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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Where do broken hearts go

I love you, Mom.

Every moment, even the difficult ones, were a blessing for me because they were spent with you.

I mark this day in honor of a woman whose life mattered.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who loved her family beyond what words can express. It was immeasurable.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who is loved beyond her time on this earth.

I mark this day in honor of a woman who was generous, intelligent, compassionate, and downright amazing.

I mark this day in my heart and soul, like a tattoo that can never be removed.

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Posted by on March 30, 2016 in anxiety, cancer, death, loss, love, mom

 

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One off the list

I have an app on my laptop and correspondingly on my phone that helps me hold a to-do list. I like it very much, with the exception of if I don’t remember to open the app, it can’t help me remember to do things. When I was in the thick of having to remember a ton of things–especially when I was out of the house–the app was really good. I still use it occasionally, but my to-do items are not quite as urgent and there aren’t as many to keep track of. I like it mostly because it lets me “check” things off when I’m done and it puts a lovely line through the item. I can also maintain multiple “lists” within the app, which helps me keep the items organized easily.

One of the things on that list–which include items for me and items for my parents and items that Hub has promised to do–was going back to the dentist to deal with my baby toof. It was randomly wiggly and not. I assumed that I’d deal with it after…well, when I had more time. I’ve had that sucker hanging on for 40+ years, I saw no reason to try to squeeze time in for having it pulled, whatever manner that meant for the poor little bugger.

We took Mom to the doctor this morning because I was concerned about her leg. She’s got blood clots in both legs, which means no more lymphedema wrapping for the time being. You can’t put compression on areas that have blood clots. So her leg was looking red and I was getting concerned, so we went in. It was quite an ordeal as Mom is not able to get up on her own anymore. She and my father struggle to get her out of the wheelchair and into the car, and vice versa when we arrive somewhere. The same struggle is there when she gets out of the recliner, off the toilet, etc. She’s started sleeping in a recliner instead of a bed because her cough is so bad she can’t lie down anymore.

After we got home from the appointment and I helped them get settled back into the house, I came home to let the dogs out and and grab some lunch. It was close to 1:30 at that point and I was kinda hungry. I’d thought ahead and eaten a little yogurt and granola this morning so I wouldn’t be starving this afternoon after the appointment. So after I took care of the dogs, I pulled out some leftovers and sat down to eat. And like normal, I was chewing on the opposite side so as not to annoy the baby toof. And as I’m eating, like normal, on nothing terribly interesting or hard, my baby toof finally made the jump. Like nothing was happening, it just squeaked out. I basically spit it into a napkin because it had kind of fallen out of its wedged spot toward my cheek.

The toof is ridiculously small, and the spot it vacated feels ridiculously large. For vanity’s sake, no worries because it’s not visible to the normal eye (I mean, if you want to stare into my yawning mouth you might see it, but otherwise…). But at the moment that this occurred, vanity was not at the forefront…my anxiety was. My fear of there being an empty socket there, just waiting to get infected or get something stuck in it. So once I spit out baby toof, I ran into the bathroom and spit into the sink to make sure I wasn’t bleeding. And then I called the dentist’s office. And oddly, despite what I’ve told you so far, THIS is where it gets weird.

A very nice woman answered the phone (I do like the people at this office for a reason) and asked how she could help me. I prefaced the explanation by telling her who I was and which dentist I see, then told her in very plain words, “My baby toof fell out.” To which she responded, “No it did not!” I was mildly taken aback, then I laughed like a mo’fo. So I told her what had occurred, and she asked if I was in pain or if there was any blood. I said no and no. So she said, “So it just…fell out?” And I said yes, I wasn’t bothering it at all and it just fell out. Her next comment? “Oh my lord I have to go get them to xray my baby tooth again! To make sure it’s not going to just fall out!” I attempted to reassure her that my baby toof had hung in there for 44 years, so she was probably safe (she sounded ¬†young). She said she was only a few years behind me…then she yelled at one of the technicians there saying to set up the xray because she needed the tech to xray HER baby toof right when she hung up the phone.

Then she got down to brass tacks with me, asking again if there was pain or blood, and then she said she’d talked to the doctor and call me back. I said no pain, no blood, just freaked out. She said she totally understood and promised to call me right after she talked to the dentist that was in the office today. She said they were completely booked and since I wasn’t technically an “emergency”, they couldn’t just fit me in. Unless the dentist disagreed and wanted to see me, of course.

Really? I get the receptionist who ALSO still has a baby toof as an adult? Apparently, it’s not as unusual as you might think. Anyway, she called me back to say the dentist who owns the practice looked at my last xrays and said “no worries. there’s no socket hole, the tooth was just wedged. she’s fine. tell her not to freak out, just go about her business.” Oh-kay. So I said thanks, told her good luck with her toof. She told me to put mine under my pillow and maybe my husband would give me a nice gift. Then she said they’d be in touch to make an appointment to talk about bridge or implant. I said “Yuh huh” and hung up. Not if I can help it, as I’m not keen on getting an implant and a bridge might ruin the other two perfectly healthy teeth surrounding the empty space.

