Monthly Archives: December 2011

Year End Review 2011 Pt. 2

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Arriving in Baltimore, I had no idea what to expect.  I remember getting the rental car and blindly following my navigation, hoping that I would get to the house without a problem.  Well, I didn’t, but, nevertheless, I got there.  Everything was unfamiliar, but the house was great.

We lived in a neighborhood called Canton from June-October.  June was mostly a waiting game in terms of treatment.  One advantage of Aplastic Anemia is that my brother didn’t feel sick before treatment, only tired if he didn’t have enough blood.   It was very important that he didn’t get sick though, so anything that had to be done in public had to be done by me.   So pretty much all of June was spent learning the neighborhood and getting used to a new city, as well as preparing for treatment and getting tested for compatibility in case a transplant was necessary.

July was when my brother’s treatment started.  He had to do one round of chemotherapy over four days.  No one likes to see members of their family sick or in pain, but my brother was, although he handled it like a champ.  During July, my dad and I traded off weeks.  I was there for chemo, and he was there for recovery while I came back to Dallas for a break.

The day after I returned, I took my brother to the hospital like always.  Later that evening after I picked him up, my brother was checking his temperature (like he had to do every hour) and noticed that he was running a slight fever.  We called the hospital and they gave my brother the option to wait it out.

We waited out the fever  for a while, but it never went down.  As his temperature rose, he started displaying symptoms of being sick: chills, sleepiness, nausea, etc. It was really scary because up to this point the only time I have seen him sick was in the hospital.  We finally stopped waiting it out and went to the hospital where there was a bed waiting for him.

It turned out he had an infection in his line, but since it was after chemo, he had absolutely no immune system to fight it off.  He remained in the hospital for another two weeks.  He lost a lot of weight but ultimately recovered, much to my relief.

August was all about getting my brother to gain weight and recover.  I started to experiment with cooking a lot more, I really started getting deep  into couponing, and twice a week I worked at my new job at J.A. Murphy’s.

By the time September rolled around there was talk from the doctors about Bryant being able to go home sooner than later.  This was great news, but by this time I had already fallen for the charms of the city and was sad at the thought of having to leave so soon.

By September’s end, my brother was released from John’s Hopkins.  I know he was one of the fastest healing people with Aplastic Anermia that has ever been treated at Hopkins.  Once we got the good news, my dad and my brother decided to help me stay in Baltimore because they thought I deserved to do something for myself.
I found the best efficiency apartment I could have ever asked for in Fell’s point.  It was right in the heart of the city, I was a 7 minute walk to work and I had the nicest landlords ever.
So, what’s a girl to do in a relatively new city all by herself with no one to take care of?  Well, make her best friend move there, for one.  Secondly, whatever I wanted!  I’ll share more with you about how I spent my time in Baltimore, as well as wrap up the rest of the year during the next installment of my Year End Review 2011.

Year End Review 2011 Pt. 1

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Well, it’s time for a new year and I can’t say that I’m sad to put 2011 behind me.   This is the year that my biggest fears manifested in front of my eyes like some sort of sick nightmare that lasted for 7 months.  This is also a year that brought me new friends, adventure, and a fresh perspective on life.

My year started off alone behind a beer tub at a job I hated, crying.  Those would the first of many tears shed this year.  My mom always told me that the way you start your year sets the tone for the rest of the year.  Even as I was standing there cheers-ing to no one, I was thinking, I hope this isn’t the worst year of my life….because this is the worst New Year’s Eve that I have ever had. Ever!

The first two and a half months of the year were relatively mild in comparison to the next three.  I totaled my car in February, luckily my best friend and I walked away injury-free.  I remember going out with some friends in March, the weekend right before St. Patrick’s day and having the BEST time the entire weekend.

I also traveled to Austin the next weekend for SXSW.  Holly and I drove down on Friday and went out Friday night.  I can recall calling my mom really late that night and my aunt answering the phone and telling me that she was asleep.  I thought it was weird, but I figured I would try my mom the next day.  Saturday afternoon around 2 I picked up my phone to call her and found three or four missed calls and some messages.  In my heart, I knew they were about my mom.  After finding out she was in the hospital, I made a few more calls and arranged a flight to Chicago that night at 7.  I drove like a bat out of hell from Austin to Dallas, packed for 10 minutes and high-tailed it to the airport.

Seeing my mom in a coma is an image that will be forever burned into my memory.  The rest of March was spent at her bedside.  I didn’t want her to ever be alone and I rarely left her side. She did get well enough at the beginning of April to talk and her prognosis was good.  After being in Chicago for 3 weeks I came home to take a break.  Sadly, she took a turn for the worse while I was gone and I had to rush back to Chicago five days later.  Three days after that, I watched her take her last breath.

I love my mom so much, it’s indescribable.  Saying goodbye to her was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

At the very end of April I returned to Dallas for about a week before I was to leave for California for a long stay with my brother.  The night before I left, my brother called me and told me he was in the hospital.  I flew out the next day and remained at his side for a little over a week until the doctor finally had a diagnosis.

