Christmas 2003

Family & Friends, 

We hope this letter finds you all well.  Domenic, my mom, and I are all well and it was another eventful year!  I should start with my mom who turned 87 in July – she is hardly one you would expect to accumulate frequent flier miles!  This year she only made two trips to Colorado to see Domenic instead of three --  not just to the mile high city of Denver, but to the Rocky Mountains northwest of Boulder, where we spend the weekend at about 8,000 feet. 

During our trip in February for Dom’s birthday she developed shortness of breath, there were a few moments when I really thought she was going to drop (she had never had this problem before).  When we got back there was first a simple diagnosis of fluid buildup due to a cold, aggravated by the altitude – but things even got worse in Lyons and then the medical tests really started!     One Doctor suspected blood clots in the legs/lungs which could have been a real emergency –  she was suppose to have a CAT scan, but that was the weekend of the ice storm and they didn’t have any power.  She was able to partially complete some lung imaging, but she couldn’t complete the test because she found it hard to breath the radioactive gas under pressure – who thinks of these tests anyways! 

The results were inconclusive, but the Doctor wanted to admit her to the hospital immediately and put her on blood thinners.  So….. we show up at the hospital for admission later that day, but they don’t have the paperwork.  They tell us we have to be admitted through the emergency room (they again rerun some tests).  It’s a busy weekend due to the storm and my mom began to lose her patience, she was getting hungry and we couldn’t even get any food.  Finally, she just wanted to walk out (and I couldn’t blame her) – so she signed the ‘release forms’ and we left. I called the Doc and a CAT scan was scheduled at another hospital for another day.

She has the scan, her chest looks clear, no clots (Thank God we hadn’t hung around at the hospital). We see the “internal medicine” doctor – he thinks the liver is going bad and hints at growths and it could be the big “C”.  Unfortunately, the prior CAT scan didn’t go low enough into her abdomen, so she needs another!  All the while everyone is ordering blood tests and I hate bringing here because her veins are hard to hit and I can feel her grimace when they try multiple times with the needle!

Finally, the other scan gets done and it looks great.  They also take some fluid out of her abdomen to do a biopsy – but we have to wait a few more weeks for those results to come back.    While this is going on, I make a trip to Colorado alone to see Domenic.  It feels strange to be out there at the cabin by myself – and I wonder if this will be the future trend. It is frightening to think about….   Well, we go back for the test results and the biopsy was normal.  Medical science finally puts it down to a nonspecific decrease in liver functions which sometimes occurs in the elderly – she has been on the fluid pills for a while and seems to be back to normal.    But … the doc says a CA125 blood test looked abnormal and she should see an OBGYN….

Well, she has a great summer with Dom and then it is back to the docs.  I do a little research on CA125 and find it is an indicator of cervical cancer – the big ‘C’ again – and you know, I just felt like we escaped one bullet and now here it is.  The doctor is just out of medical school and does a pelvic exam – she tells me one of your mom’s ovaries seems quite enlarged. I’m going to get you an appointment with a specialist who can do a detailed ultrasound.  I do a little more research on the web and manage to scare myself again – the CA125 gives a lot of false positives, but combine that with an enlarged ovary in someone 87 and bingo – you’ve pulled the winning ticket at the cancer lottery!   I always let my mom know what is going on, she takes it all in stride.

We go to see the specialist and they ask her to come with a full bladder to get a good test. Well, I try to do that, but then the appointment is delayed and when you have to go – you have to go!  We see the doctor (and this one is a saint) – and she says she just can’t get a reading.   She can feel the concern and patiently has my mom drink more fluids and then reruns a LOT of tests – I’m just waiting.  

Finally, she come out to tell me I can’t even image your Mom’s ovaries, which is actually quite normal for someone of here age, the ovaries do shrink.   I then ask her the 64,000 dollar question, “What about the other doctor and the enlarged ovary.”   She tells me, “Well, when doing a pelvic there is a lot of stuff crammed up in there, ovaries, bladder, intestines.  What she probably felt was a bowl movement.”   I laughed with relief!   The CA125 test was rerun and it was back in the normal range – just a bad test result.  No complaints here!  I had several close friend lose parents this year and while it is part of life – I thank God she will be able to see Dom and me grow a little older, and vice-versa!

Dom and I built a lot more airplane models this year and we really got into using an airbrush for some good finish work.   We had a very busy six weeks of summer vacation – did a lot of work in the garden and also completed some projects around the house.  Our garage had long been a disorganize disaster area – we emptied it and repacked the interior and also made some new storage space.  Dom got to practice with a saw, hammer, and screwdriver and Dom had the great idea of using some old training wheels to make a storage rack for some old pipes.  We then did a lot of digging in the lawn to put a pathway of blocks under the grape arbor in the backyard – it was something Grandma had wanted for a while and it came out looking pretty good.   We also put up some gutters over two areas where flowers had tried to grow, but got flooded from the roof – they are much happier flowers now!

Taro, the bunny, is now 3 years old (appx.) and still going strong.  He enjoys the freshly baked cookies grandma gives him and has the run of the basement.  We did send a video of him to America’s Funniest Videos – if you see a grey and white floppy eared rabbit chasing a white stuffed bear (with ‘Love AFV’ on his behind!) --  that’s him!    Dom and I again spent a few quiet days visiting the Monastery of Mt. Saviour ( -- we helped in the orchard pruning the small fruit off the apple trees.   All three of us went on a trip to Niagara Falls and visited the Skylon Tower for dinner (we had a great dinner at their rotating restaurant, and Dom got to eat two orders of escargot – his favorite!).

We were able to make a special visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  Dom love the F-22 Raptor (the Air Forces newest fighter jet).  I had found out a classmate of mine from the Academy was now the Brigadier General (Tom Owen) in charge of the development program!  I gave him a call and he arranged a special visit to his offices where Dom got a briefing from one of the pilots – pretty cool!

In the fall my Mom and I visited Dom again out in Colorado for Halloween – she felt fine the entire trip!  We played some put-put golf and Grandma again managed to make the best score!  Maybe it’s because she holds the putter backwards!

I’m continuing my efforts for Family Law reform and again spent some time in Jail.  Wrote a letter to one of our Senator’s that hopefully gives a good summary (http://www.AkidsRight.Org/actionc_syr/clinton10.htm)

Best Wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Caterina, John & Domenic Murtari

© John and Domenic Murtari 2011