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Marking the End of a Rough Year -- Still Standing, But Not Unscathed

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!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TREV1964 8/15/2013 8:05AM

    Boy have you been through a lot. You have been through the worst of it though. Pain like this tends to be worse at the beginning and then over time it gradually eases.

Focus on your fantastic achievements under such adversity and set things for the future.

Reading everything you have done is most inspiring and I sincerely wish you all the best.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I may be in a position to help out with.



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CAREYBEARY77 3/25/2013 2:00PM

    Thank you. This touched me. It may not look like it to you, but this story has a hint of rainbow at the end of the storm. There are so many things about life we can't control.....and bad things do happen to good people. Thanks for not giving up, while still being honest about the crappy things in life. You're an inspiration.

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DEDICATED2HIM 3/17/2013 8:03AM

    Congratulations on a job well done. You look fantastic. I'm so sorry about the loss of your dad....I can't even imagine losing mine and yet I know it can happen at any time. I have terrible chronic pain also....and yet you keep working and supporting your household. You are truly a motivator. God bless you in your efforts to remain healthy

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HEIDISUE1 1/26/2013 10:19AM

    (Thanks for replying to my nutrition topic. You are inspiring!)
Shortly after I lost my youngest sister to a car accident almost 11 years ago, I came upon this beautiful poem written for England's Queen Mother's funeral:
You can shed tears that they are gone, or you can smile because they have lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that they'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all they have left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see them, or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember them and only that they're gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.
You can cry, close your mind, be empty, turn your back; or you can do what they'd want:
Smile, open your eyes, love, and go on.

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IACTA_ALEA_EST 8/6/2012 12:07AM

    Wishing you strength to face the grief when you are ready. It's been 8 years and 6 months Thursday since my dad passed and now he's with me all the time, but in the beginning it was painful to think of any memory.


Comment edited on: 8/6/2012 12:09:14 AM

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ONELOVED15 7/9/2012 7:10PM

    I'm a little choked up, I feel like crying and still smiling too. You have been through a lot but it sounds like you have what it takes to make it due to a good foundation. I can't say I understand, you have to have a dad to lose one, mine has been absent for so long. So I can say this, cherish your memories, let them make you smile and carry you through, he was a blessing to your life and he's still there in you. Take care of yourself, don't work too hard, life is short you have to live it!

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LISAM1307 6/23/2012 8:39PM

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss last year however it seems you have a great attitude on living the life your dad helped to give you. It was very touching. I am also sorry to hear of your health troubles and I wish you the best of luck feeling as best as you can. Also congrats on maintaining the weight loss. You are a true inspiration. I have only lost 43lbs but at the end I hope to lose basically 100lbs. Thank you for someone to look up to.

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WOLFSPIRITMOM 6/15/2012 7:55AM

    I'm glad you have a good attitude. Life gets tough when dealing with family illness. It is amazing how stress from that can get us sick! Glad you are looking forward!

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Sidelined, But Not Out

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!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAB7801 7/9/2013 10:18PM


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BEATTYN1 2/11/2012 7:16AM

    Sorry to read about your mystery disease. I'm sending you a goodie to help you feel better and crossing my fingers that nothing serious is going on.

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    Hope you can get back at it soon.

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SKINNYJWO10 2/5/2012 11:31PM

    Oh me too. How frustrating. I really hope they can give you some answers soon. It sounds very scary. Take care of yourself and just try to focus on your health right now. If you can't exercise or even just walk, just really try to stay in your calorie "maintanence" range so you just won't have to stress about weight right now. Have they done a Doppler for a blood clot? I'm sending tons of healing vibes your way as well!

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SEDGEY 2/5/2012 11:27PM

    I checked back to your previous blog post and noted more of your symptoms. While they're testing things, have them check you Vitamin B levels in your blood.

Since I found your blog from the roster at Ancestral Health, I'm going to make the assumption that you're not a vegan or anything so you should be okay from a dietary perspective, but it's a simple test. Even better, there's a simple and inexpensive treatment.

Here's a good list of symptoms:

If you're not due for bloodwork, you could also just ask for a B vitamin injection. It won't hurt and will possibly make you feel better.

I'm just suggesting it because it's a commonly overlooked diagnosis. Don't flounder around for a couple of years needlessly like I did. Good luck!

