Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Update, Wisdom, and Funny Stuff's stage IV. 

I had to get up and walk away just over typing that.

Dad got his feeding tube and chemo port a few weeks ago, and is doing pretty well with the tube.  Mom says he's gained a few pounds already, so that's awesome.  He starts chemo tomorrow, and will be going in to the clinic once every two weeks for a four hour treatment, then taking home a 48 hour pump for additional treatment on top of it.  So far, the doctors have decided to not do radiation.  They did, however, sit down and talk life expectancy with my folks.  Without the chemo he would only have three months left.  With chemotherapy he has eight to eighteen months.

I've been trying to make myself sit down and type that out for over a week now, but I just couldn't.  I've been sitting here at the computer trying to bring myself to "say" it for forty minutes.  But how do you find the right words?  There are none. 

I was talking with a friend on Saturday and she asked me how I was doing with all of this.  "It's like a really bad reality show," I told her.  One that I can't change the channel on or turn off the TV.  Most of the time it's just business as usual around here, and I feel somewhat disconnected from it all.  It's been four years since the last time I was in Washington and had any time with my dad.  We both hate talking on the phone.  We're both incredibly private people when it comes to touchy feely stuff.  So there's that natural disconnect that this is happening in somebody else's reality, and I am aware of it.  Just like watching a crappy TV show.  Then it all comes rushing in again and again, that this isn't just somebody else's reality, it's also mine.  He is my and my brothers' dad.  He is my mother's husband.  He is my children's granddad.  He is somebody personal to me, and this is our reality.  In eight to eighteen months time, hopefully even LONGER, I am going to lose the first man that I ever had in my life.

One of the ways I cope is to hold on to one good thing a day.  One good memory of him as my dad.

Today:  I moved out for the first time when I was 18, right after I graduated.  On the day that my mom drove me to Portland, my dad came into my bedroom early in the morning before he left for work.  As I woke, he told me to keep my eyes closed.  He gave me a big kiss on my forehead, then held me close for a few minutes in one of his wonderful dad hugs.  As he rested his cheek on the top of my head, I could feel the tears that he didn't want me to see.  At that moment I had absolutely no doubt of how much my dad loves me.

And a bonus:  We had a rare combination of a warm day without wind on Saturday, so we took the opportunity to clean out the garage and finally move boxes to the storage shed.  I made a point of searching for the box that had old photos in it, and WIN - finally found it.  So on Sunday I went through and dug out the photos I have of my dad.  I ALSO found the letters that he wrote to me when I was in Basic Training.  Let me tell ya something....  if you haven't met my dad, he's a bit of an oddball.  But dammit, he's a wise oddball. 

Here's his first letter.  The oddball shows up more in letters that I'll share later. 

18 Dec 1995

Greetings Fair Daughter;

there you sit in sunny San Antonio (Lackland) about to approach your first real holiday away from home.  Cheer up - we do miss you.

Is it anything like you thought basic would be like?  Probably not.  It's the job of the T.I's to break you down and make your life absolutely miserable.  It'll only last 2 or 3 weeks and then the T.I's will start showing that they do have a few human traits.  By the end of the six weeks you'll probably even think they are even kinda decent.

Anyway, the Air Fart doesn't try to break you physically, but mentally.  They need to know if you can function mentally under pressure.  Anybody can get shot at and dive into a fox hole but not everyone can or needs to fix a multi-million dollar plane while being shot at.  Just hang in there.  When you grow old and grey like your mother (oops!) you can look back on these times and they will probably seem just as bad as you think they are now.  But you will survive and be able to laugh about the whole experience.

Thanks for the 5:30 AM call on a SUNDAY.  Oh well, it was nice to hear your voice once I woke up.  You scared your mom and I some when we first saw the time, then when we knew you were safe we were OK.  Were you ordered to call at that time.  If so, that's soooo nice of the AF.

OK, some quick news from the homefront.  Still gray, overcast and wet.  Just our typical, beautiful, December weather.  (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, Jun, Oct, Nov)

Mom and I did some shopping for the boys Sat.  They probably will be disappointed but they have to grow up sometime.  Santa Clause love is not quantity, but a love that can't be measured by material things.  I'll let them write you about they recieved from Santa.

There was just enough snow in the mountains for Tony to get his first training classes in.  I took him to Marty's Sat morning for a ride up and he stayed overnight.  We went up Sunday and picked him up.  I wanted to wait until May or June, but your mom wanted him back sooner.  Go figure.  Tony also got his new snowboard out of hock so he got to use it.

Brice is home on vacation for the holidays so he got to sleep in.  I got up this morning and his light and radio were on.  Seems he watched a scary movie last night and was afraid to turn the light out.  (12 years old!) 

Mom wants to know if you can read this?  (*BARELY!*) Too bad, at least I write something.  I'll let her do the envelope, OK. 

My hads getting tired so until next time.

Love, Hugs, Kisses, and very proud of you.


P.S.  Rmember, TEAMWORK will get you through.  dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

Check out that 'stache....

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Blog Post I've Been Avoiding for Over a Week.

