Tuesday, September 21, 2021

My covid Journey: ICU was a Piece of Cake Compared to Now


 
Wow! This covid journey is hard. While the rest of the world resumes normal life, I stay away from humans (except for Dan and an occasional hug from my grandkids). Why? I've been vaccinated three times, survived cancer, survived severe covid, yet here I sit. Me and many others with blood cancer.

September is blood cancer awareness month. So, I am making my readers aware of the complications of blood cancer, especially those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (cll), and our struggle to avoid covid.

 The struggle is real because:

1. Cll patients are at the highest of high risk to be infected with covid. If covid is in the air (and it is) we'll catch it. I did, last October. Today, I still need an oxygen tube when I sleep. Forty percent of my lungs are filled with scar tissue. The jury is still out about covid damage to other organs. No, covid is not just like the flu!

2. Cll patients are at the highest of high risk to suffer severe covid, hospitalization, ICU, and death. I didn't avoid the first three, but God chose life for me. Now, I wait for wisdom from Him how to live each day in victory and praise to Him. 

3. The vaccine often does not produce antibodies in cll patients. After my first vaccine, I had zero antibodies. My second vaccine reaped 53. No one seems to know what a normal antibody reading is, but I heard as many as 40,000. Fifty-three left me happy, but not thrilled and not safe. We are waiting for the results of my third vaccine and praying it boosts my antibodies.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you to my God Who leads me along the paths of still waters on bike rides, hikes, and golf outings with my dear husband. Dan makes every day a fun adventure as we explore the big outdoors and refrain from crowds. Oh, but I do miss my church. 

My antibodies aren't running over, but my cup runneth over. I am so thankful for the love I know from my Lord, my husband, my children and grandchildren, and many friends. You have been the best. 


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, 
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

I pray you have many splashes of serenity in your day,

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

My covid Journey: Staring at Death and Seeing Jesus

Death by covid is agonizing for family members who can not hold their loved one in a covid ward. As I relate my experiences, I pray these words bring comfort to you and hope that your loved one was so overjoyed by the presence of Christ, they felt no pain. Only joy.

 
Death seemed imminent. 
Everyone knew it. 
Family said their tear-filled good-byes via facebook. 
Nurses smiled, encouraged, but
 I sensed the certain sadness in their eyes. 
Another covid patient would bite the dust, and 
become a pandemic statistic. 

But death, where is your sting?
I felt no sting. 
Only joy!

 One envisions their last days filled with 
 sorrow,
 fear,
  terror, 
the sting, 
But these feelings were foreign to me on that last day.

 Earthly thoughts drifted away.
 The glories of Heaven consumed my mind.
 Excitement built.
 Today will be the most wonderful day of my life. 
Today I meet Jesus! 

There was no white flash or tunnel. 
Only Jesus Himself and Jesus alone. 
How exciting!
I was ecstatic!
 Wow! 
Today is the day.
 Today I meet Jesus. 
The One I love most. 
The Love of my eternal life.

I haven't been this excited since my wedding day.
Only more so!
  
Today is the day I finally see Jesus. 

I thought of my family, and there was peace. 
Sure, they would grieve. 
Miss me.
 But Jesus would not take me unless He would care for them. 
They would laugh again. 
Remember me around campfires and dinner tables.
 Create memories without me. 
 
I'll make family history as the grandma who died in a pandemic.
Pretty cool!
Funny, the things you think about when death's door is the next door. 

But Jesus.
 He shut Heaven's door until another day. 
My healing was decisive. 
Doctors were talking 
ventilators,
 lung transplant.
In my heart I knew doctors were deciding
 whether to keep trying to keep me alive or give up.

In my heart I knew my death date was God's plan, and
not a medical decision.
 
"Take her off the oxygen." 
The nurse startled, repeated the order. 
"Let's see how she does," 
the doctor hoped for one last chance at life.

 I breathed. 
I breathed again.
 I breathed again and again and again.
 I keep on breathing nine months later. 

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave,  where is thy victory?" 
1 Corinthians 15:55

"I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord." 
Psalm 118:17

"and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die."
John 11:26 

 
Hallelujah!!!



