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