Status Update: Home!

26 02 2012

I AM HOME!!

PRAISE GOD!

Thank you for all your love, support and prayers.

Was able to spend time with Don and Theo today, and now I’m hitting the hay in my own sweet bed.

All systems are go, but I am weak from back-to-back hospital stays. Eating, drinking, resting, and will take it one day at a time while I regain my strength.

My doctor shooed me out the door today and said he didn’t want to see me in there anymore. To that I said, Amen!

I came home to quite a homecoming from Don and Theo, my Superhero and one in training.

I can’t wait to feel strong enough to get back to my life, full swing. And I know rushing it isn’t the answer. I may be the “hare” type, but my sister Julie reminded me to be a tortoise for just a little while longer.

I know God has been trying to teach me the virtue of patience for a long, long time. I think I’m finally getting the picture.

Amy





Status Update: Admitted. Again.

24 02 2012

I’ve seen way too much of this place lately. In fact, if I never again had to see the inside of a hospital, that’d be fine by me.

But, I’m back. Don brought me to the ER last night with intestinal issues still unresolved and a fever that had come on suddenly.

And, I’m grateful. They’ve already helped me make great progress, so hopefully, this time when I go home, it’s to stay home.

Please keep me and my family in your prayers. I really miss my hubby and my little boy. I hope this time away from them somehow passes quickly.

Amy





Status Update: Going Home!

20 02 2012

Rough weekend, but also, a quick turnaround. Saturday was one of those days when you’re so sick, you wonder if you’re ever going to feel good again. Lonnnggg day that left me, my family, and my docs wondering if I was going to be here a while.

Thank God the answer was NO! Sunday I did a complete 180 and made great progress. It amazes me what an incredible machine the human body is.

It’s been steady progress since then, so I was given the nod this morning — I’m GOING HOME!!! They are working on the discharge paperwork right now and my bff Kristi Rugh Kahl is here to take me home. She spent the night, brought pillows and blankets, and we made it a sleepover!

Thank you for all of your prayers. I could feel them covering me like a big, fluffy down blanket the whole weekend through. More soon…

Amy





Status Update: Admitted

18 02 2012

Don had to take me back to the ER this evening as I spiked a high fever. That’s a huge warning sign for chemo patients.

Praise God that of the list of possibilities the docs went over with us before the tests, we were elated to find out that it is a combination of a urinary tract infection, low hemoglobin (red blood counts) and severe constipation. All easily treatable!

They admitted me and I’m getting two units of blood right now, am receiving iv antibiotics for the infection and as for the “other” issue, well, that’s being resolved too…I know, here come the poop jokes. Sigh. I should be released Saturday or Sunday.

Amy





Status Update: Home

16 02 2012

Home from ER. Got fluids to rehydrate me, drugs to stop dry heaves and meds for pain. All test results good, so Dr thinks virus or reaction to meds. What a miserable day. So happy to be home. Please pray I can hold food down and feel better!





Status Update: ER

16 02 2012

On my way to the ER. Horrible flu-like symptoms. Prayers please.

Amy





First the Hare, then the Turtle

8 02 2012

Where have I been?

Lots of people in the blogosphere have been asking that question, and as always, I’m deeply touched that you notice.

I’ve been struggling with the phase I’m in. Month 13 of treatment. Two months since I broke my pelvis in two places and became unable to drive. Take away the ability to drive when you live in an area where there’s no public transportation to speak of, and you really begin to feel isolated. Add to that the grip of winter, which although hasn’t been as wicked as we’ve come to expect, still isn’t weather to bask in, and those feelings multiply.

Perhaps if I dig down a little bit deeper, I find the real reasons why my heart is hurting so badly. I miss what I cannot do right now — like take Theo to school in the morning or pick him up. Go to the grocery store solo when my family needs food. Get a haircut without having to arrange for transportation (though I am so grateful to my neighbor Cathie, who took me). Even though the roof over our heads is a blessing beyond belief, it at times feels like a dungeon because I find myself staring at the same walls every day, the same piles of laundry and mail that I can’t seem to find the strength to get through at any useful rate.

If I dig down, I find that knowing that I don’t know when I will be able to return to my “regularly scheduled programming” is defeating. It is hard to flip the pages of the calendar and not know on which one I will find the square that will one day be circled in florescent marker, proclaiming Day That I Was Able to Walk and Drive Again!

