Saturday, September 26, 2015

Just When You Think....

Lately it has been a whirlwind of life. Darlene is doing well but in three weeks she has her last surgery, final implants in the reconstruction. Not to be out done I needed a little sympathy, you know us men everything is a competition, I had knee surgery last week and we got to switch roles, Darlene became the caregiver.

Work has been crazy and we are trying to fit in as much time as possible at the lake before cold settles in over the midwest. Of course, trying to see those grandkids takes priority over all, even the surgeries and work. With all of this going on time is a premium.

Last post I wondered, "Where To From Here?" It doesn't take long to get answers to those questions we ask out loud.

Since that time I have been scheduled to speak at two Kansas City area high schools. Anyone that wants to hear my school talks, your are free to join me. Send me an e-mail and I will get you added as my guest. Of course, I always encourage the schools to invite parents to hear my talks to their students.

In addition, I have been ask to speak at the "Johnson County Resort", the same place Alex spent so much time incarcerated while he was actively dancing with the monster. I have been ask to convey a message of hope and that success does and can happen. Another positive is I am being allowed to recruit candidates within the residential program for employment at my work. In my view a solid job with a good steady salary is a must for any recovery program. I am able to offer that component. If we employers, succumb to the stigma of addiction we risk throwing away an entire generation of workers. Generalizations hurt us all.

It was hard, I went to the Johnson County Resort for the first time since we would visit or pick up Alex. Went for a meeting and I had to go to four different doors to get inside. The only door I knew to go to was inmate release door. Who knew, that's not how you get to the administrative offices, LOL. Guess maybe it was PTSD or something. It was hard at times speaking with the administrative staff. More than a couple times my voice cracked and I choked while I talked to the seven administrators.

It's been over five years since the monster actively stalked my family. I hate it that the monster is still destroying families all around me. I have come to realize that I am, and I want to continue to be a warrior in this battle.

Everyone, tell the monster I am not giving up the fight. I am the forever warrior. I will continue the fight any time I am called. This is a battle I must fight, this is a war WE will win.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Where To From Here?

I still look and read the blogs of my friends that continue to write. The stories continue, some with good news others not so good.

I haven't purposely ignored my blog but there isn't enough to write about that I feel is important enough for you to take your time to read. This blog was the most important piece in my recovery as the parent of an addict. I owe more than I can ever repay to all of you that read and commented.

Today Alex continues to be a good father and son.

Darlene has clear margins and is scheduled for her implant surgery in mid-October.

Darlene's health realigned my mindset. Always before my favorite word was "someday". "Someday we will........" Today my mindset is more like the way of "do the possible today, someday is not guaranteed." It was a very fast turnaround in my mind. I am a planner and goal setter. Three weeks after Darlene's mastectomy we went to the lake to look for a lake house. A lake house was always a "someday" thing. We went to look and that very weekend we bought a house at Lake of the Ozarks. Forty feet from the waters edge, two steps down and you're on the dock. Peace is only 2.5 hours away, door to door.

Water brings me peace. I guess it is in my genes. I have never done the genealogy thing but I do have a copy of a family tree that was passed down generation to generation. It's on very old onion skin type paper. The first entry on the tree is a Grover in 1804. He was from Maine and was a Captain of a ship, lost at sea. I've always said water in in my genes. I am the Captain of a 1993 Mastercraft Prostar 205, that's as far as I get. Sometimes I wonder about the stories behind those names on that tree. Maine to Ohio to Kansas is documented, soldiers in the Civil War are all on this piece of paper. However, this is not a piece of paper it is lives. These lives are me.

Back to my subject, "Where to from here?" I don't know what will become of my blog. I surely do not write as often and the subject matter is certainly not focused on drugs and addiction as it was.

I am not ready to give up this old friend. My essay's may be fewer but I am not abandoning anyone that reads. Feel free to continue to write and comment. I care for you all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dumb Kids Not Knowing How Dumb

Tomorrow, July 23 Darlene and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. Darlene would not want me to mention her age so I won't but I was only 21 and she only two years younger when we got married in 1976. We were just dumb kids back then but we got lucky.

