Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Dad?" "Yes, it is!"

Just a quick update to let you know that yesterday, Tuesday September 20th, I held my dad's hand as he took his last breath. It was just how he would have wanted it to be, the two of us to the end. I arrived at the hospital at 11 am. Three different times he opened his eyes. He knew I was there. I read Scripture with him a few times through out the day. Each time it looked like he was nestling into his bed to hear a bit better. He didn't say a word yesterday. We held hands most of the day. I told him stories about the kids. Things coming up in our lives. I reminisced about old times. Affirmed him for the man he was and made some inside jokes. I tried to think of all the things I wanted him to hear me say. At 4pm they moved him to the hospice wing of the hospital. At 5:35 he took his last breath with me saying good bye and holding his hand. 5 minutes later one of my best friends, Sarah, walked in the door. God's perfect timing so I didn't have to be alone. I drove back to Dayton last night so I could be with Steve and tell the kids this morning.

I have so many thoughts and emotions that I hope you don't mind me unpacking here in the days and weeks to come. Right now I'm numb. I go between feeling the need to clean and organize my house (? no idea where that is coming from) and then the need to curl up in a heap and cry my eyes out. I found myself saying "I don't think I can do this." I'm not sure what I mean by "this." Its just what my gut is saying. I'm 39 and an orphan. It's a tough pill to swallow. I'm waiting for the comfort of the Lord to swoop in, I know He is here... lots of evidence. More on that to come.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The time has come

Who knew the day would every arrive when I would be asked to be a *guest blogger* on another blog? My friends Jenny and Emily over at Mommin' It Up asked me to write a post about my Cancer journey in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It's a bit of a bummer when you're asked to be a guest because of your battle with Cancer and not because of your laugh out loud humor or your incredible style tips ;) but it's niced to be asked regardless. You can click here to check out what I wrote.

Seriously, though, I do want to thank Jenny and Emily, their readers and several other bloggy friends who hosted GimmEfive, a fundraiser back in February. Through their efforts we were able to raise 100% of the funds needed to cover the cost of our nanny during the time of my *rough chemo* treatments. The blogging world is interesting. It is so strange to feel connected to people that perhaps you've never met. You can stalk their lives and feel like *friends* when you're not. You can know more about people who wouldn't know you if you saw them in an aisle at Target than you do about some of your family. I'm thankful to know Jenny and Emily in my *real* life. I'm thankful that they use their blog for good. I hope that through my Cancer journey, God will use this blog for good. I hope if you ever see me in a Target aisle you will say hi. I hope someday, we might be actual friends.

Until then, get your buns over to Mommin' It Up and make some new friends!

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's 5 a.m. and I can't sleep

It was 6:15 and I needed to get back on the road. I knew it was time to say goodbye. But the click and rush of the ventilator was making it hard. I leaned over and told him I loved him. I told him he was a great dad. I told him to rest and let his body heal. I told him to talk to Jesus. I squeezed his chilly hand and kissed his cool forehead. I smoothed out his bed head one last time. I gulped back the tears and left the ICU. Once I got in the car, I slumped my shoulders and cried like a baby, sure that I had said goodbye to my dad one last time.

On the two and a half hour ride home, I replayed some memories. I saw him in the stands at one of my swim meets. I came into the pharmacy in one of my Halloween costumes to trick or treat for an enormous candy bar since he had to work. I was in Toronto seeing Phantom with both he and my mom. It was bittersweet. One thing is for sure, when you're working through saying goodbye to a loved one, don't listen to Country music OR Christian music alone in the car on a relatively long drive. It's enough to send you over the edge.

So you can imagine my delight and surprise when I spoke with him on the phone last night at 9:15. Call in hours to the ICU are 9 am and 9 pm. If anything happens in between those hours, they call you. Promptly at 9:01, I called in. Erin, the nurse, was happy to tell me they took him off the ventilator earlier in the day and that he was sitting up and eating some mashed potatoes. He is off the insulin drip and they have nearly weaned him off the blood pressure medication that was stabilizing him. Granted, he's weak and still has many issues, but they have decided to treat him medically and with diet rather than surgery.

Miracle? Miracle!

I asked the nurse if there was a phone in his room. I pretty much knew the answer. You aren't in the ICU to chat on the phone. But she was somehow able to rig a phone call to him. I wanted him to know that Steve and I are on our way this weekend. The first thing I said was, "DAD!!!!" The first thing he said was, "YES!!!! It is!" This is the way we start EVERY conversation on the phone. I can't tell you how giddy I was. Steve said it sounded like Christmas morning around here.

