Thursday, December 31, 2009
Last October our son, Reid was in the Neuro Science Intensive Care Unit at a nearby hospital. He had a large mass in his chest and a tumor in his spinal canal. I was devastated. They wanted to operate as quickly as possible because he was already numb from the chest down from the spinal cord compression. In fact, the surgery was scheduled and then canceled by the anesthesiologist due to concerns that when they turned him over to operate the mass in his chest cavity would make it impossible for them to keep him breathing during surgery. Finally, a couple of days later it was decided that benefit outweighed risk and they had to get the tumor out before he lost more feeling in his body. Surgery went forward successfully with a lot of extra care by anesthesiology.
During that time I would arrive in intensive care and walk back to Reid's room with a heavy heart. There was still no diagnosis, but we knew that cancer was a very real possibility. Reid was often taken out of his room for various tests and procedures and observed the patients in other rooms. One day when I arrived he told me that he had decided he was probably the luckiest person in intensive care. I was shocked, but I think I recovered before he noticed. Lucky? Numb from the chest down with a spinal canal tumor and mass of unknown origin didn't exactly sound very lucky to me, but I hadn't been paying too much attention to the other patients either. He had been, and when I looked around I saw what he saw. There were people on ventilators, people obviously recovering from head injuries or brain surgery, and people totally unresponsive. Perhaps he was correct, but the most important thing was that he saw himself as lucky in the middle of a crisis. He could have been drowning in self pity, but he chose to look in another direction instead. His glass was half full.
He's now completed two rounds of chemo (4 treatments) and I asked him this past week if he ever felt sorry for himself. Did he ever think why me? Chemo is certainly no fun. He usually ends up feeling crappy for a week afterwards and has at least four more rounds to go. And along with the chemo there's the risk of complications down the road. He will likely have radiation after the chemo. He told me no, not since the very first day at the emergency clinic when he realized that something was seriously wrong. After that he just concerned himself with getting well. He says he knows there are people a lot worse off than him. I truly believe that his "glass half full" attitude will take him far in the coming year.
In the year 2010 may all our glasses be half full!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
On Christmas morning Jim, Keith, Reid and I headed over to the nursing home with Dad's gifts. We found him dozing near the nurses' station and when he opened his eyes we said, "Merry Christmas!" He looked up and smiled. We brought him over to a table so he could open his gifts.
He didn't have much to say, but we encouraged him to open the gifts and finally he got started. Here he is opening my sister's package. He carefully peeled off most of the tape. It was like opening gifts in slow motion. Dad used to be as sharp as a tack mentally and very physically active. This year I don't even think he knew it was Christmas until we told him and he probably forgot as soon as we left.
I called my sister while we were there and put Dad on the phone. He did tell her Merry Christmas, but that was about the extent of the conversation. We stayed until it was time for him to go to the dining room for his Christmas dinner. When I said Merry Christmas to the other men at his table one of them said to me, "Is today Christmas?" I told him it was and then he wanted to know if it was Christmas all day. It's sad, but this man is always smiling and my Dad always seems content, so I console myself with that knowledge.
We came home and Keith got the spaghetti sauce cooking. It cooks for two to three hours and then we add the meatballs and sausage. We double the meatball recipe so our pot is full.
After dinner Christmas Boy handed out the presents. This is a tradition with our family. When the kids were little they'd fight to be Christmas Boy, but now I suspect they secretly hope they won't be chosen. We usually all gang up on one person and they have no choice but to be a good sport and put on the Christmas Boy hat. By the way, Christmas Boy doesn't have to be a male or a boy. It can be a man or a woman, but they're still called Christmas Boy.
This year Troy was Christmas Boy. He was a good sport.
And then came December 26th...chemo day for Reid. I'm so glad it fell right after Christmas so he could enjoy Christmas Day. He and Jim left at 8:30 this morning for a 9:30 appointment. There was a mix up and Reid needed blood drawn. Then they needed the doctor's OK for the chemo to begin and the doctor didn't call back. Finally, they called another doctor and he OK'd the chemo. By then it was 3:00. They had some problems with his port and the chemo didn't begin until 4:00. They arrived home a few minutes before 8:00 PM. It was a long day and Reid wasn't feeling well by the time they got home. He went to bed. What a difference a day makes.
