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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stepping Forward

I haven't posted since the last week in March and I have struggled to get back here and start writing again.  I haven't been sure where to begin.

After my last post in March I got a call that my mom was in the hospital in intensive care, 600 miles away.  My son and I flew up to Maine immediately (end of March).  On that April 6, 2012 (Good Friday) we got the excruciating news.  With no other signs or symptoms up until that point, mom was diagnosed with inoperable, untreatable stage 4 lung cancer with 6 to 18 months to live.  What landed her in the hospital in the first place were complications from the cancer including peri carditis (fluid around her heart) and they also discovered blood clots in her legs and lungs.

She went home on blood thinners April 7th and no other medicine, and we flew back home on Easter Sunday (April 8th.)  She was in pretty good spirits considering, and went back to a somewhat normal lifestyle (able to move around, cook, shop, etc.)...but that only lasted a couple of weeks.

Later in April we received the second devastating blow.  Mom was readmitted to intensive care on April 23rd.  This time her heart, liver and kidneys all shut down due to out of control INR levels (a result of the wrong dose of blood thinners, not the cancer.) Her blood was so thin it flowed through the lining of her heart until there was literally a liter of fluid around her heart which caused it to stop beating.

I threw some clothes and toiletries into the car and almost drove away.  But I just....I had a feeling I might not be coming back to Maryland before her funeral.  So I went back in and packed clothes I thought might be appropriate, got in my car and drove until we reached the hospital.  I parked the car, went up to the ICU, found my mom alive and speaking (though tired) and I sighed a huge sigh of relief.

The ICU had a built in cot/window seat, so I stayed there with my mom in the hospital.  That began a three week journey of living, eating, sleeping, talking, hugging, kissing, laughing and crying with my mother at her bedside.  There were ups and downs, highs and lows.  We laughed about crazy things.  We had a lot of "potty talk."  Those were times she'd get moved to the bedside commode and we'd talk for two hours at three o'clock in the morning. About anything and everything.  There were amazingly poignant moments that I was witness mother touched so many lives at that hospital with her huge heart, her grace and her strength.  I will write about all of that later.  I was honored and privileged to bear witness, and I feel like the least I can do is take the time to relay her story to others with "ears to hear" or "eyes to see."

Through many physical setbacks and surgeries, my mom had one major goal:  getting home, to her own home.  On Friday, May 11th mom got her wish and she went home....on hospice.  And on May 19th, with all of us around her, at 6:15 p.m., and her eyes wide open, mom took in her last breath....and never exhaled.

It's been a hard road getting back among the living.

Mom, painting with her pastels. She sure loved painting,.

I made funeral arrangements and visiting hour arrangements for both Maine and Massachusetts.  And tried as best as I could to help my father....who lost his bride of months shy of 50 years.  And in the midst of all that, I had to try to get my home in Maryland repaired and on the market.  I had to get packed and moved, because in March, just before my mom got sick, I had accepted a job in a new state with a new company.

Needless to say, during that whole time....I didn't watch what I ate.  I didn't exercise.  I didn't "stay the course" on my slow and steady progress.  In fact, I gained a substantial amount back.  I decided that once the move was final and I was in my new place, I would start working out again and get back on track.

On July 2nd, I started doing P90X in my living room each day.  I am eating healthy again and feel like I'm turning the corner once again and heading back toward the finish line.  In July I lost 9 1/2 pounds, so I'd say I'm doing okay.

It's been one hell of a year.  I don't know what the future holds...none of us do.  I miss my mom terribly, every day, many times a day.  But I also know her heart.  She wouldn't want me using my grief as an excuse to not keep reaching for my dreams.

So I booked a cruise for March of next year, A year after mom's diagnosis.  If I work steady, I will be at my weight loss goal by then.  I just celebrated 1,000 days since I quit smoking.  I am at a job I love, in a state I love, working with people I like a lot, and my son loves it here also.  

I dug a little deeper, and I found hope again.  And I'd like to start sharing the journey again, too, as I keep trying to make those next right choices.  Because it's what I do, right?  Right. And at the end of the day, when I see my mom again, I want to hear how proud she is of me.....still.......

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