Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Always About Mikaya

One of the really nice things about being mostly retired is that your schedule is very flexible, and you can go anywhere you want to go, any time.  Sometimes this may mean something as minor as taking in an afternoon baseball game and sometimes it may mean helping your family when they need it.  You have all read and heard about Brandy's recent surgery and the very positive outcome that we all expect so I will not expound further on that subject.  
Wait a minute!  Let's back up.  I'm afraid I can't just breeze by the last 9 weeks and 6 days with a "you have all read and heard about Brandy's surgery..."  It just doesn't happen that way for me.  See 9 weeks and 6 days ago I entered some weird alternate reality in which I still wander.  It all began with a CT scan that said, "HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS OF OVARIAN CANCER".  I exited the world as I know it- and trust it- and entered the Land of Oz- for surely "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." The earth stopped moving on it's axis- time slowed to almost a standstill as we waited first for the appointment with the Gynecological Oncologist (took two long, long, long weeks for that) and then another two weeks and 2 days for the surgery to actually take place and then the 8 hours sitting in the waiting room waiting for information on how the surgery was going and then the agonizing wait for the results of the pathology reports- had to wait on that twice- first the "local" take- and then the "experts" from University of Florida- and of course two body and mind numbing weeks in the hospital while Brandy recovered from what was originally billed as a "3-5 day stay".  And then 9 weeks and 2 days after that first earth stopping CT scan Brandy has now started what will be 6 doses of chemotherapy- Taxol and Carboplatin if you're inclined to the details. 
See in my reality the NEXT BIG HEALTH EVENT was not one of our children- or grandchildren- it was Don or me.  After all we're the ones that are entering that "almost elderly" category- we're the ones that count out the pills for morning- and then again for evening to stave off the boogie men of the aged.  That's how the world works- I know it!  You're not suddenly blind sided by an ovarian cancer in your beautiful 35 year old daughter (epithelial mucinous ovarian cancer for those interested in the details- stage 1C- poorly differentiated).  Now I can probably fathom say gall bladder disease- or a hernia- or broken bones.  BUT OVARIAN CANCER! 

Just an aside- cancer in the young adult- age 21-39- is increasing- the experts don't know why- they just know it is...  Somehow I don't think this is the time we ought to be "watering down" our environmental protections- just saying...

I wish to interrupt this blog with a PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT.  Will and Anne (Will's sister and Brandy's sister-in-law) will be running in a half marathon at the end of this month to raise money for the American Cancer Society on TEAM BRANDY.  Many of you have donated- and please know how much this is appreciated.  So please check out the website at TEAM BRANDY for more information!

But given that we were there to support Brandy during and after her hospital stay it also provided Max and me the opportunity to spend significant time with Mikayla.  Mikayla is a jewel of a little girl, and from pictures I've seen of Brandy when she was that age, Mikayla is a spitting image of her mother. Mikayla looks so much like Brandy that sometimes I'm transported across time- and I actually see my beautiful little blond curly headed daughter.  But then Brandy was brown eyed- and Mikayla has huge blue eyes- and Mikayla definitely has her Daddy's ears- and can hear as well as he can (Will would hear my "alarm" for my dinner pills go off two rooms away while I sat quite oblivious to the "noise"). Mikayla does not like "noise"- hair dryers- blenders.... So I see Brandy in Mikayla but it's fleeting- mostly I just see my beautiful little blond curly headed granddaughter.

Early in the hospitalization it became apparent that the ONLY WAY to bring a genuine smile to Brandy's face was to show her a "real time" picture of Mikayla.  So that's exactly what Don and I would do!  How grateful I am to technology and SMART PHONES!  Don would take a picture with his phone when he was with Mikayla and send it to me on my smart phone- and I'd show it to Brandy.  And absolutely 100% of the time a big smile would break across her face- regardless of how miserable that particular day was.  And then when I was with Mikayla I'd take the pictures and send them to Don's phone- and he'd show them to Brandy.  Eventually when Brandy was feeling better- and actually sitting up looking at her computer- we'd send the pictures straight to Brandy's email.  So when you look at each of the following pictures know that each brought a smile to Brandy- the only real smiles in fact until she finally made the back trip home. Behind each of these pictures is a smiling Brandy!

