Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mom Update

There are probably about 10,000 things I'd love to chat about right now, but the thing that's at the forefront of my mind is Mom.  So, it's time for a Mom Update.

Mom started chemo about a week and a half ago.  She had a port implanted on Tuesday the 12th.   She was really having an off week due to pain meds and pain in general, so she was a little confused when they did the procedure.  Then, the next day she started chemo, so that was kind of a miserable week.  She hurt, she felt sick, she was still healing from the port.  She kept telling us something was wrong with the port, it shouldn't feel that bad, and we had to try to explain to her that the pain was most likely because of chemo and her healing body.

To her credit, she tried to eat a little, but she was hard pressed to find something that wouldn't make her sick.  She could sometimes handle a little watermelon or a bit of soup, but nothing much, and she was weak because of it.  Hans and I kept trying to find things that might sound appetizing to her, but there wasn't much.  I think one day all she had were two lime popsicles. 

Then, at some point last week, there was a shift.  The pain started to subside, she was taking fewer pain pills, and her appetite started to return.  On the way to the doctor's office last Wednesday, she asked if we could stop at Starbuck's for a smoothie.  She downed it in about 2 seconds, and as we returned home she asked for another.  Yesterday she had two smoothies and a bowl of orzo soup with garlic bread.  Today, she didn't even wait or ask for me to make her something.  I came downstairs and she'd put some stuffed spaghetti squash in the oven.  And that was after having a pancake and some fruit!

So, needless to say, things are going much better this week.  She's still in a significant amount of pain, and she's still on meds, but something seems to have shifted.  I'm thrilled she's eating, and I love that she's up and about again.  It makes life a little easier.  Well, in reality, I actually have to tell myself not to worry too much about her, because I'm constantly worried she's doing something she shouldn't.  Let's just say I'm learning to pick my battles.

So, all in all, it's been a good week.  The meals that friends and family have prepared have been a God-send, and Mom really seems to be enjoying them.  I know I'm going to have to start making more meals, and I'm terrified, but at least I know of a few things she might like!  Here's to good weeks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cloth Diapering

Before Anna was born, Hans and I made the decision to try cloth diapering.  We said we'd do disposables when she was first born and switch to cloth once she'd grown a bit.  By the time she was large enough to start cloth, though, I was feeling two things.  The first was guilt for how many disposables were ending up in our trash each day.  The second was complete and utter fear for the extra work cloth would mean.  In the end, though, the guilt won out and Hans and I started the cloth diapering routine.

We stuck to it for about a day and a half and then we found out about Mom.  While she was in the hospital I just couldn't fathom the added pressure of figuring out cloth diapering, so we quickly switched back to disposables, but as we started to get into a routine with Mom I started to feel guilty about using disposable again.  So, it was time to go back to cloth.  In an effort to talk about something other than Mom, I figured I'd share with y'all my experience so far.

First off, it's super simple.  Yes, it requires us to do a little more laundry, but we don't really worry about folding anything.  Once they're done washing and drying, we just throw them in a drawer.  The only other problematic thing is that poopy diapers have to be rinsed off before washing, and this can cause issues if we encounter a poopy diaper while in public.  At home we have a diaper sprayer, so that makes it easy, and in public I'll either wrap up the diaper until I can rinse it at home, or I'll rinse it out in a toilet somewhere.  It's no big deal.

I've heard some people complain that cloth diapers leak a lot more than disposables.  I think this really depends on the diaper.  My one recommendation: double gussets.  We've used three different brands and two types of cloth diapers.  Only one of them has been fairly reliable about not leaking, and it has double gussets.  Part of that is because Anna has skinny, little legs.  The other side of that is you do have to make sure you're using the diaper 100% correctly.  Whenever I put it on Anna, I have to double check that everything is covered.  This takes about an extra 5 seconds, so no big deal.

It is easy to get lost in the different types of cloth.  There are flats, pockets, prefolds, all in ones, and all in twos.  Then there's hemp, cotton, microfiber, bamboo, wool.  Further still, there are Best Bottoms, Grovia, Bum Genius, Lil' Helpers, and many more.  Choosing what's best for you can be difficult.  I actually went to a two hour class offered by a local shop to learn more about them.  Best. Decision. Ever!  I still don't know much about the different fabrics, but I know what I like to use the best.  I love Best Bottoms, All in Twos.  They're double gusseted and easy to transport when I'm out and about.  Plus the inserts are interchangeable with Lil' Helpers, so I have a few more options. 

Yes, it's true.  Cloth diapers seem more expensive at first.  One could easily spend $500 on a full set of cloth diapers, and that's way more than a $20 box of disposables.  But, look at it this way.  That box of disposables may last you 2-3 weeks (if you're lucky).  Those $500 cloths will last you until your child is potty trained.  And yes, you will spend a little more on water, but it's minimal.  Most people say it's about as much as having an extra person showering in your house each day.  So, not too bad!  I'd say the trade off is worth it.

