Monday, January 25, 2010

Back to School!

After a wonderful week with nothing to do except a lot of laundry and cleaning, things are back to the new normal. I'm back in class and the house looks like Port Au Prince. It's so good to be existing in chaos once more. I missed it for those few days, well not really. I was digging sitting on the couch downstairs watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" while folding laundry that hasn't been done since the start of the CNA class. My first class, Biology, started Jan 19th. Not the best day as I had to go downtown for the tri-weekly blood draw and clinic visit. As what usually happens when I'm in a huge hurry, Crook County decided that it was a fine day to shut down two lanes on the Eisenhower Expressway to fill potholes. T-4 hours to class and I'm inching along wondering what in the blazes all these people are doing on the highway at noon. Don't they have jobs??? Waiting for bloodwork took hardly any time at all. VICTORY! The wait in Oncology was the usual. DEFEAT! Ugh! I had to be out of there by 3 no later. I watched the hands on my watch tick tick tick. Finally, they call my name but only to tell me that the NP was in a meeting and would be back after 2:30. No..sorry. I just can't wait. They put the page into the clinical trial nurse. I turned in my med diary. Told him I had nothing to report and I was on my way. I paid for parking and decided to go to the bathroom before I left as I knew there would be no time to go home for any length of time. As it usually takes 15 minutes to retrieve the car, I figured I had time. WRONG! Bathroom closed for cleaning by the slowest male sanitation engineer in the history of Earth. A line conglomerated outside while he changed toilet paper rolls. 10 minutes later, he allowed the line to clear before proceeding further. THANKS! Of course, my car was waiting out front. Of course, I couldn't go anywhere because the valet had my keys. Of course I had to wait and then was LECTURED by the valet for not being there and he was busy and had things to do. GRRRRRRR!!!!!! I could have given him a few words and reminded him about where he was working exactly. The DCAM at the U of C is not a clinic for those with the flu, a cold, an inner ear infection, a normal pregnancy, diseases that can be cured easily. As the word Center for ADVANCED MEDICINE would imply, those of us who are seen there, have medical issues that confound and challenge Dr's and some of those patients DON'T FEEL WELL. But that's ok. I was in too much of a hurry to educate the Valet on the patients he was serving and their needs. I grabbed my keys and left.....and traffic....all the way to the suburbs. An accident, not even on my side of the highway, 20 miles from where I was inching along, gummed up the works. I made it to class with 2 minutes to spare. I am taking a basic Biology course. I don't have to but as the NLN exam, the Nursing school entrance exam, tests us on basic Biology and I haven't had a Biology class since before my classmates were born, I figured it would be wise to review, hence, BIO101. It's a little out of place with BIO160, Human Anatomy, but it's a perfect non-major class that will teach me about Arthropods and plant parts which are all covered on this entrance exam. Thus ends the first day of class. My classmates avoid me. Yes, I know this. Some snicker. Some look at me oddly curious as if to say, I didn't realize we'd have a living breathing example of a fossil sitting in class with us. I am waiting for the boy scouts to come help me cross the street. Occasionally, I catch someone middle aged walking through the buildings but even in my Anatomy class, there is a shortage of middle aged students returning to school. I found I had little to talk about with my lab partner. I have every confidence I'll carve out a place for myself eventually and get used to sharing knowledge with kids slightly older than Kris in a non-mom role. My Bio teacher/professor/instructor also teaches at the Chamberlain College of Nursing and told me that most of the students there are moms returning to school. Hmmmmm.
When I went to college the first time, I was the world's biggest procrastinator. So many other things were so much more fun to handle, bars on Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays and any other day in between, finding Mr. Right, yakking with the roomie till all hours, cranking the Calculus Professor at 3am because I was angry he was sleeping and I was studying for a dumb test and doing all those other stupid college tricks. In some areas, I still am the big distracted procrastinator. But, so much is riding on me doing well in this Anatomy class that I surprised myself when I opened the book weeks before the night before the test, and started to study and memorize. Yes, there are different challenges this time. Emily keeps grabbing my book. Kris and Cassie erupt in loud arguments OFTEN. The cat (any one of the 6) sits on my lap. There is loud blaring GOD AWFUL whatever the heck kinda music Cassie listens to coming from the radio upstairs. Every other second I hear the word "MOM!" But despite that, I learned some things last night. I bought a pocket Anatomy guide that I keep where it belongs, in my pocket. At work yesterday and when it was slow, I memorized the abdominal quadrants, the directional terms and the planes. I did my homework for Bio DAYS before it was actually due. There is hope for me yet :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One year ago today....

