Surviving…

This was the first night in the hospital, March 16th 2012

Surviving is what it feels like we are doing most days. Trying to figure out where we go from here or just to make it through the day. I miss my partner in day-to-day decisions. I miss being able to vent to him, sit with him, being loved by him. I just miss him. So when people ask how we are doing…I say surviving. Not trying to be dramatic but that is how it feels. How do you go through the past year and not feel like that?

Tomorrow I go back to work. I hope that I can stomach working there again especially after what happened last year with my job. They made me resign because I ran out of personal time when Justin died. They have no heart…plain and simple. I am a number to them. I am not looking forward to going back and seeing the sympathetic faces, the questions and yes for some being the subject of gossip. Someone tried to give me some counseling information then it turned into a cancer “pissing” match it felt like. ONE life taken by cancer is too much. As she sat there and told me about how 10 years ago she lost her husband and how sad her grown ADULT children where I could only think of Brock, our 3 month old BABY that lost his father. Like I said one loss is no greater than another. Why can’t we just support each other? Heartache is just heartache.

The last picture of Justin holding Brock.

We went and saw the movie Timothy Green today…I had no idea the children from the garden would go back to the garden or die. In the movie he knew all along that he would be leaving but told no one because they would only be sad. Did Justin do this? Did he knew? We had very few conversations about death. With Justin he was always about self motivation and mentally preparing himself for whatever the challenge would be. He did say once about Brock being here because he wouldn’t be. How cancer had forever changed him.

Justin sleeping. The expression on his face is explanation enough as to how bad he felt, heartbreaking. He felt so bad that day he didn’t even know we left.

March 18, 2012 9:34am

Justin messaged me that he slept but he is scared. He didn’t realize he was so sick. Neither of us did. Even at this time we still were living in a world were cancer was not going to take him from us. He was on day 2 in the hospital. They had done a lung biopsy to determine if this was true pneumonia or chemo induced. It was chemo induced. He needed steroids and time for his lungs to heal. Time would run out. He would die 2 weeks later.

Our last night together in the regular rooms. We watched mindless television laying in his bed.

Friday March 23, 2012

This was the last time Justin would ever be conscious. He was moved down to ICU. It was late that evening. He had a central line placed in his chest earlier that day because his arms had began to swell…we thought due to the steroids they were giving him. It was more than liking from the MASSIVE amounts of blood clots he had formed. He was laying the bed, I was next to him laying next to him. He was stroking my hair. We were talking about our future and planting a garden. How the kids could help. I felt like my chest was about to explode our sweet baby boy had missed nursing that evening. Moments like that seem so dream like now. We BOTH should have been home with our baby boy, not laying in an ICU hospital bed together. Life is just not fair. We were both falling asleep he told me to go home, he was okay. I asked if he was sure. He said yes, go hun as he rubbed the back of my head. I kissed his forehead and said goodbye.

That was the last thing HE ever said to anyone, the last person HE touched. I am so thankful I was that person.

He was incubated hours later when his oxygen level plummeted and he never regained consciousness.

Did Justin know? Did he not say anything because he knew I would be sad? In some ways now I think he did.

This picture is what it looking like to hold on to hope and a prayer in your heart all the while in your head know what is coming.

A lot of things transpired in the next week that still at times feel unbelievable. Eventually I will get to all of them, in time but things are still so fresh and selfishly I do not want to share them yet either, they are mine. I want Brock to know every detail one day of how hard his Daddy fought to live. I have signed for things I never believed I would have too. I became his advocate when he could not speak any longer. He would have done the same. I feel like I have lived a hundred years in this past year but there also seems to be so much life still in front of me but where do I go?

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“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I HATE this saying. HATE it! I know people say it out of genuine emotion and trying to be up lifting but I hate it. Once someone said this to Justin and he replied back that he couldn’t tell if the events of the past year were making him stronger or killing him. It killed him. HATE the saying….period!

