I come from your average blue collar, working class family from the South Suburbs of Chicago. Once living so close to the city that I could take a 5-minute bike ride in, to now building a family and home in the far reaches of the burbs. I have worn a few hats in my day: retail, health and fitness, salon and spa, investments, and my most important career as stay-at-home mom. I have most recently become an independent Maskara Beauty artist. Feel free to browse my website and contact me with any questions. Thanks for stopping in!
With so much sadness going on in the world today, I’ve found myself not knowing what to do, how to help, or what to even think. There are so many rumors and speculation out there. So as of right now, I’m moving my focus off of the news, and onto writing and my family. Specifically keeping my kids and family safe. When I heard that schools might close due to COVID-19, I was relieved. I had been an anxiety ridden mess the past few weeks knowing what kind of virus is going around. Especially after learning everything there is to know about it. How it spreads. How deadly it can be. And most specifically, that it is not prejudice. It can affect each and every one of us. No matter what age, color, or gender we are. No one is immune to it.
Without knowing exactly what the kids were working on in class, I’ve been focusing our curriculum on Reading Comprehension and Math. But threw in some science and social studies crosswords, word searches, and fun coloring sheets. Even though we own all of the workbooks listed below, I left all pages intact by making copies of the pages I wanted to use. This way the workbooks can be passed down from amigo to amigo. They also Journal and do a book report every day. The Journal can be a writing passage about anything on their mind that day. And the book report is on whatever book they read during their 1hr of quiet reading time they did earlier in the day.
I don’t know about yours, but my kids rely on a schedule and structure. Especially my little numero dos. Oh man. She is a stickler for a schedule. It throws her day all out of whack if she doesn’t have that structure to fall back on. This is a schedule I found online via social media sharing. I tweaked it to fit our family, and our needs/wants. We’ve been using this as a guideline. Feel free to use it and tweak it in any way you’d like.
Your entire home is disinfected, you cough into your elbow and sneeze into a tissue. Aside from locking your doors and living inside, you’re good, right?
What about your makeup? Egads!
Not to worry, here are tips to keep your makeup sanitary during flu season and beyond!
Hands – Even though you’ve washed multiple times throughout the day, wash your hands immediately before using your makeup. There is a meme making the rounds that reads: “wash your hands like you’re about to put your contacts in and you just had crab legs for dinner.” Ha! As appealing as “antibacterial” soaps sound during flu season, be sure to use hand soaps that do not contain Triclosan. Not only is it harsh and drying and harmful to our environment (polluting waterways), it is also connected to multiple health factors including hormone regulation and has been known to disrupt our endocrine system. According to the American Medical Association, there is no evidence to support the theory of antibacterial soap being more effective than good old soap and water.
Sharing – When it comes to makeup, forget what you learned in kindergarten and do. not. share. It doesn’t matter if your BFF is the picture of health. During the incubation period before symptoms develop, people are sneekily contagious. Plus, it’s just yucky.
Brushes – Keep your brushes and sponges clean. Clean them every 1 to 2 weeks (depending on how often you wear makeup), and you certainly may wash them more often during flu season. And while we’re on the subject of brushes, never blow on a brush or on your makeup for that matter. If you have excess powder that needs to skedaddle, tap your brush or compact over the sink.
Surfaces – As easy as Maskcara Beauty products are to use while traveling, remember to avoid placing your brushes in trays or cup holders or on public tables/counters. These places are a breeding ground for bacteria just waiting for something to cling to.
Tiny Hands – Do you have little fingers in your home? I do, and I make sure to keep said little fingers out of my compact! Their fingers are like petri dishes. In my own home, I keep my compacts in a bathroom cabinet up nice and high, away from any potential petri dish fingers.
Sanitize – Isopropyl 70% Alcohol is your friend. Use it to spray your powders (eyeshadows, pressed and loose powders) and spray or wipe lipsticks and other cream makeup. The 70% is key. Don’t be tempted by the 99% alcohol thinking it will be more effective—it’s actually the opposite. There isn’t enough water in the formula to kill bacteria like the 70% can.
For the Makeup Artists
If you’re a makeup artist, sanitizing and hygiene goes to another level. If you are applying makeup to anyone other than yourself, all of the above applies, plus a few extras.
Brushes & Sponges – Never reuse or share a sponge or beauty blender from one client to the next. Under no circumstances. Period. Always clean brushes between each client.
No Dipping – Use a metal palette and spatula to avoid dipping directly into makeup. You should also use the spatula to “hand” lip color to your client for her to apply. Sanitize the spatula with 70% alcohol between each color and/or transfer, and wipe the entire palette and spatula between clients.
Lashes & Mascara – Be sure to use disposable mascara spoolies when applying any brand of mascara on your clients. You would be surprised how much bacteria we hold in our lashes. And always use a new spoolie with each dip to prevent any type of contamination to your mascara tube.
Follow these tips to keep your makeup sanitary during flu season and your chance of spreading or contracting a nasty bug-by-lippie is greatly reduced!
