Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Miss You, Tina!

This post is more than three months past due, but I have been struggling with putting it into words. It's as though posting it finally makes it true, hence the delay.

Tina Marie Velez passed away on Friday, November 19, 2010 after battling Stage IV breast cancer for more than two years. She was in the arms of her husband Paul with her mother and sister by her side.

Earlier that morning, before Ashley went to school, she gave her mother a kiss on the forehead and said to Tina, "I love you, Mommy." At this point Tina wasn't able to speak and could barely squeeze our hands anymore to communicate. I read a few short stories to her from a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. I didn't know how much she could hear or understand me. I am so grateful that Mom suggested that we watch Bill Cosby Himself. Tina and I could quote that movie line by line, and did at every relevant moment to our friends' and family's annoyance. I squeezed her hands during the funniest parts and said the best jokes loudly as I looked into her eyes. I know she knew I was there. Shortly after the movie ended, Paul was by her side talking to her. My mom came home from an errand just a few minutes after that. With all of us at her bedside, Tina wrapped up in Paul's arms, she passed away at about noon.

The viewing was held at Clayton McGirr Funeral Home in Freehold, NJ on Monday, November 22 with the funeral service held the next day at St. Rose of Lima. She was cremated and as of March 2011, will be in the Maplewood Mausoleum.

The funeral home arranged a memorial site for people to visit and read/post stories and pictures of Tina. Tina's Memorial Site

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm in NJ on an open-ended trip to be with Tina through her hardest time yet. I left on Friday, November 5th and have been here with family from all over the country.

Tina has gotten weaker since her trip to see the doctor. They told her that they were going to stop chemo and only treat her pain and anxiety. It seems that news triggered her body's response to begin the final process. Although the family and priest have told her that it is okay for her to let go, she is not yet ready. She is fighting to stay with us.

Your prayers, as always, are welcomed and very much appreciated. If you are wondering what else you can do, I think it would be great to find a family in your area going through the same type of situation and ask how you can help them. Tina has such an amazing support system but not everyone going through these types of situations do. I'm sure that would be a gift Tina would love for you to give. She has always volunteered and been a part of clubs and support groups that she would love for you to take that spirit of hers and share it with those you can.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Latest on Tina

It's been rough for Tina lately. She has been in and out of the hospital I think 7 times in the last month and a half. It's mainly been due to breathing issues. Although she does have cancer in her lungs and recently had a lot of fluid drained from them, the trouble seems to be stemming from anxiety. I can't imagine how she feels once the issue starts but I'm sure it becomes an unbreakable cycle. She can't breathe so she gets upset, the more upset she gets the more she can't breathe. Once in the ER, they usually run tests which take hours and most times they admitted her. It takes a lot out of Tina, from the transportation of getting in and out of the car/ambulance in a hurry to just the stress of the whole situation.

On her last visit to CTCA in Philly, she had a meeting with the doctor. Due to the tumors in her liver, she has become jaundice. To aleviate some of the strain on her liver to filter out medication, they have taken her off some of the supplements.

I've planned a trip to NJ this coming Friday. I'm really looking forward to seeing Tina.

Family and friends always ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?" We all feel helpless in this situation. There are a few people who have in the past brought over food so mom can spend more time with Tina and less time at the stove. It's easy, yet expensive, to order in or get take out. I think it's important for them to eat home-cooked meals and have some normalcy. I asked mom if she would like people to bring over food and she welcomed the help from people in the area. Nothing fancy but if you're making a meatloaf, just make one more and bring it by the next day. If you're interested in cooking for them, please get in touch with my mom as to the best time when they'd be home. I can't promise that Tina would be up for company but the gesture alone would mean so much to her so she can have more time with mom by her side. If you need mom's contact information, email me: jlzeimetz@gmail.com. Thank you all for your support!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tina's Home in Time for Brownies and Cheese

Brownies and Cheese? Ewww, okay so maybe it's not what you think...let me go back.

Tina was released from the hospital on Monday, Sept 13. The doctors were unclear at first if Tina did have pnuemonia or not but it turns out she did. Her calcium and potassium were better so they let her go home with just an inhaler, unfortunately, no oxygen.

On Wednesday, Tina had a lot of trouble breathing in the morning so she had mom call 911 so she could get oxygen quicker than waiting until they got to the hospital. They didn't get into a room til about 11:30 pm. By 11pm on Thursday, she was tucked in bed at home resting and recouping after a family birthday party for Ashley. I can't believe it, she's 7 already! They said the party was a blast. I wish I could have been there.

Sadly, the next few days were pretty rough. She didn't have an appetite and was nauseous and vomitting. She was still having a hard time breathing. Her care manager from CTCA in Philly said to take the drive up on Monday for tests.

On Tuesday they did a CAT scan and drained almost a liter of fluid from her lungs. I didn't know it was even possible for lungs to hold that much...not that they're ever meant to hold fluid. She was sore afterwards. The nurse had her doing excercises to reexpand her lungs. My heart just goes out to her. With the breathing problems, I feel guilty calling her because if she can't breathe well, she can't talk. I also feel guilty only being able to get updates through mom instead of first hand.

She spent a lot of time resting in the hospital and came home today. She was home in time for Ashley's first Girl Scout meeting for Brownies. Tomorrow is Ashley's party at Chuck E. Cheese. See, brownies and cheese. :)

It's been a rough time recently. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers to feel better.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hospital Trip aka Family Fun Day

Tina wasn't feeling well Friday morning; she had a little trouble breathing. Her doctor said to go to the ER. She really dislikes Freehold hospital so they drove an extra 10 minutes to Jersey Shore hospital. Her bloodwork came back high, possibly due to an infection in her lungs. They started her on IV antibiotics as a precaution before any results came in.

It's Tina's weekend with Ashley so on Saturday, they had a family fun day. Paul, Peyton, Mom, Tina and Ashley sat around playing board games and card games. You've got to make the best of the situation.

Speaking of "the situation", when I heard she was at Jersey Shore Hospital, all I could think of was a too-tanned guido with a six-pack and a stethoscope as her doctor. Nurse: "Doctor, what's the situation?" Doctor: "I AM the situation!" Laughter really is the best medicine. It really helps and doesn't make you feel all crappy like chemo. :)

The results weren't ready on Saturday and they spoke with the pulmonogist today (aka The Situation). He compared the xray from two months ago when she was in the ER the night before the wedding to the one from Friday. He said they look the same. The fluid in her lungs is not new, they just thought there was an infection this time. Mom didn't mention anything about the cultures but did say that if she had pneumonia that the doctors wouldn't be releasing her today...but they are. Tina and the family will be home soon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ups and Downs Recently

Tina has started a new chemo. It's once a week for two weeks, then one week off. About a week and a half ago, Tina had a cracked molar surgically extracted. That was pretty rough between the chemo "hangover" and the sedation drugs.

The good news is she and mom got to see one of the last Brooks and Dunn concerts before they stop touring forever. She said the wheelchair seating was pretty close. With that, you never can tell if it's gonna be up front or close to the back. They lucked out. I think she even got an autograph from the opening act. Who knows, maybe it'll be worth something someday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Test Results

It's time for another MD Anderson visit. She had her appointment yesterday for new scans and got the test results today. The brain and bone scans showed no progression of the cancer. The scan of her organs showed that it spread in one of her lungs and shrunk in the other. Unfortunately the liver shows growth. Sigh. I don't know how much though. They are going to try some new medication.

Mom and Tina are on their way in driving to Austin. Over the next few days I will get more information to update. I'll also see if I can scan some pictures from the Florida trip.

Keep praying. Keep positive. Keep the faith.