Saturday, June 30, 2012
The bad news is that the disease is sapping her strength terribly. All she really wants to do is sleep. My cousin Maryann (who is a nurse) said it's possible that her body is starting to shut down.
She gave my mom and me a very large amount of clothes that don't fit her anymore, because she has lost so much weight. She's down to 100 pounds.
She was a trooper, though, and managed to get up both to eat dinner with everyone, and (after a rest) dessert with all of us, too. My cousin Joe made enough ravioli to feed half the island. Aunt Rita ate soup instead -- her lady friends are very sweet about bringing her care packages of soup they make. The rest of us had ravioli, in some cases multiple helpings, plus everyone got sent home with doggie bags. (But sorry, Mini, those ravs are getting fed to the hoomins in the house.)
My parents gave her a new set of PJs. I gave her several things from the St. Rita of Cascia Shrine's gift shop. I think she liked the statue a lot. I got it for her because I realized that even though she's very devoted to her patron saint, she didn't have a St. Rita statue that I knew of.
Plus, it's hard to think of an appropriate gift for someone who is in this state of health. But her faith is as devout as ever, so I figured that presents that are connected to that would be something she could still appreciate.
It was so hard to see her like this. There has been noticeable deterioration in the past couple weeks... and my parents and I were distressed over her state of health two weeks ago! Now, two-weeks-ago's state of health would look like improvement. :-(
At least she's not in pain, thank God. As hard as it is to see her losing weight and becoming progressively weaker, if she were suffering, too, it would be infinitely worse.
OK, I'm done ranting. Pardon my venting. I guess I'm still de-stressing after seeing my aunt looking so weakened. I've never seen her look like this before.
Moreover, when I came home, and went on Facebook to decompress, what did I see but additional bad news coming from another direction entirely. One of my former fellow Phantoms Season Ticket Holders, who we'll call D.N., was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. I have always felt a particular connection with her battle, and have rooted for her extra-hard to beat the disease, because she got her bad diagnosis on the same day I got a good one. Back before we knew for sure that my health troubles were caused by a giant fibroid, they sent me for a CA-125 blood test: that's the test that helps diagnose ovarian cancer. The same day I got my GOOD news, that there was no cancer, D.N. posted to Facebook that HER doctors had diagnosed her with lung cancer. So I've always been cognizant of the fact that although I had dodged a giant bullet, there are a whole lot of other bullets flying around, and many people are not so lucky as I.
Months later, when D.N. was pronounced cancer-free, everyone celebrated the news. But unfortunately, last night, I saw her post that in one of her followup exams, they have found a mass in her brain. If I were to make a list of things I never wanted to see happen in a billion years, that post would be on it.
So, when you're sending your prayers and positive thoughts out for people, please remember both my aunt and also D.N. .
I really hate, loathe, and despise cancer, especially right now. LOATHE. Every form of it needs to be stamped off the face of the earth. I'd stamp it out myself if I could.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
However, from the moment I parked in the church parking lot upon my arrival, I realized something was wrong. A thin cloud of white smoke was emanating from my engine. Ohhhh, crud. Not what I wanted to see. I called Mark, who was at home and planning to paint the railing outside the house. He thought maybe I needed some water or coolant added to the car. However, it's not safe to do so when the engine is still hot, so the car needed to be left to cool off. I had no idea where to add water to the car, having never had to do so before, so I figured the best thing I could do was just go in to the deaf-blind event and interpret. I was sure that SOMEone in the place would know how to add water to a car, and they could show me what to do. Sure enough, I was able to find a couple of other interpreters who knew what to do. So when the event was over, two hours later, we all went out to have a look at my car. Surprise -- the reservoir was full of coolant, so that wasn't the problem. I talked to Mark again, and we agreed that I'd call AAA, have the car towed to our mechanic, and Mark would meet the tow truck and me there.
But then my deaf-blind friend JEJ and his mom came over, with another one of the interpreters, to see how I was doing with the car. They said they were going to visit with the interpreter, who lived only ten minutes away, and they invited me to follow them there in my car. That way, when I called AAA, I'd be calling from a place where there were people around, instead of from the middle of an empty church parking lot. I agreed to do that.
That ten-minute drive didn't cause any more smoke to appear, but there was a terrible burnt-rubber smell, so it was clear something was still wrong with the car. So we all went inside and I called AAA from there. I also got to meet the interpreters roommates and his four adorable cats. They were all very friendly, sweet kitties, so I was glad to engage in a little bit of Cute Face Therapy while I waited. AAA sends text message updates now, so I knew when to go back outside and wait for the truck to arrive. I rode in the flatbed truck as we transported the car back to Philly. Mark met us at the mechanic's and we put my car keys along with a note into the mechanic's mailbox. We figured the mechanic would figure out what was going on when he saw the car, keys, and note on Monday morning.
Well, the good news is, I finally know WHY the oil light is always lighting up, even soon after oil has been added to the car. The bad news is, it's a stupendously expensive fix that just isn't worth doing for a fifteen-year-old car. Even the mechanic recommended against it, and he would've stood to make money from doing the repair work.
Fortunately, there is one alternative to fixing the problem. It involves checking the oil every few days, adding it as needed, and making sure to add it before a long trip (such as, say, a trip to the shore.)
Honestly, color me Not Happy about this. What really needs to happen is I need a newer car, one that's not slowly going senile on me. But I'm not in a position to make that happen any time soon, so I guess my new routine involves checking oil and adding it regularly.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I took JR and JFM to the vet with their cat again this morning. Her balance is still impaired, and she hadn't been eating or eliminating for a couple of days. (Though clearly, the latter was the direct result of the former.) These were the same symptoms that were ongoing last Wednesday when she had her previous vet visit.