Have you ever had a spiritual reading? I’m still learning about it, and the whole idea is hard to wrap my head around, but I am a full-fledged believer after having it done. Nearly two years ago, my closest childhood friend, Laura, told me she was a medium. You can imagine that I was surprised to say the least. I will admit, I was a skeptic. Not necessarily skeptical of the whole idea of mediums but of her being a spiritual medium. Once I started to really think about it, the more I began to believe in it, andin her. Our childhood together gave a few clues/hints that she had some “colorful” background. The stories she could come up with were hilarious. I won’t get into them but they were good! I vaguely remember an imaginary friend too. I never had one as a kid so I just assumed she had been lying all those years. Telling fibs. But now that I know what she is doing, and that she has brought so much closure and/or strength to total strangers, it all came together. I believed she had it. Whether I did believe she had it or not, I was still going to support her in this journey of hers not only because she has been in my life since 3rd grade, but because I know her, I have known her for 20+ years and it all came into perspective.
There have been times in our lives that we didn’t talk for years, and no matter how long it was that we were apart, we always picked up where we left off. We have this understanding, we know that our friendship is strong enough to withstand distance between us and understand that we may not always be the closest due to being in different points of our lives, but if we ever needed a friend, a sister, a mom, we would be there for one another. I’m the person she calls when she needs the full out truth, even if it isn’t the truth she wants to hear. And same goes for me, she’ll let me have it whether I want it or not. We put each other in our place without being snarky or rude.
I am her safe space, and she is mine. Which brings me to the days before dad’s burial services. She hasn’t given me a spiritual reading because of our past. She knows everything about me already, so what could she possibly tell me that she didn’t already know from our past? But that day was different. I picked up her call, and she asked me point blank, “Do you want me to tell you when dad comes through to me, or would you rather I not say anything?”. I immediately said, “TELL ME!”.
Laura went on to tell me everything dad had “told” her. I quote that because I don’t know the specific terms when a spirit comes through to a medium and how they get their point across to the medium. She told me things that I didn’t even know. I called my brother Chad right away to see if he could correlate the info. That he did. Laura told me things that no one would have known. I’ll give you all a tiny tidbit. For dad’s services, we were riding in the funeral procession from the funeral home to the cemetery. Chad on his bike, dad’s best friend traveled from TN to ride dad’s bike with my sister on back, I got to ride on the back of my Uncle’s bike, and multiple other family members and friends rode with us. IN THE RAIN! Thanks, dad! HA!
Dad came through to Laura to be sure Chad checked the bikes. He specifically pointed out a tail light on his bike. Sure as shit. When Chad was making sure the bikes were ready to go, there was a tail light out. Again, there was no way Laura would know dad had a tail light out. I mean, unless she was super stealth and broke into dad’s garage, then started the bike without anyone hearing it, to see it was out. Clearly she didn’t do that. There were many other things that she shed light on for me that day. I’m forever grateful for not only her friendship that we’ve held onto all these years, but also for that day. Connecting me with someone I had lost.
I understand that mediums aren’t for everyone, I’m just sharing my experience with a medium, and how I became more open to the idea. I also have noticed that most of my blog posts have been centered around my dad, and his passing. Soon I’ll get back to regular scheduled programming of life in a blended family, and such. But as for now, he’s on my mind and in my heart most this past year.
Thanks for reading friends!
P.S., if you’d like Laura’s contact info, I’ll link it for you HERE.
Today’s blog post will be formatted a little different than usual. This post is all about ME! Thought it’d be nice for my readers to get to know me on a more personal level. Cassy Cancino in a nutshell!
My husband Nick is just shy of a year younger than me
Nick and I have 3 babes
Numero Dos was along for our wedding, but not as a guest in person, she was a guest in utero
I have more feelings and emotions than I let on
I struggled real hard the first 2 years as a stay at home parent.
I’ve learned a TON about myself through marriage
I was a mom at the fresh age of 21.
All 3 of my pregnancies, labor and deliveries were pretty easy and no issues.
I was a single mom from the get go with Numero Uno
I watch IG stories more than I watch TV
Our babes turn into gremlins when they have too much sugar
I could do without music
My favorite color is orange
August 2019 was the first time I’ve ever been out of the country
I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to religion
I’m a minimalist
I found out that a family member from more than a century ago was a part of the slave trade, and escaped via the under ground railroad
Which leads me to this one, I’m Mexican, Irish, German, and African American
I will walk away from a negative conversation
Death scares me
Telling me you have a surprise for me is rude
I always try to find the good in every situation
I got my first tattoo at 14
I like my personal space
I can be invasive
I like an adventure
I’m an Aunt to 6 humans
I have a paralyzing fear of snakes
I never feel sorry for myself because we make our own destiny
Numero Uno was born with a mild hearing loss. He is now a real snarky, he knows everything, pre-pubescent 11 year old
I live by my phone calendar
My parents were separated and divorced by the time I was 12
I think I’m organized, but it’s really a joke
I understand that everyone has their own opinion of me. And I’m more than cool with that
I’m blunt, but know when not to be
I’d pick winter over summer any day
“Coordinating” makes me feel good
My dream is to own a tiny house on wheels some day
I can’t keep plants alive
Numero Tres is the sweetest of them all, but may still growl at you from time to time
If I’m crossed by someone, I will keep it in mind going forward
I firmly believe that every decision we make in life has a consequence or repercussion
I have 7 tattoos
Not really sure how I keep humans alive
Hugs are a no go for me
I don’t like sushi. Or any seafood really
I’d be cool living on an all carb diet if I had to
I’ve only had 1 cat in my lifetime, and don’t plan to have another
My marriage wasn’t always perfect. It’s taken a lot of soul searching, compromise, and understanding for us to get where we are.
