Saturday, January 27, 2018

Life Update

Well, it has been 8 months since my last blog post. I was getting good at this blogging thing in 2017 after a couple of years of little to no blogging. So much has happened since May 2017 when I did my last post and now. I feel like a life update is in order.

To make a long story short, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2016. He was only 40 years old and I was only 35, so as you can imagine, this was devastating news. Especially when the doctor gave us a prognosis of 3-5 years. Really? I'm going to be a widow at 40? Like wtf? How is this my real life?

In the meantime, he had surgery to remove the tumor and started doing radiation and chemotherapy treatments right away. In fact, when I started blogging again, we were staying at an apartment in Houston near M.D. Anderson, where he was receiving his treatments. Luckily, he actually did really well during the radiation treatments, which lasted 6 weeks. During this time, i took off work to be with him. In my spare time, I started the genealogy do-over as established by Thomas MacEmtee. I blogged a lot about my do-over efforts in the winter and spring of 2017.

We returned home from the radiation treatments in late March 2017, and I returned to work in early April. He continued to do well the first month we were home. He was going to occupational therapy to gain back the use of his right hand, which he had mostly gained back since the surgery in January. He continued to take chemotherapy treatments at home for five days once a month in pill form. I continued to blog.

But in the first two weeks of May, things changed again. His hand started going backwards. He had learned to button his pants again after the surgery, but he suddenly could no longer do it. We had actually taken him out of occupational therapy, thinking he was okay to just continue doing exercises at home. Things were very scary as we scrambled to find a new occupational therapy location, as the previous one we were using had closed the last week of April.

We also went back to MD Anderson in mid-May for his second MRI since radiation. He had an MRI in April that was questionable, but they said it could just be swelling from the radiation treatment. They told us the same thing in May, but this time they were leaning more towards new tumor growth, especially since his hand had started going backwards. They said we would have to come back in June for another MRI to be certain. In the meantime, we found a new therapy place that we quickly began to like much better than the previous therapy place. This was around the time I stopped blogging.

We went back in June, and this time the news was finally good. It showed that the chemotherapy was working. The questionable areas on the previous scans were simply swelling. He was starting to gain back some of what he had lost in his hand, though not quite as quickly as he did the first time. But overall, things were finally starting to calm down again and seemed to be going back to normal.

But in late June or early July, we started to notice that his right leg was getting weaker. He started having a hard time walking. We emailed MD Anderson, and they put him on more steroids. They said it was likely due to continued swelling in the brain from radiation. The steroids would help with the swelling. It became so bad that he had to start using a walker and cane by early August. He also started physical therapy at the end of July. Now he needed more help with daily tasks, such as getting dressed, showering, and fixing his dinner plate. And of course, I was doing all the household chores and all the driving.

We returned to MD Anderson in August and October, and the MRI results were once again good both times. They even started to wean him off the steroid in October. Work was getting to be too much for me, so I decided to take another 6 weeks of family and medical leave around late September. He continued to work from home during this time. From October to November, things were rough while he was being weaned off the steroid. He also had a low grade fever that he was given an antibiotic shot for in early October, and this caused a month-long round of reactions to the antibiotic.

But finally by Thanksgiving, things were starting to go well again. He was actually put back on the steroid in mid-November. He even started to make great improvements in physical therapy. We had the next MRI the week after Thanksgiving. Once again, as they had in April and May, they saw questionable areas on the scan. They said once again that it could be changes caused by the radiation. They just weren't sure, and we would have to come back right after New Year's for another MRI. I also decided during this time not to return to work full-time. We agreed that I could just help them during their busy season as needed, which would start in January. It was nice to be off during the holidays and spend time with my husband.

We went back on January 11 of this year.  But the days leading up to the scan were not without their troubles. A few days prior, our hot water heater went out and our cat got sick. I also realized around the end of December that I needed 13 hours of continuing education courses to keep my CPA license. I was frantically trying to finish those courses. By some miracle of God, I finished my courses in time, the hot water heater was fixed, and our cat got better. Even with all the bad omens leading up to the appointment, we finally got good news again. They still want us to come back in February, but I hope after that we can go back to just going every other month or every 3 months.

