New Chemo-Oh really?

+JMJ+

My lack of posts or updates are a direct result of the sickness in our household. After Sarah received her 4th round of the harsher chemo treatments, we were looking forward to better health, energy and a happier overall outlook. The next section of chemotherapy involves a different “potion” with promises of an easier recuperation. Since her last infusion, Sarah has struggled to overcome a hard flu and the house was wracked with her bouts of severe coughing and sinus problems. Her coughs are so pitiful and they don’t seem to be subsiding. She can’t lay down for more that a few minutes and spends her nights upright on the couch with a blanket. This is reminiscent of Sarah’s dear mother Isabel. She spent her last months at home sleeping in her chair. Is this the fate for my wife now? It has been nearly a month since Sarah and I have been able to sleep together in the same bed. This separation is difficult for me since I get so much comfort and reassurance from holding my beloved bride at night. Sarah is apologetic but it really isn’t her direct fault.

The time of sickness wears on and the matrimonial demeanor gradually and increasingly suffers. REALLY. Is there no relief to be found? Must everything be so harsh? The winter (and this season of chemotherapy) is just so brutal. As the days of illness turn into weeks, my trust in Sarah is tested. Can I believe her when each day I ask how she feels in the morning and in the evening how she fared during the day? Those who know Sarah know she is always an optimist. I absolutely LOVE that aspect about her. She can always find the upside and is a real joy to be around. Being married to such a positive person is thrilling. But her pat answers, “I’m feeling better than yesterday” & “I feel like I’m getting better”, make me question her sincerity. Is she just putting me on? Is she competent enough to accurately diagnose her health while she continues coughing and suffering each day? I’m at a loss because she has answers to all my challenges and seems to be medicating herself better than I could. I can’t think of anything else she should be doing except getting better.

Sarah’s two week recuperation period is almost over and yet still so sick. A slight improvement the day before her appointment worries me that they will put poison into my still sick wife. Each chemotherapy session thus far has been preceded with testing to make sure Sarah can handle another round. At the Cancer Center, Sarah has a coughing fit that draws the attention of those around her. Chest X-Rays determine she has no pneumonia but is still too sick to keep the schedule. I’m relieved when they decide that Sarah should wait one more week to get over her cold and regain her strength. I’m notified of all this via text because I’m at work wondering if I’m honoring my wife by my absence or if I should have been with her during this most difficult time.

My future sister Carrie, is with Sarah this entire time of her appointment. Faithful friend Carrie. She keeps me informed with regular updates during my deliveries. After Sarah is dropped off at home, Carrie makes a run for more pharmaceuticals. In her kindness she calls me to give me an update that just can’t be relayed by text. In her enthusiasm for Sarah’s care and during that momentary hectic period, Carrie voice relays her concern and plays into my heightened anxiety. Her forward style really is difficult to hear as the leader of the family and most of all as protector of my spouse. I fear I really haven’t been doing a good job since Sarah has been so sick for so long. Carrie probably needed to vent as well since Sarah’s condition is so full of stress. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to be a comfort to these needs from another dear and well meaning friend. Later, after my shift is over, Carrie and I are able to revisit the day’s events and discuss without the pressing deadlines and customer demands that occurred during our earlier conversation.

The evening discussion I had with Carrie, hopefully one of many future opportunities, was quite touching. Her love for my wife is overwhelming. Her gradual growth into our family has been such a gift from God. Carrie is the first, and thus far most impressive, gift from this Cancer Journey. She is tremendous. One is usually slow to let others into the intimate inner confines that is reserved for only the closest friend or exclusive family members. I marvel at how God has brought this beautiful lady into our lives, to accompany Sarah to every medical appointment, to encourage those of us who are caring for Sarah and giving a kind ear for those who have fears and hopes and dreams for Sarah’s recovery. Sarah never really had a this type of close sister her whole life. She is nearly 15 years younger than her older biological sister. My brothers wives each have shared a good relationship and good moments with Sarah and I, but the immature bad girl persona just doesn’t fit Sarah. Privately Sarah and I discuss how much we love Carrie and are impressed by her. I was raised with two brothers and never had a sister. If Carrie becomes that unknown, missing element and addition to our lives, than that is truly a gift from God. Thank you most kindly Precious Lord!