I’m a dog person. Preferably big dogs
Clutter makes me cringe
Christmas is my jam
Interior decorating is fun to me
I only have a Facebook to keep my five by five Facebook page open
I’ve never had braces
I’m queen of the “smile nicely, wave, keep walking” move
I don’t measure while cooking, even with a recipe
I had my lip pierced for a while
I gained FIFTY lbs with Numero Uno. Yea. Not my proudest moment.
I hate cooking, but love food
I’m the baby of 4 siblings
I have a legit To-Do list for every day of my life
I can be ferocious
My hair has been red, pink, purple, blonde, and brown
I was the teacher’s pet in Elementary school
I attended High-school to socialize
Having dirty laundry gives me anxiety
I like to have every article of clothing I own to be clean and ready to go
Even though I have a lot of “things”, I much rather prefer “experiences” over “things”
I graduated High-school a summer late
I went to a community college for 1 semester before calling it quits
I’m an Esthetician
I’ve worked in retail, a tanning salon, a corporate office, a gym, and a spa
Open mouth chewing makes me want to flip a table
I prefer savory over sweet
I played basketball in Junior High
I baked a lot as a kid, but rarely ever ate what I made
I knew at a young age that I’d be a mother one day
I cuss a lot when I’m angry
I cry when I’m frustrated. Especially when I’m frustrated with myself
I have severe RBF
My scream is known as “the siren”
I’m terrified of ghosts
I played the clarinet for a year in Elementary school
I believe in spiritual mediums
I have both Republican and Democratic views
I need that cool-down period in an argument
A firm believer in “life is what you make of it”
That’s all folks! Hope you all learned something new about me today.
Now that I’ve been able to give you all the details regarding Dad’s cancer diagnosis, I can give you some insight to my own personal feelings and emotions during this time. I say “some” because I’m not sure if I even know or understand the emotions I’ve been going through. I’m obviously still grieving. I still miss him. And I still think of him multiple times a day. The Numeros talk about Grandpa all the time. It makes me smile that he made an impact on their life in the short time that they got to know him. But it also makes me break down crying most times. Knowing that they’re hurting too. SO MANY emotions I tell ya!
First things first. I have an introduction for you all…..Chad! Chad is the Pope, the Prodigal Son, the sun rises and sets with Chad. [insert eye-roll] HA! Chad is also my brother. I don’t blame anyone for thinking so highly of him. He is a good man. A good son, husband, father, brother, friend, nephew, uncle. Just an all around good person. He truly is someone to look up to. That being said, he being Dad’s POA (Power of Attorney) was a given. We really didn’t even have a discussion about it. It was more of a 2 second statement saying, “Chad should be POA”. We all just knew he was meant to do it. I trusted, and still trust that he would do right by Dad and knew what Dad would want. Going through what we have been through the past few months, I can honestly say that being someone’s POA has to be one of the most difficult tasks anyone could take on. Not only did Chad have to deal with his own emotions and grieve, but he also had to be in the right state of mind to make life altering decisions for Dad. He has taken it all with stride and makes it look easy. When you lose someone like a parent, sibling, or spouse, you don’t think about all the legalities that go along with death. You’ve just lost a significant loved one in your life. Legal jargon is the last thing you want to deal with, but let me tell you. The law could give two cahoots about your grief. I’ll spare you the details on all that, but since I have a background in finance, HR, and management, I took the role of “Secretary”. Dad would refer to me as his “Coordinator” when I was in charge of his appointments and schedule. Being organized, things being scheduled, checking tasks off my “to-do” list is what I know. My taking on that secretarial role was what I needed. (As if I wasn’t busy enough at home? HA! It’s only taken me 5 months to get this 3 piece blog series out here. EY! Busy is an understatement.) Not only has it kept my mind busy, but it was important to me that I helped Chad. No matter how big or small the task, I needed to help.
