Thursday December 18, 2014

Sleep has been elusive here at the O'Hara household this week.  No doubt tomorrow's surgery is weighing on all of our minds.

The good news is, I've been productive in those early hours of the morning.  I've got my writing job/consulting work all in order for the next 10 days.  Presents are wrapped and Christmas cards are going in the mail today.  One last trip to the store today and then everything that needed to be done is done.  And, the things I didn't get done this year, well, maybe they didn't need doing...

I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a bit nervous about tomorrow.  I've gotten more anxious as the week has gone on and I've told a few more people that I'll be out for a while - my tennis group, my volleyball team, the guys I teach with at the RAC.  By the way, it is not a real conversation starter when you tell 30-year-old men that you won't be able to teach tennis for a few weeks because you are having a hysterectomy!  Poor guys, they don't know what to say... I did my best to put them at ease...

I'm not really worried about the surgery itself, but the uncertainty is getting to me.  I'm not so good with unknowns, and I won't know what type of procedure I had until I wake up.  That will determine the amount of pain I'll feel and the recovery time that will be needed.

The thought of 6 or 8 weeks without tennis or volleyball or blast class is a huge bummer.  But in the grand scheme things, it's really just a small bump in the road.  We've traversed rockier ground than this and people go through worse things every day...

I know it's for the best.  Short term pain for long term gain.  If I was having any doubts about whether or not I needed this procedure, well, mother nature is sending me one last cruel reminder this week.  Are you kidding me??  I refuse to go to the store and buy more tampons, so I'm scrounging through every purse and bag I own... argh!@#$!

I guess you just have to laugh at the cruel irony of it.  I'm doing my best!

See you on the flip side...

Monday December 15, 2014

We had a productive weekend and things are moving smoothly toward the holidays.  There are a few presents under the tree now (phew!) and Erin and I did a little Christmas baking yesterday.  So, if I'm laid up for a while after Friday, everything will be o.k.

Our event on Saturday was a huge success.    Once again, we are humbled by the support of our town and the hockey community.  The three high school girls teams put on a great event, wearing lime green and supporting the Shannon O'Hara Foundation.  Each girls program - Mayo, Century and JM/Lourdes - made a $500 donation to the foundation.  The new Shannon gear was a huge success and, in total, $4400 was raised.  In one day.  Truly amazing.


The girls that Shannon played with are spread across this city.  That's how youth hockey works - you all play together growing up, and then, come high school, you separate and represent your school.  

As part of the presentation, a dear friend of Shannon's from each team spoke.  Paige, Maddie and Sam shared their memories of playing with Shannon and knowing Shannon as a friend.  It was powerful to see each program represented, and to hear Shannon remembered through the eyes of her peers. 


As we spoke, Dan called up all the girls who ever played with Shannon.  It was poignant for us to see how many girls were teammates of Shannon's.  They are out there, living the dream.  They all know it's what Shannon wanted.  They all remember.


I always come away from a day where people are handing us money feeling a little self conscious about it.  It is a strange thing to ask people to donate to your cause, to this thing that matters so much to you that you want others to be on board, too.

But, luckily, each time we fundraise, someone ends up thanking us.  They feel good remembering and honoring Shannon.  They appreciate the reminder to enjoy the day, to enjoy their kids, to celebrate what's right here, right now, because that's all we know for sure.

What a gift that is to us.  Shannon's wish to make a difference is coming true.

SOF Day at HS Girls Hockey Today! - 12/13/14

Just a friendly reminder that we are having our first Shannon event of the winter season today - SOF Day at HS Girls Hockey.  JM/Lourdes plays Mayo at 1pm followed by Century vs. Austin.  

Dan, Erin and I will be on hand from 1-5pm.  There will be a short presentation between games at around 2:30.  

Lots of cool new Shannon merchandise on sale, so if you are out and about, stop by and pick up a Christmas present or two... looking forward to a great day for the SOF!



Thursday December 11, 2014

I am happy to report that Christmas preparations are now under way at the O'Hara household.  The tree is up, the Christmas card is ready, and I bought baking supplies to make some cookies.  Erin and I even did a little shopping last night.

