Home for 40 hours, but it still doesn’t feel like home…I don’t know if it ever will again.
It’s always hard, I’m sure. But you never realize exactly how hard until it sneaks up behind you and shoves you down the stairs…then jumps on your chest and starts punching you in the face—-fuck cancer.
For months we thought her lack of energy and internal discomfort was a stomach flu, then irritable bowel, then an adjustment from clean pure farm well water to chlorinated town water. Those were the things the doctors had thought as well. Then on an otherwise normal Saturday night, I splurged and bought hot bar foods at the grocery because she was so tired and just wanted to watch a movie.
When the bleeding started, I thought I had screwed up and had picked up something bad from the store. “Did I miss something that smelled off? Were the wings too spicy?” As the bleeding worsened and the Urgent Care techs hooked her up to an IV, guilt began to roll over me and I shrank back, feeling like I had done something wrong–what a stupid, childish, narcissistic thing to do.
The trip to the Hospital from Urgent Care was her first ever ride in an ambulance. She was genuinely excited for the experience. Sunday night was miserable but we still thought it was a stomach infection–some fluids, some antibiotics and a temporary adjustment to diet and we’d be golden…right as rain as soon as we did what we needed to. That’s what we thought.
In fact, my modest Gretel (Diane) was so mortified by the process, and felt so bad that I had only received two or three hours of sleep due to her silly stomach problem that she insisted I go home and sleep so I could be fresh in the morning for her tests. It was obvious to her she wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night and she didn’t want me to suffer needlessly. Still thinking it was a stomach virus, I went home and packed a bag for her, got her toiletries and laid down to sleep for a few hours—-I wish I had stayed at the hospital that first night. It would have been the last night we would spend together without a third party hanging over our minds and moods–fuck cancer.
The T word was used the next day after the first failed procedure to fully examine. Tumor. “Well maybe it’s just a growth. Maybe it’s benign. Maybe it’s just those damned spicy hot wings made a blister.” On the third day it was confirmed– Fuck Cancer.
In three days, we went from planning our next trip to Europe, figuring out what landscaping projects we wanted to do this summer and helping friends from Germany buy a house nearby, to… to not being able to see the light out the window. So myopic we became, we might as well have been infants, just waiting for someone to pick us up and do whatever to us. Lost, crushed, and this old soldier with a heart that had only ever been strong enough to love a handful of people at a time had the biggest part of that heart broken. “There is nothing for me without her. I have no reason, purpose, motivation or muse without my Gretel.” There was no light. There was no air. But there was a weight, pressing me to the ground.
The optimism started the next day when a path forward was prepared–PET Scan, Biopsy, Oncology consultation, Radiation Oncology consultation, Surgical Consultation. We were massing our troops. “Fuck cancer. We’re going to kick its ass.”
Then the next punch to the gut–“I’m sorry. It’s already spread.”
By then there was little air left in the room anyway. The sucking sound and the spinning ceiling (or is that the floor?) Ouch! Okay…it was the floor. Four days and only a collective 5 or 6 hours of sleep, but day 5 is mapping that main enemy…the main body of the force we are fighting. She was mapped, marked, tattooed for treatment and given our path forward. Radiation, chemo, then more radiation and chemo. Five days…only three knowing what was going on.
On day 6, she had her first round of Chemo (pills until after the first month of radiation), and daily Monday through Friday commutes to Arlington Virginia for radiation. As I sat in the tiny reception area, listening to the buzzing, clicking equipment in the rooms behind us, panic suddenly set in. If I have to stop writing, the money will stop flowing. Being a hot new bestselling thriller author is only a plus when you’re writing. You can’t coast on your name when you’re new, like I am. So, yeah, the movie deals, the series, the new releases…our bread and butter will have to wait. Fuck Cancer–I’ll sell a kidney if I have to.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one to panic about our livelihood being threatened by this…our youngest daughter set up a GoFundme (linked here) without us knowing it. Then, bless her heart, she released the information on Facebook (again, without letting us know). It was sweet, moving and a little inconvenient–we had only told a few family members and some close friends so far, wanting to get our heads around everything before making a press release. Suddenly, while still just trying to get more than 4 hours of sleep a night, the calls, emails, texts and knocks at the door started. Oh well…small price to pay for such a powerful gesture of love. And the support, though overwhelming, makes us feel loved.
Worry has to go away, as impossible as that is. And the crying jags have to stop, because they really aren’t helpful. There is a new mission. Remission is the mission. A goal, a path forward. Good days get built on, bad days get worked around. Thinking beyond the next step is unhelpful, unproductive (and likely to make us start crying again.) We need marching motivation, not nostalgia.
There is nothing else to think about, worry about or distract about…even if there is, there isn’t. We’ve been home from the hospital for roughly 40 hours, and it’s been just 4 days, 4 hours and about 10 minutes since the diagnosis. We’re tired, sore, balanced delicately on the edge of hysteria, and the rough stuff hasn’t even started yet. But there’s no choice. My muse is at stake–my Gretel…the one who taught me how to love with my whole heart. There is no other purpose or reason for me—-Fuck Cancer.
So that’s it. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have checked in on us over the past week. The messages though not all returned, are welcome, warm reminders that people care.
A word of warning, meant with all love and sincerity…be a hypochondriac, for yourself and the one you love. If you have pain, inflammation, illness or any other change in your body that lasts more than a week, go get it checked out. If they don’t fix it, go again, and again and again until someone finds the reason and fixes it. It’s not worth losing what you love to ignore it.
If you liked this post, then please like this post S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Political Thriller/Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook.