Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Changing rapidly now...

It hurts.  It hurts my head and my heart and my eyes and my ears.  To hear the updates, to know that things are not well.  It's not enjoyable.  When my phone rings and "hospice" comes up on the caller i.d., I instinctively hold my breathe, pray for the best, and prepare for the worst.  Amber doesn't call me when there is no reason to call.  She always makes sure I am up to date on any changes, gives me her opinion on whether or not she thinks things are worth worrying about.  Today the changes are worth worrying about.

My mom is retaining a LOT of fluid in her abdomen.  They had been doing measurements to gauge any changes in her abdominal size, and for three weeks, no change.  Today they didn't even have to get the tape measure out.  The signs of swelling were visible with the eye.  Hospice knew the swelling was there without even having to touch her abdomen...I am trying for the life of me to remember how hospice tried to describe it to me, but I think after I heard 'dramatic increase in abdomen size', my mind shut down for a bit.  Just for a few seconds.  I quickly returned to the 'game' and listened intently and with purpose.  We all know what's coming.  For goodness sakes, we have known for close to three years.  Three glorious, terrifying, cherishable, painful years knowing that pancreatic cancer will ultimately be her demise.  BUT I now know I have been in sort of a denial phase.  She really has surpassed the traditional statistics.  By all measures she is a FIGHTER by nature.  Nothing that she has gone through has knocked her down and out.  NOTHING.  I long for her to pass on that trait to me.  This stage that she is in is NOT a good place to be.  I'm not sure if any blog readers out there know what Ascites really means.  I have read such terms as imminent death, transitioning to end stages, morbidity rates.  It's devastating and probably the worst news we could have gotten.

There are some treatment options for the fluid buildup, but unfortunately these 'fixes' are temporary.  She could go into the hospital and have the fluid drained with a gigantic needle, only to have the fluid return in approximately one weeks' time.  She also runs the risk of infection at the puncture site, possible 'poking' of something internally while draining the fluid, and also coming into contact with any 'sick germs' that would be floating about the hospital.  At this point, a cold could be devastating and Influenza would be almost deadly to her.  There are so many risks.  She is unsure of what she wants to do.  Unsure of the procedure and if the risks outweigh the benefits or vise versa.  She's not ready to say 'yes' to the procedure, but not saying no either.  We discussed it tonight via telephone, and she discussed it with her husband as well.  Doing anything for her health has got to be on HER terms and no one elses.  My opinion does not matter.  I will support her in whatever decision she makes.  She is leaning towards no.  All along she has said no more hospital intervention, no doctors appointments, nothing.  That's her call and I stand by her 100%.  But I know the fluid will soon cause her major discomfort in the simple things...breathing, laying down, sneezing.  It will become unbearable.  Under that stress she may make different decisions.  Once again....her call.

So for now she is still showing that fighting spirit.  She puts up a good front, giggles to me on the phone about the impending snow storm, and makes sure I am recovered from the flu.  I am Blessed.  Blessed to be her daughter, to have travelled on this journey of life with her.  Instilling in me her values and her strength.  There's no way I would be where I am at without her.  I am no millionaire working the perfect job with the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood with perfect kids.  What I am is honest, nurturing, forgiving, and motherly.  All learned from the greatest woman on earth....my mom.

So there's where we are at today.  Preparing for her hubby to take his leave from work sooner than later.  Trying to stay faithful in a world felt hopeless.  Somehow, someway, this will all make sense as to why its' happening.  Just not now.  I long for Christmas Eve...the one day that has ALWAYS been reserved for our Christmas at Maga Moon's.  This Christmas will be special.  This Christmas will be ours.  I will not worry about how well I wrapped the gifts, or what dress the girls are wearing.  Everything has changed this year.  The petty and invaluable are so apparent and clear to me.  More clear than ever.  I have cancer to thank for that.  Asking of course for all of you to lift my mother up in prayer and bless her with the ability to be as comfortable and pain free as possible.  This is ultimately the start of an incredibly bumpy road.  Wearing my seatbelt and helmet.....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

All signs say we are approaching the end stages...

I am not ready to believe the signs.  I am certain she is not going to pass away tomorrow.  But the uncertainty is killing me.  It's ripping my insides apart and playing games with my mind.  One day I think it's alright to e happy, and she's doing fantastic.  The next day, she's vomiting and nauseated.  Pain sneaks up on her when she least expects it and it comes on strong and sudden.  Enough to throw even the strongest into a full blown panic.  The newest symptom is Ascites.  This means there is an excessive amount of fluid building up in her abdomen causing swelling.  It also will cause swelling in the ankles and legs.  Ascites is particularly common in the end stages of Pancreatic Cancer. NOT.what.I.wanted.to.read.  Screw Google search.  I know better than that.  I have been down that road reading far too much on the internet and learning things I wish I had never learned.  I guess we need to know the truth.  I know the outcome.  I know she will never be cured.  But again, the uncertainty of when and if she will suffer and how long she will live, it's almost too much to bear.  She has been so blessed with 2 plus years of surviving already.  When is her luck going to run out?

I find the thoughts that are monopolizing my everyday thoughts, are quite selfish in my opinion.  There are days where I am disgusted by some of the things that fly through my tortured brain.  I am not even courageous enough to put them on paper.  Some of these thoughts I would never ever expect to cross my mind.  I don't get it.  I am NOT a selfish person.  I live and breathe for family.  I will immediately drop everything to be there for a friend, but in this time of  trial, I find that the ugly side of me is making its' presence known.  :(  My question is this...HOW do I get back to being thankful?  For being grateful to God for letting us spend this extra time with my Mother?  Why do I feel this way?  Will this torture every go away?  I have so many questions and so little answers.  Frustration.  That would be the key word here.  Disgusted.  Dismayed.  Hurt.

In a grand summary, we are thinking the beast within is starting to close in on my Mom.  It has been sneaking up more and more lately, tightening the grip on her life.  Stifling her energy, trying to crush her spirit.  That's not happening.  No way.  She still smiles all the time and loves her grandkids more every second.  She still cooks her hubby supper and decorates for Christmas.  She loves her obnoxiously loud puppy and hugs me when I need it most.  Cancer may have a grip on my Mom, but it will never take away her spirit.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's the wreck of the day...

Ok, so I stole the title for my blog from an Anna Nalick song.  I have turned to music to soothe my shattered soul.  It works.  For real.  I literally get lost in lyrics and youtube takes me on twists and turns through all different genres until I find a song that makes me say WoW.  Wreck of the Day is one of those songs.  Also Shine, and don't forget Just Breathe.  Anna is breathtakingly beautiful with a voice that touches my heart.  She is my new favorite, that's for sure.  One of the lyrics that plays over and over in my head is "Driving away from the wreck of the day and I'm thinkin bout calling on Jesus."  That right there is why I said WoW when I first heard the song.  There are more days than not that I feel like my life and my job and the way cancer affects our lives, that we are driving away from the wreck of our day.  Once I lay down to sleep at night, that's how I drive away.  My only escape from my wreck of a day.  Sleep.  Because then I can pray.  I can speak to Him and tell Him what is weighing heavy in my heart and hard on my mind.  He listens.  He carries the burden for me and He gives me my hope and my faith back.  Even though it seems every single curve and bump in my life is major and life altering and shattering and unbelievable, I can always pray.  He will always be there.  No, I don't attend church every Sunday and I am 100% ok with that.  Your church is where you pray.  Doesn't matter your location.  Doesn't matter your state of mind or how you are dressed or if you decided to not comb your hair that entire day.  My faith in Him does have its' times where it waivers.  When I ponder too much on the past, confused about the present, and vividly petrified of the future.  So my location of choice does not have to be church on a Sunday morning to know that He will always be present and living within me.  Holding my head, laying beside me when I feel like I can not face another day smiling.  It's a powerful feeling to know that my faith is still there.  I will admit I did lose faith.  As a matter of fact I can tell you exactly when that was...April 2012.  the month where the doctors told my mother that it was time to go home and stop the treatments, get her affairs in order, and start living.  My faith was pulled out of my body, thrown against the brick wall and shattered into 3,000 pieces.  I never thought I would fully piece it back together.  Would I ever have faith in a God that has beat down the most unbeatable woman I know?  I was skeptical for a long time.  Eventually the faith came back, and my praying became more intense.  More frequently, and most importantly, naturally.  I knew that I had regained the faith back when I could walk into my mother's house late one evening as she was suffering a major attack of excruciating pain and sit on the couch with her.  Hold her head on my chest, and tell her things would be just fine.  That her pain would subside, we would control it, and that she was going to get through this.  Faith is back.  And I like that feeling.