My mom called me last Tuesday.  I love my mom dearly, but we rarely talk on the phone, so usually when she calls it's not good news.  (Sorry mom.)  So when I saw Mom on my caller ID as I was waiting with Brian for our food at Subway, my heart sank.

Dad has cancer.

I knew that he hadn't been doing well, that he's been losing quite a bit of weight and is having a lot of difficulty eating.  He'd been popping Prilosec like it's candy and it wasn't doing any good.  He'd been pretty much living off of milkshakes, Ensure, and soup.  But it's still extremely painful for him to eat, so he went to the doctor.

Mom had gone up to WA to visit him, and he gave her the news the day after she got there.  He has esophogeal cancer, and at the time the doctor was thinking it was stage II or III.  Dad was set to have a PET scan later on in the week to find out for sure. In the meantime, appointments galore to get things moving.

Because he's lost so much weight and can't eat, he's having a J-tube put in today, as well as a port for chemo.  He'll be in the hospital for 2 or 3 days.  Soon he'll be starting six weeks of chemo and radiation.  They got the results for the PET scan back this morning as well, and the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the local area of the tumor.  There's also a mass in his abdomen that COULD be scar tissue, but will be biopsied today while they're putting in his tube.

Initally the plan was get the tube in and gain some weight, do the chemo and radiation, and decide after that if there will be surgery to remove the tumor from his esophagus.  Now, if the mass in his abdomen comes back as cancerous, there will be no surgery.

I don't have a lot of other factual information right now.  I'd been waiting to call my mom to find out more until after they got the PET scan results back.  I had texted her this morning to find out what time his appoiment was and learned he was getting his tube & port today.  I'll talk with her later on today, after Dad comes out of surgery.

So...emotionally, I'm not dealing with this so well.  I do research about esophogeal cancer, tube feeding, getting on Medicare early...but I don't allow myself to connect it to my dad.  And then I have those "Oh shit" moments.  Stupid stuff like, "OMG, he's going to lose all of his hair from chemo.  Dad has such awesome hair!"  I had told my friend April about my dad, and she shared with me what her MIL had to go through when she had cancer.  April was with her for all six weeks of treatment.  I think hearing April spell it all out was when it all became real to me.  This isn't just happening to somebody I know, this is happening to my dad.  And even though we're not close, he's still my dad.  He's the guy that came and rubbed my back and gave me cough syrup when I was up hacking all night.  He's the guy that brought me pickles as BIG AS MY ARM when he worked at Nalley's.  He's the guy that sent me a congratulations card when I was pregnant with Bethany, when I felt like everybody else had abandoned me.  He's the guy that reached back and held my hand when I broke down on the way to the airport to pick up Brian after my brother died.

Fuck.  I hate you cancer. 

This is my dad, and how I'll always see him in my head & heart. 

I love you dad.  You old goat. 

Monday, January 7, 2013


Years ago I was ranting to one of Brian's friends about how finance was taking so long to get our dislocation allowance to us after Brian filed the paperwork.  We had just moved to Okinawa and the transistion was expensive.  I was frustrated, irritated, and dammit I wanted our munnies!!!  How dare those finance people drag their feet and not do their jobs the way that I think it should be done!!

Apparently I must have been more bitchy and obnoxious than usual, because Brian's friend just looked at me and verbally smacked me with the biggest truth we all need to get through our heads.  "It's not about you.  Get over yourself."

At the time I was vaguely offended.  OF COURSE IT'S ABOUT ME.  I need to pay these bills.  I need to get these utilites hooked up.  I need to get groceries.  I...I...I...  But then I realized he was right.  We were one family in the Air Force.  The Air Force alone has over 330 THOUSAND service members.  The paperwork for our DLA started when Brian filed it in Okinawa, but it had a full process to go through before we got the DLA, and that process went all the way to Denver. A lot of people were involved in that process.  And those people weren't just processing OUR DLA, they were handling the finances of the entire Air Force.  We are one tiny drop in a big huge bucket.

Over the years since this conversation I've learned just how much the "get over yourself" needs to apply to so many other aspects of my life.  If Brian comes home in a mood after not responding to any of my texts that day it doesn't have to mean that he's mad at me.  He was probably in meetings all day and just needs to shut down for a while.  If my teenager is hiding in her bedroom blasting her music, it's not because OHEMGEEYOU'RETHEWORSTMOMEVERIHATEYOU (OK, she's 15, that might be part of it), but because she's 15 and is just dancin' with herse-elf. 

One of the biggest "get over yourself"'s is the way we expect people to take in and react to what we say or do.  We are the ones in control of what comes out of our mouth.  We are the ones that have to choose our words/tone/actions carefully. Yet when somebody is hurt by what is said or done, we get offended because they didn't have the clarity to understand what we were REALLY getting at.  We don't think about the fact that there may be something going on in the other person's life that will color their interpretation of what we just said.  Context has impact, and not everybody has the same context. 

I think Carly Simon summed it up best.  "You're so vain, I bet you think this song (post!) is about you..."  We're all a bit narssicistic, it's inherent in human nature.  We need to remember that there is so much more than what's going on in our tiny lives.  And just STFU and get over it.

BTW, if you think this post was about you, it probably wasn't.  But maybe it was....