By CARLA OFFENBURGER
COOPER, Iowa, Sept. 21, 2018 – You might say I’ve bought new dancing shoes for my continuing cancer dance, and they’ve turned out to be pretty comfortable, all things considered. For the most part, the DJ has been playing some pretty good tunes, as well.
And it’s been a beautiful September. I’ve been watching much of it from my front porch, as I recover from my third major surgery in three years. This go ’round seemed like a cakewalk in comparison to the removal of 60 percent of my liver in 2015 and the removal of about seven tumors from my abdomen in 2017.
On Aug. 30 in Des Moines, Dr. Steven Elg, gynecologic oncologist at John Stoddard Cancer Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, removed “an apple-sized tumor” from my left pelvic area and a “smaller one” from my right pelvic area.
Ready to go in for a late-afternoon surgery.
The surgery itself was half as long as the others – done in three hours. My husband Chuck and family were shocked when they were told I’d be going directly to an inpatient room rather than ICU, a usual stop for me.
While nursing care was top-notch, it wasn’t as intense as in the past. It was clear I wasn’t in near the danger as after past surgeries. In fact, they took my vitals before bedtime and then let me sleep through the night, only waking me once for administration of pain killer. There was only one morning of 4 a.m. labs. And I was only there three nights. It almost felt like a weekend at the Drury Inn and Suites. Almost.
There were of course 26 staples down the middle of my lower abdomen. Getting in and out of bed was excruciating and, well, there were IVs. There was a lot of discussion about urinating and bowel movements. Oh, and there was the hospital food, which I will never get used to.
I can’t say enough wonderful things about UnityPoint’s Iowa Methodist Hospital. They treat their patients right. From the time you leave your car with the valet parking attendant at the entry door for the surgery department, until you are out the door headed home, every darn person you encounter is centered on you for their moment, or moments, of care – the registration clerk, the surgery team, the nurses, the housekeeper, the nursing assistants, the food server. Every. Single. One. Every. Time.
With friend Mary Riche, of Des Moines, a couple hours after surgery.
And yet, even as I talk about what a cakewalk this seemed to be, I still feel like my recovery is slow-moving. I know the routine – eat well, walk as much as I can, nap often and don’t lift anything over 10 pounds.
Oh, and then there is my own regimen of reading, doing puzzles, quilting and spending a whole lot of time on my front porch. Thus far, I’ve read seven books since getting home and have done five puzzles. I’ve nearly finished a quilt top and spent hours on my front porch – sometimes alone, often with my mother and/or a few close friends who stopped by for a visit.
Eating well is easier with the help of my wonderful Jefferson book group. They know the routine now, too. Every other night someone is delivering a meal that is healthy and yummy. I’m not able to plan, stand and cook myself yet, and with Chuck in charge, I’d be eating pancakes every night. Seriously.
So the variety of meals delivered has been a real gift. I appreciate every single one of my friends for bringing them. Thank you. Thank you.
Carla, with a tremendous chicken roast and vegetables dinner from book club member Amy Milligan, of Jefferson.
And, oh! Without caregivers, where would the sick be? Chuck is once again earning caregiver-of-the-year points. I cannot even begin to list the things he takes on.
And, remember, my mother Sue Burt moved in with us at the beginning of summer, so Chuck has her needs to meet, too. Mom is a great porch sitter, puzzle doer and reading buddy, and helps as she can with setting the table and other easy chores. But Chuck is helping her with daily needs and serving as Uber driver for our appointments. And he’s doing everything else in the house that needs to be done.
Caregiving took on a new meaning for us all, two days after I got home from the hospital.
He and I were headed back in Des Moines for a follow-up visit with Dr. Elg. Chuck’s sister Chris Offenburger Werner, of Cedar Rapids, was staying with us a few days to help all of us out. She called to tell us Mom had fallen outdoors in one of my flower beds – and couldn’t get up.
The short story is that with the help of neighbors Doug and Karen Lawton, and an afternoon in the ER at Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson with Chris at her side, Mom came home with seven stitches above her eye and a few bruises. But thankfully, there were no broken bones and her keen sense of humor was still intact.
All that just added to the recovery drama at our farmhouse.
With the “Oxford Offenburgers” when we were all visiting Cedar Rapids for the wedding of our nephew Joe Walsh and Lynda Smith Walsh.
The most exciting thing that has happened to me during recovery was a quick trip Sept. 15-16 to Cedar Rapids for a family wedding, where I was able to spend time with our three favorite granddaughters, Lindsay, Casey & Audrey and their parents Andrew & Maria, who came from Oxford, Ohio.
The travel cost me about two days of exhaustion, but it was so worth it to see so many family members – in addition to the girls. I felt blessed.
There have been other blessings – messages and visits from friends, time with my sisters, experiencing Chuck’s unwavering care.
I know my cancer dance isn’t over. Dr. Elg told Chuck immediately after surgery that the tumor was “very hard, with runners. It will come back.”
And as I recover now and see health and healing in my near future, I know tumors are in my lungs and my liver. But they are small, and folks live a long time with small tumors. Don’t they?
Carla porch-sitting with a visiting pal, former sister-in-law Missy Gowey, of Davenport.
My next scan, which I am now on track for every 90 days, will be in mid-December. We always hope and pray for the best. Every day cancer research and treatment progress is being made. Who knows when my cure will be ready and waiting for me? It might be ready for me at my next piece of bad news. I’m here for the duration.
But right now, I’m thankful to be healing and healthy in this recovery time.
I’ll be headed back to work on Oct. 1. And I’ll be taking it slow, too.
Thank you once again, for being with me in thoughts, prayers, cards, meals and visits. It’s so much easier to dance when there are dancers all around dancing with you.
I am blessed, truly blessed.
After surgery with sister Chris Woods, of Des Moines.
The day after surgery, Carla had some great time with high school classmate Kathy Murphy Hoover, of Des Moines.
Four days after surgery, Carla taught Chuck’s sister Chris Offenburger Werner, of Cedar Rapids, how to bake a sour cream apple pie — Chris’ first-ever successful pie made with fresh ingredients.
Carla puzzling with her sister Tammie Amsbaugh, of Des Moines, and their mother Sue Burt.
Carla is walking laps of the farmhouse driveway three or four times daily, this time with her mother Sue Burt.
You can write the columnist by email at carla@Offenburger.com or comment by using the handy for below here.