Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The first official day of training

Today I started my "official" training for the 3-Day walk in D.C.  I have been doing short walks (1-2 miles), a few times a week since about the beginning of March.  And boy am I glad I did that.

Today's walk was 3.6 miles.  I finished in just under an hour.

I forgot to charge my phone prior to the walk, and I also forgot my ear-buds, so I didn't listen to any music while I walked.. So I was left with the sound of my footsteps, traffic, birds, etc.  So, as I walked I started thinking about my walking route, and why I was doing what I was doing, as there is cause and effect to everything.

On the start of my walk, I was thinking about my route.  I was walking along Explorer Blvd in Cummings Research Park.  I was thinking that if along the way I started to get too tired, or my knee started hurting, or my feet started hurting, that I could take one of the cut-through roads back to my office. 

As I approached the first opportunity to head back, about 1/3 of the way on my route, I started thinking of the people that have walked in these events, like Patti, and countless others.  I watched as that first opportunity to cut back went by... and I kept walking on my planned route.

As I passed that first road, I started thinking about Patti, and Mom, and Melissa, and Annie.  I was really focused on Mom's last few weeks before she passed.  I have no idea what she was really thinking or feeling, was she scared?  Was she sad?  Was she excited for her coming journey?  Did she even worry about it? Or did she just let God take the reigns as she always said, "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it."

My second opportunity to turn towards the office just passed by.... and I kept walking on my planned route.

I like to think that Mom was not sad.  I do recall when Patti and I were there just before Mom passed, I asked her if she was worried.  She said that she was a little worried, and just kind of shrugged her shoulders as if to say "Yeah, but I've been worried before and I got through it."

I would imagine that Mom was doing a lot of praying inside as her ability to communicate diminished.  And I believe that during that time she knew what was about to happen.  I am pretty sure that the Lord gave her comfort, and let her know that she was going to be coming home soon.  I know he brought me comfort.  As I said before, I had this overwhelming feeling that Mom was excited about her coming journey home.  Nothing but the grace of God can bring you that kind of peace when you are watching your Mom being taken from you, hour by hour.

The last opportunity to turn back to the office just passed by.  And I am more than half way, and I'm feeling pretty good, and I'm staying on my planned route!

I started thinking about how Patti, just after battling breast cancer and enduring surgery, was still looking forward to her 3-Day walk as a survivor.  In fact, I think she was looking forward to this one more than ever.  Still healing from her surgery, and still healing from her Battle, she did it.

I also thought about Melissa, and what she endured with her cancer.  She suffered through 5 surgeries in 5 years, the last two involved infections (MRSA) and painful car trips back and forth to Atlanta.  She lost her natural ability to have children, and this affected her greatly.  She also suffered the unknowns.. did they really get it all?  If not, will it show up anywhere else?  The waiting, I'm sure, was not easy.  But now she is 10 years cancer free!!!!

And then I thought about my feet... my knee... man, that's nothing.  Its a temporary bit of discomfort.  They will feel better tomorrow... or the next day.  This pain is not going to take my life.. or the life of a loved one.  Short cut back to the office??  Hell no.  Mom didn't have a shortcut to take, Patti didn't have a shortcut to take, Melissa didn't have a shortcut to take. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm Baaaaaack...

Hello, I'm back.  Not that anyone has read this blog since "birth"...  But if you have.. let me know. 

Well, it has been about a year and a half since my first blog... almost to the day.  And man, has a lot happened.

About 2 months after my first blog, October 8th 2008 to be exact, I learned some very very frightening news.  Both my Mom and my Sister were diagnosed with Breast cancer within a week of each other.

Patti, my sister, has always been an advocate for yearly breast exams, mammograms, and self awareness when it comes to breast cancer.  She became an advocate after our Grandmother, Anne was taken by breast cancer in 1980.

I believe that it was this that drove Patti to voluteer to put herself through the rigors of walking for 60 miles in 3 days in order to raise money and awareness to help fight, and hopefully find a cure for breast cancer.

I guess that you could say that Grandma saved Patti's life, long after she lost her's.  Because if Patti had not taken on this personal role, she may not have gone to the doctor for her mammogram that day.  Maybe she wouldn't have gone the next year either... or the next.  Maybe Patti would be walking around right now thinking everything was just fine.  Maybe Patti would be living on borrowed time.  Borrowed time that would soon be collect on.

But we will never know... Because Patti knew that it was in her best interest to go for annual breast exams.  And in October of 2008 that paid off... Big time.

