Hasta Luego

In less than three weeks, David and I are taking Jack to school, boarding our dog, and jumping onto a plane headed for Madrid, Spain.

No, we can’t afford it. It will increase the already sizable amount of credit card debt we carry. But we are going anyway.

Jack will spend Thanksgiving week with his dad (who gets holidays on odd years) and my employer has issued an office-wide mandatory vacation for that week. So I have a week where I can’t work if I wanted to and I won’t have my kid. A whole week!

And lord knows we need a vacation! David and I haven’t had a true vacation together since our honeymoon three years ago. We are lucky if we get to spend an hour together each night, and usually that time is spent talking about Jack’s health. We are tired and depressed and even though we see each other daily, we miss one another.

So yeah, we’re leaving the country and getting as far away from our day-to-day troubles as we can. We are going to dedicate that week to taking care of ourselves and renewing our relationship. It’s all about us! We can wake up when we want to and go wherever our mood dictates.

I am excited and so very hopeful. I hope that the radical change in location will help us set aside our daily stresses and replace it with awe over a different country and culture. I hope we can stop talking about Jack’s health for a while and instead talk more about how fortunate we are to have this wonderful family. I hope we can reconnect and enjoy our love. Maybe we can even plan for the future.

Mostly, I hope we will come back feeling refreshed and energized and better able to handle the challenges that come at us constantly.Jack has a year and a half of treatment left. Hopefully this break will fortify us enough to make it through.

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Hey, look! I’m participating in NaBloPoMo! You can, too!

Just Write: He’s Okay…Mostly, I Think

“How’s Jack doing?”

I’ve been asked this question at least five times so far today. Each time I give the same answer in the same way, “Yeah…well, eh, mostly. He will be okay, I think. He’s just not feeling well after chemo yesterday.”

He was doing just fine last night. In fact, he was very energetic and LOUD, humming or squawking while playing with his Legos. It was overwhelming to me, as I’d just come home from my trip to Type A in Atlanta. I wanted quiet.

This morning, though, it was too quiet. Jack crawled on the floor from his bedroom to the living room. He laid down on the couch while eating breakfast and I covered him with a blanket while pushing play on iTunes so he could listen to The Postal Service at low volume. He ate his waffle slowly, and afterward he leaned on me to get to the bathroom to halfheartedly brush his teeth. Then I picked him up and carried him back out to the couch.

He talked in hushed tones and complained of stomach pain. I smoothed his hair away from his face as I took his temperature – 98.0 degrees. I asked if he wanted to try to go to school for a bit and see if he felt better. His big brown eyes squinted up at me and he said, “I just don’t have any energy, Mom.”

“Okay, honey. I’ll tell David to come home from work. You just rest,” I replied.

I looked at our finances while I waited for David to come home from work. I wondered if we could somehow make it work on one salary so that I could stay home full time with Jack. I worried this was a pattern that would not go away. I added and subtracted and, with a knot in my stomach, acknowledged that it was impossible – we have too much debt and a large mortgage payment.

I called the clinic to get confirmation of Jack’s ANC. The nurse told me it was sitting at 690, which is fairly decent but not great. She asked how he was doing and then said, “Call us if he isn’t feeling better by the end of the week.”

I called the school and answered the question again. Then I drove to work, where I told a few more people that Jack wasn’t feeling well. I got a call from my sister in the afternoon, and I spoke to one of the care providers at Jack’s after-school program – both asked and I explained in that halting way.

Jack’s okay…mostly. I think. We’ll see.

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This post was inspired by Heather’s Just Write – an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments.

When Self-Care Comes In Second

Jack is back to school! It’s his second week, in fact. And it’s his fifth day making it to class. Yesterday was picture day and he was told by the photographer that he looked like Harry Potter, which made him very happy.

Antibiotics are done and chemo has restarted. As of Sunday Jack’s ANC was an outstanding 1296! All very good things. Whew, we can breathe again.

Life is back to what is ‘normal’ for us, which means it’s catch up time.

Now that things are moving again and we’ve returned to our regularly scheduled life, fatigue and stress are hitting me hard. I can function like nobody’s business when in the middle of a crisis but as soon as it’s contained, I need to sleep for a month! I wish it wasn’t this way – I wish I had been able to rest more while we sat in the hospital room doing a bunch of nothing. But when I napped, I had nightmares.

So ever since we came home from the hospital, I’ve been caught between needing very badly to get some rest and downtime, and stressing out about that rest getting in the way of catching up on all the things I couldn’t do during that week in the hospital. Mostly that’s a lot of paperwork, bill paying, laundry, and house cleaning. Oh and my job. But there is a big chunk of it that is taking care of myself and also getting time with my husband, things that always seem to get pushed behind everything else.

I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, and I’m in desperate need of both time alone and time with my husband. And I’m depressed because I can’t see any way around this pile of ickiness.  I just have to go through it.

