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Monday, July 21, 2014

Catching up the last 6 months

"The Big C's Gifts"

Someone emailed me the other day, worried because I had not updated my blog after my surgery.  I'm really sorry...but it's been a challenging journey.  It was much easier for me to do short updates on Facebook, than write blog posts.  But, I'm going to catch you up now.

The surgery was done Jan. 13th.  I honestly don't remember anything about that day.  I was in surgery for 13 hours and on full life support afterwards.  They did a full glossectomy ( removal of my entire tongue) and a bilateral neck dissection.  They removed 66 lymph nodes.  Pretty radical for someone who never smoked, barely drank and ate healthy the past few years.  They constructed a new tongue from skin grafts from my thigh and left arm.  They new tongue doesn't move and is just to fill in the gap basically.  They warned Danny that I might not wake up for a few days.  Apparently, I woke up the next morning and to their surprise were able to take me off the life support.  The 1st week in the hospital is a total blur.  They did a tracheostomy during surgery to help me breath.  And put a feeding tube down my nose.  Those were by far the worst part.  I couldn't talk at all...and didn't know if I would ever be able to again.  Respiratory therapists would have to come in every couple of hours and help me clear out the trach.  Some were more patient than others.  One didn't respond fast enough when I was choking and I actually stopped breathing and coded.  That was extremely scary and left a lasting impression of fear.   

As I healed and became stronger, they moved me from ICU to a regular room.  The swelling had subsided some, and I let my kids come visit.  They brought some of my artwork and get well cards and gifts from fellow artists, family and friends.  They hung them in front of my bed.  This was my healing wall.  I drew such strength from it everyday.  


I started feeling better and even started painting again in the hospital.  I wasn't able to do much except color charts and watching the paint intermingle together.  But, it didn't matter because just the act of seeing that paint on the paper gave me so much joy!


 Before I was released from the hospital, they got my pathology report back.  Of the 66 lymph nodes, only 9 contained cancer.  The PET and CT scans showed no evidence of cancer anymore.  But, because of the lymph nodes, I would still need chemo and radiation.  Apparently some of the cancer cells were on the outside of the lymph nodes, so they could be microscopically floating around my body.  I was relieved and thankful when they told me 35 radiation treatments and only 3 chemo treatments!!!  I improved faster than they expected and was allowed to go home a little early.  Before they sent me home, they put in a stomach feeding PEG tube and took out the horrible nose feeding tube. They tested my voice with a special valve for the trach. And although I was hard to understand...my voice was still there!!!  They gave Danny instruction for feeding me through the PEG tube and spent about 10 minutes teaching him how to manage my trach.

Now, Danny is a really quick learner but he hadn't really slept the entire time I was in the hospital.  Luckily my wonderful, incredibly generous brother in law recognized this and arranged for me to have private nurses around the clock at home.  What a gift and blessing!  A nurse showed up at my house at 10pm the 1st night.  I was having a hard time breathing and she stayed up all night with me.  Danny was finally able to get some sleep!  She became my full-time nurse and great friend!  Two weeks after getting out of the hospital, I was able to go walk the mall for exercise and felt great!


This didn't last long once I started chemo and radiation.  I swear they are harder than the actual surgery!  My 1st chemo, I actually painted.  But, the 2nd chemo...I slept.  I had to go to radiation everyday.  A big mask was made for my face and neck.  They wouldn't remove the trach because they said I needed it for radiation.  It turned out to be the largest hole in the mask...and helped me breathe easier during the claustrophobic radiation process.  I kept my eyes shut the entire time and just thought about everything I was grateful for.


After the 2nd chemo, my hair started to fall out.  Not in huge amounts, mostly around the back of my neck, and where it was dyed.  So, I headed to the salon and got a really short haircut so it wouldn't be that noticeable.


By the third week of radiation, I could barely walk.  My nurse would have to get me a wheelchair when I went to treatment.  I wanted to quit.  I couldn't believe how weak and sick it made me feel.  Danny and the doctors convinced me to keep up the treatment.  They started giving me extra IV fluids to help.  It helped enough that I felt I could keep going.  

They decided not to give me the third chemo.  My blood levels were too off and I was too weak.  Although I was worried that this might not irradiate all the cancer cells in my body...I was also relieved not to have to go through it.  I continued with the radiation.  I developed a horrible cough that could be heard miles away.  By the last day, my skin on my neck was black from being scorched.  Danny compared it to a rotisserie chicken skin.  They had a bell that people would ring when they finished treatment.  The staff would cheer and everyone would clap.  I didn't ring the bell...I just wanted to get the hell out of there!


