Hang on, folks, this is a long one.
It’s no secret that this year has been particularly full of ups and downs for me and my family. Each year brings its own challenges and excitement, but 2014 really feels like it has outdone itself. While things became more and more crazy, stressful, dramatic, exhausting, I found myself pulling more and more away from blogging. I didn’t know what to say – if I even had anything to say. I never want a blog to be a dumping ground for bad news or negativity, and while, on the whole a lot of great things have happened to me this year, the struggles have been real.
The year started off with meetings and interviews, I wasn’t even sure what, if anything might come from them, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and began a journey that lead to my new job, which I love. I’m actually really proud of myself for doing something that kind of scared me. A friend and colleague had recommended me for a job I would never have considered for myself, and instead of balking completely, I took his advice, and simply explored. While that didn’t end up my new job, it lead to what is my new job, and a transition that was much needed for me in my work life.
In February, I gave notice at my old job, and Travis and I waited to close on a house. We finally closed the end of the month, and on the first weekend in March, in the pouring rain, with both of us really sick, we moved into our first house. Homeownership has been a lot of things – exciting, and scary, and a learning experience. I believe we had already put the wheels in motion in late February and March for a DIY reality home improvement show which we ended up filming in June.
The middle of February, into March also brought what would become the scary cancer diagnosis for my mom. A dentist appointment Valentine’s day week lead to follow ups with primary care, rhemutologists, an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, and finally an oncologist. Stage V soft pallet cancer. So, before beginning my new job, I flew up to San Francisco to be with my mom for what would be her first surgery on April 1st. Talk about the worst April Fools day ever. The week after my mom’s surgery, I started my new job.
The rest of April was stressful as my mom spent weeks in the hospital recovering. She wasn’t able to go home until just after Easter.
While Travis and I were sourcing items for our DIY projects, we came home one evening in early May to discover we’d been broken into. This was terrifying, and exhausting, and stressful. Dealing with insurance (which was awful) and working to replace the items that were stolen was actually pretty difficult and sad. It seemed for the week after, we would realize another thing that was missing, or something that we had already known was missing was more valuable than we’d realized. We did get lucky in a lot of ways. Neither one of us was home when the break in took place. Both of our cats were safe, and while we did lose a lot of items, nearly everything was replaceable. The feeling of violation, knowing someone had rummaged through your things, took months to really go away.
The break in took place on a Thursday, and that Sunday we ended up adopting our lovely Pitbull mix, Pickles. While we had always planned to adopt a dog, our timeline was pushed up by the break in, for sure. We got super lucky though, and Pickles is a very loving, sweet girl, and she’s fitting in to our little family quite well.
End of May/early June we filmed our DIY reality show – which hasn’t aired yet, so I can’t really talk too much about it – but woah. Talk about exhausting. We filmed for 4 days – one on, one off, then 3 on and I think we both totaled about 3 hours of sleep the whole time, maybe 4. We are thrilled with how our rooms turned out, and if you’re ever watching House vs. House on FYI Network, you might see our episode.
Sometime toward the end of June I went blonde, which is not really important, but simply another change for the year.
By the end of June, my mom was getting ready to start chemo and radiation when the MRI she had done came back with something suspicious. This lead to her going in for a second surgery in July, and several more weeks in the hospital recovering. She also spent time at two different skilled nursing facilities in the Bay Area before coming home Labor Day, yes, September.
While all of this was going on, Travis was traveling for work, I was working hard to prepare for my first giant fundraising event at work, and all the regular day to day stresses. On the plus side, the fundraiser was a huge success, and the day went off without a hitch. The bad news is the day after my dad had to take my mom into the ER, and things quickly got worse.
That Sunday night I got a call from my dad saying they were moving my mom to the ICU because her heart rate was rapid, and she was having trouble breathing. Another call, very early Monday morning said they were going to intubate her to assist her breathing. About 20 minutes later, a third call – when doctors intubated my mom, she went into cardiac arrest. She was on a ventilator, she had medication regulating her heart beat, she was on continuous dialysis because her kidneys had shut down, and was going into further organ failure. I took the second flight out of LAX not knowing what to expect. I didn’t even really know what I had packed – I’d just thrown things into a suitcase.
When my dad picked me up from the airport, he told me that it was really bad – doctors had called in the chaplain to meet with him at the hospital, and that when he got there, he couldn’t tell if my mom were alive or dead. The machines were doing all the work of living for her. He also let me know that the doctors had told him, if my mom didn’t regain consciousness in the next day we would have a decision to make.
By some miracle, by the time we got to the hospital and up to ICU, my mom had woken up. She didn’t know what had happened to her, and was worried I was going to get in trouble at work for being at the hospital. She really showed us, and the doctors what a fighter she is, because by the end of the week they were getting ready to move her out of ICU. She was off the ventilator, off the blood pressure medication, and had been downgraded to intermittent dialysis. The doctors and nurses were incredibly impressed with her recovery.
She still spent quite a bit of time in the hospital and back and forth in the ICU before going to a rehab hospital in Marin for several weeks. I came back up to San Francisco in October for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention I’d signed up with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training for a third season back in April? Cause, yeah I did that. I didn’t make it to any runs, did basically no training, and walked the whole race with two other teammates. It was rough, but I did it.
I ended up spending about 5 weeks in San Francisco thanks to support from work, and the Family Medical Leave Act. I went back to work the very beginning of December, my mom was finally able to return home on the 11th. Then, just in case things weren’t doing enough changes, our Senior Vice President and Executive Director at work, accepted a position in San Diego. I am so sad to see her leave us. She’s been an incredible leader and inspiration to me in the short time I’ve gotten to work with her, and I will really miss her. This also means there’s going to be some changes, probably big ones early in 2015. Guess it’ll just mean more rolling with the punches.
Add to this the fact that my mom’s MRI came back with shadows on her lungs and something on her brain, and we’re looking at a truly exhausting year. My mom will go in for a PET scan on the 2nd to get a better look at things, but seriously?
To really round off the year, while Travis was still traveling for work, Pickles got worms, and I got a nasty cold just before I was supposed to leave for home. Seriously, I found a worm on Pickles’ butt on Sunday night, I took her to the vet Monday, worked all day Tuesday feeling icky, and got on a plane Tuesday evening.
And now I’m back up in San Francisco to help while my mom gets strong enough to be completely independent at home.
Toss in a few more weird things like having a weird allergic reaction to something that caused my face to swell up, and one of my parents’ dogs also having cancer (because a parent having cancer isn’t enough.) and you’ve got our 2014. Travis did a lot of traveling for work this year as well – I packed a lot of the apartment on my own, and did a lot of unpacking, and ordering items for the DIY show while he was out of the country. On the whole, I am ready for 2014 to be over – I don’t know how much longer I can stay on the emotional roller coaster it’s been. That being said, I’ve been incredibly lucky. Everyone at work is amazing and supportive, and all of my friends and so much of our family have really come together to help us get through all of this. I couldn’t have made it through the year without the love, light, and support. I feel amazingly lucky, all things considered.
I have plenty of hopes and goals for 2015, but the biggest one is that my mom will be cancer free.
What are your 2015 goals?