My Sister, Jackie

July 28, 2017

Hi everybody. I want to talk about my big sister, Jackie Card. Jackie has been fighting ovarian cancer in a Celebrity Death Match for the past 10 years. She has been kicking cancer’s ass for those 10 years, but we recently learned cancer is going to win on points. She entered a Hospice program last week. She has been thinking about it for awhile, and came to the decision after talking with her husband, Ansel Card and her treatment team at MD Anderson Cancer Center, the most advanced cancer research and treatment center in he world. When these guys say it’s time, it’s time. She very much wants everyone to know she isn’t dead yet. In fact, we have a trip planned for Labor Day. She may not be able to go, but she is still planning on it for now.
She’s my big sister. Being the oldest, she has always led the way, clearing the path for her three brothers Robert Foos, Richard and me and one sister, Susan Morgan. We grew up in the small town of LaCrosse, Kansas, the same town in which our father grew up. Some of our teachers taught our father (that was kind of weird, by the way). Jackie was a brainiac in school. That wasn’t so good for me, because she set the bar so high. I particularly remember my 5th grade teacher questioning if Jackie was really my sister, or if I was adopted. Then my brothers followed and she then concluded Jackie may have been the one who was adopted.
She’s my big sister. She was the first to attend college. She could have gone anywhere, but she chose to enroll in Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas. I thought that was kind of an odd choice, but it was college, and to me, it was the same as attending Stanford or Cornell. It certainly was a long way from home and she couldn’t come home every weekend. It also didn’t occur to me that was the point. Now, Colby isn’t exactly the garden spot of America. In fact, about the only difference between the terrain of Northwest Kansas and the lunar landscape of the moon, is gravity. Ah, but I didn’t know about Ansel.
My big sister showed me how to choose love. She had a new boyfriend that summer, Ansel Card. That wasn’t so odd. She had lots of boyfriends. But somehow, this guy was different. He was a Custom Cutter. For you folks from the city, a Custom Cutter is essentially an itinerate farm laborer who follows the summer wheat harvest from Texas to Saskatchewan. This is a great summer job for a young single man trying to strike out on his own. He can travel through the middle of the country and get paid for it. It did have an appeal similar to a the life of a cowboy on a cattle drive in the old West. Custom Cutters, for the most part, carried a reputation as drunken ner-do-well brawlers who should be avoided by local folks and, especially, young ladies. So, of course, girls flocked to them like they go after sailors during Fleet Week. Ansel caught Jackie’s eye at the local restaurant where she was a waitress. Guess who was going to attend Colby to join their collegiate rodeo team as a bull rider? Now here’s a major twist. Despite Ansel being a dirty Custom Cutter and the guy who was after his favorite child, my Dad really liked him and welcomed him into the family. I don’t think Dad ever bothered to learn the names of her previous boyfriends. Fairly quickly I had another brother.
My big sister showed me how to face adversity. Shortly after their marriage Jackie became pregnant with their only son, Shane Card (it’s really cool Shane and I share a birthday, thanks to Jackie being able to choose when he was to be born). Shane was born with health problems requiring multiple surgeries. Now that was a struggle of epic proportions that Jackie and Ansel faced squarely. They did what had to be done and made personal sacrifices so Shane could lead a normal life. He didn’t let them down, by the way. His children, Hannah Anoa Card and Molly, now light up their life.
My big sister showed me to reach for the sky and work for your dreams. Both Jackie and Ansel made education a priority in their lives. They each earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate while being parents and working to support the family. I bet our 5th grade teacher would have been proud.
My big sister showed me joys of travel and adventure. She traveled the world as an expert in her chosen field of study (ask her about the nude beach in New Zealand) and she never passed up a chance to visit someplace new, whether it be for work or pleasure. If traveling to an interesting or exotic locale was available, she was in. Her passport looks worn out.
My big sister showed me the importance of compassion and family. Last year Gayle Kelly Foos had her own brush with cancer. We chose to seek treatment at MD Anderson. Jackie and Ansel were with us every step of the way, showing us the ropes, acting as tour guides and offering encouragement and support throughout the process.
Now, my big sister is showing all of us how to live the latter stages of life with aplomb and dignity. Go visit her. I guarantee you, she will enjoy the visit.

 

The Great Toe Incident of 2017

Hi, everybody. I want to talk about my toe. Pretty much everyone I’ve seen in the past 3 weeks has heard about the Great Toe Incident of the Spring of 2017, but I just can’t put it away yet. I have noticed lately that people see me and abruptly turn around and get very busy while walking in the opposite direction. But now I have a captive audience who can truly appreciate the depth of this story. It’s filled with human pain, suffering, tragedy and triumph. And just like the TV mini-series, ‘Fargo’; it’s all true, except for the stuff I made up.