39 years is a long time. The have been joyous times and rough times when each of us have doubted if our life together would survive. I am sure that is the same with every marriage.

However no matter the circumstances there is no other person on Earth that I would rather have by my side. She is strong when I am weak. I can count on her through thick and thin. She does whatever has to be done no matter the circumstances.

A lesson learned by me through these years is that a partner is one of the most valuable things in life. I am the richest man in the world because I have the most valuable thing in life.

Happy Anniversary, Darlene.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reality Show, Looking for Addicts in Recovery

I am posting below simply as a FYI.

I now nothing more about this than what you see. I am neither endorsing it nor sponsoring it. If there are those interested than feel free to do what you wish with the information.

Good afternoon, 
My name is Katie Aamoth, I am a Casting Producer working on a new addiction TV Show for a major network.  I am looking to get in contact with recovering addicts who could share their outlandish rockbottom stories that led them to seek recovery.  I am open to hearing from people who will anonymously tell their stories ultimately helping others who are currently battling addiction of their own.  I will be recording their audio only, and the show will anonymously recreate the stories.    

I am emailing you because I am seeking your help getting this information in the correct hands.  I have included a brief write up for our search below and would love to find a way for this word to get out to people who would want to tell their story and help those who need to seek recovery.   

Please let me know if any questions pop up.    

Katie Aamoth  
Casting Producer






Please email a brief audio recording covering the questions below. (Most smart phones have an option to record your voice.)  


* Must be over 18  
* Please try and keep to around ten minutes
* We are open to people recovering from all types of addictions 
* You will be required to fill out a release with your legal name and contact info, giving us permission to use your voice.  This paperwork is intended for internal use only. We will not broadcast your identity.   

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Back To Work We Go

On Thursday Darlene went back to work. Still sore, but the trouper she is, up at 5am because getting out of bed is much slower and getting dresser is much more of a chore.

She said she was greeted warmly with welcomes and hugs. Right now a big hug is not her favorite thing. At lunch I text her to see how she was doing and her comment was, "I miss my ice packs."

This next work week will only be four days and then a holiday.

Medically she is doing great. A week ago she went in for her first "fill". That is when they use a big needle and syringe to inject saline solution into her expander's. I didn't go with her, she had her sister for comfort. From what I hear it was not a pleasant experience. In fact I seem to recall her words were, "It hurt like hell."

Ever the efficiency expert with a wealth of ingenious ideas I wondered why they didn't just put a valve stem in them and I could use my air compressor to blow them up to whatever size I need.  LOL

There will be appointments each month until probably October for fills. Then she will have surgery were the expander's are removed and the implants are put in place.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

On this Father's Day there are a lot of us that have lost our fathers, some long ago and some not so long ago. While we remember and miss our dad's let us not forget there are others with a hole in their heart.

There are many Father's that have lost their child.

As we remember and miss our fathers on this special day let us not forget the pain of those fathers that miss a child.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Life Goes On

Hello everyone, Darlene is doing wonderfully. It's just a matter of time and doctors now.

Alex is still plugging along and all the kids are moving forward.

For me it's not so good right now. Can't exactly talk about what's going on, family is great but every day I feel like a piece of my soul is taken from me. I will share when I can much later.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Doctors Thumb Through Papers

Is there anything more frightening than watching a doctor thumb through papers in your file?

Darlene went to the doctor yesterday. This time the OB/GYN surgeon. The doctor looks at her handiwork and then picks up her file.

Page and study, page and study, page and study and a longer pause.........

Darlene, the pathology report is all here and the reports are negative and you have clear margins in all remaining tissue. All we need to do is wait for your surgery to heal and begin reconstruction.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bandages and Scars

Went to the doctor yesterday for the first time since surgery. Everything is progressing just as it should.

What's it like to peel away the bandages? It's a beautiful thing.

Not for the squeamish. This is what it is like for a husband that has been playing nurse and caretaker for a week.

An elastic bandage wraps twice around Darlene's chest. It holds a four layer gauze bandage against her skin. The elastic bandage has two pieces of Velcro on it to hold it to itself. As the elastic bandage is loosened it loses the support for the gauze bandage and it slips, but does not fall because it sticks to the scars. Unthreading the bandage through the drain tubes being careful pull or catch the tubing that enters her skin.