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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

My covid Journey — It's a Long, Long Road


 The past weeks of covid Recovery have been hard. 
Shame on me for not coming to you for prayer.
 I was hiding behind the lilac bush
 (which I can not smell, btw), 
too disappointed, 
too sad, 
too tired 
to share the latest test results. 

Forgive me.
 I will hide no more. 
Your prayers lift me up, 
fill me, 
encourage me, and
keep satan from winning the war for my health 
(spiritual and physical). 

Test Result No. 1:
I have no antibodies to protect me from contracting covid again.

A few weeks ago I was so excited I couldn't sleep.
 Free, at last!
 Two weeks after my second vaccine shot, 
 I was released into my wonderful world of 
family, 
friends, 
church, 
speaking events! 
Woo Hoo!!!

Before I could get out the door, 
the e-mail came.
 Research found that people with cll
 (chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which is cancer of the immune system)
 may not be protected by any of the vaccines. 
What? 
I cried. 
I stayed home.

My doctor scheduled a blood test to determine if I did indeed have antibodies.
 Nope! 
Negative!
 Nada!
 Nil! 
Not a one!!!
 No antibodies found after having severe covid, 
receiving convalescent, 
and the vaccine. 

Crushed. 
My heart couldn't hold the tears spilling over my cheeks. 
My dear doctor assured me this test was not conclusive.
 But there is no sure test at this time for cll patients. 

So, I wait.
Travelling down a long, long road.
Each day I walk, read, pray, 
and breathe.

Thankful that 
the God of Hope does indeed fill me with 
all joy and peace as 
I trust in Him.
(Romans 15:13)

Good news!
Researchers are hopeful a booster shot will be available soon for people with immune deficiencies.
 
Please note: The lack of vaccine efficacy applies only to cll patients and those with immune deficiencies. Please contact your doctor regarding your own vaccine effectiveness. 



Test Result No. 2:
I still need supplemental oxygen.

Forty percent of my lungs are damaged from covid.
 Miraculous, but 
 I have not needed supplemental oxygen during the day for many months.
You are all good prayers!!!
We have a God Who heals and He heals me!

I've walked from London to Paris (according to my step tracker),
I mow an acre of grass every week.
Two hour bike rides are the norm.
Life is great!
I abound with energy and enthusiasm.

But, while sleeping 
my oxygen level falls to 76
(normal O2 is 88 while sleeping, 94 while awake).
 Bummer. 
In the hospital I named my oxygen tube "Husband." 
The oxygen tube was warm and cozy and had to stay next to me
 — just like a husband. 

Well, phooey!
My real husband warms me much better, so
please pray I can breathe at night and
rid our marriage bed and my lungs of this incumbrance.

Always thanking God for your prayers for me.
God sent forth an army to restore life.
Thank you.
Thanking God that He breathed into my nostrils the breath of life!
Hallelujah!
I will forever praise Him!

"God formed man of dust from the ground, and
breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life"
(Genesis 2:7)




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Saturday, May 8, 2021

When a Mother's Nest is Empty — A Page From My Journal, March 29, 2008




My three little birdies the day my nest was empty.

When the last child leaves, there is definitely an adjustment. The house is quiet, activity stands still,  practical jokes cease (although I don't miss finding dog food in the Flutie Flakes), and three fewer voices break out in laughter making mom laugh too, filling my heart with joy. I loved being the mother to these three sweet and funny clowns. Thank You God for the laughter and fun and for entrusting me with such precious gifts.

Empty nest hurts. 
There is grief and loss. 

The pain of empty nest is much more than the fact that I miss my children. It is the knowledge that I  am releasing my little ones, now grown big, into a world that is harsh. Life is cruel. My babies, my children, my teens I protected so well, are so soon thrown into the hard realities of adulthood. Mom's and Dad's protection will no longer be enough.

When we see — helplessly watch — our grown children go through difficulties because they make the same mistakes we made or because they are standing strong and living a righteous life in an  unrighteous world —  a mother's heart tears apart as she feels the fiercest enemy is delivering fatal blows.

