Tasty Buttered Toast

Quips and Quandaries from a re-employed house husband

Archive for the tag “Cancer Sucks”

Smile

Don’t it make you smile?
Don’t it make you smile?

I didn’t post last week…

I know, big surprise right?  I had started the day wanting to… in fact, the night before I had a post in my head that I was looking forward to flushing it out through the course of the day.  But that didn’t happen.

When the sun don’t shine? (Shine at all)
Don’t it make you smile?

I regret not writing down my idea for my post last week because this week I got nothing.  I’m so emotional drained from the happenings of the week, and I guess the last 3 weeks… It all happened so fast, barely enough time to react or reflect. So my apologies if this comes off as a babble of nonsense… here goes.

It’s no secret that I come from a rather large family… in fact, my extended family on either side I have 50+ cousins if you count spouses.  So to say that my grandparents wanted to spread the family tree would be an understatement.

Don’t it make me smile?
When the sun don’t shine, it don’t shine at all
Don’t it make me smile?

Sunday morning I was informed that my Grandpa had passed away.  Tuesday was visitation, Wednesday was more visitation, the funeral, burial, and sometime to reflect.  During this reflection I was reminded that Ed is currently the only male great-grandchild… he is the only one that will carry on the Sluiter name.

Even now as I type that, it still floors me that given the fact that I have over 25 cousins (not all male), Ed is the only one that will carry on the Sluiter name to this point.  I have a couple cousins that could still get married and have kids.  I’m pretty sure my brother and his wife are looking to start a family at some point, so all hope is not lost.  But just the fact that without Ed and eventually Charlie the Sluiter name could potentially die out at the end of my generation.

I miss you already… I miss you always
I miss you already… I miss you all day
This is how I feel…

I’m 33 years old. I’ve lost a father; and now both grandfathers.  While he didn’t get to meet my father, it is my hope that even at 2 1/2, Ed will be able to retain some memories of the latter two great men.  I will tell him about who they were and what they meant to me and hopefully how they helped shape me into the man that I have become.

Whew!  Was that as wild a ride for you as it was for me?  Ok, maybe not wild, but an adventure to read… nah, probably more work than an adventure.  Thanks for struggling through, I know I’m glad I did.

I miss you already… I miss you always
Three crooked hearts and swirls all around… I miss you all day

– words from the Pearl Jam song Smile.

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Open Letter

Pops,

Hard to believe it has already been six years since you’ve left us.  So much has happened in the last two years alone, it is difficult to decide where to begin… but I’ll try.

Two years ago in June your first grandson was born, and he continues to amaze me with how much he is able to absorb and retain each and every day.  He is speaking more and more phrases and is able to repeat many new words on his first try.  He loves the water and is becoming more and more comfortable in his life jacket.  As he gets older, I can’t but help wonder how your influence on his growth would enhance the little boy he is quickly becoming.  You would love him, he’s such a character; he has that little twinkle in  his eye just before he does something he isn’t supposed to that makes me wonder if you somehow had something to do with it.  On the good days and bad, I really wish you were around to offer up parenting advice… or at least share some anecdote on how to handle a particular situation.

This past March I started a new job.  I’ve taken a position working for Construction Specialties as their inside sales person, and assisting with some estimating duties.  The guys I work with are great, and I really feel like I’m starting to hit my stride in this line of work.  Who knew selling truss installations would be so different from selling the trusses themselves.

Kate is looking forward to her second year teaching mainly Spanish at Park after being bumped around from her English position for the last couple years.  Speaking of Kate, she / we are expecting child number two.  She’s 8 1/2 weeks along and is feeling the first trimester blahs in full force.  She’s a trooper and has been dealing with it as best she knows how, and is beginning to know when to ask for help and lean on me a little more than she is accustomed to.

This past May I can finally say I am a college graduate, all be it a lowly Associates degree, I know that you would be proud to know that I have finished, and am still attending to complete my Network Administration degree, and potentially get a Bachelors.  Believe it or not, I graduated with a g.p.a. north of 3.8… hard to believe I know, especially considering how much I didn’t exactly excel the first time I attended.

