.  He made a column for breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime.  Jim is to take his blood pressure only twice a day alternating between those times.  Jim has kept a notebook of bloodpressure checks but the doctor said that the way Jim has recorded his checks is absolutely useless.  We have two weeks of BP checks on this new system and then we return to see the “bulldog”. 

I have panicked though because Jim’s blood pressure has been too high with each check.  Jim has been on a roller coaster for six months now with his BP  either being too high or too low.  Lately, it has been too low a great deal.  I’m concerned now that with so many medications taken from him that he is going to have high bp for two weeks.  That can cause further dissection in his aorta.  Jim said I was extremely odd for singing the praises of this doctor but worrying about whether to trust him now.  I guess I am odd.  Afterall, I’m the one who takes care of Jim in crisis.  It does take a toll on me. 

After dealing with crisis all week–I was wiped out yesterday.  Furthermore, I was wiped out today.  Jim and Vera were able to go the church but I stayed home for the peace and quiet.  I haven’t had a quiet day in months.  I should return to work tomorrow but I don’t really want too.  It is going to be hard to leave Jim alone all day.  Vera always has a long day with her teaching on Mondays.  She is finishing up her classes this coming week.  Then she is leaving us for three months to do an internship with a new Orthodox mission in Kansas, City, Mo.  I have depended on her help so much –especially since Jim has become ill.  It will be a tough adjustment.  Yet I understand that she has a life too–and I want her to live it to the fullest for the Glory of God.

I, too, left my mother at a difficult time in her life.  Mother had Parkinson’s disease and was also taking care of my grandmother.  I wanted to go away to college and taste life to the fullest.  I now understand just how sad my mother was because I’m sad that Vera is leaving.  However, I must let her go.  She has been faithful in helping us in so many ways through my cancer recovery and Jim’s illness.

Hopefully, this week will be a little calmer.  We are indeed blessed to still be together as a family.  I will visit with each of you again next Sunday!

God bless!



Nichole’s Slices Of Life, 12

19 04 2009

Today is the beginning of Bright Week in the Orthodox Church.  Yesterday was our Easter ( Pascha).  We didn’t get to attend.  Services didn’t even start until 11:00 p.m. last evening.  I decided it wasn’t in Jim’s best interest to attend.  I understand that everyone had a wonderful time.  After the services–a family in our parish had everyone over for a lamb roast.

We did get to attend the Agape Vespers this afternoon.  Then George invited us all back to his home for leftover lamb.  So we got a mini Pascha afterall.  That was the only service we were able to attend as a family.

On Wednesday evening, someone from the parish drove the 30 miles to pick up Jim for the Holy Unction Service.  I didn’t feel like I could make the trip and get home to get in bed early enough to teach school on Thursday.  I’m glad Jim got to attend this service because he was annointed with Holy oil for healing of the mind and body.

Speaking of healing.  I’ve thought much about the topic of healing since our visit to the Veteran’s hospital on Monday.  By mistake , we saw a cardiac surgeon instead of a regular cardilogist.  He was looking through all of Jim’s papers from Vanderbilit when we walked into the room.  Jim was not feeling well at all.  His top blood pressure number had dropped to 81.  This surgeon just bluntly told us that there was nothing that he could do for Jim.  I showed him some pictures that the surgeon at Vanderbilit had drawn for me about Jim’s condition.  He told me that Jim’s surgeon was his boss at Vanderbilit.  He told us that if his boss said that nothing could be done for JIm–then that was final.( So getting back to my thoughts about healing.  I’m  sure that God can heal Jim but it is more than likely that God will not do that.  Instead, Jim and I need to just focus on enjoying each day to the fullest and also obeying everything the doctors tell us to do.)

He told us that they would make an appointment for Jim to see a regular cardiologist who would keep track of Jim’s blood pressure.  Making sure that JIm’s blood pressure is not too high or too low is the only thing that any doctor can do for Jim.  Although we both knew nothing could be done for Jim –it was still difficult hearing that said in such a blunt way.

