Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I am in an entirely different place now - thank God. Because seriously, while this blog may be about me and my journey - my Mom's cancer is about HER. And I need to be able to be strong and hopeful for my Mom and Dad.
Mom's results came back and they continue to be good. The MRI still shows no new/recurrence in the brain. WHEW! The CT continues to show improvement - most of the lung nodules are gone, the liver tumor is smaller as is the main esophageal tumor. Sis and I went to the Dr. with Mom this Monday. Mom asked the Dr. if he ever saw this just "go away." He said...yes. Mom pointed out when we spoke about it later that there was a long pause there. So, not likely, but possible. I do have to say, I wish these doctors would stop handling us with kid gloves. When we ask these questions, we want realistic answers. He could have said - yes, but it doesn't happen that often. Or, ever? Sure. But, it's not the most probable scenario. Or, whatever the truth is. (In fairness, I suppose we could have asked a follow-up question.)
Mom has been worrying that she's going to be on chemo forever, so Sis asked what about a break in chemo. Do you see that? Dr. said yes. (No pause there.) Problem is that Mom has that pesky second cancer - so if they think that she's well enough to go off chemo for at least six weeks, they'd probably be scheduling surgery to remove (at least part of, if not all) her kidney. Which kind of sucks, but what can you do? As we all know, Cancer Sucks! And, it doesn't play fair.
Here's the thing though...I mentioned that I signed up for an EC listserv back in December. And, while there is a lot of hope there, there's also a lot of people that have horrific side effects from their chemo. And, Mom? NONE of that. First, unless you really know her, you wouldn't know she was sick just by looking at her. Her worst side effect is fatigue - she tires fairly easily nowadays. She's nauseous for the first few days after chemo, but she can control it (mostly) with meds. Some people on my listserv are too fatigued to do much of anything - Mom babysat yesterday for her two precious (and active) grandchildren. Yes, she was tired at the end of the day (but, no more than I would have been!). So, she's lucky. We talked about that on Monday, too.
On the last day of National Women's History month, I thank my favorite woman in the world. For teaching me to be me and instilling in me a strong sense of self-worth. For handling a crappy diagnosis with grace, dignity, strength and amazing spirit. I love you, Mom.
Friday, March 19, 2010
My mom has another set of follow-up tests this coming week. There is no studying for these tests. And she's not in control at all of what happens. The beast that is cancer is in complete control. Is it still responding to the chemo? Have her brain mets come back? Are the tumors smaller? If not smaller (the hope), then at least the same size? No way of knowing. No way of preparing.
You all know I'm a control freak. Hard for me to deal with something that I have no control over. The only thing we can do is hope and pray for the best. Prepare yourself mentally for the possibility of bad news.
And lean on the people who love you...so here's what I'm asking. Say a little prayer for Mom sometime this week. Send your best wishes for her out into the world. Imagine lasers from that Asteroids game exploding all of her cancer cells. Or a little Pac Man inside of her eating them all up. That's what I'm going to do.
And, I will try to remember these inspirational words...life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain. It gets a little easier to do that every day.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A dear friend died on Sunday...she was my Mom's best friend who fought a valiant battle against leukemia for close to two years. I take solace in the fact that she is now at peace and with her beloved husband and their two sons. She was in so much pain and at least, now that's over. I grew up Catholic and while I may have issues with my Church, there's enough in me that still believes in the basic tenets. That there is a God and we are not meant to understand. And that there is a Heaven and that some day, we will all be together again. I ache for her daughter that she leaves behind and hope that my cousin will take comfort and support from all of the sources that are offering it.
So, with that, I offer the below inspiration that was forwarded to me back when Mom was first diagnosed. Some of those chain-type emails have something to offer. This is one of those...
- Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
- When in doubt, just take the next small step.
- Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
- Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
- Pay off your credit cards every month.
- You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
- Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
- It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
- Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
- When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
- Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
- It's OK to let your children see you cry.
- Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
- If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
- Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
- Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
- Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
- Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
- It's never too late to have a happy childhood... But the second one is up to you and no one else.
- When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
- Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
- Over prepare, then go with the flow.
- Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
- No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
- Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ''In five years, will this matter?"
- Always choose to live life.
- Forgive everyone everything.
- What other people think of you is none of your business.
- Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
- However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
- Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
- Believe in miracles.
- God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
- Don't audit life ... Show up and make the most of it now.
- Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
- Your children get only one childhood.
- All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
- Get outside every day ... Miracles are waiting everywhere.
