Sunday, April 24, 2016

Problems with her memory

"Your mother's got problems with her memory, honey, " said my dad.

That's how the conversation started. We were sitting in a sandwich shop: me, mom, dad, and Stacie. Mom had gotten up to go to the bathroom. We'd been with them for nearly three hours at that point. It was Tuesday, the day we arrived in Tucson.

"I know. That's part of the reason why I'm here," I replied. "I've been worried for a long time and this is the first time since the boys were born that I've been able to travel."

We'd already spent a couple of hours at their home; it was the first time I'd been to Tucson in 13 years. We all visited; Stacie answered the questions they asked about her family, her kids, their ages, their names. Mom and I went for a walk with their enormous Golden Retriever, Sadie. Stacie visited with dad for a bit.

Then we went to dinner at a sandwich shop. Towards the end of our meal, mom asked Stacie about her family, her kids, their ages, their names.

Then she asked the same questions again, about 10 minutes later.

Stacie, who is incredibly gracious, and has personal experience with dealing with a parent who has dementia, answered my mother's questions again. I'm thankful Stacie was with me; she's incredibly supportive and patient. It's kinda in the job description of being my friend.

Then my mom got up to go to the bathroom, and that's when my dad said what he did about her memory.

"I'm more concerned that she's able to be by herself at the house. Do you think she's safe?" I asked my dad.

"I do. We have a routine. I get up about 4:00 to be at work about 5:30, and when she gets up, generally about 8, she calls me on my cell," he said.

I nodded.

He continued: "I write notes for her, so she can remember things. I need to write down what your plans are while you're here so that she remembers."

"That's great that you guys have a routine. Do you need to know what we're doing each day? Or...?" my voice faded.

He said, "Well, I know you're not going to see her tomorrow, and that's fine. But what are you doing on Thursday? It's her birthday."

"I was planning on picking her up at your house sometime in the morning and going from there. Since it'll be her birthday, I think she should decide what we're going to do," I said.

He agreed and then said, "She's coming back...."

It felt a little deceptive...but it was coming from a loving place.

We decided that Stacie and I would pick her up at the house about 9 am on Thursday morning.

Free Upgrades

We landed in Tucson and walked over to the car rental place. I chose Enterprise, because they had the best deal on a small-ish SUV, and because I'm a Costco member, they waved the fee for a second driver. Score!

I requested an SUV because both Stacie and I drive them at home. It's what we're both used to, and I needed both of us to be as comfortable as possible; get a vehicle you're familiar with and reduce your stress. Right?

But Enterprise didn't have any small-ish SUV's. They only had XXL. Think Suburban. Way too much for these Northwest Women traveling without their families and with only one suitcase each.

Well, they had some boxy type of car that said, "push me down and take my lunch money" so we chose to not take that. There was an older couple who ended up taking it anyway. I'm glad it found a home.

We had a little time to kill while we were waiting on them to find a vehicle that would work for us, so we made small talk. The young lady who works for Enterprise and was helping us had recently graduated from the University of Arizona.

"Well, they're just finishing up detailing a car that may work for you," she said.

And up pulls a silver convertible Camaro.

"We can give this to you as a free upgrade because we don't have the vehicle you requested," she said.

She didn't have to tell us twice. We took it.

"Do you want protection?" she asked innocently.

I said, "What? Like a condom?"

We all laughed--because I'm funny!

And she said she'd never had anyone ask her that before.

Stacie, always thinking ahead, asked them to please show us how to take the top down and put it back up again. 

Then we went to lunch downtown, at Cafe' Poca Cosa, which was close to where Stacie used to work when she was with the Pima County Health Department.  It was good. But the waiter had a hard time engaging with me; short hair in Tucson = automatic lesbian. Seriously. This is the mentality of the city I grew up in.

Then we drove out to Ventana Canyon, where I had booked a room. And we got a free upgrade, so we took it. Again, didn't have to be asked twice.

Our room was in the very back of the property, it was easier to drive back than it was to walk from the front desk.

Then I lost the car key. Not a good omen. I emptied all of my luggage, and I couldn't find it. I panicked, like you do when you loose a key to a $40,000 car you just rented, you're on the first vacation you've taken in so long you can't remember, you're tired from traveling, and you're head's about to explode because you're about to see your parents for the first time in nearly 10 years, and you've had more happen in your life than you ever imagined.

