04
Jul
10

Last Post

Thank you to all of my friends, family and many strangers who have followed this blog for so long. It touches my heart that you did so and that you took the time to leave such meaningful comments.  This entry will be the last one for this blog.

Should anyone want or need to contact me, please feel free to do so at midwestknitgirlATgmailDOTcom (for those who don’t know to do so, replace the AT with @ and the DOT with a period, if I type it out as an email address, it’s that much easier to be spammed). You can also visit my ‘regular’ blog if you’d like to stay in touch: Midwest Knit Girl.

Grateful hugs,

Patty

12
Jun
10

Change

Change. Only 6 letters and it carries such a huge weight, doesn’t it? Whether positive or negative, it can make such a difference in your life.

Though there have been many changes for me over the last 20+ months, they’re not all negative or sad. Though sometimes I have to remind myself of that. I’m on the Dean’s Honor List for Spring semester (3.75 GPA), and I’m eligible to apply to a student group called Phi Theta Kappa solely because of my cumulative GPA. I’ve never belonged to a student group ever, much less be more than a C average student. How cool is this?

My mock interview (a requirement for school) with Park Nicollet went supremely well, I have a very high chance of getting a job there quickly, once I’m ready to look for work.

I’ve been able to figure out financially how to not work this summer with little to no dipping into my investments (25 years at one company was a good thing in that respect).

I changed my hair color to red with blond highlights and not one negative comment to date – in fact, actual strangers have commented on it. Seriously. The other day the UPS driver came up to the door, I tried to say hi but had a hard time as I have a cold and was losing my voice, she looked up, handed me the package and said, “You have pretty hair.” I don’t get it. How can hair color make that much of a difference? People actually talk to me differently in stores. Neighbors have made note of it when we chat. What’s the deal?

Most importantly, I had an amazing trip up north in May. The cabin was everything I wanted it to be. The beach, though mostly rocks, was exactly what I needed. I hung out on big slabs of rocks every single day and just soaked up life and whatever presented itself. I found beautiful agates and other rocks too, brought a lot home with me.

A couple of friends come and visited too. During a campfire and thunderstorm one night with one of Frank’s friends, Sean, we experienced what I’ll call a profound moment -the cloud streaks in the sky from the storm were – we think – Frank’s hand. For those who knew Frank, the first joint on each of his first two fingers on his right hand were lost in a snow blower accident. We could tell at first the cloud streaks resembled a hand, but during one of the next lightning strikes I noticed the first two fingers and said “Look, it’s Frank’s right hand!” Sean seemed just as surprised but agreed, I mean, what else would it be? There was no way to catch it on camera but trust me, I don’t think either of us will forget it.

The storm itself was quite moving, it just kept working its way around us the whole time. We could hear the thunder but there wasn’t any rain. We could see lightening but still no rain. Once in a while the moon would pop out of the clouds, then go back. Same with the island on the lake, until we couldn’t see it anymore. I think we stayed out there until midnight, maybe later. I didn’t want to go to bed, I wanted to keep watching the sky and enjoying the campfire as the wood smelled crazy good.

The next morning I really hated the thought of leaving. I was so completely content. I had gotten used to going to beach twice a day to hang out on the rocks, riding my bike, walking up and down the hilly roads, and staring at the island while listening to the seagulls. I could have stayed another 10 days, or 20 or heck, the rest of the summer. It was so peaceful being there and it calmed me. I think Sean and Lock thought the same thing. In fact, when Lock walked into the cabin the first thing he said was “I could live here!”, and he was in no hurry to leave that day. Bought himself a load of chocolate at the candy shop too. Said he MIGHT share with his wife. :-)

So life is changing for me and though I’m not always liking it, there is more positive change happening than negative. It’s good for me and I think I deserve it, I just have to remember that. And remember the hand in the sky, because I think Frank was letting us know he was okay, too.

12
May
10

Time To Relax

This is a part of what I wrote at my main blog but I realized it fits at this one also, so I’m adding it here.

The last five months have been quite stressful but now it’s time to try and relax a little and enjoy life for a time. But also during the last month and a half, some very cool and positive things have happened. As each event transpired, I would briefly wonder why. Seriously – I can’t figure out why these good things keep happening to me. I know we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but I don’t think I’ve done anything special to deserve these things. So I went to the bookstore last week and found a book that I think is helping me to understand what’s happening. Maybe what the author is talking about isn’t the real reason these things have been happening, but since I can’t prove it isn’t, I’m willing to keep reading the book to find out more.