Not going to blow smoke here, though.  This weekend tried to waiver my faith and knock it down.  Didn't work.  As an EVERYDAY ritual, I text my mother in the morning making sure she is not suffering, not vomiting, not nauseated, not in pain.  And almost every morning, I receive a text with good news.  Says she is doing just fine, no pain, and that she slept like a rock.  Saturday was not the case.  I did as I normally do, and waited for the response.  I get a message back...."Not good".  I swallowed hard and forced myself to read the rest before I started freaking out.  She explained she was vomiting but was doing the right things to get it under control.  As you know, vomiting for her is NOT on her list of fun things to do.  Two abdominal surgeries, which include one where they completely 'replumbed' her insides, and another to fix a football sized hernia would make any sort of wretching, coughing, laughing, or sneezing extremely painful.  Imagine what vomiting would do.  She despises it with all her being.  She hates it.  It makes her very very very angry. Very angry.  Pi$$es her off to be blunt.  Pi$$es me off, too.  It's the nature of the beast, though.  She has learned to deal with it and combat it quite well now fortunately.  She got the anit nausea meds on board and waiting for them to take effect before any other action was done.  It worked.  But not without that twinge of fear and loathing that each episode brings.  It brings us one step closer.  One step in the wrong direction.  Not at all what we want to happen.  They evened out her pain and nausea about two weeks ago by upping all her medications and that always puts her in a 'better place' for about two weeks.  Her body then becomes immune to the higher dosage.  The breakthrough pain storms in like it owns the place and we all feel like we are back at stage one, fighting to keep her comfortable.  It is what it is, and this is her life.  The day will come when the pain will not go away.  The meds will be strong enough to render her speechless and all the suffering will be over.  I am not ready for that to happen, nor is she for obvious reasons.  She has so much to live for.  Her husband.  Her grandkids.  And me.  We love her to the moon and back.  It's not her time yet.

So this is her life for now.  On again off again.  Hurry up and wait and see when the pain and the nausea will return and for how long it will stay.  It's a life no one should have to lead and I pray that none of my friends or family will ever have to go through the same thing that her and I are dealing with.  It's not fair to anyone that cancer gets full control.  Whoever decided that cancer would be uncurable needs a high five...in the face...with a chair.

Life's like an hourglass glued to the table...
No one can find the rewind button boys...
So cradle your head in your hands, 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just breathe

It's been longer than normal since posting an entry, I realize this :(  I have a lot of stories to tell and very little time right now.  But I will be getting them all down on paper and out of my head soon.  Like the story about when I had to run to Pronto at 7:40pm and pulled up and saw the Belle Plaine Ambulance in the lot.  Sheer panic attack.  Stupid.  Completely unnecessary, too.  But it is those triggers that set me off and remind me that we are dealing with a beast that cannot be beaten.  Then there are days when my mom texts me before I can text her to see how her day is going.  And the context of the texts are totally random and full of everyday life.  Like the exchanging of texts last night...all about Chicken and bisquits.  How we both made the very same supper for our family.  Sorta twilight-ish considering she was the one that handed down that recipe.  Those are the moments that remind me why I am here and I do what I do.

The elephant is still in the room.  The cancer is still there.  And for now, they upped her pain meds again because of the sudden attacks that she is getting of agonizing pain.  So that levels everything out for a week or two then it seems everything needs adjusting again.  So we will enjoy the time without pain for now.  And we will text about the normal and ignore the inevitable.  Because right now....that's how we roll.  More blog posting to come over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's just non stop for lack of a better term...

The last few days (every day since Thursday)  I have constantly been doing something in our house or TO our house.  Painting, cleaning, laundry, painting, then cleaning some more and painting some more.  When my stress peaks, I move.  I don't stop moving until it is absolutely necessary that I rest for the evening and get some sleep.  It's what I do.  It's how I cope.  I have no other outlets at this point to use, so I focus, I stay busy.  I continually keep my feet and my hands active so that my mind doesn't have ample time to catch up with what worries me.  The more stress that I feel, the faster I move.  The faster I move, all the quicker I forget.  If I 'forget' for a few hours, it makes life livable.  Tolerable.  Status Quo.  If I sit idle, seems as if that is cue for my brain to fire off random thoughts that should not be running through my head.  Scenarios I do not want to see happen.  Actions that will have to be taken.  You understand what I am getting at here?  Lately my relief from the everyday has been some home improvement.  I have been painting and painting.  Black and Hibiscus to be exact.  The girls' bedroom.  I have gone over the top in the time spent glamourizing their bedroom.  (If that is even a word?)  I want them to feel happy, to love their space, to love their life and not have to live out my stress and anger and resentment.  I don't want to put my burden onto my kids, so my way of dodging that bullet is stifling the pain.  That's how everyone copes, right?  Anyone with kids would have to agree with me that instilling your own fear into your children is NOT the right thing to do.  The burden of cancer is NOT a weight I want them to carry too heavily.  All three of my kids are 100% aware of what type of cancer my Mom has, what the long term outcome is, and the uncertainty of it all.  We have had the 'talk' as to what the end might be like, what they will witness and what they don't have to do.  I will not burden them with any sadness or frightful experience that they decide is not in their best interest.  I will respect their wishes and not make them cross their own boundaries that have unknowingly set.  I will not make the last moments of life something that they will never be able to get out of their head if it's too scary.  I can't make them live with that if they so choose to not be there physically at the end.  So by me sprucing up the joint, I think they are sidetracked...and honestly, so am I.  I love the fact that I am focused on something other than cancer all the time.  I need that distraction to keep me on pace for life.  For my own personal benefit.  I sometimes wonder if my body is going to 'crash'.  I would describe my form of crashing as my body physically just giving up for a few days.  Going into idle mode, letting my mind control my body and getting some real sleep for a change.  There's got to be a bottom for this kind of constant activity one would think.  I have NOT hit that bottom yet.  I have slept through the night ONCE in the last 6 months, and I remember that morning vividly.  I felt alive and refreshed and awake and normal.  Every night is different for me, but most nights I am up around 2am, back to sleep at 3am, up at 5am for good.  Sleep eludes me even though I go at mach speed after work.  (and most days during work, too.)  Just waiting to hit that rock bottom...waiting to crash...but for now this train will keep on chuggin down the tracks and make myself distracted from the truth of cancer for a bit longer.  Yes it is like lying to myself.  I choose to lie on occasion so that I am not a puddle of goo and bawling uncontrollably for days.  Is that so bad?  I think not.  I think if you asked my mother how she would want me to be living my life right now, she would say...LIVE IT LOUD.  Live it now.  Breathe that fresh air in and don't you ever forget what God has given you.  E.v.e.r.  The End.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The winds of change are blowing wild and free...

What an eventful last few days.  Not anything I wish to repeat anytime soon, either.  I am sure my Mother would agree as well.  Started Thursday and was relentless until Saturday...pain, nausea, fatigue, more pain, and a LOT more pain.  It was three of the most scary times ever in this entire journey through pancreatic cancer.  It was a pain she could not get control of.  Everytime she tried to stifle the pain with more medication, all the more frustrated and upset she became because the meds were NOT working.  The pain was still there.  Stabbing in her abdomen, drilling pain in her back, radiating on both sides.  It broke her will, and that's not what usually happens.  That is not in her plans.  She's a fighter and a damn good one at that, and this bout with the pain....the pain won.  I hate to even say that, but she had to take an unbelievable amount of medication to get it under control.  Unfathomable.  I would be on the floor slobbering out of both sides of my mouth talking of riding a kangaroo across the nearby town of Amana.  SO frustrating.  For her it was agony.  They finally did get the pain under control but it took bringing out the big guns to get it done.  The one word I was not looking forward to hearing.  Morphine.  

In clinical medicine, morphine is regarded as the gold standard, or benchmark, of opioid analgesics used to relieve severe or agonizing pain and suffering.

