Sending the old man home

With a broken heart and and a tear in my eye, I share the news of the passing of my father, Gregory Allen Patterson. This evening, at 7:32pm, I had the honor of being with my dad as he took his last breath. After a long and exhausting battle with cancer, he died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by the love of his family.

To know my father was a privilege and a joy. Those who knew him know what an optimistic and gregarious man he was and will not forget the kindness and love he bestowed upon them. The generosity of his spirit was contagious and his sharp wit was infectious. It was rare to leave his presence without your spirits being lifted. Dad was a man of integrity, a man who worked tirelessly to provide for our family, gave selflessly of himself to those who needed a hand and stood firmly by his word, regardless of opposition. My father led by example to show me that we all have the strength to rise above the obstacles we fear the most, that we will find happiness after our deepest heartbreak and that we must forgive even the most cruel offenses if we are to be our best selves.

My father greeted every challenge on his journey through life with determination, resilience, optimism, ingenuity and class. He had a ferocious will to survive, proven many times.

Dad taught me many lessons, but the most important lesson he taught me was one he taught me by example. That lesson is that no matter how deep your struggle, if you put the sake of others in front of your problems then your troubles will be resolved, whether by the passage of time, the generosity of others or the realization that it was never that much of a problem to begin with.

Farewell to the first great love of my life, my mentor, my number one fan, a man who taught me that above all else I should be true to myself, a man who will live in my heart my entire life and a man whom I will love and miss until the end of my days. Goodnight, Daddy.

 

 

Don’t put me in a box.

I’ve been driving Ben’s car while he’s out of town because it’s a fun car to drive and my car is out of gas. After my flight yesterday a lady who had been out flying with her husband noticed Ben’s Gaea Yoga sticker on his rear window and told me she does yoga there, too. I told her that I don’t really do much yoga, but my husband goes there and loves it. She looked at my flight bag and seemed a little confused.

Interesting how people have a hard time accepting anything that isn’t traditional.

If We Weren’t All Crazy We Would Go Insane

Ever feel like all the pieces of your life are floating above your head? Like all you have to do is jump up to grab them and put them in their place? That’s how I feel these days, except the pieces are just out of my reach and my legs are sinking in quicksand.

My husband has a wonderful new business opportunity and I couldn’t be more proud of him or happier for his success, except that my happiness is shadowed by a black cloud that seems to be hanging over my head.

This sounds like I don’t have good things happening, which isn’t true at all. I have quite a few great opportunities going for me and more right around the corner, if I can relax and focus enough to grab them. To name a few: *I’ve been planning and preparing for my commercial check ride for months and I am finally ready to take the practical exam, except that just thinking about the exam makes me see myself failing and in giving up on my dreams because of it, because I don’t think I’m strong enough to survive a failure of that magnitude. *A job I’ve been wanting for over 5 years in the police department where I work will be available for me to apply soon, but I keep digging myself into a hole with someone who I just can’t seem to find an ounce of respect for. *The relationship between my son and me is finally becoming what I’ve always hoped it could be. There are quite a few other things I should be celebrating every day, celebrating them and reaching for these opportunities that are in my sight and there for my taking….

Unfortunately, every single thing that is good in my life is shadowed by the cancer that is eating away at my father’s body and the fact that he doesn’t understand that he can make choices that could cost him or afford him years.

I’m so good at evaluating, understanding and communicating my emotions, so why can’t I stop pushing friends and family away? I hope that when I crawl out of this black hole, and I will, I can repair the damage I’ve done to any relationships I’ve hurt.

I need to go flying, where everything is all about freedom and feeling and living in the moment.

Rabbit Hole

I have opened this blog several times every week for the past few months. Some of those times I type up a blog and leave it in the drafts, other times I just can’t find the focus to begin a new post. I have not forgotten about it or given up on it. One of these days there could possibly be several postings at the same time, only because I will finally find the focus to review them & hit “Publish”. In the meantime, I am going to begin a post about my experience yesterday on my long cross-country, which will be posted before any of those other guys hanging out in the dressing room…

The Great Pumpkin

When I was a kid we had The Great Pumpkin visit every year. Our neighborhood was full of young families, so Halloween was always a big deal.

