Thursday, October 11, 2012


It's making me cry.

Not the actual parenting of my children (although that sometimes makes me cry, too, and folks, it doesn't get easier, just higher stakes with better sleep).  The TV show.

My husband hates the show.  We watched the first season together, and he can't handle the talking over each other dialogue thing they have going on.  It didn't catch me at first, either, but I am a die hard Gilmore Girls fan, and I kept watching it partly (mostly) out of loyalty to Lauren Graham.

 (Exactly why I feel loyal to a woman I have never met, I'll never know.  Plus, if I'm being honest, I really just feel loyal to Loreli, the woman she played on Gilmore Girls, not the actress who played Loreli, which means I'm loyal to a woman who doesn't actually exist.)

(TV is weird.)

Anyway, I've halfheartedly stuck it out, but got hooked again on the adoption story.  (This post is going to be full of spoilers, so if you care at all about this show, go find it on hulu, watch it, and come back.)  I had recently engaged in an ongoing conversation with a friend who, come to find out, relinquished her daughter to adoption 20 years ago.  I had never heard an adoption story from the side of the birth mother--she's a voice that all too often gets lost.  My friend still aches for the child she lost 20 years ago, and is finally finding her voice to condemn some of the more yucky parts of adoption, so watching an adoption story unfold on television while my friend was in the middle of her own adoption crusade was interesting.  I kept watching, wondering what my friend would think of the whole plotline.  And of course, like any series that wants to survive, they ended the season on a cliffhanger, which made me eagerly anticipate this season, again, to see how the adoption line played out.

And then came the cancer.

One of the main characters, a mother with 3 kids, gets cancer.  It's devastating, naturally, and the way they played it could not have been more maudlin or sappy or trite or predictable.

It made me bawl my eyes out.

Then the next episode was all about how she and her husband start the road of treatment, how they have to make hard and fast decisions, how they deal with each other and I cried through the whole thing.

(plus, that lady in the blue turban scarf thingie is from Gilmore Girls, too, so maybe there is some kind of tv loyalty karma goin' on)

My husband asked me why I was so emotional about it.  After all, I don't have cancer, my mother doesn't have cancer, nobody immediately close to me has cancer.  But I told him, "This is exactly what it feels like to have the rug ripped out from under you.  They are nailing it."

When I got diagnosed with PKD, I thought I was okay.  I was sort of initially prepared for something scarier---cancer, even, and when the tech who did my initial back MRI told me her thoughts (against all rules, and against her better judgement, but I was hounding her for why she kept me in the machine 15 minutes longer than she told me she was going to), I immediately thought, "I don't have that.  I've never heard of that. You must be wrong."  I talked to my family, and everybody said you can't trust what a tech says, because they don't know what they are talking about.  But when my doctor called at 7:30 the next morning, that tech's guess was confirmed.

I spent the morning googling PKD.  I'm here to tell you, Google is an awesome tool, but this is what happens when you use it for medical advice:

When you google PKD, the first words that pop up are words like "life-threatening" and "genetic disease".  I'll admit it, I was rattled. Shaken to the core.

My son was 3 years old, and I was his full time care-giver.  At that moment, I became completely dysfunctional, and knew I didn't have the emotional strength to deal with mothering duties.  So I called my husband in the afternoon and told him I needed help.  He came home immediately, a feat that still amazes me, as he was working at a high power law firm at the time.  I told him I needed some space, and I handed over our son, retreated to our room, turned off all the lights and curled up in a ball on my bed.

I cried, a lot.  Not the sobbing, wailing kind of crying, just silent tears of fear.  When I had cried myself out, I just lay there, staring at the ceiling for hours, wondering and worrying.  Then I pulled myself together, and went downstairs to rejoin my family.  I found my house spotlessly clean, with dinner on the stove, and my son happily playing chess with his father.  

I burst into tears again, this time a crazy combo of relief and love for my husband.  I don't know why his simple domestic acts made me weep, but they did.  I don't know if it was relief that I didn't have to manage one more thing on my emotionally full plate, or knowing that I had somebody who was going to be there with me on this insane journey, or both.

(If I haven't mentioned it before, my husband is awesome.  Seriously, he's my rock.)

(We are way cuter than the Bravermans)

That was almost 7 years ago. PKD doesn't render me dysfunctional at all anymore.  I still hate it, hate what it does to the shape of me, hate that I have to take meds every day, hate that I can't reliably predict the future, but I'm living, quite well in fact, with it.  The sands shifted beneath my feet, I've found my new normal, and it really is okay.

But man, watching somebody wrestle with a new diagnosis on television brought it all back, and I've spent the last 3 episodes in tears.  Ugly, snot filled tears.

