Tomorrow is the one year mark. It’s been one year since Brad was diagnosed. They told us he might have a year, and we knew it would be quick.
Brad and I made a lot of decisions that day and the days moving forward. He had been ill for awhile by then. Almost 6 months of not feeling well. Those six months were very hard, but they were nothing compared to what was to come.
There are lots and lots of tears tonight. Tears mostly for the kids, but also for me.
These last couple of months, I’ve been craving vitamin D. There is nothing quite like sitting in the sunshine, soaking up the sun and listening to all of spring’s music. Birds singing and wind through the trees, I usually harmonize in my head or hum a made up tune. It’s quite rare to find me sitting and doing nothing, but I’ll take every second I can get coming out of this brutally long and cold winter.
Mmmmmmmkay. I should be used to this by now. It happens every single year. This transition from winter to spring to summer. This one happens to be my 40th transition. It’s a big friggen deal. It’s my first summer in two years that I haven’t been in the middle of cancer or cancer treatments.
I remember so clearly the week around the time that I was diagnosed. It was June 2017. The weekend prior was Makayla’s high school graduation, and the weekend after I had one last hurrah as a “normal looking” woman. I knew my life was going to change, but I didn’t tell anyone just yet. I wanted to enjoy those last few days without all of the stigma that comes with C.
So, well, this year, I am going to have the best summer of my life. I can’t wait for all of the beachy-sunny-beautiful summer days and nights. Camping, outdoor running, biking, fishing (with Dwight in the Super Hawk), swimming. You name the summer activity and I’m there. But first, I must find that perfect swimsuit.
You know the one. It makes you look 15 pounds skinnier, of course makes you look taller and the silhouette is incredible. This swimsuit erases the cellulite (I mean, for real, are you sure I even HAVE cellulite? Cough, cough 😬). It also magically makes me look 10 years younger. Also, it’s affordable.
Ugh. Anyway. This is my first real summer in two years. Two. For the people who don’t like to math, it’s also two winters without summer.
That means that this one is going to be special. It has to be. It’s time to live!
Today was just one of those days. It started out that way and it’ll likely end the same. Today I was feeling good and sorry for myself. I felt like I took hit after hit and couldn’t recover.
I’ll be honest, in my daily life, I will put forth 100% in everything I do. The very definition of an over-achiever. I do everything I can, every single day to make other people feel good. It’s in my nature. I greet as many students as I can when they enter the clinic in the morning, and I smile as often as I want. It feels good. I’ve noticed my wrinkles getting a little deeper by the day and my eyes not being as open as they once were, but I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later…
This week has been a challenge in my personal life. Behavior issues with one of my children, family that has fallen ill and other relationships that are seeming to change without my control. This week is a struggle to stay happy and motivated. It’s a struggle to manage those things that are out of my control. It’s a struggle to parent. It’s a struggle to know if I’m making the right decisions.
At least today is the first day of spring. Winter be damned.
Every time this appointment comes around, there’s so many feelings and so many fears.
Yesterday was my follow up contrast CT scan. It didn’t go so well. Because of the cancer that I had, and the lymph nodes that had to be removed, I cannot have needle sticks or blood pressure taken on the right side of my body. That leaves me with one arm. For injections, for blood draws, for anything that needs to happen with a vein, I am not your girl.
Yesterday for my appointment, I had to have contrast dye during my CT scan which meant I needed to have an injection. That way, when they do my scan, at first they look at my body without contrast, and then they look at my body just after the contrast is injected. The dye is radioactive, and shows up brightly on X-ray images. It helps to show where any potential metabolism (rapid movement)would be indicating there might be cancer. It’s one of the reasons that you might be instructed not to eat before you have a scan. Because your body would still be digesting food and showing movement in that area. Anyway, I needed to have a radioactive dye injected in my arm so that they could take images and check for recurrence of cancer.
When I arrived to my appointment, I let her know that my phlebotomists, nurses and lab techs in the past have never been very successful. I’m a ““hard stick“. She tried once. Then she looked at me and said, “ooooh I’m sorry. You’re right.” Just after my vein blew. Another woman came in from a specialist team to try another tactic. She was successful initially, but when I was laying down for my CT, something didn’t feel right, and sure enough, that vein blew too. CT was finally completed and I was able to go to my six month check at the cancer center today. Where they drew more blood 😩.
There is absolutely nothing that compares to the stress of waiting to hear if you have cancer again. I run through all the scenarios in my mind. Where will the kids go, what will I do, what’s next, how long do I have… I haven’t slept well for a few days, but tonight?
TONIGHT I GET TO SLEEP.
For at least the next six months, I don’t have cancer.
