And I Thought Life Would Get Simpler…

Hello February

There’s been a lot of rain in our area… for our area. But as I write, I look out my window and see clean blue sky, with bright white puffy clouds. The air is cool. Cold to all of us who aren’t used to “real cold”. The rain has washed the earth. The trees are green and clean. The tangerines, shine bright orange. The lemons, bright yellow. There’s a soft breeze in the old oaks, and the critters are warming in the sun. The usually dry creek bed behind us, is flowing now. I can hear that soothing sound of water trickling, pebbles clicking, as it flows forward, down the creek. I remind myself of all the things I am so lucky to be surrounded by, of the good fortune I have, from our hard work. I can buy hay for the horses, food for all the other critters. Insurance for us, and all the household and life necessities for us.

But I’m overwhelmed with sadness, disappointments, frustrations, from too many needs on me. I am overwhelmed by what illness has done to me and my husband. I am overwhelmed with all that I am “obliged” to do, the physical care, for so many lives. I am sad for the continual realization of all the things I will “never” be able to do now, or places I will “never” be able to go. We are very homebound with all our medical challenges… it wasn’t supposed to be like this I tell myself. We worked hard, we planned, we assumed. I feel cheated, betrayed, my life stolen from me. I have angry moments. I was never an angry person. I cry, and I rarely used to cry. I work hard to “control” and diffuse my emotions. This counselor “self counsels” all the time now. Optimism is now pragmatism. There are good times, good moments, so much good, but I “know” mostly “bad” is coming our way. It comes in small doses everyday now. It’s just the nature of our illnesses. I am not negative, I am realistic, and I’m so disappointed, sad, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I never expected to be, as I am now…

Life is an evolution, a continual learning curve. Whether we live life on a deeper psychological, introspective level, or we just let life happen to us, our daily experiences shape who we are, and how we move forward. No matter our life circumstances, we all have challenges, goals, expectations. But illness complicates everything. Physical disabilities complicate everything on every level. All this steals life, from once healthy, active, happy people.

My focus in life has always been my family, career, animals. All the other things were frosting and sprinkles on our cupcakes. My career was stolen by Myeloma, so that’s gone. The animals are getting older, and having health challenges themselves. Sadly, so sadly, their care has become a chore for me, rather than fun, rewarding and inspiring, as it used to be. At one point in my life, I considered a career in Veterinary medicine. But after a while, I knew my calling was “helping others” on a broader, psychological level. So I turned my love for helping animals into a hobby, a very small scale personal rescuing mission. At one time, we had a mini zoo here with more species than I can recall… well maybe I should write them all out… horses, ponies, dogs, cats, turtles, snakes, tortoise, iguanas, chickens, ducks, geese, peacock, goats, sheep, birds, fish. Some critters were because my kids “begged” for them as birthday gifts. Some were given to us when someone no longer wanted them. Some adopted us. Most we adopted, rescued. All were loved, and we committed to their care for the entirety of their lives.

But now, with the minimal menagerie we have left… 4 horses, 1 pony, 1 big dog, 3 littles, 1 tortoise, 1 turtle, 1 cat, 3 birds, 6 chickens, I am often overwhelmed with their care, especially when it’s muddy and rainy, cold, or on my medication crash days, when I don’t feel well. Yes, I do have help, wonderful help, but as we know, the challenges and emergencies happen when the “help” is gone, or unavailable. Here’s what’s going on now that is just wearing me down, dragging me down, causing me to question everything I am, and will be, knowing what’s coming down the road medically for us.

