Thursday, February 24, 2011

When it rains, it pours.

Sunday, February 6th

My mom celebrates her {age omitted} birthday. Friends and family dressed in green and gold gather at the house. The smell of tailgate food wafts through the house. The sounds of laughter are equalled only by cheers as the Packers win the Superbowl.

My brother and sister-in-law anxiously await the results of a home-pregnancy test. 3 minutes later, a pink line appears and they know that they are expecting baby number two. With a sparkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces, they snap a photo of Chase, their son, and send it to family and friends.

Wednesday, February 9th

My sister and I plan a post-college graduation spring break when she comes to Texas to visit. The sun, the sand, the surf, the margaritas. I start dreaming about South Padre Island.

Friday, February 11th

The results come back for my dad's final PET scan. His scans no longer light up like a Christmas tree. His doctor gives my family the greatest news...cancer is gone. A weight is lifted. And we all breathe a collective sigh of relief from a distance. I celebrate with wine and some rich chocolate dessert after a dinner out with Brock. He knows how relieved I am and wants this to be special. A year and a half of worrying and roller coaster emotions is over. And I can finally breathe. My dad feels amazing and starts working out again. His relief is palpable over the phone.


Life changes in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, February 16th

A Windsor knot. Something my dad should be able to do in his sleep. He's worn a tie every day for what seems like forever. But he can't tie a Windsor knot. He can't feel his left foot so he shuffles to avoid falling. His vision blurs. He can't focus. He knows something is wrong. And so does my mom. She insists that he go to the doctor. And he can't help but agree.

Thursday, February 17th

My dad lies still within the MRI. I call my mom in the evening and her voice doesn't sound right. I knew from a simple hello that something is devastatingly wrong. The doctors think stroke or brain tumor, she says, the only words she gets out before the tears start. Tomorrow, she says. Tomorrow we'll know for sure. Tomorrow we'll find out whether the dreams of a life yet to be lived are shattered.

Friday, February 18th

27 years ago, Jodi walks down the aisle. John stands at the front, looking back with love at his bride. Although a typical 1980s wedding with its fair share of fashion disasters, she is beautiful and he has never looked more handsome. This day is their anniversary. This day the results of the MRI reveal a large mass on his brain stem. This day should have been about flowers and kisses and I love yous. This day the doctors are amazed that he is able to breathe on his own, much less walk and talk. This day her heart breaks.


Tuesday, February 22nd

My dad continues his daily tradition of having coffee with his mom before he heads into the office. He sits at the table in my grandmother's kitchen and tells her how afraid he is. In her stoic nature, she sits quietly, listening, as her tears betray her. He tells he loves her and will see her tomorrow before patting the dog and heading to work. The house is too quiet. The silence is deafening. Her head pounds with thoughts of losing her son. It should be me, she thinks. She can't take it any more. Can't take being in this house alone with her thoughts. She grabs her purse, but leaves her cane. Gets into the car and drives.

She finds herself at a thrift store. She could lose herself there. She collects historic, eccentric, and sometimes just down right odd items. And this is a treasure trove. But it's icy. And she falls. Her ankle shatters and she is rushed to the emergency room. So now she sits in a hospital bed, a few doors down from the room her son had just occupied, and can't think of being anywhere else but her quiet house.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Go Down Swinging

Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.

Hopelessness and shattered dreams begone. No more. The words cannot, impossible, never, and terminal no longer exist. They have been erased from my vocabulary. Erased from my dad's mind. Because if you're going to go down, go down swinging.

Today a decision was made. One that moved our thinking from accepting this diagnosis to fighting this horrible thing called cancer. One that replaced negativity with optimism. It was the decision to refuse the reality of this. To fight with every ounce of energy and strength. For a cure. Not to live for five years. Not to just get through. But for a cure.

This monumental change of thinking was always in the background. Was always a whisper in his ear. The small voice of determination and courage was muffled though by the immediate shock and intense emotions that damn near drained his spirit upon hearing such a devastating diagnosis.


Courage does not always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow".

(Mary Anne Radmacher)

Monday, February 21, 2011

A cold, a shovel, and a ride home.

Home. Where rather than antiseptic and hospital staff, the smell of a vanilla candle and two large dogs greet you at the door. Where wood flooring replaces linoleum. Where your wife's famous chili warming on the stove replaces lime jello on a cafeteria tray. Where the snow falls lightly over the large pines rather than the cemetary across the street. Where the low murmur of the television and family chatter replaces medical terminology and the incessant beeping of some machine. Where a king size bed and fresh laundered sheets replace the industrial starch of a hospital bed. Home. There truly is no place like it.

So today, as the snow blows and drifts, my dad makes the short trip from the hospital to our warm cozy house on 19th street. My sister struggles to shovel the driveway. She wants to pick up my dad. Be the one that brings him home. But, whether it's due to a mechanical failure or the fact that no one besides my dad has ever used it, the snowblower won't start. A neighbor graciously helps plow out the driveway before alas, he becomes stuck in one of the drifts. My mom peers out of the window, wanting only for all of this to be over. Ready to cry because she just can't do it anymore. She's sick, sniffling and tired, with a cold that just won't seem to quit. She's watching my sister curse at the snow and reminds her of the temper tantrums we would throw as kids. This makes her smile. But she just wants to cry.

I call her. She tells me her troubles. From the snow to my dad to the dog hair that just keeps accumulating even though she's vacuumed twice. As I sit on my patio, basking in the sun and seventy degree weather that graces southern Texas, I just want to be there for her. For them. And I can't help but laugh. She yells at me. Stop lauging at me, she says. Which makes me laugh even more. Because it really isn't funny. But I can't do a thing and I just want to hold her hand. So I laugh, tell her she's got the worst luck. I tell her that I love her. That's all I can do. And I think that's all she needs.

So as my sister calls Mother Nature a filthy whore, and my mom searches for a Kleenex and cold medicine, and my dad is driven over snowy roads by a friend's kid, I sit here and laugh. They can't see it now. But they are lucky. Because we have today. And that's all that matters.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The Beginning.

Fall 2009. The pain starts. Followed by numbness. Doctors have no idea. Chest x-ray shows a mass on the lungs. Doctor's say lung cancer. Surgery. Biopsy. Not cancer. Doctors have no idea. Again.

A year passes. The pain gets worse. So does the numbness. They try everything. Still nothing works.

Summer 2010. Another chest x-ray. Another mass. Another surgery. Another biopsy. Still no idea.

Fall 2010. A diagnosis. Non-hodgekins lymphoma. Chemo starts.

January 2011. No more cancer. Success.

Two weeks later. MRI reveals mass on the brain stem. Doctors say cancer. But this time there's no optimism. This will take him from us, they say. 5 years, if we're lucky.

This is the beginning. The beginning of our second round fighting as hard as we can for him. Being there in every way we know how. And praying that the doctors are wrong. Hoping that there will be a cure. And refusing to allow 5 years to be the reality.

This is the beginning of a journey we thought was over.