Monday, October 26, 2015

mostly better, except...

There's always that "except", right?  Acid reflux is killing me and I'm not sure why.  I'm just trying to manage it with diet and D-limonene and wait it out.  I hate having that lump-in-the-throat feeling, but I know exactly what it is, and I have to be very careful what I eat until I'm over it.  On the plus side, I'm down to only one, maybe two hot flashes a day, a substantial improvement over (what felt like) near-continuous flashes over the past few months.  It was so odd to go from being one of those always-cold people to an always-hot person.  It helped when I was in Massachusetts but made life more miserable here in AZ.

Emotionally, I'm beginning to feel the weight of these past four months starting to lift.  I feel a bit guilty about feeling better, but I'm also too relieved to waste any energy on guilt.  Mom suffered so, it is good that she isn't in pain any more.  I feel OK most of the time, until suddenly I don't.  Yesterday in church I just completely lost it at one point.  I had no tissues so I had to wipe my eyes with my scarf.  It only lasted a few minutes, and a particular hymn triggered it (and probably always will).  I felt surprisingly all right afterwards, too.  It was like a little thunderstorm blew through and left me refreshed in its wake. I didn't realize how much I was holding in, because I just feel... normal, really.

Last week was a crazy week at school because I did the mineral identification lab with my 7th graders.  There are ~125 of them spread over 4 classes.  These are the largest classes I've attempted this with.  Most students did well on the identification, but a significant chunk (once again) resisted thinking and bailed on answering the three "Explain" questions I asked.  Sadly for them, that will have a significant impact on their lab grades.

It was also crazy because we've officially kicked off the science fair.  The more I learn the more opposed to this process I am, but here I go again.  I'm hoping that my master's project will make things go more smoothly, and overall, the proposals are 1) in -- the vast majority of students completed one and 2) relatively OK, which saves time on the grading.

I'm taking more family time, too.  First quarter grades came in and DS2 did OK but nowhere near to the level of his ability (or so we think, it's impossible to tell sometimes).   That led to several hours-long conversations about what he wants and what he feels and how he is going to manage going forward.  I want to let him do things on his own but at this point I don't think he knows how to organize, or plan, or execute a plan, at least not very well. There were bright spots but overall it's the same story of not living up to his potential.  Sadly, too, he professed frustration with all the "stupid people" he's surrounded by, so I had to set him straight on that one: every person is of the same value and deserving of respect. Every.One. 

Yesterday I went to the farmer's market before I did the grocery shopping.  I really shouldn't.  I shouldn't shop on Saturday mornings when it's gorgeous out and everything looks amazing because then I end up cooking all weekend and now I haven't put in any of my grades (they'll make it in, eventually.)  I roasted approximately 3,042 vegetables to make one medium-sized container of ratatouille.  I made up an entire box of TJ's pumpkin pancakes (spectacular, and gluten free!), and I still have to put away the chili that has been simmering since dinner (burgers & hot dogs on the grill - the rest of the package of ground beef went into the chili.)  See, I don't know where I'm going to put it because the fridge is packed right now.

Not a bad problem to have, I know.

Ah well.  Grades will have to wait until tomorrow, or whenever.   At least most of the stuff is actually graded already, it's just a matter of putting them into the gradebook.

Monday, October 19, 2015

slightly less sad, still tired

I am so exhausted when I get home every afternoon I almost always take an inadvertent (unintentional) nap before dinner.  Consequently, I'm able to be up past 11PM when I should be in bed.

Part of that exhaustion is just having too many emotions to deal with at one time, and part of it is having so much work to do.  I'm mid-way through my minerals unit with the 7th graders, and we're doing hands-on stuff every day.  They love it, but I have to be very organized, and this year, I'm just not.  We're managing anyway.  I have scaled the 8th grader's diffusion studies way back this year.  We did a little lab observing what happens to carrots over night, but I'm skipping the shelled egg osmosis demo.  I just don't want to deal with the hassles.

I don't even want to talk about my grad school work -- I'm about 2 weeks behind there.  I hope to get caught up in November when we have a couple of weeks off.  I think that should be possible.

Physically I feel OK except by this time I'm feeling like a truck hit me; I'm not moving around enough.  My eye is still giving me a lot of trouble, even with more regular use of better eye drops.  I do hope it gets better.  And most recently I think my reflux is back, I'm having trouble swallowing and my throat hurts.  I think I have to give up my strained yogurt along with coffee to really straighten things out.

