Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's a Trip, Isn't It?

I took Tanner to see the Orthopedic Surgeon in Dallas today for another follow up.  He says that the x-rays look good but that Tanner has bursitis in his right hip where they did surgery and that it should resolve itself over the next few weeks or months.  If not they can inject the hip to help ease some of the discomfort.  Tanner told him he would just wait and see if it works itself out.

We were driving home and his head was bobbing around (as usual, he fell asleep on the car trip back from Dallas) and when I stopped at a red light, he roused and put his head over towards my shoulder.  I layed my cheek on top of his head and he said, "It's a trip isn't it"?  I asked him if he meant the drive back and forth from Dallas, and he said "No...  That I have cancer."

My heart ached... and has continued to ache all day.

Of course, I did the "mom thing" and talked to him about living every moment to the fullest... that we never expected something like this to happen to us... that life should be lived every day for all it's worth (some advice I really need to heed for myself) and not in darkness and sorrow...  but all day I've just felt like crying.

"It's a trip, isn't it?"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's Not Easy

Tanner's doctor visit this week seemed to go well.

Dr. Albritten came out and talked to us together for a few minutes and then when they took Tanner back to start his IV, she and I talked about his schooling, his medical care, and how far he's come in the last year.

She feels that it is very important for Tanner to interact with other young adult cancer patients and would like for him to attend several social events the Oncology Department is hosting in the near future.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on the way you look at things) Tanner has school every night, Monday thru Thursday, so he's not going to have a lot of opportunities to attend any of their functions.

She asked me how I was doing and we discussed a late night (tearful) conversation that Tanner and I had on the porch swing earlier this week around 1 a.m.  You could see the genuine concern in her eyes and she said that she so very badly wanted to do something to help us find our way. 

When Tanner came out from having his IV placed, she told him to come with her and she took him into a room and talked to him for quite a while and when he came out she had given him some information about a program where he can be connected to another cancer patient who has similiarities to Tanner's circumstances.  Sort of a cancer mentoring program...

I'm going to do my best to see that he follows up on this information.  It's like she and I talked about, though Tanner may look like all the other 19 year olds he's friends with, he is in fact very different from all of them and he needs to have the opportunity to interact with others who can understand what he's going through.

I love Dr. Albritten...

As for me, I'm having a hard time again.  It's a journey with peaks and valleys... 

We went to a meeting at the Cancer Center a while back and the man who talked said that he has discovered during his journey with cancer himself - and counseling other's with cancer - that the people who seem to have the hardest time are parents of children with cancer.  I believe him...

I'm going to be okay.  I'm always okay eventually...  but this is a journey I never expected to have to take and it's not easy.  Worry and stress are constant companions.  Sometimes I can push it aside and sometimes I can't... I've never felt more isolated and alone than I have the last few years...

I often feel guilty blogging about how hard this is for me.  I wish I could be one of those ever positive people who always see the light... who always only have positive upbeat things to say... but I am who I am... and since I don't often actually talk to anyone about what's going on deep inside me, you get to read about it here.

Thanks for understanding.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Here we go

Tanner spent the night with Granny Jane and Pop Jerry last night and I'm about to leave and go pick him up.

He seems to be doing well - and liking school so far.  He had a math test on Thursday and told me that he thought he understood it all and did well.  He actually seemed pretty excited. Hopefully, he will continue to do well as the school year proceeds.

I had a talk with him and his new girlfriend (Cearra) one night this last week and expressed to them how very important it is for him to concentrate on school as much as he can so that he can focus on a future career that will support him with his medical condition and the limitations of his bones.

He says he's 19 and has never had a "real relationship" and that "it's time" - I told him right when he's starting college is actually maybe not the "right time" but, hey, what can you do?  You can't control love, now can you?

I just thought it was a good idea to sit them both down and talk to them together about the importance of school - and him taking care of himself.

I had another one of those nights.  I think I might have gotten about two hours sleep and I'm so exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally...  Sometimes, I wonder who I am to give Tanner advice... but what do you do?  You're "mother" and you keep talking and you hope some of the things you say sink through... You hope that sometimes - no you hope always - that your children succeed and make better decisions than even their parents.  It's just hard to be 19 - and all that entails - and have cancer too...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Muscle Spasms

It's nearly 2 a.m. and Tanner is soaking in a hot bath.

I came home tonight after being out for a few hours and he had one of those heating packs stuck to his back and he told me that his back is having muscle spasms.

For brief periods of time, I can put aside worries... but they always come back.

My teenage son has cancer and he will ALWAYS, for the rest of his life, have to deal with all that that entails.

A year ago he became addicted to his pain medications so they prescribe for him very little to deal with the pain... But then, what do you do when he hurts?  He's not supposed to take Ibuprofen - and Tylenol is nothing... 

