Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sabine's Newsletter Submission

(The following is an article Sabine recently submitted for the Wisconsin Dialysis Center Newsletter)

It has been a long time since I have written an article for the newsletter. Some of you may recall that I was diagnosed 3-1/2 years ago with multiple myeloma (a “terminal” blood cancer) which usually carries a prognosis of five years. My cancer first presented itself through acute kidney failure. So, in January, 2008, I not only started chemotherapy to try and control my cancer, but also began dialysis due to my kidney problems (end-stage renal failure).

At first this was extremely overwhelming! I had only retired five years earlier from policing at age 50 and had many plans including visiting our adult children spread across five states. I chose early retirement because my husband, David Couper, who had retired from the Madison Police Department five years earlier, was older than I was and I wanted to be able to spend more time with him. Dialysis, however, complicated everything – or so I thought.

My HMO would only pay for my treatments at the Wisconsin Dialysis Center so it was not feasible for us to consider doing any out-state travel. I was devastated because I knew our children had limited time to get away from their jobs and busy lives. Six months into our thrice-weekly clinic dialysis schedule we were presented with an alternative – home hemodialysis. It would require training, but would permit us to travel. For the past three years we have gone to Florida two weeks during the winter season. Home dialysis permitted us to continue to have a winter vacation in a sunny and warm place. So, two years ago, we purchased a slide-in camper for our pickup truck and drove to Glacier Park, hiked, camped, and dialyzed in, perhaps, some of the most beautiful mountain settings! This year we have two more road trips – house boating on the Mississippi with kids and grandkids and, in the fall, going to Branson, Missouri.

All of this, however, has not been smooth sailing! It took three failed fistulas before we were able to button hole and get rid of the tunnel catheter in my chest. I was fortunate enough to be able to receive a stem cell transplant in the Spring of 2009. This put my cancer under control for a while and I was working toward getting on the kidney transplant list and possible transplant if my cancer behaved itself for 24 months. I didn’t and it returned. I was back on chemotherapy and, again, devastated. I gave myself twenty-four hours to cry, feel sorry for myself, and used word I hadn’t used since our children arrived!

Back on chemotherapy and dialysis, I refused to waste any more of my precious time in such a wasteful, unconstructive way. My husband, David, gave me a great insight recently. He questioned, when something terrible happens to us, how do we know it’s not a blessing? With my original cancer diagnosis, I first assumed it was a disaster. But now looking back at the past 3-1/2 years, I know it was really a blessing. He and I have spent more time together, we choose our travel carefully and deliberately, we both take much better care of our bodies (daily exercise, eating healthy, and regular check-ups) as well as improving our minds and cultivating our spirits. He would have continued full-time work in ministry and I would have continued my part-time work at Lands’ End. This would have resulted in us seeing each other after work (usually tired and drained) or on weekends (doing yard work and other domestic chores). Why? Because we all assume there will be more time to do things together (even to work on our relationship) in the future. We all know that a slower day will never come. All we really have is now.

Each of us has a responsibility to live our lives fully and celebrate our life every day.

Health and happiness,


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