Beyond Life's Challenges

It's time to think, see and live…BEYOND!

Two Years Later, the ER and a Blur

As I recount what happened two years ago, you can read the first two parts of this story either here in this blog or at my other: “Two Years: It Was a Friday, Part 1″  and “Two Years: The Following Two Days, Part 2″ .  This submission is part 3 of the next few days, April 16th, 2012 and and beyond, which I have first posted at this link: Two Years: A Trip to the ER, The Next Few Days a Blur, Part 3

I thank you for indulging me some of the retelling, for those who have walked this path with me.  I have filled in the blanks for some.  I have forgotten the details of others, now after two years.

And so, I continue…

I woke up Monday morning still feeling like garbage. I was in contact with my boss that day, to make sure that everything I needed to get to my replacement workshop trainer. One of the last things I heard back from my supervisor was “Take care of yourself and get some rest.” I told her that I was going to drink more 7-Up.

I knew that even though I wanted to take my friend out for his birthday and end of tax season celebration, it was not going to happen that day. I did not know what was wrong, but I felt pretty much like garbage. I called him to let him know I was not going to be able to do so, and exchanged a bit of email with another friend.

I could not handle things any longer. I drove myself the 12 miles to the Army Medical Center Hospital and checked myself in to the emergency room. It was about 2:00 p.m. It seemed that it took forever to be seen. I cannot remember how many times I told different medical professionals from doctors to nurses to technicians and whomever else came in to ask me my situation. I know that, at one point, I somewhat snapped at somebody and asked them if they had read my chart, because my story had not changed.

Trying to recall everything that happened two years ago tonight seems difficult, at best. I don’t even want to look up the last two years’ accounts of the story from my perspective then.

However, by 10 p.m. or so, I had drunk the concoction they had prepared for me so that I could have a CT scan. My friend was there with me and we talked about everything things could be. Neither of us were very good at the waiting. We were both scared.

After the CT scan, the waiting was the hardest. Every time someone popped his or her head in the room to check on me, I felt as if there was something someone was not telling me. Perhaps it was just my fear.

I think it was after midnight when someone finally came in to share the results of the CT scan. All I remember was hearing words that kept me nearly suspended in time:

“…mesenteric tumor and tumors on your liver…” followed by “Any questions?”

I think I remember looking at her in disbelief before uttering the words, “What the fuck?” All sensibility and lady-like behavior flew right out the door at that moment. I went immediately into “numb” mode.

I stared at my friend, repeating the words that the doctor had spoken to me, followed by “You have got to be fucking kidding me.” I seem to remember him just looking at me in such a pitiful way. He may have said, “I’m sorry.” I really don’t remember much after that. The next couple of hours are barely memorable now.

I do remember looking up to the heavens and calling out to my friend, Kim, who had passed away two years earlier, “I think I win now!” We used to tease one another about being in competition of who had the worst/best cancer. She had trumped my early stage breast cancer from a few years earlier when she went through her ordeal before she lost her battle.

I also remember looking at my friend and starting to cry. At that moment, I wanted to be able to call my mother. She had passed away ten months before. I felt such grief at that very moment. I simply wanted her to wrap her arms around me and tell me that it would be okay.

My friend, though as supportive as any of us can be at that moment when we are all in complete shock, did not even hug me. He, too, sat in total disbelief, unable to say or do anything.

I felt as alone as I have ever felt and I drove myself home about 2:00 in the morning. I had no idea exactly how my life would change over the next few weeks.

I wanted to get some sleep and then wake up from this cruel nightmare.

The next day, I started making some phone calls to some of my friends and family to let them know what was going on that I did not know what it was called. That was the hardest part for me…the waiting for the upcoming tests, the biopsy, the wanting to believe nothing was wrong but knowing that everything was wrong.

It is the day I started to look at life (and death) much differently, and on April 17th, 2012, I wrote “How to Get Rid of Weeds” on my blog, which I adapted several months ago here on Bubblews as “The Weeds of Life.” (www.bubblews.com/news/2094484-the-weeds-of-life)

A few days later, I wrote “Finding the Beauty” (corallevang.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/finding-the-beauty/) when I began to look at things much differently. I started to see things with different eyes.

My subsequent blog posts, which were a bit infrequent, started to examine the meaning of everything, and did not disclose too much right off the bat. But those blog entries you can find should you be so inclined by visiting my old blog entries on your own.