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I still find cough drop wrappers by the bed at times, they are still in our diaper bag. His box of Kleenex are still in the car. Some of the gauze used after they checked his blood sugars until his fingers were raw I carry in my pocket at times still. I smell his deodorant daily. The perfume he gave me I wear sparingly so I don’t run out. I found his chap stick the other day. As I placed the open tube to my lips I just cried for him…it is the closest I will ever get to feeling his lips on mine again here on earth. Surviving…

These things are so precious but hurt so deeply.

I had a dream about him. In the dream we were having a conversation….I was surprised to see him. I asked him how he felt, he said “wonderful!” I asked him if he sees how big Brock is getting…he said all the time. It is just not fair. So for now I must continue to get up each day and survive without him. When he died there was no confusion on how we felt towards each other, what our future was going to be like. I wish we would have had the chance and not just feel like I have to survive.

How I remember my love.

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I SMILE…

Sometimes, not always when someone hears the “story” of the past year their reactions are of how it all seems so tragic, sad and that they are sorry. It makes me have a huge question mark above my head??? Yes, I admit I have felt like I belong on the Lifetime channel somewhat but I am definitely not a sad pity case. With anything life can throw at you there is something to be learned, thankful for and to smile about! Missing Justin does not even come close to how his loss is felt. Everyday I miss him…his voice, his touch but I feel his presence. He has ways of making himself still known and it makes me smile! So, definitely I SMILE because it happened and would be lying if I said I did not cry because I miss him. I cry but have learned so much about myself and life. Justin and I had a lifetime together but we did not realize how short that “lifetime” would be. One thing I learned from him dying is how to LIVE! Things are very clear when they were not always so clear.

This past week I found myself visiting the Pleasure Pier in Galveston. Anyone who knows me knows that I do NOT ride amusement park rides…never have. They scared the poo out of me! I have been always been an experienced bench warmer and totally confident in my “yellow” chicken status as I watched everyone else ride.

When we arrived I thought to myself…I am going to ride and not miss out. I am done missing out on things that “scare” me! Besides I thought no one has been thrown into the ocean…yet!  Yes I was scared, screamed a few profanities and almost left a puddle in the seat but I rode them ALL! Not a big deal to most people but for me this was HUGE!

The Love that Justin and I shared can never be put into words and will live in my heart forever. Someone said to me that Justin had “lost” his battle with cancer. Again I am sure I had the question mark above my head. I never looked at it as he lost. Justin WON that evening back in April. He was CHOSEN to leave the physical world to live in a world of complete bliss where disease does not exist. We are the ones who feel his loss…we are the ones who lost but I most definitely will hang on to the love we shared. Justin WON. I miss him dearly but he certainly did not lose!

Father’s Day…

Father’s Day is here and I feel almost like I “survived” it. Honestly I wasn’t sure how I would feel on this Sunday. It has been a good day. Brock and I celebrated Justin just as we do everyday..okay well maybe I little bit more today, after all Justin liked a fuss made over him! 😉 At church there was a part in the clip of a movie they showed us where it was a grown son talking to his father at his grave. The son talked about how he tries to always live his life so that one day he will come “face to face” with his Dad. This of course made me think of Brock. Yes, Brock did get to meet his father and we have a few pictures but he will not have any memories of his own of his Daddy. In my heart I can only hope that Brock chooses to live so that one day he can to come face to face with his father again. Part of the message was about how your journey tells your story not one event. It is not about the race but the rise…

Justin’s presence is all around us and gives me strength and peace constantly. There have been times since he passed away that I get anxious about things that I will have to do with Brock as his only living parent. Can I do it all? Today I knew at church would be dedicated to Father’s…like it should be. It gave me anxiety. Would I turn into a bawl of tears at our loss or would I feel a sense of celebration for the Daddy that Brock DOES have? He DOES have a Daddy…his soul and spirit are here, he lives in our hearts instead of our home. 

