Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just Tryin' to Survive

I figure my FM wouldn't mind at this point whether or not I say who they are, so I'll say it: My mother has leukemia. My mom. The woman I look up to most in my life.

We managed to survive Christmas. My family did Christmas Eve in the hospital. My mother got pnemonia this weekend and it was terrifying. She can't breathe very well, even now, but at least she is out of ICU. And she was well enough to watch us all open presents on Christmas Eve. Its our tradition to do presents in my family on Christmas Eve. Every year we eat homemade lasagna (the sauce is even homemade!), eat spritz cookies and three-layer party squares, then open presents by the tree while sipping on homemade wassail. Yeah sure, we were missing the lasagna and wassail, but it actually was a really good Christmas. My dad got a Santa suit and spread cheer all around the hospital. I was spoiled rotten and my brother, my dad and I managed to fully entertain my mom on Christmas Eve.

I've been dying to get to the point where I can say it is my mom that's sick (against her request, but its imporant for me to say this...). My mom has been truly inspirational. I am so amazed by her attitude through all of this! Even when she's struggling for the breath to talk, she's using that breath to make a joke. She's
amazing, that mom of mine. And selfishly this sickness has been really good for me because I've had my mom all to myself almost every day. Whether its 5 minutes or 4 hours (depending on how she's feeling) I feel like every second is a gift. My mom is such a good friend and since I've been old enough to know she's my friend I haven't had enough time to be with just her. I'm so blessed to have had this time to hang out with her.

I've been a little stressed between this and some other stuff that's going on (Ryan's work is re-bidding the entire department and its possible I may have NO more weekends with him), but I'm smart enough to realize that it wouldn't do my mom any good for me to over-do it. So I've spent my time off since Thursday keeping busy
with things that are fun as well. On Christmas Eve day I spent the day (before gift-opening) with Ryan and his crew. I tell you, I have a talent for being there when they have interesting calls. After playing Xbox for an hour (I let Ryan take it for the day), we went to an accident that was so horrifying it reminded me that my family is really lucky compared to some. We had another accident after that, a rear-ender, and I was reminded from that one that everything is relative. When the man who'd been hit looked at me and said, "Merry Christmas, huh?" I thought that to him this really could have ruined his Christmas, and just because his troubles are different then mine, it doesn't make them any less important.

OK, another fun thing I did was take myself and my camera to the zoo today. Here's two of my favorite pictures from today.

Yup, that's a baby orangutan right there. Cute! That was my favorite part of the day.

This Thursday I've got the Ya-ya girls (all 7 of us and some of our men!) coming over here for the gift-exchange. Its a yearly event that I stress over, but I feel pretty good about my crafty gift this year. I think they're all concerned that it might be too much for me to have it at my house, but I swear its something I've been looking forward to forever. Plus, now I can drink and not drive. ;-)

More updates, including the gift I gave Ryan, and the fun stuff I got. I'll give you a hint on Ryan's gift: he didn't shoot his eye out, but he could have!! ;-)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Then you jump

When I was a kid my parents signed me up for diving lessons every summer. I loved it. I would do anything off that board. I was fearless! Until it came to climbing up on to the high dive. You have to climb up that ladder so far, then when you get up there and look down you realize its at least 3 times as tall as it looks from the ground. Then you're up there and scared, but the teacher won't let you come down untiil you dive into that pool.

Chemo is like climbing up the high dive. You're on the ground looking up and it doesn't look that high. Then you're climbing, focusing on the rungs, and it still isn't bad at all. And you get to the top and think, "huh, that was climb! But not that bad, and here I am. At the top. And its not nearly as scary as I thought it would be". Then you walk to the edge and look over. And you know there's no way you're going down the ladder; you're going into the water. And you cry and you fight it, but ultimately you have no choice. Into the water you go. And on the way down you're terrified. And right before you hit the water you freak out and you do a belly flop.

Chemo is like that. You get to the end of the infusion and you think, "That wasn't so bad! I'm one of the lucky few!". Then you walk to the end of the board and get yourself ready for the jump to the end. And it gets bad. And scary. But its much too late to turn back. There's no going down the ladder.

