Wednesday, November 20, 2013

October, a hard month

I am 46 years old, but I still feel Iike a kid sometimes. Lately I've been seeing people I knew as kids, die and/or be near death. I think, how can this be? And why isn't it me? Mid month, my friend and classmate, Paula Jones Stover, passed away from bile duct cancer. This as she was achieving some of her happiest moments. She met a man who loved her, and was by her side through her battle with cancer. Although she got to go some of the places she wanted, before she  died, she was very weak and uncomfortable at the end, so much so she couldn't communicate.

Meanwhile, for the last year, another classmate, Rich Basick, has been in and out of hospitals since receiving a bone marrow transplant to keep his leukemia at bay. His biggest enemy right now is his his diabetes. He has sustained injuries to his toes that have become gangrenous. His feet look like someone burned him, yet pain management has  been difficult. He gets loopy, and doesn't breathe prolerly. So far, surgeons have amputated half of   Rich's right foot, and may need to take more.

I am lucky, because my cancer has not caused me pain, just insanity,

Photos:  above, Rich and his family at our house this summer, below that one, Rich as a teen. At the bottom of this post, Paula and her husband John.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Things are much better.

Almost two months ago I fell down during a one-mile walk, and it prompted concern that my tumor was growing again, as it is near my motor strip. An MRI ruled out growth (for the moment), an ENT looked in my ears, and didn't think my falling was the result of an inner ear disturbance.

Since the episode, a physical therapist has worked with me to get back my strength and confidence. At the start of our sessions, I needed trekking poles to go on walks.

Today I walked without them.

Despite this progress, I still need to build up enough strength to pick myself up from a falling position, should the need arise, but my physical therapist has confidence that I can meet that goal.

In more positive news, my dad seems to be adjusting to memory care, though the day he moved brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the family.

I should make clear that my mom and dad live in the same retirement center, just in different parts, so she can go to his room to visit, or she can bring him over to her pace, so dad can see their dog, and watch movies with. Recently, he has even resumed swimming laps! 

Granted, he sometimes thinks he's the coach of the Timbers, or a paid employee of the retirement center, but I'm happy about the positive changes I'm seeing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Falling down

I love walking. On a good day, I can enjoy fresh air, sun, and maybe fitness.

The Friday before the Fourth of July was not one of those days.  I fell twice during my one-mile-plus walk.  What's worse is that I couldn't get up!

About a block from my house, came the first fall. I attempted to get off the sidewalk to dodge a prickly bush, and went boom. A Good Samaritan helped me up. I continued my trek home, and didn't feel right. The temperature was hot, somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees; thus, I became tired, and unintentionally dragged my feet.

I finally reach my steep driveway, and loose my footing again, causing me to careen into the garage door. I land on my hands and knees, and bloody my left one. The concrete is too hot, and my knee is too banged up to crawl on it, so I call my son, who is in the house.

Six times I try and he doesn't pick up. Apparently, the phones aren't charged downstairs. Eventually, I make the decision to call my mom, as she lives relatively close by. When she reaches me, she can't help me up, as she has a bad back, so my son, Austin, is brought out to help her. They succeed, and I get a water bottle and l call my primary care physician, whose assistant asks me a few questions. He thinks I just got dehydrated. The incident is still under investigation. It could be tumor related, as the thing is near my motor strip.

Needless to say, I hope it isn't, and I can get back to enjoying the benefits of walking.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Moving day

I've written in this blog about my dad's dementia. About a year ago, mom and dad moved to a retirement community so dad could get extra care when the time came.

That time came today. He moved from independent living with my mom to a room by himself, where a nurse will bathe him, help him dress, and dispense his medication, instead of my

No one rejoiced at this event, and, in fact, dad shed tears. For now, he seems to feel abandoned, worried he won't see his family again.

But I'm happy to report that mom will still live at the facility, visit and share meals with them, but they won't share a room.

As for me, I can walk there to see him, and my sister can take a short drive to see him.