I have thought I am just going to stay home…it is easier. Really it is not easier. The world keeps going and if I let an “event” pass by me because it is just too hard emotionally then I am missing out. I loose…I do not want to miss out on anything! I am not saying today was easy…everyday has it’s moments and I suspect it will be that way for the rest of my life. I embrace the peace and also the grief, they are both VERY real and I believe lead to healing.  So, I survived Father’s Day. It was a good day! After church we went to the cemetery. I purposely did not have coffee until we got there so I could “share” it with my love. I got a to-go cup and took it with me. Brock drank his bottle and I my coffee. We talked to and about his Daddy, listened to a few songs that reminded me of Justin and left his gift. 

He is missed beyond words and I am sad he is not physically here with me but you know what…it is okay. He doesn’t hurt, he isn’t sick and he can breathe where he is at while here on earth he could not. He body just gave out long before any of us where ready but it is not in our time. I was not ready for him to go but I am so Glad That He Came! 

When I was taking pictures today at the cemetery I looked at the bird again and realized that it had no feet. Justin showed me pictures he drew when he was younger of different animals but none of them had feet. I asked him why they were all feet-less…he replied that he didn’t know how to draw feet. So it was fitting that the bird today had not feet! Made me smile…he could always make me smile! 🙂

This Boy…

This sweet little boy doesn’t even know the ray of sunshine he puts into my heart everyday. I do not think that I could ever explain exactly how he makes my heart smile.  All three of my children are blessing and I love them so very much but the love I feel for Brock is just different…not greater, just different. He is always smiling and happy, how can you not smile at a happy baby? It is almost like he understands exactly what I need and gives it to me.

He reminds me SO much of his father…his hands even in their little chubby baby state look like Justin’s. Today while we were laying on the bed together he reached out and placed his fresh from his mouth wet hand on my cheek. It brought tears to my eyes…my sweet youngest son was reaching for his Momma but also it gave me comfort that it was part of Justin reaching out to touch my cheek too.

The kids keep me busy and moving forward but when Liz and Garrett are gone Brock keeps me busy still. I am so grateful he is here, part of Justin and the love we shared for each other. He just makes me smile. I am so proud I was chosen to be his mother!

There has been several times I have asked quietly to myself…please let me have the strength to get through this. Justin gave me so much strength and advice. He is/was my partner. The times I have asked for his strength or guidance he has given it to me. Sometimes it sucks the breath out of me the reminders that he is still around watching. He is missed so much but it also gives me comfort that I am never alone. 

Why Me….

Surely throughout life everyone has thought this…”why me?” Whether it be a happy event or not so happy one. Saturday I took all three of my babies to the zoo. While we were there I felt surrounded by happy families. The ones that stood out to me where of course the ones that had a Mother, Father and baby. It made me sad because Brock will never know that feeling of having both his parents with him. It was his first trip to the zoo, first carousal and train ride. There are SO many firsts coming up…a lifetime of firsts that I will be the only parent for him. It breaks my heart for him, it is just unfair and I do not know the reason why this is the hand he was dealt.

While we were there, looking at the happy families and expectant moms that seemed to be everywhere I thought to myself they look like there are living in a world of complete bliss. They are so unaware of the heartache that lives within me now daily. I hope they never know how loosing their child’s father, their love feels. Of course I know that everyone is fighting some battle in their lives right now. Just as they have no idea what I have been through neither do I know what they are going through. I remember thinking while looking at a pregnant woman…what would she think if she knew the father of her baby would die 3 months after their baby was born? It made me think…why me? Why did this happen to Brock? To Justin? To me???

Today while thinking about this again…why me? It occurred to me…why not me? None of us can see the whole plan for our life. Justin came into my life exactly when he was suppose too. He saved me in many ways…ways he only knows. He showed me exactly what true unconditional love and happiness are. He was sent to show me those things. Like I said at his memorial he changed my life…he made me a better person. We changed each other. We were brought together for our short time because we needed each other. We were given Brock, our sweet son. In my heart he left too soon…selfishly I still want him here with me and his children.

