Thursday, December 22, 2011

My first semester of nursing school is completed! Last Tuesday, I took my final and celebrated by making an emergency doctor appointment to knock out the sinus infection that made studying a real challenge. Then I slept which is something I didn't do much of all semester. I will not lie, though I had a good time, met some cool people and cared for some interesting people, I have really enjoyed NOT going to class, studying, worrying and running around this past week and have turned my attention to the next pressing thing...putting together a Christmas celebration in 2 days while working an overnight job and an 8 hour shift on Christmas Eve and washing 4 months of neglect out of my house. I have been doing laundry for 3 solid days, cleaning carpets, Christmas shopping because until Monday, I hadn't bought a single present. The kids have sort of been helpful...ok not really but I learned a long time ago that they are not reliable. My son's idea of helping is waking up at noon, taking 45 min to eat a bowl of cereal, then taking a 45 min shower, going outside to smoke a cigarette before taking a 15 minute break to play a game on Xbox. After I've yelled at him to get his butt moving 10 times, he'll pick something up off the floor and then tell me he'll finish it later because he has work. Cassie sits on Facebook and updates her status about shrew, slavedriver mom who is cracking the whip. After I've yelled at her a few times, she'll pick something up and then complain she's tired. Emily...forget it. Getting her to do anything is a pointless exercise in futility. This Christmas, we are so far behind the 8 ball that we just finishing decorating the tree 3 days ago. Though my son DID put up the tree, he only put the lights on half of it. That looked a little ridiculous in our picture window!

It was also time to turn my attention back to cancer land. It was scan day yesterday. I had a chest X-Ray in June so this was the first post surgery scan and I was Sooooo nervous. I've been under a lot of stress, haven't slept much, and haven't been as diligent about taking care of myself. I had nightmares about a lung full of little sarcomas. But, the scan was good overall but it wasn't a pure NED. It never is with me as I have granuloma in my lungs or what one radiologist marked as granuloma. Since cancer was found in my body, there is no such thing as a benign spot without a biopsy proving that. There is an itty bitty nodule in my right lung that has been there for years that looked slightly bigger. It was measured as 2.5 mm last year and was a spot the surgeon opted not to try to remove because it was too small and he wasn't sure he could find it. This year it measured 3.6mm. 1mm possible growth in one year. There is a 2 mm deviation. This scan could have hit the nodule in a different spot or I could have been caught in a deeper respiration. There was nothing new so we watch the spot. If it decides to grow, we'll assume it's sarcoma and unfortunately removing it will mean PAIN due to it's location but I'm happy! I am free to enjoy Christmas and go forward into my next phase of nursing school without having to deal with chemotherapy. The best gift of all! Thank God!

As I will be dealing with the removal of nursing school and cramming Christmas prep in every second, I doubt I'll type here until after the holiday. Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Into the home stretch

Happy Thanksgiving!!

The thing I am liking most THIS year about Thanksgiving is two whole days off of work and that the end of my first semester of nursing school is coming up fast and furious. I survived! I survived 48 tests, 5 speeches, 8 clinicals, 2 holistic reports, 8 evaluations, 2 simulations, 16 four hour labs, and 12 papers. I worked two jobs, have three kids, a home that is in absolute shambles, financial problems and I made it! I'm dragging myself across the finish line of this first lap a little bruised and beaten but I'm still kicking. Three more laps to go.
I still can't see the other side of the mountain but by the end of next semester, I should and maybe even see myself as a Nurse and not an IT person. It's still a role that feels very very unfamiliar. Nursing school has consumed my life, challenged every fiber of my being mentally, emotionally and physically. Sleep is a foreign concept. Humiliation, frustration, exhaustion, and insecurity are constant companions and Stress...let's talk about stress! Gotta make the grade, can't screw up the clinical or the simulation. BUT, I've learned a lot. I've met some awesome people. I've taken care of some great patients. I showed myself that with all that I have responsibility wise, I can do this ......with copious amounts of sacrifice and hard work. So now I enter the home stretch. One more week of clinicals. One more lab. then finals. Then I enter the second semester, rested, with new reserves, and hopefully ready to tackle the challenges that await.

