#29 -Don't Like Missing Celebrations
It's been 3 weeks since Don came home from the hospital. And today is Halloween. I like celebrations, so I was determined to enjoy both. At least, in a tiny way.
We actually had perfect Halloween weather today. It was chilly enough for a fire in the early morning. And our mid morning walk was lovely.
Late morning, Don and I ended up on a Zoom call. This is the first time we've Zoomed since we Zoomed with kids, 2 days before surgery.
Not sure why I was inclined to snap a photo during Zoom. But this image says a lot. Don and I look pretty relaxed here! Exactly 4 weeks ago, Don was in decent spirits when we Zoomed with kids. But on that day, his surgery was lurking and we both felt anxious. This silly sneak photo today, looks like the old us.
Looking Back to 2016 & 2020
I know it's healthier to look forward, when you're dealing with recovery of any kind. But I can't help myself. I like to look back and compare. I remember this day in 2016. Halloween was a little treat, in my sluggish days following my last chemo.
Looking back just one year, I'm reminded that I swapped out a head scarf for a face mask, when answering the door. Both Halloweens, were altered by cancer and covid. This year, I was happy again for a nice distraction.
Looking Back Further
I can never resist thinking back to when the kids were super small. Halloween was so simple and fun.
Especially before the kids had demands about what costumes they wanted to wear and how much candy they wanted to eat!
In the Present, Near and Far
The best part of today, came in the early evening, after we returned from our second walk. I lit our jack-o-lantern before it got dark and Don and I settled down with popcorn and 2 small glasses of wine.
Suddenly my siblings started texting from Oregon, Louisiana and Idaho. Then my sister in law in NY and her son's fam in CA, started texting. And there we sat in our TX home, feeling connected with far away family, sharing photos and tidbits of news, about our little Halloween celebrations.
Our Kids, in the Present
But the very best "in the moment time" came when our kids in CA and OR, began texting photos and updates about the happenings in their neighborhoods. I'm so glad they both moved into good neighborhoods during the 2020 pandemic. It was fun peeking into their worlds.
Our kids are grown and married, but today we shared a little Halloween time, in real time!
Trick or Treaters & Chili
Don and I settled into the evening. I answered the door only 3 times, but I loved visiting with those kiddos. I've always loved door duty. I wish we'd had more.
Then we ate the chili, that I made yesterday. (Not as good as Don's) And we even watched Hitchcock's Psycho. Today, our 42rd Halloween together, was so much more fun than our 42nd anniversary, 2 weeks after surgery.
We chuckled through a lot of Psycho and I let my cell phone happily break in during the thriller. We fit in a quick FaceTime with this little Halloween Girl. It's so hard being thousands of miles away, but I'm eager about the future... as in Christmas! Charlie will be 10 months old when we see her!
I'm also eager about the far off future! Will this little girl be an astronaut someday? Who knows? But at least, Don and I have done everything possible from surgeries to vaccines, to make sure we're around a long time, to see our grandkids grow up!
#28 - Don't Love PPE
This time last year, I didn't think we'd still be wearing masks to go grocery shopping.
Glad I didn't get rid of any masks after I was vaccinated. I'm still wearing them when I grocery shop.
Luckily wearing disposable gloves to the store, was only done for a short period of time.
I don't wear disposable gloves out in the world anymore, but I wore some, 3 times today, at home! So nice to have boxes of these hanging around. My annual silver polishing chore, was much easier today!
So was my annual Halloween chili making! No stinky fingers!
Actually, Don is the one who usually makes the chili. He could probably have helped today, if we hadn't gone on a 40 minute walk this morning. Our walks have been so nice, with cooler weather. But they do wear him out.
Annual Pumpkin Carving
It was a real treat carving with gloves this year.
Actually the gloves didn't help too much with the carving. But the plastic gloves really helped when it came to scooping up the seeds and goo!
I love these annual chores. I remember doing these 3 things after I'd had my last chemo, 5 years ago. I remember doing these 3 things last year, when the world seemed odd and distorted, with pandemic challenges. Today I love knowing October is almost over and we are about halfway through Don's recovery period!
