Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Generating a Retelling

I'm realizing that I really want to write about and remember clearly what happened from the time we heard of Amber's death until the day I returned home to Vegas. But why?

That Sunday my mum's elder sister, who lives here in Vegas, was the one to reach me first on the phone after we'd returned from our weekend in LA for the angel boy-O's belated Burbank-held birthday party. Everyone had known we were to be returning from our weekend there, and no one had wanted to call us until they knew we were safely home. My Grandma Rae had left us a voicemail on our home answering machine, but we're notorious for not monitoring our messages (something we are now diligently working to improve each day). We hadn't gotten the message before my aunt Radeane called me. As soon as I heard her trembling voice, I knew it was all wrong...something was wrong... I braced myself, expecting to hear news that Grandma Rae was either already dead or deathly ill. "We've lost Amber," is what she told me, and my knees went out and I fell to the tile kitchen floor, almost hysterical, instantly, as Radeane began coaching me over the phone to please breathe, and my honey-man came running down the stairs.

At some point the following day, both my aunt and my honey-man had told me I could not go to the funeral, period. They said I wouldn't be able to go up there and take it easy and not try to do a million things, and they didn't want me to over do it and get sick or cause problems for the pregnancy. I was horrified at the thought of missing the funeral... They kept telling me they both couldn't trust that I would self-manage [I admit, at most times I'm prone to overdo it]. Maybe it was my many promises that I'd be good, or my convincing, exhaustive explanation that I knew well enough that I was not to go up there and babysit or clean house or go grocery shopping or run any errands at all, etc., etc., but I really think the two changed their minds when fat, heavy tears began to roll as I pleaded with them, "If I miss this, how will I be able to face Trevor the next time I see him?", followed by my repeatedly sobbing, "I need to be there. I have to be there for me. You can't not let me go." My aunt then changed her plans... she and I would fly to Salt Lake together the next day, Tuesday the 12th.

Thank you again (and again and again), Radeane, for making it possible for me to be there with you and our family.

What I knew is this much: In times of loss and deep heartache, those who make themselves available to each other, they grow closer together, and people can accomplish amazing and miraculous things when they come together in times of need, and I desperately, desperately did not want to miss that chance with my family.

So again, why write about all this? This experience thus far has been remarkable... remarkably painful, and yet remarkably inspiring; the things we all learned and what we're still learning, the things we all did and what all happened in the days following Amber's death; most importantly, ALL THE LOVE. And someday Amber's children, who most likely won't remember anything about the funeral, nor their sweet mommy, they'll want to know what happened. I'm certain they will have many verbal and possibly written accounts available to them... but for me and my mum, specifically referring to the time before and after her funerals (one in MT, another in ID), although I was 12 years old, I was incapable of retaining a full, accurate account of what went on during that time, and if anyone wrote it down, I haven't yet seen it. And as for my talking to or asking people about my mother's death? Not many have ever wanted to actually retell the story. For me though, any retelling has helped me immensely. Even pictures taken days after the funeral at the cemetery grounds when we were checking on my mum's funeral flowers in the snow (who took the photos, to this day I still don't know - - I found them hidden in an old hardwood writing desk of my mother's, stashed in my parents' basement storage room years later), those pictures were helpful to me, even therapeutic for me, seeing I had been surrounded by people who loved me and I looked like I would be okay.

I'm hoping I may someday be someone who could help Trevor and Amber's children piece together what all happened and possibly someday provide them some comfort - - I even took pictures throughout that week, hoping that someday, if they or anyone wants to see them, they'll be able to see all the love and the life force that went into caring for them and their dear father after losing their precious mother, Amber Ellen Ward Jacobson.

Losing Amber

The song "Breath Me" by Sia keeps playing over and over in my head... When the 2008 Summer Olympic Games began, VISA began running a particular commercial on TV and the background music really caught my attention. I had to find out what it was (the ad kept making me cry every time too... sooo hormonal). I found out who the song was from on the very night we found out about Amber, about an hour before we heard the news... and ever since, it's amazing how much this song speaks to me as to how Amber may have been feeling in the her last few months, every time she had to suffer through a rise and fall.

Here are some of the lyrics that seem most applicable with Amber in my mind, when I listen to this song...

...I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah I think that I might break
Lost myself again and I feel unsafe

Beyond the heavy pains of grief and loss that he must deal with, my cousin Trevor has an overwhelming financial load that threatens to stop him in his tracks, with funeral costs and massive medical bills from before Amber's death, and now childcare expenses for two ahead of him.

