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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Memorial as a Celebration of Life

I'm posting this as I try to hold a yard sale on a semi-rural street during a heat wave when no self-respecting Seattleite wants to be outside. And someone stole the A-frame signs the neighbor who organized the neighborhood yard sale had out, so there's very little traffic. But we have a nice little breeze and a shaded porch and a nearly-nine-year-old playing with the early birthday gift of assorted My Little Ponies that we picked up on sale yesterday.

Anything we don't sell I guess we can keep long enough for the memorial we're holding next week; maybe some of our friends and family can use clothing, DVDs, newer graphic novels (Marvel, mostly), PS2 games, or assorted kitchenware.

This post serves as an official invitation to anyone who wants (and is able) to come to that memorial; it's a pot luck open house celebration of life at my house a week from today. We're shooting for 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM; we're not sure how much we can handle in our current state.

If you don't know how to get here, message me and I'll get an address and directions to you; I'm not so depressed as to forget my Internet Safety Rules and post it for the world to see.

I don't really have a plan; it's fairly free form. If you are inspired to say a few words, raise a glass in Laston's honor, play a hand or two of Munchkin, we're here for that. (At the moment I'd also accept tripping the young man from down the street who rides his motorized scooter up and down the road; I want that noise gone).

Book Signing at a Norwescon
A caveat; if you choose to bring food, please make sure it's either nut-free or well-labeled (or both); I would really rather not see the hospital again, well, ever. Certainly not right now, and the last time Abby had a cashew, well...

If you can't make it because of time or distance or health or inability to cope, please feel free to post on this thread; I have two friends who are compiling such things and printing them as a memorial book. Or you could buy a book or give to colon cancer research (links in the sidebar, although I think they do not show up on all mobile versions of the site).

So come on over, if you feel you can. We'll be glad to see you.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Temporary Normal

Depression Awareness Ribbon
It's going to take us a long time to get back to anything approaching a new normal, but I can see us making stabs at it already. In the meantime we're in that limbo known as situational depression, where normal and even funny things happen but the eggshell fine is still pretty cracked.

For those who are worried about our emotional well-being, well. we're getting there. We've been watching a movie - mostly Disney classics with a little Harry Potter thrown in for good measure - almost every night, and tonight (as Lizzy and I are reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) we had a little catharsis in discussing Sirius' death and the implications of survivor's guilt.

Even Lizzy at not quite nine groks that survivors' guilt is irrational but very very real. As is the depression (not rational, but reasonable) and anxiety and the symptoms thereof. Irritability is a big one; I find myself shouting at the kids for such heinous crimes as Being Thirteen (eye rolling) and Being Eight (random wiggles).

I have medication to help me with this one; half at Ativan when I'm feeling especially overwhelmed and at bedtime seems to do the trick. Ativan is in the same class of drugs as Xanax. I don't really like taking it - even at half a dose - because I prefer other ways of reducing anxiety. But sometimes one needs a chemical boost in the short term.

Those other ways? For me it's mostly keeping busy. That means getting kids' school stuff ready (mostly done), setting up our booth for this week's neighborhood-wide yard sale (half done) and extreme housecleaning (almost done, mostly by friends and family).

And the friends and family are helping in more ways than that. This week for instance I have friends coming over here to provide moral support and company (that is not comprised of children at whom I am shouty) on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; on Wednesday my mom is coming over in the afternoon while my sister takes Abbs shopping. I have two sets of friends working together to make a memorial booklet based on all the nice things that have been said about Laston for those less tech-friendly among us (like Laston's parents). And that doesn't even take into a ccount the lovely things done by people already.

Sunday Abby will be coming back from her dad's and I'll take the kids to my mom's time share as they do every year, and I hope to return to work on Monday (the 22nd). Not only do I need the money, but I think with the kids gone for the week, I'll want something like work to distract me from the temporary normal, as depressing as it is.