All while keeping my own mind busy, I was worrying about my numeros and husband. Nick took Dad’s death hard. As did numero Uno and Dos. I mentioned in PART 1 of this series that Nick and Dad had a relationship when Dad and I didn’t. Nick has been getting to know Dad for the past 8 years. They built a father/son bond on their own, without me even being included. That goes to show how much they were meant to be in each other’s lives. We lost Nick’s Grandfather to Cancer in 2018 less than a year before we lost Dad. It was also a surprise to us, and happened very fast. Just like Dad. Our family of 5 got hit with very significant losses so close together. You can imagine that it hasn’t been easy on any of us. I’ve always been one to handle loss on my own. Without any help from anyone but myself. Before I started writing and this here Blog, I was a very closed off, unemotional person. Nobody knew what I was going through, what I was dealing with inside, what I was feeling, nothing. I always believed that showing emotion meant I was showing my weaknesses. That was stupid! We all have weaknesses. And I’m finally at a point in life where I’m okay exposing my weaknesses. I’m sure you’ll get to know them all after reading my blog posts! All that being said, I was being a total hypocrite when it came down to my numeros. Here I am telling them to come to me with their thoughts and feelings yet I’m over here just stone cold Steve Austin. Throughout the past year I’ve been able to open up with them more. To show them it is in fact okay to feel. I make sure to bring Grandpa and Papoo (Nick’s Grandfather) up pretty often. So they know we can talk about them and remember them together. There’s no science behind my theory, but it makes sense in my head so I’m going with it!
Dad’s first love was riding. All the Harleys of his past, and present were his main squeeze! Motorcycles were a significant part of my childhood. The sound of a bike, the look of a Harley, the feeling of being free when you’re riding. It was all something I grew up with, but it went away when Dad and I had our falling out. I still goose necked at every bike that went by, checking to see if it was Dad during those 11 years. He and Nick had bonded over bikes a few years ago. Dad even went to the DMV to grab Nick the IL Motorcyclists handbook so he could go take the driving test and get his license. Again, all whilst Dad and I were not talking. So once we reconnected, Nick getting a bike was a hot topic. Dad would tell me, “Your husband deserves a bike, Cass. Look how hard he works for you. Let the man get a bike!”. It wasn’t me not “letting” him get a bike, it honestly just wasn’t something I was ready for. Like I said, I grew up with bikes, then they were gone for 11 years. Having a bike in our garage would be an adjustment. I was afraid it’d bring up past emotions about mine and Dad’s falling out. Not to mention all the numb nuts on the road surrounding my husband. In those last few days that Dad was coherent, he was adamat on Nick riding with Chad when he was gone. A literal dying wish was that Nick got a bike and rode with his son. Two of his sons riding together is what he was worried about on his death bed. Told you, Dad’s first love was riding! I’m 100% convinced that being able to ride like Dad did, has helped Nick get through all of this. He jumps on that bike every chance he gets. And my fears of it bringing up old emotions, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was startling to walk in the garage to see a Harley parked in there, but now that I see how much it means to Nick to ride with Dad in spirit, that damn bike puts a smile on my face every time I look at it. Gilly (the said bike) has also brought Nick and Chad closer. They’ve always had an amazing relationship because they share a lot of common interests but being able to ride together has been good for both of them.
I would love to tell you all that I’m “okay”. But that would be a lie. I’m still grieving. I’m still hurting inside. I still cry a lot. My numeros are still hurting. Nick is still dealing with it in his own way. My brothers and sister are all figuring out ways to get through it all. In my eyes, loss is the most difficult thing we go through as human beings. I don’t have a strong religious background, but I do believe that someone higher up does throw things like loss at us to make us stronger. That is exactly what my family and I will continue to focus on. Healing, becoming stronger than ever as a family, and remembering those memories we had with Dad.
April 17th was Dad’s Oncologist appointment, and the day we found out his full diagnosis and prognosis. It wasn’t good. Dad sat in a wheel-chair in the corner of the Oncologist’s office with his head down, and eyes closed. When the doctor walked in to show us his scan results, Dad lifted his head just enough to see him. Still with sunglasses on. He sat with a blank stare as the doctor started to speak. The Oncologist’s words were, “Nick, your PET Scan is impressive”. It sounded like he was surprised Dad was even alive at this point. What was at one time Gastric Cancer, had turned into Stage 4 inoperable Metastatic Gastric Cancer by this appointment. Meaning the cancer started in his stomach, but over time had spread to majority of Dad’s vital organs and bones. All cancers have their own way of staging. Dad’s Stage 4 Metastatic Gastric cancer was “treatable”, but would never be “curable”. Meaning if Dad chose to start Chemotherapy, he would be on chemo and radiation for the rest of his life. Chemo would be keeping him alive. I would also like to mention that Chemotherapy isn’t bullet-proof. It would be a trial and error process in the beginning stages. If Dad chose not to go the Chemo route, we would take him home to start hospice. HOSPICE? Already? Yes. We were already at the hospice stage of this disgusting disease. Hospice is a service that comes in during the last days, or weeks of one’s life to keep the patient comfortable and pain free. We were told that if he declined Chemo, he would have, “less than months”. Unbenounced to us at this time, reality was that he actually had days to live. After discussing his options with the Oncologist, Dad was 100% dead set on starting Chemo to fight his cancer. As weak and in pain as he was, he was still ready to fight this invasion head on. But, that wasn’t the case 8 weeks prior when Dad first found out about his cancer.
