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January
9
2021

January 09, 2021 Hello 2021

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!

I hope each of you beautiful people are as excited about 2021 as I am.  And you are my beautiful people, my faith-filled warriors who helped me through one of the most difficult years of my life.  Thank you.....yes you, and you and you..........each of you have played a role and have had a hand in my journey.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the value of people.......friends willing to lift me up when I didn’t want to lift myself up anymore. Remember the eight weeks I couldn’t shower or dress myself.  My spa assistant?? All the rides you guys gave me because I couldn’t drive?  And the food!  Lordy Lordy there was food.  And those who just listened while I rattled on about the latest appointment. (For the record Christmas Eve my Sonny Boy stood by while I got in the bath tub....fully clothed.  He had to haul me out one more time.Not ready for the big leagues yet.) You know your unique contribution. If not, let me know and I will remind you because I know what you’ve done!  I’ve said it before and I’m sure I will say it again, it takes a village.  We each bring gifts and talents that are uniquely ours. That’s what makes for rich and successful relationships.  And that’s what has helped me to be as whole as I am.  Thank you!

NOW THE GOOD NEWS

Finally late yesterday I got the official word from the endocrinologist, Dr. LaGreca, that the PET scan showed good results....nothing was highlighted showing any cancer.  And the MRI showed nothing either.......well my brain is still there.  Dr. LaGreca’s comments were, “looks good.  Looks great.”  I asked about the pesky lung nodule.  She assured me it was nothing to worry about.  It’s very small, 5mm, and over 50% of people have them and nothing ever comes of them.  Ok then.......I’m going to cross that off the worry list!  
Good news on all fronts!

WHAT’S NEXT

I have appointments for the vaccine......January 21st and February 18th.  Are you planning to be vaccinated????  As soon as I have the vaccine I think  I’ll be ready for physical therapy.  My current excuse is my arm still hurts. I have orders from Dr.Weisstein so just need to make the appointment and get started.  So hold me accountable!

March 4th I have a telehealth appointment with Dr. LaGreca.  We will be talking about next steps.  I am assuming that will include conversation about RAI (radioactive iodine therapy).  

So between now and March 4th my plan is to get a little stronger every day and smell some roses along the way.  I’m ready for something other than medical appointments.  Someone asked me this last week when all this started.  April 30th was the first trip to the ER.  I’d rolled over in bed early that morning and fractured my humerus.  The first ortho surgery was May 21st and that’s when the biopsy showed the fracture was the result of thyroid cancer.  After that it just seemed to go on and on and on.  Lucky for me each of you stayed the course.  So now you can have a break.  Unless something unexpected pops up I won’t post again until early March.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear from you.  You guys are my warriors, my support team.  I’ve come to cherish each of you so please let me know how you’re doing. Text, email, call, stop by.......I don’t care......just please stay in touch!

Signing off for now.......thanks once again for being a blessing in my life when I most needed one! You’re the best!!




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December
16
2020

December 16, 2020 Good things!

Hello everyone!

I hope you are all doing well this holiday season even in the midst of the chaos of Covid!  I just wanted to share a couple of things with you today......good things.

I had my first zoom telehealth call today with a new oncologist Dr. DeCarolis at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center here in Colorado Springs.  He asked a lot of questions about my journey (medical history) and was so reassuring I’m on the right path!  I’ve been asked more than once why choose an endocrinologist in Denver. (I’ve seen and will continue to see Dr Amanda LaGreca at Anchutz Medical Center in Denver).  Today that decision was affirmed by Dr. DeCarolis.  He said unfortunately Colorado Springs doesn’t have the same quality of endocrinologists for thyroid cancer that Denver, especially at the University, does.  He also reconfirmed the endo doc is the best person to be in the driver’s seat for thyroid cancer.  I was a bit unsettled going into the call and came away feeling really good.  Dr. DeCarolis said he would keep my file open and if there was anything he could ever do for me to please call.  I gotta say, it was so reassuring!  Did I mention he had a KC Chiefs banner hanging on his wall behind him?  I asked him about it and he said he did his training at KU Med Center and was in the area for 15 years before moving to the Springs!  

