For the third year in a row, I met with my oncologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin at St. Norbert’s campus in De Pere, and presented “how to have difficult conversations” for the students.
This year, it was held on Thursday, January 4th.
Baby Girl came along this year. This would be the first time she had seen the presentation.
She had no idea how that very first appointment went, or what was discussed, or what was happening with mom.
Our day started with me taking Baby Girl to see the chiropractor, to get an adjustment while she is home from school.
Rock Your Body
We headed to a small place called “Rock Your Body” on the west side of Green Bay to have a protein shake. Baby Girl had been there a couple of times before and brought shakes home.
I tried one previously, a chocolate chip shake, but there was an aftertaste that I didn’t like. She told me later that she had an extra shot of protein put into the shake.
I told her I would try it, because I know she likes the place.
I ordered a Salted Caramel Pretzel shake. Oh man, was THAT good!
May of 2017 is when I stopped eating sweats. After going off the steroids, I no longer have any taste for sweets.
As of now, I would take a protein shake over a Dairy Queen Blizzard any day.
Really?! Can you imagine?!
But I would!
The Shenanigans Begin
We arrived at St. Norbert’s campus. We met with Dr. Burnette prior to our presentation, and Baby Girl learned about how the Medical College is educating students through a different program than normal medical colleges.
The students go through their program in three years instead of four years, and then they can advance into residency.
With my walker, quietly moaning under my breath but loud enough that the students could hear, I slowly made my way to the front of the classroom.
After I sat down in the chair at the front of the classroom, Dr. Burnette walked purposefully to the front of the room, as if he were walking into an exam room in his clinic.
He introduced himself, and I introduce myself, the hubs and Daughter Kim (the hubs and Daughter Kim being imaginary, of course).
We recreated our very first appointment.
Dr. Burnette believed I was coming in to discuss my pain medication.
I was coming in to discuss what the hell was going on after the radiation oncologist informed me that I was hospice appropriate.
We discussed mammograms. Whether or not I could keep my breasts. How we would be able to pay for the care, treatments, and medications. What were the treatments and medications. Clinical trials. Prognosis.
During that initial appointment, I was angry. I was more than angry.
In later appointments, Dr. Burnette said I was “crabby”.
Dr. Burnette and I have had our differences in the past (almost) three years of Dr. Burnette being my oncologist, but we’ve worked through them.
How I am Now – (almost) Three Years Later
I always love walking into that classroom, moaning and groaning behind my walker, and at the end of the presentation, I get to tell the students that my tumor markers are now at 16, my pain is under control, I feel well, and I am sleeping well.
The Rearview Mirror – Baby Girl’s View
My diagnosis and subsequent treatments happened during Baby Girl’s junior and senior year in high school.
The senior year of high school is supposed to be about the student. About growing up, becoming an adult, and moving forward in life.
However, living in a small town determined how her junior and senior high school years went for her.
“How’s your Mom?” greeted her every day at school.
Her teachers know the hubs and me. I went to every single parent-teacher conference that both Little One and Baby Girl had, knowing that I was going just to hear the good things about each of them, since they both carried straight A’s, plus, throughout their school years.
But when you’re a senior in high school, and all you hear is “how’s your Mom”….how would you feel?
Angry. That’s how she felt. And she let it show.
She just wanted her mom.
But her mom was having tests, and appointments, and treatments.
Her mom was worn out, exhausted, learning to live with this new normal.
And she was very angry. And let it out, all the time.
It got to the point where I couldn’t even talk to her, without getting a “hrmph” and an angry response.
I understood why though. Believe me, I wanted to be her mom too. I wanted to go back to being me, and not have to accept this new normal of my life.
I cried A LOT over the feelings and emotions that I felt from not being the mom she wanted me to be. I cried before going to sleep each night.
I Knew She was Okay
During Baby Girl’s junior year in high school, one assignment was to prepare a Google Slides presentation and speech for one of her classes.
When we met with her teacher for parent-teacher conference that year, we mentioned that it had been hard since my diagnosis.
He told us that she really loved us though, as shown in her presentation.
We had no idea what he was talking about. We went on our way, and forgot about what he had said.
It was at parent teacher conferences in the fall of her senior year that he mentioned the presentation again.
We told him that Baby Girl was still struggling with me. He mentioned again that we were both a positive influence in her life, and that it was apparent that she loved us a great deal, according to her presentation.
We met with another teacher. After, we went back, and I asked if we could see a copy of the presentation.
The teacher emailed me a copy of the presentation. He said it was up to me as to whether I would tell Baby Girl that he had sent it to me, and I had seen it.
The hubs and I went to Rose’s Family Restaurant after parent-teacher conferences, since neither of us had eaten supper before going to conferences.
It was there that I opened the presentation on my phone.
I cried. Immediately.
She still loved me. She still cared.
I held the information in that presentation close to my heart, and I still do.
The Big Time of Honesty
Early March of 2017, I was sick with pneumocytis. I had a very hard time breathing, and my oxygen level was hovering around 67. I had already spent one week in the hospital, and had been sent home.
While I was lying sick in bed, Little One drove out from Green Bay to visit with me.
I was able to get up and sit in a chair in the bedroom.
Baby Girl joined in the visit, and asked if we could talk.
She let it all out that night. And she put it all on the line, crude, rude, and brutally honest.
It came down to she felt I treated Little One better than her all their lives. I paid more attention to Little One than her.
She wanted her mom back, and she didn’t want her mom to be sick all the time.
It was a two-hour time of honesty.
It hurt. My heart hurt. There were tears. There was laughter.
But I will always, always love my girls, no matter what. That’s what mom’s are supposed to do.
The Best Part of the Medical School Shenanigans this year
After the presentation, on the way home, Baby Girl apologized.
“I’m sorry for being a brat.”
“I just wanted my mom.”
I responded, “I understand. Believe me, I WANTED to be your mom. I am so sorry.”
I know that Baby Girl will be stronger for the experience.
She will have an empathy for those that may be experiencing the same thing.
If you’ve been offended by someone, forgive them. If you’ve offended someone, apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said, “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive, and move on with your life. (You don’t HAVE to forget, but do forgive, and don’t bring it up ever again.)