“Like a surgeon, hey Cuttin’ for the very first time Like a surgeon Here’s a waiver for you to sign” – Al Yankovic / Billy Steinberg / Tom Kelly

I have been on the nursing track since July. It has been an amazing learning experience – not in the way you’re thinking. I have learned so much about what I don’t want to do. hahahahaha

I have learned that working in a hospital is hard. I have learned that going to school, though needed for the actual license, was a waste of time. I already knew how to do everything they taught me and the way I did it, at home, is the way they do it in the hospital, not the way they teach you in school. I learned that seeing people in pain breaks my heart. I learned that every time a patient dies, it’s like the first time. I learned that maybe everyone was right and it is too soon. I learned that my heart can’t handle the constant loss.

I was placed in a very difficult unit. A unit with extremely fragile patients. These patients have intense needs. My clinical unit is the same. I have no problem with hard work or the level of work that is needed in these units, but my heart does. I was coming home from work every night in tears, with stomach aches and not sleeping. The level of care that I am dealing with right now, although I LOVE it, is too much for me at this point. I love making a connection with my patients and actually caring for them but the situations don’t always end with someone being wheeled out in a wheelchair on their way home.

I am in the process of hopefully being transferred to a new unit or a new hospital. A unit where the outcomes will be more positive and I will get to see the joy of my job. A place where the laughs outweigh the tears. 

Thank you everyone for your constant support and love. Eventually I will find the place I am supposed to be. 

– xoxo Victoria

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“Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise … Take these sunken eyes and learn to see All your life You were only waiting for this moment to be free” – John Lennon / Paul McCartney

These last few weeks have been a little rough. I got what I thought was my dream CNA job. I didn’t apply directly for it, I was matched through recruitment with the unit. It’s an intense unit, at an amazing hospital where I would receive a lot of hospice and palliative care experience. I was excited about what I would learn and how would I grow from working with this population. 

Well fast forward a few weeks … patients pass away, they get sent to ICU, they come back, there are major emergencies, patients suffer, families suffer … 

My heart is broken. Watching people suffer … it’s too much. I have been coming home crying and have had major stress and stomach aches. The issue was I knew I had 90 days to get through probation and six months before I could transfer. I was already counting down the days. 

The other day I was on the treadmill talking to myself about what to do. I couldn’t stay on this unit, it would crush me. My heart couldn’t handle it. I was trying to talk myself into not quitting and sticking it out for 6 months and then asking for a transfer. While I was jogging I thought maybe, possibly, I could go in and explain my situation and get some sympathy. Worst case scenario they would tell me that I needed to stay or I was being let go. I went back and forth with myself … I can’t quit. Duane always said I never finished anything … I had to stick it out. 

I looked out the window and saw a Red Cardinal. I knew that whatever I decided was ok. I knew that I had support and needed to make the decision that is best for me. I need to take care of myself because no one else will. 

I went into work the next day and explained my situation. I am transferring. I’m not quite sure where (hopefully Mommy and Baby) and I don’t know when, but I am out of the heartbreaking unit. I am proud of myself. I usually don’t stand up for myself in these situations and just push through. But I have learned that peace and happiness are the post important things in life. If you are not at peace with your life or your decisions then you won’t be happy. All I want is to be happy. 

So for the next few weeks I will be in clinical another hospital for school and focusing on my writing and being happy. 

– xoxo Victoria

More information on red cardinals … https://www.californiapsychics.com/blog/angels-guides/meaning-red-cardinal-sighting.html

“Welcome to my house / Baby take control now” – Flo Rida

I have an alarm. I installed it as soon as I moved into my new home. I didn’t have one before – while living with Duane or living alone before Duane. When he passed away and I moved into my own home, I got one. I didn’t even think about it, I just called and got one. I have friend who recently lost her husband, also to ALS, and she put in an alarm too. She told me this and I laughed and just said me too. 

I laughed because why did we do it when they passed? We spent years caring for our husbands who were not able to protect us if someone broke in, but we either still felt safe or we were to tired to care about security … I’m not sure which one it is! HAHAHAHA!