It's a lot to be thankful for.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's been ages since I have typed anything here. I am still alive. My lovely ADHD/ODD daughter has made HuGE strides forward thanks to a wonderful drug called Risperdal and some successful behavior management. Some semblance of peace has been restored at home and I have spent a very busy Spring and Summer in class. Yes, class is my whole life because on April 5 I received that coveted acceptance into nursing school. My summer was spent reading and writing papers and my fall has been spent reading and writing papers, giving speeches, taking tests and stress and more stress. I am now on the eve of my first clinicals due to start next weekend. Exciting and terrifying alllll at the same time. As for cancer, my June chest X-ray was clean. CT is scheduled for December. If there are more nodules, there will be more surgery and then I'll continue on to my second semester of nursing school. Onward!
To all my fellow sarcoma/cancer warriors, I love you all and I carry you with me when I study. When I feel there is no way I will be able to finish this program, I remember why I started in the first place. That has made all the difference.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Add another journey

With children comes great joy but sometimes, great amounts of grief. From the moment we find out we are expecting, we make plans for our kids, dream for our kids, imagine that they will grow up to do great, monumental things, wonder if they will be the one that will save the world. When my youngest child was born, it took me 3 seconds to notice that she was a fighter, a strong little thing and I knew that if this child wanted to, she could be President someday. When my daughter hit toddler hood, she redefined the phrase "terrible twos" which stretched into the terrible threes and then the absolutely horrible fours. Not knowing where to turn with my strong willed, tantrum laden, absolutely defiant little girl, I insisted that she be seen by a therapist despite the protestations from her Dr. and several therapists who insisted that my daughters behaviors were absolutely normal. But, as a mother of two teenagers, I knew that what I was experiencing with my youngest was hardly normal. Now that I had finished my first round with cancer, I began my simultaneous journey with a child with a mental illness. I found a therapist who would see my daughter. Whereas it was validating to hear from a professional that my concerns were not unfounded, my daughters problems have proved to be a little more difficult to treat than with a simple pill. The only thing simple about this process was the fact that she was a text book case and easy to diagnose. Her diagnosis: ADHD and later on, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The Dr. wrote me a prescription for Strattera which worked for six months and then stopped working all together. All the while, my daughters behaviors escalated to the point where my home life slowly and surely eroded into chaos. When people ask me what ODD is, I describe it as "my child doesn't listen." "Well Duh!" they say, "What child does?" But ODD children don't care about consequences so it's difficult to dissuade bad behaviors with negative consequences. My day begins and ends with an argument. I argue with her about getting dressed. Then we argue about packing her backpack, brushing her teeth, combing her hair and taking her meds. Once in the car to school, we argue about how fast I drive. When she comes home, we argue about her doing her homework, eating dinner at the table, cleaning up her mess, taking a shower and then going to bed. When she is not arguing with me, she is irritating and provoking us. While we watch TV, she will turn it off, turn down the volume or stand in front of it. If one of us is on the computer, she will pull cords, slam her hands on the keyboard, unplug the mouse, the power cord or whatever will get us to react. We can't talk on the phone without her screaming in the background. At school, she constantly tries to provoke the teacher and recently, her behaviors have exploded into outright aggression towards other kids. I'm well known at my daughters school. When I call, they recognize my voice. Heck! Her principal will soon be on my Christmas card list. In the years that both older children spent at grammar school, I never met the principal once. In the year that my youngest has been there, I've been a weekly resident in his office. In many ways, this has been a harder journey than cancer and just as heart breaking as I watch my child struggle, be ostracized, and miserable and know that I have zero control and absolutely NO idea how to help her. Life with my daughter is difficult and some days, we are not living. We are just dealing with her and waiting for the minute she falls asleep so we could have a moments peace. When my daughter goes on weekend visits with her dad, I don't even want to leave my house because I enjoy the fact that there is quiet and calm in my home. Don't get me wrong. I love my daughter very much. I want her to be happy. I want her to have friends AND I want peace and normalcy. During my cancer journey, her outbursts were even more difficult to handle. I often thought, "this is NOT fair." I asked God why in the world He thought I could handle this. I told Him I AM THE WRONG MOTHER FOR THIS CHILD. THIS child needs someone with more patience. She needs someone who can be there for her more than I can. I cannot give her all the attention she wants and though I spent years studying Psychology, I can't control my own child nor can I even understand why she does the things she does. I hate who I am when she acts up as to relieve my own frustration, I scream at her to STOP IT! Screaming and us nowhere. nowhere. My baby is still suffering. I am still frustrated and still clueless as to what the answer is for her and for us. After an outburst at school this week, in which she hit multiple students, she wound up suspended. Suspended. As if that was going to punish her. She would go to daycare in the morning instead and eat cookies. She proudly handed me her paperwork and said "See! I don't have to go to school tomorrow." She was smiling. She had "won." She didn't want to be in school anyway. I called her Psychiatrist. He recommended I take her to the ER. Now that this line was crossed, he doubted that a suspension, an expulsion or anything of the kind was going to do a thing to deter my child's behavior. Inpatient, he felt, is where she needs to be. Which is where she is. My child, aged 6, is in a mental health facility. She's a baby, just a little girl with HUGE problems that neither she nor I know how to resolve and the night I signed the papers committing her to the care of a team of professionals, I felt such grief. Yes, my daughter is alive but I'm not naive and know that it will be a long time before she will be truly well. We are in for a very very long journey. I am still questioning God about handing me the care of this special little girl. Maybe one day it will be crystal clear for now, I am praying that she can be helped.
I love a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. When she misbehaves and is totally unlikeable, that's when I have to show her that I love her the most....kinda like God does.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Year

