Monday, October 31, 2011

The Monster Mash...

Heather nearly 3 years old
Heather nearly 2 years old , Jenny nearly 4
Then you can mash
Then you can monster mash
The monster mash
And do my graveyard smash
Then you can mash
You'll catch on in a flash
Then you can mash
Then you can monster mash


Friday, October 28, 2011

Lady With The Scar...

Most of the time Heather and I we were the youngest people in the Ironwood Cancer Center waiting area. During one of our first visits we saw a very distraught younger woman who was not sure she wanted to begin her chemo treatments. There was another younger woman sitting next to her trying to calm her down. This woman was going through treatments as she wore a scarf on her head and had a scar on her chest from what we assumed was the lymphoma tumor she had removed. She was called to go back for her radiation treatment and the scared woman was left there alone. Heather went over and began to talk to her and calm her down. Unfortunately this woman left before her treatment and I have no idea if she ever came back.

Heather and I would see the “lady with the scar” many more times during our visits. Heather admired her for being so bold and brave to go out with a scarf on her head and a low cut neck shirt so that her scar was visible. Heather called the scar her badge of courage. She remarked once that she had broken 2 bones and had cancer and would not have a scar to show for any of it. Not that she felt the need to have surgery she just felt like it would be nice to have something to show for all of her treatments. We wondered about this woman and her family. She was younger and we wondered if she had young kids. We figured she had lymphoma because of her age and the scar. Funny how you sit in a cancer clinic and wonder what kind of cancer each person has.

Heather and I saw this “lady with the scar” many times during our visits. We hoped she would have the best outcome ever. But we never knew what ended up happening to her. We never knew her name or anything else about her. Honestly, I placed this woman in the back of my mind when Heather died. She was a memory of the place, the people and event that changed my life forever. She was placed in the memory file along with all the doctors, nurses and staff from the clinic.

Fast forward to August 2011, over 3 years since the last time we saw the “lady with the scar” at Ironwood Cancer Clinic. I wanted a change with my hair and had made an appointment at True Essence Salon where Heather and I used to get our hair done at. This was also where we went to have Heather’s head shaved when time came for that. I made the appointment and woke the next day with a panic attack that I could not walk into that salon. I called to cancel my appointment and explained why. They were very understanding. I still wanted my hair done and I decided to go back to Regis where I always go. My regular gal was not there but I didn’t want to wait so I made an appointment with Laurie. I am very picky about who does my hair because many people have cut too much off or added too much color. I was going way out of my comfort zone.

When I arrived at Regis and met Laurie she looked very familiar to me but I could not place where I knew her from. For some reason I saw her with different hair but still could not remember when I had seen her before. Anytime I meet someone new there comes a point I have to decide do I talk about Heather or do I keep that to myself. It is something that I wrestle with in my mind for minutes weighing each pro and con of do I really want to share my Heather with this person. People usually tell their hair stylist everything about them. What else do you do when you sit there but talk about yourself. So, in a moment’s decision I felt I could trust Laurie and I told her my daughter had cancer and she died.

I think that hairstylist also have to decide how much they tell you as well about themselves. Most of them are very open but I imagine many of them have things that they don’t share with every client that sits in their chair. As I began to talk it began to dawn on both of us that we knew each other. You see, Laurie is the “lady with the scar”. She remembered seeing Heather in the office a couple of times as well. Laurie remembered that Heather went to talk to the woman after she was called to her appointment. All of a sudden we shared a bond and had a connection. Funny how cancer creates a bond with strangers that become friends with the mention of the word.

Laurie is married, has a son and most importantly is in remission. She is truly a brave, remarkable woman. She was Heather and my hero before, and now that I know her is still is my hero. It was amazing to me to finally meet the woman that I had seen in the clinic and that she is doing so well. She also has the most amazing ability to do hair. She is a perfectionist and listens to what I want for my hair. The 2 times I have had my hair colored has been the 2 best color jobs I have ever had done. Laurie recently went out on her own into Signature Salon in East Mesa. This is a remarkable place that gives stylist their own place to do hair without the huge expense of an individual store front. I would encourage anyone to give Laurie a try with their hair. You will not be disappointed. I have her number and will share with anyone who would like it. Please support Laurie and her remarkable survival.