I've been forced into action over the past few days after purchasing an early Christmas present for myself... I'm getting my very own hysterectomy next Friday!  Woo hoo!  Lucky me!

The past three years have not been kind to my body.  This "disorganized ovulation" began just before we headed to Memphis with Shannon in 2011.  There was the ovary removal due to a cyst and the uterine polyp surgery.  Throw in a little ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lumpectomy and radiation  and it's fair to say my body has been through the ringer.  That doesn't even count the non-estrogen related osteomyelitis that prompted two oral surgeries, five days in the hospital, and three dental implants.  Hey, maybe I could make a "12 days of Christmas" type song...  "On the first day of Christmas, my body gave to me - twelve medical bills..."

This most recent struggle has become a quality of life issue and a treatment issue for preventing a recurrence of DCIS.  The drug I should be taking doesn't play well with my cycle.  Having the hysterectomy will give me better treatment options for preventing breast cancer.

OK, I know this is TMI for most of you... but, it's a reality for me, so I'm sharing here like I always do... sometimes being a woman just sucks.  I certainly didn't think I was having more kids or anything like that, but it's still hard to admit that I'm getting old.  I still think of myself as young-ish, but young people don't have hysterectomies, so I guess I'm not fooling anyone, anymore...

In the long term it's the right thing to do.  My body is tired and I am tired, too.  In the short term, it will be a royal pain.  If all goes smoothly, I'll spend one night in the hospital and then I'll come home to rest.  I'm hopeful I'll be feeling ok by Christmas.  Recovery time means no tennis/volleyball/personal training workouts for six weeks... could be a long January...

So, I've got 8 days to finish what needs to be done before Christmas.

I think I can, I think I can...

Sunday December 7, 2014

My coffee is tasting good this morning as I need a little wake up call after yesterday's whirlwind of activity:  A walk around the reservoir in the morning, a quick drive to South St. Paul to pick Erin up from State Debate, a visit to the inlaws, and an O'Hara family gathering that involved a drag queen...

Let's start from the beginning.  Erin finished off the debate season with the state tournament Friday and Saturday.  What a wonderful experience with a great group of kids and a wonderful advisor, Judge Kevin Lund.  Erin learned about the topics presented, and learned skills of listening, extemporaneous speaking and rebuttals.  She admitted she loves the rebuttals... I mean, what teenager doesn't love to refute the other person's points?!?!

Miss E and her partner, Anna, comported themselves well, getting out of the round robin portion of 60 teams in the Novice division and into the sweet 16 before getting knocked out.  A great experience for sure.  The dynamic duo already plans to be a team again next year.

Our next stop was a visit to Dan's parents in their apartment.  Aging parents is something that many of our peers can relate to.  I'd say Dan's parents also have comported themselves well:  when we arrived yesterday, we found Ed watching women's college basketball.  He'll tune into any game in any sport if it involves Notre Dame!  Tess was off at her friend's apartment, busy playing bridge.  We stopped in and said hello and made a plan for another visit in the near future.

While their time of living independently is coming to an end, it's been a helluva run.  91 and 88 years old.  Amazing.

The last stop of the night was an O'Hara family gathering.  Seven of the nine kids and spouses were there.  Throw Erin and her cousins in the mix, and we were in for a night full of laughter.  There has been a lot of communication between the siblings recently as plans are being made to move Ed and Tess into a senior living facility.  It's a stressful thing, even if it's the right thing.  Last night's gathering provided a chance to be together and forget those worries for a while.  People were in a festive mood and enjoying each other's company.  It's amazing how loud a room of O'Haras can be...

We ended our day with a trip to downtown Minneapolis to take in a holiday show of Miss Richfield 1981.  She is a drag queen with a stand up routine that will make you pee your pants.  Audience participation and equal opportunity offending had us all laughing.  It felt good to just be together and be entertained.  Nothing wrong with a little inappropriate fun...  

So, on we go with December.  18 days until Christmas... still no decorations for tree around here... maybe this will be my week!

