Thankful

Today is my first Thanksgiving without my husband.  I’m having a very hard time finding anything to be thankful for even though I know in my heart I should be grateful for the life I have.

I still don’t sleep well.  I tend to wander the house at night.  I sleep a few hours in my bed, sleep a few hours in the living room and then a few hours in the family room. I’m most comfortable in the family room because I feel John is in there.  It is the room where he died.  I curl up on the sofa and pretend he is still there in his hospital bed.  I think I will do better when I return to Florida.  It is less stressful there for me.

My son Adam made his first Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, squash, steamed veggies and a yummy creme brulee for dessert.  My daughter Amanda came with her husband and we all enjoyed the meal.  Everyone seemed to avoid the topic of John but he was never far from us.  Tomorrow I’m going to another daughter’s house to celebrate again.  But this celebration is really difficult for me.  I know I have to be strong for them but it is really difficult.

A good friend of mine called today to tell me he was thinking of me.  He said that he knows it is hard experiencing “firsts” without John.  He’s right.  But I think I’m going to miss John every day of the rest of my life.

I have been thinking though that John would be upset with me if he knew I was still feeling this way.  John always wanted my happiness before his.  I’m going to work hard at being more social and getting my feet back on the ground. I spend too many days feeling lost and empty.  I don’t want my life to be wasted.  I still have time left to do some good in this world and make my mark.  I’m going to try and be more positive and find my way.

I have been working on clients year ends lately and I want to get them all finished so I can clear my mind when I go down south.  I don’t want to take work down there with me.  So for the next week I’m going to keep my nose to the grindstone and get it all done!

 

Shattered Happiness – Part 3

One week left in tax season and John is home from the hospital.  Clients are coming to the house to see him and are shocked at how thin he has become.  When I say clients I should say friends because that is who they are.  They have been part of our lives for over 30 years.  John rarely lost a client.  Sometimes they might go to another accountant thinking they would save money but then they would come back because they knew John always gave good service and sage advice.

John was not strong enough to go upstairs to our bedroom so he slept on the sofa in the living room.  We now had a nurse that came daily to change his IV bag and give him medication.  He was now in palliative care.  She was awesome. She explained to me how to give him his morphine, codiene and other pain killers.  John always had a problem with taking pills so everything was injected into a port.  He had a separate port for pain medication, one for his antibiotics and one for miscellaneous drugs.  Every morning he got up and got dressed so people thought he was ok.  The doorbell would start ringing around 10 and people would arrive to talk to him.  Most would cry at the door and hug me and tell me to stay strong.  Stay strong.  Everyone would say that to me.  Inside I was dying but outside I was smiling and telling people that we were going to fight this disease.

I worked hard trying to get the work out and take care of John.  He was weak and I’d try and feed him several times a day.  He needed to be walked to the bathroom and his medication had to be given to him several times a day. He was sleeping on the sofa and I was right next to him on the love seat.

May 1st came and the nurse and I finally talked John into getting a hospital bed put in the family room.  He was very worried that people would see the bed.  But once the bed was in he was happy.  I would go in to see him and I’d say “shove a bum chum” and he’d move over.  He’d hold me, we would talk and I’d just listen to his heartbeat.  I would sob in his arms and he would hold me telling me that he’d always be with me.  He said if there was any way he would be besides me the rest of my life.

John had a few corporate clients and they still needed to be serviced but he was not strong enough to sit at a desk more than a few minutes at a time.  I worked as hard as I could writing up the records of the client and getting their year ends done.  He would review them and then I would get the tax returns done and print and assemble everything.  He would meet with the client and I’d have to do most of the talking.  He was exhausted easily.

I didn’t want to leave John for a minute.  The nurse kept asking if I would take a personal care worker in but I wanted to take care of John myself.  He would shave using an electric razor, I’d bathe him, change his clothes and take care of him.  I was sleeping on the love seat near him.  I just wanted to spend every moment with him.  But he just slept more and more and ate less and less.  I started having panic attacks and he would calm me.  He kept telling me I’d be ok and that I was strong and could manage on my own.  He would go over things with me, how to run our business, how to take care of our finances, what he wanted me to do in the future.  All he wanted was for me to be happy.  I was his primary concern.

During his last few weeks he had lots of time to talk to our children.  John had two daughters from his first marriage, Julie and Laura and we had two of our own, Amanda and Adam.  Everyone came as often as they could.  Adam actually still lives at home with us.

My nephew Stephen came every weekend and visited.  Sometimes he just sat in the same room with John so I could have time to run some errands, take a shower or simply go to the bathroom.

May was hard.  I was exhausted, sleeping only a few hours at a time and listening for whenever John needed me.  I was afraid to sleep.  I could see John’s life slipping away.  If there had been any way we could switch places I would gladly have done it with him.

