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Holy Mother Nature!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two weeks ago, tonight, I set off on a road trip to Eugene, Oregon, which is several hundred miles south of my home, to see my sister J. J. was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and was scheduled to endure her 2nd chemotherapy visit, so I wanted to be there to offer support and assistance. My mother, and another of my sister's was with her for her first chemo treatment, and another sister helped her through her initial surgery, diagnosis, and surgery recovery. I am one of six sisters. Two are incapacitated by mental illness so the four of us who are emotionally and mentally intact, are grateful to have one another, especially in times like these.

My plan was to drive as far as Portland on the night I left. I did not leave town until 7pm on a Tuesday night, because my 10 year old had a basketball game that I attended, and Wednesday is my husband's regular day off work, so I knew he could cover for me on Wednesday. I did not make it to Portland because the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River was closed so I had to take a detour. This should have clued me in to what was coming my way. I found a hotel and checked in at midnight. After a restless night, I was at least able to sleep in before making my way to Eugene. I arrived at my sister's Wednesday afternoon so I could settle in, and we could visit, before her chemo appointment on Thursday. The snow started coming down Thursday morning and piled up all day, as my sister sat in the chemo room, surrounded by others waging their own battles. It is humbling to be surrounded by people, from teenagers to the elderly, all fighting against the nasty scourge that is cancer. I was happy to be able to offer my sister things like ice chips (to fight the mouth sores that often accompany chemo), and warm blankets to fight off the chill, and just basically get her anything that could offer the least bit of comfort. She said "I feel like I am bossing you around." I said "you are doing me a favor by letting me feel useful when I feel powerless". When she slept, I found things to do like have a leisurely and surprisingly tasty lunch in the cafeteria (the hospital is new and beautifully designed, so it was less unpleasant than I anticipated). I went for a cold, snowy walk along the Willamette River that the hospital sits beside. I read. I prayed. I cried in the ladies room. I texted friends. One friend's marriage came to a crisis while I was gone. She and I are quite close and she said "I cannot believe this is happening while you are gone!" My own marriage went through its own crisis while I was gone, but that is another story for another blog (and, I am happy to report, we weathered the storm - alas, my friend is heading for divorce). My sister and I made our way home that afternoon, through very snowy and somewhat icy conditions. I am so thankful to have a very good car, and one that is equipped with lots of safety features and 4 wheel drive. My sister mentioned a number of times how much safer she felt in my car. Plus, I have a lot of experience driving in various, poor conditions, so I have a certain amount of calm when navigating through nasty road conditions, which helped my sister feel calmer. By the next morning, the snow was over half a foot deep and continuing to snow heavily so we had a lovely day of just staying in and enjoying each other's company, though my poor sister was fighting fatigue and nausea, of course. I vowed I would not try and tell her how to manage because I have not battled cancer, and because that was just not my place. So, I did not nag her to eat (eating makes things worse) and I did not weigh in on how I thought she should handle things (she is handling things quite admirably). What I did do is bring all ten seasons of "Friends" on DVD and we watched and laughed and forgot, for a few moments at a time, the reason for our visit. I massaged her head and most of her hair fell out, so I gathered it up, along with the rest of the her lovely red hair i had discovered in the bathroom, and I took it to the trash so she did not have to look at it. I did not freak out because that would not have been helpful. I listened when she cried, and when she told me about someone at the lab who had said some terribly insensitive things, I backed down from wanting to call and berate the terribly insensitive person who made my sister cry, because she said "I have to go back there, and deal with them, for many more tests." So, mostly what I did was listen to what she wanted instead of being my normal, willful self, and, I have to tell you, Sparkly people, I am proud of myself for doing that. This blog is long so I will just tell you briefly, what else we dealt with:
1. a full on ice storm blanketed the region
2. the power went out in Eugene and, in my sister's neighborhood, it was projected to be out for days
3. an ice-encased tree toppled over on my ice-encased car, trapping me in the driveway and preventing me from driving home (which I couldn't have done anyway, because of the road conditions - my skills don't involve driving on ICE)
4. my sister's lackadaisacal landlord came to deal with the tree that had toppled on my car (a tree he was supposed to have removed months earlier) - I stayed calm but I told him "I need that tree gone very quickly because I CAN NOT have her here, in a house with no power". I helped him move some of the branches and eventually, he got more help, and my car was freed
5. We headed north, to another sister's in a town 70 miles away, only to get stranded in a soul-sucking little town halfway between, because the I-5 freeway turned into a skating rink
6. We had to navigate unplowed, icy roads and parking lots, just to find a cheap hotel with a room - getting my poor sister in and out of that mess, when she was nauseous and tired to her very bones, was tricky but she is determined and we did our best. My heart broke a little when I came around the corner, following behind with the bags, only to see her sitting at the top of the stairs, resting, before she walked a few more yards to our room.
7. We got out the next day, thankfully, only to find wrecks and abandoned cars and discarded tire chains up and down the freeway - it was eerie.
8. We made it up the interstate without too much difficulty only to encounter more nasty conditions between the freeway and our sister's house. Thank goodness, once again, for four wheel drive or we would have been stranded alongside the road. I had one goal and one goal only - to get my sister J somewhere safe and comfortable and warm. She, of course, kept worrying about ME. I told her "I am fine and I will handle whatever I need to handle so don't you worry about me." I did, too. I handled every obstacle that came along and I kept a good attitude and I did what I needed to do.