Jan 14 is a relatively innocuous day. It's not a holiday or a presidents birthday. It's not usually a day off of school and is a day that generally goes unnoticed, a normal work day or school day. For me it was the day I started the Brivanib trial at the University of Chicago. I guess it was a kind of birthday for me, an entrance, a beginning. One year ago today, I was officially back in treatment. "Back in treatment" as if the first time wasn't enough.. The first time, there was a definitive ending. This time, there isn't. It ends when the nodules go away and disappear. How long will that take? weeks, months, years, never. It's anyone's guess. One year ago today, I couldn't even fathom what Jan 14, 2010 would be like or even IF there would be a Jan 14, 2010. Cancer patients cannot usually look farther than the next scan. Some patients can't look farther than the next day. We have lost the novelty of using such wonderful terms such as "Next year" or "Next anything". We battle on and try to live normally, ever conscience of the bombs going off. The disease is a reminder to make as much of time as possible and here I am one year later, happy that I've been granted the ability to talk about "last year". On Jan 14, 2009, I met Cathy, a group leader for Gilda's Club, a cancer support group that meets on Wednesdays. I had stumbled upon the group while looking for a comfy chair to park myself and read in between blood draws. (Cancer patients have learned not to go anywhere without a book, knitting or a magazine) After a discussion about healing, I had made mention of how far from the mark I am. Cathy had said "Sometimes, when you're in the Labyrinth, it may seem as if you are closest to the exit and it is usually then that you are really the farthest away and vice versa." Never give up hope. In the labyrinth of life, while caught deep in the puzzle of it all, you may find a point where you think that you are farthest away from the exit but really what you may have found is a vision of the clearest and most direct path out. I'm not sure I have reached that point yet. I see no clear exit from cancer. I'm not sure it even exists. But, what I have gotten a vision of after one year on this trial, is a different path out, a different vision of what OUT is. OUT for me may never be a complete remission but rather a different perspective or point of view. OUT, is finding my dreams and finding a way to live them....
One of my dreams is finding my way to Jan 14, 2011 and once again discussing "last year".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

St. Baldrick's Foundation

St. Baldrick's is one of many foundations whose aim it is to fund research into childhood cancers by sponsoring a Shave-A-Thon. Shavee's will shave their heads to raise money for childhood cancer research. For more information on how to donate or participate, please visit the website: St. Baldrick's

or visit these shavee's - Jessie - Nicole​ - Tiffany

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Today, for the first time all year, I am not scheduled at Big Box Mart on a Saturday. I didn't ask for the day off but I'm not upset I'm not there today. Whereas I really need the hours, I also really need to clean. We never picked up much after New Years Eve and the house looks like we've had several more parties since then. Anticipating that I would get to sleep in, I settled in for a long winters nap and was awakened at 6:30am by Emily who pulled all the covers off me in an attempt to wake me up. Em is offended when she is up and no one else is and does her darndest to rectify the situation whenever she can. After I set her straight, I rolled over and closed my eyes and when I was just about to doze off, I heard a huge crash in the kitchen. One of my kittens crawled into the cupboard and knocked over the backup fishbowl. Gave up. Sleep is just not in the cards today. I guess it's just as well. It's going to take hours to find my house again which is why I'm sitting here on my computer planning how I'm going to attack the dirt, plotting the demise of dinge. It's a fine life! IF Emily remains a good girl today, she and I will go to Walmart and spend some of her Christmas money and then we will go see Alvin and the Chipmunks, her reward for being somewhat good this week. I have learned that with Emily, "being good" is a term that is relative. What is "Being good" for Cassie or Kris is not necessarily attainable for Emily so if she exhibits some sort of self retraint. If she does what I tell her to do after I tell her 3 times instead of the usual 50 over two days, that's being good. If she goes 10 minutes without being purposefully irritating and annoying, that's being good. If she is able to sit at a table and eat for 5 minutes instead of the usual never, that is being good. My daughter, Cassie, who is a black and white thinker, does not understand that shades of gray exist and insists that I hold Emily to the same standards I hold her. It's impossible to explain to a 15 year old, the nuances of raising a behaviorally disordered child. Emily is a real teaching tool. She is my daughter but she is a living, breathing, teachable moment. Active, smart, funny, and interesting, there is never a dull moment with her. But on the other side of the coin, the child has a gift. She could rouse up and annoy a Saint in five minutes or less. There are days when I count down the hours before her "father" comes to pick her up and take her for a weekend and I breathe a huge sigh of relief that there is now some peace and quiet. There are weeks her behavior has us so on edge, we yell and scream at eachother because we live in endless frustration that Emily lives outside of the rules of proper behavior and decorum and cares nothing about consequences. She challenges every fiber of my being. She tests me every day and there are days, I flunk BIG TIME and lose my cool and scream at her. She's like an annoying mosquito and it feels good to swat sometimes. But, she challenges me to be patient. She challenges me to look at her little successes because they are really GREAT BIG successes. Over the Summer, a family moved next door with 4 kids, one Emily's age and is in Emily's class. They formed a fast friendship and Em loves going over there but, I learned very fast that Emily cannot handle all that stimulation for long and an hour is about all she can handle before she starts to act out. A couple months ago, Emily was sent home and told not to come back for awhile. Of course, Em lied about what occurred, but from what I could gather, she and her friend got into a fight and Emily punched her. I felt hugely embarrassed. But I was also devastated for Emily, for losing her friend. I worried that all her friendships from here on out would be tainted with this strife and that my daughter, who has such miniscule self control, will spend much time alone or be the class outcast. Growing up is hard. For Emily, it will be harder. We had a discussion about hitting and punching and kicking. It sunk in part of the way, she doesn't hit her friend anymore, she hits her sister and brother though, often. I guess that's progress. Emily's working diagnosis is ADHD and ODD. ODD stands for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, a clinical version of "My child doesn't listen." No child listens but most children care when things are taken away or thrown away. Not Emily. Doesn't care a lick.
So my living, breathing, teachable moment, challenges me to be UBER patient, watch my mouth which is hard for me because I have a big one, delight in the little things, find some routine and order in my house when I have a child whose middle name may as well be CHAOS, gain control of me, and teach her. It's a hard, hard thing to do when you have 2 jobs, 2 other kids, and no real time support. Nevertheless, Emily earned a trip to the movie today. We've been working on this for two months now and she finally did it. They tell me it gets easier. I just can't wait!