Here’s the other “good” for the day.......

Remember a couple of months ago I asked if you were moved to support me in a financial way you could donate to ThyCa or designate ThyCa as your charity of choice on Smile Amazon and they would donate a portion of your purchase to ThyCa?  This popped up on my email feed today:
Amazon.com
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Dear Dot Semmens,

This is the quarterly AmazonSmile notification to inform you that the charity you’ve selected, ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association, recently received a donation of $1,148.10, at no additional cost to you or other customers. 

Every little bit adds up.  So I’m going to encourage you if you use Amazon a lot or hardly ever to select ANY charity Amazon works with and get signed up.  It’s an easy way to make a difference!!!  Just look up SmileAmazon when you visit Amazon.  The site walks you through the sign up. I don’t care what charity you choose, but please choose one.  If not, you are leaving money on the table for Amazon.  Just do it!!  I thank you and so will the charity of your choice!

One other thing.......those of you that know my Dad......He’s struggling right now with some confusion and we (family, friends, and caregivers) are trying to figure out the source of the change.  Please lift up a prayer if you are so inclined that he be safe and comfortable as we (family, friends, and caregivers) wrestle with what is best for his future care.  And a prayer that we(family, friends, and caregivers) make good decisions.

This has been quite a year.  My journey through this medical situation and all the changes Covid has created has been much easier with each one of you walking through it with me.  I’ve said it before......it takes a village.......  I thank each of you for being part of my village.  With a loving heart I say thank you.  I simply don’t know what I would have done without my village!

December
8
2020

December 07, 2020 A long time coming

Hello everyone.  I’m not sure where the time has gone.  It’s either flying or I’m a slug.  Probably the latter. The latest wrinkle to my life was a possible exposure to Covid.  Testing followed the news with result of none detected (negative) taking 5 days.  I did test the Monday after Thanksgiving so maybe that’s why it took s long.  It didn’t change my life much with the exception of staying home and not having people in.  I would walk Angel a couple of times a day so that was a way to get some fresh air!  I thought the results would be negative because of the timing of the exposure.  But my friend who exposed me wanted me to test so I did.  Bless Claire  Lane, Jason’s girlfriend.  Just a couple of days before all of this she brought me a Roku and installed it on my TV so I mostly took a break from news TV and watched other stuff.  Bosch (Prime TV) is my favorite so far.  I finally got through season 6 last night.

Otherwise I’m just coasting along.  I have several appointments later this month. (I changed two last week just in case I was Covid positive.) So here’s the new schedule:  December 16 I meet with a new oncologist, December 18 is a brain MRI, and December 21 is a PET scan.  I don’t expect results from the MRI and PET scan until after the first of the year.  Both were ordered by the endocrinologist and she will be on vacation during the holidays.  

Remember me talking about RAI (Radioactive Iodine treatment/Chemo of thyroid cancer).  That will happen end of March or first part of April.  The contrasting dye from the PET scan needs 3 months to leave my body and that has to happen before the RAI. So not much will be happening until March/April other than physical therapy on my arm. Honestly, I’m somewhat concerned about doing PT in the midst of Covid.  Somehow I need to figure all of that out in my brain.  Maybe I’ll put that off until after the MRI just to make sure I still have a brain!

Are you ready for the holidays?  I’m feeling ambivalent this year.  I do have poinsettias on the mantle thanks to Lowes 88 cent Black Friday special.  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep them alive.  And for those who have been herein the past, my silver 3’ metal Angel is in the big flower pot by the elevator.  I did find some battery operated snowflake lights to dress her up a bit.  And there is a wreath on the front door. The condominium rules changed this year to be very restrictive regarding holiday decorations so that has me bummed out.  I keep hoping the spirit will blow through and move me soon, but if not, that will be ok too.  It’s hard to think about Christmas when our temperature is in the 60s!  

I probably won’t post much before Christmas so I’ll use this time to wish you a holiday filled with fun and joy.  And remember, it is what we make it so plan something you and yours will enjoy!

