Monthly Archives: January 2016

Shave and a haircut…

…two bits.

Mom finished her radiation treatments today. The nurses at the radiation center are beyond amazing women. I can’t tell you how phenomenal it is that these women go in to work every day and help people who are battling life-threatening diseases. How they go in every day, knowing that they’re seeing people who are so sick…who might not make it in for the next treatment. Some who can’t get out of chairs because they are so weak and frail. And yet these nurses smile and hug and encourage…and they love.

This was the second round of radiation for Mom. The first was pelvic radiation, this time it was brain radiation. When Mom came back in for this second round–the first was last summer–the nurses recognized her. They hugged her. They carried her puke bucket for her. They showed her pictures of their lives–weddings, children–and they remembered that she crocheted special hats for them. They greeted me and they greeted Dad like we were friends.

So Mom rang the bell at the radiation center for a second time. The nurses gave her a certificate–that they each signed after they wrote very sweet things–as well as a cover for her puke bucket that re-assigned as her “crochet bucket”. I took pictures of Mom ringing the bell, but it was harder to feel excitement. This was the second time she’s rung the bell for treatment completion at the radiation center. Adding in the chemo center, she’s rung a bell three times…and yet I know that the cancer is continuing to grow. There’s no question in my mind. This cancer is so aggressive, there’s not going to be any stopping it.

I smiled and cheered Mom on as she rang the bell. Afterward, we went out for lunch with Hub and my oldest brother, and my other brother and his wife surprised Mom by showing up as well. After we all stuffed our faces, I went back to my parents’ house with them to get Mom settled. We talked about cutting her hair as we drove back to the house because the radiation was causing Mom to lose her hair again (due to the location of the radiation beams). She had pulled out some clumps already and we’ve seen her shedding hair at home. It was clear she was irritated, so I offered to cut her hair really short. She usually wears her hair short-ish, but I’d say it was about 4″ long at the longest area. I started cutting and then my brother brought down his hair clippers, so I proceeded to shave her hair (with a guard) really carefully so I didn’t irritate her scalp. I left her with about half an inch of hair. Enough to keep her head from freezing, but not long enough to irritate her when it continued falling out. She thanked me and then we got her settled onto the couch so she could rest. Dad and I cleaned up the hair from the floor, then we ordered pizza and calzones and strombolis from the local pizza place. Mom wanted the food for the weekend (she had a hankering for it), in case the restaurant wouldn’t be open after the snow. I rubbed Mom’s fuzzy head, kissed her cheek, and I came home.

I never expected to have that memory with me. I’m glad I was able to help her feel more comfortable by shaving her hair, but I don’t know how to cut hair. I do a terrible job trimming the dogs–even though I do it when it’s needed so they don’t have to sit in a cage at the groomers waiting to get trimmed–so I wasn’t looking forward to cutting Mom’s hair. I did it because she needed it, but I hated doing it. I hated that it needed to be done. I hated it.

I walked home in the lightly falling snow. We’re expecting an actual “official” blizzard here (it’s going to meet real criteria for a blizzard, they’re not just saying it’s a blizzard…who knew?). 20-30″ of snow when all is said and done. It was that eerie quiet outside as I walked home. I let my mind stay blank and felt the snow touch my face, wet my hair, linger on the scarf I was wearing that my grandmother crocheted for me a million years ago. Inside my house, I took off my coat and hung it on the back of chair, then went to throw something away in the trashcan in our mudroom. The can has this latch thingy that requires you push the lid down to latch and unlatch. I pushed it to unlatch it, threw out the paper in my hand, then pushed it to latch it again. Only there was a towel on top of it (that we use to dry the dogs from the snow) that got caught under the lid. So I yanked on the towel while simultaneously trying to push the lid down to release the latch again. It didn’t work, and I swear I stood there and pounded my fist on the lid repeatedly as I yanked on the towel. BANG BANG BANG BANG. Hard. Loud enough that Hub stuck his head in the doorway to see what was going on. I finally got the lid to pop open, pulled the towel out and closed the lid again. I shrugged at Hub and said, “Guess I had some rage to get out.”

Poor guy did the right thing and scurried away without comment.

Last night when Mom texted me (she’s getting into this texting thing now that she has a stylus…she’s texting her grandkids and my non-local brother) “Alarm! Hair is falling out! Just thought you’d want to know.” she also told me she was eating some store-bought ice cream leftover from a recent visit from my nieces. So after the rage incident, I mixed up her favorite ice cream–chocolate peanut butter–and dumped it into the ice cream machine to churn. When it was done, I put it into a blue freezer container, then called Mom to say I was coming over and I was bringing the snow with me. She said, “Only if it’s chocolate covered snow.” The steroids have really cranked up her appetite for everything, including her beloved chocolate. She’s eating a lot of food now, and we make it into a joke…that no one should stand still too long in her house or they might get chewed on. So I suited up in my coat and scarf, and walked back to her house to deliver the freshly made ice cream. Again, the quietness of the snow, the gentle touch of the icy flakes, it was all so serene and so…engulfing is the only word I can come up with. I’m not sure how it really made me feel, it just was so noticeable.

I showed Mom the container of ice cream and promised that by her snack time later that evening it would be firm enough to eat, then I stuffed it into her freezer. She told me she talked to her good friend on the phone, she talked to my brother who lives in another state, and she thanked me again for cutting her hair. I told her I loved her. I told her to text me later to say good night. And I was outside for the walk home. Crunch crunch crunch. The snow was sticking the ground by now–maybe two or three inches-and I tried to duck-walk my way back home, following my footsteps only now I was leaving prints that were backward to the original. I know it sounds confusing, but at the time it seemed important to make those marks in the snow in just the right way.

When I got home, I realized how tired I was. I realized how much my body hurt. I cleaned up the stuff from the ice cream machine (it cleans easier if you do it right away) and got myself a big glass of water. I sat down and nearly couldn’t get back up when it was time for dinner.

