September 10, 2015

Our New Normal

I always look forward to a fresh start in September.  A new school year brings new routines and cooler weather and new decor.  I am not sure I have ever craved a new season as much as I am this year after the summer we experienced.  Our boys are all back in school and we are all desperately trying to establish our new normal.

My mom returned to her home to continue her recovery there about 2 weeks ago.  It was an emotional homecoming and her husband is taking wonderful care of her.  They live in a 55 and over community which has made the transition so much easier.  Billy had to install a few grab bars and we moved some furniture and picked up some area rugs, but that was all that was necessary to get her home ready for her.  They have a great group of friends where they live and they have been so supportive.  There wasn't a dry eye in our family when we wheeled her off the elevator and she saw this tree, decorated with cards and well wishes, from her neighbors.
She is able to get out more and more words and she can walk short distances with a hemi-walker.  She will be continuing speech, occupational, and physical therapy in an outpatient setting.  A fascinating part of her brain post-stroke is that, although she has trouble recalling everyday words and phrases, she remembers the entire lyrics to songs.  And she uses "big" words all the time.  It is as if her everyday words were stored in a part of her brain that was damaged, and so she reaches to another part of her brain to express her thoughts.  For example, when shown a picture of a bowl of fruit, she referred to it as a cornucopia.  It has happened over and over, and now we all (including her) laugh about what her new big word of the day will be.  

We still have a long road ahead of us, but we have so much hope.  At the start of the summer, we celebrated my mom's birthday with a BBQ at my brother's house.  This past weekend, we spent a day at the lake together and it felt so good to see my mom there again.  We could never have imagined on July 4 what we would experience through then and Labor Day.  

I try to be positive, but I also want to be realistic about what we have been through in regards to my mom's stroke in case somewhere down the line, this can help someone going through something similar. I want to say that I am grateful, so very grateful, that my mom is still alive.  Many do not survive the type of stroke she had.  As for me and how I have been dealing with it, these have been the most difficult months of my life.  In the early days, and then even through in-patient rehab, I was definitely in a survival stage.  Most days, I just put one foot in front of the other and tried not to think too much.  Billy and I began walking every night to try to rid myself of the constant anxiety I was feeling.  The walking and talking definitely helped and we are continuing that routine.  Now that things have settled down and we are adjusting to our "new normal", I have more time to think, which has led to a new stage of dealing with this.  The anxiety is still there.  Life feels so much more fragile and short than it did before this all began.  The week my kids started school was tough.  It took me a bit to realize that I am grieving for the mom I knew for the first 41 years of my life.  The mom who would have called me each day to hear all about how the first days of school went.  Next to Billy, she was my main support person and to have gone through all of this without her was hard, so very hard.   Again, I am so thankful to still have her.
When it rains it pours, and so although I haven't mentioned it here, our almost 10 year old golden retriever, Forrest, developed a lump on his face in July which has been very fast growing.  After a visit to our regular vet, followed by a consult with an oncologist, we learned that it is cancer.  We have opted not to treat with surgery (due to the location of the tumor) or chemotherapy and we are enjoying every day we have with him.  His quality of life has remained steady thus far, thankfully.
So that is the update on where we are at.  I am so looking forward to some crisp fall weather that will signal that this season of our life has finally changed.  And we can move on with our "new normal" whatever that may be.  Again, thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers.  They have meant the world to me.

16 comments:

  1. I will remember your family in my prayers. I'm so glad you're mom is doing better and I pray she's better and better every day. Forrest is such a handsome boy and I know it's hard for us to lose our furbabies, but he will tell you when it's time. He looks so happy in the pictures you post of him.

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    1. Thanks so much for the prayers, Susan. Forrest is still such a happy boy and we know each day is a gift. It is so hard because they just don't live long enough.

