Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Tis the season

Dear Santa,

Ah, the holidays.  Spending time with family, decorating the house, crackling fires, hot cocoa, warm cookies, and chemo. 

On Friday, T will begin round two of chemo.  Chemo: the sequel.  Last time, he did an oral form of chemo along with radiation.  That's when he had to go into Chicago every week day for twenty-eight days.  Talk about exhausting.  This time, it's a bit of a different routine.  He'll go to Northwestern for an afternoon where he'll have labs taken and chemo through the port he had implanted last week.  The chemo will last about three hours that day, and then he'll get to come home with a very fashionable fanny pack.  The pack will be attached to his port, and it will continue to dispense chemo for two to three days.  (I hope T will let me bedazzle the fanny pack.  Glitter and sparkles for the holidays!  It's all the rage in chemo chic.)  After those few days, hopefully a home health aide will come to the house to unhook the chemo from his port just so we don't have to make another trip into the city.  If not, we'll deal. 

He'll have two weeks between his chemo treatments.  We hope this rest period will lessen the fatigue that tends to go hand in hand with chemo.   The holiday season is not exactly the best time for T to be sick and tired.  Then again, I guess no season is really great for that kind of nonsense.  But T's birthday is coming soon, then Christmas, then New Year's.  The kids will be out of school for two weeks, and if it's anything like last time, I'll be frantically trying to keep them quiet so T can rest or sleep.  Maybe it won't be so bad, though.  T isn't exactly a cold weather kind of guy, so it's not like he would be out enjoying the snow in his free time.  If the weather is as bitterly cold as the random, nameless Internet sources are saying, we'll all just want to hunker down and stay warm together.  

We know how everything went down last time, and so there is a bit of trepidation going into this round.  T knows what to expect, and although this time may be completely different from the last time, it's hard to ignore past experience.  There is also the addition of the stoma and the ostomy bag this time around, and that's a wild card.  But that's life, isn't it? 

My Christmas wish is that our family can get through this next step with our sanity intact, with our love for one another still strong, with the ability to find joy in the little things, to keep making each other laugh even when we want to cry, and the holiday magic still sparkling throughout the house.  It's a tall order, but there are four believers chez Wells who would appreciate anything you can spare.  I promise we'll leave some good treats by the fireplace for you, and I hope you're able to get a good, long rest after the holidays. 

Give my best to Mrs. Claus and the elves!
K. C.
PS-It wouldn't be terrible if you wanted to leave me an elf to do the laundry. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2004

The day before Thanksgiving.
Crazy snowstorm, huge flakes, treacherous roads.
I watch it all from the computer lab where we are having teacher in-service.
After school, my dad braves the insanity to get me to the airport.
Thanksgiving in Vegas with Trevor, our first major trip together.
All flights delayed.
I wait for T's flight to arrive. I sit on the floor at O'Hare.  I grade papers.  I watch CNN roll a ticker across the bottom of the screen detailing the machete attack that morning at Valparaiso High School.
I'm tense.  I'm tired.
When my flight is called, I slowly, reluctantly make my way to the gate.
At last, I spot T hustling down the corridor toward me.
We are seated nowhere near each other on the plane.
It's so late when we get to the hotel.
The San Remo.  It's questionable at best.
We gamble, we laugh, we sleep.
We get dressed for Thanksgiving dinner.
I'm nervous to meet his friends.  Will they like me?
I wonder why T is sweaty in his sport coat. I ask if I look okay.
I'm not facing him when he answers because I'm looking in the mirror and futzing with my hair.
Something's missing, he says.  You're almost perfect.
Is he nuts?  ALMOST perfect?  I turn around to give him The Look.
He's on one knee in front of me.
My first thought is how did he get down there?  Then, WHY is he down there?
And I understand.
Love.  A diamond.
No wonder he's sweaty.
I hear every word he is saying but all I can do is say Ohmygod over and over in my head.
His face is slightly terrified but determined.
He's it.
I say yes.  Yes, yes, Ohmygod, yes.
And ten years later, I would say yes again.
Even at the San Remo.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Just say yes

One of the biggest stressors in life is illness, and in the past few months we have all learned how true that is.  Since Trevor was diagnosed in May, we have been through different stages of highs and lows.   I hoped that once the surgery was over, we might be able to breathe a sigh of relief and find some normalcy again.  Not so much.  At least, not yet.

Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled that the surgery is over and T is back home.  It's comforting to have my crew back together again under the same roof.  Even though that has happened, things aren't exactly status quo again.  As part of T's treatment, he temporarily has an ostomy bag while his bowel is healing post-surgery.  As with most things in life, it's easy to think that it isn't a big deal when you're not experiencing it yourself.   He still has months of chemo left to do.  He's tired and not regaining his strength as quickly as he would like.  Having a serious illness changes a person; no one can face his own mortality without coming out a little different on the other side.  There is a learning curve, and we're still figuring out how to deal with everything.

And just as much as he is trying to figure out what his new normal is, the kids and I are trying to do the same.  Obviously, I am better at dealing with the change than the kids are, and I spend a lot of time reassuring them and trying to make things as relatable as possible.  I don't think they fully understand that we still have a long road ahead of us, and quite frankly, I don't have the heart to tell them that the surgery wasn't the end of all the tests, treatments, and upheaval.  I know it's difficult for T because he can't do the same things he was able to do before the diagnosis.  Truthfully, it's hard on everyone.  But that's marriage, you know?  I remember my mom telling me that marriage is rarely exactly 50-50.  Sometimes it's more like 30-70 or even 88-12, but as long as each spouse takes turns giving more or less, it's all good.  This is just one of the times that the percentage is tipped a bit more my way, and when it's all said and done, I'll have my turn to breathe.

Even if it were 0-100 right now, which it most certainly is not, I have had plenty of people who are willing to help.  It was pretty difficult for me to say I would accept the help at first; no one wants to admit that he/she can't do everything alone.  I thought I could take care of every little thing with no help from anyone else.  I mean, I probably could have, but I guarantee that I would have ended up in the hospital myself from sheer exhaustion.  I also don't know half of the time what I want or need to be done because my mind is constantly spinning in a thousand different directions.  Selfishly, I suppose I thought that if I personally could keep everything rolling, nothing could fall apart.  Ever.  I truly felt like I was handling everything okay until I had a day when I couldn't remember smiling once, not even when the kids were around.  I spent that evening beating myself up, and I vowed that I wasn't going to let that happen again.  It was a total Scarlett O'Hara moment in my own mind.  Plus, Dr. Mike, my awesome frieneighborist (that's my friend/next door neighbor/dentist at The Centre for Contemporary Dentistry) informed me at my checkup last week that I had been grinding my teeth so hard in the night that I had managed to crack a tooth.  Dude.  I guess if I'm gonna do something, I'm gonna give it my all.

It took T having cancer for me to realize that asking for help or even accepting the help offered to me didn't make me a weak person; it made me stronger in the end so I could continue to take care of my family.  I mean, if we're going to go through this whole craptastic situation, we might as well learn something.  AmIrite??  Sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt because I don't know how I will ever begin to repay people for their kindness and generosity, but feeling guilty isn't going to do anyone any good.  Learning to say yes has been a very humbling and freeing lesson for me.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you who have helped us along the way.