Sunday, February 26, 2006

Checking In

I want to thank all my blog friends who sent comments and/or email this past week. Your encouragement and support have meant a great deal to me. Those of you whose blogs I regularly read probably know I have been scarce and have some catching up to do. I am more exhausted than I have been in four years, so my blog reading and posting has slipped a bit. Believe me, I miss reading your blogs tremendously and will get up to speed shortly.

Last Monday was only my third day at my new job, but my supervisor as well as the president showed an amazing amount of understanding regarding the situation with my dad. They allowed me to take time off on Monday to go to the hospital and arrange for my dad's care. They simply said I could make up the time later in the week. My dad's doctor recommended either a nursing home or hospice with home care. We all felt the latter was better and my dad has definitely felt the decision was a good one. I signed papers for him Monday afternoon and spent Monday evening moving furniture out of his bedroom so the hospice company could bring in a hospital bed, oxygen machine, and so forth. He was discharged from the hospital Tuesday afternoon and I could tell he was quite glad to be home. It was hard to try to move him around on the bed. He was in so much pain that every little movement made him cry out, but he kept complaining about his body being crooked and twisted. It was a lose-lose situation. Despite his extreme weight loss it was still not a small task to move him. He can barely move his legs and sometimes looks underneath the sheets to see if they are still there. The cancer must be so bad in his spine that it is affecting nerves and feeling. The home care people are changing his diapers as well as rotating him every couple of hours to prevent bed sores. He was in extreme pain Tuesday night and Wednesday, but Thursday and Friday were better. I worked more hours those days and then went straight over to my parents' house to stay by his side. Yesterday and today my dad has been on a much higher dosage of morphine, so he has been drifting in and out of consciousness. My brother came into town this weekend so the whole family was able to spend time around my dad's bed. We talked about various things and every once in a while my dad would open his eyes and contribute to the conversations. Sometimes it made sense, sometimes it didn't, but we were all together. I have been sleep deprived and even fell asleep at the wheel this morning, but fortunately there were no oncoming cars when I drifted to the other side of the road. I just pumped myself full of more coffee and stayed by my dad's side all day. I feel like the weekend should just be starting for me, but it's already over. Oh well. I won't get another chance to say goodbye, so it all is worth it.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hellos and Goodbyes

I've got job news and an update on my dad. The update on my dad is...well...not a very pretty picture. I don't expect anyone to read it, I am writing it for myself. Feel free to skip it.

The president of the company had to back out of the interview that was scheduled last Monday, so my would-be supervisor just interviewed me some more over lunch. The interview with the president was rescheduled for last Wednesday and it went very well, so they offered me the job (as a software developer, programming in .NET languages). I had to take somewhat of a cut in pay, but my salary will go back to what I was making at my previous job as soon as my probationary period is over. So, Cindy will still be able to stay home with the baby once he or she is born. The 15th of this month I received my last check from my previous job and it was also the day I accepted my new one. God is faithful!!! I started Thursday and am happy that this week was only two days for me. Learning an entire system can be overwhelming and tiring, especially with all that is going on with my dad, but I think I am picking it up faster than they expected.

A little over a week ago I talked with my dad's lung doctor. I explained the situation with my dad refusing to go to the hospital and the doctor made it very clear there was nothing they could do for him anyway. I described how my dad's face was drooping on one side and how he can barely get out of his recliner or walk. The doctor believed the drooping may be due to small strokes. I found out that apparently my dad had refused any kind of conventional treatment because he was convinced the alternative treatment(s) would work, and he still is. The doctor described the cancer as being "everywhere". I talked to my dad's sister who lives out of state and explained everything to her. That was a tough call to make. Cindy and I visited him last Sunday and we said our goodbyes - just in case. I brought up things he had done for me throughout my life to make sure he knew I appreciated all of them. He told me one of his fondest memories was hearing me laugh. I grew up in a small farm town and we only had one public library. On Saturday mornings they had a "movie hour" that kids could go to. Frequently they would show "Laurel and Hardy" films and I'd just laugh and laugh and laugh. I remember it well. I must have five or six years old, but my sense of humor was already very evident. I guess my dad really enjoyed hearing me laugh.

Last Wednesday I got a call from my mom that my dad had fallen. They had to call the paramedics because he could not get back up. They put him back in his chair, which is where he has been sleeping for a couple months due to back pain. Apparently Thursday they had to call a couple more times to help my dad get out of his chair. My brother and his wife and daughter came in from out of state last night. Sometime during the day on Friday my dad had defecated and urinated in his chair because he just couldn't hold it anymore and was unable to get up. I guess that was a wake up call that he needed professional care. My brother convinced him to have an ambulance transport him to the hospital. We both were there with him in the emergency room, just talking and keeping him company as they ran various lab tests. We talked about the sports we had played growing up and the family vacations we took. Somehow the subject of heaven came up. I told him about some of the things I read in the book called "Heaven" by Jesse Duplantis. I believe (as the book describes) that our mansions (more accurately translated as estates) will be tailor made for us. In other words, whatever our tastes and preferences, that's what our heavenly home will have. I prefaced my comments with "Not that we are expecting it anytime soon, but when you do pass away..." We talked about things that he may enjoy having on his estate. That seemed to put a smile on his face.

