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Today I am thankful for…

For my wonderful husband, who is also my best friend, who makes me laugh and smile through life. For his love and friendship every day for the last ten years, and for many, many more.

For my wonderful family, both immediate and extended, and their love and support. For our closeness and our family-ness. For the in-laws that came with John, and the way they have embraced me and welcomed me into their hearts.

For my friends, who are all so wonderful. For Mark and Elizabeth and the way we were welcomed us into their home today for a massive, delicious dinner. For James and Cara, and Nate and Shelly too. For all the laughs and hugs and memories we’ve shared. For the countless others who always make the day a little brighter when I see them.

For our collective health, our jobs, our health insurance, our opportunities, our lives together.

But most of all, today in particular, I am thankful for the doctors and nurses and hospital staff that took care of Shelly this morning. I am thankful that she gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy. I am oh-so-incredibly thankful that she and the baby are both doing wonderfully well. I am so thankful that Nate and Shelly became parents, and I know they’ll be excellent at it.

The baby is, without a doubt, the cutest and most adorable warm bundle of humanity it has ever been my privilege to hold and cuddle.

Hearing that Shelly and the baby were doing well, and then getting to hold him, was easily the was the best part of my day. (Even more so than the stuffing.)

I am immensely thankful for all this, and more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Two-thirds done with NaBloPoMo. Thank goodness! I’d remembered how easy it was to write when I had something to say, but not how hard it was when I had nothing.

So this weekend was a Family Fly-by. My parents were here Thursday night, on Friday we blasted up north to see my grandparents and my mom’s sister. To spend as much time as possible with my grandparents. Because we can. Despite hearing stories repeated, or repeating comments louder and louder. To see my aunt, and help her pack and start to move. Because we’re nice people. Despite the snappiness.

Saturday was more of the same. Moving. Talking. My mom and I got in a bit of shopping. Big dinner with my dad’s sisters, their families, and my grandparents. That was fun. I always love to see that family group–there’s no pressure, I can just be me. They treat John and I like adults, even though we’re part of the “kids” generation. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really know them as a kid, and they only really got to know me as an adult. Of course, this meant the “are you going to have kids” questions have started to emerge from the woodwork. Um, not yet.

Today, I had breakfast with my parents and grandparents at the retirement community my grandparents now live in, then came home. I spent most of the day doing errands, like trying to get the Thanksgiving food shopping out of the way, and at work. I need to teach my viruses to know when it’s the weekend and to wait until Monday for attention.

The weekend had it’s moments for eye-rolling, it’s moments of “WTF?”, but also it’s moments of laughs and smiles. Sort of like any family gathering. Good times. My parents stayed up north today, and are flying home tomorrow. I’ll see them in a month, but it never seems soon enough. All part of being family, I suppose.

My day has been great so far:

Breakfast at a local cafe with John and my parents.

A nice drive up north along a pretty scenic route.

An afternoon with my parents and grandparents.

Fancy candlelight dinner at my grandparents’ place.

A swing band playing afterwards.

And now sitting in front of the fire with my parents, my aunt and my aunt’s cats.

All in all, a pretty good day.

Hope yours was good too!

In the past month, my grandmother-in-law has suffered from:

1. A jagged spiral fracture of the femur (just about the worst bone you can break)
2. Surgery to insert a plate to hold the bone together (it was that, or never walk again)
3. An allergic reaction to morphine following surgery that nearly swelled her throat closed (oh good, remind me to never let John have anesthesia, since his mother has also had allergic reactions to pain meds)
4. Shingles (and a really painful episode, at that)
5. A compartmentalized hematoma in the broken leg (think massive bruise within the muscle that can only be solved by time or more surgery)
6. Nausea so bad she has barely eaten and has lost 15-20 pounds in the last month (never good when your body is needing nutrients to heal itself)

And today, we can add the following:

7. A pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs)
8. A heart attack (likely caused by another blood clot)

If you’ve got any prayers handy, send them her way to help her heal, or at the very least to not throw a third clot and have a stroke. The poor lady has definitely suffered enough as it is, and we want her to get better!!

