Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas is fun but sad when mommy has cancer

We set up the Christmas tree today, and Amanda reminded me that just under a year ago, we'd put all the decorations away with care, facing the very real possibility that she might not be alive to unpack them in 2014.

Thankfully, she is.

Amanda and Gordon hang a decoration on the tree.
And now our little boy Gordon is at an age where he can kind of understand some things. I mean, he understands an awful lot. He seems to, anyway. He certainly is a lot more with it than he was last year, when even sitting upright by himself was something brand new.

But, at 20 months, he's not the most patient little guy. He spent most of the tree-decorating process grabbing things he shouldn't, and crying and having tantrums. Pretty normal, I guess, but hard for Amanda.

As she wrote tonight on Facebook:

"Decorating the Christmas tree today resulted in misery, multiple temper tantrums and almost constant crying for Gordon. I wish his little brain could just understand I'm going to have too few Christmases with him.... and that I NEED each one, each minute of the holiday with us together to be precious."

That there's the heartbreaking part. Amanda wants to be mindful and present and checked-in so she can soak up every precious moment of time with Gordon and me. But that act of checking in and forced present-time awareness also includes a reminder every single time -- the reminder that this could be her last Christmas with her little boy.

She wants to be able to share this season with him and have him really get it. Will he understand presents this year? Will he have a clue what Santa is? He seemed to have a breakthrough over Frosty The Snowman tonight, but... every joy seems countered by a dark, powerful anti-joy.

Kitty gets in on the bedtime routine with a friendly headbutt.
I'm grateful for the time we do have together. I don't want to worry through every experience. Perhaps that's unhealthy somehow. I don't think I'm in denial, but I'm not choosing to give the sad part a bigger role than it has to have.

But frankly, I'm not the one with the malignant cells ticking away inside me.

She is. We're each going to feel things differently. It doesn't mean I don't feel things. Mine usually hit me hard all at once, or a little bit here and there. For Amanda, it seems like a constant struggle. It's hard. I'm trying to be the best support I can for her, and to keep us strong together. Goodness knows we need each other.

For those who've been wondering, there's been no major update on Amanda's health since the last post. She's still on the hormone blockers, and they're still having their side effects. She's still tired a lot and in constant pain from the long-term chemotherapy side effects. She still has that ureteral stent, and it still sucks. I think she pitched the urologist on the idea of not even having one in, and just getting by on one kidney. Turns out only *having* one kidney is one thing; having one live kidney and one dead, rotting kidney inside of you is Not Good. So far, no good options have presented themselves.

The next CT scan is coming up quick, and that's also casting a shadow over holiday comfort and joy. Will the tumors have stayed shrunken? Will they have grown? Will things be even better than last time? And whatever the results, what's next?

A short check-in from me: still working my butt off at the radio station. Despite some program changes that caused serious disruption in the lives of some listeners, ratings were pleasantly up in nearly all measures. It was good news, and a vote of confidence for some of the stuff I've been trying to lead. The whole staff has been doing great work, so I'm glad they were given the thumbs-up by our listeners. I'm working with a bunch of great people.

The Summer Of Endless Renovations has turned into the Winter Of Much Fewer Renovations. We're now enjoying the basement, free from leaks. The laundry room is still due to be drywalled. The front steps and walkway still haven't been poured, and the ground is frozen. Amanda has arranged for a concrete company to come take care of that this week. Fingers crossed that things stay peaceful on that front.

Merry Christmas to everyone! It's been another trying year. Thank you for reading along.


Friday, October 3, 2014

At last, some good news, and Happy Birthday Amanda

After a long string of bad news posts here at thesimpsonblog.com, I'm thrilled to be able to report some good news. The home reno stuff is almost done, and I'll get to that, but first, some great news on Amanda's cancer.

We got the first positive CT scan report ever. Wow.

"I've been on an estrogen-blocking medication (Letrozole - one tiny wee pill a day) for 2 months," says Amanda. "My tumours are STABLE (+/- 0.3cm growth, mostly shrinking) except for my largest tumour, which shrunk from 5cm to 0.8cm. The only time my tumours have ever gotten smaller before is when I was cut open and they were surgically removed."

That's astounding. Honestly, I think we were expecting slow growth and fearing big growth. To have the tumours stay stable or even shrink was not what we were expecting. The question on our mind was really going to be -- is the next wave of treatment going to be here or in Toronto? Instead, she's going to stay on this hormone blocker and come back for another scan in about three months.

We wonder -- what would have happened if we'd stayed in Halifax, where the doctors didn't test to see whether her cancer was estrogen-sensitive? More aggressive chemo? Wait-and-see? The docs at Princess Margaret and here in London have been excellent. They can't make any of this easy -- it's still very, very tough and I can't say we've been enjoying life lately -- but they've been terrific both medically and personally.

Hey, what a difference a year makes.

One year ago, Amanda was in rough shape. She'd undergone chemotherapy, massive surgery, complications, and was getting more chemo. She gathered up her determination and hauled herself out of bed to feed Gordon his first solid food.


She feared she wouldn't make it to see his first birthday, let alone his 18-month unbirthday or HER 36th birthday....which is today!

"I'm looking forward to enjoying this day to the fullest," she says. "Birthdays don't stop being important once you're an adult, in fact they should be MORE important the older you get. I'm here with a lot more wrinkles, several more scars, probably too many emotional years aged....but I will celebrate my 5th wedding anniversary next week; I got to spend more time with my family, see my little sister get married, and be with the most amazing little creature on the planet.

"I'm 36 years old and I want to shout it to the rooftops."

Happy birthday, my dear! Let's have many more.

Now, a bit of good news about the house ...

Gordon supervises the last stage of work.
I think we're almost done with the saga that began in July and has turned worse at every turn.

Since the last update, they dug up our basement floor to replace the pipe heading out to the city sewer. They scoped out the line that goes to the street -- good news, it's fine. I put the video on YouTube but won't link to it here -- it's just boring because it's fine.

The trench-digging, pipe-replacing, back-filling, dirt-grading phase is done. We still need to get a concrete company in to replace our front walkway, steps and front porch.

The basement renos are all done except for some paint touch-ups and a mirror for the bathroom. Yup, we have a new toilet! We're eagerly awaiting the opportunity to move our stuff into the room.

I took Gordon down for a look-see and he loved it. "Why did you not TELL me there was a whole other level?!" he seemed to wonder. He didn't want to come upstairs again!


I'll wrap it up at that! Work is hectic and all three of us seem to be fighting colds or lung issues right now. Peace!

Amanda at Amy's wedding this week.