4 Things You Can Do to be Happier

My mom made a poster when I was a small child and hung it in the living room. A lesson accompanied the poster based on Proverbs 23:7.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: …

© 2021 King James Bible Online

Mama taught me that thoughts control the outcome of life. It was a great lesson and one I remembered well. Her poster shown below was a daily reminder of her philosophy. The stories and examples she told illustrated the lesson well; though they were quite one-dimensional.

One of Mom’s stories was about a boy named Johnny. He lived with his mother and baby sister, Lizzie. Johnny’s birthday was just around the corner and his Mama told him that she couldn’t afford a cake or gift for him, but she agreed to cook his favorite meal. Johnny knew that his Mama worked hard at the laundry to pay rent and bills. He knew she often worried about the high cost of food. The very next day, Johnny found a five-dollar bill on the playground at school. He knew he should turn the money into the teacher, but he also thought about his birthday. He always picked chocolate cake because it was Lizzie’s favorite. This year, there would be no cake at all. If he kept the five dollars, he could buy the ingredients for the cake and get some ice cream, too. However, he thought about honesty and how his Mama expected him to act. He turned the money into the teacher as he should, and she returned it to the student who lost it. Johnny still did not get cake, but he knew that being honest was a better gift to himself than chocolate cake.

That story was a great teaching tool for children, but for adults, the answer is not always so clear. When I was thirty-four, I worked as a teacher and cared for my four children. My x-husband had earned full visitation rights back, but I worried for the kids’ safety because of his past violent incidences, and the dialogue they shared afterward indicated unsafe conditions and negligence. Money was tight and there was rarely a child support payment. I thought maybe I should use what little money I had saved to go back to court to amend visitation and petition for support payments. I questioned my motivations, though. “What kind of person am I? The kids love those visits. Monetarily, I am doing ok, and even managing to save a bit.”

My Mom’s character lesson played back on my mental video recorder. It was not a good idea. Protective mother and honest financier were both strong character traits, but the kids were safe for the moment, and the bills were paid. Cruel X-wife never became part of my character. I waited until it was imperative to change visitation, and I never petitioned for support because I managed just fine without it.

How can adults build good character? Haven’t we become who we are at a certain age? Many may disagree with me, but I do not think our actions are set at any age. I believe people change throughout their lives. Some changes are for the better, and some are for the worse. The following four actions led to personal positive change for me.

FIRST: Make a List

I identified some behaviors that I did not like about myself, and I decided to change. I kept a journal, and I used it to make my list. Dividing a page into two parts, I wrote a heading at the top of each part. Behaviors I Don’t Like and Behaviors I Like were the headings I used. I already knew of some actions that could go on each list, but as the days passed, I added more when I did something that caused me to feel good or bad. I think I physically listed these acts for about three weeks.

SECOND: Talk to Someone

Back in the ’80s, I began regular talks with a minister about my need to change. I was broke and these talks were free. Our conversations led to some reading for me because my conversations and questions centered around the word “why”. I did not understand that I continuously gave my power over my life to others. He recommended scriptures to read, and a couple of books. I found the books and dove in learning a great deal in a brief period. Overwhelmed, yet jubilant, I discovered some of the “whys” behind my actions.

THIRD: Read Good Books

This list contains some of the books I started reading. They are pretty old, but full of wonderful information. The way I came across Zen quotes was offhand. December of 2013, I shopped for Christmas presents at Barnes and Noble. They always have items on a table upfront; obviously so that customers will grab things as they stand in line. It worked. I needed a calendar for my desk at work, and I saw a beautiful box with a lotus flower labeled Zen Page-a-Day Calendar. I had been learning mindfulness techniques with my counselor, so I thought those quotes might be interesting. When 2014 started, each day I read the daily quote before I began my five to ten-minute mindfulness meditation. If the quote felt deeply meaningful to me, I carried it in my pocket for a few days reading it again often. The next time one became a pocket carry-to-read, I taped the former pocket quote on my bedside shelves for a month. Amazingly, this little $4 box changed my thinking that year! You just need to ask around and search for reading material that helps you change your thinking.

  • The Road Less Traveled. M. Scott Peck. 1978
  • Codependent No More. Melodie Beatty. 1986
  • Boundaries. John Townsend, Henry Cloud. 2017
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Don Miguel Ruiz. 1997.
  • The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho. 1988.
  • Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace. Patricia Collard.
  • Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do. Dr. Robert H. Schuller. 1983.
  • As a Man Thinketh. James Allen. 1903
  • Buddha’s Book of Meditation : Mindfulness Practices for a Quieter Mind, Self-Awareness, and Healthy Living. Joseph Emet. 2015
  • Zen Page-A-Day Calendar. David Schiller. New Each Year

FOURTH: Visit with a Licensed Counselor

By the early ’90s, I had learned enough from the minister and the books to know that I needed more help. I visited a family support office and initiated counseling sessions for a modest charge. I worked and had insurance, but I couldn’t afford the co-pays. The therapist I saw weekly helped, but there wasn’t a strong rapport with him. As I learned and grew more confident, I also became positive. I lapsed in counseling two or three times over the years until I finally found a therapist with whom I connected. She and I worked on different aspects of my choosing over several years until the 20teens.

