Eight little bottles sitting on the shelf.

Dad became more and more frustrated with each extra day he had to stay in the hospital because of the second surgery. He was still in so much pain, couldn’t eat anything, and was extremely lonely. Depression had set in and it was not going to go away easily. Having my brother come to visit during Easter was a great blessing, as there were three days where Dad could focus on something other than his pain and misery.

He was able to go home after having spent a total of 19 days in the hospital. This day was a very happy one; he was practically vibrating with excitement and sat down in his chair in the living room as soon as we opened the front door. Turned on the hockey game, I believe! His discharge planning was simple enough – a home care aide would come every second day to start, to do his dressing changes and help him with anything else he needed help with. At this time, he was eating soft foods and drinking fluids well. He did not use his feeding tube, preferring to take in his nutrients the old-fashioned way – through the mouth.

It’s interesting how you don’t really know your true strength until it is tested. And then tested again. And again.

Dad’s esophagus closed up two weeks after returning home. He was unable to take in solid food, and then soft food, and finally fluids would not even find their way into his stomach. He refused to use his feeding tube and therefore was taking in nothing. Absolutely nothing. Every time he tried, he would throw it up as it would lodge in his esophagus. Picture not even being able to swallow your own saliva.

He wasted away for another two weeks, losing over ten pounds in the process. Finally, he was convinced to head back to the hospital, where they performed a ‘dilation’ and opened up his esophagus, as well as pushing fluids into his body over a period of eight hours. When he returned home, he felt great again. He was happy, hopeful, and ready to eat.

The next day his esophagus closed up again.

When I arrived that afternoon, he was as pale as a white sheet of paper. He was throwing up and was too weak to walk for longer than seconds at a time.

I urged him back to the hospital, where we waited over eight hours to have him admitted. Another push of fluids occurred; x-rays were taken; they deduced that the esophagus had been irritated in some way and was swollen. They released him after a breakfast of jello, coffee, and apple juice. He was hopeful that it was only swollen and that any swelling would go away eventually. He tried to be in good spirits but I could tell he was beginning to feel defeated, was frustrated with the health care system, and was very ready to give up and accept death.

You can only say so much to someone who has given up. I literally begged him to start using his feeding tube again. I asked him to think of a goal he could work towards. I asked him to think about how good he feels now so it would motivate him to make the effort to take care of himself on the days where he isn’t feeling good. What he didn’t perceive as nagging, he did retain.

I counted the bottles of Ensure Plus before I left. Eight. I took a step down on the ladder of self-respect. If he wasn’t going to make the effort, I would know about it. I would make the effort for him.

B&E?

I tried running on my whackjob of a treadmill on Monday, but it didn’t really work out for me. Too bad, as I can’t check out my runners appropriately without running in them. Duh. And if I run outside, I won’t be able to return them if they don’t work out. Besides, running on ice kind of sucks. Sorry, but it does. Maybe I’ll steal someone’s gym key.

Aside from that fact, shit’s been going downhill. I don’t recall actually being at the top of a hill, but no matter. We’re not at the top anymore, Dorothy.

I have a very sick friend in the hospital, and a grandmother who passed away yesterday. Moments like these make me really struggle to hold on to what is important in life. I often drop to-do’s like flies when things start to go wrong in life. And often, those to-do’s are related to my own health and happiness. It’s an issue. I am aware of it, however, and I’m not so far gone that I can’t think to take care of myself while attempting to care for others at the same time. It can be done.

After the treadmill fiasco on Monday, I started walking to work. One hour there and back. Tuesday, Wednesday, Today. Tomorrow I’ll drive because I have errands and I have no patience when it comes to getting things done. So drive I will.

Tonight I will try a core workout, and depending on my friend’s health, my grandmother’s funeral, this weekend I might visit said gym with stolen key and try those runners out again. The best thing is to have runners on when they run you out of the gym for breaking and entering.

Check Yourself

In the days leading up to Dad’s Cancer treatments, I admittedly turned into a crazy person. As I said before, I basically broke down and turned myself into a martyr. I guess perhaps I was trying to take his pain and make it my own, or at least share in it with him to ease the burden. I know now that things just don’t work that way. Unfortunately, you have to watch them suffer through it, watch them struggle with their own emotions, and be tormented by the fact there is absolutely nothing in the world you can do to make things right again.

There are still the odd ramblings and questions that stir my mind from time to time; when will this be over? will it ever really be over? why did this happen to him?

I’ll never have the answers to these questions; eventually, I had to face the facts and throw up a white flag.

