Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mom's Latest

When we are children, our parents are our biggest advocates. They will go to the ends of the earth for anything that is in our best interest. As our parents age, the roles are reversed and we need to harness some of that chutzpah and advocate for them.

On Thursday, my Mom started seeing double out of her left eye. But this didn't come up in conversation until Friday night, when I stopped by with some pie because she didn't think it was a big deal

Twelve hours in the emergency room later, and they were not able to determine a cause. We had joked on the drive there that they were just going to send her home with an eye patch. Instead, she was sent home with instructions to buy an eye patch and follow up with other doctors next week.

We had a good weekend in spite of not knowing why. 

Saturday, my friend Margie invited Mom and I to dinner Shenandoah at the Arbor. We sat outside. As the sun went down and the twinkle lights came on, Mom declared that it was the nicest place she's ever been. She thoroughly enjoyed the freshly baked apple fritters they brought around, her white bean soup, lemon chicken and a glass of wine.

On Sunday, she came over and we made two loaves of Irish soda bread. She's made it for years, but I've never made it with her. It's surprisingly simple: the only ingredients are flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and buttermilk. It tastes delicious, especially slightly toasted with gobs of real butter. She also taught me to sew on a button and mend a pocket. How did I make it to this age without knowing how to do either? Then we took Trevi and Isis in to get their nails trimmed. Even simple errands are more meaningful with Mom there. 

Monday morning rolled around and it was time to start making the calls. UCI Medical ordered a CT scan back on March 3rd, but when I checked with them last week, they said they had not heard back from the insurance as to whether it was approved or denied. Turns out, after calling my Mom's insurance and pretending to be her (they only way they will give me any info.), that it was approved back on March 5th. Agh! Can you let UCI know? Of course not...UCI would have to call because they already sent it in. So when I finally get through to radiology and try to schedule her CT scan, they told me they can't schedule because they don't know if it was approved by insurance. Even though I'm telling them it has.

That's when tiger daughter comes out. I don't care if we have to pay out of pocket for the CT scan, I need it scheduled today. This should have been done weeks ago.

It worked, and Mom went in today for her CT scan, the results of which will be read tomorrow. Since she stopped chemotherapy in January, she has not had a scan of her body. This scan is going to tell us what the cancer has been doing (or, hopefully not doing) during this time off. After the scan, she met with her Neurologist, Dr. Carrillo. He said that maybe the cancer is now in her spinal fluid and he needs to do another spinal tap on her next Monday.

I thought we were in the clear with the brain and the spinal fluid because the test came back okay the first time he did it. And just last Monday, we were celebrating the fact that her brain MRI was all clear: no new areas of growth and the ones treated were smaller. Sometimes, like today, it feels like we take one step forward and two steps back. Right now, I'm left with more questions than answers. Will it get worse? What if tomorrow the other eye is affected? With treatment (chemo administered to her spinal fluid) will it go back to normal?  And it is so difficult to see her now having trouble getting around because she has to wear a patch over her eye. We went to Pat and Brittany's and had a great time but now, getting ready for bed, the full impact of her sight being affected is hitting me. Right now, she can't even crochet...something she was doing every day; making a baby blanket for me, and one for Brittany. 

It is heart-breaking, and I'm powerless to stop it. The only power I have is advocating for her and trying to get her the very best treatment, which would not have been possible had people not chipped in to move her out here. The quality of care she is receiving at UCI Medical is wolds apart from county medical in Moreno Valley. I have to remind myself of that, and the fact that the worry and fear don't change a damn thing.







Narrative Therapy Seminar Series

Let me start with this: I love my job. Actually for me, it's really more of a vocation.


vo·ca·tion
vōˈkāSHən/
noun
  1. 1.
    a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.
    "not all of us have a vocation to be nurses or doctors"
    synonyms:calling, life's work, missionpurposefunction
But no matter how much a person loves their chosen career, it's far too easy to become comfortable or stagnant. Especially when you're really busy and have a caseload of...oh, I don't know say, 650. In graduate school, we would practice and have really long, drawn-out counseling sessions in which we had plenty of time to paraphrase, check for understanding and then really begin some Narrative work. We had plenty of time to use externalizing language to help the problem be viewed as separate from the person, and something that could be changed. 

Some days are so busy that the ideal counseling session is not possible. In a school setting, a counselor may only have 10 minutes with a student, while other students may be waiting. Sometimes, we're with a student and teacher or administrator comes with a student in crisis and we need to prioritize and switch gears. Counselors are often also pulled in different directions or, depending on the time of the year, busy inputting classes and data or presenting guidance lessons. Whenever we're out of our office, things pile up and its easy to fall behind.

In order for me to stay excited about my career, I need to be refreshed on counseling perspectives I love, like Narrative. In 2011, I began piloting Undercover Bullying Teams at our school with huge success. Initially, it was more work on my end but now, its a time-saver and it's also hugely rewarding. Also very rewarding are the grief counseling groups that I run, also from a Narrative perspective.

Our work while in graduate school on the grief counseling groups for adolescents was actually published and can be read about here. It was based on the work of Barbara Myerhoff and Lorraine Hedke's work on Re-Membering with adults, but was the first time that approach had be tailored to adolescents.

Dr. John Winslade, my professor in graduate school, and his wife Dr. Lorraine Hedtke are pretty amazing people, both personally and professionally. She recently opened up the Fabula Centercenter in Redlands. Last weekend, I attended the first in a series of Narrative Therapy seminars, held there on State Street. 

Attending that seminar has really re-energized my work and reminded me of why I do what I do. It has been eight years (really?!) since graduate school ended and attending this has been a wonderful review and reminder of the fundamental concepts in counseling from this perspective, and why I love them so much. It has also re-connected me to Lorraine and John, whom I've now known for 10 years. Since this seminar, Lorraine and I have talked about having her meet with my Mom and interview her, and possibly having it professionally recorded. This is something I would forever cherish, as would my children.

Going back to work that Monday was exciting, and my caseload of 650 seemed a little more manageable. Looking forward to the next one on March 30th!