Hopefully, readers will understand that compared to most of the population, I was quite average, or normal. I wasn’t mentally ill, but I needed help learning how to take control of my decisions and my life. I plainly did not know how I had the right and the responsibility to determine the outcome of my life. When all people understand that every adult human being has the privilege to think for himself or herself and that each of us can choose to agree or disagree without fear, we will have a much healthier society.

Cancer #6: Treatment

October 1. 2015

I did not get my treatment the thirtieth because the insurance has not yet approved it. I was pretty down about it, but I used sarcasm and humor to get through it. I’m forcing a positive attitude. Making fun of terrible situations help me think about in a way that always makes me laugh. It might sound offensive if I shared it. However, if joking about dying before the insurance comes through makes me feel better, that is what I will do.

On the real; I feel horrible today; like I was kicked in the stomach. I have an infection and I have to go get meds. I have little immunity, now, and I work in a school! I am working while sick because I cannot afford to use up more days. Sometimes the laughter is more “whine” than anything else. I wonder if a few glasses of wine would fix my “whine”! LOL 

October 2, 2015

Treatment was approved! I start Rituxan infusions on Monday. Thankful, but a bit scared. Yesterday, I went to the doc for a UTI. Today I am vomiting and my stomach has awful pain. I worry that cancer is everywhere inside me. How would they know? It looked like everything glowed on the PET scan, but the doctor said that was normal because its sugar that glows. I’m writing my questions, so I can remember them when I see him Monday. I’ve had a great amount of UTIs this year, and I’ve never had them before.

October 5, 2015

My first treatment is detailed in the Insightful story titled, Our Battle With Lymphoma. Here is an excerpt:

The first chemotherapy was long.  They watched the bags of fluid drip into her arm for almost 7 hours in between turns of sleep and wakefulness.  The man was told that she had been given an allergen to prevent too terrible of a reaction.  He was told that she would sleep during the treatment.  He left at one point hoping she wouldn’t notice, so that he could bring back a tasty lunch for her to enjoy.  Her beautiful smile indicated that she was pleased.  Indeed, she was thankful for his thoughtful nature.  The big sandwich he brought was shared by the two as they waited for this first round of chemo to be over.  The staff was very surprised because her body accepted the poison with no reaction to it at any point during the hours long process. The man walked ahead of her to check her out and receive her next appointment.  Near the front counter, he turned and caught her in his arms as she passed out and fell to the floor.  Her blood pressure dropped to seriously low levels from the chemo as she walked through the lobby.  The nurses revived her and he half carried her back to the treatment room.  More reclining and fluids while they waited for the blood pressure to respond.  Finally they were able to go home, but in the middle of the night, the man she loved held her as her body jerked and jolted uncontrollably as rigors from the poison pumped through her veins.  He was terrified, but wrapped her in blankets while she shivered violently as her body tried to regulate its temperature.

Our Battle With Lymphoma. by Wanda LaPlount. June 28, 2019

January 8, 2016

It’s been a while. I finally completed the initial four treatments and one maintenance treatment. How am I doing? Good question. I have tried to be a great faker with my smile and positive attitude. It seems to make all my co-workers and friends are happier if they think I’m fighting this like boss! The truth is that some days I truly feel like a boss. My attitude is actually positive and I feel pretty great, but the other days while I’m smiling, I’m not so sure. During the initial four treatments once a week, I felt terrible. The doctor said there were little or no side effects, but that is NOT TRUE. The first day after, I had gas and felt nauseated and sick. The second day I was constipated all day. The third day was usually better, but the fourth day, I vomited all day. By day five, I was so tired, and I didn’t want to work, but I went, hoping to get through this year without getting docked in pay too badly. On day six, if I hadn’t ripped myself silly trying to poop, I felt sick, uncomfortable, and weepy. Day seven was time to start over.  

I seriously tried to keep a positive attitude and cowboy up! Everyone seemed to need me to focus on fighting the good fight, so I tried. I went to work. I did a good job while I was there, and I worked hard. A couple of people thought I faked the cancer.  They asked jokingly, but it was horrible. I am in this damn boat rowing for my life while trying to make it look easy, and someone actually says, “Do you really have cancer? You don’t seem sick.” What the hell?

I know I can do this. At least it is better now that the PET scan is showing improvement and those initial weekly treatments are over. 