Tossing the elastic bandage aside I slowly lift away the gauze bandage. Little threads stick to the scar and stitches holding in the drain tubes. Carefully I pull them away trying to be gentle.

Exposed is two big thick scars across her chest. The scars are red, swollen and wrinkled. Darlene will not look in the mirror. From her side are tubes coming out of her body. Draining liquid from inside her into bulbs dangling from her side. We clip these to her necklace so that they do not drop and hurt her.

The breasts that provided life to our three children as babies are gone. Nothing left to resemble what once was.

What is there now is the most beautiful part of Darlene. What is left is pure. It is beautiful. Those scars touch her heart. They are physical evidence of the love she has for her family.

We are all the sum of our parts but we must never forget that if something goes away it is not a subtraction from the whole unless we allow it to be.

The sum is the whole. Everyday we get a chance build on the whole because the most important part of the whole is not the physical.

(I'd post a picture but Darlene does not want to go that far.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On The Mend

I don't know the psychological effect a surgery like this has on a woman but it is clear for me to see the physical effects.

This is a painful surgery. Darlene takes her pain pills but also uses ice packs when it is bad. The day she came home from the hospital the pain was pretty bad.

The doctor said during discharge, "Don't go home and sit down in a chair or recliner, it is not good and you will be sorry. Go straight to bed and use pillows to prop yourself up to be comfortable." Just like my little rebellious and non-compliant wife, she came in and sat down in a chair. Getting up out of a soft leather chair after surgery is not as simple as it is when you still have a full uncut chest.

After about 40 minutes we got up. Now it is time to tackle 13 stairs up to the bedroom. "He didn't know I had stairs, he didn't know I had 13 stairs", was the refrain being uttered through the tears.

Stair one elicited a moan, stair two brought forth verbalization's of the pain, three saw tears on her cheeks, at six, "I can't do this, I can't", through the tears falling on her arms holding her chest.

Now this is not a good place to be, six back to the bottom or seven to the top.

That brave and strong girl grimaced and cried through the pain. To the top of the mountain she climbed. It might as well been Mount Everest, the summit was achieved.

That girl deserves a better nurse but she got what she got in me.

Our daughters have been coming over regularly and have been godsend for us both. It helps that Erica is a registered nurse.

Three days in bed only getting up to pee and shower. It's hard on me trying to help without hurting. Taking off bandages to shower and putting new bandages on without hurting her is hard. Every stuck thread of gauze on her wound hurts me.

Today has been a day that sitting in a chair beside the bed has been possible. Tomorrow she wants to try the stairs. Hopefully, thirteen down on day five will be easier than thirteen up on day one.

Otherwise I think things are going as well as can be expected. back to the doctor on Friday.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Big Day

Yesterday was the big day. Today we are home.

Everything went well. The pathologist still have to do their analysis but during surgery they said the lymph nodes looked good.

Once again we have opiates in our home but they are legal this time.  LOL

Last night Darlene was in a lot of pain and had nausea. It was a rough night but she is better this morning. Truthfully I couldn't believe they say that a bi-lateral mastectomy is considered day surgery so she had to be out of the surgical center within 23 hours. I think the professionals, doctors and nurses, really don't run our health care system it is all bureaucrats at insurance companies.

Darlene is in good spirits, I'm trying to the best I can at being a good nurse but it is a struggle for BOTH of us.

10 minutes before they took Darlene in for surgery I snapped a picture.

Barbara and Annette thought that Darlene looked strong and courageous. They thought I looked scared to death. I didn't know it was so apparent.

I never forget, that she can always do better, I cannot.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nurse Ron

Guess it's getting real. I got a lesson today from the nurse how to take care of the drains Darlene will have after the surgery. It won't be long now.

It's all so casual for those in the medical field. But it is all so personal for us in the family. The nurse was very caring and took all the time we needed and answered all the questions but she does it every day and this doesn't happen to us every day.