On Saturday the 27th, everyone who loved Laston (or loves someone who did) is invited over for a potluck open house memorial. Nothing formal, but if you want to say a few words, raise a glass, play a round of Munchkin, whatever in his honor, you are welcome. Those of you who need to know how to get here, please message me.

Just clearly label foods please, if you bring some; I never want to see that hospital again if I can manage it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Four Days...

...or it will be at 1:50 (official time of death) Sunday morning.

That kind of blows me away. I was in a restaurant today and I must have asked five or six times if the cashier was absolutely sure today is only the 13th.

It seems a lot longer.

People have been so kind, with flowers and condolence cards and prayers and gift cards and food - lots of food, most of it not horrifically bad for us - and help around the house.

Today I had a cousin, my mom, two aunts, an uncle, and a friend/neighbor family. Between us, we managed to tidy and organize the dining/game room, parcel Laston's clothes out to the girls or charity as appropriate (nobody in the family wants his sweats for example, but there are a number of nerdy shirts and hats the girls and I wanted), cleaned and powerwashed the porches, cleaned the gutter, fixed the refrigerator, too a bunch of canned food to places where it will get used, and cleaned the girls' rooms. And fed everyone lunch.

We took Leanna her birthday gift and went out to dinner.

Sometime later this week Leanna is going to go through some of her stuff too, because we're having a neighborhood-wide yard sale this weekend. I plan to give the three kids all the money we make from sales therefrom.

I may seem a little detached, and maybe I am, but there are two main reasons for that. One is the good offices of medication prescribed for anxiety. This is a short term solution. The other reason is actual... shock, I guess.

Is it weird to be shocked when you've had days and even months to prepare? I wasn't surprised, but I suppose I was shocked.

In an effort to process I tend to find problems I can solve. Hence the timing between going through Laston's things and the yard sale. And probably why I plan to go back to work a week from Monday when the kids are out for a week; the house will be awfully empty otherwise.

Oh... if you want a good cause to support in honor of Laston, check here. They get 4 of 4 stars from the people who rate such things.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The End of an Era

As most of you know, my husband Laston died in the middle of the night between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. He'd been under (colon, metastasized to his liver) cancer treatment for ten months, and in the past few weeks his liver just gave up, taking his kidneys with it. So the rest of his organs started shutting, with one week between learning he was terminal and last night.

All I really have to share right now is a rather disjointed collection of impressions, both good and bad, and I hope you'll put up with me. Also I am a little tipsy on exhaustion and anxiety meds, prescribed by my doctor on the suggestion of our nurse social worker in the oncology unit.

Hospice is the most helpful place ever; from nurses to doctors to counselors and even the ambulance drivers (I needed to do something positive and so I called their supervisor to give them kudos). I can't think of a better place to end life than the Evergreen Hospice Care Center.

Pacific Medical Center really needs to change their hold music. It hasn't changed since before Abby was born (so around fourteen years at least; she'll be fourteen in December). It has this pause that makes the caller think that the line has been picked up, and then the damn music starts again and you just want to scream.

I have overcome my fear of underground parking garages and their adjoining stairs and elevators.

People are just so supportive and so nice. I haven't got enough space to list everyone here, but a few shout-outs go especially to Mike & Gabi, Mike & Lucy, Carrie & Jason, Rich & Diane, The denizens of Chez Davis-Downes, Aileen, Mom, Aunt Wendy & Uncle Bob, Dad, Steph, Chrissy, T, Meg, Dianna, Brandi, Charlie Hoover, and the members of the Woodinville Washington Friday morning at ten Weight Watchers meeting. If I've missed anyone, please forgive me.

Also, please know that while we are heartbroken and despairing at the moment, we're going to be okay over here at Chez Gamers Babes. All of your support, from monetary to changing light bulbs, from offering specific services and help to just being there; these things will help us tremendously, and we so appreciate it.

I think we will have a very small memorial service soon, and then in a few months we'll have a full-on Laston Kirkland Memorial Game Day Open House.

I think he'd like that.

That's all I have for now; I think the meds are starting to hit. But thank you my friends, all of you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Worst News

I don't know how to start. I guess I'll just say it.