On my end, I made things work by talking to my boss and getting each treatment day off work so that I could drive up the night before, take him to treatment, then drive back home for work the next day. It was non-negotiable. This was what I was going to do for him, since I had nothing else to offer but my sympathies. I didn’t question my motives at that time, but I have since. My Dad is a very independent person. Aside from the fact that he asked his spouse (who he is currently separated from) for help, he had not given any indication that my services were necessary.

When I started getting the “she can help with that” and “he’ll be around to take me“, I started to wonder why I was putting in all the effort. I started feeling avoidance from my Dad like a dark plague on my life. Now, as I was avoiding my friends and living in isolation from them, he was doing the same to me.

Around this time was when tiny arguments started. The bulldog in him met up with the dragon in me, and we went head-to-head on quite a few things. Until I smartened up and realized he is not a baby, and that he alone must live with the decisions he makes.

I got tired. I stopped feeling like I needed to be there each and every time something happened. This wasn’t the way I would have wanted it to come about, but the fact is – I came to accept that his life was his own, and so was mine. I did not only want to return to the life I’d made for myself, but I also needed to. And he didn’t need me pestering him and trying to solve his problems my way.

Do you know how long it took for all that to happen? Approximately two weeks before his treatments ended. Which is to say, six weeks from his first call about the diagnosis. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

It is great advice to help people out as much as you can. It is even greater advice to let them fall on their own and get up on their own. In my experience, wisdom comes from errors made. If you choose not to learn from them, that is your choice. I have had plenty of those moments in my life. And will more than likely have plenty more! But no one needs nor do they probably want another person to lecture them about their choices. They’ll find out soon enough whether their choices were accurate or not.

So I had to check myself. It’s not like that’s never happened before.

If I had Just One Wish

Once upon a time, I posted a quote to Facebook:

Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself can.” – Dodie Smith.

My point was that I figured I’d learn something from the experience of having to watch my father suffer through cancer, even if the only lesson was that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Guess what? Bad things happen to good people.

I didn’t know what to do with the phone that was cradled in my hands when I received the phone call from my Dad that night. I couldn’t do anything but sit silently, saying nothing, while he gathered his courage, swallowed hard and told me the frightening truth. My mind went numb; I remember saying “Oh My God“. I think I may have even said “that sucks“. I was suddenly unable to say anything appropriate to the situation. I didn’t know how to process the information, how to work my way through it, how to come out on the other end at a better place than where I’d started. The “oh…“s and “yes…“s and “right…“s flew out of my mouth simply to fill the void where a more normal, intelligent person might be saying “do you need anything?” or “I am so sorry” or “you’re going to get through this”.

A comment on the posted quote came from a friend a short time later…

“Yes, but it would be easier to suffer yourself.”

Is that true? It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch someone you love and care about suffer with a disease, any illness, any pain. Would it be easier if I were the one to suffer? Would I take it on in his place if I could?

They’re easy questions to answer on the surface. Yes, I would sacrifice myself in order to spare him. But it’s only too easy to say it without actually being held accountable, since it isn’t something that can be accomplished. I would banish the shadows from under his eyes, if I could. I would wave my magic wand and all the documents and forms required by this organization and that company would be filled out and sent in in a matter of minutes, if only to spare him from weeks of labour and frustration.

I felt so… betrayed, when I found out Dad had cancer. Not by him, but by those higher powers, the ones that should know there is no possible way I could continue to exist in the world without my father. The ones who keep heaping things on me, with the constant expectation that I’ll be able to handle it, I’ll be able to cope. I was finished with it. Done trying. Done making excuses for all the bad karma, and I pushed the blame button.

There had to be a reason for this, a purpose. And of course it had to have something to do with me. I did this. I did this to him, somehow. It was my fault. I began to back out of social engagements, preferring to sit alone at home. I outright disregarded my closest friends who only wanted to offer support. I argued with my Mom, I spoke to my brother only through e-mail. I grilled my Dad about the disease: What would happen now? What kind of treatment will they give you? How will you feel through it all? When what he needed was some time to work through those questions for himself first.

Looking back, I realize how badly I handled the news. I’m not sure, if given another chance, anything would change. It’s devastating news, to the person with the illness, to the family and friends. I don’t think anyone faults me for reacting the way I did, but I can’t help but think of a saying I wrote down a few years ago and kept reminding myself of: You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.

I wish I could have controlled my reaction more, but I hardly took the time to decipher what that reaction was, nevermind attempt to control it. You can always look back at a situation and think of ways you could have handled it better. I have to stop analyzing my actions; it doesn’t matter what I did, it matters only what I do.

