An overflow of emotion.

Yup. That is where I am. Everything suddenly seems really, really important. How many people who know me well are now looking for a bomb shelter? Because the words “larger than normal emotional response” and “Lydia” going together in the same hemisphere, never mind the same sentence…well, that’s just scary. I’m overreacting to everything from Facebook posts to childish skirmishes to Adam’s every grimace of discomfort. I was ready to go to war with an acquaintance over an idiotic, insensitive post aimed at those with weight problems. I think I am justified in thinking his behavior is complete jack-assery (I coined that one myself and am very proud, thank you), but my desire to fire bomb him was just a bit over the top. Likewise, the fact that Kara has again hoarded half the junk from her room plus dishes, dirty clothes, books, and the odd dvd under her bed is truly annoying. It is even worthy of punishment as she has been firmly instructed that cleaning does not mean shoving sh*t under her bed. However, doing my best impression of a banshee might be a small overreaction…. At least I didn’t cuss…that time. And if I hear the phrase “Are you okay?” come out of my mouth one more time, I’m going to yell at me. I can only imagine how sick of it Adam must be. Thankfully, he’s even more sick of feeling bad than he is of me asking about it, so I’ve been safe thus far. Sometimes I feel like I’m so busy taking care of stuff that I have no time to just sit and feel how I feel…to process the overflow of emotion that has come over the last month. Sometimes that means that I’m just numb, but the numbness has been punctuated by these massive outpourings of irritation, anger, fear and grief. I feel really powerless sometimes, and I hate that. I also feel so much, but I know it is still only a fraction of what Adam feels. I hate that too. So. If I tell you not to be nice to me, it’s because I know a storm is coming and I don’t want to inflict it on you. Actually, you should probably be nice to me anyway. I need to let the storms come – the pressure that is building is intense and if we wait for it to blow I can guarantee the results won’t be pretty. That’s one reason I write these blog posts. Writing forces me to look at and deal with myself. You should see the posts that never made it to the blog…well, obviously, NO, you should not see those posts. The phrase “ranting, raving lunatic” comes to mind, for some reason…. So, yeah, cancer sucks. Advertizements about snake oil cures and preventative measures aren’t just annoying, they’re infuriating. Stories on support group websites aren’t touching, they’re terrifying. The very phrase “proportional response” is foreign right now. Things are either astonishingly good or unbelievably bad – and I mean compared to my normal reactions, which no one ever characterized as moderate in the first place.

Adam usually manages to inject a lesson into his posts. That must be why he’s the pastor and I’m…really not. I’m the one you cuss to. Because sometimes that’s just where we are. It’s not that I’m mad at God – I was when my babies didn’t sleep through the night, but it seems that no part of me had an expectation of immunity to this kind of hard time. But I’m really, really sad. I’m tired. I’m occasionally overwhelmed. And I’m also okay. I’m here and willing to face what’s next. I’m trusting that I’ll be ready for it when it happens. I’m trying not to borrow whatever trouble may be coming up, but finding that to be very difficult. (I still think I have an untapped talent for borrowing trouble…well, maybe not entirely untapped….) So for now, my emotions are overflowing sometimes. Beware. Build a shelter. Take cover. Whatever works for you. Hugs work for me…and chocolate, wine, funny stories, and all other sorts of diversionary tactics. Also, I am carrying tissues, so I should manage not to cry on you….

 

