There was talk in the hallway of who Steven would be assigned as a doctor. My mom spoke up and asked if we could have Dr. Holden. I had no idea who Dr. Holden was, but in that moment, I didn’t care. I was relinquishing all authority and was focusing on keeping myself from slipping away.
I couldn’t formulate words without crying, and I couldn’t formulate thoughts without them going to the worst case scenario. This crippled me and I was broken.
The nurse said she didn’t know if Dr. Holden could just be requested, but the doctor they had in mind, was in the same group with him. Mom was adamant. She stated, “He has land that borders ours and my husband is at his place now, doing work for him, we want Dr. Holden.” The nurses, probably somewhat doubtful, said, “If you have his cell number, then call him.”
Mom told them that we would.
In the moments alone, I clung to Steven and thoughts of our life together filled my head. We weren’t done. We couldn’t be. We had so much more to do together.
Thoughts of times in my marriage when the day to day irritations had built up, or the moments in the past when I foolishly thought, that if I had to, I could do this life on my own, also filled my head. My heart was overcome with grief.
I hugged him tightly and he squeezed me tightly.
Tears streaming down my face I told him how much I loved him and that I was sorry for the times in our 22 years together when that love might not have been as apparent to him as it was in that very moment.
He looked at me and squeezed me and said, “Kim, I know…. Don’t worry about that. It’s just life…”
I escaped to the hall to regain my composure. My mom stopped me and was trying to reason with me and help me catch my breath. A kind man, a nurse’s aid of sorts, with the most penetrating eyes, joined us. Apparently knowing what we were facing, he came to me, and hugged me, told me to look at him, and told me he was going to pray for Steven. He told me to look at him, and I did, he looked me squarely in my eyes and said, “I promise you, you WILL have many years with him. He WILL be at your children’s wedding.”
His eyes were hypnotizing and even while standing and looking at him, my head and heart told me that he was sent by God. I still believe that. I’d like to say that alleviated all my fears, and that my faith was strengthened, but I still faltered. But I did believe God sent him.
I straightened my back, wiped my face and returned to the room to be with Steven.
The kids arrived and as soon as the door opened and they saw my face, swollen and red with tears, I could tell their posture became guarded.
I told them that we had found out that daddy was sick.
Blake, almost visibly retreating into himself, in a panicked voice said, “Is it bad?”
I nodded that it was bad, but told him that we had no reason to believe that he wouldn’t get better.
Blake, always my thinker, asked what exactly his daddy had. I told him leukemia.
“That’s CANCER!” he exclaimed.
How my nine year old knew what leukemia was is beyond me, but not surprising. Lakyn’s color left her face. As I know mine did as well.
“Is he going to die?” the note in his voice made me know that my job, in his eyes, was to tell him that he wasn’t going to. But, I had to be honest. I didn’t know.
I told him that I hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t, and that, after speaking with others, there seemed to be options to keep him here with us, but that life held no guarantees.
He nodded and said, “Daddy’s tough!”
Everyone in the room silently nodded and Steven tucked his head.
Beth, Jason’s aunt, showed up right as Dr. Holden came into the room that evening. She and Sarah took that moment to take the kids to see a helicopter that had landed.
Dr. Holden told us that he did, as we now knew, have leukemia, and that most likely it was AML, the adult kind, based on his age. We wouldn’t know for sure until the blood test came back in a couple of days. Childhood leukemia was considered “good prognostic” and adult leukemia was “bad prognostic”. He also explained that there were upwards of 14 subtypes now, of AML, and we wouldn’t know what type for 10-14 days, when the bone marrow test returned. Steven, wouldn't be going anywhere, for a month.
I looked at the doctor, and while barely able to speak, somehow managed to ask, “Will this take my husband from me?” I noticed the same tone in my voice, which I had heard in Blake’s earlier, willing this doctor to tell me good news.
“I can’t tell you that. I don’t know.”
I believe there was more conversation between the doctor and my dad, who had came up with Sarah, Jason and the kids, but I don’t know what it was.