There is a sense of humor that you must have during this process. The last visit they showed us the different implants. It was explained about the difference between the expander and saline, silicone and "gummy bear" implants. It was strongly recommended and Darlene decided to use the gummy bears. So while the doctor is examining and talking to Darlene the nurse laughs and tosses me the implant samples, "Here's something for you to play with." The doc laughs, the nurse laughs, Darlene smiles, me I just started feeling up the implants. Like I said, laughing is better than crying.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

On Your Mind

I don't know exactly what Darlene is thinking, she is a normally quiet person. It's been a few weeks since we have learned what she must go through. Me, I'm more of a straight forward person.

Despite the prognosis, when a person you have been with for over 40 years is associated with the "C" word it weighs heavily on you. I have a confident belief in the doctors opinions. Even the oncologist says that it was caught very early, the surgery should take care of everything and with what is going to happen there may not even be a need for chemo or radiation. Darlene has been on Tomoxifen for over a year as a preventive measure for breast cancer due to her family history. The doctor says there may be a drug treatment afterwards but we have to wait on the pathology results.

However, there is still that fear in the back of your mind. I have seen what cancer can do just as probably most of us have felt its effects on a loved one.

I must learn to keep everything in perspective and trust my instincts.

I love that gal.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rita Wilson and Darlene Grover

Darlene has had her iPad smoking. For a couple of weeks she has been researching everything she can on breast cancer and her upcoming surgery.

Tonight she is watching videos of Rita Wilson and reading about her surgery. She just learned that Rita Wilson just had the same surgery as she is to have next month. Cancer does not discriminate. No matter if you are a famous actress or a software quality analyst we can all suffer from the same diseases and anxieties about what the word cancer means to a person and I assume the same drama of  a life altering or should I say a life saving surgery.

Never thought I'd hear Ron Grover and Tom Hanks used in the same sentence. She was comparing Tom Hanks and I. She said, "Tom Hanks and you have something in common. I like you both."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Boobs and Breast Cancer

Since January 2009 this blog has been focused on parenting an addict. Everything was written from our personal experience. Over this time we learned many lessons, some of them valuable and some very painful. Through it all we always tried to remain focused on a simple question, "What have I learned?" That simple mission is much harder than it seems.

Many of you faithful readers have seen I write less and less. There isn't the drama in our life from drugs and addiction as it was once. We stay involved in the community and I still answer emails and calls. My mission to help others remains strong but for the time being, I don't know for how long, the subject of my blog will change.

The title will remain the same however I will work to find ways to match search links to another subject in addition to drugs, parenting and addict and addiction.

The posts on our blog will now be focused on another member of our family.

"Mom" aka Darlene has been diagnosed with a large tumor and five small tumors in her breast.

One tumor about the size of a thumbnail and there are 5 other very suspicious looking small tumors. In the opinion of two doctors, "Of course, without a biopsy we cannot be sure the large tumor is malignant but all indications from the MRI leads to that conclusion by both of us. The 5 smaller spots are very suspicious and I am very wary of those spots. With your family history, we should look at a complete mastectomy as soon as possible."

The beast of cancer is a family nemesis. The women in mom's family have all fought this battle, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Most have lost their fight. Mother's, Aunts, cousins; they fought and lost, all gone way too early in life, gone carrying a heart full of love.

Due to a very troubled family history Darlene had a genetic test done and she came back negative for the BRKA gene but positive for the CHEK2 gene. Genetically, this is not good. In fact the results came back as a 26-48% chance of breast or colon cancer after the age of 60 and with each successive 5 years of life the percentage rising. Darlene is 57 now.

Today mom's sister is fighting her own battle. She was a 9 year breast cancer survivor but the beast attacked again. On March 25 we celebrated with an "End of Chemo" party for her sister. The chemo is done, now the wait.

On Tuesday, March 24 Darlene went in for an MRI. With her family history mammograms are regular every 6 months but the doctors say they are not enough, MRI's and Ultrasounds are also a part of the diagnostic toolbox. On Thursday, March 26 the day after her sisters celebration the cancer doctor called with an urgency in his voice. The MRI did not show a clear and clean picture. A "mass" was discovered that wasn't there last October during her last mammogram. Darlene's instructions were to call her OB/GYN surgeon immediately. On the following Monday she went to see the OB/GYN doctor. The news was not good.

