I’m Just Exhausted….

time_of_miracles_by_sergusoid

A few years ago, I wrote a poem called, “Click” where I paraphrased current events with the “click” of a TV screen remote throughout.

These are the first lines,

Watching the world on CNN. Switching to MTV. The sameness of nothing. The nothing of sameness. Comfort food all. Smoke machines. Bruised. Bloodied. Commercials come. I go. Click. Suicide bombers sing. Unaccompanied. Victims hush. One for every day of the week. Big sale at Sears every Saturday. Ratings. Sweeps. Prepare to die. Black eyes stare at me as I stare back. Innocent. Gone with the wind. Your fault for being so trusting of Father So-And-So. Click.”

 I thought it was appropriate to use this same format to discuss what I’ve been going through since my last blog post.

So here goes;

I got the results for my mini-surgeries and I don’t have cancer CLICK Mom was admitted to the hospital for a possible heart attack CLICK I feel my life is never going to be anything but constant turmoil until I die CLICK Once again, my friends are there for me in ways that are beyond anything I could ever hope for CLICK It wasn’t a heart attack, but a really low blood sugar CLICK She’s doing great now, but I’m still wondering when things will slow down CLICK My desktop is still in the shop after six weeks CLICK My book is due in six weeks CLICK I was asked to submit a poem for a cancer book, this is due in December CLICK I could care less about working or doing anything at all right now CLICK Life goes on CLICK Mom and I are fine and I’m still trying to find my equilibrium CLICK In spite of it all, I found time to laugh, but mainly I’m just exhausted.

Image by Sergey Smirnov

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Posted in Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, Friends, hope, Mom, Survival, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Senior Parents, Surgery and the Scent of Snow

The problem with senior parents is that don’t listen and are every bit as rebellious and moody as any teenager. The difference between a senior parent and a teenager is, that I can’t put my mom on probation or tell her to go to her room. First of all, she owns the house, and secondly, she’d just look at me, raise an eyebrow and continue doing whatever it was she was doing. The rebelliousness and moodiness of senior parents isn’t the result hormones, but part the ongoing fight for an independence that may or may not be slipping away.

I get it. I understand.

As far as any senior parent is concerned, their child, no matter how old they are, is still their child. It doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished or if you have children of your own; you’re still the same teenager asking to borrow the car or little boy or girl who ran to them for comfort when you skinned their knees.

I get it. It stinks, but I get it.

So mom fell again this week, and it wasn’t because she’s weak from chemo, but because she’s gotten her self-confidence back and doesn’t want to use her cane. She’s been using the four-wheeled walker I got her for over a year, and now suddenly, she has decided that there are times when she’s fine not to use anything at all. True, she is stronger than she was, and true, she usually does OK, but it just takes one good fall at her age to cause a lot of problems.

She’s OK, but she fell on her arm, which is badly bruised. My aunt and I took her to immediate medical care, and it’s not broken, so that’s good. He took one look at the bruise and said, “good job,” and then told us it would have been worse if she hadn’t been off her blood thinners for five days before. You see, mom was scheduled to have a nerve block on Wednesday, and before you can have one, you have to go off blood thinners. So, I guess mom and I can both thank the nerve block for her not having a worse bruise.

By the way, the nerve block went well.

Of course, now that everything is over, mom announced to me that she would be using her cane when she wasn’t using her walker, because she still needs it until she gets stronger. She practically repeated to me verbatim what I’ve been saying to her for months.

*head desk*

And in other news, I had my mini surgeries last week, so that makes seven surgeries total since last Spring and almost twenty overall. My mom, aunt and I were sitting around having lunch when mom started bragging about all of her surgeries (two) and I started counting the surgeries I’ve had just this year. Then I continued counting and it was like, dang, almost twenty and seven just this year alone.

It was good to remember this number, because, I’ve been beating myself up for awhile, about not being able  to get back into a normal work schedule. I just can’t. I’m still constantly exhausted, and after the last time, I have learned to respect that exhaustion and just rest.

I hate it, but what can I do?