Soon after Sarah is released from her schedule of chemotherapy, she starts to show gradual, actual recovery. In one weeks time she is well enough to resume and begin the 2nd leg of treatments with a less difficult potion. The medical professionals were unable to diagnose how Sarah could have treated herself any better or figure out if her issues was an air borne virus or a side effect from previous treatments. Ironically, Sarah has nearly fully recovered from her cold and I have caught it. My immune systems is much stronger than Sarah’s but I can see how difficult it must have been for her. Now it is I who sleeps in an upright position but fortunately Sarah gets the whole bed…..snore free.

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4th Round-The end is near?

+JMJ+

It is with relief that Sarah and I look forward to the 4th edition of the “Put the Poison in my Wife to Kill the Worse Poison”‘ show.

Once someone gave advise on how to endure the challenges of raising teenagers. “Just power through it”, they stated. This is our outlook with this latest round of difficult chemotherapy. This is supposed to be the the worst part of chemotherapy treatment, which is why they administer it in the beginning when the patient (suspect/victim?) is at their most optimal strength. The fatigue really gets Sarah down emotionally. She wants to do so much and when she feels well, she’s often tempted to over exert herself and then fall into more fatigue. This 4th Round is the last of the stronger chemical and then a weekly infusion with less strenuous chemical will follow until close to Easter.

The Saturday before her 4th round, Sarah developed an infection and fever from a cold. Antibiotics did their trick even though Sarah was forced to miss Sunday Mass and watch it on TV. This makes for a good inside joke at home because my mom often references the TV Mass to keep in my good graces when I’m tempted to criticize her for not going outside for church on Sunday’s. Soon enough Sarah recovered and with good fortune (sarcasm) it was just in time for her 4th infusion. Each time the bounce back seems to take just a little longer but Sarah bravely tries to work a few days. After arriving home she usually sleeps quite a bit to recover her strength. Today (two weeks after) Sarah again was too ill to attend Mass and had to receive her Holy Communion spiritually. She has developed more sinus infections and we hope she will recover in due time. Her receptions are probably more sincere then many or at least with more fervor than her able-bodied husband. I have been waiting for the development for a happy ending to appear as I’m trying to realize the purpose God has for us with this Cancer Gift.

The Catholic Lite Theology version would have one believe that once you submit to God (be it your will, or plans or aspirations) you sing a few happy songs and then feel great about yourself and about life for a few weeks until you find some more happy songs again. This is one of the reasons I’m so adamant about the pop song culture and wishy-washy lyrics that are invading our supremely sacred Liturgy. True Catholic Theology understands that the decisions to stop fighting with God and to submit to His Divine Plan involves a blind faith that all will end up happily ever after. Many times after the climax of submission, trials appear to discourage and test your resolve. This is why I admire virginity so much. Certainly we all were virgins before we were married, I’m talking about the virginity that lasts into adulthood and for some who reserve their bodies for their entire lives, for the greater good-for God. No one exemplifies this type of virginity and sacrifice more than the Blessed Mother, Mary. Her knowledge of the difficulties that lay ahead of her were not all unknown. She understood enough of the prophecies to know that her submission, her blind step of faith, included heavy trials. And yet with this knowledge, she submitted to become the Mother of God-Jesus Christ. Certainly God the Father was pleased with her, pleased enough to ask her to carry the long awaited Messiah. Surely her life should be one freed from all anxieties but in reality she accepted the thorns that come with the rose.

Today’s level of my emotional anxiety compares to the other time when our world was rocked. My brothers and I had to endure the death, funeral and burial of our father, around the Christmas holiday when we were in and barely out of our teens. Many friends commented on our strength. Maybe because they hadn’t expected these boys to perform like men. It was a very difficult time and our bond is now nearly unbreakable all these years later. The difference with this Cancer Gift is the duration. Dad’s event lasted the better part of a week while our family has been trying to cope for months and know there are still months yet to come. Just Power Through.

