Saturday, November 14, 2015

New Cancer Center at Cooley Dickinson

I went to the open house today for the new Mass General Cancer Center at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.  I can't explain why, but I was drawn to it.  As soon as I saw the ad, I cut it out and hung it on my board and marked it on my calendar.

As some of you know, Ed was treated at Hampshire Hematology and Oncology who had their office in Cooley.  This was the level of cancer treatment at Cooley at the time.  We were always thankful that Ed could be treated so close to home.  We absolutely loved Dr. Bowers and his staff.  And if you needed to have chemotherapy, this at least was a nice place to go--good treatment but more importantly wonderful people.  It was a small operation but it was friendly and they made you feel like home.

The new Cancer Center at Cooley is certainly impressive.  It is state-of-the-art and linked into Mass General in Boston.  They are able to easily do conferencing and consult with specialists in Boston saving patients the long drive to Boston.  The infusion area is very impressive with 18 bays, privacy, flat screen TVs, and beautiful views.  It is a beautiful facility but as I walked around I noticed and found comfort in the small, personal touches that brought back memories of Dr. Bowers--the homemade hats available for patients or the basket of snacks and treats.  Fancy monitors now alert nurses when IVs are running low, replacing the unique bells that we used to ring.

I toured today hoping that I will never have the opportunity to see inside again, neither as a patient nor caregiver.  I also found comfort when chatting with some of the tour guides who fondly remember Dr. Bowers and still miss him (he retired the fall after Ed passed).  Some of the staff are still there--Roberta and Karen--who Ed loved to joke and chat with.

It is odd, but I have this sense of connection and comfort there.  Cooley is also where Ed spent the last month of his life and breathed his last breath.  Some people have difficulty returning to the place where their loved one died.  I do not.  It's a strange and odd mixture of feelings--a certain level of peace mixed in with sadness.

As I drove home, I recalled that this was the same drive I took every day for that last month of Ed's life.  I felt empty.  I missed Ed and my heart ached with that emptiness and I wished he was there with me.  I wondered if Ed would have gone to this open house with me?  Would we have even cared about it?  It really doesn't matter.  For I care now.  To this day I still appreciate everything Dr. Bowers and Shane and Karen and Roberta did for Ed.  I miss them all.  I miss Ed.

I'm still not sure why I was drawn there today.  I know, beyond a doubt, if I had a way to make it happen, I would volunteer my time the Cancer Center.  But realistically, with working full-time, I know this is not something I can do.  But maybe that's what I'm destined to do?  I'm not sure, but I'll keep an open mind and see where I'm led.  In the meantime, I'll be grateful that we have such good care right here, close to home.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Widow Ramblings

I find it ironic how easily I can now use the word "widow".  I remember hating that word in the early days.  I did not like the sound of it and certainly was not comfortable labeling myself that.  But now, the word flows easily off my tongue and I frequently use the term "wid friends"....those fellow widows and widowers who are my now part of my friendship circle and who "get" what is now our crazy lives where logic and reasoning do not always apply.

So today's post is about random ramblings with no particular path or connection.  Us "wids" are allowed to have them.  I mean, everyone is actually allowed to have them, but I can blame the craziness of my thoughts on my "wid brain".  When Ed had cancer, we would blame these on "chemo brain".  Whatever works to help us justify the craziness in our minds and lives!

I had a good day yesterday.  Dan surprised me by coming home Friday night and then helped me get the leaves cleaned up.  Each year, I go to battle with the leaves.  And maybe someday, I will move from this house and if I do, it will be to a house without so many leaves to pickup!!  There are a ton of them and if I stay ahead of them, I can use the riding mower to pick them up and bag them.  But at some point, they get ahead of me and that is what happened this past week.

On Sunday, I had the leaves all cleaned up and I looked out at the yard and felt proud of how great it looked and what I was able to accomplish.  But Tuesday evening, though, as I drove in from work, the piles of leaves were unbelievable!  I swear the remaining leaves all came down in that one day!!  And because of work, doing any cleanup during the week is not an option.  So I knew I was faced with raking and cleaning up leaves by hand this weekend and I knew it would take hours.

But with Dan home, the job was more manageable and after several hours, we got the job done.  We were able to laugh and we actually jumped into the leaves at one point!  And as I made one of many trips dragging a tarp filled with leaves into the woods, I knew I would have been overwhelmed if I was doing this by myself.  I know I would have gotten frustrated and have ended up in tears, just like I did last year.  I know I am so blessed by having Dan and that he takes such good care of his Mom and I thanked God and Ed for that and thanked Dan profusely as well.

Over these past few weeks, I continued to work on cleaning out Ed's closet.  I laughed at myself when I had a pile of his jeans that I considered saving since I could wear them working in the yard.  I made myself only keep two pairs!  There is still more cleaning out to do but I don't have any need for dress slacks or dress shirts so that should go easier!

Last week while emptying the bagger on the tractor, I actually had the thought "I could really use a larger bagger".  It caused me to pause and I actually laughed out loud at how my life has changed.  For when Ed was here...he cleaned up the leaves.  I would help on occasion.  And if he had said to me "I need a bigger bagger for the tractor" I probably would have rolled my eyes and said "what for, you have one already".  Oh but how I've learned why that would have been a good idea!  I just never knew and I was happy not knowing.  We had such a good balance of chore sharing in our house.  Okay, maybe not...the reality is Ed probably carried more of the load than me.  But I did giggle and was quite confident Ed was looking down laughing with me as well.  And as I looked down at myself dressed in a pair of Ed's sweatpants, sweatshirt, and wool hat I wondered what happened to that "girly" girl I used to be.  But I smiled at my pink work gloves and steel-toed shoes with the pink as well.  My, how things have changed over the past two years!

As we are now in November, I'm working through my list of what needs to be done to get ready for winter.  In the next couple weeks I will need to take down screens and put up storm windows.  The second floor is always challenging for me so, if I'm smart, I'll wait til Dan is home again to do those.  Or, if I'm stubborn, I will attempt to do it myself and just hope I don't get frustrated and end up crying.  I did remove the upstairs air conditioners myself.  I didn't drop them out the window nor did I end up in tears.  So that was a victory.  Maybe the storms will be as well.  You never know!

So life marches on.  I have a bit of trepidation and fear as winter approaches.  Last year was difficult keeping up with the snow.  I would be outside, in the dark, clearing the driveway with the snowblower.  Some say the winter will be tough again.  Will I be able to manage and stand up to the demands or will I find myself outside, in the dark, clearing snow with tears freezing on my cheeks?  Only time will tell.  Maybe I should have kept Ed's truck and plow...

This is how I help Dan cleanup leaves!