Tag Archives: Cancer

The Best Kind of News

It was rainy and dreary on Tuesday. My Mom and Stepdad had just left, I was starting to get sick and I had to work in the afternoon at my new job. My new job where I am still fighting the voices in my head that keep telling me they will find out I am awful and will fire me. The voices that are telling me the other shoe will drop ANY MOMENT. It was not shaping up to be the greatest of days for me.

Lucky for me, I knew I had a package from Ashley at the post office, so I was off to pick up the glorious, well-timed box. I was ready to kick ass and take names too, since no one had even attempted to deliver it.  I was riled RIGHT up and was in NO MOOD to deal with any bullshit.

Then, while I was waiting in line, I got a text from my Dad.

Spontaneous tears.

He had a CT scan last week to check on the size of his lymphnodes (Since he has lymphoma, that’s where the cancer is. There and in his bone marrow) and was at the cancer clinic to find out the results and to get his fourth (out of six) round of chemotherapy. Well, excuse the capslock but – EVERY SINGLE NODE WAS LESS THAN 1CM IN SIZE! This, in comparison to August when a couple were EIGHTEEN CENTIMETERS. Less than 1cm people! That’s like |      | this far or something. Oh my good god, would you have been able to hold back tears on that one?

That’s not all.  Once I finished sobbing at the post office, I got a text from my Dad’s girlfriend who said that his chemo drugs were now GETTING PAID FOR. So, my Dad, who has no health insurance but will be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars – just got his chemotherapy drugs paid for by the drug companies. As someone who thinks drug companies are evil bastards, I have never, EVER IN MY LIFE been so grateful to them. Dad will still have to pay for the scans, doctor visits and so forth, but the drugs are most expensive!

So let’s recap this. Halfway through his treatment program, his lymphnodes have drastically reduced in size, meaning the drugs are working as they should. So, so well. Ontop of this, he is getting financial help from the drug companies (who get a tax break for doing so) and his financial burden will be lessened. Well then.

I know that many of you will cheer and celebrate this massive victory (so far) with me and I honestly am so grateful for you all as well. You have made the last few months not only bearable, but full of love and support and comfort.

Thank you friends.

I just…you guys. I can’t express to you, just how grateful I feel on the eve of Thanksgiving. Yes, I am sick and grumpy but damn. I have a job that is already helping with my mood and self esteem and is making me feel like a worthwhile human being that is strong, capable and able to do anything if she just takes that first step.  And the best part – My Dad is doing so dang well and I just love him so much. He is kicking cancer’s ass and is keeping such an awesome attitude while doing it.

I hope that I am as strong as he is some day. I really do.

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Prayers

There is so much in my family right now that weighs heavily on my heart. If you could spare some good thoughts, prayers or some love right now, we would all be so grateful.

My Mom’s little baby, her dear, sweet rescue pup Sam had surgery yesterday on his MCL. He is at the vet overnight and will come home tomorrow afternoon. He has a whole list of exercises that my parents will have to do with him daily, not to mention weekly visits to Doggie Physical Therapy. He is only 5, so hopefully this will increase his quality of life, but it’s a long road.

My Dad is finishing his third round of chemotherapy. He is 4 days post treatment and is starting the upswing after 3 days of feeling like crap. He is so strong you guys, but I still worry so much about him.

My husband’s coworker, Frank, passed today. Frank was in remission from prostate cancer until a bit over a year ago. He was one hell of a guy, a bartender that taught me to love gin and tonics again and never let my glass stay empty. He was a jovial face and someone I always looked forward to seeing at the hotel. Frank also saved my husband from getting even more hurt the night he was injured at work. Alone on shift, he was sucker punched by a jackass he was evicting from the bar.  Frank, came out from behind the bar and took the guy’s legs out from under him, potentially saving my husband from further harm.  It makes me so sad, he will be missed.  Everyone have a G&T for Frank.

