For Shelly…


Dear Cancer,

I don’t just hate you, I’m terrified of you. You have changed my life forever in ways I never thought¬†imaginable.

When I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college, I was having the time of my life. I was living in a dorm with all my sorority sisters and doing all the things college girls do. One night, during my mid-term exams, that life came to a screeching halt. The phone rang and it was my dad. My dad never called at night! He always called early in the morning to make sure I was there. ūüôā ¬†But this night, he chose to call and had some news…news I never thought I would hear. “Your mother had an irregular mammogram. And they did a biopsy today. The results showed it was cancer. She will be having surgery tomorrow…a mastectomy.” You know, I can’t even remember how I responded other than crying. I was told to get ¬†in touch with my cousin who was also at the same school and had a car….and he was to take me to see her the next day after her surgery and bring me back for exams. ¬†All I know is that I was in shock and a state of disbelief. I couldn’t be losing my mother! Not at this age. I still needed her!

That was my first encounter with cancer involving someone close to me. I was young, bullet-proof and emotionally¬†unequipped¬†to deal with the aftermath. Seeing her in the hospital after surgery, hooked up to all the tubes and wires, in pain and helpless was surreal.What do I do? I don’t even remember whether I spoke to her.

My mom came through the surgery fine and did three months of chemo with all the vomiting, etc. while I was at school. I came home between quarters and did what I could but I mostly stayed at school because I couldn’t handle it emotionally and had no idea what to do at home. I didn’t know how to help my mother or cook. Some of my family think poorly of me to this day for being distant during this time. But I couldn’t. And obviously my father couldn’t handle it either because my mother caught him having an affair while she was going through chemo and my family was torn apart. They divorced shortly after.

Little did I know, cancer would come to haunt me again… and again.

My father was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2005. My parents were divorced and my dad had remarried by this time. The tumor in his liver was operable and the fantastic doctor he had felt he could get it all. And he did but told us the chance of re-occurrence was 85%. My father was never the same after surgery. He lived his life in fear of cancer; he went from being a mid-life crisis, sports car driving, party animal, 60 year old who thought he was 40 to a 70 year old man sitting in a recliner, watching sports and refusing to socialize.

My mom struggled through many years of depression from the divorce after 35 years of marriage but managed to come through on the up end and find her own life doing all the things she loved to do and never having to answer to anyone for doing them. If she wanted to spend her entire day quilting or reading, she did. No questions asked.

The summer of 2008, things took a terrible turn. I got a phone call from my mom. She told me her lymph nodes in her neck had been swollen for several weeks and she’d done two round of antibiotics but they were still enlarged. Her doctor was sending her to an ENT. Within a week, she saw the ENT and he wanted to do further tests…a biopsy. My sister Kelly said she would go with her.

On July 17th, I got the call that the biopsy results were in. It was cancer. Thus began the journey again.

My mother came to live with us in August of 2008 to get cancer treatment for throat cancer that had¬†metastasized¬†to the lungs. ¬†We did chemo….and chemo…until her frail body could take no more. She finally got to the point she couldn’t get up anymore. And we stopped. We battled pneumonia a few times; the last time we called for hospice. She made it a few days past one year. She died July 25th, 2009.

The real kicker to all this…when my mom was near the end….having hallucinations and calling for unknown people, we go the call that my dad’s liver cancer was back. He headed down to Shand’s in Gainesville, FL to see a specialist.

His surgeon thought it should all be simple. The surgeon even planned to film the surgery for instructional purposes. My father celebrated his 75th birthday with us in Gainesville on June 1st, 2009, the night before his surgery. On June 2nd, the surgery took place but it was not as simple as the surgeon had hoped. ¬†Arteries were involved and repaired but didn’t work the way expected after surgery. He was on life support for 15 days before my step mother decided it was time to let him go. He died June 17th, 2009…three weeks before my mother.