Yeah...that's what I know about morphine.  That and the fact that they use it for post operative pain.  Post op.  After you have been cut open.  Not a ball of fun.  So obviously the pain she is having and the medication she is taking is not doing its' job.  Upping the dosages and adding in the morphine had been one of my biggest fears in this journey.  I can't put my finger on exactly why it bothers me so much, but I gather it's the idea that morphine can do wacky things to your thought process, It can make you say and do things you would not normally do or say.  And it's a VERY powerful drug.  That makes it even more ominous.  Because the need for morphine is there, the pain is obviously becoming intolerable.  The cancer is growing and invading.  I am scared.  Scared for what's down the road, scared for what tomorrow brings her.  Fearful that she will wake up every day just like she woke up Friday, straight awake as soon as the meds wore off, grimacing, crying, writhing in pain.  It DOESN'T have to be like this and I think she is aware of this now.  She has always wanted to cope with the pain on her terms, not anyone elses.  She regulates the amount of meds she ingests.  Never too much.  Afraid that if she is taking too much, we will all think (and we already know) that she can't handle it.  It would be like her saying "I give up".  That's her mentality and trust me, there is nothing in the world that I can do to change that.  This mother of mine is a scrapper and cancer is getting a run for it's money right now.  Promising you this...after all the pain she endured this weekend, she has realized how crucially important it is to stay one step ahead of the game.  One step ahead of the pain.  Don't ever let that pain swell up enough to be felt.  Stifle it down as much as you possibly can with the medications you have been given.  No one on this earth should EVER have to suffer like she has.  It's inhumane, it's cruel, there is NO reason right now that I can think of as to why it is happening to my mother,  but alas it is what it is.  I will continue to make those late night trips to her house when she is having issues, helping her cope, giving her my shoulder to lay her head on and I will hug her and tell her the pain will leave soon.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Anxiety and her issues of the day...

One would think that my Mom's main concerns during the day would be taking her pain meds on time as to avoid breakthrough pain, remember what to eat and what NOT to eat, napping, and hanging with her hubby.  Well, I am here to tell you she is NOT your typical pancreatic cancer patient.  Her anxiety for the day today...her new smart phone.  o.m.g.  How does this woman do it?  Of all the hell and turmoil and ruckus that is going on inside her body and inside her head, she is worried about how to use her new phone.  She is not a big fan of it.  Ha!  Who woulda thunk that my 60 year old mother would have a smart phone before me?!?  She talked on and on about what she didn't know how to do, how she could barely figure out how to receive a call.  She wants to take it back.  She wants her 'baby phone' back.  Honestly I about laughed my a$$ off when I heard her say that....'baby phone'.  She likes normal.  She is a fan of 'easy to use technology'.  And she is NOT into the smart phones.  The outcome of them having smart phones is still up in the air as they have 30 days to decide, but I am leaning towards her ditching it and going back to the old phone..

Why am I blogging about my mother and her smart phone?  Her issues with change?  With upgrading?  Pretty simple.  For the first time in awhile during our conversations, cancer didn't come up.  It did not plague our conversation.  It didn't loom over my head taunting me with its' hideousness.  It was stifled.  It was quiet. Even if it were for a very  brief 20 minute span.  We 'ignored' it.  It was one of the most glorious 20 minutes in recent history!  Listening to her rant and rave about a phone that is proving to be more intelligent than its' user was very entertaining.  It was an amazing conversation.  So lighthearted and carefree.  I want more of those conversations and I need to find a way to incorporate it into our lives.  I have come up with some ideas.  A LOT of ideas.  I want our time with her to be meaningful while she feels well.  I am considering having the kids write a 'book' for their Maga.  One that they complete all by themselves with little guidance from me.  I want the book to be filled with their memories with their Maga.  Let THEM tell the story how they see it through their little human eyes.  Make pages of questions that they want answers to, and we will 'interview' her for the answers.  I can envision how I want this all to go down.  After the book is completed, we will pick a date.  Make some junk food snacks, veg out on her living room floor with the entire family and have an interview night.  Record it.  Love it.  Learn from it.  Maybe we could do just a few pages per week, or maybe all of the book at once.  It's a starting point...  That's what we all need.  A jumping off point.  Something that we can all do together that does not require money or travelling or walking.  Being together making memories, reminiscing of the 'good ole days' and letting her be the center of our attention instead of cancer getting a front row seat.  I say that we give cancer a card to go to the back of the line for awhile.  It's far overdue.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

There are things in my life that even I wont make public

I can't even begin to explain to anyone not affected by a loved one suffering from cancer what it actually does to you, your friends, your family, and your peace of mind.  There are things that happen with the ones afflicted with cancer that you KNOW would not otherwise happen if they didn't have the disease.  Things that may be said or not said, things they do, choices they make.  It affects nearly every aspect of their lives and the caregiver's as well.  And this part of the disease...what it makes a person do and not do, it Hurts...with a capitol H.  Hurts the heart and the head and the mind and the soul.  I am not even sure how to explain it so that others know what we all go through and feel, but imagine yourself living a completely normal life, going to work everyday to the same job that you have had for over 30 years, looking forward to retirement, loving watching your grandkids grow into bright young little adults.  Then all of a sudden the rug under your feet is literally yanked and you fall on your a$$.  No spotter to catch you, no cushion to fall on.  No preset plan that will happen.  Never knowing when you will be sick.  Never knowing when you will be well.  Not knowing if you will see your grandkids mature and age.  Everything that you have ever known to be normal is now GONE.  That in itself would make anyone's mind say and do things that are not in the norm.  That they would not normally do.  Some of the things that they say or do may hurt the ones they love, or make the hearts of the ones they love hurt.  Its a hurt and a pain that I have never experienced until now.  The 'going ons' of the last few days has made one statement replay over and over and over in my head.  My inner self saying....WOW what disease does this to people?  How can this even happen?  WHY does this even happen?"  And occasionally it will float towards...."Why Me?  Why does my life suck?  Why do problems pile up in threes or fours or whatever God deals me?  Why?"  Why?  Can't answer that, have no explanation, haven't forgiven anyone for what is going on.  But I do know this...It is what it is and that's that.  It's a horribly over used cliche but it works for me.  It is what it is and I cannot change cancer.  Her cancer is INCURABLE.  It will never go away and it will continue to reak havoc on her frail frame.  I will continue to get the phone calls from her crying on the other end because of the nausea and vomiting, pain and fatigue, roller coaster emotions and brief meltdowns.  She will continue to refuse to let me come to her aid every single evening and just keep her company.  She does not want that right now.  She knows there will come a day when she will have to rely on me to help her in the evenings.  But I need to let her come to terms with that on her own.  All by herself.  So for now, while the cancer makes hideous things happen, lets my emotions get the best of me, and continues to try and beat her down, let this be known.  NO MATTER WHAT she says or does or does not do, I LOVE HER.  She is a fighter.  Plain and simple, no big words here coming from my mouth because, well....none are needed.  She is my inspiration for keeping the smile on my face and the bounce in my step.  If she can walk through her day to day life with some giggles, grins, and heartwarming texts (which is my FAVORITE part of my day)  I can certainly practice forgiveness for what cancer does to her <3

I will just apologize right now if it seemed as if I rambled uncontrollably.  BUT this blog is made literally for that reason.  To get those ramblings out of my head so that I don't take them to bed with me.  I don't dwell as hard on them if I get the thoughts out to someone that will read and possibly be going through the same things as me.  Maybe in the grand scheme of things, I will shine a light somewhere for someone and help them gain back the bounce in their step?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Little Girls grow up dreaming of their weddings....

What will their dress look like?  How handsome will their groom be?  What will be the color scheme for the wedding?  Will there be an intimate guest list or hundreds on hand?  These are all the same questions that go through every girls' mind when they think of their wedding day.  Then you grow up, get married, and grow old together.  One day you will reflect on your lives together and maybe decide that it's time you should renew your vows.  Seems to me that renewing vows has become more common as of lately and there are MANY reasons why couples decide to do so.  BUT....