I have to say that we were a bit apprehensive about how Mikayla would react to having her Mommy gone and being taken care of by Grama and Grandpa who have had little experience with her.  But this little girl just accepted us like it was normal.  We did get to spend one full day with Mikayla before Brandy left for the hospital, so we were well briefed on Mikayla's standard day, from waking up (7:00 a.m.) to going to bed at night (7:00 p.m.).  Since Brandy's surgery was scheduled for early morning and the drive was 75 miles to the hospital, Will, Brandy and Max left for the hospital at about 4:30 a.m.  That first day it was just me and Mikayla and guess who decided to wake up at 05:00am on that first morning? I need to add here- that Don always pulled the "duty" with the least amount of sleep allowed- he was the one home when Mikayla got up EARLY- both times.  He was the one at the hospital when the night staff somehow decided that no one needed sleep that night- Brandy or Don!  But I did know the process and ad libbed until time to take her to her day care at 08:00.  Max didn't get back until later that night, but Mikayla and I did quite well getting through our first day.  Our second day after school I took her to a park to get a little change of scenery.

The swings were fun, for a while, but Mikayla wanted to go home.  One nice distraction at the house is the two large tangelo trees in their back yard.  Mikayla loves to eat the tangelos, so we spent time picking and eating the fruit right off the trees.

Now let me interject here the pattern of our days- the pattern of our days for 14 days. Don and I rotated between spending the night with Brandy at the hospital- and spending the night with Mikayla.  Will went back and forth between the two places- trying to spend at least one afternoon with Brandy- and then the next evening with Mikayla.  I also might mention that Will also returned to work so he wouldn't have to use all of his vacation time during this hospitalization.  He might need some later- like maybe to take a vacation with his beautiful family! For a picture of the "hospital" side of this adventure this is probably the best...

And of course reading books was always high on Mikayla's list of favorite things to do.

And of course, eating "a little snack" ranks high on the list too.

She certainly showed us her range of expressions while sitting in her high chair and snacking.
St. Patrick's day was celebrated while we were there and Brandy was still in the hospital.  Mikayla was happy to get into the spirit of the day and enjoyed the new stuff sent to her by her Auntie Anne. and Grammy Maggie.
For a while we were afraid to even mention Brandy to Mikayla because we didn't know how Mikayla might respond, but then as the hospital stay got longer and longer we decided the silence wasn't a good idea.  We started talking with Mikayla about how Mommy was in the hospital with a BIG "OWIE". Mikayla would ask from time to time if Mommy was still in the hospital with the "owie" and we'd say yes that Mommy was still in the hospital with the "owie".

The day Brandy was to come home, Max showed her a picture from her cell phone of "Mommy".  Mikayla hadn't seen her mother for two weeks and her first response to the picture was to kiss it.

And then it was time for the HOMECOMING!

When  Mommy finally did come home Mikayla was never more than a step away from her.

We stayed one  more week just to help Brandy with Mikayla.  Lifting her was not an approved function for Brandy just yet, so Max got the job of doing all of the "heavy lifting" and Mikayla adjusted to the process like it was second nature. 
Now for me this week was as close to sheer joy as I can get for awhile.  Just watching Brandy and Mikayla is food for the soul.  What a beautiful sight they are together!
We focused on doing fun things that week.  We went to the "Gulfarium" Ft. Walton Beach and watched the sea lion and dolphin shows.

We went to the beach at Destin and played a little before having a seafood dinner with a view of the Gulf.

Sitting at a table in the restaurant was great fun.

We also spent some time at a park not too far away from their house.

And of course Mikayla loves to go to the library.

And back at home she worked on her art portfolio.

And finally before leaving we put in our Spring garden of tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, herbs and a few flowers.  Mikayla decided that her job was doing the watering.

So now we're back in Cincinnati.  Maggie and Peter (Will's Mom and Stepdad aka Grammy and Grandpa Peter) arrived the day we left Florida- and Maggie is still there doing the "heavy lifting". We've been so very grateful for all the support, love, prayers from family and friends during these past weeks.  Words can never express how very grateful we are.

As for me, I'm still waiting for the world to shift into it's new normal.  For now I'll just have to wander around in Oz for a while longer.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. You have told the story that tugs my mother's heartstrings. We all knew why Brandy was a wonderful woman, but apples do not fall from the tree :). The video was heartwarming and brought tears to my eyes. I will be happy when we all look at this place in time as a bump in the road of life. Thanks again Max and Don!!



Brandy said...

Thanks for the blog Mom! I am so thankful you and Don are retired and could come offer so much help. It would have been so stressful without you here for Will, Mikayla, and I.

Sandy said...

I appreciate this intimate look into some weeks in the lives of all-extraordinary, multigenerational people. Thanks for making me a little part of your difficulties and your fortitude!

Anonymous said...

Max and Don, I love the blog, what great pictures of Lil M. She is so adroable. We are looking forward to seeing you at the end of the month for the race!!!


Lucas said...

Amazing writing Aunt Max. Poured your heart and soul into that one and it was very touching. The photos are all so amazing. She's SO beautiful. But the shot of her kissing the phone brought tears to my eyes. So glad everyone is back where they ought to be. Love you!!!