#27 - Don't Like Uncertain Schedules
Coming Home From Hospitals
I've compared the stresses of these recent weeks, to the uneasy times early in the pandemic, or the time when I dealt with cancer. But I also remember some of those feelings, after bringing Heidi and Scott home from the hospital.
Leaving the hospital with a new baby, is a lot easier (and happier) than leaving the hospital with the scars and uncertainties of open heart surgery. But there are a lot of similarities.
I remember feeling uneasy when we arrived home with our first baby. With Heidi, there was so much joy, but so many unknowns. Back then, Don and I felt like we were a pretty flexible team, but we were both used to schedules and suddenly there wasn't one.
I remember worrying the first time I put Heidi down for bed. The night ahead seemed like a huge unknown. I have absolutely no control over her schedule right now. If only I knew what to expect. If there was some predictability, I would feel more at ease.
That's kind of how I felt when Don came home 3.5 weeks ago. I'm sure he felt the same.
I wasn't used to feeling exhausted 35 years ago and neither was Don. We hung out on the couch a little more back then, just like we do now.
After 24 hours at home, Don began to have some kind of schedule. That helped. I wasn't the one hurting and recovering, but my routines had also been turned upside down. When do I shower or run? When can I dash to the store? I did what I always do, when I need a little control. I made lists. I noticed that Don was making lists too. He made some on his phone. First time milestones like, Climbing the Stairs or Walking Outside, that he could check off.
This list of WALKING songs was the first list he made, on a piece of scratch paper. Our son Scott was visiting then and he played DJ, with Alexa. Those silly upbeat walking songs were a huge help, with those 5 minute house walks, 4 times a day!
Goals for the Day
In the hospital, the nurses would often ask Don what his goal was for the day. Then they'd write his answer on the dry erase board. Just like school.
Not even sure why I took a photo of this, when I first arrived in ICU after surgery. Don wasn't asked about his goals, that day. (Did Nurse Nelson write 77kg, 185 cm...?) But in following days they asked him. It's a good way for a patient to feel like he has control. And Don continued at home for a while, with daily goals about doing breathing exercises or getting his shirt on himself.
Toasts to Accomplishments
We've tried to be positive and spotlight an accomplishment or two, each day. Some days it's easy, with an obvious task completed. But on some days, it's easier to NOT focus on progress at all. Talking about Don's health is not always fun for Don.
This evening, we hit less healthy milestone. First martinis! They were tiny martinis, but they were festive and tasty. We've toasted with juice & sparkling water concoctions, for a few weeks. Today we had a tiny toast, using our favorite vintage glasses. That was a treat!
#26 - Don't Like Missing the Storm
Today I tried to squeeze in a quick grocery store trip before the rain. Not because I'm scared of getting wet. I just wanted to be back home to enjoy it!
I didn't beat the rain. The alarm on my phone went off before I arrived.
Store to Myself
I hate grocery shopping. Don has done pretty much all the shopping for the last few years. I know he misses it. He would have loved it today.
I had the place to myself. I texted him once to ask if the rain had started at home. The lights were flickering in the store and I could hear rain pounding the roof. I tried to rush my shopping. I hate missing a good storm.
I was glad that Don wasn't with me when I knocked a Gatorade to the floor, with my sloppy reach.
I had just texted Don, so why not capture the mess on my cell phone? Then I alerted a man stocking shelves on another aisle. "I didn't do it!" I teased. "It was one of those people!" I pointed to the empty aisle. He was very kind and didn't scold.
Waiting it Out
I dashed to the car and wanted to race home to enjoy the storm with Don. I love sky drama, from our family room windows!
But I waited a while for rain to ease up. I made my daily call to Dad in Missouri. We talked about rain and I asked if he could hear the thunder. We've talked about weather a lot, in the 18 months that I've been calling during this pandemic.
The rain eased up a bit and I drove home, eager to enjoy a stormy afternoon.