April 22, 2016

I do not understand the things going on now. I cannot remember things.  I’m really scared. My family members seem angry with me. I feel stressed out, and I do not know why I’m forgetting things.  Maybe the stress is caused by the forgetting, but friends and family have suggested the forgetting may be caused by the stress. Could it be a phenomenon called Chemo Brain? I am not myself these days.  My job, my family life,  and my personal life are messed up. I’m losing control of my mind.  Got to find a fix. I feel crazy.

Psoriatic Disease Hates Me

My shoulder surgery date finally arrived, Feb 24th! After today and a few weeks of rehab, my split bicep and torn rotator cuff will no longer cause pain when I move my left arm. Five years of suffering will end!

As I put on the gown and other surgical clothes, the nurse stepped in and saw my bloody body covered in large psoriasis plaques. She gasped and I caught her look of horror. The required pre-surgical showers last night and this morning had torn open the lesions and caused light bleeding. Surgery is dangerous for infection for everyone, but more so for me because of medications I take. The pre-op assistant had given me a scrubber pad and antibacterial soap with specific instructions. Neither product was psoriasis friendly. The outbreak that covered so much of my body was due to the recent halt of the drugs, Methotrexate and Otezla. I have been clear of the skin rash for five years, and I don’t think the surgeon realized what could happen.

The nurse looked under my arm explaining that they might not be able to do the surgery because of the sores. She gave me a shot for relaxation, and I do not remember anything from that point on. During surgery, the doctor looked under my left arm and chose to do a tenotomy instead of tenodesis. Tenodesis is cutting the biceps tendon at the top of the shoulder and reattaching it to the humerus bone. Tenotomy is cutting the biceps tendon and not reattaching it. My body was in full attack mode with the external outbreak of psoriasis. Dr. Veasy saw that psoriatic arthritis had attacked the shoulder joint internally as well. What little cartilage left in my shoulder was badly damaged, as was the long head of the biceps and the tissue of the rotator cuff. Successful reattachment to the humerus was not possible, so he cut the tendon and left it unattached.

Six years before the surgery, I had slipped on wet concrete and reached to grab a high shelf. I fell anyway. Stubborn as a mule, I refused to get medical care. Psoriatic arthritis (that I didn’t know I had) attacked the shoulder internally. Over time, Inflammation damaged the bone, tendon, and cartilage around the torn rotator cuff and split biceps tendon.

Dr. Veasy suspected that I had a torn rotator cuff, but he also thought I might have neck problems due to compression of the spine. After an MRI confirmed all of his suspicions, I was scheduled for surgery on my shoulder and referred to a neurosurgeon for my neck.

At my post-op visit the doctor showed me before and after color pictures of the internal shoulder area. Before surgery the cartilage was rough in places and absent in other places. The shoulder looked like a winding, white road full of gravel and potholes. During surgery, Dr. Veasy cleaned the bone to smooth the surface. That would sooth the grinding pain I had complained about. It was better after 6 weeks of rehab, but occasionally I suffered bouts of excruciating pain. In

Fast forward to August. I have full range of motion, but also intense pain much of the time. I returned to consult with Dr. Veasy. He gave me a cortisone shot and encouraged me to continue my stretchy band exercises three times per week. The powerful steroid reduces inflammation and pain. It seemed a miraculous cure had happened for thirty days, but when it wore off, the pain returned. The nurse asked me to call back in a two months to let them know how I felt. I argued with myself about calling them. I figured psoriatic arthritis caused the problem, and I had read that the shots caused more damage to the joint. I suffered longer before calling for another appointment.

My latest visit in January ended with another shot and the Physicians Assistant encouraging me to visit with my neurosurgeon, Dr. Bannister.  I should check in with him to see if psoriatic arthritis has caused further destruction of my cervical spine. When I met with him before, he told that eventually I must have neck surgery, but I asked to put it off and he agreed that I could. He said that my neck and back is trashed, and he couldn’t believe I wasn’t suffering a great deal more than I claimed. I am so happy he gave me the right you choose when I would need more surgery.

My current situation is that my left shoulder and three cervical joints causing intense pain. One joint is post surgical and still causing problems, so I am quite resistant to more surgery. I choose NOT too have surgery any time soon because I am dealing with the pain without opioids. How? Thinking positively, keeping busy, resting periodically, and using mild pain medications.

Cancer #5: Still Waiting…

Sept 9, 2015

I left work again today to meet my surgeon, Dr McNeir.  Of course, it did not feel warm, nor fuzzy when I announced I had another appointment. I don’t think asking for some compassion is wrong. My boss is kind of cold.

The surgeon seemed personable and scheduled my lymphectomy on Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. I drove to the hospital to pre-register. Finishing around 1:15, I ate lunch outside on the hospital balcony alone. The warmth of the sun felt good on my body. I feel overwhelmed. Too much weighs on my heart. I’m exhausted with all the information and things to do, but I keep putting one foot in front of the other. What else do people do? How do they get through this?  I don’t know any other way to go than forward. I’ve been tough. I’ve kept a positive outlook. I really do think it will be okay, but I want to sit down on the floor and bawl my eyes out. I wonder if I can find someone who understands. Where would I start to look?

