Tag Archive | leukemia

Eleven. The calendar remains the same.

Eleven seems to be the most common.

Calendars repeat themselves, to the day, every eleven years. Sure leap years will vary this, they repeat to the day every 28 years. Stands to reason, but 2003 was not a leap year.

2003 to 2014 marks eleven years ago, to the day – January 26, that our Mom passed away. After all the time she had so courageously fought back the cancer that was ravaging her body, her passing was peaceful…very sad for us, but peaceful all the same.

With the 2014 calendar matching up with the calendar of 2003 memories come day by day….reliving that time frame, the last month of Mom’s time on this earth.

Taking a look back a few days prior to that last month, I remember that she had to be in the hospital over Christmas – yet we did have our family Christmas when she was back home – the calendar really meant nothing to us for that holiday. I do remember Dad and I watching a movie on that particular Christmas Eve, one that I will never watch again.

There are so many ‘lasts’ to that January – this year when those days come around the memories seem to be more vivid, even though they were eleven years ago. Yet, because they were eleven years ago, the calendar shows them on the same day, they repeat themselves just like the numbers that represent eleven, a 1 and another 1.

Some of those poignant memories, the lasts included, can be sharp and cut through your life like a piece of broken glass. Other memories of that time, the ones less painful, come and wash away some of the sadness of that day.

That month.

That eleven.

Rock Tober

I know the radio stations usually use this phrase as ROCKTOBER… but this Rock Tober has been different. Way different.

October rocked our family’s world. And this was after a tormenting second half of September.

In September we were cruising along, nicely. The first few days, Jeff and I were putting the finishing touches on planning our Canadian vacation to Nelson, BC in honor of our first wedding anniversary. We had a good Labor Day weekend, the next weekend a great celebration with some family and friends to note our anniversary. Then, we had an amazing trip!!! We made it back home in time to attend our niece’s wedding and celebrate.

Things started to unravel.

On our anniversary, a friend’s husband passed away. We were on our anniversary vacation and friends told us the next day.

The Monday following our return from Canada, my brother went to see his DR for a lump in his neck and sore throat combined with an overall tired/crappy feeling he’d been dealing with. Primary DR sent him to an ENT specialist for further review. Testing ensued. This DR did not like what he saw. Not one bit.

The DR told him he thought it was thyroid cancer. My brother not only had to deal with this himself, process the news, but… he had to tell his family. And…his daughter was still in Hawaii on her honeymoon. Thankfully, her husband is a great guy and would be there with her when she got the call from her Dad. The man who walked her down the aisle just a few days earlier. The man who walked her sister down the aisle just four months earlier… and their older sister, six years earlier.

The next weekend, we attended Sarah’s husband’s funeral. This was the very day, five years prior, that Jeff lost his first wife, Tina, to the ravages of diabetes. He was of great support to me and my friends. He knew of Sarah’s pain and anguish.

My brother had surgery so the DR could biopsy the tissue, survey the area and get more testing done and formulate a plan. Test results came, another meeting with the DR. A meeting with another DR. Decisions made. Thyroidectomy scheduled.

Meanwhile, on the other side of our family, Jeff’s Mom, my mother-in-law, had suffered a stroke. She and her husband were traveling near Eugene, Oregon when it happened. Thankfully, they had stopped at a friends’ home. He, being an EMT, knew something was wrong and urged her to let them take her to the hospital. She refused. He was persistent. “You can either go with us now, or wait for an ambulance.” She took them up on the ride to the ER. She was admitted with a stroke. At first she could still speak, garbled, yet she could still speak. The next day no words. She could understand the other side of the conversation, but could no longer formulate her words to hold up her end. Jeff and I both left work to go check on her. We were met by family. Luckily, she had been headed to where a majority of family members live when the initial stroke happened. We stayed with family. We were all blessed to learn that she had been accepted as a patient in one of the best rehabilitation hospitals in the state, when she was to be released from the hospital. The morning came and we went to help transport her from one facility to another. We got her admitted and got a tour of the facility and met with DRs, Nurses, Therapists and a Social Worker. A quite compassionate, caring, professional place. With her in good care, we left for home.

Back home, my brother was to be the guest of honor at a fundraiser. Firefighters and EMTs from the surrounding areas had gotten together to support him and his family. The rural community where he lives, works, volunteers and supports those in need all came together to support him. We wanted to be there too. Not only to support my brother and his family… but to personally THANK those involved.

The next Friday was the surgery. Our younger brother and his family had come to offer support. In-laws and cousins had also come. My brother had a great DR and lots of support. He was going to get through this, but it would be a long time healing.