I think too that this Cancer Gift is a trial run for me of sorts. Having reached the age of 50 means that my life is in most probabilities, half way over. Now begins the preparation for death. As harsh as this may seem, it really is sound Catholic Doctrine to prepare for death. Living a life worthy of Heaven is a worthwhile goal but so is the preparation of a holy death. Nothing is more important than life right now and at the hour of our death. This why we pray this intercession in the Hail Mary. For nothing matters for eternity more than “now” & “at the hour of our death”. Given the way our virile bodies have naturally declined from our honeymoon years, it seems likely that Sarah may precede me in death. It is not so morbid a thought to know she ( and I) are running ever speedily to the beginning of our Eternity, to walk forever hand in hand with God or hand in hoof with the devil. We need to not foolishly overlook the uncertainty of our temporary life on earth that seemed so secure in our youth. Oh sure, I could die in the morning, none of us knows the hour we will be called to judgement. But will this trial run prepare me for that certain event when my wife (like all of us) will die?

How will I have the strength then to comfort all the mourners? Will I fall to pieces and look for temporal escapes when my grief threatens to overwhelm me? Can I imitate the strength of character displayed when our Dad died? Certain things are assured. Sarah will have many who feel a deep loss considering all those who are affected by this temporary disease. She also, having been such a faithful Child of God, will most likely die in the Grace of the Church, with the Sacraments and probably with a straight shot to Heaven.

The fear of Sarah dying soon from this Cancer Gift fades quickly even considering the many good people who have died from cancer. The joy of Easter will come eventually as will the spring to melt these harsh temperatures and piles of snow. Likewise, chemo treatments will end eventually and we can envision the last half of treatments like we see the last half of our lives. It won’t be all happy songs and flowers in this life, but in the next! I hope I can power through till Eternity begins and that I’ll be found faithful to my wife, now and at the hour of my death.

3rd Round Chemo-The Bossy Bunch

+JMJ+

By now, an impromptu sort of recovery schedule has emerged. Generally, when Sarah receives her chemo treatment every other Thursday, she comes home pale and fuzzy headed. She sleeps the initial jolt to her body off and shortly thereafter goes back to the treatment center to receive her booster shot. This shot contains antibodies to help her recover from the witches brew they call chemo. The rest of the weekend is spent sleeping and feeling lousy. By early next week she is starting to recover and has a few days of recovery and feeling well. This round, the recovery took longer than the previous two. I wonder if the recovery process is more difficult and if this is normal. Perhaps if Sarah can power through just one more round, the balance of her treatments may hopefully be easier.

The weekend reveals that Sarah has caught a cold or more accurately stated, a sinus infection. We’ve been diligent with the antibacterial hand washing with each sneeze or nose blow. But the college kids have left and now it’s just Helen, Pete and I. Have we become too lax? Did I cause her additional pain with my negligence? Regardless, Sarah struggles to find sleep and we wonder if she will be well enough to keep her scheduled 4th round chemo appointment. Really Sarah, couldn’t you keep your health to receive more infectious fluids at the hands of those cancer killing (we hope) doctors? This all seems so ironic and of course unfair.

As the generalities of Sarah’s recovery fall into place and into a general pattern, so do the actions and directions of the many friends who have been so concerned about their dear friend. Sometimes the care for Sarah turns into repeated, stern words for me. “You take care of my friend”…like I’m going to carelessly push her in the river or make her rotate the tires. But these words and misdirected actions are taking their toll on me. Especially some of the more aggressive directions from a group I informally call the Bossy Bunch.