I went back to work at 2:00p.m. and worked until 3:10p.m. I took Peyton, my granddaughter home to her daddy, and met Jesse, a dear friend,  for a beer. I love that guy. We talked about other stuff, and it was great. I talked to Tina, my daughter, tonight on the phone. I kind of tested the waters to see if she could handle me feeling a bit broken. She gave me strength as she reached out to comfort me.

I wrote a new email to my school and close friends in an attempt to uplift myself: “Thank you all once again for your kind comments. Ya’ll are very edifying with your positive attitudes. Of course, here at the “Ridge”, we know miracles happen everyday. I appreciate all the love, hugs, smiles, waves of affirmation, and such. Do not ever think that your uplifting words and deeds are insignificant. You just never know how overwhelmed and broken another feels.”          

Sept. 14, 2015

Medical bills are coming in by the dozens, and I am a wreck. I do not believe I can handle the stress of keeping up with this mess. Normally, I am a wizard with bills, finances, and everything. I crying now because I cannot afford cancer. What am I going to do? I’ve missed work four days of twelve . It is only going to get worse. Ken and I need to take steps to protect our assets. I’m going to suggest getting a divorce so no judgments can go against him if I cannot pay. I can sign a rental agreement with him for a room in the house.

To top that off, I have a post-op infection in my shoulder. Great! Also, some damn person I don’t know called me tonight. He was from a church I stopped attending six years ago. Someone there heard about my cancer and decided I needed to be a service project. Can’t they just leave me the hell alone! I will curl up with my Kenny and cry.

Sept 15, 2015

I am on the floor in my closet weeping. I have so much to think about. I’m so damn independent that I refuse to talk about my problems with others. I know Ken is just as scared and worried as me, and I don’t want him to know how afraid I am. Money owed, future cancer treatment costs, insurance, lost time at work… It’s all too much right now!

Sept 21, 2015

I’ve had to sit back and take a deep breath. Bills are just going to have to be put aside for reevaluation later. I’ve already put so much on my credit card that the bills that will allow me to wait are going to have to wait. The bills that won’t allow me to wait will just wait, too.

Sept. 23, 2015

I talked to the oncologist’s assistant yesterday. She didn’t get my pathology report, but called to have it faxed over. If it’s good, she said I might start my treatments tomorrow. I’m kind of excited about that, and a super nervous. Not knowing how the infusions will affect me is a new worry. I’m just going to hope my experience is not too bad. I can’t miss work Friday because I’m sick from the medicine they pumped in me on Thursday. The first infusion is six hours. The listed side effects possible include the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rigors – The sudden attack of severe shivering accompanied by a feeling of coldness (‘the chills’) is called a rigor and is associated often with a marked rise in body temperature. It may be described by patients as an attack of uncontrollable shaking.
  • TLS (tumor lysis syndrome)—has occurred in patients using Rituxan to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is caused by cancer cells breaking down and can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis treatment or cause abnormal heart rhythm
  • Serious infections—these can happen during and after treatment and can be fatal. During clinical trials, 2% of people taking Rituxan developed serious infections
  • Heart problems—Rituxan may cause chest pain and irregular heartbeat. Your doctor or healthcare team may provide treatment or decide to stop treating with Rituxan if you experience these symptoms
  • Kidney problems—especially if you are taking it for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Your doctor should do blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working
  • Stomach and serious bowel problems that can sometimes be fatal—tell your doctor right away if you have any stomach area pain during treatment with Rituxan
  • Changes in blood cell counts—during treatment with Rituxan, your doctor or healthcare team should do regular blood tests to monitor your blood cell counts.

Sept. 24, 2015

No treatment. The pathology is not done, yet.

September 28, 2015

Finally! I start treatment day after tomorrow. I’m trying to getting psyched up because I know nothing. For example, will I get the treatment Dr. Esler wanted for me? Is the cancer the kind he suspected? I see him right before the treatment. My shoulder and part of my neck is still numb from my surgery. It is very annoying and I wish the feeling back would come back quickly. They said it could take two years, and I might not get it all back. There are lots of unknowns. I have not experienced anger towards cancer, yet. Right now, it does not feel as if anything has really changed except for a zillion bills and too much work missed.

I have so many friends praying for me and loving me. Work friends always let me know they are thinking of me. They’ve been emailing from other schools as well. All my personal friends text me all the time, or call. It’s terrific to have the support.

Cancer #4: Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

August 27, 2015

I’ve waited all week for today. Today is it, and I don’t really want to go because I am afraid.

Ken and I walk in together holding hands. We sit silently in the room and wait.

I wonder what it feels like to tell someone they have cancer. How do you do it? I look at Ken and quickly look away. I know he is scared, too.

