Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 6th

It's time for a non-Mom blog post.  Honestly, I'm at a point now where I don't know that I can even describe how I'm feeling.  Each day, each second is different, and I'm just getting through it.  But there are good days.  There are days like yesterday.

Yesterday, Cody turned 8 years old.  Cody-bug- my sweet, wonderful, Doodlebug.  We've always made a big deal out of Cody's birthday.  Usually we'll take him for a hike or to some fun spot.  Two years ago we held and ice cream party at the kennel.  Last year, we took 6 week old Anna out with Cody and Lollie for two long hikes and then we all had burgers and ice cream for dinner (yes, Cody and Lollie did too).   This year, we planned on going for a short evening hike, but I'll be honest.  We just couldn't.  There was so much to do at the house, and we were so far behind.  Plus, hiking with 4 dogs is much harder than hiking with two.  Instead, I picked Anna up from daycare (later than I would have liked), went to the grocery store, came home and made dinner, and then put Anna to bed.  After that, Hans and I went back to working on our projects.

Still, though, we couldn't let the day pass without doing something special.  So, we made all the dogs dinner.  The dogs, who normally only eat kibble, were fed lemon-pepper chicken with mixed veggies.  Then we made them red velvet pupcakes with yogurt icing for dessert.  Their reactions were hilarious.  Cody and Lollie, who have always been spoiled rotten, were thrilled.  Kyla and Alex, however, who were used to Mom spoiling them but who see me as the stricter parent, gave me this look as if to say, "Ha!  Like we'd fall for that."  Kyla just kept sniffing her chicken and looking at me and Hans, while Alex kept giving his chicken tentative licks to see if we'd respond.  Once we praised them for starting to eat, Alex went hog-wild.  "Woo hoo!  Chicken!!"  Poor Kyla, though, had the hardest time figuring it out.  She did eventually eat well once Cody tried to steal her food, but she really wasn't certain about it. 

When it came to dessert, the results were even better.  Cody just scarfed his down in two bites.  Lollie ran with her pupcake into the living room where she proceeded to inhale it.  Kyla also ran with hers into the living room, but she then dropped her pupcake and just licked the icing off the floor.  Poor Alex kind of struggled with his since he's so much smaller.  He ran with his into Mom's old room and simultaneously worked on breaking it apart while also trying to keep any other dog from stealing it.  It was quite amusing.

All in all, it ended up being a good day.  I'm pretty sure Cody enjoyed his day, and I know I loved making all the dogs so happy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Rollercoaster

Eventually my posts won't be about Mom or the aftermath, but this isn't that post.

Life has been a roller coaster of emotions since last Saturday.  Some days are great, but others leave me utterly drained.

When Mom first passed, the very first thing I felt was relief.  This nightmare we'd been in for the past few months was finally over.  I know this is a perfectly normal response when someone has been ill for a long time, but that was immediately accompanied by guilt.  How could I possibly be relieved?

Then the guilt became worse.  It wasn't just about the past few months, but rather about the past year.  I keep getting comments on what a good daughter I was for taking care of her, but nobody else was here for all the little moments.  Nobody else saw the fights and disagreements we had.  Nobody else saw how beat down and run down we both were.  Nobody else realized that there were times I purposely wouldn't go home simply because I wanted to be alone and couldn't be with Mom around.  Nobody else saw how I would sit in my car for 20 minutes with Anna asleep in the back just so I could have a little peace and quiet.  When Mom's scans came back so good last October, we all thought the worst was behind us.  We started taking each other for granted.  And then, when her cancer returned things happened so fast we didn't have time to think.  I feel guilty for not giving her more...more time, more laughter...just more.  And yet, I honestly don't know that I had any more to give.  I certainly wanted to sit down and simply watch a movie with her, but there never seemed to be a good time, and if there was, I just wanted to sleep.