Wednesday December 3, 2014

I'm not gonna lie - it's been hard coming back to the cold weather.  It's a good thing our school system here is so good or I might be tempted to up and move...

We are settling back into the home routine, though.  Dan is traveling, Erin is busy every night, and I am here to feed the cat and dog.  By the way, Sunny and Sylvie are more than co-existing these days.  I think Sunny even kind of likes the kitty.  They have developed a new chase game and also a new napping spot.  I came home yesterday to find the two of them sound asleep on our bed together.

I cannot believe it is just 22 days until Christmas.  I don't have any decorations up yet - no tree, no stockings - and I'm having trouble motivating.  Erin wants to decorate, though, so I don't think I'm getting by without it.

It will be a different kind of Christmas as Erin leaves for her 13th birthday trip on Christmas night.  Yes, the little princess is off to warmer climates again - she and Grandma and Papa Harkins are headed on a three day Disney cruise to the Bahamas.  Erin's wish for her birthday trip was to swim with the dolphins, so off to the Bahamas they go.

This will be our third Christmas without Shannon.  That's a shock to the system when I say it out loud.  But, we have lots of opportunities to honor her in the coming days and months.  Shannon events will keep us busy through the middle of February.

We just sent out our first ever fundraising campaign letter.  (If you own a business in Rochester, MN, there's a good chance you are getting one!)  It's our first attempt at a charitable giving campaign.  In a perfect world, we will raise enough money to fund our scholarships for the long term.  In a pipe dream world, we'd have lots and lots of money to donate to brain cancer research.  It's ok to dream...

We also just got in our new merchandise - hoodies, ladies zip up sweatshirts, and sweatpants for the kids.  The stuff all looks really cool.  Erin and I have been drumming up business by wearing our gear around town.  The first chance to purchase these new items will be Saturday, December 13th.  We will be at Graham Arena that day during both high school girls hockey games.  JM/L vs. Mayo at 1pm, followed by Austin vs. Century.  I'm not much of a salesman, but if you are looking for a Christmas gift or two, we've got 'em!  I'll be putting these items on the Shannon O'Hara Foundation website store soon for those of you who can't get to the arena.

So, I have no doubt that December will fly by.  It's state debate this weekend, hockey event next, and then we're just days away from the holiday.  I guess I better go dig out those decorations now before it's too late...

Sunday November 30, 2014

We are back in MN, safe and sound, and we promise not to bitch about the weather... Palm Springs was a wonderful getaway for me, Dan and Erin.  We got to be together, play golf, and enjoy a great break from the routine.

But, I am a little emotional about it all.  I can't shake this feeling that we wouldn't be living this way if Shannon were still here.  Survivor's guilt or feeling selfish or something.

I mean, intellectually, I know that I'm allowed to be happy.  Of course that's what Shannon would want.  But, emotionally it's hard to let myself feel that happiness sometimes.  How do you go on vacation and laugh and act like you don't have a care in the world when you know you are only going to Palm Springs because Shannon is gone?  If Shannon were alive, we would have been in Rochester, watching her play hockey at Graham Arena.  Instead, we were soaking up the sun in the California desert.  How can that make me happy?

I don't even know how to articulate all that I am feeling, but guilt is the word that comes to mind.

Of course, our lives got worse when Shannon passed away.  It crushed a part of me that I will never get back.  But, some things in our lives are better now because of it.  Our relationships with each other have deepened and Dan, Erin and I know that we are closer now than we would have been if... With only one kid, we have the time and money to vacation and do things we wouldn't have if...  We have these deep, meaningful friendships that wouldn't have developed if...

So, I am feeling conflicted.  Grateful for all that I have, and trying to come to terms with the things in my life that are different because Shannon is gone.  I would never, ever say that my life is better, but my relationships are, and living in the moment is a good way to be.  It is hard to reconcile that losing a child made life simpler in many ways.  You know I'd give it all back to have Shannon here with us.

But, that's not an option, dammit.  So, I have to remember to look at life through the lens of what Shannon taught me, and remain open to accepting the gifts she continues to give as we go on, doing the best we can without her.