The doctor walks in wearing a weary face. He shot down my my last hope with the words: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

I wondered what it would feel like to really KNOW.

Now I’m seeking my thoughts to define my feelings.  Fear? Some. Confusion? Definitely. A bit of anger, but not a lot. I don’t even hear the doctor speaking. We have questions, but I’m not hearing the answers. I fight back the tears. I know if I start, it will be a flood.

I agreed to this. I told God to let my Maddy live, and to take me. I gave him my life one year ago today.

We leave the office and head home to wait for the children. They agreed to meet at the house to hear the results. How do I tell them? Ten years ago, I had to tell them their father had died. It nearly destroyed them. How will they get through this?

I’m NOT dead though! I have a chance. I’m going to fight. That’s how I tell them. We fight. We all fight together. They will fight with me.

Later in the evening:

We’ve told them all. It was deathly quiet for a bit. There were lots of questions for which I had no answers. They acted brave, but I know they are terrified. They are strong and they will fight…for me. My friends know now as well. It’s so surreal. Oncologist tomorrow to make decisions.

Aug 28, 2015

Dr. Esler is amazingly friendly and calm. He says I need more tests including a surgical biopsy. I DO have cancer, and if it is a certain kind of Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I won’t need radiation. The surgical biopsy will give him all the information he needs to decide exactly what treatment to give me. He says there is an immunotherapy drug I can take for two years. It is a newer therapy that uses antibodies to attack the cancer attached to white blood cells and force them to die. He says non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is treatable and I’ll live for a long time, but it is not curable. I was so encouraged that I went back to work and joyfully finished my day. Tomorrow…RANGERS game with Tina!!!!

Aug 29-30, 2015

My daughter bought RANGERS game tickets and a hotel room for my birthday (It was July 25). I guess God knew I needed this distraction. What a wonderful trip. Tina is already helping me fight. I have to fight everyday just to stay positive. I will remain joyful and positive. I will!

Aug 31, 2015

PET scan today. Keeping a fake positive attitude for myself. FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT is what I’ve always told my kids. I’m scared the doctors will find this mess everywhere in my body! I’m always tired and exhausted. I fell asleep during the procedure. I just wonder how long until I will know. The lady at the desk said that Dr. Esler would call when he has results. I hate waiting.  I went home and cried while holding my cat. How ridiculous is that to cry to a cat?

My daughter told me to apply for Family Medical Leave Act right now. It will keep my job safe. When I called about it, Mrs. Sheppard invited me to come to main office of AISD. I filled out FMLA paperwork. I can miss up to 60 days without fear of losing my job or my insurance. It does not matter if the days are consecutive. It is retroactive back to the time they began examining my lump. Such great news, but I’m really depressed.

Sept 2, 2015

I’m so worried about my job. Teachers in my district must take a full day or half day off for sick leave. The a.m. half starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at noon. The p.m. half starts at noon and ends at 3:45 p.m. If I had a Dr. appointment at 8:00 a.m. and it was completed at 9:00 a.m., I would get docked a half day even though I could return to work by 9:30 a.m. There are plenty of assistants who can fill in for a teacher at my school. Mrs. Sheppard, at the administration building told me that in cases like mine, most principals and coworkers help catastrophically ill teachers by covering classes, so the sick teacher could bank hours. For example, if I miss two hours one day and two hours another day, I would only use a half day of sick leave. I sent the following email to my principal when the oncologist called for me to come to his office ASAP:

“I have to be at the doctor at 1:30 to get the PET scan results. Is it okay if I leave at 1:10 and return ASAP…hopefully by 2:15? Sheryl [the other music teacher] will have kindergarten by herself, but she says she is ok with it. If you are not okay with that, I’ll have to use a half day and put in for a sub. (You know I won’t get one, and Sheryl will be alone with kindergarten anyway.) Previously I used three half days for appointments. I was docked for hours, but I was only gone two hours each time. I came back to work; whereas, I could have gone home. I am hoping to use those six hours for future appointments.”

My principal did consent to my request, but I did not feel warm and fuzzy about her response. She was reluctant, and demonstrated absolutely no compassion. No well wishes were sent my way.

Doctor Esler showed Ken and me the PET results. It is stage 3 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma because it is above and below the diaphragm, on both sides of my chest, and in my spleen. Actually, he said it is throughout my body and in my bone marrow. Treatment will be the same unless the surgeon pulls out a different kind of cancer in the surgical biopsy.

Sept 7, 2015

I cried today for a couple of minutes. Then Ken and I held each other and both of us cried for a few. We are both scared, but we have each other–for now.

Cancer #3: “I’m so sorry…”

August 5, 2015

The sonogram showed that there are 2 lymph nodes affected and I go in for a CT scan with IV contrast tomorrow. I’m scared but feeling positive. I’m so tired.  I have been tired since the beginning of last year. I sweat profusely, too.  Those are both symptoms.  I can’t believe it. I want to tell my kids, but it’s not fair to do it until I know more. I do not like the waiting.

