Friday, October 28, 2011

Grandma Was One Tough Lady

I have thought a lot about writing about my mom.  I went back and forth about if I should write about her or not. We have thought about her so much since finding out about Dakota having cancer. I call my sister a lot and ask her "how did mom ever do this?"  Dakota came home this week and said, “man, grandma was one tough lady.” My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45. She went through three rounds of treatment before she succumbed to the disease at the age of 50. I have always shared stories of my mom with the kids and how tough she was but I don’t think any of us really understood how tough she was until going through it together. My mom was a very shy woman and many may have thought she was stand-offish but really she was extremely shy. I always thought it was sad that so few people really knew her but that’s the way she was. I see a lot of her in myself and my kids. We are often misunderstood and thought snobby when we are really just socially awkward. Another thing that we inherited from her is her strength. I don’t think we will ever be as strong as her but we did get a little of her backbone. Some people have said that we are so strong. I will never see myself as a strong person as I will always compare myself to her but I have a little bit of her in me.

Why do I think my mother was so strong? I will share a few things that are a testament of her strength. My father died unexpectedly at the age of 40. My mother and father were on vacation and my mom was gearing up to start her new job on the following Monday. My father stepped outside and was struck by lightening and died instantly. We buried my father that week and my mother started her new job on Monday and didn’t tell anyone that she had just buried her husband the week before, and that she was left with three kids to support.

She never missed a day of work for sickness and I don’t remember her ever being sick until she was diagnosed with cancer. Even going through chemo she made her appointments late in the day and still never missed work, even though she felt terrible. She always said “why would I stay home? To feel sorry for myself?“ By the time that she was diagnosed with cancer all of her kids were grown and out of the house and she lived alone. She went to work, chemo, came home and did it all again. Every time that we go to chemo now and see a woman sitting there by herself we all think about my mom and we instantly feel sad for the woman sitting there alone. Later in her fight with cancer she was diagnosed with bone and liver disease. Both are excruciating but she still went to work and tried chemo one more time to try to ease the pain. She worked until two weeks before she died. Her biggest fear was that she would be a burden on us and that we would have to take care of her. The first day that we would have had to take care of her by ourselves she died in her sleep at home. She never wanted to be in the hospital and never wanted oxygen or anything to help her in the final days. The last day she was struggling terribly. We tried to put oxygen on her so she could breathe and get some sleep. We tried everything to try to get her to put the oxygen on. My mom told us in no uncertain terms that she would not put the oxygen on. I had to laugh that even in her final hours we were not going to tell her what to do. That’s my mom and I loved her for it. I thought it was so her. Just a last reminder that she was one tough lady.

One other piece of advice that my mother gave me when I was whining about something. “Syndi, there are people in this world with a lot bigger problems than you will ever have.” My mother didn’t correct me often but when she did I took her words to heart. I have always remembered that and I know that no matter what my trial is, there is someone out there who has way bigger trials than I could ever imagine. Thank you for that.

We are her legacy and I hope that we are living up to what she expected of us. I know that this blog is about Dakota and his journey but she laid the groundwork for how we handle this. I love you mom and you will always be my hero and the strongest person that I ever knew, or ever will know. Thank you for being such a great example for me and making me the person that I am today. I am so thankful that you were picked especially for me. I love you Mom.
Grace Watkins - my mom

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chemo - Round 6

I haven’t posted in awhile because there wasn’t much to tell. Dakota is on his second day of round six. The next PET scan will be in December. Not sure when they will do the next bone marrow test. The doctor seems satisfied with Dakota’s progress and everything still looks good. The biggest problem that he is having now is a little bit of panic attacks when he goes to get his chemo. He starts shaking and has even been sick just going in the room. When we walk in he smells the room and instantly feels sick. I smell nothing but of course I’m not taking the medicine. He tastes and smells the medicine so it’s not a pleasant experience for him. Today they gave him a prescription for an anti-anxiety pill. Hopefully that will help him chill out a little. The chemo changes his tastes and there are things that just don‘t taste the same. One of which is soda, but I don’t consider that a big loss. He eats pickles now and that wasn’t something he ate regularly before. The medicine also makes the skin in his mouth peel, but that isn’t a big deal just a little annoying. The doctors are also giving him steroids which makes him very cranky. We have learned to just let him sleep and not bother him too much for about five days. He loses a few more eyelashes and eyebrows every time he takes chemo but he still has a little left. He thought losing all his hair was going to be cool since he used to shave his body. Don’t ask me…something about man-scaping. He has decided that it’s not so cool when you don’t have a choice. Maybe he will be a hairy bear once all his hair grows back. He said he may even try a beard. It’s amazing what you appreciate when you no longer have it. He has been very blessed that he hasn’t had a cold or anything. We are very fortunate that none of us get sick very often so hopefully we will make it through the cold and flu season without any sickness.

A few weeks ago I read all my posts on the blog and was amazed at the things I had already forgotten about, so I’m really glad that I’m writing it all down. Maybe someone who is going through this in the future will be able to read this and have an idea of what will happen each time. I know it was nice to talk to someone who is taking chemo with Dakota, that is on the same medicine and we compared notes.

I do know that we are all ready for this to be over and get back to a normal life. Right now Dakota is very tired of being sick and tired. He wants to feel normal and live a normal life. He feels like he looks very strange and is feeling a little insecure about how he looks. Of course, I still think he looks handsome but I’m a little biased. I thought it would be strange when he lost all of his hair, and it would make me sad to see him. All I see when I look at him is how proud I am of him and I don’t feel sadness. I would imagine that a lot of that is from all the prayers that we have received. I know we couldn’t do any of this without your prayers and God’s grace.

I am always touched at how many people are praying for us. Many churches are praying for Dakota and they don’t even know us. Last week a friend of mine from work brought me a quilt that his sister’s church had made for Dakota. Emmaus Baptist Church in Oklahoma City has a Prayer Quilt Ministry. This was written on the brochure that we received with the quilt. “The prayer quilt is a lap-sized cover, hand-tied with square knots. As each knot is tied, a prayer is offered for the person who will receive the quilt. When fully tied, the quilt is given as a gift of love and prayer. Each prayer quilt is a statement of our faith in God and our belief in His power to comfort, encourage, strengthen and heal.” What a beautiful ministry this church has and we are very honored and touched that you thought of us. Thank you!

The school also had a Power Puff football game that was put on by FCCLA and Keri Laxton. The officers in FCCLA and Keri decided to give the proceeds to Dakota to help with the medical bills. We are so very touched by your kindness and want to thank each and every person that helped with this. I know Dakota has been overwhelmed with how kind and generous everyone has been. Keri Laxton, you are a class act and we appreciate you.

Many people have been very kind and send encouraging notes, texts, emails, cookies, presents. It would take me forever to list all of them and I’m sure I would forget someone along the way. Just know that your kindness is never taken for granted and we appreciate and love all of you.

Dakota at chemo with his quilt.  He has learned to sleep through chemo.
 Paige is on fall break and went with us to chemo
 She shared his blanket.  It's cold in there!
This scripture was on the brochure from the church that made Dakota’s quilt and I thought I would share it with you.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1.3-5