One more week to hear about my tumor marker.   I would really like this testing cycle to be over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

sad & tired

Inexplicably, a lyric from Jesus Christ Superstar is floating through my brain, from the Agony in the Garden song: "Then, I was inspired.  Now, I'm sad and tired.  After all, I tried for three years, seems like 30..."

I think it make sense on some levels.  We - me, my own family, my siblings and their families - have been witnesses to my mother's gradual decline over the past five years, and then of course her precipitous fall over the past three months.  Seems like 30...

That constant worry is a part of us, and unraveling it and letting it go is going to take some time.

I took today off from school.  Monday and Tuesday I kept it together, but barely.  I ended up staying past 6PM yesterday getting my sub plans and materials in place, just so I could have a day, today, to rest and recover.

But now at 8PM I feel as sad and tired as ever.  I slept in until 10:30 this morning, and that surely helped.  I accomplished many small tasks and had a nice lunch out with DD.  I attended my NAU class and faked my way through the discussions of the three long readings, which I had merely skimmed, but I was fortunately able to contribute to some of the other discussions.  My professor understands and has told me to take all the time I need, but I just feel everything simultaneously piling up while time slips away.

My to-do list is outrageously long, and I have no idea when I'll be caught up, if ever.  I had planned on doing a bunch of stuff over break which basically didn't happen.  I'm so thankful for whatever strength of character I had that made me grade those papers, because sitting here at home, I don't think I'd ever get to them, undermining the entire purpose of my project.  (That being: actionable and timely feedback.)

I'm sort of neglecting my own little family right now -- the kids are on fall break so they don't really need me.  They seem content with whatever dinner I manage to pull out of the freezer.  I'm prioritizing my teaching work -- lesson planning and materials, etc -- which means grad school stuff comes last. And sleep last of all, but I really have to cut that out.  Even having slept till 10:30 this morning I still feel like I haven't slept in a week.

Two more days till the weekend.  We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Mom's funeral was on Saturday.  We flew out Thursday and arrived at her house late, but not so late that everyone was in bed, and ended up staying up too late even though we were all very tired.  Three of my four brothers were there, and the cousins from Louisiana were good company for my kids.  Friday we were up early to bank errands and then I spent hours and hours sorting through Mom's jewelry.

When you are 88 years old and rarely get rid of anything, you accumulate a lot of stuff.  Plus, Mom had a habit of just stuffing things here and there, not necessarily where anyone would expect to find them.  So I went through both closets in her room (hers & Dad's), and both dressers (hers & Dad's) and found innumerable interesting and somewhat valuable things; 7 boxes of mint proof sets.  Seven tins of coins, including a whole tin of wheat pennies and another of silver dimes and nickels.  An enormous box of first day issue stamps.  And so much jewelry!  Her personal taste was very modern as evidenced in the pieces she bought (or commissioned) for herself.  Then there were all the more conventional pieces that others had given her, plus countless pieces of costume stuff that merely fun, or sometimes just odd.  I took a break mid-day to have lunch at Bleu with the family, just to get out of the house.  We ended up staying up very late again, because there was so much to talk about with each other.  It rained most of the day.

Saturday was clear and cold in that way travel writers always call "brisk", cool but not too cold.  The service was lovely.  I cried so many times. Every time I saw another old friend, the tears just came so easily.  I accomplished my reading without crying.  It was a very good reading, Wisdom 3:1-9:
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if to others, indeed, they seem punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their judgment they shall shine and dart about as sparks through stubble;They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their King forever.  Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with the elect.
We walked from the church to the grave site, taking turns carrying the beautiful blue urn of Mom's ashes.  The service there was simple and lovely, too.  Then we all walked back to the church for a reception in their basement hall, where we had held Dad's.  My sister had handled all the catering and everything was lovely.  So many people!

When we got home, my siblings and I retired to the downstairs kitchen for our meeting.  We worked well together deciding many things.  For all the high emotions these past few months, the weekend was remarkably smooth.

Stayed up way too late again on Saturday night, playing poker (with Mom's pennies!) and talking with the kids.  Two hours of sleep later, I was up again, and we were on the road to the airport.  We were a bit tight, time-wise, but made it, and the flight was smooth, easy.  I slept for the first three hours and finished my grading during the rest of it.  It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I did it.

Then Sunday -- no nap, too much to do to get ready for school on Monday.  Then Monday, stayed up late again, because I got nothing done over break.  But I decided then to take Wednesday off, so of course I had to stay late again today to prepare everything for the substitute.  But that's OK, because tomorrow I can sleep in and hopefully unwind a little.  I could feel myself getting ready to snap a few times over the past couple of days.

