A Love Note

This is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a while now, but wanted to find the right words and it’s still not perfect, but it comes from the heart.

Over the last seven years there have been so many people in my life that have been there for me when I’ve been through hell and back and then through hell and back again. This love note starts with those who my dad and I worked with back on 03/17/2011, the day my dad came home and found my mom had died. My dad worked the night audit at a hotel and I worked part time for my community college police department. His coworkers were great at donating money to help dad and I cover my mom’s funeral costs, making meals for us, etc. My coworker being cops came out to be with my dad and I while officers, paramedics, crime scene investigators, and the coroner were at our home. They not only were able to help us through what was going on, but was just there for support. They brought us coffee and breakfast. It’s those small things that made all the difference that day. Our world had just been turned upside down and without the support of them it would have made that whole situation a lot harder to get through. I am and I know my dad was forever grateful for all you did for us.

To all my friends who sent messages and donated to my mom’s Go Fund Me page and the Go Fund Me page for my dad and I to keep the roof over our head a couple of years after my mom passed, you all hold a special place in my heart. The outpouring of love during those times did not go unnoticed. I’m grateful that you all allowed my dad and I to be able to keep going. Times before and  even after that were tough, but you all made everything else in between seem so minor knowing we could let my mom rest and that my dad and I were able to keep our home. There’s no greater gift than that.

To my family, we have been through a lot the last couple of years. We’ve lost three amazing dad’s. I’m thankful for technology and how far it has come so that we were able to keep each other updated on how things were going be it good or bad. I love the memories and pictures that we can look back on and smile at. Sometimes it is still painful but we are all strong and I’m glad we are all getting even closer. We have three awesome angels looking out for us. I can’t wait to spend more time with you all more often to not only create new memories, but to also share memories of good times.

To Justin and Katie. I don’t even know where to being. From all of our late night weekend shenanigans to endless talks in hospital waiting rooms and everything in between. You have seen me at my highest highs and my lowest lows. You have helped keep me sane. I’m so blessed to have both of you in my life. You guys are family, no ifs ands or buts about it. I’m so excited for the year ahead. All of us have a lot of changes. Me finding my freedom and independence again and you guys with the little one on the way. I can’t wait for this journey to unfold and I love you guys more than you know. Here’s to new adventures ahead! And to Bentley and Max, I love you guys too! There’s never a dull moment when Bentley realizes it’s me! 🙂

To Jen and the #ShapeSquad. People are brought into your life at the craziest, but perfect time. A year ago I drove to Naperville to see you and hear you talk about your book, The Biggest Loser, and so much more. Flash forward to this year and driving to Columbus to see you and support you like you support us. I’m grateful that over the last year we have become friends. You wrote to me that I am important to you, and you are just as important to me. I’m sure we will have many more heart to heart talks this year and I can’t wait. One of these days you need to bring Hank with you on a trip! 🙂 And #ShapeSquad, we have come a long way since the start of the forty day challenge. I love to be a part of a group where women are building up other women. It’s nice having a safe space to talk openly, share ups and downs, progress and struggle, and to just be real. For those going to NY next month, I can’t wait to see you. For those that can’t make it, we need to find a way to get the squad together later this year. I’m proud to be a part of this group and grateful for each and ever one of you. Our group is a special one.

The last few weeks my heart has been so full! In the last four months I have had a lot of time to reflect and grow. I realize that I have been through two horrible losses, being my parents, but also working in healthcare and in an emergency room as a member of registration, I’ve seen many people lose their lives in many different ways. Life is short and I don’t think we tell the people we love enough that we love them and appreciate them. Right now there is so much negativity in the world that I wanted to share the love for those I love. You all make my life better in so many ways.




Day trip

Sometimes you just need to get away from your home and your city for a day and surround yourself in a new environment to recharge. This past weekend was one of those weekends for me. I needed a change of scenery for a day and so I hit the road to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday to see my friend Jen at the Arnold Classic. I left home around 5:30am because I knew once I hit Indiana I’d be in the eastern time zone and wanted to make sure I got there in time to see Jen at her signing. The drive to Columbus was super peaceful with the open road, music, and getting to see the sunrise was just what I needed.