I made it home and, as you can imagine, that is where I was able to let my guard down. Thank God for my brother-in-law (my son's birthdaddy - I have written about him before). He really came through for me, taking care of Payton and our two dogs, including the new naughty but lovable puppy, and frequently checking in with me with sympathy and concern. My husband was working his normal 60 hour week and was NOT checking in with me, which led to our marital crisis, which led to a few frosty days around our house until I set aside my hurt and ego, and told him how I was feeling. We cleared the air, he stepped up, and things are better. All of this emotional turmoil and crisis handling left me feeling absolutely spent. That, combined with Payton getting sick and missing school, as soon as I came home (and then having a long weekend so six days with no school), caused me to "go in the cave" for the past week. In the cave, there is food I don't need, and tv that is too silly to be watched, and reading inconsequential things. There is also downtime and recharging of batteries. So, here I am, back on track - Sparking, eating better, going to the gym, walking the dogs a couple times a day, getting work done. It feels good to be out of the cave but I am still fed up with Mother Nature. I know it could be a WHOLE lot worse if I lived in other parts of the country but, quite frankly, I am ready for Winter to be OVER. Howling winds and dumping rain are much easier than deep snow covered in a half inch of ice but, still, I am tired tired tired of the elements. Whining does not one whit of good, however, so that is the end of my weather whine. I have missed you, Sparkly friends. Thanks for hanging in there for this very long blog. oxoxo
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I can't even imagine friend. emoticon You are such a wonderful sister and the strength and selflessness that you love your sister with is admirable. Good for you for being such a good listener too.

    The weather!!! Oh my gosh, another reason why you are so brave and fabulous. Please keep us updated on how you are doing and handling all of this okay? and never forget there is a whole lotta love and support here to fortify you. emoticon
    1486 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    What a crazy roller coaster your life has been, as usual, you've handled everything with more grace then I ever could, and all while doing an amazing thing for your sister. I'm one of 6 sisters too, and there's just something special about that "sister" relationship. I know that just having you by her side, probably helped more than any medicine could. I'm so glad you made it through the storm and back home again safely. I'll be keeping you and your family in my prayers.
    1488 days ago
  • JENNA54
    What can I say? How lucky your sister is to have you, and vice versa. It's what family is all about. You are simply amazing, and your sister is too - she sounds such a strong person, worrying about you. What a trip - and hard for me to imagine down here where we go into a tail spin when it snows a couple of centimetres. I feel a sense of exhaustion just reading your blog. My heart goes out to you and all your family. Kia kaha (stay strong)
    1489 days ago
    I was very touched by your blog. We have so many similarities in our lives. I am one of six sisters and one has mental issues and one passed away at the age of 43. It is wonderful that you could be there for your sister. I understand your traveling problems because I'm in Chicago and we have been getting the worst of this winter and "polar vortex". I hope things settle down and life gets back to normal. emoticon
    1489 days ago
    I smiled, I cried, I read in awe about the weather conditions you battled, the sister you protected and supported during treatment, and was amazed at how you even forced yourself to NOT be a protective sister (by not verbally smooshing someone on her behalf).
    Your love for your family simply runneth over.
    The obstacles were HUGE throughout this road trip, but nothing was going to stop you. No way. Not you.
    I can completely see how after this challenging chapter, you were spent. Completely and 100%. You have your all, freely and compassionately to support your family. I wish you had an opportunity to recharge your batteries, but I understand that there just wasn't any room for that.
    You needed some help, but again, I can tell that this was not an option.
    I wish I could have helped!