We have a crazy uphill battle to climb with his health. The next step is getting him into a rehab facility where this won't happen again. I'd really like him to come to Dayton. That is a fight you can pray for. We will head up there this weekend to fight that fight. The goal will be to get him strong enough to move back to his apartment; I feel he should be near us in order to reach that goal.

No one needs to argue with me about the fact that God is a healer. I know that sometimes He chooses to and sometimes He doesn't. Today, I am thankful that He has chosen to bring my dad back a little while longer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The hits keep coming

I briefly mentioned in a blog last week that my dad was in the hospital and I was worried about him. He was moved last Thursday to a nursing home/rehab facility. Clearly, he needed some physical therapy in order to go back home, where he lives alone. Each day I talked with him, his words became more garbled and he was hard to understand.

I got a friend to keep the kids on Sunday so that Steve and I could head to Toledo to visit with him, get his mail and make sure all was well. Steve stayed back at my dad's apartment while I drove my dad's car over to the rehab center. When I arrived, my dad was sitting in a wheelchair and it quickly became apparent that he was not well. He was rather slumped in the chair and could only open one eye at a time. Within the first five minutes, he dozed off several times. Lunch came and he wasn't hungry. He could not hold the fork by himself nor could he get his drink to his mouth. My heart sunk. Just one week before he had driven himself to the grocery store and done some shopping.

I got the nurse and started asking questions. Without going into too many details, my dad is suffering from severe colitis probably brought on by Chrones Disease. This is a new diagnosis (as of July) but we were also told it wasn't Chrones. It's been a confusing journey to say the least. Suffice it to say, he is SEVERELY dehydrated. So not being able to get a drink to his mouth on his own is NOT good. The nurse told me she thought this was his normal state. I think when she saw how upset I was (I just couldn't get myself under control) she got the picture. In between semi-lucid conversations that were hard to understand, he was having crazy hallucinations. It was scary.

When we left on Sunday (which was incredibly hard for me to do, but had to be done since I had to be back home for a 9:30 chemo treatment on Monday morning), the nurses said they were going to call the house Dr. to see what they should do. Duh! You would think they would have done something a day or two sooner considering a man with severe diarrhea who can't get anything to drink on his own.

I got a phone call 20 minutes later saying they were taking him by ambulance to the ER. He has been in the ICU since Sunday night. He is now on a ventilator, sedated and the docs are waiting to see how to proceed next. His blood pressure was dangerously low. The medication they have been giving him has helped that stabilize a bit. His kidneys are not working properly and they don't know exactly why. They did a scope on his intestines yesterday to determine once and for all if he does have Chrones. We are in a holding pattern. We are praying that as he sleeps he will get the rest he needs for his body to heal.

Honestly, the last 15 months have been some of the hardest of my life. Losing my mom, a cancer diagnosis, chemo, losing Steve's grandma, and now facing the reality that I may lose my dad soon. I am seriously at the end of myself. I hate to be all pity party-ish. I fear being *that friend* who is all gloom and doom. But honestly, it feels like just as soon as I pick myself up from the most recent blow, something else comes in right behind it. I also know there are people in the world who have it (a.k.a. life circumstances) way worse than I do. I have so much to be thankful for... perhaps I need to focus there a bit... but OH MY GOSH... I don't know if I can take one more life drama anytime soon.

I feel as if in some ways I'm turning off emotion. I'm one crappy thing away from hardening my heart. Pray I don't. Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring. Most of all, thanks for praying. Here's hoping I have some good news to share with you some time soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

Ten years ago I was living in Shanghai, China. I had just settled in for my third year of studies at a University there. I was living in an off campus apartment, by myself. My friend, Shannon, a Chinese friend was staying with me for a few weeks while she was looking for a place of her own.

It was late in the evening and I was watching a DVD. My phone rang. It was my friend Phyllis. She is my friend because she keeps me in stitches. So when she told me to prepare myself, the World Trade Center had been hit with an airplane, I might have told her to shut up. She got real serious and said the news was true. She and her family lived in more of a luxury apartment building and had CNN in English and was able to get fast and accurate news.

Because I had lived in New York City right before moving to China, the City still felt like home. I had gone to a very large church in Manhattan, Redeemer Presbyterian. Many attenders worked in the financial district. One of my first thoughts was, "Oh dear Lord, most of Redeemer is gone."

I hung up the phone and immediately tried calling some of my best friends living in the City. As you know, that was impossible. I tried calling my parents in Ohio and even that took a while. Phone lines were just plain tied up. I was also on line trying to get any info I could, but 10 years ago, Internet connections weren't what they are now... especially in China. That night on the Chinese news there was a 30 second clip about the day. It was eye opening. We do the same thing here. A tragedy half way around the world often only makes a short clip on the nightly news.

