Category Archives: Colorado

My Husband is a Cancer Survivor

While driving home from work on Colorado’s US 34 in terrible (as usual) traffic, I received two texts from my husband, Mark, that said:

“Wow…”

“They found a mass in my lung”

I read the texts and almost rear-ended the car in front of me after. I thought to myself, “A what? A mass?? My 29-year old husband could have a tumor in his lung … a cancerous one.”

At that point, I started to disassociate from reality and panic, so I quickly turned down a side road and sped home. That entire drive home felt as if it took forever to get home to him despite speeding down the country roads back home.

Mark in Alaska
Mark posing for a photograph in front of Denali, merely a week away from learning about the tumor.

See, we had just returned from a camping trip in Alaska, and Mark strained his shoulder picking up a bag. He went in for an x-ray at a local urgent care and came out with the discovery of an unknown, large mass in his lung (the size of an egg) that was situated in between three pulmonary arteries.

How could Mark have a tumor? Is it cancerous? What the hell is happening? These thoughts were circling in my slowly dissociating mind. After a biopsy, it turned out to be a non-aggressive, slow-growing, typical neuroendocrine cancer snugly sitting in his right lung’s lower lobe.

Example of tumor of the lung
An example of near the location of where the typical neuroendocrine tumor sat in his lung.

After many sleepless nights, three separate hospital stays that resulted in a total of almost three weeks, lots of blood, fluids and tears, uniportal vats surgery, and two surgeries over three months, Mark is cancer-free and recovering. Luckily, he didn’t need chemo or radiation, but the idea that this rare type of cancer was developing in him since his early twenties with no symptoms was (and still is) an absolutely terrifying thought.

We believe the turmoil has finally ended, and normalcy looks to be within our grasps again, but it was such a strange, emotional and deadening three months. It feels as if the Alaska trip we took in the summer was years ago.

The journey isn’t over as he still has to heal and regain his ability to breathe normally as well as take it easy to avoid any further mishaps. You can never truly prepare for such terrible, medical surprises such as this, but here are 5 things I’ve learned from the experience:

  1. The possibility that something absolutely terrible could happen during surgery
    I didn’t want to let go of his hand right before he was wheeled off into surgery, and when I did, it struck me that if one of those pulmonary arteries was accidentally cut, then he could very well bleed out, and I could very well be a widow. However, you must trust the doctors and medical staff to do what they think is best as well as keep your mind occupied while waiting for it to be over. The panic that loomed over me was too vast for me to even face, but luckily the surgery went well despite it being one of the most difficult surgeries the surgeon has experienced.
  2. Understanding how he/she feels about his/her body and situation
    When I was told that Mark has cancer and must undergo an intense and life-changing surgery, I felt absolutely useless and helpless. I tried and tried to act positive and somewhat normal around him, but in the end, he was the one who had to go through the procedures, stay in the hospital for days or weeks, and face the potential for reoccurrance. The best you can do is stay as strong as possible while keeping on top of those main priorities, such as bills, pets, cleaning and work. Gently remind your spouse that it is okay to let out emotion and stress in front of you and to encourage it.
  3. Physical and mental impacts of the entire experience
    It’s all said and done, right? Not so much. The healing process for lung surgery is delicate and long-term. Mark lost his right lung’s lower lobe in the surgery and can easily tell that he can’t breathe in as deep as before and gets winded easier. Understanding his new needs and limitations takes some time to adjust to especially since we’re both not even 30 years old. With patience, support and laughter, it makes it easier for them to retain control and adjust to their environment again.
  4. The number of people who care about you
    We all get locked into our normal routine of waking up, working, cleaning, eating, sleeping, etc. to the point of taking for granted your relationships with other people. After Mark was diagnosed with cancer, we had outpouring support from family, friends both near and far, coworkers and neighbors. It brought tears to our eyes when Mark’s coworkers donated money to help with future medical bills as well as using Meal Trains to deliver fresh, hot food to us on a daily basis. We were touched when friends would text or call one of us to ask how we were doing along with having neighbors offer to help with yard and housework. It opened our eyes to just how many people care about and support us while going through these absolutely stressful events.
  5. Life pre- and post-cancer and surgery
    Mark looks at life with a different viewpoint after his experience with these events where he is wiser with the concept of mortality, living life and overall love, which isn’t surprising. Getting back up to speed with work and exercise is going to be a rough, but not impossible road. After he completely heals, he wants to train to hike his third Colorado 14er (a mountain over 14,000 feet) next year as a goal … and I’ll be right there beside him along the way.