Today mom had a doctor appointment today with a plastic surgeon. The OB/GYN surgeon and the plastic surgeon must coordinate their schedules for Darlene. 

Soon, in the middle of May, Darlene will be suffering the physical and emotional pain of a complete mastectomy of both breasts. At that time we will know if the tumors are cancerous. 

If the tumors are malignant then other appropriate treatments with be employed, chemo, radiation of whatever the doctors recommend. If they are benign then we can rest assured that the beast of breast cancer will not be a threat the rest of her life.

Darlene will have all the love of a family around her that she can stand but once again we are in a place of very little knowledge and no experience.

The lessons of parenting an addict will serve us well. We learned to appreciate each day what we have instead of living a life bemoaning about what we don't. 

You all know Dad, aka Ron, a recovering control freak. I may be tested but I will not break. Hopefully all of you that supported us in the past can find it in yourself to once again support us on another unknown journey.

Darlene and I have decided to be completely open about this journey just as we learned to be about our last journey. We will continue to chronicle our journey on this blog with hopes that every woman reading this will always perform their self checks and get regular mammograms. For every man reading this we hope you will remind those women in your life that you love them and to make sure they are checked often and regularly. 

If you are reading and searching for support about parenting and addict, you are not alone, we are still here for you. If you are searching for support about breast cancer and how this family is coping, we are not alone either.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The War on Drug ADDICTS

Just a short update on the family. Everything is going well. Each of us sleep soundly at night. I am at a new job, Darlene is happy at her job. Alex is doing well, going to school, and training on his job as an industrial technician, with PLC programing and robotics. All of this has given me time to think.

My deliberations may be construed as political but I'd love to have someone explain to me how what we are doing is working.

The War on Drugs was formalized by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Since that time our nation has been hell bent on eradicating drugs. What we have been doing has NOT worked. I have come to realize our War on Drugs has been in reality a War on Drug Addicts.

If we truly were fighting a war on drugs we wouldn't be pouring over 80% of our resources into law enforcement. A real war on drugs would see 80% of our resources put into eduction, rehabilitation and treatment. A War on Drugs would include research and mechanisms to ensure approved drugs cannot be used illegally and could not enter the market until that was ensured. That would be a war on drugs. Reduce or eliminate the need and desire, in turn that reduces drug usage.

The way we have been fighting our War on Drugs since the 1970's and before has been a miserable failure.

The same applies to our War on Poverty. President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964. Since that time we haven't fought a War on Poverty. We have been fighting a War on Poor People. It's well known what it takes for people to escape poverty. Good educational programs and schools, opportunity and livable wage jobs. A effective War on Poverty would include a minimum wage that lifts people to a livable wage. A War on Poverty would involve improving our educational systems and making college affordable for the poorest or make it free. A War on Poverty would include a health care system that treats all people equally regardless of their financial ability to pay.

The way we have been fighting our War on Poverty since the 1960's and before has been a miserable failure.

How about our War on Terror? President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror in 2001. How effective have we been at that war. We are at war with people not like us. What are we doing to stop people not like us from using terrorism against us? We now have an entire terrorist state called ISIS. We are killing them and we are killing their families, relatives and friends. How does that encourage them to live in peace when we continue to kill their families and friends? Fighting a war on terror involves more than dropping bombs from drones. Fighting a war on terror involves finding out WHY people want to kill us and dealing with the root cause rather than focusing on killing every terrorist in the world and HOPING none of them breed our recruit others to carry on their mission.

Maybe it is time as a nation to begin fighting our wars differently.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Live Long and Prosper

Goodbye, Mr. Spock.

As our childhood hero's age and pass it forces me to realize that none of us are forever.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

School Talks

Another two days of school talks wrapped up. It is refreshing for me to do these even if it is only make believe that I am helping. But in critical reflection I believe it is making a difference.

