Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Life Support"

"Life Support" refers to any medical means for maintaining life, including procedures, devices, and medications. If you refuse life support, you will still get routine measures to keep you clean and comfortable...

As I was reading this to Jordan this morning I started breaking down a little. Two pages later I lost it. We both did. Section 3 Part A is a real tear-jerker. If you are looking for a little light reading to open up your Thanksgiving break I wouldn't recommend your spouse's Advance Directive. Or Power of Attorney forms. Sixteen pages of a legal mumbo jumbo snooze fest. Maybe just stick to the lighter stuff. You know something like those God-awful "Chicken Soup for the ____ Soul" books that your grandmother always has on her coffee table. Those would be a joy compared to the legal documents I've hopelessly sifted through this week.

In between legally binding documents I've also had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Jordan's medical providers then our insurance company then Jordan's medical providers then our insurance company again until they wear me down and I just give up.

The only movie not named Star Wars that I have seen more than twice is "A Christmas Story". There is a quote that I thought of this week: "in the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan." I've launched a few tapestries into the space above Mt. Hood this week. Hopefully, I don't crash into any of them skiing this winter.

One more completely ridiculous thing and I'll move on. Don't you just love it when you call a company you pay actual dollars to do business with and they have that damn Artificial Intelligence Siri Alexa rip off thing trying to interact with you? My father in law couldn't help but chuckle as I yelled REPRESENTATIVE over and over again into the phone.

Maybe just one more ridiculous thing... During one of my extremely long phone calls with the insurance company this week I was about to get somewhere. I was ready to ask the one question that was going to get the ball rolling. It was on the tip of my tongue (almost thirty minutes into the call) when the REPRESENTATIVE said: "Is Jordan there with you?". She then shut down the conversation immediately because she isn't allowed to go any further without getting consent from Jordan. I almost mic dropped the phone and wandered off into the wilderness to build a fort from sticks spending the rest of my days never speaking to another REPRESENTATIVE again. Instead, I gathered myself and walked home. I then got Jordan on the phone with the insurance company. First REPRESENTATIVE says: "Mam, mam, I can't understand you" (then the call magically got disconnected). Second REPRESENTATIVE says: "Mam I'm sorry but I'm having a really hard time understanding you. Can you speak more clearly?". I magically disconnected that call (I didn't like her tone). Third REPRESENTATIVE was the charm! She read Jordan a few sentences, Jordan mumbled "yes" and we were good to go. If good to go means they still weren't helpful. At least they can tell me that they aren't helpful moving forward without having to talk to Jordan first.

Scouting out locations for the stick fort with no cell phone reception.
Alright already... Onto more important, brighter, cuter and lovable things. Jordan and I have two wonderfully beautiful children. You already know this. This blog is basically just a way for people to look at them and think "Well they obviously didn't get their looks, brains or demeanor from Brack".

This week our children had Parent/Teacher Conferences. Both Benton and Parker's teachers took the time to visit our home to make the conferences easier for Jordan. What a small, but super thoughtful way to show that they care and are paying attention. Both teachers are just absolute world-class people. A sappy blog post couldn't even begin to capture how Jordan and I feel about them and how they have fully embraced our children. Benton and Parker's classrooms have been a rock for them. Something they can hold onto in this crazy storm. A place that is safe, fun and full of love. I get to spy on it all the time and it gets me teary-eyed on a regular basis. Then some kid usually says "Coach Hassell why do your eyes look like that?" and I typically think "Shouldn't you be in class? Keep it moving short stack!".

Watching my children grow into little people has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Benton is one of the smartest kids I've ever been around. He has read more this year than I have in the last ten years. Most people know that though. What lots of people don't know or see on a regular basis is how gentle he is. He cares so much for others. He gives his jacket to his friend on the playground if they are cold. He stops to help his classmate pack up their bag at the end of the school day. He walks his sister down the stairs at night if she is scared. He gives himself. He loves hard. Benton has the gift of a big heart and what makes me so proud is he does it because that is who he is. Oh, and he is flat out just a funny person.

Seeing the curiosity that Parker has growing in her is so exciting. She is one of the most observant people I have ever met. She doesn't miss anything and has an incredible memory. We recently took a walk through our neighborhood by ourselves. She proceeded to point out fifteen things or so that I've never noticed. She also stopped and spoke to some strange cat that usually hisses at me. Then the cat let her pet it and she just kept right on talking and telling me all about this cat. I was blown away. She just casually floated through details like she had lived in our new neighborhood for years. Parker also likes to look at pictures. I'll catch her with some of our photo books under a blanket looking at our past family adventures. She asks questions. Crazy questions. She says whats on her mind and wonders aloud when you aren't on the same page as her. 

"I love you, but I'm mad Benton got a toy" was a letter Parker hand delivered to Nana after she got a purse as a present.
These are just small little glimpses into who my kids are. They are so much more. They will be so much more.

I took Benton and Parker to their family therapy appointment earlier this week. I sat in the lobby by myself for an hour (with no wifi and bad magazines) and just thought about my kids. I revisited the same thing that I can't stop thinking about. The same thing that choked me up while I was reading the Advance Directive to Jordan this morning. What is my family going to look like in a year?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It's a happy enchilada and you think you're going to drown

Sorry for my long absence and lack of updates. More on that later...