His mother died of multiple cancers that she did fight with Chemo, but much like Dad’s diagnosis, hers was also not curable, only treatable. When Dad originally found out about his cancer, he immediately thought of his mom and her cancer fight. Looking back on her last years of life, he didn’t want to live like that and voiced to us that he would not do Chemo if it came down to that. Mind you, this was all very new to us. There was still no stage at this point, there really wasn’t anything to go off beside him having a bleeding cancerous mass in his stomach. I of course wanted to see him live so I would mention Chemo here and there in conversation. Explained that his mom’s cancer fight was over 25 years ago. Medicine is so much more advanced than it was in the early 90’s. I remember a random phone call we had. I told him that I will support whatever decision he made, but also explained that he still had a lot of life to live for. I said that if he had the chance to beat this cancer with Chemo, then I would love to see him try. If it is too much for him, then don’t do it. Just try it. I didn’t think much of that conversation, but Dad called me back like 10 minutes after we hung up. He said that something I said really had him thinking and he can’t stop thinking of it. I immediately was like, uh oh! What did I say? Turns out, that insignificant to me conversation, was Dad’s turning point. It was the point that he realized he did in fact have a lot to live for. His life wasn’t over yet. That day he told me he would start Chemo if it came down to it. I’ll get more into my actual thoughts and feelings during this entire time of my life in my next blog post. So hold onto all of this info I’m shoving in your head right now. I’ll come back to this.
Dad had some blood work taken in the office that day. He was pretty much giving blood like it was his day job by now. But this day, it took multiple nurses to find a good vein on him. I want to say 4 nurses tried, and only one succeeded. His body was just beat, inside and out. We left the office that day still processing, but at least knowing what we were going to be up against. The appointment was both a relief because we knew the full scope of Dad’s disease, but also one of the worst days of this journey.
We got him home, gave his dose of pain medication, and let him rest in bed. It was around 9:00pm that I felt comfortable enough to leave for home. My sister was staying the night with Dad, or else I would have likely stayed. No more than 5 minutes after I left, Dad text me to come back. I turned around and was back to the house in no time. You know how people say everything happens for a reason? That is a legit statement! I sat on the edge of Dad’s bed talking, hanging out, and laughing with him. This was the first time in weeks that he had this much energy so i was happy as a clam to be there with him even though it was late. Then my phone rang. A number that I didn’t know and this late at night. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. It was Dad’s Oncologist. He wanted me to get Dad to the ER right away because his blood-work came back and his Potassium levels were dangerously high. His heart could have stopped at any second. Dad was pissed. All he wanted was to sleep in his own bed. He was so sick of hospital beds and Emergency Room waits. But my sister and I got him loaded up and off we went to the hospital. Again, not knowing it would be our last hospital visit.
High potassium levels can be caused by many different things. In Dad’s case, his kidneys were starting to shut down. He was going into renal failure and we had no idea. All the signs and symptoms were right there in front of me. But I didn’t know what to look for since we just found out about his stage a few hours prior. Of course looking back, I saw every sign but didn’t bat an eye.
Going back to the beginning, not only did he have stomach cancer, he had a kidney stone that wouldn’t pass on it’s own because of where it was positioned. He went into septic shock the first day he was in the hospital in February. It wasn’t until after they got him stable enough to do an MRI and CT Scan that they found the cancerous mass in his stomach that was slowly bleeding. He couldn’t get the PET Scan (imaging test that allows doctors to view disease in the body) done until the kidney stone was removed safely. But we ran into soooo many more issues that needed to be addressed. He had an abnormal heart rhythm that the doctors were concerned about, and watching carefully. Once he got Cardio clearance, he finally got the kidney stone removed. That wasn’t until April 4th. Shortly following the kidney stone removal surgery, he had the PET Scan, and April 17th was the Oncology appointment. Many weeks had passed, many hurdles we had to jump, but here we were. In the hospital again, but this time Dad had a team of doctors on his case. Oncology, General, Intensivist, Urology, Cardiology, and Infectious disease. All working together to treat him. I actually felt okay about his hospital stay in the beginning. It wasn’t until I knew of his kidneys failing and listening to all the specialists talk that I knew this was going to be his last visit.
My sister point blank asked the specialists, “Is my Dad going to make it home from this visit?”. His Oncologist looked at us, knowing us well enough by now to know that we could handle the truth. I could tell by the look on his face that the next words out of his mouth were not going to be good. He shook his head while saying something along the lines of, we could lose him during this visit. I’m not quoting that because I think my brain has blocked it out. I can remember his facial expressions and body mannerisms while talking to us at that very moment, but I can’t remember what exactly he said for the life of me.
When all the specialists left the room, Dad started to cry. He knew what was coming. He knew the end was near. It all became a sick reality yet again. Myself, with my brother and sister all held him. We each held any portion of his body we could latch on to. We prayed together for the first time. Not only did we pray, Dad asked GOD for forgiveness.