I didn’t bother to work in the three or four times my dad had melanomas removed. That somehow seems trivial now. ¬†Isn’t that stupid? How can any cancer be trivial??? And my husband has had two basal cell cancers removed from his arm. I’m told those aren’t fast spreading so I take it for granted.

But cancer has tested me and I can only say that it has tested me second hand. I haven’t had it myself or had to face the thoughts some must go through when they are diagnosed. But it made me an orphan in a three week time span. It left me in the store looking at Father’s Day cards for my husband and realizing I don’t have to buy one for MY father anymore. It left me holding my phone in my hand in the kitchen realizing I can’t call my Mama to see how to cook something. It left me explaining to my two small children that their Papa and Gran aren’t coming back. It left me with a void only a Mama can fill.

I’ve watched friends go through it recently as well and cannot imagine the struggles and turmoil. I just can’t. Cancer tore apart my family. ¬†Cancer changed me and my life forever. I wish I could better express how, but I’m not sure what to say. I made it through my mother’s breast cancer mostly unscathed but her second bout with cancer changed me permanently in so many ways. Some good and some bad. I miss her every single day. And I will never recover.

There just must be a way to overcome this terrible disease. Every time I turn around, someone else has cancer. We have to put a stop to it. It’s time….cancer must die.

Father’s Day


Do you know what it’s like to have your father tell you he’s finally getting the son he always wanted? Watching your step sister climb in your father’s lap and hang all over him like he’s her boyfriend? Do you know what it’s like to have to beg your father not to stop paying your mother alimony? What about listening to him as he sings the praises of his new step daughter’s successes over and over? And to listen and¬†feign¬†a smile as all your step family gushes about his generosity and what a sweet man he was? Can you imagine seeing posts over and over from your step sister about “her dad” and how much she misses him? What about getting the letter from his attorney after his death asking you to sign a waiver that you won’t contest….having never read the will? And requesting the will only to find your name (and your siblings as well) are no where mentioned in it?

Well, it’s kind of like a kick in the gut.

Summer! Where are you?


Summer….please hurry and get here so I can to to my Mama’s place and read and think and write. I need time away! It’s over due.

Rough Patch


I keep visualizing my Mama’s face as she looked at me and said, “I just wish someone would tell me when I will get past this rough patch.” That was near the very end. She never gave up. And now, when I find myself going through what I think is a rough patch, I’m reminded that it’s not as rough as some. And I’m lucky….because I will get through.

Update on my “Shit, shit everywhere!” post


You might remember my post “Shit, shit everywhere!!!”¬†Well, I’m proud to say I’ve tackled one of the issues. I worked on my dining room yesterday. Here is the after proof. I still have a few items with no home on the china hutch.

Nearly shit-free dining room

Returning from Daytona


While traveling home from Daytona yesterday, I sat next to a very nice man from Kentucky. Our conversation started after he noticed the look of horror on my face when the pilot explained we would be going through some heavy¬†turbulence¬†and should keep our¬†seat belts¬†fastened at all times until notified further. He also warned mothers with lap children to hold them tightly. Apparently the nice gentleman next to me noticed my worry and asked if I was scared of flying. I explained I was fine with flying but not with warnings of severe turbulence. He calmly looked at me and said, “Don’t worry. It will all be just fine.” We began do talk about why we were flying, our children and families, little league ball, lots of different things. But we had one conversation that really stayed with me. Paul said he was being flown home by his employer. Paul is a truck driver for a large construction company and takes trucks down to a construction site in Orlando and if a truck is there to be returned, he drives it back; if there are no trucks to return, he flies home. He said he’d prefer to take a truck back but flying was ok. He casually added, “Flying is just harder cause the food and drinks are so expensive in the airports and all, I just wait till I get back home to eat.” And it¬†occurred¬†to me how so many of us can just walk up to the Starbucks counter in the airport and grab our “Venti¬†Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte” without any thought of how much it costs. Boy, does that make me feel kinda horrible. I have money to blow on stuff like that and Paul has to wait until he gets home to EAT because it’s too expensive. I also think about this kind of thing when I’m grocery shopping and I am putting things in my basket and looking at stuff I don’t really need and I pass a woman with a calculator who is adding every item she places in her basket to make sure she has enough money to check out. I was THERE once; I lived that but the difference is I was single. I didn’t have an infant in my cart like she does. I think we all need to be humbled once in a while. We need a reminder that people are struggling…maybe financially, maybe with some family turmoil, maybe with inner demons or an illness, depression…who knows. But I enjoyed meeting Paul and wished him well as we each walked in different directions to our connecting flights.