The next several weeks held some of the beautiful and free, as well as the most mind-numbing and fearful days of my life. but all have been part of my journey.

And in the weeks ahead, I will share more of what happened, and disclose even more than I did when I first shared my story, including the letter I sent out to my friends and family two days after I met with the doctor once the battery of tests and procedures were assessed and I received my diagnosis and prognosis.

***TO BE CONTINUED***

***To gain other perspectives about the journey and how it affects one’s thoughts at different stages, please check out more from this author***
“How Long to Live? One Year, Two If You Are Lucky” www.bubblews.com/news/2711570-how-long-to-live-one-year-two-if-you-are-lucky
“Suicide: The Night I Took My Life…” www.bubblews.com/news/575917-suicide-the-night-i-took-my-life

Revisiting the Following Two Days Two Years Later

As I recount this story from two years ago, I do so without going back to reread what I felt two years ago.  I think it is important for me to reflect on  where I was from my perspective of today.

Anyone who is interested in going back two years ago into this blog is certainly welcome to do so.  I’m sure that I will go back to see the difference in me from year to year.

Do I tell the story the same way?  Are the details the same?  Or do we forget some things as we continue to live beyond them?  I can only tell you this…

I am grateful to still be here to share it with you. 

I know that being so open with some people is not always comfortable.  But I share my story in the spirit of humanness that we so often forget we need to be.

We are all in this war together, Folks.  That war is…

LIFE.

 

(Original post on 4/13/2014 as Two Years: The Following Two Days, Part 2)

It was Saturday April 14th, 2012. When I woke up the following morning, I did not feel much better. I felt as if Friday, the 13th had taken its toll on me. It was is I had lived through the worst part of a bad nightmare, but that the nightmare was not yet over.

I stayed in bed most of Saturday just to see if I could kick this feeling. I was able to keep some water and chicken broth down. The pain in the left side of my gut was still bothering me, though not quite as bad.

I still did not go to the emergency room, convinced that whatever it was would pass as it had done a couple of times before. And based on the violent, projectile vomiting the day before I was even more certain that I had experienced food poisoning.

I slept fitfully on Saturday, going back and forth to the bathroom, not sure what end was up.

On Sunday, I struggled with whether or not to call my boss and give up the workshop. I tried to rest, thinking I would try to make the trip to Wichita on Tuesday morning.

I do not like to miss work. Not only is that the work ethic that is important to me, I am also a consultant for these workshops. I do not have sick days or vacation. The bottom line: If I do not work, I do not get paid. I work part-time so all my hours are vital to my livelihood.

Later that evening, I drove to my local Walgreens to pick up some more 7-Up to settle my stomach and get sugar in my system. I had not felt so weak in a long time. I also picked up some Pepto-Bismal to try to reduce the nausea and control the other symptoms that presented themselves with all my intestinal issues.

It was about 7 p.m. and when I came out of the store to my car, I felt the wave come over me again, and the little bit of water and 7-Up I had drunk that day, I had no control over. I threw up in the parking lot in front of others.

I was was mortified. To be human and have been so ill in public was most embarrassing. No one even asked if I was alright or if they could assist. I am not convinced I would have accepted any help from a Good Samaritan.

What I was feeling about people’s thoughts of me quickly left me. I knew that I was not going to make the Wichita trip. I called my boss. I left a message on her voice mail, frantic for her to phone me back.

I also called my friend who was worried about me. He is an accountant and the following day was tax day, as well as his birthday. I told him I was backing out of the business trip and the next day, would not be able to take him to dinner to celebrate his birthday or the end of tax season.

My manager called me back rather quickly and was quite sympathetic. I was still sitting in my car in the parking lot when she called. I felt nearly unable to move, fearing that I would become ill again. I apologized over-and-over again for putting her in a situation where she had to find someone at the last minute to cover for me. But as bad as i felt, I knew I had made the right decision. I told her that I would touch base with her the next day, so that we figure out how to transfer the plane and hotel reservations over to whomever she was able to find.

I drove home the few miles to my apartment and crawled into bed. If I did not feel better the next day, I would drive myself to the Army Hospital and go to the emergency room.

I never dreamed what the next 36 hours would hold in store…

***To be continued***

 

© Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved  CoralLevang

 

 

Two Years Ago Revisited

It has been more than two months since I have kept up on this blog.  Suffice it to say that I have been busy.  I know that is no excuse, but it is the best I have.