The move just happened. Next comes adjusting to the new normal.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Moving day approaches

Monday April 29, 2013, my dad moves to the memory care wing of the retirement village where he lives with my mom. It will be a very bittersweet day. He will not know he's moving until the actual moving day. That's how administrators wanted to handle it. As I wrote in a recent post, he hallucinates, needs help grooming, and sometimes tries to leave the building. My mom has been his caregiver for almost their entire marriage, but she physically can't do it anymore. It's like taking care of a 75-year-old toddler, so when an opportunity arose to move my dad, she took it. As one can imagine, she's experiencing a myriad of emotions about separating from her husband.

He will go to a relatively spacious room with a private bath. My mom secured a spot on the waiting list for a single bedroom unit for residents who can still live independently. She can still have meals with my dad and visit him, as can my sister and I.

All hands will be in hand for this transition. I expect to post more about this. This is another one of those things I wish I could changes.

If wishes were dollars, I'd be in the black.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cancer's mysteries

Above you see an entire beautiful family in happier times, on a trip to Hawaii. This photo was taken just before the man second from right, Rich Basick, faced a risky bone marrow transplant to tackle his leukemia. On the far left of the picture, his youngest son, Carter, then oldest son Hayden, the man himself, and his beautiful wife Kathleen.

I went to school with Rich and Kathleen. I consider them friends. They need friends now more than ever, because Rich has had very major complications post-transplant. In fact, he fights for his life as I write this at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), on a ventilator that he needs, but doesn't want.

What I remember of Rich from school? He had a swagger to his demeanor. Now, he lays in a hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and wires, and as a visitor, you aren't sure if he knows who you are, except for an occasional squeeze of a hand, or a desperate attempt to talk, a heartbreaking transformation.

He needs that swagger and a good old fashioned miracle.

His case again makes me wonder why I’m so lucky.  I have brain cancer and I’m still here. Why? I thought the brain was where most cancers go to die. He’s only 46, and has a beautiful and growing family.

God please show yourself and save him.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Which Karen Godbey are you?

We have now taken the first step toward moving my dad with dementia to a memory care unit at the retirement home where my parents live.

Dad has been declining rapidly since moving. He thinks there are four of my mom. He will ask her,"Which Karen Godbey are you?" He thinks he's the coach of a soccer team, and that someone is trying to put him in prison. Mom also said the other day, he was literally talking to the walls. On top of this, he can't bathe and Grimm himself.

Up until now, mom has been helping dad do those things, but sometimes dad is uncooperative, which frustrates my mom, and causes her blood pressure to rise.

It is sad that the time has come, but it appears like it has, much sooner than anyone thought.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sweet hitchhiker

When cancer attached itself to me, it didn't account for the fact that I have responsibilities, such as, doctor appointments, grocery shopping and taking my son to and from his activity of the moment.

I continued to be errand girl in chief until I had my second surgery. Then a doctor suggested that I give up my driving privilege, for my safety and the safety of others.

Since then, I have struggled to find a sensible solution to my transportation issue. First I tried "Ride Connection", a a transportation service for the disabled. The problem with the service is that it is volunteer, so the disabled person knows not whether he or she will get a ride.

I have done things to lessen my need for a ride, such as scheduling my mris for Saturday, and giving up the cancer writing group and support group I was in. My husband and I grocery shop on the weekend, and I have two stores within walking distance.

But sometimes I, or my son, need to be places on weekdays, when my husband is at work. We were using cabs for awhile, until the cab showed up at 4pm to take my son to a 4pm appointment.

Lately, we have been using my sister's driver, Ahmed. We pay for Ahmed's reliability. I don't see using his services as sustainable.

Perhaps my son and I should learn to hitchhike.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Confessions of a former conservative

My freshman year in college, I knew I wanted to major in journalism. As such, I wanted to find a school paper to work on,  and write for.

I wrote a freelance piece for the main student newspaper at the University  of Oregon. The paper was called the Oregon Daily Emerald, and I got paid by the column inch, but I wanted to build up a portfolio. I looked for more writing opportunities, and landed at the only conservative newspaper at a very liberal university, called the Oregon Commentator.