Phyllis called back a few minutes later to tell me that another plane hit. I remember the pit in my stomach, now thinking of all my friends in the City. Thinking about what I might have been doing that morning if I was there. I had worked at NYU and could clearly see the towers from campus. I wanted to throw up.

Again, another phone call saying the Towers had fallen. I'm not sure I said anything, I just hung up. I called another American friend who lived in the dorms on campus and she came over. We cried. Our campus told us not to come to class the next day and to stay inside, they didn't know if we would be unsafe. We didn't stay on campus, but we went over to another friends' apartment who also had CNN. A bunch of us Americans sat glued to the TV, probably just like you did.

Later that day we learned that all air travel in and out of the U.S. had been suspended, for several days as I remember. It was the weirdest feeling, not being able to get back home if I needed to. I was literally stuck in China.

As news came from home and I realized all my friends were fine, there was a bit of relief. I had heard news that miraculously, most of the people at my church had been spared. But life in China went on as normal. One of the biggest history changing events in America, and I was not able to grieve as the rest of the country was. My parents told stories of the heroes. They shared about the renewed patriotism. I was eating noodles.

I came home for a short visit in February, 2002. I made a trip to the City. I had to. My plane flew over the southern tip of Manhattan. My stomach lept into my mouth as there was a horrifying gap in the landscape. I cried. I went down to Ground Zero. I saw the self made memorials that still stood, five months later. I cried. I mourned. I tried to *catch* up with my fellow Americans. I was angry at all of the people from other countries taking pictures at Ground Zero, as if it was another tourist attraction.

I didn't know on that trip that I would not be moving back to the City after leaving China. God had a different plan. New York is magical. Perhaps my favorite place on the planet. Even though I only lived there for three years, in some ways they were the best three years of my life... NY greatly shaped who I am today. In my heart, I'll always be a New Yorker. So on this 10th anniversary, I mourn. In some ways I'm still trying to *catch up*. My thoughts and prayers are with all the family, friends and loved ones of those who lost their lives 10 years ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

just a touch of crazy

I'm supposed to be vacuuming my house right now. But *unfortunately* I flipped the switch gave it one shove and the thing went poof. I'm pretty sure poof is not a good sound. Even more sure because right after the poof, it stopped working. So I'm pretty sure that is a sign that I'm suppose to blog instead.

I had my regular every-three-week-appointment with my oncologist today. They are pretty uneventful. Except for once every 6 (or is it 8? I can't remember) weeks when I have my Cat scan and I get the results. I was pretty level headed this time. I feel GREAT and have no reason to suspect they would have found anything on the scan. I was pretty calm.

Except for the fact that I wasn't! For one, my dad is back in the hospital. He's been in and out for the past few months. He lives alone and I'm worried about him. I have a general angst about Turner, hoping today will be the day he gets over his distaste for the lunch room. Then there's the scan, which is nothing to worry about. Until I was getting my blood drawn. My nurse innocently asked if I was there alone today? Yep. Then it dawned on my, "Maybe she knows something. Maybe I shouldn't be here alone. I wonder if she's worried that I won't be able to drive home after I hear the bad news?" So I sat in the waiting room waiting to be called back, ready to receive the *news.*

They took my blood pressure. It made the machine ding. Apparently, much like poofs, dings are not good. The nurse's eyes bugged out of her head. I guess it was a little high. I explained about how I tend to get a little edgy on scan day. The other nurse told me I wear her out (in a kind/light hearted way?!?) My reply, "Girl... try being me!"

Of course, all was well. Nothing on the scan. In fact my doctor told me, "They must have found you boring. There's not much here." They really have a way with words around there don't they :).

I'll re-check my blood pressure tonight and if it is still high they may need to put me on blood pressure meds. Which is common with the chemo drug I'm still getting. But shoot, I was looking forward to being med free. I just went off my anti-depressant. It's going well. I only wanted to kill my dog several times yesterday. And I'm not sure the anti-depressant would have helped me there. However, it may have helped my breakdown in the bathroom after my Cat scan was over yesterday. I ran into my doctor in the hallway right after my scan. He commented that I looked good for someone who just got out of a scan. I ducked into the ladies room and took a 30 second cry. Mostly along the lines of, "How did I get here? What the heck?" Coo Koo.

So, now if I can just get my vacuum cleaner to work, all will be well. Why is it when you don't want it to, stuff sucks... and when you need it to, it won't?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

where a kid can be a kid

It's official... I have three school aged kids. Tuesday was the first day of school for the boys. And while I was bemoaning the fact that the summer is over, a cold front moved in and it certainly feels like school all of a sudden. I guess that helped me *get in the mood.*

To my surprise, Turner was the one that had a problem with the first day.

