Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bali Day 1

Early this morning we set out for the airport in Melbourne...destination Bali! 

This kangaroo was waiting to say goodbye to use this morning.
We facetimed some of the kids while waiting at the airport.  Our 6 hour flight was super nice.  They fed us rather good food and gave us a delicious mango ice cream bar.  That was a first for me on an airplane. 
Confession:  I have never watched Gone With The Wind, even though my entire life people have referred to it when I tell them my name.  Well, I figured I had plenty of time to watch it so I did.  It definitely made the time go by faster.  It's crazy that we flew clear across Australia and then ocean to get to our destination.  The airport is right off of the ocean.

Going through customs was pretty easy and Layne had ordered our transportation for us ahead of time.  It was pretty easy and quick.  The airport grounds are something else.  Absolutely gorgeous with elaborate sculptures and beautiful greenery. 
The first place we are staying is a Holiday Inn Resort on the beach in Nusa Dua.  It is gorgeous with a pool that starts from just past the entrance of the hotel to the beach.  I've never seen anything like it.  It's absolutely gorgeous. 

We got there in time for happy hour.  We enjoyed some delicious drinks on the beach.  The thing I like about their drinks is that they aren't super sweet like in the US. 
Our room is very nice.  But it only has a king bed which means we are all going to cuddle (not really)!  The shower is kind of see through, which isn't so cool when your dad is showering which means, either head down or go swim. 

We spent a little time in the pool today before having a sunset dinner at the hotel.  It is hot and humid, but there is a lovely breeze that feels good. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Australia Day 5

Today we went to the city of Melbourne where we shopped in the markets.  I loved the markets, especially the indoor ones. 
We also enjoyed the architecture of this great city.  I love how they build modern buildings over Victorean ones. 

We did a little touring of downtown Melbourne before venturing back to the military base.  I loved the Dr. Seuss Gallery.
For dinner we visited a sweet pizza place where we met some of Layne and Pam's friends from church.  It was a fun evening for sure.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Australia Days 4

Day 4 of Australia we drove to the Yarra Valley.  It was picturesque as we drove the winding valley roads.  I love the rolling hills with expansive fields full of sheep.  We drove to a quaint goat cheese factory, really just a small wood house where we had a cheese platter for lunch and bought beautiful cheese boards.
And then it started raining.

However this didn't stop us from exploring an Australian zoo, where we saw cute sleeping koala bears.  My shoes will likely never be the same since they were soaked through, but we had fun nonetheless.  Of course when we were ready to leave the sun came out and the rain stopped.
 The other Chocolatier is in Yarra Valley, so of course we had to stop to taste and buy some more chocolate.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Australia Day 3

Today jet lag caught up with us.  It was a pretty relaxing day, but we did get out for a bit and explore.  We drove to a little pottery factory.  It is the oldest one in the area.  They still make pottery there.
We also did a little exploring of the cute towns, where we stopped at one of my favorite supermarkets.

Australia We Are Here

I was seriously afraid of the flight over.  Especially Saturday morning when I felt awful.  I used the cancer card and a wheel chair the entire process.  Seriously there was no other way I could have done it otherwise.  I have been so short of breath and my heart rate has been so high with any exertion.  Thankfully, I'm finally feeling the thyroid is slowly improving and I'm able to walk without stopping every few steps.  Seriously on Saturday when I got myself dressed I was so short of breath and thought there is no way I can do this.  But prayers have been answered and mom and I are both doing better.

My seat on the plane from LAX was in the perfect location and surprisingly comfortable.  I sat by 2 ladies from Sydney who had been touring the states for 2 weeks, Miami, Santa Monica, NYC and Chicago.  Talk about a whirlwind trip for them.  I stayed awake by watching 2 movies, at a rather non appetizing airplane dinner and then got comfy for my sleep.  I slept a few hours and then woke up and stretched and then went back to sleep.  It was amazing how fast 15 hours actually went by and how I was able to sleep on the plane.  However when I got to Sydney I all of a sudden didn't feel well.  Happily from Sydney to Melbourne I had thee seats to myself and slept the entire way.

Pam picked us up Monday morning (kind of strange that we completely skipped Sunday) and we headed into Melbourne to have lunch.  There are pastries everywhere.  Unfortunately my sweet tooth hasn't returned yet.  And actually I only drank a smoothie because I still wasn't feeling well.  The architecture is like modern mixed with New Orleans.  It's actually pretty cool.