2011 is 28 days old. Time has flown by so quickly, that I did not realize that it has been almost 2 months since I last typed an update.
On Dec 13, I took my Physiology final. I got a B on it and an A in the class. The Pre-req's for Nursing school were officially complete. My application was submitted for the Fall semester 2011 and I just received the letter confirming that my application was accepted. I won't know if I have a spot until the end of March so I am on pins and needles. This semester, I am taking Microbiology which is a Nursing school requirement that I can get out of the way before Nursing school.
On Dec 22, I went downtown for my CT scans and pre-ops. The scan was stable and I was officially referred for surgery to remove the lung nodules I've been dealing with since Summer of 2007.
Christmas flew by and I mean flew. Before I realized what hit me, it was over and I was left with a pile of wrapping paper. The entire holiday season was a blur for me. I did all my Christmas shopping after work and for one week, after leaving the house at 7:00 AM, I did not return until well after 10PM. Nevertheless, I got the shopping, wrapping, grocery shopping, house cleaning, and cooking done. The kids liked what they got though there were no real surprises for them.
Dec 30, was surgery day. After working 3rd shift on Wednesday night, my sister drove me downtown that Thursday morning. I was very flip about the whole thing and was honestly not nervous. After working the graveyard shift, I was too tired to care and almost happily lay down on that gurney almost looking forward to being knocked unconscious. After waiting in the Pre-op waiting room for over an hour, I was finally called into the prep area where I waited some more. The pain team came in prior to surgery to place the epidural in what was probably the most uncomfortable part of the process. Surgery took about three hours and I remember waking up in the recovery room. My surgeon was signing some paperwork and I remember thinking "Ow! this hurts!" Then I passed out again for a couple hours. When I came to, I wasn't in pain anymore. I spent 3 days in the hospital and barely remember any of it. I was getting IV injections of Dilaudid and taking Vicodin for breakthrough pain. I couldn't stay awake for more than 45 minutes at a time and I missed the ball drop on New Years Eve though missing the party this year didn't bother me. I was discharged on New Years Day to my own devices. The surgeon removed 6 cancerous nodules, the largest was 2.5cm. The others were less than a cm.
I haven't had time to reflect on this. I have had cancer for a long time. If I count the time prior to diagnosis, cancer has been in my body for 10 years. I don't think that I will ever feel free of cancer no matter how long my scans are clean. Cancer is a journey that is NEVER really finished as we deal with the after effects of treatment, the financial devastation, the psychological ramifications and the physical changes. I am cautiously optimistic and am looking for ways to make this experience count for good. For now, it is business as usual. Thank you Nonalee, Lynne, Kris, Mary Therese and Dan for all your wonderful support through this whole process. I couldn't have done it without you all.