We’re currently debating a trip home at Thanksgiving, our second since this all started, and even knowing we have Christmas plans to be with her. However, my mother-in-law and I are both worried that if we start coming home a lot, my grandmother-in-law will think that we think this is the end, and mentally that won’t be good for her (my grandmother-in-law). Did that make sense? Regardless, we want her spirits to remain well.

So for now we’re sitting tight, and getting multiple daily updates. It definitely sucks being so far away right now.

I was doing some experiments on a super old computer today. Black screen, white writing. Not quite the old black and green, but still pretty ancient compared to my MacBook. And the machine it was hooked up to was 30 years old. It’s entirely possible the computer is also that old. We were using floppy disks to pull data off of it. Good thing there are still floppy disk readers around. Dunno how much longer the disks will last, though, and I’m not sure they’re replaceable.

It made me think about how much changes in a generation.

I used to write to my grandparents in college to tell them what I was studying, what classes were like, what I was doing. My grandmother once wrote me back that they were so amazed by what I was studying because when they had been in college, DNA hadn’t even been identified yet.

When I think about, my grandparents have probably seen the greatest generational change in terms of so many things, especially technology. Kind of astonishing, really.

But it made me wonder what my generational accumulation of change will be. Computers have gotten better and faster and more complex. Cell phones are now so much more than phones. That sort of thing. So things are improving, but the leap in improvement is no where near what it was. Even thinking about some of the scientific progress made in the last thirty years, it seems like we’ve definitely improved our understanding of the world, but not at the level of discovering DNA, from which all things are made.

I almost wish I could have lived through that change, to appreciate it as it came and went. I don’t know if we’ll ever see such a great leap in so short a time again.

But then again, I’m also hoping the world will change so much more, maybe in my generation, maybe in the next.

Today is..

(or would have been) the 74th birthday of my father-in-law.

(or would have been) the 106th birthday of my paternal grandmother-in-law.

the 11th cancer-free anniversary of my mother-in-law.

the 6ish-month cancer-free anniversary of my mother.

the birthday of a good friend, made bittersweet by the fact that it’s her first birthday since her brother was killed in a car accident last August.

the 64th wedding anniversary of my dad’s grandparents.

the 4th wedding anniversary of John and I.

“Will you still laugh at my jokes on our 60th wedding anniversary?”

“Who’s to say I laugh at them now?”

Happy anniversary, my love. Here’s to many more in the hopes of making it to at least 64.

Hope not!

So, my mom and grandma are both doing fine.

Grandma first: She had one heart attack early Tuesday morning two weeks ago, and then a second “episode” early Wednesday morning two weeks ago, where the name really depends on who you talk to. Following a ton of scans and exams and everything, it was decided she could be treated with drugs instead of surgery. Whoohoo!

Mom next: Her surgery was the same Wednesday. It was longer and a bit more complicated than we expected, owing to some uncooperative arteries and veins in what would be the right transplant. That meant a longer waiting period for all of us, with the only word coming when the surgeon told my dad he was half done, and that was the easy half!

I spent most of the day doing a lot of work, thus keeping busy, and having two different meetings, but I definitely jumped quite a bit whenever my phone went off. James F decided it would be a good morning for a long texting conversation, which was all well and good and distracting, but left me a bit unnerved.

After millions of phone calls on Wednesday night, things seemed calm and back in place.

Thursday morning, I woke to a message from my sister about an email from my dad. Basically, my mom had had to go back into surgery just hours after getting out due to some more uncooperative veins and arteries, although not the same ones from the initial surgery.

Commence further worrying.

Friday was fine.

Saturday was fine until late in the day.

Then she went in for her third surgery to repair more bleeding issues.

Part of the problem was that they were giving her heparin to keep her repaired veins and arteries from clotting closed, but she also had a number of incisions that did need to clot and heal! A delicate balance, to be sure, and one that tipped every which way over the couple days.