What if the decision to renew your vows with your loved one was based on sickness?  On Cancer?  On how much time you had left on this earth?  Most couples renew their vows for other reasons...reaffirming their love for one another, making up for the wedding they did not have when they got hitched the first time at the Justice of the Peace, or just an excuse to have another wedding and a big hulaballoo with family and friends. Whatever your reason is.....do you think you could hold your head high with dignity and grace knowing you were renewing your vows and planning the date for said renewal based on your health?  Based on how you were feeling the two weeks prior to the ceremony?  Based on the fact that Hospice is granting your version of a 'Make a Wish'?  My Mom did all of that.  A simple ceremony at Franklin Park with a host of family and a few close friends.  An amazing amount of love and tears and support and prayers.  I could literally FEEL them being lifted up in prayer that splendid afternoon.  The love that poured out of their hearts, the tears that trickled down almost everyone's cheeks.  Renewing of vows is supposed to be the happiest of times.  A day filled with celebration and cheer.  This renewal was plagued with fear.  And with strength.  With graciousness and with courage.  Knowing that this day could very well be the last day that she will physically hug some of her close friends and family that have travelled to be with her on this day.  I can't even really put into words just what the feelings were for me.  I will try...My chest felt heavy the moment I arrived at the park.  Heavy with sadness and burden that cancer has put onto my Mother.  A burden that I wish I could carry somedays instead of her.  My head was a bit foggy and I was very unsure of how the whole day was going to go down.  I get to see my Mom several times a week, so I let her mingle and meander with friends, chuckling and giggling and crying and hugging.  Times where I just gazed at her, in complete awe of her courage and ability to fight as long as she has.  She is still fighting each and every second she is on this earth.  And here she is sitting in the park amongst the best of the best of her friends and her family.  With nothing but a SMILE on her face, and a twinkle of tears in her eyes.  THAT is the dignity and grace I described in an earlier post.  She has achieved that grace.  197%...there is no doubt.  To walk through all of her loved ones, look them in the eye and tell them she will be fine.  That she feels fine.  That her world is fine.  She is anything but fine.  But what she is...Full of Grace, Dignified, Strong, Peaceful, Loved.  Oh dear, is she ever loved.  <3

So to say that the Renewal of Vows was all roses and candies and frosting and puppies would be a lie.  I breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, because as 5pm approached, I did see my mom grasping at her abdomen, and I knew in an INSTANT that it was time for pain meds.  By the time I caught up with her and told her it was 5:20, she was a bit uncomfortable.  Thank goodness the crowd was winding down and the day was coming to an end.  I will say this...I wish for all of you reading that cancer does not invade your family the way it has ours.  But I do wish that you could learn from what cancer has taught me.  It has invaded my soul, but has made my mother terminal.  Does that make sense even?  Cancer doesn't just affect the patient.  It's so much more than that.  My mother fights the hardest  battle of them all, but it affects all of us.  Makes us have to go through such agonizing events such as renewing vows based on health, based on being diagnosed terminal, based on cancer.  See what I mean?  I will leave you with this photo, which I think speaks volumes for what the day was like.  My Mother, her husband, and my kids...the only two missing  from the photo is Jason and me.  Otherwise this photo is my world and I will forever hold this close to my heart, my mind, my soul.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's not like I don't know the outcome...

I know how deadly pancreatic cancer is.  The stats on this type of cancer are mortifying.  If you have never googled Pancreatic Cancer or never had a family member/friend with pancreatic cancer, maybe you just don't know how critical the situation is.  You hear the word cancer thrown around in almost everyday conversations anymore.  Some people think all  cancers are curable.  Some think that no cancer is curable and will constantly live their lives in fear of that thought.  I have heard hundreds of stories of breast cancer survivors.  Hundreds...  I challenge you to google pancreatic cancer survivors and see what you come up with.  Stats for living one year with this disease (directly from the American Cancer Society webpage)...

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for pancreatic cancer in the United States are for 2012:
  • About 43,920 people (22,090 men and 21,830 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • About 37,390 people (18,850 men and 18,540 women) will die of pancreatic cancer.

If I can do math correctly, that means that  85 freaking percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will be deceased in the FIRST YEAR.  

Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer in men and women, and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men and women.

FOURTH leading cause of cancer deaths in all cancers, but second to last in funding for research to fight the disease.  Something's not right there.  

The five year survival rate is a staggering 6%.  Only 6 out of 100 patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will be around to see the five year anniversary of their diagnosis.  Another heartbreaking statistic.

So when I got that text early this morning that a friend of mine's father had passed away in the wee hours of the morning, I was at first SHOCKED and scared.  I felt a lump in my throat and could not think of the right words to text back.  I opened up my phone to respond to the message, and all that would come out of my head and through the tips of my fingers was AAAAAAAAAAAH Damn :(  Nothing else came to mind.  Nothing I could say now would make things any better or rosier or happier for the families involved.  I know what they have been through, but there again I have NO idea.  They have experienced one part that I have not.  The end of life process.  That's why I firmly believe I have nothing to offer them in the ways of condolences except to be that listening ear when they are ready to talk.  This person is not a close best friend of mine.  We had been 'introduced' on facebook initially because both of our parents have been struck down with the same horrifying disease.  We messaged back and forth, would give updates when needed, and maybe just send a message or two each other's way saying we are thinking and praying for them.  Neither one of us ever knew who's parent would lose the battle first, but we both knew we were in the same fight.  Fighting to make our parents feel loved, feel healthy, feel normal, feel blessed.  I honestly thought that her father would most definitely outlive my mother.  Morbid you say, that I compare the two?  What would YOU do if you were put in my situation?  I know the end outcome.  I have no choice or no chance to change that outcome.  I watched her father get different treatment options, and with my mother, they basically shut her off of all treatments as they would dramatically decrease her quality of life.  A sacrifice we were not willing to make.  So with my friends father getting the treatments, I felt he was at an advantage, hence the reason for believing he would survive longer.  But obviously God has other plans for him.  Big plans.  And although I know nothing about him as a loving grandfather, father, and friend, I am willing to bet he left some pretty damn big shoes to fill.  So I go to bed tonight thinking of Kim, thinking of what she could possibly be feeling at this very moment.  What struggles she will have,  does she have relief knowing the disease no longer has control over her father?  Is she heartbroken to the point that she questions what the medical profession did or did not do?  I am sure those answers will come in time.  For her and for me.  Caregivers have a common bond that no other person can even imagine exists.  I will always be there for Kim...in spirit, soul, and heart.  Praying for peace for her and her family, hoping that they one day discover the reason why their father was stricken with cancer.  For now, my mother continues on with her  battle.  Right now she is winning.  <3  I am eternally grateful for every extra day I get to talk to her on the phone, visit, text, and hug.  Some people have that swept from them faster than they can blink.  I get that.....Praying <3  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thank Goodness for photos...

I have always had a vested interest in taking photos.  I can even remember back in high school longing to have one of the elite cameras that I could never afford.  Back then there were no cell phones that took pics of every single moment of every day.  Just film cameras.  Heck I didn't even go completely digital until around 2004.  Photos for me are one of THE most important ways to save the memories.  Aside from memory of the events, I can't think of any better way to reminisce about events than to sit down and flip through a photo album, or browse my many cd's full of photographs.  It's a true passion of mine to take photos, and one day 'when I grow up', I would love to become a professional photographer for the St. Louis Cardinals or the Iowa Hawkeyes.  I dream big...won't lie there.  But my dreams are for another blog post.  I am speaking of photos on this post because I received a picture message from my Mom's hubby, as I do almost every weekend.  He is constantly sending me photos of Mom doing her everyday tasks including taking care of her wacko puppy.  I love this part of my weekend.  Seeing the pic messages makes me smile, and helps to ease any concerns I may be having on that day.  Today was like any other weekend.  He had sent me one photo that immediately caught my attention, and for a good reason at first.  Here's the photo...it's relatively small in size, but speaks volumes to me...

I immediately grinned upon opening the picture message.  My Momma and her puppy sitting outside enjoying the splendid weather.  Just 'hanging out' and enjoying her day.  Then I looked a little closer at the photo.  My heart hurt a little.  Then a lot.  If you notice what I noticed, she is dropping weight like there's no tomorrow.  Her arms are soo small.  She looks soo frail.  Is this what everyone else sees too, and I have just been hiding  this truth from myself?  I know I have mentioned a couple times that I thought she seemed to be losing pounds, but this picture solidified what I did not really want to know or accept.  It's all part of the disease.  The nature of this nasty beast called pancreatic cancer.  I know this is what happens.  Doesn't mean I have to like it, but I need to face it and face it head on.  There is nothing I can do to control her weight or how thin she will ultimately get.  Acceptance of this fact is key for me.  I have real issues with seeing the strongest woman I have EVER met become so frail looking and thin.  It's something I need to immediately come to terms with.  I know that right now she is still that amazingly resilient woman that has taken pancreatic cancer head on and never tried to duck and dodge and hide.  She is still that woman that when I call her, even though she is having pain and miserable, will ask to make sure I had gone to the doctor for my leg and to make sure I am taking care of myself.  She is still my rock.  My world.  My go-to gal when I need advice.  She is still my shoulder to cry on, I am her shoulder to lean on.  I will listen to her rant and rave about how pissed off she is some days that she has been afflicted with this disease, and then the next day, turn around and fight off the pain and nausea like she has been doing it all her life.  Even though she is quickly losing weight, I need to remind myself that she is still STRONG.  No matter what the exterior says.  That's a daunting task for me.  I feel like I need to coddle her, protect her, love her, chastise her for what she is and is not eating.  I want to make sure she doesn't lose any more weight.  I know that's not my choice, nor is it an option.  So acceptance is key....thin or not, she is still as fiesty as ever.  She will always be my Mom.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Breakthrough Pain and Smart Phones...

