Friday, February 22, 2013

Robin Roberts is my hero. Fighting for life is HARD



Robin Roberts returned to Good Morning America yesterday and I was riveted. She had a bone marrow transplant; I had two stem cell transplants. While the two are different, they are very similar in treatment, workup, side effects, and treatment in general. I purchased People magazine with her on the cover. She is beautiful and rockin' it without a wig. I am not there yet. I wear a wig- a good one and I dare say it looks better than the hair I had before I shaved it all off.

She talks about how afraid she was at time. How sick she got. How her muscles atrophed and how weak she was. How she still has her heart pound every time she goes in for blood work. And how she still has chemo brain. Me too!

The month prior to diagnosis
Leading up to my diagnosis was not a fun time and I started to know in my gut that something wasn't right. In December, I went on a business trip to New Orleans and worked ridiculous hours. While I wasn't tired, I wasn't mentally sharp anymore. Co-workers would mention meetings I had been in that I had absolutely no memory of. I left important documents in public places. By the time I flew home, I was exhausted beyond belief. The next two days were a Thursday and Friday and I was given comp days to rest up.

After dropping off the kids at school on Thursday morning, I started cleaning the house. "Rob" (my alcoholic husband) never cleaned and he was a slob and I was disgusted with the way the house looked. So I did laundry, unpacked and scrubbed. And then I did my least favorite thing in the entire world-- I started balancing our checking account. Rob stayed home that day and around noon we were going to do something together. I saw on the account the Rob had paid with the debit card for something at Costco. I asked him a simple question: "I thought you paid cash at Costco but it shows here that used the debit." I kid you not, he started SCREAMING at me like only Rob the Great (Alcoholic) can. His scream is this freaky bizarre falsetto/mezzo soprano pitch. And he wrings his hands and nearly jumps up and down. Seriously, unless you see it, you wouldn't even believe it. He looks like a freak and sounds like a shrill woman.

I asked him as calmly as I could, "Why are you screaming at me? I can hear you. I'm right in front of you." In which case he started screaming at me some more. "This is my day off! I want to relax!!!!!" I said to him back, "And this is my comp day. I am exhausted. And I am doing things for our home-- things I hate doing, things that must be done, and things that you promised from Day 1 of our relationship that you would take over [like the finances]." 

He then called me a bitch and I stood up and shoved him hard and told him to shut the fuck up. I grabbed my handbag, got in my car and drove around sobbing. Rob and I had a counseling session that afternoon together with his alcohol counselor at Kaiser that afternoon and I it couldn't come fast enough.

I drove to Costco and went shopping. On my way home, Rob called screaming at me again. I had left my handbag in the shopping cart and it was at the Costco member services department and how could I be so stupid to leave my purse there? I hung up on him and drove back to Costco. By now, I knew something was wrong with me. I was shaking, confused, and scared. And I was angry with Rob-- so angry with myself for staying with this monster for so long. I hated him.

A few hours later, I picked Morgan up at school and she told me that while I was on my business trip, Rob had taken the kids to Nic's house (Nic is Rob's oldest daughter. She lived with us for a few years and was a total pot head and more. There are all kinds of stories of the awful things she did in our home which necissitated her moving out. Over Thanksgiving just a few weeks prior, Nic called Rob from the hospital for something I shouldn't mention but is highly illegal. Anyway, I told Rob to pack his things so I could take him to the airport so he could be with Nic during this dire time of need. Rob refused, saying she probably made it up. He wanted the two of us to spend the night in Salt Lake City at a swanky hotel instead. Rob sure is a GREAT dad-- in addition to being a GREAT alcoholic!). Rob had told me prior that he had been to Nicole's home and she and her rommate left drug accessories out on the coffee table. Kalie, Rob's younger daughter stopped by Nicole's home once for dinner and Nicole and her boyfriend, Nick, were smoking pot throughout dinner and she left in disgust. Based on this, Rob and I agreed that the children were never to go to Nicole's home but that they could see her whenever Rob wanted but it had to be in a neutral place, like a restaurant or movie or his mom's house. Instead, while I was gone, Rob took the kids to her house and told them both to never tell me they had gone there. I was furious because Rob broke another promise to me (how should I be surprised?) and even worse, he told the children to lie to me. (I mean, why not? Rob lies about everything and pretty much sees nothing wrong with it.)

Soon after, Rob called me to scream at me and tell me he wasn't going to the counseling session. "Of course you're not," I said. "You'll have to tell your counselor you're still a drunk and while you're supposed to be at group therapy sessions, you're at the bars and diving."

My next call was to Kalie. "Hey, Kalie, your dad this to your family when you were growing up, right? It's not just me that gets this wonderful treatment, is it?"

"No," she said. "I've lived it my whole life. My mom didn't drink for nine years and nothing got better so take that as you will."

I then went to Kaiser and met with Bob's counselor and I was nearly hysterical crying. The gist was that Rob was an alcoholic and she told me I needed to leave him, that he wasn't getting better and he wouldn't until he bottomed out and even then, he might not. And she put me on temporary work leave to allow me to gather my thoughts and prepare for leaving Rob. Wow-- I had never had a counselor actually be that forceful about any decision.

On the following Tuesday, I went to my primary care doctor. Something still wasn't right and I knew it. I insisted on a CBC panel. And that's how the doctor noticed I had some very bad anomalies. But that came a few weeks later.