First some deeply important mustache rambling. I firmly believe that the man makes the mustache and not the other way around. When Steve Prefontaine toed the line of a race with a finely groomed mouth brow it struck fear in his opponents. Teddy Roosevelt ran the country with a hairy lip. So the man can carry his lip foilage onto greatness. Or the man can make it creepy like my high school math teacher that always called the same girls up to the whiteboard in class (what are the chances he is reading this?).

John Prine has one of my favorite lip rugs of all time. It has stood the test of time and had the privilege of hearing some of the sweetest folky tunes from one of the best storytellers in music. I've been spending lots of time with John Prine, Jeff Tweedy, Neil Young, Elliott Smith and other fine songwriters (not all mustached) the last month or so. I've carved out this little corner in our living room for this time. I put an incredibly fashionable vintage green chair there, a turntable, some books, a painting from a local artist and I even made a hipster lamp out of an old globe. It is a sweet set up and a nice place to drink a beer at night and contemplate life after the family has passed out. I've put in lots of time in that chair the last month or so.

Treatment kicked Jordan's ass last week. There is no other way to put it. A five-day dose of chemo (twice the strength of her first dose) and two IV treatments in two days that took several hours each. She was worn out and beaten up. Her speech was comically bad and she lost lots of her strength that she had regained over the last month or so. She wasn't sleeping well. It was a rough week. Yet by the weekend she was rallying for a night out with our co-workers, having friends (and kids and kids and kids) in town for the weekend and going to a musical with friends. Jordan is resilient as ever even in the face of all this.

I've noticed that we have all changed though. Jordan, I and the kids are different. How could we not be? I've spent some nights trying to remember what life was like this time last year. I simply can't wrap my head around it. It feels like a foggy memory. Coming home from work together, having dinner, playing with the kids and getting everyone ready for bed. It was ordinary. It was beautiful. It is gone. That reality doesn't exist anymore.

One of the things that I have been struggling with the last month or so is trying to put words to how I'm feeling about this. I've found more and more that I just don't know what to feel, what to say or even what the questions are. I've been sitting in my green chair (did I mention that I got it for $5 at a yard sale?) and just losing it lately. The emotions are there. They are real. They are raw. I just don't know where they came from, where they are going or what they are called. There is an awesome Wilco song called Box Full of Letters that is just a gem. There are some lines there that just got me the other day:

Wish I had a lotta answers,
'Cause that's the way it should be
For all these questions,
Being directed at me

I just can't find the time
To write my mind
The way I want it to read

I can totally relate because not only have I not wanted to blog, I haven't wanted to think. I've gotten caught up in this fog/funk in which I stopped naming what lurked in my mind. In that, I lost the ability to hold on for dear life in all this craziness. Even though it feels good to name that uncertainty right now it also feels like that knot in my gut isn't going away anytime soon.

A big fear of mine is what will we all become from this? Who will Jordan and I be in a week, a month, a year from now? What kind of father will I be for my children? How will this shape my son and daughter? Where is this taking us as a family? Did the Astros really win the Series? Living in the right now is hard with all of these questions looming big. I'm ok with not knowing the answers but the emotional ride in my fancy green chair (did I mention that it spins all the way around?) is a bumpy one.

I think we would all be a little better off if I left you with a little John Prine:

I was sittin' in the bathtub just countin' my toes
When the radiator broke, water all froze
I was stuck in the ice without my clothes
Naked as the eyes of a clown
I was cryin' ice cubes, hoping I'd croak
When the sun came through the window, the ice all broke
I stood up and laughed, I thought it was a joke
That's the way that the world goes 'round

That's the way the world goes 'round
You're up one day, the next you're down
It's a half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown
That's the way the world goes 'round

Fall is beautiful here!
Always great to get out into the woods for a bit.
Pretty cute Trick or Treaters!
Showing off some Chick-fil-A swag we got in the mail.

One joyful little girl.
Click on this picture and check out the view that is just a few miles from my house!
Peanut Butter and Jelly running with Parker during Parkdale Pumpkin Run.
Sorry, Parker is the cutest one in the family by leaps and bounds right now.

Jordan is always up for an adventure.
Beautiful night for a campfire and some smores.
Packing out a whole row at Fiddler on the Roof.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Round Two

Surprise, it's Jordan! I know, you were expecting Brack. Me too. It feels like his blog now  So many people have commented that he is such a great writer, and I agree. Good job, babe! Don't worry; he'll be back. Anyway, I wanted to update everyone on our doctor's visit yesterday and keep you posted about where we are now.

Yesterday at OHSU, we didn't really get good news. After one round of radiation and chemo the tumor did not shrink. But we didn't really get bad news either. From what they can tell, what looks like tumor growth is actually just inflammation from the radiation.

For round two, I will take chemo pills five days of each month and go in once a month for IV drugs to help alleviate symptoms. I will also have an MRI every two months from here on out to check progress.

Meanwhile, we've had awesome visits from family who have taken great care of me and spoiled our kids. My mother-in-law was here for the second time, my mom came again and now my dad is here. Thanks, family!

Happy hour with co-workers at Solera (and live music!)
My sweet mom
MIL, Cindi, and the crew
My penguins try their hands at show business
The best dad