Patti's cancer was small... agressive, but small.  Life altering?? You bet.  Patti was faced with a deadly situation.  A situation that she faced with bravery and determination.

Patti had a double mastectomy to remove her cancer, as well as any future risk for re-occurrence.  She did not require chemotherapy, or radiation.  And for this I am extremely thankful.

Patti has been participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk for the past 5 years.  This last one, I think, carried the most meaning for her, as she walked for the first time as a Survivor. 

In her own special way, Patti has been a teacher to many.  I do hope that her actions may save the lives of others.

Mom's faith in the Lord brought her through every thing that I can possibly think of.  And it has brought me through, well... pretty much everything I can think of.

When Mom and Patti were diagnosed, Mom had two very large tumors in her breasts.  One was 10cm (yes, centimeters), the other was 12cm.  So her Oncologist was eager to get her started on a plan.  First would come chemotherapy, then surgery, then radiation.

See, Mom wasn't as pro-active as Patti.  Mom told me (after her diagnosis) that she had felt a lump in her breast not long after they moved to Tennessee, which would have been around 2004.  She said that she didn't go to the doctor, because she didn't have any health insurance and had no idea how they would pay for any health care needed.  I am sure she was also scared of the reality of what was going on, and I can understand that.

So Mom stormed right through her chemo treatments.  We were not there through that, as we have a toddler, Shelby, who doubles as a carrier monkey for germs and other nasties.  And we didn't want to risk contaminating Mom with any of this when her immune system was compromised.  But I'll tell you... the stories that I heard from Dad, and other folks was that she not only made it through the chemo, She actually marched through it with her head, and her spirit high.

On New Years Eve, we all suprised Mom by showing up, unexpectedly to spend the New Year together.  It was Mom, Dad, Patti, Zach, Jeremy, Melissa, Shelby, and I.  All together on New Years Eve.  I recall saying that this was the first new years eve I has spent with my Parents since I was about 12 years old!  And it was one of the best, if not THE best one of all.  With a new year, came new beginnings!

So then came her surgery.  I asked her to have Dad call me when her surgery was done to let us know how things went.  Well, later that day, my phone rang... it was Mom's cell phone.  I expected Dad on the other end telling me everything went well... but I was wrong....  It was Mom!!  They were sitting at a restaurant waiting for their meals to arrive!!!  WHAT?? Did you have your surgery??  Everything had gone very well... and Mom was hungry... Another stellar performance by Mom.

We went up to visit just after Mom's surgery.  It had been too long.  And we had a great visit with my Aunt Pat whom I had not seen in over 20 years!!!  It was a great time.

Then Mom started her radiation treatments once she healed from her surgery.  I was worried about the side affects, but as we talked, she explained that she was really not having many side affects at all... Just a little skin irritation.  So all was well, and she was moving along her treatment plan like a champ.

On June 11th, 2009 Mom had her last round of radiation.  We went up and celebrated that triumph with her in July.  Mom was looking great, and was regaining some of her energy.  Heck, we drug her off to Dolly Wood with Shelby and she kept up the whole day!  It was fabulous!  Mom was on her way back!  Stronger than Ever!!!

In August of 2009, Mom said that during a routine checkup, the doctor said her liver enzymes were a little elevated, and that he wanted to do some follow-up testing to make sure what was causing it.  She said her regular doctor had just increased her cholesterol meds, and that is most likely the case.

We asked Mom to let us know as soon as she did her visit, which was to be September 2nd.  Well, the 2nd came and went, and we didn't hear from Mom or Dad.  So we started calling.... and calling... and calling.  We could not get in touch with Mom or Dad.  We even called their Pastor to see if he could go to the house and check on them.

Well, Thrusday night, September 3rd, I got a call from Mom's cell phone.  It was Mom... but she didn't sound like herself.  She sounded as though she was either drunk, or sedated.  They were on their way back from the hospital after having a Brain, Liver and Lung scan done.  Mom also sounded confused, which is so no like Mom.  I got Dad on the phone, and he told me that Mom's breast cancer had metastasized in her lungs, liver, and brain. Wait a minute... Just last month she was doing fine!  Keeping up with at 2 year old at an amusement park!!!

Patti and I decided to go to Pigeon Forge the next day (September, 4th) to see exactly what was going on.

When we got there, and I saw Mom, I felt like I had been hit with a bag of bricks.  She really couldn't move around by herself, and looked a bit confused.  She wasn't saying much, and when she did speak, her speech was very slurred.

