I tried to find the peace I had, and recapture it. Doubt, worry, and anxiety, crept up my spine and I could physically feel the effects. I prayed with Steven and crawled into my twin size hospital bed, being keenly aware of his absence and feeling more lonely than I can ever remember feeling.
We have tried to keep the kids upbeat and positive, and have tried to incorporate some fun into their weekend hospital visits.
This situation is no fun.
This is a scary time.
This is the last place any of us want to be.
We all miss our home.
However, with the help of family, the kids have been given many opportunities to get their minds on the more joyful aspects of life. A little over a week ago, the weather was perfect and allowed us to make a quick trip to the St. Louis Zoo. The kids enjoyed being outside, the animals, and just getting to act like kids.
I enjoyed being witness to those things as well.
The absence of our children, our friends, and our home had started to take a toll on Steven as well. Although the kids are used to my tears and emotions, they aren't familiar with their daddy showing his. Love, compassion, and empathy? Yes. Tears? No. Battling cancer, insomnia, the resulting fatigue, and homesickness is enough to bring anyone to tears. This was not a sign of weakness....just a sign of Steven's humanness.
However, to a nine and 11 year old, fear naturally accompanied the tears they were witness to. It made them second guess their conviction that their daddy had already beat this. It was a tough weekend for our kids. The second one in a row. The distraction provided by our friends and family, doing their best to make the kid's lives as secure and as normal as they can be, was, and still is, invaluable.
This past weekend the kids joined us and everyone's spirits were much higher. Blake, being one to always say what was on his mind, entered the hospital room and said, "Are you going to start crying again?!" I knew he had carried that fear with him and was hoping for reassurance. We all laughed and assured him that we didn't think so. Not this time... Steven was feeling much better, and had been able to sleep the week before. That, coupled with his recognizing that he needed help in dealing with all the emotions that come with this diagnosis and treatment, had resulted in, emotionally, a much better week.
The weather was beautiful and, as long as he wore a mask, Steven was allowed to go outside. We walked with the kids to the front of the hospital, to a playground, and watched them play.
Steven had also found two books at the Barnes and Noble on the hospital campus, one about horses and one about muscle cars, that he thought the kids would enjoy. He took them and bought them for the kids. We sat outside, on the picnic tables, and watched as the kids opened and read their new treasures.
On Saturday, Julie and her good friend, Mitzi, joined me in taking the kids to the City Museum. They loved it! The kids would often see things and say, "Daddy would like this..", although Blake didn't think he would be a fan of the rooftop experience. He thought the height would get to Steven, but it definitely didn't get to Lakyn who chose to ride the Ferris wheel at the top of the building with Mitzi.
Julie, Blake and I looked small as we sat on top of the 11th story waiting for them to finish their ride.
I can only imagine how small everything on ground level looked.
Saturday evening the kids left to head towards home. Jason and Sarah were taking them to a Chiefs game the next day. We, as a family, had plans to attend a game the weekend Steven was diagnosed. Sarah and Jason were determined to make sure the kids still had a chance to go. Sunday, Steven and I, (who aren't football fans) watched the game from the hospital room. I guess we felt that sharing this common experience, a football game, would somehow make us feel as if we were closer to our kids in that moment.
As we saw the Chiefs continue to widen their margin of victory, we laughed as we knew that Blake would be celebrating heartily. He wasn't a football fan before, but has an obsessive personality. Once he takes something in, he's hooked. We knew there would be anxiety and devastation if "his team" didn't win, and when it became obvious that they would, we were sure that he would be experiencing a high.
When we received this text from Sarah, we knew we were right.
She said he was playing air guitar and making the "rock on" sign with his hands.
We also received another pic showing how spoiled our kids were getting on their current expedition.
It was after they called us, to report about the game and inform us that they were on their way back "home" that you could almost feel the loneliness of the hospital room settle in. There was a heaviness in the air. Although neither Steven or I verbalized it, I knew he felt it too. He hugged me tight and we just stood there, in silence, in each other's embrace, all too aware that our journey was far from over.
It would be some time, before we could share in the kids sentiments and excitement, knowing that we were truly, on our way "back home".
Yesterday, a good friend of Steven's came to see him. His daughter-in-law, a friend of mine, brought him. I took the opportunity, while Steven had company, to go to Target and grab some things. It felt both very normal, and completely abnormal, for me to do something as simple as buying laundry detergent.
While discussing the road we were on, and all the possible outcomes, I found myself getting anxious once again.
We knew that if Steven's brother was a match, then the plan was to go to transplant as soon as possible...whether or not this round of chemo got the cancer to below 5%. (Getting it below 5% makes his odds of recovery higher, though.) We knew that if he wasn't a match, but the chemo was successful, that we would have maintenance chemo until a match was found. However, looming there in the background, making me dwell on all the other uncertainties, was the possibility of his brother not being a match AND the chemo not doing it's job. This left us with more uncertainty than I felt I could handle at this time. Too many unknowns.
Almost as if God had heard my plea, Jammie called Steven that afternoon, and told him that he had just heard that he WAS a match. "6 out of 6" is what the nurse said.
Most will never understand, or comprehend, what a complete and total blessing this is. It was an answer to more than one prayer; prayers that were prayed long before the leukemia.
No, technically, it doesn't change our overall odds of beating this disease. But it does give us a pretty big boost in the morale department. It is one piece of the puzzle we HAD to have...and the fact that this piece has been given to us by his brother, is a blessing....and a miracle of sorts.
I still do not know what our future holds. No one but God does. But I can feel, every day, the blessings He is providing. I can see healing...and I am not talking about the cancer. My heart, and hearts around me, have expanded, healed, and grown during this time.
He has mended things I didn't even realize were broken.
Please continue to pray that He mends the one we all know is broken-Steven. And, please pray that this round of chemo worked.
With this healing may we, together, move forward and continue this mission of healing, expanding, and opening hearts. May we move toward offering understanding, love, and acceptance, and always strive to mirror the very traits God shows to us.