My Aunt’s cancer numbers have come back high. Last winter she was just beginning her fight with a very bad case of ovarian cancer that had long gone undetected. Multiple surgeries and treatments left her in the clear this summer. She will be going in for an MRI this week so we will know more soon. They knew it wasn’t IF it came back, but WHEN. Still, pretty scary.

Lastly, my Grandmother is aging, as happens. Her friends are passing. Most recently, her closest friend had a stroke and died suddenly. Now, next week she will be traveling to see her younger sister in Alabama, most likely for the last time. Aunt J was such a sharp woman, in intellect, wit and tongue. She has had some struggles in the recent past, most recently ending with a diagnosis of severe dementia. She was moved to a care facility in Mobile (she lived her whole life in Birmingham), her house was sold and her ailing dog had to be put to sleep. She sometimes knows what is going on, sometimes not, but has never asked about her dog. My Aunt will be flying in from California to take Nana to Alabama. I can feel Nana’s pain and sadness, the heaviness and worry in her heart, even when she doesn’t speak it.  It’s so sad, but due to Nana’s aging, I do fear this is the last visit she will have with her sister, and I am sad.

Lots of heavy stuff folks,  without wven thinking of my own struggles.  So much hurt, fear and pain. I love you all for the good thoughts, love and prayers. Thanks so much.

May your families be healthy, strong and together.

Words to Live By

Today marks the beginning of my Dad’s third round of chemotherapy. (In case you missed it, he was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma which is a Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.)  I texted him this morning and wished him luck and cheerfully reminded him that after tomorrow, he is half way through his treatments. Three down, three to go.

Guys, I honestly cannot convey how proud of him I am. I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of this journey with him and very clearly, he didn’t either. Through the process so far, I have reconnected with my long, lost half sister to keep her updated, worked on getting them to talk again and have been in touch near daily with my Dad. My Dad, that I went 2.5 years without speaking to once. Not on purpose mind you, we just…didn’t talk.  I honestly cannot fathom that the way things stand right now.

I text him and email him regularly. I call him every couple weeks to check in and man, is he just kicking ass and taking names. Considering that he is getting some pretty strong shit and has no insurance so sees the numbers quickly adding up, I can’t believe how strong he is.When I talk to him, other than a few days post white-cell-boosting-shot where he feels like he has an AWFUL flu, he is just…tired. That’s it. He’s not ill. He’s not bemoaning how he is. He is outside ‘trying to be productive’. He is shopping with his girlfriend. He is watching his friends all chip in to help him with firewood and cooking. Dad said yesterday that he almost forgot he was sick during the last couple days, he felt so good, until he saw or felt the massive port on his chest. I mean REALLY NOW!? He has cancer cells in his bone marrow for crying out loud and he’s just all “oh yeah, I felt so good I almost forgot I had cancer.” He has such an amazing attitude about it all. Stellar I tell you. I just cannot explain my pride to you.  I have that DNA in me. How can I ever think of quitting when I have THAT in me?

Just as an aside, cancer ain’t cheap folks. If you have insurance, or live in a country with a single payer system, please thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to heal and recover with hundreds of thousands of medical bills piled on top of you. It is a travesty, this system of ours, where one shot can cost $14,000 in one town, $7,000 in another and yet $4,500 in the same town but a hospital over. Or a whole $2,500 in Canada. I know, I digress but…ugh. My Dad. I worry.

I know I’ve written about Dad before on the blog.  Some of you might have even seen this piece that I am incredibly proud of. It’s just that our relationship continues to grow and morph into something I never could have possibly expected. A loving relationship with zero expectations.  Dad doesn’t expect me to call every 5 days or text daily. He doesn’t expect emails from me five times a week and doesn’t get bent out of shape if I don’t respond. I don’t expect any of those things from him either. We text, call or email when we are thinking of one another and it feels special that way. Nothing is ever a duty or a chore. It’s never something I have to do and because of that, it’s a joy. It’s a joy to text him or call because I know there are just no strings and no expectations attached.

