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Sunday, March 29, 2015

All in

We have made it past a pretty important milestone chez Wells: T is done with his chemo treatments.  It's such a simple statement, but it means so much more to us.  It's the end of nausea, the end of overwhelming fatigue, the end of dreading what we know would happen every two weeks, and most importantly, the end of the damnable cancer.  He'll have a CT scan at the end of April, and he'll also see the surgeon to determine when the surgery to reverse his ostomy will happen.  By the time the kids start summer break, I hope this is all behind us.

The thing is, it'll never really be done.  Of course, he'll have follow-up appointments and scans to determine that the cancer has not returned.  But the last ten months and the next few to come will always be with us.  We'll never go to an appointment without a modicum of fear or worry.  It will forever be the year of cancer when we look back at this point in our lives.

When T was diagnosed, I remember wondering how this would change us as a couple and as a family.  I was so afraid of what we would become.  In a small sense, it was far more difficult than I ever anticipated.  Seeing T in the hospital, knowing how terribly ill the chemo made him, and wanting to just take it all away was almost more than I could handle.  In a larger sense, it went so much smoother than I ever thought possible because of all the help we received.  I was lucky enough to have the kind of help that made it fairly easy to stick to a daily routine and a "normal" life for the kids.  I can't think of many events, major or minor, that we missed out on because there were always people around to ensure that we were where we needed to be when we needed to be there.  The way my family and our friends made themselves utterly and completely available to us was truly a thing of selfless beauty and love.  Because of everyone who helped, nothing changed for the worse.  We were still a family, and better yet, my kids had and continue to have amazing examples of what it truly means to be a friend.

As far as changing us as a couple, I think the cancer has made us appreciate each other more.  I can only speak for myself, but at the end of the day, I'm happy to curl up and watch a show or read a book at home, anything just to be near T.  I'm still totally annoyed when he doesn't change the toilet paper roll or puts his dirty dishes near the dishwasher instead of in it, but I'm more willing to overlook the little stuff.

That whole "in sickness and in health" line in a wedding ceremony tends to get lost sometimes, but it's one of the most important parts there is.  T wasn't allowed to give up his fight, and I wasn't either.  His fight was obviously more important, but I fought to keep everything else in our lives together.  I think we'll both carry those war wounds around for the rest of our lives.  It is said that time heals all wounds, but I don't think that's necessarily true.  Time allows the wounds to scab over and begin to heal; however, time also creates scars, lengthens them, and raises them to the surface, making them impossible to forget.  Maybe that's not the worst thing in the world though, remembering.  Even though it's not a time I ever want to repeat, it's worth remembering that life gets tough, but we are tougher.  Maybe we have changed; however, we're together, and nothing else really matters.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Possibilities

This isn't my story, but I have permission to write about it.  I'm using initials instead of full names to protect the privacy of those involved.  


When we decided to move from Lexington, one of the most difficult things for me to do was leave our beloved babysitter, N, behind.  She used to schedule her college classes around when I wanted her to be with the kids, and she came at a moment's notice or stayed late more times than I care to remember.  She was the only sitter the kids had ever had, but she was much more than a babysitter.  She took care of and loved our kids, but she also became more like my younger sister and friend.  

N lost her mother, G, unexpectedly two summers ago.  It happened not long after N's brother, E, got married.  After such a happy occasion, the loss of G was especially heartbreaking.  It doesn't matter how old someone is; living without a mother is agonizing.  

I know this must have been on everyone's mind when E and his wife, J, announced that they were expecting their first child.  G would have been an amazing grandma, so loving and protective.  We took N on vacation with us one year; before we went, G met with me to make sure we were fairly normal people and to tell me what to do if N got a headache.  (I was supposed to make her drink a Coke or something with caffeine.) I loved that G still saw N as her baby and wanted to be sure we would care for her.  

The day that J had her baby was so exciting.  I started receiving texts from N early in the morning while she was in the waiting room of the hospital.  I can only imagine that G was in everyone's thoughts that day as her new grandson came into the world.  He's a gorgeous, healthy boy with many, many people who love him.

