Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Preparing for the Storm

As our country prepares for Hurricane Sandy. I am preparing for my own storm of grief to come this weekend. Hoping for the best with this storm and as little devestation as possible reminding everyone that having your loved ones safe and sound is the most important thing. Stuff will come and go. And also realizing that I need to take my own advice when it comes to stuff. We hear the familiar quote all the time, as long as your loved ones are healthy and safe. And oh believe me, it's true. But sitting on the other side of that statement, what then?

As I posted last go around, I was a major Crankmonster B the past few weeks. Work is starting to calm down and I feel the crankiness start to subside with it. I think that while I was busy storming around the city I forgot to be sad. Or I was sad but I didn't have enough time to sit around and moan and groan so I was just stomping around with my grief. But I am starting to feel better, making some new plans, and getting excited about some things and also allowing some time to greive. But then another storm is brewing... this Saturday should have been Matt's 33rd birthday. And there is a special mass at our church on Friday evening to remember those that have gone before us, where we both got married and held Matt's memorial mass all within three years. So just as I was feeling better, here comes another event to shake my stability.

I invited some friends to attend the mass with me and I am thankful that several stepped up to come with me. Saturday, I have some Zumba events planned to keep myself busy but I feel like I should be doing something "fun" to celebrate Matt. But as I type that I realize that just isn't possible, how can I have fun on Matt's birthday when he isn't here to celebrate. There probably just isn't anyway to handle this right so I will do the best that I can.  

Then I start thinking about his birthday last year, getting a nice steak dinner and surprising him with Badger tickets. Well trying to surprise him... I am not good at surprises. He caught on to my surprise in the waiting room of the University of Chicago last year... waiting for a second opinion. As much as I love getting gifts, I love giving them but get way too excited and let the cat out of the bag way before the big day comes.

Mostly I am dreaming about our honeymoon that was going on three years ago exactly. We had waited to take our honeymoon in Aruba about four months after our wedding and it was the perfect plan. Living in Chicago, I love to take a vaca when the cold is here and it gave us some time to rest from the big wedding we threw. If you haven't put two and two together, Matt celebrated his 30th birthday while we were down there. I of course wanted to do something special and probably pulled off my biggest surprise to date.

Every night we would see these Kukoo Kunuku party buses whizzing by in a blur of loud drunkenness. Matt and I laughed at them as our vacation was the exact opposite including nice meals and relaxing on the beach. Plus there were always people hanging out the windows shaking maracas. I think he was eagerly awaiting to hear about my plans for his 30th and I acted like I again let the cat out of the bag and told him I booked us a first class ticket on the Kukoo Kunuku party bus. He was devastated. This was not Matt's ideal birthday celebration and he quickly started pouting and demanded to know why I had done this for his birthday celebration. It would have been more hilarious if I kept it going until we were waiting for the bus to pick us up. But I let the cat out of the bag for real and shared the real plans which was a sunset cruise in the Caribbean. We had a wonderful cruise and enjoyed pizza at a local Aruban place afterwards. What I wouldn't give to be back in Aruba with him right now.

But I am not, I am here waiting to see how I handle this weekend and hoping that I can make it through without being pulled back into a slump. And also pissed off that Matt doesn't get to celebrate another birthday and enjoy a lot of the things he deserved in this life. Don't ever complain about another year on the calendar, celebrate it with all your being and be thankful you are here to take another breath.

I think the hardest part of this process is anticipating and analyzing every single situation. Life used to come and go so easily. I constantly find myself preparing for events, thinking about how I am doing, and wondering what the next first will have in store. It's getting old, I just want to be. I know it will come someday for right now, I still need to plan for the storms and evaluate the damage.  

In Aruba watching the Packers game... Go Pack!
Lounging on the Sunset Cruise!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finally an Update from the CrankMonster

I have been trying to update this blog for two weeks now. I originally wanted to on October 9th which was the 7 month sadaversary. That didn't happen because it was a crazy week so finally last week I started drafting an update. I just now sat down to reread that and tried to edit it up to date but realized it was just too outdated. So here I am trying this again. I want to get some things out but feeling stalled. Realizing that my life is going along very fast whether or not I want it to and it's hard to keep up and find time. So here goes...