I need to sleep.  I need to get used to the idea of Mom being gone, even though she has been sort of, mostly, gone for weeks now -- really since I took her to the hospital in June.  But this is different.  No matter what the brain knows, the way I knew Mom wasn't going to get better, the heart hopes. Having to let go of my heart's hope is not easy.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

all clear & paradoxically feeling worse

My two CT scans (chest, and head & neck) were unremarkable.  That is to say, the same exact anomalies seen last year are still present in the same places but they are exactly the same size so there's nothing to worry about, cancer-wise.  At least until my thyroglobulin numbers come back in from California, which won't be until the end of the month.  Anyway, I have a clean bill of health and the doctor reminded me to take the endomethacin he prescribed for the inflammation I have in my collar bone joints.  I can't remember whether I took it before and if I did, what happened, but I'll give it a shot.  Inflammation of a basically immobile joint is not the type of thing that responds well to physical therapy.

Now that's over with, and on the eve of heading back East for Mom's funeral services, I'm feeling entirely overwhelmed.  I've been pushing everything off for days and now I don't have anything more pressing to think about.

In other news, I was hit in the eye by a water-filled balloon (not a "regular" water balloon of the type that breaks if you look at it wrong) last Wednesday, and my eye has been killing me ever since.  I went to the eye doctor yesterday and she basically said that the generic eye drops I was using were useless and gave me some Systane, which is helping a lot, but she said it's going to be sore for a while even though there is no sign of anything seriously wrong.  It's just traumatized.

I felt pretty good about being caught up on my schoolwork, but then realized I'd skipped a chapter and a written assignment for tonight's class, but that's probably OK because I did present my literature review work-in-progress which everyone was impressed with.  Eh.  If I weren't going through so much right now I'd have more done and feel better about it, but I can't change the way things are.  I'm just so swamped now -- lots of reading for next week, plus I still have to read my students' research paragraphs... and there's no time.

Monday, October 05, 2015

two down, one to go

My whole body scan was negative.  Completely clear, which was very nice after last year's "blip" and the continuous annoying pain I'm having in my collar bone (and now, up under my right ear).  Apparently, whatever is going on, it's not thyroid-cancer-y enough to show up on the WBS even after nearly three weeks of the low iodine diet.

Last week was so horrible I'm amazed I survived it.  Mom's death was the worst of it, but I had commitments, both personal and professional, that I had to keep.  Driving up to the hospital in Phoenix 4 out of 5 days was just exhausting, especially as most of the trips were in the after school, and therefore rush hour, time frame. But Thursday, my day off from the hospital, was parent-teacher conferences, from 8AM to 6PM and I barely had time to breathe.  We had an hour for lunch from noon to one, and really needed it.  The one good thing I can say is, the day flew by, and no one came in with a grievance.  I managed.

Yesterday I caught up on grading and lesson planning while doing my colonoscopy prep.  Ten years has done a lot of good in the colonoscopy world, as the prep last time literally made me sick and I was completely miserable.  This year's prep was much more manageable, and although I did have to use the bathroom sometimes every 10 minutes, I didn't have the horrible abdominal pains I had last time.   This morning my procedure was scheduled for 6:30am and DH was driving me home by 7:15.  Everything in there is completely healthy, no issues at all.  Once home,  I slept until 11, and then spent some time cleaning and a whole huge chunk of time pulling photos for a memory board for my mother's services on Saturday.

So now that's done, I have tomorrow clear to catch up on my grad school work.  I have several articles to read and I have to start mapping my literature review.  I have already done preliminary research and have a ton of articles to go through.  It would be better to take my time going through it, but I'm scheduled to present my work-in-progress on Wednesday, and I don't want to put it off.

And I can't actually plan on doing any productive work on Wednesday, since I'll be up at Banner M. D. Anderson for bloodwork, CT scans, and then an appointment with my head and neck cancer guy there to see what he thinks is going on.  Maybe this thing in my collarbone/shoulder is just scar tissue, and maybe the problem in my right neck is just muscle spasms or a reactive node... see, I can come up with plausible explanations for just about anything.  Still, I'd like that pain to stop.  I'm really, really hoping it's not a recurrence that needs action, and I'm vaguely, minimally encouraged by the negative WBS.  WBS are not the best for picking up residual cancer in lymph nodes, as my surgeon at MDA in Houston demonstrated.  Well.  By this time on Wednesday, I'll know.