I got to the Arnold Classic with no problems at all. I figured there would be a line to see Jen, so the booth she was at was the first stop I made. the line wrapped around the booth, which made me so happy to see so many out to see her. As the line moved she looked over at one point and saw me and came over to give me a hug. Some people in line were looking around and Jen said she’s known me for a long time now. Once I made it to my turn to actually see her, she and I had a good talk and then again after her signing was over we talked more. She really made me think about things that have been holding me back from making progress and I shed some tears.

Sunday morning I woke up at 4am and that’s when everything she talked to me about really started to set in about what’s holding back my progress. I thought it was just a couple of things, but then I had an even bigger revelation later in the day. It was one of those holy shit moments where I realized that there have been some things I’ve been suppressing. I’m grateful for the talk and homework Jen gave me.

Sunday was a good day too. After getting some stuff down on paper, I took a nap since I was up so early processing stuff. Later in the day my friend Bri and I went to see The Greatest Show Man. It was such a good movie and I’m glad I went.

When life gets tough

Whoever said life isn’t easy is so right. The last couple of weeks have been a challenge for me to not get in my head to derail the progress I’ve been making. I’ve been trying not to get in my head and not let things bother me, but it’s been hard. There have been a couple of things that have happened over the course of the last week that make me question why they happened, but I know that those things were not meant to be and it only means there is something better out there for me. It can be frustrating, but I’m doing my best to roll with the punches. I’ve got a great support group and I’m so grateful that I can turn to them when I need to.

Now onto something a bit more exciting. I’m taking my first vacation in almost 8 years in April. I’m heading to NYC for six days and five nights. I feel so at home and alive in NYC, so I can’t even being to explain how happy I am that this trip is happening so soon. One of the things I am doing while I am there is the Shape Women Run The World Half Marathon. I’ve never done a half marathon in my life and it scares the shit out of me, but it’s time for me to go on adventures and this will definitely be an adventure.

While I’m there I also plan on seeing my friends Natalie and Kevin. While I’m there I’m also going to go to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum and try to take in a show on Broadway. This time last year I couldn’t have done any of this. Travel was next to impossible for my dad and while there is some feeling of guilt about going, my dad wouldn’t want me to not take advantage of things that life has to offer. I’m doing this for me and I’m doing this for him.


10 weeks…

Tomorrow marks 10 weeks since I lost my dad. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since he left me. It still feels like it happened yesterday, but I’m coping so much better than I did when I lost my mom. I owe a lot of that to my dad because he wasn’t afraid to have the hard conversations with me about end of life. The bereavement class that I have been attending has also been a huge help. It is a place where it’s okay to grieve and mourn. So many of us share things that we don’t feel like we can share elsewhere and it’s a great atmosphere. I’m grateful for this safe haven.

Now to get you caught up a little bit on me and what’s been happening the last few weeks. I finished the ShapeGoal40 challenge on the 3rd. I’m sad that it has ended, but the support of the wonderful women I’ve met continues on in the group. I’m also happy to say that I was named the goal crusher for the last week of the challenge. I will come back later and share the video here. It’s a great feeling to see how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time.

Another plus is that I saw my doctor yesterday and she’s proud of the progress I’ve been making. Last year before dad died she wanted me to focus on losing weight because I had been putting on weight and pretty quickly. Then my dad died and I turned to food as a comfort, but knew that I couldn’t continue down that path. At my appointment yesterday she told me I was so close to being out of the morbid obesity range. I told her I didn’t even know I had hit that range and she said she didn’t tell me because she didn’t want that to be in my head and make things worse. She wanted to encourage me to move more and to work on eating better. We also talked about things that I’m doing coming up, like my first half marathon in April in NYC. I’m lucky to have a doctor who encourages me. It’s one more person on my team who I know I can turn to if I need support.

I hope you all have a great Tuesday!

Real talk

A lot of this blog is about my journey as a caretaker to my dad, but I’ve also posted some about me trying to get healthy and focus on myself, which I have been doing with the #ShapeGoal40 challenge. It’s been a pretty bumpy ride because of having a head cold, now being on muscle relaxers for a pulled muscle in my back. I wanted to share a bit of my year last year and why doing this challenge is important to me.

