Adults have parents too

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My parents and my boys.

Parents want their children to be healthy and live longer than them. As a parent I worry about the health of my youngest child. After visiting with my parents this weekend, especially with my mom, it occurs to me this extends to children who are adults as well. In this post I will briefly blog about some ways my mom is impacted by my cancer diagnosis.

Before going on I will say I think I have the best parents. I think my mom and dad did the best to raise me and my brothers with what they had available. As my wife and I raise our children I tend to look back to what they did as guidance.

During each step of my cancer diagnosis my wife and I have made sure to keep my mom in the loop. She got calls when I went in for a biopsy, got the biopsy results, saw my PET scan results, had my port installed, went in for my first chemo treatment, and so much more. Each step of the way she had to wait on the phone and hope for the best. Being two hours away she simply can’t just drop by. The emotional stress of waiting each time must be almost unbearable at times.

Actually it really doesn’t even matter how far away my mom is. Since I’ve started chemo both my mom and dad have been battling their own health issues. Because of my immune system being so low they have not dared come visit me until this previous weekend. I can’t imagine the tremendous emotional strain this has been for my my mom. I’m sure many people are asking her how I have been responding to treatment, and she has been unable to say something like “yeah, I saw Ken the other day and he is looking good”. Hopefully we can all stay healthy enough that we are able to keep seeing each other more often.

But it is not just me that my mom is being kept away from. My youngest son Ashton has health issues, which appear to be getting worse. The middle son Lawson is definitely a grandma’s boy, and she has been unable to see him. And of course my mom sees my wife Mindy as one of her own children. My mom has been staying away to ensure I don’t get sick, but in doing so she has been unable to enjoy her grandchildren and comfort her daughter-in-law. This further adds to the emotional stress she is enduring.

I do believe this blog has been helping her cope, and she has said as much. In this blog my mom is able to better understand what I am going through. When friends and family ask about me, she is able to refer to my latest blog post. In some way this blog can help her to share my cancer experience, something I think as a parent would be invaluable.

I’m actually going to keep my word and make this a short post today. All I really wanted to do in this post is to briefly highlight that the parents of cancer patients are greatly impacted; especially if their children are adults and no longer living at home. Even adults have parents…

Multimedia Friday – Videos to explain cancer to kids

Its multimedia Friday again. Today I thought I would post a couple of videos to help people explain cancer to kids. I know my kids have had questions about cancer and I think my wife and I have done a fair job of explaining things to them. But I also think using videos such as the ones below can be helpful to supplement talks with kids.

I think this first video is great to explain to kids how some things might change when a family member has cancer.

This next video has some tips for parents about how to talk about cancer with children. The narrator of the video focuses on a couple of different age ranges.

Finally this last video is an animated video to possibly help younger children understand cancer in a visual way.

Bonus Video

This weeks music video is from the Danish Band D-A-D. The lyrics from this song hit home for my cancer diagnosis. Especially the line “I got run over by truth one day”.

My wife thought chemo went differently yesterday

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The wife fretting over me.

Yesterday I blogged about my third round of chemo. Overall I felt it went well, even with my blood pressure dropping quite a bit. My wife Mind however remembers yesterday differently. In this post I will briefly blog about how she though this round of chemo went.

 

First off Mindy agrees that my blood pressure was dropping. But she doesn’t see it as being no big deal. In fact her and one of the nurses were worried a bit because my blood pressure was dropping much quicker than it had the previous two rounds of chemo. My initial blood pressure was 130/68. It was 99/52 the last time it was checked. Telling her this is a known possible side-effect doesn’t make Mindy feel any better. It is just one of the things my poor wife has to worry about while I am on chemo.

