A to A the Adventure to Arkansas

Today was a beautiful day in our neck of the woods.  Sunday is always a good day in my book.  Breakfast for the family and then what to do?

Mom has cancer and very bad arthritis and my younger son, 17,  just had ACL/Meniscus surgery on his knee.  What do you do in this situation?  You sight see.

I suggested a short day trip to Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas.  It is beautiful there.  Here is a glimpse….IMG_3672[1]

The park is gorgeous with a lot of hiking possibilities.  We were not able to partake in hiking but we were able to enjoy a nice picnic outdoors.  Plenty of places to park and enjoy the scenic surroundings.  If your careful and don’t speed by it as I almost did, there is a scenic overlook with much to offer…as seen here…

Now to the unpleasant part of the day.  This post should just be about what a beautiful day in Arkansas it was, but for me it was a stressful day.  A day that I realized, no more day trips for my mom.  It’s not because of the lymphoma, it’s because of her pain.  Her kidneys had failed and now she can’t take the arthritis medicine she was taking prior to the lymphoma flare up.  Now she is in constant pain.  She will not acknowledge it, denial is a powerful thing.  If you ask her how she feels, she will say “I am fine”.

I swear “I’m fine” is going on her headstone.  Stubborn as the longest summer day.  I thought it would be nice to enjoy the beautiful sites but my mom was in so much discomfort, despite her testimonial saying “I’m fine” that it affected the day.  She would not converse in the car.  I was riding alone.  I would point to something of interest and while looking the other way, she would say “oh yes that’s nice”.  So is she in pain, or was she lost?  I will never know.  All I know is that my mom and I were best friends for years and we hiked Pike’s Peak together just 7 years ago.  When my mom was 66 she hiked 26.2 miles to the summit of Pike’s Peak and back down.  Now at 73, I can’t get her to have a conversation.  I point to things and they don’t seem to register.  She looks for what I am speaking about but never seems to find it.  She really seemed miserable the entire day, but if we had left her home, she would have been angry at that.  My mom has become very childlike and very selfish, we can’t win with her.  I know this isn’t my mom.  I know that the dementia is causing this along with all the pain.  She is hurting and angry and most likely scared, but will never speak of it or admit it.  Strong German woman that she is and always has been for as long as I can remember.

This post is about a beautiful place in Arkansas, Devil’s Den State Park, but it is also about me slowly losing my best friend.  Thank goodness gas doesn’t cost $2,009.00, but I sure wish we drove internet speeds.  My first post will give you the reference on that.

How do we as a society deal with our aging parents?  As they become children and we become parents to them, what is the path?  I chose mine and it is living here with my mom.  As hard as it is daily to watch my mom deteriorate, I would not be anywhere else on earth.  This is not my duty or my job, it is my pleasure to try to help her any way that I can as she has done so much for me through my life.  So while today was not the fun enjoyable day I had hoped for, it was another day with her and even though she was in pain, she saw a place she had never been before and we did have one more adventure, followed up with ice cream….that make’s everything perfect.

 

 

 

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PSA – Beware the Sun

I like most everyone LOVE the sun. Who doesn’t love the warmth on your skin and bright sunny days with the fresh air full of the aroma of sunscreen and tanning oils?

Exactly, the sun is awesome. Somehow we, or maybe just me, equate a tan to being healthy and an outdoorsy fun person. My years of that philosophy are over and I mean instantly. My mother has lymphoma and there is no family history of any skin cancers so of course I felt invincible my whole life even though I have very fair skin. When we were kids we were burnt to a crisp at the beginning of summer and by the end we looked like we just moved here from Mexico. If your nose wasn’t peeling at the end of the summer, you must not have had any fun.

Well, I am living proof and will continue living thank goodness. The first atypical mole was found by nothing short of a miracle by my family doctor. I went in at 40 years old for a routine physical, preventive medicine is a good thing. He could tell from my darkened skin at the end of another summer spent in swimming pools and at the lake that I was at risk. He said “you probably never check your back, so let me take a look”. His next words were “oh, that has to come off immediately”. So I let him cut the mole off without a second thought and honestly wasn’t very worried and it did come back as pre-cancerous atypical but again, I didn’t take it seriously. It’s not cancer so no worries. Off I went on my merry way. I did stop tanning in tanning beds in the winter, which I never excessively tanned anyway. I usually went for 10 min just to boost my spirits in the gloomy winter and keep a light tan. I did curb my sun exposure somewhat and the effects of that were I developed a vitamin D deficiency but that is a whole different story as this is about Melanoma.

Two months ago, I noticed a black dot on the inside of my forearm. Strange place for a mole when that never sees the sun but that’s where the cancer decided to try and start. The black dot did not meet the criteria they preach about the ABDCE’s of melanoma, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. After all, I did have an atypical mole already and this dot showed up out of nowhere in the matter of a few months. I stared at it daily and finally after two months made the appointment(fear of medical bills as I don’t currently have health insurance). It was small too, only about 2 mm but black. Results came back today that it was moderately atypical. The next stage is severely atypical and then it is melanoma.

So my point is, I dodged the Melanoma bullet twice now and now I won’t be caught in the sun without sunscreen. So please if you read this – WEAR SUNSCREEN and take a vitamin D supplement. Watch your skin closely for moles that appear out of nowhere after the age of 20. It might save your life. It has mine.

Distant – I call you Dementia

I have never been closer and yet further from someone than now.  Distant is stealing my mother from me.  The cancer is slowly taking its toll and that is bad enough as her body continues to weaken but Distant is a whole different worry.

The cancer was first diagnosed in 2012.  Low grade lymphoma they told us.  The prognosis was great, this cancer would probably never need treatment and if it did it wasn’t a chemo treatment.  Life went on just as it always had and she continued her running/walking regiment of 4 miles a day and lifting weights along with gardening all day.  My mom is quite unstoppable.

Fast forward to present day.  March of this year to be exact and a whammy of a blow.  She went from the picture of health for a 73 year old to deathly ill in two weeks.  Chemo was necessary immediately and oh by the way, once in a while this cancer does go wildfire for no apparent reason.  Honestly, I think they say this just so they can’t say they are surprised it did something they didn’t see coming and didn’t think it ever would do this.

My life halted and I quit my job as an over the road truck driver and moved in with her to provide as much support as I can to get her through this episode in life.  After all, she has done so much for me and I am her only child as we lost my brother at the age of 26.  That’s when I found Distant.  I discovered that if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t register as a permanent memory.  My mom has been covering her memory problem successfully for a long time and I now see how bad it is because I live here.  There was the day I walked in the kitchen to hear about her walk, I left the room and walked back in to hear the story exactly again.  A ground hog day if you will.  It can also be something funny like when we were driving and she noticed the price of gas.  Her words were “oh, gas here is two fourteen and back home its two thousand and nine”.  I wouldn’t want to get gas there!  Now I am seeing the time lapses and she knows something happened but doesn’t remember when it did, but she can remember things from years ago.  

Distant is slowly taking my mother from me and I do hope it remains a slow process as now we have added chemo to the mix.  Not only have I had to watch my vibrant, active mother lose the energy to work in her garden but now I am losing her to Distant.  As she is going to drift further and further away and become more distant despite the fact that I am right here.  At least I can giggle at the silly things she says and remember the time she said we could drive “internet” speeds on the road.  I like to see the day they post speed limits in gigabytes.  Distant has not taken her yet and I can hope and pray that Distant remains very distant.
Distant