Thursday, June 14, 2012
One year ago today, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. I learned that my beloved Dad had suffered a heart attack doing what he did every morning -- put out the flag after having his coffee. No one called me until after he had been taken by ambulance to the city hospital over an hour away, and was on the table having open heart surgery. By the time I was called, my sister and I barely had time to catch the last flight out of DC home. When we had to turn off our cell phones, Dad was still in surgery. We didn't know if we'd still have a Dad when the plane touched down.
As it happened, the surgery went on for a couple of hours after we finally got to the hospital. It was right about now that the surgeon finally came out and explained that Dad had been given too much anticoagulant by our hometown hospital, and he'd had an extraordinarily hard time getting the bleeding stopped. He didn't think Dad would make it through the night.
But Dad did. And I remember being so hopeful that that was the worst of it. There was the moment a week later when he finally came off the respirator -- and the first thing he did as soon as he caught his breath was sing Happy Birthday to me. (As he had done on every birthday I could remember.) Best birthday present ever!
But soon after came the setbacks. Mixed with triumphs here and there, to be sure -- but ultimately, a hospital-acquired infection got him, and after a brutal struggle to the end, we lost him on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Since then, my own health has been seriously compromised, and I've had to try to manage severe chronic pain, loss of function in my limbs, and just plain exhaustion while trying to keep up with the worst log-jam of work I've ever experienced (it's not even all the way through June and I've already nearly hit my billable target for the entire year. Seriously.) And I'm sure I could have passed some of it off to someone else if I'd tried -- but then I would have been stuck with my thoughts. And my grief. And I'm not sure I'm quite ready to process all of it.
Next Thursday, I turn 40, and for the first time, Dad won't be there to sing me Happy Birthday. He won't tell me again about the horrible rainstorm they had to get through to get Mom to the hospital the night I was born. And he won't tell me how ungodly loudly I cried in the hospital nursery (apparrently I was quite something), or how I kept them up for months with my screaming until they figured out I had a horrible ear infection.
But I do have the life he gave me. And I hope I lived up to the strength that he showed last year, and every day of his life. I hope that someday I learn to accept adversity with the grace that he did -- for while I am strong, I am not quite the genial and kind person he was.
I hope he is proud of the things I've accomplished, and that he thinks I've done well with the gifts he gave. I am proud that I managed to stick to my health goals this year, even with all the curve balls thrown my way. Maybe it's because I've seen how important health is, and how quickly it can slip through your fingers. Or maybe it was one of the very few things in my control this year. I am about 18 pounds lighter than I was on this date last year, and have maintained a loss of 111 overall since December, so feeling cautiously optimistic that I can keep it up over the long haul -- although that remains to be seen.
So, a new year begins. A little wiser, I hope -- definitely a lot sadder. Next year I welcome a new decade of my life. Here's hoping I make the most of it.
To end on a happy note, though -- two weeks from tomorrow, I celebrate 15 years of marriage to my wonderful husband. Things have been, honestly, tough in our marriage for the last year or so. Given the situation with Dad, my health issues, my near-constant absence due to work and family crises, loss of his job, and (to top it all off) our infertility isssues, that's not so much a surprise. But we've committed to working things out -- we still love each other, and he's still my best friend. So planning to make our marriage a top priority again this year -- starting with a much-needed vacation together! Looking forward to that, and making sure that the best is truly yet to come. Wish me luck!
Sunday, February 05, 2012
My mystery illness has been getting worse -- will be seeing the doctor this week for more testing. In the meantime, I'm supposed to avoid basically any real physical exhertion. Not really a problem, as I've lost feeling all over (tingling, like when your foot "falls asleep"), but in my arms and legs especially, and have a really serious pain at the base of my neck. I'm even having a little trouble breathing, but so far not enough to make me think I ought to go to the emergency room.
But still, I feel like a slug for not exercising. And of course, even though I probably have bigger things to worry about right now, I'm worried about gaining my weight back. Maybe I'm focusing on that to avoid worrying about what might be wrong with me? Eating has been mostly OK, but I have to watch it with the "treats." An occasional treat isn't bad in itself, but they were becoming more frequent. Since I can't exercise, I don't have a lot of room for extra calories, unfortunately.