After 22 hours of being in the Emergency Room, Dad finally got a room on the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) Step-Down floor. He needed to be monitored closer than what he would get on the main inpatient hospital floor, but not enough to be put on the ICU floor. Now remember, we came to the hospital on Wednesday night. Spent 22hrs in the ER. By this time, it was late Thursday night that we got settled into his new room. By Saturday, I started setting up Hospice facilities to meet with us. We were officially getting ready to lose Dad. We all went through the motions but it still felt surreal. It hadn’t sunk in until I was at the hospice facility with him. Saturday evening Dad started to get restless, and more agitated. He had started “seeing” things while in the ER Wednesday through Thursday night. Horses in the corner, rats in the hallway, people looking at him. But he wasn’t restless, and he was still eating and drinking. Not much, but was still taking in soft solids and liquid. When he started getting restless and agitated Saturday night, we made the decision to treat him with IV medication to relax him and keep him comfortable. He had been on high doses of pain medication since Wednesday so this was the first time we had to add in anything additionally. That was the last night Dad spoke to us.
Easter Sunday was spent at his bedside, meeting with hospice, and transporting to hospice. We chose a facility that I had known from my Aunt living out her last days at. He was moved via ambulance that day with my brother at his side so he wasn’t alone. He didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. Dad was at peace during the transport. Which was a relief for us. We spent a little over 24hrs at the hospice facility before he passed.
Now that I’ve given you all the details regarding Dad’s diagnosis, prognosis, and journey through his cancer. Part 3 of this series I will give you more insight into my thoughts during it all. What I was thinking, the emotions that I ran through, my personal heartache, pain, healing, grieving, my Numero’s grieving process, Nick’s pain, all of it. Even Dad’s final thoughts that he had expressed to me. His wishes. The pain he was going through not only physically but emotionally. The weight my brother has had to bear. Again, all of it. Keep your eyes peeled for PART 3.
This. This blog post right here is taking A LOT of me. The emotion, energy, and pain that it’s taking me to finally put fingers to keys is is a lot. This is me. My thoughts. My feelings. My memories. My past. My present. My future.
It has been exactly one month since my father left this earth. Something that I was not ready for, but I had to force myself to face the facts in regards to his diagnosis and prognosis. On February 8th of this year, I found out my dad was sick and in the hospital. Didn’t know any details, and was told on a whim. He and I had a falling out over 11 years ago. And I won’t even get into why because it’s honestly the dumbest reason. But I will tell you that a large part of us staying apart for so long was because we are very alike. Stubborn as an ox. Both of us. Not only that, but each of us believed that we didn’t want one another in our lives. I stayed away because I didn’t think he wanted me around, and vice versa. Eleven years! Before those 11 years, he was my best friend, and I was his brat. The baby of the family so needless to say, I got whatever I wanted, when I wanted when it came to Dad.
That evening when I was made aware of him being admitted to the hospital, Nick asked me if I was okay. I said, “well yea. Why wouldn’t I be?”. At this point we’d lived separate lives for over 11 years, I had 3 healthy babies whom he had never met, and he had his own life that he was living without me and my family. I had a lot of resentment toward him for that. Not being around while I was raising my babies. Not being a grandparent to them. No birthday phone calls. I had written him off. And for what? Because we got into an argument over the phone when I was 20 years old? Over the years I slowly let go of that resentment and he turned into a figure of my past. Someone who I loved, but also someone who I needed to “get over”. Not forget though. Because like I said, he was at one time my best friend. Numero Uno would ask who my dad was for years. I pointed him out at my brother’s wedding and at any family gathering we were both at, but there was never a formal introduction. At this point I had also pulled away from his side of my family. Not because I didn’t love these family members, but because I knew he didn’t want me around. So I thought.
That night when Nick asked me how I’m feeling. I told him that if my dad asked for me, then I would be there in a heart-beat. The very next day at almost exactly 9:00am I got a phone call from my brother. A. I knew something was up because it was a phone call. We rarely ever have phone calls, they’re usually FaceTime calls. B. That’s early in the morning. Something was up and I had a pitt in my stomach when I answered that call. Dad had been asking for me, talking about me, and wanting to see me. I immediately called my sister-in-law, let her know the situation, and off I went to drop the numeros off with her so I could go up to the hospital. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! Phew! That was an intense car ride. Those 11 years plus the 20 years of my life I had with him, all racing through my head. What was I going to say? Would I cry? What was he going to say to me? Was I gonna get in trouble as if I was a teenager again? Ha!
After lots of crying and almost 2 hours in the car, I finally parked my car, walked the huge hospital until I reached his room. My sister and one of my brothers was sitting there along his bedside. They looked, Dad looked, I probably looked as white as a ghost as I walked in. I remember hearing him say, “My Cassy!”. He was hooked up to so many machines, breathing tubes, IVs. Everything you could think of so what words he was able to get out through his crying, were very faint. But those words, “My Cassy!”, those are the words that will forever be with me. I leaned over his bed rails to hold him. Somehow I was able to keep myself composed. While I hear my brother and sister behind blubbering like fools (love you’s). Dad kept holding me, repeating those two words, “My Cassy”. All while telling me multiple times that he wants to meet his grandkids. That’s all I’ve ever wanted Dad. Is what I really wanted to say. I reassured him that we were going to get him well, break him free from that hospital so he can meet his grandkids! All the nerves, the resentment, it all disappeared. I knew I needed to be there. Not only for him, but for myself. I needed him in my life even though for all these years, I didn’t think I did.
