Fall Oct-Nov 2014
"A caring, grieving person on the outside. As a grieving parent you don’t realize how those around you are grieving. You are so deep in your grief, so depressed, so angry that you don’t realize just how deep the pain is for others. A good friend standing on the outside is hurting and doesn’t know what to do or say. This person has been in your life forever. This person has watched your children grow and celebrated every accomplishment they made. Oh this person hurts with a pain so deep but this person goes without notice. This person’s pain is not recognized nor acknowledged. How we forget those who have always been there when we grieve so deeply. I feel ashamed as I watch my good friend grieve over the loss of her uncle and yet her grief goes unnoticed. The wife the daughters and granddaughter are sent flowers, given cards and brought dinners. But the niece who thought of this man as more of a Father than her own Father goes without comfort or sympathy. I did this to her too. She loved my daughter as her own and I let her suffer in silence. I won’t let her go without comfort this time. A card and some flowers with let her know I care. I have talked with her and let her share her feelings but I think she needs more. I need to be the friend that gives her comfort because I let her go to the side when I was so deep in my grief. I cannot undo the past but only work with the present. My story is for all who have lost someone dear. Please don’t’ forget those on the sideline who could be filled with great pain. They have been part of a person’s life and just because they are not a close relative they too my be hurting and need comfort. Or maybe just to have their pain recognized.
15 months survival rate and less than 5% make it to 5 years. This is for GBM and grade IV astrocytoma. Just some infromation.
I had coffee with my former student Gina the other day. She is now 43. She told me she came across a letter I had written to her when she was out of school and living in Florida. She still had that test she was taking on the day I came in to inform the teacher covering my class that Kathryn had a brain tumor (1999),her first. She told me it wasn’t fair that they should have to count that test as they could tell when I came into the room that something was really wrong. I was tearing up and she said that upset her. She got a D- on the test. I believe it was her emotions. She did end up with an A in the class. She also skipped school to be with my family and me on the day of Kathryn’s surgery. It was nice to have her there as she took away a lot of the uneasiness of the situation. She also shared with me how she is now using her math in her new job and her math skills put her at the top of the class. She was proud to share the specific cases of where she used the math that I taught her. She doesn’t know just how much this means to me. I felt so good and I shared her stories with my current students the next day. Then I commented on one of her tattoos. I told her I wanted to get one to honor Kathryn but I wasn’t sure what to get. She said it was obvious to her. I asked, "What?" She said a Panda. Then we talked about what panda. It has to be the right panda. It is a hard decision to make. After all it is forever. It will come to me and it will be the right tattoo.
Klyde, Kathryn’s cat is in mourning. He misses Princess. He lost Kathryn and now he lost Princess. He has become more affectionate with us. But what is really weird is how he has taken pillows off of the couch in the living room and brought them to the spot in the family room where Princess’ bed use to be. He has done this four times. He also drug one to the place where her food use to be. It had to be a struggle for him as they are good size pillows and heavy. It’s kind of like he thinks if he brings her a pillow to sleep on she will return. Poor baby. He watched her struggle through her last seizer. He knew she was not well. He tried to love her and give her comfort the last few weeks of her life. He was extra loving towards her and would rub against her. Now he is left with us boring old people.
I talked with student about Kathryn and Katherine. She was looking at my photos on my bulletin board. She commented on the fact that she doesn’t ski or anything but saw that I was snow skiing and waterskiing. We then talked about Kathryn. We also talked about how Richard is now calling Bee, Katherine now. After all her name is Katherine. It’s just been hard to call her Katherine since we met her through camp and her camp name is Bee. And, well to say Richard and Katherine without it being Richard and Kathryn is just strange. It’s difficult to say but we are working on it.