The cat a couple months short of her 20th birthday, and the sub-q fluids, antibiotic and appetite stimulant weren't enough to take the symptoms away. Today, JR, JFM, and the vet are all in agreement that we are looking at palliative care, rather than seeking long-term solutions. Today, she got more fluids, a steroid, and special nutrient-dense a/d food to help her get the most possible "bang for her buck" from eating. They're going to try the a/d and human baby food.
I'm really hoping these steps help her start to turn the corner and see symptom relief. If not, the next vet visit might well be the time when she receives the Final Act of Mercy. JR and JFM are beside themselves, and I'm not far behind them. Auntie Donna wuvs her little kitty "niece". I know that a 19-year-old cat is approaching the day when she sets out for the Rainbow Bridge, but that doesn't mean anyone wants it to happen any time soon.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Saturday, June 16, 2012
What an insane week it was. Monday, my parents and I went to see my relative whom I've posted about before. Now I understand what she and her son refer to when she describes herself as being "confused". She has another UTI, and for the first time, my parents and I got to see her on what we could not possibly describe as "a good day". Unfortunately, any nurse visitations that she'd had set up before (once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening, I'm not sure which) were cancelled when she was in the hospital last week, so those have to be reinstated.
This UTI issue makes it seem like there are two versions of my relative. When she's OK, those two nurse visits during the day are more than sufficient. But when there's a UTI, with its attendant symptoms that include disorientation, she might be better off with the kind of daily in-home aide that my in-laws have (and need). They have an aide who helps them out of bed in the morning, assists with daily care, cooks meals, and helps them go to bed at night. She might not be overly happy at the prospect of an all-day aide -- she wasn't even all that thrilled with the idea of the twice-daily nurse visitations -- but if these symptoms she's experiencing now are going to be a regular occurrence, then maybe it's something worth considering.
Tuesday and Friday, meanwhile, were days where I helped my friend JEJ and his mom with computer issues. For the first time in at least six years, he wanted to attempt to use the old braille display on his computer. This meant setting up his old Windows 98 machine, because there are no drivers for his many-years-old braille display that would allow it to work with the new Windows 7 computer. This is the first time in years that we've been able to see just how the neuropathy is affecting his ability to read braille, because he's been refusing to even try reading braille for so long. The answer is, with his 80-cell Window Eyes display, he can't feel anything because the refreshable braille display is too mushy. But with his even older 20-cell Alva display, he's feeling at least some of the braille because the display is crisper (more resistant to being pushed down).
We also hooked up the Tacticom, the giant single-cell braille device that he was able to use his entire hand to read when we were testing it out. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the Tacticom to respond at all when we connected it to the computer. Nada. So we have some emails out to everyone who worked on creating the device (all three of whom were out of town last week for varying reasons). I hope at least someone sees the emails and is able to respond during the coming week.
Wednesday, we rushed JR and JFM's elderly cat to the hospital when she showed signs of losing her equilibrium. She's now being treated for a persistent ear infection. Poor kitty -- she HATES going to the vet, and she was shedding fur in clouds due to the stress. (As the vet phrased it, "Under stress, we sweat. Cats shed.") I hope they can get this ear infection under control, because everything ELSE about the cat seems OK -- she's alert, aware, responsive, and is showing no sign of pain or discomfort.
On Thursday, JFM, JR and I went to the Jewish Museum here in Philly. Not only did we see a lot of interesting things, but I tried to file away as many ideas for our would-be Italian Museum. I'm not sure how many artifacts we have as yet, but according to MDP (whose brainchild the museum is), he has hundreds, possibly thousands, of photographs. MDP is also a walking encyclopedia of the history of Italians in Philadelphia and in America. I think that with just his knowledge and those photos, we would be able to create some viable displays; add artifacts into the mix and it would make for some very interesting things indeed. But that's quite a bit down the line.
Today, meanwhile, I have a bunch of work emails that have to get dealt with. It's the first time in three weeks that I've seen a decent number of emails come in, so I'm going to take full advantage of that fact.
Sleep is for the weak. ;-)
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
It's gotten a bit tougher this week, with some entirely unexpected bad news coming from yet another direction. A 38-year-old woman, with whom I used to sing in the choir at my parish, passed away very suddenly over the weekend. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that news. I went to the funeral yesterday morning. I feel genuinely sorry for her parents and her boyfriend. My family only just went through an unexpected loss a couple weeks ago, so I can empathize with them if they're feeling blindsided.
It puts things in perspective... I'm expecting to be downsized out of one of my part-time positions any day now. They haven't said anything outright, but I can see how things are going and I know there are people who've been there way longer than I have. I'm really ticked, because I genuinely like this job, but the economy is what it is. But I'd be far more upset by this if I hadn't just had a crash course in what a REAL problem is. Being downsized is a loss, but it doesn't compare to losing human beings. It doesn't compare to looking at your relative's MRI results and seeing words like "malignant" and "cancer" and "non-resectable". So I'm trying to keep my head on straight and forge ahead. In the meantime, I'm going to continue working my rump off at that part-time job until they tell me to do otherwise. Maybe they'll be able to find ways to get their own finances in order and not have to reduce staff.
Heck, I've already reinvented myself once, when I got downsized out of IT years ago. Now I might be downsized out of customer service... time for another session of reinventing myself, I guess.