If it really does snow as much as they say, I won’t be able to get over to Mom’s tomorrow. That’s why I ran back over tonight with the ice cream, so she had it for the weekend. If it really does snow as much as they say, I’ll have nothing to concentrate on. Mom’s doing well enough that they don’t need me over there if Dad and my brother are there (my brother lives with them). I don’t have to worry about figuring out how to get over there in 2+ feet of snow. I can stay home and do my best not to think.

Maybe I’ll be able to get outside with the dogs. I might not be able to get off the deck as my knees are really unhappy and walking through the snow in the back yard would be too painful. But maybe I’ll get some pictures. Maybe I’ll see the dogs romp. Maybe I’ll be okay.


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Jonas the snow storm

Warning: picture heavy post. Enjoy!

Yep, we got pummeled by Jonas Friday night and all day Saturday.

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It was nice for a while on Saturday because I had no responsibilities. Mom was safely ensconced in her house with my dad and brother. Hub was here with me. We watched three episodes of House of Cards on Saturday. We’d been wanting to check it out but just hadn’t found the time. We sat around and did nothing while the storm blew and spewed and accumulated. Every couple of hours Hub would go out and shovel a path off the deck and into the yard for the dogs. I tried to go out to help broom off the stairs and like a dumb-butt, I put my foot down where I thought it was ground only it wasn’t ground yet, I twisted my knee, fell sideways and barely caught myself from slamming into the stair post and the house and the ground. My knee was sore and my back was tweaked. Needless to say Hub shuffled me back into the house right away and settled me on the recliner with an ice pack on my knee.

For most of Saturday the dogs did pretty well. They would run off the deck, pee in one of the paths Hub had shoveled, then run back into the house. Butthead even found a spot to poop in all that snow, but Le Moo held out until Sunday morning.

We enjoyed the day of nothing Saturday, without really thinking about much about the front of the house. Friday afternoon before the snow started, we parked my four wheel drive SUV parallel to the garage door, thinking if we got it close enough to the door, it and the roof overhang would protect the garage door from the snow. And also, the truck would be out of the way of the plow guy that comes to take care of our long driveways.

The best laid plans of mice and men.

This morning when I came downstairs, Hub told me that Le Moo pooped after a long, drawn out wander through the 28″ of snow we got. She refused to poop in any of the paths Hub had shoveled, instead she “swam” over the snow to try and get to the back of the yard to poop. At some point she gave up and pooped somewhere, which Hub then shoveled out of the way. Butthead, on the other hand, didn’t poop at her normal time first thing in the morning. So I took her out when I came downstairs and watched as she frantically ran along all the paths–back and forth, back and forth–sometimes jumping up onto the walls of snow around her. She FINALLY climbed up into unshoveled snow, pooped, then couldn’t figure out how to get back to the house without jumping OVER the poop. And not making a clean jump…literally. I had to clean her fur when we got back to the house. YUCK.

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After that, I went to the garage to see how well our ultra-smart SUV/garage setup went. I opened the access door we have in the garage (a standard size door that leads out to the driveway right next to the garage so we don’t always have to open the garage door to get in and out)…and found this.


and this…


and this…


and this…


That last picture? Can you see the very top edge of my SUV there? And on the right side, my garage door? With the snow piled up in between? Pressing against my garage door so hard it was bowed in on the inside?

Yeah. So pretty much we were actually STUCK IN THE HOUSE. The access door and the garage are the only way out of the house, with the exception of our front door which a) we never use (and it doesn’t even have a walkway to the driveway) and b) it was completely blocked in by 28″ of snow just off the porch. Gah.

I actually started getting a little freaked out. I don’t mind being in the house for days at a time. I was happy to have Hub stuck in the house with me. I don’t get “cabin fever” and don’t really understand people who do. I certainly don’t understand people who get “cabin fever” and MUST leave the house after 24 hours (to the detriment of their own well-being on roads that aren’t drive-able or even walk-able). C’mon, really? So I was all fine and well with being in the house…until I realized we were literally STUCK IN THE HOUSE. Unable to get out if we needed to. And no one could get in to us. Unh.

Saturday late morning (sorry, this is all out of order), our “regular” plow guy–who is actually our mechanic, he happens to moonlight as a plow guy during the short snow season we have–called to say he BROKE the axle on his plow truck very early that morning on a job. I was really concerned because with the huge storm, we were sure that all the plows would be booked with jobs days ahead of time and no one would be able to get to us for days. So after the call from our regular plow guy, I waited a couple of hours in case he could find the parts he needed to fix his truck. When he didn’t call back, I went to Craigslist…which I never do because I’m entirely suspicious of people who post services on Craiglist. Actually, I’m entirely suspicious of anything posted on Craigslist, but that’s another story. I didn’t know where else to look. I emailed four different listings looking for pricing and availability. The first guy who responded to me turned out to be a guy who had driven down from New Hampshire to help a friend pick up plow jobs during the storm. He gave me a price, I asked him for something a little better, and he agreed to come out the next day to plow us (and my parents) out.

When I emailed him Sunday morning to tell him that my parents would pay him because I literally couldn’t get out of my house, he responded saying that he had a co-hort in the truck with him and they’d help shovel to my access door from outside after they plowed out the driveway. Seriously, these guys were a God-send. They showed up, they had an amazing plow (the blades moved in every direction and also changed from pointed plow to scoop blade…), they did MORE than we had arranged for, AND they helped dig out my truck. We gave them extra money for all the work they did, wished them safe work, and continued cleaning up our driveway.


That’s the mound of snow at the end of our driveway (about seven feet high by twelve feet wide by about 8 feet deep), right up to the fence gate that leads into our back yard.


Aaaaaaaand that’s my fence gate on the other side. See it cranked into a Vee shape? Bent backward into the yard. Whoops. We have NO idea how badly the gate is damaged. And honestly, we probably won’t know for weeks until all the snow has melted enough for us to get over there. Okay, maybe not weeks, but probably at least a week. We’ll deal with whatever the damage is. The plow guy saw the gate initially, but when he was pushing snow on the other side of the fence, at some point he was no longer able to see the gate. I was standing in the access doorway while he was plowing and I heard craaaack and I yelled at the plow guy to stop pushing! I yelled across the expanse of snow “stop! you’re breaking my fence!” He apologized and didn’t push up against the mound of snow again. But the damage was already done. Oh well.