On the upside, the double-doses of radiation that I received three weeks ago — though they deeply fatigued me — seem to have really helped me. I have been able to put the cane aside and other than a waddle in my step that reminds me of the late stages of my pregnancy with Theo, it’s not that noticeable. I’m still limited by distance, but am thrilled that I can get from Point A to Point B — as long as the distance in between is short.

This is not at all where I expected to be right now. While last year, my status was much more serious — cancer in the soft tissue is terrifying to patient and doctor alike as it is more difficult to treat than the bone cancer I am dealing with right now — it was also more predictable. Yes, I had to go to chemo two times a week, two weeks out of every three. And the IV treatments I received felt like a bubbling, roiling chemistry lab swishing around in my stomach afterwards.

But back then, I knew what to expect. I knew that when I came home from those treatments, I was done for the day. I knew that the next day, I’d be moving a lot slower than usual. And I knew by day three, I’d be about as close to “back to normal” as someone going through harsh chemotherapy treatments can be.

There was a rhythm. I could plan around last year’s schedule. I knew I could sketch in a happy day here and another one there, and that I’d be able to drive, walk, have the stamina to follow through on the best moments life has to offer — those with my family and friends. I could whip up a barbequed chicken, take Theo to the zoo, run barefoot through the grass, attend a Tiger game.

I guess that was the hare phase of my illness. Which can only mean that right now, I’m in the turtle phase. Slow and steady wins the race. And like the turtle, I only have one speed.

All of this has caused emotional upheaval inside of me that finally came tumbling out in the past week or two. Most everything I considered eating looked unappetizing and I’ve had seemingly endless bouts of crying. I know from my experiences during the summer of 2007 (See my blog post, The Summer of My Discontent) that it can’t go on that way. My sister Julie, a nurse, said that she was more concerned at the moment for my emotional well being than she was about my physical disease. I needed help.

So, I called Patty, the psychiatric-oncologist who brought me through to the other side that summer of ’07, and said these three words: I need help. She cleared a space in her book for 10 a.m. this morning, and, accompanied by my own personal Superhero — Don — I went to the appointment. We talked it through, all of it. And, as we were leaving, I knew it was a step — a big step — in the right direction.

As with so many things in life — from getting married to having a baby — going through cancer doesn’t come with a manual. But there are people all around, angels in disguise, with wisdom and insight to share if you’re just willing to seek them and listen. I think I’ll be spending a good deal of time doing just that in the upcoming days and weeks, as I continue on my journey back to health.

Yes, I said health. Because I intend to accept nothing less from my body than a total restoration and healing. I just have to keep practicing the patience I need to get there. And patience, well, let’s just say it’s never, ever, not for one moment, been one of my virtues. I’ll be working on that during this “Turtle” phase. God is making sure of that.

Copyright 2012, Amy Rauch Neilson





Scott Hamilton: “I Am Second”

2 02 2012

When you find yourself in a situation like the one I’m in — a cancer diagnosis; a very serious cancer diagnosis — I don’t care who you are. You can’t help but ask the question: Why, God? Why me?

Each of us faces struggles in life; often, more than one. And we wonder. And we try to make sense of it. And we wait to see if an answer will come.

Sometimes, oftentimes I believe,  it does. It could be right away. Or it could take months or even years.

Then one day, we get it. We really get it.

My niece Danielle Neilson shared this video of Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton with me the other day. It is so compelling that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and I wanted to share it with you.

It’s hard to believe there could be a gift hidden in the midst of some of the toughest battles we face in life. But then again, perhaps it’s hard not to believe that.

Check out Scott’s YouTube video and let me know what you think.

Go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9ZcN_6wzp8&feature=share

Copyright 2012, Amy Rauch Neilson





Paper and Bottle Drive Unites Small Town

1 02 2012
Liz Ward, left, and Kerri Daugherty — the masterminds behind the Paper and Bottle Drive that is uniting the town of Belleville. Photo courtesy of The Belleville Current.

We make cricket runs to the local pet store, Belleville Feed Rite, about three times a week. Frogs are hungry little creatures and picky, too. They only eat their food live. So, if there’s anything high maintenance about our amphibian friends, it’s the need to make those thrice-weekly trips.