A shooting at a Washington school. My co-workers know that Richard is teaching somewhere up north. Before I even knew about the shooting one of my dear friends came by my classroom and just asked me where Richard was teaching. Just matter of fact. We were chatting and then she told me about the shooting. This was after she knew it wasn’t Richard’s school. We continued to talk and both of us teared up as I told her that if I lost Richard it would be the end of me. I could not go on. My life would definitely end. As we finished our conversation my principal came up to my room too. I just said, “Not Richard’s school.” I knew he was coming to check on me. I’m very grateful I work in a place with such loving and caring people. It’s hard to believe that this young man would call his friends together to take their lives. No one will ever know what was really going on in his mind and heart. To me it is just a sad situation. I also think parents need to take a more active role in the lives of their children. They need to talk to them about things and how to love and care for people. They need to create a place for their children to come to them with issues. Parents should be the ones that children go to and feel safe sharing their problems with. The fall of the family is really sad and prevalent in this day and age. We live in a selfish world unfortunately.
I went to my first of three celebrations of life (Oct 30th) for the next three weeks. This one was for a long time family friend. I believe my Dad had met this man (Skip) through the gas station business. His wife and my Mom would take us kids camping every summer at Twanoh State park on Hoods Canal. We went every summer for years and years. The Dads, My Dad and Skip, would come out in the evenings after work and then stay on the weekends. We always had so much fun camping. Because of the wonderful memories that I have of camping I started taking my children camping when Richard was just a little guy (3 or 4). My kids loved going camping. I went with one of my friends the first time but after that I went on my own. Richard and Kathryn brought a friend each. A couple of times I let them each bring two friends. When they became young adults they brought even more friends. The memories from camping are deep inside of me.
I just wrote about how our printer went off making noises that one night. Well on the 30th of October my computer started making this ringing noise like a phone ringing only not as long of a ring and a bit softer. I thought it was music at first. I couldn’t figure out right away where this noise was coming from but then I did. There was a button blinking when I opened it and I pushed this button and it turned off. How weird I thought. But then I thought it was Kathryn. Never heard this noise before.
So Halloween was a bit slow for trick or treaters but still fun. Our neighbor had an awesome haunted house. Scott and I went through it. It was really scary. Halloween also reminds me of three years ago. We headed out to Houston for some hope for Kathryn. It was our only hope and our only option to extend her life hopefully beyond our own. There we met Rowan and family. Rowan had just turned three and Kathryn was 20. It was one of those dual times. I mean I am so glad we met Chuck, Rebecca and Rowan and love them dearly but I really wish we didn’t meet them at all. If we didn’t meet them we would have never been in Houston. Kathryn wouldn’t have had that GBM with only a short time to live. We wouldn’t have been searching for hope. Yes, a dual situation as there are many with parents of children with cancer. You want one thing and have another. You are grateful for your doctors but wish you had never been introduced to them. You are happy for treatments and yet they make your child sick. Just as I was happy Kathryn had such great care when she was 8 and yet it killed her in the long run. One good seems to bring bad when it comes to cancer.
A 29 year old woman took her life November 1st 2014 because of GBM. How this struck me, as it would have been Rowan’s 6th birthday this same day. This young woman didn’t want to die the way the doctors told her she would die. She was suffering from seizers and she could tell she was getting worse. Watching Kathryn go through one seizer was terrifying. I’m so thankful we were in the hospital when it happened. I really don’t know what we would have done if she had that seizer here at home. To tell you the truth we probably would have lost her right then and there. We watched Princess go through about a dozen seizers and it was horrifying. We finally let Princess go on October 3rd 2014. Just in case you don’t know, Princess was Kathryn’s dog. There is a lot of controversy about this young woman taking her own life. For her it was the right thing to do. She didn’t want to put her family through or herself through the suffering that she was told would come. She was going to die. There was no cure and still is no cure. They couldn’t remove the entire tumor and it grew back bigger in just two months. She knew she was on her way out. She was an only child. I feel so deep in pain for her parents. She was just starting her adult life with so much to look forward to. Her parents were probably so excited that she had found a wonderful man to start a family with and to share her love with. They will never have grandchildren. My Dad was a wise man when he told me I had to have at least two children. It’s like he knew or something told him to tell me that. He said you just never know. He was right. I’m so fortunate to have Richard who I love so dearly.
