A few weeks ago I found out that a grant proposal I had written had been selected, and Herndon ES would receive $2500 to support our STEM program. Dave and I were driving up to Baltimore at the time, and it was welcome news during an otherwise stressful time. I was very excited but not nearly as much as Dave. He is so proud and has been making sure everyone knows about it.
Today we went to a Jazz and Gospel Brunch where the grants were being given out. It was such a great event. There was a jazz ensemble from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as well as their show choir. The students in both groups blew me away with their incredible talent. Lunch was delicious, and we met the nicest people. Dave took every opportunity to talk up the STEM program and let people know how proud he is. He even interrupted the program ever so briefly so he could take a few pictures of me being given the check from the church’s pastor. I am so lucky to have someone who believes in me and supports me with all of his heart.
We are blessed with the greatest friends. The kindnesses that we have been shown during this journey have been humbling. Here are a few things that have arrived at our house in recent days.
1. Our friend, Kathie, made food for days to put in our freezer. On days when cooking seems too daunting a task, we can throw one of her meals in the crockpot and get on with our day. This had made life infinitely easier.
2. Today Dave and I were driving to Social Security to take care of some paperwork. At the stoplight, a truck pulled up next to us and honked. The two guys in the truck LOVED the sticker on the back of Dave’s car and wondered where we got it. I explained that my friend, Steve, had made it for Dave. As they drove away, they thanked us for giving them a good laugh first thing in the morning!
3. My friend, Lexy, (who has been mentioned many times on this blog before) broke her foot. She was ordered to stay off of her foot in order to avoid surgery. So what did she do with her resting time? She grabbed a bunch of pictures from my Facebook page and turned them into an incredible picture book. Her inspiration was an offhand comment I made about never printing my pictures. As I said to her – her thoughtfulness is unparalleled. Truly amazing.
4. I featured a big box of fun activities that arrived at our house a few weeks ago. The same three women who sent us that also sent us this gift certificate to Let’s Dish. Parker had such a great time preparing meals when we went to Dinner Done in the winter (which was also from Stacy, Julie and Becky), and she can’t wait to try it again. We will come home with lots of yummy dinners that are ready to be popped into the oven. Not having to think about what to make for dinner might be the greatest gift ever!
I will spend my lifetime trying to put back as much goodwill into the universe as we have received.
The weight of the world fell squarely onto the shoulders of my 19 year old today. I got a text while I was at work that said “Dad is retiring?!” We had talked to all three kids about Dave stepping away from work, but we never used the word retirement. There is a finality to it that has been hard enough for me to wrap my heart and mind around. So there was a reluctance to say it to the kids just yet. I guess a family member commented on a Facebook page that has been set up in support of Dave. That comment showed up in Sam’s Facebook feed which led her to the group. By the time I got home it was apparent that she had been crying for some time. I asked her if she wanted to talk but she couldn’t. She told me, “I just can’t get it together.” My response “I understand.”
A little while later, I asked her to run errands with me. I had an opportunity to explain to her that Dad could no longer lead the school since he wasn’t able to work full time. We talked about the fact that by retiring Dad was making sure that financially we were okay. She cried some more. It has been a tough day, but now she understands more. And she probably needed to know.
The Facebook group is really neat – lots of positive comments about Dave and great pictures too. But very bittersweet to be sure. You might want to check it out. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1425307577738898.
5.26.14 – 6AM
Me: How are you doing?
D: I’m all right.
Me: Scale of 1-10?
D: About a 5.
Me: Oh. That’s not very good.
D: I know but I don’t want you to worry.
Me: I worry anyway.
D: I know.
Parker got her first pink streak in her hair the summer before she turned four. Almost seven years later, she still hasn’t grown tired of it. She has been asking me for ages to re-do her hair since it has been about a year. Today I finally stepped up to the mom plate and got the job done. Happy Saturday!
Here are a few pics from our very productive day. Our To Do list is getting checked off a little bit at a time. It will be nice to have these things finished and not have to think about them again.
A picture is worth a thousand (or ten thousand) words. Literally.
We picked up the required physician’s reports and notes for our retirement plan. That is the paperwork that was requested including office notes, lab results, scans, pre-op, post-op, meds, chemo treatments spanning almost three years.
We do not take good selfies.
My friend, Cheryl, gave me a gift card to the yummiest restaurant. I decided after all of our hard work today, that I would treat Dave to lunch. If you have eaten at Cafesano, you know that this was a sacrifice to share my gift card! We tried to get the picture with the sign and both of us in it, but he was standing and I was sitting. And he is 11 feet tall and maybe I should have stood up? Oh well. You get the idea. Forgive the no makeup wrinkly face. (This one is for you, Nicola!)
This one made me get teary eyed.
The Hayfield seniors painted the rock yesterday. A very kind senior parent sent me this photo. Needless to say Dave and I loved it.
We drooled when we saw these beauties.
I had to edit this post so I could add another picture. These delicious treats from Georgetown Cupcake arrived just after I pressed “publish”. Thanks to Peggy, we are all enjoying a sweet sweet sugar high.