- If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
- Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
- The best is yet to come.
- No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
- Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I remember summers spent at their house, in and out of the pool, running around as kids are wont to do. They moved to CT when we were teenagers and we didn't see them as much. By then, however, they were family. The kids are our "cousins" and my Aunt and Uncle will always be my Aunt and Uncle.
My Aunt has 2 kinds of leukemia and she's fought valiantly for almost two years but she's nearing the end. They have done everything they can and now there's nothing left to do. She has had so much tragedy in her life - lost a husband and her two sons. So, here are my hopes and wishes for my Aunt and my cousin and my mom.
- I hope that my Aunt is able to say good bye to everyone she loves - and that her friend from FL makes it in time.
- I hope that she is no longer in pain and goes in peace.
- I hope that my cousin is able to find comfort in the arms of her boyfriend and all those who love her.
- I hope that my mom does not link my Aunt's journey to her own.
- I hope that hospice finds a bed soon to take some of the burden off of my cousin.
- I hope that my cousin is able to ask for what she needs from all of us - I know how difficult that can be.
And my wishes to all of you, remember to tell those you love that you love them today. And try to every day.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
My Dad's 70th birthday is today. My sister suggested we have a dinner for him at a steakhouse that he and my Mom love. I thought it was a great idea because I figured my Mom didn't want to deal with the hassles that a party brings along. So, I spoke to Mom to see if that sounded good to her. She confirmed that she didn't want a party and that a dinner would be wonderful. Mom finally decided who she wanted to invite...and we ended up pulling off the surprise. I thought he was going to find out or guess countless times. My younger brother had me convinced mere hours before the party that Dad knew. But, he was just kidding. So we were able to surprise him, which is kind of awesome.
I thought one or all of us should get up and say something to honor my Dad. But, I stole an idea from a blog I read and decided that instead we could do 70 Random Facts about him rather than a formal speech. So, without further ado, here are 70 random facts about Dad, brought to you by my entire family:
- He was born in 1940.
- His Dad died when he was 18.
- Because of that and the financial effect on his mother, he insisted my mother go to college and get her nursing degree when we were all little.
- He always said that this would enable her to tell him to go “shit in his hat” if she ever needed to. And she's needed to several times.
- He graduated from college with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Animal Husbandry. That's come in real handy on the old homestead.
- He was in the Army.
- His mother set him up with my mother. Well, sort of. Nana got a lot more than she bargained for – she just was looking for a pen pal for him when he was stationed in Korea. Instead, she found him a wife.
- Some time into his courtship with Mom, she cooked dinner for him and her father. He ate an entire meal of hamburgers that were burnt on the outside but raw on the inside and hollow peas. Asked for seconds.
- He introduced Mom to H&J and all of their kids. H&J were so kind to my mom and my Dad never forgot it.
- Because they were so kind to her, the only children invited to their wedding were H&J's kids.
- When Mom and Dad were newlyweds, H&J went on a cruise and Mom and Dad babysat. It was an enlightening experience in childcare.
- Until this year, he has always claimed to be two years younger than he actually is because he was sick for two years and says they don’t count.
- Until my brother got to be a bigwig in the PD, you could Google my dad's name and find a study that was done on his blood because of said childhood illness.
- He spent a long time in Rockefeller University Hospital and could see the 59th Street Bridge from his hospital room. He counted the lights on said bridge. He tells me this every time he drives me home.
- He’ll eat just about anything. No matter how long it’s been in the fridge.
- He built the extension on their house.
- He loved being a cop but retired from the job so he could afford to pay for his children’s college education. None of whom did 4 and out after high school. Sorry about that, Dad.
- He has two sisters and a brother.
- He is the baby of his family and his sister would threaten neighborhood bullies on his behalf.
- He knows everyone. Or so it seemed when we were a teenagers trying to get away with stuff.
- His wife is his best friend. And soul mate.
- He will celebrate his 45th wedding anniversary this May.
- He has three children, a daughter in law and two perfect grandsons.
- He had champagne waiting in the hotel room on their honeymoon and my mom thought it was from her parents.
- He quit smoking – cold turkey – after 50 years about 20 minutes before he was checked into the hospital for valve replacement and bypass surgery. Pretty sure he didn’t know that would be his last cigarette.
- He has a very small needle in his heart. Yeah, from that surgery.
- He played math games at the dinner table with us.