November
23
2020

November 23, 2020. Finally. An important piece to the puzzle

Went to Denver today and finally met with an endocrinologist.  First thing she said was that she specializes in thyroid cancer.  I’ve waited 3 1/2months for this appointment and afterward I was so happy I’d waited.  Dr. Amanda La Greca is probably in her mid forties.  She is very thorough and very knowledgeable. She asked lots of questions and answered mine.  She even made sure I was comfortable using the UCCHealth app so that she and I could communicate effectively. 

The reason my care is a bit complicated is because the cancer had metastasized to the arm bone from the thyroid. It means a different level of care once it’s metastasized.  Here are the next steps with Dr.La Greca.
I had blood drawn today and Dr. La Greca will evaluate the results and adjust meds if necessary.
She’s ordered a brain scan here in the Springs through Penrad Imaging.
Also ordered a PET Scan here in the Springs through Penrad Imaging.
        (She said no rush.  She just likes to make sure there aren’t any tumors floating around.)

Then we have a Telehealth call on March 4 (her next available telehealth appt) to begin planning for the Radioactive Iodine treatment (RAI).  Remember the chemotherapy for thyroid cancer? It will be done in Denver.  She said the nuclear med dept at Penrose only deals with small doses and because mine had metastasized it would require a larger dose.  I was concerned about waiting so long to do the RAI and Dr. La Greca assured me it was ok to wait up to a year.  My total thyroidectomy was August 14, 2020.  So we have some time to work with.

It was a good appointment.  My friend Jan went with me to be a second set of ears.  Jan was impressed with the thoroughness and genuineness of Dr. La Greca also.  We both concluded it was well worth the wait! 

On another note......my friend Eric stopped by Friday and we tried the bathtub routine again.  Wait!!  Wait!!!  Well, I got in with my clothes on and Eric had to help me out.  My arm just wasn’t strong enough to support me.  So no tub time quite yet.  Now that’s an incentive to do my PT and strengthen my arm.  So he mixed me a martini as a consolation prize.  His martinis are really good.  Remember last time I journaled I suggested it takes a village?  This is just another example of how friends help out!  And Mary Lou corralled Angel for me while I was gone today.  There’s three friend examples in the last few days.  If you haven’t thought any more about your tribe, this is a good time to give it some thought!  I’m just sayin’.................

November
20
2020

November 19, 2020 Oh Happy Day!

Yes....oh happy day!

Here’s the quick version.........the “spots” on my kidneys....yes both kidneys....are cysts.  We do nothing about them!
The spot on my liver is an enlarged vein and we will reexamine in six months.
Neither have anything to do with the thyroid cancer.

I asked Dr. Coleman, PCP, about this.....why are there so many things to check on.......and he said modern technology reveals so much more than in “the old days”.  And given I do have thyroid cancer they have to follow up on it, especially since thyroid cancer usually attacks soft tissue, not bones.  Yes, I’m unique since it attacked my bone! Needless to say I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Dr. Coleman knows me well.  He came through the exam room door saying, “It’s good new.  It’s all good.”  Then we said hello.  

Now for yesterday's appointment with Dr. Weisstein, arm surgeon.  The CT scan showed the fracture has healed.  Yay!  Do the happy dance.  There is wear and tear in the shoulder joint but not enough to merit any attention until it changes, if ever.  Some of you have asked me about physical therapy.  Now is the time for that!!  Doc wanted to make sure the fracture was healed because he says some PTs can get carried away and he is protecting his work......that titanium plate and concrete.  But during the appointment he mentioned a 6mm nodule in my right lung........new information to me.  He was a bit miffed.  Said he was a bone guy and shouldn’t have to deliver soft tissue information.  Well then I was pretty miffed.  Seems the nodule had been noticed during the first CT Scan in May.  News to me.  The good news is google tells me 6mm is .2 inches.  Yes that’s 2/10’s of an inch......not very big in nodule language.  The good news is it is unchanged since last May.  So today during PCP appointment we talked about it and will follow up on it in six months.  