I hope this brings comfort to others who are dealing with a loved one who has a debilitating illness as you are not alone. I highly recommend finding support groups and legit research articles out there and not click on the first result that pops up in Google Search. My love and strength to you.

We’d like to give a shout-out to the amazing medical and nursing staff at Medical Center of the Rockies and UCHealth. Dr. Ronald Smith is one of only a handful of surgeons in the U.S. who can perform the type of noninvasive surgery Mark experienced. Thank you all for taking care of Mark and making him laugh during his long, long days and nights in the hospital.

Neuroendocrine cancer awareness

The Joys (and Hell) of Owning Our First Home for a Year

When Mark and I decided to purchase our first home in the ever-growing area of Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado, we knew it would be a stressful venture. Regardless of the stress, it’s been a rewarding one, too.

Originally, we didn’t plan on buying our first home within the first year of living in CO, but lo’ and behold, everything was increasing with no end in sight: rent and mortgage payments, competition among buyers, interest rates, down payments, my anxiety and blood pressure, etc.

This sums up the competition in CO when you're a buyer in a competitive market especially when looking for your first home.

Prior to talking to a loan officer of real-estate agent, the first thing I did was purchase this first-time homebuyer book.

Home Buying Kit for Dummies

After taking many notes from this helpful resource, we talked with two real estate agents and three loan officers based on online ratings, websites and word-of-mouth; we asked questions suggested from the book. We went with Remax’s Nathan Weinland and Cornerstone Lending’s Brad Dusek—both amazing experts in real estate, so if you’re looking for an agent or loan officer in this area, we highly recommend them!

Afterwards, we toured multiple—over 15 houses—properties in the Fort Collins-Loveland area. We visited a haunted house (I kid you not), a house with three different types of wallpaper in the basement, a house that easily needed $50K+ in repairs, amazing mansions, and more … until we found a house that met our price range and was in fairly good condition in Loveland. We made an offer on it seven hours after it was posted and wa-la!

First time home owners in Loveland!
The day we signed all of our documents and were officially homeowners on April 29, 2016!

After the technicalities of signing (our souls away) the papers and experiencing one hell of an empty bank account after the down payment, we experienced the joys and surprises of our first home:

Here’s a fun list of everything that went wrong within the first few months:

  • Our cat decided that the house was too big for her; therefore, she developed stress, which then turned into a UTI infection causing her to vomit and urinate around 20 times on the lower-level carpet.
  • The refrigerator’s water line cracked causing a semi-flooded kitchen floor. Home warranty wouldn’t cover it, and it was turning into a costly repair … so no more ice machine or water dispenser!
  • I picked up—and continue to pick up—trash in our backyard from previous owners. The soil here works where, after a windy, snowy and/or rainy day, things that are buried below the surface start to emerge like seedlings. From tiny pieces of broken plastic to cigarette butts, chewed up dog toys to metal spoons, shards of glass to army soldiers, I found some interesting ‘treasures’ so far!
  • Dead, embalmed rat carcass in our crawl space … ’nuff said.
  • Every single label in our fuse box is mislabeled. The one labeled ‘outside lights’ turns on/off the bedroom in the lower-level!
  • The chimney wasn’t cleaned in multiple years causing an inch-thick layer of soot to form, which was a big hazard! Apparently, chimney fires can heat up to a whopping 2,000 degrees!
  • The water pipes under the kitchen had legit cracks in them … CRACKS! Over time, the moisture that escaped formed a strange moldy substance in the crawl space.
  • The garage…ooooh the garage! There were two fire wall breaches—down to one—and the walls are slowly stripping away and is home to numerous spiders.

Our initial thoughts after repairing or having numerous items repaired and seeing the money flow to our first home:

Buy a house they said, it'll be fun they said!
Luckily we have yet to experience a flooded basement! *knocks on wood*

However, as we reach our one-year homeownership mark, we can truly say that we do love our home despite the insanity this first year brought both financial- and work-wise!

We made/had the following repairs and upgrades to our first home:

  • Installed New Flooring to the Lower-Level

    Many ‘thanks’ to our furbaby for instigating us to re-do the lower-level flooring a good three years sooner than intended! The (original) vinyl flooring in the downstairs bathroom was replaced with beautiful, natural stone, slate tiles:

    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone slate tile in our bathroom area.
    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone, slate tiles in our bathroom area.

    The tiles were also installed around our wood-burning fireplace (both projects completed by Tiles Make Smiles):

    New slate tile around our fireplace downstairs.
    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone slate around the fireplace.

