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A True Love Story

One of my very good friends told me the other day that my mom and step-dad’s story was one of her favorite love stories. We lost my step-dad last week, he had been battling cancer for quite a while and in the end, it took him in just a couple of weeks. While I will always miss him, I am glad that he is no longer suffering and will always remember that he was in our lives because “it was all my fault” (I’ll explain that in the story).

My mom and step dad (his name is Guy) met in High school, they dated and were actually engaged. He was a year older and graduated before mom. He joined the Air Force after graduation and my grandparents thought it would be better for my mom if they broke it off and that she move on, they didn’t want her to have the lonely life of a military wife. She had listened to her parents but had always regretted it.

For years she looked for Guy at reunions, asking everyone there if they had heard from him or knew where he was. No one knew where he was or what had become of him.

Fast forward to years later, mom had me and my brother, she had married and divorced twice. She had lost a fiance to a blood clot (he died quickly and suddenly) and was living in FL with a man that I really, really didn’t like. Actually let me revise that, it’s not that I didn’t like him, it’s that I didn’t like the way that he treated my mom and I didn’t think he was good for her.  I knew that in order to get this parasite (yeah, he kind of was a parasite) away from my mom that I needed to find the love of her life.

I made it my mission to find Guy. And I did, I found him on Classmates.com. I paid for a temporary membership so that I could send him an e-mail and asked him to contact my mom. Now Guy was not technologically inclined, actually that’s an understatement. So he did not check his e-mail for a while. I think he got the message a couple of months after I sent it. Then he was scared, he thought mom was trying to reach him to tell him that I was his daughter, lol. He had no idea how old I was and was a little nervous about calling her. He finally did and was relieved to find out that it wasn’t to tell him that he had a daughter.

They talked repeatedly over the next couple of months. Guy had retired from the Air Force by then and was working as a trucker. The next time that he got a delivery to bring to FL he made sure that he and mom met up. The spark, the chemistry, whatever you would like to call it was still there. The love they had never died over those years.

They spent the next year with long conversations and visits when they could. Guy moved mom to TN and less than 9 months later they were married. They had the fairy tale wedding that they both wanted. Big dress, tux with tails, little chapel in the mountains of TN and a reception at the top of a mountain in a beautiful cabin. It was a small wedding, only our family and a few of mom’s siblings, a couple of nieces and a couple of in-laws, but it was what they wanted. And you could tell by the look in their eyes how much they loved each other. He was her world and she was his.

I remember in the days after the wedding Guy looking at mom while he was driving and him saying that he’s still amazed that she was there and now his wife. Of course my only thought at the time was “take your damn eyes off my mom and watch the rode before you kill us all” lol.

I am very thankful for the years that we had Guy in our lives. He would repeatedly tell me all the time (usually when I’d get annoyed at him for something) that “it was all your fault” meaning mine, because I had found him. He thought of me as his daughter, my brother as his son and my daughter as his granddaughter.

I will miss this man forever, he brought our family together, he brought joy to my mom. And though you could never watch a movie all the way through with him (he had to do a running commentary through the whole thing), and he loved to goad you into an argument (he loved to see how much he could wind me up), it was all part of the wonderful person that he was. I couldn’t have asked for a better match for my mom and a second dad.

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Today’s a New Day

The past week and a half has been crazy insane. My mom and step dad were here visiting and helping prepare for my daughter’s graduation and move. Thank goodness I had the sense to take the whole week off from work and even tacked on an extra day. We were out straight the whole week. I feel like I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

But I digress, Tiffany turned 19 on Saturday, she graduated on Sunday and she left yesterday morning at 3am to move to TN with my mom and step dad. I kept myself together as much as I could last week. I held the tears in. I didn’t let Tiff see me cry. Not till the end, just before she left. I couldn’t control them anymore.

My brother is amazing. He’s helped keep me together through all this. I do not know what I’d do without him.

So my baby is in TN and I have an empty room in my apartment. The first thing one of my friend’s said to me, is what are you going to do with the room, you can’t leave it empty. (Well actually, it’s not completely empty, her bed is there and a dresser, but everything else is gone). So I’ve decided that I’m going to re-purpose the room. I’ll make her bed into a day bed, I’m going to move my desk in there so that I can use it as an office area and I’m going to get some big pillows and set up a yoga/meditation area too.Big plans for a small space, but I think I can make it work.

Besides that, I’ve still got school work, I’m helping a friend out with a bunch of graphic design projects, I’m looking to start going to Yoga classes and finally getting back into the gym. So I’m keeping busy and keeping telling myself that this is a great move for her. I know it really is. I’m so proud of her for taking this plunge. I know she can do great things, she has only to try and she will find that she will.

So Today’s a new day, an empty nester I am. It’s not the end, it’s a beginning, let’s see where that road leads me…….

Side Effects – oh fun

So I beat cancer. I kicked it’s butt and survived. I get to see my baby grow up, get to live and enjoy life. But wait a minute, what’s that… side effects from chemo??? No, not going to happen to me, I’ll be fine. Menopause early? Yeah I can deal with that. Yeah, Menopause started at 28 for me. I knew that I was going to go through it early, but I figured, well typically women go through it in their late 40’s or 50’s, so I’ll go through it in my late 30’s. I was wrong.

Started with little things, like a hot flash here, a night sweat there. Then my monthly visits from my “friend” came further and further apart. (Why anyone would every call menstruation a friend is beyond me, it was horrible). Then one day it was like WHAM, a switch flipped. I went from fine to mega bitch in 0.23 seconds. The mood swings were crazy.

Ok, time line check, this was my late 20’s, heading towards my early 30’s and Tiffany was right around 10-11  age range. I love my daughter with all of my heart, but she is a drama queen. Now she admits it openly. Back then she was just getting her drama on, in a big way. I might also add here that I was a single parent at this point too, working full time to support us.

So I was in full blown menopause and Tiff was in pre-teen bitchy phase, I’d come home from work at night and I would do my best on the bad days to just stay away (well as away as you can get in a small 2 bedroom apartment) from her, I knew if I interacted with her too much, I’d jump down her throat and no matter what she did, she really didn’t deserve my “pause rage.”  Do you think that she’d sense that I was staying away or hidden for a reason, no, of course not. She would do her best to push all my buttons.

How we both survived that time without people banging on our apartment door from our screaming matches, I still will never know.  But we did make it through, and I have to say that post menopause is a wonderful thing. I still run on the warm side, before, I was always cold, now I’m usually always warm. I still have an occasional night sweat. But thankfully, I no longer have the dreaded mood swings and Tiff had survived to the end of her teen years.

Unfortunately, I have to say that early menopause was not the only side effect that I ended up with. I am also prone to blood clots. Back in 2002 I landed my butt in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism( blood clot in the lung). They caught it early but I did end up having to take blood thinners for the next year and have week visits to my friends the vampires (or lab techs) for blood to be drawn.

I wish that I could say that the side effects stopped there, but they didn’t. A couple of years later, at Thanksgiving time, I started having trouble breathing. I actually let it go on longer than I should have. I let it go one for about a week. I actually had a doctor’s appointment to be looked at, but Tiff had gotten sick and there were no openings for her to be seen (we go to the same GP), so good mom that I am, I gave up my appointment for her to be seen. That was the day before Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving, I got up and I was getting pains in my chest. At this point I know my butt is going into the hospital for more than just a day or 2. I call my brother to come get me (great brother that he is), I take a long hot shower while I wait for him (I know it will be my last shower for a couple of days, I want to be clean) and into the ER I go.

Between the chemo ravaging my body to kill the cancer and the tumor trying to strangle my heart and lungs, it left scar tissue on y heart and weakened it. My heart had become enlarged and the sack around it was filled with fluid. My heart was drowning. So they keep me in the hospital, put me on 3 different meds, 2 to bring my already low blood pressure down even lower so that my heart doesn’t have to beat as hard and 1 to help rid my body of fluids.

I have Congestive Heart Failure, I take 3 meds a day and I had to maintain a very low sodium diet. That was what my wonderful cardiologist informed me (which by the way, he is wonderful, down to earth, just overall awesome). So I got a week in the hospital, I needed a vacation from work anyways, right?

