Monday, September 28, 2015

Family visit

My family is here this week for a visit.  It's great having them here.

Still no word from the VA.  And the headstone is not ready yet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

VA Check

I got a check from the VA to reimburse me for the money they took out of my account when Marshall died.  So things are moving along.  I am still waiting to hear about the monthly benefits.  I have the headstone ordered and Marshall's sister called and told me that the concrete slab has been poured and ready for the headstone so that should happen soon.

We are getting closer and closer to the time when we will scatter the ashes, but I'm not looking forward to that.  Once those ashes are scattered he will truly be gone.  I'm not ready.  Yesterday was the 2-month anniversary of his death.  Doesn't seem possible.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Well, I should eat my words.  The generator guy is here -- on a Saturday -- fixing the generator.  This may be a good weekend after all.

I am having a heck of a time figuring out how to use this chemotherapy cream without getting it on things that can cause problems.  (such as "don't rub my nose because it would be hell on the mucus membranes" or "don't rub my eyes because it could cause severe eye problems" or "don't let the dog lick me," Etc.)  The doctor's nurse yesterday said, "This cream has been used for over 30 years and have you ever heard anything about an animal dying from it?"  Well, no, but that won't keep me from worrying when the instruction sheet I got stresses the danger of this cream.  Neither the doctor nor the pharmacist seems to be able to tell me if this is a "vanishing cream" that is absorbed leaving skin that is safe to touch.

And when I take a shower, I can only really use my left hand, the right hand has to stay clear of the shower -- washing my hair should be interesting.  I guess I'll figure out how to make it work since I definitely want to kill the skin cancer!

I bought a motion detector light and I'll get it installed in the next day or two.  It is solar-operated so I have to figure out the best place to put it so that (1) it will get enough sun to stay charged; and (2) it will point in a direction that will make sense.  Now, this light will be both good and bad.  If my neighbor comes up here at night I'll be alerted.  But if a few deer walk by, I will also be alerted.  My adrenaline could get a workout.

I talked to the real estate agent this week and as soon as I can get the inside of the house "show ready," it will be back on the market.  I'm ready to be in a city again.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chemotherapy cream

Today I started the chemo cream.  It's kind of scary because the instructions stress not to let this cream touch anything else but the spots you are treating.  But it stops there and doesn't explain how to go about your day with this cream on your hand.  I called the dermatologist today and, of course, I wasn't able to speak to her.  I spoke to a nurse who told me to wear a glove.  Then I called the pharmacist and he said oh, no, you should NOT wear a glove.  So I called the doctor back, got the nurse again, and she said to do what the pharmacist said.  Good grief.  But I still don't know how to go about my day.  What if my dog licks my hand?   What if I accidentally rub my eyes?  How can I do anything that I normally do in a day?

So I got on the internet and found a lady who is blogging about this very thing and her blog says that the cream is a vanishing cream and after an hour it sinks in and you can go about your business.  So I sent her a message and I'll get her feedback.

My generator still isn't working.  I find it so interesting that when Marshall was alive, if he called the solar guy with a problem it got addressed quickly.  But now that it's just me, when I call him, he says he's coming out and he doesn't show.  It's been three or four days now and I haven't heard a word from him and he didn't answer my phone call today.  It does not bode well for the winter months.  But I am very thankful that the past week has been very sunny and I have plenty of power.  Let's hope the whole weekend will be sunny,

I took Coco to the vet today and, for a dog that is almost 15 years old, he is doing well. But he has the beginning of kidney failure and we will try to hold it at bay.  She put him on a special diet.  Breaks my heart.  I sure need to have Marshall here to share this with.

Still no further word from the VA.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Busy day

This morning I drove to Florence to pick up my prescription for chemotherapy cream.  I read the directions and the warnings said not to let this cream touch anything but what it's supposed to touch.  Well, how in the world do I do that?  If I put the cream on my hand morning and night how can I keep it from touching other things?  So I will wait until tomorrow and call the doctor for clarification.  I want to kill the cancer without killing my dog.