We drove down and walked along the beach.  Pam lives on the military base which is about an hour or so from Melbourne.  When we got here it was time for the kangaroo's to come out, even though they are typically out all the time.  I always thought kangaroo's were so cute until I saw them hoping/slithering with their rat like tails.  I think they are creepy now and only cute on Winnie The Pooh.

By 6:30 I was ready for bed, but stayed awake maybe until 7.  A bed never felt so good.  Every night it has rained here, like torrential rains.  I love it, even it if wakes me up.  It's so relaxing.  It reminds me of Martha's Vineyard and Carolina.

Tuesday was Anzac day which is a national holiday here.  It's kind of like a combination of Fourth of July without fireworks, veterans day and memorial day.  We took the day to discover some of the Great Ocean Road.  To say it was gorgeous is an understatement and of course pictures won't do it justice.  PS.  Pictures will not be added to my blog until I return to the States, so just enjoy them on IG or FB.

We stopped at a Choclateir, which was incredible.  We had us some lunch and lots of chocolate, including fondue.  By the time we rolled ourselves out, we were all a little uncomfortable in our bellies. I only bought one item, because we plan to go to another location another day.  But the chocolate bar I bought was only at this store.  It is a lime, lemon, mint chocolate bar and the water painting art on the packaging is a landscape of the great ocean road.  I spent $11.80AU or 9.00US, but totally worth it.  Actually I haven't opened it yet.  Maybe when my sweet tooth returns.  Pam bought a hot chocolate.  they brought her the milk and pure chocolate that she whisked into her milk.  She said it was delicious.

We drove to a cute town along the Great Ocean Road where we did some window shopping and I wish I would have bought a pair of darling shoes at a second hand store.  Learned my lesson, buy the shoes.  I'm even still thinking of them.

I had a hard time sleeping last night, which might explain my jet lag today.  It's a little chilly, here but feels nice compared to Phoenix.  We drove an hour or so to a cute, old pottery factory, where we didn't buy anything because we were worried it wouldn't make it back in one piece.  We so much enjoyed the rolling hills filled with sheep, kangaroo and sheep crossing signs, and the beautiful Australian Countryside.  I've always hated seeing dead dear on the side of the road back home and a dead armadillo or raccoon in Carolina, but a large kangaroo roadkill here gave me the eebe gybes.

Tonight we are having Pam's gourmet chili and cornbread.  Perfect for a cold evening.  And just maybe I'll be tired enough to have me a good nights sleep so we can be rearing to go again tomorrow.

Australian Facts:
The ocean feels very fresh, not salt watery like the states.
They don't give you ice for your water, which I don't like.
At all the cafe's, you order at a counter and get your own water.
Toilets have two flushes, one for number 1 and one for number 2.
Last night when we got home the smell of Eucalyptus was in the air.  It was a lovely aroma.

Yesterdays funny:
At the Choclatier we were tasting the gelato.  The lady said to me after 3 samples, "This will have to be your last sample."  We got a good laugh.  And then dad bought the most delicious fresh strawberry gelato and the three of us shared one cone.

Pam has a 2 1/2 year old Lochlan and 5 year old Morgan.  They are adorable and would fit in perfectly with my nieces and nephews.  Morgan has the cutest Australian accent that she picked up at school.  It's so fun to be here with Pam and her family.  I love Pam like a sister and mom loves her like a daughter.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Tuesday I miraculously felt amazing.  I began the day thinking, I'll run a few errands, dropping off a box of citrus to mail off to my previous company that I dearly love and stopping by TJ Maxx to purchase a screen protector since I cracked mine a week ago.  Of course I also bought a shirt for my vacation.  And then I went home to rest.  I didn't feel like resting and had some energy so I started a load of laundry and folded the laundry that had been in the dryer for a few weeks.  And then I put the clothes away that my housekeeper had folded and put in a basket.  And then I felt good enough to do another load of laundry and pay the stack of bills accumulating on my kitchen counter.  I walked around the house seriously thinking, "Happiness is doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, paying bills."  Oh the things we take for granted.  I couldn't believe how much I got accomplished in one day.  It brought me a whole lot of happiness.  And when I went to bed I felt I had accomplished more in the past month, in just one day.