I’ve spent the last couple of months figuring out this new life. I’ve also spent a good amount of time pondering regrets that I have. Mostly about my life with Brad. Maybe I shouldn’t have argued about that stupid thing, or stood my ground on that point, or made that purchase on something so frivolous instead of saving my money for things that matter.
This week, I broke down in a public setting. I did a little bit of yelling, a little bit of crying and a lot of very purposeful words. I. Was. Mad. Probably from the weight of it all. It’s incredibly difficult to know if I’m doing things right or really how bad the video games will end up being in the end.
What I can say with absolute conviction is that this last year and 1/2 has been completely exhausting. That’s about how long ago Brad became ill… when he began to stay home instead of going to Christmas or hockey tournaments. Just a few months before then, I was still healing from my cancer surgeries and reconstruction, so I still didn’t know normal before it all hit us again. Really, there has only been one summer since the summer of 2016 that wasn’t completely filled with cancer treatments or major surgical procedures for me and then Brad. It’s taken up so much of our lives that I’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to have a little silence and pause. It’s very, very hard to get used to.
I’m thankful for kind people in my life. I’m thankful for meeting people like me so I don’t feel so alone. The most painful feeling I’ve ever had is feeling alone. I’m thankful for my friends and neighbors, I’m thankful for the people that helped me through this and forgave me for not wanting to show up (in so many ways). It’s those people that reminded me that I am still loved.
I miss hockey. I miss the busyness of life and how calming that all can be. I miss the hockey moms and the happy lunches/dinners/beers we’d spend having after games and during tourneys.
This year, with the help of some very special people, we have been able to give the kids a rink to skate on (after two attempts with the liner (I totally should have paid attention all of the previous years!!!!!!) it’s finally beautiful ice!). We have a warm and loving house that we have a ton of memories in. We had an AMAZING Christmas with The Best Christmas Ever (more about this later!) and some very dear friends that made it all happen.
This week, some of the people that helped make the rink even a possibility are going to come and celebrate in a socially distanced fashion on a hopefully beautiful Tuesday with some skating and fun. I can’t wait to thank them all. Such giving and loving people!
My scan and check up aways lands in January. This one makes me more nervous than any. I’m further away from my diagnosis and statistically, my odds are still not good. I thought by now I’d worry less about aches and pains, but just this week alone, I’ve had bone cancer (back ache), brain cancer (headache) and surely stage IV already. I hate these feelings.
Tomorrow, I will pass along some happiness. We all deserve a little Minnesota Nice.
Grieving looks so different for everybody. It literally morphs and changes into what we need it to be. Sometimes it’s loud wails and gut wrenching cries. Sometimes is cleaning or baking or sitting alone.
Tonight I needed a distraction from all of the questions and emails and phone calls and love. I had to leave the house for awhile.
I woke up this morning at 4 am terrified that I’d missed a medication dose or that I hadn’t heard Brad in need of being adjusted or moved or needing something. Then, of course, I realized that I hadn’t missed anything. That it was all real and shitty and sad.
Above all else when you are caring for a loved one, you’re also sleep deprived and so stressed that you don’t remember what is up and what is down. I can’t remember the last night I slept for more than two hour periods of time. That’s how often Brad could have pain medication.
I remember when I was nursing my babies when they were newborns. They would wake up every two or three hours and need a diaper change and be very hungry. Brad got up almost every single time to get the baby and change them and have them ready for me to feed them. He knew that if I got out of bed I wasn’t gonna go back to sleep for a while, so he could make it easier by getting the baby ready and then bringing the baby back when I was done. He loved that I wanted to nurse them and he loved seeing them in little snippets when they were sleepy and loving and wanting mama. These last few weeks, I’ve done everything I can to make him more comfortable, just like he would have done for me, and our babies.
Grief hit me like a brick wall tonight. I was coming back home after being gone for a few hours. I came home to a completely empty, quiet house. There weren’t any lights on or things like laundry waiting or shoveling to be done. I was alone.
Right now it feels unbearable. All of it does.
Tonight grief is the wracking sobs and bottomless wine. It’s soaking in the tub and crying so many tears and wanting all of the pain to go away.
He fought hard to make it through Ailee’s birthday.
There is something to be said with knowing death is imminent. We all had a chance to say goodbye. We all showed him how loved he was and we all did our absolute best to give him all of the warmth and respect and care he needed.
Brad finally isn’t in pain anymore.
I don’t know what comes next. I hadn’t thought that far ahead.
The other day I was sitting in the basement watching the television and I could hear somebody walking upstairs and I thought for sure it was Brad coming down to tease me about what I was watching on television or say goodnight to the kids. It was just the dog. Brad hasn’t been downstairs in over a month.