We're hoping six months of chemo will be enough. If so, he's a third of the way there. On January 7th he'll spend the day at the hospital for tests and scans. Hopefully we'll know more then. All prayers are appreciated.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Merry Christmas Eve!!
And here they are decorating the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
This is Christmas 1953. It reminds me of the pictures I used to see as a child in my Sunday School books. It would be a picture of the family...the mother sitting in a chair, the father standing behind her, and the children sitting on the mother's lap or the arm of the chair. Behind all of them, surrounded by light, would be Jesus with his arms stretched out. As a child I thought Jesus was behind me when no one else was around to see him. So, I'd spin around real quickly and try to catch him. I've asked other people if they ever did this and so far I haven't found a single person. I guess I was the only mixed up little kid. Good thing no one ever caught me by myself in my room spinning around. Anyway, in this picture we're wearing matching red felt skirts with white reindeer.
This is another picture from that year and you can see the tin dollhouse we received. It's a ranch style house and I see them on eBay from time to time. Behind the dollhouse are some Vogue Ginny Doll clothing boxes, so I know we must have had Ginny Dolls in 1953. You can barely see the boxes sticking out.
And this is the entire family that year. Even Lucky the cat is in the picture. He was the very first cat I ever loved and is now one of many that have stolen my heart. (I can still remember every cat I've ever had.)
This concludes the vintage Christmas pictures. I'm afraid after this year my mother gave up. I think we both complained about having to pose for the pictures and mom decided it just wasn't worth the hassle. Over the years I've shared these pictures online and some even appeared one year in Doll Castle Magazine. One of the pictures is shown on Carolyn's Rock and Roll Ginny site. (If you're interested in vintage Ginny dolls her site is one of the best.) My one regret is that mom didn't live long enough to know how much other people enjoy these pictures.
Since we were both born around Christmas we didn't usually have birthday parties. My mother said it was already a hectic time of the year (and now that I'm older and wiser I understand), so we usually just had a cake on our special day. We both really wanted to have a party and we begged and begged and finally my mother decided that we'd each get to have a party, but separate years. Carol being the oldest would go first. My party would be the following year. This is a picture of her party on December 23, 1950. She had nine of her friends at the party. Mr. Sheriden the Christmas photographer came to the house for the occasion.
I helped her blow out the candles. I'm pretty sure that was Mr. Sheriden's idea. There's no way she would have let me do that otherwise.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
This is a picture of Ginny with her Advent Wreath. It seemed timely and I had intended to put it in yesterday's post and forgot.
Then it was off to the party. There was punch and finger foods to eat. Dad ate and looked around the room. Again, I think he was trying to figure out what was going on.
And then they got to open their presents. I had gotten Dad a snow globe that runs on batteries. I showed him how to push the button to turn it on and he seemed to enjoy watching the snow swirl around and the music play.
It's very sad to see what Alzheimer's had done to Dad's mind, but on occasion he has a good day where he talks a little and still has that twinkle in his eye.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I still remember the day I found out about Santa. I was in kindergarten and we sat at long tables and there were maybe 6 to 8 of us at a table. One day Alan Friedman announced to the table, "You know there's no Santa Claus." He stated it as fact. We all nodded our heads in agreement. Not one person challenged the statement. Up until that moment I believed. I'm sure most of the others did too, but no one wanted to admit it. I guess we didn't want to look foolish or gullible? Even at 5 or 6 years old we cared about what our peers thought. I went home and told my mother there was no Santa Claus. After that Christmas was never quite the same. I guess some of my innocence was gone.
Every year the newspaper prints the famous "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" and every year I read it. I'm older and wiser now and if I ran into Alan Friedman today I would no longer be afraid to admit that I still believe. At 63 (almost 64) I don't care what my peers think anymore. Santa Claus is fun and I'm still young enough for fun!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
You've got to admit he's kind of cute. Remember...laughter is the best medicine!
Friday, December 18, 2009
I remember these dolls. I loved the size and thought I had a real baby! Aren't they nice? I understand that these dolls didn't hold up well over the years because they had "Magic Skin" which was a rubbery type skin that turned black and rotted over the years. And you'll notice that my sister and are are still dressing alike only in different colors. My dress was green. I don't recall the color of my sister's dress.
