Monte Vista Resort, Mesa, Arizona (2/19/2016 – 3/18/2016)
Our time at Monte Vista came and went faster than we imagined and we weren’t able to see many of our friends that we had planned to see. However, we enjoyed our time at Monte Vista so much that we made tentative plans for a three-month stay next winter, so hopefully we will have time to see everyone then!
One of the driving factors behind our big lifestyle change was Cathy’s health and one of the main reasons for returning to Arizona at this time was so that Cathy could attend some follow up doctor appointments.
As most of you know, Cathy was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in late 2013, followed by a total thyroidectomy, or surgical removal of her entire thyroid gland. One of the biggest challenges she faced following surgery was unrelenting fatigue. Complete thyroid removal requires daily thyroid hormone replacement for life. Cathy struggled in the early months following surgery to find the right medication for her. Once the right medication was found, blood levels needed to be monitored to measure hormone levels and then medication dose adjusted accordingly. Under replacement results in symptoms of hypothyroidism, most notably extreme fatigue, sleep and digestive disturbances, weight gain, and brain fog. Over replacement results in symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as anxiety, sleep and digestive disturbances, and heart palpitations. Most patients bounce between extremes until a balance is found, and Cathy was no different.
In Feb, 2015, Cathy switched from night shift to day shift as suggested by her doctor in an effort to use the body’s natural cycles to aid in hormonal balance. Cathy will be the first to tell you that there is absolutely nothing natural about getting up at 5:00 a.m.! It’s difficult to know how much her fatigue was caused by hormonal imbalances and how much was from the early mornings, long work days, and major sleep disturbances in between.
In May Cathy reported for her annual mammogram and abnormalities were found suspicious for cancer. Repeat mammograms and ultrasounds were completed and a biopsy recommended. The biopsy result was considered non-cancerous but a repeat mammogram and ultrasound were recommended again in 6 months.
Cathy had also been followed closely by her gynecologist for a history of ovarian cysts. Her follow up ultrasounds in May revealed increased growth and abnormal changes in her existing cysts, along with lab work, that were both suspicious for cancer. Her doctor started her on additional hormones targeted at reducing cyst formation and scheduled repeat ultrasounds in a few months to monitor the situation. The follow up ultrasounds, however, showed increased size and new cyst formation on the opposite side. Surgical removal was discussed, but not recommended at this time, due to complications with adhesions during a previous ovarian cystectomy. The doctor instead prescribed stronger hormones.
The doctor appointments during this recent trip were to follow up on both of the above issues. We don’t know if it was timing, the right medications, the fact that we had been “rebooting” for a couple months, or what…but good news on both! The ovarian cysts are finally shrinking significantly, lab work has normalized, and the mammogram and breast ultrasound show only expected post biopsy changes. Both doctors are fairly confident that we are not dealing with new cancers as originally suspected, and recommended follow up appointments later this year. We are excited to head out on the road for our extended journey with this great news!
Despite being so busy, we were able to enjoy some family time. We arrived to Monte Vista on Jon’s 46th birthday and gathered with Jon’s family the following week to celebrate birthdays for Jon as well as our brother-in-law Scott.
Jon was able to watch our nephew Skyler participate in field day. Sky successfully defended his high jump title, jumping an impressive 5’5 inches high!
Our niece Kaleigh participated in a dance competition with her group taking home several top awards. It was fun to watch these creative kids dance with such energy and passion.
It worked out perfectly that Cathy’s sister Mary Ann and her husband Barry were visiting from Alaska during our stay. Cathy’s brother Joe and his family had recently moved back to Arizona and we were able to get everyone together for the AZ State Yoyo Competition and a BBQ at Cathy’s sister Lucy’s house the following day. The yoyo competition was fun to watch and all three of our nephews who competed placed! Tanner finished 5th in his division, Chase took 1st in the beginner’s division, and Hunter was crowned the AZ state champion! The talent and dedication these guys possess continues to amaze us. If you get a chance, check out some of their videos here: http://youtu.be/PNgVRh5mL_g. Our nephew Chase had a birthday the following week, so we were happy to be able to celebrate early with him at the BBQ.
We also enjoyed a visit from some of our new “travel” family. We have met some really great people on the road so far. Our friends from our first RV stop in California, Ed and Joan, came out for a quick visit. Joan’s mother and brother live in the Phoenix area, so they visit regularly, but they made the longer trek out to Mesa to pay us a visit too. It was nice to catch up with them and we look forward to meeting up with them again in WA this summer.
Our long-time friend, Dave, took part in his first stand-up comedy routine at a comedy club in downtown Phoenix. We always knew Dave was a funny guy, so it was awesome to see him put aside his shyness to get on stage and wow an audience with his stand-up routine. He’s a natural!