It is then and it is now,
 we must give them back to God — 
again and again. 

Because moms are human, we all fail. We neglect to give them enough responsibility. There wasn't enough time to teach all about finances and marriage and raising children, and how to survive in a world whose goal seems to be their destruction. The heaviness of letting go is too much to carry. The Good News is we don't have to carry that burden because . . . 

We have a God whose nest is never empty. 
He doesn't let them go. 
 Jesus never fails.
 He is the only perfect parent.
 
He carries and cares for our children and 
their children, and
their children.
He watches over them,
protects them,
loves them,
 draws them to Himself
always,
forever. 

Come to Jesus — 
Give our children to Jesus. 
He is our only source of sweet rest,
peace, and
joy.

"Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened, and
I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because 
He cares for you."
1 Peter 5:7

"Praise be to the Lord,
to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens."
Psalm 68:19

Have a blessed Mother's Day!

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Friday, April 16, 2021

My covid/cancer Journey — "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" ~ Yogi Berra


Like a baseball punch in the gut, 
the pain hit me as I read Sunday morning's e-mail, 

"Blood Cancer Patients are at High Risk of COVID-19 Vaccine Failure."

 For the first time in over thirteen months,
  I was going to church.
The excitement overtook me. 
I thought I would cry with joy. 

How I miss my friends, singing together, being in God's House, 
all of the preciousness of being a member of the family of God. 

A quick check of my e-mail brought the headline news.
 Although vaccinated and my four doctors saying
  I was safe to re-enter society, 
that Sunday's research revealed
the vaccine fails on the majority of blood cancer patients.

 For one of the few times on this journey,
 I cried. 
My tears of joy at returning to church 
turned to tears of sorrow.

A call to my doctor resulted in an appointment for an antibody test. 
In two weeks, I'll learn if I have immunity from covid-19 or not.  

The struggle is real. 
Pride had set in. 
I've been so strong. 
"You have the best attitude!" is repeated by many. 
Aren't I amazing! 
One person said, 
"You've been raised from the dead, twice!" 
Once with cancer and again with severe covid-19. 

This day I didn't feel strong, amazing, or having the best attitude. 
Instead of being raised from the dead,
I felt buried again.

What does a person do when 
filled with hope and 
wiped of hope simultaneously?
 I turned to God,
 prayed, 
pleaded,
 asked to understand why I was hit with another hurtle. 

God was silent.
Hmmm.
 Was He silent, or 
did I just not hear Him? 

Weakness of spirit became 
strength of spirit as 
 I once again surrendered my life, 
or my death, 
into the will of God. 

Then He arrived.
(Actually, He never left. I know that and you do too.) 

Jesus brought the disciples to my mind.
 How exciting to live life with Jesus, 
to eye-witness the miracles, 
to know His love day in and day out and 
have no doubts that Jesus is 
the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
 He can and will do anything that pleases Him.

What shock to see all their dreams shattered
 — like a punch in the stomach — 
watching Him crucified, dead, and buried. 
No more miracles.
No more hope.
Love is dead. 

But Hallelujah!
 Jesus rose from the dead. 
He's alive!!! 
Tears of sorrow turn to tears of joy! 

Because friends, 
"It ain't over 'til it's over."

God reminded me of Jesus's words to Simon Peter after the resurrection:

 " . . . do you truly love me . . . .
 do you truly love me? . . . .
 do you love me? . . . . 
Do you love me? . . . . 
Follow me!" 
(Matthew 21:15-19)

Four times He asked Peter. 
And He now asks me and you
(please insert your name):

Elaine, do you truly love me? 
Elaine, do you truly love me? 
Elaine, do you love me? 
Elaine, do you love me?
 Elaine, follow me?

Yes, Lord. 
Yes, Lord. 
Yes, Lord. 
Yes, Lord. 
I will follow You and
 I trust You because 
no one knows it better than You, Lord, that

 "it ain't over 'til it's over." 
Hallelujah!

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

My covid Journey — The Best Year of My Life

What a mixed-bag of emotions!