That was my weekend. How was yours? LOL


Posted by on January 25, 2016 in anxiety, Butthead, dogs, family, Le Moo, snow


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Nutritionally nerdy

A few weeks before Christmas, Hub and I went to a lecture given by a nutritionist who works in the same organization as T. I saw the announcement for the lecture in email, but then T also sent me an email saying, “this is really cool! I’ve been doing some research on this…” because the lecture was about the “second brain” in your gut. The gut-brain connection, basically. It was a topic T and I had spoken about briefly, and something that I had already done a little research on myself.

We attended the lecture, which had a very small audience–like six or seven people–and had a chance to meet with and hear from the nutritionist. Who told us multiple times that she was “nerding out” over what she was talking about. I found her information really interesting but a lot of it I’d already read about or heard before. Hub hadn’t, but I had. What was almost as interesting was the conversation we had with the nutritionist after her lecture was over. She had brought some drinks and food for us to taste that was supposed to be good for our gut. I tried a few things, and amusingly enough so did Hub after the nutritionist kind of challenged him to do so.

In the end, we took some of the nutritionist’s advice, including changing from drinking low-fat milk to whole milk (because low-fat milk is more processed and has more sugar)…organic milk even. Then we started a regimen of drinking Kefir every day, made again from organic whole milk, in order to get more good bacteria into our gut and colon. We had tried Kefir before but the brand that the nutritionist brought to the lecture for us to try was actually really good, so I make a special trip to a local organic market to buy it every two weeks or so. We made these couple of small changes after the lecture, and then Hub decided he wanted to go see the nutritionist for an individual appointment to see how she could further help our health. With his diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and my gluten and stomach issues, we have been looking for better ways to eat healthier. Part of the problem, though, is that Hub does not eat a big variety of vegetables, but the nutritionist assured us that she was up for the challenge we were presenting as a couple.

We met with her, J,  last week for just over an hour. I think she was encouraged that we were able to make some changes already just based on her lecture. Most of the appointment was taken up with history and getting-to-know you information. I will note, though, that she has a really good sense of humor and seemed able to take Hub’s jokes in stride. Part way through the appointment I was telling her that we tried to eat an avocado–which neither of us really likes–in order to figure out how to get it into our diet since it’s a really good “fat”. I had asked the vegetable and fruit guy at the store to help me pick one, then we went home and cut it and tried to eat it plain. It was bad,  ya’ll. It tasted like…well, Hub said it tasted like a hardboiled egg that had gone bad. I’m not sure it was all that, but it wasn’t good. So in a weird twist of fate, J actually had brought a second sandwich in to work that day (I get hungry, so some days I pack TWO  lunches she tells us…Miss J who can’t weight more than 100lbs soaking wet) that had avocado slices, cucumbers, and mayonnaise. And lucky me (I actually knew about this ahead of time because I had stalked her on twitter before our appointment), J keeps a gluten free home, so the “sandwich” was on gluten free bread and made in a gluten free kitchen. She handed me half her sandwich and said, “Try this!” It was actually pretty good, but we have no idea why HER avocado was okay and ours was so gross. But I promised we’d try the avocado again.

And for the record, she’s asked me to start eating breakfast (yay I say sarcastically) because she thinks it might help with my fatigue; she’s asked us to try to cut back red meat to once (or twice) a week (although we don’t always eat red meat every week, it just depends); she asked Hub to cut back on his juice drinks and try liquid stevia instead of powdered; she asked us to try getting more dairy that is hormone free (since we both eat cheese and yogurt and milk). Then she asked us to check back in with her when we feel that these changes have become routine rather than something we “have” to do. And that we’d take things step-by-step, little bits at a time. She said she likes to “meet people where they are” and encourage small changes at a time. And in the meantime, she’s working on more food plans for us, with the hopes that Hub can find some more foods he can eat that are healthier but also actually doable for him.

I asked J what I could eat for breakfast that would be quick and easy and protein-full, because that was her suggestion to keep me full and energized. Mostly she suggested Greek yogurt, but she wanted me to get organic and whole milk again. She suggested a brand–the same as the Kefir we enjoy–and said I might want to try making my own granola again to put on the yogurt. We bought a couple of different versions of the yogurt she suggested and so far…blech. I’ve got a container of the vanilla flavored version that is passable, and I DID make my granola again, but I can’t say I love eating breakfast. I don’t feel like my stomach is awake and most things make me feel BLEH that early in the morning. I was NEVER a breakfast eater. I don’t like breakfast foods. I don’t like eating early in the morning. And these days, I don’t like trying to fit the food into my morning routine because I’ve been on the go so much these past weeks. BUT I AM TRYING.

I’m not sure how much Hub is trying his stuff. We are looking to eat less red meat, so that’s on our radar. We’re hoping J has more suggestions for dinners because we’re going to get tired of eating fish, especially since neither of us is incredibly fond of fish.

Oh, and yeah, she asked for copies of our recent blood work. She said she just loves to see how the blood work results work in tandem with each rather than how the doctors looks at the results for each individual test independently. She said she just “nerds out” over blood work. She’s a nice lady but she’s kinda weird. Of course, I’d be interested to see if she makes anything of our blood work, but then again, I’m kinda weird, too.

That’s our nutrition journey at the moment. Good times.



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Six month inspection

Tomorrow is my first six month appointment after my cancer diagnosis.

I’ve been so busy with Mom, her radiation schedule, cleaning up the volunteer work she was doing, getting a wheelchair ramp installed, and searching for a cleaning service for her house (a small selection of what I’ve been doing the past several weeks) that I haven’t given myself time to think or worry about tomorrow’s appointment.

