Posts Tagged With: Family

Catching up…

Been a minute since last I posted… When I last left off I was moving out of my house in VA, packing up my car and driving to my folks in FL. My dad had recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and the prognosis was pretty damn grim. Terminal, I believe is the word. Trust me when I say, a lot has happened since then…

Florida, in a nutshell- was about family. The day after I got there, my sister arrived from Italy, and my brother came in from Seattle. It has been over 10 years since the three of us have been ‘home’ at the same time. I say ‘home’ but, really- it is where our parents retired to. We never lived there. So really, it was the first time my parents had all of us in THEIR home. And it was wonderful.

My dad had his team assembled for a fun week prior to his surgery! He’s one of those guys who just loves having his kids all home. Mom does too, but she was still carrying dads diagnosis and pending surgery on her shoulders, and it was wearing her down. We all had a good time, to be sure, and his BP was the lowest it has been since this whole ordeal began.

His surgery was on April 4 at the Moffett Cancer Research Center in Tampa, FL. I can’t say enough good things about that place! I felt better after seeing the facilities and meeting the people who were taking care of my dad. Truthfully, it was a night and day difference between his cancer experience and my own. Obviously our prognoses were a big factor, but even just how it was handled was amazing. I had a form letter, with a date for “your cancer surgery.” That was how I found out I had cancer. A filled in form letter. Dad has an extensive team of brilliant, compassionate professionals and a hospital that offers both cutting edge trials, new advances and holistic approaches. They treat the whole patient, AND the family that is going through cancer with them. Amazing.

So, since his surgery… Dad had a radical lymphendectomy (sp.), tumours removed from his throat (near esophagus) and upper back (dead center on the spine). His back, (ground zero– the original tumour that raised the alarms) was originally going to require a skin graft, but instead they were able to do a wide excision. Good news!!! Dad has a large scar across his upper back, another under his arm, and a third that runs from below his ear down his clavicle.

His surgery was about 6 hours long, and he came through like a champ. Surgery was on Friday, and he came home Monday morning after I left for my cross country trek. He amazes me on a regular basis… His next check up will be Wednesday, but as of right now, the doctors seem confident that they got it all, and he may not even need chemo or radiation!! Seriously! Did I. Entire. His doctors are brilliant? Chairmen of the Sarcoma and Melanoma departments. He had the best of the best, and is healing beyond our wildest expectations. My dad IS beating the odds. My dad IS kicking cancers ass, one nap at a time right now… ❤

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I need more time…

Holy hell what a week…

So, this week (from Wednesday on) will go down in the books as the WORST week of my life, thus far. Wednesday, I got a text from my mom “Dr’s office called, bad news, both gotta go in. Uh oh.”  So, needless to say, THAT was on my mind. That evening I found out just how bad the news could be… My healthy as a horse dad, was just diagnosed with Malignant Nodular Melanoma, Stage t4b.  I hate that I didn’t have to ask what that meant. For the uninitiated, cancer runs on a scaling system of 0-4. t4b means tumours, stage 4, and the b indicates a likely spread to organs. My folks walked into the office expecting to hear ‘you need to have surgery’ and walked out with my dad only having 4 months to live.  4. Months. 4  months.

I don’t think I have to tell you, I went to pieces. Still am. We all are.

How am I supposed to move halfway around the world away from them right now?! I just want to go down there and be there for them, and help them in any way I possibly can. But I can’t, not yet. I have to move my house, ship his car, hire the property manager, rent my house, and give my notice at work.

So, after 2 days of pretty much non-stop sobbing I came up with my tentative plan. I need to save my dad. I’m not ready for goodbye. I called HR for my school district today and got my leave balance: 35 days. I asked the hardest question: “Can I use my sick leave for a terminally ill parent?”  The answer lifted a weight: YES.  I know right about now you are probably thinking ‘What about FMLA?’– well, FMLA goes into effect AFTER you have used up your own leave. It also is unpaid and really just exists to protect employees jobs, should they need extended leave. I’m not coming back here. I don’t need it. What that 35 days WILL allow me however, (with a doctors note explaining this) is to leave as soon as the packers move me out. I’ll head straight for my parents home, down in FL. I will use my last 3 weeks stateside to be with them. I need to be there.  Additionally, what I will be able to do is give my “last day” as May 1, so I can still be on payroll, but use my sick leave for the month of April and still get a paycheck. That last paycheck is how I will be able to afford to fly home if dad loses this battle. Which he can’t. He just can’t.

I spoke to my sister and brother (Seattle and Rome,Italy) and we’ve decided to spend “St.Paddy’s with Daddy.” So we will all be converging on them at the same time, flying in from our various points on the globe. He will be one month past diagnoses and should be already following whatever agreed upon protocols it takes to fix this. I’m guessing he’ll be feeling it by then, so having all 3 of us home to help should be good for both him and mom. The part I’m dreading though, is going to be when I have to get in the car and leave. At some point, I will have to leave for my cross country trek and then board the plane that takes me so far away from him. I hate it so much. This move that I was excited about, is suddenly weighing so heavily on me. SO much is depending on how his treatments go and how he responds to them. I’ve found cases of Stage 4b’s actually recovering! I HAVE! It’s not a big percentage, but it’s big enough for me to have faith. And pray. Not gonna lie– right now, I’m taking prayers, wishes, karma, light and love, and anything else anyone is willing to give to keep my dad.

Meantime– today was my UB packout. You’ll forgive me if this wasn’t a priority?