Thus, instead of leaving the hospital Saturday or Sunday as hoped, my mom left last Wednesday. Five days ago. And so far, so good. She’s feeling a lot better, and is doing well. All signs point to yes!

I haven’t talk to my grandmother in couple days, but she’s doing well, too.

Thanks to all of you who dropped by and let me know you were thinking of us. It was much appreciated. I really, really hope this is the last of the story!

My grandma was fine as of 12:30 am this morning. No word since. Probably means nothing has happened. I hope.

My mom had some “minor” complications, according to the surgeon, in the wee hours of the morning. It involved more surgery and a blood transfusion. She’s theoretically fine now.

I thought we were out of the woods. And I’ll admit that while I’m getting through this, I am also pretty damn scared.

Fun times.

I’m still trying to find out details–apparently cell phones aren’t allowed in the ICU. And there isn’t a phone in the room. Bah.

My mom is fine. My grandmother is fine. I’m fine.

John Bridger: I feel so optimistic. How do you feel?
Charlie Croker: [shrugging] I’m fine.
John Bridger: Fine? You know what “fine” stands for, don’t you?
Charlie Croker: Yeah, unfortunately.
John Bridger: Freaked out…
Charlie Croker: Insecure…
John Bridger: Neurotic…
Charlie Croker: And Emotional.

Yeah, we’re all fine.

My mom is out of surgery, doing well. My grandmother had another potential heart attack last night, but is doing well right now. I’ve kept busy all day and done pretty well, given that my job was easiest. More details to come when I feel up to talking about it.

Thank you to you all, too!!

Note: I’ve been working on this post for two days, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say, to describe how I was feeling about the situation. Debating whether or not all that I wanted to say was truly relevant.

And then today I found out that my grandmother experienced chest pains in the wee hours of this morning, which doctors are tentatively calling a heart attack. She’s in the hospital, and doing well, and that’s about all I know. Various aunts have promised to call me back when they can. I’m so thankful that my grandparents live down here now, just several miles away from relatives instead of a two-hour drive. Thankful, also, that if I’m needed, I can be there in just a few hours instead of waiting for a plane. So if you could keep my grandmother in your prayers, as well as my mom (see below), I’d be grateful.

Now here we go…


My mom’s breast reconstruction surgery was moved from April to tomorrow. We found out Friday that someone else had backed out, and my mom felt she was ready. So she’ll be in surgery tomorrow for 10-12 hours, and in the hospital for 3-5 days, and then at home for 2-3 weeks. Good thing I hadn’t booked tickets home for April, right?

You all have been so good about wishing us well and everything for over a year now, and I can’t tell you how much I do and have appreciated that. It’s made a huge difference on the days when I was freaking-the-fuck-out, but it’s also made a huge difference even on the days when I knew she’d be okay.

For all of that, thank you. And if you could think of her tomorrow, and keep her in your prayers, then hopefully this will be the last chapter of this saga. There are no guarantees in this game, I know, but for now I’m hoping this is going to be the end.

My mom has made it through an amazing amount in the last year–finding out she had breast cancer, finding out it was likely metastatic and already in her bones, finding out that it was only (thank God) stage 3C (the last and worst stage before metastasis, but the before part was all that mattered), going through weekly chemo for 6 months, going through genetic testing and having to wait a month to find out the answers, going through physical sickness and lack of strength and energy, going through anemia that resulted in her need for a blood transfusion, going through a double mastectomy, going through 5 weeks of radiation, going through an additional 6 months of the “good” chemo drug herceptin (a miracle drug, if you ask me). Going through pain and worry and fighting against her own body for control, for life.