Until today. We had to take Le Moo to her annual vet appointment, which is about an hour and fifteen minutes away…one way. On the way TO the vet, poor girl was so nervous she puked in the car, so we had to pull over to clean things up. Back in the day when we had Sweet Pea, we always carried a “Puke Kit” when we took her in the car. Water bottle with clean water, a whole roll of paper towels, grocery bags for trash, an extra towel for her crate (she had a collapsible crate) if she threw up on the one we had in there, and lots of handi-wipes for us. But in the past, Le Moo didn’t throw up in the car. She would pant and pace and be restless, but no puking. Butthead doesn’t usually throw up, either.

The last trip we took to the vet for Le Moo, she threw up in the car. We have no idea why, except that we don’t really take the dogs in the car anymore. We groom them at home, bathe them at home, my parents are close by so we walk to their house when we visit, and we don’t take them to Hub’s parents’ house because they have small dogs and a small house. We don’t go to dog parks and we buy most of our dog food and treats online so we don’t go to Petco or Petsmart. And when we travel (rarely) we don’t take them. So we kind of guess that the dogs are out of practice for being in the car. The point being, Le Moo puked in the car today. We accidentally had paper towels in the car, and a large outdoor style trash bag in the back area of the van to protect the floor from dirt from something… And we had handi-wipes. So I cleaned things up, folded up the blanket we put on the floor of the van for the dogs to lay on and jammed the vomit-laden blanket into the big plastic bag. Then we were back on the road.

We spent a fortune on medications for the dogs (heartworm, flea & tick, stuff for their joints) mostly because we have to buy TWO sets of everything for a year. Le Moo got her shots and her exam and we came home.

And I went to check on Mom to see how she was doing today, and to retrieve Butthead because she hung out with them while we were gone. And Mom was not only sitting up on the couch, but she had already had a pretty good sized breakfast and was just finishing a very full lunch. She was drinking hot chocolate and told me she was eating everything she could get her hands on. So apparently her appetite is going strong right now. And then she asked me to go retrieve her crochet bag so she could work on the hat in there.

However long this lasts, it’s really good to see her perking up. We don’t know if it’s the radiation, the steroids, or a combination of both, but it was really nice to see.

So by the time I got home, despite having more to-do things on my list after my short visit with Mom, my head was spinning forward to tomorrow. To my own journey with cancer. I’m not only anxious about the exam (the last time I went in to see their PA, the exam was hella uncomfortable…an issue I’d never had before), I’m anxious about the results. I know they said they would do a pap smear on the cuff area to look for any kind of cancerous cells, but otherwise I don’t know what they’re going to look for or what they might see. The appointment is really only the first piece of the stressful puzzle, because I’ll then be hanging on by a thread waiting for results.

For better or for worse, after the appointment tomorrow, I dive back into Mom’s radiation appointments and a bunch of other things that need to be done. There are people I’m waiting to hear from before I can finish some tasks, but otherwise I have a whole to-do list of things to keep me busy.

I have no idea if I’ll sleep tonight. Not that that is so different from other nights. I guess we’ll see how well I deal with my anxiety tonight.


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9:30pm makes me sad

When I was twenty-one, I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own townhouse. With the support of my parents and my grandparents, I was able to purchase a three story townhouse about half an hour away from “home” and move out on my own. I’ve mentioned in the past, but I’m the youngest of four children. At the time I moved out, two of my older brothers were still living at home and yet I was ready to be on my own. My mother, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as ready. She worried, as moms are wont to do. Especially since I was living on my own, and no one knew my comings and goings.

So we established a routine that made her more comfortable…at nine thirty p.m. every night, she would call me to see how my day went. When I got to work in the mornings, I’d call her at her office to say good morning and let her know that I’d made it in without issue. On the weekends, I still spoke to her at night, but not always in the mornings. Even when one of my brothers moved in with me for about a year, I still kept the routine with Mom. Even when pre-hub Hub moved in with me (and commuted with me to work), I still kept the routine. When Hub and I got married, the routine remained. Seeing a pattern? Moved into our new house, same routine. Of course there were days we spoke more than once or twice a day, and there were days when she was traveling (or Hub and I were) when we let the routine pause, but it always picked right back up.

When we moved into houses right nearby each other, we still talked at nine thirty every night, with the exception of travel. It was odd, but we talked even more on the phone once we lived closer. And we hung out in her backyard on her deck, or in her house, sometimes for hours at a time. Or multiple times in a day. We’re close, Mom and I. Really awesome friends. We always find things to talk about. To joke about. When she got diagnosed with her cancer, we started our crochet together, so there’d be times when we’d just be sitting together, crocheting quietly. But no matter, we’d still talk at nine thirty at night (and oftentimes at nine thirty in the morning).

As I’ve blogged about, Mom isn’t doing very well at all. Her MRI showed the cancer has spread to her brain. The symptoms she’s dealing with are supposedly from that spread, and she’s started radiation to try to alleviate symptoms. It’s not a good prognosis, as the radiation might not help and/or might not make much difference in life expectancy. And of course, radiation has side effects. We’re all devastated…my father most of all. He’s terrified to lose her. She’s terrified to leave him. Mom’s feeling lethargic all the time, rarely ever opens her eyes, sits in her recliner with her head in her hand. Sometimes she’ll talk to whoever addresses her, sometimes she won’t. Moving even to sit forward in the recliner makes her want to throw up. Going to the bathroom by wheelchair is even worse. Food is her enemy, as it all makes her feel sick. She’s barely drinking. She’s in a terrible depression. I’m positive she’s worried sick about my father. She’s not in pain, per se, but she’s not comfortable and she’s not okay.

Since she’s been feeling poorly–just about Christmas day–she’s not called me at nine thirty. She doesn’t call me in the morning. She doesn’t call me during the day.