Worth the Wait

I just had one of those moments. I was asking myself how long it could possibly take water to boil. I gave up and poured the very hot, but not yet boiling, water over the grounds in the French press coffee maker and then began to wait some more. I then asked myself how long it could possibly take for coffee to brew. Why was I waiting for French press coffee when I could already be drinking drip coffee? Why did I need coffee so much? Had I ever been this tired? And when did I start talking to myself so much? I mean, I’ve always done that to some degree, but this was reaching new extremes. Then I realized that I knew exactly when I had been this tired before: the first six weeks of 2003 and from April 2004 to April 2005 – the weeks and months during which I had a baby who was not sleeping through the night. Then, like now, lack of sleep was just a small part of the problem. The emotional fatigue is the real culprit here. It is hard to do everything around the house that we usually share while Adam is recovering from surgery. It is even more exhausting to contemplate the coming weeks and months in which he will be undergoing further treatment. We have no idea what that will consist of, how long it will last, how it will affect him, or what his long-term results will be. We hope and trust that the treatment will be successful, that the cancer is gone, and that Adam will be fully healthy again soon. But we don’t know. We also have to get through the every day stuff in the meantime. Much like when I had new babies, I feel responsible for and to other people and the emotional drain is huge. I forgot to set an alarm last night – because that used to be Adam’s job – so this morning was crazy. Then Kara was sure she had a stomach bug. I didn’t even deal with that at 7:30. I got Ethan to school, and then went back to bed in an attempt to start this day over. I got Kara (who is not sick) to school by 10:30 and then began the coffee routine. And the first sip – and all of the subsequent ones, for that matter – was totally worth the wait. But I’m still really tired. It may just be one of those days for me. I guess I need to get used to the idea that I’m not going to feel strong everyday. I will want to escape and to ignore the dishes and the laundry and the alarm clock. I will want to feel sorry for myself and to cry over everything and nothing. I just got weepy over an episode of NCIS that I had on the dvr. The commercials aren’t getting me yet, but I am fast-forwarding through them….
I am so thankful for Adam’s ability to get treatment, for friends and family who are helping and loving us, for my children and my love. But I am also sad and cranky and so, so tired. So I am mostly thankful that Scarlett O’Hara is right and that tomorrow is another day. And many of the tomorrows will be good, because many of the yesterdays were good too. And the good days are worth the wait too. And on the bad days, there is always coffee…and chocolate…and sweet hugs from my family. And lots of prayer.

Elation vs. Cautious Optimism

As you may have heard or seen on facebook, we finally have some good news to report. The preliminary pathology report shows clear margins and clear lymph nodes! We have taken the doctor’s cautious optimism at this news and run on pure elation. We needed good news so much! In addition, the sun is shining, Adam is moving around and eating (well, drinking clear liquids) and the kids are coming for a hospital visit. It is a very good day. Cancer used to preclude good days…but this is our new normal.
And how’s this for God’s providence: we picked a home health organization and it turns out that the rep was in the hospital to talk to us…and oh yeah, she’s our neighbor. She and her family passed an above ground pool on to our family last year. This is a crazy ride we’re on for the next however long, but we are definitely not on it alone.
So. Back to practical realities. The plan is for Adam to go home tomorrow. In preparation for that, he’s off IV fluids, though he still has the port so they can administer antibiotics. He has also been off morphine for several hours, and his pain is well-controlled with oral medication. He is still weak, tires easily, and doesn’t have much appetite. Of course, all he’s allowed to have are the afore mentioned clear liquids. I’m not real hungry for broth and jello either…. We still have to learn how to deal with the surgical incision sites and the ostomy. And Adam has to heal and get strong enough for radiation and chemo – those are still in the plan to head off the possibility of recurrence and to make sure nothing is hiding out somewhere else. We have to teach the kids (and probably the dog) not to jump on daddy. And we’ll still have bad days. We will get sick and tired of him being sick and tired. We will get mad at the kids and each other (and probably the dog…and the cats). Our new normal means we can’t make summer plans like we would like, but we will still need to keep the kids busy and occupied. The kids are already emotionally fragile and ready to get back to their old normal. I don’t know when or if that will ever happen, though they won’t need to be aware of many of the differences in Adam, thank the Lord. In other words, we still have a lot of difficulties ahead of us.
This new normal means that there are no such things as little victories or small steps – every good moment is worthy of celebration. Cautious optimism isn’t functionally different from elation when the norm is fear and unrelenting bad news. Our world has shifted and we are adjusting to the shift by God’s grace, and trusting ourselves and our kids to Him. We are having a good day and enjoying it immensely. But we are also preparing for the road ahead. We are strengthened by the love and support we’ve gotten so far, and thank you for it. Don’t stop praying and don’t stop offering to help – we will still need it! To that end, we were tremendously grateful to discover that the church and the presbytery to which Adam belongs have worked to create a fund to defray some of our medical costs. If anyone is interested in helping us in that way, contact our church treasurer by email at (wait for it, it’s really unique…): treasurer@northhillschurch.net. We have been blessed beyond measure by the care we have already received, and can but pray that we are blessing others in turn. And thank you God for these good days!