About six weeks ago I noticed that my big toe began to ache, and like most things like this, I chose to ignore it in hopes that it would just go away. Well, my initial intervention of nothingness failed to do the trick. While at work in the nursing home a resident ran over my foot in her wheelchair (that happens to me a lot there; they usually do it on purpose in an act of defiance after a particularly difficult session or when I try to interrupt them during Bingo or The Price is Right). The pain was fairly intense. I looked as pasty as a person from St. Louis in February (the enchanting land of gray days). So that night I decided to take a look at what was the matter. I discovered I had developed an ingrown toenail. I’ve never had one before, but I’ve seen plenty of people who had been treated for it. My toe was now swollen to a size that made me think I could make a balloon animal with it, so I decided to try to take care of it myself. 1st, I engrossed myself in causes and cures for ingrown toenails by reading quack remedies on the internet. I’m pretty sure that most of the curative options cited would have made my toe fall off. One of the most common causes seems to be wearing high heels. Well, I haven’t worn high heels since 1983 ( I know that men’s high heeled shoes went out of style well before then, but it was very hard for me to give up those 2 extra inches). I do, however, have trouble finding shoes that fit. My feet are shaped like an elephant foot. They’re kind of round with five very stubby appendages sticking out of them. So I’m blaming my very painful malady on tight shoes and maniacal wheelchair-bound patients.

Next came my curative intervention. Since I’ve seen plenty of people with healing toes and the internet said I could do it, I decided to perform an operation to cut the ingrown part of my toenail out. I used the little scalpel I have for cutting my pills and went to work. I then soaked my foot in Epsom salts (it’s pretty weird that Epsom salts are also used as palm tree fertilizer). Soaking actually helped a little, but the infection took over again and it still hurt. I was telling my story of woe and subsequent intervention strategies to the Resident psychologist who works for me and she said “You know you’re not that kind of doctor, right?”…. I wonder how her job search is going.

Since my toe wasn’t getting better, I decided to do something drastic that I rarely do, but I felt I had no other choice. I went to the doctor. I figured that I had already cut out the ingrown part of the nail, so I would just get some antibiotics to take care of the infection and be on my way. Well, that wasn’t the case. I am friends with a podiatrist, but he had the audacity to be on vacation, so I chose the walk-in clinic we frequent when we need urgent, but not emergent care. The nurse practitioner came into the exam room, took one look and a very painful little poke and said, “Hi. You have an ingrown toenail. It has to come out. I’m not going to lie. This is going to hurt. I have to go get some tools.”

Tools? Well, I thought. I’m a big boy (I’m not, actually, but I still think of myself that way). I can handle pain. I’ve had kidney stones twice and spent eight hours in the emergency room throwing up in a bucket. I can handle a little toe pain. Boy, was I ever mistaken!

When she returned, the nurse practitioner had a tool kit I am convinced came from the Spanish Inquisition. I had evidently just been accused of witchcraft. The kit contained two needles each about six inches long, some tin snips and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Then she again understated, “This is going to hurt a little”. She then wielded one the needles into my toe. It would have hurt less if she had pounded a rusty railroad spike into my toe with a small sledge hammer. But the masked Inquisitor was just starting her tortuous routine. The needle squirted it’s contents of hot molten lava into my toe that spread another form of searing pain throughout my foot. I don’t think I have cried at the doctor’s office since I was four years old, but I seemed to have broken that streak with this visit. She finally finished with needle #1 and out came needle #2. I thought, “At least this one won’t hurt as much, since there is already numbing medicine doing it’s magic from needle #1”. Well, that was wrong. She slammed the 2nd railroad spike in my toe generating all the pain of the 1st. But this one was filled with some kind of flesh-rotting acid that matched the pain of molten lava. I truly hope I just imagined her snickering at my reaction.

Finally, there was no feeling in my toe, so the Grand Inquisitor took out her tin snips and went to work by cutting my toenail in half. Watching that procedure made me almost thankful for the needle torture The tin snips dug in and soon half my toenail was gone. Next came the needle-nosed pliers. I thought I had cut the ingrown part out, but the tool belt master proved me quite wrong. She stuck pliers into the side of my toe, grabbed hold of pesky little problem and yanked it out with two giant tugs. My toe was a bloody mangled mess, but the Inquisitor had performed her exorcism of the problem toenail with absolute mastery. She bandaged up my toe and I was ready to go. Now here is the rub. I have experienced absolutely no pain at all since the anesthetic began to work.

So here is what I learned. I will not wear shoes that are too narrow. I will seek professional advice in a timely manner. If I get another ingrown toenail, I will cut my toe off before go through that experience again.

Ahh, I feel better now. I can move on to my next adventure.

The Best Friend Ever

Take a look at this woman. Her name is Sheri Mylius. She should never be allowed to buy herself another restaurant meal or ever buy another drink forever. She donated her kidney today so her good friend Glenda Nickle could live a normal life. We all wish we had a friend like her. Thank you, Sheri from everyone who knows and loves Glenda for your gift of life.

