Why polepole~breathe?

In January 2016 we realized our life was not just about to take a major detour, but that the road we were traveling really was no longer.  It stopped existing in a matter of days, or, with a phone call, really.  While we continue building a new path to travel, it is much different than we envisioned just days before January 5, 2016 or even in the days and weeks after.

Polepole means “go slowly” in Swahili.  We heard it often from Paul, our mountain guide, while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in December 2012.  Paul also taught me breathing techniques for when I was feeling short of breath.  “Polepole.”  “Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.”  “Polepole.”  Little did I know these techniques would prove useful to me in future years in a much different setting.

January 5, 2016, I was sitting at a restaurant with my oldest granddaughter when my phone rang.  It was my primary care physician’s number, probably just following up with the urgent care visit of two days before.  For months I’d been feeling cruddy with fatigue, headaches, and recently a little cough-cough, and some huffing and puffing when walking up the hill.  I’d been to the doctor, the chiropractor, and on Jan.3, I went to the walk-in clinic to see what they might do.  While there, they did a nebulizer treatment and a chest x-ray, but really didn’t say or do much to help. Not just following up, I realized, very soon into the call. She wanted me to have a CT scan that afternoon or the next day and she was scheduling an appointment to see me for the following day.  Something didn’t look right on the chest x-ray. And, we need to do a CT scan right away.  Wow.  Okay then.

The hour drive home was a strange one with trying to hold it together for my granddaughter, knowing I had to call Dan and tell him what was going on when I didn’t know myself, and processing what I’d just heard.  And, fear. Yup, fear.  Urgent, bad news in your chest x-ray in my family means one thing: lung cancer.  But that couldn’t be!  I’ve never smoked.  And I’m healthy.  And I’m fit.  Why, in the past four years I’ve climbed the world’s tallest free standing mountain, hiked  down and up Grand Canyon three times on backcountry backpacking trips carrying a 30 lb. pack,  hiked Mt. Katahdin twice and Mt. Washington once. “Don’t panic yet,” I told myself, “It must be something else – pneumonia or something – I’m not THAT sick.”

That was the beginning of our cancer journey.  Not being one to tiptoe into anything, we jumped right onto a rollercoaster: metastatic lung cancer with a tumor on the hilum of my left lung (near some really important stuff), tumors on my liver, and one somewhere in the pelvis.  Fast forward from January 2016 to August 2017, and I’m living life everyday in the garden or in the water with Dan, the children, grandchildren, and rest of the family, the three little dachshunds, and of course two Nigerian dwarf goats, Dottie and Matilda.

As time goes on with this blog, I’ll figure out how to fill in the blanks.  Since Feb. 2016 I’ve kept a carepage to keep family and friends updated on my progress.  Access is by invitation or request.  January 24, 2016 carepage