That sort of relationship seems so rare. Even when you think something has no strings, there is guilt if you don’t keep the contact, or hurt when they don’t keep up with  you. It happens. I’ve had so much of that in my life. I treasure the friends that I don’t keep up with but when I call, they love me just the same and are happy to hear from me. This is what it’s like with my Dad.  He checks in before each chemo treatment to see how I’m doing so he has ‘good thoughts’ before he goes in. I am hoping I can help heal his relationship with my sister too, since the silence is purely due to issues with anxiety over expectations. When I spoke with her on the phone for the first time in over 20 years, she seemed shocked that I didn’t care about the 20 years. The truth was, I didn’t. What does it matter? I was just happy to talk to her and share our Dad’s struggles with her. Dad wasn’t expectant either that she rekindle her relationship with him. He was just happy WE were talking.  I spend a lot of time lately thinking about this relationship and how I can create or cultivate that freedom and that love in other relationships.

Just today, Dad and I checked in. He’s tired after the six hour treatment today. Naturally. He asked how I was and I was honest – I am anxious, tired and stressed. His response was so sweet guys, I have to share it with you. His words, knowing how soft he is, how loving and sensitive he is – actually brought tears to my eyes.

“Hang in there. Everything will work out with a little patience and understanding. It is all new. I love you. You will find your way.”

Thanks, Dad. I just love you a lot.

All Over

My Dad starts his first round of chemo tomorrow and I just don’t know how I feel. I don’t really have anyone to talk to save A and my feelings seem to be all over the place. I started crying on the train yesterday as I was reading and cancer came up. The heroine in the book was saying how awful her chemo was and I just couldn’t really handle it. It made me realize that this was my Dad’s last weekend before he beings six, long months of chemotherapy.

When I found out that he had cancer, I was upset naturally but…I had so much going on with me that I don’t know if I really processed it. I went into problem solving mode and dealt with it rather cooly to avoid a full meltdown like I’d had weeks prior due to my own chaos. When I was in Maine for a bit, he found out more about what treatment would entail. They found swollen lymph nodes in his neck, groin, chest and armpits as well as in his bone marrow and I guess that’s when it really hit me. He doesn’t just have a cancerous growth, he has lymphoma. As he talked about how careful he would have to be with himself to avoid infection, it hit me harder and I did my best to not react negatively, even though my heart hurt. They will have to really hit his immune system hard since it is not localized, but lymphoma. The doctors have been positive and say it responds well, but if it was your father, would you be able to really take that at face value?

He can’t fish, for fear of getting a hook in his hand. He has to wash his garden veggies even more stringently than he normally does. He has to be careful about people with colds or flus coming over. He can’t handle firewood without gloves, for fear of a splinter. Now, if you know my Dad at all (which I realize most of you don’t…) he lives in a log cabin on 25 acres of woods. It’s dusty. It’s dirty. I worry.

I worry about what 10 days on then 10 days off will be like for him. I wonder how sick he will be and if he needs more help than he has. I wonder how he will pay for it all in the end, without medical insurance. I worry that he’ll get frail and too soft. I just…worry. Six months of 10-day increments. Six months of no immunity. Of sickness and pain. I just…it hurts.

I just…I feel like I’m a mixture of things. One moment I’ll be happy exploring New York, the next? I am overwhelmed. There is no telling when, where or why this will happen. It just…does. Today I just want to be alone. Even A isn’t helpful or comforting yet I find myself screaming for that comfort. That love.  Today I find myself missing some people in my life SO dearly, those I was close to and am now distant from.  I find myself struggling as I battle needing to go pick up a few things with not wanting to move the car lest we drive around for days on end to find a parking spot. I realize life is consistently a balancing act, but jesus.

A quick moment too, to say thank you for all the support you’ve poured out to me in the last month. I feel ungrateful to be so needy, but honestly. Every last word has meant SO MUCH to me. To be able to reach out and get some cheering, a hug and some genuine love and support has been just unbelievable. I know how much I lay awake worrying when one of you is struggling, or something I see reminds me of one of you, so I can only imagine how true and sincere you all are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Honestly.

