We’re back on the road

Porter the Giant Schnauzer

This is Porter, my new best friend.

He’s the watchdog at The Glory House a non-profit in Laurel, Miss. We’ve been painting a room in this wonderful old home that houses volunteers as they rebuild homes here that were damaged by two tornados in 2019 and 2020.

Technically Porter isn’t allowed in the house. But he spent the day laying on the brick floor while we moved ladders and drop cloths around him. During breaks he dropped his balls at our feet looking for a playmate.

It’s been 18 months since Joe and I have been on the road volunteering for NOMADS, a Methodist mission group for Rvers. We had planned to be galivanting from project to project around the country in our retirement. But, well, life got in the way.

I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in October 2019. I have treatments every three weeks, which keeps me close to my doctors in Pittsburgh. Then just when we thought we could do some traveling again the Covid pandemic hit shutting everything down.

It’s not like we sat on our hands in Pittsburgh. We kept busy volunteering at the SEND Relief Center at our church, helping in the clothing closet and with Grow Living Stones serving meals to our less fortunate neighbors.

On Mondays you’ll see our little red Mini zipping through the South Side and Downtown where we give out lunches to homeless people.

So here we are. The immune therapy is working. The tumors are shrinking. We’ve gotten all our shots. And we’re back on the road.

Our first project is in Laurel, where the program “Home Town” is filmed. We’ll spend two weeks working on houses here before returning to Pittsburgh for treatment.

For now it’s good to be back in our house on the road.

Feeling grateful

The West Penn Hospital parking bridge is strung with green garland, red bows and lights. It’s cheery.

Joe and I gasped at the same time the first time we saw it.

We cross that bridge …a lot.

West Penn is home to the Mellon Cancer Pavilion and where my cancer doc is located. I have metastatic malignant melanoma. Stage 4 skin cancer. There’s no cure for it.  There’s only keeping it at bay with treatments every 21 days to kick start my immune system.

I haven’t written in a while because I was terrifically depressed.

When I was first diagnosed, every night I lay next to Joe in bed and cried. Sad sobs, telling him I didn’t want to leave him. And how selfish me didn’t want him to be alone, but didn’t want him to take up with another woman either after I died.

(He is a catch. Devoted husband, father and grandfather who has supported me twice through cancer and still brings me tea every morning. I am spoiled.)

The first time I attended church I cried. The lady behind me handed me a pack of tissues during the service. I’m not angry at God or even questioning my condition. I’m just sad that I’m going  through it and sad for losing the life I had planned. Sad for my family.

Friends have sent me wonderful cards and best wishes. It’s nice to know people care.

Over the course of the month, really after my first infusion, my outlook lifted. I feel like something is being done. I have a slight rash, which the doc says occurs 90 percent of the time when the therapy is working.

I’m happier. I look forward to our changed future.

We’re stationary. We live in a one-bedroom apartment in a converted school in Pittsburgh. There’s a pool table in the lobby. Joe keeps making jokes about walking the halls wanting to tell students to get back to class.

The apartment is HUGE compared to the motorhome. One bedroom with big classroom sized windows and a dishwasher.

The future doesn’t include living full time in our motorhome, but we still plan to travel in it between treatments.

We can walk to the grocery, a really good bakery, restaurants, the drugstore, our bank and our church. We’re a mile from our daughter. We saw fireworks from the building’s rooftop on Light Up Night in Pittsburgh.

We’re still volunteering, just not traveling the country to do it. We hooked back up with the church we attended last year and volunteer with their community meals and food pantry. We fold clothes for the clothes closet. We painted the stage ceiling.

I love their vision: Love God, Love People and Do Something About it.

When the homeless shelter on Smithfield Street reopens we will volunteer there again too.

Joe’s back climbing at the rock climbing gym and I’m doing yoga there. We take long walks overlooking Pittsburgh. I plan to run a 5k in the spring.

And in July we’re taking the whole family, eight of us, to Hawaii.

I’ve decided not to put off the things I’ve always wanted to do. If I’m going to have a shorter life span, then I’d better get crackin. There are places to go and people to meet.

In the meantime, I’ll cross the West Penn Hospital parking bridge at least twice a month. I wonder if they decorate it for Easter?