Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was going to try and write a brilliant essay on Thanksgiving, a listing of all I'm thankful for, lessons learned, and ups in the road to wellness. But, I am at the moment speechless. I can only write, A HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all the friends who check up on me, the visitors who take time out of their busy day to read about my mundane life and leave wonderful comments of support and all the silent readers. I appreciate all of you and you are all on my list of people to be thankful for.
God bless you now and always.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A little bump in the road.

Yesterday was registration day and the next step into my career change process. I need Human Anatomy and then a Physiology class as my last two pre-req's to apply for Nursing school at this particular Community College. I made sure I had all my registration materials by the computer. I practiced my login to the website. I set my alarm clock for extra early so I could make sure I was ready to register at 8am when the website opened. I did all this and much to my dismay found that every single session of Human Anatomy was full before registration officially opened. Perplexed, I called the registrars office and they explained that there was an early registration for some students but to check the website almost daily as a new pre-requisite had been added for that class and some of the students registered will find they are not eligible to take the class before the January start date, others will find that they can't find babysitting, will leave for personal issues, will change their mind, will find that they can't get the time off of work or drop for a myriad of other issues. Don't give up! she said. I won't say that I was wasn't a little....a lot disappointed but it also identified a problem in my get into Nursing school plan. I don't have a plan B. So, I made one. There are several routes I can take. I can apply for a Vocational school and become an LPN. There is a vocational school very close by. When I become a registered LPN, I can apply for a local Nursing schools bridge to RN program. If I am actively employed, my employer might even pay for it OR, I can apply to the local Nursing school which accepts students straight out of High School and immediately do a Bachelor of Science in Nursing right off the bat but that option costs A LOT! Nevertheless, I filled out a form for more info. If the RN test can be taken after the second year, I might be able to finish that program while working. That program is 3 years to the tune of 14K a year but the program outlined is excellent! THe third year is mostly clinical experience in many different settings, Psych, pediatric, general etc. RIght now, the plan is to try to wiggle into that Anatomy class but, I will have to look at the idea of Vocational school or even the very expensive school for Nursing and institute a plan B. My bad for not thinking of that. I was so certain that I could get into the class I needed and didn't think to apply at other nearby colleges just in case I couldn't. Live and learn.
So, the past two weeks has been a challenge. Sitting in class for 4 hours a night is no easy feat and as expected, even after all the conversations with the kids, there have been a few strike outs at the plate but it is better than the last time I went to class. Emily's father finished up paramedic school in June. While he was going attending classes, visits were missed, rescheduled, shortened all to our great inconvenience as we all planned outings, movies etc. that were more big kid oriented for the days that Em was with him and the older kids had to give up social life to care for her when he canceled. My ex told Kris and Cass he would pay them for their time when he canceled and of course, that never happened. My ex has ADHD, Anxiety disorder, and a Borderline Personality. Aren't you all glad that people like him are Paramedics?? But, he thanked me for my "flexibility" while he finished the 10 month program and offered to help me in any way he could while I started my journey. Here is how he "helps".
Me: I have class on Wednesday at 6 and EMily has a Dr. appt at 6. It's a med refill and she has to go. Can you take her? I'll drop her off at "daycare provider" and you can pick her up there.
HIM: I think so. Let me check with my boss. Maybe I can leave 30 minutes early. I'll get back to you.
On Wednesday at 3pm, he calls.
HIM: Sorry. My boss won't let me leave early today and since I was laid off for 6 months, I need the hours. Can you move her appointment to Saturday?
ME: I'll call and see if that's an option.
HIM: OK, Thanks call me back and let me know.
....HE hangs up...then calls back 2 minutes later.
HIM: Wait! Is this Saturday MY Saturday?
Me: No.
HIM: Can you move her appointments to MY Saturdays?
ME: *Sigh* nevermind. I"ll handle it.
HIM; OK.. Thanks. Remember, I'll help you out whenever. Just ask.
ME: Can you find a day where you can take her for a couple hours on M,T, Wed so that the kids can have a little break?
HIM: Sure but on Mondays I have work. ON TUesday, I have firehouse and on Wednesdays, we work late.
ME: OK.. thanks for helping out.
Yesterday, in my inbox, I received a little gem from his mom. Mind you, I like his parents but sometimes.....
THe email said:

"Kathy please do not burn yourself out or get sick (blogger note --ha ha ha ha!) because you know "Big Box Mart" will be asking you for more hours because of the Holidays plus your other things (blogger note: Other things is cancer). It wears thin after awhile of doing it all. Make the kids step up & clean up your house. There is no reason why they can't help out more when it comes to that. I think EM acts up at your house because she can't get the attention she needs because she was very good here on Friday & I even took her to Justice for Girls to try to find something for Thanksgiving & we didn't so she said okay lets go to "competing box store" & try. She picked out a outfit, tights & shoes & then we left there & I took her to Wendy's for a Jr Frosty she wanted to eat it at my house. Then after awhile she fell asleep in my arms. She told me the last weekend "Borderline ADHD, Anxiety ridden dad" had her that she likes going to Daddy house because they do things together & go places. So I think that is why she acts out alot because she is craving the attention & I know it is difficult for you to give it to her all the time because you are busy alot. I know you want this but it is only my opinion you should of waited til EM got alittle bit older. Please don't get yourself all upset by this note. I just feel for you because you will get burnt out & I feel sorry for EM because she has no structure at home. Who helps her with her homework & make sure that it is done? I am sorry I worry so much. Say hi to all.
"Emily's Grandma"