One of the real joys I have in my demanding job, is the responsibilities and accomplishments each day. I must make hundreds of daily and thousands of weekly decisions to be effective. I do a good job. But somehow these Bossy Bunch members think I need to know the most mundane and minute details. I’ve been told where to stand, where to park, how to park and how to hold a simple casserole dish. I know their primary concern is for their friend who is ill but I should not feel as a target to receive their latest theological preponderance on what God’s intent is with this Cancer Gift. I resent being told how I need to change my feelings on this point or consider that angle, when all I want to do is find my wife and accompany her. Bossy Bunchers attack me when I enter a room and jump out at me unexpectedly when I’m full of anxiety. I just want to focus my attention on Sarah!

I would like to propose the following philosophical observation…I am NOT a pseudo-husband to the Bossy Bunch. I don’t need to be treated like I’m another thing doer or an innate set of ears for your use. When you ask me if I’m busy and proceed to divert my attention from my main concern, it becomes increasingly hard to remain charitable. If you’re looking for something good to come from this situation, try imitating your friend Sarah. Sarah would never repeat some of the things about her husband that members of the Bossy Bunch complain about publicly. My wife has always shown tremendous restraint in advertising my faults (and apparently there are many) to others, even in intimate settings. In return, I refrain from exploiting my wife from with R-rated talk or jokes about our private exploits. In this way we honor each other and show mutual respect. Sometimes I cringe at what I hear others say. This disease certainly makes it difficult to keep these type’s of interactions at arms length.

A man of my age acquires certain traits that comes with experience. At times when my children talk, for example, I can hear them and certainly see them. However while they are talking, I can see their young child face and recognize how much they’ve grown. As a spouse there is a similar ability to see our aging bodies and recognize earlier times. Sarah and I are not ones to become overly attached to our youth and are each comfortable with the fact that people our age should look and feel like we do. I’m not too inclined to yearn for a more youthful appearance since we have had so many, very nice memories of our youth already. It was my expectation then, that our elderly years would be a progression in similar fashion of appearance.

After the lumpectomy surgery my hopes of normalcy were smashed and the beauty of my wife was replaced with a mile long scar on her breast. This is in addition to the healed open wound on her side, the smaller scar under her arm from the lymph node removal and the mean, metal intruder under her delicate skin that serves as her port. I’m told that if I’m fortunate, this port can eventually be removed in 10 (TEN!!) years. After her surgery, Sarah developed an infection inside her breast. Her incision became irritated and her breast became increasingly red, inflamed and very tender to the touch. Instead of the body naturally removing the infectious fluids, they began to build up inside. One night a gush of fluid and blood poured out of the incision ruining our bed sheets and reopening this mutilation. At least the fluid could find an exit point. Now in addition to the terrible, permanent scar, my wife wears an ugly patch to gather any seeping fluid. So much for aging gracefully.

How Lord?… How can ANY good come from this unnatural transformation in the body of my beautiful wife? We have been buddies and intimate companions for so many years. I never expected these intruders that desecrate such profound beauty. “You Lord, You Who have divided the Red Sea, Who have brought water from a rock, Who daily brings forth the miracle of your very own Body and Blood at the hands of saints and sinners alike. How can ANYTHING good come from this?” Just then the text comes in “your wayward daughter has a class with two nuns this semester” This is huge! “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.” I understand a little bit more. I can offer up these unjust insults to my sensibilities for the salvation of my children. My wayward daughter really has no idea how hard you are working for her salvation. I really have no idea how hard you are working for mine. “OK, my Lord, I’ll try to offer these things up as they come to me”…..”Oh, and one more thing please? Could you kindly keep the Bossy Bunch off my back?”

Christmas Gifts

+JMJ+

During the week of Christmas it seemed a veil was lifted to let in a little sunshine for a time. The heavy daily load was lighter as many businesses began their holiday shut down schedule. While my hours were still significant, the bulk stops were lighter. It gave me a respite to not have to drive with such pressure and aggressiveness for a time. Sarah started to feel well enough to work a few days and even went to work on Christmas Eve morning, for a few hours.