John ate less and less.  He’d have a little rice pudding now and then and some canned fruit.  His belly was huge and full of fluid.  He hated looking in the mirror.  To me he was still John but all he could see was a gaunt old man.  To me he was my handsome husband.

One day John woke up around 4:30 am and had a to pee.  I helped him into the bathroom and then went to get his needles ready.  While I was getting the medication out of the fridge I heard him fall. I yelled for my son and he came running.  He was able to get John up and we got him back to bed.  He cut his forehead but seemed fine.  He asked me for a bowl of Special k.  He hadn’t eaten solid food like cereal in weeks.  I was praying that we would have a good day together.  Maybe he could get stronger.  Maybe … Maybe.

That bowl of cereal was the last food John ate.  He stopped eating and drinking that day.  When the nurse came she told me not to offer him food or drink, to wait and see if he would ask for it.  He was still lucid, he was still talking to me and he was still my man.  I told the children that John would not last many more days.  My nephew Stephen arrived immediately.  He was there for the long term now … He was there to help take John to the bathroom, helped me with everything I needed.  I would never have been able to function those last weeks without Stephen.  He was my rock.

John went almost a week without food or water.  But he was still peeing.  This confused the nurse and the palliative doctor.  Where was this fluid coming from? We figured it must be coming from his belly fluid.  He drifted in and out of consciousness.   By the weekend he was becoming more and more agitated.  He would insist to walk to the bathroom but his heels had huge pressure sores on them even though I constantly changed his position in the bed.   My heart was breaking.  I didn’t want John to die but I knew it was time for him to pass on.

On Monday morning John woke up very agitated.  He wante to get dressed and go to work.  He had an errand to run that was urgent.  He was difficult to handle.  I knew this was his turning point.  When the nurse came it was decided it was time to sedate him for his own good.  I curled up with John one last time by saying “shove a bum chum” and cried in his arms until he slept.  And I stayed listening to him breathe.

I didn’t leave John’s side that last week.  I did finally relent to having a personal care worker come to teach me how to care for him now that he was no longer conscious.   John was barely breathing.  Stephen and I would wake up several times a night because John took so long between breaths.  We were both sure he passed away several times that week.

On Sunday Stephen went home.  He had to go to Halifax for work and we both knew there was nothing that could be done for John now.  John would have wanted Stephen to go.   I slept holding John’s hand that night.

On Monday afternoon the personal care worker came and we bathed John and made him comfortable.  Laura just arrived and Julie had taken Adam out to pick up some groceries.  I let the PSW out the door and sat in the front room with Laura for a moment.  I heard a sound and ran in to check on John.  He opened his eyes and looked at me  as I took his hand … I called for Laura and I told her I think he just passed.  He took one last breath and died.

Earlier that day I put my Fitbit on John to see what his heart was doing.  I was surprised to see it was heart was beating quickly and the nurse explained it was working hard to keep his body going.  A couple of hours after John passed away my Fitbit died (without warning).  It shouldn’t have been out of battery because it was fully charged the day before.  I charged it up and looked at my heart rate and realized it recorded the moment my heart broke.  John’s heart rate and my heart rate were almost the same.  Two hearts were broken.

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Shattered Happiness – Part One

I haven’t written in three years.  In those years I truly found my happiness.  Over the past three years my husband John and I left a toxic business relationship (earlier I mentioned my husband sold his accounting practice to another chartered professional accountant but we remained to help her transition into the business) and we concentrated on ourselves and our family.  My husband continued to work part time (because he truly loved what he did) and I took on other projects.  John and I began to enjoy our “semi-retirement”.  We travelled to Hawaii in October 2013 and were there when our daughter Amanda became engaged to her “sun and stars” Brandon.  Over the next 10 months I planned a beach wedding in Florida for the happy couple.  John and I started spending more time together at our condo in Florida, sprinkling in cruises, a trip to the Dominician Repulic and one to Cuba and just enjoying each other.  Another daughter, Laura, was married September 2015.  We were happier than we have ever been together.  Then things changed.

In September my husband had surgery to remove his ascending colon.  In a colonoscopy they discovered a flat polyp that the specialist felt should be removed.  The kids always were amazed at my husband’s healing powers but this time was different.  He didn’t bounce back quite as fast.  We saw the surgeon late October and he suggested we go south and get some sunshine.  We took a cruise to Grand Caymen and Cozumel but mostly sat on our balcony on the ship and enjoyed the sunshine.  But John still wasn’t recovering.

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We came back home and told the surgeon that John continued to lose weight and was passing blood in his stool.  We were assured this is normal after bowel surgery.

