Tag Archives: cancer

Home At Last

I am home from my long week in Pittsburgh.  Finally.  It was a very, very long week.  My mother had surgery on her arm which she had broken.  We buried my step-father.  I saw family that I have not seen in years.  It all felt kind of unreal and was very stressful.

I tried as hard as I could to stick close to my diet plan.  I did have a couple of hiccups though.  Then I developed horrible constipation during my last couple of days there.  It got so bad my mother wanted to take me to the ER.  It finally cleared up last night and I was able to make the drive back home safely.  I think it was brought on by a few bad choices and the stress of a very difficult week.  Needless to say, I am very glad that week is over and I am glad to be home.

All that aside, I had three really great experiences I would like to share.

The first, of course, is everyone’s reaction to seeing me 112 pounds smaller.  My stepbrother, Bill, last saw me a couple of years ago.  He and his wife have been getting updates from my mom with pictures.  But pictures really do not do the change I have undergone justice.  When they saw me, they were absolutely flabbergasted.  Bill picked up my baby sister and her husband from the airport and dropped them off at my mom’s house.  He helped bring the luggage in.  When I said hello, he replied with, “OMG Colleen!  When I saw you from the street I thought you were Sandy (my other sister).”  He then gave me a big hug and told me how great I looked.  As we stood there and talked, he just kept shaking his head and saying, “Unbelievable!”  When his wife saw me, she reacted the same way.  Pretty much everyone who saw me had the same reaction.

The other experience had to do with my other stepbrother’s wife.  Michelle had the gastric by-pass surgery a few years ago.  She was so excited when she found out I was getting the surgery.  She has also followed my progress through my mom.  I have not seen her for maybe seven or eight years.  She was always a big woman.  The day of my step-dad’s funeral this tall, thin, gorgeous woman came up to me and gave me a hug to tell me how good it was to see me and how wonderful I looked.  My mouth fell to the floor.  It wasn’t until she started speaking that I knew it was Michelle.  Talk about the tables being turned.

The last and best news that I have to share is I weighed myself when I returned home.  I’ve lost 3 pounds.  I am now down to 183.  At least there is something good that came out of a very long and difficult week.

Sort Of A Vacation

Well, I was supposed to be on vacation this week, but it has turned into something else.  As I have posted previously, my step-father was battling lung cancer.  Last week, he was in the hospital and they eventually sent him home on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, my mother fell and broke her arm.  She had been caring for my step dad up until then.

Once she broke her arm, she needed treatment too and could no longer take care of him.  My siblings and I decided we needed to schedule trips to Pittsburgh, spreading out the visits to make they would have someone there to help them as often as possible.  My sister drove to Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Saturday morning, my step-dad lost his battle with cancer.  Fortunately, my sister was there with my mom so that she was not alone.  The rest of us made immediate plans to get Pittsburgh.  I was there by 530pm.  My brother shortly after that.  My youngest sister and her husband flew in by 7pm.  The whole family is together again.  Of course, my mother’s house is now quite crowded, but we are all here.

On top of everything else, my mother is having surgery on her arm today.  The funeral will be Friday.

My step-brother and his wife have been an immeasurable help to my mom and step-dad over the past few months.  When my mom broke her arm, they dropped everything to get her to the hospital and get her taken care of as well.  I am so grateful they were there.

This week is very difficult.  Certainly, my whole family is grieving, but our grief is nothing compared to what my mother and my step-siblings are going through.  I know their dad was sick and they knew he would die from his cancer one day, but no one expected this quite so soon.  Nothing prepares you for the reality of a loved one’s death.  And losing a parent is hard.

I also truly feel bad for my mom.  She is really struggling.  I am very concerned about how she will handle things once we all leave town.  I am going to come up here again in a couple of weeks to help her out.  DC is just a short drive from Pittsburgh, so it is easy to get here, even in my teeny-weeny Smart Car, which got pretty good mileage on the way here.

So, blogging may be intermittent this week.  I can tell you that this trip has been rough on my diet.  I don’t think I’m eating anything particularly bad.  I did have to make a quick grocery run to grab some fruit and nonfat Greek yogurt.  I did not bring any protein powder, so I have doubled up on the yogurt.  I’m not too worried about being too low on protein as I am eating about 1200-1400 calories per day.  The Greek yogurt should tide me over until I get home or to a vitamin store or something.

I’ll be back on my regular blogging schedule next week.

What? I Am Not The Center Of The Universe?

OK, maybe I’m the center of the Colleeniverse, and blogging about myself everyday certainly reaffirms that notion.  But I have conceded that I am not really the center of the rest of the universe. 

There are two events taking place today that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me, yet both are consuming every thought in my head and every ounce of my focus.  One is of a celebratory nature, the other more solemn. 

My niece, who is the actual center of the universe, is graduating from pre-K today and despite her request that I attend, I cannot be there to help her celebrate.  If I could choose to be anywhere today, it would be with her.  I will see her this weekend, and shower her with love, kisses, and presents, as aunties are wont to do, but I really wish I could be there today to cheer her on. 

