Sunday, August 29, 2010

Old age is not for sissies . . .

At least that's what I've been told. I've also heard these older years referred to as the Golden Years. The response to that is whoever named them "golden" hasn't reached these years yet. So, how did I get where I am today?

Just this week I was reflecting on the beginnings of Older Adult Ministry at our home church in Mississippi at the request of some folks working on the fiftieth anniversary of the church. I was reminded of one of the obstacles I had to overcome--age. I was in my forties and felt rather presumptious telling people older than I what they needed. My convictions about ministering to and alongside older adults were, at that point, theory. I had been carefully taught both in the classroom and by being a caregiver for my mother, but I was young myself. Then one day I opened my eyes and the theories had become reality; "they" had become "we." We were on Medicare and folks no longer asked to see ID if we were to qualify for senior citizen discounts. Those maladies that plagued the elderly "others" became all too familiar.

This week Tom has the first of two cataract surgeries, a condition associated more with the older folks. We have to be at the surgery center Tuesday at 6:45 a.m. Who in their right mind gets up that early anymore? The surgery has become so streamlined over the years that the pre-admit process takes more effort than the actual surgery--or so it seems. Tom is looking forward to improved vision.

I am increasingly aware of limitations imposed upon us, not just because of our ages, but also because of our illnesses. How far or how much I have to walk determines much of where I go and what I do. This week I've had problems with sore feet in addition to the persistent fatigue. Both are side effects of chemo. Plans to go to the grocery store have become as involved as planning for a two week vacation. I have begun to use a motorized cart and thus far haven't run over anyone or anything and I've found that most people are really eager to help you reach those items that are either too high or too low on the shelves.

This week our goals are for him to see better and for me to walk better. Those are not only our goals, but our prayer as well.

I have been blessed by so, so many people in Older Adult Ministry. There are people for whom the ministry was planned; there are those with whom I worked--people in local churches, people across the denomination. My life has been enriched by them all. The circumstances of older age might not be golden, but the wisdom gained, the rewards of friendship and family shine brighter than gold.

I am older, but I am definitely not a sissy.

I will claim Isaiah 40:29-31: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Pastor Margaret

Monday, August 23, 2010

If I had a nickel . . .

Last week we were sitting in a doctor's examining room and for the umpteenth time one of us posed the question: how much money would we have if we had a nickel for every hour we've spent waiting in a doctor's office? We would have earned our nickel, and then some, on that day. In fact, that doctor always apologizes for keeping us waiting before he says hello. Friday we went to Corinth and waited some more, though it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The appointment clerk had originally scheduled us for 9 a.m. even with my telling her that we couldn't get there that early and why. I simply asked someone else if it could be changed; she does understand our situation and gladly changed it. If we had arrived by nine the wait would have been over two hours--and I would not have been happy. Today I had a check up with the primary care doctor to have blood tests and discuss my blood pressure. The wait for him was minimal, but this afternoon we visited the eye clinic for Tom to have pre-surgery tests done. They involved a wait! When he finally was seen and his blood pressure checked, it was found to be too low to have his cataract surgery next week. The tech got on the phone, checked with the primary care to see when Tom could be seen and was told we could come straight there. More waiting, but, after all, we weren't on the schedule. When the doctor came in, he laughed when he saw us back and said, "What have you done today beside sit in doctors' offices? You look exhausted." He did give the go ahead for the surgery. Too bad Tom and I can't share blood pressure!

My visit with the oncologist Friday did not change my treatment schedule. He continues to be concerned with my higher blood pressure and wants it down before resuming the Avastin. We are to get a monitor so I can track the pressure daily, let him know and hopefully, start the Avastin again. The good news is that the CA125 has dropped a few tenths of a point, after having increased little by little for the last several months. One doctor is concerned with the stroke possibility; another doesn't like my aenemic state; I want to keep attacking the cancer and live to the fullest in the meanwhile!

Finally the heat has broken some! We are actually promised some days this week down into the eighties and someone said they heard we had a fifties forecast for a night later in the week. Whew! The heat has been stiffling, but I'll have to say that the humidity isn't as bad as what we experienced in Mississippi all the years we lived there.

What I have written seems full of complaints: too much waiting; blood pressure issues for us both; issues with the chemo treatments; heat and humidity, but I don't mean them as complaints. On the way home this afternoon I couldn't help but chuckle thinking about the ups and downs of the day. It wasn't dull! We have wonderful doctors with caring, compassionate staffs. The blood pressure can be monitored and adjusted; the treatments keep me fatigued most of the time, but they also are keeping the cancer at arm's length. We are glad to be alive.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, August 13, 2010

The day after . . .

It is the day after Tom's birthday and we are still celebrating. He has been receiving cards all week--in fact he got one the first of the month--he has been hugged by grandchildren in town, talked to by one far away, and tonight we are going out to eat and go back to Tommy's for ice cream and cake with the grands. I made caramel cake, at his request, but the frosting isn't quite right. Maybe I got in too big a hurry. Anyway, we're up for a celebration!

