My mom…

After a spirited effort to fight lung cancer, my mom passed away silently last night in her sleep. Her frail body and weak heart just Did not have the strength to go on.

As I arrived at her home this morning for our daily ride to radiation treatment the lawn guys were mowing, weed whacking, and blowing away the clippings, just as they do every Thursday, unaware what awaited me inside. The first door was still locked, however I was not concerned. The second door to the kitchen was locked also, unusual I noted and started to become concerned. The TV in the kitchen was not on and as I moved through the silent house the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand on edge. My heart began to race as I headed toward her bedroom.

I slowly entered her room, where I found her peacefully asleep. Uh, no. I called her name, no answer. I then shook her leg, no movement. Reality sank in and I realized she was gone.

I am comforted to know she ‘did it her way’. Quietly, silently in her sleep. She never knew what happened. She simply went to sleep, and never woke up. No longer in pain. No longer fearing cancer. No longer worrying about losing her hair. No more medicine. No more chemo. No more vomiting.

Her last day on earth was a good one. After being hydrated she was perky and happy. A friend had left a funny message on her answering machine which made her howl with laughter. She was full of energy and was making a long list of things for me to do today. After eating a turkey sandwich, she took her medicine and went to bed… No doubt thinking of her busy day… then the angels came for her.

As a mom she was awesome teaching me to be an independent woman, creative, and to think ‘outside the box’. She will always be a hand print on my heart guiding me through the rest of my life.

Rest In Peace Mom… I will always love you.

Day 3

Good news, bad news.

According to the doctor, treatments are going well. All the side effects mom has been complaining about have been expected and medicines have been prescribed to help her through these next horrible weeks.

However… Mom has not been eating and/or more importantly drinking and therefore is dropping weight like crazy… And now needs to come in to the office 3 days a week for additional fluids… At 3 plus hours each time. This full time job has now turned into a time and a half position. The alternative is hospitalization… which we vehemently oppose.

A run down of mom’s week (and therefore mine also) is…
Monday, radiation and doctor visit total out of house time is 2 hours.
Tuesday, radiation in the morning; chemo the rest of the day. Total out of house time 9 hours.
Wednesday, radiation in the morning… Then home, unless there are errands to run like food shopping, pharmacy pick up, and more. Total out of house time 5 hours.
Thursday, radiation in the morning, fluid infusion in afternoon. Total out of house time 5 hours.
Friday, radiation in the morning… then home! Yea! I get to do my own food shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning and such!
Saturday… Fluid infusion. Total out of house time 4 hours.
Sunday… Ahhhh. Other than a run to mom’s to clean a little, make sure she has food, and get her newspaper… It’s a day of rest, or FUN!

For those of you not having a clue as to what getting chemo entails, here’s an explanation.

You arrive at the doctor’s office at the appointed time, where you sit in the waiting room for about a half an hour (on a good day). When your name is called you go to have your blood drawn. Next you wait in the smaller waiting area until you are called to have your vitals taken. From there you are ushered to an exam room where you wait some more until the doctor comes in to check on your progress. Just when you think you are in the home stretch… You have to wait to be called into the treatment room.

The treatment room is divided into two sides… The quiet side, where patients usually take a nap while being infused… and the noisy side where there is a TV and patients can talk on their phones and/or others in the room. It’s kind of a ‘party atmosphere’ in this room and mom always chooses it.

Once settled in the treatment room, in a big soft recliner chair, the nurse comes by and starts your drugs via IV. If you need to use the powder room, you need to unplug your pump and take it and the pole with you down the hall. I get to sit in a hard ‘office type’ chair. At this point you have been in the doctor’s for about 2 hours and you are just now being treated.

Drip, drip, drip, you watch the fluid level in the IV bag dwindle. Mom snoozes after eating the picnic lunch I brought along. She wakes for a cookie break… Then dozes again.

Because the fluid being dripped into her arm is at room temperature, she gets chilled. There is a cabinet in the room filled with blankets… Some are hand crocheted, others are fleece. The next cabinet holds games and puzzles for those so inclined. A library cart in the corner of the room holds an assortment of books, and the table in the middle has every magazine you could ever imagine for your reading pleasure. Mom chooses to nap and/or stare into space.

Family members and friends of other patients wander in and out to visit… bringing food, conversation, and gossip. It’s a very social and happy place to be. Slowly this is becoming my home away from home. Although I will be ecstatic when our total of 7 weeks is over.

My dentist is located in the same building. Next week I happen to have a cleaning appointment at the same time mom will be infusing. Speak about multi-tasking! See, you really CAN be in two places at the same time.

Day 2

Day 2 of mom’s chemo treatment was the longest day in history! I know there are only 24 hours in any given day… But geesh… It felt so much longer… And I didn’t do anything.