I’m programmed, after twenty-two years, almost 365 days a  year, to look up at the clock at nine thirty and get her call. Technically, her clock has been two minutes faster than mine here in recent years, but it’s a minor detail. The phone isn’t ringing. The appointed time ticks by. I try to do other things. It’s a terrible, horrible look into my future without my mom.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m over at the house every day. I’m trying to help my father during the daytime when it’s just the two of them at the house. I’ve gone to the doctor’s appointments as usual, I’m going with them to every radiation appointment that I can, and I’m bugging the crap out of my mother. I’m talking to her whether she responds to me or not. I needle her. I try to make her laugh. I do whatever I can to remind her that she’s still her with us. I touch her as often as I can without jostling her. I push her chair when my father lets me. I offer her water, I pass her the puke bucket that she carries in her lap. I ask her for help with my crochet, or point out something about the project I might have in my hand. I ask her if she needs to use the bathroom before the test or before we leave. I do everything I can to stay connected with her, even though she doesn’t seem to want to connect right now.

But at night, my twenty-two year connection is frayed and pulling apart at the threads. My head pops up at nine thirty, but the phone doesn’t ring. And it makes me so sad I can hardly stand to take in a breath. She’s still alive, she still right there, so close by, but I can’t have that link anymore. And I’m so not ready to give it up.

Although Mom’s oncologist gave me his opinion on prognosis time-wise, I don’t actually believe him. I think it’s a pat answer that they give out. I don’t want to speculate as to time, but I don’t think it’s a long time. I’m even more worried about that because of the depression. I know Mom doesn’t want to be like she is right now. Her head is all there, but her body is just being destroyed from the inside out. And although it might not be “pain” that she’s living with, it’s also not a good quality of life that she has. Especially with having to go to radiation once a day every weekday for ten days, and every movement leaving her dry heaving…it’s bad.

We’ve gotten a ramp installed temporarily so that getting Mom in and out of the house in the wheelchair is easier. The next step is to try to find some help for my father, so he doesn’t have to be responsible for Mom’s care 24/7 (even though I try to help and my brother who lives with them does do some stuff to help). I don’t know how they’re going to take to that, but my dad is already fragile with his own health issues. I know he’s devoted to my mother, and uber protective, but he can’t wear himself down and expect to be able to keep going. I’m there as often as I can during the day–sometimes two hours or so, other times for five or six hours–and I’m exhausted (especially since I come home and do more work, like getting their trusts in order, dealing with their insurance, their investments, some business work for Mom…just keeping up with day-to-day stuff for them). He has to be hitting a wall every day. I just need to figure out how to find help. That’s my mission starting Monday, I hope.

With my own cancer check coming up, and Le Moo’s visit to the vet in the same week…it’s more stress looming, mostly because of the timing, since I won’t be able to be with Mom those days, or help them get to the radiation appointments. I’m sick about it, but I can’t be in two places at once. I’m a mess, you guys. I’m holding it together at Mom’s, but by the time I’m walking home from their house, I’m in tears. I cry doing the laundry. I cry and pace the family room as I try to come to terms with what is happening. I cry feeding the dogs. I totally cry when I’m outside with them, walking Butthead on her leash. I cry in the shower. I cry on the toilet. I have a headache and stuffy nose pretty much all the time because of the crying. I’m not sleeping, my head is spinning with things I have to remember, and things I have to do, and things that need to be handled and taken care of.

I am one of those people who hate to make phone calls. I will do everything I can to not have to make cold phone calls. I hate making appointments. I hate calling strangers. I hate calling people we know who aren’t a part of my immediate inner circle. I’m having to do nothing but make those calls. Talk to those people. Chase issues. It’s stressful for me, but there’s no one else to do it. It wears on me. I’m delegating as much stuff as I can, but every time I ask someone to do something, I am reminded (by my own self-critical brain) that I’m the one not working and my brothers (and husband) are all working full time. I’m the one with the time. I’m the one here all the time. So I am plugging along, doing the best I can, and asking for help when I can. But it’s a lot for me. And I’m tired. I came upstairs after dinner and thought, “Phew, it’s the weekend, finally.” But the truth is, this is a 7 day a week mission. If I don’t go over and help my dad tomorrow, he’s doing it all alone. I might not be making calls, but I’ll be working emails and doing paperwork, and I’ll be hanging with Mom and trying to engage with her. And I’ll be getting her food and trying to keep my Dad on track with his own schedule. There’s no weekend from this. There’s only forward and go.

Nine thirty is gone again for another night. And I want to cry. Again.


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I’m cheating on my therapist (part 2)

You might want to read part 1 first. It’s kinda long…

Session number four (at least of the “active” sessions) started out with V talking to me about being bullied again. But this time, it was my grandmother that we were discussing. During my very first conversation with V, we were talking about those “resource” people and V was asking me about extended family like aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. I told her that I loved my grandmother very much, and that she was a big part of our lives growing up and into my adulthood. But that I had some mixed feelings about her, because she was always harping on my weight.

And like some weird television show, I had one of those epiphany moments. I realized very clearly how abusive my grandmother had been to me all my growing up years. How much she had damaged me, hurt me, bullied me, abused me. There was no physical abuse. She loved me. But she hurt me so much.

She compared me to people around us, other girls, other women. She told me I’d never be happy if I didn’t lose weight. She told me that I wouldn’t get a husband if I didn’t lose weight. She took me to her aerobics class as often as she could (very often in the summer when I was out of school), where I was forced into working out with other women of all shapes and sizes. Then she pointed out how I couldn’t keep up with this woman or that woman. She compared me to her (younger) friend’s daughter, a girl who was two years ahead of me in school. Pointed out how slender and in-shape that girl was, how smart she was, how happy she was.

She watched what I ate when we were together. She pointed out what I shouldn’t be eating. She encouraged me to deprive myself, and to eat only the things she gave me. She chastised me when I ate too much, or pointed me away from the cookies or the cake that she had baked for others in the family.

I was the only girl in my family, the youngest of four. I was also the only one of the kids who was overweight. I snuck food because I felt deprived of the food. Oh don’t get me wrong, my mother was watching me, because she, too, was unhappy that I was overweight. But she was more subtle about what she did and said. And she didn’t do the overt comparisons that my grandmother employed.

