Book Excerpt: The Morning My Husband Passed

Six years ago today, my husband was found dead in his room at the nursing home where he’d spent the past month. I’d been caring for him at home for six years after two strokes paralyzed his left side. He’d started going downhill, finally getting to the point where I could no longer lift him.

I’d hoped to get him into Greenhouse,, a facility where residents live in cottages holding no more than twelve occupants and each have their own room and bath,. However, there was a six-month waiting list for people on Medicaid, so he and I decided that he should move to a regular nursing home for the time being. He must have decided he couldn’t wait for greener pastures.

The following poem, from My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, talks about how I learned of his death and my reactions. You can click this link to hear me read it.

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 THE MORNING MY HUSBAND PASSED

 

 

The nurse’s call wakes me at six thirty.

Relieved but unable to drive,

I call my father—he agrees to take me.

 

I think to myself,

this is it—I’m a widow.

I knew it would come, but why so soon?

 

He just turned seventy.

We were married only seven years.

I took care of him for six.

He wanted to make it ten.

 

Driving through the streets,

I see, hear, feel nothing.

When we arrive, I hurry to his room,

to his bedside where he lies,

swathed from head to toe.

 

I uncover his face,

eyes, mouth closed,

his body at peace.

I kiss his brow,

bury my face in his hair,

hold him, tell him I love him,

pack his belongings, leave,

my life having turned a corner.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Thursday Tidbit: Birthday, a Poem

Today, my late husband Bill would have been seventy-six years old. The following poem appears in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. I wrote it on his birthday during the last month of his life, which he spent in a nursing home. Click this link to hear me read it.

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BIRTHDAY

Gray hair against white pillow,

lips caress my cheek,

his good arm encircles my shoulder.

The odor of peanut butter

scent of his shampoo comfort me.

Seventy years old today, he says he loves me,

kiss soft against my cheek,

as we hold each other,

for who knows how long.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

 

Re-Blog: Review—Another Chance at Life

As I said on Tuesday, if breast cancer is caught early enough, there’s a higher chance of survival. Here’s one woman’s account of how she lived through it. She’s still going strong today. I reviewed this book here several years ago, but it’s worth a second posting.

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Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Journey

by Leonore H. Dvorkin

Copyright 2009.

 

This is a short but to the point account of one woman’s experience with breast cancer. As the author states in the beginning, it’s for women who may develop breast cancer later in life.

Leonore Dvorkin starts by explaining how she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 and her decision to have a mastectomy. A resident of Denver, Colorado, she talks about traveling to Kansas City to visit her family and her mother and sisters’ wish that she would just have the lump removed simply because it was what they would have done. She also touches on her family’s reaction to her novel, Apart from You, before it was published in 2010. She discusses how she and her husband bought a Polaroid camera and took pictures of her naked body the night before her surgery.

She describes what it was like to have the breast removed, assuring readers that such surgery for the patient is nothing more than having a good night’s sleep. She knew what to expect, since she had numerous surgical procedures in the past for varicose veins and other difficulties, and she touches on those. I was amazed to learn that HMO’s normally expect a mastectomy to be an out-patient procedure. Afterward, the patient is monitored for a few hours for complications and then sent home. In Leonore Dvorkin’s case, because she suffered from nausea as a result of morpheme she was given for pain, she was allowed to spend the night. I’m so thankful I don’t use an HMO for insurance, but it’s possible that nowadays, things may have changed. I hope I never have to find out.

Leonore Dvorkin then goes on to describe her recovery at home and the relief she felt upon learning she didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. She talks about difficulty sleeping as a result of prescribed pain medication and a shoulder injury that made her rehabilitation more difficult. She touches on how her husband cared for her, not just after the mastectomy, but after other operations she had beforehand.

Several months after the surgery, she was ready to return to her job tutoring foreign languages at a Denver college and resume teaching weight training classes in her basement. She describes how she went to a store in Denver and bought a prosthetic breast and a mastectomy bra. In the end, she explains her attitude and how reducing stress and changes in diet and exercise made her feel better and gave her more confidence. She also discusses how she will age gracefully. This book includes appendices with resources and information about her particular type of breast cancer.

I like this author’s attitude. She doesn’t take cancer lightly but doesn’t wallow in self-pity or poor self-image either. I especially liked the way she describes how a prosthetic breast fits into a mastectomy bra and gives advice on how to buy and use them. I hope I never get breast cancer, but if I do, after reading this book, I hope to be able to deal with it and move on.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Re-Blog: Breast Exam

I’ve posted this here once or twice already, but since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s not a topic that can be over-emphasized, especially for women. Men, I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to skip this one.

I wrote this piece in 2009 when my husband Bill was still alive. It stresses the importance of performing monthly breast exams and annual mammograms. Did you know that if breast cancer is caught early, there’s a higher chance of survival? I know people who lived through this. If they can, so can you, ladies, as long as you take preventative steps.

***

I’m sitting on the toilet, moving the index and middle fingers of my right hand up, down, and around each breast, as the radiology technician showed me. There are no lumps. I stand, repeat the procedure, and still find no lumps.  In the shower, I rub a generous amount of soap on both breasts and repeat the examination. Still, there are no lumps.

