Relationships are a Blessing… though often Complicated

My relationship with my husband could be proof that opposites attract. We’ve been together since July 16th, 1983, We have so much in common! But wait, didn’t I just say we were opposites? Yes, but it’s complicated.

I admire couples who constantly spend time together. I also feel sorry for them. It’s complicated,

Happiness is elusive. Sometimes you have to make your own. But that is poor advice for someone who has depression, or any other mental condition. I’m sure if it were as simple as choosing happiness, the world would be a happier place, Life is full of disappointments, but sometimes there is a silver lining.

I feel an amazing bond with my immediate, and extended family, We gather whenever we can, and most recently at my sister’s funeral.

Death brings family together, and more than I want to admit, it tears them apart. Love is always there, though. I think families should agree to disagree.

I’ve discovered relationships take a little effort to maintain. I don’t agree with my family at times, But the love steps up and forces compromise. Love is amazing.

Every family has, that someone, who can only be taken in small doses. But learn to enjoy the dose! With family, there is usually history together. Sometimes the more you find out about someone, the closer you feel.

The passing of my sister leaves a huge void. She was our matriarch. She had a personality that was larger than life. She was brutally honest at times. We knew this about her, and sometimes it was comical. I love the way she could speak her mind.

I miss the conversations. I miss the trips, whether it was to a vacation spot, or just the local CVS. We would go there to get her medicine. She switched stores just so my son, Stephen could be her pharmacist.

I love the way she loved my kids, my grandkids, and me. She had love for her entire family. She would bend over backwards to help anyone who needed her help to do anything!

Her spirit lives on, though, We always worried about her, because she always put too much salt on her food. We’d joke that she had salt shakers in every room of her house. The other day, Erin found our salt shaker in the bathroom behind the toilet. I’m sure she thought, maybe Bennett or Jackson had put it there. But I can’t help thinking, maybe Doris was here. LOL

Well she’s always here in my heart.

Margie’s Tribute (for Doris’ Service)

From the day we are born we start to create the tapestry that is to be our life. Each person, each event is a thread that is woven into our tapestry. Some threads are long
and are woven into our tapestry throughout our life. Others are short and show up only briefly. Some threads are bright and beautiful, others dark and gray. There are 
threads that we think don't belong, that we would like to remove. But we can't. Each thread is intricately woven into this tapestry that will be our life. Everyone of us here 
are a part of Doris life tapestry. All the births and deaths, the happy times and the sad times, tightly woven into this beautiful picture. Today Doris will know the last
thread in this tapestry. It is done
 We can step back, look at it. See every person, event, all the laughter and tears that has created this picture and we see that it was a beautiful life.
 Now she begins a new one.More beautiful than the last. One that we will hopefully see one day and be amazed.

I'd like to share with you words from one of my favorite songs:

It's bittersweet, you see
You're not here but I can feel you
Every memory is on the tip of my tongue
I close my eyes and see your face
I hold on tight to yesterday
hopeing when I wake, that it was just a dream

It's bittersweet.
You said that life is only borrowed
So let's wash away our sorrow
that tomorrow I won't be here with you
Go live your life with no regrets
and don't forget how much I love you.

Doris we know you finely got your wings
It's bittersweet.
Fly high sweet angel.

My Tribute (From Doris’ service)

For those who do not know me I am Betty, Doris’s baby sister. When I was a kid I hated being called that. But As I grew older, I realized it was a term of endearment.

I’m not an experienced speaker. I prayed for composure to get through this. It is very difficult to sum up such an awesome life in just a few minutes, but I will attempt to skim the surface.

Growing up we were in wonderment of her nonconformity to rules. She boldly sneaked out of the house to meet a boyfriend. She’d get on the bus in a frumpy skirt, and when seated, slip it off to reveal a smoking hot mini skirt. She combed her hair over her eyes and wore way too much mascara. She was the first Rebel! But we knew not to tell, she had a special kind of stink eye, Oh yeah, if you knew her you’ve seen it. …You’ve seen that look!

Doris lived large, but she also knew tragedy. About 29 years ago she had to bury a child. Laura’s passing served as a lesson, a wake up call to the fragility of life

. Reading James 4:14, James Says. “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

So we know that tomorrow isn’t promised. We learned from her death to cherish our relationships.,, So we did. We gathered more as a family. We became a family with strong bonds. Bonds that cannot be broken, even in death.