So I called the concierge's desk, and Timothy was so helpful; he got security right on it. Then I found the key and called him back and left him a message that I found my key. Then we left to go out to my folks' house. But we drove through the front of the property, so that I could tell Timothy that I found my car key, and to thank him for being so responsive.

He was happy for me and said it was my lucky day. I asked him if he happened to know the winning numbers for the lottery, and he said they were 8, 6, 7, 5, 3, OH, 9...because he was quick and funny.

Then we drove, top down, to Mom and Dad's house.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Beautiful Day in Seattle

We went over last April 16th, just me and Jen.

It was a beautiful spring day. 

At that point, we'd been friends for 8 years. Since Nathan was 6 months old and Max was 3 months old.

I remember the day we met, at New Family Services' drop in clinic. Susan and Austin were there too. And Nurse Kelly.

I don't remember parenting without her.

Every birthday party.

That book club we started that kinda...fizzled out.....

The Life of Pi.....that about 30 moms, and many children, came too...and only like four of us read the book--and I pissed people off by sending an email that basically said if you're going to be in a book club you need to read the book. I didn't curse. I don't know why people got so upset. Oh well.....Not the first time I've upset people; won't be the last.

An additional pregnancy for each of us--both boys, Carter and Isaac, two weeks apart.

More boys! More birthday parties! Legos.....

Another book club; new and improved!

We all became Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

And then we became Moms Who Drink and Swear....

Well, some of us. Me, mostly. Shocking I know. Because I have a mouth like a fuckin' trucker.

Learning to survive and navigate this crazy life with boys together. Being the only females in our respective homes. And thinking that perhaps Swimming to Antarctica would be an easier task. And that would be leaving from the North Olympic Peninsula...and swimming down the coast. Or maybe up and over the top of the world. Either way, it's a haul.

Jen's been with me and my family through diagnosis...

after diagnosis....

after diagnosis....

At my biopsy. She was a shining light. Beautiful. Blonde. Glasses. She gave me a kindness coin. Pink. Plastic. To hold during what was hands down the scariest part of My Cancer Adventure. Gratitude.

Bonnie was there, she is at most major medical milestones in my life...Isaac's birth.....Gratitude.

But Jen, after we found out that I needed to get to Seattle and get tested for the Breast Cancer Genes because my breast cancer was the biggest baddest nastiest type of breast cancer a girl can get....

Jen was there. And we went and it was glorious. And sunny. And we walked onto the ferry. We bumped into Teacher Bob, who was Carter and Isaac's preschool teacher. And, in these parts, Teacher Bob is legendary. We took it as a good omen.

Spring in the Pacific Northwest. Day trip to Seattle. Alone. No boys. Such a treat! Green everywhere! I know why they call Seattle "The Emerald City."

She used to live in Seattle, when she was in undergrad at U-Dub. And then she went on to earn her Master's Degree. She's a smart cookie, that Mrs. J.....Oh so clever! She gets to work with kids all day long. And write reports; which is kinda like grading for me...not the best part of the job...but it has to be done.

We got off the ferry and we walked to the bus stop. I had no idea where we were going, but JJ did, because she's awesome. No GPS. No maps. She just knew where we were going.

So I just let her lead me around. Or maybe push me. It was a scary day and I was, and am, so thankful that she had her shit together enough to know where we were going and what we needed to do. My brain was fried from the sleepless night.

We took the bus to Swedish Hospital, where I was scheduled to meet with the genetic counselor and possibly get a blood test. We stopped in, because we wanted to know where we were going; we're both planners. And the security guard was fantastic! He sees lots of scared people walk through the Cancer Center doors. He was as cool as a cucumber, and even posed for a picture with me--CLICK! JJ on the spot! She's a badass photographer, too.

Jen's so amazing that she took the time to research a peaceful place for us to spend a bit of time. We ended up walking around enjoying the beauty of Seattle University. The magnolia trees were in full bloom. It was amazing!

Unbeknownst to me, Seattle U is a Jesuit Catholic University. I'm just thankful the ground didn't start shaking when I stepped foot on campus..... Seriously.