My parents were always very involved in everything I did, and when it came to Halloween, they really stepped it up. They had a ceramic pumpkin with a sound sensitive light they would put inside. The pumpkin would light up with sound, and it was sitting on a big speaker covered with a blanket. Dad would be hiding in the dark inside the living room behind a window covered with a sheer curtain, talking into a microphone that went to the speaker under the pumpkin. Kids would come to the porch and the pumpkin would start interacting with them. Some ran away terrified, but most of them were fascinated by the magic of The Great Pumpkin!

The first year we had The Great Pumpkin visit caused quite the stir in the neighborhood (and small town). The second year we had kids visiting from nearby neighborhoods coming to our neighborhood to see him. By the third year, kids were visiting from neighboring towns, some even traveled from several towns over. When I began high school we moved to a town about 30 miles away. I remember hearing kids in high school talk about going to another town to trick-or-treat so they could see The Great Pumpkin.

I took my parents coolness for granted as a kid, but I sure am glad to have so many great childhood memories. It breaks my heart to think that The Great Pumpkin has retired and may never be seen again. Maybe he will be resurrected someday with a female voice. 😉

Gift or Curse?

I’ve always wondered if it would be better to know you are dying or to just go unexpectedly. If you had asked me that question before this July I probably would have said it would be better to just go suddenly and painlessly.

I don’t think I agree with that anymore. Learning and realizing that my father has a finite number of days left has been the toughest thing I’ve ever had to accept. It has also been a gift for which I will forever be grateful. I moved away from home in 2003 and over the past 10 years I haven’t exactly visited as often as I should have. I’ve missed a lot of special occasions and family dinners. I have been given the opportunity to try to make up for lost time the best I can. I will not miss another birthday or holiday, and I will spend as many weekends with my parents as I can while I still have them around. Dad may surprise us all and beat this cancer, against all odds. Even if that happens I will be sure to not miss any more holidays.

Yes, I now feel that knowing that my father is dying is a gift.

I don’t know if he sees this as a gift or not. I honestly don’t know how I would see it if I were in his position. I would like to think I would see it as a blessing, and even more so, I would like to think he is grateful for this time. Truth be told, I don’t know that he sees it that way. I know he is enjoying all of the love that is surrounding him during this time, but I also know he takes anxiety medication regularly these days. He smiles and speaks of happy things. Even his eyes are smiling, but I can see the sorrow hiding behind them and it breaks my heart for him. I know this will be a difficult year for me, but I cannot begin to imagine how hard this is for him.

So, gift or curse? Definitely a gift for family, but for the patient?  I think a little of both, maybe.

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P.S. Cancer sucks.

Don’t Blink

My cousin suffered one of the most tragic losses a person can suffer yesterday; His child died.

Jackson Conrad Gray, named after my deceased uncle, passed away yesterday afternoon unexpectedly. Frank and his brother, Wayne, were here visiting me in Charleston when it happened. We were hanging out at an oceanside pool enjoying a couple of beers while we talked about my father and the battles he faces, while the life of his baby slipped away. I cannot begin to imagine the agony he felt during the 3 hour return ride to Greenville, or the pain he will feel for quite some time. I know it isn’t terribly uncommon for babies to die, but that doesn’t make this less tragic.

It is sad that so many of the most undeserving parents have more children than they deserve, and parents who struggle to build a family have so many losses.

Life can be so unfair. Trying to make sense of it can lead you to insanity.

Rest in peace, little Buddy.

frank

Waiting is the Hardest Part

My dad had a painful and persistent cough so he went to the doctor. The doctor told him he had Bronchitis and gave him a prescription for an antibiotic. When the antibiotic ran out and he was still not any better they gave him another prescription. After a few days he was worse, so he went to the doctor. The doctor thought he had pneumonia and sent him to another doctor for an x-ray. The x-ray showed fluid in his chest outside of his lungs (pleural effusion) so they sent him for a CAT scan. The following day they scheduled a Thoracentesis to drain the fluid. When the doctor came to speak with us, he explained that they found a tumor on the upper part of his right lung and 2 lymph nodes in the middle of his chest were enlarged. He also had what they call “trapped lung”, where the lung is collapsed a bit because of the pressure of the fluid around the lung and when they try to drain the fluid the lung doesn’t want to expand. Based on the “trapped lung”, as well as the distance the enlarged lymph nodes are from the tumor, the doctor (a lung cancer specialist) thinks we are looking at Lung Cancer, stage 3a minimum, but likely stage 4. They don’t do surgery on Stages 3 and 4 because they can’t get it all with surgery. I use short, choppy sentences when giving facts… forgive my grammar, please.