Our sister’s trips were a blast! We set out on our journeys with open minds. We stopped at thrift stores along the way, antique shops, and once we even stopped at a jackass farm.,,,Jokes ensued.

Once on a stop at a strawberry farm, we had our first collective, simultaneous senior moment. We bought, and loaded several flats of strawberries into the back of her SUV. I think we all grabbed a handful of strawberries and got in the car. As we begin to drive away on the bumpy drive , we heard the strawberry flats sliding out the back and into the dirt drive. Four of us, and no one remembered to close the hatch! We salvaged what we could of our gritty berries, and went on our way.

Doris was the shortest in stature of all the siblings. But she packed a dynamite personality. She was a firecracker!. Her talents were many,,,,and they ran the gamut. From cooking, sewing and building things, to skinning a deer. She was one smart cookie with a vast array of knowledge that I referenced often.

Most know she spoke without a filter, unapologetically. And if I’m being honest, at times it was embarrassing. But more often than not, she was on point. Just saying aloud the things we were all thinking, but didn’t have the courage to say.

In many, many ways she was like a mother to me. As some may know we were estranged from our biological mother. And especially in those years, she was there for me. She saw me through all my joys and sorrows,,. She was with me through every significant event in my life.

She was our matriarch!

To all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews: We, the sisters, are here for you. We are cut from the same cloth. We love you so much and while knowing we can’t take her place. We are here for y’all. We love y’all and want to continue our family traditions

I am overwhelmed at all the people who came to show their respect. She was loved by so many. So let us live large, like Doris. Let us love large, like Doris. Let us laugh until we cry, like Doris.

I know she is flying high, an angel, free of pain.

Doris’ Journey

January 2017. I will begin to chronicle my sister”s health battle. It has been a roller coaster of emotions so far.

Around the end of December 2016 Doris went to her primary care physician to begin testing for the source of her water retention and swelling. She had an MRI which showed spots on the liver. Subsequently a biopsy was ordered. Here’s where the roller coaster ride ascends. We had all been on an emotional low, then she had the biopsy. That afternoon, Doris called us to say the biopsy showed no cancer. We aren’t sure if someone called and told her this in error or if it was a medically induced dream. As she was prescribed medicine to relax her for the procedure.

She was scheduled for a procedure we thought was going to take care of the spots on her liver, when actually it was a procedure to cord off polyps in her esophagus. We were quite confused when the doctor went over the procedure.

The doctor came into the room post op and began telling her how they were going to take care of her cancer and if it turned out to be HCC, she would be booted to the top of the donor list because of the type of cancer and urgency. He said a lot, but we were all so stunned we didn’t ask questions. Brenda and I could only listen in disbelief. Totally blindsided.
After getting Doris home and settled, I called her doctor’s office to get a handle on what had just happened. The nurse told me she had cirrhosis of the liver and hepatic cancer. She said the cancer specialist would call that afternoon to make an appointment for a consultation. We all were descending on the roller coaster, and frankly pretty scared.

I ended up having to call the Piedmont doctor that was supposed to call. I made her an appointment for January 25th. Which was the first available date. I thought I was making an appointment with an oncologist. But realized it was Piedmont Transplant Institute, when my grandson was playing with the phone and redialed. I heard someone answer Piedmont Transplant Center. I was told that for Hepatic cancer, a liver transplant is the cure.

So at the crack of dawn on January 25th, Doris and her entourage headed up to the Piedmont Transplant Center, at Piedmont Atlanta. Her sisters, her granddaughter, Jesse, and Daughter, Sela crowded around the doctor eager to grasp knowledge of this cancer in order to make informed decisions that will set her on a path to recovery.

What we learned was, we havent learned anything yet. Yes, this doctor wasn’t even comfortable enough with the information he had to give us the dreaded “C” diagnosis. Not yet, anyway. He would need the slides from the biopsy. So he will send in a request to her doctor in Carrollton, then have one of their pathologist read the slides. Then the team would meet on Friday, February 3rd, and discuss her case, make a diagnosis, and determine what treatment they will recommend.

He discussed a couple of methods of treatment that have had a high success rate. One is Oblation of the tumors. Described as going through the stomach to the liver and burning them. Another is going in through the groin with a catheter thread to the liver, and injecting chemo particles. This method will cause nausea. We were encouraged to hear this, as before talking to this doctor, we thought a transplant was the only treatment. This doctor was not as optimistic about her chances on the donor list as the doctor who did her polyp surgery. He said there are so many people needing livers, and not as many donors. And there are many hoops to jump through to prove you would take care of the organ. We also learned she has signs of heart disease. This was surprising as she had never been told this before. And it could be another strike against getting placed on the donor list. We asked about the possibility of donating a piece of liver, since they regenerate. This isn’t something they do there, although they may in the future.