And then yesterday happened.  I got up and did the whole shower, wash hair get ready all in one shot.  I think it took more energy than I was expecting.  I spent an hour helping my friend make desserts for her sons wedding reception on Friday.  I was nauseated so I took some zofran.  I went to the bank and the store and then blamed the heat for not feeling well so I went home.  I was so tired, not sleepy, just tired.  I came home and layed on the couch with my eyes closed and talked to Alisha for a while.  I need to get out of the house so I told my friend Janelle I'd come over and then I'd run to Winco and Costcto.  I literally got to the light by my house and all of a sudden this chica was sick.  I seriously couldn't make it home fast enough.  It was a bad deal and I spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch.  Thankfully my sweet neighbor was on her way home from work and stopped by the store to get me something with electrolytes in it and by evening I was feeling a little better. 

This morning as every morning I woke to birds chirping and the sun blazing through my window.  I feel great, I have an entire to do list to accomplish today and by golly I am going to get it done and hope to feel normal doing it. 

I was talking to mom in one of the 5 conversations we had yesterday and I told her I just want to feel normal and have a normal life again.  I want to not have to worry about planning my life around chemo treatments.  I want to feel well all the time and not wonder if today will be a day that I have no energy.  I want to be able to work out like I've always done without feeling sick.  I want to get to go to work every day or at least 9 days a month.  I want to have that normal life that I had 4 years ago before my diagnosis.  We both agreed normal would be awesome.  Mom admitted that she is getting tired of this new normal as well.  We'd like to go back to normal normal.  Maybe our miracle of normal is coming.  I sure hope so.

A few nights ago I was listening to an April 2017 general conference talk like I do every night by Ulisses Soares entitled Confide in God Unwaveringly.  The ending of the talk was exactly what I needed to hear:  The last 4 words touched me to the core.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Angels Are Everywhere

The past week and a half has been rough to say the least.  I've felt physically and emotionally exhausted.  My body feels like it has been through the ringer.  I hurt when I eat.  I hurt when I don't eat.  I've gained a few pounds, mostly by the many liters of fluid I've been filled with.  It couldn't be from what I'm putting in my mouth, because I've hardly done that for 4 weeks.  I'm so tired that my suitcase is literally where I left it when I returned home a week and a half ago.  I did remove the dirty clothes and put them in a basket, which is now overflowing.  But I just have not felt well enough to do anything with them.  I'm hoping in the next few days that will change.

Let's back up to 2 Saturday's ago when I did feel well enough to attend Anne Of Green Gables with my Aunt Leslie and my cousins.  We had been planning this for a while and I wasn't going to miss it.  We had the best time at this tiny theater in the country.  Plus these ladies are angels to me and I love them dearly. 
The next evening as I was trying to eat I was sitting at my bar and I noticed a picture I have of my Grandpa Swensen on my fridge.  At that moment I felt his arms around my shoulders and knew he was with me and helping me through this journey.

Thursday I continued to have horrible abdominal pain.  I not only had cramping in my upper abdomen, but I also had what felt like surgical pain.  Thursday evening my Bishop and Melanie stopped by.  In our conversation I told them that I felt I wasn't ready to leave Earth.  That I didn't feel like I have done all that I needed to do.  But Bishop reassured me that I have.  He asked me if I had a testimony and I said yes.  It was interesting as I sat in the hospital reading my scriptures one night that I read this verse, "Nevertheless, ye are blessed for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you and your sins are forgiven you. And now continue your journey." D&C 62: 3-4.  This was very reassuring to me and gave me great comfort.

The pain through that night became so excruciating that it woke me several times.  I kept thinking to just wait it out until morning and then I'd call Dr. D and she would admit me to the hospital.  A few days before this, my neighbor had sent me a text saying that she felt she should have let herself into my house to check on me.  At some point between my waking up at 2, 4, and 6 I heard someone in my house and thought it was her, but she never came into my room.  I suspect there was an angel watching over me, helping me through the night, as it was easy for me to fall back to sleep between episodes of pain.  It may have been my Grandpa Young trying to find his way through my kitchen.  I don't know, but I like to think that. 

