Thursday, September 19, 2013
Now? My mother is in the hospital. Yesterday they didn't think she was going to live. Normal red blood cell levels are a 9-10. People die when they drop to 6. Mom's were 5.7. Because of her previous health problems and the number of blood transfusions that she has had means that she has antigen reactions to most blood, so they have to have very specific mixture of blood.
Which they did not have at the hospital. My sister, who lives in Montana, too, was called to race to the hospital to be able to say goodbye. Miraculously, they found some blood that had been sent to the hospital for another patient's surgery who hadn't used it. It wasn't a perfect match, but it was all they had left to try. When they gave her the blood, they had her sign a release saying that she understood that the blood could stop her heart.
Fortunately, it did not. But her body can't use the blood efficiently, so they keep having to give her more. The doctor says her heart and kidneys are so weak that they don't signal her body to make more blood cells so she just plain runs out of blood. I understand that her doctor told her last week that she needed a transfusion and an iron pack, but she was leaving on vacation and didn't want to delay it while waiting for the blood to arrive. She thought she could make it. Instead, she ended up in the hospital on the morning she was supposed to leave.
She is now not in immediate danger, but every blood transfusion damages her heart and kidneys even more, and she now has to go on dialysis. Basically, this is going to kill her in a matter of time. But not today.
I am kind of completely done with this year, and with hospitals.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Becca and her parents have returned to CHOP. She is going through her first radiation treatment right now.
This morning, her parents had to put a pill in her mouth that is, essentially, poison. Chemotherapy is a carefully concocted potion of chemicals that, incorrectly dosed, could kill her. And they don't know for certain that this is the correct medicine.
Those of us, their friends and family, can only pray and offer our love and support. One of the ways that we are showing that support is to participate in the CureSearch Walk, a fundraiser for children's cancer research, on September 28. So far we have raised over $5000, and have 24 walkers signed up.
If you live in the Cleveland area, then consider walking. It would be wonderful to meet some of my local Sparkers. If not, and if you'd like to do something, consider making a donation to Team Becca.
(Be patient if the page takes a long time to load; it's just like that.)
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Tomorrow and Thursday evenings I will be with our friends, as they try to make something approximating the Jewish high holidays.
At these events, I will do my damnedest to keep my self together.
I am seething with rage and impotence. How bad is this? Imagine your worst nightmare. Your worst loss. The worst ache of your heart.
You are still in the junior league.
But don't feel bad about me. I'm just the beloved auntie. My presence provides assistance to the parents, gives that amazing, stubborn, willful beast of a child just one more target for her defiance.
And I'm good being that. Cuddle me only as a last resort, tease me in the meantime, drive me crazy.
But please, Becca, oh please. Keep being here to exasperate me. Please keep being that contrary little thug who loves best on her own terms.
You're a thug. Please, for all of us, keep being a thug.
I can't imagine life without you.
Sunday, September 01, 2013
For those of you following Becca's story, the family arrived home for a few days visit before they have to return to CHOP to begin intense radiation therapy. I organized a potluck housewarming party at their house yesterday and at least 60 people showed up. Becca loved seeing all her friends, and her teachers came as well. It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of love.
Other than being a little overtired and very cautious with her body because of the ports, Becca was her usual funny, stubborn self. She has a very puckish personality and is likely to give you a giant hug--unless you ask for it. Then, no way. We had a long and giggly conversation about the time she threw up on me--she thought that was hysterical.
Her parents were glad of so many friends to hug and the support. As the evening ended and they put the kids to bed, DH, another friend, and I cleaned the kitchen and got the house back into pre-party shape for them--I didn't want any of the burden to fall on them.
I will see them again on Wednesday and Thursday nights, when it will be quieter and we can relax and talk. But I think it was good for them and good for the community of people who are supporting them to have a day where we could all come together.
Monday, August 26, 2013
When confronted with someone's grief or pain, someone's terror for a sick child or other loved one, someone's own illness, it is common and understandable to want to ameliorate that grief or pain or terror by cheering them up.
STOP DOING THAT.
When you tell a person that it's happening for a reason, or that it's all going to be okay, or that God has a plan, you are putting a burden on an already overloaded person. Your interaction includes an expectation of a response, and that response contains an expectation of feeling better. You may not realize that you are doing this, but trying to cheer someone up by minimizing their grief or pain carries the message that says, "You should stop feeling the way you are feeling and feel better now."
That's trivializing what the person is going through. And creating an expectation that they must either respond to or silently try to ignore. In trying to help, you are making it worse.
So what should you say? Some version of "I am so sorry. This is terrible." It carries no expectation that your words will magically lighten their burden; it just acknowledges their pain. By acknowledging their pain, and not putting an expectation upon them to feel less of it, you are allowing them the choice to share more if they wish. If it's someone you know well, they might want to talk about it. If they don't, it's not a reflection on you.
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