So we are waiting at this point. But determined to help get her prepared for this battle.

Friday, January 27th, Doris had to be taken by ambulance to Tanner Hospital in Carrollton. Jesse had called to check on her that day and she was disoriented. She was scared she might be having a stroke. She felt as if she was in a drunken state.

The on call ER doctor ordered some blood work, a CT scan and urinalysis. This took around three hours. We were relieved that she wasn’t having a stroke, but concerned that her liver was not able to process drugs that were prescribed. Her primary care doctor prescribed xanax to ease her anxiety. but due to the decreased liver function the pills were not processed. They built up in her system. She was under the influence of this drug for days. The doctor pulled us aside and told us she should be monitored over the weekend. Someone should be with her. That we did. It was tough to shake the effects of that medicine, but by Sunday morning she was beginning to find her way out of the fog. She has not been eating well. She tolerates Ensure and Frog Spit (a lemon lime sherbet push up) She still has issues with the ulcers left by the polyps that were corded. But seems she just can’t catch a break. Her phone rang after ten one night last week startling her. In her efforts to get to the phone quickly she got tangled in the covers and fell out of bed cracking her eye on the night table. Her eye looked awful. Then began to cake with matter. This was the eye that had been operated on for macular degeneration. Then later had to be restitched So first thing Monday we called for an appointment with her eye doctor. Her appointment was Wednesday. She had to endure a shot of antibiotics directly in this eye with no numbing. And was scheduled to come in for two more. This is very serious. She completed treatment for eyes and we were hopeful her health issues would improve,

She still needed to address her liver issue, but was resolute in her decision to go to her primary care doctor locally, She refused to jump through the hoops necessary to be placed on doner list,

Doris decided she did not want to go through any more appointments to any specialized Doctors. She apparently told her primary care doctor she understood her situation, but only wanted to deal with her symptoms, She accepted her diagnosis and just wanted to live out what time she had without being in and out of doctor’s offices

So the treatment was a diuretic taken via injection twice as week, This helped alleviate the swelling.

We didn’t realize just how sick she was, But I think she knew,

It is January 2018, We, the sisters and our spouses, took Doris out for her Birthday. It was two days from her actual birthday, We did not know this would be the last time. The Friday she turned 67 was spent at Piedmont ER, She was very congested and had a backache, They checked her blood, x-rayed her chest, did an EKG, The diagnosis was back spasms, blood was fine, and heart looked good, so she was sent home with a muscle relaxer.

However by the following Wednesday she was in excruciating pan with her back, while insisting she was fine otherwise, She was so mad when they found a blood infection, She still wanted to ignore that, get her back fixed, and go home. You see they had found a couple fractured disc from the CT scan that they did not catch the previous Friday. We don’t know how she fractured them. But with osteoporosis it is easy to fracture back by even something as simple as coughing or turning over in bed. The treatment for the fractured disc was to inject some sort of cement that would mend it. They mentioned doing this procedure but of course they had to do all the other test first. She had the blood infection and pneumonia. Her kidneys begin to fail and upon all that she had her damaged liver. There was just too much going on to save her. When she aspirated and got more fluid in the lungs her prognosis was bleak. She at first was in a drug-induced coma but even when the sedatives were tapered off she remained in a coma from which she never gained consciousness.

The year following her initial diagnosis was an eventful one. We got together every chance we could. We had our usual family gatherings at holidays, and squeezed in a road trip or two. One of her favorites was our game nights. We also played bingo with Doris and Donnie at the VFW. She was very stoic and did not let on when she was hurting.

We all would give anything just to have had one more conversation with her. And I know, from a personal standpoint, I was not ready to let her go.

Deja Vu

hospital emory

Here I lie in a hospital bed in Emory Orthopedic and Spine Hospital.  It is March 8, 2017. Yesterday I had surgery on my left foot to clean up my surgery of November 7, 2016..  Dr. Bariteau  performed a debridement and removal of all hardware,  He also gathered cultures for Dr. Kraft, the infectious disease doctor.. The previous surgery was done by Dr. Hiensch. Going with a local doctor for this seemed logical because I hate driving to Atlanta.  Huge mistake in hindsight.