OK, I know some of this info may be over some of your heads.  If you haven't looked into cloth diapering, it can all seem a bit overwhelming.  I promise to some day do a post explaining everything I've learned (although I'm still learning).  Just know, though, it's really not that hard.  I mean, if I can do it, anyone can!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An Update

First, an update on me.

I'm exhausted.  This has been a crazy week of running errands, packing, and caring for Mom and Anna.  I am also, however, completely and totally amazed at how wonderful people can be.

Last Friday, I put out a little plea.  It wasn't anything huge for me, and I really didn't expect to get much feedback.  The idea was that, if people wanted to help, I'd tell them how they could help the most.  The response was amazing, and I felt so loved.  To each of you who responded, THANK YOU!  Even if I don't end up accepting your offer, the simple fact that you reached out to me was a huge help.  Knowing that I'm not in this alone is a huge help.  Tonight, a classmate I haven't really seen in 10 years brought dinner for me and my family.  She made sure that it met dietary restrictions, and tried to make it something that would be easy on the stomach while going through chemo.  It was so wonderful, I just wanted to cry.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Mom has good days and she has bad days.  The only thing we can really do at this point is take it one day at a time.  This was not a great day.  She was in a lot of pain.  Monday was a great day.  Maybe tomorrow will be a good day again.

She had a port implanted yesterday, and she started chemo today.  This means that, more often than not, she's just exhausted.  We're really hoping that the chemo will take effect, and, even with chemo symptoms, Mom might experience some relief from some of her ailments.


Anna is my little ball of sunshine.  She's my source of joy in a sad time.  She's coming along nicely too.  This week, at least, she seems to be in a fairly good mood.  She's sleeping well and eating well, and growing well.  The only thing I've really noticed is that, come evening, she's tired and cranky and ready for bed.  That's OK, though, because I feel the same way.

Anna loves bath time best of all.  She kicks and smiles, and the other night she laughed for the first time.  She's enjoying more and longer awake times, and she loves being able to look around and see as much as possible.  She makes me laugh, and that's quite a good thing.

The dogs

Mom's dogs, Kyla and Alex, are adjusting to their new life quite well.  They're getting used to not chasing the cats (that's a hard one for them), and they're being quite sweet.  Cody and Lollie (my sweet, sweet kids) are being extra snuggly and loveable.  Whether that's because they know I'm stressed and need the love, or because they're jealous, or because they're stressed and need some love, I'm not sure.  Whatever the reason, I'm loving their attention.  I feel bad, because I feel like they're often the ones who end up neglected, but those snuggles each night and morning are just perfect.

Hans is so supportive.  I know he's tired and frustrated.  I know he wishes we didn't have to worry about all this.  Through all of this, though, he's right on board.  He's been helping me cook and clean and transport dogs to the kennel.  He'll wake up early with me when there's an early-morning doctor's appointment, and he's always happy to take Anna when I just need a break (even if she's screaming).  He's just perfect.

Actually, just so you don't get too jealous of my awesome husband, I have to share this story:  This morning, he was helping me get out the door so Mom could get to chemo.  He poured me a smoothie and sent me on my way.  When I got home 8.5 hours later I noticed one thing.  He'd left the door to the fridge wide open.  Irritated does not even begin go describe my anger.  I had to throw out so much food!  Oh well!  I guess I can forgive him.

So, we're all doing OK, but we're also all preparing for what's to come.  Wish us luck.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back To The E.R.

Well, surprise.  We're back in the E.R.

When Mom first came back home, she was doing amazingly well.  She had been discharged early, because she seemed so strong.  As the days past, she continued to do well.  Apart from a medication issue with Percoset (she reacts oddly to it), she seemed OK.  On a scale of 1-10, her pain was holding at about 2-4 (normal for post-surgery), she was cheerful, and while there were a few little kinks and hiccups, everything was fine.  If she had a bad day, that could generally be attributed to something (a long day the day before, hard PT, etc).  That was different today.

Yesteray, she seemed to be in a bit of pain, but Wednesday was a big day, so I didn't think much of it.  Today, though, was different.  Today, she was claiming to be at a level 8-10 on the pain scale.  In addition, she was disoriented, had trouble remembering recent things, couldn't repeat simple things back to me, and was a bit combative when I tried to get her out of bed.  When here physical therapist arrived, I asked her to evaluate and give me an opinion, and she said we should head to the E.R., so here we are.

It's been 5.5 hours, and I'm exhausted, but we finally have a few answers.  I was worrying about a whole slew of things: more tumors, brain metastases, stroke (although not all the symptoms for that one added up).  Here's the result:

-The back and spine look good.
-Not much has changed from an oncology standpoint.
-The biggest change is a bit of growth in the mass on her skull, which has caused a bit of swelling.  That's causing the confusion.  Hopefully some steroids will help.
-There are signs of a UTI, so she's on some antibiotics

They're sending us home, and we're to follow up with her oncologist on Monday.  From there, she'll have a port implanted, and she'll start chemo next week.  We should know after the first few treatments whether or not the cancer is responding.