Yesterday we drove to Blytheville, Arkansas so that I could attend a meeting of the Board of Directors of Westminster Village of the Mid-South. It was my first visit to the facility, though I have been aware of it since it was on the drawing board. There was a Strategic Air Command base located in the cotton fields surrounding Blytheville and it was closed when the government began downsizing the military and our defense systems. Presbyterians representing the local church, the Presbytery and the Synod teamed up with other interested folks, negotiated a lease with Uncle Sam and chartered the property for a retirement community, a school and conference center. Because the property cost was minimal and there were living quarters already present, they have been able to offer nice retirement homes at more affordable prices than some out there. I was invited several months ago to join the Board but had not been able to attend a meeting until yesterday. It was such a pleasure to see the continuing project and to hear an unsolicited testimony from a resident in the cafe. If anyone reading this blog is interested in knowing more, let me hear from you and I'll get information to you.

In order to get to Blytheville from here, there are two options: drive south to Memphis, cross the river, then go north to Blytheville--about 140 miles; drive northwest to Dyersburg, cross the river into Missouri, then go south to Blytheville--about 95 miles. We chose going through Missouri. "The river" of which I speak is the Mississippi, a body of water I have always loved and for which I have deep respect. Many years of my life were spent close to the Mississippi and I crossed the river at least once a week during those years. I never tired of watching it roll by; I loved seeing the tugboats pushing the barges; I was always aware of the dangers of the river, but also how it contributed to economy of the area. After all these years, yesterday I felt excitement rising to the surface as we approached the bridge and as I looked below and saw the Mighty Mississip'.

The other sight that thrills me is descending from higher ground into the Delta. As a young child I lived in the Mississippi Delta and traveled with my father when I could. He represented a wholesale drug company out of Memphis and his territory consisted of the little towns up and down Highway 61--that's Blues' land. Those were happy days for me. For a time I didn't know hills or mountains or rocky plains existed. I thought all land was like the Delta. Yesterday we drove through lots of cotton fields, soy beans and corn and the sight took me back. The machinery we passed is modern--no people chopping and sights of large contraptions that look like insects with giant arms reaching out to irrigate the fields. Times have changed; I've gotten older, but my love for the river and the Delta it has created only grows. God's creation is amazing. We've been privileged to see a lot of it.

Have a good weekend.

Pastor Margaret

Thursday, August 05, 2010

This n' That

This past two weeks have gone by quickly and once again it's time for our bi-weekly trip to Corinth tomorrow. Since our last visit I have begun taking medicine to lower my blood pressure so will be interested to see if it's working. Still, I don't imagine a decision will be made on The Avastin until I see the oncologist in another two weeks.

Our friends John and Connie, transplanted from California to Iowa came to see us Saturday. John is quite a Civil War buff and visits battlesites whenever he can. I would even imagine that he has seen more of the Southern ones than I have. Anyway, we benefit from his hobby since we are close to or on the way to many sites in the South. Last week they drove to Vicksburg, MS to tour the battlefield there and then back to Memphis to visit with some of Connie's relatives. They spent Saturday with us and would have come back on Tuesday, but John was under the weather and they wanted to be considerate of my lowered immunity these days. We were disappointed, but glad we had Saturday.

Public schools opened here on Monday. It's too soon and too hot!!!! The summer vacation was barely two months and temperatures have been over 100 degrees for several days. Tuesday the heat index was 120. We have stayed inside as much as possible, going out only when necessary. Last night we did go to church, today to Bible study and to pick up Jacob from school. I asked to be excused from a Committee on Ministry meeting in Memphis because of the heat and the distance I would have to walk to get to the meeting room. (I never thought I'd hear or read that I'd said those words. I've always been the "Don't tell me I can't do something else I prove you wrong" kind of person.)

The other thing we did today was vote--the ballot was long and I only cast a vote in four races--hardly worth the effort to go. Some candidates have flooded the airways, lately with negative statements about each other. Many candidates were unfamiliar names, people who either didn't have the funds to campaign or thought it unnecessary. Our local newspaper has been absolutely NO help--maybe I'll write a letter to the editor. If we're going to live here, we need to vote, but we need to be able to vote intelligently.

At an early age I began reading historical novels, a real bonus to my education. My mother belonged to the Book of the Month Club and that genre was a favorite of hers. Believing that reading is one of life's greatest pasttimes and not having a TV until I was a senior in high school had me reading in much of my spare time and it is one of the things that I relish in retirement. I have recommended books of a Spiritual nature (and will again), but today I want to tell you about a recent read. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a story of the Channel island of Guernsey and how the people lived during the German occupation. It is written as a series of letters between one character and another, a style I have not previously encountered. At first I thought it might be too boring, too stiff, but after reading five or six letters, I was hooked. There really was a literary society on Guernsey that often served potato peel pie for refreshments. How the society formed, what it did for the people and how they survived, eating things like potato peel society, is all part of the book's charm.

The kitchen calls. Count your blessings--if you can stay awake that long.

Pastor Margaret