For those of you who don’t know me personally, last year, Mrs. Nasty was diagnosed with a Phyllodes Tumor. This ultimately became a terminal case of cancer, and at the time I started this post, she had very little time left. In April of this year, I took a leave of absence from a very supportive CEO and employer to care for her full-time. Over the last few months, my posts have been a bit sporadic, and I wanted to explain. Posts will probably continue to be sporadic shortly.
In June of 2015, Mrs. HRNasty was diagnosed with a fast-growing tumor. She ended up having a lumpectomy and then shortly after a mastectomy on the same breast. Following radiation therapy, she came back strong and returned to a very supportive team at her company in January of 2016. Life was good, and we looked at the situation as a 6-month pause in our lives, which brought us closer and taking our appreciation of our lives together to another level.
A rowing machine
In April of this year, it was discovered that the tumor had returned to her lungs. Amazingly, she was working full-time through the end of April. She came down with what we thought was a cold that hung around. She went to the doctor, thinking she may have walking pneumonia and was put on antibiotics for a couple of weeks. When that didn’t work, she went back in, and a scan was ordered. They found tumors in both of her lungs.
If you thought working with this “cold” was amazing, she was rowing me down a local river in our drift boat and consistently putting me on fish just a few weeks before the operation (we still thought this was a cold). After being together for over 30 years, we had one of our best days on the river and our first real float with our two-year-old puppy Adipose “Adi” Finn.
Chemotherapy hasn’t been proven to show any success with her particular type of cancer
With this type of cancer, the timing wasn’t in our favor to try radiation therapy. If radiation wasn’t successful, it would be too late to take other measures with the tumors’ fast growth rate.
Why would I share this with the blog’s Community? Not much is known of Phyllodes Tumors, and Mrs. HRNasty wish was that others could learn from her experience. I plan to post some personal learnings soon, and this post will put those learnings into perspective.
Supporter of HRNasty
The other reason is that Mrs. HRNasty was my biggest supporter. She was the biggest supporter of this blog and my underground efforts to help readers beat the corporate system. I have mentioned her regularly over the years, and many of my friends jokingly refer to her as Mrs. HRNasty. Wife of 20 plus years, she was and continues to be my best friend. She was an evangelist, proofreader, and a reality check on most of the posts since day 1.
Wednesday’s was date night in the HRNasty household. I would try to leave work at 7:00 PM on Wednesdays and get home by 8:00 to eat dinner out together on these dates that I would ask Mrs. Nasty to review the upcoming blog post every week. We usually went to the local biker bar or the local diner. We got many stares from patrons of the restaurant as we were both working through dinner on our laptops. I would make last edits to the current week’s post, turn the laptop around, and she would quickly proofread it for me. We looked forward to our “date night” as a much-needed break during the week. Moving forward, if I have a dangling participle, you will know that it is not Mrs. HRNasty’s fault.
She believed in me and my mission around this blog
I take a lot of flack because of my views, but she understood the intent. To expose what is really happening behind the HR doors to help candidates find the jobs they want and create new opportunities. We didn’t worry about the haters, nay-sayers, or non-believers. No one author will please everyone. I decided early on to stick with my style of writing. I wasn’t going to take feedback personally. We are close to 50K subscribers, but she was just as proud of me when our only subscribers were our two dogs and us individually.
Despite my desire to keep my personal name on the down-low, she took every opportunity to let folks know who I was. She was proud that I could help folks in a job search, climb the career ladder, and that I was penning this blog. Some of her friends landed $25K raises and skip level promotions because of the blog and coaching. Despite my trying to keep our identity quiet, she was not bashful.
In April of this year, we were admitted to the local hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, where Mrs. Nasty had the operation to remove the tumors in her lung. We planned on being there for 2-3 weeks, and we want to thank Courtney H and Bryson for temporarily adopting our 2-year-old lab Adipose “Adi” Finn. It was a huge weight off our shoulders, knowing she was well cared for. Thank you both, for the peace of mind. This was as meaningful a gift as we could receive because it allowed us to spend that much more time together.
It was serious and we grew stronger
Mrs. Nasty had ¾ of her right lung removed and ¼ of her left lung removed. We spent a total of 34 days in the hospital. This was a pretty severe operation, which included a heart bypass. She made it through and was on a strong recovery. On day 25, she had a CT scan. The doctors found three more dark spots.
With her body still recovering from lung surgery, she didn’t have the strength to undergo another operation or therapy.
The doctors explained that it is just a matter of time. Our focus became her comfort vs. getting better. It has been a lot to deal with personally, physically, and emotionally, but we became a real team.
I held her hand when she was scared, and she held my hand when I felt helpless.
The reason I wanted to share this news is purely selfish. I wish that everyone could see how Mrs. Nasty carried herself. I wish everyone could see how she handled whatever was dished out. I couldn’t be more proud of how she carried herself. Physical therapy twice a day, doctors and nurses coming and going at all hours of the day and night. I wouldn’t have lasted 3 days in there. She never complained and never questioned, “why?” Despite being roused at 5:30 am every morning for x-rays, daily blood draws, and 3 shots a day, she always figured out how to smile and wink at me. It was her way of telling me she was OK when I couldn’t hold her hand behind an x-ray wall.