All things considered, I wasn’t supposed to make it past 19. The grim reaper was knocking on my door hard and was turned away (I think my mom scared him away actually), so I’ve had side effects. I’m still here, I still get to spend time with my loved ones. I get to spend time with my friends, both old ones and my new ones. So I don’t regret any of my experiences, they have made me the strong, independent woman that I am today.

Rehab and Good News

I was finally home. spending time with my little one, no more hospital food (I think that was one of the things I hated, not having mom’s home cooking), sleeping in my own bed. While I was in the hospital, during those months, my step dad, step brother and Dave went and moved our room (Dave, Tiff and I) from the second floor to the first floor and my step brother moved up to my old room. Using a walker, having an oxygen tank, they weren’t real stair friendly to say the least.

The VNA (Visiting Nurses Association) were wonderful. I had a nurse that came out every day to deal with any injections that I needed and for the first couple of weeks she changed the dressing in my chest. They had assigned a Home Health Aide to Tiffany because she was a preemie. Turns out that her HHA was someone that I knew as a kid and hadn’t seen in probably 10 years. I was happy to have Becky watching my daughter and spending time with her. After I got home the VNA assigned me an HHA too, Nancy. She was the sweetest lady. She’d come to the house at around 8 in the morning and stay till 4. She’d make me lunch, help me bath (that was weird, having a stranger help me wash up in my own house, in the hospital, I was used to it but at home it was odd), helped me take care of Tiffany.

The VNA also sent out a physical therapist. Where I was having trouble getting around, and stairs were really hard on me (there was no choice getting into the house, I had to go up and down stairs) so they sent the rehab to me. The first woman that came out was horrible. She was mean to me. I had just been to hell and back and she was yelling at me that I wasn’t even trying. Hello are you in my body, do you know what it’s capable of?  No, but I do. After a week of her coming and seeing that it wasn’t just a bad day, my HHA called and told them to send someone else. She stuck up for me when I just wasn’t able to do it myself.

The new physical therapist was great. She helped me exercise my leg muscles and build strength so that I wouldn’t need to use the walker anymore. It took months for me to be fully able to get around without help of someone. I think I stopped using the walker after 2 months but it was another 3 or 4 before I wasn’t afraid of stairs and falling down them.

October 12, 1993 is forever ingrained in my mind. This was the day that I had a gallium scan. For those that don’t know, gallium scans work differently from say a CAT scan. Before having one, I’d have to go 24 hours a head of time and get an injection of radiation. After I had the injection, I was no longer allowed to hold Tiffany for 2 days because there was a possibility of her getting radiation poisoning from me. I’d go back on the following day and spend about 90 minutes laying on a bed with my eyes closed with my arms above my head while this huge thing would rotate around me, very, very slowly. And when it came near my face, it was less than an inch away. I’m claustrophobic, so I kept my eyes closed so I wouldn’t freak out.

After my scan that day, the nuclear medicine doctor (I can’t remember the official title) had Dave and I come in for him to give us the results. It was gone, the tumor that had been encasing my heart and lungs was gone. Nothing left but scar tissue. He was amazed. Dr I was called in and he was amazed. Told me that I was a miracle, that it shouldn’t have been gone at all, that he didn’t know what happened or why but it was gone.

I was there at Dana Farber that day for the scan and for my last round of chemo. At that point, Dr I declared me in remission and had me go through the chemo just for the hell of it. He still didn’t believe his eyes. But I was cured. That’s all could think of. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell mom, dad, everyone. This was in the days before I had a cell phone and instant ability to communicate with everyone.

After that my appointments at Dana Farber started to stretch out, first to every other month, then to every 3 months, every 6 months, to once a year, to finally none at all. But I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The only cloud on that day, I couldn’t pick up and hold Tiff and hug her. I had to wait another 24 hours before I could hold her.

So not only did I have a miracle baby, who saved her mom, but now I was a medical miracle. Someone, somewhere along the way told me that Dr I published my case in the New England Journal of Medicine. A few years after going into remission, I went to see Dr I for a follow up visit and sat there with sad eyes and my first thoughts were “Oh crap, it’s back.” No, he had sad eyes because his bosses were forcing him to chose between treating patients and doing research. He was sad because it was out last appointment. At this point, he was a member of the family practically, he saved me. His research saved me, I couldn’t fault him for staying with his research, especially if there was a chance that he could save someone else’s life.