A nurse came and hooked up my dad to an EKG. His chest and upper arms look downright awful. He looked extremely malnourished and...for lack of a better word...shriveled. It was as if an adult sized head was on a child's body. He had quarter-sized blood spots on his body where he had been bleeding inside his skin due to a low platelet count. He also is very yellow from being anemic. We walked with him as they wheeled him to his room. Once inside the room, one nurse proceeded to ask him a series of questions. It really hit me that for 68 years he had been the picture of good health. He answered no to just about every question. One that made my brother and I laugh was when the nurse asked, "Do you have any vision problems or problems with your hearing?" My dad answered, "No problems with vision...and what was the other thing?" The nurse laughed because she thought he was just being funny, but he really didn't hear her. Once he caught on he did get a kick out of it. My brother and I both prayed for my dad. The verse in my heart was Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You." I prayed peace and comfort over my dad. He dad is saved and I know I will see him again in heaven. I hope his mind is at rest when he goes. I don't want it to be scary for him or even more painful than it has already been. I am grateful I have had the opportunity to say everything that I wanted to say. I guess that's all for now.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Good Medicine

If you read my previous post you know I am "down for the count" with a head cold or whatever. It usually is an indication that I have worn myself out or become too stressed. When this happens, I realize I need to retreat to that which builds me up and replenishes. For me, this is what works:

1) Quiet time with God.

I like to go to a nearby lake, park the car, watch the wind move the water, admire the geese, gaze at the trees, and just soak up the fact that God loves me. God often speaks in that still, small voice, but I find myself too busy with trying to figure things and make things happen on my own that I end up not listening. Ever messed with an ant hill and watched them immediately scurry around to rebuild? I tend to be like the ants. In a way, that's a good thing. We have a part to play. However, a great strength can also be a great weakness. It helps me to take a break and get away for a while, just to be quiet and listen.

2) Good music.

Most of what I listen to is classified as Christian music, but occasionally I also find that Norah Jones, Enya, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, Christopher Parkening, and other similar music helps me relax and refocus. I hope listening to those that I mentioned does not offend anyone. If it does, I apologize. The vast majority of what I listen to is Christian music.

3) Laughter.

Finding a comedian these days who is not vulgar is becoming increasingly difficult. I miss Steven Wright's material. His genius mind still amazes me. Click HERE for a sample. Of the presently-popular comedians, I think Brian Regan is my favorite. Click HERE for some sample MP3s. Of those on the page I linked to, I particularly like the "Emergency Room", "You Too", and "Evel Knievel" bits. I also like flipping through my collection of "The Far Side" books by Gary Larson. I couldn't find much in the way of links, but all the books are good. Finally, I get a kick out of watching shows like "Planet's Funniest Animals" on the Animal Planet channel. It makes me smile so much my face hurts.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Did I Just Say That?

What a week. I think the job search, the mental energy spent on figuring out which direction to go, the sleep I have been losing, the thoughts on how to cope with my dad seemingly giving up on his life...all that took its toll. I very rarely get sick. Maybe it's because my immune system was built up as a teacher, maybe it's because I often meditate on healing scriptures, probably both. Hope I don't gross you out on this one, but I have only thrown up once since 1987, and that was a week after my knee surgery when I had a flu bug, pain medicine side effects, and muscle relaxants that hindered my resistance. I had a four-year streak of not having any cold, flu, or virus, which lasted from May of 2000 to August of 2004. The streak ended when I worked 20, 12+ hour days in a row and wore myself down so much I got strep throat, bronchitis, and a sinus infection at the same time. That was the last time I had been sick, until this week. The past three days have been awful (sinus congestion, raw throat, headache, no energy). It's one of those situations where you can't get comfortable whether you are horizontal or vertical. I have continued to try to send out resumes and got a reply yesterday. I called the doctor and got an antibiotic because an interview was scheduled for today. I have had two previous interviews but they were with IT consulting companies - more of a "get to know you so that if we find a client whose needs fit your abilities we will call you" type thing. The one today was for a real position (full time and all - not contractual or as a consultant).