Another thing other thing Mindy worried about yesterday was my dizziness. During this round dizziness seemed to be a larger side effect that it had been in the past. Even if I got up slowly to go the bathroom I would experience some dizziness. Mindy said it looked like I was about to fall over and I was very unsteady walking to and from the bathroom. I really think she wishes I would have called the nurse. But I couldn’t see calling a nurse for doing something so simple as walking to the bathroom. Mindy might have been right though…

Finally Mindy mentioned I was not sleeping as hard as I had during the previous two rounds of chemo. The Benadryl definitely knocked me out. But this time she said I would keep sitting forward in my chair and it would look like I was about to tip forward out of said chair. I don’t recall doing this. But I expect I was doing so because my back pain has been getting worse over the last few weeks. The shot I take to rebuild my bone marrow probably has something to do with my back pain getting worse. Sometimes the shots of pain I get are debilitating. But it doesn’t last long at high levels of pain and usually settles down to about a six on my pain scale. Mindy was definitely worried about this happening during chemo and me possibly falling forward onto my face.

I’ve said it before that chemo is hard on my body. It is also hard on my psyche at times. But I think in some ways Mindy is under much more mental stress due to my cancer than I am. It doesn’t help matters that we have a son with medical problem just as bad if not worse than my own. Hopefully I can find a way to reduce some of the stress on Mindy. She really has been a large reason I have coped so well with cancer so well.

Dealing with a sick kid today

110308293Updated: Luckily Ashton does not appear to have whooping cough, it is likely a very bad cold. But we have to wait for the test to come back just in case.

Having sick kids is part of being a parent. An old co-worker of mine used to call his daughters school a petri dish for illnesses. I can’t really argue with that. Being on chemo complicates matter for me trying to care for my kids when they are sick. In this post I will talk briefly about dealing with the boys getting sick.

Today my youngest son, Ashton, is sick. Again… He was actually in the doctor’s office two weeks ago and tested positive for strep . He also likely had some sort of stomach virus (Lawson also had a stomach virus of some type at the same time.) Ashton went through the whole regimen of antibiotics and seemed to be doing better. That all changed this morning. His throat hurts really badly and he cannot stop coughing. The more he coughs, the worse his throat feels. He also says he feels hot, but does not have a fever. Finally he has a runny nose. To complicate things there has been a reported case of whooping-cough in his school.  Today I’ll bring him into the doctor’s office to get diagnosed.

I am REALLY hoping Ashton does not test positive for anything like whooping-cough. With my immune system down and fighting the effects of chemo I could very easily catch whatever he has. This morning when he started coughing non-stop I put my blue mask on. But I wonder now if I was too late. I basically have him isolated in his room until we go to the doctor.

For the most part I have been doing OK dealing with the boys when they are sick. The wife and I generally keep them quarantined in one of their rooms. On some of the days they have been sick I have someone who comes in to help with the boys. Mostly to make sure they are eating and such. Luckily the boys are old enough they don’t need constant supervision. If Ashton does have whooping-cough I likely won’t bring anyone in. I am home all day and have already been exposed to his cough. I can’t see bringing someone else in to get sick. I will continue to wear my mask around him and use hand sanitizer anytime I have come near him or any surface he may have come in contact with. I can’t stop being a dad just because I have cancer and am going through chemo.

Hopefully the doctor will have good news for us today. But as I write this I hear Ashton coughing in the background and there seems to be a bit of a wheeze added to the end of his cough now. That poor kid, not only does he have to deal with his normal muscle problem, but now he had to deal with a cough that won’t end. I just hope I am able to help him without catching whatever he has myself.

Proud Dad Post: Lawson marching with HS band

GrotonBandThis morning I posted a music playlist instead of a normal blog post. I did this mostly because I had to be in Groton today to watch a marching band competition thing my son was participating in. Below is the video of the Ipswich HS Marching Band. Lawson is playing the quad toms. He is three rows from the back of the formation, two in from the left (as they stand). He did great. At about 2:45 he flips his drum stick.

On a side-note it was great getting out in public even though I am technically at the point my immune system is at a low point. I was just smart and stayed away from people. For the indoor part of the event I had my mask on and sat in a corner of the bleachers. Being on chemo is not going to keep me from seeing my kids at events such as this.

Here is the video.

Cleaning out my office

21792541Earlier this week I wrote about some ways my cancer diagnosis has impacted the little boys. Now I will focus on one of the many ways my wife has been impacted. I had to clean my office out at our business. Doing this has been more of an emotional blow to both of us than I would have imagined.