 

Glenda’s Favorite Day

Today is a very, very good day, or as Glenda, quoting Winnie the Pooh said this morning, “Today is my favorite day”. Glenda Nickle got a new kidney today. She is in recovering from the surgery in ICU and indications are all is well.
This is a culmination of a yearlong nightmare that began last year when she suffered a heart attack and then had terrible complications. She cheated death 25 times since then thanks to miracle after miracle performed by the medical team at Memorial Hermann Hospital. Gayle and I had a ringside seat during this ordeal. When it started we were dealing with our own medical challenge in the hospital right next door, but Gayle was able to recover and we could go on with our lives. Not so for Glenda and Norman. She had to suffer through multiple procedures and surgeries just to stay alive. She was certainly a trooper and Norman was her rock. I’m pretty sure they are closer now than they have ever been.
Even with all the miracles performed during this time the doctors couldn’t save Glenda’s kidneys. She suffered acute kidney failure due to extreme blood loss. Sometimes the kidneys are able to recover from acute failure, but not so in her case. The trauma was too great. So began life tethered to a dialysis machine. Glenda of course was glad to be alive, but her life was severely restricted. She learned to live being uncomfortable all the time. It was quite a strain. She couldn’t really enjoy herself to the fullest.
That all changes beginning today. The whole Nickle clan can now really recover. Today is a very, very good day. Like Glenda said, today is my favorite day.

The Best Christmas Present Ever

Thanks to everyone that sent us good wishes about Gayle’s successful cancer treatment. We didn’t tell many people because we were waiting for the good news we finally got. I used up all my holiday requests I ever had (63 x 9 = 567) to garner these results. ( I get 9 requests per year because I decided to make my honorary Jew designation retroactive to get 8 extra wishes per year, but that’s another story. Hey, don’t laugh, those wishes along with all the thoughts and prayers from friends and family worked.)
About 3 months ago Gayle began having symptoms that finally required a doctor’s visit. At first, she was treated for an infection and given antibiotics. (Here is humorous [not really] side note. These same symptoms can be caused by a STD or HIV. Lets just say Gayle would make a great interrogator at GITMO.) After a short session of waterboarding and when the test results came back negative, her doctor decided on another course of treatment. She performed a D&C. That also didn’t resolve the symptoms, but analysis of the tissue gathered revealed the problem. She had complex hyperplasia with atipia. This particular hyperplasia always turns into endometrial cancer 100% of the time if untreated and 25% to 45% of the time undetected cancer is already present. ( I will spend the rest of my life unlearning all those fun-filled facts about gynecological cancer. That brain space needs to be utilized for important information like the point spread for the Monday night football game or how to deduce when someone is holding a pocket pair in poker.)
Cancer. I can still hardly type those words without losing my breath. Gayle’s doctor in Victoria, Dr Gonzales, gave us the treatment options. The one she recommended strongly was treatment at the most prestigious cancer treatment center in the world, MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Gonzales offered a referral to a colleague there. I will be forever grateful to her for that referral.
Off to Houston we went. MD Anderson is an intimidating place. There are so many very smart people working there the windows vibrate with brain power. Walking into the lobby is like entering the lobby of the United Nations building. We saw a Saudi sheik and a number of Sikhs. People were speaking all kinds of languages from all over the world. Very lucky for us, my sister and brother-in-law are old hands at guiding people through the maze of buildings that make up the campus designed by architects inspired by ant hills. She has been in treatment there for years for ovarian cancer and my brother-in-law just began treatment for kidney cancer that has spread to his lungs. They are pretty experienced tour guides and they are doing very well in their treatment regimen.
We then met with Gayle’s resident brainiac physician, Dr. Frumowitz (surely he is a member of the Tribe). He analyzed the data presented by Dr. Gonzales (still my hero in this saga), and performed an exam. Then he stated, “Guess what you’re doing for Christmas”.
That brings us today. Jackie and Ansel were by our sides throughout this ordeal and also today. Our very good friends Chuck and Danna were also there to support us. Norman was kind enough to lend them to us for this time despite the horrendous ordeal he is experiencing just down the street at Hermann Memorial Hospital (more on that later). Gayle’s surgery lasted three hours. Let me tell you, that is a very long time to wonder what is going on. But then Dr. Frumowitz came back with the very best news he could have offered. The surgery went off well and analysis of the tissue gleaned there is no cancer. Gayle is cancer free. We will probably be home tomorrow.
Throughout this 3 month peek into Hell, Gayle has been a trooper. She continued to perform admirably in all 3 of her full time jobs and very seldom let the pressure of living with the thoughts of cancer interfere with her life. She certainly showed her bravery. I never loved her more.