The good news is, I didn’t panic or have an anxiety attack. I felt mildly freaked, but I can imagine it felt like a normal “freaked out” because I went back to doing what I needed to do. With the exception of eating…I was squicked out so I put the food away. Otherwise, I made phone calls and handled emails and paperwork and the like while I waited for the dentist’s office to call back.

When I went over to my mother’s to check on her, I told her I finally lost my last baby toof and became an adult. She seemed less than amused, but that’s kind of her MO these days.

Quite the day I had, yah? I told one of my brothers that I lost my baby toof–and probably all my magical powers. He told me I was weird.

He’s not wrong.

Also, you’re welcome for not sharing a picture of poor baby toof.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in anxiety, fear, health, not alone, worry

 

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Everyone has their own story

My mother’s best friend (other than me) is a lovely, wonderful, amazing, loving woman who worked in the same office with Mom for a LOT of years. Sixteen years? Seventeen? I’m not sure specifically but M has been a part of our lives for what seems like forever. She loves my mother like a sister, and she’s basically part of our family. She and Mom used to be early-birds at the office, so they always talked early in the morning as they shared coffee or tea, or breakfast, or whatever. And in recent months, M has told me privately that my mother has shared a lot with her, especially how Mom worries about Dad, and how he will handle her death. Also, as we would have all expected, how Mom worries about all of us. They talk on a different level than Mom and I do, and I’m incredibly grateful that M is in our lives…that M is a part of Mom’s life.

M stopped by to visit on her way home from somewhere today, sort of on a whim. She called from the car and then stopped by Mom’s house. I ran over to say hello and to give M a hug, and I ended up walking her to her car as she was ready to leave. M told me that another co-worker of theirs–who has been living with cancer for something like 8 years–is coming to the end of her journey. That’s where M was this afternoon, visiting that co-worker/friend. She couldn’t bear to tell Mom that the other person had few days left to live. M and I hugged, we cried a little, I told her to come again soon.

I went back to Mom’s to say goodnight, then started my walk home. As I did, I realized that M has a very different struggle than I do with Mom’s disease. M’s husband died of cancer after a long journey (I don’t like the word “fight”), now her best friend is dying of cancer…and another co-worker friend is even closer to dying of cancer. When M and I hugged good bye next to her car, I told her I loved her, and I thanked her for being a part of our family. Her tears were for Mom–as were mine–but I think that we both cried for ourselves a little. She has her story that she has lived, I have mine. Neither is better or worse, just different.

I have my own losses to live with, deaths and grief that I’ve struggled with. This is my mother dying now, but I felt the need to comfort M for her losses. I wanted to make it “okay” for her, even though that is in no way possible. I find myself trying to comfort the other people who talk to me about Mom. My father, my aunt and my uncle, my cousins, Mom’s friend, other extended family members… Not that they are ignoring me, because they aren’t. I don’t mean it that way. I don’t know what I mean. There’s a lot of that going on with me these days. I feel mixed up, numb and emotional at the same time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat somewhere, absolutely silent and still, but inside I’m ¬†wanting to rage and throw things and just go crazy. I don’t, but I want to.

Sometimes I wonder if one of these times when I break down, when I have some outburst or whatever, that I won’t be able to come back from it. I think that’s why I don’t always let go…there’s just this fear that I won’t be able to recover or crawl out of whatever pit I let myself fall into. It hasn’t happened yet, and so I hold on that small ray of hope.

 

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My mom is dying

Mom had a CT scan to see why she is coughing so much and to determine why her abdomen is swollen. They not only found that her cancer has continued to progress despite the new medication, but she also had what looking like multiple blood clots in her upper legs. So we rushed in to get ultrasounds of her legs, only to find very long clots in both legs. One leg is almost completely blocked by the clot, the other one is pretty close to being blocked. So she is on blood thinners now, and the lymphedema wrapping is now postponed until further notice. No more wraps, no compression garments, nothing.

We may never get back to it. Her cancer is continuing to progress fast. When she has downhill turns, they come overnight. She’s not walking at all, she’s in the wheelchair almost all the time, except when she’s on the couch, in bed, or in the car. She has no energy. She’s depressed. She’s disengaged most of the time, emotional sometimes, angry other times. But at the moment, the blessing is that she has no physical pain.

Her oncologist doesn’t think she’ll make it to June, or if so, not much beyond. She had a trip overseas planned for June, which I think was giving her something to look forward to. Something to hope for. We haven’t told her yet what the doctor said, or that she won’t be taking the trip. Even if she’s alive, she won’t be well enough, and the blood clots just sealed the deal.

With the discovery of the blood clots–and the requirements of suspending the lymphedema wrapping appointments–Mom’s schedule has gone from busy to empty. Which, while that gives her a break, it also gives her time to sit and stew. I’m going to do what I can to engage her, but it is difficult these days. Having a one-sided conversation is hard for any length of time. And knowing how much I should attempt to engage her is difficult, too. We used to be able to sit and crochet together…and talk or not. But she won’t crochet anymore…and she doesn’t seem to want to talk anymore.