There is nothing I don’t hate about this….

Despite what some may think, my internet silence has nothing to do with incarceration due to murderous impulses that I acted upon. Do not think that means that I have had no murderous impulses, however. I have not, as yet, thrown anything, damaged anyone, or otherwise acted on those feelings. I don’t even have those feelings all the time, they just jump up and bite me every once in a while. I hate that.
So…what is going on: Adam was in surgery for about seven hours yesterday – his surgeon was doing all he could to save the rectum…to no avail. Adam has a permanent ostomy that we will be learning about in the days and weeks ahead. That also means that the tumor was big and thick. Which I also hate. It means that Adam will be referred to an oncologist for further testing and will likely receive radiation and chemo. But. We can’t even go to the oncologist until Adam heals from this surgery. So. His job for the next three to four weeks is to heal. We expect him to be in the hospital for at least three more days, and maybe four or five. He still can’t eat or drink anything but ice chips, and he is supposed to be walking, but he hasn’t made much progress on that yet. As you may imagine, this too is something I hate.
What do I hate the most, though? This surreal feeling and the interminable waiting. You see, Adam is actually doing okay. He isn’t enjoying any of this, but he is cogent a lot of the time and his surgical recovery is going well. But. We can’t even start on the cancer treatments, and I can’t plan for anything, and I don’t know what I am going to need, and I can’t make life “normal” for my kids, and I can’t make myself not scared, and I can’t make Adam feel better, and…well, you get the picture. I hate all that the most – all that stuff that I cannot control.
You see, we can all say that we never know what tomorrow will bring, but I never realized how much I counted on knowing that very thing until I truly came face to face with my lack of foresight. So we are living one day at a time, and trying to make life as normal as possible for everyone – especially Ethan and Kara. I haven’t put their names on here before, but I want you to know these children who not only get the spotlight of being a pastor’s kids, but now of having a very sick daddy, too. They are tough and they are prayed for and they are God’s even as they are ours. They will, by His grace, be okay. But it will not be the kind of okay that we wanted for them, at least not for the next however long. And that makes me so sad. And it makes Adam feel guilty. Even though he knows he shouldn’t. I hate all that the most too.
Guess what I don’t hate? You! That’s right, all of you! We have felt so loved, so cared for, so prayed for, so…part of a giant family. Our family, our friends, our church family, our extended church families all over the country – all of you have loved us so well over the past few days. Thank you and thank God for you. We will ask for whatever we need and we will let you help us. We still don’t know what those things will be. Right now, the meals are so appreciated – as are the visits, the laughs, and the help with the kids. For now, pray for peace, rest, patience, healing, wisdom in talking to the children, and more healing and patience. The children do know what is going on to an extent, but I expect them to continue to have questions and to have a hard time with the answers. I am having a hard time with them, myself…. We love you. Thank you for loving us.

PS Please know that Adam is not as frank as I am and is a bit uncomfortable with talking about some of his digestive issues. Please be sensitive! I know you will…but still…for his sake, I want to be clear.