My FM is really sick. Yesterday when I was at the hospital I saw 101 degree temps, nausea, and more awful stuff. And I got there after the really scary stuff happened. Its not unexpected, but that doesn't make it any easier. We all thought it was going so well, that FM would make it through without much pain or discomfort. But in order to kill the cancer, you have to kill all that's good in the body along with it. I just want to give FM a bit hug. Or jump up in the hospital bed and snuggle with them while we watch a movie.

You read stories about this happening. People laying in hospital beds 'fighting' cancer. Fighting. Interesting word. Because there doesn't seem to be any fighting going on. Its the drugs doing the fighting and you're suffering the consequences.

I had a really rough night last night. But I'm trying so hard to remember that life still needs to happen. My Ryan has had a really bad week this week, and its important to take care of the normal every-day bad stuff as if there isn't Cancer in our life. Or despite the Cancer. In my very limited (so far) experience with illness, I've figured out that the best thing you can do for your loved one when they are sick is to live your life.

On my way out of the hospital room tonight my FM said, "Can you do me a favor? Do something tonight that I would enjoy doing!" So FM, this glass of wine is for you...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Leukemia. I didn't even know how to spell that a few weeks ago. When you think 'Leukemia', don't you think about kids? Not so in all cases. I've got one in my family. My FM has Leukemia. Leukemia. When I heard that word 2 weeks ago it terrified me. I can't explain it, but now it just seems like something that's a part of my life. I watch people's expressions when I say that word and I think, "I was scared like that a few weeks ago...". I'm still scared, but its different because now I know that scared doesn't do it. I also need brave, strong, tough, supportive...

I've spent the last 2 weeks, almost every day, in the hospital visiting. Not knowing the right thing to do. Feeling helpless. Just being. There. For FM. I've decorated the room, made cookies for nurses, kept in touch w/ my FM's friends, kept family far-away up-to-date, been there for my other family members when they need a shoulder... Basically anything I can think of to keep busy so I don't need to feel what's going on.

Yesterday it got scary. 105.4 degree temp. Confusion. Obvious signs of infection. We all knew this was a possibility with the chemo, but it was terrifying.

You always hear about people who go through things like this, but you never expect it'll happen to you and your family. You know? Like imagine the person you're closest to in your family then imagine you have to pretend its OK that they're stuck in the hospital for a minimum of 4 weeks; its OK that you have to wear gloves and a mask to visit them, and imagine that you're so freaked out by the fact that you might bring a bug, maybe a slight cold or the flu, into their room that might kill them. A cold. Could kill them. Just try to imagine that. That's what we're going through.

I've turned into a freak. I'm driving my husband insane. I'm driving my friends and coworkers insane. I sit at my desk and listen to people coughing and blowing their nose and I think, "How dare they? How dare they selfishly show up to work knowing they could get someone else sick?" I'm having to force myself through all the 'steps' they talk about in a really short period of time. I finally get that its not their fault. They don't know that by exposing me to their cold they could be endangering my FM's life. I hate that I've turned into this person who sticks their finger in someone's face after they cough and demand, "Are you sick?!". I hate that I can't even go to holiday parties without thinking about what germs might be in the community food. I hate that at those parties I find myself moving physically away from people I know have sick kids. That sucks. And I've taken to picturing the germs on things. Door handles especially. I'm walking around with antibacterial gel when 2 weeks ago I was staunchly anti-anti-bacterial.

Christmas is in less then a week. I've got all my shopping done, miraculously, but it just doesn't feel right. I feel like its a sham. All of it. The "Our Year Was so Amazing!" Christmas letter, the baking of traditional family cookies and breads, the shopping for people who are thinking about other things.... My FM will be in the hospital until at LEAST January 4th. That's a long time from now. Kinda hard to think about going skiing for New Years, you know?