Duane and I had a serious conversation about safety one night. We were living in Lake Havasu City, he had ALS and could stand but no longer walk. He could no longer use his hands and people were starting to have a hard time understanding him.  One night  I woke up because I thought someone was breaking in – it was the wind … but before I army crawled across the house, hiding, to spy on the noise, I was so scared. Duane was awake and so we started talking about it. All of a sudden hit me, if we were home and were robbed or if there was a house fire how would I get him out? I immediately said I would drag him out. I will never forget what he said.  

“You run. You grab Buddy and run. Leave me. If it’s a “robber” they don’t want me and if it’s a fire you need to get you and Buddy out. Don’t worry about me”.

Obviously I started crying and said I would never leave him and I would do anything to save us all. He was very adamant about me just making sure I was safe. Me and Buddy.

 So I guess, by installing an alarm (and having smoke/ carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers in every room) I am making sure I am safe. I am taking care of me and the dogs because Duane isn’t here to do it anymore. I am doing what I know he would want me to do. Being safe. 

– xoxo Victoria

(On a side note. Everytime Duane and I left each other, whether for work or to the store he would always say “Be Safe”.)

“Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen Pour myself a cup of ambition Yawn and stretch and try to come to life Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin’ … Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin'” – Dolly Parton

 

Well this week was one for the books. I never thought I would see the day when I had to get up at 4:45 am four days in a row for work. So many of you are laughing right now. But seriously – I was not made to pull 4 all-dayers in a row. 

I started work this week at the hospital and I had orientation ALL WEEK and school at night two of those days … and if you read my last post it was also a heartbreaking week on a personal level. 

But seriously, 4 days of actual real work. What was I thinking? It’s done now. Next week I start my 3 days of 12 hour shifts. I used to work conventions and had to be up early for a week straight but that was years ago. And after those long weeks Duane always gave me a “prize”. Once it was a bike he found with no seat, once it was a light up, pink fishing pole he found and the best was a 1970’s gaudy lamp with crystals dangling from it, he found. I still have the bike and the lamp. The only prizes I got this week were bags under my eyes, a dog sitter bill and a sore back. 

But I loved it. Learning and getting ready to start helping people. Hopefully this week is full of love, helping and sleep on my days off! hahahaha

– xoxo Victoria

 

“You’ve got a friend in me You’ve got troubles, and I’ve got ’em too There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you We stick together and can see it through ‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me” – Randy Newman

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(This picture is from my annual Thanksgiving Eve Costume Party 11/2017)

Where to start?… I had a really funny blog I was going to write tonight and maybe I will tomorrow, but it doesn’t feel important now – but maybe it’s more important. 

Last night we lost another amazing person. Last night ALS took another young husband, dad, friend and bright light from us. Last night ALS broke so many hearts. Last night ALS once again made life unfair and dark. Last night ALS won again. 

I met Alison, about two years ago, in an online support group while Duane was alive and we were living in San Diego. I met her husband Cory when I moved to be close to family in Wake Forest, NC where they lived. It was an instant friendship. We met at the most crucial time in all of our lives. A time where we all needed a new level of support and a deeper level of friendship. This last year and half has been filled with heartache, tears, understanding, support and so much love. 

I am so lucky that I am able to call Cory a friend. When I met him he reminded me so much of Duane, even my family noticed the similarities. His sense of humor, sarcasm, love of adventure and heart all reminded me of him daily. I am so fortunate that I was able to spend time with someone that could make fun of me in one moment and in the next one be supporting one of my crazy ideas. He was always there to answer a boat question, a lawn question, offer advice or make fun of me for something dumb I did. He was always supportive and there to listen. 

Last night I laid in bed and talked to Duane. I told him it was his turn. Cory (and Alison) had welcomed me with open arms and hearts, it was his turn to welcome Cory.

My heart is broken for Alison, their boys, their families and friends. ALS is a brutal disease. It sucks the life out of the patient and those around them. It makes everyone a shell of what they used to be. There is no cure and that has to change. Families cannot continue to be devastated by this horrible disease. 