The hardest part about these last days and moments is seeing all of the others in pain. Brad has had family and some really close friends by his side this weekend to say goodbye. A constant river of tears and love and defeat.
Brad has very little time left in this earthly place but if he’s ever known anything before, he knows how very loved he is.
A giant crew of men, women, kids and Flash came together to make my kiddos wishes come true.
About a month ago, Beckham gently asked me if we would still have our backyard rink this winter. It was a question I knew was coming, and one I knew I didn’t want to answer. Through a lot of tears, I had to tell him “no,” that I was not going to be able to put up the rink this year. I think that was the first time I saw big kid cries come from my baby boy. It’s the kind of sad that knocked the wind right out of me. It absolutely broke my heart.
A year ago when it was time for the rink build, Brad had already been suffering with symptoms and had been doctoring for a few months with no answers. I remember it taking him longer than usual to finish. Brad only skated on the rink last year a few times, and it was always painful…. we still didn’t know.
Beckham learned so many things on the ice with his dad. He learned to be confident. He learned that he was so loved. He leaned that adults can have just as much fun as kids. He learned hockey rules. He learned what it means to have and be a great dad… I hope Beckham always remembers playing “pump” with his dad, and the first time he actually beat him.
Today Beckham learned what it means when all the Hockey Dads know yours is sick and you really needed them to come together for you.
I wish Brad had been strong enough to be able to watch out the window. The tumors have grown enough that Brad isn’t able to sit, walk or move. I shared pictures and tears through the morning build with him.
Exactly 10 years ago, we moved into this beautiful home in Foley. We didn’t know anybody, our families weren’t close, and there was really no reason why we chose Foley. We just did.
In these 10 years, we’ve been through so many crazy times. Some of them fun, some of them scary, some of them absolutely joyful.We moved into a four bed three bath home with the intent of having a spare bedroom. Little did we know while we were hard at work moving and planning and painting and remodeling, I was carrying little Beckham.We were married in our backyard 10 days before Beckham came. At my six week check up, we found out that I had melanoma. I had it removed that day and we moved on, only to find that it resurfaced a year after. We went to Mayo about a week later and once again had it removed. It was on the bottom of my foot, so for awhile, I couldn’t walk without assistance. With a 6 week old that was attached to my nipples and a one year old that was very jealous of the nipple monster. I remember it being such a struggle. It was my stay-at-home pre-med era where I survived on caffeine and stress.
Anyway…. I ended up having some minor surgeries as the years followed. Knees, belly, knees again… you name it, it broke.
Then, in 2017, we got hit with stage IIIc metastatic breast cancer. Chemo, radiation, surgery after surgery after surgery after surgery. It was awful, but it was a year that I spent thankful for the comfort of our home and our incredible neighbors and friends.
Now, just two years after my own medical bullshit, Brad is diagnosed with small cell carcinoma of the prostate. Stage IV. No cure and very little treatment options that will bring us beyond one year left of life. It has been 10 months and 4 days.
This house has witnessed 10 years of tears and arguments, teenage punishments and parent struggles, cancer,cancer,cancer, then cancer one more time. Playhouses, swing sets, gardens, landscape, pride and absolute love.
10 years went by in a whisper. We’ve had really shitty times lately in this house, but because we picked this one, in this town, with these people along with our hockey families…. I don’t know that I could have asked for anything better.
This next chapter has already been written for us. I can’t change the ending or the outcome. I’ve had 10 years in this home with these people surrounding me and I’m so damn glad I do. I am certain it would be unbearable without every single one of them.
October is breast cancer awareness month. Please do self exams or have your partner do it for you. It could really save your life.
We are in our second week of hospice. Or is it third? Either way, it’s been a whirlwind. As a caregiver and spouse, there are lots and lots of decisions to be made. Last week, we had walker and wheelchair delivered, tomorrow…. oxygen.
Brad has a nursing assistant come to the house three days per week. He or she is there to help Brad with his personal care. Showering, changing linens, lunch… that type of thing. Then we have a RN at the house twice per week to asses Brad, follow up with any previous questions or concerns, update pain medications… this week, she assisted in having Brads medications changed after he lost the feeling and movement on the left side of his face.
Brad’s left eye is causing him a lot of strain and discomfort. He wears an eye patch a lot of the time to ease some of the pain. He can’t see much from that eye now, anyway.
Brad has had so many noticeable changes lately. He’s not really eating much at all. His normally tall frame is so much smaller now at 165 pounds. He doesn’t want to eat. Not even ice cream.
This is extremely hard. There really aren’t words to describe what I’m feeling.