That was our conversation for the evening between my Mom and I.  Oooh what a combo it is.  I honestly do love how we can switch gears so quickly and talk about the lighthearted life stuff, and then go on talking about her having to take another extra dose of pain medication because she is having the breakthrough pain. The medical definition of breakthrough pain is a pain that comes on suddenly for short periods of time that is not alleviated by the patient's normal pain management medicine.  It is common in cancer patients who often have a background level of pain controlled by medications, but whose pain periodically "breaks through" the medication.  Her breakthrough pain used to happen about once maybe every two weeks.  They then upped her normal daily dosage of medications.  But now the breakthrough pain is making its' presence known more frequently.  Maybe three to four times a week.  Sad.  Very heartbreaking and not so fun.  It used to be that when she first experienced this breakthrough pain, she sort of panicked.  Unsure of what it was, if it needed to be reported to Hospice, and what she should do.  Now she seems incredibly nonchalant in bringing it up in conversation.  It has become a part of the plan.  A part of her life.  A normal.  I think she is definitely coming to terms with what her body is trying to tell her.  Peace with what is happening, maybe?  Not quite sure if I can put my finger on it, but the worry and the panic and the heartache is not there anymore when breakthrough pain comes on.  She knows what to do, what meds to take to make it better, and exactly when to do it.  She has become a professional at this point of managing her own 'hell'.  I'm pretty certain I would never be able to go on like she is going on with life.  I don't think that I would want to end my own life, but I would not be able to do what she does and say what she says with the dignity and grace that she has.  That in itself has blessed me with a wish that I had made not too long ago.  I want my Mother to be able to handle this demon with grace and dignity.  She has achieved that.  Hands down.  I can't begin to fathom what is growing inside of her abdomen, as now she can feel the cancer tumors just by poking around at her stomach.  The cancer is doing one of two things, growing at an exponential rate, or she's just losing so much weight that the tumors are now easier to detect.  Either way....no good can come out of it.  Ugh...I have no words.  I want her to have her good days back.  I want desperately for her to go 10 days straight feeling grand and ready to take on the world.  Instead those good days are being plagued more frequently with pain.  Pain from the demon inside.  It's the nature of the beast.  We all know the cancer is growing.  It's a given fact.  Can't ignore it no matter how much you want to.  It's the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about, but by looking at her, the elephant is snorting and stomping and making it known that it's here to stay.

And all that time talking to her about the breakthrough pain, she stops the conversation and wants to know how my son is doing.  Making sure he recovered from his latest bout of illness.  Checking in to see how the kids are doing at school, what they are wearing for homecoming week, and coaxing me feverishly to go and see the doctor about my leg injury and offering to pay for it.  Talking about smart phones and how she will be getting a smart phone before anyone in my family.  I HAD TO give her a rash of crap about that one ;)  Told her I will send over Brayden and Averee so that they could teach her how to use it.  And in one swift second, she mentioned to me that she told her husband not to sign a two year contract with the cell company because she will not be around to see the term through.  Ouch.  That one stung.  I mean I am NOT stupid or naive or lame to the fact that she will one day indeed be defeated by the demon cancer.  I just would rather not hear it from her.  I hear defeat in the tone of her voice when she speaks of the future and what she will miss and what she won't forget.  It's a defeat and a sadness all rolled into one.  Her heart is hurting mostly because she will not see her grandkids graduate from high school, go to prom, or see them drive cars for the first time.  She will miss the opportunity to give them advice when the time comes that a boy or a girl will break their hearts.  There's so much that she will miss.  BUT there is so much we can give her right now to take with her before she leaves.  Love, support, hugs, giggles, memories, photos, visits, stories, compassion. Family.  That's all we really have to give her.  She knows this.  Family is forever no matter where you end up in life.

And so her week was not so stellar.  And my week and my month has not been so stellar.  We are looking forward to September 29th.  That will be a day that will remain in our hearts and our minds forever. I can't think of a better way to end a sh*tty month.  The renewing of the vows.  I will graciously take as many photos as I can to remember this day and to help her remember as well.  It will be amazing.  It will be sad.  It will be priceless.  It will be WORTH IT to cry every tear I will cry that day.  Worth.every.second.  Because we do not know how long God will let us be with her.  Mom does not know how long she will be with us. None of us know.  For now, living life and loving her.  That's all we can do.  Outstretching my hand and my unwaivering support each and every day.  For her.  For us.  God, I ask you to bless us with more time.  If you feel that Mom has done her duties here on earth, we will all try and understand.  But for now I am asking You for more time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's time for another memory maker...

...and I can NOT wait.  Tomorrow is the first junior high football game at home against Belle Plaine.  My son's in 8th grade this year and loving each and every second of football season.  He is a true athlete and plays the game with more passion than anyone I know.  Some days too much intensity, almost to a fault.  He loves the game.  And this first game of his last year of junior high will be incredibly special, but he has no idea why yet.  The reason for the game being soo important?  My mom is coming.  Yes, true.  I am picking her up after work, driving her to Marengo so that she may watch her only grandson kick some tail on the field.  I am not sure who is more excited for the game, my son or my Mom.  She is beyond happy to be able to go.  Was almost uncertain if she was going to be able to come.  She's incredibly tired, weak, some days wobbly, pain is coming on more and more, and she is thin.  So very very thin to me.  There are days where her eyes are shining with happy.  There are other days that her eyes are glassed over and you can tell it's not a stellar feeling.  But for now, we will relish in the fact that she still agreed to go.  And the best part is, it's all a surprise to Bdogg.  He has no clue that she's coming.  I am sure seeing her in the stands and having her give the largest smile possible and waving is going to stop him in his tracks.  Right where he's at.  I will have a 'ring side' seat for the event.  These are the kind of moments I live for.  Memories being made that are most certainly some of the last memories we will remember.  Seeing my Mom's eyes light up as my son runs to the sidelines after warm ups and spots her in the bleachers.  Can't wait.

As for her overall health, things were doing rather well lately.  The last two weeks have been pretty good for her.  The pain is starting to creep down from her middle back to her lower back, and the pain is more intense and is waking her up at night.  This crushes me to my soul.  No need for the pain.  I don't like it one bit and I will never understand the reason God chooses to do this to certain individuals.  It's painful enough to know before hand that in a short time span, she will be gone.  She ultimately will be another statistic to mark down, another story of someone losing their valiant battle to pancreatic cancer.  So yeah, the pain....NOT a big fan of it.  According to Hospice they do still have a bit of wiggle room with her pain meds, so they were once again upped.  For that I am happy.  As happy as I possibly can be.  Just want her to be at peace with her body and not have to fight to feel normal.  Is that so wrong?  I don't think it's too much to ask.  but there again that is EXACTLY why we have Hospice involved.  The girls have done such an amazing job keeping her pain under control, coming to the house at 10pm on a Friday night with their emergency pain medication back pack on hand if need be, and making sure to check up on me as well.  They do their best to make sure I am ok and on track and not burying myself under sorrow and worry.  I have a difficult time swallowing and accepting that attention.  Not used to people being worried about me and how I am handling day to day life in general.  Honestly, I don't know how we would do this journey without the love and compassion and caring of Hospice.  I swear those girls are blessed with a gift that I would never be able to handle.  Dealing with dying patients and their families...could.not.handle.  No way.  Never.  And for that reason alone I have the utmost respect.

So tomorrow the game, smiling, eating some concession stand popcorn, my girls arguing over who is going to sit next to Maga Moon.  The day will be perfect.  Can't wait <3

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Don't be scared of who you are....

Take the sparks from your heart
Let 'em burn like a star, in the sky
For everyone to see
Don't be scared of who you are
Let it out of the jar...

New song I found on youtube tonight.  I search youtube often, too often somedays.  Music inspires me.  Music moves me to tears and it makes my jaw drop open when I finally find the ONE song that I was looking for that says what I want to say, but can't.  Like tonight...this song...Couple More Sleeves by Andy Grammer.  WoW.  I read the lyrics twice and have already listened to the song like five times.  Love.  