The “lady with the scar” has gone from being a face without a name, to having a name to a being someone I count as a privilege and a blessing to know personally.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Personal Narrative...

I have not mentioned much about school lately and how things are going. I think I am doing very well. I was able to finish a 16 week course of math 082 in just 8 weeks. I managed to get a final exam score of 91% with a final grade of 92%. Not too bad for someone who has not really done math in over 30 years. I also have finished my Healthful Living class with an A as well. I did very well on the 2 two-hour tests closed book tests we had. So 2 classes done with after 8 weeks and both straight A's.

My CIS 105-reguired computer class-is driving me insane. It is a lot of reading about things I have no interest and will never ever use in my lifetime. Then I have to take a 20 question quiz over the material. The good thing is I can use my book and I get 3 tries for each quiz. We also have a computer portion with Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint. These are very difficult assignments that they do not allow shortcuts. But even though the teacher is really no help at all, I am managing an A so far. I hope to keep that A as I have worked hard for it.

My last class is English 101. This is in no way teaching me English when all I do is write 4 papers. Not a tough class. But papers are subjective if the teacher does not like your writing style. I have been fortunate that my teacher happens to think me a writing genius. I have included my last paper we had to write. It was a personal narrative about our life. Boy, did she get a shock. The following is my original paper I wrote and then her comments at the end. Grade for the paper was 100% and yes I have an A in this class as well. Please realize that as with my blog I don't hold back the truth in my papers either. Many of you may not know about my childhood, and this only skims the top 1% of all that happened to me growing up.

Growing up, I was a very odd little girl and endured a very difficult childhood. My only dream was to be normal and have a fairytale life with the ideal house and the perfect family. I thought I had all of that until a few years ago when things began to drastically change. Cancer entered my world, shattered my dreams, and taught me that normal is nothing but a setting on the clothes dryer and does not exist in the real world.

I cannot pinpoint when I learned that I was adopted as a baby, it is just something that I have always known. Knowing that I was adopted I always felt that I was different from most people. My home life was such that I felt like a round peg that tried to fit into a square hole. I did not share the same emotions or actions that my adopted parents had. Only when I found my birth father did I truly understand the role of genetics verses learned responses.  The more time that I have spent learning about my birth father the more I have realized that my actions and what makes me the person that I am today came mostly from him.

My childhood forced me to learn how to become a survivor. A couple of different men sexually molested me at a young age. My physically and emotionally abusive adopted mother died when I was nine years old and my adopted father remarried a woman with two sons shortly after. My new step mother was not able to love me as her own child either. Since I had two mothers that were not my birth mother, I was under the delusion that birth mothers had to love their own babies. This was proven to be a false statement and after finding my birth mother in 1993. From this experience, I learned that not all mothers love all of their babies. 

During my high school years I felt like a freak most of the time. I wore clothes that my step mother made and they looked very funny and different from what everyone else was wearing. I was also not allowed to drive a car to high school. This forced me to get rides with people or walk. I was not very popular, but did have a good group of friends that were outcasts like me.

When I had my own children, I was determined to not repeat the cycle of abuse that I went through as a child. My goal was to be the kind of mother to my children that I did not have growing up.  I was a stay at home mom for my three daughters, volunteered in their elementary school, and allowed them to be little girls. I also took on the huge challenge of home schooling them when they asked me to try.

My greatest source of learning, challenge and change came when my twenty-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She had two forms of fast moving blood cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. As I was the sole caregiver I had to quickly become well educated in doctors, nurses, chemotherapy, procedures and hospitals. She survived and was in remission, but her health was on the mend only for a brief time, as she soon became immune compromised and developed two forms of pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). She was placed in the Intensive Care Unit which was where I began my training all over again. This was a whole new kind of experience with more intense care and consequences. After fighting for thirty-three days, she died.

