Another girl, another blog


Firsts
July 20, 2009, 10:37 am
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Over the last four months, three weeks and two days, I’ve experienced a number of “firsts.” They pop up on me, without notice sometimes, and most are unwelcome. Every once in awhile, there will be a number of firsts that happen on the same day or at the same event. The worst “first” was in March, when my first non-Aaron birthday fell the day before the first month anniversary of his death.

This weekend was chock-full of firsts. On Saturday, I went to a wedding for a friend of mine from USC. It was beautiful, held in her parent’s backyard, with the setting sun making a stunning backdrop for their vows. Saturday was also the first post-Aaron wedding I attended. I wasn’t sad the entire time, but there were moments where the sadness was crushing and the pain of missing him was almost too much to take. The first instance was after the vows, and before the reception started. The DJ played Jack Johnson’s “Better Together” which was the ringtone I had on my phone for Aaron. Then, during the bride and groom’s first dance, I couldn’t help but look at them and remember my own wedding (even though it was in Vegas and we never had a traditional first dance).

Yesterday I went to the Orange County Fair with Mike, Melissa, Josh and their little girl, Lauren. It was broiling hot (seriously, felt like we were on the surface of the sun…), and there were a few hours where Mike and I wondered around the fairgrounds by ourselves. The last time I was at the fair, I was with Aaron, Josh and Melissa (this was PL–pre-Lauren). Mike and I tried all the disgusting fair food Aaron would have never been able to keep down (fried Oreo’s, chocolate covered bacon, giant corn dogs), and had a great time. Then, during the B-52’s concert, I was thinking to myself, “The last time I saw these guys, I was with Aaron. The last time I was at the fair, I was with Aaron.”

Then there is the part of me that is so conflicted. All of these things I experienced as a first “without Aaron,” were also all things I experienced for the first time with Mike. At the wedding, I caught the boquet and he caught the garter. We slow danced for the first time together. Sunday was our first time at the Fair together. It was our first concert together. I had such a wonderful time with him, and yet I couldn’t help but feel conflicted and sad.

I am so lucky that Mike is such an amazing man who is supportive and loving and tender. He gives me my space when I need it, and is there to comfort me when I need it the most. I can talk about Aaron in front of  him, process my feelings, talk about memories and share with him the love that I have for Aaron without him feeling threatened or jealous. I feel incredibly blessed to have found two amazing men to be a part of my life, when there are people out there who never experience these feelings one time. I’m just struggling to find that balance where my Aaron firsts and my Mike firsts don’t get too mixed up.



The longest week
March 2, 2009, 9:21 am
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In all of my years of dealing with cancer and knowing that my husband was going to be taken away from me because of cancer, I never–EVER–imagined that losing him would be as difficult as it has been.

On Monday, I was there, holding his hand as he passed away. There is no way to describe how horrible that moment was for me. After he was gone, that state of shock and numbness set it. To be honest, it hasn’t completely gone away. I have had my support system be there for me in the most amazing ways. My friend Nicole organized my entire week for me so I didn’t have to do much and would remember to do everything. My friend Vanessa helped me to do the programs for the funeral as well as the picture that will be up by the urn. Aaron’s best friend Scott was here when Aaron passed away and has stepped up in too many ways to list here. Last night was my first night in the house alone–everybody has been staying here to make sure that I’m okay.

The grief comes in waves, and it comes in the most unexpected of ways–looking in his t-shirt drawer, going out to the bar with my friends and putting my Blackberry on vibrate in case he texts me and then realizing he won’t, doing laundry and realizing I have nothing of his laundry to wash because I did everything last Sunday. I went to dinner with Scott, his wife Chrystal, and another of Aaron’s friends the other night and I could totally see Aaron sitting right across from me at the table.