I remember one time this past winter, I met Mom at Barnes & Noble for lunch.  We'd had a very tense morning together, but lunch was easy and light-hearted.  I actually told Mom, "You know, I think I like you better when we're not living with each other."  Luckily, she knew exactly what I meant.  We were just stepping on each others' toes so much.  And we both tried.  Mom tried to change little things about her...she watched less TV, she gave me and Hans as much alone time as possible.  I tried to be more patient, more understanding.  I tried to invite her out to join us more, because I knew how much she loved seeing us and Anna, and I loved watching the two of them interact.  But somehow, it was never enough.  So now, I'm coping with this thought of, "Why couldn't it have been better?"  Mentally I know that what we went through was fairly normal, but in my heart I wish I could have all of those moments back so I could tell her I love her.  When she was irrational due to pain or medication, I wish I could say, "You're crazy right now, but I love you." When she was asking me 300 questions about my day, when I just wanted to be left alone, I wish I could say, "Thanks for taking interest. I love you."  I miss my mom like crazy, and I wish I could have those moments back.

And then the roller coaster goes up. 

I cannot even begin to tell you how much lighter I feel now.  Death has a way of permeating every aspect of your life.  It lingers in your house and your heart.  It weighs you down.  It makes you feel as if simply being alive is too much work.  The past few months have just been so exhausting.  Heck, there were many times I was even too tired to cry.  Everyone in the house has suffered.  The lasts few weeks, I could barely even play with Anna because I was just too tired.  This past week, though, Hans and I have been clearing out.  We're redoing Mom's old room, we're clearing out her stuff and a lot of stuff we don't need any more, and all of that is just making life easier each day.  I've even noticed physical changes.  I'm not as hungry, I'm craving better foods, my runs are faster and easier, and I'm sleeping better.  I'm also reaching out to friends more and enjoying them more.  I can live life more in the moment, as my mind isn't being called back to what I need to take care of at home.  That is a blessing.

That doesn't mean things are easy by any means.  Last week, while clearing things out, I came across Mom's last tax return and started to bawl like a small child.  She was an accountant, so it makes sense, but I can't help but laugh because I think she'd be terribly upset to know that taxes are what made me cry over her.  I spent most of last Saturday packing up the last of her things, and I couldn't believe how exhausted I was after just 2 hours.  She didn't have a lot, but each thing meant something to her, and the whole process was just utterly draining.  After a few hours, I told Hans I needed a break, and we went to the Children's Museum for some time with Anna.  That was enough to get me moving again.

Oh, and then there's the planning of Mom's memorial.  Woo boy that's hard!  I mean, Mom and I had discussed our wishes years ago, so the logistics are easy, but choosing readings and whatnot is so emotionally tiring.  Plus, I have this fear that no one will show up.  I know this isn't true, because I know at least 3 people who are coming from out of state,  but what if they're the only 3?  Mom had so many friends spread so far and wide.  How can I know who will show up?

Anyway, just know that I'm getting through this.  Each day is different, with some being easier than others, but each day is also manageable.  I can manage, and I will get through this.  This roller coaster will end, and I will get off this ride and think, "What an experience."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It Is Over.

Mom passed away today.

I don't even know what to say.  I feel such a mixture of emotions.  There is the obvious one: grief.  God, I am going to miss my mom. Part of me wants to wail like I did as a little girl, "I want my MOMMY!"  And then there's relief.  Relief that the worst is over.  Relief that Mom is no longer in pain.  Relief that our family can now start to move forward.

There are a couple of things, a few miracles, that I would like to share.

First I am amazed at the love my mother felt for me.  Our relationship had suffered a lot in the past few months.  We had struggled living together, and there were many issues past and present that we were having a hard time getting through.  Still, she always loved me.  The last thing she said to me was, "I love you."  When she couldn't open her eyes anymore she still murmured, "I love you."  When she couldn't speak anymore, she still murmured.  When she couldn't murmur anymore, she still grunted.  And when she couldn't get any sound out anymore, when she couldn't move anymore, she would still change her breathing whenever I said, "I love you."  This only happened with me.  I really expected some reaction to Anna, but no.  I know she loved Anna, but it's amazing the love she felt for me.  I guess I shouldn't feel surprised, but I am amazed.

