Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Detour


Some of you are aware that Gretta was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but many of you are learning this for the first time. Currently, I am giving full focus to her recovery from surgery and to assist her during chemotherapy. The prognosis is good. We are thankful to have found one of the best surgeons and cancer clinics in the country, right here in Kansas City at KU Med Center.

          My blog postings may be sporadic for the remainder of the year as I give full attention to Gretta and her recovery, but I wanted to share where we’ve been to date.

The Detour
by Greg Larson

          I stood in the lobby of the cancer clinic and looked out the window on the sunny, summer afternoon. We’d passed by here numerous times on the bikes, so it was hard to believe Gretta and I were inside, going through the system. The street seemed so far away. The last few weeks had been a blur of doctors, surgeons, nutritionists, physical therapists, clinics and hospitals (with a quick vacation to California thrown in for good measure before Gretta’s surgery).

Gretta at the Eagle Inn, Santa Barbara, California - June 21, 2013

          It seems like we’ve reached a milestone with Gretta’s major surgery behind us and with the completion of her first chemotherapy session. I’ve pinched myself more than once and asked, “What the hell just happened?”

          Rest assured, Gretta is on track to have the scourge eradicated, but we have eighteen weeks to go before the treatments are complete. She believes she has been sidetracked for the time being, given a temporary diversion. The clinic gave her a big binder titled Oncology Journey. “I don’t like how they used the word journey,” she said, “This is just a detour.”

          Much has been written about cancer and how to cope with it . . . so much to the point that it is easy to get inundated with too much information. Many of you have dealt with cancer or known someone who has fought it, and experienced it first-hand . . . but I thought I’d share some observations.

          It’s been a roller coaster ride since June 5, 2013, when Gretta’s physician discovered a pelvic mass during a routine exam. Emotions have run the gamut from fear of the unknown to the euphoria we experienced while napping in the sea breeze on the beach at Santa Barbara.

 Gretta was angry at the beginning. “I’ve eaten the right foods, and I’ve exercised all my life . . . so why did I get this?” Some days she feels just fine, some days she sleeps. After the initial shock, her attitude has been amazing. The day of surgery, she smiled and chatted as they rolled her into six hours of surgery and four hours of recovery. When I saw her on the way to the hospital room, she smiled again. She has been a model patient for the doctor and nurses.

          My thoughts and emotions have been on a rocky road. One of the most difficult times was after her surgery. The surgeon came into a conference room and explained the surgery to me and some family members. It was hard for me to hear what they had done to Gretta. I could only imagine the pain she would endure once she came out of recovery. The only thing I could do was go outside with my brother and walk for a bit of fresh air and push back the tears.

The things that used to seem mundane have taken on major importance, and what used to seem important now has little significance. My dreams have been more unusual. Some, I wish had lasted longer, and others I don’t want to remember. I’ve slept well, mainly from being exhausted at the end of the day. I’m fortunate to have the time to be the caregiver, and I’m slowly learning to be housekeeper, kitchen coordinator, calorie counter and temporary master for Douglas, our dog.

          When Gretta is alert and awake, we play cards or drive through the park. If she has the energy, we walk to exercise the pinched nerve in her right leg (an unexpected outcome of the surgery).

          We’ve had a few laughs, too. Before the surgery, the nurses told her that she would need a pillow for her abdomen, due to the soreness. Gretta said, “Greg, when you had your heart surgery, the Shawnee Mission Hospital gave you a heart-shaped pillow to take home. Do you think KU Med Center will give me a big pillow shaped like a uterus?”

          Christmas comes at the end of this long detour, so that is our goal for now. We just take one day at a time and truly appreciate the better days when she has some energy. Come Spring, it will be a real hoot to ride the tandem bike to Gretta’s wellness check-up. Until then, the detour continues.

Gretta and Greg, Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy - 2010