But through it all, she’s been relatively okay. She’s always faced it instead of hiding from it, and she’s done so with grace and serenity for the most part. She’s made jokes, she’s been pretty cheerful. She’s said that if she dies, she’ll get to see her mother again. My grandmother died fourteen years ago from colon cancer, less than two weeks after my grandfather died from brain cancer, and I know my mom misses them. To her, it was a comfort to think of seeing her parents again. And so, to her, even in the beginning when we thought we had maybe two years together, she was fairly serene about any outcome. Worried, but serene. Granted, she likely had her moments of weakness, of freaking out, of anger and helplessness, but overall, she was stronger than the cancer. She always said she was going to fight, and that anger wouldn’t solve anything. True, it doesn’t. The situation is, was, what it was. And so she fought.

Tomorrow, for her, marks the last step in this horrible journey. She’s chosen to go with the longest and most intense reconstructive option. Implants are painful to enlarge, the radiation probably makes the tissue on one side less stretchy and thus it may not accept an implant, and they tend to leak and require more surgery every 10 years or so. The other option was to have a implants made from her belly fat, either buried up along her rib cage, or completely removed and reattached via microvascular reconstructive surgery. The first option takes muscle, and means she likely wouldn’t be capable of doing a sit-up ever again. The second option is a long and intense surgery, but she thinks it’s what’s right for her. There’s a chance the tissue won’t take, that it will die, or that she’ll need a second surgery to reattach it again. But when you lay out all the pros and cons, to her, having one big surgery weighs out over many smaller ones, and health and physical fitness and being able to exercise weigh out over possible complications with the tissue.

I have to admit that I’d be perfectly okay with her simply using prosthetics and having no more surgery, but that’s not what she wants and so I’m going to stand behind her and her decision. I can’t tell you want I’d do in the same situation, so who am I to judge? It’s selfish of me to wish otherwise, simply to not go through the worry during the surgery.

And believe me, worry I will. This will be the second surgery she’s had that I’ve known about in advance, and I’m just about as nervous as I was last time during her mastectomy. Who wouldn’t worry about their mom?

I mean, she’s had plenty of surgeries and hospital stays in the last however-many years. Pulmonary embolism while on a plane to New Zealand, but we didn’t find out until she was already in the hospital. Emergency gall bladder removal, then an emergency appendix removal, but in both cases my dad couldn’t get ahold of my sister or me until the surgery was over. Those are quick little surgeries, believe me. By the time I got home to the “your mom is in the hospital” note, it was over. In all cases, we were basically informed post-fact. We didn’t have the worry to go through during the actual thing. Just the recovery, and the relief that it had been dealt with and that she was okay.

Here, now, I trust that my mom will be okay. She has to be. And I have to trust that. She’s strong, and she’s never had problems before in surgery. I liked her doctor. I trusted him. Even if it’s a tricky surgery, and long, I have faith that she’s going to be okay. That he’s going to do a good job.

I reserve the right to, as I said before, freak-the-fuck-out tomorrow, but I also know I’m strong enough to be strong for her. For myself. For whoever else might need it now, or in the future. I may not have shown or expressed that over the past year, but I know I am.

I think that’s something that’s occurred to me only recently. I’ve expressed my anger and fear and helplessness when I’ve felt them, and again, I thank all of you who were there for me, but I’ve never really talked about the times when it all felt okay. When I knew we were all going to come out the other side, changed a bit but together nonetheless. At those times, there didn’t seem much to say other than “She’s fine.” She was, and I was fine, too, after all, and not consumed by fear. At that moment. So mostly all people heard about was when it wasn’t fine, when I wasn’t fine.

I think that that lack made me appear weak to some people, and the end result was that they didn’t trust me to be strong enough for them and for our friendship when they needed it, in spite of what fear and pain I might be feeling. They may have thought they were protecting me in the beginning, but when they threw it in my face, it became just another way that, to them, I’d failed them. And without ever having been given the chance to prove that I might have been capable, that I had the strength. That lack of faith and trust hurts a lot, much more than I’ve been able to put into words until now, but maybe it’s somewhat justified when the only face I’ve presented was the one when I was been scared. However, friends should, above all else, have faith in each other, right? I’d like to think so.

