Positive Influence

Over the weekend I found out something that made me happy and that I wanted to share. During my walk with coworkers and friends, we ended our 6.7 mile walk at a small restaurant in a town called St. Joe. While we were all recovering and refueling from our walk I had the chance to talk to the director from the emergency room I used to work in. I saw him briefly last month at The Daisy Award ceremony for the nurse who took care of my dad in his final hours.

What I learned from him on Saturday made me even more grateful that I took the time to nominate this nurse and that she won. He told me that she is a travelling nurse from Japan and that she really wasn’t sure she fit in here or that she had made the right choice to come here. He told me that after she won the award that it made her feel like she had made the right choice to come here and that it made her feel more a part of the team. This means the world to me. I saw not only how she interacted with my dad and I, but with other staff members. She is truly one of those nurses that is one in a million.

Never underestimate how you can make a difference in the life of someone. I nominated this nurse because of the care and compassion she showed. I didn’t know a lot about where she was from or that she was a travel nurse here. I’m glad that my show of gratitude and appreciation helped make a difference in her life, as she did in mine. Things like this just make my heart so full and make me want to continue on this journey of finding a way to make a difference in the lives of others, while also allowing me to make my life more fulfilled. The next time you think a gesture is too small, but you still want to do something for someone, do it. You never know how big that gesture could be to the person and that it could be life changing for them.

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Progress

Over the course of the last two weeks, I have proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, and that I need to not let that little voice in my head tell me otherwise. Last week when I was in NYC I did so much I didn’t think I could do, but the one thing I wanted to do more than anything was complete my first half marathon. I fell short of that goal due to a blister. I wasn’t disappointment because I completed eight miles. For me that’s the farthest I had walked/jogged continually in my life. That achievement alone made not only myself happy, but also friends of mine happy for me and that was a great feeling.

Flash forward 6 days and I fucking completed the distance of a half marathon today. Albeit there was a break to refuel, but I did it! In my town there is a new walking path that will eventually lead to a state park called Kickapoo State Park. Right now the trail goes from Urbana to St. Joe which is just shy of a 7 mile walk. The group I went with was coworkers I used to work with when I worked registration in the ER, one of the guys I used to go to church with, and a girl who works in the lab that got to know my and my dad really well because dad was always in for lab work. There were new people that I met as well, and it was a blast. We started at around 9:10 this morning and made it to St. Joe about two hours later. Myself and one other person decided that since it was such a nice day that after refueling with food and stuff to drink that we’d make the trek back. I’m so glad I did. I felt amazing by the time I got back to my car. Finally having a nice weather day made it all worth it. I did walk away with a slight sunburn on my face, but I can live with that.

This sense of accomplishment and momentum I’ve had the last few weeks has been fantastic. I’m getting out of my own head. I’m really taking to heart the talks I’ve had with a good friend and I’m no longer letting things from my past hold me back. I’m taking on the world and I love it. I’m in a really good place mentally that to be honest, I haven’t been in years. Each day is a new day to do accomplish something else and to show my dad that I’m doing well because of everything he taught me. The night he passed he asked me how I was going to take care of myself. I’m taking care of myself with the love and support of family and friends. My 20’s weren’t the traditional 20’s that many people experience, so I’m taking life by storm in my 30’s and it feels great. Here’s to many more adventures and goals to crush this year!

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.

Love,

Sarah

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!

Grieving…

Let me tell you, grieving is such a weird, yet in a way, beautiful state to be in. It’s difficult losing someone you love, but then at the same time, you get to share with other people how much that person meant to you, stories, memories, and pictures. I say this because I started an 8 week bereavement class last night through the hospitals hospice program. Last night was a lot of general stuff about what we would be doing the next seven Monday nights, but we also got to share a bit about our loved ones. This was difficult for all of us because we had to share who we lost, their name, and their date of death, but a lot of us shared other personal  things about our loved one to the rest of the group.

We have “homework” weekly, but it’s all to allow us to help heal. There is a book we are reading that has a journal go along with it called “Understanding Your Grief” by Alan Wolfelt. We are reading the introduction and first chapter this week along with bringing in no more than three pictures of our loved one(s) that we lost. To say I’m excited about this may sound strange, but being able to share my story and hear others and make unique connections with others who are going through similar situations as myself comforts me. I already know what three pictures I will be bringing in of my dad and I. All I need to do is get them printed off some place.

The first night was hard emotionally and also draining, but it’s also good to not bottle things up, which is part of why I’m blogging about my life as my dad’s caregiver and what I’m doing now that he’s gone. Life is an interesting journey and at some point we are all going to experience significant loss in our lives and at some point too we will pass. There were words of encouragement from the fall group that left me feeling like I was in the right place and need to see this through fully. I know no matter how much time passes there will be times that are harder than others and that’s life. I’m looking forward to seeing where this book and journaling will take me in my grieving process and when I’m ready to share that portion of my journey I will.

You always picture your life going a certain way and to have things in life go smoothly, but the truth is there are obstacles in the way. It’s how you deal with those obstacles that life throws at you that’s important. I never imagined I would be 30 and not have either parent still alive. They won’t have the chance to see me do so many more amazing things in my life, but I know while there were here they got to see me do some pretty awesome things and I know they were so proud of me. I’m taking this minute by minute and day by day. That’s all any of us can do in any situation in life. I’ve often heard it said that it’s no so much your start day in life (your birthday) and your end date (the day you pass) that’s important and that tell your story but it’s the dash in between those dates that make you who you are and truly tell your story, so go out there and make every day count no matter what your situation is. There’s a quite from the TV show Castle that my dad and I watched together while it was from the lead on the show Stana Katic (Detective Kate Beckett) that goes, “Even on the worst days there’s a possibility for joy”. Go out there and find something that makes you happy every day, even if  you are having a bad day.