The book I bought is called The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire by Deepak Chopra. As I’ve been reading the book I’ve come to realize that being more open and willing to try new things, no matter how hard, is so good for you. I’ve definitely become a stronger person emotionally over the past year and a half, and I’m no longer quite as shy as I used to be. In fact, I feel quite bold most of the time. I don’t know where that came from but it’s definitely there.

To this day, I still can’t believe I started a 40 credit program during one of the most stressful times of my life – I had just been laid off after 25 years at my job, my husband’s cancer had returned and he was considered terminal. But it was the right thing to do, I know it was. To this day I know I chose the right program, I feel it in my gut, and Frank always said he thought it was right too. Each time I would leave for school for a test, he would tell me to go to war and get that A! So I did.

Then this year at the end of February, he passed away and for the briefest moment I wanted to stop school, only a microsecond mind you, because it was so difficult to do my homework, go to school and also grieve for Frank. But I knew he would have been profoundly disappointed in me if I had quit, so I didn’t. To this day I have an A average for the program, so my perseverance has paid off. And by the way, lest one thinks community college is easy, you’re wrong. Especially when you aren’t willing to settle for less than an A.

Maybe I’ve developed some new-found determination over time. I don’t know. But what I do know, is that sometime last year I must have figured out that to sit back and let life rule me is not an option, I’m the one in charge.

Just watch me soar.

24
Apr
10

8 Weeks

Sunday, April 25th, will be 8 weeks since Frank passed away. Sometimes it feels like it’s been longer than that and other times, much shorter. Maybe it’s because I’ve kept busy with school, a surgery (I’m fine), an internship and hanging with friends and family since then.

Last Saturday I had a party with a special group of people to honor Frank. We had picnic food, a campfire, a quiz with prizes and just all around grand fun. I bought some shot glasses with an up north scene on them and had Frank’s name and the date he passed away imprinted on them. So we all toasted him at the campfire with them – I had scotch because it seemed the right thing to do as that was what two of Frank’s best friends and I had the day he passed away, in the living room while saying good bye.

I never did share here much of that day and some parts of it will always remain private. It’s interesting because I had put out a post on the blog at 10:06 am that day, Feb 28th, explaining that I was going to be restricting visitors because he seemed so agitated, and then he passed away not much later the same day.

From the time I put out that post until just moments before he died, I knew something was happening. I honestly didn’t know what it was but I knew something had changed. The energy, for lack of a better term, was different in the house. I had to be in the same room with him, I needed to be, I physically couldn’t bring myself to leave his side. Even though he wasn’t responsive at the time I talked to him about the fact I loved all the trips we took together and how much fun they were, and how he was the love of my life, how it was a good thing we never went to bed angry at each other because it was so much more fun being happy, how I knew I was going to be okay and that he didn’t need to worry about me. Sweet stuff. Silly stuff. Our stuff. I told him I loved him and I kissed him, and hugged him the best I could without hurting him.

Later I was sitting next to the bed, just being quiet, touching his arm lightly. I knew then it was close. I felt it in my gut. He moved a bit and then took two calm breaths with a pause in between, just in and out, very slowly. And he was gone. After that and before I called anyone, I spent time with him, just me. No one else. It was my turn, my time. I wanted more time than nearly 15 years but you have to appreciate what you get, right? I held his hands, I patted the arm that was nearest to me. I kissed him, I hugged him and tidied the blankets around him. Then I started the calls.

Later that day two of his friends were here with me and we stood around the bed and toasted him with shots of scotch, because that’s what Frank would have wanted. Yes, it was sad. Yes, it sucked in the worst way imaginable to even do that because it signified the end of his life here as we know it, but we had to honor what we thought would be his wishes. Frank was a big presence, a free spirit who spoke his mind and loved those who were true, and he will be remembered that way always. If anyone remembers him as anything else, you didn’t know the same person. I know he is somewhere enjoying the next part of his journey, pain-free, strong and happy. I wish he were here doing that but I have come to accept that isn’t possible so I need to more forward with my life. To my next journey.