Thus feeling stunned was how I started my work week out as a substitute teacher. Even so– I had a rich variety of experiences.  During my breaks I read a book about an Orthodox missionary in Albania who discovered she had invasive lobular carcinoma too late.  She had a 5 centimeter tumor when it was found.  I, too, had invasive lobular cancer but when my tumor was found–it measured only 4 millimeters.  Quite a stark contrast.

However, I had a history of breast cancer in my family that was so thick that I began my screenings at age 36.  Women who don’t have a history of breast cancer usually don’t start having mammograms until age 40.  Reading Lynette Hoppe’s story really has shaken me to my very core.  I guess that since I’ve done so well with my cancer that I’ve completely forgotten about how hard it must be to be given the diagnoses of stage IV breast cancer.  And I’ve realized anew how important it is for all women to do a self exam each month–regardless of whether they have breast cancer in their family or not.  If Lynette had known to examine herself each month–she probably would  still be with us.  She died about two years after her diagnosis.  Still, she was a brave , strong Christian woman who died with a tremendous testimony of her faith.  I do want to encourage all of my female readers to take a few minutes each month for a self examination of the breasts.  This might mean the difference between life and death for someone. 

Well, my week ended peacefully with a chance to give something back to my neighborhood.  I participated in cultivating an “adopt a spot” area in my neighborhood.  We planted flowers and made a beautiful little garden setting complete with a concrete bench, concrete birdbath, a bird feeder, and some other lovely things.  I’m so glad I was part of that project. 

After I finished that task–my son and his wife took Jim and I out for lunch.  We then ended our day with attending our little 5 year old grandson Alex’s birthday party.  Saturday was a great day.

Each day I worry too much about Jim.  I’m trying to work on that.  Tomorrow , the 20th– is my birthday.  I’ve already received some very nice gifts from my family.  On the eve of my birthday, I’m pondering about many things.  One of which– is  that  I’m grateful that I’ve been allowed to raise my children and enjoy another generation through my grandsons.  That is a tremendous gift from God–the greatest birthday gift I could ever imagine.

Oh, yes—Jim received word this week that he will begin receiving his Social Security Disability–starting the end of May.  It was a clear cut case and nothing was contested. 

Life holds uncertainties for each of us.  Many times the uncertainities of life turn out to become our greatest blessings.  So may each of you have a blessed week.  I’ll check in again next Sunday evening.

God Bless,


Nichole’s Slices Of Life, 11

13 04 2009

I didn’t get my Sunday evening words written.  However, I’m off today as I have to take Jim to the VA hospital in Nashville to see a cardiologist.  The VA health care in the closest thing I know in reasonable healthcare  compared to my United KIngdom’s friends healthcare.  We are very thankful for the years Jim spent in the Air Force  to enable him to have this care when he needs it most.

Jim was officially terminated from his job on April the 9th–so he lost his health care unless he pays for a COBRA plan.  I will be using the COBRA plan but it is way to costly for both of us.  Again, having the VA medical care saved the day.

Last week was my spring break.  We spent a couple of days with our grandsons.  I happened to make tuna noodle casserole  last Monday and John just thought it was the greatest.  I made a very large casserole in the morning because we just warm up servings in the microwave.  John wanted tuna casserole for breakfast, lunch and a late afternoon snack.  His mom never makes anything like that.  She grew up on tuna casserole but I guess it is just one of those dishes that she never really liked. 

I had to make John his own casserole to take home on Wednesday.  We also made pizza that day.  The boys are getting used to helping me make the dough.  They like to try to pat it out in the pizza pans.  I noticed this time that John is becoming very efficient in patting out the pans.  Little brother is showing improvement, too.  We usually make three pizzas.  It is a favorite meal they like when they come to my home.

Jim and I left Wednesday afternoon for an overnight trip to Lake Barkley Lodge.  I called it a “honeymoon” to the boys earlier in the week.  Their mom told me that John would not stop talking about our “honeymoon”. 

We had a wonderful time.  Eating in the lakefront dining room is always a special time for us.  Later we walked along the lakefront in the moonlight and followed behind some kind of water bird for awhile.  Finally, the bird realized we were following behind and so the bird took off into the lake.