"You won't get covid again. 
If you do, it won't be severe. 
You are free! 
Go to church, 
go to the store, 
restaurants,
 travel, 
go anywhere and everywhere!"

My heart skipped higher than my feet sailing out of Roswell Cancer Center yesterday.

After 13 months of isolation,
 I was free!

We celebrated with in-restaurant dining.
Good, but not as good as Dan's cooking.

My glee!

Giddy at the prospects of where I would go first:

Family
Friends
Church
Mani/pedi
Walmart
 
The list was endless. 
So much missed in 13 months.

My mind became cluttered quickly.

Slow down, Elaine, 
you still have 40 percent of your lungs damaged. 
Ease into, 
don't jump into,
 life as you once lived.

This morning, I woke to our slow-paced, covid-pandemic lifestyle.
Coffee and breakfast together.
Talking, waking up, talking some more,
Reading our devotional book, our Bibles and praying together.
Slow, no schedule, relaxed.

Thankful, I realized this year was a gift to us.

Together. 
This is the year life stopped and we found each other.
Without the pandemic, I may never have noticed Dan's love in action.

We cooked, 
 talked, 
played games, 
 laughed,
healed, 
 loved.

Like a year-long honeymoon, 
our love deepened, 
our communication understood. 

Soon, I realized this was more than our love story.
God revealed His love story for us.
Sick with covid, 
we had no choice but to 
stop and 
surrender
our lives and 
our dreams to
 our Savior. 

We fell at His feet and realized our utter dependence upon Jesus.

Nothing else mattered.
Not family,
friends,
church,
mani/pedi,
or Walmart

Only Jesus and
Jesus was enough. 

A life surrendered to Jesus is always the best year of one's life.


"And we know that God causes everything to work together 
for the good of those 
who love God and
 are called according to His purpose for them." 
Romans 8:28



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Thursday, April 1, 2021

My covid Journey — Practical Tips to Hurry and Help your covid Recovery.

Diagnosed on October 9, 2020. Hospitalized on October 30. Nearly a month later (one week in ICU), I returned home with 24/7 supplemental oxygen. There began a painful and long journey to health. Six months later I have sixty percent lung capacity and need supplemental oxygen only when I sleep. I am well and active, but lose my breath quickly. Doctors are hopeful in six more months I will have full use of my lungs and need no supplemental oxygen. 

I have not reached the end of my covid journey. My prayer is you will reach the end of yours in a positive light, or perhaps never take a step on the covid path. 

I am not a medical professional. The tips I give were all given to me by my good doctors. There were things I wish I had known before I got covid which could have helped me on my journey. I now share them with you.

1. Meditate. 

Sing! Singing opens up your lungs and soothes your soul. Relieving stress aids recovery, so sing out to God, draw close to Him, and let the Divine Physician do His Work. Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus keeps satan out of your thought life. 

I will sing of the Lord's great love forever;
 with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
 through all generations."
 Psalm 89:1

2. Pray! 

My covid prognosis was grim. The percentage of leukemia patients surviving a covid hospitalization is small. The Lord sent an army of prayers from around the world to intercede on my behalf. Those prayers, God, and medical care saved me from death. Please let people know you need prayer. When sick people hide their disease, no one can pray for them because people who pray just don't know you are ill. I announced all over social media that I needed prayer, and the Lord's Army was released to save me.

"In the days of his flesh, 
Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, 
with loud cries and tears, 
to Him who was able to save Him from death, and 
He was heard because of His reverence."
Hebrews 5:7

3. "Don't get ahead of yourself."

 These wise words came from my husband when I was diagnosed with leukemia. Take this sickness one day at a time. Don't let satan convince you of something that may never happen. Worry will not help you recover. Worry keeps you sick. Prone in bed for weeks on end gives our minds too much time to contemplate the worst. Don't go there. When tempted to think bad thoughts, sing to the Lord instead. And pray, of course!