My wife and I own a tax preparation and business services company. When we moved back to South Dakota from the Minneapolis area about seven years ago I left the IT field in order to help her grow that business. It has been tough at times, but I am quite proud of the business we have grown. Buying out her mothers tax preparation business helped, but really it was the payroll side of things which my wife started that grew the most. She has put a lot of time and energy into growing the business. It has grown to a point we have had to add a few full-time employees over the last couple of years. At each step of the way I have been there to encourage my wife and support her.

About a year ago this started to change. Our youngest son started having muscle problems and on some days is unable to walk. This has meant him staying home from school a day or two each week. To accommodate this I moved my office to our house during tax season. The main function I perform at the tax office is to review returns. Since all documents are scanned into the computer it is actually quite easy for me to do my work from home. Even though I worked from home I still had a physical office at our office building. I would ensure every week I spent a day or two at the office. This was mostly so I could be close to my wife and support her.

When summer came about my breathing problems became worse. Between my breathing problems and taking the little boys to baseball practice/games I can probably count on one hand how many times I actually made it into the office this summer. Now that I am on chemo I don’t go to the office at all, at least not during business hours. There are too many people who come in the office with the sniffles or who knows what germs. I just can’t risk getting sick. Plus I will be on chemo until February or so, well into tax season. I definitely can’t be in such a confined place with people coming and going.

At the same time the business continues to grow. We just added another full-time employee and we are running out of space for people at the office. That led to the decision to clean out my office. This was NOT a decision made by my wife. In fact she tried to talk me out of it. I didn’t realize it but my having an office there has been a form of emotional support for her. Even if I wasn’t there physically she felt as if I was there in spirit through my office. When I told her I was cleaning my office out she felt as if I was abandoning her. The logical side of my wife agreed it was something that needed to be done. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

On Sunday as I placed the last box in my pickup I made a comment to my wife that she had gotten rid of me now. I meant it as a lighthearted joke. Her face instantly dropped. My cancer diagnosis has been tough on her and this was just one more thing cancer was taking away. Logically she understood why I had to clean my office out. But my moving out of the office is just one more thing that my cancer diagnosis has taken away from us.

I’ll end this post here. Something so simple as cleaning out an office may not seem like an emotional topic. But it really is. A cancer diagnosis takes so many things away from patients and their families. This move away from the office was a physical reminder of that reality.

PS. Hopefully today’s post made sense. I have a lot of “brain fog”, aka chemo brain, going on today.

A few ways cancer impacts my younger sons

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Lawson & Ashton posing with me in their baseball uniforms.

I love being a dad. That is one of the main reasons I call this blog Dad Against Cancer. I want to defeat this cancer in part so I can continue to spend time with my sons. In this post I will share a few ways my cancer experience has impacted my two youngest sons.

I should note I have three sons. My oldest son Dustin recently turned 21 and is off to college. I will handle the impact of my cancer on him in a future post.

My two younger sons are Lawson, age 13, and Ashton, age 11. Before going on I should note what kind of dad I have been up to this point. When the boys were young I really didn’t spend a lot of time with them. I was working in the IT field and worked long hours which included a lot of traveled. The worse was probably when we lived in the Minneapolis area and I was doing consulting. On a typical day I would leave for a job before the boys woke up and would arrive home late into the evening. I would then spend time working on homework to complete my degree and go to bed. Even when I got a job as a Network Engineer instead of consulting I would work massive hours and was always working from home in the evenings when I wasn’t focused on school. I wasn’t necessarily a bad dad, I was just focused on trying to make life better for the boys and definitely didn’t spend as much time with them as I would have liked.

About seven years ago we moved back to South Dakota. It was then I left the IT field and focused on growing my wife’s business. I also slowed down my lifestyle to spend more time with the boys. I volunteered to be a coach in sports such as soccer. During the summer I would take the boys to all of their summer rec sports. It was also during this time-period I started to blog about politics. The boys would travel all over with me to cover political events. My boys can not only tell you who many of our elected politicians are in South Dakota, but where they met them. As the years went on I spent more and more time with them.