I was so astounded and hurt at the time by the accusations, all of them, that at the time I couldn’t put it into words, that I could only say what needed to be heard and not what needed to be said. It was fairly clear after a few moments that defending or explaining myself wasn’t going to be listened to–I’m not saying the accusations were completely unfounded, but it would have been nice to have my side listened to instead of spoken over or dismissed. So I just said the only words I could, that I was sorry. And really, I am. As much as I’ve longed to have that conversation back to redo, to express my side, my case, my hurt, it wouldn’t change anything, so I’ve tried to move on. In many ways, I think that the lack of faith and trust said all that needed to be said. I’ll admit to feeling better just to say this much, to get this much off my chest, so I can stop rehearsing what I’d like to have said. What I wish I’d been strong enough to say at the time. Instead I walked away, and my brain at times has mocked me as being cowardly for not having my say. It was a great friendship, and maybe worth fighting for, but this kind of incident also seemed to be a cycle we couldn’t break out of and which only lead to pain for both of us.

Being strong, I’m discovering, is a constant growing process. And being strong in some ways doesn’t translate to all situations. Maybe the strength to fight against cancer with my mom is different from the strength to stand up for myself against someone I thought I could trust. What I was strong enough to do, I suppose, was to philosophical shrug and walk away from a relationship that, although valued, clearly wasn’t healthy for the two people in it. It may have been cowardly, but I think it also took a lot courage to just let it go without making the situation worse by forcing my need to have my say.

And strength and health, both mental and physical, seems to have been a common theme in my life lately. Strength is something I’m working on, and I’m channeling it elsewhere now. Into a healthier outlook on life, into healthier relationship with those that do have faith in me, into relationships with those in whom I have faith. Into the strength to make it through 10-12 hours of waiting for word to come tomorrow.

In any case, I’ve worked through all this with many other people supporting me, worked through the fear and helplessness and anger, and I am and we are about come out the other side. In many ways, stronger together than we were before. I’ve had faith in myself to be strong for myself, for my sister, for my dad, for my mom, and I’ve had faith in my mom to be even stronger. I’ve been supported by many good friends, family and a wonderful, wonderful husband who has gone through a similar process with his mother and also lost his dad to cancer. In turn, I hope I’ve supported my family whenever they’ve needed it, and even when they haven’t.

And my mom? My mom has been incredibly strong, despite the weakness her body has caused her. She’s fought this terrible thing whereby her body is threatening her life, where the most outward sign of her femininity, where she nursed my sister and I, is turning against her. I can’t imagine how hard it’s been, but I’m sure it’s magnitudes harder than what I’ve been going through. There are no words to express how amazed and proud and happy I am to have her in my life, to have received this lesson in how to live from her.

And so, at the end of every freak-out, at the end of each day, I know that if she can be that strong for herself, as well as for me and my sister and everyone else, if she can appear to get through this as gracefully as she has, then aren’t I strong enough to stand by and watch and help how I can? Even if it’s as simple as sitting with her through a chemo session, or making dinner to give my dad a break? And though I sometimes need to cry or scream or eat chocolate or drink or cope how I can, I know I’m strong enough to see this thing through. Strong enough to believe that tomorrow, despite it’s scariness, will bring an end to this chapter and journey of my mom’s bout with cancer. I hope there’s not another one, but if there is, I’ll be strong for that, too.

And so, tomorrow, I’m going to be strong enough to go about my day, to hopefully not freak out, to simply wait for the phone call telling me she’s out of surgery and safely installed in intensive care, that she’s doing okay. Because if she can fight this, I can too. If she can be strong enough to chose surgery, and specifically this surgery, who am I to not be strong enough to simply wait 10-12 hours for her on the other end? After all, my waiting tomorrow is going to be the easy part. The hard work is hers in the recovery, and I’ll be there for her however I can.

But your thoughts and prayers would be greatly, greatly appreciated tomorrow and in the coming days.


May 2018
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