It started with the daily radiation treatment. Although mom needed additional scans the visit only took an extra 30 minutes. Just enough time to make it to the chemo office. We arrived exactly on time, 12:45… and finally got to leave at 6:15!!!

Why is it when we go to the doctor’s and they ask how things are going the knee jerk response is, “Fine”? All of your complaints and problems escape your short term memory and you become an idiot.

“Uh, mom? Did you want to mention you were in the emergency room a few days ago?” I lead.

The light bulb clicks on in that head of hers and all of a sudden every ailment comes rushing out. Thank heavens! Medicines can be prescribed to help with the nausea and vomiting… and also the lack of energy and no appetite. The hard part of course is getting her to remember to take them. However, the fact her blood pressure is low and she is not drinking enough fluids causes today’s treatment to run over the originally scheduled 3 hours… and turns it into a marathon infusion session. Lucky me!

I only packed a picnic snack for the two of us. Thankfully we got out of there in time for dinner. Mom was relieved to get home in time for her favorite TV show, NCIS… However promptly fell asleep and missed the whole thing.

Count down… 5 more to go.

Go for the GOLD ring, not the BRASS

This November would have been Stan’s and my 34th wedding anniversary… had he lived. Right about now, 34 years ago we were picking out our wedding rings. Sheepishly Stan asked if I would be upset if he chose to not wear one. His argument was simple… he didn’t wear jewelry as a rule. He was quick to offer to ‘give it a try’ if it was important to me. I quickly replied, “You have to be married in your heart. A ring is just a symbol… so no, it doesn’t matter to me if you do not want to wear one.” As of last week, I no longer feel as strong on my ‘no ring’ position.

Since we were shopping for my ring… not one to EVER give up the chance to purchase jewelry… we took a look at rings for Stan also, thinking it would be nice to have one blessed at the same time just in case he changed his mind in the future. However, me being the very practical person that I am decided the money would be better served as a payment on a new washer and dryer.

 

Years later at a co-worker’s wedding the subject of wedding rings was raised at the dinner table. A friend noticed Stan’s ring finger was naked and asked, “Deb, doesn’t it bother you Stan doesn’t wear a ring?” I gave my time honored reply about being married in your heart. “Besides,” I continued, ” I’ve seen so many guys remove their ring and cheat on their wife.”
“Ouch!” I yelled as Stan kicked my shin under the table.
“What? Are we all supposed to not call attention to Joe, here with Marlene and NOT his wife? We all know about it… right? He’s been dating her for a year… with his ring ON!”
The guys were horrified at my comment. The females all giggled. Marlene turned pink, and Joe looked at his dinner plate. Point made! I was only stating the obvious.

 

Recently a friend of mine received divorce papers from his wife. It was a total surprise. He was blindsided. After a few weeks of phone calls and emails he had come to terms with it all. I watched from the distance as he made the decision to remove his ring. I didn’t actually get to see the moment, but I did notice the white line and indentation made from wearing the ring for so many years. That mark on the naked finger says so much, without saying a word. Every once in a while I would catch him rubbing the spot with his thumb unconsciously. Time has passed and the line has filled in, yet my friend is still broken.

Just last week I had the unique pleasure of catching up with my first CRUSH after 30 plus years. As he spoke fondly of his wife I noticed he glanced at his ring. Maybe it was my imagination, but the sun seemed to glisten off the plain circle of gold around his left ring finger.

I have come to the conclusion I made a mistake many years ago. I guess I just didn’t ‘get it’. I want a guy to love me so much he WANTS to wear a band of gold… as a minute by minute reminder of our love. That doesn’t mean I ever want to get married in a traditional sense again… but this time I at least want the ring as a sign of our commitment. Who knows, in time I might think differently… but today that’s how I feel.

I am thrilled my son-in-law proudly wears his ring… although sometimes spinning it on the table top sends it shooting across the room. And next year, on June 3rd I am certain I will cry for joy as my oldest daughter slips a ring on the finger of her ‘sailor’. My daughters are lucky women.

Day 1

Today was the first day of radiation and chemo for my mom’s lung cancer. It started at 10:45am as I picked her up at the house. First stop… Riverview Medical Center, Jane Booker Cancer Center for radiation. She breezed through that treatment in just 20 minutes. I barely had time to fill my brothers in via phone and hit the ladies room before they wheeled her back to me.

I say ‘wheeled’ because mom has become so weak she needs the use of a wheelchair to go any further than a few feet. It pains me to see how frail she has become. Simply transferring from the car to the wheelchair demands so much of her strength. Having lost over 10 pounds in 4 weeks doesn’t help matters either.