If you have any questions or would like more information about ALS or research please ask me. 

– xoxo Victoria

“Day after day, I must face a world of strangers Where I don’t belong, I’m not that strong … I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won’t last a day without you” – Paul H Williams / Roger S Nichols

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So I don’t think I complain a lot.. maybe I do, but I try not to. I try to make the best of every situation. But tonight I’m sitting on my couch crying. It’s no one’s fault. I think I am stressed about starting work next week (Yes! I got job!) and school and the dogs being alone while I’m at both, a dog sitter I really don’t know (but seems amazing and comes VERY highly recommended) and figuring out how to do my taxes for the first time and a broken car, a falling down carport, a cracking ceiling and well … just life. And it’s been raining and crappy weather for about 3 weeks straight – that really bums me out more than anything else. 

Ever since Duane passed I have this inability to do more than 2 or 3 things in a day. If I try to, I get so overwhelmed I can’t handle it. I have a major break down. It’s getting better and I have learned to work with it, but it sucks. I really have to PLAN – not something I’m used to. I have also become way more sensitive – maybe I’ll do a separate post on that later … 

So tonight I rented “A Star is Born” from Redbox. I was super excited to watch it. But the DVD is BROKEN. This is not the first time this has happened at Redbox. I was fine with it until … I called in and they hung up on me. They said they would not refund my money (seriously it’s $1.75 it’s not about the money – it’s about customer service – but when you ship your jobs overseas….), I need to call back in tomorrow and talk to someone else. I asked why and she got quiet so I asked again and she hung up on me. 

Why cant people just be nice. This was the last time I rent from Redbox. And I know it doesn’t matter. I am just one person. But I remember Duane saying, I’ll never buy anything made in China again, I laughed, but, he didn’t (to the best of his knowledge). 

This is such a stupid thing to be upset about, I know. But sometimes this is my reality. Honestly this is my nonexistent life now! HAHAHAHAHA! I obviously need to get out more. I guess this is just leading into a post about PTSD, Caregiver burnout and life changing events. Maybe this is what needed to happen – a broken DVD – to help me get deeper about caregiving and death and widowhood and the toll that they take on a person. 

– xoxo Victoria

Title quote from this this – I love The Carpenters!!

“Sometimes I forget these ten digits ain’t my lifeline anymore Every now and then, I dial ’em up When life gets tough” – Chase Mcgill / Jessi Alexander

I heard this song on the radio while I was driving the other day and immediately burst out laughing. It’s actually a pretty sad song but when I first heard it I could only think about the poor person who has Duane’s old number! hahahahahahah They must be constantly bombarded with calls.

People would randomly call or text Duane months, even years after they met him just to touch base with him – I know, I was one of these people. hahahaha He was great person, always there to lend a hand if you needed it or up to go out and have fun. He very rarely said no.

After I was done laughing I listened to the song again and stopped laughing. I really miss being able to pick up the phone and ask him a question, get advice or tell him a funny story. I still talk to him, but he doesn’t talk back. I’m lucky though, I had so many years of him explaining how things work and teaching me how to do things, that I can usually talk myself through a project.

I’m not sure if anyone one knows this (why would they) but I have a few saved voicemails on my phone from him – I didn’t plan on saving them, they are just there. You can hear the progression of the ALS in his voice, all the voicemails sound like different people. But I can still hear him say I love you in them!

– xoxo Victoria

“…all we need is hope And for that we have each other …We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousands times again” – Cassandra Monique Batie / Jennifer Decilveo

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I devote a good amount of my time speaking with caregivers, most of them are young and many of them are in the ALS community. So many of them have the same questions and frustrations. The questions that no one can or will give them the answers to and the frustrations of a broken medical system.

I can’t do much for them but I can talk to them, I can tell them how Duane and I coped. I can reassure them, tell them they are making the right choices, listening to their hearts and that they are doing an amazing job. I can give them everything I know. I can share my story and what worked for us and more importantly what didn’t work for us and what it didn’t. 

