Friday, 27 February 2015

the end of another month of this

I'm going to visit Mum and Dad this weekend and I'm a bit nervous.  Fragile as he was two weeks ago when I saw him last, he's now lost his hair, is battling a burned/cracked/chapped face and is using a walking cane.  If I've said it once, I've said it far too many times: this, from a man who three months ago was digging holes and fixing fences and lugging rocks for landscaping purposes.  It's fucking brutal, is what it is.

My nerves arise out of the unknowns - I don't give a shit what his hair looks like, but I just want him to still be my dad underneath it all, you know? 

These things (hah, cancer, a 'thing' - it's like I can't name it for fear of the consequences) come in batches.  A colleague's father has just had surgery for prostate cancer.  Another's ex-boyfriend has been paralysed from the chest down in a workplace accident this week.  I find myself understanding and empathising properly to some degree for the first time (maybe that's why they're telling me?)

To top it off, I started fucking bleeding again last night.

It wasn't a major - no cramps, finished quickly, I can still feel the baby move (I think - I play a constant game of 'firstborn or gas?').  Still scary to turn around to flush and find your toilet looks like a murder scene at twenty to one in the morning.  Afterwards, I lay still in bed for twenty or so minutes, burning with concentration at my stomach, hands wrapped around it.  I got up again to check progress and things appeared to have eased.  I slept, uneasily. 

The good news, I suppose, is that the suspected UTI wasn't in fact an infection - just a raised bacteria level.  I haven't really reported much good news this pregnancy - here we are: I feel mostly like a human being (albeit a human being with a sore tailbone) and I'm starting to relish having a belly.  I want to feel this baby more often so I can enjoy the feeling of not being alone.  I do enjoy being by myself, but it's nice to know someone is just quietly there with me. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

motivational quotes have never been my thing

Dad's not back on chemo yet; his liver enzymes are now causing concern.  They've knocked back the steroid dose and told him to take care, he's fragile right now. 

Two times I felt rage, warranted or unwarranted, in the last few days:
  • Reading an article in the Herald about a patient with the same tumour as Dad, who has survived 20 years and claims it was his unorthodox self-prescribed medication routine that 'cured' his cancer.  I wanted to scream; whether or not it was the acne medication that helped that guy and whether or not Dad starts insomnia pills as a supplement, we still have no fucking idea whether it will work.  It doesn't give me hope, not at all. 
  • Quotes pasted by relations on Facebook from a recently deceased public figure implying that if she'd better taken care of herself, rather than looking out for others all the time, she would not have been diagnosed with cancer or may have picked it up earlier.  Hey, it's always possible that her diagnosis was late because of her schedule assisting others.  But if you'd like to make yourself feel better about being a little selfish from time to time, you do not need the words of a dead woman lashing herself for missing her disease while helping others to make you feel better.  And do you genuinely believe that cancer differentiates on some kind of moral basis?  You might, but I certainly don't.
Anger is part of the process, I expect. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

upwards, onwards

Shall we finish the week with some good news?  Avoid despondency and despair for a change?  Ah, go on, why not?!

The baby looked fine at the anatomy scan.  Better than fine, to me.  He or she looked like a right wee wriggler with a chatterbox mouth (opening and closing all the time, no surprises to anyone who knows the parents) and frankly adorable wee fists up close by the face.  We resisted the temptation to know the sex, though I have a very strong boy feeling, based on the ultrasound tech's level of surety that she knew exactly what we are having. 

My placenta (shudder) is a bit on the thin side, but not to worry, the tech said.  We get to go back for another scan at about 32 weeks as a result and I am already looking forward to clapping eyes on those cute wee heart ventricles and fat wee limbs and smooshy wee nose and all the other very wee things that I MADE MYSELF.  (P had something to do with it, I suppose) (and all the jelly tip icecreams, they've contributed too, I expect). 

There's an actual real live person in there!  A person who is going to be (is already?) part of my family!

(I did have a moment during the scan of 'holy shit, it's only to get bigger and then it has to GET OUT.' but we'll ignore that for present purposes).

Another wee shining moment: someone told me today that I look quite small for 20 weeks and appear to have put weight on only around the belly.  I could have kissed her. 

I'm on a roll, what else have I got that's positive?  I have more tickets to go see Dad, the new lights in the bedroom look great and we can see in there now after dark, I'm going to preg yoga tonight and will feel better about myself afterwards, Bachelor Australia is on the box this evening (o trashy goodness) - - it is definitely not all bad. 

