Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa.

17 Jul

They say Iowa is the land of flowing mullets, sub-par mid-2014 GOP presidential sightings and above-knee-high-by-the-Fourth-of-July corn, right? Then wouldn’t you want to come back here, too?

Things have changed already since my last post. My first chemotherapy dose went well until it drained my bone marrow a week later, sending me to an all-night ER visit at Mayo last week and committing me to the hospital for a few days. My, it’s fun to be a low-blood-count cancer patient with a fever. There are all sorts of pleasant tests to try to figure out its origin. Spinal tap, anyone? I’m fine now.

After two weeks of this, I couldn’t avoid the allure of Iowa and the merriment of my newbie husband any longer. Delays that assuredly happen when – weird – your body decides it doesn’t like being injected with poison, cause some heartache on the homefront. With New Ulm, Rochester and Iowa City making a disheartening 11-hour driving triangle and appointments difficult to schedule at the last minute due to last-minute changes, I decided to move my daily care to the University of Iowa, a two-mile jaunt from our Iowa City home. I received my second dose of chemo yesterday a week later than planned, a smaller dose than the first time and only the one drug. Hopefully I’ll be well enough to get both drugs next week. As you can tell, the Day 1, Day 8, Day 15 schedule is already moot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m having separation anxieties from Mayo, but Dr. Robinson and Dr. Arndt are working extremely closely with my new doctor, Dr. Mohammed Milhem, who heads up clinical services at the cancer center and directs the sarcoma program here. They’re totally buddy-buddy and I can already feel it in what has been very collaborative care. Mayo will continue to be at the helm of my big-ticket treatment decisions. 

After painting Edith's toes at the cabin

After painting Edith’s toes at the cabin

Meanwhile, I have good days and bad days. Some days my headaches leave me stale on the sofa with my eyes closed. Some days, like today, I feel pretty darn good. Most days I try to push through whatever headache I have, even if for an hour or two, to make the day stand out from the day before. Since my first chemo, I was able to spend time at the Vancura’s cabin “Up North” in Minnesota where the meat raffles are hostile to outsiders and the bait shops are busier than Dairy Queen. I was able to kayak through the lily pads on the lake with Jimmy, spend time being “Cool Aunt Jenna” to my new niece Edith, go knickknack shopping with my mom and Mary, and just enjoy time playing inappropriate board games and listening to other such conversations with family. I also made it three innings at a St. Paul Saints game with my dad, got my hair done while I’ve still got it before it starts sinking in fistfuls, and celebrated my godmother’s 60th birthday with a table full of Domeier women.

I think some people might call this trying to “live every day to its fullest,” but please don’t put that pressure on me. It’s all about balance. Some days my “fullest” is feeling well enough to go to the grocery store, and I have to be okay with that. For a girl that historically crams every bit of her day with bustle, balance can feel boring. But I have to go with it.

 

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7 Responses to “Is This Heaven? No, It’s Iowa.”

  1. Kate Lloyd July 17, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    You’re my inspiration. Each and every day. Love you! Xo

    • mmkoppel July 17, 2014 at 11:06 am #

      Love you, Jenna, and the pictures you paint with words. Baruch Hashem –

  2. Wendy Sontag July 17, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    Perfectly written, Jenna. You describe so fully what’s happening and I appreciate your willingness and ability to share.
    Wendy Sontag

  3. Rose Forst July 17, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Hey Jenna,

    You are amazing. Thank you for keeping us updated. I am glad to have you in the “cool aunt” club with me. I won’t tell mine that you are in or they will ask for a trade! We continue to pray daily for you and now your new doctors. I am sure the MAYO godfathers will all be watching. As always, thinking of you often,

    Rose Forst

  4. Carol Schroeder from New Ulm. July 17, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    God bless you and your entire family, and your medical team. I continue to hope and pray for your continued therapy to make you feel better and give you strength.

  5. Carolyn E Palmer July 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Jenna, you are a inspiration to me! Everyone have something wrong with them whether it’s small or large and each one of us have to take every day as a gift. You are not alone and I love you for your courage. Ms. Carolyn

  6. Norma Dempsey July 21, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    Thank you for the update. We worry about you and Jimmy and of course hope that you will find more good times than bad. You are to be congratulated on your good attitude. All we wish for you is the best. Take care.

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