That Doesn’t​ Help

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. Over the past few months I have been rehearsing for a play and last week was the week before we opened. This means, for those who are not into theater, that I worked all day and then went to rehearsal during the evening. Most nights, I was there until around 11:30 p.m. I am not complaining, I love it. However, it did make it more difficult than I realized to get out a post. So, anyways, that’s my reason for the little hiatus.

Over the past few weeks, Andrea has been going every day to radiation. While it is frustrating that our lives are literally put on hold each day, the good thing is that she has not experienced some of the horrible effects that we were warned about. For the most part, she is just really tired, other than that, she is doing great.

In some respects, we are getting back to life as usual. That doesn’t mean that everything has been wonderful. One of the things we are plagued with during our cancer treatment is the constant commenting we get from people. Most people are genuinely sweet. However, there are those few who feel it is their job to offer their medical advice, comment on our own medical decisions, inform us of the problems with our eating habits with no knowledge of what we ingest, and some even try to help by telling their stories of pain, destruction and the ultimate death of their loved ones.

I get why people do this. The problem is that it does not help us out at all. Take for instance the conversation my wife had a few weeks ago. While in a store she came into conversation with a person while checking out. As is usual, this person commented on her hair. Most people assume it’s a chosen hairstyle. We normally laugh this off when we get into the car. Some people don’t stop at the complementing and proceed to ask, “why?” she chose the hairstyle. When this is asked, we are honest. It’s not for fashion, it’s Scruffy’s fault.

The individual who commented on Andrea’s hair began a long diatribe about a family member who lost their battle with breast cancer. I wasn’t there to hear the story, I just was at home when Andrea came in with tears in her eyes. I am sure the woman was trying to sympathize, but it only brought out the same fear that we have lived with since last June. The fear that the cancer isn’t really gone. The fear that Ole Scruffy will come back. The fear that my wife will still die.

As I have said before, one of the problems with battling cancer is that it is very lonely. A lot of people see the pictures of victory we publish on facebook. No one sees the tears we cry late at night. Conversations, like the one Andrea had, only exacerbate the issues. They only force us to relive the whole ordeal over again. I know people are trying to be kind, but instead of offering a balm for our souls they are wrenching a knife deep into our hearts.

That very same week I stayed late after a rehearsal to socialize with the cast. Andrea normally doesn’t care, she just goes to bed. When I called her on the way home I could tell something was wrong. As I listened to her talk I could hear in the tremble of her voice that she had been crying for awhile. I asked her why she didn’t tell me to come home. Her response was typical Andrea, she told me she didn’t want to bother me or rob me of having a good time with friends.

When I got home I found my bride curled up in bed. She was just staring out into the darkness. Her eyes were red from a long bout with fear. I had no words. I just got ready for bed, pulled her close, and let her weep on me. To be fair, I wept on her as well. We ended up staying up another hour. We didn’t talk much. We just wanted to feel the other person’s heart beating.

People are not privy to our pain. No matter how well I describe it, no one will ever be able to experience it on the same level that we do. Our story, our struggle, is unique to us. It’s unique to everyone who goes through any type of tragedy. I know personally the need to process what is being experienced. That’s the main purpose of this blog right now. However, at this point in our journey, the stories of loss or the constant reminding us that our diet is the culprit for Ole Scruffy, or that if we just drank the Koolaid from whatever cult practice that is revolutionary, just adds to the stress. It rarely helps us heal. Most of the time, it adds to the well of sorrow we are trying to replace with joy. I know most people are not vicious, but it feels that way. I know most people want to help, unfortunately, it just opens old scars.

 

The War on Scruffy pt. 1 Battle Prep

There is no way I can write everything that happened last week in one blog. I would leave out too much information, and would not be able to offer a true picture of what my family experienced. With that in mind, I am going to take the next few posts to share our story. It’s not a fun story. It’s not an easy story to tell because it is filled with fear and pain. However, in the midst of the pain, there is hope, love, and even some laughter.

I made a decision that the following posts will be dedicated to two women: My Wife and Emily. My bride needs no explanation. Emily is a friend of mine from high school who has battled breast cancer and decided to share her thoughts in an article. Her raw honesty inspired me. It’s given me the courage to not shy away from the harsh reality of what I have faced. To her, and my bride, I dedicate the next few blog posts. (You can find Emily’s article HERE. I hope you can appreciate her honesty.)

The night before surgery was hard. I could not sleep. My mind was riddled with fear. Everytime I closed my eyes images of my wife laying in a casket invaded my consiousness. I even had vivid dreams of the doctor telling me she didn’t make it. They were so real I feared it was my soul trying to prepare me for what was to come. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I tried everything to make them go away. I prayed. I read. I watched t.v. I stared into the darkness and contemplated my next blog post. Nothing worked. Nothing calmed my soul.

My alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. We were scheduled to be at the hospital by 5:30. At 3:30 I gave up trying to sleep and watched t.v. By the time I took a shower to, “wake,” me up, I felt like a walker from The Walking Dead. I probably looked like one too. When my bride woke up,  I didn’t tell her about my dreams.I knew she was dealing with too much stress already. I just told her I couldn’t sleep.

After getting ready it was time to leave. With coffee mug in hand, we grabbed our bags and headed for the hospital. The conversation was light. I could tell that both of us were nervous. I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember how dark it was outside. I do remember wanting there to be traffic and long lights. Instead, we got a clear path and all greens.

When we got to the hospital we had to check in. As always, we had to sit in a small cubicle, electronically sign papers, and hear our estimated costs. By this point in the journey, the numbers don’t scare me because we hit our out of pocket max a long time ago. This means everything should be, “free.” However, there was a computer glitch. We were told we had not hit out deductible and had to pay our portion.

The lady across the table asked us how we would like to pay for our procedure. I informed her that was the insurance companies job. She typed at her keyboard and told me,”No, it looks like you still have to pay.” In a quick move, I whipped out my phone, pulled up our insurance app and checked our status. Nothing had changed. We shouldn’t have to pay anything. I told her as much. Reluctantly, she told us she would check on it and let us go.

We were directed to a hallway we are all too familiar with. As we walked, we held hands. Before cancer, I honestly didn’t like holding hands much. These days, I relish the opportunity. At the end of the hallway, we entered the room for day surgery. It was almost empty. Andrea was escorted to her pre-op room and I was given a buzzer. I was told it would be how the hospital would communicate with me. I found a seat and waited to be called to the room.

After what felt like ages I was led back to see Andrea. When I walked into the room she was in a hospital gown and had the necessary i.v. We smiled at each other and I sat down beside her. We talked for a little while and then she asked me to take a picture to put on Facebook. I obliged and then we rested until they wheeled her out for her first procedure.img_0916

The first thing Andrea had to do was get nuclear meds. The meds would help the doctors to see where the cancer was located. Because her  cancer had spread to her lymph nodes they needed those suckers to light up when they went in to remove them.  As they wheeled her away I gave her a kiss and told her I would see her soon.

While waiting, the parents began to arrive. As they were grabbing some coffee from the lobby our surgeon walked into the building. Our eyes met and she gave me a reassuring look. She walked over to me and in a moment of sheer madness, I hugged her. I know doctors are supposed to keep a professional distance but I couldn’t stop myself. She didn’t stop me. I am grateful for that.

I led our group back to the room where Andrea was and we all waited together. In our group of supporters was a man I highly admire. He is one of the men who has molded me into who I am today. He surprised us by flying up to be with us. He didn’t have to, but I was glad he was there. Without him, my Dad, and my bride’s parents, I couldn’t have made it this past week.

As we waited, Travis entered the room. When I saw his face I began to weep. Travis didn’t have to be there. We are connected professionally and I never expected him to visit, but he did. I walked up to him immediately and we embraced. It was one of those long, enduring and therapeutic hugs. He stayed a little while, prayed with us, and left. As he left I pulled him aside and told him he would never know how thankful I was he came, and he won’t.

After meetings with the anesthesiologist and the CRNA’s it was time for Andrea to go. The surgeon came by and assured us she would be in good hands. She promised me she would take care of her. I knew this to be true but it still was hard to see her wheeled away. As the doctor left the room I whispered to her a phrase I don’t use. In a moment of pure emotion, I said under my breath, “You go get that Son of a Bitch.”

I know that phrase may have offended some. I know for many it’s inappropriate for someone in my profession to say it. I know some will judge me by one phrase I uttered during a great time of pain. However, it’s what I said. It’s how I felt, and I am unapologetic about it. Ole Scruffy has wrecked my wife’s body. He has attacked her in a vicious way. When it comes to cancer there are no soft words that can be used.

With that, Andrea was taken away. I now had to leave her in the hands of the doctors and the Great Physician. I trusted the doctors but had faith in my King. He has walked side by side with my family through this whole mess. He has never left us. He has surrounded us with a great host of warriors who stood toe to toe with us as we battled Ole Scruffy.

In that moment, I knew Scruffy’s days were numbered. We came that day prepared for war. Soon his reign would end. He no longer would be allowed to terrorize my bride’s body. His power had been diminished by chemo and now his kingdom would  be eradicated by a scalpel.

As Andrea was leaving I kissed her on the forehead. Tears flowed down my face. The nurse wheeled her out of the room and I stepped into the hallway. Standing there as she was led away, I closed my eyes. In a brief moment, I allowed myself to dream. I saw the beautiful setting sun over the ocean. I could feel it’s cool breeze upon my face. Standing there on the boat with my bride, healed of all cancer, I kissed her soft lips. We then turned our gaze to the setting sun and looked towards the sea.