Many gifts started to pour in. An ingenious meal planner had been implemented to keep that task from our busy lives. Families were lining up around the block to donate a meal. This on-line planning program allowed us to moderate meals without much effort. Of course this is touching to see so many people who feel badly for Sarah and want to do something hands on to help. Soon after the meal schedule began to flow, other monetary gifts started coming in as well.

One of my biggest disappointments with this Cancer Gift was the timing. We had just ridden ourselves of a longstanding credit card debt and were looking forward to a season without two or three teenagers carelessly living off the natural resources that a family provides. Before we could even realize an improved cash flow, this financial blow threatened me with financial devastation. My wife is so diligent to not waste our money. She has always been satisfied with common sense living and considered most luxuries too extravagant, selfish and wasteful. Good thing she wasn’t expecting a posh lifestyle on my meager wage earning abilities. To assist the family, Sarah was always looking to spend wisely and to use thrift to find bargains in stretching the buck. This disease has been no different. Sarah has been on top of every needed document and looked for every legitimate financial assistance. While checking on the status of our inquiries, we found out and later received documentation that $18,000 of debt had been forgiven. It appears with a not for profit status, certain organizations give out random, year end gifts that keep their status in tact. This was wonderful and unexpected news.

All the kids were home and the house seemed ready for a carefree Christmas celebration. Midnight Mass was set to proceed including a 30 minute prelude of Christmas music that the choir had been preparing. We both had not been able to make all the Christmas rehearsals, but given our years in the choir, most of the music was familiar and it looked to be an uplifting evening. Perhaps it was because Sarah had worked earlier that day or maybe with a full church that bring a spike in the inside temperature, it wasn’t too long before she got fatigued. At least we got the bulk of the music performed before Mass. At some point during the homily, it just was too much and Sarah and I spent the balance of Mass in the Atrium-a small addition that connects to the back of the church and front of the classrooms. Here we could get some coolness away from the heat inside the church. Sarah was too weak to receive Holy Communion unassisted so she and I went together, arm-in-arm instead of the traditional single file approach. Of course our desire to remain anonymous was lost on this unorthodox action. My tension was surely high at the end of Mass when many onlookers seemed to look sympathetically and a few dared to approach my recovering wife. I tried to cover my desire to rush Sarah out the door, to avoid the crowds much like a body guard avoiding pesky paparazzi.

The next day was more serene spent opening Christmas gifts with more harmony than years past. It seems the kids instinctively felt that this Christmas could very well have been the last with their Mom if things had bounced differently. Some gifts were quite touching and the laughter reflected the joy that only Christmas can bring. One night during the season, a knock on the door revealed an anonymous Santa Clause bearing multiple gift cards from many local vendors. Someone had cleverly put together a plan to collects various donations and with no explanation, deliver it to us. We were stunned by the thoughtfulness and hope the adulation is not too over done. It is important to us to try to at least show thankfulness for gifts but sometimes they are almost too overwhelming. We also received a few checks with amounts that are too embarrassing to reveal. How does one show proper gratitude for this kind of outpouring? How long does one feel obligated to payback such good deeds? It really is quite difficult to try to accommodate this kindness to the degree it has been given. I hope we might show thankfulness in a fitting way and I hope that my lack of graciousness offends no one. Thank you for the many gifts and the lives that Sarah has touched to spur this outpouring.

2nd Chemo-A new low

+JMJ+

In no time the joys of Texas faded into the demands of the Christmas season, technically Advent. My route steadily increased in volume and became an above average “Peak Season”. Typically I worked later and harder as most of my peers. Sarah kept a detailed journal of her daily symptoms to know what to expect each day following subsequent chemotherapy sessions. The pep in her step came back rather quickly considering how low the first experience in cancer killing, poison infusions had been. One of the procedures for people with an installed metal port under their skin, is to do what I call a backflush. This means that before infusion, a fluid is administered by needle, into the port and then drawn back until blood is noticed. This insures that the port is clear and the path for the chemo fluid to enter the vein is open and Chemotherapy can be administered. The attendant couldn’t get a good backflush reading and needed to do a second piercing to administer a blood thinner to unclog the obstruction, a fairly normal occurrence. Sarah reported to me that she did her best not to wince when the needles pierced her skin but that tear drops fell from the corners of each eye. This image breaks and claws at my heart. Sharp words from Carrie drew attention to all that any more medical “messing around” would incur an unpleasant wrath.