The past couple weeks have been difficult. About three weeks ago, I felt myself slipping into a low. I didn't know how to stop the momentum but sure enough I found myself deep in it again. This time grief rears it's ugly head in a different manner. Last Monday was National Grouch Day and that pretty much sums it up. Except it was National Grouch Week for the past two almost three weeks. I was just angry-ish with little things setting me off. Some big things naturally set me off as well. Sorry for any friends, family, or innocent strangers that had to be a part of this. I am the first to admit that I am a moody gal evidenced by my Cancer sign and then pushed into neurotic territory recently by my grief. Matt was well aware of this wonderful trait of mine and knew that it was aggravated by lack of food. He knew that when I told him, "I was really hungry" that he better get moving to the nearest food establishment fast. We also lovingly called each a "Crankmonster" from time to time. You know that time when your loved one is just a beast so you just tell them, "Stop being a Crankmonster!"

Now to give myself credit, things haven't been business as usual around here. I have been working a lot which has included a lot of travel. Travel is not what it used to be for me. I used to enjoy a night away, a decent meal, and a big fluffy bed. Now there is so much more to it. First of all, I have to board Lila which I hate. She senses something is going on that whole day so she paces around the house wondering what is going to happen next. I hate throwing her off schedule more than she already has the past year. Her whole world has been shaken up too. By the end of the trip which includes lost of hosting and talking to people, I am ready to get home. I race back to the city to usually hit some traffic and then pick up Lila. I am exhausted and ready to get home but then I get home. All the lights are off the blinds are pulled and there is a chill in the air. I am then sad to get home.

Thankfully, I think I just unpacked my bags for what seems to be the last time in awhile. I am looking forward to a more stable schedule as is Lila. I went to yoga the past two days and hope to keep on this trend. With all the travel, I haven't been able to stick to my normal schedules of Yoga and Zumba which is probably pushing this further into CrankMonster territory. But things are looking up right now, well at least for today and I think I am beginning to climb out of the low land.

In yoga class tonight, the Instructor encouraged us not to judge ourselves. It's difficult in class and even more so in life. I constantly find myself looking around the studio to see whose crow or wheel are better than mine. Why can't I do a headstand, I have been trying this for months now! I tried to apply that to my life and my state of mind the past couple of weeks. I haven't been in the best of moods and not proud of myself but I can't judge myself too much. I think maybe this just had to get out, being angry at the world and my situation. During counseling sessions, I have been consistently asked if I am angry at Matt as this is a typical response in spousal lose. I wasn't angry at him but I was just generally angry. Again, I know I have plenty of things to be thankful for and I am not saying I have it the worst out there but maybe I just had to let my inner CrankMonster out about this situation for awhile.

I think I unleashed the beast for now and I am ready to find some more positive territory. But if I do have to stomp around the house every once in awhile and punch the air to let it out, I don't think there is any harm in that



Monday, October 8, 2012

Quotes from Checking Out: An In-Depth Look at Losing Your Mind

As promised, the following are some of the quotes from Checking Out: An In-Depth Look at Losing Your Mind by Catherine Graves. Thank you Catherine for summing this all up in a way that I am just not able to yet...