I called Dr. D's office just after 8 and the phone lines sent me to the on call line.  I told them my issues and Dr. D immediately called me.  I told her of my pains and she agreed an admission was necessary.  She called me back after checking for beds.  They were all full, but a few rooms were opening that morning at St. Joes.  Melanie was suppose to pick me up Friday morning at 11 to take me for more fluids.  I sent Melanie a text letting her know that I'd call her when a bed opened up.  Meanwhile, my friend Huyson called me and asked if she could bring me a drink from Jamba Juice.  It was just the juice and tasted so good.  She visited with me for a while and then Melanie came over.  At one point I told them I had to get back in bed because of the pain and fatigue.  Huyson left and Melanie was going to be decided she was going to stay and read to make sure I was ok.

The hospital called around 1215 and told me they had a bed.  I was never so excited to have to go to the hospital.  You know me if I'm not dying I'm not going to an ED, let alone a hospital.  But I was beyond caring.  I just needed some relief.  The resident came in shortly after I arrived.  He could barely touch my abdomen without me having pain.  An x-ray was ordered to make sure there was nothing else like a perforation or obstruction, which there wasn't. On his way out, I did suggest that I hadn't had my TSH (thyroid) tested for a few months, but since I was off the Optivo which was causing the thyroid issues for the past 6 weeks you would have thought it would be out of my system.

I came across this picture and quote on Friday.  I put it on my instagram with the caption:
"This weeks plan was to pack and prepare to fly to Australia on Monday.  Instead I'm laying in a hospital bed with fluids and pain meds flowing at a constant stream.  Australia might just have to wait a day or two until I'm on the mend.  It has however given me some quiet time to contemplate the true meaning of this Easter week."   Huyson commented:  "I have been thinking about what you and I discuss often: what more there is for you to learn from your trials.  I decided it must be because the rest of us need to learn from your example of trial-bearing.  That hardly seems fair, I know!  Christ was perfect and yet he endured unthinkable trials for us.  I know I am becoming a better person from knowing you, and there is no doubt in my mind you are one of the best who ever lived."  I still can't read this without crying.  It is so humbling.

Saturday morning when the resident came in he told me the TSH was 97 and that he'd never seen one that high.  I informed him it had been 144 at Christmas.  This definitely explains the fatigue.  Dr. D came in that morning and agreed that we needed to double the synthroid.  Around noon the nurse came in with some steroid pills, which I wasn't happy about, because they always make me wide awake, which I should have been happy about.  Sunday morning Dr. D informed me that she was reading that Optivo could cause a colitis weeks after stopping it and to use steroids.  The crazy things was I didn't have any symptoms of the typical colitis which usually include diarrhea, high white count, vomiting and a fever.  Well those steroids worked and by evening I was feeling so much better.  I walked several times around the floor both days and even enjoyed a visit Saturday morning from Aunt Leslie and Uncle Gordon and an evening visit from my friends the Sondrups.

I informed all that I needed to be gone as early as I could Sunday morning because this girl needed to be at Easter Services.  I was out of the hospital a little after nine and even early for church to sing in the choir.  As I was being wheeled out of the hospital elevator I noticed a man walking like he was trying to find something and then he spotted me and looked at me.  I stared at him and recognized his face as the face of a friend of mine whose father recently passed away from lung cancer.  It was so mind boggling to me because I never met this man, but I have prayed for him and his family for many months.  I let this friend know of this experience and she wrote back saying, "He is our angel now. There is no doubt.  I had told him to watch after you before he passed." 

I have had so many angels both here and in Heaven watching over me the past week and a half.  I couldn't have done it without them.  I love this quote that I got in my email today,
"At times, the Lord’s answer will be, “You don’t know everything, but you know enough”—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right." Elder Anderson

Isn't that so true?

I still don't feel fabulous, but I know that I will soon.  I'm praying that come Saturday when mom, dad and I fly to Melbourne that we will all feel well and have a joyous time.  (My mom was just as sick or worse than I last week with the flu and is finally slowly on the mend)  I called the airlines on Saturday night.  I'm sure I recognized the voice of the lady on the other end of the line.  I know I've talked to her before.  She was so patient, helpful and rearranged our trip and was able to use our flight credit from Sydney to Melbourne to add to the little that we had to pay for all of the changes.  What a blessing and an angel.  And dad is happy he is flying with mom and none of us are flying through Korea or China on our way back from Bali, but back through Sydney and LA.  I'm a little sad to miss several days in Sydney, but hey at least the entire trip isn't a flop.  I've learned since my diagnosis to let things go, don't ask why and to just go with it.

A few more quote's that really helped me this week:
I love, love, love this last quote.  It has brought me so much peace and understanding this week.

