Parker met her new teacher today and seems very happy. She didn’t recognize too many names on the class list, but I reassured her that she would quickly make friends once school started. Grant survived his freshman orientation managing to only embarrass his older sister twice during the process. The swim coach stopped Samantha in the hallway today and told her he expected her to swim this year. He was excited to learn she has a brother who also swims and instructed her to “send him to me!”
After many headaches, our deck is finally complete. It only had to be rebuilt once. The contractor lied to us, tried to get away with using cheaper materials, defended shoddy work, failed to mention items that didn’t pass the inspection, tried to collect payment without ever laying eyes on the “finished” product, the list goes on and on. So now we have a beautiful deck. The only problem is that we still have to climb out the window to enjoy it. The contractor wrote the door contract separately from the deck contract, and we weren’t willing to give him another penny to start the door until the deck was actually finished to our satisfaction. After heated debate, Dave has agreed to cut ties with the contractor and not allow him to do the door. So, if you can recommend someone who can replace a window with a door, let me know. We’d like to go on a personal endorsement this time around.
I started my new job this week, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. The kids are going to have a blast in the STEM lab. It will be so rewarding to teach a class where there are no testing pressures or grades. The kids will be learning and exploring for the sheer fun of it. How great is that?!
We are off to Charlottesville to spend time at the beautiful Awad farm. It will be great to relax before our lives get even crazier.
You can’t get mad at someone with cancer. FALSE.
They are still the same person they were before the diagnosis with the same annoying habits and ability to push your buttons. There are a few big differences though. I try SO hard to let things slide. I remind myself that Dave is stressed or tired or feels like garbage. When I do finally reach my breaking point and get angry, there is guilt involved. A lot of guilt. Then I forgive myself because I am only human.
You will feel a need to do everything they want to do. TRUE
I hardly ever say no now. You want to go out to dinner? Sure. You want to go to Disney World in July during one of the most crowded times of the year? Why not? You say you want to get a puppy? What a great idea! There are times when I think “What about what I want to do?” Then I feel selfish.
Living with cancer makes you appreciate every moment. FALSE
It would be great if that were true. The reality is there is still work and laundry and dentist appointments. So much of our time is spent doing the same stuff we were doing before Dave’s diagnosis. I think that we make more effort to spend time with friends now and dedicate at least a part of our weekends to doing something fun as a family.
People will offer to help. SO TRUE
I don’t think there is a person out there who hasn’t said “Please let us know if we can help.” We appreciate that very much. But the reality is that unless your name ends in Tremaine or Thompson, it is highly unlikely that we will ask for help. It’s embarrassing. It would be admitting that we couldn’t handle things on our own. It would remind us that our lives have veered off course. We know this, of course, but acknowledging it is a totally different story.
I am not a huge fan of the unknown. I avoid watching super suspenseful movies because I can’t handle the stress. It wouldn’t be particularly unusual for me to skim the end of a book if I am worried about a character’s fate. Uncertainty makes me twitchy.
Dave had a scan mid-August. The doctor said that nothing had changed and that was good news (https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/more-not-bad-news). After I got home, I read the scan report that was given to us. Words like cavitary, renal, and hypodensity jumped off of the page. Certainly none of these words had been mentioned at the appointment. A quick Google search revealed nothing. I could read the definitions, but I certainly couldn’t understand what the implications were for Dave.
So I waited patiently for Dave to decide if he wanted to discuss this with his regular doctor who had been out of town. I tried not to seem overly concerned which is part of my job as supportive wife. A week later, he sent the report and scan to the doctor he had seen at Johns Hopkins. Today, he FINALLY discussed it with Dr. Spira. We learned that “cavitary” could be a good thing. It could indicate that one of the pulmonary metastases is dying. Unfortunately, Dr. Spira didn’t want to weigh in on the renal hypodensity. He feels that we will know more after the next scan. More waiting and wondering.
“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing. I said to my soul, be still…..”
A friend of Samantha’s recommended a bunch of books for her to read. She wasn’t sure about The Fault in Our Stars (http://www.amazon.com/The-Fault-Stars-John-Green/dp/0525478817/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345999839&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fault+in+our+stars) since he mentioned that it had to do with cancer. I told her I would read it first and then tell her if I thought she should read it. It was a quick read and well written, I thought. Cancer is the prominent theme, and I was struck by how well the author conveyed the emotions that permeate your life when cancer is a part of it. He did a great job expressing the uncertainty and fear that a run of the mill twinge or pain might not be run of the mill. He accurately described how each scan can make you catch your breath and send your heart racing 100 miles an hour. He painted a grim portrait of an end of life scenario which I hope to never experience. It reads like young adult literature and is a quick read. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I have no idea if my 17 year old should read it.
*Great news! Samantha now has two colleges that she is REALLY excited about – http://www.wm.edu and http://www.cnu.edu. She said that if she is accepted into both schools, it would be a tough decision. Of course I would love to see her at my alma mater, but I was very impressed with CNU and could definitely picture her happy there.
*Since Grant is about to start high school, Samantha took him and his buddy, Rhett, over to the school to look around, find their lockers and locate classes. Afterwards, she even treated them to slurpees. It was a sibling moment I wasn’t sure I would ever see!
*Dave looks forward to this weekend all year. It is the fantasy football draft. All the guys convene in one location and hold a live draft of their teams. They have traveled to various locations over the years, and this year it is here. The boys are flying in from all over the country for lots of football talk, drinking and male bonding. I can’t say that I really understand it, but I love the friendship and brotherhood. These are some of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet.