These mental images tear at my psyche as my time away from my spouse increases. It is somewhat unjust that I should be apart from Sarah when she needs my comfort. Our kind future sister, Carrie, did us a great favor by standing in my place and protecting Sarah with her care and menacing demeanor for those who might be tempted into carelessness. But that still is my place. Carrie at her best is indirectly taking my place in the comfort of my wife and by looking out for her needs. I can never forget that someone cared so carefully for beloved Sarah whose companionship from as early as high school has been one of mutual concern and care. We have always experienced these things, good things and hard things, together. But I must be away to deliver Christmas packages in an ever impatient community.

Almost immediately, Sarah notices a new sensation that hadn’t been recorded in her previous symptoms journal. Her scalp tingles almost to the point of pain. The loss of hair was only a few hours away now. My biggest apprehension was at hand. One where Sarah would appear in church, as she must, with her bald head covering. Any onlookers who would have otherwise been oblivious to our plight was now going to be privy to our situation. Casual acquaintances and dear friends would now have the compulsion to comment and inquire at every turn. And a large part of my inner self wants to scream to just leave us alone. When thinking about the soon to be bald Sarah, in my delivery truck, my right arm instinctively goes up as if I’m shedding a menacing tackler. It feels like I’m talking to myself but my interior hackles are definitely raised. Sarah cuts her hair as the kids and I do her Christmas shopping. Her scalp aggravations cease immediately as if the weight of her hair was indeed causing her discomfort. Soon the stubble also falls out and the scalp that I used to enjoy caressing when it held a full course of dark blonde hair, is now barren. Sarah tells me that she pictures the harsh straw that the Baby Jesus chose to lay upon. She wonders and then offers her newly cut hair to soften the Infant that He might return it, when He is done.

Peak season is truly heavy this year. Many new faces represent temporary drivers who fill every available truck bay. This looks to be a record setting year with so many vendors offering free shipping as incentive to internet savvy consumers. Veterans know they just have to power through the heavy loads until the Holiday passes. This year as an added “bonus”, my boss agrees to take on overages that other drivers are unable to deliver. This means my heavy load is all the more so.

Tickets to the movie Mary of Nazareth have been purchased for many weeks. This movie has been premiered locally but all the venues have rapidly sold out for this limited showing. Our newly renovated Lerner Theater has agreed with sponsorship from the Knights of Columbus, to show this movie on Thursday night, one showing only. We looked forward to this event, all our friends will be there. The tickets are on the dresser to serve as an anticipatory reminder of this fun, enriching event. Thursday my route has more deliveries than I think I’m capable of. I had hurt my knee earlier in the week. A customer tells me that she worked in my facility previously, but had injured her knee requiring several weeks off. When her knee healed enough to resume work, her position was no longer available. This has been long known to be my fate. At some point I will be injured and replaced and my career at FedEx will expire. Hurting my knee makes this reality (and pressure) all the more real. Driving on the edge of dangerous, I work long into the night with any realistic opportunity to attend this movie, long gone….beside Sarah felt quite ill that day, her texts will have to relay this information since I’m too busy to receive her calls.

I’m at my last house, having searched for many addresses in the pitch darkness that only a winter can provide. A small sense of relief that maybe I’ve crested this Christmas Peak and that rest will be coming soon. Just at that moment, a text from a friend tells me that my secluded daughter, the nun, was unexpectedly at the theater. What cruel irony! Here I am, nearly 20 blocks away, away from my wife who needs me (and I her), away from my family from who I derive such solace and strength, away from friends who hold noble things in common esteem, away from any normal semblance of life and most all away from my daughter who lives with limited physical contact during this year, whom I really miss. My friends are enjoying this movie, my friends are enjoying a normal life and most all my friends are enjoying my daughter….20 blocks away! Cruel Irony! Sullenly I arrived home, placing my wallet in the bowl on my dresser. The pre-purchased tickets are in the trash. Merry Christmas.

