Monday, September 30, 2013

Dreaming Beyond Cancer

Watercolor by Catherine Twomey
Dreaming Ocean

I had to get out the paints this morning to get down a dream vision. What a contrast my dreams have been lately to those before September 18, when kidney cancer was still a part of my husband's body. From dark and unsettling to calm, beautiful, light and well, dreamy - I much prefer the most recent dreams.

This is a watercolor on Arches watercolor paper. The swelling wave behind the breaking one brings an anticipatory tension to the seascape. It's difficult to describe the sense of relief we carry today, and how previously "critical" problems have been minimized.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Piaffe in Hand

Catherine Twomey Original Art
Piaffe in Hand
Since late August, my family has been in unexpected, unwanted yet very instructive crisis. My husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer while being checked for a minor intestinal upset. That led to surgery, which was unbelievably successful, and now a peaceful recovery.

In the meantime, I have been working on this commission of a master German dressage teacher in the initial stages of teaching a gorgeous warmblood to piaffe. I love the intimacy between the two as well as the light cast over the hard working pair. This work was a wonderful distraction during a very difficult time.

I am slowly coming to some conclusions and insights about what we just went thru, but that will make a later blog post. For now, I hope you enjoy this painting and the mysterious connection between humans and animals.

Making It Thru Kidney Cancer

Cleveland Clinic
Post Surgical Recovery Floor 9, Cleveland Clinic
This was the infamous day of September 18, 2013, followed by recovery and the trip home.

My husband was admitted for surgery at 6:30 a.m. at the Cleveland Clinic. Surgery with the Director of Oncology, Dr. Andrew Stephenson, began at 9:27 a.m. Here is a synopsis of that day as it unfolded:

12:20 p.m.: "At the Cleveland Clinic, surgery is about to end and all has gone well. Will talk to the Dr. soon. Thanks for all your thoughts, prayers, mantras, etc.; this has already been a very long day but we're encouraged. Listening to a beautiful violinist next to a waterfall helps soothe the soul."

1:45 p.m.: "Dr. able to save over 90% of the kidney. Clean margins all around, a very good thing. Rick is sleeping & I can see him soon. 

Joyful! Cannot thank everyone enough for pulling for him!"

September 19, 11:00 a.m.: "Rick is doing great! Rick is now in a regular room and has walked a couple of times today. 

The now-removed tumor on the kidney had been pushed up very close against the inferior medial lung/pleura, and when they removed it the very bottom tip of the lung was "pin-pricked" causing a 10% collapse of the lung, called a pneumothorax. They didn't even know it had happened until after surgery & an x-ray. He was breathing just fine, but was put on oxygen just in case.

When I arrived today the oxygen was removed and Rick was alert and conversational. The lung should quickly heal by itself. He's only in pain when trying to get up, but that's to be expected. Rebuilding the core muscles will take some time, but he's on his way already.

We're heading in again tonight to see him. Had a good cry of relief last night, and a long nap this afternoon. No word yet on when Rick can go home, but possibly Saturday or Sunday. Rick is promising not to over-do it, and at the moment I'm personally controlling his electronics. That is, unless you've already received an e-mail from him from yet another new thingy he'd hidden under the gurney!

Thanks again for your thoughtful and delightful notes; it's hard to describe how much they mean to us."

September 21, 5:00 p.m.: "I'm on my way to pick him up and bring him home. All systems are go, and the Dr. has now given him a 95% cure rate. I have nothing but great things to say about the professionalism, thoughtfulness and service we've gotten from the clinic since Wednesday.

I know Rick is feeling much better because he's now starting to ask for his electronic devices (music & earbuds first), which he'd banned from his sight until he could handle them. I bet he'll be commandeering the TV for football when he gets home, and that (for once) will be music to my ears.

Thank you all for your well wishes, flowers, upbeat messages and positive vibes. You've helped enormously and we will never forget it. Hug the ones you love and tell them that. You never know."

Monday, September 16, 2013

And then the bomb dropped....

Baseball Flying

Football Flying

Well it's been a while since I've been able (or wanted to) post. I spent the start to middle of the summer working on a long-awaited project: a horse sculpture project that I will eventually launch on a crowd funding site. I've also been taking a ceramics class. Then, another unexpected bomb dropped.

Three weeks ago my husband called from where he's working in Ohio, starting out with: "I've had a really bad day." That was the understatement of a very up and down year. He'd experienced some intestinal pain, and needed to see a doctor. Not yet having a GP in Ohio, he was sent to an ER. That happenstance probably saved his life.

A CT scan revealed a minor intestinal infection. It also showed a 4 cm probably malignant tumor on his right kidney.

Fortunately, I have friends in Cleveland with deep medical backgrounds. They referred us to the Director of Oncology/Nephrology at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. If my husband was going to have to have cancer, this was the best place to be: they perform over 4,000 of such surgeries a year, and it was caught early. A very unlucky event just became manageable.

We are now two days out from surgery. When I arrived here in Ohio with the dogs, I was not only in shock, but uncertain about what to do with the three weeks we had to wait until surgery. Rick lives in what I fondly refer to as a man-cave, so to cheer us both up I painted the above baseball and football now proudly hanging in his otherwise nondescript house. My brother arrives tomorrow and from there, the rest is anyone's guess. Oh, yes - there's a well-armed friend staying at the house until this is over. And a hungry mama bear in the neighborhood as well, just for added security.

A 90% cure rate isn't a bad deal, however, so I'm pulling for this all to be just a rough, vivid, past memory that jolted us to the reality that no one lives forever. Please think good thoughts. We have no other choice.