Aaron’s mom has been amazing this week. She has to deal with her own stuff, obviously, but she has been very respectful of my space and my grieving process. She is spending the night tonight and tomorrow she, Scott and I are driving to Glendale to be with Aaron during the cremation process. My friends have asked me why I’m going and the answer is simple–I don’t want him to be alone. I’ve been with him throughout the entire journey, and I’m not about to let him go through this last leg alone. I probably won’t watch the actual cremation, but I will be there. He will know that I’m there, he will not be alone. 

Thank you to everybody for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers. They’ve helped me get through the longest week of my life.



Six years
February 16, 2009, 9:28 pm
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Aaron and I have a very interesting story. From our first date (he made me dinner; I didn’t drink wine so I had a Coke); to moving in quickly (four months after our 1st date); to getting engaged (I proposed on Leap Day), nothing about us has been traditional, normal or expected.

Our wedding was no different. We got engaged in 2000. Broke up in January 2001. Aaron was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2001, I moved back in later that month and on Sept. 12, 2001, he had his Whipple Procedure. That following Valentine’s Day, Aaron wasn’t feeling well and I was making soup for dinner. I turned around and he was on one knee, proposing marriage to me. We had an initial wedding date set for July 4, 2002. We hadn’t saved up enough money and kept bickering back and forth about all the details. We called off the wedding (not the engagement) and were living fairly happily in Huntington Beach.

One night we got into a fight about setting a date. I remember saying something along the lines like, “I need you to man up and set a date. I don’t want to be engaged forever, and if you do, then we need to rethink what we’re doing.” A few days later he was being very secretive with our roommates at the time. A few weeks later Aaron asked me, “What type of dress do you want to wear? A-line or princess cut?” This question surprised me, because this was a man who didn’t know the difference between white and ivory. We were helping Aaron’s mom move into her place in Mission Viejo and his Aunt Rosie spilled the beans–she asked us where we were registered and said she was excited to go to Vegas for the wedding.

I had about a week to get ready for the wedding. Aaron had taken care of all the details. He had plans to rent me a dress, but I ended up getting a dress at the Jessica Mclintock outlet in Huntington Beach which was on super-super-SUPER clearance. It cost me $24.24. And no, that is not a typo and the decimal is in the right spot.

We got married at the Paris Hotel on the Vegas strip. Aaron had a hook-up through work and we had our suite, for an entire week, comped. The room was amazing. It had a separate jacuzzi tub and a bidet in the bathroom (the bidet amused me to no end). We had a queen-sized bed with a princess canopy around it. Others who attended the wedding  were able to get their rooms free for one night and discounted for the rest of the weekend.

The ceremony was simple, but lovely. My dad walked me down the aisle like he couldn’t wait to get rid of me (my dad is 6’5″ and speeds up when he’s nervous), but clutched my hand like he didn’t want to let go. When I got to the alter, Aaron had been crying (I gave him a sappy card before the ceremony started), and I couldn’t stop smiling. From ear to ear, I grinned and grinned and grinned. 

Afterwards, we all had dinner at the italian restaurant at the Paris. Josh and Scott gave lovely best-man toasts and then Aaron and I walked the Strip in our wedding clothes. I, however, changed out of my heels and put on my blue and white Vans. 

Today is my sixth wedding anniversary. We had a beautiful Valentine’s Day dinner here at home (grilled ahi tuna, green beans, champagne) and tonight Aaron wasn’t feeling well so we scraped plans to go to our favorite romantic restaurant in Costa Mesa and stayed home instead. 

Earlier today the hospice nurse increased the morphine dose from 10mg/hour to 15mg/hour. The swelling is still awful and his breathing has become labored and difficult. He’s drifting in and out of sleep, uncomfortable and his bedsore isn’t healing.

Despite all of this horribleness, today I look back on that day six years ago and I smile. I smile because I’ve had six beautiful (sometimes rocky, sometimes REALLY rocky) years and have made countless memories with this wonderful man. Tonight I remember that walk up the Strip, freezing my behind off, and how he simply, effortlessly took his jacket off and gave it to me. Always protecting me, always looking out for me, always making sure that I was okay.