I'm going to try and sustain the glow from the scan as long as possible. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

back to your regularly scheduled self-centred moaning

ALERT, ALERT, more whinging ahead.

The following is a rant about things both trivial and important that have contrived to make me feel like a sack of crap, today:
  • Apparently I have a UTI.  I say apparently because the test results are still pending and I'm not feeling any particular pain (thank goodness) though I pee every 5 minutes.  The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics to take in the interim if any pain kicks in, but she vacillated more than seems reasonable over whether they were safe to take in pregnancy.  I forgot to check the label myself, and subsequently discovered it's an antibiotic that historically does not work for my and my godawful UTIs.  Great.
  • Miscellaneous 'account charges' on the credit card totalling $87. 
  • A great aunt who lives in close proximity to my parents had a heart attack on the weekend.  She's on the mend, but what the actual fuck, timing?  Poor Aunt S. 
  • There were onions in my NO ONION salad. You know, rage tipping point and all.
  • I experienced the 'shoot the messenger' phenomenon at work today.  Me being the messenger.  It was every bit as awesome as you would expect.
  • And the final absolute fucker of a bullet point: Dad's been taken off chemo.  His white blood cell counts are too low - they're going to reassess next week, but no chemo is a blow.  Oh, and the day they took him off it?  The day his hair started to fall out. 
I am not going to cry today.  I'm going to go home, take a not-quite-hot-enough bath (pregnancy is great and all, but I miss screamingly hot baths) and cuddle my husband.

Monday, 16 February 2015


I have been titling posts things like 'life goes on' and 'right now', but speaking only of my father and my child.  It's more than that, however, I'm not living in a vacuum of life and death.  Between visits, we resume 'real' everyday life, and aside from when my tailbone aches from sitting too long, I can forget I'm pregnant for hours at a time. 

Work continues apace on the house.  The House Formerly Known as the Lavender Loveshack (now a lovely shade of greige, because we're boring) is still having the front door and balcony trim painted.  We've destroyed the inside of the master bedroom - all the lining is gone, P is insulating in there and the electrician arrives Thursday to install new ceiling lights, new sockets and move some switches around.  We're going to install a new door and a built-in wardrobe in the room, have it freshly lined and then I'm selecting yet another shade of grey paint.  We're still debating retrofitting the windows with double glazing, waiting on a quote.

Once the master is completed, the guest bedroom is going to get the once over.  This will become the nursery, I suppose, though not for a while.  The baby will live with us for a bit, as advised by Plunket to mitigate the SIDS risk.  We'll need to keep a spare bed in the nursery anyway, for P's Mum to visit from Germany and my parents to visit once the baby arrives.  The nursery work will be pretty similar - insulation, new lights, new wardrobe, new linings, paint etc.  I'm determined that we will have a warm home for the baby to live in when he or she arrives in mid-winter.

We nearly choked on our cookies receiving a quote for some new kitchen cabinetry 'necessary' to house a dishwasher, we were assured.  In a kitchen that will be demolished at some point in the next 2-4 years, they thought we'd be happy to spend $6k, just for the cabinets.  No new benchtop, no new fit out, just some new cabinets capable of housing a dishwasher.  I'm pretty sure with a saw we can achieve largely the same result in the existing cabinets.  Time for some more quotes, methinks.  I'd like a dishwasher to make life a little more easy in a tiny kitchen once the baby arrives, but not at that kind of price before we've even bought the damn dishwasher. 

I'm not much help with renovation, this time round.  I picked up the demolished bits of lining (discovering newspapers from 1992 pasted across the walls to form a lovely backing for a bit of wall paper, over which plasterboard had been slapped in 1995) and carted them to the skip out the front.  That lasted until the new neighbours started having a Saturday morning sesh on their deck.  I don't really care if people want to smoke weed; I just really don't want my child in-utero to get second hand stoned.  I call and arrange quotes etc.  I cart drinks to P and hold the measuring tape, do the rest of the household chores like laundry.  His wonderful father is going to lend a hand, and rope in my 16 year old step-brother in law as labourer. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

right now

We were at the lake this weekend, at the bach that Dad purchased a share of in the time just B.D. (before diagnosis).  It was tough to see him sleep for lengthy periods and sit quietly on the deck, sheltered from the sun.  He'd usually be the first to direct the walk, to back the boat down the ramp into the water, to run into the water for a swim. 