Also concerned that my illness may force me to be out of work for an extended period. I took a lot of time off because of my Dad's illness last year -- but I was lucky to have worked an insane amount of surplus hours in the first half of the year, before he got sick. I only just made my billable target for last year, but I did make it. I won't have that cushion this year, so any extended illness would involve either a reduced schedule (and salary to match), or disability, also accompanied by a reduction in income. NOT something that we need to deal with right now.
But I suppose I should not borrow trouble, and focus on the things that I can do something about right now. I'm keeping close watch over my diet, and although I can't do real exercise, I try to make sure to get in light physical movement, and stretching to keep myself in shape. Also trying to keep my work in good order, so that I am not facing any more stress on that front than necessary -- although it has been difficult to force myself to keep working when I feel so physically awful. So far, I've been able to take things one day at a time. Here's hoping I can keep it up!
Saturday, January 28, 2012
So, thought I'd better check in since my last blog was a month ago...
First, the good news. I'm still on track and within my maintenance range for another month, so all's good on that score.
However, I'm still adjusting to the idea that I really can't eat very much, and have to exercise (although not as much as I thought), if I want to stay this weight. I've given myself a broad range (1350 to 2050) in my tracker, but in reality I mostly stay at the low end of that (below 1450, and generally below 1400) at least 5 days a week. I have been leaving the higher calorie days for the weekends, when I tend to do my longer periods of exercise, including my long run. And even then, it's generally closer to 1800. It may be that I'll be able to ease back into a few more daily calories in time, but it probably won't be much. Luckily, I'm mostly happy with what I get to eat daily. I just wish eating out occasionally (without undue worry) were easier.
Maintenance is actually a lot easier than the rest of life right now. Still grieving for Dad -- it's been two months now since he passed away, and I'm still crying randomly and waking up in the middle of the night. Hoping this improves with time. I feel worse for my half brother -- my Dad's ex-wife (his Mom) passed away a couple of weeks ago, so he has suddenly become an orphan in the course of about six weeks. And he lost my half-sister five years ago to breast cancer. I am glad he has a wonderful wife and three lovely daughters (especially because he is on the other coast and we don't see each other often), but I think he is really hurting right now.
My husband lost his job a couple of weeks ago, so dealing with the fallout from that. Three months' severance, so we are not in dire straits yet, but will be if he can't find a job in short order. Last I checked, the market is not so good for that generally -- but we've been a bit luckier here in the DC area, plus he's in a field that actually is doing some hiring, provided he can find the right spot. Fingers crossed, but did NOT need this right now...
...because we had been planning to go forward with IVF this month. Can't decide whether we should still go for it -- I'm not getting any younger (40 this June!), but we both went back to graduate school in our mid-30s and have massive student loan debt. That was manageable when we both had well-paying jobs, but now? Not so clear.
And finally, I've been suffering from symptoms of a mysterious illness. Numbness and cramping in the limbs (and sometimes my face and neck), tightness in my chest, and reoccurring skin rashes and dizziness. I really do not feel right, but they've ruled out some of the most dire possibilities. Another reason I'm reluctant to throw IVF into the mix.
So that's where I'm at right now. Holding steady, but sometimes I feel like I'm barely hanging on. Only bright spot is, I'm still not terribly tempted to go off the diet and exercise wagon. Maybe because it's the only thing that's gone right lately? But I'm hoping it's because I actually did manage to change my relationship with food and my attitude toward exercise. I have some more thoughtful blogs on those topics in draft form, but they will have to wait until I have some more energy to deal with them.
Here's hoping my next check-in will have more good news!
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
It’s been about a month and a half since my last entry, and well past time for an update. I’m still trying to pick myself up off the floor, but I guess it’s time now.
We lost Dad just minutes before midnight on November 27. Mom, Maggie and I were with him, holding his hands for his last hour. I wish I could say it was peaceful, but for some reason the doctor on call was fighting us on starting the morphine drip earlier in the day, and his nurse was nowhere to be found, so he had to struggle for his last breaths. I'm glad we were with him, but it haunts me. He could not speak at that point, but was interacting with us with his eyes. Just before he died, he cried with us a little -- two tears. None of us really wanted to say goodbye, but we didn't have a choice – least of all Dad.