I went to fat camp, subsidized by my grandparents, because I know my parents couldn’t have afforded it at that time. It was a spectacular failure. I might have lost five or ten pounds at the time–the diet was very restricted and the activities were very forced on us–and I gained it all back very quickly…and then some, I’m sure. And my grandmother pointed it out, reminded me how hard I worked at the camp, and how I was letting it all go to waste.

I loved my grandmother very much. She loved me. She had her own weight issues, her own body image issues…I know this affected her and how she treated me. I know it affected her and affected my mother as well. That doesn’t mean what she did to me all those years wasn’t painful and damaging. As an adult, I understand where it came from for her. I’m working hard to separate her as the woman who loved me from her terrible behaviors toward me. I’m trying to remember that I’m NOT damaged. I am whole and I am okay.

My grandmother is only part of the reason that I never feel like I’m enough. Good enough. A good enough daughter. A good enough sister. A good enough wife. A good enough friend. I work ultra-hard, go the extra mile, do all the little things and the big things…and yet even when people are appreciative, I worry that it wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough.

My mother had three boys. All she wanted at that point was a little girl. A daughter, who she could dress in lace and ruffles, who would wear sweet pink dresses and play with baby dolls, who would love her tiny tea set and be the epitome of every dainty little girl. I was none of that. I hate lace and ruffles–they made me itch–and I wasn’t overly fond of pink. I hated dresses. I never once picked up a baby doll and I totally ignored the expensive and lovely tea set that I’m told my uncle bought for me at my mother’s urging. I played with the boys’ toys, with the boys themselves as often as I could work my way into their play-time, and I wore pants and tee shirts. And I was far from the dainty little girl she had hoped for. Very very often, my mother would speak of me, and then tell people all those things…I waited so long for a baby girl, I wanted to dress her in lace and ruffles, I wanted to see her play with baby dolls and tea sets. She never wanted any of those things… Over and over my mother would tell people of my failures. My mother loves me and I love her. If you read any of my blog posts, you can’t miss that. We’re amazing friends. I’m in awe of her. I’m deathly afraid of the day I will lose her. AND she made me feel like I wasn’t enough while I was growing up. I wasn’t who she had expected me to be.

I try so hard to be enough. I’ve been bullied and abused and put down for who I was. I only ever wanted to be loved.

As we were talking about my grandmother–and in part about my mom–V asked me to picture myself as a child. I could immediately remember my little bedroom. The walls were painted a pepto bismal pink, my white iron daybed mattress covered in strawberry shortcake sheets (which were in part pink), the white dressers and desk that had once belonged to my mother, the deep cranberry wool carpeting that my grandparents had passed down to me from a previous house. The full length mirror on the back of my door. The tiny little black and white television on my dresser, under the shelves that held the dolls my grandparents brought for me from every trip they took out of the country (I had never asked for dolls, they just bought them for me). The window air conditioner an uncle gave us for my bedroom. V asked me what that little girl was thinking, and I blurted out she just wants to be loved….she doesn’t want to be alone.

In previous sessions with T, I didn’t really understand talking to the little girl that I used to be. I’m not sure why this time it was more accessible. Maybe because of the revelations I had about my grandmother and my mother. The thing is, I don’t know how to make it better for that little girl. I was alone. I felt unloved. I’m not alone as an adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, I have a good relationship with my father and my brothers. My husband loves me very much. I have a very good friend whom I’ve known since second grade. And yet I still feel not good enough. I just want to feel good enough.

I don’t know what’s going to come next. I was supposed to see V again next week but I’ve canceled the appointment due to my mother’s health. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about all of this when I have free brain time, but I’ve been pretty occupied with my mother’s appointments, her care, and taking care of her personal and business issues. I have another appointment scheduled with V in a couple of weeks. If I can manage the appointment, I will. In the meantime, I’m still seeing T, so maybe I’ll be able to address some of these thoughts with her. We’ll have to see how it goes, considering everything else happening at the moment.


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I’m cheating on my therapist

Around the time I was working up my nerve to fly to my niece’s wedding, T suggested I try seeing a hypnotherapist. I flew to the wedding (part 1 & part 2) without the benefit of hypnosis. I just didn’t have enough time to see the hypnotherapist by the time I had decided to try it.

But I’d gotten a good referral from my massage therapist, and I have been having terrible time sleeping…still. So I thought that was something pretty tangible that would tell me whether the hypnotherapy was working. Better sleep? Yes it’s working. Not better sleep? Nope, not working. So with the blessing from T–the title of the blog was a joke, really–I set up an initial session with the hypnotherapist.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from V (the hypnotherapist). I didn’t expect to meet someone so…mousy and insecure. The first appointment took close to ninety minutes, as we did a get-to-know-you-and-your-whole-life’s-history thing. She took copious notes–something that T never does–as we talked. She asked a lot of questions about my history. When I told her that T offered to talk to her, she said that would be fine, if I decided to continue sessions with her.

I tried to cram a lot of information into a little bit of time, relatively speaking. I tried not to forget stuff. I had trouble with chronology and timelines. I was open and honest. We set two appointments and I went on my way.

By the time I was ready for my first regular appointment with V, I’d been through some pretty bad health anxiety. I’d been nauseated and feeling pukey for a couple of weeks. That alone was enough to boost my health anxiety. So I went to the doctor’s office–where I found out my primary doctor was out of the country, so I saw a “temp” doctor–and spent twenty minutes with a doctor who quizzed me on everything. He sent me home with a prescription for anti-nausea pills, and had me go to the lab for blood work. The blood work was “unremarkable” (how I hate that term) he told me via my health care portal. I scoured the blood work, finding that my calcium levels were high. Without forethought, I did a search on google to see what that meant. I tried to only look at “expert” sites like NIH or WebMd. I found that the high calcium could be parathyroid problems (a tumor or something), or it could be a result of cancer. So I stopped reading. I left a message for the “temp” doctor asking if I should be getting a repeat calcium test because it was high, and a parathyroid test that NIH recommended. He said “let me know if you’re not feeling better and we can retest. I’m not concerned about the calcium test.”