August 6, 2015

I went to my CT scan at 10 and discovered I wasn’t supposed to be there until 2. The mix-up got me a little down, but I called my friend, Shelley, and she helped me regroup. She did tell me that everything I read was true, and this is not good. I just feel in my gut that this is really cancer. Hoping I’m wrong, though.

My greatest fear is that my kids will not be able to deal with this. They have worked so hard to overcome great and terrible things in their lives. I don’t want to burden them with one more shitty event to get through. The last and greatest person on my mind is Ken. It’s not fair to either of us to have found love and see it short lived. I want to be with him for years and years. I want to be 85 and him be 100. His love has lifted me. I thought love was not out there for me until him. He gives and gives without you even knowing he’s doing it. I have been such a burden to him already with my family issues and my health going up and my health going up and down like a roller coaster. Yet he is always beside me. I just hope I find out something soon.

Aug 11, 2015

Denise, my Primary Care Physician’s nurse, called and told me that the lump was not in the lymph nodes according to the CT scan. What a relief! My doctor wants to wait and watch it for a while. If it changes or anything, they might biopsy.

Aug 13. 2015

I began telling my friends the good news. I had shared what is going on with about five people. They each needed to know I’m okay. I received surprising reactions. Three of them, all nurses, said, “Get a second opinion!”. The others said that this didn’t make sense. All of a sudden, I’m freaking out! More reading on Google Scholar proved that I needed to do something.  Ken and I talked and he agreed. We made a plan to call the doctor and ask a lot more questions. I called Denise and left a message for her to call me back.

Aug 14, 2015

Denise called me today, and I asked what it means to watch this lump. Will I make appointments to come in every few weeks? How will I know if it gets bigger? It feels bigger already. I told her that it doesn’t make sense for the sonogram to show lymphadenopathy and the CT scan to show nothing. What should I do? She assured me that I was welcome anytime to come in, but the report clearly states no lymphadenopathy.

No bueno. I read that sonograms are extremely valuable in cancer detection. This is ridiculously wrong. I just know I need…. something.  I asked her who I could go to for a second opinion.  She said she would get the doctor to call me.

Aug 17, 2015

I called Denise again. She returned my call. We talk. She is sweet, but uninformative AGAIN. She invited me to call every day if I need anything. Calling her is not helping me! What should I do?

Aug. 18, 2015

On the way home from work today, I became proactive! I called the imaging center and asked if I could get my results. They said that would be fine since the doctor had already talked to me about them. I picked up the actual CT report from the imaging center, and sat in my car, alone, and opened it.

Oh My God! It is terrible. My hands are shaking. My heart is pounding. It appears that I have cancer!

I called the doctor, and made an appointment for Thursday at 2:45. The office was closed already, but the scheduler was still there. A week from today is the earliest they could get me in. I also asked for Denise to call me tomorrow. I am so upset. The report states that there are lymph nodes all over the place that are swollen. I’m seriously freaking out over this. I can’t sleep, and I’m angry. The only thing that makes sense is that my doctor must not have received all the pages of the report. It shows there were actually two separate CT scans. The chest CT WAS fine, but the neck one is messed up! There is even the possibility of a lymph node on my right side involved!

Aug 19, 2015

I am at work, and Dr. Norris’s nurse calls at 8:59 am. It is the last day of staff development, and I am on my home campus. Tomorrow and Friday, we get time to prepare our rooms and lessons for the new year. Will this be my last new year, I wonder?

I told the nurse I had picked up the report. I asked her to get her copy of it. I asked her how many pages hers has. The I explained that the report I am holding is three pages long. I read the results of the pages I held. She choked as she said that she only had 1 page. “Wanda, let me talk to Dr. Norris, and I’ll call you back. I promise I will not be long.”

Twenty minutes later, my phone rang while my principal introduced the new staff members. Denise said that Dr. Norris is leaving town at ten a.m. She promised to get the other two pages and put it in front of his face before he leaves.

At 10:07 she called again. She asked if I could come right away. She said he cancelled his trip for me. Out in the hall, my face is colorless, and my body trembled. It was my third incoming phone call that morning while at work. My principal walks toward me, does not notice my demeanor, and pauses to ask me some ridiculous question about a coworker who is upset with her. I said, “I’m leaving for an emergency doctor appointment.” I walk away without her asking any questions. It appears to me that she does not care about me. Maybe I am emotional and misjudged her affect.  

I pick up Ken at the house, and we wait in a room for Dr. Norris. He enters the room, looks at us, and says while still standing, “I am so sorry. This does not look good.” Both our eyes flood with tears as we talk with him.