Dad told us that there was a large tumor in her brain that was pressing on her speech and balance centers.  Making it very hard to walk and talk.  And that the Radiology Oncologist set her up to start radiation treatments on her brain that Sunday, September 6th.

I sat with Mom, and talked to her a bit.  The first thing I told her was that I loved her, and that we were doing everything we could to help her.

By the next day, Mom's condition had worsened noticeably.  She was not eating.  We were trying to get her to drink protien shakes and the like... and she tried.

On Sunday we got her up and out to her appointment for her radiation.  After a 50 mile drive to the hospital, I learned the severity of her condition. 

Mom had so many tumors in her brain that you just really could not count them.  Most of them were about the size of a pea, but the big one was about 2.9cm.

After her radiation treatment, I asked her if she knew what was going on, and she nodded yes.  I wanted to make sure that she was told what was happening.

We had another appointment scheduled for the next day (Monday).  And again... her condition was noticeably worse.  She really couldn't stand by herself at all, and she wasn't really trying to communicated any longer.

The radiology technician also noticed her condition was worsening as well.  And we decided to try to have her admitted to the hospital the next day after her scheduled liver biopsy and radiation treatment.

Tuesday comes, and Dad and I had to carry Mom to the car to get her to the hospital.  There was a bit of a joke played on us that morning when we arrived at the hospital... Even though Dad keeps his key fob in his pocket just in case he locks the keys in the car (It makes perfect sense... if you keep your fob connected to your keys, and you lock your keys in the car... the only means of getting to the keys is now locked in with them.), we still managed to lock Mom in the car.  The key fob, for some reason, would not unlock the door.  And Mom was not responding enough, or strong enough to unlock the door.  So after about 10 minutes, a nurse with arms skinny enough to fit through the slightly open window unlocked the door and saved the day!  And wouldn't you know it, as soon as the doors were unlocked, the key fob worked like nothing ever happened....

So, we got Mom to her appointment (liver biopsy), then instead of going for her radiation treatment, her Oncologist wanted to see her.

When her doctor saw her, I witnessed something I have never seen before.  A doctor, completely taken aback by the condition of his patient.  I saw the color wash from his face.  He was truly struck by what he saw.

It was at this time, that we discussed Mom's comfort taking precedence over her treatment.  And it was at this very moment that my suspicions, and my fears were made real to me.  Mom, Dad, and I were crammed into a little exam room with her Oncologist, and we all at once came to the realization that Mom was not going to come back from this.  And that any further treatments would just prolong her suffering.  We asked Mom if she understood, and she grunted and shrugged her shoulders as if to say "Well, we gave it one heck of a try."  So we had her admitted to a room where her medical needs could be met.

That night I stayed with Mom at the hospital and had Dad go back to the house to try and get some rest.  I sat and talked and prayed with Mom.  And although she didn't say anything, I could feel her holding my hand purposefully.

Patti came back to Tennessee (she had gone back to Atlanta when we made plans to help out with her radiation treatments, that we assumed were going to be over the course of 15 days) on Wednesday, September 9th.  And she stayed with Mom that night, and Dad and I went back to the house to get some rest.

Thursday, September 10th, was Mom's 67th birthday.  So we bought some decorations for her room, and some cupcakes and we had a party.  Right there in her hospital room, we celebrated Mom's birthday.  Melissa also came up as well.  It was us, and her Best friend Dottie and Robert.  We sang happy birthday to Mom, off key as was Mom's traditional style. And all things considering, we had a good time.  Mom had several vistors that day from their church.  So many people that Mom touched.

That evening, Dad stayed with Mom.  As I was leaving, I kissed Mom on the forehead, and said, "Mom, you go home when you are ready.  You stop worrying about us, and go home.  I love you"

Patti, Melissa, and I headed back to the house to get some rest, and to give Mom and Dad some time alone.  And about 20 minutes after we left we got a call from Dad.  Mom passed away as they were sitting there together.  Mom went back home to the Lord on her Birthday... could it have been more appropriate?  I think not.

We turned around and went back to the hospital.  I have never hugged my Dad so tight in my life.  I read Mom's favorite Psalm from the Bible, and we spent the rest of the evening talking about Mom and how much we loved her.

We had a memorial service for Mom at their chruch the following Tuesday.  And on that day, I truly learned about the impact that Mom had on so many others.  And on that day my Mom became my Hero.

In her own special way, Mom has been a teacher to many.  I do hope that her actions may save the lives of others.