After a good while, we were able to let each other go long enough for me to grab a chair and bring it to his bedside. I sat next to him while he just smiled at me. Staring at me. Looking at the 32 year old woman I had become since he last spoke to me 11 years ago. We immediately started talking. What I’ve been up to. What he had been up to. I told him all the goofy stuff the kids do and say. Showed him photos of them. And so on. Once Nick left work, he met me at the hospital. Mind you, Nick and Dad had been buddies during his and my separation. My brother would orchestrate events that both Nick and Dad attended so they met, became friendly with one another, and grew a bond. All while I hadn’t had contact with him in years. Yea. Weird. Right? I was fine with it and happy that Nick was able to have those moments with him even if I wasn’t able to. At least someone was. And my gosh the bond he and Nick shared was great! Side note, they’re both named Nick! Dad is Nick, I have a brother Nick, my husband is Nick, and one of the numeros shares the name. They were bound to be pals! Dad was so proud of Nick. He always told him that, and made sure I knew it too. It was Nick this, Nick that, you got yourself a good husband Cass, Nick needs a break, give that man a day off. Nick, Nick, Nick! [insert eye-roll here] From that day on, I was with Dad every second I could. He had multiple hospital stays those few months between he and I reconnecting and his passing. We had many heart to heart, deep conversations. Tons of funny talks. Jokes. My way of coping and just getting myself through difficult times is to laugh and make the people surrounding me do the same. Life is too damn short to be sad and have a frown all the time! Can I get an Amen?
I immediately took charge or caring for him as soon as we were able to take him home from the hospital. My sister lives a few hours away and my brother has his career and a family. My uncle who lived with dad had been going above and beyond for him too. And just like my brother and sister, he has his career and own life as well. I hated to put any burdens on him or anyone else. He would also never look at Dad as a burden, but I knew I needed to up my daughter game and dive in. I’m a stay at home mom juggling to keep the numeros alive, getting them to their activities, managing a household, and being a semi-decent wife. What was one more appendage, right? I will never take those few months with him for granted. I don’t care what doctor appointment we were at, which hospital we were frequenting that week, those moments are forever. Dad started calling me his coordinator. I coordinated everything that needed to be. I was a strict coordinator too! I had to be I guess considering there was so much going on. I somehow had to keep all of our ducks in a row.
In February during that 7 day hospital stay, we found out Dad had stomach cancer. Ugh. That word makes me cringe every time. We didn’t know what stage yet because he had MULTIPLE other severe health issues that needed to be addressed before we could even cross the cancer staging bridge. During this time, he met my babies! My dad met my babies! I never thought the day would come but my gosh I was so damn happy for it! I explained the situation to Numero Uno in its entirety since he was old enough to know and fully understand. Numero Dos gets it, but I think she’s still too young to process it all. And Numero Tres was just looking for another person to call his friend. He enjoyed their company SO much! I know for a fact that my numeros being around during this time was therapeutic for dad. He was a different person when my little persons were around. They kept him in good spirits. And they were good sports too! Numero Dos and Tres were at most of his doctor appointments with Dad and I. They would just hang out while we talked to doctors and ran around picking up prescriptions and medical records.
Dad with Numero Dos during one of his doctor visits
Numero Tres testing Dad’s memory skills
It wasn’t until the beginning of April when I noticed some changes with Dad. I didn’t put it all together at the time, but now looking back, he was dying. His body started the dreadful process weeks before he actually passed. He started pulling away from us. Myself, Nick and the kids. He started getting depressed. It began harder and harder to get him to eat. Not to mention the excruciating pain he was in due to the cancer pressing on majority of his organs and bones. It wasn’t until April 17th that we found out the full scope of his cancer and overall health.
By this point, he could barely walk let alone sit up from the pain. There he sat, his head hanging down chin to chest, sunglasses on, body looking so weak and frail that he could collapse at any moment. The oncologist that we had been working with walked in to give us the grave details. Dad knew what was coming, yet he accepted it.
The past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind for our family. We found out about a month ago that Nick’s Grandfather was diagnosed with multiple different cancers. They had spread throughout his body over time, and had become untreatable. He was 74 years old, with his 75th Birthday coming up later this month. He had his first open heart surgery at the young age of 34, with a few more heart surgeries to follow. He recently started feeling weak, weak enough to bring him in for a hospital visit. That was when we had all found out about the cancers that ultimately took him from this earth.
James “Jimmy” Fox had always been the most present father figure in Nick’s life. Plenty had come and gone, but his grandfather was the only one there to stay. He was the man to teach Nick, his brother, and the rest of the family everything about life. The one to show them tough love when they needed it, and the one to bail them out of whatever troubles they may have gotten themselves into. Always there when they needed him most. And that went for their entire immediate family, not just the boys. Jimmy Fox was who you called. Now you would hear about it for your lifetime because he wouldn’t let you forget about that one time he helped you out, but that’s the tough love I told you about. Always helped you out, but made sure you never forgot how you got into and out of whatever mess he guided you through. There was always a life lesson. Which I absolutely respect and agree with.