That is a quick swoosh of what has been going on, and there is more to share, but for now we’ll leave it at that.  Know that while you might not be here in person, I feel your presence everyday.  My goal every morning is to try and do my best to make you proud of me as your son, a husband, a father, and as a man.  I wish there was a way to know your thoughts and feelings about the job I’m doing and the decisions I’m making for myself and my family. I always valued your opinion and insight on everything… and I still do.  Those old stories still find away to work their way in to my everyday life and I want to thank you for that.

Six years have past since you left us, but the pain hurts like it was yesterday.

Love you Pops.

Cortney

Happy Birthday Pops

You would have been 55 today.

I miss you and think about you daily.

I’m no Forrest Gump

Last Saturday was the morning of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k and Katie and I had been fund-raising and training talking about for the last few months.  We were asked to be at the race check in by 7:45am for a group photo which meant we needed to be there by 7:30 to give us time to find the group.  Seeing as we had about a 30 minute drive to the venue and we had to drop Short Stack off at his grandma’s house so he could hang out there rather than the cold out-of-doors on the race route.  All this early morning planning made it painfully obvious that we needed to be up and at it by 6 so we could eat a little something, and at the bare minimum be coherent enough to be able to put one foot in front of the other for 3.2 miles.

After the group photo, everyone was milling around waiting for the race to start.  We assumed our positions in the “Over 9 minute mile” group, just ahead of the walkers.  The announcement was made that the runners were off… our pack of runners slowly made our way to the starting line, eventually thinning out enough that I could get a decent jog going without feeling like I was going to get my feet tangled up with the person in front of me.

The course proved to be a little more of a surprise that I had anticipated.  There was a GIANT hill at the beginning of the course, which you think is a great idea… get the hill out of the way early when you’re still fresh.  The thing about this hill is, it’s like it was put there to beat you.  To make you think twice about why you were out there in the first place.  This hill was there to tell you to slow down and walk, but I went against all common sense and ran on.  At the crest of the hill I felt as though the hardest part was behind me.  Three hills later, I realized it was more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

I’m proud to say I ran the first two plus miles without slowing to walk.  It wasn’t until about the two and a half mile area that I felt a slight twinge behind my left knee and needed to walk for a couple of minutes.  Once that pain had either sub-sided or I was able to block it out of my mind, I finished the rest of the race at my jogger’s pace.   I must admit, that while I did do some training this summer, I never made it a full 5k while on my training runs.  The full distance was a bit of a surprise, but only in the sense that I hadn’t realized how close I was to making it the whole way.  Here’s how I clocked in…

Proof that I Finished

I haven’t decided yet if I want to run this race again next year or even another 5k someday.  This is a great cause and I suggest you give it a go, even if you end up walking.  You meet a lot of great people and it ended up being a pretty good time.

Can we do 3 for 5?

On Saturday I’ll be expected to participate in my first 5k race.  If you’ve read any of my “training” posts you know I’m not a runner, I’ve never claimed to be one, but this is for a good cause.  I’m all about helping to find a cure for cancer in any of its many forms.  But now, with the race less than two days away I realize I should have probably been more dedicated to my training.  I won’t go so far to say that I’m scared to run the race; because that’s not the case at all.  I’m confident that I’ll be able to finish, I’m not so confident that I’ll be able to run the whole distance.  This is my lone goal, to run the whole race, regardless of time… but even that isn’t completely true.

I recently found out that a friend of mine’s 5th grader recently ran a 5k in less that 30 minutes.  I realize that averages out to about a 10 minute mile, which back in my “glory days” of high school I would be able to do without batting an eye.  But now, after many bottles of Captain Morgan, soda, numerous cases of beer, and more trips to Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and BK than I care to count, some people would say I’ve lost a step.  If I’m being honest with myself I would have to agree with them.

I signed on to run this race in support of not only the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but to support my wife in her journey to improve her health.  Unfortunately, her training was plagued by injuries and she wasn’t able to train as much as she wanted, and now that school has started, she has even less time.  I know she feels bad about letting herself down or possibly others because she won’t be able to run the race, but has instead decided to walk.  I commend her for still deciding to participate even though she feels unprepared.  I mean, she raised the money, nothing is stopping her from not running the race… but she’ll be there, with me along side starting something together that we signed up for together.  I hope I’ll be at the finish line cheering her on as she crosses.