"In short, damage from a tumor or from surgery to the frontal lobe will result in significant alterations in movement, intelligence, reasoning, behavior, memory, personality, planning, decision-making, judgment, initiative, inhibition, and mood. In essence, everything that makes a person “human.”
"But I knew as soon as I loosened myself and walked out of the room, they would be taking him away, to a place where no more decisions needed to be made. There was no more what-to-do-next; this man I loved had no future."
"Nothing is ever the same about the particulars of anyone’s loss, but it seems to me also that there exists a level where everything is the same, and that’s what makes this world what it is."
"There is no handling grief. It is complex, every color at once, and shrouded in the mystery that is the unique inner life of every individual. Even observing someone else’s sense of intense grief can be a terrible life-changing experience, and some people will go as far as they can to insulate themselves from that, consciously putting as much distance between themselves and anyone going through it."
"The realization of what’s happened to you, the one left behind, may not hit you until eight months to a year after your loved one’s death. This is about the time when most friends think you should start coming out of mourning."
"It’s horrible that it’s true, but when you assume, you do make an ass of u and me."
"Sometimes you just can’t get a clear perspective when you’re smack in the middle."
"I can’t hold myself responsible for missing something obvious. Because everything he was experiencing in the beginning was too everyday and matter of fact."
"There is a brutal significant value in surviving a grueling time but the time to reflect for me – I think for anyone – is when it is small the rear view mirror, not when it still dominates the landscape."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Widow's Book Corner - Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind

I know you have all been waiting for another book review. I can't keep up with my speed of reading! This was a book I had wanted to read for a long time, my aunt had passed along the recommendation. This is the only account from a widow who lost her husband to brain cancer that I have read. There probably aren't a ton out there. I have read a lot of widow books thus far and lately I have felt myself wanting to read some "lighter" books. I have only moved on to a spiritual memoir but I guess it's a change. In the beginning I craved to understand that all the emotions I was feeling were "normal". Well now I know, it's all part of the grief process. All of these books certainly have helped me realize this but I also thought the other day, no matter how books I read, I can't read away this pain. So here it is....

Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind by Catherine Graves

Book Description
April 25, 2011
Making mistakes and owning up to them can be difficult, but feeling truly absolved is much more difficult. In Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind, new author, Catherine Graves, does what shelves and shelves of self-help books could never do; Graves makes keeping it together possible by realizing that the poor choices and mistakes she makes has consequences and repercussions. By forgiving herself for her actions she is able to inspire others to see that there is life at the other end of immense grief. When her husband starts to act out-of-character and increasingly disinterested, Catherine Graves suspects the worst—but while she needs confirmation of one sort, a different type of nightmare begins, which becomes the toughest year of her and her two children’s lives - a dreadful year in which nothing for their family will ever be the same. Moving beyond survivor’s guilt and any sense of resentment, this poignant, bittersweet memoir is about tolerance and humility. Checking Out: An In-Depth Look At Losing Your Mind is about a mother, a son, and a daughter pulling together in order to survive. Readers will respond to the narrator’s honesty—this sort of candor is hard to come by—and be thankful to lead less extraordinary lives. Catherine’s real-life story is as dramatic as any thriller; ultimately, it motivates readers to accept the things in their lives that they cannot change.

Widow's Book Corner Review:

As I shared, my aunt had told me about this book quite some time ago and I was anxious to read it as this was the first book that I had read from another widow who had lost her husband to brain cancer. And well the book title kind of says it all I guess?

The beginning of the book is what I found the most interesting or shall I say the most eerily identifiable with. Catherine Grave's husband, John Graves, begins to act very different. She actually suspects that he is having an affair and then ultimately thinks he is having some sort of a mental break down. She decides to take him to a mental facility where the Doctors tell her that what he is experiencing is physical and they rush him to a hospital immediately. Her husband is diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM or Grade 4 Brain Tumor). The worst type of tumor. Matt was never officially diagnosed with this. His diagnosis was a Grade 3 tumor but his certainly acted more like a GBM especially towards the end. I found Catherine's description of a GBM especially haunting, "All in all, you'd rather have almost anything other than glioma. You'd rather have a dead-shot hired killer trying to track you down. At least then you'd know what you were fighting, and you might have a chance to get the first shot off." I remember sitting in the emergency room hall (there were no open rooms) of Northwestern. The nurse came out and told us that Matt had a Glioma. I had no idea of the magnitude of what she told me that day. I didn't even know what the hell a glioma was. After the diagnosis, Catherine's husband endured surgery, chemo, and radiation. John passed away about five and a half months later.