See, for most all of our lives, Jim did so much while I was at work, and the kids at school. As a couple, we had a wonderful “division of labor” with the household, ranch chores, animal chores, etc. He was our Mr Mom, Mechanic, Ranch Manager, Master Pooper Scooper, Super Shopper, Cleaner, Organizer, Hoser, Blower, Raker, Green Thumb Landscaper, etc. Jim loved hard work. He always wanted to be a Farmer or a Rancher, and got to do all this here, on a very small scale, after his retirement from the car business. But Alzheimers has stolen all of this from him. Literally all of it. He has moments of recognition of who he used to be, and if I’m gone for blood tests, or short errands, there have been times, I’ve found him outside, trying to do chores. You may be thinking, good for him! He should try to do, and be who he used to be. But it’s more complicated than that. He has mobility issues from various injuries, and an injury to his leg from a blood clot, etc. We worry that if he tripped and fell… well… that could be disastrous outside. Or imagine him falling in the horse arena, trying to scoop poop. This image can be comical, as picture the horses gathered around him, wondering what the heck he’s doing on the ground. But it could also be a serious crisis…

Amazing, yet not safe anymore
especially in the muck and mud
So my life has become all about poop. Cleaning up poop, when I least feel like it. Doing constant poop chores as a cancer patient is not exactly what my doctors would recommend. But with all the animals, there’s of course, a lot of poop. Yes, everyone poops, animals and humans. But I’m now Master Pooper Scooper to everyone and everything, everyday. Not to mention, on my medication crash days, there are moments I’m not sure I’ll make it to my bathroom for me, or I’m spending way too much time there, on “cleansing days”. So by the time I take care of my personal situation, here comes another poop situation needing attention. With the rain, the little doggies are having accidents in the house, especially since Jim doesn’t let them outside properly anymore, or let’s them in too soon, after I’ve put them out. I go through bottles and bottles of cleaning supplies, cleaning their messes. Then by the time I get that cleaned up, Jim may have had a “miss” in one of our bathrooms. Then recently our kitty Luci, has had GI issues, with disastrous explosive diarrhea, that gets on the wall and the dryer, and worse yet, she accidentally steps in it, leaving poopy tracks on the tile, and on her… All this is daily, never ending, and often surprising me, when I least feel like being a poop janitor. And that’s just the inside. By the time I get all this cleaned up, it’s time for the outside poop duties. 
And all this, for an immune compromised Myeloma patient on chemo, who should not be breathing, handling all this “toxic” stuff, not to mention, bending over so much, with all my lesions, holes and plasmacytoma tumors. As I say to our kids, the “breaking” point will be, if I break something… and the comic irony will be that it will probably happen when I’m cleaning up poop! 
I really try to keep my sense of humor about it all, but sometimes, I just can’t take it anymore. I have emotional breakdowns. But I don’t blame the critters or Jim, or me. This is a situation where we’re all “innocent victims” of our circumstances. I remind myself, “it’s not their fault”. They can’t help it. When we acquired all the animals, we weren’t encumbered with our illnesses. Sickness changes everything. Being healthy and well is “easy”. What goes along with health and mobility, is easy. What goes along with bad health and sickness, is cumulative, disabling, overwhelming.
It’s taken me a while to write this post, as I’ve had clean up and caregiving duties while writing, and I really wasn’t planning to write this topic again. I sure don’t want this blog to become a whiny, poor me story. For those of you that read my personal facebook posts, I’m sure you notice the difference between these posts and those. My reflections on my life are so different on my Dex Steroid days, which I call “Monday Medication Madness Day”. I take 40mg Dex, then go for my weekly Velcade shot, then later take 8 Cytoxan pills at 50mg each. And I do find humor and awe in all of that! Most cancer patients HATE steroids, but for me, they clear the fog, give me fake fun temporary energy, boost my spirits, and bring back my natural optimism, that all this complicated illness ridiculousness has stolen from me.
I live one day at a time, and try to take each challenge on as it hits me. It’s ironic, that my complicated life doesn’t leave room for me being a “typical cancer patient”… perhaps that’s why I’ve beat Myeloma for 9 years now…. 
Perhaps one day, my immune system will let me do as Kenny Chesney sings: 

Hoping you’re well, happy, and processing your life and issues in a positive way! And if you’re a Myeloma warrior, may your treatments be bearable and successful!

Jack and Abbie