Midwest Knit Girl

Archive for the ‘cancer’ Category

Picture taken July, 1995

On Sunday, February 21, 2010, we brought Frank home to begin hospice.  We knew he didn’t have much time to live and so we were going to do whatever we could to make the remainder of his life as comfortable as possible. The living room was set up in such a way that he had his picture window to enjoy the sunshine, the stereo so he could listen to music, a clock added to the wall so he knew the time, the phone by him…all the comforts he would need.

An amazing group of people were always around during the last five or six weeks before Frank died – Sean, Mike, Shona, Ruth, Lock, Lisa, Bob, Jim and Dale. Each of these individuals took huge amounts of time out of their lives to be there for Frank whenever he asked them to be. Or in some cases, demanded it. (Right, Sean? Can you say “MOA, now!”) From the time he was brought to the hospital on January 26th via ambulance to the day he died, February 28, at least two of those people in that group were with him all the time. Sean and Mike, for sure you were his main soldiers and had his back and he told you that – that was high praise as you well know; he certainly wasn’t one to give compliments lightly.

Tuesday, February 23, a massage therapist from hospice came over to be with Frank. I went into the kitchen to pay some bills and give them some privacy. As the therapist began the session Frank made a noise, sort of a grunt or ‘oof’ like sound. The therapist asked him if he was okay and he said yes. She asked if he would like to talk about it as sometimes people experience things at this point. He just said “Everything is going to be okay.”

I heard him say that and I knew exactly what he meant by it. We’d had long, long discussions on how I was going to survive financially, how I was going to take care of the house on my own, and how I was going to be emotionally when he was gone. I nearly cried when I heard him say that but I also knew that meant he had just made the first step in the direction he was headed, his new path, and his new ‘life’ so to speak.

As the week progressed and his health continued to decline I still held out hope that Ruth (who adored Frank as he adored her) would be able to be there with us before Frank passed. She was in NY at the time on business and I was reassured time and again by the nurse that Frank would hang on longer than he eventually did, so we didn’t push to have her come home. But obviously, the nurse couldn’t have known that Frank would slip away before Ruth could be here to say her own good bye. I personally think that although Frank loved Ruth, he didn’t want her to see him at the end. That wasn’t the image he wanted to leave her with.

Numerous friends and relatives visited throughout the week and that was so appreciated by Frank and me. But eventually I had to tell everyone that visits were going to be severely limited because he was becoming agitated easily, even with Sean or Mike and just me here.  I hated to do that but his comfort was an absolute priority. Even with my increasing his morphine dosages he still was fidgeting, I couldn’t stand to watch that with people here.

On the 27th we had a number of people over and if I remember correctly I cut that day short with visitors because he was more out of it than not. I needed to be with him to keep him calm and the less noise at that point the better he rested.

On Sunday, February 28, 2010, I put out a blog post around 10:00 am letting people know they now had to call before coming to see Frank. They could no longer just drop by. Sean and Mike were the exceptions and I also knew they would be there later in the day.

From the time I put out that post until just moments before he died, I knew something was happening. I honestly didn’t know what it was but I knew something had changed. The energy, for lack of a better term, was different in the house. I had to be in the same room with him, I needed to be, I physically couldn’t bring myself to leave his side. Even though he wasn’t responsive at the time I talked to him about the fact I loved all the trips we took together and how much fun they were, and how he was the love of my life, how it was a good thing we never went to bed angry at each other because it was so much more fun being happy, how I knew I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to worry about me.

Sweet stuff.

Silly stuff.

Our stuff.

I told him I loved him and I kissed him, and hugged him the best I could without hurting him.

Later I was sitting next to the bed, just being quiet, touching his arm lightly. I knew then it was close. I felt it in my gut. He moved a bit and then took two calm breaths with a pause in between, just in and out, very slowly. And he was gone. After that and before I called anyone, I spent time with him, just me. No one else. It was my turn, my time. I wanted more time than nearly 15 years but you have to appreciate what you get, right? I held his hands, I patted the arm that was nearest to me. I kissed him, I hugged him and tidied the blankets around him. Then I started the calls beginning with Mike.