On another note, my CNA class has ended though there is one final clinical tomorrow. This first phase of my get into Nursing school plan has successfully been completed or will officially when I take the state certification on Feb 11. The second phase is now about to start. Anatomy....that class that has remained closed and locked tight, is finally on my schedule. I was absolutely obsessive about checking the college website for an opening. On Tuesday, I noticed that classes had begun to open up that had previously been closed. As I need to take an entrance exam that includes Biology and Chemistry and Physics, I decided it might be wise to beef up my knowledge. I signed up for previously closed Bio 101 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:00pm. Two slots had opened up for certain sections of Anatomy, one at a time I absolutely could not take it and one other on a time I might have been able to manage with some planning. As I hit the register button, I received an error that the class is closed. Someone beat me to it. But that was not a tragedy in the least. Yesterday, I was able to register for one of the sections I had hoped for. The class meets on Monday and Wednesday night from 6-7:10 on Mondays and 6-9:05 on Wednesdays. PERFECT!! Doesn't interfere with Ma Bell. Doesn't interfere with my Big Box Mart schedule and is nearby so I'll be home fairly early and will be alert enough to review. Sometimes, I think this path is blessed. I've gotten everything I wanted and prayed for and for that I am thankful beyond words and humbled.
Now, I'm off to battle the bilge...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Hello 2010

Time is your greatest advisor. Time will tell you if you can waste your life
in illusion and fantasy thoughts, dwelling over past regrets and future
apprehensions. Just ask time, and time will point out that there are no survivors.
---A Spiritual Warrior

Time has been referred to as a gift from God. On Dec 31, every year, we review the past year: the mistakes, the successes, the failures, the good times and the bad times, the periods of great joy and the periods of great sadness. We consider resolutions to fix what we may have done wrong or do what we didn't do. In periods of great stress and sadness, it's normal to want to set the clock back and start over from the beginning but we can't. We have no choice but face whatever time brings us, head on until resolution and every situation does resolve itself, maybe not how we wanted but there is resolution. I had heard once that Time always seeks to try and "replace" what it took in some way. After losing a mother, a mother figure may emerge. When one door is closed, another, may open somewhere. In that which is taken, something else is given.

2009 took my security away when I was diagnosed with lung mets
2009 gave me a community of friends who I can support in their journey and support me

2009 took whatever financial stability I had.
2009 gave me a new view on what riches are.

2009 took away my life's aspiration with my current profession
2009 gave me a new profession to strive for and be excited about.

2009 took away everything I thought I wanted.
2009 gave me what I never knew I needed.

"Life is school", my grandfather always said. Life is meant to result in growth as is the passage of time. Who will we be without challenges? And though time results in many good-byes, it also results in hellos.. new friends, new jobs, new challenges, grandchildren, blessings, new attitudes, new priorities, new successes.....

Have a Happy, Healthy, 2010!