The Picture

I guess I would have to say today was a bad day.  Emotionally raw; it was a day where I just had to put my head down and get through.  Yesterday I had gone out for dinner with a good friend.  It was a lovely meal out and a lovely way to pass a few hours.  It was afterwards that the sadness hit.  Jealousy wrapped up in sadness is probably more accurate. You see, most of my friends are still married, no widows in my immediate circle.  So, for them, they get to look across the dinner table at their husbands every night.  Every day they routinely engage in small talk, arguments, they might get mad at each other and they may or may not make up.  But the presence and the involvement and the sheer state of “couple-ness” exists for them.  I hope they appreciate it.  What I wouldn’t give to have that back again.

So for bedtime last night I recognized the signs of a potential disastrous night’s sleep and did the preventive stuff.  I took a sleeping pill and washed it down with a beverage called Calm.  It did the trick and I zonked out in no time flat.  I woke up this morning, however, to the same feelings.  When this happens, and this was not the first time, my morning routine to get ready for work is always minimal.  It is a feat just to drag myself to work.  At times like these I just don’t care.  It doesn’t matter what I wear or how I look.  Usually once I am at work I snap out of it.  The routine and the demands of the workplace provide enough momentum to get me through and even back on track.

I’d also planned a couple of activities for after work, to stay busy and avoid thinking.  One of the activities involved a visit to a framing shop to have a painting framed.  When I got back home I went in to my husband’s art room, to see what else I should perhaps think of framing, and could take with me when the present painting was ready for pick up.  In the art room, Kevin, my husband, had painted a family portrait of sorts – it had been finished in early 2014.  He’d hung it on the wall above his table and behind his easel.  Today, when I saw it, I thought, that’s the one that I’ll frame next.  I took it off the wall and that’s when I saw the handwriting on the stretcher boards on the back.  Kevin’s scratchy lettering; dedicating the painting to his family.  It was the sweetest and dearest thing, and I had no idea it was there.  I am glad I found it.  Although it brought on the tears, it also made me feel like he was sending me a message, one that I needed to hear.

I took that painting out of the art room and hung it on the bedroom wall.  I won’t get it framed, it’s perfect the way it is.

It’s The Final Hours

Today has been one of the most difficult days of my life.  It is apparent that the end is nearing for my husband.  We have the kids all at home and they have had their opportunity to say the things they needed to say to their dad.  He is, and always has been, a great dad.  Life has never been boring with him.  As a partner he was good for me, as introverted as I am, he is the opposite, extroverted. I am fairly content and he restless.  I was the more practical one and he was the more creative dreamer in our relationship.  As a parent he was far more fun that I ever could be.  The adventures he had with the kids are legend; they have stories to tell their children that are crazy and funny and larger than life in some respects.

This has been an emotional roller coaster that is coming to an end.  I am tired, the kids are tired, but at present my husband is not.  He is agitated and anxious.  The disease has taken away his ability to swallow since the cancer has progressed to the nodes in his neck.  His lungs are congested and he can’t breathe properly which exacerbates his anxiety.  Tonight I called in the night shift visiting nurse to ensure that I was following the right protocol in administering anti-anxiety medication.  We will see if we can settle him for the night, but I suspect that we will be on shifts for the night to ensure that my husband doesn’t get agitated and try to get out of bed.  Quite frankly he is so weak that he would not be able to stand, and a fall is the last thing we need right now.

The visiting nurses today both commented on how rapidly my husband is declining.  Although there is no certainty in how long this final stage will last it seems apparent that it won’t be long – perhaps that in itself is a small mercy.  There is no doubt that he is suffering as his lungs heave and his breath comes in shallow gasps.   I can only hope that the medication we have given him is sufficient to numb some of the discomfort.

Do Things Have To Happen In Threes?

We are into the home stretch for 2014 and it can’t end soon enough.  I’ve stopped saying “what else can go wrong”, because invariably something else does go wrong.  Nothing or no one is out of scope for us this year.  We have three family members engaged in the battle against cancer and it’s frightening to think of the implications on this family for the future.  We have my husband, my sister-in-law and now my niece (in-law).  All different types of cancer.  For my niece (in-law) – it is her second go around with breast cancer related disease and the doctors are moving very quickly.  For my sister-in-law it is cancer of the small intestine/lymph nodes; now that the surgery is done, they are moving forward in getting her on chemotherapy – which will commence in mid-January.  For my husband it is lung/bone with his next check up scheduled for January 13, 2015.  Recently he hasn’t been feeling well, however, he got great news last time when he felt completely lousy – so here’s hoping.

Needless to say, 2015 has some ominous overtones to it, however, there are some bright spots too.  We do have a grandchild arriving in February which is great news.  Our daughter is healthy and well and will deliver a little boy, her first child, around the end of February.  My eldest son informed me that they (he and his wife) will be working on their third child in 2015, hoping for a daughter, but there are no guarantees.  And my youngest, well, I think he is feeling the crunch about children, apparently he and his girlfriend were talking about children today, after he picked her up at the airport.  Could be a fertile year for our little family!

I typically write on this blog to either clear my thoughts or share information.  Today hubby is raspy and congested and I’m worried about him in general – so this forum serves as my outlet.  Ironically when I sat in front of the computer to write there were three pieces of paper sitting on the desk in front of the screen.  Two pieces I had printed out some time ago; their matter is Drynaria and Dipsacus (yang tonifying herbs for bones, tendons and brains).  The third piece of paper was a recipe handwritten by my mother many, many years ago for Blue Cheese Dressing.  How it got separated from all the other recipe cards is beyond me.  My mom had more than her share of cancer-related issues so it seemed funny that here I am feeling so low and come across this recipe – maybe a message in that?  Maybe I came across the other papers to remind me to refocus, not get sucked down into an emotional vortex that serves no purpose, rather to keep looking up and forward because optimism and hope feed the spirit and nourish the soul.