To all of those great people who were there for Frank and also for me back then – because I was watching the most important person in my life die before my very eyes, I thank you once again. I’ve said that before and I’ll repeat it time and again. You have supported and given me much comfort (including laughter!), then and still to this day. I truly feel so blessed because not many people are this fortunate to have the network of support I had during Frank’s illness and since his passing.

I know this phrase sounds so cliché but since Frank died I began a new chapter in my life and while at times there have been great challenges, there has also been joy and laughter, new experiences and new friends made. My family, Frank’s family, our mutual friends and my own friends – they have continued to be a part of my life and I am eternally grateful for that.

There is a place in my heart that is reserved solely for my love and memories of Frank, and it will remain there forever. No one can replace him and no one can be Frank Asher again. He was an experience of a lifetime, not perfect by any means but he was the most loyal individual I ever knew and if you were the same to him, you were blessed to be a part of that experience.

I love you, Frank. May you rest in peace.


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I’m addicted. Seriously addicted. To making string pieced blocks for quilting projects. How in the world did this happen? Yowza!

I’m going to make my mom a chemo quilt to keep her warm during her treatments, I’m calling it the Happy Crazy Smile quilt. I’ll be making 24 – 12″ blocks that will be cut into various sizes. This is the first 12″ block done (click to go to flickr for larger sizes of all pictures):

For Mom's Quilt - Before Cutting

I made these blocks for the swaps I mentioned in the previous post. The first 2 sets of 6 start out as 7″x7″ but have since been cut to 6 1/2″x 6 1/2″. The pink one at the bottom is 12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″.

Set 2 For String Block Swap

Set 1 For String Block Swap

String Pieced Block 2

As for my other sewing: Here are a couple of the sets of coasters I tried to sell at the craft fair. Yes, there’s a safety pin in the corners, it’s just to keep the sets together in the travel bag. Each set has a different fabric on the back, that way you have two ways of displaying them.

2 Sets of 4 Coasters

2 Sets of 4 Coasters

I went to a couple of craft/art fairs in the last month or so and picked up a few things:

A set of 4 placemats, about 16 x 16, blue/white gingham on back. They’re very similar in look to the old fashioned oil cloth fabric.

Oilcloth placemat - spill on it, wipe it right off

A serving bowl and chip/dip bowl by Adama Sow, perfect for a party. Didn’t notice until I got home, they coordinate with the place mats!

Bowl

Chip Dip

An acorn pin for a certain someone, made from clay. Very cool. Clay Acorn Pin

Another gift for someone, it’s made from fused glass.

Fused Glass Ornament

A hanging for our south window in the living room, also fused glass. About 13″x 13″. Sorry for the towel but we haven’t hung it up yet.

Fused Glass Hanging

I also purchased a pretty sun catcher and a tote bag. The tote bag is made from the same ‘fabric’ as the place mats but not in a fruit pattern. The bag is reversible, silver/gray inside, gray floral print on black on the outside. I’ll get those pictures here this week. I forgot to take pictures because I already hung up the sun catcher and have been using the bag for school.

Okay, I’m hungry and need to do homework. I’ll be putting an update about my mom at the cancer blog tonight or tomorrow. She’s doing well. I’m not surprised. That’s my mom. 🙂

First of all, WordPress has  changed their dashboard since November 30th which was the last time I posted. Surprised the heck out of me when I signed in. I mean, I like change but they just made a huge number of changes earlier this year and a LOT of people were unhappy. Should be interesting to see how folks react this time. Anyway…school, work, knitting, the Christmas tree and the hubster is more interesting so read on.

School

I took the placement testing for school on Thursday, December 4th. In case anyone isn’t aware of my situation, my last day of work is December 19th at a company I will have been at for 24 years, 8 months and 3 days the day I leave.  Thanks to the poor economy, process improvements within the role, and outsourcing responsibilities, a group of 7 in our area were laid off.