Second, I am amazed at the simple miracle of life and death.  I don't often talk about spiritual things on this blog, because my relationship with God is very personal to me, but this is such a wonder.  The last time Mom was really my mom was Tuesday morning.  Since then she's slowly deteriorated until there was little left.  This morning I thought there was nothing left of her.  My thought was that there was just a shell.  She was still breathing, but I couldn't really discern Mom.  And yet, when I walked in her room this afternoon, I could tell the difference immediately.  I knew that the life that had been in her was truly gone.  While before she was merely sleeping, this afternoon was completely different.  She was really gone.  You could feel it in the air.  To me, this is nothing short of miraculous.  I feel like that feeling alone is definitive proof that there is more to us than just skin and bones.  That's proof enough that there is God and life after death.  How amazing is that?

For all those wondering, we will wait a little while for a memorial service.  Mom had many friends far and wide, and we want to allow everyone a chance to travel.  Things will be simple and all things will have Mom in mind.  I'm lucky that she and I had discussed wishes at length long ago.  Otherwise, thank you to everyone.  Thank you to all those who sent well wishes or meals or who offered to help.  Thank you to all those who prayed for her.  Thank you to all who simply thought of us from time to time.  We love you all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Can I Say?

What can I say except that Mom continues to decline.  Each day she reaches a point where I don't think she can possibly get any worse, and yet each day she does.  I'll be honest.  We're nearing the end.

Mom has completely stopped eating and she rarely will accept water.  As of Sunday she refuses to open her eyes on most occasions.  If you ask her a question, she will respond, but I'm not always certain she knows what she's answering.  Comprehension isn't 100%.  She says she's not in any pain, but any sort of movement has her crying, "No, no no."

At some point over the weekend, I started to cope a little better.  I started to come out of the depression phase of things and started to focus more on the 'what needs to be done' side of things.  I was able to talk about it without breaking down or even becoming weepy.  And then last night, just as I was about to head up to bed, I lost it.  I had one thought: I'm going to be motherless.  I ended up spending 45 minutes ugly-crying on the couch with Hans bringing me tissues and just holding me.  And of course, today I'm back to weepy

I cancelled her doctor appointment for today as I'm unable to transport her, and there's not much point in it.  That said, palliative care is sending out a nurse practitioner to meet with me and seriously talk about hospice.

I feel bad for all the people who have asked to visit Mom.  At this point, I'm allowing a few select people in if I'm with them.  Otherwise, please stay away.  She won't realize you're there anyway, and having so many people around is just overwhelming.

Yesterday, I sat with Mom for a while.  I sang songs to her.  I sang the most soothing things I could think of...lullabies.  I had Anna with me, and I snuggled / nursed Anna and sang lullabies to both my child and my mom.  God, that sounds even more depressing when I write about it!  Anna has been a trooper.  She's normally good for a 30 minute visit or so, but I can tell it takes its toll on her.  After each visit, as I take her from her stroller to put her in the car seat, she reaches up and gives me the most wonderful hug.  Maybe she's just tired, maybe she's just grateful to be out of her stroller, but I truly believe that she's hugging me because she's upset to see her grandmama so ill and her mommy so upset.  Most visits now are when Hans can be home to watch Anna.

At this point, I'm just making sure Mom knows how much we love her.  I tell her I will always love her.  I tell her that Anna and I are OK, and we'll be OK.  Yesterday, I thanked her for teaching me how to be such an amazing mom.

And now I wait.  I hold my breath every time a nurse calls.  I get angry when they call me with trivial news.  "Mrs. P, I just wanted to let you know your mom hasn't been eating."  Do they not see me there every single day?  Do they think I don't already know that?  One of these days I'll receive a final phone call from them, and I won't have to hold my breath anymore.  Why must they call over such simple matters?

I know I'm rambling.  It's just how my thoughts are working right now.  Keep us in your thoughts.  Thank you for all the love and support so many people have shown.  If you see me, and I'm smiling, be happy for me.  If you see me and I'm crying, I'm sorry.  Don't run away.  It will pass and I'll smile again soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We're Not Doing So Well

First of all, let me apologize to all you wonderful people who have been calling and sending messages.  I'm sorry I have not answered or responded.  It's just to hard to tell each person individually what's going on.  This is my best place for updates.  Know, though, that all those calls and messages are noted and appreciated.