Chemotherapy Begins

+JMJ+

Our time in Texas ended too soon and even though we were all saddened to leave, our excitement when the planes wheels hit the ground in Indianapolis was hard to contain. All of us were given growth areas to focus and pray upon while on vacation to prepare us for what lie ahead. Most of these topics dealt with growing in maturity. No one needed maturity more than me. I still have a hard time man-ing up and simply dealing with life circumstances in a positive fashion. Everything  comes from God. It is foolish to think that since we have a daughter that is a nun we would be more or less likely to suffer just as anyone else. It might be understandable to consider that the evil one might be stirred up to try a bit harder to trap certain individuals in his pit of despair, however. The devil tricks all of us at one time or another. Due to the Fall, every human is inclined towards self promotion and the easy path. This is true of the devil who chose to promote self and even today will find the weakest link to pry souls away from the Eternal Love. As the game show host says “Rob Roeder, you are the weakest link. Good Bye”.

In Texas, I had plenty of time to prepare for what lie ahead. Fatigue, financial obligations, care for my children during their mom’s recovery, physical alterations…there were plenty to think about while I was enjoying myself over the Thanksgiving holiday. My highest hurdle is when Sarah loses her hair and is forced to wear a cap in public-especially in church. I’m not embarrassed to be seen with her, she’s beautiful, a trophy wife if there ever was one, full of dignity and class and a deep, deep beauty. These external changes really don’t matter that much to me. What grabs me is the fact that this disease, and our unwilling participation in it, is now public knowledge. I don’t want people running up to her and putting their face in hers to share all their thoughts and viewpoints. My protection urges have never been stronger or more hard to control. Just thinking about it, I find my right arm extending like I’m shedding an invisible tackler.

Sarah’s Chemo will be in two stages with 3 chemicals. The first two will be administered one after the other into her full time port. Now my beautiful wife will forever have some foreign metal intruder under her delicate skin. This ports serves as the convenient avenue to dump the cancer cell killing poison into my life companion. How can this be? A tough situation that many unfortunately endure as well, but it shouldn’t be my wife!

The symptoms are uncertain since it is her first time but generally we can expect extreme fatigue and nausea among others. My job doesn’t allow much flexibility and Sarah will attend her infusion sessions without me. Her schedule is set for four treatments every other week followed by weekly treatments of the third chemical that will begin whenever she recovers from the first rounds and is scheduled to end around Good Friday….ironic? Not to a Catholic who has seen so much irony in these types of settings. Radiation will begin after chemotherapy and should end in July with Tricia (Sister Joan) scheduled to come for a TWO WEEK home visit in August.

It is no surprise that the long line of admirers forms to organize meals and to accompany my wife to her various appointments. The meal plan was not unexpected because that is a great way to show support for friends in trouble. What was unexpected however, was the care and thoughtfulness with which these meals were prepared and delivered. I knew there would be no shortage of supporters but the love shown to my wife (and indirectly to me and my family) has been overwhelming. I can’t begin to describe the elaborate, scrumptious dinners that have come our way. Then when I consider the crew lining up to accompany my wife to her treatments, I am deeply moved. It is my place to provide for my family whether it be meals or accompanying/supporting them through medical appointments. Because of life circumstances, these people have stepped up to indirectly represent me and take my place when I just can’t do it. More on this later….

All the kids show remarkable effort towards their mother as the first treatment commences. Years before when they were teens, there was an incident that required an overnight surgery for Sarah. This kids were not “comfortable” visiting their ailing mother and were content to stay at home. When I got word of this, they were required to make a visit, only this time they lost the privilege of transportation. Grandma called me many times begging I not make them walk to the hospital. My children were lucky I allowed them to walk upright and not on knees due to penance or injury. This time though it is quite different. Each child has shown sincere compassion and stepped out individually with acts of love and support. It warms us to know that we have become important to our children again and not just as a provider of goods or materials. Sister Joan was even permitted to call several times.

