St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays from the Hansons

   The 2012 Christmas Card Insert
2012 has been a year that saw Margo and I into our 65th year and our 40th year of marriage. Turning 65 is the last big birthday that the government recognizes (except 100 when you get a card from the White House) the start of Medicare!
With Medicare and the new Obamacare additions, the first thing you get at 65 is an initial comprehensive physical. If the government is going to help finance your medical care from now on, they want to find out what is wrong, what might be going wrong, and attack your problems in a preventative manner.  I think this is the right way to approach things—the preventative up front.

   So, Russ got started in December 2011 and after tests, ended up with a diagnosis of sleep apnea, leading to a breathing machine at night that made sleeping again possible and restful. This came about after a bunch of tests to find out why he was tired and his breathing was so labored that showed nothing else wrong.  Then in early March he got a new right knee--turned out quite wonderful!

  In May, still having trouble breathing, he got double vision and his left eyelid closed halfway most of the time. Myasthenia Gravis, said the eye specialist and neurologist at Mayo.  Since then he has been learning how to balance prednisone and other meds that put his immune system into low gear trying to stop the production of bad antibodies that attack his voluntary muscle receptors and make him weak. Trick is to keep some immune system and yet slow it down enough to keep the weakness away.  Things are going pretty good, and he has hopes of a reasonably normal future-although always having to take something to beat down his immune system, and has a wonderful excuse to avoid anything he doesn’t want to do!  This doesn’t shorten one’s life, just makes it seem longer!

  Margo turned 65 in June. When she went in for her physical, it was time for the annual mammogram. We had noticed a change in her left breast, which turned out to be cancer.  So she has been in treatment since August with chemo through the end of 2012, then surgery and radiation in the first part of 2013. The treatments are going well, she is handing them well.  She has 2 more, and although she aches and is tired, expects to get through them by Jan 1.   The tumors are shrinking quite dramatically, and we are hopeful of a clean bill of health report by summer.

The last 4 chemo treatments are quite harsh, but with lots of medications for nausea, anxiety, pain etc, things are going OK. As of the 12th December, she has only 2 more sessions before surgery and radiation starts. Recently they have hit her very hard, and she has had to just rest and try to eat.

I think Medicare enhanced by Obamacare has caught our problems and is giving us hope for the next 20 years to be in reasonably good health. With Mayo Clinic as our supplemental insurance (through Russ' 25 years of working there, get to keep insurance by paying our way), the medical treatments have been wonderful and the bills payable. I think how difficult it must be for people without good insurance.

Because of my two knee operations in November then March, we didn't travel south last winter. We didn't travel at all during the summer nor fall neither.  We are spending most of our time either at Pine Island when treatments were needed or at the cabin in WI, now closed until maple syrup season.  

Scott planned to do maple syruping at the cabin this spring. His job at the ski resort ended early due to the very warm spring. Just as he was headed to tap the trees, I had my knee replaced (March 12), and Margo went to spend time with her father, Merlin, in West Bend, WI who had a heart attack and surgery and needed a few weeks of support during recovery (which went fine).

So Scott baby-sat me at Pine Island with the new knee and nephew Bryce tapped the maples. It was the worst year in memory for maple syrup in the Midwest, with the warmest March on record, and almost no sap or syrup produced. So we didn't miss much!  We planted large gardens, as usual, including 100 pumpkin and squash hills. The pumpkins did great, the squash, for the second year, failed to set fruit. We skipped most of the summer farmer's marketing with no maple syrup to sell, and our gardens being neglected due to the health issues.

For the first time in 60 years, no one sprayed Mom's 50 full size apple trees, and they were extremely wormy-so no sales of those either (Russ was unable to run the tractor and sprayer during June and July when his Myasthenia was full blown and not yet controlled by medicine). The gardens started wonderfully, but by mid-July the rains quit and things dried up badly and weeds took over. The gardens needed more attention than we had to give.

Scott is back at the ski resort working for the winter. He lives at our home in Pine Island, and works nearby at Welch, a ski hill near the Mississippi. Ski hills have been having hard times too with the warmer winters and lack of snow. They can make snow, but it has to be in the 20s at night and can't all melt in the daytime.

This week, Dec 8th, brought cold weather and snows!  November this year had been too warm. Climate change may force some of them out of business.

Russ volunteered many hours at the museum in Luck WI. The museum is getting an addition this winter for a Family Research Center-genealogy area. Every Monday he spent helping people learn how to search their family roots, and has been helping with a project to copy local church, cemetery, fox and other records to make them available for folks searching for Polk County WI ancestors. Having Myasthenia Gravis limits what one can do physically, so this pushes him to activities that are less strenuous.

Margo, in the midst of her chemo, baked Christmas cookies again this year, with the help of Scott, who is becoming a decent chef.  They made 12 dozen each of 6 types.  Russ does the quality control and takes care of the broken ones! She finished when the chemo got difficult.

  Margo's mother, Myrtle, is in a nursing home near West Bend, WI, quite far into Alzheimer's disease. She spends much of the time sleeping now. She is 85. It is hard, as she really doesn't know her family and needs help to eat and soon will probably not be able to walk anymore. Merlin helps her with eating and sometimes gets her to respond-but it is sad to see such an active woman have her older years taken away by disease.

Merlin is doing quite well after his heart attack. He is 87 and quite active. As a World War II veteran, he goes to military funerals as an honor guard with other veteran friends. The World War II veterans are passing away very rapidly now-the end of the war in 1946 was 66 years ago, and so the youngest veterans are already in their 80s.

Mom, Alberta, turns 91 on the 18th of December. She is still living at home on the farm and had a garden this summer and stays active. She has aches and pains from a long battle with polymyalgia rheumatism, an autoimmune disease too, but keeps a cheerful attitude and is doing quite well. She doesn't drive very much anymore and has oldest son Marvin take her shopping most of the time. She is still aiming to have a big 100 year birthday party! Everett and Marvin were on their own this summer to do the yard and help with the home maintenance as Margo and 1 took sick leave!

When our health problems get solved, we hope to get back to a more normal year with maple syruping, gardening and travel. If you want to track what we are doing you can become a Facebook friend or follow our blog We post photos, video clips, stories, health updates, etc. quite often. Russ gave up his newspaper column after 7 years in 2012, and moved it to the internet blog.
Hope you have a great Christmas and New Years and a good 2012.