A few years after losing my mom to a brain aneurysm I started to get this intense pressure in my head with changing positions, such as kneeling to standing. I didn’t think much of it or mention it to my doctor because I was terrified of finding out if something was seriously wrong with me. I needed to make sure my dad was taken care of, so I just let it go. The head pressure started to become more frequent over the year and started to have headaches almost every day. I did my best to just push through, but last year things got kind of scary for me. I was starting to get dizzy spells, and focusing at work was becoming increasingly more difficult. Within a three week span last year I ended up in the emergency room because of the headaches. One of those trips was me leaving work by ambulance because of how dizzy I was and how much pain my head was in.

The first hospital visit they tried Imitrex, which kicked in within fifteen minutes and I felt so much better, but the next day I was miserable again and the headaches seemed to be getting worse. The subsequent ER visits included a CT of my brain and an MRI/MRV of my brain. Thankfully nothing showed up on those, which was a relief, but my doctor was still at a loss as to what could be causing my headaches. I was referred to Neurology and spent about 10 minutes with the neurologist for a consult that was scheduled for 40 minutes. After replying to a message on if they met my needs, I marked no. I left without any answers or even a plan to help the headaches. The nurse talked to the neurologist and I was put on amitriptyline, which is mainly used as an antidepressant , but has also been found to help migraines.

You may be wondering why I’m sharing this and there’s an answer. Since starting the #ShapeGoal40 I’ve been eating so much better and drinking more water, but haven’t really had any of my weight come off. The head cold and the pulled muscle in my back have been small set backs, but then I remembered being told that a side effect of amitriptyline is weight gain. The hospital where I doctor at uses MyChart for patient’s to access their medical records online and I went back to see when I was started on the amitriptyline, which was 08/23/17. At that time I weighed 189. 32 days later at a follow up appointment with my primary doctor, 09/25/17, I weighed 202. Almost a 15 pound increase in weight in a little over a month time span. Since then my weight has been gradually increasing, even with eating better, drinking more water, and trying to be less sedentary at work. I think the medication is what is preventing me from losing weight. I’m eating enough of what I’m supposed to be eating, plus having healthy snacks throughout the day. I see my doctor in a couple of weeks and I’m going to see if I can trial going off of the amitriptyline to see if that helps me lose weight and to see if my migraines come back or not. If they do I will see what other medication I can try, but having this realization tonight was something I needed.

Self discovery

In a way I feel like this blog is turning into a self discovery blog along with sharing my story of being a caregiver to my father. This is a huge deal for me because I feel like my identity for the past seven years has been that of a caregiver. Putting my dad first, taking him to the ER when needed, doctor appointments, helping him with IV medication at home if needed, bandage changes for wounds. The list goes on.

Today is day 20 of a 40 day challenge I am doing. I’ve posted about it before and it’s called #ShapeGoal40. There’s an amazing private Facebook group for women who are encouraging women, getting real about their struggles, and what their goals are. My goals haven’t changed since I posted them in the last blog and I will post the link to that one at the end of this post.

Tonight’s check in with Jen Widerstrom was just what I needed. My goals didn’t advance a whole lot this week until yesterday and today. The last week has been rough with having the upper respiratory thing that’s going around, dealing with a migraine on Friday, being called an orphan by someone, and attending my first grief class after the passing of my dad. I just didn’t really have the energy or drive to be motivated to move a whole lot, but I didn’t sacrifice my healthy eating and getting my water intake in. Yesterday I was still feeling blah and didn’t want to do anything, but I made myself get up and do Jen’s week three workout for the first time and I was amazed how much better I felt mentally after doing the workout. I pushed myself more today with the workout again and as the reps decreased, I made it a point to increase the weight, even if that meant taking a pause in between reps. I was proud of myself for pushing through and getting it done. I’m getting back on track this week and hitting the gym on the days I promised myself I would.

Another part of tonight’s check in was what do we look for in an accountability partner and what you need in your support system. What I’m looking for in an accountability partner is someone who will go to the gym with me and who will challenge me while I’m there. I also want someone who can help make sure I’m staying on track with my eating and water intake. So far I’ve been doing well with this on my own, but you never know when one bad day can start you back down the rabbit hole of bad habits. As far as me being an accountability partner to someone else, I think that I’m good at being a cheerleader for others. I had to be my dad’s cheerleader when he broke through a milestone in his health, like when he quit smoking after more than 30 years. I’m good at celebrating successes. In this process I’ve also learned that I need to celebrate my own successes as well, which can be hard, but I’m slowly learning that celebrating the small things will help when I reach a milestone goal.