My dad was not unscathed by my brother’s cancer scare. Dad suffered a lot of anxiety. His health suffered because of it. He could not sleep. He was more irritable. He was more sad. This was HIS kid and his kid HAD to be okay. Dad had told us that this had scared him. Of course it did. He was scared of losing his son. He was scared of the unknown. Dad has had severe health issues himself, including prostate cancer. He had helped Mom battle leukemia…. was right along side her all the way. He had seen his father and mother both battle cancer. He knew the odds. Yet, he knows of determination and good health care professionals.

Just a few days ago, my Dad called me at work…. he was not feeling well at all and had called the ambulance. We spent six hours in the ER waiting for tests to be run, to be analyzed and results determined. I finally got to take Dad home.

Here at the end of October, my brother is healing… yes, it has been a painful time for him, but he’s still around. My mother-in-law is making some progress and is out of the rehabilitation hospital and is now living with my sister-in-law. My dad is able to relax, so he can feel better… and I can too.

Prayers and hopes for all my family members. Me, I simply hope I did my Mom justice…. with her help I was able to help my family get through this Rock Tober.

Whatever October 2013 brings us, we’ll deal with it.

Mom, the Artist

Funny, I remember my Mom as an artisan.

— in the Wikipedia fashion of the definition:

“An artisan (from Italian: artigiano) is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools. As an adjective (spelled “artisanal”), it has been used as a marketing buzz word to describe or imply an association with the crafting of hand made food products, such as bread, tofu, beverages and cheese.”

Especially “the crafting of hand made food products, such as bread,” part. She was a wonderful baker. Her breads, cakes, pies and cookies were hand-crafted, delicious and made with such LOVE; the best ingredient.

I only wish I had some photos of her craft to share with you. Alas, I do not. You see, our family ate her art. (and it was GOOD).

Actually, I should say we ate most of her art.

Mom claimed to not be artistic at all, yet she had a way with a wide variety of art.

She did fine embroidery work and crocheted afghans. Her embroidery work was extraordinary, she learned from the best, thankfully I learned from her. We still have many pieces she did and most of the afghans she made, well the ones she did not give away to family members or someone who needed one.

Besides being an artisan baker and a woman of fine hand-work,  she dabbled in drawing using pastels/chalks. She had done that form of art in her younger years. Not believing she was any good at it, she did not share that side of her creativity with us. Maybe she did not share it was because she was a “mom.” She had three children to raise and a husband to spoil, besides her teaching career.

The last and most impressive pastel I saw her work on was a serene setting of Mt. Hood. In the foreground was a meadow with a cold mountain stream running through it. This lead the eye up to Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. She had drawn Mt. Hood from memory. Of course she could. She’d seen it, passed by it on I-84 and had been on it more than a few times. A more beautiful, peaceful scene of Mt. Hood I had never seen before. She was good, there’s no doubt.

Looking back now, that may have been the last time Mom actually saw Mt. Hood,  the stately overseer of Oregon….Mom saw that peaceful scene herself, in her memory. At that point in her life she was traveling to cancer treatments and blood transfusions, not to take another look at Mt. Hood. So, she used her artistic ability, the ability she claimed to not have, and brought Mt. Hood home to herself.

Funny, I remember my Mom as an artisan. — to me she was quite the artist, in all aspects of her life, quite the artist indeed.

A Great Influence

January SunsetMom passed away on January 26, 2003 after a courageous battle with acute myelogenous leukemia. Yet, while she is physically gone, I know she’s still with me. She still is a great influence in my life. She still helps me, by her grace, to know what is the path for me, to be confident in my choices. By following her example, I know to do what is right.

There are times when I can feel her presence, know that she’s ‘here.’ Sometimes I feel a strong influence, I know she’s had some part in something that has happened in my favor, whether it is of good fortune or a lesson learned. Sometimes, things that I did not believe I could do or never really did all that well somehow turn out great, as if she were here with me, guiding me all the way through — as with the batch of bread rolls I made on January 26th. Other times, I see a butterfly wafting by on a breeze, I know Mom’s spirit is floating by with a gentle, ‘Hello… you’re doing great kid – keep it up.” Then there are times when I am in “the right place at the right time” to see a family member, meet up with a long lost friend, take in a beautiful sunset, experience life as its best, I know Mom’s had a hand in that. In fact, I am certain she brought me to a place that I could feel comfortable reaching out to some new person in my life — the man who became my husband. The man who Mom would have dearly loved to have in our family. The man for me.

Jeff and I were married on 9.10.11 with family and friends all around. I walked in Mom’s shoes throughout my wedding… the very same shoes she wore on her wedding day, fifty-six years ago. Those must have been magic shoes, she and Dad were married for forty-seven years and had been together for fifty-two. With that kind of influence Jeff and I will be fine.