But Don was finishing up last night's (taped) sports. I'm glad the Astros made the World Series. It's giving Don a nice distraction, while he heals. But oh how I wish we could have watched some Alfred Hitchcock movie, while the skies rumbled. I really have to bite my tongue about my TV complaints in past weeks. I remember how Don patiently watched a lot of Turner Classic Movies with me, during my cancer months!
I was disappointed when the skies dried up.
But when I stepped out, the air had turned fresh and cool and the flowers looked happy. Our evening walk was pleasant. We're walking longer and talking more each day.
Wine and TCM!
By 6 pm, I had a meatloaf in the oven and Don decided he might be up for a tiny bit of red wine. After 3+ weeks, that wine tasted pretty heavenly. Even if we only had a 1/2 glass, in our tiny wine sampler glasses!
And after dinner, Don seemed slightly game for watching a campy horror movie, on TCM Channel. I'm not sure what I've missed more in 3 weeks, wine or TCM? Tonight I had a little of both and it was a treat!
Mostly it was a treat, feeling like a little bit of normal is coming back to our world.
It's been 3 weeks since open heart surgery. Don is progressing, but he still has to be very cautious. That's why I was a little surprised when I heard him in the garage. My cautious nurse-side scowled. "Speed bag! Are you kidding me?" He only punched for a minute... nice and easy. No frantic pounding. But still.
Don asked me to take a quick video and he sent it to the kids, to show what he's up to after 3 weeks of recovery. I scolded like a nagging mom, then took the vid. The kids applauded in response. I let them know I definitely didn't encourage that, but I took it as a sign that he was ready for some garage cleaning soon.
Don responded in the thread, "Dr said 36 to 48 weeks before I can help w/ garage cleaning. (shrug emoji)
Glad the humor is back!
#24 - Don't Like Isolation
Isolating in 2016
Don and I learned how to quarantine, years before the pandemic.
For months, our world revolved around surgery and chemo and radiation appointments. My energy was up and down and my compromised immune system kept us closer to home.
In spring of 2020, Don and I found ourselves quarantining at home again. This time neither of us was sick. And pretty much the whole world was hunkering down along with us.
We had our days when the isolation felt worrisome and odd and frustrating. But for the most part, we survived with lots of silliness. There were things I loved about the isolation. I could forget make up and expensive haircuts. No more answering the door. It was like being snowed in, with your favorite person.
18 months later, we're back to hunkering down. Don's recovery from open heart surgery will take 6 to 9 or even up to 12 weeks.
We've had boosters, but the pandemic is still here and Don is more vulnerable, now. I throw on a mask and run to the store, but mostly we are home, staying pretty isolated.
During the pandemic we started walking regularly. I still did my predawn runs, but I loved getting out later in the morning and walking with Don.
Instead of walking in our neighborhood, we drove a mile and walked where we knew no one. We enjoyed the change of scenery.
Walking and Socializing
Now that Don is doing 2 outside walks a day, we just walk in our neighborhood. Different routes and different times. It's nice to change it up. Lately we've encountered a few ghostly decorations.
We've also encountered some live people on our walks. It's the oddest thing. For years I've run early, often before daylight. I love NOT seeing people. Now on our walks, we're suddenly seeing neighbors and friends, most we've not seen since the pandemic began.
Luckily Don is not clocking his walks so carefully anymore. And he's not exhausted and frustrated, by occasionally stopping to chat. Some of the people know that Don has had surgery and some don't. But all the waves or short conversations have given us a nice little break or lift in our day. The brief encounters have actually been just what the doctor ordered. Isolation is sometimes needed, but interacting with others is actually refreshing.
The dreaded people encounters are not so dreaded anymore.
#23 - Don't Like My Cell Phone
My cell phone has been really bugging me. I counted 35 robocalls yesterday.
I woke up to a couple of these fine texts this morning.
Back in Time
I'm spending way too much time deleting and blocking and they still keep coming.
I'm about ready to go back to the day of landlines... where an occasional prank call was the only worry.
Need Cell Phone Camera
But I need that darn cell phone, these days. Especially the camera. I text pictures of food options to Don, when I'm at the grocery store. And about a week ago, I started letting the phone help me in the house, when Don was less mobile.
