Monday, July 26, 2010

Cancer Sucks!

I am back from my trip and I know that I owe you all a few posts, but I need to use today's post to vent, grieve, and most importantly process.

My trip back east was broken down into sections. The first 2 weeks was with my dad and stepmom, the next 2.5 days was with my moms, grandmother, and aunt/uncle/cousin, and the final night was at my other cousin's house.  Sounds slightly dis apportioned you say?  Well about 3 months ago I was talking with my stepmom about her cancer.  She has been fighting it for 4.5 years and was talking to me about her goal to make it 3 years to her grandson's high school graduation.  Prior to this conversation I had not thought about her death at all so a 3 year goal through me off...way off.  I immediately felt like there was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and I needed to get out there and spend as much time as I could with her.  So I chatted with my husband and he graciously agreed to letting Superman and I go for an extra 10 days (since he could only take a week off).  Turns out it was a good thing we went.

My stepmom had just finished another round of chemo the day that Superman and I got there.  It was a new chemo for her (the third new one in a couple of months) and it was an older chemo treatment which meant more side effects than usual (usually she is spends one or two days laying low and then bounces right back into the swing of things...she truly has been amazing through all of it).  This time things were a bit tougher.  She had bone pain from the medication that helps her restore her white blood cell count (which she is used to apparently and was lessened thanks to acupuncture), abdominal pain (from the tumors pushing on her intestines they think), and was more tired than normal.  She spent much of the day sleeping and only left the house to go to the doctor's and the garden she volunteers at on Fridays.  Although we made plans to go out to listen to music, eat dinner, and other things, each one needed to be canceled because she wasn't feeling up to it.  She isn't one to feel sorry for herself...she pushes through discomfort better than any person I know.  So when she says she needs to stay home, I know that she must have been feeling really bad. 

During most of my visits with them we have one big conversation about the cancer and then spend the rest of the time enjoying each other.  It was clear that things were different now because we spoke about it every day.  I spoke with my stepmom about how she was feeling, letting her talk about her fears and discomfort as much as she wanted to, when she wanted to.  I spoke to my dad about the plans they have in place, the support they have, about death, and about quality of life.  The whole visit felt different because of this...and as much as I wanted to talk to someone about it, I felt like I didn't know what to say and feared that I was just blowing things out of proportion.  Maybe this was just a bump in the road, maybe this chemo would be the one that works and I will look like the idiot that freaked out because she just needed a few more days of rest.  I called my sister at one point hoping to share with her what I was thinking about and my fears that this in fact was the beginning of the end, but didn't know really know what to say to her.  My dad had already told her that our stepmom wasn't feeling good so what more was there to say?   The whole time I felt like I could have broke into tears at any moment.  I held back though because I was afraid that if I started crying, that I wouldn't be able to stop AND there continued to be that fear (or should I say hope?) that maybe I was just blowing this out of proportion.  It wasn't like I could ask them if she was dying or not....I mean, we talked about her dying eventually...but to talk about her current state as "dying" was just too hard. 

The day before we left, my stepmom came down with a fever.  Fevers are bad when you are on chemo and so they went in to see the doctor. Her blood work came back okay...meaning that her white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets were low, but within the range of normal.  They also told her that she didn't have an infection.  When I asked her what they thought was causing the fever, her answer was, "the cancer".  It is at this point that I really realize that I do not know enough about cancer and it's impact on someone's body.  I didn't know that cancer could cause a fever and since this wasn't brought up earlier as a possibility, I worried that things were in fact as bad as they seemed.

The whole rest of the week I spent worrying about her.  I didn't get a phone call so I assumed everything was okay.  It wasn't till we arrived back in Portland that I found out that things weren't okay. 

My dad sends out email updates on my stepmom ever so often so that he doesn't have to call everyone and repeat the same information over and over.  Usually they include what they have been doing recently, how my stepmom is feeling, and the progress of the cancer and how her treatment is going.  It might seem a bit impersonal to some, but could you imagine calling 20 something people and telling them these details?  I couldn't either.   Well I received an email on Saturday. This email explained all the things they had been up to recently, including my trip there, and that my stepmom's fever and the pain came back and she was in the hospital for observation. They had also learned that the CA-125 marker (what I call her cancer #) has continued to go up significantly.  My dad explained that they would know more today so I have been anxiously awaiting the email.