Later in the day, N sent me a text to tell me something that gave me goosebumps and still does every time I think about it.  It was the afternoon, and J was resting in her hospital room.  The nurse in charge of caring for her was named G, the exact same name as N's mom.  I know a lot of people would think this was simply a nice coincidence, but I don't buy it.  This was G's way of letting her family know that she is still looking out for them and still in their lives. 

It doesn't matter who you are, how old you are, or where you are.  It's nice to know that someone is thinking about you, that someone cares about you.  Call me crazy, but I firmly believe that if we are open to it, the ones who have gone before us will send us signs.  I think when we really need it, they are the quiet whispers that help us make difficult decisions, and they are the sudden sense of peace when we are feeling helpless.  They're the ones who bring the sun out at the end of a rainstorm, and they're in the familiar smiles we see in the faces of our children as they grow.  

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black places his hand on Harry's heart and says, "But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us.  And you can always find them in here."  Once again, J. K. Rowling says something so simple in a truly beautiful way.  N's sweet new nephew will always know his grandmother through the stories told to him by all the people who loved her, and she will forever be in his heart.  With all of the bad news and insanity we see daily on the news or on the Internet, I'm happy to know that there are still flashes of beauty and light out there to enrich our world and our spirits. Sometimes I wonder how much we miss because our minds are closed to what is considered improbable or even impossible.  I'm going to try to keep my mind and my heart open because I never want to miss a chance to connect with those watching over me.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Back in the (Spring) swing

I know February is a short month, but, man, it was loooooooong chez Wells.  We had some very minor bouts of sickness, and longer bouts of I don't even know what.  We're restless and edgy and unfocused.  Winter blues?  Utter fatigue?  The blahs?  Something has been going around; that's all I know.

Credit: cartoonstock.com

I think I need to get out of the "when" mindset.  Like we'll go on vacation when T's treatments are over or we'll try to sneak in a night alone when the kids are older.  I need to focus on now and everything that is happening in the present.  The sun was shining today, and that has made a huge difference for me.  I was in a funk with the rest of the crew here, and I just couldn't seem to snap out of it.  I'm not entirely certain that I am out of it, but at least for today, there was a tiny hint of Spring in the air.  Spring will bring more sunshine and singing birds and soft breezes and the end of chemo. (That sort of seems like a bit of a "when" but I'm going to let that one slide.  No one is perfect.)   Even when we don't feel like it, we keep on keeping' on, and sometimes that's enough.

This is not to say I haven't been finding the good in things as often as I can.  This is the Year of the Boss, no?  I'm beyond grateful for my amazing family who continues to help us out every day.  My dad takes T into Northwestern for his chemo days and takes Dal to tae kwon do.  My mom spends girl-time with Lottie after school and makes sure we are always fed.  My fantastic brother gave up a Friday night to take both kids to the Flint Lake fun fair because I was working the fair and couldn't walk around with them.  (No need to get into that night, but suffice it to say Dallas made Matt's chaperoning job a bit difficult.)  We are so lucky to have my family and our friends around to check in, lend a hand, or just remind us that they are around when we need them.  I love that my kids get to see not only what it looks like to help others but how to graciously receive the help being given.  That is a gift that they will use for the rest of their lives.

I have been going to boot camp at the Y with my brother on Monday and Wednesday mornings.   It's a great way to get going in the morning, and I secretly like the time I get to spend with Matt.  Don't tell him I said that, though.  I would hate for him to get the big head.

I spent time with the big family group a couple of weeks ago.  I loved sitting around and laughing with my cousins, and it was fun to watch our kids play together.

My wicked smart nephew has decided to head to IU next year, and my incredible niece is turning twenty-one this week.    That's bitterboss because they should both still be little, but watching them grow is a pretty special thing.

I ran into one of my former students a few weeks ago who said she hoped I would go back to teaching because I was really good at it.  Talk about the big head!!  My ego is still stuffed full after that.

Some people I know are getting married, and some people are having babies.  New seasons, new lives, new beginnings; there's not much better than that.  Maybe forcing myself to remember the boss that life doles out every day will help get me out of "when" and keep me in "wow."

Someone had fun at the fun fair!