I will admit last night was a low point.  It felt like my entire body was falling apart.  I was so grateful for all of my supporters.  I simply do not know how people without friends, without a support network, survive difficult times.  First person I called had time to talk.  Bingo! I hit the jackpot since I do better when I can talk things out.  And I am so lucky because I know.....I know......beyond a shadow of a doubt that had any one of you gotten my call you would have talked with me.  Do you know how comforting that is to me???? I hope you do because there aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to explain how I feel about you guys.  So, my words of wisdom to each of you.......if you don’t have a support network, start creating one........one person at a time.  Some of you I’ve known for many, many years and others I’ve known a short while. You each bring different gifts/talents to the relationship and they all are important!  Some of you are mighty prayer warriors, some are great cheerleaders, and others just know how to hold my hand.  And then there are a select few who know when to kick me in the butt.......you know who you are and I thank you for only using your special powers when really necessary.  It does take a village........so look around.....who do you want in your village? My answer is simple.......each one of YOU!

Coming up.......
Endocrinologist appointment in Denver on Monday, November 23.  It’s the one we’ve been waiting for for six months! 
Tuesday, November 24 a stress test.  Cardiologist checking all the boxes.  

Dad news......just talked to my dad and he sounded strong. And he was lucid.
God is good.....all the time.......all the time.....God is good!

November
17
2020

November 16, 2020 Lots to say tonight

Home again, Home again, jiggety jig!

Tonight I’ll write about my medical news and then about my Dad.  That’s what makes sense to me!

Today I went for the contrasting MRI.  The tech told me he was to focus on my right kidney and liver......Dr. Coleman wanted a closer look at some “spots” the CT Scan had shown.  First about the MRI.  I’ve discovered a new Penrad Imaging facility by the Broadmoor.  It’s just off Lake in a Centura Health building.  Here’s why I like it. It has a larger MRI tube.  If you’ve never done an MRI, this is a big deal.  For claustrophobic me it’s a big deal!  The facility is clean.  I’ve been there three times in the last month and it has never been crowded.  And the techs seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to doing contrasting photos that require an IV.  That’s very important to me since my veins roll.  Now I’d let someone poke the right arm, but up until recently all sticks and draws have had to come from the left.  So I appreciate an experienced tech.  I’ll get results of the MRI on Thursday afternoon and results of last week’s CT Scan of my shoulder joint on Wednesday.  So look for news on Friday or Saturday.

We are finally approaching THE appointment with the endocrinologist in Denver next Monday.  When this appointment was first made my spiritual sister offered to go with me.  There will be lots to talk about after the appointment.  I’m excited and scared both at the same time.  I’m trying to stay calm and live in the moment and not jump ahead.  Maybe it’s a good thing this is a busy week!!

Now about my Dad..........

First, thanks for all the prayers for safe travel.  The weather was perfect both directions.  It’s about a 9 hour drive.  I was mostly concerned about driving Limon to the Springs in the dark.  It’s about 60 miles on a two lane hiway and can be very dark.  Last night it was a piece of cake.  Prayers work people!

It worked pretty well for me to be my Dad’s caregiver.  As I said before, my admiration for professional caregivers has greatly increased.  It is a full time job and then some.  Daddy was totally resistant to the idea of a companion.  But before I left yesterday he promised me he would give it a try.  Fingers crossed it will work.  The alternative would be assisted living and I don’t think that would work for him and his social personality.  

Covid........I just shake my head at people who think it’s a hoax.  “Living” on the inside of a semi-closed (residents can go out, guests cannot come in) was interesting.  Since I was a “caregiver” I was asked not to visit with other residents.  Now that was really hard for me.  My Dad has lived in this facility for over 15 years.  I’ve been in and out of it so many times.  I’ve played cards and bingo, and sat among the women chatting multiple times.  I know so many of the residents.  Well I did sneak in a few quick visits.  People are getting worn out with the restrictions.  Just this week their dining room will open for lunch on a very specific schedule and with restrictions.  Residents have been eating in their rooms from styrofoam containers.  Imagine serving 175 people takeout.  Each day when the breakfast bag is hung by the door, the next day’s menus are included.  We would go over all the choices, circle what he wanted, and then hang it on the clip by the door by lunch time for pick up.  I would heat things in a microwave in my Dad’s kitchen. It worked.