I am signed up for a biopsy on Monday, and they did a Epstein Barr (mono) test today to rule that out. My CBC blood work is good, and that is a plus for me. I am really scared now, but at least we will know something definitive soon. Lump IS a bit bigger. A biopsy is scheduled for Monday, and then I will wait until Thursday for results. The waiting is a killer. Irony?

August 23, 2015

It’s Sunday, and I feel horrible. I cannot have any meds today because of the biopsy tomorrow. My body hurts, and I need my ibuprofen. I stayed in bed until 9:20, then I went back to bed about 12:30 and slept until 3:00. I’m so tired and I don’t want to think. I’m getting so depressed.

We brought the kids to the house this evening to tell them what is going on. They are terrified, but at least they will only wait four days. I have been waiting a month! They know that we will meet together Thursday evening and we will tell them if it really is cancer, or if it is not.

August 24, 2015

This is the first day of school for students. I took a half day off, so I wasn’t required to go to school, but I picked up my granddaughter, Peyton, and took her to school. She attends kindergarten at the school where I work. I did my 7:30 a.m. morning duty, and then helped some little Eaglets find their classroom. I left for the hospital at 8:30. Ken and I arrived at 9:15 and got into the room by 9:50. They had me lie on my side with a towel under my neck to make the biggest lump pop up. It was a bit uncomfortable, but it wasn’t horrible. They found the lump on sonogram and measured it at 3 centimeters. I asked why it was bigger and they said probably a difference in machine. (yeah, right. I’m not that stupid. These machines must be precise.) The doctor came in and began. I was facing the sonogram, so I watched the whole thing. He gave a numbing shot (tiny sting). Then he pinched my flesh (ouch!) and I felt a LOT of pressure. I guess the guide needle had to go through some tough tissue. I could see it on the monitor go into the lymph node. (No pain or anything now) He stuck a little needle inside the guide and I heard a snap. This was done six times, but they said one sample was not good. I could see it each time and hear them talking. I heard something about that there was no fatty hilum. When I asked what a hilum was, they said it was all sonogram talk. I let it go. The two lymph nodes were very round and big. The technicians also looked at the CT scan of the right side with the questionable lump there, and the doctor said, “Oh yeah. That’s a huge lymph node.”

I went back to work an hour early and finished my day wondering what the results would be. Now I wait until Thursday at 2:45 to hear the results. Time to tell the kids that something is going on so they won’t be hit out of the blue with cancer news.

August 26, 2015

Tomorrow is the day of results. I feel more and more reticent to go and hear it. I’ve been reading some more.

http://www.medultrason.ro/assets/Magazines/Medultrason-2012-vol14-no4/06Dudea.pdf

My node meets at least 8 of 12 categories for malignancy. I just need to get prepared for tomorrow. I just cannot imagine hearing the words; I do not want to deal with this, but I have to. I mean, who wants cancer? Being a realist I understand that 1 out of 3 people and 4 out of 5 families get cancer. I sure as hell cannot say, “Why me?”

I mean, “Why not me?” A year ago, I asked God to take me and let my granddaughter, Madyson live. I don’t go back on my word. If I have cancer, and I die, that is the agreement I made for Mady. She will live, and that is enough.

I cannot stop thinking about the results tomorrow. twenty-four more hours before we hear the results.

Cancer #2: Is It, or Is It Not

July 30, 2015
I told Dr. Hanna I had been reading Google Scholar about neck lumps. From what I read, I have a 77% chance of not having a problem. That is good news. That’s what I’m talking about! :^)

July 31, 2015
Sonogram this morning. I’ll get the results on Monday. I’m on Google again. Found this:

“Supraclavicular lymphadenopathy has the highest risk of malignancy, estimated as 90 percent in patients older than 40 years and 25 percent in those younger than age 40.4” http://www.aafp.org/afp/1998/1015/p1313.html

Copyright © 1998 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

I’m starting to feel a sense of foreboding. I may have cancer. The information I’m reading about the spot where my lump is located suggests malignancy. I keep thinking back to last August when I negotiated with God.
Madyson, my granddaughter, was deathly sick. Clearly, I said to God, “God, she is just a baby. I want her to live and experience life. Take me for her. Let her live. If you just need a life, take me. I have already lived. I am willing to go right now, today! I’ve lived and loved. She is just a tiny baby. Let her live! I’m not ready to go, nor do I want to, but I am willing to give my life for hers.”

Some people may disagree with bartering with God, but I do not deny it, nor will I abjure my words. Life or death is not in my hands because it never was. My heart was broken last year when our family feared losing Madyson. I do not believe that God trades one soul for another, but I want every reader to know that I positively 100% meant that if God would allow me, I would die in her place. Now, the true test of my word has come. “God, if it is my time to die, I give my life to you. I want to live, but I will give my life if you will it.”
I must write down my thoughts as I go through these emotions. If it is cancer, I want to remember these feelings, and I want to share them with my family in the future.