Yesterday I felt pretty good. Pretty accomplished. We put together my kitchen, the bathroom, a couch and chair. The apartment is starting to feel liveable. There’s a mile-long list of things we ‘need’ or would like to have. Some as little as a drawer organizer and some as large as a table and chairs. But there’s a list that feels like it is CONSTANTLY on my head. I’ve been looking online at curtains and bedding until my eyes go cross eyed, trying to shop at places my family has offered to order and ship from.  I am TIRED.  My feet ache from the hardwoods and my head feels cluttered from the sound of the fans and air conditioning unit. By the way, a quick AMEN for the air conditioner. Holy hannah. I wouldn’t have lasted this long. (Speaking of heat, I clearly am an outsider. All of New York is in pants, HOODIES…I just can’t even comprehend this. I am in dresses and tanks and shorts and am a virtual slick of grease and sweat as the humidity clings to me. I know. I’m a delicate flower)

Anyway. This is all a jumble but like I said, I just feel like I’m all over the place right now and am not sure how to manage it all. I feel stupid whining like this. I feel like, some have it SO much worse than I do. I am lucky. I have family support. A husband. I feel somehow ungrateful to speak like this but what else do I do right now?

Also? My aging but beloved cat with kidney issues has started peeing on furniture. Yeah. Not good. I’ve dealt with her having accidents on the floor etc but now I just can’t handle it. Unfortunately, I know what this means. I can’t spend a few grand on surgery again for her, so I either deal with this, or I have to put her down. This is what I’m thinking of today, on the eve of my Dad’s cancer treatment.  Having to put my fur baby down. I’m tearing up as I write this because it all just feels like too much and I wish I had friends nearby that would let me cry. I’m quick to stop up my tears most often, for fear of pushing others away, but I really just need someone to let me get it out. To sincerely care for me and let me let it out. I’m not so good at asking for the help. I mean, I’m kind of awful at asking for the help I actually need, which is someone to dig it out of me. Someone to really ask what’s going on, and not expect a superficial answer, because I’m pretty good at giving those if it means keeping everything intact on the inside.

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I love my family, but their motto in life is “Buck up!” so not very helpful when I need to cry and express my fears, sadness and worry.  I’m just not sure where to go. I know things will even out and I’ll find my groove. I know it. In the meantime? What to do is the question.  I want to do something for me in all of this.  I have just enough money sitting in my personal account to sign up for the doula course I have been wanting to take but am too scared to dump it into this one thing before I’ve found a job, a steady source of regular income. I want to JUMP into the doula work but at the same time, my fears and worry about keeping that extra ‘nest egg’ hold me back under the name ‘rational thinking’.  

So, there you have it friends. I am here. Some days are good. Some days are bad and others are just confusing.  I am bone tired from this journey. From the packing, the unpacking, the hotels, the travel, the hardwoods, the walking, the shopping, the constant feeling of ‘needing’ things. I am tired of the emotions raging through me, the fears, the worry, the huge highs that come crashing into fearful lows. I feel turned around and upside down. I want to pray, but don’t even know who to pray TO at this point. I just feel like begging for breath, for air and for compassion. Begging for a break from my sensitive self.  I feel like such a whiny, complaining…thing saying all this. Worrying at how it will come out. But…this is where I’m at.

I moved across the continent. I struggled in my marriage. I need to find a job after two years of not working. My Dad has lymphoma. His other daughter doesn’t speak to him, even after I have told her about his illness and I might have to put my best friend to sleep.

Then, I see a woman on a train, asking for money and food for her and her baby and I tear up. It hits me and suddenly I feel selfish and self-indulgent to be able to sit here and complain with food in my fridge and a bed to sleep in. But here I am.

Dad
            Me & Dad, August 2013