She thanked the nurses when they drew blood and gave her shots. Mrs. HRNasty went out of her way to make sure the folks cleaning her room were appreciated. She asked me to bring in donuts and treats for nurses on the floor because she thought they were so amazing. I never thought I would say this, but she taught me the meaning of being gracious.
Luckiest guy alive
I received the greatest gift in the lesson learned, watching her go through challenging times, both emotionally and physically with dignity and style. No one could have asked for more in a wife and best friend. She didn’t ever question my month-long fishing trips, boats, motorcycles, and yes, the blog and our time spent on a date night and early weekend mornings. It was the opposite. She encouraged me on every pursuit I was interested in, every trip I took, and pushed me hard to explore new ideas and pursuits.
Handled herself with grace
Even when we were expecting a full recovery, the hospital staff was really generous with the both of us. I think that it is because of the way she handled herself.
- Most rooms held two patients. The nurses arranged a large, private room and brought in a bed for me.
- Even though they were not involved at all this time, the doctors that performed the surgery last year visited daily to offer support.
- The nurses were wondering who we were because we had direct numbers with so many doctors.
- Nurses explained this never happened in the past, but the nursing director brought us home-made baked goods. Mrs. HRN is the one getting operated on, and I am the one getting the benefits.
- Special thanks to the nurses and techs in the CCU and Level 16 who made us feel so special. Ruta, thank you for all of your emotional support.
We transferred to Hospice
I can’t believe how efficient and caring this group is. We met with the Hospice nurse at 10:00 AM, and 2 hours later, a hospital bed, wheelchair, and other equipment were set up in the house. She was comfortable and relatively mobile in the house. When the sun was out, we could hang out on our deck and share a Popsicle. It sounds small, but this was one of the few things she was interested in eating at the hospital. A complete loss of appetite resulted in a feeding tube going into her stomach, and the Orange Popsicle became a “thing” we could look forward to. Because three flavors come in a box, our dog Adi got many grape and cherry Popsicles.
In a past post, I blogged about how I was one of the most stoic individuals you could meet. That post is here and titled “Hugs in the workplace.” In this post, I also explain how Mrs. HRNasty, being adopted by a Greek family, is as outgoing and demonstrative as they come. Our initial cultural differences had many of our friends questioning our relationship and thought we were doomed as a couple. Mrs. HRNasty demonstrated how to show love, express emotion, and why it is so important. The hot NFL cheerleader I referenced in that blog is still one of the most attractive people I know both inside and out. She visited us regularly at the hospital, called us every day, and we laughed about that very first hug.
Because of Mrs. HRN, I am happy to say that I am much more comfortable with hugs and PDAs. Years later, I still wish my guy friends could see the greeting I receive from the ex-cheerleader.
We knew the last couple of weeks wasn’t going to be easy, so we took it day by day, worked harder as a team, and grew even closer.
Mrs. Nasty’s company and co-workers have been next-level brilliant
Hospital visits, meals, support, and friendship. A special shout out to Michel J. for organizing so much, Stephanie F and Jana for making sure I continue to have company. Thank you.
I am not sure what else to say. Please know we are not bitter. We are appreciative of the additional time the doctors and surgeons gave us together. Over the past 30 years, we became stronger as a couple, and the strongest this past year. We feel very fortunate and proud of what we have done with our lives together, our careers, and, most importantly, the friendships developed. I wouldn’t say I liked the situation.
It broke my heart to see her work so hard and endure, but I am nothing but proud, and I want as many people to hear her story as I can reach. Even today, I received a card with a VISA gift certificate to help with bills from a company she worked with 15 years ago. Thank you, Tony T and the crew at HomeSight. I consider the gesture to be a testament to the relationships that she built.
So many people helped out and made a big difference. Kathy McC, Jamien McC, and Jennifer McC thank you for your company and everyday conversations, which were a great escape from our reality. Dr. Janie G, your wisdom, visits to both the hospital and our home really made her feel like a special patient. Dr. Wesley C, we wouldn’t have made it without an inside guy and someone I consider a personal friend and amazing doc. Dr. Misha H, your transparency, honesty, and overall attitude were perfect for us as a couple.
More thank you’s
To the nurses and techs of Level 16, you really made us feel like family. Michel J, organizing Jane’s co-worker visits and meals, was huge emotional uplift, and I saw how proud she was about her career, relationship with colleagues, and what she accomplished. CourtneyH and Bryson, thank you for taking care of our Adipose “Adi” Finn. KeithS, JeffM, CSP, YorkB, and MattW, you guys always know how to make a guy feel comfortable and give confidence when facing his toughest life moments.
Nurse Jill B, you have been amazing for both of us. I felt SO much better about Jane’s comfort in her last few hours and her journey moving forward because of your unconditional love, advice, and support. I will never forget seeing her smile and saying “Thank you” to yourself and Megan B for providing company and comfort in the last hours.
Thank you to our great friend and a fellow angler Eric Donnelly Chef, Owner and James Beard nominee at Rock Creek Seattle and Flint Creek Seattle, who will be taking care of the food. This was her favorite restaurant and a place we shared some special times this past year. Thank you, Brother.
If you have gotten something out of this blog over the years, please send some positive vibes our way on Saturday when we celebrate her life.
Mrs. HRNasty, I miss your support, energy, and your infectious smile,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”
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