Friday, March 30, 2012

Last Week of Appointments

Wednesday was a laid back day.  Gary had his radiation for the last time on his face.  Just two more days to go till he gets to ring that bell!  We really didn't want to go anywhere, just putter around home.  Gary checked the batteries, and we'll empty the hot water tank to check the anode this week.

Thursday was another fabulous day in the high 80s but cloudyish so we didn't 'melt' quite so much.  Gary woke up at 6:15 for his appointment at 7 for labwork.  He came quietly back into bed, and we woke up at 8:30!  Today was the last radiation on his hand.  We met with Dr. Lavey and asked a million questions regarding a maintenance schedule and made a followup appointment in April, as we are now really trying to leave the first of May.  We'll see what the maintenance regimen will be first, however.    He's really sore all over, but is so brave.  Now he'll start healing, and his skin will be better than mine!

I did a few loads of wash, and was really tempted to wash the coach roof, but did not have enough time.  Gary grilled some salmon on the BBQ and then we watched some TV.

Friday at last, and here is Gary as a graduate ringing the bell.  Everyone applauded and wished him luck. 

From now on it's all healing and in two weeks we'll find out what maintenance will be. 

We looked at another RV park practically next door to us hoping there would be some big spaces available, and we found a couple of pull-thrus.  We checked at the office and those were available for a really good price, but we just didn't want the hassle of moving.  So I visited our office to see if they could do anything on our fee, but the new rates for April will be going up.  So we were happy to pay March rates, but will be happier to leave Florida for points north in a month. 

Just hung out this afternoon, Gary had a little nap, and is just getting better minute by minute!  Yay.

We're sure glad Moffitt Cancer Center is here for so many people, but so sad that it needs to exist at all.  Our hearts go out to anyone who has battled with cancer.  We see so many very, very sick people.  I want to find the sticker that says "Cancer Sucks" because it does.  It sure does.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Working on our Getaway

Friday we left for St. Pete to do some outside work before potential buyers came to Michelle's house.  Just arriving at her street, we saw a HUGE branch of the Chestnut tree on the corner hanging onto the road.  Michelle was there on her phone calling the police.  Fortunately no one was under that branch - it would have seriously hurt anyone. 

Needing to rent a powerwasher, we headed over to HD to pick it up.  And by the time we returned, the three truck crew was working on that branch.  We spent an hour on powerwashing the patio stones and did some other cleaning and tidying, then had to head back to Moffit for another treatment.

Saturday was another beautiful day - no humidity yet, low 80s - and it was Girls' Club Day.  Jan made some quiches and Tollhouse cookies and her sister, Susan, made a delicious salad.  As usual, the wine and words flowed for hours with laughter sprinkled liberally throughout the evening.  So much fun.

Gary caught a movie and wandered through the new Walmart in our 'hood.  Even though I had had a few glasses (just 2) I drove home in the dark, as his eyes are getting better, but hurt with strong light.

Sunday was perfectly beautiful and we decided to head over to Universal thinking this would be probably the last time before we left.  It was not crowded, and we started our day by sharing a Cinnabon, then sharing a slice of pizza, then sharing an ice cream.  We didn't go on any rides at all, instead watched other people enjoying them.  We stayed an hour giggling at the children intentionally standing in the splash zone of the Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride as the 'boat' plunges 85 feet down a waterfall and sends water 30 feet in all directions when it hits the river.  They were having a ball.  It was the unsuspecting guests that were the funniest of all when they got a direct hit just walking by.  Let it be known that WATER ON THE GROUND MEANS LOOK AROUND! 

Later we enjoyed some sushi before we joined the crowd and headed home in a sunny cloudless sky - driving directly west - get the picture?  I have only done a drive like that once before on our way to Atlanta with my daughter, Mandy.  I remember how difficult it was then, and this evening was only a little better because we turned north at our exit just before the sun hit the horizon.  As soon as we opened our door, a helicopter flew very low over our CG. 

And it returned again and again and again.  We think it must have needed more fuel, because that one disappeared and another showed up.  Around and around they flew, and people started grouping outside our door trying to guess what was happening.  One had a walkie talkie, one had a radio and all were looking up.  Finally they disappeared, and it was quiet.  The news that night revealed nothing.  A mystery...

Monday (another beautiful day) was an important day as we were seeing the Doctor in charge of Gary's radiation and he would be able to tell us the future!  Gary had his radiation first, and then we were asked to sit in a room, then another room, and finally a nurse came in, wrote down some stuff, and then the Doc came in.  He was pleased with the progress, was not going to extend treatment, so Gary will be done on Friday.  On Thursday, we will see him again to make sure, then made an appointment with the other Doctor to discuss follow-up treatment.  [Something that should have been done two years ago when he had full body radiation.] 