The second, more solemn event…a good friend and fellow writer is having surgery.  He has been suffering from a horrible illness and today will determine if his treatment has been successful.  I hope that has been.

So, instead of thinking of me, my general health, my weight loss progress, my mental health, and all the petty problems that plague my life, I am asking that everyone cheer for my niece and send good wishes to my friend. 

Better yet, show your good wishes and buy one of his books or his music.

Writing About People, Places, & Things – Book

The Girl, The Drugs, & The Man Who Could Not Drink – Book

Cash & Carry – Music (also available on iTunes)

Quick Update

I have a quick correction to make on last night’s post.  My mom commented on my blog and disabused me of some faulty information regarding my step-dad’s cancer and heart problems.  Here is what she said:

“He does have a new smaller tumor but it is not pressing on any of the arteries leading to the heart. It is pressing on the bronchial area and when he coughs, it breaks the little arteries causing them to bleed. Sometimes it is a lot of blood and sometimes not. We have been warned that it could be a lot at which time we are to call 911 and get him to the ER. The heart is another matter. He was/is in a-fib which means basically, that the heart is in a little trouble. The defibulator is working overtime but it is working and that is important.”

Thank goodness the tumor is not pressing on an artery leading to the heart.  They still do not know why he is in afib.  Hopefully, they will get some answers today as he sees the heart doctor before his chemo treatment.  So, things are not great, but not as dire as I thought.

Thank you everyone for all of your kind words and prayers.  We are still trying to remain hopeful he can pull through this.

What A Difference A Walk Makes

Sometimes I live a little bit too much inside my own head.  It’s easy to do.  I am single. I live alone.  I have no kids.  I do leave the house and go to work each day.  I have co-workers that I talk to off and on during the day.  That helps.  But when there is no one else to share your day or your thoughts with, one can get lonely.

I was kind of feeling that way today.  Today was hot.  I came home and my apartment was hot.  My fan broke last summer, so the only way I can cool down for now is to open a window.  I did not want to cook because it was hot.  I decided to nuke some chicken my friend Sush made for me yesterday.  I also decide to heat up some palak paneer (spinach and cheese) I had in the freezer so that I could have a vegetable that I could nuke and not heat up on the stove.

Well, I ate too much.  A lot too much.  I have not eaten that much at one time since before the surgery.  My stomach was hurting and upset.  Plus being home alone and feeling sick, I was stuck with many thoughts I have been avoiding thinking about for several weeks racing through my head.

My step-dad has lung cancer.  His initial prognosis was very bad.  The first doctor told him he may have six months to a year to live.  Obviously, the whole family was hit pretty hard with this news.  Well, he went to another doctor and then saw an oncologist who has given him every reason to hope his cancer is very treatable and not as far gone as the first doctor thought.  The first doctor thought the cancer had already spread to his liver and brain.  After doing some scans and tests, the oncologist determined that it had not.  It has spread to his spine and his lymph nodes.  Not great news, but still treatable.

Well, my mom shared some other news with me this past weekend.  Apparently, one of the lumps of cancer is pressing on a major vein or artery that goes to his heart.  My step-dad already has a pacemaker and a defibrillator.  Fortunately, the cancer is not on the side of his chest with those two devices.  Nonetheless, he’s been in afib for a week or so and is sometimes coughing up blood.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I know it’s not good.  So, the race is on.  Can they shrink and hopefully eliminate the lump before it does irreversible damage to his already strained heart?  I don’t know.  I have been very upset since she told me this.  What’s worse, there is nothing I can do.  I want to go and visit with them, but they have asked me to stay away for now.  They live in another city.  I would have to drive there, which I have no problem doing, but since he’s doing chemotherapy, he’s very susceptible to germs and illness.  So, they want everyone to stay put for now and wait.

I hate waiting.  I love my step-dad.  He’s a wonderful man.  He married a woman with four children, took them into his home and made them his family.  He has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders, too.  When I call, or visit, he always says, “It’s the amazing Colleen.”  And he is so proud of everything I have accomplished since the surgery.

So, here I am, sitting all alone in my small postage stamp, hot apartment, too full and nauseated, and getting grumpy and depressed worrying about things I can do nothing to change.

I got up off of my bed and put on some shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed my cell phone and Google pad, and walked out the door.  I walked down the street to the little village at the bottom of the hill.  I bought an iced tea at a local coffee shop and sat outside reading a book using my Nook app.

The little strip of shops and restaurants was alive with action this evening.  The weather is finally warm and people have been anxious to get out of their houses and out into the world.  People were out walking their dogs, dining in restaurants, in and out of the library, and browsing in shops.

I sat outside the coffee shop and watched two young girls stop and spontaneously start dancing while sharing music on their electronic device.  A dog trainer walked around with a group of dog owners encouraging them to continuously give their dog treats to instill good behavior.  Couples walked by talking and holding hands.  Families toting kids or pushing strollers made their way down the street.  My little town was alive tonight.