So when I got back home I tried to fill out the VA claim forms to get reimbursed for the chemo cream and I don't understand half the questions.  So tomorrow I will also have to call the VA and hopefully get some guidance.  I know half the world has to deal with things like this, but I'm not used to it so it is very annoying.  The insurance Marshall had was incredible and I miss it.

Marshall had three trailers -- one was to haul the ATVs that we used to have, one is to hau the ATV that we have now, and one is to transport the motorcycle.  I decided to sell the first one and I posted it on the Custer County Buy/Sell Facebook page.  I got a call this afternoon from a guy who came out right away and bought the trailer on the spot so now it is gone. Less clutter next to the house. I like it.

Then some more practice with the gun (I now have my own gun, a very generous gift from one of my neighbors...thank you, Dave!!).

Still no word from the VA on my claim for monthly benefits.  I am very anxious about this.  I watched Marshall fight the VA for 28 years.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

ChampVA Insurance

Well, my initial experience with the ChampVA supplemental insurance did not go well.  I needed to get my prescription for chemotherapy cream, so I looked at the VA website to see what pharmacies work with them.  According to the website, the Walgreens that I've used for years as one of the pharmacies that would accept ChampVA.

So I went to Walgreens (50 miles away) only to have the pharmacist told me they don't accept ChampVA.

So I found a parking lot where I could get on the internet with my cell phone and looked up pharmacies and started calling.

I found a small pharmacy called Fox Drugs and they said if I brought them the prescription they would call the VA and see if they could make it work.  So I drove the 10 miles over to Fox Drugs and they called the VA and the person they spoke to said that the only way they would cover this prescription is if I had Medicare Part D.  Huh??  This is just not making sense.

So because I don't want to mess around with skin cancer, I said I would pay the $127 myself and then see if I could get the VA to reimburse me.  If this is what ChampVA is going to be like, I'm going to go back to my original plan of getting a company like Humana.  It's nice that ChampVA is supposedly free but I guess I'm just not in the frame of mind right now to jump through all these hoops.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Well, one of the VA benefits came through -- they provide a very small life insurance policy for a 100% disabled veteran like Marshall was.  I received those proceeds. But still waiting for the more important thing to kick in -- the monthly benefits.

It looks like someone may be buying the property on the other side of mine. There was a big bulldozer over there today putting in a driveway to make the property accessible.  Up until now there was no way to get to that property without climbing a hill that was kind of straight up and down, so it was rather undesirable.  Now a driveway makes it a better piece of property.  It's really getting crowded back here.  I might as well be living in a city.

And I've been having trouble with our solar energy backup generator.  The house runs totally on solar power, but when we have several cloudy days in a row the solar batteries run down and the backup generator kicks in.  At least it should.  It hasn't been working and I've had to learn how to troubleshoot it and I'm not very good at that.  I really don't like being the "man of the house" and wish Marshall was here.  He would know what to do.

Anyway, the guy who comes out and maintains all of the solar components says he's pretty sure the generator needs a new starter and he ordered one but it will take a few days.  That means I have to be very aware of how much sun we've got and if it's cloudy I need to really watch my power usage.  I'm not used to that -- I'm used to everything working flawlessly.  Ugh.

Today I had an appointment with my dermatologist to have her look at a few suspicious areas.  To make a long story short, she thinks I need to start a 3-week regimen of using a chemotherapy cream on three spots (my hand, my arm and my leg).   That sure got me a bit freaked out.  I'm not sure I totally understood this, but she said that this chemotherapy cream would do one of two things:  One, if these areas are cancer, the cream will cause these areas to shrivel up and die in two to three weeks; or two, if these areas are not cancer, nothing will happen.  I asked her why she couldn't just do a biopsy and she said the areas were too large and if she took the biopsy at an area where there was no cancer, it would miss it.  I guess that makes sense.  But it's scary.

So tomorrow I will go to Walgreens and turn in the prescription for this cream (Efudex).  She said they would not have it in stock so I probably won't get it until Friday or Saturday.  At least I will get to try out my new VA insurance to see how it works.