Next stop was Dr. Laughinghouse’s office (yes, you read that correctly… Mom chose him by his name) for her first ever chemo treatment. Time was on our side and since we didn’t want to arrive any earlier than necessary, we took a spin around Marine Park in Red Bank to kill time. The view of the Navesink River soothed our souls and brought a sense of calm to the situation. Our family has spent many happy hours sailing on that river.

Originally we were told mom’s treatment would last 2 1/2 to 3 hours. How wrong was that??? In reality, once the treatment actually got underway… It took 4 hours. I’m not even counting the hour it took to get her blood tested AGAIN and get her set up.

I packed a picnic snack. We were told to pack a lunch, however mom has not been hungry, and therefore in no mood to eat. I decided to bring along some of her favorites. Saga Blue Cheese, stone wheat crackers, red seedless grapes, blueberry yogurt, diet 7-up, and fudge striped cookies for dessert. BINGO! She eagerly ate all that was offered.

As a friend of mine with an ill wife once lamented, “Somedays I am lucky if I put the straw in the glass right.” Well, today I was lucky… It was the perfect thing at the perfect time. I hope I am as lucky next week.

When returned home mom was exhausted and couldn’t wait to climb into bed. I made her promise to eat, take her pills, and drink fluids BEFORE going to sleep… even though she was nervous wondering when the nausea will begin. I then drove to my own home, unlocked the front door at 7:00pm, and didn’t follow my own advice… I plopped into the oversized, squishy, leather chair… and didn’t move for hours. I am tired… down to my very core.

First Person? Third Person?

Okay… one of the very first questions I have in writing this book is… which person do I choose to write it in?

Most memoirs are written in FIRST PERSON, using pronouns like I, Me, We, Us. The author is the story teller and you as a reader understand that. The events did happen to them after all.

However… because I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) most of the events that happened in my life I feel were not happening to me. I was removed from the situation. I felt no emotion. It was kind of like watching a scary movie where you constantly repeat to yourself… “This is only make believe. It’s not really happening. It’s fake. Stan is going to get up out of that bed and laugh at me”. Therefore I think writing the book in the THIRD PERSON using pronouns like, she, her, he, him, it, they, and them would be more fitting with the telling of my story.

As I later learned through therapy, feeling like you are on the ‘outside looking in’ is common for us PTSDers. It’s our way of coping with trauma. I can’t remember when I began thinking that way… but I can tell you when I stopped. I stopped a year after my husband’s death… when a good friend convinced me that going on medication to give me a base to use during therapy to cope with it all would be a smart thing. I took his advice and was glad I did. I finally started to make progress in therapy, and in life. Things have shifted once again… and I’m on the outside once more looking in. However this time I understand it… I know I’m doing it… which makes it easier to deal with.

What do YOU think… should I write in FIRST PERSON or THIRD? Do you have a preference when reading a book?

 

You should write a book!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that statement I wouldn’t have to write a book! I’d be so wealthy I would be spending my days lazing around eating bon-bons with nothing exciting or crazy happening to even write about. However, I am NOT wealthy (far from it) and crazy things DO happen to me. A lot of not so crazy things happen too.. but add them to the jigsaw puzzle of my life and they become the all too important ‘last piece’ that completes the picture.

I have no formal training, and I have no idea if any one will even want to read it when it’s complete… but I am doing it any way. I am doing it for myself… my kids… and all the people who have encouraged me through the years.

Along the way I hope to accomplish a few things…
1. Create a working schedule to actually get me writing on a regular basis, as opposed to the hit and miss schedule I have been using.

2. Encourage others to write a book for themselves by sharing every question I have and showing every stumbling block I hit along the way to completing my book… and how they were resolved.

3. Letting all of you who are interested to ‘get to know’ me a little better by sharing some stories that will not be in the book, hopefully enticing you to purchase the book IF it ever gets published.

4. Help you all to face your fears. Whether your fear is putting pen to paper, dating, or leaping from tall buildings (only kidding) I hope you will see through my blogs how many stupid things I have done and lived to tell about, no worse for wear. Life really DOES go on. I know… I’m living proof.

This site is a living document… meaning it will constantly change. I am not patient when it comes to ‘learning curves’… so please bear with me as I learn not only how to write a book, but also how to navigate the admin of a website. I feel like an old dog learning new tricks. It takes hours of practice!

Eventually I hope to have this site split into many sections so you can jump to the ones that interest you the most… and skip the ones you would rather not read. Writing the book is one section, my current art project or craft item will be another, my family life and friends yet another. I am thinking of labeling a section ‘Dumb Things I Have Done’… and another, ‘What I Did Today’… but I’ll wait and see how it all works out.

Please follow my blog if you are interested… and write as many comments as you want. I promise to read each one.

So…. here I go… off into the wonderful world of authorship via book and blog.. and I really hope I don’t have to list this decision under the Dumb Things I Have Done heading 🙂

Deb