So I got the email a few hours ago.  The news was not good...the doctors are stopping her chemo and she is being referred to hospice.  They have given her about 6 months.  My heart sank when I read this.  I could no longer hold back my tears and be worst fear was true.  This isn't how it is supposed to work! I have a long history of me worrying about something, thinking the worst is going to happen, and then it doesn't actually happen....I know my therapist has been trying to convince me that I can't actually control life by thinking this way and cognitively I know this to be true, but deep down I feel like I do have this power and just in case I don't, I feel like if I think about the worst case scenario and it does happen, I will somehow be more prepared to deal with it.  Thinking that this was the news I would get did not help me process this at all.  How do you deal with the reality that someone you love is going to die?  I know everyone is going to die sometime, but most of the time we don't think about how do you deal with it when it is right in front of you?  You certainly can't ignore it, but dealing with it seems too painful.  My instinct was to worry about my dad...if I worried about him then I wouldn't think about how I am feeling and therefore I can push back my dealing with it for now.  The only problem is that he is my dad. He doesn't want to really talk about his feelings with his kid...he has friends and support people for that.

So instead, I decided that I would face my feelings and write about them...only problem is that I keep writing about the facts of the situation instead of really addressing my feelings.  My true feelings are big and scary and feel like too much to handle.  I think the thing that I find myself thinking about what it will be like for her.  My dad keeps telling me that no one needs to die in pain anymore and that there are plenty of drugs they can give her to keep her out of pain.  My stepmom says that her doctor told her that the type of cancer she has isn't one that typically hurts a lot as you die.  I don't want to think about the possibility of her being in any pain and that she might need a lot of medication to stay out of pain scares me.  My dad also talked to me about one of his friends.  His friend's wife died of cancer and was in a medically induced coma towards the end.  Eventually they just withheld food and water and she died within a week (based on her living will).  That is really scary to me.  I know she was in a coma, but do we know that she wasn't in pain?  I hate that feeling of being really, really hungry and the idea of dying that way haunts me. 

I am also not a particularly religious person. I suppose that faith would be helpful now, but I don't know what I would even want to believe.  Do I want to believe that there is a heaven and that is where her soul will go when she dies?  Or do I want to believe in reincarnation and that her soul will live on here on earth?  Maybe there are other options too...but the reality is that when she dies, she won't be in my life any more.  She won't be there to remind me to take things in stride and grace, to cherish each moment, and to find joy in everything I do.  She won't be there to make my dad smile and put him in his place when he needs it. :)  She won't be around to see her first grandson graduate from high school in a few years or for her other grandchildren to start school (or to be born for that matter).   I am sad that she will miss these things, but I think I am more sad that we will miss her during these events. 

So it turns out that writing about your feelings when you are doing everything to stuff them deep inside you doesn't actually work.  One of my twitter friends told me that she lost her dad to cancer and that her belief is that time doesn't heal all wounds, it just lessens the pain.  I think I want to agree with that...although she probably didn't mean that I can ignore the pain for a long time and then have it be less, did she?

If you have advice for me or want to tell your story please leave me a comment.  I would love to hear from you.

Thank you,

Mommy C

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

On the road again.... (and my first blog award)

In just a few short hours Superman and I are hopping on an airplane and heading east!  No, that is not a typo, I didn't leave someone out...hubby is staying home for now (and joining us in 10 days).  TEN DAYS!!  I honestly can say that I don't have any idea what I am going to do without him for 10 whole days.  The only thing worse than this would be ten days with out Superman....sorry hubby, baby trumps husband right now. So why am I leaving the love of my life for 10 days?  Well, I am going to visit my parents (and a great group of fabulous friends that are still my friends despite being away for so long)!  I grew up in upstate NY and I haven't been back for a whopping 4 years!  I am going to blame my parents for this because they keep visiting me here (are you buying this? no? yeah I wouldn't either).  Now that I am home full time I figured there was no excuse for not going and actually staying for a little while...okay there is one excuse--->my husband since he needs to work.  BUT, since I have the most understanding husband ever, he told me to go and he would meet us for the last week.