Laston's going into end-of-life hospice care as soon as the good folk of Evergreen Hospital can get the gastro symptoms under control. Our hope is that we can get him in home hospice care, but if he needs more support, like IVs and things, he'll be in the hospice care center instead. For him, the most important thing is access to his computer so he can finish his current book.

I am very sorry to have to type this, but Laston and I agreed that all of our loved ones - offline and on - need to know. His cancer got so aggressive that the chemo just couldn't keep up, and as the cancer was in his colon and liver, the liver gave up and his kidneys are straining to take the load. His organs are just failing and short of a miracle, this can't be fixed.

So here we sit.

We have tons of support; our respective parents and friends and neighbors and siblings. My Weight Watchers group has offered to make food for us to freeze. Our friends have offered to help the girls clean their rooms. My friend A. has offered any help I need so many times (and I'd like to add you to the girls' pickup lists at their schools, if that's okay). I have a neighbor offering fresh eggs and mushrooms, My parents have been chauffeurs and babysitters and general support and have taken me out of myself with musical plays and good seafood.

I have had more people than I can count offering to help us, but I usually don't have enough energy to think of something on the spot. So I'll just list some random things that would be  super helpful if you want to help. You could give to the GoFundMe attached to this post, or buy one of Laston's books from the other links. If you're handy (and local) we could use a new bolt for the toilet seat, someone to unstop the bathroom sink drain, and maybe someone could look at our freezer, as it seems to need defrosting and the icemaker hasn't worked for a year. Someone (Steph?) to take Abby back-to-school shopping (Lizzy's done, provided we can find her socks).

I don't even know what to do at this point, so I went to default (which means it's just as well the Weight Watchers group will be feeding us soon): comfort food. The girls and I had my favorite comfort food, the one I ate at least once a week while pregnant with Lizzy; this is Chinese food from Chan's Place. With enough leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.

We'll just try to keep life as normal as possible.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Colon Cancer is a Pain in the Ass

It had to be said.

F-Bomb Warning.

And duh - this is a Cancer Post™.

It is also a post about video games, hospital nurses, tesseracts, timey wimey TARDISes, American politics through the eyes of an eight-year-old child, the ins and outs of epipen costs, nice mechanics and nicer baristas, complications of illness, and children's odd interpretations of just about everything. And money, of course, always money. Or at least security.

So, most of you know that Laston was admitted to hospital again yesterday (July 27) because of severe gastrointestinal issues and side pain. There was some concern that it might be appendicitis (because why the fuck not?) but the scans show nothing wrong with his abdomen (or his chest, for that matter, so pneumonia is out - yay!) that we didn't already know about, like colon cancer metastasized to his liver. 

Nope, he has C. Diff Colitis. And for those of you who'd rather not read the link, it's one of those bacterial infections one gets from too many antibiotics (or other things that affect the GI tract, like, say, colon cancer or food poisoning). Very unhappy symptoms, mostly involving the uh... lower intestinal tract, if you know what I mean. Hence the post title. This is, mind you, in addition to our friends Too Much Ammonia in the Gut (which causes severe fatigue and nausea, and can go as far as coma), and Ascites, which is what causes people with liver problems to have swollen abdomens.

Problem is that the treatment for the too-much-ammonia issue is also a laxative. This is a bad combination, so they want to have him in a place where they can keep a close eye on things, which I cannot do in my living room, until they can get the C Diff under control.

Also, Lizzy should not be in his hospital room, because she can't stop touching things, and is at risk for infection thereby. Grownups (and older kids) can usually manage it though, with rigorous handwashing, surgical gowns, gloves and so forth, so they don't want him home until he's no longer contagious.

Sounds like when I had Giardia Lamblia in the long ago (July 1992). I still have gastro issues through this day, so I have a little panic whenever I have a gastro moment. As mine are often triggered by stress, this is a problem.