And see the Christmas stockings hanging behind us? They're a red cotton knit. Today, I have mine hanging on the mantle in our den.
Today was the Christmas party at my Dad's nursing home. I took pictures, but they're still on the camera (which is where a lot of my pictures seem to stay these days). I'll try and get them uploaded tomorrow.
Reid went to rehab yesterday and today. He's been complaining that his legs hurt. I'm so excited! That's wonderful news! It must mean that more of the feeling is returning to his lower body. Two months ago he probably wouldn't have even realized if he had stubbed his toe and broken it. I think his walking is improving a little too, but it's only been noticeable the last couple of weeks. To be honest, I was trying to stay optimistic, but deep down inside I was feeling discouraged when I didn't see improvement sooner. Now I'm very hopeful that he'll be able to walk normally again someday and even drive a car!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
This was the year we had the Christmas Tree decorating disaster.
And here they are in the kitchen doing their Christmas baking.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
And now on to my day. Reid was supposed to go for rehab at MD Anderson this morning, but after his shower he didn't feel well and needed to take his anti-nausea medication. Unfortunately, the pills help with the nausea, but they put him to sleep. He ended up canceling the appointment and going back to bed. He slept most of the day. I asked him which was better...being sick to his stomach or sleeping? He said it didn't matter. Either way a week is wasted after each chemo.
I wrote to the Postmaster General yesterday. Perhaps I overreacted? Anyway, I had this year's Christmas mailing planned in advance. I'd buy smaller gifts and mail them in Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes. You've probably seen them advertised on television? A flat rate no matter how much it weighs as long as it fits in the box. On December 3rd I went to the post office for the free boxes. They didn't have any and I was told I could order them online and they would be delivered right to my door. So, I went home and ordered them. It's now December 16th and they still haven't arrived. When I went online to check it said they had been shipped on December 11th, but when I called I was told that was wrong and they were really shipped on December 7th. Either way the mail sure is slow...huh?
I decided I couldn't wait any longer and today I used some boxes I had on hand and will now have to mail them regular Priority Mail which will be more expensive. I wish I had just mailed them Parcel Post the beginning of December! By trying to save money it will now cost me more. I was told when I called that they hadn't anticipated the response. I suggested to the Postmaster General that at the very least they should pull the ads. If they can't meet the demand they should stop advertising them. I felt a lot better after writing the letter. :)
Did I tell you that we finally got some Christmas decorations up? Not as many as in past years, but it's really looking like Christmas around here now and that's a good thing!
Monday, December 14, 2009
I ran over to see Dad this morning at the nursing home. We spent some time in the library where he enjoys looking at pictures in the books. I had to take the gifts over for the party on Friday. I told him I'd be back for the big shindig.
And tonight I made Chicken Noodle Soup with Matzo Balls. I've been dreaming about this soup since our last trip to Austin and Manny Hattan's Deli. I finally found a recipe online that sounded good. It made a big hit with the family and Reid had two bowls. So, either the soup did the trick or the change in medication has made a difference with the chemo side effects. Personally, I like to think it's the soup that took the better part of the afternoon to make. Anyway, I'm so pleased that he's feeling somewhat better this time.
(I double space between paragraphs and twice I've published this post and some of my double spacing disappeared. I'm going to edit one more time and if you don't see double spacing between all the paragraphs just know that I tried!)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
On Friday Reid had his doctor's appointment at MD Anderson. He found out that the suture sticking out of the port is OK and it will eventually dissolve. (So I can stop worry about that now.) :) He also spoke to the doctor about how sick he had been after his last chemo, so they changed some of the medication. He went for chemo on Saturday and so far he's much better than he was last time. Thank goodness! He even had a little soup earlier today, so that's a good sign. He didn't have to go back for a shot today because his blood work was good on Friday. Since we had spent the better part of two days down there we were elated that things were looking good and that he didn't have to go back again. He's been sleeping a bit today, but they told him that the new medication would make him sleepy.
Keith arrived from Austin on Saturday and will be here until Tuesday. He's working in Houston tomorrow. It's nice to have him around and Reid is enjoying his company.