So tonight, he's using heating pads and taking hot baths - and his mom isn't sleeping.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Clean PET Scan

Last Friday Tanner had a full body PET Scan over in Dallas and it showed that he is still in Full Remission!!

Dr. Berryman said that at this point Tanner should just continue with his maintenance chemo as he's been doing the last year and a half with no changes and we return to Dallas to see him again in December.  He also said that he talked with Dr. Albritten at Cook's Oncology and they are going to start phasing Tanner over to Texas Oncology during the next two months.

Dr. Albritten said they are writing a "Young Adult Protocol" and Tanner is their guinea pig.  She has been talking with him about the importance of reading and signing his own medical forms.  They also discussed clinical trials and that he shouldn't just agree to participate in any that might be presented to him in the future until talking with his doctors and investigating the trials to the fullest.  This is all part of "phasing" their young patients over to adult practices.  They don't want to just release him until they've spent some time discussing with him the importance of being responsible for his own medical care.

He's been attending evening classes at Tarrant County College for two weeks now.  He told Dr. Albritten this week that so far "nothing has scared him yet"...  Last night when I picked him up he said the work has really started and that he has lots of homework that needs to be done before he goes back to classes next week.

I talked with him about realizing that school is going to be a lot of hard work but that if he will just give this his best shot and really apply himself, in two years he can have an Associates Degree and will be able to pursue a career that will afford him a wage where he can become self sufficient and independent.  Something that we all want...

Lisa, the Young Adults Coordinator at Cook's Oncology, and I were talking the other day about how far Tanner has come from where he was a year ago.  I am so very proud of him and the progress he's made.

He and I both have been in what he calls our "mood" for over a week now.  I told him that maybe it has something to do with the fact that we were able to spend a week in paradise in Hawaii and have come back to the reality of our every day lives....  It's an adjustment....

He needs to focus on school, taking over his own medical care, and improving his chances for a successful future.  I need to focus on letting him go and improving my own personal situation.  19 or 49, we are still works in progress and both need to learn to take care of ourselves...

As Beth tells me, "we can't control anyone but ourselves"... It's time to let Tanner start to control the direction of his medical care and future and me to start controlling the path of my own life...

Letting go is sometimes a difficult thing to do, but maybe realizing you never really had control is the hardest of all...

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." - Epicurus

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Week in Paradise

Tanner and I had a week in Paradise!

His Make a Wish trip to Hawaii was all he could have dreamed of… 

When we arrived they shuttled us over to Avis Car Rental and the girl told us that we were supposed to have a full sized vehicle but that they were all out.  I told her that I drove a Honda Fit so a small car was just fine with me!  Tanner piped up and said “How about one of those Mustangs I saw on the parking lot”?   They said “Sure! How about a convertible”?   So… we ended up with a red Mustang convertible!  My dream car!!  LOL! 

Tanner told me he asked for it because I’ve always teased the boys that when they were grown and I was on my own I was going to have a Mustang Convertible (with car seats in the back for my grandkids)!  On our free day, we put the top down and toured one beautiful beach after another on the North Shore.  It was heaven!!

Our hotel was right on the beach with an ocean front view and I started and ended each day on our balcony taking in the breathtaking sight of the beach below!

We had a helicopter tour of the island where we got to see volcanoes, waterfalls, pineapple plantations, Pearl Harbor, and Gilligan’s Island (LOL)! 

We took a submarine ride and saw lots of fish, man-made reefs, a sunken ship, and a downed airplane.

We went out on a catamaran and Tanner made friends that he socialized with throughout our time in Hawaii.  He’s a much more social soul than his mom and, as I knew he would, he made friends right away and they took him and exposed him to parts of downtown Honolulu that he wouldn’t have ever found on his own!

On our last night in Hawaii, we attended a luau in Paradise Cove and they made sure Tanner felt special the whole night!  They surrounded him with beautiful girls (in coconut bathing suits) and took a picture (which they gave Tanner complimentary) and had reserved seating for him right up front and center of the stage. 

We met a young girl and her mom who were on vacation from Canada and she bonded with Tanner right away and they spent the majority of the night talking with each other.  It was a perfect way to spend our last night in Honolulu!!

I’ve been asked more than once, since we returned, what my favorite part of the trip was and I have to say simply spending time on the beach...  lying on a beach blanket occasionally reading a book - but mostly just watching the beauty of the waves breaking against the shore…  It was, truly, paradise!

I can’t say enough about the Make a Wish Foundation!  They give these children (and their families) a once in a lifetime experience and memories that will last forever!!

A smile happens in a flash, but its memory can last a lifetime…