Naturally on the way home from the hospital, on hold with my insurance company to see about getting the available discounted housecleaning service (did not get yet; there's a process; regularly priced cleaners are coming in tomorrow to make at least all but the kids' rooms hygienic), my mom texts me saying she's left her purse at KFC when she got Strongly-Discouraged-Lizzy from the hospital, and could I go get it? I turn around, get to KFC, and they have no idea what I'm talking about.


Turns out that my mom, who has lived in the area since well before I was driving a car, and whose favorite Chinese restaurant is only across the parking lot from this KFC, didn't even know that the Totem Lake KFC existed, much less that it was closest to the hospital.

So I went to the Woodinville store, where they had her purse waiting for me. Silly Mom.

Then, when I stopped to pick up Abby's epipen refill, the pharmacy told me they were over $1500 for four pens (two packs).

Excuse me?

After much frantic texting with my ex-husband, who carries her insurance (bless him) and a quick visit to the website for the manufacturer's coupons for epipens, I got that down to $110.

On the other hand, with Abby at her Nana's house (my ex-husband's mom) and Leanna with her mom, we are getting quite a lot of Lizzy and Mommy time. And boy is it weird.

The conversation started this morning on the way to the hospital (before the Lizzy-ban) with her asking about a specific episode of Doctor Who (The Doctor's Wife), and went through multi-dimensional travel (with a side trip to whether she is ready to tackle A Wrinkle in Time; she is, as long as it's the same way she reads the Harry Potter books, which is that I read it to her in an effort to deal with any context she doesn't have), and then to the concept of empathy. Because, you see, in the episode in question, the Doctor can (for the first time ever) speak to the TARDIS in words, not just empathically. I asked her if she knew what empathy was and she said yes, it's 'trying to understand what the person you're talking to is feeling.'


Then she made a connection I was not comfortable with; she asked if that's why I don't like Donald Trump, because he's the one who's "not a demmy-something, the other ones, the ones who don't have the empathy."

Hold on there, kiddo; I never said that. I know lots of Republicans who have plenty of empathy (like some of our best family friends, and also some of her grandparents, and that I'm not a Democrat anyway, though I am a liberal). I also explained that although Trump is the choice of the Republican Party (I'm not getting into the reservations on the parts of many Republicans with an eight-year-old) that I don't think he's a good example of a Republican anyway.

"Because he doesn't have empathy? Oh!" (you could see the lightbulb come on) "Like Dolores Umbridge doesn't have empathy for Harry Potter, but most of the people from the Ministry of Magic are nice?"

Yeah, pretty much. 

But seriously, she's not quite nine, and she's into politics and science and unicorns, and can pretty much flit from one to another with little effort. She is definitely her parents' child. As a further example, I'm writing this while watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on Amazon Prime on my new PS3, because Laston isn't here for me to play Final Fantasy XIII with. And yes, I find 2001 soothing; call it prenatal influence; it was released the summer my mom was pregnant with me.

Outfit on Clearance
Another example is this outfit, which we came across for a grand total of six bucks, on our way through Sears to buy her new shoes, as her old ones are size two and her new ones are three-and-a-half. Note that she deliberately balanced the STEM-themed shirt with girly leggings; she said it needed "a little girling up."

All righty then.

And this was after we got the van's (typically Laston's vehicle, as he doesn't like my little compact sedan, but it's running a lot better than my car. If this keeps up we'll only need the one car anyway; currently Laston isn't up to driving much) oil changed and the body washed, gassed up and a new fuel cap.

Oh, little problem; transmission fluid was dirty, our climate means that mold often grows in the cabin air filters (ew!) and he needs new wiper blades. This gets expensive. Although in fairness, after the barista attached to the garage heard about our day (shutting Lizzy up when she's excited is an exercise in futility) she gave us the oil change discount on both drinks, not just one.

New Shoes!
So the rest of the school supplies (she really needed the socks and shoes) will have to wait until next payday.

So yeah, a pain in the ass kind of day, although bits of it were fun, intellectually stimulating, or both.

This is the Moving Target and the New Normal. 

I shall just keep swimming.