Since caregivers aren’t provided meals, I would go out after Daddy went to bed (usually by 7:30).  My excitement was going to Torchy’s Tacos, an Austin restaurant chain that has expanded into the KC area and it was nearby!!  Yes, Che, I had the Trailer Park trashy, and the Democrat..........the usual.  My sister-in-law joined me so I was able to introduce her to the Torchy experience!! Joy in the small things.  Then I discovered yoghurt parfaits at the nearest grocery store......breakfast!  And I’d scrounge around for lunch.  It’s always difficult  for me to eat on my Dad’s schedule because of the hour time difference.  He has his dinner meal at 4:30.  That’s cocktail time for me!  I must say....Brookdale rocks....they have a happy hour cart that goes door to door on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  Yes alcohol is included on the cart along with snacks.  The staff is really trying.......really, really trying.  

My words of wisdom come in the form of my Chinese fortune cookie from lunch today.......
Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or hero’s.  True....very true.....think about it.  Have you ever been stuck?  I have.  Most recent example I can think of is something I’ve shared with you before.......

My right knee was killing me when I'd walk up and down stairs. Discovered this when our elevator went out.  It had been painful in the past but there were so many other things demanding time, energy, and effort that I tried to just ignore it.  Well time moved on.  Now i had to face the reality my knee needed attention.  I could take “good” drugs.  You know the ones.  Or I could pony up and talk to Dr. Weisstein about it.  Remember the result of that conversation?  Knees are his speciality. He could inject it and we could go from there.  What are you afraid to face?  Life will move on.....guaranteed.  Will you?????

Once again, thanks for all your prayers over the last several days.  I felt very loved!!!

November
14
2020

November 14, 2020 Tending the spirit and soul

Le me bring you up to date.........

When I left Colorado Springs I fully intended to stay at a hotel since Brookdale where my Dad lives is closed to visitors due to Covid.  OK.  At least I’d be in the same city.  Maybe I could take him out for a car ride or maybe I could sit in the garden with him if the weather would cooperate.  I’d be close and ready!  I started rearranging the rest of my week.  I called my friend Sylvia to cancel a bridge game we had planned on Wednesday.  Sylvia said she would pray for me. When I called Sylvia a second time on Tuesday she said she didn’t know how else to help me so she stood in front of the crucifix in her bedroom and intervened on my behalf. Half way across Kansas on Wednesday the director of Brookdale called and asked if I would be comfortable spending the night in my Dad’s apartment with him Wednesday night.  She would make the exception and consider me his “caregiver”.  He needed an overnight caregiver so he could be released from the hospital.  Of course I said yes.  And I’ve been his caregiver and have been able to be in his apartment as his sort of/kind of caregiver while I’ve been here.  I say sort of kind of because now I have a new appreciation for the professional caregivers who do this kind of thing day in and day out.  Most of the staff who have come in have been younger than me......way younger.  So I’m going to think if I was young again I’d be better at it.

And praise to our almighty God for giving my broken down body the strength I’ve needed to be a passable caregiver.  All joking aside, this has been a gift to me to help make the decision of future care for my Dad.  I left Colorado Springs fully prepared to decide it was time for the move to assisted living.  After being with him less than 24 hours the decision was made to leave him in his independent living apartment and use the Personalized Living Service here at Brookdale to have a companion with him 8 hours a day.  Well the next 24 hours taught me his quality of life would vastly improve with a few more hours of a companion everyday.  Those services will be in place, ready to rock and roll on Monday.  In the meantime, I thank the Lord the manager of this Brookdale was flexible enough to allow me to be my Dad’s caregiver.  A poor one at best but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me.