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MTPOETNH 2/5/2012 11:24PM

    Sorry to hear about your health problems, I hope you will be able to find out what is causing your symptoms soon. Exercise is a great stress reliever , it has go to be tough when you don't feel well enough to do it. Good for you that you have been "mostly good" about your food choices- I am out of control eating when I am stressed. I will send healing thoughts your way and keep you in my prayers. emoticon Peggy

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Pulse Check Blog -- Still Holding Steady, But It Ain't Easy

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!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WOLFSPIRITMOM 1/29/2012 10:19AM

    Sorry to hear about everything. It will get better so keep thinking positive. Glad you are able to stick the diet and exercise though. emoticon

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40GIRL 1/29/2012 12:15AM

    I'm so sorry to hear all of your news, it sounds like its been rough to say the least. I lost my father very suddenly 4 years ago. We were very close and it was so hard to get by for a long time. I'm also 40 and my husband are I are realizing that we probably won't ever have kids. We're doing okay with it but sometimes it's hard when everyone in your life does have children. I hope life has some great things in store for you soon!!!

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Life, Loss and Moving Forward (Even When You Don't Want To)

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    emoticon emoticon and more emoticon.

So sorry for your loss.

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GRAMMACATHY 12/31/2011 1:59PM

    I am so sorry for your loss, but also celebrate that we both had wonderful Dads. This will be a hard year of firsts, but hold on to those memories you so lovingly described. As you go through the rollercoaster of bereavement if you need us to lean on come back to the Lost a Loved One team. We will listen.

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LUCYJOY 12/28/2011 10:37AM

    Struggling with much of the same feelings. My son died Dec 4-by choice. I have that hollow feeling you describe and I keep trying to get up and return to life and most days, I'd rather not.

My mother is still living but has no idea who I am. She was the one person in my life that actually loved me, flawas and all. I miss her terribly.

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WOLFSPIRITMOM 12/28/2011 9:20AM

    Been there, done that too! Try to enjoy, your dad wouldn't want you to be sad.

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JERIBERI1 12/28/2011 8:11AM

    It's so difficult to lose a parent, and it seems unfair that life continues to go on around you while your own world seems to be in suspended animation. Time does make it easier, and memories will bring smiles and happiness. Make 2012 a good year for you, and live the life your dad wants you to live. He was right -- life is short, enjoy it while you can. Wise words.

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FLORIDASUN 12/28/2011 8:07AM

    God bless you dear one! I can so relate having lost our son...the epicenter of our entire universe! You will be on automatic pilot for awhile and just take good care of yourself for this period of time. There were days that I really shouldn't even have been driving because I was a shell behind the wheel...not really a person at all.

It's been 5 1/2 years since that shocking tragic day (Josh was only 22, about 3 weeks from his 23rd birthday) we were thousands and thousands of miles away on an anniversary cruise celebrating it with friends. Those 12 grueling hours of travel back to the states was a descent into hell that I NEVER want to repeat. We were so grief stricken we truly almost hurled ourselves off the balcony of the cruise ship...thank goodness we had two cats to come home too...and of course the memorial we knew we had to plan to honor our Josh for all of his hundreds and hundreds of friends.

My heart grieves for your aching heart. All I can say is that we were both truly blessed to have epic humans in our world and to be a part of the joy, happiness, and unconditional love they gave to us.

I take great comfort in knowing that we will both see our loved ones further down the river and that they are BOTH very much with us...still loving us, cheering for us, helping us navigate life and all it's challenges...just as much as before...but now in a different way.

Hugs to you dear friend...I don't know how I found your blog...but maybe my Josh and your father have met and are still making magic for both of us to help each other in their memory.

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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ONEKIDSMOM 12/28/2011 7:53AM

    Absolutely. This one's for your dad. A touching tribute. I'm fond of saying we can't change the past, or bring back those we have lost. We can only live our lives to honor their memories. If they were honorable souls, we can live our lives honorably. If they had a great sense of humor, we can relish the things they would have found amusing.

Well done, starting down the path to the rest of your life, remembering, cherishing, and honoring your dad!

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Running in Place

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PAMATX 11/20/2011 7:14PM

    Health issues with parents is such a tough thing to deal with. The cases can do without you for a few days. (Although everybody acts as if that's not possible.)

Congrats on the runs. I aspire to hit a ten-minute mile. Reading your blog, I guess it's not out of the realm of possibility. Good to know!

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WOLFSPIRITMOM 11/19/2011 10:41AM

    Have fun on your 8K. emoticon

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LORI1132 11/18/2011 12:20AM

    Best wishes on your training. I hope that the Thanksgiving weekend can bring some quality time with your family. It's a tough time I know.

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SKINNYANDFAB 11/18/2011 12:09AM

  Hi CS!
Jingle All the way! Here you come! emoticon
Keep up the good work. You dizzy spells. Are you drinking enough? Eating enough? what does your BP look like? Sorry, I'm a nurse as well as a health\weightloss coach. I get concerned when I hear this. Please tell me about you....
Hang in there with your family...at the end of the day, its all we have really

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KRISTBENNY 11/18/2011 12:05AM

    emoticon Good Luck on your 8K!!

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