So I am contemplating wearing MY heart on my sleeve.  Not for everyone to rip off of my arm, throw it on the ground and stomp on it as they are leaving me in their dust.  Not for someone to consistently use my heart to get what they want and what they need.  Not for any negative reasons whatsoever.  I want to wear my heart on my sleeve for two reasons...1.  I have never been an over emotionally affectionate person.  With my kids, that's a different story.  I could kiss and hug them all day long and show them just how much their momma really does love them, but I am quite confident my oldest would tire of the hugging and kissing immediately.  I want to be able to walk up to someone I have not seen in maybe a month or two, and just maybe give them a hug.  Say some overly kind words.  Make them feel better about themselves if they are stumbling through troubling times.  Help them up if they have fallen down or lay down with them if they are unable to get back up.  Being more sympathetic to the nature of other people's troubles and making a grand effort to leave my mark in the world and in the lives of the ones I love.  I want to be able to walk away from loved ones and know that there is NO doubt in their minds that I love them endlessly and would go to the ends of the earth for each and every one of them.  This is a goal that I CAN achieve, and I will

#2  Wearing my heart on my sleeve will teach me some good lessons in life.  You can only keep learning as you grow older.  Even if someone does happen to come by and stomp my heart into the ground, I will learn from it.  Taking away what kind of person I do NOT want to be, how I will never make someone feel, and how not to make friends.  Wearing my heart on my sleeve will allow me to lead a more passionate, meaningful life.  I plan on working on making people smile and feel loved.  I want my eyes to light up when they enter the room and I want them to NOTICE my eyes lighting up because they are in my presence.  Working on this whole 'wearing my heart on my sleeve' thing will take time.  It will require me to become a more open, forthcoming person.  If you know me, I am eager to keep my mouth closed during group conversations for fear of saying something stupid, or speaking the wrong opinions, or just staying mute because I am overly shy.  Work.in.progress.  I can do this.  I will do this.  It might take more time than I think I am willing to give, but I know I am worth it.  I know I can do this.  I know I have a lot to give, a lot to say, and a lot of people to love.  I will valiantly wear my heart on my sleeve when the time is right <3

This whole blog conversation stems from my firm belief in life that you should NEVER ever leave anything left unsaid.  If it's worth saying, well you better just go ahead and say it, because tomorrow is promised to NO ONE.  Ever.  End of story.  I will not live with regret for the things I should have or could have said.  They will be said with enthusiasm, concern, worry, fear, and with love.  Try it...Say what you need to say....ALWAYS.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dearly Beloved...

Update update update....it's been a few days and aside from one of those days, pretty uneventful.  I LIKE IT THAT WAY.  Just sayin ;)  Only one day was she sick and feeling any pain, and the rest of the days, I can hear her smiling through the phone during our conversations.  She is feeling good, soaking it in, living her life as only she knows how.  Smiling, loving, nurturing, scolding, and checking up on me.  That's what Mommy's do.  They make sure everyone else around them is doing what they should, feeling up to par, and worrying about them.  Because I will tell you right now, my last seven days have been less than fantastic.  I would lean more towards ugly, depressing, miserable.  Yeah.  Last Wednesday during our friendly weekly sand volleyball game, I dove for the ball, completely unaware that the 20 something male next to me was also diving for said ball.  Lets just say....he walked away, I did NOT.  Major injury to the leg, nothing broken, but oooooh soo sore and will be sore for some time to come.  Bruising is looking very colorful after 6 days.  Then move on to the weekend...I was sneak attacked by a head cold of mass proportions.  I could literally feel it coming on.  My eyeballs hurt, I sneezed, and 20 minutes later, my nose and head were soo congested.  Called it....yep, sick.  The head cold decided to move south and settle in my lungs.  Fun stuff.  (Not so much)  Work has been hard to stand all day.  Moving around has been difficult.  Hell, breathing has been difficult.  I want this week over and I want it over NOW.  But as I am snuggled into bed tonight writing this blog post, an a-ha moment has hit.  What could I possibly be soo miserable about?  In the grande scheme of things...nothing.  Not a thing.  A sniffle and a cough will go away.  A serious contusion will heal in time.  Reality check for me for sure.  Not that I wasn't already aware that what I was going through is NOT that big of a deal.  But it seems to all rain in on me at once.  Wasn't prepared.  ....sigh....  I do realize that I am blessed to really be healthy, happy (most days ;) and wise.  My next goal is to get my leg healed up enough for boot camp.  Can't wait.  But enough about me, what about that blog post title, eh???  Catch your attention?

My mother called me about a week ago and started a sentence by saying...."We have planned something and I sure hope that you can come."  I could hear the wheels in my head start to turn wondering what she had up her sleeve.  She informed me that she was feeling well enough that she wanted to renew her vows with her hubby.  Awwwww  (instant tears inserted here)  How sweet!  So there is a wedding to be planned and prepared for...and its in TWO WEEKS.  Their first vows were done through a lawyer with only myself and Brayden (my son) present for the ceremony.  This wedding will be a little different.  One thing will remain constant...my son will be there to hold his Maga's hand and walk her down the aisle and give her away to her husband.  When she asked me if Brayden would be available to do that, I swear to you here and now, my heart skipped a beat.  I know how very very important this is to her.  She could not deliver the question to me without bursting into tears.  Of course I followed along with her.  The last time he walked her 'down the aisle' per say, he was only two years old, wearing a long sleeve white shirt, jeans, and a cowboy hat of all things.  This time will be very different.  He is almost a man now.  He looks like a man now.  And I will willingly say that my mother has given him an abundance of tools to use to make sure he grows up to be a respectable, smart, and polite young man.  My mother worships my son and the ground that he walks on.  Even during the deepest parts of her cancer, she has sat through 100 degree weather to watch one of his baseball games.  She would part the seas for this kid.  This is incredibly important to her.  We will NOT let her down.  <3  I am eternally grateful that she is well enough to want to plan this event for her and her husband.  It's a blessing and I thank God each and every day for the gifts he keeps giving to her.  I cannot wait to give her a day she will never forget.  Granted I will be watching the entire ceremony through a camera lens, but what an amazing view it will be.

So the big question is....what do you buy someone fighting for their life each and every hour of each and every day as a gift for vow renewal??  I have not a clue and not a lot of money to spend.  Be creative and shoot me some ideas.  I will be giving her the gift of photographs which will be almost as important as the vow renewals themselves.  To me, that's not enough.  I need to give her more.  Not monetary, just more.  I know that she knows how much I look up to her, love her, cry endlessly for her, and pray for her daily.  I know that she knows I will be at her side within minutes if anything ever goes wrong.  I know she knows that I love her more than I could ever love anyone aside from my kids and Jason.  I want to give her the earth, moon, star, I want to give her everything.  The one thing I wish that I could give her, I cannot...a cure.  A cure for this disease.  I need to give her something that she will forever remember.  I will keep brainstorming and see if I can find that 'perfect fit' gift...

Monday, September 3, 2012

The 10 day Winning Streak has been broken...

That is the quote from my mom...she is baffled, confused, frustrated, exhausted, and just plain tired.  She had 10 magnificent days, 10 STRAIGHT DAYS without taking any anti nausea meds, without feeling like she was going to lose her lunch, only one day with any breakthrough pain, more energy to get her household chores done.  10 days.  That all changed last night.  Cancer reared its' ugly head again and put her back down for the count.  There's no other way to describe this....I HATE IT.  Won't beat around the bush here...just not a big fan of the ole ways and means of the cancer.  Nope.  And neither is she.  Bouts of vomiting, extreme fatigue, nausea, not being able to get out of bed at all until 2pm.  And a fever of 103.3 to top it all off.  The fever lasted all.day.long.  They got it to gradually come down, and by the time I got ready to leave her house around 5:30pm, it was 99.5.  Better...not perfect but better.  It was NOT a good day for my Momma.  Not one teeny bit.

So of course I went to visit and let her hubby go run some errands while I kept Mom company.  I asked her the 'elephant in the room' question.  "So, what do YOU think about all this?  What are YOUR feelings on what is happening?"  She looked at me through bloodshot, fatigued eyes and said, "You know, Michelle, I am not soo sure.  I am thinking this is going a lot faster than I thought it would.  I have no definite thoughts on when the end is.  Today I am scared.  Last night I was scared.  Today and last night was not fun.  I am soo tired."  .......ouch........  I sunk back in her recliner and soaked in every word she had to say, even if the sentences were interrupted by her uncontrollable yawning.  I heard every syllable she uttered.  I am scared as well.  We are both scared. On one hand I am incredibly grateful that we are able to have an open and honest conversation together about the 'elephant in the room', but on the other hand I am mad as HE%$  that I have to be having this conversation.  Hearing her on the phone the last ten days was soo positive.  Soo happy.  Today she was defeated again.  Not down and out forever, but beaten for the day.  Probably the next couple of days, too.  Always takes two to three days for her to fully recover from these ailments.  One day she will come to a point where she will not recover.  I am hoping this is not that time.