- One of his quit smoking techniques was to have a bunch of cigarettes in a glass jar in water, which he kept on a kitchen shelf in full view of the dinner table. It was disgusting and I can't believe that one didn't take.
- He reads three newspapers most days.
- He misses having a dog.
- All of his proudest moments are from his wife and children’s accomplishments. (Not sure if any of us will beat how he felt when his son was named Chief.)
- He dropped his firstborn twice.
- He scarred his daughter by catching her leg on an open nail in the “custom-made bed.”
- That was during the month he spent every weekend at the Hospital Emergency Room - 1st the oldest stepped on a nail, then he injured me, then the youngest ate poisonous berries. He was sure that they were going to call Child Protective Services.
- He laughs when he speaks of his youngest son getting into 5 car accidents before he turned 5.
- He thinks it’s funny that his cute, sweet daughter in pigtails threatened her older brother with, “Get out of my room or I’ll break your face.”
- He is impressed that his eldest son was able to mix the color on the red paint when he was about 2. Didn’t really care that they boy painted the oil burner, washer and dryer with said paint. Mom – not impressed and did care. A lot.
- He gave his wife Mace for protection back in the day when civilians couldn’t carry the stuff.
- He did not think that Child Protective Services was going to be called when his three children decided to spray the stuff in an enclosed vehicle in the Waldbaums parking lot when she went in for “just one thing” and came out a ½ hour later to her three kids outside of the car coughing and crying.
- He coached little league for both of his sons.
- When Mom was working and going to Nursing School, Dad spent two years being my brownie mom - he came to all the meetings, did my birthday cupcakes. I thought it was a little embarrassing but every brownie mom loved having him there.
- He’s been a volunteer fireman for 40+ years. Although, now he’s fire police.
- He is Chief Elf for the FD Christmas party. And, always has been. Even for the about 20 years that he didn’t have a kid/grandkid getting a present.
- He hates when husbands refer to their wives as the “old ball and chain” or other less than flattering terms.
- He got lists from his wife every weekend and procrastinated till the last minute not knowing his wife would be happy if he got two things done on the list.
- He will never say no to his children and seems genuinely happy to do anything they ask.
- He built beautiful doll houses for many years.
- He told his children for four years straight he was getting a boat and then mom said we were and everyone knew the time had come.
- He has a reputation for being a great street cop.
- He is honest and has a lot of integrity.
- He is the patriarch of a very loving family.
- He Loves Jeopardy.
- He sang to his children and played lots of games with them.
- He worked hard and often times two jobs.
- He took his family on beautiful vacations.
- He loves his new winter hat, the first ever to be sanctioned by Mom.
- He cannot wait to by Spyder jackets for his grandsons each year.
- And, this year he was happy to buy snow boots and snow pants for their snowboarding lesson.
- Every video game he ever played was his best game ever.
- He is now the proud owner of a BMW convertible. With whom he currently only has visitation, but custody will be returned soon.
- He calls himself Unkie Tom.
- He was distraught when the Dodgers left Brooklyn.
- He was delighted when the Mets came around and has been a die hard fan ever since.
- Although everyone got in trouble for it, Susie was the one who peeled the paint off the back of the bathroom door.
- We all hated driving with him on Sundays because we were forced to listen to Fordham's Irish music program.
- On a camping vacation to New Hampshire and Vermont, we took Dad's niece with us. Mom and Dad got into a fight and she was very upset because she thought the vacation was over...she was shocked that Mom and Dad made up quickly and the vacation continued. From that day forward she call us the Cosby family - all problems solved in 25 minutes.
- He's the first call for his children, nieces and nephews, and various close friends of his children when they get into trouble (and they do).
- The first time Dad went to Vegas was with his mother and father-in-law - he and Poppy thought they died and went to heaven.
- He invented no thank you portions for his children - and any underage visitor who joined us for dinner. Although per Mom, there were two exceptions to the no thank you rule: liver and lima beans.
- He has been our biggest cheerleader and fan throughout the years and taught each of us that we could do anything that we put our minds to.
Monday, March 8, 2010
She sees the Dr. before each chemo treatment. They take some blood to make sure her levels are okay or if she needs an iron transfusion (if her H&H is low). I'm most concerned about her Bun and Creatin levels - these are measurements of her kidney function. One of the chemo drugs (cisplatin) is extremely toxic to the kidney. So, she has to be very good about drinking a ton of fluids chemo week. Anyway, she's good to go this week. We've been lucky so far - she's had a couple of colds and sinusitis - but to date, she hasn't had to miss a chemo treatment for any reason.