I have been living.

LIVING LIFE. 

A cancer diagnosis will do that to you.  At least, it has for me.

I suppose that I should be more diligent about writing here on this blog, as I am about all the other ways I am living life–my other blog, work, being a contestant in a pageant, and so many other ways.

I must figure out a way to check in here more often. So today I will start by sharing what I wrote earlier this morning and posted at my other site.

I haven’t always told my story here with the same voice as I do elsewhere.  Perhaps, I fear being found out when I feel the most vulnerable.

Today, I began to fill in the details of what started my fiasco two years ago.  I suppose that even in my telling of the story, the layers are so thick, that I am only now starting to peel them away.  I never expected to be able to tell it all.

As many of you know, I did not expect to live this long…

 

(Original post on 4/13/2014 as Two Years: It was a Friday, Part 1)

Today marks the day two years ago that I was forced to take a look at life (and symptoms) seriously. I did not often go to doctors, and had some signs that passed months before, but this morning I became more concerned. I was downright scared. Even so, I put off going to the hospital.

I was to leave on Monday for Wichita, Kansas to facilitate a workshop for the week. I was in my preparation mode with packing, cleaning out the refrigerator, and the general running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off mode I go into before a road trip.

In the wee hours of Friday morning, I woke up with excruciating abdominal pain on my left side. I was doubled-over and it was intolerable. I remembered that same pain from two other episodes–about a year earlier, as well as four months.

This time it was grossly different. Projectile vomiting made me take notice of the pain that I had let pass on two other occasions the previous year.

Yet, I did not call emergency. Quite honestly, I just wanted to fall asleep and get better. I was more concerned about having to be on a plane on Monday morning for work.

I thought about all the things it might be and how I would get through it:

–My favorite coconut chicken curry soup I had eaten for dinner several hours earlier. Could it have been bad? Did I have food poisoning? It will pass.
–The flu. It, too, will pass. Beside that, I have worked through tougher things.

I laid back down about 4 o’clock in the morning, hoping that this would pass quickly. I still had to finish laundry and pack my bags this weekend. I wanted to be more relaxed and get it done with time to spare. But all I could think of that moment was for the pain and nausea to end. I really did not have time for this.

I stayed in bed most of that day. I kept some water and saltine crackers down, but by the time evening came I was still in pain and feeling horrible.

It was the first moment that I considered calling my boss to alert her to have someone else on standby for the workshop. I figured that I would give it another day to see if it would pass.

As I crawled back into bed that night, the last thought I remember going through my head was “Ugh. Today was Friday the 13th.”

***To be continued***

 

***To gain other perspectives about the journey and how it affects one’s thoughts at different stages, please check out more from this author***
How Long to Live? One Year, Two If You Are Lucky”
“Suicide: The Night I Took My Life…

For a variety of topics written by this author, take a stroll with her…

 

 

Today was my mother’s birthday…

She would have been 80 years of age had she not passed away in June of 2011.

Yesterday, I wrote “Happy Birthday Mom” as I remembered one of the surprises I set up for her 50th birthday.  She was not appreciative of the things I did to try to make her smile.  She saw it as “trying to embarrass (her),” which was never, ever my intent.

Mom and I did not understand one another well.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew how to bridge that gap. We were both very stubborn when it came to dealing with the other.

I hope that  she knew in her last few months of life just how much I really did love her.

January Bloodwook and MRI: The Preliminary Results

When I met with my specialist in the afternoon, he pulled up the pictures to show me on the screen. Although it needs to be read by a radiologist and the report written, my doctor said, “By my calculations, it appears that there are no new primary tumors, and it does not seem that the liver tumors have grown.”

He also shared what blood work he had back: “Liver function, kidney function, all of it is “normal,” though your potassium is a little low. Eat a banana.”

We are now awaiting the radiology report, and results of the specialty tests off to see what else might be going on to cause the chronic bowel issue…

(For more of the story, CLICK HERE)

My January MRI…

Yesterday’s visit to the medical center where I am followed started with my being unable to get the good night’s sleep the night before. I did not fall asleep until 3:00 a.m., was up at 4:00, and then had to get up by 5:00 with every intention of catching an early ferry into Seattle. That was not the case.