There were a lot of tears when we found out his prognosis. And even more tears when he was taken from us. Nick had never really experienced, or had to deal with loss. Especially not someone this close to him. I lost my grandmother last year. She was the last grandparent from my maternal and paternal sides that I had left. I’ve dealt with multiple losses throughout my lifetime, so I thought I would be able to handle this one just as I handled the rest. But seeing my husband hurting the way he was, it killed me. Not only my husband, but our oldest son as well. We have done our best to keep him from pain and sorrow related with death. I’ve lost family and friends, but kept Numero Uno and the other amigos away from it. Numero Dos has a minor understanding of death, but she doesn’t fully get it yet. And I’ll be sure to keep it that way for as long as I can. Numero Uno knew what was going on, and knew what was to come. We talked to him about the situation, and made sure he knew he could come to us if he ever needed a shoulder to cry on, or even just to talk. He was able to handle it pretty well until we went to see Jimmy for the last time.
When we found out that it can happen any day, we took the 3 amigos to see him. Thank God we did, because he was taken from us just a few hours after we had seen him. Numer Dos and Tres just hung out like usual, and Numero Uno payed close attention to everything. He knew what was happening without us saying a word. As soon as I noticed him starting to feel the pain and heartache that comes along with losing someone you love, we left. This was the first time I had seen him upset like that. He and Nick were both feeling the same pain, and it tore me up inside. I cried, cried, and cried some more, but for different reasons. I loved Jimmy for the person he was, and the man he molded my husband to be. Watching and feeling my husband and sons pain is what broke me. That’s what took me from being Nick’s strength to being just as weak and heart broken as he was.
We made it through the past few weeks together as an incredibly strong family. Our hearts still need time to heal, but his legacy will always be with us. He made a huge, deep footprint in the dirt, and in our hearts. One that will never wash away.
Cheers to you, Papoo! I know you have an unlimited supply of Old Style up there with you!
Today marks this blog’s 1 year anniversary! I wanted to give my readers a little insight as to why it is named, “five by five”. I’m here to explain the mystery! Ha! It’s actually very simple, so this post will be a quick one.
I never really thought about writing a blog or even having my own blog. After some hints from family and friends, I did it. So when I decided to make the leap into blogging, I wanted my page to be about life, my life specifically. Things that I love, things I hate, things that have happened to me, and so on. I think I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but my ultimate goal has always been to reach people who are going through or have gone through similar situations that I had. To give people around the world some hope and support they may not have.
One specific topic I really wanted to focus on was our blended family. Having a blended family is hard, but can be done. That being said, my blog name isn’t just named after my immediate family. It includes the other half of Numero Uno’s immediate family. With him included in the count of each side of his family, there are five members. Five on our side of his family, and five on the other side of his family. Really hope this makes sense and not just making sense in my own head. Needless to say, “five by five” made the cut! There were a few others that were tossed around but I felt it was important that the name included BOTH of his families, as one unit. Because that is what we are. One blended unit in this crazy world, just trying to make his life as “normal” (ugh, there’s that dreadful word again) as we possibly can. There ya have it, folks. The meaning behind “five by five”.
Get ready for a 4 letter word that makes every parent cringe. LICE! Yep. We had it! A week into the school year and there it was, creeping in on our house. We found out that one of the amigos had lice. I cried. A lot. I didn’t even know where to start. So naturally, I Googled. I Googled until my brain could no longer retain information on lice. I was so disgusted. But knew that having 3 kids, it was bound to happen someday. We’ve had hand foot and mouth disease twice, and strep takes us all out one by one pretty much every winter. So with our luck, it was almost a given that we were gonna get hit with it at some point.
When I say that lice is a pain in the ass, I mean that to the most extreme extent! I was doing loads of laundry for daaaaaays. All in hot water and dried at the hottest temp our dryer could crank out. On top of the laundry situation, we had to treat not just patient zero but the entire family. Even though only one of us had the little buggers, I was not about to let those things spread. Room by room things were mopped, wiped, vacuumed, sprayed, thrown away, quarantined in garbage bags, and then some. I’d be damned if these things were going to stay with us for longer than a few days. We all sat in the plastic white computer chair getting shampooed with the smelly pesticide, then combed through and through, pulling a quarter of our hair out of our heads with every swipe. Every pillow in the house was tossed, hair brushes were in the trash and haircuts were forced. I’m sure I overdid it and I didn’t care how much was going to be spent on the remediation, I was going to do EVERYTHING Google told me to.
We had a whole weekend planned with fun activities but ended up sitting our butts in the house and quarantined to our backyard. Not wanting to spread it to anyone of course. It still wasn’t over after that boring weekend. Every morning and evening for 10 days, there we were, lining up to sit in that plastic white computer chair to be checked. Making absolute sure there weren’t any remnants of the pesky brats. Then once that 10 day mark hit, we all had to be retreated. More hair being pulled out from that fine tooth comb, and another day of airing out the house of the pesticide fumes.
There are two things that I have personally experienced that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, salmonella (maybe I’ll get into this in another post) and lice. I laugh about them now but hell, I was not laughing when we were going through it. Both contagious, both made their way into the house, and both wreaked absolute havoc on us. Those 10 days, are 10 days that we will never forget!