The Doc/nurse also does a mini physical and refills any prescriptions. It's a little upsetting because Mom only gets to see her Doc once every two or three appointments. She feels like she sees a different doctor each time she comes. We've talked about this but she finds it very aggravating. She wants to see the same Dr. every week. I think it's because they want her to have the chemo on the same day at about the same time each week and her regular doc isn't always available then. Anyway, new doc today. So, before we even go in, she's upset. I think it would be less upsetting if she saw the same 2-3 Docs in a cycle. But they have a lot of Doctors here and she has yet to have a repeat (except her regular Dr.).
Then we go to the chemo waiting area. There are about 10 people waiting before us today. Mom says this isn't the norm - that they usually wait 5-10 minutes before they get called in. Today, we were done with the Dr. appt by 11 and it's now 12:30 and we haven't started chemo yet. It takes 3-4 hours to deliver the chemo...we think we're next.
Finally got called in at about 1 - apparently, there were a few bad reactions to treatment today so they're a bit behind. So, she's upset about that. I wonder, is it this upsetting to her when my Dad is here? Or is it just me? Or, just a weird day?
She gets 3 decodran (a steroid) on chemo day. Makes her insanely chatty and she's not able to sleep for the three days she's on it. Seems to have kicked in now. My younger brother finds her hysterical when she's on the decodran. I just think it's weird. Seeing your mom high may be funny sometimes, but it's mostly disturbing to me.
So, that's chemo day in a nutshell. Today, Mom fell asleep about 10 minutes in - she is tired a lot these days. That's really her primary symptom - fatigue. Things could be way worse. Today's Dr. reminded us how wonderful her February CT results were. And, I'm starting to see that...
Thursday, March 4, 2010
The first is to accept a compliment graciously. Three people told me that my hair looked great after I got back from the cut. Instead of just saying, "Thank you," like my mother taught me, I went on and on about how it was never going to look like this again. I am ridiculous. During the third time, I realized what I was doing. But I couldn't stop myself (picture little me on my shoulder saying, shut up!). At a certain point, I realized that I was actually making this person uncomfortable because they thought I looked pretty. Seriously, who wants to give someone a compliment and then have to convince them to accept it?
Thinking about this tonight, I realized that I do this all the time. Someone says, you look nice today. My response, really? There are a few exceptions to this for me...if someone compliments something I'm wearing, that is easy for me to accept. If someone compliments something I have done, sometimes I can accept those, but sometimes I downplay my role in whatever it was. I don't know why I feel so reticent about accepting compliments about the way I look, but it's something I'm going to work on. For now, I'll just blame the image that the media portrays of women. (I'm at least half joking about that.)
The second is asking for and/or accepting help. This is mostly confined to my personal life, but sometimes falls into my professional life. The work thing is about me being a control freak. I get that and am much better now than I was five years ago. Or even six months ago. The personal thing..who knows where it comes from. But, if there is one thing that my mom's cancer has taught me it's that we all need help sometimes. I've gotten better at accepting help - it has literally poured in from all directions to all of us since September. The only thing I can say is Thank you. Thank you for your million kindnesses, all of your prayers, your notes and for just being you.
Asking for help is a little harder than accepting help that's just offered out. I have to remind myself that the people I would ask have left an open invitation for me. Maybe it's because I'm flailing a little bit here. Not really sure what I need. But I'm working on it...thinking about it, writing about it - that's helped. So, a big thanks goes to Katharine for starting her blog a month ago. For making it look easy to be brave. And for helping me without even knowing it. And to think, she thought her blog was about her!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
But, when I got into my early 20s and started living in the "real world," out of that cozy place that we all live until we start paying our own bills, something clicked. Our relationship turned on a dime. I was still living at home but it was so much easier. I was an adult and, for the most part, treated like one by both of my parents.
When I moved out (or as my Dad says, ran away), it got even better. I mean, it's not all sunshine and flowers, but we get along really well. I KNOW how lucky I am that my whole family gets along - of course we love one another, but the best part? We genuinely LIKE one another. When we're all together, wow it's loud. (We are from Long Island, what of it?) But, it's full of love and laughter. I have never ever doubted this.