And today I put up the Christmas tree and Jim put up the outdoor decorations. So, its beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!
This week Reid has rehab on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I'll take him on Wednesday and Thursday and Jim will take him on Friday.
Dad's nursing home is having their Christmas party on Friday and I'll go there. I had to buy a gift for Dad and one other resident. I had to think about what to get. I didn't want to get any candy or cookies because quite a few of the residents are diabetic. I also didn't know if the gift for another resident would go to a male or female. And they don't have a lot of space in their rooms. I finally settled on plastic snow globes that run on batteries and play Christmas music while the snow swirls and lights blink. All they have to do is push a little button on the front. I thought it would keep Dad entertained and hopefully whoever gets the other one will enjoy it too.
And now I'm off to bed. Good night!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
We always got dolls and their accessories at Christmas time. Some years back I went to a flea market/antique show up near Intercontinental Airport in Houston. I walked in and there at the first booth was a high chair just like the one you see in this picture. It was missing the tray, but I recognized it immediately. Yes, I bought it!
And look...I spoke too soon yesterday. I don't have ugly shoes on in this picture! I'm sure they were put back on shortly after this picture was taken.
And I'm so proud of myself today. My husband was off and I convinced him to help me get some of the Christmas stuff out of the storage place and bring it to the house. We now have boxes and plastic containers stacked in the den. It's a start anyway! I didn't bring as much over as I have in the past. I'm not decorating the dining room this year. When Reid came home from the hospital with the walker we had to move some furniture and accessories out of his way, so the dining room is now being used for storage. We'll be eating Christmas dinner in the kitchen this year.
And I ran over to see Dad this morning. He was sleeping with his head on his Bible. It was opened to Mark and he told me that was his favorite one. I brought him a milk shake and he drank it right down. They're having a Christmas party on the 18th and I should be able to make it. Reid has a rehab appointment that morning at 8:00 AM, but my husband will take him since I would have to leave here in the dark if I drove him and I have trouble with depth perception when it's dark.
And it's after 8:30 in the evening and I just vacuumed and mopped the kitchen floor. I either don't have time or I don't have the energy. We had rain last week and dirt and leaves were tracked in. What a mess! I got it mopped just in time for more rain this weekend.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
And this is Christmas 1947. I was sick...probably an ear ache. My mother said I was sick every year for either Christmas or my birthday. And the attractive shoes were because I had a clubbed foot. It seems like I wore ugly shoes for years.
I still have that little black rocking chair that I'm sitting in. It's now in the den holding my kids' old teddy bears.
Reid started rehab at MD Anderson today. He's going to have rehab three times a week in addition to his other appointments, so we'll be spending a lot of time down there.
On the way home he told me there was something sticking out of his port. (Here's a site with a good description of a chemo patient's port.) Most cancer patients have a port for their treatments and it's implanted under the skin and goes to a central line. He has to be very careful about infection and my first thought was that this thing sticking out might allow an infection to enter. I wish he had said something while we were down there, but he called when we got home and they said they'd check in out on Friday when he has his doctor's appointment. It's probably a suture and when he scratched the incision it somehow came out. Anyway, he covered it with a band aid and hopefully everything will be OK. While I paniced he was pretty calm about the whole thing.
Since this is his "good" week we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant on the way home. I'm hoping he gains back some of the weight he loses on his "not so good" weeks. He says he's not looking forward to Saturday and his next treatment because he knows what will probably follow. He's going to talk to the doctor and see if a change in naseau medication might help and if there's something else he can do for the mouth sores. Hopefully, the doctor will have some answers.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
I'll try and post Christmas pictures from now until the end of the month. I hope you enjoy them.
Reid is feeling a whole lot better this week and eating well. It seems like the first week after chemo really wipes him out and then he has a good week before he goes back for chemo again. Tomorrow he goes for rehab at MD Anderson...the appointment we rescheduled due to the snow last Friday.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Anyway, as we drove along the snow really started to come down. This is about six miles from the house. The median was decorated with American flags in honor of a soldier that was killed in Afghanistan. He was from a neighboring town, but his funeral service was held at a church in our town and this is the route the motorcade would be taking later in the day to the cemetery. I thought it was really nice that our town put out all the flags in his memory. You can only see the one in this picture, but they lined the median for miles.