But I’d read that there’s no other reason for a high calcium result except a parathyroid problem. It’s black or white. Normal or high. 1/10th over the normal is a problem. I contacted the endocrinologist office I’ve been to in the past (where the endo called me crazy) to see if I could get an appointment. Because I hadn’t been in over 2  years, I was considered a new patient. And they couldn’t see me until the first week of February (which was almost 2 months away). There are like seven doctors there, and of course the person with the availability first was the doctor who had called me a crazy person. I took the appointment anyway, because the waiting is so hard.

Anyway, I was all hopped up on health anxiety, so I emailed the hypnotherapist to see if we could work on the health anxiety rather than the sleep thing, because I was really struggling with the health anxiety. She said “OF COURSE” and so I attended my first appointment. I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to be hypnotized because I have some issues with control, and I worry about someone taking advantage of me by hypnotizing me. I know, it’s weird, but there it is. And I told V that. As we talked about what we wanted to accomplish, she said that she doesn’t really use hypnotherapy as much as she uses “light hypnosis” and intentional breathing, along with EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to help people. She said she has a lot of experience with patients who have chronic illnesses, chronic pain, sleep issues, anxiety, all of which is wrapped up together.

I was disappointed. I wanted to try hypnosis a lot, but she IS the professional and I need to trust in that. So we went forward with her plan, and I had four regular appointments with her. The first one focused a lot on what she called my “resources”. People and pets (and spiritual being) in my life who represented different things to me. Comfort, security, love, acceptance, faith. Once we established those “resources”–with some brief conversation about my grandmother, which I’ll address another time–we did some breathing and worked on bringing those “resources” into my “heart-space”. It was a little…woo-woo for me. But I promised myself I’d really try to participate and engage in what she was doing. I’d try to trust the process even though I wasn’t entirely sure about it. The first session was over pretty fast, with me just concentrating on those “resource” people, and breathing in thoughts of what I wanted at that moment–calm and acceptance–and breathing out anything I didn’t want or need in my life. While I was doing this, I was holding these…paddles. They’re used for EMDR instead of the eye movement, as a lot of people (including me) can’t do that “eye movement” part of the EMDR. The paddles BUZZ, left hand and right hand independently. One, then the other, then back to the first, then the other hand.

The second appointment (not including the initial session), we continued along the same vein, talking more about my “resources” and pulling them into my life when I need them.

I wasn’t entirely sure about V for a couple of reasons. She comes across as insecure…often saying things like “I’m not sure I can help, but…” And I just felt that her energy was so soft. She seemed unsure a lot, and would talk about HER anxieties and how she disliked going to therapy (and was impressed that I was able to follow through with it because it’s hard to talk to strangers). She’s SO different from T that it was throwing me. Also, she didn’t really send me home with techniques to work on. No homework, like with T. Nothing to make me feel like I was “practicing” at home. It was odd for me, after so many years of CBT with T.

The third session, we talked about my experience with being bullied as a kid. She said oftentimes the imprint of being bullied goes much deeper than we can ever imagine. I wasn’t so keen on this session, because I felt like the bullying I’d experience didn’t impact me that much. The experience was sort of a blur of interactions melding together. But what it DID bring up was my issues with my grandmother…and in some ways with my mom. She promised to work on that for the next session, but as we continued talking about my growing up years and how I was bullied, I said that I felt like the odd man out all the time. One girl among three brothers. I was the only fat kid in the family. I was the sensitive one. I was the loner. And then we talked about how I repeated this as I pursued a career in a male-dominated industry. And how I repeated this by taking a job in a company where I was one of two females working a technical job (and the two of us didn’t work together…she was an engineer, I was in IT). It was interesting, mostly because I felt that there must have been a reason WHY I did that. Why I put myself in positions where I didn’t fit in with everyone else. What came out of that particular session was how much I missed feeling capable. The jobs I’d had were hard, they required a lot from me, and I earned a lot of respect in each of the positions. I miss being productive like that. I miss feeling the accomplishments. I forgot that I was that person. I forgot all the things I did, and the things I was able to do.

Session four was all about my grandmother, my mom, and where my feeling of “never good enough” came from. Next time.


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The bad news continues

It has been too long. I know it. I’m struggling hard on this roller coaster. I spent today’s session with T crying.

Mom just hasn’t recovered from being in the wheelchair…from the pelvic fracture and the deep muscle spasm. For a few weeks she was moving around better, walking more but still sitting to take breaks. But she was still pressing on, doing what she could. We tried a new medication, but it gave her problems with her fingers and toes. Numbness and tingling. That started with her first chemo, but the recent medication made it worse. The doctor stopped the medication because it was a high likelihood that the numbness and tingling would progress to painful neuropathy.

The nurses at the oncology center noticed that both Mom’s legs were swelling. It was decided that she lymphedema–swelling from water and “stuff” that wasn’t being filtered from her body by her damaged lymph system–and that she needed to go to physical therapy to get manual massage and compression wraps to help move the water up her body to parts of her lymph system that was working. That took some time to get set up, but we finally got it scheduled to start after Christmas.

We were expecting to go to a local research hospital to see if they had a trial, but with the holidays coming their response was a bit slow. Then they said they had no room for her in the trial until the end of January, so we decided to pursue the next option with her regular oncologist. Only…something happened and we’re not sure what.

Christmas day she wasn’t feeling so great. Then the weekend, she continued to feel “yucky.” She was starting to feel lethargic, tired, not really interested in eating. But she was forcing herself to eat to keep her energy up. The Monday following she was due to go to the physical therapist for the lymphedema evaluation. When I went to meet them at their house, I could see she wasn’t feeling well. She was exhausted and hardly interested in moving. She was using the wheelchair again. But she persisted and made it to the appointment. The physical therapist did the evaluation but only wrapped one of her legs, so as not to tax her body too much. We made it home and just inside the house, Mom threw up. And that’s where the downhill slide really began. We had another appointment the next day to go back to the physical therapist, but just minutes inside the offices, I had to race her wheelchair into the restroom so she could throw up again. I could see she was getting more dehydrated and weak, but she wanted to go through with the second appointment. They wrapped her again and instead of leaving it on for six or seven hours like the day before, this time she was supposed to leave the wrap on for two days. We got Mom home and she just kind of collapsed into her recliner.