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  2. Courtney, thanks for sharing your experiences, all. What amazing instruments our bodies are, even our pets. My husband and I walk together almost every day, and it is our time together to dump and fix everything. I'm glad your mom has recovered as much as she has, and that you're adjusting well and have the support of your Billy (he needs you, too!). I'll keep you & yours in my thoughts and prayers.
    Rita C at Panoply

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    1. Thanks so much, Rita. I am incredibly grateful for Billy everyday, for how he supports me and how wonderful he has been with my mom. I cannot fathom getting through any of this without him. He is my rock and I try my best to be there for him too. I so appreciate your keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

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  3. Courtney....so glad to hear that you are ok and finding your new normal. Sending prayers for you all.....and your sweet Forrest too.

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    1. Thank you so much for your continued prayers, Andrea. xo

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  4. Bless your heart Courtney. Sometimes life throws too many hard things at us at once. We have been through it in the last couple of years in our family too and the anxiety can be overwhelming. I wish I had words of advice but I'm no role model. Keep walking, praying, and appreciating the little things...that definitely helps. Sending hugs!

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    1. Hi Stacey,

      Sorry to hear your family has recently been through some tough times too. Sending hugs to you too. Just knowing others care means so much.

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  5. Hang in there Courtney...you never know how strong you are until you have to be! I know life is different with your Mom now and am so glad you are ready and willing to adjust to the new normal...I lost my Mom seven years ago and would love to have had the opportunity to still have her a little longer, even if things had to be different. I think you are so wise to realize how fragile life is at your young age...it will allow you to appreciate things others take for granted. Prayers to you and your family...and Forrest of course!

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I hope you know how much your prayers and thoughts for me and my family mean. xo

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  6. Hi Courtney,
    You have really had a rough summer. I am happy to hear your mom is home and doing better. That is so positive in itself. So many stroke victims end up in Nursing Care because of the stroke so the fact she got to come home is a positive sign she has so much hope of a quality of life at home. I think your choice with Forrest is a good one too. I think the surgery and chemo do more harm than just letting them have their life. Terry and I walk every night it is our time to talk and de stress. I think that is great that you have that with your hubby too. Life can be so hard sometimes. Just glad you are getting into a new normal. Good wishes for better days ahead and hugs.
    Kris

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  7. I know what you mean when you talk about the anxiety Courtney. When my mom was in the hospital 3 years ago for an infection in leg and a issue with an irregular heart beat. I feel like my life has never been the same. I lost my Dad 12 years ago and she's the only parent I have left. It's not easy but, like you said one day at a time. I'm so sorry to hear about Forest. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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    1. Hi Jeanette, It is good to know I am not alone with the anxiety. Thank you so much for your continued thoughts and prayers. They are very much appreciated. xo

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  8. Courtney, I am so sorry to hear that you are still going through so much. Your mom is very lucky to have your family along with her neighbors to support her during this difficult time. It's amazing how capable the brain is when it comes to healing and making new connections. I read a book years ago - In An Instant by Lee and Bob Woodruff. Bob Woodruff, was news reporter who was injured on assignment in Iraq. The book documents his journey of recovery from a brain injury. It might be difficult for you to read at this time but what I learned from the book, (among many things) was how resilient the brain can be. I found it very encouraging. Anyway, I am thinking of you and your family is in my prayers. So sad for Forrest as well. It's so unfair that goldens are so prone to cancer. Enjoy every day.
    Take care, Shelley

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  9. Courtney,

    I really feel sad for all of the events over the past few months, but the good news is that your mother is still here and improving. And you can laugh and enjoy precious moments like when she saw the card filled plant. Nothing prepares us for the loss of a parent, my mother had inoperable cancer and we spent nine months simple treasuring each and every day together. My husband was a great support system, taking care of the kids so I could just rest.

    I feel so, so bad about Forrest, he's just beautiful. My Milo had a large, fast growing tumor on his hip removed, cancerous. The vet believes he got all of it, this was in March. So far so good. I truly hope you get to spend wonderful quality time for as long as possible with that beautiful guy. Prayers and best wishes to all of you.

    Jane xx

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  10. I know this is a very hard time, Courtney...we went through it with my mother-in-law years back. It is always so different how it affects people...the "big words" are so interesting. My MIL couldn't remember the names of things, including her kids...but knew all of their phone numbers. So weird. I know it must be very hard to see your mom going through this...I hope she will continue her recovery and progress! I'm also so sorry to hear about Forrest...xoxo

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