I didn't do many of those things either this weekend, preferring instead to stay close to him where I could.  My stomach has been feeling slightly uncomfortable and stretchy, of late, and I think the depression surrounding Dad's illness kicks in a little more when I see him in person, which in turn makes me feel physically drained.  I sat on the couch with him, joked about all his pills and I asked about the hairloss and the dimming of his vision, but mostly we talked about small things.  We watched the opening game of the Cricket World Cup and cheered the Black Caps on together, but I don't think he could see much of the action ('was that a four or a six?' 'what's the RPO now?' 'who bowled that?'). 

I heard murmuring through the wall at night.  It's simultaneouly reassuring and awful to know that Mum and Dad were chatting quietly together in the dead of night - reassuring because they're in this together, awful because I know why they're awake.  I also heard some terrible snoring coming from my sister K, which was mostly just reassuring because I want her to sleep while she can.  I don't know what she's thinking a lot of the time (I think I once did?  When we were young and lived together and knew each other better than anyone else) but I hope she's managing to find peace in all of this.  We call each other more regularly, now.  We don't say much, but we do share each nugget of information or insight into how our parents are feeling. 

We arrived home about 7.30 last night.  Cocoa was waiting on the step but Tabitha was nowhere to be seen.  It was unusual and she didn't turn up until 1.30 this morning.  Christ, I was so relieved.  I do not need any more death or despair on top of what's already going on, not that there would ever be a good time to lose her.  I am funnelling so much love and affection into those cats who don't have a clue that things aren't as they should be.

The next visit I'd booked is for Easter, some seven weeks away.  I don't think I can leave it that long.  I want to make this finite time we have left last as long as I possibly can.  Plus, I think Mum needs me.  A colleague the other day commented that I must be wishing time away to get to June and my departure on maternity leave.  No, I snapped, I want it to stand still right now.  I felt terrible and apologised - she doesn't know the finer detail of what's happening in my life and it was well meant.  Yes, I'm looking forward to meeting this baby but no, I can't fathom that we're probably only going to get further away from Dad as he should be.  As he was. 

(Christ, the past tense has made me cry.)

I have the 20 week scan this week.  I haven't yet identified any clear movements from the baby which, although probably normal, is making me nervous.  I have been considering whether we should find out the sex to share with Dad, just in case.  I couldn't bring myself to ask whether he wanted to know though - it felt too much like saying 'what if you die before July?' out loud.  I can't say that.  I won't say that.  Maybe we'll ask for one of those envelopes with the sex written on a note inside, that I can offer him if and when things change.  I hope the baby is fine and healthy; worry is pulling at my heart. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

life can, in fact, go on

I stood in the hospital lift by his bedside, next to the nurse, wondering if the smile and laugh was real or merely reflexive. 

'Hi, Dad.'

On a Wednesday, he went to hospital.  On a Thursday morning, my mother called, several times.  The last time, she told me to get my sister and get there, fast.  On a Thursday evening, I saw him in the high dependency unit, unresponsive to his family but grimacing in pain.  On a Friday morning, he slept easily but continuously, despite overheard whispers from staff of a difficult night.

On a Friday afternoon, I met the palliative care doctor.

They'd increased the steroids, but there was nothing further they could do but offer pain relief.


It was a Friday afternoon when he woke up.


It was simultaneously the worst and the most miraculous few days of my life.  We genuinely believed that he wasn't going to wake again; we wouldn't be speaking to him again.  In the early hours of Friday morning, I listened to hours of music in the warm dark of the bedroom, tears leaking down my face, holding a jersey I'd borrowed from his bedroom.  At 4am, I saw a light go on and Mum and I sat in the shared warm dark of the living room, drinking a cup of tea and quietly facing a new reality.  Friday afternoon and Saturday I lived on a euphoric rush of life, life, life

He was released on a Monday to travel to start the treatment regime.  He's not the Dad of life before diagnosis, nor is he even the Dad of life shortly after, but he's my Dad and he's alive.  He's alive

I am so profoundly grateful and yet I am utterly bereft and broken.  The reality is that there will be peaks and troughs in an inevitable downhill slide.  I thought I was talking realistically before when we were planning for one year, maybe two if we were lucky.  I now appreciate that to have him in July when the baby is born will be a gift, one we may not receive.   

I hate what this is doing to him.  I hate what this is doing to my mother. 


I'm struggling to write about it.  Apart from that brutal Thursday and the vulnerable days that followed, I'm ignoring the problem in everyday life.  In my own city, between visits and phone calls, I'm able to pretend that everything is fine.  I need the catharsis of writing and talking but I can't bring myself to indulge. 


I love him.