So, yes, my life has been totally and completely crazy since May 2017 when I stopped blogging. Just writing that all out tired me out. But it was good to get it out to realize all I have been through. I haven't even talked about all the emotions that go along with this: devastation, depression, disappointment, sadness, fear. Fear that I won't get to grow old with my love. Fear that we will never get a chance to have a child together. Fear that if we do have a child together, that child will not know him for very long. And the fears of financial insecurity. Fear that I will never manage to figure out how to deal with work and caregiving at the same time, and we will forever be financially insecure. That is really scary for anyone, but especially for a CPA. I can't ruin my credit record, or I could lose my whole career. Luckily, we have my parents and his parents helping us out financially. They also help with the caregiving when they are able. Hopefully, I will be able to let go mentally of the house so that we can sell it and move into his mom's rental home. We will be closer to family and it will help out a great deal finanically.

And there have been rays of hope. On the way home from our last Houston appointment, we saw this rainbow.

And there was the time I was crying in bed back in August wondering how the hell I was going to cope, when my best friend from childhood sent me a snapshot of a daily devotional that I love. She had no idea I had the same devotional or that I had been thinking just that very morning about picking it back up again after several months of not reading it, and I had not heard from her in four months prior to this. If that's not God saying "I am here,", folks, I don't know what is.

Also, as we are struggling with the notion of having a child now, I turned to a fertility board on Facebook. Part of my struggle has been that we may have to use IVF or IUI, which are not supported by the Catholic Church. My faith is very important to me, and I have always been a seeker when it comes to faith. I do not blindly follow my faith, but rather always seek out the meaning and reasoning behind beliefs of my faith and those of other faiths. The same day that I joined the fertility group on Facebook, someone else from my local area posted about recommendations for doctors in this area who support the fertility method supported by the Catholic Church. Because of her post, I found a practitioner in this area who I have started meeting with about the method and how to use it. She said that in all the years she has been part of that group, she has never seen anyone from our local area post. I also see that as a sign of God being here for us. I also posted about our situation on the board to see if anyone thought this method might work for us in our unique situation. I received so much support that I was overwhelmed with hope and tears of joy. No one judged me for thinking about IVF or IUI. They were all very supportive.

And there have been so many other signs that I cannot even remember right off hand. I just know that through all the disappointment, fear, and sadness, there has also been joy, hope, and love. I think about my maternal grandmother, Violet Mae (Currie) Pemberton Drouillard, who lost her husband in 1970 to lung cancer at 41 and with 6 children still living at home. I think about my great-grandmother, Mabel Ellen (Crysler) Pemberton Beedon, Violet's mother-in-law, who lost her husband at 42 in 1950 to the same damn cancer that my husband has. She also had about 6 children still living at home. They both lived through such great tragedy and yet still left wonderful legacies behind. They are my hope and my inspiration. I know that no matter what happens, we will get through this.

Us at Hermann Park in Houston in March 2017. He has all of his hair back now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Genealogy Do-Over Update: My Paternal Grandparents

I have been participating in Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over since early February. I have been lagging behind, not making it much farther than Month 2, even though we are technically on Month 5. But I am okay with that because I have been making great strides with the research and organization I have done thus far.

I have gotten all of the documents for my myself, my parents, and my siblings all organized into OneNote notebooks with source citations, document transcriptions, and analysis. I've also entered the documents into Evidentia and produced source analysis reports from there that I've copied and pasted into OneNote. The documents were already cited in my RootsMagic program, as part of a previous do-over of my own initiative, so I did not change too much there. I also created timelines, record search checklists, and source logs for my parents.