I still miss him and wonder if he’s still at Dana Farber or if he’s gone back home. But I will forever be grateful to him for the life that I have been able to live.

Tiffany

After Tiff was born and I was whisked away to Brigham and Women’s, she stayed there in the hospital where she was born. My cousin, who was pregnant at the same time, had her daughter 2 days later. This was very good because my grandmother, aunt and uncle would go and check both babies out of the nursery and just dote on them. The nurses there at the hospital knew what was going on with me and gave Tiffany extra attention and allowed for my family to come and spend as much time with her and her cousin as possible.

Because her dad and I weren’t married, I was her only guardian. Mom couldn’t get her out of the hospital because I wasn’t there to sign her birth certificate. Mom brought me all the paperwork, Brigham had a notary on staff that came and notarized my signature and I also filled out paperwork that basically gave custody to my mom. At that point we still weren’t sure that I was going to make it.

14 days old and she didn’t go straight home, her first stop was to see me. My mom brought Tiffany right in to see me. I missed her so much. She cried the entire time. She didn’t like the tubes hooked up to me, she didn’t want me to hold her at all.  Mom saw that it was killing me, so she took her home. She only brought her in for one other visit and she did the same thing.

It upset me that I couldn’t be there to hold my baby, that I didn’t get a chance to ever breast feed her, that she didn’t want me. That’s what was going through my head. Talk about postpartum blues, I would cry for days on end. Not that I didn’t have plenty to cry about, but that wasn’t it. It was my baby that I cried over.

Tiffany wasn’t a heck of a lot better at home. She was fine when my mom would hold her and my grandmother. But she didn’t really want anyone else. She cried all the time. She wanted her mom, but she didn’t want her mom in the hospital. When I finally got to go home, she calmed down a bit. Mom still kept her in her bedroom for another month or so. I was having trouble standing and walking. If Tiff woke up in the night, I wouldn’t be able to get up on my own to get her.

So at 4 months old, I was finally able to care for her on my own. She was moved into her crib in my room. Within a week of being in my room with me, she was sleeping through the night. She just needed her mom to be close by. My mom was amazed that she slept so good.

I have to say that with all that I went through, that I was blessed with an extraordinarily good baby. She was wonderful, still is. I even forgive her for letting her first word be Nana instead of Mama.

Miracle Baby

So I left something out from my previous post, Tiffany was a miracle baby. Let me explain that a little better. I know that many people don’t believe in psychics, think that the whole thing of getting a reading is hogwash. Well when you grow up as I did, hearing/sensing spirits, having dejavu on a daily basis, it’s kind of a normal thing. My mom decided that she wanted to have a psychic party when I was about 5-6 months pregnant. At the time I was actually feeling pretty good and I had already had the ultrasound where they could have told me the sex of the baby, but I didn’t want to know. I wanted to be surprised.

Getting back on track, the psychic party was basically a psychic in a room with each of the party goers, individually and the rest of us sat out in the kitchen socializing and munching on good food. It was my turn and I went in, sat down. Sue immediately told me that my baby was going to be the talk of the town, that it was going to be famous to a certain degree. She asked me if I knew what I was having, I told her no and that I didn’t want to know. She really, really wanted to tell me more but couldn’t because I didn’t want to know.

So fast forward to the hell I went through, Tiffany was 6 weeks early. If she hadn’t decided to come out when she did, we wouldn’t have made it. Either one of us. Yes she was born by emergency c-section, but she was perfect. No issues at all. 5 lbs, 14 oz and 18 inches long as a preemie. That in itself was a miracle and that she survived and thrived inside the war that was going on within my body.

I remember one day that Dave came up to my room in the hospital from going outside for a cigarette and he said, “I think that everyone is talking about Tiffany.” What do you mean, I asked him. “Well, when I was outside, everyone was talking about this miracle baby who saved her mom’s life by being born early.” One of my nurses confirmed that yes, my story had gotten out and my miracle baby was being talked about.

It wasn’t until a couple years later that I thought back on that psychic reading and put the two together. But Tiffany was and is a miracle. Although she’s no longer a baby, she’ll be 19 soon. It’s a miracle that she survived, that she’s healthy, with no health issues, that she’s my blessing.