I can't imagine what this woman went through. Yet I know it all too well. I could barely read the beginning of this book, it hit way too close too home. I wanted to read it but I would read a sentence and I felt her pain so much that I could barely read another sentence. I KNEW that Matt had a brain tumor that wasn't going away and I STILL didn't know that it was affecting him from a mental functioning stand point. Or perhaps I refused to believe? Just about a year ago now when his personality began to shift, I just didn't put two and two together. I would also get upset with him, why don't you do this or that or want to go out or talk to me more. I didn't know that this is how these tumors manifest themselves. Matt had seizures before, his persona was never altered. I was on the lookout for seizures not this! And then the decline came quickly with Matt soon needing someone to be with him at all times should he head outside, lock the door, and take off somewhere. This woman didn't even know her husband had a tumor and experienced similar changes in John only to lose him months afterwards. I can't even imagine, no wonder she lost her mind! Catherine  experienced a lot of guilt especially since she suspected him of something so harsh. I sometimes feel guilty for being upset with Matt at times but how did I know? I was just doing the best I could each day, I have made peace with it. But really, after you lose someone, I am positive there is no way not to feel some hints of guilt.   

After her husband's death, Catherine fell into a deep depression and eventually checked into a mental facility. She went on to write this book and work to help others and let others know her story. She certainly inspired me in this way. Catherine states,  "I didn't want to live a life worth a book or a magazine piece, nor even a short prizewinning film with the part of me being played by Sandra Bullock. I craved a normal life with a husband I'd spend a long time with that would be so wonderful, that fifty years later, it would feel like only a moment had passed." Although, my lead would be played by Hilary Duff, I did not want this "sob story" to be mine. But it is. And it is mine to do with it what I know I must. I will turn this all into something positive and I know it will have something to do with helping others. I look forward to seeing how this unfolds. Thank you Matt for inspiring me.

Recommendation: I am going to go ahead and recommend this to all those that have experienced the loss of someone who had a brain tumor specifically to those that are friends or family of a spouse that has lost someone to brain cancer. Yes, that is a very spelled out hint for my friends and family to read this book. Sometimes I, nor others in my life realize or remember the magnitude of what I have gone through. This book clearly reminds me that what I went through was intense, not easy, and not to be taken lightly. Not that I do, I am living this truth every day but I mean my husband died from brain cancer at the age of 32. There isn't a lot more seriously intense than that. (I had to come back and add this as it's been bothering me... I know there are worse things out there and I am greatful for what I have been given) This is way too much to get over in a few months and thankfully I have not ended up in a mental facility but it would be certianly understandable. Some people are just realizing what the hell happened after 7 months. In writing this review, I paged through all of my Kindle highlights and was simply amazed by all of the quotes in the book that related to me. The following post will be a collection of those quotes.



Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1st

It's been a long day as I feel like two years ago today my life fell apart. Two years ago today I lost my Pappy to cancer. Two months after that Matt's second brain tumor was found. Since this day two years ago, there hasn't been a lot of calm in my life. It seems impossible that the two favorite men in my life are gone. And even more impossible that I have survived. If a fortune teller would have told me this was my fate, I would have punched her in the face.

That's all I am going to say for today as I need to spend some snuggle time with Lila on the couch.  I simply don't have the energy to try to write a tribute blog to share how much Pappy meant to my life, what a shining light he was to me and how much I miss him, his wisdom, and of course his jokes. Matt loved him very much as well, they easily became buds. How could they not? They were both wonderful easy going fun loving guys who loved football. I also spent a good portion of yesterday blogging for the Chicagoland Young Widow Connection as their guest blogger so I am blogged out . The theme is the same from many of my previous posts here but check it out... http://www.chicagolandwidowed.org/blog/listen-your-body-monday-october-1-2012. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to reach other widows out there and I can only hope it helps someone in their journey.  


My Two Favorites 

Down the Aisle 

Grandfather/Daughter Dance 

A Picnic with Pappy

More lounging at the Picnic