Before you feel sorry for me – and please, don’t – I am blessed with a generous severance package. I am not, however, blessed with a college education. I’ve taken numerous business courses through the years, I’ve taken Lotus Notes Development Training (two levels) and I’ve done quite a bit of LOMA coursework. But that’s not a degree, obviously. That said I decided to get some kind of coursework under my belt to have something fresh on my resume when I begin the job search process late next year.

I first thought of signing up for a Medical Office Specialist program but it takes 18 months. While I have a good amount of time to go to school, I don’t have 18 months. So I changed to a 28 credit program called Legal Office Specialist. This is supposed to be done in 1 year or 2 semesters and school starts January 12th.

Though I don’t know if my final goal is to be a Legal Office Specialist, I feel the skills and knowledge I will develop in this course can only enhance the current business skills developed over the many years at the company. Based on a suggestion from the school class adviser and my own logic of thinking this through, having this certificate will open a number of opportunities that might not be open otherwise. Right off the bat there’s the plus that the school partners with 12 major law firms in downtown Minneapolis for internship and job placement opportunities. Furthermore, having this knowledge can be brought into many different kinds of businesses, not just law firms.

So how did I do on the placement testing? Reading comprehension and writing are at college level (yeah!) but algebra is only at high school level. Not a surprise there and I’m not concerned about that because there aren’t any courses I’ll be taking that require college level algebra placement. The next step is orientation on Monday night and registration. I’m excited but also a little nervous.

Work

Only 10 more business days to go at work. I’m incredibly stressed which is asinine in my opinion. My responsibilities should have transitioned to others by now but they haven’t because those who were supposed to be developing the transition plan didn’t. Now I’m forced to document each and every single solitary step of every task I do. Hello??? They have also assigned a very green (6 month newbie) employee to absorb this knowledge from me. Allow me to repeat myself –  Hello??? Look, I had three months of training for this position and I am STILL asking questions and you want a brain dump in 12 days?? I think not. Plus make sure year end accruals are submitted and accurate? Oy.

I’ve spoken to a couple of other people at work and they said to not freak out about it and that what will be will be, but I can’t help it. I had a double migraine episode last Tuesday (when I was originally going to the placement testing at school) and had a migraine yesterday. I have had more migraines in the last 18 months (the length of time in this role) than I did total in the 5 years before that. I’ll just plug along and do what I have to do but sheesh, give me a break.

Knitting

Last night I started a mini sweater ornament from the Last Minute Knitted Gifts book that still needs to be stitched together. Let me say straight off that I could have had this done in the time they say it could be (1 – 2 hours) but I used some thick alpaca yarn on size 1 needles instead of sock yarn on size whatever it called for. Hehehe. Let me tell you, those K2tog’s were a challenge when doing the decreases!!

Click to go to flicker and see larger:

Mini Knitted Sweater

Christmas Tree

The day after Thanksgiving we drove to a place about 40 miles south of us to cut down a Christmas tree. Hubby was exhausted just walking from the truck where we parked to start looking for a tree to where we picked one out about 30 feet away. When he started to cut it down I thought he was going to need help, it took him much longer than he has taken before. Normally, it’s bim, bam, boom and it’s cut. He dragged the tree to the truck and we put it in the back and then we sat for about 5 minutes while he caught his breath before we headed to the payment area. There he stayed in the truck while I went and paid for the tree and bought a wreath. That took about 15 minutes so he had more time to rest. From there we went to a church nearby where they offer a lunch and have a bazaar to buy things from over the Thanksgiving weekend. This has been our tradition for a number of years. Once we finished up there we headed home where the hubster took a nap.

But about the tree. It’s little! I’m 5’5″ and it’s not much taller than me. The place we put it in the house is near the front door so it can’t be too big around or you hit it as you pass by. So it actually worked out perfectly. But it took until this past Friday night for us to get the lights on and the ornaments – he does lights, I hang the ornaments. Teamwork.