    Lastly, we ripped up the carpet and padding from the den and had a nice, wood vinyl flooring installed (completed by Mic’s Tile):

    New vinyl wood flooring installed!
    New vinyl wood flooring by Mic’s Tile.
  • Removed Popcorn Ceiling

    Covered in the particles and material in the popcorn ceiling
    Myself covered in the particles and materials from the popcorn ceiling!

    If ever there was a task so tedious that it would make you not only feel like burning down your house, but simultaneously fill your lungs and eyes with more-than-likely horrible substances it is the process of removing popcorn ceiling.

    This process involves spraying warm water on the ceiling, scraping off the popcorn, sanding the remnenants to a flat surface, spackling any scratches and dents from the removal process, vacuuming the floor and wiping down the walls, windows and doors, and then priming/painting the ceiling!

    Before and after the removal of popcorn from the ceiling.
    Before and after the removal of popcorn from the ceiling.

    We have one more room to go: our master bedroom. There is still a ton of popcorn ceiling throughout the house, but to those rooms I say, “Adieu!”

  • Radon Mitigation System

    Our radon mitigation system installed when we first moved into our first home.

    Radon
     was tested in our home with results showing levels above 7 pCi/L, which is above the recommended levels. We added this to one of the fixes we wanted the sellers to fix, which they obliged. After the system was installed in the crawl space, the radon levels are now at 0 pCi/L! (We had BWise Radon install it, and they were amazing!)

  • New Kitchen Pipes Installed

    Another concerning issue that we asked the sellers to take care of involved replacing kitchen pipes in the crawl space because they were leaking and causing mold. This was completed in a day, and it was a good thing since the original pipes had legit cracks in them!

  • Painted Three Rooms and Upgraded Outlets and Covers

    I never painted a room before and was really psyched when we were prepping to paint after removing the popcorn ceilings! We painted Mark’s room—aka man cave—a medium green. Then, we added curtains, and Mark replaced all of the antiquated outlets and covers:
    We painted a room in our home and it became my husband's 'mancave.'

    Next, we painted my ‘lady’s lair’ a retro pink color that turned out better than expected:
    My 'lady's lair' room completed after painting!

    Lastly, prior to the floor installation, we painted the bedroom in the lower level a bright yellow to add more light in what was once a dark and uninviting room:
    Lower level bedroom post-painting.

    We plan on painting the master bedroom a nice silver-grey color after removing the popcorn ceiling in the future.

  • Upgraded the Outdoor Firepit

    This was my first, personal project, and I love working outdoors. The outdoor fire pit was a complete and utter mess prior to upgrading it as it was literally a big pile of rocks with a vast insect ecosystem in it with no fire control or container. After a few months of placing slabs of rocks and gravel from around the yard, I added bricks, sand and lava rocks to the middle to really give it a nice decor:

    Different stages of the fire pit being redone.
    Different stages of the fire pit being redone.
  • Installed a Catio

    One of the joys of being a cat owner is doing anything and everything to make your cat happy! When my family visited, my dad and Mark built a legit, screened-in catio for Squeaky that has become a conversation-starter!
    Squeaky cat in her catio!

  • Replaced the Kitchen Sink and Underlying Cabinet

    The kitchen sink was replaced by Mark, and my dad fixed the cabinet area underneath it since it was water stained and slightly moldy. He completed that part with scrap wood he found around the lot:

    My dad and Mark fixing up various items in the house.
    My dad and Mark fixing various areas in the house. They cut wood in the top photo for the catio and replaced the kitchen sink and a doorknob.
  • Installed an Outdoor Solar Lamp

    Installed an outdoor solar lamp to replace our broken electric one.The original, outdoor lamp that ran off of electricity wouldn’t turn on due to a cut cable 18+” below ground. Instead of paying thousands to fix it, we removed the original lamp head and installed a $90 solar lamp that works just as well!

  • Attic Fan Installed

    We had an attic fan installed by Colorado Heating and Cooling and we've already feel the difference!
    It gets ‘hotter than 40 hells’ in the summertime in Colorado. Despite having the air ducts cleaned, the master bedroom is an oven day and night. We had an attic fan installed for around $600 to mitigate the heat this coming summer.

These are the larger projects that we completed/had completed during our first year. Not bad for our first home if I do say so myself! The number one thing to remember is to pace yourself and your wallet as well as to prioritize first home projects in terms of urgency and home value increases.

Do you have any first home stories (or nightmares)? Share them in the comments!