But that’s how I met and got to know Kerri Daugherty, the manager of the Belleville Feed Rite. Slowly over time, we began to talk more and more. When I was diagnosed a year ago, she could see something in me had changed, and asked me about it. That’s when she began wearing one of the Amy bracelets.
Then came the Sky Lights of Love Benefit on December 3, 2011. Feed Rite purchased lanterns for the benefit — and Kerri came, along with her Mom. Something about that event, Kerri later told me, watching a couple hundred luminaries take off into the winter night sky, moved her in a way she couldn’t explain. Kerri, herself a cancer survivor, felt the life being breathed back into her for the first time since her own diagnosis and surgery three years ago.
That’s when she decided that she wanted to do something for me, for Don, for Theo. She and Liz Ward from Mammoth Video just a few storefronts down came up with a grand plan — a paper and bottle drive to raise money to help pay my ongoing, ever-accumulating medical bills and to add to Theo’s college fund. The people of the town of Belleville began arriving at Feed Rite with their vehicles filled with newspapers and cardboard, returnable bottles and notes of love and support scrawled on scraps of paper.
We had no idea any of this was going on until one night, when Don stopped up at Feed Rite for our usual — two dozen small crickets. He came back with the crickets, a pink enveloped marked AMY, and a puzzled look on his face.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the envelope.
“It’s, it’s for us…,” Don stammered. I’ve never seen him so bewildered, so taken off guard.
He explained what Kerri and Liz had been up to as he handed me this envelope, which was filled with the proceeds of their paper and bottle recycling efforts.
That was not even a month ago, and since then, the Paper/Bottle Drive has taken off like wildfire. Businesses throughout Belleville — including Fantastic Sams, Sunset Tanning, Walgreen’s, WalMart, Kroger, Maria’s Bakery, Tucker Insurance, Applebee’s, Comerica Bank, Belleville Animal Hospital, The Perfect Image Salon, Main Street Flowers, with more businesses joining the effort every day —  began volunteering to be drop-off points for the recyclables, with employees and owners alike offering to do the bottle returns and paper runs.
Then the editor of The Belleville Current got wind of what was going on. Kerri had contacted the newspaper to purchase an ad to get the word out about the fund-raising effort. Editor Bob Thorne responded by telling Kerri that he’d not only run the ad — but for four weeks, free of charge.
What do you say when people rally in support of you — many of whom have never even met you? I’ve tried “thank you,” over and over again, but somehow, it doesn’t seem like enough right now. The words to express how deeply touched Don, Theo and I are, either aren’t coming to me, or perhaps they just plain don’t exist.
Or, maybe they do — coming from Belleville Lake Current Editor Kevin Werner, in his weekly column:
“My friend and partner Bob Thorne called with a very familiar tone. “Kevin, it’s happening again.” Bob was referring to the inspiring efforts of local businesses to help Belleville resident Amy Rauch Neilson who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer (see William Zilke’s story on our front page). For those that know Bob, there are the occasional moments when he engages you with the tenderness of coarse sandpaper. Then there are the moments that matter – when he speaks with the captivating depth and warmth of a campfire that lights the soul and, in Bob’s case, a community…
“When Bob and I spoke this week, the identity of our town and our publication was renewed,” Kevin continues. “(These actions) define who we are as a community as far as I’m concerned,” Bob said.
(Reporter) William Zilke, as usual, said it best today. “That’s the way love works. This town should be very proud of itself.”
Love, as part of a grassroots effort that so many of us have doubted the existence of in this busy time and age, is indeed alive and well. In Kerri’s words, the paper and bottle drive has begun to “take on a life of its own.” On February 24 and 25, the town will be gathering at The Creek (50521 W. Huron River Drive) for a 50/50 raffle, silent auction, food, drinks and live music from 5 p.m. to close. All proceeds, again, will go to our family to pay medical bills and Theo’s educational costs.
Again, we are speechless — with this exception: Don and I bought our house on the east end of Belleville Lake just a week before we were married on July 4, 1999. We were looking for a community where people still cared about and reached out to one another. A place to put down roots and call home. There’s no doubt in our minds that we’ve found it.
Copyright 2012, Amy Rauch Neilson







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