As this life I’ve been leading winds down (and it’s winding down far too soon, and much quicker than I imagined it would), I know that Aaron will continue to look out for me, and will protect me everyday for the rest of my life, from wherever he may be. He’s been fighting so hard, and for so long that the fact that he’s got any strength left now is an effort to take care of me and to stay here as long as he can for me.

After six years, two cancer diagnoses, being enrolled on hospice and seeing the decline in his health, the phrase “In sickness and in health, till death do you part,” has never been as true as it is today. But today I celebrate. Today I smile. Today I love.



Conflict within
February 8, 2009, 9:15 pm
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When everything with Aaron started happening in 2006, I was quite fond of using denial as my main defense mechanism. It was easy because I didn’t have to acknowledge reality, and I most certainly did not have to admit to myself or anybody else that my husband was going to die far too young.

Lately I’ve been suffering a crisis of conflict. I’ve written before about accepting the reality of the situation and there’s nothing new to say on that front. No, the conflict stems mostly from guilt. Of course I don’t want Aaron to die. I don’t. I wish I could miraculously cure cancer and save his life.

But then there is a part of me that is done. Done watching my husband be miserable and in pain all day, every day. Done waiting for the inevitable. Done wondering when it’s going to happen. Done taking care of people all day at work to come home and do it all night. Done working all day at work and then coming home and doing all of the work around the house. I’m exhausted. I want Aaron to be out of pain, I want this to be over. I want to move on with my life. I want to find happiness, where it may be.

And this is where my conflict comes from. I want Aaron to live, but I want this battle to be done. I don’t want him to leave, but I want to move on. I am so tired of these feelings being in my head, so tired of feeling bad for wanting my life to move on.

I think I need a good night of sleep and a back rub. 🙂



Rise
January 29, 2009, 10:21 pm
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Its been a fairly mellow week. Not much to report around these parts. Work is busy. Aaron is holding steady, not getting sicker, not getting better. There is one new development that has been on my mind a lot lately.

My mother-in-law is spending the night one night a week now. Aaron brought it up to me last week, saying that he wanted that to happen, because he feels like she’s more attentive than I am–actually, the way he described it was that she’s “actively attentive.” Well, sure, when you’re around for 3-6 hours a week, you can be more active. Live with it everyday for 2 1/2 years, and you kind of fall into a comfortable routine. It’s like a mother with a newborn–you know that the baby has different cries and it takes you a minute to figure them out, but once you do, you’re mostly good.

I’ve got mixed feelings about all of this. I have a difficult relationship with my mother and feel like I’ve raised myself and haven’t really had a strong maternal role model for a long time. It’s tough for me to be vulnerable around maternal figures, including my mother-in-law. Aaron’s always pressing me to have a “better” relationship with her, and quite frankly I think our relationship is fine. I’m comfortable with where we are and I don’t really feel the need to open up to her. It’s scary and I don’t really trust in myself to go there. I know it’s all my own “stuff” but I feel like I’ve got enough on my plate to where I don’t really need to work on improving the relationship with my mother or my mother-in-law.

(sigh) It sucks sometimes. I wish I could be like my friend Jess who has a great relationship with her mom, or my co-workers who are BFF’s with their mom’s. Its not fair that I can’t have that, but at least I know what NOT to do if I ever have children. 

Here’s my current favorite song by Eddie Vedder from the “Into the Wild” soundtrack. I don’t really have a good way to close this entry out, so I guess this will just have to do. 🙂

“Rise”

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow

Gonna rise up
Burning black holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
Suddenly swallowed by signs
Low and behold

Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole



I won’t make it any other way…
January 13, 2009, 11:05 pm
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When I was doing my individual therapy in 2007 one of my biggest struggles was to feel my feelings. I’m a social worker, a therapist–my job is to keep my emotional reactions in check and stay in my head. My biggest breakthroughs were when I cried or was able to really reach in and dig deep and touch upon the feelings I didn’t want to really acknowledge. 

