WE WOULDN’T DO CANCER WITHOUT YOU
Okay, so I’m tired. Almost three years after that horrific day when we were informed by a world-class team of leukemia specialists that my husband had contracted a rare strain of AML acute leukemia, I admit it, I’m pooped.
When a person first hears the word “cancer” attached to themselves or a loved one, trust me, your thoughts automatically turn to those five infamous stages of death that Lenny Bruce notably joked about a lifetime ago at The Bitter End in New York. These stages could just as easily be attached to cancer. DENIAL. “Of course they must of mixed up the blood work, cancer doesn’t happen in our world!” ANGER. “WTF?! Cancer is not going to fuck with us! We’re going to kick cancer’s ass!” BARGAINING. “Dear God, I swear I’ll stop drinking the hard stuff and I’ll donate a quarter, no! Half my annual salary to LIVESTRONG! Just please get me out of this mess!” DEPRESSION. “I’m going to die! Why me? I’ve always been kind to kids and animal’s, life is so unfair!” ACCEPTANCE. “Cancer sure does suck, but I guess I’ll live the best life I can for as long as I can.”
Yes, we went through all of that. Luckily, when we did, we did it with enormous support from loving relatives and friends who rallied around us, visiting my husband when he was in the hospital enduring his first round of chemo, some of them even coming from out-of-state. Family members stayed overnight when I couldn’t, friends brought books, Kindles, balloons, a new laptop and treats galore, my husband’s hospital stay took on almost a social event atmosphere. He felt very pampered by all the loving attention (and of course the gorgeous nurses were and continue to be a huge bonus) Friends and neighbors on the home front checked our unoccupied house on a regular basis, walked our dog and fed our menagerie of beloved pets. One dear friend insisted we use her apartment so our traveling time would be less stressful. We were and remain incredibly grateful and touched. We felt the love.
Fast-forward two and one half years into AML leukemia. After my husband’s first round of chemo, thankfully he went into remission and while life did not entirely get back to normal, it went almost back to normal. But we were living in a fool’s paradise of denial as we deluded ourselves into thinking that he had beaten the devil. The first tip-off should of been the day his team of doctors informed us that no bone-marrow match could be found for that all important transplant, thus making him much more vulnerable to relapse. Then he got a wicked bad (yes, we live in Massachusetts) infection that almost took him out and kept him in the hospital for the whole month of January ’14. Afterward the (I’ll never call his, we don’t want ownership) leukemia returned, he went onto his first clinical trail which did its job, it put him back into remission. The clinical trail worked until it didn’t, the leukemia returned once more. When he went onto a second clinical trial, he stayed in the hospital for another month, thankfully this clinical trial seems to be doing the trick, he is once again in remission so we remain grateful, but remission comes with a hefty price of debilitating side effects that leave him reliant on daily doses of oxycodone which knock the shit out of him. His quality of life has gone way south because of this necessary evil. For myself, I feel like I’m either working, sleeping, googling new cancer treatments, blogging about cancer, sitting in infusion clinics or traveling the 150 miles round trip it takes to get to Massachusetts General Hospital. Oh yeah, I also remain head-cheerleader for my husband who’s simply not buying into my “half-full” crap the way he did when he was first diagnosed.
The family and friends who rallied around us in the beginning are living their lives as well they should be. As I told my husband a few days ago when he succumbed to a bit of self-pity that I have rarely seen from him since the very beginning of this journey we embarked on two and one half years ago, life goes on, it must go on, if it didn’t, there would be no light at the end of this relentless tunnel that is cancer. So yes, I’m tired to the core as is my husband, but even in my exhaustion it has occurred to me that a sixth step of accepting cancer/death might be appropriate. PEACE. Peace in the knowledge that you’re giving it your all and have beaten the odds for two and one half years, (and we fully intend to go further) Peace because you’ve lived your life well-enough that your relatives and friends rallied for you in your deepest hour of need and if and when you die (for we’re all going to go sometime) peace in knowing that you are well loved and will be missed.