So what does all this mean to you?  Well, basically I have no idea when I am going to post next.  I am not sure what the internet connection capabilities will be at my dad's house so I am not making any promises...and besides? I think it will be good for me to step away from the computer for a little bit (and it isn't like I have been a very frequent blogger lately any we are really just talking about missing 4-8 posts at the most). 

A few pieces of business before I leave:

West Metro Mommy gave me a shout out with her "Notable Blogs of the Week".  She said some real nice things about me and it would great if you could swing by her blog and check her out.  Thanks!!

On almost the same day that West Metro Mommy posted about my blog, I also received my first blog award from Jackie at Ready.Set.Read!! (It also happened to be the day that Rebekah from Mom-In-A-Million post her own award that I was totally going to steal.)  So it is the "A Blog With Substance" award and I am so stinking honored, I don't really know what to say.  I mean, I want to share my story and if other people can learn from my experiences that is freakin' cool.  I want to pay this award the respect it deserves, so I am not going to rush and try to get my post done before I this is one of the posts that I promise to write in the first week that I am gone will be about this award and passing it on to other great bloggers.  So please stay tuned!!


Mommy C

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy Half Birthday to My Baby!

Editor's Note: I have decided that calling my son by a letter is getting old.  So I have decided to switch things up a bit and one of his nicknames gave me this idea.  I would like to introduce you all to my son, Superman:


Dear Superman,

Today you are 6 months old!! It is hard for me to believe so much time has passed, but everyday you are proving to me that you are indeed ready to be 6 months old.  Just in the past two weeks you have grown and developed in so many ways.
  • You can now roll over from front to back AND back to front.  Although you prefer rolling one to the right more, you are beginning to show us that you can, in fact, roll to the left as well.  
  • You have also learned to stay sitting all by yourself.  It is fun to watch you adjust your weight so that you don't fall seems so amazing to me that you know just automatically know how to do that.  Every once and a while you topple over, but don't worry...Daddy or I are there to catch you. 
  • You have been deswaddled for almost 2 weeks now and you love to sleep on your belly.
  • You also seem to be quite the mover in your sleep because you are never in the part of the crib that I put you in when I come to get you.  Most of the time you are are on the complete other end of the crib!!  There are times also that you are perpendicular from where I put you or even turned 180 degrees!!  I keep telling Daddy that I want to put a camera in your room so I can find out how you are moving so much.  We had to put up breathable bumpers 2 days ago because we would come in to find your leg in between the slats of the crib and you fussing because you thought you were stuck (you weren't but since you are still developing the rolling thing, if anything gets in your way you get frustrated).  
  • You have also been on solids continuously for just about a month (started but quit solids on May 4th due to horrible stomach pains and then we tried, successfully again on June 5th).  So far you have eaten rice cereal, oatmeal, banana, prunes, avocado, sweet potatoes, pears, carrots, peas, and peaches without any reaction.  You love everything except the avocado...unless it is mixed with something else.  I think it is a texture issue.  One of your favorite treats is when I put some banana or a frozen cube of sweet potato in the mesh feeder so you can feed yourself.  You have also been practicing with the sippy cup.  You are quite cute, opening and closing your mouth on it as if it were something you chew.   Every once and a while you try sucking on it and get some water though.  
  • You seem to have many favorite activities and games to play.  In the morning you like to sit in your exersaucer and explore on your own.   You still love your play gym, but you are now rolling away from it when you get bored. You also like to sit up next to the play gym and play with the animals that hang down as you sit.  Speaking of sitting, when you are sitting you like to play with your soft blocks, the beach ball, musical band walker thing.  You also love to sit in front of the mirror and smile at the other baby!! 
  • The puppies seem to be adjusting to you pretty well.  Lola doesn't seem that interested in you, but Clyde adores you!  He will sit patiently as you grab at his fur, he will give you gentle kisses that you don't seem to mind too much, and most importantly, he wants to be where ever you are.  I think there are times when he is jealous of you, but who can blame him...he is used to being the baby!
I am so proud of all that you have accomplished in these short 6 months and I look forward to seeing what you will learn next!!  I love you up to the moon and down to the sharks and around the world a million bazillion times.