There is a ship's bell in the lobby donated by a former patient.  When a patient has had his last treatment, they get to ring the bell, and everyone applauds.  That happened yesterday to an elderly gentleman in a wheel chair, wrapped in a blanket, wearing a neck brace and IV, but he rang that bell, the applause of approximately 30 people began, and he smiled as he was pushed out the door.  Sweet.

Today (I'm sorry, another beautiful day) I was supposed to work, but I called my daughter to say that Gary couldn't see well enough to drive all the way back to Moffit and then be able to pick me up in St. Pete again.  His Doctor did say that he will need cataract surgery by the end of this decade because of the photon radiation.  At least cataract surgery is simple...

I defrosted the freezer, cleaned a little, paid for another week until we re-arrange our plans, and did a little wash.  Then we wandered over to LazyDays to check out their complimentary classes - especially their RV Driver Confidence Course.  I called and talked to Barney and was disappointed to hear him say that the next open slot was the end of May.  Well, that wouldn't work, as we really don't want to still be in Florida then.  Upon further investigation, he suggested that I show up with Gary on the 18th of April.  And we don't have to bring Bella, they have a 'class motorhome' we will use!  VERY excited.  I've been meaning to do this course since last year.  Perhaps now I will feel more in control and not so anxious sitting in that right seat.  Who knows - I might want to drive all the time!

We also checked out all the fun things in Camping World, but walked out empty handed!  Wow.  Saved a few pennies there!

Thanks for joining our daily adventures!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monday was a work day, but a short one.  Gary had radiation in the morning so we didn't get to St. Pete until 10:15 and we had to leave at 2:15 to get to Sarasota for my appointment.  My sciatica has been very annoying, so I broke down and called my Dr. for advice.  I talked to our favorite nurse, Yolanda, who suggested an accupuncturist she used for the same ailment.  Taking ibuprofen in large amounts works temporarily, but is not a long-term solution.  She said her sciatica has disappeared, so I thought it might be cool to check out this accupuncturist (who is also a MD).

He was thorough with his examination and determined that I had had a trauma or overworked my right muscle group around the middle of my back.  I won't go into the technical terms, but about 12 needles, electro-therapy, a heat lamp, dark room and soothing music made the next 20 minutes fly by (I think I might have fallen asleep).  He unhooked and unneedled me, gave me a wonderful massage, and I made another appointment for Thursday.  This felt great!

Tuesday we decided to go ahead and finish the fridge.  We measured 42 times and had to cut twice.  There was a corner we needed to carve out for the water dispenser on the left top of the door panel.  We used a template, cut out the square, and discovered it was too small.  There was a lip around the entire door edge that the panel fits under and lips around the dispenser square.  We removed the strip that encompasses the handle to be able to slide the panel in by removing the Fantastic Fan screen and opening the door so that the strip would slide up through the roof.  The panel slid in easily enough, so we slid the strip down and then attempted to replace the handle.  It wouldn't slide on because the panel was 1/4 inch too wide.  I gently sawed off that little bit and voila!  We have a beautiful fridge finally.
sliding in the panel

Wednesday was another work day, and the back only hurt a little bit.  Michelle is feeling better.  Her Dr. (orthopedist) after examinations, etc. told her she had scoliosis.  Now she needs physical therapy to begin with, and then they'll see what's next.

Today was my second accupuncture appointment, and I got to go to sleep for 30 minutes this time.  The back is feeling even better. Gary's radiation continues and we think we see improvement.  He really wishes it was faster but we'll deal with it on a daily basis.  He is being so brave.

Now all we have left to fix is the washer/dryer. That will prove interesting since we don't know how to fix it. Time to make some phone calls to Splendide for some suggestions. They are very helpful and actually answer the phone!

I think we have made a plan for the summer, but as always, our plans are made in sand....

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Yucky Caterpillars - We're Outta Here!

We've been tolerating the hatching caterpillars in the oak tree above our coach for about a week and a half now, but they fall to the ground at a 'raining' pace and are ALL OVER our home.  Yuck.  Yesterday was the last straw.  They were making cocoons on our engine and everywhere else.  As soon as you brushed them off, they climbed back up. 