The camera caught some of those big snowflakes and they actually look like pieces of torn paper.
The snow kept getting worse and visibility was poor. Shortly after this we called the hospital and got his appointment rescheduled for next week and then headed home. By the time we got to the house the snow had let up and shortly afterwards it turned to rain.
We did have a few more snowflakes around dinner time, but now it's all gone. I realize this would be no big deal to people living up north, but for us it was exciting. Once again I didn't need our snow shovel. Yes, we still have one. It came with us when we moved to this part of the country in 1980. We've kept it all these years because you just never know. We've kept the sled too. I guess it's wishful thinking.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
I'm hoping he'll feel a bit better tomorrow since he has his first rehab appointment at MD Anderson. He has been walking around the house without the walker lately, but the numbness from the chest down remains. He still uses the walker when he needs to do a bit more walking...like when we go to the hospital. He tires easily and it helps.
Progress has been made! I took down the remaining Halloween decorations today. Of course, I cheated and threw them in the garage. I still have to pack them away. Christmas decorating can't be too far behind...I hope!
And I attended a meeting at Dad's nursing home this morning where they gave me an update. Since Dad doesn't say or remember much I had no idea that he was participating in some of the activities. He enjoys the "country ride" they have once a month. They load them in the van and drive around looking at the countryside. I'm sure he enjoys getting out, but probably doesn't remember as soon as he gets back.
There were some people singing Christmas Carols at the nursing home this morning. Afterwards, Dad continued to sing Carols and even remembered all the words. It's strange how Alzheimer's affects memory. He can't remember what he did fifteen minutes ago, but he remembers all the words to some of the Christmas Carols. Anyway, he was having a good time and that's what counts.
And I'm starting to worry about my memory! (Maybe it's just the stress?) I went grocery shopping and completely forgot about Sophie being in the backyard. I never leave her out longer than fifteen minutes. I hope she enjoyed all the extra time she had to watch squirrels. She sure was happy when I got back!
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Perhaps next week. I expect that Reid will be feeling better. The way it's been going is that he has chemo and then for a week he feels really bad. I've been trying to cook things that he likes and he does attempt to eat, but unfortunately he can't keep much down and feels horrible. As a parent it's heartbreaking to see. He's already been through so much and now he has to endure at least five more months of chemo. He's a real trooper and never complains. He's just determined to do what he has to do in order to get better. So, next week should be a "good" week and maybe then I can get some decorations up.
He's scheduled for his next chemo on Saturday, December 12th which means he should feel OK for Christmas. I believe his next treatment after that won't be until December 26th. I think I'll make Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs for Christmas dinner. Everyone loves that meal. Before my Dad moved here we used to go out to dinner on Christmas Day, but as it became more difficult to take Dad out we discontinued that practice. Now we need to keep Reid away from crowds in hopes of keeping him well through chemo, so we'll stay here. He needs to eat well while he can and Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs is one of his favorites.
I went to the nursing home to see Dad yesterday and brought him his favorite Mc Donald's meal. He enjoyed it and then as I was leaving began eating the meal that the nursing home was serving. He has an excellent appetite. There are days when he's talkative, but most days he isn't and sadly yesterday he only said a few words. As sad as it is to see Dad like this...in a way it's a blessing. He's content and doesn't even realize I'm not there as often any more. And that makes it easier for me.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
3 (15 oz.) cans Cannellini beans, untrained, divided
1 (32 oz.) box chicken broth
1 (1.4 oz) package vegetable soup mix (I use Knorr vegetable soup mix.)
60-64 frozen cooked meatballs
1 (14 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, oregano
½ t. dried, crushed red pepper
8 oz. Uncooked rotini pasta
1 (10 oz.) bag, fresh spinach, torn
Garnishes: Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley
Saute garlic in hot oil in stock pot over medium high heat one minute; stir in two cans beans and chicken broth. Bring to boil.
Stir in vegetable soup mix until dissolved. Add meatballs, tomatoes, and red pepper. Return to boil. Add rotini and cook, stirring often for 15 minutes.
Stir in remaining can of beans and spinach. Cook five more minutes. Garnish if desired. Yield: 4 quarts; Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 30 minutes