A mildly humerous take…

I know people want an update on how Adam is doing…we would like one too. Monday, I took him to the hospital for all the pretesting needed for his surgery. We learned a few things: 1. His file does not say he has cancer, or no one read that part – we had to tell each nurse, tech, and intake staffer. They were all wonderful as they used him as a pin cushion. 2. Ultrasounds are much less fun, and infinitely harder to interpret, when they are not done for the purposes of looking at a baby. Adam told his brother that “it’s a boy…or a liver…or something.” It turns out that the ultrasound is mostly for the surgeon’s information – he wants to know if he needs to biopsy anything during surgery. Either way, we don’t have any new info, and the ultrasound only shows the location of the cyst (which is very likely nothing to worry about), not details about it. Annoying, but there you have it. 3. Adam is a zombie. Seriously – he had no readings when they hooked him to the EKG machine and he started saying “don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy” and laughing like a lunatic. He didn’t try to eat anyone’s brains, so he isn’t too far gone yet. When he sang (the theme from Sesame Street, for those who are interested in little details), the machine registered something – perhaps a complaint? applause? We’re not sure. Finally, it started working, the tech came in and removed four tubes of blood while laughing at the machine, and Adam finally got to drink something – Mt. Dew. He was ecstatic. The hospital gives out Mt. Dew! This is great! So, we have the special antibacterial soap to reduce the chance of infection, he doesn’t have to shave his beard – though the anesthesiologist may do so on Friday, and we have the other prep medicines ready for him. We are now just waiting. He feels pretty good – other than the stress and worry that pop up unexpectedly. So that is the medical report.

In other news of life, we have family scheduled to visit over the next few weeks – our kids can’t decide if they’re more excited about grandparent visits or more worried about Daddy. They are not doing horribly, but they are having a tough time. Our 10-year-old isn’t the easiest at the best of times, and last night, after repeatedly getting in trouble for little things, he broke down and cried out that he just wants “a good life! I don’t want you to have cancer!” Us either, love, us either. Adam talked to him, held him, and calmed him. Our 8-year-old has been alternately clingy and cranky. She got tearful several times over the last few days. I wish we had some solid promise to give them, but they have to endure this waiting with us. Thankfully, Adam feels good enough to play with them and be silly, so they’ve had lots of normal moments.

So, we’re doing well, all things considered. We are coping by blaming cancer for all things we dislike (lost tools, bad weather, windshield wipers than disintegrate before our eyes during a heavy rain), and the humor – inappropriate though it may seem at some moments – has been cathartic. We also continue to hear from dear friends and family from all over the country and from all parts of our life. Knowing that we stay important to each other despite the passing years and the distance between us has been more encouraging than I can say. Sometimes, there are no words – only tears…or laughter.

What makes a lovely day?

Today was the first time that we went out as a family since Adam’s official diagnosis on Thursday. My dear friend from college was still here, and we all went to church where Adam preached his last pre-surgery sermon. I’m not going to lie. I cried a lot. I told lots of people not to be too nice to me. I looked at the ceiling the whole time I was singing in the choir. Child the elder, who was sitting next to me while child the younger sat with a friend, got lots of hugs. I explained things to concerned friends, I made bad jokes, I got lots of hugs, and I still felt like I might throw up most of the time. This was my lovely day. Seriously. As we were driving to the airport, my friend asked if church was good for me. My answer was an unequivocal yes. I may have felt many sad at many moments, and perhaps the immediacy of my fears increased at times, but none of that compared to how loved I felt. We have a small church, but our church family members have huge hearts. They laughed at the bad jokes, cried at the sad news, hoped in the knowledge of God, and offered to do anything and be anywhere to help us at anytime. It was a day full of love. I am so thankful for all of you – those who I know and those who I don’t – who are praying for us, cooking for us, watching our children, sitting in waiting rooms with us, hating detestable things with us, and otherwise walking with us on this painful part of our journey. Tomorrow I take Adam in for pre-testing and a liver ultrasound. We haven’t had much good news from doctors in the last week, and I am nervous. Pray the ultrasound wouldn’t show anything scary and that we would both have peace tonight and tomorrow. Also pray for the children: they are doing well, but they are scared and a little fragile.

And be nice to us…but not too nice…it makes me cry! And my mascara keeps running….