  • Students that have heard me talk in previous years come back to listen again, to be refreshed I was told by a student.
  • Students stand up to the stigma and share what it is like for them and their families.
  • Non-student guests come in to listen and then suddenly share their story and pain opening up with strangers.

I cannot measure or gauge the impact six years of speaking to students has had on our schools, community and students. I don't know if there empirical data points I can plot. However, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming, I have made an impact on individuals and that is the most important constituency I can touch.

You Are Not Alone, are sometimes the most important words you can say.


Friday, February 20, 2015

What Will YOU Do If It Never Gets Better?

This is another re-post of an essay that asks a questions we all must ask our self. "What if it never gets better?"

Who has the nerve to not only ask the question but who has an answer. This is what a parent of an addict never wants to face. When we face this question we face our self. It is hard , it is scary, it is real.

Another great part of this post is all of the reader comments. My advice, link to the actual post and also read the comments.

What If It Never Gets Better?

What if it never gets better? I bet that is a question every parent of an addict has ask themselves, probably more than once.

I admit I no longer struggle day to day. Most of my time in dealing with addiction issues involves reflection. Playing Monday morning quarterback is my best position in sports so I have adapted it to life.

What if it never gets any better is that question of frustration. It's usually followed by a statement like, "I've done everything I know to do."

Lately I have been thinking about this question and it is still troubling. For a fixer like me what does that really mean, I failed? I'm not one to accept defeat. There is a fix, I just haven't gotten the right formula. That was always my answer. I always seemed to disregard the real answer because I never really accepted the premise of the question. My failure to accept reality that some never do get better caused me much heartache and much grief for my son.

The last few parents I have spoke with I have ask this difficult question. It's a hard question for me to ask because I know by the time someone would write me, a stranger, an e-mail based solely on this blog there is a desperation and hopelessness that I do personally understand very well. They aren't writing or calling to find someone to tell them give up, they are looking for an answer and sometimes just someone to talk too.

Not until the last six months of Alex's active using did I learn what I needed to know and understand the first six weeks. Understanding and dealing with addiction isn't about the addict.

Understanding and dealing with addiction is about dealing with a disease and yourself.

Granted I can't ask this question to someone that has been dealing with this six weeks but it is something we all need to answer. Put aside the anger, the fixer, the disappointment, the guilt, put aside the past. Don't try to analyze and understand ideas like powerless and acceptance. Make it simple, go off by yourself or with a close loved one.

What if it never gets better? 

What type of relationship do I want to have with my son/daughter/brother/sister/mother/ father/friend or whoever your addicted loved one happens to be? 

When you get to that answer it is easier to begin working on making your own life better despite the heartache you feel for your loved one.

Sometimes it is OK to have a one sided relationship. Life is give and take. Sometimes the scales do not balance no matter how hard you try. (thanks dad, you still speak to me even after 32 years gone.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Practicing Self Care

Just a short break from re-posting past essays.

Last year was a very stressful year in my life. Family issues, health issues, personal issues and work issues and even an accident that was very traumatic for me. All in all I am glad to see 2014 in my rear view mirror.

One of the changes I made in which I had control was my job. I left a job in January in which I had worked with the same people for 16 years. A new job was one step in which I did have control of in my life. For me that's a big step for someone 59 years old and looking forward to retirement. I did not retire I got a new job that I am excited about and making worthwhile changes.

So much of our lives we believe we can control. Especially for us control freaks we think we can not only handle anything we can control anything. This is a major personality issue for me. It is struggle for me to let go, always has been.

Slowly I have been learning the limits to my control. However, one of the things I thought I couldn't control is the very thing in which I had the most control. We all become secure in our lives and that includes our jobs and careers. Going to work and getting a paycheck each day is out of our control. YEA RIGHT!

Work is important to a person's psychological well being. It should not be the thing that is hurting your psychological well being.

I have a learned lesson late in life. That seems to be the time I have learned all my important lessons.

Lesson learned: Money is the easiest problem we have to solve. Each day we wake up and have a chance to make more of it. Every single day we get to make more of what we let cause our greatest stresses. Think of all the things that each day we wake up and whatever we missed we can never get back, like time and broken relationships.

Ron practicing a little self care.