I arrived at the Medical Center in plenty of time to accommodate for my being a “tough stick” when they try to start an IV line for the contrast MRI.

I ran into all the familiar faces in Radiology. That is what happens when you visit people every three to six months when you have cancer.

I am happy to say that I am glad to be remembered for good things, as the ones who know me grinned broadly, and told me how good it was to see me again, asking, “So how are you doing?”

My response: “Still alive!” We then have a good laugh.

Mario can start an IV on me with no problem. In nearly two years, he has successfully started four lines on me with one try. Of course, I want him. There is one other person named Wendy who has done the same. Others have not been so successful.

Yesterday, both Mario and Wendy were in a meeting. I was willing to wait, which is why I come early. But the MRI team wanted to get me in early, so another came by saying, “(He) is as good as Mario” claiming to have been doing this much longer and suggesting teasingly that he is better. All I have to say is this: If you are going to claim it, you better be able to back it up!   I agreed to let him try.   (To read the whole story…)

I should have known better.

Ready or Not, Here I Go!

carcinoidWell, I couldn’t sleep much last night. I had this MRI on my mind. I think I finally fell asleep about 3 a.m., but then woke up an hour later briefly, and got another hour nap.

My drive to the ferry terminal is a half hour long. I will sit in line for the boat and, once boarded, it’s a 35-minute ride into Seattle. I’ll have to get through Seattle to the University Medical Center.

I hope the technician that is good at finding my veins will be the one to start my IV. I am a “hard stick,” and the other techs do more damage to my confidence in them. I wish that they were able to get my blood tests through the IV, but the lab insists on poking me again to draw the lab work. That makes absolutely NO sense to me! Why can they not send the phlebotomist to draw it through the IV?

We should be done with the MRI about noon. And then I will have a few minutes before I make my way upstairs to wait for my appointment with the specialist to talk about the past six months. I doubt that he will have any results from the labs and scan, so I’ll have to wait for a few days to hear what the tests will tell us.

Of course, I wake up with a headache, but cannot eat or drink anything until it’s all over.

It is going to be a long day.

(Originally posted at my other blog.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

To learn more about this disease and its symptoms, visit these sites:

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation: http://www.carcinoid.org/

Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Network: http://www.carcinoidawareness.org/

 

Copyright © 2014 Coral Levang

 

The Night Before My MRI and Bloodwork

I have three hours before I must start my fast. The blood work that my specialist has ordered requires a 12-hour fast.

I ate dinner about an hour and a half ago–an organic baby greens salad with cooked golden beets sauteed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil,with chopped, smoky, meaty, organic bacon (already cooked and fat rendered), adding a bit of balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and reducing it for a minute or two before pouring it over the baby greens. A slice of sourdough toast rounded out my meal, and I had a glass of milk to ensure I get enough protein.

I ate the same thing last night. Variety does not seem to be as important to me as getting enough nutrient-rich calories. I could have probably done without the bacon, but it tasted so good!

I am going to make a smoothie with a cup of milk, and some frozen strawberries and banana in a little while. I may make it thicker so it feels like ice cream. I am grateful for my Vitamix!

I also have to make sure that I drink plenty of water tonight. Hydration is so important anyway, but it helps them when they start my IV line for the contrast MRI, and for the lab techs to draw the blood for all the tests…. (Click here for the rest of the story…)

* * * * * * * *

To learn more about this disease and its symptoms, visit these sites:
The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation: www.carcinoid.org/
Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Network: www.carcinoidawareness.org/

More articles about Carcinoid/NET Cancer and my story:
What Do You Know About NET Cancer?– www.bubblews.com/news/1548610-what-do-you-know-about-net-cancer
What Carcinoid Cancer is Not — www.bubblews.com/news/775185-what-carcinoid-cancer-is-not

Copyright © 2013 Coral Levang, and not to be used without permission.

A Writer, Storyteller, and LIFE…one year later

It was four years ago today that I started this blog, Beyond Life’s Challenges, and my first post  the following day:  LIFE…is the Challenge.  

It somehow seemed to be appropriate to share about the things that I found challenging, in hopes that I could help others see beyond whatever they were facing.

From January to October 2010, I posted about 34 times, most often with reprints from another site where I was writing. I did not write again until April 30, 2011 and submitted only 15 times through mid-November, again using some reprints.