I watched a video by a hospice nurse talking about the last months/weeks/days/hours of a person’s life. Although I cried through parts of the video, I feel like it helped me understand how Mom’s body is going to be functioning in the next months. I’m not stressing over her eating or drinking, because a body that is preparing to shut down doesn’t need the same energy as one that is actively living. So I feel like if she wants to eat/drink, she can. If not, I’m not going to be stressing her out by harping on it.

Today my father said to one of my brothers, “She’s not coming back from this” a few times. I talked to him without my mom this morning, and I can see that it’s starting to set in on him. Sometimes, anyway. Sometimes I think he’s completely in the dark, but maybe that’s how he’s coping. The brother that lives with them is barely acknowledging any of it. Another brother is dealing with his own depression issues, and although he is trying very hard to be helpful and engage with all of us, I can see that his medication is keeping him dulled. The third brother who lives out of state…he’s emotional like I am. But he’s so far away that he’s not as involved as the rest of us.

I’m randomly crying. I feel like I’m grieving and she’s not even gone yet. I’m trying to hold myself in the moment, but when it’s quiet, I just can’t. I feel the weight of the loss on me, heavy and cumbersome. There are moments when I feel like I can’t lift my head. There are moments when my thoughts whip around in my head so fast that it makes me dizzy. I try to find a center, a grounding, something to soothe me, but I have not been successful. It’s not anxiety, it’s not panic, it’s just so much sadness. Not depression, I don’t mean that. Just sadness.

I’m trying not to show my mother how emotional and angry and sad and upset I am. But I don’t want her to think that all of this means nothing to me. I worry that she sees me buzzing around, doing this, and that she thinks that I am not upset. Because she knows I’m the emotional one in the family, and yet I’m not showing it this time. But she doesn’t ask. We don’t talk about it. The sicker she has gotten, the less we have discussed how sick she is, or how sad we are, or how afraid we might be. The sicker she has gotten, the less we have talked. The sicker she has gotten, the further away I feel from her, which I guess is natural as she prepares to withdraw from her life. But oh, how it hurts. How it hurts me to not be able to talk with her and be myself with her.

How much it hurts to even admit that she’s dying. Even though I’ve been open and honest with the family and with her good friend. Somehow “reporting” what has come from the doctor has not hit me the same as saying it in context of my relationship with my mother. I guess I don’t know how to explain that any other way.

 

 

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Nothing is forever

I was putting wraps–ace bandage-like bandages–into the wash yet again for Mom. When she goes to the lymphedema clinic or I unwrap her at home, those wraps and all the under-bits and over-bits have to get washed. So every other day or third day I’m unrolling bandages and stuffing them into lingerie laundry bags so they don’t get tangled in the washer. So I’m stuffing the bags and thinking how often I have to do this–in small loads–because it’s costing us extra water and extra electricity and it’s not really about those things but it’s what is running through my head. And I tell myself that it’s not forever because eventually Mom will get compression garments that she can put on and off at home with velcro or they will be like bike shorts and knee-high combination compression garments. They will be used to maintain the swelling, not too reduce the swelling, so we have to get her to a point where the swelling is reduced and is at a plateau. So I tell myself that this constant washing and drying and re-rolling of bandages won’t go on forever.

And the phrase “nothing is forever” just goes through my mind over and over again. Nothing is forever.

Hub asks me if I’ve thought of what I will do when my mom is gone. Not in a mean way…we try to stay open and honest about what is happening with Mom. And at some point, all this care-giving and running and doing will stop…and I’ll be without a path again. Even worse, all the things I’ve been running and doing will stop abruptly and so how will I handle that. What will I do? I told him I didn’t want to think about it now, that when the time came I will just do something. I know I’ll have lots of things still to be done to handle Mom’s part of the estate. I know I’ll be helping my Dad take care of himself and their dog. I know I’ll have some things to do, but not like right now. Not like it’s going to be in the coming months as Mom gets sicker and sicker. But I don’t want to go that far ahead. I want to take care of what is front of me right now.

My aunt and uncle stopped by today to see Mom. My aunt pulled me aside and starting telling me of all the things I’m going to need to plan for with Mom’s passing. I wrote them down, but I told her that I wasn’t thinking ahead that far right now. That I needed to concentrate on what was right in front of me, and she reminded me that we won’t have much time to “plan” at the time she passes. I said I’d think about it and see what I could pre-plan.

I’m working so hard to stay in the moment, to do what needs to be done right now, and everyone else is asking me to look ahead. I look ahead too much and I get frozen and stuck. I get afraid.

I’m walking around trying to keep myself on a level emotional keel, but then I go home and explode. I kind of freaked out on the phone with Hub, who ended up rushing home to check on me, and all I did was cry. I got overwhelmed and I just couldn’t hold on anymore.

But I recovered, and I continued on. Which at least proves that I can.

 

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