So to all that pray, please do so...pray for strength, and for healing, for her to know she is loved, and for peace.  Pray for dignity, confidence, painless days, and sleepy filled nights.  <3

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Probably shouldn't blog tonight...

but I can't help it.  My head is spinning with too much emotion right now NOT to blog.  Let's just start this post out by saying my Mom had a STELLAR week.  Hardly any pain, only had to take breakthrough meds one time :)  That should make me a very very happy daughter, eh?  Well it seems like that is not the case.  Don't get me wrong I am ESTATIC at the fact that they have upped her meds enough to control the pain better.  That in itself is amazing.  But if you know me, and I know some of you know me too well, I am a constant worrier when it comes to my Mom.  I fret and ponder and think about her every minute of every day, wondering when the next attack will be, or even if we will have any warning about the pending attack.  I obsess over her, almost to a fault.  I am sure in the back of her head, every time she hears the alert on her phone for a text message, she knows its me checking up on her, and she's thinking ...."I am just FINE Michelle".  When in reality she's not fine.  She will never be healthy.  She will never recover.  BUT she is doing pretty good right now, so here's the question....WHY AM I NOT HAPPY???  Any thoughts on this....please feel free to interject at any time and let me know what in the HELL I am doing wrong ?!?  Because, well, I don't know.

All of these feelings I have are soo foreign to me.  Soo strange, new, scary, and I don't like most of them.  Some days I am ok and I smile all day long thinking that the world is grande and the sky is blue and I am gonna make it through another day without completely losing it.  Then there are days like today.  They drag on and I can't stop obsessing about the future and what it will bring and when things will happen and how.  I say things I don't mean to the people that love me the most, and then take a step back and replay what just happened, and realize I am THE biggest ass ever.  Wow.....how do people even deal with me on a daily basis?  What is wrong with me?  How could I spew such venom and get soo much love in return?

I know why.....  My faith in my family and my friends is unwavering.  No matter how much I vent, or how shy I am around new people and clam up, my 'posse' gets me through.  They make me realize that I am loved and it is ok to break down here.  I hold my emotions in for soo long, and by the time I am ready to bust out at the seams, I lash out instead.  Uncontrollable diarrhea of the mouth.  But they still love me and hug me when I collapse into the 'ugly cry' and tell me the hardest part is yet to come.  Somedays I think I can't do it. I am soo tired....I cannot carry on, then I put on my big girl panties and realize this is NOT about me, and I won't make it about me (for more than a few minutes during that ugly cry where I desperately need hugged).  My Mom is the one suffering from terminal cancer, not me.  I will get her through this.  She will get me through this.  And in turn my friends and family will get me through one step at a time, one day at a time.  For that I am eternally grateful.  You all know who you are <3  My gratitute towards the ones that love me without judging me is not to be measured.  I could not say enough thank you's.  So for now, I will stomp on through another day and realize things will be ok in the end.  If they are not ok, it's not the end.....

Friday, August 24, 2012

No news is GOOD news....

So it's been a few days since my last post and I am over the moon excited to say that Mom has had at LEAST 5 consecutive good days.  God is GOOD....that is all.  Because at this stage in the game for her to have one good day, well that's pretty amazing, but FIVE?!?  In a row?  Well that calls for a celebration of sorts....a blog post ;)

So today we will breathe...a sigh of gratitude that she is getting relief from the pain.  She is smiling more.  Laughing even a little and having longer phone conversations with me.  Talking of the kiddies and their first week of school.  Of course all the while making sure that I know she loves me, too.    For a brief moment in time, it ALMOST felt normal.  Almost.  But still in the back of my mind I remember.  And the pain for me swells up like it always does.  That almost normal feeling that sneaks up on me pushes me to feel a bit guilty. I know for a moment I forget, but I know she can never forget.  She feels the cancer growing larger inside her and if that doesn't do the trick, the long row of bottles of medications sitting on the bathroom counter are a reminder as well.  But she trudges on and puts on a smile and makes me feel loved.  Makes sure the kids have what they need, and always trying to be upbeat.

When I hear a Thousand Years on the radio, or I watch it for the umteenth time on youtube, I reminisce.  I think back to better times.  My mom was a single mother most of my life.  She did it ALL on her own.  Working two different jobs to make ends meet, and making sure when I turned 16, I had a brand new car to drive.  She was my world...soo strong, soo independent, soo motherly.  Unfortunately things have changed drastically since then, but one thing remains constant.  She is STILL my mother and she STILL loves me.  Now its my turn to take the wheel and help her down the road she is headed to.  She instilled values in me that some days I surprise myself with how I react.  Really, she did an amazing job as a mother.  So when A Thousand Years plays and I hear "Time Stands Still...Beauty in all she is, I will be brave...I will not let anything take away what's standing in front of me.  Every breath, every hour has come to this...one step closer."  This song rips at my heart and swells tears in my eyes.  But there IS Beauty in all she is, and I am incredibly grateful to have her in my life and to call her my Momma <3

I have loved you for a thousand years....I will love you for a thousand more <3

Monday, August 20, 2012

I can't tell if it's killing me or making me stronger...

Never in my lifetime did I think that cancer would have such a profound effect on who I become.  But wow was I WRONG...way wrong.  I wouldn't obviously be writing this blog if it weren't for cancer.  I wouldn't be trying to make the most of every single visit and phone call, because honestly does YOUR face light up every time your phone rings and it's your mother?  Can she HEAR you smiling through the telephone when she tells you of her day that she just had that was pain free?  Do you tell your mom stories of the past while she is writing and moaning in pain from the cancer?  Do you keep on keeping on even though you would rather curl up in a culvert on a dead end dirt road and sleep it off for 48 hours?  If cancer has become a presence in your life, your answers might very well be exactly the same as mine.

Cancer honestly has molded me into a better human being.  I remember a short time ago (three years maybe) I was abrasive, difficult, stubborn, impatient, and sometimes VERY rude.  Short tempered, quick to snap, and most days unhappy with what life had to offer aside from my kids and my better half.  Not all the days were bad, but as I look back, I see soo much more that I could have been, SHOULD have been happier for.  Cancer made me a more patient, less abrasive, kinder, happier person.  Hard to fathom how a disease could do that to someone, but it has.  I am grateful for how cancer has changed me and how I now realize what a doof I was being prior to this.  I will NEVER go back to being that ungrateful person, ever again.  Thank you cancer....

Mom has had three consecutive GREAT days, little pain, no vomiting, and even Hospice told her today that she looked better than Friday....WHOOOOPPPPEEEEE!!  I love good days...no pain...and consecutive good days are even better.  She is sleeping a LOT more than she normally does and frequently naps during the day, but rest right now is what she has to do.  I am praying for a few more good days for her <3

Sunday, August 19, 2012

For 24 hours I forgot....

I let myself go and have fun this weekend.  I sat by a warm fire surrounded by two amazing women, partaking in wine drinking, some giggles, weird instagram photos, lots of laughs and a few tears, too.  Even before hanging with my girls, I was out and about wearing a smile at the football game watching my red head cheer. After that splendid Friday evening, I continued on living a carefree life with my better half while my Dad and wife soo graciously took my kids to the state fair and kept them overnight.  And for 24 full hours, I forgot the pain in my Mom's life.  I forgot about the cancer.  I forgot about the heartache.  I forgot about the worry.  It was awe inspiring.  It was glorious and I don't feel guilty.  If I would have tried escaping my reality for 24 hours just two months ago, I would NOT have been able to do it.  Is there an inner peace that is grabbing hold?  Not sure at this point WHAT it is.  I know it has something to do with strengthening my power of prayer and my relationship with God.  I don't have to go to church to do that.  I pray daily, sometimes more than twice daily, and I feel Him.  I know he is there.  He is NOT revealing the answers I want from him right now, but in exchange for the lack of answers, He gave me 24 hours to forget.  To love life, to enjoy moments with my better half and to let loose and relax.  I now realize how much of that is missing in my life.  I am only 38.  Some days I feel eons older.  It's not a good feeling.  It's not the physical labor that is taxing, it's the mental stress, and the anxiety attacks.  It can drag me down to lows I thought I would never come in conflict with.  So forgetting 'reality' for 24 hours was good.  Very good.  Outstanding.  I wish for a repeat of this weekend sometime SOON.  