Soon thereafter, it was Christmas and the girls and I were flying to Utah a few days prior to Rob coming out to join us. On our way to the airport, we ran some errands and finished up sooner than expected. We were going to be droppoed off at the airport some four hours early. We were near Target in Mission Valley and I said I wanted to run into Target and buy an inexpensive watch for the flight. No one needed to get out of the car and I'd be maybe 10 minutes. Rob didn't like that. I started screaming at me that I didn't need a watch and I needed to be at the airport early. Yes, screaming. I wanted to throw him out of the car. I gave in and started driving to the airport with my heart pounding. In my head I'm thinking, "I hate you, you fat drunk cow with the tiny penis and the shrill voice. I hate you." I finally said, in not my finest moment, and in front of the kids: "Let me remind you that I never asked you to marry me. I've asked you 100 times to move out and not once have I ever asked you to come back. In fact, every time you did come back, I was sick to my stomach about it. I don't need you and I don't need this marriage." There was silence in the car. I knew the reason he had to hurry up and get us to the airport was so that he could have drinks-- and have them FAST. While waiting in the airport, I called his favorite bar, The San Diego Brewing Company, and sure enough, Rob was there drinking. Big shocker-- I couldn't take 10 minutes to buy a watch because my sick alcoholic husband had to have a drink NOW.

When we got curbside at the airport, Rob unloaded our car and the skycap asked for the flyers' last names. "Nielsen," he said. "They are all Nielsen. That's just great!" (Rob hated that I never changed my last name or Siena's.") I said loudly, "I'll tell you what, you quit drinking and being an abusive drunk and I'll change our last names. You first, buddy." And that's how we left.

Over the next many days, Rob sent me one hateful text after the next. I was a control freak. I tried to change the Great & Wonderful Rob, I was a horrible mom, I was lazy and that's why I went on leave. Blah blah blah. I ignored them all. While I was in Utah without Rob, I realized I didn't ever want to go back to my old life and the thought of Rob coming in a few days made me feel sick. But come he did. I picked him up at the airport on Christmas morning. The site of him made my stomach clench up.

He got in the car apologetic and humble. "Will you marry me in the Catholic church if I get an annulment from Terri? I have never loved anyone like I love you and 2012 is going to be a great year. I want you to marry me in the church."

"Rob, we are not OK. I don't like the way you treat me."

"I know but it's going to be great next year. I'm going to train for a marathon and quit drinking. You'll see."

"Right," I said. "This is dejavu."

And Rob went on and on about how he was a family man, we were going to be great, I was the love of his life, it was going to be great, blah blah blah. I tuned it out.

A few days later, we were with the kids at Thanksgiving Point looking at the farm animals when my doctor called. I was highly anemic but not iron deficient. When I got back to San Diego, they were going to do body scans, more blood work, urine tests, I would see a specialist in hemotology/oncology... I almost fainted. "Should I be worried?" I asked. "Well, we don't know yet but we'll take good care of you." Oh my God, no one ever wants a call like that. The next week was a blurr of my mom and I doing research on the Internet. I was terrified. I wasn't sleeping or eating. I had pretty much diagnosed myself with Multiple Myeloma. My time spent researching drove Rob bat-crazy. He hated me obsessing about my health and I wanted him to leave me alone. I didn't want to go home for tests, I didn't want to be with him, I wanted to curl into a ball in my mom's lap and with it all away.

But we flew home to San Diego on January 1. The night prior, Rob said he couldn't wait to go home. I said, "Not me. If I didn't have to go back for testing, I would stay right here." That shocked him but I didn't give a rat's ass anymore. I hated him. He was not my friend, lover, supporter-- he was an abusive, mean, highly volatile, lying, screaming drunk.

And on January 2, I woke up and went to Kaiser for testing. Before I left, Rob wanted me to wait several hours so he could run errands and I could watch the kids. I was incensed. "Rob, my testing is more important than your errands, don't you think? Sorry, but I'm going to Kaiser." And I left. And Rob was furious. And I just hated him more. I was sick with worry, getting ready for horrible testing, and Rob was mad at me for putting my health ahead of his errands, which of course included time for drinks at the bar.

And that's the day I came home from my testing, having been told by the radiologist that my doctors thought I had cancer, and Rob came home drunk and screamed at me so loud he was spitting in my face, calling me a drama queen, stupid, lazy and on and on. I called the police and had him removed from the home. And that's the last day we lived together.

Later, Rob told me I was his trigger for drinking. Except he drank throughout his entire first marriage. Before he told me that his drinking was my fault, it was Nicole, and Terri, and his Dad's death, and work... And the list is endless.

In October 2011, San Diego had a blackout where we had no power at all for many hours. I got a call from Kalie. "Is my dad at work?" she asked. It was about 5:30 pm at this time. "No," I said. "He's home drunk. He was terrorizing me as usual so I left and I'm driving around. Why?" Kalie responded, "Because my dad told Nicole he was too busy to talk to her because he was coping with the power outage in San Diego." I laughed, "Ha ha ha. Your dad acts like he's president of the company and the whole of San Diego would fall apart without the all important Rob the Great (Alcoholic). Well, Kalie, let me tell you that your dad is not at work. He beat me home from work and he was already drunk when he got home, telling me I couldn't handle life without him with this power outage. So he was terrorizing me  and not at work." We both laughed over that. How typical. What a liar. And an exaggerator.

And that's Rob in a nutshell. Nice guy (if he has an audience anyway).