My mom called while I was sitting there and we had a great conversation.  My step-dad was in good spirits and making jokes to me through her while we talked.  He sounded good.

After I walked back up the hill to my apartment, I realized that not much had changed.  I still felt overly full.  My apartment was still too hot.  My step-dad still has cancer.  And there is still nothing I can do from here to help him or my mom.  I do feel better, though.  The walk, the reading, getting out into the world has really helped to clear my head which is what I wanted.

I do not know what the future holds.  I just know that I need to continue taking care of myself.  Whatever happens, whether it’s to celebrate his defeating the cancer, help my mom prepare to deal with a long-term illness, or worse, I need to be ready.  The only way I can do that is to stay focused on continuing to improve my own health.

I know my step-dad wants that too.  He would get up out of his sick bed and walk here to kick my butt if I allowed his illness to knock me off track.

Correction:  My mom posted this information to update what I had written: 

“He does have a new smaller tumor but it is not pressing on any of the arteries leading to the heart. It is pressing on the bronchial area and when he coughs, it breaks the little arteries causing them to bleed. Sometimes it is a lot of blood and sometimes not. We have been warned that it could be alot at which time we are to call 911 and get him to the ER. The heart is another matter. He was/is in a-fib which means basically, that the heart is in a little trouble. The defibulator is working overtime but it is working and that is important.”

Thank goodness the tumor is not pressing on an artery leading to the heart.  They still do not know why he is in afib.  Hopefully, they will get some answers today as he sees the heart doctor before his chemo treatment today.

Oh Goodie It’s Friday!

Friday is always a glorious day!

Yes, I know today is Good Friday and for Christians of all stripes it is officially the day Jesus died on the cross and we are supposed to mourn, sacrifice, and pray.  I just cannot bring myself to mourn today, however.  Thinking of Good Friday has me thinking of Easter, and Easter is a day of celebration. 

When I think of Easter, I think of where I was two years ago at this time.  I went to Easter dinner with my brother and his wife to her parent’s house.  They are always so nice to include me in all of the holiday celebrations.  They know that I am single and I cannot always get to Pittsburgh to see my mom and step-dad for the holidays, so my sister-in-law’s family always makes a place for me just in case. 

Two years ago, I was miserable.  I weighed over 300 pounds.  I could barely stand or breathe let alone walk.  I felt uncomfortable and I did not feel as if I had much to celebrate.  I went to my sister-in-law’s family’s for Easter and I felt out-of-place and uncomfortable. 

Of course, this was not their fault.  They were nothing but gracious to me, but I was really down about my health situation.  This was before I decided to take control of my life and health and do something to improve my situation.  I remember sitting on the porch, because I had to sit, and watching two groups of guests having fun. 

The kids, my niece and her cousin, were having an Easter egg hunt in the yard.  The other group, several of the adults were standing at the other end of the porch talking and having a good time.  I was sitting alone, just watching.  I felt like a spectator and I might as well have just been sitting at home watching a TV show, that’s how involved I felt with the world around me.

Two years later, I am again preparing to go to Rachael’s parents’ house for Easter dinner and the annual Easter egg hunt and I could not be more excited.  Of course, I will get to spend the day with my niece who I absolutely love and adore.  But I also know that this year, I can really participate in the celebration.  I can actively cheer my niece and her now TWO cousins in the hunt for candy filled eggs.  And I do not have to sit on the side alone feeling sorry for myself.  I can stand and talk with the adults, too.

I feel completely transformed this year, like I have resurrected a better version of myself, so to speak.  I know that I had a couple of bad days this week, but overall, I feel great.  I want to celebrate and share my new life with the people I love and rejoin the world I thought that I had left behind.

My feelings of celebration and joy this year are also tempered a bit because some of my friends and family are not in the best of health.  I have 2 friends and one family member battling cancer and one friend with AIDS who is awaiting test results to see if he has developed stomach or liver cancer, or cancer of the spleen.  I know that while they may be happy for me and my new life, they are all facing some very troubling and dark times in their own. 

I wish I could tell each one of them that everything will be OK, that two years from now, they will look back and see this as a temporary blip on their radar, that there are brighter days ahead.  Alas, it is not in my power to make those kinds of promises.  Would that it were.

I am not an overly religious person.  I do pray, but I do not go to church and I do not proselytize to all of my friends.  Even so, I do still consider myself Catholic.  My grandmother had a big influence over my life and how I view religion.  She believed you served God by serving others.  She treated strangers with as much love and respect as she did her family and close friends.  She took care of everyone around her, often to her own detriment.  In other words, she believed in living the gospel, not preaching it.  Well, not just preaching it anyway.  I know that I am not perfect and I know that I fall short everyday, but I try to follow her example.  I think my positive attitude and belief that I can change my life are, in part, thanks to her influence.

So, my Easter prayer is this:  I pray for good health for all my friends and family; I pray that whatever difficulties they are suffering through now are short-lived and put in the past as quickly as possible; and mostly I pray that in two years we can all look back together and say good bye to the past and celebrate their new, healthier, happier lives.  Amen.

May you all have a Happy Easter!