I couldn't take it anymore, so we went down to the office and looked for a new spot.  Several were suggested with number 93 the best site.  Would Bella start?  Yep!  We took the long way around to give her a little run, and let her idle for about 15 minutes after Gary did another superb job of parking her.  We feel like we're in a new park!  New neighbors, new view and NO caterpillars!  We've confirmed that it is much faster breaking camp than it is setting up.  But it has been absolutely beautiful weather for the last week, so it was pure pleasure once again (with no crawly things all over us). 

New Site 93
You aren't allowed to move without a member of the staff and we had Cliff.  He asked that if we were planning to leave in the rain, please don't take out the transformer like the last guy did.  That poor guy made a right turn out of this site, hit the green box (transformer?) at his gas tank area, pushed it three feet and that cost him - are you ready???- thirty-five thousand dollars to fix it.  We said we don't drive in the rain if necessary, but would sure be careful to miss that.  He was lucky he didn't blow up.  Ouch.

Sciatica is under control once more, and Saturday morning we even washed the Jeep before putting her top down.  Running over to the store we ran by our put in place - John B Sargeant Park and checked it out.  The park is best known for boating access to the river. Downriver, the Hillsborough River State Canoe Trail is a winding jungle of hardwood trees, lilies and birds, and yes, gators.  We decided to do the two hour trip downriver to Morris Bridge Park.  At one o'clock, Terri and John arrived at the park, we unloaded and the girls got the boats ready while the boys took the cars to leave the Escape at the take out point and bring back the Jeep.  Here's John and Terri, all ready to go:

the SeaEagle 370
the first of many turtles
There were a few roseate spoonbills
The weather was perfect at 87 degrees elsewhere, but on the river it must have been about 80.  Very gentle currents kept us moving slowly so that we could avoid most of the obstacles (mostly trees). 

like glass

It was a wonderful ride except for those prehistoric animals.  John and Terri usually were ahead of us, but at one point we didn't know which direction we were heading:

We got straightened out with us ahead this time.  Just as we came around a corner, this guy said hello:

Fortunately, he was only about 5 feet long.  But I sure didn't like his position.  Anyway, floating on by, we were soon close to our takeout point.  Hard left onto the ramp, pull the boat up to the top, get our gear, dry her off, fold her up, toss her in the back of the Escape with John and Terri's stuff, and off to the Jeep.  GREAT DAY SO FAR!

We parted to go home, get cleaned up then headed over to John and Terri's parking place in Pinellas Park.  There had been an accident on 275 which John and Terri had encountered, but we got the consequences of even an hour later.  We found them with no trouble due to our MotionX GPS Drive app on our iPad.  How did we EVER find our way before this?  I love this app.  Especially since it's free (if you don't utilize the voice option).  We even love to get lost just so we can find our way back with it!  No worries!

We arrived just after 7 and John, Terri, their son, Matthew and dog, Snickers welcomed us into their  new Montana fiver.  They are so anxious to begin fulltiming in a couple of years they can hardly wait.  But they are being smart and getting rid of all debts first.  Terri swears that she will NEVER live in a house again.  Couples who are best friends and enjoy spending every minute together are successful in this lifestyle.  And apparently there are many of us out there, which is a wonderful thing.

We enjoyed chicken k-bobs and potatoes finishing with a cheescake sampler and coffee.  Before we knew it ten o'clock came around and we had a long drive home, so said our goodbyes and thank yous for a wonderful, fun, delicious day.  Silver River was mentioned and is not far away, so we might be able to fit that in one day hopefully.

Sunday morning was another fantastic beautiful day.  What to do?  I made pancakes, and even though we need to clean our own home, today was not the day for that.  The top was still down and we jumped in and drove off towards Thonotosassa Lake to check that out.  We arrived in 10 minutes or less and found it easily by all the cars, motorboats, jet skis and noise.  We will definitely not do this lake on a weekend. 

So then we drove further east just out in horse/cow/strawberry country.  Plant City has a strawberry festival every year which has just ended.  The event began back in 1930 when members of the Plant City Lions Club conceived the idea of an event to celebrate the bountiful harvest of strawberries. In 1948, the American Legion helped get the Florida Strawberry Festival reactivated following a six-year hiatus because of World War II.  Today, the annual event has become one of the best Festivals in the nation, and now ranks among the Top 40 Fairs in North America.  However, not all the strawberries are eaten, and driving through the miles of strawberry fields yielded the most delicious aroma of warm fresh strawberry shortcake.  OK, at least the strawberries.  Yummy.  Fortunately, they are pick your own or get 'em at the store.  I've got mine back in the fridge waitin' for us.

We just kept taking turns, enjoying the horses, cattle, donkeys (so cute) goats, and that wonderful strawberry aroma until we needed gas (at 3.67/gal - bettern than diesel at 4.23 cash/gal).  But that is the price of life.  Gladly paid for.