Unfortunately, 2011 brought some bad news. I was sad to hear about the passing of Daria Maluta. Daria was a breast cancer patient whose blog, "Living with Cancer" brought many cancer patients together. She was strong and faithful and she will be missed.
Please pray for my dear friend Sue G. Sue is all over the cancer blogs leaving such wonderful words of encouragement and now she needs encouragement as she is dealing with brain mets and though the outlook is looking positive, storm the Heavens for her complete recovery!
Prayers for Elsa (Living with a Sarcoma) as well. She has been dealing with chronic pain and stubborn tumors.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Still here. Still alive. Still plugging along.

It's been a little while since I posted an update but in this case no news was news. I work at 9am and on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, I've still been going to class which ends on Dec 13. YAY! Needless to say, I've been getting home late and tonight, I'm cranky and tired and should be studying for either my lab practical or my final. I don't feel like doing either. Tomorrow, I work a double shift and then spend the weekend doing the retail thing. Thanksgiving was nice and almost relaxing. I got it in my head that I was going to clean the carpets. So after work, I trudged to the store in the freezing cold, the day before Thanksgiving and rented a Rug Doctor. I stayed up until 2am cleaning carpets and moving furniture so that I could put up my tree. As I was moving couches, chairs, and tables, I thought, wow! I feel thankful that I feel well enough to do this. I then collapsed in an exhausted heap into bed and was awakened at 6:30 am by a very excited Emily who was anxious to get the party started. I was VERY annoyed but through my annoyance I thought wow, I'm thankful that I have a healthy child to annoy me. So I dragged my still exhausted and now achy body to the kitchen to make coffee. Of course the kitchen was a mess because that is where I moved the dining room chairs. So I hauled the chairs back to the where they belonged and cleaned my kitchen so I could mess it up again when I put out the pre-dinner spread. I barked at my kids for lounging around while I ran around and was thankful for two lazy teens that I could bark at. Then we went to a buffet and ate good food and I was thankful that after 5 months of living on unemployment, I could pay for a nice Thanksgiving dinner and that I am current on my bills though there is lots of debt. My new job exhausts the heck out of me but I am thankful for that too. Most of all, I'm thankful for all the family and friends, old and new, that have taken an interest in my journey.

Happy Hannukah to my Jewish friends!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Unemployment....the saga....ends for now.

It happened pretty darn quickly but I was hired as a contractor to work in tech support for a company that provides voice services. I will be working on, of all accounts, the dedicated Walmart team! I will be the 3rd shift girl. This is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Though it is not in health care, it is doing a job that I like and the money is not bad. I am paid hourly and susceptible to over time. On Monday, I will sit at my own desk, with my own little phone and work tickets just like the old days at AT&T when I worked tech support. It's amazing to me how even though the place has changed, the people I'm working with are different, and the boss is different, there is an air of sameness. Telecom has a feel to it. There is stress in the air. The sky is constantly falling. The problem tickets mount and mount. Second line managers take heat from the top and pass it downwards. Stressed out customers dealing with outages push the heat back upwards and in the middle of all this displaced stress, is me, your friendly neighborhood help desk technician. It's a beautiful thing. It's familiar. I know this world. Being back in this call center, working trouble tickets brings back feeling of nostalgia for the last job that I felt that I truly contributed something to the team. But, I know this is all it is and I tell myself every day to give this job my all but never get distracted from Nursing school. The world of Telecom can suck a person in. You ride on a tidal wave of adreneline, get caught up in believing that it's all the most important thing in the world, and bask in the glory of fixing trouble after trouble after trouble. But when all is said and done, telecom has an inflated sense of importance. It deludes a person into thinking it is THE singular most important thing in the world. I will never forget that after 15 years of nights and weekends, holidays and overtime, working 12, 13, 14 hours a day while going through chemo, sacrificing health and family time, AT&T thanked me by showing me the door. Sobering!
Yes to EMPLOYMENT but Nursing school is where the heart is. I pray that He never lets me fall away from the path!