Thursday, June 20, 2013

In Memorium

Tabatha Leigh (Piszczyk) Johnson (1971-2013)

If you're reading this, it's because you either knew my wife or know me, which means, at least in some way, you know her.  That being the case, you've been made a better person.  Not by me, but by Tabby.  There are all different types of people in the world.  Selfish, selfless, kind or mean, but only the rarest of people make you better simply by virtue of having known them.  They are the type of people who make you proud of yourself, who give you a warm feeling whenever you enter their presence, whose laugh can brighten an otherwise dismal day.  Tabby was such a person.

If you never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, I grieve for you.  You never got to experience her laugh, her smile, her passion.  You never got to be hugged by her (and let me just say that even at the end, she was one of the best huggers on the planet).  You never got to feel was it was like to have your soul fed with love in the way that only she could.  Her friends were lifelong, and fiercely loyal, and for good reason.

Tabby never turned anyone away.  Never.  Misfits as, I'm sure, we all were when we met her, she greeted us all with a smile and a warm hug and treated us all as family.  Everyone, celebrities and normal people alike, remembered her.  Everyone loved her.

If you came to our house, there were always a few things you could depend on.  First, no one ever went away from our house hungry.  We might've not had much, but Tabby loved to cook and would cook up a storm for anyone who had emptiness in their tummies.  When we married, I weighed 142 pounds soaking wet and had 6% body fat.  I like to blame my weight gain on her cooking, but it was more than that.  It was contentment.  It was love.  It was comfort.

I tell the story often, to anyone who will listen, but I'm telling it again.  I first met Tabby in Junior High School.  I was dating her best friend at the time.  I lost track of her for about a decade, but found her again in Junior College.  I asked her out, and she turned me down flat.  At the time, she had a boyfriend.  It took me a whole year to get up the nerve to ask her out again, and that time she said yes.  Our first date was on Halloween, 1992.  I dressed as a drag queen (I make an ugly woman), she as a (beautiful) rodeo queen.  We were never apart after that.  By Thanksgiving of that same year, I'd asked her to marry me.  By Christmas, we told her parents, and by April, we were married.  Less than six months after our first date together, we were married.  And despite what many thought, we stood the test of time.  Twenty years we had.  Were they all great?  I'd be lying if I said they were.  But I would not change a single moment.  I wouldn't rewrite a single second.  Not one.  Not those times.

She is survived by our beautiful daughters, Anna and Zoe, her brothers Cameron and Aaron, her mom and dad Ruth and Don, her sister Althea, and by me.  To say that we are all devastated is an understatement.  To say that I will never fully recover would be laughable, were it not so true.

Whatever your faith, chances are you have some idea of an afterlife.  For Christians, it's Heaven.  For Pagans, it's Summerland.  Some call it Elysium, and others call it by names that do not fall easily from the lips.  No matter what your belief, wherever Tabatha is, it is paradise.  Not because our religion says so, or because of some prejudiced idea of where she would go, but simply by virtue of her being there.  No matter where she is, just because she is there, it becomes paradise.  She did it here on Earth.  I have no reason to believe she'd do otherwise elsewhere.

Look around and realize the truth of this statement:  Because you knew her, you are today a better person.  She made me a better person.  She believed in me, made me see myself as someone worth loving, and gave me the confidence and strength to do whatever I set my mind to.  Because I knew her, I am a better person.  I will always be grateful to her for making me into the man I am today.

Goodnight, Tabby.  I love you so very much.  I do not grieve for you, but for myself and for the rest of us who are left behind.  There is a great hole in my life where you were, an empty chair at my table.  I will not get over you.  I will always miss you.  And I envy those who you meet in the afterlife.  Even they will be made better people for having known you.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

20 Years

 Today is a very special day for me, made even more so by recent circumstances.  Twenty years ago today, I stood in front of a crowd of friends and family and waited until the most beautiful, wonderful woman I've ever known in my life walked down the aisle, took my hand, and said "I do."  Twenty years.  Tabatha has made my life wonderful, made me a better person, and has been my inspiration for twenty years.

Think about that number for a moment.  Think about how many people my age (and no, I'm not telling how old I am) that get to say they found the true love of their lives, and stayed together for twenty years.  Not many.  Not many at all.

Through ups and downs, hard times and good times, and health and sickness, Tabby and I have stuck together.  I would never rewrite a single moment.  Not one.  Every moment with her is precious to me.

To my wife, my love, my best friend:  Thank you.  I love you.

For everyone else, I leave you with a few photos of us, taken at various times during our life together.  Hope you like them.

Horror Realm convention in Pittsburgh PA.

Halloween a few years ago.  The reaper and the witch. 

River and The Doctor.  Where would the Doctor be without his wife? 

I know it's tough to see, but that shock of red hair is my lovely Tabby, dancing with me among a horde of zombies.  Actually, it's quite an appropriate image for our whole relationship.  To us, the world could burn and go to hell, so long as we had each other.  