Less than two weeks later, I was asleep when Fox, my cat jumped up and got in my face...then curled up on my chest.  While it might not be unusual for some cats...it's unusual behavior for mine.  He had been standoffish since I came home with the trach and loud cough.  I woke up freezing. The nurse took my temp and it was over 102.  I had to go to the ER, and was diagnosed with streph pneumonia. 

I spent 5 days in the hospital.  After I got back home, all I could do was sleep...night and day.  Danny started having chest pains a couple of days later.  My son Luke, drove him to ER.  He had a mild heart attack and they put in four stents!  I felt so bad that I couldn't be there with him.  He spent another 5 days in the hospital!  The Thompson family has definitely been through their share this year!!!

But, we are a strong bunch!  Danny is doing great!  He's returned back to work full time.  A few weeks ago, we said goodbye to my nurses who had taken such great care of me these past few months.  I'm feeling stronger everyday.  I still have the trach and feeding tube.  I still can't talk understandable yet, so everything gets written down to communicate.  I haven't taken any food by mouth since the surgery.  But, I'm not missing it.  We make nourishing soups and juices that I take through the stomach tube.  I still have the annoying cough that scares the dickens out of anyone around me.  So, I'm a little to self conscious to venture out much.  I'm taking it easy and concentrating on healing everyday.  

I'm cooking meals again for my family!  Even though I can't taste them...it's something I really enjoy doing.  They tell you to be careful what you wish for.  Well, I used to wish to be thin and have more time to paint.  I got my wishes...just in a strange messed up way.  LOL  I've lost 90 pounds over the past year.  Only 20 of that was from proper diet and exercise, the rest was a side effect of this challenge. And I have more time to paint...and that has been glorious!  I feel like I'm producing some of the best work I've ever done!  


"kind"
watercolor & acrylic


"Go Your Own Way"
watercolor & acrylic

This past week I was able to open my Etsy store again!!!!  I am getting used to my new normal.  I start back with my speech/ swallowing doctor later this week.  I will probably always be hard to understand when I talk...and might not ever master the art of swallowing again.  I have tons of scars...and my face and body are forever changed.  But, that is all okay with me.  Danny tells me I'm beautiful everyday.  :)



My six month PET and CT scans came back great.  No cancer!  Doing a happy dance!  I have my life back thanks to brilliant doctors, caring nurses, loving partner, supportive friends (some I've never even met in person) and family!  Everyone tells me I'm so strong.  It's a team effort.  I couldn't have made it without all of them!  

Despite all of this...I'm happier than I've ever been!  Sure I cry a tear when I choke on water trying to brush my teeth.  There are frustrating moments...but they are just moments.  I'm damn lucky to be here...and I'm not going to waste a day!  There's so much to be thankful for!  So much love to give!  So many friends to make!  And of course....lots of painting to do!

Thanks for all your concern, prayers, positive thoughts, and magic.  You help me beat this everyday!

Much love to you,
Wyanne









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37 comments:

  1. This sounds terrifying! But you're obviously very strong. I'm glad you can get back to your life and paint more. <3

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  2. Your journey sounds so difficult, and I am sure you feel like a different person than when you started. I have noticed a difference in your artwork, and inner kind of glow and happiness that radiates from the page. It is absolutely stunning. You are my hero and inspiration to keep on my art journey, and every other journey Life throws my may.

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  3. God bless you!

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  4. God bless you Wyanne. I will pray for your continued healing. And I would LOVE to take some of your classes in the future. Watercolors are my favorite! :-)

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  5. You are awesome. My dad has stage 4 cancer, no cure, no treatment. He had radiation treatment several times so I recognize that mask. I'm so happy you are doing so much better. You are beautiful. And I love your art.

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  6. I don't even know what to say. You are a brilliant artist and I am so happy to see your work again. Your voice is your art and it is music to my ears. Many blessings and hugs to you and thank you:)

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  7. Hi from Queensland Australia Wyanne
    Just read all your trials and tribulations. What a trip to hell and back you have had.Just so happy that you are thriving and able to relish your creativity again. I am grateful also to your comment , getting used to the new me. Look forward to renewed posts and work from you. Take care and big hug. Love and Light Dijane xxx

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  8. Wyanne, I am so happy to see this post from you and hear of your progress and your incredible strength through a difficult journey. I have added you to my prayer list ever since I had heard about your surgery so I was really happy to hear how well you are doing. I still have your painting on my wall and it's always an inspiration to me.