I've ordered a headstone for Marshall and the VA is making a military marker to go with it.  We have decided to put the headstone and marker at the cemetery in North Baltimore, Ohio, where some of Marshall's other relatives are buried.  Not sure yet when that will happen.  We will also scatter some ashes there.

Marshall's dearest friend Jim called and said that Marshall told him many times how much he liked sitting under a certain tree here on our property.  He said it reminded him of West Virginia.  So we've decided to spread some ashes there, too.  When we do that, we will include his dog Marlee's ashes as well.  That was another thing Marshall had requested, having Marlee's ashes with his.

Marshall's sister Audrey told me that any time we see a penny it means Marshall is nearby and letting us know he's okay.  Well, the day after he died I opened his dresser drawer and there was a penny.  That was comforting.  Audrey has now seen several pennies. Then my sister told me she found a penny and it was from the year 1946 -- the year Marshall was born.  That was really comforting.  Now I look for pennies!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Learning to shoot

First of all, I still haven't heard from the VA except for their letter telling me they are backlogged and I need to be patient.  SIGH....

I have decided that living by myself out in the middle of nowhere requires a gun in the house.  (Plus I had a little run-in with the new neighbor and it kind of unnerved me.)  So today I took my first shooting lesson.  I have a neighbor who gives classes so I went down to his house.  He started out with 30 minutes of getting familiar with the gun.  I can't remember the caliber of gun I was using but I know it was a revolver.  I must say that I did pretty good.  Afterwards, he gave me my target showing my shots and said I should tape it to my front door with a note saying "Confident Woman With Gun Lives Here."  Ha!  I really need to work on that "confident" part.  I will eventually buy my own gun, but for now I'll just go to his house and use his.

Before I left he brought out his shotgun and gave me a short lesson on it.  I fired it and it felt like it was taking my shoulder off.  I wasn't too crazy about it.

Last year Marshall had bought a fancy ATV -- one of those 3-seaters with a small storage area in the back. It kind of looks like a Jeep.  He got it so that we would have something to use to get out of here in case there was a wild fire that we couldn't escape with our car.  It has enough room to hold two adults and all three animals in their carriers.

Well, a few months ago our county approved the use of ATVs on our county roads and in town.  So I got my permit for the ATV last week and tomorrow I am driving it -- along with some neighbors -- to a restaurant about 12 miles down our county road.  It's a fun vehicle so it should be a fun ride.

Marshall would have loved it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A roadblock in the scattering of ashes

I finally got through to the cemetery this morning and was able to talk to the guy who knows all the rules and he gave me some disappointing news.  The cemetery does NOT allow the scattering of any human remains in their cemetery under any circumstances.

In addition, the only way they would allow a headstone to be placed at the foot of Marshall's mom's grave is if we can provide them with an affidavit signed by ALL HEIRS saying it was okay.  Isn't that ridiculous?

He said that "all heirs"would include wives, daughters, sons, grandkids, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, etc. etc.  It was pretty clear from that and by the fact that they did not return any of my six phone calls (today I got lucky and Larry himself answered the phone so he couldn't hide from me) that they do not want us bothering them.

So we need to regroup.  I will talk to Marshall's sister tonight or tomorrow and perhaps it would be acceptable to scatter the ashes in the coal camp where they grew up?  Maybe we could even put a marker of some kind in the old cemetery there.

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Another week

Hard to believe how much time has passed since Marshall died.  It's been over a month already.

I still haven't been able to reach anyone at the cemetery in West Virginia to try to iron out the details of spreading the ashes and putting a headstone in.  I've left five or six messages and no one calls me back.   Very aggravating.

I've now heard from most of the benefits people but I wish the VA would reply.  That's the important one.

I made a bunch of doctor appointments -- dentist, dermatologist and, most important, a cardiologist who specializes in electrophysiology.  I think it's time to see a real cardiologist instead of a general practitioner who specializes in heart issues.  But the cardiology appointment isn't until October, so it will be a little wait.