I’m glad to be done with this round of surgeries, though my stitches itch and I have to wait another week to have them removed. The doctor was amazing and actually, he’s the same surgeon who did my first major surgery when I was fifteen. He’s just as wonderful and fatherly as always, and as surgeries go, we had a good time talking about everything from what I’ve been up to since then, books we’ve both read and modern art.

Hopefully, this will be the last surgery for a while or ever. I guess the bottom line to this post is the need we all have to learn and respect our limitations. Mom finally learned that she needs to use her cane, and I have learned, and continue to learn that I need to take care of myself, and that often times, my need to work and want to get back to a normal schedule, isn’t going to agree with my body needs me to do.

Hopefully I don’t sound like I’m whining.

In further news, I can smell winter coming. When you live up here in snow country, you get to know the signs. I have a love/hate relationship with winter. It’s both beautiful and tough, with a freshness and crispness to the air that is wonderful. I love the silence of winter, the sense of needing to hibernate until Spring, even as you know you need to dig a path for the mailman.

I am my mother’s daughter after all, so my stubbornness comes naturally, but so does my strength.

Love you mommy, here’s your cane.

Posted in Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, hope, Mom, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Something in the Universe…

 

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It feels like I’m walking through mud lately. I’m not only physically exhausted, but mentally exhausted as well. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given what I’ve gone through in the last few months, but still, there is a part of me that questions it.

I suppose I’m still healing not only from my surgeries, but also from the mental anguish of being on a cancer journey. I think this may sound odd, but I don’t think I began to really feel the full brunt of everything until recently.

While mom was going through chemo and radiation, my father was dying and I was doing everything to try to help them. There was no time to feel anything but the constant need to push myself.

Now that need isn’t there. Dad has been dead for a year and mom is doing great. Her last cancer screen came back clear and she’s continuing to get stronger every day. Now it seems like it’s my turn to finally be the one who is in need and I don’t know how to handle it.

Stupid me, I just thought I’d continue on working like a fiend and coming up with project after project to work on and suddenly it was like something in the universe just said, “no.”

It’s a life lesson I’ve had to learn and relearn before. I can’t push everything back forever. Eventually I have to deal with things. I thought I was, but my exhaustion signals to me that perhaps that’s not true. I was there, I was present and I did deal with things as far as my parents were concerned. But as far as I was concerned, no.

I hid myself in my job and let it become more important to me than it should be and when I began to make mistakes, I couldn’t do that anymore. Now I’m slowly getting back to work and trying to keep things in perspective, and yes, I do have some projects that I’m working on.

By the way, I will be having hopefully the last of my surgeries on Tuesday, and then I will be done. The precancer I had removed, grew back, so this time instead of having it removed in a doctor’s office, I’m having it removed by a surgeon. I’ll be home the same day, and should be fine in no time.

Now, after everything I’ve been through, I have finally learned that caregivers need care and sometimes it takes something in the universe to help us come to that realization.

What cancer brings, is the realization that it’s as OK to be weak as it is to be strong. I am not made of stone, but flesh and blood.

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, hope, Mom, Survival, wisdom | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Surviving Hurricane Cancer


Well, we’ve survived Hurricane Irene. By the time she arrived up here in the upstate New York region, she’d been downgraded to a tropical storm, so all we’ve had is a grey rainy day with some minor flooding in lower lying regions.

Perhaps this is how it feels to those of you who have survived cancer. We hear about it, prepare for it, but when it’s there it’s a whole different ballgame. So then, we are forced to face up to it, endure it and hopefully live to see another day. Of course, there is a huge difference between Hurricane Cancer and Hurricane (Insert Name). Hurricane Cancer does not just attack one region or people, it is global. It does just come and go in a matter of days or hours, but lingers causing damage and death for days, weeks, even years.

Last week, before all this talk of hurricanes, mom and I went to the New York State Fair. Supposedly, it’s the largest state fair in the U.S. I don’t know, but it’s a late summer tradition that we’ve enjoyed ever since I was a little girl. We went last year when mom was first recovering from chemo and was almost through radiation. Dad was gone and we desperately needed something to distract us, cheer us up, something.

When we went last year, mom was thrilled to see a booth in one of the buildings dedicated to providing information and selling various t-shirts and other things, about breast cancer. We didn’t notice that there weren’t any items for survivors. Perhaps this was because, at the time, we weren’t thinking in those terms.