Locker Room Talk


Yesterday being Valentine’s Day and the thought of paper hearts and such, I remembered a funny story I thought I would share.

 

This story goes back to when I was living in Pensacola working at CPASoftware.¬†Several of the guys there would all walk down to the YMCA at lunch and work out. One of those guys was Michael. I’ll leave out last names and tags unless they are requested. Michael had two small children at the time and this particular day, one of his kids had made a heart for him and asked him to wear it. Being the great dad that he is, he wore it proudly to work. So off go Michael, Ron, Nick and I believe Paul to the YMCA. They enter the locker room to get changed and are mixed in amongst the other men in the room when Nick calls out across the room, “HEY MICHAEL!!! Why do you have a heart on???” Say that out loud to yourself. Ok. DEAD SILENCE as everyone in the locker room stops and stares at Michael. And Nick stammers a bit and says, “No! No! I mean a… ‘HEART’… on.”

Nightmares


I had a nightmare a few nights ago. Nightmares are no stranger to me. I have nightmares at least once or twice a week and I should probably document them more often. Each one is very vivid and detailed; most times I can remember every bit of it when I wake. Luke has to wake me occasionally because I am crying, screaming,  or kicking. Some trouble me so deeply that I go through the next day feeling like it really happened.

Last night, I dreamed about my mother. She was at my house under my care again but more like she was when she first arrived. She was lively, lucid and still on the go. My sister Tracy was at my house with her son Avery. ¬†My mother could do nothing but talk of Avery and what Tracy had done for her. She would tell me over and over that she thought she should go live with them. As much as I begged and asked why, she continued to tout them without saying a word about me positively or negatively. ¬†I was so upset that I was crying and I told my mother, “Maybe you should go live with Tracy. Let me help you pack your things!”

Luke woke me because I was crying. I truly felt the pain….deep down. My mother was the one person I always knew would be there for me, no matter what. And in the nightmare, she wasn’t. Kind of like now.

Would you care for some dessert with lunch??!?


Yesterday was our girls lunch day. Three of our four were able to go this week. And naturally since I was there, something odd happened.

I’m not going to name the restaurant for reasons you will later understand. But at this particular place, you place your order up front, get a number and they bring the food to your table. I get to the register to order and there is a young guy, very cute and personable, taking orders. I see a sign that says 50% off wine on weekends so I asked if that applied today. No, of course not. I ordered a New Castle. He wanted to know if I needed a glass. I laughed and told him that I always come prepared and pulled a hugger out of ¬†my purse. He found that amusing. I got our number and headed off to our table.

Another man brought our food and a few minutes later, here comes that young fella asking if we needed anything. We told him no that we were all good. He struck up some conversation and was overly friendly. As soon as he left, we started discussing who he might be flirting with and whether or not he was gay. Something about his gestures and body movements led us to believe he was probably gay. We continue our conversation talking about our holidays and New Year’s Eve. Well, a little later, here he comes back. He wanted to know if Debbie and I needed another drink. We told him yes. While he was away, I pulled out the money to pay for it since Debbie’s birthday was coming up. She insisted on getting the tip. He comes back with our drinks and I try to hand him a $20 to pay for it. He whispers and motions for us not to worry about it. I insisted he take the money and he said no. Debbie asked if she could at least tip him. At that point, he jokes and says, “Sure. And for $100, I’ll meet you in the bathroom!” We all laugh as he takes her tip and walks away. Well, that was weird! He went over to another table and was talking to two guys eating. We thought they looked like they might be gay as well so again, we come to the conclusion he’s gay. Plus, Debbie offers up that any heterosexual man wouldn’t ask for money to meet him in the bathroom for a quickie!

