Friday, January 11, 2013

New Year..New Beginning

I planned on writing this post on January 1, 2013.  The obligatory date on which to post the goals for the New Year as well as discuss the optimism for a new beginning.  We had just gotten back to Colorado from our holiday trip to Wisconsin the evening of December 31st.  I had gotten a new triathlon book for Christmas by Joe Friel that I had begun reading and had the idea of comparing the principles in the book with those in the Maffetone  and  MacKenzie books.  I could start a heated conversation as to which author was right and which was full of hooey.

Unfortunately about 12 hours after we had gotten back to Colorado my brother called.  The doctor at the hospital my mother was at told him to round up the family members.  We had taken Mom to the hospital the day after Christmas.  She was suffering from pneumonia and low blood pressure.  Something we had dealt with before numerous times..including the previous two Christmases.  We had joked that the ICU at Froedert Hospital was our new holiday tradition.  What the heck..they had a great cafeteria with awesome cheese curds and the staff was always amazing.  Although Mom (Which meant we) had been in the hospital for six days she was moved form ICU to a regular floor and improving. Thus we had left as planned on December 31.

Christmas had been fun with all of the grand children coming over to be with their grandmother and Far Far (or Mor Far depending on the particular family) as grandpa liked to be called.  Grandma had gotten to oversee the preparation of the meal to make sure everything was being done to her standard.

CHRISTMAS DAY with the Grandkids.

We got into Milwaukee late the night of the 1st.  Mom was on a Bi-Pap machine and could not talk.  Her CO2 levels in her blood had reached incredibly high levels.  The hope was to get the CO2 down again.  She had been in this position literally dozens of times before where the doctors had said that she was not going to make it.

The first time we were told my mom would not live was when she had a brain aneurysm 20 years ago.  She spent 105 days in the hospital fighting additional bleeds and pressure.  She manged to prove the doctors wrong..she left the a wheel chair with limited mobility, speech and in constant pain from one complication or another. But she had 100% brain function and was 100% our mother.  I was 25 at the time, Mike was 23, Ben was 16 and Becky 13. 

Mom would continue to be our mother and see me get married as well as my brother Mike.  She also saw the birth of her first grandchild.  She would run the family with an iron fist when it came to recipes and holiday traditions.  But she also had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor. Her and my dad would also become fixtures at Camp Randall for Badger home football games.  During this time she continued to suffer complications from the brain aneurism mostly in terms of physical pain..but I never heard her complain or curse her lot in life.

Then six years ago my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer and was given 3 months to live.  Obviously my mom and dad did not see this as a viable option and instead sought out other doctors to help them overcome this little "challenge".  My mother lived past that 3 month time limit and saw the marriages of the other two of her children as well as the birth of four more grandchildren.

She refused to give in to cancer and asked for chemo therapy when all else had failed..even to the detriment of her already beaten up body.  At times after a busy day with the grand children or other family, dad would need to run her to the emergency room and she would invariably be put in the ICU in an almost coma like state.  Her body would just shut down almost all of its functions to recuperate.  I remember this happening numerous times with each times the doctors telling us that she would not leave the hospital.  Each time mom would end up at home leaving the doctors just scratching their heads.  On one occasion we asked her primary doctor about the odds..he responded that for anyone else there was not really a chance but Judy enjoyed proving him wrong.  She never stopped fighting and her heart was stronger than anyone knew. We had gotten to a point where we expected miracles.

When I first got to Wisconsin this year for Christmas I sat at the breakfast table with my mother and watched all of "her" birds on the deck and feeders. There seemed to be a hundred of them of all sizes and colors. 

The day I left Wisconsin I put on the hat that I had given to my mother after my Racine 70.3 race in 2011. I was proud of my accomplishment but even more proud of my mother. Dad said she wore it quite a bit when she had the thinning hair from chemo.  I sat at the breakfast table and looked out the window.  There weren't any birds.  The deck was empty and the trees were empty. 

I realized how many time I had sat at that table and although I noticed the birds I sometimes did not pay attention to them.  The birds always seemed to be there..coming back day after day..entertaining, beautiful, fun.  And now the day I wished more than anything to see the birds they were gone..and I thought about all the opportunities I had squandered to see them..and I cried.

I'm a not in the best frame of mind as I write this. I have been sick for 4 or 5 weeks and have had multiple gout attacks. No doubt stress related.  I haven't worked out in at least 3 weeks if not more. Unless you count the walks from the ICU to the cafeteria.  I put on 15 pounds over the last couple of weeks and don't really remember eating anything. Except salads, cheese curds and green machine drinks in the hospital cafeteria.   And I think I have lost some muscle in my right quad..which is usual when I have not worked it out.  I don't even want to think about triathlon or anything else at this point.

However, I know even now that by Sunday I will be ready to tackle a new season..a new year..a new beginning...I don't want to let my mom down..She'd probably just tell me to Suck it up Buttercup..

A fitting tribute my cousin made to mom...she inspired a lot of people.


  1. My sincerest condolences. You've been on my mind. xo

    1. Thanks Jen...and I was following you and the girls the entire time in Florida..Great job on RAGNAR..and I am especially glad you had a good time. But what was that cramping all about?

  2. What a beautiful post honoring your mother. She was amazing. I wish I had been blessed to meet her.