Thursday, September 18, 2014

The L Word (Part 4)


I honestly don’t remember the rest of that day.

None of it.

I don’t really remember much of any of the past 2 weeks.

I DO remember my mom pulling me aside on Sunday; two days post diagnosis, telling me the kids were more worried about me at that point than they were Steven and I needed to get it together.  I thought I had.  At least, I thought I was doing a good job pretending that I had. 

Apparently, I’m not a very good actor.

A nurse, Chris, really hit it off with Steven.  I must not have been fooling him either.  A few minutes after leaving the room, he came back with another doctor.  A hospitalist.  This hospitalist was not an oncologist, but was the “most educated hospitalist they had, regarding oncology.”  He offered us encouraging words and used the word, “hopeful”.  He shared a story of a close friend that was almost in remission.  He gave me hope just by his presence.

I looked at the nurse, Chris, more calm than I had been in three days, and said, “You told him about me, didn’t you?”

He nodded and said he had.

*****

Dale showed up after the doctor left and I was in better spirits, but not in good physical shape.  Three days had taken a toll.

He motioned me to the hall and said, “I’m going to tell you something and you are going to listen.  You are going to go home, take a shower, fix your hair, put on makeup and when you see him next you are NOT wearing those sweatpants.  This will do as much for your morale as it will his.” 

Every day since then I have taken his advice.

*****

My friends, Manda, Lindsey, and Kristina showed up Sunday afternoon with more goodies.  They had been recruited, I believe, by my mom, although they didn’t admit it.  It was in sharing all the news, and the uncertainty, that they mentioned something about a fish fry benefit.

I told them that I didn’t even want to think of that, and that we would do fine.  We had tried to be responsible financially and although, not rich, we weren’t living paycheck to paycheck.  Granted, we couldn’t go long with Steven not working without making some changes to our life, but we could make it.  Steven and I had always said that we would sell everything we had, and downsize as much as needed, before we would ever ask for help. Or a handout.

My friends reminded me that we still hadn’t asked.

****

In the next week, 7 days after his diagnosis, Steven was visited over 100 times by friends and family. 

There were many times that laughter filled our room. Those times you could almost forget the situation we were in.  Steven joked that he came to the ER because he couldn’t swallow, and yet no one had looked at his throat.

Finally, doctors from an Ears, Nose and Throat practice came in and scoped his throat at his bedside.  Those Dr’s concurred what the Urgent Care doctor had said.  Acid.  Acid reflux is what drove my husband to the ER, and ultimately to the blood test, that detected the cancer that changed our lives.

****

The nurses and Steven bonded immediately, of course, but he said it was taking longer for him to “bond” with the doctor. 

Dr. Holden was an early riser, as was Steven, and would enter the room at 6:00 a.m. and turn on all the lights, and open the shade, which had been closed each night to block out the blinding west sun.

One morning Dr. Holden made a comment about it being 6 a.m. and he was already at work, and Steven should be up too.  Although I know he was well meaning, I knew Steven well enough to know that it stung a little bit.

This was the guy who would wake up at 4 a.m. to be at work by 6 on mornings when he had, at least, a two hour drive.  There were times he would have to wait for a landowner to wake up, because he would arrive on site so early.  Many nights he worked into the evening as well.

If we were in a battle of the hard workers, Steven was going to give him a run for his money.  Steven hadn’t worn hospital clothes since they told him he was ok to wear his own shirts, and I knew that not only would he not look like a typical patient, he wouldn’t act like one either.

The next morning, after coming home to be with the kids, Steven called.  His voice was filled with purpose.  A nurse had come in at 4:15 am to pull blood.  After she left, he put on his jeans, button down long-sleeve shirt, cowboy hat, and unplugged his “buggy” (IV cart).  He hit the coffee maker and started pacing the halls.  Between 5 and 6 am, Dr. Holden arrived. Steven spotted him booting up his computer and leaned over the counter and said, “Where’ve ya been?”

I think the line in the proverbial sand had been drawn.

*****

There were whisperings that cued me in that this fish fry was, indeed, going to happen on Sunday.  There were also whisperings that it had turned into something much bigger than anticipated.
 

I didn’t really know what to think, or to expect, and knowing I wouldn’t be there, couldn’t be there, to help, made me feel humbled and a little guilty. 

Steven too.
 