    Keep up the great work!

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  9. Dearest wyanne, I'm so happy to see this post and know that you are on the road to health once again. Your perseverance and strength are to be admired! My prayers are with you and your family. Hugs and blessings.

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  10. You are a gift in this sometimes dark, scary, sad world. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Much love , prayers and admiration. xokp

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  11. Wyanne, we have never met in person, but I feel like I know you so well. I am so thankful that you are doing well and pray for you everyday. Blessings to you.

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  12. Thank you for sharing. You are such an inspiration!

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  13. You are amazing Wyanne! I totally understand your feelings, having had cancer myself and the treatments involved.. it is certainly a journey. mostly hard, but if you have a good attitude like you, it really does bring gifts too. You are never the same again. My body has changed drastically due to surgery and the after effects of treatments, but I love every day now and realise how miraculous and precious everything is. Life is beautiful.
    I love hearing of your progress through FB and now on here, it makes me feel so happy to see you getting stronger, but the best of all is how you know about the gifts it can give. I love a person with a good attitude! You are a star! :) Suzie xx

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  14. You are a strong woman, a surviver and now a thriver!
    And I know you are living every day to the full and making it count. You see the world anew after what you've been through. Every day is a gift.

    Blessings of beauty,
    Cat xo

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  15. Hey Wyanne -

    I've been following you for quite some time and have seen the periodic updates on Facebook from you and your family. I'm so sorry you're all having to go through this. We're all stronger than we realize, but you unfortunately don't find that out until you have no choice BUT to be strong.

    Way to hang in there! Wishing you lots of healing going forward; I know you'll do really great things, and I have no doubt that you'll be back to 100% sooner rather than later. Much love :)

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  16. Wow and holy shit! I have been following your progress and (as a nurse) I am awed and amazed. Sending energy.
    Peace and Paint,
    Debbie

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  17. I have only known you for a week and it was the elephants who have brought us together. Wyanne, I can't believe what you went through and what a strong woman you are. I cannot imagine how hard this must have been for you. I couldn't help but cry while reading this blog. You are on the road to recovery and it sounds like you had fabulous support along the way. My thoughts and prayers go out to you. Keep painting...it's beautiful like you! I hope Danny is doing well and has also recovered. Sending blessing to you and your family! Nancy Nortell

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  18. I can't tell how your post moved me.. but as I already told you on facebook many times, you re the strongest woman I ve ever "met".. I m so happy to hear that you won and that your hubby is doing well too.
    You ve been my first online teacher and I ll never forget your voice. I just want to let you know that you changed my life and that you are a marvellous woman and artist !
    Lots of love

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  19. I am so, so happy to see that things are moving in a more positive direction for you. It sounds like despite all you've been through that your spirit is shining in gratitude. I admire your strength and your resolve to find the blessings in life. As a fellow cancer survivor (since 1998) and artist, I really can relate to a lot of what you said. I look forward to reading more from you and seeing more of your beautiful art, as you feel up to it! My best to you, My Dear! Misty

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  20. Wow you have been through so much! I'm glad that you are cancer free. Be blessed!

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  21. I am so sorry you had to go through all of that. I can see why you needed the time off from your business and the 'net. You do still look beautiful. :) I hope your drinking, swallowing, and talking will heal over time as well. So glad you are okay.

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  22. Lovely to see you back here on your blog sharing again Wyanne. You sure are a fighter, what a trial you have been through. I love that you have kept positive and are prepared to make the most of the "new normal" as you say. BTW, I love your new hair! xx Jini Morse

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  23. Hi Wyanne! Now I am normally not someone who comments on heartbreaking stories by strangers, but now I will. I've admired your art for a long time, in a quiet way ;-) Reading your story, I can't believe what you went through and more important, how you did this! Not all alone, and that makes me happy, that you were surrounded by people who love you and helped you. The best part for me? To see new paintings! I think that is the prove you won the battle ;-) Great to see you back!

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  24. LOVE LOVE LOVE to you, Wyanne! My grandpa went through exactly the same thing about four years ago, and I have seen how it was.

    You're brave! And I am so so happy that you are here with us, and your family is well again.