Another visit from our friend and Debbie and I are getting another round. This time I MADE him take the money. When he came back with my change, he asked if I was married. I told him yes. Now he mentions he has a new relationship in Huntsville so he works weekdays and goes there every weekend. Interesting. He didn’t say he had a girlfriend…he said a relationship. What straight guy says that???

Right as we are about to leave, he comes back one more time. He pulls out a stack of business cards from his pocket and puts one on the table in front of each of us and tells us to please come back and should we ever need ANYTHING to please call him at the number on the card. Three times after that, he told us that the number on the card was his cell phone number. He couldn’t seem to emphasize that enough. Isn’t it a bit odd to have your cell number on your business card when you work in a restaurant?!?? Most people that work in a restaurant are there all the time anyway so why wouldn’t you have the restaurant number on the card? And his title was Resource Manager. What the hell is that?!?!

When I got home, I looked him up on Facebook. His photo is of him and another guy. Again, not your usual “fella”. Hmmm… I googled his cell phone number. The search came up with a sex toy store in Cottondale, AL. I asked Luke his thoughts on all this (leaving out the phone number part cause I knew he would go nuts). Luke says he’s selling Amway or something. Is he selling sex toys? And if so, why didn’t he have a different business card for that??? For a real opinion, I laid it all out to my girl Heather. She immediately says he is prostituting. *GASP* When did I become so¬†naive??? That thought never¬†occurred¬†to me! Oh my God! That gay boy is selling himself for money! I don’t get it but I’m pretty damn sure she is right. Well, just in case you need some toys or sex, call (205) 534-9805.

Smooth move!


I have to back up and pave the way into this one. So Norma was my dad’s wife. We’ve gotten to know her family because they were often down in Orange Beach at different times and also came down for a week every summer. Norma has a sister, Susan, ¬†that lives in Atlanta. Susan is married to Dan; they are a few years older than I am. Dan is one of the greatest guys! He is a jokester, hilarious, outgoing and super friendly. As for Susan….

Yeah. At that wedding reception when I was pretty well lit, I called Haley’s uncle Dan over. For some ungodly reason, I had decided that was a good time and location to discuss the fact that his wife HATES us (me and my family). He insisted she didn’t but she never speaks to us. As a matter of fact, she avoids us at all costs. We’d seen her at the two gatherings at Norma’s and each night, if she came into a room where either Luke or I was, she would turn and leave. I asked Luke if she ever spoke to him. He told me no. So I relayed this to Dan. Again, he insists she has nothing against us but it is this way every time we see her.

Well today, on my way in, I picked up the mail. Low and behold, I got a fucking letter in the mail from Susan. I really didn’t have a recollection of dumping all that on Dan so I had no idea what it was about. As I opened it, it all came flooding back and I felt bad…just for an inkling. In the letter Susan explained what tremendous amounts of stress she was under that weekend. She’d brought her 13 year old son and one of his friends that were bored stiff, she went on a 15 mile bike ride the day of the rehearsal dinner, she is training for a¬†triathlon¬†Dan has signed her up for, blah blah blah. Ok. What about the other 40 times I’ve been around her??? She always looks like she’s pissed so I never bother with trying to approach her.

A few months ago, Norma confided in me that Susan has an ongoing health issue with her colon. When Susan had her last child years ago, it apparently ripped her from one end to the other. She has had numerous surgeries on her colon/rectal area to try to repair it but no success. The last one, the doctors gave her the option to have a colostomy temporarily and do a radical surgery that should fix it permanently or go for just another patch-up and hope for the best. She opted for the latter because she couldn’t stand the idea of a colostomy.

All that kinda makes me feel bad for her. But all in all, maybe it’s why she holds her ass so tight and is a bitch! Cause it wasn’t the stress of that weekend….

Now, I have only myself to thank for having to write her back.

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