Now I have lost many “friends” that found it too difficult to deal with my daughter’s death. I feel as if everywhere I go I have a sign over me that screams “mother who has a dead daughter.” I cry in public for no reason in which anyone would ever begin to understand and then feel as if I am being stared at even more. I was not normal growing up and I will never be normal again. I just have to keep reminding myself that normal is just a setting on the clothes dryer and does not exist in the real world or my world and that is okay.

(1)  Unknown source

Sherry, you have endured and survived so much more than any child would elect to experience. You write so clearly, it feels like the words describe a scene in the present.

Congratulations on your resilience and tenacity.

normal is nothing but a setting on the clothes dryer and does not exist in the real world. This is a line that Erma Bombeck would have been proud to claim!

Well done! 25/25 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Parental Bereavement Act..

CHILD: The legal definition of "child" generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority. A human being below the age of 18 years.

ADULT: is a legal concept for a person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.

When you have a baby or adopt a baby an employee can be given 12 weeks of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). If that child develops a major illness you can also choice to take FMLA. If your adult family member has a major illness you can once again go on FMLA. But when your child dies, your employer only has to give you 3-5 days of leave. This is barely enough time to hold the funeral let alone begin to grieve for the loss.

The Family Medical Leave Act was pushed by a real life father who was fired from his job after taking time off to help his 16 years old daughter battle cancer. This father fought back and with the help of Senators, he lobbies the United States Congress and is the stimulus to passage of the Family Medical Leave Act. The daughter dies shortly after this bill was signed by President Clinton into law in 1993.

Why do I mention all this because many of you may not know but the death of a child is not a reason for FMLA. Your employer does not have to give you 12 weeks off and secure you position when you return. Currently the Parental Bereavement Act (S. 1358) is being introduced into Congress. It currently has no co-sponsor. In a press release, Sen. Tester said he introduced the bill because the "last thing [parents] should be worrying about is whether they’ll lose their jobs as they deal with life-changing loss. People are surprised when we tell them that it doesn't cover the death of a child," Tester said. "Anytime a parent has to bury a child is, in my opinion, the most stressful and excruciating experience a family can go through. People need time to grieve and sort out what has happened without having to worry about losing their jobs."

Although the FMLA allows employees to take time off for mental-health problems, grieving parents are reluctant to use that provision because they don't want the stigma of saying they have a mental illness such as depression, doctors and mental-health experts say. Parents worry that using the mental-health provision could lead future employers or insurance companies to discriminate against them by wrongly concluding that they have a chronic mental illness.

"Of course, someone who has just lost their child feels sad and depressed and has trouble focusing," said Dr. Tressia Shaw, a palliative-care physician at Phoenix Children's Hospital. "It's not accurate to label that parent with a diagnosis of depression when what they're going through is a normal process of grief. A separate provision in the law for grieving parents would solve the problem."

I am asking everyone to take a few minutes and go to the link below and sign petition to the president and congress to approve this new act. Enter your information and the letters will be sent to your congressmen in your state. I also am asking that in the comments box if you would add that the age be upped from 18 to 25. Congress recently passed that students can be on our insurance till age 25. Many of these “children” still live at home and have no means to support themselves as they are students in college. If Bill had wanted to take FMLA he would have been denied because Heather was 21. But she was still living at home, had no means to support herself since she had been fighting cancer for a year and we still claimed her on our taxes.

Please, the last thing a grieving parent needs to worry about is their job. Just getting up and out of bed each day takes all the strength we have. Take just a few minutes and send petitions to get this act passed. It is all filled out you just have to give your name and address and click send.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Suds in the Bucket...