Second, let me apologize for all the depressing posts.  The reality is that I just haven't been able to muster the time or the energy to post everything.  Certain things have been good, great even.  Hans' family came for a visit, Anna had her 1st birthday, and Hans' old roommate and dear friend came to visit.  Things with Mom, however, tend to overshadow everything.  It's all-encompassing and if I'm going to write a blog post at this point, it's most likely going to be about her.

Now, on to point of this post.

Mom isn't doing well.  She has continued to decline over the past week.  She's not eating and she's dropping weight.  Her last weigh in was 128 at the previous doctor appointment (down 14 pounds since her scans).  Now she's too weak to stand on her own, so weighing her is difficult.  She's on a good deal of morphine and often isn't 100% aware of her surroundings.  On Monday, though, we got the worst news of all.

Mom was supposed to start chemo on Monday, but the doctor told us they couldn't do it.  She's too weak.  Chemo would cause more harm than good.  So, at this point, unless there's some miracle, we're really just wondering about time.  We're trying our best to manage the pain and yesterday we gave her IV fluids to see if that would help anything (it didn't).  Mom doesn't really understand.  The doctors tried to bring up Hospice to her yesterday, but she just said she was too tired and didn't want to talk (we'll try again next week).  She told me she was happy that the doctors thought she was doing so well.

How am I doing?  Well, frankly I'm an emotional mess.  When I posted my last post, I got a lot of responses as to how I can get more support, and I feel I need to explain a few things.  First, the closest family Mom has is her half-sister in Arizona.  She's always had a lot of friends, but never a bosom-buddy, so that's out too.  As for the kennel, I'm making changes to make it easier for me and the rest of the staff, and in the mean time I have some really great employees.  Still, though, I miss being there.  When it comes to Anna, she's in part time daycare.  We've talked about moving her to full time, and we have a lot of family encouraging us to do so.  Keeping her home with me a little, though, while sometimes harder, also forces me to take a moment and enjoy life.  I love being with her.  My only regret is that I don't always have the energy to do the things I want to do with her.  But I do try to interact and let her know that I'm always here for her and she comes above anyone else's needs.

So, the emotional mess part?  Yeah, there's a lot factoring in to that.  Hormones and sleep deprivation are two factors (yay baby!).  Of course it's hard watching Mom go through all this too.  And then there's the guilt factor.  I often find myself just wishing it to be done.  A month ago I was praying that she would get better faster.  Now I just want her out of pain, however that may happen.  It's kind of hard to admit that, but I know she's miserable, and it's certainly no walk in the park for anyone else. 

In addition, I was surprised when I realized the other day just how lonely I've been the past year.  Hans is wonderful, and he's always there to support me, but he spends his days at work and often times we're both busy at the kennel in the evening.  He also isn't going through the same things I am. He isn't the sole care taker of his mom and she isn't gravely ill.  He isn't the head decision maker at the kennel (although he is a very important adviser and he often does make decisions).  He doesn't hear all the complaints unless they've been filtered through me.  It's very isolating.  When it comes to friends, my new mom friends aren't dealing with the same trials, and let's be honest.  Even if they were, I don't think I'd see it that way.  My childless friends, well, they don't quite understand some of the difficulties in parenthood or the fact that I actually enjoy spending time with my child.  No, I don't want to hire a sitter and go to a party or a club or out for drinks.  Those never really were fun things for me anyway, and now I'd much rather spend it with Anna.