There is still time to make a donation if you’re in the giving mood.  Just click on the Susan G. Komen graphic on the side of the page and it will take you to my race page.  Every little bit helps and it’s tax deductible.  Thank you in advance for your generosity!

And I Walk The Long Road

My father has always been a strong man.  Not one to cry, even when in immense pain, he would just bear down and take it.  I wouldn’t call him a very emotional guy either, at least not on the sad end of the spectrum.  He was definitely one to be proud of his children’s accomplishments, typically one of the loudest parents on the sideline at soccer games or volleyball matches.

That’s why it KILLED me when I sat down in my dad’s office at work and asked him what he wanted for Father’s Day and he got all choked up and started to cry.  It was late May and I wanted to get him something special, more specifically, something that he really wanted but I didn’t know what it was.  I just sat there, not knowing what to say or do while he gathered himself.  He took his red handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his eyes and nose.

In between gasps for breath he said “Save your money.  I don’t want anything for Father’s Day.”  When I asked him why all he could do was tear up again and lightly say, “I don’t want anything for Father’s Day because I don’t know if I’ll be around that long.”

He was diagnosed with Stage 3 Small Cell Lung Cancer on January 24, 2005.  He had been a cigarette smoker for most of his adult life, having quit some 5 years prior after he had a fairly severe heart attack.  He had changed his diet, started to exercise more, basically doing all the things his cardiologist had told him to do to get healthy and now he was delivered this.  The whole family was there for the news and it was decided that the best course of action was to get in right way for chemotherapy and radiation since the tumor in his lung was inoperable.  He had less that a 20% chance of surviving the first year and less than a 5% chance of being cancer free.

In the face of such adversity I’ve never known him to be so strong.  I realize that someone going through Chemo typically isn’t viewed as being heroic, but to me he was.  He knew the nurses were pumping him full of poison, but he also knew that poison was his only chance to extend his life for his family.  Truly one of the most selfless acts anyone can do.  Purposefully poisoning themselves for the family, I really commend him for that.  Keeping food down was difficult; he started losing weight like crazy.  The pain would get so bad that the big, burly man that used to be my father was now a brittle, shell of a man that would yelp in pain if you hugged him too tight.

Kate and I were married on June 23rd, the day before Father’s Day.  He was there to celebrate with us as best he could.  Dressed to impress, he even made it out on to the dance floor for a few spins with Kate.  By now we knew the first type of Chemo wasn’t working and other options needed to be explored or change gears and focus on pain management.  My father being my father felt the need to try another form of Chemo, regardless of what it meant he had to go through.

After the first few weeks of this new type of drug therapy it was discovered that the cancer had spread throughout his entire skeleton and another tumor had formed on the base of his brain.  No amount of Chemo or radiation was going to make this go away and it was decided that the doctors would do their best to make him as comfortable as they could.

My father celebrated his 49th birthday on August 9th, 2005.  His whole family was there, numerous boating friends from over the years, and even a few old friends from high school managed to make it for the party.  By this time he wasn’t able to walk much anymore and could only get around on a motorized scooter.  His speech was starting to slur due to the pressure on his brain, but his mental fortitude waged on and even though he was hard to understand at times, the one liners’ rolled off his tongue as smoothly as they had only a few months prior.

He died in his home 5 days later with his family around him.  Kate and I were able to say our goodbyes before she took me to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy… but that’s a whole different post for a different time.  I believe he is in heaven, no longer has cancer and is able to enjoy all that heaven has to offer.

I take comfort in that when the anniversary of his “going home” as we like to call it, comes around.   We take a trip out to Lake Michigan, where we spread his ashes, for a little visit.  I usually have a brief one sided “conversation” updating him as to what is going on and what he should keep an eye on.  This year Ed will know that he is at the beach, I look forward to telling him all about his Grandpa Steve and explain why we had to the lake every year around the same time each August.

This post is part of the Cancer Sucks Blog Hop… Please check out the other posts HERE.

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