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!

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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.

#ShapeGoal40

I mentioned in a post I made a few days ago that I’m joining Shape Magazine and Jen Widerstrom doing their 40 day challenge. Being a caregiver so long I really didn’t take care of myself the way I should have. I ate like crap, gave into temptation sitting next to the person at work who is always bringing donuts, cookies, and candy in. As hard as these last four and a half weeks have been without my dad, I realize that this is a time in life where I get to rediscover who I am. I don’t have to constantly worry about my dad throughout the day or not get enough rest because he needs help with something in the middle of the night. Don’t get me wrong, I wish he were still here because he was the best dad I could ever have ever wanted, but I knew in the back of my head that I was putting my health on the back burner to make sure he was okay.

The timing of this challenge has been fantastic. Today is day five and since it started I’ve been cooking meals instead of eating out. I’ve been making chicken dishes, healthy sandwiches, eating salads, fruits, and going out of my comfort zone by trying new things like couscous. It’s amazing how in just five days I feel like I have more energy and that my body is functioning better because I am putting good stuff into it. I’ve also significantly cut back on soda, except for a sip or two to get medication down. When I was six I choked on a life saver and my mom had to do the Heimlich on me, so getting pills down has always been an issue for me, and the carbonation seems to help that. If you know of something else for me to try, let me know!

With the ShapeGoal40, there is a fantastic group of amazing people who are all supportive of each other from all over the world and many of us have posted our goals so we can all help each other stay accountable. I want to post that here on my blog as well, so that I make sure I am not only accountable for myself, but for anyone who may be doing this challenge who reads this, can also keep me accountable.

For the first time in almost seven years, I feel like this huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I love my dad dearly, but now that he’s gone and truly seeing the toll it took on me that I couldn’t see, but everyone else could has been a huge eye opener. 2018 is going to be focusing on me and rediscovering myself and my joy. As I look back in 2017, I don’t know how I managed to do all that I did for my dad. There were times that I was pretty much at rock bottom, but was able to put up this façade to make it seem like everything was fine. I’m ready to conquer 2018. I’ve got big goals and plans for some of the most special people in my life. I really couldn’t have made it through this last year without Justin, Katie, Bri, Gina, Kelly, Jen and so many more.

Here I come 2018 and here are my goals below!

shapegoal40