On Another Note
So many of you have offered love and support, and I am so grateful.  We are eternally grateful for the outpouring of love.  Many of you have also asked how you can help.  Here's the problem: I hate asking for help.  I doubt I will ever feel comfortable just calling you up and saying, "Hey, could you lend a hand?"  It's just not how I function.  However, I will take this moment to list a few things that we could really use.  If you can help out in any way, please let me know.  Don't hesitate to call, text, or email, or even just stop by.

We could use:
- Meals.  I'm actually somewhat prepared for food, but not the food she needs that's really supposed to help with cancer.  Not only that, her tastes have changed dramatically, and she's not eating much.  I'm trying to switch us over to a plant-based (mainly vegetarian), all organic diet.  The hardest part of this is researching what to make (I've always been more of a meat and potatoes gal) and then actually finding time to make it.  If someone, anyone, wanted to make even just one meal and then hand over the recipe, I'd be so appreciative.

-Help with Anna.  I love caring for her.  I love the time I have with her.  I particularly loved today's bonding time (dancing to classical music followed by snuggles on the couch).  However, I also love having some time to clean or prepare meals or go to work or go to the gym.  If anyone would be willing to pitch in for an hour or two (or more) each week I'd probably be brought to tears.

-Help packing and moving.  Mom moving in with us means more than just packing up some of her belongings.  It means we have to clean out my old office so we can clean out her bedroom.  Then we have to pack up everything in her apartment, decide what to keep and what to trash, and bring some of it back to our place.  Some stuff may end up in storage, and some may just be sold.  However, it's a lot of work, and with Anna it's not getting done as fast as I'd like.  I'd love some help.

-Care for Mom for some time in September.  Hans and I are trying to make it to a conference for the kennel the third weekend in September.  It's in Chicago, which means we'd probably be gone for about 5 days or so.  The problem is, we can't leave Mom alone that long.  Not only that, she won't want to be without her dogs, and we need someone to take care of her AND her dogs.  Having someone to check in on her throughout the day and stay with her overnight would be the most amazing gift.  Heck, even if it was a different person each night it would be amazing.  Please!  Can anyone help?

-Positive thoughts.  The reality is Mom might die.  Actually, the odds are that she doesn't have much time left.  I know this.  She knows this.  Her doctors know this.  However, we don't actually need to hear it.  I don't need to be told to prepare myself.  I don't need to be reminded.  The only way I'll actually make it through this is if I remain in some sort of state of denial.  Please let this continue.  Please, no more "I'm so sorry" or "Oh how awful."  It is awful.  It freakin' sucks!  I really don't need you to tell me this.  I just ask, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

So there you have it.  That about sums it up.  Thank you!  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Preparing For Battle

Let me start by saying that Mom is doing well.  She'll start chemo next week, and she's in good spirits.  Admittedly, we're kind of driving each other nuts, but that's a whole other story.  Right now, though, we are both preparing ourselves for battle.

Mom is resting, recuperating, and trying to eat healthy.  I am arming myself with as much knowledge as possible about her disease.  I'm reading books, searching websites, scheduling doctors appointments.  I'm creating anti-cancer meal plans, and I'm just trying to prepare for what's to come.

Hans has been amazing through all of this.  He's been helping with meals and cleaning.  He'll come home from a day of work and carry Anna around all evening simply because he knows I'm exhausted.  He's just been wonderful. 

Honestly, the only one I really worry about is Anna.  She's too young to understand what's going on, but she can certainly sense the stress.  I worry about what sorts of effects it will have on her as she grows.  I worry that I'm not spending enough relaxing, Mommy-daughter time with her.  I worry that, when she's fussy, it's not because she's an infant and they cry, but rather because she's too stressed out.  Of course, all those thoughts leave me more stressed, and the vicious cycle repeats.  To alleviate the situation, I'm trying to make sure I spend at least an hour of good, quality time with her each day.  Yesterday, that time was spent swinging on the porch swing during a gentle summer rain (it was beautiful).  Today, that time was spent nursing in bed and watching Netflix.  I love that hour each day, because I can feel both of us relax.  It's important.

And my one relief is that the kennel is continuing to do well.  I'm not back in full swing like I'd anticipated, so I'm relieved that it can continue functioning with only a little guidance.  My staff is great, and I'm constantly getting compliments on them.  While I'm making an effort to be there a little more, it's helpful to know I can focus on family as needed.

So, that's life for now.  It's exhausting, and it's not ideal, but it's my life.  At least I'm able to wake up each morning and greet the day  For now, though...

Good night!