Rewind a moment. I was supposed to work Friday, Saturday & Sunday, but my boss cancelled my overtime work weekend Thursday night, after I rearranged my schedule to work. I was pretty upset about this at the time. The following morning, Friday morning, when my mother told me about the fluid in his chest and the procedure being scheduled to drain the fluid at 2pm, I felt the universe telling me to go to Greenville to be there for this procedure so I packed a bag and drove on up. I knew I had to be there to speak with the doctor. I cannot imaging not having been there for my parents on Friday and this difficult weekend.

Next step: the pathologist should have seen the fluids Monday morning. If there had been no cancer cells they would have contacted us. We were told that if they saw cancer cells they would cut it up & test it for presence of cancer cells from other parts of the body to see if this could be a metastasis or to see if this has metastasized. Since we didn’t hear from them yesterday or today (today is Tuesday) we can assume they definitely found cancer.

Waiting to find out what monster(s) we’re fighting is scary.

My parents have been planning the trip of a lifetime to Alaska. The doctors advise against going, but that’s just because they are supposed to. I asked the doctor to suppose they ignored his advice and went anyway. What precautions should they take? Best case scenario was that the fluid they drained stayed gone and he was comfortable the entire trip. Worst case scenario is the fluid returns as bad as it was the morning of the procedure and he will be in extreme discomfort while stuck on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with no hospitals around. Even the worst case scenario isn’t bad enough to cancel such a big trip. My dad may not be able to travel again for a very long time. They are going with 2 other couples, their very best friends. I hope they are able to set the cancer aside for these few weeks and enjoy this trip of a lifetime. My entire being hopes this isn’t my dad’s last real vacation.

I leave for OshKosh in the morning with a heavy heart.

Pay the Piper

Today I had my semiannual mole check.

I was one of those sun-soaking girls. You know, the ones that lathered on the baby oil and spent hours soaking up sun in my youth. By “youth”, I actually mean I continued sunbathing with suntan oil and no sunscreen well into my twenties. Heck, even in my early thirties I would lounge on the beach wearing minimal sunscreen, or I would go to a tanning bed.

The piper finally came around to collect his dues about 3 years ago. After going to the dermatologist for a few suspicious moles, one on my lower leg just above my ankle came back as Melanoma. It was only Melanoma in-Situ, but it was still Melanoma, and it still scared the crap out of me. When they removed the lesion they cut all the way down to my muscle, taking skin from my thigh to do a skin graft. My scar is about 2″x3″ and indented, it sort of looks like a shark bite. I now go for semi-annual skin checks and annual blood work, lung x-rays and optamologist appointments, because even though it was in-Situ it can still metastasize.

So now I look at my skin like it’s trying to kill me whenever I have exposed skin. Even after all this, I still enjoy the feel of the sun on my skin… with sunscreen… for a short time… in the early morning or late afternoon. Hey, I’m human.

Pale is beautiful. Why doesn’t everyone agree? Why don’t I truly agree?

 

Running

runI’ve been a runner for 4 or 5 years now, but I’ve never run in an actual race. I have registered for races before, but something always came up.

I ran my first race today! It was only a 5k, but it was my first race so I’m very proud of myself. Over the Winter I was running 10k most Saturdays, but travel, heat & humidity have kept me from running all that often since Spring, so I’ve been a little out of shape. I had to work straight after the race so I didn’t have time to run a 10k even if I’d wanted to, but I also couldn’t have finshed a 10k if I tried.

I never understood the attraction to running that several of my friends had. I was always a cardio in my living room & weight lifting girl, but I was bored of my old routine so I decided to give it a go. I started with the Couch to 5k app on my iPhone. If you aren’t a runner but would like to be, I can’t recommend this app enough! I never thought I’d become a runner, but I owe all my thanks to this genius app. It starts you off slow with a walk/run, doing all the timing for you. I am now a runner, even though I don’t run all that much during the heat of the summer. In the winter months, nothing improves my day or my outlook quite like a nice long run does.