Whilst I forgot that the reality of cancer sucks, Sunday snuck up on me and bit me in the aft end...hard.  Sundays are usually detrimental days for my mom when it comes to emotions.  We used to always spend Sundays as a family together.  It was her 'routine' day, getting her chores done, house cleaned, and ready to face another week.  Sundays are grim reminders for both of us.  She struggles weekly with Sundays.  Roller coaster emotions, worry, fear, and 'why me' are just a slice of what goes through her head.  I am sure she ponders those thoughts daily, but Sunday's seem worse.  I wish Sundays no longer existed for right here, in the now.  I would love to take her 'worry days' away.  I would love to hug the anxiety and the fear and the why me's away as well.  But alas I cannot.  What I can do is make sure that if I am not there in her presence, that I am texting and calling her all day long.  Checking in, loving her, letting her know that today is just another day to be at peace and to love life.  But it's hard.  I wish I could give her the chance to for 24 hours, JUST FORGET that she has cancer.  But how do you do that when the person you are trying to help them forget, is going to imminently die from this?  It is a looming question that I have yet to find the answer to.  

As I was blog surfing tonight, I found this...

Caregiving is hard work. Caregiving is pain. Caregiving is loving and giving and sharing. Caregiving is accepting and learning new things and going on, and on, and on. Caregiving is lots of questions and very few answers.

That last sentence is a bell ringer for me....lots of questions and very few answers.  Will go ahead and admit in the here and now that I am a bit of a control freak, and NOT having very many answers is something I will NEVER get used to.  e.v.e.r.  n.e.v.e.r. 

BUT I would not want any other person to help care for my mom.  I have no siblings, its just me and her hubby and we are doing the best we can to keep her safe, sound, happy, healthier, and loved.  Now if I could just help her "for 24 hours, forget....."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Took two days worth of courage...

...to write the blog entry.  Two days.  Yep.  Still don't know if I will get into words what I feel and what is happening, but by God I will TRY...because right now, that's all we can do.

"When the rain is blowing in your face, and the whole world is on your case, I could offer you a warm embrace....to make you feel my love. "

I feel like she's losing her battle to cancer.  I know that she's losing her battle to cancer.  And up until about two weeks ago, the road was just a bit rocky, a little bumpy here and there, but easy driving, per say.  We have now hit large, gaping potholes in the road.  Bricks being thrown, sharp turns we didn't even know were there.  This s.u.c.k.s.  Cancer sucks.  What cancer is putting my Mother through SUCKS.  No other word could take the place of sucks.

The pothole that she has been confronted with the last week is the nausea and vomiting again.  VERY painful, extremely exhausting, physically challenging, to say the least.  The nausea meds will work when she can get them to stay down, and when she is not apprehensive about drinking the water to swallow the actual pill.  She has the fast dissolving tablets as well, but the thought of putting ANYTHING in her mouth when she is feeling ill, well you know the feeling.  It's the furthest thing from your mind.  Add into the nausea and vomiting mix a fever of 102.7.  Yeah....that's a biggie.  This whole episode started around 3am and didn't end till around noon when she was finally able to get up out of bed for the hospice visit.  I ended up leaving work early to be there for this specific visit, and when I walked into my Mom's house, I almost dropped to my knees.  The pain and fear and loathing and disgust in her eyes was evident.  She was disgusted with the fact that she was in bed until noon.  She was fearful of what this whole episode means and when it will repeat itself (which it WILL).  Loathing the fact that cancer has picked her body to invade.  Pain from the violent shaking during her fever, and the constant pain in her back from the tumors.  I have NEVER seen her look this miserable.  And yet, I was greeted with a small smile and I hugged her.  I didn't want to let her go.  I kept hugging her frail shoulders and she cried tears of fear on my shoulder.  As much as she tried to assure me that I didn't need to leave work, I do believe that she was pleased that I was there for her.

The Hospice visit was very imformative for all of us, and of course, I am convinced that Essence of Life are really Angels in Disguise.  Honest and trusting, I love them dearly.  They bumped up (doubled) the pain meds and sent off some different prescriptions to combat the nausea better and get that under control.  The ONE thing my Mom hates is the vomiting.  It's soo incredibly painful for her and she is NOT a big fan.  We have got to find a way to control it to end that suffering.  Hospice is doing all they can for her.

Hospice also suggested maybe increasing her weekly visit to twice a week, but of course my stubborn Mother says no.  I swear she is more bull headed than me ;)

So my feelings and my emotions and my sanity has all been checked this week.  And it's only Tuesday.  I am figuring out more and more about myself every single day.  Figuring out my limits and my breaking points.  Monday's episode had me shaking uncontrollably, but still managing to finish out work for another two hours before leaving.  I don't know how much my emotions can tolerate, but so far, so good.  Not gonna lie....it's NOT easy, but we are coping.  Momma is my rock.  My heart.  My soul.  My Mom.

She is feeling a bit better today and didn't sleep the entire day away, but slept in quite late this morning.  Right now the bad days are outweighing the good, and she is bound and determined to turn that around.  Keep praying <3  I know I will continue the fight....

"I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue...I'd go crawling down the avenue...No there's nothing that I wouldn't do to make you feel my love <3 "

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Safe and Sound...

In my Mother's presence, still to this day at age 38,  I feel safe from the worlds' evil.  I feel protected and I feel protective at the same time.  She comforts me without even knowing she does.  I don't know how she does it, but she does.  And she does it w.e.l.l.  She is the ultimate Mom.  I can call her with ANY issues, big or small.  I know she will be listening intently upon what I have to say, and offer up her opinion if I want it.  I have never felt more safe than when she is in my corner.  Protecting me from outside influences, raising me as a single mother, guiding me during raising my children, and still to this day, while she is suffering, it's rarely about making HER feel safe.  She makes it about me.  About my kids.  About feeling safe and secure.  I can only hope to become more like her.  I strive to be like her.  I want to be able to make my children feel as safe as she makes me feel.  It's a natural gift that has been bestowed upon her and I am praying I receive that same gift.

Even during Kamy's birthday party this weekend, while she was having massive breakthrough pain, was wobbly, weak, and could barely keep her balance, she travelled to our home just to watch her grandkids smile when the bouncy house arrived.  We perched her a chair in the back door of the garage to keep her out of the sun, and she just grinned from ear to ear watching the kids.  My heart sank deeper that day as I watched her soak in the moment, and I realized, yes, we are making lasting memories.  But this will most likely be the last of Kamy's birthday's she sees.  I can't help but go back to that thinking.  Mentally preparing....for anything life brings us.  And we know pancreatic cancer will get her.  I go into Mommy mode and try to prepare.  Really, WHO am I kidding?  I am not prepared in the slightest.  It would be the biggest fu&*in lie if I were to tell you "I am ready."  But as I watched my Mother sit in the garage and have chats with the kids about school and birthdays and bouncy houses, my heart was brought back up from sinking low, and I remembered to savor the moment.  Right now is what counts.  Right here.  This very moment.  I am still a work in progress when it comes to living in the now, but I am continually trying to 'get it right.'

This weekend was not soo good for my Momma.  A couple of days of breakthrough pain, waking up in the middle of the night from pain, and just all around total exhaustion.  I can't believe that she is declining.  Maybe it's denial for me right now, but I am concentrating on believing that she is holding steady.  I know deep down it's a slow progression in decline.  It's easier to convince myself that I have less to worry about some days.  I have embedded a 'happy life' mantra into my head, so therein lies my ability to see the positive light.  Granted, if I were to sit down and write down the amount of breakthrough pain medication she has taken in the last five days combined with the added amount of hours she is sleeping in the day, I would have actual physical proof that there is a decline.  But that won't do me one bit of good.  I focus on her and the day and the moment and how she is doing.  Might not be everyone's approach to an ugly situation, but it's my way of dealing.  It's working for me right now.  So continue on....

And a much more grim note, the tumors that she was able to feel in her abdomen three weeks ago have more than tripled in size.  That is my best guess estimate.  No doctor visits have been made, nor will there ever probably be another doctor visit, so this is my doctor estimate.  Three weeks prior, the tumors were just on one side of her abdomen, and now they are felt 3/4 of the way across her abdomen.  Not a good sign.  Positive thing about this is that the tumors for the moment are not causing her pain in front, just the lymph nodes behind her aorta and her pancreas are causing the back pain.  I have to be honest and I have to keep on....for her.  I love her to the Moon and back.  She is my sparkly star that I wish on each and every evening.  My reason for being a better 'me' and for giving that extra effort to make her smile.

I would love to have her be able to go to the hospital and have her tumors removed, but God has different plans.  We will go with that plan, like it or not.  I have yet to know the reason for why God has chosen her to be afflicted with this disease.  Everything happens for a reason, right?  I sure as he&* don't know what that reason is yet.  What I am sure of is when I know, I will KNOW.....waiting.....to know why.

Please God, keep her safe and sound from pain and suffering.  Let her be happy and be surrounded by love and joy and peace and dignity <3