We came home for Christmas but everyone could see John was still ill.  He was cold all the time and tired.  Not like him at all.  We saw the doctor again who assured us John would be fine.  We headed back down to Florida for more rest and relaxation hoping that John would get stronger.

By New Years John was weak and in pain.  He had lost about 25 pounds since his surgery.  On January 10 John had to fly back home.  He was near death from loss of blood.  The incision where his bowels had been rejoined was leaking at he had lost almost half the blood in his body.  No wonder he was weak.  They operated on January 11, 2016.  We thought the worst was over.

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John started to get stronger.  The surgeon mentioned there was a “shadow” on the pancreas and felt John also suffered from pancreatitis.  We asked .. “Is it cancer?” But we were assured it was just the leaking intestine and pancreatitis.  After 6 weeks John and I went back to Florida with the surgeons blessing.  We felt more sun and seafood would put the meat back on my hubby and he would get strong again.

John had to fly home again in March to work on some client files.  I stayed behind because my grandson and his dad were visiting me in Florida.  John was still complaining about pain in his belly but the doctors felt it was a combination of things but no one considered cancer.

John had to have a CT Scan done of his kidneys because he routinely passed kidney stones. While having the scan he asked the technician to go higher because his pain was across the top of his belly.  She complied.  A few days later our family doctor phoned us saying he had booked an enhanced CT Scan on March 16.  I flew home to be with John for the test.

John was still passing blood so the surgeon had scheduled another colonoscopy on March 21.  While John was having this procedure our family doctor called to tell me he believed John had pancreatic cancer.

On April 7 we went to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto only to be told John’s cancer was too far spread to do anything.  All they could do is recommend palliative care.  John had a couple of months at the most.  They recommended a stent be inserted in John’s gallbladder to prevent jaundice and told us they were sorry but nothing else could be done. We came home devastated.  OK .. I amend that.  I was devastated.  John was accepting.  I will write more about that later.

It took a week to have the stent inserted.  That is going to be another post that deals with his last months of life.

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My Last Tax Season

I’ve been having a difficult time writing lately and I think it is because I’m tired of work.  A little background for you first … my husband and I have had our own business for over 20 years.  He’s a chartered accountant and I’ve run the office plus worked with clients teaching them bookkeeping and QuickBooks.  The practice was successful but there are times I think the cost was too great.  We worked very hard, most times 6 or 7 days a week.  We spoiled our children.  Just when we had decided to stop working as hard, my stepdaughter moved in with her one year old baby.  Suddenly there were two more mouths to feed, a baby to dress and care for and we had to work harder to provide for the family.  Then the whole financial crisis killed our investments.

In 2010 my husband entered into an agreement with another chartered accountant to take over the practice.  He turned 65 on his last birthday and he deserves not to continue working at this pace.  Over the past two years we have been winding down and getting the clients used to the changes.  My time at the office will end the end of April while my husband will continue working (but less hours) for the next couple of years.

I’m finding it difficult to focus at work.  I feel a sense of loss since work defined me for so long.  My role there has changed.  I’ve gone from the person running the office to the person making tea, answering the phones and, yes, I am filing.  I have some tax returns and bookkeeping to do for clients but I’ve lost my work mojo.  I am tired of being there.  It is time for me to move on.

I feel tired all the time and I know I’m trying to sleep the time away.  I need to look at this as a positive change in my life.  One step at a time and move forward instead of dwelling on the past.  So tomorrow I’m going to try to focus on my happiness plan and work on the plans I set out earlier this year.

Progress

Two weeks into my happiness and project and it is time to self evaluate. Am I moving forward? Am I any happier? The answer is a resounding YES.

I have made small changes in my diet. Cutting down on my old nemesis french fries has made a big difference in me. I have decided if I am going to eat them they have to be awesome! Home made style … crispy and salty. Great thing for me is that is not the way they serve them in restaurants so it is easy to leave them on the plate.

I am failing on the exercise part but I did get up today and used the wii fit. I am only here another two weeks but I hope to swim most days. That will help me burn calories!

I did read a book to keep my brain active and blogged every day. I do want to add in doing my luminosity exercises every day. I forgot all about them once I stopped working at the office.

Now the more difficult area .. creativity. I did try to find something to make but so far have not completed anything. I will find something that I am good at again. I have decided to finally finish a Christmas stocking for my son over the next two weeks.

I do want to add some resolutions to my basic five now. My beginning five are:

1. Cook from scratch. Not just cook .. create meals. Create menus and feed my family good food.

2. Ignite my creative side.

3. Read more.

4. Exercise more.

5. Blog regularly.

New changes are as follows:

6. Eat 3 pieces of fruit or vegetables a day.

7. Create a daily schedule, weekly schedule and monthly schedule to help bring balance into my life.

8. Kiss or hug someone every day. Smile at strangers.