Jim and I spent a great deal of time talking about his limitations and how we are currently dealing with them.  I tried to explain why I feel so protective and Jim seemed to understand.  That didn’t last long though.  Thursday night after we had been home for many hours–Jim chose to take a walk while I was in the shower.  Vera was not at home.  I was horrified and we had a big argument about it when he came home. 

I have much to learn.  My friend “Shadowlands”  has written on my blog that I need to choose my battles carefully.  It is easier said that done.  I pray for wisdom each day.  Yet each day I fail.

This is Holy Week in my Orthodox Faith.  We will not be able to participate until Pascha night.  I’m going to try to let Jim enjoy Pascha.  I’m nervous about it though.  My friend “Dewdrop” dropped me a personal note this morning expressing his concern about the possibility of Jim missing “pascha”.  I so appreciated his concern!

Well, I will try to get back on my Sunday evening blog next week.  May God’s blessings be with each of your during this week!


Nichole’s Slices Of Life, 10

5 04 2009

What a week!  I finished up my assignment as substitute librarian at one of our elementary schools.  Since there was testing in the library this week –I took my lessons to the classrooms.  K-3 got their lessons via the internet which was then projected onto a special screen called a “Smart Board”.  The librarian has the most wonderful website that offers the viewing of  books in animation.  These books are hard copy printed books that have been put into animation form.  I was fasinated with this website and had fun using the material.  I hoped to subscribe at home to this website but found out it is only available to schools.  I’m like a child at heart when it comes to children’s literature.  I love it.  My 4th and 5th graders had to complete worksheets about Kentucky.  I was expected to grade them.  I graded quite a few papers–something I’m not used to doing.  All in all–it   was a wonderful experience of being the librarian.  An added bonus was the many hugs I received from students.   It was an 8 day assignment.

On the homefront–my husband didn’t have a great week.  He tried raking up some of the many sticks in our yard and ended up in bed all the next day.  I used to have him make our bed and do a little housework for me.  He is no longer able to do those simple tasks.  Anything that involves arm movement seems to put him in bed.  He is still able to enjoy working at the computer.  I struggled so much this week –just knowing how Jim seems to get more limited in what he can accomplish each day.  It has taken a toll on me.  By Friday, I was in a depression.  Not the kind that lands one in bed but just the kind where one just doesn’t have much desire to interact with others or do the activities that one usually enjoys.  It is kind of like feeling like a stone.  One one hand–I did enjoy my work week.  On the other hand–I felt a deep heaviness inside about my husband’s failing health.  When Jim is feeling better–he gets mad at me for being protective of him.  I’m caught in a hard place. 

We are already discussing whether he should attend Holy Pascha in a couple of weeks.  I’ve made the comitment to sing in the choir.  I have a ton of music to learn in a short time.  Yet I struggle whether we should even attend.  For you see– the service doesn’t even start until 10:00 p.m. and we won’t get home until the wee hours of the morning.  Can Jim endure such a service?  I don’t know.  It is tough for me to make that decision. 

We have spring break this coming week.  I will be busy caring for our grandson’s the first 3 days of the week.  I told my daughter that I wanted Thursday and Friday off.  Wednesday afternoon we are leaving for an overnight stay at one of our state parks.  This is a gift from our daughter, Vera.  Friday –I’m to rehearse Pascha music in Clarksville most of the day.  It will be nice to have a break from teaching.

Life goes on.  I’m sure that I will have the wisdom needed for each new day.  I will just take it one day at a time with Jim.  I mentioned last week that I could only give myself a C for thankfulness. I’m still on the C level but  I know this fact for sure– I don’t blame God for any of the difficulties that we face.  I am not bitter.  I’m merely exhausted and tired.  God know these things–His compassions are tender to me.  I’m very thankful to know this–first hand.  I did have one situation of compassion that has touched me greatly.

One of the members of our cancer group insisted on doing my grocery shopping this week.  She is a retired teacher and loves to find a bargain.  I gave her my list at our weekly cancer meeting.  She threw in many of my items for free–for she had extras at her home.  I wrote her a check when she delivered my groceries.  She said that she wants to continue doing this for me.  What a generous soul she is.  I’m very grateful for her help.

So I am thankful for God’s tender mercies to our family.  I will check back in with each of you next Sunday evening.  Have a great week!

God bless each of you!