As I finish showering, I reflect on my first mammogram eight years ago.  A friend emailed me a list of ways to prepare. One suggestion was to insert my boob into the refrigerator and close the door. Another was to place my breast behind one of the back tires of my car and have someone drive over it. Either way, I would have a feeling of what it would be like to have a mammogram. These suggestions didn’t make sense until I had my first procedure.

The mammogram machine was a tall contraption with an adjustable top. I stood, leaning against it, while my breast was squashed between the top and bottom halves. I held my arm, corresponding to the breast being examined, straight out, and clutched a bar on the side of the machine.

Two views were taken of each breast, one side to side and one top to bottom.  The top to bottom ones weren’t bad, but the side to side were excruciating because of my short stature. I had to stand on tiptoe so my breast could be aligned properly.

At one point while the picture was being taken, I wondered what would happen if the power went out. Would the machine lock, trapping my boob between its metal jaws? For the next eight years, I allowed my bosom to be subjected to this torture, and for what?

As I step out of the shower and reach for my towel, I think about my mother who died of cancer ten years ago. Not in her breast, it was the dreaded disease all the same. During the last six months of her life, she was weak from chemotherapy, and Dad took care of her. The oncologist gave her a good prognosis a couple of weeks before she passed. It was a shock when she lay down on the afternoon of December 15, 1999, closed her eyes, and never woke up.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen while I was a child in need of her care. I was living on my own and holding down a job, and I only needed her companionship and moral support.  I realize now that if I were to die, my husband Bill would be lost without me.  Unable to care for himself, he would be forced to spend the rest of his life in a nursing home.  After working in one for fifteen years, I know they’re not bad places, but living in an institution, no matter how pleasant the surroundings or friendly the staff, isn’t the same as living at home and being cared for by the one you love.

So I’ll continue to examine my breasts once a month. When I receive a card in the mail from the radiology clinic reminding me it’s time for my yearly mammogram, I’ll pick up the phone and arrange to have my boobs squashed.

“What are you doing?” Bill asks, as I climb in bed beside him and reach under my pajama top.

“I’m doing my monthly breast exam.  Remember? I do it when I’m sitting, standing, in the shower, and lying down.” I still find no lumps.

With a sigh of relief, I turn, put my arm around him, snuggle against him, bury my face in his hair.  “You don’t want me to die of breast cancer, do you?” I say, as I kiss him.

“No,” he answers with a laugh. “Can I examine your breasts?”

“Sure,” I answer, positioning myself so he can reach them.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Thursday Book Feature: Breakfast at the Good Hope Home

Breakfast at the Good Hope Home

By Mike Bayles

Copyright 2017

 

Through prose and poetry, this novella describes how a young man deals with his father being placed in a nursing home after he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. In ninety-six pages, the author details the last eight years of the father’s life and how the son and his mother cope. Besides the story and poems, all told from the son’s point of view, the book also includes historical and other information about Alzheimer’s Disease.

When I first read an interview with Mike Bayles on the blog, Scan, in which he talks about the book, I found it intriguing, having once been a registered music therapist working with nursing home residents afflicted by dementia. I was disconcerted by the fact that none of the characters have names except for Becky, the certified nursing assistant at the Good Hope Home who cares for the young man’s father. Then again, this story is short. It only took me about an hour to read with my Amazon Echo device. That doesn’t give readers a lot of time to connect with characters, so I can see why the author didn’t name many of them. Since nurses’ aides in skilled care facilities play a more pivotal role in the care of such residents, I can understand why Mike Bayles gave her a name.

Eight years is a long time to watch the slow decline of a loved one with dementia, so I’m glad this story is mercifully short. I recommend it to anyone dealing with Alzheimer’s. It would also make a great training tool for health care professionals learning to work with such patients.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Thursday Book Feature: Love the Beat Goes On

Love the Beat Goes On
by Lynda Filler
Copyright 2017

This is not about Sonny and Cher, although I thought it was when I first glimpsed the title. In this short memoir, author and photographer Lynda Filler discusses her diagnosis of cardiomyopathy in 2008 and how she miraculously recovered. She starts by detailing events leading up to her diagnosis including but not limited to her experience with online dating following several failed marriages, her move from Canada to Mexico, where she lived for several years, and her return to Canada. She then describes her symptoms and how she came to be diagnosed and told to get her affairs in order because she didn’t have long to live. She then outlines her path to healing and subsequent recovery, providing tips to others suffering from the same malady. She often claims not to be a medical expert and encourages readers to follow the advice given by their own doctors. The book includes resources.

I felt two connections with this book. First of all, my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about the same time as Lynda Filler. Second, my brother and his first wife honeymooned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the 1990’s, at probably about the same time Lynda Filler was living there. Although I found her description of her healing process interesting, I was, and still am, skeptical. If this book had been released in 2008 when my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, he might have benefited, although I doubt he would have read it.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Re-blog: Being a Caregiver Can Be the Same as Having the Disability in the Eyes of the Employer

Being a caregiver, I feel for Donna. I never had to work while caring for my late husband Bill, but before I even met him, I faced similar issues with supervisors because of my own disability. Many corporate executives are more concerned about making money than the well-being and satisfaction of employees and customers. If you’re one of those people, I want you to read this article and think. The corporate world must change for the better.

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Being a Caregiver is the Same as Having the Disability in the Eyes of the Employer

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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