Fast forward to a year ago. Ashton started to have a problem where his muscles would not work properly and on some days could not get out of bed. It was at that time I started to work from home completely. During the last year I have spent a lot of time driving him to St Paul to get tested for various muscular and neurological disorders. At the same time Lawson would get jealous of the time I spent with Ashton, so I would make sure I found ways to make it to his basketball games or encourage his love of playing the drums and guitar. I was really starting to be the dad I always wanted to be.

When this summer came about my health really started to falter. My breathing problems were getting quite bad, but I tried to hide it from everyone. I especially tried to hide it from the boys, although I know they knew something was wrong. This previous summer I was able to travel all over with the boys as they traveled for baseball. Ashton played Midgets baseball and Lawson fell at the age where he could play both Midgets baseball and Teeners baseball. It was a great summer! I went with them to every baseball practice and game that I could. I think I only missed two practices and one game for each kid.

The summer was not all roses however. Traveling to all of these practices and games took its toll on me. As my breathing continued to degrade I would spend more time at home sitting at the computer. It wasn’t that I wanted to sit at the computer. I simply didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Plus the pain I was feeling only felt better if I was sitting in a forward-leaning position. My youngest boys knew something was wrong. I can think of multiple times during the month of August, after baseball was done, when the boys would ask if I was OK and if I had to go to the hospital. I always played it off as me just being old and tired and would make a joke. As time went on they weren’t laughing at as many jokes. They knew something was wrong, even if I wouldn’t admit it to them.

On August 27 the doctor called to let me know I had cancer.  My wife and I sat the boys down and let them know I had cancer and tried to explain it to them somewhat. A website I found had some tips for giving the news to kids. I’m not sure they understood yet what we were telling them.

September 11 is when I began my first round of chemo. Prior to chemo my wife and I discussed some changes with the boys that would have to happen around the house. The whole house had to be cleaned, everyone would have to take new steps to keep germs away from me, nobody could use my bathroom in the few days following chemo, and the boys would have to stay away from me if they were sick. There were other changes as well, but I think this gives the idea that the boys were majorly impacted by my going on chemo. They stepped up well. Both boys helped to clean and sanitize the house. When the boys get in the house from school or come upstairs from the lower level they immediately sanitize their hands. Just this week both boys had a stomach virus and Ashton had strep. Both boys stayed away from for days to ensure I wouldn’t get sick. I’ve been so proud of how they have handled themselves.

But it should also be noted they have told both my wife and myself some things which trouble them. Part of cancer or chemo causes something called “chemo brain”. My thoughts will sometime fog up and I find myself forgetting a lot of things. This is quite frustrating and I will sometimes just snap at the wife or boys for no reason. I have also had the same conversations with the wife and boys multiple times without remembering the previous conversations. This has left the boys quite confused and they have let my wife know about their confusion. Due to this brain fog the boys have become reluctant to ask me anything. They can’t know for sure if I will remember what is said or they will wonder if I will snap for no reason. It really is putting a strain on the dad-son relationship. I have also noticed they will sometimes just look at me with a worried look.

The boys know how to google things. And I know at least one of them has googled the heck out of cancer. Of course most of the things that come up on a google search about cancer are bad. I am quite sure the boys have read a lot of bad things about cancer prognosis. I won’t forget one of my sons asking if I was going to die after he had gotten done reading something on the internet. He wasn’t crying, but you could tell he wanted to. I just hugged him and said I would do everything to fight the cancer so I could continue to watch him and his brothers grow. He said he would do anything he could to help keep me around. I didn’t cry at the time. But now as I write this and remember the moment I have tears running down my face… Perhaps this is a good place to stop blogging for today.

My boys have definitly been impacted by my cancer diagnosis. As I continue to fight against my cancer I hope to find ways to overcome some of the negative impacts. Maybe this post will help give others insight into a few ways the relationship between a parent and kids can be impacted by a cancer diagnosis. No matter what I plan to keep fighting against my cancer and be there for my boys as long as I can!