She was in the backyard - they say it was a little past nine
When her prince pulled up - a white pickup truck
Her folks shoulda seen it comin' - it was only just a matter of time
Plenty old enough - and you can't stop love
She stuck a note on the screen door - "sorry but I got to go"
That was all she wrote - her mama's heart was broke
That was all she wrote - so the story goes..
~Sara Evans~Suds in the Bucket~

It was her favorite blue t-shirt. On the front was a small gold number 44 and the back had a large number 44 with the name Sara Evans on it. I do not have any idea when, where or how Heather even got the t-shirt. It could have been at a concert or through the mail. Only she would know for sure. But it was a very worn and loved shirt. The number 44 came from her Sara’s album “Three Chords and the Truth". It was the title-track and second single released from the album in 1997 and was the highest-peaking of the three singles released from Three Chords and the Truth, reaching #44. It was the highest number one of her songs reached from her solo album.
Now her daddy's in the kitchen - starin' out the window
Scratchin' and a rackin' his brains
How could 18 years just up and walk away
Our little pony-tailed girl growed up to be a woman
Now she's gone in the blink of an eye
She left the suds in the bucket
And the clothes hangin' out on the line

Heather fell in love with Sara Evans. She knew everything about her, her family and her life. If anything had the name Sara Evans on it Heather would buy it, listen to it or read it. In July, 2005 she talked me into driving to Tucson to attend a concert at the fairgrounds so she could meet and greet with Sara Evans. She was tickled pink at finally getting to meet her favorite country female artist. She even wrote and card and gave her a gift. This was a special trip for just her and me.
Heather with Sara Evans~July 2005
Now don't you wonder what the preacher's gonna preach about Sunday morn
Nothin' quite like this has happened here before
Well he must have been a looker - smooth talkin' son of a gun
For such a grounded girl - to just up and run
Course you can't fence time - and you can't stop love
Disneyland~March 2007
"Suds in the Bucket" is the title of a song recorded by country singer Sara Evans. It was released in May 2004 as the third single for her album Restless. It became her third number-one single on the US Country charts, and her first since "Born to Fly" in early 2001. It was certified Gold by the RIAA on November 18, 2005. This was my “ponytail girl’s” favorite song. Heather felt this song was written for her. The prince is a white pickup truck and everything. When this song would come on we would turn up with radio, sing and dance in the car.

Now all the biddy's in the beauty shop gossip goin' non-stop
Sippin' on pink lemonade
How could 18 years just up and walk away
Our little pony-tailed girl growed up to be a woman
Now she's gone in the blink of an eye
She left the suds in the bucket
And the clothes hangin' out on the line
Disneyland~December 2008
I was doing fine today until “Suds in the Bucket” came on my radio. I instantly thought of Heather wearing her blue #44 t-shirt. I missed her so much at that moment the tears just began to fill my eyes and roll down my cheek. I want so much to see her wear that shirt again. But this most loved t-shirt now is a part of the memory quilt I recently had made. I love the quilt but it is desperately sad to think I have to have it.
Heather's shirt now...
She's got her pretty little bare feet hangin' out the window
And they're headin' up to Vegas tonight
How could 18 years just up and walk away
Our little pony-tailed girl growed up to be a woman
Now she's gone in the blink of an eye
She left the suds in the bucket
And the clothes hangin' out on the line…

Monday, October 17, 2011

912 Days....

Now I'm drivin'
Through the pitch black dark
I'm screaming at the sky
Oh cause it hurts so bad
Everybody tells me
Oh all I need is time
Then the mornin' rolls in
And it hits me again
And that aint nothin' but a lie.

I began counting days, then weeks, next came months and now I am counting years. It does not seem possible to count years already. There are days when it seems like yesterday and then other times it feels like it has already been forever. Today, Monday is when Heather died 2 ½ years ago. The date of the 20th comes later this week. It has been 912 days, 130 weeks, 54 months or 2 ½ years since I was last able to touch Heather. It has been longer than that since I heard or voice or was able to have a conversation with her.

I stumbled across your old picture today
I could barely breath
The moment stopped me cold,
Grabbed me like a thief.
I dialed your number, but you wouldn't be there
I knew the whole time, but it's still not fair
I just wanted to hear your voice,
I just needed to hear your voice

There is so much that I have never shared that happened with Heather. The things I am sharing on the blog post today are things that happened and photos I have never shared. These are very private and personal to me. I hope you understand what I am trying to share today.

