Retirement begins: Reality bites

May 30 was my last day of gainful employment. When I decided to retire at the end of May, I had fantasized about a lazy summer filled of comfortable temperatures and humidity, working in my sewing room enjoying the wonderful weather, having lunch on my new bench/half picnic table, having friends stop by to lunch with me or join me in sewing. You get the idea. My rational mind knew this was fantasy but, at the time, I couldn’t imagine how that dream would be crushed by the rocks of reality. Therein lies a tale. Don’t worry – there is a happy ending and some quilty content.

In August 2013, my brother’s appendix perforated. His doctors wanted to wait until the infection was gone before they did the surgery to remove it. They finally took it out in November. In December when he went for his post-surgery check, they told him the appendix was cancerous. Appendix cancer is rare. Fortunately, he didn’t have the worst type. They did more tests and told him it hadn’t spread and scheduled him for precautionary surgery to remove the portion of the colon where the appendix attaches.

When he went for the surgery in Jan 2014, they made the incision, looked around and said “never mind”. Told him the cancer had spread to the peritoneum so he was stage 4. They also told him this type of cancer can’t be surgically removed and doesn’t show up on tests. The only treatment they offered him was systemic chemo every 2 weeks indefinitely with periodic scans to see if cancer showed up anywhere else. Maybe he’d have 2-3 years; they didn’t really know because there aren’t any statistics.

I told him to ask if there were treatments or studies at other centers that he should consider. They told him about HIPEC (heated intra-peritoneal chemotherapy) with cytoreductive surgery. I said he should go for it. I recommended he go to MD Anderson in Houston since they were rated the #1 cancer center at the time.

They accepted him as a patient. Did you know that you can’t just make an appointment at the major cancer centers? MD Anderson turned down my aunt in 2010 because her cancer (another rare one) was too far advanced by the time it was detected. He was scheduled for the surgery in June. In the meantime, he had the chemo at his home medical center. Instead of my idyllic summer at home, I now had to spend 6 weeks or so away from home with my brother during the surgery and initial recovery period.

Window at MD Anderson. Reminds me of a lot of the chunck quilts I’ve seen a lot of lately.

The surgeon removed everything that looked like it could possibly be tumor or that could hide tumor, including, of all things, the belly button. When we told my brother about that, he said “I guess that means my modelling career is over.” All of the pathology came back as no tumor found. So, the chemo seems to have done the trick although there was no way to know that without the surgery. His doctors were shocked. His chemo oncologist said he was unusally responsive to chemotherapy.

The happy ending – going from stage 4 in January to cancer-free in June. If he hadn’t gone to Houston for the surgery, he would be having chemo that he didn’t need. The lesson I learned is if you have a cancer that your medical center doesn’t see a lot of, go somewhere that does.

The entry hall floor in my brother’s house.

How do you pack to be away for 4-6 weeks or longer? Fortunately, I was able to do all my flights on Southwest. They allow 2 checked bags without a fee. Plus you can change your flight without a fee if needed. I don’t know how this happened but I was TSP pre-check for all 3 flights. Much quicker trip through security – no long lines.

I made sure I had plenty of hand sewing to work on. I worked on 3 different hexagon projects. I didn’t do as much as I could/should have because the light wasn’t bright enough, especially at my brother’s house. He only has mood lighting.

A couple days before I left, I met up with a friend and we took the Chicago river and lake cruise.

Portion of Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan.

Chicago flag. The 4 stars represent major events in the city’s history. They say that a 5th star will be added if the Cubs ever win the World Series again.

Sidewalk in front of an historic building in the Loop.

Decoration over entrance to building.

I did a little hand sewing while I was gone.

A pile of hexagon flowers.

A pile of hexagon flowers.

Some hexagon border units for a sidelined project.

Some hexagon border units for a sidelined project.

I worked on Hex on the Beach. I’m not entirely happy doing English paper piecing with the 1″ pieces. I’ve used 3 different techniques on these 4 rows – some basted through the paper, some basted only through the fabric and some glue basted to the paper. This project is on hiatus until I figure out how to proceed from here.

The first 4 rows of Tula Pink's Hex on the Beach.

The first 4 rows of Tula Pink’s Hex on the Beach.



One Response to “Retirement begins: Reality bites”

  1. Barbara Dillard Smith Woods Says:

    When you are a quilter every where you go you see a quilt pattern

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