The interview went VERY well, but it wore me out. Trying to act like you feel fine when you feel terrible is not easy. I got home and changed clothes and proceeded to "veg" a bit to let my mind and body wind down. I should NOT have dropped my guard. The phone rang. I answered it and it was the man I had interviewed with. I said, "Hey!" - the kind of greeting that you give when you want to appear as if you are happy to hear from the person but you haven't quite figured out who he or she is yet. The guy proceeded to tell me that he and the president of the company want to talk to me over lunch. We set it up for 11:45 on Monday and he asked if I knew how to get there. I said yes and hoped the call would end there because I could tell I still wasn't alert enough for a conversation of this gravity. Here is what was said next:

Him: Great! I really look forward to speaking with you more. Oh, and you don't have to wear a suit this time.

Me: Okay, thanks for letting me know. I've heard the food there is very good, so in order to plan ahead for it I think I'll wear my stretchy pants.

(Me thinking): NOOOO WAAAAY!!! Did I just say that? Is this a dream? Maybe he never saw that episode of Friends. Should I explain that it was a joke and that I was referring to my black Adidas jogging pants and not "real" dress pants that are stretchy?

Him: (laughing) Great! I'll wear my stretchy pants too!

Me: Um, okay then (uh oh, what if he really does). See you Monday!

I HATE it when my mind isn't alert enough to warn me before saying these types of things. Fortunately the guy I interviewed with has a great sense of humor. I can probably count the times I said something similar to this on one hand. It doesn't happen much. I remember once in high school I asked a teacher when she was due and she wasn't pregnant.


What are some things that you have let slip that you wish you hadn't?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

New Profile Pic

Okay, I finally decided to change my profile picture. Someone recently emailed me and said that I did not look anything like they thought I would. I think it was the suit thing that threw them off. I am sooooooo not a suit person. I decided to replace that pic with one from Madame Trousseau's wax museum in New York City. I guess this pic could also breed the wrong idea (like I am claiming to be smart). Trust me, I do not take myself that seriously. This pic is meant to be humorous. Just wanted to clear up any potential misunderstandings before they happen.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Update on my dad

Sunday I decided to forego the Superbowl party I had been invited to because I wanted to watch it with my dad. He has continued to rapidly go downhill. It started a couple years ago with prostate cancer and then the cancer spread to his lymph nodes, bones, lungs, and now (I suspect) to his brain. The reason my cousin and her husband came in several days ago was to see him once more before he left us. He decided to treat the cancer alternatively. I'm not sure what my final opinion of that will be. The clinic he went to was in Seattle, and to my knowledge the doctor has not checked up on him. My dad was taking about 20 different supplements and on a very strict diet. The past several months Cindy and I have noticed him becoming less sharp. He started cheating on his diet around late November and into December. It was about that time that he took a big turn for the worse. I have kept after him to see someone locally so that they can keep tabs on his progress. I let up a little in January because he told me he had an appointment February 6th with the doctor who treated his lungs. He has not left the house for several weeks because of his back pain, so I had volunteered to come over and take him to the doctor on the 6th.

When Cindy and I went over to my parents' place to watch the Superbowl I asked him what time his appointment was so that I'd know when to show up. He had forgotten about it and simply said he couldn't go. I told him I'd order an ambulance ride. He said that would be too expensive. I said I was confident the insurance would pay for it and would cover it myself if they did not. He refused. We went "several rounds" on it and I finally let up. He soon fell asleep due to being so weak. After the game I brought it up again and said I could rent a wheelchair which would cost much less than an ambulance ride. He refused that as well. I left very frustrated.

It is my opinion that he knows he is dying and he wants to go at home where he is comfortable. This may be selfish, but I am looking at things in terms of how I will deal with it when he does go. If I just let him wither away at home, will I feel tremendous guilt for not intervening and forcing him to get treatment? If I worked it out for him to go to the doctor (who would definitely hospitalize him) and he died at the hospital, would I feel guilty for not allowing him to go at home? I am quite certain that he is beyond the point where conventional medicine could help. If he had not crossed that point, I probably would have worked it out for him to be hospitalized, but I didn't. The thought of being hit with the reality of his condition and being amongst strangers and an unfamiliar bed may be scaring my dad, so I let him miss the appointment. Thus far, his appointment has not been rescheduled. I hope I did the right thing. I have these nagging thoughts that maybe he thinks he is doing okay and does not realize how bad he is. If that's the case, maybe seeing a doctor and getting a dose of reality would be good. The doctor could order whatever treatment is necessary. I just don't know what's going on in his head. Any thoughts or suggestions? Anyone been in this situation before? It's all new to me, so I'd very much appreciate your prayers and any insight you may have.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Emperor Moth

A man found a cocoon of the emperor moth and took it home to watch it emerge. One day a small opening appeared, and for several hours the moth struggled but couldn't seem to force its body past a certain point.

Deciding something was wrong, the man took scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, its body large and swollen, the wings small and shriveled.

He expected that in a few hours the wings would spread out in their natural beauty, but they did not. Instead of developing into a creature free to fly, the moth spent its life dragging around a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening are God's way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings. The "merciful" snip was, in reality, cruel. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.

Beth Landers

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