Sarah decided that the best course of action would be to receive this witches brew on Thursday. Her resourcefulness thinks that with a 3-5 day recovery, she can convalesce over the weekend and be functional by early in the next work week. These first four treatments are so strong that she is scheduled two weeks to recover. Before the next treatment begins, her heart and vital statistics are monitored to make certain she is strong enough to endure another hit of chemicals. And after each treatment she receives a booster shot to bolster her immune system (white blood cells) within a day or two. My sister (future) Carrie accompanies Sarah with each step and is so kind to text me updates as to her progress or fatigue levels, while I’m at work worried and grouchy at my inability to be at the side of the love of my life. We have now been together more years that we have been apart. One of the greatest comforts is laying beside my bride each evening while my most difficult hardship is being away when she needs me (or maybe I need her). Please God, keep her safe. But I don’t such a good job of praying these days. My uncharitable charisma is often expressed towards any donkey whose first name is Jack if they dare to infringe upon my traffic lane while I’m driving or carelessly pass me because I’m not going their speed. Cursing these days come not only to my mind but easily flow across my lips. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing….what a hypocrite!

Thanksgiving in Texas-A welcome break

+JMJ+

As this gift of cancer unfolds, opportunities crop up to show us God’s presence. This revelation of sorts, is an opportunity to be emboldened by His presence and strengthened for future trials. As Sarah recuperated from her surgery, and her draining improved. We got the results that of the 16 lymph nodes removed from her side, only two were diseased. That makes it officially a Stage Two Cancer and means that the other uninfected nodes prevented the spread further into the body. To insure that ALL cancerous cells are killed, plans are made for Chemotherapy followed by Radiation. The irony is the Texas vacation we had already scheduled before the cancer diagnosis was found. These tickets were non refundable and it was a great relief to know that after surgery, Sarah would be well enough to travel and chemotherapy would wait until the first of December.

Making plans was a sort of distraction and helped the family look forward to some happiness. My brother has been my closest advocate my entire life. We used to bunk together even when we had separate beds. Our kids were both born together and grew up as close cousins much like we got to do as kids. We try to talk regularly since they moved to Texas nearly a decade ago and it is fun to see how similar our tastes are whether it is Strawberry milk or Trombone Shorty, no one does it quite like my brother.

With Sarah’s open wound in her side, I found her quite anxious that she would spill the drained contents in her colostomy-like bag, during sleep. This made her night time less than restful and I worried that I might give her an inadvertent elbow and hurt her (not too uncommon with a lunk like me). Both fears proved unfounded and her fluid outputs became less colored and gradually smaller in volume. The bag/tube combo was removed and her open wound could begin to heal. This was just in time because after several weeks Sarah had finally figured out how to wear a bra while attached to the bag/tube without causing irritation. And now it was time for removal. Her suffering over small irritations have always been source of inspiration for me and this latest example didn’t  fall below her high standard.

In no time the open wound healed and we prepared for time with family over the holiday. Our travel plans included a weekend stay in Indy to see the Children’s Museum and spend time with Paul and his girl (Pretty Melinda) at a basketball game. Next we were to fly to Dallas/Ft.Worth to pick up my niece and her two 8 month old twins. Those are some of the most beautiful babies I have EVER seen. We scooped them up and drove to San Antonio about five hours away. The babies stirred after about 3.5 hours into the trip so we stopped in Austin and took over a Wendy’s lobby just loving on them and letting them stretch. It struck me how precious babies are and how these tiny visitors made strangers pause and smile. Is it any wonder that God came to Earth as a tiny infant? Once in SA we spent countless hours laughing, slamming each other and loving those babies which included another niece whose daughter was three years old.

Many wonderful memories were made and most importantly, the cancer stayed in Indiana and we took a break from the uncertainties and likely stresses that awaited our return. In short time treatments would begin and the Christmas rush was just around the corner.