Last week I discovered a toilet leak upstairs. Don asked me to take a photo and show him what I meant. He hadn't attempted stairs yet, but the problem intrigued him.
The Handyman-side of Don won over the Patient-side. He was pretty sure he could fix that leak, if I'd carry the wrenches upstairs. That was on Oct 18, when he'd been out of the hospital a week. He took his first trip upstairs and found that it wasn't too challenging. We ended up needing a plumber after all, but at least Don decided he could start adding stairs to his indoor walking routine. I'm glad we're not in a tiny apartment!
YouTube Help at the Gas Station
The phone has been helpful recently, but it couldn't help me 2 weeks ago when I had a ridiculous moment at the gas station.
We've had our Subaru over 8 months and I haven't once filled the gas tank. That makes me feel like June Clever and I'm not proud. When I pulled up to get gas, I couldn't figure out how to open the gas lid. I sat and searched for the release button. I could have texted Don at home, but I was sort of mortified. I put on my glasses and searched. I grabbed my cell and searched for a Youtube video. Yay, I found an YouTube video. The useless video showed a button, that I don't have. I almost cried. I gave up and drove home. Later I quietly asked Don and he didn't laugh. He just told me that you press the outside of the door and it pops open.
I have a feeling Don was happy to be able to offer me some help.
#22 - Don't Like Silent Walks
Morning and Evening
Don has been walking 4 times a day, since we got home from the hospital. Now he's able to do 2 of those outside.
His first outside walk was a week ago. It was about 10 minutes long and it seemed forever. It felt so odd to walk and not talk. I kept having to bite my chatty tongue, since Don wasn't up for walking and conversing. But then I thought about hiking. When we hike, we often walk silently. It was good to remind myself.
So today it's a week later and Don's up to 40 minutes at a time and it feels so different. I'm actually enjoying the scenery.
I don't feel like I'm his bodyguard anymore. Yesterday, I was able to step away and look at the baby ducks! Today Don made a couple silly remarks about some of our fellow walkers. Don's humor is returning!
A New Route
Our longer walks are taking us to different parts of our neighborhood community. Different scenery and different houses to study.
We spotted this renovated playground that we didn't even know existed. It's a 5 minute walk from our house. We're so in the moment these days, but this sight sparked a new enthusiasm for the future. Don later sent this picture to our daughter and said, "We can take Charlie here when you visit at Christmas!" I'm excited about that. I'm also excited that Don is thinking ahead now, as he sees himself getting stronger!
We got home and Don headed inside, while I stopped to study the mushrooms that popped up in our yard mulch.
So pretty. A week ago, I wouldn't have done that!
#21 - Don't Like Follow-ups
Meeting Up with the Surgeon
Today was Don's first outing since surgery. Too bad it wasn't something more fun than a follow-up appointment.
But it was good to get out. Don sat in the backseat and I played chauffeur again. It still seems pretty unlikely that we'd have an accident and airbags would harm his healing chest. But I was glad we'd done as we were told. We only had a 3-mile drive, but just outside of our neighborhood, traffic came to a halt. They were rerouting traffic due to an accident. On our drive home, we witnessed another accident. Yikes!
In the Office
Don and I waited for Dr. A., in the same office where we sat, just over 3 weeks ago. On that day, we had Don scheduled for a stent. I remember staring at this plastic heart on display and thinking. "Oh, that's a stent?"
By the time we left the office that day, I had learned that the colorful model was not showing a stent. I also learned that Don probably wasn't going the stent route, which came with a quick recovery time. It's been 3.5 weeks, since that day and I know a whole lot more about hearts.
While we waited for the doctor, I studied the screen, with some Covid updates. Again, I'm grateful this surgery was in October 2021 and not 2020.
When Dr. A came in, he seemed very happy about Don's progress. The long strip of tape was removed and Don's scar was totally revealed for the first time. Again the doctor seemed pleased. He reminded us, that Don was very lucky that his blockage in the left main artery had been detected, since he had no symptoms. He told us that this is the kind of case you hear about, when some guy who appears totally healthy, is out jogging and suddenly has a heart attack. If there's no one there to help... Gulp. Once again, grateful.
