Negative For Malignancy

I’ve had a pretty busy month, half from school and half from my two-week break from school. I will post an update soon.

More importantly, I wanted to update on my last post and report that my mom’s thyroid biopsy results were negative for malignancy! Yay! She has to take thyroid medication (hormone replacement) for the rest of her life, but she was already doing that anyway.

Thanks to everyone who sent positive thoughts/vibes and well wishes! I don’t personally believe in prayer, but I certainly appreciate any positive sentiment.

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When The Inevitable Happens

My mom is in her late sixties now. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on a thyroid medication (a replacement hormone or something). A couple weeks ago, she told me that her doctor thought she might have a couple nodules on her thyroid, so she needed to get an ultrasound.

My mom got her ultrasound a few days ago, and the results showed that she indeed has a couple nodules, about 2cm wide (I’m guessing that’s each). She’s now waiting for a referral to get a biopsy done to see whether the nodules are cancerous or not.

This is the first time either of my parents has had any sort of potential cancer scare. It’s still too early to tell, so I’m not really sure what to think. I certainly hope it’s nothing, but I’m a bit worried. My brother (the new doctor) said that thyroid cancer is very treatable in that even if my mom has to have her whole thyroid removed, she just has to take a pill every day. Still, that scenario doesn’t sound too pleasant.

My parents are getting older, of course, and they won’t be around forever, but I still can’t imagine what it would be like without them. My maternal grandfather is 91 and still kicking (although his pacemaker is apparently doing 95% of the work for his heart), so I guess I was hoping to be my mom’s age and still have my parents around. My parents were older when they had me, though, so it’s probably more difficult for that to happen.

During my lifetime, I’ve lost a few aunts and my paternal grandparents, but I wasn’t particularly close to any of them. I didn’t mourn for them in the same way I would expect I will for someone in my immediate family (or even my closer relatives).

My mind is definitely jumping to conclusions, but it’s hard not to think about these things when cancer is even mentioned. It’s probably difficult for anyone to face their parents’ mortality (or their own). I can’t imagine anyone is ever really ready for the day when the inevitable happens.

Morning Nagging

My classes this term worked out so that my first half of the week is busy and full of classes but Thursdays are my day off. I usually sleep in and stay home (unless I meet my best friend from college on campus for lunch) to recuperate from the week and relax/study from home.

Now that my mom is retired, she stays at home on Thursdays too. So when I get up in the late morning (or sometimes the early afternoon if I’m lucky), she’ll make a comment about how it’s healthier to wake up earlier. My mom will then tell me to drink a cup of water. She believes that drinking a cup of warm water first thing in the morning is healthy. If I drink tepid water instead (it’s so much easier than fussing with a microwave or a stove in the morning), she tells me that warm is best.

I woke up late enough today that I decided to skip breakfast and just wait for lunch instead. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with my mom either. She asked me what I’m going to eat for lunch. I say I don’t know (I just got up, how do I know?), and she says “Well you can’t skip lunch too.” When did I say I was skipping lunch?

When I asked what my options are, she began to rattle off things in our refrigerator/freezer in a tone that made it seem like I should know these things. I admit it, I don’t know how to cook. As a result, I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of what’s inside my refrigerator the way my mom does. How can she expect me to know?

There are days when I don’t mind hanging out with my parents. For the most part, I get along with them (assuming we steer clear of the whole gay thing), but nagging so early in the day always rubs me the wrong way. I understand that my mom just wants what’s best for me, and I always try to maintain my patience (I hate upsetting my mom), but I really can’t handle being treated like a child anymore.

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Retirement Rut

My mom retired at the end of last year. She still goes to her old library twice a week to slowly clean out her office (she didn’t have time to do it before she retired), but most days she stays at home.

I know she only retired less than a month ago, but I feel like my mom is already in a rut. On days when she’s at home, she wakes up around 9:30am, reads the Chinese newspaper while eating breakfast, and then watches Chinese soap operas on TV. After lunch, she might check her email (which somehow takes hours), and then watches more Chinese soap operas (she records at least five different series on her DVR). She calls her old friends who have also retired and chat, but it’s pretty rare and only has time to call one friend per day. Around the late evening, she’ll begin to prepare dinner (while keeping the TV on in the kitchen). After my dad and I come home from work and school, she tells us that the day just flew by.

I’m very afraid that this routine will be what my mom does for the rest of her life. I want her to get a hobby, go outside, or do something “productive” (a very subjective word). I want her to stay busy with things that don’t revolve around sitting on the couch watching TV. I asked her what her plans were, and she sounded defensive.