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, 
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. 
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
Matthew 6:34

4. Purchase an oximeter. 

An oximeter measures the oxygen in our blood. The well-person's oxygen level is 89 to 100 with the average being 94. Below 88, please call your doctor. If you measure 88, but the number quickly returns to the 90's, don't be concerned. As long as you enter the 90's quickly, you are fine. To use an oximeter, place your finger gently inside. Don't press down. The oximeter should be on a stable surface, like a table, to get an accurate reading. Keep checking the oximeter throughout the day as long as you are not well. 

"Behold, 
I will cause breath to enter you 
that you may come to life."
 Ezekiel 37:5

5. Going to ER.

A person is not admitted to the hospital because they have covid. You are admitted because your oxygen level is too low. I suggest you call your doctor first and have your doctor alert the ER that a covid patient is arriving. ER personnel will need to prepare a covid room for you as well as clear the hallways of people.  

I heard from a covid patient in a different state that if your oxygen falls below 90, to not call your doctor, but go straight to the ER. At her hospital they had a separate entrance for covid patients. If you are alone or become too sick to drive, call an ambulance. 

In either case, be aware of covid-19 procedures for the hospital nearest you. 

"Luke the beloved physician greets you . . . . "
Luke 5:31

6. Sleep on your tummy.

Sleeping on your stomach stretches your lungs and allows the oxygen to keep flowing. Take naps and rests throughout your day. I called this my tummy time. Rest is crucial to recovery. If you are unable to sleep on your tummy, sleep on your side.

"Come to me, 
all who labor and are heavy laden,
 and I will give you rest. . . ."
Matthew 11:28

7. Rest and hydration. 

My doctors reiterated over and over. The most important thing to conquer covid is to rest and drink water. This is not the time to be a macho hero. Rest and water. Rest and water. Rest and water.

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . . .
Isaiah 55:1

8. Protein, fruits, veggies. 

Your body is fighting for its life. If ever there was a time to eat healthy, this is it. My doctor said I needed protein. He didn't need to say it, because my body craved protein used to rebuild my lungs. 

"Therefore, Honor God with your body."
1 Corinthians 6:20b

9. Post-covid recovery

Once home from the hospital, we still need to do all of the above, but now we enter a road from sickness to health. 

10. Lung strengthening exercises.

 Strengthen your muscles and lungs with the following exercises  from Johns Hopkins University:
Tackle these exercises gradually. Master phase 1 before trying phase 2. For me, the exercises were painful as they expanded my lungs, which is a good thing. Now, I do them pain free! Woo Hoo! They worked. 

Review these exercises with your physical therapist who is aware of other medical conditions which may prevent these exercises from being helpful to you.

11. Incentive spirometer. 

Ha! You thought you could leave this baby at the hospital. No. Keep breathing in and out of your spirometer. It was your key out of the hospital and will be your key out the door of your home to real life.

12. Walking and bike riding. 

Any leg exercise strengthens lungs. While at home on oxygen, I walked around my dining room for five minutes, checked the oximeter, walked for five minutes more. Keep increasing your walking time and checking your oxygen level. My doctor told me walking and bike riding are best for me. Now, I bike for a couple hours with frequent stops. But, hey, I've come a long way baby! 

Again, please check with your doctor before any exercise.


13. Weaning from oxygen.

 Start removing oxygen while sitting. Check oxygen level every five minutes to make sure it is above 90. Gradually increase time without oxygen, checking the oxygen level frequently. Do not stop oxygen without doctor's permission. Oxygen while you sleep will be the last to be removed. The doctor will do a test to determine your oxygen level while asleep. My 02 was great throughout the day and fell to 72 while I slept. What a shock! Obviously, I still sleep with oxygen and will have another night test in a few months. 

Do not remove yourself from oxygen without guidance from your doctor!

14. Breathe!!! 

Never forget that every breath we breathe comes from our Father. In the hospital I was sent the  beautiful song titled "Every Breath." I listened to it's message of truth and hope every day. Fill your mind with Godly thoughts and trust the One Who gives us the breath of life. 


With my love and prayers, dear covid travellers. What a journey. May we all arrive better people than when we started. God uses pain and suffering to teach us great lessons. Don't miss them.

  

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