Family leave should include two parts – the part where you take care of your family, and then the part where you recover from taking care of your family. Where’s the downtime for the caregiver?

I know it’s only a matter of time before I feel like things are okay again. I’ll be able to look on the bright side more readily and I will feel less irritated by things that aren’t going smoothly. Maybe I’ll even be able to blog properly.

Of course, if you hear I’ve run off without a word to anyone, it’s likely I’ve found a very deep hole to hibernate in until the storm in my head has passed. I’ll come out in my own time.

Maybe.

On The Mend

Today is my first day back at work after two and a half weeks of being off to care for Jack. I’m not gonna lie – it’s hard to come back to work. It’s hard not to have the option to nap some time during the day. But it’s also nice to be doing something that has nothing to do with my son’s health.

I am really glad the last two and a half weeks are behind us! A mystery illness causing febrile neutropenia, a hospital stay, tests galore, so many medications on a very rigid schedule…and so much boredom. There are only so many movies to watch and so many crafts to work on. We’ve watched Seasons 5-7 of Dr. Who several times over and Jack has either drawn or built several incarnations of the TARDIS.

Jack’s ANC recovered on Friday, so he was able to get off of the antibiotic he’d been on for two weeks, but then he was diagnosed with a bacterial infection called c. diff. It’s something that attacks a lot of patients who’ve been on antibiotics for a long time because antibiotics strip the good bacteria from the gut. So Jack started a new medication for that, in addition to restarting his chemo. Thankfully the new medication is not one that has to be given on a strict schedule so I am no longer getting up at 5 and 6 am. Yay!

And tomorrow Jack gets to start school! WOOHOO!

I’m excited for this school year. He’s starting relatively on time (this week will be the first homework week, so he hasn’t misses much) and his best friend is in his class this year. I met and spoke with his teacher last week and she is really great! We’re all more accustomed to the school/work/medications routine than we were when he started 1st grade, as well, so I think it will be a smoother year. I hope.

Now that Jack’s ANC is back up, he’s back on maintenance levels of chemo, and he seems totally fine, I’m feeling much less worried about him. I’m so thankful he’s on the mend and things are getting back to normal!

Summer Hibernation

I’m working on stress relief this summer. So far it’s going well. I’m taking a multi-pronged approach and I’m already feeling much more like my old self.

I like to call this my “summer hibernation.”

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Firstly, inspired by Jack’s love of drawing, I’ve picked up the meditative art of zentangle. It’s super easy to start and you don’t have to be ANY good at drawing – it’s all dots and lines. In fact, I have the hand tremor of an arthritic old crone and I’m still able to do this:

Zentangling helps quiet my mind when my thoughts are racing and I’m feeling anxious. And it gets me off of my iPhone when Jack wants me to sit with him while he draws. The repetitive motions are soothing to me and unlike the glare of a laptop or smartphone, paper and pen don’t glow and overstimulate me or bother my eyes.

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I’m catching up on television shows that everyone else has already seen – we just finished season 2 of Homeland and are about to start Shameless from the beginning. In between that we’ve been catching some comedy through Amazon Prime (Zach Galifianakas and Bill Burr). Jack recently introduced me to Dr. Who so I’ve been checking that out (we started off with the 11th doctor and he is my favorite right now!).

We’ve gone to the movies quite a bit. We’ve taken Jack to see Monsters University, Epic, and Despicable Me 2 (Monsters U was the best of those, IMO). David and I went and saw World War Z, as well, although I wouldn’t call that relaxing in the least. We came out of that theater feeling like we need to build a bunker ASAP!

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We attended High Sierra Music Festival over the Independence Day weekend. That involved camping, swimming, eating, and seeing a crapload of musicians perform LIVE – including the very epic Robert Plant! My new favorite performer is Sarah Jarosz (we got to watch her perform with just her guitar in an “MTV Unplugged” type performance at a late night session). This song is breathtaking live:

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I bought a Groupon for my husband and me to receive three massages each. We’ve both gone once so far and it was definitely the right choice! Two more sessions should help oust what’s left of last year’s balled up tension.

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I’m being conservative with social plans, too. Usually when Jack goes to his dad’s (during the school year it’s on weekends, during summer he goes on weekdays) I tend to get all the ‘fun’ in but I’m slowing down and taking it easy. I’m allowing myself to be a bit anti-social so that I can recharge before the summer break ends. I love people so much, but they tend to wear me out. (It might surprise some of you to know that I’m on the introverted side.)

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Other than that, it’s certainly helped my stress level that I’ve been able to focus on getting caught up (and ahead!) at work during the week since Jack is with his dad. Our debts are finally getting under control a year after we bought our house, which also takes a huge load off! Maybe soon we’ll even be able to decorate the place.

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School starts in a little over a month. Until then I think I’ll keep hanging out in my cave.

What are you up to this summer?