After she cleans her office out, she wants to clean (declutter) the house and then organize old photo albums (it sounded like the whole house had to be clean before she could even think about doing something else). She has vague travel goals (she’s always wanted to travel to Europe), but no definite plans or timeline have been made.

Her main issue with my questioning her retired lifestyle is that she’s happy relaxing and watching TV, so what’s wrong with that? After working for over 40 years, she likes not having to use her brain. It’s true, I suppose. At the end of the day, it’s her life, right? If she’s happy watching hours of Chinese soap operas every day, who am I to tell her not to?

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Legacy

My mom is a librarian for a local university. She is retiring at the end of the year after 40 years of working at the same library. As she leaves, she will be donating a good sum of money to establish an endowment to further support the library where she has spent her entire career.

I’ve been helping my mom with a lot of the details. I came up with the title for the endowment, and I convinced my mom to use her own artwork from when she did Chinese painting as a hobby over 30 years ago as the bookplate for each book that is purchased using funding from her endowment. As a side note, I’m also desperately trying to convince her to pick up her brush again after she retires, because she’s actually a very good artist.

I also wrote a few short paragraphs about my mom and her career that will be put in a catalog which lists all of the endowments established for the library (I’m a good writer sometimes). My mom has seen and influenced so many changes in the library throughout her career, it’s amazing. I find the transition from card catalogs to online databases incredibly fascinating (I love looking back at technological advances and seeing how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time), and my mom played a big part of that change for her library.

Writing about my mom and seeing thank you notes/emails from people at my mom’s library helped me realize that my mom has made a major impact on her library. Her endowment serves as a way to perpetuate her legacy with the library, so that future visitors to the library can benefit from her contributions. They may not know her personally, but they will know her.

This is the kind of thing I want. Forty years from now, I want be able to say that I’ve done something that will benefit my community (local, national, global, who knows) in some way. I want to make a difference somehow. Donating to a library seems small compared to building houses/schools in third-world countries (I know someone who is doing that too), but it is still a way to make a positive difference in the world that has a lasting effect beyond our own lifetime.

As I continue my soul searching and journey for my inner passions, I want to keep this in mind. What will my legacy be?

Daily Walking

I’ve thoroughly convinced (or so I think) my parents that exercising is the easiest lifestyle change in my mom’s efforts to lower her cholesterol. Every night this week, right after we get home from work, my parents and I have gone out and walked around our neighborhood for a good 30-40 minutes; the route we take is at least two miles long. I was initially afraid that my parents would think the walk was too time consuming and give up after one day, but the routine seems to be sticking.

My mom’s plan is to see how her diet and new exercise regimen will affect her cholesterol. In a few months, she will get another blood test and see if she really does need to take medication or not. I don’t think walking every day is going to be enough, but it’s a start.

Cholesterol

My mom found out that she has high cholesterol. She was borderline before, but her latest test results were quite a bit higher than expected. I think she has a predisposition to it (which might mean I do too?); my dad eats the same sorts of food (and likes red meat more than my mom does) but his cholesterol levels are normal. My parents already generally eat healthier than the average American family, but my mom’s diet is clearly not enough to keep her LDL levels down.

My mom’s doctor recommended a low dose of medication (I don’t know which one yet, it doesn’t really matter at this point) to help, but my mom is very hesitant to take medication for fear that she’ll become dependent on a drug (she doesn’t want to be “addicted” for the rest of her life). She insists that her diet is good enough. I think she’s in denial a little bit. While I understand my mom’s reluctance to take medication, I don’t necessarily want her to rule out the possibility that she might need it either.

I think the biggest and easiest thing to change in my mom’s lifestyle is her exercise routine, or rather, the lack thereof. We usually walk around in our backyard after dinner for 15-20 minutes and stroll around the mall for a few hours on weekends, but that’s the extent of her cardio activity (I’m not sure how much five minutes of qi gong in the morning counts). Most of my mom’s evening (besides cooking dinner) is spent sitting on the couch watching Chinese soap operas or Taiwanese news/politics on TV.

Thus, because I’m the “mini-doctor” in the family (I’m not the doctor in the family, which will be my brother in two years, but I’ve always been interested in taking care of everyday health issues), I’m trying to learn more about how to deal with high cholesterol and come up with an exercise plan to which my parents can actually stick. If I’m going to help my mom get into shape, I may as well help my dad too. Hopefully I can get myself back into shape in the process.