How conservative was this paper? The office was the size of a closet, the walls were littered with posters of conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schlafly, and William F Buckley. I was the only female on staff. To be honest, at that time I didn't know what my political beliefs were. I just wanted to write. My first assignment was to do a profile on Peter Defazio, who was running for congress in 1986 and is still serving. I didn't get paid, but the powers that be liked my work, and gave me more. Meantime, one of the other young conservatives took a liking to me and asked me out. He became my first boyfriend and broke my heart in 17 places, but looking back on it, he and the other young men who worked at The Commentator, contributed greatly to my not being a republican today.

First of all, all of these men were sexiah him, and how other young women at the university would "go down like an anchor". Not exactly pleasant talk. In addition, there was too much fartin Eg and belching, at least for my taste. The guy who was my boyfriend, would poke fun at the Jewish faith of another staffer. To be fair, this person didn't seem to mind the ribbing, but I didn't get it.

My boyfriend and I were made Editor and Managing Editor, respectively, but was I really conservative? I wasn't sure.  Then I started talking social and political issues with my boyfriend.

He was pro-gun. He called himself a responsible gun owner, but hunt and kill raccoons for fun in the forest surrounding his Medford home. One time, my parents let me go visit him, and he went outside.The sound of gunfire was loud and shook the house.

I have never touched a gun and still don't want to be around them.

He was way to the Right on the on the issue of abortion--hated it--no exceptions. To me abortion is not a black and white issue. I am fortunate to have never had to choose.

He made fun of the ethnic student unions, such as the Black Student Union, and the like. In protest, he formed the Irish Student Union. I guess he felt that Europeans don't have enough representation at our nation's colleges.

Finally he didn't like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at the UO. He referred to lesbians as "Bull Dykes" and probably other things when he was with his buddies.

Right or wrong, this gave me the impression that conservatives hate women, love guns, and are homophobics.

I hope I am wrong, but for now, I'm a flaming liberal.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dodged a bullet

Tumor update...

I had my most recent scan last Saturday, and got results Tuesday. I was especially nervous about the results, because in December, three doctors couldn't tell if my tumor was recurring or not. These doctors included a radiation oncologist, a general oncologist, and a brain surgeon. The MRI report noted subtle enhancement. I have heard those words before, a few months prior my 2010 surgery.  The general oncologist told me if my MRI in March looked like the one in December, that would mean no recurrence. The brain surgeon said my surgeon did a great job both times, and any changes were too minor to worry about.  Still I wanted official word, and I wanted to see pictures.

So this week, I did. My brain is still the same.  It has a hole in it with what appears to be a halo around it. The halo is still the same too.

I  think about death often, though I don't want to die at this age, and I'm not sure the benefits of another surgery would outweigh the  toll it would take on my body.

I'm happy I don't have to make any big decisions just yet.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tears for my father

The other day, I was shuffling through my music library, and a song came up that reminded me of him, as so many songs do. Lately, I've been loading my library with such songs, as a homage to him.

When tears come, they are often provoked by an unexpected, random trigger. In my case, it was an Al Stewart song.

Stewart is arguably most famous for "Year of the Cat," but my dad always liked a more obscure song,"Roads to Moscow," best. Perhaps dad likes the melody or the classical guitar bits, but as the song played the other night, the tears came, and didn't stop until I was near sleep.

Maybe I shouldn't have cried, but the dad I grew up with doesn't exist anymore.

And it's heartbreaking.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Babysitting Grampy


Grampy is the nickname the family uses for my father, because he's a grandfather of two now. Grampy is 75 now and not in the best of health. His given name is Elmer Bartelle Godbey, but over the years he has gone by Bart, EB, and sometimes Elmer. I call him dad.

Less than a year ago, dad and mom moved from what was to be their retirement house, because dad was showing signs of dementia, including wandering around (in the house) at night. He was crashing his car and not remembering the circumstances of the accidents. One time, I was visiting, and there sat a prepared salad on the island, and the television was playing loudly, that I thought dad was there.