I was glad Dr. A was not rushing us. He was open to questions. Don asked about caffeine and was told he should wait a couple more weeks for coffee. Dr. A did however say Don could have a beer with the Astros game tonight! Really? Hmmm. He even said Don could drive, since he's not on pain meds. (What? Aren't airbags still an issue?) The doctor reminded Don about no lifting, but encouraged as much walking as possible. I asked about Don's immune system and his vulnerability at this point. The doc was vague about how cautious Don should be, but he did mention how much better things are, now. He said that not that long ago, things were pretty rough. Two of his patients got Covid, while recovering from bypasses in the hospital. Again. I'm glad about this timing!
Dr A. finally stood and shook Don's hand. (some doctors have gone to elbow bumps now) I said I had one more question. I was wondering about some of the things I've read, that talk about the connection between open heart surgery and mental health. I mentioned that Don was having a hard time concentrating. Dr A. was quick to say that some patients do have some temporary changes in mood and cognitive abilities soon after. I asked why that would be? He mentioned something about the long surgery and hours of anesthesia and then he mentioned the heart-lung machine...
So I wasn't reading "fake news" yesterday. There really are issues associated with the machine that circulates blood, while the heart is stopped... tiny debris and air bubbles enter the brain. I find this worrisome.
I'm just glad I got a bit of an answer to my question. I wish I'd had the nerve to ask another, "Why don't you tell patients about this earlier?"
#20 - Don't Like Internet
This morning felt like Halloween, with all the eerie fog. In fact this whole month of October seems like a foggy dream. Our schedules and routines are so altered.
But Don encouraged me to get out and run, today. I felt sort of guilty dashing off, before helping him get his morning started. But I went and the misty air felt good. I guess Don knows as well as I do, that I'm a much more patient and cheerful companion/nurse, when I've gotten some exercise.
I actually hate running, but I do my best thinking/planning when I run. I loved having the fog this morning. Trotting through the moist morning, seemed to clear the fog in my own brain.
As I jogged along, I thought about what I read on my iPad. (I should have read fiction!) Last night I Googled, "Tips for helping your spouse after bypass surgery." Yikes. Suddenly I was reading articles that made me worry. A New York Times article talked about how regaining emotional strength after a bypass, was sometimes harder than the physical challenges.
I read about terms like "Cardio Blues" and "Pumphead". There were discussions of personality changes and depression after heart surgery. I know from my own experience that surgery can bring on the blues, but these studies were specific to open heart surgery. Up to 75 percent can have issues with anxiety and depression and cognitive abilities.
So many hours under anesthesia is one reason, but my reading got off on a whole other tangent, about the heart-lung machine... used when the heart is stopped during surgery... particles and debris can get into the blood stream... leading to cognitive challenges. Ugh! This is what I hate about the internet. You can't forget this stuff!
As I ran this morning, I felt some anger pounding into the pavement. If this is all true, then why did no one speak of it, when they mentioned all the other risk factors with heart surgery? Don has said many times that he has trouble concentrating. Movies, books, puzzles are not appealing right now.
We have a follow up with the surgeon tomorrow. I wonder what questions he'll ask Don, when he's determining how recovery is going?
But as I neared the house I felt stronger and braver. I will speak up tomorrow, because luckily I can be at that appointment. A year ago, I wouldn't have been allowed in, due to Covid. But Don and I will go together and I'll ask questions myself and learn more. Well, at least that's the plan.
I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast CANCER and then I was done.
On March 13, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. This time it was the invasion of COVID and it affected every person. I ranted for a year, until I got my COVID vaccine in March 2021.
CORONARY Artery Disease was the reason I restarted this blog on September 26, 2021. This time it was my hubby Don, who was dealing with a worry that started with the letter "C".
Coronavirus and Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease! All are evil, but none can totally get me down... if I vent! I usually end up feeling a little more positive at the end of each post!
Navigating This Mess!
The most recent post is at the top, from coronary posts in 2022, back to cancer posts in 2016.
To find past posts, look below the "Archives" section, to find "Categories".