Friday morning March 27, 2009 Heather and I had a very coherent conversation. It was the best one we had in days. She was herself. She drank her ensure and we talk just like old times. I had no idea it would be one of the last lucid conversations I would have with her. If I had known we would not have spent the time talking about what we talked about. To this day I still have a grudge that I carry about the topic of discussion that we talked about that morning.
This was taken just a few hours after Heather was placed on the vent. 
 In the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, March 28, Heather was being prepped for being placed on the vent. This is something I pray no one ever has to go through. It is a necessary machine but is so horrible and all the wicked things that go with it. I will not begin to tell you all the horrors that go with it, the vent is bad enough. I called Bill and he was able to just make it before they began. There was no time to get Jenn and Wendy there in time she was that critical. All the lights were on and we were forced to leave the room during the procedure. She was so out of it due to lack of oxygen. She was not scared, just kept asking if the procedure was done yet. The last words Heather ever spoke were I love you. I was sitting beside her on the bed and I told her I loved her and that it would only be a few days and she would be fine.  Bill and I were placed in a small private meeting room while the procedure was done.
In the appears to say I love you momy...this was written a few hours after she was placed on the vent. I take it to say I love you Momy. It may not look like it, but she shook her head when I read it.

No one could ever be prepared for seeing their loved one on a vent and I was no different. We were told to be very quiet as she was not responding to the sedation the way she should and she moved quite a bit. Heather would open her eyes and try to hug me when I would come into the room. Believe it or not, Heather actually wrote 2 notes to me and wanted her phone to text messages. This was very hard for me as I thought when you were on a vent you didn’t move. Later on they would sedate and paralysis her so she could not move anymore. Jenn and Wendy had the opportunity to say they loved her that same day. Heather opened her eyes when they talked to her and I know that she heard and understood what they said to her.
This was written the next day..It says Tomorrow I go home. At the bottom she wants Ativan. So she got Ativan added to her drugs. Kim-her nurse said anyone who could write what she wanted got it. Heather shook her head when I read it saying that was what she wanted was to go home or 6 South and ativan

What do I do with all I need to say
So much I wanna tell you every day
Oh it breaks my heart,
I cry these tears in the dark
I write these letters to you,
But they get lost in the blue,
'Cause there's no address in the stars.

Today I went through Heather’s boxes under my bed. I have no idea why I picked today to do this. I guess it helps in some weird way. I came across her cross stitch sampler that I made for her when she was born. I have no idea what I am supposed to do with that or the signed matte from her graduation. I also found a small trove of her treasured bunnies. She was a bunny lover from the very beginning. Everything and anything that was a bunny she wanted it. I still to this day am moved to buy bunny things.
Some of Heather's bunnies..her first jewelry box..what do I do with all this???
Cross Stitch I made for Heather-hours and hours of work

So here it is 912 days, 130 weeks, 54 months or 2 ½ years after Heather died and honestly I don’t feel that I am any closer to “getting over” this. On the outside I look like I have it all together but on the inside I don’t. I do have good days but still have bad days. The bad days seem to hit me when I least expect it now and that seems to be the difficult part. The smallest little thing can change my mood and mind set so fast. It can be a smell, a song, a note or even passing a van on the freeway. As long as it is still here then Heather is still here. Heather is my brick that I carry around..and it is fine, actually!
I asked for scissors shortly after Heather died. Sharon-night nurse manager- asked me if I was taking some of her hair. I said yes I was. She told me good, she was going to do that and save it for me in case I wanted it later and forgot.

Becca: Does it ever go away?
Nat: No, I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t -- has gone on for eleven years. But it changes though.
Becca: How?
Nat: I don’t know… the weight of it, I guess. At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and -- there it is. Oh right, that. Which could be aweful -- not all the time. It’s kinda…not that you’d like it exactly, but it’s what you’ve got instead of your son. So, you carry it around. And uh… it doesn’t go away. Which is…
Becca: Which is what?
Nat: Fine, actually.