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In a nutshell: I didn’t pack. I haven’t slept since Tuesday night. I’m a hot mess. Packing did not happen. Since sleep didn’t go so well either though, I was up early and tried again to pack. I grabbed some of the Rubbermaid tubs I have saved from so many moves, and started throwing things in them. Now, mind you, the UB packout is supposed to be things you need to set up your new home. The vitals. What did I consider vital this morning? Sigh… yeah. Not much. As a result, when this shipment arrives in HI — opening these boxes will be like Christmas in the Alzheimer’s ward.  I say that not as any kind of insult to anyone with Alzheimers, but simply a commentary on how random my packing was this morning. Example: one box, labeled by the movers: “Dog beds and Griddle.” Because, you know, I TOTALLY kept those items together.  (What?!)

Sigh.

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Sigh.

Sigh.

I already warned the SeaMonkey– I’m pretty sure I packed a coffeepot, linens, a beach cabana, and about 65 folding chairs. Don’t ask. I was (and am) distracted.

Oh, I failed to mention the part where I fell apart on the movers. Yeah, that was magical. One of the movers was about to remove a strip of blue painters tape from one of my rubbermaids and I flipped out. On the tape, in my dads neat-but skritchy handwriting were the words “Muffin Pans”. I flipped out. “NO! Don’t take that off!! My dad wrote it…” and I fell apart , before managing to squeak out “…he’s stage 4.”  He understood immediately, and bless that man, he took clear packing tape and covered the painters tape. “We’ll protect it. It will be there when you get to Hawaii. And I’m sorry about your dad.”

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One thing I am always amazed by— when confronted with cancer, even in a stranger, people are compassionate and want to help. This man had been in my house for 30 minutes, I blew up on him over a piece of tape, and he was still so kind and took measures to protect what was so important to me at hte moment.

A little kindness and understanding really do go a long way. ❤

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Cancerversary

I wasn’t going to do it, but I’m gonna. Double-post today!

If you are reading this blog (hi!) chances are you are looking for info regarding a PCS move overseas or OCONUS. Rest assured, you’re in the right place, however today I’m giving a commercial interruption. Or- if you grew up in the 80’s- cue the spinning block letters on the black screen: SPECIAL . This is a very special episode… lol! (Anyone remember those? Anyone?) Usually they were indicators that a tv show was going to take on an ‘edgy’ topic such as anorexia, suicide, drugs, or abuse and it would announce that it was a “VERY SPECIAL EPISODE” and encourage parents to open the gates of discussion with their kids. Which they never really did, beyond “Psh. Drugs. You know better.”

Todays VERY SPECIAL EPISODE is about Cancer.

Today is my one year Cancerversary. I am one year past the point of hearing the words “Cancer Free.” and it’s AMAZING. It’s easy to think of what cancer takes, but it’s more important to think about what it GIVES. Yeah, seriously- it gives! I swear!

It’s given me an amazing sense of perspective. I have learned how to brush off A LOT of things that just aren’t important to me. People get worked up over the dumbest of things, and thanks to cancer- I really don’t anymore. I guess you could say my ‘give-a-damn’ is broken. Don’t get me wrong- you don’t lose your passion for things that matter to you, you just become more selective about what you LET matter to you. Traffic? Care not. Rude people? Whatevski. Changed plans? Please. Get Cancer and you will write the book on changing plans… You learn how to tuck and roll, whether you are ready or not. Believe it or not, you are readier than you think and more capable than you would imagine. Cancer reveals things– inner strength, acceptance, fight, determination, and yes, hardest of all– vulnerability. None of those are positives or negatives, they are just truths. Things you find when you’re digging for … well… you don’t know exactly what. You’re looking for a reserve that you aren’t sure you have, of a supply of something that you can’t put your finger on. Strength? Focus? Trust? I have no idea. Even after walking across those coals, I can’t tell you much about it. I know that cancer strengthened me. I know that it strengthened my marriage. How weird does that sound? Cancer is THE Destroyer to end all destroyers (agreed!) but it’s also rather Phoenix like. Out of the ash, comes something stronger, and more amazing than you could ever think possible.

I am a NavyWife. Nav.Wif. MilSpouse. Dependant. OTHER.  I’m used to tucking and rolling. I know when a fight just isn’t worth having, and how to accept what is out of my hands. I know how to make the most of a bad situation. I know I am stronger than I’ve ever given myself credit for. But what I didn’t know- was sometimes, you have to let yourself be weak. Sometimes, no matter how much you value your independence, you have to let others help you. Take care of you. Let them show you that they are there for you. My SeaMonkey does not do ‘powerless’ very well. He rages against it. No matter the situation, he is going to do SOMETHING dammit!! But Cancer? He couldn’t rescue me.  That fight was being waged at the surgical and cellular level and was just completely out of his big monkey hands. So instead, Cancer taught him how to be gentle. How to be understanding. How to nurture. How to take care of me when I was sick. He was my knight who rode into CVS ready to battle to the end, the pharmacist that took too long giving me the meds I needed. He learned that nausea is a game changer and deal breaker for any and all scheduled plans. He learned that Ginger chews should be kept in every vehicle, end table, coat pocket and location in the house.

My folks? Also amazing. They supported me through it, flying up to be with me when I would have otherwise been alone (ship was out) or when they knew SeaMonkey needed a little help. For them though, I think it was *slightly* easier. I say slightly, because Cancer isn’t easy on ANYONE. But for parents? From the day their child is born, they nurture them. They take them through every childhood illness and injury, and it becomes instinctive to them to take care of their kids. Now, they don’t usually expect to still be doing it when their adult-child is sick– but they somehow still know what to do, say and how to do it.

Now? Cancer is now one year in the distance of my rear-view mirror. I can still glance back and remember my visit to that town, but I sure as hell have no plans of returning. I have my scars. They tell my story better than any blog post could. I learned my lessons and I’m keeping my car in drive…

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