May you all find your lifelong love, and may you have a lifetime of happiness. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

A Break from the Gloom and Doom

I know the posts have been a bit... dark lately.  There's good reason behind that, but that's not all there is to our lives.  Tabby isn't gone yet, and we still manage to get out and have some fun occasionally.  So, to that end, I wanted to post a few pictures of my gal.  Tabby's sister (Althea), her husband (Vincent), and their kids (Hallie and Kaia) came for a visit, along with Tabby's mom (Ruth).  We decided that being cooped up in the house wasn't a good idea, so we went to Greune (pronounced "green."  Don't ask).  We managed to get there just in time for "Market Days," which a chaotic mix of local artisans, great food, and live music.  I just wanted to give a little joy with some photos we took from the day.

So here's Ruth (Tabby's Mom) with Tabby in Mamacita's restaurant.

And here's Tabby enjoying some sunlight. 

Tabby with my wonderfully goofy daughter Zoe.

Front Row:  Zoe, Hallie, Kaia.  Back row: Althea, Tabby, Ruth

Tabby and Zoe, and some random weirdo who happened to be passing by...

Me with my brother-in-law, Vincent.  I swear, there was something interesting up there.  No really...

And me, with the look I usually have on my face.  

So, there.  We enjoyed being out of the house.  Tabby was able to walk around for a couple of hours, then had to go home.  She was wiped out for the rest of the day (and most of the next one), but it was good to see her smile and laugh.  

So let this post be a warm fuzzy to you all.  

Love to you. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Update on Tabby - March 20, 2013

This is a difficult entry to post.  So much has happened since the last update, and much of it within the last 24 hours.  I'm not sure where to begin, but I suppose it should be with Tabby, and an explanation of the image to the left.

We saw Tabby's doctor yesterday to get the results of the CT scan she had on Monday.  The results were that the cancer has grown.  The new treatment did nothing.  Tabby's mother was with us when we heard the news.

The doctor told us it was time to consider hospice care.  For those who don't know, hospice is either a nursing home or in-home care for the terminally ill.  The purpose is to treat the symptoms that come along with dying to make the patient as comfortable as possible until the inevitable happens. What we've known all along just hit us like the proverbial ton of bricks.  There will be no more chemotherapy.  There is no more chance of survival.

I cannot begin to relate to you what it is like, the terrible knowledge that I'm going to lose the other half of my soul.  I cannot begin to fathom the deep ache that Ruth, Tabby's mother, is feeling at the impending loss of a child.  I can't even begin to imagine what is coming for our children at the loss of their mother at such a young age.

Out of this, came a small moment of happiness.  Because of Tabby's condition, she can't actually work. She's been out of work for a year, which means we halved our income and (due to medical bills) we doubled our output.  The point of this isn't to complain, so bear with me.  The home we're living in now, well, to borrow a political phrase, the rent's too damned high.  We can't really afford to live there anymore.  So yesterday, while I was out getting another round of medication for Tabby from our local supermarket, I took a detour through a neighborhood near Plum Creek.  I don't know why I did, other than I kept wondering what was back there, so today my curious nature got the best of me.  As I drove around the tiny subdivision (seriously, there are a total of four streets), I found a house, just one, that was for sale.  A one-story house (Tabby can no longer climb stairs very well...) with a larger square footage than the one we're currently in.  I called the relator and made an offer.  The owner accepted, with VERY little down and payments nearly $200 lower than what I'm paying now.  The house has a beautiful tree in the back yard under which Tabby can sit, and she loves the house.  To make a long story short, if I can get the financing together (I think I can), we're moving.  Tabby won't be doing any of the lifting or anything... That'll be me and whomever I can bribe with beer and pizza.  But the house will be a quiet, serene place for her.  That's the point.  That's what has to happen.  My youngest will stay at her same school, see her friends, and is generally thrilled.  The house is what we've been hoping for.

I am, beyond a doubt, devastated.  Tabby is heart-broken.  I don't know how long I have left with her, but we intend to make the best of it.

Love to all of you.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Update on Tabby: 2-6-2013

Before I get too far into this, I need to say something.  Thank you to everyone who reads these, comments on them, shares them, etc.  There's not a whole lot, at this point, I can do or that anyone can do, but it is appreciated.

Yesterday, we went back to Austin to visit with Tabby's doctor and get the results of her latest CT scan.  We expected everything to be stable.  Our expectations were not met.  The tumors have grown.  Significantly.  What that means is that the last year of chemotherapy Tabby has endured has done nothing more than hold it at bay.  It hasn't ben successful in fighting it.  We are all very disappointed.

So what does that mean?  First, back into chemotherapy for Tabby, but this time without the "hooded nightmare" cisplaten, or the torture-drug nulasta.  She's using a drug called Taxol, and will be infused with it once a week for, likely, the rest of her life. In two weeks, we look again to see if there needs to be adjustments made on the dosage, if she's allergic to it, or if it is having any effect whatsoever.  This new drug does have a lower success rate than the first.  If this one fails, there's one other, and it has a lower percentage still.

The doctor was very clear:  She told Tabby that there would come a point where Tabby would have to make a decision.  People who are not in chemotherapy do tend to feel better than those who are not, but they live longer.  Tabby nodded her head and said "Okay.  Let's fight."

