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Cheryl ElliottI blame my brother. He was the one who proclaimed: “May 2016 be a year of adventure and blessing!” I had no choice but to respond with “challenge accepted,” and treat last year’s unexpected breast cancer diagnosis as both adventure and blessing.

For me, his proclamation became: “May this breast cancer adventure bring unusual and exciting experiences, bursting with God’s favor, protection and well-being!” Although he also said I was going through a lot of trouble just for a boob job! Brothers!

As it turns out, my breast cancer journey – in which I experienced the whole gamut:  chemotherapy and its ugly side effects, breast surgery, immune system collapse, and reconstruction – has brought both adventure (and some misadventure) and blessing. I’m told I’ve handled the diagnosis and treatment a little differently than most women, and I pray that sharing my journey will bring hope and encouragement. Here are a few ponderings from my cancer adventure.

Facing fears

A breast cancer diagnosis unleashes a storm of fears. Fear of the unknown: Did I cause this? What’s going to happen to me?  Fear of pain: Will it hurt? Fear of losing control. Fear of dying and fear of a life unlived. Information is often the antidote for fear because I am most afraid of what I don’t know. If I’m going to buy a refrigerator, I have to learn everything I can about refrigerators before making a final choice. The same is true when dealing with a diagnosis. Make decisions based on the information available and advice of doctors. Sorry, but “Doctor Google” should not be a trusted advisor.
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In the end, 90 minutes just wasn’t enough.

At the Fluvanna library on Thursday (Sept. 28), local elected officials met with Delegates Lee Ware (65th District), Rob Bell (58th District), State Senator Mark Peake and a representative from Fifth District Congressman Tom Garrett’s office to talk about their hopes and dreams for the coming year.

With only 15 minutes to go, the group was still discussing the third of five items on their agenda.

It was a loaded agenda, made even heavier by what seemed like great ideas that just kept popping up – like partnering with Virginia Tech to do educational farming at Pleasant Grove.
Board of Supervisors Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) presided over the meeting that included the following agenda items:

  • Public school funding;
  • Local law enforcement: search warrants and applications for concealed hand gun permits;
  • Department of Education and Children’s Services Act funding; and
  • Zion Crossroads economic development opportunities and partnerships.

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Cheryl ElliottEleanor Roosevelt said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” My hot water was an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis last year.

Tepid waters
I finally went to see my lady doctor for all those annual exams that I had conveniently avoided for a couple of years. The blood work showed high cholesterol, which I attributed to stress, and I promptly resolved to live a healthier lifestyle and exchange my chocolate meals for broccoli. The mammogram, however, wasn’t so easily dismissed. Because I had had false indications before – just dense tissue and shadows – I wasn’t concerned about going back for additional tests. However, the 1.5-centimeter mass was easy to spot on the monitor. The radiologist coming in to chat was my second clue that all was not well.

Two biopsies were promptly scheduled to check the mass and another area with calcifications. Because I freaked out about being strapped tightly in the mammogram machine, they used ultrasound to biopsy the mass. They would wait to test the calcifications. After the procedure, I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, numb, disoriented. What was I facing? Was it just another false alarm? Would it be cancer this time?

After the traumatization of the biopsy, I just wanted to go home. To do so, I needed to drive an hour across Afton Mountain back to Fluvanna. Should I go home or to my sister’s house north of Harrisonburg? I decided that I didn’t want to be alone. I believe that decision was God’s way of protecting me. If I had turned south on I-81, I probably would not have survived the trip. The biopsy procedure turned out not to be routine.

Simmering waters

About an hour after the procedure, I started feeling a lump in the back of my throat, like something was stuck that I couldn’t wash down. Stress, I told myself, and had another drink of water. I felt very tired, but again thought it was due to the morning’s stress. My face started swelling, making it feel as though my mouth was filled with marbles. I started having difficulty breathing. While my sister searched for missing car keys to take me to the hospital, I managed to reach the car. Suddenly overheated, I attempted to get out of the car when my vision and hearing started tunneling. I collapsed onto the gravel driveway, crying, “Please help me, I can’t breathe.” No, something definitely wasn’t right. Add a comment

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Eric Hess and his fatherHundreds of Fluvanna seniors and their caregivers gathered Wednesday (Sept. 20) at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church to learn how to prepare for and manage aging.

This third annual senior day was put on by TRIAD, an alliance between law enforcement, seniors and organizations that serve seniors, said Sheriff Eric Hess.

The goal is to reduce the fear of crime and victimization among seniors and increase awareness of scams and frauds targeting them. TRIAD also strives to teach that vulnerable population about services available in the community.

“I know [in the U.S.] 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day. A lot of them, like me, are taking care of their parents,” Hess said, nodding to where his 93-year-old father, Billy Hess, sat.

Hess said he’s had several conversations with his dad about what to say if someone calls the house when he is away.

“So many of them grew up in a time when someone called to say you owed something, you believed them,” he said. “Because they don’t want a bad mark on their name or credit, they’re more likely than younger people to get their wallet out and write a check. There are a lot of scam artists out there.”

The most recent statistics cited in the Virginia Employment Commission’s community profile of Fluvanna show that 17 percent of Fluvannians are 65 or over.

Looking at the crowd and noting the variety of services represented and things to do at Senior Day, Hess seemed proud. “This is just what our community is all about,” he said. Add a comment

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Republicans rally around candidates

It was a beautiful evening Saturday (Sept. 23) at the Layz S Ranch and Fluvanna Republicans took advantage of it.

At the annual Fluvanna Republican fundraiser there was food, like-minded folks, candidates and lots of “Hurrah for our side!”

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