Again, if you feel you'd like to help Trevor and his two young children through this devastating loss, you can donate for their family by either making a visit to your local Wells Fargo Banking Center or go online to 'Wells Fargo Online' to make a 'Transfer to Another Customer'. The account number is 8888362459 (routing #12105278), called the 'Amber Jacobson Memorial Fund' in the name of Jeremy Wright (the administrator of the trust).
Thank you much.

Tripping Over My Own Feet

My honey-man reminded this morning that I need to tone down the complaining and be grateful that I've had ZERO episodes of morning sickness thus far [SIDE NOTE: I'm really NOT complaining though . . . I'm just soooo flabbergasted all the time as to how tired I am. I had NO IDEA I would be this tired ALL THE TIME!?!]. My honey-man laughs at me (I don't blame him - - I laugh too), as he watches me practically trip up the stairs at night. So yeah, no morning sickness as of yet (YAY!) and I'm just 11 (or is it 12?) weeks along today.

A few definite discoveries have been made though:

1- I do not like chicken anymore. I don't know what it is exactly (although texture does seem to be the issue), but unless it's my cousin Emmett's jerk chicken recipe -totally moist and flavor loaded- I just can't get it down.
2- The smell of coffee is absolutely horrid; it's enough to make me hurl.
3- The smell of Berry Omega Odwalla bars totally makes me gag.
4- And as if it hadn't been bad enough before, the smell of mildew now makes me dry heave.
5- My sense of smell in general has tripled, or possibly quadrupled, in strength (and it was already strong).
6- Toothpaste, whether minty or cinnamon is really gross (I'd really hoped the cinnamon would work).
7- By 8pm, I feel absolutely bloated each and every day.
8- I feel like a nuclear reactor at night and my honey-man can feel the heat radiate from me.
9- I get up each night at least twice (4 times last night) to empty my bladder, usually 'round 12:30 am and 4 am, just like clockwork.
10- Otherwise, I'm doin' real good physically!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bit Puzzled: What Else Does a 'Tragic Loss' Mean?

I wrote the post below last Friday... and then I didn't post it. Over the weekend, I've come to realize there are a number of people in my professional circle and beyond who have not experienced a death in their own family, nor amongst their friends. How is one to know how to respond to hearing the news of a death, regardless of their experience or a lack thereof? Amber's own family hadn't ever been to a funeral.

And in today's world, where everyday TV shows and movies make obscene gobs and gobs of money via stories featuring violence and murder, desensitizing us to the concepts of death and the dying, how are we to react when we encounter the real thing? Who am I to judge how people react to such news? Having now said this much, I'll share what I had written... but in the end, please remember my realizations...

FOREWARNING: This one's a lil' critical/angry.

The last couple months have honestly been a collective gamut of shit bag emotions. Ever since June 29th, life has been throwing us for loops, one week after another. Nonetheless, through it all I am most grateful for my honey-man, the angel boy-O, my friends and my loving family, and all else that we are blessed with. But without re-listing the laundry list of all that's gone wrong the last couple months, cuz that's not the point, I'll cut to the chase...

Since June 29th, I have missed nearly 5 weeks of work and I've learned in the since my 3 days back at work that many here have assumed it's been my back causing me problems all this time. Dozens have come to my office and they tell me they're glad to see me, and then several have asked how my back is and I say, "It's fine, thanks," but then they don't just get back to business... they either stand there waiting for me to offer an explanation of my absence from work or they explicitly press for more information. Now, I can understand this, whether it's coming from someone who knows me a lil' more personally than others or not; they want to know where I've been.

The first day back to work though, feeling terribly emotionally raw, whenever pressed for more information or met with a blank look, waiting for more info., I'd go ahead and share that we've had a tragic loss in our family. The variations in response to hearing my telling this has been outright puzzling. What else could a 'tragic loss' mean other than to say someone has died? Some have only stared back at me, expressionless, almost as if unimpressed, eyes blinking, ZERO signs of comprehension -- and it's not as if they're at a loss for words; they honestly seem unimpressed. And with a few I've encountered, unless I go on to explain in some kind of detail what had happened, they stand there and offer nothing remotely resembling sincere condolences.

When someone tells you there's been a tragic loss in their family, shouldn't those words immediately speak for themselves, requiring a sympathetic response? (shaking my head)

Friday, August 22, 2008

This Ache

The last 2 weeks have been so painful. I don't remember my mother's own funerals having been as acutely painful as this all has been. [SIDE NOTE: Yes, we had two funerals; one in SLC, UT and the other in Bear Lake, ID. At each service, the overfill for each meeting hall was used and some people had to stand.]