I've decided it's a good idea to stop all treatment until my next scan in late June or early July.  Who knows, maybe the small nodules that haven't been treated with radiation will resolve on their own.  I did ask Dr. D about the mass on the kidney and she said she didn't think it was cancerous as it has been there through all of the scans and hasn't enlarged.  That gave me some relief.  As long as I'm not having any back pain I'm good.  I am so happy that the radiation has taken the back pain away. And I'm so grateful for the many angels in my life.  I have been so blessed to have calls, texts, flowers, rides, meals, prayers, support and everything that I needed this week.  In fact today a sweet friend brought me dinner.  I cried as I opened the door because of the love that I have felt from so many.  When I opened the containers and saw all of the fresh vegetables I was in heaven.  My body needed those nutrients so badly and was so happy to have them. 
I wonder sometimes why the cancer wasn't caught earlier or why I came to Arizona.  These ladies are not only my angels by my dearest friends.  When I think of why Arizona, I know it was to have them and many others bless my life.
I love my nieces and nephews.  I especially loved the pictures I was sent this weekend.  Today Aidree Face timed me.  She was so funny telling me that her mom was looking for her chocolate bunny, but that she hid it in her backpack.  Great way to not let mom eat your candy while you are at school!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Can't Catch A Break

As I'm sitting here on my couch watching my favorite series Hart of Dixie I have to breath through the contraction like pain I've been having in my abdomen since Sunday.  The cramping lasts for about 5-10 seconds and comes and goes every 5-10 minutes or so.  Yes, I've never had real contractions, but I had a kidney stone when I was 8 and I imagine this is exactly what contractions feel like...cramping really bad, build up and then release.  I was for sure I had something that was going to require a tube in my nose or a surgery. I actually worked through this pain for 13 hours yesterday.  Crazy Girl.  Not only do I have cramping pain I have surgery like pain on top of it. 

Today my friend Melinda accompanied me to my scheduled Dr.'s appointment with Dr. D.  My abdomen is so tender to barely any touch that I actually wore my stretchy pants, which I would typically not do such a thing.  It was agreed that a CT was definitely in order.

That's not all, I've been so thirsty the last few days and seriously couldn't get enough water, which is now finally tasting normal since I stopped taking the PARP Inhibitor Monday.  I am almost positive my body just can't handle it.  The first treatment in 4 years that I just can't do.  Given the fact that my tongue was basically attached to the roof of my mouth we also agreed a liter of fluids was necessary.  As Dr. D put it, baby steps to getting me back to feeling better.  Oh, did I add that I'm rediculously tired, nauseated and have absolutely no appetite from that medicine.  3 weeks is all I could do of those side effects.   

I admitted to Dr. D that I need a break physically and emotionally from any treatment.  She reassured me that its okay.  We will revisit it after my world travels. 

The CT came back showing Colitis.  The funny thing is the symptoms typically for colitis are diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and a high white count; all of which I don't have.  My white count today was 2.35, so this isn't likely infectous.  I'm blaming it on the meds and it causing a heck of inflammation in my abdomen.  I actually feel like I just had surgery.  Walking, riding in a car, especially going over bumps and turning over in bed makes the pain so much worse.  If I can lay or sit very still I can handle it. 

Dr. D gave me 3 options: Hospital stay tonight, return to her office for fluids and evaluation tomorrow and if I'm doing better no hospital stay, but if I'm not doing better I'll be admitted.  She actually told me to bring a packed hospital bag just in case.  Seriously that's the last thing I want and so close to my trip too.  The other option was to take an antibiotic in case it is an infection, which would likely give me diarrhea.  I opted for number 2.  I'm praying that I feel better tomorrow.  Oh, and she told me I couldn't work my shifts this weekend.  Dr's orders. 

The Good News:  I have an amazing friend Melinda who sat with me all day.  She picked me up at 9am and didn't leave my house until 5pm.  I'm incredibly grateful for people who serve me, even though I wish I was the one serving. 

Even better news is that after having a blessing on Wednesday the back pain improved and by Saturday it was gone and is still gone.  In the blessing my brother Troy blessed that the back pain would resolve.  Yes, I believe the radiation worked, but I also believe in the power of the priesthood and that Heavenly Father answers prayers. 
Alisha sent me this picture last week.  Oh how I love tulips!