I had a beautiful dream about holding Kathryn in my arms when she was 8. We were snuggling together on the love seat as we did often at that time in life. She was skinny and bald but the love was there and that was all we needed.
Klyde is still dragging pillows and acting weird. He wants so much attention. He even climbed up in bed with me a couple of times in the middle of the night.
I started doing homebound tutoring for a student at our school. He has bone and lung cancer. I think having a common bond made his mother trust me. I felt very comfortable with her. The young man and I worked on some things and I left him with homework to do over the weekend. He did it all and his sister even checked over it. I was impressed. (Monday 11/10) I was supposed to see him again today but he was not feeling well after going to the clinic. So, I told his Mom I would come by in the morning on the 11th. Yes, it is a holiday and I have the day off but he is eager and I don’t want to leave him waiting. Some people thought this might be hard for me but it has really been good for me. I feel blessed and fortunate to have the life that I have. I feel so very fortunate to have had Kathryn for 21 years that were so good and joyful. This family has so little and now they have a very sick child. We had so many resources and blessings. I feel for his sweet Mom who told me she is just in shock. I gave her a big hug before I left.
I went wedding dress shopping with Richard’s fiancé’, her Mom and a bridesmaid Alyssa on 11/8. I felt very honored to be invited. I love the fact that I have been given consideration and brought in as an important part of the wedding (even the dress). She found one at the first place we went to that she really liked. Then at the second store she found one that she really, really liked. You could see the confusion on her face before she said, “I’m so confused.” This second dress brought tears to my eyes. I thought she looked so beautiful and like a bride. Of course Katherine would look good and did look good in just about every dress she tried on but this one… Well it was perfect. It was just what she had described to me as the dress she wanted. We will see what she picks. She has time to do more shopping.
On Sunday (11/9) I went to a celebration of life for a dear friend and Uncle of my friend Robyn. I saw so many people that I knew there. It was good to see all of the family together. Uncle Dave as I have known him was a real self made man. He grew up without parents pretty much. He and his brother were put in an orphanage at 8 or so. They were not the cute little babies and didn’t get adopted. By age 13 he set out on his own. We worked jobs and finally worked his way up to be a multimillionaire. He only had a 9th grade education. He found his brother in recent years. He was homeless and Uncle Dave took him in and gave him a place to live. A beautiful place in Uncle Dave’s own home. Uncle Dave was a man who worked hard and didn’t waste a minute. He also loved hard and played hard. He went to every Huskie’s Football game and took a month long fishing trip to Alaska every summer in August. He was good and generous to his friends and family. He made visiting his friend’s weather they were home, in the hospital or in a nursing home part of his daily routine. When you worked for Uncle Dave there were no excuses not to work hard and persevere. Even though he didn’t have a high school or college education he knew the value of an education. He was a great man – the type of man this world needs more of.
I have one more (my third) celebration of life to go to. This one is for one of our schoolteachers. It will be on Sunday the 16th of November. I will arrive early to help set up along with several other staff members. It will be a big deal. He was well loved and coached football and baseball. There will be many young men there that he inspired to do better and to work hard. He taught them about teamwork and how to work together. Another good man left this world.
While at the celebration of life for my coworker and friend Mr. Cooper I found out that our principal’s son just lost his friend. His friend was stabbed to death at a store. He was a good kid and football player. I think he was about 22. A random act of violence that took a young man with so much potential. Jeff was pretty upset as he just recently found out and his son was extremely upset. It is heartbreaking.
I also think I am figuring out my purpose. Meaning, I’m not just a Mom as I was before Kathryn passed away. With my experience I can help others and this is where I am turning. We will see where it all leads.