My head was roaring, and I was struggling to breathe.
Sometimes I still do.
The kids came back with Sarah and Beth and were super excited. They had not only got to see the helicopter, but because it was grounded on its trip back to
due to weather, they were able to get inside it and look around. Clinton
It was good to see them acting like kids, but I felt like it was all but impossible to act like a mom. Sarah said I was doing better than I thought, but I remember pulling her aside and telling her that I couldn’t keep up the front. I couldn’t act positive, not when I felt anything but.
She told me I could.
My mom called my doctor and had him prescribe me some meds. Xanax.
I think mom was the more realistic of the two, but I somehow managed to keep from falling completely apart when my kids were present.
However, when two of my best friends, Amanda and Stacy, showed up outside Steven’s room with a basket full of things for me, the kids, and Steven, I couldn’t keep it in anymore.
That night, Sarah stayed with me at the hospital. Before leaving, Amanda and Stacy, and Sarah, had made me leave the hospital for a while to get clothes to sleep in at Target. I remember people looking at me, and knowing I must look like something out of a horror movie.
My cousin, Julie, met Sarah and I as we returned to the hospital. She stayed with us for three hours as I tried to wrap my head around my future. I remember Sarah being so positive and optimistic and looking at her and me calling her out on it.
I knew that she loved him nearly as much as I did, having not ever remembered life before Steven, and I knew that she was hurting almost as much as I did. I told her she needed to stop acting like she wasn’t worried and be honest with me and herself.
She then shed some tears of her own.
I honestly can’t remember anything but crying, and recalling how a few years ago there had been a marrow drive at our church for someone with leukemia and how I thought, “I need to go” but worried about the ramifications if I was to be a match.
That’s how mind works. Worry, and anxiety, about the unknown, but my conscience wouldn’t let me use fear as a reason to opt out. However, when the time came, and I found myself realizing I had completely missed the drive, I felt relieved.
The lady later died.
The guilt I felt in that moment was overwhelming. I deserved Steven’s fate. Steven didn’t. My kids deserved their father, I didn’t deserve him.
God had gotten this all wrong.
Sarah stayed the night with me the first night. We slept, spooning, in the hospital bed next to Steven’s. I think our spooning gained a few looks, but when we tried to explain it, and that we were sisters, to the number of nurses entering the room, the majority would just nod and say, “not judging”.
I’m not sure they believed us.
I didn’t really sleep that night, but exhaustion took its toll. That morning we woke as they wheeled in to take him to get his port for chemo. As they left the room with him, and there were no kids to see, and I wouldn’t appear weak in front of Steven, I cried openly and freely.
When I finally got it under control, I turned on the TV for some type of distraction.
Any type of distraction.
The Today Show was on, promoting a story coming up. On the screen flashed a bald headed beautiful girl as the off screen voice said, “….fighting for her life against leukemia…” and all control I had summoned escaped my grasp again.
Mom showed up with meds, and I was thankful to have them. I wanted someone to knock me out and wake me up when this was all over. I was letting my entire family down by not being able to get a grip.
I wanted to die. I wanted Steven to live. I wanted our old life back.
I realize that this is not rational, or an acceptable train of thought. But that's what it was. I wasn't rational.
I wanted to be anywhere but on the cancer floor of Mercy hospital.
Everything was a blur. Probably thanks to mom's special delivery.
I remember a shower. I remember Angela and her mom showing up and me going out in the hallway to fall apart again.
I remember her mom praying over me.
I remember Deanie and Linda and the tears Deanie didn’t think I saw when he looked at me, and I remember Linda's strong hug and her encouraging words.
I remember my aunt Peggy, and Julie, coming to the hall where I was, and joining the others as they gathered around and tried to get me to get it together enough to give Steven the support he needed.
Peggy just held me and I could feel her helplessness.
I felt like such a failure.
Here I was, surrounded by family and friends, and they were worrying about me, when everyone should be solely worried about, and focusing on, Steven.
I felt like such a failure.
I was failing my family when they needed me the most.