The next morning my father called to say she wouldn’t get out of bed. She was too exhausted and weak. They’d spent the night getting up every ninety minutes to get her into the bathroom to pee…a result of her leg being wrapped and the fluid being expelled from her system. We called the physical therapist who told us to immediately remove the wraps and consider going to the ER for dehydration. We ended up taking her to the urgent care for her HMO (where she threw up again in the car), where they kind of pushed us around. She wasn’t really dehydrated, but her blood work said she was malnourished (from throwing up and not eating for fear of throwing up). It also came back with an elevated liver enzyme called Bilirubin. They did an ultrasound of her liver then basically said they saw nothing “remarkable” and sent her home.

The next day was New Years eve day. She wouldn’t get out of bed. She didn’t want to eat. She didn’t want to drink. She barely sat up. She didn’t open her eyes. We called the oncologist’s office but he was out for the day and the on-call oncologist only said to put her on the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet and keep hydrating. If it got critical, to go back to the urgent care again. So we pushed Mom to eat. We got her anti-nausea medication (different from the stuff the urgent care gave her because that didn’t work) and antacid for what we thought might be acid reflux. We encouraged her to get out of bed. To try to eat. To keep her eyes open. She would do so for a little bit, then revert back into sitting slumped in her recliner in her robe, eyes closed. No energy, just looking like she was suffering from so much discomfort and distress.

I’ve been spending as much time at their house as possible, trying to keep her going, trying to give my dad and brother a break. Finding foods for her to try to eat, distracting her, encouraging her. She’s tired, I can see it. She doesn’t want to feel this way. It’s not pain, but she feels like she wants to throw up every time she moves. It was a very long weekend. I spent much of my days there, leaving my husband at home with the dogs.

This morning we took her to her oncologist’s office to get her port flushed (it was put in when she was first going for chemo and they left it in just in case she needed to use it again). While we were in the waiting room, I was trying to chat with her, but she just waved her hand and said, “I’m not talking.” So I stopped. When we got into the exam room, we saw the oncologist and I asked him to come speak with us if he could. When he saw mom in the chair, head resting on her hand, eyes closed, he nodded.

A few minutes later, he came in to ask what was happening, and we filled him in. His first step was to get repeat blood work, especially for the high liver enzyme from the urgent care visit–a liver issue could cause the nausea. Then he ordered an MRI for her brain to see if there was spread of the cancer, which could also possibly explain the nausea. Tomorrow is the MRI. If the liver enzyme is still elevated, he’ll want a CT to see if the cancer has grown in her liver, causing a blockage or possibly shut down.

I helped my parents get settled in at home after the appointment, where my mother threw up shortly thereafter. They’ve got her going on steroids to help the nausea and stimulate appetite, and zantac for the acid reflux. After I confirmed the medications with my dad, and their schedule, I left to go see T because that appointment was previously scheduled. I made the drive there, got through the front desk check-in and the wait to get into T’s office. By the time she walked in from her bathroom break between clients, I was already crying. And I cried through the whole appointment. I’m not ready for this…whatever it is. I’m not ready to see her suffer like this. I’m not ready to see her go downhill. I hope this is a blip, something weird, and she’ll perk back up again. I hope. Goddammit I hope. I want to hope.

My brother (who lives with my parents) and I are trying to handle her business. Bills, insurance issues, investment issues, a few business issues. I’m trying to help handle the medical appointments, like canceling the upcoming physical therapy appointment that she can’t get to tomorrow. I’m afraid I can’t keep up with everything.

Butthead started limping again last week, for no reason. We put her on pain medication, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much. We’re supposed to leave her on it for 7 days, which would be tomorrow. I can’t even take her to my parents’ house when I go over because she’ll want to play with their dog and that could cause problems with Butthead’s already bad recovery. So I’m pulled in the different directions. My husband, my parents, the dogs. And I feel guilty for thinking about the dogs when my mother is suffering and struggling.

My husband understands. He has told me multiple times over the last week that he understand that I need to be with my mom and help them. That doesn’t mean it isn’t on my mind that I’ve been leaving him to fend for himself day after day. He’s leaving work at lunch to come home and take care of the dogs while I’m running around with my parents and my own appointments. The dogs are getting left home alone more and more as I’m running in and out to my parents and all the appointments. I’m constantly sending out emails to update my uncle and brother. I’m constantly answering their questions via email. I’m responding to queries from relatives. I’m taking notes at the doctor’s.

It’s not that I resent any of this. I don’t. I just feel pulled. I feel strained. And this is only the beginning of the terrible journey. And I know I won’t be able to keep this pace up for any length of time. I don’t know when to find help. If this is some kind of virus or something “minor” and not the cancer, then I don’t want to rush out to find help/caregivers for my mom. If it IS time to find assistance, I’m not even sure where to start.

I’m both exhausted and frozen. I’m both terrified and overwhelmed. I keep trying to push away the emotions to stay on task, with T’s voice in my head telling me to take time to feel the emotions. To let them come, to nurture them and let the “child” feel the pain of this situation. I told her I’m afraid if I do that, I won’t be able to pull it back together to do the things that need to be done.

It’s too much. It’s so much.

I keep trying to stay in the moment. I can’t control what is happening. Every plan I make will be blown away by whatever is coming next. Why waste my time planning?

My own six month post-cancer diagnosis checkup is in two weeks. I can’t even…there’s no room for it in my head. I also have an abnormal blood work follow-up for high calcium in February. I’m also seeing second therapist specializing in EMDR and hypnotherapy, to try to work on some other issues. That’s another post.

I’m sorry, after all that babble and blather, I feel I’m leaving this post incomplete. A long sentence without a period. I just have nothing.


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