Why did we deserve this?  I still can't answer that.

*****

The kids seem to be functioning fairly well.  They were in high spirits for Old Fashioned Days that weekend.  In fact, one of the first things I made sure of, after finding out that Steven would be in the hospital for a month, was to make sure that someone could get my kids to Old Fashioned Days.

They LOVE Old Fashioned Days in Conway.  The turtle race, the duck pond, the crafts, the toys they buy with their money, and the concessions, equaled what they stated was a time “second only to Christmas”.  It came at a great time to take the kids’ minds off their current situation.

Blake, my thinker, would occasionally ask me to go over daddy’s condition, and what I knew of possible treatment options again.  Although I didn’t know much, what information I gave him always seemed to help.  Every time, he would nod, almost as if physically shaking the doubt from his head, and then state, “Daddy is tough.  He’s got this.”, and then he would go about what he was doing. 

Lakyn, my tough one, acted as if nothing was amiss.  Everything was business as usual.  She asked no questions and went about life as though staying with her aunt multiple nights in a row, and frequent hospital visits were the norm.  Knowing that Steven and I are without our children generally about two nights a year, I knew that this was nothing like business as usual.

One night, while updating some friends that had stopped by the house, I told Lakyn and Blake to take a shower.  When Lakyn returned, hair in a towel, she exclaimed that apparently, when she had fed the cats earlier, it had caused her eyes to get really red and watery. Both friends showed concern and Lakyn brought me allergy eye drops to help the irritation.

It was only later that night, with both kids snuggled under each arm, when Lakyn confessed that she had “broke down” in the shower.

I had suspected this, but was glad she was confident enough in me to tell me.  We all three said our prayers aloud and tried our best to go to sleep.

*****

The benefit DID happen and it was, from what I gather, larger than anyone imagined.  I still don’t know much about it, but I know where the pictures are when we find the strength to look.

I don’t want to look without Steven.  I’m afraid, it will once again, be something that I will need to share with him, for support and understanding since we are going through this together, but something he is not ready to take.  I'm not even sure I am ready.

But, I know for a fact, that he isn’t.  He told me.

I asked when he would like to look at pictures.  We couldn’t avoid the ones on the front page of the Marshfield Mail….maybe, after looking, we would have a better understanding of what took place.

The truth is he doesn’t want to know.  He just can’t face it, at least, not until all this is behind him. It's too moving.  It's too emotional.  And, right now, he's keeping his emotions in check.  It's what is getting him through this.

So, as best I could, I summed up my thoughts for my sister to share with those who were willing to “listen”:

 

I’m a talker and I’m wordy.

I always have been.  I remember getting in trouble in elementary for talking too much.  Sometimes I’d have to miss recess.

I talk when I’m happy; sometimes, too loudly.

 I talk when I’m sad; trying to put into words what has burdened my heart.

I talk when I’m angry; trying to find rationalization and understanding when sometimes there is none to be found.

I talk when I’m confused; trying to find clarity.

 Talking too much, and using too many words, is what I do.

Until now.

 Since Steven’s diagnosis, September 5, I have been a little quieter.

 And since finding out what you, as a community, have done for my family and I in this time of complete shock, and fear of the future, I have had NO words.

NONE.

This has never happened to me before.

I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to process this, and I don’t know how I will ever even begin to let everyone know how eternally grateful I am for the love you have all shown to my family.

Steven, the strongest man I have ever met, only allowed himself a few seconds of weakness when finding out he had leukemia.  However, he has been moved beyond comprehension by the outpouring of love and support.

He never once asked “Why me?” when it came to his diagnosis, but he has asked “Why me?” numerous times when finding out what others have done for him.  And, honestly, we don’t even know a fraction of what has been done.

We couldn’t bear it.  Not all at once.

THERE ARE NO WORDS.

Maybe my words will come back to me when we can have more facts about what we are up against.  Maybe they’ll come back if, God willing, we find that he can be cured.  Maybe they’ll come back when I feel a little stronger and have more clarity in my mind.  But even then, I am not sure, that I will ever find the words to convey the emotion that your love, generosity and selflessness have brought to me, Steven, Lakyn and Blake.

THERE ARE NO WORDS.
 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your words are not needed at this time. Take care of yourself. That will allow you to be able to take care of your family. We are praying for you.