So this brings me back to the why me and the why not me? Justin was brought into my life and taken from it because I would not be given more than I can handle. Daily I miss and mourn him but know that one day I will see him again. I wake up trying to have an open heart and make the decisions that will one day let me be with him in a place that we can never be separated again for all eternity. His body gave out on him but his soul continues to live! He is my soul’s counterpart and one day we will meet again not in the physical world.

When we left the zoo Liz and Garrett were talking to me about how many firsts Brock had with them today. We also talked about how his Daddy, Justin had watched all these firsts as they were happening. I asked them where is Brock’s Daddy? They both pointed up to the clouds in the sky and said one word…heaven.

Yes…why not me? Knowing everything I wouldn’t change anything. Even though Justin’s passing from his body and his soul going to heaven is incredibly hard everyday and just breathing at times seems impossible he came into my life exactly when he was supposed to. I am forever grateful and glad it WAS me. FLML

A Glimpse…

This picture was Brock’s first real bath…taken with his Daddy. This photo is so special for many reasons one being it is one of the few pictures of Brock and his Daddy. They look the same with their bald heads. I love that Brock is cradled in Justin’s arms…he loved his children so much.

The weekend before Justin went into the hospital we all took a bath together. Brock was between us resting on our legs looking at us both. Justin’s breathing was so shallow by now and he was beyond exhausted. Sitting in the bath the three of us is a moment I won’t ever forget. I feel robbed of being able to have more moments like these. I can only hope that Justin still cradles Brock like he is in this picture. This is just a glimpse of what should have been hundreds of moments with Justin…

Looking for Our New Normal…

So after the birth of our baby boy Brock life went on as it always does. Sometimes I wish it would stop even for just a moment to let me catch my breath. Justin’s chemo continued and the next week he had 2 short treatments and 1 short treatment the third week. Each cycle was 21 days long and he would have 3 of them.

New Years eve was low-key to say the least….we had a 2 week old. I remember us laying on the couch together barely making it to midnight. I was exhausted from round the clock feedings and Justin was exhausted from recovering from his first round of chemo treatments. He had bought us some champagne and ice cream to share that evening. At midnight we toasted to our future. How things were going to be different come summer time. How once again we would spend endless hours at the beach with all our children. We were looking forward with so much hope. Hope is good thing but right now it is gut wrenching at times. I feel like now I miss and mourn him but also mourn what our lives should have been. I wish I could have had our future…I don’t know where to go from here.

This picture is Brock sitting in Justin’s lap at Chemo.

His next cycle started on January 3rd. He had five 8 hour treatments that week. Brock and I would bring him lunch and sit with him until time to go pick up the kids from school. Brock is such a good baby…incrediable happy! Even sitting for hours at the oncology office he was good. Justin would sit in his recliner hooked up to the IV and I would sit next to him nursing our son. Those moments were definitely moments where I thought to myself…how did we get here??? How am I nursing a newborn at chemo? How could I not…if Justin was there so was I.

Justin went for a cat scan after the second cycle of treatment was over….they wanted to see what, if any effect on the tumors had been made. This was on Wednesday January 18th, my birthday. I remember him walking up to me that day and embracing me…taking my breath away. When we parted I looked at him kind of puzzled, what was going on??? He just smiled and said “Happy Birthday.” I could tell by the look on his face he was anxious for the results of the scan that would come in a couple of days. Please let the poison they were putting in his body be working…please!

The following Monday we went in to see Dr. Mahmood for the results…there was good news and bad news. The good news was there was significant shrinkage in the tumors in his chest and abdomnen…much more then they had expected! Bad news was they were recommending a 4th cycle of chemo but by doing that 4th cycle it would significantly cut down on the possibility that he would have to have lymph nodes surgically removed. It is such a balancing act. He opted for the 4th cycle. It felt like such a victory that day…he was beating the cancer! After the second 21 day cycle was over was the only weekend Justin really felt good again. Let me just say he did not lay in bed on the days he felt like compete garbage. He fed, bathed and loved on his children. He continued to function on every level…everyday! He was RISING everyday even though most would have given in to the self-pity of the cancer. He had a valid reason but continued….he did not give an excuse.