Then we had lunch at some little restaurant, near a hotel. I don't recall the name. And I don't recall what we ate. But the company was fantastic....

We walked over to Swedish Hospital, made it to the appointment with plenty of time to spare. The genetic counselor was supportive of me getting tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. She thought I'd come back positive.

I remember telling the genetic counselor that if I did test positive for either Breast Cancer gene, I was willing to undergo a double mastectomy--with reconstruction (duh!) and an oophorectomy (fancy way of saying "removal of ovaries"--and you bet your ass I know how to say it correctly!)  Because that's the current treatment for a woman who tests positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2.

I told her that I'd rather my kids grow up with a mother who tried everything she could to save her own life so that she could be there for them. Not that I was willing to go through this for them; I was willing to go through it for me.

Not because of being afraid to miss something they did; but because I didn't want kids like mine growing up without their mother. Not that they're bad or they're "bad" or whatever. But because of abilities and disabilities. Because in a small community like ours, with so few supports for kids and families with special needs....

I'd rather loose both my breasts and both my ovaries than to die. Bottom line. Because when you're facing cancer, you do whatever you can to ensure you don't end up a statistic. Another life lost. Too young. Only 42.

The genetic counselor decided to test my blood. I was scared. Horrified. Jen held my hand through the entire day. She lifted me up. 
When would I get the results? In a week or so. Would they be positive? Would I have more surgeries? Who would do those? Surgery would be in Seattle, because in Port Angeles, we just don't have a surgeon who can do a double mastectomy and reconstruction.  

But there' probably a YouTube video out there on how to do your own oophorectomy. Get me a melon-baler! I'll do it myself! Kidding...even I set limits.

When we were done, we went over to the Seattle Public Library's central building, which is an architectural marvel! They have an awesome gift shop. We each purchased a pair of earrings--Jen's were two Scrabble tiles, J and J...her initials, which collectively are worth 16 points. But she's far more valuable than 16 points. I got a pair of yellow socks, which look like the old school library cards. We each got a magnet--Where the Wild Things Are. 

Then we walked over to the Seattle Great Wheel and rode it. Something new for both of us to do. She'd lived in the city for 6 years and had never ridden it. I get it; it's like living in Vegas and never riding the roller coaster on the Stratosphere tower. 

The views from the Great Wheel were amazing. We could see all the way across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains.

We walked back to the ferry and then drove over an hour to get home. Getting to Seattle and back in a day is a long haul. The day was so emotional. Fun. Scary. Beautiful. Horrifying. Thankful that Jen was there for me and my family. 

And the results came back early. The genetic counselor called me. She was excited because I was negative for both BRCA1 and BRCA2. 

Thankful I didn't have to go through however many more surgeries. 

Thankful I got to go through radiation, which was a walk in the park compared to more surgeries. Because that's the deal: a positive BRCA1 or BRCA2 test meant surgeries and no radiation; a negative test meant no surgeries and go through radiation. 

And even though my right breast tried to fucking kill me, I'm glad I got to keep it. 

And I'm even more thankful that my friend Jen is my friend. I love her beyond measure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I don't want to

I don't want to put your shin guards on you.

Or your socks.

I know it's hard. But seriously? You're almost 10.

Yes, I'll help you get your gear on.

Although you don't know it, I'm sorry your fingers don't work as well as your younger brother's.

I'm glad you can put your cleats on.

Yes, I'll tie your laces.

I hope the Nike self-lacing shoes aren't horribly expensive. But it's Nike. So it'll be a fucking fortune. You'd think--you'd THINK--they'd give us a break.

Yes, it's hot. A whopping 70* and you're complaining.

In my day, we walked up hill, both ways, to camp, in the searing 110* Tucson heat. Don't complain to me about being hot.

Yes, you can have a second frozen yogurt tube in the car on the way home. I know you worked hard at soccer.

Thank you for untying your cleats.

I don't want to take your socks off of you. You do it.

I don't want to take your shin guards off of you. You do it.

I know it's hard. But seriously? You're almost 10.

Daddy to the rescue. Thank you, Randy. 

I don't want to deal with autism. Or developmental delays.

And I know nobody else doesn't want to either.