This year we noticed, or I should say, mom noticed. She wanted something that acknowledged that she was a survivor and there was nothing there. Everything was about fighting or preventing breast cancer, which obviously we both believe in, but there was nothing for those who’d had it and survived. Having cancer wasn’t acknowledged in any way, and certainly without those who have survived and beaten cancer, we have no hope for own survival should we receive a diagnosis nor do we have the knowledge of what that journey is really like.

Even though I was there beside mom during her cancer treatments, I have no idea what it felt like to receive a diagnosis or battle cancer. Mom lives with the reality every single day, that even though for now, she is cancer free, she may not always be. Again, I have no idea what that’s like. I only know that her cancer came without a warning bell or siren. There were no high winds or water, just a slow progression of tiredness that after time, couldn’t be ignored. Cancer is a hurricane that never dies down. You may exist in the eye, but there is always the fear that the storm will return to devastate you even more than it did the first time.

So yes, mom and the other survivors out there definitely deserve their own booth at the fair. Now perhaps there is one; the New York State Fair is huge to say the least. The midway itself is over one mile long. So hopefully when we go again tomorrow with some friends, we’ll find that booth.

Mom already has a survivor bracelet. Ironically, I was shopping with my dear friend Diana, at Michael’s the day after mom and I had gone to the fair, and there was a display of breast cancer decorative items. Among the streamers and pink ribbon decals, stickers and lord knows what else, was a little rubber bracelet that simply said, “survivor.”

Here’s to you, mom and everyone else who has survived the storm. Here’s to those who didn’t make it, but fought, just the same. Here’s to you. Here’s to all of you.

 

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Coping, hope, Mom, Survival | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

What Really Matters

surreal_by_robsonbatista-1

Surreal by Robson Batista

To begin with, I’m sorry I haven’t been here in a couple of weeks. I’ve been having some computer problems. But along with those computer problems I’ve received some realizations that I want to share with you. You know how things go, you think everything in your life has finally reached that comfortable non-stressful place and suddenly something happens to jar you out of that dream state and back to reality.

First, my laptop started acting wonky and then my desktop monitor died. It took me several days to get my laptop working correctly and then a dear friend gave me a new monitor because she’d recently upgraded her system. So once again, I was feeling like life had reached that happy place we’ve all heard so much about.

That feeling didn’t last for long, because my desktop, which was working perfectly, suddenly wouldn’t turn on. I prefer to do all of my professional work on my desktop because I have it in the family room. It’s downstairs and since mom prefers to stay on the main level of our home, I pretty much have it to myself. It’s a great room with a fireplace, a comfortable couch and my work station.

So anyway, after all this I got quite stressed. I could feel myself become anxious and my left eye started twitching, which was quite distressing. Suddenly a little voice of reason said, “if this is the worst of your problems, you’re actually doing OK. So quit over-dramatizing this and move on.”

After I had calmed a bit, another realization surfaced. I had choice in this situation, so why was I getting anxious? I could either buy a new desktop or take it in to get fixed. Either way I had power over how this situation turned out.

This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but to me, who was really feeling like I was on the verge of losing it, it was what I needed to hear.

Ever since mom’s cancer diagnosis, I have learned that really, outside of our friends and family, nothing else really matters. I knew this before, but cancer has a way of really drumming down that particular truth. In fact, I feel like whatever I knew before pales in comparison to what I know now.

Before I used to be so worried about things that I could just care less about now. Mom is OK. She is irreplaceable. I can click a button and buy a new computer. So, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

During this time of realizations, a dear friend who was supportive of me during the time mom was ill, found out that his wife had terminal cancer. I won’t use his name out of respect for him, but hopefully if he reads this post, he will know that what I write is meant as a tribute to him and his beautiful wife.

I’ve known him for a couple of years and one of the first things I learned about him, was this wife was the love of his life. He wrote about how they met, how she made him laugh, and about how much she meant to him. She was diagnosed with one of the types of cancers that kills quickly. During the time she was ill, he poured out his feelings on his blog about what he was going through. It broke my heart to see him in such pain. Within a few weeks, she was gone and now my friend is left to find some of way of going on without her.