He was not. He had left the house, allegedly to put gas in his car.

Tests confirmed a diagnosis of early onset dementia. My sister took on the task of looking for retirement villages with memory care, and selling their house. Dad was anxious about the move, both positively and negatively, so he stayed at our house on the actual moving day. I took the above picture then.

Since moving, dad's dementia has worsened. Just yesterday, he told me he had front row seats to a soccer game, and even told me he enjoyed the game. Just one problem--he didn't go to a soccer game.

Another time, I called and was talking to mom, hearing him in the background. He was talking to a friend who was not there. When mom told him that his friend wasn't there, he then guessed he was talking to my sister. She wasn't there either.

Mom doesn't want to leave him alone, because he gets anxious and feels abandoned, so my sister and I have started keeping him company on Sunday evenings, so mom can play bunko.

Dementia is a cruel wench. It can take an extremely cool, interesting individual and turns them into a helpless baby. There but for the grace of god go us all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rock and Roll History I and II

Leave it to the University of Oregon to have a legitimate class on rock history.  My sister and I were roommates my Freshman year, and took the class together, both parts one and two.

Part one focused on the musical precursors to what would be called Rock&Roll, such as blues, jazz and country. The legends were all covered, like Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. One could walk into the class, and hear Berry singing

Sweet Little Sixteen
she just gotta have
about half a million
famed autographs

When it came time to talk Elvis, the teacher explained the importance of the 2/4 back beat to any rock song. To demonstrate, he played us Hound Dog, and of course, Elvis's Sun Records sessions.  Why would or should there be a class in rock history?  It was the teacher's contention that rock music has a big enough impact on our culture in terms of style, language, and even economy, that it merited a class in the Music Department.  Like any class,  students took mid-term and final tests.  The teacher would grant "a half a grade on the mid-term" for correctly answering trivia questions.  I think I got one for knowing that country singer Hoyt Axton's mother wrote Heartbreak Hotel.

Part Two covered The British Invasion, the Psychedelic era, and punk:  The Beatles, Stones, and The Who. This time, for half a grade on the mid-term, the teacher played The Who's Can't Explain, and asked us to name the famous guitarist who sat in on the session.

A quiet young man in the back quietly answered, "Jimmy Page".  Fun factoid, members of The Who helped give the band Led Zeppelin it's name, joking the Page's band would go down like one.
The final test for Rock History II consisted of us listening to three songs:   Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, Talking Heads' Life During Wartime, and the Sex Pistol's God Save the Queen. In an essay were to articulate the similarities of the three songs. I think I babbled something about protest songs and/or anti-government.

My sister and I threw a party at our apartment after "finals".

And this is how I became so annoying about trivia.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

People who shouldn't have guns

-Me. I figure if my diseased brain makes it unsafe for me to drive, it's probably not safe for me to use a firearm either.

-My dad. He suffers from dementia, and actually had firearms. Since he sometimes hears and sees things that aren't there, we got rid of his guns.

-Yes. The person who murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary. TWENTY KIDS. If this does not make us want to take a closer look at how guns get in the wrong hands, then we are pretty fucking disturbed.

But the shock of the Sandy Hook tragedy seems to have worn off. When I get on Facebook, I'll see a pic of Stalin or Hitler, with the caption,"The experts agree, gun control works".

I am for self protection, but as I wrote, even I shouldn't have a gun. I do, however have a security system, and my cousin has two big dogs that I bet make fabulous deterrents.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is this my country?

Is this my country
That I love
But doesn't love me?

Is this the land of the free
The home of the Brave
Or the home of the cowards,
And the land of slaves?

Slaves to our imaginary facts.
Slaves to our desire to commit cruel acts.
Against other humans, even children!

We reach for the nearest weapon
And the most convenient excuse
To get the bad guy
In our head.
Or the monster under our bed.

Is this our country
That calls itself civilized?

Is this my country
That I love
But doesn't love me?
Doesn't love at all.