For the benefit of my sisters, here is ma’s Blue Cheese Dressing Recipe:

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons dry white wine or lemon juice

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Put the first 7 ingredients and 1/2 of the cheese in a covered blender.  Blend until smooth.  Stir in remaining cheese.  Cover. Chill.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.  (Omit the milk for a tasty fresh vegetable dip.)

Christmas Passed

Daphne the Christmas Pooch!

Daphne – All dressed up for the occasion.

So we are through part one of two for the holidays.  Christmas is now over and we have New Year’s to get through.  This new phase in our lives has meant some significant changes to how we “do” Christmas.  In years past we would go carolling up and down the street or get together with friend’s at our house, their house, it changed from year to year.  We’d have a nice Christmas Eve dinner – usually surf and turf, drink Bailey’s and watch The Christmas Story.  We go to bed late, and get up late the next day.  Christmas Day would be turkey with all the trimmings and generally people arriving throughout the day for appetizers, drinks, carol singing, dinner and later on games.  We’ve always been sure to take pictures and plenty of them.  This year was a much different affair.  We managed to do a bit of a drive around our city to look at the Xmas lights on Xmas Eve, my husband and I along with his sister, two of the kids and two couples that are dear friends of the family.  The next day we had more family, including our two grandchildren, stop by but it was for a few brief hours, no meals, no games, no drinks.  The only consistent thing from years past is that we took pictures, and lots of them.

My husband had a poor response to the Zometa infusion and it took him down for about 8 days.  Today, the 28th, is the first day he has had an appetite and been able to participate in conversation with the family.   It was just bad timing for the reaction to the Zometa, but it did make me realize that I had slipped a bit on my research on recommended treatments.  If I had read up on Zometa and chatted through the side effects with my husband prior to commencing the treatments I doubt he would have opted for it.  This is what WebMD states regarding Zometa Intravenous under Common Side Effects:

The following side effects are associated with Zometa intravenous:

Common side effects of Zometa intravenous:

  • Bone Pain –  Severe
  • Feeling Weak – Severe
  • High Blood Pressure – Severe
  • Low Amount of Magnesium in the Blood – Severe
  • Low Amount of Phosphate in the Blood –  Severe
  • Low Amount of Potassium in the Blood –  Severe
  • Trouble Breathing – Severe
  • Backache –  Less Severe
  • Chills –  Less Severe
  • Chronic Trouble Sleeping – Less Severe
  • Cough – Less Severe
  • Diarrhea – Less Severe
  • Dizzy –  Less Severe
  • Feel Like Throwing Up  – Less Severe
  • Fever – Less Severe
  • Fluid Retention in the Legs, Feet, Arms or Hand – Less Severe
  • Head Pain –  Less Severe
  • Incomplete or Infrequent Bowel Movements – Less Severe
  • Inflammation of Skin caused by an Allergy – Less Severe
  • Joint Pain –  Less Severe
  • Low Energy – Less Severe
  • Muscle Pain  – Less Severe
  • Throwing Up  –  Less Severe
  • Urinary Tract Infection –  Less Severe

Click on the link if you want to see the other side effects listed under Infrequent or Rare.  There is also a good site in the UK that I often refer to when looking up this type of information, Patient.co.uk.; it provides suggestions on how to deal with the side effects.

Back to our situation and nope, we definitely would have considered other holistic ways to enhance his bones rather than infuse them with a bisphosphonate.  There is plenty out there too – therapies like mind body healing, osteotapping, Tai Chi, Xi Sui Jing; a wide range of supplements and dietary supports.  We just need to get through New Year`s and then settle back into a routine where there is time to do the much needed research.

Burned Out

Light bulbs are throw-aways, people are not.

Burned out and useless.

It finally happened.  I managed to evade it for quite a while but it did catch up with me.  There’s many ways of saying it – ran out of gas, hit the wall, bottomed out or as the blog title states – burned out.  The last couple of months have been exhausting with so many highs and lows and not a lot of time in between.  Running from one situation to the next, never thinking, just doing.  So when life, reality or whatever you want to call it, catches up with you, it can be nasty.  That’s what I have been dealing with for the last three days now.  Migraine headaches that just take me right down.  I have great medication to numb some of the symptoms, but really my body is telling me to stop.  Rather, my body is making me stop.  Hopefully, three days in, I am on the other side of it now.

It is my fault and mine alone that I’ve got to this state.  Certainly my husband or my sister-in-law haven’t gotten me here.  In fact, both of them have told me to slow down, that I won’t do anyone any good if I don’t.  Truer words, right?  I suspect that this is the norm for a lot of caregivers; you try to be superhuman, but the crash, when it comes, makes you realize that all you’ve been is foolish.  I have heard it from everyone, how important it is to make time for yourself. Somehow, just like being a parent, making that “time” is secondary to absolutely everything else.  But it shouldn’t be – and it can’t be.  Because if you don’t make the time and you keep pushing and pushing yourself, then you bottom out – like I have.

The thing is, the only expectations that I have to manage are actually my own, not anyone else’s, just mine.  The expectations all along have been self-imposed.  My husband is happy for any support that I can give him.  He hasn’t criticized me, nor complained. It’s my own desire to be all things to all people that needs to be revised.  So, after being fairly useless for three days, it became apparent that the necessary things still got done – we ate, slept and got by.  There are some things that really can wait – they won’t go away – but in the grand scheme of things they are way down there.  Looking after myself needs to move a little higher up on my priorities list.