So I knew my student with the cancer was going to be in the hospital for three days of chemo (Nov 17, 18 and 19). I tried to find him at the hospital but couldn’t. I knew they were there but they did exactly what we did to stop people from just dropping in. They took him off the list. That means that not even the people at the front desk know that he is there. They have absolutely no information. So, I didn’t stop by but instead I went shopping and bought them a gift and decided to drop it off the next day at the clinic. I knew that would be the next place they would be going. I stopped at Fred Meyer and picked up some little things for the family and put them into a cute gift bag. My heart was filled with joy as I found this and that to put into the bag. And on my way out I had and elderly woman behind me who was jumping up and down to get her husbands attention. I noticed that she had only a few items; two pot pies and one or two other things. She asked her husband if he had any money, as she might be a little short. He joked with her and said, “Why are you asking me for money, ask her.” He was referring to me. So, after I paid for my items I told the girl to ring up the next purchase and I would pay for it. So, she did. The woman was so surprised and shocked. The young girls behind got it. I hope they really did. I mean the give to others deal. As I left the store I felt so good inside. The saying that you get when you give is so very true. I feel so much sadness with Kathryn gone that when I feel this happy after helping others I know it is the right thing to do.
Back to the package for my student. I drove to the clinic the next day. It was the first time I have been there since 12/23/11. The last time I took Kathryn there. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I wanted to go into the back and talk to the nurses and doctors but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I came and left pretty quickly. But I did it without breaking down. This is a step in the right direction. The family was extremely grateful for the package. The next day I dropped off a grocery gift card and a ticket to pick up a full Thanksgiving dinner. Our counselor at school worked really hard to arrange all of this and I was just the one to drop it off. I saw my student and he had lost almost all of his hair. Those three days of chemo were pretty intense. He wasn’t feeling very well and very weak. I hated seeing him like that. He was just so happy the week before and so excited to do his schoolwork. I missed seeing his beautiful smile that day.
I spent a little time talking with my student’s mom. She had met another parent who had recently lost her son to cancer. She was explaining to me that these stories help her feel grateful. She was trying to say it in the right way so she wouldn’t hurt me. I knew exactly what she was saying. It’s when you hear someone’s story and you see that your story isn’t so bad because their story is so much worse than yours. It make you grateful to be where you are and not in their shoes. I know exactly how she feels and what she means. I have thought that so many times. And now you are thinking that I have had it so bad that my story is the worst of all stories. No! It isn’t. I’m still grateful that my story is my story. How can I say this? I had a wonderful life with Kathryn. She wrote about how she loved her life and us. She was grateful for all that we did for her. Even though her life was short it was beautiful. I also learned so much from her. Her death was calm and peaceful. And without drugs. I know she watches over me and leads me in the right direction. I have a good life. Yes, a little empty without her but a good life. I have good friends and family who love me. I have a husband who treats me like a queen and my son is the best. There are so many people who have so little compared to me. I’m not talking about things and money but the real things in life. I’m very fortunate.
I know Kathryn is with me. When I eat my popcorn I hear her saying regulate Mom. That means, eat one piece at a time. Not two or three pieces, just one. And on Sunday the 23rd, I asked Kathryn to leave me a penny that day and she did. When I returned to the car there on my seat was a penny. I don’t carry change in my pocket so it couldn’t have fallen out of a pocket. I didn’t tell anyone that I had asked Kathryn to leave me a penny that day. It was right in the middle of the seat. Yes, she is here with me and for that I am grateful.
I saw my homebound student last night (11/24/14). He was up and feeling good. It was nice to see him smiling again. Another teacher stopped by with a wonderful gift. This teacher and some of the students have been working hard to raise money to get this young man a laptop. He delivered it last night. Not only did they buy a laptop, but a printer and tons of programs. The smile on my students face got even brighter! He was so thankful and happy. I’m glad I was there to see this. I almost started crying. It was very touching.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving remember the good things in your life. You have so much to be thankful for. Count your blessings, hug your family members and say thank you and I love you. And if by chance you come across a stranger or know someone who needs some help reach out and be the one who does something. Your heart will be filled with incredible joy and you may even find yourself signing out loud.
Love to all,