Note the offer in the email about helping me out. Oh wait! It's not there!
Note that Friday is Daddy's day with Emily and note who was taking care of her.
Note that my ex has her 4 days a month and I have her the other 27.

Can you hear me beating my head against a wall?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wow! What a week! CNA class started on Monday. We sit in class for 4 hours and have one 10 minute break, there is that much to cover. Unbenownst to me, I had to have a TB test which required a trip to the county board of health. Next week, I register for Anatomy class. I spent some time making sure my login to the college website works and chose the session I wanted to take which will be M from 6-9 and Wednesday from 6-7:45. I took Emily to the behavioral therapist for her session. I took me to my clinic visit at the U of C. As of right now, I am the U of C patient who has been on the trial the longest, almost one year. WOW! There are some negotiations that my clinic visits might get less frequent. WOOHOOOOO! It would be so nice NOT to travel back and forth once or twice a month. My next scan is the week of Dec 18. I will get results after CHristmas which is a small blessing. Yesterday, I went to the college to take the Math assessment. As it's been over 20 years since I have seen an Algebra problem, they would not accept any Math credits taken in college or high school as a satisfaction of the Math requirement for the Nursing program but, they did allow me to take an assessment test. If I tested high enough, the Math requirement would be waved. I sat down and started at it. Some questions were easy but as I went along, the problems got harder and harder. OMG! I'm sunk, I thought to myself. I was fully prepared to go home and peruse the catalog looking for a class that I could fit in. When the test was over, I walked over to the administrators for my results and found out...I TESTED OUT!!! I was dumbfounded! Turns out that every time I answered a problem right, the next problem would be harder. I did so well in Algebra, they were testing me on Advanced Math. Not only did I test out of college Algebra, I tested out of the first Semester of the Advanced class. Knock me over with a feather!