I came to this realization while Hans' old roommate was here.  I've known him for all of 2 days less than I've known Hans (12 years), and  many college days (and nights) were spent with Hans, my old roommate, and his old roommate.  There's a bond there.  I found I felt comfortable talking with him the same way I do with Hans- free of judgement and open to almost any topic- and he was a HUGE help when it came to running quick errands or visiting Mom.  He was a second set of hands for Anna.  (Quick note just in case some of you have bad thoughts: Hans has NOTHING to worry about).  I just came to the stark realization that I really miss having that trusted confidant who's not my husband.  I miss just being able to kick back and remove myself from life a bit.  So, now I'm working on fostering friendships and relationships.  I have plenty of friends, but too often I ignore those friends to focus on other things (kennel, Mom, baby, etc).  So, while I don't always want to go to a party, I will hire a sitter because my friend wants me there.  And while I sometimes just want to stay home and hibernate, it may be better to call a friend for a brief outing.  And then, when I just can't do it anymore on my own I know I'll have friends nearby to call on.  And for the dear, dear friends I do have, whether you're near or far, know how much I appreciate you.  Even though I'm not great at calling or hanging out, your friendship is precious to me.  And someday, when you're in need, I hope you feel comfortable calling on me, and I hope I can take a moment to focus on you the way you have on me.

Alright folks, that's all I have today.  I have a tired baby who wants to nap, and I'm going to take that opportunity to get a little more rest as well!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mom Update

In short, things have not been going well.  After my last post, Mom had a fall.  I'm not entirely clear what happened, but she'd had a long, exhausting day, and I think she just lost her balance.  The fall combined with the long days left her in A LOT of pain.  She didn't want to do therapy, and the pain often left her befuddled and confused.  There has been more than one time where I've left her in tears simply because it's been difficult to watch her decline.

To put it simply, THIS SUCKS.

The worst part is that I have no idea what to expect.  Will she start to get better, or will she only continue to decline?  This morning she was actually doing a little better, but I can't tell if that's more of a permanent thing or just a brief window of clarity.  Also, how long will everything take? Chemo starts on Monday.  Will she improve like she did last year, or will she merely be additionally weakened from chemo?  I don't know if I should even get my hopes raised.  I'm trying not to, but hope seems to be the only thing I have.

In addition to all that, I'm trying to figure out her financial situation and make sure she has decent care no matter what.  Can I just put out there that long term care insurance would be really helpful right about now?

Yeah, it's been hard.  I could probably handle things if all I had to worry about was Mom, but then I also have Anna and the business.  Thank God things are running fairly smoothly with them!  My point is that I have these terrible emotional tugs.  Anna celebrated her 1st birthday.  YAY!  Mom wasn't feeling well enough to go.  Not yay.  We took the party to Mom and she actually ate quite a bit.  YAY!  Yesterday Mom didn't want to even look at food.  Not yay.  Anna has been really loveable and giving lots of hugs.  YAY!  Taking Anna to even visit Mom is difficult, because Anna wants to crawl, and there's no place for me to set her down.  Not yay.

So, it hasn't been easy.  We're getting through, but it hasn't been easy.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mom Update: A Week Later

This is a pretty simple update, but I wanted to keep people in the loop.

Mom is currently in a nursing facility for rehab.  The nearly week-long stay in the hospital along with having a drain put in left her week and fairly immobile.  She tired quickly and her legs lost a lot of strength.  That combined with the amount of pain she was in made me realize that I just couldn't take care of her directly from the hospital. 

The good news is that rehab has been going VERY well.  I no longer worry if she just has to use the bathroom, and I've noticed a HUGE improvement in her walking.  She's getting occupational therapy, speech therapy (for memory), and physical therapy every day.  It's leaving her completely wiped, but it's good.

The other good news is that after the original draining and the one after it, they haven't gotten much fluid out.  The slower the fluid reproduces the better, so that's all great.

Mom and I are now having some harder discussions.  They're hard for two reasons: 1) They're kind of complicated and in-depth, and Mom's exhausted. 2) The subject matter.  We're talking about things like long-term care as we progress forward.  What do we do if she gets better?  What do we do if she gets worse?  And then we're talking about things in case she doesn't get better.  What happens with her dogs? (I'll keep them, of course.)  What paperwork is there to be done?

At this point, I'm just looking at the positive side of things.  It's all very hard.  Mom will be home soon, and I'm excited to have her back, but I'm also terrified.  It's hard living with my Mom, and this past year certainly hasn't been easy.  I want her to know I love her and care for her, but I'm also worried about my family and my sanity.  So, I have to stay positive.  Here's to staying sane!