We've even traveled together. Just the two of us. Sharing a room. I have friends who know this and are amazed that we enjoy going away together. London. Paris. Hong Kong. Tokyo and Kyoto. Best trip ever? Egypt. This summer we were planning to take my nephew to Ireland. And if she feels up to coming, great! But if not, I'll make her feel like she was there. I'll take lots of notes and a million pictures.
I used to call her a few times a week. One of my brothers called her every day - I would joke about being a horrible child. But it was fine. I am not a big phone person and she was okay with that. I'd go home (my parents house will always be home) once a month or so. But now I call every day. And I am a total nag - are you drinking your drinks, what did you eat, how are you feeling? I don't think she minds. Most of the time. The funny thing is if I now miss a day, she's worried - are you okay? What happened? And I go home most weekends. Because I want to. And she has to encourage me not to come out and to take time for myself.
Today I'm thinking how lucky I was that my parents met, fell in love and got married almost 45 years ago. And that they had three kids. And that my brother met my sister-in-law and had two wonderful kids of their own. Because everything that's happened has brought me to this place right here. Where I adore and admire and like my mom. Where she is now a person I am honored to call friend as well as mom. Where sometimes she sees something in me that reminds her of herself and calls me her apple. The most treasured compliment - to be the apple that doesn't fall that far from my mom's tree.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
But...I received a note from a friend this afternoon because she had "one of those days" at work. So, it's for her I'm writing this list. I hope that something on here will resonate with her or, at the very least, make her smile.
So, in no particular order...
- At its core, my job is about helping people achieve their long term goals. And, how many of us gets to say that?
- Most of the time (>50% anyway), I'm pretty good at it.
- I have the best boss/mentor in the world. Who, I have to say, thinks I'm the cat's meow. Isn't that awesome?
- I get 5 weeks of vacation a year. This year I started with 7 because I rolled two from last year. There's no way I'll be able to take it all...but, still - pretty cool.
- In a country where people pay a fortune for crappy health insurance or have none at all, my company pays for my pretty decent plan. Yes, spoiled. Very spoiled, I know.
- I work at a bank that did not take any TARP money (and didn't do any of those bad bank things) and who most people have never heard of. That anonymity's been pretty sweet over the last two years.
- I laugh at least once, and most of the time way more than that, a day.
- People I respect think I'm smart. And, most days, I feel smart.
- I was hired as a secretary and am now a Senior Vice President. Not a lot of places you can do that.
- When the head of the office found out that my mom was sick, he told me that the most important thing was to do what I needed to do for my family. That whatever time I needed to take off, I should take off. And I believe him. My boss was even more generous - basically working over her entire two week vacation because that was when Mom was first diagnosed and had brain surgery and I wasn't in the office that much.
Listing those came pretty easy to me...there are a lot more that I haven't included here. I bet that if you think about it, each of you can list your own ten reasons why your grateful for your job. We should all do that once in a while. There's always going to be stuff that makes us crazy...but if you like (or love, like me) what you do and the company you do it for (at least most of the time), get paid a decent (or more than decent) wage, and are respected? Well then, try to focus on the positive. Especially when you leave for paradise in 3 work days (7 days total). That's my goal. Remind me of that when I blog the Top 10 Reasons I Hate my Job. ;)
Monday, March 1, 2010
As you know, I've been a bit down in the dumps lately. Had kind of a crappy weekend. I came in to work today so tired because while I slept okay last night, I barely slept at all from Saturday into Sunday. (Those paying attention would have noticed that my first blog was posted BEFORE 6 am. This was after I had to set it up and write it. I got maybe an hour of sleep.)
Anyway...I came in this morning dreading the day a little bit. (In general, I love my job and enjoy coming in.) I had a meeting scheduled for 10 with one of my smartest clients. As I recently told a friend, I much prefer my dumb clients. ;) Seriously, I get much more stressed before the smart ones. Mostly I want to make sure I don't say anything stupid...I am assured that this hasn't happened yet. But, hey, you never know. One day I could just declare (with 100% certainty) that the yield curve is among the flattest it has been in history when I meant to say that it's among the steepest. You get the idea. So...after a crappy weekend, I come in being stressed about a challenging meeting that is going to happen. Mornings being what they are around here, I don't get as much time to review before the meeting as I would have liked.
And...it went great. Really great. There was a lot of interesting discussion; I had a few smart points to make AND they gave us more money to manage. (That's always a good sign.) Walked out of there with a bounce in my step.
So, this is my goal. To think of and remember and really feel one good thing a day.
- ▼ March (10)