Define "tenacity."  Look it up in any dictionary, and you should find a photo of my wife.

There's not much else for me to say at this point.  I continue to watch over her, try to provide comfort for her and my girls, and keep doing what I do because the world, in general, doesn't give a damn.  No matter what happens, the world will keep turning, bills will still need to be paid, and people will still expect things to get done.  And someone has to do them.  So I'm doing them.

I was asked what effect this had on our day to day lives.  I can't even begin to answer that question without sounding like whining, so I won't.  I'll just say there's been a huge impact, the likes of which I hope no one I know will ever endure.  Emotionally, financially, psychologically...  Cancer doesn't just claim one person.  It claims families.  It claims friends.  Those of us that must, do what we must.

Tabby doesn't have an expiration date.  She's planning on fighting until she can't anymore.  How long that will be is anyone's guess.  And I'll be the guy in her corner screaming at her to get back up and fight.  Because I love her.  And because that's what we do.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Personal Fitness and Health

Most often, I use this blog to talk about whatever strikes my fancy.  Recently, it's been a way to keep all you good folks updated on what's happening with Tabby's fight against cervical cancer.  And while that is currently the most important thing going on in my life, I got inspired to do a short-ish entry on my personal battle with weight loss.  Why?  Because it's my blog and I can.  Also, because the last few entries have been damned depressing (rightfully so) and I wanted to put something positive up.

A little history:  When Tabby and I got married, I weighed 142 pounds and has six percent body fat.  Six.  As in "almost none."  I was very lean, could eat anything I wanted, and still fit in a pair of pants with a 27-inch waist.  Those were the days.  Over the years, (19 of them, in fact), I saw a gradual increase in weight brought on by a multitude of factors, the biggest one being I simply love food and didn't exercise self-control.  I like to blame Tabby's cooking, but if I'm being honest, I did it to myself.  I packed on about 100 pounds of shame.  That's right, at my biggest, I weighed in at 240 pounds.  For a guy that's only (slightly under) 5'7" that's a whole 'nother person.  I came to a monumental decision that is still affecting my life, but in a positive way.  I needed to be more healthy.  In light of current circumstances, I really needed to be more healthy.  So I took a few steps.

First, I quit smoking.  It's been close to three years now, and I'm not picking it back up.  I did, however, substitute food for cigarettes, which resulted in the afore-mentioned ballooning of my weight.  Then I decided it was time to make things better.

Step one:  Gym membership.  The university for which I work (AKA:  "The Day Job") has a "wellness program" that allows employees to take 30 minutes of their day for personal wellness or fitness requirements.  My boss was kind enough to allow me to add those 30 minutes to my lunch hour, which allowed me an hour and a half to walk to the Student Recreation Center (which is the most kick-ass gym a guy could want), work out, shower, and get back.

Step two:  The workout.  For me, it's strict cardio for now.  The elliptical is both my best friend and my most hated instrument of torture.  Every day, I walk to the gym, follow the "fat burning" setting, and flat-out run for 35 minutes.  By the time I'm done, my shirt is soaked, my lungs burn, and my legs ache, but that's a good thing.  I think.  I follow it up with about 10 minutes of intense stretching of my legs.

Step three:  Bonus workout.  To begin with, I still am the assistant coach of the Texas State University Karate Team.  I'm a 4th degree black belt in Kajukenbo, and have the reputation of being somewhat of a sadist where workouts are concerned.  When I show up for class, it's all business, and I work the students until I'm sure they'll be sore in the morning.  I do the same workout they do, putting my body through the ringer until I, like they, are soaked with sweat.  On days when I don't go to the gym (because it's in another town), I try to get out and walk two or three miles through my neighborhood.

Step four:  Calorie counting.  It's a well-known, but often despised, fact of weight loss that, in order to lose weight, a person has to expend more calories than he is taking in.  If there's another way of doing it, someone please tell me what it is.  To that end, I downloaded a calorie tracker on my phone and enter in EVERYTHING I eat every day.  I also add in my exercises.

So how's that working out for me, you ask?  Starting from a weight of 240 lbs, I'm now down to 200 lbs, with an end goal of 180 lbs.  I've dropped several inches in my waist, my kilts fit better, and I can now walk across campus without getting winded.  I can also now out work (almost) every kid in the karate class, which, considering I'm going to be 42 years old in two months, is no small feat.  There are other benefits that I didn't count on.

  • Food actually tastes better.  Not sure if that's from not smoking, the weight loss, or a combination of the two. 
  • I have a better mental outlook.
  • My knees and hips don't hurt as often as they used to.
  • My back doesn't hurt as often or as much as it used to. 
  • I have so much more energy. 

I guess my point here isn't to preach or say that everyone needs to get on the fitness bandwagon.  I'm saying I did what was right for me.  My body, though far from perfect, is still a work in progress.  And if this little blog entry inspires just one person to maybe get up and try to improve their physical health, then I'm glad to have provided that service.  

I wish everyone who reads this long life and good health!