When I dropped him off, he just kind of got lost in the sea of children headed into the school building.

He and Quinn looked like old pros as they disappeared down the hall. They didn't even look back.

And THIS is the face I feared the teachers would meet. If you have ever met my kids (or read this blog) you know that Turner is my do before you think child. I love him. He's crazy.

So when I went to pick him up at 1:00 I wasn't entirely surprised when the teacher stepped out of the door and said that he had a bit of a rough morning. I took a deep breath and was prepared to explain how he is a bit of an impulsive kid.

But when she told me he *boo hooed* for much of the morning and wanted his mommy, I'll admit, I was a bit taken aback. Not to mention touched. This is the kid who can't slow down long enough to get a good snuggle in. And *sniff* he wanted me! Am I sounding needy? 'Cuz I'm not! Really!

In order to appeal to his bravery, in a moment of panic, this morning as I got him ready for morning number two, I told him if he could be brave the rest of the week, we would go to Chucky Cheese. (Yes, your honor, I'd like to take an insanity plea. Clearly, I lack the ability to make good and moral choices!) We'll see if it works.

Quinn, on the other hand, is driving me bonkers for a whole host of other reasons.

This kid was born for school. OBVIOUSLY inheriting genes from another mother was really helpful for him in this realm.

When I picked him up at 1:00, I didn't get a break from his stories until he went to bed. It was sweet and adorable and a bit annoying.

He loved every second of school. In fact, I'm pretty sure by the end of this week he'll be running for mayor. 'Cuz he seems to really be working it!

And when pressed for a decision, he will gladly tell you that his favorite part of school is that he got chocolate milk TWICE yesterday. (The kids get there early enough to be part of the *free breakfast* program hosted by the Dayton Public Schools. They use the term breakfast loosely!)

I feed them first, lest their morning be entirely fueled by chocolate milk and pop tarts. But ooooo, was this kid very happy to tell me about his breakfast of chocolate cereal.

I'm glad these three are in school together and can look out for each other. It was cute when they all came home and reported in on the different times they saw each other through out the day.

On a different note, having a morning to myself is NOT going to be good on the budget. Time to myself to go to any store I want and browse the clearance aisle may not be so helpful.

And if you don't hear from me after Friday, check at Chucky Cheese where I may be curled up in a corner in the fetal position boo hooing a bit myself!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A little wind would have been nice

Steve and I are a lot of things, but spontaneous is NOT one of them.

So when our good friends, Matt and Sally, invited us to join them in Chicago for an over nighter (it was Matt's 40th birthday. Sally got him Bears/Browns tickets) we did something uncharacteristically us. We threw caution to the wind(y city), found a sitter and went.

Despite the nearly two 100 degree days, we couldn't have been happier about that decision!
While I lived in NYC for three years, I have spent virtually no time in Chicago. We only live 5 hours away and now I don't know why we have not been here more. From what we saw in our short little visit, it's a very cool city.

While the guys went to the football game, Sally and I shopped. It was so much fun to have girl time and laugh and talk and shop. It was like water to my soul.

But you know you are a mom when you are on a girls trip and you stop in and spend significant time at the American Girl Doll store. I had never been.

It was lovely. Lovely, highway robbery, yet lovely. I'm not sure I would dare bring Olivia to the store. But it was fun to look around.

Did you know that you can get your doll's hair done? For MORE than I get my hair done! Well, yes, I am bald at the moment, so that isn't too difficult. But I mean when I was getting my hair done.

I was also confused because you can get your doll spa treatments. Have they forgotten that the dolls are made from plastic? I'm not sure she is going to benefit much from a facial. America, we should be ashamed of ourselves for buying into this kind of thing. But I'll be the first to admit, O does have an AGD. I'm just saying the doll is going to have to deal with being the only doll on the block that DOESN'T get a facial.

They strategically put the store right next to the Lego store. Gotta give the boys in your life some lovin' too, I guess.

At our house, we have not ventured into Legos yet. Mostly because I'm a selfish pig of a mom. It is all about me, after all. I just am not ready to start stepping on those dang things every time I turn around... just yet.

My feet were screaming at me. I'm pretty sure they just had gotten over our trip to NYC and were not prepared to walk all over Chicago in flip flops. My tootsies are ready for cooler weather for the simple fact of arch support.

It's amazing what 24 hours away with great friends will do to refresh my soul.

I'm thankful for the way God has blessed me this summer. Honestly, the winter was one horrible blur. In contrast, this summer was one incredible blessing. I feel like our family squeezed the life out of summer. I'm so sad to see it go. But that is for another post.

If I have to say good bye to summer, this was one great way to do it.