The Swine Study

I finally managed to do an exercise video yesterday. Thankfully, it was in the privacy of my home, sans mirrors and open windows. By the swooping and leaping of my shadow, I deciphered the fact that I’m very good at Hip Hop. Really. No, not really. After a while, I attempted to keep my shadow behind me so that I wouldn’t have to note how my arms flew around on top of my head and my hip sways were really more like point-and-jabs. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but there you have it. Watch out. I’ll knock you out. With my hip.

While I was in a meeting this afternoon at work, we were instructed to complete an exercise entitled “The Swine Study”. I had to draw a pig on a blank piece of paper; doing so would enable my co-workers to gain some insight into Who I Am. I don’t buy into this stuff too often, but found this exercise all too cute (draw a pig? really? awe… mine had a big pig nose) and the findings to be slightly true to my nature. Want to know? Okay.

This is not my pig. But it is a happy pig.

 

 

 

The location of my pig was smack in the middle of the paper. Like, you couldn’t get more in the middle than I did. That means I’m a Realist. I make notes. And lists. Bang.

I drew my pig with as little detail as possible. No eyes. No mouth. Stick legs. You get the idea. Translation:  I’m a Risk Taker. Carefree and freewheeling. And I get into trouble a lot.

Horace (my pig) is looking off to the right into the distance. Definition? I am a wordsmith.

Providing Horace with four whole stick legs means I’m artistic, and small ears means I’m not very apt at listening to people. Maybe I should add “Listen more” to my list of goals for 2012?

I thought this exercise was neat. It didn’t take long, we each learned a little about each other (now everyone thinks I get into too much trouble) and had a few laughs along the way. I sometimes dread doing these exercises because, you know, do you need to know everything there is to know about me? But this is definitely an exception.

In fact, I’m going to make all my friends do it.

Memories of 2011

So.

My brother sent me this spreadsheet in an e-mail back towards the end of 2009. The title of the Word document is “Memories of…“. It contains a few questions to help you determine the best and worst times of the last year and maybe, possibly even help you discover what you’re doing right. Or, conversely, wrong.

For example, in 2009 to the question “What was your favorite song for the year?” I answered “Don’t have one. Come up with a better question“. I am such a lovely person to be around. In 2010 I actually had an answer for this question, however this year it was back to “Don’t have one, ladidadida“. Seems to me I was trying over in 2010, and abruptly stopped said trying sometime in 2011.

Another awesome question “What were some of the most significant events in your life?“, and my 2009 answer “Grandpa passing away, causing me to take another look at my life“. In 2010, my answer was something about the G20 Summit. 2011? “The threat of death challenging me to seek out the good things in life“. Man, I really crash hard when it comes to dying, huh?

The main thing I noticed, as I was reading through my answers from the last three years, was that I (or perhaps my writing) had become… calmer. More relaxed. I was beginning to relish things that I had never relished before. Warmth. Comfort. Friends. Hot food. Believe me, I used to eat anything, and to me it usually tasted better cold. But this year, 2011, even though I’ve only just said I’m so glad it’s over, has made me into someone different. Someone that, dare I say, I might like to get to know better.

It is definitely interesting to note that this year I cared more about the basics, like wearing sleepwear as much as possible, travelling to spend time with family, reading lots and lots and millions of books. In years past, my priorities seemed to be geared toward money, cars, my passport (?) and a myriad number of other material things that barely skim the surface of a full, happy life. As well as wanting, needing, having to be the most sarcastic asswipe on the face of the earth.

Well, there is still that. Can’t really change who you are at the very deepest levels of consciousness, can you?

But, faze it, I iz all grewed up. Or cloze to ‘t.

“We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.” May Lamberton Becker

2011… Another Whole Year

Gone. I can’t believe how quickly time flies when you’re flying around wasting it.

A quick re-cap of my year? Okay. Sure.

I tried boot camp classes and. they. sucked. My shins hurt something terrible and I had to stop. But I kept running, you know, for a while there. But the damage to my shins had already been done and eventually I stopped running completely. Am now trying to work my way back. Once again.

I ran two 5k races and walked a 3k. I had planned (a 2011 resolution of mine) to run both a 5k and a 10k, so I obviously failed with that, but am very proud of myself for sticking things through for those 5ks.

I had also made a 2011 resolution to save money. Bahahaha. Well, I did, sort of. I saved money that was gifted to me. But that’s about all the money I saved. Still, I suppose it’s something.

I lost my Dog to Lymphoma, many of my Grandmother’s siblings passed away this year, and Dad was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer.

Yes, 2011 has been quite a year. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of events that also were very important to me, but what’s most important is that it’s over. All over. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly ready for a fresh start. Is that too cliché to say?

And at some point, as I always do, I will think up some resolutions for 2012. If I could sum them all up, it would sound something like this:  Work on Becoming Perfect.

Should be easy enough.