When my mother died, I felt numb and I generally operated in a dazed state of disbelief for the first two weeks after. Many who had been around me the week after my mother's death have told me that I seemed subdued, but unaffected. Very few people ever saw me cry. Many have told me they were either confused or disturbed by my lack of emotion at that time.

My most prominent memory of my mother's funerals is my knowing that all eyes were on me. I felt like I was under the microscope. People were constantly around me, constantly talking about me in the third person as if I wasn't sitting right there. And if anyone spoke to me, it all sounded the same... how sad they were for me and my father. Strangely, it was infuriating. And something that stands out in my memory most is the impression that everyone knew she was to die - - everyone had known but me it seemed.

With Amber, it wasn't like we experienced a known period of time leading up to an inevitable death, like someone battling a severe case of late-stage cancer. Nor did Amber have some long-had illness since childhood with no known cure that was bound to eventually take her life. There was no freak accident of misfortune. No drunk driver had taken her out; someone whom we could blame for their reckless disregard for others' lives. There are a number of theories as to where things went wrong and when it first began, but simply put, Amber got sick and spiraled downward in less than 9 months' time. In the last 6 months, so much was done to help her and nothing worked. Amber apparently decided she'd run out of options, and she decided we would be better off without her... In her last 3 months though, we'd already lost her. She was so severely ill, she was almost unrecognizable. I can see why she did what she did - - I don't blame Amber. I just wish she hadn't ever gotten sick.

For nearly eight and a half years spent with our family and her Trev, Amber had been a gorgeous, vibrant personality, full of spunk and a glowing passion and TONS of love. Her enthusiasm for life was absolutely infectious and you couldn't help but feel inspired by her joy for life. For her to have died in this way, to have fallen ill in this way in such an aggressive manner and so quickly, I feel like we have all been robbed and there's no one to blame... not that finding blame would make any of this easier in any way. I still can't believe she's gone.

I'm older now and I can remember the aftermath of my mother's death clearly and I understand the various and complicated dynamics involved in the months and years following my mother's death. It all has given me the chance to offer my cousin, Trevor, the kind of advice no one had given me or my father in our time of loss. Although my time up north for Amber's funeral and the time after with my family was terribly painful, I'm grateful I could be there. I don't know what more to say.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Most Tragic Loss for Our Family

My cousin Trevor has lost his wife, Amber. She had been struggling with severe postpartum depression that had developed over time into full-blown bipolar disorder. Although she had been placed upon a medication regimen and had been hospitalized several times, she was still experiencing extreme dips on a cyclical basis each month. She was admittedly suicidal for the last 3 months, and although she has been surrounded by caring loved ones concerned for her health and safety, she succeeded in ending her own life yesterday morning.

Understandably, our entire family and all those who loved Amber so dearly, we are all reeling with pain and deep sadness due to this sudden and heart wrenching loss. Please say a prayer for Amber's families and her dear husband and their two young children, 3 yrs and 8 months old, and 13 months old.

(click image to enlarge)
If you feel you would like to offer help to Trevor and his children, you can donate to their family by either making a visit to your local Wells Fargo Banking Center or go online to 'Wells Fargo Online' to make a 'Transfer to Another Customer'. The account number is 8888362459 (routing #12105278), and is under the name of the 'Amber Jacobson Memorial Fund.'

Photo taken in Bear Lake, Idaho - June 20th, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

I'sah Gummi Bear Hostess

To left is the bummy end, the head to the right...

We now have a "gummi bear" (measures 1.6 cm, almost 1.7 cm) as the sonogram tech had put it so sweetly. Sooo, we still have what literally looks like a viable pregnancy. In 15 minutes I'll be leaving with my honey-man for a consult with my OB to discuss this latest sonogram and last week's biopsy and blood work. So, we'll hopefully know more in a matter of a couple hours!