He doesn’t know this but when I put the ornament up that we bought our first year together I almost balled my head off. All I could think of that very moment was – will I be doing this all by myself next year? Or will be still be tag teaming?? He was in the garage so he didn’t catch this. Crap, tearing up now about it. Seems like a good place to move on to the next topic, the hubster.

Hubby

Just when I think I have my emotions in check BOOM. I don’t. Just like now when writing what that I got all teared up – I actually GOT teared up. It pisses me off. I’m pissed because they can’t tell us how long he’ll live and yet how do you plan your life? I know I’ve bitched about this already numerous times and I likely will continue to do so. I think my BF is right, I need to find a group for people who are caring for a loved one with cancer. I have to find a way to deal with the emotions and have an outlet.

Next steps with hubby is a CT scan on the 16th and the results of it on the 30th. This will tell us if there are changes in the cancer, specifically, if it’s worsened or not. If it’s worse, then there’s a high likelihood he comes off the study, if it hasn’t and he can continue to deal with the side effects, he can stay on it. Remember that this is not intended to cure the cancer, it can’t. It can, however, help him to live longer. But since it’s a fairly new study there are no statistics to know who has lived longer on this med. Ugh. Enough of that, I’ve just depressed the hell out of myself again so…I think it’s time to put a load in the dryer, review the files I brought home over the weekend (not sure if I’ll actually do this or not) and stitch up the mini sweater.

I’ll be duplicating this post at the cancer site but wanted to toss out an update on the hubby here.

Back in October (around the 24th) we found out that the kidney cancer had metastasized to hubby’s bones. So he had a treatment on the 27th to attack the bone cancer with a drug called Zometa (we were under the impression it would be a monthly treatment but now are told it will be ‘as needed’). Not only did he experience all of the side effects possible (to the extreme intensity for all of them) but he also experienced a horrible 24 hours of fevers ranging from 101.2 – 103.6.

On the 28th he was to have his first treatment from the clinical study but he called and said look, I have to play hookey here, I feel rotten. I’m puking, my head feels like someone is using a Sawsall to cut it off, I can’t stop shaking, I have a fever, I can’t keep an aspirin down and I’m dehydrated. I don’t think I’m able to do the treatment.

The response? Well, we’ll talk to the doctor and call you back.

They called back about 2 hours later and said he needed to come in anyway to get the other treatment going. That did NOT make him or me happy. He goes to the clinic and not 45 minutes later he’s back home. Yep, they agreed, he should not have that treatment that day. Duh. So they scheduled him for the 30th.

The treatment on the 30th went well, absolutely ZERO side effects except he was tired and slept and rested more than usual that Thursday afternoon and into late Friday morning.

His second treatment for the clinical study was on November 13th. He was in bed at 10 that night and didn’t get out of bed until 4:45pm on Friday. Much longer than the first treatment but still no other side effects. We’re not complaining. Though I have to admit I did go into the bedroom at one point on Friday about 4 and asked – are you dead? Nope. Want me to make some coffee? Yep. Okay.

He was back in bed at 10 and then up at 8:30 to bring me out to Metyme’s (she hasn’t blogged in a while, claims she’s too busy working at a job – gasp – she loves!) where we spent a wonderful day just hanging out and knitting, playing with the cats and Metyme trying to figure out how to convert files so she could play them on her new toy, the iPod Touch, and even though I had a hissy fit earlier in the day with the ATM machine (never you mind) the day was so grand and so very, very needed.

As for whether or not he has cancer in the brain, they told us no. If you recall we thought that would explain the ‘word switches’ he was experiencing. Here’s what is so bizarre. Within a couple of days of the bone cancer treatment, he wasn’t making those word switches anymore like I mentioned in previous posts. Both he and I noticed them for months before the diagnosis – saying calendar for candle, for example. I haven’t heard him do it ONCE since the bone cancer treatment. Whether that has anything to do with the treatment for the bone cancer or not, we don’t care. All we know is, his mind is better and no more word twists. Something to be grateful for, right?

Later gators – enjoy your Sunday!


Down, Stella!

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