Here’s the Deja Vu part.   Several years ago I had double knee replacement surgery at the Hughston Cliniic, but ended up at Emory for clean up and repair. .  So here I am,  back at Emory for clean up..D is not letting go of the I told you so’s.  But at this point, I cannot blame him.

The infectious disease doctor is going to analyze the cultures and decide on specific antibiotics. In the mean time I am bound here,  pumped with antibiotics and other drugs.   The pain block is wearing off and foot is beginning to come alive with pain.  But I am under pain management, so I can’t complain..

On every post op visit to Georgia Bone and Joint,  I complained the foot was not getting better and the pain was worsening at an exponential rate.  On one post op visit he prescribed a mysterious drug.  He said I could only get this drug from a specialty pharmacy and it would be mailed via Fed Ex.  I left with a sample.  After consulting my son, the pharmacist, I learned this drug, Duexis, is merely Advil 800 mg. and Pepcid.  It was also about $500.00 for 30 pills. I don’t even know what my co pay would be. I declined the prescription.  The doctor knew I was already taking 800 mg Advil and it wasn’t keeping the pain at bay.  I just wanted a solution.or explanation for the edema and constant pain.

The initial surgery was to correct my Haglunds Deformity, or pump bump.  This bump on my heel was stressing my Achilles and was causing pain and difficulty walking. I began experiencing those issues about two years ago.  I thought it was plantar fasciitis  until an MRI revealed the real issue.   The doctor said this surgery would correct the deformity and I should be pain free in three months. Free of pain at last!  But it didn’t work out that way.

At my final post op visit I was asked to have another MRI to see what was going on. It should be well, not swollen and immensely painful.  More painful than it was before surgery!  So after the MRI, I called to make an appointment for the reading of the MRI.   I specifically asked the receptionist if this would be considered a post op visit.  There is no copay for post op visits.  If the surgery had worked, I wouldn’t need this appointment.   I was frustrated because I was in so much pain and this doctor had not laid out any plan.

I signed a request for the release of records and left without seeing the doctor.  By the time I got home, the office had already called asking me to come back and they would consider the visit post op.    I politely refused the offer.  Later that day, the doctor called and explained the MRI.  He said I had a lot of inflammation. There might be damage to the Achilles and I may need surgery to fix it.  He was very nice and seemed sincere when he told me to stick with him he would fix the issues.  He also mentioned there could be an infection, but he would need to order blood work. I already had orders from my primary care physician.  I had the blood work done the next day. When results came back I called the doc to tell him I had the results and find out about his treatment plan..  I left three messages that week with his nurse  When I didn’t hear from them it was my cue to collect my records and move on.  I contacted Emory and made an appointment.

I took all my records and MRI discs.  Dr. Bariteau came in the room, introduced himself and cut to the chase.  He said I had an infection and should have surgery right away. He was concerned and so was I!   He would remove the hardware and possibly leave open if a significant amount of drainage.  Fortunately he was able to close it and refer me to an infectious disease doctor. I have been taking fluids and antibiotics for a couple days and will go home tomorrow and remain on powerful antibiotics for a month or so.  If the cultures taken from my bone begin to grow, my antibiotic could change.

The scary part of this is,  if this had gone unchecked, I could have lost my foot, or maybe my leg!    I may even need another surgery on my Achilles if it doesn’t attach properly.  As nice as the first doctor seemed, he never saw the urgency of this situation.  He allowed me to go three months with never any improvement. Only more pain and edema than I had prior to surgery. My Emory doctor saw the same MRI and blood work.  He examined my foot.  Noticing the edema and warmth of the area. He  was able to diagnose and make a plan to solve the issue.

Emory is a huge team of very professional medical experts.  They were so thorough in preparing me for the surgery.  I am very impressed with the staff.

I appreciate all the support I have received from friends and family. I feel loved.

Perspective:  Last week I left the house to run an errand.  I saw a man in a wheelchair exercising on the track at Moreland cemetery. This guy was moving that wheelchair around that track at an impressive pace. With what he was missing in lower extremities, the upper extremities were compensating.    When I returned from my errand, he was still tearing up that track!    I’m optimistic my issue will be controlled.   I will be walking normally in a few months.  This guy has no legs.

It is cathartic to blog about things like this.    As I get older, time can cause facts to become fuzzy.  So I have to write them down as they happen. .