I don't know how to end this one. I've just got so much going on in my brain. I'm so thankful for my husband (who is a saint) and my girlfriends. I spend most of my days being that person my family can come to to cry to. And some days that's hard. Some days I just need someone to cry to. You know? Thank goodness I've got my hubby and my girls. I wouldn't survive.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Finally in the Spirit!

Finally got off our butts and decorated for Christmas. Its been a tough holiday season so far w/ my family memeber in the hospital, but we're making due.

Things on the illness front actually went better then was expected. Although I don't know how we could expect anything considering the fact that the doctor didn't prepare us at all for what was to come. Reading on my own I know that the worst part of the process comes about 10 days after treatment stops. Treatment stops today in this case. I've got really high hopes though because my family member (isn't this silly? I'll just call them FM from now on...) has had the best attitude ever. Its a crappy situation what with the 30+ days in the hospital, the 'bubble' conditions, the restrictions on everything... but we're all holding up really well and I'm so proud of my family for working together to get through this.

This week I donated blood. Do you do that? If you don't, you should. Its like 30 minutes out of your life, and it could make all the difference for someone who needs it. I'm the donor who's prone to passing out (and I have, more then once), but I still do it. I'm O neg (universal baby!) and I've got an antibody that is needed for preemie babies, so I feel like I don't have a choice. I was given this blood, and it can help others, so I do it. Besides that you get free cookies, free juice, and the feeling like you've done something really good for a stranger.

Speaking of, I forgot to report on our Christmas Angel shopping! Ryan and I adopted Carlos this year, who is a 2 year-old that wanted a remote-control car. Your wish is our command buddy! Carlos not only got a My First Remote Control, but we threw in some small kid Legos (every boy needs Legos!), jeans, a shirt, a jacket, shoes, and socks. We had the best time spoiling him! There's still Christmas Angels to be adopted, so if you live in an area that participates, please think about pulling an Angel off the tree.

OK, since Ryan was such a good sport with the decorating, I owe him an hour of Xbox... Off to play Marvel Ultimate Alliance!

Sunday, December 10, 2006


If my posts are a bit manic/depressive, then they fit my mood of late. I know its odd to follow yesterday's post with a post about my good day today, but I refuse to feel guilty about living my life and enjoying it when good things happen. I hope everyone in my family feels the same way, because keeping positive is the only way to get through, you know?

I've been spending a lot of time in the hospital the last week, and I tell you, hospitals are weird places. For one, people walk EVERYWHERE in their socks. Like they live there. Which, I guess, some of them are doing for a short time, but its odd to see
people walking around the cafeteria in socks. Second, its weird how hospitals are filled with people at their lowest moments, as well as people at their most exciting. The ward next to the one I visit is where the babies are. It almost seems unfair to have such new, beautiful life next to people who are fighting for theirs, you know? And third, I could never be a medical person. I'm a bit sqeemish, but that's not what I'm talking about. How do those nurses and doctors (but especially nurses) keep on a cheery face all the time? How do they stay so friendly without getting emotionally involved? I mean some people they treat might not make it outside the hospital again, but still the nurses treat everyone as if they deserve compasion and understanding. They're amazing.

Oh, I said there was manic in this post, right? Yeah, well after I left the hospital today
I went down to see Ryan at his station. I haven't been to visit him in a long time, so it was such a treat to have a call kick out as soon as I got there! He had a really cool captain today who let me ride, so my camera and I jumped on and we headed out to a dumpster fire. Not too exciting, but its the first time I've ridden since Ryan became a driver and I was so proud. He especially seemed to enjoy using all the siren sounds they have available in the truck.