I wasn’t going to share even this much on the blog but I just spent the past week doing my 40 hour internship at the same clinic Frank received his cancer treatments at. I wasn’t sure if it was a smart idea going there for the internship but it turns out it was definitely the right thing to do. There wasn’t one single person I met or worked with who didn’t truly care about the patients – the level of compassion and caring is simply admirable. I applaud the entire staff sincerely for what they do – from the front desk to the switchboard, the schedulers, financial counseling, the nurses, the doctors…everyone really, truly has empathy for those coming to the clinic.

They welcomed me with open arms and those who knew Frank, I offered a memorial bookmark to them that I had made for his service. He is now all over that clinic with those bookmarks, he’s grinning from ear to ear in the picture on it – and likely grinning from wherever he is now because even when he was at his crabbiest, someone always got him to smile when he was there. Believe me, I heard the stories and they were lovely. For that, I thank the staff from the bottom of my heart for not only helping make his day, but sharing those stories with me last week. To the staff – I will be visiting sometime this summer and I’ll bring the salsa I promised all of you. :-)

I know now doing my internship there was the right thing to do because it confirmed for me that I’m moving into the right field for the next part of my life’s journey. I may not be able to work at that clinic but I know what aspect of the Medical Office Assistant role I want to do now, it’s probably really not a true aspect of it but it’s definitely related. And it’s important.

I don’t know when it happened but the majority of the anger I had about losing Frank has dissipated, it’s been replaced with a quiet resolution to move forward and begin my new life, and with the knowledge that it’s okay to do so. But I will do it without forgetting Frank – he is permanently in my heart.

29
Mar
10

One Month & A Day

It’s hard to believe but it was one month ago yesterday that Frank died. Some days are easier than others but essentially, it’s still rather surreal. I see a picture of him, I hear a song, I smell something – and I think of him. He still feels ‘real’ to me and I sometimes feel like he’s going to walk through the back door after visiting his friend up north, and then ask what time happy hour will be. I know better, of course, but that’s how I feel right now.

Yesterday two of Frank’s friends came over to help do some spring chores because I had surgery on the 23rd (a lapraoscopic supracervical hysterectomy to treat uterine fibroids and other issues) and can’t do certain things like lifting heavy items. I’m finding it’s not such a bad thing to ask for help, in fact, people actually want to help so who am I to argue?

While sitting on the deck in the sunshine yesterday, the three of us hoisted a couple of toasts to Frank. I imagine we’ll do that now and again as we roll along in our now somewhat emptier lives. I think we’ve come to realize that we all need each other – Frank’s friends that I’ve come to know better, my friends that they’re getting to know (and vice-versa) and of course me – we’re becoming a tight little group that understands how the others feel, and so it’s okay to talk about certain things that we might not otherwise with other people. I cherish the new friendships I have and I hope they feel the same, and that our friendships will only get better as time goes on.

I don’t know how much I’ll be updating this blog moving forward. Maybe not at all, I really have no idea. Clearly, I have moved into a grieving phase of my life rather than surviving mode which is really what this outlet became for me, so this may not be the place to express my feelings about my life’s new experiences. But if I find that what I want to say may appeal to others, I’ll drop a post here.

I would like to express a heartfelt thanks to those who have followed my blog for doing so. For many of you, you found some comfort reading my posts and that brings me joy knowing that what I had to say meant something to you. I have also become great friends with a handful of people through this blog that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, thank goodness for that because those individuals helped me along the way more than I could ever express. Love and hugs and gratitude to you all – you know who you are. :-)

I also know there are those who are going through their own heartaches right now (some of those friends noted above) and I can only offer this advice – be good to yourself and let out the anger, sadness, happiness – all of those feelings you have. Do NOT bottle them up, do not ignore them or think you will deal with them later, it’s far too hard to live with. Find an outlet that works for you, whether it be blogging, exercise, talking. Whatever works but just don’t ignore how you feel. I did that for far too long (even with blogging I still managed to tamp down feelings I should have acknowledged at the time they arose), but now when my feelings hit…I just roll with them, and rolling is good.

That, my good friends, is all I have to say for now.

Hugs,

Patty

07
Mar
10

Frank’s Eulogy

I wrote a eulogy for Frank expecting to be able to read it at the service. Nope. No way. Not a chance. Just reading made me choke up so I asked Reverend Jack to do it for me. He did a beautiful job. Here it is.