Those writers, they nailed it.  Emotional manipulation of audience, CHECK.

(TV is SO weird.)


swedemom said...

I like the show, though I haven't seen the last two seasons. I like how this extended family has to work together. They fight, but they repair the damage. It's real. I also like the struggles of the oldest brother and his wife and Max's Aspergers. I have two kids that have ADHD and while not nearly as severe as Aspergers, it is still unbelievably hard. And I think the show did a really good job of portraying how a family copes with that.

I was diagnosed with lupus 9 years ago and I remember the days/weeks/months of emotional turmoil trying to wrap my brain around what lupus was going to mean to me and my family. It's not easy. It was overwhelming and really scary.

So portraying cancer has to be scary and overwhelming. One of my good friends who is a mother of 5 young children, was diagnosed with breast cancer and I think that it was really emotional for them. They had to face the fact that she might not survive the cancer. And while you want to be positive with a diagnosis like that at some point you have to face the potential reality of what could happen.

I think you have to do that whenever you face a serious chronic illness. I felt immensely better when I realized how serious lupus was, made a plan for the worst, and then hoped for the best. You don't want to make yourself crazy by any means, but you do have to face it at some time, to plan for your family, at the very least.

The Wiz said...

That lady is in Bunheads too.

Strollerblader said...

I LOVE Parenthood, and I, too was crying last night watching it, glad that my husband was not there to witness my crying. I really love Adam's character, and I identify with him a lot.

(I never watched Gilmore Girls, but I've read other comments that said that Fannie, the ballet teacher on Bunheads, was Loreli's mother on Girlmore Girls. Lauren Graham's never been on Bunheads.)

Heather O. said...

The turban lady is in Bunheads. She's the one who killed the grocery store.

Joanne said...

That was a touching axene and I like your blog. I'm looking forward to reading more!

Joanne said...

The word was " scene". Darn iPad! :)

cran said...

I was diagnosed with PKD when I was 19. I am now 48. My dad had it and so I kind of grew up with the realities of dialysis. My mom dialyzed him at home for 18 years and they never let it slow them down. They made room for the machine and supplies in their motorhome and we took a six week trip across country. Because of that positive background I have been able to pretty much take my own diagnosis in stride.
I did not start dialysis until July of this year and on September 10th I got a call from U of MD Medical Center with a kidney offer. I thought it highly unlikely to actually GET a kidney after only two years on the list and six weeks of dialysis but it was a great match and I am now almost five weeks past the surgery. My life has never felt more like a snow globe that was shaken. I guess the whole point of this comment is to let you know that there are curveballs but there are so many conditions that are worse than PKD, that would impact your life more. And if you ever want to holler at me about anything, feel free.

Nathan said...

"When you google PKD, the first words that pop up are words like "life-threatening" and "genetic disease". I'll admit it, I was rattled. Shaken to the core."

Also, cats. The nephrologist that I saw right after my diagnosis only gave me a 2-page pamphlet and told me to research PKD on the internet. I mostly learned that I should be 50+ or a cat.

I understand it was a bad doctor or perhaps a bad day for him. It just wasn't the best way to learn something, while in college, about a "genetic" disease that no one in my family had ever heard of.

Rob Monroe said...

I completely agree about the show - so poignant and perfect at nailing down emotions. (I also agree about wanting to give up on the show but am glad to have waited out the over-drama of season two!)

Sega said...

I’ve gotten teary eyed and/or shed tears while watching each episode of Parenthood that’s aired since season one. My fiancĂ© tried watching the show with me awhile back, but he couldn’t get into it, so I mostly talk about each episode with several of the mothers I work with at DISH. I wasn’t able to watch the recent episode as it aired live, but since I have my Hopper’s Primetime Anytime feature set to record NBC during primetime every night of the week, I was finally able to talk about this episode today. I’m not sure that I’ve seen so much emotion on this show as when Kristina told the rest of the clan at the pizza place her sad news. There didn’t have to be any dialog, but just the looks on everyone’s faces said more about the heartache that disease/illnesses can cause. Despite this low point, I’m sure that the writers of Parenthood will show the silver lining in such situations with next week’s episode.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather:

I, too, love Gilmore Girls and I was watching Parenthood until the whole cancer thing come along. I found out last year that I had Kidney cancer and PKD. I just couldn't watch the cancer thing because I cry just now thinking about it. Still trying to figure out this PKD thing and what the future holds.


eyedoc said...

I share your malady of ADPKD. The change of your body shape by the enlarging kidneys is strange. I enjoyed and identified with your blog about not being able to fit into your wedding dress. I am a slim 63 year old male who now has to be categorized with those men who have the spare tire around their waist from eating too much and not exercising.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.