The staff here have been fabulous to work with.  Yes I’ve created and implemented care plans for a couple of my friends.  But this is my Dad! For those that don’t know  he has less than 5% vision now and his hearing aids don’t work a good part of the time.  Talk about handicapped.  Throw in beginning dementia and you will begin to have a clearer picture of who he is.  And just for a little flavor let me tell you at 102 he’s still a big flirt and likes to have a good time.  He’s a social creature who is being squelched in his last years of life by none other than COVID. Try telling a 102 year old he can’t just wander around. Stay in your apartment.  Limit contact with other people.  Go watch TV.  Oh that’s right you can’t see it.  Well go listen to some music.  What do you mean it’s up too loud?  Don’t the people three doors down like my taste in music?  Call a friend.  Oh......you can’t see the numbers and most of your friends have already died.  Can’t play cards anymore, can’t work jigsaw puzzles anymore, can’t play bingo or go watch movies.  On and on and on!!!  

So much for me to process.  I texted with my friend Buddy this morning that words were spilling from my heart and brain at the same time.  Here’s his response......”In many ways beautiful, dropping the mind into the heart.”  Ever think of words as vivid??  Bud’s always are vivid for me.  

There are so many thoughts I want to share with you, but mother’s everywhere know when the baby naps, so should you.  And my baby is napping and I could sure use one so I promise more thoughts later. It will be a day or two because I’m leaving KCMO after lunch tomorrow making my way back across Kansas.

I’ll leave this one thought with you...........when you are given the gift of time with someone near and dear, take full advantage of it.  Try to let it be about them first. You may need to be creative, it may stretch your comfort zone, but once the moment has passed, you may never have the opportunity again.  Be kind, love one another.  Open your eyes to what is possible.  There is usually something you can do even if it’s like my friend Sylvia who stood before the crucifix in her bedroom and asked Jesus to watch over me and my Dad.  You done good girl!  Thanks!!

November
12
2020

November 12, 2020`a repeat

               I heard this didn’t get sent last night so am resending it.

Hello Everyone,

Before I get to the something different let me say I’m doing better.  Yesterday I had the CT Scan with contrasting dye in my shoulder joint to check the rotator cuff.  I know Dr. Jim says I’m a good healer.  I think what he doesn’t know is I’m a SLOW healer!  And I’m beginning to be impatient!.  But my arm is better!! I have more range of motion and a little more strength.  I can actually lift more than my coffee cup now without pain. And the tingling is down to a dull buzz.  Next Monday I have the MRI for the mysterious something or other on my kidney.  This is the scan I’ve been waiting a month for!  Then I’ll see Dr. Coleman (PCP) on Thursday for the results.  Fingers crossed that it’s nothing major.  

Now here’s the something different..........

Let me say I’m hesitant to share this information here but so many of you know my Dad so here goes..........

Two days ago my Dad fell for the third time in the last few weeks and was transported by ambulance to the ER to be checked out.  He has spent the last two days at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Today he was discharged back to his apartment in independent living at Brookdale Wornall Place. Yes there are extra caregivers involved.  Yesterday I decided I needed to be in the city so today I drove to Kansas City.  Yes by myself.  I had plenty of phone calls all the way across Kansas checking on me!  I plan to be in the city until Sunday.  Most of you have met my Dad sometime along our journey together.  If you haven’t met him, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about what a corker he is.  Jason and I were in the city in September to help celebrate his 102nd birthday. We had a great 36 hours in the city even in the midst of Covid restrictions!  Daddy first had a goal to live to be 100.  Man did we celebrate 100!  After that his goal was to live until after the 2020 election because he wanted to see “how this mess turns out”.  Well we’ve had the election and I think we are just now realizing the mess. Tomorrow we will begin the process of evaluating his living situation to see what changes might be needed. 

You guys have been fantastic prayer warriors for me so now  I’m asking for prayers for my Dad, my family, and all the staff who will be involved in making decisions.  Family dynamics can be difficult during the best of times.  Covid complicates everything.  And Kansas City is in the midst of Covid crisis like so much of the country right now.  So here’s my prayer........Lord give me patience, give me strength, and give me wisdom to make loving, caring decisions.  Let it be so Lord.  Let it be so. 

Thanks so much for all your caring and loving thoughts.  You guys are the greatest. I am blessed.