As it so happened, I was struggling to find sleep one night in California and my phone rang.  I ignored it, initially, until it rang again and again.  I called back and found out my best friend had been in a horrific car accident.  I consider my best friend, Holly, my sister.  So I have two siblings in two hospitals in two states.  I am overwhelmed at this point so I call my dad, and I know he considers Holly a daughter, so he went to visit her while I stayed with my brother.

The next day my brother was finally given the diagnosis of Aplastic Anemia.  I can’t even describe how scared we were.  We knew nothing about this disease, why would we?  The good news was that once he was on a regimen of regular transfusions, he could leave the hospital.  After he got released, we both came back to Dallas.

As my brother explored his treatment options, I spent a lot of my time at the hospital with Holly during those three weeks in May until she got released as well.  The good news is, even though I was sick of hospitals at this point, Holly is still my best friend and we were still able to have a couple laughs here and there.  I also  got a few free calf massages out of the deal.

My brother ultimately decided that John’s Hopkins was the best treatment course for him.  Once he was accepted, we both moved to Baltimore as patient and caregiver.  Having never even been to Maryland before, I had no idea what to expect.  Luckily, once I got there, I was pleasantly surprised.

More to come about the second half of the year tomorrow, in part 2 of my year end review 2011.  Stay tuned…

Last Update on Charm City Life

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Hi friends,

As usual, apologies for the delays in posts!  My bad.  I must tell myself that I should update this blog at least five times a week, but then, out of nowhere–I don’t.  Until 1AM on a Thursday morning.  Regardless, I guess I can pick up where I left off last time.  Halloween.  How was yours? I don’t even really feel like I have to tell you I had a blast because if you’ve seen the Facebook pictures, you know I did.  I have to say, as a child, Christmas was always my favorite holiday, but in my adult life it’s definitely a tie between Halloween, New Years Eve, and possibly even Thanksgiving.

November was a pretty quiet month all around.  My life in Baltimore is very low-key for the most part.  I pretty much split my time between work, the gym, cooking, reading, exploring the city and the occasional night out.  There was a Groupon for unlimited access for thirty days to a really nice gym for only $25.  I definitely got my $25 worth, I can’t believe it was that cheap but it was a great find and running helped me keep stress at bay.  I started off barely being able to run one mile on the treadmill and now I can run just over three!

What else happened in November?  Thanksgiving, right.  Have you ever had the feeling a day was just going to be awful?  I was dreading Thanksgiving so much.  The combination of being in a city where I only know a handful of people and not having my dad’s famous chicken n’ dumplings (which he claimed were his best ever this year) and missing my brother, and missing my mom all made me feel like I would just want to sleep all day.  Initially, that is what I had planned to do, but as Thanksgiving got closer and closer I really couldn’t bear the thought of just giving up and not even attempting to comfort myself.  So I decided that I would make a small Thanksgiving dinner for myself the night before.  I decided on a game hen with cranberry-walnut stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, and I attempted to make one of my favorites that my mom used to make, her macaroni and cheese.

I was surprised that dinner turned out so well.  It was fun to honor my mom and be able to think of her and what she would do while I was making it.  It was much better than just wishing I had a taste of home.  I hate that I wasn’t more interested in cooking when she was alive.  She would’ve appreciated it.

Thanksgiving day was an unexpected surprise.  As someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time with families outside of my own, I thought for sure I was going to feel uncomfortable and not really know anyone or have anyone to talk to other than the 2 to 5 people that I knew at any given time.  However, I was blown away at the hospitality everywhere I was on Thanksgiving.  I honestly have never felt so comfortable around so many people I met only minutes after arriving at their house.  I got to hold babies (that’s right, two!), gorge myself on a ridiculous amount of pecan pie, hear wild and crazy stories and most importantly, laugh.  All day.  It was definitely a situation where I knew that I was where I was supposed to be at that moment.  I had an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving  and I hope that you all did as well.

So, I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to leave Baltimore on my own terms.  I did get to set them, I just didn’t give anyone much of a head’s up.  I have known since about halfway through October that I was moving back to Dallas on December 10.  My time from mid-March to the end of September was about doing what I wanted and needed to do as a daughter and as a sister.  While most of it was horrifying, it was necessary and if given the choice, I would still choose the same way.  I feel like the last two months here have at least allowed me to develop a few coping skills and also given me the feeling that my time is my own again.  I certainly have a new perspective(I didn’t necessarily want one, but what are ya gonna do?) and I think I can go home now with at least a slightly more positive outlook.  Damn, this place was fun though.  I look back and can’t believe I moved here with one suitcase, never having set foot in this state before, knowing only two other people in the entire city.

Next time, I will share some details about my long trip in NYC.

me and Lego Lady Liberty

A lot was luck, but I can offer a few tips and suggestions on how I visited one of the most expensive cities in America for five days having only about $300 allotted for the entire trip.  That’ll have to wait though, I have to pack all day!  Til next time!!