These two years were challenging due to my Mom’s death, and the death of two different friends from cancers.  They were 41 and 31 years of age.  I did not feel that I had any special words that anyone would want to read. Nor did I feel that I could inspire anyone when I could not even manage my own emotions in dealing with all of the challenges of life.

It was not until April 17, 2012 that I resurrected this blog with How to Get Rid of Weeds.  In the the following few days, I also wrote Finding the Beauty and Sunday’s Thought.

What I had not shared yet was that I was fearful beyond belief. Each of these were written as I was trying to wrap my head around an emergency room visit on the 17th, where I learned that there were tumors on my liver.  I was facing a month full of tests, a biopsy and FEAR.   I could not write about it, but started to reflect on the beauty that I had not noticed, the time I had wasted, and why things had never been enough.

I wrote 20 times in 2012.  I began to share some details and experiences.  I even claimed Straight talk from here on out… but re-reading most of what I wrote in 2012 was not nearly as raw as I felt on the inside.  I never told of the despondency I felt. (I finally wrote about it a year later  in Suicide: The Night I Took My Life…)

The end of December of 2012, I decided to use my power of words to assist with a project in honor of  Bridget Spence.  I also kept in close contact on the blog with those who left their messages of support and love to Bridget, her family, her friends, and those  working on the project.  I made it a point to answer each an every comment made on all articles relating to Bridget. It kept me connected at a very tough time in my own struggles.

Some people who were there for Bridget also started reading other things I had written, and they learned of my own stage IV carcinoid cancer diagnosis.  One year later, several of these people and I continue to correspond.

In 2013, I started out the year with The Beginning of a New Year as a Writer and Storyteller, finally understanding who and what I am in relationship to words.  (In 2011, my sister shared something my mother had said to her after I had sent her copies of a couple things that I had written and had published:  “Coral should have been a writer.” )

Although I do appreciate the opportunity to write, I also recognize that I am much better in front of an audience using my voice. This is why I consider myself more of a “storyteller,” as I will use these words whether I am using the stage and a microphone or the literal or figurative pen and paper.

So on January 3rd, I wrote much more of my story on my About The Author page.  It was as honest as I had been about my illness. I also posted 94 times here on the main page of my blog, having written on various topics.  There has not been any particular theme, because  I write as I am inspired to do so.

I wrote 21 updates on my SMILE! The 21-Day Challenge Results Page. My June 4th update was probably my favorite!

One thing of which I am most proud is completing the A to Z in April 2013 Blogging Challenge.  I did not learn about it and get started until April 5th.  I was unable to write daily, as well, so there were times I had to catch up and did not think I could pull it off.  Yet, I did it!

On May 1st, I submitted the post, I Am a Survivor! which also recapped all in the A to Z in April articles. It was ironic that it marked the one year anniversary month of being diagnosed with carcinoid.

That month also marked the month that I started writing at another site in addition to my blog.   I have posted there 277 times from May 20th to December 31st.  So, combining submissions of all kinds, I published nearly 400 things for the world to see.

So, here it is another year.  And though I have not accomplished all that I thought I would or should, I am still  writing, and still telling my stories and others’ stories.

And here it is one year later.  A year that I did not think I survive.  A year that had its share of ups and downs. A year that I only hope I might see to the end.  I continue to be reminded that I do not have the answers to everything.  Nor does anyone else.

Yes, I am a writer, and I am also a storyteller.

And YES!  I am still alive!

And LIFE…continues to be the challenge…But oh, what a wonderful challenge it is!

Happy New Year 2014!

Enough

This past year I have spent so much time doing.

Working, playing, learning and all the other things that have required me to act…

as if I were dying tomorrow.

 

In this rat race called, “Life,” I want something new for 2014.

I want enough.

 

Enough joy, sadness, laughter, and tears to make me feel alive, empathetic, and able to share the vulnerable part of me.

Enough anger and outrage to keep me from becoming too complacent.

Enough contentment and peace to seek out the quietness of my heart and soul.

Enough to keep me fed, clothed and warm, so I need not worry.

Enough friends to feel loved and to love.

Enough sleep to be rested and able to give enough of myself.

Enough moments to sing, dance, write, and create.

Enough hugs to make up for the times when I did not get enough.

Enough time to feel, share, rest and live, so I can have enough to feed my soul.

 

I simply want enough.

 

Silverdale, WA December 31, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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