As promised, here’s the link to my original blog post about #ShapeGoal40: https://lifeofacaregiver87.com/2017/12/30/shapegoal40/


Power of Attorney

In life there are always many discussions that are hard to have, and one of them is being end of life discussions. No one wants to think about end of life, but we eventually all have the same ending. This may sound morbid or depressing, but we aren’t invincible. Knowing what your loved one wants when their time comes is super important. When I lost my mom, my dad and I had no idea what her final wishes were. My mom lost both of her parents at a young age and was never fond of doctors, so when my dad would try and have those discussions with her, it was always put off. Losing her suddenly was a shock to both my dad and I, but then trying to make arrangements without knowing what she would have wanted was even harder.

While discussions about end of life aren’t easy, they are necessary. My dad and I talked several times about this because of his health. We sat down one day and discussed what it meant to be his medical power of attorney, his living will, and about organ donation. Being a power of attorney for someone is a huge deal. It leaves you responsible to make medical decisions on a persons behalf, should they for some reason not be able to make those decisions because of their medical condition.

You truly don’t know how hard choices are to make until you are faced with making a decision on your own. This is what happened to me in 2015. The previous year my dad had gone through a colonoscopy due to having some blood where blood shouldn’t be. The gastroenterologist saw a few polyps that he was able to take care of and sent to pathology to make sure they weren’t cancerous. It was a huge relief when we found out they were benign.

In 2015 the cycle repeated itself, except this time it was much worse. My dad was hospitalized due to a gastrointestinal bleed. They did a couple of colonoscopies and things got really serious really fast. My dad was pretty much bleeding without it being able to be stopped. And because of the amount he was bleeding he had a large number of blood transfusions. He was also on a blood thinner because of his artificial heart valve and because of everything going on in his system, he also received fresh frozen plasma and vitamin K to bring down his INR. Due to the lack of oxygenated blood in his body, during this time he also had a minor heart attack. This is something that usually ends up having a poor outcome. At one point my dad was so unstable that they did a bedside colonoscopy and endoscopy, but the area he was bleeding from was in that perfect spot that it couldn’t be reached from either end, so the gastroenterologist tattooed the area in case my dad needed to have surgery.

The doctor came out and talked to me in the waiting room, as did a general surgery resident. Both doctors were fantastic and said that if his blood pressure maintained where it was at, they would wait for a couple of days to get him a little more stable to possibly do surgery. They both went back to his room to get things cleaned up and the surgical resident came back out and said that his blood pressure had dropped again, and that an emergency surgery needed to be done. Being the power of attorney for my dad, this was a choice that I had to make. My dad was so out of because of the amount of blood he had lost. I called one of my friends who is a nurse and she came and talked me through everything. I was able to ask several questions to the resident surgeon and once we found out who would actually be doing the surgery I signed the consent form for my dad to have an emergency small bowel resection.

I had some amazing friends come sit with me during the surgery and everyone was fantastic with keeping me updated every step of the way. The only thing going through my mind though once they called to say they had started surgery, was that my dad had always told me he did not want a colostomy bag. But I knew at that point, it was too late to change my mind on him having surgery. Thankfully once surgery was over, the surgeon came out and talked to me and my friends. She said that everything went well, that they removed 18 inches of small bowel, and that he did not need a colostomy even temporarily. My dad did well overnight and they started to wean him off of the propofol so they could extubate him. While he was still intubated he could hear me and the nurses, follow commands, etc. I asked him if he was mad at me for having them go ahead with surgery and he shook his head no and squeezed my hand. I was so relieved and had more confidence that if I needed to make another decision like that, that I would be able to.

Being a medical power of attorney is a powerful position to be in, but knowing who you’d want and trust to make choices for you if you are unable is important. No one likes to discuss death, but having the conversations while you are able to about who you want to make decisions for you and so that your loved ones know what your final wishes are helps tremendously when that time comes. Also, discussions about being an organ donor are just as important. Organ donation is a wonderful thing and my personal stance is if I can allow someone to live a better quality of life once I’m gone, then take what you can because I no longer need it. Losing someone is always hard, but knowing these things in advance makes some things easier on you because for the first few days you will be in a fog trying to get arrangements made, an obituary done, and notifying family and friends. Knowing ahead of time if your loved one wants to be buried or cremated, donating organs, and anything else, helps to take a bit of the burden off.