Back at home, Gary decided to have some sushi and put together this little spread:

Delicious, if you love bait.  Well, we do!  Thanks, hon. 

Tomorrow it's back to work, radiation and another interesting destination I'll tell you about...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back to Work

Thursday we drove down to Miami for a weekend visit with our son, Tristan.  Of course, we arrived in time for dinner - which was deliciously cooked by Tristan and his girlfriend, Tracy.  Mussels mariniere with roasted asparagus and tons of French bread to soak up all that juice!  Fabulous with a crispy white wine. 

Well, it sure went down well, but in the middle of the night, it decided to come up.  Yuck.  I was really sick all that night and all day on Friday.  Bummer.  But, on Saturday, I was fine and we went out for breakfast with Tracy because she and Tristan were going to the airport soon after.  Her sister is in Ecuador, and she was going to visit her during her spring break (Tracy is in graduate school at UM).  So we kissed them goodbye, and went exploring at the mall.  We met up with Tristan later and got some stuff to grill that night.  Tristan and I stayed up to 12:30 playing video games like we used to when we were "kids".  We love to figure out the puzzles together...

Anyhow, Sunday, after a Panera breakfast, we had to head home as we were taking the back roads, a longer time, but shorter distance.  The best part was driving through the orange groves and enjoying the orange blossom fragrance.  Oooh la la.  Lovely.

Monday was a work day at Michelle's and also radiation day.  We needed to leave a bit early to get to Gary's 3:30 appointment at Moffit.  Michelle was not feeling very well, and since it was spring break, she had four of the six at home.  She stayed in bed and we worked and babysat at the same time!  Amazingly I got a lot done. 

Tuesday I had just arrived at the laundromat with all our wash and sheets, when she called and said she needed to get to emergency.  Her Dr. had seen her that morning but didn't know what was wrong, but gave her a prescription for Celebrex.  Since then, she had chosen to take a bath and noticed red spots all over her legs which were tingling and numb.  So we drove back to St. Pete, and I took her to emergency around 5 pm, while Gary stayed with the kids.  To make a long story short, no one could determine what was wrong, so they admitted her for a neurologist and a infectious disease specialist to see her the next day.  Gary and I stayed overnight because a)  you know when you arrive at an ER, it's at least 5-6 hours till someone says you can go or you need to stay and b)  who would run the household/kids with Brian needing to get to work the next day?

The kids helped me clean (they think you are enjoying it, so they want to try it too) and we got even more stuff done.  Eventually Michelle got home Wed. evening around 9:30, kissed all the kids goodnight, and we discussed what happened.  It's still a mystery.

Gary began his treatments on his face on Thursday finally.  They have been tweaking his mask to make sure it's perfect.  That's OK with us!  He's very excited that they have begun, and expects to see immediate results.  That would be nice.

This morning, we left Michelle's around 10:30, and we stopped at IC Sharks on the way home for some fresh fish.  Well, now, this was a great market with fish just off the boat.  The hard part was choosing.  Gary got some tuna for sashimi, and I chose a Sheepshead.  They cut the head off, scaled it and cleaned it and we will grill it tomorrow.

I'm suffering with a little sciatica so I'm doing some exercises to help.  This is important because we are going to have a great Saturday on the RIVER with our friends Terri and John Shea.  Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Aaaahhhh, The Masked Man

Sunday was a relaxing day - I even got a few levels completed on Indiana Jones, the Lego Version.  Hey, I have to practice for whenever the kids arrive, eh?

Monday was a work day, and we took a new route to St. Pete avoiding the Howard Frankland Bridge and instead took the Gandy Bridge.  No traffic, and we were there in 38 minutes!  We also passed a business we are interested in visiting - IC Sharks Marina and Seafood.  There it was, just on the left over the bridge.  We will stop there one day to get some blue crabs and sushi fish.

At 3 pm Gary had his appointment with the radiologist to get fitted for his bolus.  A few other radiologists and 'coats' came in to see Gary's condition.  He is one of the first that will undergo this treatment so close to his eyes, and they were all exchanging ideas.  He will wear lead contacts and this mask while the scanner rotates around him and his bed moves through the hole of the scanner.  There is a CT scan taken just before each treatment to verify the direction of the radiation.  He begins on Tuesday and has 13-14 treatments.  We can't wait to see how it turns out. 