Dave is in Chicago with his brother, dad and uncle. They cheered the Blackhawks on to victory this afternoon and will be sticking around town to see the next game on Wednesday. Meanwhile, back on the home front, I have taken this weekend to unbury us from the mountains of clutter that have been steadily amassing. Lots of little things have been put on the back burner as we deal with more pressing issues, or we have simply just blown them off to go and do something more fun. I am feeling a bit more on top of things – for the moment anyway.
With Dave’s latest medical news, I have been feeling a need to talk to the kids a little bit about where we are. There is a fine line between telling them enough so that they don’t think we are keeping things from them and telling them too much which could create unnecessary stress. Life with Cancer apparently has excellent resources for children and at some point we may take advantage of them. At the end of the day, though, no one knows our kids better than we do. Most times when Dave and I are out walking the dogs, we are discussing the kids – concerns, what to tell them, their futures. (We also spend a fair amount of time talking about how amazing they all are.) I have to trust that what we are saying and doing is what is right. Briefly, here is where they are in their understanding.
Sam (19 yrs.) – Dad is stepping away from work right now. He has gone through all the conventional treatments for colon cancer, and they are no longer working. We are looking at some clinical trials in Baltimore. The tumors are continuing to grow.
Grant (16 yrs.) – Dad is stepping away from work right now. The cancer is still growing and he is tired. We are going to Baltimore to see if they have a treatment that might help.
Parker (10 yrs.) – Dad still has cancer. He is taking a break from work. We are trying to find a treatment that will help him.
I don’t want to tell them that we are out of options until we are actually out of options. And I can’t imagine that there would ever be a day when I would give them a timeline. They can see that Dave is slowing down a little, but they also see that he is still full of life and ready for the next fun activity. Actually, I think that is what we all see.
Here’s what they knew in January –https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-truth-the-almost-whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth
and here is where they were almost two years ago – https://embracingtherollercoaster.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/the-kids-are-all-right
Dave and I work for the largest school system in Virginia with 196 schools serving over 184,000 students. I can meet someone at a training and when they tell me the name of their school, I may have never heard of it and likely have no idea where it is. FCPS is huge. Except when it feels much smaller. Like today. Someone I met for the first time (who is by all definitions a complete Godsend) mentioned to me that she has been reading my blog. I was floored – mouth hanging slightly open surprised. Dave and I talked about it in the elevator as we were leaving. He said that I didn’t really understand how far-reaching my blog was. I guess he is right. I told him that it is a testament to how much he is loved and how many peoples’ lives he has touched during his 22 years in the county.
We are immeasurably grateful for our FCPS family. Dave’s boss has been Herculean in her efforts to support him. The “A Team” at Hayfield has kept the ship sailing high and strong when Dave has not been able to sit at the helm. We are so very thankful.
As I drove into work this morning after our meeting, I thought about the role that FCPS has played in our lives, one of them being unintentional matchmaker. Although we are five years apart in age, Dave and I were both first year teachers in 1991. My roommate, Alex, and I graduated from William and Mary and incredibly were both hired to teach at Dranesville Elementary. The other new teacher that year was a tall, blond fellow named Dave. I met him on my twenty-second birthday, the first day of orientation. At lunch that day, Dave attempted to open a packet of chocolate chip cookies. As the cookies took flight through the crowded cafeteria due to some fine motor issue, we cracked up laughing. I knew at that moment that we would be friends. Dave and I were the subject of much speculation around the hallways at school, but I was dating someone else so just shrugged off the comments without much consideration. Eventually, of course, the other guy was history and Dave and I became us. Within a month or two, we were engaged and the week before my 23rd birthday, we met up in front of the gorgeous stained glass window at Lord of Life to seal it with a kiss.
Guess I am feeling a little nostalgic today.
Dave and I went up to Hopkins yesterday to meet with his oncologist there. Currently, Hopkins has three phase II trials available. The first one Dr. A was not too excited about. It is an immunotherapy trial which is a hot topic in oncology these days. Unfortunately this trial has shown no success in colon cancer patients except for one whose tumor was microsatellite unstable. Dave’s tumor is not that type. The other two trials have potential but there are certain markers they are looking for in order to qualify. For the first one, Dave has less than a 20% chance of being a match. However, for the second on he has a 40% chance. So he signed the consent forms and his tumor tissue will be tested. We should have an answer in the next couple of weeks. There are also some phase I trials available but Dave and I talked about quality of life versus potential impact. Guess we will cross that bridge if we come to it.
While we were in the waiting room one of the nurses who organized the retreat we went on found us. It was great to catch up with her. She has convinced Dave to participate in a “Survivors’ Day” being put on by Hopkins. He will be modeling some men’s fashions, I guess. He is already teasing me about “being married to a model”! She and I had a chance to catch up while Dave was having his vitals taken. We talked about the grim prognosis, and she reassured me that people get to a point when they are no longer participating in life and that in no way was Dave there. She also reiterated that doctors don’t really know. They can make a guess but often they are wrong. Of course, we firmly believe these things too. It was nice to hear someone in the cancer world confirm our beliefs.
Sam and I are about to hit the road back to Baltimore for her orthopedist appointment. Hopefully he will be able to do something to help with her hip pain. Baltimore is starting to feel like my second home. Very grateful to have such amazing resources just an hour up the road.