So as soon as we got down with that, a call for a roll-over accident came out, so we headed that way too. The car was totally smashed, so they had to call for air transport. Ryan's engine was sent down the road to make a landing zone, so I got some great pictures at sunset of the helicopter coming in on the field. I'm actually happy with quite a few of the pictures from today, but here's two for now:

Things I learned today: 1) If there is any chance at all that you might go for a ride-along, its best to wear something other then flip-flops. My feet were caked in dirt after running around in this field. 2) Conveniently forgetting a sweatshirt on a very cold AZ day (re: 65 degrees) results in getting to wear a fire jacket, which is just about as warm as a ski jacket but 5 times as cool. 3) If you are about to jump into a fire truck of any kind, hit the head first. You never know when you're going to have to pee like a race horse, and being stuck in a flat field waiting for a helicopter, with no bushes to squat behind, is hell. Then you'll have to get back in the engine (which is a bumpy ride on any road) and have to go over a washboard dirt road to get back to the pot-holed highway, then a 12 mile ride back to the station where you'll have to duke it out with 4 guys for first dibs on the bathroom. Hell I tell you.

As you can see, I'm coping by keeping busy. This morning I made enough food for one casserole pan worth of baked ziti, 4 tupperwares for freezing of mushroom bisque, and 3 tupperwares for freezing of chili for a family member who could use it during this tough time we're going through. (Another random observation about what I'm going through: I have, for the first time in my life, forgotten meals two days in a row. That freaks me out 'cause usually I plan my days around food.)

That's about all I've got here. This week is going to be tough, but I really feel like blogging about this, even if I'm skirting the actual issue, is helping. So here's wishing you all a very safe, happy week this week.

Friday, December 08, 2006

So I've got a sickness in my family. There's no need for questions or sympathy because I swear I've got support in spades. Besides, I promised the person involved I wouldn't go talking about the sickness, but I really do need an outlet for myself. Does that make sense? I really need to get my thoughts down and out of my head so I can get some sleep. Sleep. Oh, sleep would be good.

The thing I'm obsessively thinking about lately is how fake we all are. Someone once told me that people from countries outside the United States complain about our practice of saying, "Hey! How ya doin'?" when we don't really CARE how that person is doing. In fact, if that person actually answered you with something other then, "I'm fine, and how are you?" we'd think poorly of them. We'd think to ourselves, "Why the heck is this person telling me all about their neighbor's barking dog? I just want to keep walking past them...." So why do we do that? Why do we ask if we don't care?

I've spent this week feeling like I'm walking around in this big, fake fog. Like all this stuff is going on around me and I'm so caught up in what's going on that I just can't join in. I try, I do. I throw in comments to the chattiness but I just feel like its so.... I don't know.

I've been doing a lot of self-counseling this week and I'm so disappointed in myself for not dealing with this better. I don't say it, but I've been so angry at people this week. And I know that it is all on me, none of these people deserve it. They don't deserve my anger because they didn't do anything wrong at all, thatthey are just living their lives, and even if they do know what's going on with me there just ISN'T a right thing to say, so I don't expect them to know what the 'right thing' is. But I listen to people talking about random things and I just want to scream, "YOU THINK THAT'S IMPORANT?! YOU THINK GETTING ANGRY AND YELLING ABOUT BUDGETS OR CONTRACTORS ON YOUR HOUSE IS IMPORTANT? YOU THINK THIS IS REAL?" And at the end of the day I think back on all the mean, angry, emotional thoughts I had through the day and I'm ashamed.

And I hate those thoughts because I know, I KNOW, they are irrational and totally only stemming from the fact that I'm dealing with this situation by bottling up my emotions, and I'm afraid that if I can't figure out how to let the emotions out they'll all come out angry. But I'm afraid if I DO let them out, I won't be able to stop them. I don't want them to control me. I want to be strong. I do. But not at the expense of the people around me. Because the chattiness? Is honestly getting me through. It reminds me that our whole life isn't this illness, its everything before and after it.

So for that reason I'm writing this. To get it out of my head. To get it out there. So I can sleep. And so I can be strong.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Guard Dog

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Woo hoo for me!

Firefighter+Jeep=Uh oh...

What's hotter then a firefighter? A firefighter in a JEEP. Guess what we bought this weekend?!

But picture it w/out the hardtop, because you KNOW with the awesome weather in AZ we'll be cruising without the top.

And by 'we', you know I mean 'me'. Because I'm totally bogarting that thing. He just doesn't know it yet.

8-12 weeks people. 'cause we custom-ordered!

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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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