After I finished with my parents, I moved on to my paternal grandparents, Benford Maurice TRAHAN and Merlene Golda MERTENA. I thought I had done pretty well researching them as part of my previous do-over, but this time around, I have slowed down considerably (which is why I have not made it to Month 5 yet). I am noticing holes in my previous research. This time around, I am taking more time to research events and places to better understand their lives. Some of the things I've noticed this time around or that I've expanded with further research are the following:
  1. I took the time to mine the online catalog at Calcasieu Parish Public Library to find local history resources. My grandparents spent all of their married life in Calcasieu Parish. I found that there were several books at the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Library about various topics of interest, including:
    1. the history of the Lake Charles Diocese of the Catholic Church
    2. the history of Citgo Refinery (where my dad and great-uncle worked for many years) 
    3. the history of education in Calcasieu Parish
    4. the history of Maplewood (the town where they spent the first few years of their married life together)
    5. several books published on the Trahan family
    6. Yearbooks from Vinton High and Sulphur High, where both of my grandparents attended high school
  2.  I also did research on the naval ships and units that my grandfather served on from 1954-1957. From his military personnel file, I know that he served on the USS Plymouth Rock, USS Washtenaw County, and the Beach Jumper Unit 2 at Norfolk, Virginia. I had no idea that beach jumper units were an intelligence unit of the U.S. Navy. I found out that he was on the first crew to ever be aboard the USS Plymouth Rock. I even reached out to someone who had posted on a USS Plymouth Rock reunion message board to see if her husband knew my grandfather. They were both in the Navigational division, which was a pretty small division of only about 6 men. Sadly, her husband had passed away and she did not know my grandfather.
  3. According to my Grandma, she met my Grandpa at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where they both attended school. She needed help with a word for the French Club float for the Homecoming parade, and someone directed her to my grandpa because he spoke Cajun French. I looked up the website of the McNeese State University Archives and found it to be a valuable resource. I plan to call them to see if they have issues of the Contraband newspaper from 1954-55, when my grandmother was editor. I also ordered a pictorial book on McNeese State University from
  4. I finally started doing research on my dad's godparents. They were listed as James Edward Guidry and Kathryn Coleman on his baptismal record from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vinton, Louisiana. My dad did not know much about them, except that James had some kind of Navy connection to my grandpa. I have not quite identified James yet, but I did find from newspapers and city directories that Kathryn Coleman was also on the Contraband newspaper staff with my grandmother and lived a few houses down from her in Maplewood. Kathryn lived a very interesting life, and her obituary can be found on her Find A Grave memorial.
As you can see, I've added a lot more depth to my previous research and opened up new avenues to research. I plan to visit the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Library soon. Before I run off to visit, I have plans to search the yearbooks for Vinton High and Sulphur High online at the library's website. How cool is that? There are even yearbooks for the time that my dad and his brothers attended school in the 1970s at Vinton High.

Some of the other items added to my to-do list are as follows:
  • Search for birth announcements in the local newspapers for me, my siblings, and my first cousins, as well as my dad and his brothers. This can be done here in Baton Rouge at the LSU Main Library and Hill Memorial Library (LSU's archives), as they have several newspapers from Lake Charles, Sulphur, and Vinton, Louisiana.
  • Search for my parents and grandparents in the city directories for Calcasieu Parish at the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Library. Some of them are online at, but they cut off at 1960. I want to find out when my grandparents moved from Maplewood to Vinton, and where my parents lived when they first moved to Vinton from Port Huron, Michigan.
  • Search for the publication date and page of my grandfather's obituary. I just have a copy that came from the funeral home, but I know it was published in the Vinton News and the American Press in Lake Charles. I can do this here in Baton Rouge as well.
  • Check to see if I have a copy of my grandfather's SS-5 form. I thought I had one, but I need to check my paper To Be Entered files.
  • Search Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, city directories to find where my grandparents lived while my grandfather was stationed there in the U.S. Navy. I found that they are located at the public library in Norfolk and at the Library of Virginia.
  • Search the Lake Charles American Press at for any articles about my grandparents.
  • Search for a marriage announcement for my grandparents in the Vinton and Sulphur newspapers. I can do this here in Baton Rouge.
  • Search for baptismal records for my dad's brothers at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vinton.
Anyhow, I just wanted to some up some of the new findings for my paternal grandparents and motivate myself to get started on my to-do list. Off to search those online yearbooks...

Wordless Wednesday: Benford and Merlene c. 1980

Since I am focusing on my paternal grandparents (Benford Maurice Trahan and Merlene Golda Mertena) right now in my Genealogy Do-Over, here are pictures of them around 1980. I found these attached to my grandmother's memorial at Hixson Funeral Home's website. By this time, they had been married about 25 years and had raised four sons to young adulthood. I sure do miss them these days!