Today, I am writing up my accomplishments for the year at my full time job. I work for a large Telecommunications Company. Until recently, I was pretty proud of all that I acheived here. When I started at the company in 1995, I was newly separated, raising two small children, working 3 jobs, had filed a recent bankrupcy and was fighting with the red tape of debt and divorce. I was in the process of switching my career from Restaurant Management to a career to be named later and accepted a job as a Customer Service Rep with a small company called Advantis, an IBM/Sears merger, that focused on Network and LAN support for the Sears family, retail, Dean Witter, Coldwell Banker, Allstate and Sears. I can't tell you how intimidated I was by this job and in fear, I almost didn't take it. I had a wonderfully supportive boss who I liked a great deal and little bit by little bit, I learned the job well enough to be promoted to team leader. I was good at it. Good enough to be recognized and I was then promoted to Network Support where I worked for 5 years. I liked every single one of my bosses. I liked the company. I felt as if I was part of a team and that my presence mattered. My bosses wanted me to learn as much as possible and encouraged classes, encouraged reaching for the next level, encouraged me to do as good a job as possible. This was the field that I wanted. TELECOMM! Glorious routers! Fun circut testing! CCNA Classes! In 1999, we were sold. Jobs went overseas. MANY jobs went overseas in 2004. I was spared and was then working in Procurement and for the most part liked my new boss but, the organization was split in 2005 and I was moved to a different organizational tier with a new boss. Centers were closed. Co-workers were sent overseas to train their replacements, then laid off. To prove my worth, to compete with cheaper labor overseas, we all worked like dogs. THe company never told us we were worth anything. OH sure they sent out the mails telling us how great we did and then months later, they would announce the new job cuts. They did tell us yearly that more cuts would be made, more jobs would be offshored and outsourced and we all got used to living in the uncomfortable position under the axe. I lived in fear of lay off. I fretted every mistake. I worked hours and hours and hours. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. My boss rallied around me while I went through that. Despite treatments, I put in a 12-14 hour day. If I worked any less, I felt I wasn't pulling my weight. Nevertheless my reviews for all those hours were "Meets expectations" with a nice write up about all the great things I did to show the higher ups that I did something that year. I went on disability on Oct 1, 2006. I went through surgery. I returned to work on Dec 1, 2006. I waited for my life to return to what it was before it was rudely interrupted. It never did. I tried a new role and did fairly well but my heart wasn't in it. I was put on a large account that challenged every fiber of my being. Then I was diagnosed with lung mets and returned to treatment. My boss is weary of what she calls my "Personal issues". In July, after 14 years of good reviews, I received my first negative one. My personal issues, she said, interfered too much. I didn't do this. I didn't do that. I made too many mistakes. It was all a failure. Today, I am writing my accomplishments for the year. I look at my 5 page write up of what I did at work this year, all the purchase orders I created, conference calls I was on, problems I identified and realize that all those things are just a bunch of gobblity gook that reflect no accomplishment that means anything. There is nothing that I write on that sheet, no statistic I can show my boss that reflects the REAL accomplishments and successes. I know she doesn't get it. SHe's crunching numbers. She's spitting out a formula that measures out how much I was worth based on some rubric defined by Six Sigma. Dear boss, if you find this blog, here are my real accomplishments.
1) I showed up to work every day. Somedays were hard. Somedays, I was tired and lightheaded because of my medications but I was there, sitting in my desk, trying to handle the diagnosis, the medication and the huge work load I had. No other employee handled, could handle, nor would handle what I did. I'm sorry if you feel it wasn't good enough. I gave all I had. I can say that with no guilt. I know there are things I could have done better but I did the best I could with what I had to work with.
2) I am no longer afraid of a swinging axe. I'm facing cancer. You're not. If the worst thing that can happen to you is a layoff, you are lucky.
3) I learned how to LIVE with cancer. Most people fear those of us who have cancer, shy away, back away, treat what they don't understand and fear the most with disdain. I've had my share of that this year. I hope you never find out what it is like to be a patient. I hope your boss spares you some of the same treatment I got this year if you ever are. I love my friends with cancer and love my friends without it. I've mourned many losses this year. I've watched children and adults, young and old die. Their stories are a part of me. You never knew how much I mourned or how often but I was here every day, at my desk.
4) I accept that there are worse things than death. Not living and foraging forward, learning, being stuck in one place, is far scarier. I am foraging forward and I am not afriad.
My job was a constant in my life and for now, I am doing it. I will do what I am told. THere was a quote I had at my desk for many years. It said, "The Lord will never leave you empty. WHen He asks you to put something down, He wants you to pick up something greater." I am breathless waiting to see what that something greater is but it doesn't mean I'm not mourning what I am being asked to put down.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Now that the holidays are fast approaching, I want to shout out to all those that are dealing with cancer, any disease or the recent loss of a loved one. My mother passed away suddenly on April 17, 1985. By Thanksgiving, there was only a very small scab on the wound as there is no timetable on when we should start snapping out of it. We were going through the motions but seemed to be lacking spirit, life. I had started my freshman year of college and when I came home for the holidays, I tried to help make Christmas what it was when mom was alive. I made cookies, helped cook, set the table like mom would have partially because it was something routine in a situation that just wasn't and because I thought it would be comforting to have so many of her things around over the holidays. Needless to say, it didn't work out that way. My father was glum. My grandparents sat at the table and cried. Opening presents wasn't the huge thrill it used to be. We moped around the entire holiday, the most wonderful time of the year, and pretty much decided that everything just stunk! It was OK to be Scrooge. It was OK to say BAH HUMBUG! It was OK to mourn over the holidays and NOT be happy. I'm sure the year after Jesus was crucified, Mary didn't celebrate her Son's birthday with a huge smile. She was blessed but still a mom who lost her Son, her child. Don't think God doesn't understand. I'm sure Mary read Him the riot act and did her fair share of asking Why's. I can only hope and pray that you do find ONE thing over the holidays that comforts you, one shred of happiness, one understanding friend that will help you mourn during the "Happiest" time of the year.

I'm sorry this isn't the happiest of updates. At the moment, I am well. I feel well. I have energy and other then the tri-weekly bloodwork, I don't have to worry about scans for another month. I started taking some digestive enzymes, some amino acids that I put in my juice every day, and I added Spirulina, a major superfood to my already vegetable and fruit laden diet. I did a little research on all 3 and feel they can be beneficial. Halloween went great for the kids and I start my CNA class on Monday. Last night, was the orientation. As I thumbed through the textbook, I began to wonder if I could do this, perhaps I had doubts because the first chapter I opened was about bedpans, adult diapers and portable potties but, I am a mom and have changed some really awful diapers in my day. Emily and Cassie's were legendary. That is merely a small part of a much larger picture. I'll be doing my clinicals at a local long term care facility. I have already perused the wanted ads for CNA's at the local hospital and paused at the need for an aide in Oncology. That, I think, is where I would like to work. Two years ago, heck LAST year, I never would have considered working with cancer patients on any level and my reasons were not that I did not have compassion or did not understand. I was afraid of facing my own mortality. I was afraid I would internalize the suffering. I was afraid of hearing something I did not want to hear and seeing something I did not want to see. I was afraid of grieving for those that did not make it. My Orthopedic Oncologist told me that yes, it's heart breaking sometimes but not to let that detract me from the larger picture and that is the human impact, the inspiration and the lessons that can be learned every day. If you look really hard, there are bits of beauty in every story. Focus on that.