A couple of easy(ish) years…

After all of the “fun” we had in 2012, 2013 and 2014 were a walk in the park in some ways, but also more challenging. Dad was in and out of the hospital for small things related to his congestive heart failure or cellulitis infections, but nothing too crazy health wise for him. Of course there were also routine appointments and tests as well.

Where things were really crazy over this two year period was with him not being able to work anymore due to his heart failure and the lymphedema in his legs. At first we thought it would just be a short term thing where he would be able to go back to work, but it ended up being a permanent thing. He applied for Social Security Disability and was denied the first two times around.

Things were tough financially over these two years because it was just my income and I was making less per hour than my dad had been. We somehow always managed to pay the bills on time. If we were ever short money, I would do donate plasma twice a week to have an extra $50 to make sure we had food to eat until payday, even if it was just bread, peanut butter, and jelly. There were times that I would also have to take out payday loans, and I don’t know how we managed those biweekly payments on top of all of the other expenses, but we managed.

Having those experiences where we pretty much had nothing makes me grateful for all I do have in life. I don’t know that people really take a step back to think about what would happen if one of their loved ones were not able to work anymore and then you suddenly have to become the sole provider. It’s really eye opening and helps you to truly know where your priorities in life are at. You no longer are concerned about the latest fashion or new shoes; you really become grateful for all that you do have.

Growing up as an only child I used to act like a spoiled brat and I’m not afraid to admit that. I would beg for something at the store and if dad said no, I knew I could always go to my mom and she would say yes. And if she didn’t say yes I would throw a tantrum and it didn’t matter where we were. As I got older of course some of that got better and some of it didn’t. At 23 after losing my mom and then having to suddenly grow up real fast to being the sole income provider and caregiver it really opened my eyes. I know there are people out there who have had it a lot worse than I have for sure, but everyone’s hardships work themselves out in different ways. This just happens to be my journey and I hope that these blogs in some way can help others to know they are not alone out there, no matter what they are facing.

 

Looking back…

As I look back on this past year, I realize that I am a lot stronger than I ever though was possible. The year started with my dad in the hospital in January, then again in March, April, May June, July, September, and November. He went through so much this year and there was a period of three months that I had to take off from work because of running out of FMLA time and needing to be home with dad to administer antibiotics via a PICC line three times a day. In all of the hard times this year I realized that I am capable of so much more than I ever knew I was. I don’t know that a lot of people truly know all I went through this year and I will go into more detail in a later blog.

I never imagined ending 2017 without my dad. He was such a fighter this year with all of his health ailments, and while that didn’t help my generalized anxiety disorder, I still feel like I had some great moments with him. During  the three months I was off from work he and I would watch The People’s Court together during the day and a Cubs game at night. I’m thankful for all of the moments I was able to have with him over these last several years and I know how much he loved me. Maybe one day I will post the video I recorded of him telling me he loves me, but in my healing journey I’m not there yet.

While there were more tough times this year, than good times, I still managed to have some pretty good times. Some of the good times this year included me celebrating my 30th birthday with two of the best friends any girl could ask for. Justin and Katie had shirts made, we went to Sleepy Creek Winery, and did a whole lot of other fun stuff for my birthday. I’m so lucky to have these two in my life. They are more like a brother and sister to me. I’m so excited for more adventures to come with them in 2018, and of course Max and Bentley, their German Shepherds. I know this next year is going to be a lot of fun!

Also this year I got to meet Jen Widerstrom. I drove up to Naperville, IL for her book tour and after her book talk and answering some questions from attendees, she was signing her book. She is one of the most down to Earth people I’ve met. She and I talked for a few minutes, and she remembered me from winning a DietBet she hosted in 2016. I’ve been lucky enough to keep in touch with her over the last year and I can’t wait to see her at the retreat she is planning in 2018.

I was also blessed enough this year to spend Christmas with several of my cousins in Indiana. And while I wish my dad could have been here to celebrate as well, I am glad I was able to go up for a few days. This was the first time I had really experienced a big family Christmas. Getting to help make treats, and meeting other family that I haven’t met was a lot of fun. The best part of the trip was when my cousin Shanna surprised my Aunt Joyce with a trip to Hawaii. It was a three part gift with the last being a shirt that said, “I can’t keep calm, I’m going to Hawaii”. She didn’t have the shirt completely open and at first thought it said, “I can’t keep calm, I’m going to y’all.” It was such a great experience to see her face when she realized it said Hawaii on the shirt. This has been her dream vacation, so I’m happy for her that she gets to go.

As 2018 approaches, I’m looking back at this last year with a lot of emotions. I never imagined I lose my dad so soon, but he and I had talked about his end of life wishes a lot over the years. At the end of 2016 he told me there was a good likelihood with his heart failure that he wouldn’t be here this time this year. He was right, but it wasn’t due to his heart failure. Signing a DNR for him was literally the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’m grateful for the nurse who took care of him in his final hours and let us use her phone so he could listen to Elvis.

In the new year, I’m going to be focused on living life again. I put myself last in order to make sure my dad was taken care of. I’m ready to rediscover who I am and what I am capable of being completely independent now. I’m excited to do things out of my comfort zone, actually go on a vacation this year (Jen’s 2018 retreat), spend more time with family and friends, and focus on getting my health back in check. I’m looking into the new year with optimism and excitement. Let’s do this 2018.