I’ve been trying to spend what time I have left with Aaron being more open with my feelings. I’m not sobbing all over him (I leave that to my mother-in-law) and I don’t sugar-coat the things I need to say. Some of the things I have to say are perfunctionary–fold the towels, feed the dog, call hospice and schedule your appointment, blah blah blah.

Then there are the things that we need to talk about as a matter of planning ahead. One of the things Aaron has said that he wanted was that he wanted a “natural funeral,” the way that it was portrayed when Nate Fisher died on Six Feet Under. After doing some research online, I was told that California does not allow this sort of funeral to happen, because a person needs to be buried with a concrete vault of some sort. Aaron does not want that to happen, so we have decided to have Aaron cremated after he passes away. We will are going to start researching local funeral homes and are going to start the pre-planning process and getting things taken care of that way we (and by “we” and mean me and Aaron’s family) will have few things to deal with during that horrible time. 

Then there are the other things that we say between each other that will stay between us. Suffice it to say that the things I learned in therapy have served me well. I’m able to tap into my emotions in a way that I was unable to before. Its been amazing for us to bond and connect and make sure that we have the chance to have these moments. I am so grateful for those moments. I could only wish that we hadn’t spent so much time not having them.

Have you seen the Barbara Walters special where she interviews Patrick Swayze and his wife? If you take out the fame and fortune, you would basically have our life over the last two years. (As Aaron said last night, “Ha, I’ve got a year on you!”) We watched it together last night, crying at different parts, being touched on the same level. I was quite frustrated with Walters’ questions asking,  “Do you picture your life without him?” and “How much time do you have left?” I understand her job as an interviewer and whatnot, but for me the questions were brash and I’m pretty sure that Swayze’s wife has spent enough time answering that question. My friend Vanessa asked me that same question today and I can say that yes, I have imagined my life without Aaron but lately I’m not able to get past the initial few days after he’s gone. It may seem strange, but I think its my brain’s way of protecting me.

Or maybe that’s the social worker in me, quoting James Taylor, “I won’t make it any other way.”



7mg base, 3mg bolus for breakthrough pain
December 29, 2008, 9:35 pm
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That’s the order for the morphine currently coursing through Aaron’s veins right now. There is a steady hum of the oxygen machine in the background, competing with tonight’s SportsCenter. Dodger is cleaning himself, and I’m trying my hardest to keep my shit together.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, the RN who is working with us came and placed an order for MS Contin, which is basically a pill form of morphine. She also opened up the emergency stash of liquid morphine that has been in the fridge since Hubs enrolled with Vitas a few weeks ago.

Then over the Christmas weekend and through yesterday, every time Hubs took the MS contin, he would vomit. At one point on Saturday night I had him taking a Boost and I was silently contemplating a trip to the ER for some IV nutrition. However, he was able to keep the Boost down, and was pretty good through yesterday and today.

This afternoon, the RN came over and ordered Hubs the morphine pump. Which was just installed in the last half-hour. He’s got a baseline of morphine in his system and can push the “bolus” button for breakthrough pain. 

When I was a little girl, and my dad would speak of my Grandfather and his battle with cancer, I always remember him equating morphine with it basically being the beginning of the decline my Grandfather went into before he died. On Wednesday, when Hubs was ordered morphine, it was a huge blow to me, even though the pain patches he’s been on for the last 3 years are morphine. At my Grandma’s house on Wednesday night, she was telling me the story of the day before my Grandfather died (thanks, Grandma!) and how she had him go to the hospital because she didn’t want him to die at home. That was a difficult conversation to have, because what was I supposed to say to that? What am I supposed to say when people tell me they are sorry I’m going through this? 

Sorry…my emotions are all over the place today. I had a shitty day at work, I come home to this, AND I still have to wake up in the morning to go back to work. To all of the people who have told me they read this blog, thanks. It’s nice to know I have an audience out there. Especially to all of those friends I haven’t seen in awhile, I appreciate your kind words and prayers. They really are very helpful, even if I don’t always know what to say.