I love Ken so deeply. I hope he really understands how my joyful life is because of him. He is my light, my lifeline, and my one true love. He understands me. His compassion for others is beautiful. When he looks at me with that quirky little smile, I hear the words, “I love you.” For the first time in my life, I feel wonderful, and I want to hang on to it for as long as I have. No one knows if they have months, years, or decades. I choose this day to live with grace, and to die with honor.
August 3, 2015
12:45 p.m.–Just waiting for the doctor to call me back with the results. I hope to get an idea about what happens next. Not really on pins and needles; in fact, I’m confident that it will work out. I went to school [work] and got my room ready. I am a music teacher in an elementary school. There are two of us in my elementary. I told Sheryl, the other music teacher, about my lump; though, I did not plan to tell anyone. She was sweet and supportive, as usual.
The doctor never called. I called them, but they did not have the results yet. Another day of anxiety, and disappointment. Waiting sucks.
7:00 p.m. –I told my son, Marcus, tonight. Now he is scared and stressed out about me and his future. However, he left with hugs. I love him so much. It was a selfish thing to do, but I want to talk about this. Still, I do not wish to share with too many people because there is a possibility that it is nothing.

Cancer #1: I Discovered the Lump

I started this little journal the day I found the lump. I figured from the beginning, it was bad and I wanted to remember it all. I know that regardless of the outcome, I WILL FIGHT, AND I WILL WIN! How do I know? Because live or die, I will be in charge of my attitude, and that is what winning is all about!

Wanda Laplount., JUly 27, 2015

July 27, 2015
I was lying in Ken’s lap watching TV.  Well, he was watching while I was sleeping.  He did the usual shake of my shoulder and said, “Let’s go to bed.”

That’s when I found it…the lump.  My right hand slid across my neck/shoulder as I sat up and this walnut sized, hard lump greeted my fingers.

My first reaction> WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

July 28, 2015
The next morning, I carefully showed Ken the lump and he said, “You better get that checked out!”

I called the family doctor to ask if I should come in or wait until the next week when I would see my rheumatologist.  I thought maybe I’d just get him to look at it. My family doc said I should come in ASAP.  She made an appointment for me the next day.  That was quite disarming.  Maybe this is more serious than I suspected.

July 29, 2015
Dr. Hanna was obviously concerned, but she plainly stated that she didn’t want to scare me.  I told her I wasn’t going to freak out.  ”This is what it is, but I need to know.  I need the facts, the truth.  I can deal with this even if it is bad.”

She told me that this is not a good place to have a mass.  It is at the base of my neck above my collarbone.  I told her I had already read everything on Google Scholar about a subclavicular, painless lump. I already knew it wasn’t good.

A sonogram was immediately scheduled!

Should You Get the Covid-19 Vaccination?

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I wrestled with this question. The vaccines came about so quickly. My health issues were already quite complicated. My husband was high risk for hospitalization and death if he were infected with Covid-19. What should I do? What should he do? Was the vaccine safe? Would it make us sick?

We heard in late December that the vaccines would start with healthcare workers, and trickle down to the general public in waves with those most likely to die from infection near the front of the line. Initially it was promoted to give the vaccine to essential workers after healthcare personnel. We patiently waited for news as we contemplated what to do.

Meanwhile, a stir of fear and suspicion began to spread. Some folks claimed that since the vaccine was not developed in the United States that it wasn’t tested enough. Other people feared it because it wasn’t fully FDA approved. There were also the conspiracy theorists that claimed the whole thing was a lie and the government was actually planning to put miniature chips in the arms of Americans.

My husband decided quickly. One day our friend texted and told me that the vaccine would be offered the next day at a nearby clinic for age 65 and up. He immediately decided that he was doing it! I drove him to the place, dropped him off, and headed for a grocery pickup at our local supermarket while he was processed. His arm was sore for two or three days, and he felt fatigued. The shot wasn’t too big of a deal, in fact, it was more like a flu shot reaction. It turned out that someone had spread a rumor, and that clinic only meant to give the shot to more health care workers, but when almost five hundred seniors showed up, they graciously gave them the shot anyway.

Somehow, I felt as if my husband was safer, now; although, the research assured us that he was not! We continued to mostly remain at home, and if we did venture out for a doctor visit, grocery pickup, or a take out meal, we wore masks and used sanitizer as needed.

Only a month later, our wonderful city began offering the shot for 18-64 year-olds with risk factors. I waited a couple of days after the clinic opened and then decided to go for it. I have lymphoma cancer, so my risk was elevated. I arrived thirty minutes before they opened the doors, and the long line moved quickly. I was in and out in two hours. The first day I had no symptoms, but my arm was sore by nightfall. The next day was not so great. Every joint in my body ached. Even the toes and fingers. I wanted to sleep all day, and my arm was so sore I could not move it. I had received the shot in the arm that had surgery several months before. The third day was better, and by the fourth day, I felt almost normal.

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