Tuesday he had another appointment to be fitted for the same type of bolus for his hand and his lower arm.  I waited outside reading Martha Stewart's Living.  It's funny how the stuff in there just doesn't apply to my life anymore.  Looking back at the way my life has run its course gives me a laugh.  Never would I have planned it that way, but never would want to change it either. [However, I think  I'll come back as a bird in my next life.]

Wednesday was a work day, and we took another route that was really pleasant.  We're going to try to stay off those pesky highways.  Tonight on the way home, Gary missed our exit because traffic was so bad.  Well then, we will take all back roads.  So there.

Tomorrow is Gary's last PUVA treatment, and then we're taking a little trip!  My son, Tristan, lives in Miami, but is moving to New York in April.  We would love to see him one more time, so will head down there tomorrow after PUVA for the weekend.  I'll be sure to take lots of pictures, and be up on the blog again next week. 

BTW, don't forget about jumping an hour into spring on Sat nite.  Have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

EGD and Family Fun

Monday we met with Dr. Vignesh, a GI Dr., to talk about why Gary was having so much trouble swallowing.  Dysphagia can be scar tissue or spasms caused by radiation.  We decided we needed to go down and take a look.  That procedure (an, EGD - Esophagogastroduodenoscopy) was scheduled for next week.

Finally we got to St. Pete for me to work and Gary to help paint and fix things.  Six hours later we were stuck in rush hour traffic that took us an hour to get home.  Yuck.  I hate traffic.

Tuesday was PUVA treatment and when Gary got home we went to our favorite Oriental Market for some nori so that Gary can make sushi.  Yum.  We need to find a good fish market for sushi as it is raw and must be fresh, fresh, fresh!  Google to the rescue!  We found a really cool place called "I C Sharks" on Gandy Blvd.  Can't wait to check that out!

Wednesday it was back to work, and a Dr. appt. at 2 pm.  Gary had to drive back to Moffit for that one alone.   This was the Dr. that would determine our length of stay here in Florida.  The big question was could he do something about his eyes.  At first the Dr. was not very keen, but he saw the dejected look on Gary's face, and offered to try electron beam therapy.  This is commonly used to treat skin cancers because it does not penetrate deep into the tissues.  I'm still a little anxious because he has had radiation done to those areas before, and the area that needs to be treated is right around his eyes.  He was warned that he won't have eyelashes or eyebrows ever again.  Who cares, right?  We can buy those somewhere, I'm sure.  We just want to get rid of the bad stuff. 

At the end of the appointment, the Dr. said they'd call us to schedule an appointment within the next two weeks to get fitted for his bolus (a mask to manage the treatment positioning) constructed by physicists and dosimetrists (ooo, new word). 

But we got a call on Thursday to schedule him for an earlier EGD on Friday at 8 am - yay!  Friday am came and we met so many nice people helping Gary get ready for this simple procedure.  They gave me a beeper and I had a cup of coffee that I just finished before it went off signaling that he was ready  in recovery.  He was alert and feeling fine.  The Dr. said he couldn't see anything that would cause his symptoms, and recommended another Dr. to investigate further.  Hmmm.

That afternoon, we drove over to St. Pete for a dinner with my daughter's family and my son, Tristan and his adorable girlfriend, Tracy.  Tristan said he didn't do very well on his The Voice audition, so I guess he won't be hearing from them.  Bummer.  Gary received a call to instructing him to show up on Monday and Tuesday for his "fitting".  Thank goodness we don't have to wait two weeks!  We had a great dinner, hung out until 10 and then headed out for our 45 minute drive home.  Universal Studios was mentioned before we left...

We slept in a little, but got a call at 8:30 to organize the troops for a trip to Universal.  Gary and I drove ourselves and enjoyed a Cinnabon and coffee before they got there.  Then the organization began.  Six kids were hungry, so we started our day at lunch:

Henry waiting for his food

Then it was off to the races.  We split up, met up again, exchanged kids, split up, enjoyed the rides

Mom and Dad

Some wet bums
and sights and around 8 pm (the park closed at 8) we said our good byes.  Tristan and Tracy will be leaving for Miami on Sunday morning, and have invited us down next weekend to his house!  (We will not be taking Bella).   The forecast was for high winds and thunderstorms which moved in somewhere during the night.  It woke us up, but we didn't look at the clock. 

That brings us to today which was really windy, and cooler but I did all the wash and some paperwork.  Tomorrow it is back to work, but we need to leave a little early to make the three o'clock appointment. 

I'm afraid this blog is not very travel related, and practically turning into a medical journal.  Well, that is what is happening right now, so we deal with it the best we can.  Gary is seriously looking forward to some relief.  Here's hoping...