    And I can completely relate to your going MIA for a wee bit. I am glad you are back though, and perhaps wondering if that's why you have been on my mind so often? Could you feel those prayers from so far away. I hope hope hope so... : )

    Thank you for continuing to be so open with us, and to invite us into your life, with its struggles and celebrations.
    1489 days ago
    Wow! You went through two battles like the CHAMP THAT YOU ARE! Bless you!
    1489 days ago
  • DAISY443
    You are my hero! 'Nuff said!
    1489 days ago
    I'm very proud of you. You did what I would have done then come home and broke down. I would have you by my side in those conditions happily. I doing give in easily but I would trust you. Your sister is lucky and you are lucky to have sisters. It is a blessed relationship. I'm glad you weathered all the stones, spring is coming. Now I just need to remind myself of that! I love ya, doll.
    1489 days ago
  • ELSCO55
    Wow you had some trials. I know your sister appreciated your visit and support. Glad you are home and safe.
    1490 days ago
    Just reading your blog made me feel anxious and upset for you and your sister. What an absolute Godsend you were for her! I was the caregiver for both my mother and husband when they had terminal cancer. The moment-to-moment stress of living through treatment times is enough to deal with. Your trip must have been excruciating. Bless you for keeping yourself under control , to the benefit of you both.

    I do believe in the power of prayer, and will be praying for you and your family. Hopefully the 'cave time' restored some of your wounded spirit. This is a time to be extra kind to yourself. Be pleased with yourself for your labor of love. emoticon Denise
    1490 days ago
    I am glad you made it through all that without any injury to yourself during all that traveling! Driving in that kind of weather freaks me out. Strangely, I was in the same boat last week in South Carolina - talk about FREAKY weather. We are definitely not used to ice storms in SC. Our power was out for two days. Trees fell everywhere. In the town where I work, there are still people without power and the main storm was last Wednesday.

    I am glad you could make it to help out with your sister. It's good to have someone to lean on in times like that. I am sure your sister is grateful for all you did for her.
    1490 days ago
  • KATHY024
    Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". At that rate you are now ready to enter the worlds strongest person contest and follow that up with a triathlon or something on that order!! emoticon

    Your sisters are very fortunate that you are there for them and ready to go that extra mile for them when they need you most. Cancer is indeed a horrible disease and I hope that your sister will respond favorably to the chemo and be able to be another survivor.

    No matter where you are the weather has been "suck your bones awful" this year....if it isn't drought it's so much ice and snow and rain that we all are heading for our caves! Glad you made it home again in good shape.

    1490 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/21/2014 10:13:13 PM
    (((((HUGS)))))) Cannie, you are such a giving, caring, loving person. I am sure your help and presence comforted your sister more than you can know. I amso sorry she and you are going thru this!

    I can only imagine you needed time to "decompress". Good job for taking that time.

    It has been a really harsh winter in so very many ways and I'm ready to move on too.

    ♥¨`*•.¸ ♥ ¸.•*´¨☆¨`*•.¸ ♥ ¸.•*´¨♥
    ¸¸.•´¸.•*¨) ♥¸.•*¨) Blessings
    (¸.•´ .♥ (¸.•´ .♥ (¸.•☆´¨`*♥•☆´¨`*&

    1490 days ago
    Oh my goodness.

    You're a wonderful sister. That's the truth. Not just for being with her, but for having the ability to recognize when you were about to overstep and you held yourself back for her sake, because after all, that is why you were there.

    I wonder about that soul-sucking little town, lol...I live in Albany (just about halfway between Portland and Eugene) and your description sounded like it, lol. Even if you weren't referring to Albany, the name does fit!

    Glad you made it home safe.

    My husband also works a lot. He's been working on a promotion - something which was supposed to take 3 months but is now in month 6. He works around the clock. The last 6 months have been pure hell because of the whole "checking in" thing. I've set a lot of ultimatums and I'm in the middle of one as I type this...waiting for him to get where he's going and I'm about ready to have it out on the phone. I keep telling me he is doing this for us, but sometimes it is hard to remember that.

    1490 days ago
    OMG, this has been a tough winter for a lot of us but YOU have been through way too much! Lots of good energy to you and your sister. Welcome back, and keep taking care of yourself! emoticon
    1490 days ago
    I think we're all grumbling about this crazy winter. This is one of the first times I can remember school being called off for temps way below 0 without snow. We had a fast storm that came through yesterday which meant no school, but by afternoon it was 40 and melting. The same thing happened on Sat. It was 54 today, same tomorrow, and then we have a blizzard watch scheduled for Thursday. Crazy!
    You've been through a lot and you handled it well. I don't blame you for taking a few days in the cave. emoticon
    1490 days ago
    Oh, my sweet Cannie! I can't imagine everything you and your sister went through. I've always wondered what fool said women are the weaker sex! You stayed strong and did what needed to be done, and were a blessing to your sister. Your trip into the cave was well-earned, I would say!

    I'm keeping both of you in my thoughts and prayers.
    1490 days ago
    You deserve all kinds of credit for handling with such grace and courage a perfect storm of catastrophes. I am sure that your sister is very grateful for your support and especially for biting your tongue about what she "should" do (as a cancer survivor, I heard lots of that . . . ). And so glad you and your DH have put it back together again. Stress does that. But we survive.
    1490 days ago
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