Since then, I have been trying since to focus on the rest of his life -- which was a very good one. He was a tremendously kind, generous and open-hearted person, and he will be deeply missed by many besides his family. His memorial services were full of love for him -- he was a very humble person who would probably have been overwhelmed by the outpouring, but he deserved all of it. He was not just an awesome Dad, but an amazing human being.
Part of me really wants to stay stuck in the past -- the past that had my Dad in it. I have other people that I love, and who love me, but none with whom my relationship is so... uncomplicated. Dad just loved me, no matter what, and I loved him back. Nothing made him happier than just spending time with me (and my Mom and sister). Even in the hospital, he lit right up when I came in the room to see him, even though he was suffering so much. There really is nothing that will replace that smile for me, not ever. I am just trying to take solace in the fact that I was lucky enough to have him for a Dad -- so many people are not nearly so blessed. It is probably churlish to wish for more... but I miss him terribly nonetheless.
I stayed back home with my family for a week and a half after his death, but eventually had to go back to work. That has been hard. Sometimes, I can almost forget long enough to be useful. But I am so drained. Not just tired. I feel all hollowed out inside. The fact that it is the holiday season -- that Dad loved so much -- is not helping one bit. But I hate to be a drag on everyone else -- life is short, and should be enjoyed.
I did come back “home” for Christmas – still here at my parents’ house – although I am still trying to get work done. (As an attorney at a large firm, what matters is the number of billables I can get in by the end of the year – and although we supposedly get 5 days of bereavement leave, it doesn’t change our billable target, so I don’t know what good that does anyone.) Christmas itself was… well, not as hard as I thought it would be, but not easy either. I suspect it will always feel diminished now, without him.
Since I last posted, I did finally hit my “goal” weight – a few days after Dad’s funeral, so I didn’t exactly celebrate it. Maybe I’ll celebrate later, once I’ve kept it off for a few months (so far, so good, despite a few holiday treats).
On the fitness front, I did not run for the week before, or the two weeks after Dad’s death, but have gotten back in the swing since then, despite working some crazy overtime. Did not even attempt the Jingle All the Way 8K – even if my running had somehow stayed on track, I was not feeling nearly jolly enough for such a festive run. (Walked to the farmer’s market that morning, and then went for a run along the Potomac and over the Memorial Bridge that afternoon instead.)
My husband and I did get slots in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler for April 1, 2012, so there is at least something to train for over the winter. But that is far in the future. For now, I’m taking things one day at a time.
My husband has talked me into going out for a fancy dinner and dancing on New Year’s Eve – and my plan is to enjoy it. (Well, at least try not to bring everyone else down with me.) I need to bid GOOD RIDDANCE to 2011, and hope for better things in 2012. Not exactly feeling like a party, but Dad always reminded me that life is short, and you’ve got to enjoy it while you can. So this one’s for you, Dad.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Put in another few miles on the treadmill tonight. Just trying to stay in shape for the Jingle All the Way 8K in just a few weeks. Although I haven't really been pushing -- particularly because I've been having trouble with dizzy spells lately -- my running is getting easier. Did 9.5 - 10 minute miles tonight, and it didn't feel hard at all.
I feel like I'm running in place in other areas of my life as well -- but unfortunately without the same level of progress or satisfaction. I feel like it's taking everything I have just to keep from falling further behind... seems like every case I have is blowing up at once, and I'm running from one crisis to the next, without really making progress, just putting on band-aids until I can "get back to it."
And, although it's a terrible time to be away from work, I'm still taking a week to go up and be with Mom and Dad over Thanksgiving. Dad won't really know I'm there, but Mom needs the break, and I feel like I owe it to Dad to stand by him, even if he's not fully aware that I'm there. Five months, and still not out of the hospital -- and unfortunately, it's unlikely he'll ever go home. I'd like to find some silver lining in all of this for us -- but I can't even be fully grateful he's still with us, given the amount of pain he's in. I'm expecting that they'll start pushing hospice -- and it's probably something we should seriously consider. I hate to give up hope on treatment, but he's been through so much, and there's so little hope that he'll ever get to a decent quality of life again. But on the other hand -- he's my Dad, and I want to give him every chance to make it. Just not sure what the right thing to do is. I hope that all of us as a family can figure it out.
Meanwhile, I'll have to keep running in place, and keep hoping for the best.
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