I made note in Frank’s obituary that he had beat the odds against kidney cancer. That may have raised an eyebrow or two because if he beat it, why isn’t he here?

Frank beat the odds because only 5% of those diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer make it 5 years. Frank’s original diagnosis was made in March 2005 so that means in my mind, it was close enough to say he beat the odds.

He is part of that privileged 5%.

I am most proud of Frank’s unwavering determination and upbeat attitude throughout his cancer journey. Not once did he give up or admit defeat. He literally fought the cancer to the very end.

I don’t know if I could have fought as hard as he did, and with jokes no less.

One of the things Frank started to do over the past few weeks or so as his illness advanced, was signal to us that he needed more time to process an answer to a question. To do this he would raise one finger, smile and then say “I’m still here.”

I firmly believe that Frank is still here with us in spirit and always will be. He is here in our hearts as well. I think Dr. Suess had it right when he said “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

I think Frank would have appreciated that quote because he was all about enjoying life to its fullest.

I still have a lot crying to do but I also have so many, many happy memories that I can think about to help me heal through this next part of my own life journey. Just remembering his smile makes my heart flutter and makes me happy – I guess that’s what true love must really be if something as simple as his smile can touch me that way.

I will love Frank to my dying day – he was my first true love. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had him in my life for nearly 15 years.

Frank was one of the most well-read people I’ve ever known, always searching for knowledge, always looking for answers. In fact, I can just see him at the pearly gates telling St. Peter – “Hold on, I’m not quite ready – I have another question for you.”

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Frank’s friends for their unending support and love for him, especially during the last month or so while he was in the hospital and then at Presbyterian Homes and finally, at home.

You were all there for him, night and day, without question, even if that meant yet another spur of the moment trip to the Mall of America, wheelchair transfer and all.

You have all also been there for me. I could not have gotten through this time without you. We have all talked about Frank’s loyalty to his friends – you are all just as loyal. For that I love and thank you.

I feel so lucky to have been a part of Frank’s life and of course, part of his family. Thank you for sharing him with me.

Cheers to you, Frank, my love. May you find peace and happiness wherever you are.

28
Feb
10

Rest In Peace, My Love

Frank Joseph Asher

Born: 01/31/1953

Passed: 02/28/2010


I Will Love You Forever

My Teddy Bear




I Will Love Him Forever

The love of my life passed away peacefully on February 28, 2010. The fight he put up through this tough journey is truly commendable.

Though I am sad at his passing, I am so grateful for the time I had with him, our families and our friends. The memories of our times together will sustain me forever.

I think this quote, shared with me by a loving cousin, sums up how I feel.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss

My Cancer Hat

I'm a person who hates wearing hats, both literally and figuratively. Now I will be wearing a caregivers cancer hat because my husband has cancer and I need to be strong for him. But I also need a place to vent, look for support and find strength.

Hopefully, this blog will enable me to deal with the process and meet others who are going through a similar challenge.

TB’s Cancer

TB, my husband (TB is his nickname), has kidney cancer, stage 4. He had a kidney and the tumor that was in it removed in 2005. We discovered in September 2008 that it had returned and has now metastasized to his bones, specifically his right femur plus spots on his skull, his spine and his ribs, the inside and outside of his lungs, his brain. He is not curable.

TB was originally participating in a clinical study that would provide him with a treatment that would halt, for an unknown length of time, the proteins from getting to the cancer cells. So in essence, slowing but not curing, the progression of the cancer. There is no question he will die from this, the unknown factor is the 'when' it will happen.

Unfortunately, TB had to be removed from the study as the metastases have grown. He was placed on a new regimen of Aerida and Sutent but that didn't work out. It made him too ill. Now he's on a daily regimen of Afinitor - "Plan C" as we call it. Basically, we're working to extend his life but in a manner that will allow him to still enjoy it and maintain his dignity.

1/27/2010 - At the suggestion of our oncologist, TB will no longer take any cancer medications as the benefits do not outweigh the possible negative side effects a new medication would have. He will be transferred soon to a facility where he can receive rehab, as he is extremely weak due to the pneumonia and inactivity. Our goal is to improve his quality of life as best we can.

2/21/2010 - Frank is now home, we've begun hospice care.

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