*The last item on Parker’s back to school to do list was to re-pink her hair. So that is what we spent this afternoon doing. Turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.
When we left off, our hero had just received the shocking and unexpected diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. After a grueling 48 hours, we met with the colon surgeon that Dave’s gastroenterologist had recommended. His office was this shabby dark space near Fair Oaks Hospital. When we first saw him, he was yelling at one of his staff. My first impressions was “Geez. This guys is old. How is he going to do the surgery?’ Once we sat down with him though my mind was put at ease. He could do the surgery laproscopically. It was straightforward and the tumor was in an “ideal” location which meant it could be removed and the two pieces of colon could be reattached eliminating the need for a colostomy. He took Dave into a separate exam room. When Dave returned he looked a bit shell shocked and told me he could “cross going to prison off his bucket list.” Then this fine doctor dropped the news on us that he was going on vacation for two weeks. I thought Dave was going to jump over the desk and strangle him. Luckily, one of his partners could work Dave in the next week.
Things always work out for a reason, right? It turned out to be a good thing that Dr. Otchy was going to be gone. His partner was great, and it turns out that his wife is one of the kids’ pediatricians. Dr. Stern was exactly what we needed. Dave had his surgery on Friday, August 12th. We were told it would take about three hours. When three hours came and went, I got very nervous that they weren’t able to do the surgery laproscopically after all and had to open Dave up. Turns out the laproscopic surgery takes longer than a traditional open surgery. Dr. Stern was able to remove the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes which would be sent off to pathology to be tested. After a long day, Dave was sent up to his room to start to recover.
*The surgeon on the left in the photo above is the wonderful Dr. Lawrence Stern.
**To read the beginning of our story, start here . https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/in-the-beginning
I think that the best thing that you can do for someone who is dealing with cancer is to stay in touch. (This would be #1 on my list of “Things I am SO Glad that People Did or Said”.) We have so appreciated each and every email, message, voicemail, phone call, text. When we were still reeling after our world had been rocked, I remember looking around and seeing people going about their lives as normal. Frustrated that life could just go on in the midst of all our craziness made me feel like we were all alone. Then I would come home and there would be a card in the mail, and I would be reminded that we will never be alone. We have a huge network of love and support.
There have been some MVPs of staying in touch. For Dave, his biggest supporters are two women that he barely knows. One of them, Lora, he has only met in person once or twice. The other one, Helen, is my brother’s mother-in-law. Both of these supportive wonderful women are cancer survivors. They seem to know how important it is to stay in touch regularly and so Dave receives cards or care packages once a month. For me, I would have to say my sister-in-law, Michelle, has been incredible about staying in touch. I get quick text messages of support and love all the time just to let me know that she is thinking of us. Michelle’s mom is Helen. I guess when you have gone through it, you realize how important it is to have people checking in on you.
I feel like relationships with friends and family have actually been strengthened over the last year. We have reconnected with friends that we hadn’t seen in a while, spent more time with loved ones, and learned to enjoy every moment we are lucky enough to spend together. It’s a shame that it takes something catastrophic to bring people together, but I will take it.
Dave had chemo last week. By Saturday he felt awful. Fatigue and stomach malaise were the biggest issues. He was grumpy and short tempered. This seems to be the day he feels at his absolute worst after infusion. Then each successive day seems to get a little bit better. He starts to feel almost completely back to normal by about Tuesday of the week following treatment.
The Saturdays of the weeks he doesn’t have chemo are not much better. He is anxious and stressed. I can’t begin to imagine how challenging it must be to finally feel better and then have to gear up to do it all again. So we stay busy. We make plans and find things to look forward to. This is our new normal, and we are starting to get the hang of it.
Wednesday was our 20th wedding anniversary so I thought I would just share a little bit about what kind of guy I married. My husband is the kind of guy who sends one stunning long stem red rose for each year we have been married. He is the kind of guy who days after receiving life changing news and a day before his first major surgery last August, made sure he stopped at the florist to arrange deliveries for our anniversary and my birthday. He is also the kind of guy who feels free to share his suggestion for who would be a good future mate for me “just in case this doesn’t work out”.
Samantha and I have been on the college circuit this week. We will have gone to 4 schools by tomorrow evening (Virginia Commonwealth, Mary Washington, Christopher Newport and William and Mary). Monday we will head to James Madison. I have marked her graduation date on the calendar – June 17, 2013. And we have been pouring over her senior pictures to make our choices. They are all beautiful!
I have enjoyed some fun friend time this week too. I spent hours catching up with my friend, Tracie which was long overdue and so needed. I also had another non-stop talk filled coffee date with my friends, Heather and Michele. I am going to be so sad when school starts, and I won’t have as much time.
The absolute icing on this week’s cake was the Barry Manilow concert. I am not a “fanilow” by any stretch, but Dave sure is! We had such a great time with Jeanne and PJ singing along to the songs and sharing lots of laughs. The perfect evening really – the weather was gorgeous, Barry sounded amazing, and I enjoyed gazing up at the stars in the clear sky.
Restoration for the soul.
I just left Dave at the infusion lab to enjoy our 20th anniversary getting chemo’d up. Thought I should post a quick update. His latest scan showed no changes. Everything is stable. No new tumors and no new growth of the existing ones. Dave was disappointed as he had hoped we would seem some reduction in tumor size. I am relieved. The doctor and researchers all seemed pleased with this result. So, I’ll take it!