Monte Vista offers free beginner pickle ball lessons so we decided to sign up and see what all the hype is about. We had a great time! We took lessons Mondays and Wednesdays for two weeks and then finished off with ladder play on our final Friday there. It is great exercise and it was a fun way to get to know some of our neighbors. Most of the campgrounds have pickle ball courts these days, so we look forward to improving our game on the road as the year goes on.
Monte Vista had a really nice billiards room and we tried to sneak in a game every night. We had a great time playing with Jon’s parents and brother when they visited.
Coach Remodel, New Friends
As part of our coach remodel, we removed the original J-Lounge which took up most of the right slide, as it was bulky, outdated, and covered a good portion of the view window. We still wanted seating in this area and were hoping for some additional storage as well. We had been searching for quite some time for a storage bench that would meet our needs, but hadn’t been able to find one. We explored the idea of building one, despite our lack of carpentry skills. In our first week at Monte Vista, we casually mentioned our plans in conversation with our next door neighbor, Greg. It turned out that Greg was a builder and used to teach high school wood shop! Shortly after our conversation, he sent us an email that another neighbor had posted about a built in bench seat that he was removing from his home and offering for free to any takers. The bench seat was larger than we had space for, but Greg offered to help us modify it to fit our coach. The building experience was a real treat! We got to know more about Greg’s history, enjoyed his hilarious sense of humor, and were in complete awe of his skills and willingness to help a neighbor he had only recently met. We enjoyed getting to know Greg and his wife Theresa and look forward to being neighbors again next winter!
Our built-in desk/kitchen table had been removed and put in storage to accommodate the floor demo and new tile installation. We took advantage of our time here to reinstall the desk and create works stations for both of us. We have learned that working from the road in an RV is quite doable and there is actually an entire community already doing it.
Our entry step was one of the few areas where original carpet remained. One night we decided to just pull it out. As with the other areas in the coach, it was under laid with massive amounts of glue. We had learned a few things about glue removal from our previous, painstaking demo, and this area only took a few hours. We’re not sure how we’ll finish it off, but are in no hurry to do so. At least the worst part – the demo – is done.
One day, the rig behind us pulled out and some new neighbors pulled in. When we saw their WA plates and Seahawks lounge chairs, and with Cathy being a native Washingtonian, we knew we had to meet them. Keith and Lisa are from Gig Harbor, WA which is not very far from where Cathy grew up. As we were chatting, Jon spotted their two cats. Keith and Lisa had converted one of their storage bays into an area for the cats’ litter box and a screened area for the cats to safely enjoy the outdoors. We had researched something similar for our coach, but just hadn’t yet figured how to make it work with our set up. It was great to see their set up and bond with some fellow “cat” people. After some hectic days, we enjoyed time in the resort pool and hot tub where we had some great chats with Keith and Lisa. They have acreage in Gig Harbor with full RV hook ups and have invited us to stay when we are in town this summer.
Jon took his bike out of storage and we found one on craigslist for Cathy. We have enjoyed getting around on foot, but found we are able to do and see more by bike. Bikes on board meant we needed a way to transport them, so we picked up a bike rack that loads in the front hitch and leaves the rear hitch available for our tow car.
Jon was able to play sand volleyball two nights while we were in town. Although he was very rusty, he had a great time playing and seeing everyone one last time before hitting the road. A big thank you goes to Todd Sullivan for taking over the volleyball league coordinator duties during our RV reboot!
The cats seem to be adjusting to life in an RV. When we start up the rig, they find their usual hiding spots and generally don’t come out until we are parked at a new site or until coaxed out. When we are parked at a site, they seem to really enjoy the new sights and scents.
The night before we planned to leave town, we were working on all of the usual prep work including installing our new bike rack in the front hitch. As a little girl and her dad drove by on a golf cart, the girl spotted our cat “Big Orange” in the dash. We struck up conversation with them and invited them on board to meet the kitties. The girl was so excited to meet the three cats and feed them snacks, but was especially excited about Big Orange who absolutely loves kids and all the attention they give. We thanked her for playing with the cats and told her we were leaving in the morning. The following morning we were getting the coach ready for the big drive and Jon caught a glimpse through the part in the front curtains of this little girl frantically waving the card she had made for Big Orange and his brothers! She came down with her parents and her brother, who had also made a card, to wish the cats well on their journey. It was so adorable and the cats (and us) sure appreciated it!
Moving day came and we were ready to roll, but our retractable steps would not retract. Imagine the damage that could be done driving down the road with metal steps protruding a few feet. We got out the manual, looked on the internet, and had several neighbors troubleshoot with us. After about an hour, we discovered that we had disrupted the ground wire when we had torn out the carpet from the entrance step. Oops! We sheepishly acknowledged our self-created problem, reconnected the ground wire, and thanked our wonderful neighbors for their time.
Our next stop on our way up the coast is Soledad Canyon RV Resort in Acton, CA, where we’ll spend 10 days.