That weekend he was SO aggravating because he felt SO good! I remember jokingly saying to him if this is the new you…feeling so good I am not sure I can handle it! 😉 Again, it was a glimpse of the future…a future that never came.

After this cycle the 2nd one he started coughing…intially we thought he had a cold. Maybe he did or was the beginning signs of how the chemo had effected his lungs? We will never know for sure. Every time he went in for a treatment he had to fill out a “How I feel Today” sheet. He put the usual stuff…fatigued, no appetite, metallic taste in his mouth and now a cough. He would go through bags of cough drops everyday. He would leave the wrappers everywhere! I still find cough drops and wrappers places…the car, my purse, the diaper bag, beside the bed. I love the reminders of him even if I feel the effects of them to my core. They make me ache for him.  Talking at times became difficult for him and he would cough until he was drenched in sweat and at times vomiting. The way Justin approached anything was you just push through it and that is what he was doing…pushing through all of this.

This is what a typical day looked like at chemo…such an amazingly loved man.

At the beginning of his 3rd cycle he woke up with a sore neck which having aches and pains was nothing new anymore but he said his neck felt puffy also. As the evening went on the stiffness kept increasing. The next morning his neck was extremely swollen…he called his oncologist. He had developed a blood clot around his port cath in his chest. Over the weekend he gave himself blood thinner shots that he called horse needles. I remember watching his give himself these injections in his abdomen and thinking how just a few short months ago he had never even had surgery. No matter what he faced he took in on fulling and so bravely. The blood thinners did not work and the port had to be removed. The remainder of his treatments for this cycle were done by IV and they said he would have a PIC line put in his arm for the final cycle.

Justin sent me this picture of him “relaxing” at one of his final treatments. Quite a view wouldn’t you say?!?

When he told me about the blood clots, port removal, PIC line while still trying to not cough I jokingly told him why can’t you just be a “normal” cancer patient without colds and clots?!? Of course I was joking…you have to laugh, remember! What else could we do at this point???

Brock looks thrilled to be flying for the first time!

This picture was taken in Atlantic City…it was SO cold!

Between his 3rd and 4th cycle we went to his visit his family in New Jersey. He talked about all this food we would eat, people and places we would visit. To say he was excited when the airplane touched down was an understatement. Seeing him in his element surrounded by the people who loved his unconditionally was such a blessing. All his brothers and sisters were able to come in and be together. everything happens for a reason and we were all meant to get together that last time in Feburary…little did we all know that most of us would be gathered again soon to celebrate his life.

This was his Final Treatment…this shirt is also the shirt he wore the last time he held Brock outside of the hospital in. I have it saved in a ziplock baggie..it smells like him still. It is the little things that mean so much now.

 This was 2 days before he went back into the hospital on March 16th.

His final round of chemo was so exciting…who is excited to feel like garbage again? Justin was…it was the last time he would have to go through this. We were so thankful and optimistic. This cycle was like the past 3 except now he had the PIC line in his upper left arm for treatment. His final treatment on March 8th 2011 at 10am. I remember sitting next to him so proud of him and what he had accomplished….waiting for his IV bag to be done. His FINAL IV bag! They were going to remove his PIC line and he wanted me to record it for him. It is the only recording I have of him…his voice.  This was a day of celebration!

Today is a gift and tomorrow is not guarantee. We were looking forward to our future with such hope and excitement. Justin had done everything he had to do heal his body but we did not know his body was only getting ready to make him have to fight once again. When is enough, enough?? The future…our plans were out of our hands. We would be praying for a miracle…