My parents left Clearwater to go back home to Apopka, just north of Orlando today. It's about a two hour drive (more if there's traffic). My mother is pretty uncomfortable due to the tumors and all of the fluid she's got in her abdomen. She doesn't have much appetite and my father is worried that if anything happens they'd be too far from her regular doctor. And as much as they like having kids and grandkids around, I think it is a bit taxing for my mom.
Tim's boys Cameron and Austen got some lasertag toys that they were playing with. But when they went out to the beach, Karen's daughter Faith talked grandma into playing. So this is my mom and Faith taking a little break between rounds.
My brother-in-law Mark went out today to find a gym to workout. It happened to be located near the original Hooters location in Clearwater along the Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. I am not necessarily a big fan of Hooters, but they have wings and there is a sense of history in visiting the original "delightfully tacky yet unrefined" location.
Since Mark and my sister Karen live outside Ottawa and I live in California, I don't get much time with them. They've been married more than twenty years and he was the first of the "outlaws" to really be accepted into the family. Karen and Mark were also very supportive of me when I was living on my own as a student in Montreal many years ago and I've always appreciated the warmth that they've extended to me at that time. So you could say that Mark is as much brother as he is a brother-in-law.
We talked about my mom's situation, not that either one of us knows a heck of a lot about what's going on.
"Your mom's a fighter," Mark tells me.
"Yeah, but if it gets worse," I say and I trail off. "The chemo isn't working. The pain meds aren't working. She's getting nauseous, she's got no appetite." I pause again. "We may need to look into getting some marijuana somewhere." And I let that sink in. I don't know a lot about medical marijuana, but I know it's used to treat side-effects of chemotherapy, specifically nausea and lack of appetite.
The idea of us two forty-year old guys looking to score some pot is comical. I don't even know where you'd look for pot in Santa Cruz, let alone in Clearwater or Orlando.
Mark has the equally comical idea of having the waitress, who appears to be about 19, sign a menu to my mom. He tells her that she's fighting cancer and asks her to sign it "Keep fighting the fight." The waitress offers to have all the girls sign it, but we decline. We ask her if she knows about medical marijuana in Florida since we're from out of town. She offers to ask her manager, which doesn't seem like such a good idea, but we say ok. He probably thinks we're degenerates since I had my feet up on a chair earlier and he asked me to lower them. They don't have any ideas, but at least we aren't arrested.
When we get back to the house, my mom has a smile about the signed menu, which is enough for me.
I speak to my brother Mike later by phone and he tells me to look for a Cancer Compassion Center. I search on the web and I can't find anything like that in Florida. Florida is one of the states where there is no legal use of medical marijuana. Great.
We had beautiful weather on Christmas day. In order to spare any cooking requirements on my mother (or anyone else), my wife arranged for us to pick up a pre-cooked Christmas dinner. The only problem was since we were arriving late afternoon on Christmas eve, it was too late to pick anything up. Nonetheless, we found an excellent Christmas meal in an unlikely place: Jo-El's Kosher Foods in nearby St Petersburg.
Gregg and I picked up the turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans (more than we've ever seen) along with a supply of standard deli food for later in the week: pastrami, kosher hot dogs, mustard and root beer.
We got back just in time for the mid-day Christmas mass and left the food in the car, hoping nothing would spoil as the sky cleared and temperatures rose.
We didn't have the entire family together for Christmas, but we had a good crowd nonetheless. My parents, my sister Karen, her husband Mark and their two girls, my younger brother Tim, his wife Kelly and their two boys and my wife and I. We got calls from my brothers Mike and Shawn who were both back in Canada.
My mom was a bit achy and didn't venture far from the house, but I think she appreciated having so many people around.
My father raised a toast at dinner. His voice cracked as he did it.
My brother-in-law Mark and my sister Karen have rented a beachhouse in Clearwater Beach on the gulf coast of Florida for the week of Christmas to New Year's eve. The photo above shows Karen, Mark and their two girls Faith and Brianna and the house in the background.
We flew out from California on the 24th arriving in the late afternoon. We changed planes in Denver and got on the same flight as my brother Tim, his wife Kelly and their two boys en route from Phoenix. My parents drove from Orlando yesterday and so with all the adults and kids, we have a full house. It's a good feeling.
It's nice to see my mom and she seems happy to have people around. She had a couple of rough days from her latest chemotherapy treatment earlier in the week, but she's hanging tough. The doctors have prescribed Darvon as a painkiller and she's also taking some anti-nausea pills. She's in some pain and general discomfort from the tumors and from the accumulation of fluids. She doesn't have much appetite and is cold all the time. That seems to be a side-effect of the chemo.
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We had a nice dinner and there was some scurrying around to get everything ready for Christmas morning. Around 11:30 pm, my wife grabbed me and we went to the beach. "We have to go right now," she said, and I understood the reason.
Her mother died five years ago on Christmas eve in Sarasota, not too far from where we are now. Flying into Miami brought back a lot of painful memories for my wife. Her mom had also been a cancer survivor. The beach was deserted; there was no one but us, the stars in the sky and the splash of waves on the shore. I held her in my arms and she cried softly.
There's a woman in my office, Karin, who is a very good and caring person and knows my mother is fighting ovarian cancer. She's one of the few people that I think really understands the issues; she's fought cancer herself, beat the odds and survived. So when she asks how my mother is doing, I tell her what's really going on.
She shared with me a recipe, which is shown below, which was given to her by her doctor after her surgery. As she put it, all of the ingredients are natural, so there's no harm to try. I have sent it to my father to take look into.
Before you start: clean you system with a colon cleanser (ask for it in a health food store or vitamins world).
In a juicer mix the following ingredients: (note take for 3 consecutive days and then switch to the next one). Equal parts to make a 6 oz glass. Please buy all vegetables “organic” no chemicals added or fertilizers. Use bottled, purified water.
First 3 days (1-3):
Next 3 days (4-6):
After days 4 to 6, go back to the first 3 day formula.
Take the juice 3 times a day: morning, afternoon and dinner.
Take this continuously non stop until you see the changes.
My mom started another new chemotherapy, trying to get it in before seeing everyone at Christmas. The chemo tends to wipe her out pretty bad the next day or two. This time the side effects have been even more severe. She's very cold and achey, sores in her mouth, no appetite, nauseous. The pain medications make her constipated. The whole thing sucks.
A study from Sweden published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that drinking at least two cups of tea a day can help reduce the risk of Ovarian Cancer by 46%. The study surveyed over 60,000 women in Sweden over a 15 year period. Further studies have been recommended to confirm the findings.
My wife Gregg was trying to find something to send to my mom to help support her fighting spirit. She finally tracked down a punching bag and boxing gloves from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Gregg had them deliver it with a card from all of the children and grandchildern in the family that said "We're all in your corner, let's go for a knockout!"
Go, Mary, Go!