*UPDATE* My biopsy results were of 'moderate' risk, versus the 'high to severe' risk as previously found by my last PAP. So moderate is better than high, however, if I weren't pregnant, they would be shaving my cervix and freezing my uterus lining... but I AM pregnant, sooo instead, they'll be watching me like a hawk for the next several months. For now, the plan is simply to have another colposcopy four weeks from now. As for my blood work, my HCG levels are exactly where they should be, remarkably enough. My progesterone levels are lil' low though... not super low, but not where they need to be. They want a '15' and I have an '11.5,' so they've put me on a progesterone prescription that I'll take for at least a month to prevent miscarriage. They've also decided that I'll be on Macrobid antibiotics for the duration of my pregnancy in order to avoid another kidney infection, since the first gave us no clues to its existence until it was full blown and already septic. One more thing: Once I'm at 4 months (that's 2 months from now), I'll be referred to a perinatologist (a high risk obstetrician) because they have access to crazy-good sonogram machines and equipment for testing and various other resources a regular doc doesn't have. They want to be certain our gummi bear is developing as it should, so I guess that's all good. Thanks again to everyone for their prayers and enthusiasm.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Not Exactly 'Glowing'

So that gorgeous, healthy glow pregnant women have about them? Did you know there's an explanation for it? Well, among other various reasons, it's primarily due to an increased production of oil from one's skin glands. Now, what does this mean for me, exactly? Am I just glowing now?

Well, since childhood, I have always had really, REALLY oily skin. Most who know me have at some point observed my long-held habit of blotting my face upon tissues, pieces of paper and occasionally, in desperate moments, my own forearms and the backs of my hands (gross, I know). In fact, my father will periodically offer me a heartfelt apology based upon his own random observations of just how uber oily my skin is, which I apparently inherited from him. [SEMI-RELATED TANGENT: My father will also periodically offer me an apology for my having uber thick ankles and knees, which I also inherited from him. END OF TANGENT]
So the point is this: I already have oily skin and always have. And so how 'bout now?

OH. MY. GOODNESS. I AM SOOOO GREEZEY NOW, I do not know what to do with myself!?! There's no 'glow' goin' here folks - - there's just a greasy shine! And it now involves not just my face and scalp, but my chest, back, shoulders and midrift. If I could get away with it, I'd shower twice a day... but if there's something years of trying to de-grease have taught me, it is this: The more I shower, the greasier the greasy areas are, and the drier and itchier the usually dry areas are.

I'd actually been thinking now would be a great time to start growing my hair out, but as it's gotten longer over the last month without my cutting it, it's hung around my face and it gets greezey from my greezey face!?!

So, um, I guess now is NOT the time to try growing my hair out...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Ya Know Yer a Lil' Hormonal When... #1

...I open the dryer and the first item I pull out is a short-sleeved plaid shirt of my honey-man's that he looks quite handsome in, that I'd bought him for his birthday earlier this year, and I imagine him in this shirt and just how handsome he is in it and in general, and I think of how sweet he is, and how much I love him, and I promptly burst into tears!

Thank Heavens for Health Insurance

Last Friday, I saw my OBGYN for a colposcopy. No shaving of the cervix was done at that time - - instead, my OB took a long look via the "ZoomScope" and just a shallow surface biopsy was taken and some blood work to check my HCG hormone level and my progesterone level. I have another sonogram this Thursday to check the progress of the fetus, the results of which will be discussed with my OB this coming Friday, along with the pathology report for the biopsy taken and the blood work done. Soooo, we don't know anything more than we did last Wednesday. I did begin spotting yesterday and today though. I feel icky... and really tired and a bit nervous. It could just be remnant bleeding from the biopsy though - - I hope!

Oh yeah, and the doc also said I'm anemic = this is not a surprise. I've had chronic issues with anemia and low B-vitamin levels since I was a teen. Sooo, I'm taking an iron supplement now, along with my prenatal vitamin, a B-complex and an extra calcium supplement. Two weeks ago, my prenatal vitamin and the smells of coffee and onions were provoking a lot of nausea, but I haven't felt nauseous at all since I left the hospital! I said something to my OB about this last Wednesday and he laughed at me, "Are you complaining?"

Speaking of my hospital stay, we receiving my billing statement in the mail: $25,005 smackeroos!

$331 for diagnostic radiology; $867 for an ultrasound; $2,128 for my time in the ER; $5,620 for pharmaceuticals; $7,920 for 6-days' stay in a private hospital room (I spent my 1st night in the ER and my first day in a 'day room' at the end of the hospital floor's east hallway); and $8,139 for clinical laboratory work


P.S. Here's something semi-amusing/maddening though: My entire hospital bill is itemized to the finest detail. I find it fascinating to discover I was charged $4 for each and every dose of Tylenol given to me. Now, I was given Tylenol sixteen times = that's $64 for Tylenol?!?