My computer has been in the shop for two weeks now. It’s fixable and not for too much money either. I wish every problem we face in life were this easy to fix.

But more importantly, I wish my friend peace in the wake of his loss.

Image by ~robsonbatista at deviantART.

Posted in Cancer, Death, Friends, hope, Mom | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An Odd Sense of Comfort

EndlessDreamChristopheVacher

Endless Dream by Christopher Vacher

Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of my father. It amazes me how quickly the time has flown by, but so much of last year flew by in a blur mixed with both horrible and wonderful things, that it somehow all makes sense.

The very day after my father died, my mom had to start radiation treatments. So we barely had time to mourn his loss because we had to focus ourselves on that. But we did mourn him. I didn’t cry buckets of tears, but there were moments when this overwhelming sense of sadness would sweep over me as I remembered some happy moment that I put aside long ago. I guess that’s how it is for survivors of abuse. The bad times stick out and take precedence over the good. Perhaps that’s part of the wounds of abuse or some aspect of a survivor skill. I have no idea. This, like cancer is a journey and as with journeys of this type, you don’t always know what’s around the next bend in the road.

We picked up dad’s ashes from the mortuary about two weeks ago. It’s such an odd thing to feel the weight of a bag of ashes and know that each tiny grain was once part of someone you once knew.

Mom and I decided not to bury or spread them, so instead we have dad in an urn in our living room. Mom also has some of his ashes in a heart-shaped marble keepsake in her bedroom. I don’t feel any anger at her for this. She is going through her own journey too, so it’s not my place to judge, but to offer support and love.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to process the whole thing. But really is there an easy way to process death; especially when there are so many complicated emotions involved?

Just the same, there is an odd comfort in having dad home with us. I pat the top of his urn and feel such a sense of peace. All of whatever made my dad abusive to both himself and to me is dead, and neither of us will ever have to deal with it again. Except for my continued healing, of course. But, I never have to be afraid or keep my distance from him or my memories of him to protect myself. He is finally, peacefully OK and in that, I am finally, peacefully becoming OK too.

The first night after we brought dad’s urn home, I commented to mom that it was the first time we’d all been together under the same roof in years. Mom and I both smiled. You would think we would have been upset, but this was the way things worked out for us.

We are very much like the first lines of “Anna Karenina,” Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I loved my dad, not all abuse survivors can say that or want to. But I can and it doesn’t mean I’m in a better or worse place than anyone else. It’s just how I feel.

I suppose I should feel sad that it took his death for me to feel what I do and for us to all be together under the same roof again, but I don’t. I feel an odd and wonderful sense of comfort. I feel it for dad as much as myself.

My dad made choices in his life that made our being together as a family impossible. I think we all wanted it, but because of his choices, our family history and a bunch of other things that I’m not going to drudge up, we couldn’t. We were always there for each other; dad took care of me on many occasions when I was sick, and mom and I did the same for him. We were the only ones with him when he was dying. We loved each other, but in our own way. And sometimes that love meant keeping our distance. That was our way.

Now we are separated by death, but somehow we are still together. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe dad is watching over me or in heaven or anyplace else. That belief system is not part of my spirituality. What I believe is that dad is finally at peace and finally free from all the troubles that haunted him in life. It’s a wonderful thing to know that he is beyond pain and beyond causing pain. My dad, a life-long insomniac, who often suffered for sleep, is finally asleep.

And me, my insomnia is improving after a long spell of sleeplessness. I have an odd sense of comfort to thank for that.

I love you daddy. I always have; in spite of everything.

And daddy, in spite of everything; I know you loved me too.

Posted in Abuse, breast cancer, Cancer, Coping, Dad, Death, hope, Mom, Survival, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

I’m Still Here, Honestly

“I’m Still Here.” Elaine Stritch first sang it on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Company,” and Shirley Maclaine sung it in the movie, “Postcards from the Edge.” It’s a fitting song to describe me and this blog, because, I am still here.

I know it’s been a couple of months since I last wrote anything here, but I have been on one roller coaster of a ride since my last post. Don’t worry, mom is fine – better than I ever hoped really – but me, that’s another story.