In an effort to reach and support as many people as I can I am going to start sharing experiences here. Giving our reasoning behind what we did. How I saw the situation, how Duane saw the situation and what we did to meet in the middle. Most people don’t realize the decisions and planning that go into daily life when you are caring for someone and trying to give them the best life possible. Even a simply trip to Costco takes planning. 

Hopefully the right people will see these posts and get what they need out of them. If you have topics you would like covered or any specific questions please email me at victoriasunnysolitude@gmail.com I would be happy to discuss them in a post!

– xoxo Victoria

“And that life will once more… Be a celebration… And that you will be touched by an Angel” – Stevie Nicks

Life is good right now. I have pink hair!, and it will be back to blonde for me to start my new job on March 4. I have a side business doing well and a book that’s almost finished. I have a cozy house, two crazy dogs and summer is right around the corner.

I’m sure there will still be hard days, but right now – everything is good. 

– xoxo Victoria

“It’s just that simple, S-I-M-P-L-E Simple as can be It’s just that simple, S-I-M-P-L-E Simple as can be Ain’t no need to complicate it, we both know that’s overrated We’ve been there, it’s safe to say it ain’t our style We’re just simple like a six string The way this world was meant to be Like laughin’ love, make a lot out of a little It’s just that simple, S-I-M-P-L-E” – Mark L Holman, Michael Wilson Hardy, Tyler Reed Hubbard

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

I never made any decisions. We needed a new fence – Duane built it, we needed a new roof – I provided popsicles while Duane reroofed the house, a new couch, new kitchen table, new motorhome – Duane picked them out. I didn’t decide anything. I would come home from a week of work and my bathroom would be remodeled or the kitchen would be remodeled. I didn’t have to think about anything. 

It’s kinda sad but really kinda nice. I didn’t have a lot of choice in the way we lived or what we had, but in all honesty I didn’t really care. We had nice things and were really happy.

Once he got sick a lot of decisions fell on me. Major decisions, life and death decisions. I had all my decision making ability sucked out of me in those few years. 

Well now I have decisions to make again. I usually call my dad (he and Duane are both super, super handy and have the same eye for what looks good and what will look janky). So for example when I needed something to store the station wagon and Mastercraft under I went back and forth between a garage and a carport. I sat at the “store” and seriously called my dad no less then 5 times … “What color should the outside be?”, “What color should the trim be?” “How many walls?” … He was answering the phone and I was just saying “Me Again, I have another question”.  HAHAHA 

Well I am getting a job, a real job, and I have two dogs that cannot be trusted to be free range in the house … what was I to do? My parents are not available to come over to help OR make the decision for me. (Before we go any further YES I am an adult and I am totally capable, or should be, of making these decisions by myself, but I don’t. I second guess everything, because Duane was literally an expert on everything, and so is my dad so why would I make a decision?) I was trying to Message my dad (he’s out of the country and ask him questions about a fence vs a dog run … wood or chain link? … black or silver? … include the shed or not? … get a garage? … maybe a fence and a dog door? … maybe just leave them inside in their crates? cameras? maybe just trust them? NO!!!!!

Well I dug deep and made a decision. HAHAHAHA I emptied my “yard equipment” shed, filled it with dog beds and blankets and hired someone to build me a 10 x 20 foot dog run attached to it. It looks pretty good. I haven’t tested how they like being in it yet. But so far they really like peeing on the outside. 

Hopefully between that space and the amazing dog sitter I found, to let them out, Buddy and Lucy will be happy. 

Decision making is hard. My mind can easily decide what meds you need, what dose you need, what to do if you’re choking, not breathing or overdosing. What alternative treatment may work for you, what sauna, oil or constipation remedy may help, but ask me to decide between a fence and a dog run  – give me a week! I’m working on it. I have a flowered comforter, some amazing antique pieces and a pink polka dotted boat.  So yes, I can make decisions. But I am still in the process of second guessing all of the household, daily happening decisions.  

– xoxo Victoria

P.S. My sister told me the other day that she feel like she’s in the “Three’s Company” tv show when she comes over … I said, “Perfect – That’s the look I’m going for”!