This is the last post in the More Birthdays campaign, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I imagine it's pretty obvious by now that I didn't really have a plan or theme for this "series," but just sat down each time and started typing and hoped that I'd stumble upon a point or insight somewhere along the way. Honestly, most of the time I just crossed my fingers that I wouldn't get an ominous phone call in between the draft stage and the publish button. I guess, as usual, the best place to start is with the dry, basic facts: The doctors told my dad it was time to stop the chemotherapy. He opted...not to take that advice, and got his oncologist to concede that as long as he kept his blood count numbers just above a bargain-basement level, he could probably continue with chemo. He heard: There's still hope. The cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. But not as much as the doctors thought. His spleen is enlarged. But not as enlarged as it could be. Again, he heard: Hope. After multiple cancellations, at least one infection, some antibiotics and I don't even know how many transfusions, he's... Read more →


The American Cancer Society asked me to write an additional post for the More Birthdays campaign. (I was supposed to write one more, next month, and that was it.) I suppose I can assume this means they've been happy with the response so far and you guys have been clicking over and retweeting and like-buttoning or whatever the hell it is you youngsters do these days with your Internets and smartyphones and...and... What was I talking about? I got distracted by some deep thoughts about prunes. Oh! Right. Another post for ACS. Another look at a topic that should inspire at least a dozen entries from me on any given day, eleven of which are all but guaranteed to make a significant portion of the Internet cry. Or at least, lie about crying in my comments section. Don't think I don't know you do that. (And don't think that I don't love you for it.) But oh. I'm tired of it. It hurts like a bruise, and some days just thinking about it feels the same a swift kick from pointy shoes. My dad...well. Things are about the same. He still believes he'll be able to continue chemo, somehow. And... Read more →


Over, Part One

Yesterday, the doctors told my dad it's time. It's time to stop. No more chemo. It's not working. At first, he misunderstood, thinking they just meant his current chemo drug. Then, I guess, he argued. What about a port? Another protocol? Something stronger, harder, newer? There has to be something else. No. There is no "something else" they can do. For the cancer, that is. That, for all intents and purposes, has already won. But there's always something they can do to your body, some procedure, some test to gauge or stem the related fallout without really touching the cause or buying more time. More transfusions, blood work, CT scans, MRIs, chest X-rays, all stuff they continue to order because that's what their patient is choosing -- to go down swinging from a hospital bed instead of accepting hospice care, and I know, I KNOW. For the love of God, I know. Trust me, this would not be my choice. But...this isn't my choice to make. It's his. I don't know whether it's determination or denial, because it's simply not up for discussion. No hospice talk, no canceling the invasive tests to find out what we already know talk, no... Read more →


We're headed back to Pennsylvania AGAIN this weekend, travel exhaustion and desperate homebody desires to sit on the couch be damned. Grandma's memorial service in on Sunday. We're taking the boys, since it's really not a "funeral" -- no viewing or casket or urn, just a family-and-friends gathering at her nursing home. My mother-in-law thinks their presence will be a welcome distraction for everybody, especially Grandma's remaining friends, who do always adore visiting grandchildren, no matter who they "belong" to. (Of course, my mother-in-law also thought it was totally appropriate to take the boys to visit Grandma last week, when we were in New York, and she was officially on her deathbed -- a decision that, after Jason saw Grandma on Saturday, he was little upset about. Yes, it's a natural part of life and all but HE was so rattled and shaken by how sick and already dead she looked, and would have preferred our two- and five-year-old children being spared that particular sight. Or at the very least, being consulted ahead of time would have been nice.) (Free babysitting! No such thing. There's always a price tag. Like say, your babysitters jumping the gun on the whole death... Read more →


Both Sides of It

Jason's grandma died yesterday. It was...not unexpected. It was also peaceful, and one of those instances where crappy platitudes about it "being her time" and "for the best, really" are actually, entirely true. She was very old and very sick -- dementia had long since robbed her of most of the memories of her life and the chance to forge a relationship with Noah and Ezra, her great-grandchildren, whom she was simply unable to recognize in any meaningful, connected way. But. Still. I met her over 14 years ago. At that point, the dementia was simply the occasional moment of confusion or befuddlement, but on some visits it was clear that she was already mixing up our relationship, treating me like her grandchild and Jason like the interloping boyfriend. We'd sit together and hold hands and she'd tell me stories. She gave us both furious hugs and kisses when it was time for us to leave, making us promise we'd visit again soon, which of course we assured her we would. Of course! I never had a grandmother like that. But then suddenly, I did. Jason got to visit with her one last time on Saturday, though she was already... Read more →


Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Last week, the oncologist told my dad that it was officially time to stop the chemo. It still wasn't working. There was no reason to believe it would ever start working, now that he'd somehow soldiered on through three months of it, only to have the leukemia progress virtually unimpeded in the meantime. My dad said, "Okay, now what do we try?" Tomorrow, "we" try a different chemo with a different drug. A drug my mom won't even tell me the name of, because she doesn't want me to Google it. Today, I had an entirely different post saved in draft that I planned to publish. Today was always supposed to my the next entry in the series for the American Cancer Society More Birthdays campaign, and last week I decided to take a crack at getting that post written and out of the way ahead of time. "Last week," as in: "probably the day before that oncologist appointment, yeah, good timing, self." It wasn't a bad draft, or poorly timed or completely irrelevant -- I mean, when you're writing about your father dying of cancer, there are only so many shades of emotion or variations on not-exactly-good-news you can... Read more →


Generations

As much as I would LOVE to write an incredibly detailed post about our weekend of non-stop stomach-flu illness (and as much as I'm sure y'all would LOVE to read about it), the fact is I previously committed today's posting spot to the American Cancer Society. They asked me to participate, once again, in their More Birthdays campaign, and contribute a monthly-ish post to help raise awareness of their research and programs and website. Today's post, according to my official editorial calendar (translation: an email from a few weeks ago that I have miraculously NOT LOST) is supposed to be an introductory sort of thing -- explaining why I chose to participate in the campaign in the first place. Which, to put it eloquently, would be something along the lines of: Well, DU-U-UH. Last night, Jason's phone rang at exactly 2:32 a.m. I was deep in the middle of a stress dream involving being late for high school (after being awkwardly felt up and then promptly dumped by Michael Cera, that JERK) when I heard it ringing. It stopped soon after I fully woke up, but of course I lay there staring at the ceiling for awhile, panicking. Was that... Read more →


This photo is for my sister, who is currently pacing a hospital waiting room while her daughter, my niece, undergoes emergency gallbladder surgery. You know, for kicks. Yeah. It's kind of an inside joke. Which would ideally involve each and every one of those cups filled with shots of contraband Pinot Grigio. On Christmas morning. While huddled in the guest room under the guise of last-minute present wrapping. Which may or may not have actually happened. Anyway. Between that and another week full of chemo treatments and bargain-basement platelet counts, I'm in a giddy sort of limbo where I don't feel particularly funny, nor do I feel capable of being all maudlin and introspective. I'm just sort of spent. Maybe I just need a drink. Or a hug. Or some kind of chocolate-y boozy drink that could be the equivalent of a hug. Come to think of it, those mini-sized Dixie cups seem like the perfect serving size for a pregnant woman to safely consume alcohol in moderation. Plus look! At the packaging! The cups have ARMS. I feel comforted already. Meanwhile... 1) I am recapping Top Chef All-Stars this season at Mamapop. Unfortunately, several of my personal Top Chef... Read more →


Dad

The chemo isn't working. I didn't expect it to. He felt "better" after a blood transfusion last week. His numbers were "better." I didn't expect that to last, and it didn't. At all. I talked to him on the phone on his 81st birthday last week. For just a few minutes. Then he said he had to go and hung up. This was also expected. He is translucent. He is blue and grey. Like a cancer-stricken extra on a medical drama, wearing too much pancake makeup. He is immobile and helpless, short-tempered and miserable. He is a bundle of medical checks and balances, with one medication causing X but preventing Y and yet none of them having any effect at all on Z. It's happening slower than I expected. That's not necessarily a good thing. Which is confusing. Guilt-inducing. Unexpected. The doctors are finally talking about stopping treatment, about making decisions, about being comfortable. Because the cancer is too aggressive, because the chemo isn't working, because he is already much older than 81 and so sick and has no bone marrow and no platelets and no hemoglobin and no options. Because he is blue and grey and miserable and fighting... Read more →


Isn't it crazy annoying when bloggers start a post with an apology for not posting? Like they automatically assume you EVEN NOTICED in the first place, and CARED in the second place, because they are self-absorbed egomaniacs who imagine that dozens of people are sitting at their computers terribly worried because they couldn't be bothered to sit down and grace the world with a few sparsely punctuated sentences? I know, right? Anyway! I am very sorry for not posting there, for a few days. I went back up to Pennsylvania again, for about the millionth time, for a good old-fashioned terminal-illness-related family reunion with some of my siblings. Siblings I haven't seen in years. Like, before my children were born years. Family togetherness for the WIN. I kind of don't want to talk about it. I mean, it was fine. It was just strange and very...heavy with cancer. You know? I think I'll just post some pictures instead. This is my brother's dog Jack. Jack is the dog for whom the phrase WHO'S A GOOD BOY? was invented. Because he is the best boy, yes he is, shnuffle shmoopy etc. Noah especially enjoyed riding him like a pony. I am... Read more →