I have a nodule on my thyroid, had it for years, but in March for some unknown reason it became a problem. I could feel it constantly and it not only affected my voice, but also the way eat, breathe, everything. So naturally, I called my doctor who felt it and decided that I needed a thyroid scan and possibly a biopsy to find out what was wrong.

And naturally, I freaked out a little.

I know you haven’t heard me say this before, but yeah, sometimes I freak out. After the year I had and all the times I didn’t freak out when I easily could have, I figure I was due.

I didn’t throw fits or cry, but I started to feel anxious all the time. I couldn’t sleep, didn’t eat and felt generally miserable. So a lot of things started suffering, including my job performance. Now that was my real wake-up call, because I’m one of those people who always demands the best of myself. To be find out that what I considered was my best really wasn’t, was a kick in the head.

Thankfully my bosses know me and have been nothing but understanding. Just the same, it kind of killed me a little, so I decided to take some time off and concentrate on taking care of myself, because clearly I was having health issues and clearly those health issues, combined with my own stubborn drive and determination were affecting me.

And also because in all honesty, I hadn’t been taking care of myself.

I was great at taking care of mom, but taking care of me had not only taken a backseat, but it was in another car.

I began taking naps, which was something I rarely allowed myself to do during the entire time mom was undergoing cancer treatment. And it was during this time I finally realized just how exhausted I really was. That sleep felt like it had been blessed by angels and began to feel somewhat better, even though I was still dealing with the nodule.

I had the scan and it took over two weeks to hear anything back. I called my doctor to find out the results and he suggested that I just go ahead and have a biopsy anyway. This didn’t make sense to me, so instead I called a friend who is knowledgeable about vitamins and herbal treatments. She brought me some herbs that are supposed to help regulate your glandular system and some other ones that did something else. Within a few days I couldn’t feel the nodule anymore. To this day, neither my doctor nor my friend, know what the problem was, but the bottom line is that I didn’t have to have a biopsy and I don’t have cancer.

During this time, my doctor’s nurse practitioner  noticed a mark on my back that turned out to be a pre-cancerous lesion. I had that removed last month, with no freaking out at this point. The doctor who removed it was possibly the best doctor I have ever seen. He really put my mind at ease so that I felt that I was receiving the best care possible.

Now I am facing a more serious surgery to remove a grapefruit size tumor that was found during my regular GYN visit. I’m not nervous about this at, but needless to say, I am still feeling quite exhausted, and no wonder, right?

It honestly feels like mom and I haven’t had a chance to really relax after everything from the past year, but who says that we or anyone automatically gets time like that? I look at the news and realize that mom and I are both extremely blessed. Even with all we have dealt with and continue to deal with, we are OK.

Mom has been nothing but amazing. For over a year I have made all the meals and did the cleaning and she just took over for me. Let me say that it feels absolutely great to be taken care of by her. At times I felt like a little kid and it was nice to see her so strong and able again.

I got behind in writing here, because besides that I edited two books that I’m quite proud, and also because there were times when writing my name sapped my strength.

So yeah, I’m still here.

I think it’s time I learned the lyrics to that song.

The thing is, in addition to that song I also need to find some other lyrics to sing. Because the truth is, that life doesn’t always give us a break. Dealing with cancer, bad health or anything else doesn’t give you a pass on other life issues.

Think of all those who have survived some of the earthquakes or tornadoes we’ve all heard about on the news. It’s not like those people were all living perfect and pristine lives and then something horrible happened. They were dealing with all of the same life struggles we all deal with and then and in addition to all that, something horrible happened.

So yeah, I’m still here, but I’m also grateful and very well aware that even though things aren’t what I wish they were, they could definitely be worse.

By the way, I wrote this post in May and it’s taken me this long to post it. This is how insanely fatigued I have been.

I’ve had my surgery. The grapefruit size tumor grew to the size of a soccer ball. Even though it was a fast-growing tumor, it wasn’t cancerous. One of my workmates said that anything that large deserved a name, so I named it “Wilson.”

I will be back more regularly now. I’m recovered and growing stronger each day.

I am still here, but Wilson isn’t.

 

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, hope, Mom | 3 Comments