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  25. The first painting announcing your story is very beautiful and powerful! I want to share with you what I see ... the octopus is often seen by the unconscious as a symbol of danger of being caught in its deadly tentacles (Carl Jung) ... you transformed it in a gentle friend, an ally full of sparkles of light! The elephant, in the Hindu religion, is a highly revered god and is called Ganesh. Ganesh is the energy in us that can remove all obstacles. He is able to go through the tickest forest full of obstacles. You made it your powerful ally present since the begining of your challenging adventure! With those two allies, Love and Abundance of Life are revealed to you and become your butterflie wings...And the small dark box of your old memories are in a process of letting go. This is the story I read in your painting and It is very beautiful!

    Lots of love, light and blessings, dear beautiful soul! And great thanks for sharing your story ...we all learn through it as we all go through different but similar tests before becoming butterflies!
    Francine

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  26. Wow, Wyanne. I've been following some of the updates on FB from others who are friends with you.

    I've been keeping you in my prayers. You are such an incredibly strong woman, and you really have had quite the year. I hope things are quiet, calm, and healthy for you from here on.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I will continue to pray for your recovery, and look so forward to seeing more of your beautiful artwork.

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  27. Wow. Your post touched me deeply. You are so strong. I am sure this is a terrible time, but there is still optimism as you post one tragedy after another. I hope you can feel all the hugs being sent your way, and thank you for sending *me* strength to realize I have absolutely nothing to get glum about! You are an inspiration. I wish all the best for you and your family in the future!

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  28. We don't know each other Wyanne, I knew of your beautiful art and read your blog post before your surgery and have been checking back periodically hoping that you are doing well. You have been on a huge journey, I can't believe how far you been to make it back to this point. Your courage and determination is astounding, as is this beautiful presence and joy you seem to have. I am not denying or dismissing bad days, fears and frustration at all, but you photos do seem to translate to an inner to outward beauty and peace in the midst of what most of us view as a very scary time. You are very beautiful, scars and grafts and all. Your short little haircut suits you well. Thank you for sharing your journey, it is a gift to everyone.
    Happy that your husband is doing well also. Blessings to you for a speeded up recovery and unexpected and wonderful surprises in your healing and art.

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  29. My heart felt so sad after reading all that you have been through. Then it felt lifted as your positive spirit shined through. You are amazingly strong and I'm so happy to hear you are getting better every day! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I, and many others, are sending you a big hug :)

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  30. I don't usually leave comments but after reading your post I just had to tell you your such an inspiration of strength and determination! You and your family have gone through horrible struggles yet you continue to display such a beautiful light within you. I'm an artist also and I just find huge amounts of joy in your work and love it! You really have the ability to speak through your art. I will continue to keep you and your family in my prayers.
    Isaiah 41:10-"Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness."

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  31. What an incredible journey. I wish you all the best. So happy that you are painting. You have such a beautiful soul.

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  32. Dear Wyanne,
    I have gone though stage 3 breast cancer, bi-lateral breast cancer, chemo, radiation and currently thyroid cancer. I will have surgery to remove my thyroid Oct. 23, 2014. Don't know what to expect. The docs said all my other surgeries were difficult and this one will be a piece of cake. You sure did have one heck of a journey! I do not know you other than I am an artist also and I am driven to create every day. I quilt, art journal, scrapbook, make mini albums, crochet and knit, make jewelry and do other needle arts. I can't stop! I explored your page and checked your blog. You have incredible talent which is such a gift from God. I have great Faith and I know that God is carrying my through my cancer journey as he is carrying you. God also works through us in our artwork. I feel I was meant to see your name this morning, to make that connection with another creative human being, that sees the world a little differently through the eyes of an artist. God Bless you and continue to keep you in good health. I will pray for your continued healing. <3

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  33. Sending much love to you. You and your family are so brave. I know we come out of these life changing situations and illnesses better people, but I wouldn't wish this for any one. God bless you real good, and may you continue to live each day to its fullest..we all need to appreciate, be grateful, and live a great life.Thank you for sharing your story and your art. Your art and your videos have always touched and encouraged me:)

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  34. Having just read this, I'm all choked up and not really sure what to say.....so.....*HUGS*. May God continue to bless you. You are amazing!

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  35. Your story and art are a blessing!
    With hugs,
    a new onliner

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  36. Just discovered your art on etsy and hopped over to your blog. As I read your blog entry, I felt deeply emotional. Your treatment has been difficult but I am so glad that you are doing well and getting better. I pray that you continue to heal!

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I ♥ to hear from you! Thank you so much!!!